Cover Reveal! Double Edged (Bulari Saga 1)

I’m going to make this quick, because you have books to read and I have books to write.

I’ve broken free from revisions for a minute to say hello, and to share with you some super exciting news.

I know I just released Deviant Flux, but the next Durga System book is coming soon.

That’s right — I have an official release date for the first book of the Bulari Saga, Double Edged.

Yep.

May 31st.

Mark your calendars — or JOIN MY MAILING LIST to get the alert.

Durga Logo skull and crossbones with fedora

The Durga System novellas I’ve been releasing are just the appetizer for this series. For those of you who’ve left reviews on Starfall like…

“I enjoyed this peek into the hopefully amazing and long sci-fi series author Jessie Kwak is building. I’m excited to read more.”

“I got the sense that events set in motion here will get more interesting in later installments.”

“This is a great novella, it shows you a glimpse of a fully realized universe and leaves you wanting to explore it more.”

…YOUR WISH HAS BEEN FULFILLED.

DoubleEdgedFinal

Double Edged

Thala Coeur—Blackheart—is dead.

Willem Jaantzen has been waiting to hear those words for almost twenty years. But he was also hoping they’d hold more satisfaction. Because it turns out his arch enemy has died as she lived—sowing chaos and destruction—and when a mysterious package arrives on his doorstep, he realizes she’s sent him one last puzzle from beyond the grave.

As Jaantzen and his crew are plunged back into a game he thought they’d left far behind, one thing becomes painfully clear: Solving Coeur’s puzzle could be key to preventing the city from crumbling back into another civil war—or it could be the thing that destroys them all.

Because this secret isn’t just worth killing for. It’s worth coming back from the dead for.

Join my mailing list and be the first to know when it’s out.

From Chaos to Creativity Kickstarter is a Go!

I look around, and I’m surrounded by creative people.

My mom makes these amazingly artistic quilts. My dad welds incredible works of art and invents ingenious farm contraptions. My sister does intricate cross-stitch hangings. My husband takes stunning photographs. My friends write and paint and dance and sing.

My neighbor’s 8-year-old kid asked for bricks and wood and cement this Christmas so he could build things in the backyard.

They’re all creating art.

I’m assuming you’re also creative, because I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t have some sort of creative passion.

And I’ve never heard anyone say they have enough time to do their art.

I mean, I certainly don’t.

I’ve been struggling for years to find the perfect productivity system or tool that would help me Do All The Things.

Get my oil changed. Read all the books. Meet my client deadlines. Text my friend happy birthday.

Oh — and write a novel.

I eventually cobbled together a system that worked for me, drawing from David Allen’s Getting Things Done, James Clear, Laura Vanderkam, Mark McGuinness, Gretchen Rubin and dozens of other productivity experts and researchers to make something that just clicked.

I wrote about my system a while ago, but I wanted to do more than just tell people what I personally did.

I wanted to help people come up with a creative productivity system that worked specifically for them.

So I wrote a whole book.


From Chaos to Creativity

c2c cover

From Microcosm Press — coming fall 2019

Art and writing can be the most fulfilling part of our lives. But it’s often difficult to make space for it in our day-to-day existence. Sometimes we have so many ideas it’s difficult to keep them all organized, much less maintaining a creative schedule or dedicated workspace.

With all the clutter overwhelming your scattered brain (not to mention your desk), it’s all too easy to fall into procrastination and disarray. 

From Chaos to Creativity is a series of glowing beacons. Jessie L. Kwak has written a Getting Things Done for artists and writers, drawing on her experience as a professional copywriter with a novel-writing habit, and from interviews with other authors, artists, musicians, and designers, to teach you how to focus on the good ideas, manage your project, make time in your life, and execute your passions to completion.

Make great art by channeling your chaotic creative force into productive power and let the world see what you’re capable of!


I’m incredibly excited to share this project with you!

If this sounds at all useful, head to the Kickstarter page to learn more and preorder your copy.

As one of the rewards, you can get the Jessie Kwak Superpack, which includes copies of my three Durga System novellas, as well as most of the Bikes in Space anthologies that have my short stories in them.

Check it out!

Screenshot 2019-01-17 16.49.31

PS — What’s your art?

Let me know in the comments. 🙂

Deviant Flux [An Excerpt — Chapter 1]

To everyone who’s been asking when I’ll be releasing my next book in the Durga System Series — I have an answer for you:

March 8, 2019

(AKA my birthday.)

That’s still a ways out, so here’s a sneak peek at the first chapter of the sequel to Starfall.

Be sure to read to the end — I have a really exciting offer you won’t want to miss! (Especially if you think March is too long to wait to read the whole thing!)


Deviant Flux cover: A young South Asian woman with magenta hair, looking over her shoulder against a background of a space station

Deviant Flux

A Durga System Novella

by Jessie Kwak

She thought nothing could come between herself and her new family. She was wrong.

