I wrote this short story for a women's magazine -not my usual style at all, just a bit of fun and froth.
'I knew coming to this hotel was a good idea.' Lindsay gave a blissful sigh as she turned sideways to admire herself in the long gilt-framed mirror. The dress fitted her perfectly, skimming over her slender figure. No one would guess it hadn't been made specially for her.
Outside, beyond the marble balcony, the sea sparkled and winked. A breeze fluttered the gauze draping the French windows and ruffled her long fair hair.
'If only life could always be like this,' she went on. 'Staying in a top hotel where people come to get married and spend their honeymoon. It's so romantic.'
'Just you enjoy it while you can,' said Crystal. She edged Lindsay away from the mirror and tugged at her own dress, settling it more comfortably around her waist. 'Hmm,' she said, staring at herself critically. 'I must have put on a pound or two.'
'Nonsense,' said Lindsay. 'You look fantastic.'
'And so do you, Linz.'
The girls hugged briefly then turned to look at themselves again in the mirror. Lindsay was tall and willowy in the silver satin wedding dress. Crystal was shorter and darker, her bronzed skin showing off the pearl pink bridesmaid's dress perfectly. They both sighed as they gazed at their reflections. Tears glittered in their eyes.
'We'll look like a couple of pandas if we carry on like this,' sniffed Crystal, breaking the mood. 'I knew I should have brought the waterproof mascara.'
Lindsay laughed. 'Come on, Crystal. Let's have a glass of champagne while we do our hair. There's plenty of time yet.'
The cork popped and the champagne frothed into the elegant tulip-shaped glasses. 'Here's to a wonderful time at Honeymoon Hideaway,' said Crystal. 'You're right, Linz, picking this place was the best idea you've ever had.' She sipped at the pale golden fizz then placed the glass on the dressing table. 'Now for your hair. Up or down?'
'Up, please.' Lindsay sipped her own champagne, her blue eyes sparkling like the sea. 'Is the door locked?' she said suddenly, glancing over her shoulder. ‘We don't want someone coming in unexpectedly. That would ruin everything.'
'I turned the key myself,' Crystal said, running a comb through her friend's pale blonde locks. 'We won't be disturbed. There's ages yet.'
She piled Lindsay's hair on top of her head, pinning it in an artful tumble but leaving sinuous tendrils snaking over her temples and the nape of her neck. When the diamanté tiara was slotted carefully into the woven strands of hair, Lindsay stood up and gave a gleeful twirl.
'Very stylish, thanks Crystal. I feel like a princess.'
Crystal took Lindsay's place on the carved gilt stool in front of the dressing table mirror. Her own short hair needed only a slick of gel and the careful placement of a matching diamanté clip and she was done.
'Perfect!' Lindsay checked her watch. 'Now let's relax for a while before we have to leave.'
They went out onto the balcony, champagne glasses in their hands. 'It's so beautiful here,' Lindsay said. 'Oh, it's going to be such fun.'
Sitting primly on the white metal chairs, careful not to crease their dresses, the girls gazed at the scene before them: golden beaches, palm trees and a dark blue sea with white surf curling on the shore.
'Paradise,' said Crystal. She turned to Lindsay for confirmation and was shocked at the expression on her friend's face. 'What's up, Linz?'
'There. Look!' Lindsay banged the champagne glass down on the table and pointed down into the curved driveway of the hotel. Two women were getting out of a taxi, patting their newly done hair and raising their professionally made-up faces to the sun. 'They're back early.'
'Quick,' said Crystal. 'We'd better get this place tidied up fast.'
With sigh, Lindsay scurried back into the hotel room and slipped out of the wedding dress. Grabbing her chambermaid's outfit from the brocade armchair where she'd flung it, she hurriedly put it on. 'I would have thought a sauna and facial, along with a full makeover and hair styling, would have taken longer than that,' she gasped.
Crystal struggled with the zip of the bridesmaid's dress. 'Help me off with this, Linz,' she panted, 'then you run on down to the kitchen and send up some more champagne. I'll pretend I'm still making the beds.'
For a second they looked at each other, stifling the urge to giggle. 'And don't worry,' Crystal went on, finally stepping out of her dress. 'There's another wedding party arriving tomorrow and one the day after that. We've got a whole summer of dressing up to look forward to.'
