The 80’s rocked, in more ways than one, thanks to movies like Krull

I can honestly say I loved the 80’s. The 80’s were the decade that started our trek into the new millennium. Think about all the technology that came out of the 80’s:  Personal computers, cell phones, cable TV, video games and VCRs. Add to that the music, movies and television, Dungeons and Dragons … The 80’s was where it all started.

The biggest impact on me from the 80’s was the movies. Not just The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Conan the Barbarian and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but cult classics as well, like The Beastmaster, Dragonslayer and Krull. These are movies that I can watch again and again and never get tired of them.

krullMy children just don’t understand my infatuation with these classics. They look at the special effects and laugh at how bad it is. True, it’s not the same as the CGI of today, but it has a quality of quasi-realism and camp that today’s movies lack. These were movies done on location and large sound stage sets, not shot completely in motion-capture or green screen, with robust orchestral music to drive the story.

Let’s take Krull, the sci-fi/fantasy adventure, for example. It’s about a conqueror from space called The Beast and his army of Slayers as they try to enslave the planet of Krull. The adventure is a love story between a young prince, Colwyn, and his new bride, Lyssa, after she is captured by The Beast. Colwyn recruits a rag-tag group of thieves and escaped prisoners to rescue his princess and save their world. It is a wonderful mix of sci-fi with magic, fantasy and adventure thrown in. In case you haven’t noticed, I love this movie.

The Slayers were strange creatures with interesting weapons. Their swords had long hilts. They fired an energy weapon from one side of the hilt then flipped it around to use the sword in hand-to-hand combat. They could scale walls with ease, hide underwater and, when they died, a hideous worm-like creature broke out of the armor and dove underground. They had a death-howl that I have yet to hear repeated in other movies. Like I said, quite unique.

The real star of this movie was something you only saw briefly at the end, the Glaive. It really is such a simple weapon, five retractable blades in what looks like a metal starfish. It simplicity in its design makes it very cool, especially how Colwyn used it to fight The Beast. He controlled its flight with his mind, reflecting the Slayer’s and The Beast’s blasts right back at them.

Then, their’s the cast. These were stars before they were stars. I mean Freddie Jones, Liam Neeson, Robbie Coltrane, Alun Armstrong, and David Battley just to name a few. The cast also included a seven foot tall cyclops who could see the future, but only when he would die. If he strayed from his appointed time of death, he would die a painful death instead of a peaceful one. The Beast was a grotesque monster they barely showed until the end, hinting that it lived up to its name.

This movie is only one example of why the 80’s rocked. The script was full of classic movie quotes that made this movie stand out, especially to geeks like me.

“Freedom? We have it! And fame? Nah. It’s an empty purse. Count it, go broke. Eat it, go hungry. Seek it, go mad!” — Torquil (Alun Armstrong)

Add to that, Krull also has an abundance of scary and fantasy creatures. Besides The Beast and his Slayers, there’s shape-shifting Changelings, assassins that kill with a touch, and a giant white spider that’ll make anyone suffering from arachnophobia a fright. The Fire Mares are the coolest horses to have, running so fast that their burning hooves can carry you through the air.

If you haven’t seen Krull, find it and watch it. It’s a fun adventure that will inspire you like it has me. As a fantasy writer, Krull is the kind of adventure I want to write about. The more fantastic, the better. It’s what adventures are meant to be. As they say on Krull, “Each to his fate!”


51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Building characters in a story is like creating your own Frankenstein

030-gene-wilder“It’s alive! Alive!” These are the famous words from a classic science fiction movie and an 80’s movie theme song. Though it meant the creation of both a terrifying monster and a geek’s wet dream, the  word we’re looking for here is “creation”. Creating characters within a story is a detailed process for writers. You not only need to be able to describe the appearance of these fictional creations to give the readers something to imagine, but you need a personality, a morality code, even sexual orientation. It’s a challenge for any new author.

Within any given story are hundreds of characters. Sure, not everyone is accounted for, most are background players, but you do need to see them as part of the story. That’s why I like to compare writers to a movie director. We see the stories as their playing out, imagine and play out the story around each of these characters.

