Three elements every fantasy story needs are fear, adventure and magic

vmt98p0p4iacoqs7h42sldt8o74fdeabd4e1bbcDiving into the depths of the fantasy genre is like free diving … The deeper you go, the more out of breath you get. I got that feeling when I read Elric of Melnibone for the first time. After reading it, I was left breathless.

Fantasy taps into everything a human being experiences through life. What scares us? What piques our curiosity? What sparks our imagination? In fantasy, anything and everything is possible, and as writers, we grab onto that and lay it out for readers to dive into.

Fantasy has three critical elements: fear, adventure and magic. I know the last one is a bit broad, so let me start with that.

Magic covers everything from the fantastic to the supernatural. It is the mystery that brings out the curiosity in all of us. What we can’t explain or understand, we associate with magic. That’s what makes it an essential part of any fantasy story.

But magic is more than spells, Wizards, faeries and unicorns. Magic is the lifeblood of all these things and more. Magic has been a part of stories ranging from Paul Bunyan to Santa Claus.

The second element is adventure. Adventure is more than swashbuckling, chandelier swinging, high seas sailing adventures. The first part of the adventure is–as in real estate–location, location, location! What would Harry Potter be without Hogwarts, or Lord of the Rings without Middle Earth. Location establishes the adventure, from the urban jungle to a floating island.

Another part of adventure is, of course, the action; hence the term action/adventure. Whether its sword fights or bare knuckle brawling, you need to bring the excitement into your fantasy; but make sure your keep it real and accurate. I watch a lot of Errol Flynn/Bruce Lee movies and professional wrestling to guide me through scripting my fights.

The final element is fear. It is the basic element at the core of every human being. Our fear makes us human, gives us that innate curiosity to explore that which we do t know. Without fear, we wouldn’t gather or strength and courage to fight back, that basic survival instinct.

Fear can be visualized in scary monsters, spooky places and death-defying adventure. You see my point? Fear is what brings all three elements together into one story of fantasy.

Like a painter, you start with broad strokes and work your way down to the fine details. In the end, you should have a memorable story you can call all your own. Mine’s called Forever Avalon, what’s yours?

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.

Family will always be there to give you advice, raise your spirits or kick you in the butt when you need it

f0ccc3b6-4243-49a0-878d-11e449bd63aeI’d like to take a moment to talk about family. Family is at the heart of the Forever Avalon series. It’s the very core of my own life experiences and I can’t imagine what my world would be like without it.

Everyone has their own experiences when it comes to family, both good and bad. I can honestly say I’ve been on both sides and I’d like to think that it’s made me the man I am today.

Through writing, I’ve tried to share my love for my family through my stories. It’s not the exact picture of the perfect little family, but what is? They have been, and always will be, an inspiration to me. My family kept me strong during long deployments with their love and support. I kept that going through my novels, Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides.

In this excerpt from The Dark Tides, I wanted to show how family comes together in times of adversity and demonstrates the strength of love, faith and courage. Caution, SPOILERS!

***

Bryan and Stephanie stepped outside their tent, where Ashley, Andrew, Rose and Edan are waiting. Bryan looked over at Edan and saw he was holding Rose’s hands as he talked to her. Before Bryan could say anything, Sarafina and Hunter joined them, bringing the whole family together.

“Captain O’Brian, are the guns ready to go?” Bryan asked.

“Yes milord, we have 20 canons with about 100 rounds each standing by.”

“Good, stick to the plan. If I have any changes in my orders, I’ll relay messages to you through Maverick, alright?”

“Yes Gil-Gamesh, it will be done,” he said with a bow. As he turned to depart, Rose ignored protocol and, in clear defiance of her parents, kissed him goodbye. Once Captain O’Brian was gone, Bryan glared at Rose, but he knew this wasn’t the time or place for it.

As they gathered together, Hunter broke the silence hanging in the air. “The King asked me to tell his Grandpa good luck today,” Hunter quipped. Everyone just laughed at that, except for Ashley and Rose who were in the dark. “Ask Mom, she’ll explain it to you later.”