It’s been five years since Starla Dusai’s home station was destroyed by the Alliance, and she’s spent every minute searching for evidence that she wasn’t the only survivor.

When she receives a tip that her beloved cousin Mona is alive and well on an astroid station out in Durga’s Belt, she drops everything to find her. Thrust into an unfamiliar world of crime cartels and union politics, Starla soon realizes Mona is caught up in a dangerous plot — and that saving her might just mean giving up the new family she’s come to love.

If it doesn’t get the both killed first.

Read on for the first chapter.


Chapter 1: Starla

The air here is thick with memories.

Starla Dusai breathes deep the sharp tang of oil and sweat, the sweet musk of antifreeze and unwashed bodies passed through the recycler too many times to count: Maribi Station smells like home.

At least, it’s the closest she’s found since she watched Alliance missiles shatter her family home into stars five years ago.

There are differences, of course. For one, there are too many people here, bodies crowded into every corner, in every corridor and doorway, brushing past her from every direction. The air is more electric than in her childhood home of Silk Station, too, geared towards entertaining the thousands of travelers who arrive here to catch shuttles deeper out into the black or farther into Durga’s Belt, or who are waiting for the bigger transports to shuttle them back to the surface of one of the two sunward planets, Indira or New Sarjun.

On Silk Station there was breathing room — even when her parents’ ship was in port and Silk Station swelled with crew, it was all family. And in her new planetside home on New Sarjun, Starla can go for hours without seeing another soul if she wants. In a way, her godfather’s home ebbs and flows just as Silk Station did, especially in the past few years with his soldiers and hired mercenaries flooding in and out, thudding footsteps and the tang of blood in the dry air waking Starla more than once in the middle of the night.

She’s taking the long way to meet Gia at the boxing gym, through Terminal A, which is doubly packed with people this close to the shift change. Starla hopes this will give her better odds of finding the one person she’s desperate to find — even if the press of people is making it more difficult to actually pick an individual out of the crowd.

She hadn’t counted on the newcomers. Terminal A isn’t just packed with station inhabitants today. A ferry from elsewhere in Durga’s Belt has just docked, judging by the glut of travelers shouldering duffel bags and stopping in the middle of the passage to frown at the station transit maps and mouth questions to each other.

Starla slips through them, ignoring the few that seem to ask her for directions.

Her comm buzzes with a message from Gia.

You skipping training?

Starla’s beginning to regret coming this way. She thought heading through a large swath of the population would give her a better chance of spotting her target, but it’s just chaos, a constant swarm of people.

It’s hard to take it all in.

The terminal’s length is lined with shopping and entertainment, callers beckoning from the neon-clad doorways of casinos and brothels and bars — a heady pulse thrums through Starla’s chest as she passes one, and she catches a glimpse of a room packed with bodies and smoke and flashing lights, the mass of people dancing. For Starla, it’s just after lunch. But in such a transient place, you can choose your own time.

So long as you keep moving, it seems. In the stream of Terminal A, she can’t find a single spot to just stand for one second and type out a reply to Gia without being in the way. Somebody always needs to get by, or set something where you’re standing, or open the door you didn’t notice behind you.

It makes her skin crawl. Silk Station didn’t use to make her skin crawl — it fit like a glove. Is it this station in particular? Or is it that she’s become used to wide open spaces after five years living on New Sarjun?

Gia’s message blinks insistently at the edge of her field of vision.

She sidesteps a hawker in religious headgear who clutches at her arm and tries to hand her a saint token, saying something to her around blue-painted teeth. Starla brushes the woman back and slips into the lee of a pile of crates for a second’s breather, grabs her comm.

Be there in 5.

She pushes Send; Gia’s message disappears from her heads-up.

Gia has a thing about timeliness that Starla should probably try to emulate, but she can’t be bothered this trip. Despite being comfortable with the station’s layout, she keeps misjudging the time it will take her to get through Maribi’s labyrinth — and she’s always hesitant to leave off her search.

Because her cousin Mona is here, she knows it. And in her imagination, every instant she turns away from an open doorway, Mona walks past. Near misses, it has to be — she’s been all over this damned station.

And she’s running out of time.

Be here in 2. Had any luck?

Gia’s response blinks on the bottom of Starla’s heads-up. Starla swipes it away without responding, because, no, she hasn’t had any luck. Anyway, Starla can tell Gia in person when she gets to the boxing gym. In five.

Starla stops to scan the terminal, turns to find a woman in a forklift suit yelling at her. Probably to get out of the way so she can get to the crates; words blink at the bottom of her heads-up, the unit’s attempt to transcribe the forklift operator’s diatribe. It’s coming out garbled — maybe she’s got an accent, maybe it’s too loud for the unit to work properly.

Or maybe she’s using too many expletives. One thing Starla has realized on this trip with Gia is that the software isn’t programmed to transcribe swear words. She’ll have to fix that.

