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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s the matter Sarafina?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

 

Don’t Mess with the Gil-Gamesh – An Excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

People always underestimate one another, especially when it comes to outsiders or people who are different from them. I grew up feeling that way because I was different from most people I knew. I liked comic books, cartoons and sci-fi/fantasy movies while others thought those things childish and nonsense.

SolaresFrostI think that’s why I made Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh, an outsider with a lot to prove in Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides. Though most of Avalon looks up to him as a hero and a champion, others scorn him as an Outlander and unworthy of wielding the Twin Swords of the Dragon Moon.

Here is an excerpt from The Dark Tides where the Gil-Gamesh’s power is tested by such an individual, but he proves himself once again as the champion of Avalon.

***

Anger filled his eyes as he looked down the street toward his attacker. Th e lone figure stood in the middle of the road, his face shrouded by a flowing black robe. In his hand, pointed at the Gil-Gamesh, was his wand, still pulsing with magical energy. Th e wand was a twisted branch of wormwood with a dark moonstone embedded at its base.

“I don’t know who you are, but you must have a death wish to attack me here in my own home,” Bryan swore.

“The only one who will be dying here today is you and your pathetic Outlander family Gil-Gamesh,” the attacker grumbled, his voice low and guttural. “Th e Cult of Darkholm will seal your fate once and for all.”

Th e Cult of Darkholm came to rise aft er the Gil-Gamesh killed Lord Kraven Darkholm in a wager by battle … A duel to the death. The death of Lord Darkholm meant the end of the line of Morgana le Fay. Th e cult believed that they must kill the Gil-Gamesh in order to restore balance to Avalon.

“How many more of you fanatics do I have to kill to end this idiocy?”

“You cannot kill us all Gil-Gamesh … Death cannot kill that which never dies!”

“Never say never zealot!” the Gil-Gamesh shouted as he leapt at his attacker, swinging Twilight down toward the cultist’s head. But before his sword strikes, he cried “Incandesco!” causing Twilight to burst with bright light. With the attacker temporarily blinded, Hunter and Nevan drew
their GunStars and fired a volley at the attacker. The spell shots erupted as a single fiery projectile that split into many fiery projectiles.

Th e cultist waved his wand and chanted “Caligo Obscurus Cimmerii”—an incantation Bryan had never heard before. Tendrils of darkness fl owed out of the wand like an octopus attacking its prey. It reached out to form a protective shield in front of the cultist, swatting at the meteor swarm to dissipate as it impacted on the barrier.

Th e Gil-Gamesh couldn’t believe his eyes. He’d seen spells that blocked magical attacks or deflected them, but never cancel them out like that. He knew he had to take a different tack against this madman. He sheathed his swords and motioned for Hunter and Nevan to back off . The cultist expected the Gil-Gamesh to attack him, swords swinging like a whirlwind, as he is known. He tried a different tack against the champion of Avalon.

“What’s the matter Gil-Gamesh? Are you afraid to use your vaunted swords against me? Th ey are the only reason you have any power on Avalon. Without them, you are nothing,” he taunted.

“You know, I’ve been here for more than 18 years …” Bryan lamented as he removed his gloves, tossing them to as he untied his cloak, letting it fall off his shoulders. “… One would think you idiots would take the time to do your homework.”

“Acheron Draconis!” he commanded. His body erupted with magical energy as it flowed around him until it takes the form of a dragon that acted as an extension of him. Th e people of Emmyr stared in awe of the Gil-Gamesh, but especially Ashley and Andrew. She had seen her father
do some amazing things before, but nothing like this. Th e cultist quivered slightly as fear raced through his body. He wondered if he made a mistake in taunting the Gil-Gamesh, but he
stood firm.

“I am Lord Bryan MoonDrake, Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, 17th DragonMage of the Wizard’s Council,” Bryan announced as he cupped his hands in front of him, drawing power from ground and focusing it through the dragon stone that hung around his neck. His eyes pulsated with magical energy in an unnatural glow. “You are sadly mistaken to think that I am powerless without my swords; but that is a mistake I will gladly help you resolve!”

