Friday, 25 March 2016

What's In A Blurb?

Scene: a bookshop. Enter a character.

S/he surveys the interior, nods to the proprietor and begins to browse.

Watch the behaviour.

Drawn to genre or attracted by shiny displays? Does the BESTSELLER label call attention or is it the small hand-written staff-pick label?

Pile of Books Zurich
Pile of Books bookshop, Zürich

Observe the second stage. Will s/he opt for the well-known name or become seduced by a cover? A hand reaches out, hesitates and selects a book. Assumptions are already in place.

The cover alludes to content. The lure is set.

What will tip this shy browser into commitment? Will he/she buy because of the copy?

The back cover, the blurb, the puff quote, the elevator pitch... let's break this down.

Some terms (which vary across the publishing world)


Words on the front cover which hint at the story.
"Three secrets. Two women. One Grail." - Labyrinth, Kate Mosse
"He doesn't want you alive or dead. He wants you somewhere in between." - Sleepyhead, Mark Billingham

Blurb/description/cover copy:

The answer to what’s it about? The reader requires two things:
  1. Characters, location, central conflict, danger and hook. People, place, premise, price and prize. All in the style of the novel.
  2. How will it make me feel? Is this going to scare, excite, thrill or reassure me? At the end, do I get a shot of life-affirming joy or a deep-rooted terror of clowns?
Elevator pitch:

One or two liner which conveys the essence of the story, emotion and character. Can be used on advertising, social media and even in an elevator.

Puff quote:

An endorsement from a fellow writer to illustrate a professional opinion.

On Tuesday, Triskele Books had their regular #triskeletuesday twitchat. This week, the subject was blurbs. What should a blurb do? And how does it achieve that?

In such limited space, with so much to achieve, every word must count.

Which is most important - blurb or cover?

And does an endorsement make a difference? The consensus was yes, but only if they are well written and individual to this particular book/author.

As for straplines, especially in certain genres,  they can be strikingly similar. But as with titles, no one holds copyright on straplines, so why not?


 Thanks to all those who participated in our Tuesday #twitchat.
The next subject will be #bookcovers on Tuesday 5 April. See you there!

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Author Feature: Crime writer D J Bennett

In conversation with Gillian Hamer.

Debbie Bennett has worked in law enforcement for over 25 years, in a variety of different roles, both front-line and back-office, which may be why the darker side of life tends to emerge in her writing.

She has been a VAT debt-collector, a tax-inspector and a specialist drugs investigator - even  team leader controlling all the Thames Valley breweries for beer duty (spending days at a time in breweries around the area...) and worked in e-forensics in the late 1980s, before it became trendy. She currently plays with police databases.

Debbie was long-listed (top 25) for the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger in 2005. She spends her free (!) time reading, editing and reviewing for various online websites, blogs and magazines.

Welcome, Debbie. Can you tell us a little about you and your writing?

I could – but then I’d have to kill you afterwards… Oh, all right then. I write because if I don’t – when I’m not writing – I feel like there’s something missing. I’m “between” books right now and I’m twitchy and unsettled. I know I’ll be fine once I get started on something new, but I need to find the seed for the story, and so far I haven’t got it.

I was 15 when I completed my first novel. It was lovingly handwritten in a fancy binder, and full of cardboard characters and clichéd plots. But I did it and I was proud of myself. I still have it somewhere and I get it out every now and again. I learned a lot from that and several other novels that will never see publication. But since I was a teenager, I’ve always written – from bad poetry to short stories, novels and even screen and radio plays. At the moment I’m writing dark and gritty crime, and also working as a scriptwriter on a local radio play project at

You're a fellow crime writer. Why did you chose that genre or did the genre chose you?

I started out writing fantasy – short stories and novels. For many years that was enough. I was heavily embroiled in the genre and either attending or running fantasy conventions. I edited a lot of fiction anthologies and newsletters, and knew all the right people. For a while I was in with the in-crowd, and even getting invited to the right London parties! And then something changed. I’d been working in law enforcement and doing a lot of stuff I couldn’t talk about. I still can’t – but some of jobs I’d been involved with made me curious, and having “experienced” heroin importation, I decided I wanted to look at drugs from the street angle. So I put some ideas down on paper and never stopped. Within a few months I had a very dark, gritty and graphic crime novel. And somehow it all came together and I realised this was what I was good at. From the first book came two sequels and then another three books following a different character.

