Cover reveal… THE OUTLANDER WAR, Book 3 of the Forever Avalon series

After a year of waiting, I’m finally able to reveal the cover for THE OUTLANDER WAR: Book 3 of the FOREVER AVALON series. This book completes the first trilogy of this series, after almost 20 years of writing these stories.

I actually started writing Forever Avalon during my last deployment in the Navy in 2001. It took me a few years to finish writing and editing it, and then a few more to get it published in 2009. The Dark Tides was published five years later in 2014 and now, before 2019 comes to a close, I hope to see The Outlander War join them.

My thanks to Austin Macauley for taking my vision for the cover and creating it to such an “Nth” degree. A battle between modern military forces and the Knights of Avalon can clearly be seen; and the floating dragon island of Emmyr takes the stage, front and center, on the cover. It’s a great cover.

This has been a journey complete for me in getting The Outlander War published; but believe me, I’m not done yet. There is another trilogy already in the works. I’ve written the fourth novel in the series and I’ve started writing the fifth. There are still more stories for me to tell about the island of Avalon.

Below is the synopsis for the story. I hope this first tease entices you to want to read all my novels. Thanks for your support!

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It is an island frozen in time and space. For more than 3,000 years, the island of Avalon remained hidden from the outside world. It was a place of eternal magic, where the descendants of King Arthur ruled over a land filled with magical creatures, Elves, Dwarves and Dragons. The island was only accessible through a rift in the Bermuda Triangle, where mariners and aviators disappeared throughout history. No one believed Avalon was anything but a myth.

In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, in the heart of a naval exercise, Avalon reappeared suddenly, causing disruptions on both fronts. The U.S. Navy, now circling the mysterious island, wants answers. On Avalon, they fear Outlanders (as they call them) would intrude on their home; and caught in the middle of it all is Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, Knight Eternal and Champion of the magical realm.

The Gil-Gamesh was no stranger to the outside world. He was once a U.S. Navy sailor, lost at sea in a freak storm, who found his way to Avalon. After his family followed him to the island, they decided to stay and make this their home. Now they are torn between loyalty to their new home and compassion for their old one.

The tensions build as modern technology faces off against ancient magic on an island where the laws of magic supersede the laws of science, causing mechanical weapons to falter and shut down. As military forces continue to surround the mysterious island, bringing both sides to the brink of war, ancient evil stirs from within, one that has been seeking to sit on the throne of New Camelot for three millennia.

Can the forces of Avalon hold off the military might of the outside world? Can the barrier be restored in time before the conflict grows out of hand?

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

Is an anime about cooking in a “Restaurant to Another World” that good? Yes, yes it is!

Ok, I am thoroughly confused. I’ve never watched the cooking anime’s because they didn’t seem interesting to me. I mean, I watch enough cooking shows on Food Network with my wife, not to mention the Great British Baking Show she’s addicted too. But, as a fantasy fan, I decided to watch this anime Restaurant to Another World, and I was instantly hooked! I mean, I binged it in a week. I couldn’t help it. It’s one of those shows that, once you start watching, you can’t stop.

The basics of the story is that a door to a restaurant to another world appears once every seven days at various places across this fantasy world. Some revere the door as a gift from the Gods while others see it as doorway to a magical place whose knowledge has been passed down for generations. In any case, the patrons are mostly regular customers (with a few newbies thrown in for boot) who are not known by name but rather by the name of their favorite dishes.

I mean, it highlights two dishes per episode, and yet, they weave them into such fun fantasy stories that you’re hooked! As patrons eat the dishes, they talk about the distinct flavors, textures, and complexities of the dish. It’s like Myron Mixon talking about barbeque (yes, I watch those cooking shows too! Like I said, addicted!). And it varies from a pork cutlet to an ice cream soda. But like I said, it’s no ordinary cooking show.

What makes it so fun to watch is how the dishes match the personality of the character eating it. I mean, I would expect an Elf to eat only vegetarian food, so naturally the chef serves her grilled tofu, rice balls and natto rice; but tuna carpaccio for a siren and chicken curry for a dragon? Who’d of thought! The food not only compliments the diner, but it tells a lot about them–human or not! And it’s all protected by a Red Dragon Queen who loves her beef stew. She even brings a large pot with her for take-out. Now that’s unique!

The cooking is not the only aspect of this anime that makes it interesting. The backstories of all the characters are so well developed, and in a way, interconnected. We even discover that the chef and master of the restaurant is descended of a warrior from the fantasy world who accidentally fell into our world; and let’s not forget that the waitresses are a demon girl and a dragon in human form! This show just doesn’t let up!

