Classic monster movies are a necessity when Halloween is near

I can honestly say that I love classic sci-fi/horror movies. I grew up watching them on Saturday afternoons on TV or late at night as part of the “Doctor Demento” movie showcase. I really consider them an essential part of my development as a sci-fi/fantasy writer. Their stories may be a little campy, and somewhat dated, but oh so fun to watch.

I think everyone has their own opinion on their favorite movies, I have a few that, to me are essential for any sci-fi/horror fan to watch. Some of these have been remade and update with modern movie magic, but the originals are still the best.

them-movie-poster-1954-1020544319Them (1954) — The earliest atomic tests in New Mexico cause common ants to mutate into giant man-eating monsters that threaten civilization. This movie has an all-star cast, including James Whitmore and Edmund Gwenn (Santa Claus from Miracle on 34th Street). In the early days of the atomic bomb, scientists didn’t really know how radiation would affect people, insects, animals, etc. It wasn’t the giant ants that were scary in this movie, but the sound they made. When you heard that sound, it made chills run down your spine, kind of like the music from Friday the 13th when Jason Voorhees was near. The best scene was when they were talking to the little girl who survived the attack and, when she hears the sound of the ants, and shouts out “Them! Them!” It really makes the movie seem real and terrifying.

Dracula1931posterDracula (1931) — The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina. Before vampires became sparkly boy-toys, there was Count Dracula. Bela Lugosi is, and always will be, the one and only Dracula. This is the role that, unfortunately, typecast him so that he rarely did any other roles outside the famous vampire; but at the same time, it is a role he will always be remembered for. He doesn’t bare the classic fangs we see in vampires today, but he was terrifying none the least. It is amazing to see the huge sets and dark, scary places associated with the classic story. Though it’s been told and retold, time and time again, this is still the original and the best one there is.

4f153e3f1cf3c9f62bb2456bd2d1d857--gene-barry-classic-sci-fi-moviesWar of the Worlds (1953) — A small town in California is attacked by Martians, beginning a worldwide invasion. Though Orson Wells radio show started the hysteria around this adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel, the movie brought it to life. It even won an Academy Award for visual effects, influencing countless science fiction movies in the years to come. The death and destruction reigned down on the people of Earth was overwhelming. It also showed the ugly side of man, as they tear each other apart to escape the horror. Even in the end, when they died from something simple as bacteria, it demonstrated that we (human beings) are not the most powerful beings in the universe. This movie is always on the top of my watch list.

Thing-PosterThe Thing from Another World (1951) — Scientists and American Air Force officials fend off a bloodthirsty alien organism while at a remote arctic outpost. Many think John’s Carpenters The Thing is the best version of this story, but I beg to differ. This is, without a doubt, the best and the scariest there is. When battling aliens, it’s hard to imagine a fight like this:  A crashed spaceship, a frozen alien pilot, alien plant-life that grows on human blood, and more. The creature itself was terrifying to watch. His bloodthirsty nature was an integral part of the story, as was the idiot scientist who thought he could control it. Battling the creature in the freezing arctic made it even more difficult. This is an essential science fiction classic for everyone to see, but my advice is don’t watch it alone.

Abbott_and_Costello_Meet_Frankenstein_poster-1-Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) — Two hapless freight handlers find themselves encountering Dracula, the Frankenstein monster and the Wolfman. Okay, it’s not a scary movie, but it’s too damn funny to ignore. Abbott and Costello ran into various classic movie monsters in a series of movies, but this one is the best. This movie has the original Dracula (Bela Lugosi), the original Wolfman (Lon Chaney, Jr.) and even a cameo by Vincent Price as the Invisible Man. It has so many great scenes that combined scary and funny. When Lou Costello was reading the description of Dracula and the coffin lid kept opening and closing, or when he goes into the Wolfman’s room and he keeps missing the monster’s attacks are side-splitting laughter to watch. This is a don’t miss movie.

There are a few honorable mentions like Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Time Machine (1960), The Wolfman (1941), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and Godzilla (1954). I’m sure there are a few I missed, so please add your favorites to the comments. Just pop the popcorn, turn off the lights, and put in the dvd. Just remember to watch it with a friend.