But I don’t write whodunnits. So I may be outside the parameters of traditional crime and straying into thriller territory. I don’t even write howdunnits. I write will-they-survive-its. I’m more interested in the psychology. I did a course of evening classes a few years back on criminal psychology and it was a fascinating trip into how and why people commit crime – but equally fascinating is the victim’s story and how they pick up the pieces and move on afterwards.

Which crime writers do you most admire?

Paul Finch and Mark Billingham. Frances Di Plino does good cop-story too. All three of these authors give you enough of the day-to-day of policing to be interesting, but manage to avoid the endless boring bits of reality! Newer authors such as Susan Wilkins are good at showing the points of view of the bad guys as well as the good ones, and I’m also reading books by Kimberley Chambers and Jessie Keane.

What is the best and worst things about writing crime fiction?

Daring to go as far as I do? Not sure if that’s best or worst to be honest. I do write very dark with a some very graphic scenes that were difficult to write and read – I hope readers build up enough empathy to go through them with my poor characters! I did deliberate for a long time, but was advised by my agent to leave them in as they’re not gratuitous and are essential to establish motivation for the rest of the book, if not the series. 

If that’s not the worst, then I’d have to add hoping that my mother never reads my books … or at least never tells me she has! It’s a shame. If I wrote fluffy chick-lit, or even hen-lit I’d be far less backward in coming forwards, but it’s taken me a long time to be proud of what I do.

And the best? Creating real people that live and breathe and talk to me. People that have their own hopes and fears and dreams, and are as real as any of my friends. It’s an awesome thing!

You have a background in the police, how has that helped your writing?

Much of my knowledge is out of date as I haven’t been operational front-line for over 20 years now. But it does give me a good grounding and I know where to go for more up-to-date information. I know how procedures work, what happens in the cells of a police station and how incredibly monotonous surveillance really is! I know that court is utterly fascinating and that a good barrister can argue black is white – and make you believe it. 

It’s the little things that add flavour and colour to writing too – the experience of going to work one Monday and not getting home for a week (other than a flying visit for a shower and change of clothes), of sleeping in a hotel room with half a dozen blokes for that week and going to breakfast with a different one each morning – and getting some strange looks from hotel staff! Of handling hard drugs and all kinds of interesting little bits I can’t talk about but I can occasionally drip feed into a story for authenticity…

Will you ever step away from crime fiction one day and write in a new genre, if so, which?

Possibly. Never say never! I still have some fantasy stories to tell, including an almost-finished novel I’d like to complete at some point. And I have a few short stories swimming around in my subconscious.

Do you have any long term writing ambitions or goals?

To keep on writing. I’d love to make enough money to give up the day job but if I did that, I suspect I’d lose a lot of my inspiration. I’d also like to break into film or television as many readers have said my books would translate well to screen. I did try writing the screenplay a few years back, but found it incredibly hard to do. In an ideal world, I’d have Jimmy McGovern writing the screenplay for the BBC! And I’d help out and generally be involved with its production. And it’d win lots of drama awards. And …

What are the top 3 tips you would give an aspiring crime writer? 

1) Check your details – or leave them out! Nothing is more irritating to me as a reader than when a “crime” writer doesn’t actually know what a crime is. All crimes are offences, but not all offences are crimes. I won’t bore you with the details, but there is a wealth of information in the public domain that will help you understand these definitions. When you arrest somebody, there are strict legal procedures to be followed – you can’t just make it up as you go along if you want to be authentic!

2) Following on from the above – not all Police Forces are equal. While they all have to adhere to the legal bits, procedures and policies can vary significantly. For example – some forces have SOCOs (scenes of crime officers) and others have CSIs (crime scene investigators). Again you can find a lot of this stuff online. Or go and ask. I had a scene set in Cheshire in one of my novels, so I found a helpful police officer and asked him about radio procedure and he helped me get the radio commentary exactly right – for Cheshire Police.

