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Christopher X Morris appreciation

Christopher X Morris

Trust is a hard hitting dark play. It shows what lengths someone in an abusive relationship can do to break free.

As Chrisopher said in his fundraising blurb for the production – its aim is to let people in such relationships know they are not alone.

Christopher is a very private person. You won’t find much about him on line other than what is in the TSL bio for him, so sadly I can’t point you to his other productions or even give you an idea of what they entail. This is a pity because if Trust is anything to go by, he’s an audacious writer prepared to tackle difficult themes.

While I might not have gone to watch Trust (it was performed in New York where Chrisopher is based), it certainly did grab, and hold onto, me whilst I was preparing it for publication. All credit to Christopher for sticking his head out to get the play written, produced and published – it received an accolade at the NY Summerfest in 2018 for creativity – just a pity this hasn’t translated into greater recognition for either the script or Christopher, evidence of how tough it is out there to be heard…

Mark Brookes’ POET’s Day, part of the Crane Trilogy is another hard-hitting play, dealing with issues few want to see on screen. TSL worked with Mark on this back in 2016/7.

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Megan Carter appreciation

Megan Carter

Megan is another of TSL’s quiet authors. Social media and other such things are not her strength.
She prefers being with people and is quite community focused evidenced by the author sales of her poetry collection Amazing Grace.
If you are looking for a reflective read of a Christian or spiritual nature, why not give Megan’s book a read?

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Reconciliation

If one wanted to identify a theme in the books I enjoy, it will most likely be Reconciliation. People finding ways to put aside their differences and come to a closer understanding of each other. It’s a theme dominant in TSL author John Samson’s work: Powerless and Shaka Are Dead (don’t forget The Good Vicar).

Some other books I’ve enjoyed and others I will look to read include:

Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman

Antonia Hayes – Relativity

Various other books by TSL authors have elements of reconciliation: Death on the Vine by Linda Kane and Gestation by Gideon Masters.

first published 14 May 2017, updated 2024

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Book settings: England, not London

Setting a book in a particular place creates a link, a special kind of magic. I can’t say it’s better than an ‘ungrounded’ book – both can be deep and meaningful, one easily transcending boundaries, the other not.
Here are some books set in England, but outside of London.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy: Wessex
Famous Five – Enid Blyton: Dorset

The adventures of Rhys by Beatrice Holloway are set in Wales, whilst her Towing Path series take in the canal waterways of England and life on narrow boats.
Christopher Hammond’s Passing Passions is set in Brighton.
Brian Cook takes us to the Yorkshire Dales in Home Ground with excursions to London and the Far East.
Leslie Tate in Love’s Register has us in York, somewhere by a lake, in a wood and Longsands (Long Sands) with excursions to London and elsewhere.
Castletown by P Symonloe takes us to a fictious town with royal links.
Evesbury in the English countryside (Isbury in Wiltshire) is the location for Archibald’s Aunt by John McDermott while Jane Lockyer-Willis’s On the Fiddle is set in Mallowmarsh in the Cotsworld.

Books set mainly in London but with excursions to the counties include:
Maja in Anna Ryland’s A second chance visits Bath
Billy and John end up in Kent in Ray Wooster’s A boy’s war journal

For those who prefer a bit of non-fiction, there’s Jack Clamp’s History of the dissenting church in Potterspury and Yardley Gobion in Northamptonshire

And to finish, there’s:
England’s Trump Card by Francis Beckett (short stories), and
Dancing for England by Melville Lovatt (poetry)

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Ray Wooster appreciation

Ray Wooster

Ray Wooster is another of TSL’s early authors, also with a link to Harrow Writers’ Circle of which he was President when we met. Ray is also one of our authors who never typed his own stories, had a computer or engaged with social media. Ray has a very supportive family who helped with the typing and getting his texts to me.

Ray, at the time of writing this appreciation has dementia, but before this I could always rely on his quirky take on life cheering up my day. With his first royalty payment (he dealt with cheques), he gleefully told me he bought a Jaguar car – a Dinkie toy!

Ray was encouraged by his family to write his many stories down. He was a great story teller. This culminated in his trilogy since put into one book called A Boy’s War Journal. It’s essentially a what if Germany invaded London during WW2. Ray uses this scenario to set many of his own experiences of growing up in London during and after the war. Frustratingly, Ray is one of those authors who do not see a need for multiple edits of a text, not surprisingly given his school background. This put a fair bit of pressure on the editing process and although the book remains unpolished, it is a good ripping yarn – as told by Ray.
For many years, it was also one of TSL’s best sellers… Ray had a knack of getting people to buy his book without resorting to social media but he would never divulge his secret! Feedback on the book has generally been positive.

