My writing interferes with my sleep, but in a good way

Image result for dreamingMost of us get things stuck in their head, from time-to-time. After watching the new Aladdin trailer the other night, for some odd reason the “Prince Ali” song was rolling around in my head the next morning. I couldn’t get rid of it, not even in the shower (which is another whole level of embarrassing) until I put my headphones on, started the Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, soundtrack and got on the metro.

Beyond that, dreams put things in my head that helps me in my writing. The problem I have is that it’s usually four-to-five different things at once. I’ve started the outlines for three different novels in the past month, and on top of that, I had a distinct dream last night that gave me an idea for another project. I love it when the “creative juices” start to flow (it’s better than writer’s block) but it can also be considered on overload.

My dreams have always been a big part of the inspiration I draw on for my novels. I think it’s a culmination of years of playing Dungeons & Dragons and video games, reading comic books and various sci-fi/fantasy novels, and watching anime, Saturday Morning cartoons, and everything from Star Trek to Game of Thrones. All that “input” has to go somewhere and it’s usually into my dreams.

It’s amazing how this play acts out in my head, but it can also be quite frustrating. I CAN’T GO BACK TO SLEEP! When I wake up from this incredible dream with a story playing out right before me, it’s so damn hard to get back to sleep. That’s especially difficult when I have to work the next day.

How can you compartmentalize your sleep so you can (a) you can put those wonderful dreams to good use, and (b) you can still get a good night’s sleep. Some people suggest keeping a tablet next to the bed. I tried that but I can never wake up enough to write anything down. I’m also afraid that, if I would get up to start doing that, I would never get back to sleep.

I think that’s why I am working toward being a writer, so I can wake up and start writing without having to worry about making the metro on time. It would be great to be able to write whenever these crazy ideas pop into my head. I don’t want to lose what could be a great idea to sleep.

The last time I had a dream like this was this past year. Back in June 2018, I had a simple dream–waking up on a crossroads, nearly dying, and studying magic from a hermit-like caster to become a bad-ass warrior/caster. This led me to the book I just finished writing, The Last Magus. From the original dream, six months later, I had a manuscript of more than 180,000 words. That’s the power of dreams.

I usually get my best ideas from recurring dreams, like my last one, and it sticks with me until I finish writing. So, then I know it was meant to be. I haven’t had a repeat of my dream from the other night, so I’m not sure if that’s one to go with just yet. Even still, when I close my eyes tonight, I will wait and see if another new idea hits me.

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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 coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Why can’t they leave great franchises alone?

Why is it that there are no more original ideas? Instead of coming up with something new, people–and by people I mean comic book editors, movie and television executives–decide to reinvent or re-imagine a classic instead of making an original idea. There are so many original ideas out there from the many independent, self-published authors, why do they have to mess with success?

A great, more recent, example is the Ghostbusters franchise. Now, I may get in trouble for this but hear me out. Instead of going with a third movie in the trilogy, they decided to re-imagine it with an all-female cast. Yes, it had some very funny moments and some of the cast were great (Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon were my favorites) but it failed to grab the spirit of the original. Now, Jason Reitman is working to make a third movie with some of the original cast for 2020. That is getting praise from the fans of the original movies, and panned by some who think we didn’t give the reboot a chance. We gave it a chance and we didn’t care for it, enough said.

Another example is Star Trek. It was great to see Star Trek go from the original series, to The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, etc. I was even a fan of the Enterprise prequel. Then we got the reboot with Chris Pine, which was okay but it seemed to be more about bring the “millennial edginess” instead of a way of telling a new story. Even the new TV series Discovery has redefined Klingons different from the original premise. And now, there’s word the Quentin Tarantino will be given a chance to put his mark on Star Trek. Why? Why mess with something that already has a deep-rooted fan base.

Look at the movie 2015 Max Max: Fury Road. Because it was written, directed, and produced by George Miller, the creator of Mad Max, it had the same feel as the original movies. It was visually awesome, great cast, and a decent story. It even won some Oscars, a first for the franchise. You see, they didn’t need to update it because it was good as it is. You don’t need to make wholesale changes to a franchise just to make it interesting.

Image result for the mandalorianAnother great example is Star Wars. Now, there have been hits and misses with the franchise since the end of Return of the Jedi. The animated series have been top notch, the Rogue One prequel was OUT OF BOUNDS! However, they have not found the original magic from these successes in later projects. The Force Awakens was good, The Last Jedi not so much. Solo was, in my opinion, better than I expected it to be, but it had too many plot holes. I am looking forward to the Mandalorian Netflix series as well as future releases after Episode 9 (which I am patiently holding my breath for) because they will be original movies separate from the Skywalker saga. That’s where they need to go. We don’t need a reboot of the same characters with new actors, but rather, let’s go to another part of the vast universe.

