Remembering our fallen heroes on Memorial Day

Graves_at_Arlington_on_Memorial_DayToday is Memorial Day, a day when we honor the sacrifice of military service members who died in defense of our great nation. According to Wikipedia, the holiday originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions were celebrated on different days until they merged together and Memorial Day was extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.

This day holds special meaning to me as a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer, but also because of the service of other members of my family. My family has served in the armed forces dating back to the Revolutionary War. My 5th Great Grandfather, Phillip Bailey, served in the Virginia Militia. Then there’s my 3rd Great Grandfather, John P. Bailey, who served in the Confederate Army in the 22nd Virginia Infantry, 1st Kanawha Regiment, under the command of George S. Patton, the grandfather of World War II General George S. Patton. My grandfather, William E. Davis, was a Parachute Rigger on the USS Bataan (CVL 29) during World War II. My father, MSGT William R. Piggott, USMC (Ret.) did two tours in Vietnam during his 22-year career. I can also include my mother, two uncles, a cousin, my brother, sister-in-law and a nephew who served in the Navy and Marine Corps. We are a military family.

Most of the people of our great nation strive to honor the heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, but there are some who seem to resent the military. They burn or step on the flag as a form of protest to our government, forgetting the fact that it was our veterans who put their lives on the line to ensure they have the freedom to do that. People want to tear down war memorials because the represent the racial strife of the past, ignoring the men and women who died on both sides of war.

One of my favorite quotes is, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Those words were spoken by George Santayana, a philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist. It’s not surprising that writers are the ones who not only record such historical events, we also provide analysis, observations, and insight. As writers, we are the caretakers of our heroes, villains, and the history they create through their actions.

Our veterans sacrificed so much, in war, in peace and in defense of freedom around the world. They deserve our respect and our undying gratitude for the sacrifices they’ve made. Just to put it in perspective, since 2001, there have been 2,229 deaths and 20,904 casualties in Afghanistan and 4,488 deaths and 36,710 casualties in Iraq. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, a conflict that cost us more than 58,209 deaths and 211,454 casualties. These numbers just keep rising the further we go back in our history.

So please, as you’re barbecuing or enjoying the sun and fun this Memorial Day, please take a moment to remember our veterans whose sacrifice gave us our freedoms in the U.S.A.

The afterlife takes on many forms, giving writers plenty of options

HeavenHellClockDeath is always an option for writers, especially since death is a natural part of life. Heaven and Hell are concepts we’ve learned about from Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Although, there are many who are skeptical of religion and do not believe in an afterlife. For example, reincarnation is a concept of the afterlife found among Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Rosicrucians, Theosophists, Spiritists, and Wiccans. Before that, you have varied concepts of the afterlife from the Fields of Elysium and Tartarus to Valhalla and Limbo.

For a writer, these varied concepts of what lies after death a part of the story. Sometimes, you don’t just kill a character. Part of their life story is their belief in what comes next. In my second book, The Dark Tides, Lord Baldrid, High King of the Elves, reflected on his own mortality as the Gil-Gamesh, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, is brought to Alfheimer


As the Queen and Lady Lyllodoria continued their conversation, Lord Baldrid stepped back to speak with Nevan.

“You have my deepest sympathies on your loss young Nevan Forest,” he said extending his hand to Nevan. Nevan shook his hand and bowed courteously. “Sir Thomas was a true friend of Alfheimer. He will be sorely missed.”

“Thank you Lord Baldrid, that means a lot,” Nevan said with humility. “I just hate that my first conversation with the Gil-Gamesh is to tell him of my father’s death. I really don’t want to add to his pain.”

“The news will hurt at first, but he will accept the solace in knowing that your father is now part of the magic that is Avalon. We all accept this as part of our own mortality.”

“Excuse me for asking milord, but aren’t Elves immortal?” Nevan

“We are, my young Captain, but even immortal beings can fall to the specter of death. It is something we all must face at one time in our lives. I have lived for more than 5,000 years and I still wonder when the day will come that I will walk, hand-in-hand, with Sehanine Moonbow, the Daughter of the Night Skies. It is something that haunts even me, but I have found that to reflect on death helps one appreciate the life you have.”


The myths and legends of the after in folklore can  give a fantasy author, like me, the base for to rest on. In book three of the Forever Avalon series, The Outlander War (to be published later this year but available for preview now at, I delve into two of these mythical realms beyond the grave … Purgatory and Vídbláin. Vídbláin is the mythical realm from Norse mythology where the survivors of Ragnarök will take shelter. It is also considered the afterlife where the Ljósálfar or Light Elves go when they die. That’s how I portrayed it in The Outlander War.

As for Purgatory, I have a more grim and dire description of that ungodly place. I imagined it like a combination of Valhalla and Hell, where fallen warriors go to reclaim their honor and earn their way into paradise. Here is an excerpt from The Outlander War that describes Purgatory in the world of Forever Avalon.


