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Martin Owton joins Phantasia…

Solitary Knight Guarding the Castle Battlements… with his dualogy, the Nandor Tales. The first book Exile will be published in the spring.

Martin is Married, and his educational background got him a M.A (Hons) University of Cambridge, PhD  at the University of Southampton. He’s currently a senior research scientist with Lilly Research (UK)

He returned to writing in 1995 after a number of years wasted with rock bands.

Martin has published approx 25 short stories. Best sales – Black Gate #9 and forthcoming, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine #49, SFF.Net anthology ‘Age of Wonders’, 2 stories in translation to Nowa Fantasyka (Poland).

The ‘Exile of Darien’ is his first completed novel and it facilitated representation from Ian Drury at Sheil Land Accociates who is still his agent .

Martin is also publicity Officer of the T-Party Writers Group; London’s premier SF/F writers group and a reviewer for Infinity Plus website (www.infinityplus.co.uk)

Here is the blurb for Exile.

“The Exile of Darien’ is a fast-moving tightly-plotted fantasy adventure story with a strong thread of romance

Aron of Darien, raised in exile after his homeland is conquered by a treacherous warlord, makes his way in the world on the strength of his wits and skill with a sword. Both are sorely tested when he is impressed into the service of the Earl of Nandor to rescue his heir from captivity in the fortress of Sarazan. The rescue goes awry. Aron and his companions are betrayed and must flee for their lives. Pursued by steel and magic, they find new friends and old enemies on the road that leads, after many turns, to the city of the High King. There Aron must face his father’s murderer before risking everything in a fight to the death with the deadliest swordsman in the kingdom.”

Thou Shalt Not – The Fourth Commandment with Stuart Young

Moses and the 10 CommandmentsDAY FOUR

1) What made you pick the fourth commandment for your story?

It’s always struck me that there’s something of a problem involved in no one being allowed to work on the Sabbath. I always pictured things like a woman about to give birth and the midwife telling her, “Sorry, I can’t deliver your baby until tomorrow. Just hold it in until then.”

There’s also the fact that the fourth commandment is so innocuous, especially when compared to the others. I mean, adultery’s pretty bad, and murder’s an obvious no-no but working on the Sabbath? What’s so bad about that? So there was the challenge of taking possibly the fluffiest and least sinful of the commandments and turning it into the most serious commandment of all, the one that dare not be broken.

2) There’s a strong religious influence within your story. Was this a deliberate choice to fit with the theme of the anthology?

That was just me being totally obvious and deciding that a story about one of the commandments pretty much had to have religion in it.

Plus, I just enjoy writing about religion. I like making up extra bits of religious lore to resolve the paradoxes and contradictions in religious thought. Not that I’m expecting anyone to take my explanations too seriously; I’m aiming for intelligent entertainment rather than an unveiling of some great Ultimate Truth. After all, if some of the greatest minds in history can’t figure this stuff out it’s pretty unlikely that I’ve managed to solve it while scribbling away at a short story. That said, if I have inadvertently uncovered the secret of existence I’ll quite happily take the credit for it, along with any money and groupies that are on offer. But frankly, I’m just hoping people enjoy the story.

3) The detail within Confessions is really impressive. Did you have to do any research before getting started?

Before we go any further I think I should make it clear that Confessions is the name of my story. Otherwise people might think that I give such detailed confessions to priests that I actually have to do research. People will be imagining me sitting in the confessional with an encyclopaedia on my lap saying, “Hang on, Father; I’m just looking up the correct term for performing erotic asphyxiation on a goat whilst injecting oneself with heroin.”

As for the story, yes, I did a fair amount of research. Although I’ve probably got most of it wrong. I perused several religious encyclopaedias and umpteen websites and tied myself into theological knots trying to understand them.
I also browsed the pocket edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Confusingly, the index had numbers corresponding to the relevant passages on specific aspects of Catholic doctrine, but the numbers beside the passages weren’t in numerical order, they jumped about all over the place. I just couldn’t figure out the system so it took me forever to look anything up. This went on for an entire week before I realised that I was looking at the numbers on the right-hand side of the passages when I should have been looking at the numbers on the left-hand side. That gives you some idea of the keen intellect and fine eye for detail I brought to my research.

