New Art for The Outlander War from Ari Brodeur

“The Three Dragons” art by Ari Brodeur . . . Ashley St. Johns, Sorceress Magnate of Avalon; Sir Hunter MoonDrake, Gil-Gamesh of Avalon; and Rose O’Brien, Shield Maiden and Dragon Queen.

Check out the new art for The Outlander War on the fan art page from artist Ari Brodeur. I met Ari through a Fantasy Author Support Group on Instagram and loved her art style. I wanted to create the MoonDrake children as they assumed the mantle of their father’s legacy at the end of The Outlander War, and she captured my vision perfectly.

As I mentioned her previously, the characters for the MoonDrake family in the Forever Avalon series are based on my own. It was easier for me, writing my first novel, to incorporate my family, their characteristics and traits into these characters. Of course, the comparisons between my children and their fantasy counterparts are leaps and bounds apart, but it’s still fun to write them in my stories. It’s like I’m taking my children on an adventure even though they are all grown up.

By the way, if any authors or anyone else out there wants to inquire with Ari about commissioning her for an art piece, use my referral code “ABAPIGGOTT” and get $10 off your booking price with Ari. This, in turn, gets me a $10 voucher toward a future project with her. It’s a “win/win” for both of us and it supports an independent artist and author, like me! You can email her at aribroart@gmail.com. Remember, we are a strong independent community and I’ve met so many wonderful authors and authors both online and at the conventions. I will be displaying her work, and the art of the other artists I’ve worked with, at my upcoming book signing event at Katsucon 2022.

The Outlander War: Book 3 of the Forever Avalon Series, 2021 Firebird Book Award winner (2nd Place) for Fantasy from Austin Macauley Publishing is available as a book or ebook on Amazon and through other online booksellers.

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Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy/steampunk novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon and as an audiobook from Audible and iTunes. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers.

Get ready for the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates, coming soon from Revolutionary Press; and The River of Souls novella, coming soon from Curious Corvid PublishingThe Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel are future installments of my current fantasy book series, coming soon.

As a writer, this has been my best month ever

The headline says it all. As a writer, this has been my best month EVER! I had three book signing events, where I did better than expected with sales, meeting people, and more! Then, I signed two book deals with Curious Corvid Publishing and Revolutionary Press to publish two of my latest manuscripts, The River of Souls and Corsair and the Sky Pirates respectfully. Like I said, BEST MONTH EVER!

Between the Fredericksburg Independent Book Festival, Southern Maryland Comic-Con, and 2nd Sundays Williamsburg Art and Music Festival, I’ve been meeting and talking to more people than ever before. After such a disappointing 2020, it’s such a thrill to actually being able to meet people in person than over a video chat.

It has been a long road since 2001 when I started writing my first novel, Forever Avalon, and then it wasn’t first published until 2009. To be able to not only talk about my books with people, face-to-face, but to see the interest on their faces when they pick up my book and read the synopsis was worth the long weekends away, the money invested into my second career, and the hours spent toiling away at these novels.

I really just want to thank my wife and my family for their love and support of my extended career. I wouldn’t be here without them. They are, and always will be, my inspirations as a writer. I have more stories I’m working on and I hope to have them out in short order, but that’s down the road. For now, I’, going to continue going out to these festivals and conventions to spread the word.

And if I don’t get to say it, I hope all of you have a very Happy Thanksgiving with your family and friends!

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Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy/steampunk novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon and as an audiobook from Audible and iTunes. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers.

Get ready for the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates, coming soon from Revolutionary Press; and The River of Souls novella, coming soon from Curious Corvid PublishingThe Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel are future installments of my current fantasy book series, coming soon.

A broken heart is the worst kind of writer’s block

Science proves how you can actually die of a broken heart ...

Writer’s Block is something I talk about a lot, probably because in recent weeks (or months) I’ve had a serious bad case of it. The question is, how do you write when your heart is broken? The heart, to me, is the soul of the writer. It’s where the inspiration emanates and flows into the pen (or keyboard) for any writer.

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” — Virginia Woolf

I don’t mean to get personal here, but I think that this might help me get over my own writer’s block. You see, about a year ago, my oldest daughter stopped talking to me and my wife. In fact, she has pretty much disassociated herself from us, her brother and her sister. And the sad part is, it was over something as stupid as politics and a cultural/social disagreement.

You hear a lot about that nowadays in today’s harsh political climate. Families torn apart because some are on the left and some are on the right when it comes to political and social views. My case is just one of many to see the light of day in this so-called new age of enlightenment. It has made my oldest daughter distance herself from her family because our political views are different.

