Danube Defiance- Book Review

Book Description:

DANUBE DEFIANCE, by novelist JANE GOLDEN, is an enthralling mystery about an art heist involving ancient icon art. Travel with super sleuth, Jeni, as she ventures through the antique markets in New Orleans’ French Quarter and across the ocean to Eastern Europe’s bustling city of Bucharest and the Romanian countryside. Jeni stumbles upon one clue that leads to others. Something doesn’t add up, and she gathers a few friends… an antiquities expert, a journalist, and a dashing New Orleans shopkeeper. Together, they follow a river of clues and dead bodies. But will the thieves get them first?

Review:

I’d mainly label this book as a cosy mystery, but in reality it’s a mix of things. It does have the slower pace of the cosy mystery, on the other hand there is none of the traditional list of suspects or plot twists that you would expect from that genre. It’s more of a thriller, but written in the style of a cosy mystery. I must admit to finding the solution slightly unfulfilling. But then again I often do.

The characters were believable and endearing and the writer clearly knows what she’s talking about. I would guess that perhaps she once filled the same role that Jeni, the main character in the book, occupies. I’d recommend it to fans of the fictional detectives Agatha Raisin and Daisy Dalrymple, who share the characteristics of achieving results by a mixture of luck and tenacious curiosity. Jeni very much falls into this category.

Also, if you like reading about other countries but dislike dry travel guides, this is a great way to learn about another culture without even thinking about it. It reminded me of Mary Stewart in that respect. The descriptions of Romania did slow the story down, but I enjoyed them nevertheless. All in all, it was a light but highly enjoyable read.

Rating- ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Find it on Amazon. About the Author: Jane Golden, author of SECRETS IN THE VINES and DANUBE DEFIANCE, was born with an inherent sense of adventure. The Biloxi, Mississippi native gives new meaning to tripping abroad. Experiencing international travel for the first time in her early teens, the brief jaunt stuck with her. She knew in her heart that the day-long excursion to a Mexican border town was the beginning of a lifetime of exotic journeys,which later included trips to Chile, Malawi, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Jordan, and Europe.

After practicing law for many years, she was unexpectedly thrust into the role of a diplomat wife in Eastern Europe. Much of the background material in SECRETS IN THE VINES and DANUBE DEFIANCE is borrowed from personal travel experiences, including humorous insights and unique perspectives gained upon arrival in Bucharest. Jane’s profound insights into the Romanian culture are eye-opening in both books, igniting the curiosity of the reader while providing non-stop entertainment. 

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Book Launch Day!

As you probably know, on Sunday I will be releasing my first short story collection. It’s also my first self-published book. I’m really proud of what I’ve come up with and I’ve got lots of great activities and giveaways planned. So I’m just going to run you through the schedule so you don’t miss anything you would enjoy.


The fun starts on Instagram on Saturday afternoon with a celebration of the short story. I’m challenging you to write a twelve word story. Twelve because that’s the number of stories in my book. If you also write the story on the theme of twelve you get extra points! There will be an overall winner, who will get a free eBook and their story reposted to my Instagram page. There will also be a shortlist, all of whom will also get free ebooks. So there’s basically an unlimited number of prizes and I’ll be choosing my favourites! If that sounds like fun and you’re not already following me on Instagram then you can do so here.


On Sunday morning I’ll launch other giveaways across my social media sites. There will be one on this blog, on Twitter, Facebook and another on Instagram for the non-writers.


Sunday afternoon there will be readings and excerpts, again across all my social media, though primarily Instagram. I’ll also share and pictures of readers with their preorders and hopefully there’ll be some great advance reviews to share!


Sunday evening I’ll be doing a Facebook live question and answer session at 6:00pm GMT. I’ll also announce all the giveaway winners.


Hope to see you on Sunday!

Age of the Ashers- Book Review

I don’t really know where to start with this review, except to say that I loved it. It’s one of those rare books where my tea grew cold, dinner boiled over and dirty dishes piled up in the sink until I’d finished reading it.

The core concept is familiar, though none the worse for that. A seemingly normal teen discovers she has special powers and is the only one who can change the course of history. But the setting really is unique- a fantasy land in which all the Ancient Greek myths, creatures and gods are actually real, the knowledge of which is suppressed by the country’s secretive government.

