Let stupid people say stupid things because it only makes them look stupid

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” — 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

The first amendment in the United States Constitution addresses something that is quite unheard of in some areas of the world. The founding fathers placed this at the top of our governing document to underscore the importance of these basic freedoms: Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech; Freedom of the Press, etc. These basic rights are undeniable in the United States of America.

ft-first-amendment-alliance-nonprofit-free-speechIn recent weeks, those rights have been tested with the events of Charlottesville and the subsequent rallies and protests since them. The question remains, is hate speech protected? If I disagree with what you’re saying, do I have the right to shut you up?

Even the strictest constitutional scholars will say that all speech is protected, even when you disagree with it. There are those that feel the hate speech shouldn’t be protected, but that’s grown now to include anytime a conservative speaks by groups like Black Lives Matter and ANTIFA. Some people also defend NFL players sitting or kneeling for the national anthem a type of free speech protest, but it has also come under scrutiny.

So, that’s the tough question. Is all speech protected or should certain speech be restricted. As authors, I am 100% for free speech. George Washington said, “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” To me, that quote epitomizes what freedom of speech is.

I don’t like the racists rants of white supremacists and the KKK, nor do I care to hear them. I also don’t care for the anti-American stance of ANTIFA and BLM. In any case, I will defend your right to say it. Speech is a choice. You can say whatever you want, and I can CHOSE whether or not to listen to you. That’s why there is a mute button on the TV. I can turn you off just as easy as changing the channel.

To me, that’s how freedom of speech works. Voltaire say, “I do not agree with what you said but I will defend to death your right to say it.” That is the ultimate truth. My opinion has always been to let stupid people say stupid things because it only makes them look stupid. You can make your point just as easy by letting people talk.

As an author, I love the fact that my words are protected. I’m going to leave it with a quote by Ray Bradbury from his novel Fahrenheit 451. I think it speaks volumes for what we are witnessing and feeling today.

“The books are to remind us what asses and fool we are. They’re Caeser’s praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, ‘Remember, Caeser, thou art mortal.’ Most of us can’t rush around, talking to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven’t time, money or that many friends. The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book. Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.”
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

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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.

I miss those long weekends of eating pizza, drinking beer, and playing Dungeons & Dragons!

untitled.pngI turned 54-years-old today. One more year until I qualify for a senior citizen discount. It’s sad when you think about it, but is it? I can remember turning 18 like it was yesterday.

I was a college student, attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Penn. During the week, I attended classes and worked at the Original Hot Dog Shop near the University of Pittsburgh campus. I spent my weekends going to The Rocky Horror Picture Show (I played Eddie and Brad at the Castle Theater) and playing Dungeons and Dragons with my close group of friends. It was a time to be young, dumb and … well, you know the rest.

I’m married now, with three grown kids. Someday soon, I’ll be a Grandpa … A Grandpa who’s also a Dungeon Master. That sounds pretty cool when you think about it.

I don’t think I could do those long, late night, pizza and beer weekends today. I mean, we would go from Friday to Sunday night, play non-stop with a few hours, in between, of sleeping “where you sat or fell” as it were. I made some close friends during my time there, friends I lost track with when I returned home and joined the Navy.

That was the one thing I loved about Dungeons and Dragons. It brings people closer together. I played D&D in high school, college and in the Navy. Every time we got together to , I made good friends. We lived, we laughed, we played. When you think about the bonds that a group of adventurers has in the game, we shared that same bond.

People have used D&D as a scapegoat, that it’s evil and leads people to Devil worship. Bulls*#t! It was a game, and a damn good one at that. It expanded my imagination that made me the author I am today. I created the entire world of Forever Avalon from those wild weekends and late night D&D sessions. It was awesome.

Today, everything is about electronics and technology. People leave it to others to write the story, and build the characters. They fight the battles with their fingertips, not their mind. We are losing touch with that spark of imagination that makes us who we are.

I’m older now, hopefully a little wiser, and I do miss those times when I was young and free to spend my weekends playing D&D with my friends. But, you know what, it made me who I am today. It is a part of my history that I’ll never forget it. I do miss the old days, but right now, I’ve got to keep looking ahead. Better things are coming, just wait and see!

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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.

Dragons are the epitome of magical fantasy stories

jonsnow_dragonThe last two episodes of Game of Thrones has excited many fans of the series, especially those of us who love dragons. Seeing dragons in all their glory, fighting against armies, attacking on the orders of the dragon queen is amazing to watch. I think this is why dragons are, to many fantasy writers and fans of the genre, the heart of magic.

