Where have all the good wizards gone?

785276646085089940It’s good to be bad, am I right? There seems to be a trend where anyone touched by or practicing magic is always seduced to darkness. The same goes for those who gain incredible powers or become something more than human. It begs the age-old question, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Throughout fantasy storytelling, you get a glimpse of both sides of the coin. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf and Galadriel both resisted temptation from the One Ring but Saruman is seduced by Sauron and turned against the light. There are tons of names on both sides of the argument, from Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort to Merlin and Morgana le Fay. Lately though, the trend is leaning more towards evil, but to a point.

In fantasy, across multiple genres, there are a lot of examples that exude the philosophy that its good to be bad. The anti-hero is the “new Coke” as it were. From Deadpool, Venom, and Lobo in comics to characters like Anakin Skywalker, Willow Rosenburg and Walter White in movies and television. Writers love that little twist to make the story more interesting, and to many, being bad is good.

There is a vein of goodness in many of these anti-heroes, but its been twisted like a pretzel at Oktoberfest. The same can’t be said for wizards going dark. It’s like a touch of dark magic and there’s no turning back. I mean, think about it. Name one dark wizard who came back to the light. It’s hard, when you think about it … You really can’t do it.

Magic, like many things in the fantasy genre, has no clear line with good and evil powers. I mean, Necromancers have been portrayed as both good and evil (think the video game Diablo, for example, or Hellboy for that matter). Again, like everything in storytelling, its the character that counts.

Not to throw religion into the mix, but I like to believe that everyone is worth saving. I believe that we all have a chance to redeem ourselves in the eyes of God. You see that from a lot of writers, but at the same time, there is a trend of making evil as something seductive and enticing.

Look at vampires, and how over sexualized and charismatic they’ve become. They’ve gone from being the scary creatures in Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and Christopher Lee’s Dracula in the Hammer horror films to glittering “boy toys” in the Twilight series. The only thing that is still scary, today and always, is clowns, am I right?

We need to get back to maintaining that line in the sand between good and evil. If we, as writers, continue to present stories with bad guys as the protagonist, what will our world become. Evil can be redeemed but it shouldn’t be glamorized.

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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.

 

Diversity is something we all must come to terms with as writers

nhnzry3jycv4bf2qxt63Recently, Marvel’s Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel, claimed that the company’s recent focus on creating diverse superheroes is a driving factor behind its declining comic book sales. He said, “Any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up.”

I don’t agree with this statement, but I can see where he gets his point of view. Recently, there has been a trend to make comic book characters more diverse, but I think that’s more of a natural trend. More diverse characters started out as villains (like The Mandarin and Diablo, for example) but that trend has been changing as time progressed. The 70’s brought us Falcon and Luke Cage, the 80s and 90s brought out War Machine, Black Lightning and Storm. Sometimes it’s more about age than anything else.

Think about it … Captain American, Iron Man and Thor have been leading the Avengers since the 60’s. These characters haven’t aged like the rest of us. I mean, the original X-Men were teenagers in the 60’s, meaning that they should be senior citizens by now. Some characters like Superman and Wonder Woman can look the same because they are alien and God-like, respectfully. However, Batman today is more represented by the elder Bruce Wayne in the Batman Beyond series, not as he is in the comics. I loved it when Dick Grayson took up the mantle because that’s how it should be, but of course they went back to Bruce.

I understand I’m talking more about age discrimination than diversity, but here’s my point. People age, they grow old and they die. So why not let a new generation take up the mantle of these heroes. I think Kamila Khan was a great choice as the new Ms. Marvel, not because she was Muslim, but because she was like many of us who like comics … She’s a fan! Here’s a total fan girl who gets superpowers and becomes her idol. I don’t think there’s a single person out there reading this blog who hasn’t had the same fantasy.

I think the first problem people may have is the youth of the characters. You have comic book fans who started reading comics in the 60s/70s, like me. You don’t need to make all these new characters to be kids. I mean, the new Iron Man (Iron Heart, Riri Williams) and Hulk (Amadeus Cho) are all super smart teenagers, for example. It’s a trend right now that’s pushing the envelope. for us older readers. 

