Food, glorious food!

An author blog post
by Julie Bozza

As many of you will have already realised, I am a bit of a foodie. I love food. I love eating out, I love cooking, I love eating, I love nurturing others with my food. When I travel, I love exploring the local cuisine. It seems natural to me that a home revolves around the kitchen and dining areas, that people gather together to share lunch or dinner, that birthdays, anniversaries and other events are celebrated with a special meal.

Because it’s such a central part of my life, I have quite naturally included food and all its associated circumstances in my writing. Characters plan to meet again over a meal out – or at least over coffee! One character offering to cook at home for another is a Significant Step in their relationship. The point-of-view character happily indulging in the taste, scent and texture of … let’s say pancakes … helps express their enjoyment of life in all its glories.

It was a surprise to me, early on, to be laughed at over this. Laughed at fondly, in an ‘omg only you would include pancakes in this story’ kind of way. I hadn’t realised it was an idiosyncrasy! I thought it was just life as she is lived! The laughter didn’t stop me, though, and I certainly know by now I am not the only author who explores the meanings and metaphors of food in their writing, even when food isn’t the main subject at all.

Another aspect of my writing is that I like to write about adult characters who are reasonably self-sufficient. This is often signified by the characters being ready, willing and able to cook. Whether they live alone or with others, they can manage a home and a kitchen. They also care enough about themselves to eat properly, balancing health with a happy enjoyment of indulgences.

This all goes right back to Albert, main character of my very first attempt at a professional novel, THE DEFINITIVE ALBERT J. STERNE. He’s been living alone since his mid-teens, and he’s super efficient in managing himself and his home. He’s a vegetarian – not because he’s squeamish, but for all the many logical, moral and ethical reasons there are – and he has developed his recipe repertoire accordingly. Albert is also a well-barricaded loner, so allowing Fletch into his home is a huuuge deal. Soon Albert is not only cooking for him, but also exploring and inventing vegetarian versions of the Creole and Cajun dishes that Fletch enjoys so much. To me, this all speaks volumes about their growing relationship.

My more recent novels continue to include similar tropes. As I have mentioned in other blog posts, the first building block for A THREEFOLD CORD was Ben’s huge warehouse-conversion apartment. This gave the couple and then the threesome a safe haven with plenty of room in which to grow. As well as this, Ben is a serious cook with a serious kitchen, and he quite deliberately sets out to not only nourish Grae with his food choices but to intrigue him as well.

Why, yes, I was brought up with the notion that the way to a loved one’s heart was via their stomach! But seeing as my stomach also benefited from such efforts, I figured it was a win-win situation.

When Ben and Grae are finally invited to Chris’s place for a meal, they realise he is also house-proud (if in a more modest way), and he is also a serious cook. This gives Chris and Ben something to bond over (other than Grae himself!) but also drops a few clues about Chris’s true nature that neither Ben nor Grae pick up on right away.

Apart from my love of food, there’s no hiding the fact that I’m a coffeeholic. I always know what my characters drink by way of coffee (or tea); their preferences in milk, sugar, lemon, and so on; and their choices of mugs or cups. Coffee provides the rhythm of my own day, so I tend to conceive of my characters in the same way. Unlike me, some of them are tea-drinkers instead, but I figure that similar concerns apply.

So far so good, but there’s no denying that this focus on food and drink can go wrong sometimes! There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip, as they say!

As with any trope or subject matter, readers’ tastes will vary from the author’s, often significantly. My focus on food and cookery (and coffee!) will work for some readers but not for others. I guess that must be true for just about any subject you care to name…

I’d love to hear from you in turn! What are your thoughts on defining and exploring characters via food? What other subjects are you interested in reading and writing about? The books the characters read; the locations in which they live; the way they decorate their room(s); the music they listen to; the social media they use? What helps truly define a character for you…?

Manifold Press paperbacks

The Press doesn’t issue paperback editions of all our titles, as the decision to do so is driven by the individual authors. That being said, we’re delighted with the twenty titles that have made it into print thus far! There are new ones on the way, so it seemed to be a good time to take stock of what we have so far.

A veritable rainbow of books from Manifold Press!
A veritable rainbow of books from Manifold Press!

Our current paperback titles are listed here, along with Amazon US buy links:

The Apothecary's Garden paperback coverAlways With Us by Morgan Cheshire

The Apothecary’s Garden by Julie Bozza

Between Now and Then by Adam Fitzroy

Butterfly Hunter (#1) by Julie Bozza

Of Dreams and Ceremonies (Butterfly Hunter #2) by Julie Bozza

The Thousand Smiles of Nicholas Goring (Butterfly Hunter #3) by Julie Bozza

The Butterfly Hunter Trilogy (incorporating all three novels plus the free short story Like Leaves to a Tree) by Julie Bozza

Dear Mister President by Adam Fitzroy

Make Do and Mend paperback coverThe Definitive Albert J. Sterne (incorporating the novel and the stories published separately in the eBook Albert J. Sterne: Future Bright, Past Imperfect) by Julie Bozza

