Forging the love between a father and child, Knight and Shield Maiden – An Excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

Knights_zps02364200The love between a parent and a child is a force to be reckoned with and, make no mistake, that love extends to adopted children too. I never meant to touch on the relationship between a parent and an adopted child when I was writing Forever Avalon or The Dark Tides, but it presented itself quite plainly.

Imagine if you were separated from your family and, during that time, you came across a child that was alone, lost and without anyone to care for them. What would you do? This is exactly what happened to Bryan MoonDrake during his Grand Tour of Avalon.

In this excerpt from The Dark Tides, you’ll see how the relationship between the Gil-Gamesh and Sarafina, his adopted daughter and Shield Maiden, came to be. It was a relationship forged in tragedy but strengthened by the love between a father and child.


The Convent at Glennish Hills was a holy place for both worship and battle. It was home to the Shield Maidens of Avalon. The sounds of song and prayer could be heard from inside the church while the clanging of steel resonated just outside in the courtyard. It was a dichotomy in both sight and sound but its purpose was singular … To provide the knights of Avalon with the finest warriors to fight alongside them in battle.

In a small courtyard away from the main training area, the Gil- Gamesh raised a practice sword over his head, waiting for the next attack. His opponent was a 15- year- old girl. Sarafina gripped her practice sword tightly with both hands, watching Bryan’s every movement, waiting for an opening to strike.

Her small frame looked bigger than it was, covered in leather armor for protection. Her long, blonde hair was braided up to keep it out of her face. She had a strong, determined look on her face. The Gil- Gamesh took a step back and Sarafina seized the moment to strike.

She lunged forward at Bryan, hoping to catch him off-balance. He swung downward to block her thrust, knocking her sword away. He spun and tried to catch her from behind, but as he swung his blade down, she countered his attack before she elbowed him in the stomach and shoved him back.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa … Time out! Where’d you learn that one from?” Bryan asked his young charge.

“No one, I was improvising,” Sarafina fired back, still ready to continue her sparring practice. Bryan couldn’t believe how much Sarafina had learned in three years at the convent. She was definitely on her way to becoming a Shield Maiden.

“Alright then, have it your way,” he said, sword at the ready as the sparring continued. Sarafina didn’t hesitate and lashed out as soon as he was set. She swung fiercely, back- and- forth, throwing everything she had at the Gil- Gamesh. Bryan countered every blow, letting her think she was winning.

“Eo Ire Itum! ” he chanted quietly, under his breath and he suddenly teleported behind Sarafina. When she turned around, his sword was on her throat.

“Hey, that’s not fair!” she complained. “No magic!”

“It’s called improvising, remember?” he retorted. “Besides, do you think any wizard won’t use magic because it’s not fair? You have to be ready to adapt to any situation and be prepared for any possibility.”

“Well … Captain McLoughlin says I one of the best students she’s ever had,” Sarafina proclaimed proudly.

“From what I’ve heard of Captain McLoughlin, I would take that as a compliment. She rarely gives them out but it is definitely well deserved.” Sarafina enjoyed the praise from the Gil- Gamesh and rushed over to hug him. Once she did, Sarafina realized her error in protocol and let go.

“I’m sorry Sir Bryan, I forget my place sometimes,” she apologized, regaining her composure. Bryan knew the limits on contact with the young girls in training, but he ignored it as he leaned down close to whisper to her.

“Well, when we’re alone like this, I don’t think a hug is totally out-of-place,” he confided in her. Sarafina was happy to hear that and hugged him again.

Bryan felt an overwhelming surge of love and pride. Sarafina filled a void in his life since his arrival on Avalon, that of family. She was like a daughter to him and he treated her like one of his own.

The two started walking back toward the main compound, enjoying this time they have together. The conversation varied from her training as a Shield Maiden to her relationships with the other girls and, of course, the Gil- Gamesh’s latest adventure.

“So, how did you escape from the Swamp Witches of Durley? I mean, they had your weapons and you and Sir Thomas all tied up, ready to be cooked in the pot!”

“Ah but you see, there is a dragon that lives in the Durley Swamp called a Naga,” Bryan explained. “It looks more like a giant two- headed cobra but it’s still considered a dragon. I was able to befriended one when we entered the swamp, as kind of a back- up plan; you know, just in case something went wrong.”

“That seems to happen to you a lot, doesn’t it?” Sarafina zinged back at him sarcastically.

“Do you want to hear the rest of the story or not?” Bryan cajoled. Sarafina quieted down and listened. “Anyway, unfortunately, the Naga are rather slow-moving, so it was taking quite a while for it to get there, so we had to stall for time.

“When it looked like one of us was going to go into the pot, Thomas and I started arguing about who they should cook first. You know, who would taste better, who was meatier, etc.; and this lasted a good fifteen minutes. By that time, the Naga showed up and attacked the witches while we got ourselves free,” he concluded. “Not my best plan, but it worked out in the end.”

