Spirituality and Place

A guest blog post 
by Julie Bozza

When I wrote OF DREAMS AND CEREMONIES, the sequel to BUTTERFLY HUNTER, I wanted to explore a couple of questions of spirituality. I don’t think I found any firm answers, mind you, but then maybe there aren’t any. Or maybe there are as many answers as there are individuals. We all have our own belief systems, after all – even those of us who are atheists. So maybe an exploration of the questions, and an honest ‘thinking / feeling things out for ourselves’, is all we can do.

Locations

Those of you who’ve read BUTTERFLY HUNTER will remember that Dave Taylor is surprised to find that he has some kind of connection with a particular location in the Australian Outback. This is the isolated waterhole where Nicholas finds his blue butterflies, which is known to Dave’s Indigenous friend Charlie as a Dreaming site. Because Dave can find this secretive place when others can’t, Charlie suspects that Dave has a spiritual connection with the waterhole, despite Dave being a white fella.

Indigenous cave paintings of waterholes on Uluru, photographed by Kim Dingwell, and sourced on Wikimedia Commons

Being a white fella myself, many might sincerely believe I have no business writing about such things, and I apologise for any offence given. To quote from my acknowledgements in the novels, I wrote these stories ‘with nothing in my heart but a love of and a wish for interdependence between all our peoples – and for that perhaps any infelicities will be forgiven’.

I remained all too aware that I was approaching this with a white fella’s understanding, and I made sure that Dave himself expressed the same awareness. I’ve read a fair bit about the Australian Indigenous people’s Dreaming, and it feels pretty much impossible for a white fella to get her head around. It involves such a different way of thinking about time, let alone anything else.

So Dave and I were interpreting and applying ideas from our own perspectives. On the practical side of things, Dave was both conceived and born near the waterhole, despite his parents living in Brisbane. On the mystical side of things, the Barcoo grunter ancestor sleeping in the waterhole must have felt some kind of affinity with Dave’s soul, and created the connection between them. And thus it was all very much tied to place, to a specific location in a particular country.

Before all this unfolded, Dave never thought of himself as a spiritual person, and it’s probably still something that doesn’t quite sit neatly within him. He probably thinks of it all as something strange (though not unwelcome) that happened to him, rather than something that happened because of him.

So, I pondered – finally coming to The Question I wanted to explore in the sequel – how would Dave react to spiritual things connected to other locations, other countries?

The Duloe Stone Circle in Cornwall, photographed by Philip Halling, and sourced on Wikimedia Commons

In OF DREAMS AND CEREMONIES, Dave has followed Nicholas to England; Nicholas promptly proposes marriage and Dave just as promptly accepts. They spend their honeymoon in Cornwall, near a circle of standing stones. While (the English) Nicholas is drawn to the stones, and finds them eerie and unsettling, (the Aussie) Dave reacts to them with no more than mild interest. To him they’re a human construction that happens to long predate the nearby cottage they’re staying in, and that’s all there is to say about that.

So my answer to that question was that Dave is a spiritual creature within a particular context – within a country that he considers home – but that doesn’t necessarily make him sensitive to spiritual things associated with other locations steeped in other traditions and understandings. Whether that’s a misguided notion or not, I leave you to decide!

Ceremonies

The Other Question I wanted to explore a little was what kind of ceremony it would take for these two men to feel married. At the time in England, the only legal option available to them was civil partnership, involving a ceremony performed in a civil or non-religious location. Nicholas declares that he thinks of this as marriage regardless of the legalities – but, while I don’t think he’s any more religious than Dave, I suspect Nicholas would have chosen a church service if he could.

The spoken vows required at that time certainly lacked poetry:

I declare that I know of no legal reason why we may not register as each other’s civil partner. I understand that in signing this document we will be forming a civil partnership with each other.

I had Dave and Nicholas each speak their own vows as well, which were based on the stories of their lives, to supplement those dreadfully prosaic words.

A threefold Celtic symbol, created by Tinette, and sourced on Wikimedia Commons

Returning to The Original Question for a moment … I was less explicit in the novel about another spiritual aspect of their stay in Cornwall. They befriend Margaret Widgery, a local woman who acts as caretaker for the cottage, along with her mother Joan and her daughter Maeve. The three women can be seen as representing the Maiden, Mother and Crone. While there’s some contention about the historical basis for the neo-pagan Triple Goddess, it is a potent idea.

Even though Nicholas never indicates whether he sees the three Widgery women in this way, he jumps at the chance of a handfasting ceremony led by Joan, to supplement his and Dave’s civil partnership ceremony. The novel also mentions other ways in which Dave and Nicholas affirm their vows to each other, in other times and other places. Indeed, between us we make it as thorough as we know how, bringing in both the practicalities and the different strands of spirituality to which they are connected.

They can hardly claim they weren’t thoroughly married to each other by the end!

