Please allow me to introduce you to Babs and Deidre or Deidre and Babs. I have no idea which one is which. Although later in the book, Deirdre does something which makes it easy to distinguish her from Babs.
But then Deirdre is a rabbit. And you know what rabbits do.
Babs, of course, is also a rabbit. However, in the book, she doesn’t do what rabbits do. Well, not that I know about, anyway. And if she does, she keeps pretty quiet about it.
Babs and Deirdre (or Deirdre and Babs) are both teenage rabbits with a penchant for social media and they often reduce life and its vagaries to hashtags. For example, if they were to suggest you buy this book, you might hear either of them utter, #TheMacaroonChroniclesRocks or #BuyThisBook or indeed, #GetYourCopyNow.
#SeeWhatIMean? They are also keen on selfies and are probably well-known influencers on the Isle of Macaroon.They first meet The Three Wise Monkeys on the Custard River where Eddie, Brian and Colin are in a spot of bother in their hired boat, ‘The Saucy Tart’ and Babs and Deirdre perform a daring rescue. Their initial interest in The Three Wise Monkeys result in them appearing on stage alongside Brian, Colin and a very reluctant Eddie, and they earn the name the Jive Bunnies. Quite rightly so, and their good sense and hard work contributes to the friends’ joint enterprise on the desert island. Their motto for life would be #FriendshipRules #FriendshipAboveAll #DeirdreAndBabsForever.
Before I carry on, in the interests of health and safety, please be aware of every move that Gideon makes. If he fishes in one of his pockets – especially if he pulls out a pen, please take evasive action if you value your well-being and your life. As a spy – albeit one who failed his spying exams – Gideon had access to an extensive collection of espionage gadgets such as pens which fire poisoned darts, and others which contain special ink. His inability to distinguish between them contributed to him failing his Spying exams. Consequently, he’s just as likely to shoot you with a sleeping draft-tipped dart as to sign and give you a cheque whose amount will magically alter after he’s gone.
Cultured and good natured, Gideon is the perfect gentleman in his elegant suit and bow tie but unfortunately, his outfit is smarter than his wits. He’s a later addition to the band of chums, however, Gideon is eagerly accepted for his occasional flashes of brilliance and his all-round good humour.
He now plays with The Three Wise Monkeys. Well, why not? The Three Wise Monkeys only contain one monkey, one lemur, two rabbits and a reluctant chicken – so why not a pig? And he’s an excellent flautist. Sadly, that’s a bit unnerving for the other band members, who duck whenever Gideon is holding anything which resembles a blow pipe, especially if they’re looking down its barrel.
Gideon’s motto for life would be: Friendship above everything, and try not to kill any friends by accident.
First, before I say anything about Colin, I need to tell you he’s a lemur and not a monkey like Brian. It’s an easy mistake to make but not one that will win you any favours with Colin, who’s rather touchy on the subject.
When Colin and Brian met Eddie, they were in a musical band and they called themselves ‘Frog’s Scorn’. They engaged Eddie to manage them and he changed their name without consulting either of the band members, to ‘The Three Wise Monkeys’. Of course, you’ll immediately notice the two flaws here – the band actually consists of one monkey, one lemur and nobody else. And it’s also doubtful whether either Colin or Brian possess much wisdom between them – a point underlined by the fact they were the ones who engaged Eddie as their manager. However, Colin is a gentle soul, (unless, of course, you refer to him as a monkey) and as the story progresses he becomes acquainted with the female side of his character and embraces it fully. Nevertheless, he is still a demon on the bongos and together the monkey and the lemur, as ‘The Three Wise Monkeys’ can rock Spudwell Stadium – or indeed any stadium. They have two groupies in Babs and Deirdre who add to the spectacle, and on one notable occasion, Eddie joined them on stage, however that owed more to the threat from the music promoter, Mr Krapowski, than to any musical direction. And in the latter part of the story they are joined by Gideon who plays a mean flute, and it’s interesting to watch his pig’s trotters fly over the instrument. Incidentally, you may notice the others duck or flinch if it appears the flute is pointing at them, because no one can forget how projectiles are frequently emitted from Gideon without his knowledge or intention – some even lethal. Colin is a good-natured chap and a loyal friend so it’s no surprise that his motto for life is: Friendship above all – especially with my mate Brian.
Allison Symes and I have been friends for some time, having met at one of the Christmas launches of ‘The Best of CafeLit’ book. We usually meet up regularly at one of the Bridge House Publishing events although this year, we’ve had to restrict our meetings to Zoom. Allison, Paula Readman and Jim Bates (who I’ve previously interviewed), and I regularly write for CafeLit.
Allison and I also took part in an author event, along with Gill James, back in September where we presented aspects of our work and shared stories to a live audience. We each spoke about the appeal flash fiction had for us and how we started out writing it.
Allison’s previous collection of excellent short stories is called ‘From Light to Dark and Back Again’, and can be found here on Amazon.
