Monthly Archives: July 2011

Would you like to help MANIFOLD PRESS celebrate the Olympiad? Does the thought of athletes striving for gold fire your imagination? Do you have a story to tell involving plot, romance and engaging characters? With the past, present and future to play with, you have plenty of arena-space to give your creativity free rein – as long as there is a background setting of the Olympics and the main protagonists just happen to be gay, we are interested.

 

Your story need not (indeed should not) be wall-to-wall sex and there is no minimum sex scene requirement. If explicit sex gets in the way of plot, pacing and character development, don’t feel you need to add it just to catch our attention!

 

For this Special Submission Theme, our word count requirements are flexible and we are happy to consider short pieces from 5000 to 30000 words.

 

Last date for submissions to the Manifold Olympiad is
March 31st 2012

 

You will be given a contract for each piece of work we accept; you will assign the copyright to us for a period of two years from the date of publication with an option to renew for a further year; you will receive royalties on your sales which will be paid on a quarterly basis. The rate of the royalties will be confirmed with you before you are offered a contract.

 

For submission guidelines please visit our website.

SILVER FLASH FICS are stories between 500 and 1000 words long, written to a phrase and/or word prompts by authors in Silver Publishing’s stable. Every week a new challenge is issued, and I’ve joined in for the first time.

 

This week, in honour of the release of the last Harry Potter movie, the phrases are: mischief managed; dark chocolate. The words are: church, star, phone.

 

This Flash Fic is G rated.

 

“Mischief managed.” Dylan started giggling again. “That is so cool,” he slurred for the umpteenth time since we’d staggered out of the cinema. We weren’t drunk so much as dazed after hours of a Potter-Marathon shown in our local single-screen fleapit, though the visible signs were the same. Most of the crowd seemed caught in the same euphoria.

 

“Bet you could do it,” I muttered enviously. “Make a map like that. And a wand. I want a wand.”

 

“Nah, it’s not the way magic works. You need a focus point, yes, but it’s all in what you want to happen and the energy comes from inside you. From what I’ve read, you can’t actually make something from the ground up with magic. Like the Marauders’ Map. Though maybe you could charge an existing map…” It wasn’t the first time he’d tried to explain to me, his best friend, the weird gift that had foisted itself upon him about a year ago. Since he didn’t understand it himself, despite the limited research he’d been able to do, it was hardly surprising I didn’t either.

 

Dylan had come into his magic later than most. Though ‘most’ was a bit of a misnomer, considering it affected such a tiny number of the population. Usually it showed up between ten and twelve, when puberty kicked in. Dylan had been seventeen when his dark chocolate brown eyes first began to show the telltale slivers of purple. Now, at eighteen, his eyes were banded amethysts, pupils only a few shades darker that the irises, and he wore brown-tinted contacts most of the time.

 

His parents hadn’t registered him at the Psionics Institute when they noticed the first signs of amethyst the way they should have done. Us country folk tended to avoid the big city ways as a matter of course, and walk our own paths. No one really knew what went on in the Institute. A handful of students entered every year, and emerged as Adepts ten years later, changed: aloof, confident in their powers, equally certain of their superiority. Every one of them ended up in high-powered, influential careers.

 

Most of the general public were very wary of them.

 

Dylan’s parents, Ruth and Colin Cunningham, always—but very quietly—maintained that the Adepts weren’t meant to live apart from the rest of us.

 

If anyone should know, it would be the Cunninghams. Colin’s grandmother had been an Adept, back in the old days when they had a different name. Witches.

 

“You’re thinking again,” Dylan said. “I can tell. You get this strained expression, like you’re constip—”

 

“Shut up!” I snickered and elbowed him in the ribs. “What about Quidditch? Now, that is beyond cool.”

 

“On a broomstick? Instant haemorrhoids, I swear. But flying…” He sounded wistful. “I think I’d like that.”

 

“This, from the bloke who won’t get on a plane?” I scoffed. I stuck out my arms and swooped around the corner into the lane that ran past St Michael’s church, making plane noises.

 

“It’ll be different!” he insisted, grinning at me. “I’d be in control, not some pilot I can’t see and don’t know.”

 

“Really? Like a car driver who always gets sick as a passenger?”

