Mme. Gargoyle is most pleased

So much has been happening here that it’s difficult to know where to start, but perhaps I should open with my absolute delight at hearing ‘Widdershins’ by Hawthonn, an amazing ambient/drone duo from Leeds, England. Some time ago Layla and Phil Legard told me they were intending to write a piece based on my story Widdershins, (Storylandia 15). This was recorded recently (with Rory Scammell providing hurdy-gurdy drones), both in the studio and using field recordings and the finished result will be released as part of the Hooklands project on the weekend before Christmas/of the Winter Solstice. The track is an extremely evocative and Otherworldy experience which has me in goosebumps every time I listen to it. More details on the track/release to follow.

Work on the ‘zine for Dead Unicorn Ventures is progressing well – pages of art (a real struggle/learning curve for such a non-artist as myself) and a comic strip are being worked on and we’re hoping to interview The Tribunes (the local band who will be playing Swallow Your Pride in July 2019) soon, as well as plans for some other features that I won’t reveal for now but will be very exciting if they come together. We’ve also been talking to Footprinters, a workers’ co-operative also based in Leeds, who will be printing the ‘zine, about costs and colours and I can safely say that our colour scheme will be extremely distinctive and eye catching! We still haven’t agreed upon a title, but we’ll get there.

Meanwhile, work on my latest short story, Sky Eyes, is inching forward. Fiction is a place I need to go to on a regular basis and of course it requires an entirely different headspace to the ‘zine or anything else I’m doing, but progress continues, however slowly. The project I collaborated on during the Spring and Summer is still marked confidential, and has been delayed, but I am hoping for news soon and an announcement will follow as soon as possible.

All 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

 

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

 

Major writing news

Black Static 53 cover

It’s been an incredibly hectic couple of weeks. As you can see, Black Static #53 is out and includes a comprehensive review of Storylandia 15, as well as a load of great looking reading. Peter Tennant comparies the collection to the likes of Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood as well as Clive Barker, and highly recommends it. Illustrious company indeed! Many thanks to Peter for taking the time to do this. I so often operate in a vacuum, it’s extremely interesting and helpful to get an idea of what other people think of what I do. Do I need this kind of validation? As much as anyone else does – I yo-yo between brimming confidence and wild self-doubt, and I was a bit concerned that some of what I now write is just simply inaccessible to the rest of the world.

Following on from the review, I’ve been interviewed by Peter for Case Notes on the TTA Press website. He asked some good questions and I gave some very honest answers. When I first began writing, one of my ultimate goals was to be interviewed. Twenty-three years later, it’s actually happened! (as a writer – I’ve been interviewed as a musician and as a political activist). Of course, what I really meant was that I needed to be heard and taken seriously and the writing provides its own voice. The interview will either get people very interested in what I do or will send them running for the hills.

Andy Martin’s anthology, Fast-Clean-Cheap, is now at the proof-reading stage and is due to be published in September this year by Lulu. It’s likely to be an eclectic collection, with my two pieces probably the only ones inthe horror/dark fantasy vein. Expect the unexpected from Andy!

Finally, I’m very happy to announce that Wapshott Press have asked me to do a second short story collection, for release around the end of 2017. I’ve two or three stories already completed for it, plus a few tricks up my sleeve regarding some older (almost unseen by anyone else) work and two or three new stories to write for it in the next year. The working title for the collection is We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth, and I have some thoughts for the book’s cover, too. Once again I have to thank Ginger Mayerson and all at Wapshott Press for such amazing support and faith.

All text ©Julie Travis

Meet me on a desertshore

074

When I began this blog, it was with the intention of being ‘findable’ for anyone interested in my writing. However, after much thought and after browsing a few other writers’ websites (in the main that of Priya Sharma – with apologies/thanks for somewhat borrowing her format) it seems a good idea to expand a little and add a few story excerpts for casual passers-by, so I’m going to be adding an excerpts page as a permanent feature, that will be updated to eventually include most of my published work. A piece of non-fiction (The Cornish Witch) has been available for some time but the link to Cross Bound, which appeared in a webzine, has been removed in lieu of it being available in physical form next year.

