Today sees the first of our Triskele Books Twitter Chats #triskeletuesdays

Triskele Books is an author collective, founded by myself and two other indie authors in 2011. We now number five members with two associates. Tonight, and henceforth every Tuesday evening, we will be hanging out on Twitter from 19.30-20.30 GMT (20.30-21.30 CET) to discuss an aspect of writing, publishing, marketing or teamwork.

Triskele 2015 fiction

Future topics include cover design, writers helping writers, Celtic stories, stages of editing, PR & marketing lessons learned, breaking the writing rules, social media and managing rights. But tonight, mere days before our London launch of four new novels, we’re talking Book Launches.

Why? What’s the point? Pros and cons. Expenses and mistakes. Tips for success. Physical v. virtual. Event management.

We’d love you to join us and chime in with your thoughts. I know every single person reading this is more Twitter-savvy than me, but I am adding my colleague Catriona’s instructions here, just in case.

Want to join our first Triskele Twitter Chat tomorrow night, but have no idea how? If you have a Twitter account it’s easy!

1) type ‪#‎triskeletuesday‬ into the search function on Twitter
2) When the results come up, click on the ‘Live’ tab. That way you will see all tweets in the chat, as they are posted.
i3) Post your question to Jill, LIza, Gillian or Jane as you would any other tweet, remembering to include #triskeletuesday within your 140 characters
4) Keep watching the search results for more questions and answers. Join in with replies whenever you feel like it!
Our first conversation will be live between 19:30 and 20:30 GMT on Tuesday 24th November.

So come and share your experiences, ask questions, offer an opinion. We’re very friendly and may well be drinking some virtual fizz. See you there! @JJMarsh1

Triskele Books

Triskele Books

Ghost TownCatriona Troth, my colleague at Triskele Books, is the antithesis of the bang-out-a-book-a-year philosophy. Ghost Town was not an easy delivery. I followed the gestation of this book and couldn’t have been happier when it finally came out. I asked the author why.

Let’s start with the facts. How long did this book take – from start to finish?

I worked out that, start to finish, Ghost Town had taken me 14 years. My daughter, who was 18 when it was published, told me she couldn’t remember a time when I wasn’t working on it.

What about the genesis of Ghost Town – why did you decide to tell this story?

I actually had in mind an entirely different story – a sequel to Gift of the Raven with Terry as an adult, finding his way as an artist. But I quickly worked out that I couldn’t write about being an adult in Canada in the 80s when I’d left as a teenager in the 70s. So I looked around for a different location, and thought about the time when I’d worked in a night shelter for the homeless in Coventry.

I remembered a little about the tensions that were around back then – as well as the joyous sound of Two Tone that synonymous with the city. But when I started to do my research, I realised that so much had gone on that I had been virtually unaware of. Coventry had taken itself to the brink of an all out race war – and then stepped back and said ‘not in our name.’ I became obsessed with telling the story of how that had happened.

How did you fit in the writing between motherhood and a full-time job?

KatActually, I was lucky enough, after my children were born, to be able to go part-time. But I was still commuting into London three days a week. And motherhood was full-time, as it always it. It was the commuting that made it all possible, actually. I’d bought a stack of A5 note blocks from Smiths, and spent that precious 40 minutes on the train filling them with scribbles and ideas and diagrams. Then in the evening, after the children were in bed, I would type up what I’d written, editing as I went.

Can you explain a little about the research process?

My primary resource was the archive of the Coventry Evening Telegraph at the city’s Central Library. They were the only newspaper to cover what was going on. Apart from that, I read everything I could get hold of, from the Scarman report on that summer’s riots, to books (fiction and non-fiction) about the British Asian experience. As it happened, the second inquest into the New Cross Fire (which is referred to at the start of the book) was happening as I was writing, and one of the legal teams was posting transcripts of each day’s proceedings as they happened. I read those from start to finish, even though it was barely relevant to the book, because it helped so much to understand what it was like to be Black or Asian in Britain at this time.

I’ve described before how I ended up with a timeline spread across my wall – with one line for actually events in Coventry, another for events in Brixton and London, a line for story events and finally a line for the progress of Maia’s pregnancy.

