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Tom Harris

Writer of edgy Middle Grade & Young Adult Fiction

Month

July 2012

Jackie Jones – A Work In Progress

I just wanted to write a quick update on my new YA novel ‘Jackie Jones’ which I aim to publish before the end of the year.

Yesterday, I put the finishing touches to the last chapter, after working on various edits over the last month. The new ending has really pulled this together and so I find myself in a position of having the story down in its entirety.

So, am I lighting that cigar and taking a sweet sip from a well aged single malt – no, because unlike many movie depictions of writers completing their novels in one burst at a typewriter or laptop, there is still a long, long way to go until the book will be ready – a work still very much in progress.

I am still a few edits away from sending out a draft for my fellow writing group members and critique buddies to cast their well trained eyes over and then take on board their feedback. This is one of the most important stages in the construction of any book, as before this time, my story has yet to be assessed in terms of its translation; which after all is the essence of writing – to record your concept, your idea and translate your thoughts from your mind to the page.

This is a story that I wish to translate to readers all over the world and unless you ask people what they think, before publication, you’ll never know if the translation of your concept is still a work in progress.

So, once I’ve done all I can do – when I am finally content with my efforts, I will be passing this around to a merry band of willing readers. I look forward to their insightful critique in the hope that it will help clarify and shape my Young Adult novel ‘Jackie Jones.’

Below is a brief synopsis, of what you can expect and I will be looking to share more updates on the book, including cover design, publication date and anything else that could be deemed newsworthy and not be used as group therapy material for ‘Insomniac Weekly.’

Jackie Jones:

‘Fourteen year old Jackie accepts a mysterious invitation to a country estate to compete for a huge cash prize which could put an end to his family’s money worries for good. What starts out as being the opportunity of a lifetime, turns into a nightmare when Jackie arrives at Heath Hall and finds that the other five contestants not only share his desire to win the money, but also his name!’

Before I pop of – I’d just like to say thanks for all the kind words, support, reviews and all who have purchased my debut eBook – The Amber Room.

Including sample downloads just under 120 people have ventured through the door of The Amber Room, which is fantastic! I hope that more will join them, in time. News of the sequel – The Amber Antidote will be forthcoming as I amend the chapter timeline and concept next month.

I’m in the writing game for the long haul – those who just sighed and tutted will be escorted from the premises shortly – ahem, right as I said, I’m in it for the duration, and just hope I can improve as a writer and continue to master my craft. I’m no different in that regard to everyone else, as we all try to improve in life and work however we can, oh, unless you’re perfect already, which so many of you are obviously… then no worries 🙂

My simple aim is to be proud of my work and I just hope you guys can come along for the ride, which let’s face it could mean as little as spending a couple of days a year reading my books and blog posts, so at the end of the day, you don’t really have to spend that much time with me, so I can’t be any fairer than that – can I!

Not that kind of Fair!!! Who’s in charge of inserting these images anyway – blimey, give me strength!

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Tom Harris welcomes The Badger

[Ennio Morricone’s classic For a Few Dollars More plays out from an old coffee shop on Southsea seafront and water from the heavens lashes down onto a lonely figure in a poncho-style raincoat. Tom is sat on a wooden picnic table bench combo, his wide brimmed hat dripping with lashings of summer rain. He is being overly theatrical, as he bides his time awaiting an epic showdown with a woodland animal. Biting into a soggy slice of Bakewell tart, a rustle in the bushes before him reveals a Badger. The creature is dressed in similar attire and squats down beside the bush and scratches his stomach beneath the cloth poncho]

So, welcome to the coffee shop, Badger, I thought it would have taken you much longer than it has to find out what I’ve been up to. I underestimated you, you furry flump.

I took the bus [says Badger, chewing on a piece of bark, as if it were a gunslinger’s tooth-pick.]

[Tom twiddles his own tooth-pick around his mouth and then spits it out as it nearly chokes him] So, I guess you’ll be wanting to know the whereabouts of that moaning missy of yours?

