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Sins of the Cities: deal them in…

In which I introduce my new Victorian Sensation queer romance trilogy, with FAQs and illustrations. (Art by the ubertalented Mila May.)

What do you mean, Victorian Sensation?

I’m glad you asked me that. The Victorians were far from being the repressed nothing-on-Sunday bores of popular imagination. The snobs and the moralisers are always with us, but if you look at what people were actually up to–books, plays, newspapers–they loved scandal, drama, melodrama, murder, sex, mysteries, booze, romance, sentiment, off-colour jokes, raucous music hall, theatrical spectacle, and pretty much everything that is fun.

Victorian Sensation was basically what we now call genre fiction, on crack. Sex! Murder! Secrets in high places! Slumming! Mysterious strangers! Femmes fatales! Aristocratic families brought low! Ludicrously implausible coincidences! Everything happening in three volumes! If you fancy a read, Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon were the acknowledged rulers of the genre. I particularly like Lady Audley’s Secret with its antiheroine running rings round the posh boys; Armadale is distinguished by a magnificent villain continually off her face on drugs, and no fewer than four characters called Allan Armadale, one of whom very reasonably calls himself Ozias Midwinter to avoid attention.

What I’m getting at is, this is not going to be drawing-room tea parties, and nobody is putting frills on their piano legs.

Go on, then, tell me about it.

The Sins of the Cities trilogy (obviously it’s a trilogy; everything Victorian happens in three volumes by law) is set in London, winter 1873, a year distinguished by one of the worst fogs ever recorded.  We begin with An Unseen Attraction, in which we meet Clem Talleyfer, an unassuming lodging-house keeper with a lovely sweet pet cat.

Clem’s busy running his house, managing the lodgers, getting by, and maybe just slightly pining after his newest lodger: the taxidermist next door, Rowley Green. Meet Rowley.

Just two gentle, reserved, quiet men getting along. Two of the nicest characters I think I’ve ever written, actually. What could possibly go wrong?

Yeah, right, KJ. We’ve met you.

OK, so it’s possible things may take a very slight turn for the murdery. But just a bit.

You’re not fooling anyone but yourself.

Fine. Sex! Murder! Secrets in high places! Slumming! Mysterious strangers! Femmes fatales! Aristocratic families brought low! Ludicrously implausible coincidences! Everything happening in three volumes!

Ah yes. Three volumes?

Each book is a standalone romance featuring a separate couple, and each has a proper ending. But there’s also an overarching story running across all three books–so don’t expect all the loose ends to be tied up till book 3. They all feature the same cast of characters, many of whom are linked because they go to the Jack and Knave, a discreet and unassuming pub for a particular clientele. Would you care to meet some of the Jack and Knave’s regulars?

Go on, then.

We play the Diamonds in book 2, An Unnatural Vice. For now, meet Nathaniel, lawyer turned journalist, wealthy archbishop’s son, and upstanding member of society. Unfortunately, let’s just say, his love interest is very much a knave. (Nathaniel is kind of screwed.)

And here’s the Jack of Spades: private enquiry agent Mark Braglewicz. A practical man. His King of Spades…well, you’ll find out in due course. I couldn’t give everything away now, could I?

And that, for now, is where matters stand. A quiet taxidermist, a gentle-hearted lodging-house keeper, and his friends from the pub…oh, and the Queen of Hearts. Did I mention the Queen of Hearts?

Well, go on, then, who’s she?

That, my friend, would be telling.

The hands are dealt, the cards are on the table. Let the games begin.

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An Unseen Attraction will be hitting the e-shelves on 21 February at all the usual places. (This post is a bit in advance but I’m going on holiday tomorrow and will be incommunicado for a week at least. I say at least because we’re going to the Yorkshire moors, so the chances of being eaten by a giant spectral hound are like 50/50 tbh.)
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Samhain Closure

A quick post re Samhain Publishing’s imminent closure and what that means for my books.

Samhain have announced that they will be shutting down, with their website going dark at the end of February. For me, the affected titles are the entire Charm of Magpies series including Jackdaw and Rag and Bone, and the standalone titles Think of England, Non Stop Till Tokyo, and The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal. That’s…quite a lot of my books.

***If you bought books directly from the Samhain site, DOWNLOAD THEM.*** Get everything to your library. There should be time enough that the site won’t fall over from demand, unlike the disgracefully rushed ARe closure, but if you’re having problems, take screenshots.

