Monday, June 17, 2019

UNEARTHED ARTIST INTERVIEW: Sophie Iles


Artist and author Sophie Iles is one of our three contributing artists for Unearthed! A notable presence in the Doctor Who fan art scene, Sophie has turned her distinctive work to tales of ghosts, cursed urns, and gentleman thieves. Today, we talk to her about her work in the book, from ancient history to outer space.



Altrix Books: How did you choose which stories in Unearthed you wanted to do art for?

Sophie Iles: We both were given what stories were available to read and say which took our fancy the most and discussed if you had any favourites as a sort of first-come-first-serve basis. However, as both myself and Monica have our own tastes when it came to stories so it was soon really obvious that there wouldn’t be much fighting needed. So that meant I was able to draw the stories I liked the most!


Altrix: How was the subject matter compared to the sort of art you usually do?

Iles: Most of my work that’s currently out is fan related, like Doctor Who, so it was fun to plan and draw something different. This time it was either existing people from history, which I then had to research, or what characters the writers had come up with. In particular, during "Was I a Viking Old?" working out what an important building would look like within historical context, or the complexities of a spacesuit in "Quadrireme."


Altrix: What was the most challenging part of your work on the book?

Iles: With anything that’s illustrating a story it’s always hard trying to create art that is both eye catching and an extension of the story already being told, without giving the game away. It’s a difficult balance that I’m still learning to do.


Altrix: What was the most fun?

Iles: The most fun was figuring out what to draw for the "Raffles the Amateur Cracksman: An Egyptian Cameo," which was great fun because I didn’t know anything about Raffles until I read the story and compelled me to look him up and make sure I had all the correct costume and hairstyles to fit the era. 


Altrix: Where else can people find your work online? Anything else coming out soon?

Iles: I have a website where you can find my previous projects and in regards to social media I can be found most of the time on my Twitter account but I also have Facebook and Instagram.


Regarding upcoming work my first short story is due to be published in the next few weeks and some plans for more drawing projects to be announced very soon!


Order your copy of Unearthed from Altrix Books!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Watching Books





This month saw the release of Watching Books’ One More Lifetime – the latest entry in the popular You and Who range. The collection includes reflective essays on every episode of Peter Capaldi’s tenure as the Doctor as well as a diverse range of miscellaneous pieces carried over from previous volumes and cancelled projects. It features a number of Altrix Books contributors and friends, including writer and artist Sophie Iles whose work graces the cover.

Plans are already afoot for a four volume follow up series in a similar vein, focusing on British entertainment.

You Goes to the Pictures (movies)
You Goes to the Library  (literature)
You Goes for a Song (music)
You Goes for the Remote (TV)  
                                    
Kara and Paul are delighted to be involved as editors of the TV book, and we are currently looking for essays. If there’s a British TV show that has special significance to you and your story (not necessarily a favourite, but something that had a profound effect on your life) we’d love to read about it. 

For details on how to submit to any of the four volumes, go to https://youandwho.weebly.com/you-goes.html

Saturday, June 15, 2019

COMING SOON: Master Pieces


Altrix Books is delighted to announce some details about our next charity anthology, and it's one of special interest to fans of the BBC hit series Doctor WhoOur chosen charity for this collection is The Stroke Association.

For centuries, whether by design or default, the Master has lived in the shadow of another Time Lord. An obsession and fierce rivalry with the Doctor has been at the heart of countless evil schemes, causing him to once observe that ‘a universe without the Doctor scarcely bears thinking about’.

The Master is usually trying to steal something from the Doctor(s) – their lives, their TARDIS, their companions, their precious Earth, their morality – but even when the renegade’s old friend isn’t the focus of the latest twisted plan, the Doctor is meant to notice and attempt to thwart it.

So what happens when the Doctor doesn’t show up? Can the Master emerge from the shadow of being the Doctor’s arch-enemy? Is there really no pleasure, no mischief, and no reward to be had in a world without the Doctor?

Edited by Paul Driscoll and conceived by Scott Claringbold (Red Ted Books) Master Pieces features stories from Ian McLaughlin, Kara Dennison, Chris McKeon, Scott Claringbold, Mike Morgan, Jon Arnold, Tim Gambrell, Rachel Whitehead, Daniel Wealands, Simon A Brett, Steve Hatcher, Lee Rawlings, Dan Barratt, Mark McManus, Paul Driscoll, Nathan Mullins, Daniel Tessier, and Richard Gurl.

