About owlwoman

Writer of Surrealist/Occult/horror/dark fantasy short fiction, widely published in the sf/horror/speculative fiction independant press in Britain and North America. Pagan. In previous lives has been: a skateboarder, bass guitarist (in The Joy of Living and, briefly, Rubella Ballet), political activist, writer for the gay press, union worker. Inspired by the darker side of nature, the paranormal, dreams/nightmares, unquiet skulls, the big skies of Cornwall. Element: stone, preferably in circles. See 'Welcome to Levanthia' for more.

The place where all the starlings meet

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Photo by Julie Travis

I’ve been talking to Ginger Mayerson of Wapshott Press and a few things about the new collection are now more or less settled. The title will be We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth and should contain either seven or eight stories. After a week away at Avebury, I’m now back working on the last two stories – Beautiful Silver Spacesuits and March Of The Marvellous. ‘March…’ will be rather different to the rest of the stories – it began as an excerpt from my first novel The Gathering, which still needs a huge amount of work on it, but the piece is being developed into a stand-alone story. The original idea is probably the best part of a decade old, but it’s always been waiting in the wings to hopefully see the light of day.

As for the proposed feature on the film Rebel Dykes for Diva magazine – the film still needs funds in order to be finished and released, which I dearly hope will happen eventually. The story behind the feature is quite a farce, however, where I suspect I’ve suffered both ageism and disablism at the hands of one person involved in the film’s production. Diva’s editor recently left the magazine and to date the Deputy Editor has not responded to my email about the feature. I may name names and tell the full story at some point, but I now have no idea whether this feature will ever be written. I send my best wishes to everyone else involved in the film.

All images and text © Julie Travis

 

Journey to Avebury

Photo: Julie Travis

My first trip to Avebury and the surrounding area was even more powerful than I thought it would be. The huge stone circle, which I’d first seen forty years ago in the excellent children’s tv drama Children Of The Stones, really has to be seen to be appreciated. The stones are colossal. I felt swamped by them, but not threatened. My first view of them – in sunshine, above me, as I walked along a lane through the village – was intensely emotional. As it was at the end of the week, when, in the rain, we visited them again and said goodbye. The site was quiet and there was plenty of time to spend, undisturbed, with the ancient giants. I stood in the main circle and looked up at the henge. I could visualise a line of people all along it, observers to the ceremonies taking place. I haven’t read anything to say that’s what happened, but that’s certainly what I felt. The stone avenue, leading down towards The Sanctuary, is quite majestic despite having many stones missing. Back in the village, I tried to get a sense of the multiple circles. I wasn’t aware that there were circles within the main circle, that is, until I dreamt of taking part in a ritual in such a place. The next day I saw a book which included an illustration of Avebury in its complete state and I was amazed – it was the place I had dreamt about the previous night.

Photo: West Kennet Long Barrow by Julie Travis

Nearby Silbury Hill and West Kennet Long Barrow were equally deserted, apart from a pair of swallows who flew in and out of the barrow, their calls echoing around the chamber. I was pleased to find the chamber open and freely accessible. We cleared away a few tealights left by a previous, thoughtless visitor and enjoyed the cool silence. At each of these places the overriding feeling was of peace.

Photo by Julie Travis

A day was also spent in Glastonbury, climbing the daunting Tor and recovering afterwards in the Rainbow’s End cafe. The town, which I hadn’t visited for decades, is as powerful and spiritual a place as Avebury. The trip will inevitably have an effect on my fiction – for once I didn’t take any work with me, but it’s something I never stop thinking about, and I made a few notes during the week. I was doing my best to take a quick break from writing, as it’s been so draining recently, but, a few days after my return, I’ve redrafted The Spoiler and it’s very close to being complete.

All images and text © Julie Travis, apart from the title, taken from Derek Jarman’s film.

 

Killing It Softly

Longstone, Isles of Scilly by Julie Travis

I’m delighted to announce that volume two of Killing It Softly, an anthology of horror by female writers, will include a story of mine, Blue. Contracts need to be sorted out, but publication should be in October this year. The anthology does reprints only, so I sent a story that had been published in Kzine #1 in 2011 (and I featured it on this website for a short time). I didn’t re-read it at all – I knew I was fairly happy with it, but there would always be the temptation to re-write parts, which of course would stop it from being a reprint. Interesting that KIS is a Canadian publication – yet again, North America offers a home for my writing.

