Exploring the mind of a writer is a lot like spelunking

img_7945I saw a great quote from Victor Hugo on Facebook the other day. He said, “A writer is a world trapped in a person.” That’s so true, especially for those of us who write science fiction and fantasy. The world we create in our stories began inside us. You have to dive deep into that world to find all the different facets of what you create. Like spelunking, you never know what you’re going to find.

A writer puts everything he or she is into the story, put together bit by bit from the recesses of their mind. It may take years to develop a story, sometimes less and sometimes more. For me, it all began with a friendly game of Dungeons and Dragons combined with more than 10 years of sea duty in the U.S. Navy.

I’ve told you all before how, during my formative years as a young sailor in the U.S. Navy, I spent most of my off-duty hours with a small group of friends playing D&D to kill time on our long deployments at sea. This led to dreams of me and my family living on a magical island filled with everything from medieval fantasy. It was from those dreams that I created the world of Forever Avalon.

I found it quite easy to translate my skills as a D&D “Dungeonmaster” into creating my story. Actually, it’s a very similar trait, except for the grammar and spelling. My story even started out the same way as it began, with a dream.

***

The dream … It’s always the same.

Bryan, my husband, was dressed like a medieval knight. He’s in a fierce battle, fighting for his life. Monsters, goblins I think, swarmed around him like angry bees. He fought them off with a fury I’d never seen before. He wielded two swords—one blade was black as night, the other shined like
the sun.

The numbers were too great for him and one of the goblins got through. The creature jumped on his back and stabbed him through the heart with a dagger. He screamed in agony. I felt his pain. He fell to the ground as they continued to beat down on him until he disappeared in a sea of monsters.

I wake up screaming. It’s always the same.

***

It’s funny how something as simple as a dream can grow into a world all its own. This kind of creativity comes about in so many different ways. Ray Bradbury said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” I find this absolutely true. Whether it’s a blog post, a simple tweet or a few pages of my next novel, If I don’t write something every day, I start to get a little stir crazy.

Writing is that form of expression that helps us through the best and worst of times. Writing is an escape from the real world into that place we created within our mind. I go there every chance I get and, through writing, try to bring as many people as I can with me. Why don’t you come in and join in on the adventure? What have you got to lose?

***

51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed atInkitt.

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.

***

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?”

***

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.

Dragons and F-18 Hornets don’t fly well together – An excerpt from “The Outlander War”

flying_ship_by_derricksong-d7hh12u (900x505)

The Outlander War: Book Three of the Forever Avalon series

The concept behind my third book in the Forever Avalon series, The Outlander War, is magic and technology crossing paths. I really wanted to explore what would happen if magic somehow returned to the real world. A part of that too is the age-old question of which is more powerful of the two … Technology or magic.

I began to dabble into this in a “steampunk” sort of way in my second book, The Dark Tides, with the creation of GunStars and Lancers, weapons that fired magical/alchemical munitions called “spellshots” from their barrels. However, in The Outlander War, we get modern warfare versus medieval might as the Gil-Gamesh and the forces of Avalon brace for a possible attack by the United States Navy.

Here is an excerpt that demonstrates what happens when machines and magic collide, literally.

***

Soaring the skies around Emmyr was what Rose loved to do best. When she was up there, flying on the back her dragon, Dee Dee, she was in Heaven. Dee Dee was her best friend, ever since she rescued her in the cave-in when Dee Dee was just a baby dragon. Since then, they formed a bond stronger than any magic in all of Avalon.

Rose could fly to the ends of the Earth on Dee Dee and that still wouldn’t be far enough. The only exception was when she was flying with Edan, her one true love. That was when she had the two things she loved in most life all at once.

Unfortunately, she was flying around Emmyr with her brother, Hunter, and he was never fun to be with. In her estimation, Hunter got a real “stick up his butt” ever since he became a knight. She always felt he acted all “superior” over her and Ashley, as the heir apparent to the Gil-Gamesh.

What made it worse was he became the consort to Queen Cadhla and, together, they had a son, Bowen. Not only is he father to the King of Avalon, he gave Bryan and Stephanie their first grandchild. He always had to “one-up” them, or so she thought.

Hunter flew next to her on Tabby, a hybrid dragon called a Wyvern. Unlike its dragon cousins, Tabby didn’t have forearms, only wings, plus her wings were feathered and much larger than that of a dragon. He kept his head on a swivel, his eyes focused on the island and the fleet just off the coast of Avalon.

Rose, on the other hand, was enjoying the sunset, and Hunter noticed that she wasn’t doing what their father had asked. “Rose, keep your eyes on Emmyr or the ships, not the sunset,” he shouted at his sister.

“Oh give it a rest Hunter,” she snapped back at him. “We’ve been out here all day and it’s still the same … Emmyr is slowly breaking into pieces and the jerks are still out there on their ships.”

“That could change at a moment’s notice, you have to be more attentive on a mission like this,” he tried to assert the urgency in her.

“Listen to me, Sir Hunter, you’re not in New Camelot right now,” Rose snapped at him. “You’re in my domain and here, nothing can compare to the wingbeat of a dragon in the skies over Avalon.”

Suddenly, a loud roaring sound started building from behind them. Hunter and Rose turned to see two U.S. Navy fighter jets heading right toward them, catching them both off guard.

“Except for maybe two U.S. Navy F-18 Hornets barreling right at us at supersonic speeds!” Hunter warned.

“How can they be so close to Avalon?” she asked. “They’re going to fly right over Emmyr!”

“I told you the magical barrier was rescinding or didn’t you believe Dad’s warning this morning?”

If Rose could reach her brother right now, she’d smack him in the head; but her bigger concern was the approaching jets. “How fast do you think they’re going?”

“Supersonic, close to 700 miles per hour, why?”

“Because their backwash is going to play Hell with the air currents were gliding through,” she surmised. “We need to move away from Emmyr or they’re gonna throw us right into the rocks!”