Sarafina loved hearing his stories of adventure and looked forward to the day when she would share in them as his Shield Maiden. “Can you tell me some more about your family in the outside world?” she asked.

Bryan’s heart sank and his eyes sullen. He tried not to think about Stephanie and the kids that much, though they do come to his mind each and every day. It’s as if somehow he was still connected to them, across time and space, beyond the magical barrier that surrounded Avalon.

Sarafina saw the heartache in his face and back pedaled quickly. “No, never mind, I’m sorry for bringing it up,” she said.

“No Sarafina, it’s alright,” Bryan interrupted. “I don’t get to talk about them that often and it’s nice to have someone so interested in them.” Bryan sat down with Sarafina along on the steps outside the main training area. He took out his pocket watch and opened it up. Though it didn’t work anymore, the picture inside still held the memory of his family.

“You never told me about this picture,” she asked, pointing to the watch. “Why are you all wearing funny hats?”

“Well, it was Christmas and Stephanie, my wife, she loves Christmas. She listens to Christmas music all year round, watches Christmas movies too.”

“Movies?” Sarafina thought for a moment, trying to remember what he told her about movies. “Oh, I remember. Those are they plays you watch inside a little box, right?”

Bryan couldn’t believe how she remembered that. She seemed to be a sponge when it came to stories about the outside world. “Yes, that’s right. Anyway, we all dressed up and went down to the photographers and Stephanie pulled out these hats for us to wear. Now at first, I refused. I mean, I wouldn’t be caught dead in that hat, but she always had a way of convincing me to go along with whatever scheme she had.

“It’s funny, I hated this picture at first but it grew on me and I consider it one of my favorite pictures now,” he said, staring at the picture in his watch.

“It reminds me of a special moment when we were so happy together.” Sarafina looked at the watch and imagined herself as a part of that happy family. It made her feel so good inside but sad at the same time. It was something she never had nor ever will. Bryan noticed the change in her demeanor.

“What’s the matter Sarafina?”

Sarafina hesitated at first, not sure if what she wanted to ask him was appropriate or not. “Sir Bryan, may I ask a favor of you?”

“Of course Sarafina, anything …” The young girl gathered the courage to ask him.

“Most of the girls here either have parents or some kind of relative to call on, but I have neither. I know you visit me as often as you can and I can’t tell you how much that means to me, but …”

She hesitated for a moment, but Bryan pressed her to continue. “Yes, go on …”

“Would you mind if, in private moments like these, would you mind if I called you father?”

Bryan was taken aback by her request but couldn’t help feel honored and humbled being asked by this young girl to be her father. He had lost his own children and Sarafina helped fill that particular void in his life. A tear rolled down his cheek as he is overcome with emotion. How could he say no to her?

“Sarafina, I would love for you to call me father and I hope and pray I can live up to your high expectations of me,” he said.

Now it was Sarafina’s turn to start crying as she jumped up into Bryan’s arms to hug him. For the first time since he arrived on Avalon, Bryan felt completely at home. “I will speak with Mother Superior about visiting you more often and even about the possibility of you coming to visit me on Emmyr.”

SKU-000941753The Dark Tides is now available for purchase at AmazonBarnes and Noble and iUniverse.

A “pop culture” guide to King Arthur and the legend of Camelot

kingarthur1By many accounts, the legend of King Arthur and the historical facts about King Arthur vary from country to country. Though there are countless stories written from the 6th Century to today, written in every European language imaginable, the most definitive stories on the “King of the Britain’s” is Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory and The Once and Future King by T. H. White.

King Arthur has found his way into modern “pop culture” from movies, television, comic books and anime. He has been portrayed by Sean Connery, parodied by Monty Python, entertained as a Broadway musical and animated by Walt Disney. He even has his own brand of flour!

There are more than 50 movies  and television series dedicated to his story. He has been portrayed in Japanese anime, DC Comics and even on Nickelodeon. Here are, what I consider, the best representations of King Arthur in all forms of media.

Camelot_3000_1Camelot 3000, DC Comics (1982-1985) Written by Mike W. Barr and penciled by Brian Bolland, Camelot 3000 tells the story of King Arthur’s reawakening to save England in the year 3000. With the help of Merlin and reincarnated Knights of the Round Table, he faces off against an alien threat and Morgan le Fay. This is a great series, combining fantasy and sci-fi through a well-written story that includes elements of the grail legend mixed in with the traditional Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot love triangle.

