Writers beware! Social media will not let you write!

It’s safe to say that, in this world of perpetual quarantine, we have become a society “social media” parasites. We are living vicariously through our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Twitch, Zoom, and more. It is the only way we are communicating, coming together, and sharing ideas.

For writers, especially independent authors like me, social media is our bread and butter when it comes to marketing. I work at least 20 hours a week on social media, between designing posts and imagery to scheduling them, responding to queries, etc. When you’re working a full time job, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for eating, sleeping, or writing for that matter.

Plus, there is the draw, the allure, of social media. Between crazy cat videos, cute puppy videos, TikTok girls, creative artwork, and inspirational quotes, there is a constant draw into the world of social media. It’s part of the constant distraction of the internet, the kryptonite of authors. We want to sit and write, but the flow is interrupted. 

“If your content isn’t driving conversation, you’re doing it wrong.”Dan Roth, LinkedIn’s executive editor

Social media is a necessary tool for today’s authors. Through it, you can collaborate with other authors, find new readers, and promote your latest novel. It’s how we “IndieAuthors” find our niche in the book world. It’s the cheapest form of marketing an author can do. I can design a post and then use that same post for Facebook or Instagram as an ad. It’s an easy way to carry over from one form of advertising to another.  I can spend $100 a month in Facebook and Instagram ads that reaches nearly 30,000 people. That’s money well spent, but only if it turns into books purchased or downloaded.

“Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes, it’s an ad.” – Howard Gossage, real-life MadMen inspiration

The other problem is that there are so many “one-off” author support sites for independent authors like me. I belong to a couple of different sites, allauthor.com and bookbrush.com, that I pay an annual fee for tools in designing ads and social media posts, direct posts to other authors and readers, and a support network of other independent authors. They have been a great asset for me, but there are some out there that are scams who want money to send out tweets about your book to imaginary lists of people. So, beware before you buy into it.

Lastly, don’t be a social media butterfly or wallflower. You need to be aggressive in everything you do. If you aren’t paying attention, responding to comments or retweets, you might lose your audience. Don’t hesitate and be assertive, but always remember. Being a writer is the most important aspect of your job, so don’t stop writing for the sake of social media. You have to write, blog, and post, all at the same time. Multi-tasking is a bitch, but a necessary one. Remember that!

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

Star Wars novels are better than the movies (except the original trilogy)

Star Wars – The New Jedi Order: Dark Tide: Ruin Cover by Tsuyoshi Nagano.

This being International Star Wars Day (#Maythe4thbewithYou), I thought it best to reflect on one of the best epics in science fiction. The problem is, the books are better than some of the movies, video games, and television series out there.

How many of us wanted to see movies made from Timothy Zahn’s “Heir to the Empire” trilogy? Or salivating at seeing the Yuuzhan Vong and their bio-engineered weapons on the screen. These stories are some of the best out there, but not all are canon. This makes them just a memory, not part of the mythos that is Star Wars.

The first Star Wars book I ever read was “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” and it was a gem. After seeing the original, I wanted more and couldn’t wait for more. This book have us fans more insight into the workings of the force, before we heard about midi-chlorians. It was also the first time we heard about a kaiburr crystals, which is weird because it’s not related to kyber crystals (i.e. lightsabers) but it’s close.

I am a huge fan of the man series, from the New Jedi Order through Fate of the Jedi. I mean, in this series we had the death of Chewbacca, Anakin Solo and the journey of Jacen Solo from Jedi to Sith. It was an amazing series and, to be honest, it brought me closer to the Star Wars universe.

Novels expanded our knowledge, from characters, planets and races to the new insights into characters we barely knew anything about. The best example of that is Boba Fett. We barely knew anything about him after The Empire Strikes Back, and now we have the entire legacy of the Mandalorians to go with his legend. And it’s all from the books.

The Star Wars universe may have started as movies, but its canon… It’s TRUE canon is written by the authors who have taken us to “a galaxy far, far away” and beyond! It’s one of those many reasons why I became a writer.

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

Great news on the WAR front!

I have two great bits of news to report this week on The Outlander War: Book 3 of the Forever Avalon Series! This has been one of the best weeks I’ve had as an author and I wanted to share it with you.