Books will start going off third party vendors (Amazon, Kobo etc) at the beginning of March (again, if you have Samhain titles stored in the cloud, download now).

Print titles will be available for a while longer as stock is sold through, but if you really want a print copy of anything Samhain, consider buying it now.

March is when they’ll start officially giving authors their rights back. My books may not be available for a period while this chunters through. I haven’t decided on what I do next, but assuming I self pub, it will take a while to reformat, tidy up, and get new covers done, and if I move to another publisher it will take considerably longer. On the other hand, there will probably be cool new cover art. That’s always fun.

A bit of good news is that return of rights mean I will at last be able to do audio books. This is something readers have been asking for, and hopefully I can get that in motion soon.

More news once I work out what to do; fist bump to all the authors affected as well as the excellent professionals who worked with Samhain–designers, editors, in house staff. This is a sad ending, but I had a very happy relationship with Samhain for a long time, starting when they offered to publish The Magpie Lord and changed my life. I’ll always be grateful for that.

A more cheerful post about EXCITING NEW SERIES follows!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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How To Like Bad Things

When I say bad things, I am not talking about ‘guilty pleasures’ like schlocky airport novels and Jason Statham movies. I mean liking things that other people can point to and say “This hurts me”. Examples might be: citing TS Eliot as my favourite poet despite the antisemitism. Enjoying rape erotica, or books with loving depictions of torture. Liking thrillers that treat women as objects or parodies. Loving Piers Anthony’s Xanth series although they…no, I’m not going there, don’t ask. Problematic things.

Because many of us do like problematic things, and most things are problematic one way or another. Books are created by people within cultures, and both people and culture are often pretty crappy.

I’m going to use my own Bad Liking as an example throughout. I love Edwardian writing, particularly pulp shockers and detective novels. Some of this is outstanding, magnificently plotted, thrilling stuff. However, much of it is tainted with profound racism, antisemitism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia in the deepest sense of ‘fear’. White heterosexual Christian English upper-class able-bodied men are usually shown as the pinnacle of human evolution, the top of the pile. If you want to see the intersections of privilege in action, these books are for you.

I love them, but I know they contain awful things. Equally, I think that Chesterton’s 1911 poem ‘Lepanto’ is a masterpiece in poetic terms; it gives me goosebumps every time. I also know it is deeply problematic in its cultural politics, and the treatment of Islam is hide-behind-the-sofa bad. Does the poetry trump the Islamophobia; does the Islamophobia negate the poetry? Do I have to stop reading this poem, or denounce it, for the things wrong with it that are awful to a modern ear? Am I a bad person because I love it anyway?

1: Liking problematic things doesn’t [necessarily] make you a bad person

It’s very easy to feel personally accused when a thing we like is denounced. Which is why this gets so heated: if other people are slamming my favourites, my self-image as a nice person is threatened. Someone says, “This thing you love is shitty and hurtful”, and I hear, “You are shitty and hurtful for liking it.” And it’s important to remember that’s not [necessarily] true, and quite possibly isn’t what’s being said. (Square brackets exception: If you’re e.g. a massive racist and you read massively racist books to reinforce your worldview, you are a terrible person. I’m assuming basic decency on the part of readers here.)

So, say you read Edwardian pulp for the thrilling adventure sequences, or enjoy ‘dark romance’ without supporting kidnapping and mistreatment of women in reality, or see something lovely and hopeful in a romance trope that other people find objectionable or erasing. That happens. People are complicated; needs and ideas and experience and vulnerability intersect in a lot of complicated ways; many things are not problematic to Person A, no matter how glaringly obvious they are to Person B; and things can be simultaneously problematic and empowering to different people. Rape erotica might seem detestable exploitation to some, yet may also be a powerful way for rape survivors to handle their experience. People may choose to retreat into fiction that erases their problems by ignoring their existence. What’s good for one less-privileged person may also be harmful to another less-privileged person–as when a gay person finds something powerful in the ‘gay for you’ trope in m/m romance that makes many bisexual people feel erased and excluded. This stuff is very complicated.

But no: liking books with problematic things does not in itself make me, or you, a bad person.

And therefore:

2: Own your likings

There are two ways I can handle my unfortunate taste for Edwardian pulp.

  1. “It’s historical racism: people didn’t know any better so it doesn’t count. You can’t judge classics by today’s attitudes. It’s just part of the genre. Don’t read it if you don’t like it. If you say my favourite books are racist you’re implying I’m a racist, so now I don’t care about your opinion.”
  2. “This book has a lot of offensive aspects, I accept that.”

