This is a great winter season for geeking out on live-action anime, new fantasy series and movies

I love the holiday season! Not just for the joy of family, friends, and the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, but also for the new tv series and moves that premiere this time of the year. We have movie releases (Eternals, Spider-Man: No Way Home) and tv series streaming (Cowboy Bebop, Hawkeye, The Wheel of Time) it is a great time to be a fantasy/sci-fi nerd.

The big issue with the remakes and adaptations is how accurate is it to the comic or book series. Take the live action Cowboy Bebop on Netflix. First and foremost, the look is incredible. Great casting and set design that is so accurate to the anime. Now, is it perfect . . . No, it’s not. They are changing how the story is presented to make it fit into the shortened Netflix series. Spike’s backstory with the Syndicate is mixed in with each episode, which suits me fine. The fighting scenes are as animated as in the anime, so is the comedy banter. It’s not as good as the original anime, but it’s still fun to watch.

On a more serious note, Robert Jordan’s epic The Wheel of Time was finally made into a tv series. It’s hard to imagine this series laid out logically as a TV series, and watching has proven that. Instead of teenagers, the five dragon candidates are young adults, and they changed how they get from their village to the White Tower. When you’re taking 14 books and putting them into a shortened series, it makes sense. It still flows good and is watchable to me. I can’t help but enjoy it because I love these books and seeing them come to life is a dream come true. It’s a lot like when Game of Thrones was brought to television. You can’t follow the exact dimensions of such a rich story, but if it remains true to the essence of the novels, then it’s worth watching.

Rosamund Pike is great as Moiraine in the series. She is commanding, fierce and dedicated to her cause. Her magic is so powerful, flowing from the one source in such a beautiful visual effect. The first battle scene against the Trolloc’s was intense. It’s great that Amazon is taking a chance on this series, and they’ve already confirmed season 2.

And now, Disney Plus is coming out with Hawkeye as part of its ongoing MCU television series. I can’t say I’m overly excited for this series. It just doesn’t excite me like Loki, Wandavision, What If, or Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I will watch it, though, because it helps set up the next set of series coming out in 2022.

Speaking of the MCU, we’ve gotten three films in less than four months. Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings was a great introduction to a new hero, and the Eternals reset the cosmic powers of the Marvel Universe. Both of these movies set up new powers and heroes in the MCU coming in the next phase. I mean, the Black Knight, Blade, and others are coming our way. Then we have Spider-Man: No Way Home which brings us into the multiverse by setting up Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. I think just bringing all the villains from the other Spider-Man movies completes the transition from the “Sony-verse” to the MCU. Plus, it brings together the Sinister Six for the first time and that is just freakin’ awesome to see!

The Spider-Man movie not only completes Tom Holland’s trilogy, but it sets up so much more. Will he finish his run as the webhead or just prepare for the New Avengers in the next phase? Maybe we’ll get to see Miles Morales for the first time in a live movie! The possibilities are there, but we’ll have to wait and see!

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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.

As October rolls in, so do the screams of the dead, but not like the traditions of old

Halloween Past – snapshot jeannerene, circa 1988 – Flickr

It seems that every Halloween gets scarier and more outrageous as the years passed by. We are beyond the simple dressing up and “trick or treating” anymore. Now its either blood and gore or, to the other extreme with sexy maids, police officers, and vampires. Even Daphne and Velma of Scooby Doo fame are imitated by cosplayers down to their bras and panties (not that I mind) in a stunning retrospect making me question my childhood.

So, what do we make of Halloween? Is it a bastion of the evil and the dead or, like Mardi Gras and other celebrations, a day to dress up, drink, and be merry? I prefer the old traditions of Halloween, when masks were made of flimsy plastic and hugged your face, held in place by a rubber band and a couple of staples. Every house had a porch light on, carved jack o’ lantern on the front step, passing out candy to the kids, and EVERY KID dressed up (not this wearing a hoodie with a hockey mask).