I like it when a longtime sidekick/friend takes over the mantle. Sam Wilson (Falcon) as the new Captain America was a great choice because here was an established character taking the shield and responsibility. The same with Jane Foster as Thor. That was a brilliant move, even with the cancer angle, to give her even more reason to be worthy of the hammer.

Diversity is not the problem with comics. You have four different people wearing the mantle of Spiderman, from the original to a clone, a Latino African-American, a Hispanic from the future, and even a young girl (Spider-Gwen). This is where diversity was done right, bridging the gap across generations. That’s how it needs to be done.

In comics, it has never mattered about the color of their skin. It’s about the heart and soul of the character, as a hero, villain or everyday person. I don’t care if a character is gay or straight, black or white, Hispanic or Asian. We want all these characters to represent people of all ages, race, religion or sexual preference for that matter.

When Marvel brought out the mutant Northstar as being gay, I loved the way it was handled in the story. It wasn’t meant to shock us, or done for the sake of diversity, but rather as a way of giving us depth behind his character’s story. It made sense and broadened the idea of being both mutant and gay and how it affected him.

What I’ve been trying to say is that comics have been becoming more diverse since the 60s. Characters like Black Panther, Luke Cage and Falcon have evolved and grown over the years to give us more and more diverse characters today, like Ms. Marvel, Storm, and the new Hulk. Just remember, comics have always had characters of so many different colors (Nightcrawler, Gamora, Brainiac 5) and races (Dawnstar, Green Lantern (John Stewart), White Tiger) that make comics more and more representative of the world today.

Readers don’t want just diversity in comics for the sake of political correctness. They want good stories. That’s more reasonable for the downward trend of readers and sales rather than blame it all on diversity alone. Think about it, there are various crossover storylines annually, changing the continuity of the comics world multiple times in one year. We’ve changed DC comics multiverse three times in the last decade and Marvel once.

Writers know what the problem is … Consistency, consistency, consistency! Learn it, live it, love it and the readers will return!

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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.

It’s hard to pick a favorite Doctor Who episode, but I’ll give it my best shot

This week marks the premiere of the new season of Doctor Who. It also marks the last season for the 13th Doctor, Peter Capaldi. Now, for you purists out there, I realize he’s technically the 12th Doctor, but I like to count Sir John Hurt’s “War Doctor” in that number because “he was the Doctor on the day when he couldn’t be.” In any case, I will concede to the correct numbering for the remainder of this post. To that end, the new season will mean a whole new regeneration and that means its time for a Top 5.

Before I hit my Top 5 Doctor Who episodes, I’d like to make a prediction about the new Doctor. I think, in this age of diversity, we will get either our first female Doctor or our first black actor as the Doctor. My money’s on Haley Atwell. I think she’d be a great choice as her gig as Agent Carter has ended. There’s been other names bounced around, like Idris Alba, but I think he’s too mainstream with large scale production commitments to be the Doctor.

So as we approach the Saturday premiere, I would like to give you my Top 5 Doctor Who episodes. These are my Top 5, as many Whovians have their own, so please don’t take it personally if I leave one of your favorites out.

doctor-who-silence-in-the-library#5. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead (May 2008) – These episodes made my list because it introduced us to River Song, played by the wonderful Alex Kingston. Here’s a character that knows the Doctor and his many faces. I was hanging on her every word trying to find some clue as to who the Doctor really is, but “spoilers!” She has been one of my favorite characters/companions of the series. This episode makes you sad at how many people died needlessly, but it also gave me a sigh of relief as they were all “saved” by CAL (you have to watch the episode to understand that reference). Let’s not forget that this was a great story, in itself, especially for an author like me. An entire planet is the world’s biggest library. I love to think that my books are sitting on a shelf there, stored for all eternity. The best part, though, is the end when David Tenant figured out the reason why, his future self, gave River a sonic screwdriver and then to watch him run “one last time” together. Plus, to see that come full circle and played out in last year’s Christmas episode with Peter Capaldi just brought the entire story to a wonderful finish.

