Debbie Etherington

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I worked for most of my life as a freelance Training consultant in management. Having now chosen to retire from this profession,  I have more time to indulge my passion for writing. I recently had an illustrated children’s book published on Amazon ‘Milly, Molly and Fat Cat’ and I have finished my second Book, ‘Archie and the Witches Spell’ now looking for an agent! I am working on my first adult woman’s novel, ‘Age is Not Just a Number‘ WIP. This centres around an airline crew who are away on an incentive trip for a few days in Poland. Anna an air hostess, is in her fifty’s, menopausal and resentful of the ageing process, her boss is a young attractive twenty something. Anna has had a difficult past being brought up by her father a vicar with a nasty streak, who forced her to give away her child at the age of 14. On this trip she snaps and events follow. The great reveal, she finds out her boss is her granddaughter who she has never met.

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Having had my one to one, I wanted to get some more feedback. Can I ask you to have a quick read (ap…
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  •  · Hi Debbie. Yes, voice for kids'/teen books is tricky. I've had similar feedback for my WIP though up…
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I have just had my first one to one ( I have a second next week) feeling positive. Comments were: ag…
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  •  · Congratulations Debbie!!!! I know how hard you've worked on this, I'm glad things are looking positi…
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Some of you will be English degree educated, but I’m sure there are many, like me, who have C.S.E En…
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  •  · True about the SATS. It doesn't help that, at least in England, they're only for statistics purposes…
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As you have all been so helpful can I ask for further help. I have converted and edited the first ch…
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  •  · No problem, Julie! Glad to be able to help.
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Should I submit my second book to an agent?  The first in the series is already out there, have sent…
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  •  · For some reason, this never even occurred to me but it makes perfect sense. Thank you, Rick and than…
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Hi guys. I need some help. I have written and submitted my first book in a series for children writt…
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  •  · 
  •  · By definition, absolutely. Elsewise…

Having had my one to one, I wanted to get some more feedback. Can I ask you to have a quick read (approx.1000 words) and tell me if:

1. you think it needs more back story to introduce the character?

2. Do you think its pitched correctly for age 7-10? If not can you give examples of what to change.

Many thanks once again, you have all been so helpful.

P.S. Any other feedback welcome.

Chapter One 

‘Archie, try and punch me. Come on, don’t be a baby, put your fists up. You won’t hurt me, I’m much stronger than you.’ 

My brother Felix was trying his best to provoke a reaction from me.

He continued, ‘You’re nearly nine now, it’s time you learnt to fight. I was a boxing champion at your age.’ he boasted.

As he spoke, he threw a punch. I tried to duck out of the way, but he is much bigger than me, and three years older. His fist caught me on my left cheek. It stung like mad and I turned away. There was no way he was going to see me cry. Felix did a winning ‘whoop, whoop,’ and punched the air, then danced around the room in triumph. He was about to move forward when he tripped over a small stool by the fireplace, landing hard on his backside. Good job aunt Lucy wasn’t around, as he let out a very, very bad swear word. I put my hand over my mouth and tried to stop myself laughing, it didn’t work. Felix was furious!

‘See what you’ve made me do.’ he screamed. 

I was going to reply but realised it wouldn’t do any good, so I didn’t bother.

We were watching a boxing match on TV. This was Felix’s favourite program, and he had a tight hold of the TV remote. 

‘Couldn’t we have something else on?’ I pleaded.

Felix shook his fists and said, ‘If you don’t like it, you know what you can do. The door is over there! I’m the eldest, so I say what we watch’.

When mum and dad were alive, Felix had been much nicer. I wished so much that we could still be friends. These days, he was always so angry, and I seemed to get the force of his anger. He never wants to do anything with me.  School holidays were boring, Aunt Lucy and Uncle Jack try to keep me occupied, offering to play snakes and ladders or scrabble, but I find these games dull. It’s not their fault, they are old and don’t know how to play games like Minecraft and Dragons, my favourite two video games. I miss my school friends, especially playing football with them. I’d even resorted to doing extra homework in my room, I would never admit that to Felix. If he knew he would call me a Geek! 

After my clash with Felix, I decided to go for a walk.

I called up the stairs. ‘Aunt Lucy, I’m going out.’ 

 ‘Ok, but don’t be too long or go too far. Oh, and be careful, don’t talk to any strangers.’ 

Surely, now I’m eight, nearly a grown up, she should trust me.

If mum and dad had still been alive, they would have trusted me. 

 I made my way to the town square. It isn’t far from where we live, and they have a market there, on most days. It’s always so exciting, full of lots of noise, colours and smells. Just thinking about the food stalls, can make my mouth water and my tummy rumble.

I like to listen to the stall holders trying to attract the attention of customers. They shout in loud voices, ‘Buy one, get one free.’ 

