These classic 40’s/50’s medieval movies are a “must see” for fantasy writers

I love classic Hollywood movies. My parents were not big fans of the modern cinema so, in my house, it was John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable, and Judy Garland ONLY! It has really influenced me, in both my writing and what I watch today. I’ll put on Turner Classic Movies before the “Big 3” prime time TV (ABC, NBC, CBS) any day. My kids used to hate that because I’d make them watch Them or Key Largo before American Idol.

It was some of those classic movies that influenced me as a writer. You can’t think about a character like Robin Hood and not think of Errol Flynn swinging through Sherwood Forest in those classic green tights. It may not have been practical, nor historically accurate, but it was colorful (as this was the beginning of technicolor movies) and oh so fun to watch. So, here are my TOP 5 classic medieval fantasy movies.

*NOTE: I am only ranking movies made before 1970, so Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Excalibur will not be included. See my previous blog on King Arthur and Pop Culture for references to those movies.

000564605. Prince Valiant (1954) — Robert Wagner called this film an “embarrassment” but I can’t help loving this movie. First off, I grew up reading the adventures of Prince Valiant every Sunday in the comics, so it’s a part of my own personal history. The plot was your basic “boy vows to become a knight and restore his family honor” gimmick… “After the evil King Sligon exiles his family from Scandia, Prince Valiant (Robert Wagner) vows to become a member of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table in order to return his father to the throne. As he travels to Camelot, Valiant discovers the Black Knight, a villain conspiring with Sligon to destroy King Arthur. Under the eye of Sir Gawain (Sterling Hayden), Valiant trains to become a knight, falls for a princess (Janet Leigh) and unmasks the Black Knight (James Mason). This movie had an all-star cast, which is one of the reasons I loved it so much. You just have to get past that awful haircut on Prince Valiant, which is why, I think, Robert Wagner was embarrassed by it.

the-flame-and-the-arrow4. The Flame and the Arrow (1950) — Burt Lancaster led this fun-filled, acrobatic movie. Set in Italy (not England, for a change), the story revolves around Italian archer Dardo Bartoli (Burt Lancaster), who is waging a war against the Hessians. His grudge against their leader, Count “The Hawk” Ulrich (Frank Allenby), is more than simply political. Long ago, he took away Dardo’s beautiful wife, Francesca. Then, Ulrich returned to steal the couple’s son, Rudi. Incensed, Dardo emerges as a rebel leader who may be able to drive out the Hessians for good. This movie shines solely because of Lancaster. His smile is infectious, and his grit and determination are intoxicating. It’s a fun movie, from beginning to end.

Medieval-Ivanhoe3. Ivanhoe (1952) — This movie had the Hollywood powerhouse of TWO Taylors… Elizabeth and Robert. This is different look using characters from the time of King Richard, just like Robin Hood. Loyal British knight Wilfred of Ivanhoe (Robert Taylor) sets out on a mission to free the kidnapped King of England, Richard the Lionheart (Norman Wooland). The brave Ivanhoe must eventually confront the devious Prince John (Guy Rolfe) and the fierce Norman warrior Brian de Bois-Guilbert (George Sanders), while also juggling the affections of the beautiful maidens Rowena (Joan Fontaine) and Rebecca (Elizabeth Taylor). Again, all-star cast carries this classic movie. Out of all the classics in my list. it has some of the best fight scenes.

p37427_p_v8_ab2. The Black Shield of Falworth (1954) — Although this is not one of the more well-known classic medieval fantasy movies, it’s one of mine. Tony Curtis stars as the son of a disgraced knight who – noble by birth, noble by nature – attempts to thwart another noble’s attempts to take the throne of King Henry IV. Janet Leigh stars as the love interest for Curtis. What I love about this movie is how the plot unfolds. Curtis goes from secretly training as a squire to knighthood where he can challenge his enemy directly.

errolflynnasrobinhood1. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) — There be no finer medieval film than this… A perfect cast, magnificent color cinematography and a wonderful musical score highlight this entertaining swashbuckler featuring Errol Flynn, the lovely Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, Alan Hale (Skipper from Gilligan’s Island fame), Basil Rathbone and Patric Knowles. The film went on to win three Academy Awards and was the second-highest grossing picture of the year. That says it all about this film. Most of us “baby boomers” kids from the 50s and 60s grew up with this film. You can’t help but love it! Sure, there have been plenty of remakes with non-English actors (hint, Kevin Costner) and that was fabulously mocked by Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights. It’s like we’ve always said, you can’t beat the original.