Starla waves both hands at the forklift operator — All right, all right. — and ducks back into the throng. She keeps scanning the people passing, out of habit, but doesn’t see anyone who looks like her cousin.

After five years of searching, she’s seen nothing of her family but obituaries. Auntie Faye’s ship was shot down shortly after the attack on Silk Station. Amit was picked up by the Alliance and has since disappeared. Uncle Ro was cornered on the volcanic moon Pele, shot himself before he could be arrested. Deyva hasn’t been heard from in years and is presumed dead.

Her parents and countless others died in the initial attack.

So when one of her godfather’s smuggling contacts saw someone matching the description of Starla’s cousin, Mona, working on Maribi Station, Starla had to see for herself — and fast.

There are still a few bounties on the boards for missing members of the Silk Station diaspora, and others are out there hunting her cousins, her aunts, her uncles. It’s what worries Starla the most, that maybe the reason she hasn’t found any of them is because they’re being snatched up by bounty hunters first, trundled into cargo holds and whisked off into secret Alliance prisons.

Like she’d been shipped off to Redrock Prison right after the attack. She’d had the help of her godfather, Willem Jaantzen, to escape, and now she’ll do anything she can to help the others.

If she can find them.

But there are dozens more Alliance prisons throughout the Durga System.

And a hundred more hub stations like Maribi bored into Durga’s Belt and Bixia Yuanjin’s moons.

It doesn’t matter. Starla will find Mona, even if she has to open every door in this place.

A change in the current of foot traffic catches her attention. Somewhere up ahead, the crush of people is getting more packed on the edges, and individuals are looking up and turning back around, slipping into open doorways, making themselves scarce.

Starla’s been paying so much attention to the faces of the people around her that she’s nearly in the middle of it before she realizes what’s going on: an Indiran Alliance squadron marching through the center of Terminal A, five soldiers with hands on weapons like they think Maribi is theirs to police — or like they’re expecting to stir up trouble. Their riot visors are down and scanning the crowd, and Starla’s mouth goes dry.

She knows what they’re scanning for. Known criminals. Terrorist group members. Exiled freedom fighters. The daughters of notorious pirate families.

She tries not to look frantic, tries to blend in, but she’s caught at the edge of the crowd — even those who aren’t on an Alliance wanted list aren’t too keen to mix up with a troop like this. If she runs, if she pushes through, she’ll only attract more attention.

But in a second she’ll be face to face with the soldiers, and that close, their facial recognition will uncover her for sure.

She’d rather run and look suspicious than get caught — but as she tenses, someone grabs her from behind, pulls her through an open doorway and out of sight.

A hand clamps over her mouth, though Starla doesn’t think she’s cried out. Gia’s been training her well, though, and Starla breaks free in seconds, spins to meet her attacker.

She doesn’t recognize the woman’s face at first, not with the wild mane of magenta hair and the scar slashed across her nose and cheek. But she would recognize the way those hands formed her namesign anywhere.

“Starla,” she signs, “it’s okay. It’s me.”

Mona.

Durga Logo skull and crossbones with fedora


Want More Deviant Flux?

As I mentioned above, Deviant Flux is on its way. In fact — drumroll please! — I’ve set an official release date of March 8th.

Which, you know. Is still a few months out from the actual book getting into your hot little hands.

That’s why I’m SUPER EXCITED to let you, my awesome newsletter subscriber, read it early.

I’ll be serializing the rest of Deviant Flux to my newsletter, sending out a chapter a week for the next 15 weeks.

Want to get in on this action?

CLICK HERE.

You’ll be signed up for the Deviant Flux serial list, and be the first to read the book.

Happy reading!

Jessie

(P.S. What do you think so far? Let me know — I’m so excited to finally be able to share this story with you!)

(P.P.S. Here’s that link again to sign up to get new chapters of Deviant Flux delivered to your inbox.)

Happy October! And notes from my reading at Mother Foucault’s Bookstore

Crunchy leaves, cozy scarves, boots and tights, fall colors — having lived nearly all my life in the Pacific Northwest, October has always been one of my favorite times of the year.

Back home on the farm, it was a wonderful time of harvest parties and pumpkins and not having to drive the combine any more.

In the city, it’s a glorious celebration of knitwear and cute boots and leaves crunching underfoot.

This year, reaching October means I unlocked a pretty special Halloween achievement:

The orange globe lights we hung on our front porch for last Halloween are now seasonally appropriate again!

And because we left them up all year, they’re coated with spiderwebs, which makes them extra creepy.

Take that, neighbors.

Fall is also a time of welcome reflection for me. The busyness of summer has finally calmed down, and I can take a breath and take stock of what I where I want to be by the end of 2018, and what I’m going to do to get there.

