As October rolls in, so do the screams of the dead, but not like the traditions of old

Halloween Past – snapshot jeannerene, circa 1988 – Flickr

It seems that every Halloween gets scarier and more outrageous as the years passed by. We are beyond the simple dressing up and “trick or treating” anymore. Now its either blood and gore or, to the other extreme with sexy maids, police officers, and vampires. Even Daphne and Velma of Scooby Doo fame are imitated by cosplayers down to their bras and panties (not that I mind) in a stunning retrospect making me question my childhood.

So, what do we make of Halloween? Is it a bastion of the evil and the dead or, like Mardi Gras and other celebrations, a day to dress up, drink, and be merry? I prefer the old traditions of Halloween, when masks were made of flimsy plastic and hugged your face, held in place by a rubber band and a couple of staples. Every house had a porch light on, carved jack o’ lantern on the front step, passing out candy to the kids, and EVERY KID dressed up (not this wearing a hoodie with a hockey mask).

Now, we have pumpkin and cake carving food shows where contestants try to out-gore the other. And movies have gone the way from classic monster movies like “Dracula” and “Creature from the Black Lagoon” to scary dolls like “Chucky” and “Annabelle” instead. I guess I am a traditionalist when it comes to holidays. I miss the old traditions that are being shoved aside for gross, gore and fright instead.

Sure, everyone likes a good scare. I remember seeing the original “Friday the 13th” (with Kevin Bacon) and John Carpenter’s “The Fog” and being genuinely scared. My kids watch it and laugh at the poor special effects and giving Dad that look, questioning my manhood, with a sarcastic “This scared you?” But things change over time, and its never good or bad, it’s just different. 

It’s like the Grinch said in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (the live action Jim Carrey movie) when he said, “Kids today, so desensitized by movies and television…” and its true. The gore and scare factor at Halloween has increased tenfold because kids today have been desensitized by the violence and fear of the world today. Why would they be scared of ghosts and goblins when terrorists and mass murderers could be your next door neighbor? That changes the whole perspective.

10 fun facts you didn't know about HalloweenAs a writer, its nostalgic to think about Halloween past. It’s the myths and legends that inspire me as a fantasy writer. The story of the Celtic festival of Samhain that became our modern Halloween is a part of the mythos we embrace every year when the kids put on masks and go trick or treating. Consider that the lowly Jack O’ Lantern has a story behind it, warding off evil spirts and the like. Even the “Day of the Dead” — el Día de los Muertos — celebrations are steeped in tradition and mythology. It’s these legends, the superstitions, that bring holidays like Halloween to life, but in a good way. Not the blood curdling, gore fest seen in haunted houses across the country.

October brings the falling leaves, the change of the season, and everything pumpkin spice with a month of  frights and scares. Let’s bring back more tradition and legends associated with Halloween and less gore and “shock factor” that’s in it. I miss the old ways, the simpler ways, sometimes… Don’t you? 

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse Publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Getting back into your #WIP one sentence at a time

The frustration of not writing | A Writer's Life

The absolute frustration of being a writer can cause major headaches, break up families, decrease in your sex life, and cause everything from drug to alcohol problems. All joking aside, THESE ARE the actually feelings of a writer under pressure to finish their work in progress (#WIP) and its been well recorded since the dawn of time. Have you seen some of those early cave paintings?

“The best musicians don’t always get record deals. The best writers don’t always get published. The best painters have showrooms full of work that never sells. To an extent, this is how it has always been.” Jeff Goins, Writer

To that end, I have been forging ahead, one sentence at a time, and it’s actually been working for me. My goal is at least one page per night, at a minimum. Sometimes I only get a couple of paragraphs in, but at least I’m writing. It’s important to get the train moving along the track, even at a slow pace. Just keep things moving… Think Dory (“Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!”) Sorry, bad analogy, but it works.

The good news is I’M NOT ALONE! I have read hundreds of social media posts from other writers expressing the same frustration. It’s a disease amongst this creative community that doesn’t seem to stay long. It jumps from writer to writer and it’s as bad as the flu (at times) and facemasks won’t help you fend it off.

The best solution is WORK! “WORK, WORK, WORK!” (to quote the incomparable Mel Brooks) and don’t stop. If it’s not coming to you, my best solution is going back a few pages and reread what you’ve already written. I find myself back into the story, making a few changes here and there, and it gets my thoughts in line to continue writing. Soon, I add on one more page, then two, then three, etc.

I have been dealing with a serious case of writer’s block this past summer (which I talked about here) and I’ve finally gotten myself over the hump to where I am writing every day now. It’s been a mighty hurdle, believe me. The first day I got over my block, I actually wrote ten pages in one sitting. It was magnificent, like a breath of fresh air on a crisp fall day.

That’s why it’s called a #WIP. It’s a work “in progress” meaning that it’s not finished. You’ve got to cross that creative gap (so named by Ira Glass here) and take a leap of faith. You have to believe in yourself and the story you’re trying to tell. Remember, you’re the author and you’re the only one who can tell your story. If you believe in that, what’s there to stop you?

