Soar to Forever Avalon with a new book cover

Forever Avalon by Mark Piggott, cover at by Mark Alexander McLish (IG @markmakesart247)

I want to start by saying that I’ve always loved my original cover for Forever Avalon. Since it was first published in 2009, the artwork done for my cover brought my story to life. Seeing the flying ships I dreamed about, which I wrote about in my first fantasy novel, was breathtaking. It made the story real to me.

But since I’ve started attending festivals, conventions, and other book signing events, I realized that my first covers were “cartoony” in their appearance. My wife told me that repeatedly, but I fought her on it. Then, when a few people stopping by my booth wondered if Forever Avalon was a children’s story, I changed my tune. If I’m going to sell my books, it makes it less of a “drawn out” pitch when I don’t have to repeatedly explain that it’s not a children’s book. So, I am happy to reveal my brand new cover for Forever Avalon by artist Mark Alexander McLish.

The cover still evokes my dreams of Avalon . . . the flying airships, the floating dragon island of Emmyr, dragons flying around the sky, and the city of Port Charles inviting the ships into port. It’s a perfect vision for my new cover, and great to debut a new edition of Forever Avalon. Now, it’s available as a hardback novel for purchase. The first book I published is now a hardcover, a paperback, an ebook, and an audiobook. This is so special for me, and it’s amazing to think about where I started and am today.

I really want to thank Mark Alexander McLish for the great cover design. I met Mark through our publisher, Curious Corvid. He is an award-winning novelist and an incredible artist. He not only redesigned my cover for Forever Avalon, but he also did the cover for my new fantasy novella, The River of Souls.

So, you can buy Forever Avalon on Amazon in all four formats or, come out to one of my future events to pick up a SIGNED copy from yours truly. The Williamsburg Book Festival this weekend was postponed due to Hurricane Ian. Keep an eye out on my Events for when they reschedule the festival. If you can make it, I’ll be at the 2nd Sundays Williamsburg Arts and Music Festival on Sunday, October 9, and at the Southern Maryland Comic-Con at the Capital Clubhouse in Waldorf, MD, on Saturday, October 15. I hope to see you there.

In the meantime, get started into your next fantasy book series with a copy of Forever Avalon.

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Mark Piggott is an award-winning independent author of several fantasy/steampunk novels and short stories. A 23-year U.S. Navy veteran, his stories will take you from the shores of eternal Avalon to a dystopian steampunk future and other worlds.

The Forever Avalon fantasy book series—including Forever Avalon, The Dark Tides, and The Outlander War—is available online at Amazon and other booksellers. His fantasy steampunk novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart, is available through Lulu and other booksellers.

Get ready for The River of Souls fantasy novella from Curious Corvid Publishing. Coming in 2023 from Curious Corvid—the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates, and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel. Stay tuned for more new fantastic stories from the imagination of Mark Piggott.

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.

Positive reviews of THE OUTLANDER WAR keep rolling in!

This has been another stellar week for the Forever Avalon series, in particular for The Outlander War: Book 3 of the Forever Avalon series. I received some great reviews and I wanted to share them with all of you!

First is from Jennie Rosenblum at jenniereads.com. Now, Jennie’s from New Jersey, like me, so we have a lot in common. Her website says it all about her as a book reviewer. “This is to answer all those requests for my opinion on books.  I read, I suggest, I review and I BLOG.  My reviews, as you will read, are a little different.  It really irks me to see reviews that are a page summarizing the entire book and then giving very little comments on the book.  My reviews are more along the line of – well written – great characters that seem like real people – plot made sense.  One thing you will not find on my blog is me trashing a book.  Authors work really hard creating their books and I respect their work.  It’s like telling someone their kid is an awful creation – even if he/she is tearing apart your living room – you just don’t use those words.”

She has reviewed the entire Forever Avalon series, and her review of The Outlander War is no exception.

“From the moment I got this book into my hands, I knew the author had upped his game.  The cover is intense and eye-catching.  And then I started to read—–  I have enjoyed this series from the first book.  I would hand it to anyone over the age of 13 that wanted a great adventure, escape, or to travel to another land.  In this, Book 3 – Avalon has entered the real world.  The conflict and discourse of the two worlds were realistically portrayed.  What happens when your world conflicts with another or totally changes, how would you react?  The reader gets to experience several different reactions as well as processes that the characters go through to deal with their new situations. “ — Jennie Rosenblum, jenniereads.com