Once, I managed to get hold of my brothers phone, and made a video of myself imitating them. I tried to copy the stall holder whose voice was the silliest, very deep and mumbled. When I watched it, I laughed so loudly that my aunt heard me and wondered what was going on. I made sure it was permanently deleted, if Felix saw it, he would never stop teasing me.

Often, when walking around the market, I played a game, which I called, ‘Spot the colour.’ Allowing myself ten minutes, I had to find as many hair colours in the crowd as possible. 

Today, I had got to ten, my record so far. My hair is red, so I can count that as one. The best one I’d ever seen, was a man who had his hair dyed green, pink, and orange! 

A small group of musicians played at the side of the road, I hummed, although I didn’t know the song. The market was so full of interesting things to look at; I loved it.

There’s one stall, which is my favourite. It sells lollipops, sherbet, chocolate buttons, jelly snakes, cherry lips, false teeth, chocolate mice and loads of others. I often stand at the stall, close my eyes, and take in a long deep breath, they smell fantastic. My brain seems to have an in-built sat nav system, like the one in my uncles car. It always leads me there.

Approaching the stall today, I could feel my tongue tingle, and my mouth water, imagining what they would all taste like. I dreamt of filling up an enormous bag and eating them all in one go. Maybe my teeth would all fall out, but it would be worth it!

It was then I spotted a huge hairy spider, as big as a fifty pence piece, racing along the floor. 

I thought, ‘Mister spider, let’s see where you end up.’

 Keeping my eyes pinned to the floor and following at a reasonable distance, I watched him dart from one crack in the pavement to another, his big hairy legs running as fast as they could. I didn’t want to scare him. The chase was always the fun part. He sped up and I knew I would have to get a move on or lose him. I bent down to get a better look, but, as I did, fell forward.

‘OUCH. That REALLY REALLY, REALLY hurt’.  Rubbing my head, I could feel a large bump about the size of a small egg.

I shouted, ‘WHAT WAS THAT?’.

A voice from above me screamed, ‘Idiot boy. I’ll tell you what THAT was. THAT, was my stall, you head butted. If I find any damages, you will pay for them! Why don’t you look where you’re going?  I’ve a good mind to turn you into a pig!’.

My mouth fell open. Standing above me was an ugly looking old woman, wearing a long black dress and a pointed black hat. She had long curly fingernails painted purple, and an enormous, hooked nose. On the side of her face was a big black spot with hairs growing out of it. She looked very, very cross. 



I have just had my first one to one ( I have a second next week) feeling positive. Comments were: agent letter good just needs a tweak, Synopsis good, just need to add a little more! Story good but need to work on including more back story at the beginning! This I find odd as another agent told me to weave the back story in and get to the action quickly?? She also said I need to explain more about the magical world Archie is in, and lay down rules, i.e. can others speak to the cat and can others see the Rat café. There were a few other points and I can see what she means. Finally, I asked if she would take another look when reworked, and she said YES! So feeling good, although more work to do! It will be interesting to compare comments with the one to one coming next week!

Some of you will be English degree educated, but I’m sure there are many, like me, who have C.S.E English (Not even GCSE)! Does anyone remember these basic qualifications!! So, I’ve enrolled online to brush up this area of my work. Wowcher are offering a course for £10! Supposedly it was £119! Not sure if this only applies to the UK. Thought some of you might be interested.

As you have all been so helpful can I ask for further help. I have converted and edited the first chapter (1777 words) to read first person, present tense.  All comments welcome lovely people.

Archie and the Witch’s Nanny

 Chapter 1 – The BBQ

 

We stared longingly into the sky, a string of pork sausages, crackling and popping, whizzed through the air, the BBQ was in full swing. Green Eye looked over at me and winked. wearing a mischievous smile, he said ‘Come on Archie, let’s chase those sausages.’

 

Trying to keep up with him was difficult, he was a fast runner and I kept bumping into the guests and having to apologise. A big fat juicy sausage led the way and turned to look back at us. 

‘Ha, ha, you can’t get me!’ he said laughing. This only made Green Eye more determined, and he ran even faster. Green Eye was my best friend, and he looked hilarious. Leaping and running at the same time and grabbing at thin air. I doubled over with giggles. I always had the best time when I was with Green Eye. 

 

‘Come on slowcoach,’ he said as he leapt high into the air, grabbing two sausages. He tossed one over to me, it was so hot that I nearly dropped it. The sausage who had laughed earlier, tutted, and continued flying on above the guests. On a nearby table were some tasty-looking sauces and buns. I reached over but stopped just in time.  Small wiggly things were poking out from the buns, they looked like worms, and the sauces were made from different types of bugs and spiders. I decided to give them a miss, plain sausage would do. 

 

While eating my sausage, I counted the number of witches, wizards and children who were here to celebrate. There were so many, I kept losing count. More than a hundred people and as many cats, had gathered today to celebrate Nanny Porshina’s two hundredth birthday. Nanny Porshina was considered a grand witch, head of the family. Everyone had come out of respect for such a fine witch, two hundred was some age.

 

I smiled fondly thinking about how I had first met Ruby and Green Eye. They ran a small stall in the local market, selling potions and creams. I hadn’t been watching where I was going and bumped headfirst into her stall. She was furious. She had threatened to turn me into a pig, I was terrified. When Green Eye, her cat, started speaking to me, I thought I was dreaming. Now we are best friends, and I couldn’t imagine life without their friendship, 

 

Nanny Porshina, mother to my friend Ruby, was always so funny and kind when I met her, we always had lots to talk about and there were never any awkward silences, despite the age difference between us. 

 

When I’d arrived at the BBQ, she had given me a big wet slobbery kiss. I was so embarrassed; I felt my face go bright red. I was sure everyone was staring at me. While she wasn’t looking, I had to wipe the spit from my cheek. She had insisted I come to her party. So here I am. Not a wizard or a witch just an ordinary nine-year-old boy, who lives with his aunt and uncle, in an ordinary house, in an ordinary street. Being a part of this awesome group certainly wasn’t ordinary!

 

Who would believe a witch and a cat would be my two best friends? My brother Felix and I have recently become a lot closer, but he still prefers to be with his own gang, so he doesn’t count as a best friend. I know mum and dad would have loved Ruby and Green Eye, although it may have taken some time to get used to them. Eventually they would see what I did, friendly, caring, and loyal friends. I miss mum and dad so much. If only they hadn’t been driving that night. I pushed these thoughts to the back of my mind, I didn’t want to be sad, not today.

 

The waft from the meat cooking nearby made my mouth water and my tummy rumble in anticipation. ‘How do you like your steak cooked, Archie?’ called Ruby. 

I thought about the steaks my aunt cooked at home, oozing with blood, almost alive. My 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!’

 

While waiting for my steak to cook, I watched a group of children playing a game called

‘Jump the Broomstick’. It involved jumping over a broomstick which hung in mid-air. Now and then the broomstick would say something to try and put them off their jump.  Whoever made the most jumps without falling off, won the game. 

A scruffy looking witch hitched up her socks and was about to jump, when the broom blurted out ‘Silly Susan’s got dirty knees’.

Susan unfortunately took the bait and looked down at her knees, tripping over the broom she landed on her bottom. The broom laughed with a loud cackle. The next girl to try was able to ignore the brooms taunts of ‘Nora’s a cry baby’ and she made the jump. They all clapped. 

 

 

‘Archie your steak is ready’ said Ruby.

It was cooked to perfection. Green Eye, he was tucking into a juicy tuna burger, which oozed tomato ketchup. 

‘How can you eat tomato ketchup with Tuna’.

Green Eye replied, ‘It’s delicious, do want to try some?’

I screwed up my face ‘Yuk it looks horrible’.

Green Eye shrugged, ‘Your loss.’ he said.

Biting into my steak was like slicing butter. It was cooked to perfection, tender and juicy, and thankfully no red bits. 

 

Over in the distance two wizards played a sword game, but with a difference! They had their tongues wrapped around the handle of their swords, and their hands were tied behind their back. As they fiercely battled, their tongues extended out to around two meters, and their swords clashed together as forcibly as if they were using their arms. It looked dangerous and I could see one of the wizards had a small cut to his face. I didn’t like fighting, but my brother would have loved it. 

 

The famous band ‘The Bogey broomsticks’ played music at the back of the garden, the atmosphere was electrifying! A drum roll sounded, and a cake the size of a house appeared in the garden. It had three tiers, each decorated in coloured crystals and different coloured icing. Small bees with jewels on their wings, flew around a posy of flowers placed on the top of the cake. The bees suddenly parted to one side, and Nanny Porshina exploded out through the top of the cake, arms up and laughing! She had on long dangling spider earrings, a red pointed hat, and a fashionable green cloak worn over a red mini skirt! I looked over at Green Eye and said ‘Wow, double cool, she’s amazing’.

He nodded in agreement.  Everyone started clapping and cheering, and we all sang happy birthday. Nanny beamed.

 

‘Thank you all so much for coming.’ said Nanny Porshina, she blew kisses out to the crowd. Nanny looked so happy, but then a strange thing happened. She stopped, suddenly overwhelmed, and said in a demanding voice, ‘Why are you all here, what are you doing in my garden?’

There were giggles from the children, and the adults thought she was joking. 

Concerned, Ruby ran forward, ‘Mum. Mum, it’s your birthday, don’t you remember?’ 

Nanny Porshina stood looking into the crowd, her eyes were dull, and she seemed confused. She thought for a moment or two, then said,

‘Silly me, silly me, of course. Now I want everyone to have a marvellous time, eat, drink and be merry.’