Dragons have been portrayedin literature, movies and televisionas the villain, evil and vile with contempt for humanity and a lust for gold. Dragons are, in fantasy and mythology, a force of nature. They create, as in the mythical “Rainbow Serpent” Aido-Hwedo, and they can destroy, like Smaug from The Hobbit. The stories of St. George and the Dragon and The Dragonriders of Pern, movies like Dragonslayer and Reign of Fire and the Game of Thrones TV series each have their own interpretation of dragons.

In the Forever Avalon series, I use dragons for the basis of all magic. Dragons and unicorns are creatures of pure magic and, in their own way, are the source of magical energy. Both are born with that energy in them, but a unicorn’s magic comes from life, the power that resides in their horn throughout their existence. Dragons, on the other hand, comes from death. The death of a dragon results in the magic collapsing in on itself and forming an ingot of concentrated magic … A dragon stone.

Dragons are the most awe-inspiring, feared creatures in all of magical fantasy genre. I love being able to immerse myself in a world of dragons. Their majesty is only matched by the terror they possess. To show you what dragons mean to me, here is an excerpt from The Dark Tides illustrating the relationship between dragons and the people of the world of Forever Avalon.

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BRYAN FLEW ON GAMORG UP THE MOUNTAINSIDE OF EMMYR AND INTO one of many entrances into the mountain. These caves were home to the dragons of Emmyr. Bryan laid down low on Gamorg’s back as the dragon folded its wings around him so he could maneuver through the tunnels, deep into the interior.

Bryan grasped the ice jewel in his hand—the same one given to him by Archie all those years ago—to protect him from the intense heat inside. Once Gamorg reached the inner chamber, Bryan was overwhelmed by what he saw.

For the first time since he arrived on Avalon, all of the dragons were gathered inside, either on the floor of the cavern or up on one of the outcroppings in the cave. They were all mourning over Nihala and Kragmar, who lay quietly on the cavern floor. One would think a dragon couldn’t look sad, but they do. Bryan could feel it when he entered the room … An overwhelming sense of sadness and despair.

The dragons give way for Gamorg and the Gil-Gamesh as they make their way over to them. Bryan dismounted from Gamorg and thanked him for bringing him. He stepped forward and knelt before Kragmar and Nihala. Kragmar, King of the Dragons, lay still and quiet, barely breathing. Nihala raised her head ever-so slightly to speak.

“Thank you for coming Bryan MoonDrake,” Nihala gasped, her voice weak and raspy.

Bryan looked up at them as he tried to find the words. “It is the least I could do for my oldest and dearest friends.”

“Do not grieve for us Gil-Gamesh. We have lived a long and fruitful life,” Nihala wailed. “Our children will carry on to the next generation, but we do not have a lot of time. I know you are conflicted. If you don’t retrieve the broach for Morgana, your daughter and your grandson will die and Avalon will fall into chaos. The future is very bleak indeed.”

“There’s got to be a way to defeat her and save Avalon,” Bryan asked. “The Queen said something about ‘five spears’ as did Percival. Do you know what they are talking about?”

Nihala was quiet but the cavern became loud and thunderous with the sound of thousands of dragons roaring in disapproval. Gamorg gave a breathtaking roar that immediately silenced them.

“We do not speak that name … To do so would be the death of us all,” Nihala explained.

“Please Nihala, I need to know.” Nihala closed her eyes and sighed. She knew she may regret this but it may be the only hope for Avalon.

“Very well … Step forward Gil-Gamesh.” Bryan stood up and walked toward Nihala.

She bowed her head down so he could touch the gem on her forehead. Bryan reached out tentatively, bracing himself for the instantaneous flow of information he was about to receive. He touched it gingerly but it’s different this time. Instead of a flash of images, he found himself in staring into a pit of total darkness.

From within the darkness, five different sets of eyes appeared randomly. The eyes are different shades of color with no iris or pupil, just glowing eyes. “Who are you?” the red eyes spoke. The voice was deep and hollow, rippling with power with each syllable spoken.

“I am Lord Bryan MoonDrake, Gil-Gamesh of Avalon!” Bryan said, both in his mind and in the cavern that all the dragons could hear him.

“Why are you here?” the green eyes spoke in the same hollow voice as the first.