Next is a young lady going by the name NewBookReviewer from Mumbai, Maharashtra in India.It’s amazing the people you meet on social media. Her Amazon profile says it all about her. “I’m just like any other girl who is trying to be a bibliophile. I love reading books, as I find myself lost in them and I create a whole new world in my head by reading what the Author has described. I think having a hobby helps you to cope with the work and family pressure. I sometimes read just to escape reality. 🙂 I have read many books and most of them had good reviews and it helped me to choose and read them, but recently I came across a new book without any review, at first I was not sure if I should read it or not, but being a book lover you cant really stop your curious self, so I read it and I found myself amazed. The book was great. So after reading it I saw there were many other new books with interesting stories and covers. So I started this blog so that I could post and review about the new books released and motivate the new Authors to write more, as there are some book lovers like me, who value writing and content.”

She reviewed all three books in the Forever Avalon series and I appreciate her kind words and appreciation of my series. It means a lot coming from someone from a different culture and history who recognizes the story behind the myths and legends.

“The story has an amazing start, which starts with a mysteries and attention-grabbing dream and once you read it you will know that you have picked the right book that’s going to be adventurous. The story is filled with a fascinating adventure to a magical island that is shielded from the outside world for 3,000 years frozen in time and space. The book contains from Kings to knights, from magical creatures like elves to dragons, from wizards to dwarves, from adventure to mystery, from action to drama, from suspense to truth the book is a captivating and addictive storyline.”NewBookReviewer.com review of FOREVER AVALON

“The story is continuous of the first book, and the way the author has maintained the flow of the storyline it’s commendable. Author Mark Piggott is a talented writer and you can see his hard work and passion for writing through this series. A truly amazing and must-read book. The highlight of the book is, the grasping storyline, as soon as I was done reading the first book I couldn’t wait to continue reading with the next book. The author has done tremendous work in describing characters, from their feeling to their personalities, every bit of their nature is described in detail and expressed beautifully.” NewBookReviewer.com review of THE DARK TIDES

“The Outlander War is the 3rd book in the Forever Avalon Series written by Mark Piggott and its a series that you will never find anything thing like it. What would you do if you find a magical island that is frozen in time and space for more than 3,000 years and you soon accept it as your new home, but suddenly the real world comes knocking, ready for war; A war is fixed but whose side you will be on? Well, the answer to this is in the book The Outlander War. This is the third book in the Forever Avalon series, that I m reading, and I m just obsessed with the storyline and the expressive writing skills of the author Mark Piggott.” NewBookReviewer.com review of THE OUTLANDER WAR

This is genuinely humbling for me to receive these wonderful accolades and feedback on my novels. It’s expressions like this that make he happy that I chose to be a writer and share all my stories with people. That’s why I am a 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.

Coming soon… The Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series

I am updating my website to include the synopsis of the next book in the Forever Avalon series, The Prometheus Engine.  This is the start of the next and final trilogy in the series, picking up five years after the end of The Outlander War. I will warn you of SPOILERS ahead if you haven’t finished reading The Outlander War. You have been warned…

SPOILERS!

BEWARE! 

SPOILERS!

In 3…

2…

1…

Last chance…

Five years have passed since Avalon suddenly returned to the real world and faced, not only the loss of magic, but an invasion by the modern, technological might of the United States and Russia. It was through the efforts of the Gil-Gamesh, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, Champion and Knight Eternal of Avalon—along with a great sacrifice by the Elves of Alfheimer—that Avalon disappeared once again from the real world, hidden away behind a magical barrier that separated the two. However, that victory came with a great cost.

Avalon was torn asunder, shattered from a giant land mass into an archipelago of islands. It was at this moment of weakness that Mordred, the immortal bastard child of Morgana le Fay, usurped the throne from King Bowen Pendragon, the boy king and rightful ruler of Avalon. With an army of undead wraith knights at his command, and the children of the Lords of Avalon at his side, it was child’s play for Mordred to take the granite throne and become King.

The only thing that stand in his way of total domination were the children of the Gil-Gamesh:  Hunter, Rose and Ashley. Since the death of their father during Avalon’s Reclamation, these three have resisted Mordred’s reign at every turn from their new home in the ruined Elven city of Alfheimer. Along with the Shield Maidens of Avalon and the Hîldrägo Boquè, an elite corps of Elven warriors, they fight to reclaim the throne for King Bowen and restore Avalon to the people.

But even now, Mordred schemes to bring down the resistance through the construction of an ancient magical artifact… The Prometheus Engine. Only the immortal king knows its secrets and the power it will bring him, no matter what the cost. Now, Hunter and his siblings’ race across the archipelago to uncover the secrets of the engine and discover the truth behind Avalon’s Reclamation.