So, let’s find out more about Allison’s new book…
Allison – Many thanks, Dawn, for inviting me on to your blog. I am delighted to talk about my latest flash fiction collection, Tripping The Flash Fantastic, which was recently published by Chapeltown Books.
Dawn – Tell us a bit about your latest book and any other projects, Allison.
Allison – My latest book is Tripping The Flash Fantastic, my follow-up flash fiction collection to From Light to Dark and Back Again. For my new book, I will take you back in time, into some truly criminal minds, into fantasy worlds, and show you how motherhood looks from the viewpoint of a dragon! For the first time I’ve written historically based flash fiction tales (there are stories from the viewpoint of Richard III and Elizabeth of York to name two), and I’ve also had a lot of fun telling flash tales in poetic form. I like to think of my collections as “mixed assortments” and these work just as well for story books as they do for chocolates! (And there is plenty for most people to enjoy too – and that goes for my stories as well as the choccies!).
I am working on a third flash fiction collection and a non-fiction project. Longer term, I have a novel I want to revisit and see if I can do anything with, though it was long-listed for a Debut Novel competition many moons ago. But I have learned so much in writing flash fiction, I am sure I can improve this book further. So plenty I want to work on – just need elastic time now. Elastic so I can stretch it to suit my writing needs. Anyone who could invent that would be on to a winner with every writer I’m sure.
Dawn – How did you first become interested in writing?
Allison – It grew out of my love of reading, Dawn. My late mother taught me to read before I started school. She got told off for doing it too. Apparently she had done it the “wrong way”. Now this was back in the 1970s… These days she’d have been given a medal! I never felt the lack of the “wrong way”. My love of stories grew from that love of reading and later the desire to write my own, to somehow put something back into the wonderful world of stories, emerged. I’m only surprised it didn’t happen sooner to be honest. It’s my only regret with writing. I should’ve started sooner than I did.
Dawn – I have exactly the same regret, Allison. Anyway, on with the questions, do you prefer to write in any particular genre and if so, which?
Allison – The nice thing with flash fiction is, because of the restricted word count, there isn’t room for lots of description so the stories have to be character led. But the good news there is I can set my characters wherever and whenever I want to, so I do! I’ve set characters in fantasy worlds, I’ve written crime and horror based tales, I love writing funny fairytales and twist endings. I love the variety flash fiction gives me. I suppose if I had to name an overall favourite genre, it has to be what I call fairytales with bite. These are usually funny and have a strong punch or twist ending.
Dawn – If you write in several different genres are there any that you avoid and if so, why?
Allison – I like to write in the genres I like to read and I love fantasy stories, fairytales, funny stories and so on, which is why I write them. I don’t read or write erotica, for example. My tastes simply don’t run that way.
Dawn – Is there a genre that you haven’t yet tried which you intend to and if so what’s holding you back?
Allison – I’d like to write a non-fiction book and am currently working on one. The challenge is very different to fiction but it’s interesting. It’s taking longer than I thought but I have to admit I’m not too surprised by that. Something new always does.
Dawn – Of all the stories you’ve written, which is your favourite and why?
Allison – This is an excellent question and a toughie! From my first book, From Light to Dark and Back Again, I think it has to be Calling the Doctor. It’s a flash tale where the whole mood of the story turns on the very last word. I was pleased with how that worked out so I used it in the book trailer for this.
For Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I think my favourite story has to be The Pink Rose. It’s a personal story, probably the most personal I’ll write, something I felt driven to write, and is a tribute to someone special.
Dawn – Having read your book, I have to say, The Pink Rose was my favourite too. Have any of your characters ever decided to take things into their own hands and write themselves a bigger part or a different part than you’d intended? If so which one?
Allison – Ah ha! This is another advantage of flash fiction. There isn’t the room for them to do that! Also I outline my characters before I write the story, yes even for flash. So if they’re going to take over anything, it will happen in the outline. But then that gives me the time I need to work out which story route would work best for which character. I don’t mind characters “showing their own mind” like this. It shows they’re “live” and confirms to me their story is definitely worth writing up.
I need to know a character’s major trait before I can write for them so that helps me gauge their personality and how I can use that. A pompous character is a great one to put in a funny tale for example but I would need to know what would make someone pompous and how they are blind to that but nobody else around them is. Sometimes a trait like this will dictate what the story has to be. So I guess there the character’s personality is shining through well and truly!
Dawn – Is there a specific word count to which you usually work either intentionally or unintentionally?
Allison – Sometimes. For the Waterloo Arts Festival writing competition (in which we’ve both been winners), there is a 1000 word count maximum so I work to that. For competitions, I stick to whatever word count they want obviously but for my own work I have found my natural home is between the 100-word (drabble) to the 500-word type of story.
Dawn – With my latest book, The Macaroon Chronicles, there is quite a lot of food-related content and I wondered if food features greatly in your current release or work in progress?