Reviews for THE BONES OF OUR FATHERS

Reviewers are loving THE BONES OF OUR FATHERS, the new, contemporary story from Elin Gregory, and we can’t even pretend to be surprised! Delighted and grateful, of course, but not surprised at how well this novel is being received.

Dianne at It’s About the Book concluded:

I want everyone to read this story. Where goodness intersects with greed and grief. Where the past helps mold the future. It is a beautifully written encompassing of humanity – from the wonders of The Find, to the old and new Pemberland, to the families, the friends, the lovers … the individuals.

Fiona at Books Laid Bare Boys said:

A fantastic array of support characters enhance this story and I really enjoyed the message of ‘community’ that was highlighted by their acts and deeds throughout. The dialogue is humorous and witty. The sex scenes are naughty and very well described without being overly explicit, and there isn’t too much angst.

Thank you, both! You make this tale, quite rightly, sound nigh on irresistible.

Release Day review for THE BONES OF OUR FATHERS

We’re delighted (but not overly surprised!) to see the praise already starting for THE BONES OF OUR FATHERS by the wonderful Elin Gregory. It seems that Natalie at Hearts on Fire Reviews loved Elin’s story as much as we did:

What an utterly delightful time I had reading this! Another new-to-me-author, Elin Gregory completely lived up to the glowing reviews I’d seen for other books. She transported this Florida lady into the middle of a small Welsh village and if it wasn’t so cold, I’d move there.

Thank you very much to Natalie and to all the Hearts on Fire team! It looks like that Welsh village is going to need to hurry up its development of the new housing estate …

Our new titles are now available!

It’s release day at last! Our three new titles are from Manifold Press stalwarts Morgan CheshireElin Gregory and RA Padmos. We have also released a free anthology of extracts in honour of the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 in England and Wales.

The new novel from the exceedingly popular Elin Gregory is THE BONES OF OUR FATHERS.

There’s dirty work at the dig when museum curator Malcolm and contractor Rob become entangled in one another and in also the machinations of money-mad developers and treasure-seekers. Extraordinary measures may need to be employed, in what we’re calling a ‘Gregorian classic’…

Buy links:

Morgan Cheshire tells stories that are both thoughtful and entertaining – and she’s done it again with A TIME TO KEEP.

This is the bitter-sweet story of Matthew, workhouse boy turned lock-keeper, whose love for Ben is cruelly interrupted by the First World War. Fans of English Edwardiana and Great War fiction should enjoy this one very much.

Buy links:

As we have come to expect from R.A. Padmos, her LIKE PEOPLE is a superb historical novella which really tells it like it was. Karl Meisner has been fighting for five years in a war he never wanted, for a nation-state Karl knows very well wants him dead – for Karl Meisner is a man who loves men. We follow him through the last days of the war as he survives being shelled by the Russians, manages to walk in a state of exhaustion with other soldiers and refugees to the river Elbe, and surrenders to the Allies. From there he ends up in a prison camp in England – where he meets Nathaniel Cyfer, a man who must have no reason at all to ever like let alone love him.

Buy links:

OUT OF THE SHADOWS: EXTRACTS FOR AN ANNIVERSARY 1967-2017 acknowledges the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 in England and Wales.

This is a free anthology of extracts from Manifold Press titles that illustrates in a modest way the changes experienced by gay men over the centuries in Britain, and how the social and legal situations may have affected individuals. The extracts begin with the Romans in the 1st century CE, and bring us right through to current issues such as marriage equality and gender-fluid pronouns.

Download links:

We hope you enjoy reading these new stories!

The 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967

Today, 27 July 2017, marks the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which decriminalised private homosexual acts between men over 21 in England and Wales. As is obvious from the length of that description, this was only a partial victory, and we can hardly pretend that gay men and other people in the LGBTQ+ spectrum enjoy full equality even now.

Despite those caveats, the legal victory in 1967 and all the progress made since are things to be celebrated. The Manifold Press team was surprised and delighted by how many of Britain’s cultural institutions are acknowledging the milestone of this anniversary during 2017 – and we wanted to celebrate, too.

Hence, OUT OF THE SHADOWS: EXTRACTS FOR AN ANNIVERSARY 1967-2017. This is a free anthology of extracts from Manifold Press titles that illustrates in a modest way the changes experienced by gay men over the centuries in Britain, and how the social and legal situations may have affected individuals. The extracts begin with the Romans in the 1st century CE, and bring us right through to current issues such as marriage equality and gender-fluid pronouns.

The anthology also includes a detailed timeline of gay history in England, from 17 BCE through to the present day, written by Fiona Pickles.

This free eBook is available to download directly from Smashwords and its distributors, in all available formats. We plan to also make free paperbacks available at Queer Company 3.

We’d like to thank all the Manifold Press authors for supporting this project, and in particular the following authors for agreeing to us sharing their work: Julie Bozza, Morgan Cheshire, Adam Fitzroy, Elin Gregory, Sandra Lindsey, Eleanor Musgrove, R.A. Padmos, F.M. Parkinson, Cimorene Ross, and Jay Lewis Taylor.

