Change of Address: I’m moving!

I am moving my website and blog over to a shiny new home at

Please go on over there (it has cool stuff such as proper books page! Reading order! um…Stuff!) and update your feed/address book if you want to keep getting blog posts. This place will remain up for the foreseeable but there will be no new posts fed from here. Oh, and I’ll be doing a newsletter which you can sign up for here or avoid, to taste.

As bribe (if you’re timely, it runs to 24 June) I’m doing a giveaway over at the new place. But I’m not saying what. You’ll have to go see. Ha!

So that’s for all your needs in the way of editorial advice/explosive book-related ranting/random historical stuff/gay Victorian occult detectives/other. See you there.

The Return of Simon Feximal – with art and giveaway

Let’s have a quick recap. (Previously on KJC…) I wrote a couple of stories about a Victorian ghost hunter named Simon Feximal and his lover Robert Caldwell, set in 1894 England, followed by a  crossover story, Remnant, with Jordan L Hawk’s occult detectives Whyborne and Griffin, set in 1899. A lot had changed for my characters by the time of Remnant. Robert, previously a carefree young journalist, is now Simon’s full time colleague, with a sinister metal cartouche in his hand and a nasty scar under his eye.

Secret CasebookThe Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal (out now!) is the full story of Robert and Simon, including what happened to Robert’s career, how he got the scar, and what’s going on with the magical implant. I don’t know if I’d have written it if it hadn’t been for Remnant. But once I’d done that, the glimpse into my characters’ future nagged at me until I’d written the book—because, as Simon says, stories must be told.

The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal comes out on 16 June. Plus, ‘Butterflies’ (the second Feximal story) and Remnant (Smashwords or ARe) are available free, and the terrific Whyborne and Griffin series has reached book 6 (Remnant comes between Stormhaven and Threshold). Don’t say Jordan and I fail to supply your late nineteenth-century gay occult detective needs.

The blog tour begins today and I’m giving away three copies of the book on a Rafflecopter. Click here to enter!

Here’s the blog tour so you can follow/avoid me to taste. Links as they go up:

11 June – Prism Book Alliance – extract
12 June – Sinfully… – blog post on folklore
13 June – Joyfully Jay – blog post on romance and horror
14 June – Boys in our Books – blog post on writing things you didn’t mean to
15 June – Novel Approach – extract
16 June – Love Bytes – extract

And finally, what you’ve been waiting for: superstar artist Lydmila Tsapaeva has created a truly fabulous piece of Remnant crossover art, featuring Robert, Simon, Whyborne and Griffin. Just adore this:

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The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, a Victorian occult m/m romance, is out now.

The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal

A story too secret, too terrifying—and too shockingly intimate—for Victorian eyes.

A note to the Editor

Dear Henry,

I have been Simon Feximal’s companion, assistant and chronicler for twenty years now, and during that time my Casebooks of Feximal the Ghost-Hunter have spread the reputation of this most accomplished of ghost-hunters far and wide. You have asked me often for the tale of our first meeting, and how my association with Feximal came about. I have always declined, because it is a story too private to be truthfully recounted, and a memory too precious to be falsified. But none knows better than I that stories must be told.

So here is it, Henry, a full and accurate account of how I met Simon Feximal, which I shall leave with my solicitor to pass to you after my death. I dare say it may not be quite what you expect.

Robert Caldwell

September 1914

Amazon UK



Terrible Editors and Why You Shouldn’t

I read this blog post and it made me go full Steaming Professional Fury.

The editor who was assigned to work on my manuscript was one of the unkindest people I have ever come across. For some reason, my story brought out the absolute worst in this lady. I don’t know what struck her core but something sure did. She did not like one thing about what she was reading. She hated the heroine, the hero, the premise of the book, and even the villain was too villainous for her. Yep. She said that. […] Nasty comments abounded which made me hate my own work that I’d been so happy to submit and have accepted by the publisher. […] A couple of examples: “You must not have worked very hard on this book as I’ve read one of your other books and it was better.”; “You must not like your characters.”; “I want to cold-cock your heroine.” (AND this was not meant in a sexual way); “I want to tell her to go screw herself.” and, after highlighting most of a chapter: “Rewrite this as it’s nonsensical.” No guidance, nothing – just rewrite it. And one comment was just, “You’re kidding.”

I tweeted (extensively; I was cross) about this and had a horrifyingly large response from people saying they’d had similar experiences. Consequently, I rageblog.

As I have discussed before, there are small presses who apparently feel that editing is not a skilled job. They pay $50 a MS for an edit, or give editors a small royalty on the book rather than an upfront fee, and since obviously professionals can’t work for that, they use amateurs who will do it ‘for love’. As far as I can tell, this means keen readers and reviewers.