Ghost Station by Adam Fitzroy

Homosapien … a fantasy about pro wrestling by Julie Bozza

Make Do and Mend by Adam Fitzroy

Mitch Rebecki Gets a Life by Julie Bozza

A Pride of Poppies Modern LGBTQIA Fiction of the Great War – anthology including stories by Julie Bozza, Barry Brennessel, Charlie Cochrane, Sam Evans, Lou Faulkner, Adam Fitzroy, Wendy C. Fries, Z. McAspurren, Eleanor Musgrove and Jay Lewis Taylor

A Pride of Poppies - paperback coverRavages by R.A. Padmos

Solemn Contract by Morgan Cheshire

Stage Whispers by Adam Fitzroy

A Threefold Cord by Julie Bozza

The ‘True Love’ Solution by Julie Bozza

The Valley of the Shadow of Death by Julie Bozza

We hope you’ll enjoy these paperback editions and – like us! – are looking forward to more titles coming soon.

Twelve Days of Christmas Giveaway – Day Ten

It’s ‘back to work day’ for most people; our sympathies to anyone who is trudging to the office (shop, school, factory etc.) through less-than-inspiring weather – but the good news is that festive season still has a couple of days to run here at Manifold Press. (We haven’t even taken our decorations down yet!)

Day Nine’s winner was Su, who chose a copy of Julie Bozza’s A THREEFOLD CORD. Thank you for entering, Su, and congratulations – your book will be on its way to you soon!

For everyone else, we expect you’re familiar with the form by now; for twelve days we’ll be giving away one free book per day, with the next draw to be made as close as possible to 09.00 UK time tomorrow, Tuesday 6 January (Twelfth Night, the official end to Christmas for those of us who haven’t b*ggered up our calculations).

To win the Manifold Press book of your choice all you need to do is tell us – in a screened reply below – your first name, the title of the book you’d like, the format you prefer and an e-mail address to send it to. (We need all this information, please.) Also, we’d remind you that this giveaway doesn’t include the two new books announced on 1 January for 1 February publication – existing titles only, we’re afraid!

If you are successful once, don’t let it deter you from entering again; you can actually win twice before being disqualified for the rest of the giveaway, but luckily this rarely happens.

So come on in and join us; it’s a great chance to experiment with the work of a new author, or to complete the backlist of a favourite – and good luck and best wishes to everyone who takes part!

Twelve Days of Christmas Giveaway – Day Two

Good morning, readers! Did you all spot the (non-)deliberate mistake yesterday? We forgot to ask you to include your e-mail address when entering. Could our Day One winner, Sylvia, who asked for Julie Bozza’s A THREEFOLD CORD, please let us know (in a screened reply below) where we can contact her? Thank you for entering, Sylvia, and congratulations on your win!

We’re quite sure you’re all familiar with the form by now; for twelve days we’ll be giving away one free book per day, with the next draw to be made as close as possible to 09.00 UK time tomorrow, Sunday 28 December.

To win the Manifold Press book of your choice all you need to do is tell us – in a screened reply below – your first name, the title of the book you’d like, the format you prefer and an e-mail address to send it to. Please bear in mind that this giveaway doesn’t include the two new books we’ll be announcing on 1 January for 1 February publication – existing titles only, please!

If you are successful once, don’t let it deter you from entering again; you can actually win twice before being disqualified for the rest of the giveaway, but luckily this rarely happens.

So come on in and join us; it’s a great chance to experiment with the work of a new author, or to complete the backlist of a favourite – and good luck and best wishes to everyone who takes part!


XRH large scale

Welcome to the fourth day of our new Extremely Random Harvest giveaway! We are giving away seven books over seven days, with the next one being drawn at random 24 hours from now. To enter, all you need to do is give us (in a screened reply, below) your first name, your e-mail address, and the title of the book you’d like to win – which includes our two new titles being published on 1 November:  THE THOUSAND SMILES OF NICHOLAS GORING by Julie Bozza and UNDERCOVER BLUES by Chris Quinton.

One entry per day only, please – and nobody is allowed to win more than twice. Also, please don’t forget to tell us which format you’d like to receive! We’ll do our level best to draw the winner at the same time every day, to give everyone an equal chance of winning – so come and join in the fun, and don’t forget to tell your friends; this is a great chance to discover a new author or a new book, or to complete the back catalogue of an old favourite. After all, what have you got to lose?

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Our Day Three winner was Ashley, who chose Julie Bozza’s A THREEFOLD CORD. Ashley, we’ll be sending your book very soon, and hope you enjoy reading it!  To those who didn’t win this time – thank you for taking part, and please try again – there are still four books to be won!

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:

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:

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!


