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Having taken on the feedback received from some of you which I found very helpful, thank you all. I have finished the first chapter which will still need an edit, but I hope you like it. Comments/feedback please. Approx 1300 words.

Chapter 1 – The Birthday Party

The BBQ was in full swing. Archie and his friend Green Eye, both stared longingly up at the sky as a string of pork sausages, crackling and popping, whizzed through the air. Green Eye winked at Archie. ‘Come on, let’s chase those sausages.’ As they followed the direction of the sausages, bumping into guests on the way, one of the sausages turned to look at them and laughed and said, ‘Ha, ha, you can’t get me!’. That only made Green Eye even more determined. Archie found himself having a fit of uncontrollable giggles, he had to stop running, he was laughing so much. ‘Come on slow coach’ said Green Eye, just at that moment he leapt high into the air, grabbed a couple of the sausages and tossed one to Archie. Over on a nearby table were some tasty looking sauces and buns. Archie was ready to fill a bun with the ‘runaway sausage,’ but stopped as he got closer. The buns appeared to have ants in them, and the sauces were all made from different types of bugs and spiders. He decided to give these a mis.  

The waft from the meat cooking nearby made Archie’s mouth water. His tummy rumbled in anticipation. ‘How do you like your steak cooked, Archie?’ called Ruby. Archie thought about the steaks his aunt cooked at home, oozing with blood, almost alive. His stomach turned over at the thought of the blood. ‘Ruby, can I have it very, very well done, please’ Ruby laughed and replied, ‘OK burnt it is!’

Archie smiled to himself, who would believe a witch and a cat could be his two best friends in the world. Archie remembered his mum and dad. They would have loved Ruby and Green Eye. Yes, his slightly unusual friends may have taken them time to get used too, Ruby, a Witch, and a cat that talked, but eventually they would see what he saw, friendly, caring and loyal friends. He missed mum and dad so much. If only they weren’t driving that night. He pushed these thoughts to the back of his mind. Today, he didn’t want to be sad, not at Nanna Witch’s two hundredth birthday party.

He had counted the number of witches, wizards and children who were there to celebrate this fantastic occasion, but he gave up as he couldn’t keep track of who he counted and who he hadn’t. There were so many, more than a hundred people, and of almost as many cats. He wasn’t a witch or a wizard, and not a direct member of the family, however Nanny Porshina had insisted that Ruby invite him to her birthday party. She gave him a big wet slobbery kiss when he arrived. Quickly, as his face reddened, he had wiped the spit from his face while she wasn’t looking. Although embarrassed, a warm glow filled his heart, as he was part of an extraordinary group.

‘Archie your steak is ready’ said Ruby. She had cooked it to perfection. Archie looked over at Green Eye and he was tucking into a juicy tuna burger, which oozed tomato ketchup. ‘How can you eat tomato ketchup with Tuna’ thought Archie, yuk. His steak was like biting into butter, tender and juicy, but thankfully no red bits. As he savoured every mouthful, he watched a game the children were playing, called ‘Jump the Broomstick’. The game involved jumping over a broomstick hanging in mid-air. Now and then the broomstick would say something trying to put them off their jump like ‘Susan’s got dirty knees’ or, ‘Nora’s a cry baby’ or it would suddenly move higher to make it more difficult. Whoever made the most jumps without falling off, won the game. Over in the distance two wizards played some sort of sword game. Archie couldn’t believe what he was looking at, both wizards were fighting with their heads cut off, they were tucked under their arms! 

The famous band ‘The Bogey broomsticks’ played music at the back of the garden, the atmosphere was happy, happy, happy! A drum sounded, and a cake the size of a house arrived in the garden. All eyes turned to look, as Nanny Porshina exploded through the top, arms up and laughing! Everyone clapped and cheered and started singing happy birthday. She had long dangling spider earrings on, a red pointed hat and wore a fashionable green cloak over a mini skirt and crop top! Archie thought she was amazing for her age! As nanny Porshina looked around the vast number of guests she seemed overwhelmed. She thanked everyone for coming and blew kisses out to the crowd.  A strange thing then happened, she stopped, looked around again and said, ‘Why are you all here?’ There were a few giggles from the children, and the adults seem to think she was joking, Ruby ran forward. ‘Mum. Mum, it’s your birthday, don’t you remember?’ Nanny Porshina thought for a moment. Archie glimpsed a look of confusion in her eyes before she said ‘Of course, of course, silly me, now everyone must have a happy time’. As she climbed down from the top of the cake he still didn’t know if she had been joking. The laughter and fun quickly resumed, but Archie saw that it had worried Ruby.

