Fish

Delighted to announce that Dreamland is now officially published and available from Black Shuck Books. I received my contributor copy today and it looks marvellous. I’m only familiar with the work of one of the other contributors – the amazing Priya Sharma – but that’s down to my being out of the loop. A collection of ‘other’ stories, with an emphasis on the Surreal, by female writers, was such an enticing prospect that I made a now rare submission. My story Sky Eyes centres around a squatted industrial building in South London, home to the Beast-Boy, a character who first appeared in This Is How A Star Dies (from Contagious Magick Of The Super Abundance: The Art And Life of Ian Johnstone) a couple of years ago. It’s becoming natural to me to have a link of some kind between stories – for example The Golden Sea Captain from Tomorrow, When I Was Young first made a fleeting appearance in Beautiful Silver Spacesuits. Some characters, places or ideas have a life of their own. As to what Sky Eyes is about – as far as I’m aware it concerns the battle against apathy and negativity. And a reminder that extraordinary things happen in the most ordinary places.

The Beast-Boy is an unapologetic, very sexual gay character, inspired by the brief Mikel Quiros gave me when he commissioned the story for Contagious Magick. I based him, unsurprisingly, on Ian Johnstone. Any fans of Johnstone’s work will of course be fully aware of Ian’s sexual orientation and his toying with gender, but Sky Eyes was not written with any thought of publication. I just had to bring the Beast-Boy and his world into being. I wonder how the story will be received. Times have changed and there are far more openly gay writers around. I haven’t read much fiction over the last few years but I would hope that this change is deeper than people wanting to be seen to be more open to stories with a very different worldview than their own. I have good reason to be cautious; when slipstream fiction came into being I came across some very homophobic attitudes in the UK scene and for some years I only submitted fiction to North American publications, which were far more open to difference, although I did send an excerpt of my first novel, The Gathering, to Onlywomen Press, based in the UK. They were extremely interested (the excerpt did include a character who was able to change their sex at will) and asked for a couple of chapters, then recoiled in horror because two of the central characters were a heterosexual couple! I was exasperated enough to write to Sarah Waters, a hugely successful author of historical fiction (and several tv adaptations of her novels) that very much included lesbian characters. I asked her whether she’d faced pressure to ‘straighten out’ her work or, indeed, to dispense with heterosexual characters completely. Her reply was extremely kind and supportive – she said she was surprised at how accepting everyone was of her gay characters and had never been under pressure to change and suggested I go for a ‘three pronged attack’ – to gay publications, straight publications and full on genre publications. It helped me believe in what I was doing. Some years later I was interviewed by Peter Tennant for TTA Press regarding my first collection (for Storylandia, Wapshott Press) and he asked whether my inclusion of ‘other’ characters was a matter of ticking boxes. A fair question for those who don’t know me, and it was a good chance to explain that I was just reflecting my lived experience and the communities I’d lived amongst. Of course, I can only speculate as to who reads my work in anthologies or magazine, but I’ve been aware of at least one story (Pieces, Urban Occult), set in the multicultural gay community in Stoke Newington, north London, that was consistently overlooked in all but one review. One can rarely find proof of such things – the obvious argument could be that the story just wasn’t up to much – but sometimes one’s instincts just know. And it could simply be that readers weren’t interested in stories about people who don’t reflect their own lived experiences.

BFS Awards/writing update

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The results of the 2020 BFS Awards were announced on February 22. Congratulations to all the winners, particularly Laura Mauro, who won the category I was nominated in (Best Short Fiction) for The Pain Eater’s Daughter and Priya Sharma, who won Best Novella for Ormeshadow. I’ve always had mixed feelings about awards, and this experience – my first, and likely only, nomination (although an anthology I had a story in – Necrologue: The Diva Book Of The Dead And The Undead – won a Lamda award) – hasn’t changed this. That said, I would have happily accepted had I won and it’s possible that my nomination will result in more people being aware of what I do. For the most part I have little interest in self-promotion, but I’m always open to connecting with kindred spirits, so I’ll be happy if the nomination is successful in that respect.

I currently have two stories with an editor who’s putting together an anthology by female writers that sounded strange enough for me to submit to. New story Eleven Eleven is progressing, over 7000 words now and still a way to go before the first draft will be finished. I’m finding the combination of old folklore associated with the New Forest, where the story’s set, and the new folklore that’s appearing as I write, is making for a tale that really doesn’t know where to stop.