OTD-March-14---Monty-Python-and-the-Holy-Grail-jpgMonty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) I know this is a comedy and not a true representation of the Arthurian legend, but you have it admit, it’s freaking hilarious. You can’t go anywhere and talk about Brave Sir Robin, the Knights of Ni or the “Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch” without someone breaking out in laughter. This is, without a doubt, the epitome of King Arthur pop culture wrapped up into one movie; and if you disagree with me, “your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!”

merlin__121126104412Merlin, BBC Television (2008-2012) This BBC television series focused on a young Merlin (Colin Morgan) and his relationship with Arthur Pendragon (Bradley James). It took some creative licence with the characters and the story of Camelot, but it was masterfully done. The fact that magic was outlawed, Merlin had to protect the future King Arthur because he would restore magic to the kingdom. The series only lasted five seasons but it has a loyal following that keeps it alive in syndication today.

sword-in-the-stoneThe Sword and the Stone, Walt Disney (1963) One of my favorite Disney movies that tells the story of young Arthur as Merlin teaches him things about the world through a series of misadventures from shape shifting into a fish, a squirrel and a bird. The wizards duel between Merlin and Madame Mim, who in my opinion is far worse a villain than Morgana le Fay, is the best part of the movie. The cartoon image of the Arthur pulling the sword from the stone is something everyone can recognize.

p20989_p_v7_aaQuest for Camelot (1998) I realize that I’ve put two animated movies in a row, but this one counts more as a musical to me. I never really got into “Camelot” so this counts as a musical for me. It tells the story of an adventurous girl, a young blind hermit and a goofy two-headed dragon who race to find the lost sword, Excalibur, and to save King Arthur and Camelot from disaster. Great music including “The Prayer” sung by Celine Dion and a duet between comedy icons Don Rickles and Eric Idle as the two-headed dragon. With Pierce Brosnan (as in 007 James Bond) voicing King Arthur, this is a wonderfully entertaining movie.

I have to give honorable mentions to Excalibur (1981) which has, what I think, is the first on-screen sex scene with a knight in full armor; King Arthur (2004) with Clive Owen and Kiera Knightly, who shows meaning behind the term “less is more” in costuming; and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949) starring Bing Crosby because you can’t outdo the original (i.e. Black Knight starring Martin Lawrence).

I would love to hear some of your favorites I may have missed here. Feel free to include them in the comments below.

Every adventure party needs a Human, an Elf and a Dwarf – An excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

Friendship reaches across race, religion and culture on every corner of our world today. This is no exception in literature today, especially fantasy stories. Anyone who’s played Dungeons and Dragons has been in a party with any combination of Human, Elf, Dwarf, Half-Elf, Gnome, Half-Orc and Halfling. It’s what makes adventures fun.

Most oDungeons-and-Dragons-Arena-of-War-teaser-003f us who enjoy reading fantasy novels harken to The Lord of the Rings with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. These three (along with the rest of the Fellowship if you want to get technical about it) are the standard bearers when it comes to the bonds of friendship between fantasy races in literature.

In the Forever Avalon series, I had the same inkling when I put together the friends and allies of Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh. They included the Wizard Archibald Browbridge, Eonis the Elf, Master Dinius of the Gilded Halls of the Dwarves and many others. It may seem cliché or even repetitive when putting these types of characters together, but it seemed natural to me. Also, I tried to take a slightly different approach with their personalities.

I wanted characters with their own heart and soul, not based on formulaic pre-conceptions. Eonis is a true warrior at heart, looking for adventure outside his home of Alfheimer to see first-hand what it means to be human. Master Dinius is the Lord of the Gilded Halls, but he is a Dwarf first and foremost. He loves his ale, telling stories of his many adventures and never letting anyone get the best of him.

In this excerpt from The Dark Tides, you get to see how the three friends first met and where their travels took them during the Gil-Gamesh’s Grand Tour.


Every man and women wanted to shake the hand of the new Gil- Gamesh, or even just touch him on the arm. The talk around the tavern grew louder and louder. Even the bards were already making up songs about the new Gil- Gamesh and how he stood up to Constable Durm.

Bryan sat down as Lily brought him a fresh pint of ale. Through all the excitement, he noticed that Dinius never stopped eating and drinking. Bryan was amazed at his ignorance.

“Well now, Gil- Gamesh …” Dinius ascertained, “… You sit down and drink with a Dwarf and don’t tell him who you really are?”

“I apologize Master Dinius,” Bryan retorted, “My deception was necessary to maintain a low profile during my Grand Tour of Avalon, especially now since I’m travelling alone.”

“Alone?” Dinius asked. “I thought Sir Thomas was travelling with you?”

Now Bryan wondered who this Dinius Oddbottom was. How does he know Sir Thomas? “Sir Thomas is heading to Cornish on a personal matter,” Bryan interjected. “He’s meeting me at Strongürd Keep after I confer with the Wizard’s Council.”

Dinius nearly choked on his drink when he heard this. “You’re going to Strongürd alone? Are you mad? That’s takes you through Blackbriar Forest? Every cutthroat and brigand will be waiting for you in there?”

“Well, I’m going to have to deal with them sooner or later,” Bryan insisted. “It might as well be now. I’m not going to cower like a frightened child.”