“How do you know that?” Hunter asked with a tone of utter disbelief.

“Hunter, for once in your miserable life, will you please trust me! I’ve been flying around here long enough to know what changing winds patterns can do to a dragon’s flight.”

Hunter could see the seriousness in his sister’s eyes so he took her word for it. “Okay sis, you lead, I’ll follow!”

Rose spurred Dee Dee on as Hunter got in right behind her. She started taking them away from Emmyr, but a sudden updraft lifted them higher than she wanted. That’s when a disaster happened.

The first F-18 zoomed past them at supersonic speed, causing a wicked downdraft and a swirling mass of turbulence. Rose was rocked by the force of the winds, but her experience on a dragon kept her in control. Hunter, however, wasn’t as lucky. Due to her large wings, the turbulence spun Tabby into an upward spin. She flew right into the underside of the second F-18 Hornet, knocking Hunter from the bridle.

He fell down toward the ocean, unconscious from the impact. As the aircraft collided into Emmyr, exploding on contact, Rose took Dee Dee and dove for Hunter. “Come on girl, we gotta catch him!” she spurred her on with fear-laden urgency in her voice.

Dee Dee pulled her wings in tight, for a faster dive, as the dragon tried to reach Hunter before he hit the ocean below. “Reach for him Dee! Reach for him!” Rose shouted, pleading with her dragon to save her brother.

Dee Dee reached out with its claws and grabbed Hunter in the nick of time, as Rose leaned back to help her pull up from the dive, rising in the air back toward Avalon. Rose looked down at her brother, looking for any signs of life. “Hunter! Hunter!” she screamed. “Dammit ‘momma’s boy’ answer me!”

Hunter began to stir, as he rubbed his head. “Don’t call me momma’s boy, ‘Pez Head!’” he moaned as he tried to shake out the cobwebs. Rose couldn’t help but laugh, happy to see that he brother was alright.

Her concern grew again when she heard another explosion as the wreckage of the Navy aircraft fell into the water below. Tabby was falling right with it, killed on impact with the supersonic jet. This wasn’t going to help things, Rose thought to herself. In fact, she knew it would only make it worse.

***

You can read more of The Outlander War and vote to have it published as part of Inkitt.com “Grand Novel” contest. Click here for a free preview and please VOTE!

The best wisdom to navigate through life comes from authors

145805516-fantasy_20quotes_20philosophy_20game_20of_20thrones_20tv_20series_20arya_20stark_20hbo_201920x1200_20wallpaper_www_wall321_com_73“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.”  That’s from Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. That’s just one constant you can always find throughout literature, words to live by and wisdom to navigate through the rivers of self-doubt. As authors, we represent the struggles of not only our own lives but that of the world events happening around us. Authors want to instill hope, courage, determination and justice in the words we right.

How we deal with death was beautifully written in Games of Thrones by Geroge R. R. Martin. “There is only one God and his name is death. And there is only one thing we say to death … Not today!”


“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as great and sudden change.” Mary Shelley, Frankenstein


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy teaches us that, “It is much better to do good in a way that no one knows anything about it.” Parse that with a quote from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, “Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”

There are thousands of inspirational and life-changing words throughout literature, from The Bible to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or even The Shining. Please, don’t misunderstand me, I am not comparing something as powerful as the word of God to a gothic horror classic. What I am trying to say is, there are words to inspire us in all facets of literature.

The inner demons of self-worth from Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island come out, where he wrote, “It is a great misfortune to be alone, my friends; and it must be believed that solitude can quickly destroy reason.”  The same can be said for The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”


“We need never be ashamed of our tears.” Charles Dickens, Great Expectations


An examination of the human psyche has always been an essential part of literature. From The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde wrote, “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Even Richard Yates in Revolutionary Road looked into the mind’s eye when he wrote, “No one forgets the truth, they just get better at lying.”

How we spend our days is also a theme carried throughout books. P.D. James in The Children of Men wrote, “We can experience nothing but the present moment, live in no other second of time, and to understand this is as close as we can get to eternal life.” Roald Dahl wrote in The Witches, “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.”

There are hundreds more that many of us know and use as guiding posts through life. What’s your favorite quote from a book? Please let me know, I’d love to read about it and more. I’d like to leave you with a quote from my own “soon to be published” novel, The Outlander War: Book Three of the Forever Avalon Series. I am, by no means, comparing myself to the great authors represented here. I just wanted to show how my own personal inspiration, my family, comes through in my writing. I hope it can inspire you too.


“When you feel the sunlight warming your face, that’s me looking at you. When the wind blows through your hair, that’s me touching you.

“And when the rain falls on your lips, that’s me kissing you!”


Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse. The Outlander War can be viewed at Inkitt and cast your vote to get it published.

One line can make any story memorable

blade-runner_55553“All those moments will be lost in time…like tears in rain. Time to die.”

That’s a line from one of my favorite sci-fi movies, Blade Runner, as said by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer). The words resonate with me as do many lines from a movie or a book. You may not remember the entire story, but that one line can stick with you forever, like a song stuck in your head.

That’s the great thing about movie quotes. You may not read a book over and over again, but a movie you’ll watch time-and-time again. It’s what drives them into our psyche. Everyone remembers the obvious ones like “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” from Gone with the Wind or “There’s no place like home” from The Wizard of Oz.

