In fantasy, the hero makes the weapon but the weapons are really cool

Weapons are an essential part of any medieval fantasy story, especially magical weapons. Names like Excalibur, Stormbringer, and Sting are just as popular as the characters who wield them.

When I started writing Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides, I knew I had to create a memorable weapon for the Gil-Gamesh to wield. That’s when I came up with Twilight and Dusk, the Twin Swords of the Dragon Moon.

As the story goes, when Merlin cast the spell that brought all magic from the real world to the island of Avalon, he focused the power of the spell through Excalibur to help channel the energy; but the spell was too strong, even for the legendary sword, and the blade shattered.

fantasy-blacksmithThe broken pieces were given to the Dwarves of the Gilded Halls of Avalon to forge into a new weapon for Sir Percival, the first Gil-Gamesh of Avalon. With the help of the Elves of Alfheimer and the dragons of Emmyr, they forged two enchanted blades from the shards of ExcaliburTwilight and Dusk.

Twilight is the light giver, the sharpest blade ever made that can cut through the darkest night. Dusk is the night fury, a soul reaper that is fueled by the dead to contain the evils of Avalon. Together, the are the Twin Swords of the Dragon Moon, the weapons of the Gil-Gamesh.

These weapons have joined a long line of magical weapons created in the pages of books from the Sword of Gryffindor in the Harry Potter series to Anaklusmos from Percy Jackson and the Olympians. In addition, there are countless weapons from movies and video games that have invaded pop culture; but there are equally powerful weapons in myth and legend too, some of which you probably never even heard of.

  • rodrigo-diaz-de-vivar-c-1043-1099-known-as-el-cid-conquest-of-valencia-june-15-1094-spainTizona is the sword of El Cid from the heroic poem Cantar de Mio Cid. It is said that the sword frightens unworthy opponents of the legendary hero.
  • In Japan, Tonbogiri is said to be one of three legendary spears created by the famed swordsmith Masazane. It is said to be so sharp that a dragonfly landing on the edge would be cut in half.
  • From the Emerald Isle, Caladbolg is the two-handed sword of Fergus mac Róich in Irish legend; said to make a circle like the arc of a rainbow when swung and has the power to cleave the tops from the hills.
  • 0743589b0397a04b754ccb1d699550d3In Welsh legend, Dyrnwyn is the sword of Rhydderch Hael. When drawn, it blazed with fire; if drawn by a worthy man, the fire would help him in his cause, but its fire would burn the man who drew it for an unworthy purpose.
  • Ruyi Jingu Bang is the magical staff wielded by the Monkey King Sun Wukong in Chinese classic Journey to the West.

I could go on and on with names like Mjölnir, Zulfiqar, Clarent and Gungnir. These are just a few of the names of weapons that will go on in immortality if myth and legend; but remember, it’s not the weapon that makes the hero, it’s the hero that makes the weapon.

Forever Avalon is now available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.

Remembering our heroes through writing – An excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

This past weekend, we celebrated Memorial Day in the U.S., honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation. As a veteran myself, I try to honor my fellow military service members in my writing.

The main character in the Forever Avalon series, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh, was a U.S. Navy Sailor, lost at sea. His friend and mentor, Sir Charles Taylor, is based on Navy pilot, Lt. Charles Taylor, flight leader of Flight 19, who disappeared with his squadron at sea.

In reality, the Gil-Gamesh is also based on a real-life Navy hero. His name was Chief Gerald Farrier, an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate who died aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal during the Vietnam War.

Fire erupted aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CV 59) on July 29, 1967.

Fire erupted aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CV 59) on July 29, 1967.

On July 29, 1967, while the ship was preparing for flight operations, a Zuni rocket misfired and exploded on the carrier’s flight deck. The deck was full of aircraft, loaded with fuel and bombs. The fire engulfed the aft deck, trapping pilots inside their planes. Farrier, without regard for his own life, ran towards the fire with a PkP fire extinguisher in an attempt to help the pilots escape. Within minutes, the bombs started to explode and Farrier was killed instantly.

The USS Forrestal was the first ship I reported to when I joined the Navy in 1983. I became very familiar with the story of the Forrestal fire and Farrier’s heroism. You can find his name enscribed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., along with his shipmates who perished that day.