The story continues in THE PROMETHEUS ENGINE: Book 4 of the FOREVER AVALON Series, coming soon!

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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.

Great news on the WAR front!

I have two great bits of news to report this week on The Outlander War: Book 3 of the Forever Avalon Series! This has been one of the best weeks I’ve had as an author and I wanted to share it with you.

The Outlander War completes my first trilogy, the third book in the Forever Avalon series. In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, in the heart of a naval exercise, Avalon suddenly reappeared, causing disruptions on both fronts. The US Navy, now circling the mysterious island, wants answers. The tensions build as modern technology faces off against ancient magic on an island where the laws of magic supersede the laws of science, causing mechanical weapons to falter and shut down.  As military forces continue to surround the mysterious island, bringing both sides to the brink of war, an ancient evil arises from within, one that has been seeking the throne of New Camelot for three millennia.

First up, I did an interview with a wonderful author and podcaster, Segilola Salami of The Segilola Salami Show. Her virtual cafe is always open with tips and advice for authors, book readers and other literary enthusiasts. We talked about the ins and outs of self-publishing, the problems facing an independent author, and my fantasy novels and the myths and legends behind them. It was a great interview, from one side of “the pond” to the other, and I would recommend you checking it out as well as listening her other podcasts! You won’t be disappointed.

book awards author writingSecondly, The Outlander War made the short list (lucky #7) for the 2019 Drunken Druid Book Award from the Emerald Isle of Ireland. The Drunken Druid aims to exhibit, nurture and promote creative people in accordance with the highest professional standards. In 2013, an Awards Program for the best original full-length novel was created to bring recognition to books of up and coming authors. This literary prize is awarded each year for the best original full-length fictional novel. This is a tremendous honor for me and I can’t thank Sara Knight and the entire Drunken Druid staff for considering me for this award.

So, after being stuck indoors for nearly six weeks with just my wife and my dog during a pandemic, worrying about my own future as an author, I’ve had my best week ever. Here’s to hoping that better things yet to come!

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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.

King Arthur is the legend that lives in all of us

“Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesu into another place. And men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the the Holy Cross.”~Sir Thomas Mallory, Le Morte d’Arthur

The legend of King Arthur, Camelot, the Knights of the Round Table, Merlin, Morganna le Fay, the Lady of the Lake and Excalibur… These stories are at the heart of the fantasy genre, the myths and legends we cling to in our stories. It can be found in books, movies, television, comic books, and anime from the United Kingdom, to the U.S., and Japan. The story of honor, courage, magic, and mystery is deep within the psyche of every human being. 

We love the tale of the boy king pulling the sword from the stone; the romantic triangle between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot; the magic of Merlin and Excalibur; and the evil of Morganna le Fay and Mordred. These are legends ingrained in us that, in one way or or another, we can all relate to.

Image result for the sword in the stoneI first learned about the legend of King Arthur as a boy. Like any child of the 60’s and 70’s, it was taught to me through the magic of Disney. The Sword in the Stone (1967) is an animated classic, telling the story of Arthur and Merlin with a witch named Mim thrown in for good measure. It is a fun movie that taught this classic tale to kids like me. 

I think my exposure to the legend of Camelot was first done through movies, classics like Prince Valiant (1954) and Camelot (1967) to Excalibur (1981) and First Knight (1994), even Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). There has been so many re-imagining takes on this timeless story in so many forms. That’s what makes it such an integral part of the fantasy genre.

Image result for saber arthur and mordred fateMost recently, you can find the enigmatic King Arthur, Mordred, Lancelot, and Merlin as “heroic spirits” in the Fate anime series. Arthur and Mordred are gender-swapped as powerful women, both of the “Saber-class” of heroic spirits. Although it was weird at first, they actually kept the legend intact through this twist. The conflict between these two is better explained in this anime than in any other story I’ve read or watched. It’s an amazing conflict that brings out the vulnerabilities in these characters.

I used the legend of King Arthur and Camelot as the basis for the Forever Avalon series. I took the approach of “what happened next” in the story, looking at it from the perspective of our world today. The idea started with a simple question… What happened? What happened to all the magic, the mythical creatures and monsters? Where did it go? Why did it disappear from our world? The answer, in my mind, was Avalon.

