Christy Roxburgh – appreciation

Christy Roxburgh

Christy came to TSL some years ago – she had written a children’s book about an elephant who did not feel he had anything to contribute. Being a parent with young children, she saw stories such as this being a way to gently build confidence and coping strategies. After some discussion about illustrating the book, Christy took that on herself too – she enjoyed creating and painting. The result is her book The Irrelevant Elephant.
One of the challenges for new authors of children’s books is breaking into the market. Parents, or should that rather b mainstream booksellers, tend to go with well-known authors who have long since outgrown having children, and ignore those who are responding to the current generations and the issues they face. I recommend being bold and trying a new author – there’s so much more to talk about in novel and different ways of approaching a topic.


Sam Lewis – Appreciation

Sam Lewis

Sam is one of TSL’s youngest authors. He joined the fold through a previous work relationship where I got to know Sam as a young person. It’s been great to watch him develop and become the confident and independent young man he is. Reading his book, Eyes to the East, inspired by time he spent working in China is testamony to his formative years and the various influences in his life. And for anyone wondering, he speaks the language too.
I do hope we see more fiction writing from Sam in due course – a book of adventure, suspense, cultural insights (into the ex-pat English teaching world) and human behaviour. For now, new ventures in his chosen career take precidence.


Amna Agib (bit Nafisa) – Appreciation

Amna Agib (bit Nafisa)

Amna joined TSL when she was a member of Harrow Writers Circle. From Sudan (before it split), she had a collection of poems and short stories giving insight into aspects of life in that troubled part of Africa.
As with a number of TSL authors, Amna had a clear idea on how her books were to feel – it was more than crafting the words. Through the process, we both learnt much on many fronts. And in particular, I discovered what an incredible life she’d led (and still does). Amna’s work is a testamony to tenacity and finding ways to have minority voices heard. Whilst she hasn’t published anything further with TSL, she has been exploring more accessible means of getting her work into Africa, where books are expensive to buy once other hurdles have been navigated, including languages.
She also has a short story in the TSL compilation Where Mental Health and Human Rights Align.
While I might be biased because of my African heritage, I do believe that Amna’s publications do not get the readership they deserve (and I can say that about most of our authors) – they break the mould and don’t always follow the currently approved ‘rules’ for writers. If you’re looking for an authentic voice, or something to challenge your current status quo, I recommend Amna’s two books… and that you consider some others in the TSL catalogue…


Stephen Baker – Appreciation

Stephen Baker

Through his collection of 10 minute monolgues, Stephen Baker conveys an astute insight into human behaviour. Taking everyday scenarios, he explores the motives and actions of various types of people he’s encountered in his life – one that brought him into contact with diverse peoples. His collection Twists and Turns is aptly titled, and could well apply to the other four monologue collections: Secrets , Reckoning, Brief Encounters and Against the Tide. All contain monolgues for men and women – although can no doubt be adapted as the performer/reader desires.
Six for the Road, is a collection of six sketches (variable lengths and number of actors) set in a pub.
He also has a piece, “The Waiting Man” in the TSL compilation, Relationships: 6 Monologues.
Stephen says he was inspired to write in this format by Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads. Irrespective of that, I’ve enjoyed reading Stephen’s pieces – more than I did Talking Heads. I could just see the situations evolving.


Ezra Williams – Appreciation

Ezra Williams

Ezra joined the TSL fold through a Harrow Opera connection who is also a TSL author Rachel Haywood. Ezra had a collection of short stories he was looking to publish – the result was Fairytales and Oddities, illustrated by Steve Poulacheris.
I can’t say I fully understand all of Fairytales and Oddities – it’s definitely not what I understand Fairytales to be, and is also definitely not for children. Ezra’s imagination comes to the fore in this compilation of writing which is well constructed and crafted. He is a versatile word artist and performer.
More my style is Losing Henry which he had published before joining TSL, and also his second book with us, Selected Pieces. The former being a story I’ve previously reviewed, while the latter is a collection of more journalistic pieces he’d written over the years. While more conventional in style, both contain elements of the quirky (to me) thought processes he exhibits in Fairytales and Oddities.
An accomplished Tenor, Ezra has been musical director for Harrow Opera, performs himself and composes – I wait to hear the outcome of his current project. The synopsis of it sounds quite intriguing and in a different direction to what I’ve seen so far produced by Ezra.

TSL author Leslie Tate interviewed Ezra on Radio Dacorum in 2022 – listen here.


Barbara Towell appreciation

Barbara Towell

Barbara Towell is another of TSL’s all-round authors linked with Pinner where with Nick Horgan she runs Pinner Writers.
Barbara was already a published author when she joined TSL, part of the reason being that the publisher of her novel A Little Piece for Mother had stopped trading. TSL, as a result, took over A Little Piece for Mother. This tells the story of a young girl coming to terms with her mother’s past as she (the mother) learns to adapt to a life of freedom in London. Barbara explores how the traumas one lives through, here time as a prisoner in Auschwitz during the Second World War.
Barbara has followed through with this theme in dramatic form with a play called Aftermath, a version to be performed by school children, as well as a more recent adult version. The young people’s version is in a collection, Drama for Young Performers, of five other short scripts and six performance poems for young people – reflecting Barbara’s role as a teacher.
A series of four monologues creating a single play around weddings can be found in Wedding Bells. This is a script that gives four different people’s views of the same wedding.
Kenneth is her monologue in the TSL compilation Relationships, while she turned David Stroud’s short story Night Duty into a one-act play.
Together with her husband John, Barbara has also produced some musicals which have been performed locally, but not published.
Not published by TSL is a short collection of poetry called Patchworks.
A Little Piece for Mother has a following in the USA and New Zealand with a reading group or two in the UK having organised for their local library to obtain copies. It is a book worth reading.