It was that selfless devotion to duty and the protection of others that I tried to instill in my character of the Gil-Gamesh. Writers take inspiration from a elements and experiences in their life, and I can’t think of a better inspiration than a true hero like Chief Farrier.

Here is an excerpt from The Dark Tides which recalls the event that brought Chief Bryan Drake from the real world to the mystical island of Avalon and into the role of the Gil-Gamesh.


Inside Flight Deck Control, Bryan rushed into a flurry of activity. McGregory was on the phone with the “Air Boss”— the officer in charge of air operations on Enterprise while others peered out of the small windows to get a peek at what’s happening on deck.

“Clear away from the window,” Bryan shouted to the sailors. “If you don’t have any business in control, get out now!” The sailor’s groaned and filed out as the Handler hung up the phone. His mustache twitched— a sign Bryan came to learn as trouble.

“Chief, the Boss doesn’t want that aircraft damaging any others,” he said to Bryan. “It’s already clipped another helo and a Hawkeye. Think you can secure it?”

Bryan looked at the Handler, tense and nervous. He’s always relied on Bryan for the tough jobs, and he knew it had to be done. “Yes sir. Just give me Georgie, Bartman and a couple blue shirts and we’ll lock it down.”

The Handler picked up the sound- powered phone while Bryan grabbed a flight deck vest and helmet off a hook on the wall. He’d need the safety gear out on the flight deck, especially in this weather. George, Petty Officer Mike Bartman and two blue shirts— sailors who chain the aircraft down to the deck— arrived in Flight Deck Control. Bryan finished buckling his helmet as he relayed orders to his crew.

“Georgie, you drive the tractor. I want that bird hooked up and holding steady. Bartman, you guide him into the helo. Once that’s done, you two lock it down tight. Ready?”

They all chimed in at the same time. “Yes Chief!” Bryan opened the hatch to the flight deck, the wind and rain blowing them down almost immediately. Once everyone is outside, Bryan moved his crew toward the swinging helicopter. Its rear wheel remained chained to the flight deck but its front wheels broke free, causing the aircraft to swing like a pendulum.

Georgie and Bartman go around the island and start up a tractor while the two blue shirts stayed close to Bryan. The ship was listing heavily to right as huge waves crashed over the flight deck. The wind and rain added to the problem, making it hard for them to get good footing. Complicating things even more was the multiple aircraft around them, strained against their chains by the storm.

Georgie backed the tractor on the helo’s rear wheel and, with Bartman’s help, locked the helo down. Once steady, Bartman signaled a thumbs’ up to Bryan to send the two blue shirts in. Heavy chains hung on their shoulders, chocks in their hands, Bryan ordered the two sailors to get to work. He watched as the chocks were placed under the wheels and the chains are hooked on to tie the aircraft down.

Bryan was pleased with his team. He had a great group of sailors working for him. The blue shirts gave the thumbs up and they all started to celebrate, fists pumping and cheering, until without warning, things went from bad to worse. The ship hit a big swell that caused the carrier to drop fast and list heavy to starboard. Bryan can only watch as Bartman slipped and started to tumble backwards toward the edge of the flight deck.

He acted quickly to save his shipmate; without regard for his own life or safety, he dove after Bartman. The momentum of the listing deck flung him through the air. He reached Batman and knocked him into the catwalk, saving his life, but his life saving gesture propelled him over the side of the ship into the water.

He hit the water hard and momentarily blacked out. His safety gear kicked in, though, and his vest auto- inflated. He rose to the surface and regained consciousness. The waves, wind and rain battered him around.

He saw the ship in the distance. The sound of “Man Overboard” can be heard, even with the storm. The ship started to turn around, but to Bryan it seemed to be getting further and further away from him, as if he was being pulled away from the carrier.

SKU-000941753The waves continued to beat him about, practically drowning him in its fury. Bryan became disoriented and fear started to grip him … The fear of dying.

He thought about Stephanie and the kids. He remembered birthdays, anniversaries and holidays as images flooded his mind. Suddenly, he saw a glow in the sky. Bryan thought it was the light from a rescue helicopter, but the ship couldn’t have launched one in this weather.

“Is this it? Is this the end?” he thought as the light grew brighter and brighter until it enveloped him. Bryan closed his eyes and accepted his fate.

