Category Archives: LGBTQ+ fiction

No Holds Bard

Modern LGBTQ+ fiction inspired by the works of William Shakespeare

Blurb: Ten authors, twelve extraordinary stories. From a novel solution to the Plantagenet succession crisis to revelations about the private lives of Prince Hal and – separately! – Brutus and Cassius, plus a surprise ending for Twelfth Night, no play is safe. We have marriage proposals and murder; subtle scheming villainy; a missing manuscript; a haunting… Whether set within the framework of a play, or spotlighting actors, characters, or the Bard himself, these stories will have you viewing Shakespeare in a whole new light. It’s definitely not the kind of thing they taught us in school…

Take a deep breath. Dive in. Prepare to be astonished!

An anthology edited by Fiona Pickles and featuring authors Julie Bozza, Siobhan Dunlop, Adam Fitzroy, Bryn Hammond, Erin Horáková, Molly Katz, Vanessa Mulberry, Eleanor Musgrove, Michelle Peart, and Jay Lewis Taylor.

Genre: LGBTQ+ fiction; historical; contemporary; William Shakespeare; anthology

Click here for the blurbs.

Word count: 67,000

Available in ebook and paperback formats from:

Published on 1 May 2018.

reviews: No Holds Bard

Historical Novel Society: review by Kristen McQuinn

Excerpt and conclusion: … a delightful collection of Shakespeare tales, revised and revisited for a modern audience and with an LGBT focus. …

For me, the highlights were Julie Bozza’s “In Fair Verona,” a version of Romeo and Juliet focusing on the ghost of Mercutio influencing Lord Byron; Siobhan Dunlop’s “Imitate the Sun,” about a modern London-based troupe of all-women Shakespearean actors preparing to perform Henry IV and their behind-the-scenes dramas and insecurities; Michelle Peart’s “Lost,” [Julie Bozza’s “In a Dark House”] a continuation of Twelfth Night in the form of a conversation, mostly, between Feste and Malvolio; and Adam Fitzroy’s “Now You See Him, Now You Don’t,” a retelling of Macbeth as a modern murder case.

Each entry in the anthology deals with some aspect that is important within the LGBTQ+ community and highlights it in a way that makes it relevant to all readers. This is a terrific approach, since everyone needs more insight, understanding, and empathy into all facets of life, not just what we are familiar with already. Literature such as No Holds Bard does exactly that, while also taking an irreverent approach to the Bard himself in the process. I think Shakespeare would have approved! Definitely recommended.

No Holds Bard on Goodreads

  • Rohase Piercy gave it 4 stars and said: Well, this was fun! Such a variety of approaches to putting an LGBTQ twist on Shakespeare’s works, with twelve stories from eleven different authors. I enjoyed all of them, but I’ll tell you my four favourites: Erin Horakova’s ‘Couched In A Curious Bed’ gives us a new slant on Richard of York’s ‘difference’ and a novel ending to the Wars of the Roses in Henry VI; Julie Bozza’s ‘In Fair Verona’ features a romantic encounter between Lord Byron to Romeo & Juliet’s Mercutio – no mean feat across two centuries! Bryn Hammond gives us an ageing Shakespeare collaborating on his last play, ‘Two Noble Kinsmen’ and pouring out his heart to his character Princess Emilia as he struggles to give voice both to her sexuality and that of her two suitors in a way that will avoid the controversy caused by publication of his Sonnets; and my personal favourite is Jay Lewis Taylor’s very clever ‘After the Storm’, in which the characters from The Tempest are transported to Wales and given an alternative but parallel story narrated from the point of view of poor captive Ariel. This anthology has made me want to open my long-neglected Complete Works of Shakespeare for the first time in years – which I hope is a tribute in itself.
  • Bellbomb Bellbomb gave it 5 stars and said: … my initial decision to buy the book was because I’m an avid fan of some of the authors included in this anthology (Julie Bozza and Adam Fitzroy) and I just couldn’t get enough of their writing, and because this was from Manifold Press which you can’t go wrong with any of their publications. I’m glad I’ve found many new gems in this anthology whom I will be looking out for more of their full length novels in the future. This is one of those rare anthologies which I believe I’ll pick up to reread many times.

blurbs: No Holds Bard

THE STORIES

Couched in a Curious Bed
Erin Horáková
Having lost his youngest son, a shaken but still-living York is determined to bring the War of the Roses to a swift end – preferably one that will benefit his family. The Lancastrian queen and heir are dead, and, medieval diplomacy being what it is, the best hope for peace lies in a highly unexpected royal marriage.

