Category Archives: Warren Peace
Can Mr. Sushi rescue Mittens from the clutches of the evil experimenters? Part Two of my story for @katttykitty72, who’s had a bit of a rough time lately, as requested by her friend @kimnmilward. Read Part 1 HERE.
At the other side of the fence he crouched low, and began to clean the dirt from his fur. Fully ten minutes passed before he suddenly sat upright. What on earth was he playing at? There’d be plenty of time for cleanliness later. Right now, Mittens needed him.
The sky was getting dark, violet and rose streaking the western clouds. Mr. Sushi looked around. On this side of the fence were a number of square, concrete buildings. He could not see the van.
He listened. Silence.
He lifted his head and sniffed the air. To the north, the scent of trees, a powdery green smell, and old. To the west, behind him, the hard tang of electricity coursing through metal; the fence he had just crossed. South-east, down a shallow slope, he could smell filthy oil and hot smoke, as from a dirty exhaust. He slinked that way, keeping low, and crept through a narrow gap between two of the buildings.
At the far end was the dirty white van, its rear doors wide open, parked by a building across a wide street. The building’s doors were also open. Mr. Sushi dashed across the open space and through the doors.
A long corridor, lit by harsh fluorescent light, ran straight ahead of him. Doors were set in both sides every few yards. There was no-one in sight. Mittens had to be behind one of those doors.
The first two on each side were closed, and he was unable to push them open. The handles were the pull down sort, but would not shift when he leapt up and swung from them, as he did at home.
The third door was ajar, and he flowed silently through. It was dark inside, but a tiny green power light in one corner was enough to help him see cages. Lots of cages. Inside them were rats, lizards, monkeys, rabbits, dogs – but no cats. He felt for the poor trapped creasture, a little, but they were not Mittens. He left and moved to the next door. Voices came from inside.
“Hold the little sod down, will you?”
“Those claws are sharp!”
“That’s why you’ve got the gloves, you wimp. Just hold it still while I get the needle in.”
Mr. Sushi pushed into the room. A dazzling light made everything inside appear sharp and hard. More cages, glistening tubes and jars, and a heavy metal table in the centre of the room. Mr. Sushi sprang to a nearby stool, then up to a shelf on the wall, so that he could see what was happening.
Two men stood at the table. One, the shaven-headed man he had seen throw the sack into the dirty white van, wore a thick pair of gauntlets to hold a struggling Mittens to the hard metal surface. The other man, who wore a long brown coat, pushed a small disc of metal into the top of Mittens’ head. It had wires coming from it. The man in the brown coat flicked a switch on a box at the other end of the wires, and Mittens went limp. Her eyes remained open, though unfocussed and dull.
“You can let go now,” Brown Coat said, and picked up a glittering knife. The other man took off his gauntlets.
“What’s that thing in its head?” he said.
“My own device,” Brown Coat said proudly. “There are nine thin electrodes now in the cat’s brain, each of them destroying certain mental links and creating others. My hope is that they can even effect physical repair of wounded tissue; that’s what I’m about to test. If I peel this cat’s eyeball, my device should manage to mend the damage.”
“Ugh, really? That’s … twisted.”
“Feel free to leave if you’re squeamish, but believe me, it should be fascinating.” Brown Coat lowered the tip of the knife towards Mittens’ unblinking eye.
“I’ll give it to you next time.” The knifepoint touched the eyeball.
“My money.” The shaven-headed man gripped Brown Coat’s arm and pulled it away from Mittens. Brown Coat sighed, and put down the knife.
“It’s in the office,” he said, and left the room, followed by the shaven-headed man.
Mr. Sushi had to act fast. He flung himself to the floor and leapt onto the table. He licked Mittens’ head. “Are you OK? Come on, I don’t think we don’t have long.”
She did not even twitch. She did not seem to have even noticed he was there. He followed the wires from the device in her head, and pushed the same switch as Brown Coat had earlier.
“Argh!” exclaimed Mittens, shaking. “Get it out! Get it out of my head!” Mr. Sushi opened his mouth wide and gripped the small disc in his teeth. It tingled in his mouth, but he heaved it from Mittens’ skull and spat it out. Blood shone on the tiny needles underneath.