 

“Exactly.”

 

“Bollocks,” I said, but any answer he might have made was cut short by the strident ring of his mobile phone. “You were supposed to turn that off in the cinema.”

 

Dylan ignored me, staring at the text message, grimness settling on his features. I didn’t need to be an Adept to know what it said. I’d seen that expression before and the reason for it hit like a bucket of ice-water. On the small screen would be four letters. ‘Duck’.

 

The Institute did low-level sweeps in a small helicopter every now and then, scanning the country for the psychic energy signatures of the unregistered. That didn’t mean every low-flying aircraft was from the PI, but no one took any chances. The few of us who knew about Dylan’s eyes had cobbled together an early warning system, with his number in first position on our speed dials.

 

Now, memory of hours of Harry Pottering long gone, I listened intently. Yes, there it was, the thwapeta-thwapeta of helicopter blades slicing the air, and that sound was gradually coming closer.

 

“Go!” I snapped, giving him a hard shove towards the churchyard. He didn’t need telling twice. We shinned over the low wall and ducked into the deep shade of the yew trees. For whatever reason, the holy ground of any religion masked the psychic signals; standing on it, Adepts couldn’t recognise each other even face to face or in full body contact, as long as their eyes were disguised.

 

“Sod it, I hate this!” Dylan hissed. The chopper passed over us and disappeared into the night. Silence—or as near silence as you can get in a small market town at chucking-out time—settled around us. A star or two glittered through the light pollution and a cold breeze sprang up, making us shiver.

 

“Yeah,” I muttered. “I wish to God we could do something about it.”

 

There was a moment of breath-held stillness.

 

Dylan stepped away from the tree. Against the sodium yellow of the spotlights illuminating the ancient bulk of St Michael’s, Dylan’s black silhouette stood tall and somehow imposing. For the first time I truly realised just how much potential was contained within the man I’d known all my life.

 

“Yes,” he said. “I will.”

 

 

* * * * *

Go visit the other Silver Flashers and read some great stories!

West Thornhill (m/m) http://wthornhillauthor.blogspot.com

 

Julie Hayes (m/m) http://julielynnhayes.blogspot.com

 

Victoria Blisse (m/f) http://www.victoriablisse.co.uk

 

Lindsay Klug (m/m) www.ichbineinteufel.blogspot.com

 

Lily Sawyer (m/m) http://lilysawyerbooks.blogspot.com/

 

Sui Lynn (m/m) http://suidlynn.blogspot.com/?zx=57a5d3d27a15dbfa

 

Pender Mackie (m/m) http://pendermackie.blogspot.com

 

Heather Lin (m/f) http://heatherlin88.blogspot.com/

 

Ryssa Edwards (m/m) http://www.ryssaedwards.net/blog/

 

I’m starting a new enterprise – well, new to me – inviting guests to ramble, rant, promote and/or be interviewed. So for a variety of reasons, I thought I’d start off by contacting one of the e-publishers who have accepted my books; Manifold Press. They are very small, very British, and concentrate solely on Gay Romance. So, without further ado – and with ample supplies of tea and biscuits – sit down, make yourself comfortable, and meet Manifold Press!


As Manifold Press has now been in operation for something over a year, Chris, one of our regular authors, has suggested that it is probably time for us to introduce ourselves a little more fully – and perhaps also explain what we can offer to aspiring (or indeed experienced) authors.

 

The Manifold Press project actually started life as a conversation over lunch between two authors who weren’t very happy with their publication options.  For long and complicated reasons neither really wanted to go down the ‘find-an-agent-and-turn-pro’ route, being well aware of how difficult and time-consuming that can be and nervous of the degree of self-promotion involved, but the e-book publishers were mostly based in the USA and required a certain specified proportion of explicit sex in each book – and a good percentage of them insisted on American spellings and word usage even when the story was not set in the USA.  These were two requirements which frankly we had a bit of trouble with; we share the belief that it should be the characters who determine what sex scenes are included in the narrative and when – we can’t force them to do what they don’t want to do – and we also have the odd and (to some people) unreasonable view that if a book is set in the UK the characters should buy petrol rather than gas and use taps rather than faucets.  In short, we wanted a publisher that would do things our way rather than expecting us to fit in with theirs – and the solution to that problem was of course blindingly obvious; we would just have to go into publishing ourselves.