doctor-who-photos-50th-03#4. The Day of the Doctor (November 2013) – This special commemorated the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. It not only introduced us to John Hurt as the War Doctor, but it also gave us the best online video tie-in (“Night of the Doctor” with Paul McGann, who finally got his regeneration) and the best on-screen surprise guest. First off, I loved the late John Hurt as the War Doctor. He gave us the solemn attitude and vulnerability of the Doctor on the day when “he couldn’t be the Doctor.” In that one episode, John Hurt endeared himself to me, and to all of us Whovians I think. We all knew David Tenant and Matt Smith were going to be in the special, and they brilliantly shot one-liners back and forth off each other, as expected. The surprise was in the final battle, where they were assisted by all 13 Doctors, including our first look at the “angry eyebrows” in Peter Capaldi. Lastly, the end of the episode where Matt Smith met up with the curator, aka Tom Baker, the 4th Doctor (MY DOCTOR). It was a shock and surprise that I still enjoy watching, over-and-over again. His brilliant performance showed that once you play the Doctor, you never stop being the Doctor.

imagesZO8CV01D#3. The Girl Who Waited (September 2011) – This is one of my favorite episodes because it gave us to the woman who is Amy Pond. We got to see all her vulnerabilities, all the pain and tragedy she has experienced as a companion. Amy gets trapped on a planet that has been quarantined due to a deadly disease that affects people with two hearts (like the Doctor). On top of that, those infected by the plague are placed in one of several thousand accelerated time streams, allowing them to live out their lives. This means the Doctor and Rory are out of sync with Amy and they try to rescue her after she spends more than 36 years there, alone. All this time alone made her rethink her relationship with the Doctor and not to trust him. The entire episode is an emotional roller coaster and, as a fan, it touched on the deep and meaningful relationship the Doctor has with each of his companions and how it both hurts and helps them. It reminded me of a quote from another great episode, Love & Monsters, where Elton goes on about “salvation and damnation” and if you touch or are touched, by the Doctor, it could destroy you. It was heartbreaking at the end when older Amy had to be left behind, in a sense justifying her concerns and fears about the Doctor; but then again, it’s these hard decisions that he must make, as a Timelord, that weighs heavy on his hearts.

Genesis of the Daleks … the Doctor and Davros.#2. The Genesis of the Daleks (March/April 1975) – Although the Daleks were introduced in the first season of Doctor Who, this episode gave us an in depth look at their creation and introduced us to their creator, the villainous Davros. First and foremost, Tom Baker is “my Doctor” and this where we saw the Doctor at his best. He is sent to Skarro by the Timelords to interfere in the creation of the Daleks and hopefully prevent the future death and destruction they wreak across the universe. In this episode, we learn why the Daleks were created without compassion or pity, turning them into ruthless war machines. In one of his best scenes as the Doctor, Tom Baker holds two wires in his hands, connecting them would detonate explosives and wipe out the Dalek’s incubation room. He holds those wires and asks “Have I the right?” to commit genocide of an entire race. That scene makes the entire six episode run one of the best in the history of Doctor Who. The impact these episodes had on the series reverberates in the future, from Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor (Remembrance of the Daleks, October 1988), Christopher Eccleston’s 9th Doctor (The Parting of Ways, June 2005), David Tenant’s 10th Doctor (Stolen Earth/A Journey’s End, June/July 2008), Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor (Asylum of the Daleks, September 2012), and finally, with Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor (The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar, September 2015). That’s what makes this episode one of the most important episodes in the history of Doctor Who.

Before I reach number 1, you have to realize that there are so many different opinions on favorite episodes. There are so many I want to pick that whittling them down to these five are difficult. I want to make these “honorary selections” for favorite episodes, including The End of the World from the 9th Doctor, School Reunion, Doomsday and Blink from the 10th Doctor, The Doctor’s Wife, The Angels Take Manhattan and A Good Man Goes to War from the 11th Doctor, and Time Heist and Face the Raven from the 12th Doctor. Plus, Matt Smith’s Christmas Specials were the best of all the Christmas Specials to date.