On the writing side of things, 2018’s major goal was to write and publish another novella (Deviant Flux) and the first three books in the Bulari Saga series (set in the Durga System).

While Deviant Flux will definitely be coming out this year, I’m still finishing up the other three books. So one of my goals for October is to blast out some words and get these books written.

(By the way, if you’re excited about Deviant Flux, be sure to head here to make sure you get notified when it’s ready for preorder.)

How about you? How’s your October going?

I know that while I’m in a stereotypical autumn situation, not everyone’s October looks like falling leaves and pumpkin patches.

I’d love to hear from you: What’s typical for your location in October?

Photos encouraged!

Mother Foucault’s Reading

Thank you to everyone who showed up last Thursday to Mother Foucault’s for my reading with Francesca Varela. It was a really casual setting, and we had a wonderful time. I especially loved the chill Q&A discussion at the end.

And thank you to my friend, author Elizabeth Mitchell, for snapping the photos of me.

If you’re interested, she also took a couple of videos, which you can find below. (The sound is a bit quiet.)

In the first video, I’m introducing the Durga System series and talking a bit about my inspirations.

In the second video, I read a bit from Deviant Flux. If you want an exclusive sneak preview, give it a watch!

Screenshot of my reading — introductionScreenshot of my reading — Deviant Flux Excerpt

Join me for a reading in Portland, OR this Thursday

Are you in or around Portland, Oregon? I’m doing a reading this Thursday, and I’d love to see your shining face. I’ll be joining local Portland author Francesca G. Varela, who’s celebrating the release of her latest book, The Seas of Distant Stars (see below). I’m excited and a little bit nervous — I’ll be giving the first public sneak preview of my upcoming novella, Deviant Flux, the sequel to Starfall. I hope to see you there! Place: Mother Foucault’s Bookshop 523 SE Morrison St. Portland, OR 97214 Date: September 27 Time: 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

The Seas of Distant Stars

Seas of distant stars
by Francesca G. Varela Agapanthus was kidnapped when she was only two years old, but she doesn’t remember it. In fact, she doesn’t remember her home planet at all. All she knows is Deeyae, the land of two suns; the land of great, red waters. Her foster-family cares for her, and at first that’s enough. But, as she grows older, Agapanthus is bothered by the differences between them. As an Exchanger, she’s frail and tall, not short and strong. And, even though she was raised Deeyan, she certainly isn’t treated like one. One day, an Exchanger boy completes the Deeyan rite-of-passage, and Agapanthus is inspired to try the same. But, when she teams up with him, her quest to become Deeyan transforms into her quest to find the truth―of who she is, and of which star she belongs to.

Meet My Co-Conspirator Reader

Francesca Varela
Francesca G. Varela
Francesca G. Varela was raised in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. In 2015 she graduated from the University of Oregon with degrees in Environmental Studies and Creative Writing, and she then went on to receive her master’s degree in Environmental Humanities from the University of Utah. Francesca’s dream of becoming an author began in third grade, and her writing career had an early start; she wrote her award-winning first novel, Call of the Sun Child, when she was only 18 years old, and she wrote her second novel, Listen, when she was only 20. Learn more about Francesca and her other books at her website.

I’ll Be at WorldCon this Weekend! + Cover Reveal!

WorldCon 76 is happening this weekend in San Jose, CA, and I’ll be there with books to sell, stickers to give away, and high fives aplenty.

If you’ll be attending, come see me at the Abyssinian Books booth, where Arianna Golden has generously offered me table space.

If you won’t be attending and are curious about my shenanigans there, Instagram is my in-the-moment social media app of choice. (You can follow me here.) I’m sometimes on the Twitters (@jkwak), but I’ve removed it from my phone for the sake of actually getting things done. 🙂

Come see me!

I’ll have a large number of stickers and a limited number of temporary tattoos to give away to people in the know.

You’re now in the know. 

Stickers

Deviant Flux Cover Reveal!

You’ve all been either patiently waiting and patiently bugging me about when the next Durga System book is coming out.

Well, I’m excited to announce that I have a cover for it! It’s super gorgeous, and done by the same cover artist that did Negative Return (Fiona Jayde).

Deviant Flux is another novella in the Durga System universe, and it’s a direct sequel to Starfall.

I’ll be announcing the preorder date soon (it’ll be out this fall).

To be sure you don’t miss this announcement, click here.

Deviant-flux

Set five years after the events of Starfall — 

Desperate to find her cousin Mona, Starla Dusai takes to the skies. 

It’s been five years since Starla Dusai’s family home was destroyed and her clan of space pirates scattered throughout the Durga System. When she receives a tip that her beloved cousin Mona is alive, she drops everything to find her. But Mona’s caught up in a plot that might just get them both killed — and saving her might just mean giving up the new family Starla has built.

Deviant Flux is coming Fall of 2018.

Click here to be notified when Deviant Flux is available for sale.


