[Video Training] Make a Living as a Freelance Writer for Apex Authors

Are you curious about what it takes to get into freelance writing? I recently did a training for Apex Author members where we cover:

  • The wide world of freelance niches
  • How to choose a profitable niche
  • How to land those first gigs
  • And more

The video replay is available for members, but you can access it with the free trail — and while you’re at it, check out all the billions* of other amazing trainings Apex Authors has available!

* Maybe I am exaggerating, but not by much.

Now Kickstarting: From Dream to Reality

Happy February! I’ve been enjoying the bright (yet cold) sunshine here in Portland, and am very excited about the sun not setting at 4:30pm anymore.

I’m also excited because my latest nonfiction book from Microcosm Publishing is currently in the Kickstarter phase!

We’re about halfway through the Kickstarter, and halfway through the goal — and my editor just emailed to say the book just went off to the printer. 🙂 Can’t wait to see it!

So. What’s this new book, you ask?

From Dream to Reality is basically a very detailed, expanded version of the spiel I’d give you if you asked if you could take me out for a beer and pick my brain about becoming a freelance writer. I’m super proud of it, and can’t wait to see it out in the world helping people make a living with their writing.

I love talking about this stuff. The marketing, the business stuff, the money — all that business nitty-gritty is super fun to me!

This book full of juicy how-to-make-money-writing tips, written in a conversational style that’s meant to be casual and approachable, while giving you the confidence to hang up your freelancer’s shingle and start finding those first clients. (Though I don’t shy away from how hard it can be, either.)

If that sounds like something you (or someone you know) would love, go check out the Kickstarter.

And thank you very very much!

[Story Sale] Happy release day to NOIR!

When you write a 5-book saga with a rather large cast of characters, you’re likely to hear from readers that you should have written more about so-and-so.

One of those characters is Detective Timo Cho of the Bulari Police Department, who spends some time investigating our heroes and learning some truths of his own about how the seedy underbelly of Bulari works.

I agree. I loved Cho, and loved being in Cho’s point of view for his scenes. Because his storyline is a bit separate from the rest of the characters — he is investigating them, but not physically interacting until the end of the book — I actually approached his storyline as though I was writing a short story. The end result was a fun noir detective subplot mixed in with the rest of the adventure. (Complete, of course, with the femme fatale.)

I’d wanted to revisit Cho’s story for a while now, so when I saw a call for submissions to a sci-fi crime anthology called NOIR, I knew exactly what story I wanted to write.

“Storm Warning” is the story of Detective Timo Cho doing what he does best: asking too many questions.

It’s set in Bulari, but is completely apart from the events of the Bulari Saga, so it stands on its own. If you’ve read the Bulari Saga books, you’ll find another fan favorite character makes a cameo. If you haven’t read the Bulari Saga, no worries! “Storm Warning” is meant to be just plain fun.

I’ll include a snippet to whet your appetite in a second, but first:



edited by David B. Coe & John Zakour

A missing intergalactic artifact valuable enough to inspire murder. A cartoon gag gone bad that leads to a gruesome death. Greek deities unraveling a divine mystery in New York City. A human detective navigating the temptations of Faerie in pursuit of a magical killer. Call them sleuths, call them gumshoes, call them shamuses or dicks or beagles—these private investigators prowl the back alleys of imagination, explaining the unexplainable, seeking answers and justice for two hundred dollars a day plus expenses.

In Noir, speculative fiction authors Hal Bodner, Jessie Kwak, Esther M. Friesner, Travis Wade Beaty, John Zakour, Alex Bledsoe, Erik Grove, Andrija Popovic, Julie E. Czerneda, Aprilynne Pike, D.B. Jackson, Justin Jordan, Steven Harper, R.S. Belcher, and Eve Golden-Woods spin tales of intrigue and danger, introducing you to worlds where information is currency and life is cheap. So put on your fedora, raise your trench coat collar against the evening chill, and come explore the shadows. But remember, in this seedy business, you can trust no one…sometimes not even yourself.

Get the book:

Direct from the publisher
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, etc.

Storm Warning [Excerpt]

When Detective Timo Cho watches the replay he doesn’t pay attention to the body. He focuses on the killer’s eyes. 

They’re a deep, after-sunset blue with a thin ring of silver around the pupil, narrowed with intense focus though the lines around the eyes are relaxed. This surgery is complicated, but routine. The timestamp on the footage says they’re around the three-hour mark, but it’s not just the demands of the morning’s work threading the surgeon’s sclera with glints of red. The irritation could be from the lens he wears—the faintly shimmering assistive tech floating over delicate eye tissue—but Cho guesses the surgeon also hasn’t been sleeping well. There are bags under his eyes. The outside corner of the right eye is inflamed. 

And, there.

That’s the moment when things go wrong. A flurry of sudden blinking. The pupils flare, the brows draw in, the corners of the eyes crinkle in sudden confusion. One of the capillaries in the sclera of the left eye bursts, glazing the eye with a wash of red just before the surgeon begins making the fatal cuts. 

Ten seconds later, both eyes widen in horror. And squeeze shut. Cho turns the replay off. He’s seen what comes next enough times.