I’ve had differences of opinion on politics my whole life in my family. I never really saw eye-to-eye with my parents or my sister, but I never totally dismissed them because of it. We simply agree to disagree and not talk politics whenever I visit. And yet, my daughter seems to think that because I don’t agree with her views, I don’t support who she is or her way of life, and therefore she wants nothing to do with me. This happened over a year ago, and to this day, I haven’t been able to write like before. Little bits, here and there, but the inspiration is faltering because my heart is broken.

Here is a little girl who I watched grow up into a beautiful woman. I was there when she graduated high school, college, moved into her first apartment, and got married. But now, she’s turned away from us and I don’t know what to do. Things like this weigh heavy on a parent. What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? These questions rage within me, night and day, and its affects me more and more as the days wear on.

When my wife breaks down and cries, wishing things could go back to the way they were, it just breaks my heart. As holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays pass us by, it gets even harder. I try to understand her feelings, and even though I don’t agree with her train of thought, she’s a grown woman. She’s free to think and do as she wants. That’s what freedom of choice, freedom of expression, and freedom of speech mean in America.

I served my country in the U.S. Navy for more than 23 years, fighting to defend those freedoms. It’s the same old adage… I disagree with what you’re saying, but I will defend your right to say it with every fiber of my being. I wish it was as simple as that, but its not.

There is more to it than that, I’m sure, but in the end, it has definitely hampered my ability as a writer. I can’t focus on my stories, partly because she is a part of them. You see, in the Forever Avalon series, I channeled my children and their personalities into the children of the protagonist, Lord Bryan MoodDrake. Although this iteration is more of a homage than my actual children, it still represents how I saw them when I wrote my first book over 20 years ago. Unfortunately, there is a difference between then and now, and that is giving me a pause in my writing. It’s hard to put the words down when the person you imagine speaking them isn’t talking to you.

I hope and pray that we can come together again in the near future. The problem is that, the longer this stretches out, the more the heart goes numb to the whole situation. Numb is not a good feeling, even worse being a writer. That feeling stretches across me, body and soul, and I don’t like it one bit. Sylvia Plath said, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” I can honestly attest to that.

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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 Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse Publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available from Austin Macauley Publishing.

This isn’t your grandfather’s Disney anymore

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” — Walt Disney

There’s an old saying about how “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” right? I think that’s true in some instances, like sports. You always see the same teams near or at the top year after year. It’s very rare when someone new gets in, which makes New England Patriots fans very happy.

However, the same can’t be said of Disney. What was once the home of Mickey Mouse and friends, the Wonderful World of Disney every Sunday night, the Mickey Mouse Club, and the most “kid-friendly” animated movies out there has gone “PC” and become a powerhouse in the entertainment industry. Disney now controls the biggest genres imaginable (i.e. ABC, ESPN, Star Wars, Marvel, etc.) and its growing nonstop.

I know some of you are shaking your head and asking yourself, “okay, so what?” Well, hear me out. Disney has gone politically correct in nearly everything it does. I don’t see it as the same company that Walt Disney imagined all those years ago. Yes, they do strive for a “family friendly” environment in its shows and parks, but it’s also walking that fine line of being in step with today’s progressive ideology in what it does, but should they?

Let’s be honest… How can a company complain about laws in Georgia affecting their television and film production while, at the same time, trying to build a new Disney park in Saudi Arabia, one of the strictest countries in the world? That’s not only hypocritical, it’s wading into partisan politics.

I always strive to stay out of politics, in my books, my social media, and here on my blog. In my opinion, unless you specifically write about politics, you should avoid talking about it as you can alienate half of your fan base. Disney, and other media companies, as well as actors, musicians and other artists, should avoid politics as it could (in the long run) hurt them. Some use that platform as a stage to support certain causes, which is fine, but there is risk involved in doing so.

Take Dolly Parton, for example, a mainstay of the entertainment industry. In an interview with ABC News, she said, “I learned a long time ago to keep your damn mouth shut if you want to stay in show business.” She has succeeded in what she does because of that, because she wants to make people happy, with her music, her acting, and at her amusement park, not lecture them on how to think or what side to take in a political argument.

I miss the days when Disney meant family-friendly shows, devoid of political undertones or progressive messaging. I realize that Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck might not have the influence over kids today like Sponge Bob or Ricky and Morty have, but maybe they should. Disney needs to get back and focus on that which sparks a child’s imagination.

I became a fantasy writer because of the adventures Disney took me on as a child. From battling dragons in Sleeping Beauty or fighting evil in The Black Cauldron to flying through space with The Black Hole and deep under the ocean in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This journey into the fantastic and unimaginable is what made Disney what it is today… Disney means fantasy.

Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” That should be the mantra for Disney. Maybe bringing back the Wonderful World of Disney would bring about a healthier, less aggressive, atmosphere in the world today. Maybe that’s what we’re missing.

