Put a little fantasy into your holiday gifts this year with these wonderful books

Lorden Awakening by Krislee Ellsworth, On the Edge by M.J. Glenn, Jax Marlin by T.K. Toppin, Bound in Darkness by Kim ten Tusscher, and The Publishing Room’s From Dark Corners

Most authors would put a shameless plug in for their own fantasy books, but I want to highlight some great books from some of my fellow independent authors that I read in 2021. I would highly recommend any one of their books for the fantasy or sci fi lover and avid book reader in your home. I met all of these wonderful authors through our independent author social media connections and it has been an absolute joy getting to know them and reading their books.

On the Edge by M.J. Glenn is the first book in the Dweller Hunter series. The novel tells the story of Ebony Wick, who for two years has survived alone as an outlaw and highwaywoman in Rundlewood Forest. She doesn’t need people. She only needs to survive. But when Hunter Sparrow breaks into her camp and invites her to join his gang, the Bounty Hunters, she finds herself facing a difficult choice. With a burning desire for revenge against a powerful enemy, Ebony must choose between reason and instinct. But in doing so, she discovers a long-hidden secret that will change her world forever. I loved this story and how independent minded Ebony is, even when confronted by a haunting past and revelations that change her world forever. I am looking forward to reading more of this series and the continuing adventures of Ebony Wick!

Bound in Darkness by Kim ten Tusscher is the first book in the Lilith Trilogy. I have only read the first book and just started reading the second, Broken in Twilight, so I will just cover Book One. This is the story of Lilith, a woman who has only ever lived with anger and destruction. The sole dragon shifter known to humankind, she despises her life as an instrument of terror at the hands of a prophetic sorcerer. Finally fleeing years of abuse, she’s distraught when she’s captured for stealing food and forced to answer to a bitter king for her crimes. Hiding her fiery past from the monarch’s shrewd advisor, Lilith grits her teeth and endures brutal lashings to keep her powers secret. But when her former abductor sends spies to reclaim her and threatens carnage in the name of God, she’ll have to choose for which captor she’s willing to spill more innocent blood… Can the tortured woman escape to freedom before the land beneath her burns? You really feel for Lilith, the pain and suffering she’s endured, as you read each page of this wonderful novel. I am just getting into Book Two, and it is enthralling and captivating as the first.

Jax Marlin: The Complete Short Story Series by T.K. Toppin is my kind of sci fi noir novel. The vigilante, Jax Marlin, and the special inspector who chases her, Michael Pedroni, find themselves on a journey of deeper self-discovery and mutual understanding as they battle the criminals of the world. What was once black and white and by the book, no longer applies. The world is filled with myriad shades and perspectives, and in order to conquer evil, one must do what one must. Learning this prompts Pedroni to make a life-altering decision. As for Jax, her once-resolute focus wavers when her driving force, the fire inside her, takes over with violent results. She battles her inner demon in a life-long war, she realizes she can’t change who she is and what drives her: bad people must be punished. She must make the ultimate decision: destroy the beast within or continue down the destructive path of homicidal abandon. I love watching classic noir crime dramas on TV and reading this book was like stepping into one of those classic films. The no nonsense detective, the female fatal, the spark between them, and its all done with a sci-fi vibe that I love.

Lorden Awakening by Krislee Ellsworth was, I think, the highlight of my reading this year. Magic has not existed for three centuries, and the world is dying because of it. Anaver has never seen the sun through the foggy dome that surrounds the island of Tamrose. She’s heard tales of other lands and magic, but no one can prove that such things ever existed. When fate pulls her from her home and places her in a land of sun and starlight, she discovers that she harbors a power that can awaken the earth’s dormant magic. Rothrin has watched as the world around him fades away. The elements have long lost their state of Lorden, or harmony, which has caused a decades-long famine to sweep over the continent. All seems lost until he meets Anaver, and the elements begin to awaken. They set out on a quest in a land on the brink of collapse and starvation to unleash the earth’s power before time runs out. Like the other fantasy books in my list, Lorden Awakening has an original magic system that is captivating as the story itself. These are great characters that you’ll fall in love with and villains you’ll hate.

The last book I want to mention is a bit of a shameless plug, but not just for me, for the other authors in this anthology. From Dark Corners is a collection of horror short stories published by The Publishing Room. Their mission is “to ensure that anyone with a dream in publishing a book can accomplish their goals.” They also publish short stories from independent authors in various collections. I published with them previously in their fantasy anthology, On Distant Worlds. This time, I wrote a horror short story called The Chalice for this anthology, my first leap into the genre. Along with authors Samayra Rashid, Danni Grace, Ruchi Acharya, and Jesse Fletcher, this book is a great addition for any horror fans on your holiday gift list. They support independent authors like me, you can too!