Two Tone Panel_cropped

Catriona on the Two-Tone panel, Warwick University

When you finally had a first draft, what were the next stages?

Well, before I had a first draft, I had another ‘tear it all up and start again’ moment. About half way through, I realised that the main female character no longer belonged in this story. She belonged to the one I had originally conceived, and now the story was focused on the clashes between skinheads and young Asians, she didn’t fit. So all her chapters up to that point were torn up. Maia emerged, and of course, as she was a different person, that affected the chapters I had written from his point of view too.

But I did eventually have a completed manuscript. I edited it using the ‘triage’ approach recommended by David Michael Kaplan in his book Rewriting (which I would still recommend to anyone, by the way). Basically you start by looking for big problems (whole sections that aren’t working etc) and then work your way down to the minutiae of word choice etc.

Once I’d finished editing and created a submission pack, I started sending it off to agents. The first three or four I sent it to all asked for the full MS. But all eventually turned it down. I’d just started a new job and the book ended up lying fallow for a couple of years.

In 2007, I discovered online critique groups and thought I’d test the waters. It was an eye-opening experience. The first chapters I posted were ripped to shreds and it would have been very easy to give up there and then. But I kept going, posting a handful of chapters at a time, listening to the feedback and acting on it. The hardest thing was the response I had to the female lead character, Maia, who in some ways is quite close to me. Time and time again, I was told she was unsympathetic. To me, it felt as if I were opening veins writing her, but that wasn’t how she was coming across.

That complete start-to-finish rewrite took more than two years. And even after that, a brilliant friend, who is now a distinguished creative writing tutor, took a scalpel to it and encouraged me to cut almost 35 thousand words from the MS.

Back to sending it out to agents. Even though I knew I had a much better book on my hands, the reception was much frostier. In those three or four years since I last tried, the industry had changed. I ended up being kept dangling for two years by someone who would have been my dream publisher, until I finally wrote them a rejection letter and joined Triskele.

One of the things that most impressed me was your thematic use of black and white – it’s a very visual book. Do you think it would transfer well to the screen?


Coventry Cathedral

Thank you! Wouldn’t that be nice? It’s odd, because I don’t think I am a naturally a very visual person, but I have written one book with an MC who is an artist, and one about a photographer. Baz takes photos in black and white, and that forced me to look at the world in that way. The conjunction with that, and Two Tone music, and the racial themes, happened organically.


How different would this book be if you’d finished it in a year?

Gift of the Raven Cover MEDIUMI would have stuck with writing a sequel to Gift of the Raven – so the Coventry story would never have been told at all. But even if I take that as one year from when I started writing Baz’s story, then female lead would have been an entirely different person, the depiction of the background events would have been sketchy, unrealistic and with very little depth. And the writing would have been clunky as hell.

What are the benefits of taking your time over the work?

I wouldn’t recommend anyone to take quite as long as I did. I was basically teaching myself to write, and whereas saner writers have MSS tucked away in their bottom drawer that they have perhaps started and never finished, or written the first draft of then wisely abandoned – because I had become so obsessed with telling this one story, I kept writing and rewriting the same MS.

But it did enable me to burrow into the history of the events and into the characters, to give them a depth I could never have achieved in just a year. It allowed themes and symbols – like the black and white you mentioned – to emerge. And it gave me time to hone the use of language.

And how’s the next one coming along?

Slowly … again. I have three wonderful characters. And I have a premise. What I don’t have at the moment is a plot with enough momentum to drive the story forward. I’ve never been strong on plotting, and this time I don’t have a sequence of real events to piggyback on. Wish me luck.


Two tone

Members of the Selecter and the Specials at the Belgrade Theatre for the announcement of a new production of the Two Tone Musical, Three Minute Heroes, July 2014

Ghost Town

Ghost Town1981. Coventry, city of Two Tone and Ska, is riven with battles between skinheads and young Asians.

Photographer Baz—‘too Paki to be white, too gora to be desi’—is capturing the conflict on film.

Unemployed graduate Maia—serial champion of liberal causes—is pregnant with a mixed-race child.

Neither can afford to let the racists win. They must take a stand.

