Very happy to see Sci-Fi And Scary’s recent interview with me is now online at the link below. I’ve done more interviews in the last couple of years than in the previous twenty or so as a writer. They’re a very good way of reflecting on what I do and why. Inevitably there’s a sense of being validated when someone’s interested enough in my writing to ask me about it, but I hope that’s a minor motivation.
A few weeks ago I was approached by a publisher (who I’ve worked with before) with a very tempting proposal – to write several new stories for a single issue of the publisher’s journal and to edit an issue featuring authors invited by me to submit to it. This was more or less a dream come true, but there was a hitch in that I (and the other writers involved) wouldn’t be paid for what was going to be 18 months’ hard work. After discussing this with friends, I turned the offer down. I just can’t work for free any more (although there will always be exceptions). I don’t like to think of my writing in terms of money but on a practical level I have bills and rent to pay. And a couple of friends made the point that it not only devalues my work but undermines the efforts of other writers to be paid. The publisher meant well – and really cannot afford to pay. It was the right decision. It’s likely that I haven’t made this decision before now because of a hangover from the anarcho-punk scene I was in during the 1980s, where making any kind of money was more or less forbidden. This was taken to ludicrous levels, where I was seen as ripping people off for charging 50p for a fanzine that cost 66p per copy to print! There are so many creative projects that wouldn’t happen if everyone involved was paid, and I’m currently involved in two such unpaid projects, but they’re very special and personal: The da-Dark Outside (see my previous post for details) and another that I can’t announce yet – another commission to work on an amazing literary/art product. When this will appear is anyone’s guess at the moment – the project was more or less completed before much of the world ground to a halt, although technology is making some things still very possible and I hope the project will be completed in the not too distant future.
Meanwhile, other work continues – the second issue of Dykes Ink is progressing and could in theory be ready to go to print fairly soon, but current circumstances make this impossible, of course. I’ve written a short article about how childhood fears affect and influence my fiction, which will hopefully appear on the Gingernuts Of Horror webzine in June as part of their Pride In Horror month. As for fiction, I’m back working on Sky-Eyes and the story (currently around 9000 words long) is heading towards completion of the first draft.
I’ve been playing a lot of old punk records recently – perhaps inspired by the work I’ve been doing for Dykes Ink zine – and I came across one of my favourite pieces from that era. The Wall’s e.p. ‘Remembrance’ featured a cover that clearly left a big impression from its release in 1981: after seeing the artwork again I realised that I had based much of the appearance of the Spoiler (in the story of the same name) on the above photo/concept, around 35 years after the record was released.
Stand by for some publishing news and an update on Dead Unicorn Ventures.
We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth, published by Wapshott Press, is finally now available from Amazon, in paperback and Kindle formats. Once again, I must apologise for the mess of the original launch.
Today is the third anniversary of the passing of Ian Johnstone, to whom the book is dedicated.
All text and images © Julie Travis
A week staying on a smallholding on the western fringes of Dartmoor has done me good; I’m currently over 1100 words into a new story. A Fairy Ring contains neither fairies nor mushroom rings but is, inevitably, about the process of grieving, although that’s hopefully not obvious at first read. The subject matter, of course, is something everyone has to experience many times through their lives, so perhaps this is the most mainstream piece of fiction I’ve ever written. After three months of being incapable of working on anything new, it’s a relief to have such a full story just appear in my head in the way it has done. I have three finished stories sitting on the chair next to me, and I have no inclination to send them anywhere. That’s how it is for now, who knows how I’ll feel in the future?
UNIT has recorded a cover of Regime Of Kindness, a song I wrote the music for around thirty years ago and which appeared on the Death To Wacky Pop e.p. Andy Martin kindly sent me a copy. It’s a fairly different arrangement, far more prog-rock than the original, and I think it’s excellent. It’ll appear on an album of theirs set for release next year. Many thanks to the band for digging this song up and doing their own version.
Last week I had a new tattoo done – a detail from Ian Johnstone’s 23 Swarming Shapes. It’s my first new tattoo in around thirteen years. The whole process is hugely ritualistic for me. There are a couple of tattoo studios in Penzance, but I tried one of them and the vibe wasn’t right, so I went back to Shoreline in St Ives, where I had my last ink done. I knew it was the right place as soon as I stepped through the door, so I made an appointment and had a week of getting into the right frame of mind for it, hoping that Ian would have approved: he knew I thought the work was perfect for tattoos and he had one of the shapes tattooed onto his leg, so I think he’d be okay with it. The healing process is as much a ritual as choosing/designing the ink, and it’s healing incredibly quickly. Which is useful, as I can’t dress properly until it’s done so! The money to pay for it wasn’t easy to find, but I don’t think such permanent body modification should be effortless. Thanks to Cherry at Shoreline for an excellent job.