Now, we have pumpkin and cake carving food shows where contestants try to out-gore the other. And movies have gone the way from classic monster movies like “Dracula” and “Creature from the Black Lagoon” to scary dolls like “Chucky” and “Annabelle” instead. I guess I am a traditionalist when it comes to holidays. I miss the old traditions that are being shoved aside for gross, gore and fright instead.

Sure, everyone likes a good scare. I remember seeing the original “Friday the 13th” (with Kevin Bacon) and John Carpenter’s “The Fog” and being genuinely scared. My kids watch it and laugh at the poor special effects and giving Dad that look, questioning my manhood, with a sarcastic “This scared you?” But things change over time, and its never good or bad, it’s just different. 

It’s like the Grinch said in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (the live action Jim Carrey movie) when he said, “Kids today, so desensitized by movies and television…” and its true. The gore and scare factor at Halloween has increased tenfold because kids today have been desensitized by the violence and fear of the world today. Why would they be scared of ghosts and goblins when terrorists and mass murderers could be your next door neighbor? That changes the whole perspective.

10 fun facts you didn't know about HalloweenAs a writer, its nostalgic to think about Halloween past. It’s the myths and legends that inspire me as a fantasy writer. The story of the Celtic festival of Samhain that became our modern Halloween is a part of the mythos we embrace every year when the kids put on masks and go trick or treating. Consider that the lowly Jack O’ Lantern has a story behind it, warding off evil spirts and the like. Even the “Day of the Dead” — el Día de los Muertos — celebrations are steeped in tradition and mythology. It’s these legends, the superstitions, that bring holidays like Halloween to life, but in a good way. Not the blood curdling, gore fest seen in haunted houses across the country.

October brings the falling leaves, the change of the season, and everything pumpkin spice with a month of  frights and scares. Let’s bring back more tradition and legends associated with Halloween and less gore and “shock factor” that’s in it. I miss the old ways, the simpler ways, sometimes… Don’t you? 

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

The nightmare that is research all writers must face

Researching elements for your next novel can be as time consuming as writing it. Depending on the subject matter–whether its fantasy, science fiction, supernatural, or historical–any author worth their pen and paper want their stories to make sense. Accuracy is the key to all this research. But even then, you sometimes have to make concessions for the sake of storytelling.

You can take one subject and find hundreds of different interpretations of the same mythology or history. Take the Arthurian legend of which the Forever Avalon series is based. Did you know that more than 70 authors have used King Arthur as the basis for a novel? There are six adaptations in musical theater of the King Arthur mythos, and more than 20 plays of classic verse. (Yes, I am including Spamalot! in my numbers!) Additionally, there have been 11 operas, 42 feature films on the characters (plus 22 more considered parodies) and five television series. This is not even counting the numerous episodes from Doctor Who to Japanese anime that feature characters from the Arthurian legend. Safe to say, there is plenty of material to research this one topic.

So, for the sake of argument, lets talk about research in general. In today’s day-and-age, Google is your best friend. I have used that search engine for everything from names (first and surnames), language translation, cities and countries names, historical references, etc. It is a one stop shop for everything a writer needs. I even found a reference sheet of “Other words for said” depending on the emotion of the moment. You can’t beat it from spending countless hours in a library, fighting over reference materials. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with spending hours in a library. Those are some of my fondest memories. But this allows you to do the research in your pajamas, something most libraries frown upon.

Happy Birthday, Jules Verne: 70 years of fantastic comic-book classicsThere is a broad basis for research, but to me, some of the best research is in the stories I read. Other writers give me inspiration, tips on writing styles, and ideas behind the story itself. For example, I love alternate history novels. Harry Turtledove is one of my favorite writers of alternative history. That gave me pause when I started working on my own alternate history, a world where Nikola Tesla and Jules Verne met and created a “steampunk” future with Tesla’s inventions and Verne’s inspiration. To do that, I had to research their life story to see if they were every in proximity to meet. Fun fact:  They were! Tesla worked for the Edison Company in France while Verne lived there. That gave me the track to create my story.

