Attending San Diego Comic Con is on my bucket list, but not just yet

It is a dream of mine to one day attend San Diego Comic Con! To walk amongst my people–geeks from around the world–would be an adventure in itself. There is so much going on, from television to movies, books and comic books, any media imaginable is on display at SDCC. The cosplay is amazing as everyone puts on their best costumes for SDCC. The stars are everywhere, and this year was no exception, as Justice League and Avengers: Infinity War went head-to-head this year. As Netflix and Amazon become just as relevant as any big name studio, so too does their offerings, from Marvel’s The Defenders to The Tick, these smaller characters are getting an upgrade to the small screen through these “pay-for” media services.

The firs thing you have to talk about is the trailers, both the released trailers and the “secretly recorded and released” trailers. Justice League definitely made the biggest impact because fans got to see all these great characters in action, and we finally got to see the villain, Steppenwolf. I think that’s why they have a slight edge over Avengers: Infinity War. For some odd reason, Marvel is holding onto their trailer so tight that the “bootleg” recordings is the only reason I saw their trailer. That is really a disservice to the fans who can’t make it to SDCC. Don’t get me wrong, seeing all their movie franchises on one screen is AWESOME but I only saw it in low-res bootlegs.

I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, this is a great time for geeks. We have been waiting for technology to catch up and give us the superheroes we love on TV and movies, just like they are in the comics. It’s nerd paradise!

I really think that DC is starting to catch up with Marvel when it comes to movies and television shows.Sure, Marvel has a great lineup with all their Netflix series, from The Defenders to The Punisher, as well as the mutant series Legion and The Gifted on Fox, Cloak and Dagger on Freeform with the New Warriors with Squirrel Girl (yes, finally!). Agents of Shield and Inhumans on ABC rounds out a powerful line up of shows. These shows are (for the most part) grittier, down-to-earth, realistic versions of their comic book counterparts.

But DC has an amazing line-up going with their CW shows of Arrow, The  Flash, Supergirl and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Plus, they’re adding Black Lighting, a Titans show on TNT, and Gotham is on Season 4 on Fox and getting better every year. Their shows are more like the comics with colorful costumes, the best villains and great storylines. They’re bringing in new characters, some updated characters and even some classics. I mean B’wana Beast? It’s just incredible. Sometimes, they variety of heroes passing through these shows is like watching the Justice League Unlimited cartoon. You’re always looking in the background just to see who’s there.

Fantasy shows aren’t too far behind either. Netflix’s Bright brings orcs, elves and magic into modern day Los Angeles, with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton. The trailer just blew me away. Even ABC’s Once Upon a Time is changing things up a bit, with a new town, new characters, new fairy tales, and it looks even more fascinating now.

This past weekend, I couldn’t tear myself away from YouTube of Facebook, just waiting for the next video or link to what’s been going on at SDCC. Even more fun is looking at the elaborate cosplay people come out with at a big event like SDCC. Tey get bigger, brighter and more elaborate in everything from comics to anime to video game characters.

So SDCC is definitely on my bucket list. It’s like a religious journey but for geeks. Sure, there are plenty of other comic book conventions across the country, but none hold the power of SDCC. It’s a definite check on the bucket list I need to check off.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Stop fussing over Doctor Who becoming a woman, you’re embarrassing geeks everywhere!

jodie-dwSo much has happened in the world of science fiction and fantasy this weekend, I don’t know where to begin. D23 brought us great new updates on Star War: The Last Jedi and Avengers: Infinity War; Game of Thrones, Season 7, premiered with murder, mayhem and dragons; and the late, great actor Martin Landeau passed away. All that has been overshadowed by the announcement from the BBC that actress Jodie Whittaker has been cast as the 13th Doctor on the long-running sci-fi TV series Doctor Who.

Whittaker is the first woman to play the Timelord from Gallifrey and the fans reaction has been mixed. Some see it as a great step forward, having a woman finally play this iconic role, while others have condemned it as further example of the world over-compensating it’s political correctness. I say, GROW THE F#%K UP PEOPLE!

I am not the most “PC” person in the world. I didn’t like the way Marvel took a number of original characters and made them women, like Thor, but after I read the stories, I understood the change and accepted it. That’s the heart of Doctor Who … It’s great characters and amazingly written stories. This is a new direction for the show as Steven Moffat leaves and Chris Chibnall takes the helm.

When the Doctor’s nemesis, The Master, became a woman and terrorized the world as Missy, we all loved it. Everyone embraced this new take on a classic Doctor Who villain, and today, those same people are crying fowl with the casting of Jodie Whittaker. You’re all a bunch of hypocrites!

I, for one, can’t wait to see how she interacts with characters like Captain Jack and River Song. It brings a new dynamic that we’ve never seen in the Doctor before. Even former Doctors’ like Colin Baker have given their approval of her casting. You forget, this is a woman who has worked with many previous Doctors’ and their companions like David Tenant, Arthur Darvill, Christopher Eccleston, and others.