There are plenty of honorable mentions out there, like The Lion in Winter, Camelot, and The Magic Sword, but these are my idea of classic medieval fantasy movies. If I missed any, I would love to hear about them in the comments below. So, grab the popcorn, pour the soda and sit back and enjoy one of these movies at your next movie night.

# # #

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.



The art of war in medieval fantasy stories

“Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.”

35-Sun-Tzu-Quotes-1The words of the great Sun Tzu have been used to motivate warriors for thousands of years. His wisdom in warfare is an essential read for those signing up for the armed forces. It is also essential for fantasy writers. Warfare between humans, Elves, Dwarves, dragons, centaurs, and other mythical creatures is an integral part of fantasy writing.

Combat is not just about sword swinging, arrow flinging, and spear thrusting. It’s about strategy, deception, and intricate maneuvers that will lead to victory. When considering what to do, think about something Sun Tzu said.

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Besides reading Sun Tzu, I’ve been able to develop fighting strategies in my stories through hours of Dungeons & Dragons role playing. Being immersed in the game, especially in combat situations, forced me to develop strategies and think about ways to fight in fantasy situations.

When your creating a combat situation, the devil’s in the details. You not only need to consider your characters and their capabilities, but also the enemies capabilities, the terrain, the weather, and more. There are so many elements involved in any combat scenario that a book like Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is almost required reading.

If you need inspiration for a great leader, “In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.” Do you need a plan where the odds are lopsided? “Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack.” Everything you need can be found in Sun Tzu. If it worked for Tony Soprano, it van work for you.

Just remember this:

“Order or disorder depends on organization; courage or cowardice on circumstances; strength or weakness on dispositions.”

# # #

51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


What is our obsession with fantasy?

51130757_Psionic_BowmanWe’ve all experienced it, some more than most. It is an obsession that we can’t explain nor can we understand ourselves. With me, it began in college in the 1980s, where I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons. That’s where I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

Hello, my name is Mark and I’m addicted to fantasy!

It was automatic for me. I created my first D&D character and started my adventure into role playing. From that point on, I was obsessed with it and could think of or do nothing else. I played every weekend, from Friday night straight through to Monday morning. I even became a Dungeonmaster and ran my own game. I even went as far as to join a local group with the Society of Creative Anachronism.

I went to see every sci-fi/fantasy film that came out in the 80s, from Dragonslayer to Krull, Conan the Barbarian to The Beastmaster. On television, I watched Xena or Hercules, even The Dungeons and Dragons Saturday morning cartoon. It was like a drug and I couldn’t get enough. I started reading anything and everything, from Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga to J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks’ Shannara Chronicles and C.S Lewis The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Even after I joined the Navy, I continued to play D&D. I found friends aboard the ship and we played during our duty days and off-duty hours. When I eventually stopped playing, I turned my obsession around and started writing, and it was from that, I created my Forever Avalon series. I was able to tap into my fertile imagination, fueled from all those years of role playing games, movies, television and inspiring stories from other authors. It was a magical journey that I’m still riding on, even today.

Josie Glausiusz wrote in Scientific American, “Daydreams are an inner world where we can rehearse the future and imagine new adventures without risk. Allowing the mind to roam freely can aid creativity—but only if we pay attention to the content of our daydreams.” She also said that “When daydreaming turns addictive and compulsive, it can overwhelm normal functioning, impeding relationships, and work.” I can honestly attest to that determination.

When I played D&D, I ignored a lot of things to play the game. It was a deep-rooted obsession that drove me out of college, without a job or education and into my military career in the Navy. In that sense, it did me a big favor. My career in the Navy made me the writer I am today.

You have to tame your obsession, even more, today. With the internet, video games and better CGI effects in movies, there is a resurgence in the fantasy genre that gives us more to do and see. From Warcraft to Lord of the Rings, fantasy has taken center stage again. We have the chance to see our dreams in full color, high-definition, and 3D.

