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!

Proof-reader interview: F.M. Parkinson

A CERTAIN PERSUASIONThis series of mini-interviews features the authors – and others! – who contributed to our Austen anthology A CERTAIN PERSUASION.

Last and certainly not the least of our interviewees is F.M. Parkinson, our diligent proof-reader for the anthology, who has gone above and beyond the call of duty, and thereby helped spare the editor and authors some blushes.

F.M. Parkinson also worked as proof-reader for our acclaimed anthology A PRIDE OF POPPIES, among other Manifold Press titles, and is a historical novelist as well, with THE WALLED GARDEN.


Q: How did you discover Jane Austen and her works? What was the initial appeal? Has she surprised you since then?

Ever since I can remember, we’ve had a five-volume set of Jane Austen’s six main novels, as they were part of my grandfather’s library. They are a Clarendon Press edition, with ‘notes, indexes, and illustrations from contemporary sources’, and printed on thick paper in a decent-sized font. I didn’t start reading them till I was well into my twenties and had seen various adaptations of the novels on television.

I suppose the initial attraction was a clever story with a romantic element, and set in a time that interested me. Since then I’ve come to see that the books are great romances and should be enjoyed as such, but the reality for many of the women portrayed in the stories was not a pleasant one if they didn’t marry or had little or no money, and so they had little option but to try and secure a husband. I now grind my teeth over the attitudes displayed by some of the characters, while realising that’s just how Jane Austen probably wanted me to feel.

Q: Which Austen character do you like best? Which do you identify with most?

The character I really like is Anne Elliot in Persuasion. I’ve always had great sympathy for her and her situation. The first time I read the book I can remember being in a state of anxiety as to whether Captain Wentworth and she would find happiness the second time round, after she had spurned his offer eight years previously because of her father’s views and the advice of Lady Russell. Thinking about the story today, I’m aware that she was incredibly fortunate that Wentworth was still interested in her, but that also her family was going to view in a very different light someone who was now a rich man and not a penniless naval officer.

I don’t identify with any of the characters; I just enjoy (for the most part) what they say and do and I enjoy reading about the Regency period. The clothes, the houses, the furnishings are all fascinating. But of course that was for a tiny proportion of the population. For many, life was terrible, and while I can enjoy Jane Austen’s world, I have no illusions about the dreadful conditions in which most people lived, the lack of sanitation, the illnesses that killed people, and how women were regarded in society. I think about what faced Jane Austen’s heroines once they were married: the very real dangers associated with pregnancy and childbirth, and the fact that infant mortality was so prevalent. My escapism is just that. The reality of that world is not something I hanker after.


THE WALLED GARDENAuthor bio: F.M. Parkinson lives in the West Country of England and has had a career in Cataloguing, dealing with many different types of items including archaeological aerial photographs, books and journals, archival documents and museum artefacts.

Writing for pleasure and sharing stories with friends has been a fascinating pastime for some thirty years. Other interests vary from a lifelong passion for philately, to on-going genealogical research, and attempts to keep one – and latterly two – large gardens looking interesting.

Favourite reads include the detective novels of Margery Allingham and D.L. Sayers, the mediaeval whodunnits of Ellis Peters and the Cold War espionage thrillers of Anthony Price.


A CERTAIN PERSUASION buy links: AllRomance; Amazon US; Amazon UK; Smashwords

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.

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!

Statistics for January

Just briefly – our best-seller on all platforms for the month of January was Julie’s OF DREAMS AND CEREMONIES, with her original BUTTERFLY HUNTER not being far behind; we suspect that’s probably a lot of people taking advantage of the opportunity to buy both books at once and enjoy the whole ride!

Best-seller on our website for the month, however, was F.M. Parkinson’s THE WALLED GARDEN; it’s nice to know that new people are still finding her book – and also, we hope, enjoying it!

New review of THE WALLED GARDEN

THE WALLED GARDENWe were delighted to learn this morning that the wonderful Elisa Rolle has just finished reading F.M. Parkinson’s THE WALLED GARDEN and published a review of it:

I liked this story, more I loved it. Yes, it was long, and not really fast-paced, but I loved every single word, and in a way, I found it to be sweet and romantic, but also passionate; not overtly on your face, but more a passion shimmering beneath the ashes, ready to spark into a burst of flame if stoked, but otherwise warm and constant, slowly feeding the love of these two men.

Thank you so much, Elisa, we’re all thrilled that you thought so highly of it – and congratulations again to F.M. for making such a favourable impression!

Eleventh Day winner

Thank you once again to everyone who entered our penultimate Christmas Giveaway draw; it’s been very reassuring to have so many entries every day, and we hope that those of you who haven’t been successful so far will be willing to try just once more tomorrow.

Today’s winner is Shirley Ann, who has asked for a copy of F.M. Parkinson’s THE WALLED GARDEN. Congratulations, Shirley Ann – we’re making arrangements to get your prize to you as soon as possible; keep an eye on your inbox!

Meanwhile, let’s all meet one last time over on the Twelfth Day of Christmas Giveaway post – see you there!

AUTHOR GUEST BLOG NUMBER SIX: F.M. Parkinson

Some thoughts on the use of language in our work, and the vital role of the proofreader, from the author of THE WALLED GARDEN.

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Does it matter how we spell words or whether we use the correct grammar and punctuation? Is proofreading really necessary? Does any of it make a difference to the reader’s enjoyment of the text? As someone who is a proofreader as well as a writer and, of course, a reader, I feel quite strongly about the subject and consider that it does not always receive the attention it deserves.

At its most basic, proofreading is checking that the spelling, punctuation and layout of a text are correct according to current usage and the publisher’s own ‘house style’. I emphasise current usage, because spelling, grammar and layout have changed over the years. There are many words where we no longer need to put in an apostrophe to show that they have been shortened. Who now would write ’phone (for telephone) or ’bus (for omnibus)? Where British English used to use a ‘z’ in a word, it now often puts an ‘s’, so it has ‘realise’ rather than ‘realize’. Both are correct and it may come down to the publisher’s house style as to which letter is used in certain words. The proofreader will need to know in advance which style is being used.

There is also a difference between British English and American English when it comes to spelling, word usage and punctuation. Again, it is up to the publisher to decide on whether one or the other is used, and that may depend on whether the writer usually writes in American English, or whether the story is set in the USA or Canada and reads more naturally if the text is in American English. When it comes to spelling, American English tends to prefer ‘z’ in spelling rather than ‘s’, so once again we are back to ‘realize’. Word usage is different, so ‘sidewalk’ rather than ‘pavement’. Moreover, words change their meaning from one version of English to another. In American English, ‘homely’ is usually used in the sense of ‘unattractive’. British English does not have this meaning for the word. Again, the proofreader has to be aware of which version of English is being used in a text, and can then check it accordingly. (Australian English is different again!)

Punctuation is equally important. It allows the writer to indicate what they mean in the text, and it enables to reader to follow what is happening, who is speaking and, hopefully, understand what the writer meant. That may make no difference to someone who is not bothered about punctuation but I imagine most people who read a lot have a reasonably good grasp of it. Again, it can vary according to current usage, house style and whether British or other variations of English are followed. It may even be down to the idiosyncratic views of the writer. Someone may choose to write twenty pages of text without a single full stop. Their writing may be brilliant and regarded as innovative. I suspect they are the exception. Most authors will probably be seen as not having bothered with proofreading and they, their editor and publisher may be regarded as putting out works that are poor in quality because no-one can follow what the writer is trying to say. One writer I have come across insisted on putting the full stop outside the quotation marks at the end of direct speech, because they liked the look of it that way. It may have seemed all right to them but not to anyone else.

As a writer, I want to make it clear to a reader what I mean in the text, and who is saying what. As a reader, I want to enjoy the story without constantly trying to work out who is speaking, or whether the author meant this – or that. The reader can glean this from the way punctuation is used, so it is important to get that right. What they do not want is to be ‘thrown out’ of the story through being confused by the text.

Admittedly, there are variations in style. For example, it is not always necessary to use quotation marks to indicate direct speech. It can be done in other ways. That may be up to the way the publisher prefers a text, bearing in mind that the most readers are more familiar with quotation marks rather than any variations.