The Gates of Purgatory were as foul as any of the many levels of the underworld. The bones littered the ground from countless battles between the demons and undead creatures of the underworld that tried to escape to the real world. Only the Wraith Legion stood between them and spreading their evils in the world above.

The wraiths were fallen knights given penance to guard the gates for one thousand years to earn their place in paradise. They wore armored shells of plate mail, but instead of a helmet, a ghostly visage of a skull hovered over the top of the armor. It was a faceless reflection of their human life. Across their heart sat a fiery red gem—a heartstone. The gem beat with the blood of the wraith; powerful magic imbuing life into the soulless creature.

Beyond the gates lies the Retched Wasteland, a vast desert that separated the real world from Purgatory. The dark wastes burned from the fires of Hell below instead of the sun above. Anyone who made it past the wraiths usually found themselves lost in the dark recesses of the Retched Wasteland.


18k4bbwfnym3tjpgIt was Plato who said, “The soul takes nothing with her to the next world but her education and her culture. At the beginning of the journey to the next world, one’s education and culture can either provide the greatest assistance or else act as the greatest burden, to the person who has just died.” Although this sounds a little more like reincarnation than the afterlife, I think it speaks of a higher purpose. We are taking all we are from this world into the next when we die. That’s a lot of baggage to bring with you. The stories of one’s life can be told by what you take with you into the next. That brings some peace and solace while others hope it is enough to earn them a place in the afterlife.

Whatever you believe, it is fertile ground for writers to express their own personal beliefs or maybe even explore new ideas within the stories they create.

51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse. The Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt and cast your vote to help me get it published.

Inspiration comes in every form, shape and size for writers

inspiration-signInspiration … it’s a word I use a lot in most of my social media posts. You’ll find #inspiration in almost everything I write. I can relate to so many different things as I weave my stories together. Movies, books, television, theater, and music give me the focus and drive in everything I do. Even as I am writing this blog, I am listening to Joss Whedon’s 2005 sci-fi classic Serenity.

Some people get inspiration through meditation and solace while others get it through experiences and community. Jimmy Dean said, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” That, in a nutshell, is the true definition of inspiration.

Our senses are the source of our inspiration:  The sight of a beautiful sunset, the touch of a loved one’s hand, the smell of a bouquet of flowers, the taste of an ice cream sundae, and the sound of a touching song. These provide us the input for our inspiration. As an author, I focused on the things I love the most to inspire my writing. Whether it’s watching the original Star Trek TV series, any of the Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit movies, or listening to classic 80’s rock like Def Leppard, Duran Duran or Asia, I am inspired to put words to paper.

I know some writers prefer peace and quiet when they right, I need constant sound to help me focus on my writing. It’s a little strange, I know, but I found that by being surrounded by sight and sound, I’m able to push myself to concentrate on my writing. The great actress Audrey Hepburn said, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” You can’t argue with that logic.

David Bennet wrote a great blog about #inspiration at the Huffington Post. “Don’t look to the sky or mountains for inspiration. Look beneath the trees and shrubs. Our greatest inspirations can be at our feet at any moment. It reminds me of a time while hiking alone in Arizona, feeling the awe of nature surrounding me without a soul in sight. In my stillness, I heard ‘look down’ and there by my toe was the smallest flower. I would have never seen it. Thanks for the attentiveness of my inner voice. In that moment, that little flower felt like it carried all the beauty of the world. I’ve never forgotten that moment or that feeling.”

r5FGZcdIt’s the simplest things in life that inspire us. I remember a few months ago when I was working to finish the third book in the Forever Avalon series, The Outlander War. I was looking for a known magical artifact to include in my story. In my novels, I prefer to find  actual things from myth and legend and put my own twist to it. To me, it allows my readers to better identify with my stories. I came across a fantasy movie from 1984 with Sean Connery called “Sword of the Valiant.” Connery played the mythical Green Knight from Arthurian legend. I watched the original trailer and researched the origins of the Green Knight and it fit perfectly into my story.

I wasn’t even looking for it and it found me. That’s the easiest way to become inspired. When you least expect it or don’t even look for it, we find our inspiration. You can find it too.

Dragons and F-18 Hornets don’t fly well together – An excerpt from “The Outlander War”

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The Outlander War: Book Three of the Forever Avalon series

The concept behind my third book in the Forever Avalon series, The Outlander War, is magic and technology crossing paths. I really wanted to explore what would happen if magic somehow returned to the real world. A part of that too is the age-old question of which is more powerful of the two … Technology or magic.

I began to dabble into this in a “steampunk” sort of way in my second book, The Dark Tides, with the creation of GunStars and Lancers, weapons that fired magical/alchemical munitions called “spellshots” from their barrels. However, in The Outlander War, we get modern warfare versus medieval might as the Gil-Gamesh and the forces of Avalon brace for a possible attack by the United States Navy.