“Come on!” he urged, and sprinted to the door. Mittens was on his heels as he jinked through the gap, along the corridor, and out into open air.
“Where are we?” Mittens gasped. “How do we get home?”
“Just follow me,” Mr. Sushi said, wanting to put as big a distance between them and Brown Coat as they could before their escape was discovered. He crossed the street, ran along the gap between buildings, and up into the trees. The sky was dark now, and he worried that he might not be able to find the rabbit’s tunnel, but suddenly realised he was standing by it. He threw himself into the ground, and emerged on the other side of the fence, shaking dirt from his fur.
Behind the wire, Mittens looked doubtfully at the hole in the ground. “I think I’ll just climb over,” she said.
“Can’t,” Mr. Sushi said. “Electrickery.”
“Oh. How on earth did you dig this?”
“I didn’t. A friendly rabbit did.”
“Look, I’ll explain later. Stop faffing and get yourself through, and let’s go home.”
“Yes, you’re right.” Mittens squeezed her eyes shut, and joined him on the other side of the fence. “Yes,” she said. “Let’s get home.”
“Where have you two buggers been?” The Woman said as they entered the kitchen. “You hungry? Got some lovely fish for you. They were throwing it out at the market, but you’ll love it, I’m sure.”
Mr. Sushi rushed to the bowl. He was starving after his exertions, and he knew that Mittens would not object. She hated fish, after all. He glanced up at his friend. Mittens was frowning at him. She fixed her eyes on his. They glowed unnaturally, as if lit by an amber light inside her head. Mr. Sushi suddenly realised that he was moving away from the food bowl, despite having no desire to do so. He tried to resist, but his legs were not his to command. Mittens moved in front of him and thrust her face into the fishy mess, gobbling it up. Mr. Sushi stared at her, unable to move, aghast.
“My god, what have they done to you?”
“I’m inscrutable,” said Mr. Sushi. “You cannot scrute me.”
“Rubbish, I’m scruting you now,” Mittens said.
“Pfft,” the black and white cat countered, rather wittily he thought. “What am I thinking then, smart arse?”
“You’re thinking,” said the tabby, “that we should go and make pathetic noises at The Woman, and maybe she’ll give us treats.”
“Um. Well, yes. Then maybe you can scrute me, but no-one else can, ‘kay?” Mittens looked at him smugly. “Come on, then,” he harumphed, pouring himself from the mossy wall like liquid fur. Mittens followed, and the two cats sauntered single-file through the sunflecked midgeclouds towards home. The air was silent but for the unending chuckle of the slow river beyond the wall. Butterflies flitted, fat bees bumbled, and wood pigeons chanted their poodly-poo when they felt the urge. A skylark rose into the arch of the sky, trilling and warbling with the sheer joy of life.
“Good eating, skylark,” Mr. Sushi said. “Tasty. Ever had it?” Behind him, Mittens stayed silent. “I hope The Woman gives us some of that chicken-flavoured yoghurt stuff,” he continued, “it’s way better than that fishy rubbish. I don’t know why she persists. I mean, you never eat fish, do you? Still, more for me.” He spat out a midge. “I’ve never known a cat not like fish. Yes, it’s horrible, but it is food. Why don’t you like fish?” Silence. “Mittens?”
He turned, but Mittens was no longer to be seen. What was to be seen was a shaven-headed man gripping tightly the neck of a rough sack, a sack that writhed and shook as something inside struggled desperately. The man threw it with some force into the back of a small van, the side of which bore the legend ‘EXPERIMENTS 4U’.
The man slammed the rear van door and climbed into the driver’s seat. The engine gargled, started, coughed, and stopped again as a black cloud belched from the exhaust to foul the sweet air.
“Mittens!” cried Mr. Sushi. He launched himself towards the van. The engine roared once more as he closed the gap, and the van moved. He threw himself up and hit the side of the van running, as it began to gain speed. His upward momentum proved just enough to allow him to run up the side of the van and make it to the roof. As the vehicle accelerated, Mr. Sushi’s paws began to slip on the rusty metal. One sharp turn and he would be flung off.
