What do you do when you wake up in the middle of the night with a story idea?

frustration_zpsde5ab9fdDon’t you hate it when you wake up in the middle of the night, from a vivid dream or something else, and you have the next idea for the book you’re currently writing? As much as I love it when that instantaneous idea of genius hits me; after I wake up, it’s so hard to go back to sleep. I have to write it down before I forget it, or it will rumble around in my head, keeping me awake even longer. That’s the problem you run into as a writer… A lot of sleepless nights. The question is, do I ignore those late night inspirations for the sake of sleep?

Author and writing mentor Tom Bird writes, “Writing should be a comprehensive and holistic support system that opens participants to a free-flowing mental, physical, emotional and spiritual state.” I totally agree with that, but it’s kind of hard to be inspired at 2:00 a.m. after waking up from a wicked dream.

I find that inspiration is something that comes at a moments notice, whether from a dream or maybe something that pops into your head while out on a walk. For example, I was walking my dog the other night, thinking about the chapter I currently writing in my next book of the Forever Avalon series, The Prometheus Engine. I’ve been stuck at this one part when it suddenly hit me, as clear as day.

You see, I’ve been working on creating a new type of mage, a fighting mage called the Magus. These wizards are not worried about studying magic or understanding the philosophy of magic; but rather, they use their skills to fight and protect other wizards. Think of them as a magical Praetorian Guard. Their focus is on attack and defense. They are the warrior class of mages.

The problem is, I needed a way for the Magus to carry a variety of magical weapons at their disposal without looking like an overzealous, overburdened fighter. You see, to me, the Magus focus their magic on weapons, not wands and staffs, so they learn about the art of war like a mixed martial artist. Then I had this wonderful idea for a pauldron–a shoulder plate armor piece–that extended down a Magus’ arm into a gauntlet. Each piece in the armor would be storage for a different magical weapon. So a young Magus might have one or two weapons while a more powerful Magus could have 10 or more. All a Magus had to do was cast a summoning spell to bring out the weapon.

All this came to me while walking my dog. That’s what I love about being a writer. Inspiration hits me at different times and it makes writing so much more fun than I could imagine. It just takes a moment for that spark of imagination to ignite inside me.

It’s those late night, interactive, rolling movie set of a dream that keeps me awake all night sometimes. I have a dream where an idea for another part of my book hits me. I wake up and realize, “that’s what I’ve been looking for!” But now that I know what I’m going to do, I can’t stop thinking about it. It just goes on and on, like a multi-part mini-series spread over two weeks inside my head. No matter how hard I try, I can’t go back to sleep. It’s frustrating, especially when I have to get up for work the next morning.

So what do I do? I usually write it down. I find that writing down these bursts of imagination helps me go back to sleep. Normally, I’d say keep a pen and paper close by, but my Galaxy Note smartphone has a great note taking function that lets me jot down ideas, but to each his own. I still have trouble going back to sleep, but that’s okay. As long as I got the idea written down, it’s worth it.

So remember these words when you have those moments of instant clarity and inspiration that keep you up at night.

“The power of a writer is that he is a god of sorts. He can create his own worlds and populate them with his own people, all by the powers of his imagination. It’s the closest a man can come close to the gods. No wonder the most successful writers are considered immortals.” ― Bangambiki Habyarimana

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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.


Self publishing gives an author hope of being discovered and hitting it big

2016-07-25-21-06-14-writingHope…It’s a word associated with many things, like Star Wars, President Obama, and the first game of your favorite sports team’s season. Hope is a part of faith, family, and charity. This past week, watching the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey filled me with hope for humanity as I watched people helping others without thought of their own safety.

Hope is a big word that fills all our lives on a daily basis; but for an author like myself, hope is what makes us go on. After I finished my first novel, Forever Avalon, in 2007, my hope was to get it published and become a famous writer. I bought a book listing publishers and mailed out my manuscript. I received plenty of rejection letters, sometimes none at all. My hope was fading fast.

Then I received a phone call from a small publishing company, Rock Publishing, who offered to publish my book for a small fee. Now, at the time, I didn’t know what self-publishing was. I thought this was someone truly interested in me a writer and the small fee ($1,200) was because I was a new, untested author. How wrong I was…

The word “vanity publisher” was another way of describing self-publishing houses. It’s an appropriate word, preying on the “vanity” of the authors to be published. It’s true, though, as I was filled with pride, completely overjoyed at seeing my name on a book I could hold in my hands. I didn’t care about the cost. It was worth it.

