Saturday, 19 December 2015

Kudos for A PRIDE OF POPPIES

We have to admit to being rather proud of our charity anthology A PRIDE OF POPPIES, which features modern GLBTQI fiction of the Great War. So we've been tickled pink to find the anthology mentioned in end-of-year dispatches.

Kazza of On Top Down Under reviews listed the anthology as one of her Books of the Year for 2015.

One of the best anthologies I've had the pleasure of reading. Every single story is well crafted, well edited, and fascinating. Some stories were so good I’d love to see them longer but there is not one story that misses a beat. ... If you like a good LGBT historical, you like queer fiction of a literary quality, then this anthology covers all the letters and is beautifully written. Oh yes, the proceeds of sales go to The Royal British Legion.

(We were also pleased to note that one of the POPPIES contributors, Barry Brennessel, came equal first in Kazza's list with his SIDEWAYS DOWN THE SKY.)

Meanwhile, the indefatigable Elisa Rolle asked her friends to name their favourite LGBT books of 2015. POPPIES was nominated by not one but two people: Manifold Press stalwart Chris Quinton and POPPIES contributor Charlie Cochrane.

Charlie: At the Gate (Jay Lewis Taylor) ... In my reading notes I used one word for it: stunning. It's the sort of story that made me think, "Well, I might as well give up writing because I could never produce anything this good". You can almost smell the sea and feel the roll of the ship as you read it.

Chris: Quite apart from the sheer quality of the writing across all the entries, and the eye-catching cover, every one of the stories brought something memorable to the reading. Poignant, gut-wrenching, uplifting, all of them wonderful portrayals of the human spirit, of people not only coping with the ravages of the First World War, but also the difficult life of homosexuals in the early 20th century.

 Thank you so much, Kazza, Elisa, Charlie and Chris! We're delighted that you enjoyed this volume - and we hope that you, Dear Reader, will enjoy it likewise.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

AUTHOR GUEST BLOG NUMBER TWENTY ONE - Chris Quinton

Continuing the series of blog posts in which our authors revisit their previous Manifold Press titles, we asked Chris Quinton to talk to us about the inspiration behind ALOES - and the result was the following fascinating article!

* * * * *

ALOES - by Chris Quinton


Aloes was one of my first books with Manifold Press, released on May 1st, 2010. How did Aloes happen? Well, some years ago, and prior to the birth of Manifold Press, one of my other publishers was in the habit of holding competitions on their private authors-only Yahoo group, and one of the once a month challenges was to write a three hundred word story on a three word prompt. I usually did fairly well on them, and they sometimes triggered an idea for a longer tale. On one particular occasion, the prompt was zinnias, scrapbook, and couch. I think. My memory isn't all it could be. Anyhow, I wrote three hundred words in the first person, featuring this poor guy who walked in on his boyfriend cheating on him, and, if I remember rightly, I won that month (no prizes, just a pat on the back). However, Perry, the hero of my triple drabble, sort of stayed with me. He hung around in the back of my brain cell, every now and then politely clearing his throat to remind me he was there.

I knew I'd tell his story sooner or later, but expected it to be later rather than sooner. Then I read an article on synaesthesia, and Perry pricked up his ears. And stuck out his elbows. I can take a hint, so I started researching.

Synaesthesia is a fascinating condition, and has many variables. At least ten forms are known, the most common being Chromesthesia where a sound is perceived as a colour, and Grapheme-colour synaesthesia where numbers and each letter of the alphabet are seen as a colour.

Something I found particularly interesting is that a lot of synaesthetes don't see their condition as an affliction, but a gift that can enhance their lives. Nor is synaesthesia a modern phenomenon. As a mind-boggling coincidence, while I was writing this blog a godsend of an article appeared [thank you, Fiona Pickles] showing that Vincent Van Gogh was almost certainly a synaesthete, specifically under the Chromesthesia heading. In a letter he describes seeing colours as sounds in a matter of fact way that shows he was clearly comfortable with it.

From a letter to his brother Theo [the italics are mine]: "Some time ago you rightly said that every colourist has his own characteristic scale of colours. This is also the case with Black and White (sic), it is the same after all — one must be able to go from the highest light to the deepest shadow, and this with only a few simple ingredients. Some artists have a nervous hand at drawing, which gives their technique something of the sound peculiar to a violin, for instance, Lemud, Daumier, Lan├žon — others, for example, Gavarni and Bodmer, remind one more of piano playing. Do you feel this too? Millet is perhaps a stately organ."

Okay, so Perry is a synaesthete. But how? He wasn't born with the condition. The logical possibilities were either an illness that affected the brain, such as meningitis, or a blow to the head. The latter being the more dramatic, that's the one I chose to run with, especially as I had remembered some books and articles I'd read so many years ago, it isn't funny. They featured one Peter Hurkos, born 1911, a Dutchman who'd had a severe head wound after a fall from a ladder in 1941, and had a metal plate fitted over the resulting hole in his skull [that last detail is from my memory]. From then on he began to experience psychic phenomenon.

