Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Triskele Trail

(Or what other self-publishing guides won’t tell you)

Author collective Triskele Books published their independent publishing story this month, entitled The Triskele Trail.

As they say: “It’s not a How-To book. It’s How-We-Did-It”.

Here the authors share their Ten Top Things (two each) about the book, the collective and being part of a team.

1. Collaboration. A Top Thing about being part of the collectiive and a Top Thing about the book. Having a pool of well-informed connections prepared to contribute has made the content richer and more varied. (Catriona Troth)

2. Putting the book together reminded me of how much we’ve actually learnt, and how much we’d forgotten. It acts as a handy checklist for all those little things I’ve been meaning to get round to. (JD Smith)

3. Mistakes. We’ve made a few. We’re open about our foul-ups in the hope that others avoid traps such as losing a website, forgetting about VAT, omitting to Reply All and outing your secret source in the acknowledgements. (JJ Marsh)

4. It’s a template. When I come to publish the third in my series, I’ll be using The Triskele Trail as a reference. Because as soon as your book is out there, you forget so many details about the publishing process. Now we have all our information in one place, for others and ourselves. (Liza Perrat)

5. For me, the Top Thing about The Triskele Trail is how excited I get when I read it. Until we wrote it all down, I don’t think we realised how much expertise and experience we’d gathered. It fills me with enthusiasm and convinces me I’ve made the right decision by going indie. (Gillian Hamer)
6. The advantage of the collective, which directly affects the Trail, is that we each have different kinds of knowledge. It’s impossible to master finances, marketing, design, social media, hold down a day job AND write good books. Two heads are better than one, but five is totally brilliant! (JD Smith)

7. Trust is the foundation stone of Triskele Books. We have found five minds who will tell each other the unpalatable truth. That makes us all raise our game because we don’t want to let the others down. We’re honest about every aspect of what we do – otherwise Triskele couldn’t function. (Catriona Troth)

8. Compromise is one of the Top Things about working as a collective. Not on quality, never. Quality of writing is one of Triskele's USPs. But if one of us is outvoted on an option, we accept that and all of us put our backs into making it work. Good job there’s five of us, so we always reach a decision. (Gillian Hamer)

9. Another Top Thing about the unusual make-up of Triskele Books is that two of us live outside the UK. This means we take a broader focus across Europe, assessing other markets and disseminating information on what works in other countries. Many guides tend to have a narrow focus on either the UK or US. (Liza Perrat)

10. Variety, as Kat mentioned, is essential. We write in different genres: literary fiction, crime, and historical fiction. Through my Triskele colleagues, I’ve discovered great writers I might not have otherwise picked off the shelves, such as Liza’s recommendation, Karen Maitland. The other great thing about the collective is that whenever we meet, we all bring different kinds of wine. Now that is truly a Top Thing. (JJ Marsh)

Critique Service for Writers

Flash 500 Home Page: Flash Fiction, Humour Verse
and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Novel Opening Chapter & Synopsis Competition

The long list is now up for the Novel Opening Chapter & Synopsis Competition. Check to see if your entry made it through the first round of judging by clicking here.

The Flash 500 competitions continue to go from strength to strength, with more entries coming in than ever before for the two quarterly categories of Flash Fiction and Humour Verse. This year we introduced the Novel Opening Chapter & Synopsis category and we are delighted to say that the response was so good we will definitely be running it again next year. So, if you were too late to enter this year, or you entered, but your novel isn't on the long list, don't despair, polish that prose and enter next year's competition.

Congratulations to all those who made it to the long list - good luck with the next stage of judging.

Critique Service for Writers

Flash 500 Home Page: Flash Fiction, Humour Verse
and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Getting to know ... Catriona Troth

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
I guess you would call them contemporary fiction.

What made you choose that genre?
I am not sure I chose exactly – I wrote the stories that demanded to be written.

How long does it take you to write a book?
A long time.  An embarrassingly long time.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I’m not the good at scheduling.  Once I have walked the dog in the morning, I would be quite happy to sit down and bury myself in work until it is time to cook dinner.  But real life rarely seems to let me get away with that.  So I work in snatched corners of time - all very well when I am writing non-fiction or when I’m editing; not so great for being creative.  I used to do my best creative work on my commuter train – 45 minutes of uninterrupted bliss each way!

