Congratulations to THE OUTLANDER WAR!

Congratulations to The Outlander War: Book 3 of the Forever Avalon Series, winner of the 2021 Firebird Book Award from Speak Up Talk Radio in the fantasy category.

I am extremely honored to have my novel recognized for this honor. This is the second award The Outlander War has received since being published in 2020.

At Speak Up Talk Radio, their mantra has always been this: Speak Up–your words can change the world. You never know whom you touch or how your words affect those you may never meet. And to help you become a magical helper, like the mighty firebird who drops pearls, your entry fee is used as a tax deductible charitable donation to brighten the rooms of women and children in homeless shelters. All entry donations fund Enchanted Makeovers 501(c)3 women and children’s long term shelters renovation and transformation project.

“We chose the firebird to symbolize the award because the firebird is known as a magical helper and is believed to drop pearls from its beak when passing over peasant villages, to give the poor something to trade for food and other necessities. We hope, in some small way, that we too can help others via the donation aspect of these book awards.”

— Speak Up Talk Radio

It is an island frozen in time and space. For more than 3,000 years, the island of Avalon remained hidden from the outside world; a place of eternal magic. The island was only accessible through a rift in the Bermuda Triangle. No one believed Avalon was anything but a myth… Until now!

In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, in the heart of a naval exercise, Avalon suddenly reappeared, causing disruptions on both fronts. The US Navy, now circling the mysterious island, wants answers.

The tensions build as modern technology faces off against ancient magic on an island where the laws of magic supersede the laws of science, causing mechanical weapons to falter and shut down. As military forces continue to surround the mysterious island, bringing both sides to the brink of war, an ancient evil arises from within, one that has been seeking the throne of New Camelot for three millennia.

Get your hands on this award-winning fantasy novel today! Click here to buy a book or ebook from Austin Macauley Publishers!

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.

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See you in Bethlehem, PA, for my first book signing of 2021!

Great news to announce! I will be signing copies of my latest fantasy novel, THE OUTLANDER WAR: Book 3 of the FOREVER AVALON Series, at the Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, PA, on Saturday, June 5, from 1-3pm.

This event was rescheduled from 2020 when COVID restrictions forced it to be cancelled. I am so happy for the great people at the Moravian Book Shop for rescheduling my book signing!

Avalon returns to the outside world, appearing in the Atlantic Ocean in the heart of a U.S. Navy exercise. Medieval magic clashes with modern warfare as the two sides try to determine a path forward. All the while, an ancient evil rears its head to destroy the line of Pendragon forever!

Thank you for your continued support of this independently published author! I hope to see you there!

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.

Presenting “The Last Magus” and “The Prometheus Engine” book covers

THIS IS IT! I am thrilled to reveal the covers for my next two books, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart and The Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series. I spent my 2020 COVID-19 lockdown in my apartment in Alexandria, Va., finishing these two books. Although I was not able to find a traditional publisher for them, I couldn’t wait any longer and I will be releasing the books myself through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart takes you to Attlain, a world where magic and machines are a part of everyday life. It is there you meet Marcus Gideon, a man with no memory of his part and a bleak future, left for dead at a crossroads, stabbed through the heart. He was saved by a mysterious blacksmith with a magical miracle… a clockwork heart, powered by magic, beating strong as the gears turned as the precise mechanics kept him alive. The journey that Marcus Gideon takes to discover his past while looking toward the future begins here.

Special thanks to Anna-Lena Spies, Eerilyfair Design, for her wonderful work on the cover art. Here’s an excerpt to explain this new world of The Last Magus:

Gideon’s Journal – Attlain is a strange world of magic and miracles. It has cities built on the technological might of modern marvels called “Magius Engines” powered by magic, lighting the darkness by electric lamps, connecting the towns in all directions by a network of Magius-powered trains and iron-hulled ships. Many different people filled the world, both humans and demi-humans, from various races—Humans, Alfs, Dwarves, Catsei, and many others. That’s just the basics of what I learned about Attlain from the books I’ve read. Beyond that, I can’t remember who I am or where I came from before I arrived in Armändis. I’m as much of a mystery as this brilliant world.

