Swords and sorcery, fantasy and magic, wizards and warriors is why I write

It has been a tumultuous two weeks at the 2016 Warrior Games, but it was a blast. I had the honor of being amongst true inspiration for a writer like me … Real heroes in the wounded warriors participating in the games. The men and women I met live up to the title of being a warrior for their heart, courage, and determination.

The reason I bring this up is really a retrospect on my own writing style. I love to write about medieval fantasy. I  love to spin my stories on knights and dragons, heroic battles and daring deeds. I write these stories because I am inspired by everyday heroes, just like the wounded warriors I met, and the best way I know how to immortalize them is to place them in my stories.

51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_We idolize our heroes, and for good reason. They inspire us to be better people. I created the Forever Avalon series because I wanted to tell the story of Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon. Why? Because, deep down inside, he is me, or rather he is the hero I want to be,

That’s the reason I played Dungeons and Dragons as a young man. I was able to step into the role of the hero and I immersed myself in my characters. The Gil-Gamesh is based on one of my best characters in the game. As I grew older, I wanted to tell these stories and share them with others. That’s when I began to write.

Heroes maintain that quality of courage in the face of danger, selflessness to save others and the humility before God. These are the characteristics of the heroes I admire, the man I hope to be and the characters I write about. No one is perfect, mind you, but I want to convey the best in people at their darkest hour.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.” That’s the kind of courage you see in the fireman that runs into a burning building, the policeman who gets between the victim and the perpetrator, or the soldier who runs into the firefight, not away from it.

Another great example is Navy Lt. Charles Taylor, flight leader for Flight 19, a group of torpedo planes that disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle in 1945. Here was a man who volunteered to serve his country at a time of war. His death, a mysterious as it was, was a catalyst for my story, where Lt. Taylor survived and became a knight of Avalon and friend of the Gil-Gamesh. That’s what you can do when you’re writing fantasy,

In fantasy writing, you take those heroic qualities and you amplify them tenfold. They may carry a magic sword or wear magic armor to protect them, but it’s the person inside that makes them a hero, not the weapon. Bruce Lee was, without a doubt, a living weapon and he had unbelievable courage and wisdom beyond his years.

I love fantasy because anything is possible. With magic, you are only limited by your imagination. You can build worlds with floating islands, flying ships, mythical cities, and immense, dark forests. Within all these possibilities, you need people who you can relate to, who you can believe in.

We have wonderful, real-life heroes in the world today. There are hundreds of stories about these heroes you read about each and every day. I just want to continue their story by using them as inspiration for the heroes in a fantasy world like mine.

***

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

The afterlife takes on many forms, giving writers plenty of options

HeavenHellClockDeath is always an option for writers, especially since death is a natural part of life. Heaven and Hell are concepts we’ve learned about from Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Although, there are many who are skeptical of religion and do not believe in an afterlife. For example, reincarnation is a concept of the afterlife found among Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Rosicrucians, Theosophists, Spiritists, and Wiccans. Before that, you have varied concepts of the afterlife from the Fields of Elysium and Tartarus to Valhalla and Limbo.

For a writer, these varied concepts of what lies after death a part of the story. Sometimes, you don’t just kill a character. Part of their life story is their belief in what comes next. In my second book, The Dark Tides, Lord Baldrid, High King of the Elves, reflected on his own mortality as the Gil-Gamesh, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, is brought to Alfheimer

***

As the Queen and Lady Lyllodoria continued their conversation, Lord Baldrid stepped back to speak with Nevan.

“You have my deepest sympathies on your loss young Nevan Forest,” he said extending his hand to Nevan. Nevan shook his hand and bowed courteously. “Sir Thomas was a true friend of Alfheimer. He will be sorely missed.”

“Thank you Lord Baldrid, that means a lot,” Nevan said with humility. “I just hate that my first conversation with the Gil-Gamesh is to tell him of my father’s death. I really don’t want to add to his pain.”

“The news will hurt at first, but he will accept the solace in knowing that your father is now part of the magic that is Avalon. We all accept this as part of our own mortality.”