The reason I can like this stuff is because I am privileged (white cis het British). I am able to skid over the offensive or crass bits and enjoy the poetry, or the story. Good for me. But I have to remember that other people will not feel the same, that they may find these things brutally hurtful, and I should respect that. If someone posts a 1* review of Greenmantle or the Father Brown stories because they find them offensive, I don’t get to argue, “Oh, but it’s just the period they were written!” or “‘Foreigners = bad guys’ is a classic trope, get used to it,” or “The author’s really nice so he obviously didn’t mean the casual racism”. I need to accept that these issues are problematic, even if they aren’t hurtfully problematic for me.

A note on the all-too-popular “when you say my favourite books are hurting you, that hurts me, so we’re quits” argument: No. Firstly, this is very often an issue of privilege: men not having to worry about women’s problems, cis people not seeing trans people’s problems, het people missing queer people’s problems. If I have more privilege in this situation, I should be the one listening, because that’s basic fairness. Punch up, not down. And secondly, there is a big difference between “I feel bad because this thing erases or belittles people like me” and “I feel bad because someone was rude about a book I like”.

3: Learn what the problem is

People, being people, tend not to want to hear what’s wrong with our favourites. “Can’t you just let me enjoy this?” we say. “I like it, so don’t spoil my fun!”

But understanding what’s wrong doesn’t spoil books. Refusing to understand and sticking your fingers in your ears may spoil people. If I say, “I don’t care why X is a problem,” I’m not just refusing to take responsibility for my own choices: I am closing myself off from other people, and deliberately keeping my view narrow. That is the opposite of what books are meant to be about.

I have recently been made aware of several erasures and assumptions that I was making without noticing. Being told so was not very comfortable for me at all. But now I know a bit more than I did, and I hope that means I will write with better, wider understanding in the future. Which means I will write better books. Which is my job.

Critically engaging with problems–in books, in my own attitudes–makes me a better reader and writer, even if it stings. I don’t enjoy John Buchan’s WWI thriller Greenmantle less because I now notice its (really weird-ass) homophobia and Orientalism. If anything, my awareness of the context gives me a deeper understanding of what remains one of my favourite books, as well as helping me not be a jerk to other people about it.

Understanding the problem helps me formulate a nuanced response. If I know why people find a book problematic, I can weigh up the issues; maybe mitigate harm; hopefully avoid jumping into discussions of it with both feet and landing on someone’s toes.

4: Live with criticism

It doesn’t make problems go away if I deny that my favourite thing is hurtful to some people, or react angrily to criticism, or claim that everything is fine. I don’t have to agree that things I like are reprehensible. I don’t have to stop reading them even if I do agree. I can mentally dismiss criticism and walk away, or say, “I hadn’t considered that perspective,” and leave it at that. I can carry on liking the thing, knowing that other people have a massive problem with it, because life is complicated. But I can’t expect everyone else to shut up about their own needs for my convenience, and I cannot insist that nobody criticises the things I like, or points out that liking them is a matter of privilege.

Even better, though harder: I can try to listen, and open my perspective out, and then carry on liking the problematic thing with a fuller understanding. Or stop reading it, if I feel it is just really not okay, and find other books to supply whatever I was getting from it. Or even write the damn thing in a way that is less problematic in the first place. (I wrote Think of England specifically as a response to my difficulties with the Edwardian pulp I love, as an attempt to share the great things about it while acknowledging or avoiding the bad ones.)

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All of which is to say: Liking books with problematic things doesn’t make you a bad person. How you handle that liking is what counts.

A Queer Trade

New Book News

Ending the year with a bang here…

I’m delighted to say that I’ve signed the contract for a second trilogy with Loveswept (Penguin Random House, publishers of the Society of Gentlemen).

Set in the 1870s, among the dubious, the déclassé and the dishonest, the trilogy is about high birth, low life, family secrets, blackmail, lies, murder, the love that dare not speak its name, and the love that speaks its name loud and clear, with pictures. A pornographer ­­­­­and a socialist join forces to investigate murder in London’s sexual underworld; a fraudulent spiritualist and a sceptical journalist get tangled up in the search for a deadly family secret; a music-hall trapeze artist may not survive an unexpected inheritance unless a private enquiry agent can find some answers.

