kj charles

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They are us.

I have two kids, a boy and a girl. My son is a scabby-kneed thug with a head full of football who draws dinosaurs and spaceships. He also draws flowers. Aged 3 he had a pair of trousers with big yellow sunflowers on that he wore till they fell apart. He used to wear his big sister’s dresses all the time to nursery, and when I painted her toenails, I painted his too.

Here are some things that adults have said. Adults dropping off their own kids at nursery; adults at family barbecues with kids and grandkids running around.

  • Why are you wearing a dress? You look like a girl.
  • Aren’t those girls’ trousers?
  • You don’t want to let him wear make up… [with knowing look, like he’s about to catch The Gay from exposure to nail polish]

They don’t say these things so much any more, of course, because he doesn’t do it any more. He’s five now and he’s learning. They taught him. They taught him when he was three years old, crying on my lap because his three-year-old friends had mocked him for wearing a dress. (Hmm, I wonder where they learned to do that.) They taught him that the doodle book he’s been happily using for the last 12 months must be rejected because now he can read ‘For Girls’ on the front.

Don’t start me on what they are teaching my daughter. Don’t even start.

‘Bastards,’ you cry. ‘Who are the jerks pushing this crap on our kids? Who are they?’

Well, they are us.

–KJ Charles on gender.

The “they” KJ is specifically talking about here are publishers and other bookfolk, but, let’s face it; it doesn’t have to be.

“They are us”, indeed.

2015-05-13T09:11:53+10:004th December, 2014|Tags: culture, kj charles|


[I]f you think for a moment, ‘This book is badly edited’ is kind of meaningless. What that actually says is, ‘This book is badly written and the editor didn’t fix it.’ But that’s the job. The author’s hacked out the raw material and the editor’s there to do anything from a light polish to a full-blown carving operation – but leaving no fingermarks, with no trace of her presence, just letting the story shine.

So when you read a book and you don’t notice anything wrong with it, spare a thought for the ninja editor, reading the clunky and the poorly structured, the repetitive and the nonsensical and the really quite alarming, the badly spelled and the just-not-quite-perfect…so you don’t have to.

–KJ Charles is a bookninja.

The other thing, of course, is that authors are vain, pompous creatures who push back against edits because MAH ARTEESTEK VEESHUUN!!!. So the answer to “why didn’t the editor fix this?” can also, very often, be “they tried, but the author threw a fit so they gave up”.

(In fact, in some respects I would suggest this accounts for some of the differences between debut and sophomore novels. There’s definitely a learning curve in there between “what I want to write”, “what my editors want me to write”, and “what the market wants to read” which is really only learnable via bitter experience. Editors, FWIW, are generally better at judging “the market” than authors are, and would really like authors to conform more to it. Authors, meanwhile, tend to want the market to conform to them. Hence the tension.)

2015-05-13T09:11:26+10:0030th October, 2014|Tags: books, editors, kj charles, writing|

The Hot New Thing.

So this morning I woke up, as I do, and checked Twitter, as I do,1 and noticed a bunch of congratulatory tweets getting sent in the direction of KJ Charles.

KJ, whom you may remember from previous posts, is an awesome author who exploded onto the scene a little while back with her Victorian paranormal m/m series, A Charm of Magpies.2

Well, turns out KJ had some pretty amazing news: she’s signed a three-book deal with Loveswept, whom some of you may recognise as sister-imprint of Liesmith‘s publisher, Hydra.

Importantly for the point I’m making here (other than that y’all should read KJ’s books, which you should), Loveswept (and Hydra) are both owned by the biggest publisher currently in existence, Penguin Random House.

KJ’s new series will be an m/m romance. Liesmith, while being a sort of horror/urban fantasy, largely revolves around a romantic boy-meets-boy scenario.3 It’s really, really super-important to remember that these are the sorts of books that, even very recently, the nebulous Theys of Theysay would be muttering about being unpublishable by “traditional publishing”.

KJ’s work in particular is, I think, notable because KJ writes explicit m/m erotica. Queer stories like Liesmith have been done before, and been done by big houses, but stuff like KJ’s? Much less so. But m/m has been growing and growing in selfpub and with smaller, digital-first publishers for years now. It seems the big New York houses–always hungry for the next “It” genre–have been watching.