Dinius smiled at the brash attitude this young man had. “Well, I am heading back to the Gilded Halls and it just so happens that Strongürd is on the way there. That is, if you don’t mind the company.”

Bryan thought about his proposal. He didn’t know this Dwarf, so it could be a trap for an easy kill to collect the bounty. Before he could answer, an Elf approached their table. He was handsome with long brown hair. His pointed ears stuck out through his hair. He wore a shining chain mail under a green and brown wrap and a long green cloak. A long sword hung at his belt and a bow and quiver were slung across his shoulders.

Salüs dai Tulafáir Gil-Gamesh, I am Eonis,” he introduced himself, placing his hand over his heart and bowing— a sign of respect in Avalon. “I bring you greetings from the Elves of Alfheimer.”

Bryan stood and extended his hand to Eonis. The Elf took it as a sign of human friendship. “Thank you Eonis. I hope to be in Alfheimer sometime soon to pay my respects.”

“I will inform Lord Baldrid of your intent,” Eonis concurred. “We will anticipate your arrival.” Eonis quickly turned his attention to the Gil- Gamesh’s companion, whom he recognized.

“Master Dinius,” he said, bowing again with respect. “What brings the Lord of the Gilded Halls to this corner of Avalon?”

Bryan turned to Dinius with a look of disdain at the Dwarf he’s been buying drinks and food for all night. “Lord of the Gilded Halls, huh?” he inquired. Bryan’s heard about the Gilded Halls, the home of the Dwarves of Avalon. It seemed Dinius Oddbottom wasn’t what he appeared to be. “I guess I wasn’t the only one ‘hiding in plain sight’, eh Master Dinius?” Bryan joked.

Dinius gulped his ale, aware that his own deception had been uncovered. “Yes, well, Sam makes the best ale this old Dwarf has ever tasted,” he tried to explain. “I come here from time to time to satisfy my thirst.”

Dinius got up from the table and walked over to Bryan. “Forgive my deception lad, but the Wizard Browbridge mentioned you may be coming this way and, knowing that I frequent the Weathered Wren, he asked me to keep an eye out for you … Indiscreetly that is.”

Now everything was starting to make sense to Bryan. “I suppose Archie sent you too,” he asked Eonis.

“Sir Charles, actually …” Eonis explained. “He asked me look in on you as well. This was a logical stopping point on your journey to Strongürd Keep so I came here and waited.”

“And is there anything else I should be aware of?”

“Besides an embarrassed Dwarf and Elf, nothing at all,” Eonis bemused, attempting a joke, something Elves were not known for. “But truthfully, Gil- Gamesh, Blackbriar Forest is no place for any man to go alone, including you.”

“He’s right lad, just think of us as close companions on your journey,” Dinius added.

Bryan couldn’t believe it. Since his arrival on Avalon, people who never knew him had gone out of their way to protect and aid him. The devotion to the Gil- Gamesh was overwhelming to him.

“Alright, you can accompany me to Strongürd,” Bryan noted. “We’ll be leaving in the morning. Until then, good- night.” Bryan walked over to Sam to ask about his room. Sam motioned for Lily to escort Bryan upstairs to one of the rooms at the tavern.

Eonis and Dinius kept a close eye on him until he disappeared behind the door. “Well, that didn’t go as well as expected,” Dinius lamented.

Eonis looked down at him, visibly upset. “It may have helped if you didn’t scrounge food and drink off him all night,” he declared.

Dinius huffed and returned to his seat. “A Dwarf’s got to eat, you know,” Dinius told Eonis, drinking down his ale then belching loudly as he finished his meal.


SKU-000941753The Dark Tides is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.


How pizza, beer and late night “Dungeons and Dragons” sessions started my writing career

dungeons_dragons-5I was first introduced to Dungeons and Dragons in 1981, as a college student at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I got in with a small group of friends who spent their weekends eating pizza, drinking beer and playing D&D. One of my friends was nicknamed Frodo, which tells you a lot about them.

I was hooked instantly. I played constantly, learning everything I could about the game. I bought all the manuals, dice, Dungeon Master boards and graph paper for drawing out dungeons. I even had a Crown Royal bag for carrying my dice, something most D&D players from that era can relate to. It was an obsession.

Unfortunately, I think my over-indulgence in D&D led to troubling issues of living on my own for the first time. I left college and returned home, but I brought D&D with me. I introduced it to my friends at home and we started having all-nighters. That led to low job opportunities and zero prospects of returning to college.

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Well, so did my parents. My father, a retired U.S. Marine, pointed me towards military recruiters. Reluctantly, I did and I soon found myself enlisted in the U.S. Navy; and guess what, I brought D&D with me again.