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
I am often inspired by real events from recent history – I plant my characters on the fringes of those situations and let them ride the storm.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pen, or so my mother says.  I can remember trying to write something in the style of Cynthia Harnett when I was about 14.  But my first (bad) full length novel was a pretentious tome I wrote in my twenties.  I looked back at it recently and there were one or two decent ideas in it – but a lot of it made me want to give myself a good slap.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Walk the dog (as noted above).  Read (voraciously).  Avoid doing housework. I also really like research.  Probably too much, if I’m honest: it turns into a displacement activity.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Through writing, and with the help of the Internet, I have connected and made real friendships with other writers from all round the globe.  The connections I’ve made have led to work for the literary magazine Words with Jam and authors’ collective Triskele Books.  They’ve changed my life.

How many books have you written?
Two that I’d admit to in public.

Which is your favourite and why?
Ghost Town, my full length novel published on November 16th this year, is what Joni Rodgers calls ‘a soul project’.  I’d had an idea for a story and was casting about for setting, and remembered a time when I was working in a homeless shelter in Coventry. I knew there had been tensions between the Asian and skinhead communities, but as I began to research the background, I unearthed things I had had no idea about at the time.  It turned into a story I simply had to tell, and I worked and reworked it until I finally hammered it into a shape I was happy with.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A writer, no question.  I’m living my dream.

What are you working on now?
I have a couple ideas kicking around but the non-fiction work has rather taken over for the moment.

Catriona Troth was born in Scotland and grew up in Canada before coming back to the UK. She has now lived in the Chilterns longer than she has ever lived in anywhere, a fact that still comes as a surprise. After more than twenty years spent writing technical reports at work and fiction on the commuter train, Catriona made the shift into freelance writing. She now writes a regular column for Words with Jam literary magazine, researches and writes articles for Quakers in the World and tweets as @L1bCat. She is very proud to be the latest member of the Triskele Books author collective.

She is the author of two books both of which explore themes of identity and childhood memory: Gift ofthe Raven, a novella set against a backcloth of Canada from the suburbs of Montreal to the forests of the Haida Gwaii; and Ghost Town, set in Coventry, during the Two Tone era.
Twitter: @L1bCat
Words with Jam: www.wordswithjam.co.uk

Critique Service for Writers

Flash 500 Home Page: Flash Fiction, Humour Verse
and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions

Monday, 11 November 2013

Are You a Winner?

Winning Entries for the Flash 500 Competitions

The winning entries in both competitions are now up on the website. To find out who won and who was placed in the flash fiction category, click here. For the results of the humour verse competition, click here.

Congratulations to the winners and runners-up. 

I would also like to extend the heartiest congratulations to everyone who made the long and short lists. As both judges pointed out, the standard is incredibly high, with entries coming in from all over the world.

Our two quarterly categories, flash fiction and humour verse, are open for entries, but the novel opening chapter and synopsis competition is closed and the entries are currently being judged. For more information on everything to do with all three competitions, please visit the website: Flash 500 Home Page.

Hints from the Judges 

No.1 – Titles
The importance of the title for any submitted work is often overlooked. It is the first sight the judge has of your entry and therefore merits careful consideration.
Titles must always be relevant to the theme of the work and should arouse the judge’s immediate interest without being too explicit and giving away the ending of a story or punch line of a poem.

A title that works on more than one level shows the author has given time and thought to the process and has not picked the first thing that came to mind.

Things to avoid:
  • Long-winded titles.
  • Sub-headings giving further information relevant to the theme. (Your entry should say it all – remember that judges also tend to keep up with current news and trends!)
  • Being too clever. (Whilst apt originality is a major plus, obscure connections to the theme will work against you.)
A really good title will still stay in the judge’s mind long after reading your entry.

An Invitation to another Online Party

To celebrate the release of the third in my crime thriller series written as Frances di Plino, Call it Pretending, my publisher has arranged an online party on 18th December. Whether you pop in for a few minutes, or stay for a few hours, you will be made very welcome. More details can be found here.

There will be a special draw on launch day to win a paperback copy of Call It Pretending. All you have to do to enter is sign up for the free newsletter by following this link: Frances di Plino Newsletter

Kind regards,


Critique Service for Writers

Flash 500 Home Page: Flash Fiction, Humour Verse
and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Getting to know … Jamie Baywood

Tell us a little about your books
Getting Rooted in New Zealand is a funny travel memoir about my time living aboard in New Zealand.

