On Writing: Guest Post by C.J. Bentley, author of “The Shield”

I write notes down anywhere and everywhere but mainly whilst traveling, something I do a lot of. Airports are a great source for people watching and for ideas forming; I have always kept a small pad in my handbag for jotting ideas down at random.  I am on to my fifth pad and it is interesting looking back through them to see what I have written in the past.  The idea for ‘The Shield’ was my first jotting in my first note book from many years ago.

I write at home in Dubai, mostly sitting at the table in the dining room, high backed chairs to support my back with my laptop on the table along with a cup of coffee and an occasional snack of banana, or cut up apple.  Sometimes I can write for a good few hours, the time just flies by.  I don’t plan the way a story grows when I write.  I research the period and what happened in that time, a background to the sixties, the music and the news of the period are noted in the book to add substance to the writing.

I look through my research before I start to write but what happens to the main characters evolves from my brain onto the laptop screen via my typing.  When I read it back to myself it is a really exciting process.  I think of each writing session as a journey of discovery, for myself as well as the reader.

I started to write these adventure books for my grandson as I couldn’t find anything to read to him that didn’t feature vampires, zombies and farts, not good bedtime reading but it wasn’t until I found myself living in Doha and for the first time in my life found I had the time to do it.  In Doha I sat at my husband’s desk in his study where his computer was installed.  It has a large screen and after sitting and writing for a few hours I amazed myself when I saw how many thousand words I had written.  My laptop doesn’t have a word count or if it has I haven’t discovered it yet.  The study where my husband’s desk stood was furthest away from the hot sun it was cool which is a bonus in Qatar.

As I write this post I am in France, I have escaped the heat of summer in Dubai as I do each year to briefly live in this beautiful area of France, the Limousine.  It is hot but not uncomfortably so and I am sat at the table outside in the garden with the large lime green, rectangular umbrella casting its shade over me.  A pot of coffee is at my elbow with my favourite mug and a spoon, milk I keep in the fridge so have to travel inside to the kitchen to add to my coffee.  It would curdle if left out in this sunshine.  I sit for hours at this table when in writing mode.  This is my very favourite place to write because of the quiet.  No noise other than the birdsong keeps me company, apart from now when my sister, who is currently watching tennis on the television, is staying with me.   I have a background noise of the ball bouncing on the grass court at Wimbledon and my sister’s exclamations at the amazing tennis rallies.  No idea who is playing but it sounds like a good match.

I try not to eat snacks whilst writing, I have a good breakfast and then sometimes only a bowl of cherries, my most favourite fruit, French cherries are wonderful, I often eat my own weight in them when I arrive each summer.  I then don’t eat until late afternoon, thus consuming only two meals a day, enough when sitting at the table writing not using physical energy only brain energy.

My long suffering husband in Dubai is quite used to me jumping out of bed early morning to write my ideas down in my notebook as they come to me.  I tend to get them in that half-awake time between sleep and being fully awake.  The first time I did this he came plodding after me, half awake, wondering what on earth was the matter was I ill, did I need anything and when he found that it was me having a creative idea he returned to bed grumbling that his wife was slightly potty.

CJBentley_AuthorPhoto2About the author: Originally heralding from the North of England, C.J Bentley has traveled extensively and enjoyed living in a variety of countries across the world from Dubai to Doha, Qatar and now the countryside in the South of France. A background in teaching and childcare she has always enjoyed creating adventure short stories. However, it was when she became a grandma and with her grandchildren growing up that she discovered that books seemed to contain only stories of vampires, zombies and farts that she decided seriously to take matters into her own hands and put pen to paper which today she calls The Finder Series.

Website – https://www.cjbentleyonline.co.uk/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/CJBentleyAuthor/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/CJBentleyAuthor

The Shield Cover

The Shield

People lose their belongings. That is a fact of life. It can happen by accident, but sometimes it can happen when you put them in a very safe place and forget where that safe place is. Not many people are good at finding them again.

A young, gutsy girl with a kind heart, who’s searching for her own identity growing up in the 1960s, just happens to be very good at finding things. Can she be the one to help return whatever is lost – anywhere and at any time – to its original owner?

With the help of a beautiful yet mysterious wise woman and a chivalrous knight she does just that. She finds and returns his shield, lost in battle, which unbeknown to her holds a secret that is important to his king, the safety of the kingdom, and the life of the daughter of his best friend.

The Shield is the first story in The Finder Series, taking our heroine on extraordinary journeys back in time. Her first adventure takes place in Medieval England in 1340 where she meets King Edward III, his wife, Philippa, and their son who will later become the Black Prince.

For our review of The Shield go here.

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The Shield

The Shield Cover

The Shield by C.J. Bentley (Children/ Historical Fiction/Time Travel)

The Shield is described as a book for children ages 8 to 12, but I believe it will appeal to readers of all ages. The story moves right along, is fun and interesting, and is not at all childish in its content or style. It takes the narrator and the reader back in time to Medieval England, a fascinating period to visit and experience.

The narrator is a spunky ten-year-old girl who changes her name regularly and is called Peggy when the story begins in 1962. Before meeting her, however, we meet Sir Kay of Percefleet back in 1340 A.D., a knight who is about to lose his shield. Six hundred years later, while playing in a brook, “Peggy” and her friends find the shield, and the fun begins. Time travel, knights and kings, and a missing ten-year-old girl locked in a dungeon will keep the reader’s interest.

The author is British, and I enjoyed the British-isms in her writing. However, I have two complaints: the presence of run-on sentences throughout and dialogue that seems stilted and unrealistic for kids. British phrases aside, current-day speakers in England use contractions, but too often the dialogue labored under the weight of precise wording that might have been a distinctive pattern for the Medieval period but felt unnatural for the 1960s. Overall, however, the author’s style kept me reading, and I enjoyed this book.