Now, as I have often said, I support the right of reviewers to write whatever they like about a book, however vicious and snarky. You know who doesn’t have that right, not even a little bit? Editors.

The editor’s job is to make the MS better in partnership with the author. The editor is the author’s ally. She may hate the author’s guts (welcome to the club); she may hate the book (in which she needs either to suck it up or to ask to be reassigned). She may not, ever, take out her feelings on the author in spite, hyperbole, snark, bitching and malice.

You may be great at identifying what’s wrong with a book. You may have the rarer skill of seeing how to make it right. But if you can’t convey those things to the author in a professional manner that keeps the author onside and engaged, you aren’t fit to be an editor. And if a publisher employs an editor who lacks that skill, I’m not sure where they get off claiming to be a publisher.

The problem is not just unprofessional editors and publishers, it’s inexperienced authors accidentally enabling them. If you’ve never had good editing, you may not know what it looks like, and you may not know how to draw the line between a tough, close edit and a horrible abusive experience. (Because, let’s face it, the first can feel like the second in the heat of the moment.)

Nobody likes taking criticism. Authors have been known to complain vociferously about the most carefully phrased editorial letters because they suggest any changes at all. So I am not saying that adverse criticism = horrible incompetent editor. Quite the reverse, in fact. An editor who scatters compliments like sunshine and daisies over a flawed MS may be a temporary joy, but she’s not doing her job either. What you need, what the publisher’s cut of the receipts buys you, is an editor who can identify problems, explain what you need to do, and convey that in a helpful, respectful manner.

Example time! Let us say you have a minor character, Trevor, of whom you are fond, and with whom you have been self-indulgent.

Terrible Editor: Trevor is a total waste of space. Are we supposed to like him, because he was a walking cliché and I felt like screaming whenever he turned up. There was no point in him being in the book anyway because he didn’t DO anything, he was just boring.

Bad Editor: I love Trevor! He’s so funny! I smiled whenever I saw him!

Useful Editor: You need to consider Trevor’s role. He takes a lot of page time but he doesn’t actually play a part in the plot. I’m afraid I think his role needs to be very substantially cut back to improve the pacing, eliminating the conversations in chapters 7, 9 and 10 altogether. I realise that’s going to hurt but if you read with an eye to structure, I think you’ll see he’s bringing the action to a halt without adding anything new to the otherwise tightly-constructed plot. Might you be able to use these conversations (which are very lively and enjoyable in themselves) as bonus features for the blog tour?


So. Eight points for authors…

  1. Make sure your contract includes the following: A clause specifying that editing takes place in consultation with the author, and the author has the right of approval. A clause saying you will receive professional editing. A breach of contract clause.
  2. Abusive ‘editing’ is not professional. A professional editor will never insult your work or demand rewrites without guidance. A professional will be thinking about your feelings, not about venting her own. A professional works with you to help make the MS better.
  3. If you get an edit that is full of snark and spite, first have an experienced published author look at it to make sure you’re not overreacting. If she agrees that this is a hatchet job, go to the managing editor and say that you’re not happy and you don’t think the edit is appropriate or professional. Ask that you should be assigned a different editor who doesn’t hate the book.
  4. If the publisher’s response includes words like ‘extremely sorry’ and ‘reassign immediately’, great. If the publisher doesn’t seem bothered that they’ve employed a non-professionally-competent person, or fails to listen to you, consider very hard if these are people you want to work with again. (Hint: They aren’t.) The publisher accepted your MS; they should have faith in it.
  5. Don’t be scared to cite the contract clauses mentioned in point 1. That’s why you have clauses in your contract: to use them as needed. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that you’ll be blacklisted by all publishers in your genre for being ‘difficult’, that’s hilariously untrue. To quote author/editor/publisher Aleks Voinov, “Enforcing an industry-wide blacklist would be akin to creating a global cat union.”
  6. If you haven’t got the contract clauses mentioned in point 1, stop signing crappy contracts. Have someone else look over the next one first.
  7. Remember that you are better off self-publishing than having an incompetent editor make a dog’s breakfast of a book that comes out under your name.
  8. See 7.

One for whoever it is doing this so-called ‘editing’:

  1. Being able to read and spell does not make you an editor. If you have been let loose on an author’s MS without track record, training or supervision, and you think you can just wander through it saying whatever you like, you need a humility check right now.

As for the publishers that don’t pay for actual editing but still take a nice big cut of your book’s receipts…I can’t even. Just stop signing contracts with these people. Please.