Click on the links above to order these books and, if you’re interested, click on the links below to check out my other fantasy novels for your holiday gift list! By the way, I am always open to book review exchanges between authors. I love getting new books to read and helping out other independent authors.

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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.

Experience the journey to Forever Avalon through my first audiobook as a fantasy author

This has been an amazing new adventure for me and I am so excited to share it with you. Thanks to ACX.com and the brilliant narration of voice artist Traci Odom, Forever Avalon can be experienced in a whole new light. You can listen to the adventures of Lord Bryan MoonDrake, Gil-Gamesh and Knight Eternal of Avalon, and his family on the enchanted, magical island. And to those first few who comment on my blog, I send you a promo code to download a FREE copy of this audiobook.

I never knew what to expect from my experience in turning my first fantasy novel into an audiobook. I searched around through various companies, and ACX was rather easy to work with and navigate through the process. All I did was fill out the form, submit a few pages for a sample script, and soon I had over 30 narrators vying to read and produce my audiobook. I got to pick and chose my narrator, set deadline, etc. It was easier than I thought and, as I listened to my story being read to me for first time, totally worth it!

Traci Odom is a wonderfully talented voice artist. She has more than 220 audiobooks under her belt and it shows in the quality of her work. She carried on conversations in different voices, accents, and characters flawlessly. I was amazed at hearing the variety she was able to conjure up in her performance. I would suspect it was a little magic from the story itself leaking into her production. In any care, I was so happy to be able to work with her. Being a first time audiophile, she walked me through the process and communicated every step of the way, answering all my questions, no matter how insignificant. I would highly recommend her for anyone looking to take their novel from print to audio.

So, to claim your FREE copy of the Forever Avalon audiobook, just leave a comment in this blog post. I will reply back with a URL and code for you to download a copy of the audiobook. Sorry to say, but this is only available in the U.S. and the U.K. So please, take advantage of this limited offer and get yours today!

For more than 3,000 years, the island of Avalon remained hidden from the outside world; a place of eternal magic, where the descendants of King Arthur ruled over a land filled with magical creatures, Elves, Dwarves and dragons. The island was only accessible through a rift in the Bermuda Triangle, where mariners and aviators disappeared throughout history. No one believed Avalon was anything but a myth.

Stephanie Drake and her three children were glad to be alive after a sudden storm slammed their boat onto an uncharted island, but it’s not where they think. They found themselves in another world, frozen in time. However, Stephanie and her children found themselves being hunted by bounty hunters, thieves and brigands…caught in a power struggle between Lord Kraven Darkholm, a wizard descended from the sorceress Morgana le Fay, and Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh and Knight Eternal of Avalon.

Now, it’s a race against time as the Gil-Gamesh must protect these Outlanders—as they are called—and get them home to the outside world. All the while, Kraven Darkholm continued his schemes against the people of Avalon, vying to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming ruler of this enchanted island. Take your first step into the world after King Arthur, Merlin, and the Arthurian legends. Step into Forever Avalon!

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Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy 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 Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series, coming soon, and the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates.

“The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart” is now available for your reading library

Art by Anna-Lena Spies, Eerilyfair Design

I am not one for fanfare or release parties or countdowns, so here it is. My latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart, is now available on Lulu and other online booksellers. I finished the final proof review and, thanks to Lulu, its now available as a paperback or ebook.

This novel has been a work in progress for more than two years. It started out as a simple story that blew up into a 200,000 word book, that I cut into two novels. This is the first one.

Animation by Morgan Wright

The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart tells the story of Marcus Gideon, who awoke at the crossroads outside the border town of Armändis. Lost, with no memory of his past life, he was left for dead by brigands… Stabbed through the heart. His life was saved by a blacksmith’s kindness who replaced his damaged heart with a mechanical, magical miracle—a clockwork heart. The gears turned, the motor spun, and his heart was beating again, powered by his magical energy.

Gideon was alive, but his savior was no ordinary blacksmith. Henry Botàn was a Magus. The Magus were the protectors of magic, armed with a magic caster’s power and the strength of a warrior. They were able to summon various magical weapons from specialized caches they wore as an armored pauldron known as an Armory of Attlain. They were legendary among the people of Attlain, until the Magus Rebellion. When a few Magus decided they should lead the people instead of protecting them, they rebelled; but the insurrection ended from within the Magus ranks. However, the rebellion already did the damage. The Magus were cast out, feared, and outlawed except for those few who remained loyal to the crown and lived as adventurers. For generations, they had all but disappeared from the landscape of Attlain.