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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 Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Go See “I Can Only Imagine” and take a box of tissues with you

Image result for i can only imagineI don’t like to touch on religion a lot in my blog. It’s a subject that can go ten ways from Sunday, for lack of a better word. But after seeing “I Can Only Imagine” at the movies today, I just can’t help myself. No matter what you believe when it comes to God, this movie will bring you closer than ever before.

As much as I love the fantasy/adventure genre in most of the movies I watch, its rather refreshing to sit through a real heartwarming, family, faith-based movie. The story of Bart Millard, lead singer of the Christian band Mercy Me and writer of the song “I Can Only Imagine” is one of personal struggle, abuse, and redemption. This is the story of how he fought his demons to follow his dream of being a singer/songwriter, that ended with him writing the most popular song in the history of Christian music.

The beginning of this movie was heart wrenching. His father abused him, mentally and physically, and his mother left him behind with his abusive father. Even with the love of his longtime girlfriend, he kept the pain from that abuse bottled up inside. It caused him to almost lose the passion he had for music. Then his life changed forever, and he wrote the song that would change him, his band, and the world of Christian music.

This is a simple story… No plot twists, tricks, or things out of left field. The story flows beautifully that it draws you in with each passing moment. The music is the heart of this story and it will bring you to tears. From the moment he started to reconcile with his father until the very end, it was like Niagara Falls. It brought joy to my heart and soul, to the very end, when he sings his iconic song for the first time. You can’t help but feel the presence of God, especially at the very end.

Like I said earlier, its so nice to see a movie like this out of Hollywood. Faith-based movies are on the rise, and I think Hollywood is starting to take notice. Even the actors and actresses are beginning to see the change in the industry. Dennis Quaid, who played the father Arthur Millard brilliantly, said “I hadn’t’ heard the song, but when I read the script it hit me so profoundly in the heart in a place where I don’t even have words.”

“And that’s what the song does and it grows on you, too. Just like you grow in the Spirit, the song grows on you in that way, too. In the end, it’s just a song of joy,” he concluded.

If you need to find that something to lift your spirit, fill your heart with love, and bring you a little bit closer to God, you need to see this movie. Even if you don’t have that kind of relationship with God, see this movie. It might just change your perspective.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

Let’s put 2016 behind us and look forward to 2017

21746965-standardI can’t begin to tell you how happy I am that 2016 has come to an end. This has been, without a doubt, one of the worst years of my life and, speaking for the rest of the world for just a moment, a “sucktastic” year.

From the many deaths of legends and icons of music, television, and movies to an election that brought out the worst in our nation, this has not been a banner year. There are a few highlights scattered here and there, some bright spots along the way, but overall just a nasty year.

635915675146029898-opusLet’s start out this year in review with the deaths of artists and actors. David Bowie, Glenn Fry, Prince and now George Michael gave us pause to reflect on the music of our youth. Our favorite TV mom, Florence Henderson passed, along with acting greats Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman, Alan Thicke and now Carrie Fisher a.k.a. Princess Leia. Muhammed Ali and John Glenn were American icons and Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” gave writers like me a moment to pause and reflect on the life of an amazing author. There are many more I could name, which demonstrates how bad this past year was.

There were some tragedies this year, mostly caused by ISIS-related terrorism. From the attacks in Paris to the Orlando murders, this was a year that brought the war on terrorism back to the forefront. We can only pray that the coming year will bring these evil attacks to an end.

Then there’s the election of 2016. Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or Independent, this year’s political drama when into the dirt like driving down a back road in Alabama. The mud just kept getting deeper and deeper with every passing day. The only positive thing I can say is that maybe this change will do us some good, who knows. Some people are calling Trump the end of America, but then again they said the same thing about Obama and we’re still here. All I can say is let’s give it a chance before we condemn it outright.

CoF-W9rXgAEG-auOn the bright side, this was a banner year for great movies and TV, especially for a geek like me. Game of Thrones, The Shannara Chronicles, all the CW superhero TV shows were incredible. Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad, Doctor Strange, Deadpool, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story were just some of the blockbusters released this year. To quote President-elect Donald Trump, it was HUGE!

Lastly, I want to talk about my own personal experiences in 2016. The year started off bad for me as I lost my job with the Navy after more than 30 years of service, both active duty and as a civilian. I spent most of 2016 trying to find a new job, working as a substitute teacher to make ends meet. However, that did give me time to finish writing the third book in the Forever Avalon series, The Outlander War. I hope to get it published in 2017.

I can honest say this year ended with a glimmer of hope as I was offered a position as a writer-editor for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. I start in January and I am so looking forward to this new challenge. So let’s put 2016 in the rear view mirror and drive off into 2017, Here’s hoping for a great new year!