All Systems Red

The Murderbot Diaries
by Martha Wells

Murderbot


(I LOVED this book and just got my husband to read it. He kept laughing out loud last night.)

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

Find it on AmazonKoboBarnes & NobleIndieBound

Happy Birthday, Negative Return!

It’s been over a year since I released Negative Return.

While I had hoped to have less of a gap in my publishing schedule this time around, part of the reason for the delay is that I’m saving up my words to give you something really exciting later this year.

I’m not yet ready to announce release dates, but I do have another Durga System novella and three full-length novels in the works for sometime in the winter.

You’ll be hearing more over the next few months as I get things finalized and can share bits of books with you. (Stay tuned for a cover reveal for the next novella, Deviant Flux — I just saw the final design, and it’s amazing!)

One other thing I’m doing to prepare for the launch is trying to get the existing Durga System books into the hands as many readers as possible. I ran a sale on Starfall a few months ago, and now it’s Negative Return’s time to shine.

negative-return

Get Negative Return for $0.99

What readers are saying about Negative Return:

“…another expertly blended mix of crime story and science fiction.”

“I love the characters, and can’t wait for more.”

“Best single word description – unputdownable!”

Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | More store

Oh, and one more thing…

Reviews are critical in helping readers discover books by indie authors. If you’ve read Starfall or Negative Return and want to share the love (and make sure I can keep writing more in the series!), please leave a review. 

Thank you so much!


For Your To-Be-Read List

Bikes Not Rockets

bikes-not-rockets

edited by Elly Blue

*Note — I’ve had stories in several of the Bikes in Space series. In fact, one story inspired the Durga System series! I don’t have a story in this volume, but it will be very worth checking out. 

Bikes Not Rockets
 is the fifth volume of the feminist bicycle science fiction series, Bikes in Space. Featuring 12 works by talented writers and artists, you’ll find a wide range of perspectives and visions.

The common theme among all of the stories is the bicycles that propel all these protagonists towards and through major turning points in their lives (and the universe!).

Preorder your copy on Kickstarter!


Nepenthe Rising

nep-rising

by John Triptych

In the far future, two major factions are locked in a galactic cold war. As tensions mount between the technocratic Union and the genome-harnessing Concordance, both sides anxiously watch for a chance to conquer the other.

The Nepenthe is a pirate vessel, loyal to neither. Led by the enigmatic Captain Dangard, her rough and ready crew includes the cat-like alien Commander Creull, Zeno the immortal synthetic, the dashing Garrett Strand, and Duncan Hauk, a promising young recruit. 

Hired by a cryptic employer, the crew waylays a transport ship carrying a mysterious passenger. In due time, this incident sparks the beginnings of an interstellar conflict that could threaten the state of known space.


Survivor

survivor

by S.J. Bryant

For eons a dark force has lurked inside Archalon, waiting.

In 2354 the Confederacy set it free. Now the alien uprising is imminent and there’s only one person left to stop it.

Nova goes where others dare not. She shoots first, talks little, and carries a chip on her shoulder the size of Boullion 5. Her reckless courage is all that stands between the Ancients and the annihilation of the human race.

Fear the hero who has nothing left to lose.

If you love science fiction, don’t miss out on this action-packed adventure!

Get it on AmazonKobo, Nook

Join me (and friends!) in Portland for a reading

The short of it:

When: Tuesday April 24, at 6:30 pm

Where: O’Connor’s Vault (7850 SW Capitol Hwy, Portland, OR 97219)

Who: Myself, authors Kelley Baker and Susan Stoner, and musical guest Erin Wallace of The Sportin’ Lifers, and Wallace.

What: We’ll each read for about 10-15 minutes, then go back around and do another 10-15 minutes.

The long of it:

I was delighted when Kelley Baker, aka The Angry Filmmaker, asked me to read as part of his 3-part literary series at O’Connor’s Vault in Portland’s Multnomah Village! The format promises to be a ton of fun — each of us three authors will read for 10ish minutes, then we’ll go back around and do it all again. Match that with musical entertainment and beers, and it should be a blast.

There will also be books (and presumably music) for sale, so come ready to discover a new favorite local author or musician!

Here’s a bit more about the artists who will be there:

Kelley Baker, The Angry Filmmaker

Kelley Baker

A survivor of USC’s film school, Kelley has a BA and an MFA in film production. He is an author, (Road Dog, The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide: Part One & Part Two) and an Independent Filmmaker. He has written and directed three full‑length features (Birddog, The Gas Café, & Kicking Bird), eight short films and quite a few documentaries.

(Kelley and I shared a table at the Oregon Historical Society’s Holiday Cheer event last Christmas, and I can personally vouch for the fact that he’s hilarious!)

BooksRoad Dog, along with the Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide series.