Avalon has always been a place of eternal magic that will never die. Sir Thomas Malory, in his fifteenth century epic Le Morte d’Arthur, tells of King Arthur’s final moments. Bedivere took the King upon his back and carried him to the water’s edge, and there was a little barge floating there with many beautiful ladies in it. “Comfort yourself,” said the king, “and do the best you can. I can no longer help you, for I must go into the vale of Avalon to be healed.” Collins English Dictionary defines Avalon as “an island paradise in the western seas” and derives it from the Old Welsh word “Aballon” for Apple.

There are other accounts of Avalon in literature. According to Geoffrey in the Historia, and much subsequent literature which he inspired, Avalon is the place where King Arthur is taken after fighting Mordred at the Battle of Camlann to recover from his wounds. Welsh, Cornish and Breton tradition claimed that Arthur had never really died, but would return to lead his people against their enemies. Historia also states that Avalon is where his sword Excalibur was forged. This is the part of the legend I tapped into to begin my story.

tow ad7But what happens when Avalon is forced back into the modern world of today? You’ll have to read The Outlander War: Book 3 of the Forever Avalon Series to find out!

In the end, it all started with the legend of King Arthur. His story, whether based on fact or fiction, myth or legend, rings true in the mind of a writer like me. It is the stepping stone that brings you into my world. Take the journey and believe in magic again!

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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.

Excerpt from THE OUTLANDER WAR… The Russians are Coming!

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It’s only been a few days since the release of The Outlander War: Book 3 of the FOREVER AVALON Series and I can’t be more excited. I am working diligently to set up some book signings and other events in the next few months, so please stay tuned for more information. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from my fantasy novel, where Russian military decided to invade the magical island to see for themselves what all the fuss is about, and they find themselves quite unwelcome. I hope this excerpt excites you to read The Outlander War, and remember, be kind to an independent author and leave a review! Good or bad, every one helps!

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“Begging your pardon, milord, but Captain McLoughlin requests your presence immediately. We’ve captured some Outlander spies.”

“Where at? Somewhere along the coast?” Bryan asked, as Stephanie got off
his lap.

“No, milord, here on Emmyr.”

Bryan jumped to his feet and followed Amelia, with Stephanie close behind, down to the main hall. Captain McLoughlin and other members of his Dragon Guard surrounded a group of five men, kneeling on the floor with their hands behind their heads. They were dressed in black combat gear with camouflage makeup covering their faces. They varied in height and weight, but all were in excellent physical condition. Bryan knew immediately they were Special Forces, but whose?

The Dragon Guard had spears and swords pointed at the captured men, watching them closely, especially with the Gil-Gamesh and Lady Stephanie present. Rhona walked over to brief Lord MoonDrake on their capture.

“We captured them near the northern ridge of Emmyr, milord,” she stated. “They ran into a group of dragons and when they realised their weapons wouldn’t penetrate a dragon’s hide, they ran toward Port Charles. That’s when we captured them.”

Bryan looked away from the soldiers and began to examine the cache of weapons and equipment Rhona confiscated from them while she continued her briefing. “The only thing I don’t know is how they arrived on Emmyr. They shouldn’t have been able to fly their damn machines past the magical barrier.”

The Gil-Gamesh spied something among the equipment that answered that question. It was a small oxygen tank attached to a hose, but the mask was missing. “Oh, they flew all right, just not in the way we’re used to,” he said. “They did a Halo jump.”

“Halo jump, Gil-Gamesh?” Amelia queried.

“High Altitude Low Opening… Halo,” he explained. “They flew near the island, high in the atmosphere and parachuted down to Emmyr. The mask is missing from his oxygen tank, probably because he had to rip it off as they got close to the island. The pressure valve likely failed once they crossed the magical barrier.

“Send some men further up the mountain, past where you captured them,” Bryan continued. “I’m sure you’ll find some more of them there; probably dead from asphyxiation, am I right?”

Bryan addressed his last remark toward the captured soldiers, but none of them spoke up. They said nothing, just continued to stare straight ahead. While Rhona sent Amelia to relay orders to one of their patrols as to where to search, Bryan picked up one of the weapons to examine the make and model. “An AK-74N…Russian made,” he said, as he took out the magazine and cleared the chamber, ejecting a single round. “Spetsnaz? Am I right, comrade?”

They continued to stay silent, which infuriated Rhona. “Answer the Gil-Gamesh!” she shouted. They remained quiet until one of the men spat on the ground at her feet. Rhona stormed at the man as she drew her sword. She grabbed him by the collar and lifted him in the air with ease, shocking the captured soldiers at her incredible feat of strength. She laid her sword under his chin and across his throat.

“I have killed men for less, dog,” she threatened. She saw fear in his face and watched his blood trickled down her blade, the tip of her sword puncturing his skin, but only just.

