Book review: Citadel

citadel by kate mosse 20-4-14I read a lot of books. Amongst those with the strongest sense of place, the ones that linger in my imagination, are the Languedoc trilogy by Kate Mosse. Citadel, the third novel in the series, is set in ad342 and 1942 during World War Two. Unusually with a trilogy, you don’t have to have read the other two books in order to enjoy this one. Certainly it is some years since I read Labyrinth and Sepulchre and the details are hazy, each book stands on its own.

I enjoyed this book immensely. The story centres on a small group of women who fight against the Nazi regime and who, by the very fact that they are women, are able to slip unnoticed along the night-time streets of occupied Carcassonne. The Prologue describes ‘the woman known as Sophie’ and the reader is left to wonder, which of the women in the story is ‘Sophie’?

I must point out that the story is slow to get going, I had to be patient, but I trusted Mosse [below]. It did make me question whether my attention span is shortening, I hope not. If it is I must read longer novels to re-stretch my brain.

[photo: Mark Rusher]

[photo: Mark Rusher]

A note in the 2014 edition, which I read, explains that the story was inspired by a plaque in a village near Carcassonne, commemorating the ‘martyrs of Baudrigues’. Days before the Languedoc was freed by its own people, as the Nazis were fleeing, 19 prisoners were killed, two women are to this day still unidentified. These facts started Mosse wondering who those women were: that was her starting point for Citadel.

It is clear that both time strands are set in the same place, the countryside of the Languedoc, the forests, the mountains, its people and language, and the weather, anchors the reader firmly in southern France. In ad342, Arinius is looking for a hiding place. You know not what for, only that it must be safe for ‘centuries’. “He had no particular destination in mind, only that he had to find somewhere distinctive and sheltered, somewhere where the pattern of the ridges and crests might retain their shape for centuries to come… Forests might be cut down or burn or drowned when a river bursts its banks. Fire and word and flood. Only the mountains stood firm.”

Click here to visit the Kate Mosse website, which is packed with information about her novels, videos, location facts and creative writing advice.
Click here to watch Kate talk about Citadel, myths and fantasy.
Click here to watch the Booktopia interview with Kate Mosse, talking about why historical fiction is having ‘a moment’ now.
‘Citadel’ by Kate Mosse [published by Orion]

Jane Cable reviews ‘Ignoring Gravity’

“What really sets this novel apart is the author’s descriptive skill.”
Jane Cable [below], author of ‘The Cheesemaker’s House’



“By tackling the ever popular themes of adoption and infertility, Sandra Danby’s Ignoring Gravity is mining a rich vein in women’s fiction and is bound to appeal. But her take on these painful subjects is somewhat original and her story has an unexpected twist in the tail.

“Rose Haldane discovers she is adopted when she and her sister Lily are clearing out their mother’s belongings after her death. Rose, a journalist, sets out to discover her natural parents and Danby keeps you turning the pages as Rose’s past gradually unfolds. Meanwhile Lily is forced to come to terms with the fact that her failure to conceive may be more do with her genes than her diet or her uncooperative husband. Ignoring Gravity by Sandra Danby“What really sets this novel apart is the author’s descriptive skill. As a reader, you are at Rose’s elbow on the floor of her mother’s bedroom; you can taste her grandmother’s homemade cake and feel her tears. There are moments of lightness too, wry smiles created as Danby brings Rose’s frenetic working environment to life and when Lily discovers her husband’s secret.

“Ignoring Gravity is a contemporary blend of family history and romance which deserves readers’ support on Britain’s Next Bestseller.”

Click here to pre-order your copy of Ignoring Gravity at Britain’s Next Bestseller [please note: your card details will be verified but no money debited until the book is published]. To confirm my publishing contract I need to get 250 pre-orders, I currently have 30% of that target.
Click here to visit Jane Cable’s website
Read my review of The Cheesemaker’s House here

the cheesemaker's house by jane cable 6-11-13


‘The Cheesemaker’s House’ by Jane Cable [Matador, 2013]

Why I started blogging

Christmas 2012. I googled myself one day, as you do. It was some time since I’d done this, the last search had yielded results including freelance articles written for magazines ranging from The Bookseller to Furniture News, Allergy magazine to What Mortgage? This time: nothing. Well, not quite nothing. I have a very unusual surname which means there aren’t many people out there called Sandra Danby for me to be mistaken for.

Except one entry was repeated. Click here to see it.

