Last month, I was seeking new aspiring authors, storytellers who were ready to share their adventures with other, even before they were released on shelves. Dan Wright, my dear friend and press mate at Paper Crane Books, had a friend who fix my bill for our monthly Aspiring Author Spotlight segments and boy, did he pick a wonderful candidate! Mr. Mark Piggott is a classic adventurer, his dreams and love for his family sailing as high as his fantastical flying ships. He wants readers to anchor away on a family tale that will be adored more than treasure. He is punctual, thorough, and professional, his work ethnic shining more than gold in this one encounter. Please be dazzled and pulled into the world of our May Aspiring Author Spotlight, Mr. Mark Piggott.
Aspiring Authors Spotlight Questions:
- When you wake up in the morning, how do you see life? My life is my family. They mean everything to me and I would do anything for them. “Forever Avalon” kept me close to them when I was deployed at-sea. The stories and characters are reflections of my family, in every word and every page. My aspirations to become a published author was done with my family in mind, not as an ego boost or self-promotion. It’s something I want to make life better for them.
- How did writing find its way into your life? I originally went to college (the Art Institute) to become the next Jack Kirby or Stan Lee. I pushed myself so much into my art that I left writing behind. When that didn’t work out, I focused on my writing, and joining the Navy helped me achieve that goal. As a Navy Journalist, I learned to write everything from news and feature stories to television and radio broadcasting. It wasn’t until the end of my Navy career that I began writing my novels, honed by the tools from 23-years as a Navy Journalist.
- What does writing do for you? I love being a storyteller, whether it’s talking about the great men and women who serve our country in the Navy or taking a trip to the island of Avalon. I can’t tell you how great it feels when somebody reads my stories and understands and appreciates each and every little thing I put into it.
- What sort of genre or type of writing do you do? I prefer fantasy/science fiction writing. I love history and myths and legends are based on our ancient histories and cultures. When I write, it gives me a connection to the past and puts it in perspective with today.
- Do events in your life or people you know affect your writing? My career in the Navy as well as my family and friends influence my writing regularly. I use it as the basis to help me ground my stories to the world today. I find it easier to use family and friends as a basis for many of the characters in my stories. It makes the stories easier to write as well as pay homage to the people who have helped me through the years.
- What are you currently work on or what was the last thing you wrote? My latest novel, “The Dark Tides”, was just published in 2014. It is book two in the “Forever Avalon” series. I am currently working on book three of the series.
- Can you tell us a little about it and its inspiration? “Forever Avalon” started as a dream. When I joined the Navy in 1983, I played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons in my off duty hours. This was a big help in passing the time when you’re deployed, before the days of video game consoles, the internet and satellite TV. On my first deployment, I started having a recurring dream about falling overboard and ending up on an island of mythical fantasy. Over the years, the dreams started to include my wife and kids; kind of an involuntary mechanism of missing my family. Finally, during my last deployment aboard USS Enterprise in 2001, I decided to start writing things down. It’s the story of a modern family lost on the medieval world of Avalon. Chief Petty Officer Brian Drake falls overboard during a storm and find himself on the island of Avalon. He discovers he is a descendant of one of the legendary Knights of the Round Table, Sir Percival, and takes up the mantle of the Gil-Gamesh, champion of Avalon, as Bryan MoonDrake. His family soon follows through to the island and the adventure begins.
- What are your goals for the future? I want to continue writing the “Forever Avalon” series. I have the books planned as trilogies so I have the next four in my head. I just have to get them down on paper.
- What are your interests or hobbies? I am an avid movie and TV buff, especially for sci-fi and fantasy (Stars Wars, Star Trek and Doctor Who top 3). I collect comic books, mostly DC (Justice League) and Marvel (X-Men). I love video games (Ratchet and Clank, Sly Cooper) and sports too (Pittsburgh Steelers, NY Yankees and NJ Devils). I also play and collect Yu-Gi-Oh cards. It started as something I did with my kids when they were growing up but, as they grew out of it, I still collect and play the game. I always have a deck ready for a duel.
- If you could be a superhero, what are your powers and how would you use them to help the world? I love time travel so I would love to be able to move through time, control time around me and see into the future. I would use this power to help end conflicts before they begin. Having been involved in many of the conflicts over the past 30 years as a Sailor, I would love to be able to step in and help avert these catastrophes before they could happen.
