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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What I Learned from my Book Launch

Last week I launched my first independently published book, a collection of 12 short stories with diary extracts, taking you on my journey from unpublished writer to debut novelist. As you will have gathered from this masterly description, although it was my first self published book, it was not my first published book. My teen novel, Victoria’s Victorian Victory, was released last year by Rainy Day Reads Publishing. The thing with this, though, is that they launched the book. I let everyone know on social media, but that was the end of my role really. With my new book, is was all down to me. Perhaps because of that, I staged a rather elaborate launch across all of my platforms. Some things I got very right, some things I got a little wrong. As you know, I always like to share my experiences so other writers can use them. So here’s what I learned:


You will have to give away quite a few paperbacks.

I staged paperback as well as eBook giveaways across all of my social media sites. I also sent one out to each of my market research team. Doing so created a buzz on the day, with lots of people entering the competitions. Over 4000 people saw my post on twitter alone. Having said that, many of these will be giveaway accounts. It’s a good idea to exclude these if you want someone to win the book who really wants it. If you’re not bothered about that and just want the publicity then it’s a great tool.

Sending out paperbacks also keeps the momentum going. As everyone starts to receive their free paperbacks they will likely post about it on their social media for you. They may also give you a great review.


Make sure you get the book absolutely right.

If you’re going to make a big fuss on your launch day, you need to make sure the book is worth fussing over. People will be quick to spot all hype with no substance. Make sure the eBook and paperback are both the best you can make them. It’s a good idea to get a proof of the paperback sent to you beforehand to check if you can. This really pays off though. I’ve had a lot of great comments on the quality of my paperback in particular.


Have some advance reviews to share. This tells people, not only that your book is now available to buy, but why they should buy it. I only had a couple, and I shared them the day after the launch, but they made a big difference.


Use videos to get more views. People on social media like videos. They are more personal, they get to see and hear you, and they still have a certain novelty about them. The two videos I posted to Instagram, one telling everyone what was happening, the other doing a short reading from the new book, got more interaction than any of the other things I posted that day. I also did a Facebook live session. I’ll be honest, not many people tuned in for that and it was slightly off-putting. I think I did it too early in the day. However, I needn’t have worried- lots of people have watched it on playback. However, next time I do a live video I may try it on Instagram. Instagram sends out a notification to all your followers that you are live. So we will see if that works better.


Don’t expect huge sales straight away. Unless you’re spending a lot of money on advertising, these things take time. They build like a snowball. For now, lots of people on social media are hearing how great my new book is. Some bought it straight away. More will follow. Interestingly, I’ve also seen an increase of sales for my novel. I guess if people like one book then they are more likely to buy the other.


As always, I hope you find that helpful, and please feel free to add your experiences in the comments.

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!

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.

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. 

Why I’ve Decided to Self-Publish


   I’d never envisaged myself as an indie author. ‘Traditionally published or nothing,’ I would say. ‘Only mediocre authors have to publish their own work.’ So why have I decided to self-publish my own short story collection?

 The first reason is that I think recent years have proved it isn’t actually only mediocre authors who self-publish. There are a few of them out there, of course. But you know, not every book that’s traditionally published is well written. Lately, enough indie authors have secured book deals on the back of self-publishing success to demonstrate that plenty of excellent writers slip through the cracks of traditional publishing. 

 Secondly, I’ve realised I’m a bit of a control freak. I sold my last book in the sort of middle ground between traditional and self publishing by going with an independent publishing company. You get a lot more control over your book with one of these than with a traditional publisher. But I still found it hard. The final product was great, don’t get me wrong. But sitting back and letting someone else control the cover design, formatting etc was tough. I’m looking forward to having complete control over my next book. 

 Thirdly, indie authors all support each other. You become part of a great network of fellow writers. Next time you’re on Instagram take a look at the #indieauthors tag. You’ll see what I mean. 