Sandra Danby is a character in a movie called Pineapple Express. pineapple express - film poster 22-4-14Once I’d got over the shock that my name was deemed glamorous enough to be a character in a film, I started to get worried. Exactly what sort of film was it? Something about the title suggested it might be a little saucy. Actually it isn’t, it’s an action/comedy/crime movie about a process server and his marijuana dealer who go on the run after he witnesses his dealer’s boss murder a competitor. The film stars James Franco and Seth Rogen, so it can’t all be bad. My part is played by actress Jeanetta Arnette [below], it’s a small part, basically she just has some papers served on her and that’s it. A bit of an anti-climax.

[photo: photo]

[photo: photo]

But it was not what wanted I wanted literary agents and book publishers to find when they googled author Sandra Danby. So that’s when Plan Blog started to form. Now, 14 months after starting this blog, my Google search has changed. Of the first 10 search results, nine are about me. The first one is for this blog, the others for my pages at Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Ether Books, Google+, Goodreads and Amazon. The other is for Pineapple Express… so I’m getting there!

To watch the trailer for Pineapple Express [the bit without me in it], click here.

If you’d like to connect with me on my other social media channels, please click the links below:-
Twitter @SandraDanby
Linked In
Ether Books

Writing is left-brained

I’ve been writing professionally for 32 years and privately since I was four, and so being asked to stop and think about how I write is a challenge. It’s become left-brained, like tying my shoelaces or reversing the car. So when Andrea Stephenson of Harvesting Hecate invited me to share my writing process at this blog hop, I took the opportunity to look back.

First, a bit about Andrea. Click here to find out how she writes. She has written fiction since she was a child, but has written seriously for a number of years, including short stories and The Skin of a Selkie, her first (as yet unpublished) novel.  She feels that she reached a happy turning point in her creative life just over a year ago when, having had little success before, she won prizes in two writing competitions within a month of each other.  She went on to start her blog and has never felt more inspired creatively. Andrea Stephenson 6-4-14Andrea finds inspiration in nature, the coastline and the turn of the seasons.  She believes we all need a little enchantment in our lives, so her stories tend to include a hint of magic.  During the day, Andrea manages a group of libraries, community centres and Tourist Information Centres, but by night she is a writer, artist and witch.  She lives in the north east of England with her partner of 18 years and an adolescent Border Terrier.

Now, to my own writing process.

What am I working on?
I’m just polishing a short story called Birds, Sitting on a Telegraph Wire which was written from this photo prompt. birds sitting on telegraph wires - N landing 29-10-13I was early for an appointment and took myself off to Costa for an hour with my notebook and a memory of this particular photo taken at North Landing, Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire. By the time I’d finished my coffee this story had spilled onto the page. It’s about identity, a continuing theme of mine, and features Rose Haldane, protagonist of Ignoring Gravity.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I write what I write, and that’s that. I don’t have a reader in mind, or a genre, or a publisher. I write the stories that come out of my head, the stories that interest me enough to make me want to get to the end.

Why do I write what I do?
At the moment I am committed to writing about Rose Haldane, identity detective. As well as the second book Connectedness, I have books three and four planned and a further two sketched out. Beyond those, I have firm ideas for two more stand-alone novels, completely different from Rose, and one YA adventure series of three. I don’t think my writing can be easily labelled, my interests are pretty eclectic and that is reflected in the ideas I get for my books.

How does my writing process work?
I sit at my desk every day and write. I am an avid collector of ideas, I totally believe in keeping a notebook. I take photos of anything which triggers an idea. I am a squirrel, storing away notes not nuts.

Now I am passing the ‘writing process blog tour’ baton to two fellow writers, who will shortly post about their own writing process. Please visit their blogs to find out how they write, their failsafe tricks, their foibles, and what they are working on now.

harry manners 15-4-14Harry Manners is a writer of science fiction and fantasy, occasionally dabbling in thrillers and horror. He’s been writing since he could hold a pencil, and used fan-fiction for training wheels in his teens. At 16, he wrote his first original sci-fi novel, and he’s been scribbling away ever since. His short fiction has been published by independent presses, and he is currently seeking publication with his agent for his debut novel. He often blogs about his writing and reading endeavours, interspersed with whatever quirks of life take his fancy. You can follow his tweets at @harry_a_manners, and find out more at his website:

judith field 20-4-14Judith Field lives in London, UK. She is the daughter of writers, and learned how to agonise over fiction submissions at her mother’s (and father’s) knee. She’s a pharmacist, medical writer, editor and indexer and in 2009, she made a New Year resolution to start writing fiction and get published within the year. Pretty soon she realised how unrealistic that was but, in fact, it sort of worked: she got a slot to write a weekly column in a local paper shortly before Christmas of 2009 and that ran for a several years. She still writes occasional feature articles for the paper.