“Rhona,” Bryan said. It was all he needed to say. The Captain of the Dragon Guard never removed her gaze from the soldier and slowly lowered him until his feet touched the ground. Once she released him, Bryan stepped up next to Rhona.

“Spetsnaz?” he asked again but the man stayed silent.

“What is Spetsnaz, milord?” Rhona asked.

“Russian Special Forces,” he explained, “cold-blooded assassins as far as I’m concerned, and you don’t come armed to the teeth like this to gather intelligence. So, let’s find out what their mission really was.”

When Bryan said that, the Spetsnaz soldier braced himself, as if he expected to be tortured. “Oh, don’t worry, no one’s going to hurt you,” the Gil-Gamesh assured him. “Your cooperation is guaranteed to be painless.”

With that, the Gil-Gamesh reached out and touched him on his head. Instantaneously, images begin to flood his mind through the dragon sight—an innate ability he possessed that allowed him to see the past, present and even future of someone through touch. Images of the man as a young boy appeared. A father drinking heavily. A father beating the boy with a belt in a drunken tirade. The father being arrested for killing the boy’s mother. The boy being raised by the state. The boy attending a military academy. The boy  excelling in marksmanship and hand-to-hand combat, driven by rage.

As the images got more intense, Bryan concentrated so he could focus on recent events. He saw a briefing by high-level Russian officers being conducted, highlighted by satellite images of Avalon and its position in the Atlantic. Emmyr was pinpointed by the target circles around it. One officer held up a picture of Bryan, taken on the flight deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. He saw flashes of Russian Navy ships coming toward Avalon. He watched as the men loaded into a transport plane, wearing their full jump gear; as the back door of the plane opened, the men jumped out one by one. As they fell through the clouds, Avalon and Emmyr came into view. The soldier suddenly began to gasp for air. He ripped off his mask and took a deep breath just as he opened his chute, before landing hard on the mountainside.

Bryan let go of the Spetsnaz soldier; he had seen enough. The two men shared the images, but the soldier was dazed and confused by the exchange. He breathed heavy as his eyes grew large, unsure of what just happened to him. Bryan saw enough to know what they were doing on Emmyr.

He walked back over to their gear and started rummaging through their bags until he found what he was looking for: a targeting laser for long-range missiles.

“Son of a bitch,” he cursed, “they were going to light us up, paint Emmyr as a target for an enemy attack.”

“You mean laser-guided missiles, like the ones used in Iraq and Afghanistan?” Stephanie asked.

“Exactly, they must not have believed the reports that technology won’t work on Avalon. These men were an advanced team, to provide intelligence to the Russian Navy ships on their way here and, just in case the Russians aren’t happy with negotiations, target us for an attack.”

“How do you know this?” the Russian soldier asked, his thick accent coming through his English.

“Because I was once like you,” Bryan began. “I was a sailor serving my country proudly until fate brought me here to Avalon, but I’m also a knight. I’ve been fighting against the likes of you for all my life and if you think you can come to my home and threaten my people, you are sadly mistaken. Now, you’ll face Avalon justice.”

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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.

THE DARK TIDES “stands on its own” as a fantasy/adventure novel

The Dark Tides has been out for nearly four years, and every time I read a review, it warms my heart that I made the right choice in writing this novel. As the publication of the third book in the Forever Avalon series, The Outlander War, fast approaches, I thought I should share some of the great reviews of my second novel.

“This is the second book in this series and I did not read the first. But this Science Fiction/Fantasy easily stands on its’ own as long as you read the summary too. It has all the things I love in a good book – great characters, even if there are some trolls (literally). A strong morally centered main character, who is loyal to his wife even when separated (just did a little swoon there!) and creative minor story accessories! Those are things like the crossover of the two worlds and conversations about fast food and SpongeBob!

“This is an intense read, long and detailed, but in all the positive ways. The author does a really nice job transferring between worlds and time periods. I would also say that I would be comfortable with high school or above reading this book. If you want to get lost in a book for a while – this is one to jump into.”

— Jennie Rosenblum, 4 Stars (Goodreads)

Not everything was perfect, and I love the constructive criticism I find in reviews. It makes me a better author.

“This is an epic fantasy adventure that can be read as a stand alone book, even though it is a follow on book. This book goes into full detail about everything that happens in book one. This story is like reading two different books at the same time. In part we learn about Bryan’s life in medieval Avalon when he was separated from his family. We also then have the modern day story about how Bryan’s family are now doing since joining him in Avalon.

