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.

 

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Twenty-three and a half degrees

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

The Winter Solstice is upon us again and yesterday’s Montol celebration in Penzance was overflowing with wonderful weirdness. We walked up Chapel Street to the sound of the darkest Samba drumming I’ve ever heard and were face to face with fire dancers. I laughed at the complete failure of the powers that be who have done their damnedest to sanitise this festival and purge it of any Pagan elements – the crowd were wearing antlers, goat horns, fox masks, ivy. Best of all was the massive female energy of the dancers and much of the audience. It was incredibly powerful, emotional and positive. Once again I don’t recollect seeing any children sacrificed during the proceedings.

A Fairy Ring is finished now, I think – or, rather, it’s in a place where I can’t add any more to it; it’s been emotionally gruelling to write. I hope it will be similar to read. I’m about to send it to Andy Martin, who as editor has the final say as to whether he includes it in the anthology.

In a statement of the blindingly obvious – but it must be said due to a recent incident where someone chose to use a photograph of mine on their blog without crediting it to me or even bothering to ask if it was okay to do so – please assume that ALL photographs are taken by myself unless credited otherwise and are NOT available to use without permission. Drop me an email if you want to use something and as long as it’s credited to me and your site isn’t objectionable, then I’m very likely to say ‘yes’. Had this person done so, all would have been well. As it was, he refused to either apologise or take any responsibility, instead stating it was my own fault that he stole a photograph because I hadn’t expressly credited it as my own work. It should also go without saying that any written material cannot be used without permission but sadly I need to make this clear. I had hoped never to have to write this kind of thing – having credited anyone who reads blog this with the intelligence to have worked all this out for themselves. Such is the world we live in.

Low Winter sun

Castlerigg Plaque

As 2014ce edges towards a close, it seems a good time to do a bit of an update on various writings and projects:

New Zealand based fantasy writer Lynne Jamneck is editing a collection of Lovecraftian stories written by women, to be published as Dreams From The Witch House by Dark Regions Press in 2015, with a clear emphasis on diversity as regards sexual orientation and ethnicity of the authors. This is the kind of thing I really want to be involved in, so I sent her The Man Who Builds The Ruins – probably the closest to ‘Lovecraftian’ writing I’ve done. This weekend I heard that the story passed the first reading round. Still a long way to go, I know, and a couple/few months of awaiting news, but I’m much cheered by this, and reading a bit about Jamneck, who has a huge interest in science and magick/the occult, has made me even more keen to be involved. Writing is solitary – which is partly why it suits me so much – but the isolation, the sense of operating in a complete vacuum, can become overwhelming at times. One shouldn’t write/create to please others, and I don’t, but if someone else is sympathetic or gets what I’m doing, it’s a huge bonus.

The running order for my short story collection in Storylandia #15 has now been set. Coincidentally (or not), the order I put them in turned out to be alphabetical, and also the same as editor Ginger Mayerson had listed them. At her request, I sent her some photographs I took many years ago, and it is quite possible that one of them will be used for the journal’s cover. If so, it’ll be the first photography I’ve had published since some shots (from Highgate Cemetery and a Swiss forest) appeared in Night Mail art fanzine in the early 1990s.

More stories are on the way: In Holes And Corners needs some more adjustments, more in the way of place names than anything else. The story is set in Camborne but I may invent a town name, one that’s a little more lyrical. Pig Iron has now been (very sketchily) sketched out and is progressing well and I have notes on two more stories to work on next year, which don’t have working titles yet, but both ideas are promising. Completion, a story began earlier this year, is on the back burner for now, until the way forward with it becomes more apparent. Ironically, it may never be completed!

Meanwhile, I look forward to the Montol celebration in Penzance on the Winter Solstice. As one of the masked participants gleefully said last year, “All the oddballs come out for this one.” I need to connect, even at a distance, with the more strange elements of the area. It’s reassuring.

Death is the beginning of something

Brentor Church Sign

The Ferocious Night: In January of 2011, I was walking on the beach at Marazion in West Cornwall and came across the body of a decapitated seal pup. After I’d got over the initial gruesomeness of the find, I was interested to see how, in death, the body appeared to be transforming into something else entirely. It was a strange time: two friends were diagnosed with cancer. Death seemed to be hovering nearby. I listened to Coil’s Horse Rotorvator album and paid particular attention to the track The Golden Section. How would a person approach Death? And how would Death approach a person? A local procession band – the Montol or Turkey Rhubarb Band – would appear at Penzance’s Winter Solstice celebration, dressed in black rags and masks, playing a dirge of a tune. They were perfect for the story and so were included (although, sadly, their musicianship has improved since I first saw them – it takes the edge off their performance). The story was originally called The Moth And The Flame, but The Ferocious Night seemed more suitable. After all, I don’t believe that Death is a passive Nothingness. And we don’t all die quietly.

The two stories published in Storylandia both begin with a question. These are (probably) the only stories I’ve ever begun in this way, and as far as I’m aware it’s purely coincidental (if such a thing exists) that this has occurred; the JT issue due for publication next year should have four or five new stories/novellas in it and none of them begin in this way. Perhaps I should edit them so that they do!