So, onto my number one episode …

fireplace-8#1. The Girl in the Fireplace (May 2006) – I know that my number one pick resonates with many Whovians. It was one of the most critically acclaimed episodes of Doctor Who, nominated for a Nebula Award and winning a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. This episode made you laugh, made you cry, and sometimes, scared you to death. A ship in the far distant future opens a hole in time and space to France in the 1700s to keep an eye on a little girl and wait until she grows up into a woman. Why? To cannibalize her for parts for the ship. Weird as it sounds, it’s fun to watch the Doctor go through time with Madam de Pompadour. Like “The Girl Who Waited” this episode jumps through time as the Doctor tries to protect her from the clockwork soldiers who are after her. It has one of the most touching scenes as the two look at the stars in completely different light. It also has some of the funniest scenes with a horse, a banana daiquiri, and “snogging” Madam de Pompadour. There are also some of the best lines ever in Doctor Who like, “One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel;” “There is a vessel in your world where the days of my life are pressed together like the chapters of a book so that he may step from one to the other without increase of age, while I, weary traveler, must always take the slower path;” and “This is my lover, the King of France … Yeah, well I’m the Lord of Time.” It’s such a beautiful episode that will go down as one of, if not the best, in the history of Doctor Who.

So, there’s my list of the best of the best. Please feel free to comment on your top episodes and include ones I may have left off. In any case, the new season Doctor Who premieres this Saturday, so get ready!

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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.

Has Hollywood already run out of ideas when it comes to superhero movies?

277c35a6e0ec68aec7ef8b8224f975b52c3121c6_hq.jpgIt’s hard to believe that we are on our third Spider-man movie franchise, third Superman movie franchise and sixth movie-version of Batman. Technically, if you want to count television in these ongoing franchises, that’s six Superman, four Spiderman, four Wonder Woman (I have to count the failed Adrianne Palicki TV show because they shot a pilot), three Captain America, four Hulks, three Fantastic Four, three Flash and two Daredevil’s and Doctor Strange. The X-Men did it right by inter-mingling all of its movies together in one universe.

Granted, a lot of these earlier products were downright awful. Then again, so were some of the new ones were bad too. It begs to ask the question, why do movie and TV studios keep going back to the well for another franchise reboot?

The obvious reason is money, of course. They know we geeks will gladly pay out the bucks to see the latest and greatest version of our favorite characters on the big screen. There’s also new, young geeks that have never seen these characters before and their parents (much older geeks) want to introduce these characters to them.

For example, when I showed my kids the original Incredible Hulk TV series, they laughed and joked about the bad special effects and make-up. It’s from the 70’s, what do they want? When I was growing up, this was what special effects on TV looked like, along with the cheesy sound effects when they would “super jump” like the Six Million Dollar Man.

We are getting more and more of a variety of some of the lesser known characters thanks to television and pay TV channels, like CW, Netflix, FX and Freeform, with more shows coming to a channel near you:  Legion, Cloak and Dagger, Black Lightning, The Punisher, X-Men: Gifted and more. These are great characters and great stories, with a few surprise “Easter Eggs” thrown in.

I guess my point is that, yes, there are some great characters in these comic book universes, especially the top ones (The “Trinity” in DC of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman for example) but we don’t want to see a rehash of these characters every ten years. The comics got it right when they reinvented and reinvigorated their mainstream characters (Ironheart for Iron Man, Jane Foster as Thor, for example) and this can be done on the big, and little, screen too.

A constant rehash and rewrite of character’s origins (like the failed 2015 Fantastic Four movie) is not the way to go. All you do is piss off fan boys and girls for ruining their favorite characters and they let you know at the box office. It’s the same for video game movie franchises, and some book franchises (Tolkien fans go on and on about Peter Jackson’s treatment of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit).

There are more ideas out there just waiting for an up-and-coming producer or a hot, new studio to tackle. I mean, think about it, technology today makes it easy for anyone to create a short film that looks like a big budget production. If you’ve ever watched any of the short films available on YouTube you know what I’m talking about.

Look, the studios are going to continue to do what they see as moneymakers for them, and I honestly think that it’s all they really care about. Sure, there are many who are “fanboys” and are doing it out of love of the characters, but the power behind them only looks at dollar signs. It’s going to takes geeks like us to keep them in check.

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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.

Seeing red on an edited manuscript is not a bad thing

copyeditsIt’s the worst thing for a high school or college student, and worst for a journalist or author … The dreaded red pen marks. Those notes and edits—whether on a term paper, thesis or manuscript—can send a writer into a tizzy. You wonder if it means your ideas suck, your writing is terrible or prose just God awful. Sometimes that’s true, but most times, it’s far from the truth. As writers, we are far from perfect. We miss the occasional comma, overuse a word or phrase, and forget the “y” on “they” turning it into “the” so spellcheck doesn’t catch it. That’s why every writer needs a good editor to help catch the things we miss.

