New reviews of A TIME TO KEEP, CALL TO ARMS

Once more we’re indebted to our friends over at the Historical Novel Society for some hugely encouraging reviews of our output. HNS reviewer Viviane Crystal has been considering two of our more recent publications, with highly gratifying results:

Speaking of Morgan Cheshire’s A TIME TO KEEP, the reviewer clearly enjoyed the author’s gentle tone:

This story of their love is depicted in serene, peaceful ways, highlighting the normalcy of their relationship

and concludes by calling it “[n]icely crafted historical fiction“, with which we can only concur!

The reviewer was also impressed with our Second World War anthology CALL TO ARMS, singling out some stories for individual mention – such as Megan Reddaway’s ‘The Man Who Loved Pigs’ and Julie Bozza’s ‘We Live Without A Future’ – before concluding that the book as a whole is “An interesting […] and memorably inspiring body of historical fiction.

Coming from someone who presumably by definition reads a great deal of historical fiction, this is quite an accolade – and one we’re immensely pleased with.

Thank you so much, Viviane Crystal and the HNS! We’re thrilled that you enjoyed our books so much, and grateful that you took the time to let us know!

Some books just happen

A guest blog post by Adam Fitzroy

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WYE happened all by itself, over a very short period in 2013. As has occasionally been the case with Manifold Press, our editors found they had a vacant publishing slot for February when another project was delayed, and asked around for anything that might be completed quickly enough to take its place. I’d been floundering for a while, trying to decide between competing story ideas, but this gave me the impetus I needed to get off my backside; I had a piece of fan-fiction ripe for redevelopment, and I pulled it down off the shelf and took a fresh look at it.

I’m not remotely embarrassed to admit that this particular book was originally fan-fiction, and the reason is this: as soon as I started to rewrite it, it completely took on a life of its own. In fact, it’s so very different that the original story is actually still online somewhere – and I defy anyone to come up with the name of the TV show it was based on. (Entertaining guesses will be welcomed!)

What happened after that is all a bit of a blur. The basic plot featured a character stepping in to take over the farm of a brother who’d died in mysterious circumstances, inheriting responsibility for his brother’s family (and debts) at the same time. He would then meet up with an old flame/passing love interest, and they’d rekindle their relationship while working for a shared objective. This, basically, is all the book has in common with its fan-fictional progenitor! Anyway, the fact that I’d been watching rather too many cooking shows on TV guaranteed that there would be a chef or chefs involved somehow, and historical research I’d done for another project gave me a location – not a million miles from the setting for MAKE DO AND MEND, as it happens. If you ever look at a map of the River Wye, you’ll see that there’s a large lazy bend in it with the villages of Welsh Bicknor and English Bicknor on opposite sides. There are, too, several derelict bridges along that stretch that used to carry railway lines but have been allowed to decay for a hundred years or more – they’re quite spectacular, but probably very dangerous to cross.

Also, when I was writing the book, gangmasters and illegal immigrants were much in the news; one company was revealed to be housing migrant workers in a ‘temporary village’ in its fields – a situation which only became apparent when they applied for planning permission to build them a cinema. Friction between a small, independent organic farmer – with good intentions but little money – and a large dominant agri-business with massive resources but questionable ethics, made for a good conflict scenario, which becomes more powerful still if the large dominant agri-business happens to be boosting its profits by employing undocumented workers and housing them in sub-standard conditions. So, in essence, what I ended up with was David versus Goliath – with a side order of organic mange-tout!

Fleshing out the minor characters was one of the most enjoyable parts of the process. They always start off as people needed for a specific purpose – to deliver a piece of information, or to be knocked out (or off!) so that someone has to take their place – but the moment you start thinking about who they are and why they’re in the place you need them to be they begin to grow all by themselves. One such was Sharon, the police officer who guides the characters through the latter part of the story. I’d been on a bus once when an unruly passenger started acting up – and, after a few minutes of suffering in silence, the (stunningly-dressed – I think she was on her way to a wedding) woman in the seat in front of me got up, leaned over, quietly produced her warrant card and said, in effect, “Look, I’m off duty at the moment but it would only take one phone call. Shut up, or get arrested.” He chose to shut up.