“Aboleo evi Itum!” Bryan chanted as he released the energy through his dragon-form at the cultist. With a wave of his wand, the cultist reformed his dark energy shield but the blast hit with such a force, it pushed the cultist back. He grasped his wand with both hands, trying to hold off the Gil-Gamesh. He looked up into the sky and stared at the crescent moon, as if he were calling to it for help. The blast slowly began to break down the dark energy barrier.

SKU-000941753Bryan knew he had to press his advantage. He reached out with his right hand to toward a lit torchiere hanging next to one of the vendor’s stalls. “Draconis Infernus!” he cast, drawing the fire to him and adding it to his energy blast, igniting his dragon-form into a fire-breathing dragon. The explosion shattered the dark shield, igniting the cultist’s robes on fire. He dropped down to one knee, his garments burnt away, leaving nothing but a charred husk.

***

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

Who is the Gil-Gamesh? Legendary Hero or Feared Warrior?

Within many stories today, there are names that stand out when spoken, induce fear and awe into others and make a character imposing. Names like Gandalf the Gray, James Bond, and Elric of Melnibone are known all around the world.

When I began writing Forever Avalon, I wanted to create a protagonist with just such a name. A name that would be remembered by anyone who read my story. That’s when I created the Gil-Gamesh.

gilgameshIn history, the Gilgamesh was known as a hero, a Demigod and a King from ancient Mesopotamia. He was the main character of the Epic of Gilgamesh, considered the first great work of literature. The first half of the story discusses Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, and Enkidu, a wild man created by the gods to stop him. After an initial fight, Gilgamesh and Enkidu become close friends until the Gods kill Enkidu. In the second half of the epic, Gilgamesh’s distress at Enkidu’s death causes him to undertake a long and perilous journey to discover the secret of eternal life. He eventually learns that “Life, which you look for, you will never find. For when the gods created man, they let death be his share, and life withheld in their own hands.”

In Forever Avalon, I wanted to reimagine the story of King Arthur and continue the adventures after his death. As the last remaining member of the Knights of the Round Table, Sir Percival was to be a champion of Avalon, not its King, after Guinevere began her reign over Avalon. I needed a name to make Percival stand out and be recognized as the champion of Avalon. So this is where I took my own spin on history and the story of King Arthur and the Gilgamesh.

Before his death, King Arthur sent his knights out on a quest for the Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus and the disciples drank from at the Last Supper. In his search, Percival travelled through Persia and Mesopotamia. There, he heard the stories of the Gilgamesh, about his strength, his courage and his love for his people. That resonated within the knight.

Percival was given Twilight and Dusk, the Twin Swords of the Dragon Moon, by Queen Guinevere to take up arms against the forces of Morgana Le Fay and defend to Avalon. He accepted the task and took a name that would strike fear in his enemies and bring hope to the people of Avalon.

He declared himself the Gil-Gamesh, the champion of Avalon, protector of the realm and defender of the innocent. He took the name from one culture and brought it into his own, to honor the demigod King and bring hope to the people of Avalon.

This is something we do as writers … We honor and recognize the past by including their stories in what we write today. I know many people have never read the Epic of Gilgamesh and don’t know who he was; but I hope through my stories, they will.

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

Remembering our heroes through writing – An excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

This past weekend, we celebrated Memorial Day in the U.S., honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation. As a veteran myself, I try to honor my fellow military service members in my writing.

The main character in the Forever Avalon series, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh, was a U.S. Navy Sailor, lost at sea. His friend and mentor, Sir Charles Taylor, is based on Navy pilot, Lt. Charles Taylor, flight leader of Flight 19, who disappeared with his squadron at sea.

In reality, the Gil-Gamesh is also based on a real-life Navy hero. His name was Chief Gerald Farrier, an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate who died aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal during the Vietnam War.

Fire erupted aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CV 59) on July 29, 1967.

Fire erupted aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CV 59) on July 29, 1967.

On July 29, 1967, while the ship was preparing for flight operations, a Zuni rocket misfired and exploded on the carrier’s flight deck. The deck was full of aircraft, loaded with fuel and bombs. The fire engulfed the aft deck, trapping pilots inside their planes. Farrier, without regard for his own life, ran towards the fire with a PkP fire extinguisher in an attempt to help the pilots escape. Within minutes, the bombs started to explode and Farrier was killed instantly.