 A stand that will cost lives.


Facebook Author Page:

Twitter: @L1bCat

Pinterest for Ghost Town:




I’m an indie author and proud of it.
But I didn’t exactly go it alone.
I chose the collective route.
Here’s why.


Triskele Books is an author collective spread over three countries and two time zones. So it’s no surprise that all Triskele novels have a strong sense of time and place.

How does it work? Answers from the gang.

How does an author collective differ from a small press?

Jill: It’s very similar to a small press, but the crucial difference is our independence. Legally, we wanted to retain our own rights, so we chose not to create a publishing house. Instead, we just act like one. We’re a group of people who can edit, proof, consult, advise, co-promote and market on a shared platform. Each of us works as an independent entity but we all benefit from mutual support. Financially, we contribute equally to any costs incurred, such as webhosting, print materials, etc, but each of us keeps the profits from our own books.

What factors triggered each of you to go indie?

Liza: We’d met each other via an online writing group, and found ourselves in a similar situation: Gillian and I both had agents, but they couldn’t find our books a home. Jill stopped trying the trad route after an agent called her work too cerebral. Catriona was left dangling by a publisher for two years, until she wrote them a rejection letter. And Jane (JD) loved the freedom of creativity found by going indie.

We got together and discussed our options. Going the independent route, as a team, felt more manageable. We established ideals: high quality writing and professional presentation, and committed ourselves to publishing the books we wanted to write, not what the market dictated.


Kat, Liza, Gilly, Jill, Jane

How did your publishing cooperative come together, and what made you decide to establish it? How many of you are there?

Catriona: I began reading about author collectives in the States. And I thought this has to be the way forward, the power in working together.
So four years ago, the original members of Triskele met in London to decide if the idea really had legs. Turns out it did. Ten of them.

Triskele has five core members and periodically we bring ‘associates’ on board, whose writing we feel we can develop. We were recently dubbed The Wu-Tang Clan of Publishing.

What elements of the publishing process are done collectively? How do you handle the finances, such as royalties and so on?

Gillian: We critique, edit and proof each other’s drafts before they go for professional proofreadings. If needed we all give advice on cover design too.

Finances have been relatively simple. We all keep our own royalties from sales of our own books. If we choose to market or advertise Triskele collectively, we all contribute equal shares. And for joint ventures, like The Triskele Trail, we divide initial outlay and profits go into our Triskele bank account to cover future overheads like webhosting, print materials, advertising etc.


Where does the Triskele name come from? Does a Triskele book have an identifiable style that sets it apart?

Jane: The name came from the Celtic symbol of the triskele, which shows three independent circles joining to form something greater than its parts. It represents the concept of our collective – authorial independence balanced by mutual support. Going it alone, together.

Triskele books are top quality – they must be well-written, tell a good story and contain a strong sense of place, which is Triskele’s USP. They’re also thoroughly edited, proofread, carefully typeset and have a professional cover.

What about the design aspects? Do you share a designer? And do you try and go for a shared look or feel?

Liza: We’re lucky enough to have talented designer JD Smith on the team, so yes, we all use the same designer. We don’t go for a shared look since we range across different genres, but we try to harmonise all our visual material.

heads soft

Triskelites in Porto

You are located in three different countries. How do you manage the communication issue?

Gillian: Skype! And email. And we have our own Facebook private page. We communicate every day but only meet physically three or four times a year. But when we do, it’s brilliant fun!

What do you see as the key benefits of being in a collective? Any disadvantages? What advice would you give someone thinking of doing the same?

Catriona: Two huge advantages! Firstly, you are not a lone voice crying in the wilderness. These days, it can be pretty hard to keep thinking of new and original things to say, so you don’t become one of those awful people on social media who just keeps bleating, ‘buy my book, buy my book!’ Being part of a group means you can take turns spreading the word in your own style.

The second advantage is having someone to answer questions and give advice. Among the five of us, someone will have had the same problem and know a solution. And on a larger scale, there’s the Alliance of Independent Authors, an amazing source of information.

Disadvantages? The classic downside of being a team player – if you mess up, it’s not just yourself you’re letting down. That adds a lot of pressure. But the flipside is the others are there to catch you if you fall.