- What advice would you give people who want to write? You have to write constantly. The only way you will improve yourself and your craft is through repetition. I write each and every day to make myself a better storyteller.
- If you could be remembered for one thing or thought, what would it be? I would like to be remembered as a good father and husband, a Sailor who proudly served his country and as a writer. Knowing the fact that my book is now registered in the Library of Congress makes the last one real to me. It doesn’t matter how many books I sell, my book is now a published part of history. Knowing that my books impacted someone’s life is how I’d like to be remembered. There’s this young man who I met in 2009 when I was speaking at my high school after my first book was published. He was so enthusiastic after reading it. I just heard from him recently and he was thrilled with my second book and is looking forward to the next. That I made such an impression on him is incredibly humbling to me.
Sample of work:
Dark Tides: Forever Avalon book 2
Ashley Drake-St. Johns looked down at the compass to make
sure she’s on the right heading. Her 50-foot sailboat, Midnight Dawn,
cut through the water with ease. She looked at the sails, fi rm and taught
from a strong wind out of the East. The sun warmed the skin on her neck
as her strawberry-blonde hair floated in the ocean air.
“Honey,” complained a voice from below deck, “where’s the Tylenol?”
“In my purse,” Ashley shouted back. “Come on Andy! Get up here
Ashley watched as her husband, Andrew St. Johns, staggered up
from the lower deck, medicine bottle in hand. He plopped down on the
seat next to Ashley, reached for a bottle of water from the cooler and
swallowed the pills with a big swig.
Th ough his dirty blonde hair and goatee cover his youthful “baby
face” looks, his lithe body behaved as though he were 70-years-old and
on his first sea voyage.
“I don’t know how you do it, babe,” he groaned as nausea crept up
on him. “How did I let you talk me into this?”
“Well, as I remember, you got to pick the place where we got married;
in Tennessee with your parents and the rest of your family. So, I got to
pick the honeymoon and here we are.”
“Well, at least all those sailing lessons you took are paying off . I
could never do any of this,” he countered, motioning to the boat with
a wave of his hand.
Ashley just smiled. She knew Andy could be a pain at times, but
she loved him dearly. They were constantly in each other’s thoughts and
finished the other’s sentences. Her father used to say the same thing
about the connection between him and her mother. He said they were
soul mates. That’s exactly how she feels about Andy.
Around her neck, Ashley wore a large blue stone on the end of a
gold chain. Th e stone was perfectly round—about the size of a large
marble—with colors swirling shades of blue and white. As the cool stone
rested against her soft skin, the necklace started to glow, softly at fi rst
and then brighter and brighter.
Ashley smiled, knowing they were getting close. As she glanced over
to Andy, she saw the puzzling look on his face. “Babe, what’s going on?”
“Andy, honey, remember what I told you about how my Mom,
brother, sister and I went to sea to where my Dad disappeared, how we
got caught in a storm and they disappeared too?”
Ashley knew she was confusing Andy more, but there was no easy
way to explain it. “Well, I didn’t tell you the whole truth … I couldn’t,”
she admitted. “My family is alive and well on this island that’s hidden
from the rest of the world. Actually, it’s where we’re headed right now.
I’m taking you there to meet them.”
As she talked, the stone on the end of her necklace started to glow
brighter and brighter, enveloping the boat in a blinding light. Andy
started to panic in the unknown.
“Just hang on sweetie, we’re almost through,” she reassured him, but
all she heard was Andy scream. As the light faded away, the open ocean
was gone. Out of nowhere, an island appeared, its shoreline stretched
toward the horizon in one direction. At the other end, it terminated at
a sheer cliff with a lone lighthouse perched on the edge.
Ashley hasn’t been here in over a year, but it still seemed so fresh in
her mind. Her mother, brother and sister had survived a horrific storm
and found themselves in another world. They washed ashore on the
island of Avalon, where the descendants of King Arthur have ruled for
more than 3,000 years. Avalon, an island filled with Elves, Dwarves,
Goblins, Dragons and other magical creatures. Ashley and her family
were reunited with her father, who was alive and well, and had taken up
the mantle of the Gil-Gamesh, the champion of Avalon.
The Gil-Gamesh was caught between protecting his family and
his duty to uphold the laws of Avalon. The conflict resulted in a power
struggle between himself and Lord Kraven Darkholm, an evil sorcerer
who was a direct descendant of the sorceress Morgana le Fay. Kraven
wanted the throne of Avalon for himself and only the Gil-Gamesh stood
in his way. He thwarted Kraven’s plan, killing him in the end. While her
mother, brother and sister decided to stay behind and live on Avalon,
Ashley wanted to go back home to be with Andy.
