Short stories

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Josie Arden appreciation

Josie Arden

Josie is one of TSL’s early signings. At the time, she was a member of the Harrow Writers’ Circle (sadly since closed) along with various other TSL authors. In some ways, Harrow Writers’ Circle could be said to have provided TSL’s core.

Josie had self published her Broken Ties of Time as a paper and hard back book which TSL launched as an ebook. This is an epic read, covering continents and classes. For all its length I recall it being a fairly fast and engaging read. Drugs, shady business dealings and double crossers out for their own gain abound.

In addition to Broken Ties of Time, Josie also published two collections of short stories – essentially pieces she wrote for Harrow Writers’ Circle competitions, etc. These cover a variety of topics and styles. You can see a bit more below of what I thought of the collection soon after publishing it.

At the time I was working with Josie on both Broken Ties of Time and the two volumes of This and That, she was nearly blind. Her tenacity in ensuring all was as perfect as it could be are an enduring memory. Josie is old school – something to be valued in this day and age of quick change. Whilst she could, although not engaing with social media, she would promote her books in her own way, sadly however that was not for long as her declining sight restricted her independence. Her three books, all available through TSL are testiment to a bye-gone era of writers.

The two volumes of This and That contain a total of 47 short stories arranged alphabetically by title. In some ways it’s an odd assortment of stories, all written for competitions at various stages throughout the author’s writing career.

In the main, however, the stories can best be described as sweet and gentle, ideal for someone wanting relaxing, pleasant read without having to work too hard. It’s the kind of book one can sit down and enjoy with a cup of tea. Having said this, there are some twists and turns in many of the tales, some going in unexpected directions.

The following stories stand out for me, months after having read the book, which is testament (at least in my opinion) to a story well told or which hit a nerve:
Can do Cindy (vol 1): This is the only story in the book which is specifically for children and was written to help the author’s granddaughter through a difficult patch. I love the talking trees.
Foxton Locks (vol 1): It must be the history research aspect of this story that hooked me. Investigating a painting can lead to some incredible discoveries.
Lotta Terracotta (vol 1): the colours evoked by the terracotta and the twist in the tale make this one a highlight.
Just a little pet (vol 1): every parent’s (and aunt’s) nightmare come true. Little boys will be little boys. I say no more, except mention reptile, so as not to give the story away. The young lad should be given credit for ingenuity.
York Express (vol 2): Things are not what they appear in this station encounter. How many times do we misread a situation and end up suffering the consequences unless a chance encounter gives us a second chance.
Norwegian experience.
The last rose of summer (vol 2): people are not always what they seem, but a bad situation can be turned to something good.
Carry on Red Cross (vol 1): What a community can achieve working together, or is it because of who you know?
The Spanish Christmas (vol 2): all’s well that ends well. Who knows how and why things go the way they do. A story of love and friendship.

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Short Stories – why read them? #shortstories

Some say only established authors should publish short stories.

At TSL we support and publish short story compilations, recognising that readers like variety. Short stories allow a reader to enter into a writer’s world more broadly than a novel. An anothology of short stories by the same author can give the reader a pretty clear idea of the author’s thinking and styles of writing. Feelings and expressions are often more intense in the short story than in an author’s longer writing.

Short stories provide variety and an opportunity for authors to experiment with different styles and ideas. Not all ideas can evolve into full length novels, so the short story is an ideal way to capture it. In many ways writing the perfect short story is more challenging than writing a novel. Trying to convey a message in a few words is far more difficult than in a longer text: ask any student having to write an essay or a dissertation.

If you’re not sure about an author, why not try their short stories? They’re ideal for reading whilst travelling on public transport and for giving as presents.
TSL anthologies range from the ‘traditional’ short story, however traditional is defined, through to the experimental and more obscure. There’s definitely something for everyone.

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#Review: Unravelling “Ravelled” by Sue Hampton

Ravelled by Sue Hampton was officially released on 1 September 2016.

By then it had already had an incredible journey from the story behind the title to readers’ hands

Reviews came in thick and fast. Some are included in the book: a selection before each story, whilst others have come through subsequently. Of note are:

Sue Hampton’s Ravelled is a classic set of short stories, but better. The author delivers the concise drama we expect from good short stories, but she drives the story line deep into the realm of the heart. The reader does not need a passport to visit the underworld, the heavens, the neighborhood, family members, and ghosts. The last time I remember following characters toward their most profound insights like this was in reading the late poetry of Dr. William Carlos Williams, who had seen everything, including the likeness of his dead father on a subway. Luckily we don’t have to die to see the spirit world. It’s right here, embodied, spoken plainly, spoken musically, in the diction, dialogue and action of Sue Hampton’s Ravelled. Be foolish not to say yes to this invitation to the human voyage! –– Marilyn Kallet, author of 17 books, including The Love That Moves Me, poetry from Black Widow Press and is a Professor at the University of Tennessee

I’ve just returned from a brief holiday in Norway, and my reading material was Ravelled. Now this may sound bad on my part but just because I know you, you have a face, a body, a presence in my life on the streets of Berkhamsted (unlike James Joyce, Alice Munro etc.) I simply wasn’t prepared for how damn good your writing is! I found your insights and capture of people’s feelings, words, personalities and predicaments just absolutely wonderful in that under-stated yet sharply resonant way that only the best short story writers can express. You’re up there with the greats in my opinion. I’m so pleased to have read your work. Thank you for the courage it must have taken for you to write like this.

I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this wonderfully diverse, challenging, beautifully written and understated collection. Each story took me to a new place and every character came alive on the page. My favourite – in the sense that I am still thinking and smiling about its warmth – is Sid’s New Start. The gentleness of the characters, the quietness of the story, the delicate twist and the feeling of optimism and hope at the end …..that really got me. It’s a wonderfully written story with totally credible characters. — John MacKenna, playwright, novelist and poet, winner of the Hennessy Literary Award, the Irish Times Fiction Award and the C Day-Lewis Award.