“I’m not going to say anything except to tell you all how proud I am of each and every one of you,” Bryan told them. “You have all grown and matured into the best I could have ever hoped for in my children … that includes all of you!” he added, looking directly at Sarafina and Andrew.

“I never really believed in fate or destiny until I arrived on Avalon. Though I still believe that we are in control of our own future, everything that happened has led us to here and now. No matter what, this doesn’t end here. This is only the beginning.”

Bryan’s words inspired them as they hugged each other one last time before leaving … brother and sister, parents and children, husband and wife. Hunter and Andrew head off with Sarafina, leaving on the Gil-Gamesh as he said one last goodbye to Stephanie.

“I love you husband,” she said as she kissed him.

“I love you wife,” Bryan added with their traditional goodbye.

He turned to leave while Ashley, Rose and Stephanie headed toward the hospital. “Okay, now what was Hunter talking about?” Rose asked. “Is Bowen his …”

“Uh-huh …” Stephanie interrupted, trying to be discrete.

“You mean, Hunter and the Queen, they …”

“Yes …” Stephanie cut her off before she said anything out loud.

“Holy …” Ashley cursed.

“Oh that little player,” Rose quipped as they continued to gossip amongst themselves.

***

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

My top five fantasy/adventure movie “guilty pleasures” I love to watch

Guilty pleasures can vary from person-to-person, from something as simple as a favorite pint of ice cream to a cheap cigar. Movies are a favorite guilty pleasure of mine. There are some movies that most people would consider a waste of time, but I think of them as a great way to spend an Saturday night.

To me, the 1980s has the best guilty pleasure movies out there. They were at the forefront in special effects, any topic or storyline was fair game and the actors were cheesy and formulaic … The perfect combination for a guilty pleasure movie.

RottenTomatoes.com rates movies both good and bad, however their rating system doesn’t account for “guilty pleasure” movies. Here’s my list of my top five “Guilty Pleasure fantasy/adventure movies of the 80s” and how they are rated.

images (1)5. Conan the Destroyer (1984) – As bad movies go, this tops the list as one of the worst sequels ever made, right up there with Superman III and Batman and Robin (another Arnold snooze-fest). But how can you say no to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wilt Chamberlain in a classic one-on-one duel to the death. Add in Grace Jones in all her badness as a female warrior and Sarah Douglas as the evil Queen and you’ve got a wicked guilty pleasure movie. You will never forget the argument about Malak’s “brother’s sister’s cousin!” (Rotten Tomatoes 26%, 1 1/2 stars)

p8697_p_v7_aa4. Red Sonja (1985) – Since there was no traction for a third “Conan” movie after the last bomb, Arnold teamed up with Sylvester Stallone’s girlfriend Brigitte Nielsen and his “Conan” love interest Sandahl Bergman to bring another Robert E. Howard character to the silver screen, Red Sonja. So bad ass warriors, evil queen, magic orb … Check! Arnold got to flex his muscles as Sonja’s love interest Kalidor. The best part of this movie was Ernie Reyes Jr. who played Prince Tarn, a spoiled little prince with awesome Kung fu fighting skills. (Rotten Tomatoes 18%, 1 star)

p4895_p_v7_aa3. Sword and the Sorcerer (1982) – This is the movie with the coolest sword of any “sword and sorcery” movie in the 80s. I mean, the blades shot out, how cool is that? It starred Lee Horsely, of another 80s classic Matt Houston TV series, as Talon, a mercenary who rediscovers his royal heritage’s dangerous future when he is recruited to help a princess foil the designs of a brutal tyrant and a powerful sorcerer in conquering a land. So, bad-ass warrior, damsel in distress and evil sorcerer … Everything a fantasy movie needs. The movie also starred Richard Lynch, who played a bad guy in practically every role he ever played, and your totally awesome popcorn movie night is complete! (Rotten Tomatoes 80%, 4 stars)

images (2)2. The Beastmaster (1982) – First off, this movie had an awesome cast … Marc Singer, Rip Torn, John Amos and the lovely Tanya Roberts (between Charlie’s Angels and Sheena). Again, the formulaic bad-ass warrior goes after despot ruler with a mix of magic and, this time, animals. Dar (Singer) can control animals with his mind. His pet tiger, hawk and ferrets make for a fun movie. The weirdest thing that sticks out in my mind about this movie is the witches that work for Maax (Torn) who have these incredibly sexy bodies with incredibly ugly faces. Gross! (Rotten Tomatoes 42%, 2 stars)

