Seeing red on an edited manuscript is not a bad thing

copyeditsIt’s the worst thing for a high school or college student, and worst for a journalist or author … The dreaded red pen marks. Those notes and edits—whether on a term paper, thesis or manuscript—can send a writer into a tizzy. You wonder if it means your ideas suck, your writing is terrible or prose just God awful. Sometimes that’s true, but most times, it’s far from the truth. As writers, we are far from perfect. We miss the occasional comma, overuse a word or phrase, and forget the “y” on “they” turning it into “the” so spellcheck doesn’t catch it. That’s why every writer needs a good editor to help catch the things we miss.

I’m currently editing my third novel in the Forever Avalon series, The Outlander War, and it’s the first time I’m working with an editor. I just glanced at Page 1 (he’s editing by hand to start) and it’s covered in red. I panicked, but soon realized that it’s a lot of structure issues, not the story itself, and my mind was put at ease.

Seeing red can bring back bad memories. For me, it was shortly after I published my first novel, Forever Avalon. I received free copies of my novel from my publisher and sent them out to family and friends. Within the first month, I received an email from my mother with two pages of spelling and grammatical errors she found in the book. Nothing is more humbling for a writer than to have your mother correct your work.

In the end, I pulled the book, made the edits and got it back out, but all of that could have been avoided with a little editing help. There are professional book editors out there for self-published authors with varying prices in relation to word count. If money’s an issue, then turn to a friend or colleague to take a read on your manuscript.

Seeing red is not a bad thing because, in the end, it provides your readers with a clean, crisp story that flows better without the occasional drop off due to a missing comma or misspelled word. Remember, spellcheck is not your friend. It can easily miss a lot of mistakes. Plus, a human eye can look for those little subtleties in continuity.

For example, as a fantasy writer, if your wizard casts a spell and it does one thing on page 25, and something completely different on page 79, that’s something you need to catch. It’s a lot for a writer to keep up with, which is why you need to pair up with a good editor to make your manuscript smooth as silk.

So don’t fear the red pen. If you establish a good working relationship with your editor, then their edits will help, not hurt, your manuscript. In the end, it’s still your story, but now it’s a well edited story that’s an easy read.


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.

Avalon is a great place for fantasy writers (and readers) to explore

avalon_by_iribel[166]Why Avalon? Why indeed … I’ve been asked this question many times. Why did I choose Avalon, Camelot, Merlin, King Arthur and the whole Arthurian legend as the basis for my novels in the Forever Avalon series?

I am not the first, nor nowhere near the best, at interpreting the Arthurian legend for my prose. From myth to legend, reality to fantasy, Avalon will always be considered a place of magic. When you think of games like Dungeons & Dragons, you can’t help but think of Excalibur, wizards, dragons and other aspects from the many myths and legends we associate with Avalon.

Avalon, Ynys Avallach, the Island of Apples … These are all part of the legend of Avalon. It is an island where the pagan god Avalloc sired nine sisters with mystical powers, including Morgen (better known as Morgana le Fay). It is where Excalibur was forged, the home of the Lady of the Lake, a place where all things are provided.

I’m rather fond of the Celtic mythos, that Avalon is an island of magic that exists out of time and space. The Celts believed in the Otherworld, and for them, Avalon represented the land of the mythical and mystical. It existed outside of the normal world but was accessible from it. Time moved at a different pace and islands were specifically associated with being gateways into the Otherworld. Sound familiar? It should as that is what I based Avalon in the Forever Avalon series on.

In fact, most of the islands off the coasts of Britain were known as Isles of the Dead to the early Celts:  Lundy, the Isle of Man, the Scilly Isles, have all been associated with being the real life location for Avalon. So is Glastonbury, where at one time, the large earthen mound known as Glastonbury Tor was considered an island as it was once surrounded by marshland.

