Well, Christmas is over, my visitors have all gone home, the last mince pie has been eaten, and now it’s time to get back to work! And my New Year Resolutions consist of:
1) getting my new book for children finished and submitting it for publication before starting on
2) another idea for a book for adults.
3) And maybe some more shorter books for younger readers too.
4) I also intend to keep this NEWS section up to date, by writing it every month without fail.
By the end of 2020 it will be interesting to see how many of these resolutions I’ve achieved!
And something else: This review of my Roman books has just been posted online:
Friday, 10 January 2020
Welcome to 2020 – and THE BRITANNIA MYSTERIES by LYNNE BENTON: Review by Penny Dolan
HAPPY NEW YEAR for 2020 . . . and SALUTE!
Yesterday I saw that an area of land beside Hadrian’s Wall, containing a Roman site, had been donated by private landowners to English Heritage.
Consequently, today feels like the right moment to update a past Awfully Big Reviews post, and show how a couple of historic titles had now grown into a complete Britannia Mysteries Trilogy.
A book arrived through my letterbox a while ago. It was a copy of DANGER AT HADRIAN’S WALL by Lynne Benton, the second in her Britannia series; set in Roman Britain, these are exactly the kind of stories that many KS2 readers would enjoy.
The first, THE CENTURION’S SON, (set in 312 AD) takes place in Isca, in what’s now known as South Wales.
Felix – the hero and twelve year-old son of the title – is anxious: Gaius the Senior Centurion, his trusted father, has been missing for days. But Gaius has disappeared without telling Felix where he is going, or making any of his usual preparations for a journey, nor leaving any money for Felix to buy food while he was gone.
Felix had hoped that Commander Octavius had sent his father on a secret mission, but then soldiers arrive, claiming his father is a runaway traitor and Felix is thrown in prison himself. Who will believe or help him? Even if he escapes, what can he do next? Fortunately, his long-time friend Catrin, a Silurian slave-girl with second sight, is ready to help. Despite ill-treatment, cruel treachery and life-threatening dangers, the two determined friends use their wits and their keen, watchful eyes to untangle the mystery.
In DANGER AT HADRIAN’S WALL, Lynne Benton’s second book, Felix and Catrin have been now adopted by Commander Quintus Maximus and his wife Drusilla. When reports arrive of trouble with the Barbarians, the 2nd Augustan Legion is ordered north to Hadrian’s Wall, Felix is left behind. Desperate to prove his own bravery, Felix hatches a plan that soon has Catrin, himself and others following the footsteps of the legion. The journey is long and hard.
Unfortunately, when the band of travellers finally reach the camp at Hadrian’s Wall, the Commander is not pleased. Felix and Catrin find there are worrying signs of treachery and suspicion around the camp too, and trouble with the local Caledonian tribes.
In addition, not only does Catrin become annoyingly jealous of Minna, the new slave girl that Felix has befriended, but she has started dreaming of flames and danger.
Then, to Felix’s horror, Catrin disappears. How can he find what has happened? He will find her, he will and, luckily, the friendly soldier Tullio is there to help and guide him on his quest beyond the Wall . . .
The third book of the trilogy, THE LOST TREASURE OF AQUA SULIS is set in Bath. This novel continues the story of Felix and Catrin as they travel with Drusilla their foster mother to the great city.
Drusilla is there to visit the magical healing waters and make offerings to the Goddess for the safety and health of her young child and her family. Soon enough, Felix and Catrin find themselves caught up in a mystery filled with stolen treasures, false accusations, crimes and secrets.
At the same time, they are both concerned for themselves. Now that Quintus Maximus and Drusilla have a child of their own, what will happen to tCatrin and Felix, especially as they have such an awkward way of finding trouble wherever they go?
Lynne Benton’s writing reflects her knowledge of children, These books in this trilogy, at around a hundred and fifty pages, are not overlong and are easy and pleasing to read.. The short, neatly-plotted chapters make the books very suitable for 7 to 9 year old readers and the author adds just as much incidental historical information as the plots require.
These books are a good choice for children who have Roman Britain as a topic on their school curriculum.
Even though the plots and characters are fictional, the three historical settings – Carleon Roman Fortress in Wales, Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, and the reconstructed Bath House at Bath – are all there in the real world and available for interesting historical visits, with added inspiration from the BRITANNIA MYSTERIES inspiration.
