Sunday, March 30, 2014

Killing off the Darlings

The rather lovely cover at the left is one that will never grace a book of mine. I had to kill it when I realized it was not my character the midwife Mariel Frasier shown in the picture who was avenged in 1603, but the Queen of Scots, and to a large degree, the dead queen of my novel was avenged through the acts of the same young Scottish woman who has commandeered my computer and reuses to give it back, the redoubtable and fictional  Daisy Kirkcaldy, daughter of the Knight of Grange, who is letting me have my laptop back long enough to write this post, on the condition that I write her out of the mess she has created for herself in my work in progress In the Shadow of the Gallows.  She is giving me to the end of 2014 to do it.

There is a well known saying in the world of publishing and writing, "Kill your darlings."  The saying is generally attributed to William Faulkner, and it suggests that an author excise those little personal anecdotes that creep into his work.  Killing them is painful.  Here is one of mine cut out of my historical mystery fantasy (an awkward  mix of genres), The Green Woman, coming soon to wherever odd books written effortlessly are sold. Daisy is letting me tell you about it since she is by nature curious and has no idea why anyone would eat tomatoes since they are a variety of nightshade introduced to Scotland in 1590 by a barber, thought to be moderately poisonous and only good  for use as table decorations.  Hence, she is allowing me to share what I have cut out of my fantasy -adventure  The Green Woman, which she assures  me is too phantasmagorical to ever make it as a novel, although she rather likes the idea that my protagonist can throw a Jed Axe and hit her target.

When I was his age, eggs came in cardboard egg-crates and milk came in waxed cartons, and the farms were in Pleasanton and their product trucked south by Safeway and Vons,  all except tomatoes.
There was a different dynamic when it came to trucking tomatoes.
  I had discovered from driving up and down the mighty Golden State Highway #5 that all tomatoes grown in the Imperial Valley near the Mexican border were trucked to San Jose, and all of the tomatoes grown in Salinas and the San Joaquin Valley were trucked south to Bakersfield and points south.  I learned that half of the tomatoes trucked north ended up in Pleasanton where they were trucked south to Los Angeles and made into salsa. 
 I looked at my half-uneaten sandwich and inspected something that looked very much like a slice from a California Beefsteak tomato and I asked Willie where the tomatoes in Scotland came from.
“The big farms grow ‘em in greenhouses or poly tunnels but the small farmers grow ‘em outdoors and sell ‘em at stands along the road during the summertime or in the local markets.  The BBC’s very big on growin’ tomatoes.”
Since I was fairly certain that the BBC was not in the business of growing tomatoes, I presumed they had a garden hour when they were not promoting  chauvinistic rants by David Starkey.  
“But the ones  grown near Glasgow-- Do they get shipped to Aberdeen?”
“Why would a body want to do anything as dumb as that?”
Perhaps the legends were all wrong and growing up on the Borders was far less stifling than growing up in the Southern California suburban sprawl.  My study of the migration of the California Roma had yielded naught.  On second thought, perhaps not entirely naught: at least I have a feel for where ketchup comes from.

The inspiration for this  personal insight of mine  came from our trips back and forth to Chico when our son Russ and wife 'Cio were experimenting with going to university.  During tomato season the off-ramps were littered with all kinds of fresh vegetables.  If I happened to be hungry, we would stop.  The Romas were the least likely to be squashed and were easily washed from the roadside grime without bruising their tougher skins.  Every now and then an entire truck of them would dump.  With luck, an occasional onion truck would contribute to the roadside salsa.  It was then that I noticed the phenomena existed on both sides of the road.  Yes, northern tomatoes were headed south.  To find garlic for the salsa, the best bet was to head west at Gilroy where they grow garlic on the shores of Monterey Bay.  You know you are close to your treasure trove when you can smell it before you see it.  But if your preference in vegetables happens to be sugar beets, the Golden State is not the answer. You need to follow the south bound tomato trucks into the Imperial Valley, and before you hit Highway 8, you will find giant sugar beets on the shoulders of both sides of the road.  So now, the reader knows that ketchup started out as road kill, a fascinating bit of trivia but not necessary to my plot line in a novel about a female historical fiction writer who is either hallucinating or has fallen down Alice's legendary rabbit hole and ended up in early 17th century Scotland. 

This is not the only darling I have  killed.  In my mammoth (too mammoth, perhaps) epic The Last Knight and the Queen of Scots, I excised an entire love-and-betrayal relationship between Kirkcaldy and a German servant in Dover Castle named Grethe.  Even then, the book topped at 712 pages.  Sometimes mercy killing is not quite so controversial after all.  But for Grethe, the killing was permanent.  The early versions of Last Knight were victims of a computer crash.  Daisy is delighted I cannot revive her because her father had far too many peccadilloes in his lift without her.  
In the course of my nearly four year effort as a novelist, I have also killed my share of covers.  The green woman at the top of the page is an example. While she is appropriately ferocious, she is not quite as mystical as the one my graphic designer son is producing. Another example of a murdered cover is the alternative cover to my debut, The First Marie and the Queen of Scots, proposed from my submitted art  by the designer at Createspace as an alternative to the Mally Flemyng who appears on the logo to this blog.  I am glad I stuck with the lady behind Door #1. 

There were several alternatives to the cover chosen for The Last Knight.  My favorite is my watercolor entitled Surrender.  However, the survivor, a creation of artist Russ Root is far better suited to the epic, which is the story of Kirkcaldy more than it is of the queen.

The first covers I selected for The Midwife's Secret Series were produced entirely on Cover Creator and would have worked just fine.  However, concepts changed and so did the covers and the titles. The subtitle of The Mystery of La Bella Ecossaise became The Mystery of the Hidden Princess and the Queen's Daughter became 'The Other Daughter' when  the character Daisy Kirkcaldy stole her way into my laptop and took control. 

 I was prepared to go forward with a modification of the above covers  when I discovered the photographs of Darja Vorontsova on Dreamstime, whose work brought my midwife Mariel and her cousin Daisy Kirkcaldy to life.   

 photography by DarjaVorontsova,@ Dreamstime-  cover designed on Cover Creator@

I sincerely hope Ms. Vorontsova keeps photographing her popular model, who I believe is named Katja, so I can permit Daisy to mature.  Although she is a handful, I am rather partial to her.  She is indeed the  darling I cannot kill.

Look for Daisy's next exploits late in April in 1603: the Queen's Revenge, in which Daisy proves once again that the knight Kirkcaldy's Other Daughter ( is not a lass to mess with.
Photo by Darja Vorontsova, Dreamstime

1 comment:

  1. Very nice, Linda! I really enjoyed learning about your books. Daisy sounds strong and formidable. I'm glad to have met her!