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  • Writer's pictureBill

Kill All Your Darlings

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

First things first. The New Novel entitled Baby Doe, is now not only as a paperback available on Amazon, but also an Amazon Kindle ebook available HERE. Soon enough both will be available on all other conceivable book outlets.

The unwoke title above, frequently used by teachers of writing, has been attributed to many writers from Oscar Wilde, Hemingway, and Faulkner to Stephen King, but Wikipedia gives credit of origination to the perfectly named British writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch who wrote in his 1916 book On the Art of Writing: “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.’”

It means that writers should douse their needless and/or overwritten parts of which they are too fond,

This allows me to offer to readers (both of you) who have completed a read of Baby Doe, the "darling" description of how Sophia and Martin met. It was on an island in the Caribbean, and this scene hit the cutting room floor. Read carefully--a prize giveaway follows.

Night fell with intemperate speed. Sophia, Amy, and her parents pushed their way into a café-by-day, bar-by-night. Candles in red jars cast a roseate glow on the tables. A rotating light ball flickered onto a small dance area and reggae blasted from invisible speakers, rumbling and hissing with overpowering bass.

A wave of interest, not particularly positive, emanated from some black islanders around the tables. They stared unabashedly at Amy, smoking hot in short shorts and a tight pink T-shirt, and her companion, the ever-so-pale Sophia, both chaperoned by Amy’s parents.

Sophia took a step backward, bumping into Amy's father before they all sat down quickly at a table near the door and studied greasy drink menus held close to the candlelight. Sophia looked up and saw three white men who looked alike, seated in a corner. They raised bottles of Carib beer in salute and welcome. Boys, really, in their early twenties, all of them with long sandy hair. Sophia caught the best-looking one observing her intently, so she bent down to examine her menu again. When she glanced back, he was still watching her, smiling.

One of his companions got up to dance suggestively with an island girl. The tension of the black patrons wafted on the stifling air, redolent of cigarettes and old beer, barely moving under antiquated ceiling fans.

Amy picked out one of the island men to start dancing with, easing the atmosphere. Wherever she was, Amy sopped up every bit of attention. Men sat up like dogs sensing something in the air that could slake their desire. Unable to compete, Sophia ventured outside where it was cooler. The roar of breakers on the Atlantic side of the island mingled with trade winds riffling the Royal palms. The reggae burst out of the cafe and throbbed in the breeze, and the sea smells stirred long-ago feelings — inchoate adolescent longings that Sophia thought she had dispensed with long ago. Hugging herself as her damp skin cooled, she jumped when a jacket was slung over her shoulders.

"Go ahead. Please. I don't need it tonight. I spend summers in Michigan, where twenty degrees less than this is a balmy day." It was the guy from the bar who'd been staring at her. He was lanky, his arms, hips, and legs extending at odd angles. His long hair and horn-rimmed glasses partially obscured mild blue eyes. The thought that popped into Sophia's head shocked her: Their child would also be a blue-eyed recessive. The guy was totally at ease, holding a bottle of beer by its neck, and his resonant, deep voice surprised her.

Wishing she could be that cool, Sophia smiled. "So you guys are off that other boat in the harbor?” A question she knew, totally lacking in wit, novelty, or insight.

"Yup, three Phi Delts, terrors of the sea, pillaging and pirating our way across the carefully delimited patch of the Caribbean strictly outlined in our charter contract. I'm Martin. I chose this cruise as a pre-graduation present. We came out of Marsh Harbor three days ago, and this is the best island we've hit.”

Sophia felt Martin's look as she walked a bit ahead of him. She'd seen enough movies, heard enough from Amy to know about the minutiae of courtship rituals, what boys wanted. And she actually found herself enjoying her act, pleased that her white jeans and white sleeveless sweater, lightly blanketed by Martin's jacket, were still clean after the day on the boat.

"Have you walked out to the lighthouse yet?" he asked.

"No," she said, as he caught up with her. "We just got in. Had supper on the boat before we came ashore to see the lights of the big city and try the nightlife. Not my scene, exactly."

"Me neither. I'm more a walker and a talker. My frat brothers are the winkers and the drinkers.” He took a last gulp of his beer and tossed it towards a trash barrel. It missed. "Since I'm almost a native, let me show you around."

The nocturnal warmth stirred by the trade winds softened some of Sophia's defenses as they strolled through the village center. From behind darkened shops, the fragrance of exotic fruit trees and jasmine enveloped them. They exchanged the facts: she was a junior at Radcliffe majoring in biochemistry; he'd just graduated from Amherst and was planning to enter the Ph.D. program in English at Boston University. "It's a worthless academic pursuit," he said, "but better than the alternative.” Though Nixon had begun to pull troops out of Vietnam, the draft was still on.

Past the town center, they wandered down to a semicircular beach at the south side of the island. Sophia listened to his baritone meld with the surf sounds as a few distinct words reached her: Boston, graduate programs, how he liked volunteer tutoring. Something tingled deep inside her. She felt amused and anxious and just a bit surprised.

The 100-foot Montara lighthouse, which Sophia, with her mild sea sickness, had been hoping to reach for most of the day, towered above them, and of course they climbed the circular staircase. Breathless and starting to feel wobbly on the narrow skeletal catwalk around the glassed beacon, Sophia reached for Martin's hand. The light of a fat moon glittered, reflected on the sea: a silvery highway angling away from them into infinity.

"Hey mon, now get down off of there!" The voice, disembodied, came to them out of the darkness below.

They both giggled, and Martin pulled Sophia around to the opposite side of the lighthouse. There in the light, its candlepower magnified by the Fresnel lens, Sophia found herself enveloped in Martin's arms.

"We understood her," he quoted, his smiling face inches from hers.

"By her sight; her pure and eloquent blood,

Spoke in her cheeks, and so distinctly wrought,

That one might almost say her body thought."

Sophia kissed him, her eagerness blindingly illuminated at 12-second intervals.

CONTEST! I've been reading up on marketing, and contests seem to be the thing, So the first person (in US or Canada) who accurately answers the following question in the next month will receive a free ($15.99!) Baby Doe paperback. Here's the question: how is Martin's hair described differently in the published novel compared with the description above? Send me an email via the website with your answer, one per person, no multiple entries. If you're the winner, I'll request your mailing address and send you a copy of Baby Doe. Geez. For this tiny contest the rules seem like they were written by a lawyer!

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