You may be familiar with the works of Wilkie Collins, who was basically Dickens on crack. He wrote balls-to-the-wall sensation fiction full of murder and inheritance shenanigans and people unmentionable in polite society, and did so while drinking laudanum (opium dissolved in alcohol) by the pint, chased down by champagne. Well, this is my go at Wilkie Collins, though not at his personal habits unless things deteriorate quite considerably over here.

This is a mostly m/m romance trilogy—it includes my first genderqueer main character—and I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into this project. More news as it comes!

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I am also making my first venture into self-publishing with ‘A Queer Trade’. This 16K story, first published in the Charmed & Dangerous anthology, introduced Ned Hall and Crispin Tredarloe, who star in the forthcoming novel Rag and Bone (coming from Samhain, March 2016). I’m bringing out ‘A Queer Trade’ in early February as a separate edition. How about this cover by Catherine Dair?

A Queer Trade cover(1)

‘A Queer Trade’ and Rag and Bone are both set in the Charm of Magpies world, running alongside the Magpie stories. ‘A Queer Trade’ happens in the summer of A Case of Possession, and Rag and Bone takes place simultaneously with the opening action of Jackdaw. (You don’t have to read ‘A Queer Trade’ to follow Rag and Bone, but as with any series, it helps to know what’s gone on, and they are reasonably closely linked. Anyway, I like it.)

Smashwords and Amazon preorders are up for ‘A Queer Trade’ and it’s rolling out to the usual places.

Rag and Bone comes out on 28 March, and here’s the cover again (Angela Waters for Samhain) for the sheer glorious loveliness of it.  I might have to write about 15 more of these.

Rag and Bone small

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In other news, A Seditious Affair is now out in ebook and audio, and the reviews are pretty nice so far. :)

This book is, in all ways, an absolute triumph for KJ Charles. (Binge on Books)

A fabulous installment in what is shaping up to be a wonderful series (Joyfully Jay, 5*)

I’m not one to sob over a book, but I’ll admit to having a tight throat on a couple of occasions. It’s all glorious. (Sinfully, 5*)

A Seditious Affair is not a fluffy read but it is a story you can really sink your teeth into. It’s complex, sensual, raw and gosh darn it – SUPER romantic. It’s one of my favorite reads of 2015. (For What It’s Worth)

Let me tell you why this novel is so phenomenal that I skipped two meals and disconnected my phone so I could read it uninterrupted. … heart-wrenching romances, clever characters, buckets of chemistry, and a conflict that keeps your turning pages as fast as your e-reader allows you. (Just Love, 5*)

Ms Charles has done an amazing job of weaving a compelling and deeply romantic love story through the rich tapestry of real historical events. … I was completely won over by both Silas and Dominic, who are wonderfully drawn, strong characters, and by the sheer depth of emotion that lies between them… Without doubt, A Seditious Affair is one of the best books I’ve read this year. (All About Romance, A+)

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That’s it from me for now. I’m signing off for Christmas and then off on holiday, back in mid January. Season’s greetings, happy new year, and see you in 2016 for more books!

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Free* Think of England short story

Earlier in the year, when the appalling earthquake hit Nepal, I made a deal with the members of my Facebook chat group. If they’d donate to the Disaster Emergency Committee to help Nepal, I’d write them a short story set in the world of my book Think of England.

So they did, raising a little over $2000. And I did, writing a short from Daniel’s point of view.

I’m now making the story generally available: find it in the Free Reads section of my website. You can get it as a pdf, with no restrictions; however, if you like it, and you’re in a position to donate to the Nepal fund, please consider doing so. Nepal is still in desperate straits, they need help, and if you enjoy the story and have even just a couple of bucks to spare, it will make a difference.

‘Song for a Viking’ is 3,500 words, and it overlaps the last chapter of Think of England. If you haven’t read Think of England it’ll be no good to you. Sorry. If you have, you may wish to refresh your memory of the ending first so you see what’s going on.

It was fun to write from Daniel’s point of view, and to go a bit beyond where I left our heroes in that book; I hope you enjoy it!

 

*The story is not precisely free, because it was brought to you by the generous donations of the KJ Charles Chat Group (the Facebook group where I talk about my books, give advance news, and occasionally post exclusive extracts, deleted scenes and whatnot). If you’d like to join the group, click here; if you feel like expressing your appreciation or helping some people who need it, donate to the Nepal fund right here.