krull-poster1. Krull (1983) – My number one guilty pleasure could actually be classified as a sci-Fi/fantasy movie because instead of a tyrant warlord or evil sorcerer, you have both wrapped up in a giant alien called The Beast. He travels from world to world in his fortress and army of Slayers. Of course, he kidnaps the beautiful princess and tries to convince her to be his queen and rule the planet of Krull (hence the name). She, in turn, is waiting for her handsome prince to rescue her and save the day using a magical weapon called the Glaive. Okay, like Beastmaster, this movie had an all-star cast of “before they were famous” British actors … Liam Neeson, Robbie Coltrane, Freddie Jones, Alun Armstrong to name a few. Pre-CGI effects were handled very well in this movie. The Glaive was a very cool weapon when he finally used it at the end of the movie, but overall, this is a quality movie night guilty pleasure. (Rotten Tomatoes 33%, 1 1/2 stars)

There are a few honorable mentions out there … Dragonslayer (1981), Ladyhawke (1985), and, of course, the incomparable Highlander (1986), with the best soundtrack in a fantasy movie EVER! What’s your favorite guilty pleasure movie? Let me know in the comments below!

Fantasy is the great escape that everyone can find their way to

fantasy_city-982958What is it about fantasy that attracts so many into it? I believe it’s a natural escape mechanism that allows people to avoid the sometimes harsh realities of life. Author Llyod Alexander said, “Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.”

Both of those sentiments are correct. Fantasy is the one genre that encompasses anything and everything, from historical drama to science fiction, all of these can be defined as some form of fantasy. James Cameron’s Avatar is a great example of that as he combined the futuristic science fiction of space travel, genetic manipulation and scientific exploration to tribal mysticism and spirituality.

The late Terry Prachett said, “Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.” Just reading that quote brings so many images to mind of stories I’ve read over the years. It speaks volumes about how fantasy stories have evolved over time.

When man first started to explore beyond their normal boundaries, their minds started to see things and explain them in terms of what, today, we would call fantasy. Strange fish in the water were called sea monsters and  ominous sounds from the woods were made by goblins or faeries.

I think that’s why Dungeons and Dragons and World of Warcraft are such popular games. They take the heart of fantasy and bring it to life by immersing the people into the story. Sometimes you’re part of the story, sometimes you create the story yourself. In either case, it is the fantasy that makes it all possible, in your mind and your dreams.

Alexandre Dumas wrote, “When you compare the sorrows of real life to the pleasures of the imaginary one, you will never want to live again, only to dream forever.” Throughout human history, we try to explain both good things and bad by blaming them on gods, monsters or otherworldly creatures. We escaped the horrors of the real world by putting the responsibility on something we couldn’t  explain.

These unexplained phenomenon fell into myth and legend in the stories we know them as today; and today, authors take those stories and turn them into something new and exciting. I took that approach with the Forever Avalon series. I took the legend of King Arthur legend and combined it with all the magical tales of faeries, dragons, wizards and Elves.

This is why I love to use fantasy as the medium for my storytelling. By bringing together these myths and legends into the modern world of today, I’m able to tell these stories for a mew generation. As long as we keep telling these stories, they will go on and on forever.

Professor Jack Zipes from the University of Minnesota said, “Fairy tales, since the beginning of recorded time and perhaps earlier, have been a means to conquer the terrors of mankind through metaphor.” That’s what makes them legendary. That’s what makes them fantasy.

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.

Navigating the maze of a writer’s mind

mazeistock_000018139778smallJ.K. Rowling said, “I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book!” I think that’s why I enjoy writing so much.

Writing is a very difficult profession to get into. Many famous writers talk about the difficulties they’ve experienced in their career, but they always end that with how much it was worth it.