This is the importance of research. Even for a fantasy or science fiction story, you need to base what you do in fact. There are times that the story can actually inspire the real thing. Did you know that Steve Jobs got the idea for digital music and the iPod after watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation? Gene Roddenberry inspired one of the greatest inventions of our time, not to mention cell phones, iPads, etc. That’s the power of the writer.

The moral to the story is to do your research with all the vigor and vitality you put into writing your story. Even with otherworldly elements within most fantasy/sci-fi stories, they are based on our own history. For Forever Avalon, I researched every know mythology known to mankind. Did you know that Dwarves are featured in the mythologies from Norse to Germanic, Anglo-Saxon to Russian. There are more myths on creation than you can shake a stick at. You have to read through all of this information and cut it down to fit what you’re writing about.

The biggest thing you can do is have a plan. I started my own writing “on the fly” based on my the story that was rattling around in my head, but that doesn’t always work. My subsequent novels have been more planned out, outline oriented. I still start writing the ideas down “on the fly” but I found that I needed to write things down more as I go along, outline it, make a list of everything from character names, city and country names, even languages used as a basis for magic spells. All of this makes it easier to build the world I am creating within my story.

I hope I’ve given you some good tools and examples of what to do and what not to do when researching subjects for your novel. I think astronaut Neil Armstrong said it best … “Research is creating new knowledge.” However, I like this quote even beter:

“Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.” — Wernher von Braun

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

The best fantasy/scifi movies you never watched, but you should

There are plenty of inspirations when it comes to fantasy and science fiction. Most people have their favorites, i.e. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, etc. Me, I’m a little old school. My obsession with the fantasy and sci-fi genre began with movies many people today either haven’t seen, forgot or ignored. In any case, each one of these movies has a unique charm about them (for lack of a better term) making them a must-see for any fan or geek. These are my personal picks, so I would love to hear whether you agree or disagree. Either way, I hope you’ll take some “COVID19 down time” to watch some or all of these classics.

The Final Countdown (1980) — This is a kick-ass, “Red, White, & Blue” Hell-yah,  U-S-A, movie with a simple science fiction twist. The nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz is sent back in time to days before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. It has an all-star cast ( Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, James Farentino, Katharine Ross and Charles Durning) but the real star is the U.S. Navy. As a young man, looking to his future after high school, this movie made me want to sign up.  The filming from the flight deck to the sky above, seeing two F-14 Tomcats take on Japanese Zeroes, was epic. This is not your average science fiction movie, but the whole time travel aspect was so well done and wrapped up nicely at the end.

The Black Cauldron poster.jpgThe Black Cauldron (1985) — This is a Disney film, but its one of the darkest Disney films they ever made. The plot is your basic boy becomes hero by defeating the evil sorcerer, your usual fantasy genre yarn, but the visuals of this film are stunning. Something I didn’t know was that it was loosely based on the first two books in The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, a series of five novels that are, in turn, based on Welsh mythology. Set in the mythical land of Prydain during the Early Middle Ages, the film centers on the evil Horned King who hopes to secure an ancient magical cauldron that will aid him in his desire to conquer the world. He is opposed by a young pigherder named Taran, the princess Eilonwy, a bard and a wild creature named Gurgi who seek to destroy the cauldron. This was Disney’s 25th animated feature, the first animated film to receive a PG rating, and it doesn’t get the props like Disney’s other animated films because of the dark storyline. No matter what, this is a great fantasy movie to see.

Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) — In the age when every movie wanted to look like and have the success of Star Wars, this movie fits the bill to a “T” and then some. Staring Richard Thomas (John Boy from The Waltons TV series) and produced by the genius Roger Corman, this movie had every science fiction movie trope in it, including the kitchen sink. Corman intended this movie to be a remake of the classic The Magnificent Seven but set in outer space. It had a stellar cast, from the legendary John Saxon and George Peppard to Robert Vaughn, and the effects were as expected for 1980, pre-CGI. The story follows the expected plot… The farming world Akir is threatened by the tyrannical warlord Sador (Saxon). Sador’s huge dreadnaught has a “Stellar Converter”, a weapon that turns planets into small stars. He demands that the peaceful Akira submit to him or he will turn his Stellar Converter on their planet. They want to hire mercenaries to protect their world, but since Akir lacks valuable resources, its people can offer just food and shelter in payment. Shad (Thomas) volunteers for the recruiting mission. It is a strange movie, full of Corman’s classic sci-fi tropes,  including a Space Cowboy, half-dressed Valkyrie warrior, an elite assassin, and a reptilian slaver, but it is well laid out and fun to watch.

The Black Hole.jpgThe Black Hole (1979) — Yet another Disney film that  has been relegated to the void that is the Disney vault due to its dark and violent nature. Another great cast ( Maximilian Schell, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Anthony Perkins and Ernest Borgnine) fills the screen with astounding visuals of a black hole in space, before Interstellar. The Palomino, nearing the end of its deep space mission, discovers a black hole in space with a large spaceship nearby, somehow defying the hole’s massive gravitational pull. The ship is identified as the long-lost USS Cygnus. Deciding to investigate, the Palomino encounters a mysterious null gravity field surrounding the Cygnus. What they find on board is far worse… Dr. Hans Reinhardt, a brilliant scientist, and what appears to be a crew of robots. They are not faceless drones, but are in fact the human crew who mutinied when Reinhardt refused to return to Earth and had been lobotomized and “reprogrammed” by Reinhardt to serve him and his floating murder-bot Maximilian. Again, a very dark movie for Disney that was not well received by critics but earned two Academy award nominations for cinematography and visual effects.

Dragonslayer (1981) — This movie is very familiar to anyone who played Dungeons and Dragons in the 80’s, but it is not seen as a top-rated movie like LOTR and others. It should be. Dragonslayer gave us our first look at a dragon, an honest to God dragon and all its power and glory. Before there was CGI, there was GoMotion, created by Industrial, Light and Magic for The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and other classic movies of the 80s. In this movie, we got a dragon named Vermithrax that was everything you expected it to be… Evil, deadly, and downright terrifying. Another great cast (Peter MacNicol, Ralph Richardson, John Hallam and Caitlin Clarke) fills out this epic tale of a young apprentice taking on the beast to prove himself worthy as a sorcerer against a King who for years has placated the dragon with a virgin sacrifice. This is a worthy fantasy epic and a must see movie!

Deathstalker (1983) - Rotten TomatoesDeathstalker (1983) — The last movie on my list is another 80’s Roger Corman classic, filled with your favorite fantasy genre movie tropes just like he did in Battle Beyond the Stars. It’s a very Conan-esque movie, with buff men in leather, scantily-clad women, swords and sorcerers. It spawned four sequels, but this is the one to watch. Against, a basic storyline of sword-wielding mercenary on a quest to retrieve four magical items to stop a sorcerer from destroying his world. Along the way, he meets other warriors entering a tournament to find the greatest warrior and gain control over the kingdom. It’s not Shakespeare but it has all the qualities of a sword/sorcerer movie of the 80’s. It fits right in with The Beastmaster, Conan the Barbarian, and other fantasy movies of that time. Corman is a genius of the screen when it comes to movies like these.

So again, these are far from the Oscar-worthy movies you normally think of in the fantasy/sci-fi genre, but they have all the elements you think of when you watch these movies. I would love to hear about your favorites that I might have missed in my list, please comment and let me know.

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

The World According to Charlton Heston

I watched Soylent Green the other day, thinking it was appropriate to watch a movie about 2022, where climate change destroyed the world and people were fighting for food, water, medicine, a place to sleep and ate a cracker made from dead humans. Wow, how appropriate, right?