The Outlander War completes my first trilogy, the third book in the Forever Avalon series. 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.

First up, I did an interview with a wonderful author and podcaster, Segilola Salami of The Segilola Salami Show. Her virtual cafe is always open with tips and advice for authors, book readers and other literary enthusiasts. We talked about the ins and outs of self-publishing, the problems facing an independent author, and my fantasy novels and the myths and legends behind them. It was a great interview, from one side of “the pond” to the other, and I would recommend you checking it out as well as listening her other podcasts! You won’t be disappointed.

book awards author writingSecondly, The Outlander War made the short list (lucky #7) for the 2019 Drunken Druid Book Award from the Emerald Isle of Ireland. The Drunken Druid aims to exhibit, nurture and promote creative people in accordance with the highest professional standards. In 2013, an Awards Program for the best original full-length novel was created to bring recognition to books of up and coming authors. This literary prize is awarded each year for the best original full-length fictional novel. This is a tremendous honor for me and I can’t thank Sara Knight and the entire Drunken Druid staff for considering me for this award.

So, after being stuck indoors for nearly six weeks with just my wife and my dog during a pandemic, worrying about my own future as an author, I’ve had my best week ever. Here’s to hoping that better things yet to come!

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

Steampunk is the future of science fiction, from the past

Steampunk Paris | Steampunk artwork, Steampunk art, Steampunk airshipSteampunk is defined as “a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.” To me, it’s modern technology with a Victorian twist. This genre has been on the rise with its push in video games with the award winning Bioshock or The Order franchise, TV series like Steampunkd, and in books, starting with the Godfather of Steampunk, Jules Verne, to authors like Cherie Priest and Michael Moorcock.

Some people view it more as a fashion style, combining Victorian-era sensibilities with brass fittings, gauges and gears. Weird optics, mechanical arms, airships and powerful weapons of steam, chemicals, and electricity are the backbone of steampunk style, but again, it’s the story behind the style that makes it appealing.

Jules Verne is the undisputed father of the Steampunk movement. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea will always be the epitome of steampunk. I always imagined a meeting in France between Nikola Tesla and Jules Verne in the spring of 1882, discussing the possibilities of Verne’s creations using Tesla’s technology. Wouldn’t that be something? It’s actually the basis for a steampunk novel I’ve been working on, Corsair and the Sky Pirates, but that’s another story for another time. To me, this would be the ideal setting of where it all began. The birth of Steampunk as we know it today.

“Steampunk is an eclectic world of cogs and rivets. It is airships and goggles and steam. It is romance. It is travelling on clouds and diving beneath rugged waves. It is adventure.” ― Aether Emporium

I felt the Steampunk desire today, So I watched "Steamboy" and ...One of the best representations of Steampunk in film is the Japanese animated film, Steamboy. Though most of the Steampunk technology in the film was represented by weapons, it is still a wonderful tribute to the genre. Steamboy tells the story of Ray Steam, a British boy in 1863 England, and how the invention of a “steamball” pitted Robert Stephenson, the first master of the steam engine, against Ray’s father, Edward, and his “Steam Castle” at the London Exposition. It’s style, look and feel could make any Steampunk aficionado jump for joy. Another great example of Steampunk is the Japanese TV series, Fullmetal Alchemist. It combines the style and look of Steampunk with alchemy and magic.

Steampunk inventor/author/mechanic Jake von Slatt said, “To some, ‘steampunk’ is a catch all term. To me, it is essentially the intersection of technology and romance.” That’s quite an opinion. I think Steampunk does have a bit of a romantic flair, especially in the wardrobe. Men’s attire is very masculine in Steampunk while the women are sexy and feminine. In both cases, the trend is very fashion forward, evoking strength and power while being strangely attractive.

“Steampunk is…a joyous fantasy of the past, allowing us to revel in a nostalgia for what never was. It is a literary playground for adventure, spectacle, drama, escapism and exploration. But most of all it is fun!” ― George Mann

I’ve started to bring some Steampunk into my own writing. Though the Forever Avalon novels are more medieval fantasy, in contrast, through my stories, they are moving forward in look and technology. Like Fullmetal Alchemist, I am trying to weave those elements together with things slowly coming of age. In my new novel, The Outlander War, I am leaning more towards the Renaissance while keeping some of the medieval fantasy elements there.

