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.

First artwork for THE OUTLANDER WAR shows the final battle to save Avalon

Half-demon mercenary Abdel Ben Faust challenges the Gil-Gamesh, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, and his Shield Maiden, Amelia Pomodoro, in the Elven Temple of Eternal Starlight in the ancient city of Alfheimer. (Art by Pam Hage)

I am so proud to show you the first artwork based on my third novel, The Outlander War. This is the pivotal fight between Abdel Ben Faust, the half-demon mercenary swordsman, and Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh and Eternal Champion of Avalon, along with his Shield Maiden, Amelia Pomodoro. Thanks to Pam Hage, better known as the Queen of Eagles, for her beautiful artwork! You can check her out on Instagram and on Deviant Art.

Here’s an excerpt from The Outlander War: Book 3 of the Forever Avalon Series to lay out the scene depicted above.

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From the highest points on the mountains flanking the two sides of Alfheimer, the Wrath Legion poured down the mountainside and into the city. Thousands of armoured wraiths ran down the sheer cliffs into the defenders below. The two sides clashed instantly, steel clanging against the phantom weapons of the wraiths.

The shield maidens held their own against the Wraith Legion, living up to their reputation as legendary warriors. The Dragon Guard matched well against the ghostly warriors. Hunter’s spell shot proved most useful against the wraiths, breaking through their armour and shattering their heartstones with a blast of fiery light.

As the battle raged around them, the Gil-Gamesh watched and waited, looking for their leader to appear. The sound of a demon hole opening behind him assured him that his wait was over. Bryan spun around as Abdel Ben Faust lunged at him, bringing his broadsword Deathsong down at the Gil-Gamesh’s head. Bryan crossed his swords and blocked his attack. Amelia stepped in and, true to fashion, used her shield to pummel Faust, hurling him away and to the ground.

Faust got up slowly as he ran his hand under his nose. He saw the dripping blood, caused by Amelia’s blow, and it angered him even more. “You’ll pay for that, you little bitch!” he cursed.

“Take another step closer, braggart, and I’ll knock you down again!” Amelia jabbed back at him. The three circled each other, there in the foyer of the temple, and jockeyed for position.

“I don’t know who or what possessed you to commandeer the Wraith Legion, Faust, but it ends today. You’re putting all our lives at risk from the demon hordes of Hell, and for what? For some foolish master with eyes on the throne of Avalon?”

“You know not of my master, Gil-Gamesh, and when you do…you will only find your death!” Faust lunged at the two again, slashing wildly. Like a precision machine, Amelia and the Gil-Gamesh worked in unison, trading blow-for-blow with Faust. Amelia blocked his attacks with her shield while Lord MoonDrake struck back at Faust.

Bryan knew that the best way to take down a formidable swordsman like Faust was to keep him off balance. The Gil-Gamesh pressed his attack, keeping Twilight high and Dusk low. Faust swung mercilessly at the two of them, cutting out chunks of marble from the floor and columns with his massive broadsword.

When one such blow briefly lodged Deathsong in it, the Gil-Gamesh saw his opening. He leapt into the air and spun, his blades extended. Bryan sliced at Faust’s chest with Twilight and connected. The unearthly dragonfire of Twilight engulfed the broadsword’s blade, hilt and beyond, burning away part of Faust’s tunic, not to mention Faust himself. The half-demon stepped back and snarled in pain. It was then that Bryan saw the source of Faust’s power.

The Gil-Gamesh looked at the heartstone attached to Faust’s chest. It looked just like the ones on the wraiths and glowed with a heavenly light. “You…insufferable bastard,” he said. “You captured the essence of the heavenly host in that stone to control the wraiths, didn’t you?”

Faust spat on the ground and smirked. “Nothing gets by you, does it?”

“But how, how can a lowlife half-demon like you get command of such magic?”

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This great piece of art will have a place of honor in my Fan Art link, along with other great artwork highlighting the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. There is an additional piece of new art on The Outlander War Fan Art page, but it’s a bit of a SPOILER so I won’t post it here. No sense in spoiling things for those who haven’t read it yet.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. 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.

Racism in a medieval fantasy world… An excerpt from THE DARK TIDES

Today is “Juneteenth” all across this nation, a day to honor the day President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and freed those still held in slavery in 1865. In honor of this day, I wanted to share something with you. I wrote about this very subject in my second novel, The Dark Tides. When I created the world of Forever Avalon, the concept was based around the Bermuda Triangle and where the ships and aircraft that disappeared ended up. In my world, they traveled through a rift in the magical barrier and found themselves on the island of Avalon. So, with that premise, it was possible that a ship carrying captured slaves from Africa ended up on Avalon.