Let’s stop all this petty “BS” and quit judging a show’s direction until they actually produce their first episodes. I think Jodie will bring in new fans to Doctor Who and she’s excited for the role. Jodie said, “I’m beyond excited to begin this epic journey — with Chris and every Whovian on the planet. It’s more than an honor to play the Doctor. It means remembering everyone I used to be while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for:  Hope. I can’t wait.”

Neither can we, Jodie! Neither can we!

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Heroes come in many shapes and sizes

Heroes are some of the most complicated characters, in real life and in fiction. As a writer, you try to emulate the best qualities in your hero: humility, bravery, honor and compassion. When you look through history, there are many great examples for a writer to emulate in their characters. Sometimes, though, you find it in the everyday people you know.

Lord Bryan MoonDrake [2072845]In the Forever Avalon series, I patterned my main protagonist, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, after a number of people I’ve known or read about. I wanted to share my muses with you to demonstrate how intricate one character could be.

First and foremost, he was a Sailor in the U.S. Navy, a Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate working on the flight deck of a nuclear aircraft carrier. Now, I’m a retired Navy Chief, but I never worked on the flight deck on a daily basis. One of the most fearless men I ever saw was Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Gerald Farrier. On July 29, 1967, aboard the USS Forrestal (CV-59) off the coast of Vietnam, a Zuni rocket misfired, causing an explosion of jet fuel and munitions on the flight deck. Chief Farrier, ignoring his own safety, grabbed a PKP bottle (fire extinguisher for fuel fires) and charged toward the burning aircraft in the hopes of saving the pilots trapped in their burning aircraft. He continued to fight the fire until one of the bombs under the aircraft wing exploded, killing him and other members of the flight deck firefighting team. That was courage above and beyond the call of duty.

The only other time I witnessed something like that was as a young Sailor aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 74). We were on deployment when a fire broke out on one of the ship’s sponsons, spreading up to the flight deck and into the ship through the ventilation system. My leading chief, at that time, was Chief Gregg Snaza. He was in charge of the repair locker I was assigned too. Once the fire broke out, the ship was called to General Quarters. For four hours, we fought the fire. I watched as Chief Snaza, without regard to his own safety, donned an OBA (Oxygen Breathing Apparatus) and went in to relieve one of the team leaders in charge of the firefighters. I still remember watching him volunteer and don that OBA. It’s that bravery that sticks with you and finds its way into your characters.

Another trait of the Gil-Gamesh is the heart of a warrior: Fierce in battle, courage under fire, and a heart of gold. For these traits, I have dozens of examples to use for inspiration from John Wayne to Audie Murphy, Amelia Earhardt, and Michael Murphy.  The best example, though, is my father, Master Sergeant William Piggott, U.S. Marine Corps. My Dad served for 22 years, did two tours in Vietnam. He’s a quiet man, not much of a talker, but whenever I needed him, he was there. His quiet compassion and understanding is an example I try to set with my own children. He is my hero, and I don’t tell him that often enough.

Heroes are not perfect, but they’re really the embodiment of the many men and women who inspire us on the big screen and in real life. Translating those traits into the heroes of your own stories is not that difficult, as long as the inspiration for those characters resonate with your audience.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Show your patriotism! Eat a burger, watch some fireworks, and wave the flag!

4th-of-july-independence-day-fireworks-03Ah, the 4th of July… bands, music, good food, fireworks and plenty of patriotism to go around. As a veteran and proud American, this is one of my favorite holidays. In this day and age, when we seem so divided over political discourse, it’s days like this that bring (some of us) together as a nation. As a writer, you look for inspiration for characters, stories, and adventures. I find hours of such inspiration in movies, especially those with a patriotic theme.

There have been a number of great movies you watch every year around July 4 that makes you proud to be an American. They’re not all war movies, though many are, but they all have that main theme of American pride, resiliency, resourcefulness and determination. A lot of these movies are focused on the American Revolution, but it’s these moments that we love about our history.

Before I go on, let me make one small disclaimer. I know we, as a nation, are not perfect. We’ve made a lot of mistakes in our 200+ year history… Slavery, Civil Rights, Segregation to name a few. No one is perfect, but it’s moments like these that make us, as a nation, look at ourselves and work on getting better by learning from our mistakes. Like the saying goes, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall!”

hqdefaultBack to the topic at hand, I want to start with some of my favorite movies based on the Revolutionary War. The Patriot, John Adams, Drums Along the Mohawk, and 1776 are some of the best movies based on and around the birth of our nation. One of my personal favorites is an A&E movie, The Crossing, starring Jeff Daniels as General George Washington. It tells the story of the crossing of the Delaware River and the attack at Trenton. This was not a big budget movie, but it really struck me on the terrible conditions these men endured and how we almost lost it all. It was this one battle that turned things around for our country and it is truly inspiring.