The USS Forrestal was the first ship I reported to when I joined the Navy in 1983. I became very familiar with the story of the Forrestal fire and Farrier’s heroism. You can find his name enscribed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., along with his shipmates who perished that day.

It was that selfless devotion to duty and the protection of others that I tried to instill in my character of the Gil-Gamesh. Writers take inspiration from a elements and experiences in their life, and I can’t think of a better inspiration than a true hero like Chief Farrier.

Here is an excerpt from The Dark Tides which recalls the event that brought Chief Bryan Drake from the real world to the mystical island of Avalon and into the role of the Gil-Gamesh.

***

Inside Flight Deck Control, Bryan rushed into a flurry of activity. McGregory was on the phone with the “Air Boss”— the officer in charge of air operations on Enterprise while others peered out of the small windows to get a peek at what’s happening on deck.

“Clear away from the window,” Bryan shouted to the sailors. “If you don’t have any business in control, get out now!” The sailor’s groaned and filed out as the Handler hung up the phone. His mustache twitched— a sign Bryan came to learn as trouble.

“Chief, the Boss doesn’t want that aircraft damaging any others,” he said to Bryan. “It’s already clipped another helo and a Hawkeye. Think you can secure it?”

Bryan looked at the Handler, tense and nervous. He’s always relied on Bryan for the tough jobs, and he knew it had to be done. “Yes sir. Just give me Georgie, Bartman and a couple blue shirts and we’ll lock it down.”

The Handler picked up the sound- powered phone while Bryan grabbed a flight deck vest and helmet off a hook on the wall. He’d need the safety gear out on the flight deck, especially in this weather. George, Petty Officer Mike Bartman and two blue shirts— sailors who chain the aircraft down to the deck— arrived in Flight Deck Control. Bryan finished buckling his helmet as he relayed orders to his crew.

“Georgie, you drive the tractor. I want that bird hooked up and holding steady. Bartman, you guide him into the helo. Once that’s done, you two lock it down tight. Ready?”

They all chimed in at the same time. “Yes Chief!” Bryan opened the hatch to the flight deck, the wind and rain blowing them down almost immediately. Once everyone is outside, Bryan moved his crew toward the swinging helicopter. Its rear wheel remained chained to the flight deck but its front wheels broke free, causing the aircraft to swing like a pendulum.

Georgie and Bartman go around the island and start up a tractor while the two blue shirts stayed close to Bryan. The ship was listing heavily to right as huge waves crashed over the flight deck. The wind and rain added to the problem, making it hard for them to get good footing. Complicating things even more was the multiple aircraft around them, strained against their chains by the storm.

Georgie backed the tractor on the helo’s rear wheel and, with Bartman’s help, locked the helo down. Once steady, Bartman signaled a thumbs’ up to Bryan to send the two blue shirts in. Heavy chains hung on their shoulders, chocks in their hands, Bryan ordered the two sailors to get to work. He watched as the chocks were placed under the wheels and the chains are hooked on to tie the aircraft down.

Bryan was pleased with his team. He had a great group of sailors working for him. The blue shirts gave the thumbs up and they all started to celebrate, fists pumping and cheering, until without warning, things went from bad to worse. The ship hit a big swell that caused the carrier to drop fast and list heavy to starboard. Bryan can only watch as Bartman slipped and started to tumble backwards toward the edge of the flight deck.

He acted quickly to save his shipmate; without regard for his own life or safety, he dove after Bartman. The momentum of the listing deck flung him through the air. He reached Batman and knocked him into the catwalk, saving his life, but his life saving gesture propelled him over the side of the ship into the water.

He hit the water hard and momentarily blacked out. His safety gear kicked in, though, and his vest auto- inflated. He rose to the surface and regained consciousness. The waves, wind and rain battered him around.

He saw the ship in the distance. The sound of “Man Overboard” can be heard, even with the storm. The ship started to turn around, but to Bryan it seemed to be getting further and further away from him, as if he was being pulled away from the carrier.