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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, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

 

There nothing more magical than a Christmas Wedding – An excerpt from The Dark Tides

winter-wedding-winter-wonderland-ceremony-decor-preston-baileyThere’s nothing more magical than a Christmas wedding. It’s that time of year that makes something as special as a wedding even more spectacular, and nothing ruins a wedding more than an evil sorceress hellbent on total domination. That is the setting for The Dark Tides: Book Two of the Forever Avalon series.

You can really find inspiration in the strangest of places. Christmas is very special to my family, especially my wife. She listens to Christmas music year-round, watches Christmas movies all the time and shops for anything and everything to make the house sparkle even more at the holidays. Being overwhelmed like this, it seemed natural to me, as a writer, to use Christmas as a foil in my novel.

You have that perfect setting of this pristine wedding, like a blanket of new fallen snow, and you throw in a deadly plot to destroy Avalon and resurrect the most vile sorceress in history to boot. So, you are all invited to the Wedding of Ashely MoonDrake, daughter of the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, to Andrew St. Johns on the floating island of Emmyr on Christmas Eve.

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On Christmas Eve, all of Avalon gathered on Emmyr for the wedding of Ashley and Andrew. Port Charles closed for the first time so as to allow the ships carrying the many dignitaries to dock for this special occasion. But even with a “who’s who” of royalty attending, the most important people invited were the people of Emmyr. Everyone in the city was invited by the Gil-Gamesh. So they all put on their best clothes for what many described as the wedding of the millennium. It’s not often that ordinary people mingle with the Lords of Avalon, but that’s how the Gil-Gamesh saw himself. He was a person of the people, especially to the people of Emmyr.

This was also a first, for many on Avalon, to see the wedding of two Outlanders hold such fervor with the people; but then again, these were no ordinary Outlanders. In any case, everyone made their way to the city square just outside the Dragon’s Veil. Rows of chairs encircled the statue of Lady Stephanie and her children, divided by small aisles with a main aisle coming directly from the gates of the Dragon’s Veil. A raised dais stood at the rear of the statue, where the ceremony would be performed, draped in white and blue silks. Cardinal Dominici Allistar Magelleon stood on the dais, waiting to officiate the ceremony.

The aisles are lined with iron torchiere, but instead of burning wood, they each held a magical flame, suspended to provide warmth and light. White Poinsettias lined the aisles and around the dais as a symbol of the winter season. Around the square, the large mirrors focused the light from all around on the square.

As the guests filtered into their seats, special attention was given to the arrival of certain dignitaries to the wedding. A herald announced each arrival as they arrived at the wedding.
“Master Dinius Oddbottom, Lord of the Gilded Halls,” the herald announced as Dinius and a small company of Dwarves took their seats. They were dressed in their finest armor, but it’s hard to tell as their long beards hide them from view.

“Lord Baldrid and the Lady Lyllodoria of Alfheimer,” came next, as the King of the Elves and his wife were escorted to their seats by a company of Elves. Though most people have seen Elves before, it was rare to see the Lord of Alfheimer away from his home. As they walked in, most people are overwhelmed by the glow of their presence.

Many others were introduced, including friends of the Gil-Gamesh like the Wizard Browbridge, as well as all of the Lords of Avalon and members of the Wizard’s Council. One of the more spectacular arrivals was that of Kragmar and Nihala, who landed on a stone outcropping just above the square. Though their presence was intimidating, they are looked upon with respect and awe.

The last to arrive was the Queen. “Her Royal Highness, Queen Cadhla Edaline Raewyn Pendragon, Queen of Avalon … Long Live the Queen!” the herald announced. All stand and bow or curtsey as she made way to her seat. She was accompanied by Hunter, who led her personal escort for the wedding, and her son Bowen. Though only five-years-old, Bowen was quite reposed for a toddler. His red hair and freckled face showed off his innocence, something he is well known for in New Camelot, as a well-behaved boy and dutiful prince.

Once the Queen is seated, everyone else filled in the remainder of the seats or stood at the rear as the wedding was about to begin. A chorus sang “Ave Maria” as the wedding party marched in. They are dressed in the finest Elven silks, draped in the colors of the House of MoonDrake.
Stephanie was escorted by Andrew along with her grandson Thomas. She held Thomas’ hand and Andrew’s arm as they walked down the aisles to their seats before Andrew stepped up to the dais. Next, Nevan and Sarafina walked down the aisle, taking their seats next to Stephanie.

Chancellor Ocwyn followed, escorting Mrs. Thurgoode. Bryan and Stephanie wanted to make sure their longtime friends were a part of this special occasion. Rose was escorted by Captain O’Brian, the best man. Rose could barely contain her delight in being able to walk down the aisle with Edan, something she hoped to do again in the future.

Lastly, as the wedding march began and the audience rose to their feet, Bryan escorted Ashley down the aisle. Her dress was a work of art as white silk was layered with a frosted lace that glittered like falling snow. It was trimmed with a white mink collar and cuffs to complete the package. Her veil was also made from the same glittering lace, held on her head by a diamond and sapphire tiara, an early wedding gift from the Dwarves of the Gilded Halls. Around her neck, she wore the blue stone pendant given to her by Merlin. She carried a bouquet of white poinsettias and blue roses.