I’ve already completed two #WIP that I am currently trying to get published… THE PROMETHEUS ENGINE: Book Four of the FOREVER AVALON Series and THE LAST MAGUS: The Clockwork Heart. (HINT: Any interested parties, please contact me here! Yes, I may be a little desperate… All writers are!) Now, I’m working on the next two installments of the series. I’m trying to stay in the moment and keep the story moving along. It’s not easy, but it’s like I said, “one sentence at a time…” That’s the key for any writer.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse Publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Grab a FREE copy of FOREVER AVALON this weekend!

This weekend, Sept 18-21, I am giving away FREE ebooks of my first novel, FOREVER AVALON! These ebooks will be available to download through Amazon! I hope you take this opportunity to experience the world of FOREVER AVALON from the beginning! It’s “captivating and addictive” and a “new spin on Camelot” for any fantasy reader! CLICK HERE to get your copy today!


TAKE AN ADVENTURE THROUGH TIME! Stephanie Drake and her three children were glad to be alive after a sudden storm slammed their boat onto an uncharted island, but it’s not where they think. They found themselves in another world, frozen in time. For more than 3,000 years, the magical island of Avalon remained hidden from the outside world. It was a place of eternal magic, where the descendants of King Arthur ruled over a land filled with magical creatures, wizards, Elves, Dwarves and dragons. On Avalon, Stephanie and her children were being hunted by bounty hunters, thieves and brigands. They found themselves caught in a power struggle between Lord Kraven Darkholm, a powerful wizard descended from the sorceress Morgana le Fay, and Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon.

The people of this magical isle have been protected for centuries by the Gil-Gamesh, a descendant of Sir Percival Peredyr, the last Knight of the Round Table. But who is Lord MoonDrake and how does he know so much about Stephanie and her children? Now, it’s a race against time as the Gil-Gamesh must protect these Outlanders—as they are called—and get them home to the outside world. All the while, Kraven Darkholm continued his schemes against the people of Avalon, vying to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming ruler of this enchanted island.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse Publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available from Austin Macauley Publishing.

For the first time, Avalon has been mapped!

The Island of AvalonFor the first time in more than 20 years, you can actually see the island of Avalon as I mapped it out in my mind when I started writing the Forever Avalon series. Thanks to artist Amy Kruzan (follow on Instagram at fantasygraphicsbya) you can follow the adventures of the Gil-Gamesh and the rest of the MoonDrake family, from the dragon isle of Emmyr in the northwest, eastward across the Fenris Mountains to Merlin’s Pinnacle, and south to New Camelot. So, let’s take a quick tour of Avalon, starting due south:

Candletop Lighthouse and Elkwood Forest — This is where the Gil-Gamesh’s family first arrive on Avalon. Elkwood Forest is not as dense nor as dangerous as Blackbriar Forest (to the north) but it is nor an easy place to travel through. You have to go around the forest to reach Candletop Lighthouse. This lighthouse sits on top of a ridge overlooking the ocean below. It was built, not for ships, but rather to draw in Outlanders (people from the outside world) that passed through the rift in the Bermuda Triangle and arrived on Avalon.

Etheldreda — This is the capital city of Eldonshire, the “bread basket” of Avalon. Eldonshire encompasses the southwest corner of Avalon. This part of the island has smooth flatlands and rolling meadows for farming and raising animals to feed the people.

Alfheimer and Lake Ouroboros — Alfheimer is the ancient home to the Elves of Avalon. This sacred land is only accessible to those invited by the Elves, otherwise people will become lost, confused, or dead. Alfheimer is built into the valley walls between two small mountains. A waterfall pours down from Lake Ouroboros into the valley below. The lake provides and endless supply of fresh water from an unknown source deep within Avalon, hence its name meaning “infinity”.

Nottinghamshire — The largest port in Avalon, Nottinghamshire is the shipping capital of the magical island. Besides being a shipping magnet for Avalon, the city also has the largest shipyard, building ships to send cargo around the island, via the ocean or down the rivers.

Emmyr — The “dragon isle” sits off the coast of Avalon, but not like a normal island. Emmyr floats in the air, surrounded by a sheath of clouds just below its rocky shores. A large mountain encompassed the center of the island as dragons fly out and about the peak, with lush trees covering the landscape and waterfalls flowing from the rocks into the clouds below. Beneath the mountain sat a city, Port Charles, carved out of the mountainside. This is the home of the Gil-Gamesh, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, and his family.

Northern Tribe of Kéntauros — The home of the centaurs of Avalon, the Northern Tribe of Kéntauros lived on the fringes of the Blackbriar Forest, giving them room to hunt and to run free.