“Excuse me for asking milord, but aren’t Elves immortal?” Nevan
asked.

“We are, my young Captain, but even immortal beings can fall to the specter of death. It is something we all must face at one time in our lives. I have lived for more than 5,000 years and I still wonder when the day will come that I will walk, hand-in-hand, with Sehanine Moonbow, the Daughter of the Night Skies. It is something that haunts even me, but I have found that to reflect on death helps one appreciate the life you have.”

***

The myths and legends of the after in folklore can  give a fantasy author, like me, the base for to rest on. In book three of the Forever Avalon series, The Outlander War (to be published later this year but available for preview now at Inkitt.com), I delve into two of these mythical realms beyond the grave … Purgatory and Vídbláin. Vídbláin is the mythical realm from Norse mythology where the survivors of Ragnarök will take shelter. It is also considered the afterlife where the Ljósálfar or Light Elves go when they die. That’s how I portrayed it in The Outlander War.

As for Purgatory, I have a more grim and dire description of that ungodly place. I imagined it like a combination of Valhalla and Hell, where fallen warriors go to reclaim their honor and earn their way into paradise. Here is an excerpt from The Outlander War that describes Purgatory in the world of Forever Avalon.

***

The Gates of Purgatory were as foul as any of the many levels of the underworld. The bones littered the ground from countless battles between the demons and undead creatures of the underworld that tried to escape to the real world. Only the Wraith Legion stood between them and spreading their evils in the world above.

The wraiths were fallen knights given penance to guard the gates for one thousand years to earn their place in paradise. They wore armored shells of plate mail, but instead of a helmet, a ghostly visage of a skull hovered over the top of the armor. It was a faceless reflection of their human life. Across their heart sat a fiery red gem—a heartstone. The gem beat with the blood of the wraith; powerful magic imbuing life into the soulless creature.

Beyond the gates lies the Retched Wasteland, a vast desert that separated the real world from Purgatory. The dark wastes burned from the fires of Hell below instead of the sun above. Anyone who made it past the wraiths usually found themselves lost in the dark recesses of the Retched Wasteland.

***

18k4bbwfnym3tjpgIt was Plato who said, “The soul takes nothing with her to the next world but her education and her culture. At the beginning of the journey to the next world, one’s education and culture can either provide the greatest assistance or else act as the greatest burden, to the person who has just died.” Although this sounds a little more like reincarnation than the afterlife, I think it speaks of a higher purpose. We are taking all we are from this world into the next when we die. That’s a lot of baggage to bring with you. The stories of one’s life can be told by what you take with you into the next. That brings some peace and solace while others hope it is enough to earn them a place in the afterlife.

Whatever you believe, it is fertile ground for writers to express their own personal beliefs or maybe even explore new ideas within the stories they create.

51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse. The Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt and cast your vote to help me get it published.

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

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The Outlander War: Book Three of the Forever Avalon series

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

In medieval fantasy, it’s all about the weapon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

I’ll take my inspiration where I can get it

My family has been picking on me lately as to what I watch regularly on TV. Being unemployed at this time, I spend a lot of time on the computer, looking for jobs and/or writing. I like to listen to movies and television shows to keep the creativity flowing. I know some people prefer music, but for me, it’s a product of my environment.

You see, as a retired Navy Journalist, I served primarily on aircraft carriers. At sea, my office workspace doubled as the shipboard television station. Because of the rotating shift schedules of sailors at sea, we kept the television on 24/7. So, the movies and the television shows provided to us by the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) played constantly.

Thus my conundrum. It’s easier for me to write when there is noise, like that of a television, playing in the background. It’s hard to explain but I think that having to sit down and write or work at my computer goes smoother when I can listen to something in the background. It seems to make me work harder to focus my thoughts and think about what I’m doing, but that’s not why they’re picking on me.

thtbotfa25_cleanFor some reason, I have been focused on certain movies to keep me inspired, especially The Hobbit movies, Lord of the Ring trilogy, anything Star WarsThe Martian, Pacific Rim and a few classic 80’s “sword and sorcery” guilty pleasure movies like Ladyhawke, Krull and Dragonslayer. The repetition at which I watch these movies has earned me the ridicule of my wife and children, but to be honest, I can’t help it.