The Dark Tides is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.

Frustration is the bane of all independent authors!

facebook-frustration_fullI realize the headline is a bit of a bold statement, but it’s something I’ve experienced quite a lot since I started writing and marketing my novels. It’s not a frustration associated with writer’s block but more so the after effects when you’re trying to get yourself out there through marketing, sales, etc.

I really believe this is the bane of all writers. We all love to write and enjoy sitting down at the computer, typewriter or with paper and pencil to let our ideas flow. it’s what comes afterwards that compounds the situation.

This week, I traveled up home to N.J. for a book signing event for local authors at a local bookstore near my hometown. There were more than 20 authors there signing books. We were cramped together in long tables scattered about the bookstore. Through it all, I only sold two books to friends of mine who came to support me and get signed copies of my book, The Dark Tides.

That was pretty much the highlight of my trip. As authors, we get these images in our minds of long lines of people waiting to get their book signed, taking selfies with fans, talking to everyone about your book, getting feedback, etc. In reality, especially for independent authors like me, that never happens.

That’s what can be so frustrating when you’re trying to break into the publishing world and establishing yourself as an author. You know you have a great story to tell and want to share it with everyone else, but marketing and publicity cost money. Unless your name is Rockefeller or Kardashian, its hard to make ends meet when you’re doing all your publicity on your own.

I came home to Virginia feeling frustrated, disappointed and unfortunately, I took some of that out on my family. I broke down, wondering if this is worth all the pain and frustration I am putting us through, not to mention the downward spiral of financial woes piling up.

On my long drive back home, I was flipping through channels and came across pastor Joel Osteen. As if fate, destiny or ordained by God, his sermon was on frustration. He said that people can get frustrated with things happening in their life and pray to God to remove them, but He doesn’t always do that. God puts these obstacles in our way to help put us on the path he has carefully carved out for each one of us.

I’m trying to preach but I realize that he was right. Each one of the setbacks I’ve experienced since I started writing my novels is just another step forward to bigger and better things. Every author who made a name for themself has experienced this at some point in their career. I can’t let it bring me down. I have to pick myself up and keep moving forward.

If you let the frustrations associated with publishing your book keep you from doing what you love (and that’s writing) then you shouldn’t have started this journey in the first place. It may not line up perfectly for you but, in the end, it will make you a better person.

The first time they met – An excerpt from “Forever Avalon”

This week, I’ll be signing copies of The Dark Tides at my first book signing at Barnes and Noble in Easton, Penn., on Wednesday, May 20, at 7 pm. I thought I would kick things off with an excerpt from my the first book in the series, Forever Avalon. This is the book that started it all for me as an independent author and, for anyone who hasn’t had a chance to read it yet, I want to give you a glimpse into the world of Forever Avalon as you to read about the first encounter between the Gil-Gamesh and his family, just after they arrived on the island.

* * *

51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“We need get moving and get you somewhere safe before more bounty hunters come looking for you,” he said as he walked past them and down the beach. “Everyone, follow me.”

“No!” Stephanie shouted. “We aren’t going anywhere with you until you tell me who you are, what’s going on here and where the Hell we are, because this certainly ain’t Bermuda! I mean, I appreciate you saving my life and my children’s lives, but we’re not going anywhere with you until I get some answers,” she demanded.

The Gil-Gamesh stopped in his tracks. He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head and sighed. “You’re still as stubborn as I remember,” he said as he turned around and stared at her. “And still as beautiful too.”

Stephanie was stunned by what he said to her. Puzzled, she started to look at him very closely. She pulled her children in close, as if to protect them. “What? What do you mean? Who are

The Gil-Gamesh reached up, pulled the metal sheath off his face and dropped it to the ground. He pulled the hood of his cloak down, revealing long brown hair, peppered with streaks of gray at his temples. His face was older since they last saw him. He had a beard now with streaks of gray running through it. It covered a face they remembered as neat and clean-shaven. In his eyes, they saw something familiar. There was a look of pride … one of caring and love.

Stephanie saw her husband, Bryan Drake. The children saw their father, and he was alive. The shock was overwhelming, but the joy even greater.

“Daddy!” the children shouted in unison, running over to him. He knelt down and reached out—hugging his children close—feeling the warmth and love he thought he’d lost. He held them in his arms, his grip tighter and stronger than they remember, as he kissed each one of them.