My past is a clean slate. I remember the ocean, sailing on a warship, but nothing about family or friends. It’s as if the hand of God erased my life. The only possession that provides me clues to my previous experience is a book that I can’t even read. Everything about my past is blank, yet this place seems familiar to me. My memories began at the crossroads outside Armändis on the edge of the forest of Imestrüs, where I died, and then I was saved.

The Forever Avalon saga continues in The Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series. The story picks up five years after Avalon’s Reclamation at the end of The Outlander War… Five years into the the reign of Mordred the Immortal. Avalon has become a dark and desolate place where the people live under the thumb of the bastard son of King Arthur. The only thing standing in his way are the children of the Gil-Gamesh… Hunter, Rose, and Ashley. Along with the Holy Order of Shield Maidens and the Hîldrägo Boquè, an elite corps of Elven warriors, they fight to reclaim the throne for the rightful king, Bowen Pendragon, and restore Avalon to the people.

Thanks to Book Brush for Authors and using their cover design program for this cover. Here’s an excerpt from The Prometheus Engine to take you back to Avalon:

The room was filled with the sound of grinding gears, clanging metal, and burning fires. Within the dank chamber, Gnomes worked tirelessly at their tasks, not even aware of Mordred’s presence. Though relatively small in stature, Gnomes were meticulous and inventive and greedy, cunning, and ruthless. Their dynamic nature made them the best workers money could buy. They were shorter than Dwarves, most under three feet tall, with large, bulbous heads and slim bodies. Their tiny hands allowed them to perform precision work, particularly in building small instruments and machines. Though the laws of magic that governed Avalon didn’t allow for many mechanical and electrical devices to operate, Gnomes got around this by using magic to power them.

The Gnomes were all working on a giant engine of sorts. It towered more than 20-feet tall and nearly 40-feet wide. Though the engine was silent, the work was intense. A small army of workers was painstakingly calibrating each gear, pipe, and valve. Gnomes covered the machine—on ladders, on scaffolding, or dangling from harnesses suspended from the ceiling—like busy bees working in a hive. A large crystal mounted on top of the engine resembled a weathervane perched on a rooftop. It’s a marvel that somebody could build such a device on Avalon, but this was no ordinary engine.

The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart will be release in June 2021 and The Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series will be released in September 2021. Thank you for all the love and support for this indie author!

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.

Double the cover reveal! Double the fantasy!

Brace yourselves for a pair of big reveals this week! I will be revealing the covers for the TWO BOOKS I will be releasing in 2021 through Amazon Kindle Direct PublishingThe Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series and The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart. I spent my COVID-19 lockdown polishing these two novels and now the book covers are ready to be revealed!

If you’re impatient, hop into your DeLorean, kick it up to 88mph, and head to Saturday, April 10, at 8am EST. In the meantime, here’s a glimpse and a preview of my new novels.

Five years have passed since Avalon suddenly returned to the real world and faced the loss of magic and an invasion by the modern, technological might of the United States and Russia. It was only through the efforts of the Gil-Gamesh, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, along with great sacrifice by the Elves of Alfheimer, that Avalon disappeared from the world once again.

However, that victory came at a high cost. Avalon tore asunder, an island shattered into an archipelago. Mordred, the immortal bastard child of Morgana le Fay, usurped the throne from King Bowen Pendragon at this moment of weakness. With an army of undead wraith knights at his command and the children of the Lords of Avalon by his side, it was child’s play for Mordred to take the Granite Throne and become King.

The only thing standing in his way of total domination are the children of the Gil-Gamesh:  Hunter, Rose, and Ashley. Since their father’s death during Avalon’s Reclamation, these three have resisted Mordred’s reign at every turn from their new home in the ruined city of Alfheimer. Along with the Holy Order of Shield Maidens and the Hîldrägo Boquè, an elite corps of Elven warriors, they fight to reclaim King Bowen’s throne and restore Avalon to the people. But even now, Mordred schemes to bring down the resistance through the construction of an ancient magical artifact… The Prometheus Engine. Only the immortal King knows its secrets and the power it will bring him, no matter what the cost. Even now, Hunter and his sisters race across the archipelago to uncover the engine’s secrets and discover the truth behind Avalon’s devastation.