As promised, here are the notes on Storylandia 15: Collected Stories By Julie Travis:
From The Bones
As a child many family holidays were spent hunting for fossils on the beaches at Lyme Regis in Dorset. We have evidence of the ancient past all around us but fossils gave me an amazing connection to it. Later on, I became more interested in human history, more specifically the spiritual aspects of the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. These days I spend a lot of time at sacred sites and this story came from all of these influences. I’m somewhat uncomfortable with the ethics of digging up bodies and displaying them in museums and suchlike (although I have been to see Lindow Man and other bog bodies in the British Museum); does our demand for knowledge make it acceptable to disturb such places? There is a link here, I think, with our arrogance in extracting oil and minerals from the ground without worrying about the consequences, both for ourselves and for the Earth – to which we’re connected, whether we like it or not.
More archaeology! Early burials would leave a few items – or, in the case of a high-status grave, almost a roomful of items – with the deceased, for them to take to the Otherworld. We don’t do that any more (at least in Western European culture) but perhaps we should. It might be of great use to take a few things with us wherever we go. I wanted to write a story that was definitely horror rather than dark fantasy and it was more or less drafted in three days. One of the characters was heavily inspired by Marlow Moss, a Modernist artist who lived in Lamorna, West Cornwall, in the mid 20th century.
Along with Pieces (Urban Occult, 2013), this story’s set in the gay community in Hackney/Stoke Newington in London, a scene I was immersed in for a few years in the 1990s. There were some terribly damaged women out there, mostly as a result of abuse in early life and this is based on some of them. It is not a failure to be mentally ill or damaged, but to use these things as leverage over other people’s lives is, in my view, criminal.
This is a continuation, of sorts, of Darkworlds (Premonitions: Causes For Alarm, 2008) but not a ‘part 2’ – each story is completely separate and stands on its own (to make sure this was the case I didn’t mention Darkworlds to Ginger Mayerson, Storylandia’s editor, so that she could be objective when she read Theophany). Darkworlds was begun in London and finished in Lelant, Cornwall, where I lived when I first moved down here, and marked a far deeper, layered form of writing.
My favourite word. What happens when you walk anti-clockwise – ‘the wrong way’ – around a church? What happens when you live an unconventional life? The church and its location are based on St Bega, a small church that stands beside Bassingthwaite Lake in Cumbria. This is the first story I wrote after my mother’s passing. Everything is a time machine.
In an update on other work: The Man Who Builds The Ruins will not be appearing in the Dreams From The Witch House anthology. It hasn’t been rejected – I found out second hand what the book’s contents are and my story wasn’t listed. As yet, no one involved with the book has had the courtesy to let me know. I wish the anthology well and I intend getting hold of a copy, but I’m not impressed with the way the writers have been treated. Along with the blog writers who I’ve supported for years but who couldn’t be bothered to reply to a polite email asking if they’d be interested in a copy SL 15 for possible review, the wheat is certainly being sorted from the chaff as regards professionalism.
I’m working on two other stories: Pig Iron is close to a finished first draft. As soon as it’s done, I’ll do the final tweaks needed on The Hidden to finish it.
I’m very pleased to announce that Storylandia 15 – Collected Stories By Julie Travis has just been published by Wapshott Press. It’s available direct from them or from Amazon in physical and Kindle formats. The finalised covers are shown here.
I’ve been having fiction appear in the small press for over twenty years now and it’s always wonderful to be published but this is my first collection, so it’s extra special. I must thank everyone at Wapshott Press and especially editor Ginger Mayerson for having such belief in my work. It’s appreciated more than they know. I intend giving details here of why I wrote each of the stories (From The Bones, Grave Goods, Scar Tissue, Theophany and Widdershins) in the near future. Of course, should anyone read the collection and wish to submit a review to Amazon or Goodreads, please go ahead – and I’m not only asking for good reviews to appear, which is apparently what some authors are doing these days. At least any review won’t be able to ignore my work, which is what has happened occasionally in the past, mostly with the Urban Occult anthology of two years ago, I suspect because of the story’s setting amongst the lesbian and gay body modification community in London.
