To read or not to read? A New Year resolution for writers

reading-quoteAs writers, we are constantly working on our craft. I try to write daily, even if its just adding a few sentences or a paragraph to my next novel. When researching different tips for writers, the one thing I always come across is READ, READ, READ! As writers, we need to read other stories to help us with style, plot development, and even a sense of direction. When you read someone else’s work, you have a feel for them , as a writer, and see into every technical aspect of the story. You see every part of it, like the bricks in a building, creating a structure that’s a beautiful sight to see.

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” ― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

My problem is, I want to write more than I want to read. It’s weird but I find myself delving deeper into daydreams, finding a niche or element to my stories, rather than reading someone else’s book. I’ve had Peter and the Shadow Thieves by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson sitting on my nightstand for a couple of months now. I’ve been meaning to read it but have yet to turn a single page.

That’s where we fall short … Discipline. As writers, we must have discipline to hone and work our craft, yet we rarely do. We find distractions quite easily that makes us set aside the work we must do, both reading and writing. Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

So, my resolution for the new year is to read more. I get inspired by many things, from TV to movies to books, yet books have been lacking. I need to find it again and get back on the straight and narrow. I resolve to read at least on book a month for the next year. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s a good starting point for me.

So, I’ll end my blog with a simple Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you in 2018!

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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 as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

All writers start out with some failings, so don’t get discouraged

4-Inspirational-Quotes-for-Writers“All good writings begin with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” — Anne Lamott

There are many hills and valleys associated with being a writer, but the hardest part of being a writer has been managing discouragement. It’s hard to keep a “stiff upper lip” when you get rejection letters, low book sales, or constant writer’s block.

Joel Osteen said, “We all have unfair situations and things we don’t like. You can get bitter, discouraged, and sour, or you can see it as fertilizer and say, ‘The difficulty is not going to defeat me, it’s going to promote me. It’s not going to hinder me, it’s going to help me.’ Do go through it, grow through it.”

I love that last line:  “Do go through it, grow through it!” That sentiment is how I work as a writer. I keep chugging away, learning from my mistakes, and fight on. I never stop writing, even if I’m the only one reading my stories. I can’t keep them inside and let them stew. I have to keep going, no matter what.

It’s hard not to get discouraged, but there are worse things than a rejection letter from a publisher. I have my health, my family, and a good job that allows me to pursue my writing career. It’s fighting back against the discouragement that adds to my passion for writing.

5ffe80f826477383c6083865818ce228I spent more than 30 years in the Navy as a Navy Journalist and Public Affairs Officer. That training and work experience gave me the tools I needed but did not satisfy my needs for more creative writing. I fight my own self doubt every day, but it’s a battle I have to win. Being a writer, an accomplished writer and storyteller, is something I desire more than anything. It’s not for the fame, the glory, or the recognition. It’s just for the satisfaction of having someone read my stories in the hope that it gives them a good feeling or a chance to escape.

There are thousands of quotes, advice, or methods out there to beat back the funk of being discouraged. Personally, I like to throw myself into my writing. It helps me when I take myself to a magical fantasy world and follow the adventures there into my stories. It gives me an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction and keeps my dream alive.

I may or may not achieve my goal of being a published author, but if even one person likes my stories, then I’ve done my job. I’d like to leave you with this thought.

“Very few writers know what they’re doing until they’ve done it.” — Anne Lamott

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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 as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Doctor Who provides geeks with their own Christmas tradition

doctorwho2811aThere are many traditions from various cultures around the world when it comes to Christmas; but in Great Britain, and in the homes of geeks around the world, nothing is more sacred than the Doctor Who Christmas special. After a long day of presents, family, and food, it’s nice to curl up under a Tardis blanket, wrapped in a eight-foot long scarf, with a nice bowl of fish fingers and custard to watch Doctor Who celebrate the joy of Christmas and, sometimes, regenerates into the new Doctor.

This year is no exception as the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi, meets up with the first Doctor (brilliantly played by David Bradley, recreating the role originated by William Hartnell) and will conclude with his regeneration to the 13th Doctor, Jodie Williams.