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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 AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

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Women should be feared, loved and respected

ww scJames Cameron is a moron! I had to start out with that because, in my opinion, he is. Here is an Academy award winning filmmaker, who has created some of the most powerful women on screen and he says something stupid like this:

“All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over Wonder Woman has been so misguided. She’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing!” he fumed. “I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie but, to me, it’s a step backwards. Sarah Connor was not a beauty icon. She was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit. And to me, [the benefit of characters like Sarah] is so obvious. I mean, half the audience is female!”

Seriously? You are pissing on one of the most powerful female icons in the history of fantasy by comparing her to your own character. Sorry, but as much as I love Sarah Connor, she is no Wonder Woman. This is a character that is idolized by millions in everything from comic books, action figures, anime, and cosplay. Her likeness is recognized by millions. If I were to hold up a picture of Wonder Woman and Sarah Conner, who do you think people are more likely to recognize?

If you’re trying to compare strong female icons of 80’s films, I’ll take Ripley over Sarah Conner any day. Even today, there are dozens of female characters I would chose over Sarah Conner, from Daenerys Targaryen to Harley Quinn to Lara Croft. Sarah Conner hasn’t been a bad ass since Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

Characters like Wonder Woman stand the test of time. She’s changed with the times, from a WWII patriotic heroine to a modern, free-thinking feminist in the 70’s to a woman of today, powerful in mind and body to stand up to the evils of our world. Wonder Woman has aged like a fine wine… bold, distinct and full-bodied (okay, sorry, bad pun).

Sarah Connor is a part of the modern, sci-fi genre, and rightly so, but you can’t compare her to Wonder Woman. There is no comparison. I think his comments are insulting to Gal Gadot, Patty Jenkins, Lynda Carter, and the thousands of fans who have been waiting to see her on the big screen. It is also insulting to Kate Winslet, Zoe Saldana, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Linda Hamilton, and every other strong woman who appeared in a James Cameron film.

I’ve tried to include strong, female characters in all my stories. It’s because I’ve had many strong women in my life. That’s what having a great female role model does. I think James Cameron needs one in his life.

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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 AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Without Excalibur, there wouldn’t be a fantasy genre

excalibur-stone

“Behold Excalibur! The sword of power! Forged when birds and beasts and flower were One with Man, and death was but a dream!” — Merlin, from the movie Excalibur

If you want to trace back the origins of the fantasy genre that we know today, you have to start with the story of King Arthur and his sword, Excalibur. Magic swords are, without a doubt, the heart of many fantasy story arcs.  You know their names… Excalibur, Stormbringer, Kusanagi, Glamdring, the Master Sword, etc. Just the mention of their name evokes power.

Many of these blades are based in some form of mythology. For example, Beowolf’s sword Hrunting, was based on the Viking Ulfberht swords. The Ulfberht weren’t magical swords, but great swords of power , none the less. Dating between the 9th and 12th century, the Ulfberht swords were made with crucible steel, making the swords unbelievably strong. Such a sword was recently found in Iceland, completely intact and nearly 1,000 years old.

It’s the history and mythology of swords like this is essential for fantasy writers like myself. There has to be a history with the sword, not just a name and magical power. It has to have a history and a purpose.

Lord Bryan MoonDrake [2072845]My fantasy series, Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides, is centered around the twin swords wielded by the Gil-Gamesh, the champion of Avalon, Twilight and Dusk. These swords were forged from the shards of Excalibur, after the sword was shattered when Merlin focused his magical power through the sword. To protect Avalon, the swords were reforged into the Twin Swords of the Dragon Moon, Twilight and Dusk. The swords were wielded by Percival, the last Knight of the Round Table, who became the first Gil-Gamesh.

I created Twilight and Dusk on the notion that Excalibur shattered because it was tainted by King Arthur… His jealousy of Lancelot and Guinevere, his guilt over Morgana and Mordred. This caused an imbalance within the blade that caused it to shatter. The pieces were reforged into two swords, each with a different powerset. Twilight held the power behind Excalibur… the light of truth, justice and honor. It shined with a light capable of penetrating any darkness. Dusk contained the evil that tainted the sword. It was a soul reaper, fueling the dark with the souls of the wicked.

