Soar to Forever Avalon with a new book cover

Forever Avalon by Mark Piggott, cover at by Mark Alexander McLish (IG @markmakesart247)

I want to start by saying that I’ve always loved my original cover for Forever Avalon. Since it was first published in 2009, the artwork done for my cover brought my story to life. Seeing the flying ships I dreamed about, which I wrote about in my first fantasy novel, was breathtaking. It made the story real to me.

But since I’ve started attending festivals, conventions, and other book signing events, I realized that my first covers were “cartoony” in their appearance. My wife told me that repeatedly, but I fought her on it. Then, when a few people stopping by my booth wondered if Forever Avalon was a children’s story, I changed my tune. If I’m going to sell my books, it makes it less of a “drawn out” pitch when I don’t have to repeatedly explain that it’s not a children’s book. So, I am happy to reveal my brand new cover for Forever Avalon by artist Mark Alexander McLish.

The cover still evokes my dreams of Avalon . . . the flying airships, the floating dragon island of Emmyr, dragons flying around the sky, and the city of Port Charles inviting the ships into port. It’s a perfect vision for my new cover, and great to debut a new edition of Forever Avalon. Now, it’s available as a hardback novel for purchase. The first book I published is now a hardcover, a paperback, an ebook, and an audiobook. This is so special for me, and it’s amazing to think about where I started and am today.

I really want to thank Mark Alexander McLish for the great cover design. I met Mark through our publisher, Curious Corvid. He is an award-winning novelist and an incredible artist. He not only redesigned my cover for Forever Avalon, but he also did the cover for my new fantasy novella, The River of Souls.

So, you can buy Forever Avalon on Amazon in all four formats or, come out to one of my future events to pick up a SIGNED copy from yours truly. The Williamsburg Book Festival this weekend was postponed due to Hurricane Ian. Keep an eye out on my Events for when they reschedule the festival. If you can make it, I’ll be at the 2nd Sundays Williamsburg Arts and Music Festival on Sunday, October 9, and at the Southern Maryland Comic-Con at the Capital Clubhouse in Waldorf, MD, on Saturday, October 15. I hope to see you there.

In the meantime, get started into your next fantasy book series with a copy of Forever Avalon.

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Mark Piggott is an award-winning independent author of several fantasy/steampunk novels and short stories. A 23-year U.S. Navy veteran, his stories will take you from the shores of eternal Avalon to a dystopian steampunk future and other worlds.

The Forever Avalon fantasy book series—including Forever Avalon, The Dark Tides, and The Outlander War—is available online at Amazon and other booksellers. His fantasy steampunk novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart, is available through Lulu and other booksellers.

Get ready for The River of Souls fantasy novella from Curious Corvid Publishing. Coming in 2023 from Curious Corvid—the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates, and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel. Stay tuned for more new fantastic stories from the imagination of Mark Piggott.

New Art for The Outlander War from Ari Brodeur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Positive reviews of THE OUTLANDER WAR keep rolling in!

This has been another stellar week for the Forever Avalon series, in particular for The Outlander War: Book 3 of the Forever Avalon series. I received some great reviews and I wanted to share them with all of you!

First is from Jennie Rosenblum at jenniereads.com. Now, Jennie’s from New Jersey, like me, so we have a lot in common. Her website says it all about her as a book reviewer. “This is to answer all those requests for my opinion on books.  I read, I suggest, I review and I BLOG.  My reviews, as you will read, are a little different.  It really irks me to see reviews that are a page summarizing the entire book and then giving very little comments on the book.  My reviews are more along the line of – well written – great characters that seem like real people – plot made sense.  One thing you will not find on my blog is me trashing a book.  Authors work really hard creating their books and I respect their work.  It’s like telling someone their kid is an awful creation – even if he/she is tearing apart your living room – you just don’t use those words.”

She has reviewed the entire Forever Avalon series, and her review of The Outlander War is no exception.