Bella gives The Shield four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and participation in the blog tour.

For a guest post from author C.J. Bentley, please go here.

 

The Dragon Sphere

the-dragon-sphere

The Dragon Sphere by Abel Gallardo (Young Adult Fantasy, Middle Grade Fiction)

This book, the first in a series called “Nation of Dragons,” introduces Landon Brown, a fifteen-year-old who learns that he is a “dragonoid” or “halfling,” half dragon and half human. He has no idea prior to this; all he knows is that his dad has been absent most of his life. His dad, it turns out, is a highly regarded elder among dragons; his mom is human. Full-blooded dragons can take on human form a few hours per day, while dragonoids are humans who won’t literally transform into dragons but have special powers and need training to learn how to harness them.

At fifteen, Landon goes into training in a summer camp for dragonoids, where he encounters a number of magical things and makes friends with other halflings, including Aurora, whose mother is a dragon elder. They learn about both good and evil dragons and that one of the most feared has been imprisoned in The Dragon Sphere. A group of evil dragons and their followers wish to find and release him in order to regain power over humans, and it becomes the mission of Landon and Aurora, along with their fellow trainee, Shade, to bring back The Dragon Sphere unopened. Unfortunately, many dragonoids before them have taken on the same mission and failed, never to be heard from again. Landon also sees this as an opportunity to finally find his dad and confront him about abandoning Landon and his mom.

This book is categorized as Young Adult Fantasy, designated for readers 12 to 18 in grades 6 through 12. However, it felt more on the younger side, like Middle Grade fiction. The simple, sometimes stilted, sentence structure and limited descriptions and character development left me, as a high school-aged reader, wanting more depth. That said, it has plenty of action, and the story will keep a middle schooler engaged. The author has a vivid imagination and has created an interesting dragon world and fun powers for young dragonoids. There are some messages about believing in one’s self and stick-to-it-tiveness, but the one I expected, about global warming and doing our best to preserve the environment from destruction, wasn’t developed.

Bella gives The Dragon Sphere four stars. 4 stars

Potty-mouth index: CLEAN

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Freya and the Dragon Egg

Freya and the Dragon Egg

Freya and the Dragon Egg by K.W. Penndorf (Middle Grade Fantasy)

I love it when a novel takes me to a new place and makes me want to know more about that place. I’m not talking about fantasy worlds, but real worlds, either historical or geographical or, in this case, mythological.

Freya and the Dragon Egg is much more than the cover art or the title would suggest. Freya lives in present-day Denmark, and Viking mythology is a big part of her life because her father is a Viking archaeologist. He runs a museum full of runes, tapestries, and other artifacts he has discovered. Among them is a dragon’s egg that he gives to Freya for safekeeping when it becomes obvious that thieves are looking for it. The egg transports Freya back in time to the Viking era. There she learns that she is the Summoned One who is expected to save mankind from the sinister Ragnar and his evil plans to control the Nine Realms.

For me, the best thing about this book was all of the Norse mythology that I learned about — the Nine Realms, the Valkyries, Valhalla, Norns, and so on — and also the origin of the term “berserk.” After reading it, I went online and found that all of it is true and the author really knew her stuff.

The story itself had some holes that left me wondering, but for middle-grade readers that may not be such a big problem. It has a somewhat confusing beginning because it starts with a dream — always a bad idea if you ask me — but quickly moves into a solid storyline with a twelve-year-old main character that kids can identify with. She solves problems, learns to trust herself, and develops new awareness of how important her family is to her. It’s the usual “finding out you’re a magical special person” thing that we all dream of, so we’re on her side.

The writing was pretty good. After too many “Freya did a double-take” lines, though, I was wishing for a new way of saying that.

Bella gives Freya and the Dragon Egg four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

A Supersleuth is Born

SuperSleuth

A Supersleuth is Born by T. Mara Jerabek (Middle Grade Fantasy)

I don’t usually review Middle Grade books, but I agreed to read this because the idea of a blind kid finding glasses that let him see sounded pretty good.

Ethan is a blind sixth grader who lives with his aunt because his parents have died. His best friend (and love interest) is Addison, a girl who meets him every day to take him to school, and his former best friend, Mikey, is now the kid who bullies him. He knows lots of people in town and is pretty independent, counting steps to get where he wants to go and being checked on by lots of neighbors as he travels between his house and that of the lady who takes care of him after school. One day, at the home of the caregiver, he finds a pair of magic goggles that give him the ability to see. They also talk to him about what’s going on, take pictures, record notes, and can increase his ability to hear conversations at a distance.

Meanwhile, his aunt/mom is a newspaper reporter who is trying to get new information about a bunch of stolen bikes in town, and since Ethan has always wanted to solve mysteries, he decides to use his new eyesight to help her and the police find the bike thief.

I’m not sure what to say about this, because everything was too simple and too quick, but maybe for middle-grade kids, that’s okay. The bullying kid, Mikey, suddenly becomes Ethan’s best friend again so they can solve mysteries together, but we never learn why he turned on him in the first place, and now, like overnight, everything’s okay. The mystery was a pretty minor one, and it’s hard to believe it took three kids to solve it when the police couldn’t. Plus, I never did understand why the thief had to steal kids’ bikes in order to do what he wanted to do. And I do think it would have been better if Ethan could have solved it all because he was an awesome blind kid instead of needing the goggles. They just turned him into another kid who could see.

I hope the author adds more tension and danger next time, to get the reader excited and nervous for Ethan, instead of making everything work out too easily. I liked Ethan’s voice as he told the story. He seemed like a kid I’d like to know, with a good sense of humor about life.

Bella gives A Supersleuth is Born three stars. 3 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free paperback copy from the author in return for an honest review.

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