Watching anime, reading comic books, and playing D&D is the foundation of my imagination

darkagesI love everything sci-fi/fantasy. I can remember reading X-Men and Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes comics in the 70s. I remember watching a wide variety of Japanese anime on UHF (if you don’t know what it is, look it up youngling) like Speed Racer, Marine Boy, Ultraman, Gigantor and others. I use to draw my favorite superheroes, cut them out, and play with them like action figures, and watch Superfriends every Saturday morning. I had all the “Glow in the Dark” monster models like Dracula, The Wolfman, and Frankenstein. I watched Hammer horror movies on late night TV, with Christopher Lee as Dracula. It was a great time to be a kid!

This was my youth, my influential years, and it was filled with everything geek, which explains why I didn’t date a lot when I was young too. In any case, these memories are the foundation of my imagination; but even then, my imagination was quite limited. At that time, my goal was to be a comic book artist. I spent every waking moment creating my own characters, their origins, etc. I was focused on that.

I went to college, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh , where I was still focused on being a comic book artist. Then, I had an awakening. I started playing a game that changed my life forever … Dungeons and Dragons! It was like a fire was lit inside me and it started burning brighter and brighter with each passing moment. My imagination was on fire!

When you hear those stories about people spending an entire weekend playing D&D, drinking beer, ordering pizza, playing a never-ending game. Yes, it’s true, because I did it. I was spending my weekends, constantly playing D&D, either as a player or Dungeon Master. It carried over when I joined the Navy. I played with a group on duty nights, weekends, and when we deployed. It was a mainstay of my daily life, and it was those games that forged my imagination.

Those experiences made me the man I am today. Those trips into the fantasy world of D&D helped me develop my skills as a storyteller. It was through D&D that I created the world of Forever Avalon. Though I don’t play anymore, there are so many of things that continues to fire up my imagination as I write. The slew of movies, like Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and King Arthur; TV shows like Game of Thrones, Merlin, and Arrow; and video games like Warcraft, League of Legends, and Assassins’ Creed; all of these make a jubilee of fantasy for a writer like me.

I’ve written stories almost all of my life, but I never really considered myself a writer. I wrote stories for my high school newspaper, and as a Navy Journalist. It wasn’t until my first book was published that I really began to consider myself as a writer. Since then, I’ve published one other book, The Dark Tides, and working on publishing my third book, The Outlander War, this year. Even in my full time job, I am now (by definition) a writer-editor for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). I have reached my dream job, writing full time.

Now, to continue living the dream. There are more stories waiting to be written, and I hope you like them.

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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 iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Attending San Diego Comic Con is on my bucket list, but not just yet

It is a dream of mine to one day attend San Diego Comic Con! To walk amongst my people–geeks from around the world–would be an adventure in itself. There is so much going on, from television to movies, books and comic books, any media imaginable is on display at SDCC. The cosplay is amazing as everyone puts on their best costumes for SDCC. The stars are everywhere, and this year was no exception, as Justice League and Avengers: Infinity War went head-to-head this year. As Netflix and Amazon become just as relevant as any big name studio, so too does their offerings, from Marvel’s The Defenders to The Tick, these smaller characters are getting an upgrade to the small screen through these “pay-for” media services.

The firs thing you have to talk about is the trailers, both the released trailers and the “secretly recorded and released” trailers. Justice League definitely made the biggest impact because fans got to see all these great characters in action, and we finally got to see the villain, Steppenwolf. I think that’s why they have a slight edge over Avengers: Infinity War. For some odd reason, Marvel is holding onto their trailer so tight that the “bootleg” recordings is the only reason I saw their trailer. That is really a disservice to the fans who can’t make it to SDCC. Don’t get me wrong, seeing all their movie franchises on one screen is AWESOME but I only saw it in low-res bootlegs.

I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, this is a great time for geeks. We have been waiting for technology to catch up and give us the superheroes we love on TV and movies, just like they are in the comics. It’s nerd paradise!

I really think that DC is starting to catch up with Marvel when it comes to movies and television shows.Sure, Marvel has a great lineup with all their Netflix series, from The Defenders to The Punisher, as well as the mutant series Legion and The Gifted on Fox, Cloak and Dagger on Freeform with the New Warriors with Squirrel Girl (yes, finally!). Agents of Shield and Inhumans on ABC rounds out a powerful line up of shows. These shows are (for the most part) grittier, down-to-earth, realistic versions of their comic book counterparts.