“I need your help to defeat Morgana le Fay! She is threatening the Dark Tides on Avalon! She …”

“Morgana le Fay is not our concern, she is a mortal concern!” the blue eyes interjected.

“She will bring about the death and destruction of all of Avalon if she is not stopped!” Bryan said adamantly. “Without Avalon, all that is magic will be gone forever. The Dark Tides destroys everything it touches … Elves, sorcerers and dragons alike.”

“Nothing can destroy dragons!” the yellow eyes shouted defiantly. “Dragons are immortal as the stars in the sky! Nothing can kill us!”

“But even stars can die. Look at Kragmar and Nihala … They are dying because of Morgana and the Dark Tides. She will spread this evil until everything except her and those serve her are turned to dust.”

“We do not serve anyone! We answer to no one!” the white eyes screamed at Bryan.

“We do not believe you Gil-Gamesh. Your ilk has lied to us before!” the green eyes stated plainly.

“If you don’t believe me then look into Nihala,” Bryan said. “Reach into her mind and see what happened. See for yourselves what the Dark Tides can do.”

The eyes grew silent and closed as darkness enveloped the Gil-Gamesh again. Then the eyes opened and spoke as one. “We will help you Gil-Gamesh but we require payment for our services!” the voice explained.

“Payment? What kind of payment? Who … Who are you?”

“Look into our mind and know us Gil-Gamesh!” the voice announced as the eyes started to glow brighter and brighter, blinding Bryan. His mind was overwhelmed until he realized who he was speaking with.

“Oh God, it’s you … isn’t it?” he asked sheepishly.

“Yes Gil-Gamesh, you know of us,” the voice exclaimed to Bryan, holding him within the light.

“We require payment for our services. What do you offer?” Bryan thought about what they were asking of him. He whispered something into the air. There was silence for what seemed like an eternity and then they speak to him again.

“We accept Gil-Gamesh. Call us when you need us and we will do as you ask.”

Back in the cave, Nihala’s gem exploded with energy, throwing Bryan across the room and into Gamorg, falling to the ground. His breathing was heavy and labored, as if he couldn’t catch his breath.

“Oh God,” he stammered. “Dear God … Alright, I understand. I understand.” Bryan stood up, still muttering to himself, until he noticed that Kragmar was gone. “What … Where is Kragmar? What happened to him?”

“He has become one with Avalon,” Gamorg told him. Bryan walked over to where Kragmar once laid. All that remained of him was a single dragon stone, glowing brightly. Bryan turned to see Nihala nearing the end of her life. She sparkled with magical light, like fireflies in the night, as she slowly began to fade.

Gamorg stepped forward as he lowered his head and touched his forehead to hers. In a blinding flash of light, Nihala disappeared and the gem, which was once in her forehead, was now centered on Gamorg’s. He had grown in size, almost as big as Kragmar was, and his green scales now glistened with a golden hue. All that’s left of Nihala was a dragon stone. Like Kragmar, it glowed brightly with magical power.

“Take them Gil-Gamesh … They wanted you to have them,” Gamorg explained. Bryan picked up the dragon stones and held them in his hands. They are warm and stimulating to the touch, magical energy pricked his skin like static electricity. It felt very familiar to Bryan as he reflected back to when Kragmar and Nihala lent him their power to fight Morgana. That same power now flowed through these stones.

“All hail Gamorg, King of the Dragons!” came a call from in the cavern. The other dragons roared in approval for the new king.

Bryan placed the stones in his belt pouch as he stepped forward and knelt before Gamorg. “Your majesty!”

“Bryan MoonDrake, you do not kneel before me,” Gamorg said as he reached his head down and nudged Bryan to his feet. “You are my friend Gil-Gamesh and friends do not bow to each other.”

Bryan hugged Gamorg around his head, something he’d always done with his friend, to show him he understood but then he stepped back and composed himself. There wasn’t time for formalities.

“I have a request for the Dragon King …” he stated, “… I need your dragons to assist with what remains of my fleet around Avalon. Morgana’s forces are threatening chaos and I don’t have the forces to stop them.

“The dragons of Emmyr would keep them from expanding their foothold outside of Idlehorn. Keep some behind to protect Emmyr, but please send out whomever you can. Without your help, we will lose so much.”

“No we won’t!” Gamorg growled. “They dared to come to our sacred home, kill our king and queen mother without a thought … No! They will not be allowed to spread their evil any further.”