What made you choose to write about your experiences?
I started writing my book because I had funny experiences that I had trouble believing were true. I wrote the stories down to stay sane. I wrote situations down that were happening around me and shared them with friends. The stories made people laugh so I decided to organize the stories into a book and publish in the hopes to make others laugh too.

How long does it take you to write a book?
Most of the book was written as the events happened; it just took me a few years to work up the nerve to publish. I spent the month of February organizing the stories I had written attempting to make a cohesive narrative. It then went through several rounds of editing. To write my book Getting Rooted in New Zealand, I relied upon my personal journals, e-mails, and memories.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I constantly make myself notes. Last week in Wales, I was scribble stories on the backs of maps and Google directions as a passenger in the car. I also send myself text messages or emails riding in trains or buses. It might not look like I’m writing a book if one was to observe me, but I am constantly watching, listening and thinking about writing.

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
My book is a true story. My life has been so strange it sounds like fiction, but it is really too weird to be made up. My truth is stranger than fiction.

How old were you when you knew you wanted to write and what was your first attempt?
I consider myself an accidental author. My educational background is in fine arts.  I was bored with the fine art scene. Everything has already been done before in painting, but I am the only person that can tell my own story. Writing feels like a more honest form of art than any other method I’ve tried. People either laugh or they don’t.

My first attempt at writing was writing a monologue for the director Thomas Sainsbury in Auckland, New Zealand when I was 27-years-old. Performing the monologue was the scariest thing I had ever done. I was shocked by the adrenaline rush I got from making people laugh. I was addicted to writing ever since.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love traveling. I am very gluttonous. I love cooking, baking and drinking wine. To counterbalance my gluttony, I enjoy yoga, pilates and running. I’m running 10K this weekend in York raising money for a friend with multiple sclerosis.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I wrote, designed, published and have been marketing my own book. Self-publishing is one person taking on all of the responsibilities typically held by teams of people in traditional publishing companies. It has been a steep learning curve. There have been many bumps   Even more surprising is people I have never met have been sending me nice messages through my email or Facebook telling me they liked my book Getting Rooted in New Zealand and can’t wait for the next one.  I’m always shocked to see a good review on Amazon from someone I don’t know.
in the roads and moments when I regretted publishing. The most surprising thing I’ve learned in creating my own book is I am capable of doing all of the above.

How many books have you written?
I plan to divide my books by the countries I’ve lived in. When I move to a new country the story begins there.   My next book will be about traveling on the South Island of New Zealand, Australia, California and attempting to settle down in Scotland.

Which is your favourite and why?
Getting Rooted in New Zealand is the first book I published. I am curious to see reader’s reaction to my next book. Getting Rooted in New Zealand will always be special to me. My good, bad and weird experiences in New Zealand turned me into author and I am extremely grateful for that.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
As a child, I wanted to be a hairdresser. I honestly thought I would be good at it. When I was 9-years-old, I gave my little sister a haircut when our parents weren’t looking. My little sister’s hair went from shoulder length to above her chin. It was just a few days before picture day at school. I’ve never been fully forgiven.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on promoting my book Getting Rooted in New Zealand. I have been volunteering for Museums Sheffield and the Lantern Theatre.

Craving change and lacking logic, at 26, Jamie, a cute and quirky Californian, impulsively moves to New Zealand to avoid dating after reading that the country's population has 100,000 fewer men. In her journal, she captures a hysterically honest look at herself, her past and her new wonderfully weird world filled with curious characters and slapstick situations in unbelievably bizarre jobs. It takes a zany jaunt to the end of the Earth and a serendipitous meeting with a fellow traveler before Jamie learns what it really means to get rooted.

About the author Jamie Baywood:
Jamie Baywood grew up in Petaluma, California. In 2010, she made the most impulsive decision of her life by moving to New Zealand. Getting Rooted in New Zealand is her first book about her experiences living there. Jamie is now married and living happily ever after in the United Kingdom. She is working on her second book.

Twitter: @jamiebaywood

Critique Service for Writers

Flash 500 Home Page: Flash Fiction, Humour Verse
and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions