Any regrets?

A guest blog post by Sandra Lindsey

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Elin Gregory on a sunny day in her home town. Among the many things we discussed were sequels, as we’ve both been working on sequels to our books – UNDER LEADEN SKIES, and ELEVENTH HOUR – which were released by Manifold Press on the same day in 2016.

“Do you regret killing off [character]*?” she asked me at one point. My answer was an enthusiastic, “No, not at all!”

I don’t want to give the impression here that I’m an author who scribbles away joyfully killing off characters, but for the story I was telling in UNDER LEADEN SKIES it is necessary, not only from a plot point of view, but also because it felt dishonest to write a book set in wartime without losing at least one major character. I’m lucky not to have lived through such times, but in all my reading, research, and stories of the war I heard growing up, I’ve not come across a single account where loss of friends or family doesn’t feature. To write a story where all my most beloved characters remain alive felt like a betrayal or denial of the grief that war brings into people’s lives.

That said, the death of that character being so firmly written and out in the world in published form has presented me, as the author, with a bit of a dilemma. Ever since he first appeared on the page – and hijacked the story, pushing it onto a different and more interesting path than my original rather pedestrian ideas – I’ve wanted to write his story as well. He’s such a strong character, with an infectious charm and light-hearted view of life that I’d love to write it in a similar way to UNDER LEADEN SKIES, as the character’s own memoir, but with the ending I’ve already written to his life, it’s taken me a while to work out how to do that without delving into the world of ghosts or suchlike. I think I’ve finally found a solution, though, and in time I hope to share the resulting tale with you as well.

All the work I’ve done so far on the sequel has confirmed one thing in my mind: I really regret giving Teddy’s grandfather a title other than “Mr”! Pass the Debrett’s, would you?

*Anyone who has read UNDER LEADEN SKIES will know which character I am referring to.

What people think about UNDER LEADEN SKIES

UNDER LEADEN SKIES by Sandra Lindsey is a solid wartime novel, mixing the best of realism with a turn-the-page approach to story-telling.

How have people responded to it … ?

UNDER LEADEN SKIES received an Honourable Mention in the Rainbow Awards 2016, and was a Finalist in the Gay Historical fiction category. Among other things, the judges said:

It was a pretty good story. It kept me curious as to what would come next.

Stevie at The Good, the Bad and the Unread rated it Grade A, and concluded:

I loved this book, both for the story told within it and for the style in which it is told – addressing the reader throughout, as Teddy passes his story on to an individual whose identity only becomes clear at the very end. There’s a lot of scope for sequels – and possibly a prequel – so I hope this isn’t the only visit we pay to the characters and their world.

Dan at Love Bytes LGBTQ Book Reviews gave it four stars, and said:

This was one of those books I finished reading and then sat there gazing at my Kindle…reflecting on the story I had just read…and the book hangover it left me with. Did I like it? Yes, very much. Did I like it all? No, to be honest…there were parts I didn’t like, but only because they tugged at my heartstrings. […] Is the book complete as it is? Yes. But I enjoyed the story and would like more, darn it!

Freya at Sinfully Gay Romance Book Reviews gave it four stars, and concluded:

Under Leaden Skies is a delightful, engaging tale that took me into a world far from my own. There is death, dealing with life in difficult circumstances, injury, drama, loving from a distance and making the best of the hand one is dealt. This would be a lovely story to lose oneself in during that sunny afternoon, lay in a hammock under a shady tree, with a cup of Earl Grey at your side.

Our readers are loving it, too! On Amazon, Andyj9511 gave it five stars and said:

A cracking good read … This is a fantastic story of “forbidden love” in difficult times. It is well written and gives a good insight in to the struggles of two young men coping not only with their love but of a Country at war.

While Stephen H gave it four stars and said:

Very good! … My wife and I included this book in our bedtime reading-to-each-other hour. We were both excited about a book that had LGBTQ characters. We enjoyed it very much. Our only complaint is that we wanted the story to be longer! 🙂

Indeed! We love it when the readers are left wanting more – though we have to admit it does also make us feel a tad cruel. But this is obviously a marvellous book to read alone or with the partner(s) of your choice … The people that read together stay together!

Manifold Press is currently offering five of our recent novels – including UNDER LEADEN SKIES – at discount prices on Smashwords. Follow these links, and then click the Buy with coupon buttons for the books of your choice. (Whether you then click the Give as a gift button is entirely up to you, but hey it is the silly season soon!)

Happy reading!

The surprises and joys of historical fiction

A guest blog 
from Sandra Lindsey

UNDER LEADEN SKIES is, and always was, the story of Huw and Teddy (aka Max). Or rather it’s Teddy’s version of the story because it was only after several false starts that I tried writing a bit in first person from Teddy’s point of view and suddenly things started to click.

Some things clicked a little too well. Within a few pages, I found Teddy on rather intimate terms with someone who definitely wasn’t Huw. Cheeks was a complete surprise to me – I’d anticipated him becoming a close friend of Teddy’s, but not that close! Of course, once I learned that Sunderland flying boat crews always left a pair of men aboard, it seemed only natural that young men like Teddy and Cheeks might take advantage of such a situation …

Cheeks wasn’t the only character who surprised me: there was also Jem, who I hadn’t expected to return to the story until he did so, and Teddy’s grandfather who turned out to have some very different views to those I’d first imagined.

Aircraft were a little more predictable – although even there I found I had to re-write sections once I gained a better understanding of technical details. I can’t stress enough the value of being able to see preserved aircraft ‘up close and personal’ in museums as well as at airshows when creating a story like this. Sylvia’s reaction to the Spitfire is based on my own first encounter with one of the iconic single-engine fighters on the ground, although mine was at RAF Museum Cosford rather than on my in-laws’ cricket pitch!* Other parts of that scene are based on a tale I heard of wartime goings-on in the village where I live: it wasn’t a Spitfire or a cricket pitch, but there were hastily erected anti-aircraft defences involved.

This is where I find the most joy in historical fiction – as both a writer and as a reader – the weaving of real historical events into a fictional narrative. Truth is always stranger than fiction, but in fiction we can skip the boring parts.

*None of my in-laws have a cricket pitch, as far as I know.

Manifold Press is currently offering five of our recent novels – including UNDER LEADEN SKIES – at discount prices on Smashwords. Follow these links, and then click the Buy with coupon buttons for the books of your choice. (Whether you then click the Give as a gift button is entirely up to you, but hey it is the silly season soon!)

Happy reading!

Have you read UNDER LEADEN SKIES … ?

Fiona Pickles loves a good historical novel, so she was delighted to work as editor with author Sandra Lindsey on this story. When I asked her which aspects of UNDER LEADEN SKIES she liked best, this was her response:

“In fiction, first-person narration is difficult to pull off successfully. People who aren’t writers often think it should be easy, but when you consider that it involves living inside the skin of a character for a sustained period – several months, at least – the scale of the challenge becomes apparent, and succeeding so well that the end result reads like an autobiography is rare indeed.

“When we first encountered UNDER LEADEN SKIES, this was what we noticed – the wholly convincing and consistent voice of Max-alias-Teddy, the lead character, who describes his wartime adventures, both heroic and romantic, as calmly and authoritatively as any real-life veteran. There’s also a genuine love and understanding of the technology; the aircraft Teddy encounters are characters in themselves – and some of them have pretty decisive roles to play in the story, too.

“Being set in wartime this is a realistic mixture of joy and sorrow, love and pain; for Teddy, as for millions of others at the time, life doesn’t turn out quite the way he was hoping – but he learns to hold onto the happiness he has, without ever losing sight of the pleasures of the past.”

If you’d like to accompany Teddy on his journey through the war and beyond, UNDER LEADEN SKIES is currently on sale at Smashwords!

Blurb: Love. Loss. Betrayal. Forgiveness. Honour. Duty. Family.

In 1939, the arrival of war prompted ‘Teddy’ Maximilian Garston to confess his love to his childhood friend, Huw Roberts. Separated by duty – Teddy piloting Sunderland flying boats for RAF Coastal Command, and Huw deep underground in a South Wales coal mine – their relationship is frustrated by secrecy, distance, and the stress of war that tears into every aspect of their lives.

After endless months of dull patrols, a chance encounter over the Bay of Biscay will forever change the course of Teddy’s life. On returning to Britain, how will he face the consequences of choices made when far from home? Can he find a way to provide for everyone he loves, and build a family from the ashes of wartime grief?

Word count: 46,000 words

Smashwords sale: $5.95 $4.95

Recognition: Honourable Mention in the Rainbow Awards 2016, and a Finalist in the Gay Historical fiction category

It’s the season for thinking about gifts – for yourself and for your loved ones! Is there ever any better present than a book … ?

Manifold Press is currently offering five of our recent novels at discount prices on Smashwords. Follow these links, and then click the Buy with coupon buttons for the books of your choice. (Whether you then click the Give as a gift button is entirely up to you.)

Happy reading!

“Have you read … ?”

Manifold Press is known for a few things – which may well come up in discussion over the next few days! The thing I want to focus on right now, though, is our penchant for supporting new authors and publishing stories that do the unexpected. It’s a real privilege to be able to help authors take their first steps into the publishing world, and a real joy to share excellent new voices with our fellow readers.

During these last weeks of the year, and in the lead-up to the festive season, we’d like to focus on five such novels – and offer them to you at a merry old discount!

The links below will take you to the books’ pages on Smashwords, where each of these five novels is currently on sale.

ARDENT by Heloise West

Heloise West isn’t a debut author, but she’s new to the Press – and her novel ARDENT is a superb fit with us, being a beautifully written historical gay romance. The setting is Florence, Italy during the Renaissance period, with the Medici family providing a menacing backdrop. Heloise paints her characters Morello and Benedetto as vividly as they paint their world.

Click here to fall in love with ARDENT on Smashwords!


Dorian Dawes is a force to be reckoned with, as is their main character, Professor Bartleby Prouse. The eponymous HARBINGER ISLAND is full of mysteries and unsolved murders, and it takes a full cast of LGBTQ+ characters to face the horrors there. This sequence of linked stories has to be read to be believed!

Click here if you dare to find HARBINGER ISLAND on Smashwords …

SUBMERGE by Eleanor Musgrove

At first glance, SUBMERGE offers a far more wholesome setting for its LGBTQ+ characters than HARBINGER ISLAND. The eponymous nightclub provides a safe and happy place for Jamie, Miles, Addie, Gina and their delightful friends. But as Eleanor Musgrove starts to cunningly reveal, there is something more going on just below the surface …

Click here to SUBMERGE below on Smashwords!


Michelle Peart takes us further afield, to a planet that is almost but not entirely unlike Earth. Edward Kemp does not want to be there, and certainly does not want to journeying down the Copper River on a ramshackle raft with Burn, the most annoying alien in this world or any other. But as the story matures in TO THE LEFT OF YOUR NORTH STAR, so – very slowly – does Edward.

Click here to travel TO THE LEFT OF YOUR NORTH STAR via Smashwords.

UNDER LEADEN SKIES by Sandra Lindsey

We find ourselves back in a more familiar setting with UNDER LEADEN SKIES, a wonderful historical story set during the Second World War. Sandra Lindsey has happily and thoroughly researched the Sunderland flying boats that feature in this tale – but her real love is for her characters, Teddy and Huw. Not to mention the irrepressible Cheeks!

Click here to fly UNDER LEADEN SKIES on Smashwords.

Like us, you’re probably inclined towards trying something new – and here’s a wonderful chance to do so! Follow those links, and then click the Buy with coupon buttons for the books of your choice.

But do it now … The discounts won’t last for ever!


Two recent reviews by Stevie over at The Good, The Bad and the Unread have just reached us, and they’re both wonderful – as, indeed, are the books!

Of Sandra Lindsey’s UNDER LEADEN SKIES, the reviewer has this to say:

“I loved this book, both for the story told within it and for the style in which it is told – addressing the reader throughout, as Teddy passes his story on to an individual whose identity only becomes clear at the very end. There’s a lot of scope for sequels – and possibly a prequel about Teddy’s grandfather here – so I hope this isn’t the only visit we pay to the characters and their world.”

And Stevie’s response to Elin Gregory’s ELEVENTH HOUR was equally enthusiastic:

“I loved this book. All the characters felt very real, even those who make only brief appearances, and there are plenty of back stories connecting various of them to each other that I would love to read more about. Miles’ butler and his theatrical friend deserve their own book too. Highly recommended.”

I think we can safely call that a vote in favour of two sequels and/or spinoff titles, then!  Thank you for your comments, Stevie – and we totally agree with you; we would love to see more of the adventures of these characters, too!



Rather belatedly, we have just learned about a review of Sandra Lindsey’s UNDER LEADEN SKIES which appeared in September.

Over on Love Bytes, reviewer Dan seems to have thoroughly enjoyed the book:

The tale of these men and their friends, families and crew mates reads as a true historical story, probably because it could easily be true. Told in First Person from Max’s POV, it read in some parts like a personal memoir, and I really liked it because of it.

We couldn’t agree more – it was that immediacy which attracted us to the book in the first place!

Thank you, Dan, we really appreciate your comments!

Manifold Press well represented in the Rainbow Awards!

rainbow-awards-winner-200pxWe were delighted to wake early this morning to see how well our authors had done in the Rainbow Awards 2016! Of our five eligible titles, a very respectable four earned Honourable Mentions and were Finalists – and three went on to earn themselves places in the final results.

ACROSS YOUR DREAMS by Jay Lewis Taylor: This significant ‘Great War’ novel came first in the Best Gay Historical category, and was equal fourth as the Best Gay Book overall.

ELEVENTH HOUR by Elin Gregory: This delightful tale of derring-do came equal fifth in the Best Gay Historical Romance category, and was equal seventh as the Best Gay Book overall.

IN DEEP by Adam Fitzroy: This intriguing story set in the enclosed world of a remote Scottish island came fourth in the Best Gay Mystery / Thriller category, and was equal nineteenth as the Best Gay Book overall.

UNDER LEADEN SKIES by Sandra Lindsey: This dramatic Second World War tale was also a Finalist – of which we are very proud.

Hearty congratulations to our own authors, and to all the other authors and publishers who took part, making for such an obviously strong field of contenders.

Last but certainly not least, many thanks are due to Elisa Rolle and her team of judges for their indefatigable efforts!

More from the Rainbow Awards

Under Leaden Skies by Sandra LindseyNews of another Honourable Mention in the Rainbow Awards 2016 reached us this morning, this time and very deservedly for Sandra Lindsey’s debut novel UNDER LEADEN SKIES.

Two judges gave their views of her work as follows:

1) The characters in this story, although in love with each other, have kept their feelings for fear of losing what they have; a strong friendship which goes above their feelings, plus the fear of being found out. It’s 1939 war-time and one of the boys goes to do his duty while the other stays behind working in the coal mines with his father and brothers. While at war, Teddy matures and becomes sexually involved with other men, while Huw, the man who holds his interest and his heart remain faithful. It was a pretty good story. It kept me curious as to what would come next.

2) There must be a new “Must have” in recent gay novels, to quickly add a sex scene a few pages to the end, maybe to appease certain readers. It’s unnecessary, hit me off a bit and – for me – takes off value of overall really well done works.

This is great news indeed, and we’d like to congratulate Sandra and to thank Elisa and everyone involved in organising and carrying out the complex business of reading and assessing a huge number of books; to stand out in such a crowd is no mean feat!

And while we’re on the subject, we’d like to urge anyone who hasn’t already done so to wander on over and vote in the cover contest; there are some spectacular pieces of artwork included this year, and although we think you’ll find it a difficult decision you *are* allowed to vote for as many as you like with a minimum of three – so have at it, and enjoy yourselves!

The links is:

New release Q+A!

The Press held a Q+A event on Facebook yesterday evening, in honour of new titles ELEVENTH HOUR by Elin Gregory and UNDER LEADEN SKIES by Sandra Lindsey. Unfortunately just as we got going, I realised I had mistakenly set up the event as private rather than public. As punishment, I have had all Cheesecake Privileges revoked until the end of the month. {woeful wail}

Meanwhile, I thought I’d copy across some of the more pertinent questions and answers. These are all from people who generally interact with us in public forums, and they are about (relatively) uncontroversial topics – but if there is anything that people would like removed from (or indeed added to) this post, please let me know!

Manifold Press: Hey everyone, how are we all? Welcome to our new release Q&A! Congratulations to Sandra and Elin on the publication of their new titles, both of which are making quite a splash with the readers!

Elin Gregory: Many thanks, Manifold. 🙂 How’s the test match going?

Manifold Press: Decently, thanks; looking at a possible declaration and setting Pakistan a target for the final day. Consensus seems to be that a draw is inevitable, depending on the weather …

Eleventh Hour by Elin GregoryManifold Press: We’re getting a lot of positive comment about the covers, both of which are absolutely spectacular. Creating covers is always a bit challenging, but this time I think our art team totally ‘knocked it out of the park’!

Tigg Cooper: Oh definitely, they’re gorgeous!

Manifold Press: I think we were extraordinarily lucky in being able to source such brilliant images – but that’s all down to hard work and diligence (and a certain amount of persuasive power) on behalf of our artists!

Elin Gregory: Super covers. And I really wish I could paint water like that.

Anna Butler: The covers are lovely.

Jay Lewis Taylor: Congrats to Shell.

Tigg Cooper: Oh, for anyone who doesn’t know, I’m Sandra Lindsey 🙂 Haven’t yet set up a FB account in my author name…

Under Leaden Skies by Sandra LindseyElin Gregory: I’ve got a question for Tigg / Sandra about Under Leaden Skies. Why Sunderlands? Why not one of the better known aircraft?

Tigg Cooper: Oh, that’s a long tale, with many different versions….

….I saw a Catalina (American flying boat) in RAF Museum Cosford, decided I wanted my airman to be a flying boat pilot, because I’ve always been rather intrigued by them myself, not having been around at the time they were operating…

…but then I found that Catalinas entered service quite late in the war, but there was another kind of flying boat, called a Sunderland, which operated for the whole war, giving me more flexibility with when the story could be set – and once I found there’d been some based at Pembroke Dock, it seemed reasonable that an airman based there could easily visit a ‘friend’ who was a miner in the South Wales valleys.

Of course, that’s not the part of their relationship I ended up writing about though!

Manifold Press: Did the RAF actually use Catalinas? I wrote some fan fiction once featuring a PBY Catalina …

Tigg Cooper: Yes, RAF Coastal Command used Catalinas – with their foldaway wheels, they’re more of an amphibious craft, whereas Sunderlands are “true” flying boats

Elin Gregory: Pembroke Dock, wow. I didn’t know that.

Manifold Press: They had mini-subs at Pembroke Dock, too IIRC.

Tigg Cooper: There’s a Sunderland on the bottom there still, which a group is raising money to try & recover & restore…

Continue reading “New release Q+A!”