Free Saracens tickets giveaway!

I am in a good mood because I have the rights for my ex-Samhain titles back and am about to launch my gorgeous new covers for the Charm of Magpies series. (Watch this space.) Therefore, a spectacular, if random, giveaway follows.

Regular followers will know that I support Saracens rugby team. If you’re thinking, blech, not interested in sport, here’s a post I wrote on how I as a lifelong sports hater started going to the rugby. It’s a pretty personal one about an intense and not very good time in my life when, as if things weren’t terrible enough, Mr KJC decided we ought to go see sportsball.

We live in North London, near the Saracens rugby team’s brand new stadium, and they were offering super cheap season tickets to locals. Frankly the idea seemed somewhere between stupid and awful, but it was coming on to winter and this was something positive and I didn’t have the strength for a row so I was like, “sure, buy us season tickets we can’t afford for a game I don’t care about.”

So we went. Let me say, rugby is incomprehensible. They throw the thing backwards and sort of run at each other, and kick it, and stop playing, and get in this rolling headbutt thing and…

And people around us, people in team regalia and stupid hats and scarves, were on their feet baying. Sarries! Sarries! And a player—memory tells me Chris Ashton—had the ball thing and he was sprinting for the line and OH MY GOD RUN DO IT PLEASE LET SOMEONE GET SOMETHING RIGHT TODAY OH GOD HE’S FLYING YESSSSSS!

Whole post here.

In other ‘reasons to be interested in rugby’ I submit:

Billy-Vunipola-663175 Maro-Itoje-2015 OwenFarrellSarTou17SB1111-1024x576

(That’s Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje, and Owen Farrell, who all play for Sarries and England.)

So. Saracens are playing Harlequins at Wembley next month. We have places because we’re season ticket holders, but due to Easter hols we can’t go. This means I have two tickets going spare, and I’m offering them to a reader who’d like to see what all the fuss is all about.

That’s two free tickets to watch Saracens at Wembley, Saturday 8th April. For one of my readers. Because you’re worth it.

FAQs!

But KJ, I don’t know anything about rugby. Would I like it?

I didn’t have a clue when I started either. Don’t worry about it. Lots of incomprehensible things will happen on the pitch but the bloke behind you will doubtless offer a loudly voiced explanation. And you’ll definitely understand what’s going on when someone goes flying spectacularly down the pitch and hurtles over the line, or collides with someone approximately the size and shape of a fridge.

Honestly, it’s great to watch even if you’re not into sport. And there is a lot to be said for being part of a baying crowd and drinking beer in in the sunshine. (Beer not included; sunshine not guaranteed.)

Are the crowds scary/rough?

Not even slightly. Loads of women go. I’ve been bringing my son since he was 3; I’ve never felt threatened or even worried at a match, and never seen a fight. People drink a lot of beer, but my experience has always been super positive and friendly.

So, what’s the deal?

1) I pick a commenter at random according to the rules below.

2) You give me your word you’ll shout for Sarries. I’m not sending someone there to support Harlequins.

3) Tag me in social media if you have fun. 😀

***

The game is Sat 8th April so I’ll need to do this quickly. Comment on this blog post (NOT on Goodreads, to which this post copies—if you’re reading this there come to kjcharleswriter.com) before 10am GMT on 1 April  to be entered for the random draw.

Members of my Facebook group KJ Charles Chat group get two entries, one here and one there, because they’re special. Feel free to join, if you are interested in free rugby tickets and queer historical romance! (FYI if you aren’t open to and respectful of queer romance and its readers, you will get your arse booted so hard you’ll bounce. Do not try me.)

The Rules

  • Comment once only on this blog post to enter. Please don’t comment unless you’re entering, it doesn’t half make a mess of things.
  • I’ll pick the winner at random from comments here and in the KJC Chat group thread.
  • The winner will need to give me a UK address to which I can post the tickets, and to be able to travel to Wembley on Sat 8 April. Please don’t enter if you can’t go.
  • Commenters on this blog, leave your email address in the box thingy as you write your comment. Not in the comment itself, as that puts you at risk of spammers. Make it an email address you check regularly; I will redraw if you don’t reply to my email within the day, as there’s not long to go before the game.
  • I will draw the winner at 10am on Sat 1 April, redraw in the evening if I have to, and post the tickets on Monday, registered.
  • By entering you faithfully promise to support Saracens for the duration of the game. I’m so not kidding about this.
  • This is a ticket giveaway, no purchase necessary. I take no responsibility for failure of the ticket to arrive, postal strikes, transport strikes, air strikes etc.