Allison – It crops up sometimes. In From Light to Dark and Back Again, my story Time for Tea shows my character getting tea set for his estranged adult children but things are not all as cosy as they might appear. In Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I experimented with the flash form and wrote a story in poetic form (but it still counts as flash as it is well under the 1000 word maximum for that). This is The Cake Bake and tells the tale of a lady who gets magical help to assist her with her dreadful baking. Whether she is happy with the results of that help is another matter though. See the story for more! I sometimes refer to food and/or drink in other stories too but I wouldn’t say I use it as a major theme.
Dawn – Do you like macaroons? If so do you prefer coconut or almond?
Allison – Yes! I like the gluten free chocolate covered coconut macaroons. Yum!
Dawn – In The Macaroon Chronicles, on the Isle of Macaroon, there are Meringue Mountains with chocolate waterfalls, cheese mines and a custard river. Imagine you were to visit the Isle of Macaroon which one of those sites would you visit first? And why?
With the exception of the custard river (I loathe custard!), I would be torn. I think I would have to go to the chocolate waterfalls, then the cheese mines. I’d have a fabulous time at both though I can imagine what my Slimming World consultant would have to say about that!
Many thanks for such fab questions.
Dawn – Thanks to you, Allison, for taking the time to join me today. If readers would like to find out more about Allison Symes, they can do so by investigating the following links:
I thought I’d let some of the main characters loose, so you can meet them. Small, but with a huge personality, is Brian…
Please allow me to introduce you to Brian. Brian is a monkey and if you comment on his diminutive size, you may notice his cute expression turn into a scowl because he doesn’t want to be known for being small. There’s nothing wrong with being small, of course, but try telling Brian that.
Tiny in stature but his presence in the band of friends has huge significance because he’s often the voice of reason. And luckily, he doesn’t bear a grudge because otherwise he and Eddie would have parted company a long time ago – and that would’ve been a shame because he’d have missed out on all the Eddie-driven adventures and mayhem.
Although Brian may never forgive Eddie for the nasty shock he received when Eddie got them jobs working for Leonora Da Finchy, a local artist. But I’m sworn to secrecy about that particular calamity. But here’s a tip – if you turn to the chapter entitled “Waxing Lyrical”, then you’ll see what I mean. And you can make up your own mind about how you’d feel if a friend allowed that to happen to you! But let’s not get distracted. I must mention Brian’s talent as a musician. He plays in a band with the others and let me tell you – he can drive the audience wild! And he’s also the most adventurous of the band and plays an important part in the friends’ joint scheme on a desert island, which Eddie, of course, claims is his idea. Brian’s motto for life would be: Friendship above everything – especially with my mate Colin.
I thought I’d let some of the main characters loose, so you can meet them and typically, Eddie wanted to be first. So, here goes:
Please allow me to introduce you to Eddie. Although he thinks he’s the protagonist of THE MACAROON CHRONICLES, he’s actually just one of several main characters. However, with his inflated sense of self-worth, he believes he’s the star.
And that’s not Eddie’s only misconception. If you were to meet him in person, he’d introduce himself as Eddie the Bald Eagle however, even the most short-sighted amongst us would very quickly spot that his avian heritage owes more to the Chicken family than it does to the Eagle’s. And sadly, Eddie is also under the delusion that he is an astute businessman – and a red-hot band manager.
Please don’t tell him I said so, but his business and managerial skills are negligible.
And his common sense – such that he has – often disintegrates the minute a contract is placed in front of him. He can’t see the small print for the zeros in the financial details.
Well, so much for what Eddie isn’t. What is he? Many words spring to mind – conceited, over-confident, ruthless and disloyal – and yet his friends seem to follow him everywhere so they must find something lovable in the chicken masquerading as a bird of prey. And it’s not as if he means any harm – he’s just a bit impetuous – and reckless – and sometimes downright careless.
Eddie’s motto for life would be: Friendship above everything – except making money.
Although I’ve never met Jim face to face, we’ve been friends for some time, having ‘met’ virtually on Paula Readman’s Facebook group, For Writers only, The Clubhouse. We both regularly write short stories for CafeLit and also record stories which are broadcast on Tony Cranston’s Talking Stories programme on East London Radio and have exchanged emails from time to time. Jim has a new book about to be published and I thought I’d find out more.
Dawn – Thanks for joining us, Jim. Can you tell us about your next book release, please?
Jim – I am thrilled to announce that my next book release with be my FIRST book release! LOL!! Its publication has been slowed due to the pandemic but it is scheduled for release later this year. It’s a collection of 27 short stories, most, but not all, previously seen on CafeLit. Its title is “Resilience” and it’s being published through Bridge House Publishing. Next year, I will also have a collection of Flash Fiction coming out in 2021 published by Chapeltown Books. I’m very excited!
Dawn – I know you’re a prolific writer, but how did you first become interested in writing?
Jim – I enjoyed reading as a kid and always wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first story while in the fourth grade which, of course, was horribly awful. My father told me that after I grew up and had more life experiences other than playing hockey and blowing on the trombone, I’d have more to write about. He was right! It just took me over fifty years to get around to starting.
