Launching our new “Coffee Club” newsletter

 

MP Coffee Club Newsletter icon 200pxAs you will have gathered by now, we are implementing a number of changes at Manifold Press – one of which is to launch a quarterly email newsletter for our readers. The timing of it will tie in with our announcement of new titles, but of course we hope to also offer you news, short articles, exclusive giveaways, and other items of interest. The first issue will be sent out on 1 April 2016.

Staying with our coffee metaphors, the newsletter will be called Coffee Club. It will be run via MailChimp, so you know you can rely on all the appropriate Data Protection rules being met.

(Julie has just sent out an invitation email to a number of you who have bought a book, entered a giveaway or been in touch with Manifold Press at some stage over the years. However, we promise you that this was a one-off mailing, and if you choose not to respond, then we won’t contact you directly again!)

If you are interested in subscribing to the newsletter, please click this link http://eepurl.com/bTVKM9

We hope you will join us! If there’s any news or information you’d like to share via the newsletter, we are always interested in considering contributions. And of course, if you have any requests, please let us know likewise.

Thank you again for your interest in the Press, its authors and its books!

AUTHOR GUEST BLOG NUMBER TWENTY SIX – R.A. Padmos

Author R.A. Padmos talks about the first title she published with Manifold Press, back in August 2011. She is giving away a paperback copy to one lucky reader. See below for details!

Ravages, a few years later

RAVAGES - 200pxWriting RAVAGES started with a simple question. What would it take for a Premier League footballer, in the middle of his career, to come out as gay? This idea resulted in a novel about the consequences of the brutal violence of a few, the friendship of many and the love of one very stubborn man.

Ravages was published in 2011. I had hoped, perhaps even expected, that a hugely popular sport like football (soccer) would by now have at least one or two openly gay players active in any of the major European competitions. At the moment of writing this article, in March 2016, there are no such players. I guess the reason for that is a complex mixture of culture, imagined and real risks, lack of courage (hey, manly men in their twenties have as much right to be scared as anyone else), money and public image.

As a lesbian with a history of being out to pretty much everyone I ever met since the late Seventies, I’ve seen the price people pay for being in the closet. After all those years, and having met far more accepting straight people than homophobic ones, I have yet to meet the first heterosexual who truly understands the complexity of telling yourself it’s all private and half-believing it’s actually the honest truth, while at the same time feeling something in your reasoning doesn’t quite add up. Even if there are, obviously, situations in which you’d better keep your mouth shut if you prefer to leave home on your own terms instead of being kicked out by mum and dad.

To be honest, I don’t believe for a moment, that 100% closeted gay footballers active in the Premier League are the rule. Assuming that there are gay players at the highest level, and why wouldn’t I, my guess is that most have at least some friends, family, team-mates and others who are in the know. So, what keeps them so unanimously hidden from their fans?

It’s not my, or anyone else’s, business if or when any gay footballer of (inter)national standing fully comes out of the closet, let that be absolutely clear. To be honest, I would find the whole matter utterly uninteresting if I wasn’t so aware of the fact that being even partly in the closet in a society where homosexuality is neither a crime nor a shame, is perhaps not the best thing you can do for your mental health. After all, some heterosexual players might be more private than others, but none of them will go out of their way (including telling downright lies) to hide the fact that they are straight.

I don’t need public figures to come out to make the world easier for me. I even think there is an argument to be made that it’s the other way around. We, the mostly nameless gays and lesbians, paved the road that led to nice stuff such as the legalisation of same-sex marriage, and one famous individual after another being openly gay, lesbian or bi.

But I also don’t see why people who play professional football in any of the big European competitions, should exclude themselves from the wonderful feeling of trusting other people’s decency and learning that they are strong enough to handle the surprisingly few truly ugly minds.

I’m giving away one paperback copy of Ravages, signed with a message of your choice. I will ship worldwide, so anyone can enter. Simply enter via the Book Giveaways form (no one but the site admins Fiona and Julie will see the details). I will randomly select the winner, and contact them for further information. I’d also love to hear from you via the comments, though!

A PRIDE OF POPPIES is a Lambda Literary Award finalist!

WWI anthology cover FINAL 200pxWe were beyond delighted to discover today that our WWI charity anthology A PRIDE OF POPPIES is a finalist in the LGBT Anthology category of the 28th Annual Lambda Literary Awards.

Looking at the other seven finalists in this category, it is easy to see that we are in truly excellent company – and to have even made it this far as one amidst a grand total of 933 submissions is a great honour.