I’m currently editing my third novel in the Forever Avalon series, The Outlander War, and it’s the first time I’m working with an editor. I just glanced at Page 1 (he’s editing by hand to start) and it’s covered in red. I panicked, but soon realized that it’s a lot of structure issues, not the story itself, and my mind was put at ease.

Seeing red can bring back bad memories. For me, it was shortly after I published my first novel, Forever Avalon. I received free copies of my novel from my publisher and sent them out to family and friends. Within the first month, I received an email from my mother with two pages of spelling and grammatical errors she found in the book. Nothing is more humbling for a writer than to have your mother correct your work.

In the end, I pulled the book, made the edits and got it back out, but all of that could have been avoided with a little editing help. There are professional book editors out there for self-published authors with varying prices in relation to word count. If money’s an issue, then turn to a friend or colleague to take a read on your manuscript.

Seeing red is not a bad thing because, in the end, it provides your readers with a clean, crisp story that flows better without the occasional drop off due to a missing comma or misspelled word. Remember, spellcheck is not your friend. It can easily miss a lot of mistakes. Plus, a human eye can look for those little subtleties in continuity.

For example, as a fantasy writer, if your wizard casts a spell and it does one thing on page 25, and something completely different on page 79, that’s something you need to catch. It’s a lot for a writer to keep up with, which is why you need to pair up with a good editor to make your manuscript smooth as silk.

So don’t fear the red pen. If you establish a good working relationship with your editor, then their edits will help, not hurt, your manuscript. In the end, it’s still your story, but now it’s a well edited story that’s an easy read.

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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.

Avalon is a great place for fantasy writers (and readers) to explore

avalon_by_iribel[166]Why Avalon? Why indeed … I’ve been asked this question many times. Why did I choose Avalon, Camelot, Merlin, King Arthur and the whole Arthurian legend as the basis for my novels in the Forever Avalon series?

I am not the first, nor nowhere near the best, at interpreting the Arthurian legend for my prose. From myth to legend, reality to fantasy, Avalon will always be considered a place of magic. When you think of games like Dungeons & Dragons, you can’t help but think of Excalibur, wizards, dragons and other aspects from the many myths and legends we associate with Avalon.

Avalon, Ynys Avallach, the Island of Apples … These are all part of the legend of Avalon. It is an island where the pagan god Avalloc sired nine sisters with mystical powers, including Morgen (better known as Morgana le Fay). It is where Excalibur was forged, the home of the Lady of the Lake, a place where all things are provided.

I’m rather fond of the Celtic mythos, that Avalon is an island of magic that exists out of time and space. The Celts believed in the Otherworld, and for them, Avalon represented the land of the mythical and mystical. It existed outside of the normal world but was accessible from it. Time moved at a different pace and islands were specifically associated with being gateways into the Otherworld. Sound familiar? It should as that is what I based Avalon in the Forever Avalon series on.

In fact, most of the islands off the coasts of Britain were known as Isles of the Dead to the early Celts:  Lundy, the Isle of Man, the Scilly Isles, have all been associated with being the real life location for Avalon. So is Glastonbury, where at one time, the large earthen mound known as Glastonbury Tor was considered an island as it was once surrounded by marshland.

The association of Glastonbury with Avalon and the Arthurian legends came about in a curious way. In 1190, enterprising monks at Glastonbury Abbey claimed to have discovered the grave and bones of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. The discovery of the burial occurred when the new abbot of Glastonbury, Henry de Sully, commissioned a search of the abbey grounds shortly after the reign of King Henry II. At a depth of five meters (about 16 feet) the monks discovered a massive tree trunk coffin and a leaden cross bearing the inscription, “Hic jacet sepultus inclitus rex Arthurus in insula Avalonia” (“Here lies renowned King Arthur in the island of Avalon”).

There was even a formal burial service held at Glastonbury Abbey, attended by King Edward I. Glastonbury was also heavily associated with early Christianity, adding to its ties to the Arthurian legends. Joseph of Arimathea was said to have brought not only the Holy Grail to Glastonbury, but is also responsible for a sacred tree that still grows there today. Legend has it that as he set foot on Wearyall Hill just below the Tor and, in his exhausted state, thrust his staff into the ground and then rested. By morning, his staff had taken root, and turned into a strange oriental thorn bush which is now known as the Glastonbury Thorn.