These swords played an integral part of my story. They define Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, in how he came to be and his abilities as the champion of Avalon. It’s not just a plot device or another element in the story, these swords are almost another character themselves. To demonstrate this, he is an excerpt from Forever Avalon, when the Gil-Gamesh first appeared in the story.

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Biscane pulled out a rolled up piece of parchment paper from his belt, opened it and compared the image on the paper to Stephanie. “Yep, payday boys, it’s her all right,”Biscane proclaimed happily, as he rolled the paper up and tucked it back in his belt. The trolls laughed with glee, deep and hearty. Biscane grabbed Stephanie by the hair and pulled her away from the troll, dragging her toward his horse.

“What about them?”one of the trolls asked Biscane, pointing toward the three children. Biscane looked over at the children and pondered their fate for a moment.

“They’re not on the bounty. Kill them—eat them if you want—just don’t leave anything behind.”

“No!”Stephanie screamed, struggling against Biscane’s hold on her, reaching out to save her children. They screamed in terror, backing up against the boat as the troll reached toward them, chuckling and licking his lips with the thought of a juicy meal of fresh meat. But then, he stopped dead in his tracks and looked down at his chest.

A black blade sliced through him from behind. Dark black-red blood trickled down from the wound. The troll dropped his club as his body began shaking uncontrollably. The monster started to shrink and shrivel to dust and bones—as if consumed by an unnatural force—until what remained of the troll fell into the sand and sea.

The dust settled and now, standing where the troll once stood, a mysterious stranger appeared. A metal sheath hid his face, his head was hooded, hidden by a flowing grey cloak. Only his blue eyes pierced through the shadows under the hood. His body was armored in chain mail. He wielded two swords—one black and one gold colored—each hilt adorned with dragons clutching the blades in their claws. At the bottom of each hilt, the dragon’s tail curled around crystals resembling the moon. On his chest, a coat of arms—a dragon holding the moon coiled in its tail—was proudly worn. The same image rested on a silver pendant, hanging from a heavy chain around his neck.

He turned to face Biscane and the other trolls. Biscane looked in horror and spoke just one name, “Gil-Gamesh!” He looked over at the two remaining trolls, gawking at the stranger in awe and fear. “Well, what are you slobs waiting for, kill him!” Biscane shouted.

The trolls, though afraid and unsure, raised their weapons and rushed to attack. The stranger took a fighting stance, stepping between the hulking beasts and the children. “Take cover behind the boat,” he told them, his voice commanding, ringing with a metallic sound from the mask. Ashley grabbed her brother and sister and quickly pulled them behind the boat. They peeked over the top rail and watched the ensuing battle before them.

The troll swung wildly at the Gil-Gamesh, who reacted quickly by rolling under the swinging club and slashing the troll in his Achilles tendon, across the back of his leg. The troll fell in pain, dropping his club and grabbing his wounded leg. The Gil-Gamesh moved to one knee and thrust his sword in the troll’s forehead, quickly silencing the beast.

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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 AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

The art of war in medieval fantasy stories

“Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.”

35-Sun-Tzu-Quotes-1The words of the great Sun Tzu have been used to motivate warriors for thousands of years. His wisdom in warfare is an essential read for those signing up for the armed forces. It is also essential for fantasy writers. Warfare between humans, Elves, Dwarves, dragons, centaurs, and other mythical creatures is an integral part of fantasy writing.

Combat is not just about sword swinging, arrow flinging, and spear thrusting. It’s about strategy, deception, and intricate maneuvers that will lead to victory. When considering what to do, think about something Sun Tzu said.

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Besides reading Sun Tzu, I’ve been able to develop fighting strategies in my stories through hours of Dungeons & Dragons role playing. Being immersed in the game, especially in combat situations, forced me to develop strategies and think about ways to fight in fantasy situations.

When your creating a combat situation, the devil’s in the details. You not only need to consider your characters and their capabilities, but also the enemies capabilities, the terrain, the weather, and more. There are so many elements involved in any combat scenario that a book like Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is almost required reading.

If you need inspiration for a great leader, “In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.” Do you need a plan where the odds are lopsided? “Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack.” Everything you need can be found in Sun Tzu. If it worked for Tony Soprano, it van work for you.