Congratulations to the Press and to all my fellow Poppies – including our indefatigable proofreader F.M. Parkinson – for all your hard work. This title was a real team effort, and I know you put your hearts into these stories. I am sure you are all feeling that this recognition is a terrific reward!

The winners will be announced on Monday 6 June in New York City.

The “Coffee House” eBook Giveaway – The Last Day

MP Coffee House Blog giveaway

Yesterday was the last day of our seven day eBook Giveaway. We now have the results for Day Seven: Random.org has drawn Dianna’s name out of the virtual hat. Dianna chose a copy of WRONG ROOM, RIGHT GUY by Liam Livings – which is already heading your way, Dianna!

Thank you to everyone who has visited our new blog, commented on the various posts, and taken part in the giveaway. We hope the winners enjoy their books!

Do visit again, whenever you can. We have more news being announced throughout March, and of course our new titles on 1 April.

Launching our new strapline!

When Manifold Press first opened for business back in 2010, we called for submissions of same-sex stories, thinking that we’d receive plenty of lesbian romances in the mix. Overwhelmingly, however, our submissions were male-male romances or gay fiction – and we eventually decided to make it clear that’s where our focus was, rather than risk readers riffling hopefully through our backlist to no avail.

There has been an organic shift over the past couple of years, however. As editor of our WWI charity anthology A PRIDE OF POPPIES, I opened it up to stories featuring characters across the full spectrum – and that’s what I received, too, though there is a weighting towards stories about gay men. We have since published Jane Elliot’s terrifically fun novel SMOOTHIE, which features a romance between two women. Other novels began naturally including minor characters from other hues of the spectrum – and, in any case, a fair number of our main characters could more properly be called bisexual rather than gay.

This is certainly a direction in which we want the Press to keep moving. While it’s true enough that male-male romance and gay fiction are still the most popular stories, and will probably remain a significant part of our offerings, we want to open up the Press to representing the full LGBTQIA spectrum of characters. It seems only good, right and proper to do so.

Hence our new strapline:

Life in all the colours of the rainbow

We chose the word ‘life’ rather than ‘love’ because we have always focussed on characters and story, and we don’t see that ever changing.

We’ll also continue to ‘strive for excellence’ in all that we do – and so that aspect of our old strapline isn’t being retired. It lives on as our internal mission statement.

Thank you to the authors, friends and readers who’ve been an essential part of our journey thus far! We certainly hope you’ll continue on with us into a brightly hued future.

The “Coffee House” eBook Giveaway – Day Seven

MP Coffee House Blog giveaway

Welcome to the seventh and last day of our eBook Giveaway!

To celebrate our new blog, we’ve been giving away one free book per day, for the first seven days of March. The draws have been made as close as possible to 10.00 am UK time, starting on Wednesday 2 March.

We have the results for Day Six! Random.org has drawn Helena’s name out of the virtual hat. Helena chose a copy of THE PEACOCK’S EYE by Jay Lewis Taylor – which is already heading your way, Helena!

To enter the last day of this giveaway, click here for the Book Giveaways form. This will open in a new window or tab. You’ll be asked for your first name, an email address, which title you’d like, and in which format. All these fields must be completed before clicking the Submit button.

No one but we admin peeps will be able to see any of the details you enter via the form. Please note, however, that any comments made on this post are not screened other than via the usual WordPress security. All comments on this post will in effect be public.

All our current titles are available for the giveaway, but only in electronic formats.

If you are successful once, please feel free to enter again. You can win twice before being disqualified for the rest of the giveaway. This means that Andrea and Helena can enter again, but Chris and Jen, alas, cannot.

So, pour yourself a beverage of your choice and browse our titles. You might like to experiment with the work of a new author, or complete the backlist of a favourite.

Good luck and best wishes to everyone who takes part!

The “Coffee House” eBook Giveaway – Day Six

MP Coffee House Blog giveaway

To celebrate our new blog, we’re giving away one free book per day, for the first seven days of March. The draws will be made as close as possible to 10.00 am UK time, starting on Wednesday 2 March.

And we have the results for Day Five! Just to prove that lightning does indeed strike twice … er, twice, Random.org has drawn Jen’s name out of the virtual hat. This time, Jen chose a copy of SOLEMN CONTRACT by the lovely Morgan Cheshire – which will be heading your way shortly, Jen!

To enter the giveaway, click here for the Book Giveaways form. This will open in a new window or tab. You’ll be asked for your first name, an email address, which title you’d like, and in which format. All these fields must be completed before clicking the Submit button.