During the first run of the program (1963 to 1989), while not an official Christmas special, one episode aired on Christmas Day: “The Feast of Steven”, the seventh episode of the twelve-part serial The Daleks’ Master Plan, which aired on 25 December 1965. The episode was a comic interlude in the style of a pantomime, in the middle of an otherwise epic adventure. In its final scene, the Doctor and his companions celebrated Christmas with a toast; the episode ended with the Doctor (William Hartnell) turning to camera (breaking the fourth wall) and saying, “Incidentally, a happy Christmas to all of you at home.”

The actual Christmas specials we know and love today started with the 10th Doctor, David Tenant, after his regeneration from Christopher Eccleston’s 9th Doctor, at the end of the first season of the relaunch of Doctor Who under Russell T. Davies. “The Christmas Invasion” was about an invasion by the Sycorax while the Doctor recovers from the effects of his regeneration. It ends with David Tenant donning his famous suit and trenchcoat. So, from that point on, here is my TOP 5 Doctor Who Christmas specials.

gallery_uktv-doctor-who-bernard-cribbins-5.  The End of Time, David Tenant (2009) — The End of Time was the final episode with David Tenant as the Doctor. It involved the return of the Master (John Simm), an alien device called the Immortality Gate, and the return of Rassilon (Timothy Dalton) and the entire planet of Gallifrey to bring about the end of time. The best part of the episode is the end, when the Doctor takes a grand tour and visits all the companions he met over the years, including a stop off with Rose Tyler on New Year’s Day of the year before she met him. It’s a sad ending with the Ood singing an operatic farewell as he limps back to the Tardis. The one thing everyone remembers is his last words, “I don’t want to go!”

the-10-best-doctor-who-christmas-specials-that-every-true-whovian-must-watch4.  The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe, Matt Smith (2011) — I will start off by saying that Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor has three spots in my Top 5 Doctor Who Christmas specials. His specials were the most memorable to me. Besides the 4th Doctor (Tom Baker), Matt Smith is one of my favorite Doctors. After a World War II widow saves his life, he repays her and her children by trying to bring a little fun in their Christmas; but, as usually happens with the Doctor, things run amok, including a trip to another world that’s about to be destroyed. In the end, the Doctor saves her and her family, including her deceased husband. As with most Christmas specials, the ending was the best when he reunites with Amy and Rory for Christmas dinner. The fact that they always set a place for the Doctor brings a tear to his eye, and makes it a memorable special.

 landscape-1448898478-doctor-who-the-husbands-of-river-song3.  The Husbands of River Song, Peter Capaldi (2015) — River Song has been one of my favorite companions of the Doctor since her first appearance in “The Silence of the Library” with David Tenant. We learned about River’s long history with the Doctor through Matt Smith’s run as the Doctor. It all came to a close with Peter Capaldi when they finally reached the “Singing Towers” on the planet of Darillium, where he gave River her own sonic screwdriver. It also has the best “Hello Sweetie” in all the episodes of Doctor Who with River Song. This episode had everything you want to see in a Doctor Who Christmas special–giant robots, split-head aliens, a spaceship falling from space, and a jewel heist. What more could you ask for?

time-of-the-doctor__1311261242432.  The Time of the Doctor, Matt Smith (2013) — This episode was Matt Smith’s final one as the Doctor, leading to his regeneration into Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor. It also spanned centuries as the Doctor defended the town of Christmas on the planet of Trenzalore. This was supposed to the Doctor’s last battle, where he dies at the end of his regeneration cycle. Every race across the universe is trying to prevent the Doctor from answering “the oldest question in the universe” that would return the Timelords and Gallifrey from it’s exile in another universe. They feared the resurgence of the Time War and so, the Silence was born to stop the Doctor. Like The End of Time did with David Tenant, The Time of the Doctor brought everything from the beginning of Matt Smith’s tenure to a close–the crack in the wall, the question, Silence will Fall. In the end, Matt Smith gives, what I think, is one of the best speeches by the Doctor at the end of his time. Add to that, the reappearance of Amy Pond and her final words, “Raggedy Man, Goodnight,” touched my heart as he took off his bow tie and regenerated.