The Magus were the protectors of magic, armed with a magic caster’s power and a warrior’s strength. They were able to summon magical weapons from specialized caches they wore as armored pauldrons known as the Armory of Attlain. The Magus were legendary among the people of Attlain until a few decided they should lead the people instead of protecting them. The rebellion ended quickly from within their ranks, but the damage was done. The Magus were feared and outlawed except for those few who remained loyal to the crown and lived as adventurers. For generations, they had all but disappeared from the world.

Marcus Gideon awoke at the crossroads outside the border town of Armändis. Lost, with no memory of his past life, he was stabbed through the heart and left for dead. His life was saved by a blacksmith’s kindness who replaced his damaged heart with a mechanical, magical miracle—a clockwork heart. The gears clicked, the motor spun, and his heart started beating again, powered by his own magical energy.

Gideon was alive, but his savior was no ordinary blacksmith. Henry Botàn was a Magus, hiding out in Armändis to protect the weapons within his magical armory. The swords, spears, and other-worldly artifacts were potent, some cursed and even forbidden to wield. His responsibility was to protect these weapons from falling into the wrong hands, but he was old and past his prime. He needed an apprentice, and Marcus Gideon may be the one he waited for. As Gideon searches for clues to his past, he looks toward his future and his fate in Attlain as The Last Magus.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.

“Of Distant Worlds” fantasy anthology released and includes a short story from your truly!

Of Distant Worlds, A Compilation of Tales from ten Writers from The Publishing Room

I am happy to announce that the fantasy anthology “Of Distant Worlds” was released today on Amazon! Thanks to the wonderful people in The Publishing Room, my short story “Demonfall” was selected as one of the short stories included in this collection.

At The Publishing Room, their mission is “to ensure that anyone with a dream in publishing a book can accomplish their goals.” Supporting the independent, self-published author has been the mainstay of their work.

“Demonfall” is based on a fantasy story I am currently working on called The Last Magus. I took an excerpt from a part of this series and submitted it as a short story for the contest. This is the second story I ever submitted to a contest like this and one of the first times I’ve been published without self-publishing (if that makes sense). It’s a basic Dungeons and Dragons style fantasy trope about an adventuring party investigating an unknown dungeon and running into more than they bargained for. It’s a great introduction to this new world I’m creating for this series.

I’ve ordered my copy and I can’t wait to read the other stories in this anthology. So, please check out The Publishing Room for more contests and other publishing services for the independent author and then surf over to Amazon and buy a copy of “Of Distant Worlds” today! Thanks for your continued support! Remember, April is Indie Reads Month so make sure you find books by independently published authors, like me, and give them your love and support!

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.

INTERVIEW WITH ONE OF THE FANTASY WORLDSMYTHS

One of the great things about the independent author community is the camaraderie, the close ties we all share in our desire to be storytellers. We share our books for peer review, our working knowledge of the world of self-publishing, and advice on marketing, writing, and anything else to make a name. We also talk about each other through social media, through book reviews and author interviews. It was through one of these connections I met Ally Kelly and her group, Worldsmyths – A Haven for Fantasy Writers.

Allison “Ally” Kelly lives in a small town in eastern Connecticut, where she’s lived since she was three. Ally has an Associate’s Degree in General Studies and Graphic Design. She founded Worldsmyths in 2016, after seeing a need for a writers group focused on the fantasy genre. First established as a forum, Worldsmyths serves as a group for speculative fiction writers. In 2021, Worldsmyths will be celebrating their fifth anniversary with a fantasy anthology to be published.

Ally and her team were kind enough to interview me for their blog, so I am returning the favor with an interview of Ally.

What are your aspirations as a writer?

Mostly I just want to be published. I’ve dreamed of being a published author since I was a little girl, and my writing journey has been a long and ever changing one, but I think it’s definitely heading in the right direction. As for where I see myself, hopefully with at least one or two books with my name on them in my hands. I’m currently planning on self-publishing, so we’ll see where that takes me.

What challenges have you overcome and how has this changed your life?

Most of my challenges have been on an educational level. I’ve always been kind of an average student, and I struggled with pretty much any subject outside of English. It took me a long time to graduate college the first time, and the path wasn’t easy, but I think I came out stronger in the end. I went back to school a second time, because I realized that I might have some kind of talent with graphic design/social media outside of them being hobbies, and graduated with that degree, but have just kind of been in limbo with that since then.