 

The next year or so was what you might describe as a learning curve, and a pretty darn steep one it was too.  We had to find out how to make and distribute e-books, for a start, and in this we were ably assisted by Hooper, our resident geek, who evaluated a lot of formats for us and assessed likely future developments.  This is one of the reasons we only produce a limited number of options; Hooper’s belief is that, as with other technological revolutions in the past, the field will soon settle down to a limited number of standard formats which will all be mutually interchangeable, so we opted for trying to do a few things well rather than a lot of things badly.

 

In fact that’s our philosophy in a nutshell.  What we haven’t mentioned so far is the hilariously small budget we had available for launching this project, and if we told you about the figures themselves you’d laugh yourselves silly.  At any rate we had to think very carefully about how we would spend what little money we had, and there were two things we felt we just couldn’t manage without – professional proof-reading and ISBNs.  We wanted to offer the very best product we could with the resources available to us, and as we have a couple of friends who are qualified proof-readers we were able to negotiate rates with them which would not bankrupt us before we started.

 

As for the ISBNs – well, there’s not a huge amount we can offer our authors as you will shortly see; the rate of royalties we pay is not as high as some other e-publishers – although we do offer them our individual attention and are willing to take chances on books some e-publishers might not even consider – but an ISBN is forever.  When the book itself is no longer available, those thirteen digits will still always represent that particular work by that particular author – and somewhere there will be a permanent record that the work existed.  In fact we go further; as we have ISBNs we are able to place deposit copies of our books in the British Library.  (We send them on CD.)  Our authors may not be the next John Grisham or J K Rowling, but we can at least guarantee them a modest measure of posterity!

 

We wouldn’t want you to think, though, that we don’t have the highest possible opinion of our writers!  We started off by exploiting all the contacts we could think of and bringing in people we knew slightly but who we knew could write.  We were very lucky in that respect – we found several established authors looking for new challenges, and one or two first-timers who knew that they had stories to tell but wanted a level of hand-holding other publishers weren’t willing to provide.  Some of these have become personal friends; some are just names on an e-mail and we wouldn’t recognise them if we bumped into them – the level of personal involvement is entirely up to the authors themselves.


This is a good point at which to stress that we like the authors to be the ones driving the process as far as possible.  We don’t issue a contract for a book until it’s complete, for example.  (In fact we’d prefer not to read works-in-progress; there’s nothing quite so disappointing as getting all excited about a book which is never actually finished.)  This means that our authors are not under pressure to finish their work to meet an inflexible deadline.  When we feel the book is in reasonable shape, however, we start talking about technicalities – contracts, royalties and publication dates.  We aim to publish two books every three months in our second year – which is just about all our human resources can handle – and we usually need a window of about 8-10 weeks for proof-reading and editing, depending on the word count and the author’s availability.  That means that we’re always thinking a good six months ahead; at the time of writing this, in mid-July, our August books are all ready except for the last few details and our November books are with their proof-readers.  One of our proposed February 2012 titles is still being written, the other is currently being read, and we are already starting to turn our attention towards next May for which we have one potential book pencilled in.

 

When it comes to revisions, we like to discuss things thoroughly with the author.  We’ll often call in an expert – there is a sequence in one of our August books which features a present-day English courtroom scene, for example, and we happen to know someone with extensive legal experience who was able to read it and advise accordingly.  However in cases of disagreement we won’t impose our will on the author; in the last analysis it’s the author’s name on the book, and although we can often assist we will only rarely insist.

 

Now, as to covers, maybe we should explain our choices.  In a book-store, very often it is the cover that attracts the potential reader.  To that end, and because we are in no position to pay for the services of an artist, we have settled on a simple house-style.  All our covers feature photographs (with the honourable exception of ‘Thrace’ whose artwork came from a stock illustration site) because they’re relatively easy to deal with.  Our books may not have to jostle with others on open shelves, but if they did you would easily be able to tell which ones were ours!  We stick to the same utilitarian font for our titles because it’s readable even at a reduced scale.  We retain the same layout because it’s simpler like that and also because we think it’s clear and straightforward and that’s how we’d like people to think of Manifold Press – as a no-frills, value-for-money, does-exactly-what-it-says-on-the-tin sort of operation with the sole aim of producing high quality fiction at a modest price.