That part I have to agree with. Writing has its ups and downs. There are times I find myself trapped in a writer’s block that, to me, resembles the hedge maze in The Shining. Then there are times when an idea hits me and, as soon as I get it written down, I am flooded with an overwhelming sensation of joy. The hard part, it seems, is navigating your way through your ideas and putting it down on paper.

I spent my formative years dreaming about being a comic book artist, the next Jack Kirby. I was okay but there were many others better than me. Even after one year of art school, I never improved so I left. I switched from artist to writer when I joined the Navy and became a Navy Journalist. That’s when I really got the writing bug.

I’ve written constantly for more than 30 years, in one form or another. I get excited about what I’m writing, whether it’s a press release on an event on base or another chapter in my next book. What makes it so exciting, on the very of pure exhilaration, is to see your words in print. I will never forget the day I opened a box from my publisher and held my book in my own two hands. It was, as J.K. Rowling said … magical.

Like in other areas of the arts, like music, art and acting, writing is a gift. Some have the ability to take ideas from deep inside and turn them into words, weaving stories that resonate to anyone who reads it.

The ebb and flow of writing can galvanize a writer; it makes us want more. I think the same feelings of elation and disappointment can be found in many professions. One year, Halle Berry earned an Academy Award nomination for her role in the 2001 movie Monster’s Ball; then, a few years later, she wins the Razzie award for worst actress in the 2004 movie Catwoman. Through it all, it didn’t change her as an actress or the roles she received.

Now, I’m no Pulitzer Prize author, by no means, but that doesn’t stop me from working on my craft daily. I may be 51-year- old, but I’m still learning and developing my writing style. I can see the changes within my writing from when I first started all the way to today.

If you are a writer or want to be a writer, you have to work on it every day; and no, texting doesn’t count. To me, texting has ruined the English language, but I’ll save that for another blog.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you believe in yourself and what you’re writing about, then don’t let anything get in your way. Find your niche, that genre that works best for you, and stick to it. Remember, if what you write brings magic into someone’s life, it’ll be worth it in the end.

Great leaders making great speeches – An Excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

wallpaper-2856211There are many great speeches, made by some of the greatest leaders of this and past generations, that history will always remember. These were speeches made at times of great turmoil, unrelenting conflict and glorious celebration. Martin Luther King at the Lincoln Memorial; President Franklin D. Roosevelt after the attack at Pearl Harbor; and President Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address just to name a few.

There have also been many great speeches in pop culture, from books, movies and the like. I will always remember the speech actor Bill Pullman made in Independence Day for its emotion and inspiration; or the speech by King Theodin before the charge of the Rohirrim at Gondor in Return of the King for its brevity yet fiery passion.

I knew that to inspire the army of Avalon, outnumbered in its fight against the forces of Morgana le Fay, the Gil-Gamesh needed such a speech. Here is that speech in an excerpt from The Dark Tides.

***

The Gil-Gamesh looked around and was amazed at what he saw; an army of all the races of Avalon, together as one. This was his last chance to say anything before the battle began. He climbed up on a large rock formation just off to the side so he could address everyone. “Vox Vocis!” he chanted, using magic to project his voice.

“Avalon! Hear me Avalon!” he shouted. “I know what you are feeling! I know when you look across the field of battle, you will look into the eyes of death and fear will fill your heart! But we must take our fears and put them aside, for you are not fighting for a track of land or against an enemy invader … You are fighting for our very lives; for our right to exist!

“Morgana le Fay doesn’t want to just conquer us; she wants to destroy us! She wants to rule Avalon from atop a mountain of the dead. She wants to unleash the Dark Tides to destroy all magic except for her own. She has nothing to lose and everything to gain while we have everything to lose.

“Look around you my friends and what do you see? Humans and Elves, Dwarves and Jotunn, Dragons and Centaurs, all standing together like never before. From majestic New Camelot to the rolling fields of Eldonshire and the vaulted shores of the North Highlands; from the shining coast of South Essex, Eastward toward noble Nottinghamshire, from Merlin’s Pinnacle and the mighty Fenris Mountains to the distant islands of Togo and Emmyr; we stand united in our love for our home and for our people and no one … NO ONE can destroy that!”

The masses cheered loudly, inspired by the Gil-Gamesh’s rousing speech.