Do you have a hero / role model who has shaped you or your values or character?

This is honestly a tough question to answer, and I’m not sure if I have one. I feel like my parents have both influenced my values in big ways, and I have relatives who’ve done so, too. Judy Garland and Lucille Ball have always been heroes to me. My favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz, and as I’ve grown older I’ve learned more about her life and the struggles she went through as an actress living in the twenties. The same goes with Lucile Ball – I used to watch I Love Lucy on Nick at Nite and would crack up laughing because I thought she was so funny. She had such a huge influence on how women are portrayed in television today, which is pretty awesome.

What aspect of the writing process do you find challenging? Easy?

The most challenging for me is probably world building, although I would say trying to structure a novel and make sure the plot make sense are close seconds. I also struggle with self-editing, but I think part of that comes from not having reached the point of needing to self-edit a whole draft until the last few years, so it’s more of a lack of experience thing. I’m not sure if there’s one single thing that I think is the absolute easiest part of writing, but I love when I’m writing a scene or chapter and I have a clear vision for how it’s going to go, and the words just flow from my fingers without struggle.

Who is your favorite author and/or book genre? List some of your favorite books.

Juliet Marillier is my favorite author. I read the first book of her Sevenwaters series when I was a junior in high school, Daughter of the Forest, and I didn’t know how much that book would end up influencing me as a writer and reader at the time, but I fell in love with it. Other favorites include Rick Riordan, Kristin Cashore, and the Harry Potter series. Throughout a lot of my childhood I used to read the Star Wars novels that are now “Legends” and almost exclusively read those books, so many of those novels are favorites, as well.

What advice would you give to up-and-coming or new authors?

Find a writing community to be part of. It can be overwhelming and scary, especially if the community is already pretty established and has a lot of members, or if you’re generally pretty shy about your writing, but it’s 1,000% worth it. Something we pride ourselves on at Worldsmyths, my Discord writing community, is that we are a laidback community and won’t judge you if you’re new to writing and turn you away. We’ll always do our best to help steer you in the direction of helpful resources that can help you become a stronger writer and try to be as encouraging as we can. The friendships you find in writing communities are invaluable, as well.

Is there any place that you desire to travel to? Why do you want to go there?

Ireland. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to go there. Part of it is probably because my family is very Irish, and we have ancestors that probably came to America during the potato famine, and I’ve always loved that. Another part of it is that I’ve become more interested in writing stories with fairies over the last few years, and they’re a big part of my main project. The fairies I’ve created are very loosely inspired by Irish lore, and Ireland definitely has a lot of places that I could see as being visual representation of some of the places in my main project. I was supposed to go to Ireland in May 2020, but with the pandemic it had to be put on hold, hopefully until 2022.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on the first novel in a high fantasy trilogy. I’m several drafts deep into the first book, but it’s had to go through a lot of developmental changes so it’s still a ways from being published.  The first book is currently titled Fae’s Gambit, and is about a girl named Alana who has to travel through the Fae lands in order to save her brother from a curse that’s been placed on him, but it turns out she’s meant for much more.

Make sure you check out all the talented fantasy writers that are a part of the Worldsmyths group and follow them. It’s how we make our writing community grow!

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.

First artwork for THE OUTLANDER WAR shows the final battle to save Avalon

Half-demon mercenary Abdel Ben Faust challenges the Gil-Gamesh, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, and his Shield Maiden, Amelia Pomodoro, in the Elven Temple of Eternal Starlight in the ancient city of Alfheimer. (Art by Pam Hage)

I am so proud to show you the first artwork based on my third novel, The Outlander War. This is the pivotal fight between Abdel Ben Faust, the half-demon mercenary swordsman, and Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh and Eternal Champion of Avalon, along with his Shield Maiden, Amelia Pomodoro. Thanks to Pam Hage, better known as the Queen of Eagles, for her beautiful artwork! You can check her out on Instagram and on Deviant Art.

Here’s an excerpt from The Outlander War: Book 3 of the Forever Avalon Series to lay out the scene depicted above.