3) Don’t have a maverick DI with a drink problem and an obsession with the feisty young new female DC. Just don’t.

Find out more about Debbie here 

Friday, 11 March 2016

Triskele Tuesday #womeninfiction

On #Triskeletuesday, the Triskele team meet on Twitter for an hour (19.30GMT) every fortnight to discuss a current issue on the literature/publishing scene.

If you’ve not participated in one of our Twitchats before, simply search for #triskeletuesday and join in. All opinions welcome.

On Tuesday 8th March, to celebrate #InternationalWomensDay, the Triskele Twitchat tackled #womeninfiction.

We discussed some popular female writers who both broke and set boundaries ...

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.
You cannot find peace by avoiding life ... Virginia Woolf

Women characters we aspire to be like or relate to...

ENID BLYTON ... childhood favourite of so many readers (and authors).

 And some recent new discoveries…

So, to summarise, we evoked some old and some new favourites. We discussed female writers and characters who have shaped our own writing and reading, and possibly, our lives.

Next #triskeletuesday twitchat will be on 22nd March, writer-orientated, and on the subject of book covers. #bookcovers

Friday, 4 March 2016

News, news and MASSIVE NEWS!

News - Spring Clean

Some of you are readers, some writers. With the amount of information we generate, we understand this can get confusing. You only want the bits that interest you. Fair enough.

Triskele Books is a home for readers. So from now on our posts are strictly Author Features, Bookclub, Guest Bloggers, House Specials, News and #triskeletuesdays. Come on in and browse.

If you’re a writer, get yourself over to Words with JAM, sign up for email newsletters, and get yourself a free copy of our Pathway to Self-Publishing.

News - What We're Up To


JD Smith has released a new book – The Importance of Cover Design. Already raking in the reviews, this is quality advice from an expert.

Catch Triskelites live.

3 March: Jane Dixon-Smith on air, all over the BBC for World Book Day, talking covers. Here she is in Cornwall, giggling about Poldark. (1hr 32)

18/19 March: JJ Marsh at Geneva Writers’ Conference talking choices and the writing community.

14 April: JJ Marsh at London Book Fair Author HQ on collectives.



Win a year’s mentoring from Triskele Books - from manuscript to publication - worth over £5000! 

Triskele Books is FIVE years old!
Amongst many exciting new ventures this year, we’re offering you the chance to win this extraordinary prize

Triskele is based on a commitment to great writing, professional presentation and a strong sense of place.
As well as ethical operation and support for other writers
So we’re using those FIVE principles to launch our first competition.

The Big Five #thebigfive - Click here for full details

Wednesday, 2 March 2016


with JD Smith

This week I am delighted to spotlight fellow Triskele author, Liza Perrat. The first of her books that I read was actually the sequel to Spirit of Lost AngelsWolfsangel is a fast-paced novel brilliantly set in an atmospheric rural French countryside. I had the pleasure of not only formatting Liza's novels for printed publication, but designing the cover for her first book, Spirit of Lost Angels, pulling together various elements of the book to create something that would catch the eye of those who love historical fiction, whilst realising the location and flavour of the novel.

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.

When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her husband and three children for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator.

Since completing a creative writing course ten years ago, several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.

She has completed four novels and one short-story collection, and is represented by Judith Murdoch of the Judith Murdoch Literary Agency.

Spirit of Lost Angels, published through Triskele Books is the first in an historical series set against a backdrop of rural France during the French Revolution. The second in the series ––Wolfsangel –– will be published through Triskele Books in November, 2013.

Friends, Family and Other Strangers From Downunder is a collection of humorous, horrific and entertaining short stories set in Australia.

Liza reviews books for the Historical Novel Society and Words with Jam magazine.



Twitter: @LizaPerrat


Liza’s thoughts on her first year as an indie publisher:

Early in March of 2012, JJ Marsh and Gillian Hamer invited me to join them in setting up the author collective, Triskele Books. They’d already done all the thinking and homework, and knew a hundred times more than I did, which was a big fat zero.