Glausiusz said, “Yet to enhance creativity, it is important to pay attention to daydreams.” That’s where we, as authors, filmmakers, and even musicians find our muse and translate fantasy into words, images, and sounds. That is, at the heart of it all, why we love fantasy. It is a means to escape from reality and bring everyone else along for the ride. It’s why I don’t mind living with my obsession.


SKU-000941753Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse. The Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

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

flying_ship_by_derricksong-d7hh12u (900x505)

The Outlander War: Book Three of the Forever Avalon series

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

A forgotten classic, swept under the rug by Disney

The_Black_Cauldron_posterDisney is known for its great animated movies, the majority of which take place in the fantasy genre. Classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty and The Sword in the Stone have all the right elements of a great fantasy movie:  wizards and witches, dragons and knights, good versus evil, etc. There is one, however, that was a beautiful adaptation of a classic fantasy novel that Disney decided was too dark and scary and swept it under the rug of forgotten classics. I am, of course, referring to The Black Cauldron.

Released in 1985, The Black Cauldron was adapted from the 1965 Lloyd Alexander novel, the second of the five books from The Chronicles of Pyrdain. The movie was Disney’s 25th animated film. It was the first Disney animated film to receive a PG rating and the first to use computer-generated graphics. It featured the voices of Grant Bardsley, Susan Sheridan, Freddie Jones, Nigel Hawthorne, John Byner, and John Hurt.

The Black Cauldron is set in the mythical land of Prydain during the dark ages. The film centers on the evil Horned King who hopes to secure an ancient magical cauldron that has the power to raise an army of the dead, but to do that, he needs a pig named Hen Wen who has “oracle” powers. He is opposed by a young pig keeper named Taran, the young princess Eilonwy, the bard Fflewddur Fflam, and a wild creature named Gurgi who seek to prevent him from ruling the world by destroying the cauldron.

Horned_KingThe imagery in this movie was quite dark and spooky, especially for a kid’s animated movie. The Horned King looked like a walking corpse. It had all the earmarks of a Disney movie with the boy hero, a beautiful princess, the evil villain and his henchmen, and of course, the comedic sidekick; but even with all that, Disney had problems with the film. After its initial audience screening, the Disney Studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg ordered massive edits and cuts in the film, particularly in the “cauldron born” scene where the Horned King brings his army of the dead to life. There was even scenes where one of the “cauldron born” monsters sliced the neck of one victim and the torso of another. It was very gruesome indeed.

It was scenes, like that, that gave children nightmares from the pre-screening. Though most of it ended on the cutting room floor, it left the film quite jumpy and left a certain lapse, especially in the final act. In the end, after its release, the film only managed to make $21.3 million of its $44 million budget domestically. However, it did manage to score big internationally, especially in Europe.

Rotten Tomatoes called it “ambitious but flawed” while only giving it a 55% rating. Even the author, Lloyd Alexander, had mixed feeling about the movie. He said, “First, I have to say, there is no resemblance between the movie and the book. Having said that, the movie in itself, purely as a movie, I found to be very enjoyable. I had fun watching it. What I would hope is that anyone who sees the movie would certainly enjoy it, but I’d also hope that they’d actually read the book. The book is quite different. It’s a very powerful, very moving story, and I think people would find a lot more depth in the book.”

Disney even misused the film for its initial release to home media. It was finally released on VHS in 1994. This was mostly done due to fans wanting the film released on video along with other Disney classics. It was again released on dvd in 2000 and again in 2010 for a special 25th-anniversary edition. All of this was more “fan-driven” than anything else.

The Black Cauldron may not have the love of some of the other Disney classics, but to those who love the fantasy-genre, it is a forgotten classic that deserves a little more respect. Or as Gurgi would say, “Oh, poor miserable Gurgi deserves fierce smackings and whackings on his poor, tender head. Always left with no munchings and crunchings.”

In medieval fantasy, it’s all about the weapon

Excalibur_IVYou know the old saying that “the car makes the man” don’t you? Well, in medieval fantasy, I like to think that “the weapon makes the man” or woman in some cases. There have been many legendary weapons that have made their way through the fantasy genre. You know their names:  Stormbringer, Mourneblade, Sting, Mjölner, Frostmourne, and of course, Excalibur. These weapons are as well know as the warriors that wield them.