All three books, published by Coppertree Press, are available through Amazon.
And now October is rushing towards its end, and I’ve been busy working on another book for older children, though it will take a while to write. I can’t tell you the title yet, though it has what is known as a “working title”, which may not be its eventual title. However, as well as that I was asked by Franklin Watts to retell a Maltese folk tale for them, which I have now done. Again, I can’t say more at the moment, but it was a task I really enjoyed, and I hope that will be published sometime next year. Now I can go back to my new book and get on with that.
The end of September proved to be most exciting, when I went to the Narberth Book Fair in South Wales. It was a long, wet drive there, but together with my friend Sharon Tregenza, who also writes books for children, we had a great time, met many young readers and sold many of our books. Here we are sharing a table, with our books spread out before us:
Two people even bought all three books of my Roman trilogy, so I do hope they will enjoy reading them. It was lovely to meet so many children who enjoy reading books, and we were very glad we’d braved the rain and travelled 150 miles each way!
August has been a busy month too, as I expect it has been for lots of you. I hope you have all enjoyed your holidays. I am planning to have a Book Launch for the whole set of THE BRITANNIA MYSTERIES: Book 1, THE CENTURION’S SON, Book 2, DANGER AT HADRIAN’S WALL, and the final one, THE LOST TREASURE OF AQUAE SULIS, sometime soon. And I was very pleased when a friend sent me this photo of two boys reading THE CENTURION’S SON. They look as if they are enjoying it.
Every writer loves to know people are enjoying their books, so I thought if anyone else would like to send me a photo of them, or their friends, reading one of my books, I could start a new page of READERS’ PHOTOS. (Of course, I wouldn’t put any names to the photos.) If you have one, or would like to take one, you can send it to me at the email address on my CONTACT ME page.
July has been a very busy month, and I’ve been working hard to get my latest book out there – and I am delighted to say that Book 3 of my Roman trilogy, “THE LOST TREASURE OF AQUAE SULIS”, is finally published, and is now available to buy from Amazon.
It continues the story of Felix and Catrin as they travel to Aquae Sulis (present-day Bath) to visit the Healing Waters of the Sacred Spring. When a crime is committed in the city they are determined to solve it, especially when it becomes very personal.
This is the last book of “The Britannia Mysteries”, but I hope readers will feel the trilogy has reached a satisfactory ending.
This month is already rushing by, and I’m pleased to report that I’ve just signed the contracts for three new books for younger children, all to be published by Franklin Watts in their Reading Champion series:
- SANDY THE DOG This book is about a dog who is training his family to look after him as he likes. (As I reported before, I had to change the name of the dog – and having seen the rough illustration designs, I think Sandy suits this dog really well!)
- THE HEN-DUCK This book is about a hen who thinks she is a duck. (For this book I had to change the children’s names, so they are now Maia and Rosa.)
- THE NEW BABY This book is about a little girl who wants the new baby to be a sister, not a brother. (Again I had to change the name of the little girl from Poppy to Holly – apparently they’d had Poppy in a previous book in the series.)
Also to report: my illustrator is busy designing the cover for “THE LOST TREASURE OF AQUAE SULIS, so I’m hoping that very soon the book will be published and ready for people to buy and read!
And the good news continues. I have at long last finished Book 3 of my Roman trilogy, “THE LOST TREASURE OF AQUAE SULIS” and I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. It’s set in Bath, my home city, so I’ve had to take several trips to the Roman Baths (where much of the action is set) to check on things I needed to know for the story. I hope it will be available for readers to buy before too long. I have also heard that one of my two new books for Hachette (Franklin Watts) is to have its title changed (apparently they’d already had a couple of stories about dogs called Max in the series). So it will now be called “SANDY THE DOG. As far as I know, THE HEN-DUCK has kept its title, though a couple of the characters’ names had to be changed. However, it’s all very exciting.
Well, what a month it’s been! No sooner had the two stories for Hachette been accepted than I heard that they want to publish another story I’d sent them over two years ago! I had to rewrite it for a slightly older age group, but my editor likes my rewrite, so that is very good news. This book is called “THE NEW BABY”. On the same day I heard that my “RUNAWAY DOG DISASTER” which I wrote for the online forum has been taken up by a publisher who wants to publish it in book form! That is also very good news, as I thought nobody else would ever get to read it – but now, it appears, they will be able to. It seems that all good news comes at once.