After I graduated boot camp, I was assigned to Journalist “A” School, where I introduced my shipmates to D&D. We spent our off duty hours playing the game, drinking beer and eating pizza. My first duty station as a young Sailor was the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal, where once again, I got in with a group of Sailors and played D&D.


Me in the SITE-TV studio aboard USS Forrestal circa 1986

I think you can see my obsession forming here. D&D consumed my time, especially when we were underway and there was nothing to do. You have to remember, this was before the Internet, email, satellite TV, or video game consoles.

I know you’re wondering why I went to all this length to tell you about how, as a young adult, I was obsessed with D&D. Well, that’s where the story really begins. It was all those late night, weekend long, D&D sessions that led to me writing my two novels, Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides.

I tell this story every time I’m interviewed about my novels, but I wanted to tell it one last time so everyone can understand where the ideas for my stories came from.

I always thought that I had a big imagination. As a teenager, I was creating my own superheroes and I originally wanted to be the next Stan Lee or Jack Kirby.

Playing D&D took it to a whole other level. As a Dungeon Master, I created whole worlds, ever-changing scenarios and formidable characters to challenge the players.

During my first deployment on the Forrestal, I was playing almost nightly, every day while off duty. At the same time, I was missing my wife and newborn baby girl terribly. It was the first time I was separated from family and it was heart-wrenching. That led to some seriously disturbing dreams.

I started dreaming about being stranded on a deserted island; an island filled with the magical fantasy found in D&D. Soon, my wife ended up on the island with me and we had to survive and adapt to living there together.

Over the years, as my children grew, they started to invade my dream. I had that same dream nightly, whenever I was underway, at-sea, away from home; even though I stopped playing D&D altogether in the 90s.

One of the strange things was that, in my dream, I found myself living as one of my best characters I ever created in D&D, a half-elf, chaotic good, fighter/thief/magic user called Luna Moonstone. It was that character that started it all.

After my last deployment in 2001, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, I decided to start writing the dream down and developing it into a story. It took me almost five years to finish my first novel, Forever Avalon, but I did it. I based the Drake family on my own and the rest just fell into place.

After I finished writing Forever Avalon, the dream ended. I haven’t had the dream since then. There was a purpose behind the dream, super-charged by an imagination fueled by D&D and the separation of a family. This is what gave birth to the world of Forever Avalon. I know I can continue the story for everyone to enjoy the adventures of Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh, and his family.

The main thing I wanted to say, through all of this, is that whatever your inspiration is, follow your dream and it will be there for you.

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

Magic is at the heart of any good fantasy story

244277Magic is defined as “the art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature.” Magic is at the heart of any fantasy story.

For the Forever Avalon series, I had to come up with the “how’s and how too” of magic in the world of Avalon. That was the easy part. In Forever Avalon, all magic exists only on this enchanted island. When Merlin cast the spell to bring all magic from the outside world to Avalon, it infused the island with magical energy. Magic exists in every rock and tree, plant and animal, man, Elf, Dwarf and creature alike.

So now the question is asked, how do you access that magic? To me, the innate ability to tap into magical energy requires thought, belief and the right word. Anything is possible if you believe in it. Faith, courage and the human spirit has shown us that throughout history. If you add magic into the mix, the impossible becomes possible.

The Gil-Gamesh explained it best in in a conversation with his son-in-law Andrew in this excerpt from The Dark Tides.


“Here, the impossible is possible. The laws of nature are reversed. This is a world based on magic, not science.”

“But basic science rules apply, don’t they? I mean, practices like physics and chemistry, they still exist or else you couldn’t get your ship to fly or fire to burn.”

“True, but it’s how we get that science to work. We take that one step, beyond the reason of science and make it happen through magic,” Bryan explained. “For example, science tells us that folding space to travel from one place to another instantly takes tremendous power and an equation as long as a football field. But on Avalon, all it takes is a good wizard with the right spell.

“Eo Ire Itum! ” Bryan chanted as he waved his hand and in an instant, vanished right before Andrew’s eyes.

“You see?” said a voice from behind. There stood the Gil- Gamesh, appearing out of thin air.

“I really can’t explain it and even I had my doubts when I first arrived here,” he continued as he sat back down. “But, the longer you’re here, the more magic touches you, it will make you feel younger, vibrant and more alive and it will make you believe that anything is possible. I think that’s why magic left the outside world. It wasn’t just Merlin’s spell, it was also because of man.”

“I don’t understand?” Andrew queried.

SKU-000941753“Well think about it; at the end of the ‘Dark Ages’ man had already began to fundamentally change the way we thought about the universe. Science had answered the age old questions … Gravity, stars, planets, the Earth itself. People like Galileo, Copernicus, da Vinci and others changed the way we thought about life. Science was now our magic.

“Merlin’s spell brought all things magical to the realm of Avalon. In the outside world, there is only science. Here, magic and science co- exist with magic leading the way. That’s what makes the impossible possible on Avalon,” he concluded.