Wearing a broad smile, she climbed down from the top of the cake, but I still wasn’t convinced she had been joking. The laughter and fun quickly resumed. Ruby and Green Eye were huddled together, both with very serious expressions. There was a knowing look shared between them, one that I wasn’t part.

‘Archie come on, let’s go get some cake’ shouted Green Eye. It was a good attempt to stop me from asking questions, but I knew something was wrong. I decided not to press for more information, but I would, at a better time.

 

The band continued to play, and people were holding hands. They had formed a large circle, dancing and swaying together to the music. I felt a tug on my arm, Green Eye was pulling me into the centre of the circle.

‘Green Eye, dancing is not my thing, let me out of here,’ I screamed.

He wasn’t taking any notice, he just giggled and carried on without me. Watching him I couldn’t stop laughing, he was hysterically funny. Dancing the ‘Worm’ he writhed about on the floor and then followed this with ‘The Futsal Shuffle.’ Everyone in the circle shouted for more and clapped. He’s a bit of a showman, so he was only too happy to continue. I managed to slip out of the circle and made my way over to the other side of the room.

 

Nanny Porshina was sitting on her own, she looked lost in a faraway land, her eyes looked empty. 

I approached her and said, ‘You OK Nanny?’ 

She thought for a few moments and then replied, ‘Is it my birthday today?’

‘Yes, Nanny it is, are you having a good time?’ 

She ignored my question and said, ‘Are you Davey, Wizard Peter’s boy?’

Why was she asking this, she knows my name is Archie?

‘I’m Archie, Nanny, you know, Green Eyes friend’.

She looked at me, recognition flickering in her eyes.

‘Of course, yes, you’re the friend of that pesky cat’.

‘Nanny you don’t mean that you love Green Eye’.

She laughed, and we continued to chat about some of the things we had done in the last year. 

 

‘Well Archie, it’s time for me to see some of my other guests, you do realise it’s my birthday?’ 

She stood up and skipped over to join in with a three-legged race, about to start. It wasn’t like my three-legged races at school, each witch had grown an extra leg! Their three legs protruded from their long black robes; some were having difficulty coordinating. Nanny Porshina looked especially funny, her mini skirt showed so much more of the three legs, and they kept getting in a tangle as she tried to walk. 

I felt pleased she had remembered me eventually, and I was pleased she was having such fun, but a deep nagging sensation gripped my stomach. I knew something just wasn’t right about her, but I didn’t know what.

Should I submit my second book to an agent?  The first in the series is already out there, have sent to a number of agents, no takers so far. This second book could stand alone, although the same characters are included. I was wondering if I would have more luck and interest in this book as it is topical. It’s about a witch who has dementia, it follows on from ‘Archie and the Witch’s Spell’ for those who have read snippets in the past. It needs editing first. Thoughts please?

Hi guys. I need some help. I have written and submitted my first book in a series for children written in the first person. Having written the second in the series some time ago I realise it’s written in third person. I think I know the answer but wanted your  opinion. Should I change this to first person to remain consistent or don’t you think it matters?

There you go. Thanks Sibo.

Archie and the Witch's Spell

Chapter Two

My stomach was doing huge somersaults and my legs trembling. A black cat sat at her side, he had only one eye, bright dazzling green. His piercing stare made me want to run away. Looking up, I could see strange mixtures in small bottles, dried flowers, and big long-legged spiders hanging from the roof. 

Something smelly and unpleasant wafted from a large black pot at the back of the stall. Once again, I tried to speak.  My mouth just kept opening and closing, nothing would come out. I must have looked like a goldfish. Maybe she had already turned me into a pig and that’s why I couldn’t speak. Maybe I was making oinking noises and didn’t realise. Looking down at my hands they were still there, no pigs’ trotters, and no curly tail on my bottom, still human. I jumped as the green-eyed cat spoke. ‘Don’t worry her bark is worse than her bite, she won’t really turn you into a pig’.

 Then he whispered, ‘My name is Green Eye, I think you need a cup of hot milk to help calm your nerves. Meet me around the corner at the ‘Rat Cafe’ in ten minutes.’

The cat was talking to me! The cat was talking to me! Shaking my head, I blinked, and rubbed my ears; I must be hearing things, cats can’t speak, not in our language anyway. The cat spoke again, ‘The café is just around the corner through the archway. Hurry, before she hears me, or it might be ME she turns into a pig.’ He laughed as he spoke. Perhaps the punch from Felix earlier had affected me more than I thought.  I nodded, even though I kept thinking, this is impossible cats can’t talk! A customer arrived at the stall, and the old woman seemed to forget all about me. Instead, she turned and spoke to Green Eye, scolding him for not paying enough attention to the customers. 