“We are all that stands between Morgana le Fay and total victory and I say to you now my brothers and sisters, we will not let her have that victory! We will meet evil on the field of battle and beat them back with sword and shield, with might and magic, with honor and justice. She will know that we are Avalon! Now I say to you, come with me and stand by my side so together, we can fight! We fight for our King! We fight for our country! We fight for our families! We fight so that the evil of Morgana le Fay ends today! We fight for Avalon!”

The army sent up another rousing cheer as the Gil-Gamesh got down from the rock and moved back to his position in the front.

***

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

Dungeons and Dragons is a great tool for creating fantasy characters

STK463898Characters are the driving force behind every story. If you don’t have great characters–strong, inviting, mysterious and like able–people are not going to read your stories. That’s the one thing I really have to attribute to my early days of playing Dungeons and Dragons. It helped me design characters and weave their stories together to make them almost real in the game.

Character creation is an essential part of the D&D. From the very start, you take basic characteristics–strength, dexterity, wisdom, intelligence and charisma–and use them as building blocks. These traits determine what type of person you are. Are you smart or wise, fast or strong, like-able or trustworthy? Add in that an alignment, from Lawful Good to Neutral to Chaotic Evil, and you have a fantasy character of your very own.

The protagonist in the Forever Avalon series is Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon. He has two identities within the story, that of a Sailor and as a Warrior/Wizard. The later aspects of his personality came from one of the best characters I ever created in D&D.

His name is Luna Moonstone, a Half-Elf Fighter/Thief/Magic-User. He was a bad ass, one of the best characters I ever rolled, and everything about him inspired the Gil-Gamesh. A lot of the magic items and weapons he used in-game, I brought over to Forever Avalon, including Whirling Death, the Cloak of Thieves and the Gauntlets of Stone Giant.

Sorry, I digressed … I get nerdy when I start talking D&D. In any case, it was these games that helped me develop such wonderful characters for Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides. In a look ahead to my next book in the Forever Avalon series, The Outlander War, I am pulling out my old character sheets and bringing another of my old D&D characters to life in my trilogy.

One of the most powerful characters I ever created in D&D was a half-Orc fighter. He is special to me because I rolled a perfect 18/00 for his strength and, anyone who’s played D&D knows how hard that is.

He is a sword master, proficient in the use of every type of sword. He collects the swords of his enemies, hanging them in a special vault in his keep, just so he can constantly laud over his many victories. This creature is evil, mean and rotten to the core. In his mind, he has no peers and he lives by one ethos; only the strong survive and he is the strongest there is.

He has a scar across his face, from his right temple to his left cheek. It was given to him by his mother, who tried to kill him at birth. She was stopped by her grandfather. He noticed that the baby didn’t cry out, even after being wounded. The old man took the child to raise into a great warrior.

He is a General amongst men, leading through fear an intimidation. His name is Ben-Farst; now, that being said, there will be some changes made.

First and foremost, I am not using Orcs in my series. Orcs were a creation of J.R.R. Tolkien and not a part of any cultural mythology. I don’t want to bring something into Avalon just to use a popular race from RPGs and other fantasy novels. So for The Outlander War, he will be a half-demon instead.

Next, his name. I honestly don’t remember how I came up with he name Ben-Farst, but I got grilled and taunted for it on a regular basis. I know “Ben” was the name of the grandfather that raised him and “Farst” was a knockoff of farce, because he was rejected by both man and Orc. I want to keep something from him but make it match his new persona as a half-demon. So, I am going with the name Abdel Ben Faust.

Abdel is Arabic for Servant and Faust is associated with Hell so I think “Servant of Hell” fits perfectly for a ruthless half-demon military commander; but I’m also keeping Ben to illustrate that there is a human side to him.

So how does General Abdel Ben Faust fit into the world of Avalon? You’ll have to wait until next year and The Outlander War to find out! In the meantime, catch up on what’s happening on the island of Avalon in my latest book, The Dark Tides!