He desperately clawed his way towards a long, thin piece of metal that projected from the top of the windscreen. Hooking his claws around it, he hung on frantically as the van roared up and down hills, and careered around sharp bends.
The terrifying ride continued for what felt like hours, but eventually the van turned down a narrow lane lined with thick hedgerows. He was thrown around, battered by wind, and his legs felt drained of all strength. He could hold on no longer, and his claws slipped, just as the van screeched to a halt before a high gate in a tall metal wire fence.
Mr. Sushi flew through the air and crashed into the bushes by the road. A man in a uniform stood by the gate. He stared at the hole Mr. Sushi had made in the foliage.
“What was that?” he asked the driver, who stuck his head out of the window.
“What was what?”
“I thought … oh never mind. Go on through.”
Mr. Sushi crouched in the bushes and watched the guard open the gate. The van rumbled to the other side of the fence and disappeared behind a brick building. The gate closed again. The cat inspected the high metal fence. He had to reach the other side. The barrier was high, but he was sure he could make it over, if he hit the fence with enough speed. He tensed and waggled his bottom, ready to throw himself forward and upward.
The small voice at his side made him jump. He tensed. A small rabbit, entirely unthreatening, emerged from the undergrowth. Mr. Sushi relaxed. “Go away,” he hissed.
“I’ve dug a short tunnel for you under the fence,” the rabbit continued, surprisingly unfazed by the cat’s fiercest hiss. Astonishingly, it spoke to him perfectly in cat language. “Kizzy said you’d need a way under.”
“You’re Kizzy, are you?”
“No, I’m Cuetip. Kizzy is … well, it’s complicated. She’s my friend. She knows things. She told me to wait here and help a cat to the other side of the fence. So …” the rabbit gestured to a hole in the ground, “… tunnel.”
“You’re bonkers in the nut, you are. I don’t need your pokey tunnel. Watch this and be impressed, furball. I’m going up and over.”
“Good luck with that, Kizzy says. The fence is full of—”
Mr. Sushi sped toward the fence, a blur, and leapt high. As soon as his feet touched the metal he was flung backwards to sprawl in the dirt. He felt as though he had been kicked.
The cat glared at the little rabbit. Slowly, he sat up and began to wash himself, to give himself time to think. “What’s your name again, rabbit?” he said.
“And who’s Kizzy?”
The rabbit took a deep breath. “A dead cat who lives on in my mind and gets messages from Bast, who’s a goddess or something, and she knows lots of things and we help people.”
“That makes no sense at all.”
“I know. Nevertheless,” the rabbit said, indicating the hole once more, “tunnel.”
Mr. Sushi sighed. This creature thoroughly confused him. He was loathe to accept help from a rabbit that spouted gibberish, but also he had no idea how else he might follow Mittens.
“Oh alright,” he said. “Lead the way.”
“You have to go alone. Something about you being the hero of this story, not us. Kizzy says we are simply …” The rabbit cocked its head, as if listening. “D … dayus ex m … oh, something I can’t pronounce. Good luck, though!” The creature turned and his furry bottom disappeared into the bushes.
“Wait, I … oh,” Mr. Sushi sighed. The rabbit was gone. He examined the unappealing hole in the dirt by the fence. Cats were not deigned to be underground. That was all kinds of wrong. On the other hand, Mittens was in trouble. Perhaps … perhaps if he thought of the hole as a cardboard box or, better yet, the opening of a nice, rustly paper bag. Yes, that might work. Before he could think too much about it, he threw himself head-first into the hole and snaked through.
Part 2 will appear next week sometime. To discover more about Cuetip, read my book “Warren Peace”. I had no plans for him to appear in this story – indeed, I hadn’t thought of him at all until he unexpectedly popped his head out of the bushes at the end of my pen.