Some very kind words for Storylandia 15: Collected Stories By Julie Travis from Utherben, who is an excellent psychogeographic photographer from New York City, on her website:

Face The Strange: All She Had Was The Blood On Her Hand

Earlier this month Wapshott Press released Storylandia 15; the featured author this time around is the phantasmagorically fabulous Julie Travis, with five tales of atmospheric, vibrant and thought-provoking slipstream horror. Her work is terrific, in that it’s both well-crafted and inspires absolute terror. She’s been included in in various anthologies, and she’s done some self-publishing, but as far as I know this is the first literary journal issue specifically dedicated to her work…and I’m seriously fucking proud of her. Rock on, Julie!

Thanks, Utherben. While I’m on the review trail, I’ll add here an excerpt of a review by Peter Tennant of the 2008 Pigasus Press anthology Premonitions: Causes For Alarm which appeared in Black Static #9:

…‘Darkworlds’ by Julie Travis was my favourite story. It brings to mind both Barker’s Cenobites and the King/Straub collaborations in a tale of creatures from other realms entering our own and defeating the plan of a bureaucrat to take their dimensions as lebensraum. It’s clever, with good characterisation and a gratifying pair of monsters in the Torquis and Yellow Jack. Travis knows how to pitch a telling phrase at the reader and she doesn’t shirk from describing the more horrific aspects of the story, while back of it all is the sense that there is a lot more mileage to be got from this scenario and these characters. I hope Travis follows up.

This is relevant because it was mainly because of this review that ideas for a second part (of sorts) of the story began to take shape, and emerged a few years later as Theophany, which is included in SL 15. Thanks to Peter for his encouragement over the years.

Pig Iron is now in its third draft. The story, over 9000 words long, has taken a stupidly short amount of time to write and I expect to finish it soon. Then I’ll be in a position to return to The Hidden (which has taken a stupidly long time to write) and make the final changes that it needs. Leaving stories alone for a while can be the best thing you can do in order to to gain perspective.

Cross Bound to be made available in physical format

Mulfra Thru Grass

Ridiculously prolific musician and writer Andy Martin is having several more books published, one of which is an anthology that he has invited me to contribute a story to. Cross Bound, a story only available online in Aphelion webzine’s September 2011/February 2012 (best of year) issues, is at 14,000 or so words, a long read on a computer screen, so this will be included in the anthology. Perhaps I am also quite old-fashioned in that I do prefer physical to digital art! Anyway, I’m delighted to have been asked to contribute. The story has had a few tweaks in terms of making parts of the prose more fluid, but the story hasn’t been altered. The anthology is due to be published in 2016.

Andy has also remastered all of The Apostles’ singles and several of their albums, ready for cd release on BBP later this year. He’s sent me the remastered Apostles’ 7th single, Death To Wacky Pop, which was recorded with my band The Joy of Living, nearly thirty years ago, and it does sound a little beefier than the version that appeared on the Mortarhate Records compilation cd a few years back. He also described two of JoL’s songs, Regime Of Kindness and A Walk With Love And Death as ‘superb pop songs’ and wants to record them with his current band, UNIT. Can’t wait to hear them!

Feedback to Storylandia 15: The Julie Travis Collection has so far been positive, but no reviews have yet appeared, so it’s difficult to tell how it’s being received. I’m very aware that I have long since left behind the shock and gore of my early writing and perhaps am wandering around the slipstream genre even more than before. I have no idea what kind of person might like what I write these days. The copies I sent to two local radio stations have been met with deafening silence, but since BBC Radio Cornwall has described the tv adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell as ‘too weird’, they’re hardly likely to embrace my stories. Meanwhile, after a week walking and discovering more megalithic sites on the Isles of Scilly, I’m still trying to come to terms with the disastrous result of the General Election. I’ll be back working on Pig Iron very soon.

Mandragora swallows the moon

006

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.

Grave Goods

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.

Scar Tissue

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.

Theophany

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.

Widdershins

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.

Storylandia 15: Collected Stories By Julie Travis

Storylandia 15 Front

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.

Storylandia 15 Back