Just remember this:

“Order or disorder depends on organization; courage or cowardice on circumstances; strength or weakness on dispositions.”

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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 AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Daydreaming is for dreamers, keeping writers like me feeling young again

1218075500955_fRalph Waldo Emerson said, “Live in the sunshine. Swim the sea. Drink the wild air.” I like the sound of that, not only as a writer but as a human being. To me, it says “enjoy life” to the fullest possible sense. It also helps to keep one’s creative juices flowing.

I will admit that I daydream a lot. I find myself dreaming about the next chapter of my novel, or captain of a spaceship, travelling to the stars. I’ve even dreamed about being a rock star while listening to my favorite music. I think that dreaming comes naturally to people with a creative talent, like writers, artists and musicians.

It’s through dreams that we create and add to the building blocks of our stories. The whole concept for Forever Avalon came from a dream I had, and each story of the series has come to me through dreams. I’ll give you an example. I’m currently writing the fourth book in the Forever Avalon series, but I’ve been stuck on this one part. For weeks, I’ve been staring at my computer with little to no results. Then one night, as I laid in bed trying to sleep, it came to me. The story just laid itself out perfectly in my mind. It was exactly what I was looking for. The only problem was that because my mind was racing with all these ideas, I couldn’t fall asleep.

“Never let it be said that to dream is to waste one’s time, for dreams are our realities in waiting. In dreams, we plant the seeds of our future.” ─ Unknown

I think that’s the curse, for lack of a better word, for writers. Our ideas can come at the most inopportune time and we don’t know how to shut it off, no matter how much sleep we lose. That does present a problem, whether at work or late at night when you’ve got to get up for work the next day. Dreaming, and daydreaming, can both be a negative and a positive for writers.

Its a part of us that lets us bust loose with incredible adventures in worlds never imagined or seen before. I wouldn’t trade all the sleepless nights and missed deadlines if I had to give up my dreams. Even the smartest people in the world want to live in their dreams.

Albert Einstein said, “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live in my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”

We need our dreams to give us something to aspire too. Those dreams are the foundation of our future. Let’s not give up those dreams, otherwise we will stay stalled in our life. I will continue to dream and grow my world through my imagination. That way, I’ll never grow old.

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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 AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Getting over the a writer’s wall requires inspiration, imagination, and ideas

break throughThere are many walls that writers have to hurdle to make it to the finish line as a published author. Sometimes those walls are self-imposed, like writer’s block, and other times those walls are caused by outside forces, like a publisher’s rejection letter. All of these walls can be overcome and soon, you’re on your way to being a published author.

That’s the best feeling in the world, you know. Holding your book in your hands is a feeling of complete and unadulterated bliss. You know why? It’s because the journey it took to get there was an unrelenting, mind-crushing, pain-filled agony from beginning to end, but maybe, just maybe, its a good thing. Actor Will Smith said,

“You don’t try to build a wall, you don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say I’m gonna build the biggest baddest wall that’s ever been built. you say, I’m gonna lay this brick, as perfectly as a brick can be laid, and you do that every single day, and soon you have a wall. It’s difficult to take the first step when you look how big the task is. The task is never huge to me, it’s always one brick.”

This is just an example of the challenges that await many writers. The walls we build can be both good and bad. When writing, a wall can represent the stagnation in your story, a writer’s block as big as the Great Wall of China. Yet, even these blockages can be diverted, like a beaver dam blocking the river. A little dynamite can go a long way; and by dynamite I mean inspiration, imagination and ideas. Michael Jordan said,

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

You don’t need a five-step program or a life coach to overcome these obstacles in going from writer to published author. All it takes is a little research, some networking with other independent, self-published authors, and time and effort on your part. Remember, walls aren’t there as obstacles but rather as challenges.

You can break through any wall, without too much pain and damage to yourself. Persistence is the key to breaking down these walls. The whole Galaxy Quest, “Never give up, never surrender!” come to mind. Don’t let the walls discourage you or you may find yourself staring at your computer screen, waiting to type the next word, for weeks on end.