Enjoy! And watch out for the new Magpie covers, coming soon…

KJ’s 2016 Reading Roundup plus giveaway

This year I mostly read the news, obsessively, while everything caught fire. But I also read some books.

I’ve been making more effort to review on Goodreads recently, in large part to jog my terrible memory. I didn’t think I’d been great about it this year, but in fact I still have enough fabby reads listed for a good hefty summary post, so here it is. Romance, SFFH (that’s sci fi, fantasy and horror) and a bit of non fiction.

I have been trying to diversify my reading and seek out more own-voices writers, particularly in romance—it was not flattering to me quite how much of a conscious effort that took at first—and it’s made a huge difference to my reading enjoyment, with the vastly increased range of ideas and perspectives, characters and topics and settings and lives on offer for me to splash in.

These are in no particular order apart from Documenting Light, which is first, and for which there is a giveaway if you scroll to the end. (But read the post first. I put effort into this, you know.)

A competent person would include covers but I have a stinking cold and a sick child, so, not competent.

Romance

Documenting Light by EE Ottoman (trans, m/nb)

If you’re going to read one book based on this rec list, make it this. Real, emotional, beautifully written, fascinating story of two people, one trans, one nonbinary, who are really just trying to get by and find one another. It’s all about being seen, now and in history; about small touches and little braveries that add up to big stuff, and it’s lovely.

A Champion’s Heart by Piper Huguley (m/f)

Extending her series about sisters finding love in the early years of the 20th century. This one is set in the Great Depression, with a boxer returning to find the woman he left behind. Superb historical detail—the black family’s journey out of the South is hair-raising; the casually dropped racism is hair-curling—and intense spirit of place and time, as ever with this author, who is also not afraid to show her previous heroines in an unsympathetic light. /applauds wildly/ Faith informs the book very heavily, but doesn’t offer easy answers.

Listen to the Moon by Rose Lerner (m/f)

This historical series is so good with its small-town setting and concentration on local life and interaction. This book is the story of a starchy valet turned butler and the freewheeling housemaid he falls in love with. It’s brilliant on the minutiae, which brings the atmosphere to life and feeds into the characters, and a hot, sweet romance too. And how often do you see servants in starring roles in British historicals? Not enough, that’s how often.

Fit by Rebekah Wetherspoon (m/f)

Another great series, this one contemporary. I glommed all three in like 36 hours but the first remains my favourite. BDSM that doesn’t take itself seriously—this book is laugh-out-loud funny—and a gorgeous heroine who is properly fat and doesn’t have to get thin for her HEA. All too rare. Loved it.

Eleventh Hour by Elin Gregory (m/m)

I LOVE THIS. A world weary spy is partnered with a back-office chap of no experience but a talent for cross-dressing in order to carry out a surveillance operation on an international terrorist of the Joseph Conrad school. Wonderful 1920s atmosphere, great sexual tension, utterly delightful leads, exciting plotting. Just gigantic fun.

Daughters of a Nation by Alyssa Cole et al (m/f)

A historical romance anthology from the authors of the excellent The Brightest Day collection. Tough, timely POC-focused romance set at various point in the struggle for suffrage in America. This is important stuff that needs to be remembered and written and these authors are doing a cracking job of that.

Gays of our Lives by Kris Ripper (m/m)

I love this whole contemporary series with all sorts of leads, including f/f and trans characters, and recommend them all so far. This one is laugh-out-loud funny at points and its narrator, Emerson, may be the grouchiest hero ever committed to paper, a gloriously misanthropic git.

