[Badger is staring at an old picture of his cousin, Brock, who has his paw around Badger’s missing wife, Belinda. The cheeky look in the young badger’s eye concerns Bagder…his mind is racing…] I bet she’s run off with that little…oh, hello, hope no-one’s cheating on you today… [He twitches] This week I’m delighted to welcome another lovely lady, Amanda Donovan, to the sett. I’m just going to pop round to the Weasel Detective Agency to deal with some pressing business whilst Amanda tells you what she’s been working on, won’t be long…over to you Amanda.

I’m working on Hetty’s Treasure at the moment. It’s a middle grade children’s book set in a world called Airth.  Hetty is left at home when her parents go on a cruise. She finds a parrot, Tazzle, in her garden, but Pirate Jack wants him back. Hetty, Tazzle and her friend, Josh embark on a series of magical adventures through portals into other worlds as they try to get Tazzle back home to Parrotdise, whilst evading the clutches of the evil Pirate Jack.

 Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of Hetty’s Treasure.

Chapter One:  Fragile faces

 “Hope your face explodes, Mother!”  Hetty yelled as soon as the car turned the corner.

            She grabbed the frayed string around her neck and felt for the front door key.  What had that teacher said last week?  ‘Hetty’s a lonely latchkey child.’  She frowned and stabbed the key into the lock.  What was a latchkey anyway?  Is this a latchkey?  It had be something to do with being home alone, owning a key and being invisible.  The door opened and Hetty went inside and slammed it behind her.  Why didn’t they take her with them?  She shoved the key back under her t-shirt and went into the lounge.  At least she wouldn’t have to listen to Mother whine about the crack in her face anymore. 

            In the corner of the lounge, loomed Mother’s flowery chair.  It looked like it owned the place, almost as if Mother was watching her, thought Hetty.  She strolled up to it, kicked it, and threw the cushions across the room.  Mother would go crazy.  She always said, ‘My chair is out of boundsDon’t you dare touch it, Hetty.’  Hetty smirked, flopped into the chair and hoped her jeans were filthy enough to dirty the seat. 

            Five minutes ago, Mother had left.  Her goodbye was a shout from the car, ‘Don’t ruin anything while we’re gone or you’ll have to pay for it.  I’ll be checking up on you.’    

            Hetty found a box of chocolates by the side of the chair and took a magazine from the top of the pile.  On the cover, a happy couple sunbathed next to a pool that looked golden in the sunlight.  The headline read, ‘The Surgical Spirit:  The cruise ship with a difference.  Visit our on board Super Rejuvenating Spa – we guarantee you will leave a different person.’  Hetty rolled her eyes and stuffed five chocolates into her mouth.  She wished her mother could come back a different person on the inside too.  The corners of her mouth lifted in a chocolate smile as she wiped her grubby fingers on the arms of the chair.

[Badger races back into the sett, panting] …well we’ll see what Weasel comes up with then…that philandering, good for nothing, Brock … Right, focus…focus…I do love this concept, Amanda. I had a peek at this excerpt before…I had a mother like Hetty’s, she was always swanning off on exotic foraging trips around the countryside, I feel Hetty’s frustration…So, tell everyone what your plans are. What can we expect from Amanda Donovan in the future?

The sequel of Hetty’s Treasure is planned and ready to write.  I never thought I’d write a sequel, but my characters have decided they want more adventures.  I’m planning to turn Hetty’s treasure into a children’s picture book too.

A picture book, that sounds cool! I can just picture a chilled glass of slug squash at the moment – perfect for this amazing weather. Can you finish this sentence – It’s too orangey for crows, it’s just for…

Badgers.

I wish! It’s actually – …me and my dog! I used to love Kiora, the school round the back of the wood, chucked loads of it out one summer and I stockpiled it and drank it with fresh rain water – delicious! I don’t think crows are big fans of oranges as the squash advertisers suggest, but If you could be any fruit loving bird in the world, what would you be and why?

I’d be a Blue fronted Amazon parrot like Tazzle in Hetty’s Treasure.  Imagine the adventures…

Ah, yes, I always wanted to be an astro-badger, the first Meles-meles – that’s our latin name by the way – to take off into outer space. If Hetty’s Treasure took off, what tune would you chose for the title track if your book were made into a movie?

Parrotdise by Coldplay 

 Nice! Actually, it’s uncanny how well Chris Martin’s lyrics work in the context of your book – cool! Weasel was playing Coldplay in his office earlier, from that iPod thingy he found out by the pond. He used to do a bit of work for the government, you know, on the wire, picking up Parrot chatter. That was before he became a private detective. Have you picked up any parrott chatter from Tazzle about the covert organisation ‘P.O.L.L.Y?’ Are they close to world domination? And can you unravel the acronym for us?