“With a mixture of magic, fantasy and lots of imagination, we see the dark forces rising in Avalon to fulfill a prophecy. They want to bring back and resurrect Morgana le Fay, a very powerful sorceress from the past. If they succeed, she will be able to unleash the Dark Tides to cause destruction so big. It would change the whole of Avalon forever.”

— Nikki Bywater, 3 Stars (Goodreads)

I will admit, though… When you get a 5 STAR review, it does warm the heart and make me feel good about what I’ve written.

“What a brilliant and fresh idea, bringing the Bermuda Triangle into a land of fantasy! I love the characters, especially the Gil-Gamesh, The invention of this whole new world is just amazing, My only fault really is that it’s a bit too long, it would have been a bit better if it was in two parts. It’s a book for children and adults alike, anyone who enjoys fantasy, with goblins, elves and dwarve, etc…. especially if you like ‘Lord of the Rings’, you will love this!”

— Caroline Jenkins, 5 Stars (Goodreads)

“The Dark Tides is the first fantasy book I have ever read, and I will certainly be reading more. The author sets out the scene for the upcoming conflict very well and creates a very rich and interesting lore filled with customs and traditions. It is fascinating to hear the history of Avalon and it’s characters, and each one is well developed with great personalities. I found this book immersive and exciting. Brilliant.”

— Christopher Pullin, 5 Stars (Goodreads)

So, my point of all of this is a shout out to people who read books, especially those by independent authors like myself. Leave a review and help up and coming authors like myself. Just writing a couple of sentences and clicking on a however many stars you want to leave helps. Good or bad, it’s the kind of feedback we need to help us in our journey as an author. Thanks for your support!

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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 coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Enter the half-demon named Abdel Ben Faust: An excerpt from THE OUTLANDER WAR

0e03a44Whenever you’re writing a story, you always need a good villain. Villains are the bane of your heroes existence. In fantasy, a good villain is usually a powerful warlord, an evil sorcerer or sorceress, or maybe a grotesque creature. In the case of Abdel Ben Faust, it’s a little bit of everything. He’s a half-demon and a master swordsman, the perfect killing machine, available for the right price.

You’ll meet Faust in the third book of the Forever Avalon series, The Outlander War. It’s currently available for preview at Inkitt.com as part of their “Story Peak” novel contest, where three manuscripts will be selected for publication if it gets more than 100 people reading the book. Yes, sorry for the shameless plug but a writers’ gotta do what a writers’ gotta do.

Faust has everything a writer looks for in a villain:  Strength, guile, intelligence and no morals whatsoever. He’s a perfect sociopath who thinks only about himself and his needs. I think of him like a Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy, killing without remorse. You can relate to his heritage and his upbringing as the cause for his apathy, but to me, he made that choice all on his own.

I created Abdel Ben Faust from a character I once created in my early days of binge-playing Dungeons and Dragons during my misspent youth. He was a half-orc fighter with (natural rolled) 18/00 strength. I haven’t introduced Orcs in Forever Avalon yet, so instead, I made him a half-demon. His heritage plays a major role in The Outlander War. For now, I wanted to give you a glimpse into the pure evil by introducing Abdel Ben Faust to you.

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On Avalon, South Essex was known as a city of artisans. The finest craftsman could be found in South Essex of all mediums—wood, metalwork or canvas—as well as exceptional tailors, tinkers, and tradesmen. It was a town full of the finest shops you could ever find outside of New Camelot.

The Black Swan was one of the most reputable taverns in South Essex, with the finest wine and spirits in all of New Camelot. The food at the Black Swan also had a reputation for being the best served in all Avalon. But even the best places can attract some unsavory characters.

Inside, the tavern was brightly lit with the glow of candlelight and roaring fires. The rooms were decorated in the finest silk drapes and tapestries of red and black. The décor epitomized the name of the tavern as swans could be seen represented in various shapes and sizes from statues to wall sconces.

While the rest of the tavern was crowded, as usual, the back of the room was empty, except for one guest. The owner did this at the request of the guest but also so his other patrons wouldn’t be subjected to his company.

He sat alone with his back to the wall, gorging himself on rare roasted beef and bottles of 500-year-old Aldinian Whiskey. He appreciated spirits, especially rare ones, and he always came to the Black Swan whenever he was in town because they always carried the best.

His name was Abdel Ben Faust, a mercenary by trade and considered by many as the finest swordsman on Avalon. His long black hair was pulled back tightly in a ponytail, exposing his pointed ears and long face. A scar ran from his left temple, across his nose, and down his right cheek … A reminder of being cut from his mother’s womb. His mustache was long and thin, hanging down below his chin, but that was where his true heritage showed through.