Don’t you speak about her like that! You have a point, but don’t you dare… Where is she? [Badger stares around the sodden green lawn at the empty picnic benches and flower beds, but there is no sign of Belinda. Although it is dusk, he is uncomfortable at being out in the open like this – it’s not in his nature. He has travelled a great distance, albeit by the bus that stops outside his woodland sett, and his paws are aching from padding on too many human floors of concrete]

I don’t know who you mean? [Tom laughs like a Bond baddie and strokes his arm, pretending there’s a white cat on it, mixing his film genres again, as more rain splashes down onto his spaghetti western style hat]

Where is Belinda, you nonce?

[Belinda by The Eurythmics is playing in the cafe now]

Oh, your Moaning Myrtle is alive – for now – but she doesn’t have long!

[Badger bares his teeth] Is that song that’s playing called Belinda?

Possibly – [Tom cackles, releasing a flurry of Bakwell crumbs from his mouth]

You’re sick! I always thought it was an odd thing for a human to employ an animal to run his blog for him. I always thought you were an idiot! You prayed on the fact that I’ve been trying to get on the TV and in the movies. When you offered me the gig, I thought why not… but how could you stoop so low? Kidnapping Belinda just to improve this crappy blog!!!

Stoop so low! I had to try something. Who wants to listen to a Badger talking to people every week. I needed to spice it up with a better back-story. Something to keep people interested. I take your wife, you suddenly become a more interesting character – not just a woodland creature who scratches, shits and loves peanuts but a broken, tormented soul who scratches, shits and eats peanuts.

You Muppet! She’s the love of my life! How could you do this to me? Do you know what I’ve been through?

No, not really I don’t read the blog myself… bit busy for all that stuff… but, you know that it’s all about entertainment these days, Badger! You’re the dreamer!

So, killing my cousin, Brock, is entertainment?

Oh, don’t be ridiculous, that was just good luck. He got run over. You lot do that, you know… if you didn’t the phrase ‘road-kill’ wouldn’t exist!

So, if you made everything up about Don Warren, he really doesn’t know where I am then?

No, I think if he did we wouldn’t be having this conversation. He didn’t send Helga the homeopathic hedgehog round – I did! She’s a friend’s pet! She’s actually been in a couple of movies and her owner didn’t mind helping out. Weasel found Vassily the Vole and the main reason he wouldn’t talk is because he knew nothing. I expect that once Don Warren finds out about what you did to Vassily, he’ll be paying you a visit though. I’d just keep moving on if I were you – you could learn a thing from The Littlest Hobo

[Tom laughs maniacally]

I thought you said you didn’t read the blog?

[Tom remains quiet and finishes the soaking wet Bakewell]

But how did you know that I’d testified against Don Warren?

Helga’s uncle Harry belongs to W.A.R.P – You know, the Witness Animal Relocation Programme. His owner filled me in, that’s why I chose you – you are an interesting character, Badger, if maybe a little boring and vulgar.

Belinda Carlisle’s Summer Rain is now playing.

[Badger snarls again and scratches, shrugging off his wide-brimmed hat, which looked pretty daft to be honest] Are you doing this on purpose. That’s Belinda Carlisle isn’t it? What’s wrong with you Tom – I mean what do you want? How do I find Belinda?

Good choice of title considering the weather don’t you think? Well, that’s the right question, stinky! The blog has finished so I don’t want you cropping up anywhere else and having a pop at me on the world wide web, so I just needed some reassurance, some leverage if you like. You say anything about this and my fiendish kidnapping plot to improve my blog stats and I tell Don Warren where you are! Capiche?

What do you mean – give my position away to Don Warren? This is going on the blog isn’t it! He’s bound to find me now, just by searching the woodland areas of the south coast… Not that I want to give him any tips or anything!

Don’t worry about that Dumbo, no-one’s really reading it – that’s another reason I want you out – I need to do something a little more interesting and sensible. But the main thing is I need you to resign as I can’t afford to pay out the rest of your contract – so do we have a deal?

Okay, then, okay… Where do I sign? [Badger ambles towards Tom, who throws a damp piece of paper towards him – Badger shrugs off his poncho and shakes it in his mouth for a while like a playful dog. He stamps his paw print on the document, picks it up in his teeth and drops it onto the table]

Ta! [Tom pushes the contract inside his poncho and gets to his feet]

So tell me – where is Belinda?