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The woman with shining eyes

Thanks to Kendall Reviews for giving me the opportunity to discuss why I write horror. I’ve written a few articles/answered interview questions on this subject a few times now and I try to use a different angle to approach how I answer so that I’m not endlessly repeating myself. Over time influences and motivation change, so hopefully this piece casts a slightly different light on the subject and it’s useful for me to reassess what I do and how I’ve evolved as a writer and as a person.

Monsters out of the closet

I’m very happy to announce that Monsters Out of the Closet, an LGBT horror podcast, has just released an episode, Wild, that includes my story, The Cruor Garland (at around the 17 minute mark), alongside T R North’s A Mockery of Birds. It’s a very different experience to hear, rather than read a story and I’m grateful to Matt, Eric Little, J M Dow, Meredith Katz, Casey Lucas, Mason Hawthorne and Troy Gardener for providing the voices and narration to the story. The incidental music provides the perfect backdrop, so thanks also Eric Matyas and Kai Engel for composing such atmospheric sounds and a big thank you to podcast editors Nicole Calande and Shriya Vencatesch for having faith in my work.

I’ve also just been interviewed for the MOotC website and I’ll post here as soon as it’s been published.

Tomorrow, when I was young

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Tomorrow, When I Was Young is now available from Eibonvale Press and will be on sale at FantasyCon in Glasgow. A huge thank you to David Rix for all his work – as well as for designing the excellent cover. The story is probably more fantasy than anything I’ve written before and it’s possible I could write further episodes at some future date, but that wasn’t my original intention so the story stands alone.

Work has continued on a project that’s been in progress for around eighteen months. I’ve still not able to make an official announcement about this, but I hope to soon. It’s a unique and very moving project and well worth the time and energy spent on it.

In DUV news, Dykes Ink zine is now available in Housmans Bookshop in North London. We have also been involved in talks about a possible collaboration which could be huge – more information will appear if it comes off.

Summer Solstice/We are all falling towards the centre of the Earth

Greetings on this Solstice day, wherever you are in the world.

I’m delighted to announce that my new short story collection is now available from Wapshott Press and Amazon (paperback and Kindle versions). There is, perhaps, an accidental theme in this book, having (mostly) been written in the years following the death of my Mother and of a close friend. But at least one of the stories is a good, old fashioned horror tale, albeit with contemporary characters and settings. If I was trying to pin down what I do, the closest I could get would be, “feminist/queer/pagan/surrealist/occultist/dark fantasy”. Not necessarily in that order. But should I pin it down? People, including myself, like points of reference, landmarks and suchlike. Ideally, an open mind should be kept about all things – but when was the last time I read a book that wasn’t from my various genres or obsessions?

The cover photo is a detail from the Jhonn Balance Memorial Woodland, Cumbria, England, taken in April 2016. It seemed appropriate to add a green hue when taking the photo; for me, green stands for Life, nature, the environment. The location is extremely relevant to the theme of the book in various ways, and I’m really happy that editor Ginger Mayerson went with this image.

Story notes for all the tales in this book will appear soon.

 

All text and images © Julie Travis and Wapshott Press

Bass frequencies from other places

Photo: Julie Travis

A few updates on various projects:

Devon band The Morales, who asked permission to use a photo of mine on a forthcoming release, have now changed their name to the Wish Hounds and will release their first EP at the end of May. My photo of Bodmin Gaol should appear in some form on the back cover. I’m really looking forward to seeing this and am delighted for the band. I know from experience how many obstacles can get in the way of these things, so all power to them for persevering.

Wapshott Press are now working on various aspects of the book and I’ve been updating my bio and the Foreword as well as providing some ‘blurb’ for the back cover/Amazon etc. I still don’t know what the cover will look like, but there is now a publication date: 21 June 2018. I could have asked for an earlier date, but it feels right to release We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth on the Summer Solstice. An article on folklore and the landscape should appear online a couple of weeks before the book’s publication – I’ll reveal where when it appears!

I’m making slow progress with a new short story, The Plastic Factory, but am currently focussing on lengthening my piece for Birds And Boys. It’s possible I’ll publish the new story here when it’s finished.