Coffee Boy by Austin Chant (trans, m/m)

I don’t think I can improve on my description of this as a hot bath and fluffy towel of a book. Delightful happy-making short read with a prickly young trans man and a really irritable boss getting to know one another. Give yourself a lunchtime lift.

Roller Girl by Vanessa North (trans, f/f)

A really lovely, uplifting book about the women of a roller derby team. I kind of want a book about each one of them. Loved Tina and Joe and all the female friendships and fun. Actually wanted to play roller derby for a brief moment. Lovely.

Shatterproof by Xen Sanders (m/m)

Dark, lyrical, weird, magical, scary. A very fairytale feel for a paranormal story about depression and despair, and about finding hope in the darkness. A super intense, immersive read of the kind that really takes over your brain. I loved it.

 

SF, Fantasy, Horror

The Fall of the House of Cabal by Jonathan L Howard

If you haven’t read the Johannes Cabal series and you like sarcastic and occasionally lethal necromancers, Lovecraftian parody, genre bending, and fun, oh boy you are in for a treat. I love all five books. For heaven’s sake read in order, this is #5. I think Johannes Cabal The Detective is my favourite but all of them are hilarious, plotty, gleefully demented and sometimes deeply warped.

Bonesy by Mark Rigney

I glommed the entire Renner and Quist series. American gothic horror with a sense of humour, pairing a redneck and a dodgy ‘priest’ investigating mysteries. Very likeable, frequently very horrifying indeed.

Skin Deep Magic by Craig Laurance Gidney

This and his other short story collection Sea Swallow Me are outstanding. Gidney is a terrific, inventive, evocative writer who ought to be more widely known. Romantic, fantastical, strange, sometimes really dark and scary. Superb stuff.

Point of Hopes by Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett

Is it another series I glommed like a cartoon squirrel going through a tree? Why yes it is. Absolutely wonderful fantasy with an understated m/m romance at the centre, delightful world building, huge warmth, interesting plots and a new one coming out next year oh my god I cannot wait. Read them all!

The Serpent by Claire North

The first of three linked spec fic novellas with a lovely concept about a mysterious mystic game-playing sect. You need to read all three, really, but I think this was my favourite. I want the author to write more in her Kate Griffin persona though, I miss Matthew Swift.

Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley

Sequel to the utterly glorious urban fantasy The Rook. I loved this one just as much. Ingenious, funny, twisty, well-plotted, lovely strong female leads, and vast quantities of gleeful inventiveness.

Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones

Not sure whether to put this under romance or fantasy, both are valid. A nice twisty political/mystical conspiracy plot in a well developed mitteleuropeanish fantasy setting; a delightful slow burn f/f romance. Hugely readable fun.

 

Non-fiction

The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla et al

This has been getting column inches for a reason. A terrific collection of essays about the British immigrant experience, from all kinds of perspectives that often don’t get space. Often angry, often hilarious, always thoughtful. Should be required reading for every Brit.

Dirty Old London: the Victorian Fight against Filth by Lee Jackson

Let’s not mess about. Either you read that title and thought, Wow, Victorian drains, plumbing and rubbish disposal? That sounds intriguing! or you didn’t. If you did, I highly recommend this. Packed full of fascinating and often stomach-churning facts.

Bright Young People by DJ Taylor

I was thinking of writing a romance series about the Bright Young Things of the 20s and 30s, but then I read this book and realised I’d rather floss with barbed wire. It’s noteworthy they couldn’t even tolerate themselves. Really interesting social history of a generation at an extraordinary point in time, as long as you don’t mind shouting “Oh my God you insufferable entitled twat!” at the pages a lot.  A useful companion to this would be Among the Bohemians, which is about people around the same period who were kind of like the Bright Young People but generally with less privilege and more talent, so you’ll be shouting “Oh my God you insufferable smug twat!” instead.

If you are going to read about the Bright Young Awfuls, I strongly recommend Crazy Pavements by Beverley Nichols which is a pre Vile Bodies expose novel, and also a queer romance under the thinnest possible veil, written in the 1920s.

