Spirituality and Place

A guest blog post 
by Julie Bozza

When I wrote OF DREAMS AND CEREMONIES, the sequel to BUTTERFLY HUNTER, I wanted to explore a couple of questions of spirituality. I don’t think I found any firm answers, mind you, but then maybe there aren’t any. Or maybe there are as many answers as there are individuals. We all have our own belief systems, after all – even those of us who are atheists. So maybe an exploration of the questions, and an honest ‘thinking / feeling things out for ourselves’, is all we can do.

Locations

Those of you who’ve read BUTTERFLY HUNTER will remember that Dave Taylor is surprised to find that he has some kind of connection with a particular location in the Australian Outback. This is the isolated waterhole where Nicholas finds his blue butterflies, which is known to Dave’s Indigenous friend Charlie as a Dreaming site. Because Dave can find this secretive place when others can’t, Charlie suspects that Dave has a spiritual connection with the waterhole, despite Dave being a white fella.

Indigenous cave paintings of waterholes on Uluru, photographed by Kim Dingwell, and sourced on Wikimedia Commons

Being a white fella myself, many might sincerely believe I have no business writing about such things, and I apologise for any offence given. To quote from my acknowledgements in the novels, I wrote these stories ‘with nothing in my heart but a love of and a wish for interdependence between all our peoples – and for that perhaps any infelicities will be forgiven’.

I remained all too aware that I was approaching this with a white fella’s understanding, and I made sure that Dave himself expressed the same awareness. I’ve read a fair bit about the Australian Indigenous people’s Dreaming, and it feels pretty much impossible for a white fella to get her head around. It involves such a different way of thinking about time, let alone anything else.

So Dave and I were interpreting and applying ideas from our own perspectives. On the practical side of things, Dave was both conceived and born near the waterhole, despite his parents living in Brisbane. On the mystical side of things, the Barcoo grunter ancestor sleeping in the waterhole must have felt some kind of affinity with Dave’s soul, and created the connection between them. And thus it was all very much tied to place, to a specific location in a particular country.

Before all this unfolded, Dave never thought of himself as a spiritual person, and it’s probably still something that doesn’t quite sit neatly within him. He probably thinks of it all as something strange (though not unwelcome) that happened to him, rather than something that happened because of him.

So, I pondered – finally coming to The Question I wanted to explore in the sequel – how would Dave react to spiritual things connected to other locations, other countries?

The Duloe Stone Circle in Cornwall, photographed by Philip Halling, and sourced on Wikimedia Commons

In OF DREAMS AND CEREMONIES, Dave has followed Nicholas to England; Nicholas promptly proposes marriage and Dave just as promptly accepts. They spend their honeymoon in Cornwall, near a circle of standing stones. While (the English) Nicholas is drawn to the stones, and finds them eerie and unsettling, (the Aussie) Dave reacts to them with no more than mild interest. To him they’re a human construction that happens to long predate the nearby cottage they’re staying in, and that’s all there is to say about that.

So my answer to that question was that Dave is a spiritual creature within a particular context – within a country that he considers home – but that doesn’t necessarily make him sensitive to spiritual things associated with other locations steeped in other traditions and understandings. Whether that’s a misguided notion or not, I leave you to decide!

Ceremonies

The Other Question I wanted to explore a little was what kind of ceremony it would take for these two men to feel married. At the time in England, the only legal option available to them was civil partnership, involving a ceremony performed in a civil or non-religious location. Nicholas declares that he thinks of this as marriage regardless of the legalities – but, while I don’t think he’s any more religious than Dave, I suspect Nicholas would have chosen a church service if he could.

The spoken vows required at that time certainly lacked poetry:

I declare that I know of no legal reason why we may not register as each other’s civil partner. I understand that in signing this document we will be forming a civil partnership with each other.

I had Dave and Nicholas each speak their own vows as well, which were based on the stories of their lives, to supplement those dreadfully prosaic words.

A threefold Celtic symbol, created by Tinette, and sourced on Wikimedia Commons

Returning to The Original Question for a moment … I was less explicit in the novel about another spiritual aspect of their stay in Cornwall. They befriend Margaret Widgery, a local woman who acts as caretaker for the cottage, along with her mother Joan and her daughter Maeve. The three women can be seen as representing the Maiden, Mother and Crone. While there’s some contention about the historical basis for the neo-pagan Triple Goddess, it is a potent idea.

