I shall look into the Eye of the storm

Wistman Spiral 1

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?

Haytor 1

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.

Tattoo 2 Swarming Shapes

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.

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If it goes any faster there’ll be an astral disaster

Rough Tor with Showery Tor in the foreground, Cornwall

Tales From The River Vol 2 has sadly not yet been published, despite its anticipated release date of 22 September. Enquires are being made as to when the anthology will be available. Volume 1, I’m told, contains some extremely good stories, so I’m being patient. Storylandia 7 is now on sale, both in physical and Kindle formats. Initial feedback is very positive (although I’ve yet to see the magazine myself) – The Falling Man has been compared to Edgar Allan Poe’s stories, which is a huge compliment. I suppose its setting does lend itself to the Gothic horror I read as a child, although that was not my conscious intention when I was writing it. I’ve had a proper look through Angel Wing, which must be fifteen or more years old, and have found two useable paragraphs; the ending may prove to be a suitable beginning to what is probably going to be a horror-archaeology story. This is something I know M R James specialised in, and I won’t pretend to be anywhere near his academic breeding (despite my obsession with musty, old reference books!). More a modern, working-class take on a profession which has become a little more accessible since James’ day. And I’m thinking of doing a couple of interviews (for what or whom I don’t yet know), the first in many years. The interviewees – an artist and an ambient musician – haven’t yet been approached and may well decline, but I feel each has a lot worth sharing. I was tempted to interview Coil back in 2002 and felt somehow not worthy. The chance of course has now gone forever and I don’t want to make the same mistake again.

Someone recently asked me whether my totemic animal was the tiger, after seeing my first tattoo (a colourful Chinese tiger) and I had to admit that it wasn’t – the tattoo was picked instinctively, and began life as a panther before Kevin the tattooist added the stripes and colours freehand. It would seem to me, that the starling would fit the bill of totemic animal: several incredibly powerful dreams involving huge flocks of the bird would point to this. Two dreams on consecutive nights, however, have pointed in a different direction; after seeing a documentary about how the asteroids that hit Earth millions of years ago possibly contained ice, and therefore brought water – life – to the planet, the connection to the stars that Cosmic Geomancers believe in makes even more sense to me. The first dream had me in a wood, looking across at the moon, which was so close to the Earth that I could see it in detail as it rotated. I was lifted above the trees and began to circle around them, and was offered the Universe to travel around. This – which I assumed was Death – was too huge a prospect and I refused and was lowered to the ground. The next night I was asked the same question. More prepared, I accepted, and hurtled towards the stars at incredible speed. Is this what awaits me when I die? I hope so.

Julie Travis, West Penwith, Autumn Equinox 2012 CE

Magickal ink: the 23rd post

I got my first tattoo on my 18th birthday, from Dennis Cockell’s studio, which was then (1985) in the Finchley Road. I knew I wanted to mark my official passage into adulthood, but I only had a vague idea of what to have done. I settled on a Chinese style tiger. The tattooist, Kevin, used the outline of a panther and drew the stripes in freehand. I told him to use every colour he had available, and for years it was a beautiful mass of yellow, orange, black and red. The colours faded over the years, of course, and at one time I was tempted to have it redone, but decided against it – after all, it was a signpost to my 18 year old self. I later noticed that Kathy Acker had a very similar piece, done at the same studio. I was in good company.

Not long after I came out (1994/5ish) I had my left thumb tattooed. A tattooist at Sacred Art in Stoke Newington did a freehand image in black ink, which looks like a cross between a piece of jewellery and an insect hugging my thumb.

My third tattoo is my favourite. It’s also the most powerful one I have. I had moved deeper into Hackney and life was getting heavy there – homophobic attacks were on the increase and there were regular shootings over drug turf. I needed some protection. The Helm of Awe was a fairly natural choice; it’s a striking image, an extremely powerful symbol originally used by Viking warriors, as protection, to induce fear in the enemy and also, I believe, as a compass. I added an eye at the centre to further enforce the reflection of the bad energy that was flowing around the streets. Steve at Into You tattoo studio in Clerkenwell took my scrawled drawing and turned it into what you see in the photo. It was he who added the glint in the eye.

Helm of Awe with central eye

The finished piece, on the top of my left arm, had an incredible affect on me. It took me some time to get used to the power of it. I could clearly see a projection of the tattoo some inches away from my arm and the blue-white shield it cast all around me. Bad energy flowed around, instead of through, me.

Spiral and sea water

I had a fourth tattoo done by Beth at Shoreline in St Ives when I moved to Cornwall. It was a celebratory piece; three spirals surrounded by splashes of sea water. Placed on the top of my right arm, it nicely balances the fierce Helm of Awe. It signifies a more peaceful era of my life.

Photos by Teresa Knight

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.