With all these examples, I just want to make the point that there are stories out there that haven’t been told yet, but they need to be done right. Look at Stephen King’s The Dark Tower and how badly it was done. These editors, producers, and directors need to keep the writers in mind to keep the story true to the original intent. Granted, some things may be out of the budgetary range of some movies (though not impossible with today’s CGI technology) but it is from the writer that it even exists in the first place.

Even in comic books, story lines are now being rewritten to accommodate the way they were done in the movies. Really? So, the original stories aren’t good enough anymore? Sorry, but that’s just being too damn lazy to be creative and original.

I have had the great opportunity to meet, talk to, and read the books of other independent authors like me through our connections on social media. There are a lot of great stories out there, worthy of a movie or series. That’s where the inspiration for the next big TV series or blockbuster movie should come from, not someone’s idea of the next reboot should be. Quit re-imagining things and let’s be original for a change.

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

“Be Like Water” — There will never another like the great Bruce Lee

b81206b7b4982f375a5bb891d8b60552“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” — Bruce Lee

I think I can say, without a doubt, there will never be another like the incomparable Bruce Lee. He was one of a kind, unique, and probably the greatest martial artist of all time. His movies are still being watched today for their film composition, fight choreography, and cinematography. They are legendary.

But more importantly, and often overlooked, is his philosophy found in his many interviews. He had an insight on life that equaled any monk or holy man from any religion. He looked at life itself as a lesson for everyone to learn from. Lee said, “A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.”

It’s quotes like this that brings a true insight into this remarkable man. Yes, he was an incredible fighter with a physique and power that would make any many jealous. I don’t think there’s a young boy out there growing up in the 70’s that didn’t try to emulate Bruce Lee. We all took Christmas wrapping paper tubes, split them in the middle to make num-chuks, and tried to recreate the fight scene from “Enter the Dragon” against our siblings or friends; but in reality, he was much more than that.

I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” — Bruce Lee

I think that was his guiding philosophy. He could give you advice but it’s up to you how your live your life. That’s what’s so sad about the life of Bruce Lee. Here was this man, blessed with incredible strength, skill, and an ideology that crossed all boundaries; but with all that, his life was cut short. Whether you believe in the “curse” or just consider it a coincidence, like many brilliant stars, he burned out before he truly shined.

enterthedragon001-69102-framed“Enter the Dragon” is by far his most popular movie, and my favorite too. Of all the kung fu movies ever made, this one is a masterpiece. I think I like it the most because it was the first, and only movie, that Bruce Lee acted in English. He really was a great actor. Plus, you can’t compare the fight scenes in it with movies like “The Matrix” or “John Wick” because they did it without the wire work or special effects. It was all Bruce Lee.

I for one will never forget the immortal light of Bruce Lee. He will forever be a symbol of inner peace, eternal strength, and overwhelming compassion for others. He may have only lived for short time, but his legacy will live on forever.

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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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

 

Fantasy wins at the Oscars, and its just the beginning

d44c6c0cc27b86409073154c09502413After last night’s win at the 90th annual Academy Awards, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is in the spotlight, as is the fantasy genre. It was great to see a writer/director/producer like del Toro win the Best Picture and Best Director Oscar. His vision of other worlds in such wonderfully vivid movies like Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Pacific Rim is legendary.

It was great to see the Academy honor a wonderful fantasy story like The Shape of Water and a director like del Toro. It gives a writer like me the confidence in my own fantasy stories. But, at the same time, it’s also disappointing that other fantasy movies weren’t even given a chance to be recognized.

I wrote previously about how the Academy snubs top-rated movies for “artsy” movies that people have barely seen. It’s a shame that audience approval isn’t part of the consideration. The Oscars are nothing more than a night for Hollywood elites to pat themselves on the back. Even still, they do try to get it right once in a while.

I just don’t understand why there is such a disdain for fantasy movies. If you think about it, only two fantasy movies have won the Best Picture Oscar in the past 50 years–Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and The Shape of Water. At the same time, some of the top selling movies of all time have been fantasy movies released in the 50 years.