At that stage, I had heard the stories of poorly-plotted, badly-edited self-published novels, and was against the idea for my books. After all, I had a reasonably polished manuscript and an agent, didn’t I? But then I thought about things, and realised that after a year, the agent had not sold my manuscript, nor was she trying any longer. My debut novel would now slide into the archives of my hard disk, and there it would sleep, forever, if I did nothing to change that.

The three of us talked about how we would work as a team, helping each other with covers, critiques, editing and proof-reading, besides also hiring professionals. We would also work together in terms of marketing and promotion. I considered their offer to join Triskele Books for about five minutes, before leaping on board.

And a year later, I’m so glad I did! Despite the rollercoaster ride to prepare my manuscript, and learn about indie publishing, and all that accompanies it, I don’t regret my decision for a second.

It’s been a hard slog, full of ups, and a few downs. But mostly it’s been a lot of fun. Tasks are so much easier working in a team, each of us bringing, and taking, different things from the collective. And we’ve come a damn long way in just a year!

I look back and realise how much I’ve appreciated having full control in publishing my book: content, cover design, formatting, blurb and launch date, and I’m not about to give all that up in a hurry. It’s been wonderful, having the support and encouragement from the other girls, and I’m immensely enjoying our journey together. A great moment was seeing the photos of our published books displayed on a shelf of the New Title Showcase stand at the London Book Fair this year, with their gorgeous covers from JD Smith Design.


Triskele Books has several new members now, who will be “Spotlighted” here on the blog in the coming months, and we hope to recruit more, like-minded Triskelites in the future.


 Spirit of Lost Angels

Her mother executed for witchcraft, her father dead at the hand of a noble, Victoire Charpentier vows to rise above her impoverished peasant roots.

Forced to leave her village of Lucie-sur-Vionne for domestic work in the capital, Victoire suffers gruesome abuse under the ancien régime of 18th century Paris.

Imprisoned in France’s most pitiless madhouse – La Salpêtrière asylum – Victoire becomes desperate and helpless, until she meets fellow prisoner Jeanne de Valois, infamous conwoman of the diamond necklace affair. With the help of the ruthless and charismatic countess who helped hasten Queen Marie Antoinette to the guillotine, Victoire carves out a new life for herself.

Enmeshed in the fever of pre-revolutionary Paris, Victoire must find the strength to join the revolutionary force storming the Bastille. Is she brave enough to help overthrow the diabolical aristocracy?

As Spirit of Lost Angels traces Victoire’s journey, it follows too, the journey of an angel talisman through generations of the Charpentier family. Victoire lives in the hope her angel pendant will one day renew the link with a special person in her life.

Amidst the tumult of the French revolution drama, the women of Spirit of Lost Angels face tragedy and betrayal in a world where their gift can be their curse.

Snippets of Reviews For Spirit of Lost Angels:

 5-star Goodreads rating from best-selling author, Karen Maitland.

…. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE when a book sucks me in and is so engrossing that I get ticked when I have to put it down. As a reader, it made me feel as though I was being written into the pages of the book. I simply love when that happens. I always say to people that those who refuse to read indie published books lose out on dynamic novels and this book is definitely an example of why I feel that way. I would not be surprised if this is a book I find in the collection of a large publishing house in the future … Naomi B, A Book and A Review.

  …. how well written and detailed the book is as the author clearly outlines the path of a commoner's life and the hardship of Victoire's life from childhood to adulthood.....very intriguing.
…. an historical book about enduring, accepting, regret, love, loss, family, hope, coming home, and an angel pendant that held it all together for each of the women who wore it. 5/5 ... Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews.

An incredible page turner … Spirit of Lost Angels is an exciting novel to read with its many plot twists and high degree of conflict and emotion ... Mirella Patzer, Historical Novel Review.

… impressed with Perrat’s knowledgeable treatment of the role of women during one of France’s most tumultuous times, as well as the complexities of insular village life ... Darlene Williams.

The writing is superb, the sights, sounds and smells of a city in turmoil is brought vividly to life …. Josie Barton, Jaffareadstoo.