Even the tower atop Glastonbury Tor is steeped in mythology as it is said to be the entrance to the underworld. All of these have, in one way or another, tied Glastonbury with Avalon. Its moments like this that has truly ingrained the legend of Avalon in our world history.

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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.

 

It’s St. Patrick’s Day! Time to drink green beer and see some leprechauns

As we enter March “Like a Lion” (How about that snow!) we reach the holiest of days for Irish-Americans, alcoholics and fantasy role-players alike … St. Patrick’s Day. As such, I am reminded of a great book I read as a young adult in the 80’s. Hobgoblin by James Coyne was published in 1981 at the height of the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons. It is often compared to another novel, Mazes & Monsters by Rona Jaffe (and an equally fun movie starring Tom Hanks, believe it or not), but Hobgoblin is unique because of its Celtic mythological influence.

Hobgoblin is just a game. Ballycastle is just a house.

Scott is just a lonely teenage boy….

Until one Hallowe’en, a Hobgoblin kills everyone he loves.

hob3The story revolves around Scott Gardiner, a teenage boy who becomes obsessed with “Hobgoblin,” a fantasy role-playing game based on Irish mythology, as his life “in the game” and “in reality” slowly blend. Like Mazes & Monsters, Coyne treats the playing of role-playing games as indicative of deep neurotic needs, of which I can attest to from my formative years of non-stop D&D. In these books, the protagonist is, or at least appears to be, suffering from schizophrenia or some analogous condition as the attainment of mature adulthood is accompanied by the abandonment of role-playing games. Like Jaffe, Hobgoblin was published at the height of D&D‘s popularity and the intense media coverage of the “Egbert steam tunnel” incident (i.e., urban myths wherein role-playing gamers enacting live action role-playing games perish, often in the utility tunnels below their university campuses).

You see, I experienced some of the same when I was playing D&D. The whole “D&D will make it so you can’t distinguish from fantasy and reality” line was drilled into me constantly. Fortunately, I didn’t listen, but that’s beside the point. D&D was a great tool for me, as an author, to grow my imagination and create the world of Forever Avalon.

As for Hobgoblin, what I love about this book was how it used legends and fantasy characters from Celtic mythology. I never knew about these characters, like Brian Boru, Morrigan, and Lugh. I think it was this novel that led me to the idea in my Forever Avalon novels to bring all the different mythos together onto one magical fantasy island (no pun intended).

In researching mythology for Forever Avalon, I decided that if I was to bring all magic to one place, the mythologies were not all British, but rather from all mythological creatures around the world. Dwarves from Scandinavia and Germanic, Faeries and Elves from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, Giants from the Russian steppes, etc.

I bring this up because that’s what I learned from Hobgoblin. When I started playing D&D, the game focused on a variety of mythologies, including Greek (when it came to Clerics and the Gods they served, that is). But when we played, I think many focused on the fantasy and didn’t divide up magical creatures from this mythos or that mythos.

Hobgoblin showed me that myths do have a cultural and ethnic origin and we must respect those origins. For example, when I wrote The Dark Tides, I created Togo, a small island off the coast of Avalon, where the descendants of African slaves made a home for themselves. I had to research African culture and mythology, everything from Aido Hwedo, the Rainbow Serpent, and the legend of the Orisa and Eledumare. I learned so much and also how similar many myths are to each other.

When you look across multiculturalism, the stories, myths and legends have an almost universal appeal. They also have many similarities. For example, cultures around the world tell stories about a great flood. In many cases, the flood leaves only one survivor or group of survivors. For example, both the Babylonian “Epic of Gilgamesh” (ha, if you read my books you’ll understand why this is funny to me) and the Hebrew Bible tell of a global flood that wiped out humanity and of a man who saved the Earth’s species by taking them aboard a boat, i.e. the story of Noah (and not the Russell Crowe movie that absolutely bombed). Similar stories of a single flood survivor appear in Hindu mythology as well as Greek and Aztec mythology.

Our stories are what unify us as the human race. So raise a pint this St. Patrick’s Day and toast Hobgoblins, Brian Boru and all the leprechauns we’ll see after too many beers. After all, there may be another story just waiting to be told.