I too have dabbled in creating mythical weapons. In the Forever Avalon series, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, wields the Twin Swords of the Dragon Moon, Twilight and Dusk, forged from the shattered remains of Excalibur. There’s also Steinknuse, the hammer/axe of Dwarf Master Dinius of the Gilded Halls. In the upcoming third book of the series, The Outlander War, I will introduce the Edenstar, sword of the first high king of the Elves.

However, today I want to touch on a few particular weapons. These are not as well-known as some of the previously mentioned blades, but they are unique in the realm of fantasy. So, let’s call these my Top 5 Obscure Medieval Fantasy Weapons from movies/television. These are weapons created solely for the cinema and/or TV.

Hawk#5—The Elven Mindsword from Hawk the Slayer (1980)—When it comes to obscure weapons, you don’t have far to look than this British 1980 sword and sorcery romp starring Jack Palance and John Terry as two brothers fighting for the throne after Voltan (Palance) kills their father, With his dying breath, the King gives Hawk (Terry) the last Elven Mindstone and imbued the power in a sword, giving Hawk the power to control the weapon telepathically. That’s about the crux of it. The only saving grace of this movie, besides Palance’s over the top performance, is Patricia Quinn of Rocky Horror fame as the sorceress. It’s not a lot for #5 but it’s the best I can do.

Beastmaster_caber#4—Caber from Beastmaster (1982)—This is one of those great “guilty pleasure” movies because it has everything in it:  A brooding warrior, a damsel in distress, an evil sorcerer and an army of raiders. Marc Singer is Dar, a prince who was taken at birth and branded by a witch, giving him the ability to communicate with animals. When his adopted family is killed, he goes off seeking revenge. He takes with him his father’s sword and caber, a hinged throwing blade. While Dar doesn’t use this a lot in this movie, when he does it’s a pretty cool weapon, similar to the glaive Blade uses (not to be confused with the other glaive coming up shortly).

three_blades#3—Tri-Blade Sword from The Sword and the Sorcerer (1980)—This has to be one of the bulkiest, most unwieldy weapon of my list, but it’s also one of the coolest. What knight wouldn’t want a broadsword with three blades where two of the blades shoot out. That’s what attracted me to this movie, that sword. It is totally impractical, but yet so desirable a weapon. The movie follows the standard plot of most 80’s “sword and sorcery” films of that era where a boy seeks revenge against the evil tyrant who killed his family and stole the throne. The boy named Talon (Lee Horsley) becomes a mercenary and helps a princess stop the same tyrant (played by veteran “evil doer” character actor Richard Lynch). Again, not a great movie except for a memorable weapon that every D&D player tried to create.

krull_1050_591_81_s_c1#2—Glaive from Krull (1983)—Again, a classic 80’s sword and sorcery movie, but this one is mixed with a little science fiction as a star-hopping megalomaniac called the Beast brings his army of Slayers to the planet Krull to destroy and dominate the planet. After and alliance and a wedding between Colwyn (Ken Marshall) and Lyssa (Lysette Anthony) ends with her being captured by the Beast, Colwyn searches for allies and a mythical weapon called the Glaive. The Glaive is a starfish with retractable blades that flies through the air, controlled by Colwyn. Unfortunately, you don’t see it used until the end of the movie, and then it’s only used briefly to rescue the girl and kill the beast, only to be lodged in his chest and hurled into space with him, which to me was the producer’s way of trying to get a sequel. One of the great things about this movie was the early, on-screen performances by a very young Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane.

Before I get to my #1, just a few honorable mentions, including the spear from Dragonslayer, the Klingon Bat’leth from Star Trek, and the Atlantean Sword from Conan the Barbarian.

xena-social1#1—Chakram from Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001)—She got her start in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys but Xena, the Warrior Princess (played by the incredible Lucy Lawless) held her own for six seasons of great television. And by her side, besides Gabrielle (Renee O’Conner) was her trusty chakram. This circular metal blade was deadlier than Tron’s Identity Disc. Xena could incapacitate dozens of enemies at once and the chakram would return to her hand, just like Mjölner. I would never want to challenge her to a pool game because she knows how to redirect her chakram as good as Captain America throwing his shield. It seemed like such a simple weapon yet it really identified Xena’s character. In fantasy, she became as legendary as the weapon associated with her.