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From the highest points on the mountains flanking the two sides of Alfheimer, the Wrath Legion poured down the mountainside and into the city. Thousands of armoured wraiths ran down the sheer cliffs into the defenders below. The two sides clashed instantly, steel clanging against the phantom weapons of the wraiths.

The shield maidens held their own against the Wraith Legion, living up to their reputation as legendary warriors. The Dragon Guard matched well against the ghostly warriors. Hunter’s spell shot proved most useful against the wraiths, breaking through their armour and shattering their heartstones with a blast of fiery light.

As the battle raged around them, the Gil-Gamesh watched and waited, looking for their leader to appear. The sound of a demon hole opening behind him assured him that his wait was over. Bryan spun around as Abdel Ben Faust lunged at him, bringing his broadsword Deathsong down at the Gil-Gamesh’s head. Bryan crossed his swords and blocked his attack. Amelia stepped in and, true to fashion, used her shield to pummel Faust, hurling him away and to the ground.

Faust got up slowly as he ran his hand under his nose. He saw the dripping blood, caused by Amelia’s blow, and it angered him even more. “You’ll pay for that, you little bitch!” he cursed.

“Take another step closer, braggart, and I’ll knock you down again!” Amelia jabbed back at him. The three circled each other, there in the foyer of the temple, and jockeyed for position.

“I don’t know who or what possessed you to commandeer the Wraith Legion, Faust, but it ends today. You’re putting all our lives at risk from the demon hordes of Hell, and for what? For some foolish master with eyes on the throne of Avalon?”

“You know not of my master, Gil-Gamesh, and when you do…you will only find your death!” Faust lunged at the two again, slashing wildly. Like a precision machine, Amelia and the Gil-Gamesh worked in unison, trading blow-for-blow with Faust. Amelia blocked his attacks with her shield while Lord MoonDrake struck back at Faust.

Bryan knew that the best way to take down a formidable swordsman like Faust was to keep him off balance. The Gil-Gamesh pressed his attack, keeping Twilight high and Dusk low. Faust swung mercilessly at the two of them, cutting out chunks of marble from the floor and columns with his massive broadsword.

When one such blow briefly lodged Deathsong in it, the Gil-Gamesh saw his opening. He leapt into the air and spun, his blades extended. Bryan sliced at Faust’s chest with Twilight and connected. The unearthly dragonfire of Twilight engulfed the broadsword’s blade, hilt and beyond, burning away part of Faust’s tunic, not to mention Faust himself. The half-demon stepped back and snarled in pain. It was then that Bryan saw the source of Faust’s power.

The Gil-Gamesh looked at the heartstone attached to Faust’s chest. It looked just like the ones on the wraiths and glowed with a heavenly light. “You…insufferable bastard,” he said. “You captured the essence of the heavenly host in that stone to control the wraiths, didn’t you?”

Faust spat on the ground and smirked. “Nothing gets by you, does it?”

“But how, how can a lowlife half-demon like you get command of such magic?”

* * *

This great piece of art will have a place of honor in my Fan Art link, along with other great artwork highlighting the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. There is an additional piece of new art on The Outlander War Fan Art page, but it’s a bit of a SPOILER so I won’t post it here. No sense in spoiling things for those who haven’t read it yet.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.

Fantasy Maps help expand “world building” for a writer to take the reader on a journey

High resolution map of Middle Earth - Album on Imgur
Map of Middle Earth from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

“Writing has nothing to do with meaning. It has to do with land surveying and cartography, including the mapping of countries yet to come.”

― Gilles Deleuze

World Building is a skill every writer needs, especially in the fantasy and sci-fi genre. Luckily, as a former D&D DungeonMaster, I have some background in this area before I became an author. Creating the world to take my friends on their many adventures was a part of my life, whether it was Dungeons and Dragons, Space Opera, Rift or any other RPG, I had to create the world in which we were roleplaying.

I used to try and create my own maps using PowerPoint or Adobe InDesign to help me imagine these brave new worlds, but they were poor substitutes and not marketable. Thank God for the independent author and artist community online. They have the resources needed to help bring my imaginary world into a reality.

World building is defined as “the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe. Developing an imaginary setting with coherent qualities such as a history, geography, and ecology is a key task for many science fiction or fantasy writers.” You don’t know how true that is! As writers, we have to imagine everything from landscapes to cityscapes and everything in between. That means political structure, currency, races, religion, etc. It all has to be accounted for, but the biggest factor is the landscape.

