What it takes to write a book, no a series, without going completely crazy

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I have to admit, this has been a journey for me. I like to say it’s been a 20-year trek, since Forever Avalon was first published in 2009, but in actuality, it’s been a nearly 40-year journey for me. I wrote a little bit in high school, but not as much as I do today.

It all really started around 1984, for me. I just joined the U.S. Navy, finished boot camp, and was waiting for to join my “A” school class for military journalism at the Defense Information School, Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind. I spent my time in specialty classes to improve my typing speed (I still “hen and peck” at the keyboard to this day) and performing odd duties, like manning a reception desk in the Broadcast Department office. This was really “busy work” while I waited for a spot to open in the next available class schedule.

When I wasn’t on duty, I found some like-minded friends and we spent our evenings and weekends playing Dungeons and Dragons. I had also started writing then, although it was nothing like the Forever Avalon series. I originally had ambitions of being a screenwriter, so I wrote a D&D based screenplay called “Justice by the Sword” and, to be honest, it sucked. I think most writers probably feel the same way about their first piece of work. I still have it, though, as a memento of my first attempt as a writer, to remind me of this journey I started on.

After “A” school, I reported to my first duty station, the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal. It was a behemoth, quite intimidating for a young sailor, but it was an experience I’ll never forget. Like at “A” school, I spent my off duty nights at sea playing D&D with my friends. Yes, I was a full blown nerd. You have to remember, this was before video game consoles, the internet, cellphones, and satellite TV. The only video games we had were the arcade machines on the mess decks that you dropped your quarters into. D&D let us escape those 16 hour work days, separated from family and loved ones, into a world of fantasy.

It was in that haze between fantasy and reality that I found my calling, my dream, my story as a writer. It started as a recurring dream. Whenever I was deployed, I would have this dream about being with my family on a magical, medieval fantasy world. It was like living in an Isekai anime. This dream stayed with me for more than 20 years, half of which was spent on sea duty, deployed overseas. Finally, in 2001, during my last deployment aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (Yes, I served on the Enterprise! Take that, nerds!) I decided to write down the story. I didn’t play D&D anymore (not many Chief Petty Officers into RPGs) so I took my stories to heart and started to write. I spent my off duty time developing my Forever Avalon story, including world building, developing characters, and creating the stories behind the myths and legends of this fantasy world of mine. It was a breathtaking experience.

I finished writing my manuscript over the next few years, followed by editing and then researching publishers to send it to. It wasn’t until 2008, two years after I retired from active duty, that I was finally accepted by a publisher and my dream became a reality. Forever Avalon was published. Then, I stopped having my recurring dream. It was as if I was telling myself that I had to write this story and my job was done. I can’t explain it, I couldn’t if I tried, but this story was, and always has been, a part of me. Now, more than 20 years later, the story (at least, this part of it) is complete.

I don’t mean to sound overtly mysterious, but I can say I’ve already written Book Four in the Forever Avalon series, and started writing Book 5. I have one more trilogy planned before I completely finish this fantasy series altogether. To be honest, the same thing happened to me recently. I started having a dream about waking up at a crossroads in another world (do you see a pattern here…), nearly murdered, and resurrected with a “clockwork heart” to train as a magical warrior. This dream led me to write another new novel I recently finished, The Last Magus. I haven’t done anything with it yet as I’m still editing, but it’s cut from the same cloth.

I know a lot of these stories have been influenced by the movies and television shows I’ve watched and the books I’ve read. It’s the same for many authors; you are influenced by the experiences of your lifetime. The first part of this journey of mine is coming to a close, but I still have more stories to tell. To me, it’s just getting started.

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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 for presale and will be released on 28 February 2020 from Austin Macauley Publishing.

What the f#*k is wrong with swear words in a novel?

*This blog contains some salty “sailor” language. Reader discretion is advised!

