New (retro) review of ESCAPING FROM HIM

On her blog ‘The Way She Reads’ ESCAPING FROM HIMour good friend Helena Stone has just posted a retro review of Liam Livings’s delightful ESCAPING FROM HIM, which we published in early 2015.  Her review brings back lovely memories of the fun we had the first time we read the book!

There were one or two moments in this book that touched me deeply, but I’ll mostly remember this book for the smiles it brought me. The chapter about the Eurovision evening especially, had me giggling and laughing out loud. I also really want to throw a ‘naff nibbles’ party now.

Now that you mention it, Helena, that does sound a pretty good way to spend an evening – and thank you for a great review!

 

New review of ELEVENTH HOUR

Another appreciative review of Elin Gregory’s ELEVENTH HOUR has appeared recently, this time on the blog Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words. The reviewer, Caryn, loved the book’s mixture of historical realism and outlandish capers:

Historical fiction buffs will love this, with the realistic trivia of daily life in interwar London. Action aficionados will love the car chase (high speed was less than 40 mph then!) and the sewer reconnaissance. Readers like me who enjoy character development will appreciate how two quite different men came to know and love each other. Highly recommended!

Thank you for your comments, Caryn – and we couldn’t possibly agree with you more!

Researching B.W. (Before Wikipedia)

THE WALLED GARDENAn author guest blog
by F.M. Parkinson

When I wrote the original version of The Walled Garden, personal computers didn’t exist and the internet was a thing of dreams.  So what was it like then, researching and writing a novel?  How did it differ from researching and writing a novel today?  I had no easy access to information except through libraries and I didn’t live anywhere where there was a large library with a good reference section and a wide-range of stock on its shelves.  How could I find out what I needed to know, having set the novel in the England of the 1850s?  Books were certainly the answer but how could I get hold of ones with relevant information?

Above anything else, style was very important for the writing.  I didn’t want to write in the way I’d done short pieces up till then.  They were modern and reflected up-to-date language and pace.  I needed to know how people spoke to each other in the 1850s (at least in novels), as well as the sort of style an author used in writing a story.  Therefore I read novels published at that time, titles long forgotten these days, but still to be found quite easily then in second-hand bookshops.  I got the feel of the pace of the stories, the words used and the way in which authors used them.  Both the plots and the language used made me very aware of the class differences that existed at the time and how outwardly rigid society could be.  So I adopted the far more measured pace that novel writers used, and adapted their style to suit my own story.  The Walled Garden deliberately does not rush through the development of the plot or the relationship between Hillier and Ashton for that very reason.  As for the language used, I would refer back to the books of the 1850s if I was concerned as to whether a particular word or term was used then, or how words would have been phrased.

But I still needed a vast range of information.  I read up about the law concerning homosexuality (only it wasn’t called that then) in 19th century Britain, particularly the law as it stood in the 1850s.  Quite different in some ways from the earlier part of the century, as well as from the difficulties Oscar Wilde was later to be faced with.  I read about Victorian attitudes to sex.  Not just the public attitudes but those expressed in diaries and letters and certainly never intended for the public eye.  It became obvious that people in Victorian Britain were just as uninhibited and passionate as anyone today but they kept their behaviour far more private.  And how did I find the books I needed to discover such information?  By visiting the local library, checking its card catalogue, looking on the shelves to find books that might give me information, then looking through the bibliographies at the ends of the books for other titles that sounded as though they might be useful, and which I could borrow through inter-library loans.  It was a slow process.  One book took months to arrive and when it did, they had sent me the wrong volume (the library’s fault, not mine).  The relevant volume arrived in record time!

Looking back through my research notes, I have details on men’s clothing: their outer clothes, depending on their status in life; their underwear (it was amazingly difficult to find out what the 1850s man wore under his trousers); the hats they wore; their general appearance.  I have information on Victorian society of the time.  I found out about Victorian servants, their jobs, and the hierarchy that existed in households.  There are notes on bathrooms and plumbing in 19th century houses, on gardens and gardening, and flowers and plants that would have been grown at that time.

In libraries I found books that had photographs of London in the 1850s, including the parliament buildings and street scenes and houses to be found in the capital.  I came across articles on London life, and information on railway journeys and railway stock.  I read up about the Australian gold rush of the 1850s, and found out about illnesses that were common in Britain then and what sort of treatments were given to those who could call on a doctor for help.