Spurred on by my desire to move away from Lulu’s ridiculous P&P charges for people buying my paperbacks, I’ve been re-editing Warren Peace prior to moving it to a new home. I’ve been amazed at how much there is to change. When I first wrote it I thought it pretty good (and 100% of reviewers clearly agreed, giving 4- and 5-star ratings), but I’ve learned so much in the ten years since I wrote it that I shudder to look at it with my now-wizened author-eyes.
The punctuation is Naff City, baby. That’s the first thing to clear up. Also, the pacing at times lags woefully, becoming leisurely when it should be frantic: I’ll be fixing all that too, while removing a few clichés and instances of head-hopping.
What might interest you most, though, is that I’ll be writing the long-planned sequel, Bunny Prince Charlie, and publishing it NOT as a standalone book, but as an extension of the re-edited version of the original novel. Is this a good idea? Who can say, but it makes sense to wombats.
Oh, and the image there is not the final cover. That will be a LOT snazzier.
On #InternationalCatDay, here are three of the feline heroes from Warren Peace.
I know, it’s a crap word, but I couldn’t think of a clever one. If you do, let me know and I’ll edit this and credit you. They say you should always find a unique title for your book, but given the vast sweep of history and all its words, that’s not always possible. I set out to find out what other books share a title with mine.
First up, there’s a 64-page version of Tolstoy’s War & Peace presented using photographs of rabbits dressed in clothing. It’s called ‘Rabbit Warren Peace’ and it looks BRILLIANT. Also, famed science-fiction writer Bob Shaw has written a couple of comedies about a cardboard-like, sitcom-like hero, Warren Peace, called ‘Who Goes Here’ and ‘Dimensions’.
Warren Peace Title-twins: 2
I expected to find that “there’s loads of books called Fog”, as a visitor told me at Indie Litfest last year but, although a legion of books have the word within a longer title, only James Herbert’s ‘The Fog’ comes close to the singular, and as I pointed out to my surly visitor, his doesn’t have a cool running man in the letter ‘O’.
Fog Title-twins: 1
In my innocence I imagined that ‘Moth Girl’ (even without her bats) would be unique, but no! Here comes ‘Moth Girls’ by Anne Cassidy, so called because girls are drawn to a particular house like moths (that’s light, Anne, not houses), rather than because, like my heroine Thea, they look like a moth when dressed in a weird cloak and flying goggles.
Moth Girl Title-twins: 1
This one surprised me. Who’d have thought there’d be other ‘Blood on the Ground’s? There are, though. There’s Paul Usiskin’s torrid tale of murder, dangerous love, and techno-porn (I know!) across the Israel-Palestine divide. Not a lot of laughs in that one, I’ll warrant. I’d prefer Lenora Rain Good’s ‘Blood on the Ground: Elegies for Waiilatpu’, 22 poems about the 1847 Waiilatpu massacre. Sod it, I’m buying that one.
Blood on the Ground Title-twins: 2
Happily, my other titles – Cubic Scats, Soul of the Universe, Cutthroats and Curses, Human 76 and the imminent The Museum of White Walls – appear to have no title twins at all. Which I choose to interpret as a 5-4 win for me, so ner.
Just found this photo of the time in 1989 that we had seven cats. Meet Malley, Kizzy, Liverpool, Clint, Sherpa, Everton (complete with shaved bum & tail after a leg operation) and Cleo. Readers of my books will know this magnificent seven well, as they all appear in my book Warren Peace. (sorry about the title)
Four years ago today, encouraged by Alex Brightsmith, I published my inoffensive little “Magnificent Seven with fur” tale about rabbits and cats working together against seemingly insurmountable odds. I doubt Alex knew what she was unleashing back then, but I’ll be eternally grateful that she did.
There are now nine substantial books out there with my name on the cover as either author or editor, along with a couple of other small things. These days you can buy some of my stories translated into Russian, and even get yourself a Wombie audiobook to listen to while driving. You can buy Wombie jewellery and stationery, and you can employ me to edit your manuscript and format it correctly for publishing (yeah, I’ve not made that page yet – I ought to get my finger out). The tenth book and fourth full-length novel***, The Raven’s Wing, is well on its way to completion now that I’ve fallen back in love with it again.