“From the moment I got this book into my hands, I knew the author had upped his game.  The cover is intense and eye-catching.  And then I started to read—–  I have enjoyed this series from the first book.  I would hand it to anyone over the age of 13 that wanted a great adventure, escape, or to travel to another land.  In this, Book 3 – Avalon has entered the real world.  The conflict and discourse of the two worlds were realistically portrayed.  What happens when your world conflicts with another or totally changes, how would you react?  The reader gets to experience several different reactions as well as processes that the characters go through to deal with their new situations. “ — Jennie Rosenblum, jenniereads.com

Next is a young lady going by the name NewBookReviewer from Mumbai, Maharashtra in India.It’s amazing the people you meet on social media. Her Amazon profile says it all about her. “I’m just like any other girl who is trying to be a bibliophile. I love reading books, as I find myself lost in them and I create a whole new world in my head by reading what the Author has described. I think having a hobby helps you to cope with the work and family pressure. I sometimes read just to escape reality. 🙂 I have read many books and most of them had good reviews and it helped me to choose and read them, but recently I came across a new book without any review, at first I was not sure if I should read it or not, but being a book lover you cant really stop your curious self, so I read it and I found myself amazed. The book was great. So after reading it I saw there were many other new books with interesting stories and covers. So I started this blog so that I could post and review about the new books released and motivate the new Authors to write more, as there are some book lovers like me, who value writing and content.”

She reviewed all three books in the Forever Avalon series and I appreciate her kind words and appreciation of my series. It means a lot coming from someone from a different culture and history who recognizes the story behind the myths and legends.

“The story has an amazing start, which starts with a mysteries and attention-grabbing dream and once you read it you will know that you have picked the right book that’s going to be adventurous. The story is filled with a fascinating adventure to a magical island that is shielded from the outside world for 3,000 years frozen in time and space. The book contains from Kings to knights, from magical creatures like elves to dragons, from wizards to dwarves, from adventure to mystery, from action to drama, from suspense to truth the book is a captivating and addictive storyline.”NewBookReviewer.com review of FOREVER AVALON

“The story is continuous of the first book, and the way the author has maintained the flow of the storyline it’s commendable. Author Mark Piggott is a talented writer and you can see his hard work and passion for writing through this series. A truly amazing and must-read book. The highlight of the book is, the grasping storyline, as soon as I was done reading the first book I couldn’t wait to continue reading with the next book. The author has done tremendous work in describing characters, from their feeling to their personalities, every bit of their nature is described in detail and expressed beautifully.” NewBookReviewer.com review of THE DARK TIDES

“The Outlander War is the 3rd book in the Forever Avalon Series written by Mark Piggott and its a series that you will never find anything thing like it. What would you do if you find a magical island that is frozen in time and space for more than 3,000 years and you soon accept it as your new home, but suddenly the real world comes knocking, ready for war; A war is fixed but whose side you will be on? Well, the answer to this is in the book The Outlander War. This is the third book in the Forever Avalon series, that I m reading, and I m just obsessed with the storyline and the expressive writing skills of the author Mark Piggott.” NewBookReviewer.com review of THE OUTLANDER WAR

This is genuinely humbling for me to receive these wonderful accolades and feedback on my novels. It’s expressions like this that make he happy that I chose to be a writer and share all my stories with people. That’s why I am a writer!

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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.

King Arthur is the legend that lives in all of us

“Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesu into another place. And men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the the Holy Cross.”~Sir Thomas Mallory, Le Morte d’Arthur

The legend of King Arthur, Camelot, the Knights of the Round Table, Merlin, Morganna le Fay, the Lady of the Lake and Excalibur… These stories are at the heart of the fantasy genre, the myths and legends we cling to in our stories. It can be found in books, movies, television, comic books, and anime from the United Kingdom, to the U.S., and Japan. The story of honor, courage, magic, and mystery is deep within the psyche of every human being. 