But I like those obscure movie quotes. The ones with life lessons packed into a single sentence. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“The dead know only one thing, it is better to be alive.” — Full Metal Jacket (1987)

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it, always.” — Gandhi (1982)

“Never apologize, mister, it’s a sign of weakness.” — She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

“A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” — The Godfather (1972)

“There are many things my father taught me here in this room. He taught me, ‘keep your friends close, but your enemies closer’.” — The Godfather, Part II (1974)

“Anything can be great. I don’t care, bricklaying can be great, if a guy knows — if he knows what he’s doing and why, and he can make it come off.” — The Hustler (1961)

“Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (2011)

“You got a dream, you gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you, you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.” — The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

“Power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don’t.” — Schindler’s List (1993)

“Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.” — V for Vendetta (2005)

“ou must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free except the grace of God.” — True Grit (1969)

“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” — Dead Poet’s Society (1989)

There is something about movies that inspire us. Now, I’m not saying that one line can make or break a movie or novel. It’s not just one line or some scene, but the combination of writing, acting, and directing that makes it memorable. When I think about Blade Runner, I think about the striking visuals of the future, the gritty performances by Rutger Hauer and Harrison Ford, the haunting music by Vangelis and the incredible story written by author Philip K. Dick.

If you can find that one line and put it into your next book or film, who knows … It may make someone’s favorite list in the future. For now, I’ll toss mine out there for your consideration.

51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“Love has a magic all unto itself. The connection between you and your husband is undeniable and unbreakable. Not even Death could sunder the ties that bind you and the Gil-Gamesh.” — Lady Lyllodoria, Forever Avalon

Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

When part of a story just doesn’t work – A deleted excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

goblins_by_daroz-d5bww72When your writing a story, sometimes it can just get away from you. That’s what happened to me when I wrote my first draft of The Dark Tides. It really got away from me to the tune of 228,000 words. It was way too long and it took me months to edit it down to the still unimaginable 190,000 words.

As a writer, you sometimes state the obvious and sometimes you take really long stating the obvious. Here is a deleted excerpt from The Dark Tides to shed some light on how hard it is to edit what some writers consider their “baby” and don’t want to make another cut.

***

“Has any human ever been to see the Goblin King?” Bryan asked Eonis.

“No, never; not unless they were dinner,” Dinius quipped. “And I mean the meal, not as guests.”

Bryan gulped and wondered if he’d bitten off more than he can chew. He moved in close behind Ragnar as the other goblins closed ranks around him. They started their march through the dark, dank woods towards Idlehorn Mountain. They walked in silence, not a sound from the goblins or Bryan except for the rustling of the leaves beneath their feet.

After nearly an hour of forced march, they reached the base of Idlehorn Mountain. Bryan looked up at the jagged peak. It was an ominous and imposing sight. No trails or paths could be seen leading up the mountain anywhere. The only thing he could make out was the shape of a castle jutting out of the cliff … Lord Kraven Darkholm’s castle. Eonis said Lord Darkholm lived there to keep the goblins and other dark creatures under foot, or so he told King Gregor as to why he stayed in this God-awful place.

Ragnar walked up to the mountain face. He scratched across the rock with his claws in a strange pattern. Then he banged on the stone wall three times and stepped back. Bryan could feel the earth around him begin to rumble. Suddenly, an opening appeared at the base as the mountain seemed to literally fold in on itself, pulling the rock apart to reveal a cave descending downward.

“This is your last chance to back away … You sure you want to do this?” Ragnar joked.

Bryan nodded his head. “A friend of mine once said, ‘The Chief knows there is a time and place for everything; a time to act and a time to react; a time to speak and a time to be silent; and a time to unite or act alone.’ This is one of those times.”

Ragnar looked confused then decided to ignore it and press on. “As you wish Gil-Gamesh, follow me!”

As the frustrated goblin headed down into the mountain, Bryan’s cockiness faded quickly as he walked in the dark bowels of Idlehorn. Dimly lit by the embers of burnt torches, the cave continued to wind downward. Bryan felt the dank, musty air … The smell of death and decay permeated from the stone. The deeper they went, the worse the smell.

“I’ve smelled septic tanks better than this,” Bryan said, rubbing his gloved hand across his nose, hoping the oiled leather would help mask the awful stench.

The cave began to level off and widen. The stalactites became more prominent in the cave, decorated with the pierced skulls of their enemies. A bright light beckoned them ahead.

“Is it me or is it getting hotter?” Bryan asked himself as he wiped the sweat off his brow.

Bryan thought they must had an enormous fire burning up ahead. As the passage opened into an enormous cavern, the Gil-Gamesh realized that it wasn’t a fire burning … It was something else.

The cavern seemed to encompass the entire center of Idlehorn Mountain. A huge pocket, like a magma dome, underneath the mountain, as lava flowed like water from the walls. It fell and circulated in streams and pools throughout the cave interior. Not only did the lava provide light and warmth for the goblins, it made it easier for them to forge a constant supply of weapons for their massive army. Goblins had nowhere to call home except for the cave itself. They climbed along its walls like spiders in a web, able to move anywhere and everywhere in the cavern. They ate, slept and worked wherever they could find a rock to lean against or a piece of meat to gnaw on.

As Ragnar took them deeper into the voluminous cavern, Bryan got a sense of the social structure of the goblins. It was a society of “survival of the fittest.” The stronger, more powerful goblins bullied the smaller, weaker ones; an inbred form of slave labor. They were forced to carry heavy loads in the belief that it would make them stronger. The intense labor culled out the weaker goblins from the rest. Those that survived either continue their toll as slaves or they volunteered for experiments conducted by goblin warlocks and alchemists as they strived to make a goblin warrior that’s unbeatable. They were a collective, striving for the betterment of the goblins and the defeat of their enemies.

At the heart of the cavern sat a throne of iron and stone. It was a monument to the machine that was the goblin empire. The twisted metal frame and jagged rock reminded all who stood before it of the pain and suffering that is the life of a goblin.

In the throne sits a brute of a beast … The Goblin King P’tah Mnenok. His skin was black and scarred, ripped and torn by battle. His face was long and twisted, yellow eyes pierced out from dark slits. His fangs were so long that they pierced from beneath his lower lip, giving him a constant scowl, even with his mouth closed. On his head sat a crown of braided iron; a cold reminder of his black heart.