So now I had to mix a world of medieval magic with people, ripped from their homes, and now in a world unknown to them. To me, they would be quite cautious of people and set themselves apart from the rest of Avalon. So now, the stage was set as the Gil-Gamesh, Bryan MoonDrake, a sailor from the modern world who lived through the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, and racial integration, enters into this new land. He hopes to bridge the gap of fear and mistrust with what he’s learned and experienced in the outside world.

Here is an excerpt from The Dark Tides as I use the teachings of Dr. King to make a difference my own medieval, fantasy world.

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As T’Ronga led the Gil-Gamesh through the streets of Togo, Bryan was amazed by the people here. They were very simple folk, dressed in animal furs and cloth woven with colorful designs. The one thing Bryan noticed was how strong and muscular everyone looked, including the women and children. It was as if the entire nation were bred to be warriors.

“I meant to ask this before T’Ronga, but you and others speak English better than I expected. Why is that?”

“One of the first great Chiefs of Togo, Elewa, made our people learn the white man’s language. It is best to know one’s enemy through the language they speak.”

“You really think of us as your enemy? The people of Avalon I mean?” T’Ronga stopped and stared down the Gil-Gamesh.

“It was the white man that captured my ancestors, took them from their homes, their family, and their people and brought them to the white man’s world. Why shouldn’t we consider the people of Avalon our enemies?”

“Avalon is made up of many different races, different cultures and we respect that which makes each of them unique. I’m not your enemy. I hope there comes a day when you will consider me a friend.”

T’Ronga said nothing as he turned and continued on their way. The Togo people stared at the Gil-Gamesh with curiosity and surprise. Most of them had never seen a white man walking freely through the streets without being bound in chains nor allowed to carry weapons. It was completely unheard of on Togo.

As word spread across the city of the arrival of the Gil-Gamesh, people began to line the streets as the crowds fell in behind T’Ronga and his warriors, following them to the Gathering Mount. In the center of Togo was what appeared to be a mound of earth, approximately 500 feet in diameter and over 100 feet tall. In reality, it was a dome of stone, wood, thatch and tar with large crystals embedded in the structure to reflect the light inside. A large opening at the top of the dome circulated air inside through the four entrances at the base, each facing North, South, East and West.

As T’Ronga brought the Gil-Gamesh inside the Gathering Mount, Bryan was again amazed as to how a medieval society could build such an impressive structure with no modern tools or equipment. Stone arches reached up from the floor to hold up the ceiling, connected by wooden beams. There were no chairs or seats for anyone to sit in. At the back of the dome sat a raised dais, made solely of human skulls, with a throne of bones at the top. A shadowy figure sat there, staring out into the darkness. It was a gruesome sight, something made to invoke fear and dominance over people. Bryan wondered if he’d bitten off more than he could chew.

From the throne, the shadowy figure stepped down. He was a heavy-set man but very muscular, adorned with silver and ivory jewelry. He wore a cloak of various animal furs sewn together, clasped around his neck by an ornate broach of gold and rubies. He wore a leather bodice while the rest of his body was painted like the others. Atop his head was a headdress made from the feathers of a variety of birds with a small skull with precious gems in the sockets centered. He held a staff adorned with metal rings, one representing each of the chiefs of Togo, and a human skull at the top of the staff. It was said that the skull was that of the captain of the slave ship that brought them to Avalon.

“That is B’Rrak, Great Chieftain of Togo,” T’Ronga told Bryan. Chief B’Rrak walked down and stood in front of the as he glanced back to see T’Ronga and his men with the Gil-Gamesh. T’Ronga gave an order to the warriors around the Gil-Gamesh and they closed in tight. “You will wait here,” he ordered Bryan as he walked over to Chief B’Rrak.

Bryan stood in the Gathering Mount, awaiting his fate at the hands of these outcasts of Avalon. He watched closely as T’Ronga spoke with Chief B’Rrak; their conversation heated and quite vocal at times. T’Ronga seemed to plead for the Gil-Gamesh to speak. Bryan hoped he found an ally in this Togo warrior. Finally, Chief B’Rrak relented and returned to his throne.