KJ Charles is a freelance editor with twenty years’ professional experience, thank you, and an author. Her next book is The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, coming 16 June. 


Voting’s Like a Jar of Jellybeans. The earwax-flavoured kind.

There is a UK General Election today (at the time of writing). I’m talking British politics, but the principle remains the same for anyone with a vote, including the US people with local elections coming up, because local elections matter too.

I saw yet another article recently on People Who Don’t Vote. People granted space in the national news to express their views on why they don’t want to express their views. So, that’s bewilderingly pointless.

Actually, there should be more articles on people who don’t participate in the basic requirements of society. Maybe People Who Don’t Put Their Rubbish in the Bin (“What difference does one crisp wrapper make?”) and People Who Don’t Say Thank You When Doors Are Held Open (“It’s pointless, it doesn’t change anything,”) and People Who Watch Other People Fall Over And Don’t Try to Help (“Well, I don’t feel it’s anything to do with me, you know?”). Perhaps even People Who Refuse Point Blank to Give Their Opinion While The Office Party is Being Planned, And Then Sulk Because They Don’t Want to Go Bowling. I’ve often wondered what that’s about.

Let’s look at these.

“What difference does one vote make?”

Very little. It’s not meant to. You aren’t the Patrician.

Ankh-Morpork had dallied with many forms of government and had ended up with that form of democracy known as One Man, One Vote. The Patrician was the Man; he had the Vote. (Terry Pratchett)

The point isn’t that you vote and then the country is run to your specification. The point is that we all vote and the country is run to an aggregate of our opinion. It’s like those ‘guess how many jellybeans are in the jar’ things. If you guess, you will be horribly wrong. If ten people guess, the average of their guesses will be closer to the right answer. If a hundred people guess, their average estimate will be surprisingly accurate.

It is obviously not the case that all elections end with a ‘right’ answer. It is particularly not the case when you have an electoral system like First Past the Post, as Britain does, which pretty much guarantees an unrepresentative result in a multi-party system. Nevertheless, the system is based on everyone giving their opinion and an overall result emerging, and remember, however much you may think the system sucks, you live in it. The only thing not voting achieves is to give extra weight to the voices of people who do vote, and their interests may not be yours. Because if you’re one of the 40% of people who don’t bother to guess the number of jellybeans, the other 60% will skew the result.

“It’s pointless, it doesn’t change anything.”

In the last election, 80% of over 65s voted, and only 47% of 18-24s did. As a direct result, we have a government very interested in protecting pensions, and completely unbothered by introducing tuition fees for students.

The ruling party, whatever it is, helps the groups likely to keep them in power at the expense of the groups who won’t. That is what governments do, because they want to stay in power. If you don’t want any particular government to stay in power, your options are as follows:

  • Plot a coup, raise a revolutionary army, march on Westminster singing rousing songs, string them all up from lampposts, become Military Dictator of New Britain, get a fluffy white cat or maybe a chair made of swords.
  • Vote.

All voting sends a message. Voting for a candidate who is nearest to your views but doesn’t stand a chance sends a message of ‘I want more and valid choice’ (and if enough people do it we may get electoral reform). Turning up and drawing a penis over your ballot paper sends a message about problematic disengagement of people from the current system, because they count up the spoiled ballots. And not voting sends a message about who can be safely ignored by every single party. Oh look, it’s you.

Incidentally, for the record, there is not one single UK MP with an outright majority of eligible voters. If we all voted, there wouldn’t be a safe seat in the country. Just saying.

 “I don’t feel it’s anything to do with me, you know?”

Then you’re not paying attention. If you live in a building, or get sick, or get old, or have children, or are LGBT, or ever leave the country, or have a job, or don’t have a job, or pay tax, or buy things, or breathe air, then politics affects you, and pretending it doesn’t is, frankly, ridiculous.

“I don’t want to go bowling!”

Then you should have said so at the point we asked for your opinion, and we might have made a different decision. But you didn’t say. And now it’s too late.


Voting isn’t a special treat for a special flower, let alone a magic wand. But it shapes the world you live in, it takes half an hour once every couple of years, and UK voters don’t even need a polling card: if you’re on the electoral register, you can just turn up.

And then we can get back to the far more interesting business of talking about books.


KJ Charles can’t stand bowling, which is why she votes.

Nepal earthquake appeal: win signed books and literary immortality!

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:


I’m offering a signed set of print copies of my Charm of Magpies series (The Magpie Lord, A Case of Possession, Flight of Magpies, Jackdaw)


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.

How Not To Be Listened To

I got an email today.