My advice would be to learn from those who’ve gone before, then find the path that’s right for you. There’s no one way to do this. do you know whether an author is a good ‘fit’ for Triskele Books? Are you actively seeking new members?

Jane: Writing good books is a given. We as a group need to ‘fit’. When working so closely as a team, it’s important everyone pulls their weight and believes in the collective as a whole. We share experiences, snippets of information, the highs and lows, opportunities for genres, news stories relevant to an author’s theme, place or period. We’re really supportive of each other and the group. We’re not seeking new members at the moment. We’ve found our ideal balance.

What are your plans for the future?

Jill: Every six months, we stop and evaluate where we’re going. What’s working, what needs to be improved, and how best to move forward. We’re planning The Big Launch Party for November 2015, writing new books and organising festival appearances; exploring formats, such as audiobooks, boxsets, translations and adaptations, and finding more ways to connect good books to discerning readers.

Triskele_Group_041 bw


Gillian E Hamer’s novels are set in North Wales, blending modern crime, ancient history and an otherworldly element.

JJ Marsh writes contemporary European crime. The Beatrice Stubbs series explores ethics, politics and justice – from Athens to Zürich.

Liza Perrat’s historical fiction novels are set in rural France against the backdrop of the French Revolution, WWII and The Black Plague from the perspective of extraordinary women.

Catriona Troth’s novella, Gift of the Raven, takes place in Canada in the 1970s while Ghost Town tackles the themes of race and identity in 1980s Coventry.

JD Smith’s retelling of the Tristan and Iseult legend brings ancient Ireland and Cornwall vividly to life. The Overlord Series takes the reader back to 3rd Century Syria to tell the story of Zenobia, Warrior Queen of Palmyra.


This week, I spotted an article by Bookbub on eight trends for covers that sell books.

The key elements to lure readers? Animals, beaches, seasonal themes, friendship/sisterhood, shirtless men, great photography, chicklit glitter and cute kids.

Sure, I get that. Certain readers will buy stuff that guarantees satisfaction – stuff that does what it says on the tin. Yet I scrolled through those covers and not one appealed to me. No surprise there. I loathe anything mawkish or sentimental, rarely read chicklit/romance/erotica and I’m drawn to covers which promise beauty, intelligence, new ideas and experiences.

I know very little about design, but as a reader, I do judge books by their covers. Never one to keep my opinions to myself, here are ten indie-published covers which appealed to my own personal predelictions. In no particular order, this is my own subjective beauty parade with links to the designers.



by Jim Williams

(JD Smith Design)

Beautiful use of perspective and depth of field. Not to mention the glorious colours and light.

The positioning of the dramatic items in the foreground stand out against the inky canal and the Caravaggio lure of Venetian architecture is just irresistible.

*Covetous sigh*


These-Are-the-MomentsThese Are The Moments

by Jenny Bravo

(Kisscut Design)

That cover is a story in itself and suits the title to a T. A broken chain, a lop-sided swing… something is going to happen. The typeface also reminds me of the Jonas Jonasson books, hence the suggestion of quirkiness. I have no idea what the book is about but on the strength of this image, I’d want to find out.


Bitter Like Orange PeelBitter like Orange Peel

by Jessica Bell

(Jessica Bell)

Wonderful balance of images, colour and surreal swathe of flaming hair. What’s she doing? Running, dancing?

The juxtaposition of differing fonts not only adds interest but hints at a similar boldness within.

How could one resist picking this up?




Black Sun, Red Moon

by Rory Marron

(The Ebook Designer)

This book promises to take me to another place and inside a different culture.  and I’m intrigued by the figure.

The slightly distressed nature of the background adds a parchment-like texture and the typeface against contrast backgrounds is striking.


The-Mage-and-the-MagpieThe Mage and the Magpie

by Austin J. Bailey

(Bookfly Design)

This appeals to the child in me.

Doorways, the promise of change, forests and a bell with magic hinted at by the Potteresque font.

There’s a lot going on here, but it all works and excites curiosity. And didn’t I read somewhere that turquoise/yellow is an appealing combination?