War has been a part of our nation, demonstrating the heroism and fortitude of the many men and women who fought for this country, on our land and across the sea. Glory, Gettysburg, To Hell and Back, Sergeant York, and The Longest Day are classics along with today’s movies like Unbroken, American Sniper, Men of Honor, Saving Private Ryan, and Lone Survivor.

One of the great actors, and an even greater American, was John Wayne. I think he starred in more patriotic movies than any other actor today. The Sands of Iwo Jima, The Fighting Seabees, In Harm’s Way, Back to Bataan, The Horse Soldiers, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Green Berets, and The Alamo are just a few of the wonderful films he made, displaying his prowess as a great actor and a proud American.

miracleThere are also a number of 4th of July movies that don’t have a lot to do with the holiday, just like many of those who consider Die Hard a Christmas movie. Independence Day has one of the best inspirational speeches in movie history. It still makes my heart swell with pride whenever I listen to it. Miracle, based on the dramatic and unprecedented run by the USA Hockey team at the 1980 Olympics, will make you root for this team again and again, even though you already know the outcome.

Argo, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Rocky IV, Top Gun, The Right Stuff, Red Dawn, and Apollo 13 are movies that demonstrate that keen American spirit as well. It that patriotism, pride in ourselves, our country and the American spirit that makes these movies worth watching on the 4th of July. I know I might have missed a few, so please tell me your favorite patriotic movies in the comments below.

So, on this 4th of July, let’s get together with family and friends, raise your glass, grill some burgers and hot dogs, and watch some fireworks displays. Don’t forget to thank a Veteran for making this day possible. Happy Independence Day!

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Prophecy has been an essential part of science fiction writers

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“I, for one, bet on science as helping us. I have yet to see how it fundamentally endangers us, even with the H-bomb lurking about. Science has given us more lives than it has taken; we must remember that.” Philip K. Dick

One of the thing we love about science fiction is that it allows us to see the future. Do you think someone who read Jules Verne 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea could imagine being aboard a submarine? Or flying into space and landing on the moon after reading 2001: A Space Odyssey? The future can always be found in the pages or science fiction novels.

Books like Brave New World, 1984, Stranger in a Strange Land, and I, Robot are just a few of the 20th Century novels that accurately predicted the future; but it’s not just authors who can be hailed as prophets. Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek accurately portrayed digital music, hand-held computers, ebooks and so much more.

Isaac Asimov said, “Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today – but the core of science fiction, its essence, the concept around which it revolves, has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.”

9c074ebf323afe53d646eb1465cfb837It strange how right, and sometimes how wrong, science fiction has been. I remember watching Lost in Space on TV as a kid. The Jupiter 2 mission was supposed to have taken place in 1984. Granted, that prophetic vision didn’t come true, but it was something that stuck in the memory of an impressionable child.

I think that’s why a genre like steampunk is so popular today. It combines the past, present and future together, as if people are living within the world of science fiction. It also explains the popularity of movies like Star Wars, Blade Runner, Star Trek and Jurassic Park. They show all that is good and all that is wrong with the future.

I know there are a lot of dystopian future novels like The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner and others out there, and they do espouse a new future, but I really don’t consider them prophets. Their future doesn’t look ahead to better things but rather show us a world after war, famine, or pestilence through the eyes of our children. These novels were meant to be a warning, not a prophecy.

Science fiction writers can be prophets but they also act as harbingers, as it were, of those things that could doom the human race. Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451 made us look at how knowledge and education that comes from books can be abused and even lost. He said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading.”

That’s the crux of science fiction prophets. They are establishing what direction we take toward the future. We can work hard to created a new world on another planet, like The Martian Chronicles, or start a new life under the ocean like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, or maybe a new world within cyberspace like Neuromancer.

“Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead, little by little, to the truth.”  Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth

Science fiction writers go beyond stories about aliens, other worlds, and future tech. They are explorers of what could be and what will be. We should embrace the future and, as writers, look ahead to those many possibilities. You don’t have to be a scientist to write science fiction, just someone who can see beyond the horizon and imagine more.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

 

Villains should be feared, not misunderstood

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“All things truly wicked start from an innocence.”─ ERNEST HEMINGWAY, A Moveable Feast

I don’t get it … Villains are becoming more popular than heroes nowadays. People cheer and rave over characters like Venom, Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader and Dracula. What happened to the days of good guys who wore white and bad guys wore black. You could clearly identify who the bad guys were and you never felt an ounce of sympathy for them.

Today, there writing books, TV series and movies centered around villains. For example, Fox’s TV series Lucifer. I mean, its a show about the devil on Earth. Here’s the guy, whom I was taught in endless Sunday School lessons, was the epitome of evil and he’s portrayed as if he cares about humanity. How can a guy be the ultimate evil if he’s a softy for solving crimes? It doesn’t make any sense.

