Journey to Avebury

Photo: Julie Travis

My first trip to Avebury and the surrounding area was even more powerful than I thought it would be. The huge stone circle, which I’d first seen forty years ago in the excellent children’s tv drama Children Of The Stones, really has to be seen to be appreciated. The stones are colossal. I felt swamped by them, but not threatened. My first view of them – in sunshine, above me, as I walked along a lane through the village – was intensely emotional. As it was at the end of the week, when, in the rain, we visited them again and said goodbye. The site was quiet and there was plenty of time to spend, undisturbed, with the ancient giants. I stood in the main circle and looked up at the henge. I could visualise a line of people all along it, observers to the ceremonies taking place. I haven’t read anything to say that’s what happened, but that’s certainly what I felt. The stone avenue, leading down towards The Sanctuary, is quite majestic despite having many stones missing. Back in the village, I tried to get a sense of the multiple circles. I wasn’t aware that there were circles within the main circle, that is, until I dreamt of taking part in a ritual in such a place. The next day I saw a book which included an illustration of Avebury in its complete state and I was amazed – it was the place I had dreamt about the previous night.

Photo: West Kennet Long Barrow by Julie Travis

Nearby Silbury Hill and West Kennet Long Barrow were equally deserted, apart from a pair of swallows who flew in and out of the barrow, their calls echoing around the chamber. I was pleased to find the chamber open and freely accessible. We cleared away a few tealights left by a previous, thoughtless visitor and enjoyed the cool silence. At each of these places the overriding feeling was of peace.

Photo by Julie Travis

A day was also spent in Glastonbury, climbing the daunting Tor and recovering afterwards in the Rainbow’s End cafe. The town, which I hadn’t visited for decades, is as powerful and spiritual a place as Avebury. The trip will inevitably have an effect on my fiction – for once I didn’t take any work with me, but it’s something I never stop thinking about, and I made a few notes during the week. I was doing my best to take a quick break from writing, as it’s been so draining recently, but, a few days after my return, I’ve redrafted The Spoiler and it’s very close to being complete.

All images and text © Julie Travis, apart from the title, taken from Derek Jarman’s film.

 

Nostalgia for an age yet to come

Photo: watchmaker’s tombstone, Lydford, Devon by Julie Travis

Last week’s trip to London – to catch up with much missed friends – left me with a fresh perspective on the city I left nearly 15 years ago. The relentless nature of the place hasn’t changed, of course; I knew that however far I walked, the city would still stretch out around me, unlike Penzance, where you can stand at the top of the main road and see buildings give way to green fields and the sea. But what I was surprised at was the cleanliness of the streets in comparison with Cornwall, which looks as if its residents just don’t care about their environment and the politeness and patience of city people, despite the stress of everywhere being constantly busy. I couldn’t connect to the magickal elements of the city when I lived there, but I’m more knowledgable now, so perhaps it would be possible to do so on my next trip there. A visit to Treadwell’s Occult bookshop proved wonderfully overwhelming and will provide the setting to new story Beautiful Silver Spacesuits. I could have spent days there.

One of the friends I met up with was Andy Martin, who has been mentioned here many times. The last time I’d seen him was around 1985/86, when we recorded the 7th Apostles’ e.p. (with the Joy of Living). It was an emotional meeting for me. We spent a couple of hours talking about everything from Nazi skinheads and the Neo-folk movement to musical time signatures to childrens’ tv drama Grange Hill and listening to Unit tracks, and I bought a couple of Apostles’ LPs from the late 1980s off him. My extensive vinyl collection – including at least one of those albums – has mostly been sold over the years, but a few gems remain and to add two mint condition albums to it was very gratifying. A few days after I got home, I had an email from Andy, asking me to contribute a third story to his anthology Fast-Clean-Cheap, scheduled for publication later this year. I didn’t want to take a story from the second Wapshott Press collection, so I dug through my files and found a story that was written about ten years ago, but never submitted for publication because the content – domestic abuse – was based on my own experiences and too painful to share. It’s still a difficult read, but I thought the story was good enough that, with a bit of spit and polish, I can give it to Andy for consideration. He, of course, will make the final decision as to whether it sees the light of day. If it does, however, it’s one story I won’t be saying much about. Hopefully it will speak for itself.

I’m working on two stories simultaneously again for the Wapshott Press collection – The Spoiler is nearing completion of its first draft, and is currently 6500 words long, so may easily get to 8000 by the time it’s finished. And I’ve just begun the aforementioned Beautiful Silver Spacesuits, as well as working on the Foreword and story notes for the book. I’m beginning to feel a bit burned out now, so perhaps once these two stories are completed, it will be time to hand the thing over to Wapshott Press.

But on the other hand, if I push myself just a bit further, who knows what I could come up with…?

All images and text © Julie Travis, apart from the title, by Pauline Murray/Penetration

 

This moment is not forever

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Photo: Julie Travis

And the scales balance again…I’ve swapped stories (mine: A Fairy Ring, due to be published in Andy Martin’s Fast-Clean-Cheap anthology this year, I hope) with writer and friend, Maj Ikle, who I deeply respect for her work and everything else she does. We used to meet in East London for wired conversations about writing and I’ve had many, many constructive and inspired comments from her on my work.