Ragnar approached King Mnenok as goblins came down from the around the cavern and surrounded the throne, trapping Bryan. For the first time since he arrived on Avalon, Bryan feared he may not live to see tomorrow.

Ragnar knelt before the King, bowing his head in submission before stepping up to the Goblin King, whispering in his ear. Bryan stepped up as goblins of all shapes and sizes moved in behind the Gil-Gamesh. King Mnenok looked at Bryan, growling under his breath.

“Does the courtesy of Avalon end at Idlehorn Mountain Gil-Gamesh?” he asked, his voice sharp and hollow.

Bryan realized his mistake and acted to rectify it by bowing slightly. “I apologize King Mnenok, but I am unfamiliar with goblin customs, as most humans are,” he explained. “I wager it is a rare sight for a human to be welcome inside Idlehorn Mountain that wasn’t a captive or a meal.”

“It is rare indeed. I must admit, what Ragnar told me of his encounter with you in Blackbriar Forest, I don’t see what all the fuss is about … About you that is, the new Gil-Gamesh.

“I must say, I’m not at all impressed but I do find it rather curious that you even asked to come to Idlehorn Mountain. This is quite a bold move on your part; courageous and yet stupid at the same time.”

The goblins all laughed at the insult the Goblin King levels at the Gil-Gamesh.

“With all due respect King Mnenock, I disagree. Is it stupid to understand your enemy? Knowledge is key to defeating any foe, something that goblins lack or so I’ve been told. Wouldn’t you agree? “

Mnenok snarled as the goblins were quieted. “Give me one good reason why I should not have you flayed alive right where you stand?”

“Gladly,” Bryan said as he reached into his shirt and pulled out the dragon stone Nihala gave him. The stone glowed bright in his hand. Mnenok and the other goblins, repulsed by its glow, cowered in fear.

“This is a dragon stone, given to me by Nihala, Queen of the Dragons. With a single word, I can cause it to explode, killing every goblin in here. A cavern of this size would contain the blast rather nicely. Your entire race would be wiped out in an instant.”

Now fear gripped Mnenok for the first time. He knew how powerful dragon stones were, but he also knew a bluff when he sees it.

“Are you impressed now?” Bryan joked, almost goading Mnenok to attack him.

Mnenok has had enough of his insults. “You would not sacrifice yourself? Avalon needs you to survive.” He raised his hand, ready to give the order to attack, as the goblins howled, raising their weapons to strike.

“You’re right they do need me,” Bryan interjected quickly. “But if I die, taking the entire goblin race with me, Avalon will be a whole lot safer. Surely that is a death worthy of the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon. They will write stories and sing songs of this day for years to come, knowing that the goblins have been wiped off the face of the Avalon forever. The only place people will ever see a goblin again is in story books. You will be remembered only as a thing of myth and legend that never really existed,” Bryan countered, stoic and determined. Mnenok slowly lowered his hand. He knew he wasn’t bluffing now.

Mnenok sat back in his throne and laughed a deep, throaty cackle. The goblins lowered their weapons and retreated away from the Gil-Gamesh. “As I said Gil-Gamesh, bold … Very bold!

***

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

Combat is sometimes easier to visualize than write – An excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

itpickD_01.17624.widea.0Catapults, arrows, swords, axes and magic spells … I have found medieval combat to be one of the most difficult aspects of fantasy writing. Today’s modern warfare is nothing compared to the various sword-wielding maneuvers and medieval combat positions possible during a battle with Knights, wizards and other mythical creatures.

You not only have to study and understand how a sword, axe or other medieval weaponry is used, but you also have to make it exciting and believable for the reader. Here is a sample of such combat from my novel, The Dark Tides, as the Gil-Gamesh and his forces take on an army of Goblins at the Battle of Arkengarth Vale.

***

“Well done Captain,” Bryan said as he drew Twilight and Dusk . He turned to his assembled men.

“Remember, don’t hesitate for an instant! Your enemy will show you no quarter so give none in return! Cut them down until we are walking on their bodies instead of the muddy ground!”
A battle cry rose up from the men as they dug in, ready to fight. The goblins moved faster along the wall toward them.

“Remember my friends, there’s only farmers and small towns from here to New Camelot! They will be slaughtered by this goblin horde unless we stop them here and now! So let’s show them what it means to be a Knight of Avalon!”

Another cry of grit and determination bellowed from the assembled warriors as the crawling swarm of goblins moved closer toward them. Sarafina bowed her head, evoking a warrior’s prayer she learned at the convent.

“Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle. My fortress, my high tower, my deliverer, my shield; and the One in whom I take refuge. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit … Amen.”

“Amen!” they all said in unison as the goblins attacked. The first wave hit the defenses hard, their shrieks and howls cried out as untamed beasts slicing and cutting through the defenders of Avalon.

The Knights and Shield Maidens pushed back, working in tandem to cut through the goblins. Shield Maidens protected their knights with shields in front and either spear or sword to push back while the knights cut a swath through the creatures. The black blood of the goblins stained the muddy the ground as more are brought down, one after the other.

Sarafina protected the Gil-Gamesh while he dispatched the goblins by either slicing through them with Twilight or dispatching their souls with Dusk . As more goblins rushed in, Sir Thomas and the Knights of the Round Table charged in to help the Dragon Guard push back, trying to flank the attacking goblins and cut them off from the rest.

Thomas took position next to Bryan, fighting side-by-side as they have done religiously with Sarafina poised between them. Nevan fought next to his father with Sir Thomas’ Shield Maiden, Isolde, between them. Isolde was one of the oldest Shield Maidens in the service, nearly the same age as Thomas. Her black hair was peppered with a streak of gray under her helm. She could have retired to the Glennish Hills convent years ago, but her lust for battle kept her in the field.

“I hope you’re saving some for me Gil-Gamesh,” Thomas said as he hacked at the goblins with his broad sword.

“I think there’s plenty to go around Thomas,” Bryan joked.