Here is an excerpt that demonstrates what happens when machines and magic collide, literally.


Soaring the skies around Emmyr was what Rose loved to do best. When she was up there, flying on the back her dragon, Dee Dee, she was in Heaven. Dee Dee was her best friend, ever since she rescued her in the cave-in when Dee Dee was just a baby dragon. Since then, they formed a bond stronger than any magic in all of Avalon.

Rose could fly to the ends of the Earth on Dee Dee and that still wouldn’t be far enough. The only exception was when she was flying with Edan, her one true love. That was when she had the two things she loved in most life all at once.

Unfortunately, she was flying around Emmyr with her brother, Hunter, and he was never fun to be with. In her estimation, Hunter got a real “stick up his butt” ever since he became a knight. She always felt he acted all “superior” over her and Ashley, as the heir apparent to the Gil-Gamesh.

What made it worse was he became the consort to Queen Cadhla and, together, they had a son, Bowen. Not only is he father to the King of Avalon, he gave Bryan and Stephanie their first grandchild. He always had to “one-up” them, or so she thought.

Hunter flew next to her on Tabby, a hybrid dragon called a Wyvern. Unlike its dragon cousins, Tabby didn’t have forearms, only wings, plus her wings were feathered and much larger than that of a dragon. He kept his head on a swivel, his eyes focused on the island and the fleet just off the coast of Avalon.

Rose, on the other hand, was enjoying the sunset, and Hunter noticed that she wasn’t doing what their father had asked. “Rose, keep your eyes on Emmyr or the ships, not the sunset,” he shouted at his sister.

“Oh give it a rest Hunter,” she snapped back at him. “We’ve been out here all day and it’s still the same … Emmyr is slowly breaking into pieces and the jerks are still out there on their ships.”

“That could change at a moment’s notice, you have to be more attentive on a mission like this,” he tried to assert the urgency in her.

“Listen to me, Sir Hunter, you’re not in New Camelot right now,” Rose snapped at him. “You’re in my domain and here, nothing can compare to the wingbeat of a dragon in the skies over Avalon.”

Suddenly, a loud roaring sound started building from behind them. Hunter and Rose turned to see two U.S. Navy fighter jets heading right toward them, catching them both off guard.

“Except for maybe two U.S. Navy F-18 Hornets barreling right at us at supersonic speeds!” Hunter warned.

“How can they be so close to Avalon?” she asked. “They’re going to fly right over Emmyr!”

“I told you the magical barrier was rescinding or didn’t you believe Dad’s warning this morning?”

If Rose could reach her brother right now, she’d smack him in the head; but her bigger concern was the approaching jets. “How fast do you think they’re going?”

“Supersonic, close to 700 miles per hour, why?”

“Because their backwash is going to play Hell with the air currents were gliding through,” she surmised. “We need to move away from Emmyr or they’re gonna throw us right into the rocks!”

“How do you know that?” Hunter asked with a tone of utter disbelief.

“Hunter, for once in your miserable life, will you please trust me! I’ve been flying around here long enough to know what changing winds patterns can do to a dragon’s flight.”

Hunter could see the seriousness in his sister’s eyes so he took her word for it. “Okay sis, you lead, I’ll follow!”

Rose spurred Dee Dee on as Hunter got in right behind her. She started taking them away from Emmyr, but a sudden updraft lifted them higher than she wanted. That’s when a disaster happened.

The first F-18 zoomed past them at supersonic speed, causing a wicked downdraft and a swirling mass of turbulence. Rose was rocked by the force of the winds, but her experience on a dragon kept her in control. Hunter, however, wasn’t as lucky. Due to her large wings, the turbulence spun Tabby into an upward spin. She flew right into the underside of the second F-18 Hornet, knocking Hunter from the bridle.

He fell down toward the ocean, unconscious from the impact. As the aircraft collided into Emmyr, exploding on contact, Rose took Dee Dee and dove for Hunter. “Come on girl, we gotta catch him!” she spurred her on with fear-laden urgency in her voice.

Dee Dee pulled her wings in tight, for a faster dive, as the dragon tried to reach Hunter before he hit the ocean below. “Reach for him Dee! Reach for him!” Rose shouted, pleading with her dragon to save her brother.

Dee Dee reached out with its claws and grabbed Hunter in the nick of time, as Rose leaned back to help her pull up from the dive, rising in the air back toward Avalon. Rose looked down at her brother, looking for any signs of life. “Hunter! Hunter!” she screamed. “Dammit ‘momma’s boy’ answer me!”

Hunter began to stir, as he rubbed his head. “Don’t call me momma’s boy, ‘Pez Head!’” he moaned as he tried to shake out the cobwebs. Rose couldn’t help but laugh, happy to see that he brother was alright.