I also loved the idea of making Chloe a twin, and of the two I actually liked Damien the best. I don’t want to give too much away, but I think he had an interesting mental journey. While Chloe has no idea she’s special at first, Damien does know, deep down, but rejects it. I connected with his story most. Or maybe I just have a bit of a crush on him…

I must just mention the cleverest thing about this book. I love a moment when everything comes together and you think ‘how did I not see that before?’ Well, there is such a moment when Chloe finds out what her power is. Or there was for me anyway.

The ending to this book in NOT satisfying. Picture this- me, perched precariously on the edge of the bed, nails bitten to the quick, eyes dry and sore with staring so hard, screaming ‘noooo, that can’t be the last page,’ before frantically checking when the next in the series is due out. So I’m just warning you, you won’t be able to stop at this one.

You can find the book on Amazon.

New Book Cover Reveal!

If you follow this blog or my social media, you’re probably aware that I’ll be releasing my very own short story collection in October. So obviously I’ve been working very hard getting it right for you, and the cover is finally ready for the big reveal! (Though newsletter subscribers have already seen it…) Anyway, here it is:

And the back:

There’s all sorts of great giveaways, readings and events planned for release day, so make sure you’re following me on Instagram and/or Twitter (username for both is @abiwriting), or signed up to my newsletter, so as not to miss out!

Moving Experiences

“It’s exhausting moving house,” I remarked to hubby this evening. And indeed, I really think it is the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done. Even more so than getting married. It’s not just the packing, lugging about and unpacking of innumerable boxes. In fact, the moving day itself was the easiest of the lot. Several family members came to help, and by 7:00 we were all sat outside in the sunshine eating the most enormous Indian takeaway you have ever seen.

No, the next day, wherein we had to go back to the old house and get it cleaned up for the new occupier, was by far worse. Is there anything more dismal than a house with all your furniture and belongings moved out of it? And is it just me who suddenly realises that they really ought to have vacuumed under the bed and behind the fridge semi-occasionally? I was never more embarrassed when my mother and father in law removed these particular items and revealed what was underneath. I fleetingly resolved to spend less time reading and writing and more time on housework. I say fleetingly because I’m now starting to think it would be easier just to never move house ever again.

Anyway, once the old house was ready to hand over, it was time to concentrate on the new one. A few new items of furniture being needed, we set forth to IKEA, and five hours and four trolleys later we congratulated ourselves in having remembered everything. We subsequently discovered that our new dining room table came in two boxes, of which we only had the second one. So we had to go again, which somehow ended up being another five hours and a further two trolleys. I think we have almost everything now…

IKEA is a delightful place, but it does pall when all the muscles in your feet ache. And then when you get home you still have to assemble the furniture. Hubby is complaining of ‘Allen key arm.’ But I was very good and didn’t get upset when he made a mistake with the console table and left four little holes evenly spaced all along the front.

We have also done seven trips to the recycling centre with all the resulting cardboard from said furniture and the boxes. However, we love our little tiny house and are finally starting to get organised. I’ve arranged my new bookshelves by colour. And I’ve finally even found time to write a blog post.

What To Do Before You Publish Your Book

There’s nothing that feels flatter than sending your hard work out into the world, only to realise that your audience is either indifferent, or worse, nonexistent. The problem is, many authors make the mistake of thinking that it’s enough to develop a small social media following and then do one or two posts about their book release immediately before or during publication. But in fact, only a very small percentage of your social media followers will rush out and buy your book. There are just so many authors out there, only a millionaire could buy every book advertised on their social media the moment it’s released. So you need to build excitement for your book and show people why they need to read it. Here’s a few suggestions on how to do this:

1) Grow an email list. Please, if you’re releasing books that are barely making a ripple in the sea of social media, put your pen down and create a smaller pond. Yes, it takes time away from writing. You may have to release your book a few months later. But it’s worth it. People on your email list are far more likely to buy your book than people on your social media.

2) Get your audience involved. Ask your email list and/or social media to help you name a character, choose a title, or critique a blurb. Readers will enjoy a book they feel they’ve had a part in making so much more.

3) Release regular updates. As parts of your book become finalised, such as the cover, keep your audience informed of its progress. This not only keeps everyone updated and creates anticipation, it gives people multiple opportunities to see that you have a book coming out.