I also wrote to museums and societies for information.  I have a letter from the Merseyside Maritime Museum giving me details about emigration from Liverpool to New York and which docks the ships sailed from, as well as listing books that I might find to be of use.  The National Railway Museum in York supplied me with details about Waterloo Station.  I wrote to the House of Commons Library when I realised that parliamentary sessions of that period did not begin and end at the times they do today, and they gave me precise dates for the years I needed, as well as information on the buildings associated with Westminster.

I was given recipes and details of foodstuffs that an invalid might eat, as suggested by Mrs Beeton.  I discovered newspapers from the 1850s in a very rundown second-hand bookshop, and they contained advertisements for servants for a variety of work and which was exactly what I needed.  I bought and studied plans of the Liverpool docks at that period and postcards of paintings of them.  Articles from The Illustrated London News, obtained through inter-library loan, were a mine of information on emigration and the whole process of leaving the country.

The house where I had set my story was then open to the public (it no longer is).  I visited it on a weekend away to that part of the country and was able to look at its layout and grounds, including an old walled kitchen garden.  I looked at plans and old photographs of the place, available from books on country houses and in guidebooks.

All this took some years (including several house moves and changes of job) and it was a case of constantly looking for information and checking what facts I could glean from the various sources.  Everything was typed up on a manual typewriter with carbon papers between several sheets for copies.  Insertions and additions meant pinning pieces of paper to the pages, or cutting up typed pages and rearranging where I wanted the text to go.  Amstrads were available by then but I certainly couldn’t afford to own one.  Compared with today’s ease of altering and amending text, it seems something of a marathon.

Would it be different today, now that the internet is available at the click of a mouse or a tap on a screen?  There is a vast amount of information ‘out there’ and it would certainly be easier to find out some of what I needed to know, as well as in contacting various museums and societies through email, rather than having to compose a letter and post it and then wait for ages for a reply.  I would be able to track down useful books and possibly a greater range of books than I could through looking at their bibliographies.  My library service now gives me access to encyclopaedias and the full Oxford English Dictionary, with updates, which would have been very helpful when deciding what words were appropriate for the 1850s and which were far too modern.

But not everything is on the internet and not everything on the internet is accurate, as we all know.  I still find in my current work that I usually have to go back to books for detailed information on a particular subject.  The internet cannot help me.  And details can make all the difference to a story.  However, I think we now have the best of both worlds.  When I came to revise the story for publication, the internet proved very helpful when I needed more photographs and descriptions of places and settings which I had not thought about before, so I was able to amend some details in the text (as well as taking editorial advice and cutting down on a cast of thousands, and rewriting the story in places).  But overall, the work I did originally was not negated by anything I found out during the revisions.  All the ways I used in order to do my research were of great help.  It’s perhaps just a little less complicated these days.

Introducing our New Adult imprint

Manifold Press is delighted to announce that we’ll soon be launching a New Adult LGBTQ+ imprint. We’ll have more news on specific titles soon, but in the meantime we want to talk about our approach to New Adult stories.

What makes a story ‘New Adult’?

New Adult womanThe main characters are between 18 and 30 years old, and the story is told from their point of view.

The focus is on the characters emerging from childhood into adulthood. This is, of course, never an easy, smooth or neat transition. Ideally, authors will approach such material both realistically and responsibly (though there’s nothing wrong with an entertaining read, with a ‘lesson learned’ about the importance of fun).

Within that broad scope, New Adult works might include:

  • Characters mapping their own lives. Becoming more independent. Dealing with increasing responsibilities. Becoming of ‘legal age’.
  • Changes in perspectives. Achievement of insight. Greater awareness of self and others.
  • Leaving the family home. Relating to their parents (and siblings) as adults rather than as children.
  • Negotiating the unfamiliar worlds of college or work.
  • Relationships of all kinds; friendship and love. Issues of identity, including gender and sexuality. Perhaps starting to think about marriage and children of their own.
  • ‘Coming of age’ experiences. Growing from innocence to experience.
  • What do they keep? What do they jettison? What do they change?

New Adult man‘New Adult’ is a category that can combine with any genre or subgenre: contemporary fiction, romance, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, horror, paranormal, and so on.