I created weapons I call GunStars, named after the ships in The Last Starfighter movie (one of my favorite sci-fi movies of the 80’s). They look like oversized flintlock pistols, using cartridges containing alchemical mixtures that, when combined with the magic within the GunStar, fires explosive rounds. From fireballs and ‘magic missiles’ to acid rain and hail, these weapons make even the more novice warriors more formidable.

I realize that these creations of mine are not 100% Steampunk, but they were inspired by it. Steampunk is as Jake von Slatt said, “an intersection” of technology and whatever your imagination brings to the table.” Don’t think of it as outdated, but rather a futuristic twist on history. That’s some that can spark the curiosity of any reader.

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

Meet Abdel Ben Faust, the half-demon mercenary swordsman of Avalon

47621e03971b118a9570e1362f12b9a8Creating a proper villain is an integral part of any fantasy story. Villains like this can be complicated, conflicted, and disturbed with a sordid past that can explain their tragic upbringing. Most of the time, though, they are just pure evil.

That is the story of Abdel Ben Faust, a new character and antagonist in The Outlander War: Book 3 of the Forever Avalon Series. Faust was based on a character I once played in Dungeons and Dragons. This character was my one and only perfectly rolled 18/00 strength. For those of you who don’t know what that is, that is the highest natural strength attribute for a D&D character. I never rolled one before, and this was a perfect roll. So I created a lawful evil, half-orc fighter who loved swords. He was proficient with every type of sword, and kept the swords of enemies he killed. He always claimed the most powerful swords for himself and kept them locked away in a vault as trophies.

I used this character as the basis for Abdel Ben Faust. Now, I don’t have Orcs in Avalon, so I made him a half-demon. I also gave him a cursed broad sword, Deathsong, which only he can wield. This weapon burned with an unnatural flame that only he could stand. It was the perfect weapon for a mercenary swordsman. Here is an excerpt from The Outlander War where we are introduced to Abdel Ben Faust.

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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

In South Essex, the Black Swan was one of the most reputable taverns, with the best food, wine and spirits in the city. But even the best places can attract unsavoury 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 lived up to the name, with 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, save for one guest. The owner arranged this at the request of the guest, but also, so the 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 carried the best.

His name was Abdel Ben Faust, a mercenary by trade and considered by most as the finest swordsman on Avalon. His skin was reddish-brown. 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 moustache was long and thin, hanging down below his chin, which was where his true heritage showed through.

From there 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 moulded himself from slave to mercenary warrior, becoming a master swordsman available to the highest bidder.

He had avoided conflict with the Gil-Gamesh since his return to Avalon thanks to an innate ability from his demonic lineage. Faust could 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 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, 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,” said the stranger, as he pulled a bottle from out of robe pocket. Finnick bowed and left the room, closing the drapes behind him.

The stranger walked up to Abdel’s table but stopped when the half-demon drew his sword and chugged down the last of the whiskey, resting his blade across the table. It was a broadsword, nearly four feet long, with a jagged edge etched along the top edge of the blade. Wisps of smoke curled from the sword, as if it were burning, and the runes etched deep into 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 honour and whom 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 calibre could have turned the tide in her favour.”

Faust was insulted by the stranger’s accusation but let it pass. “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.

“Go on.”

“She let the Gil-Gamesh live,” he said. “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 Pendragons 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 should 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 a ruby amulet, still glowing from the strong magic he had imbued within it. Faust barely glanced at it, “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 dishonour or shame that fell upon them in life. They served a penance, keeping the demons of the underworld in check until they earned their place in Heaven.

Faust rolled his eyes. “No one can control the Wraith Legion. It’s impossible.”

“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 Knight as payment, for your collection.”

It was well known that Abdel Ben Faust had, over time, collected the weapon of every knight, warrior and monster he bested in battle. He kept his collection hidden from prying eyes. He liked to savour every victory by looking at the weapons of his fallen enemies hanging on the walls of his vault. The swords of the Gil-Gamesh would be the centrepiece 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?” the half-demon asked.