4) Get advance reviews. I really regret not doing this for Victoria’s Victorian Victory. I meant to, just a weird combination of circumstances meant I couldn’t. But what that means is you have to wait for reviews until after your release day. Which means you can’t tell everyone what great things others are saying about the book to build excitement on the release day itself. And those who do buy your book that day will likely take a week or two to read and review it. By that time, most people have forgotten about your book release. Harsh, but true.

5) Do a blog tour. This is something I did do. Ask a few bloggers you know to host you on their sites. I had five or six guest blog posts lined up, and the lovely ladies who published them for me kindly staggered them to go out every two days leading up to my book release. It got me a lot of great exposure.

6) Send out a press release. It doesn’t cost anything to email a press release to your local paper, but it may result in some great free advertising if they take up the story. And if they don’t, what have you lost?

I hope those are some helpful suggestions. Remember, releasing a book is a big, exciting thing. Treat every book you publish as special. Make a fuss. Because if you don’t, no one else will.

Does It Matter What You Title Your Blog Posts? 


 The short answer, of course, is yes. Naturally it matters. More people will read a blog post with an interesting or eye catching title, that’s just common sense. But what makes an interesting title and is there anything else to consider? Here are some points I have noted from my own site analytics, as well as comments from fellow bloggers. 

 Firstly, people like structure. If it’s an educational blog post then they like to know exactly what they will learn. The easiest way to do that is to tell them the number of points you will be making in the title. For example, my last post was entitled 3 Essential Tools For Marketing Yourself as an Author. Now everyone knows what they’re getting. 

 What if your blog is on more personal subjects such as your own life or what you’re reading? Many bloggers go for a quirky title. Here are two I found when having a quick scroll through my followed sites just now- Wait. So Timon of Athens isn’t about a Meerkat Eating Baklava? And: It’s cold outside, there’s no kind of atmosphere… oh wait, this is supposed to be a blog post, isn’t it?

 I’m sure you’ll agree, these are interesting titles! They definitely made me want to read them. But there is one more thing to consider… 

 If you want traffic on your blog to be consistent, rather than just for a few hours after publishing a new article, you’ll want to be found by search engines. But, though there’s nothing wrong with them, how many people will find a super quirky title on their google search page? Not many. 

 My most successful blog post in terms of getting people on my site through searches is entitled What To Do If Your Book Is Too Long Or Too Short. This is a common problem and quite a few sites deal with it. But the title of my blog post seems to have hit the search terms people with that problem use pretty accurately. And the more people who search and click on it, the higher up the list it goes. If you search in google what to do if your book is too long, my article comes up fourth. So try to think about what people will search for that is covered in your blog post. Starting your blog title with ‘what to do’ or ‘how to’ or ‘does it matter’ works well because that’s what people will be searching for. 

 What sort of blog title works best for you? 

3 Essential Tools for Marketing Yourself as an Author


 A lot of people think anyone can be a writer. And it’s sort of true. With self-publishing tools such as Amazon Createspace all you need to do is finish a book, not necessarily even a particularly long one, and hit the publish button. But if you’re serious about writing, whether self-published or not, you’ll want a little more than that. You’ll want to be professional. You’ll want others to take you seriously as a writer. You may even dream of making some money! So what do you do? The answer’s simple- you network. 

 Networking is basically forming useful connections- with fellow writers, with readers, publishers, bloggers, reviewers etc. You can do this online through social media, or face to face at events. But there are a few things you will need: 

1. A business card. When I first got mine done, I thought I’d hardly ever use them. But I do, all the time. When a friend or acquaintance is asking about my writing I whip out a card and suggest they go to my website for the latest news. When I meet someone for the first time and they ask ‘what do you do?’ and then express interest in my answer that I’m a writer, I’ll suggest they look me up on social media and, you’ve guessed it, give them a card. Frequently people will discuss their own or a member of their family’s writing dreams with me. So I’ll tell them there’s lots of advice for new writers on my blog and… all together now… give them a card. This way, you’re turning casual conversations into connections. A card is especially important for any kind of business meeting, perhaps if you’re trying to get the job of writing an article or doing a presentation. Having your own business card says- I’m a professional who knows what I’m doing. 