4) Are you – or have you ever been – religious? What’s your view on religion?

I took the whole Church of England thing quite seriously for a while as a kid. Then I turned hardcore atheist before settling down into being an agnostic. This suits me because although I don’t particularly believe in religion I do find it pretty fascinating.

On a practical level religion has done some wonderful things: promoting love and tolerance, inspiring great works of art and literature, providing ethical frameworks by which people can live their lives. But it has also done some terrible things: wars, inciting bigotry and hate, spreading racism and misogyny, The Vicar of Dibley. And atheists have a similarly spotty record when it comes to their achievements and failings.

On a philosophical level it seems fairly absurd to believe that the universe was created by some form of guiding intelligence, be it God, Allah, the Tao or whatever. Because if there is some great creator He/She/It did a pretty slapdash job. Let’s face it, if a restaurant served you a meal that’s as messed up as the universe is you’d send it back to the kitchen. Either that or risk some pretty serious food poisoning.

Still, it also seems fairly absurd to believe that the universe suddenly appeared out of nothing purely by accident. One minute there’s nothingness and it is, obviously, doing absolutely nothing and then, boom, there’s the universe. So nothing + nothing = something. That’s the kind of arithmetic that used to get me into trouble with my maths teacher.

While I’m at it, I think it’s pretty arrogant for people to say that their religion is the one true religion. Especially as some of these people admit that God has never spoken to them directly, they’re just quoting holy books and praying in the hope that they’re not just addressing empty space.

Equally, I think it’s pretty arrogant for people to say that God definitely doesn’t exist just because they haven’t experienced direct spiritual contact with the Almighty. “Never mind about Moses and the burning bush, if God hasn’t spoken to me then God can’t possibly exist.” Come on, it’s not like God goes around friending people on Facebook. Although admittedly, Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand is the one time I would’ve been impressed by someone posting a photo of their dinner.

Ultimately though, no one can prove God exists and no one can prove that God doesn’t exist. All they can do is offer their best guess.

That’s the kind of stuff that my story’s about. An exploration into whether it is possible, or even desirable, to balance faith and disbelief; an examination of whether religion is genuinely a force for good; and an inquiry into what counts as an authentic spiritual experience.

But, you know, with jokes and some scary bits.

5) Tell us a bit about your writing outside of this anthology – where can we read more?

I’ve got a story coming out in The Eleventh Black Book of Horror. My collection, The Mask Behind the Face, was short-listed for a British Fantasy Award and the title story won a British Fantasy Award for Best Novella. My latest collection, Reflections in the Mind’s Eye, is available in paperback from Pendragon Press and as an ebook from Amazon. I’m currently working on some novellas that contain elements of Kabbalah and Tibetan Buddhism. Because I didn’t confuse myself enough trying to understand Catholicism.

Thou Shalt Not – The Third Commandment with Clare Littleford

Moses and the 10 CommandmentsDay Three:

1) How did you find it writing about the third commandment?

It was surprisingly difficult to get started – ‘taking the Lord’s name in vain’ is an odd concept in our modern, predominantly secular world. But it’s often been said that having restrictions can force a writer to look at things differently and come up with stories that they might not otherwise have found, and I think that’s true for me. I really enjoyed writing about a slightly weird world where attitudes are very different.

2) It’s a fascinating story, in particular that the world of the tale feels very well realised. Did you think about this before getting started?

Thanks! A few years ago I was writing a novel that had its climax in a run-down old farm on the edge of some salt marshes around the Wash, and I spent some time visiting the coast around there and walking around the sea walls. It was a hugely evocative setting, with a real feeling of being right on the edge of the world, at the mercy of creeping tides and isolated from the rest of the country. That novel was never finished, and I think because of that the setting has stayed with me as something I wanted to write about. When I started writing this story, the sense of isolation in that setting came back to me and I realised it lent itself very well to writing about the kind of closed-in, cut-off communities that the story needed.

3) There’s a real sense of many people ‘following the crowd’ in this story. Do you think that’s something that can happen with new religions?