It’s not fun when you hit that wall, but remember, most of the pain is self-inflicted. Pull together that which inspires you to write and use it to climb over, break through or go around the wall. I know a lot of this sounds like a bunch of metaphors, and they are, but they’re good ones.

As writers, we know all the right words to do and say to get our characters out of any mess. The object is to apply those same foils to ourselves. It might not be practical, but it can be quite useful. You do what you have to do to get the story written. Your success counts on one thing and one thing only … YOU!

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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 AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

 

Self publishing gives an author hope of being discovered and hitting it big

2016-07-25-21-06-14-writingHope…It’s a word associated with many things, like Star Wars, President Obama, and the first game of your favorite sports team’s season. Hope is a part of faith, family, and charity. This past week, watching the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey filled me with hope for humanity as I watched people helping others without thought of their own safety.

Hope is a big word that fills all our lives on a daily basis; but for an author like myself, hope is what makes us go on. After I finished my first novel, Forever Avalon, in 2007, my hope was to get it published and become a famous writer. I bought a book listing publishers and mailed out my manuscript. I received plenty of rejection letters, sometimes none at all. My hope was fading fast.

Then I received a phone call from a small publishing company, Rock Publishing, who offered to publish my book for a small fee. Now, at the time, I didn’t know what self-publishing was. I thought this was someone truly interested in me a writer and the small fee ($1,200) was because I was a new, untested author. How wrong I was…

The word “vanity publisher” was another way of describing self-publishing houses. It’s an appropriate word, preying on the “vanity” of the authors to be published. It’s true, though, as I was filled with pride, completely overjoyed at seeing my name on a book I could hold in my hands. I didn’t care about the cost. It was worth it.

The problem was in the writing. Most vanity publishers aren’t concerned if your book has been edited, polished, and thoroughly vetted, unless you pay for it that is. That’s the thing with self-publishing–you pay for everything you need from your publisher,including marketing, cover and interior art, editing, etc. I received more editing from my mother than I did my first publisher, and she gave me edits after it was already published.

My second book, The Dark Tides, was published through iUniverse publishing company. They gave me tons of support and wonderful customer service, for a higher price than my first. I paid even more for editing, marketing, special events, and artwork. Even with the higher cost, the results were similar to my first book. This would tell you that maybe writing isn’t your thing, that your stories are not what people are looking for, and yet I continue to write.

As an author who self publishes, you rely on yourself for everything from marketing, social media, setting up book signing events, all the while your working on your next story. It can be a frantic existence for any author, but we continue to strive on with that little bit of hope.

Self-publishing has its ups and downs, good and bad experiences for any independent author. Others would give up with little to no success, but I just can’t do it. Why is that? Is it vanity or something more? Its not vanity, its hope. Through it all, I still have that little bit of hope deep inside. I’m in the process of editing my third book and already started working on the fourth. That’s what it means to be an author, filled with hope in the spirit that one day your work will be recognized. “Never give up, never surrender!”

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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 AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

 

Let stupid people say stupid things because it only makes them look stupid

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” — 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

The first amendment in the United States Constitution addresses something that is quite unheard of in some areas of the world. The founding fathers placed this at the top of our governing document to underscore the importance of these basic freedoms: Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech; Freedom of the Press, etc. These basic rights are undeniable in the United States of America.

ft-first-amendment-alliance-nonprofit-free-speechIn recent weeks, those rights have been tested with the events of Charlottesville and the subsequent rallies and protests since them. The question remains, is hate speech protected? If I disagree with what you’re saying, do I have the right to shut you up?

Even the strictest constitutional scholars will say that all speech is protected, even when you disagree with it. There are those that feel the hate speech shouldn’t be protected, but that’s grown now to include anytime a conservative speaks by groups like Black Lives Matter and ANTIFA. Some people also defend NFL players sitting or kneeling for the national anthem a type of free speech protest, but it has also come under scrutiny.

So, that’s the tough question. Is all speech protected or should certain speech be restricted. As authors, I am 100% for free speech. George Washington said, “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” To me, that quote epitomizes what freedom of speech is.

I don’t like the racists rants of white supremacists and the KKK, nor do I care to hear them. I also don’t care for the anti-American stance of ANTIFA and BLM. In any case, I will defend your right to say it. Speech is a choice. You can say whatever you want, and I can CHOSE whether or not to listen to you. That’s why there is a mute button on the TV. I can turn you off just as easy as changing the channel.