I have no idea who the woman was, but she stayed in my mind – largely because I would never have looked at her in her finery and thought ‘police officer’. She stepped out of her civilian life just for a moment, did her job, and then stepped back. That intrigued me, and Sharon was the result; she doesn’t actually look like a copper at all, and she’s all the more effective for that reason.

I had a lot of fun, too, writing Rupert’s friends Gary and Steve. (Minuscule clue there to the series of origin!) Believe me, I researched their apartment very thoroughly; I’ve seen the view from their balcony and it’s wonderful. I’ve also stayed at the hotel where Jake and Rupert had their rudely interrupted night of passion – and yes, you can hire a car at Victoria in the middle of the night, but I bet it costs a small fortune!

So I think what I’m trying to say is that this was a book that – as Rumer Godden apparently used to say – was ‘vouchsafed’. It dropped into my lap almost fully-formed, precisely when I needed it, and I wrote it very quickly to fill a need. Everything clicked into place smoothly, and it was one of the most enjoyable writing experiences I’ve ever had. I wish more books would ‘happen’ like that, but I mustn’t be greedy; I’m just grateful that THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WYE* came along at all, and particularly just when it did!

*PS: I can take no credit for the title. I stole it, as I should have made clear in the book itself, from an episode of the short-lived (but absolutely excellent) TV series Extreme Archaeology.

Santa Baby, slip a paperback (or two) under the tree…

Life having slightly got the better of us here at Manifold Press lately, we’ve unfortunately missed a couple of opportunities to bring new paperback editions of some of our titles to your attention. Today, however, with the launch of the paperback version of Morgan Cheshire’s A TIME TO KEEP, we have an opportunity to put that right. So, out with your time-turner (or, if you prefer, hop into your blue Police box) and let’s take a brief trip back to May 2016!

 

Adam Fitzroy’s THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WYE sneaked out in paperback a good eighteen months ago, and we completely forgot to mention it at the time! It’s the modest little tale of an organic farmer, the obligations he’s inherited from his dead brother, and the return of a long-lost friend who seems determined to share his burden. Join Rupert, Jake, and their assorted family and friends as they investigate a series of mysterious occurrences on an isolated Welsh land-holding, and juggle with the demands of an irascible TV chef!

 

F.M. Parkinson’s THE WALLED GARDEN is really too well-mannered a book to make a great fuss about itself, but for those who enjoy Dickens, Mrs Gaskell, the Brontes and other authors of the period who tell a story slowly and with masses of corroborative detail the new paperback version will be a welcome addition to their library. When William Ashton is employed as Edward Hillier’s gardener he is attracted to his master but – in an unforgiving social climate – love is slow to blossom, albeit lasting when it does.

 

Morgan Cheshire’s A TIME TO KEEP is another of her trademark gentle love stories, this time taking place in the years immediately surrounding the First World War. Two workhouse boys in love, Ben and Matthew, make their tentative way in the world, determined only to stay together. Ben secures employment on a farm, Matthew becomes an assistant lock-keeper on a busy canal. When war comes, however, their hopes are crushed, and Matthew must continue alone – until, that is, the providential arrival of a stranger gives him something new to hope for.

 

We love all three of these books, and we’re delighted to see them in paperback form; there’s loads of good reading here for the long winter evenings, and they’re just the thing to slip into someone’s Christmas stocking … or, indeed, your own!

New review of CALL TO ARMS

In fact this is the very first review of our new anthology CALL TO ARMS – and it’s not a bad way to start! Our good friend Kazza K at On Top Down Under Reviews has posted a hugely enthusiastic review which examines the merits of each individual story – no small task, as there are seventeen of them! – and sums up with these resounding words:

“I really do love a good short story. If you can tell me a heartfelt tale in a limited word count I am in total awe, and that mission was well and truly accomplished. I also want to give mention to Heloise Mezen for meticulously compiling the anthology. I can’t recommend Call to Arms highly enough. 5 Stars!”

In return, we can say that we love a detailed review which lets us know when a book has met an appreciative reader: thank you, Kazza, we’re grateful for all the time and thought that went into your review – and very glad indeed that you enjoyed CALL TO ARMS so much!