We love the tale of the boy king pulling the sword from the stone; the romantic triangle between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot; the magic of Merlin and Excalibur; and the evil of Morganna le Fay and Mordred. These are legends ingrained in us that, in one way or or another, we can all relate to.

Image result for the sword in the stoneI first learned about the legend of King Arthur as a boy. Like any child of the 60’s and 70’s, it was taught to me through the magic of Disney. The Sword in the Stone (1967) is an animated classic, telling the story of Arthur and Merlin with a witch named Mim thrown in for good measure. It is a fun movie that taught this classic tale to kids like me. 

I think my exposure to the legend of Camelot was first done through movies, classics like Prince Valiant (1954) and Camelot (1967) to Excalibur (1981) and First Knight (1994), even Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). There has been so many re-imagining takes on this timeless story in so many forms. That’s what makes it such an integral part of the fantasy genre.

Image result for saber arthur and mordred fateMost recently, you can find the enigmatic King Arthur, Mordred, Lancelot, and Merlin as “heroic spirits” in the Fate anime series. Arthur and Mordred are gender-swapped as powerful women, both of the “Saber-class” of heroic spirits. Although it was weird at first, they actually kept the legend intact through this twist. The conflict between these two is better explained in this anime than in any other story I’ve read or watched. It’s an amazing conflict that brings out the vulnerabilities in these characters.

I used the legend of King Arthur and Camelot as the basis for the Forever Avalon series. I took the approach of “what happened next” in the story, looking at it from the perspective of our world today. The idea started with a simple question… What happened? What happened to all the magic, the mythical creatures and monsters? Where did it go? Why did it disappear from our world? The answer, in my mind, was Avalon.

Avalon has always been a place of eternal magic that will never die. Sir Thomas Malory, in his fifteenth century epic Le Morte d’Arthur, tells of King Arthur’s final moments. Bedivere took the King upon his back and carried him to the water’s edge, and there was a little barge floating there with many beautiful ladies in it. “Comfort yourself,” said the king, “and do the best you can. I can no longer help you, for I must go into the vale of Avalon to be healed.” Collins English Dictionary defines Avalon as “an island paradise in the western seas” and derives it from the Old Welsh word “Aballon” for Apple.

There are other accounts of Avalon in literature. According to Geoffrey in the Historia, and much subsequent literature which he inspired, Avalon is the place where King Arthur is taken after fighting Mordred at the Battle of Camlann to recover from his wounds. Welsh, Cornish and Breton tradition claimed that Arthur had never really died, but would return to lead his people against their enemies. Historia also states that Avalon is where his sword Excalibur was forged. This is the part of the legend I tapped into to begin my story.

tow ad7But what happens when Avalon is forced back into the modern world of today? You’ll have to read The Outlander War: Book 3 of the Forever Avalon Series to find out!

In the end, it all started with the legend of King Arthur. His story, whether based on fact or fiction, myth or legend, rings true in the mind of a writer like me. It is the stepping stone that brings you into my world. Take the journey and believe in magic again!

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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.

Excerpt from THE OUTLANDER WAR… The Russians are Coming!

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It’s only been a few days since the release of The Outlander War: Book 3 of the FOREVER AVALON Series and I can’t be more excited. I am working diligently to set up some book signings and other events in the next few months, so please stay tuned for more information. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from my fantasy novel, where Russian military decided to invade the magical island to see for themselves what all the fuss is about, and they find themselves quite unwelcome. I hope this excerpt excites you to read The Outlander War, and remember, be kind to an independent author and leave a review! Good or bad, every one helps!

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“Begging your pardon, milord, but Captain McLoughlin requests your presence immediately. We’ve captured some Outlander spies.”

“Where at? Somewhere along the coast?” Bryan asked, as Stephanie got off
his lap.

“No, milord, here on Emmyr.”