Henry Botàn was hiding out in Armändis to protect the weapons within his magical armory. The swords, spears, and other-worldly artifacts were potent in their rights, some cursed and even forbidden to wield. His responsibility was to protect these weapons from falling into the wrong hands, but he was old and past his prime. He needed an apprentice, and Marcus Gideon may be the one he waited all these years. Now begins a new adventure, as Gideon searches for clues to his past, looking ahead toward his future in Attlain as THE LAST MAGUS.

A special thanks to Anna-Lena Spies for the great cover she did for my book, and Morgan Wright for the animation! I hope you will take a chance on this exciting new novel, and please, leave a book review for a independent author getting his footing the publishing world. Good or bad, every bit of feedback helps.

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Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy novels and short stories. 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. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers. Get ready for The Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series, coming soon, and the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates.

For the first time, Avalon has been mapped!

The Island of AvalonFor the first time in more than 20 years, you can actually see the island of Avalon as I mapped it out in my mind when I started writing the Forever Avalon series. Thanks to artist Amy Kruzan (follow on Instagram at fantasygraphicsbya) you can follow the adventures of the Gil-Gamesh and the rest of the MoonDrake family, from the dragon isle of Emmyr in the northwest, eastward across the Fenris Mountains to Merlin’s Pinnacle, and south to New Camelot. So, let’s take a quick tour of Avalon, starting due south:

Candletop Lighthouse and Elkwood Forest — This is where the Gil-Gamesh’s family first arrive on Avalon. Elkwood Forest is not as dense nor as dangerous as Blackbriar Forest (to the north) but it is nor an easy place to travel through. You have to go around the forest to reach Candletop Lighthouse. This lighthouse sits on top of a ridge overlooking the ocean below. It was built, not for ships, but rather to draw in Outlanders (people from the outside world) that passed through the rift in the Bermuda Triangle and arrived on Avalon.

Etheldreda — This is the capital city of Eldonshire, the “bread basket” of Avalon. Eldonshire encompasses the southwest corner of Avalon. This part of the island has smooth flatlands and rolling meadows for farming and raising animals to feed the people.

Alfheimer and Lake Ouroboros — Alfheimer is the ancient home to the Elves of Avalon. This sacred land is only accessible to those invited by the Elves, otherwise people will become lost, confused, or dead. Alfheimer is built into the valley walls between two small mountains. A waterfall pours down from Lake Ouroboros into the valley below. The lake provides and endless supply of fresh water from an unknown source deep within Avalon, hence its name meaning “infinity”.

Nottinghamshire — The largest port in Avalon, Nottinghamshire is the shipping capital of the magical island. Besides being a shipping magnet for Avalon, the city also has the largest shipyard, building ships to send cargo around the island, via the ocean or down the rivers.

Emmyr — The “dragon isle” sits off the coast of Avalon, but not like a normal island. Emmyr floats in the air, surrounded by a sheath of clouds just below its rocky shores. A large mountain encompassed the center of the island as dragons fly out and about the peak, with lush trees covering the landscape and waterfalls flowing from the rocks into the clouds below. Beneath the mountain sat a city, Port Charles, carved out of the mountainside. This is the home of the Gil-Gamesh, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, and his family.

Northern Tribe of Kéntauros — The home of the centaurs of Avalon, the Northern Tribe of Kéntauros lived on the fringes of the Blackbriar Forest, giving them room to hunt and to run free.

Steinfisk — The capital of the North Highlands, Steinfisk is the home to the great fishermen of Avalon. These northmen, the descendants of Vikings, navigate the treacherous northern sea above the Orcus Abyss where the fish are abundant. They traded in their pillaging heritage for the peaceful life as fishermen, providing the abundance of the sea to the people of Avalon.

Fenris Mountain — The northern mountain range resemble the fangs of the wolf they’re named after. It hugs the northern coastline, dropping as a sheer cliff into the Orcus Abyss  of the northern sea. The mountains are divided by the Lóni River (Lóni means lazy, as the river is slow flowing from west to east).  From Steinfisk to Hursag, the mountains are virtually impassable.

Idlehorn Mountain — Idlehorn is the highest peak in the Fenris Mountains. Located in the center of the mountain range, Idlehorn is home to many evils. The goblins call Idlehorn home, living within a massive system of caverns below the peak. There is a single castle built into the side of the mountain, overlooking Blackbriar Forest. This is the home of Viscount Kraven Darkholm, a descendant of Morgana le Fay and rival to the Gil-Gamesh, Lord Bryan MoonDrake.