Website: The Angry Filmmaker

 

Susan Stoner

Susan Stoner

Susan Stoner, writing as S.L. Stoner, is a native Oregonian who worked, for many years, as a full time as a labor union lawyer. Like that of her series hero, Sage Adair, Stoner’s life has tended toward the adventurous. She’s worked in skid road bars, Las Vegas casinos, free clinics and as a prisoners’ advocate, psychology center videographer and federal judge’s intern.

Books: the Sage Adair series of Historical Mysteries

Website: Yamhill Press

 

Erin Wallace

Erin Wallace

Erin Wallace is a singer/songwriter performing with The Sportin’ Lifers, and Wallace. Her voice and music has been described as soulful, angelic, and powerful, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to hearing her perform!

Website: Wallace

 

 

 

Jessie Kwak

300px JessieKwak headshotHey, it’s me! I’ll be reading from my Durga System series — Starfall and/or Negative Return, depending on my fancy in the moment.

I’m also thinking about reading a snippet from my work in progress, the first in a trilogy of full-length Durga System novels. If you ask nicely. 🙂

Books: Shifting Borders, Business as Usual, and the Durga System novellas.

Website: You’re on it, friend.

 

 

Keep up with me

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Fall News and Book Deals!

Hi friends! 

The weather has taken a sudden and decisive turn over the weekend from “yay, last days of summer” to “cold and dreary rain.” But Oregon has desperately needed rain for weeks, so I’m certainly not going to complain. Here’s hoping it helps contain some of the many wildfires that are burning across our state. 

Cold, drizzly weather puts me in the perfect mood for curling up with a good story — whether it’s reading one, or writing my own. After a super busy summer, I’m looking forward to a fall and winter full of reading and writing. 

I have a couple of great book recommendations for you this month, but first, some announcements:
 

Come meet me at Geek Girl Con!

I’ll be signing books at Geek Girl Con in Seattle, from 4-5pm on September 30th. Come by the Razorgirl Press booth (the publishers of my first novel) — I’d love to meet you! We’ll have books for sale, or you can bring your own. 😉
 

Print and audio now available

I’ve been hearing good things from readers about my newest short story collection, Business as Usual: Corporate Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse. It’s now available in paperback, in a lovely slim edition that would make a great gift for your boss or coworkers… 🙂

Negative Return’s audio book is also starting to get good reviews. If you buy the Kindle version you can add on Audible narration for just $5.99! 
 


For your To-Be-Read list

Both these books will draw you in to absorbing epic fantasy worlds inspired by South Asian culture and mythology, and take your breath away with lyrical, page-turning prose.  

JS Bangs’ Powers of Amur series is incredibly rich and well-thought-out. It follows the stories of several main characters through the course of six books, weaving them deftly together for a truly satisfying conclusion. That’s praise I rarely give to a series! But don’t worry — Heir of Iron stands perfectly well on its own.

The Hundredth Queen melds an unputdownable (it’s a word now, folks) story line with a cast of intriguing characters. I’ll be the first to admit I sometimes roll my eyes at romantic subplots in books with young protagonists, but I was hooked on this one right away. Plus, The Hundredth Queen is currently on special for only $1.99 as an ebook!


Heir of Iron

iron

by J.S. Bangs

Mandhi has spent years looking for her lost brother Navran. Their ailing father is near death, and Navran must inherit the title of Heir of Manjur, the descendant of an ancient king and leader of a secret religious sect. More importantly, if Navran returns then Mandhi won’t be forced to marry to provide an heir, and will be free to elope with her bodyguard.

But the Navran she finds is not the man she was hoping for. He’s a drunkard and a gambler, and he has no interest in his religious duties. Mandhi attempts to reform him—but her efforts are interrupted when agents of the Emperor kidnap Navran. Mandhi must find a way to free her brother and remain with her lover, and what she sets in motion will shake the foundations of the Empire.

Find it on Amazon


The Hundredth Queen

queen

by Emily R. King

As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood in the ancient Tarachand Empire, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.

Get it on sale on Amazon.

Negative Return —> An Excerpt

 

The seedy underbelly of the Durga System is back in Negative Return, which follows young bounty hunter Manu Juric on a mission that starts out shifty as hell . . . and quickly tumbles downhill from there.

Manu’s in trouble and weaponless but for his quick tongue and winning charm. They’re what’ll keep him alive — unless they get him killed, first. 

I’ve enjoyed being in Manu’s head more than almost any other character I’ve written so far. So I’m very excited to share this book with you!

Negative Return will be released June 28. But if you want a sneak peak, I’m sending out review copies to my advanced reader crew now.

If you like high-stakes sci-fi adventures about witty underdogs, Negative Return is for you. 

Interest piqued? Learn more about Negative Return here. Or scroll on down to get a preview of the first chapter.

Happy reading!


Negative Return [Chapter 1]
Negative Return Cover

The lounge singer is in over his head.