But DC has an amazing line-up going with their CW shows of Arrow, The  Flash, Supergirl and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Plus, they’re adding Black Lighting, a Titans show on TNT, and Gotham is on Season 4 on Fox and getting better every year. Their shows are more like the comics with colorful costumes, the best villains and great storylines. They’re bringing in new characters, some updated characters and even some classics. I mean B’wana Beast? It’s just incredible. Sometimes, they variety of heroes passing through these shows is like watching the Justice League Unlimited cartoon. You’re always looking in the background just to see who’s there.

Fantasy shows aren’t too far behind either. Netflix’s Bright brings orcs, elves and magic into modern day Los Angeles, with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton. The trailer just blew me away. Even ABC’s Once Upon a Time is changing things up a bit, with a new town, new characters, new fairy tales, and it looks even more fascinating now.

This past weekend, I couldn’t tear myself away from YouTube of Facebook, just waiting for the next video or link to what’s been going on at SDCC. Even more fun is looking at the elaborate cosplay people come out with at a big event like SDCC. Tey get bigger, brighter and more elaborate in everything from comics to anime to video game characters.

So SDCC is definitely on my bucket list. It’s like a religious journey but for geeks. Sure, there are plenty of other comic book conventions across the country, but none hold the power of SDCC. It’s a definite check on the bucket list I need to check off.

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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.

Stop fussing over Doctor Who becoming a woman, you’re embarrassing geeks everywhere!

jodie-dwSo much has happened in the world of science fiction and fantasy this weekend, I don’t know where to begin. D23 brought us great new updates on Star War: The Last Jedi and Avengers: Infinity War; Game of Thrones, Season 7, premiered with murder, mayhem and dragons; and the late, great actor Martin Landeau passed away. All that has been overshadowed by the announcement from the BBC that actress Jodie Whittaker has been cast as the 13th Doctor on the long-running sci-fi TV series Doctor Who.

Whittaker is the first woman to play the Timelord from Gallifrey and the fans reaction has been mixed. Some see it as a great step forward, having a woman finally play this iconic role, while others have condemned it as further example of the world over-compensating it’s political correctness. I say, GROW THE F#%K UP PEOPLE!

I am not the most “PC” person in the world. I didn’t like the way Marvel took a number of original characters and made them women, like Thor, but after I read the stories, I understood the change and accepted it. That’s the heart of Doctor Who … It’s great characters and amazingly written stories. This is a new direction for the show as Steven Moffat leaves and Chris Chibnall takes the helm.

When the Doctor’s nemesis, The Master, became a woman and terrorized the world as Missy, we all loved it. Everyone embraced this new take on a classic Doctor Who villain, and today, those same people are crying fowl with the casting of Jodie Whittaker. You’re all a bunch of hypocrites!

I, for one, can’t wait to see how she interacts with characters like Captain Jack and River Song. It brings a new dynamic that we’ve never seen in the Doctor before. Even former Doctors’ like Colin Baker have given their approval of her casting. You forget, this is a woman who has worked with many previous Doctors’ and their companions like David Tenant, Arthur Darvill, Christopher Eccleston, and others.

Let’s stop all this petty “BS” and quit judging a show’s direction until they actually produce their first episodes. I think Jodie will bring in new fans to Doctor Who and she’s excited for the role. Jodie said, “I’m beyond excited to begin this epic journey — with Chris and every Whovian on the planet. It’s more than an honor to play the Doctor. It means remembering everyone I used to be while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for:  Hope. I can’t wait.”

Neither can we, Jodie! Neither can we!

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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.

Heroes come in many shapes and sizes

Heroes are some of the most complicated characters, in real life and in fiction. As a writer, you try to emulate the best qualities in your hero: humility, bravery, honor and compassion. When you look through history, there are many great examples for a writer to emulate in their characters. Sometimes, though, you find it in the everyday people you know.

Lord Bryan MoonDrake [2072845]In the Forever Avalon series, I patterned my main protagonist, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, after a number of people I’ve known or read about. I wanted to share my muses with you to demonstrate how intricate one character could be.

First and foremost, he was a Sailor in the U.S. Navy, a Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate working on the flight deck of a nuclear aircraft carrier. Now, I’m a retired Navy Chief, but I never worked on the flight deck on a daily basis. One of the most fearless men I ever saw was Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Gerald Farrier. On July 29, 1967, aboard the USS Forrestal (CV-59) off the coast of Vietnam, a Zuni rocket misfired, causing an explosion of jet fuel and munitions on the flight deck. Chief Farrier, ignoring his own safety, grabbed a PKP bottle (fire extinguisher for fuel fires) and charged toward the burning aircraft in the hopes of saving the pilots trapped in their burning aircraft. He continued to fight the fire until one of the bombs under the aircraft wing exploded, killing him and other members of the flight deck firefighting team. That was courage above and beyond the call of duty.