“Less talking, more fighting!” Sarafina yelled at the two men, something she normally wouldn’t do, but in the heat of battle, courtesy went out the window. She pushed back a charging goblin with her shield before stabbing it between the eyes with her long sword; but as many as they killed, more just keep on coming.

As the battle progressed, it almost seemed as if this small force of knights was turning the tide against them. That changed as the howls of wolves cried out from the Vale.

Thomas knew immediately what it was. “Dire Wolves!” he said, sending a chill down the spines of Sarafina and Nevan, for these were the nightmares told to children on Avalon.

Dire Wolves were giant gray wolves that stood nearly five feet tall at the shoulder. Amongst the creatures of Avalon, they were on top of the food chain, predators to all manner of man or beast. It took a special breed of monster to tame Dire Wolves and that honor belonged to Hobgoblins.
Smarter and more cunning than their goblin cousins, Hobgoblins lived in the darkest parts of the forests, finding refuge in dead trees. They learned how to tame the Dire Wolves to help them hunt for food and harass humans. Their evil was only outdone by their savagery on the backs of Dire Wolves.

The Hobgoblins rode the Dire Wolves through the thick brush along the opposite side of the Vale. The Gil-Gamesh thought that was impassable because of the thick, thorny overgrowth that grew there, but the Dire Wolves were quick on their feet, jumping over the thorny bushes toward the frontline defenses.

More than thirty riders charged, cutting down both Knights and Shield Maidens with fang and claw. Over half of the Knights of the Round Table were killed instantly, causing part of the defensive flank to collapse. Bryan raised Twilight into the air.

Lumina Incandesco! ” he chanted, causing his sword to burst with brilliant light. That signaled Captain Godfrey and the Elves to move in to protect their flank. The Elves fired arrows into the Dire Wolves, but it took more than a dozen arrows to bring one down.

One of the Hobgoblins charged straight toward Sir Thomas and Nevan. Isolde stepped up to block the charging beast, shield in one hand and a glaive in the other. She crouched down low as the beast charged then came up under its chin with the point of the glaive, slicing into it from its throat to its snout.

The Dire Wolf fell on its side, trapping the Hobgoblin’s leg under the weight of the creature. Nevan rushed forward and cut down the Hobgoblin with his sword. Isolde pulled her pole arm out of the wolf’s head.

“That’s how you kill a Dire Wolf, Sir Nevan,” she told him. “Those beasties can’t see you if you’re low to the ground and come up from underneath …” Isolde didn’t finish her sentence as she’s run through by a goblin spear, piercing her through the neck. She fell to her knees, clutching her throat before dying.

“Isolde!” Thomas yelled as he lunged at her attacker, slicing him wide open. But that momentary distraction was enough as another Dire Wolf charged in and snapped down on Thomas’ arm, biting it clean off.
Bryan leaped and thrusts Dusk into the beast, taking whatever dark soul that the monster might have had. The Hobgoblin fell off, allowing Sarafina to kill it with one blow.

Nevan rushed to his father’s side, trying to stem the flow of blood with his father’s cloak. “Father please, stay with me!” Nevan pleaded as Thomas clung on to him, but Thomas could barely speak as he hovered in and out of consciousness.

“It’s alright lad, it’s alright … I’ve lived a good life,” Thomas mumbled. “I’ve gotten to see my son grow into a man. That’s more than any father could ask.” Nevan broke down into tears as Bryan and Sarafina tried to protect them from the goblins.

“Sarafina, you and Nevan take Thomas back to the rear …” Bryan ordered. The two lifted Thomas up and carried him off while the Gil-Gamesh pressed on with the battle.

“Come on ladies! What’re you waiting for?” he yelled as they continued to fight. A sudden rush of goblins knocked the Gil-Gamesh down, swarming over him like ants on an anthill. Bryan fought back, swinging aimlessly at the onslaught of monsters, resolute and defiant. He already lost one friend to these monsters; he would not lose another.

As his mind wandered from the battle, the unthinkable happened. A goblin jumped on his back and reached around, stabbing the Gil-Gamesh in the chest right above the clavicle, missing his armor altogether. Bryan was immediately brought down by the goblin horde as they pounced on him.

Captain Godfrey and Eonis could only watch as the Gil-Gamesh fell. They pushed forward to come to his aid but by the time they got there, the goblins started to fall back down the vale, taking the Gil-Gamesh with them. All that was left behind were his swords, Twilight and Dusk , lying over the bodies of hundreds of dead goblins.

“They took him,” Captain Godfrey exclaimed. “This was never about enemies marching on New Camelot. This was about the Gil-Gamesh. They wanted to capture him when he was the most vulnerable.”

“We’ve got to go after them,” Eonis said as he took off down the hill. “We’ve got to save him!”

Captain Godfrey grabbed him before he took a single step. “You’ll be slaughtered down there,” Godfrey said. “They still outnumber us and now, we’re without the Gil-Gamesh.”

Eonis thought for a moment then realized that Captain Godfrey was right. At that moment, Sarafina returned to the front while Nevan tended to Sir Thomas. She ran up and looked around for the Gil-Gamesh but he was nowhere to be seen.

“What happened? Where’s the Gil-Gamesh?” she shouted.

Eonis walked over and placed his hand on her shoulder. “He’s gone Sarafina. The enemy has him.”

***

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

The story of the Technocrats — An excerpt from “Forever Avalon”

49cf002f2e0be8dc329cf7ec458bdb77What strikes more fear into a medieval society, a dragon the size of an aircraft carrier or a gun-toting, technology-driven medieval knight? I explored those very premises in my first novel, Forever Avalon. How would a society of based on a medieval hierarchy, guided by the laws of magic, deal with a group of Outlanders who, not wanting to conform to the rest of their society, formed a “home-away-from-home” using outlawed technology?