After much thought and discussion with various people, Humans Remain – the third story of mine to be included in Andy Martin’s Fast-Clean-Cheap anthology – will be published under my name. I had deep misgivings for a while because of the content, but it’s a story that needs to be told. Anyone close to me who wishes to read it will be warned that it’s a nasty, autobiographical tale (well, more literally autobiographical than any other piece of fiction I’ve written). I have no wish to read it again, so I don’t blame anyone who decides not to!

The Spoiler is now complete and undergoing extensive re-writing. It’s been written over such a massive amount of time (more than a decade since it was started) that there’s plenty to do to make it work properly, but I’m confident that it can be included in the Wapshott Press collection. And after reading more about Surrealist writer/artist, Leonora Carrington, I am making sure the story is as fantastique as possible!

 

All text and images © Julie Travis

 

Nostalgia for an age yet to come

Photo: watchmaker’s tombstone, Lydford, Devon by Julie Travis

Last week’s trip to London – to catch up with much missed friends – left me with a fresh perspective on the city I left nearly 15 years ago. The relentless nature of the place hasn’t changed, of course; I knew that however far I walked, the city would still stretch out around me, unlike Penzance, where you can stand at the top of the main road and see buildings give way to green fields and the sea. But what I was surprised at was the cleanliness of the streets in comparison with Cornwall, which looks as if its residents just don’t care about their environment and the politeness and patience of city people, despite the stress of everywhere being constantly busy. I couldn’t connect to the magickal elements of the city when I lived there, but I’m more knowledgable now, so perhaps it would be possible to do so on my next trip there. A visit to Treadwell’s Occult bookshop proved wonderfully overwhelming and will provide the setting to new story Beautiful Silver Spacesuits. I could have spent days there.

One of the friends I met up with was Andy Martin, who has been mentioned here many times. The last time I’d seen him was around 1985/86, when we recorded the 7th Apostles’ e.p. (with the Joy of Living). It was an emotional meeting for me. We spent a couple of hours talking about everything from Nazi skinheads and the Neo-folk movement to musical time signatures to childrens’ tv drama Grange Hill and listening to Unit tracks, and I bought a couple of Apostles’ LPs from the late 1980s off him. My extensive vinyl collection – including at least one of those albums – has mostly been sold over the years, but a few gems remain and to add two mint condition albums to it was very gratifying. A few days after I got home, I had an email from Andy, asking me to contribute a third story to his anthology Fast-Clean-Cheap, scheduled for publication later this year. I didn’t want to take a story from the second Wapshott Press collection, so I dug through my files and found a story that was written about ten years ago, but never submitted for publication because the content – domestic abuse – was based on my own experiences and too painful to share. It’s still a difficult read, but I thought the story was good enough that, with a bit of spit and polish, I can give it to Andy for consideration. He, of course, will make the final decision as to whether it sees the light of day. If it does, however, it’s one story I won’t be saying much about. Hopefully it will speak for itself.

I’m working on two stories simultaneously again for the Wapshott Press collection – The Spoiler is nearing completion of its first draft, and is currently 6500 words long, so may easily get to 8000 by the time it’s finished. And I’ve just begun the aforementioned Beautiful Silver Spacesuits, as well as working on the Foreword and story notes for the book. I’m beginning to feel a bit burned out now, so perhaps once these two stories are completed, it will be time to hand the thing over to Wapshott Press.

But on the other hand, if I push myself just a bit further, who knows what I could come up with…?

All images and text © Julie Travis, apart from the title, by Pauline Murray/Penetration

 

Women In Horror Month

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I still consider myself to be a horror writer, although these days my stories contain strong elements of other genres and influences; dark fantasy, Surrealism, the Occult. But I began as a horror writer, and a horror fan of course, and I still have a great love for the genre. Which is one of the reasons why I’m writing about Women In Horror Month. For the last eight years, February has been designated WIH Month, to provide a focus on female writers. Despite misgivings of myself and every other female horror writer I know of – one month a year obviously isn’t enough – we all realise that such a focus is necessary.

I had few female role models, artistically speaking, when I was growing up. Punk gave me almost all the ones I did have – Poly Styrene (X-Ray Spex), Gee Vaucher, Joy de Vivre, Eve Libertine (Crass), Zillah Minx and Gem Stone (Rubella Ballet), Vi Subversa (Poison Girls), together with Kathy Acker…no horror writers amongst them, but all helped me form my political view of the world. Before then, I read a lot of horror – mostly Gothic short stories – some of which were undoubtedly written by women, but there was no focus on female writers, especially in the 1980s, when horror films in particular seemed to provide an anti-feminist backlash. Without the attitude of punk and punk’s women, as well as Clive Barker’s post-punk style of writing, it would never have occurred to me to think there might be a place for me in horror.