Bryan jumped to his feet and followed Amelia, with Stephanie close behind, down to the main hall. Captain McLoughlin and other members of his Dragon Guard surrounded a group of five men, kneeling on the floor with their hands behind their heads. They were dressed in black combat gear with camouflage makeup covering their faces. They varied in height and weight, but all were in excellent physical condition. Bryan knew immediately they were Special Forces, but whose?

The Dragon Guard had spears and swords pointed at the captured men, watching them closely, especially with the Gil-Gamesh and Lady Stephanie present. Rhona walked over to brief Lord MoonDrake on their capture.

“We captured them near the northern ridge of Emmyr, milord,” she stated. “They ran into a group of dragons and when they realised their weapons wouldn’t penetrate a dragon’s hide, they ran toward Port Charles. That’s when we captured them.”

Bryan looked away from the soldiers and began to examine the cache of weapons and equipment Rhona confiscated from them while she continued her briefing. “The only thing I don’t know is how they arrived on Emmyr. They shouldn’t have been able to fly their damn machines past the magical barrier.”

The Gil-Gamesh spied something among the equipment that answered that question. It was a small oxygen tank attached to a hose, but the mask was missing. “Oh, they flew all right, just not in the way we’re used to,” he said. “They did a Halo jump.”

“Halo jump, Gil-Gamesh?” Amelia queried.

“High Altitude Low Opening… Halo,” he explained. “They flew near the island, high in the atmosphere and parachuted down to Emmyr. The mask is missing from his oxygen tank, probably because he had to rip it off as they got close to the island. The pressure valve likely failed once they crossed the magical barrier.

“Send some men further up the mountain, past where you captured them,” Bryan continued. “I’m sure you’ll find some more of them there; probably dead from asphyxiation, am I right?”

Bryan addressed his last remark toward the captured soldiers, but none of them spoke up. They said nothing, just continued to stare straight ahead. While Rhona sent Amelia to relay orders to one of their patrols as to where to search, Bryan picked up one of the weapons to examine the make and model. “An AK-74N…Russian made,” he said, as he took out the magazine and cleared the chamber, ejecting a single round. “Spetsnaz? Am I right, comrade?”

They continued to stay silent, which infuriated Rhona. “Answer the Gil-Gamesh!” she shouted. They remained quiet until one of the men spat on the ground at her feet. Rhona stormed at the man as she drew her sword. She grabbed him by the collar and lifted him in the air with ease, shocking the captured soldiers at her incredible feat of strength. She laid her sword under his chin and across his throat.

“I have killed men for less, dog,” she threatened. She saw fear in his face and watched his blood trickled down her blade, the tip of her sword puncturing his skin, but only just.

“Rhona,” Bryan said. It was all he needed to say. The Captain of the Dragon Guard never removed her gaze from the soldier and slowly lowered him until his feet touched the ground. Once she released him, Bryan stepped up next to Rhona.

“Spetsnaz?” he asked again but the man stayed silent.

“What is Spetsnaz, milord?” Rhona asked.

“Russian Special Forces,” he explained, “cold-blooded assassins as far as I’m concerned, and you don’t come armed to the teeth like this to gather intelligence. So, let’s find out what their mission really was.”

When Bryan said that, the Spetsnaz soldier braced himself, as if he expected to be tortured. “Oh, don’t worry, no one’s going to hurt you,” the Gil-Gamesh assured him. “Your cooperation is guaranteed to be painless.”

With that, the Gil-Gamesh reached out and touched him on his head. Instantaneously, images begin to flood his mind through the dragon sight—an innate ability he possessed that allowed him to see the past, present and even future of someone through touch. Images of the man as a young boy appeared. A father drinking heavily. A father beating the boy with a belt in a drunken tirade. The father being arrested for killing the boy’s mother. The boy being raised by the state. The boy attending a military academy. The boy  excelling in marksmanship and hand-to-hand combat, driven by rage.