 

We’re delighted to say that so far our authors seem to be finding their experience with us a positive one.  We pay our royalties quarterly on the dot and although we’ll never be millionaires we are not terrifyingly in debt either.  More than this, we seem to be making a lot of friends and we have a regular pool of customers who keep coming back each time.  Also now that we’ve expanded to make our books available through Rainbow and (soon) All Romance eBooks – who can offer instant downloads and credit card payment facilities which are simply not available to us given the small scale of our operation – we find we are becoming better known all the time.

 

To anyone with a script they may be considering submitting to us and who may be in some doubt about the likely level of returns we can say this with complete honesty; your royalties from Manifold Press will not buy you a new house or a holiday in the Bahamas, but they will certainly finance the occasional treat – a DVD box set, a theatre ticket or a pair of shoes, perhaps.  We can also help to get your name and your work better known, which will always be useful on your CV, and put you in the position of being able to obtain a wide variety of feedback on your work.  We can’t turn you into a superstar, but if you have superstar potential we can certainly give you a platform for displaying it!  In short, if you have a book completed or nearing completion which meets our requirements – specifically as to having gay protagonists and an element of romance – and you feel this is the sort of deal that would be attractive to you, we’d be very happy if you’d get in touch.

 

Visit Manifold Press HERE

The Fitzwarren Inheritance Trilogy has reached its culmination with today’s release of Sue Brown’s gripping finale, The Lord’s Tale! Sue has gathered up the threads from the Psychic’s Tale and The Soldier’s Tale, and woven them into a highly charged conclusion, confronting Jonathan Curtess and his four hundred year old curse head-on. Run, don’t walk to Silver Publishing’s site to snatch it up! Read the enthralling drama as it heads for the inevitable collision between Jonathan Curtess’s curse and those fighting to break its malicious hold on the Fitzwarrens.

 

Blurb: Surrounded by the tragedy of his family’s history, the last thing Phil expects is to be  picked up by a gorgeous guy twenty feet up a climbing wall. What scares him even more is the way Lee fits into his life, the final piece to break the Fitzwarren curse.

 

Excerpt:

From a book written in 1899 –The History of Steeple Westford by the Rev. Horace Simpkins–


So in the autumn of the year 1644, Jonathan Curtess cursed Belvedere Fitzwarren, saying, “I curse you and your children’s children, that you shall all live out your allotted years, and that those years shall be filled with grief and loss and betrayal, even as you have betrayed and bereaved me.”

 

Chapter 1

 

Phil could hear the rain beating down on the church roof as he waited for the bride to arrive. Inside the small church, the atmosphere was slightly damp and clammy as guests found somewhere to store their sopping umbrellas and attempted to brush raindrops off their finery. It was typical of the Fitzwarren luck that after weeks of fine weather there was torrential rain on his sister’s wedding day.

 

He looked over at Will, the groom, standing alone in the front row. Psycho soldier hadn’t bothered to make an appearance as his best man then. Despite the way Phil’s friend Sean and Will stood up for the man, there was something about Daniel that Phil didn’t like. He was unpredictable, and the fact he was tied in with this curse just made him even more dangerous in Phil’s opinion, especially walking around with a knife tucked under his clothing. Why the hell Sean was bumping uglies with the man, Phil had no idea. The groom looked kind of down though. Daniel was Will’s best friend, and it was natural he would want Daniel beside him on his special day.

 

His thoughts turned to his young nephew, fighting for his life in hospital. Each day was a roller-coaster ride for the premature baby, but the young heir to the Fitzwarrens clung on tenaciously. His mum, still recovering from her head injury and the shock of the premature birth, sat by his incubator. Charlie and Carol had both insisted that the wedding go ahead as planned, and Charlie was there, doing his best to wear a smile for his sister’s wedding.

 

The doors to the church opened, and everyone turned to catch their first glimpse of the bride, only to discover Daniel limping down the aisle. Phil sighed as he saw the matching grins of Will and Sean. Who was he to argue with his best friend and his future brother-in-law? He’d be keeping an eye on that knife, though.