“I’d never thought I’d see these wonderful faces again for as long as I live,” he exclaimed as tears welled up in his eyes.

Hunter held his father’s face in his hands, pulling it so Bryan would look right at him. “What happened to you Daddy?” he asked.

“Yeah, when’d you get all medieval?” Rose chimed in.

“You’ve got that 80’s rocker look with your hair, Dad. It’s so retro,” Ashley added, stroking her father’s hair.

Bryan just smiled and laughed. “Well, it’s a long story.” He stopped and looked past the children over at Stephanie. She stared at him and wondered if what she saw was real or just an illusion.
Bryan let go of his children and walked over to her. He took off his gloves, reached out and touched her face.

“Still as beautiful as in my dreams,” he told her, sweetly and sincerely. She reached up and touched his hand. She spied the wedding band on his finger—the one she put there over 20 years ago.

“Bryan, is it really you?”

He pulled her close and kissed her passionately. She’s hesitant but melted in his arms when she realized it’s really him. Stephanie wrapped her arms around him and returned the kiss, reigniting the passion and love she thought she’d lost.

He released her, still looking into her eyes. They’re both crying as tears ran down their cheeks. “I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed waking up to this face.”

She smiled at hearing that. “No, I look terrible,” she said, wiping the tears from her eyes. Then, reality sank back in and a thousand questions came to mind.

She pushed off him and got very serious, very fast. “Bryan, what’s going on? Where the Hell are we and why are you dressed like that?” she demanded.

The kids then chimed in with their questions. “What were those creatures? Were they really trolls?” Ashley asked. “How did you make that dragon appear? Are you a wizard or
something?” Rose inquired. “Those swords are so wicked … can I see them?” Hunter jumped in.

Bryan put his hands up to quiet them down, “Sh-h-h … all right, listen to me,” he said. “I know you have a lot of questions, but right now, I need to get you somewhere safe.” Stephanie tried to interject, but Bryan interrupted her. “Listen to me, Stef; there are more hunters like Biscuit out there looking for you,” he said, calling her by that familiar nickname he always called her.

“And I can’t protect you out in the open like this.” He walked down the beach in the direction he was heading before. “There’s a lighthouse just a few miles down the beach,” he said pointing
the way. “You’ll be safe there, and I promise, once we get there I’ll answer all your questions.”

Stephanie looked at Bryan, not sure whether to believe him or not. “Please Stef, you have to trust me. This is not the time or the place to sit down and talk. We need to get moving … now!”

She saw the honesty in his eyes and sensed the danger he mentioned as being very real. She didn’t want to endanger her children, so she had no choice.

* * *

I hope to see you there at my book signing. I always love the opportunity to speak with people about the story behind my book series.

Writer’s Block and, uh, well … How to get past it as quickly as possible, nor not!

writers-block-text-cubeI’ve been sitting here for the past five minutes, trying to figure out what to write my next blog about, but I hit a wall. Writer’s block can be a royal pain in the … Wait a minute, that’s it! Writer’s block!

Writer’s block can and always will be the angst of anyone who spent time writing everything from a term paper to the great novel; but it’s especially frustrating for new authors like me. You have all these great ideas swirling around your head but every time you try to put pen to paper or hands to keyboard, it just won’t come out.

When I started writing my first novel, Forever Avalon, I found it rather easy to write. During the two years I spent writing, the words flowed quite freely. That changed when I started writing the next book in the Forever Avalon series, The Dark Tides.

Before I go any further, I need to provide you with a little bit of background on my novels. Forever Avalon is about a Sailor who falls overboard during a storm at sea and finds himself on the magical island of Avalon. A year later, his family follows him and ends up on the island with him, but time passes differently on Avalon so one year for them has been ten years for him.

That being said, when I started writing the next book in the series, I originally wanted to do a prequel, focusing on the 10 years Bryan MoonDrake spent on Avalon before his family showed up. It started out easy for me. The story flowed as easily as my first novel. Then, I hit the wall.

No matter what I tried, I just lost my train of thought. I spent months writing about 1/3 of the book and I was stumped with a bad case of writer’s block. Nothing helped getting me back on track, so I just walked away. I had to take a step back for the time being until I knew where I wanted to go with the story.

