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!
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’ 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.)
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.
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+)
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!
UPDATE: The auction has been won by the wonderful Beatrice Phan, who donated an incredible $625 to the Nepal fund, and whose doppelganger will be kicking arse and taking names in The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, out in June.
Nepal is in desperate need still. I’m running a fund here for the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal with an exclusive Think of England story as bribe!
The death toll from the earthquake in Nepal stands at 3200 today, and will only rise with aftershocks, injuries and privation. This is one of the poorest countries on earth, its capital city and major sources of tourism income have been devastated, and it needs help. The fantastic Tiffany Reisz is running an auction here (seriously, she’s great) and this has inspired me to chuck in my own tuppence worth.
So, here we go:
Your name, or that of a friend as you prefer and with their permission, to appear as a character in a forthcoming book (either The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal Victorian Gothic, publishing June 2015, or A Fashionable Indulgence Regency, publishing August 2015, both queer romance). There may well be an option for your namesake to die horribly, if you like that sort of thing. The name is going to have to fit with a Victorian or Regency setting, but I’ll work with you on that.
Please bid in the comments (on the WordPress site – this blog publishes to Goodreads too, but I need to keep it in one place for sanity’s sake. Visit here to bid if you’re reading this on Goodreads.) Just make a comment with your bid and don’t forget to include your email address (in the login thing is fine, I can see it there).
The winner will need to Paypal me the money, and I’ll send you the receipt of the donation made to Save the Children’s Nepal Earthquake fund.
The auction runs until Monday 4 May, because we need to get money over there promptly. Please share this and bid generously! And if you don’t win, please consider donating anyway, to a country in desperate straits.
Edit: I didn’t think about currency, duh. For ease of auctioning, please could you bid in US$, and we’ll convert if need be?
Edit 2: OK, this is going startlingly well. Allow me to throw in a copy of the Secret Casebook, and a dedication, because seriously, I love you.
My new book Jackdaw releases on 17 February. And I have the mother of all teasers for you.
“Jackdaw: Valentine’s Day” is a Jackdaw prequel, drawn by the magnificently talented artist Mila May. It features our heroes Ben and Jonah, who appears in the previous book Flight of Magpies, and as you will see, things are going swimmingly for them.
Individual pages follow, and there’s a pdf link at the bottom for download.
Happy Valentine’s Day from me and Lyudmila. I hope yours is better than Ben and Jonah’s…
Jonah Pastern is a magician, a liar, a windwalker, a professional thief…and for six months, he was the love of police constable Ben Spenser’s life. Until his betrayal left Ben jailed, ruined, alone, and looking for revenge.
Ben is determined to make Jonah pay. But he can’t seem to forget what they once shared, and Jonah refuses to let him. Soon Ben is entangled in Jonah’s chaotic existence all over again, and they’re running together—from the police, the justiciary, and some dangerous people with a lethal grudge against them.
Threatened on all sides by betrayals, secrets, and the laws of the land, can they find a way to live and love before the past catches up with them?
This story is set in the world of the Charm of Magpies series.
So there is another free Charm of Magpies short story available right now. Another! There was one last month!
Here’s what happened. Samhain, my publisher, at that time published print a year after the electronic version. They have a minimum length at which a book can go into print, and A Case of Possession, Charm of Magpies #2, squeaked in a little under that. Now, I really wanted it in print. Because print is fun to have, but also because it’s dedicated to my friend Caroline, and she informed me that if she didn’t get a print copy to show people, I’d be in serious trouble.
I have been friends with Caro for thirty years. I know what trouble means. So I suggested to Samhain that I could write a bonus story to bring the book up to print length. They went for it, to be released electronically at the same time as the print book (hence its appearance out of series order), and even said it would have its own cover by Lou Harper. Now all I had to do was write something.
This was less easy than you might think. I was hopelessly stuck on Magpie 3 at this point, so stuck that I’d actually written an entire and totally different novel that came into my head while I was fretting (Think of England, the world’s longest example of ‘oh look, a squirrel’). So coming up with a story that fitted into a series arc that I wasn’t sure about…whimper.
I had no idea what to write.
I went for a drink with Caro and her bloke Simon, and ventured a quiet murmur of mild complaint (which I may have phrased as ‘your bloody story is doing my head in, you utter moose, now buy me a drink’). Simon asked about what I was writing. I spoke of Victorian London. And Simon, who works in the drinks trade, asked, did I know about the black cat signs they used for bootleg gin?
Tell me more, I said.