His skin was reddish-brown and, from his chin, grew horns that resembled a goatee, twisted like braided hair. Abdel Ben Faust was a half-demon, the son of a witch and an Incubus, conceived during a blood moon in a magical ritual. His mother died while giving birth to him. He had to be cut from her womb by the same clerics that killed his demon father.

Faust was raised a slave, tormented regularly for his demonic form, but in his torment grew strength and resolve. He molded himself from slave to warrior, becoming a master swordsman, available to the highest bidder.

He has avoided conflict with the Gil-Gamesh since his return to Avalon thanks to an innate ability from his demonic lineage. Faust can conjure “demon holes” to move from place-to-place, unseen. Demon holes were doorways of black smoke, fire, and brimstone. Only binding him in iron chains prevented him from using his power.

Faust came to South Essex to indulge his tastes while the Gil-Gamesh and the rest of the Knights of the Round Table moved to the coast to protect Avalon from the Outlanders. He knew there would be no trouble coming to the Black Swan and drinking his fill before moving on to his next job.

The curtain to the back room was pulled aside as young Finnick Devereaux, son of the Earl of South Essex, Sir Robert Devereaux, stepped in. The young man was nearly 50, young for a noble of Avalon. His dirty blonde hair, dashing good looks and fine clothes endeared his upright lineage. He pulled a handkerchief from his inside pocket and waved it in front of his face as he tried to dispel the stench coming from Faust.

“He is here milord, just as I said,” Finnick said to someone behind the curtain. A robed, hooded figure stepped through, walking right past the young noble.

“Good … Leave us Finnick, and make sure we are not disturbed,” the hooded figure said.

“Are you sure you want to do this milord?” Finnick asked. “The last man who interrupted Abdel Ben Faust while he was eating had his head chopped off and tossed into a stew pot.”

“Not worry, I’ve come bearing gifts,” he said as pulled a bottle from out of robe pocket. Finnick just bowed and left the room, closing the drapes behind him.

The stranger walked up to Abdel’s table but stopped when he drew his sword as he chugged down the last of the whiskey, resting his blade across the table. It was a broad sword, nearly four feet long, with a jagged edge etched along the top edge of the blade. Wisps of smoke rose up from the sword, as if it was burning, as the runes etched on the blade glowed softly. This was Deathsong, a cursed blade that only Abdel Ben Faust could wield and he did so very well.

“I’d think twice before sitting down,” Faust warned as he finished his drink. The stranger just placed the bottle down in front of him. Faust dropped his own bottle to examine the gift.

“Can it be?” he exclaimed. “Panaque, distilled from the vines of the dryads of Meliai, over 4,000 years old!” He popped the cork and smelled the delicate bouquet of the fine spirit. He looked up at the stranger and nodded his head to the chair in front of him. The hooded figure sat down as Faust sheathed his sword and poured himself a drink.

“So to what do I owe this honor and who do I have to kill to keep this bottle?” he asked as he took a sip of the delicious liquid.

“The bottle is yours, Abdel Ben Faust, a gift for listening to what I have to say,” he began. “But first, I have a question for you. Last year, when Morgana le Fay was resurrected, why were you not part of her forces at the Battle of Idlehorn Mountain? Surely a swordsman of your caliber could have turned the tide in her favor.”

Faust seemed to be insulted by the stranger’s accusation but took it in stride for the moment. “Her cause was lost from the moment she began,” he scoffed as he took another sip.

The hooded man seemed irritated by his answer but just sat back and listened. “Why do you say that?”

“Because she let the Gil-Gamesh live,” he answered. “You don’t give someone like the Gil-Gamesh any glimmer of hope. She should have killed him when she had the chance. That’s always been the problem with despots like Kraven Darkholm and Morgana le Fay. They want that power but they want to gloat about it in the process. That’s what got them killed.

“I don’t side with losing causes,” he concluded as he downed the last of his drink. “I’ve answered your question, now you answer mine … What do you want?”

“I want you to lead an army to take Avalon out of the grips of the Pendragon’s and the Gil-Gamesh,” the stranger said without skipping a beat.

Faust just laughed under his breath. “Well if you wait long enough, the damn Outlanders with all their technological weapons will do it for you.”

“Oh, I doubt that,” the stranger impugned. “If the Gil-Gamesh is as resourceful as you say, then all I have to do is wait until he restores Avalon as it was before, hidden from the outside world. Then, we tear Avalon apart, taking the throne and killing him in the process.”