In writing, you need to talk about the cities, forests, roads, and everything else when describing your story. If my protagonist is heading east along the Vanir Road, following the Blackbriar Forest on his way to the Gilded Halls of the Dwarves, I have to know where those places are in relation to his current location. In a sense, you could be writing about going one way and then mention somewhere you protagonist has been, and you say east instead of west so then your world becomes confusing.

Think of it this way… Would you have understood the journey Frodo went on in Lord of the Rings without the map of Middle Earth? Maybe, but the map helped me (as the reader) understand the journey they went on through that map. I like to think about that when I look at world maps from the 1600’s, seeing how they thought of the Earth 400 years ago and how different it is today. Even maps from the 1960’s and 70’s are different from what they are today.

The Island of Avalon
Map of Avalon from the Forever Avalon series, designed by Amy Kruzan.

Mapping is essential which is why, as a writer, I am happy to employ mapmakers in helping me create my worlds. The first one I used was Amy Kruzan, known in Instagram as fantasygraphicsbya. She took my description of Avalon and mapped the enchanted island, as told in the Forever Avalon fantasy book series, into a working map. Now, she helping me with a new layout of Avalon following the aftermath of The Outlander War (I won’t spoil it, so please read it to understand why). Imagining it was one thing but seeing it is something completely new. The layout reflects the ideas I had more than 20 years ago when I started writing the first book in the series.

I found many map artists on Twitter and Instagram. They are quite prolific in creating these myriad of worlds for dreamers like me. The ability to take the words and descriptions to design the forests, mountains, lakes, seas, rivers and cities is designed down to the ridges on the cliffs to the pine trees swaying in the wind. It makes it difficult to formulate things like trade routes, ship ports, rivers and canals, roads, etc. These are all essential for a vibrant or lackluster economy, which makes your fantasy world believable. I mean, how can you take care of an entire island without farmland, shipyards, and all the necessities to feed the populace, export commerce, and transport goods from one place to the other.

“You can’t map a sense of humor. Anyway, what is a fantasy map but a space beyond which There Be Dragons? On the Discworld we know that There Be Dragons Everywhere. They might not all have scales and forked tongues, but they Be Here all right, grinning and jostling and trying to sell you souvenirs.”

― Terry Pratchett, The Color of Magic

So, besides the regular social media crowd, there are artist websites like Art Station, Deviant Art and others allow artists to showcase their work so it makes for a great place to research styles, designs and artists. Although many maps, especially fantasy maps, look similar in many respects, but its the fine details that make the map into something special and unique for your story. You can find the artist you’re looking for to take your story into the world you’re creating.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.

How far have we gone to ban Dr. Seuss?

Banned' Dr. Seuss Books Delisted on eBay After Selling for Thousands
The six Dr. Seuss books that will no longer be published by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, including And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry StreetIf I Ran the ZooMcElligot’s PoolOn Beyond Zebra!Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer.

I have spoken here often about free speech and the First Amendment. As a writer, I am a firm believer in this sacred institution. I stand by the adage that “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend your right to say it.” That said, have we (as a country and a society) gone over the edge with political correctness that we are banning Dr. Seuss?

I grew up reading Dr. Seuss, watching the TV specials, the movies, etc. His books have been an institution and a focal point in children’s literature. And yet, we are examining everything to the point of lunacy for political, racial, and social content, forcing it from our lives.

Like any parent, the first books I bought, read, and gave to my children were Dr. Seuss. We didn’t look at it through the lens of political correctness, we looked at it as an easy way to teach our kids about the environment (The Lorax) or counting and colors (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish) or even behaving themselves while having fun (The Cat in the Hat). Are we also going to erase all the movies and TV specials based around Dr. Seuss?

I applaud the New York Public Library (NYPL) who took a stand against this audacity, saying, “As public libraries do not censor material, the very few copies we have of the six Dr. Seuss titles in question will remain in circulation until they are no longer in acceptable condition,’’ the NYPL said in a statement. “At that point, we will not be able to replace them, as the books are out of print. So, eventually, they will no longer be available to borrow.” This is the cost of our political correctness.