We hope that readers will find much to ponder in this volume, and if you are inspired to explore further – whether in our titles or elsewhere – that would be marvellous, too!

New reviews of OF DREAMS AND CEREMONIES and THE THOUSAND SMILES OF NICHOLAS GORING

Tori (Vicki) of Love Bytes LGBTQ Book Reviews has continued reading my BUTTERFLY HUNTER trilogy, and has now published reviews of the second and third volumes, OF DREAMS AND CEREMONIES and THE THOUSAND SMILES OF NICHOLAS GORING.

In response to the second volume:

I loved seeing the relationship further develop between Nicholas and Dave, and how they interact with their respective family members. The sex scenes between them are wonderful, gentle yet hot. The little bit of mystery was a nice addition …

And the third volume:

What a great wrap up to the series! … What really made this whole series work is Nicholas and Dave, and their close bond.

Now is a great time to give this trilogy a try, as all our backlist titles are 25% off at Smashwords, for the whole month of July.

We wish you happy reading!

Registrations are now open for QUEER COMPANY 3!

Registrations are now open for Queer Company 3, to be held in Manchester on 28 April 2018.

You can find all the details here on the Register as a Delegate page. The early bird Delegate rate is £50, which is available until 30 September.

We’d also be delighted if you’d like to register as a Dealer or a Sponsor. Details can be found on the Registration page.

Don’t forget that registering involves a two-step process! Pay your dosh via PayPal, and then complete the registration form. Either Fiona or Julie will email you to confirm.

That link again: Register as a Delegate! We’d love to see you there. ♥

Visiting Physic Gardens

A guest post
by Julie Bozza

I don’t have green thumbs, alas! But I do appreciate a good garden, and I’ve long been fascinated by medieval physic gardens.

Physic gardens (as we know them) date back to the time of Charlemagne (742-814). Sections of a garden would be set aside for growing plants used for medicinal purposes, and for teaching apothecaries about their trade.

This makes physic gardens sound very practical – and they were! – but there is also an element of beauty within them. Many of the medicinal plants were in themselves beautiful. For example, certain irises were grown in such gardens, as their rhizomes (known as orris root) were used in both perfume and medicine. Irises are utterly gorgeous and my favourite flower, so that decisively proves my point, at least to myself!

With all those herbs and flowers growing, you can imagine how beautiful such gardens were for the nose as well as the eye! It was common practice for a bench to be installed in a physic garden so that convalescents could sit for a while and soak up not only the sun but the healthful scents.

The idea of physic gardens evolved into our modern-day botanic gardens, which have a broader interest in all plants – though of course most botanic gardens specialise in particular areas, or are shaped by their location and climate.

Chelsea Physic Garden (photo by Julie).

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden embodies this history, as it was founded in 1621 as a physic garden, and now has a wider remit with over 8,000 different plant species across a four-and-a-half acre site. True to its origins, however, the garden includes medicinal beds growing plants used in modern medicine.

Continue reading “Visiting Physic Gardens”

Reviews for BUTTERFLY HUNTER and WHILE YOU SEE A CHANCE

We were happy to see a short but very positive review of WHILE YOU SEE A CHANCE by Alexa Milne, courtesy of Sue at Books Laid Bare Boys.

This book was quite simply beautiful. … I was left with a sense of peace that is hard to describe.

This romance features older main characters, which we would love to see more of in our genre – and with a response like that, maybe you’ll agree!

Meanwhile, one of our backlist titles – BUTTERFLY HUNTER by Julie Bozza – continues to make new friends, thanks to the support of Australian author NR Walker and her own tale of butterfly hunting, IMAGO.

Tori (Vicki) of Love Bytes LGBTQ Book Reviews was inspired by IMAGO to give my book a go, and I’m delighted to say she obviously enjoyed it!

I loved this book, the story was engaging even though it was simple. Just two men looking for butterflies in the outback. … I was concerned about Dave and Nicholas, and wanted this to work out so badly for them. I loved them as a couple and they deserve all of the good things!

Now is a great time to give either (or both!) of these titles a try, as all our backlist titles are 25% off at Smashwords, for the whole month of July.

We wish you happy reading!

It’s the “Summer/Winter Sale” on Smashwords!

Smashwords are hosting a massive Summer/Winter Sale for the month of July 2017 – and what that means for readers is deep discounts on awesome titles!

Manifold Press is participating, with all of our backlist titles discounted by 25%. (The only exception is our charity anthology, A Pride of Poppies.) Now is the time to stock up that TBR pile, and maybe try some new stories you’ve been pondering.

Browse the Manifold Press catalogue on Smashwords – or browse the full catalogue of all the discounted ebooks across the site. We’re 100% sure you’ll find something to love!

  • Please note that the discounts do not apply to our three new titles.