Steinfisk — The capital of the North Highlands, Steinfisk is the home to the great fishermen of Avalon. These northmen, the descendants of Vikings, navigate the treacherous northern sea above the Orcus Abyss where the fish are abundant. They traded in their pillaging heritage for the peaceful life as fishermen, providing the abundance of the sea to the people of Avalon.

Fenris Mountain — The northern mountain range resemble the fangs of the wolf they’re named after. It hugs the northern coastline, dropping as a sheer cliff into the Orcus Abyss  of the northern sea. The mountains are divided by the Lóni River (Lóni means lazy, as the river is slow flowing from west to east).  From Steinfisk to Hursag, the mountains are virtually impassable.

Idlehorn Mountain — Idlehorn is the highest peak in the Fenris Mountains. Located in the center of the mountain range, Idlehorn is home to many evils. The goblins call Idlehorn home, living within a massive system of caverns below the peak. There is a single castle built into the side of the mountain, overlooking Blackbriar Forest. This is the home of Viscount Kraven Darkholm, a descendant of Morgana le Fay and rival to the Gil-Gamesh, Lord Bryan MoonDrake.

Blackbriar Forest — The largest forest in Avalon, Blackbriar got its name from the giant trees that keep the entire forest in darkness, day and night. This allows for all sorts of dark creatures to thrive within, from goblins, trolls, ogres and the Dökkalfar, or Dark Elves. Because of the nature of the forest, most travelers take the long way around instead of going through the dark woods. At the center of the forest sits Mordred’s Gate, the crossroads of Blackbriar Forest. It’s only place where the forest canopy parts to allow travelers a safe haven. Legend says it was here that Mordred was hunted down and killed by Sir Percival, the first Gil-Gamesh, to avenge the death of King Arthur.

King’s Crossing — At the edge of Blackbriar Forest, sitting along the Vanir Road (the main thoroughfare through Avalon), King’s Crossing is a simple farming town. The advantage of this thriving community is its location in the heart of Avalon. It’s proximity to Blackbriar Forest make it a meeting place for adventurers seeking riches and reward from the depths of the forest while being a rest stop for those travelling along the Vanir Road.

Hursag — The  ancient home to the Dwarves of the Gilded Halls, Hursag is a mountain containing the riches of all of Avalon. The Dwarves mine everything from gold and gems to steel and coal, bringing up the riches of the mountain for the people of Avalon. The port city of Dvallin sits at the base of the mountain, where ships by both sea and air arrive.

Strongürd Keep —  The home to the Wizard’s Council of Avalon, Strongürd Keep is a single solitary tower. The structure is an imposing tower, surrounded by an impenetrable wall, that stretches to a height nearly 1,000 tall of smooth granite. The keep is immense in stature, with jagged parapets coming out of the tower at indeterminate intervals. Within these walls, the secrets of the magic of Avalon are kept within the hands of those wizards deemed worthy of the knowledge.

Merlin’s Pinnacle — The tallest mountain in all of Avalon, Merlin’s Pinnacle sits at the end of the Fenris Mountain range, separated by the Arkengarth Vale.  The mountain is so named as it is said to be the final resting place of the first wizard of Avalon, Merlin the Magician. It is also home to the Jotunn, the race of giants in Avalon.

Togo — The island of Togo sits just off the east coast of Avalon. This is the home to the descendants of African slaves from a slave ship that crashed into Avalon centuries ago. The slaves rebelled against their masters and took refuge on the island of Togo, not trusting the people of Avalon. They have lived there, isolated for centuries, until the Gil-Gamesh reached out a hand of friendship, wiping away the hatred of the past.

Glennish Hills — The home to the Convent of the Shield Maidens of Avalon. The Shield Maidens are a holy order, created by Queen Guinevere herself, to serve alongside the Knights of the Round Table. They devote themselves to God, to Avalon, and to the knight they fight with, side-by-side. The Lady of the Lake is the patron saint of the order. The Gil-Gamesh brought Sarafina to the convent, where she was trained as a Shield Maiden. Dame Sarafina is now the Headmistress of the Holy Order of Shield Maidens.

New Camelot — The capital city of Avalon, New Camelot is the largest city on the magical island. When Avalon was first founded, New Camelot was the first city established. Over the centuries, the city has grown to a population of more than 10,000 with a diameter of nearly five miles. At the heart of the city is Castle Pendragon, the seat of power when the descendants of King Arthur have ruled since its founding. New Camelot is home to the Knights of the Round Table, the defenders of Avalon. The city itself is protected by the Armiger Corps, knights-in-training who one day hope to join the Round Table.

South Essex — A city of artisans, South Essex had the finest craftsman of all mediums—wood, metalwork, or fabric—as well as exceptional tailors, tinkers, musicians, actors and other tradesmen. It is a city of the best shops you could ever find outside of New Camelot, with the finest restaurants and most entertaining theaters for everyone to experience, from the poor to the rich.

Thank you again Amy Kruzan for your great work in putting my thoughts and ideas of the world of Forever Avalon down on a map for the first time.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse Publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available from Austin Macauley Publishing.