The Lord and Christopher Sly
Vanessa Mulberry
Christopher Sly is a wastrel with nothing to his name but a handsome face, but he’s always intrigued the local Lord. When he finds Sly drunk outside an inn, the Lord decides to play a trick on him and give him a taste of a better life.

In Fair Verona
Julie Bozza
Adventures naturally befall Lord Byron while he travels through Europe, but all are deliciously surpassed when he is visited by an apparition in the book-lined parlour of an old palazzo in Verona.

Under the Veil of Wildness
Adam Fitzroy
It isn’t only contemplation that Hal’s obscured under the veil of wildness; also growing like the summer grass, wildest at night, is another personality – a female one, Arietta. When a French spy discovers Hal’s secret, trouble follows – but the sequence of events is not what either of them had been expecting…

Continue reading blurbs: No Holds Bard

stories: In a Dark House

art by johnhain on Pixabay

This story follows a character or two from Twelfth Night into a future beyond the play. The story grew from a seed planted so long ago I can’t remember quite when or where.

I once read in a scholarly tome that if we are looking for queer characters in Shakespeare’s work, then we needn’t rely only on the relatively explicit declarations of same-gender love from characters such as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Antonio in Twelfth Night, or Antonio in The Merchant of Venice. Disclaimer: These can be interpreted as declarations of affectionate friendship, of course, rather than romantic love or attraction.

If we are looking for queer characters, however, we might also consider the characters who are left alone at the end of each play. This particularly applies to the “comedies”, in which most of the main characters are finally paired up in heterosexual couples, and left to a (presumably!) happy ending. For me, the fact that the Antonios in Twelfth Night and Merchant of Venice are each left to walk away alone at the end of their plays, only reinforces my romantic interpretation of their devotion to Sebastian and Bassanio respectively.

So, I wondered, all that time ago … what about Feste? He is, as I’m sure you remember, the Fool in Twelfth Night, belonging to the Countess Olivia’s household (though having been long absent) and also welcome to visit and perform for the Duke Orsino.

Shakespeare’s fools are usually clever and funny, and adept at using language to score a witty point. They entertain a court or household, in the traditional role of jester – but they also challenge people by speaking truths, and turning expectations topsy-turvy. In these ways, they could be seen as operating in a queer space, outside the social norms.

Given all of that, and that Feste is one of the few main characters left alone and unmatched at the end of Twelfth Night, I felt it wasn’t unreasonable of me to write him as queer.

So, what would he do next, once he has performed the play’s concluding song and the curtain has fallen? Would he stay with his newly married mistress Olivia, or would he go wandering again? And if the latter, then where…?

You might care to read my story to find out one possible answer!

stories: In Fair Verona

“The Death of Mercutio, Romeo’s Friend” (1904) by E. A. Abbey (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

My second story for this anthology was In Fair Verona, which features a character from Romeo and Juliet. Well, I couldn’t let this queer Shakespearean anthology go by without claiming a spot for Mercutio, could I? I’ve spent most of my life convinced that he was deeply in love with Romeo, after all.

At the time this thought occurred to me, I was reading the English Heritage anthology Eight Ghosts, and writing my own ghost story, An English Heaven. So, in a spectral mood, I wondered whether there are some ghosts out there who aren’t the remnants of human beans – but of strong characters from literature? We authors often like to say that characters take on lives of their own… What if some of them continue on beyond the inspiration and even the life of their author, in a kind of literary afterlife?

If so, then Mercutio certainly has the chutzpah to exist in his own right. And he might be found in a number of places, but one of them could certainly be Verona… And who else has visited Verona, and might encounter him…?

Enter Lord Byron and entourage, with a suitable flourish. Though the timeframe is neither here nor there, I set the story in early November 1816, when Byron travelled to Verona with his friend Hobhouse. Though I admit to conveniently ignoring Hobhouse (let’s pretend they went their separate ways while in town), I did draw on some of Byron’s thoughts on Verona, to be found in his letters.

And I have to admit to feeling rather pleased with the results… I hope you might give it a try – and if my story isn’t quite the thing, no doubt you will find something else in this quixotic tome to bewitch you!