 Finally, indie authors get to write about whatever they want. Many books never even get looked at by traditional publishers or agents simply because they feel the market isn’t right for that type of book. Or they have too many of them. If you want to be traditionally published you either have to try and guess what the market will be like in eighteen months time when you finish it, or you just have to hope you’ll get lucky. And some types of book (such as short story collections) have hardly any market at all in the traditional publishing world. Well, as an indie author that all gets taken away. You can write, and share, whatever you want. And that’s what appeals most to me about self publishing. Because creating what you feel is, after all, the essence of art. 

Using the 5 Senses


 This is the other thing that really benefitted me in Joanna Fedler’s 7 day writing challenge. 

 The idea was to describe a emotion. But we weren’t allowed to name the emotion, rather we had to describe it. I chose guilt and came up with this: 

 The heaviest emotion of all. It crushes, blocking the way forward like a giant grey boulder, hard, cold, and slick with salty teardrops. Underneath it is the darkness of grief and disappointment. And in those shadows hide insidious thoughts, like woodlice, squirming and burrowing with their ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’s.’

 This was a really useful challenge for me, because I was recently told by a publisher that drawing the reader into the story by using the senses was something I needed to look at. 

 Because we always describe what a character sees and hears. But we often forget to describe what they smell, touch and taste. So a brief exercise like this in which we choose something to describe using those senses is a great way to train us to write our scenes with them in mind. Though I realize I didn’t use them all. I’m working on it! 

Thoughts on Reading My Old Writing

 Last weekend I was clearing out a cupboard and found two old manuscripts of mine. The first (pictured above) I wrote at about age 13, the second 15/16. No doubt if you have kept your old pieces you’ll understand that perusing them again was in equal parts pleasurable and cringeworthy. 

Let’s start with cringeworthy… 

 There are a lot of exclamation marks. Now, I know I use plenty still when commenting on social media and do on, but I have learnt to limit them in my writing. But not by this point. And, worst of all, I even spotted a double one!! 


The dialogue is often stilted.
Since I brought myself up almost exclusively on Enid Blyton, there’s a certain old-fashioned formality in the speech patterns, which would have been okay had I set it in the same time period. But sadly I didn’t. 

 I didn’t know how to edit. I evidently went back over the story I wrote at 13 and added some little clauses and sentences to improve it. They are almost invariably worse. I’m adding unnecessary details rather than removing them. Oops. 

 The motivation’s are weak. How can they be otherwise? Both are mystery stories, but I had no real understanding of human nature at that point in my life. Characters act in odd ways for inadequate reasons. 

 And finally, and very embarrassingly…  I didn’t know what double spacing meant. In the manuscript I wrote at 16 I appear to have thought double spacing was between words, not lines. Therefore  each  sentence  looks   like  this. It must have taken me ages! I think I sent it out afterwards to a rather prominent writing competition. Hide me, please. 

 Now on to the good things. And there were a few! 

 Let’s start with the first story, the one I wrote at 13. It’s called The Mystery at the Forest Hotel. 

 It’s not at all self-conscious. I never really intended anyone but family to read this, so I’ve not second guessed or censored myself at all. The result is some surprisingly grown up sentences. I had a good vocabulary even then, I must say.  

 It’s funny. In a sort of angsty teenager way, but amusing for all that. 

 The characters are diverse. Some of them are caricatures, but that could easily be fixed. 

 I hadn’t any high flown ideas about descriptions. It’s short, blunt and to the point. I’m uninterested in vistas, architecture and clothing. And it’s all the better for that in my view. 

Now for the one I wrote as a 15/16 year old. 

 This one is called Model for Murder and I have to say that the concept is good. I tell the story from the alternating perspectives of twin sisters, who see the world very differently. I could have executed it better, but it’s a pretty cool idea, don’t you think? 

 I seem to have grasped the idea of a circular ending. This is the first line: ‘I’m a very ordinary person.’ And this is the last one: ‘I don’t feel just “ordinary” anymore, because I share my life with someone who will always think I’m special.’ I had no idea I was using a solid literary technique here, but I was. 

 Summing up, to my astonishment, I feel that both these stories are eminently salvageable by the more experienced, 30 year old me, and could actually become quite good. With lots of work of course. I’ll let you know how it goes. 
Have you ever furbished up some old pieces?