Comic book characters like Venom, Deadpool and Harley Quinn are being pursued as quasi-heroes, characterized as bad, yet somewhere, deep down inside, therein lies a hero. Even Disney villains are not what they’re cracked up to be. Maleficent was, by all counts, and evil sorceress. That’s how she was portrayed in the Sleeping Beauty movie I saw as a kid. And yet, with the help of Angelina Jolie, she’s became a complicated villain and Aurora’s father is the true villain of this movie. Wait, what?

“Many evil things there are that your strong walls and bright swords do not stay.” ─ J. R. R. TOLKIEN, The Fellowship of the Ring

You see how confusing it has become. There are more movies, books and TV shows out there with villains who are loved, not scorned. I mean, vampires and demons used to be some of the scariest monsters out there. I remember the Exorcist, The Omen, and all the old Hammer horror films featuring Christopher Lee’s Dracula. Even the original Salem’s Lot TV movie (starring David Soul of Starsky & Hutch fame) was as terrifying as the Stephen King novel. Every time I heard something at my window, I wondered if there was a child vampire floating outside, asking to invite me in.

I believe there is good and evil, no in between. To me, you can’t justify the immorality and wanton disrespect for life. A killer is a killer, plain and simple. Can you really justify someone like Charles Manson or John Wayne Gacey? The monsters are not redeemable nor should they be.

In the article “So bad it’s good: Why do we find evil so alluring?”, writer Terry Eagleton had a simple answer. “One answer might be: when goodness began to look boring. We can blame this on the puritanical middle classes. It is they who redefined virtue as thrift, prudence, meekness, abstinence, chastity and industriousness. It’s not hard to see why some people should prefer zombies and vampires. Goodness came to seem negative and restrictive.”

As a writer, I take evil quite seriously. To me, evil is just that, evil. Writers have the responsibility to show people what evil looks like. I we can help them recognize what true evil is, you can avoid it, and even destroy it.

Here is an excerpt from my upcoming third novel in the Forever Avalon series, The Outlander War, where the two villains of my story–Abdel Ben Faust and a “yet to be named” master–meet and discuss their plot to destroy the Gil-Gamesh and take the throne of Avalon.

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On Avalon, South Essex was known as a city of artisans. The finest craftsman could be found in South Essex of all mediums—wood, metalwork or canvas—as well as exceptional tailors, tinkers, and tradesmen. It was a town full of the finest shops you could ever find outside of New Camelot.

The Black Swan was one of the most reputable taverns in South Essex, with the finest wine and spirits in all of New Camelot. The food at the Black Swan also had a reputation for being the best served in all Avalon. But even the best places can attract some unsavory characters.

Inside, the tavern was brightly lit with the glow of candlelight and roaring fires. The rooms were decorated in the finest silk drapes and tapestries of red and black. The décor epitomized the name of the tavern as swans could be seen represented in various shapes and sizes from statues to wall sconces.

While the rest of the tavern was crowded, as usual, the back of the room was empty, except for one guest. The owner did this at the request of the guest but also so his other patrons wouldn’t be subjected to his company.

He sat alone with his back to the wall, gorging himself on rare roasted beef and bottles of 500-year-old Aldinian Whiskey. He appreciated spirits, especially rare ones, and he always came to the Black Swan whenever he was in town because they always carried the best.

His name was Abdel Ben Faust, a mercenary by trade and considered by many as the finest swordsman on Avalon. His long black hair was pulled back tightly in a ponytail, exposing his pointed ears and long face. A scar ran from his left temple, across his nose, and down his right cheek … A reminder of being cut from his mother’s womb. His mustache was long and thin, hanging down below his chin, but that was where his true heritage showed through.

His skin was reddish-brown and, from his chin, grew horns that resembled a goatee, twisted like braided hair. Abdel Ben Faust was a half-demon, the son of a witch and an Incubus, conceived during a blood moon in a magical ritual. His mother died while giving birth to him. He had to be cut from her womb by the same clerics that killed his demon father.

Faust was raised a slave, tormented regularly for his demonic form, but in his torment grew strength and resolve. He molded himself from slave to warrior, becoming a master swordsman, available to the highest bidder.

He has avoided conflict with the Gil-Gamesh since his return to Avalon thanks to an innate ability from his demonic lineage. Faust can conjure “demon holes” to move from place-to-place, unseen. Demon holes were doorways of black smoke, fire, and brimstone. Only binding him in iron chains prevented him from using his power.

Faust came to South Essex to indulge his tastes while the Gil-Gamesh and the rest of the Knights of the Round Table moved to the coast to protect Avalon from the Outlanders. He knew there would be no trouble coming to the Black Swan and drinking his fill before moving on to his next job.