Even though Nicholas never indicates whether he sees the three Widgery women in this way, he jumps at the chance of a handfasting ceremony led by Joan, to supplement his and Dave’s civil partnership ceremony. The novel also mentions other ways in which Dave and Nicholas affirm their vows to each other, in other times and other places. Indeed, between us we make it as thorough as we know how, bringing in both the practicalities and the different strands of spirituality to which they are connected.

They can hardly claim they weren’t thoroughly married to each other by the end!

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!

New reviews of OF DREAMS AND CEREMONIES and THE THOUSAND SMILES OF NICHOLAS GORING

Tori (Vicki) of Love Bytes LGBTQ Book Reviews has continued reading my BUTTERFLY HUNTER trilogy, and has now published reviews of the second and third volumes, OF DREAMS AND CEREMONIES and THE THOUSAND SMILES OF NICHOLAS GORING.

In response to the second volume:

I loved seeing the relationship further develop between Nicholas and Dave, and how they interact with their respective family members. The sex scenes between them are wonderful, gentle yet hot. The little bit of mystery was a nice addition …

And the third volume:

What a great wrap up to the series! … What really made this whole series work is Nicholas and Dave, and their close bond.

Now is a great time to give this trilogy a try, as all our backlist titles are 25% off at Smashwords, for the whole month of July.

We wish you happy reading!

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!

Our three new titles are released today!

It’s release day at last! We’re sure just about everyone will find something to love in our new titles – they are each so different, and cover such a range of style and content.


First up is Alexa Milne’s first novel with the Press. We were intrigued as soon as we heard that the romance features two older characters – the sort of main characters we feel are under-represented in our genre. WHILE YOU SEE A CHANCE sees Sion returning to his childhood home in South Wales – and finding that his best friend Phil has recently returned home as well. They are both approaching their sixtieth birthdays, but is it ever too late for a chance at love?

Adding further depth to the tale, Alexa also explores two other romantic relationships in different generations of Sion’s family. Love is love is love, but our society has changed over time, and that has huge implications for the individuals who don’t quite fit into the ‘norm’.

Buy links: Amazon US; Amazon UK; Smashwords; Barnes & Noble; Kobo.


Chris Quinton’s stories often touch on the fantastical, and COINS NOT ACCEPTED is no exception. Here we’re introduced to a world which exists in parallel with our own, and to the political machinations which spill through the tightly-controlled portal between them. Against this background of danger and intrigue Miles is reunited with old friend Allan, and together they’re pitted against powerful forces that threaten the safety of both worlds. Getting out of this situation alive will already be a challenge; getting out of it alive and together seems almost impossible…

Buy links: Amazon US; Amazon UK; Smashwords; Barnes & Noble; Kobo.


In A NIGHT WITH THE KNIGHT OF THE BURNING PESTLE, Julie Bozza does something different again. As if Francis Beaumont’s original play wasn’t chaotic enough, with two-plays-within-a-play, Julie wraps another layer around the whole, following the actors backstage in a modern-day production. Dale (who plays Rafe) and Topher (who plays Jasper) have worked together before – and Topher wants to celebrate the last night of this run in the same way they celebrated last time. This doesn’t fit into Dale’s plans at all, but perhaps Beaumont’s play “full of mirth and delight” has something to teach him.

Buy links: Amazon US; Amazon UK; Smashwords; Barnes & NobleKobo.


We hope you’ll enjoy these tales as much as we do!

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Three (very different) new titles for 1 May!

If there’s one thing that our next three titles have in common, it’s that they’re each so different!

This new novel from Alexa Milne is her first with the Press. We were intrigued as soon as we heard that the romance features two older characters – the sort of main characters we feel are under-represented in our genre. WHILE YOU SEE A CHANCE sees Sion returning to his childhood home in South Wales – and finding that his best friend Phil has recently returned home as well. They are both approaching their sixtieth birthdays, but is it ever too late for a chance at love?