New titles released today!

Our three wonderful new titles are available now! We trust you’ll love them as much as we do.


Farah Mendlesohn is well established as a historian and critic, so the Press was delighted to have the opportunity of publishing her debut novel SPRING FLOWERING.

This historical romance is an immersive look into a changing world. Ann Gray has been mistress of her father’s parsonage in a quiet country village. After he dies she finds herself in the bustling commercial city of Birmingham, living with her uncle, aunt and cousins. How can she regain her independence and sense of purpose once her period of mourning is over? Ann encourages cousin Louisa’s interest in the family’s manufacturing business, but is that an occupation Ann would enjoy? She might encourage the new parson Mr. Morden to propose marriage. Or she might become companion to the enticingly daring widow Mrs. King. Whatever she chooses, we’re sure you’ll enjoy accompanying Ann on her journey.

Buy links: Amazon US; Amazon UK; Smashwords. Also available from Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.


Manifold Press’s resourceful fact-checker and problem-solver Heloise Mezen has served as editor for our Second World War anthology CALL TO ARMS.

This is a companion volume to our well-received charity volume on the Great War, A PRIDE OF POPPIES. All proceeds this time are going to the British Refugee Council (Registered Charity No. 1014576).

This anthology has again attracted a deeply talented group of authors. The seventeen stories take the reader far and wide – through Britain, Europe, Asia and South America – and introduce (occasionally re-introduce) a wonderful range of characters. We’re sure you’ll find plenty in here to love.

Buy links: Amazon US; Amazon UK; Smashwords. Also available from Apple, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace and Kobo. Available in both eBook and paperback formats!


As many of us know by now, Elin Gregory is a superb storyteller, and we are sure her CALON LAN will not disappoint.

With the war being waged in Europe, it is vital that farming and other essential occupations continue at home – but there is increasing pressure on everyone, and the world feels as out of control as the weather. Bethan and Nye Harrhy manage their farm as best they can with the help of Bethan’s brother Alwyn, injured during his service in the trenches. When Alwyn asks his friend Joe to come live with them, Bethan assumes that another pair of hands will help rather than hinder … or is she being a bit naive?

Buy links: Amazon US; Amazon UK; Smashwords. Also available from Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

ESPRESSO SHOTS is an informal imprint which features long stories and novellas. If you want to read more about this imprint, please check out our blog post. The cover image is the same for all titles, so we chose an image that evokes the comforts – and the stimulations – of the reading experience itself.


We are absolutely sure you’ll find something – or many things – for your reading pleasure here!

Please join us if you can for a Q+A on Facebook – about these books, books in general, and all things LGBTQ+ – on Sunday 5 November, at 17:00 UK time! Click the link and let us know you’re interested. We’d love to chat with you.

New titles for 1 November announced today!

We’re delighted to announce three wonderful new titles – available for pre-order now, and available on 1 November!


Farah Mendlesohn is well established as a historian and critic, so the Press was delighted to have the opportunity of publishing her debut novel SPRING FLOWERING.

This historical romance is an immersive look into a changing world. Ann Gray has been mistress of her father’s parsonage in a quiet country village. After he dies she finds herself in the bustling commercial city of Birmingham, living with her uncle, aunt and cousins. How can she regain her independence and sense of purpose once her period of mourning is over? Ann encourages cousin Louisa’s interest in the family’s manufacturing business, but is that an occupation Ann would enjoy? She might encourage the new parson Mr. Morden to propose marriage. Or she might become companion to the enticingly daring widow Mrs. King. Whatever she chooses, we’re sure you’ll enjoy accompanying Ann on her journey.

Pre-order links: Amazon US; Amazon UK; Smashwords. Also available as a pre-order via Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.


Manifold Press’s resourceful fact-checker and problem-solver Heloise Mezen has served as editor for our Second World War anthology CALL TO ARMS.

This is a companion volume to our well-received charity volume on the Great War, A PRIDE OF POPPIES. All proceeds this time are going to the British Refugee Council (Registered Charity No. 1014576).

This anthology has again attracted a deeply talented group of authors. The seventeen stories take the reader far and wide – through Britain, Europe, Asia and South America – and introduce (occasionally re-introduce) a wonderful range of characters. We’re sure you’ll find plenty in here to love.

Pre-order links: Amazon US; Amazon UK; Smashwords. Also available as a pre-order via Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.


As many of us know by now, Elin Gregory is a superb storyteller, and we are sure her CALON LAN will not disappoint.

With the war being waged in Europe, it is vital that farming and other essential occupations continue at home – but there is increasing pressure on everyone, and the world feels as out of control as the weather. Bethan and Nye Harrhy manage their farm as best they can with the help of Bethan’s brother Alwyn, injured during his service in the trenches. When Alwyn asks his friend Joe to come live with them, Bethan assumes that another pair of hands will help rather than hinder … or is she being a bit naive?

Pre-order links: Amazon US; Amazon UK; Smashwords. Also available as a pre-order via Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

ESPRESSO SHOTS is an informal imprint which features long stories and novellas. If you want to read more about this imprint, please check out our blog post. The cover image is the same for all titles, so we chose an image that evokes the comforts – and the stimulations – of the reading experience itself.


We are absolutely sure you’ll find something – or many things – for your reading pleasure here!

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!

How I made do and mended

An author guest blog by Adam Fitzroy

The book that eventually became MAKE DO AND MEND started out very differently. It was originally going to be about four brothers, living on a not-entirely-successful family farm in Wales, fighting off a land-grab from a consortium that wanted to build a golf-course – and it was emphatically going to be taking place in the ‘present day’. However some elements of the story were in place even then; there would be conflict between the two elder brothers because Two was a nasty resentful piece of work and would undermine everything One was attempting to do, but Three and Four would turn out to be – perhaps to their own astonishment – good and sensible men who could be relied on in a crisis. There would also be a mysterious stranger to the village, a quiet, dignified older man, who would draw the attention of the hitherto flighty One and with whom he would eventually form a romantic relationship. Two and Three would be firmly heterosexual; Four’s preferences were still unknown.

I hadn’t written any of this before the plan changed dramatically. I’d been thinking about it and discussing it with friends for some considerable time, but there was something about it that just wasn’t gelling in my head. I don’t know, now, precisely what it was that prompted the change of direction, but one day it suddenly occurred to me that setting it during the Second World War would make it a more interesting project and radically change the dynamics of the situation. For one thing, there was huge pressure to produce food and other necessities for the war effort (flax, wood, etc.) so that even a farm that was struggling beforehand would enjoy a period of relative prosperity. For another, it would enable One to have a perspective on life and love that didn’t just revolve around the narrow confines of his familiar Welsh valley.

The valley itself was one of the constants. Being a regular traveller on trains between Newport and Chester, I’d always been intrigued by a village north of Abergavenny. There ought to be a station there, I thought, so that I could get out and explore – but there wasn’t. So I did my initial exploring online and on the OS map, and eventually managed to tour the area by car as well. I found the perfect site for the house, which ended up being called Hendra, but what was there was less prepossessing than I had in mind. Therefore, in a move I’m sure English Heritage would deplore, I picked up Stokesay Castle, made some alterations to its layout, and transported it a little matter of fifty miles down the road. I tacked on a somewhat rickety Home Farm a short distance away, and a couple of quarrymen’s cottages higher up the hill, and that was that – I had my location!

The joy of writing something like this is the research. Wanting a box-bed for Jim’s cottage I found just the thing online, which turned out to be in a rural museum on Orkney. Years later I got to meet it in person … and that was the trip which ended up inspiring IN DEEP. I also managed to fit in a visit to Western Approaches Command and chose one of its mysterious closed doors to be Harry’s decoding office. (I have no idea what was really behind it; it could have been a store-room or a doorway into Hades for all I know!) When I decided to make Jim a conscientious objector – because I’ve never forgotten the Dad’s Army episode in which Godfrey is revealed to be a conscientious objector – I researched the Peace Pledge Union, their white poppies, and the advocacy work they did. I hope that if I was ever in the position of being ordered to fight (unlikely now, given my age!) I would have the courage not simply to do as I was told but to say that I thought it was wrong and find another way of serving instead.

I could go on. The hotel in Liverpool exists, and has been the scene of numerous fannish conventions. The pub where Harry lodges sort-of exists; there is a pub there, but I transported a building in from another location because I liked it better. The road over Sermon Pass is a real road now, but at the time the book is set it was little more than a track. And as for Birkenhead Park … it’s a jewel, and was reputedly the model for Central Park in New York.

There are, of course, loose ends in MAKE DO AND MEND. Jack (Three) will stay at Hendra, married to Kitty, and their children will farm there in their turn. Thomas (Two) is likely to move away after the War, to some place where his predictable lack of success will be less visible to his family and he can be the person of importance he so clearly thinks he is. Harry (One) will emigrate, Jim at his side, to a country where nobody will care who they were before – possibly Canada. Jim will write books and teach; Harry will no doubt go into broadcasting in some capacity. They won’t be rich, but they’ll be happy. As for Freddie (Four), his future is more opaque; there is, somewhere in the back of my mind, a whole new set of adventures for him – one of which I’m hoping will coalesce into a short story for Manifold Press’s World War Two anthology CALL TO ARMS. In fact it would be fair to say that I have no idea, at the moment, precisely what happens to Freddie, but I’m very much looking forward to finding out!

[Oh, and the land-grabby golf-course-builders may well make an appearance at some point, too… ]

Manifold Press well represented in the Rainbow Awards!

rainbow-awards-winner-200pxWe were delighted to wake early this morning to see how well our authors had done in the Rainbow Awards 2016! Of our five eligible titles, a very respectable four earned Honourable Mentions and were Finalists – and three went on to earn themselves places in the final results.

ACROSS YOUR DREAMS by Jay Lewis Taylor: This significant ‘Great War’ novel came first in the Best Gay Historical category, and was equal fourth as the Best Gay Book overall.

ELEVENTH HOUR by Elin Gregory: This delightful tale of derring-do came equal fifth in the Best Gay Historical Romance category, and was equal seventh as the Best Gay Book overall.

IN DEEP by Adam Fitzroy: This intriguing story set in the enclosed world of a remote Scottish island came fourth in the Best Gay Mystery / Thriller category, and was equal nineteenth as the Best Gay Book overall.

UNDER LEADEN SKIES by Sandra Lindsey: This dramatic Second World War tale was also a Finalist – of which we are very proud.

Hearty congratulations to our own authors, and to all the other authors and publishers who took part, making for such an obviously strong field of contenders.

Last but certainly not least, many thanks are due to Elisa Rolle and her team of judges for their indefatigable efforts!

Elin Gregory interviews our A CERTAIN PERSUASION authors!

A CERTAIN PERSUASIONIt’s a real honour to be hosted on the blog of Elin Gregory, a deservedly well-loved and highly respected author of historical fiction and romance. Recently she has been interviewing the authors involved in our Austen-inspired anthology, A CERTAIN PERSUASION.

If you’d like to know what the authors appreciate about Jane Austen’s use of language, what inspired their story in the anthology, and more – please follow these links!

  • Sandra Lindsey, who wrote an Age of Sail story featuring a character from Mansfield Park.
  • Adam Fitzroy, who wrote a story that took Emma in a rather different direction.
  • Julie Bozza, who retold Sense and Sensibility with one crucial difference.
  • Fae Mcloughlin, who wrote two stories with modern-day characters who are influenced by Austen’s works.
  • Sam Evans, who plagued a modern-day Darcy with participation in a ‘reality TV’ celebrity dance show.
  • Eleanor Musgrove, who wrote stories set in the future of Sense and Sensibility (beautiful!) and the past of Pride and Prejudice (intriguing!).
  • Lou Faulkner, who did exquisite work with two minor characters from Persuasion.
  • Narrelle M Harris, who retold Persuasion in modern-day Melbourne.
  • Atlin Merrick, who wrote about two original characters in a Regency-era setting.
  • JL Merrow, who looked into the future of two characters from Mansfield Park.

I hope you enjoy the interviews! And please do share the love with Elin, who has been such a welcoming host.