Dawn – Do you prefer to write in any particular genre and if so, which?
Jim – I prefer literary fiction such as flash fiction and short stories. I like working with characters, putting them in situations and seeing how they will react in those situations. I’m very comfortable in that genre. That being said, I do enjoy dabbling in drabbles, and writing some horror and fantasy and science fiction, primarily to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone.
Dawn – Are there any genres that you avoid and if so, why?
Jim – I’d take a stab at any genre, just for the challenge, but if I did romance or erotica, I promise you that the end result would be extremely embarrassing!!
Dawn –Is there a genre that you haven’t yet tried which you intend to and if so what’s holding you back?
Jim – Nope. I’m pretty much open to trying anything.
Dawn –Of all the stories you’ve written, which is your favourite and why?
Jim – Right off the bat, “Remembrance Day” comes to my mind. It was the first story accepted for publication by CafeLit, the first story of mine that ever appeared on-line and it’s the first story in my collection. It’s the first story where I really felt I began to find my voice. My story “The Jump” also in my collection would be second choice because it’s kind of funny.
Dawn –Have any of your characters ever decided to take things into their own hands and write themselves a bigger part or a different part than you’d intended? If so which one?
Jim – That’s a very interesting question, and my answer is YES. Last year I started writing a science fiction series for the fun of it that was planned out to be ten episodes long. Not only did I find a publisher for the stories, but the characters wouldn’t let me stop at the planned ten episodes. I’ve written two more episodes and have ideas for more. The characters keep evolving and I’m not in the mood to let them go, so who knows how long the series will go on? LOL!
Dawn –Is there a specific word count to which you usually work either intentionally or unintentionally?
Jim – No. You’d be surprised how many of my stories start out as 75 pieces that I sent to Paragraph Planet. I can then take them and craft them into a 100 word drabble and/or expand the drabble to a flash fiction or longer story. It’s really fun. My earlier stories were much longer, some at 12k or more!! I don’t limit myself to word count unless it’s some sort of restriction based on where I’m submitting.
Dawn –With my latest publication, ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ in mind, I’m going to ask you a few fun, food-related questions! So, here goes! Does food feature greatly in your current release or work in progress?
Jim – LOL!! Only in the back of my mind when trying to put off having a snack!
Dawn –Do you like macaroons? If so do you prefer coconut or almond?
Jim – I love macaroons, specifically coconut. In fact, I wrote a short story once about a guy with celiac spruce (intolerance to gluten) that mentioned coconut macaroons. It was published a while ago on CafeLit if I recall correctly. (And, yes, I have celiac spruce.)
Dawn –In ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’, on the Isle of Macaroon, there are Meringue Mountains with chocolate waterfalls, cheese mines and a custard river. Imagine you were to visit the Isle of Macaroon which one of those sites would you visit first? And why?
Jim – I’d head for the chocolate waterfalls as fast I could run. I love chocolate. My treat in the afternoon is a hot cup of coffee and a bit of a peanut butter/rice crispy bar with chocolate lathered on top of it. I get them at the grocery store. Love them! So, yes, the chocolate waterfall would be my decadent downfall!!
Dawn – Well, my thanks to Jim Bates for taking the time to join me today on my blog to tell us a bit about himself and his writing. I wish him the greatest luck with his new release, ‘Resilience’, when it’s published.
In addition to the soon to be released collection of Short Stories by Bridge House Publishing entitled “Resilience”, Jim will also have a collection of Flash Fiction coming out in 2021 published by Chapeltown Books.Find out more about Jim on his blog The View from Long Lake
Fellow author, Paula R.C. Readman and I first met at a Bridge House Publishing Author event a few years ago and since then, we’ve both had stories published on the CafeLit site and in many of the anthologies released by publisher, Gill James, of Bridge House Publishing. Paula has joined me again to help celebrate the release of my latest book, ‘The Macaroon Chronicles‘ which is now available on Amazon and to tell us about her latest book, ‘Stone Angels’, published by Darkstroke Books which has hit the top of several bestseller lists since its launch.
I put some questions to Paula…
Dawn – What is your latest book release, Paula? Please tell us a little about it.
Paula – In August this year after taking six years to write, edit, and submit I finally found a publisher who would publish my first crime novel, Stone Angels. It was a huge learning curve for me. I’m now busy editing the first novel I ever wrote. When I first completed Seeking the Dark, I submitted it to an American publisher who gave me some guidance on how to improve it, but I wasn’t familiar with editing terms. I had mapped out the whole story I wanted to tell, but I hadn’t the skills I needed to tell it as I wanted to.
After spending eight months, working with an editor on Stone Angels and writing drabbles for Black Hare Press, my writing and editing skills were much improved. Seeking the Dark is a vampire novel with a twist and a publisher has shown an interest in it once I finished the edits. I also have plans for a follow on novel to the Funeral Birds, soI’ve plenty to get on with for future books.