I think we are continuing to have this conversation on sensitivity in literature, especially anything written in the early 20th century. Is some of it insensitive to race and culture? Absolutely. They, like any form of entertainment of that time period, is a product of that time. It needs to be looked at through that spectrum, not the lens of today’s “cancel culture” who think anything and everything that is racially or socially insensitive needs to be eliminated. Remember these words:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it…”

George Santayana, Spanish philosopher

We cannot simply erase the past, thinking it will create a better future. If we don’t learn from that history, we will just make those same mistakes all over again. Why can’t we just look at something and appreciate it for the sentiment and not outright cancel it?

Sorry for the rant, but back to Dr. Seuss… I understand some of the imagery in “If I Ran the Zoo” and “And to think I Saw It on Mulberry Street” are racially insensitive. We didn’t have such a world view when Theodore Geisel wrote and drew these books. The imagery is what it is, but to ban the books outright is, well, fascist. It’s the same thing that Adolph Hitler and the Nazi’s did to books written by Jews or that didn’t portray the Aryan image as they wanted it. So now, we’re doing it to anything that the “PC Police” say is insensitive to whatever race, religion, or creed.

We don’t need to ban books. We need to look at them through the lens of the time they were written, understand why they were written, so that we can have a conversation and learn what not to write or how to act. How can we understand the evil of racial injustice without “To Kill a Mockingbird” or the plight of runaway slaves without “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and yet these books are being banned because of “racially insensitive language.” Do we ban rap music that uses the same language? No, and we shouldn’t so why ban books?

You can’t write a story about the south or any history without using somewhat bad language. I found myself in such a conundrum while writing my latest novel, Corsair and the Sky Pirates. The novel is a steampunk historical fiction set in the late 1800s, early 1900s. I have a very diverse group of characters, and the language back then was not PC. I will not use the “N-word” or anything like that, but I wanted to convey the repugnance of the villains in how they treat people. How do I do that without using such foul language? These are the issues that writers face today, because we want to reach our audience without jeopardizing our relationship with them.

So please, can we stop banning books! If it’s not your cup of tea, don’t buy it, read it, watch it or listen to it. If you want to understand what effect banning books has on society, read “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, “1984” by George Orwell, or “V for Vendetta” by Alan Moore. Then maybe, you’ll understand why we shouldn’t do it.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.

Is “Krull” the most underappreciated science fiction and fantasy movie of all time? YES! Yes it is!

Krull Movie Poster #2 | Fantasy movies, Movies by genre, Movie posters
Movie poster for Krull (1983)

I’ve been wanting to write this blog for some time but I never got around to it. I know I’ve mentioned Krull and shown my love for this movie in previous blogs, i.e. Top sci-fi/fantasy movies of the 1980s, etc., but I’ve never focused in on just how AWESOME this movie is. You had an all-star cast (by today’s standards), a fantastic storyline, and great special effects (okay, by the 80’s standards anyway!) So, why has this movie been relegated to the back shelves of video stores, streaming services, and the dustbin of many dvd collections. The fact is it shouldn’t be. This movie is a gem that should be watched and often. It’s binge worthy in more ways than one.

Krull is a 1983 science fiction/fantasy swashbuckler film directed by Peter Yates and written by Stanford Sherman. It followed the journey of Prince Colwyn and a group of outlaws on the planet Krull who are attempting to save Princess Lyssa (Colwyn’s bride) from the Beast and his army of Slayers from her captivity in the Black Fortress, an impregnable citadel that teleports to a new location at dawn. To aid in his fight, he seeks soothsayers, sorcerers, a cyclops, and a mystical weapon called the Glaive.

The film stars an ensemble cast: Ken Marshall as Prince Colwyn, Lysette Anthony as Princess Lyssa, Trevor Martin as the voice of the Beast, Freddie Jones as Ynyr, Bernard Bresslaw as Rell the Cyclops, David Battley as Ergo the Magnificent, Alun Armstrong as Torquil, the leader of a group of outlaws (including early screen roles for actors Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane), John Welsh as The Emerald Seer, Graham McGrath as Titch, and Francesca Annis as The Widow of the Web.

