Balance is everything

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Photo: Julie Travis

This post is being written under the influence – of whatever kind – of a Creativity candle purchased from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, North Cornwall.

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Photo: Julie Travis

In order to balance the positivity of my last post, and for the sake of accuracy and fairness (I don’t believe in only reporting good news about my writing) I need to report a very negative recent experience.

Basically, the plan I had to collaborate on fiction with an old friend has imploded in a big way. Somehow we’ve hopefully salvaged our 35+ year old friendship, which I’m grateful for, but it’s been a painful time. Myself and X swapped short stories – I thought in order to see what kind of thing the other wrote, he wanted to critique, and perhaps more communication at this point would have helped. This was not a level playing field – I’ve been a published writer for a quarter of a century, X had done a writing course for three months – and in terms of attitude and approach we clashed immediately. As you might understand, I did not take kindly to being told how to write by someone who, in my eyes, had yet to prove himself as a writer, (I’m aware and slightly concerned that I’m guilty of snobbery here, although I was impressed with and respected the work he gave me) and his admission that he writes purely for entertainment was not enough for me. As has been acknowledged by another good friend, creativity is the key to my survival. I would hope that my fiction makes that clear, that I am channelling some quite terrible, but also fantastic, things from my life experiences, from my head and from my dreams and nightmares into fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I can take criticism – I’ve had more story rejections than I care to count, constructive criticism from many, many editors and writer friends critique many stories over the years. I am used to criticism, more than I am to praise. This was different. I was also put on the spot, as far as I could tell, to justify including an androgynous female character in the story (Grave Goods) which flummoxed me completely. Why wouldn’t I have characters which reflect myself in some way? This was later put down to a misunderstanding (X is very politically astute, which is why I was so thrown), but at the time I felt ‘Othered’ and it made me think that perhaps that’s why I’m not having much luck placing stories (in the UK at any rate – America appears to be far more open minded). I would still like to collaborate on fiction with someone – it would be an interesting exercise and would make me feel less isolated – but it needs to be with someone I feel is on a more similar wavelength to myself.

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Photo: Julie Travis

As mentioned earlier, and as you will see from the photographs on this post, I went with my partner T to the Witchcraft Museum in the dying days of 2016. I hadn’t visited the place since the terrible floods around 13 years ago. To my relief, the place is still quite amazing, packed full of information and exhibits. I had seen that there was a piece dedicated to Jhonn Balance of Coil, well known as using magick in his life and musickal work. We spent a couple of hours in the museum, without seeing this piece and in the last room it still wasn’t there – we both found it puzzling as we could feel that it was close by, but were somehow not seeing it. Eventually I left the room and on the wall outside, in the Shrine area, was the piece.

For me, the last room was the most fascinating. I found a lot of information on Alex Sanders, the so-called ‘King of the Witches’, who Balance had contacted when in his early teens. Most interesting was Sanders’ work with psychic Derek Taylor, where they used coloured metal (I think) circles to channel with and become Time Machines – as you will see from the photograph, the design appears to have somewhat influenced the ones used as an insert to Coil’s 1998 drone album, Time Machines. A lot of things clicked into place then.

 

All images and text ©Julie Travis

 

And the Winter Solstice begins and ends in blood

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

Greetings on this Winter Solstice.

I’ve just found another review for the Storylandia 15 collection, courtesy of Jon Yates on Amazon.com. My thanks to him for these kind words:

‘Slipstream’ Indeed: Waking Nightmares From An Under-Regarded Master by Jon Yates, Amazon.com 22 October 2016.

Julie Travis’ Storylandia collection is a must for any devoted follower of weird/dark/occult fiction. Drawing on varied influences, chief among them Britain’s pagan past, Travis manages to evoke a sense of “widdershins” otherworldiness, a nightmarish sense of the waking world slipping sideways into the inexplicable. Comparisons to writers like Clive Barker and Thomas Ligotti are apt (I’d also add Ramsey Campbell at his most lysergic), though I’d also comfortably file these stories between the stranger works of, say, Jonathan Carroll or Haruki Murakami, as the best of the stories (“Widdershins”, “Scar Tissue”) transcend their genre trappings into a far more magical (sur)realist territory. This collection deserves ten times the attention it has received thus far, and lucky are those who pick it up…I can guarantee you’ll speed through these tales and be waiting as impatiently as I for a follow up.

 

All images and text ©Julie Travis and Jon Yates, as appropriate.

 

Beautiful silver spacesuits

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

Plans for the second Storylandia collection have changed: I’m delighted to announce that Wapshott Press now want to publish the collection as a book in its own right, rather than as an issue of Storylandia. Apart from the heartening faith this shows in my work – which is hugely appreciated – this also now gives me 250,000 words to play with, rather than the 50,000 I thought I had. It briefly occurred to me to change the entire format of the book and re-write either one or both of the two short novels I’ve drafted. Both have real potential with a hefty amount of work. But it didn’t feel right to do so: I’m proud to be a short story writer, I believe in the craft and I believe in the stories that are finished and ready to be a part of the collection.

I’m currently working solely on The Spoiler, which is nearly 4000 words long now. It’s progressing in ways I didn’t expect it to, always interesting when a story does that. I used to feel out of control of these things, but these days a different path is something I can shape to an extent, although I also like my imagination to have free rein. I’ll make sense of it afterwards!

Feeling somewhat isolated from other writers, I’ve made an unsuccessful attempt to join a local writers’ group. After initially sounding friendly and welcoming, my enquiries as to which meeting would be suitable for a newcomer to attend have been met with absolute silence. It was worth a try, but the result is that I now feel twice as isolated. Perhaps this is how it’s supposed to be for me.

All images and text ©Julie Travis

 

The dreaming

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

Some progress on various stories; Parasomnia is now finished, as is a second draft of We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth. The Spoiler is now well underway – this story, hanging around as it has for so many years, is a definite ‘goer’, perhaps it’s just needed this amount of time for me to be ready to write it. I still have a list of other possibilities for the collection, so I’m hoping to be able to squeeze as much into it as possible – there’s an upper limit of 50,000 words, and I want to get as close as I can to that amount without compromising the quality. I also intend adding story notes to the Afterword as well as some specific notes about the Ballardian world we in the West have apparently chosen for ourselves in 2016.

All images and text copyright Julie Travis.

 

In the midst of death

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

Strange fiction and stranger dreams.

We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth is nearly 7500 words long and heading towards its finale. Finding the sadness I need to convey in the story is easy – channelling it is difficult and emotionally draining. Once I’ve finished the first draft – which may well be done during my week in Lydford, with its powerful energies (as mentioned in my last post) – I can let it rest awhile and re-draft Parasomnia. I also found the beginnings of another story, The Spoiler, possibly ten years old, which was far better than I remembered it being, so that’s next on the list for when Parasomnia is finished. Story relays are working well for me.

The title of this piece is the title of the photograph I hope will form the the front cover of the second Storylandia collection, a version of the dead deer on the banner of this website, in tribute to Ian Johnstone.

Strange dreams abound, of course, the best of my most recent ones involving a city of gigantic buildings and huge bronze sculptures dedicated to a composer (his name was spoken but had slipped my mind by morning), of me flying along the avenues, heading West, out of the city and all the way to a super-real North Somerset coast and along to a small town located there – Weston-super-Mare. Weston has a lot of Occult/magickal connections – Aleister Crowley, Dion and Coil/Jhonn Balance are names that spring to mind.

UPDATE: NOTES FROM LYDFORD – the energy in this area is as powerful as I’d hoped it would be. We Are All Falling… was finished on my first day here and is now 8700 words long. I found myself unable to stop writing and was in tears when I’d finished. The story’s let me go for a while, and it’s a relief. A more thorough investigation of Lydford village found the church was haunted – or at least held a presence…Something was in there, anyway! Next to the castle we found a Viking stone covered in Runic lettering and in the Castle Inn the witch glasses that I’d seen before were sadly gone, although the strange hexagonal glass was still there and the Green Man appeared to peer out from a place behind the stained glass window of the pub’s door.

 

All images and text: copyright Julie Travis

 

There is water on the moons of Saturn

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

New story We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth – also the working title of the Storylandia collection it’s being written for – has broken the 5,000 word barrier. It’s a fairytale set in 1960s East Germany, in my head a black and white arthouse film that needs to be put into words. I hope I can do it justice. I’m pushing further and further into strange headspaces when I’m writing now. On Saturday it meant I made good progress but I got into a place that I couldn’t get back from, it was as if I only existed in this story and not anywhere else. Bearing in mind I believe stories are events happening in different times/dimensions and the writer’s job is to tune in and document them, I wondered if I was being invited through to this one. Not a bad option in itself but I was aware of being stuck between two places. Luckily for me (perhaps) I received a text message which pushed me back to the here and now. I do need to have a better plan when I’m doing this, though. A one-way ticket isn’t a good idea.

I’m excited about a forthcoming return to Dartmoor, staying in Lydford this time. It’s a favourite place of mine, on the route of the Serpent line investigated by dowser and blacksmith Hamish Miller in his inspirational book The Sun And The Serpent (Penwith Press). He found terrible energy in the grim prison that sits in the village. I haven’t felt it, but the pub next door (The Castle Inn), with its Pagan and witchcraft fittings is incredibly powerful, so much so that when I went in there for the first time I sat in the garden and wept.

All images and text ©Julie Travis

 

Some technical issues

For the last few weeks I have been unable to load WordPress sites, including my own (although luckily the dashboard still works, as you can see). It may be a browser problem, which I’m trying to resolve. For now, I can only access other people’s sites via the email notifications I get. I haven’t stopped reading people’s blogs – I just can’t click the ‘Like’ button or comment. Please don’t think I’ve lost interest!