SKU-000941753The waves continued to beat him about, practically drowning him in its fury. Bryan became disoriented and fear started to grip him … The fear of dying.

He thought about Stephanie and the kids. He remembered birthdays, anniversaries and holidays as images flooded his mind. Suddenly, he saw a glow in the sky. Bryan thought it was the light from a rescue helicopter, but the ship couldn’t have launched one in this weather.

“Is this it? Is this the end?” he thought as the light grew brighter and brighter until it enveloped him. Bryan closed his eyes and accepted his fate.

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

The first time they met – An excerpt from “Forever Avalon”

This week, I’ll be signing copies of The Dark Tides at my first book signing at Barnes and Noble in Easton, Penn., on Wednesday, May 20, at 7 pm. I thought I would kick things off with an excerpt from my the first book in the series, Forever Avalon. This is the book that started it all for me as an independent author and, for anyone who hasn’t had a chance to read it yet, I want to give you a glimpse into the world of Forever Avalon as you to read about the first encounter between the Gil-Gamesh and his family, just after they arrived on the island.

* * *

51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“We need get moving and get you somewhere safe before more bounty hunters come looking for you,” he said as he walked past them and down the beach. “Everyone, follow me.”

“No!” Stephanie shouted. “We aren’t going anywhere with you until you tell me who you are, what’s going on here and where the Hell we are, because this certainly ain’t Bermuda! I mean, I appreciate you saving my life and my children’s lives, but we’re not going anywhere with you until I get some answers,” she demanded.

The Gil-Gamesh stopped in his tracks. He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head and sighed. “You’re still as stubborn as I remember,” he said as he turned around and stared at her. “And still as beautiful too.”

Stephanie was stunned by what he said to her. Puzzled, she started to look at him very closely. She pulled her children in close, as if to protect them. “What? What do you mean? Who are
you?”

The Gil-Gamesh reached up, pulled the metal sheath off his face and dropped it to the ground. He pulled the hood of his cloak down, revealing long brown hair, peppered with streaks of gray at his temples. His face was older since they last saw him. He had a beard now with streaks of gray running through it. It covered a face they remembered as neat and clean-shaven. In his eyes, they saw something familiar. There was a look of pride … one of caring and love.

Stephanie saw her husband, Bryan Drake. The children saw their father, and he was alive. The shock was overwhelming, but the joy even greater.

“Daddy!” the children shouted in unison, running over to him. He knelt down and reached out—hugging his children close—feeling the warmth and love he thought he’d lost. He held them in his arms, his grip tighter and stronger than they remember, as he kissed each one of them.

“I’d never thought I’d see these wonderful faces again for as long as I live,” he exclaimed as tears welled up in his eyes.

Hunter held his father’s face in his hands, pulling it so Bryan would look right at him. “What happened to you Daddy?” he asked.

“Yeah, when’d you get all medieval?” Rose chimed in.

“You’ve got that 80’s rocker look with your hair, Dad. It’s so retro,” Ashley added, stroking her father’s hair.

Bryan just smiled and laughed. “Well, it’s a long story.” He stopped and looked past the children over at Stephanie. She stared at him and wondered if what she saw was real or just an illusion.
Bryan let go of his children and walked over to her. He took off his gloves, reached out and touched her face.

“Still as beautiful as in my dreams,” he told her, sweetly and sincerely. She reached up and touched his hand. She spied the wedding band on his finger—the one she put there over 20 years ago.

“Bryan, is it really you?”

He pulled her close and kissed her passionately. She’s hesitant but melted in his arms when she realized it’s really him. Stephanie wrapped her arms around him and returned the kiss, reigniting the passion and love she thought she’d lost.

He released her, still looking into her eyes. They’re both crying as tears ran down their cheeks. “I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed waking up to this face.”

She smiled at hearing that. “No, I look terrible,” she said, wiping the tears from her eyes. Then, reality sank back in and a thousand questions came to mind.

She pushed off him and got very serious, very fast. “Bryan, what’s going on? Where the Hell are we and why are you dressed like that?” she demanded.

The kids then chimed in with their questions. “What were those creatures? Were they really trolls?” Ashley asked. “How did you make that dragon appear? Are you a wizard or
something?” Rose inquired. “Those swords are so wicked … can I see them?” Hunter jumped in.