She’s at Hot Rocks – I’ve tied her to the sea wall for dramatic effect, but as we’ve over run a bit, I may have messed up… the tide is coming in quicker than I thought. You should be okay though, just hurry – so long you furry idiot! [Tom laughs and walks off into the distance to continue his pitiful existence as For a Few Dollars More plays out again…]

You Dingbat! [Badger screams and wiping down his wet fur, darts off into the gloaming across the seafront. He races past a few startled onlookers across Southsea common who are all pointing at the strange sight of a Badger racing across the wet grass. Suddenly, Badger can hear Holding Out For a Hero by Bonnie Tyler. He stops and looks around, confused by this seemingly magical soundtrack that seems to be following him across the common as he races to save his one true love] I’m coming Belinda, just hang on!

Intermission… as we wait for Badger to get across the common – dum, de dum – right, on we go.

Fifteen minutes later – Hot Rocks, Southsea seafront:

[In the dip of a wave created by the plundering Isle of Wight Ferry, a furry black and white face bobs above the waterline.

Badger is astonished to now hear the Baywatch Intro playing. He recalls the farmer watching this on his own whenever his wife went out shopping. With the music and the waves pounding in his furry ears, Badger swims to the rescue of his beloved Belinda. He sees her. She is tied against the sea wall in chains as seawater laps against her furry legs. The beach is deserted, but by the light of street lamps along the promenade, Badger is guided towards her] I’ll be there! [he grunts, swallowing seawater] I’ll be there! [he sings as the music plays on. There is a muffled response from Belinda, who is chewing at her ties. It sounds as if she has already eaten her way through her gag]

What bloody well kept you! You halfwit!

Coming my [Badger swallows seawater] little Buttercup!

Don’t rush will you, love… I’ve only been missing for about three months!

Be there in a [swallows some seaweed] tick, Angel-cake!

Angel-cake!!! I would have been fishcake if you’d left me any longer!

[Badger dips beneath another wave and resurfaces, riding the swash onto the shore. The water is smashing against the seawall and has now reached Belinda’s waist.  He dives down and bites away the ties around her legs before surfacing and then shaking his fur in slow motion, paying homage to The Hoff. Finally, the rope comes away and Belinda is freed – she farts and scratches and together the two of them paddle to safety, until they crash out on the pebbles further up the beach. The music abruptly stops]

Oh, Belinda, I’m so pleased to see you’re okay

No thanks to you! Where have you been anyway?

I, I, thought you’d left me, you know for Brock… who got run over by the way…

Clumsy sod!

Then I got Weasel to look for you, and then he used Ron and Reg to track you down and here I am, rescuing you.

And all that took months did it? Bet you’ve been having a great time with the new job and all that, hardly missed me, I bet.

Now that’s not true my pretty Pumpkin. I’ve been a total mess without you – the sett is just not the same without you.

Really?

Really, really…

Isn’t that a line from Shrek?

Eh?

You’re hopeless but you’re my hopeless, I guess. Come on, we’ve got a long walk back to the sett…

[Badger smiles and nuzzles his wife – she nuzzles him back and then nips him] Ow! What was that for?

That was a love-bite, dear!

Ahh… thanks my fluffy bundle of cuddles.

[Badger and Belinda waddle off up the beach as night falls on Old Portsmouth. Down the road, they see that the bus that stops at the edge of their woodland home has pulled up at the kerb. The driver runs out and heads behind some bushes near the Cathedral, he looks panicked as he races behind a bush and pulls down his trousers…]

Quick come on, there’s no one on that bus… come on, hero, let’s sneak a lift home.

[Badger smiles and so does Belinda. Tired and weary they sneak on and hide underneath the back seat, until the driver gets back on board. As the bus starts up, Belinda nuzzles up to Badger]

So, when have you next got to work?

Erm, about that. It looks like I might have to go and sign on the Mole!

What? You’ve lost your job! We’re living off peanuts as it is… how are we going to survive?