Inside the ‘Rat café’ the walls were decorated with framed pictures of large scary looking rats and some of the pictures had been signed. I imagined an enormous rat with rimmed glasses, sitting at a desk and signing autographs! It all seemed so absurd. All the time I kept thinking, this isn’t real, this isn’t real, but it was real. Not only were cats eating and drinking, they were chatting too, and…… I could understand them! 

 Written on a blackboard behind the counter, was a menu listing the food and drink you could order.  Included were the normal things like tea, coffee and soft drinks, but written alongside, there was a heading which said, ‘Menu for Cats.

Mocha milk, Soya milk, Chocolate milk, Americana milk, Skinny milk, and even Catachinno milk. I really didn’t understand what all the milks were, but they sounded good, especially as you could add extra cream, sprinkles, or chocolate topping. My mouth watered, displayed in a glass-fronted cabinet I spotted a large sticky iced bun, my favourites. Alongside, were fish flavoured biscuits, and Tuna cake, yuk. This was like no other café I’d been to.  

Thinking about Green Eye, I felt very silly.  How could I be so stupid, cats can’t speak to humans, this must be a dream after all. I closed my eyes tight and opened them again, hoping to be in my bed at home. I pinched myself, but things hadn’t changed, I was still in the café. A lump formed at the back of my throat; it was time to leave. At that moment, Green Eye came in and sat down. I swallowed back my tears. 

Still telling myself that cats can’t speak, Green Eye said, ‘What would you like to drink my boy?’

 I stammered, ‘How… what….  I mean, you can speak!’ I felt embarrassed because Green Eye was now laughing at me.

 ‘Of course, I can. Most cats can understand humans, but only witch’s cats can speak with them’. Hearing the word ‘Witch’ made me shudder and stumble over my words.

 I gulped and said, ‘Could…. could I have a warm milk, with extra cream and sprinkles?’

 ‘Great choice.’ said Green Eye, ‘I’ll have the same, don’t worry about paying, they know me in here.’ 

 A large Tabby cat wearing a white apron, with whiskers greased back to look like a big moustache, came to the table.

 He smiled an enormous grin and said, ‘Gentleman, what can I get you?’ 

This was too much. A cat that could speak, and who was also a waiter! I could feel the blood draining from my face.

 ‘You OK? You’ve gone very white? Asked Green Eye. 

 I was careful with my reply, not wanting to upset him.

 ‘Yes… I’m just not used to talking cats.’ 

 Green Eye nodded and said, ‘That’s understandable, don’t suppose you are’. 

The Tabby cat brought over our order.  A glass of milk with sprinkles, and an extra-large saucer of the same thing for Green Eye. 

I shook my head and said, ‘Speaking cats, wowzah!’ 

‘You’ll get used to it, anyway, what do you call yourself?’ said Green Eye.

‘My name is Archie’

 Green Eye sat for a moment and then said, ‘Well Archie, nice to meet you.’ 

He asked me where I lived, what music and what games I enjoyed. When he asked me what my hobbies were, I told him it was chasing spiders; it was all I could think of on the spur of the moment; Counting hair colours wasn’t really a hobby!

 I thought it only polite to return the questions, and I asked about his hobbies.

 ‘Well Archie, lets see if you can guess, here is a clue.’  Green Eye then went very still, his dazzling one green eye, focused intensely on me. He didn’t blink or move, but just kept staring. I felt very uncomfortable, just as I had when I first met him.

 ‘Well, what do you think?  He said.

‘I have absolutely no idea.’ I replied.

 ‘Hmm, I’ll give you a clue. I use this look on a certain animal’. 

 ‘Well… maybe on a dog?’ I guessed.

 ‘Brilliant, nearly there. Why would I use this stare on a dog?’ 

‘To scare him?’ I replied hesitating. 

Green Eye fell about laughing. ‘Yes, my game is to see how long it takes for them to run off. My record so far is thirty seconds’.

 ‘I could imagine one of your stares could make any dog nervous!’ I said.

Together we laughed. I was now starting to enjoy his company. 

Green Eye explained that the old woman was called Ruby, she was a witch. I looked at Green Eye in horror and disbelief. ‘Oh, come on, now your winding me up!’ I exclaimed.

 Green Eye looked offended, and said, ‘Honest, Archie. She really is, I swear. I wouldn’t lie to you, I like you, and I hope we can be friends.’ 

Looking down, I felt ashamed for not believing him.

‘She’s not dangerous. She was protecting her stall and potions earlier on. Selling these are how we make our living’.  

He explained that he lived and worked with Ruby, and his job was to purr and brush gently against the legs of the customers. This made customers feel more relaxed, sometimes they would bend down and tickle his ears. Ruby said this was good for business and would help gain more sales. Their partnership seemed to be a good one from what I could tell.