T’Ronga signaled his men to bring the Gil-Gamesh forward. The Togo warriors nudged Bryan toward the throne, still surrounded as he approached the Skull Throne. Chief B’Rrak waved them off as they stepped back behind Bryan. The throngs of people who lined the streets started to file into the Gathering Mount. Their curiosity had brought them inside to see what Chief B’Rrak will do with the stranger.

“Gil-Gamesh, you stand in the presence of B’Rrak, Great Chieftain of Togo,” T’Ronga proclaimed. “Step forward and be heard.”

Bryan bowed to the Chieftain. “I am honored Chief B’Rrak. I am Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon. I humbled to be able to speak with you.”

“Do not thank me Gil-Gamesh, thank T’Ronga,” B’Rrak denoted. “The only reason you are still alive is because he says you are a man of honor. You asked for an opportunity to speak, so speak!”

Bryan collected his thoughts, carefully putting together his words so as not to offend B’Rrak or the people of Togo. “I have been overwhelmed by everything I have seen since I arrived on Avalon and Togo is no exception. You have truly built a wonderful life for yourself here.

“I will not pretend to understand the hardships you or your ancestors went through when they arrived on Avalon. I have read stories about the slave trade at that time in our history. It was barbaric and unforgiving; but while you have lived here with the hate and contempt for the white man for hundreds of years, slavery of your people ended in the real world. You see, I am not from Avalon, I am an Outlander.

“So much has changed since your ancestors survived their journey and arrived on the shores of Togo. Africans now live, work and worship side-by-side with the white man. In fact, the barriers between the different races are practically non-existent. It happened in the real world and it can happen here. As the Gil-Gamesh, I can help bridge the gap between Avalon and Togo and build a new and lasting relationship.”

“Togo has prospered without the help of you, Gil-Gamesh, or anyone in Avalon,” B’Rrak shouted from atop his throne. “We will not bow down and pay tribute to the white king.” The large gathering of people cheered loudly, encouraged by the Chief’s words.

“And no one is asking you to Chief B’Rrak,” Bryan continued. “All I have heard since my arrival on Avalon is praise and respect for Togo. You have the fiercest warriors equal to any knight and powerful shaman on par with the great wizards on Avalon. We would love the opportunity to learn more from each other. The potential is unlimited.

“I didn’t have to come to Togo as part of my Grand Tour of Avalon, but I wanted too. I wanted to reach out to you, to all of you. The time to open relations between Avalon and Togo is now. All I ask is that you give us a chance.”

“A chance? A chance for what? To stab us in the back and return my people to a life of slavery? That’s all the white man has ever wanted!” B’Rrak condemned.

“With all due respect Great Chief, you’re wrong!” Bryan interrupted. A hush fell over the audience. No one had ever spoken to the Great Chieftain before. “This is the time for us to prove you wrong about the people of Avalon, to show you that we are not like the people who enslaved your ancestors.

“A wise man once spoke of a world where his children would be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. He said, ‘Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.’ His name was Martin Luther King, a son of African slaves, who believed that all people of all races could live together in peace. It was a dream he was willing to die for. Don’t let that dream die here too. You cannot live in hate when there is an opportunity for peace.”

T’Ronga was moved by the Gil-Gamesh’s words, as were some of the people in the audience. Never before had they heard anything like this from anyone from Avalon. “Your words touch many here Gil-Gamesh and though your heart may be true, there are many on Avalon who are not as willing as you,” Chief B’Rrak said. “Maybe someday there can be peace with Avalon, but I do not think this is such a time.”

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you Great Chief. May I have your permission to leave Togo in peace?” Bryan said as he bowed to Chief B’Rak.

Chief B’Rrak sat in silence then motioned to T’Ronga. “You may go Gil-Gamesh. May the Gods smile upon you through the rest of your journey,” B’Rrak blessed as T’Ronga led Bryan out. The crowd parted as they moved through, allowing them to leave the Gathering Mount. Some of the people bowed their heads in respect to the Gil-Gamesh, something never done before on Togo. Chief B’Rrak watched his people as he considered what the Gil-Gamesh said.

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I try my best not to get political in my books or on my own social media. I think that people who enjoy fantasy come from all walks of life, not just one ideology. This, however, is a time when we all have to think about the status quo and how we can talk about it and, hopefully, change it for the future. I don’t know if my books can make a difference, but I hope it does bring a voice of clarity in these dark and tumultuous times.