The only other time I witnessed something like that was as a young Sailor aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 74). We were on deployment when a fire broke out on one of the ship’s sponsons, spreading up to the flight deck and into the ship through the ventilation system. My leading chief, at that time, was Chief Gregg Snaza. He was in charge of the repair locker I was assigned too. Once the fire broke out, the ship was called to General Quarters. For four hours, we fought the fire. I watched as Chief Snaza, without regard to his own safety, donned an OBA (Oxygen Breathing Apparatus) and went in to relieve one of the team leaders in charge of the firefighters. I still remember watching him volunteer and don that OBA. It’s that bravery that sticks with you and finds its way into your characters.

Another trait of the Gil-Gamesh is the heart of a warrior: Fierce in battle, courage under fire, and a heart of gold. For these traits, I have dozens of examples to use for inspiration from John Wayne to Audie Murphy, Amelia Earhardt, and Michael Murphy.  The best example, though, is my father, Master Sergeant William Piggott, U.S. Marine Corps. My Dad served for 22 years, did two tours in Vietnam. He’s a quiet man, not much of a talker, but whenever I needed him, he was there. His quiet compassion and understanding is an example I try to set with my own children. He is my hero, and I don’t tell him that often enough.

Heroes are not perfect, but they’re really the embodiment of the many men and women who inspire us on the big screen and in real life. Translating those traits into the heroes of your own stories is not that difficult, as long as the inspiration for those characters resonate with your audience.

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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.

Show your patriotism! Eat a burger, watch some fireworks, and wave the flag!

4th-of-july-independence-day-fireworks-03Ah, the 4th of July… bands, music, good food, fireworks and plenty of patriotism to go around. As a veteran and proud American, this is one of my favorite holidays. In this day and age, when we seem so divided over political discourse, it’s days like this that bring (some of us) together as a nation. As a writer, you look for inspiration for characters, stories, and adventures. I find hours of such inspiration in movies, especially those with a patriotic theme.

There have been a number of great movies you watch every year around July 4 that makes you proud to be an American. They’re not all war movies, though many are, but they all have that main theme of American pride, resiliency, resourcefulness and determination. A lot of these movies are focused on the American Revolution, but it’s these moments that we love about our history.

Before I go on, let me make one small disclaimer. I know we, as a nation, are not perfect. We’ve made a lot of mistakes in our 200+ year history… Slavery, Civil Rights, Segregation to name a few. No one is perfect, but it’s moments like these that make us, as a nation, look at ourselves and work on getting better by learning from our mistakes. Like the saying goes, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall!”

hqdefaultBack to the topic at hand, I want to start with some of my favorite movies based on the Revolutionary War. The Patriot, John Adams, Drums Along the Mohawk, and 1776 are some of the best movies based on and around the birth of our nation. One of my personal favorites is an A&E movie, The Crossing, starring Jeff Daniels as General George Washington. It tells the story of the crossing of the Delaware River and the attack at Trenton. This was not a big budget movie, but it really struck me on the terrible conditions these men endured and how we almost lost it all. It was this one battle that turned things around for our country and it is truly inspiring.

War has been a part of our nation, demonstrating the heroism and fortitude of the many men and women who fought for this country, on our land and across the sea. Glory, Gettysburg, To Hell and Back, Sergeant York, and The Longest Day are classics along with today’s movies like Unbroken, American Sniper, Men of Honor, Saving Private Ryan, and Lone Survivor.

One of the great actors, and an even greater American, was John Wayne. I think he starred in more patriotic movies than any other actor today. The Sands of Iwo Jima, The Fighting Seabees, In Harm’s Way, Back to Bataan, The Horse Soldiers, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Green Berets, and The Alamo are just a few of the wonderful films he made, displaying his prowess as a great actor and a proud American.

miracleThere are also a number of 4th of July movies that don’t have a lot to do with the holiday, just like many of those who consider Die Hard a Christmas movie. Independence Day has one of the best inspirational speeches in movie history. It still makes my heart swell with pride whenever I listen to it. Miracle, based on the dramatic and unprecedented run by the USA Hockey team at the 1980 Olympics, will make you root for this team again and again, even though you already know the outcome.

Argo, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Rocky IV, Top Gun, The Right Stuff, Red Dawn, and Apollo 13 are movies that demonstrate that keen American spirit as well. It that patriotism, pride in ourselves, our country and the American spirit that makes these movies worth watching on the 4th of July. I know I might have missed a few, so please tell me your favorite patriotic movies in the comments below.

So, on this 4th of July, let’s get together with family and friends, raise your glass, grill some burgers and hot dogs, and watch some fireworks displays. Don’t forget to thank a Veteran for making this day possible. Happy Independence Day!

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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.