I knew the story I wanted to tell but I just couldn’t translate that on paper. It was so frustrating. All the while, I kept having thoughts and dreams of the next chapter of the story, picking up where I left off. Then … Light bulb!

I started writing again, but this time I continued the the adventures of the MoonDrake family as their daughter Ashley returned to Avalon with her new husband Andrew for a honeymoon on a medieval fantasy world.

The problem was, I didn’t want to lose the huge amount of work I already put in on the prequel. That’s when I decided to use those pages as flashbacks to help move the story along. This was something I saw before in a great novel by Robert McCammon called The Wolf’s Hour.

In my 30 years as a journalist and author, I have found that the best cure for writer’s block is to walk away, collect your thoughts and then get back in there and break though. You have to keep writing, no matter what you do.

Writer Meme

I also realized that you always have to go with your gut. I ignored the idea of continuing the Forever Avalon story right where I left off because I had my heart set on writing a prequel. It was because of that writer’s block that I finally put myself on the right path and was able to writer The Dark Tides.

Do let writer’s block stop you from finishing your work, use it get yourself on the right track and tell the story you were meant to write.

Adding faith and religion to novels without preaching to the choir

faith-3I want to start out by saying that this blog post is not meant to demean or insult anyone’s faith or religion, quite the opposite. I want to talk about how I incorporated my faith and religious beliefs in my novels as a writer.

When I was deployed overseas, the one thing we were regularly briefed about was to never talk politics or religion with people we encountered in the foreign ports. These were considered taboo as they can change the tone of a discussion rather quickly, and I tend to agree, especially in this day and age. In any discussion about religion, you might find yourself hit from the left and the right.

I don’t really consider myself a religious person. I believe and put all my faith in God for what happens in my life but I have been hurt by “organized religion” on more than one occassion so I distrust the church. I have found myself coming back to it, though, through the teachings of Joel Osteen. His sermons are quite inspirational and are giving me hope in the church again.

When you try to translate faith into writing, it can be rather difficult: Your “one-on-one” connection with God is very personal and you don’t want someone to get angry reading your book if they’re looking for a fantasy novel and instead find a Sunday School lesson. I approached it to reflect my own faith through the faith of my characters.

Here are a couple of examples. In my book, The Dark Tides, as Captain Edan O’Brian is about to take the Morning Star on a cliff run , he recites an old Sailor’s prayer:

“Though my sails be torn and ragged and my mast be turned about; though the night wind chills me to my soul. Though spray stings my eye and the stars no sight provide, give me just enough Lord ‘til morning light to hold.”

This was a simple prayer yet it conveyed so much about a Sailor’s faith in God to help him through the worst conditions. That was the same faith I carried with me through my 23-year career in the U.S. Navy.

Another great example from The Dark Tides is Sarafina’s prayer before the goblin attack at the Battle of Merlin’s Pinnacle:

“Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle. My fortress, my high tower, my deliverer, my shield; and the One in whom I take refuge. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit … Amen.”

This was a warrior’s prayer and, as most of my fellow veterans can atest to, is an example of faith and courage before impending battle. These prayers were the best way I found to profess my own faith in God through my stories without turning them into a sermon.

That’s how I believe faith acts within our lives; a simple yet profound belief that God is there for you, in good times and bad. It is that faith that carries us through our life and into the next. Whatever your faith may be, I hope you are blessed in all that you do.

The great search for what to write about, better known as “Research Hell”

The-writer2-e1374715549958As both an instructor at the Defense Information School (DINFOS Trained Killer!) and a guest speaker to high school students about writing, I always stress one thing above all … RESEARCH! Youcan’t write the next “Great American Novel” unless you do your research and to that I say, thank God for Google!

I don’t know how I survived high school, college and military “A” school without the internet. I can remember looking things up in gigantic volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica, both at home and at the local library, whenever I had a paper due. Even though they were outdated after a few years, you had to reference them in practically everything you wrote about.

After the internet and home computer came online, the best source for research was Microsoft Encarta. I remember buying it for my home computer so my kids had an available reference tool without having to go online. In the days of 56 kbs, the internet was slow moving and tedious, especially when all we had was dial-up.