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

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

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

SPOILERS!

BEWARE! 

SPOILERS!

In 3…

2…

1…

Last chance…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Jennie Rosenblum, 4 Stars (Goodreads)

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

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

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

— Nikki Bywater, 3 Stars (Goodreads)

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

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

— Caroline Jenkins, 5 Stars (Goodreads)

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

— Christopher Pullin, 5 Stars (Goodreads)

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

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

Heroes come in many shapes and sizes

Heroes are some of the most complicated characters, in real life and in fiction. As a writer, you try to emulate the best qualities in your hero: humility, bravery, honor and compassion. When you look through history, there are many great examples for a writer to emulate in their characters. Sometimes, though, you find it in the everyday people you know.

Lord Bryan MoonDrake [2072845]In the Forever Avalon series, I patterned my main protagonist, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, after a number of people I’ve known or read about. I wanted to share my muses with you to demonstrate how intricate one character could be.

First and foremost, he was a Sailor in the U.S. Navy, a Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate working on the flight deck of a nuclear aircraft carrier. Now, I’m a retired Navy Chief, but I never worked on the flight deck on a daily basis. One of the most fearless men I ever saw was Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Gerald Farrier. On July 29, 1967, aboard the USS Forrestal (CV-59) off the coast of Vietnam, a Zuni rocket misfired, causing an explosion of jet fuel and munitions on the flight deck. Chief Farrier, ignoring his own safety, grabbed a PKP bottle (fire extinguisher for fuel fires) and charged toward the burning aircraft in the hopes of saving the pilots trapped in their burning aircraft. He continued to fight the fire until one of the bombs under the aircraft wing exploded, killing him and other members of the flight deck firefighting team. That was courage above and beyond the call of duty.

The only other time I witnessed something like that was as a young Sailor aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 74). We were on deployment when a fire broke out on one of the ship’s sponsons, spreading up to the flight deck and into the ship through the ventilation system. My leading chief, at that time, was Chief Gregg Snaza. He was in charge of the repair locker I was assigned too. Once the fire broke out, the ship was called to General Quarters. For four hours, we fought the fire. I watched as Chief Snaza, without regard to his own safety, donned an OBA (Oxygen Breathing Apparatus) and went in to relieve one of the team leaders in charge of the firefighters. I still remember watching him volunteer and don that OBA. It’s that bravery that sticks with you and finds its way into your characters.

Another trait of the Gil-Gamesh is the heart of a warrior: Fierce in battle, courage under fire, and a heart of gold. For these traits, I have dozens of examples to use for inspiration from John Wayne to Audie Murphy, Amelia Earhardt, and Michael Murphy.  The best example, though, is my father, Master Sergeant William Piggott, U.S. Marine Corps. My Dad served for 22 years, did two tours in Vietnam. He’s a quiet man, not much of a talker, but whenever I needed him, he was there. His quiet compassion and understanding is an example I try to set with my own children. He is my hero, and I don’t tell him that often enough.

Heroes are not perfect, but they’re really the embodiment of the many men and women who inspire us on the big screen and in real life. Translating those traits into the heroes of your own stories is not that difficult, as long as the inspiration for those characters resonate with your audience.

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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.

I visited the Bermuda Triangle and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!

article-2555006-1B574E5800000578-140_634x480Last week, the east coast of the United States was under a tropical storm warning as we awaited Hurricane Joaquin. Fortunately, it stayed way out to sea and barely affected us, but it did give me some inspiration. It gave me a great opportunity to talk about one of the “sci-if” elements of Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides … The Bermuda Triangle.

For those who need a little history lesson, the Bermuda Triangle is an area of the Atlantic Ocean between Miami, Florida, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the island of Bermuda, more than 1,510,000 square miles of ocean. There are more than 1,000 recorded incidents in the last 500 years in that part of the Atlantic Ocean.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Bermuda Triangle. I remember a movie from the 1975 that I saw as a kid called Beyond the Bermuda Triangle. Of course, who could forget Leonard Nimoy’s TV series In Search Of, where he spent one episode on the mysterious disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle and possible reasons behind them. Next to the search for Noah’s Ark, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, the Bermuda Triangle is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

Rifts_RPG_Ultimate_Edition_2005I even played a role-playing game, in my D&D days, called Rifts. The story was that Ley Lines, lines of magical every that crisis-cross the Earth, intersect in certain places (like the Bermuda Triangle) creating rifts or portals to other worlds in space and time. This post-apocalyptic game took us into the future. It combined sci-if and fantasy, for example, you had Elves that could hack into computer networks through jacks in their heads. Like I said, fun!