But it got me thinking about the world according to Charlton Heston. As an actor, Heston (1923-2008) was well known for his roles in Biblical movies: The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, etc. He was quite the versatile actor, starring in disaster flicks, westerns, and war movies. I remember him mostly for the post-apocalyptic, dystopian future movies. These sci-fi classics resonate with anyone who grew up in the 70’s.

I doubt there isn’t a person born before 1970 who doesn’t go to the zoo and look at the apes and chimpanzees and think, “Get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!” It’s a classic line that makes us all think of Armageddon, the State of Liberty and a world of talking apes. But it also reflected a lot on the time period. In the 70’s and into the 80’s, everyone was worried about destroying the planet, whether through nuclear war, a killer virus, or environmental catastrophe. Now, fast forward to 2020.

When we look out at the world today, these movies seem almost prophetic. It’s funny how movies of the past looked ahead to the future and, some got it wrong, but others… well? I mean think about it. Were in a pandemic that’s cutting off food supply (Soylent Green) and, if left untreated, could very well lead to a zombie apocalypse (Omega Man or I am Legend for the remake) and then, potentially, lead to nuclear war with China and, voila, talking apes (The Planet of the Apes movies).

I know that’s a bit of a stretch, and a bad one at that, but that’s what makes these movies so good. Since Jules Verne first put pen to paper, science fiction and fantasy writers have looked into the future to see potential, both good and bad. It was here that the stories of travelling to the stars, nuclear power, devastating weapons of war, genetically-modified diseases, etc. It’s the essence of these classic movies, and movies like this need a charismatic actor to carry them. That’s where Heston comes in.

These movies all had other memorable moments, actors, cinematography, and special effects, but what stood out the most was Heston. He led these movies all the way, from the pestilence of New York to the deserted sprawl of Los Angeles, to the futuristic Ape City. He commanded the screen and told the story, making it so real for all of us. 

That’s why the “World According to Charlton Heston” is a much darker, twisted view of the future, almost like the mainstream media wants us to believe we’re in right now.  But I have seen the dark future, through these movies, and this isn’t it. We have better technology, science, and fortitude behind us. We have a better chance of surviving this than the movies would have us believe. After all, it’s all “Hollywood” magic, right?

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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.

Star Wars novels are better than the movies (except the original trilogy)

Star Wars – The New Jedi Order: Dark Tide: Ruin Cover by Tsuyoshi Nagano.

This being International Star Wars Day (#Maythe4thbewithYou), I thought it best to reflect on one of the best epics in science fiction. The problem is, the books are better than some of the movies, video games, and television series out there.

How many of us wanted to see movies made from Timothy Zahn’s “Heir to the Empire” trilogy? Or salivating at seeing the Yuuzhan Vong and their bio-engineered weapons on the screen. These stories are some of the best out there, but not all are canon. This makes them just a memory, not part of the mythos that is Star Wars.

The first Star Wars book I ever read was “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” and it was a gem. After seeing the original, I wanted more and couldn’t wait for more. This book have us fans more insight into the workings of the force, before we heard about midi-chlorians. It was also the first time we heard about a kaiburr crystals, which is weird because it’s not related to kyber crystals (i.e. lightsabers) but it’s close.

I am a huge fan of the man series, from the New Jedi Order through Fate of the Jedi. I mean, in this series we had the death of Chewbacca, Anakin Solo and the journey of Jacen Solo from Jedi to Sith. It was an amazing series and, to be honest, it brought me closer to the Star Wars universe.

Novels expanded our knowledge, from characters, planets and races to the new insights into characters we barely knew anything about. The best example of that is Boba Fett. We barely knew anything about him after The Empire Strikes Back, and now we have the entire legacy of the Mandalorians to go with his legend. And it’s all from the books.

The Star Wars universe may have started as movies, but its canon… It’s TRUE canon is written by the authors who have taken us to “a galaxy far, far away” and beyond! It’s one of those many reasons why I became 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.

It’s Hollywood award season, blah blah blah blah blah!