It is also necessary to be aware of punctuation and how it has been used in a text. A comma in the wrong place (or missing) can make a huge difference to the meaning of a sentence. “Stick it in, Thomas” is completely different from “stick it in Thomas”. In the first version, Thomas is being asked to stick something in. The second version tells the reader that Thomas is about to have something stuck in him. It is the comma that makes all the difference. When checking the text, if the meaning is unclear the proofreader should query it, so that the author or editor has another look at it.

Styles in layout have changed and vary even now. It used to be the norm that direct speech always had to start as a new paragraph. That is no longer adhered to. You will find direct speech suddenly beginning in the middle of a long paragraph of exposition. I find that disconcerting, but it is not necessarily incorrect. I have also come across direct speech of a second character following on from that of the first, all in the same paragraph. That is not a good idea, because the text starts to become jumbled for the reader. It is much clearer if the writer begins a new paragraph when another character starts speaking. In terms of layout of text, that again will depend on the publisher, and the proofreader will need to take their cue from accepted house style.

Is it the job of a proofreader to point out other mistakes the writer has made? No, but it may save red faces all round if the error is mentioned. Then it is up to the editor and/or writer to decide what to do about it. If a story is set in 2013 in Yugoslavia, then the country name is wrong for that date, and the author or editor will have to correct it or accept that readers will undoubtedly point out the error. Or if a character has been called Kenneth throughout the novel and then is suddenly referred to as Michael (and I have come across this in published books), flag it up.

Writers do not always use the correct word and a proofreader should be on the lookout for that. I was a bit startled to read in a book by a very successful writer that the protagonist did not care whether a government official conducted his public duties in a solid building or in a marquis. While this conjured up all sorts of mind-boggling images, what was on the page was not what the author had meant, because the text made it clear that the permanence of a stone building was being compared with the temporary nature of a large tent. At this point, I was ‘thrown out’ of the story and had a good chortle. Whether the wrong word was the author’s, or whether it had been changed along the way by a second or third party, who knows. Certainly no-one picked up the error before the book was published.

Other bugbears of mine are the use of ‘precipitous’ when the writer means ‘precipitate’, and writers putting ‘may’ when they mean ‘might’ (and vice versa). Confusing ‘lay’ and ‘lie’ is another common occurrence. This is complicated by the fact that colloquially the words are often interchanged, but in both British English and American English the correct usage is the same, and putting ‘he lays on the bed’ begs the question ‘What exactly does he lay on the bed? An egg?’

As a writer, of course you should check your own work. That means proofreading the text, not just spell-checking it. No computer can indicate that you have put ‘forth’ when you meant ‘fourth’. A proofreader should then check the text and its layout and that should go back to an author to be corrected. However, do not accept all corrections as gospel and be aware that a proofreader may not have spotted a mistake. I discovered I had a character peeing into some bushes where another character was hiding. Nothing wrong with that except that it was not what I had intended to write. The character should have been peering into the bushes to discover the person hidden there. Maybe peeing was a more interesting alternative…

New review of ‘THE WALLED GARDEN’

A review of F.M. Parkinson’s THE WALLED GARDEN, which has previously appeared at GoodReads, has now also been posted at the Confessions from Romaholics blog. The reviewer speaks very highly of F.M.’s writing, and adds this:

The author has a way of describing this garden and nature in general that is so soothing, relaxing and peaceful. More than once, when reading her descriptions and my imagination doing the rest, it was as if I was admiring one of these wonderful British romantic paintings of the 19th century … what an extraordinary feeling!

Well, we certainly wouldn’t want to argue with that!

… and another two reviews!

This is obviously ‘review season’, as another two reviews of our books have been posted today – both of these at Coffee Time Romance. Both books received ‘four cups’, and were met with very positive responses.

Of R.A. Padmos’s UNSPOKEN, the reviewer, Lototy, said:

I am not sure how it is possible for one story to be so heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time, yet every page of this book reinforces those exact feelings for me,

whilst her assessment of F.M. Parkinson’s THE WALLED GARDEN concluded with the following words:

These men are so deserving of the love they share, it saddens me to see them fight their feelings. I think their friendship is truly the cornerstone of this story, and I am extremely pleased to have experienced this author’s work.

We could not possibly disagree with either of these sentiments, and are absolutely delighted to see these two hitherto rather under-valued books getting the recognition they both richly deserve.