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The Alias

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I’ve become something of an expert with computers, if I do say so myself. Not the machines themselves of course, I’m rather too long in the tooth for that sort of retraining, but at using them. My wife, Diana, has never made the adjustment and still sends each new Magnolia Badminton masterpiece to her publishers as a ream of typewritten manuscript instead of a single, svelte email attachment.

Not that I have adapted as well in all walks of life, or even in all areas of my profession. While Diana’s readership has remained constant, the market for my particular brand of moderately grim murder mystery has declined since the demand shifted towards relentlessly gruesome tales of pathology or non-fatal domestic situations resolved through a generous application of homespun wisdom and cuddly African wildlife. I no longer generate enough interest to support more than a book-and-a-half every other year, which actually suits me wonderfully, as I also lack the stamina for sustained bouts of late night writing in my wi-fi enabled, genuine pine, gentleman author’s shack-styled hermitage from Ikea. Magnolia Badminton pays the bills these days, supported by the occasional editing credit for a classic crime omnibus and the residual payments of a short story surreptitiously inserted into said omnibus.

But this is more or less beside the point, which is that tonight, owing to my wife’s computer illiteracy, I have to pretend to be her and…

“Ah-ha; new forum post! Just a click of the mouse then and…”

++MariaS (Forum Host) said: Hello and welcome to the live forum. And a special welcome to our very special guest…

“You can tell this is a romance forum; thriller readers could come up with at least one synonym for special but speed is of the essence in romance writing.”

++…our very special guest Magnolia Badminton. Hello Magnolia.

“How very familiar these romance readers are. Well, I suppose I’d better reply.”

++Romantic_Anna (Member) said: Hi, Magnolia! :-)

“That was sharp. Alright…”

++Magnolia Badminton (Guest) said: Hello, Marias.

“How many Marias, I wonder?”

++Hello, Romantic.

“Yes; first name terms seem to be the order of the day. Should I say who I am? Oh, no; it’s at the top of the message. ‘Magnolia Badminton said:’. She didn’t you know, and neither did I; I typed it. The internet is the bane of accuracy in the English language. Oh ho; what’s this.”

++MariaS (Forum Host) said: Okay, Magnolia; the first question comes from Dolly Bird…

“Dolly Bird? Romantic Anna? Are these real names, one wonders? Should I have created an alias for Magnolia? No, I suppose not. It might be a little odd to have an alias for an alias.”

++…who can’t be online tonight, but asks: ‘After more than forty years, do you ever find your own sense of romance flagging?

“Hello. I’d like to know the answer to that myself. Does my little turtle dove ever feel the romance flags? Well, come on; I can’t answer for you, can I? What’s the answer?”

Mrrow.

“Not you!”

Trring. Trring.

“Ah-ha! That will be the lady herself, monitoring the situation on the computer in her study and trying not to touch anything. Hello, Magnolia Badminton speaking.”

“Oh, shut up, clot. You can’t go around calling Anna Tooney ‘Romantic’. Call her Anna.”

“Well I might if I knew that she was Anna Tooney. If she goes around calling herself Romantic Anna…”

“Shut up! You need to type my answer.”

“Yes, my little turtle dove.”

++Romantic_Anna (Member): Magnolia; how do you keep your writing so fresh?

“Well. go on, type something before any more questions back up.”

“I will if you tell me what to write.”

“What? Oh, right. No.”

“Why not?”

”Because I have a wonderful life full of magic and love and a husband who understands me entirely of course, nincompoop.”

“I thought you were ‘Miss’ Badminton?”

”Alright; you’d better make yourself my twenty-something Latin lover.”

“I like the idea of twenty-something at least.”

Just type the thing!”

Click

“What about… Oh, never mind.”

++Riviera Babe (Member): Hi, Magnolia. I just wanted to ask how much of your writing comes from experience? Your descriptions are so vivid.

“I think that’s getting a little near to the knuckle, isn’t it? Oh well; better get on before any more questions show up.”

++Magnolia Badminton (Guest): My sense of romance springs eternal. My darling husband…

“Oh no. Delete that and…”

++Magnolia Badminton (Guest): My sense of romance springs eternal thanks to the attentions of a sensitive and mature lover, who understands me entirely and fills my life with magic and love.

“Not quite what she said, but what she means, I feel. I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough if I’m wrong.”

Trring. Trring.

“Oh, hello. Hello!”

“You’re supposed to be a twenty-something!”

“Actually, dearest, I’m supposed to be you and to have a twenty-something Latin lover, a prospect I find more exhausting than appealing.”

”You’re a twit. Do you think I should have an online alias?”

“I wondered about that, but Magnolia Badminton is already an alias.”

“You don’t think I should have an online alias for my offline alias?”

“Well what should I have signed you up as? Mrs Diana Potter?”

”Don’t be a cretin. Now; keeping it fresh. Make this one light. Something like…”

++Magnolia Badminton (Guest): I keep my writing fresh with the aid of a thesaurus, an anatomical dictionary and liberal lashings of G&T.

”Say that I keep my ideas fresh using a dictionary, a medical encyclopaedia and a large bottle of Bailey’s.”

“Oh well, close enough.”

“Oh well, close enough, although G&T is a little passé.”

“It may have escaped your notice, Diana darling, but so are we.”

”I know that, you know that, but my readers don’t have to know; any more than yours have to know that you were never a private detective.”

“I’ve never claimed to have been a private detective.”

“No, but have you ever replied to one of the letters from desperate fans asking you to find the long-lost love of their lives to explicitly state that you weren’t?”

“Fair point. Now, this question about writing from experience seems a little personal…”

”She means the foreign locations. Tell her I’m a natural homebody and that I have never travelled further than Thompson’s in the high street, at least not in the name of research.”

“Alright. Oh, there’s another one coming in. How do you feel about champagne and truffles…?”

*

Magnolia Badminton (Guest): … a group of Swiss Nuns and only one guitar between them.

”Don’t let your imagination run away with you.”

++MariaS (Forum Host): My goodness; the hour has just flown by! I’d like to say a big thank you to Magnolia for showing up. And goodbye.

Romantic_Anna (Member): Cheers Magnolia. Bye!

“And so another chapter comes to a close. I don’t think I’ve ever written under an alias before, and especially not a female alias. How did I do, darling?”

“Splendidly, darling. I’m going to make some tea. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

“Ta-ta.”

Click.

A few years…Well, alright; a few decades ago it would have been G&Ts and cuddling on the sofa until the small hours, but we neither stay up as late nor wake up as early, nor indeed cuddle quite as often as we used to. Odd then that we should wait this long for me to start wearing my wife’s clothes, even if they be virtual.