 What should you include on your card? Name and profession. And contact details, of course. This can be a phone number and email address, or just one of those. I only included my email address on mine as I felt that would make me more comfortable about handing it out indiscriminately. You should also have your website and possibly social media information. Which brings me to:

2. Social media. This is the easiest way to form connections. Get involved with writing, blogging and reading communities on social media and you will come across all sorts of opportunities. You can be interviewed, get reviews, do guest blog posts etc. You’ll get exposure. But it’s also very important that you have a social media presence when it comes to marketing yourself in the real world. Why? Well, what is the first thing someone does after you’ve given them your business card? Do they immediately email you with a job offer? Sadly not. They google you. So, if nothing comes up under your name they will likely conclude that you’re not as professional as they thought you were. Now, it’s not always easy to get your own website to the top of the google page under your name. BUT social media sites have already done that. Go and google your name now. This is how mine goes: Facebook, Facebook, Bewritingblog.wordpress.com, Twitter. (Please notice that my website is in the top three. Round of applause for me.) But, however high your website is, you’ll never get above Facebook! Plus, it looks good to have a page of options, don’t you think? 

3. Closely related- you need a website. When people google you, if you’ve got your site high enough on the list, that is where they will go. And on your website you can present yourself in the way you want. Don’t just have a blog. Have a page for your book, including great reviews. Have a page for you, your accomplishments, and what you stand for. Have a page where they can get in touch. And if you already do book signings, presentations, school visits and the like, then an events page is a good idea. 

 So, those are my three essential tools. Of course, these are the bare minimum. You may also want to consider a letterhead, postcards or flyers, and a professional-looking author headshot. What would you add to this list?

New Author Interview 


 I was recently very honoured to be the first author asked to do an interview for Soulla Christodoulou’s new series, A Cup of Conversation. I talk about my inspirations, writing routine and favourite snacks! You can read it here

How To Write A Cover Letter


 If you’re looking to be traditionally or independently published then one of the most important things you will ever write is your cover letter. It can make the difference between an agent/publisher reading your submission straight away or mentally consigning it to the bottom of the pile. A bad cover letter may mean your submission doesn’t even get read. This may seem unfair, but from their point of view, if you can’t write a good letter, how can you have written a good book? 
 So how do we get your submission to the top of the slush pile? 

1. Research. Spend some time on the publisher/agents website to familiarize yourself with what they are looking for. Always follow their submission guidelines. And always start your letter with their personal name. 

2. Remember they’re busy. Three, or at the most four, paragraphs should be ample. Include only relevant details. 

3. Be professional. Know exactly what you’re offering them. Be confident, but don’t brag. 

4. Check for mistakes. A cover letter with grammar, punctuation and/or spelling errors raises serious forebodings in the mind of an agent or publisher. They are now pretty confident they can expect the same from your manuscript excerpt. This is most off-putting when they’ve asked for a polished piece of writing. 

 So, now we know how to say it, what exactly are we going to say? This is the layout I’ve found works: 

 In paragraph one briefly summarise your story in one or two sentences. This is what I put for my book, Victoria’s Victorian Victory- 

 ‘When their Pa dies, only fourteen year old Victoria realises that, in an age of industrial and agricultural revolution, new possibilities are emerging not only for farmers but for females. She hatches a bold plan to run the farm herself with the help of her mother and two sisters, in the process learning much more than just how to run a successful business.’

 In paragraph two mention relevant details such as style, word count and target audience. I also like to put on something about why I’ve chosen to submit to that person in particular. Again, here is an excerpt from my cover letter-

 ‘The book is written in short, snappy chapters, each one followed by an excerpt from Victoria’s private diary, giving her very personal view of events. She experiences loss and grief, loneliness, complicated friendships, her first crush and family life on a whole new level. So the story is relevant to young people today, even though set in Victorian times. It encourages hard work and entrepreneurialism and will appeal to fans of Berlie Doherty’s Far From Home and Jacqueline Wilson’s Opal Plumstead and Hetty Feather. It’s around 36,000 words.’

In paragraph three tell them a few relevant details about yourself. Include previously published work, qualifications and writing courses. You can also put why you wrote the story you did. Do not include what your mother said about your manuscript, that your teacher said you could be a writer one day or that writing helps take your mind off your homicidal thoughts. (Okay, the last one may be a bit far fetched, but you get the idea!) I put this-

 ‘I’ve had short stories published in several online platforms, such as Mystery Weekly, Platform for Prose and The Flash Fiction Press. I also received a commendation in the 2016 William Soutar Writing Prize. I wrote this book because I wanted to write about ordinary people making a go of life.’

I hope that helps with writing your cover letter. Please feel free to leave any further questions in the comments.