Bryan walked down the aisle, head held high, beaming with pride. This was something he had looked forward to since the day she was born. Ashley smiled, though it was hard for her to hide her nervous jitters.

“I can’t believe all these people came to my wedding,” she whispered to her father. “If I wasn’t so nervous, I’d probably faint right here.”

“Don’t worry sweetheart, I’m here to catch you,” he joked. “Besides, everyone out there is looking at you and they are totally jealous of how beautiful you look.”

Ashley smiled as a tear rolled down her cheek. “Oh no, I can’t start crying yet.” As they reached the dais, Bryan lifted her veil and dabbed her cheek with his gloved hand.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today in the sight of family, friends, and our Lord God to bring together this man and this woman in holy matrimony,” proclaimed Cardinal Magelleon. “Who gives this woman?”

“Her mother and I …” said the Gil-Gamesh as he placed Ashley’s hand in Andrew’s before taking his seat. Once seated, Stephanie noticed a tear on her husband’s cheek. She wiped the tear with her hand. She knew that beneath that gruff warrior-like exterior he was really a softy, especially when it came to his children. He smiled then took her hand in his as the ceremony continued.
The ceremony concluded with Cardinal Magelleon announcing to the gathering, “May I present to you, Andrew and Ashley St. Johns of Avalon.” The crowd erupted in applause as the couple made their way down the aisle. One by one, the official party and some of the dignitaries were escorted behind them into the Dragon’s Veil while the square was transformed from wedding seating to a huge reception for all.

Ashley and Andrew took their place at the head of the receiving line, along with Bryan and Stephanie, to be formally congratulated by everyone. Ocwyn hovered close by to ensure they knew exactly who they were speaking too and that the proper protocols were adhered to. Queen Cadhla was the first to greet the happy couple.

Ashley and Andrew bow and curtsey, respectfully, exactly how Ocwyn instructed them as the Queen approaches. “Congratulations to both of you, it was a beautiful ceremony,” she congratulated. “You should be very proud Lord and Lady MoonDrake.”

Bryan bowed, ever respectful of his monarch. “We are honored that Her Majesty could attend.” He then turned his attention to young Bowen. “And did you enjoy the ceremony, Prince Bowen?”

“It was okay, but I preferred watching the dragons,” he said, pointing up the mountain to where Kragmar and Nihala sit. “I’ve never seen a dragon before.”

Bryan saw an adventurous streak in the young prince. “Well, maybe your mother will allow me to take you on a flight around Emmyr so you can see the dragon’s a lot better.”

Bowen brightened up at the chance of seeing the dragons up close and he turned to the Queen for approval. Queen Cadhla hated to burst his enthusiasm, but she knew this was not the right time.

“I don’t think we’ll have time for that today Bowen,” she cautioned, causing the boy to look sullen and disappointed. “But perhaps, the next time Sir Hunter comes home to Emmyr to visit, you can tag along and spend some time here, alright?”

Bowen practically jumped for joy. Bryan and Stephanie were surprised that the Queen, who had been so over-protective of her son since his birth, would allow him to come to Emmyr alone.
“I will look into making the necessary arrangements, Your Majesty, once we get back to New Camelot,” Hunter interjected.

“We would be honored to have the young prince as our guest,” Stephanie added. “Thomas would love to have another boy his own age to play with.”

As the Queen moved off to talk with some of the other guests, Ashley leaned into her mother, looking curiously at Queen Cadhla and Prince Bowen. “Mom, I’m confused … Who is the boy’s father?” she whispered.

“No one knows really,” Stephanie replied softly, so others wouldn’t hear her. “Rumor has it there was this young knight who was completing his training in New Camelot when the Queen fell madly in love with him and seduced him. However, he was honor-bound to his home and left without saying good-bye. It broke the Queen’s heart. He was said to have been killed in Blackbriar Forest, but no body was ever found.”

Others came through the receiving line, including the Gil-Gamesh’s friends Eonis and Dinius. The pair greeted Bryan and Stephanie warmly before turning their attention to the wedded couple. “Congratulations laddie and welcome to Avalon,” Dinius said, reaching up to give Andrew a hearty handshake. Andrew was slightly tongue-tied to the fact that he’s talking to an actual Dwarf and Elf.

“Congratulations laddie and welcome to Avalon,” Dinius said, reaching up to give Andrew a hearty handshake. Andrew was slightly tongue-tied to the fact that he’s talking to an actual Dwarf and Elf.

Eonis gave a courteous bow to Ashley and Andrew. “You are a welcome addition to the MoonDrake family.”