Well, a few of my guests didn’t take their peanut treats, so I reckon we should be okay for a while, and something will come up, it always does!

[As the empty bus makes its way out of the city, Badger and Belinda resume married life and continue to argue their way to their own happy ever after.]

 

THE END

 

Well now those furry idiots have gone, I can get on with another blog. If you really want to know the latest on Badger, he has just signed off the Mole and is due to start filming the first episode of the brilliant Tim Burton’s Animal Crimewatch on Channel 4 – his first role will be to play a murder victim in the reconstruction of Brock’s death.

Here’s the footage –

See you all soon for something a little more serious and interesting… well sort of…

The Badger welcomes Dina Santorelli

[Badger is lying on his back. He is staring into a small puddle in a strange, stinky old sett. W.A.R.P have moved him to a new safe-sett fearful of another attempt on his life by Don Warren and his team of assassins.] Oh, hello there… I have some exciting news. Weasel has got the red deer twins, Ronnie and Reggie, to track down a location on the south coast that Vassily the Vole gave up along with his front tooth. Weasel should return with news of Belinda’s whereabouts any minute now, but without further ado, I’d like to welcome Dina Santorelli to the safe-sett, and allow her to share the synopsis for her crime novel – Baby Grand.

Synopsis:

 

In Albany, New York, the governor’s infant daughter disappears without a trace from her crib at the Executive Mansion. Hours later, newly divorced and down-and-out writer Jamie Carter is abducted from the streets of Manhattan. Jamie is whisked upstate, where she is forced by her captor, Don Bailino, an ex-war hero/successful businessman, to care for the kidnapped child in a plot to delay the execution of mobster Gino Cataldi – the sixth man to be put to death in six years by hardliner Governor Phillip Grand. What prevails is a modern-day thriller about family ties, loyalty, murder, betrayal, and love that’s told in deftly interweaving narratives that follow the police investigation of the missing Baby Grand, the bad guys who took her, and the woman who found the strength to protect her.

Baby Grand by Dina Santorelli is available on Amazon.

That sounds really intriguing, Dina, a great concept, but tell us – what you are working on next, what can we expect from Dina Santorelli in the future?

I’m working on my second novel, another thriller, that’s titled In the Red. I’m hoping to have it available by summer 2013.

[Badger sniffs] I wish you all the best with that, Dina. Me and Belinda used to be in the pink, but It’s such a shame we can’t go back to our sett. We’d only just had it re-decorated in dark mud to gloss over the red soil around the entrance. This suddenly reminds me of a Rolling Stones track – name that tune!

I See a Red Door and I Want It Painted Black!

You have a wonderful singing voice, Dina, it’s a shame I don’t have much to sing about at the moment but weasel tells me not to worry about Don Warren and his men, he says they are a right bunch of clowns. Have you ever suffered from Coulrophobia?

After seeing/reading Stephen King’s IT, I think we all suffer from a bit of Coulrophobia.

Well I’ve never seen his poo to be honest, but that man is a genius…Oh, IT, you mean the film…got you, my hearing’s not the best. [Badger trembles] You are not wrong there. I found this when I was enquiring about Belinda’s ‘MISSING’ poster that the pigs still haven’t put up.

Scary biscuits. Enough clowning around though, what’s your favourite crime series on TV?

Believe it or not, I generally don’t watch crime series—how’s that for a thriller writer? I do watch Bored to Death about a writer who is an unlicensed private detective, though. Does it count if he’s unlicensed? Oh, and I attended Book Expo America recently, and while I was waiting on line to get an autographed book from James Patterson, I met a lovely young woman who told me that I should be watching Castle. So maybe I should say that.

Tom loves Bored to Death, Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis are all amazing! He says it’s hilarious, but as the farmer and his wife don’t watch it at the Farmhouse, I wouldn’t know. Being bored to death can lead anyone to do crazy and nasty things –

Would you pull the football away from Charlie Brown – be honest now!

Never!

Good to hear it! Anyone who does that to a friend of Snoopy should be shot – It should be a capital offence! Talking of which, what’s your favourite Capital? Letter or City, I don’t mind which?