Bryan put his hands up to quiet them down, “Sh-h-h … all right, listen to me,” he said. “I know you have a lot of questions, but right now, I need to get you somewhere safe.” Stephanie tried to interject, but Bryan interrupted her. “Listen to me, Stef; there are more hunters like Biscuit out there looking for you,” he said, calling her by that familiar nickname he always called her.

“And I can’t protect you out in the open like this.” He walked down the beach in the direction he was heading before. “There’s a lighthouse just a few miles down the beach,” he said pointing
the way. “You’ll be safe there, and I promise, once we get there I’ll answer all your questions.”

Stephanie looked at Bryan, not sure whether to believe him or not. “Please Stef, you have to trust me. This is not the time or the place to sit down and talk. We need to get moving … now!”

She saw the honesty in his eyes and sensed the danger he mentioned as being very real. She didn’t want to endanger her children, so she had no choice.

* * *

I hope to see you there at my book signing. I always love the opportunity to speak with people about the story behind my book series.

The Shield Maidens of Avalon – An Excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

Shield Maidens, the warrior elite of Avalon.

Shield Maidens, the warrior elite of Avalon.

When I think of the word “Shield Maiden” I am reminded of where I first heard it used. In “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” Aragorn calls Eowyn, a “Shield Maiden of Rohan.” It was from this that I created the Shield Maidens of Avalon, women devoted to God, King and Country, selfless in their duty of protecting the Knights of Avalon in battle. These warrior nuns (as I like to call them) are elite warriors on par with the Knights of the Round Table. The two share a special relationship, almost symbiotic,  that is built on honor, duty and trust. It’s one that the Gil-Gamesh and Sarafina, his adopted daughter, share; but theirs transcends that even more. Here is an excerpt from “The Dark Tides” that demonstrates how deep that relationship is. See if you can catch how I named my Shield Maidens.

***

Th e Crooked Goose was well known as an establishment that specifi cally catered to the lowlifes of Avalon. It sat at the crossroads of the Vanir Road and Hadrian’s Pass on the outskirts of Blackbriar Forest. Like many inns and taverns along the roads of Avalon, the Crooked
Goose was a place for travelers and locals to eat, drink, relax and conduct business. But anyone stopping there usually found themselves robbed blind or their throats cut come morning.

Th e inside of the Crooked Goose was dimly lit as most of the people visiting the establishment preferred the dark. Th e drinks were strong and intoxicating while the women were loose and homely. Humans, Dwarfs, Dark Elves and even some goblins and other dark creatures liked to meet in the Crooked Goose. Most of the time, they’re looking for any opportunities for underhanded work on Avalon, from simple robbery to an assassination.

Th e Gil-Gamesh lets this establishment stay open because he always knew where to look when trouble started or to fi nd information. Sarafina knew that too which is why the Crooked Goose was the first place she visited in her search for Lord MoonDrake. He’s been gone for nearly a week now. Th e fact that he hadn’t turned up dead yet meant they’re keeping him alive somewhere, probably torturing him.

Sarafina kicked the door in unceremoniously, blinding most of the patrons inside as the midday sun poured through the door. She was flanked by four of her sister Shield Maidens, dressed in plate armor and carrying various weapons from swords to pole arms. Sarafina walked in slowly, not saying a word until she found the right spot so she could see everyone in the room.

“Caleb Guoyle!” she shouted. “I want to know where that rat hides. Whoever tells me what I want to know will more than likely leave this place alive.”

“Now just one minute here!” a voice boomed from behind the bar. Elmer McElroy moved out from the bar, slowly shift ing his rather large frame. He’s been running the Crooked Goose for more than 50 years, since he killed the previous owner and took from him. He looked fat but
that was misleading. McElroy was strong as an ox and a resilient fighter. He once broke a trolls arm while arm wrestling with it. Elmer chomped down on his cigar and strutted over toward Sarafina. His receding hair line was more prominent with his hair pulled back into a ponytail. It also highlighted his enormous forehead, squinty eyes and bulbous nose.