The curtain to the back room was pulled aside as young Finnick Devereaux, son of the Earl of South Essex, Sir Robert Devereaux, stepped in. The young man was nearly 50, young for a noble of Avalon. His dirty blonde hair, dashing good looks and fine clothes endeared his upright lineage. He pulled a handkerchief from his inside pocket and waved it in front of his face as he tried to dispel the stench coming from Faust.

“He is here milord, just as I said,” Finnick said to someone behind the curtain. A robed, hooded figure stepped through, walking right past the young noble.

“Good … Leave us Finnick, and make sure we are not disturbed,” the hooded figure said.

“Are you sure you want to do this milord?” Finnick asked. “The last man who interrupted Abdel Ben Faust while he was eating had his head chopped off and tossed into a stew pot.”

“Not worry, I’ve come bearing gifts,” he said as pulled a bottle from out of robe pocket. Finnick just bowed and left the room, closing the drapes behind him.

The stranger walked up to Abdel’s table but stopped when he drew his sword as he chugged down the last of the whiskey, resting his blade across the table. It was a broad sword, nearly four feet long, with a jagged edge etched along the top edge of the blade. Wisps of smoke rose up from the sword, as if it was burning, as the runes etched on the blade glowed softly. This was Deathsong, a cursed blade that only Abdel Ben Faust could wield and he did so very well.

“I’d think twice before sitting down,” Faust warned as he finished his drink. The stranger just placed the bottle down in front of him. Faust dropped his own bottle to examine the gift.

“Can it be?” he exclaimed. “Panaque, distilled from the vines of the dryads of Meliai, over 4,000 years old!” He popped the cork and smelled the delicate bouquet of the fine spirit. He looked up at the stranger and nodded his head to the chair in front of him. The hooded figure sat down as Faust sheathed his sword and poured himself a drink.

“So to what do I owe this honor and who do I have to kill to keep this bottle?” he asked as he took a sip of the delicious liquid.

“The bottle is yours, Abdel Ben Faust, a gift for listening to what I have to say,” he began. “But first, I have a question for you. Last year, when Morgana le Fay was resurrected, why were you not part of her forces at the Battle of Idlehorn Mountain? Surely a swordsman of your caliber could have turned the tide in her favor.”

Faust seemed to be insulted by the stranger’s accusation but took it in stride for the moment. “Her cause was lost from the moment she began,” he scoffed as he took another sip.

The hooded man seemed irritated by his answer but just sat back and listened. “Why do you say that?”

“Because she let the Gil-Gamesh live,” he answered. “You don’t give someone like the Gil-Gamesh any glimmer of hope. She should have killed him when she had the chance. That’s always been the problem with despots like Kraven Darkholm and Morgana le Fay. They want that power but they want to gloat about it in the process. That’s what got them killed.

“I don’t side with losing causes,” he concluded as he downed the last of his drink. “I’ve answered your question, now you answer mine … What do you want?”

“I want you to lead an army to take Avalon out of the grips of the Pendragon’s and the Gil-Gamesh,” the stranger said without skipping a beat.

Faust just laughed under his breath. “Well if you wait long enough, the damn Outlanders with all their technological weapons will do it for you.”

“Oh, I doubt that,” the stranger impugned. “If the Gil-Gamesh is as resourceful as you say, then all I have to do is wait until he restores Avalon as it was before, hidden from the outside world. Then, we tear Avalon apart, taking the throne and killing him in the process.”

Faust was not convinced by the hooded stranger’s plan. He laughed again as he poured himself another drink. “Well in the first place, you’d need an army at least 10,000 strong,” Faust calculated. “Hell, the goblins don’t even have half that number anymore, and the trolls are all whipped lackeys for that Shield Maiden now. So where is this army you speak of?”

The stranger reached into his robe and pulled out the ruby amulet, still glowing from the strong magic’s imbued within. Faust just looked at the amulet, unfazed and uncaring. “What’s that supposed to be?” he asked.

“The key to controlling the most powerful army in creation, the Wraith Legion of Purgatory!” Abdel Ben Faust was stunned, aghast at the stranger’s claim. The Wraith Legion was an army of fallen knights, trapped in purgatory because of some dishonor or shame that fell upon them in life. They served a penance, keeping the demons of the underworld in check until, one day, they’ve earned their place in Heaven.

“No one can control the Wraith Legion. It’s impossible,” he exclaimed.

“You can with this,” the stranger said, dangling the amulet. “With this amulet, they will follow your every command. You will be their General, Abdel Ben Faust, and you will conquer Avalon for me.

“In return, I will give you the Twin Swords of the Dragon Moon as payment, for your collection.”

It is known that Abdel Ben Faust has, over time, collected the sword or weapon of every knight, every warrior and every monster he ever bested in battle. He kept his collection hidden from prying eyes. He liked to savor each and every victory by looking at the weapons of his fallen enemies hanging on the walls of his vault. Adding the swords of the Gil-Gamesh would be the centerpiece of his collection.