Dawn – How did you first become interested in writing?
Paula – I’m dyslectic and was diagnosed when I was in my junior school. This wasn’t followed up in my senior school, and for that reason I found school to be frustrating. I could do the schoolwork, but couldn’t get it down on paper. I’ve always loved books. My father was a great reader and used to share his sci-fi novels with me. At sixteen, I used to carry a small dictionary with me so anytime I was reading while travelling to work on the bus I could look up words I didn’t understand. I loved reading, and would memorise patterns of words I couldn’t pronounce. I still have a problem with spelling but I use an electronic dictionary on my computer as it pronounces the words for me. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I decided to see if I could become a writer. When computers become more affordable I decided to teach myself from books, how to write to be published.
Dawn – Do you prefer to write in any particular genre and if so, which?
Paula – My writing style is dark, but not quite horror. I love the Victorian gothic ghost and horror short stories. They are scary and dark without being gory. So you could say I model my writing style on Gothic horror, if it needs to be categorized.
Dawn –If you write in several different genres are there any that you avoid and if so, why?
Paula – I don’t do romance. I write psychological crime, Gothic horror or dark fantasy, but romance. Not for me, just not a romantic person.
Dawn – Of all the stories you’ve written, which is your favourite and why?
Paula – That’s a little unfair, Dawn. That’s a bit of a Daddy or Chips question! At a push I have two to short stories I love, but as all of the stories in my single collection, Days Pass Like A Shadow are all my favourite ones, I’ll select Chimes at Midnight and Rat Trap as two of my best favourites. Yes, Dawn, I know the question was one, but how do you choose? Rat Trap was my first crime story and the start of my writing career that brought me to meet Gill, Debz and the rest of the Bridge House family. Chimes at Midnight wrote itself and was the easiest story I’ve ever written.
Dawn – Well, Paula, I think your answer is quite reasonable and you’ll see my answer to this question on your blog – I didn’t choose only one story either!
Dawn – Is there a specific word count to which you usually work either intentionally or unintentionally?
Paula – Not at all, I write until I have to stop writing to sort out my husband’s dinner. Some days it might be a few hundred, some days it’s a thousand, it really depends on what I’m writing. Now I’m editing so I might be rewriting a sentence or a paragraph.
Dawn – My mind has been on ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ for some time now, so please, Paula, forgive the following food questions!
Dawn – Does food feature greatly in your current release or work in progress?
Paula – If feeding on blood is classed as food then yes, if not, then not at all.
Dawn – Do you like macaroons? If so do you prefer coconut or almond?
Paula – I haven’t had them for years, so I will go for almonds.
Dawn – In ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’, on the Isle of Macaroon, there are Meringue Mountains with chocolate waterfalls, cheese mines and a custard river. Imagine you were to visit the Isle of Macaroon, which one of those sites would you visit first? And why?
Paula – If the Cheese Mines are suitable for vegetarians then that would be the place for me. Do I have to bring my own cheese biscuits? I love cheese it’s the reason I can’t become a vegan.
Dawn – I’m reliably informed biscuits are available at all cheese mines on the Isle of Macaroon, which are also suitable for vegetarians, Paula, and if you make it to the island, there’ll be a special welcome waiting for you!
Thanks to Paula for being my guest today and if you want to buy her book or indeed, find out more about her, here are some details:
‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ is a romp through relationships amongst some anthropomorphic characters. It is one of those quirky books that awakes your sense of humour. Come and follow the fun.Take a tour of the exotic Isle of Macaroon with Eddie and his zany friends who will be pleased to show you the cheese mines, Meringue Mountains and the Custard River while they flee unscrupulous promoters, bandit badgers and low-flying seagulls. But a word of advice – don’t refer to Eddie as a chicken, he thinks he’s a bald eagle. And don’t mention Brian’s small stature, he’s rather sensitive about his size. Oh, and don’t call Brian a monkey, he’s actually a lemur. And finally, if Gideon takes a pen out of his pocket and you value your life – duck.
Trailer for ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’
I’d intended to simply write a short story to read out at the Basildon Writers’ Group, using a writing prompt I’d been given. We were asked to incorporate at least five items from a list to compose a story. I selected: a ballpoint pen, a pair of fisherman’s waders, a Hawaiian shirt, an electric guitar and a billboard.
I’d been watching a video of legendary ski jumper, Eddie the Eagle Edwards and the name appealed to me, which is how Eddie, the bald eagle who’s really a chicken was born!
I recently got in touch with the real Eddie the Eagle, Michael Edwards, and told him I’d borrowed his name for one of the characters in the book. However, I pointed out that absolutely nothing about Eddie the Bald Eagle (Chicken) resembled him! I also sent the real Eddie the Eagle a copy of the book and I’d be interested to know what he thought!
If you’d like to see how all the elements came together, here’s the first chapter of ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’. See if you can spot the items I’d chosen to include!