“Just who do you think you are missy, coming into my establishment and threatening my customers,” he argued as he got right in Sarafina’s face. Elmer took a long drag on his cigar and blew the smoke right at her. “Now I suggest you get out of here before you end up like the
Gil-Gamesh!”

Sarafina turned away, as if to leave, but in one swift motion, she drew her sword and swung it at Elmer, cutting off the brute’s nose and half his cigar in one swipe. Elmer dropped to the floor, holding his face as blood spurted everywhere, agonizing in pain. He grabbed his apron and pulled it up to his nose to try to stem the bleeding.

Th e other Shield Maidens drew their weapons and surrounded Sarafina while she walked over to Elmer. Even though they were outnumbered, most of them knew better than to pick a fi ght with a Shield Maiden, especially one that’s extremely pissed off . Sarafina grabbed him by the collar and placed her sword at his throat as Elmer continued to scream at her.

“You bitch!” he shouted. “Look what you did to my nose!”

“You’re going to lose something a lot more precious than that if you don’t answer my question,” she said as she shift ed her sword from his throat to his groin, cutting through his pants and poised right at his manhood.

“Easy, easy lass!” he protested. “I don’t know where Guoyle is. He moved into some keep hidden in the Fenris Mountains. That’s all I know, I swear!”

“You’re going to have to do better than that,” Sarafi na declared, cutting away a little more pants as her sword grazed his thigh.

“Wait! Wait!” he pleaded. “There’s a troll, Usage is his name, I think. He used to live in some old keep in the Fenris Mountains, or so he said. He’s living in an old stump of a wormwood tree near the western opening to Blackbriar. You can’t miss it.”

Sarafina pulled her sword out and let Elmer go. She stood up and stared down the others in the Crooked Goose. “Rest assured, if I have to come back here, no one will be leaving this place alive.”

Sarafina turned to leave with the other Shield Maidens right behind her. Th e sounds of horses could be heard as the maidens rode away from the Crooked Goose. As soon as they’re gone, the bar quickly emptied as patrons didn’t want to be around in case Elmer gave her some bad information. All Elmer could do was sit on the floor in excruciating pain, hoping he never saw that Shield Maiden again.

Th ey rode straight through as Sarafi na continued on her search for the Gil-Gamesh. “He wouldn’t give up on me, I won’t give up on him,” she pondered as she rode toward Blackbriar and the troll named Usage. Even though the sun was high in the sky, Blackbriar Forest lived up
to its name as the thick overgrowth kept the interior of the woods dark. Th e Shield Maidens slowly entered the forest until they spotted the fallen Wormwood tree just as Elmer described.

About 100 yards off the road sat the downed tree. It fell toward the path with the roots sticking up at the far end of the tree. On the other side of the roots, obscured from view, the soft glow of a fi re could be seen.

Sarafina and the Shield Maidens quickly dismounted to access the situation and determine the best course of action for them. “Okay, Merida … You and Ariel go around the right. Aurora and
Snow will come with me around the left . Move quickly and quietly so we can jump out at the same time.”

“Why do I always have to go with the princess?” Merida complained, her thick Brogue accent running her words together.

“Who’re you calling a princess, princess?” Ariel snapped back.

“Zip it you two or you’ll have more than an angry troll to deal with!” Sarafina retorted. The Shield Maidens drew their weapons and started moving toward the roots. Shield Maidens were well versed in all forms of combat but each carried a weapon unique to their personality and
skills. Merida knocked an arrow in her long bow while Ariel wielded a trident. Sarafi na and Aurora both drew long swords while Snow carried a large hammer with a pick-axe on the backside. They moved in unison until they reached the root of the fallen tree.

Lessons learned from a 23-year career in the U.S. Navy

I can honestly say that I never intended to join the Navy when I graduated high school. I pictured myself as the next Stan Lee or Jack Kirby, fixated on attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and becoming a comic book artist. It was my first time living away from home and I made a lot of mistakes that eventually brought me right back home with Mom and Dad. Needless to say, my prospects of getting into another college or even a job were slim. That was when my retired U.S. Marine Corps father suggested (for lack of a better term) joining the military.