These movies inspire me. I love the stories, the visual effects, the characters, just everything about them. I enjoy watching them over and over again as if I was watching them for the first time. It reminds me a lot of when I was a teenager and went to see Star Wars for the first time. I loved it so much that I went back and saw it every weekend for as long as it was in the theaters. I must have seen it 20 times. I did the same thing with The Rockey Horror Picture Show, Conan the Barbarian and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The misspent youth of my young adult life was spent in movie theaters.

Today, it furthers my want to be a successful writer and see what I write up there, whether on the silver screen or on TV. It is, I think, the dream of every writer to take their stories tot he furthest reaches possible. When you listen to the metal twang of steel in a swordfight or the hum of a lightsaber, it brings those vivid images to the forefront and sets your mind in motion.

To me, that is where inspiration comes. It’s the things we see, we hear, we taste, we smell that gets all electrons firing off at the same time. It gives writers, like me, the confidence to write the next chapter in our stories. So whatever inspires you to write, ignore the naysayers and just give into it. Whatever works for you is what’s important.

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

Is special effects making or breaking the fantasy genre?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game of Thrones began the upward spiral of medieval fantasy today – My 50th blog post!

Best-Fiction-TV-Series-Game-of-Thrones

This is my 50th blog post since I started writing it over six months ago. I can’t think of a better topic than my favorite subject to write about, medieval fantasy!

You have to admit that since Game of Thrones became so popular on television, there has been a gradual uptick of medieval-styled shows appearing on virtually every cable channel. As a fantasy writer and longtime Dungeons and Dragons geek, I have no problem with this. The more the merrier I say; but what I’m afraid of is it turning into the same old, blasé, run of the mill television.

There have been great diversity in storylines, using fairy tales (Once Upon a Time, Grimm) to historical renditions (Vikings, Tudors, Reign) to all out fantasy from GoT and Merlin to the upcoming Shannara Chronicles .

These shows have made superstars out of great actors and actresses like Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Colin Morgan and Ginnifer Goodwin to name a few. Almost all of these shows have multiple nominations across the board in acting, writing, best series, etc., in everything from BAFTA, Emmy to Golden Globes.

The trend is even building on Broadway where Wicked and Spamalot have garnered cult-like followings. Movies, YouTube fan films, graphic novels … I could go on and on. As I said, it has been building to this.

This growing trend is beneficial to me and others like me, who are inspired by flights of fancy in the realm of magic. As a writer, this is a blessing that could lead my novels (Forever Avalon, The Dark Tides) to maybe, one day find its way to  the airwaves; but it’s not something that will happen overnight.

As I noted in a previous blog posting, it took over 40 years for someone to finally bring Terry Brooks’ amazing Shannara Chronicles to television, and it looks like it will be worth the wait. The age of CGI and motion-capture, blending actors and actresses into these fantasy worlds so seamlessly, has made virtually anything possible in television and film.

I will be going to a great event coming in October. iUniverse is having self-published authors, like myself, work with producers and writers to develop a two-minute pitch of our novel. The top two selected with be able to pitch their idea to a Hollywood producer and have the chance of thier book being made into a film.

This is really my chance to sell someone on my passion for my story and the characters I have cultivated in my novels. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity so I can’t wait. I want you to see, flying ships, dragons, the Gil-Gamesh and his family up there, like you do when you read my novels. Wish me luck!

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

When part of a story just doesn’t work – A deleted excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

goblins_by_daroz-d5bww72When your writing a story, sometimes it can just get away from you. That’s what happened to me when I wrote my first draft of The Dark Tides. It really got away from me to the tune of 228,000 words. It was way too long and it took me months to edit it down to the still unimaginable 190,000 words.