Hurkos had a long career as a professional psychic, specialising as a psychic detective. He moved to the USA in 1958, and by 1969 he claimed he had solved an impressive twenty-seven successful murder cases around the world, including the Boston Strangler serial killer, and the Sharon Tate Murders. Sadly, that resume turned out to be pretty much bogus. But despite the great Randi and others proving Hurkos was a fake, he retained a loyal following for many years. He remained in the USA until his death in 1988, having wrongly predicted the date of his demise...

Perry's is a version of the more rare lexical-gustatory synaesthesia that I've given a paranormal twist. Normally, synaesthetes with that form experience a particular word as a taste or a smell. In Perry's case, he can taste the intent behind the word, whether it is a lie or a truth, but it isn't a talent he was born with. In his case, I decided it resulted from a combination of some dodgy out of date medication and a blow to the head that dropped him into a coma.

The human brain is an amazingly complex organ. Head trauma has been known to cause some strange and heartbreaking after-effects for the sufferer's family and friends, amnesia being the least of it. Personality changes, speech pattern and accent changes, have all been recorded. There have even been cases where the patient has awoken with the ability to speak a foreign language with a fluency they'd never shown previously. Hurkos' claim to have gained a psychic talent isn't such a great stretch, and Perry's new talent is only a few steps farther on.

Perry's new talent isn't static. Over the course of the story, it expands from the taste of bitter aloes for the spoken lie or crisp fresh apples for truth, and it has the potential to be a curse as well as a blessing.

CORRECTION AND APOLOGY: Jay Lewis Taylor

A few hours after posting about the Goodreads Members Choice Awards nominations yesterday we were informed that we'd accidentally been sent the wrong badge for Jay Lewis Taylor's DANCE OF STONE, which was not nominated for the 'Hall of Fame' after all but in the 'Favourite All Time M/M Romance' category. We've made the correction on our website now, and would like to apologise to Jay for inadvertently perpetuating this error. (OTOH, we're sure it's only a matter of time ... !)


DANCE OF STONE

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Goodreads Members' Choice Awards

We're honoured to have been nominated in three categories this year!


Congratulations to all the authors involved - and particularly, this time, to our good friend Jay Lewis Taylor who wrote two of these books and contributed very strongly to the third - and thank you kindly to the person or persons who nominated us; we really appreciate your confidence!

New review of IN DEEP

Sorry to say that once again a review of one of our books has sneaked out without us being aware of it, and we've only belatedly caught up. This time it's a review of Adam Fitzroy's IN DEEP by our good friend Feliz over at the Prism Book Alliance:

This is a quiet read, not at all depressing but nothing light and fluffy either. If you love mysteries – especially the classic whodunnit – and if you don’t mind the undertones in terms of physical affection, you can’t go wrong with this book.

We're pretty sure this review - and the rating of 4.75 out of 5 - will delight the author; thank you, Feliz, for your time and your very welcome comments.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Rainbow Awards 2015 - the final verdict



It's been a pretty enthralling 24 hours, but the results are now public at last - and it's congratulations to Jay Lewis Taylor who achieved a Runner-Up (2nd)
place in the Gay Historical Fiction category with THE PEACOCK'S EYE,
and to Chris Quinton who achieved a Runner-Up (3rd)
in the Gay Historical Romance category with UNDERCOVER BLUES.
We're seriously proud of both of you, and of our other authors who received Honourable Mentions and were also finalists:
it was a really impressive success all round,
and we couldn't be happier for you all!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Queer Company event and 'A Certain Persuasion' anthology

QUEER COMPANY

 We are all a tad overexcited about our QUEER COMPANY 2 event, even though there's still something like 340 sleeps to go until Saturday 5 November!

The event is strictly limited in terms of size. We are planning for a happy yet relaxed sense of being among a small group of friends. We have chosen the venue accordingly - and even though we are booking out the entire place this time, our numbers are still limited to 50.

We have already received over 20 registrations, so if you can plan ahead for next November, it might be worth securing your place. Also, you might like to take advantage of our early bird rate for the delegate's fee of £40. This will go up to £50 from 1 February.

We are utterly delighted to welcome Sue Brown and UK GAY ROMANCE as our first sponsors. It's terrific to be partnered up with this blog which does so much to promote British authors, British characters and British settings in our global genre.

If you'd like to discover which other cool people are already registered, check out the WHO'S COMING? page on the event website!

A CERTAIN PERSUASION

Many of us are re-reading our Jane Austen novels - and some of us are even writing our stories already - for this anthology which will feature LGBTQIA fiction based in the Austenverse.

The new release date is 1 November, to tie in with QUEER COMPANY. The deadline has been shifted accordingly, to 1 May 2016. So, maybe that makes it possible for you to contribute as well ... ? You'd be very welcome.

Check the CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS page for details!

Wishing you all well, no matter how / whether you celebrate this festive season.