To me, that’s how freedom of speech works. Voltaire say, “I do not agree with what you said but I will defend to death your right to say it.” That is the ultimate truth. My opinion has always been to let stupid people say stupid things because it only makes them look stupid. You can make your point just as easy by letting people talk.

As an author, I love the fact that my words are protected. I’m going to leave it with a quote by Ray Bradbury from his novel Fahrenheit 451. I think it speaks volumes for what we are witnessing and feeling today.

“The books are to remind us what asses and fool we are. They’re Caeser’s praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, ‘Remember, Caeser, thou art mortal.’ Most of us can’t rush around, talking to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven’t time, money or that many friends. The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book. Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.”
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

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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 iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

I miss those long weekends of eating pizza, drinking beer, and playing Dungeons & Dragons!

untitled.pngI turned 54-years-old today. One more year until I qualify for a senior citizen discount. It’s sad when you think about it, but is it? I can remember turning 18 like it was yesterday.

I was a college student, attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Penn. During the week, I attended classes and worked at the Original Hot Dog Shop near the University of Pittsburgh campus. I spent my weekends going to The Rocky Horror Picture Show (I played Eddie and Brad at the Castle Theater) and playing Dungeons and Dragons with my close group of friends. It was a time to be young, dumb and … well, you know the rest.

I’m married now, with three grown kids. Someday soon, I’ll be a Grandpa … A Grandpa who’s also a Dungeon Master. That sounds pretty cool when you think about it.

I don’t think I could do those long, late night, pizza and beer weekends today. I mean, we would go from Friday to Sunday night, play non-stop with a few hours, in between, of sleeping “where you sat or fell” as it were. I made some close friends during my time there, friends I lost track with when I returned home and joined the Navy.

That was the one thing I loved about Dungeons and Dragons. It brings people closer together. I played D&D in high school, college and in the Navy. Every time we got together to , I made good friends. We lived, we laughed, we played. When you think about the bonds that a group of adventurers has in the game, we shared that same bond.

People have used D&D as a scapegoat, that it’s evil and leads people to Devil worship. Bulls*#t! It was a game, and a damn good one at that. It expanded my imagination that made me the author I am today. I created the entire world of Forever Avalon from those wild weekends and late night D&D sessions. It was awesome.

Today, everything is about electronics and technology. People leave it to others to write the story, and build the characters. They fight the battles with their fingertips, not their mind. We are losing touch with that spark of imagination that makes us who we are.

I’m older now, hopefully a little wiser, and I do miss those times when I was young and free to spend my weekends playing D&D with my friends. But, you know what, it made me who I am today. It is a part of my history that I’ll never forget it. I do miss the old days, but right now, I’ve got to keep looking ahead. Better things are coming, just wait and see!

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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 iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Dragons are the epitome of magical fantasy stories

jonsnow_dragonThe last two episodes of Game of Thrones has excited many fans of the series, especially those of us who love dragons. Seeing dragons in all their glory, fighting against armies, attacking on the orders of the dragon queen is amazing to watch. I think this is why dragons are, to many fantasy writers and fans of the genre, the heart of magic.

Dragons have been portrayedin literature, movies and televisionas the villain, evil and vile with contempt for humanity and a lust for gold. Dragons are, in fantasy and mythology, a force of nature. They create, as in the mythical “Rainbow Serpent” Aido-Hwedo, and they can destroy, like Smaug from The Hobbit. The stories of St. George and the Dragon and The Dragonriders of Pern, movies like Dragonslayer and Reign of Fire and the Game of Thrones TV series each have their own interpretation of dragons.

In the Forever Avalon series, I use dragons for the basis of all magic. Dragons and unicorns are creatures of pure magic and, in their own way, are the source of magical energy. Both are born with that energy in them, but a unicorn’s magic comes from life, the power that resides in their horn throughout their existence. Dragons, on the other hand, comes from death. The death of a dragon results in the magic collapsing in on itself and forming an ingot of concentrated magic … A dragon stone.