The Three Wise Monkeys
Oscar held the mobile phone against his ear with his shoulder and grabbed a ballpoint pen.
“Oscar’s Signs. Oscar speaking, how can I help?”
“Hello, it’s Eddie. I emailed the other day to enquire about a large poster.”
“Yes, Eddie the Bald Eagle.”
Oscar held his paw over the receiver of the phone, rolled his eyes towards the ceiling and whispered to his apprentice, “It’s that bald chicken what thinks he’s an eagle.”
“I heard that! I’ll have you know I am a bald eagle!” Eddie yelled into the receiver.
Oscar held the phone at arm’s length and winced. When he was certain Eddie had finished, he placed it next to his ear again. “All right, no need to shout. So, Eddie the Bald Eagle, what can I do for you?”
“As I said in my email, I’d like a large poster put on a billboard in Spudwell, as close to the music festival as you can, to advertise my band.”
“Hmm.” Oscar glanced at the calendar, “I’ll do my best but most of the billboards around Spudwell have been taken. You’ve cut it fine, you know. The festival’s in two days.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ve had a few problems but they’re all sorted now… So, can you do it?”
Oscar sighed, “Yeah, okay, let me take down the details. Name?”
“Eddie, I told you!”
“No, not your name, the band’s name.”
“Oh, I see. It’s The Three Wise Monkeys.”
Oscar scribbled on the notepad. “And I assume the band members are actually monkeys?”
“There’s no ‘of course’ about it. You’d be surprised the sort of stunts bands pull these days to get themselves noticed. So, your band members are monkeys and their names are?…”
“Brian and Colin.”
“Brian, Colin and?…” asked Oscar, scribbling on the pad.
“Just Brian and Colin.”
Oscar paused and chewed the end of his pen, “My maths is a bit shaky but I definitely make that two monkeys. Didn’t you say The Three Wise Monkeys?”
“Yeah, that’s our angle, see. Two monkeys called The Three Wise Monkeys. Get it? Good eh?”
Oscar sighed. “Yeah, whatever. I’m just checking my emails and I’ve found yours but you don’t seem to have attached any photos of Brian and Colin. You did send me some, didn’t you?”
“Never mind, we’ll use some stock photographs.”
“Okay, thanks, you will have it ready in time for the music festival, though, won’t you?” asked Eddie
“Of course. I’ll deal with it myself,” Oscar said and cut the call.
“’Ere, you can do this one,” he said and threw the notepad to the apprentice.
Eddie was striding about the car park outside the picturesque village of Cakehall when Brian and Colin arrived.
“About time!” said Eddie stabbing at the face of his watch with the tip of his featherless wing.
“Yeah, sorry we’re late. Colin was hungry, so we stopped off at the cheese mine down the road,” said Brian.
“Yeah,” said Colin, “want some?” He took a packet out of his bag and unwrapped it, to reveal a large portion of steaming, golden cheese. It had several bite marks in it. “There’s nothing better than cheese fresh from the mine,” he said and bit off a chunk.
Eddie shook his head. “Nice to see you two cheese-malingerers are taking the music festival seriously,” he said scowling at them.
“All right, keep your feathers on, Baldy, we are taking it seriously but we have to eat. You don’t want us fainting all over the place do you?” said Colin.
“I’m warning you, cut the ‘bald’ jokes!” snapped Eddie.
“Well, anyway, we’re here now, so let’s get going,” said Brian, looking about the car park. “Where’s the van?”
“It broke down,” said Eddie.
“Oh no! How’re we going to get to the festival? There are going be scouts there. It might have been our first big break,” said Brian.
“Don’t worry, while you two were stuffing your faces in the cheese mine, I managed to arrange alternate transport. Follow me.”
“Why are we heading away from the car park?” asked Brian.
“Yeah,” said Colin, “this path leads to the river.”
“That’s right,” said Eddie “with so many people on their way to the music festival, you can’t hire a van, car, or even a bicycle for love nor money.”
“Please don’t tell me you’re expecting us to swim there!” said Colin.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Eddie, “you can’t swim in custard. You’d drown. No, I’ve hired a rowing boat.”
“What! Are you serious? You’re expecting us to row through custard?” asked Brian, “If I get a blister, I won’t be able to play my guitar, then what?”
“I’ll row,” said Eddie “and don’t be so ungrateful. If we don’t go by boat, we don’t go to the festival, it’s as simple as that. I would’ve thought you’d have been glad I’ve sorted the problem out.”
“Well, you are our manager. We pay you to sort things out. I don’t see why we have to be grateful as well,” said Colin.
“Yeah,” said Brian, “you get paid more than we do and we’re the band.”
“Ingrates,” muttered Eddie.
There was silence for a while as they trudged through the field of candyfloss bushes.
“Is it much further?” asked Brian, “This case is getting heavy.” He shifted the electric guitar to his other hand.
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” said Colin, “my back’s killing me carrying these bongos.”
“Quit moaning,” said Eddie, “the river’s just around the bend.”