Once I’d began, and had my first professional story published (‘Jump From A Speeding Car’, REM #2, 1992), the first review of the story, by John Duffield for Interzone, gave me a taste of prevailing attitudes. He hated my story – which was disappointing, of course, but his choice – but what really hurt was his sneering, patronising description of me as a person (“some sort of alternative punkette”). I knew a male writer would never have been treated in that way – in fact John Shirley was well known at the time as an old punk and was respected for it. At that point I wondered if my ‘career’ was over before it had even started, but luckily other writers and editors have been far more progressive. Still, I think the problems I had and still face in having stories published is partly down to the lack of clear genre for them to fit into but also – and I think this is paramount – that female writers are still not seriously enough, not just by (many but not all) editors, but by readers; a reflection, of course, of the place of women in society in general. We do not get the gravitas that is automatically accorded to male artists irrespective of their talent (check out New York City’s Guerrilla Girls for far more on this).

What I would like to see each February is women taking over as editors of horror magazines, slipstream magazines, dark fantasy and sf magazines. Obviously women do edit magazines and journals, but I’d like to see them in charge of everything even vaguely related to the horror genre for that month, for a different perspective, to portray the world that exists outside of men and their reflections of themselves (again, this does not describe all male editors by any means).

I don’t read enough fiction. I have neither the time nor especially the money to buy the stories by all the women I need to be reading. But I have a permanent focus on female writers now. I’ve grown up like many women have – surrounded by pressure to belittle myself and my gender. Awareness of such things is the beginning of dismantling them. So seek out women writers; of horror, slipstream, whatever, now and every month of the year. Read interviews, blogs and websites. Most important of all, don’t do the easy thing that we’re all programmed to do, and pass over the female contributors in favour of the male ones. Women are talented, inspiring, visionary. Don’t lose out by ignoring us.

All images and text © Julie Travis

 

Episodes from another world

Peter Tennant’s kind review of Storylandia, published last year in Black Static magazine, now available on his blog. Cyril Simsa’s collection, also reviewed here, sounds very interesting. My thanks to Peter for this.

Trumpetville

Reviews of two short story collections that originally appeared in Black Static #53:-

EPISODES FROM ANOTHER WORLD

Storylandia is the title of ‘The Wapshott Journal of Fiction’, published by Wapshott Press. The Spring 2015 issue, STORYLANDIA #15 (Wapshott Press pb, 142pp, $7.50), is dedicated to the work of Julie Travis, a writer who will be familiar to older readers from the early days of our predecessor The Third Alternative and possibly from other places as well. It contains five stories, all of them previously unpublished, and which, though the writer admits a preference for the term “slipstream”, have about them much that should appeal to horror genre purists.

Opening proceedings is ‘From the Bones’ which begins with the discovery of two separate burials on Dartmoor and the unearthing of ancient bodies that have been miraculously preserved and yet prove to have writing on their bones. For amateur archaeologist Vivienne this…

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This moment is not forever

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Photo: Julie Travis

And the scales balance again…I’ve swapped stories (mine: A Fairy Ring, due to be published in Andy Martin’s Fast-Clean-Cheap anthology this year, I hope) with writer and friend, Maj Ikle, who I deeply respect for her work and everything else she does. We used to meet in East London for wired conversations about writing and I’ve had many, many constructive and inspired comments from her on my work.

The Spoiler continues in a slightly, possibly a massively different way: I had an idea to change an aspect of the story, and the story has ‘forked’ several thousand words in, so has an alternative idea currently running parallel to the original. Whether this will turn out to be a matter of choosing which path makes the final cut, or if it’s possible to keep both ideas in the final copy, is yet to make itself clear. If the latter doesn’t work in this story, then it’s something I intend to make happen in the future.

I’m very happy to announce that The Morales, a band from Devon/Dartmoor, will be using a photograph of Bodmin Gaol (seen on this website), on the cover of their forthcoming album. I checked the band out and liked what I saw, so gave them my blessing. Best wishes to them!

The backdrop to all this is Kate Bush’s live album Before The Dawn, a cd that confirms the gigs she played in London in 2014 were incredible and the descriptions of them being a ‘spiritual experience’ were not an exaggeration.

All text and images copyright Julie Travis