It doesn’t make any sense to me. Fantasy is one of the best genres out there. It takes you back in time, to another world, or into a magical fantasy. The mind-blowing improvements in CGI has given filmmakers the opportunity to showcase stories that would never have been done before.

Here’s a great example… In 1966, director François Truffaut brought us the dystopian science fiction film Fahrenheit 451, based on the classic Ray Bradbury novel, starring Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, and Cyril Cusack. Watching this movie, you could see the wires holding the jet packs aloft. Yeah, it was pretty bad.

fahrenheit-451Now, in 2018, HBO is remaking it into a new movie starring Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon. It looks amazing, sure to outshine the original. You also got to love the subject matter (burning books, controlling information) in today’s day and age.

John Lennon said, “I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?” With that, how can you not want to write, read, and watch fantasy?

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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.

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.

I can honestly say I HATE the Academy Awards because they just can’t get it right

Image result for oscar nominees in 2018The nominations for the Academy Awards were released and, once again, Hollywood proved that it is nothing like the legacy it left in the rear view mirror. I can make my point with one, pertinent fact… In 1939, a majority of the top grossing motion pictures (Gone with the Wind, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Mr. Smith goes to Washington, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach) were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. This year, ZERO of the top grossing films were nominated.

In a year where women’s issues are at the forefront in Hollywood, the only movie with a woman as the director, producer and star (WONDER WOMAN, hint hint) didn’t receive a single nomination. Why? Why? Why?

This is why I don’t watch the Academy Awards anymore. I don’t recognize half the movies, actors or actresses nominated. Some of these movies are independent releases with no showtimes in theaters around the country except in big cities. At one time, you would hear the songs nominated for best song on the radio. Now, I recognize one song on this list and its only because of the movie trailer (“This is Me” from The Greatest Showman).

Although they added a Best Animated Feature category, the top animated film in 2017 (Despicable Me 3) wasn’t nominated. I don’t even recognize two of the films nominated and one of the films (Ferdinand) wasn’t released until the very end of 2017. I just don’t get it.

I think this is one of the reasons I watch a lot of Turner Classic Movies. You can’t compare Hollywood of today to the Golden Age of Hollywood. There are a lot of the usual comparisons (womanizing, to make a point) but  there is also a lot of class from that era you don’t see today. It’s a bygone era where Hollywood heroes enlisted to serve their country at war, entertained the troops not protested against them, and stood for something besides their own self worth.

Image result for red carpet with a bag o n their headHere’s a great example. In the old days of Hollywood, actors and actresses wouldn’t wear a bag over their head on the red carpet to make a political statement or wear a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “Poverty is Sexist” on it. Using award shows for politics is everyday today. Expect this year to be no exception, especially with President Trump in the White House. I think the best example of this is in 1973, when Vanessa Redgrave won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Julia. She used her acceptance speech to get back at the “Zionist Hoodlums” who spoke out against her documentary, The Palestinian, which portrayed the Palestinian Liberation Organization in a sympathetic light.

She was followed by iconic author, playwright, and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. He said, “I would like to say — personal opinion, of course — that I am sick and tired of people exploiting the occasion of the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal political propaganda.” In 24 years, Hollywood still hasn’t learned anything. They’re only doing it louder via social media now.

So, as we follow the yellow brick road to “tinsel town” one more time, I hope that Hollywood had learned its lesson and go back to making the Academy Awards about the movies and us, the fans, not about themselves.

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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.

Is it okay to cry over movies, music, or books? Even for a big, tough man?

158979-163217I think every one of us knows a “tearjerker” when you see one. They come in many shapes and sizes. It could be a movie, a song, a television show, or even a good book. I am the first one to admit that I am a “big baby” when it comes to certain things.

I cried the first time I heard “The Christmas Shoes” by NewSong; during the final episode of M*A*S*H, and at the end of Les Miserables. One of the worst times I cried is when I was writing my second book, The Dark Tides. I have own “Red Wedding” scene (which was not meant as a ripoff to Game of Thrones, since I wrote it before I even read or watch the series) where a number of main characters were killed. It was quite heart-wrenching for me, as I had grown so fond of these characters and killing them was quite painful.

Even during my editing process, I found myself in tears every time I read those pages. Even now, it’s hard to re-read it without getting choked up, but that’s the kind of emotion I want to evoke in my readers. I want them to feel that emotional depth in my stories so it causes people to react.

“There’s no crying in baseball!” — Tom Hanks, A League of Their Own

According to Dr. Michael Bader, from his article “Why We Cry at Movies,” a wide range of phenomena are resulted from movies and books. He said, “that people repress feelings and perceptions that are too dangerous to experience, but, under conditions of safety, are able to finally begin to let them out.”