Richmond Unchained by Luke G Williams

Biography of a black British boxer who competed for the English title, became a national superstar, and was a guard of honour at the Prince Regent’s coronation as George IV. An amazing story, as thrilling as any novel. The author’s a boxing journalist, and it shows because the accounts of Richmond’s two big fights are heart-stoppingly exciting.

Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found by Frances Larson

It’s about the history and practice of decapitation. What would you like me to say?

________________

Because it’s Christmas and because I want people to read it, I am giving away an e-copy of Documenting Light to a randomly chosen commenter here. Just name one good book you read this year in the comments to be considered! Draw will be made on 16th December.

________________

My most recent release was the story ‘The Price of Meat’ in the All In Fear queer horror anthology. Wanted, a Gentleman releases on 9 January, and then my new Victorian trilogy Sins of the Cities starts in February with An Unseen Attraction.

 

The state of things: extract, free story, free edit, oh my!

This is a general update blog post about me. I do post promo stuff occasionally in between rants about aristocratic titles and punctuation, you know.

Well, it’s been a hell of a year globally speaking, but an extremely quiet one for me, with only one book out. All that is about to change.

On 1 December, All in Fear releases. This is an anthology of queer horror which includes my penny dreadful alt-Victorian story ‘The Price of Meat’. A brief extract to give you the flavour:

In the time of England’s steep decline, when Victor II sprawled on the throne and lost colonies as carelessly as a child loses toys, there stood a number of institutions that should never have been permitted to exist. One was the foul and ancient liberty of Alsatia, to which we will return anon; another was Mr Fogg’s Asylum for the Weak-Minded, located to the west of London on the soot-grimed scrubland of Old Oak Common. It is there our story begins one cold, bright day in December 1870, as Mr Fogg himself conducted Johanna Oakley through its dark, draughty passages.

A corridor lined with heavy doors stretched in front of her, each with a great iron lock and a barred inspection hatch through which attendants might spy. Some hatches were firmly closed, keeping the unfortunates within closely confined; through the open ones came sounds. A sob; a laugh; a mutter of prayer, though whether to a merciful God, or to something quite different, Johanna could not tell. From one cell came the sound of a crying child: fearful, heartsick, hopeless weeping. She turned by instinct, but Mr Fogg grasped her arm.

“You don’t want to look in there.” His thin lips stretched over yellow, ridged teeth in a smile. “It is not a sight for a pretty young lady such as yourself.”

She detached his hand from her arm with unconcealed distaste. Mr Fogg’s smile widened to show both rows of teeth, and bony gums. “Such a privilege to be visited by a genteel young lady. I do adore young ladies. I cherish your delicate constitutions.”

Johanna’s hands tensed within their concealing muff. “Take me to Miss Wilmot now, if you please.”

Mr Fogg moved on, if possible at a slower pace than before, and paused to indicate a door with the head of his cane. “There’s a young lady in there, you see—” He smashed the cane against the door with such sudden violence that Johanna jumped, and a tiny, muffled shriek came from within. “Quiet!” he bellowed, and turned back to Johanna with an oily smile. “You see how nervous the patients are. We must regulate their behaviour for their own good. There is one lady in the separate rooms for whom the doctor prescribed a fortnight’s absolute silence and solitude to ease the habit of complaint for which her husband had her confined. Yet she continually breaks the regime by speaking out, to herself or the attendants, and then the fortnight must be started again, you see. Again and again.”

“How long have you kept her in solitary confinement for this?” Johanna asked.

“Oh, more than a year now. This is Miss Wilmot’s accommodation.”

Johanna looked at the thick, locked, barred door. “I hope you are treating my friend with the greatest respect and kindness, sir. You will answer for it if not.”

“Oh, we give her the most tender care,” Mr Fogg said, a smile oozing across his face.  “The tenderest care for the tenderest flesh. Such a delicate young lady. You may have a half-hour only, and I must remain in the room. I cannot permit Miss Wilmot’s constitution to be upset.”