D. It’s got the best of both worlds—one part straight and rigid, the other flexible and yielding.

A Delightful choice. I like D too, I’ve always thought there should be a D and a C side on records. I love music. I found loads of vinyl records and an old gramophone whilst rooting through the school bins last year and it’s one of the only things I brought with me round these secret safe-sett’s. What tune would you chose for the title track if your book were made into a movie?

What a great question! I hadn’t thought about it until now. There are a lot of great choices, but I would have to say Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger.

Great track! She’s a true American Idol. Tom has been telling me to watch out for Philip Phillips, a unique talent, which would make my music collection stronger, so I turned round and told him a few things about his own craft that could make his writing stronger. He has difficulties with over-using elements of grammar, sometimes it’s semi-colons, other times it’s the three dot Ellipsis … What’s your most over-used punctuation in your writing, in your early draft stages obviously?

Ah, yes. That would be the em dash—and I wish I could say it was only in my draft stages. 🙂

Yeah, I think he’s been there with that one too. He approached me the other day about writing my life story what with everything that’s been happening to me. He says it has massive potential and could even be turned into a film. What’s your favourite book that became a movie?

Hmmm… Do you mean just a favourite book or a favourite book that I’m glad became a movie? Or do you mean a favourite book that was turned into a DECENT movie?  🙂  Well, in any case, the first to come to mind is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, especially when I heard that Daniel Craig would be playing Mikael Blomkvist (I hadn’t seen the Swedish version at the time).

I’ve heard of that. The woodland bus shelter was plastered with posters of the books and the movies. You humans love a bit of mystery and crime. Maybe you would enjoy my story after all. Hopefully Weasel will turn up any minute now with Belinda’s location. Let’s hope his favourite red deer’s, Ronnie and Reggie come up trumps. Who’s your favourite red deer? I mean reader – No pressure!

Gosh, that would have to be my Dad, a fellow thriller lover.

Great answer, I think I can hear Weasel now, so it’s time for your peanut treat reward and your song of choice. You’ve been a great guest, Dina.

Let me just sort through this box. Aha, here we are. [As Badger turns around it is no surprise to find that Dina has left the sett. As I Made It Through the Rain rings around the safe-sett, Badger races to the surface to meet Weasel. The hooves of Ronnie and Reggie thunder across the woodland floor as they return to the cover of the trees, leaving Weasel alone, clutching something in his claws.]

What is it, Weasel?

You’re not – pop – going to – pop – like this… [Weasel unclenches his claws and out from his grasp rolls a ripped up piece of paper, with writing on it, it says…]

TALES OF DON WARREN: THE ABDUCTION OF BELINDA THE BADGER

What does this mean? Is it the kidnappers plans? It looks like a title for a story…Where did they find this?

In a recycling – pop – bin – in – pop – Portsmouth.

Portsmouth? That’s where Tom lives isn’t it? He can’t be responsible for this…can he?

Now that she has escaped from the sett of that furry idiot you can follow Dina on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and on her blog.

Tune in next week for the conclusion of The Badger…well, what choice do I have now that Badger’s discovered my fiendish plan…

The Badger welcomes Michelle Muto

So, the gig is up as they say. I’ve finally been tracked down for testifying against Don Warren, who has found out that I’m in W.A.R.P – the Witness Animal Relocation Programme and now he’s trying to kill me! I was lucky to survive the highway to hell, but Weasel came through for me and saved me life once again. Until W.A.R.P can find me a new safe-sett, I’m just hiding out in a secret location so I can continue the blog.

So, folks after my visit from that psychotic Hedgehog last week it’s a real pleasure and a relief to welcome the talented Michelle Muto to the secret sett. Weasel has deployed some of his ‘crew’ to post guard and although I’m worried sick about Belinda, the show must go on. I’m just going to sort out my bedding whilst Michelle reads her synopsis and an excerpt from chapter two of her excellent YA novel – Don’t Fear the Reaper.