'Yes,' Lindsay smiled. 'And you can be the bride tomorrow.'
Some years ago a woman I knew through a writing group I used to attend submitted a story to Black Lace and had it accepted. It was published in one of the Wicked Women collections. I read the story and others in the same anthology and, though I wasn't especially interested in reading erotica, I realised I could probably write it. That's not to say it's particularly easy to write but I felt sure I had the right mind-set to produce saleable work.
So I gave it a go.
I wrote The Celibate and sent it off to Kerri Sharp at Black Lace Books and within a very short time I had an acceptance. Wow, I thought, my very first erotic story got snapped up!
So I wrote another one.
The Black Lace Wicked Women series was only published three or four times a year so while I was waiting for the next submission period, I sent my latest story off to For Women. I was astonished and immensely gratified to find it was accepted as well.
So I wrote another one. And another one. And... well, you get the idea.
I looked around for other markets for erotica and sent pieces off here and there. Everything I sent off got accepted, except a short story I entered for a Cosmopolitan competition. Cosmo rejected it because it 'contained illegal activity'. Not illegal sexual activity, I hasten to add, but an account of a break in. In this story, Collar and Cuffs, a young burglar is accosted by the the raunchy lady of the house with predictable consequences. It was later published by Scarlet Magazine, who obviously weren't as fussy about the depiction of crime.
I did start writing an erotic novel a while ago but never finished it (yet!) as I found there was a ready market for short stories and they were much easier to dash off. I've been thinking recently I should get to work on it again. Got to keep my public happy!
Some of the magazines I wrote for are no longer in existence sadly, so the print market has narrowed. Another market has arisen with the rise of online publishing, but the financial rewards are not as high and the quality is not always as good.
This is why I decided to publish some of my previous work as an ebook, The Stiletto Heel and Other Stories. It is available from Amazon for Kindle and Kindle Apps under my usual erotica name of Barbie Scott.
So, though I'm still not much interested in reading erotica, it does provide me with my best writing sales and seems to be likely to keep on doing so for the foreseeable future.
So you want to do a podcast but you have no idea how? Reader, I was as you are just a short time ago. To be honest, I still don't know very much about podcasting but I do now know how to make a simple recording using basic equipment, ie: a pc or laptop and some free software from Audacity.
This simple guide will take you through the steps required to create an MP3 file suitable for use as a podcast. I am assuming you know someone who will upload the podcast for you as this aspect will not be covered here. The steps outlined below are for a simple amateur voice recording suitable for reading out examples of written work.
First download the Audacity software from their website*. You will need to download the basic Audacity .exe for your particular operating system (see below). You will also need to download the LAME MP3 encoder available from the same website.
If you are asked whether you want to run or save, click 'run'. You will then install the software onto your computer and the appliction should open on your desktop.
If you have an external microphone plug it in now. Adequate microphones can be bought fairly cheaply. However, if you simply want to try out podcasting without going to any expense it is possible to record using the built-in microphone on your computer. I did this and though the quality would certainly have been improved by using an external microphone, I did manage to record my work.
Make sure the doors and windows are closed before you start, (you don't want to record next door's lawnmower like I did!) and turn your phones off. If you're not using an external mike, you will need to lean forward and speak loudly and clearly into the built-in mike on your pc or laptop. So get yourself comfortable!
When you are ready to start, click the Record button (the one with the round brownish dot on it) and get going. If you need to stop for a moment, click the Pause button (the first one, with two blue lines on it). To start again, unclick the Pause button. Basically, it is exactly the same as using any other sound recorder. Remember to save your file as you go along (File, Save Project As, give it a name, and then save it where you can find it again).
Inevitably at some point you will stumble over a word. When this happens you can either click Pause, then start reading again from some point before you made your error and later go back and cut the stutter out. (More on this later.) Or, you can click Stop (the button with a square on it) and immediately delete the error.
To immediately delete move your cursor to some point on the recording timeline just before the error, press Play (green triangle) and listen so you can identify exactly where it is, then move your cursor to just before the error, or to a convenient point to start re-reading from, and drag (it will turn into a pointing finger). Drag to the end of the timeline and when it is highlighted (grey) click the little scissors icon to delete it. You can also hit Delete or Ctrl X on your keyboard to remove the offending part.