She has two daughters, a son, a granddaughter and a grandson. Her fiction, mainly speculative, has appeared in a variety of publications, mainly in the USA but also in The Milk of Female Kindness [which is where I met her]. When she’s not working or writing, she’s studying part-time for a degree in English. She speaks five languages and can say, “Please publish this story” in all of them.  She blogs at

The Milk of Female Kindness, Book Review


Read this new review of ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’ by Sharon Bonin-Pratt.

Originally posted on Sharon Bonin-Pratt's Ink Flare:

The Milk of Female Kindness is an anthology from predominately Australian and British women of stories, poetry, artwork, interviews, and articles about motherhood. As such it addresses issues that everyone will recognize. This book resonated with me on many levels. As a mother and daughter, as a writer and teacher, the entries spoke to me, made me catch my breath, surprised me, forced me to think, brought up memories, and invited me to laugh. I read several stories and all the poems more than once; the art encouraged me to linger. I found myself reflected on many pages.

An anthology can be a tricky mix to scoop into one book. Authors are bound to have different strengths and individual ideas about the intent of the production. What I liked about this book is the sincerity evident in each entry. Every author spoke with the authority and wisdom that comes from…

View original 835 more words

Great Opening Paragraph… 54

olivia manning - fortunes of war 10-6-13 [1 pic]“Somewhere near Venice, Guy began talking with a heavy, elderly man, a refugee from Germany on his way to Trieste. Guy asked questions. The refugee eagerly replied. Neither seemed aware when the train stopped. In the confusion of a newly created war, the train was stopping every twenty minutes or so. Harriet looked out and saw girders, darker than the twilit darkness, holding an upper rail. Between the girders a couple fumbled and struggled, every now and then thrusting a foot or an elbow out into the light that fell from the carriage windows. Beyond the girders water glinted, reflecting the phosphorescent globes lighting the high rail.”
‘Fortunes of War’ by Olivia Manning

The Parliament Award… no it’s not what you think

No, I am not running as a Member of Parliament. I do not have the patience, I blush and say ‘um’ too much when public speaking, and I am not good at dissembling. So I make things up instead and write about them. Houses of Parliament - photo 9-4-14This is an award about loyalty but this time it is my loyalty being recognised: as a reader of blogs and supporter of writers! I love reading about writing and reading, of course, but also photography, cookery, travel and my favourite sport, tennis and I regularly read blogs written by writers in the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand, Taiwan, India, France, Holland, Germany, Spain and loads of other countries. the parliament award logo 9-4-14My thanks go to Karen Oberlaender at My Train of Thoughts for nominating me for this award. Karen is a confessed book addict who reads… and reads… and reads.

The Rules for this award are as follows:

  • First, display the Award on your blog;
  • List a few things that make you a loyal member;
  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog;
  • Nominate at least five well-deserving bloggers whose loyalty and love you value and consider part of your Parliament and Pack; for the Award and let them know the wonderful news by sending them a message on their site.

The five features of loyalty I consider important in a blogger:-

One… writing regular blog posts that are entertaining, that inform, are funny, emotional, that open a window on a world I don’t know;

Two… visiting other blogs, and as a matter of manners clicking the like button as a sign you have visited;

Three… engaging in dialogue with other bloggers, exchanging views and giving support;

Four… offering feedback in a positive and non-critical way, do not write anything in a comment which you wouldn’t say to someone’s face;

Five… remember that no-one is making you read something. If you don’t like it, then stop reading and find a blog that you do like.

I nominate these five bloggers for the loyalty they demonstrate to quality blogging:-

Lottie Nevin actually has two blogs so I am nominating both here. Lottie's header photo 9-4-14The first, The Rioja Diaries [above], is about her life in rural Spain. The second, Gumboots and Goats, is a memoir of her 30 years raising five children on a farm in North Yorkshire.

Stefania Gioffrè at eTinkerbell is a teacher of English, living and working in Rome. She writes about teaching, of course, and literature plus films and life in Italy.

Discovery Walking is my fantasy walking blog. Most days I sit at my desk, I long to walk in the fresh air and know I should exercise more. So I walk virtually. Thanks to Ros at Discovery Walking, I have been to Tenerife, the Yorkshire Dales, the mountains of the Costa Blanca, and Exmoor. Not just photos, but maps, links and useful information too. Visit Siena's header photo 9-4-14Siena [above] is an historic Italian city and Visit Siena blogs about everything from the food and drink, to architecture and history, with beautiful photographs of this beautiful city. Chocolate, pizza and literally hundreds of photos.