So now that we know how magic works, the next question was spells. I didn’t want to create a whole new language for spells, I decided to use one of the oldest languages as the basis for magical incantations … Latin!

First and foremost, I want to thank the University of Notre Dame (Go Irish!) for one of the best English to Latin translators online. All I had to do was type in a word or phrase and it would give me various usage options for those words. That helped tremendously in the creation of magical spells.

The last element was components. This is something I can harken back to my days of playing Dungeons & Dragons. I remembered that a simple darkness spell required bat fur and charcoal to complete the incantation. I wanted to incorporate this into my spell casting but not for every type of spell.

Since Avalon was infused with magic, simply lighting a candle shouldn’t require a pinch of sulfur. So, the more complicated the spell, the more components are required to cast the spell. Even harder spells require a magical item as a “well” to draw upon the magic of Avalon to power the spell (hint, if you want to see this in action, read The Dark Tides to see how Morgana Le Fay wields her magic through the Orb of Veles).

Magic is at the heart of a good fantasy story and as writers, we have to be the sorcerer and create the spells, components and magic items to bring the magic to life.

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

Keeping the history of our world alive through literature

TARDISat60FathomsDid you ever feel like you were born in the wrong time? I get that feeling all the time. It’s probably why I am such a huge fan of Doctor Who. I could spend a thousand lifetimes travelling throughout history to see everything imaginable. I want to stare in awe at the building of the pyramids or laugh with Queen Elizabeth while watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Globe Theater; but I also want to bear witness to the horrors of humanity as well. From the Holocaust to the “Trail of Tears,” there are events we must never forget or else we may repeat them.

That’s something I hate about the “PC” world we live in today. To ensure we don’t hurt people’s “feelings” or make them feel inadequate about themselves, some people are trying to rewrite history to make it conform to popular thinking. The movie Interstellar had a great example of this when a teacher tried to explain that the moon landings were faked just so the U.S. would win the Cold War. Ridiculous!

I know they’re not teaching this in schools but, you have to admit, it’s a real possibility. There are people out there today who think events like the Holocaust and the moon landings were faked, created by the government  to control people. That’s like saying Africans weren’t thrust into slavery, they walked on those boats of their own free will.

You can’t change history, and if we try to, we are a failure as a society and as writers. We take history and make it real through our stories, myths and legends. There are books that tell the story of a generation within their pages: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath, and Gone with the Wind just to name a few.

Even by taking liberties with history, we are telling a very important story. One of my favorite authors of alternate history is Harry Turtledove. He takes one event in time and changes it, then follows it to fruition from past to present. The best example of this is in my favorite book of his, How Few Remain.

51FRPAQSB6LThe novel starts with a Confederate courier, carrying the plans laid out by General Robert E. Lee, wrapped around some cigars. In history, the courier dropped those cigars where they were picked up by a Union Soldier, revealing Lee’s plans to the Union Army, thus winning the war for the United States; but that’s where the twist comes in. If those plans were never lost, could the South have succeeded in winning the Civil War? Turtledove picks up ten years later, with a divided  country heading into another war but with England and France as allies of the Confederacy and Germany allying itself with the U.S.A. Through the next 11 books, he takes you through the Industrial Revolution, World War I, the Depression and ending at World War II, but with a very different but equally shocking Holocaust as African-Americans became the victims of a ruthless Confederate regime that acted like Nazis, sending them to gas chambers and mass graves.

Even in a twisted universe like that one, there are still lessons from our world history written into every word. This is our mission in life as writers. We cannot change the past but we can write about it so that, generations from now, people will know how we lived, laughed and loved … That is until The Time Machine is invented, but H.G. Wells timetable is way off by now!

Don’t Mess with the Gil-Gamesh – An Excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

People always underestimate one another, especially when it comes to outsiders or people who are different from them. I grew up feeling that way because I was different from most people I knew. I liked comic books, cartoons and sci-fi/fantasy movies while others thought those things childish and nonsense.

SolaresFrostI think that’s why I made Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh, an outsider with a lot to prove in Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides. Though most of Avalon looks up to him as a hero and a champion, others scorn him as an Outlander and unworthy of wielding the Twin Swords of the Dragon Moon.

Here is an excerpt from The Dark Tides where the Gil-Gamesh’s power is tested by such an individual, but he proves himself once again as the champion of Avalon.


Anger filled his eyes as he looked down the street toward his attacker. Th e lone figure stood in the middle of the road, his face shrouded by a flowing black robe. In his hand, pointed at the Gil-Gamesh, was his wand, still pulsing with magical energy. Th e wand was a twisted branch of wormwood with a dark moonstone embedded at its base.

“I don’t know who you are, but you must have a death wish to attack me here in my own home,” Bryan swore.

“The only one who will be dying here today is you and your pathetic Outlander family Gil-Gamesh,” the attacker grumbled, his voice low and guttural. “Th e Cult of Darkholm will seal your fate once and for all.”