Now click the Record button and start reading again from the point at which you left off. A new timeline will open up underneath the first one because you used Stop rather than Pause. The next time you make an error and delete it, another new timeline will open up. You may end up with several.
Gap in Timeline
Using this method, you may find that your timelines either overlap or have gaps between them. In this event, you will need to make adjustments using the Time Shift Tool (the little double-ended arrow icon). Select this tool, click onto the timeline you want to adjust and drag it until it lines up with the one above or below. Ideally, start with the first timeline and work your way down.
Overlap in Timeline
To deselect the Time Shift Tool, click on the I-shaped selection tool which will give you your cursor back.
The other option for removing errors is simply to carry on recording, using Pause where necessary, and when the whole thing is finished go back over it removing the errors. Highlight the unwanted bits using the cursor and click the little scissors. Your recording will automatically close the gap. You will need to be fairly precise about this to ensure you only remove the bits you don't want and so that the recording continues to flow nicely.
Once your recording is finished and all the blips are removed, you will need to save it as an MP3 file. You will have been saving as you went along (I hope!) but this will only have saved it as an Audacity file. Now you need to save it so that other systems can play it.
Go to File, then Export, give it a name, or use the one you gave it before, and save it as an MP3 file. You will now be able to listen to it using iTunes, Real Player etc., and you will be able to use it for a podcast.
I am very pleased to have Jo Reed, author of the Blood Dancers series, guest blogging this week. Jo won the Daily Telegraph Travel Writing award in 2008, and has had short stories published in magazines as diverse as Mslexia, Lancashire Magazine and The People’s Friend. In 2008/9, she won an Arts Council supported Apprenticeship with Adventures in Fiction for ‘The Tyranny of the Blood’, which was subsequently taken up by Wild Wolf Publishing in May 2009.
A couple of years ago, I decided to explore the academic approach to writing. It is one of those things that has niggled at me since my schooldays. At sixteen, I opted, initially, for ‘A’ level English Literature and (a terrible admission for a writer) I hated it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the set books – Shakespeare, Chaucer, D.H. Lawrence. Dog-eared and much read volumes from all three authors have travelled with me through several decades and house moves. What I hated was not being asked to read wonderful literature, but being told I had to analyse it, to tear it apart, to find out what made it ‘tick’. The process detracted from my enjoyment, so much so that after a month I gave up studying literature, and simply carried on reading it.
Years later, I’ve become a mostly self-taught critic. Having to constantly criticise my own writing, I find myself doing the same with the books I read on an almost unconscious level. Perhaps the ability to focus on the technical aspects of things while still retaining a sense of wonder at the magic of it all is a product of age – like not being too upset at the idea there is no Father Christmas. Anyhow, I wanted to find out whether a degree level course had anything to teach me, both as a reader and a writer, so I toddled off to the Open University and signed up for their two year diploma in literature and creative writing.
I was very dubious – I still had that nasty taste in my mouth from the ‘A’ level English days, but tried to keep an open mind and plunged in. The first, ‘introductory’ course, at first sight had nothing to teach me that I didn’t know already about the mechanics of writing – show not tell, use of adverbs etc. were fairly standard for any writing course. But as the year progressed, I realised I was being forced more and more out of my comfort zone. I had to deal with my aversion to writing poetry, analyse how top writers dealt with character and pace and explore genres I wouldn’t normally read. I ended the year with a great deal more in my writing armoury than when I started.
The second year, though, was the real eye-opener. If the first course was useful, the second was invaluable. Among other things I learned how to set out stage and screenplays, write scripts and use screen directions, and have since found how useful those techniques are, even when applied to novel writing.
It’s been an intriguing and immensely satisfying process, and I’ve come away with many new insights into the way I, and others, write. I’ve also lost some of my aversion to literary criticism, although I doubt I’ll ever get rid of my misgivings altogether. I don’t think any course can teach someone how to write, but a good course can help get the best out of a writer. I’m glad I did it, and will be drawing on the things I learned for the rest of my writing career.