As the images got more intense, Bryan concentrated so he could focus on recent events. He saw a briefing by high-level Russian officers being conducted, highlighted by satellite images of Avalon and its position in the Atlantic. Emmyr was pinpointed by the target circles around it. One officer held up a picture of Bryan, taken on the flight deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. He saw flashes of Russian Navy ships coming toward Avalon. He watched as the men loaded into a transport plane, wearing their full jump gear; as the back door of the plane opened, the men jumped out one by one. As they fell through the clouds, Avalon and Emmyr came into view. The soldier suddenly began to gasp for air. He ripped off his mask and took a deep breath just as he opened his chute, before landing hard on the mountainside.

Bryan let go of the Spetsnaz soldier; he had seen enough. The two men shared the images, but the soldier was dazed and confused by the exchange. He breathed heavy as his eyes grew large, unsure of what just happened to him. Bryan saw enough to know what they were doing on Emmyr.

He walked back over to their gear and started rummaging through their bags until he found what he was looking for: a targeting laser for long-range missiles.

“Son of a bitch,” he cursed, “they were going to light us up, paint Emmyr as a target for an enemy attack.”

“You mean laser-guided missiles, like the ones used in Iraq and Afghanistan?” Stephanie asked.

“Exactly, they must not have believed the reports that technology won’t work on Avalon. These men were an advanced team, to provide intelligence to the Russian Navy ships on their way here and, just in case the Russians aren’t happy with negotiations, target us for an attack.”

“How do you know this?” the Russian soldier asked, his thick accent coming through his English.

“Because I was once like you,” Bryan began. “I was a sailor serving my country proudly until fate brought me here to Avalon, but I’m also a knight. I’ve been fighting against the likes of you for all my life and if you think you can come to my home and threaten my people, you are sadly mistaken. Now, you’ll face Avalon justice.”

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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.

Magic rests at the heart of every fantasy story

Image result for doctor strange“The language of the Mystic Arts is as old as civilization. The sorcerers of antiquity called the use of this language “spells”, but if that word offends your modern sensibilities, you can call it a “program”; the source code that shapes reality. We harness energy drawn from other dimensions of the Multiverse to cast spells, to conjure shields and weapons, to make magic!” ― The Ancient One, Doctor Strange

From Doctor Strange to Harry Potter and Gandalf the Grey, MAGIC is at the heart of every fantasy story. Magic gives writers the chance to explore the fantastic, do incredible feats, and visit places we never expected to go. Its what makes fantasy writing a journey into other worlds every time I sit at my keyboard.

But what is magic? To state it simply, magic is energy. However, the type of energy can vary:  dimensional, demonic, divine, etc. If you think about it, something like “The Force” can be considered a type of magical energy. I mean, think about it?

“Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”
―Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars

This is what makes magic so versatile in the hands of a writer. We can use it in any way imaginable. There is no wrong way for a writer to use magic. It can be an ancient art practiced for thousands of generations; and it can also be a sources of energy for high tech magicians.

Psion-Storm-AN-Ep24One of my favorite anime’s is “The Irregular at Magic High School” and its use of magic. In the series, magicians tap into psions,  non-physical particles that come under the dimension of psychic phenomenon. It taps into this energy through CADs (Casting Assistance Devices) in which spells are programmed through activation sequences. These devices range from something like a wristwatch, smartphone or a gun. Even in a show like this, they still adhere to ancient magic use, like seeing spirits and using spells, to help explain their thoroughly modern system of magic.

Granted, in my day, when I thought of magic, I thought of Merlin. Today, most kids associate magic with Harry Potter. It’s such a broad stroke, when you think about it, as to how writing has change when it comes to the arcane arts. Before today, most people associated magic with evil, devil worship, or demonic power. You didn’t think about magic being a force for good under a boy with a lightning bolt scar picked up a wand. That’s how much the opinion of magic has changed.

So, whether you invoke traditional magic through ancient spellbooks or using high-tech devices, it still boils down to the ability of ordinary people to tap into extraordinary power. How you get there is up to you, the writer.