Cover art/design and order information coming soon!

Friday, June 14, 2019

UNEARTHED AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Sharyna Tran


What do you get when you cross ancient history with Iron Chef? Sharyna Tran penned the Unearthed story "Whose Cuisine Reigns Supreme?" and we're doing a Q&A with her today about what led her to this unique addition to the anthology!


Altrix Books: What about the UNEARTHED concept made you want to pitch a story?

Sharyna Tran: I liked all the questions that came up with the discovery of the black sarcophagus in Alexandria, especially once it was opened. Who were the woman and two men inside? Why did one of them have a hole in their skull? What was that red liquid?…And what if the answers to these questions were completely unrealistic, yet somehow still semi-plausible, while also drawing on a centuries-old societal fascination with craftsmanship, competition, and food?

(Although, to be honest, wanting to come up with a reason for the internet's desire to "drink the sarcophagus juice" was also a factor.)



Altrix: Tell us a little about your story.

Tran: "Whose Cuisine Reigns Supreme" is an announcer's-eye view of a very peculiar culinary competition, and a natural by-product of my love for food, food TV, and absurdist fiction.


Altrix: What books, shows, or real life events inspired your work, if any?

Tran: The American dub of the original Japanese "Iron Chef" was definitely an inspiration. Also, while diving into databases of papyrus scraps for non-royal Demotic and Hellenic names in Ptolemaic Egypt, I wound up finding additional inspiration for the backstory of one of my characters.



Altrix: What was the most challenging part of creating your story?

Tran: Despite (or perhaps because of) the absurd parts of the piece, it was important to me to make as many of the little details as historically plausible as possible, so I did a lot of research into Ptolemaic Alexandria in the 3rd century BCE. While challenging, and requiring the use of some very appreciated JSTOR resources, it was ultimately quite rewarding, as Egypt at that time was a melting pot of different cultures, cuisines, and cooking styles. And at every point when I researched rather than relying on stereotypes, the story got better.



Altrix: Where else can our readers find your work?  

Tran: This is my first published work (yay!), which is exciting, but also means I don't have much elsewhere for people to read. There is a Deluxe Edition of "Whose Cuisine Reigns Supreme" with some additional minor edits that expand one of the characters, which didn't quite make it into the book (because, well…first published work).

However, in the interest of increasing donations for the American Research Center in Egypt, I'm sending a .PDF of said version of my story by request to readers who e-mail me at sharyna.t@gmail.com with a screenshot or photo of their receipts for both Unearthed and their additional ARCE donation over $2 (if you bought a paperback) or $3 (if you bought the ebook).


Order your copy of Unearthed from Altrix Books!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

UNEARTHED ARTIST INTERVIEW: Monica Marier


Today, we're doing a Q&A with one of the three artists who lent their talent to Unearthed! Author and artist Monica Marier supplied artwork for the stories "Disinfection Protocol," "Long Time Dead," "Ran for Your Life," "Whose Cuisine Reigns Supreme?," and "The Sarcophagus."


Altrix Books: How did you choose which stories in UNEARTHED you wanted to do art for? 

Monica Marier: We were attacked in our sleep and awoke tied to a chair and with electrodes stuck onto our skin. The electrodes were connected to a single car battery. We were then told over a crackly loudspeaker that the only way we'd be freed was to yell out numbers one through 13. If we hesitated or repeated numbers, or fought over them, we'd each receive a shock as penalty. If the filthy Hello Kitty clock on the wall of that dark room was to be believed, we were there for 14 hours. I don't know how we got back, but when I awoke on my lawn, the titles of our assignments were tattooed on my arm. I can only assume Sophie's arm had the other titles. Was Ginger there? I don't remember. It's a blur.

(REAL ANSWER) There were a few stories that just leaped out at me as I read the collection. Peel's vampire, and DeCandido's Norse Gods took me back to the sort of stories I enjoyed as a kid. I think every story I illustrated tickled me in some way and reading them transported me.


Altrix: How was the subject matter compared to the sort of art you usually do?

Marier: Well, I can't say I'm a stranger to horror and gothic stuff. My supernatural comic, Skeleton Crew, has tested my mettle and my stomach for over 13 years now. I think my fascination with the gross and the weird goes back to the british comics from the 70's and 80's that were always lying around my house as a kid, giving my nightmares. The rest was comedy, and I love drawing comedy. The human face in its expressiveness has always been a source of joy to me.