The association of Glastonbury with Avalon and the Arthurian legends came about in a curious way. In 1190, enterprising monks at Glastonbury Abbey claimed to have discovered the grave and bones of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. The discovery of the burial occurred when the new abbot of Glastonbury, Henry de Sully, commissioned a search of the abbey grounds shortly after the reign of King Henry II. At a depth of five meters (about 16 feet) the monks discovered a massive tree trunk coffin and a leaden cross bearing the inscription, “Hic jacet sepultus inclitus rex Arthurus in insula Avalonia” (“Here lies renowned King Arthur in the island of Avalon”).

There was even a formal burial service held at Glastonbury Abbey, attended by King Edward I. Glastonbury was also heavily associated with early Christianity, adding to its ties to the Arthurian legends. Joseph of Arimathea was said to have brought not only the Holy Grail to Glastonbury, but is also responsible for a sacred tree that still grows there today. Legend has it that as he set foot on Wearyall Hill just below the Tor and, in his exhausted state, thrust his staff into the ground and then rested. By morning, his staff had taken root, and turned into a strange oriental thorn bush which is now known as the Glastonbury Thorn.

Even the tower atop Glastonbury Tor is steeped in mythology as it is said to be the entrance to the underworld. All of these have, in one way or another, tied Glastonbury with Avalon. Its moments like this that has truly ingrained the legend of Avalon in our world history.


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.


It’s St. Patrick’s Day! Time to drink green beer and see some leprechauns

As we enter March “Like a Lion” (How about that snow!) we reach the holiest of days for Irish-Americans, alcoholics and fantasy role-players alike … St. Patrick’s Day. As such, I am reminded of a great book I read as a young adult in the 80’s. Hobgoblin by James Coyne was published in 1981 at the height of the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons. It is often compared to another novel, Mazes & Monsters by Rona Jaffe (and an equally fun movie starring Tom Hanks, believe it or not), but Hobgoblin is unique because of its Celtic mythological influence.

Hobgoblin is just a game. Ballycastle is just a house.

Scott is just a lonely teenage boy….

Until one Hallowe’en, a Hobgoblin kills everyone he loves.

hob3The story revolves around Scott Gardiner, a teenage boy who becomes obsessed with “Hobgoblin,” a fantasy role-playing game based on Irish mythology, as his life “in the game” and “in reality” slowly blend. Like Mazes & Monsters, Coyne treats the playing of role-playing games as indicative of deep neurotic needs, of which I can attest to from my formative years of non-stop D&D. In these books, the protagonist is, or at least appears to be, suffering from schizophrenia or some analogous condition as the attainment of mature adulthood is accompanied by the abandonment of role-playing games. Like Jaffe, Hobgoblin was published at the height of D&D‘s popularity and the intense media coverage of the “Egbert steam tunnel” incident (i.e., urban myths wherein role-playing gamers enacting live action role-playing games perish, often in the utility tunnels below their university campuses).

You see, I experienced some of the same when I was playing D&D. The whole “D&D will make it so you can’t distinguish from fantasy and reality” line was drilled into me constantly. Fortunately, I didn’t listen, but that’s beside the point. D&D was a great tool for me, as an author, to grow my imagination and create the world of Forever Avalon.

As for Hobgoblin, what I love about this book was how it used legends and fantasy characters from Celtic mythology. I never knew about these characters, like Brian Boru, Morrigan, and Lugh. I think it was this novel that led me to the idea in my Forever Avalon novels to bring all the different mythos together onto one magical fantasy island (no pun intended).

In researching mythology for Forever Avalon, I decided that if I was to bring all magic to one place, the mythologies were not all British, but rather from all mythological creatures around the world. Dwarves from Scandinavia and Germanic, Faeries and Elves from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, Giants from the Russian steppes, etc.

I bring this up because that’s what I learned from Hobgoblin. When I started playing D&D, the game focused on a variety of mythologies, including Greek (when it came to Clerics and the Gods they served, that is). But when we played, I think many focused on the fantasy and didn’t divide up magical creatures from this mythos or that mythos.