As soon as I’d finished the story for the online forum, I was asked to submit more stories for Hachette, so I wrote two, and have just heard that they have both been accepted! Needless to say, I am delighted! I don’t know when they will be published, but I will put that news in the “New Books Out Soon” section. One is about a dog (now I know how much children like stories about dogs!) and is called “MAX – A DOG’S LIFE”, while the other is about a hen who thinks she’s a duck, called THE HEN-DUCK. I’ve also finished the final edits for THE MERMAID OF ZENNOR
which is now in the New Books section, and have nearly finished the last book in my Roman trilogy – so it’s been another very busy month!
At last I’ve finished writing the story for the online forum, which has been fascinating, challenging and exhausting in equal measures! Having to keep changing my ideas to fit the vote on every chapter was both interesting and maddening (especially when I’d worked out a great premise for the next chapter based on the children voting in the way I’d hoped, only to find them voting for a different option instead!) However, reading the children’s comments was really interesting, and most of them were very positive (such as “This is the best book I have ever read” and “You are my favourite author”) – but I hadn’t realised quite how many of them there would be! Even though the book is now finished, the story ended and all the loose ends tied up, I’m still getting comments flooding in every day (to date well over 700 of them!!!) I can’t answer them all, obviously, but I do try to respond to two or three on every page (each page holds around 25 comments) which takes up quite a lot of time. This is why I haven’t had a chance to write anything else lately – but now I’m looking forward to writing my own book at my own speed, without having to wait for votes on how to proceed!
This has been a very busy month, as I’ve been writing a special story for an online publishing forum called Fiction Express. Every week I have to write one chapter of a story and give three alternative endings. The chapter goes live on the forum so all the schoolchildren that are reading it can vote for their favourite ending, and then when I know the result of the vote I have to write the next chapter following their choice. There will be five chapters in all, and so far I’ve written the first three. And the interesting part is that any children reading the story can post their comments online, and I can follow them and answer them every day. Some of them have some really interesting ideas as to how the story should continue, so I bear those in mind when I’m writing the next chapter. My book is called THE RUNAWAY DOG DISASTER,
so as you can guess, it’s all about a runaway dog (or in this case a puppy). It’s all very exciting!
This month we have fewer commitments, so I’ve started as I mean to go on, writing some of my Roman Book 3 every day. I hope to report how many chapters I’ve written by the end of the month.
June and July have been extremely busy months in the Benton household, especially July. I began the month by going to my annual Writers’ Conference at the wonderful Charney Manor in Oxfordshire, which was, as ever, a real treat: seeing old friends, making new ones, talking about writing and books and sharing ideas for improving our creativity. We then spent a weekend with our London children and grandchildren, followed by a weekend in Scotland with our older daughter and grandchildren. From there we went to Edinburgh and met up with our American friends who were in the UK for two weeks and were staying with us for most of that time. We all did a lot of sightseeing in Scotland, including a boat trip on Loch Ness (see photo below!)
before returning home with them and doing more sightseeing locally. It was lovely to see them and we all really enjoyed their visit, but it was rather exhausting! So there was not much time for writing…
This month we returned for another trip to the fabulous Burgh Island Hotel, off the Devon coast. One night only (it was too expensive for more!) but we really enjoyed it.
I’m afraid I have been very remiss about updating my news page lately, but now it’s time to catch up and tell you about all the things that have been going on. This month’s big news is that Book 2 of my Roman Trilogy, ” DANGER AT HADRIAN’S WALL” is finally out there, and is now available on Amazon. Various hitches occurred between my finishing it and the actual publication, but it’s out there now, with another splendid cover by my son Tim:
I’m continuing to work on Book 3, which I hope to have ready for publication later this year – though as ever with writing and publishing, everything takes longer than I expect. However, I will announce the news as soon as it is ready!
This month we travelled up to Scotland again to see the show “Princess Ida”, by Gilbert and Sullivan. Our eldest granddaughter was the director of her university’s production, so we couldn’t miss that! It was a splendid occasion and we were all very proud of her.