The stranger had intrigued Faust with his offerings but wasn’t convinced completely just yet. He needed to know something more. “Who are you?” he asked.

The hooded figure stood up and peeled back his hood, revealing his face to Faust. The half-demon was stunned as he recognized the face almost immediately. “You? But that’s impossible, you’ve been dead for centuries, millennia even! It can’t be you!”

The stranger pulled the hood back over his head and sat back down. “I assure you, it is me, Abdel Ben Faust. I have many machinations at work, but I need a general to lead my army. You are the one man I can entrust with this task because I know that you will only accept my offer if you believe it can succeed.

“So will you, will you join me?” he asked. Faust sat there, stroking his chin, contemplating all the stranger has offered him. After a few moments, he raised his glass to him.

“When do we get started?”

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

The 13th Doctor SHOULD BE …

“I’ve got pictures of all your faces. You never show up in the right order though. I need the Spotter’s Guide.” — River Song, The Time of Angels

Besides the legion of fans worldwide, regeneration is what has kept the award winning TV series Doctor Who going  for more than 50 years. We have all witnessed our favorite Timelord change from one face to the next. It’s through these changes that the Doctor has aged more than 2,000 years in the span of the BBC series; but that time has come again. Time for another actor to take up the mantle and breathe new life into Doctor Who.

This time is especially significant because series front runner, Stephen Moffat, is leaving the show in the very capable hands of Chris Chibnall. As Peter Capaldi finishes his run as the 12th Doctor (okay, I know he’s actually the 13th but we don’t count the War Doctor in that line), the task of all Whovians around world is to nominate and root for the next Doctor.

Male or Female? Black, White, Asian or Hispanic? Tall or Short? Fat or Thin? Young or Old? The Doctor could regenerate into anyone, so here are my top choices for the next Doctor!

The majority of people across the internet wants the Doctor to be a woman. Since the Master has become Missy, why not the Doctor. I have two favorites if the Doctor is to regenerate that way … Dame Helen Mirren or Haley Atwell. These two are fan favorites, to the point that there’s already fan art portraying them that way. These women are accomplished actors with the intelligence, sex appeal and swagger to step into these shoes. They would bring a level of sophistication not seen since William Hartnell, Peter Troughton, and Jon Pertwee.

I mean, can you imagine the banter and innuendos between Helen Mirren and John Barrowman in the TARDIS? That alone is worth the price of admission. It would bring a level of charm and sex appeal that the Doctor hasn’t seen since 10 & 11. In any case, those detractors who think the Doctor shouldn’t be a woman really misunderstand the role. That’s the beauty of regeneration. The Doctor can be anyone he/she wants to be. I think if the Doctor regenerates into a woman, it wouldn’t be any different from other regenerations. It would bring a different perspective in how the Doctor interacts with others on his/her adventures.

Another big twist for the 13th Doctor is as a black man. Again, it’s more about the person rather than what sex or skin color they have. If I had to chose someone, I would pick Idris Elba or Chiwetel Ejiofor. Both are brilliant actors who have action movie credentials as well as that same level of charm and sophistication associated with the Doctor. However, I don’t think they would take the part being that they both have big franchise movie roles (Thor, The Dark Tower and Doctor Strange respectfully) so their schedule is pretty full to add a full-time TV production.

Lastly, there are the big name Hollywood stars, some of which are actually campaigning for the part. Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Rupert Grint (Harry Potter franchise) and Alexander Vlahos (Versailles) have all expressed interest in the role, more so when asked about it. I think they would all be excellent choices for the role, taking us back to the days of David Tenant and Matt Smith with their smoldering good looks, wit and charm. Bonus points for Rupert Grint, as the Doctor always wanted to be a “ginger” for some reason.

In any case, they will be making the announcement soon as we get closer and closer to the end of Season 10 and the upcoming Christmas episode, where the regeneration will take place. A great addition to that episode already is that David Bradley will reprise his role as the 1st Doctor (William Hartnell) in this episode. Adding in the 13th Doctor will be a bonus that all of us Whovians are desperately waiting for.

It doesn’t matter who plays the Doctor, as long as the role continues on to inspire the next generation. Just remember these words when he/she appears:

“When you love the Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves. You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back. And if I happen to find myself in danger, let me tell you, the Doctor is not stupid enough, or sentimental enough, and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me!” — River Song, The Husbands of River Song

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

No “WONDER” it took them this long, they had to find the right “WOMAN” for the role

gal-Gadot-Wonder-Woman-movie-June-2017I think Wonder Woman is one of the most inspiring characters in comics today. Since her creation in World War II, she has fought for the same values as Superman (Truth, Justice, and the American Way) while at the same time confronting the unreal stereotypes of women outside the home. Though she has been portrayed on TV by many great actresses, it took her more than 75 years to finally end up on the silver screen. In my opinion, they had to wait until Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins came along.