Green Eye looked fleetingly at Ruby. There was a knowing look shared between them, one that Archie was not a part of. ‘Archie come on, let’s go get some cake’ said Green Eye. It was a good attempt to stop Archie from asking questions, but Archie knew something was wrong. He decided not to press for more information, but would at a better time, not when everyone was having fun at the party.

Some adult witches enjoyed a three-legged race, but their race was nothing like the one at school sports day. Each Witch had cast a spell and grown a third leg; Archie couldn’t stop laughing. They looked so funny with their black pointed hats and three legs protruding from their long black robes. Even Nanny Porshina was taking part! Her mini skirt looked even funnier with the extra leg, and her crop top kept falling down as she ran! 

The band continued to play, and people were now dancing in a circle. Green Eye grabbed hold of Archie and pulled him into the centre. He scowled at his friend; dancing was not his thing.’ Green Eye get me out of here’ he shouted. Green Eye just giggled and carried on. Watching Green Eye try to do the ‘Worm’ dance on the floor was hysterical, followed by a dance Archie had never heard of, called ‘The Futsal Shuffle’ which was even funnier.

Archie slipped out of the circle and left his friend to it. Nanny Porshina was sitting on her own looking a little lost. ‘Are you OK Nanny’ asked Archie. She seemed to be in a far away land, her eyes kind of empty. After a few moments she turned to Archie and said, ‘Is it my birthday today?’ Archie replied, ‘Yes Nanny it is, have you had a good time?’ She ignored his question and said, ‘Are you Peter, Wizard Davey’s boy?’ Archie was totally confused. Why was she asking this, she knows his name is Archie? After some discussion he managed to get her to remember who he was, the two of them sat for a while laughing and chatting about some of things they had done in the last year. Nanny Porshina suddenly stood up and said, ‘Well Archie, it’s time for me to go and see some of my other guests, do you realise it’s my birthday?’ and off she skipped. Archie felt a mixture of emotions, pleased she had remembered his name, but he also felt a deep nagging sensation, something just wasn’t quite right. 

  • What age group are you aiming at? My grandchildren are 6 and 4, this is a bit too sophisticated for them, even with pictures.

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    • Yes I think under about the age f eight is too young for a child to Understand. Having said that my grandchildren seem to understand more than I ever did at 5, 6 and 9! I guess every child is different.

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    • Probably more like 9/10 MG

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      • Yes, I think that is right. Great story but they couldn’t read that themselves.

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        • Why couldn't they read it themselves? I read long stories from 8 owwards back in 1968. Still have some of the books inscribed with the dates they were given to me. Sure kids nowadays are even more capable then I was?

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          • 8 onwards yes, sorry I was thinking of our 6 year old twins and the 4 year old sister, whose level of concentration isn’t strong.

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          • I think you're definitely onto something here, Debbie, though I would say it needs a fair amount of extra work. Almost to be pulled apart, sorted, and woven back together.

            The basic ideas are present, but the flow is disjointted. Take, for example, the foods: (talking) flying sausages, which are then caught, but not (that you mention) eaten, buns and sauces overflowing with bugs… so far, no problem… but then Green Eyes has moves on to tuna and ketchup (sans bugs, apparently) and Archie is offered, then eats, steak while the sausage simply disappears.

            That sesne of discontinuity is repeated with other threads, and they feel all bundled together without a coherent plan. I suspect this structure will confuse your target audience, and put them off continuing.

            Once that is resolved, I believe Archie's interactions with Nanny will need some detangling of their own, slowing down the revelations a bit. Presently, they are dumped on us very quickly, and we are, effectively, told what her condition is, rather than being shown it through a more gradual revelation.

            And, yea, I know that this is tricky to do. I struggle with it myself. How to reveal just those little snippets when the whole is so obvious to you, as author…? Honestly, I can't even begin to answer that one.

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            • Thanks Rick. It’s early days and yes I can see there is a need to detangle a bit! I want to keep it moving at a fairly fast pace as readers of this age get bored . Also because of the age group, 10+  I have to be more upfront in showing the signs of dementia. As an adult we know this is dementia, but for a child it just seems like random behaviour. So a little more telling I think is needed. It would be interesting to find out what others think? Thanks as always for your candid feedback, much appreciated.