Her concern grew again when she heard another explosion as the wreckage of the Navy aircraft fell into the water below. Tabby was falling right with it, killed on impact with the supersonic jet. This wasn’t going to help things, Rose thought to herself. In fact, she knew it would only make it worse.


You can read more of The Outlander War and vote to have it published as part of “Grand Novel” contest. Click here for a free preview and please VOTE!

No offense Ric Flair, but to me, Charlton Heston will always be “The Man”


Charlton Heston (1923-2008)

In the world of acting, there are many actors who could claim the title of “The Man” like Marlon Brando, John Wayne, Robert DeNiro, and Clint Eastwood to name a few. For me, that title will always rest in the hands of Charlton Heston. Here is a man who was not only lead actor in some of the greatest blockbusters in the history of cinema (Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments, just to mention a couple) but he was also President of the National Rifle Association. How cool is that?

He was an actor who played historic figures like Moses, John the Baptist, Marc Anthony, El Cid, President Andrew Jackson and Michelangelo. Though, to me, he will always be the actor that I loved from my favorite and classic post-apocalyptic science fiction movies. He brought name recognition to a genre of movies that, to some, seemed childish and beneath an actor of his caliber. I mean, how many actors are specifically known for, “Take your stinkin’ paws off me, you damn, dirty ape!” These were the movies of my childhood that I loved to watch and I aspired to create “tough as nails” characters,  like he often portrayed, as a writer. He even made the circus seem rough and tumble, and if you don’t believe, watch The Greatest Show on Earth and see for yourself.

His credits are too numerous, so I’m focusing on the three best movies of Charlton Heston that I always fall back too. I am talking about, are Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, and Soylent Green. Although Hollywood has tried to redo these classics, they do not compare to the originals. He made these three movies in a six-year span, from 1968 to 1973, although I do have to include a fourth for his brief appearance in the 1970 sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

solyent-greenLet’s start at the end and work our way back. In 1973, Heston starred in Soylent Green with Chuck Conners, Leigh Taylor-Young, and the great Edward G. Robinson. In the year 2022, the people of Earth survive on a ration known as Soylent Green. When an executive at the factory is murdered, Detective Robert Thorn (Heston) investigates the case. This leads to conspiracy, intrigue, and murder along with the shocking discovery that their rations are made from the dead. Like a lot of the other movies of its time, Soylent Green hit upon the fear of the era … overpopulation, starvation, nuclear war, etc. The film is loosely based upon the 1966 science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison. It won the Nebula Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film in 1973. This was also Edward G. Robinson’s last movie so that makes it even better, but it’s Heston that drives this film. His performance turned, what could have been a boring movie, into an edge of your seat crime thriller.

e8292fbcdfbdf32b1b0a492ff65c6566In 1971, Charlton Heston starred in The Omega Man, based on the novel I am Legend by Richard Matheson. If that sounds familiar to you, it is the same name as the 2007 movie I am Legend starring Will Smith. There was also a 1964 adaptation called The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price. In any case, Heston’s version is, to me, the true representation of the novel. It’s about Dr. Robert Neville (Heston) the sole survivor of a plague that killed or turned most of the population into zombie-like creatures. His blood held the key to curing the victims and also vaccinating other survivors. This movie had many firsts, including the first interracial kiss between Heston and co-star Rosalind Cash as Lisa. Another great aspect of the film was the empty streets of Los Angeles. They filmed in downtown LA on a Sunday morning to show the post-apocalyptic, deserted streets. Though the movie only got a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it is considered a cult classic. Heston delivered one-liners better than Arnold Schwartzenegger. How he talks to himself, plays chess with a bust and haggled with an invisible car dealer are fun to watch.

Planet-of-the-Apes-movie-posterThe last movie is the 1968 classic Planet of the Apes and it’s sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes. As astronaut George Taylor, Heston and his team’s space flight takes them more than 2000 years into the future where apes now rule and humans are mute slaves. Of course, you don’t find this out until the end of the movie when you see the classic image of the Statue of Liberty, rusted and torn apart on the shoreline. This movie hits on a big theme of that era, equality and racism, but this time, it’s the humans being discriminated against. The movie was the first for large-scale make-up effects for all the actors cast as apes. Heston shines in his role as the only talking human in a world of talking apes. His arrogance, vanity, and narcissism comes through in his tough-guy persona as he struggles to survive. He also has to share time with the late great Roddy McDowell, who starred in all five Planet of the Apes movies. In the end, though, this is one of Heston’s most memorable roles.

For a writer like me, you take inspiration wherever you can get it. I get mine from my childhood, spending my Saturday’s in the movie theater or watching it on UHF channels on my TV. These movies inspire us to look at the world differently and the possibilities that await us. I for one do not want to start eating Soylent Green anytime soon.