The door of the ‘Rat café’ flew open. In the doorway stood Ruby, looking so angry I thought her head was about to explode. Her enormous nose screwed up and she wore a frown that made her eyebrows meet in the middle!  
 She screamed at Green Eye, in a loud cackling voice.

‘Green Eye, go and find me a spider!’ I need some spider’s legs for my new potion! I don’t pay you to sit around in cafes all day.’

Green Eye said, ‘Got to go Archie, I’m in trouble, see you’.

Then he bolted as fast as he could out of the door.  There was so much I wanted to ask Green Eye about the witch, ‘What spells did she perform?’, ‘Could she fly on a broomstick?’, ‘Did she sleep at night or turn into a bat?’ but by far the biggest question of all was, ‘Would I ever see my new friend again?’

pledge! If anyone has time please can you read chapter 2 of Archie and the witch’s spell and give feedback. Ta.

Chapter Two

My stomach was doing huge somersaults and my legs trembling. A black cat sat at her side, he had only one eye, bright dazzling green. His piercing stare made me want to run away. Summoning all my courage and looking up, I could see strange mixtures in small bottles, dried flowers, and big long-legged spiders hanging from the roof. 

Something smelly and unpleasant wafted from a large black pot at the back of the stall. Once again, I tried to speak.  My mouth just kept opening and closing, nothing would come out. I must have looked like a goldfish. Maybe she had already turned me into a pig and that’s why I couldn’t speak. Maybe I was making oinking noises and didn’t realise. Looking down at my hands they were still there, no pigs trotters, and no curly tail on my bottom, still human. I jumped as the green-eyed cat spoke. ‘Don’t worry her bark is worse than her bite, she won’t really turn you into a pig’.

 Then he whispered, ‘My name is Green Eye, I think you need a cup of hot milk to help calm your nerves. Meet me around the corner at the ‘Rat Cafe’ in ten minutes.’

The cat was talking to me! The cat was talking to me! Shaking my head, I blinked, and rubbed my ears; I must be hearing things, cats can’t speak, not in our language anyway. The cat spoke again, ‘The cafe is just around the corner through the archway. Hurry, before she hears me, or it might be ME she turns into a pig.’ He laughed as he spoke. Perhaps the punch from Felix earlier had affected me more than I thought.  I nodded, even though I kept thinking, this is impossible cats can’t talk! A customer arrived at the stall, and the old woman seemed to forget all about me. Instead, she turned and spoke to Green Eye, scolding him for not paying enough attention to the customers. 

Inside the ‘Rat café’ the walls were decorated with framed pictures of large scary looking rats and some of the pictures had been signed. I imagined an enormous rat with rimmed glasses, sitting at a desk and signing autographs! It all seemed so absurd. All the time I kept thinking, this isn’t real, this isn’t real, but it was real. Not only were cats eating and drinking, they were chatting too, and…… I could understand them! 

 Behind the counter, written on a blackboard was a menu listing the food and drink you could order.  Included were the normal things like tea, coffee and soft drinks, but written alongside, there was a heading which said, ‘Menu for Cats.

Mocha milk, Soya milk, Chocolate milk, Americana milk, Skinny milk, and even Catachinno milk. I really didn’t understand what all the milks were, but they sounded good, especially as you could add extra cream, sprinkles, or chocolate topping. My mouth watered, displayed in a glass-fronted cabinet I spotted a large sticky iced bun, my favorites. Alongside, were fish flavoured biscuits, and Tuna cake, yuk. This was like no other café I’d been to.  

Thinking about Green Eye, I felt very silly.  How could I be so stupid, cats can’t speak to humans, this must be a dream after all. I closed my eyes tight and opened them again, hoping to be in my bed at home. I pinched myself, but things hadn’t changed, I was still in the café. A lump formed at the back of my throat; it was time to leave. At that moment, Green Eye came in and sat down. I swallowed back my tears. 

Still telling myself that cats can’t speak, Green Eye said, ‘What would you like to drink my boy?’

 I stammered, ‘How… what….  I mean, you can speak!’ I felt embarrassed because Green Eye was now laughing at me.

 ‘Of course, I can. Most cats can understand humans, but only witch’s cats can speak with them’. Hearing the word ‘Witch’ made me shudder and stumble over my words.

 I gulped and said, ‘Could…. could I have a warm milk, with extra cream and sprinkles?’

 ‘Great choice.’ said Green Eye, ‘I’ll have the same, don’t worry about paying, they know me in here.’ 

 A large Tabby cat wearing a white apron, with whiskers greased back to look like a big moustache, came to the table.

 He smiled an enormous grin and said, ‘Gentleman, what can I get you?’ 

This was too much. A cat that could speak, and who was also a waiter! I could feel the blood draining from my face.

 ‘You OK? You’ve gone very white? Asked Green Eye. 

 I was careful with my reply, not wanting to upset him.

 ‘Yes… I’m just not used to talking cats.’ 