I’ve met numerous authors, attended signings and book fairs, and made a lot of new friends. I’ve had “Oi, Wombat!” shouted at me in a busy town centre. Perhaps my favourite meeting, though, was in Michigan when I was introduced to a stranger whose first words to me were “You asshole, how could you end Fog like that?”. In short, I’ve had the BEST bloody time, and it’s down to you lovely buggers who read all my blather. Thank you *snogs your faces off*. And if you don’t like my writing (a) what are you doing here? and (b) blame Alex.
***if you can’t actually count four, that’s probably because you’re not aware of the privately published novel called ‘Murder at Wombat Towers’ which was written about and for a dozen Americans to thank them all for their remarkable hospitality and friendship over the years.
It feels a little like whispering into a hurricane on occasion. You write, realise that what you’ve written is crap, delete 90% and write again. You spend countless hours recording the story that’s in your head, giving it flesh, making it real. You fall in love with your characters, even the ones who betray you when you most trust them.
Then you polish, you rearrange, you edit. You wake up at 5am suddenly realising what horrible thing must – simply must – happen to your protagonist, and you tiptoe out of bed to fire up Scrivener and make it so. You polish again, and again, and when you think you can’t make it any better you dive back in and try anyway. Eventually the day arrives when you publish the remarkable thing that you have painstakingly created.
You show your baby to the world, proudly. Maybe you sell a few copies (yay) and garner a few good reviews (even yayer), but then the fuss dies down and you move on to create new protagonists to torture, haunt and romance. After a few years, you might even forget about characters once so vivid to you. Out of sight, see? But then just occasionally, you get a small reminder.
This just turned up on my Author Facebook page, an unprompted comment from a stranger. It’s given me an enormous smile on a dark, pissing-down hooley of a day. Good old Cuetip – I wonder what did happen to him, in the end?
“A little over a year ago my employer suggested I read War & Peace, but I thought he said Warren Peace so I bought this by mistake. It’s one of the best mistakes I’ve ever made. Cuetip remains a personal hero of mine to this day. Michael Wombat, thank you truly for this gem.”
Anyroad, I apologise to those of you who have been queueing outside Wombat Towers breathlessly awaiting the release of my new collection of tales, but I’m delaying publication of ‘Blood on the Ground’ by just one day. The reason for this is purely sentimental. Two years ago on the 11th September my first book, ‘Warren Peace’, was published. That’s right, just two years. Seems hard to believe doesn’t it? It feels appropriate that, in a kind of half-arsed celebration, I should release my eighth book on the second anniversary of my first. Such is the way of wombats.
Eight books in twenty-four months – I won’t be keeping that pace up for the next two years, I can tell you. Currently I have a couple more short stories to tell, promised for new anthologies, and then I’ll be giving full throttle to ‘The Raven’s Wing’, my weird medieval-adventure-mystery-history-murderfest (working title ‘1322’). That’s like to take me until well into 2015. After that I have been commissioned to write the story of Rollie Bucholz, an American pilot who volunteered to fight for Britain in 1939, long before the USA entered World War 2. My present thinking is to make that a biography written like a novel.
Keep watching the skies.
I watched The Desolation of Smaug today; wonderful film. I particularly liked the way Thorin was written, as his urge to complete his quest began to overturn his decency. Yesterday I saw Django, and was struck by how well-written, how real, the title character was. A man who happily kills three men who were befriending and about to help him. I do wonder about my own characters. I thought I made Finn believable, and was happy with him. White was a bit too wry, though, and actually had moral reasons, albeit twisted ones, for what he was doing. Thea turned out a bit two-dimensional, but then Moth Girl was a short book. Cuetip was a rabbit.
You can probably tell that I’m currently fighting my tendency to make everyone I write likeable. Even my baddies aren’t without wit and charisma and an internal moral compass of some kind. It’s about time I handled a completely amoral character, one who respects no rules, or life, or anything but their own selfish desires. Chaotic Evil if you like. TOTALLY not me. Now THAT will be a challenge. And great fun. And probably happening in 1322.