Readers will often be of the same 18-30 age group, although both younger and older people happily read NA.

Given that the target audience and the characters are of legal age, then explicit scenes can be included.

The Manifold Press way!

The Press’s approach is always that sex scenes (if any) should suit the style of the story, and serve the character or plot development. The same approach applies to ‘strong’ language, violence and other possibly controversial matters.

We know that there are a few negative connotations associated with the New Adult category, but we will be delivering what we trust you’ll always find with Manifold Press: a darned good read with quality stories and interesting characters.

Readers, we hope you’re looking forward to what we’ll soon be offering!

Authors, please feel free to submit your New Adult (and other!) LGBTQ+ manuscripts to Fiona Pickles at eaditter@manifoldpress.co.uk. We’d love to hear from you!

And we’d like to finish this post with the thought that it’s particularly important to try to represent the whole glorious LGBTQ+ spectrum in this imprint’s stories. Fair winds and good fortune to all who sail in her!


Illustrations from GraphicStock.

Back from the abyss!

You may have noticed that we vanished from Facebook some time over the weekend. This was apparently because we’d originally set up our account as a personal one, not a business-type ‘page’, so FB deleted us without warning. (We’ll leave you to imagine the muttering and gnashing of teeth resulting from this decision.) Rather than mess about trying to appeal it/retrieve our information, we decided to bite the bullet and create a page from scratch. You can now find us at the new Manifold Press Facebook page.

To celebrate our return here’s a special offer; ‘like’ us on Facebook before 12 noon on Friday 16 September (UK time) to win one of four Manifold Press paperbacks: BUTTERFLY HUNTER or THE ‘TRUE LOVE’ SOLUTION by Julie Bozza, or GHOST STATION or THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WYE (not due to be published until 1 October) by Adam Fitzroy. If you have a preference, please let us know in the replies to this post – otherwise you’ll receive a random book. We’ll pick out the four lucky winners as soon as we can after the closing deadline, but ‘like’ our page now to be included in the draw. As the saying goes, “You have to be in it to win it!”

[NB: people who have already ‘liked’ us are of course included automatically!]

More price reductions on old favourites

Continuing our year of changes throughout MANIFOLD PRESS, we’re introducing another set of permanent price reductions on classic titles.

BETWEEN NOW AND THENBETWEEN NOW AND THEN by Adam Fitzroy – now $4.95!

It’s 1991, and a group of English football fans are driving across Belgium; their trip takes them through the site of a former battle, and that’s when a strange sequence of events begins. For Dennis and Allan, colleagues who cordially dislike each other, this means journeying further still – into what appears to be the past, and into the lives of two men who travelled this way seventy-five years earlier, whose unfinished love-affair remains to be played out in full. As they move backwards and forwards in time Dennis and Allan have only themselves to rely on, no markers to show them where they’re going, and no real certainty of ever finding their way home again.

MONTANA REDMONTANA RED by Jane Elliot – now $4.95!

It’s out of the frying-pan and into the fire on the day Henry first meets Red. He’s happy enough at first to be having sex with a man – Heaven knows, it’s better than what he’s running away from! – but it isn’t too long before Red’s sexual extravagances are driving the two of them apart. It’s only when Henry’s trying to manage on his own again that he at last begins to achieve a little perspective – on inversion in general, on himself in particular, and even on his relationship with Red. That’s when he starts to wonder if maybe there isn’t a way back for them after all, but this time it will definitely have to be on his terms…

THE EAGLE'S WINGTHE EAGLE’S WING by Cimorene Ross – now $5.95!

Roman Gaul: Lucius Valerius Carus isn’t naturally impulsive; when he suddenly and unexpectedly buys a slave at a market it’s because he feels sorry for a man who has obviously been maltreated in the past. However he’s taken on far more than he bargained for with Keret – intelligent, educated, and a great deal stronger than he looks. Roman society wouldn’t think twice about Lucius using Keret for his sexual pleasure – indeed, it would be astonished if he didn’t – but it’s likely to be horrified if it ever learns that Lucius has started to respect his slave, and absolutely disgusted if it discovers that he’s gradually beginning to fall in love…

HUNTEDHUNTED by Liz Powell – now $6.95!