We live in interesting times.

(Tl;dr: super-big congrats to KJ and go buy her books. Seriously.)

  1. Stop judging me. []
  2. I’ve read it. It’s awesome. Y’all should read it too. []
  3. I’m not quite calling it m/m here solely because I don’t think it quite qualifies, at least not by the strict definition of the genre. But YMMV, and I don’t mind either way. []
2018-05-22T08:55:23+10:0021st October, 2014|Tags: books, kj charles, m/m, publishing|

Not a subgenre.

When I was a stroppy schoolgirl, I wrote an essay using ‘she’ for the generic pronoun. (‘If the worker wishes to throw off her shackles, she must first control the means of production.’) My teacher said this was wrong and that I should use ‘he’. I asked why, given that I’m a she, and my teacher responded with a smirk, ‘The masculine embraces the feminine.’

No. It doesn’t. Women are not a subgenre of men, and queer is not a subgenre of straight, and multicultural romance is not a subgenre of romance about white people.

–KJ Charles says love is not a subgenre.

KJ’s article is unpacking the assumptions we have about “default” in the romance genre, a.k.a. the “why is queer romance called queer romance but straight romance is just called romance” chestnut. It’s good. Y’all should read it.

That being said, I picked this quote in particularly as a bit of an aside. Because I’m reading Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice at the moment and that book uses “she” as the generic pronoun (for cultural reasons relevant to the novel). It really should be required reading for anyone who insists on using the reverse in the Really Real World. Read it, then write an essay on how that one simple little choice erases an entire gender from the book’s narrative, even though one of the main characters is male.

Paper’s due on my desk next Monday. Off you go.

2016-12-14T15:25:38+11:006th October, 2014|Tags: kj charles|

A post about swearing.

Swearing can be elaborate, hilarious and glorious. But even monotonous swearing of the kind that makes people tut about ‘poverty of vocabulary’ can be used to brilliant effect. Look at Trainspotting, which uses monotonous swearing to convey everything about its narrators – Scottish, rage-filled, of varying education, all of them spiralling into heroin and self-destruction and a mass of unfocused fury, turned inwards as much as out: You fucking knew that fucking cunt would fuck some cunt.

You can hear the character in that line (roughly translated, ‘It was inevitable that the individual we’re discussing would one day cause severe injury to somebody’.) The accent, the words spat out like bullets, the incoherent emotion overwhelming any powers of expression. That’s character through poverty of language.

–KJ Charles on using the right tools for the job.

[Content warning for slurs, below.]

I swear a lot; it’s in the fuckin’ ‘Strayan National Character, after all. Still, I disagree with KJ here on one thing: no matter how common it is in the UK, “cunt” is still an inherently misogynistic word. It’s rarity or lack thereof has no bearing on whether or not it’s a gendered slur. Think about words like “retard” or “tranny” or “fag”. The fact that they’re commonly used–and, often, commonly used in a way that doesn’t “intend” offense–has literally zero bearing on the fact that these words are, in fact, slurs.

Also see “bitch”, which is super-duper common in US media–as I’ve mentioned before, I always feel a bit taken aback when US shows will censor “piss” but not this word–but is still, in fact, a gendered slur. There’s probably some argument in here African-American women in particular could make that parallels the British use of cunt (also see: the n-word). Which, yes. Okay.1

These words are still slurs.

I like cunt, but I like it as a descriptor for the body part it’s intended to describe. Using it as a synecdoche for women in general is sexist, since it carries implications of a) womanhood being “dirty” or “unspeakable”, and b) women as a subordinate sex-class. Using it as an aggressor against men is misogynistic, because–as with bitch–it implies that womanhood is so “lesser”, and gender so essential, that the absolute worst thing a man could be considered is a woman.

So… yeah. Tl;dr, KJ is awesome and y’all should buy her books.

  1. Although, Black women can legitimately reclaim these words in a way, say, a white man can’t. See also usage of “fag” and “homo” in the queer communities. []
2015-06-23T10:57:43+10:0027th September, 2014|Tags: content warning, cw: slurs, english, kj charles, language|

They are nice to hold, however.