Here is an excerpt from Forever Avalon which tells the story of the “Technocrats” and Uther’s Folly”.

***

“Over five hundred years ago, shortly after the last Gil-Gamesh was killed, there was a large influx of Outlanders arriving on Avalon. This would be around the 50’s and 60’s, when planes and ships were disappearing regularly in the Bermuda Triangle. Unlike previous Outlanders, these people refused to conform to Avalon society. They did not accept the reign of the monarchy nor were they willing to live a medieval lifestyle. These Outlanders formed their own community on the southwest shores. They separated themselves from Avalon as much as possible and called themselves the Technocrats.

“The single advantage they had, over the rest of Avalon, was gunpowder. They were the first to master the manufacture of gunpowder, cannons and even simple flintlock guns. They used these hi-tech weapons as protection from the evils of Avalon.

“Soon they discovered a large vein of gold under the land they built their community on and things went from bad to worse. They thought this discovery would permit them to buy their way into Avalon society and its good graces. They planned to trade for goods, food, and other items they needed for survival, but they were wrong.

“King Uther XV would not negotiate with the Technocrats under any circumstances. He informed them that the gold, as everything on Avalon, belonged to him. He set up a blockade around the Technocrats and gave them a choice … Surrender or die.”

Stephanie and the children listened intently as Bryan continued the tale. His words did little to comfort them and Stephanie knew it. Like Bryan, she realized that though the truth may be brutal, it’s important they hear it.

“The Outlanders fought back,” Bryan continued. “They made a valiant stand—the stuff legends are made of; but King Uther would not be swayed. To defeat the Outlanders, he forced the wizard’s council to summon the most ferocious beast imaginable … Tiamat, the Dragon God.

“Imagine a dragon the size of an aircraft carrier with five heads, each one with a breath more noxious and deadly than the next. Tiamat destroyed the Technocrats, their entire community, along with every last man, woman and child. King Uther considered this a great victory, but he never realized the cost and boy, did it cost him dearly.

“The wizard’s council warned him that summoning Tiamat came with a price, but Uther didn’t care. When the smoke cleared, Tiamat was gone and so was all the gold. The Dragon God took the gold as payment for services rendered. Everything represented in battle that day was lost in the blink of an eye.

“Needless to say, Uther was not happy. But he didn’t blame himself or the wizard’s council or even Tiamat … He blamed the Technocrats, the Outlanders. He made a decree which stated that, henceforth, any Outlander who came through the barrier shall be killed on sight.”

Those words left Stephanie speechless. The girls clutched their mouths in disbelief. Sarafina hugged them, offering some comfort. Hunter held on to his mother tightly.

Bryan neared the end of his story. “Since any surviving Outlanders were presumed dead by the outside world, King Uther had no qualms about executing them the moment they arrived on Avalon. Some Outlanders were spared, captured and used as slaves, which meant a sentence of instant death for both the Outlander and the person who held him or her captive.

“Candletop Lighthouse,” Bryan explained grimly, “wasn’t built to pick up wayward Outlanders and help them. It was a place to lure Outlanders to their deaths.”

***

Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Forging the love between a father and child, Knight and Shield Maiden – An Excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

Knights_zps02364200The love between a parent and a child is a force to be reckoned with and, make no mistake, that love extends to adopted children too. I never meant to touch on the relationship between a parent and an adopted child when I was writing Forever Avalon or The Dark Tides, but it presented itself quite plainly.

Imagine if you were separated from your family and, during that time, you came across a child that was alone, lost and without anyone to care for them. What would you do? This is exactly what happened to Bryan MoonDrake during his Grand Tour of Avalon.

In this excerpt from The Dark Tides, you’ll see how the relationship between the Gil-Gamesh and Sarafina, his adopted daughter and Shield Maiden, came to be. It was a relationship forged in tragedy but strengthened by the love between a father and child.

***

The Convent at Glennish Hills was a holy place for both worship and battle. It was home to the Shield Maidens of Avalon. The sounds of song and prayer could be heard from inside the church while the clanging of steel resonated just outside in the courtyard. It was a dichotomy in both sight and sound but its purpose was singular … To provide the knights of Avalon with the finest warriors to fight alongside them in battle.

In a small courtyard away from the main training area, the Gil- Gamesh raised a practice sword over his head, waiting for the next attack. His opponent was a 15- year- old girl. Sarafina gripped her practice sword tightly with both hands, watching Bryan’s every movement, waiting for an opening to strike.

Her small frame looked bigger than it was, covered in leather armor for protection. Her long, blonde hair was braided up to keep it out of her face. She had a strong, determined look on her face. The Gil- Gamesh took a step back and Sarafina seized the moment to strike.

She lunged forward at Bryan, hoping to catch him off-balance. He swung downward to block her thrust, knocking her sword away. He spun and tried to catch her from behind, but as he swung his blade down, she countered his attack before she elbowed him in the stomach and shoved him back.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa … Time out! Where’d you learn that one from?” Bryan asked his young charge.

“No one, I was improvising,” Sarafina fired back, still ready to continue her sparring practice. Bryan couldn’t believe how much Sarafina had learned in three years at the convent. She was definitely on her way to becoming a Shield Maiden.

“Alright then, have it your way,” he said, sword at the ready as the sparring continued. Sarafina didn’t hesitate and lashed out as soon as he was set. She swung fiercely, back- and- forth, throwing everything she had at the Gil- Gamesh. Bryan countered every blow, letting her think she was winning.

“Eo Ire Itum! ” he chanted quietly, under his breath and he suddenly teleported behind Sarafina. When she turned around, his sword was on her throat.

“Hey, that’s not fair!” she complained. “No magic!”

“It’s called improvising, remember?” he retorted. “Besides, do you think any wizard won’t use magic because it’s not fair? You have to be ready to adapt to any situation and be prepared for any possibility.”

“Well … Captain McLoughlin says I one of the best students she’s ever had,” Sarafina proclaimed proudly.