I am having a hard time deciding whether or not to use some more profane langauge in my stories. I’m a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer, so I am no stranger to swearing. But to be honest, I didn’t start using the “f-bomb” until I joined the Navy. Even when I started writing the Forever Avalon series, I didn’t include a lot of profanity in it (except for the occasional damn or Hell) because I wanted my kids to be able to read it.

But now, my kids are all grown up and I’m wondering if I should give a shit and let the old sailor out and pump up the volume. It seems more mainstream, but does it go against who I am as a writer? More importantly, does it help me tell my story?

I have found that, as I got older, I tolerate swearing even less. When my family gets together, I find myself reprimanding my kids when they swear, even though I’ve used those same words myself. I’m turning into my father as we speak… Never thought that would happen. But the strange thing is, I’m comfortable with it in my stories.

I don’t think it’s a matter of being mainstream, but rather is part of the story. I’m currently working through a new novel, The Last Magus. As this story developed, it was more graphic, in both language and sex. This isn’t a story about a family, like Forever Avalon, but a man coming into his own. It seemed the right thing to do, and it flowed naturally as I wrote it. I mean, what’s wrong with a goblin swearing like a New York gangster?

It may be something I don’t use as much as I use to, but profanity is a part of everyday life. I don’t want to distract from people reading my novels, but I also don’t want to change it if it doesn’t seem right.

When I’m writing dialogue, it has to flow as if the conversation is actually happening. A great example for me is The Sopranos TV series. Believe it or not, the producers made a video of every single swear word spoken in the series. It was 27 minutes of non-stop profanity. Yet, in his ow home, Tony didn’t tolerate that kind of language from his kids. I think that illustrates the kind of balance I’m looking for.

There has to be a balanced approach, not a constant stream of profanity-laden diatribe for the sake of being “out there” for all to see. Usually, profanity involves an emotional response or outburst. But, don’t use it for the sake of using it.

I like to think of war movies, past and present, as an example of that. I remember those old John Wayne movies where he would throw out the occasional damn or hell but nothing more. Move it up to today’s war movies where they swear worse than Tony Soprano. Is that accurate? Who can say, but like I said, the balance is between those two extremes.

Let’s not go full George Carlin “7 words you can’t say on television” on it unless that’s your target audience. Be true to you, and your story, just don’t fuck it up.



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 is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Remembering our heroes through writing – An excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

This past weekend, we celebrated Memorial Day in the U.S., honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation. As a veteran myself, I try to honor my fellow military service members in my writing.

The main character in the Forever Avalon series, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh, was a U.S. Navy Sailor, lost at sea. His friend and mentor, Sir Charles Taylor, is based on Navy pilot, Lt. Charles Taylor, flight leader of Flight 19, who disappeared with his squadron at sea.

In reality, the Gil-Gamesh is also based on a real-life Navy hero. His name was Chief Gerald Farrier, an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate who died aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal during the Vietnam War.

Fire erupted aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CV 59) on July 29, 1967.

Fire erupted aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CV 59) on July 29, 1967.

On July 29, 1967, while the ship was preparing for flight operations, a Zuni rocket misfired and exploded on the carrier’s flight deck. The deck was full of aircraft, loaded with fuel and bombs. The fire engulfed the aft deck, trapping pilots inside their planes. Farrier, without regard for his own life, ran towards the fire with a PkP fire extinguisher in an attempt to help the pilots escape. Within minutes, the bombs started to explode and Farrier was killed instantly.

The USS Forrestal was the first ship I reported to when I joined the Navy in 1983. I became very familiar with the story of the Forrestal fire and Farrier’s heroism. You can find his name enscribed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., along with his shipmates who perished that day.

It was that selfless devotion to duty and the protection of others that I tried to instill in my character of the Gil-Gamesh. Writers take inspiration from a elements and experiences in their life, and I can’t think of a better inspiration than a true hero like Chief Farrier.

Here is an excerpt from The Dark Tides which recalls the event that brought Chief Bryan Drake from the real world to the mystical island of Avalon and into the role of the Gil-Gamesh.