Blackbriar Forest — The largest forest in Avalon, Blackbriar got its name from the giant trees that keep the entire forest in darkness, day and night. This allows for all sorts of dark creatures to thrive within, from goblins, trolls, ogres and the Dökkalfar, or Dark Elves. Because of the nature of the forest, most travelers take the long way around instead of going through the dark woods. At the center of the forest sits Mordred’s Gate, the crossroads of Blackbriar Forest. It’s only place where the forest canopy parts to allow travelers a safe haven. Legend says it was here that Mordred was hunted down and killed by Sir Percival, the first Gil-Gamesh, to avenge the death of King Arthur.

King’s Crossing — At the edge of Blackbriar Forest, sitting along the Vanir Road (the main thoroughfare through Avalon), King’s Crossing is a simple farming town. The advantage of this thriving community is its location in the heart of Avalon. It’s proximity to Blackbriar Forest make it a meeting place for adventurers seeking riches and reward from the depths of the forest while being a rest stop for those travelling along the Vanir Road.

Hursag — The  ancient home to the Dwarves of the Gilded Halls, Hursag is a mountain containing the riches of all of Avalon. The Dwarves mine everything from gold and gems to steel and coal, bringing up the riches of the mountain for the people of Avalon. The port city of Dvallin sits at the base of the mountain, where ships by both sea and air arrive.

Strongürd Keep —  The home to the Wizard’s Council of Avalon, Strongürd Keep is a single solitary tower. The structure is an imposing tower, surrounded by an impenetrable wall, that stretches to a height nearly 1,000 tall of smooth granite. The keep is immense in stature, with jagged parapets coming out of the tower at indeterminate intervals. Within these walls, the secrets of the magic of Avalon are kept within the hands of those wizards deemed worthy of the knowledge.

Merlin’s Pinnacle — The tallest mountain in all of Avalon, Merlin’s Pinnacle sits at the end of the Fenris Mountain range, separated by the Arkengarth Vale.  The mountain is so named as it is said to be the final resting place of the first wizard of Avalon, Merlin the Magician. It is also home to the Jotunn, the race of giants in Avalon.

Togo — The island of Togo sits just off the east coast of Avalon. This is the home to the descendants of African slaves from a slave ship that crashed into Avalon centuries ago. The slaves rebelled against their masters and took refuge on the island of Togo, not trusting the people of Avalon. They have lived there, isolated for centuries, until the Gil-Gamesh reached out a hand of friendship, wiping away the hatred of the past.

Glennish Hills — The home to the Convent of the Shield Maidens of Avalon. The Shield Maidens are a holy order, created by Queen Guinevere herself, to serve alongside the Knights of the Round Table. They devote themselves to God, to Avalon, and to the knight they fight with, side-by-side. The Lady of the Lake is the patron saint of the order. The Gil-Gamesh brought Sarafina to the convent, where she was trained as a Shield Maiden. Dame Sarafina is now the Headmistress of the Holy Order of Shield Maidens.

New Camelot — The capital city of Avalon, New Camelot is the largest city on the magical island. When Avalon was first founded, New Camelot was the first city established. Over the centuries, the city has grown to a population of more than 10,000 with a diameter of nearly five miles. At the heart of the city is Castle Pendragon, the seat of power when the descendants of King Arthur have ruled since its founding. New Camelot is home to the Knights of the Round Table, the defenders of Avalon. The city itself is protected by the Armiger Corps, knights-in-training who one day hope to join the Round Table.

South Essex — A city of artisans, South Essex had the finest craftsman of all mediums—wood, metalwork, or fabric—as well as exceptional tailors, tinkers, musicians, actors and other tradesmen. It is a city of the best shops you could ever find outside of New Camelot, with the finest restaurants and most entertaining theaters for everyone to experience, from the poor to the rich.

Thank you again Amy Kruzan for your great work in putting my thoughts and ideas of the world of Forever Avalon down on a map for the first time.

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

These anime need a second season… PLEASE!

Anyone who follows my blog knows I am a huge anime nut. If I wasn’t married with kids, you’d probably see me as an “otaku” for sure. Anime has been a part of my life since the 60’s. I mean, I watched the original anime in Speed Racer, Gigantor, and Astro Boy. It helped form my own imagination, my views on fantasy, science fiction, and storytelling as a writer. You can’t watch a Hayao Miyazaki movie and not be moved by the visuals, the music, and the story. That’s how much anime has influenced me as a writer.

That said, there are a lot of great anime series out there that only got one season. For some reason or another, the studios decided to stop after just 12 episodes. I think it’s a shame that these anime didn’t get a few more under their belt, especially for their fan base. Here’s my top five choices for renewal into a second season.