“Dragons of Emmyr!” Gamorg shouted to all within the cavern. “Go now! Spread your wings and fly out across Avalon! Let those who fly the banner of Morgana la Fay know why we are to be feared! Bare your claws, rend their flesh from their bones, burn them to ash … Show them who rules the skies over Avalon! Not pirates! Not goblins! Dragons! Dragons rule the sky!”

The sound was deafening as dragons roared in approval! One by one, they moved out through the vast caves outside their mountain home. From down below, people saw something they’d never seen before. The dragons of Emmyr were pouring out of the mountain and flying away from their home all at once, spreading out across Avalon on a search and destroy mission.

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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.

My next project … “Corsair and the Sky Pirates” Steampunk adventure

As I work with my editor to get The Outlander War ready for publication, I am looking ahead to my next project. To be honest, I am planning to continue the story of the Gil-Gamesh and the MoonDrake family on Avalon with another trilogy, but I wanted to step away for a second. I wanted to try a science fiction adventure, specifically a STEAMPUNK adventure.

I have always been fascinated by the steampunk genre, from the Victorian sensibilities to the wild, gear-driven, steam-powered inventions. It reminds me so much of Jules Verne and his fantastic novels, which is why I decided to write this story. So, without any further adieu, I present to you the prologue for my next story, “The Adventures of Corsair and the Sky Pirates: Uriel’s Flame” on Inkitt.

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DesertShadows_Myke_Amend_desktop-Imagine that Jules Verne, the prophet of science fiction, and Nikola Tesla, the genius inventor, had met. What would the world be like? Steam-powered machines like you’ve never seen before, bringing about a new age of science and industry, and bringing the world one step closer to war. In this age of modern mechanical marvels, the wealthy have gotten richer off the backs of workers, toiling in the factories all around the globe to produce these wondrous inventions. The only person standing up for the people is the infamous Corsair and his Sky Pirates. In his dirigible, the Arkaroo, Corsair searches the globe for the source of power for these incredible machines… Uriel’s Flame. Meteor fragments from a passing comet provides unlimited power for these steam-powered, modern marvels. Whomever controls Uriel’s Flame controls the main source of power in the world, leading countries to the brink of war. The Edison/Roentgen/Fulton, or ERF, Corporation is searching far and wide for the meteors, giving them complete control of this valuable mineral. It’s up to Corsair and his Sky Pirates to stop them and prevent a world war from impacting the world.

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1887 in the city of Amiens, France. The port city in northern France was not the bustling seaport it appeared to be, but rather a quiet, little community divided by the Somme River. It’s home to one of the largest cathedrals in France and one of the world’s greatest authors.

At a small café in Quartier St.-Leu, Jules Verne sipped quietly on his coffee as he sifted through the newspaper. Verne enjoyed the quiet moments like this. It helped to clear his mind and arrange his thoughts for the next adventure.

You wouldn’t know by looking at this quiet, little man that he was such a renowned author. His white hair and beard match the wrinkles on his face. He rubbed his left leg, hoping to relieve the pain. It still ached where his nephew, Gaston, shot him. The poor boy, locked away in an asylum, with little to no explanation as to why he did it.

The pain was a constant reminder to Verne… a reminder of his own mortality, and it scared him. He left behind a legacy in his stories of science and adventure, but was it enough, he wondered? Do these ‘flights of fancy’ mean anything beyond the pages on which it was written?

Pardon moi, monsieur,” came a voice, startling Verne. “Are you Jules Verne?”

He looked up from his newspaper to see a tall, lanky young man standing next to him. He bowed slightly, a bowler hat rested in his hand over his heart. Through his burly mustache and thick accent, Verne knew the young man had to be from Eastern Europe. His dark clothes reminded Verne of an undertaker. He hoped that was not the case.

Oui, may I help you?” Verne asked.

“I am Nikola Tesla,” he said. “I am a great admirer of your work, Monsieur Verne. I apologize for interrupting you, but your housekeeper said I might find you here. I was hoping I could have a moment of your time.”

Verne thought for a moment before nodding and motioning for him to sit down. Tesla was overjoyed as he sat in the chair across from Verne. Before he could say anything, the waiter came over to the two men.

Voulez-vous un café, monsieur?” he asked Tesla.

Oui, merci?” he replied. “Et un verre d’eau s’il vous plait.” Tesla waited for the waiter to depart before he said anything, but Verne spoke first.