christmascarol1.  A Christmas Carol, Matt Smith (2010) — There are so many reasons I absolutely love this episode, it’s hard to pick just one. I’d have to start with the music. Singer Katherine Jenkins is the voice of an angel, bringing a beauty and soul to this special that has never been matched. Her song brings the joy and spirit of Christmas to life. Second, the comedy is just so damn funny. In my opinion, Matt Smith has the comedic timing of Charlie Chaplain and it shows in this episode. From his photo of him with Santa Claus (“or as I like to call him, Jeff”),  to the shark in the wardrobe, and his “marriage” to Marilyn Monroe was absolutely priceless. Lastly, the story was a wonderful rendition of the traditional Charles Dickens classic. Michael Gambon gives a perfect rendition of Scrooge, or Kazran Sardick in this episode. I especially loved their twist on the Ghost of Christmas Future, showing a young Kazran his grouchy, future self to change his heart. I will watch this Christmas special before all others. It is, at heart, what Doctor Who is all about.

So, here it is. I have a feeling that that the “Twice Upon a Time” might make it’s way up there after this year’s episode airs. Until then, Merry Christmas to all!

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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 AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

The Ancient Magus Bridge has the heart and spirit of Hayao Miyazaki

AncientMagusBride-110117As I’ve said in previous blogs, Hayao Miyazaki is an inspiration and one of my favorite storytellers. He has a brilliance that I aspire too. The art and words of his many wonderful stories give his anime a life of their own. I want my own stories to have the same “magic” as his. In fact, I see that same look of wonder in The Ancient Magus Bride anime.

The Ancient Magus Bride is a Japanese fantasy shōnen manga series written and illustrated by Kore Yamazaki. Hatori Chise has lived a life full of neglect and abuse, devoid of anything resembling love. Far from the warmth of family, she has had her share of troubles and pitfalls. Just when all hope seems lost, a fateful encounter awaits her. When a man with the head of a beast, wielding strange powers, obtains her through a slave auction, Chise’s life will never be the same again. The man is a “magus,” a sorcerer of great power, who decides to free Chise from the bonds of captivity. The magus then makes a bold statement: Chise will become his apprentice–and his bride!

I have been watching this anime and it’s amazing. I see the same heart and soul in these characters as I did in many of my favorite Hayao Miyazaki films. For example, the relationship between Chise and Elias is the same as Chihiro and Haku in Spirited Away or Howl and Sophie in Howl’s Moving Castle. The women are stronger than they think and they can reach the heart and soul of the one they love, even when appear to be a monster.

Chise doesn’t see a monster in Elias, even with his bone face. She sees someone who loves and cares for her, something that has been missing her entire life. It’s touching to see her touch and caress his face, even though any normal person would be repulsed by it. It’s a great example of the old adage about seeing the beauty on the inside, not the outside. Even its simple music–mostly a piano softly playing in the background–lends to this unusual but everlasting love story.

Another great element of the story is how they explain magic an alchemy as two competing forces. I’ve always seen alchemy as “the science of magic” which is how I use it in the Forever Avalon series. In the anime, they see magic and alchemy as opposing forces. Alchemists use magic to alter reality by manipulating and “tweaking” the laws of nature, while mages break the laws of nature to alter reality by taking power from fairies or spirits.

This is an inspired system for magic that I’ve never  heard of before, especially focusing on Britain as a land of powerful magic. This is something I relish and aspire to in my own stories. Another great concept is that dragons are one with the world, and when they die, they return to the Earth as mountains and trees. The interaction between Chise and the ancient dragons is sad and heart-wrenching. Along with the music and its sweet, loving song, it is a reminder of how the myths and legends of our own world can be seen in the places we see as magic in itself.

The last thing I want to mention is the villains in this. They are incredibly scary. With their heartless attitude for human life. Once again, it’s frightening when you look at the face of evil and see it smiling back at you. Evil like this is hiding in plain sight, and wee, as humans, we only see it when we want to. It is a reminder of how and why we must face evil and tear it down.

I would highly recommend this anime to anyone. The writing is magnificent with a little bit of comedy in all the right places, with heart and even horror thrown in where it needs to be. It has the heart and soul of a great story and, in the spirit of Hayao Miyazaki. It’s a story that will remain as an inspiration at the heart of any magical, fantasy story.

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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 AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.