Well. It seems that the very many brewers of bathtub gin would identify their product for sale by a black cat, as a universal sign of ‘Get very cheap drink here!’, in the same way that a red and white pole indicated a barber, or three golden balls indicated a pawnbroker. I haven’t been able to find any very serious sources on this, but here’s one version as presented by Hayman’s, gin manufacturer:
Back in 1736, one Captain Dudley Bradstreet lucked into both a piece of London property and a stock of gin. Bradstreet hung a sign depicting a painted cat in the window and let it be known that doses of sweet mother’s ruin could be had at the address. “Under the cat’s paw sign was a slot and a lead pipe, which was attached to a funnel inside the house,” reads a history put together by Hayman’s. “Customers placed their money in the slot and duly received their gin. Bradstreet’s idea was soon copied all over London. People would stand outside houses, call ‘puss’ and when the voice within said ‘mew,’ they would know that they could buy bootleg gin inside. Very soon Old Tom became an affectionate nickname for gin.”
It is, at the least, a cool story. And it got me thinking. It got me thinking about what drives people to drink, to remember and to forget, about cold dark wet Victorian streets. I started thinking about what my characters had that they might want to forget. A plot came swimming out of the depths, a piece depicting one of Stephen’s justiciary cases that turns personal…
And with it came a revelation about what two of my secondary characters had been up to offstage while I was writing the main story.
I realise that this is the kind of thing that makes non-writers roll their eyes and mutter, “Obviously they aren’t doing things behind your back, they’re made up. By you.” All I can say is: Sorry, that’s how it works. I realised when I wrote this story that two characters had embarked on a relationship. That realisation isn’t pivotal to A Case of Spirits, as such…but it gave me the handle on Magpie 3 that I needed.
Suddenly I could see the shape of Magpie 3. I could see how the stories interlocked and what was driving everyone on, and what was piling strain on the main relationship. The whole book that became Flight of Magpies clicked into place. It worked. Thanks to Caroline (by accident) and to gin.
Story of my life, basically.
A Case of Spirits is available from Amazon and all the usual places. It’s free (because it’s free with the print book) and comes between A Case of Possession and Flight of Magpies. It’s more a mood piece than anything, and has no series spoilers so feel free to sample if you haven’t read the others. I hope you enjoy it!
A Charm of Magpies reading order:
Interlude with Tattoos (free)
A Case of Spirits (free)
Feast of Stephen (free)
Jackdaw (coming in February, and a linked story)
Ho ho ho and sleighbells on top. This will be my last blog post of the year unless anything interesting happens, so merry Christmas and happy holidays, one and all.
Since it’s the ‘free stuff’ time of year—I mean, the season for giving—I have a little something for you. It’s Feast of Stephen, my long-promised Magpie story, a short coda to Flight of Magpies, in which Crane and Stephen finally make it to their Christmas getaway. There is storytelling, exchange of gifts, and a bit of magical smut (you’re welcome).
There are also a lot of spoilers for / references to Flight, so it’s really not going to be any good to you unless you’ve read the Charm of Magpies series. Sorry. (Call me Scrooge.)
Click here to download from Smashwords in whatever format floats your boat and don’t forget to appreciate the gorgeous cover by Susan Lee.
In other news…
I’m delighted to say Think of England won Best Gay Historical Romance in the 2014 Rainbow Awards and A Case of Possession came equal first in Best Gay Fantasy Romance. Yay I have certificates! I’m really immensely proud of this, and grateful for all the hard work put in, and by the fundraising efforts of the awards themselves, which have raised over $11K for excellent causes.
Talking of excellent causes, the anthology Another Place in Time, in which I have a story, has now raised $5K for AllOut. So if you feel like doing some good and stuffing your stocking with some excellent historical romance by a range of terrific authors plus me, clicky clicky.
You may also have seen that I have an exciting new magpie logo, courtesy of the marvellous Catherine Dair, and a full brand site revamp thing is underway so I’ll be integrating this blog into my website in the new year. Watch this space.
And finally, making me very happy, a teaser image for Jackdaw, out in Feb, from the ridiculously talented Lyudmila Tsapaeva.
Right, that’s it, I have fairy lights to untangle. Make sure you don’t accidentally watch Love Actually, beware the sherry, and see you in 2015.
One of the things that separates the United States from Britain, along with a large ocean and a shocking waste of tea, is Thanksgiving. The US has a national holiday all about counting your blessings; the British use ‘count your blessings’ as a polite synonym for ‘shut up’. If the British were forced to use the hashtag #ImThankfulFor, you’d mostly get ‘at least it’s not raining too heavily’ and ‘David Cameron will die one day’. This isn’t (just) grumpiness. I think it’s part of a national sense that talking about the good stuff you have is somewhere between bragging and tempting fate, just as I’ve read some cultures believe that praising a young child’s beauty or wonderfulness attracts the forces of evil, and you keep them under the devil’s radar by calling them Stinky Git for the first few years.