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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 long and winding road of a writer

fbac5ca9ef50d6449e3d12cd77372890My journey as a writer has been a long and tumultuous one. It’s something I never really considered for myself as a teenager, or even through my 20+ year Navy career. I wanted to talk to you about my journey to hopefully explain how being a writer can come right out of left field, until you realize that it was meant to be.

Set the “Wayback Machine” for 1976, Sherman. As a high school freshman at Phillipsburg High School, NJ (Go Stateliners!) I was focused on art. My goal was to be the next Jack Kirby. I wanted to work for Marvel or DC, write and draw my own comic books. I drove my parents and my teachers crazy with my constant comic book drawing when they were trying to teach me pastels and painting. While I was in high school, I also joined the school newspaper and yearbook staff, learning some valuable skills that would help me later in life.

After high school, I enrolled in the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Again, my goal was to hone my art skills to become a comic book artist, but that never came to fruition. Trying to live away from home for the first time, I wasn’t able to manage money or my time properly. I had no choice but to drop out of school, even enrolling at the University of Pittsburgh. There, I joined the college radio station and learned some more valuable skills for down the road. Yet again, I mismanaged things and was forced to drop out and return home to Jersey.

I look back at that time and wonder where I went wrong. I would love to talk to my younger self and tell me it’s going to be all right, but it didn’t seem like it at that time. I moved back into my parent’s house with no job prospects, no college either. So what to do?

My Dad, the 22-year career Marine, pointed me right towards the recruiters’ office. I knew I didn’t want to join the Marines, like my Dad and brother. The Army tried to push infantry and tank driver on me for big bonuses. The Air Force wasn’t really interested as I was looking at non-technical jobs. The Navy, on the other hand, gave me what I was looking for.

I joined the Navy as a Journalist, where my earlier training in broadcasting and writing came in handy. I attended the Defense Information School, or DINFOS, and became what we affectionately call a “DINFOS Trained Killer” with typewriter in hand. After 23 years, I turned that training into a military career.

During my time as a military journalist, I’ve written hundreds of articles that were published in military publications, local newspapers and even a few national newspapers. Seeing your byline in the Miami Herald and Navy Times can be a life-changing experience for a young journalist. It was also during that time that I started working on my novel, Forever Avalon.

This may seem like a round-about way of getting to the fact that I was writing all along, but it really wasn’t. When I was in high school, I augmented my drawing time with writing, creating stories to go with my characters or writing for the school newspaper. In college, I was forced to do only art and that, I feel, made me lose my way because I wasn’t able to write. In the Navy, I wrote mostly press releases and news stories but found the time to write feature stories in addition to starting my novel.

All that time I spent on other things that I was mediocre to average, when writing kept pushing and jabbing at me until it finally broke through. I am a writer and I’m damn proud of it. I will keep writing until you pry the keyboard from my cold, dead hands. (Wow, I should put that on a t-shirt!)

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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.

Like fantasy without magic, movies without memorable music totally miss the mark

beauty-and-the-beast2Most people remember their favorite movies through unforgettable scenes or great quotes. There are many, though, that you remember from a few notes of music or humming a tune. Add to that, there are so many memorable songs and music from movies, you don’t know where to start.

There’s a great scene in the movie The Holiday where Jack Black’s film composer character runs through a litany of movies and music and how they changed cinema. It’s what made me want to look at some of my favorite movie soundtracks, composers and songs. I hope they’re some of your favorite too.

First and foremost, I’ll start right off with John Williams who is, without a doubt, the greatest composer that movies have ever scene. From Star Wars and Indiana Jones to E.T. and Harry Potter, he has written some of the greatest movie soundtracks EVER. His music has been heard by generations who will always know the movie by the chord struck by the orchestra. He is the Gandalf of movie soundtracks.

Next thing I’ll throw out there is any Disney animated movies. Disney has a history of making the best animated films and, with it, unforgettable songs and music. From Snow White singing “I’m wishing” in that high-pitched voice of Adriana Casrlotti to Indina Menzel “Let it Go” from Frozen,  Disney has brought the best singers and songwriters together for great movie soundtracks. The best part is that these are songs you sang as a kid and with your kids too.

rocky_horror_throne_screencapNext is great movie musicals. I’m partial to West Side Story and The Sound of Music because I grew up on these movies. However, my all-time favorite has to be The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I was a teenager going out every Friday and Saturday night to dance the Time Warp, ask “Whatever Happened to Saturday Night” and wonder if we’re having Meatloaf fir dinner. The music is intoxicating and holds your heart and soul captive like a trans-sexual transvestite from Transylvania.