Ashley reached out and gave Eonis a hug before she realized that she might have breached protocol. “I’m so sorry Eonis, I shouldn’t have done that.”

Eonis just ignored it altogether. “Not to worry Ashley … Being a friend of your father, I have come to grow accustomed to involuntary hugging.”

“If you like lass, you can hug me. I don’t mind it as much as the Elf,” Dinius quipped. Ashley knelt down and gave the old Dwarf a hug, leaving everyone with a good laugh. “Andrew lad, the Gil-Gamesh tells me you’ve taken to swinging the axe?”

“Yes sir, Róta and Myst are the perfect weapons to have.”

“Indeed it is laddie, any knight can wield a sword, but it takes a real man to swing an axe …” he exclaimed before pausing and turning to Bryan. “No offense intended Gil-Gamesh.”

“And none taken Master Dinius, as always!” he joked.

Dinius grumbled before he turned back to Andrew. “If you ever need some tips lad, I’d be happy to share them with yeh.”

“That would be great Master Dinius, how about we talk about it over a pint?” Andrew replied, knowing the Dwarf’s fondness for ale, or so Bryan told him.

“Ha-ha, now you’re talking lad! You’re buying!” Dinius agreed as he slapped Andrew in the back, a stronger blow than he was expecting, as it nearly knocked the wind out of him.

After the entire line of dignitaries made their way through the receiving line, they all moved back into the square for the reception. The area had been transformed, thanks to the uncanny precision and meticulous organization of Mayor Henri Beauchamp.

The servers brought out large roasted pigs, peccadillo, roast chicken, chicharones, fried plantains, mango salsa, black beans and more … It is a feast unlike anyone has ever seen in Avalon. Though some ate the food with slight trepidation, others dove in with enthusiasm. It was a rousing success as great food and music brought laughter and love together.

Ashley and Andrew sat at a table on the dais with Rose and Edan. The four young adults were enjoying their meal as well as their time together. Bryan kept a close watch on Edan from down below, but Stephanie nudged him every once and awhile to mind his own business.

Even with all the festivities going on, security was still paramount. Amelia and the other Shield Maidens had been intertwined with the Gil-Gamesh’s Dragon Guard and Knights of the Round Table from New Camelot to surround the square and keep a watchful eye. Amelia wandered around, looking at everyone who came in and left of the square.

One person caught her attention out of the corner of her eye. A woman wearing garish clothes—probably a prostitute from the local brothel—placed a small box on the gift table. The table was filled with a variety of presents from both the dignitaries as well as the people of Emmyr. It wasn’t anything unusual so she just noted it and continued her patrol around the square.

Ocwyn stepped up to the head table and tried to get everyone’s attention, but even he was unable to be heard over the crowd. He finally pulled out his wand from within his robes and pointed it into the air. “Silentium!” he chanted. The tip of his wand glowed as waves of magic rippled through the air cascade from his wand. The load roar of the crowd turned to utter silence as the spell took hold over the square. Once Ocwyn saw he had their undivided attention, he waved his wand and canceled the spell.

“Your Majesty, Lords of Avalon, Ladies and Gentlemen … It is a noted tradition that on Christmas Eve, some parents allow children to open one gift. To continue that tradition, I invite Mrs. St. Johns to pick one of the gifts from the table to open before our assembled guests.”

The audience roared in approval as Ocwyn helped Ashley down to the gift table so she could make her choice. She walked along the table, looking at all the gifts, each wrapped beautifully. People in the audience shouted out advice as to which gift to pick as she walked down the long table.

She finally stopped and spied a small box neatly wrapped. For some reason, her eye was drawn to it and she picked it up, garnering applause from the crowd. She made her way up to the table and stood next to Andrew. Together they unwrapped the ribbon and Ashley opened the box. People stood and strained to see what she would pull out of the box.

Ashley was speechless as she reached in and pulled out a small orb, about five inches in diameter. It shimmered in the light as she fawned over such a beautiful gift. But from near the front, Archie watched as Ashley pulled the orb out of the box and his delight turned to fear.
“Ashley no!” he shouted. “Put that down!”

But his voice couldn’t be heard over the applause and cheers of the crowd. The orb pulsed with energy, drawing the attention of Nihala who roared out a warning, silencing the crowd. Suddenly, the pulsing energy transferred from the orb into Ashley. She looked up as her eyes rolled back into her head; she looked down, bracing herself on the table.

“Ash, are you alright?” Andrew asked. Ashley righted herself and opened her eyes, but it wasn’t Ashley looking back. It was Morgana le Fay.

“Repello!” she commanded, firing a bolt of energy from the orb at Andrew that sent him flying across the square and crashing into the wall.

She turned to Rose and Edan, sitting next to her looking confused. “Repello!” she commanded again, sending the two flying off the dais.