Everyone had snow this month. We had plenty, but I didn’t mind. Here is our front path:
I just stayed indoors and wrote…
as I did in FEBRUARY 2018
and in JANUARY 2018
It takes a long time to write a book! Lots of thinking and rewriting, as well as several technical problems which have to be overcome…
Christmas was a busy time for us, as always, as we tried to fit in seeing all our four children and our five grandchildren, who live in London (three children plus two grandchildren) and Scotland (one daughter and three grandchildren). However, we managed it and a splendid time was had by all!
In early November we went to Scotland to stay with our daughter and family, and we had a great trip to see the Falkirk Wheel, a wonderful invention which lifts boats from one level on the canal up to a much higher level to rejoin it.
On the same site, but a little further away, we saw the famous Kelpies, enormous statues of two mythical Scottish seahorses.
Last month’s Narberth Book Fair was a huge success! This is a photo of the hall at a calm moment (most of the time it was so busy I didn’t have a moment to stop and take a photo!)
I thoroughly enjoyed attending and meeting so many other authors and buying their books, and in some instances swapping them with mine. I went with Sharon Tregenza, another children’s author, and we both had tables up on the stage with our books on display, so that everyone could see where the children’s books were. Here are photos of us there:
As you can see, Sharon is much better at these things than I am, having been to this event before. I must get a large banner made like hers before I do the next one!
Well, it’s been a busy summer, but now it’s autumn it’s time to get back to “normal”. I’ve now definitely finished Book 2 of my Roman trilogy, “Danger at Hadrian’s Wall”, so I hope it will be published before Christmas. I’m now working on Book 3, “The Lost Treasure”, which is set in Bath, where I live. In addition, I’ve just written and submitted a shorter story for younger children to Franklin Watts, who have published several of my other books for younger readers (the last one, “Poor Bear”, will be out in October), so I hope they will like it and decide to publish that one as well.
And this weekend I’m going to Narberth in Pembrokeshire for the Narberth Book Fair, which sounds very exciting. There will be about 40 writers there, five of them children’s writers, as well as interested readers, so no doubt there will be plenty of talking about books, and with luck some people might even buy some! I will post some photos of the event when I get back. I’m really looking forward to it.
Oh dear, I realise I haven’t updated this page for a very long time! However, I can tell you that I’ve spent most of June finishing and publishing the first of my long-awaited Roman trilogy – and now it’s out there for everyone to see!
(For more information see my “Books for Older Children” page.)
Now I can get cracking on Book 2, which is called “Danger at Hadrian’s Wall.” It is more or less complete, but I will need to go over it and check everything several times over before I’m really satisfied with it – and then I will announce its publication on my “New Books Coming Soon” page. I hope all the people who have read and enjoyed Book 1 will be keen to read Book 2!
Now that Christmas is over, tree, cards and decorations removed, I can get back to work. It always takes longer to get back into it when you’ve had some time away from your desk, but I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into it again. And while I was enjoying Christmas I was also having more ideas to add to the book – so it’s back to spreading out the index cards, reorganising them and adding the new ideas. What fun! I don’t mind if it snows – I have plenty to do indoors!
Both busy months, dealing with the two projects I was working on before, as well as all the pre-Christmas stuff (cards, letters, presents, visits etc.) so no time to write anything here!
This has been a busy writing month, with two projects both needing my attention. I’ve been revising the first of my Roman novels for older children prior to getting it published, and I’ve also been planning a new venture: a crime novel for adults. I love puzzles, both jigsaw and crossword, so the prospect of making my own puzzle in the form of a crime novel was irresistible. However, it is longer and rather more complex than my previous books, so takes a great deal of plotting and planning. For example, I have to make sure I drop in clues (and red herrings) at intervals all through the book, enough so that the reader has a chance to guess the outcome (or the whodunit!) but not too easily.
I like to write all the plot points on index cards and then spread them out on the floor while I decide in which order to tell them in the story. All useful stuff!
All of this organisation takes time, so it will be a while before it’s written to my satisfaction, and ready for publication, but I’m really enjoying the process.
Other news on the family front is that we have a new grandson, born at the end of October. He is gorgeous!
Maybe, some time in the future, there will come a month that isn’t busy! In the meantime, these are a few of the things that happened in September:
I gave a talk about Writing Books for Children to a women’s group called Tangent. They were a very friendly group and my talk was well-received. Afterwards several people bought copies of my books. A good evening.