Serendipitous Charlotte

Researching a novel can be challenging and frustrating, even when you’re looking further into a subject that already fascinates you. But there are times when you are fossicking through the mullock heap and you discover a Yowah nut, and inside that a precious opal. (This metaphor has been brought to you by The Thousand Smiles of Nicholas Goring, third and final novel in the Butterfly Hunter series, on which I am currently working.)

Writing A Threefold Cord was a surprisingly serendipitous experience in this regard. As some of you will already know, it features three actors as the main characters, who evolve from friends to a twosome-and-friend, to a threesome. The story takes place over about a year. This meant that I had to take into account the various bits of television, film and theatre work they’d each be involved in throughout. They all had rather busy years, I have to admit, and many working actors would be envious of such a schedule, but I wanted to convey a sense of these young-ish men each coming into his own, so to speak, and starting to be recognised for his individual talents.

Some of the mini-stories in which they act, either jointly or separately, I made up myself. That was fun! (To be honest, if I thought I’d be any use at all at writing a medieval murder mystery, I’d have a go a novelised episode of The Justice of Godbolt.) For other mini-stories, I drew on actual plays or novels that would be more or less familiar to readers. I chose each mini-story as carefully as I could, so that its tale and its characters would inform the main story in different ways.

At this point of the main story, I wanted to throw an early challenge at the threesome. Even as they are realising that they’re evolving from a twosome who have a friend-with-benefits into a committed threesome, they are faced with the fact that one of the original twosome has to be away from home for about six weeks, because he is starring in a play in another city. How is his absence going to effect this tentative, precariously balanced relationship?

Well, that’s the big question that I won’t answer here. The question I had to answer at the time, though, was what the play would be.

The actor involved is Grae, who is the point-of-view character. While he doesn’t think of himself as anything much more than a hard worker, he is considered by others to be a particularly gifted actor. So I wanted to find something that would be particularly challenging; something he’d love to get his teeth into; something that other people would consider as risky without an actor of his calibre. He’s gay, though he’s a discreet and private person. So I thought that some kind of queer subject matter would be irresistible to him. I also wanted it to be a one-man play, to emphasise the fact that at this key juncture he is not only separated from his lovers, but isolated in a distant city.

‘Right!’ I thought. ‘Where do I start?’ I couldn’t even think, off the top of my head, of any one-man plays, let alone any that fit the other criteria. So naturally my first step was to boot up Wikipedia. I did a search for one-man plays, and within the first few results I discovered I am My Own Wife, a play by Doug Wright that I hadn’t even heard of before. A quick skim of the material, and I realised I’d found that opal.

The play tells the story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a transgender person who was born Lothar Berfelde in East Berlin in 1928. Having long been abused and threatened by her father, teenage Charlotte’s eventual response was to kill him. She was detained for a short while as a juvenile delinquent. Once free, Charlotte began work as a second-hand goods dealer and became an antiquarian, developing her own museum collection of everyday items. She survived both the Nazi and the Communist regimes, despite living openly as a transgender person who loved men, known for always wearing a black dress and pearls. Charlotte died in 2002 at the age of 74.

She is not an unproblematic person to like, having expressed opinions about gays and lesbians that are rather offensive. It also seems she was a Stasi informant, or at least they tried to use her as such – but then that was their modus operandi, and apparently at least one in three ‘ordinary’ people were compromised in similar ways. The very fact that Charlotte stubbornly survived 74 years as her own self is remarkable, and perhaps it’s inevitable that in our eyes she can seem rather cross-grained.

Doug Wright wrote the play based on his own research and on his interviews with Charlotte; the play often dramatises his research and writing process. The title comes from Charlotte’s answer to her family when Lothar was asked when he’d marry: there was no need for Lothar to marry, because ‘I am my own wife.’ The play premiered in 2003, and won the Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Lead Actor in a Play in 2004, as well as earning Wright the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

While it is a one-man play, the actor is required to present not only the character of Charlotte, but also over thirty other characters, including Doug Wright himself. All with only one costume change…

Honestly, I couldn’t have made any of that up! Not Charlotte herself, bless her, nor the play. A one-man play with over thirty characters…? Inconceivable!

So of course this was exactly the play I was looking for. What an irresistible challenge for Grae to take up, and what a recommendation of his talents! He got to explore aspects of someone who firmly embodied a queer identity – and not only that, Charlotte’s rather self-contained persona emphasised his own isolation.

Meanwhile, his two lovers Ben and Chris remain in London playing Edward and Gaveston in Marlowe’s Edward II. Not only were they together, but they were playing an ardent pair of lovers, and there was barely even a mention of Edward’s Isabella.

And this all led to other serendipities within the novel as well, such as the Charlotte-related present Ben and Chris give Grae to remember them by when he leaves London, and then me having fun imagining a Charlotte-inspired photo shoot for Grae, and then having Ben choosing one of those photos as expressing something true about how he feels for Grae, and…

It was serendipity of the most marvellous kind! Thank you, Charlotte, and thank you, Doug. My novel would be dimensionally poorer without you.

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.

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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!