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.

In memoriam: Ginger Mayerson

I’m shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Ginger Mayerson on March 26 of lung cancer. Ginger was a musician and a writer but it was as a publisher that I came to know her. She published various journals under the Wapshott Press umbrella and my story The Falling Man appeared in her literary journal Storylandia back in 2012. It was the start of a very fruitful working relationship; she believed in my writing to such an extent that she published another story of mine in a later issue of Storylandia then asked me to put together a collection for a single author issue of the journal, followed by a second collection which she published in book form and she’d recently asked me to put a further collection together as well as editing an anthology. I never met her face to face – we joked about how I should go to her hometown of Los Angeles for a book launch, basically an excuse to drink cocktails on the beach. We emailed a lot and discussed politics as well as writing and publishing.

I don’t know what the future holds for Wapshott Press, I hope it can continue in some form, but it’s too soon for any decisions to have been made. I’m too shocked to say any more right now; I considered her a friend and it’s difficult to take in that she’s gone. We had our ups and downs, but her support was absolute and I feel blessed for our paths having crossed. My thoughts are with her loved ones.

Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality

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Photo: Julie Travis

We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth has been getting some extremely positive reviews and feedback. Author Tom Adams describes it as an “enchanting collection…reminiscent of the best that authors such as Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick or Robert Aickman can offer,” while author Priya Sharma states it has “the same bold surrealness….of Leonora Carrington. It’s utterly strange and beguiling”. Bearing in mind how much of my work has been overlooked by reviewers in the past (with some notable exceptions), it’s certainly been overwhelming to find this reaction. Additionally, Andy Martin has recorded an audio version of Beautiful Silver Spacesuits and uploaded it (in Parts 1 and 2) on YouTube. I think he’s done a grand job – the sound effects give it a very 1970s radio feel – and I’m grateful to him for the effort he’s put into this.

Vastarien has had a good reception, from what I can tell, with Des Lewis stating my contribution, Trigger, is “unique, I suspect”! And I hope to be able to make an announcement about a major project, due in the Autumn, soon.

Text and images © Julie Travis except where stated and in the title of this piece, which is from Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

 

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!

Things passed on the way to oblivion

Photo: Julie Travis

Happy Samhain!

I’m very pleased to announce that Canadian anthology of women’s horror Killing It Softly 2 has now been published by Digital Fiction. It contains 38 stories, including one of mine – Blue, which originally appeared in issue 1 of Kzine – in the Cognitive Deception section, which is extremely appropriate given the content. It is available initially on Kindle (for 99p until the end of October), and other eBook formats with the paperback being published in the next couple of weeks. I haven’t read any of the other stories, and am not familiar with the other authors, so I’m looking forward to getting hold of this.

Andy Martin’s anthology Fast-Clean-Cheap should be available now, but there seems to be a last minute hitch with publishers Lulu and it will appear very soon, I’m told. As previously stated, this one contains three stories, two of which are probably the heaviest, emotionally, I’ve ever written. More details about this as soon as I’m sure the book exists!

Wapshott Press are also calling my second short story collection, We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth, a ‘done deal’, despite them not yet having read the nine stories submitted! This shows incredible faith in my work and it’s hugely appreciated.

Meanwhile, I’ve working on a new story, Tomorrow, When I Was Young, both here in Penwith and during the week I was on Dartmoor recently. It’s over 7300 words long and should hit the 8000 word mark by the end of the first draft. It’s a more fantastic tale than I usually write, involving time travel, gender fluidity and contact with the dead. With the book finished, I have no idea of who or where to send this to when it’s eventually completed. New horizons are necessary.