The safest place we feel is in our homes, a movie theater, even in our own car. At those moments, the repressed feelings we associate with the music, words or what we see come out.

When asked what made him or her cry in such a situation, Bader found that “it might involve a parent-figure, spouse, or friend understanding the hero, or offering protection or love. Right away, I know that these feelings have been there for much of the patient’s life.”

It’s hard to cry at the moments of pure emotion, especially for a guy. I think the old adage of a big, tough guy being brought to tears at moments like this is a “common norm” from the early days, as men were meant to be big and tough. In contrast, today’s “metrosexual” or “snowflakes” are in touch with their feelings, so crying is everyday. These are two huge contrasts, but it applies to many people today.

Image result for asuna and yuuki death sceneI think it’s okay to cry when the time calls for it. The other night, I was watching Sword Art Online II on my iPad while my wife was watching Shark Tank on TV. (FYI, if you haven’t watched SAO, you should, and spoilers ahead!) It was the episode where Yuuki, a girl with AIDs who was living in the VR realm, died surrounded by her friends and all the gamers in ALO. It was quite an emotional moment. I just couldn’t help it as the tears just poured out of me. My wife looked at me as if I was crazy, crying over an anime, but I just couldn’t help it.

I think these types of emotional outbursts helps us as cope with everyday life. We laugh, we cry, we feel joy, and we feel sadness. These are the emotions that authors, like myself, hope to bring out in people when they read my stories. I want those emotions to resonate and bring out that emotional response. It’s what makes us human.

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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.

A tale of two Marvel stories… The good, the bad, and the misunderstood

Last Friday, I went to the movies to see Thor: Ragnarok, and then Friday night, I watch Marvel’s Inhumans on ABC. These are two diversely different properties of Marvel Entertainment with very different opinions amongst the geek world. People are gushing over Thor:Ragnarok as the best movie in the Thor series. For the past year, these same people have been trouncing Inhumans as pitiful and boring.

Well, in my opinion, they’re both wrong. I thought Thor: Ragnarok was okay but it misused some great Marvel characters and turned some serious moments in the history of Thor into a joke. At the same time, the Inhumans series gave us some truly inspiring moments that came right out of the pages of the comics.

WARNING! FROM THIS POINT ON < SPOILER ALERT! > WARNING!

images3N0MN2NRSo, first up, let’s talk about Thor: Ragnarok. It was a fun and entertaining movie with some of the best fight scenes that the Thor movies are known for. At the same time, they killed three very popular characters (The Warriors Three, Volstagg, Fandral and Hogun!) and turned the Grandmaster and Skurge the Executioner into a running gag.

FYI, in case you don’t know, Thor:Ragnarok is the third movie in the Thor series by Marvel Entertainment. Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Hulk, his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor’s quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.

As I said, this movie had great action and fight scenes, living up to the expectations built on the previous Thor movies; but director Taika Waititi turned it into a Bing Crosby/Bob Hope road film. The jokes were obvious and lame. All they did was keep the movie going. I mean, this was supposed to be a world of gladiatorial competitions, yet we only saw one fight. Really? On top of that, the characters went from villains to second-rate bad guys.

In the comics, Skurge was a force to be reckoned with who went toe-to-toe with Thor on many occasions. In the movie, he’s a bumbling idiot out to save his own skin. His only redeeming moment was when he saved the Asgardians from Hela. Also in the comics, the Grandmaster is a scheming, conniving cosmic being who uses games to entertain and torment his victims. In the movie, Jeff Goldblum made him look incompetent. It was a total misuse of this great Marvel villain, like Baron Strucker, Zemo, and some of the other villains they’ve trashed.

The main villain, Hela, was handled brilliantly by Cate Blanchett, although they did change her origin from Loki’s daughter to Odin’s. I didn’t have a problem with that but I think she could have been so much more. Add to that, Thor and Loki’s relationship went from adversarial in the last three movies (Thor, The Avengers, and Thor: The Dark World) to sibling rivalry without any reason or expectation. Loki went from supreme villain, capable of taking on the Avengers singlehanded, to the redheaded step-child taking a backseat to Thor.

p14159928_b_v8_aaThe only good thing from the movie was the mid-credits scene which set up Avengers: Infinity War. By contrast, Inhumans has been laughed at and scorned with ridicule; but I’ve been watching the series since the beginning and found it enjoyable and fun to watch.