Of all the more recent comic book movies, Wonder Woman is one of the best I’ve seen. It ranks right up there with Captain America: Civil War. The fight scenes are incredible, the cinematography beautiful and the story flows from beginning to end. It was a pleasure to sit and watch this movie. All it did was make me more and more anxious for the Justice League movie.

The story is a basic origin story, but with a bit of a twist. Instead of World War II, we find Diana Prince (a.k.a. Wonder Woman) and U.S. soldier/spy Steve Trevor fighting the Kaiser and the German forces in the trenches of World War I. If you never read about the horrors of “trench warfare” this movie demonstrates how bad it really was during that time. The “War to End All Wars” was a perfect setting for the return of Ares, the God of War. Diana is convinced that if she kills Ares, she will end the war.

It’s funny watching her wade through a society that sees women as a lower class, not smart enough to even be in the war room with senior military officers and politicians. Her naivety is her strength in standing up to these outdated attitudes, but its her actions that prove them all wrong.

The one scene that has played over and over again in the trailers is where Diana drops her outer garments and steps out of the trench, in full armor, to save a village caught in “No Man’s Land” between the trenches. The entire fight scene is not only flawless, but the set up really showed the audience how much she cared about protecting the innocent and fighting for justice.

I said it was a brilliant script and the final scene was riveting when you learn the true identity of Ares and see a true heroic sacrifice. I’m not going to spoil the movie but it was surprising, even to me.

I want to go back to my original thought that started it all, about Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins. Gal was a delight to watch and absolutely perfect for this role. She portrayed Diana’s naivety, her raw emotion and the power of Wonder Woman as if she stepped out of a comic book. Though highly criticized, Gal was who we (comic book fans) were waiting for.

As for Patty Jenkins, she brought a level of attention-to-detail rarely seen in comic book movies. She made a movie that we fans can enjoy and watch over and over again. I can’t wait for the next installment.

Wonder Woman has brought DC out of its “creative funk” (as it were) to where they finally have a movie on par with some of Marvel’s best. This will definitely rank in the Top 5 of superhero movie lists for years to come. It reminded me a lot of Captain America: The First Avenger and that’s saying a lot. Many of these great heroes started out fighting in World War II, so it’s nice to see WWI get a hero it deserves.

And her name is Wonder Woman!

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

The trolls need to go back under their bridges and off the internet

I think I can safely say we all love the internet. It has given us instant access to news, sports, videos and a social media cavalcade so we can meet and greet friends and family around the world. But at the same time, it has given a forum for the worst of us … Trolls.

The one thing I hate about the internet, and social media for that matter, is the “trolls” that live on the web. You have a bunch of sissy boys (and girls) hiding behind their posed, self-propagating “selfies” to write trashy comments on every social media channel, news feeds, and chat room. All of this, in an effort, to put someone else down so they can feel good about how tough, how cool, they are.

1455912121933This is the movie “Mean Girls” in everyday life on the internet. “Trolls” is a good name for them, and being a fantasy writer, I am an expert on trolls. They are bottom dwellers with no ethics, morals or an ounce of compassion in them. They feed on the sorrow and suffering of people trying to have civilized discussions about a variety of topics and interests. Their only goal in life is to make people feel miserable. It doesn’t matter if they live under a bridge or in their mother’s basement, trolls enjoy making people feel like crap.

I realize there is a difference between some trolls and full-on cyber-bulling. Someone dissing a comment about whether “Batman v Superman” was a good movie or not is not hurtful, but it can lead people down the wrong path. The trolls of today can become the cyber-bullies of tomorrow.

“There are two kinds of evil people in this world. Those who do evil stuff and those who see evil stuff being done and don’t try to stop it.” – Mean Girls (2004)

Cyber-bulling has become a national pastime for today’s generation. We are raising a bunch of trolls who live to make others feel miserable by just shooting that “zing” across the bow because it makes them feel powerful. We all know how some of these stories have ended … in tragedy, and sometimes, death.

Remember these names… Ryan Halligan, Megan Meier, Jessica Logan, Hope Sitwell, Tyler Clementi, and Amanda Todd. These are just some of the names of victims of this downward internet trend. According to the Megan Meier Foundation, approximately 43% of the students report experiencing cyber-bullying during their lifetime and 15% of students admitted to cyber-bullying others during their lifetime.

This is the leading cause of what’s wrong with society today. We can’t have a meaningful discussion about anything without someone stepping up to put someone down. If you look at the current political climate we are in, you can see the results of the onset of trolls. If you like President Trump, you’re a racist, misogynist, Nazi. Name any topic and there is a hateful name being called at someone who disagrees with you.