As a writer, you sometimes state the obvious and sometimes you take really long stating the obvious. Here is a deleted excerpt from The Dark Tides to shed some light on how hard it is to edit what some writers consider their “baby” and don’t want to make another cut.

***

“Has any human ever been to see the Goblin King?” Bryan asked Eonis.

“No, never; not unless they were dinner,” Dinius quipped. “And I mean the meal, not as guests.”

Bryan gulped and wondered if he’d bitten off more than he can chew. He moved in close behind Ragnar as the other goblins closed ranks around him. They started their march through the dark, dank woods towards Idlehorn Mountain. They walked in silence, not a sound from the goblins or Bryan except for the rustling of the leaves beneath their feet.

After nearly an hour of forced march, they reached the base of Idlehorn Mountain. Bryan looked up at the jagged peak. It was an ominous and imposing sight. No trails or paths could be seen leading up the mountain anywhere. The only thing he could make out was the shape of a castle jutting out of the cliff … Lord Kraven Darkholm’s castle. Eonis said Lord Darkholm lived there to keep the goblins and other dark creatures under foot, or so he told King Gregor as to why he stayed in this God-awful place.

Ragnar walked up to the mountain face. He scratched across the rock with his claws in a strange pattern. Then he banged on the stone wall three times and stepped back. Bryan could feel the earth around him begin to rumble. Suddenly, an opening appeared at the base as the mountain seemed to literally fold in on itself, pulling the rock apart to reveal a cave descending downward.

“This is your last chance to back away … You sure you want to do this?” Ragnar joked.

Bryan nodded his head. “A friend of mine once said, ‘The Chief knows there is a time and place for everything; a time to act and a time to react; a time to speak and a time to be silent; and a time to unite or act alone.’ This is one of those times.”

Ragnar looked confused then decided to ignore it and press on. “As you wish Gil-Gamesh, follow me!”

As the frustrated goblin headed down into the mountain, Bryan’s cockiness faded quickly as he walked in the dark bowels of Idlehorn. Dimly lit by the embers of burnt torches, the cave continued to wind downward. Bryan felt the dank, musty air … The smell of death and decay permeated from the stone. The deeper they went, the worse the smell.

“I’ve smelled septic tanks better than this,” Bryan said, rubbing his gloved hand across his nose, hoping the oiled leather would help mask the awful stench.

The cave began to level off and widen. The stalactites became more prominent in the cave, decorated with the pierced skulls of their enemies. A bright light beckoned them ahead.

“Is it me or is it getting hotter?” Bryan asked himself as he wiped the sweat off his brow.

Bryan thought they must had an enormous fire burning up ahead. As the passage opened into an enormous cavern, the Gil-Gamesh realized that it wasn’t a fire burning … It was something else.

The cavern seemed to encompass the entire center of Idlehorn Mountain. A huge pocket, like a magma dome, underneath the mountain, as lava flowed like water from the walls. It fell and circulated in streams and pools throughout the cave interior. Not only did the lava provide light and warmth for the goblins, it made it easier for them to forge a constant supply of weapons for their massive army. Goblins had nowhere to call home except for the cave itself. They climbed along its walls like spiders in a web, able to move anywhere and everywhere in the cavern. They ate, slept and worked wherever they could find a rock to lean against or a piece of meat to gnaw on.

As Ragnar took them deeper into the voluminous cavern, Bryan got a sense of the social structure of the goblins. It was a society of “survival of the fittest.” The stronger, more powerful goblins bullied the smaller, weaker ones; an inbred form of slave labor. They were forced to carry heavy loads in the belief that it would make them stronger. The intense labor culled out the weaker goblins from the rest. Those that survived either continue their toll as slaves or they volunteered for experiments conducted by goblin warlocks and alchemists as they strived to make a goblin warrior that’s unbeatable. They were a collective, striving for the betterment of the goblins and the defeat of their enemies.

At the heart of the cavern sat a throne of iron and stone. It was a monument to the machine that was the goblin empire. The twisted metal frame and jagged rock reminded all who stood before it of the pain and suffering that is the life of a goblin.

