An Awful Warning ~ Outside the Margins with KJ Charles

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So I got burgled.

This isn’t the first time, or the worst. Let me trace my history of burglary for your reading pleasure.

Age about 22, living with boyfriend in basement flat. We come home from the pub with a group of friends. I comment, “God, it’s clean in here, did you tidy up?” Boyfriend laughs, as well he might, the useless grotbag. We pour drinks, we sit and chat. Boyfriend says, “Stick some music on.” I go to select a CD, turn and ask, “Where’s the CD player?” Further investigation reveals we are also missing a games console, a computer, and the TV, all of which had been in that room and missing from the moment we walked in. It had been a fairly long night in the pub.

Age about 35, with husband, baby and toddler in tiny temporary flat in a foul part of London. It has damp, and mice, but you can’t get a three-month let any other way. I work from home. I work from home every single day for two months. One day I am unexpectedly called to a friend’s crisis. I go; I come back via nursery, with baby in pushchair and toddler on buggy board; I see our front door has been literally kicked in half and is hanging off its hinges. Everything is on the floor, except for the kitchen knives, which are laid out in a deliberate line across the sofa. In our bedroom, my (worthless) jewellery has been thrown onto the floor and stamped on, ground into the carpet with a foot till it’s all broken. I can feel the burglars’ rage in every brutal breakage. I say to the policeman: thank God this happened the one day I wasn’t home. He says, “It happened because you weren’t home. They’ve been watching you.” We have to live there for another month, with the kids. I work there alone every day.

Aged about 39, in our house. We go away on Boxing Day. The Christmas tree is still up, with presents for unvisited relatives under it. The burglars take their time. They open all the presents. They take the books off the shelves and empty the drawers and upturn everything. They think we have cash, or gold, or something of value. Suckers. My mother in law tidies the entire place before we get back. The children still don’t know we were burgled.

Last week, in our house again. We go away for four days. The burglars kick in the patio door. After that, they are civilisation itself. They use the combination code on my daughter’s ‘safe’ style moneybox to open it and steal her pocket money, rather than smashing it. They take drawers out neatly for searching, tip nothing onto the floor, go through my jewellery with care. They steal my husband’s 15-year-old camera that still uses film, but leave his iPad. They steal the 3-year-old £200 laptop, but ignore the brand new Macbook. I remain baffled.

They steal my work laptop. I have not backed up.

This is the point where my history of a few mostly just annoying burglaries becomes a goddamn disaster, and my misfortune becomes, let’s be honest, my fault. Here are some things I have lost for good:
• My photos for the last three years, downloaded en masse when I changed phones.
• My accounts. Invoices, payments received, expenses, all neatly laid out for the accountant. I’m self employed.
• My Scrivener documents. I had converted the two working docs to Word and emailed them to my Kindle, thank God, but all of my research, maps, references, weblinks, images and quotes: gone.
• My Aeon Timeline document for my Regency trilogy, Society of Gentlemen. In this series, book 1 runs from August to November 1819. Book 2 runs from August 1819 to March 1820. Book 3 is February 1820 onward. A number of the key events overlap books, and all of them are based around multiple real historical events. The timeline document looked like something you’d do a thesis on, it was my ready reckoner to ensure that the books slotted perfectly together, and it’s gone. I am only on the first draft of book 2.

So what I’m saying is, stop reading this post and go back up your work. Don’t just back up your MSS, if you’re a writer, but also your research and supporting docs. Make it an automatic service, not a thing you have to remember to do. And back it up to the cloud as well as a physical location, because hardware crashes, houses burn, and when the bastards take your laptop they’ll take the inserted USB stick or external hard drive too.

I have written many ‘useful advice for writers’ posts. This will be the most useful one of them all if it saves one single person from feeling like I do when I realised what I’d lost.

KJ Charles has a nasty limp from kicking herself. She is a freelance editor, award-winning author, and useless non-backing-up idiot. Her new book is The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, coming from Samhain on 16 June.

~KJ Charles


Title: the Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal
Author: KJ Charles
Publisher: Samhain
Publication Date: 06/16/2015
Cover Artist: Kanaxa
Genre: Historical


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


the Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal on Goodreads
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About KJ Charles


Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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11 thoughts on “An Awful Warning ~ Outside the Margins with KJ Charles

  1. KJ, that’s awful!! I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I’d seen your mentions of a robbery on Twitter but I had no idea you’d lost so much work as well as things. 🙁 That’s got to be so disheartening. Thanks for this reminder!

  2. I was already really bummed for you, but when I read about the accounting paperwork my heart sank. What an extra, EXTRA hassle.

    If it will remind you that other people do kick-themselves things: not a month ago I dropped the keys to the rental car in a storm grate and the little chip in them worked just long enough to get me to a concert in the middle of the night in the rain before frying. (Also they smelled like…what’s in the bottom of a storm drain.) As if I had never learned that lesson, last night I dropped my phone in a toilet. AUGH.

    Hang in there!

  3. I do pretty much all of my planning work on Evernote these days. Partly so I can get at it across all my devices, but also so I can’t lose it and don’t even have to remember to back up. It’s just there in the cloud already.

    But now I’m worrying, well what would happen if Evernote vanished permanently from the Internet? They’re a big company, but if we’ve learned anything from the last few years it’s that any company can fail. Hmmm… thinking again…

  4. So sorry you lost so much work K J and your poor childrens money boxes that so upsetting. I hate burglars I think when they are caught they should be made to pay for all your items they stole and then you can go round to their house a pick what you want from their belongs!!! Even if you don’t want it just smash it!

  5. First, I’m so very glad no one was every hurt during any of these invasions by jerkholes.

    Second, noooooooooooooooooooo on the research and maps lost! GAH. That guts me and it’s not even mine. It would gut me.

    Third, I’m still so glad everyone is ok. You’ll make it thru and recreate what you lost. You’re much, much, much smarter than the jerkholes. 😉

  6. The very best advice – “automatic” – I am horrible at remembering to back-up, even in programs that prompt me every few days. Hubs has predicted gloom and doom for years. Last fall – sudden and catastrophic HD failure on laptop. I was only saved because 1) Dropbox (all writing) and 2) most other things were already stored elsewhere . I’m still recovering.

    I immediately installed automatic cloud backup services on every computer – on the most important one, a configurable paid service that does virtually the whole HD.

    I’m so, so sorry for your loss. Thank you for using your experience to remind the rest of us what we stand to lose.

  7. This still makes me sad. I’ve been working mostly on Evernote – one of my complaints with Scrivener is that it’s tied to my laptop – so most of my research and the first draft is on the web. Edited versions are on my thumb drive….which I will go back up right now.

  8. That’s awful. I’m so sorry this happened to you and your family. And thank you for the important reminder. I could probably do a better job consistently backing up.

  9. I am so sorry this happened to you. I recently had a prowler in my yard and it frightens me to think what may have happened had my neighbor not scared him off.

  10. Thanks all. (Sorry for not dropping in earlier, I still have no replacement laptop.) It’s not a calamity, could have been a lot worse…just BACK UP YOUR WORK, okay? 🙂

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