 

The doors opened again, and his sister was there, looking stunning in her wedding dress of ivory and crimson, the silk skirt pooling gracefully to the stone floor of the church. She paused in the doorway as her bridesmaids arranged themselves behind her. Somehow she had escaped looking like a drowned rat; her hair was swept up into chignon and the crimson roses in her hair matched the ones in her bouquet, the blooms from a corner of the castle grounds.

 

As Diana reached the altar, Will smiled down at her and took her hand. The love on their faces took Phil’s breath away, and he was swept with a wave of happiness and envy for his big sister. As the elderly vicar conducted the service, the noise of the rain thrumming down on the roof abated, and soon the wedding party emerged from the church to blink as the late afternoon sunshine bathed the church grounds.

 

* * * *

 

Phil held two pints up high as he negotiated the crowd in the bar of the Red Lion. He handed one over to his brother, Charlie, who took the full glass gratefully.

 

“God, I’m glad that’s over,” Charlie said, wiping his top lip.

 

“Hell yes,” Phil agreed, loosening his tie. “Do you think we can get out of this get-up now?” He waved vaguely at their suits.

 

“Probably not,” Charlie told him. “Is Di out of her meringue yet?”

 

Phil peered around the bar to where the bride and groom were sitting, Di’s feet in Will’s lap. “Not yet, but her shoes are off. Isn’t that enough?” Charlie just gave him a look, and Phil sighed. There wasn’t a hope in hell Diana would agree to them losing the monkey suits. The couple hadn’t had enough money for a formal “do”, but she was going to make the men suffer as long as she could. He smiled as he thought of his tomboy sister, dressed like a lady for the whole day.

 

“Anyway, I promised Carol I’d come in the suit,” Charlie said, pulling a face. “She wanted to feel part of the proceedings even if she couldn’t be here.”

 

“You’d better stop knocking that back then,” Phil said, indicating the pint of beer that Charlie was already half-way through.

 

Charlie held up his glass, regarding the dark amber liquid mournfully. “Doesn’t seem right somehow. I can’t remember the last time I stayed sober at a wedding.” He paused for a minute. “I can’t remember the last time I went to a wedding.”

 

“Yours probably. Just be thankful you don’t have to make a speech, big brother.” Phil grinned at the shudder that ran though his painfully shy older brother at the thought of trying to speak in public, even in front of friends and family. There really wasn’t anyone here that he didn’t know. Di, like her brothers, tended to socialise in the village.

 

“I told Di that if she wanted speeches she could make you do it. She said if there was anything to say, she could say it herself.”

 

Phil laughed, the laughter tailing off as he caught sight of Daniel and Sean vanishing into the snug with that psychic and his boyfriend. There was something going on there. Those four were getting very cosy all of a sudden. Charlie followed his gaze.

 

“I wonder what that’s all about,” his brother mused.

 

“I have no idea. Don’t you think since Mark came on the scene our little curse has got a lot more crowded?” Phil asked, aware he sounded waspish.

 

Waving at the barman for another round, Charlie looked at him. “Another?” At Phil’s nod, he held up two fingers and then said, “What do you mean?”

 

Phil waited until they both had drinks before he carried on. “Well, one minute it’s just the Fitzwarrens’ curse, and the three of us knowing everything is going to go tits up, and the next some stranger waltzes in claiming to be a psychic and a descendent of Curtesses, saying he’s broken the first part of the curse. Then Psycho gets pally with Sean, and the next thing we know another bit of the story is slotting into place.”

 

There was such a long pause before Charlie answered that Phil looked up. “What bothers you most? Mark’s revelations or Sean and Daniel hooking up?”

 

“You think I’m jealous?” Phil asked incredulously.

 

“You’re not? Just a little? Sean has been your best friend for years, and now that he’s hooked up with Daniel, he hasn’t been around as much.”

 

Damn, his brother was too shrewd.

 

Click HERE to buy The Lord’s Tale
and HERE to buy the first in the Trilogy – The Psychic’s Tale
and HERE to buy the second – The Soldier’s Tale

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