Faust was not convinced by the hooded stranger’s plan. He laughed again as he poured himself another drink. “Well in the first place, you’d need an army at least 10,000 strong,” Faust calculated. “Hell, the goblins don’t even have half that number anymore, and the trolls are all whipped lackeys for that Shield Maiden now. So where is this army you speak of?”

The stranger reached into his robe and pulled out the ruby amulet, still glowing from the strong magic’s imbued within. Faust just looked at the amulet, unfazed and uncaring. “What’s that supposed to be?” he asked.

“The key to controlling the most powerful army in creation, the Wraith Legion of Purgatory!” Abdel Ben Faust was stunned, aghast at the stranger’s claim. The Wraith Legion was an army of fallen knights, trapped in purgatory because of some dishonor or shame that fell upon them in life. They served a penance, keeping the demons of the underworld in check until, one day, they’ve earned their place in Heaven.

“No one can control the Wraith Legion. It’s impossible,” he exclaimed.

“You can with this,” the stranger said, dangling the amulet. “With this amulet, they will follow your every command. You will be their General, Abdel Ben Faust, and you will conquer Avalon for me.

“In return, I will give you the Twin Swords of the Dragon Moon as payment, for your collection.”

It is known that Abdel Ben Faust has, over time, collected the sword or weapon of every knight, every warrior and every monster he ever bested in battle. He kept his collection hidden from prying eyes. He liked to savor each and every victory by looking at the weapons of his fallen enemies hanging on the walls of his vault. Adding the swords of the Gil-Gamesh would be the centerpiece of his collection.

The stranger had intrigued Faust with his offerings but wasn’t convinced completely just yet. He needed to know something more. “Who are you?” he asked.

The hooded figure stood up and peeled back his hood, revealing his face to Faust. The half-demon was stunned as he recognized the face almost immediately. “You? But that’s impossible, you’ve been dead for centuries, millennia even! It can’t be you!”

The stranger pulled the hood back over his head and sat back down. “I assure you, it is me, Abdel Ben Faust. I have many machinations at work, but I need a general to lead my army. You are the one man I can entrust with this task because I know that you will only accept my offer if you believe it can succeed.

“So will you, will you join me?” he asked. Faust sat there, stroking his chin, contemplating all the stranger has offered him. After a few moments, he raised his glass to him.

“When do we get started?”

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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 andiUniverse.The Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

Why is the King Arthur legend timeless and why do we care?

king-arthur-tapestryThe story of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, Merlin, Guinevere, and Excalibur are timeless reminders of a world lost in time. Goodreads shows more than 720 assorted novels based on the Arthurian legend, including my own, Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides. This doesn’t include a hundred or so plays, operas, comic books, films and television series based on the legend.

The question remains as to why the story of King Arthur still resonates today? Winston Churchill said, “It is all true, or it ought to be; and more and better besides.” That’s how many of us feel when we read or watch something based on the legend of King Arthur. He wasn’t just a story, he was a man who brought us the code of chivalry, united a kingdom and marched toward a new beginning.

There are many things that point toward the fact that King Arthur was a real person, not just a legendary figure. Archeologists recently discovered what they believe is the round table mentioned in the mythos. There is even a website dedicated to listing dozens of artifacts with some history related to the Arthurian legend. And let us not forget that the monks of Glastonbury Abbey are said to have discovered the remains of Arthur and Guinevere in the churchyard of St. Dunstan in Glastonbury.

Many believe in the legend of King Arthur so much that they believe he will one day return to lead England. Thomas Mallory wrote in Le Morte d’Arthur that, “Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesus into another place; and men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the holy cross.” All of this just adds more credence to the mythos of King Arthur.

So what do we know?The first mention of King Arthur is in the History of the Britons, penned in 830, and attributed to an author called Nennius. A more elaborate tale of King Arthur came about in the 11th century when Geoffrey of Monmouth published his book The History of the Kings of Britain. Arthur’s entire life is outlined for the first time in this work, right from his birth at Tintagel, to his death, and the legendary figures of Guinevere and Merlin are introduced.

The consensus is that Arthur probably did exist, either as an individual or a composite of several others. Many of the Dark Age heroes were real men upon whom mythical talent and position were often thrust by storytellers. So there is a possibility that Arthur was a Celtic warrior from which the rest of the mythology was formed.

These are just a few examples of the combination of fact and fiction that molded the legend of King Arthur as we know it today. It is that unknown factor that makes this legend so memorable to many and inspires writers like myself. The legend of King Arthur is just the beginning of a story yet to be told. It is as immortal as the man himself.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Forever 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.