There are plenty of logical reasons why all these boats and planes disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle, from hurricanes to rogue waves, that can explain the phenomenon. I like to think that there is some truth behind the disappearances which is why I incorporated them into my novels.

Sure, aliens are the most prevalent theory behind the myth, but I like to stick to the magical. Using the Bermuda Triangle as a portal to Avalon gave the back story to my novel some credence. The people who survived the storms ended up in the shores of Avalon. There they either blended into the medieval society or died, it was that simple.

866683_f520One of my favorite tales from the Bermuda Triangle is the story of Flight 19. Flight 19 was the designation of five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger torpedo bombers that disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle on December 5, 1945 during a overwater navigation training flight from the Naval Air Station in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. All 14 airmen on the flight were lost. Investigators could not determine the cause of the loss of Flight 19 but said the airmen may have become disoriented and ditched in rough seas after running out of fuel.

I came up with a better answer … They arrived on Avalon. The flight leader, Lieutenant Charles Taylor, became an essential part of the Forever Avalon story. He was a mentor and friend to Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh, from the moment he arrived on Avalon. I originally meant for him to be just a small part of the back story, but in The Dark Tides, I was able develop his story as part of the character development of the Gil-Gamesh.

Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, the Bermuda Triangle will always be a place where sci-fi/fantasy authors can twist and turn their stories in any direction possible. Just be sure not to get lost in there. You never know where you’ll end up.

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

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.

Great leaders making great speeches – An Excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

wallpaper-2856211There are many great speeches, made by some of the greatest leaders of this and past generations, that history will always remember. These were speeches made at times of great turmoil, unrelenting conflict and glorious celebration. Martin Luther King at the Lincoln Memorial; President Franklin D. Roosevelt after the attack at Pearl Harbor; and President Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address just to name a few.

There have also been many great speeches in pop culture, from books, movies and the like. I will always remember the speech actor Bill Pullman made in Independence Day for its emotion and inspiration; or the speech by King Theodin before the charge of the Rohirrim at Gondor in Return of the King for its brevity yet fiery passion.

I knew that to inspire the army of Avalon, outnumbered in its fight against the forces of Morgana le Fay, the Gil-Gamesh needed such a speech. Here is that speech in an excerpt from The Dark Tides.

***

The Gil-Gamesh looked around and was amazed at what he saw; an army of all the races of Avalon, together as one. This was his last chance to say anything before the battle began. He climbed up on a large rock formation just off to the side so he could address everyone. “Vox Vocis!” he chanted, using magic to project his voice.

“Avalon! Hear me Avalon!” he shouted. “I know what you are feeling! I know when you look across the field of battle, you will look into the eyes of death and fear will fill your heart! But we must take our fears and put them aside, for you are not fighting for a track of land or against an enemy invader … You are fighting for our very lives; for our right to exist!

“Morgana le Fay doesn’t want to just conquer us; she wants to destroy us! She wants to rule Avalon from atop a mountain of the dead. She wants to unleash the Dark Tides to destroy all magic except for her own. She has nothing to lose and everything to gain while we have everything to lose.

“Look around you my friends and what do you see? Humans and Elves, Dwarves and Jotunn, Dragons and Centaurs, all standing together like never before. From majestic New Camelot to the rolling fields of Eldonshire and the vaulted shores of the North Highlands; from the shining coast of South Essex, Eastward toward noble Nottinghamshire, from Merlin’s Pinnacle and the mighty Fenris Mountains to the distant islands of Togo and Emmyr; we stand united in our love for our home and for our people and no one … NO ONE can destroy that!”

The masses cheered loudly, inspired by the Gil-Gamesh’s rousing speech.

“We are all that stands between Morgana le Fay and total victory and I say to you now my brothers and sisters, we will not let her have that victory! We will meet evil on the field of battle and beat them back with sword and shield, with might and magic, with honor and justice. She will know that we are Avalon! Now I say to you, come with me and stand by my side so together, we can fight! We fight for our King! We fight for our country! We fight for our families! We fight so that the evil of Morgana le Fay ends today! We fight for Avalon!”

The army sent up another rousing cheer as the Gil-Gamesh got down from the rock and moved back to his position in the front.

***

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