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


A frozen waterfall

Brentor graveyard

A week on Dartmoor has proved restful and inspiring in equal measure. The first draft of Pieces is now finished. And it’s going to be a two-parter. Most of my stories end in a certain place and there’s no need to return, but Pieces has turned out to be different, (Darkworlds will eventually have at least another part to it, but that has only become necessary long after the story was written). It started as a simple horror story but has become far more complex, although it still has the gruesome elements I began with. And the setting is back in London and the tattoo/piercing/body modification counter-culture that still exists despite the current fashion for meaningless tattoos.

Merrivale stone rows

Most inspiring in my week away was being in close proximity to Brentor and my first visit to Wistman’s Wood. Brentor is on the major ley line that appears near Land’s End and cuts through much of Southern Britain and Wistman’s Wood is a bizarre area of gnarled, skinny oak trees surrounded by moss covered boulders. It sounds like the kind of place that could be quite frightening, and it has legends of Hell hounds bounding around it at night, but I found it beautiful and peaceful. Brentor pushed my energy levels up, as it, and other places like it always do and hopefully this will all be reflected in the story. Dowser Hamish Miller got me interested in Brentor and I thought of him as T and I walked around the church. The lava tor sits on the far Western edge of Dartmoor and we could see back into Cornwall and out across Dartmoor on the clear, cold morning. Earthworks in the fields below are also visible from the top. I don’t know how old they are or what their purpose was, but the spirit of the place is almost touchable.

Wistman's Wood. Photo: Teresa Knight

Now home, I’m continuing to look for a female actor to do a reading for me; Rosanne Rabinowitz is possibly organising an event for the 2012 Penzance Literary Festival on the subject of women and weird/speculative fiction and has asked if I want to be involved. It’s a great idea and I’m excited about it, but I know that me reading one of my stories would not work. When Katy Darby (of Eine Kleine Theatre) read Perpetual Motion at the Poetry Café in London, it really showed the story at its best, so I’m emailing local drama groups and companies in the hope that someone will go for it.

Music: I’ve been hearing some excellent modern dark ambient/experimental music, namely Matthew Shaw, Fougou and Susan Matthews. Shaw’s latest cd, Lanreath, was recorded in the Cornish village of the same name, which is close to Duloe stone circle. It brings on the right frame of mind for writing.

The universe is a haunted house: the Cornish Earth Mysteries Group

An unquiet house

One of the best discoveries I made on moving to Cornwall was the Cornish Earth Mysteries Group, a bunch of local Pagans who spent the summer hanging around at sacred sites, dowsing and suchlike, and the winter holding fascinating talks in Penzance. The talks sadly ended a couple of years back due to increased venue rental costs, but the few I went to opened my head – literally – to The Way Things Are, and I’m eternally grateful to them for it. As a lifelong believer in the paranormal, it was perhaps appropriate that the first talk I went to was by ghost-hunter Ian Addicoat. It was a long time ago and he seemed very nervous, but there were plenty of ghosts in Penwith for him to tell us about. I met him a while later at Pengersick Castle, where I was lucky enough to have him give me a tour of the building and gardens, then a look at some photos taken outside the house of orbs. He still does ghost walks in Penzance and St Ives and I must go along to one. I’ve not experienced anything in town that feels like a haunting although I’ve had experiences elsewhere, most recently in Minions. Near to The Hurlers stone circle is a bridleway that goes past an abandoned house and down towards Darite. It is an uneasy place to walk. The house (occupied at the time by an affable squatter) feels ‘dark’ and continuing along the path was extremely uncomfortable. I kept looking behind me, expecting to see something there. A definite feeling of being watched by something unpleasant accompanied us (T didn’t like the place either) and I’ll not go there again. Ian’s talk didn’t tell me a lot I didn’t know, but it made me realise I’d made the right decision to leave London.

A while later I was back at a talk by Jude Currivan about Cosmic Geomancy. I will try to explain the theory simply: every Thing in the universe is connected. All are part of a Life energy. This hit me for six and made perfect sense. And it was refreshing to hear someone talking about all life as being equal and from the same source of energy. It made me realise that this life is just one phase of being. We change at death. This doesn’t alter the huge loss of bereavement, but I certainly feel a loved one’s death is worse for those left behind than for the deceased. I’ve linked to Jude’s site. It looks ‘wafty’ but the woman has plenty of substance. Oh, and have a look at Ian Johnstone’s piece on Jhonn Balance’s memorial and the sign Balance left him of his presence.

The third mind-altering CEMG talk was by Pam Masterson, who owns a shop in Penzance called The Healing Star. It was about chakras and at the end she did a short meditation with the audience. All we did was relax and focus on various parts of the body but when we got to the forehead things got weird. The best way I can describe it is like having the front of my head opened and a brilliant light streaming out. I’d always been sensitive in the ‘third eye’ area but had thought nothing of it. Now – several years after that short meditation – that area still constantly tingles. It’s not a great feeling but I know it’s incredibly important and something I should explore, preferably with Pam in more meditation. Lack of money is holding this back but at some stage it will be done.

There are many talks I missed – Paul Broadbent, Hamish Miller (now departed) and Craig Weatherhill all spoke at meetings over the years and I would have loved to have been there, but what I did hear has changed my worldview. It’s also affected what I write about – it’s all still very dark stuff, I suppose, but I certainly feel some of the bleakness has gone. Someone dying at the end of a story is not necessarily an unhappy ending.

Leys: “hokum”?

I don’t actually  believe that at all, but there seems to be a lot of folk rubbishing the theory these days. Of course, there’s tons of writing on the subject, some of which I’ve been dipping  in to, as well as getting through The Old Straight Track, Alfred Watkins’ 1920s book on leys. I agreed with the principle of energy lines, but it only really made sense to me when I read some of Hamish Miller’s guide, The Sun and the Serpent. He followed the biggest ley in Britain, which starts near here just off the Land’s End and ends in East Anglia. He found a curved line of energy like a serpent that linked the same places as the ‘straight track’ does. I’ve got no evidence to support my faith in this except having been to a few of the areas mentioned (St Michael’s Mount, The Cheesewring, The Hurlers, Lydford) and feeling the energy there. A local dowser has talked recently of being on the Mount and finding lots and lots of ley energy there. There, like many of these places, are uphill – I don’t do uphill very well, but walking up to the top of the Mount, like walking up to The Cheesewring, fills me with a great sense of more. And the energy to smile while I’m doing it. Angela Evans, who owned Pengersick Castle for many years until her death, spoke of walking down the great (stone) circular staircase there, with her arms outstretched to touch the walls as she went. It always cured her aches and pains. I certainly use them to help me write. And after the experiences I’ve had it’s something I want to look into more.