Dear KJ

I’d really like you to write about different subjects. I know you mostly write historical queer romance but I preferred your contemporary m/f action thriller and I’d love you to write more of that instead.

Obviously, historical/fantasy romance is where you write and sell the most books, so I’m asking you to move away from your core readership and the stuff you most like writing. And I should admit that I never buy books, so I won’t pay to read your books, or anyone else’s. Also, if you do write another book of the kind I like, I won’t tell anyone about it: I never discuss books online or with friends, I don’t have a blog, and I don’t review on Goodreads or Amazon or anywhere.

Nevertheless, please take my opinion into account and change the way you do things. Thanks!

Now, I liked my action thriller, and so did a few readers, and I’d gladly write more given tangible encouragement. But this guy…you’re not offering me any sort of inducement to listen to you but you want me to move down a path that I don’t trust to do well? Wow, why not just head the email, ‘Please ignore me’?


I think you’ve probably worked out that wasn’t a real email.

Today is the last day for Brits to register to vote in the forthcoming election. There may be 7.5 million people unregistered to vote. POC, women, the disabled and young people are disproportionately represented in the non-voting. And with an election this tight, this unpredictable, those votes could make a massive difference.

I know people are apathetic, disillusioned, unrepresented or frankly repelled by the current state of politics. Believe me, I know. I look at my choice for 7 May and it makes me feel slightly ill. And I know it doesn’t feel like politicians give a damn, or that one vote makes a difference in the tide of slurry.

But if you don’t vote, your opinions don’t count. If you don’t give the politicians a reason to give a monkey’s about you, they won’t.

In the last election, 80% of over 65s voted, and only 47% of 18-24s did. Amazingly, our government has been more interested in pensions and inheritance tax than in tuition fees or tackling the housing crisis for the young. The LibDems made promises about tuition fees in the hope of getting the 18-24 vote; they dropped those promises like a hot rock because they didn’t feel young people made it worth their while to keep them. Groups that don’t vote don’t get represented by politicians to the same degree as those that do. Well, why would they?

Register to vote, please. Encourage others to register. Spread the word that today, 20 April, is the last day to register online. It takes five minutes, and you don’t need your national insurance number if you don’t have it to hand.

And remember that not registering, not voting, is a message to politicians too, and what it says is, ‘Please ignore me.’

The Multiple-Choice Book Review have added a system of drop-down menus for reviewers to use. This will be very handy for all those people who have read a book and gone to Amazon with the express intention of leaving a review, only to find themselves unable to think of any words.

There’s a summary here along with a useful graphic of the various menus:

amazonI’m pretty sure it could use a few more options. (You know, like how there may be other metrics to judge plot than ‘surprise!’, and how we distinguish that simple topic ‘writing’ in a slightly more nuanced way than okay vs good.) So, all-round helpful person that I am, I’ve come up with a few other drop-down menus Amazon could add, in order to bring us all to a real, close, yet fully multiple-choice understanding of every book ever written. I think this should cover it nicely.

What did this book make you feel?

  • Joy
  • Mild to severe discomfort
  • Wistful yearning
  • Sexual desire for a billionaire
  • Seething hatred of one or more characters / the author
  • Anomie
  • Weltzschmertz

Why do you think the author wrote this book?

  • To bring joy to humanity
  • Over-confidence
  • Couldn’t afford therapy
  • Demonic possession

Does this book include krakens?

  • No cephalopods, sea monsters or Lovecraftian beasts whatsoever
  • Some tentacular activity

If this book was an animal what would it be?

  • Cute puppy
  • Fluffy kitten
  • Dragonfly, fragile yet iridescent in its beauty
  • Filthy lumbering hog
  • Kraken

What is this book worth to you?

  • Toenail clippings (discarded)
  • 1-3 hours of my time
  • Firstborn child
  • Later-born but secretly preferred child

How will the author respond to a bad review, in your opinion?

  • Obliviousness
  • Unconvincing gratitude
  • Flounce
  • Social media meltdown (two or more platforms)

What book should the author have written instead?

  • Her last one, over and over again, forever
  • This one, but with a different hero and maybe a different plot
  • One with pictures of cats
  • A much shorter one

What is your favourite colour? [This question is compulsory.]

  • Puce
  • Taupe
  • Madder
  • Gamboge

I look forward to seeing these enhancements to the multiple-choice reviewing experience, and welcome further suggestions in the comments.


KJ Charles is

  • a freelance editor
  • a romance author
  • inclined to sarcasm
  • going on holiday

 I’ll be back in mid April, see you then-ish. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. And feel free to swoon at the cover for A Fashionable Indulgence! (Loveswept, August, since you ask.)Fashionable Indulgence_03_04_15