In the throne sits a brute of a beast … The Goblin King P’tah Mnenok. His skin was black and scarred, ripped and torn by battle. His face was long and twisted, yellow eyes pierced out from dark slits. His fangs were so long that they pierced from beneath his lower lip, giving him a constant scowl, even with his mouth closed. On his head sat a crown of braided iron; a cold reminder of his black heart.

Ragnar approached King Mnenok as goblins came down from the around the cavern and surrounded the throne, trapping Bryan. For the first time since he arrived on Avalon, Bryan feared he may not live to see tomorrow.

Ragnar knelt before the King, bowing his head in submission before stepping up to the Goblin King, whispering in his ear. Bryan stepped up as goblins of all shapes and sizes moved in behind the Gil-Gamesh. King Mnenok looked at Bryan, growling under his breath.

“Does the courtesy of Avalon end at Idlehorn Mountain Gil-Gamesh?” he asked, his voice sharp and hollow.

Bryan realized his mistake and acted to rectify it by bowing slightly. “I apologize King Mnenok, but I am unfamiliar with goblin customs, as most humans are,” he explained. “I wager it is a rare sight for a human to be welcome inside Idlehorn Mountain that wasn’t a captive or a meal.”

“It is rare indeed. I must admit, what Ragnar told me of his encounter with you in Blackbriar Forest, I don’t see what all the fuss is about … About you that is, the new Gil-Gamesh.

“I must say, I’m not at all impressed but I do find it rather curious that you even asked to come to Idlehorn Mountain. This is quite a bold move on your part; courageous and yet stupid at the same time.”

The goblins all laughed at the insult the Goblin King levels at the Gil-Gamesh.

“With all due respect King Mnenock, I disagree. Is it stupid to understand your enemy? Knowledge is key to defeating any foe, something that goblins lack or so I’ve been told. Wouldn’t you agree? “

Mnenok snarled as the goblins were quieted. “Give me one good reason why I should not have you flayed alive right where you stand?”

“Gladly,” Bryan said as he reached into his shirt and pulled out the dragon stone Nihala gave him. The stone glowed bright in his hand. Mnenok and the other goblins, repulsed by its glow, cowered in fear.

“This is a dragon stone, given to me by Nihala, Queen of the Dragons. With a single word, I can cause it to explode, killing every goblin in here. A cavern of this size would contain the blast rather nicely. Your entire race would be wiped out in an instant.”

Now fear gripped Mnenok for the first time. He knew how powerful dragon stones were, but he also knew a bluff when he sees it.

“Are you impressed now?” Bryan joked, almost goading Mnenok to attack him.

Mnenok has had enough of his insults. “You would not sacrifice yourself? Avalon needs you to survive.” He raised his hand, ready to give the order to attack, as the goblins howled, raising their weapons to strike.

“You’re right they do need me,” Bryan interjected quickly. “But if I die, taking the entire goblin race with me, Avalon will be a whole lot safer. Surely that is a death worthy of the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon. They will write stories and sing songs of this day for years to come, knowing that the goblins have been wiped off the face of the Avalon forever. The only place people will ever see a goblin again is in story books. You will be remembered only as a thing of myth and legend that never really existed,” Bryan countered, stoic and determined. Mnenok slowly lowered his hand. He knew he wasn’t bluffing now.

Mnenok sat back in his throne and laughed a deep, throaty cackle. The goblins lowered their weapons and retreated away from the Gil-Gamesh. “As I said Gil-Gamesh, bold … Very bold!

***

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

Combat is sometimes easier to visualize than write – An excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

itpickD_01.17624.widea.0Catapults, arrows, swords, axes and magic spells … I have found medieval combat to be one of the most difficult aspects of fantasy writing. Today’s modern warfare is nothing compared to the various sword-wielding maneuvers and medieval combat positions possible during a battle with Knights, wizards and other mythical creatures.

You not only have to study and understand how a sword, axe or other medieval weaponry is used, but you also have to make it exciting and believable for the reader. Here is a sample of such combat from my novel, The Dark Tides, as the Gil-Gamesh and his forces take on an army of Goblins at the Battle of Arkengarth Vale.

