The influence of Africa …

Leslie Tate is to be thanked for this post as his interview with Kate Innes caught my eye…
It was the mention of Zimbabwe that drew me in, only to discover that Kate has South African links too. Although not explicitly discussed in connection with Kate’s books, she does mention the influence her experiences in Africa have had on her. It is a continent that draws one in and teaches much – if you care to listen.
Africa has had a huge influence on TSL too, with a number of our authors either living on the continent, or from there – writing a mix of local and global stories: novels, short stories and poetry, non-fiction…all come ‘out of Africa’.
Take a peak and see what grabs your interest… (and please, try and buy from the author direct or a little shop).


Why distinguish?

Not long ago I had a discussion with a printer who told me one of my authors had said they were an indie author. The publisher took this to mean the author was self-published. Then I came across this list of Indie best books for 2017. Why is this list separate to the other Best books of 2017? And who determines what list a book features on? One can assume that the ‘real’ best books of 2017 are by the big-name recognised publishers who work in the traditional way and control most of the market, dictate the processes of sales and have the systems work in their favour. Where Indie and Independent fit in, I’m not quite sure – what I do know is that TSL publishes books although our model is rather different to those of most publishing houses. And then there’s self-publishing.

All I see the labels do is place a value-judgement. One assumes that because a book is self-published it’s going to have an unprofessional look and have an amateur cover – whatever that may mean. In all honesty, many self-published books jar on the eye but so did some of ours when we started out. It’s all part of the learning curve. Similarly, the big name publishers tend to convey money, investment, marketing, book launches, huge returns, authors being ripped off in terms of royalties but status for the author. Yes, some might operate like that but there might well be others who are ethical and do what they can for authors and readers but we don’t get to hear of them. Similarly some Indie/Independent publishing houses take their authors for a ride, only in it for making money for the publisher and not the author.

The same with authors, JK Rowling, Peter James, John Samson, Sue Hampton and Arnie Wilson are all authors irrespective of how many books they’ve sold and how many audiences they appear in front of. An author is someone who writes books. Some started off self-publishing such as John Samson and Josie Arden, others do both – Paul Ross for example, but it doesn’t stop them being authors. There seems to be a stigma about self-publishing – the author couldn’t get a publisher or agent so their writing can’t be any good. I’m often asked what we at TSL publish and I hesitatingly say ‘anything’ – but I need to qualify that. It’s got to be readable and hang together. Whether the author can spall or not is not an issue – that’s for the publisher and editorial process to sort out. If the author has a story to tell and can tell it coherently, and fit within our ethical framework, then we’re in business.

When asked to clarify about quality of story, I throw the question back – how many books on the top 10 list at your local bookshop do you think are ‘good’ books and worth reading? The answer is invariably ‘none – there’s so much rubbish out there.’ So, why if these books are put out there by ‘big-name publishers’ should they have more status than a book which doesn’t make it to the shelves because it doesn’t have big money backing?

I can’t help but recognise this is the way to go – I’ve seen Vocational A-Levels ruin the intended parity with A levels; reverse racism is still racism as is reverse discrimination and discrimination. It’s not undoing, it’s simply refocusing. Why do we worry about whether a book is written by someone of a specific gender? What is a woman’s book and a man’s book? I enjoy a story for what it is and read different books for different reasons. The only time I do take note of what I’m reading is when it comes to history material for research purposes, but then it’s no so much the author I’m concerned about, as I know many ‘enthusiasts’ as opposed to ‘professional’ historians uncover amazing stories, as their references and source material. That’s what gives historial writing its credibility.

Isn’t it time we got rid of all these distinctions and let books stand for themselves? That’s the only way I see we’ll eventually get true equality.
Celebrate diversity – don’t treat it differently.


Breaking through…

You might not have realised, unless you’re one of TSL’s authors, that TSL purposefully doesn’t mention a big player or two in its marketing material and communications. That doesn’t mean our authors don’t mention them in their communications – TSL just doesn’t. This post, however, will probably be the closest we get to mentioning any of them and it may just help explain why TSL is as independent as it is. Despite the challenge posed by this ethos, TSL authors are slowly getting known – TSL is making a break through…

Would we be in this position if it hadn’t been for organisations initially pushing reviews and promotion of books and item? So many good ideas to help validate and promote individuals (and their skills) have been reduced to cheap gimmicks which have little weight for those in the know.

And I leave you with this, found by our author, Robbie Cheadle.

Thanks Pablo for the image

Have you seen?


A letter from Gabriela Harding to Emilies

This week I sat at my desk and wrote a speech on bullying. I was invited to an event – a book fair – where besides signing books and meeting a bunch of interesting authors, illustrators and publishers, I planned to do something inspirational: talk to young adults about coping with the dark reality of bullying.

Arriving at the church hall, I was Alladin walking into a wondrous cave: all around me was the smell of freshly printed books, paper and ink, and the crescendo of so many cultured voices was the best music I could hope for. Somewhere in between a war veteran selling his memoirs and a widely published author of twenty five children’s books, was a stall bearing my name. And, even if instead of setting up all I wanted to do was do a round of all the other stalls and buy everything in sight, for a moment I stopped and thought.

I thought of the friends who made me feel as if I’d never achieve anything. Twenty years ago, I would myself have laughed at the thought of walking into a hall where my own books would be sold, in a stylish London suburb. That I’d be a wife and mother, own my own West London flat, and have REAL friends would have sounded like impossible dreams. Just the thought of it would make my bullies roll on the floor in fits of laughter. Yes, they were that nasty. But I bet none of them is laughing now, not because they’re awed that I’ve made something of myself, but because they’ve forgotten all about me. They moved on to the next weak victim; I’m no longer a target; not to THOSE bullies anyway.