I wasn’t thrilled with the idea but there weren’t many options for me. You see, I come from a military family. My Mom and Dad were in the Navy and Marines respectively. My brother, sister-in-law, two uncles were Marines, one uncle and a cousin were Sailors and my grandfather served in the Navy in World War II.

Chief Journalist Mark Piggott aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65) circa 2002.

Chief Journalist Mark Piggott aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65) circa 2002.

The one thing I wanted was a career and training, and the U.S. Navy offered me all of that. As a Navy Journalist, I learned writing, broadcasting, photography, graphic design and public relations. Over the years, I travelled halfway around the world and back, visited many foreign countries and experienced cultures far and wide. Like they advertised, “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure!”

Those experiences resonate through my “Forever Avalon” and “The Dark Tides” novels. Bryan Drake went from a Chief Petty Officer, a leader of men, to the champion and protector of an entire island. It’s the same feelings all veterans feel–duty, honor, courage and responsibility–that made Bryan give up his family and his home to become Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh. He put the people of Avalon ahead of his own personal needs.

Even after his family was brought to Avalon years later, he was torn between his responsibility to his family and his duty to Avalon. This is something the men and women of the armed forces go through each and every day.

Everytime I had to say good-bye to my wife and kids, I felt like I was abandoning them by leaving them on their own. It’s not easy when you have to leave them for six months to a year at a time, missing birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. That’s what made the homecomings so much more sweeter and rewarding.

It’s that same spirit of selfless devotion to duty that I tried to instill in the Gil-Gamesh. He is a warrior, tried and true, ready to fight for what he believes in; but deep-down, he’s a family man at heart, whose love for his wife and kids is the only thing that keeps him going. I think anyone who wore the uniform knows that feeling.

The Navy gave me a great education and great experiences, but it was always coming home to my family that meant the most to me. The Gil-Gamesh has that same drive and determination, coming from a long line of warriors who put duty to Avalon above all else. Remember, faith and family gives us the courage to face our fears and do what’s right.

Creating the world of Forever Avalon

It’s easy to create something when you’ve got such a great subject to work with. I remember watching movies like “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, “Excalibur” and the first animated version of “The Hobbit” as a teenager. Right then and there, I was hooked on swords and sorcery, fantasy and adventure. I grew even more enamored when “Dragonslayer” came out in 1981. I saw that movie over and over again when it was first released. The special effects for the dragon were remarkable.

The world of Forever Avalon might have come from long, sleepless nights of Dungeons & Dragons, but it was built on something that already had a mythology. The story of King Arthur, Merlin, Morgana le Fay and the Knights of the Round Table was steeped in legend across time in many different cultures.

It was in those myths and legends that I came up with the concept behind the series … What happened next? They say there is always fact somewhere behind the myth, and that led me to one simple question: Why doesn’t magic exist in our world anymore?

Of course, the answer is because it now exists on Avalon. When King Arthur died, Merlin saw this as an end to the “Age of Magic” in our world, but magic was all he’d ever know. He had to take precautions to keep magic and those “touched” by magic (dragons, Elves, Dwarves, etc.) alive forever.

This is where my story begins, with Merlin using his powers to bring everything magical to the island of Avalon. Now I know that in most mythology, England is considered Avalon, or more specifically Wales. That may be, but my Avalon had to be somewhere separate from the real world. So I created Avalon as an island unto itself.

I have to admit that by doing this, I am cheating a little. Instead of creating an entirely new world like the Westeros in Game of Thrones or Middle Earth in The Hobbit, I’m using one that already existed. I think of this as more of a comfort for readers, making it easier for them to immerse themselves into the story without needing a lot of back story to fill in the gaps.

Plus, you add to it the many different cultures and interpretations of a single mythological creature and you come up with hundreds of varieties to choose from. Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh, is a DragonMage and Lord of Dragons. In researching this part for my novels, I discovered thousands of varieties of dragons from every corner of the planet.

This is why I built my world of Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides around established mythologies. People from India, African, Scandinavia and anywhere else in Europe will find something they can relate to in my novels. To me, a world of magic, Avalon is a refuge for all types of magical birds, beasts and dark dwellers.

Take a step into the world of Forever Avalon and I know you will find something in there just for you!