Beware Troll Under Bridge SignIt has even crossed over into the world of fantasy and science fiction. When Finn Jones was cast as Danny Rand in Netflix “Iron Fist” series, some people were outraged at a “white boy” being cast in what should be a role for an Asian actor. This clearly demonstrated that these trolls never read a single Iron Fist comic book about the rich, white boy being raised in a hidden monastery to be its protector, the Immortal Iron Fist. The same can be said for the trolls on the other side of the aisle, who complained that Idris Alba was cast as Heimdall , or Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin, in Marvel’s movies. The trolls were out in full force then too. Get back under the bridge troll!

My point is this … Let’s try to be civil in our discussions on the internet. Thumper the rabbit (yes, I’m quoting Bambi here) said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone stuck to this as their mantra? Whether you’re talking politics, sports, the WWE or the Justice League movie, we can give our opinions without throwing in that left turn down the road toward the bridge where the trolls live.

Bryan Cranston, who’s played some of the worst people in TV and movies, said it best. “We’ve been trained since kindergarten: Be nice, be kind, share, put on a smile. So we’re conditioned to squash our natural selfish instincts, and that’s the right thing for society.” Amen, brother … Testify!

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt

 

The “Yellow Journalism” of yesterday is the “fake news” of today, only prettier

32185195164_d8a28b36a6_oHave you ever heard of The Yellow Kid? The Yellow Kid was the name of one of the first American comic strip characters that ran from 1895 to 1898 in Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, and later William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. Created and drawn by Richard F. Outcault, this comic strip was ripe with social commentary in newspapers known for sensationalism and extreme editorial reporting. It’s where the term “Yellow Journalism” came from.

In today’s day and age, we are coming back to a new form of “Yellow Journalism” though it’s seen by a lot more people through social media and the internet and packaged in high-definition video and “talking heads” that need plenty of censorship for bad language. I can’t help but see the reflection of the Yellow Kid in today’s media.

For those of you who don’t know, I began my writing career more than 30 years ago as a U.S. Navy Journalist. I attended THE school for military journalism, The Defense Information School (DINFOS) at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind. (now, the school resides at fort Meade, Md.). I have written hundreds of news articles, press releases and feature stories on the wonderful men and women of our armed forces. These articles, stories and photographs have been published in small town newspapers, major metropolitan newspapers and military publications.

I told you this because I wanted to talk today about the state of journalism, or actual lack thereof, in the world today. In my opinion, journalism today is not what it’s supposed to be. Journalism is defined as “the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information.” It is also the product of such activities. That being said, the way it is done by the news media today does not even come close to that definition.

We seem to have crossed that fine line between actual journalism and opinion news, and a lot of it revolves around politics. Now, I’m not trying to get political here, but it’s being abused by both sides. People are comparing what is being reported in the news to Watergate in the 70’s. I can tell you right now, we are nowhere near that.

If you’ve ever read “All the President’s Men” by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, or seen the movie with Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, you know how much they went through to get multiple sources to confirm their story about the going’s on in the Nixon Administration. Until they got those sources to confirm, their editor wouldn’t run the story.

Today, it seems like one anonymous source is good enough. The facts are being skewed to fit the agenda, and journalists are not supposed to have agendas. The public relies on these news sources to be the independent watchdogs of government, and yet, they are injecting themselves to be part of the story. Journalists are supposed to report on the story, not be the story.

Journalists today are selfie-taking, opinion making, propaganda artists that don’t care whether or not the story is true, as long as it puts them in the spotlight and meets their agenda. One of the great movies on what journalism is supposed to be is the Academy Award winning “Spotlight” about the child abuse cover-up within the Catholic Church. Just like in “All the President’s Men,” the journalists here went out of their way to get the facts before they printed the story. Without writers like this, the truth remains buried and silent.

Writer/photographer/film critic Seno Gumira Ajidarma said, “When journalism is silenced, literature must speak. Because while journalism speaks with facts, literature speaks with truth.” Though I agree with his sentiment wholeheartedly, we must also agree that writers have a certain responsibility above journalists.

Our stories must reflect the good, the bad and the indifferent in society in an attempt to bring about the improvement of the human condition. It was books like “The Jungle” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” that brought about change in society when journalism failed. I’m not trying to say that all writers need write profound soliloquies and novels professing the highs and lows of society, but rather talk about it in a way that reflects the good and the bad.

In the Forever Avalon series, I touch on racism, women’s rights, faith and family through the adventures of a modern family in a medieval fantasy world. I reacted to the good and the bad of these “hot button” issues and showed the reader how best to resolve such issues. I’m not professing to be an expert in this, but I give an honest opinion and open approach to dealing with these subjects.

Norman Mailer said, “If a person is not talented enough to be a novelist, not smart enough to be a lawyer, and his hands are too shaky to perform operations, he becomes a journalist.” Sad as that may be to hear the truth, we (journalists, writers, poets, novelists, etc.) help shape the mindset of society through reporting the facts, giving opinions and reflecting on society today. I just think we need to make sure we separate fact from fiction so that the people, our readers, can make an informed judgment.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt