Reasons to be Cheerful (with art, recs, comedy and quiz!)

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…

black fridayor Facebook…

black friday 2

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

How irmavisting

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?

16 replies
  1. laneswift
    laneswift says:

    Aside from the fact I discovered the kids have head lice a-f*cking-gain, I have plenty, plenty to be thankful/cheerful for (on top of the usual privileges that come with being a Brit). I tell my kids daily how lucky they are. (Tonight, it’ll be while I’m digging my fingers into their scalps with the nit lotion, which I’m also so thankful for I ought to have shares in the company.)

    Cheering things: supermarket home delivery, the knee high boots I found from Clarks that zip up nicely over my calves, Prosecco (which never gives me a hangover) and Victoria Coren-Mitchell’s wry smile (amongst other things).

    More seriously, I’m thankful for writers who are generous enough to give their stories away for free and who make time to engage with readers. Personally, I’m also very grateful to the writers who have selflessly offered me advice and help over the last year.

    • KJ Charles
      KJ Charles says:

      Here’s something you can be grateful for: the Nitty Gritty nit comb. Throw away the lotions, seriously. It’s this comb with spiral teeth that physically removes the eggs. They stick to your kids hair with cement, and the lotions aren’t strong enough to dissolve that, but the comb literally takes the eggs out. I swear to you: conditioner, daily five minute combing session, they’ll be virtually gone tomorrow and obliterated within three days.

  2. Susinok
    Susinok says:

    I am glad I’m not the only one who really disliked Love, Actually. What a shit movie!

    And I’m cheerful because I added a few more books to the pile to read. Thank you for the recommendations!

  3. Elin Gregory
    Elin Gregory says:

    On top of all the usual privileges – and OMG even a casual perusal of history shows just how many of the things we take for granted have been based on the sweat of others – I’m thankful for the reminder about the Devil’s Lancer and being able to go and grab a copy. Weekend awake at crazy o’clock reading sorted, thank you very much 😀

  4. Fanfic3112
    Fanfic3112 says:

    You are making my day! I absolutely love a really good book, a sumptuous jewel! That is what the magpie series is! So thank you! You deserve every nomination your books have gotten! I also loved this post! My child is in the UK right now and getting to compare cultures and she loves it! I have not been to England but your books breath the ambiance your characters are set in! My daughter is trying to get to as many of the places we have read about while there. Please send any locations based on real places in this series that she should not miss! We both love your series! She recently learned to bake scones and went to several shops holding royal warrants which was so interesting to learn about.

  5. stormpen
    stormpen says:

    Yay! More authors should do these lists. And speaking as one of the ‘raided’ peoples; thanks for acknowledging that. 😉 Not that I’m holding a grudge, or anything :>

  6. Gwen
    Gwen says:

    Oh my god! KJ Charles kids get lice too! Celebrities… They’re just like us!

    Bear with me, it came to mind.

    Yay!!! Thanks for a list of recommendations. Reading reviews of Prosperity was making me laugh, so I figured if clever people like it, it must be good.

    I have had such hit and miss luck finding good books on goodreads lists. The Captive Price, awesome. The #1 Gay Romantic Fiction? That Rogue thing? So bad, I can’t remember the title.

    I look forward to reading through the list.
    Your ever admiring plot hog, who still desperately believes we are owed a ToE 1.5 while we wait,


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