The twelve year old me would have been enchanted by the vision of a future where she meant something. It’s in memory of her that I’m writing this blog post.

Graduating from University, my confidence was still shaken after failing to find a job in the elitist Bucharest workforce. I moved to London from the naive belief that the West offered justice, equality and protection from the bully dragons. And after yet another failure, I sank into the deepest pit of despair. Maybe THEY had been right. Maybe I was really worthless, and they simply had the insight to see it straight away.

What I didn’t understand was that my fight with the bullies had not ended. In fact, it was only just beginning; I’d never had the confidence to challenge them before. And victims never win.

I still recall the feeling of devastation when, barely two years after my wedding, I walked the streets of London looking for something – anything – to distract me from the loss that was eating me inside. I had not only lost my best friend, but also the little confidence I had, my dignity; I was running a knife through a centuries-old web of traditional marriages. I would always remain the first woman in my family to get divorced.

I’ll always remember that year. I was twenty five years old. It was the year I started writing professionally. You see, writing stories is even better than reading them. I’d never feel lonely or empty again. Storytelling was my miraculous gift. As long as I had a story inside me, I was both immortal and invincible.

So I wrote and wrote and wrote.

To quote one of my favourite authors,

“Miracles are like meatballs, because nobody can exactly agree on what they are made of, where they come from, or how often they should appear.”

I joined a writing group. As I read my first story aloud, I felt my head would explode – but I found that there, between the cozy, book lined walls of the local library, no one misunderstood my words. No one thought I was different, or inadequate. I was accepted for who I was. And accepting myself came as easy as my next story.

As I was setting up my stall, Emily came to my mind. When she approached me, I felt like talking to the old me – the teenager I have so much to apologise for.

For not believing in her. For forcing her to conform. For not listening to her voice.

Our conversation brought back a whole lot of memories from my own school days, when I was ridden with the constant guilt of not belonging. Her fears were mine; so was her shine – the hope and strength born from courage and injustice. It makes it so much easier for bullies to target you when you’re different. No matter your talent, whether you’re a writer, an artist, a musician, if you have something that the world doesn’t understand, you are put under scrutiny and made to feel like the fish who couldn’t climb the wall.

What I told this young girl – who, by the way, is a talented, award winning dancer – I told her that, actually, it’s okay to be different. Being different is not being inadequate. I warned her that, sadly, bullying won’t necessarily stop at school. Everywhere you go, you’ll have to deal with people who make it their life goal to belittle you – people who will see you through the ugliness inside them. Whether you’re thirteen or thirty five, you’ll have to fight them off with your core strength, the same thing that they’re attempting to weaken in their mean and mediocre ways. Whether it’s your talent, your faith or simply the gift of kindness, this is what lifts you above them. And this is something you must remember, dear Emilies.

You’re above them. Remember your worth. And remember THEIRS.

I have a message for the bullies, too. Envisage this.

You’re alone on a stage, in the crude spotlight. The spotlight is not something you love. You may be small, but you have good instincts, and they tell you that you’re not something people want to see. Your comfort lies in the dark dusty rat holes. You love shadows and corners. But now, the holes are blocked, all the corners flooded by light. The only door you want open – the exit door – is bolted.

And then the audience you failed to entertain starts booing.

Breaking through the crowd is more difficult than you think. You wish you were just another face in the crowd. As part of a gang, you were powerful. But because your friends are exactly like you, you sink alone. You have nothing to give. You crouch somewhere. A snail out of its shell: spineless, defenseless, small.

And then you realise with horror that you stand in a shadow – the shadow of a foot. You look horrified into your own monstrous face. You barely have time to register your fate before the foot makes a sickening crunching sound.

And if you’re really a bully, if you’re reading this, you won’t even know I’m talking about you.

So, that’s why I’m writing books. To be a voice for the children. A voice for the frightened children inside bullied adults.

‘Santa Claws’ is a story about coming of age – a tale about a girl who learns that things get better only to get worse again. Just like night follows day, so do unfortunate events follow moments of happiness. Tragedies are pearls of wisdom meant to strengthen and teach us.

I model my female heroines, such as mischievous Honey Raymond, or Eliza Vissarion in my new young adult novel, on myself as a teen – a time I sometimes feel trapped into. I’ve never really lost the zest, the courage, the spirit of rebellion or the hunger for adventure; these are things that help me go back in time and speak with my fourteen year old voice. Honey and Eliza are characters who start off by feeling inadequate, only to find their own better way in the world. They are curious and question everything, especially authority and stupid rules. Not surprisingly, perhaps, they turn into adults like me, wanderers and dreamers, fighting battles not for the taste of power, but in the spirit of justice. The feeling of being separate will stay with them for a lifetime. They’ll learn to embrace it.

And they’ll be forever fighting evil monsters. After all, what would stories be like without monsters?

Thanks to Gabriela Harding for sharing her talk with TSL readers.

See Gabriela’s original post here
Gabriela has since published Sai-Ko, a book of short stories for adults.


Author Collaboration and used books

At TSL we understand how difficult it is to get seen amongst all the tweets, posts and other social media information we get bombarded with, and contribute to. So, we try to do things a little differently and hope it has an impact and resonates with others. We also value partnership and teamwork with the result that we collaborate with authors not published by TSL and promote books not published by but authored by TSL authors.

The books below are on sale through TSL on behalf of the authors.

Farah Shammas – 40 delicious vegan recipes
Mike Lansdown – education related