I’m sure it can! People need to feel that they belong, and it’s very difficult to go against a crowd. That’s clear from political and historical situations too, of course. If people are looking for an answer they tend to see what they want to see, and ignore anything that doesn’t suit that view. It’s a very human reaction, and one that can be exploited by some people for their own ends.

4) Was the choice to have two younger protagonists in the story an intentional one?

Yes, I thought that a younger narrator was likely to be more sympathetic for the reader – an adult going along with the prevailing beliefs of a closed world like that would have been much harder to swallow. But also, younger protagonists are discovering themselves and starting to develop their own views about the world, and can start to question things and push against the norms of the world they’re in. I always find that fascinating to write about – the characters themselves are going through a process of change, and that’s great for storytelling.

5) Are you – or have you ever been – religious? What’s your view on religion?

I come from a very religious family. My parents, sister and brother are all ‘practising’ Christians to one degree or another. I became an atheist at fifteen, but when I was in my mid-twenties my father was ordained as an Anglican priest. So religion is something I’ve thought about a lot. I don’t believe in God, and I don’t like the way religion has been used to justify all sorts of actions throughout history – and mostly used as a cloak to hide other motives, like grabbing land or controlling trade or taking natural resources. It’s much easier to do those things if you can claim that it’s God’s work and the people you’re taking from are only savages anyway. Having said that, I’m actually quite proud of the things my parents have done for the community around the church where my Dad has been priest – they support all sorts of community initiatives and have made a real difference in a quite deprived area. On an individual level, religions tend to encourage people to be more caring and more tolerant and more community-spirited – the extremes of intolerance that we see in pretty much every religion are really a distortion of most religious values. Overall, though, I think the world would be a much better place if everyone accepted that death is the end, so we’d better make the most of our own time here and do what we can to support everyone else who’s here with us.

New Acquiring Editor at Phantasia

PhantasiaAs you know Tickety Boo Press is being split up into four Imprints. I am delighted to announce that Andrew Angel has been appointed acquiring editor to our fantasy Imprint, Phantasia. And as all you scholars should know Phantasia is Latin for fantasy.

We are looking for 4-6 quality novels in the next 12 months so keep an eye out for submission guidelines which will appear here soon.

Welcome aboard Andy and I hope everyone likes the new logo!

The Second Commandment with Amanda Bigler.

Moses and the 10 CommandmentsThe 10-day countdown to publication and we have 10 interviews for you with the authors in order of the commandments and the imitable Alex Davis asking the questions.

1) What inspired you to write about the second commandment?

I think the concept of idolatry, of placing someone or something over what is supposed to be (in the case of religion) above all is intriguing in that most people, at one point or another, are guilty of this. In my mind, the idea of idolatry can pertain to any facet of life (for example, placing technology over human interaction to the point of detriment). Idolatry, in my eyes, is not necessarily bound to religion, and involves a sense of obsession.

2) The online angle is an interesting one, and something that has emerged in a few of the stories. What made you take this approach?

I’ve been experimenting with using online jargon and form in some of the stories I’ve been writing. I think that if one is writing a contemporary story, it is almost inevitable that online conversations and/or texts will be present. I think in regards to the story and to the nature of the protagonist’s work/obsession, it was vital to include how he conducts himself online versus in his own journal.

3) Your lead character is pretty unlikeable – was that a deliberate choice?

I immediately wanted to make him an unlikeable character. Because we see him in his own home, with only his own thoughts, it would be difficult for him to be likeable. Perhaps if I wrote him from a third-person perspective his character would have changed, but I wanted the reader to get into his head. For the story, I did quite a bit of research into the mindset of people with similar psychopathies, and to have him be as I wanted, and to commit what he has committed, he most certainly would have to be unlikeable.

4) When we discussed this one initially you said horror was something of a departure for you – how does this compare to your other work?

It’s interesting, because I don’t write horror often. I’m intrigued by the concept of horror, and read quite a bit of horror, but for some reason the opportunity to write it hasn’t presented itself as much. I normally write stories with a bit of a twist, and currently am working on a collection of short stories for my PhD thesis. They all seem to involve delving into the emotional connection between reader and character, and so I think in this story, I enjoyed the departure from an empathetic connection with a protagonist!