Research is the key for any writer, and not just about your subject matter. For both Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides, I based a lot of my story on my own imagination and characters I played during my informative years of Dungeons and Dragons. That’s when I discovered I had a lot of holes in my story that I needed to fill.

So I began researching mythologies of every culture from Norway to Germany and Britain to Africa. I learned how to curse in Viking and used a latin translator program (thank you University of Notre Dame) as the basis for spells. I can’t even begin to imagine how long I would have had to spend in my local library, looking through book after book, tearing through the card catalogue to find every last bit of research I needed.

That’s why I said “thank God for Google!” As much as many of us hate the “Big Brother” aspect of the internet giant, they are an invaluable tool for the writer. Add to that, because you always need to find different ways to say words in a story to avoid repitition.

Most of all, remmeber where every story begins … in the heart and soul of the writer. As I’ve said before, the Forever Avalon series came from recurring dreams after long hours of D&D while deployed thousands of miles from my family. It was in that emotional void that I found the story I was waiting my whole life to tell.

The Elves of Alfheimer – An excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

Light ElfI think anyone who’s played Dungeons and Dragons or seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies can appreciate the undeniable attraction to Elves. They are rooted in myth and legend and have been used in countless tales of fantasy. I tried to stay true to the legend by calling the home of the Elves of Avalon Alfheimer after one of the nine realms of Norse mythology, home to the Light Elves.

Here is an excerpt from The Dark Tides that tells of the first meeting between the Gil-Gamesh and the Elves of Alfheimer.


As the sun began to set over Avalon, the two men finally reached the end their destination. The weary travelers rode to the top of a hill overlooking an enormous valley between the two mountains. A waterfall—stretching nearly a mile high—cascaded down between the mountains, feeding into a river that ran down through the heart of the valley. Rising up the mountain walls
was the fabled city of Alfheimer, home of the Elves of Avalon.

The ornate and intricate structures showed the beauty and passion of the Elves in every column, building and statue that adorned this amazing city. The complex structures were woven into the natural beauty of the mountain, displaying the symbiotic relationship between the Elves and nature. In the waning twilight of the setting sun, the city glowed, but not from fi re or candle light, from the magic of the Elves themselves.

Every street and every building was aglow with a diff used brilliance that left the Gil-Gamesh breathless. “Never in my life could I have imagined such a place.”

“Not many humans get a chance to visit the ancient city,” Thomas explained. “And for one such as yourself, it is a double blessing.”

“What do you mean?” Bryan queried.

“Well, no Outlander has ever step foot in Alfheimer,” Thomas continued. “Even Sir Charles has never been here Gil-Gamesh.”

Bryan couldn’t believe his ears, making him both anxious and impatient. “Well then, there’s no time to lose!” he said, spurring his horse on. But Thomas quickly grabbed the reins and stopped him.

“Whoa, easy there lad,” he interrupted, “you mustn’t be so impatient.”

“What? Why? What are we waiting for?”

“You don’t just ride into Alfheimer . You must be escorted by an Elf,” Thomas explained. “The city is protected by ancient magic from the dawn of time. They say the Elves wield a power greater than Merlin himself. So, we wait!”

The two men sat on their horses and waited as the sun dipped down low until it disappeared behind the mountain. Through the darkness, lanterns twinkled and glowed, moving closer toward them. A procession of Elves dressed in fl owing white robes with silver fringe, adorned with jewelry of mythril and precious gems, walked toward them. Each carried an ornate lantern hanging at the end of a shepherd’s crook. Each lantern was illuminated by a flickering flame, dancing like a lightning bug in a jar.The lead Elf places his hand across his heart and bowed.

Salüs dai Tulafáir Bryan MoonDrake and Sir Thomas Forest. I bring you strength,
honor and enlightenment from the Elves of Alfheimer. Enter and be at

Bryan was humbled by the welcome that had been bestowed upon him. Th e two men followed the procession down into the valley, over a mile long into the entrance of Alfheimer. Th e statues of Bryr and Begguila, servants to the god of the Elves, stood over a hundred feet
tall above the city gates, as if they protected the city and its inhabitants from all harm.