As a professional footballer it looks like Adam Hunter has it all, but when the secret of his affair with midfielder Louie Jackson begins to leak out he’s plunged into the depths of misery – prompting a desperate series of manoeuvres to conceal the truth. Injured, distrusted by his team-mates and plagued by personal tragedy, Adam goes from hero to zero – and by the time Louie’s transferred to a German side he’s running out of reasons to stay alive. If there’s any way back from the brink of suicide, it isn’t clear to him at the moment…

THE WALLED GARDENTHE WALLED GARDEN by F.M. Parkinson – now $6.95!

William Ashton, retained as a gardener by Edward Hillier, discovers his new master to be a detached and driven man. Over the years, as travail and tragedy bring them closer together, he understands that they have more in common than he first realised, but the affection they feel for one another will be sorely tested by boundaries both of class and of rigid Victorian morality. Like the private garden behind the high walls their love must flourish only in the strictest secrecy – or else it will not do so at all.

If you missed any of these diverse and fascinating titles earlier in their illustrious careers, this would be a wonderful opportunity of making their acquaintance!

New reviews of ELEVENTH HOUR

With apologies to the lovely Elin Gregory for the delay, we would like to draw readers’ attention to two excellent recent reviews of her nEleventh Hour by Elin Gregoryew book ELEVENTH HOUR.

First of all, Karen gave her opinion over at Prism Book Alliance:  “If I have one complaint, and its a terribly selfish one, is that I’d loved to have seen definitely that there was going to be a second book, I really would like to see more of Miles and Briers.”  (We’re hoping so, Karen – watch this space!)

Shortly afterwards there was a review from Lisa at The Novel Approach who, among other things, said this:  “I love a novel that offer readers the opportunity to become ensconced in time and place without it turning into a full-fledged history lesson about the era.”  (So do we, Lisa!)

Thank you to both reviewers for their time and their comments; we’re delighted that you both enjoyed the book so much!

Elin Gregory’s Signal Boost blog tour!

EleventhHour-blogtourgraphic

We’re delighted to announced that Elin Gregory is off on another, more extensive tour as part of launching her charming novel, ELEVENTH HOUR. Today you can find her with the kind peeps at My Fiction Nook.

Do follow her about! Her articles are always worth reading, and she’s organised a cool giveaway as well.

Manifold Press paperbacks

The Press doesn’t issue paperback editions of all our titles, as the decision to do so is driven by the individual authors. That being said, we’re delighted with the twenty titles that have made it into print thus far! There are new ones on the way, so it seemed to be a good time to take stock of what we have so far.

A veritable rainbow of books from Manifold Press!
A veritable rainbow of books from Manifold Press!

Our current paperback titles are listed here, along with Amazon US buy links:

The Apothecary's Garden paperback coverAlways With Us by Morgan Cheshire

The Apothecary’s Garden by Julie Bozza

Between Now and Then by Adam Fitzroy

Butterfly Hunter (#1) by Julie Bozza

Of Dreams and Ceremonies (Butterfly Hunter #2) by Julie Bozza

The Thousand Smiles of Nicholas Goring (Butterfly Hunter #3) by Julie Bozza

The Butterfly Hunter Trilogy (incorporating all three novels plus the free short story Like Leaves to a Tree) by Julie Bozza

Dear Mister President by Adam Fitzroy

Make Do and Mend paperback coverThe Definitive Albert J. Sterne (incorporating the novel and the stories published separately in the eBook Albert J. Sterne: Future Bright, Past Imperfect) by Julie Bozza

Ghost Station by Adam Fitzroy

Homosapien … a fantasy about pro wrestling by Julie Bozza

Make Do and Mend by Adam Fitzroy

Mitch Rebecki Gets a Life by Julie Bozza

A Pride of Poppies Modern LGBTQIA Fiction of the Great War – anthology including stories by Julie Bozza, Barry Brennessel, Charlie Cochrane, Sam Evans, Lou Faulkner, Adam Fitzroy, Wendy C. Fries, Z. McAspurren, Eleanor Musgrove and Jay Lewis Taylor

A Pride of Poppies - paperback coverRavages by R.A. Padmos

Solemn Contract by Morgan Cheshire

Stage Whispers by Adam Fitzroy

A Threefold Cord by Julie Bozza

The ‘True Love’ Solution by Julie Bozza

The Valley of the Shadow of Death by Julie Bozza

We hope you’ll enjoy these paperback editions and – like us! – are looking forward to more titles coming soon.