 Green Eye nodded and said, ‘That’s understandable, don’t suppose you are’. 

The Tabby cat brought over our order.  A glass of milk with sprinkles, and an extra-large saucer of the same thing for Green Eye. 

I shook my head and said, ‘Speaking cats, wowzah!’ 

‘You’ll get used to it, anyway, what do you call yourself?’ said Green Eye.

‘My name is Archie’

 Green Eye sat for a moment and then said, ‘Well Archie, nice to meet you.’ 

Green Eye asked me where I lived, what music I liked and what games I liked to play. When he asked me what my hobbies were, I told him it was chasing spiders; it was all I could think of on the spur of the moment; I didn’t want to say I didn’t have any, and counting hair colours wasn’t really a hobby!

 I thought it only polite to return the questions, and I asked about his hobbies.

 ‘Well Archie, lets see if you can guess, here is a clue.’  Green Eye then went very still, his dazzling one green eye, focused intensely on me. He didn’t blink or move, but just kept staring. I felt very uncomfortable, just as I had when I first met him.

 ‘Well, what do you think?  He said.

‘I have absolutely no idea.’ I replied.

 ‘Hmm, I’ll give you a clue. I use this look on a certain animal’. 

 ‘Well… maybe on a dog?’ I guessed.

 ‘Brilliant, nearly there. Why would I use this stare on a dog?’ 

‘To scare him?’ I replied hesitating. 

Green Eye fell about laughing. ‘Yes, my game is to see how long it takes for them to run off. My record so far is thirty seconds’.

 ‘I could imagine one of your stares could make any dog nervous!’ I said.

Together we laughed. I was now starting to enjoy his company. 

Green Eye explained that the old woman was called Ruby, she was a witch. I looked at Green Eye in horror and disbelief. ‘Oh, come on, now your winding me up!’ I exclaimed.

 Green Eye looked offended, and said, ‘Honest, Archie. She really is, I swear. I wouldn’t lie to you, I like you, and I hope we can be friends.’ 

Looking down, I felt ashamed for not believing him.

‘She’s not dangerous. She was protecting her stall and potions earlier on. Selling these are how we make our living’.  

He explained that he lived and worked with Ruby, and his job was to purr and brush gently against the legs of the customers. This made customers feel more relaxed, sometimes they would bend down and tickle his ears. Ruby said this was good for business and would help gain more sales. Their partnership seemed to be a good one from what I could tell.

The door of the ‘Rat café’ flew open. In the doorway stood Ruby, looking so angry I thought her head was about to explode. Her enormous nose screwed up and she wore a frown that made her eyebrows meet in the middle!  
 She screamed at Green Eye, in a loud cackling voice.

‘Green Eye, go and find me a spider!’ I need some spider’s legs for my new potion! I don’t pay you to sit around in cafes all day.’

Green Eye said, ‘Got to go Archie, I’m in trouble, see you’.

Then he bolted as fast as he could out of the door.  There was so much I wanted to ask Green Eye about the witch, ‘What spells did she perform?’, ‘Could she fly on a broomstick?’, ‘Did she sleep at night or turn into a bat?’ but by far the biggest question of all was, ‘Would I ever see my new friend again?’ 

Chapter One

‘Come on Archie, try to punch me. You won’t hurt me, go on, go on.’ 

‘Come on you baby, put your fists up, it’s time you learnt to fight, you’re nearly nine now’   

I ducked down, but Felix is much bigger than me and three years older. There was no way I would let Felix see me cry, even though my face stung like mad. Rubbing my cheek to ease the pain, I looked away. Felix did a winning ‘whoop, whoop’ of triumph and danced around the room. My brother wasn’t always the nicest person to be around.

My brother loves to watch anything involving a fight. Today we were watching ‘Boxing for Superheroes.’  He was bobbing up and down, jabbing his fists into the air, trying to get me to fight back. So, intent on teasing me, he didn’t look where he was going and tripped over a small stool by the fireplace. Good job our aunt wasn’t around, he let out a yelp, and a very rude word. He was furious!

 ‘See what you’ve made me do.’ he screamed. 

‘Are you OK Felix’ I said, concerned he may have hurt himself.

 He didn’t reply but grunted and just went back to watching the boxing.

‘Couldn’t we have something else on?’ I pleaded.

 Immediately, I regretted asking.

 Felix shook his fists and said, ‘If you don’t like it you know what you can do, the door is over there! 

When mum and dad were alive, he had been much nicer. Nowadays, he just didn’t show his nice side very often!

I wished I could be back at school, playing football with my friends or skate boarding. It was boring being at home. Felix didn’t want to do anything with me, apart from fight of course. Aunt Lucy and Uncle Jack, well they were just, old. I had even started to do some revision in my bedroom, which was unheard of! 

I called to Aunt Lucy. ‘I’m going out for a walk.’