“Is that it?” asked Colin pointing at the tiny rowing boat moored to the jetty, bobbing in the custard. “You are joking, aren’t you?”
“It’s that – or you walk,” said Eddie.
A weather-beaten ferret stomped down the jetty to meet them, “Which one’s Eddie the Bald Eagle?”
“Are you for real? He’s a monkey,” said Eddie, stabbing his wing in Brian’s direction “and he’s a monkey.” He nodded at Colin, “so have a guess who’s the bald eagle!”
“I’ll have you know, I’m not a monkey, I’m a lemur!” said Colin.
The ferret moved his captain’s cap backwards and scratched his forehead, “Seems to be a lot of identity confusion round ‘ere,” he said, “I don’t care what you are. All I want to know is who’s paying. Is it the chicken or what? I’ve got more parties interested in The Saucy Tart, so if you’re not goin’ to hire her, I’ll bid you good day.”
“All right, all right!” snapped Eddie taking his wallet out of his pocket, “here you are,” he said and handed over some notes.
“Rightio,” said the ferret, folding the money and stuffing it one of his fishing waders, “I’ll see you back here on Tuesday. Make sure you look after her.”
“Wait a minute!” called Eddie as the ferret walked briskly off the jetty, whistling tunelessly, “Can’t you give us a hand to start?”
“I thought you said you knew what you was doin’,” said the ferret frowning.
“Well, theoretically I do.”
“Not so much,” admitted Eddie.
The ferret put his paw inside his wader and began to withdraw the money. “I’m not sure I trust you with my boat.”
“I’m a fast learner,” said Eddie quickly, “and if you could see your way clear to giving us a crash course in boating, I could cover any expenses involved…” He pulled another note out of his wallet and held it out.
“Landlubbers!” muttered the ferret. He was still tutting, as he untied the painter.
“This is a bit cramped, isn’t it?” said Colin.
“Stop fidgeting,” snapped Brian.
“I can’t help it; your knees are bony.”
“D’you want to swap places?”
“Don’t be so stupid, you’re far too large to fit on my lap. Could you move that guitar case a bit? You keep jabbing me in the throat.”
“Well, move those bongos!”
“Can you two in the bow keep still? The chicken’s trying to board!” shouted the ferret.
“Eagle! I’m an eagle!” snapped Eddie.
“Yeah, whatever!” said the ferret, “By the way, you’re facing the wrong way, you’ll find it easier to cut through the custard if the pointy end goes first.”
“Oh! Sit down, Eddie, you’re rocking the boat!” shouted Brian, “I feel sick!’
“Well, keep your vomit to yourself!” snapped Colin.
The ferret crept away and left them to it.
“Are we nearly there?” asked Brian.
“I’ve no idea,” grunted Eddie.
“If you row any slower, the custard will skin over and we’ll be trapped,” said Colin, “we may never get out of this boat.”
“Don’t be ridiculous! And I’m going as fast as I can. There’s no current here.”
“Well, it can’t be much further,” said Brian, “I just saw a poster advertising one of the bands who’ll be at the festival.”
“A poster!” said Colin, “What a great idea! Shame we didn’t think of it.”
“Actually,” said Eddie, “we did. At least, I did.”
“So, any minute now, we could see Frogs’ Scorn in enormous letters with our photos?” asked Brian.
“Um… well, not exactly,” said Eddie, “you see, I changed the name of the band and I didn’t have any photos of you, so they’re going to use stock photos of monkeys.”
“I am not a monkey, I’m a lemur!” shouted Colin.
“Sit still, you’ll capsize us!” yelled Brian grabbing the sides of the boat.
“Ow! Move that guitar case!”
“Boys, boys! Calm down!” said Eddie.
“And what d’you mean you changed the name of the band? You can’t do that without consulting us?” said Brian.
“I made an executive decision. I never liked the name Frogs’ Scorn anyway.”
“So, what are we called now?” asked Brian.
“The Three Wise Monkeys.”
“I’m not a monkey!” screamed Colin.
It was another hour before anyone spoke.
“Well,” said Brian finally, “let’s look on the bright side. At least we’ll be playing in the festival. And even if our name is really stupid, it’s our music that counts and it could be our first lucky break.”
“Yeah, s’pose,” said Colin sulkily.
“Is there any water left?” asked Eddie hoarsely, “I don’t think I can row much further, I’m exhausted.” He was quivering and his wing tips were covered in blisters.
Gradually, the tall broccoli trees in the woods gave way to roads and gingerbread houses.
“There’s a sign for Spudwell, we must be nearly there,” said Colin.
“Hey, look! said Brian, “that’s our poster! The Three Wise Monkeys.”
Eddie took the opportunity to stop rowing while they inspected the billboard on the side of the road. He gulped.
“What is that?” shrieked Colin.
Eddie let go of the oars and cradled his head in his hands.