They had gotten engaged and, as much as she loved being on
Avalon, Ashley couldn’t live without him. The wizard Merlin gave her
the necklace that would allow her to breach the magical barrier that
protected Avalon from the outside world. Ashley knew that she had to
return there someday and a honeymoon on a magical island seemed like
the perfect opportunity.
A sudden rush of cold air hit Ashley in the face. She could see her
breath as a shiver ran down her spine and goose bumps pricked along
her arms. She watched as Andy rubbed his hands vigorously over his
arms, trying to fend off the chill.
“What the Hell is going on babe, it feels like December,” Andy
griped, “but its July … in the Caribbean!”
Ashley ignored his complaints and turned the boat parallel with the
shoreline in the direction of the lighthouse. “Andy, honey, would you go
up to the bow and drop the anchor?” she asked him.
Andy, with a dumbfounded look on his face, just nodded his head
and did as she asked. “Watch out sweetie, I’m slacking the sail,” she
cautioned as she let out the line for the main sail to drop, slowing them
down to a crawl.
She saw how distressed Andy was as he fumbled with the controls
of the anchor. It finally dropped and hooked on the rocks below. Ashley
worked to secure the sail down as Andy walked over to help her. “Ash,
what is this place? Where are we?”
Ashley just smiled with a smirk, that devilish grin she gets. She knew
how much he hated it but she couldn’t help herself sometimes. “Honey,
how much do you know about King Arthur?” she asked innocently.
Before he could say a word, a loud horn bellowed from deep inside
the island. The trumpeting blast scattered the birds from their trees, into
the air. “What’s that? A foghorn from the lighthouse?”
“No …” Ashley replied calmly, “…It’s my Dad.”
From over the trees, a wooden ship—like an old Spanish
Galleon—fl ew across the sky. It stretched over two hundred feet long
and nearly fi ft y feet wide. On each side of the ship were large wooden
wings—like dragon’s wings, covered in canvas—that allowed the ship
to soar in the air. An ornament resembling Peter Pan riding a dragon
reached out from the bow of the ship. On the side of the ship was written
in gold Morning Star, the flagship of the Gil-Gamesh.
The ship circled above them until it splashed down in the water.
The wings quickly folded in and the sails dropped as sailors scurried
about on deck.
Ashley stood next to Andy as she waved to the ship. On the upper
deck, she saw some familiar faces. Her father, Lord Bryan MoonDrake,
the Gil-Gamesh, stood with her mother Stephanie, along with her sister
Rose and brother Hunter.
Ashley realized what her year away has done to them. Time passed
differently between Avalon and the outside world and it showed on their
faces. Rose was older now, matured into a beautiful young woman. Hunter
was an equally handsome young man, a knight like his father. Her father
looked just like he did when she left and her mother appeared as beautiful
Ashley glanced over at Andy. All he could do is gawk in awe.
“Welcome to Avalon, sweetheart,” Ashley announced. Their adventure
had just begun.
About the Author:
Mark O. Piggott, a native of Phillipsburg, N.J., enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1983, beginning a 23-year career. As a Navy Journalist and Public Affairs Specialist, his previous duty stations include Headquarters, U.S. Submarine Forces Atlantic; USS Enterprise (CVN 65); Headquarters, Commander, NATO Allied Command Atlantic; Naval Air Station South Weymouth, Mass.; USS George Washington (CVN 74); Instructor, Defense Information School; and USS Forrestal (CV 59). Now retired from active duty, he is the Public Affairs Officer for Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Virginia. He has been recognized through the Navy Media Awards for writing, editing and photography, including sports reporting (2nd place, 2011; 3rd place, 2012), military funded newspapers (Honorable Mention, The Flagship, 2007; 2nd Place, The Defender, 1997; 3rd Place, The Guardian, 1995), for familygrams (1st Place, The Cherry Tree, 1995), and Special Achievement in Print Media (Honorable Mention, The Defender’s History, 1998). Additionally, in 2007, he won 3rd place for photography in the National Newspaper Association “Better Newspaper” Contest. His first novel, “Forever Avalon,” was published in 2009 by James A. Rock Publishing. “The Dark Tides” is the second book in the series, published in 2014 by iUniverse. You can check out his website here: