Friday, 27 March 2015

Manifold Press website off-line

The Press is in the throes of transferring from one webhost to another, and so our website will be off-line over the weekend, and our email addresses will be out of commission. Regular service will be resumed as soon as possible!

In the meantime, if you need to contact the Press urgently, you can email Fiona on (a back-up address only, which won't be monitored other than in these rare situations!) or Julie on

Thank you in anticipation of your patience!

ETA: And ... we're back up and running now, and slightly revamped! Come visit at

Sunday, 15 March 2015


A sharp intake of breath.

That's one definition of inspiration: breathing in. And the opposite of "inspire" could be, accordingly, "expire", which can be rather alarming when you see it on your work ID card: Expires Aug 2009 (not that I'm that sort of ghost writer, thank you very much).

But what, then, is, inspiration, if not an intake of breath? I once discussed that with the sexiest poet in Oxford, rather longer ago than I like to think. And we decided that, for a poem, it is that thing that happens when two charged points come close enough together: the spark jumps.

Inspiration as power: I like that idea, because that is what you need, as a novelist. The spark of inspiration, and the power to keep it alight. I can remember the exact moment that inspired THE PEACOCK'S EYE ... here it is:

for blog

Yup, inspiration strikes from heaven: or to be precise, the heavens of Shakespeare's Globe on Bankside. I was on a guided tour there, and as we crowded into the stage gallery the actor Philip Bird, guiding us, was talking about players and boy players, and ting! the spark jumped.

I really didn't want this inspiration. It was February 16th, 2014. I hadn't finished the first draft of DANCE OF STONE. I didn't even know whether Manifold's editors would like it when they got it. And I knew what stories I wanted to write next, and Shakespearean players Did Not Feature. Absolutely Not. No. Go Away.

Which, of course, is why inspiration refused to quit. It's like a virus, sometimes.

So what kept inspiration alight, once Manifold's editors chose the Shakespearean doublet-ripper over the other possibilities I presented? Maybe it was Philip. Not Philip Bird above-mentioned, but Philip Sayer, an actor whom I discovered only a few years before he died in 1989. I created Philip Standage for him, and once I'd done that I couldn't let him down.

Maybe it was Nick. The first three chapters were taking shape nicely when in came Nick, with a first person voice like the pushy so-and-so he is: I should have known he wouldn't come back. But there he was, and what could I do? I let the inspiration - or Nick - take my hand, and followed where he led (sorry, Nick; I had to smooth you down into third person, in the interests of consistency - but having you barge in like that must count as inspiration, damn you).

But now I needed more than inspiration. The situation was there, and the characters, and the physical setting. The time of the setting would give me a plot of some sort, I hoped - and inspiration duly obliged, with a little help from the internet. After Queen Elizabeth came King James; and one of the few things I knew about James was, shall we say, the Duke of Buckingham; but he was rather too late for my purposes, so I started researching. James fell for beautiful men with almost monotonous regularity, and for a while inspiration handed me Robin Carr as a character; until I checked his date of birth and discovered that he was ten when the story begins (his replacement is a composite of some of James's other favourites). Somewhere in among the research, while checking a fact on Robert Cecil (who had been part of the story for ages, because I already knew about him) I found Sir Henry Howard, and inspiration went off ting! again.

What's more, there's a picture of Cecil and Howard together: here they are in the group portrait of the Somerset House Conference, a few months after the story ends. (If I had to choose between them when buying a second-hand horse, I'd go for Cecil; but I'd make damn sure to count the horse's hooves afterwards.)

Howard and Cecil

This is when inspiration began to feel rather more like plate-spinning. There is, always, the fear that you may be writing on and on to no purpose; that six chapters later nobody is in the right place or time for the purposes of the story; that you haven't the foggiest what you're doing, and any minute now the whole lot will come crashing uselessly to the floor.

At this point you actually need to feed yourself inspiration; keep reading, for example. Keep giving those plates another spin. The books I've read as research would form a small library in themselves, and although Shakespeare makes only the smallest of appearances in this book, books about him have been incredibly useful. Charles Nicholls' The Lodger gave me head-tires, and Huguenot communities in London. Without James Shapiro's 1599 I should never have known about William Jaggard's The Passionate Pilgrim; without Katherine Duncan-Jones's masterly Shakespeare: an Ungentle Life I should never have known about the references to Marlowe in As You Like It; without the internet I should never have known very many things indeed. Grab inspiration from whatever source you can find; it puts a spin on your plates.

"Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration", or so they say Thomas Edison said. Genius isn't my aim, which is maybe why I need a larger percentage of inspiration than most. And still: what is it?

Is it the spark?

Is it the power?

Is it a virus?

Is it what keeps the plates spinning, so that you end up with an appetising cake on Wedgwood china rather than a heap of half-baked ingredients and broken crockery on the floor?

Is it one-hundredth of what it takes to make genius?

I'm going to go back to my first definition. It's breath. You might say it's life. Inspiration breathed life into Philip, and Nick, into their friends and enemies and all Elizabethan London and Jacobean Scotland. And I made it happen. Which leaves me in danger; as Pygmalion's statue did, my characters have come to life. I may not have fallen in love with them, as Pygmalion did with his, but I know this much: it's damn hard to let them go.

- - - - -

THE PEACOCK'S EYE, by Jay Lewis Taylor, will be published on 1 May 2015; watch this space for more details closer to the time!

Monday, 9 March 2015

Queer Company programme and registrations

Our one-day event in Oxford is starting to shape up very nicely indeed!

The programme will include two guest speakers and two panel discussions.
  • We're delighted to announce that our keynote speaker is the charming Charlie Cochrane.
  • The other speaker has yet to be finalised - but we can promise you something a little bit different!
  • We haven't quite narrowed down the topics, but our panels will discuss two of the following three potential subjects:
    • Clich├ęs and how to avoid them
    • Sex scenes, more or less
    • Female authors and male pseudonyms
  • To help keep us all on topic, the marvellous Liam Livings is our MC for the day - and no doubt he will be sporting a particularly colourful jacket.
We'll keep you informed about our plans as they firm up.

Please come and join us if you can! Our current registrations include: Julie Bozza, Morgan Cheshire, Charlie Cochrane, Elin Gregory, Sandra Lindsey, Liam Livings, Clare London, Heloise Mezen, Fiona Pickles, and Chris Quinton!

Drop by the website and register just as soon as you can!

Friday, 6 March 2015

Liam Livings - ESCAPING FROM HIM blog tour - and a new review

It's time for another apology - this time to Liam for the delay in posting these details of his recent Blog Tour. Unfortunately the giveaways are all now closed, but we're reposting the links here because we're sure the interviews that go with them will be of interest to Liam's readers ... and perhaps also to those who are not yet his readers but would like to know a bit more about our fine new author!

Liam's own blog
Elin Gregory
Clare London
JL Merrow and Charlie Cochrane
Prism Book Alliance
Love Bytes Reviews
My Fiction Nook
Because Two Men Are Better Than One
RJ Scott
Hearts On Fire
MM Good Book Reviews

The last link above also includes a review, which gives the book three stars, by Lisa.  She admits that 'basically it was just not my kind of story' but does concede that:

It was well written, with characters that can draw you out and have you wishing for the best with them.

It's a shame that the book didn't work for Lisa, but we're sure other readers will have a different experience of Liam's light-hearted and extremely enjoyable book!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

New reviews

Apologies to the authors for a delay in bringing these to people's attention, but there is a small batch of reviews we haven't yet told you about!

To start with, Gay.Guy.Reading has delivered a verdict on Liam's new title ESCAPING FROM HIM:

I didn’t quit and enjoyed my journey. There were times I got lost in the words and really connected with Darryl. Those were the moments I just didn’t put it down.

The reviewer ended by calling it 'an enjoyable read', with which we totally concur!

In addition, Prism Book Alliance have been doing a 'Julie Bozza retrospective' - re-reading some of her previous titles. A reader named Lirtle posted three reviews, from which we quote below:

Not even halfway through this book and I knew I’d want to spend more time with Dave and Nicholas. I knew I’d want more of the quiet and oh so lovely atmosphere surrounding and running through them.

Low angst, passionate, cheeky, and lovely. Wonderful! This is going on my comfort read shelf, without a doubt. I’m loving this series and this writing.

And also, for a change of pace:

Every bit of this story serves the characters. No grand schemes or setting changes in attempts to create tension and curiosity. Everything centers around Hilary and Tom. For me, this made for quite a satisfying reading experience.

That's exactly what we're aiming for, Lirtle; thank you for your comments!

To accompany these reviews, Prism Book Alliance also conducted an interview with Julie which you can read here. It's all an absolute delight, and we'd like to thank our very good friends at the Prism Book Alliance for their time and trouble; we're very glad you all enjoyed the books!