These are the front and back covers of Storylandia 15. It will be re-titled as the Spring 2015 issue of the journal rather than Winter, but apart from that all is more or less now finalised (photographed are the first and second proofs) and I expect physical and e-copies to be available soon. My huge thanks and appreciation to editor Ginger Mayerson and all at Wapshott Press for their faith in me and all their work on this collection.
In other news: Andy Martin is reportedly remastering just about all of The Apostles’ releases, beginning with all the singles, for cd releases on BBP Records. This was begun some time ago but was halted due to the untimely death of BBP’s Stephen Parsons. I’m assuming the first compilation will include The Apostles’ 7th e.p. recorded with my old band, The Joy of Living, which has been described as ‘folk punk’ and ‘anarcho acoustic’. This was released on cd several years back as part of a Mortarhate Records compilation, but was taken straight from the vinyl rather than remastered. I’m intrigued as to how this will turn out!
These last few days have brought huge clouds of starlings; initially on the eastern side of Penzance, then perhaps 10,000 murmurating at Marazion Marshes last night and, just now, thousands of them whirling in a massive circle outside the back of the house. It’s been like a wonderful, waking dream.
As you can see from my previous post, the trip to Cumbria in September included a return to Jhonn Balance’s memorial. We spent some time at Bassenthwaite Lake, with only geese for company, near the hawthorn tree where Balance’s ashes were scattered, then made our way to the nearby woodland memorial. We had time here, too, to tidy up litter left by thoughtless visitors and to photograph the woodland. I was able to take in the surroundings more fully this time. The place is dearly important to me.
The trip was overwhelming for many reasons. We stayed in a house overlooked by Blencathra mountain on one side and the Helvellyn range on another and visited Castlerigg stone circle three times, such was its effect on us. On each visit the weather and light were radically different, the mountains surrounding the plateau on which the circle sits subtly changed as the sun came and went. On our first visit, we were lucky enough to have D, a local Pagan, quietly impart his extensive knowledge of the place. Thank you, D.
We also travelled east to Long Meg And Her Daughters, a stone circle so big that it contains several trees and a lane runs through it. Long Meg, outside the circle but seeming to keep a protective eye on it, has a beautiful spiral carved into her side. It is entirely different to Castlerigg but a fascinating place. On our last visit we were unable to meet up with Ian Johnstone (artist/farmer/Coil affiliate and Balance’s partner) but met with him twice this time. After several years of communicating with him, it was wonderful to meet face to face and we talked at length about many, many things.
Storylandia #15 – the issue devoted to my work – is now set for publication in January 2015. This means my deadline is two months’ shorter than I originally thought, but I’m happy that it’s going ahead so soon. Four short stories and one novella are now with the editor and I’m hoping that all of these will appear in the issue. I have one story that’s near to completion but won’t be ready in time and another with an anthology editor – this feels like a good momentum to have gained.
Some writing updates: The Man Who Builds The Ruins has been with a couple of editors and was rejected immediately by both. It’s always possible that the story just isn’t up to scratch but after a lot of revision I’m extremely happy with it – perhaps it’s time to put it aside for a month or so and come back to it more objectively. If I’m still happy with it I know it will find a place somewhere. But possibly the ‘problem’ is that the piece doesn’t fit to any genre. I had to describe it for one magazine and chose ‘horror+fantasy’ (there was a list), although I’m not sure it would sit comfortably in that place. There’s a small element of horror in the story, but it could also be described as Weird/dark fantasy/slipstream. Someone once said I wrote ‘bloodstream rather than slipstream’ fiction. If one has to put a label on these things… I came up with the term ‘transgenre’ whilst working with performance poet Joelle Taylor in London – with many of the lesbian community at that time beginning to describe themselves as transgender, it seemed appropriate and supportive at the same time.
As for Rebecca Shadow and the Winter House (a title that may well change) – I’ve done a lot of work on it recently and the first draft is almost finished. The last, fairly hefty section of it, needs to be typed up, then it’ll be in a fit state to begin rewriting. After not touching the manuscript for three months while I wrote TMWBTR, I’d forgotten the pages and pages of longhand that I’d done for it. It’s in a much better state than I’d thought. I’ve read a lot lately about writers playing music while writing, and there’s a fair few that think that only silence will do – that perhaps it’s as much of a ‘false’ influence as writing while drinking or on drugs. I respect their choice; silence certainly has its place. Having the window open and hearing the repeating pattern of the chaffinch singing outside has its place, too But state of mind-changing influences of various kinds can unlock doors, if done wisely. It won’t create an imagination where there isn’t one.