Shouts of horror and disbelief could be heard around the square. Stephanie rushed to help Andrew while Sarafina and Nevan looked after Rose and Edan. Bryan rushed to his daughter but Archie stopped him.

“Ashley, what are you doing?!” he shouted.

“No, no Gil-Gamesh … it’s not Ashley,” Archie explained. “That’s the Orb of Veles. Ashley has been possessed! It’s Morgana … Morgana le Fay! The sorceress has returned!”

***

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 at Inkitt.

 

Why be a writer when it costs you time, money and leaves you open for criticism? Because …

My journey as a self-published author really began more than 30 years ago. A college dropout, with very little education or ambition to show for it, I decided my only option was to join the military. With my background in art and writing, I was offered the chance to be a Navy Journalist. I jumped at the opportunity and enlisted.

During my first few years in the Navy, I got married and started my career aboard the aircraft carrier USS FORRESTAL, stationed in Jacksonville, Florida. I also began a steady diet of playing Dungeons & Dragons with friends, to pass the time during those long deployments at sea. Back then, before video game consoles, the internet and satellite TV, D&D was the only distraction available to pass the time.

That’s where my stories began to develop. You see, when you’re spending a large number of off duty hours playing D&D, missing your wife and newborn daughter while deployed thousands of miles from home, it can mess with your head. In my case, I started having a recurring dream about me and my wife, trapped on an island filled with magical fantasy creatures. The dream changed as my children grew older, they started coming into my dream. Finally, I decided I had to start writing it all down.

During my last deployment in 2001, I started developing the story of Forever Avalon. I used my family as inspiration for the family in my novel, including using their middle names as the names of my characters. It took me a few years to really develop the story until it was finally completed in 2004. The funny thing is, when I finished the novel, I stopped having the dream. It seems there was a purpose to it after all.

From that point on, it was just a matter of finding a publisher. I sent out my manuscript to various publishers but got rejected multiple times. I was finally contacted by James A. Rock Publishing and they offered to publish my book, for a price. Now, I didn’t know a lot of self-publishing at that time and it seemed to be a great opportunity. They helped me get my novel in the proper format, had an artist do the cover and put my book online.

The first thing I discovered about self-publishing was that the publishing companies are not book editors and they don’t really edit manuscripts. After Forever Avalon was published, I sent copies of my book to all my family. My mother, bless her heart, sent me two pages of spelling and grammatical errors she found in the book. That was a truly humbling experience. My publisher let me pull the book, make the proper edits and then sent it back out.

The next thing I discovered about self-publishing is that publishers don’t publicize your novel. I spent every minute of my time calling book stores to see if I could set up a book signing, contact and pay people to review my novel, and set up social media to advertise my book. You wanted to be just a writer, but I discovered that in the world of self-publishing, you have to be a jack-of-all-trades instead.

I took the lessons learned from my first novel and applied it to my second one when I self-published The Dark Tides. That brings me to my third lesson in self-publishing … MONEY. You have to invest a lot time and money into getting your work out there for that slim possibility someone will notice you and maybe, just maybe, you can go from self-published author to best-selling author. That’s the dream but, unfortunately, it’s not always the reality.

Self-publishing can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive, but in all honesty, I wouldn’t change a single thing. Even if one or two people read my book and fall in love with the stories and the characters I created from that dream all those years ago, it’s worth it to me. I will continue to strive to be a storyteller to those who will listen to me.

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 holiday season flies by faster than Santa’s sleigh with a tail wind

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It’s finally here! Christmas is only four days away. It’s strange how time flies so fast around the holiday season. You blink and it’s over. Jus as your finish putting up the Christmas decorations, you barely have time to enjoy them and suddenly, you start to take them down.

I’m not trying to burst the holiday bubble, really I’m not. It’s just every year, as the holidays start earlier (as in October) they seem to go by faster. You look forward to going to holiday parades, Christmas tree lighting celebrations, visiting family and before you know it, POOF! It’s all gone.

By the end of the week, the annual parade of Christmas specials will change into “Year in Review” specials and a look back at 2015. It’s just too abrupt. We have become a society where “we want it fast and we want it now” as we try to cram everything into one holiday, not even enjoying it as we rush off into the next. It’s like when you mother tells you “to slow down and enjoy your dinner” but you just want to get it over with so you can go back to playing video games or watching TV.

Some cultures even take Christmas out farther to January 6 to celebrate the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, when the three wise men finally arrived at the manger to present gifts to the baby Jesus. There are so many significant differences in cultures and how they celebrate Christmas, you wouldn’t even recognize it in other countries.

In the Far East, like China and Japan, Christmas is not a recognized national holiday. It’s more of a commerce-driven celebration. Sure, they still exchange gifts, hang up decorations and send out Christmas cards, but not for the same reason as us. In most African nations, Christmas is a time when people empty the cities and return to their ancestral homes to be with family. In all of this, you can still see the one common denominator, bringing people together to celebrate family and friends.