Away from writing (as much as is possible); I had the wonderful but bizarre experience of hearing Throbbing Gristle’s Hamburger Lady on the radio yesterday evening, as part of Radio 6 Music’s Samhain/scary songs special. It was unexpected and the radio was on at quite high volume; the effect was extraordinary. The area around where the Third Eye’s located felt as if it had swelled and I had the sensation of my head leaving my body. Job done, as far as TG would be concerned, I’m sure. But it does mean that I must get hold of DOA, which contains the track, as it will have various uses, writing and otherwise. The last time something profound happened regarding my Third Eye was during a group meditation several years ago, led by Pam Masterson, sadly no longer with us. I’ve discussed this experience here before, but basically it involved the feeling that my forehead had swung open and a ball of light flooded out. I contacted Pam about this and was going to do some meditation with her, but lack of money made it impossible.

On the subject of Radio 6 Music (a BBC digital station), I appeared on the Steve Lamacq show on Thursday, 19 October, on the Good Day, Bad Day section. I was able to talk self-indulgently about my favourite music, first gig I’d attended, favourite gig and my past as a ‘musician’. He was also kind enough to mention my website and played my ‘good day’ record, which was State Control by the Poison Girls.

 

All images and text © Julie Travis, apart from the title (from a story by Joyce Carol Oates) and front cover of Killing It Softly 2, copyright Digital Fiction.

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’.

 

Transition metal

Photo: Julie Travis

A few updates to note: regarding the second short story collection – March Of The Marvellous is now in its second draft. It’s one of those stories that virtually wrote itself – it was just a matter of writing it down as quickly as possible. It’s somewhat different in tone to the rest of the stories in the collection, being more of a dark fantasy with social/political undertones. And a nasty ending. Saying that, the last story for the collection, Beautiful Silver Spacesuits, has a political backdrop but in contrast is proving incredibly difficult to write. Some stories are just like that, for me at any rate. But progress is still being made, and everything else is almost ready to send to the publisher.

The Killing It Softly 2 anthology is progressing well. It’s going to be a huge book – forty stories long – with a couple of big names signed up. Being so removed from what is, I suppose, my ‘peer group’, the other authors are unfamiliar to me, so this will be a good chance to see what other female horror (ish!) writers are coming up with. Due to the size of the book, the stories have been split into four sections, with mine coming in the third: Another Space, Another Time/Monster Party/Cognitive Deception/The Changed And The Undead. This gives some real cohesion to the book, I think, and my story, Blue, fits extremely well under its heading. Promotional work is beginning to be put together for this publication, and I have already submitted a short bio and an ethereal photo of myself. I’m using the term ‘Transgenre’ to describe my writing, a hark back to an event with performance poet Joelle Taylor many years ago in London. The term is a respectful nod to the huge discussions taking place at the time about Transgender issues.

In a surprising turn of events, I have heard from Diva magazine – they still want to do a feature on the Rebel Dykes film, and they still want me to write it. The release date for the film is some time next year, so when this will happen and what form it will take, I don’t know. There has been a lot going on behind the scenes with this – as I indicated in my last post – so I expect this to (continue to) be a long and bumpy ride.

All images and text © Julie Travis

 

The place where all the starlings meet

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Photo by Julie Travis

I’ve been talking to Ginger Mayerson of Wapshott Press and a few things about the new collection are now more or less settled. The title will be We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth and should contain either seven or eight stories. After a week away at Avebury, I’m now back working on the last two stories – Beautiful Silver Spacesuits and March Of The Marvellous. ‘March…’ will be rather different to the rest of the stories – it began as an excerpt from my first novel The Gathering, which still needs a huge amount of work on it, but the piece is being developed into a stand-alone story. The original idea is probably the best part of a decade old, but it’s always been waiting in the wings to hopefully see the light of day.

As for the proposed feature on the film Rebel Dykes for Diva magazine – the film still needs funds in order to be finished and released, which I dearly hope will happen eventually. The story behind the feature is quite a farce, however, where I suspect I’ve suffered both ageism and disablism at the hands of one person involved in the film’s production. Diva’s editor recently left the magazine and to date the Deputy Editor has not responded to my email about the feature. I may name names and tell the full story at some point, but I now have no idea whether this feature will ever be written. I send my best wishes to everyone else involved in the film.

All images and text © Julie Travis