Altrix: What was the most challenging part of your work on the book?

Marier: The most bated breath, heart-stopping fear involved in illustration is telling the author your vision and showing them your sketches and hoping against hope that you're not going to hear those dreaded words: "That's not what I envisioned at all! You couldn't' be more wrong!" But you talk and you move on and reach something that you both enjoy and can invest your love in. That's the process and that's how it should be. If the author isn't happy, I'm not happy.


Altrix: What was the most fun?

Marier: As I said, I love facial expressions. My favorite thing is to look in my phone camera and contort my face into these horrible shapes as I try to get raw emotion into them: terror, frustration, pain, joy, confusion, foreboding. You really have to be part actor, part film director when it comes to getting that expression just right. I also had fun putting in all those Norse mythological easter eggs into the Floridian bar. I don't get to do things like that very often in comics. No time.

Altrix: Where else can people find your work online? Anything else coming out soon?

Marier: My comics, Skeleton Crew and CRIT! can both be found on the Tangent Artists Website, and we're also uploading them onto Webtoons. On the writing side of things, my first published novel, "Must Love Dragons" will be re-released through Tangent Artists soon (kind of a 10th anniversary edition). It's a light fantasy novel about a grizzled ex-ranger who comes out of retirement while his wife is pregnant (again) and while the kobolds and dragons are still a nuisance, working with noobs and the unions are even worse.

It was a pleasure answering you, and I hope I get to work with all these amazing people again soon.


Order your copy of Unearthed from Altrix Books!

Monday, June 10, 2019

UNEARTHED AUTHOR INTERVIEW: James K. Maddox



Today on the Altrix Blog, we're talking to James K. Maddox about his Unearthed story "Quadrireme." In a book focused largely on the past, Maddox travels to the future for his interpretation of the brief!


Altrix Books: What about the UNEARTHED concept made you want to pitch a story? 

James K. Maddox: "What's in the box?" is a concept which provided a huge amount of creative freedom—my initial idea generation produced possibilities as varied as the missing link, an unpublished Agatha Christie, a new colour and, inexplicably, a milkman—so it was great to let my imagination run wild. Knowing that the anthology would help to support the American Research Center in Egypt made things even better; it was good to know that writing about excavation and discovery could help support the real thing.       


Altrix: Tell us a little about your story.

Maddox: Astronaut Maria Shelby is travelling on a solo trip around the Solar System, accompanied by the morbidly-acronymed Microcircuit Operated Rendezvous Terminal A.I. But when she receives a call from Earth telling her that a strange, spherical object has been detected near her position, Shelby finds herself unearthing something beyond her wildest dreams—and from far beyond the stars...     


Altrix: What books, shows, or real life events inspired your work, if any?

Maddox: It's always interesting to think what would remain if we suddenly went extinct. What would happen to the movies, the paintings, or the music that we've made over the years? The Golden Records of the Voyager space probes are floating around out there and might, one day, provide other civilisations with a glimpse of our own. And if we've sent our culture out into space, who's to say that others haven't to? There's something really inspiring about the Golden Records—even if the human race goes boom, we'll still endure culturally in the wider universe, preserved on those phonographs. I think being a Doctor Who fan is bound to make you a bit skittish about media preservation (too bad about all those missing episodes, eh?), so it's nice to think that the works of the Earth might endure, to some extent, even after we've gone. 

But what would happen if somebody from another planet found those records, or we found somebody else's? There's an episode of the short-lived Babylon 5 spin-off Crusade ("The Needs of Earth"), which I've got to give credit to for setting the gears of my brain in motion on this subject. Would they inspire fear, hope, or something else entirely? Those are the questions that were buzzing around my head while writing, and hopefully "Quadrireme" will do a decent-ish job of answering a few of them. 

Altrix: What was the most challenging part of creating your story?

Maddox: Coming up with an acronym that spelled out M.O.R.T while sounding sufficiently kitschy was a pain. I had to do a fair bit of research into the time-delay when transmitting radio signals in space (hopefully I got it right!). I'm indebted to Tim, April and my long-suffering mother for helping to polish the toe-curlingly bad early drafts into something halfway readable.   


