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?


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. 


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!

Making Endless Lists

Day two of the seven day writing challenge with Joanne Fedler. 

 Day two’s exercise came as rather a surprise to me. I’m an avid maker of to do lists, but I’d never heard of making random lists within the context of writing a novel. The purpose of it, Joanne explained, was that it would help us come up with starting places for plots and themes. She said that writing is haphazard, and therefore we need to become good at putting pieces together. 

 I admit I was slightly skeptical, because personally I don’t feel my writing is particularly haphazard, but I was still ready to give it a go. So I made two of the lists she’d suggested. The first was things from history I wish I’d witnessed. The second was things I am witnessing now. I found the first one particularly difficult and finally came to the conclusion that I either know too little or too much about history. The only ones I could think of also came with the probability of death or, if one was lucky, disease. Mind, when it came to making the second list some points from our present world were just as scary! 

 So, it was a fun and interesting exercise. Did it help with my writing? I have to be honest and say I don’t think it did really. I cannot see how a list of historical events could be turned into a coherent novel that didn’t involve far too much time travel! Am I taking it too literally? Perhaps. But that’s just the way my mind works. However, this method may be a revelation to you, so if you feel like giving it a try, don’t let me put you off. And there is one aspect of novel writing in which I can heartily recommend making endless lists- outlining. Make lists of characters, family trees, character traits, backstories, scenes, whatever the heck you want. That will definitely help you write your novel. 

 Below are some of the suggestions Joanne made for possible lists: 

10 things you lost
10 things you can’t live without
10 objects with special meaning to you
10 books that changed your life

 If you try this then do let me know how you get on. Did it work for you? 

Afternoon Tea- A Brief History


 Afternoon tea is generally considered an old English tradition, but it actually only dates back to Victorian times. It was started by one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, who complained of a ‘sinking feeling’ at about four or five in the afternoon. Since the fashionable hour to eat dinner was at around half past eight, it’s easy to see why she felt there was room for some genteel snacking in the afternoon. She began inviting friends to join her and the tradition of afternoon tea in the upper classes was born, soon to be imitated by the middle classes. 

 For the lower class of people who had their main meal in the middle of the day, such as my main character Victoria and her family, afternoon tea was a luxury they couldn’t often indulge in. Though Victoria does once have friends to tea on a weekend as a special treat! Tea itself had a bit of a struggle for popularity with the established drink of the day- weak beer. However, alcohol began to get an increasingly bad press and temperance movements recommended replacing it with tea. After that it wasn’t long before tea took over as the drink of choice. And the rest is history! 

 Did you know? Tea replaced beer at about the same time as mills began refining flour to make white bread. As a result of these two things nutrition levels in Victorian Britain plummeted due to the lack of grain in people’s new diets. 

This article first appeared in my newsletter. Read some of the reactions to it below: 

I don’t have enough words to tell you how much I enjoy your newsletter each month. I love the little glimpses of Victorian life you give us. I’m learning so much, and it was your newsletter that sparked my new found love of historical fiction… Thank you for these little gems.”- Bren

“I adore receiving your newsletters; they educate, inform, and entertain, too!!”- Diana

“I sooooo love the layout of the page and you just feel so warm and welcoming there.”-Pauline

You can sign up on the contact page of this site. (I don’t spam and I would never share your email address with anyone else.) 

An Interview with Author Krysten Lindsay Hager 

Krysten Lindsay Hager writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends…Forever?, Next Door to a Star, Landry in Like, Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2), and Dating the It Guy. Her debut novel, True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award. Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Bellbrook Times and on Living Dayton. In this interview she tells us about her inspirations, getting published and her advice to new writers. 

When did you start writing?

I’ve loved coming up with storylines since I was a little kid. I was always scribbling story ideas down and my fifth grade teacher told my parents she thought I’d be an author one day. I started writing more seriously in college and grad school. I was already writing for a newspaper during that time and I’d try to find time to work on book writing.

What was the first thing you ever had published?

I published short stories and essays and articles in magazines, newspapers, and online sites, but my first book was for preteens called, True Colors (Landry’s True Colors Series: Book One).

How did you end up with your current publisher?