Adding further depth to the tale, Alexa also explores two other romantic relationships in different generations of Sion’s family. Love is love is love, but our society has changed over time, and that has huge implications for the individuals who don’t quite fit into the ‘norm’.

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


Chris Quinton’s stories often touch on the fantastical, and COINS NOT ACCEPTED is no exception. Here we’re introduced to a world which exists in parallel with our own, and to the political machinations which spill through the tightly-controlled portal between them. Against this background of danger and intrigue Miles is reunited with old friend Allan, and together they’re pitted against powerful forces that threaten the safety of both worlds. Getting out of this situation alive will already be a challenge; getting out of it alive and together seems almost impossible…

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


In A NIGHT WITH THE KNIGHT OF THE BURNING PESTLE, Julie Bozza does something different again. As if Francis Beaumont’s original play wasn’t chaotic enough, with two-plays-within-a-play, Julie wraps another layer around the whole, following the actors backstage in a modern-day production. Dale (who plays Rafe) and Topher (who plays Jasper) have worked together before – and Topher wants to celebrate the last night of this run in the same way they celebrated last time. This doesn’t fit into Dale’s plans at all, but perhaps Beaumont’s play “full of mirth and delight” has something to teach him.

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

Save

The purpose of a butterfly

An author guest blog
by Julie Bozza

I had quite a conservative and sheltered upbringing (and am eternally grateful to my friend Cathe, and to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, for helping me begin the process of opening out!) but I always took the idea of marriage equality seriously.

I also took the idea very personally, despite being an (apparently) cisgender woman happily married from the age of 20 to a (definitely) cisgender man. (I am actually way more complicated than that, as I suspect many of us are, but people tend to relate to me as such.) Despite having what everyone assumed was a ‘traditional’, legally permissible marriage, I felt the issue of marriage equality had a great deal to do with me and my own choices.

When marriage equality was first becoming a matter of wider public debate, Australia’s prime minister was John Howard, a conservative both personally and in politics. Whenever asked, he always defined marriage as being ‘between one man and one woman – for the purposes of having children’.

I could just roll my eyes at the first part of the definition, as of course that was the actual problem we were all arguing about. But the latter part of his definition really stuck in my craw. ‘For the purposes of having children.’

Mr B and I don’t have kids, and that was a deliberate mutual decision made during the first few years we were together, that we’ve never regretted. But that doesn’t mean our relationship isn’t a ‘proper’ marriage. It doesn’t mean we’re not a ‘proper’ family, despite it being only the two of us. And fie on John Howard for suggesting otherwise. (I am still rankling, all these years later!)

Not everyone wants to get married, of course, but I strongly feel that those who want to should be able to. That includes anyone of any sex, gender identity or sexuality – whether they can or can’t have (their own biological) children, and whether they intend to have children or not.

Marriage is a partnership between individuals, and each relationship will be different, and will grow and change over time. As long as everyone involved is happy and willing, the state can and should offer support, but otherwise mind its own business. In my opinion!

Why am I getting on my soapbox about this particular issue in relation to my novel BUTTERFLY HUNTER…? Because the crux of the matter was really brought home to me while researching for the story.

As can be inferred from the title, the main characters Dave and Nicholas are on a quest in the Australian Outback for a particular species of blue butterfly. As part of my research, I often browsed The Complete Field Guide to Butterflies of Australia by Michael F Braby.

Butterflies go through quite a complex life cycle, which involves four very different forms: egg, larva, pupa and adult. It’s the adult form we tend to think of when we think of butterflies – the beautiful, delicate winged creatures, who might live only for months or even days. For different (human) cultures, adult butterflies have symbolised transformation, change, joy, colour, the soul, and death.

I realise we humans are imposing symbolic meaning, and our love of beauty, on creatures who do not share our ways of thinking. However, it really brought me to a crashing halt when I read the following sentence in Braby’s Field Guide:

The adult, also known as the imago, is responsible chiefly for reproduction and dispersal.

And I’m not saying he’s wrong per se. He’s obviously right at some level. I’m just saying that this reductionist approach to life horrifies me. There is so much more to our human lives than making babies and placing them somewhere useful. Maybe a butterfly isn’t conscious enough in itself to think about more than mating, and then laying eggs in good locations. However, the facts that we can appreciate a butterfly’s beauty, and attach culturally-relevant symbolic meanings to them, proves that there’s a whole lot more to being human.