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

The story of the Technocrats — An excerpt from “Forever Avalon”

49cf002f2e0be8dc329cf7ec458bdb77What strikes more fear into a medieval society, a dragon the size of an aircraft carrier or a gun-toting, technology-driven medieval knight? I explored those very premises in my first novel, Forever Avalon. How would a society of based on a medieval hierarchy, guided by the laws of magic, deal with a group of Outlanders who, not wanting to conform to the rest of their society, formed a “home-away-from-home” using outlawed technology?

Here is an excerpt from Forever Avalon which tells the story of the “Technocrats” and Uther’s Folly”.

***

“Over five hundred years ago, shortly after the last Gil-Gamesh was killed, there was a large influx of Outlanders arriving on Avalon. This would be around the 50’s and 60’s, when planes and ships were disappearing regularly in the Bermuda Triangle. Unlike previous Outlanders, these people refused to conform to Avalon society. They did not accept the reign of the monarchy nor were they willing to live a medieval lifestyle. These Outlanders formed their own community on the southwest shores. They separated themselves from Avalon as much as possible and called themselves the Technocrats.

“The single advantage they had, over the rest of Avalon, was gunpowder. They were the first to master the manufacture of gunpowder, cannons and even simple flintlock guns. They used these hi-tech weapons as protection from the evils of Avalon.

“Soon they discovered a large vein of gold under the land they built their community on and things went from bad to worse. They thought this discovery would permit them to buy their way into Avalon society and its good graces. They planned to trade for goods, food, and other items they needed for survival, but they were wrong.

“King Uther XV would not negotiate with the Technocrats under any circumstances. He informed them that the gold, as everything on Avalon, belonged to him. He set up a blockade around the Technocrats and gave them a choice … Surrender or die.”

Stephanie and the children listened intently as Bryan continued the tale. His words did little to comfort them and Stephanie knew it. Like Bryan, she realized that though the truth may be brutal, it’s important they hear it.

“The Outlanders fought back,” Bryan continued. “They made a valiant stand—the stuff legends are made of; but King Uther would not be swayed. To defeat the Outlanders, he forced the wizard’s council to summon the most ferocious beast imaginable … Tiamat, the Dragon God.

“Imagine a dragon the size of an aircraft carrier with five heads, each one with a breath more noxious and deadly than the next. Tiamat destroyed the Technocrats, their entire community, along with every last man, woman and child. King Uther considered this a great victory, but he never realized the cost and boy, did it cost him dearly.

“The wizard’s council warned him that summoning Tiamat came with a price, but Uther didn’t care. When the smoke cleared, Tiamat was gone and so was all the gold. The Dragon God took the gold as payment for services rendered. Everything represented in battle that day was lost in the blink of an eye.

“Needless to say, Uther was not happy. But he didn’t blame himself or the wizard’s council or even Tiamat … He blamed the Technocrats, the Outlanders. He made a decree which stated that, henceforth, any Outlander who came through the barrier shall be killed on sight.”

Those words left Stephanie speechless. The girls clutched their mouths in disbelief. Sarafina hugged them, offering some comfort. Hunter held on to his mother tightly.

Bryan neared the end of his story. “Since any surviving Outlanders were presumed dead by the outside world, King Uther had no qualms about executing them the moment they arrived on Avalon. Some Outlanders were spared, captured and used as slaves, which meant a sentence of instant death for both the Outlander and the person who held him or her captive.

“Candletop Lighthouse,” Bryan explained grimly, “wasn’t built to pick up wayward Outlanders and help them. It was a place to lure Outlanders to their deaths.”

***

Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Shield Maidens of Avalon: Creating a new mythology

tumblr_static_branwyn-shieldmaidenI know I’ve written extensively about the Shield Maidens of Avalon before, but I never really put together the entire mythos to go with their story. They are an integral part of the Forever Avalon series so they need to have as detailed a back story as the Arthurian legend.

They are a class of warriors unto themselves, without equal. Shield Maidens demonstrate that women should be treated as equals in all things. So, here goes …

The Shield Maidens of Avalon came to be after the dawn of the first age of Avalon. After the death of King Arthur at the Battle of Camlann, Merlin cast a spell that brought all things magical from the outside world to Avalon. This included many men and women touch by magic.