Image result for in another world with my smartphone In Another World with my Smartphone — This is really a “guilty pleasure” anime but it’s also quite imaginative in its design. Fifteen-year-old Touya Mochizuki is accidentally killed by God. As an apology, God allows him to be resurrected, but since he cannot send him back to his old world, he instead reincarnates him into a fantasy world along with a single special request. Touya uses his request in order to bring his smartphone into the new world with him. The premise sounds ridiculous, but the storytelling is infectious. You have an awkward 15-year-old thrust into life as a adventurer, engaged to four cute, yet very resourceful girls, and one his way to becoming one of the most powerful beings in his new world. Like other anime, I have been reading the light novels associated with this series, and I would love to see it brought back in anime. It’s witty and full of fantasy. Yes, Touya is OP (over-powered) but his naivety brings him down to Earth, as does his relationship with his four (nine by the end of the novel series) wives.  It’s just a delight to watch and I wish they’d make some more episodes.

Image result for knights and magicKnight’s and Magic — Most of my favorite anime’s are “isekai” or where the main character is transported to another world. This one is no exception. Knight’s & Magic is set in a world where medieval knights use giant robots called Silhouette Knights to fight against demon beasts, magical ravenous animals that devour everything on sight. The protagonist is Tsubasa Kurata, a mecha otaku from Japan who gets killed in a car accident. Tsubasa is reincarnated in this new parallel world as Ernesti Echavalier, a boy born into a noble family. Tsubasa’s previous otaku memories inspire Ernesti into creating his own Silhouette Knights in order to defend his kingdom. This one doesn’t have the sex appeal of In Another World with my Smartphone, but it does have giant robots. It’s actually weird how all the girls fall for talented genius Ernesti, but he ignores them all. He only loves his giant robots. I love how this anime infuses technology with magic, something you don’t see a lot. Most standard fantasy stories stick to the straightforward fantasy yarns, but magic and mechs is a great plot twist. They even explain how it works using scientific principles. It’s astounding. I want more, please!

Image result for Restaurant to Another WorldRestaurant to Another World — This is one of the more unusual anime, and to be honest, I only watched it recently but I enjoyed it tremendously. The Western Restaurant Nekoya is a restaurant situated in a mundane corner of an undisclosed Tokyo shopping district which offers a lot of Japanese versions of Western dishes. It opens during usual business hours though closed during holidays and weekends. But secretly it is also open on Saturdays, as on this particular day it creates doorways to another world inhabited by elves, dragons, animal men and other fantastic creatures, who enter the restaurant and partake of its exotic food, with many of them becoming regular patrons. It’s really an exotic idea, introducing Japanese cuisine using a fantasy genre to tell the story. I mean, serving Tofu and Nattō to Elves because they’re vegetarians? It’s brilliant. I don’t get into the cooking anime prevalent in Japan, but this one got to me. It’s interesting how the cook knows exactly what to make them, and it brings the different races together to visit their favorite restaurant.

Image result for log horizon Log Horizon — Okay, technically, this series has had two seasons, but it needs a third really bad, so I’m including it in my list. Log Horizon revolves around the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) Elder Tale. During the release of its twelfth expansion pack: Homesteading the Noosphere, thirty thousand Japanese gamers who are logged on at the time of the update suddenly find themselves transported into the virtual game world and donning their in-game avatars. In the midst of the event, a socially awkward gamer named Shiroe, along with his friends, Naotsugu and Akatsuki, decide to team up so that they may face this world, which unfortunately has now become their reality, along with the challenges and obstacles ahead of them. There are quite a few “ikekai” anime series that revolve around video games becoming a real world to the players (Overlord, Death March to a Parallel  World Rhapsody, How Not to Summon a Demon Lord, etc.) but they are not Log Horizon. This one is the whole package with smart characters (Shiroe), cute characters (Akatsuki) and the coolest character (Chief Nyanta). I also like how it’s not just about going on adventures, but how they have to live and survive in a real world based on a video game. I mean, they have to worry about money and food, not just fighting monsters. It’s really broad in its scope and the characters make it fun to watch.

Related imageChivalry of a Failed Knight — My final entry is, without a doubt, my favorite anime that I’m desperate for a second season. The story is set in an Alternate Earth world where humans called “Blazers” have supernatural abilities. These Blazers can materialize weapons known as “Device” which are made through a person’s soul. At Hagun Academy, Blazers are selected as representatives for the Seven Star Sword Art Festival, an annual tournament event held by the seven Mage Knight Academies in Japan to determine the strongest Apprentice Knight. Ikki Kurogane is the academy’s “F-Ranked” Blazer and is considered “The Worst One” for his low magical abilities, but Stella Vermillion, the princess of the European country Vermillion, is one of the top “A-Rank” Blazers. The series follows their adventures as they train to qualify as the school’s representatives for the festival. This series is the whole package… Romance, fighting, magic, adventure, intrigue, you name it. Everyone discounts the underdog hero who wins through skill, grit and determination, not power alone. There are great sub-stories within the series that makes this even more exciting to watch.