***

“Well done Captain,” Bryan said as he drew Twilight and Dusk . He turned to his assembled men.

“Remember, don’t hesitate for an instant! Your enemy will show you no quarter so give none in return! Cut them down until we are walking on their bodies instead of the muddy ground!”
A battle cry rose up from the men as they dug in, ready to fight. The goblins moved faster along the wall toward them.

“Remember my friends, there’s only farmers and small towns from here to New Camelot! They will be slaughtered by this goblin horde unless we stop them here and now! So let’s show them what it means to be a Knight of Avalon!”

Another cry of grit and determination bellowed from the assembled warriors as the crawling swarm of goblins moved closer toward them. Sarafina bowed her head, evoking a warrior’s prayer she learned at the convent.

“Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle. My fortress, my high tower, my deliverer, my shield; and the One in whom I take refuge. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit … Amen.”

“Amen!” they all said in unison as the goblins attacked. The first wave hit the defenses hard, their shrieks and howls cried out as untamed beasts slicing and cutting through the defenders of Avalon.

The Knights and Shield Maidens pushed back, working in tandem to cut through the goblins. Shield Maidens protected their knights with shields in front and either spear or sword to push back while the knights cut a swath through the creatures. The black blood of the goblins stained the muddy the ground as more are brought down, one after the other.

Sarafina protected the Gil-Gamesh while he dispatched the goblins by either slicing through them with Twilight or dispatching their souls with Dusk . As more goblins rushed in, Sir Thomas and the Knights of the Round Table charged in to help the Dragon Guard push back, trying to flank the attacking goblins and cut them off from the rest.

Thomas took position next to Bryan, fighting side-by-side as they have done religiously with Sarafina poised between them. Nevan fought next to his father with Sir Thomas’ Shield Maiden, Isolde, between them. Isolde was one of the oldest Shield Maidens in the service, nearly the same age as Thomas. Her black hair was peppered with a streak of gray under her helm. She could have retired to the Glennish Hills convent years ago, but her lust for battle kept her in the field.

“I hope you’re saving some for me Gil-Gamesh,” Thomas said as he hacked at the goblins with his broad sword.

“I think there’s plenty to go around Thomas,” Bryan joked.

“Less talking, more fighting!” Sarafina yelled at the two men, something she normally wouldn’t do, but in the heat of battle, courtesy went out the window. She pushed back a charging goblin with her shield before stabbing it between the eyes with her long sword; but as many as they killed, more just keep on coming.

As the battle progressed, it almost seemed as if this small force of knights was turning the tide against them. That changed as the howls of wolves cried out from the Vale.

Thomas knew immediately what it was. “Dire Wolves!” he said, sending a chill down the spines of Sarafina and Nevan, for these were the nightmares told to children on Avalon.

Dire Wolves were giant gray wolves that stood nearly five feet tall at the shoulder. Amongst the creatures of Avalon, they were on top of the food chain, predators to all manner of man or beast. It took a special breed of monster to tame Dire Wolves and that honor belonged to Hobgoblins.
Smarter and more cunning than their goblin cousins, Hobgoblins lived in the darkest parts of the forests, finding refuge in dead trees. They learned how to tame the Dire Wolves to help them hunt for food and harass humans. Their evil was only outdone by their savagery on the backs of Dire Wolves.

The Hobgoblins rode the Dire Wolves through the thick brush along the opposite side of the Vale. The Gil-Gamesh thought that was impassable because of the thick, thorny overgrowth that grew there, but the Dire Wolves were quick on their feet, jumping over the thorny bushes toward the frontline defenses.

More than thirty riders charged, cutting down both Knights and Shield Maidens with fang and claw. Over half of the Knights of the Round Table were killed instantly, causing part of the defensive flank to collapse. Bryan raised Twilight into the air.

Lumina Incandesco! ” he chanted, causing his sword to burst with brilliant light. That signaled Captain Godfrey and the Elves to move in to protect their flank. The Elves fired arrows into the Dire Wolves, but it took more than a dozen arrows to bring one down.