Lastly, I want to give a shout out to one of the greatest rock-n-roll bands of all time and the music that holds a place near-and-dear to us geeks. Queen has written songs for two classic sci-fi/fantasy movies … Highlander and Flash Gordon. If you hear the opening chorus of either one of these movies opening songs, you know exactly what it is. They are that recognizable, especially with Freddie Mercury’s incredible vocals. At the same time, I have to give a shout-out to the greatest movie singer of 80’s movies, Kenny Loggins. “Danger Zone” from Top Gun, “I’m Alright” from Caddyshack, “Footloose” from Footloose and so many more. Kenny Loggins was THE soundtrack of a generation of great movies.

No matter what your favorite movie or music, I know I only touched on a few favorites here. There are so many more to add and not enough space to write about them. All I can hope is that by reading my blog here today, you now have a song stuck in your head. Gotcha!

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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.

 

Doctor Who will always be the heart and soul of sci-fi/fantasy adventures

all_There are many TV shows, movies and books that are considered the “standard” by which all others are compared. There are many that try to lay claim to that title in the realm of science fiction, fantasy and adventure genre. Lord of the Rings, Star Trek and Star Wars are among the top contenders for those top spots. To me, none can compare to what I consider “the standard” and that is Doctor Who.

The Doctor crosses multiple genres and reflects the heart and soul, the good and the bad, of humanity in its stories, characters and vision from it’s conception in the 60’s to today. Though he’s a 2000-year-old Timelord from Gallifrey, his time among humans allows him to tell us when we’re right and when we’re wrong. That’s what makes him something beyond time and space. In one sentence, he can cross that boundary with such little effort or ease.

“I hate to read about good wizards in fairy tales; they always turn out to be him.” — River Song

It’s sentiments like that, simple yet profound, which shows the range of Doctor Who writers. They can tell his story throughout our history in a single sentence. That’s powerful. And yet, at the same time, the words of the Doctor can still the night air, take your breath away and bring armies to their knees.

“Great men are forged in fire, it is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame.” — War Doctor

Those words were spoken by the late John Hurt. Though he only played the Doctor once, in that short time, he embodied the spirit of the Timelord perfectly like all those actors who portrayed the Doctor before him. That says something about the actors picked to portray him but also to the writers who have created stories from original mythology as well as moments in history. The Doctor has been present at the destruction of Pompeii, with Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest, and he’s saved the Kings and Queens od England on more than one occasion.

One of the best Doctor Who stories was “The Girl in the Fireplace” from 2006. Take Madame De Popmpadour and have a living spaceship break through the time/space continuum to get her brain to run the ship. As crazy as it sounds, this episode showed the romantic, loving side of the Doctor. Here was a woman who took “the slower path” just to see him again. The chemistry between the Doctor and Reinette is so real, you can’t help but fall in love. There’s also a point, like so many in the series 50 year history, where you understand why the Doctor is feared as much as he is loved.

Young Reinette:  “Monsieur, be careful!”
The Doctor:  “It’s just a nightmare, Reinette, don’t worry, everyone has nightmares. Even monsters under the bed have nightmares!”
Young Reinette:  “What do monsters have nightmares about?”
The Doctor:  “Me!”

And now, Peter Capaldi, the latest incarnation of the Doctor, is ending his run at the end of this season. So now the question begs to be asked, who will take his place? Who will step into the mantle and become part of history. My vote is for Haley Atwell of Agent Carter. Just to see the “girl banter” between her and Missy (Michelle Gomez) would be priceless.

The Doctor is,without a doubt, one of the greatest characters ever created. He is in books, television, movies, cartoons, comic books and more. You can find pictures of the Tardis (Time and Relative Dimension in Space for the non-initiated) on practically every continent. He is a part of the many cultures around the world. That’s what makes Doctor Who an undeniable part of history, which is exactly where he (or she) belongs.

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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.