Hobgoblin showed me that myths do have a cultural and ethnic origin and we must respect those origins. For example, when I wrote The Dark Tides, I created Togo, a small island off the coast of Avalon, where the descendants of African slaves made a home for themselves. I had to research African culture and mythology, everything from Aido Hwedo, the Rainbow Serpent, and the legend of the Orisa and Eledumare. I learned so much and also how similar many myths are to each other.

When you look across multiculturalism, the stories, myths and legends have an almost universal appeal. They also have many similarities. For example, cultures around the world tell stories about a great flood. In many cases, the flood leaves only one survivor or group of survivors. For example, both the Babylonian “Epic of Gilgamesh” (ha, if you read my books you’ll understand why this is funny to me) and the Hebrew Bible tell of a global flood that wiped out humanity and of a man who saved the Earth’s species by taking them aboard a boat, i.e. the story of Noah (and not the Russell Crowe movie that absolutely bombed). Similar stories of a single flood survivor appear in Hindu mythology as well as Greek and Aztec mythology.

Our stories are what unify us as the human race. So raise a pint this St. Patrick’s Day and toast Hobgoblins, Brian Boru and all the leprechauns we’ll see after too many beers. After all, there may be another story just waiting to be told.


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.

The long and winding road of a writer

fbac5ca9ef50d6449e3d12cd77372890My journey as a writer has been a long and tumultuous one. It’s something I never really considered for myself as a teenager, or even through my 20+ year Navy career. I wanted to talk to you about my journey to hopefully explain how being a writer can come right out of left field, until you realize that it was meant to be.

Set the “Wayback Machine” for 1976, Sherman. As a high school freshman at Phillipsburg High School, NJ (Go Stateliners!) I was focused on art. My goal was to be the next Jack Kirby. I wanted to work for Marvel or DC, write and draw my own comic books. I drove my parents and my teachers crazy with my constant comic book drawing when they were trying to teach me pastels and painting. While I was in high school, I also joined the school newspaper and yearbook staff, learning some valuable skills that would help me later in life.

After high school, I enrolled in the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Again, my goal was to hone my art skills to become a comic book artist, but that never came to fruition. Trying to live away from home for the first time, I wasn’t able to manage money or my time properly. I had no choice but to drop out of school, even enrolling at the University of Pittsburgh. There, I joined the college radio station and learned some more valuable skills for down the road. Yet again, I mismanaged things and was forced to drop out and return home to Jersey.

I look back at that time and wonder where I went wrong. I would love to talk to my younger self and tell me it’s going to be all right, but it didn’t seem like it at that time. I moved back into my parent’s house with no job prospects, no college either. So what to do?

My Dad, the 22-year career Marine, pointed me right towards the recruiters’ office. I knew I didn’t want to join the Marines, like my Dad and brother. The Army tried to push infantry and tank driver on me for big bonuses. The Air Force wasn’t really interested as I was looking at non-technical jobs. The Navy, on the other hand, gave me what I was looking for.

I joined the Navy as a Journalist, where my earlier training in broadcasting and writing came in handy. I attended the Defense Information School, or DINFOS, and became what we affectionately call a “DINFOS Trained Killer” with typewriter in hand. After 23 years, I turned that training into a military career.

During my time as a military journalist, I’ve written hundreds of articles that were published in military publications, local newspapers and even a few national newspapers. Seeing your byline in the Miami Herald and Navy Times can be a life-changing experience for a young journalist. It was also during that time that I started working on my novel, Forever Avalon.

This may seem like a round-about way of getting to the fact that I was writing all along, but it really wasn’t. When I was in high school, I augmented my drawing time with writing, creating stories to go with my characters or writing for the school newspaper. In college, I was forced to do only art and that, I feel, made me lose my way because I wasn’t able to write. In the Navy, I wrote mostly press releases and news stories but found the time to write feature stories in addition to starting my novel.

All that time I spent on other things that I was mediocre to average, when writing kept pushing and jabbing at me until it finally broke through. I am a writer and I’m damn proud of it. I will keep writing until you pry the keyboard from my cold, dead hands. (Wow, I should put that on a t-shirt!)


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.