There are a few others I could mention here, like Trinity Seven, Hundred, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and The Irregular at Magic High School, although a couple of them had follow-on movies and another season is said to be coming. If I missed any that you want to see a second season of, tell me in the comments below. Until then, keep watching!

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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 iUniversepublishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Is an anime about cooking in a “Restaurant to Another World” that good? Yes, yes it is!

Ok, I am thoroughly confused. I’ve never watched the cooking anime’s because they didn’t seem interesting to me. I mean, I watch enough cooking shows on Food Network with my wife, not to mention the Great British Baking Show she’s addicted too. But, as a fantasy fan, I decided to watch this anime Restaurant to Another World, and I was instantly hooked! I mean, I binged it in a week. I couldn’t help it. It’s one of those shows that, once you start watching, you can’t stop.

The basics of the story is that a door to a restaurant to another world appears once every seven days at various places across this fantasy world. Some revere the door as a gift from the Gods while others see it as doorway to a magical place whose knowledge has been passed down for generations. In any case, the patrons are mostly regular customers (with a few newbies thrown in for boot) who are not known by name but rather by the name of their favorite dishes.

I mean, it highlights two dishes per episode, and yet, they weave them into such fun fantasy stories that you’re hooked! As patrons eat the dishes, they talk about the distinct flavors, textures, and complexities of the dish. It’s like Myron Mixon talking about barbeque (yes, I watch those cooking shows too! Like I said, addicted!). And it varies from a pork cutlet to an ice cream soda. But like I said, it’s no ordinary cooking show.

What makes it so fun to watch is how the dishes match the personality of the character eating it. I mean, I would expect an Elf to eat only vegetarian food, so naturally the chef serves her grilled tofu, rice balls and natto rice; but tuna carpaccio for a siren and chicken curry for a dragon? Who’d of thought! The food not only compliments the diner, but it tells a lot about them–human or not! And it’s all protected by a Red Dragon Queen who loves her beef stew. She even brings a large pot with her for take-out. Now that’s unique!

The cooking is not the only aspect of this anime that makes it interesting. The backstories of all the characters are so well developed, and in a way, interconnected. We even discover that the chef and master of the restaurant is descended of a warrior from the fantasy world who accidentally fell into our world; and let’s not forget that the waitresses are a demon girl and a dragon in human form! This show just doesn’t let up!

I can’t even imagine trying to write a story like this. We always talk about finding your niche, something unique in fantasy to stand out from the rest, and sure enough, this is it! I mean it has all the basics of a fantasy story:  Knights, dragons, wizards, Elves, Dwarfs, demons, magic, etc. It’s all there, just like your basic Dungeons and Dragons game, but with food.

So, unfortunately this anime only had one season so far. Now, it’s time to get the original source–the manga–to see where this story’s going.

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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 iUniversepublishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

What language does one use when casting spells?

Magic spells are the “bread and butter” of any fantasy author. There isn’t a person out there doesn’t know words like “Expecto Patronum” or “Avada Kedavra” and what they can do. The power behind d the magic is in the words. The question is, what words do you use to enchant those spells.

When I first started writing Forever Avalon, I had to come up with a plan since, in my world, everyone could use magic in some form or another. The world of Avalon came from our world, so the easiest think to use was one of the oldest languages of man… Latin.

It made sense to me to use. It is one of the oldest languages in human used, known across multiple cultures. Why not make it a source for magic. Besides, between Google translate and a great online program through the University of Notre Dame, it was easy to use.

Unfortunately, my new story is taking me in a whole new direction. After I finished book four of the Forever Avalon series, I started planning book five, when I got an idea for another series. This would take place in a whole new fantasy world, completely original. So now, I needed another language for magic.

I’m not a linguist, so it’s hard enough doing Elf, Dwarf and other verbiage in my stories. For example, I use Norwegian and German for the Dwarf language, since those countries are where the legends come from. But to create something new for magic, I used a shortcut again. Hello Google Translate.

This time I went on a different direction… to Corsica. According to Wikipedia, “Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 18 regions of France. It is located southeast of the French mainland and west of the Italian Peninsula, with the nearest land mass being the Italian island of Sardinia to the immediate south. A single chain of mountains makes up two-thirds of the island.”