Bryan recognized a familiar face waiting for him at the gates. Eonis, dressed in elegant robes of green and gold, stood at the center flanked by two other Elves. They were also dressed in flowing silken robes ordained with gold and silver, each one held a staff adorned with a large crystal that glowed in magical light. Each wore a crown of mythril encrusted with gems of amethyst, moonstone and sapphires. Bryan couldn’t take his eyes off them, as if he was mesmerized by their radiance.

The two riders dismounted as pages stepped out to take the reins of their horses. Bryan was so overwhelmed he didn’t know what to do. Thomas nudged him forward with a tap on his shoulder.

Eonis reached out to greet his friend. “It does my heart good to see you again Gil-Gamesh,” he announced.

“Thank you Eonis … This is quite a welcome,” Bryan exclaimed. “It’s a little much for this old sailor.”

“Well I’m afraid I have to indulge your senses some more,” Eonis said as he took Bryan by the arm and lead him. “Bryan MoonDrake, Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, I have the honor of introducing Baldrid, Lord High King of the Elves and his wife, the Lady Lyllodoria of the Valley.”

Bryan stepped forward and knelt before them, bowing his head in respect. Thomas, lingering behind, followed suit and knelt as well. Lyllodoria stepped forward, as if floating on air and touched Bryan under the chin, lifting his face so she may see his.

“May the blessings of a thousand wishes be upon you Bryan MoonDrake,” she told him. Her voice, so calm and soothing, touched Bryan deep into his soul. His shaky nerves began to settle down. Lyllodoria placed her hand on Bryan’s chest to feel his heart beating. She closed her eyes to listen and feel the rhythm of his heartbeat. “You have a strong heart Bryan MoonDrake. It is filled with love, hope and courage, but I sense a deep sadness within you.

“You miss your family, don’t you?”

A tear welled up in his eye. “More than anything …” Bryan stuttered.

“Yet to become the Gil-Gamesh, you must leave them behind. Why would you do that?”

“My family will always be a part of me,” he explained. “They are my heart, my soul, my reason to live. I am doing this for the chance that one day, when Avalon is at peace with itself, I may see them again. I am doing this for them!”

Lyllodoria smiled and moved away as Lord Baldrid stepped forward.

“Your intentions are true, Bryan MoonDrake. Th e spirits of the Gil-Gamesh flows through you. We welcome you to Alfheimer, Bryan MoonDrake and give you pass as the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon,” Baldrid affirmed as he clasped Bryan on his shoulders.

“Thank you Lord Baldrid,” Bryan said with a bow of his head. “Salüs dai Atrémar.” Bryan enunciated a traditional Elvish greeting. “It is an honor to enter the sacred valley of Alfheimer.”

Did you know Superman is vulnerable to magic?

Marvel's version of the sorceress Morgan le Fay

Marvel’s version of the sorceress Morgan le Fay

With the constant rush of superhero movies coming out regularly, filmakers are trying hard to bring the heavy-hitters to the big screen. The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are just the beginning of the now steady diet of comic book-based films and TV shows. Magic and medieval fantasy in these genres are often forgotten and mostly ignored.

NBC tried to bring the supernatural side of the DC universe to life in Constantine, fans loved it but it fell flat in ratings. Marvel is planning a Doctor Strange movie with Benedict Cumberbatch and DC has Guillermo del Toro helming Justice League Dark to add to his long line of magical fantasy-based movies.

Sorry, I digress … I don’t want to talk about the could have/should have but rather what comics have done with medieval fantasy over the years, specifically those characters from Arthurian legend. I think Marvel, DC and other independent comics have put their own unique spin on these classic characters and even integrated them routinely into their world. There are so many to pick from so I’m just gonna hit the highlights.

Morgan le Fay was introduced in Marvel Comics in Spider-Woman #2. She has been associated with Doctor Doom on more than one occassion but I think the best use of her character was in the Avengers where she used the Scarlet Witch’s reality-warping powers to turn the world into one of magic where she ruled with the Queen’s Vengance, a twisted version of the team. Seeing medieval versions of the Avengers (Captain America as Yeoman America for example) was great.

My favorite has to to be Iron Man “Doomquest,” a two-story arc where Iron Man and Doctor Doom are flung back to Camelot where Iron Man teams up with King Arthur to fight Doom and Morgan le Fay. In the end, the two have to work together to get back to their own time. It was made even better with a “What if” issue where Doom left Iron Man in Camelot and Tony Stark eventually became King Anthony of Camelot.