The hooded figure stood up and peeled back his hood. Faust recognised the face almost immediately. “You? You’ve been dead for centuries, millennia even! It can’t be!”

The stranger pulled the hood 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 join me?” he asked. Faust sat there, stroking his chin in contemplation. After a few moments, he raised his glass.

“When do we get started?”

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

Reading takes you to other worlds when you’re stuck inside under quarantine

Image result for quotes about booksThis whole pandemic has been hard on everyone. For writers, like me, it’s a time to work on your current manuscript. But for others, its nothing but binge-watching the news or the same old TV show with no end in sight for the quarantine. That’s where books come in. Now is the time to dust off your copy of “The Lord of the Rings” or “Gone with the Wind” and immerse yourself in a good book. Books are the escape we need in this time of crisis.

Stephen King said, “Books are uniquely portable magic!” And you know what? He’s right. Books are meant to take you to other worlds and beyond, from the Shire in Middle Earth to orbiting around Jupiter on a derelict spaceship to an express train to Hogwarts and (in my case) on a flying galleon above the island of Avalon. For many of you stuck inside with nothing to do, this is the time to rediscover books.

Books are as important to writers as they are to readers. Books are what inspires us, fills our imagination, and gives us our purpose as writers. We look to other writers for that inspiration to forge ahead in our own stories. For readers, books are the escape route. Books are to the older generation what TV and video games are to today’s younger generation. Now is the time to introduce them to the magic inside books.

There are countless adventures found within the pages of books. “Think, boy. What kind of an adventure would you have had if I brought you here with the turn of a page?” said the Pagemaster (The Pagemaster, 1994). “When in doubt, look to the books!” I know it’s kind of hypocritical, quoting a movie to talk about reading books, but the message is still the same.

So, I encourage all of you to dust of your bookshelves and pick up an old friend or maybe download a new novel to your Kindle, iPad, or Smartphone. This is the time to venture out from the doldrums of quarantine and find yourselves in another world of possibilities. And, I will take this time to put in a selfish plug for my own novels in the Forever Avalon series in the hope that you might enjoy a jaunt across the magical island of Avalon.

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

Stuck at home? Here’s something to read for FREE

This week, like many people across America and around the world, I was stuck in my house trying to practice “social distancing” from everyone but my wife and my dog. Although, to be honest, my wife is trying to keep me six feet away (joke, honey, just a joke). We are all learning some “new norms” for the next few weeks or, God forbid, months.

While we are all worrying about our stockpile of toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, alcohol and bullets, I thought I would give away something to help people (a) pass the time away, and (b) take your mind off the stock market and getting sick. It’s the least I could do!

From March 19-23, ebook copies of my first novel, Forever Avalon, are available for download for FREE on Amazon. If you’re part of the Kindle Unlimited program, you can already download it for FREE, but for those not in it, this one is for you! Forever Avalon is a journey to the magical island of Avalon as a modern-day family find themselves lost in another world.

As with anything, I only ask that after you read it, please leave a review to help an independent author succeed! And, if you are so inclined, please check out my other two books: The Dark Tides and The Outlander War. They are also available for digital download as ebooks.

Thanks for your support and remember to wash your hands, stay indoors, and don’t hoard all the toilet paper! Leave some for the rest of us!

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

King Arthur is the legend that lives in all of us

“Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesu into another place. And men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the the Holy Cross.”~Sir Thomas Mallory, Le Morte d’Arthur

The legend of King Arthur, Camelot, the Knights of the Round Table, Merlin, Morganna le Fay, the Lady of the Lake and Excalibur… These stories are at the heart of the fantasy genre, the myths and legends we cling to in our stories. It can be found in books, movies, television, comic books, and anime from the United Kingdom, to the U.S., and Japan. The story of honor, courage, magic, and mystery is deep within the psyche of every human being. 

We love the tale of the boy king pulling the sword from the stone; the romantic triangle between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot; the magic of Merlin and Excalibur; and the evil of Morganna le Fay and Mordred. These are legends ingrained in us that, in one way or or another, we can all relate to.