I picked Corsican for the language of magic in my new story because it seemed to flow properly, especially for single word spells. It’s closely related to a the medieval language of Tuscan (Toscano) which fits with a medieval fantasy world. In addition, I created a whole new style of magic casting along with it. You see, I figured spells could be cast using long, drawn out phrases as well as single words of power. This gives the magic caster options for how powerful they want their spell to be. For single words, I use Corsican for the spells. I have to be a little creative in the long phrase spells, mixing a little bit of poetry with my magic. For example, this is a concealment spell in my new story:

“Whispers in the darkness, silent as the wind, bend the light to my will; Cast your shadow around me, hide me from my enemy, conceal me while I remain still.”

It’s not my best prose, but magic is coming from a different plane. You are talking about something of complete fantasy and trying to make it real is what a writer is supposed to do. It’s times like this I wish I had the linguistic skills of a J.R.R. Tolkien.

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

One man’s science is another wizard’s magic

Kurt Vonnegut said, “Science is magic that works.” This is a true statement that has evolved our way of thinking for centuries. I mean, Copernicus and Galileo were condemned as heretics for proving scientific theory over popular belief. This trend has also been found through the writings of Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury and others.

Its one of the reasons I love “steampunk” so much. Yes, I know, it’s technically not considered magic, but combining modern technology with something “old fashion” is along that line. Magic is considered, by many, to be ancient so, in a way, they’re similar. Bringing science and magic together just seems like a logical approach. Think about it this way, in referencing the classic novel Frankenstein.

“Frankenstein’s chemistry is to, quote James Rieger, switche –on magic, souped-up alchemy, the electrification of Agrippa and Paracelcus…..He wants the forbidden…He is a criminal magician who employs up–to-date tools.” –Solanki Sardarsinh

In fantasy writing, we use magic as a science… Alchemy, astrology, etc. The elements of science–fire, water, earth, and air–are all a part of magic. Magic is, in a sense, science we can’t yet explain, and tha’s what makes it fun.

I think that’s why many science fiction writers often find themselves delving into fantasy and the supernatural. Terry Brooks is one of my favorite fantasy authors, and yet the Shannara series could be viewed as post-apocalyptic science fiction as well as fantasy. It has elements from both, like many novels. Think about Star Wars… Han Solo was skeptical of the Force when he said, “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”

I mean, when you think anout it, what is magic? Well, magic is manipulating the energy of the universe. In science, a nuclear explosion can be accomplished through scientific method and practical use. In magic, it’s a level 50 fireball.

“Magic’s just science that we don’t understand yet. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke

Sure, if I had a few degrees under my belt with years of scientific research, I could explain magic as science, but why bother. Half the fun is reaching into the unknown and pulling back from it, curiouser than before. Let’s look at magic not from the evil, supernatural perspective but rather as a form of science that is just outside the boundaries of our understanding. That’s what makes writing about it so much fun.

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

Fantasy? Sci-fi? Or both? Which is better? Just answer the damn question!

60604e38e26fa970bcb98e76a7d0a552--fantasy-fairies-fantasy-artMagic vs. Science has been a question that fantasy and sci0fi writers have been pondering for quite a long time. The usual trope involves people using science in an under developed country which, to them, seems like magic. I’ve seen this used on episodes of Star Trek, Doctor Who, and various other television shows and movies. It is even considered “one and the same” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as told in Thor.

Science or magic? Or both, for that matter. Anime has a penchant for using magic to power technology, i.e. Knights and Magic, Tenchi Muyo: War on Geminar, The Irregular at Magic High School, and In Another World with my Smartphone, just to name a few. I love to see magic used in this way, it really has a cyber-punk/steampunk feel to it.

AdventureGuideI remember an old Role Playing Game (RPG) I played back in the 80’s (no jokes or comments about my  age please) called Rifts. The backstory involved a post-apocalyptic Earth where the ley lines have unlocked dimensional rifts, the rebirth of magical creatures in our modern world, along with the reemergence of mysterious locations like Atlantis, Lemuria, and other mythical places. I remember this picture in the player’s guide of an Elf, wearing cyber-punk tech, trying to hack into a computer. It really covered all angles of magic/technology. That’s the type of genre convergence I like to see.

The way to think about this is as a source of energy. Magic is, in all practical purposes, energy. You can call it mana, psions, or PPE (Potential Psychic Energy per Rifts), it’s still magic. Spells allow magicians, mages, magic casters, etc., to manipulate this energy through spells. In some ways, the use of technology gives the wizards a way to cast their spells faster, more accurate, and more powerful than traditional casting.

The best example for this is in the anime The Irregular at Magic High School. I know, I talk a lot about anime in my blogs, but that’s really to the broad range of genres they use. Anyway, in this anime, magical power is measured in psions or “thought particles” and use Casting Assistance Devices, or CADs, to make it easier to cast certain spells. The CADs are preprogrammed with spells that allows the caster the ability to use spells in rapid succession.