I would also like to mention Merlyn (as they spelled it) and his association with Captain Britain, Dane Whitman aka The Black Knight (an Avenger) and the Pendragon (a source of the magical power of England) just to name a few honorable mentions. Marvel has truly embraced the Arthurian legend within its pages.

Morgaine le Fey and her son Mordred from Justice League Unlimited.

Morgaine le Fey and her son Mordred from the TV series  Justice League Unlimited.

DC has had a bonanza of magic and fantasy, but mostly around the Greek gods (i.e. Wonder Woman) but Morgaine le Fay (as she is called in DC) and her son Mordred have both played a part in the DC universe. I always thought it was interesting that, besides kryptonite, Superman is also vulnerable to magic. That has played out in the many dealings with the immortal sorceress.

Morgaine was introduced in DC in Madame Xanadu #1 where she is revealed to be the sister of Madame Xanadu and the Lady of the Lake, three survivors of ancient Atlantis. Morgaine is also tied to one of most unique characters in the DC universe … Etrigan the Demon. The pet demon of Merlin was bound to a human Jason Blood, an ally of Morgaine, as penance for his betrayal. This puts Etrigan at odds with the sorceress for centuries to come.

One of the best stories from DC with Morgaine has to be “Kid Stuff” from the animated Justice League Unlimited series. Mordred betrays his mother by stealing the Amulet of First Magic and banishing all adults from the world. Morgaine turns to the Justice League for help but has to turn them all into kids to return them to the real world and stop Mordred. The rest is just a roller coaster of fun watching Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern (along with baby Etrigan) fight Mordred.

There are many others I could mention here … Lady Pendragon from Image Comics, Camelot 3000 from DC, even Excalibur from Marvel, just to name a few. They all have ties to Arthurian legend and magical fantasy. You may not see them translate to the big screen like the Avengers and Superman, but they have their place in comic books.

“How the Japanese influenced my life as a writer” or “My childhood was fueled by Anime”


There are many things in geekdom today that have been influenced in some way, shape or form by Japanese anime. It fills cartoons today as it did when I was a child. Before the days of cable TV, cartoons were mostly relegated to Saturday mornings. During the week, it was only found on UHF (that’s Ultra High Frequency to those born after 1980). That’s where I found my love for anime.

Speed Racer, Marine Boy, Gigantor were all English dubbed anime from the Far East. There was even Ultra Man before there was something called Power Rangers. They had wild animation, catchy theme songs and out-of-this-world adventure for a young developing mind to suck in. These shows are to me what Bonanza and The Andy Griffith Show are to my parents.

These shows are what I got up early to watch before going to school and raced home to watch after school. When I watch them today, it evokes such emotion and memories of childhood. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s absolutely true. These are the stories of my childhood.

And the best one of them all was Star Blazers. In Japan, it was called Space Battleship Yamato, named after the great battleship that sunk during World War II. Where I remember names like Wildstar, Nova, Captain Avatar and Leader Desslok, they had Kodai, Yuki, Captain Okita and Leader Deslar. It didn’t matter what language it was in or their names, it was one of the best animes ever made.

argo-3Best of all was the ship, the Argo (or Yamato for purists) was my Enterprise. It was a sleek battleship with retractable wings, a third bridge underneath the hull and a KICK-ASS weapon in the Wave Motion Gun. Nothing can compare to the thrill of watching them fire that weapon. It was nothing short of awesome!

The show was riviting, with every episode ending with the countdown for the “Star Force” to complete their mission. I couldn’t wait until the new season started as they faced peril again, this time at the hands of the Comet Empire, but with the aid of a super-powered alien woman whose voice sounded like marshmellows soaked in honey. It was another clash with an alien super-power against a ship and crew that couldn’t be destroyed and would never give up.

When I think back to these animes, I can’t believe how much they influenced me as a writer. Yes, the stories were a little cheesy, overly cliched and highly predictable but I loved them. They taught me the basics of any good story … Have a beginning, middle and end; be consistent throughout and see the humor in every lesson about life.

Anime today has it’s good and bad but, in my eyes, it can’t compare to what I grew up with. They recently made a live action Space Battleship Yamato and, though I loved seeing the ship in all its glory, the story was nothing like the original. I think that’s the key.