Ray’s next most popular books have been the short memoir series covering his life in the 30s and 40s, And the Baby Came Too, followed by Australia OAP Gap Year.

Less successful only in terms of sales but another good read is his Aunt Jane. Ray conceived the idea of Commuter books which we trialled – shortish stories to read on the bus or tube… he did his research first to work out demand etc, but the people he consulted, similar to himself do not purchase books in the modern way… I do recommend Aunt Jane.

Another venture was The Miller’s Boy, we ended up changing the title from Human Bondage (that’s still the title of the ebook though) as modern readers didn’t quite get the different meaning of the word ‘bondage’ – Ray’s story is historical fiction, telling the tale of a family sold into bondage to repay a debt. Another story I enjoyed reading.

Finally, there’s Michael’s Magic Motor Car – a children’s book of adventure. Another bit of fun – and a grandad features too…

If you’re after beautiful writing and prose, Ray is not the author for you. But if you’re after a good old story, well told about life in the early to mid-twentieth century, give Ray a chance.

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Anna Ryland appreciation

Anna Ryland

Anna joined TSL near the beginning of our publishing journey, following a meeting with another writing group.

In bringing A Second Chance to print, Anna and I spent quite a bit of time going through already published books to get a feel for what we hoped would be the best font (readability and size) for her book to get the best balance with cost. TSL had started with the idea of a house font but it soon became apparent that this did not suit all books. It’s difficult to articulate but a story seems to come to light better if it has an approriate font – as I work with a book, it’s almost as though the story guides the asthetic too. Working with Anna on A Second Chance provided a valuable space to explore this aspect of publishing.

A Second Chance is a fairly long read by current publishing trends but that does not detract from the story – it would have lost too much of its essence had it been shortened. Often new authors ask how long a book should be – TSL’s answer: as long as it needs to be. A story needs to run its course. This doesn’t mean no editing or reworking, that definitely needs to happen, it simply allows an author the freedom to focus on the story and their writing.

A Second Chance is full of life encounters many of us would recognise, especially moving into a new and alien environment. While set in London before Britain joined the EU, the issues raised were just as pertinent for new emigrants during the EU years and most likely resonate even more in the current post-Brexit world. The protagonists in A Second Chance face similar challenges many of us do in strange new places, encountering people who are out to exploit others, some who are keen to help, others who hesitate to commit or trust and so forth.

My take on A Second Chance might appear too philosophical or analytical – don’t let that put you off. A Second Chance was for me a pleasure to read, it took me on a journey with all the necessary bumps and curves one would expect. Read it simply as a good urban adventure story of people adjusting to new lifestyles or for a reflection on society then and now. It’s up to you – I know I apreciate writing that works on muliple levels. And in the process you can learn a word or two of Polish.

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Luke

Luke Skywalker in Star Wars is probably one of the most famous Lukes around. Another being the disciple Luke who wrote the Bible Gospel. It’s a name derived from the Greek referring to a man from Lacania. A few TSL books have characters called Luke:

Mystery at the Manor, in Rodney the Chimney Sweep series by Paul Ross
‘Visiting Miss Lyon’ in Woken by Sue Hampton and also in ‘Lockdown Love’ in Still Rebelling for Life
A Second Chance by Anna Ryland
Lucky Luke gets a mention in Shaka are Dead by John Samson
DCI Benson’s first name is Luke in Death is Waiting by Patricia Simpson

first published 24 April 2017, updated 2024

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Enduring Art

The short story by Sue Vincent triggered this post on Art. Whilst reading it, my mind drifted to a short story I’d read (and didn’t make a note of) which also features a family heirloom with a past. I can visualise it: the young girl hiding in the cupboard of books and when caught saying she’d been reading it (upside down Latin). The gardener (reminiscent of Lady Chatterley’s Lover) had painted a fake so the owner could sell the original. One day I might find out who wrote it…

A painting of Foxton Lock in Josie Arden’s This and That vol 1 spurs a family search.
5 Gresham Place in Tea at the Opalaco by Jane Lockyer Willis tells a dark story of the fake painter Jeremy and his wife.

A little less enduring, only because it’s pavement art, is Poison Lady by Josie Arden in This and That vol 2

In addition to books mentioning art – see also Love’s Register by Leslie Tate – a number of TSL authors illustrate their own work:

first published 8 April 2017, updated 2024