Leslie Tate appreciation

Leslie Tate

Leslie is a word-smith – he crafts with words, books and poetry. He’s one of those writers who, when it comes to proofreading his work, I have to keep a dictionary close at hand to look up meanings of unusual words. If I recall correctly there were at least five in Love’s Register, an epic historical novel covering issues of climate change, personal relationships and identity, change and continutity, acceptance and rejection. These themes, at least for me, are the essence of Leslie. He’s not shy to experiment with style – four different fonts, each depicting a different person’s views, added some extra flavour to Love’s Register, a book which brought three separate books into one.
Leslie’s writing evolves – like a snowball gathers snow as it rolls down a hill. At the core is the essence of Leslie, whom I first got to know when we published Heaven’s Rage, an autobiography of his early life as a cross-dresser. However, it’s more than a book about being a cross-dresser. As I’ve said on many an occasion, it’s a human account of survival and responses to the challenges life throws at us. Together with Mark Crane, Heaven’s Rage became visual in 2017, winning numerous awards.
Another joint venture was with partner Sue Hampton and friend Cy Henty to produce The Dream Speaks Back – self-insights into the creative process of three artists, in three distinct styles creating a coherent whole.
But it’s not all about Leslie, he’s an incredibly supportive person when it comes to promoting others – his weekly blog contains interviews with creative people of diverse backgrounds, all supporting a cause with the end goal of making the world we live in a little better. And he’s taken this further with a weekly slot on Radio Dacorum. In days gone by he used to have a slot at a Berkhamstead pub where musicians, artists and writers could showcase their work – providing a platform for bringing people together. As with everything, this was part of the journey.
I’ve learnt much from Leslie, as a person, writer and supporter of others: in short – be yourself and don’t be afraid to make a stand for what you believe in. And look forward to reading his new autobiography (published 2024 by Blackspring Press): Ways to be Equally Human.


Margaret L Moore appreciation

Margaret L Moore

TSL has a few scientific/engineering background authors. Margaret is one of them – even more than humanity academics, the more scientific types have a particular way of writing which is not always what general readers appreciate. Margaret, however, having asked a few pertinent questions and after a few edits, turned out a most readable and enjoyable book charting a visit (and more) to Sri-Lanka, interspersing it with anecdotes from other holidays. Her interest in buildings, cultures and people especially family and friends comes across strongly, all aided by her ability to not take herself seriously (when, like most of us, out of the troublesome situation).
In addition to being a pleasure to work with (as are most of our authors), Margaret has also supported a few with looking at their writing and providing feedback, as well as general encouragement.
Having taken on the challenge by friends to write her book, From Sri Lanka with Love, I’m not sure if we’ll see anything more from Margaret – although I should add, that I’d be happy to see more from her as she opens windows onto different lands and experiences.


Judy Johnson – appreciation

Judy Johnson

Thanks to Francis Beckett, Judy Johnson joined TSL to publish her memoir of growing up in Alaska.
In Alaskan Pioneer Girl, Judy takes us back in time to the 1950s when Alaska was umdergoing change – we read of the challenges of dealing with snow in the forest, fishing and school in more built up areas.
Scattered throughout the book are numerous recipes with an Alaskan flair – this reflects Judy’s later interest in cooking. I’d suggest sitting back to enjoy a time gone by in Alaska but you might well want to do a bit of cooking or baking first…


Robbie Cheadle appreciation

Robbie Cheadle

Robbie Cheadle has been an author with TSL since early days when she started the Sir Chocolate series. For anyone following Robbie’s blogs and writing, you’ll know she’s a prolific writer across a range of genres as well as illustrator. Sir Chocolate is illustrated with fondant characters and settings while her most recent book about Neema the Misfit Giraffe and not published by TSL Publications, shows off Robbie’s new hobby – painting.
This may strike you as strange coming from a publisher – promoting a book not published by the publisher – but that’s the TSL way, especially when we’ve been on the journey together. There comes a time when a book or series’ journey requires it to go in different directions. The opportunity presented to Robbie to publish Neema as she has came about through a South African that had to be embraced. Great going Robbie! and Michael, who co-authors with her.
From discussions I’ve had with Robbie over the years, we’ve both found the experience of working together, and also separately, invaluable in terms of market knowledge and the intricacies of the publishing world.
I don’t need to spell out the value of the Sir Chocolate series. The fact that the South African Department of Education has asked for copies of her books to go into primary schools says it all… and also says volumes about the connection Robbie has with young people – helped of course by son Michael.
Of Robbie’s other books, TSL has published While the Bombs Fell, co-authored with her mother Nancy Hancy Eaton and under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle, the book tells of her mother’s experience of growing up in England during the Second World War (compare with Ray Wooster‘s experiences).
Then, there’s A Ghost and His Gold – an adult novel set in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 as well as the present – a mystery surrounding buried gold. Get taken back in time to explore a significant aspect of white South African history and how it plays out in the 21st century.
Ghosts and things supernatural feature in other writing by Robbie too – Haunted Halloween Holiday is another children’s book, while Through The Nethergate is for older readers again. While the supernatural is not top of my preferred reading list, I appreciate the setting or context and the development of the story, recognising the supernatural elements are a means to facilating the action. A well-told story is always worth reading.