“From what I’ve heard of Captain McLoughlin, I would take that as a compliment. She rarely gives them out but it is definitely well deserved.” Sarafina enjoyed the praise from the Gil- Gamesh and rushed over to hug him. Once she did, Sarafina realized her error in protocol and let go.

“I’m sorry Sir Bryan, I forget my place sometimes,” she apologized, regaining her composure. Bryan knew the limits on contact with the young girls in training, but he ignored it as he leaned down close to whisper to her.

“Well, when we’re alone like this, I don’t think a hug is totally out-of-place,” he confided in her. Sarafina was happy to hear that and hugged him again.

Bryan felt an overwhelming surge of love and pride. Sarafina filled a void in his life since his arrival on Avalon, that of family. She was like a daughter to him and he treated her like one of his own.

The two started walking back toward the main compound, enjoying this time they have together. The conversation varied from her training as a Shield Maiden to her relationships with the other girls and, of course, the Gil- Gamesh’s latest adventure.

“So, how did you escape from the Swamp Witches of Durley? I mean, they had your weapons and you and Sir Thomas all tied up, ready to be cooked in the pot!”

“Ah but you see, there is a dragon that lives in the Durley Swamp called a Naga,” Bryan explained. “It looks more like a giant two- headed cobra but it’s still considered a dragon. I was able to befriended one when we entered the swamp, as kind of a back- up plan; you know, just in case something went wrong.”

“That seems to happen to you a lot, doesn’t it?” Sarafina zinged back at him sarcastically.

“Do you want to hear the rest of the story or not?” Bryan cajoled. Sarafina quieted down and listened. “Anyway, unfortunately, the Naga are rather slow-moving, so it was taking quite a while for it to get there, so we had to stall for time.

“When it looked like one of us was going to go into the pot, Thomas and I started arguing about who they should cook first. You know, who would taste better, who was meatier, etc.; and this lasted a good fifteen minutes. By that time, the Naga showed up and attacked the witches while we got ourselves free,” he concluded. “Not my best plan, but it worked out in the end.”

Sarafina loved hearing his stories of adventure and looked forward to the day when she would share in them as his Shield Maiden. “Can you tell me some more about your family in the outside world?” she asked.

Bryan’s heart sank and his eyes sullen. He tried not to think about Stephanie and the kids that much, though they do come to his mind each and every day. It’s as if somehow he was still connected to them, across time and space, beyond the magical barrier that surrounded Avalon.

Sarafina saw the heartache in his face and back pedaled quickly. “No, never mind, I’m sorry for bringing it up,” she said.

“No Sarafina, it’s alright,” Bryan interrupted. “I don’t get to talk about them that often and it’s nice to have someone so interested in them.” Bryan sat down with Sarafina along on the steps outside the main training area. He took out his pocket watch and opened it up. Though it didn’t work anymore, the picture inside still held the memory of his family.

“You never told me about this picture,” she asked, pointing to the watch. “Why are you all wearing funny hats?”

“Well, it was Christmas and Stephanie, my wife, she loves Christmas. She listens to Christmas music all year round, watches Christmas movies too.”

“Movies?” Sarafina thought for a moment, trying to remember what he told her about movies. “Oh, I remember. Those are they plays you watch inside a little box, right?”

Bryan couldn’t believe how she remembered that. She seemed to be a sponge when it came to stories about the outside world. “Yes, that’s right. Anyway, we all dressed up and went down to the photographers and Stephanie pulled out these hats for us to wear. Now at first, I refused. I mean, I wouldn’t be caught dead in that hat, but she always had a way of convincing me to go along with whatever scheme she had.

“It’s funny, I hated this picture at first but it grew on me and I consider it one of my favorite pictures now,” he said, staring at the picture in his watch.

“It reminds me of a special moment when we were so happy together.” Sarafina looked at the watch and imagined herself as a part of that happy family. It made her feel so good inside but sad at the same time. It was something she never had nor ever will. Bryan noticed the change in her demeanor.

“What’s the matter Sarafina?”

Sarafina hesitated at first, not sure if what she wanted to ask him was appropriate or not. “Sir Bryan, may I ask a favor of you?”

“Of course Sarafina, anything …” The young girl gathered the courage to ask him.

“Most of the girls here either have parents or some kind of relative to call on, but I have neither. I know you visit me as often as you can and I can’t tell you how much that means to me, but …”

She hesitated for a moment, but Bryan pressed her to continue. “Yes, go on …”

“Would you mind if, in private moments like these, would you mind if I called you father?”

Bryan was taken aback by her request but couldn’t help feel honored and humbled being asked by this young girl to be her father. He had lost his own children and Sarafina helped fill that particular void in his life. A tear rolled down his cheek as he is overcome with emotion. How could he say no to her?

“Sarafina, I would love for you to call me father and I hope and pray I can live up to your high expectations of me,” he said.

Now it was Sarafina’s turn to start crying as she jumped up into Bryan’s arms to hug him. For the first time since he arrived on Avalon, Bryan felt completely at home. “I will speak with Mother Superior about visiting you more often and even about the possibility of you coming to visit me on Emmyr.”

SKU-000941753The Dark Tides is now available for purchase at AmazonBarnes and Noble and iUniverse.

Every adventure party needs a Human, an Elf and a Dwarf – An excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

Friendship reaches across race, religion and culture on every corner of our world today. This is no exception in literature today, especially fantasy stories. Anyone who’s played Dungeons and Dragons has been in a party with any combination of Human, Elf, Dwarf, Half-Elf, Gnome, Half-Orc and Halfling. It’s what makes adventures fun.

Most oDungeons-and-Dragons-Arena-of-War-teaser-003f us who enjoy reading fantasy novels harken to The Lord of the Rings with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. These three (along with the rest of the Fellowship if you want to get technical about it) are the standard bearers when it comes to the bonds of friendship between fantasy races in literature.