Black Bolt, the enigmatic, commanding head of the Inhuman royal family and King of Attilan, possesses a voice so powerful that the slightest whisper can destroy a city. After a military coup splinters the family, the group — which includes Black Bolt’s wife, Medusa; his brother and rival, Maximus; his cousins Karnak, Gorgon and Triton; and Medusa’s sister, Crystal — barely manages to escape to Hawaii, where surprising interactions with the lush world and humanity around them may prove to not only save them, but Earth itself.

Did they get all the characters right? No… But they have done a lot of good things. Anson Mount is brilliant as Black Bolt. He is acting without speaking and doing it perfectly. Most of the cast is like this as well. Iwan Rheon has gone from Game of Thrones villain to Maximus flawlessly. Serinda Swan is a perfect sounding board for Black Bolt as Queen Medusa. They made a lot of great casting choices in this series, and Lockjaw is the best animated dog on television.

I do wish they mixed in a little Agents of Shield with it. I think that might have added a lot more to the series. I really don’t like Triton’s make-up in this. He looks nothing like he does in the comics. Plus, in the comics, Karnak did not go through Terrigenesis, but rather, he attained his abilities naturally. These are just some of the elements that have soured the Inhumans series.

But one thing that really stood out to me was this past week’s episode. There was a moment when Medusa was confronting Black Bolt about keeping secrets from her. She said that she didn’t want to just be his interpreter, but his partner with her own opinions, as his queen. That scene hit me like a lead balloon. It was like reading the comic. That’s one of the things they did right in this series and why I’ve enjoyed it, week after week.

I know many are going to disagree with me, but I wanted to lay out my honest opinion about these two Marvel properties. I am anticipating Black Panther to be as awesome as it looks, and toward the new season of Agents of Shield. There’s so much more to come from Marvel and I can’t wait.

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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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.

 

What is our love affair with myths and legends?

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:  I am fed to the teeth with elevated themes! Old dead legends! Why must we go on forever writing about gods and legends?” 

Baron Van Swieten:  Because they do. They go on forever. Or at least what they represent. The eternal in us.” 

─ Amadeus (1984)

I think it’s safe to say that people love stories. We’ve heard them since we were children, at bedtime, around a campfire, on our favorite TV show, and in the movies. Stories are what entertain us whether were sitting in a Broadway theater or watching the latest anime on our smartphone.

kingarthurThere are so many ways for authors and writers to tell their favorite stories, whether its a retelling of an old legend or a brand new story. These folk tales and fairy tales are the composite of our combined history. The give us hope, give us faith, and make us believe in something more than our everyday life. For writers like me, myths and legends are the source of inspiration for my writing.

As you travel around the world, you’ll find that every culture has a lot of the same stories, just told with different characters. There are creation stories, love stories, tales of famous heroes rescuing a damsel in distress, and some about a girl saving the day too. It’s all part of that shared history that all human beings have. No matter what the color of your skin, the language you speak or where you live, its the stories of the past that bring us together.

I’m reminded of the television miniseries Roots, based on the novel by author Alex Haley on how he discovered his lineage all the way back to Africa. He found it through a family story that was passed down from generation to generation. It was the story of how Kunta Kinte went out into the jungle to cut down a tree to make a drum for a gift, and how he was captured and taken away from his village. This story resonated through history until Alex Haley returned to the village of his ancestor and heard the story again, but from one of the village elders. That story connected them together over hundreds of years and thousands of miles That’s the power of stories.

“That’s how it is with legends. The greater they sound, the more must’ve got left out.”
― Tim Tharp, Knights of the Hill Country

Thou some are flights of fancy, others are based on some truths. We’ve seen some stories told over and over again, from Greek mythology and King Arthur, to stories from the Bible. These are some of the great tales that resound in all of us due to their morals, their heroism, their faith, and how they impact us emotionally. These tales have resonated from century to century, across thousands of miles and multiple languages. That is what makes them immortal.

Clash of the Titans is one of my favorite movies, from the original 1981 with Harry Hamlin and Sir Lawrence Olivier to the 2010 remake with Sam Worthington and Liam Neeson. No matter how much the story changed in 30 years, it still had the same myth at its base–Perseus, the Kraken, Medusa, etc. No matter how it inspired the writer, the story was the same at its core.

No matter how they’re told, myths and legends are the stories that we all share. We have a responsibility to keep passing these stories on to the next generation, in whatever form possible, to ensure they remain part of our history.

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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 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.