An English Heaven

Blurb: A muddy trench in France during the Great War wasn’t the most auspicious place for Tom and Michael to reach an understanding of their own natures. A small, individual tragedy unfolds … But then Tom discovers a place beyond, where he and other men like him are blessed with all that life denied them.

Genre: LGBTQ+ fiction; historical; ghost story; short story

Word count: 1,100

Available in ebook format from:

Published on 15 December 2017.

stories: An English Heaven

This story had an odd genesis … though I probably always say that, so maybe they all do!

English Heritage recently released an anthology titled Eight Ghosts, which features eight ghost stories set in various English Heritage properties. The authors include Sarah Perry, Kamila Shamsie and Jeanette Winterson. Following this, English Heritage ran a short story writing competition in which members were invited to write their own ghost stories along similar lines. There was a 1,000 word limit, which I found a bit of a challenge, but I was determined to have a go.

Of course I wanted to feature LGBTQ+ characters, so I started with a search of English Heritage’s LGBTQ History pages – and promptly discovered William Lygon, 7th Earl of Beauchamp, who lived for some years at Walmer Castle on the Kent coast. Mr B and I had visited Walmer Castle during a holiday a while ago, so I already had a feel for the place. And it seemed an obvious location for the story that was growing from its initial kernel of an idea.

Photo of Walmer Castle by Nessy-Pic, sourced on Wikimedia Commons.

I dashed out about 1,100 words which caught the substance of it, and then started paring it back down to just under the limit. I didn’t know how strict they would be, so I didn’t stop editing until the final word count (including the title, author name and section markers) was 998 words.

Continue reading stories: An English Heaven

Call to Arms

Modern LGBTQ+ fiction of the Second World War

Blurb: Seventeen stories, thirteen authors, a second war. Once again Manifold Press’s writers explore the lives of LGBTQ+ people and their war-time experience in cities, towns and countryside across the world.

Amidst war and peace, in the thick of violence or in an unexpected lull, these stories of the Second World War take the reader far and wide: through Britain, Europe, Asia and South America, from loss and parting to love and homecoming. As for home, it may be an ordinary house, or a prison camp, or a ship: but it is, in the end, where you find it, however far you have to go. Read this book, and make the journey yourself.

An anthology edited by Heloise Mezen and featuring authors Julie Bozza, Barry Brennessel, Charlie Cochrane, Andrea Demetrius, Adam Fitzroy, Elin Gregory, Sandra Lindsey, JL Merrow, Eleanor Musgrove, R.A. Padmos, Michelle Peart, Megan Reddaway, and Jay Lewis Taylor.

Genre: LGBTQ+ fiction; historical; contemporary; wartime; anthology

Click here for the blurbs.

Word count: 94,500

Available in ebook and paperback formats from:

All proceeds will be donated to the British Refugee Council (Registered Charity No. 1014576).

Published on 1 November 2017.

blurbs: Call to Arms

THE STORIES

An Affirming Flame
Jay Lewis Taylor
Berlin, July 1939. In the hot weather Patrick Lawson, music student and English tutor, has managed to ignore signs that all may not be well for at least one of his friends. It takes a piano in the wrong house, and then a missed train, to push him nearer to the truth than he might like.

Extraordinary Duties
Elin Gregory
In the early days of the Second World War, every man and woman is expected to serve their country, but sometimes the most unexpected people are called upon to fulfil extraordinary duties.

The Boy Left Behind
Eleanor Musgrove
Henry is used to people staring at her, with her men’s clothes and her peculiar ways. She and her girlfriend Rosie have stopped paying attention to the gossip and built a cosy home together. But when evacuation drops ten-year-old Tom into their life, Henry can only hope that he’ll accept her as she is.

The Man Who Loved Pigs
Megan Reddaway
When MI5 wireless operator Mike Bernsey meets a stranger in the London Blitz, it feels like something special. Eddy’s unforgettable. But for Mike, there’s no love without betrayal.

We Live Without a Future
Julie Bozza
With their home in London destroyed in the Blitz, Leonard and Virginia Woolf find what peace they can in a village near the Sussex coast. But with German and British planes grinding overhead, and the looming threat of a Nazi invasion, there is never enough peace to be had. There is never enough.

Continue reading blurbs: Call to Arms