 

The Ferocious Night is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Molly Marie Haynes (1940 – 2013).

At the death of 2013CE

UNIT cd cover

As 2013 – a year where utter disaster has rocked myself and almost everyone around me – shudders its last, a few plans are showing progress. First of all, as the photo above shows, UNIT’s new album, The Colours of Life, has just been released. It includes the reworked version of The Wasteland mentioned here a while back, a track which appeared on The Apostles/The Joy of Living e.p. Death To Wacky Pop, which appeared back in 1986, plus the bird photographs that I have recently taken for the band.

I am currently in the process of conducting an interview by email of Ellyott Ben Ezzer, which may appear in Curve magazine. The feature will focus on Ellyott’s impressive solo album, 5772, released in May 2013. The article is already part-written, as I have been familiar with Ellyott’s work for many years, and I’m looking forward to completing it. As far as fiction is concerned, Rebecca Shadow is being extensively re-written in order to base it closer to home (in every respect) – fantastique things happening in the deprived ex-industrial heartland of Cornwall is more exciting and relevant to me than having them happen a step away from the world (or this one, at any rate).

Penzance at 4.51 pm, Winter Solstice 2013

Penzance at 4.51 pm, Winter Solstice 2013

Back in 2002, I attended an event by most of the anarchist punk band Crass at
the South Bank, London. For the sake of completion, I have included a link to Barbelith Webzine, which published the review I wrote just after the event.

“Magic prefers circles”*

Troy Books has just published the memoirs/guide to witching by West Penwith witch/wise woman Cassandra Latham Jones. I haven’t read it yet but it’s something I must get hold of. Cassandra led the main parade at Mazey Day for many years, casting a spell for good weather and was teazer for Penglaz at the Montol (Winter Solstice) festival in Penzance. It should be a fascinating insight into modern witchcraft. Hallowe’en is approaching and year by year the real meaning drifts a little further away. The de-Paganing of the event, to the extent that it’s just a fun night for children to dress up as their favourite horror/Harry Potter character and collect sweets, is sad and frustrating. Cassandra’s book would be a far better ‘treat’ gift!

Little People's stone circle

On a recent trip, taking an old friend to Boscawen-Un stone circle near Crows-an-Wra, we found what seems to be another sacred site. Not noted anywhere, but recently cleared, it resembles a burial site of some kind, with a tiny stone circle. The photo above shows the nine stones but not the scale – it’s just a few feet across. What it actually is and when it was created is something I’ve yet to find out, but the ‘vibe’ at the place is amazingly calm and peaceful, the energy even better than at the nearby site.

POST SCRIPT (30 Oct): The comment by Troy Books includes a link to The Megalithic Portal, which has some details: the site is Creeg Tol, a natural rock formation. The stone circle is generally agreed to be reasonably recent, but no one seems to know any more than that. The vibe at the site, especially before it was cleared, is also generally agreed to be quite horrendous. People talk of being watched from the hole in the rocks. I’ll be going back there soon to check it out in more detail.

* Tallis Zawn, Launceston, Cornwall, 2010

Three rings of atoms: writing update

Chun Quoit

I have it! I have the book.

I finally got hold of Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker but have allowed myself only to read one page. It has a smattering of humour but no trace of whimsy – yet. I’m halfway through Daughters of Fire and must finish it. It’s very different to the fiction I usually read (and any fiction is different to what I usually read). I’d say it was lighter, but much of it concerns pre-Roman Britain and some very spiritual stuff concerning Celtic beliefs regarding death and the soul. So perhaps the style is lighter (and therefore much more commercially successful) but the subject matter is not. It seems Barbara Erskine experienced quite a spiritual awakening while she was researching/writing it. I haven’t interviewed anyone for years now but if she were to visit Cornwall I think I’d make an exception and join the queue on the phone line to her agent.

After a couple of days away from Everything amongst the sand dunes on the other side of the peninsular, I’m organising myself to hopefully continue the momentum that’s built up over this year. I’m almost finished on a final run through of The Falling Man – more tweaking than I thought still to do – because I want to get it out to a magazine this week. My newest story, Pieces, is changing as I write it. Not in the general premise, but some of the detail needs to be more… apocalyptic. Blame the presence of a new Barker book in the house for that, plus Coil’s Winter Solstice: North continually playing in the background. And after some thought and encouragement from various people, I’m going to start work on part 2 of the Darkworlds story (currently on this website’s ‘Short Story’ section). My life is very different to when I began writing the original, so I’m not totally convinced of how successful it will be, but it feel like the right thing to do to try.

And how is Kzine faring, I wonder? I have no idea how popular Kindle is, either with writers or readers. The price of buying the magazine is certainly extremely good value although I notice version two of Kindle is already available.

A look at the outside world has me remembering some of the things that I miss about London. Strange events happen here but we don’t have Daniel O’Sullivan leading a procession of bricks made by Serena Korda out of the dust of dead folk. This is just the kind of thing I’d have gone to were I still ‘living’ there. And I’m not sure where he’s currently located (Spain, perhaps?) but Ian Johnstone is doing new work and performances. I dearly wish I could be present at something of his.