SYNOPSIS:

Haunted by memories of her murdered twin, Keely Morrison is convinced suicide is her only ticket to eternal peace. But in death, she discovers the afterlife is nothing like she expected. Instead of peaceful oblivion or a joyful reunion with her sister, Keely is trapped in a netherworld on Earth with only a bounty-hunting reaper and a sarcastic demon to show her the ropes.

When the demon offers Keely her ultimate temptation–revenge on her sister’s killer–she must determine who she can trust. Because, as Keely soon learns, the reaper and demon have been keeping secrets and she fears the worst is true–that her every decision changes how, and with whom, she spends eternity.

an excerpt from chapter 2:

I shook my head. “Not real,” I heard myself whisper.

“Real,” Daniel said, nonchalantly from his post against the wall. “Stage one, full denial with psychotic tendencies and delusions of astral projection.”

I hated him, hated the way his words sounded in my ears. He didn’t care that my parents were completely torn apart. He didn’t care how sorry I was. My life was…gone. Over.

What had I done?

“Enough,” Banning warned him. “Ever hear of tact?”

“Oh, I’m supposed to have sympathy for her on top of everything else?” Daniel scoffed. “I know better, Banning. I freaking know better. Am I supposed to candy-coat it? Tell her it’s okay and then show her around hell like it’s Ft. Lauderdale on spring break?”

“She’s not going with you,” Banning repeated.

I wasn’t going with anyone. I wanted them to leave me alone. Or fix everything. For the first time in months, I wanted something more than my sister’s life back. I wanted my life back. “Undo this. Fix it!” I shouted.

“If only I could,” Banning said. “That’s not within my power—”

“Then take me to someone who can. God. Lucifer. Anyone.

“That’s a no-go on my end. What do you have, Banning?” Daniel had his head down, rubbing his temples in slow circular motions. I guess my parents grieving over my dead body was too much for him. I hoped there wasn’t anything like aspirin in hell.

Banning shook his head. “I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way, Keely.”

“Screw that! People come back from the dead all the time. I’m just having a near death experience. Put me back.” A glance in the mirror told me that my eyes had already started to get puffy. But even red and tear-stained, my face was still considerably better than the me lying dead on the bathroom floor.

[Badger is trembling with a pile of straw held over his face. Michelle coughs] Ahem, right, right, I was just checking the bedding. I wasn’t scared or anything. [A beetle farts and Badger jumps] Sorry, sorry, bit on edge I guess. Right then that was pretty spooky, gave me badger bumps, but tell us what can we expect from Michelle Muto in the future?

Too many irons in the fire at the moment. I’m working on a YA haunted house story, tweaking an older, trunked adult paranormal, the sequel to The Book of Lost Souls, and notes on the sequel to Don’t Fear the Reaper. It’s exhausting.

I know how you feel, Michelle, being on the run is knackering. You use Ravens in this story, which are obviously part of the crow family. It does wind me up that they seem to get all the great parts in the big movies like The Omen and Hitchcock’s The Birds, Badgers don’t get a look in! They are pretty good to be fair, I mean, that scene in the playground… [Badger shivers] Me and Belinda saw that on the TV through the Farmhouse window one night. [Badger blows his nose on a nettle and folds it up like a handkerchief the snot dribbling out of the side] Have you ever been surrounded by Crows in a playground?

Dammit, yes. Little thugs keep hogging the slide.

I’ve heard of Counting Crows but Sliding Crows! Next thing you know they’ll be interviewing humans on blogs! I’ve always wanted to interview Badger from Firefly and ask him what he thought of his great character name. Is there a Supernatural character or actor that you’d most like to interview and what would your first question be?

Dean Winchester. First question probably not appropriate for the public. 🙂

That’s one of the brothers played by that guy who sounds like Eccles cake, isn’t it! I know Tom loves that show, always going on about it, but me and Belinda can only watch whatever’s on at the old Farmhouse through the back window. Michelle are you okay? [Michelle seems to have drifted into a trance after the last question, she has a big, distant grin on her face, as if she is lost in a daydream] It’s nice to see someone smiling at the moment to be honest, which reminds me – what’s your favourite simile?

B52’s “I’ve got me a Chrysler – it’s as big as a whale.”