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              • With regards the pacing of the dementia reveals, that is predominantly a balance issue. There is a lot of scene-setting - the build-up of the sense of party - and then a very quick dash through the dementia.

                As Roberts says, below, focus on getting it all out first. But when you come back to comb through it, keep in mind that balance of scene-setting and primary storyline.

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              • Just focus on the story for now, Debbie. Rick is correct about the 'disjointing,' but that is not the prime consideration just now. Write, get the ideas out of your head and on paper. Let your imagination run, and when finished, go back and put it all in place. Cut what you don't need and what doesn't relate to the plot after you have finished. I still love it. But I would point out this sentence, 'Archie couldn’t believe what he was looking at, both wizards were fighting with their heads cut off, they were tucked under their arms!'

                'Wizards fighting with their heads cut off'' may not be the best look for kids. Nightmares, and maybe even daymares for those little kids with rampant imaginations.

                Just let it flow, Deb. I also noticed the uneaten sausage. Easily fixed, have him eat it, but still be hungry, or cut it, no probs.

                How long is this book going to be? If it's a picture book you need to start thinking about this now. It's my opinion that you don't have time to slow things down. We adults already appreciate Nanny's problem and the kids will be getting the idea, especially if their parents are reading with them. Maybe two or three sentences more about dementia then start building to the conclusion, but keep the fun rolling along (all this relates to the word count of course.)

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                • Lovely expansion of the original, Debbie, with lots more fun and magical strangeness!

                  I know it's early days, and Robert's right that you just need to 'get the ideas out', but I honestly would start to think about some of the more 'technical' aspects. For a book aimed at kids, there are some long paragraphs. Most of these are begging to be split up, especially where there's dialogue, or where there are run-on sentences that need a full stop rather than a comma in the middle.

                  In dialogue, a new speaker should always have a new paragraph. Also a new paragraph is always a good idea where there's a change of focus (for example in paragraph six where we move from a description of Nanny Porshina's clothes to her reaction to the crowd).

                  Shorter paragraphs are always easier to read, especially for younger readers.

                  Please forgive me if you know all that already. I honestly don't mean to lecture. But the trouble is - as I know from my own experience - the structure of your writing on the page will become familiar to you over time and you'll get used to the shape and number of the sentences and paragraphs. The later it's done, the more difficult it is to spot the issues and retro-fit them!

                  It's a lovely story, though, and the theme is really sensitively introduced. It's great fun... and has a message. Terrific stuff!

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                  • Thank you both so much. You are of course both right, and no Jon, I don’t feel lectured to, your feedback is a gift only aimed to help. Robert I am not making this a picture book as that would be for a younger age. I do want some black and white illustrations included which I will think about when finished. I’ll give thought to the Wizards but at 10 I think they can cope with it. Most 10 year olds see much worse on TV, my granddaughter who is 9 is reading Harry Potter! At the moment I’ll continue with my word vomit!! Thanks again for the gift of feedback without it how can we improve? (That’s the trainer in me speaking)! 🤪🤪

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                    • Sorry meant to thank you too Rick!

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                      • Hi Debbie, I'm completely new to Townhouse and a very much novice writer (I completed the first draft of my first novel at the beginning of this year) I've just started looking at some other people's work before thinking about posting some of my own. I realise that you posted this first chapter a couple of weeks ago and so I'm a bit late to the party, but I thought I'd offer a couple of observations anyway. I like the fun images that your first chapter creates - the flying sausages and slightly yucky sounding food, wizardy games, people with extra legs?

                        I wonder whether some of your description could be done with fewer words - with less explicit explanation, e.g.

                        "The game involved jumping over a broomstick hanging in mid-air."

                        Do you need to say "The game involved"? Could you instead say something like "The children shrieked with laughter as they jumped over the broomstick hanging in mid air." I know that's more words, not less, but perhaps it gets across a greater sense of fun.

                        "or it would suddenly move higher to make it more difficult"

                        Could you say "or it would suddenly move higher with a mischievous cackle" - do you need to explicitly explain that this is to make it more difficult?

                        "both wizards were fighting with their heads cut off, they were tucked under their arms!"

                        Could be "both wizards were fighting with their heads tucked under their arms."

                         ‘Is it my birthday today?’ 

                        Could she actually ask 'Is it someone's birthday today?'

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                        • HI Paul many thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes I will take your suggestions on board. I know some of it is a bit wordy, much editing needed! If I can help you in any way not hesitate to ask. I am also a new writer so learning all the time. 

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