Dragons are the most awe-inspiring, feared creatures in all of magical fantasy genre. I love being able to immerse myself in a world of dragons. Their majesty is only matched by the terror they possess. To show you what dragons mean to me, here is an excerpt from The Dark Tides illustrating the relationship between dragons and the people of the world of Forever Avalon.

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BRYAN FLEW ON GAMORG UP THE MOUNTAINSIDE OF EMMYR AND INTO one of many entrances into the mountain. These caves were home to the dragons of Emmyr. Bryan laid down low on Gamorg’s back as the dragon folded its wings around him so he could maneuver through the tunnels, deep into the interior.

Bryan grasped the ice jewel in his hand—the same one given to him by Archie all those years ago—to protect him from the intense heat inside. Once Gamorg reached the inner chamber, Bryan was overwhelmed by what he saw.

For the first time since he arrived on Avalon, all of the dragons were gathered inside, either on the floor of the cavern or up on one of the outcroppings in the cave. They were all mourning over Nihala and Kragmar, who lay quietly on the cavern floor. One would think a dragon couldn’t look sad, but they do. Bryan could feel it when he entered the room … An overwhelming sense of sadness and despair.

The dragons give way for Gamorg and the Gil-Gamesh as they make their way over to them. Bryan dismounted from Gamorg and thanked him for bringing him. He stepped forward and knelt before Kragmar and Nihala. Kragmar, King of the Dragons, lay still and quiet, barely breathing. Nihala raised her head ever-so slightly to speak.

“Thank you for coming Bryan MoonDrake,” Nihala gasped, her voice weak and raspy.

Bryan looked up at them as he tried to find the words. “It is the least I could do for my oldest and dearest friends.”

“Do not grieve for us Gil-Gamesh. We have lived a long and fruitful life,” Nihala wailed. “Our children will carry on to the next generation, but we do not have a lot of time. I know you are conflicted. If you don’t retrieve the broach for Morgana, your daughter and your grandson will die and Avalon will fall into chaos. The future is very bleak indeed.”

“There’s got to be a way to defeat her and save Avalon,” Bryan asked. “The Queen said something about ‘five spears’ as did Percival. Do you know what they are talking about?”

Nihala was quiet but the cavern became loud and thunderous with the sound of thousands of dragons roaring in disapproval. Gamorg gave a breathtaking roar that immediately silenced them.

“We do not speak that name … To do so would be the death of us all,” Nihala explained.

“Please Nihala, I need to know.” Nihala closed her eyes and sighed. She knew she may regret this but it may be the only hope for Avalon.

“Very well … Step forward Gil-Gamesh.” Bryan stood up and walked toward Nihala.

She bowed her head down so he could touch the gem on her forehead. Bryan reached out tentatively, bracing himself for the instantaneous flow of information he was about to receive. He touched it gingerly but it’s different this time. Instead of a flash of images, he found himself in staring into a pit of total darkness.

From within the darkness, five different sets of eyes appeared randomly. The eyes are different shades of color with no iris or pupil, just glowing eyes. “Who are you?” the red eyes spoke. The voice was deep and hollow, rippling with power with each syllable spoken.

“I am Lord Bryan MoonDrake, Gil-Gamesh of Avalon!” Bryan said, both in his mind and in the cavern that all the dragons could hear him.

“Why are you here?” the green eyes spoke in the same hollow voice as the first.

“I need your help to defeat Morgana le Fay! She is threatening the Dark Tides on Avalon! She …”

“Morgana le Fay is not our concern, she is a mortal concern!” the blue eyes interjected.

“She will bring about the death and destruction of all of Avalon if she is not stopped!” Bryan said adamantly. “Without Avalon, all that is magic will be gone forever. The Dark Tides destroys everything it touches … Elves, sorcerers and dragons alike.”

“Nothing can destroy dragons!” the yellow eyes shouted defiantly. “Dragons are immortal as the stars in the sky! Nothing can kill us!”

“But even stars can die. Look at Kragmar and Nihala … They are dying because of Morgana and the Dark Tides. She will spread this evil until everything except her and those serve her are turned to dust.”

“We do not serve anyone! We answer to no one!” the white eyes screamed at Bryan.

“We do not believe you Gil-Gamesh. Your ilk has lied to us before!” the green eyes stated plainly.