Ah – Love Shack! That’s what me and Belinda used to call the sett. I’ll miss that place. Strange to think that it was once a hot bed of badger action! I guess there won’t be anymore Barry White being piped through those chambers ever again…[a tear slides down Badger’s furry face] which brings me on to the tune you would you chose for the title track if your book were made into a movie. What would that be?

Evanescence’s My Immortal.

[Badger has his paws up to his eyes, tears are dripping from his chin] Oh Belinda! Why did you leave me? [He wails and blows his nose on his snotty  nettle – Michelle kindly passes him a crimson handkerchief. He sniffs and has a good blow and offers it her back. She declines] Sorry, it’s been a tough time with the assassination attempt and all that! Maybe I should have had another week off? Weasel thinks I should go and see a doctor, but the last time I did that, it was just so confusing. Have you ever walked into a Witch Doctor’s reception room, been called in and then had to ask which doctor you should see?

Wow! You, too?

Yeah, it was just so complicated. I was talking to a nasty Otter who had a temperature from drinking too much flea flavoured coffee. He said he didn’t know which doctor to see either. Anyway, talking of that bad Otter’s flea-latte has reminded me – what would you wear to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party?

Bunny slippers.

That’s a little bit cruel, but they are the luckiest footwear you can own apparently. Belinda made me a pair from a rotting rabbit corpse at the back of the wood for my birthday. That was a great day, probably the best of my life. What’s your favourite day of the year?

Your birthday?

Snap! Mine too! Talking of snap, I heard one of the Swans talking down by the river the other day. He was saying that some of the insects he’d been eating were fighting back, which is really inconvenient when you’re peckish. We animals can get injured by our food and that can get pretty annoying, but is that the same for humans… I mean If a pancake tried to kill you, would you flip?

One tried that once. It did not work (said in best Johnny Depp/Barnabus Collins voice)

Ooh, sounds just like him, nice impression. I’ve seen the trailer for that in the adverts on the TV at the Farmhouse and on posters at the bus-stop at the edge of the wood. Tim Burton was recruiting for Dark Shadows in our wood the other day. I even tried to pitch to him, when he was strolling through here with his lovely wife, Helena. I had this idea for a TV screenplay about a pack of dogs exacting their own brand of furry revenge. I called it Ruff Justice. Do you have any animal-based screenplay ideas?

Wereweasels on Elm Street. Afraid? You should be.

[Badger is face down in the straw, his bum trembling with fear…Eventually he peeks out] Brilliant! Now you’ve gone and put that in my head, I’ll never sleep again. I’ve heard rumours of such creatures hiding in the reeds by the river. Weasel calls them Minks but I call them Reeders. [Badger shivers] Who’s your favourite reader by the way? No pressure!

Some dude named Tom.

Really! I thought he was a bit simple! Still, you’re welcome back anytime Michelle – a peanut treat and your song are coming right up…

[The Badger schnaffles around pulling out the old gramophone and an old vinyl record from a cardboard box of things he has packed and moved to the secret sett.] I can’t play it too loud because it will give away our position. Michelle? Michelle? Hello? [As Don’t Fear the Reaper plays at low volume around the secret sett, Badger hears footsteps and quickly straightens his fur, anticipating Michelle’s return] Oh Weasel, it’s you, come in, come in.

We have a lead on – pop – Belinda – pop – Well come on – pop – boys, bring him – pop – down…

And you say the doctors can’t do anything for that popping you do?

Nope – pop! Looks like I’ll always go – pop!

Pity that! [As footsteps draw near, Badger’s fur stands to attention. Flanked by two lithe, weasel bodyguards stands a rotund brown mammal with a big central tooth] Vassily the Vole, chief interrogator for Don Warren!

Right boys let’s tie – pop – him up. Maybe – pop – we’ll give him a – pop – taste of his own – pop – dentistry medicine.

[Badger rolls up the fur on his sleeves and joins Weasel and his crew. He comes face to face with Vassily, a menacing look in his eye] Now tell me where my wife is, Chompers!

Now that Michelle has escaped from the sett, you can catch her and her work at the following links…

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