In the movies, the MCU has changed the way we look at mythology. The Asgardians in Thor use magic and science in the same breath. The ability to access this energy lies in their immortal life. When Thor first appeared in the comics, it was told as the ancient Gods coming to the modern age, nothing more. This was retold when the MCU was created and it made so much more sense. These are not beings born of magic, but a race of inter-dimensional beings who used magic to power their science.

“Your Ancestors Called it Magic, but You Call it Science. I Come From a Land Where They Are One and the Same.” — Thor Odinson, Thor

It’s a fine line to walk, especially as a writer. With magic, you can do practically anything in your stories. Magic is an unpredictable and wide-ranging power. However, when it comes to science, anything you create or imagine, you need to base it in science. Think about Star Trek. When the late, great Gene Roddenberry created his series, he wanted to base the technology on practical science. He even spoke with physicists and other scientists to ensure he was basing his stories on what technology in the future could be. I mean, from Star Trek, we got cell phones, digital music and movies, and other tech we see today… And it only took less than 50 years to go from science fiction to science fact.

Steve Jobs once noted that his inspiration for the iPod came from an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where music was played by the computer. This is how writers can inspire. Think back to Jules Verne. From 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to From the Earth to the Moon, submarines and rockets became a reality. Although, I’m still waiting for my H.G. Wells time machine.

As writers, we can let our imagination go and create anything and everything possible. Whether it be science or magic, or both… Use whatever you can to bring your story to life.

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

Dragons, ogres, and trolls, oh my!

dragonThe creatures of fantasy, myth, and legend are as versatile as they are mysterious to a fantasy/sci-fi writer. They can be good or evil, strong or weak. intelligent or half-witted, magical or mutation. The possibilities are endless, and that’s so exciting.

As a fantasy writer, I love to research the monsters I use in my stories. It makes you wonder how much is myth and how much is fact. There are so many stories about these creatures from different countries and cultures that there must be some semblance of truth behind them… And that’s freakin’ awesome.

“There was a nice brown egg, lightly boiled, for each of them, and then sardines on toast, and then buttered toast, and then toast with honey, and then a sugar-topped cake. And when Lucy was tired of eating, the Faun began to talk. He had wonderful tales to tell of life in the forest. He told about the midnight dances and how the Nymphs who lived in the wells and the Dryads who lived in the trees came out to dance with the Fauns; about long hunting parties after the milk-white stag who could give you wishes if you caught him; about feasting and treasure-seeking with the wild Red Dwarfs in deep mines and caverns far beneath the forest floor; and then about summer when the woods were green and old Silenus on his fat donkey would come to visit them, and sometimes Bacchus himself, and then the streams would run with wine instead of water and the whole forest would give itself up to jollification for weeks on end.”
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Look at the sea monsters that mariners have seen for thousands of years. No one believed that a giant squid could exist, and yet through modern technology, we’ve found them lurking in the depths of the ocean. This proves that there are some facts behind the ancient legends.

I know most people would be scared of a dragon, and it probably would be, but it would also be amazing to see. To me, dragons are creatures of pure magic, living to be guardians of humanity, not enemies. They are such majestic creatures that seeing one would send chills down my spine. It’s like that scene in the original Jurassic Park when they see the dinosaur for the first time. It would be that kind of feeling.

Writing about these monsters is even better, because as the writer, I can create their origins, abilities, and appearance. You always want to stay true to the characters, but adjusted to the world you create. For example, the goblins of Avalon from my novel series, Forever Avalon. Here is a deleted excerpt from my second novel, The Dark Tides, which describes the goblin hierarchy on the island of Avalon. I cut this from my edited novel, but I think it demonstrates how versatile creatures of fantasy can be.

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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 the walls like spiders in a web, able to move anywhere and everywhere throughout 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 based on “survival of the fittest” mantra:  The stronger, more powerful goblins bullied the smaller, weaker ones, as 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 continued their toll as slaves or they volunteered for experiments conducted by goblin warlocks and alchemists as they strive to make a goblin warrior that was 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 is 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 sat 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, with yellow eyes piercing 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.

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Author Gabrielle Massman said, “So deliberate writers should be careful of how they portray fantasy creatures (ahem– I am looking at all of you, dragon writers) and how they make new fantasy creatures. If there is already a mythological creature that embodies the idea that you want, then there may be no need to create something “new.” The centuries of the mythology of a creature can add depth to fantasy and are fun to explore in a more modern way.”

It’s simple… The best advice I can give you is to research your subjects carefully, but make them unique to your world. Mythology has given us all these wonderful, magical creatures to chose from. It’s how you use them that will make them your own, a part of your world, a part of your stories.

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