Project Albatross: Sources And Influences

Reading through Project Albatross, my long-lost post-apocalyptic novel, after a gap of more than twenty-five years, is a little bit of personal time travel.


I remember where I lived when I wrote the story – which city, which house, who I shared with, what my rooms were like, and a fantastic big writing-desk that must have come from a bank.

The music I listened to, which is a major key into certain scenes, is a strong influence.

Likewise the subjects I was studying – which included a scenic diversion from European prehistory into some British archaeology up to the early Mediaeval period. (It’s no surprise that was the year I had no exams, giving me the time and mental space to write a novel.)

The locations I’d lived in and travelled by then also played their part. Poetry, art and arty films.

But it’s the books I’d read, more than anything else, which show up in my memories.

Belmarch, a slim and peculiar novel of the First Crusade by Christopher Davis, an author whose other works I never sought out.

A good handful of Aldous Huxley, from school-years study of Brave New World to his light early comedies such as Crome Yellow, via The Doors of Perception (of course) and The Devils of Loudon*.

Educational gore from Stephen King, and magical horror from Peter Straub’s Shadowland (still one of my favourite dark fantasy stories).

Madness and oddments and weird structural components from The Ring Master by David Gurr.

All of these strands surface more or less in the story, which I’m still typing up and trying to make sense of my later additions (thank you, Scrivener, for making this easy).

Once I’m finished and have the whole story to push around, it might become clear whether I ought to publish.

Or not.

More to follow on this. Not sure when.

*Having searched Goodreads for this one, I find out there is a novel on the same subject by Alexander Dumas which, of course, I must now read. #fangirl

Published in: on April 19, 2017 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on Project Albatross: Sources And Influences  
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Halfway home for a change

Halfway through the latest Petticoat Katie novel now! Seems like cheating as I’m aiming for this one to be shorter than the first three.

Dean Wesley Smith posted recently in his new Killing The Sacred Cows… series, about how novels must be a certain length. His argument outlines how the length of a novel has changed over the years, especially through the pulp fiction years when shorter works were popular, right up to stonking great doorsteps like The Shadow Of The Wind or the impenetrable 2666.

I’ve just finished re-reading H. Rider Haggard’s Nada The Lily from 1892, and always thought of Haggard as a writer of fairly short punchy adventure novels. Turns out I was wrong – Nada comes in just over 120 thousand words.

front cover image of Belmarch, by Christopher Davis

Belmarch, by Christopher Davis. My (very old) copy – the price is in shillings and pence!

But other books on my shelves are much shorter (Belmarch, for example).

Up until about twenty years ago, I seem to recall that a paperback took no more than an afternoon to flip through, and were mostly thoroughly enjoyable into the bargain.

Now, it’s a marvel if I finish a book in a month.

Most of my novels come in around 80,000 words. Some are more, but very few have a lower word count. Eighty thousand just seems like a nice fitting number to tell the story, whether that’s the Gothic mystery of SHADOWBOX and THE LAST RHINEMAIDEN or the silly steampunk of the Petticoat Katie stories.

So, back to the novel I’m currently writing. I’m aiming for sixty thousand words on this one. Trying to cut out the banter, the fluff, the silly noodlings and still come up with a viable story that trundles towards its inevitable showdown while allowing my outrageous characters to interact with the usual mayhem and peppermints.

Still seems like cheating, though.