I can’t even imagine trying to write a story like this. We always talk about finding your niche, something unique in fantasy to stand out from the rest, and sure enough, this is it! I mean it has all the basics of a fantasy story:  Knights, dragons, wizards, Elves, Dwarfs, demons, magic, etc. It’s all there, just like your basic Dungeons and Dragons game, but with food.

So, unfortunately this anime only had one season so far. Now, it’s time to get the original source–the manga–to see where this story’s going.

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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.

Fantasy? Sci-fi? Or both? Which is better? Just answer the damn question!

60604e38e26fa970bcb98e76a7d0a552--fantasy-fairies-fantasy-artMagic vs. Science has been a question that fantasy and sci0fi writers have been pondering for quite a long time. The usual trope involves people using science in an under developed country which, to them, seems like magic. I’ve seen this used on episodes of Star Trek, Doctor Who, and various other television shows and movies. It is even considered “one and the same” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as told in Thor.

Science or magic? Or both, for that matter. Anime has a penchant for using magic to power technology, i.e. Knights and Magic, Tenchi Muyo: War on Geminar, The Irregular at Magic High School, and In Another World with my Smartphone, just to name a few. I love to see magic used in this way, it really has a cyber-punk/steampunk feel to it.

AdventureGuideI remember an old Role Playing Game (RPG) I played back in the 80’s (no jokes or comments about my  age please) called Rifts. The backstory involved a post-apocalyptic Earth where the ley lines have unlocked dimensional rifts, the rebirth of magical creatures in our modern world, along with the reemergence of mysterious locations like Atlantis, Lemuria, and other mythical places. I remember this picture in the player’s guide of an Elf, wearing cyber-punk tech, trying to hack into a computer. It really covered all angles of magic/technology. That’s the type of genre convergence I like to see.

The way to think about this is as a source of energy. Magic is, in all practical purposes, energy. You can call it mana, psions, or PPE (Potential Psychic Energy per Rifts), it’s still magic. Spells allow magicians, mages, magic casters, etc., to manipulate this energy through spells. In some ways, the use of technology gives the wizards a way to cast their spells faster, more accurate, and more powerful than traditional casting.

The best example for this is in the anime The Irregular at Magic High School. I know, I talk a lot about anime in my blogs, but that’s really to the broad range of genres they use. Anyway, in this anime, magical power is measured in psions or “thought particles” and use Casting Assistance Devices, or CADs, to make it easier to cast certain spells. The CADs are preprogrammed with spells that allows the caster the ability to use spells in rapid succession.

In the movies, the MCU has changed the way we look at mythology. The Asgardians in Thor use magic and science in the same breath. The ability to access this energy lies in their immortal life. When Thor first appeared in the comics, it was told as the ancient Gods coming to the modern age, nothing more. This was retold when the MCU was created and it made so much more sense. These are not beings born of magic, but a race of inter-dimensional beings who used magic to power their science.

“Your Ancestors Called it Magic, but You Call it Science. I Come From a Land Where They Are One and the Same.” — Thor Odinson, Thor

It’s a fine line to walk, especially as a writer. With magic, you can do practically anything in your stories. Magic is an unpredictable and wide-ranging power. However, when it comes to science, anything you create or imagine, you need to base it in science. Think about Star Trek. When the late, great Gene Roddenberry created his series, he wanted to base the technology on practical science. He even spoke with physicists and other scientists to ensure he was basing his stories on what technology in the future could be. I mean, from Star Trek, we got cell phones, digital music and movies, and other tech we see today… And it only took less than 50 years to go from science fiction to science fact.

Steve Jobs once noted that his inspiration for the iPod came from an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where music was played by the computer. This is how writers can inspire. Think back to Jules Verne. From 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to From the Earth to the Moon, submarines and rockets became a reality. Although, I’m still waiting for my H.G. Wells time machine.

As writers, we can let our imagination go and create anything and everything possible. Whether it be science or magic, or both… Use whatever you can to bring your story to life.

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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.

Where have all the good wizards gone?

785276646085089940It’s good to be bad, am I right? There seems to be a trend where anyone touched by or practicing magic is always seduced to darkness. The same goes for those who gain incredible powers or become something more than human. It begs the age-old question, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Throughout fantasy storytelling, you get a glimpse of both sides of the coin. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf and Galadriel both resisted temptation from the One Ring but Saruman is seduced by Sauron and turned against the light. There are tons of names on both sides of the argument, from Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort to Merlin and Morgana le Fay. Lately though, the trend is leaning more towards evil, but to a point.

In fantasy, across multiple genres, there are a lot of examples that exude the philosophy that its good to be bad. The anti-hero is the “new Coke” as it were. From Deadpool, Venom, and Lobo in comics to characters like Anakin Skywalker, Willow Rosenburg and Walter White in movies and television. Writers love that little twist to make the story more interesting, and to many, being bad is good.