Next: a freebie. I’ve written a free coda, currently running around 6500 words, to the Society of Gentlemen series. It’s called A Private Miscellany, and it will be available free exclusively to my newsletter subscribers, coming in an email around 20 Dec (date tbc). Sign up here. You can always unsubscribe again, I won’t feel hurt, but they reasonably often have free stuff and tbh I send about 5 of these a year. I’m not an assiduous marketer. (It will be available to new subscribers after that date as soon as I master the technical challenge of setting up a welcome email. However, since I can’t set the clock on my oven, it might be safer to subscribe now.)

The freebie will be 100% meaningless if you haven’t read the Society of Gentlemen series, but they are ridiculously cheap and were rather well reviewed (“to truly appreciate the magnificence of this series you need to read the whole lot of them, preferably one after the other. This is because the stories are as intimately entwined as the lovers”), so why not treat yourself to some cravats and smut for Christmas so as not to feel left out?

Then! Bringing the new year in on 9th January is my new Georgian road trip Wanted, a Gentleman, which Romantic Times listed as a 4.5* Top Pick (“a romp of a novella. …  a perfectly compact romance that shows a couple can be cranky and still head-over-heels for each other.”

An Unseen Attraction_Charles(1)AND THEN. In February, the new Victorian Sins of the Cities trilogy kicks off with An Unseen Attraction. Much more to come on that nearer the time, so I’m just going to put the cover here for now. Purr.

The trilogy will be publishing in Feb, June, and October 2017, assuming nobody tweets “I dare you to push the nuclear button ha ha chicken” at Donald Trump before then.

AAAAND FINALLY.  I offered around the time of Brexit to give free development edits to British BAME aspiring romance authors. There’s a slot going still so if you are or know anyone who’d be eligible and likes FREE EDITS, please hit me up!

That’s my State of the Nation. Next time: probably more obscure quibbling about punctuation, tbh.

Free development edits for British diverse romance

It’s been a while since I blogged. To be honest, I had the stuffing knocked out of me by Brexit.

There are a lot of things to hate about the results of the EU referendum—the damage to international relations, the economic catastrophe coming our way, the revelation of how mendacious and incompetent our leaders are, the limiting of our children’s prospects etc etc—but right now the worst thing seems to me the level of hateful bigotry it’s revealed and enabled in my nation.

Racism is on the march. We’ve seen the worst ever spike in recorded hate crimes. There have been petrol bombings of shops owned by immigrants, windows smashed, hateful messages and graffiti, people told to “go home” as if this wasn’t their home, as if Britain’s wealth didn’t come from travelling all over the world and stealing anything that wasn’t nailed down and plenty that was, as if we are not an entire nation of immigrants dating back to the first person who ever rowed ashore and immediately complained about the weather. (A Swedish woman was told to “go home” in York. Yes, there’s a place with absolutely no history of Scandinavian immigration AT ALL, you ignorant bags of mince.)

Anyway. I was feeling pretty down about the state of our self-destructing rock in the sea, when I came across this from the excellent Nikesh Shukla on Twitter, whose The Good Immigrant is coming out soon:

shukla

This is absolutely right. I am a powerful believer in doing something in times of anxiety, unhappiness and anger, as a way to make myself feel better if nothing else.

I also believe passionately in the importance of fiction, both for a bit of escape and as a way of opening our horizons. To see ourselves and other people reflected in books, to see the world as it should be, to believe for a little while that things will be all right: those are important. Romance is important; diverse romance is doubly important at a time when the worst sort of people are trying to drive out the glorious variety of human experience that makes this country worth living in.

And therefore I am offering two free development edits to two aspiring British BAME romance writers, in an effort to help people towards publication and make for a more inclusive publishing landscape. Please spread and share.