Th e Cult of Darkholm came to rise aft er the Gil-Gamesh killed Lord Kraven Darkholm in a wager by battle … A duel to the death. The death of Lord Darkholm meant the end of the line of Morgana le Fay. Th e cult believed that they must kill the Gil-Gamesh in order to restore balance to Avalon.

“How many more of you fanatics do I have to kill to end this idiocy?”

“You cannot kill us all Gil-Gamesh … Death cannot kill that which never dies!”

“Never say never zealot!” the Gil-Gamesh shouted as he leapt at his attacker, swinging Twilight down toward the cultist’s head. But before his sword strikes, he cried “Incandesco!” causing Twilight to burst with bright light. With the attacker temporarily blinded, Hunter and Nevan drew
their GunStars and fired a volley at the attacker. The spell shots erupted as a single fiery projectile that split into many fiery projectiles.

Th e cultist waved his wand and chanted “Caligo Obscurus Cimmerii”—an incantation Bryan had never heard before. Tendrils of darkness fl owed out of the wand like an octopus attacking its prey. It reached out to form a protective shield in front of the cultist, swatting at the meteor swarm to dissipate as it impacted on the barrier.

Th e Gil-Gamesh couldn’t believe his eyes. He’d seen spells that blocked magical attacks or deflected them, but never cancel them out like that. He knew he had to take a different tack against this madman. He sheathed his swords and motioned for Hunter and Nevan to back off . The cultist expected the Gil-Gamesh to attack him, swords swinging like a whirlwind, as he is known. He tried a different tack against the champion of Avalon.

“What’s the matter Gil-Gamesh? Are you afraid to use your vaunted swords against me? Th ey are the only reason you have any power on Avalon. Without them, you are nothing,” he taunted.

“You know, I’ve been here for more than 18 years …” Bryan lamented as he removed his gloves, tossing them to as he untied his cloak, letting it fall off his shoulders. “… One would think you idiots would take the time to do your homework.”

“Acheron Draconis!” he commanded. His body erupted with magical energy as it flowed around him until it takes the form of a dragon that acted as an extension of him. Th e people of Emmyr stared in awe of the Gil-Gamesh, but especially Ashley and Andrew. She had seen her father
do some amazing things before, but nothing like this. Th e cultist quivered slightly as fear raced through his body. He wondered if he made a mistake in taunting the Gil-Gamesh, but he
stood firm.

“I am Lord Bryan MoonDrake, Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, 17th DragonMage of the Wizard’s Council,” Bryan announced as he cupped his hands in front of him, drawing power from ground and focusing it through the dragon stone that hung around his neck. His eyes pulsated with magical energy in an unnatural glow. “You are sadly mistaken to think that I am powerless without my swords; but that is a mistake I will gladly help you resolve!”

“Aboleo evi Itum!” Bryan chanted as he released the energy through his dragon-form at the cultist. With a wave of his wand, the cultist reformed his dark energy shield but the blast hit with such a force, it pushed the cultist back. He grasped his wand with both hands, trying to hold off the Gil-Gamesh. He looked up into the sky and stared at the crescent moon, as if he were calling to it for help. The blast slowly began to break down the dark energy barrier.

SKU-000941753Bryan knew he had to press his advantage. He reached out with his right hand to toward a lit torchiere hanging next to one of the vendor’s stalls. “Draconis Infernus!” he cast, drawing the fire to him and adding it to his energy blast, igniting his dragon-form into a fire-breathing dragon. The explosion shattered the dark shield, igniting the cultist’s robes on fire. He dropped down to one knee, his garments burnt away, leaving nothing but a charred husk.


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

Hooray for Hollywood, now get to work and make my favorite book into a movie!

Hollywood has been on a roll lately with one blockbuster after another of sci-fi, fantasy or comic book origins; but lately, it seems like Hollywood is running out of ideas by remaking older movies rather than making new ones. It’s not like they’re remaking movies from 40-50 years ago. Instead, they’re remaking (or as they like to call reimagining) movies from the 80’s like Terminator, Point Break and Poltergeist.

With the success of Game of Thrones on television and The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit in theaters, there are some great fantasy novels out there just ripe for transitioning to the silver or TV screen, that have yet to be adapted.

Unfortunately, some series are so huge and all-encompassing that adapting them would mean some parts of the books would be edited out and you know how fans hate that. In any case, here’s my list of the top five medieval fantasy novels that need a big screen adaptation. I know that some people will disagree with my choices but, if you do disagree, please let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear what I might have missed.

Sword_of_shannara_hardcover#5 – Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks: Though some consider the series a direct rip-off of Lord of the Rings, I am one to let the Terry Brooks series to stand on its own. It takes you on an incredible journey through the Four Lands, fighting warlords and ousting wicked brothers from their throne … Everything a fantasy novel asks for. A visually stunning and epic story that deserves its own adaptation.