Altrix: Where else can our readers find your work?

Maddox: I've had a few short stories published here and there: "The Counterfeit Man" in Asymmetry Magazine, the purple-prosed "Morpheus" in Storgy Magazine, and "Sense of Self" in the Doctor Who charity anthology Unbound: Adventures in Time and Space, which is cheating because I co-edited it. You can find me on Twitter @bottleuniverse, where I'll try and stay on-topic with writing talk and probably go off on tangents about tv-tie-in novels and 90s sci-fi shows. 


Order your copy of Unearthed from Altrix Books!

Friday, June 7, 2019

UNEARTHED AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Michael O'Brien


Today on the Altrix blog, the Unearthed Q&As continue with "Disinfection Protocol" author Michael O'Brien! Michael is a writer, performer, and podcaster, and he's kicking off our anthology with a bang!


Altrix Books: What about the UNEARTHED concept made you want to pitch a story?

Michael O'Brien: My imagination ran wild when I originally heard of the discovery of the sarcophagus. I didn’t then consider any possibility as bizarre as what my heroines find! But when I heard about the anthology, I began to toy with the idea of finding something far more foreign than any normal person would expect. With that, I had to write the story.


Altrix: Tell us a little about your story.

O'Brien: When the real-life researchers on the scene found little besides skeletons and sewage inside the box, I changed several elements of my story to account for that. My fictional journeyman scientists find something else small and unnoticed while cleaning the skeletons, and that unlocks a secret beyond their craziest fantasies. What the world saw may have been camouflage for a terrible secret, and someone may have investigated that secret long before our protagonists did…


Altrix: What books, shows, or real life events inspired your work, if any?

O'Brien: My primary conscious influences were the SCP website - a fictional catalogue describing a containment facility for nightmares - and the work of horror manga creator Junji Ito. There’s also inspiration from the TV show “Bones”, the movie “TRON”, a sequence in the Arthur C. Clarke novel “Rendezvous With Rama”. Certain elements from a movie script outline I wrote as a teenager turned out to provide back story! I may someday have to see where those particular breadcrumbs lead.


Altrix: What was the most challenging part of creating your story?

O'Brien: I tend to intensely empathize with my characters, so I’d never attempted a story in which they’d  be traumatized to this degree. I’m pleased with the results, but I have to say that shortly after the first draft was done I needed some TLC from my partner.


Altrix: Where else can our readers find your work?

O'Brien: My podcast Managlitch City Underground posts on iTunes and at managlitch.com, and tells the story of a pirate radio broadcaster living in a city steeped in superscience, supermagic, and regular breakdowns of reality. If you’re lucky enough to own a copy of the limited-release “Unbound” anthology of alternate Doctors Who, I have a story there; and some upcoming work will likely be mentioned on the podcast site - whether directly related or not!


Order your copy of Unearthed from Altrix Books!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

UNEARTHED AUTHOR INTERVIEW: James Bojaciuk


Today, we're talking to Unearthed contributor James Bojaciuk, writer of the short story "An Egyptian Cameo." James is also CEO Duobus of 18th Wall Productions, and his expertise was indispensable in bringing Unearthed to print!


Altrix Books: What about the Unearthed concept made you want to pitch a story?

James Bojaciuk: Archaeology was my first love. Before publishing, even before writing, I wanted to be an archaeologist - and whatever influence Indiana Jones may have had to one side, a serious archaeologist. If it weren't for some problems in the field that made it unlikely I could have gotten a job, I still would have gone for it. Add to that, Kara Dennison was responsible for the collection. I wanted to work with her again, after she'd written my favorite story in Stranger Tales of the City. Because we had no direct contact while working on the book, I especially looked forward to working with her directly.


Altrix: Tell us a little about your story.

Bojaciuk: Archaeology is never easy. Particularly not in the late Victorian era. Particularly when you're surrounded by bandits intent on making sure the pharaoh's gold goes anywhere except a museum. A little girl's photography hobby - as well as one of the greatest master thieves, currently dead - find an unusually photogenic solution.


Altrix: What books, shows, or real life events inspired your work?