The hardest part is making these characters believable. The readers have to be able to see them as really people or creatures or aliens, etc. For example, Superman may be an alien from another world, but what makes him believable is his humanity, his humble upbringing on a farm in Kansas. He has powers above and beyond mortal man, but how he uses that power is what defines him.

I created my protagonist, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh, based on my experiences as a U.S. Navy sailor. I didn’t model him after just one person, but on the many great men and women I served with. The core beliefs of honor, courage and commitment are at the heart of this character. Add to that the importance of family, friends and faith, and you have a solid foundation to work with.

One of the underlying issues with character creation is the comparison factor. Every character created today has some comparison attached to it. An underdog is another Rocky or a mobster is another Godfather or Tony Soprano. As a writer, you’re not trying to duplicate another character, but rather, be inspired by them. I found that family and friends make good role models for characters. I like to use their personalities, quarks, even appearance as the basis for my novels. They inspire me and motivate me, in the real world and in my fantasy world.

So “throw open the switches on the sonic oscillator and step up the reactor input three more points” to bring your characters to life. No matter who they are or what good or evil they intend, see them in your mind and put them in your story. That’s how writers become the literary version of God.


51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Dr. King’s message resounds even in the world of fantasy

martin-luther-king-jr-2Today we celebrate and honor the life, work and inspiration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, but I never experienced a lot of the racism that was prevalent in that era. I was raised to look at the person, not the color of their skin. That was the crux of Dr. King’s message that still resonates today.

When I started writing the Forever Avalon series, I never expected to use the words of Dr. King in my novel. I mean, I was writing about knights, wizards and magic; but as I developed my story, there was something missing.

The premise behind Forever Avalon was a magical island hidden away from the outside world, accessible only through the Bermuda Triangle. The idea was people had been stranded on Avalon for centuries. When you think back to all the missing ships and planes that disappeared in the Atlantic, it made sense.

So, if that’s the case, then what about slave ships? The ships that brought African slaves from the Dark Continent to America. What if they ended up on Avalon too. From that premise, I created Togo, an island unto itself off the coast of Avalon. This was an island where the former slaves created their own utopia, separate from the medieval, magical world of Avalon. Along with the separation came suspicion. Those on Togo distrust the people of Avalon as they distrusted those who brought their ancestors to this strange land in chains.

With this as background in my story, it set up the chance to have a modern man like Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, to bring the words he heard growing up to make a change for the better in his new home on Avalon.

Here is an excerpt from The Dark Tides: Book Two of the Forever Avalon series, where the Gil-Gamesh meets the people of Togo for the first time and tries to breach the mistrust through the words of Dr. King.


In the center of Togo was what appeared to be a mound of earth, approximately 500 feet in diameter and over 100 feet tall. In reality, it was a dome of stone, wood, thatch and tar with large crystals embedded in the structure to reflect the light inside. A large opening at the top of the dome circulated air inside through the four entrances at the base, each facing North, South, East and West.

As T’Ronga brought the Gil-Gamesh inside the Gathering Mount, Bryan was again amazed as to how a medieval society could build such an impressive structure with no modern tools or equipment. Stone arches reached up from the floor to hold up the ceiling, connected by wooden beams. There were no chairs or seats for anyone to sit in. At the back of the dome sat a raised dais, made solely of human skulls, with a throne of bones at the top. A shadowy figure sat there, staring out into the darkness. It was a gruesome sight, something made to invoke fear and dominance over people. Bryan wondered if he’d bitten off more than he could chew.

From the throne, the shadowy figure stepped down. He was a heavy-set man but very muscular, adorned with silver and ivory jewelry. He wore a cloak of various animal furs sewn together, clasped around his neck by an ornate broach of gold and rubies. He wore a leather bodice while the rest of his body was painted like the others. Atop his head was a headdress made from the feathers of a variety of birds with a small skull with precious gems in the sockets centered. He held a staff adorned with metal rings, one representing each of the chiefs of Togo, and a human skull at the top of the staff. It was said that the skull was that of the captain of the slave ship that brought them to Avalon.

“That is B’Rrak, Great Chieftain of Togo,” T’Ronga told Bryan.

Chief B’Rrak walked down and stood in front of the as he glanced back to see T’Ronga and his men with the Gil-Gamesh.

T’Ronga gave an order to the warriors around the Gil-Gamesh and they closed in tight. “You will wait here,” he ordered Bryan as he walked over to Chief B’Rrak.

Bryan stood in the Gathering Mount, awaiting his fate at the hands of these outcasts of Avalon. He watched closely as T’Ronga spoke with Chief B’Rrak; their conversation heated and quite vocal at times. T’Ronga seemed to plead for the Gil-Gamesh to speak. Bryan hoped he found an ally in this Togo warrior. Finally, Chief B’Rrak relented and returned to his throne. T’Ronga signaled his men to bring the Gil-Gamesh forward.

The Togo warriors nudged Bryan toward the throne, still surrounded as he approached the Skull Throne. Chief B’Rrak waved them off as they stepped back behind Bryan. The throngs of people who lined the streets started to file into the Gathering Mount. Their curiosity had brought them inside to see what Chief B’Rrak will do with the stranger.

“Gil-Gamesh, you stand in the presence of B’Rrak, Great Chieftain of Togo,” T’Ronga proclaimed. “Step forward and be heard.”

Bryan bowed to the Chieftain. “I am honored Chief B’Rrak. I am Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon. I humbled to be able to speak with you.”

“Do not thank me Gil-Gamesh, thank T’Ronga,” B’Rrak denoted. “The only reason you are still alive is because he says you are a man of honor. You asked for an opportunity to speak, so speak!”

Bryan collected his thoughts, carefully putting together his words so as not to offend B’Rrak or the people of Togo. “I have been overwhelmed by everything I have seen since I arrived on Avalon and Togo is no exception. You have truly built a wonderful life for yourself here. “I will not pretend to understand the hardships you or your ancestors went through when they arrived on Avalon. I have read stories about the slave trade at that time in our history. It was barbaric and unforgiving; but while you have lived here with the hate and contempt for the white man for hundreds of years, slavery of your people ended in the real world. You see, I am not from Avalon, I am an Outlander.

“So much has changed since your ancestors survived their journey and arrived on the shores of Togo. Africans now live, work and worship side-by-side with the white man. In fact, the barriers between the different races are practically non-existent. It happened in the real world and it can happen here. As the Gil-Gamesh, I can help bridge the gap between Avalon and Togo and build a new and lasting relationship.”

“Togo has prospered without the help of you, Gil-Gamesh, or anyone in Avalon,” B’Rrak shouted from atop his throne. “We will not bow down and pay tribute to the white king.” The large gathering of people cheered loudly, encouraged by the Chief’s words.

“And no one is asking you to Chief B’Rrak,” Bryan continued. “All I have heard since my arrival on Avalon is praise and respect for Togo. You have the fiercest warriors equal to any knight and powerful shaman on par with the great wizards on Avalon. We would love the opportunity to learn more from each other. The potential is unlimited.

“I didn’t have to come to Togo as part of my Grand Tour of Avalon, but I wanted too. I wanted to reach out to you, to all of you. The time to open relations between Avalon and Togo is now. All I ask is that you give us a chance.”

“A chance? A chance for what? To stab us in the back and return my people to a life of slavery? That’s all the white man has ever wanted!” B’Rrak condemned.

“With all due respect Great Chief, you’re wrong!” Bryan interrupted. A hush fell over the audience. No one had ever spoken to the Great Chieftain before. “This is the time for us to prove you wrong about the people of Avalon, to show you that we are not like the people who enslaved your ancestors.

“A wise man once spoke of a world where his children would be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. He said, ‘Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.’ His name was Martin Luther King, a son of African slaves, who believed that all people of all races could live together in peace. It was a dream he was willing to die for. Don’t let that dream die here too. You cannot live in hate when there is an opportunity for peace.”

