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!

Back from the abyss!

You may have noticed that we vanished from Facebook some time over the weekend. This was apparently because we’d originally set up our account as a personal one, not a business-type ‘page’, so FB deleted us without warning. (We’ll leave you to imagine the muttering and gnashing of teeth resulting from this decision.) Rather than mess about trying to appeal it/retrieve our information, we decided to bite the bullet and create a page from scratch. You can now find us at the new Manifold Press Facebook page.

To celebrate our return here’s a special offer; ‘like’ us on Facebook before 12 noon on Friday 16 September (UK time) to win one of four Manifold Press paperbacks: BUTTERFLY HUNTER or THE ‘TRUE LOVE’ SOLUTION by Julie Bozza, or GHOST STATION or THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WYE (not due to be published until 1 October) by Adam Fitzroy. If you have a preference, please let us know in the replies to this post – otherwise you’ll receive a random book. We’ll pick out the four lucky winners as soon as we can after the closing deadline, but ‘like’ our page now to be included in the draw. As the saying goes, “You have to be in it to win it!”

[NB: people who have already ‘liked’ us are of course included automatically!]

A 5-star review day for the Press!

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WYEThe Press is enjoying not only a fine day of Spring weather – and on a Saturday too! – but also a couple of crackingly good reviews.

The well respected historical novelist Elin Gregory has recently read Adam Fitzroy‘s THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WYE, and has made it her Saturday Recommendation.

If you like the more cosy sort of mystery and heroes more at home with kitchen tools or a trowel than a Glock and nicely drawn portraits of kids and dogs that aren’t the least bit cutesy-poo, then I think you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did.

We are as delighted by Adam’s ‘everyday’ heroes, Rupert and Jake, and the Wye Valley setting as Elin is – and we hope that you’ll enjoy their story too.

Our forthcoming Great War anthology A PRIDE OF POPPIES has received a heartening pre-release review from Kazza K at ON TOP DOWN UNDER BOOK REVIEWS. This anthology has been a real labour of love from all involved, and Kazza has certainly responded in kind.

A Pride of Poppies is a quality anthology. There isn’t one story I didn’t enjoy. The editing is superb and the writing exceedingly good to sublime. I had only previously read Barry Brennessel and Charlie Cochrane and I could not believe the depth and breadth of storytelling in each individual story.

We can only hope that all who give this volume a try will find something in it to move them just as Kazza was moved.

A PRIDE OF POPPIES will be released on 1 May, and is already available for pre-order on Amazon US and Amazon UK. All proceeds will be donated to The Royal British Legion.

It only remains for us to hope, Dear Reader, that you are having a Saturday as splendiferous as ours!

Valentine’s Day Giveaway – Day Seven

ValentinesDayBanner

Hello once more, dear Readers!

With the help of random.org, we have drawn a name out of the virtual hat: today Chris asked for a copy of THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WYE by Adam Fitzroy, and that will be crossing your way very soon, Chris!

Chris has now won twice so is ineligible to enter again. However, Dianna, Jess, Helena, Louise and all our other lovely readers are now very welcome to enter the seventh and last day of the giveaway.

Also, don’t forget to check out the new event we have planned for May: Queer Company!

Meanwhile, for seven days from Valentine’s Day, we’re giving away one free book per day, with the draws to be made as close as possible to 12.00 midday UK time starting on Sunday 15 February.

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,
  • your email address,
  • the title of the book you’d like, and
  • the format you prefer (epub, mobi or pdf).

All our current titles are available, but only in electronic formats.

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

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!

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!

Statistics for April

Just to bring everyone fully up to date, we’re pleased to report that our best-seller for the month of April was Adam Fitzroy’s THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WYE. Well done, Adam!

And now we turn our attention to preparations for our two new books for 1 August – one from an old favourite, the other from a writer new to us – and to other exciting future developments which we’re longing to tell you about as soon as they’ve been finalised. Watch this space for details, book-lovers!

Statistics for March

The best-seller on our website for the month was Adam Fitzroy’s THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WYE, no doubt partly as a result of two very fine reviews recently, but the best-selling title overall for March was once again the perennial favourite – Julie Bozza’s BUTTERFLY HUNTER!

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.