The first thing you need to understand that this is the early 1980s, when everyone was trying to match the popularity and box office bonanza that Star Wars brought with it. So, it had a big budget for special effects, marketing, etc. I mean, Krull had an arcade video game, not something they did for every movie. They really thought they had a box office hit on their hands. Unfortunately, the critics were not on their side.

Critic Janet Maslin found Krull to be “a gentle, pensive sci-fi adventure film that winds up a little too moody and melancholy for the Star Wars set”, praising director Yates for “giving the film poise and sophistication, as well as a distinctly British air”, and also “bring[ing] understatement and dimension to the material.” Baird Searles described Krull as “an unpretentious movie … with a lot of good things going for it.” A retrospective review by AllMovie journalist Jason Buchanan hailed it as “an ambitious sci-fi/fantasy that even in its failures can usually be forgiven for its sheer sense of bravado.” Ryan Lambie, reviewing for Den of Geek in 2011, called it “among [t]he most visually creative and downright fun movies of the enchanted 80s” and “a well-made film, and an entire galaxy away from other cheap, quickly made knock-offs that showed up in the wake of Star Wars.”

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Krull | 411MANIA
Ken Marshall as Prince Colwyn and Lysette Anthony as Princess Lyssa in Krull (1983)

Everything sci-fi that came into the movie theater megaplexes of the 1980s was compared to Star Wars or considered a Star Wars ripoff, but Krull was different. It had one thing that other movies did not… Magic! This was a full-bore fantasy genre movie locked into a world of science fiction. Yes, Star Wars has some fantasy elements in it with “the force” and other abilities, but in Krull, we are talking swords and sorcery. I mean, there are three certifiable “Gandalf-type” wizards (and one “not so much”) in the mix here. Krull blends the two together so perfectly that you don’t know what your watching, and by the time you do, the movie has already sucked you in.

Then there’s the weapon… The Glaive. It’s a bladed, flying metal starfish that, in truth, reminds me of Xena’s Chakram in how it flies through the air and returns to his hand. We are told in the beginning of the movie that the Glaive was just a myth, but the old wizard Ynyr knows where it is and that Colwyn will need it to defeat the Beast. My one complaint about this movie is that we don’t get to see him use it until the very end. Granted, the final fight between Colwyn and the Beast and Slayers is fun to watch, but it’s not enough. I mean, this weapon is what sold the movie to many fantasy fans like myself, and we didn’t see enough of it. You have to wonder how many D&D Dungeon Masters tried to recreate this weapon in a game (hint, I did!)

This movie also has your various fantasy tropes including magical beasts (Fire Mares or “Clydesdales on Steroids” running across canyons without stopping), magical beings (Changelings that kill with a touch) and an ancient, albeit bad ass soothsayer, living in the heart of a spider web (the Widow of the Web, aptly named). Not to mention a cyclops with a tragic back story, a great overhand throw, and a heart-breaking death (sorry for the spoilers but it’s true!) This is a true fantasy world invaded by a space-faring megalomaniacs hell-bent on destroying one world, then the next. You get this from the end of the movie when the narrator (Ynyr) proclaims they (Colwyn and Lyssa) would rule Krull, and their son would rule the galaxy! Really? I’d like to see that sequel!

Krull
Spider guardian of the Widow of the Web, Krull (1983)

The special effects were, without a doubt, some of the best to come out of the 80s. It’s not CGI, but the different sets combined with brilliant costumes, make-up, and effects blended well together. The fighting was a little staged and rigid in places, but it was overall well done. I loved the weapons of the Slayers, firing off a laser blast from one end before turning it around to use as a sword. The main magic we see used by the wizards in this movie was foresight and shapeshifting. There was no fireballs or lightning bolts, but transformations into everything from a tiger to a puppy (yes, a cute little puppy!) With all that, it was laid out brilliantly in the story.

Like I said, this movie is not Shakespeare and it’s nowhere near Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or other big movie genres. Krull is just plain fun, from start to finish. It’s a great story to follow along, interesting characters to laugh and cry with, and keeps you in your seat from beginning to end. Krull is a movie that should be part of a film festival, not relegated to the back row of your dvd collection. If you haven’t seen it, watch it today! If you have seen it, but not in a while, pull it out and watch it again! See what you’re missing!

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers.