Rainbow Awards – finalists announced

We’re delighted to announce that all three of the books which had previously been awarded ‘Honourable Mentions’ in this year’s Rainbow Awards are now definitely among the finalists. These are:

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WYE by Adam Fitzroy
A THREEFOLD CORD by Julie Bozza
DANCE OF STONE by Jay Lewis Taylor

alongside these, we’re also very pleased to note, goes:

HUNTED by Liz Powell

which could still outperform them all. We’re already biting our fingernails and the announcements aren’t due until December 8 – it’s going to be a very tense few weeks here at Manifold Press Megaheadquarters!

Once again, though, and in all seriousness, we would like to congratulate our four authors for their excellent showing in the Awards; it’s no small thing simply to have made the cut, and we’re exceptionally proud of all of you.

ETA: RANDY by Jane Elliot also made the cut – humble apologies for missing it on our first run through the list!

Rainbow Awards 2014

The first information about the 2014 Rainbow Awards has been released over the past week, and although we’re not sure whether or not there’s more to come we thought this would be a good moment to bring you up to date with what’s been announced so far – ‘Honourable Mentions’ for:

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WYE by Adam Fitzroy
A THREEFOLD CORD by Julie Bozza
DANCE OF STONE by Jay Lewis Taylor

To quote Elisa on the subject, “an honorable mention means a judge gave a rate of 36 or above out of 40 to the book; an honorable mention doesn’t mean the book is automatically among the finalists”.

The next phase of announcements can be expected at the beginning of October, and we look forward eagerly to seeing how these and our other books have fared. We will say, though, that we entered six eligible books this year (Chris’s GAME ON, GAME OVER and Liz’s HUNTED, having been published previously, did not meet the criteria) and to have achieved such a high percentage of Honourable Mentions is incredibly reassuring; we’re actually starting to think that we may be doing something right!

It’s the first of June!

Just a reminder to readers that the two books we published on 1 May – Julie Bozza’s popular A THREEFOLD CORD and Jay Lewis Taylor’s highly-regarded debut title DANCE OF STONE – can now be bought from our distribution partners Smashwords and Amazon, and will shortly be available from AllRomance eBooks too. In addition, there’s also a paperback version of A THREEFOLD CORD which is available to order from CreateSpace. You’ll find buy links on the relevant pages of our website.

– – – – –

While we’re on the subject, it will probably come as no surprise to anyone to learn that our overall best-seller for the month of May was Julie Bozza’s A THREEFOLD CORD!

New review of DANCE OF STONE

DANCE OF STONEThe first review of Jay Lewis Taylor’s DANCE OF STONE has just been posted on the Boys in our Books blog. It’s probably fair to say that it wasn’t exactly the reviewer’s cup of tea, but nevertheless they found plenty of complimentary things to say about it:

“Dance of Stone” is first and foremost a dive into the world of medieval craftsmen. The story takes more after a historical novel with gay characters than after an m/m romance in period costumes, which is noteworthy, and should please historical fans. Readers who favour elegance and delicacy in their stories should also enjoy it as long as they don’t mind the romance burning slowly in the back seat.

Thank you for your comments, Ilhem; we agree with you totally about the things you liked, and will respectfully differ about the rest!

Two new titles published today!

We are proud to announce that our two new titles are now on sale – although those of you who hover over your keyboards waiting for our online shop module to update have probably realised that already!

Julie Bozza explores another unconventional relationship in A THREEFOLD CORD; Chris, Ben and Grae are three young actors enmeshed in a web of attractions – the only solution to which seems to be to think the unthinkable. Yet it’s a delicate process of negotiation, not without its difficulties …

Jay Lewis Taylor’s DANCE OF STONE is set in the mediaeval period when religion and superstition were constantly at war – and, for master mason Hugh, being drawn towards his own sex is fraught with the potential for disaster.

These books couldn’t be more different, yet they both explore intriguing facets of our chosen genre and introduce us to fascinating characters and concepts we may not have considered before – all part of our continuing endeavour to bring you the widest possible variety of high-quality gay fiction!

Congratulations to our two authors – publication day is without question the most exciting day of all! – and best wishes for the success of both their titles.

Don’t forget that you can take part in a Twitter chat with @juliebozza @jaylewistaylor @ManifoldPressUK and @AdamFitzroy at 7 p.m. this evening (UK time), and our authors will also be available to answer questions on Goodreads from 9 p.m. (UK time) on Saturday 10 May for 24 hours. We hope to see many of you there!

AUTHOR GUEST BLOG NUMBER NINE: Jay Lewis Taylor

DANCE OF STONE can’t claim the record gestation of Cimorene Ross’s THE EAGLE’S WING, but I do recall that I bought the first book for research purposes in the late 1980s. It had to be a book, for even in university libraries the internet was unheard-of. I researched for six happy months or more, and then Ken Follett published Pillars of the Earth, his (unreadable, at least by me) novel of mediaeval cathedral-building, and stopped me in my tracks.

Finishing the unfinished, so many years later, there have been revelations: how much information is online; how a book planned to be 50,000 words long can explode to twice its length under the pressure of history; how medieval studies have changed since I was an undergraduate (1980-1983, for the record).

Books, of course, are still indispensable. One arrived too late, or I would definitely have borrowed from it: Medieval obscenities, editor Nicola McDonald. Who knew that there were spoof pilgrim badges depicting a prick on legs? And how about the cover?

Jane SW blog illustration

One sentence in the Introduction struck me: “For all of the famed restrictions of Christian doctrine and medieval modes of social conduct, the Middle Ages was, perhaps paradoxically, a period that seems to have accommodated, in ways our liberal society does not or seems not to, what we might broadly call the rude, bawdy or obscene.”