One of the Hobgoblins charged straight toward Sir Thomas and Nevan. Isolde stepped up to block the charging beast, shield in one hand and a glaive in the other. She crouched down low as the beast charged then came up under its chin with the point of the glaive, slicing into it from its throat to its snout.

The Dire Wolf fell on its side, trapping the Hobgoblin’s leg under the weight of the creature. Nevan rushed forward and cut down the Hobgoblin with his sword. Isolde pulled her pole arm out of the wolf’s head.

“That’s how you kill a Dire Wolf, Sir Nevan,” she told him. “Those beasties can’t see you if you’re low to the ground and come up from underneath …” Isolde didn’t finish her sentence as she’s run through by a goblin spear, piercing her through the neck. She fell to her knees, clutching her throat before dying.

“Isolde!” Thomas yelled as he lunged at her attacker, slicing him wide open. But that momentary distraction was enough as another Dire Wolf charged in and snapped down on Thomas’ arm, biting it clean off.
Bryan leaped and thrusts Dusk into the beast, taking whatever dark soul that the monster might have had. The Hobgoblin fell off, allowing Sarafina to kill it with one blow.

Nevan rushed to his father’s side, trying to stem the flow of blood with his father’s cloak. “Father please, stay with me!” Nevan pleaded as Thomas clung on to him, but Thomas could barely speak as he hovered in and out of consciousness.

“It’s alright lad, it’s alright … I’ve lived a good life,” Thomas mumbled. “I’ve gotten to see my son grow into a man. That’s more than any father could ask.” Nevan broke down into tears as Bryan and Sarafina tried to protect them from the goblins.

“Sarafina, you and Nevan take Thomas back to the rear …” Bryan ordered. The two lifted Thomas up and carried him off while the Gil-Gamesh pressed on with the battle.

“Come on ladies! What’re you waiting for?” he yelled as they continued to fight. A sudden rush of goblins knocked the Gil-Gamesh down, swarming over him like ants on an anthill. Bryan fought back, swinging aimlessly at the onslaught of monsters, resolute and defiant. He already lost one friend to these monsters; he would not lose another.

As his mind wandered from the battle, the unthinkable happened. A goblin jumped on his back and reached around, stabbing the Gil-Gamesh in the chest right above the clavicle, missing his armor altogether. Bryan was immediately brought down by the goblin horde as they pounced on him.

Captain Godfrey and Eonis could only watch as the Gil-Gamesh fell. They pushed forward to come to his aid but by the time they got there, the goblins started to fall back down the vale, taking the Gil-Gamesh with them. All that was left behind were his swords, Twilight and Dusk , lying over the bodies of hundreds of dead goblins.

“They took him,” Captain Godfrey exclaimed. “This was never about enemies marching on New Camelot. This was about the Gil-Gamesh. They wanted to capture him when he was the most vulnerable.”

“We’ve got to go after them,” Eonis said as he took off down the hill. “We’ve got to save him!”

Captain Godfrey grabbed him before he took a single step. “You’ll be slaughtered down there,” Godfrey said. “They still outnumber us and now, we’re without the Gil-Gamesh.”

Eonis thought for a moment then realized that Captain Godfrey was right. At that moment, Sarafina returned to the front while Nevan tended to Sir Thomas. She ran up and looked around for the Gil-Gamesh but he was nowhere to be seen.

“What happened? Where’s the Gil-Gamesh?” she shouted.

Eonis walked over and placed his hand on her shoulder. “He’s gone Sarafina. The enemy has him.”

***

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

My top five fantasy/adventure movie “guilty pleasures” I love to watch

Guilty pleasures can vary from person-to-person, from something as simple as a favorite pint of ice cream to a cheap cigar. Movies are a favorite guilty pleasure of mine. There are some movies that most people would consider a waste of time, but I think of them as a great way to spend an Saturday night.