I don’t accept that ebooks aren’t real, because nothing about a printed book is real either. Paper, glue, ink and dust. Show me a book and I can approximate the gsm of the paper, critique the show-through, note that the perfect binding is shonky and put a cost on the cover treatment. Show me a story, and I respond to the phrase that sticks, and the thought that haunts, and the insight that changed how I see the world, and the character that’s more real to me than the person three feet away.

–KJ Charles knows the difference between a book and a story.

2014-07-28T08:24:35+10:003rd September, 2014|Tags: books, ebooks, kj charles|

Yo ho ho and an bottle of alternate digital revenue streams.

This originally started as a comment over on KJ Charles’ site, but it got a bit of a teal deer infestation. Hence sticking it here instead.

So, to recap.

A few days ago, KJ made an entry about dealing with the piracy of her new book, Think of England. The comments generated a fair bit of discussion, mostly of an anti-piracy bent, until a commenter calling themselves O. showed up to make a counterargument.

O., a self-confessed pirate, started talking about traditional pricing models, e.g. per-unit sales, not working in digital environments, and discussed and alternate methods for creators to monetise content online. Before we continue, y’all should go read the resulting thread, because without the context, the rest of this might not make much sense (ref. this post’s Original Life as a comment).

Done that? Okay. Cool. Moving on.


2019-07-31T09:36:37+10:0028th August, 2014|Tags: books, ebooks, kj charles, piracy, soapbox|


[Guardian columnist Will] Self wants to sneer at non-literary fiction and he picks on Harry Potter and 50 Shades of Grey. A children’s book and a romance. He could have mentioned The Da Vinci Code, a book as hugely popular, egregiously bad and knockoff-spawning as 50 Shades. Inferno was the second best-selling book of 2013 in the UK: renowned wordsmith Dan Brown has not yet shot his bolt. Or as an example of the doorstop megaseries, surely Game of Thrones is better than Harry Potter, of which the last book was published seven years ago? But Mr Self clearly feels there’s something Dan and George have that Joanne and Erika don’t.

If you want to set up a straw man in opposition to the dizzy heights of literary fiction, you pick on children’s and romance, every time. Two genres dominated by women, as writers and editors and buyers; two genres that are constantly getting it in the neck as objects of sneering.

–KJ Charles on sexism in publishing.

2015-05-13T08:57:15+10:003rd July, 2014|Tags: books, culture, kj charles|

KJ Charles on anachronisms in historical novels.

Despite the Wyrdverse being an aggressively early 21st century setting, I still run into this a lot with the plethora of gods and related characters.

For those characters I do affect a Ye Olde Speakeinge cadence which is more tortured and, I guess, “lyrical” than the plain voice used for the modern characters. Even then, I tend not to take too much of a hardline historical stance with regards to anachronistic words. Mostly because the characters who Speake Lyke Thys are actually speaking in Old Norse which is Conveniently Translated for the reader. It’s all affect anyway, so if someone from tenth century Iceland occasionally says “silhouette”… meh. They’re probably saying skuggamynd (lit. “shadow picture”), and even that’s a modern Icelandic word relying on the French/English idiom… so I guess all it’s really doing is shifting the onus of anachronism into a different language and–

Gyaargh. This is why I write urban fantasy, not historical fiction; I do my best but I just don’t have enough degrees in linguistics for the latter.

On the plus side, it does mean I occasionally get to do linguistics jokes, like having one (modern) character, speaking English, try and explain concepts like bioluminescence (lífljómun, lit. “life luminescence”) and computers (tölva, a portmanteau of the words for “number” and “oracle”) to another character who only “speaks Viking”.

Just, er. Maybe don’t examine the dates too hard…

2015-05-13T08:56:22+10:0012th June, 2014|Tags: books, gonzo author stories, kj charles, language, writing|


[In reference to a page in the children’s book Good Night Little ABC, in which a character is shown crying after dropping a stuffed animal.] I cry and cry. Poor Jasper Jabber Jay, forever alone, without his teddy. My mother tells me it’s alright. She assures me that his mummy is just outside the page, that she will come in and give him his teddy and everything will be fine again. I believe her. I realise the characters have life outside the page. I learn that I can add to the story.

–KJ Charles has an early encounter with fix-it fanfiction.

2015-05-02T22:45:20+10:0021st May, 2014|Tags: books, kj charles|