He has a decent voice when he stays in the right register, Manu Juric thinks, but every song he’s chosen tonight has been a challenge — a touch too high, the notes fraying around the edges. The Bronze Room is too cheap a bar to filter it through an autocorrect unit.

Manu’d chip in to buy them one, but he’ll never get invited back after what he’s about to do.

The singer’s crooning in a mismatched suit, his hair and makeup done expertly but cuticles scuffed and shoddy, nails flaking underneath the cheap lacquer. Not just overreaching his vocal chords — he’s overreaching his league.

Manu tipped him anyway, earlier this evening, his tagged one-mark token tumbled in with all the others in the jar.

Manu’s drinking whiskey, the bar’s cheapest over plenty of ice to water down the flavor of engine oil. He’s sipping it slow, taking his time, and already he’s starting to get looks from the bartender.

Nobody nurses shitty whiskey at the Bronze Room. The bartender is one poorly sung verse away from calling his boss and reporting his suspicions.

Manu knocks back the whiskey, tags the bottom of the glass, then raises a finger to the bartender. The bartender slides another whiskey across the bartop; Manu thanks him with a wink and a bit too lingering of a smile — it’s not faked, there’s plenty to admire, and the bartender’s tight shirt doesn’t require much of the imagination. Manu transfers him a generous tip from Sylla Mar’s expense account.

The bartender just turns away with a polite service-industry smile and drops Manu’s empty glass into the sanitizer without noticing the tag at the bottom. Let him come to the wrong conclusion about why Manu is camping at his seedy bar just outside the posh, touristy Tamarind District.

Manu can’t even remember the last time he came to this part of Bulari. He thinks it was when he was still a kid, just dropped out of third levels to help his dad with the business, barhopping on cash stolen from his dad’s till with some of his buddies from Carama Town, tallying up who could get the most colorful cussing-outs from tourist girls and toss-outs from bouncers. If he remembers right they got kicked out of six bars before the cops got called.

It was a good night.

Manu gives the Bronze Room another scan. This may have been one of those bars; he can’t remember. The end of that night’s a bit of a blur.

Manu taps a fingernail against the side of his glass, waiting. His nails are a poison acid green tonight, same as his hair. The color pops nicely against his black skin.

He goes over the dossier once more.

The mark tonight’s on the meaner end of the Bulari thug spectrum; he’s the type almost everybody’d like to see gone, though nobody but Manu’s been stupid enough to try. Small crew of riffraff, each uglier and crueler than the next. Got himself a live-in lady, a clean-looking type who must have a pretty low opinion of herself to end up with scum — but she’s hardly alone in this city. Manu’ll be doing her a favor, killing Willem Jaantzen.

Manu’s been gathering intel on his mark for two weeks, long enough that Sylla Mar’s started dropping hints that maybe his heart’s not really in it, that maybe Manu’s all talk and no action.

Those are the exact words she used, too, last time her goons brought him in. Lounging on that black velvet like she styles herself a goddess, smoke from her laced cigarette spiraling through her neon purple and pink locks. Dry, overpainted lips and eyelids weighed down with pigment, Sylla looked a caricature of a vid crime lord, right down to the thick-jowled musclemen who flanked her divan.

Even now, Manu tries to imagine those men as his co-workers, Sylla as his boss. Tries to imagine himself taking orders spoken in that husky undertone, punctuated by the cartoonish cracking knuckles of her goons.

Wonders if he’ll ever stop watching his back with them as his crew.

No. Joining Sylla’s crew isn’t ideal, but who ever said life was perfect? The city’s getting tight, lately. Strangling out the independent operators, choking out the way Manu used to exist. Too many petty alliances between the bosses, too many turning snitch on the little guys to build up their credibility with the government. Sometimes a freelance hitman needs a friendly crew to weather out the storm of crackdowns and backstabbings.

And Sylla’s crew will do.

Better than getting himself an indenture. Manu’d rather be free and hungry than owned by some corporation.

Provided he can handle this initiation she set out for him.

Killing Willem Jaantzen.

It’s a terrible idea, and Manu’s been thinking of walking away all week. He actually can’t decide if Sylla’s messing with him — maybe she’s one of those women who hates saying no outright, and this is just a convenient way to get rid of him for good rather than taking him in. She sure didn’t seem to think he could actually do it.

If he’s honest with himself, he hasn’t been thinking he can do it, either. He’s taken out his fair share of lowlifes and deadbeat ex-boyfriends, but he’s never had a mark this big.

You don’t know if you don’t try, though, right?

Because if he makes this hit, it doesn’t even matter if he sticks with Sylla and her band of shifty thugs. Killing Jaantzen will get him a job wherever he wants.

Killing Jaantzen with style might even get him a job with Thala Coeur, Blackheart herself. Now there’s a scary bitch — but she’s got a crew that actually watches out for each other. Joining Blackheart’s crew, now that’s a proper life goal.