“If you don’t believe me then look into Nihala,” Bryan said. “Reach into her mind and see what happened. See for yourselves what the Dark Tides can do.”

The eyes grew silent and closed as darkness enveloped the Gil-Gamesh again. Then the eyes opened and spoke as one. “We will help you Gil-Gamesh but we require payment for our services!” the voice explained.

“Payment? What kind of payment? Who … Who are you?”

“Look into our mind and know us Gil-Gamesh!” the voice announced as the eyes started to glow brighter and brighter, blinding Bryan. His mind was overwhelmed until he realized who he was speaking with.

“Oh God, it’s you … isn’t it?” he asked sheepishly.

“Yes Gil-Gamesh, you know of us,” the voice exclaimed to Bryan, holding him within the light.

“We require payment for our services. What do you offer?” Bryan thought about what they were asking of him. He whispered something into the air. There was silence for what seemed like an eternity and then they speak to him again.

“We accept Gil-Gamesh. Call us when you need us and we will do as you ask.”

Back in the cave, Nihala’s gem exploded with energy, throwing Bryan across the room and into Gamorg, falling to the ground. His breathing was heavy and labored, as if he couldn’t catch his breath.

“Oh God,” he stammered. “Dear God … Alright, I understand. I understand.” Bryan stood up, still muttering to himself, until he noticed that Kragmar was gone. “What … Where is Kragmar? What happened to him?”

“He has become one with Avalon,” Gamorg told him. Bryan walked over to where Kragmar once laid. All that remained of him was a single dragon stone, glowing brightly. Bryan turned to see Nihala nearing the end of her life. She sparkled with magical light, like fireflies in the night, as she slowly began to fade.

Gamorg stepped forward as he lowered his head and touched his forehead to hers. In a blinding flash of light, Nihala disappeared and the gem, which was once in her forehead, was now centered on Gamorg’s. He had grown in size, almost as big as Kragmar was, and his green scales now glistened with a golden hue. All that’s left of Nihala was a dragon stone. Like Kragmar, it glowed brightly with magical power.

“Take them Gil-Gamesh … They wanted you to have them,” Gamorg explained. Bryan picked up the dragon stones and held them in his hands. They are warm and stimulating to the touch, magical energy pricked his skin like static electricity. It felt very familiar to Bryan as he reflected back to when Kragmar and Nihala lent him their power to fight Morgana. That same power now flowed through these stones.

“All hail Gamorg, King of the Dragons!” came a call from in the cavern. The other dragons roared in approval for the new king.

Bryan placed the stones in his belt pouch as he stepped forward and knelt before Gamorg. “Your majesty!”

“Bryan MoonDrake, you do not kneel before me,” Gamorg said as he reached his head down and nudged Bryan to his feet. “You are my friend Gil-Gamesh and friends do not bow to each other.”

Bryan hugged Gamorg around his head, something he’d always done with his friend, to show him he understood but then he stepped back and composed himself. There wasn’t time for formalities.

“I have a request for the Dragon King …” he stated, “… I need your dragons to assist with what remains of my fleet around Avalon. Morgana’s forces are threatening chaos and I don’t have the forces to stop them.

“The dragons of Emmyr would keep them from expanding their foothold outside of Idlehorn. Keep some behind to protect Emmyr, but please send out whomever you can. Without your help, we will lose so much.”

“No we won’t!” Gamorg growled. “They dared to come to our sacred home, kill our king and queen mother without a thought … No! They will not be allowed to spread their evil any further.”

“Dragons of Emmyr!” Gamorg shouted to all within the cavern. “Go now! Spread your wings and fly out across Avalon! Let those who fly the banner of Morgana la Fay know why we are to be feared! Bare your claws, rend their flesh from their bones, burn them to ash … Show them who rules the skies over Avalon! Not pirates! Not goblins! Dragons! Dragons rule the sky!”

The sound was deafening as dragons roared in approval! One by one, they moved out through the vast caves outside their mountain home. From down below, people saw something they’d never seen before. The dragons of Emmyr were pouring out of the mountain and flying away from their home all at once, spreading out across Avalon on a search and destroy mission.

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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 iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.