“From your accent, I can assume you are from Eastern Europe, Monsieur Tesla. Austria or Hungary, am I correct?” Verne inquired.

“Serbia, Monsieur Verne, but it is part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so you are quite correct.”

“And what brings you to Amiens? Surely you did not come here just to get my autograph?” Verne quipped.

Non, Monsieur…” Tesla stated, but stopped while the waiter brought over his coffee and set it down in front of him before leaving. “I work for the Continental Edison Company. I was sent here to work on your cities electrical system. I thought I might get the chance to speak with you before I return to Paris.”

“Edison, well, I must thank you for the electric lights,” Verne commended. “It is better than writing by candlelight at three in the morning.”

Tesla smiled and nodded in appreciation of the compliment. “Thank you, Monsieur Verne. Perhaps I can inspire you in another way,” Tesla remarked as he pulled out a folded piece of paper from his coat and handed it to Verne.

“What is this?” he asked. “I thought you weren’t looking my autograph.”

“No, no … this is something that your words inspired me to create.”

Verne’s curiosity was peaked as he unfolded the paper. When he saw what was inside, his eyes grew as large as hen’s eggs. It was an engine, one so complicated in design that Verne could not understand the intricacies of what he was looking at. Around the engine was a crude drawing of a ship, a submersible ship that resembled his description of the Nautilus from his novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Incroyable,” Verne whispered, amazed at what he saw. “What is it?”

“A steam-powered oscillating electric generator,” Tesla explained. “It can generate 20 times the electrical power of anything today, maybe more. This could power a ship, like your Nautilus, don’t you think?”

“Indeed … indeed it could, but it would take a ton of coal just to generate the amount of steam you would need for such an engine, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Yes, but not with this,” Tesla said as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small test tube. Inside were a few small blue stones that glowed slightly. He handed it to Verne, who stared at them in awe.

“What on Earth are they?” Verne asked.

“They’re from a meteor that fell near my home in Serbia,” Tesla began to explain, until the waiter stepped up and brought him his coffee and a glass of water, as he requested. He waited until the waiter departed to continue his explanation. “It generates a constant heat that never seems to die out. Here, observe…”

Tesla took the cork off the test tube vial and poured out one small meteorite into the glass of water. The blue rock began to bubble and burn, raising the temperature of the water quite rapidly. Soon, the water was boiling as steam arose from the glass. Tesla took a spoon and pulled out the tiny rock before dropping it on the table.

“You can pick it up, Monsieur, it won’t burn you.”

Verne reached down and tentatively touched it with his fingertips, until he realized how cool the rock was and he picked it up and held it in his hand. “Monsieur Tesla, this is quite, well… Remarquable!

“It burns on and on, without any reduction in size or mass,” Tesla boasted proudly. “It could change the world of science and industry as we know it.”

“Is there any more of this meteor?” Verne asked. “Where does it come from?”

“I have a colleague at the Royal Astrological Society who discovered a comet he named Uriel, after the archangel,” Tesla explained. “Fragments from Uriel are impacting the Earth from the Urals to the Alps and across North America as the comet passes by. We are working on a method to detect the fragments of meteorite. So far, I’ve collected nearly 500 kilograms.”

“You are an incredibly talented young man, Monsieur Tesla,” Verne said as he handed him the meteor, dropping it in the tube. Verne then folded the paper and handed it back. “But, what does this have to do with an old man like me? I am a writer, not a scientist.”

“Your stories have inspired me to pursue new avenues of science,” Tesla said. “I would like to collaborate with you on some ideas that I have. I have the scientific knowledge, you have an incredible imagination. Perhaps, together, we can bring about a new age of science and technology.”

“Won’t that interfere with your work at the Edison Company?” Verne asked.

“I have already put in my notice to leave my position with Edison,” Tesla explained. “I am planning to go to the United States to pursue my own dreams, but I wanted to work with you before I go.

“Besides, I don’t want my ideas to come under an Edison patent instead of my own. Something like this,” he said, shaking his design at Verne, “could change the course of human history. It just needs a little imagination to make it come true. You, Monsieur Verne, are a master of imagination. Imagine what we could accomplish together?”

Verne sat there, intrigued by the young man’s offer. For the first time, he saw how his novels can influence the future of mankind. “Very well, Monsieur Tesla. Where do we begin?”

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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.