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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.

Why is the King Arthur legend timeless and why do we care?

king-arthur-tapestryThe story of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, Merlin, Guinevere, and Excalibur are timeless reminders of a world lost in time. Goodreads shows more than 720 assorted novels based on the Arthurian legend, including my own, Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides. This doesn’t include a hundred or so plays, operas, comic books, films and television series based on the legend.

The question remains as to why the story of King Arthur still resonates today? Winston Churchill said, “It is all true, or it ought to be; and more and better besides.” That’s how many of us feel when we read or watch something based on the legend of King Arthur. He wasn’t just a story, he was a man who brought us the code of chivalry, united a kingdom and marched toward a new beginning.

There are many things that point toward the fact that King Arthur was a real person, not just a legendary figure. Archeologists recently discovered what they believe is the round table mentioned in the mythos. There is even a website dedicated to listing dozens of artifacts with some history related to the Arthurian legend. And let us not forget that the monks of Glastonbury Abbey are said to have discovered the remains of Arthur and Guinevere in the churchyard of St. Dunstan in Glastonbury.

Many believe in the legend of King Arthur so much that they believe he will one day return to lead England. Thomas Mallory wrote in Le Morte d’Arthur that, “Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesus into another place; and men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the holy cross.” All of this just adds more credence to the mythos of King Arthur.

So what do we know?The first mention of King Arthur is in the History of the Britons, penned in 830, and attributed to an author called Nennius. A more elaborate tale of King Arthur came about in the 11th century when Geoffrey of Monmouth published his book The History of the Kings of Britain. Arthur’s entire life is outlined for the first time in this work, right from his birth at Tintagel, to his death, and the legendary figures of Guinevere and Merlin are introduced.

The consensus is that Arthur probably did exist, either as an individual or a composite of several others. Many of the Dark Age heroes were real men upon whom mythical talent and position were often thrust by storytellers. So there is a possibility that Arthur was a Celtic warrior from which the rest of the mythology was formed.

These are just a few examples of the combination of fact and fiction that molded the legend of King Arthur as we know it today. It is that unknown factor that makes this legend so memorable to many and inspires writers like myself. The legend of King Arthur is just the beginning of a story yet to be told. It is as immortal as the man himself.

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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.

A look ahead to 2016 — A preview of “The Outlander War, Book 3 of the Forever Avalon series”

year-in-review-1Well, here we are in 2016. I hope everyone had a Happy New Year and, although it’s the first Monday of the new year, let’s be positive. 2015 was not the best year. Between terrorism, political intrigue, riots in Ferguson and Baltimore, email scandals, mass shootings and unexpected deaths, it’s definitely not in my top 10. The positive things I can say about 2015 was Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the return of Bloom County on Facebook, Doctor Who season 9, great comic book TV shows and the positive reviews I received for my second novel, The Dark Tides. More bad than good, but still, just an okay year.

As I look ahead to 2016, I am happy to report that the third book in the Forever Avalon series, The Outlander War, is nearly finished. So I thought what better way to kick off 2016 than with a preview of the next chapter in my medieval fantasy/adventures series. Here is the prologue from The Outlander War!

* * *

The field was strewn with the dead; warriors felled by sword and axe, spear and shaft. Blood flowed across the ground, but there were no winners here … Only death triumphed this day. Camlann sat near the southern coast of England in Wales. This was the last stand by Mordred and forces loyal to his sorceress mother, Morgana le Fay, against the King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

The Battle of Camlann was the final conflict between King Arthur and Mordred. The two combatants laid side-by-side on the ground, both men mortally wounded by the other.

As Sir Percival ran to his monarch’s aid, Mordred crawled away, not wanting to wait for the last of the Knights of the Round Table to finish him off.

Percival dropped his sword and lifted Arthur’s head on his lap. “My liege,” he cried. “I am here Your Majesty.”