Spies and Blackguards!

Eleventh Hour by Elin GregoryAn author guest blog
by Elin Gregory

Spies are fascinating. From the earliest times there have been men and women who risk their lives by sneaking into enemy territory to try to see what’s going on there and establish how much of a threat there is. There are even spies mentioned in the Bible, reconnoitring before invading Palestine and establishing a safe house in Jericho. The Romans had their speculators, men who could sound out possible supporters in territories ripe for annexation and spy on enemy forces. Sir Francis Walsingham had an enormous network of spies in the 16th century, and the European powers cultivated promising young officers who might prove to be good players in The Great Game.

But it wasn’t until the 20th century that anything like a formal secret service was established in the UK. Partly this was due to a lordly assumption that the Brits didn’t NEED to spy, they were just that good, but it was coupled with a very damaging attitude that spying was ‘not playing the game’ and that we shouldn’t stoop so low. Between 1900 and 1909 a series of intelligence disasters, including the discovery of a very highly placed German mole in the Foreign Office finally convinced the powers in charge that some kind of overview was needed. Army intelligence didn’t speak to Navy and the fledgling air force reported to whoever it felt like. Someone needed to draw the threads together. A small room in the War Office, designated M05, was allocated and two Captains, one of the Staffordshire Regiment, invalided out of service due to his ill health and the other from Naval intelligence, were asked to form a formal Secret Service Bureau. Not a promising start yet they outstripped all expectations.

Captain Vernon Kell
Captain Vernon Kell

Plagued by illness from strenuous service, Captain Vernon Kell had served all over the world and absorbed languages like a sponge. He had a formidable intelligence that didn’t hesitate to use whatever means were available to fool the enemy. He even employed criminals, even ones in jail, to produce what is now called disinformation, sending out forged letters with inaccurate figures via the foreign powers’ own ‘letter boxes’.  He was also sensible enough to involve the police and worked with Scotland Yard to bring foreign spies to justice.  His organisation eventually became MI5.

Madison Smith-Cumming
Madison Smith-Cumming

Kell’s opposite number, head of the infant MI6, was Madison Smith-Cumming, later known as C. He was an incredible character in his own right. He had a monocle, walked with the aid of a swordstick and had his own personal tank. His wooden leg became a secret service legend, as he never told the same story of its loss twice.  Amongst other versions, he claimed that during a high speed chase he crashed his car and had to cut his own foot off with his pen knife to escape before he was caught by the enemy. But it is on record that he used to like to test the nerve of prospective spies by taking them out in his car and seeing how well they coped with being a passenger. He also used to startle people in meetings by stabbing himself in the wooden leg with a paperknife.  With such an original at the helm it’s no wonder that there was a ramshackle, ‘make it up as you go along’ vibe to many of their operations. C had to use whoever volunteered and while some were genuinely talented patriots others were venal or fools. “All my men are blackguards!” he complained after one spectacularly failed mission.  But they did enjoy some success and he encouraged technical innovation.

concealed weapon

Concealed weapons, waistcoat button cameras, even exploding pens were possible.  His men were also encouraged to improvise. Far from home and out of touch with their handlers, there would be plenty of times when they ran out of supplies and had to make do with whatever was to hand. For instance, C delighted in the discovery that semen makes an excellent invisible ink! However after a year or two of enthusiastic use – every man is his own fountain pen was one of his sayings – he had to recommend that it only be used with caution because the recipients of the notes complained of the smell.


If you are intrigued as we were to read Elin’s tale set in and around the British Secret Intelligence Service, do check out her novel ELEVENTH HOUR. It’s a cracking good yarn!

Elin will be off on a blog tour from Monday 22 August, during which she’ll be offering a giveaway of a backlist book plus a $10 gift card. We’ll post the links once they’re available.


Image sources:

  • Vernon Kell from the MI5 website.
  • Madison Smith-Cumming from a Daily Mail article (sorry).
  • The concealed weapon was from a now defunct eBay auction.
  • The photographers were unattributed at the source.