Image result for oscars

It’s award season and Hollywood is all abound with red carpets, dazzling lights, gorgeous gowns and million dollar jewelry on the stars of your favorite movies. Top it all off with a dash of politics, a smidgen of hypocrisy, and a lot of self-inflation and you have the Academy Awards.

At one time, these award shows garnished millions of viewers as people looked forward to seeing their favorite celebrities win top honors. The last time the Oscars had top ratings was in 2004 when Billy Crystal hosted the ceremonies. That year, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won Best Picture and the award show had 43.5 million viewers. This year, Oscar hit an all time low with only 23.6 million viewers.

Part of it (besides the hypocritical slant of rich actors standing on their soapbox telling everyday people how to live) seems to be that more movies get picked for their “artistic” vibe and not box office records. I mean, doesn’t that make a movie a success… The people who spend the money to go see a movie again and again. Am I right? I mean, Parasite, a foreign language film from Korea, won Best Picture. I never even heard of it before. Plus, they nominated The Irishman, a movie made for Netflix. Are we now counting streaming services the same as box office movies?

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The standard seems to have gone down dramatically from the days of Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and On the Waterfront. I understand the world is changing and streaming services are now a part of everyday life. But what has it done to improve the quality of movies? Absolutely nothing. Does the success of these movies affect its award? No, because some really, really bad or unknown movies make it to the award stage.

Back in the heyday of Hollywood, it was the top grossing movies that made it to the Oscars. Now, all you have to do is be downloaded a few times on Netflix and you get an Oscar nod. Now, I’ll admit, I haven’t seen Parasite, nor am I interested in seeing it. But they are saying that this movie is better than 1917 (Hell no), Ford vs Ferrari (no), Joker (no, no), Little Women (eh, maybe), etc., etc. It’s a joke.

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I mean, think about it. Do you know what the top movies of 2019 were? Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, Frozen II, Spider-Man: Far from Home, Captain Marvel, Joker, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Toy Story 4, and that’s only the top 8. Out of those 8, only Joker was nominated for Best Picture, and Toy Story 4 won Best Animated Film. The rest were locked out. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was #23, 1917 was #29, and Ford vs. Ferrari was #39. Little Women ranked #1201 out of 1300 films released in 2019. And this movie was nominated for Best Picture. Best Picture! Really?

It’s a joke. I’m sorry, but it’s a joke. It’s Hollywood’s way of patting itself on the back and giving each other high fives, but otherwise, it’s a freakin’ joke. I know I’m ranting here, and I shouldn’t be, but it just makes you wonder why we have award shows anyway.

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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 Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse Publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series will be released on 28 February 2020 from Austin Macauley Publishing.

No more remakes! For God’s sake, get a better writer!

Is it too hard to ask for something new, not another remake or reimagining of something from the past. We are now approaching our third incarnation of Charlie’s Angels, fourth if you count the time when they replaced Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith during the TV series run. How about an original idea for a change, huh?

I mean it. We now have another Terminator reboot (third since the original trilogy), another Addams Family movie (albeit animated) and our third Lost in Space reimagining. Now they’re also doing prequels to popular shows (The Sopranos and Game of Thrones). Why? What’s the point?

There is enough original material out there for hundreds of new movies and TV series to keep us occupied and entertained. I mean, Charlie’s Angels was great and it fit the 70s mantra of empowering women, but it’s been done and, with all due respect, you will never be better than the original. What’s next? The new Howdy Doody Show with CGI puppets?

Where has all the imagination gone? It’s like they’re looking for a quick fix and easy cash, not even trying to be original anymore. As a writer, it breaks my heart to see talent go to waste. It’s a shame that these executives can’t see the millions of dollars wasted on a movie or series. Of course, if it sees any semblance of profit, they’ll be happy and keep on doing it.