Manu doesn’t need Sylla, but he does need this win.

The singer stops crooning to a smattering of applause that seems more grateful than appreciative, and he disappears into the back with his tip jar. Manu notes that with a frown. It’s not a big deal — Manu’s tags have been thoroughly seeded. Just, Manu hopes the singer hasn’t put all those tokens in his pocket. Nobody deserves that, even for botching show tunes this badly.

Manu takes another sip of shitty whiskey.

He’s gonna have fun busting this place up.

* * *

Manu doesn’t need to be watching the door to know when Willem Jaantzen walks in. The whole energy of the place shifts, gets thin and sharp as a razor. There’s two Arquellian girls a few seats down the bar, laughing too loud to hide their nerves, racking up stories of slumming it in Bulari to tell their friends back on Indira. They notice the hush but don’t mark its meaning; the one closest to Manu glances towards the door and raises a catty eyebrow before turning back in a cascade of black ringlets to whisper in her friend’s ear.

Manu shifts like he’s checking her out and sees Jaantzen walk past, all broad shoulders and barrel chest. He’s dressed more stylishly than Manu’s used to seeing, like a man taught young which social cues others respect and who’s now able to afford it. He’s got two silver earrings in his right ear, two silver rings on each hand — bright glimmers against his rich brown skin.

Jaantzen ensconces himself at an empty table, though he doesn’t seem possessive about it, not like Manu expects from a man at the head of one of Bulari’s most up-and-coming crime rings. It’s not the best table in the house, but it’s in the corner with a decent view of the door. And a proximity to the stage Manu’s sure Jaantzen will regret when the singer comes back for his next set.

Jaantzen’s not traveling with bodyguards, this deep in his own territory, but he does have companions. Manu recognizes them: a brother and sister pair a lot of Bulari’s bosses work with, the Lordeurs. They’re bankers, kind of. Laundering big takes and fencing stolen goods. Tossing money out and reeling it back in with fat fish like Jaantzen attached.

He hesitates now. You never know when you might need a loan — plus, the Lordeurs’ve got a lot more friends than a loner thug like Jaantzen. Manu wonders if he’ll ever need their services, decides probably not. And anyway, the whole bar is tagged at this point. If he walks away now he’s never getting another chance — and he’s out a small fortune in hornet tags.

Manu ignores that nagging, rational voice telling him that the smart thing to do is to walk away.

The singer’s gone back up onstage; Manu catches Jaantzen’s frown of annoyance at the first warbled notes, catches the singer’s furtive glances at Jaantzen’s nearby table. The boss is in the house tonight, and this guy knows he’s not getting invited back for another gig.

Manu pushes his glass back towards the bartender and waves off the raised eyebrow asking if he wants another drink. He slips his little transmitter underneath the bartop and clicks the sequence to arm it. Feels it pulse faintly under his fingertips to tell him it’s good to go.

No safe return now. Not until he kills Jaantzen.

Manu pushes off to the bathroom, a touch of whiskey sway to his shoulders and a sloppy nod to one of the Arquellian girls. She gives him a dirty look.

He’s counting, and as he draws level with Jaantzen’s table — a fraction of a second after he hits twenty — the bar shatters. The front of the glasses case blows off its hinges in a rush of smoke and fire. The long mirror beside the bathroom hallway and the picture window beside the front door both shatter, cascading shards of glass hitting all the high notes over the sound of screaming. At the back of the stage, the singer’s backpack explodes. That’s where that tagged coin ended up; Manu lets the thought slide past.

His attention is entirely on Jaantzen.

The Lordeur siblings have ducked to take shelter below the table — the little blasts from the hornet tags sound like gunshots, and all around people are diving to the floor.

Willem Jaantzen is not diving to the floor.

He hasn’t registered Manu as the enemy yet — Manu dropped like the others in the chaos. As Jaantzen turns away to scan his bar, weapon in hand, Manu takes his shot.

Jaantzen must have heard something, seen a flash. Anyway, he’s fast for such a big man, and as Manu squeezes off a second shot, Jaantzen kicks the pistol out of his hand.

No worries, Manu’s got a backup gun.

He draws it, springs back to his feet and away as Jaantzen charges him, feeling the situation slip. Had to be flashy to impress Sylla, he thinks. Had to be an idiot.

His third shot is an inch too low, hits square in Jaantzen’s body armor rather than in the throat, and Jaantzen only grunts, catches him with an elbow to the sternum, a meaty hand to the throat. Jaantzen lifts him off the ground by his collar, those dead shark’s eyes searching his, and all he can think is that he’s seen this scene in gangster vids, and it does not end well for the guy with his feet dangling over the glass-strewn bar floor.

Jaantzen lifts his chin to someone behind Manu, and a blast of pain hits him between the shoulder blades.

Game’s over.


 Pre-order Negative Return for $0.99 here.