No one but we admin peeps will be able to see any of the details you enter via the form. Please note, however, that any comments made on this post are not screened other than via the usual WordPress security. All comments on this post will in effect be public.

All our current titles are available for the giveaway, but only in electronic formats.

If you are successful once, please feel free to enter again. You can win twice before being disqualified for the rest of the giveaway. This means that Andrea can enter again, but Chris and Jen, alas, cannot.

So, pour yourself a beverage of your choice and browse our titles. You might like to experiment with the work of a new author, or complete the backlist of a favourite.

Good luck and best wishes to everyone who takes part!

The “Coffee House” eBook Giveaway – Day Five

MP Coffee House Blog giveaway

To celebrate our new blog, we’re giving away one free book per day, for the first seven days of March. The draws will be made as close as possible to 10.00 am UK time, starting on Wednesday 2 March.

And we have the results for Day Four! Random.org has once more drawn Chris’s name out of the virtual hat. This time, Chris chose a copy of THE PEACOCK’S EYE by historical novelist Jay Lewis Taylor – which will be heading your way shortly, Chris!

To enter the giveaway, click here for the Book Giveaways form. This will open in a new window or tab. You’ll be asked for your first name, an email address, which title you’d like, and in which format. All these fields must be completed before clicking the Submit button.

No one but we admin peeps will be able to see any of the details you enter via the form. Please note, however, that any comments made on this post are not screened other than via the usual WordPress security. All comments on this post will in effect be public.

All our current titles are available for the giveaway, but only in electronic formats.

If you are successful once, please feel free to enter again. You can win twice before being disqualified for the rest of the giveaway. This means that Andrea and Jen can enter again, but Chris, alas, cannot.

So, pour yourself a beverage of your choice and browse our titles. You might like to experiment with the work of a new author, or complete the backlist of a favourite.

Good luck and best wishes to everyone who takes part!

The “Coffee House” eBook Giveaway – Day Four

MP Coffee House Blog giveaway

To celebrate our new blog, we’re giving away one free book per day, for the first seven days of March. The draws will be made as close as possible to 10.00 am UK time, starting on Wednesday 2 March.

And we have the results for Day Three! Chris‘s name was chosen via random.org. Chris chose a copy of MAKE DO AND MEND by the ever popular Adam Fitzroy – which will be heading your way shortly, Chris!

To enter the giveaway, click here for the Book Giveaways form. This will open in a new window or tab. You’ll be asked for your first name, an email address, which title you’d like, and in which format. All these fields must be completed before clicking the Submit button.

No one but we admin peeps will be able to see any of the details you enter via the form. Please note, however, that any comments made on this post are not screened other than via the usual WordPress security. All comments on this post will in effect be public.

All our current titles are available for the giveaway, but only in electronic formats.

If you are successful once, please feel free to enter again. That includes Andrea, Chris and Jen! You can win twice before being disqualified for the rest of the giveaway.

So, pour yourself a beverage of your choice and browse our titles. You might like to experiment with the work of a new author, or complete the backlist of a favourite.

Good luck and best wishes to everyone who takes part!

AUTHOR GUEST BLOG NUMBER TWENTY FOUR – Julie Bozza

Jane Austen and illicit sex

Did that heading grab you? I think it would have grabbed me if I’d stumbled upon it unexpectedly. But I’ve been pondering a notion this past day or two, and would like to run it out for a bit of air.

Let me take a step back, and mention that I’m currently re-reading all of Jane Austen’s works, from the Juvenilia through to Sanditon – though not in that order – as preparation for editing and writing for the next Manifold Press anthology, A CERTAIN PERSUASION. (By the way, the deadline for submissions is 1 May, which gives you another two months to write something for us. Just as well, as I haven’t even started my story yet!)

Anyway! So here I am re-reading my beloved Austen novels. They are all thirty or thirty-five years old; Penguin paperbacks which are quite literally falling apart. But I guess I’ve never re-read them all within a short period before. And something struck me on Monday, as I finished Persuasion

“He [Mr Elliot] soon quitted Bath; and on Mrs Clay’s quitting it likewise soon afterwards, and being next heard of as established under his protection in London, it was evident how double a game he had been playing …”

Mrs Clay, the lower-class widow with designs on Sir Walter Elliot, ends up instead as mistress of Sir Walter’s heir – and Austen leaves us with the most generous thing she has said yet about Mrs Clay:

“She has abilities, however, as well as affections; and it is now a doubtful point whether his cunning, or hers, may finally carry the day …”

Mrs Clay has abilities, affections and cunning, and may well end up the wife of a baronet! And this is all reported in Austen’s light, deft prose. In fact, to me she sounds quite non-judgemental about it all. Though we may draw the conclusion that the cunning Mr Elliot and Mrs Clay deserve each other.

