Paul Symonloe appreciation

Paul Symonloe

Paul Symonloe is what I call a daring writer. He’s published two books with TSL, one a novel, Castletown, amd the other a play called The Edge. While the latter is more conventional, there is an edge to the tale which takes climate change as its theme.
More daring is Castletown, a parody of living in a town in which resides a monarch. Written when Queen Elizabeth was alive, the monarch in this story is a queen, although she’s not named in Castletown. It is not clear where Paul sits on the royalty spectrum given the somewhat irreverent takes on the monarch, but I’m not sure that matters, as on one side he’s considering a human aspect to a being some put on an almost god-like pedestal and on the other, a group who see an economic opportunity to exploit the fame of the person.
Set in a fictitious town, Castletown, the book tells the story of a young lad residing in the town trying to make his way in the world. Tenacity and ignorance dominate descriptors of his actions – how many ordinary people are reflected in the trials and tribulations of our lead character? I leave you to decide but you’ll have to read this carefully constructed narrative in order to do so.
It’s the clever and careful construction of the plots and Paul’s observations of a range of personalities that appeals to me. See what you make of both books – I dare you…


Maya Alexandri appreciation

Maya Alexandri

Maya was one on our very first authors when we decided to launch TSL. Her book, The Celebration Husband, was (and remains) in my opinion a great book – it’s a novel set in Kenya (then British East Africa) during World War 1. In addition, Maya researched the life of Karen Blixen aka Isak Dinnesen who became the basis of her main character.
Since publishing The Celebration Husband, Maya has gone on to write other books and short stories, some of them award-winning. This is great for her as her writing is good, although definitely not my cup of tea (and not published by TSL). The Celebration Husband is an anomaly in her collection – at least at face value, for which I am grateful. It is a pity though that the book hasn’t sold as well as we hoped it would despite it hitting the market at the start of the centenary of the 1914-1918 war. Maya took a chance going with a new publishing house – thank you Maya!
We both learnt a lot about the publishing business and, I think, about ourselves in bringing The Celebration Husband to the world. Despite its rough start, The Celebration Husband continues to sell steadily – evidence of the peaks and troughs of interest in the Firat World War and Africa, and the randomness of social media in engaging an interested reader at the right time.
I know I’m biased by the topic, but I do believe Maya’s encapsulation of the atmosphere of the war in Africa and the adrenalin adventure aspect rival Wilbur Smith’s Assagai (2009) – both books having strong female protagonists (as they were at the time). The war aside, The Celebration Husband is a book about loyalty and betrayal on numerous fronts, adventure and overcoming adversity.
If this is not quite your scene, you might want to try some of her other works – Dylan Thomas being her great influence. However, I strongly recommend The Celebration Husband.


Gabriela Harding appreciation

Gabriela Harding

The first time I met Gabriela, she was dressed all in red almost as a belly dancer. She was in character to tell a children’s story at a literary event. She had published Santa Claws not long before. This I got to read eventually capturing my thoughts here.

Our relationship started with her wanting to get a collection of short stories published. This we did and Sai-Ko saw the bookshelves.

This is most definitely not my kind of book. The themes are dark, with apects of debauchery. But the quality of writing and descriptions draw the reader in. Gabriela hasn’t shied away from dealing with the somewhat depraved lifestyles of those we sometimes hear about with so much money they don’t know what to do with it. The image that comes to mind when I think of Sai-Ko is Imelda Marcos. The years immediately after the collapse of communism gave rise to accounts of over-indulgence as many restrictions were lifted and those who could afford it experimented with things previously banned. I imagine Gabriela’s knowledge of Romanian life and the turbulent time of the mid-1980s which likely informed her early years have influenced her writing.

Dealing with the dark side is a strength in Gabriela’s writing: both in Sai-Ko and Santa Claws. All done with a view to seeing the light on the other side.

I wait to see what her next literary endeavour yields.


Jane Lockyer Willis appreciation

Jane Lockyer Willis

Jane is for me the quintessential English lady. Her stories evoke an England of yester year infused with a gentle and often unexpected humour.

Her collection of short stories – Tea at the Opalaco – is a fine example. Jane has also published two short novels with TSL – Guys and Ghosts, set in an English village involving the pub and church. Her On the Fiddle takes us to another village setting where the manor house becomes the main focus of two petty thieves.

Prose writing is a hobby or sideline for Jane. Her main focus is theatre. She, with Melville Lovatt, was with New Theatre Company. Now her plays are available through a number of publishers – best to check her website. She has also had East Lane Theatre Club perform her work – Cocoa and Cuddles being the one we saw back in 2020. A multi-talented person, she also performs and paints. In earlier life she was a speech trainer.

If you’re looking for a tea-tme companion read, I recommend picking up one of Jane’s books.


Beatrice Holloway appreciation

Beatrice Holloway

Beatrice Holloway joined TSL in its early-ish days. Some of her books had already been published but for various reasons, they were unable to re-issue. TSL therefore undertook to re-publish her work. The first books were about the adventures of Rhys, a young lad growing up in Wales. These stories captured much of the experience Beatrice’s husband John had told her about his childood. Since the re-issue of the first three Rhys books, Beatrice has gone on to write a range of other Rhys books – going to high school and more recently getting a girl friend.
Between these, TSL also re-published Beatrice’s Tow Path series – three books about life on a canal or narrow boat. For a good number of years, Beatrice was the official story-teller of the Hertfordshire Narrow Boat Association. She could be found on board most weekends telling historical stories to the young people on board.
As another string to her writing repertoire, Beatrice also has a number of plays published, including a collection for young people.
These all encapsulate Beatrice’s life as a teacher, guiding young people through life using stories and the creative process.
Despite getting on in years, Beatrice has continued to write, expanding her horizons. A non-fiction book on Christmas, the myths, feasts and other aspects of the season being discussed. This short book which has been well-received is an imsightful and informative read. A collection of pieces, short stories and excerpts, some previously published, others not, takes the reader on a writer’s journey – an interesting read, if not enthralling. Most recently, short stories (Duke’s Heartbreak and other stories) and a collection of poetry (The Promise), some of which won awards in local publications. These two publications are Beatrice in top form.
However, it’s her three novels that stand out most for me – they differ widely from each other, take a quirky look at life and stimulate the brain. I fully recommend A Man from the North East, Elusive Destiny and Archie’s Children. Some of the themes in these novels resonate in her scripts (historical – From Commoner to Coronet; family relations – Connie’s Lovely Boy; other worldy – A certain Monday, Governed by Magpies).
Through all these publications, Beatrice has remained a pillar of calm and a source of balanced perspective – not only to me but a number of TSL authors who either were already with TSL or who came to TSL because of her. Long may our relationship continue – I have much still to learn from this remarkable lady – who, by the way, also dabbles with art.