The problem was in the writing. Most vanity publishers aren’t concerned if your book has been edited, polished, and thoroughly vetted, unless you pay for it that is. That’s the thing with self-publishing–you pay for everything you need from your publisher,including marketing, cover and interior art, editing, etc. I received more editing from my mother than I did my first publisher, and she gave me edits after it was already published.

My second book, The Dark Tides, was published through iUniverse publishing company. They gave me tons of support and wonderful customer service, for a higher price than my first. I paid even more for editing, marketing, special events, and artwork. Even with the higher cost, the results were similar to my first book. This would tell you that maybe writing isn’t your thing, that your stories are not what people are looking for, and yet I continue to write.

As an author who self publishes, you rely on yourself for everything from marketing, social media, setting up book signing events, all the while your working on your next story. It can be a frantic existence for any author, but we continue to strive on with that little bit of hope.

Self-publishing has its ups and downs, good and bad experiences for any independent author. Others would give up with little to no success, but I just can’t do it. Why is that? Is it vanity or something more? Its not vanity, its hope. Through it all, I still have that little bit of hope deep inside. I’m in the process of editing my third book and already started working on the fourth. That’s what it means to be an author, filled with hope in the spirit that one day your work will be recognized. “Never give up, never surrender!”

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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, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.


What I learned at Pitchfest “book-to-movie” 2015 in New York City


I had the honor of attending Pitchfest this past weekend in New York City. Pitchfest was a book-to-screen seminar where independent, self-published authors like myself were taught how to turn our novels into a two minute pitch and then pitch that idea to studio/production representatives from movies and television.

The event was hosted by Author Solutions, a company that provides services to self-published authors. They saw a need in Hollywood for the myriad of ideas from independent authors that was virtually unknown to them. That’s why they put together their first Pitchfest. Since then, they’ve done these bi-annually to get authors that two minute chance to sell their book idea to the silver screen.

With the expanding television audiences emerging from small, online production companies associated with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, the need for new ideas is paramount. The guest speaker, Bob Kosberg, is known as the “King of the Pitch” and he was an honor to learn the business from him.

One of the most influential quotes he told us was by former Disney CEO, Jeffrey Katzenberg. “I the dizzying world of movie making, there is one fundamental concept … The idea is King!” That said, everyone has an idea or concept, but making it into a compelling story is what makes the pitch.

You start off with the set-up, putting your ideas to a particular genre, comparing it to other stories out there, like “this is Alice in Wonderland but set on Mars.” Then you go into the inciting action, what gets the ball rolling in your story, followed by an introduction of your main character. Here is where you being to really sell the idea.

Lastly, you have to lay out what’s at stake and then resolve the plot. All of this I two minutes, and they do mean two minutes.

We were put in what can only be described as “speed dating” as we walked into a room with several tables with one-to-two reps per table. One we sat down, the two minutes began and you started your pitch. At two minutes, the buzzer sounded and you shifted to the next table on the right. You had maybe a couple of seconds to finish your last few words, but then it was on to the next. You got up and shifted to the right, starting your pitch all over again to another pair of reps. This process continued until you end right back where you started from.

By the fourth pitch, my mouth was so dry I could barely speak, but I pushed on until I was done. It took less that 15 minutes but I made all my pitches. I’ll find out in a few weeks whether or not any of the reps want a copy of my book, then it’s really a waiting game from there.

As Keith Ogorek, Author Solutions Senior VP for Marketing, explained that the process was not a quick one. If a production company wants to option a story, they’ll pay an author between $500-$1500 to reserve the rights for a year to 18 months while they start developing the concept. Authors can offer to help by writing the screenplay or just wait until the project fully develops. It can take anywhere from 3-5 years or more for a project to culminate in a finished movie or television show.

A great example he gave was the novel Still Alice by Lisa Genova. It was self-published in 2006 through iUniverse. It was opted for the screen and was finally released in 2014 starring Julianne Moore (Hunger Games movies, Hannibal, Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World) for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

I had a blast learning so much about the movie business, but more importantly, how to condense my novels in the Forever Avalon series into a two minute pitch. Why two minutes? It’s the average time spent in an elevator. So if you walk in an elevator with Steven Spielberg, you have your pitch ready to go. After all, it only takes one idea to make movie magic.

Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.