The organisation ‘Parrots Of Loopy Land Year 2012’ think they are close to world domination, but they are all talk.  I know this because I have inside information and if I tell you anymore I will have to kill you.

You do know badger baiting has been outlawed don’t you? I’m not inviting you again!!! MURDERER!!! [Badger screams, but sees that Amanda just looks puzzled by his behaviour. He clears his throat and coughs up a bit of his breakfast] Sorry, bit touchy about death, you see my life was threatened once by an organisation of gardeners called P.E.A.T – Perscute Every Animal Twice. I was saved by one of them who was working undercover. He lived next door to me actually, a very keen gardener called Allan Lottment – do you have any gardener friends and if so, what are their names?

Yes, Jeanette.  She is very helpful and is going to fry some of my chicken eggs in her shed tomorrow.  Don’t mention this to her as I haven’t told her yet.

Right, I’ll make sure we don’t print this answer then, Amanda, I’ll let Tom know he’s pretty reliable and says he always reads this stuff before he posts it. He says he loves my blog, so he should pick up on this…Wow! Fried chicken eggs, slurp, slurp, I love eggs! Talking of food in shells…Is a slug a homeless snail? Discuss…

Wait a minute while I go and ask Jeannette… [Amanda dissapears and can be heard shouting to her friend Jeanette. Whilst she is gone, Badger stares at an old wedding photo of him and Belinda that they took on a discarded human camera and stuck to the wall using slug gravy. He breaks down and cries uncontrollably, he throws a couple of acorn ornaments across the sett in his frustration and anger, just as Amanda returns…] She’s not in!

 Oh, shame! [Badger wipes a tear from his eye with his huge, furry paw] That’s very sad news. I remember when I went to call for Belinda before our first date at The Ugly Bug Ball, she wasn’t in either. So, I went with a French badger, Satine, she was a singer, well more of a growler to be honest, but when Belinda showed up and saw us together she swiped that black beret clean off her pretty striped head. [Badger sniffs and sighs] Talking of attractive warblers, do you know what colour is the cap of a female blackcap?

Black?  I’m pretty sure they carry clipboards too.

Only the one’s who work for the RSPB carry clipboards, but It’s actually orange… I only know that because I met a lot of birds during our neighbourhood watch meetings. I’m on the committee, so I’ve become a bit of an ornithological clever clogs. Do you own a pair of clever clogs – if so, how do they work?

Yes, they are red and sparkly and have tiny pictures of windmills, tulips and mice painted on them.  I wore them last Tuesday and was transported to a windmill in Amsterdam.  I sat on the top of a hill in the middle of a forest and listened to the birds sing and wild beasts roar while I wrote a story about drinking tea up a tree.  All of a sudden, the clogs went crazy.  They went clip-clippety-clop on the stair and I saw a mouse twitching his whiskers and I’m sure he was laughing at me.  Where?  There on the stair!  Right there.  The little mouse had clogs on!

Woah, that sounds pretty trippy! I saw something similar when I went on that mushroom binge. I did know a Dutch mouse called Mr Block, who lived in a windmill, his surname is also his favourite noun and sounds a bit like Brock, the little sh…Anyway, what’s your favourite noun?

 Pirate.

You mean that sign that says no entry that farmers put up? I have trouble making out the small print on those things and have been shot at a couple of times, lucky that cock-eyed Mcgraw was the one hunting me down, I guess. Belinda used to translate these warnings for me, so I don’t suppose I’ll last long without her, especially if Mcgraw has laser treatment [Badger sniffs and wipes his eye] Damn pollen! So, who’s your favourite reader? No pressure!

The badger of course!

Me, really? Well, I was going to chuck you for threatening to kill me earlier, but I didn’t throw Belinda out for that and badgers aren’t hypocritters! So, Amanda, you get my peanut treat!

I’ll just put your song on for you now and then we can discuss the seedy world of parrot crime…[as the joyful sound of I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas plays out, scurrying footsteps can be heard on the stairs. Amanda has vanished like an invisible parrott, making good her escape from the sett as Weasel arrives, clutching a piece of human newspaper in his mouth. Badger turns and accepts the scrap and paws it out on the floor. He can’t read it very well as Belinda is not there to help him, but his eyes are glued on the image of the roadkill. The corpse of a badger with two white tram lines running over its back makes him gasp] It’s Brock’s! He’s dead! [Badger slumps to the ground as the weasel with the eye patch places a consoling paw on the shoulder of his furry client and friend.]

Now that Amanda is free from the traumas of Badger’s sett, you can catch up with her at her blog:  Amanda’s Blog

She’ll be updating it soon with some book reviews and Allotment Tales featuring Sid the golden slow worm.

She’s also been busy starting up as a freelance writer and manuscript reader.

You can also Tweet her and Tazzle at Amanda’s Tweets.

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