“Percival … Listen to me,” King Arthur groaned. “Take Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake; it must not fall into the wrong hands!” He handed his sword to Percival, placing the hilt firmly in his hands. “You must do this for me.”

Percival nodded his head as tears began to roll down his face. “I will sire! I will” he assured his King. Arthur smiled, his mind at ease. He coughed violently, blood spewing from his lips.

“Find Mordred, Percival,” he choked out. “He must not be allowed to take the throne of Camelot. You must …” King Arthur coughed again as he gasped for each breath. Percival did his best to comfort the dying monarch.

“Do not fear, milord. As long as there is breath in my body, he will never sit on the throne. This I swear!”

King Arthur took one last breath before his body went rigid, his eyes stared into the stars above. His arms went limp as the King fell back and died. Percival cried as he closed the King’s eyes and set him gently down on the ground.

He looked over to Excalibur and knew he had a promise to keep. He reached for the sword but it was quickly scooped up by the hands of Merlin the Magician. The sorcerer and advisor to King Arthur took the sword without a word to Sir Percival, walking up toward the top of the hill.

“Merlin, what are you doing?” Percival screamed as he leaped to his feet. “I must return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake. It was the King’s final command.”

Merlin said nothing. He quickened his pace to the reach the top of the hill. He walked past the bodies of the dead knights, laying where they fell in battle. Percival became irritated at the wizard. He ran up and grabbed him by the arm.

“Dammit Merlin, answer me!” he commanded. Merlin pointed his staff at Percival to ward him off. The twisted shaft of Wych Elm had three branches at the top, looking like a trident, with crystals of rose, smoky and white quartz embedded in those branches. The crystals glowed, as magical energy hovered between them, threatening the knight to stay away.

“We don’t have time Sir Percival,” Merlin exclaimed. “I must act quickly to save us all.”

Merlin turned away to continue climbing up the hill. Percival was confused by Merlin’s statement. “Time for what? Merlin, what do you mean?” he shouted as he chased after the wizard.

“The age of magic is coming to an end, and so is our world,” he explained. “With Arthur’s death, the magic that fills our realm is already starting to fade. I must act quickly if I am to stem the tide.”

“But how?” Percival asked. “How can you do that?”

“There is a spell, one of the first ever written,” Merlin began to explain. “If I focus that spell through Excalibur, it will bring all magic together in one place.”

“Where Merlin? Where are you sending it?”

Merlin stopped as he reached the summit. “To Avalon, my boy! To Avalon! There, I will summon all the magic, magical creatures and beings into one place, hidden from the rest of the world.”

The wizard rammed his staff into the ground in front of him. He took Excalibur and placed the hilt between the branches, allowing the sword to hang down from the staff. Merlin stood behind them and started chanting. It was an ancient language, unknown to this day and age. He repeated the spell until he got into a rhythm, chanting as magic began to erupt from the ground around him.

Percival stood back as watched the ritual unfold before him. The energy around Merlin grew brighter and brighter as the spell reached its zenith.

“No!” shouted a voice from behind. Percival drew his sword as he turned to see who was shouting at them.

Mordred, bloodied and wounded from his fight with King Arthur, charged up the hill. His blonde hair was dirty and matted, but his golden armor—a gift from his mother to protect him from harm—still shined brightly in the glow of the magic that surrounded Merlin.

“I will have Excalibur,” he shouted. “By birthright, I am now King!”

Percival stepped between Mordred and Merlin. “You will never be King, Mordred. My descendants and I will always stand between you and the throne.”

“You will not stop me Percival,” Mordred chastised as he drew his sword. “No matter where you go, I will take Excalibur in my hands, I will sit on Arthur’s throne … I will be King!”

Percival leaped at Mordred, bringing his sword down at him as Mordred raised his to counter his attack. As steel clashed together, the magic around Merlin exploded in brilliant flash of light. In an instant, they were all gone. Across England and around the world, anything and everything touched by magic just disappeared; faded into myth and legend, never to be seen again, or so they thought.