In the Forever Avalon series, I had the same inkling when I put together the friends and allies of Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh. They included the Wizard Archibald Browbridge, Eonis the Elf, Master Dinius of the Gilded Halls of the Dwarves and many others. It may seem cliché or even repetitive when putting these types of characters together, but it seemed natural to me. Also, I tried to take a slightly different approach with their personalities.

I wanted characters with their own heart and soul, not based on formulaic pre-conceptions. Eonis is a true warrior at heart, looking for adventure outside his home of Alfheimer to see first-hand what it means to be human. Master Dinius is the Lord of the Gilded Halls, but he is a Dwarf first and foremost. He loves his ale, telling stories of his many adventures and never letting anyone get the best of him.

In this excerpt from The Dark Tides, you get to see how the three friends first met and where their travels took them during the Gil-Gamesh’s Grand Tour.

***

Every man and women wanted to shake the hand of the new Gil- Gamesh, or even just touch him on the arm. The talk around the tavern grew louder and louder. Even the bards were already making up songs about the new Gil- Gamesh and how he stood up to Constable Durm.

Bryan sat down as Lily brought him a fresh pint of ale. Through all the excitement, he noticed that Dinius never stopped eating and drinking. Bryan was amazed at his ignorance.

“Well now, Gil- Gamesh …” Dinius ascertained, “… You sit down and drink with a Dwarf and don’t tell him who you really are?”

“I apologize Master Dinius,” Bryan retorted, “My deception was necessary to maintain a low profile during my Grand Tour of Avalon, especially now since I’m travelling alone.”

“Alone?” Dinius asked. “I thought Sir Thomas was travelling with you?”

Now Bryan wondered who this Dinius Oddbottom was. How does he know Sir Thomas? “Sir Thomas is heading to Cornish on a personal matter,” Bryan interjected. “He’s meeting me at Strongürd Keep after I confer with the Wizard’s Council.”

Dinius nearly choked on his drink when he heard this. “You’re going to Strongürd alone? Are you mad? That’s takes you through Blackbriar Forest? Every cutthroat and brigand will be waiting for you in there?”

“Well, I’m going to have to deal with them sooner or later,” Bryan insisted. “It might as well be now. I’m not going to cower like a frightened child.”

Dinius smiled at the brash attitude this young man had. “Well, I am heading back to the Gilded Halls and it just so happens that Strongürd is on the way there. That is, if you don’t mind the company.”

Bryan thought about his proposal. He didn’t know this Dwarf, so it could be a trap for an easy kill to collect the bounty. Before he could answer, an Elf approached their table. He was handsome with long brown hair. His pointed ears stuck out through his hair. He wore a shining chain mail under a green and brown wrap and a long green cloak. A long sword hung at his belt and a bow and quiver were slung across his shoulders.

Salüs dai Tulafáir Gil-Gamesh, I am Eonis,” he introduced himself, placing his hand over his heart and bowing— a sign of respect in Avalon. “I bring you greetings from the Elves of Alfheimer.”

Bryan stood and extended his hand to Eonis. The Elf took it as a sign of human friendship. “Thank you Eonis. I hope to be in Alfheimer sometime soon to pay my respects.”

“I will inform Lord Baldrid of your intent,” Eonis concurred. “We will anticipate your arrival.” Eonis quickly turned his attention to the Gil- Gamesh’s companion, whom he recognized.

“Master Dinius,” he said, bowing again with respect. “What brings the Lord of the Gilded Halls to this corner of Avalon?”

Bryan turned to Dinius with a look of disdain at the Dwarf he’s been buying drinks and food for all night. “Lord of the Gilded Halls, huh?” he inquired. Bryan’s heard about the Gilded Halls, the home of the Dwarves of Avalon. It seemed Dinius Oddbottom wasn’t what he appeared to be. “I guess I wasn’t the only one ‘hiding in plain sight’, eh Master Dinius?” Bryan joked.

Dinius gulped his ale, aware that his own deception had been uncovered. “Yes, well, Sam makes the best ale this old Dwarf has ever tasted,” he tried to explain. “I come here from time to time to satisfy my thirst.”

Dinius got up from the table and walked over to Bryan. “Forgive my deception lad, but the Wizard Browbridge mentioned you may be coming this way and, knowing that I frequent the Weathered Wren, he asked me to keep an eye out for you … Indiscreetly that is.”

Now everything was starting to make sense to Bryan. “I suppose Archie sent you too,” he asked Eonis.

“Sir Charles, actually …” Eonis explained. “He asked me look in on you as well. This was a logical stopping point on your journey to Strongürd Keep so I came here and waited.”

“And is there anything else I should be aware of?”

“Besides an embarrassed Dwarf and Elf, nothing at all,” Eonis bemused, attempting a joke, something Elves were not known for. “But truthfully, Gil- Gamesh, Blackbriar Forest is no place for any man to go alone, including you.”

“He’s right lad, just think of us as close companions on your journey,” Dinius added.

Bryan couldn’t believe it. Since his arrival on Avalon, people who never knew him had gone out of their way to protect and aid him. The devotion to the Gil- Gamesh was overwhelming to him.

“Alright, you can accompany me to Strongürd,” Bryan noted. “We’ll be leaving in the morning. Until then, good- night.” Bryan walked over to Sam to ask about his room. Sam motioned for Lily to escort Bryan upstairs to one of the rooms at the tavern.

Eonis and Dinius kept a close eye on him until he disappeared behind the door. “Well, that didn’t go as well as expected,” Dinius lamented.

Eonis looked down at him, visibly upset. “It may have helped if you didn’t scrounge food and drink off him all night,” he declared.

Dinius huffed and returned to his seat. “A Dwarf’s got to eat, you know,” Dinius told Eonis, drinking down his ale then belching loudly as he finished his meal.

***

SKU-000941753The Dark Tides is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.