T’Ronga was moved by the Gil-Gamesh’s words, as were some of the people in the audience. Never before had they heard anything like this from anyone from Avalon.

“Your words touch many here Gil-Gamesh and though your heart may be true, there are many on Avalon who are not as willing as you,” Chief B’Rrak said. “Maybe someday there can be peace with Avalon, but I do not think this is such a time.”

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you Great Chief. May I have your permission to leave Togo in peace?” Bryan said as he bowed to Chief B’Rak.

Chief B’Rrak sat in silence then motioned to T’Ronga. “You may go Gil-Gamesh. May the Gods smile upon you through the rest of your journey,” B’Rrak blessed as T’Ronga led Bryan out. The crowd parted as they moved through, allowing them to leave the Gathering Mount. Some of the people bowed their heads in respect to the Gil-Gamesh, something never done before on Togo. Chief B’Rrak watched his people as he considered what the Gil-Gamesh said.

T’Ronga and his warriors lead the Gil-Gamesh down an easier path from the city to the shoreline. Once there, the Togo warriors saw the carnage of dead zombies Bryan left behind. They were amazed that one man could destroy the powerful magic’s of the Togo witch doctors.

“Our shaman will not be pleased,” T’Ronga stated. “It will take some time for them to raise more guardians.”

“Sorry, but I didn’t feel like joining the ranks of the undead.” Bryan held his hand out to T’Ronga in friendship. “Thank you T’Ronga, for giving me a chance here today.”

To the surprise of the other Togo warriors, T’Ronga clasped his forearm, a sigh of respect between warriors. “If it means anything Gil-Gamesh, you’ve made a believer out of me. If ever you need me, I will gladly fight by your side.”

“And I by yours …”

T’Ronga pulled a dagger from his belt and presented it to the Gil-Gamesh. The blade was long and thin, sharpened on both sides. The hilt is hand-carved ivory, shaped like a tiger claw, wrapped in leather.

“Take this to New Camelot to show your white king that you came to Togo and that you made a friend here.”

Bryan took the blade and admired the workmanship. “It will be an honor to carry this with me. Thank you T’Ronga.”

“I would like to hear more about this Martin Luther King. He sounds like he was a great man.” Bryan was happy to glad to hear him say that. “He truly was … I’d be happy to tell you more about him another time, under better circumstances.”


51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Writing from brain to fingers to the keyboard between work and play

a_complex_mind_by_mcslither-d2yw26k2017 is starting to look like a great new year. I started a new job this week. I am a writer-editor for The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in Washington, D.C. This is a wonderful opportunity to grow as a writer while, at the same time, being part of the process of helping people find good, affordable housing.

Now that I’ve started work, I’m finding it difficult to find the time to work on my own writing. Whether it’s my blog or my books, I have greatly reduced the amount of time I put into it. It’s hard to transition between a “work-writing” mentality to a “free-thinking” writing mentality because I am trying to learn the style and types of documents I’ll be working on in my new job.

I fear this is a challenge that many fiction writers must deal with at one time or another; at least, maybe not those who write novels as a full-time job. Balance is the key. I need to find that tipping point between work writing and “me-time” writing to keep the creative juices flowing from my brain to my fingers to the keyboard.

I also don’t want to make the mistake of working on my novels or blog while at work. I already made that mistake once in my life and it cost me my last job, so I don’t want to do that again. Word to the wise, don’t save any parts of a manuscript on your work computer. “Big brother” is watching all the time.

It’s not just finding the time to write, but it’s also getting back into that creative mindset to write. After working on public notices, press releases and social media blurbs, it’s a challenge to get my mind back to the world of fantasy that exists in my novels. The best way I know how is to watch and listen to a movie while I write, usually a fantasy movie like Star Wars or one of The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings movies.

This is one of those occasions where some people just don’t understand the difficulties of being a writer. They think we just sit on our posteriors and gently type away at a keyboard with such ease. The words just magically flow from our minds to the paper. We all know that’s not the case at all. I don’t know how many times I’ve sat and stared at the keyboard after writing just one sentence and not knowing where to go next. My train of thought just completely derailed.