And, if obscenity, why not homosexuality? Could the Middle Ages have accommodated it in a way later European society didn’t? And if so, why do we know so little about that?

But first, a reminder:

  1. The Church had nothing against men loving one another – in the spiritual sense.
  2. When it came to the fleshly sense, even the heterosexual population was perilously and perennially on the verge of committing the deadly sin of Lechery.

There are fifty shades of everything…

So, researching “Homosexuality in the Middle Ages”. Questions: Did it actually happen? Can I research something for which there is so little record? And – homosexuality?

Last question first: the word “homosexuality” is first recorded (not in English) in 1869. One could dive very deep into queer theory, and drown in arguments. Was there a male/male relationship culture at any period in history, or simply the act of men making love and/or having sex with other men? Whether or no: did the change between “then” and “now” happen in the Middle Ages or the Renaissance or the Enlightenment or the Regency or … when? And what exactly is meant by sodomy? (quite a lot: anal sex with a woman; heterosexual intercourse with a pagan; with a Jew; with a Muslim… )

Middle question. Yes, research is easy with the internet. Accurate research is another matter. Objectivity, for example: a clerk’s Latin poem can be interpreted as an expression of platonic love or of forbidden desire (although there seems little room for doubt when a monk writes of sex “between the slippery thighs of boys” being better than sex with a woman). In the context of DANCE OF STONE, what about the Lionheart? We’ve all seen that episode with Richard and Philip in The Lion in Winter, haven’t we?

*sigh* It seems to depend on the researcher’s sexuality; and on whether said researcher likes the person in question. One gay historian includes Richard I as a homosexual because of the word “bedfellow”; another gay historian excludes (in another case) James I, because the word “bedfellow” doesn’t necessarily have that meaning. Take your pick.

Then there is the problem of what was recorded, and whether the record survived. The late twelfth century just preceded the great record-keeping mania of Henry III’s reign and onwards. Adam Lock is recorded as master mason at Wells from the 1190s to 1230. Of his predecessor there is no trace; but in the gap between the unknown and the recorded, imagination has room to play. That predecessor could have been Hugh de Barham.

First question last: Did male/male sex happen? Of course it did: as a behaviour, it’s surely as old as human desire. And there are records, of a sort: the penitentials allocate scales of penance for men confessing – one wonders how many didn’t confess! – to sex with another man. And why have a penance for something that doesn’t happen?

But, remarkably – despite all the penitentials, despite the thunderings concerning “love against nature”, despite the threat of damnation – genuine accusations, trials, convictions for sodomy, are few. Vanishingly few.

Why?

Theory a) The threats and penitence were deterrent enough, and it didn’t happen…

Hmm… seems unlikely.

Theory b) People were not actually that bothered by it to the point of bringing it to trial.

Could be. In England common law still had priority over canon (church) law, as Thomas Becket found when at loggerheads with Henry II. Sodomy was a moral, therefore a church, offence, not a civil crime – unless rape was involved, and even then it was almost impossible to secure a conviction unless the person attacked was under age.

Theory c) It happened, and it was kept secret.

I have played with this theory in DANCE OF STONE, based on the wisps of evidence that can be dug from the sources; the “half-world” that Hugh encounters in The Swan might be the evolutionary ancestor of the molly-houses and male brothels of later centuries.

One last thing made Hugh’s story possible: the time when he lived. Medieval Christianity was not as monolithic and inflexible as popular prejudice has it: there were opinions and counter-opinions and factions and even atheists, in other words a constant to-and-fro of ideas with a certain amount of give-and-take. England, in fact, was considered remarkable for housing people who held all sorts of dissident opinions while not subscribing to any organised heresy.

This all changed when the anti-Cathar, Albigensian Crusade swept bloodily across the south of France, not long after the ending of DANCE OF STONE. Faced with external threats, the Church began to draw in upon itself, to become the Us against the Other; after 1214 sodomy was perceived as a sign of, indeed part and parcel of, heresy. This perception held firm in England until 1562; quite unintentionally, I had set Hugh and his story in the last decade for centuries when he would be safe from the worst excesses of the law, if not from the prejudices of his fellow men and women.

When I began it, DANCE OF STONE was intended to be a straight – in every sense of the word – historical novel. Then Fiona asked if I would write something medieval for Manifold Press, and I planned an M/M romance with a medieval setting. Researching to the depth I needed has, however, changed the book I meant to write, and now it is – I hope – a serious historical novel, featuring two men whose just happen to desire other men, whether in love or lust. I hope you enjoy reading it!

Two new titles announced today!

We’re very pleased to be able to bring you news of our titles to be published on 1 May:

Once again Julie Bozza will be exploring an unconventional relationship in A THREEFOLD CORD; Chris, Ben and Grae are three young actors enmeshed in a web of attractions – the only solution to which seems to be to think the unthinkable. Yet it’s a delicate process of negotiation, not without its difficulties …

We’re also delighted to introduce you to the work of an impressive new author, Jay Lewis Taylor. Jay’s book DANCE OF STONE is set in the mediaeval period when religion and superstition were constantly at war – and, for master mason Hugh, being drawn towards his own sex is fraught with the potential for disaster.

These two books couldn’t be more different, yet they both explore intriguing facets of our chosen genre and introduce us to fascinating characters and concepts we may not have considered before – all part of our continuing endeavour to bring you the widest possible variety of high-quality gay fiction!

The two titles we published on 1 February, Jane Elliot’s THIS MEANS WAR and Adam Fitzroy’s THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WYE, will shortly be available from our partner sites for those of you who prefer to obtain them that way.