She replied, ‘Don’t be too long or go too far. Oh, and be careful, don’t talk to any strangers.’ 

Surely, now I was eight years old and nearly a grown up, she should trust me.

I thought about mum and dad. If they had still been around, they would have trusted me. 

Outside, I could feel the warmth of the sunshine on my face. The town square wasn’t far from where we lived, it was market day. I always found the market so exciting. The smells from the food stalls made my nose twitch and my tummy rumble. Stall holders shouted from their stalls ‘Buy one get one free,’ and used silly voices to get attention from the crowd. It made me giggle. Sometimes I would play a game which I called, ‘Spot the colour.’ I would allow myself ten minutes to find as many different hair colours in the crowd as I could. Today, I had got to ten, a record so far. My hair is red, so that counts as one. The best one, was a man who had his hair dyed green, pink, and orange! 

A small group of musicians played on the side of the road and I hummed along with the tune. I loved being here in the market; it was so full of interesting people and things to look at. My mood had definitely improved.

I came to my favourite stall. There were lollipops, chewy things shaped as lips, sherbet, chocolate buttons, jelly snakes and hundreds of others. I took in a long deep breath; they smelt fantastic; I tried to imagine what they would all taste like. My tongue tingled and my mouth watered. I dreamt of filling up a bag and eating them all in one go. Maybe my teeth would all fall out, but it would be worth it!

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a huge hairy spider. He was as big as a fifty pence piece and racing along the floor. I decided to follow him.

‘Let’s see where you end up mister spider.’ I thought.

 Keeping my eyes pinned to the floor and following at a reasonable distance, I watched him dart from one crack in the pavement to another, his big hairy legs running as fast as they could. I didn’t want to scare him; the chase was the fun part. He sped up, and I knew I would have to get a move on, or I would lose him. I bent down to get a better look, but, as I did, I fell forward.

‘OUCH’ I screamed. ‘That REALLY, REALLY, REALLY hurt’.  I rubbed my head and found a large bump, about the size of an egg.

 ‘WHAT WAS THAT!’ I shouted.

 ‘WHAT WAS THAT! WHAT WAS THAT! Came a voice from above. 

‘I’ll tell you what that was, you idiot boy. THAT was my STALL YOU HEAD BUTTED. 

If I find any damage you will be paying for it! Why don’t you look where you’re going?  I have a good mind to turn you into a pig!’ 

 I looked up, my mouth dropped open, I tried to speak but the words would not come out. Standing above me was a very scary and ugly looking old woman. She had on a long black dress, long curly fingernails painted purple and a pointed black hat. Her hooked nose was huge, and on the side of her face was a big black spot. She looked very, very, very, very cross. 

So, I’ve been looking at my manuscript after putting it away for a few weeks. Da,da! It’s absolutely true. My learning and time have helped me edit! So much better!

An Intruder

An intruder, a kerfuffle, a crash. I held my breath. Should I go down there? Reaching under my bed I found what I was looking for. My heart beating hard, sweat dripping, I quietly slid my feet onto the floor. I was not alone. A floorboard creaked, I stopped and listened. What was that? Silence. Hammer raised, my weapon of choice, I opened the door. The darkness hit me like a blinding light. Shaking, step by step I descended the stairs. A creak from the kitchen exploded in the silence. Panic ensued. My phone, where was my phone? My eyes frantically searched. Now accustomed to the darkness, I could see it on the sofa. A few more panic driven steps, I managed to Grab at it, fingers fumbling for the emergency number. Petrified I considered my situation. A hammer, a phone, a woman alone, not the most elaborate plan.  A band tightened around my neck; I couldn’t breathe. A black shadow passed across the kitchen door, I shuddered. Summoning all my strength, all my courage, I burst into the kitchen.

My eyes focussed on the remains from the previous evening. Empty wine bottles lay scattered on the floor, broken. Using the torch on my phone I surveyed the scene. Nothing, just a pile of washing up left for me to do this morning and some uneaten Pizza and garlic bread. Distracted I turned on the light and my pulse slowed. Picking up the broken glass on the floor I moved to the recycle bin. My head whipped around as I heard the faintest noise from the utility room, the door was ajar. There was something there.

His blood spread onto the kitchen floor, like crimson silk. He hadn’t seen it coming, the attack had been vicious and the wound deep. I nudged his limp, almost puppet like, body with my foot. He didn’t stir. I reached for the rubber gloves next to the washing machine. He was heavy but I managed to move him outside, I wiped my hands in disgust.

The tip of the tail protruded from his mouth; he knew he’d been caught. I scolded him ‘Paws, you’re a naughty boy, frighting me like that, but I guess you were only doing your job’. He purred and nuzzled against me; Sitting on the floor I stroked him, and we sat looking up at the stars. All was well, me, my cat, and the man in the moon.

 

409 Words

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