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Starving Artists, Team Players and Plagiarists

One of the go-to observations about authors is that we’re not team players. Ask an editor/publicist about trying to organise authors for an event and the phrase “like herding cats” is liable to be used. When I tell most people that I work on my own all day in a shed, they ask things like “How do you cope?” and “Isn’t it terribly lonely?”, whereas authors tend to reply, “Oh, you lucky cow.” Authors say plangent and meaningful things like, “Writing is one of the most solitary activities in the world.” We are the isolated figure in a garret, alone but for the cast of characters in our heads.

Writing isn’t actually like this.

It’s all very glamorous-sounding in a ‘drinking yourself to death on absinthe’ kind of way. It is, however, a pile of crap.

Unless an author does her own covers and her own editing and no marketing and never communicates with readers, she has a team. Here’s a rundown of the people with whom I collaborate:

The agent who sets up and manages deals, holds my hand, looks at proposals and helps plan my career

The editor to whom I send the synopsis

The publisher’s team who sign off on the deal

The contracts person with whom I dicker over terms

The covers team who turn my cover art brief into something plausible and saleable

The designer who takes that brief and makes it lovely, and who listens to me when I raise objections and makes changes

The beta readers who look at my drafts and help me get the thing into shape for the editor

The development editor, who works on the story and characters, raising problems and identifying issues

The line editor, going through the MS to pick up my inconsistencies, my echoes, my infelicities, my clumsy phrasing and overused habits and poor stylistic choices and unintended implications and dangling threads

The copy editor, hitting the million tiny errors inexplicably still in there, oh my God I suck

The proofreader, saving all our necks at the last pass

The marketing team who put together promo materials, get the book into offers and magazines, send review copies

The rights team, who push the foreign and audio rights

The finance team who make sure all the copies I sell are properly accounted and my royalties promptly paid

The book bloggers and magazines who make space for me

The reviewers who read the ARCs and write and share reviews

The readers who choose to join my Facebook group or follow my blog or send me emails, who support and encourage me because they like my books. They owe me nothing, but when they choose to help and support me, they’re my team and I love them for it.

The fellow authors who hold my hand, talk me down when times are bad and rejoice with me over successes. Who understand, as only people ploughing the same furrow do.

And there are other and greater teams, of which all authors are part. For me there is Team Queer Romance, pushing the equality of everybody’s love story. Team Romance, the people who work separately and together to promote the genre we love. Team Author, the other people who get what you’re doing and understand what it means, why it’s the best job in the world and why it sucks.

That’s a lot of people to let down when you screw up.

When Laura Harner plagiarised m/f romances to make them into m/m romances, she didn’t just commit a theft of intellectual property from Becky McGraw and Opal Carew. She let down her teams: the readers who supported her by buying her stolen books; the m/m romance community of readers and authors that had created a market for them, the LGBT+ community whose lives she travestied by switching pronouns to make a story “gay”; the bloggers and conference organisers and cowriters who worked with her; the whole romance community who stand up for each other against the contempt of lazy journalists and litsnobs to whom she’s handed us on a plate as a target of idle mockery; the romance writers who put their heart and souls into their work; and the whole author community because for those who live by words, stealing them is an unforgivable treachery.

At least Harner self pubbed. I was the editor of a plagiarising author once, and I promise you, the sense of rage and betrayal inside the publishing house was tangible when we found out. I’m still angry. Publishing may be a business but the vast majority of publishing staff care deeply about books, and don’t like being treated with contempt any more than anyone else.

Authors aren’t isolated figures, and our choices don’t take place in isolation. We have responsibilities. We have responsibilities to the publishing team who works with us to make the books better, make them pretty, make them sell. We have responsibilities to the people who invest their time in reading and maybe reviewing, their money in purchasing. We have responsibilities to the people we depict in our books, the humans who see themselves in our stories (or don’t), the lessons our stories teach. We have responsibilities to other authors: not to make each other’s paths harder than they need to be, not to bring the genre or the profession into disrepute, not to shove each other down in the effort to get ahead ourselves.

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Writing really isn’t like this either.

Authors are part of a huge complicated web of relationships, just like every other human in the world. It may not feel like that alone in the metaphorical shed. But if I plagiarise, treat others disrespectfully in my writing, or otherwise mess up, through commission or omission, I am letting more people down than just myself. And I forget that at my peril.

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KJ Charles is an editor, writer and organiser of Queer Romance Month. Her most recent release is the short story “The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh“.