I went to the theatre once (“The Shakespeare Review”) and the cinema once (“Bridget Jones’ Baby”). Both very enjoyable.
We had friends to stay for one weekend, and went out for a special Afternoon Tea to celebrate Jean’s Big Birthday, which had happened two weeks earlier. We all enjoyed it.
Another weekend my sister-in-law came to stay. It was good to see her.
We attended a Golden Wedding celebration in Devon which included Handbells (and I played some too on this occasion!) It was a long way, but a good time was had by all.
Other than that I read a lot, had several lovely walks in the countryside,
and, most importantly, started work on my new book! I look forward to getting a lot more done in October.
This has been a very busy month. At the end of July my husband and I flew to Vancouver for a week-long International Handbell Symposium. My husband writes music for Handbells, which, for those who don’t know, are small bells which can be played by a team of ringers to make tunes and harmonies. Each bell set comprises anything from 12 to 72 bells, each with a different note, so almost any music can be played on them, depending on the ability of the ringers. Here they were all spectacularly good. This is a group of schoolchildren from Singapore, playing brilliantly.
Handbells were originally used for church bell ringers to practise with, but are now used as instruments in their own right. Every two years handbell ringers from all over the world meet together for an International Symposium, during which groups from the individual countries perform pieces, as well as some pieces composed or arranged for Massed Ringing, which, as it says, involves all players performing the same pieces. On this occasion we met in Canada, but all the countries contributing have their turn to host the Symposium. This time there were about 750 ringers of all ages from Canada, the USA, Hong Kong, Australia, Japan, Korea, Singapore and New Zealand, as well as the UK.
In the past my husband has conducted his own compositions, but this time he was one of the ringers, while I was able to attend the concerts and hear what a wonderful sound the massed bells made.
It was an unforgettable experience.
This month I went on my annual visit to a beautiful old manor house in Oxfordshire , along with several other children’s writers.
Every year we meet together to chat about writing, go to sessions devised and led by members of the group, or to do our own writing. The sessions vary from useful subjects like editing and discussing work in progress, to imaginative work with drawing, collage or guided visualisation, to hugely fun comedy workshops, but it is entirely up to us whether we want to go to them or work on our own. There is a marvellous atmosphere of shared creativity around the place which feeds into our work, both while we’re there and when we get home again. And because we’re all writers, we’re all used to sitting on our own to work, usually in complete silence, so it is a wonderful release to be able to get together with other people who understand! (Sometimes the decibel levels get quite high as we all talk and talk and talk…) Although every year there are a few new faces, while some familiar faces are unable to come, we all appreciate the magic of Charney, and many of us look forward to returning year after year. I am one of those, and I’m looking forward to next year already.
The first thing I want to post on this page is not really news – it happened back in November last year, when I did a SCHOOL VISIT to Milford Junior School in Yeovil. The school was extremely welcoming and I had a wonderful day there, talking to all the Year 4 children about my book “RAIDERS!” (which is set during the Viking invasion of Britain) and to the Year 5s and Year 6s about my book “JIMMY’S WAR” (set during World War 2).
The children were all very enthusiastic and excited about my visit, and wanted to know what had inspired me to write the books, and how long each had taken me to write. (This last question is always a difficult one to answer, since each book can take many months to work out in your head before you actually start to write it.) All the children especially enjoyed taking objects out of one of the two bags I’d brought with me and hearing what connected them to the books. One bag contained things mentioned in “Raiders!”, such as a model Viking longship and a set of tiny Viking warriors, and the other contained things mentioned in “Jimmy’s War”, such as a ration book and a tiny wooden mouse. They were all keen to be the next one chosen to dip into the bag. Then each year group made up a new story together, based on their own ideas, which they also enjoyed.
After each session a large number of children queued up with money to buy my books – the school had very helpfully written to all the parents beforehand to tell them that I was coming, and that my books would be available for them to buy at a slightly reduced price, which I would sign for them. I had also taken in bookmarks for every child and signed those too, so by the end of the day I really did have writers’ cramp!
However, it had been a brilliant day which I shall always remember, and I have been waiting to get my new website up and running so I could write about it. Grateful thanks to all at Milford Junior School, especially to Mrs Christiane Charles for arranging it.