There is a vein of goodness in many of these anti-heroes, but its been twisted like a pretzel at Oktoberfest. The same can’t be said for wizards going dark. It’s like a touch of dark magic and there’s no turning back. I mean, think about it. Name one dark wizard who came back to the light. It’s hard, when you think about it … You really can’t do it.

Magic, like many things in the fantasy genre, has no clear line with good and evil powers. I mean, Necromancers have been portrayed as both good and evil (think the video game Diablo, for example, or Hellboy for that matter). Again, like everything in storytelling, its the character that counts.

Not to throw religion into the mix, but I like to believe that everyone is worth saving. I believe that we all have a chance to redeem ourselves in the eyes of God. You see that from a lot of writers, but at the same time, there is a trend of making evil as something seductive and enticing.

Look at vampires, and how over sexualized and charismatic they’ve become. They’ve gone from being the scary creatures in Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and Christopher Lee’s Dracula in the Hammer horror films to glittering “boy toys” in the Twilight series. The only thing that is still scary, today and always, is clowns, am I right?

We need to get back to maintaining that line in the sand between good and evil. If we, as writers, continue to present stories with bad guys as the protagonist, what will our world become. Evil can be redeemed but it shouldn’t be glamorized.

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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 Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

 

Sexy vampires, super zombies and nice demons? What has happened to the fantasy genre?

I know this blog post may get on some people’s nerves, so haters be warned before you read any further. I just feel a desperate need to address this topic. Countdown to troll hatred in 3, 2, 1 …

What the Hell has happened to the fantasy genre? I remember a time when vampires, demons, witches, and warlocks were evil creatures bent on the domination of mankind and must be destroyed or contained. Nowadays, it seems like these creatures of the night are sexy, desirable and something we all aspire too.

draculaI mean, I grew up when Hammer films were the mainstay of horror. Christopher Lee was the best Dracula ever, period, and made the prince of darkness something to be feared. New, according to movies like Dracula Untold, he was a father, husband, and a great leader, admired by his people who took on the curse of vampirism to save his people. It made him out to be sympathetic, not terrifying. That’s not the Dracula of legend, nor is it the one portrayed by Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee.

It’s as if society, as a whole, wants to make evil desirable. I truly believe this shows the moral decay as a whole. Evil is no longer something to be destroyed outright. It’s something we want to change, to help through compromise not killing.

TV shows like Once Upon a Time and Lucifer want us to believe that it’s not the villain’s fault for being evil, it’s just that they had a bad day or a miscarriage of justice happen to them that caused them to turn evil. Really? Tell that to the victims of Ted Bundy, Adolph Hitler, or ISIS.

darth-vader-in-the-empire-strikes-back-jpgThis is why, in my opinion, that Star Wars gets it right. There is a true distinction between good and evil, the light and dark side of the force. Yes, they did make Darth Vader sympathetic and brought him back from the dark side, but he only turned through the machinations of a truly evil villain in the Emperor. Manipulation is one thing, but when you show truly evil characters (like the devil himself in Lucifer) to be good guys, that’s where I draw the line.

I mean, Vader himself shows no heart, no compassion until the very end, and it cost him his life. Kylo Ren is the exact opposite. He wanted to rid himself of any good inside of him and killing his father (spoiler alert, Han Solo) was how he accomplished that. He is now beyond redemption. That is the definition of a true villain.

Making evil sexy is the media’s way of tamping down the morals of society. We no longer aspire to be heavenly, angelic or good hearted people. Bad is the new good. Being bad is sexy, no matter who you step on or kill to get there. There are so many examples on TV and in the movies that make this point for me, they’re too numerous to mention.

Yes, there are also many examples that stick to the philosophy of good vs. evil in the classic sense. These are mostly those from the superhero genre, like The Flash, Arrow, Agents of Shield, and Supergirl. However, even Marvel steps into the dark side with their Netflix series Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, but again, their villains are not sympathetic nor appealing (i.e. Kingpin and Kilgrave).

This is why there are no good villains in the Forever Avalon series. I show a distinct division between good and evil. Good is good and bad is bad, no gray lines here. Evil is not something to be desired or wanted, it can only be destroyed. There is no distinction as necessary as this today. I’m not trying to get political here, but we would be better people, a better society if we purge that evil and hatred from our lives, starting with our media.

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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 Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.

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.

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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.

Without magic, what would fantasy writers talk about?

1423642074_magical book wallpaper“Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars? Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.” Nora Roberts said it quite plainly, and truthfully, that magic does exist in our world.

