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.

New titles for 1 August announced today!

The days when we get to announce our upcoming titles are some of the most thrilling in the whole of our publishing calendar; it’s just like planning a surprise party for somebody and then anxiously watching their face as they walk in all unknowing…

In this spirit of excitement, therefore, we’re very pleased to be announcing details of the new books we’ll be publishing on 1 August 2017.

First, there’s a welcome return for Morgan Cheshire; her lovingly-crafted historical novels have always been popular, and we’re sure this will also be the case with A TIME TO KEEP.  It tells of the tribulations experienced by Matthew and Ben, two lads who leave the workhouse in 1909 and start a life together.  But this isn’t the best period of history for happy-ever-afters, and when War descends Matthew is left to try to make some kind of sense of his future…

Alongside this, we have another new title from our good friend Elin Gregory – this time the tale of small-town museum curator Malcolm, who becomes entangled with contractor ‘Dirty’ Rob (a man who makes his earth move!), a significant archaeological discovery on a building site, and the machinations of unscrupulous treasure-seekers; really, what more could any reader want?

As an added bonus this time, we also have the return of R.A. Padmos’s ‘Espresso Shot’ LIKE PEOPLE, which originally debuted last year.  For technical reasons we had to remove it from sale immediately – but now it’s back, and is available to purchase again from today.  As World War Two draws to a close, Karl meets Nathaniel – but is this any time to be starting something new?

These three books represent a perfect snapshot of our broader output, and we’re very proud of them all; they two new ones will be available to pre-order shortly, and will be on general sale through our usual outlets as from 1 August 2017 – enjoy!

Honourable mentions for TO THE LEFT OF YOUR NORTH STAR, COINS NOT ACCEPTED

Rainbow Awards season seems to be well under way now – let’s just pause a moment to consider what a massive logistical feat it must all be to organise and co-ordinate, shall we? – and there’s more good news for Manifold Press.

 

Writing about Michelle Peart’s TO THE LEFT OF YOUR NORTH STAR, one anonymous reviewer began with these words:  This book was AWESOME. I was captured by the characters and story from the first page and was held captive until the last.   That’s exactly the sort of thing we like to hear!

 

The comments on Chris Quinton’s COINS NOT ACCEPTED were briefer but no less heartfelt:  Great book, great worldbuilding, a tad too much info dump. But I loved it.  It’s reassuring that anyone can love a book without considering it 100% perfect; like people, they all have their little quirks!

 

Congratulations to both Michelle and Chris for impressing the reviewers, and good luck to you both in the next round of judging!

Honourable mentions for A CERTAIN PERSUASION, HARBINGER ISLAND

To our great delight, two of our books have recently received Honourable Mentions in the 2017 Rainbow Awards!

Commenting on our Jane Austen-inspired anthology A CERTAIN PERSUASION, one reviewer wrote this:  “While I enjoyed almost all of the stories, I think my favorite was by editor Julie Bozza. Most of the other stories were relatively straightforward romances, but Bozza’s contained the convoluted conflicts of Austen’s works and seemed to me the most successful of all the stories. The book was well-edited and proofed, always welcome features. I highly recommend the book to any Jane Austen fans, and really, to Dear Readers in general.

The reviewers who assessed Dorian Dawes’s wonderfully strange HARBINGER ISLAND were also enthusiastic, with one commenting: “Delightfully creepy tale that could well have been part of  the Twilight Zone series, complete with menacing townsfolk and rotting buildings A different twist is given in part by the main characters who are mostly transgender. Interesting and spooky plot.

We’d like to congratulate Dorian and all our anthology authors, and also to thank the reviewers for their time and comments:  Rainbow Awards season is always an exciting time, and these two Honourable Mentions have got the 2017 Awards off to a flying start for Manifold Press!

I blame it on the cats!

An author guest blog by Chris Quinton.

GAME ON, GAME OVER happened because of cats. And Avebury, but mostly cats. Many years previously, the fur balls were a ‘thing’ in the fan fiction I was reading at the time. All of them were cutesy, fluffy, adorable, and they charmed the heroes with their irresistible appeal – well, you get the picture.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a sucker for the feline kind, canids and equines as well, but I wanted something more than the saccharine sweetness of those stories, and none were to be found. So I decided to write my own.

My cat wasn’t cute. Wasn’t fluffy, either, regardless of what some poor deluded human had named him way back when he was a kitten. Though in all honesty, he probably had been appealing back then, the way all kittens are, no matter what they grow into. This one grew into an autocratic, battle-scarred and cynical tom, based on a rather large ginger and white individual I saw in the courtyard of the Red Lion, Avebury’s pub. The humans he interacted with were fleshed around two characters from a TV series. Yes, I wrote fanfiction and I make no apologies for it: fanfic got me through some difficult times in my life.

I didn’t use the characters’ screen names in the original story, as Aidan was very good at creating new identities, had gone into solitary ‘retirement’ in the sleepy little village in the heart of Wiltshire, and was determined to stay there. Scott was as determined to forge a relationship with him. And TBC, aka That Bloody Cat,  merely wanted to live in his old home again.

The setting of Avebury reflected my love and fascination with the place, and its unique archaeological history. Then there are its ghost stories: the barber-surgeon, Florrie the Barmaid, the ghostly coach to name but a few.

Some time later, when I’d had a few titles published, I remembered that decades-old fanfic. Other than a few mentions of their shared past and their physical appearances, there was nothing at all to show its original inspiration, not even their names. So I began to put together a new backstory for them. To misquote a soccer commentator, it would be a tale of two halves, and the new title was a natural choice: Game On (where and how they met and parted), Game Over (where and how they got together again and reached their HEA).

I’d recently read a fascinating article on the Silk Road, and anyone who knows me, knows how I am addicted to archaeology. Add in the political situation of the area, plus a hint of Kipling’s Great Game, and I had the first part nailed. Aidan Whittaker would be an MI6 agent, undercover at an archaeological dig in Tajikistan, near the border with Pakistan. Scott Landon was a photographer tagging along behind a journalist, and we all know how much trouble a determined newshound can get into without really trying.

The second part would be entirely different in pace and setting from Part One, and its setting was Avebury. Thanks to family and friends prepared to drive me to one of my favourite places in England, I already had a large folder full of photos, but I wanted more of specific areas. This time, though, no one with a car was available, so I resorted to the buses. Getting to Avebury by public transport wasn’t easy, involved changes, and took forever. I had only a limited time before the return trip. So I chose the field where the pair of fictional cottages would sit, took many photos up and down the street, and had just enough time for a sandwich and a cuppa at the Red Lion before I caught the only bus back to where I could pick up the return bus to Salisbury.

Incidentally, the weather was glorious. Few things can beat summer sunshine in a tiny English village with thatched cottages and an excellent pub.

Above, I said I was addicted to archaeology – that isn’t an understatement. In Game On, Game Over, when Scott asks Archaeologist Aidan, ‘Why?’ his answer is as much from my heart as Aidan’s.

“… But you, these kids, you’re out here in a strange land, living in tents with basic amenities, no real freedom to come and go, watched over every now and then by the army. Just to dig holes in the ground. Why? What’s the point of it?”

Why?” John rounded on him ferociously, taking Scott’s breath away. “Do you think we live in a vacuum? That present and future are the be-all and end-all of two-dimensional lives? The point is, Mr Landon, you, me, those postgraduates, the lecturers, the cooks and drivers, are linked to the past as surely as we are to the present. We are no different to the people who travelled the Roads and stayed in the caravanserai. We are no different from the Roman soldier on Hadrian’s Wall who wrote home to his mother asking her to send him more socks. And yes, before you ask, he’s genuine. Every minute fragment of the past found in excavations enriches the present. Every translation of newly discovered writing expands our knowledge and strengthens the links to our past. Human nature has changed very little in the millennia we’ve walked upright, and we’re faced with the same choices today as our ancestors were. The only differences now are our enhanced abilities to create and destroy.”

So, yeah, that’s my one and only ‘Mary-Sue’ time (apart from that one I wrote when I was fourteen, starring me and Elvis…). Come on, I was fourteen, for the gods’ sake…

 

A message for NO HOLDS BARD authors

At the risk of ‘shooting ourselves in the foot’, we feel we should pass on news of an exciting opportunity for those who write Shakespeare fiction.  Our good friend Lou Faulkner has drawn our attention to a competition for new plays which ‘vibe off’ the Bard’s oeuvre, and which this article thinks (and we agree) could access some previously untapped talent in the fanfiction genre.  The mention of “massive works queering the reign of Henry the Fifth” caused a certain amount of nonchalant whistling and staring into space, both here at Megaheadquarters and elsewhere in the Manifold Press diaspora…

AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FROM MANIFOLD PRESS

Dear Friends,

After eight successful years of independent publishing, MANIFOLD PRESS will be scaling back its operations in May 2018. Our regular publishing schedule will continue until then, with the last set of books being published on 1 May 2018, but most of our titles will still be available to buy at least until May 2019 – and some very possibly longer than that. Our two charity anthologies, A PRIDE OF POPPIES and CALL TO ARMS, will be for sale as long as there is demand for them and money to be channeled to the causes they support.

We intend to maintain the same conscientious service we have always provided to our authors and readers; our newsletter will still be circulated, and in particular all royalties will continue to paid in full and on time. Rights reversions will be managed on an individual basis; we’re very happy to work with our authors towards a timetable that suits them.

This decision has not been an easy one to reach, and is largely the result of changing family circumstances. The Press requires a massive commitment of time and energy which would be impossible to sustain indefinitely, and rather than allow the quality of our product to suffer we feel the sensible option is to retire in good order while we can.

Our plan is to keep everybody fully informed throughout the winding-down process, but we’ll be glad to answer any questions you may have about it; please feel free to get in touch with us either on Facebook or via e-mail.

We’re more grateful than we can adequately express for all the support and encouragement we’ve received throughout our adventure in independent publishing. Our experience in this community has been wholly positive and – although incredibly hard work – thoroughly enjoyable, and we wouldn’t have missed any of it for the world!

We’re actively planning QUEER COMPANY 3, and an announcement about that will be made later this summer. Please keep an eye on our website and our Facebook page for further details.

Thank you for everything, and we’ll miss you terribly!

Julie, Morgan and Fiona