COMIC_elfquest_book_01#4 – Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini: I know most of you are wondering why Elfquest is on my list when there’s been a movie in the works for years. That’s exactly why it is on the list. This movie has been on again/off again since 2008. Let’s get it done already! Elfquest is an award winning, cult following comic book fantasy series that has been in print since the 70’s. The rights to this series has changed more hands than Kim Kardashian’s sex tape. Quit fussing about and get it done:  Live action, CGI motion capture or animated, I don’t care. Just do it!

102243#3 – Fafhrd and the Gray Mousrer by Fritz Leiber: This series is right up there with Lord of the Rings as one of the most influential fantasy series that started the entire Dungeons & Dragons genre. Fritz Leiber is even credited by many with coming up with the phrase “sword and sorcery.” Everything you want in a fantasy story is here … Wizards, thieves, warriors and the like fight through an incredible landscapes with plenty of skullduggery. There is rich history woven into the tapestry of the world of Fritz Leiber. It amazes me that this hasn’t made its way to TV or film yet.

673593#2 – Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock: Without a doubt, Elric is one of the greatest anti-heroes ever written. Michael Moorcock has created a world so fantastic, it could only be created through CGI technology of today, like James Cameron waiting until he had the right technology to create Avatar. The warrior/sorcerer renegade searching for his place in a world that hates and fears him. The hard part is trying to translate the Elric series into a trilogy. I would recommend Elric of Melnibone, Weird of the White Wolf and Stormbringer. Elric would bring horror and fantasy fans together to see the world of Michael Moorcock brought to life.

The-Dark-Tower-Novel-Cover#1 – The Dark Tower by Stephen King: I know this is not a true medieval fantasy, but hear me out. This novel has everything and then some and, just like Elfquest, it’s been tied to a big screen adaptation for the past few years but nothing has come to fruition. Even Ron Howard and Russel Crowe have been tied to this at one time or another. Which leads me to ask, why the hell aren’t you making this movie?! The Dark Tower is King’s take on the Arthurian legend, mixing fantasy with sci-fi and a western. I mean gunslingers, swords and sorcery, knights and thieves … what’s not to love about this series. This is one of Stephen King’s most unique stories that he’s ever written.

I know many of you have your own opinions and your own choices for fantasy books needing movie/television adaptation. I, for one, would love to see my own novels, Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides, added to that list someday. I just wish Hollywood would stop trying to redo something that’s already been done and try something new for a change.

Who is the Gil-Gamesh? Legendary Hero or Feared Warrior?

Within many stories today, there are names that stand out when spoken, induce fear and awe into others and make a character imposing. Names like Gandalf the Gray, James Bond, and Elric of Melnibone are known all around the world.

When I began writing Forever Avalon, I wanted to create a protagonist with just such a name. A name that would be remembered by anyone who read my story. That’s when I created the Gil-Gamesh.

gilgameshIn history, the Gilgamesh was known as a hero, a Demigod and a King from ancient Mesopotamia. He was the main character of the Epic of Gilgamesh, considered the first great work of literature. The first half of the story discusses Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, and Enkidu, a wild man created by the gods to stop him. After an initial fight, Gilgamesh and Enkidu become close friends until the Gods kill Enkidu. In the second half of the epic, Gilgamesh’s distress at Enkidu’s death causes him to undertake a long and perilous journey to discover the secret of eternal life. He eventually learns that “Life, which you look for, you will never find. For when the gods created man, they let death be his share, and life withheld in their own hands.”

In Forever Avalon, I wanted to reimagine the story of King Arthur and continue the adventures after his death. As the last remaining member of the Knights of the Round Table, Sir Percival was to be a champion of Avalon, not its King, after Guinevere began her reign over Avalon. I needed a name to make Percival stand out and be recognized as the champion of Avalon. So this is where I took my own spin on history and the story of King Arthur and the Gilgamesh.

Before his death, King Arthur sent his knights out on a quest for the Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus and the disciples drank from at the Last Supper. In his search, Percival travelled through Persia and Mesopotamia. There, he heard the stories of the Gilgamesh, about his strength, his courage and his love for his people. That resonated within the knight.

Percival was given Twilight and Dusk, the Twin Swords of the Dragon Moon, by Queen Guinevere to take up arms against the forces of Morgana Le Fay and defend to Avalon. He accepted the task and took a name that would strike fear in his enemies and bring hope to the people of Avalon.

He declared himself the Gil-Gamesh, the champion of Avalon, protector of the realm and defender of the innocent. He took the name from one culture and brought it into his own, to honor the demigod King and bring hope to the people of Avalon.

This is something we do as writers … We honor and recognize the past by including their stories in what we write today. I know many people have never read the Epic of Gilgamesh and don’t know who he was; but I hope through my stories, they will.

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