The Spoiler continues in a slightly, possibly a massively different way: I had an idea to change an aspect of the story, and the story has ‘forked’ several thousand words in, so has an alternative idea currently running parallel to the original. Whether this will turn out to be a matter of choosing which path makes the final cut, or if it’s possible to keep both ideas in the final copy, is yet to make itself clear. If the latter doesn’t work in this story, then it’s something I intend to make happen in the future.

I’m very happy to announce that The Morales, a band from Devon/Dartmoor, will be using a photograph of Bodmin Gaol (seen on this website), on the cover of their forthcoming album. I checked the band out and liked what I saw, so gave them my blessing. Best wishes to them!

The backdrop to all this is Kate Bush’s live album Before The Dawn, a cd that confirms the gigs she played in London in 2014 were incredible and the descriptions of them being a ‘spiritual experience’ were not an exaggeration.

All text and images copyright Julie Travis

 

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

 

The herding call

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

I’ve now completed the first draft of Dark Fire and am over 1,000 words into a new story, Parasomnia. I’m finding it difficult to not write at the moment, despite my feelings of isolation as a writer. I suspect a great help has been the March 2016 issue of Fortean Times, a magazine I used to read regularly. This particular issue has a feature on the Occult and Fortean sides of David Bowie’s work and a piece on J G Ballard’s fascination with Ronald Reagun in the late 1960s and how controversial his mock psychological study, Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagun was when it first appeared in print. It’s another reminder of how much of an influence Ballard has been to my writing, especially when I first began in the early 1990s. I once wrote a mock airline handbook on how passengers should approach plane crashes, which sadly is long lost on a floppy disk somewhere. ‘Parasomnia’, relates to that early work in some respects, although I doubt if Ballard’s influence is obvious in the story. I want it to be a companion piece to Bedlam’s Way, a very early story of mine which was originally selected to appear in a fiction supplement in the New Statesman magazine. The supplement never appeared (with, of course, no explanation from anyone as to why) but the story was published in Saccade magazine in around 1996.

As well as using methods to get into a particular headspace for the purposes of writing, I’m finding that what I’m writing – and when reading older pieces of my fiction – is inducing strange headspaces, too. Does that mean I’m successful/a ‘good artist’? Good art, after all, is about accurately portraying whatever it is the artist wants to portray. Additionally, I’m wondering whether words have the potential to act like a Sigil, when put together in a certain order under certain conditions. At their best, I suspect so, although time will tell whether my own work achieves that in anyone other than myself.

All images and text ©Julie Travis

Mimicking the machines: the first Industrial music

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

By chance I saw a few minutes of a tv programme on dance and found out that some types of English clog dancing was invented by the women working the mechanised looms to relieve the tedium of the job. Many steps mimicked the sounds and movement of the machines. I’ve watched programmes on clog dancing before – and seen it executed wonderfully, most notably by Rachel and Becky Unthank – but had not heard how the steps came about. The original Industrial Music then, I thought – pre-dating by around a century (if my social history is right) the term coined by Peter Christopherson, then of Throbbing Gristle, to describe the sounds/noise of TG. I’ve read many interviews with him and other members of the group but have found no reference to clog dance steps so perhaps he was not aware of it but it certainly seems to reflect his own ideas about how to use sound and noise. When I was researching whether anyone in the 1970s/80s Industrial ‘scene’ had talked about mill workers in Northern England I found no reference to it, either, although contemporary sound artist Sarah Angliss had made the connection several years ago, and had written about it in 2009, even mentioning Kraftwerk and Coil. Of course, between these two eras came industrial music from the Midlands from the likes of Black Sabbath, which was labelled Heavy Metal, since the music reflected the heavy industry of the area and the lives that it dominated, but the later Industrial Music, like the clog dance steps before it, sought to mimic industrial noise more closely.

My forays onto social media are having mixed results. On the plus side, I’ve managed to connect with more writers and have made contact with a few people I’d lost touch with. On the negative side, too many people, I think, consider that clicking the ‘Like’ button on someone’s posts is a decent replacement for emailing friends. It isn’t. It may take time for me to respond to emails sometimes – or write a letter – but that’s because to do so requires the effort that my friends are worth. A few rushed words on social media is not communication. The other main problem is that Facebook feels like being in a room where so many people are shouting that my voice is either not heard or is just ignored. Not having a Smartphone means that taking photos, loading them onto the computer and then posting them anywhere again requires a lot of effort, so my posts on FB have to be considered. So I’m spending less and less time there. Some personal and professional issues of late are also making me consider whether to delete my account completely, along with this website, and retreat into the complete reclusiveness that was necessary when I first left London. A person can only be ripped off, fucked over and taken for granted so many times before they give up and walk away from it all.

On the writing front – I’ve just completed the first draft of Dark Fire. At present it’s just over 6,000 words, which is quite short for me, but is likely to grow a bit when re-drafted. I’m very pleased with it, but I may put it to one side for the time being to press on with another new story.

 

All images and text ©Julie Travis