Image result for the sword in the stoneI first learned about the legend of King Arthur as a boy. Like any child of the 60’s and 70’s, it was taught to me through the magic of Disney. The Sword in the Stone (1967) is an animated classic, telling the story of Arthur and Merlin with a witch named Mim thrown in for good measure. It is a fun movie that taught this classic tale to kids like me. 

I think my exposure to the legend of Camelot was first done through movies, classics like Prince Valiant (1954) and Camelot (1967) to Excalibur (1981) and First Knight (1994), even Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). There has been so many re-imagining takes on this timeless story in so many forms. That’s what makes it such an integral part of the fantasy genre.

Image result for saber arthur and mordred fateMost recently, you can find the enigmatic King Arthur, Mordred, Lancelot, and Merlin as “heroic spirits” in the Fate anime series. Arthur and Mordred are gender-swapped as powerful women, both of the “Saber-class” of heroic spirits. Although it was weird at first, they actually kept the legend intact through this twist. The conflict between these two is better explained in this anime than in any other story I’ve read or watched. It’s an amazing conflict that brings out the vulnerabilities in these characters.

I used the legend of King Arthur and Camelot as the basis for the Forever Avalon series. I took the approach of “what happened next” in the story, looking at it from the perspective of our world today. The idea started with a simple question… What happened? What happened to all the magic, the mythical creatures and monsters? Where did it go? Why did it disappear from our world? The answer, in my mind, was Avalon.

Avalon has always been a place of eternal magic that will never die. Sir Thomas Malory, in his fifteenth century epic Le Morte d’Arthur, tells of King Arthur’s final moments. Bedivere took the King upon his back and carried him to the water’s edge, and there was a little barge floating there with many beautiful ladies in it. “Comfort yourself,” said the king, “and do the best you can. I can no longer help you, for I must go into the vale of Avalon to be healed.” Collins English Dictionary defines Avalon as “an island paradise in the western seas” and derives it from the Old Welsh word “Aballon” for Apple.

There are other accounts of Avalon in literature. According to Geoffrey in the Historia, and much subsequent literature which he inspired, Avalon is the place where King Arthur is taken after fighting Mordred at the Battle of Camlann to recover from his wounds. Welsh, Cornish and Breton tradition claimed that Arthur had never really died, but would return to lead his people against their enemies. Historia also states that Avalon is where his sword Excalibur was forged. This is the part of the legend I tapped into to begin my story.

tow ad7But what happens when Avalon is forced back into the modern world of today? You’ll have to read The Outlander War: Book 3 of the Forever Avalon Series to find out!

In the end, it all started with the legend of King Arthur. His story, whether based on fact or fiction, myth or legend, rings true in the mind of a writer like me. It is the stepping stone that brings you into my world. Take the journey and believe in magic again!

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

WTF did I just watch? Has Doctor Who gone off the deep end or am I exaggerating?

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Okay, it’s taken me a week to digest the season finale of Doctor Who and I’m still banging my head against the wall as I try to understand the twisted mind of Chris Chibnall. This has been one of the weirdest seasons in the 56 year history of Doctor Who. I don’t know where to begin. By the way, SPOILERS AHEAD, so you’ve been warned.

Let’s go back to the beginning… It’s a very good place to start… (God, now that song is stuck in my head!)

Anyway, from what we’ve been told, the Timelords were a race of the most technologically advanced beings in the universe. They discovered the secret to time travel, dimensional engineering, etc., etc. They even found a way to live for thousands of years through regeneration. This has been time tested for the entire run of Doctor Who… until now.

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Now, as we are told by The Master (which, by the way, as played by Sacha Dhawan, has been the highlight of this season) it seems we were lied to. A scientist from Gallifrey discovered the “Timeless Child” from another dimension. This child could regenerate, so the scientist tried to transfer this ability and tried it on herself. This gave birth to the Timelords, but to keep it a secret, they limited it to 13 regenerations and enforced the secret through an organization called “The Division”. Oh, by the way, the so-called Timeless Child is, in fact, the Doctor. She has been alive and regenerating for countless millennia, and she was part of this secret organization.