I know some of you may have some disagreements with my list or some additions, I’d love for you to comment below. I’d like to keep the discussion going on these amazing weapons forged in fires of fantasy.


51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.

Without magic, what would fantasy writers talk about?

1423642074_magical book wallpaper“Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars? Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.” Nora Roberts said it quite plainly, and truthfully, that magic does exist in our world.

You see it in the everyday things from a baby’s smile to the rainbow after a storm. Sure, science has it’s part in all this, but deep down inside, all you can think of is the magic of the moment.

For a writer, that magic is a part of our genre. Magic can be found in the works of every great novelist from William Shakespeare to J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis to J. K. Rowling. We look at all things magical, from wizards to creatures, myths and legends. The question is, where has the magic gone and why do we need it?

Magic is the focal point of many fantasy stories. It turns young boys into wizards and makes us believe in faeries. That’s the great thing about magic. It can be anything you want it to be. In the world of Forever Avalon, magic is the center of the world I created. All magic, that once existed in the outside world, now thrives on the island of Avalon. This magical realm is overflowing with magic, so much so, that everyone on the island can do some form of spell casting. Most can perform simple tasks like lighting a candle or cleaning up with the mention of a single word. More complicated spells takes time, training and a certain amount of patience to coax the magic out.

Magic is a powerful tool for the fantasy writer, but it must be handled with care. Magic, like anything else, can be used and abused. You must cultivate the magic in a way that makes sense to the readers. I can attest to that in my current novel, The Dark Tides, where I explored the combination of magic and technology. I wondered what would happen if technology found its way into a world entirely devoted to magic. The answer was a Gunstar.

Gunstars are magical weapons that resemble a flintlock pistol. The are breach-loaded weapons that uses a special shell casing called a spell shot. The spell shots are a combination of alchemy and magic compressed into a single cartridge, like a shotgun shell, covered in runes. The hammer on the Gunstar activates the runes so that, when the trigger is pulled, the spell fires out the end of the weapon. It could be anything from a fireball to an icy spray or even a “magic missile” if you will (D&D players will get that reference).

This is what I meant when I said magic was a tool for fantasy writers. You cannot replace true spirit, character development and storylines for the sake of magic. It cannot be the focal point of your story, but rather something for your characters to use to help tell the story.

I created the Gunstars as a way of bringing a modern weapon to a medieval world and bridge that gap between the old and new. Most of the older, traditional characters in my novel reject this new form of magic as an abomination whereas the Gil-Gamesh and others see it as just another tool, like a wand or a staff, to utilize magic.

The point of this blog is to say let the magic guide you in your stories but don’t make it the overreaching arch that fills your every word on every page. Don’t let it get away from you, or you may regret it. Remember, in these instances, you are the wizard, so cast your spell with care.

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

The worlds inside the mind of a writer


Middle Earth from “The Lord of the Rings”

Franz Kafka said in The Diaries of Franz Kafka, “This tremendous world I have inside of me. How to free myself, and this world, without tearing myself to pieces. And rather tear myself to a thousand pieces than be buried with this world within me.”

That explains what’s inside the mind of a writer. I know I’ve touched on world building before in my blog, but I had to take another whack at it. World building can either make or break a story. You have to make the world your characters live in believable. That means, as an author, you have to be an architect, city planner, landscape artist, geologist and mapmaker, all rolled into one.

I really started last week when I started watching Terry Brooks’ The Shannara Chronicles on MTV. It really made me appreciate this new world he created from the ashes of our world today. That’s a common thread you see in world building in literature–building a new one from the old. You see that in the Four Lands in Shannara, Panem in The Hunger Games just to name a few. These are not worlds built using by redrawing the lines of states and countries but places imagined after the worst possible disaster.


Westeros from “Game of Thrones”

Then there are original worlds like Middle Earth from J.R.R. Tolkien or Westeros from George R.R. Martin. These are the works of masters in the art of world-building. Author Ace Antonio Hall said, “When you get some free time, write. When you get some lazy time, plan. When you get down time, world build. When your time comes, shine!”

This is true for those who take the challenge of creating a world from scratch. This was the problem I faced when I started writing the Forever Avalon series. Though Avalon was a place mired in legend and mythology, it was never something that was mapped out. I had to create Avalon as it would develop in my story and mine alone.