So, however you celebrate Christmas this year, I hope you can spend that time with family and friends and enjoy the holiday and the end of 2015. So here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, and a Happy New Year!

 

The forgotten Christmas specials we never get to watch anymore

At this time of year, the one thing you can always count on is the throng of Christmas specials airing on every channel imaginable, in one language or another, at various times of day to ensure we get to see it  within the holiday season. We find ourselves overwhelmed with 24 hours of A Christmas Story, 25 Days of Christmas on ABC Family, etc.

But through all that, there’s still a few memorable Christmas movies and TV specials that you don’t see anymore. These shows captured the spirit of Christmas but seemed to have fallen out of favor when it comes to TV programmers. I, for one, haven’t forgotten them and thought it would be great to share them with you.

hqdefaultThe Forgotten Toys (1995) — This is one of my favorite animated specials, not only for the unique “storybook” animation, but for the beautiful, timeless Christmas story it represents. Teddy the Bear and Dolly the Ragdoll were thrown out on Christmas morning for better, hi-tech toys. The two go on an adventure through junkyards and old cellars to find a child to love them. The best part of this special is the brilliant performance by the late Bob Hoskins (Roger Rabbit, Hook) as Teddy Bear. His best scene is where he tells the story of how the Teddy Bear was named (after President Theodore Roosevelt) to try to sway some angry dogs. It’s a wonderful Christmas story. My kids wore out the VHS tape we had, but they have yet to make it into a DvD. It’s a shame to lose this holiday classic.

TheShopAroundTheCornerPoster-01The Shop Around the Corner (1940) — You think you know this one but you probably don’t. The Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan film You’ve Got Mail was based on this original classic with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. Her store was called The Shop Around the Corner as a nod to the original. The premise is still the same, a man and a woman correspond and fall in love, not realizing its the person right next to them who they loathe and despise. The original takes place in Budapest at Christmas time. Though it’s not a strict holiday film, it has that “Frank Capra” holiday “vibe” to it like It’s a Wonderful Life. One of the best scenes for me is the restaurant scene where he finds out she’s the one he’s been corresponding with. I swear the scene is virtually identical to the one in You’ve Got Mail. It’s funny, warm-hearted, and the chemistry between Jimmy Stewart and Maragret Sullavan is fun to watch.

picture31A Muppet Family Christmas (1987) — This is all the classic Muppet franchises from the beginning brought together in one Christmas special. We’re talking The Muppet Show, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock. It involved Fozzy the Bear bringing all his friends to his mother’s house in the country to celebrate Christmas, unaware she was planning Christmas in Hawaii. Soon the Sesame Street gang shows up, with the Swedish Chef trying to cook Big Bird for Christmas dinner, and Kermit and Robin finding their way underground to Fraggle Rock. It even has a brief appearance of a home movie of the Muppets as babies. It’s one of those Christmas specials that’ll have the music stuck in your head for months after Christmas. My wife can’t listen to the song “We need a little Christmas now” without thinking of the Muppets.

hqdefault (1)Bedtime for Sniffles (1940) & Peace on Earth (1939) — I remember watching these as a child and then watching them again with my children. This was a time when cartoons was made to makes us laugh and teach us powerful messages, not gross us out or shock us like the cartoons of today. Bedtime for Sniffles is a classic Looney Toons cartoon featuring the adorable Sniffles the Mouse. Sniffles wants to stay up late to see Santa and does everything he can to try to stay awake. This is one determined mouse, drinking a pot of black coffee wait for Santa. It’s cute adorable and filled with the holiday spirit you generally associate 150-004singwith cartoons from this era. Peace on Earth is another classic yet rarely seen holiday cartoon, made in the hopes for peace after the horrors of World War I reigned across Europe. Even as Hitler rose to power and the prelude to World War II, there was still hope for peace. It’s amazing to see the instruments of war used as houses and other items by the animals in this cartoon.

ebbie-06Ebbie (1995) — There have been many versions of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, but this one is one of my favorites. It features popular TV soap star Susan Lucci as Elizabeth Scrooge, or Ebbie. It uses a popular local department store as the venue for this Christmas story, a workaholic CEO who only sees the bottom line at Christmas. I do love how the ghosts take on the form of her employees, showing her through her tortured life. Marley is especially tragic, but acting in a very business-like way, setting up her visits by the ghosts as appointments. She even offered to take them all at once on a conference call. It has all the wonderful, heart-warming messages found within the Dickens classic. It is definitely one to watch!

Well, these are my lost but not forgotten holiday classics, what’s some of yours? Let me know in the comment section about your favorite but forgotten holiday hits!Until then, Merry Christmas!