I was in an online group for freelance writers. We motivated each other to find new places to publish articles and essays and a few of them were writing books as well. Two of them were with my first publisher and they were both happy there, so I filed that name in the back of my mind. Honestly, freelancing is such a great way to being as an author because you build a platform and learn how to handle things like having your work in public and dealing with reactions/criticism, etc.

What’s your writing fuel of choice? Tea, coffee, neat whisky?

Pepsi! And I do like a cup of tea at the end of the day.

Where do you write?

I moved a few months ago and now I have a new office—I just got bookshelves and was able to get my old books out of storage. I do a lot of my admin stuff and blog posts while watching the news in my living room.

What do you like to read?

I was just organizing my bookshelves and realized I own a lot of non-fiction! I have more fiction on my Kindle. I like biographies, YA, middle grade, new adult, contemporary novels, classics, mysteries, and I read all sorts of non-fiction like health books, self-help, Christian books, and current events.

Is there a particular author who has inspired you?

Several inspired me, but Paula Danziger, who wrote middle grade and YA, was the one who made me feel I was meant to make a career out of this. I read a bio on her and I saw some parallels with why she wanted to write for teens and my own feelings.

What advice would you like to pass on to new writers?

A lot of people ask me this and tell me their writing professors/teachers/mentors tell them they need to start publishing articles, etc. before they begin trying to get a book published and that’s a great idea. I was told to do this as well and not only do you build up your platform and get people to see what you can do, but you get experience in so many ways—exposure, clips for your bio, and experience dealing with public reactions.

Tell us about your latest book. What’s it about and what was the inspiration behind it?

Dating the It Guy is about a high school girl named Emme who winds up dating the son of a well-known senator. She goes through a lot of self-doubt as she watches his perfect ex-girlfriend trying to get him back and not feeling good enough for his new crowd. It’s a book about love, family, and learning to be yourself.

Where can we buy your book?


Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XBFRX47

Amazon paperback: http://a.co/hBydoYm

Amazon UK Kindle: http://amzn.eu/6hqvKVu

Amazon UK Paperback: http://amzn.eu/7j0F4Y7

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/2m5y9OC

Barnes and Noble Paperback: http://bit.ly/2n8vULZ

itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/dating-the-it-guy/id1208876011?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/dating-the-it-guy

Smashwords: www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Dating+the+It+Guy

Giveaway News! 

 Hi everyone. Just wanted to let you know that if you head over to my Instagram sometime in the next 24 hours I’m participating in an author-hop. There are 18 of us, all offering our own giveaway prize! My own prize that I have on offer is a signed paperback copy of my book Victoria’s Victorian Victory.  Head over there and take a look, enter mine and other giveaways, and meet some new authors! 

 Also, I have some great articles coming up- an interview with author Krysten Lindsay Hager about her new book, and a guest post all about attending the London Book Fair. And lots more! Why not follow my blog to make sure you don’t miss anything? 

Graphic by Anna Madrise. 

An Interview With Julia Blake

Julia Blake is the author of The Book of Eve and the soon to be released Lifesong. In this interview she talks about her career to date, including a difficult battle with severe illness and how she is overcoming it. 

When did you start writing and what motivated you to do so? 

 I’ve been writing since I was old enough to pick up a pen, short stories, silly poems, plays, that sort of thing, but it all crystallised for me when I attended a writing course many years ago. It was as if a key in my brain turned, and four months after finishing the course my first novel was complete. I think I finally allowed the voices in my head free reign and all I had to do was put into words the stories they were telling me. As to what motivates me, I want to be a full time writer, that’s the dream – well, isn’t it for all of us – to spend my days doing what I absolutely love the most.

Tell us about your novel, The Book of Eve. 

 The Book of Eve was the fourth novel I wrote. I’d been to a family funeral and thought how they made people reconnect after not seeing each other for a while, so wanted to begin a novel at a funeral, maybe the funeral of a main character (I know, crazy isn’t it, kill off your main character in the first chapter). I then had this rather gruesome image stuck in my head of red blood dripping down a white marble staircase, after that, things began to click into place and The Book of Eve was born.

What kind of reception has Eve had? 

 It was very well received at first, especially in America where one critic called it a “modern day Downton Abbey” and with over thirty 5-star reviews and not one single bad one, it seems those who read it loved it, but then I got very ill a few months after publication and was unable to promote it so sales dropped off.

I’m sorry to hear that. How has your illness impacted your writing? 

 My illness went undiagnosed for years, my rather unsympathetic doctor insisting it was my age, and it wasn’t until I changed doctor and he initiated an exhausting range of tests that the growth (by then the size of a grapefruit) was found and treatment could begin. During those years I gradually grew weaker, one of the symptoms being severe anaemia which in turn affected higher brain functioning. By the time of diagnosis I had a blood haemoglobin level of 6.5 which made basic living a struggle, reading was difficult, writing impossible, so I didn’t write a single word for several years.

How awful. How are you overcoming these challenges? 

 Since last June I’ve been on massive doses of iron and medication to help shrink the growth and it’s like I’m coming back from a very dark place. As the anaemia loosens its grip I’ve found ideas beginning to flow and now I’m almost back to normal, the voices in my head back to their noisy demanding selves. I’m having surgery soon to remove the growth and then can concentrate on total recovery.

Where’s your preferred place to write? 

 For a long time I had no special place to write, trying to cadge computer time whenever I could, but last summer we converted the spare room into a den for my teenage daughter and I was finally able to claim a corner of the lounge, where I have my own little desk and laptop. It’s somewhere that is totally mine, somewhere dedicated to writing.

Is your writing fueled by tea or coffee?

 I hate to say this, but neither. I do have a big mug of builders strength tea first thing in the morning and couldn’t do without it, then most days I have a cup of fresh coffee mid morning (not instant, can’t bear the stuff), but I find too much caffeine makes me muzzy headed so for most of the day it’s water, well, until gin o’clock time that is!

Are you a Plotter or a Pantser? 

 Oh, seat of the pants gal, absolutely. I think if I started plotting everything I’d never get any actual writing done, I like to sit at the keyboard and with no thought for consequence plunge straight in. But then, that’s me in life, when decorating I never want to waste time with boring prepping, just want to grab a paintbrush and get stuck in.

What advice would you give to new writers? 

 Don’t listen to advice… no, only joking. I think mostly keep writing. It’s very easy, especially as you get older, to let life “stuff” get in the way – work, family, home – it all crowds in on you and leaves no time for writing. Make time. Carve out a time and space that’s yours. Grow a thick hide, you’re going to need it. Unless you never let anyone but your nearest and dearest read your writing, then someone sooner or later is going to give a bad review, criticise your work and generally grind all your hopes and dreams into the dirt. It happens. You have two choices, get bitter or get better. You can’t please all of the people, all of the time and that’s especially true with writing. Also, beware of social media, it’s a two edged sword. Yes, it’s an amazing way of promoting your work, of connecting with other authors, making use of their wisdom and experience, but, it can also be a distraction, taking you away from the real job in hand – mostly writing.

What’s next for you? 

 What next? My novella Lifesong will be published later this month on Kindle and I’m very excited about this. I wrote Lifesong many years ago and submitted it to the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future novella competition. Not expecting anything, to my delight it was placed sixth internationally. Lifesong is very different from Eve and I hope will appeal to a different audience. I suppose it must be placed in the science fiction genre but it’s not aliens and space battles, instead it’s a hauntingly beautiful story of our planet and what we are doing to it, so, if anyone has concerns about the environment, then check out Lifesong, I think it will speak to you.

Where can we buy your book? 

 The Book of Eve is available as a download and an absolutely gorgeous paperback from many online retailers such as Barnes & Noble, ebooks, The Book Depository and, of course, Amazon.

Lifesong is now available to preorder here

Julia’s bio: 

I was born and raised in the historic market town of Bury St Edmunds, in the county of Suffolk in the UK, where I live still with my teenage daughter, one mad cat and a succession of even madder lodgers. I love writing and my passionate hope is that one day I will be able to step away from the rat race and be a full-time writer. I’m a bit of a foodie and am quite a good cook, enjoying nothing more than feeding people. Books are also a massive part of my life, and I usually have two or three on the go at any one time.


Connect with Julia here:

http://juliablakeauthor.co.uk/ = website 

https://www.instagram.com/juliablakeauthor/ = instagram   

https://www.facebook.com/juliablakeauthor/ = facebook 

@JuliaBlakeAuthor = wattpad