I’m OK with this because I’m British and rain is in my soul. But there’s a fine line between ‘not bragging about the good stuff you have’ and ‘not acknowledging how lucky and privileged you are when an awful lot of the world would like to be in your shoes’. I got married with the full support of the entire social structure and I can kiss my husband in public without fear; I don’t have to worry my son will be demonised because of the colour of his skin; I’m part of a nation that helped itself to other people’s land and is still coasting off the profits, rather than part of a nation that got raided; I can turn on a tap and clean water comes out. I’m not the 1%, I’m scrabbling for the mortgage, but by any reasonable standards I’m lucky beyond belief. And it’s very easy to take that as a given and not acknowledge one’s sheer baseline privilege.
That said, ‘I have clean water’ doesn’t make for much of a blog post. So, a day after the turkey business because creeping Americanisation of national holidays mutter mutter, a few of my reasons to be cheerful, which are also things that might make you cheerful too.
1) THIS ART OMG. Magpie fan and general genius Lyudmila Tsapaeva strikes again. This is glorious, all four characters absolutely spot on, and I am in love. (Earlier art here if you missed it – I think she’s got the characters perfect this time.) There is also a slightly NSFW version showing what the characters are thinking – join my Facebook chat group to see!
2) The 2014 Goodreads M/M Romance Group Member’s Choice Awards are coming round, and counting anthology and collaboration, I’ve got sixteen nominations. Which is pretty incredibly pleasing.
Obviously that’s me me me, but going through the nominations reminded me that I’ve read a lot of good books in this genre this year. That’s really important. Those who followed Queer Romance Month will have seen a lot of amazing posts about the importance of visibility for LBGTQ characters in popular culture, and that visibility needs to be backed up with quality of writing and storytelling and editing that holds its own in any company. So, here are a few recs of my year’s most enjoyed queer romance reads. Thank me later.
Prosperity by Alexis Hall, a steampunky explosion of wonderfulness which I adore and you should read, plus there are a load of linked stories, one of which is an ENTIRE FREE 40K NOVELLA. Seriously. Free. And the cover is the most gloriously, ridiculously old-skool-tropey thing ever. Look at it and go back in alt time to the Bare Chest Romance of Yore.
The Devil Lancer by Astrid Amara, pure Crimean War historical-paranormal joy.
The Reluctant Berserker by Alex Beecroft, a marvellous trope-bending story of a Saxon warrior
SA Meade’s Tournament of Shadows, a historical set in the Great Game period. /dies of intense satisfaction/
To Summon Nightmares by JK Pendragon. Gothic demon-raising shenanigans, great trans hero and lovely worldbuilding. A really strong new paranormal voice.
Business Makes Strange Bedfellows by EE Ottoman, a 19th-century vampire/reanimator horror lesbian romance. Which is like the best string of words ever. I don’t generally like vampire romance but this does it perfectly. Also, if you didn’t read EE’s QRM post, go read it now.
Jordan L Hawk’s SPECTR series was my crack as it was coming out in episodes. Hugely plotted, twisty, exciting, sexy contemporary paranormal, with a monster-of-the-week structure and a brilliant overarching conspiracy story.
Five Dates, a free (AGAIN WITH THE FREE), sweet and well written contemporary by Amy Jo Cousins, who is a writer to watch.
3) This Jezebel takedown of Love, Actually. Because if that misogynist dreck becomes a ‘Christmas classic’ I’m going to go full pagan.
4) The fact that for every irritating Black Friday sales pitch/whine that we don’t have that here/orgy of materialistic greed, there is something hilarious on Twitter…
5) This never fails to make my editorial day: Authors doing a search and replace for character names without ticking the ‘whole word only’ box, leaving the editor with a game of Guess What They Used To Be Called. How many can you get?
The sign was painted scolinet
He had just hughed time
He had Italjames looks
She mary swiftly and walked away
Your felixing is dreadful
I did that yesterstephen [clue: this one was me]
(Lovely blog post here from Becky Black on this.)
So that’s some of the things making me cheerful. How about you?
It’s all about the exciting news this week.
First we have the release of gay historical romance anthology Another Place in Time. This is a collection of six stories put together by the lovely Susan Lee, ranging from Knights Templar to 1940s America, written by a selection of some of my favourite historical authors and also me. It’s being published to coincide with the US LGBT History Month, and all monies raised go to All Out. What I’m getting at is, go spend some money. The first reviews are in and stellar.
a consistently high quality anthology, not one of the short stories was less than a 5 star rating for me and I can honestly say I absolutely loved every single one of them (Sinfully Sexy)
My story, ‘The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh’, is my first foray into Regency. I’ve always loved Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances and had immense fun writing one of my own, with a hungover black sheep, a dangerous gambler, and a game of cards for very high and just slightly kinky stakes. I had to learn how to play ecarté for this story, dammit: the least you could do is read it. (This one is very high on the sexytimes, incidentally. Because I felt like it, that’s why.)
Second: October is Queer Romance Month! A group of authors decided to put queer romance front and centre, and this is the result: a full month of posts, flash fiction, recommendations, giveaways and chat about all aspects of queer romance, by a bewildering variety of authors. I’ve been uploading posts all morning, which took ages because they’re too interesting not to read. Check out my introductory post on Love is Not a Subgenre here, and return daily through October for all the goodies. (And follow us on @queerromance too!)
Thirdly, of less import to anyone but me: I’ve made the leap. As of last week I’m now a full time writer and freelance editor. So, uh, more books from me (hopefully), and I’m at kjcharleswriter[at]gmail.com for anyone looking for development/line editing who hasn’t been scared off by this blog. Get in touch!
And finally, book 3 of A Charm of Magpies, Flight of Magpies, will be out at the end of the month. Stay tuned for a giveaway mid-Oct.
That’s it for news, unless you want to hear how my cat’s doing. (Eating craneflies. Bet you’re sorry you asked.)
My new book, Non-Stop Till Tokyo, is completely different to everything I’ve published to date.
[pause for readers to say either ‘WHAT? NOOOOOO’ or ‘Oh, thank God’, to taste.]
It is, undeniably, a funny feeling. So far I’ve written…pause for maths…three shortish novels and five short stories all of which are paranormal mystery m/m romance set in Victorian England; plus one shortish novel which is a m/m pulp adventure/romance set in Edwardian England, without magic, but with lots of period atmosphere, stiff upper lip and nice clothes.
Non-Stop Till Tokyo is a long m/f romantic suspense thriller set in contemporary Tokyo, with a bar girl and a thug on the run from the yakuza. Yep, plenty of readership crossover there.
It’s a complicated thing, when writers move genres. Many simply adopt two identities (or more for super-prolific authors trying not to flood the market. John Creasey wrote an estimated 550 books under 28 pen names.). It isn’t usually a matter of keeping a secret, rather of letting the reader be certain of what they’re getting. Ruth Rendell for twisty mystery; Barbara Vine for Gothic. Iain Banks for contemporary disturbia; Iain M Banks for sci fi. Gore Vidal for history, politics, satire; Edgar Box for mystery novels. (Yes, really.) JK Rowling for buckets of money; Robert Galbraith for 1500 copies through Bookscan.
Some romance writers do the same within genre, using different identities for different types of romance – very often because they’re prolific authors, or because they have several very distinct voices. In this case I haven’t, largely because it didn’t occur to me, my publisher didn’t suggest it, and when the subject was raised I felt uncomfortable at the idea. Tokyo is a much more mainstream, much longer book, with the emphasis pretty heavily on the suspense, and as such it might well appeal to quite a different market. But it is still being published as a romance – m/f rather than m/m. If I published an experimental literary novel, or a children’s picture book, there would be a very strong reason for a new identity to avoid confusion, bewilderment and dismay from people checking out the backlist (or, indeed, frontlist). Ditto if I had a massive body of work (I wish) and a marketing imperative to separate it out into strands. But since I don’t, and since I’d like to live in a world where romance is romance regardless of gender, writing as KJ Charles across the board is, in the tiniest and least significant way possible, my way of asserting that.
So, yeah, if you’re looking for a fairly violent, fast moving and somewhat unusual thriller, Non-Stop Till Tokyo is out this month. If you’re looking for my next m/m, that’s Think of England, in July.
In other news, I have a cover for Flight of Magpies (October) now! In fact, I have all four Magpie covers, including the one for free short A Case of Spirits, coming Jan 15, and just look how cool they are together.
Non-Stop Till Tokyo
A man with a past is her only hope for the future.
Kerry Ekdahl’s mixed heritage and linguistics skills could have made her a corporate star. Instead, she’s a hostess in a high-end Tokyo bar, catering to businessmen who want conversation, translation and flirtation. Easy money, no stress. Life is good—until she’s framed for the murder of a yakuza boss.
Trapped in rural Japan with the gangsters closing in, Kerry doesn’t stand a chance. Then help arrives in the menacing form of Chanko, a Samoan-American ex-sumo wrestler with a bad attitude, a lot of secrets, and a mission she doesn’t understand.
Kerry doesn’t get involved with dangerous men. Then again, she’s never had one on her side before. And the big, taciturn fighter seems determined to save her life, even if they rub each other the wrong way.
Then her friends are threatened, and Kerry has no choice but to return to Tokyo and face the yakuza. Where she learns, too late, that the muscle man who’s got her back could be poised to stab it.
Warning: Contains graphic violence (I’m not kidding about this), swearing, and implied sexual abuse.
Non Stop Till Tokyo comes out on 29 April from Samhain. Next time, some cool stuff about Japan, plus a link to some good music. I feel almost modern.