Beneath the heading The Three Wise Monkeys it said‘Appearing at the Spudwell Music Festival 2020,’ and beneath that, were photographs of two chimps wearing Hawaiian shirts drinking from tea cups. Below one chimp it said ‘Brain’ and below the other, it said ‘Colon’.
“Eddie!” shrieked Brian and Colin in unison.
Eddie estimated how far they were from the riverbank, then he peered over the edge of the boat. He’d heard that it was possible to walk on custard although he wasn’t convinced.
It might just be worth a try, he thought.
Here is the second chapter ‘#ChickenInCustard’ from ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’, read by John Guest.
It Happened in Essex – Tall Tales from the Basildon Writers’ Group on sale to raise funds for Basildon Hospital Radio. You can purchase your paperback or eBook here on Amazon If you buy a copy, please leave an honest review on Amazon to give the book a greater chance of being noticed.
So, how did I get involved with the book? Well, about seven or eight years ago, I did something I’d previously been very reluctant to do. I joined a writing group. Some time before, author, Jenny Drew, had started the Basildon Writers Group and had included it on the MeetUp site where I discovered it after carrying out a search of local writing groups.
Feeling extremely nervous, I turned up one Wednesday evening in the hall at the back of the Castlemayne pub in Basildon and met Jen and the other writers. Lack of confidence had been my main reason for not joining a writers’ group in the past, but in having picked the Basildon Writers because they met during the week and because I knew the area well and would hopefully avoid getting lost, it turns out, I made a brilliant choice! Not only was Jen encouraging, but so were all the other members too. Each writer read out a piece of their work at each meeting and then the others in the group offered them advice, made comments or asked questions. But always, people were respectful and positive.
A few years further on, sadly, some people have moved away although many stay in touch and currently it’s not possible for Jen to join us. Our venue has changed twice but still, there is a core of lovely supportive people with some original members and some newcomers. Of course, the pandemic has meant we now meet on Zoom rather than in person.
As a group, we’ve been fortunate to have the support of Jacqui James, chairman of Basildon Hospital Radio BHR 87.7FM, who has invited most of us, at one time or another, to join her or one of her presenters on Basildon Hospital Radio. When she became associated with Basildon’s local radio station, Gateway 97.8FM, Jacqui introduced a book club spot which featured one of our writers each month. So, most of us have been to either Basildon Hospital Radio or Gateway, or indeed, both. Here’s a post about one of my previous trips to Gateway.
Fellow member, Colin Payn’s idea to gather stories from the group and publish them to raise money for BHR 87.7FM was greeted with enthusiasm and it was decided that the stories contributed should have a link to Basildon or to Essex. Amongst our number, we have a designer (Paul Burridge), an editor (Wendy Ogilvie) and Colin, who organised the entire book and drew up the marketing plans.
Initially, we contributed a story each, and they can be found in Part One of our book, ‘It Happened in Essex’. Then, by chance, I was invited to contribute a story to the Hawaii Fiction Writers Fractured Fairy Tale anthology which they are publishing to raise money for their library (how I came to be included in the Hawaii Fiction Writers deserves a post of its own and I’ll blog about that soon!). A fractured fairy tale, in case you’ve never heard the term, is a classic fairy tale or children’s story which is brought into modern times, possibly with a twist added, or characters changed. They are refreshingly different whilst being quite familiar!
I wrote a fractured fairy tale which was accepted by Michael Little from the Hawaii Fiction Writers, who was calling for submissions. It was a variation on Rumpelstiltskin and as I was writing the ending, a different finish occurred to me, so I wrote that down as well. Then, I thought of yet another way of finishing the story and decided it would be a good idea to pick the ending I preferred. Then it occurred to me that perhaps I didn’t need to make a choice at all! If I included all three endings, the reader could decide which conclusion they preferred.
However, I then had a completely different idea and wrote yet another story, which Michael preferred and so my Rumpelstiltskin story was replaced in their book ‘Kissing Frogs, and Other Quirky Fairy Tales’ which will be available later in 2020.
And that, gave me the idea to write the beginning to a fractured fairy tale and to challenge all the Basildon Writers to come up with an ending. Consequently, Part Two of ‘It Happened in Essex’ consists of the Basildon Writers’ fractured fairy tale, ‘Once Upon a Time in Basildon’, which has a variety of endings – one even written by Jacqui James, chairman of BHR!
The writers who have a story in the book are: Colin Payn, Wendy Ogilvie, Saul Ben, Nihal Paul, David O’Neill, GK Lomax, Janet Howson, Emma Marks, Liz Keeble and me
We’ve had support from Essex celebrities such as Richard Madeley, who wrote: “Basildon Writers’ Group and Basildon Hospital Radio are one of the good things to come out of the Covid crisis – as an Essex man myself, I’m proud of them.” Richard Madeley (Richard & Judy Book Club)
We also have a statement of support from ‘Diddy’ David Hamilton and from Basildon Mayor, David Sampson-Burton; Basildon MP, Stephen Metcalfe and Baroness Smith of Basildon.