Queen Guinevere and Sir Percival—the last of the Knights of the Round Table—rallied the people together to start their new life on Avalon. As the people came together, Morgana le Fay saw this as an opportunity to gather her forces and destroy the last of the Pendragon’s so she may rule Avalon.

Percival was given the command by the Queen to reform the Knights of the Round Table to protect the people of Avalon. He knew their numbers were limited and no match for the forces of Morgana le Fay; but he saw a solution. There were many women amongst the people of Avalon—widows of knights lost in battle—who were capable fighters, trained by their husbands to protect themselves in time of need.

Percival took these women and paired them with knights, calling them Shield Maidens. Their charge was to fight alongside their knight as a team, forging a bond in battle. The two fought side-by-side, protecting each other and their fellow knights. The strategy worked and the forces of Morgana le Fay were driven back to the darkness from whence they came.

Queen Guinevere saw the strength, courage and valor of the Shield Maidens. She command their leader, Dame Louisa, to continue to build their ranks and support the Knights of the Round Table in defense of Avalon. Thus, the Order of the Shield Maidens of Avalon was formed.

Their patrons saints are the three women revered by the order … Queen Guinevere, the Lady of the Lake and the Virgin Mary. They live by the same code of chivalry as the Knights of the Round Table:  To protect the weak and the defenseless; to keep faith and always speak the truth; to obey the laws of Avalon; to fight for the welfare of all and to guard the honour of the Knights of the Round Table.

Shield Maidens take a vow a chastity to demonstrate their fidelity to God and to their monarch. This gives the Shield Maiden’s a warrior heart. However, if a Shield Maiden should fall in love, they are permitted to leave the order in peace with the blessing of all.

These are the Shield Maidens of Avalon, fierce and battle-hardended, loyal and honour-driven. Their code of faith, charity, justice, truth, diligence, hope and valor are more than just words. For them, it is a way of life.

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.

The life of a self-published independent author isn’t easy, it’s hard work

12175_604543342905256_717300288_n“One cannot self-edit. It is impossible.  Self-publishing is a slippery slope.” This was a comment by Jennifer Jilks in a recent review of The Dark Tides. The reviewer liked so parts of my book, but not as a whole. I appreciate all feedback, even bad reviews. Without it, how can I grow as an independent author.

That got me thinking about this blog post. It is VERY hard to be a self-published, independent author. You’re putting more money out, at times, than what you have coming in from royalties. You try to edit your work as best as you can, but you do miss things from time-to-time. You spend more time typing on a keyboard than you do snuggling with your significant other.

So the question is why be an independent author? Why write at all? For some of us, it’s not just an addiction; rather it’s written in our DNA. I can’t stop writing. I have all these stories in my head, bursting to get out. The only way I know how to do that is to write.

I wish I had perfect grammer along with perfect editing skills to catch every mistep and mistake. In reality, I don’t. I have to trod along like everyone else, rely on spell check to catch some mistakes, and rely on others to help you with your book.

When I published my first book, Forever Avalon, I was extatic. I sent the first copies of my book out to family and friends. You know what I got in return? A two page email from my mother listing all the grammer and spelling errors I missed. I immediately got with my publisher to make those corrections, but I’m sure there are probably still some in the book.

I wish I had the money and the time to devote to perfectly editing my books before their released, but for the independent author, that’s not always possible.I know it sounds like I’m making excuses, but I’m not. I’m just trying to show the reality of the situation.

Spell check has, in part, made all of us a little lazy when it comes to writing and editing. Whenever I talk to students, I warn them … “Spell check is not the be all and end all!” Many of us rely on auto-correct to make writing easy for us, and truthfully, it does. We have to be better than that, but unfortunately, time doesn’t allow it.

I went almost five years between publishing my first book and my second book. It took me twice as long to write and edit The Dark Tides. I had a lot of help from the great people at iUniverse in editing part of my novel, but I still did most of it on my own. We really stick to that word INDEPENDENT when you look at the daily routine of an independent author.

You take the good reviews with the bad reviews, but in my eye, it’s still a review. It means someone is reading my book and, whatever criticism they have, will help me grow as an independent author. I can see the improvements in my writing skills from my first book to my second.

Here’s hoping my third book will be a blockbuster!

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