You see it in the everyday things from a baby’s smile to the rainbow after a storm. Sure, science has it’s part in all this, but deep down inside, all you can think of is the magic of the moment.

For a writer, that magic is a part of our genre. Magic can be found in the works of every great novelist from William Shakespeare to J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis to J. K. Rowling. We look at all things magical, from wizards to creatures, myths and legends. The question is, where has the magic gone and why do we need it?

Magic is the focal point of many fantasy stories. It turns young boys into wizards and makes us believe in faeries. That’s the great thing about magic. It can be anything you want it to be. In the world of Forever Avalon, magic is the center of the world I created. All magic, that once existed in the outside world, now thrives on the island of Avalon. This magical realm is overflowing with magic, so much so, that everyone on the island can do some form of spell casting. Most can perform simple tasks like lighting a candle or cleaning up with the mention of a single word. More complicated spells takes time, training and a certain amount of patience to coax the magic out.

Magic is a powerful tool for the fantasy writer, but it must be handled with care. Magic, like anything else, can be used and abused. You must cultivate the magic in a way that makes sense to the readers. I can attest to that in my current novel, The Dark Tides, where I explored the combination of magic and technology. I wondered what would happen if technology found its way into a world entirely devoted to magic. The answer was a Gunstar.

Gunstars are magical weapons that resemble a flintlock pistol. The are breach-loaded weapons that uses a special shell casing called a spell shot. The spell shots are a combination of alchemy and magic compressed into a single cartridge, like a shotgun shell, covered in runes. The hammer on the Gunstar activates the runes so that, when the trigger is pulled, the spell fires out the end of the weapon. It could be anything from a fireball to an icy spray or even a “magic missile” if you will (D&D players will get that reference).

This is what I meant when I said magic was a tool for fantasy writers. You cannot replace true spirit, character development and storylines for the sake of magic. It cannot be the focal point of your story, but rather something for your characters to use to help tell the story.

I created the Gunstars as a way of bringing a modern weapon to a medieval world and bridge that gap between the old and new. Most of the older, traditional characters in my novel reject this new form of magic as an abomination whereas the Gil-Gamesh and others see it as just another tool, like a wand or a staff, to utilize magic.

The point of this blog is to say let the magic guide you in your stories but don’t make it the overreaching arch that fills your every word on every page. Don’t let it get away from you, or you may regret it. Remember, in these instances, you are the wizard, so cast your spell with care.

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.

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.

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!

Fantasy is the great escape that everyone can find their way to

fantasy_city-982958What is it about fantasy that attracts so many into it? I believe it’s a natural escape mechanism that allows people to avoid the sometimes harsh realities of life. Author Llyod Alexander said, “Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.”

Both of those sentiments are correct. Fantasy is the one genre that encompasses anything and everything, from historical drama to science fiction, all of these can be defined as some form of fantasy. James Cameron’s Avatar is a great example of that as he combined the futuristic science fiction of space travel, genetic manipulation and scientific exploration to tribal mysticism and spirituality.

The late Terry Prachett said, “Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.” Just reading that quote brings so many images to mind of stories I’ve read over the years. It speaks volumes about how fantasy stories have evolved over time.

When man first started to explore beyond their normal boundaries, their minds started to see things and explain them in terms of what, today, we would call fantasy. Strange fish in the water were called sea monsters and  ominous sounds from the woods were made by goblins or faeries.

I think that’s why Dungeons and Dragons and World of Warcraft are such popular games. They take the heart of fantasy and bring it to life by immersing the people into the story. Sometimes you’re part of the story, sometimes you create the story yourself. In either case, it is the fantasy that makes it all possible, in your mind and your dreams.

Alexandre Dumas wrote, “When you compare the sorrows of real life to the pleasures of the imaginary one, you will never want to live again, only to dream forever.” Throughout human history, we try to explain both good things and bad by blaming them on gods, monsters or otherworldly creatures. We escaped the horrors of the real world by putting the responsibility on something we couldn’t  explain.

These unexplained phenomenon fell into myth and legend in the stories we know them as today; and today, authors take those stories and turn them into something new and exciting. I took that approach with the Forever Avalon series. I took the legend of King Arthur legend and combined it with all the magical tales of faeries, dragons, wizards and Elves.

This is why I love to use fantasy as the medium for my storytelling. By bringing together these myths and legends into the modern world of today, I’m able to tell these stories for a mew generation. As long as we keep telling these stories, they will go on and on forever.

Professor Jack Zipes from the University of Minnesota said, “Fairy tales, since the beginning of recorded time and perhaps earlier, have been a means to conquer the terrors of mankind through metaphor.” That’s what makes them legendary. That’s what makes them fantasy.

Forever 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.