Spirit of Lost Angels is a tale to lose oneself in … Liza Perrat persuasively combines fact and fiction in this engrossing novel. The peasants fury, the passion building up to the Bastille storming, and the sense of political explosion are just a few of the vivid illustrations in Spirit of Lost Angels ... Andrea Connell, The Queen's Quill Review.

… a truly astounding book that will have you reaching out to the characters, feeling for them, and fiercely cheering them on … engrossing, absorbing and you won’t be able to put this down. … a book not to be missed … perfect for fans of historical fiction ... Megan, Reading in the Sunshine.

… escapist fun –– Francophiles will want this one and those who enjoy historical fiction that doesn't focus on royals …great fun for the summer read –– and I can't wait to see what Perrat does next ... Audra (Unabridged Chick.

Liza Perrat brings to life the sights and sounds of 18th century France. Her extensive research shines through in her writing, from the superstitions of the villagers to the lives of the more sophisticated Parisians ... Anne Cater, Random Things Through My Letterbox (Top 500 Amazon reviewer).

Liza shares a few of moments from her first self-publishing year:

Interview by Jo Barton on Jaffareadstoo.

Interview by Lorraine Mace on The Writer’s ABC Checklist.

Interview by Janet Skeslien Charles.

Interview by Laura Armstrong on Colorimetry.

Interview by Andrea at The Reading Lark.

Interview by Heather at The Maiden’s Court.

Indies Unlimited features Spirit of Lost Angels.

Spirit of Lost Angels
is an Awesome Indies Approved novel.

Featured Author Group Read, June 2013, Historical Fictionistas Goodreads group.

Spirit of Lost Angels is listed on these "Best of 2012" sites:

Recommended at the Historical Novel Conference in “Off the Beaten Path” recommendations.

Shortlisted for Writing Magazine Self-Publishing Awards 2013.

Finalist EFestival of Words 2013,
Best Novel and Best Historical Fiction categories.

Selected for the
Indie Book of the Day Award, 13th July, 2013.

Next book in L’Auberge des Anges series coming in November, 2013.


Second World War France. The village of Lucie-sur-Vionne is under the heel of the German occupation and farm girl, Celeste Roussel walks a treacherous tightrope when she falls in love with a German officer. As her friends and family are deported to concentration camps, Celeste gains strength and comfort from the bone angel talisman bequeathed to her through her healer kinswomen.

Eventually though, she must choose which battle to pursue: illicit love, or answer the call of General de Gaulle and join the French Resistance collaboration to banish the Nazi enemy and hasten the release of her loved ones.

Seventy years on, Celeste still recalls that hot June day of 1944 when Das Reich troops marched into Lucie-sur-Vionne –– a crime she cannot forgive. Least of all herself.

Family separation, ill-timed passion and world chaos irrevocably change the lives of the women of L’Auberge des Anges. Wolfsangel is a testament to their tragedies and triumphs, and represents a new generation of women. ...

a heart-stopping page-turner of love, betrayal and courage which will leave you shaken and profoundly moved...' Karen Maitland, bestselling author of Company of Liars.

Introducing... 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

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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.

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

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Triskele by Sight and Sound

Ever wondered about the faces and voices behind Triskele books?

On our new Soundcloud channel, you can hear Triskele authors reading from their books and short stories, or hear samples from the audio books available via Audible.

For example, before reading Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat, you might want to hear her read from the second book in the series, Wolfsangel.

Or hear JJ Marsh read from Raw Material before diving into the latest in the Beatrice Stubbs series, Human Rites.

The first of JD Smith's Zenobia tales is available on Audible. Hear an extract here:

You can also hear JW Hicks and Barbara Scott Emmett read some their brilliant short stories.

On our Media Page, you can also see and hear Triskele authors in interview.

For instance, here's Catriona Troth talking about how the author collective works.

And here are JJ Marsh and JD Smith talk to Roz Morris & Peter Snell on the Surrey Hills radio programme "So you want to be a writer"

We'll be adding to these pages in the coming months. Please subscribe to keep up to date.