I’m not trying to make excuses, rather I want to demonstrate how difficult it can be for many writers who don’t do it as a full-time job. We all want the same success story that Steven King, J.K Rowling and James Patterson had. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out that way for all of us. It’s all about the balance to keep the dream alive. The dream of being a successful writer.

We all love to write, and we write about what we love. Whether I make a million dollars or .35 cents a book from Kindle, I will continue to write. It’s what I do.


51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is the best Star Wars movie since “A New Hope”

rogueone_onesheeta_1000_309ed8f6Okay, no spoiler disclaimers here because if you haven’t seen Rogue One by now, you need to turn in your lightsaber and your Princess Leia hair extensions. This is the best Star Wars movie since A New Hope and, if you don’t believe me, then you’re a scruffy looking nerf-herder!

There’s only one word to describe this movie and that’s AWESOME. Whenever you see the word AWESOME listed in the dictionary, a picture of this movie will appear next to it. It was that good! I know it’s hard for some people to accept that premise but it’s just that good,,, PERIOD! This movie ties everything from Revenge of the Sith to Star Wars Rebels TV show, and right into A New Hope. Think of this movie as the jelly in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This movie is the strawberry jam and Mom bought the good stuff, not the store brand, but I digress.

Just please, for the love of humanity, if you are any kind of a Star Wars fan (and even if you’re not) go see this movie. The battle scenes are spectacular, the touching moments between a father and a daughter are tearful, and the tribute to a beloved princess is heartfelt. I can’t heap enough praises on this cast, they were exceptional and a privilege to watch on the big screen. You would want to see them in more movies but their story ends here, but it’s a doozy.

It is worth every penny to see Rogue One again, and again and again. I saw Star Wars 17 times in the theater as a teenager and I will damn try to outdo that with Rogue One, although I may match that with DVD viewings instead because I know the wife won’t let me.

In any case, this movie was fantastic. It centered around one sentence in the opening crawl George Lucas wrote over 40 years ago… “Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star.” This movie is literally a heist movie.

Beyond that, it shows just how close the Rebel Alliance was falling apart before it destroyed the Death Star. I really understand why George Lucas titled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Their successful attack on the Imperial Base where the Death Star plans were being held gave them the hope they needed to rally the alliance.

There was also the introduction of a new order, the Ancient Order of the Whills. These were holy men who were deeply connected to the Force. The blind monk Chirrut, played brilliantly by Donnie Yen, showed us a connection to the Force outside the Jedi Order. His chant, “I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.” drives the can-do spirit of the rebels. It adds another dimension to the Star Wars universe. To me, it’s like discovering there are two different groups within the Ancient Order of the Whills: the Jedi as the warrior caste and the Shamen as the religious caste.

Lastly, there is Darth Vader. We see so much more into his life between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. He has a freaking castle on the same planet where he was nearly killed, Mustafar. As a bonus, we finally get to see the badass Darth Vader Sith Lord we know and love. He literally tears through rebels to try and stop them from getting away with the Death Star plans. It is the best scene in the entire movie and worth the wait.

If I had to say one this bad about the movie, it’s the CGI of Grand Moff Tarkin. I understand the complexity of bringing the late great Peter Cushing back to life in one of his legendary roles. It just wasn’t seamless enough to bring that necessary realism to the film. I would rather they find an actor that looks and sounds like Cushing, similar to the way Josh Brolin played a young Agent K (ala Tommy Lee Jones) in Men In Black III. What they did for Princess Leia was perfect and quite flawless but Tarkin had too much interaction within the movie that made his CGI look fake.

I can’t heap enough praise on this movie. As I said in the beginning, it is the best Star Wars movie since A New Hope, and I mean it. You need to see this movie, again and again. Then, where it’s released on digital download, watch it again. Then, when it is sold on BluRay/DVD, buy it so you can watch it again and again. You won’t get tired of it, I promise.


51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.