To me, the 1980s has the best guilty pleasure movies out there. They were at the forefront in special effects, any topic or storyline was fair game and the actors were cheesy and formulaic … The perfect combination for a guilty pleasure movie.

RottenTomatoes.com rates movies both good and bad, however their rating system doesn’t account for “guilty pleasure” movies. Here’s my list of my top five “Guilty Pleasure fantasy/adventure movies of the 80s” and how they are rated.

images (1)5. Conan the Destroyer (1984) – As bad movies go, this tops the list as one of the worst sequels ever made, right up there with Superman III and Batman and Robin (another Arnold snooze-fest). But how can you say no to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wilt Chamberlain in a classic one-on-one duel to the death. Add in Grace Jones in all her badness as a female warrior and Sarah Douglas as the evil Queen and you’ve got a wicked guilty pleasure movie. You will never forget the argument about Malak’s “brother’s sister’s cousin!” (Rotten Tomatoes 26%, 1 1/2 stars)

p8697_p_v7_aa4. Red Sonja (1985) – Since there was no traction for a third “Conan” movie after the last bomb, Arnold teamed up with Sylvester Stallone’s girlfriend Brigitte Nielsen and his “Conan” love interest Sandahl Bergman to bring another Robert E. Howard character to the silver screen, Red Sonja. So bad ass warriors, evil queen, magic orb … Check! Arnold got to flex his muscles as Sonja’s love interest Kalidor. The best part of this movie was Ernie Reyes Jr. who played Prince Tarn, a spoiled little prince with awesome Kung fu fighting skills. (Rotten Tomatoes 18%, 1 star)

p4895_p_v7_aa3. Sword and the Sorcerer (1982) – This is the movie with the coolest sword of any “sword and sorcery” movie in the 80s. I mean, the blades shot out, how cool is that? It starred Lee Horsely, of another 80s classic Matt Houston TV series, as Talon, a mercenary who rediscovers his royal heritage’s dangerous future when he is recruited to help a princess foil the designs of a brutal tyrant and a powerful sorcerer in conquering a land. So, bad-ass warrior, damsel in distress and evil sorcerer … Everything a fantasy movie needs. The movie also starred Richard Lynch, who played a bad guy in practically every role he ever played, and your totally awesome popcorn movie night is complete! (Rotten Tomatoes 80%, 4 stars)

images (2)2. The Beastmaster (1982) – First off, this movie had an awesome cast … Marc Singer, Rip Torn, John Amos and the lovely Tanya Roberts (between Charlie’s Angels and Sheena). Again, the formulaic bad-ass warrior goes after despot ruler with a mix of magic and, this time, animals. Dar (Singer) can control animals with his mind. His pet tiger, hawk and ferrets make for a fun movie. The weirdest thing that sticks out in my mind about this movie is the witches that work for Maax (Torn) who have these incredibly sexy bodies with incredibly ugly faces. Gross! (Rotten Tomatoes 42%, 2 stars)

krull-poster1. Krull (1983) – My number one guilty pleasure could actually be classified as a sci-Fi/fantasy movie because instead of a tyrant warlord or evil sorcerer, you have both wrapped up in a giant alien called The Beast. He travels from world to world in his fortress and army of Slayers. Of course, he kidnaps the beautiful princess and tries to convince her to be his queen and rule the planet of Krull (hence the name). She, in turn, is waiting for her handsome prince to rescue her and save the day using a magical weapon called the Glaive. Okay, like Beastmaster, this movie had an all-star cast of “before they were famous” British actors … Liam Neeson, Robbie Coltrane, Freddie Jones, Alun Armstrong to name a few. Pre-CGI effects were handled very well in this movie. The Glaive was a very cool weapon when he finally used it at the end of the movie, but overall, this is a quality movie night guilty pleasure. (Rotten Tomatoes 33%, 1 1/2 stars)

There are a few honorable mentions out there … Dragonslayer (1981), Ladyhawke (1985), and, of course, the incomparable Highlander (1986), with the best soundtrack in a fantasy movie EVER! What’s your favorite guilty pleasure movie? Let me know in the comments below!