Inside Flight Deck Control, Bryan rushed into a flurry of activity. McGregory was on the phone with the “Air Boss”— the officer in charge of air operations on Enterprise while others peered out of the small windows to get a peek at what’s happening on deck.

“Clear away from the window,” Bryan shouted to the sailors. “If you don’t have any business in control, get out now!” The sailor’s groaned and filed out as the Handler hung up the phone. His mustache twitched— a sign Bryan came to learn as trouble.

“Chief, the Boss doesn’t want that aircraft damaging any others,” he said to Bryan. “It’s already clipped another helo and a Hawkeye. Think you can secure it?”

Bryan looked at the Handler, tense and nervous. He’s always relied on Bryan for the tough jobs, and he knew it had to be done. “Yes sir. Just give me Georgie, Bartman and a couple blue shirts and we’ll lock it down.”

The Handler picked up the sound- powered phone while Bryan grabbed a flight deck vest and helmet off a hook on the wall. He’d need the safety gear out on the flight deck, especially in this weather. George, Petty Officer Mike Bartman and two blue shirts— sailors who chain the aircraft down to the deck— arrived in Flight Deck Control. Bryan finished buckling his helmet as he relayed orders to his crew.

“Georgie, you drive the tractor. I want that bird hooked up and holding steady. Bartman, you guide him into the helo. Once that’s done, you two lock it down tight. Ready?”

They all chimed in at the same time. “Yes Chief!” Bryan opened the hatch to the flight deck, the wind and rain blowing them down almost immediately. Once everyone is outside, Bryan moved his crew toward the swinging helicopter. Its rear wheel remained chained to the flight deck but its front wheels broke free, causing the aircraft to swing like a pendulum.

Georgie and Bartman go around the island and start up a tractor while the two blue shirts stayed close to Bryan. The ship was listing heavily to right as huge waves crashed over the flight deck. The wind and rain added to the problem, making it hard for them to get good footing. Complicating things even more was the multiple aircraft around them, strained against their chains by the storm.

Georgie backed the tractor on the helo’s rear wheel and, with Bartman’s help, locked the helo down. Once steady, Bartman signaled a thumbs’ up to Bryan to send the two blue shirts in. Heavy chains hung on their shoulders, chocks in their hands, Bryan ordered the two sailors to get to work. He watched as the chocks were placed under the wheels and the chains are hooked on to tie the aircraft down.

Bryan was pleased with his team. He had a great group of sailors working for him. The blue shirts gave the thumbs up and they all started to celebrate, fists pumping and cheering, until without warning, things went from bad to worse. The ship hit a big swell that caused the carrier to drop fast and list heavy to starboard. Bryan can only watch as Bartman slipped and started to tumble backwards toward the edge of the flight deck.

He acted quickly to save his shipmate; without regard for his own life or safety, he dove after Bartman. The momentum of the listing deck flung him through the air. He reached Batman and knocked him into the catwalk, saving his life, but his life saving gesture propelled him over the side of the ship into the water.

He hit the water hard and momentarily blacked out. His safety gear kicked in, though, and his vest auto- inflated. He rose to the surface and regained consciousness. The waves, wind and rain battered him around.

He saw the ship in the distance. The sound of “Man Overboard” can be heard, even with the storm. The ship started to turn around, but to Bryan it seemed to be getting further and further away from him, as if he was being pulled away from the carrier.

SKU-000941753The waves continued to beat him about, practically drowning him in its fury. Bryan became disoriented and fear started to grip him … The fear of dying.

He thought about Stephanie and the kids. He remembered birthdays, anniversaries and holidays as images flooded his mind. Suddenly, he saw a glow in the sky. Bryan thought it was the light from a rescue helicopter, but the ship couldn’t have launched one in this weather.

“Is this it? Is this the end?” he thought as the light grew brighter and brighter until it enveloped him. Bryan closed his eyes and accepted his fate.

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