However, I feel that Sir Walter himself and his eldest daughter Elizabeth are left to a worse fate. They are shocked and mortified by the loss and deception of their friend and, I assume, Mr Elliot. They are left to “flatter and follow … their great cousins”, the Dalrymples, but “without being flattered and followed in turn”. How utterly barren a future!

We know that in Jane Austen’s novels, any woman who engages in pre-marital or extra-marital sex loses her reputation and can no longer be part of ‘society’. None of her main characters even consider taking such a step, despite feeling great love and the exciting kind of passion that can only be expressed in full-on blushes.

As a result, I think there is a tendency to generally dismiss Austen herself as a very prim, proper and virginal spinster – when anyone putting much thought into it must surely conclude that there was a whole lot more to her than that.

Yes, she was interested in exploring the fact that in her times a gentleman’s daughter, unless in a rare case of being independently wealthy, must marry in order to live according to her place in society. And she knew very well that a couple could not marry on love alone. But beyond that, she was interested in the kind of love and companionship that made for a good marriage with long-lasting affection. Her main characters manage to find it all. Others are less lucky.

But it struck me that in almost all the novels, a woman ‘falls’ – and in only one is she judged harshly for it.

The latter example can be found in Mansfield Park. Mrs Rushworth (formerly Maria Bertram) elopes with Henry Crawford, and when discarded by him is left to a lonely social exile in the company of the horrible Mrs Norris. I suspect Maria’s harsh fate is more about the fact that she married the dim but decent Mr Rushworth despite knowing very well that she despised him, and that she strongly desired Mr Crawford (I can’t call it love). Not only did she make that ghastly decision, and ensure that her rival Julia Bertram had no chance at Crawford either, but then rather than making a go of the marriage, she leaves Rushworth, involving him in the disgrace of a public scandal. This is a whole bunch of bad behaviour, and while I couldn’t wish Mrs Norris on anyone, neither do I care at all for Maria.

A situation in which the adulterous woman is handled sympathetically can be found in Sense and Sensibility. Colonel Brandon’s back story involves his requited love for his family’s ward, but she is forced by the family to marry his older brother – who is cruel, and “his pleasures were not what they ought to have been”. {ahem} Eventually she leaves him, and is divorced, but continues on as a mistress to other men. She is spoken of with empathy and sorrow. She had an illegitimate daughter, Eliza, who Brandon takes on responsibility for – and the daughter likewise is seduced, and then abandoned while pregnant.

Once Brandon has told Elinor Dashwood this entire story, her first question is, “Is she still in town?” Despite Eliza being lost to good society, Elinor is willing to befriend her and help share in Brandon’s support of her. Indeed, on top of all that, Brandon has even fought a duel to avenge Eliza’s honour.

The whole thing is seen as being horribly sad and unfortunate, but neither Brandon nor Elinor will judge her or treat her badly.

In Emma, the illegitimate Harriet Smith is treated as a worthy member of the community in her own right. Questions of her parentage only arise when she is finally about to marry, and it is discovered that her father was an apparently respectable tradesman. No judgement is made, beyond a class-related remark that the daughter of a tradesman could be more properly married to a tenant farmer than the lord of the manor.

In Pride and Prejudice, Georgiana Darcy almost elopes with George Wickham – and Lydia Bennet not only does elope with him but continues to live with him despite the intended marriage being postponed to a vague future. Georgiana’s mistakes are forgiven, and Lydia’s escapade is patched up into respectability. Lydia is another character who is difficult to like for her own sake, but again that seems more about her own poor decisions and selfishness, and her lack of concern for her family’s feelings or reputation, rather than moral outrage about Lydia herself. We certainly don’t judge Georgiana badly.

And so Austen deals with illicit sexual relationships surprisingly frequently, and with a surprising lack of judgement. True, the men (as, generally, the seducers) are sometimes the villains of the piece – but not always. The women (as, generally, the seduced) are dealt with more on their own merits than on a simple lack of chastity. And such circumstances seem to be an intrinsic part of the Austenverse.

I don’t know what this means, if it means anything at all, but it’s certainly giving me much to ponder.