About the offer

  • This is only open to black, Asian, or minority ethnic romance writers of British identity or living in Britain, as a drop-in-the-bucket effort to increase the diversity of British romance.
  • This is only open to aspiring writers, who are aiming for publication but not yet there. I’m trying to give a couple of newbies a hand to get started: please respect that. Anyone who doesn’t meet these criteria but is thinking of scamming a free edit should be aware that I’m really not in the mood. If you’re not sure whether you qualify, ask me below.
  • Romance only please. It can be m/f, or any letter in the LGBTQA+ rainbow; any level of sensuality from none to scorchio. As long as there’s a central love story with a happy-for-now or happy-ever-after ending.
  • I don’t do MSS that include rape, noncon, dubcon, torture or slavery as erotic elements.
  • I specialise in historical and am particularly interested in diverse historical romance, which will be given priority.
  • I will read the MS and send a development letter looking at plot, characterisation, pacing, and top-line elements of style, identifying how to make the book better and more saleable. Two reads, two authors, one MS each, no charge.
  • My schedule resembles the end of The Italian Job and not in a good way, so I am hoping to read these MSS on holiday in August. Therefore I’d ideally like to have complete MSS in by end July. EDIT: If your MS isn’t ready but you’d like to stick your name down anyway, please do. I’ll make time.

Why you should trust me with your MS

I’m an editor of more than twenty years’ experience, several of those as an acquiring editor at Harlequin Mills & Boon where books I edited were RITA-nominated and one a winner. I worked with and acquired a number of aspiring authors from the slush pile who are now published and successful, including some USA Today bestsellers. I am now a freelance romance writer and editor making my living from romance.

As a writer: see my books here. Think of England was voted Best LGBT Romance in the All About Romance 2015 Readers Poll. A Seditious Affair was voted tied first for Best LGBTQ+ Romance in the All About Romance 2016 Readers poll, and received Honourable Mention for Best Romance and Best Historical Romance set in the UK. The Washington Post called A Gentleman’s Position “an emotional, deeply romantic look at the remarkable lengths we will go for love.”

How to apply

If you are a British/UK-dwelling BAME-origin aspiring romance author with a MS that meets the criteria above, comment here (on my blog at kjcharleswriter.com and not on Goodreads, to which it copies). Please include a short (two-line) note of what your story’s about, the word count, and if it’s complete. Please leave your email address in the form bit along with your name when you make the comment. (Not in the comment, in case you get spammed).

I will pick the candidates based on who it seems I can best help, starting with diverse British historicals if any are available, because I would really like to read more of those and I’m fundamentally selfish. I may need to email you to chat about suitability. My decision is sole and final.

I’ll announce here when I have filled the slots.

I’ll moderate the hell out of the comments if I have to, so take jerkishness elsewhere.

Free Society of Gentlemen interlude (with catch)

It’s just a few days till A Gentleman’s Position publishes. This is the third book in my Regency ‘Society of Gentlemen’ trilogy, this one starring the highly principled Lord Richard Vane and his deeply unprincipled valet David Cyprian, and it’s going to tie up all sorts of things. Starting with Lord Richard’s conscience in knots. /evil grin/

We left the story in A Seditious Affair with radical bookseller Silas Mason moved into Lord Richard’s household; we pick things up a few weeks later in A Gentleman’s Position to see that Silas and Cyprian have struck up a friendship. So I wrote a special behind-the-scenes interlude, ‘A Confidential Problem’, about the, uh, challenging beginnings of that friendship, for a bit of insight into what was going on backstairs.facebook CP

‘A Confidential Problem’ is a 4,000 word scene which takes place between chapters 15 and 16 of A Seditious Affair (after Silas has gone down to Arrandene, but before the finale). It’s not standalone, and won’t make any sense if you haven’t read A Seditious Affair, but since that’s still ludicrously cheap at the time of writing, I’d get on that now if I were you.

The catch!

This story is only currently available via my newsletter. If you’re an existing subscriber you’ll get it. If you’re not, please sign up to be sent a download link. (Use that link rather than going to the newsletter page or you might miss it.)

You can, obviously, then unsubscribe at will, but please note, I only email when there’s something worth emailing about, such as new books and free stuff, and your address will never be used by me for any other purpose.

Subscribe to the newsletter here to get ‘A Confidential Problem’, or sit back and wait if you’re already a subscriber. I hope you enjoy it!

________________________________________

A Gentleman’s Position comes out on 5th April.

A Seditious Affair was voted tied first for Best LGBTQ+ Romance in the All About Romance annual poll, and received Honourable Mention for Best Romance and Best Historical Romance set in the UK.