Bojaciuk: A Raffles story could only be inspired by E.W. Hornung's Raffles the Amateur Cracksman. A Victorian/Edwardian gentleman thief, Raffles is one of the more enduring creations of the era. But he isn't always what we should expect of a "gentleman" thief. His early stories are much more what we should expect: a relatively pure, if sometimes cruel, man who steals for the thrill. The first collection ended with Raffles' death. Like Holmes, he returned, but things were not the same. The later collection - The Black Mask - is a wonderful example of early noir/hard-boiled. This story takes place between his apparent death and resurrection; we see how the man he was becomes the man he would be, deadened and desperate.

There literally would be no story without Ernie Smith's Tedium. In "Point, Shoot, and Forget" he discusses the history of disposable cameras, including the Victorian Ready Fotografer (among other spellings). Barely a machine at all, it was glass plates, rough cardboard, and film in a contraption just advanced enough to call a camera. I was immediately charmed by it, both for being one more device putting the lie to "Victorians would have thought any modern invention was black magic" and for its qualities as a camera itself. The entire story emerged from this piece.

I owe much to Jason Thompson. Without his Wonderful Things: A History of Egyptology (particularly volume 2), this story would have been impossible. William Flinders Petrie, and his digs, were presented clear as life with every detail and quote I could need.


Altrix: What was the most challenging part of creating your story?

Bojaciuk: I had intended to present an exacting, detailed version of one of Petrie's real digs. Chronologies of his work got in the way. During the period where Raffles would have been in Egypt, it's seemingly unclear which site Petrie worked. Petrie himself was a remarkable record keeper, but these were also some of his less extensively-covered digs (I can't help but suspect it was due to his break with the Egyptian Exploration Fund around this time). Thus, we were left with a vague dig. However, details of the dig and camp life are all accurate. We have only unpinned this dig from a concrete location.


Altrix: Where else can our readers find your work?

Bojaciuk: As CEO Duobus of the award-winning publishing house 18thWall Productions, I can always be found at 18thwall.com.


Order your copy of Unearthed from Altrix Books!

Monday, June 3, 2019

UNEARTHED AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Paul Driscoll


Up next in our round of Q&As is Paul Driscoll, author of "The Jar of the Alabaster Assassin"! Paul is the co-founder of Altrix Books along with Kara Dennison, and co-creator of the upcoming book series The Chronosmith Chronicles. He's also in the midst of editing Altrix's next charity anthology, coming out later this year.


Altrix Books: What about the Unearthed concept made you want to pitch a story?

Paul Driscoll: My Masters dissertation at Oxford University was on the origins of the gospel of John. I adopted a sociological approach to the gospel which involved plenty of research into the archaeology of fourth century Palestine. For me, it was the most fascinating part of my work, helping to ground in reality not only the text but my faith too. I have never been on a dig, but it’s one of the first things on my bucket list. Writing about a fictional one is the next best thing.


Altrix: Tell us a little about your story.

Driscoll: Mary, a young US mum smuggles home what looks like an unremarkable alabaster jar from a synagogue excavation in Huqoq. It soon turns out to have been a very bad mistake, forcing her to confront her own demons and placing the life of her young daughter at risk. There’s fire – lots of it, and judgement will be served.


Altrix: What books, shows, or real life events inspired your work, if any?

Driscoll: This is an entirely fictional piece – in that I’ve invented a myth and projected it back in time (although there are plenty of facts about Huqoq and the actual excavations that are ongoing there). I think that’s a more honest approach than that taken by the likes of Dan Brown with their sensationalist claims and academically flawed assumptions. That said, this is probably best described as Dan Brown meets Stephen King. I think if the two are fighting it out, then King wins by the end of the story.


Altrix: What was the most challenging part of creating your story?

Driscoll: The concept of what’s inside the box is a fun one to play with, but my immediate thought was how do I subvert it – it’s not always what’s on the inside that matters. Getting that point across without the story coming across as too contrived resulted in several false starts and about turns. Authenticity is something that even the most fantastical works need and that has to be character led. Some pretty ‘out there’ things happen to the main cast and I had to work hard to ensure their reactions to the unbelievable were believable. By the end of the story the mystery is not solved – that’s up to you, dear reader, but for Mary the right lessons have been learned along the way.


Altrix: Where else can our readers find your work?

Driscoll: I may have caught the bug for writing historical fiction, or is it fictional history, so do excuse me but I must get back to the 1880s for the first Chronosmith Chronicles novel. Keep an eye out on the Altrix Books website for future announcements.


Order your copy of Unearthed from Altrix Books!