All images and text © Julie Travis apart from the title, from a radio interview with PJ Harvey.

 

Fast-Clean-Cheap

 

Photo: Fast-Clean-Cheap front cover

I’m very happy to announce that Fast-Clean-Cheap is now available from Lulu. Editor Andy Martin has put together what sounds like a strange and wonderful assortment of writing and images by what he describes as ‘free-thinkers’. How my three stories (Cross-Bound, A Fairy Ring and Humans Remain) will sit with this lot is a real unknown for me – I don’t yet have a copy of the book to see how it all balances – but I look forward to getting hold of it as soon as I can. Obviously, I’m delighted when any of my work is accepted/published, but this one is a real highlight; to collaborate with Andy Martin again is an honour, and two of the stories that appear in the book were probably the hardest, emotionally, I’ve ever written (see Story Notes 2 for full details in the near future).

I now have the proofs of We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth to go through and approve, so work is progressing as planned on this book. Meanwhile, I’m now working on two new short stories – Tomorrow, When I Was Young and The Cruor Garland. The first is possibly a less dark fantasy than usual and the second is the result of having watched an M R James adaptation on television recently! My original intention is for it to be somewhat Gothic, but what it’ll end up as is anyone’s guess.

I’ve been intruiged and amused to find that the record I played bass guitar on back in 1986 has been fetching quite silly prices on Ebay and Discogs. It’s currently on sale for £34 – £55. Wonderful for my ego but the more I think about it, the more irked I am. The record was always supposed to sell for 99p. The musicians who played on the record have never received a penny in royalties for it. We were happy with the deal we got – we paid for the recording but not for any other costs associated with releasing an e.p.. The people selling the record now are making an absolute fortune (in terms of percentage profit on what they paid for it) from our work and we still get nothing. Of the four musicians who worked on the record, at least two are suffering severe financial hardship. What I’d like to see – both as an artist and as someone who’s paid high prices for cds when buying direct from the artist hasn’t been possible – is a bit of the sale price being given to the artist. Having been a poor musician and now being a poor writer is not in the slightest bit romantic!

A house with an infinite number of rooms

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Photo by Julie Travis

Eight stories have now been completed and submitted for my Wapshott Press collection, We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth, along with some photographs and a foreword. I can honestly say I have no idea what the publisher will think of the tales. One – The Man Who Builds The Ruins – is several years old and has nearly made it into at least one publication, but the rest are very recent works unseen by anyone except a few trusted friends. I am far from complacent about the book seeing the light of day, and I see that as healthy, a way of keeping me on my toes. I’m taking a very brief break from writing (no more than a few days), just long enough to catch my breath, and then I must begin again. What comes next is something I’m not sure of, but I have a completed story, The Hidden, that needs work, so that might be a starting point. Redrafting one of the two novels I’ve written is also a possibility, but is unlikely to come before writing short stories. Something else I’ve considered is picking those novels apart and developing them into several short stories apiece. I’ve done that with a section from the first novel, The Gathering: one of the chapters has been lengthened to form its own story, which stands on its own outside the novel, but could also be reverted to its original form inside the novel. It’s time now, I think, for some experimentation, with a technique that came up in a discussion a while back. And my dreams have been so frequent and vivid recently that I can see all kinds of story material building up, if I can harness those experiences in a (reasonably!) coherent way.

Over the space of the last two years I have been copying all the emails, texts and photographs I received from Ian Johnstone over our five year friendship and saved them as two lengthy documents. This is partly to ensure their safety – should my email account disappear into the ether for any reason – and to make them more accessible for me to read. Whether I’ll ever do anything else with them is something I haven’t decided – emotionally the job has been immensely difficult, so I haven’t thought much further than keeping the correspondance safe. I like the concept of having excerpts, of emails to others as well as to me, in a book to accompany his art, but we had very few mutual friends, so it’s unlikely to happen.

Fast-Clean-Cheap, the (probably monstrous) anthology edited by Andy Martin, should be published by Lulu.com at the end of September, possibly earlier, with luck. It is still the case that I will have three stories included; this will be the first time in my ‘career’ that more than one story has been taken for an anthology, so it’s quite a milestone from me.

 

All text © Julie Travis, apart from the title, which has been adapted from dialogue from Spanish crime drama ‘I Know Who You Are’.

 

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.