* * *

In case you want to catch up on the 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.

King Arthur … The man, the myth, the actor who played him

I thought I’d have a little fun with this week’s blog and talk about the man at the forefront of the Arthurian legend, King Arthur Pendragon, and the men who have played him on the silver screen. King Arthur has appeared on ever known media, from Broadway to Saturday Morning Cartoons. His dashing figure has wooed audiences with actors, both young and old.

There are some, though, that have really owned the role of King Arthur, whether it’s in style or looks, these men have commanded Camelot with the presence of a monarch. These are my top five actors who have portrayed King Arthur.

091cd0aa592b0fbd0300b2a711136056 #5 – Sir Richard Harris in Camelot (1967) – Sir Richard Harris is an actor’s actor, with dozens of award-winning roles under his belt, from stage to screen, but he played King Arthur in the musical Camelot on stage, screen and television. The film won three Academy Awards and three Golden Globes. The musical was not the best adaptation of T.H. White’s “Once and Future King” but Sir Richard Harris was brilliant as Arthur, especially when he tried to tell us “how to handle a woman!” With Vanessa Redgrave as Guinevere and Franco Nero as Lancelot, the story played up the love triangle of the story, so I give it an “A+” on the romance meter.  Richard Burton also played this role in a TV presentation of Camelot, but his singing is nowhere near as good as Sir Richard Harris. He made this role his own, at least for musicals.

chapman grail#4 – Graham Chapman in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) – Many people may not consider Graham Chapman as a household name when it comes to actors, but you cannot and will not EVER forget his performance in Monty Python’s hilarious look at the Arthurian legend. There are too many highlights to mention, but let’s raise a glass to Graham Chapman, whose performance as Arthur brings all the mayhem together into one tight-knit package. From coconuts for horses to fighting a Black Knight, his straight-faced, deadpan performance makes him King Arthur, but I’d stay away from Camelot, “it is a silly place!”

nigel-terry#3 – Nigel Terry in Excalibur (1981) – To be honest, this was my first exposure to the legend of King Arthur. I was enthralled by this movie, from the Wagner-esque soundtrack to the bulky platemail armor and the kinky medieval sex scattered throughout the film. Again, Nigel Terry is not a household name in America when it comes to British actors, but his performance as Arthur was so spot on. He went from the awkward young boy who drew the sword to the king that united a nation. I really think his portrayal of King Arthur is the standard that all other actors should be judged against. Even though I have him in third (and you will realize that once you see the top two), it was perfection.

281d0397151a85577c5ab6650ad95ad5#2 – Sir Sean Connery in First Knight (1995) – Even though this movie was panned by critics, it’s Sean friggin’ Connery people! He is the epitome of kingly virtue. His presence alone as King Arthur makes him stand head-and-shoulders above the rest. He literally carried the movie on his back. It had a good story, beautiful costumes and set design and the only time you’ll see an entire army disguised as a flock of sheep. But did I mention Sean Connery as King Arthur? ‘Nuff said!

king-arthur#1 – Clive Owen in King Arthur (2004) – I’ve spoken on this blog many times about my love for this version of the Arthurian legend. Bringing together the Roman occupation of Britain as the basis for the medieval legend was enthralling, and Clive Owen’s performance was matched in its brilliance. He was a leader, a warrior, a loyal soldier and Christian and he was a lover as well. All this came through the outstanding performance by Clive Owen. This movie surrounded him with a stellar cast and great storytelling to bring the legend to life. The way they explained everything from the sword in stone to Merlin’s magical power tied the whole movie together, but on top of it all was an actor who truly became King Arthur.

If I had to give one honorable mention, it would be to Pierce Brosnan as King Arthur in the animated film Quest for Camelot (1998). Though he wasn’t on for a lot of the movie, his voice was unmistakable and he gave that presence to King Arthur in this movie.

Did I miss a favorite of yours? Let me know in the comments below.