Now, as creative as this is, it wipes away everything we know about the Doctor. I mean, it might explain how the first Doctor had a granddaughter and why he left Gallifrey, why the 11th Doctor had to be given another set of regenerations, the existence of the Valeyard, the “other”Doctor that was stranded on Earth, and more. But, it just doesn’t feel right. It changes everything we knew about the Timelords, not to mention this episode wiped them out of existence after the Master turned them into the Cyber Masters (Cybermen capable of regenerating) so it’s pretty twisted.

I want you to think about this… Where do we go from here? I mean, the show ended with the Doctor ending up captured by the Judoon (think back to the episode “Fugitive of the Judoon”) and locked away for some odd reason. Plus, the other Doctor (also brilliantly played by Jo Martin) made an appearance and we still don’t know where she came from. This kind of intrigue is why I love Doctor Who.

Look, I am not the biggest fan of Jodie Whittaker’s take on the Doctor. She has her moments, both good and bad. I love her little rants where she talks to herself, but she doesn’t have the presence of the Doctor. Whenever the Doctor walks into the room, you know automatically they’re the smartest person there, but not with Jodie. She tries to pull it off but she just can’t do it. Even Jo Martin showed more confidence in being the Doctor, and she was only in two episodes. I hope in the next season Jodie can develop the “swagger” that comes with being the Doctor.

Chibnall has changed everything we know about Doctor Who in one season finale, so what do we do now? We can’t go back, but I think it needs to be developed more and not just shuffled on screen. The Doctor needs to go deep into those memories she’s recovered and show us the meaning behind the “Timeless Child” and why she is who she is and what it means for the future.

I truly believe next season may be the last for Chibnall and Whittaker, so I hope they can tie things up with a bow and give it to us on a silver platter. It’s too important to the fans and the legacy that is Doctor Who.

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

Excerpt from THE OUTLANDER WAR… The Russians are Coming!

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It’s only been a few days since the release of The Outlander War: Book 3 of the FOREVER AVALON Series and I can’t be more excited. I am working diligently to set up some book signings and other events in the next few months, so please stay tuned for more information. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from my fantasy novel, where Russian military decided to invade the magical island to see for themselves what all the fuss is about, and they find themselves quite unwelcome. I hope this excerpt excites you to read The Outlander War, and remember, be kind to an independent author and leave a review! Good or bad, every one helps!

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“Begging your pardon, milord, but Captain McLoughlin requests your presence immediately. We’ve captured some Outlander spies.”

“Where at? Somewhere along the coast?” Bryan asked, as Stephanie got off
his lap.

“No, milord, here on Emmyr.”

Bryan jumped to his feet and followed Amelia, with Stephanie close behind, down to the main hall. Captain McLoughlin and other members of his Dragon Guard surrounded a group of five men, kneeling on the floor with their hands behind their heads. They were dressed in black combat gear with camouflage makeup covering their faces. They varied in height and weight, but all were in excellent physical condition. Bryan knew immediately they were Special Forces, but whose?

The Dragon Guard had spears and swords pointed at the captured men, watching them closely, especially with the Gil-Gamesh and Lady Stephanie present. Rhona walked over to brief Lord MoonDrake on their capture.

“We captured them near the northern ridge of Emmyr, milord,” she stated. “They ran into a group of dragons and when they realised their weapons wouldn’t penetrate a dragon’s hide, they ran toward Port Charles. That’s when we captured them.”

Bryan looked away from the soldiers and began to examine the cache of weapons and equipment Rhona confiscated from them while she continued her briefing. “The only thing I don’t know is how they arrived on Emmyr. They shouldn’t have been able to fly their damn machines past the magical barrier.”

The Gil-Gamesh spied something among the equipment that answered that question. It was a small oxygen tank attached to a hose, but the mask was missing. “Oh, they flew all right, just not in the way we’re used to,” he said. “They did a Halo jump.”

“Halo jump, Gil-Gamesh?” Amelia queried.

“High Altitude Low Opening… Halo,” he explained. “They flew near the island, high in the atmosphere and parachuted down to Emmyr. The mask is missing from his oxygen tank, probably because he had to rip it off as they got close to the island. The pressure valve likely failed once they crossed the magical barrier.