5) Are you – or have you ever been – religious at all? What’s your view on religion?

I was raised Presbyterian, and two of my good friends are Catholic. I, however, do not consider myself a religious person at all. My parents gave me the choice when I was 12 whether I wanted to continue going to church. I researched different religions (Buddhism, Judaism, etc.) but for me, I place my moral decisions and beliefs within the goodness of humanity, and don’t necessarily need a religious figure to live my life accordingly (although the Bible studies have come in handy when understanding religious symbolism in text). However, I believe that religion is wonderful for those who feel it helps them live life to the fullest without bigotry or anger. My overall thoughts are that I don’t want to be judged for my lack of religious belief(s), and so I will not judge others for their beliefs.

Three Novels, Three Worlds, Three Journeys

Space Trek3 books by Jo Zebedee​, Alex Davis​ and Ian Sales​ for 99P

Abendau’s Heir, The Last War and A Prospect of War, plus an amazing novella, Monochrome by Stephen Palmer​ thrown in.

Has the Compton finally cracked up?

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Thou Shalt Not – The First Commandment with Jeff Gardner


Moses and the 10 Commandments

The 10-day countdown to publication and we have 10 interviews for you with the authors in order of the commandments and the imitable Alex Davis asking the questions.

  • What was it that drew you to write about the first commandment?

I’m fascinated by the power a deity can potentially wield. Imagine being a god who can do practically anything; it’s the ultimate premise for a story. The idea that a god might be jealous of other gods amuses me. In some religions gods act like petty versions of ourselves – thus clearly made in our image.

  • Was the use of the name ‘Dionysus’ as one of the Greek pantheon deliberate here?

Yes it was. I love ‘The Bacchae’ by Euripides (and have played Dionysus on stage). Dionysus is the easily the most attractive of the Greek gods. If you’re going to follow a god then at least make it the one who promises wine and pleasure! Actually, Dionysus is a nasty piece of work wreaking revenge on those who refuse to follow him. I’ve been to a lot of rock and heavy metal concerts – Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper – and I remember being mesmerised during a Killing Joke gig, wondering how far the fans would go to appease their idols. If Dionysus came back today he’d be a rock/rap star or run a drug cartel.

  • Do you believe that musicians and rock stars could build up this kind of ‘cult of personality’ one day?

Rock music is all about rebellion: an attempt to defy your parents and challenge the establishment. It goes hand-in-hand with sex, drugs and alcohol, which are things that some religions fear or misunderstand. Rock stars have always had groupies, adoring fans and even small cults of obsessive fans, but are they really being brainwashed? Or are they gullible individuals unable to take responsibility for their own actions? I love rock music and know how easy it is to be swept up in a concert. We need idols to look up to and to follow, but possibly need to be careful who these idols are. In the end (in our real world) rock stars are not gods at all, but very ordinary people (see Ozzy Osbourne). We certainly live in a world where celebrities have a god-like status – however talented they may or may not be. It seems human beings really want gods to look up to.

  • The style here is very poetic – is this typical of your work on the whole?

It’s probably typical of many of my short stories. My novels, such as ‘Treading On Dreams’, which are set in the real world, also contain dream-like or poetic elements – often dark too. My fantasy novel, ‘Pica’ (due out in March 2016), also has a realistic setting but contains magical elements which push the imaginative boundaries, challenging our perceptions of reality.

  • Are you – or have you ever – been religious? And what’s your view on religion on the whole?

I was brought up in a liberal Christian home. My parents never forced any of their beliefs on me, but always encouraged me to explore faith and questions of morality. Whilst I resent labels (mainly because we are all human beings who have no right to judge each other) but if I’m forced to choose one, I would call myself agnostic. I don’t follow any particular creed and can say in all honesty that I don’t have all the answers – and I’m convinced that nobody else does either. We’re all exploring and discovering personal and shared truths as we go along our merry ways. It’s fun to chat and discuss these things – as long as we remain open-minded and unprejudiced.