Part of the problem, and the solution, is online streaming services. All of these various streaming channels (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc.) allows an open source for new material. However, they’re just as guilty as the big studios. Disney+ is doing multiple Marvel-based series to tie into their movies. At the same time, we’re getting an original Star Wars series in The Mandalorian. Meanwhile, Netflix is doing a Lord of the Rings series where one actress commented she wants to see a female Gandalf. What?

It’s a ridiculous blend of originality and insanity. I don’t know what to believe anymore. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I hope Hollywood would understand that being original is okay. It doesn’t mean redoing it and just change the gender or race of a character. There has to be substance behind the story. If you just want to reboot everything, then why have writers?



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

Violence in media… Escapism or instigator?

I never try to get political in my blog, nor in my own novels, as I think it alienates people who might enjoy my stories. That said, I need to say something about the violent mass shootings this past weekend. A lot has been said about gun control, mental health, violent video games, social media inciting violence, etc. I think there’s a lot of good points on both sides of the issue. I just wanted to take the time to put my own thoughts down, as someone who plays video games, watches violent movies, and writes stories filled with intense battles.

First and foremost, I want to send my thoughts and prayers to all those impacted by the mass shootings this past weekend. I know that’s not politically correct, but I really don’t care. People affected by tragedy need to be comforted at times like this and offering my sincere condolences is all I can do.

I grew up in a time where mass killings were far and few in between. Although the frequency has ramped up as of late, I can’t blame guns. Guns are just the tool. In my opinion, evil will always find a way. Look at London. They have strict gun laws, so instead, people use knives to commit murder. It’s not the weapon, its the person behind the weapon. Yes, we need better background checks and open communication between law enforcement and mental health professionals to keep these weapons out of the hands of unstable individuals.

As for the argument that violent video games are to blame, sorry but no. In my day, they blamed Dungeons and Dragons for poisoning kids minds when one went cuckoo and killed his friends thinking they were goblins. Video games are just another medium being attacked. Remember, they said the same thing about rock n’ roll music, comic books, certain movies and TV shows, even authors like J.K. Rowling and Kurt Vonnegut were co soldered a bad influence. It’s not the medium, it’s parenting. If parents take the time to talk with their kids and work with them when it comes to media like video games, you can create a better environment for them.

When my son was little, I limited how much time he could play on his video game system and what games he could play. If he wanted to play a rated “M” game, I would play it first to see if it was something he could play. I limited him to fantasy violence. He didn’t play Grand Theft Auto until he was a senior in high school. I just didn’t see a game like that as being productive for a young mind (my opinion).

Social media does play a part. I think social media is being abused by people to incite violence and lash out because they can do it from behind a keyboard. They think it makes them anonymous and, in some cases, invincible; but they soon find out that there can be repercussions. People are losing their jobs and anonymity through violent social media posts. We need better regulatory constraints on these social media companies to make social media more secure, and so that people think about what they type before they click send.

In any case, it’s not the medium that causes these violent acts. Whether its books, movies or video games, these are vehicles of escape. I play video games, watch anime, and write fantasy stories to escape from the doldrums of every day life. I don’t do this to act out violent tendencies that I have dormant inside me. Granted, there are some who do, but as long as they don’t hurt anyone else or themselves, then it’s fine. The key here is individual responsibility.

That’s why we have to look at the individual. We are so focused on other things (i.e. guns, video games, etc.) that we ignore individual responsibility. When did we stop blaming the person for the crime? Yes, mental health does play a part but its not an excuse in every case. Evil is evil and we need to recognize it. Did we excuse Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy for what they did? There comes a time when you have to see if that person lacks morality or remorse for what they did, and if so, they deserve the punishment they get.

There are so many opinions on this matter. What’s important is that all voices be heard and we come together to make informed decisions. LEAVE POLITICS OUT OF IT! I don’t want to see politicians blaming one another or fund raising off these tragedies. That’s a slap in the face to the victims and their families. Set the bullshit aside and work together to make people feel safer when they go into a Wal-Mart, school, or night club. It’s the only thing that matters.



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