Author Patrick Rothfuss was interviewed by bloggers The Rabid Rainbow Ferret Society about world building. He said, “World building has two parts. One is the actual creation. The other is bringing the world into your story. Everything you create should not be in your story.” He called this secondary world creation.

I did a lot of this in my misspent youth playing hours upon hours of Dungeons and Dragons. As a Dungeonmaster, you create everything from the country to the towns and the dungeons, then fill it with everything under the sun from monsters to Elves, Dwarves, etc.

I took Avalon to be a lot like England was in medieval times, specifically because legend and local lore suggests Avalon was actually a part of Wales. So first, I divided up the lands, giving them out to the various Lords of Avalon to control, in the name of the King. I even used names from towns, provinces and local landmarks in England, assuming that people who were brought from England to Avalon needed that familiarity.

(FYI, here’s my self-serving pitch for those wanting to catch up on Avalon in my first two books, Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.)

I actually had to draw out the map of the island so that, when I’m writing, I make sure I’m going in the right direction when I’m moving characters around the island. I can’t begin to tell you how difficult that’s going to become after my third book, The Outlander War, is finished. So, no spoilers here … not yet at least.

For the best advice on how to reveal your world to the reader, I have to give it again to Patrick Rothfuss, who said, “My advice is to withhold information from the reader. Because if you tease with a little information early on, they’ll get curious. And if I can get them to go “How does this work?” and lean in a little bit, then I’ve won.”

He’s absolutely right about that. In Forever Avalon, I teased my readers about the dragon island Emmyr, the home of Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon. I talked about the dragons, how he built a home there, but never let on about the true nature of the island until they arrived to see the floating island in the sky, shrouded by mist and encircled by flying dragons. The surprise was worth the wait.

So create your worlds, build them as you build your story, but keep the reader guessing. It’ll help draw them in and wanting more.

Is special effects making or breaking the fantasy genre?

tumblr_nagzsvgqUx1t3g0gjo1_1280Is the fantasy genre being overdone and is that the fault of today’s special effects? I ask myself this question because of the rash of TV programs being thrust at us this year. You have a myriad of television fantasy choices from Once Upon a Time, Atlantis and Grimm to almost every other show on the CW Network. Add to that the shows that try for historical accuracy like Vikings, The Bastard Executioner, and The Last Kingdom.

Add to that the surge of superhero movies and television, fantasy is at its prime. CGI and motion capture has made it easier for production companies to do fantasy epics. When you look at the sprawling scenery in the upcoming Shannara Chronicles, you realize how far we’ve come in special effects. You couldn’t get images like that over 30 years ago.

But at the same time, computer software has made it easy to make a halfway decent movie. The Internet is loaded with low-budget movies and shorts by freelance, home-taught movie makers using their iPhone or Galaxy cellphones that put some of these multi-million blockbusters to shame.

In some cases, the story lacks for the sake of the effects. The one thing you never, ever forsake is the story. They need to be grounded on a well-written script to carry it from beginning to end.
The one positive thing I have to say about special effects is how it’s bringing stories you never thought you’d see to life on the big screen. Could they have done Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit movies 30 to 40 years ago! Doubtful.

In a recent interview, Academy award-winning producer and director Steven Spielberg said that “the superhero movie goes the way of the western.” As much as I hate to disagree with a personal inspiration of mine, I must.

For the first time, comic book fans can finally see an accurate portrayal of their favorite characters. No spandex or rubber costumes, bad blue screen effects, but actually stepping into these fantastic worlds.

Like I said earlier, don’t make a movie for the sake of the special effects. It needs that great story to back them up.

When I began writing Forever Avalon, I was inspired for the magical flying galleons in my story by the animated movie Peter Pan. This week, the movie Pan hits theaters and flying ships are an essential part of the story. The effects are spectacular and I can’t wait to see it.

This scares me a little bit, though, because I don’t want people thinking I copied the movie or think it’s overdone. This may be another detriment to the fantasy issue. We’re all experiencing “group think,” having the same ideas and using them in our stories. Because special effects today means “anything is possible” so we let it all hang out in our stories.

I know I’m “heating a dead horse” but I think I need to really press this point. We need great stories with great effects, not vice versa.

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