“Send some men further up the mountain, past where you captured them,” Bryan continued. “I’m sure you’ll find some more of them there; probably dead from asphyxiation, am I right?”

Bryan addressed his last remark toward the captured soldiers, but none of them spoke up. They said nothing, just continued to stare straight ahead. While Rhona sent Amelia to relay orders to one of their patrols as to where to search, Bryan picked up one of the weapons to examine the make and model. “An AK-74N…Russian made,” he said, as he took out the magazine and cleared the chamber, ejecting a single round. “Spetsnaz? Am I right, comrade?”

They continued to stay silent, which infuriated Rhona. “Answer the Gil-Gamesh!” she shouted. They remained quiet until one of the men spat on the ground at her feet. Rhona stormed at the man as she drew her sword. She grabbed him by the collar and lifted him in the air with ease, shocking the captured soldiers at her incredible feat of strength. She laid her sword under his chin and across his throat.

“I have killed men for less, dog,” she threatened. She saw fear in his face and watched his blood trickled down her blade, the tip of her sword puncturing his skin, but only just.

“Rhona,” Bryan said. It was all he needed to say. The Captain of the Dragon Guard never removed her gaze from the soldier and slowly lowered him until his feet touched the ground. Once she released him, Bryan stepped up next to Rhona.

“Spetsnaz?” he asked again but the man stayed silent.

“What is Spetsnaz, milord?” Rhona asked.

“Russian Special Forces,” he explained, “cold-blooded assassins as far as I’m concerned, and you don’t come armed to the teeth like this to gather intelligence. So, let’s find out what their mission really was.”

When Bryan said that, the Spetsnaz soldier braced himself, as if he expected to be tortured. “Oh, don’t worry, no one’s going to hurt you,” the Gil-Gamesh assured him. “Your cooperation is guaranteed to be painless.”

With that, the Gil-Gamesh reached out and touched him on his head. Instantaneously, images begin to flood his mind through the dragon sight—an innate ability he possessed that allowed him to see the past, present and even future of someone through touch. Images of the man as a young boy appeared. A father drinking heavily. A father beating the boy with a belt in a drunken tirade. The father being arrested for killing the boy’s mother. The boy being raised by the state. The boy attending a military academy. The boy  excelling in marksmanship and hand-to-hand combat, driven by rage.

As the images got more intense, Bryan concentrated so he could focus on recent events. He saw a briefing by high-level Russian officers being conducted, highlighted by satellite images of Avalon and its position in the Atlantic. Emmyr was pinpointed by the target circles around it. One officer held up a picture of Bryan, taken on the flight deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. He saw flashes of Russian Navy ships coming toward Avalon. He watched as the men loaded into a transport plane, wearing their full jump gear; as the back door of the plane opened, the men jumped out one by one. As they fell through the clouds, Avalon and Emmyr came into view. The soldier suddenly began to gasp for air. He ripped off his mask and took a deep breath just as he opened his chute, before landing hard on the mountainside.

Bryan let go of the Spetsnaz soldier; he had seen enough. The two men shared the images, but the soldier was dazed and confused by the exchange. He breathed heavy as his eyes grew large, unsure of what just happened to him. Bryan saw enough to know what they were doing on Emmyr.

He walked back over to their gear and started rummaging through their bags until he found what he was looking for: a targeting laser for long-range missiles.

“Son of a bitch,” he cursed, “they were going to light us up, paint Emmyr as a target for an enemy attack.”

“You mean laser-guided missiles, like the ones used in Iraq and Afghanistan?” Stephanie asked.

“Exactly, they must not have believed the reports that technology won’t work on Avalon. These men were an advanced team, to provide intelligence to the Russian Navy ships on their way here and, just in case the Russians aren’t happy with negotiations, target us for an attack.”

“How do you know this?” the Russian soldier asked, his thick accent coming through his English.

“Because I was once like you,” Bryan began. “I was a sailor serving my country proudly until fate brought me here to Avalon, but I’m also a knight. I’ve been fighting against the likes of you for all my life and if you think you can come to my home and threaten my people, you are sadly mistaken. Now, you’ll face Avalon justice.”

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