An Unchoreographed LifeAn Unchoreographed Life

by Jane Davis

(Andrew Candy)

Elegant, intriguing and atmospheric. The image evokes thoughts of Shakespeare and the Penguin Café Orchestra. The shades of blue, as if the figure were subtly spotlit, the choice of delicate motifs such as rose stems, deer and ballet combine to lure you in, convinced the story must be equally beautiful.


kurinji flowersKurinji Flowers

by Clare Flynn

(JD Smith Design)

I’m not usually keen on having faces on the cover as I prefer to invent my own image of the characters. But I do love maps and greenery. For me, the 50s-style portrait, sliver of map and suggestion of landscape work perfectly here. The font is elegant and gives us an idea of the kind of story to expect. As with Black Sun, Red Moon above, the whole package tells us we’re going otherwhere and otherwhen.


We All Reach the Earth by FallingWe All Reach the Earth by Falling

by Bauke Kamstra

(Jessica Bell)

OK, the title would be enough to draw me closer, but the texture makes me want to grab this. Those feathers overlapping some of the letters is subtle and understated. The title is also perfectly balanced, leading me to imagine the poems within will be equally so. These colours remind me of Al Brookes’s The Gift of Looking Closely, another plus.


AbsentLordThe Absent Lord

by Jason Beacon

(Chandler Book Design)

Initially attracted because it bears some similarity to Ben Okri’s The Famished Road, I like everything about this,

The leaves/flames forming a frame, autumnal tones, the typewritten title and the way the light catches the eye all hint at a story within. Plus that strapline couldn’t fail.



With this Curse

by Amanda DeWees

(Bookfly Design)

The author has a whole series of these books, employing the same technique of silhouetted head as portal. They look fabulous.

This one is extremely classy, giving you the genre, central character and sense of polish in the way the cover is edged. You immediately know there is a world within and can’t wait to dive in.


There. Those were a few of my favourites. You?


Joanna Penn nailed it at our CrimeFest panel and summarises it all again here.

Team Indie at CrimeFest15

Team Indie at CrimeFest15

A perfect, energetic, brilliant summary of why we do it our own way.

Yes, that grinner in the middle is me.

In the radio interview with Roz Morris and Peter Snell, bookseller Peter wondered if there could be such a thing as a stamp of quality for indie books. We took his words to heart and thought about it. We realised we already offer such a thing. The stamp of approval from Bookmuse. There are various awards available out there, but ours is a little different. See why below.
So we decided to create an award for books we can honestly recommend, no matter where they come from. If a book carries this badge, one of our team loved it and will tell you why.
This is the Bookmuse Recommended Read Award.

Bookmuse recommends great books to discerning readers.

We read and assess submissions, handpick the ones we love and send out a weekly newsletter to our subscribers. We only feature books we can honestly recommend.

Bookmuse reviews follow this format:

What we thought

You’ll enjoy this if you liked

Avoid if you dislike

Ideal accompaniments

· We read books from trade, small and independent or self publishers

· Our pool of reviewers includes a range of tastes, ages and genders

· Featured books are awarded the Recommended Read Award

· Reviews are promoted across all our platforms

· We never charge for reviews or feedback

The Award

If you’ve been reviewed, feel free to display your award on your website, blog or cover.

If you’d like your book reviewed, check out these incredibly simple guidelines.

Email with a brief description of your book. Although we cannot review all books submitted, we’ll do our best to get back to you.

To promote a book, please post on our Facebook page or tag us on Twitter @bookmuseuk.

To get three carefully chosen book recommendations delivered to your inbox every Friday, sign up here.

Recent events at Foyles Bookshop (see below) in central London created some multi-media perspectives on indie authorship and author collectives.

Roz, Peter and the Gizmo Gonk

Roz Morris and Peter Snell


First up, audio.

Here’s a radio interview with JD Smith and myself, talking about Triskele Books author collective with Roz Morris and Peter Snell on Surrey Hills Radio. (Warning, contains seriously cool music.)



JJ Marsh and JD Smith



Catriona Troth


Next, visuals.

This take on the collective is neatly delivered by our fellow Triskelite Catriona Troth, speaking here to Ingram Spark.

An author collective in three minutes!

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