And so I say again, fie on John Howard and his reductive definitions of marriage, and fie on his successors as well. All these years later, Australia still hasn’t signed off on marriage equality. Let marriage be about choice and love, about transformation and life, about souls and joy. Let it be about a dinky-di fair go for all.

Come on, Aussie, come on! It’s more than time. We are way overdue. Get it done!

Reviews and blog posts re THE ‘TRUE LOVE’ SOLUTION

With thanks to Rachel at Signal Boost Promotions, I (Julie!) have recently been on a review and blog tour for my novel THE ‘TRUE LOVE’ SOLUTION. You might like to check out the reviews and my guest blog posts, and share the love with the awesome bloggers who hosted me.

21 November: We started off with a truly lovely review from Becky at Bike Book Reviews: Jules captured my heart on page 1 of this book, what with his swinging hips and artfully styled ginger hair, how could one not fall in love? … it is a great read.

21 November: Lisa, the reviewer at MM Good Book Reviews, wasn’t so keen on the story – though she liked Jules’ family and also the humour! The site also ran a guest blog post from me called The ‘Dark Figure’ of Crime, which probably isn’t quite as dramatic as it sounds, but talks a bit about the fraud case that originally inspired this novel and how fraud often goes unreported.

23 November: Lisa at The Novel Approach kindly ran a guest blog post called The Austen Influence. You may know that I was editing the Manifold Press anthology A CERTAIN PERSUASION while writing THE ‘TRUE LOVE’ SOLUTION. Being a total fangirl about Jane Austen, I am probably always influenced by her, but in this novel I explored a very specific theme that is common to all of Austen’s novels in one way or another. Do drop by The Novel Approach to read more!

25 November: Another lovely review from Fiona at Books Laid Bare BoysI enjoyed this so much – it was well written and properly researched so no distractions from the story line. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to read an amusing feel good old fashioned romance (with a bit of gay sex thrown in for very good measure!)

28 November: Danielle at Love Bytes Same Sex Book Reviews kindly hosted a guest blog titled The Author and the Character(s), in which I talk about which of the three main characters I most identify with. One of the characters is a romance author – but nothing is ever straightforward! Visit Love Bytes to read more.

30 November: The good people at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words posted a review by Stella: I discovered Julie Bozza in the Butterfly Hunter series and fell in love with her style. That’s the reason I soon jumped into the chance at reading The ‘True Love’ Solution. What I particularly like of this author is her way with words, she can always bring me into real and at the same time dreamy worlds. This is exactly what I felt with this last story.

5 December: The lovely peeps at Bayou Book Junkie hosted me, and Jaymie wrote a review. Alas, Jaymie wasn’t too keen on the storyline which gave Jules two love interests to choose between, but I was very pleased to see the following comment: The writing was very good and the author is definitely talented.

5 December: I also appreciate Engaging Secrets hosting me, and running a review by Gretchen. She seems to have found it a rather unexpected book – weird and quirky! – but concludes: Overall there were things I didn’t like but mostly I enjoyed this book very much. It’s different and well written with complex characters.

7 December: RJ Scott kindly hosted a guest blog titled Book Titles, in which I talk about the fun to be had in not only coming up with one title for the book itself, but also titles for the books written by the character Ewan Byge, a romance author.

9 December: The reviewer Brave One courageously reviewed the novel for Romantic Fanatic Book Club, and particularly enjoyed the ‘sweet love story’, the humour, and Jules’ family dynamics.

9 December: I was pleased to see that Jules (not related!) at The Novel Approach reviewed the book – and again while the ‘love triangle’ aspect of the tale did not suit, Jules still found a lot of things to like about it. Archie, Leonard, and the strength of the opening chapters and the final chapter saved this one for me.

12 December: Winding up the tour, I was delighted that Diverse Reader hosted my blog post titled The Joyful Exuberance of Jules, which explores some of the camp aspects of my main character.

Thank you again to Signal Boost Promotions and to all the wonderful bloggers and reviewers!

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.