A Sulila-trained surgeon—the elitest of the elite—deliberately killed a patient in the middle of surgery and then slit his own throat. 

Cho leans back in his chair in the Bulari Police Department’s least-malfunctioning investigations cube, cracks his neck. Studies the patterns of water leaking into the ceiling, layered over the years like a topographical map. If only he could read that to understand what happened here—and how to proceed on this case without pissing off his supervisor, the public, or Sulila corporation. 

Cho’s supervisor, Major Ngara, would say start by making Sulila happy and keep the public from knowing why they should be angry. In fact, he’d given Cho step-by-step instructions, handed down from Sulila: review the hologram, declare the surgeon had a mental breakdown, write up a report that absolves Sulila of responsibility and reassures the public that their hospitals are safe.

Cho digs his mechanical left fingers into a hard knot of muscle in his right shoulder, lets the front legs of his chair clatter to the floor, and skims the replay back to the beginning. This time he lets his gaze go soft as the hologram plays around him, only half-watching the murder, waiting for something to ping his subconscious.

Getting to see the moment of a murder is rare. It definitely eliminates the who. Just leaves the why.

The holograms he usually works with are done after the fact, meticulously recorded by Hallie Bachelet and her crew of crime scene techs, body blanks programmed into the scene so detectives can play them like puppets and puzzle through what might have happened. This recording, though, is surgery-room footage, supplied by Sulila. The quality is amazing—way better than the tech the Bulari Police can get. Cho halfway expected the rich file to crash the BPD’s system when he loaded it in the scenario desk. 

Provided by Sulila means censored by Sulila. A few things are blurred: proprietary surgery tools, the patient’s medical data, and the assistant’s face. Cho’s not allowed to talk to them. The Sulila PR team has provided the BPD with a transcript of the assistant’s testimony to “protect an innocent person’s identity.”

Cho pulls out his comm. Hallie Bachelet answers almost immediately. “You around?” 

“Depends.” From the distant clatter of voices and ringing comms in the background it sounds like she’s in the office. “You got something happy and uplifting to show me? I just got back from a pretty rough scene.”

“It’s all puppy dogs and flowers in this investigations cube. I’m on the Sulila case. Can you help me with this footage?”

She’d say yes anyway, but a chance to muck around with proprietary Sulila footage sweetens the deal. Hallie swears under her breath.

She’s there by the time he has the scenario desk reset, slumping into the seat beside him with a sigh. She’s still dressed for a crime scene in silver-gray scrubs and an appropriately somber hijab, a touch of mascara smudged in the warm brown skin under each eye. 

“Bad day?” Cho asks. 

Hallie waves him off. “Same old. What’s your question?” 

He lets the footage run, pausing about ten seconds before things go wrong. This time, he’s not looking at the footage at all; he’s watching Hallie’s reaction. Her attention darts immediately to the blurred parts. 

“Any way to repair the blurring?” he asks. 

She scoots closer to the scenario desk. “Maybe. Super easy if it’s just a filter the PR team slapped on.” She types for a few minutes, then hits Play once more. The blurring is gone. “Who’s a hero?” 

“You are.”

Cho leans in to study the now-unblurred assistant as Hallie plays it again from the beginning, but he stops it before it gets to the murder—he did promise her something happy.

Hallie waves away his hand. “The day I’ve had, Timo, nothing else can faze me.” She frowns through the murder-suicide, then stops. Replays it.

“I thought you were looking for a cheer-up,” Cho says. 

“Shush.” Hallie leans in, hits Pause. “There.”

Cho frowns at the body, at the surgeon, at the frozen horror on the assistant’s face. “What?”

“There’s time missing in the recording,” Hallie says.

“Can you get it back?”

“That’ll be tougher than just clearing a filter, but I can get one of my techs on it. But Timo…”

Cho turns to meet her gaze.

“I thought you were supposed to have an easy solve on this.”

“Don’t you want to know what actually happened? Justice shouldn’t—” 

“Have compromises, I know. You say it all the time. Just promise me you won’t make any mistakes here.”

“I promise.” He seals the promise with a wink. “Can I thank you for the help here with dinner tonight?”

“I thought there was a storm warning.”

“That’s not until tomorrow.” 

Hallie’s smile tilts to the side. “Then sure. So long as we don’t talk about work.”


Cho switches off the hologram when she leaves, does a fast search for the assistant’s profile, then wipes the search and logs out of the scenario desk. He’s got a few hours before dinner, and doesn’t owe Sulila’s PR team a report until tomorrow. Still time to ask a couple of questions. 

Read the rest of the story in NOIR. Get it today:

From Big Idea to Book podcast roundup

I’ve been absolutely floored by the positive reception to From Chaos to Creativity over the last few years, and it’s been so much fun to watch little sibling From Big Idea to Book get out into the world.

To celebrate its launch, I’ve been making the circuit of some truly amazing podcasts. Check them out!

(By the way, if you haven’t grabbed a copy of From Big Idea to Book yet, I’m running a bundle deal. Get signed copies of both Big Idea and Chaos — only $25 for the pair.)


The Creative Penn Podcast

Joanna Penn’s podcast was one of the first I subscribed to when I started self publishing, and her cheerful British accent has been the soundtrack to my author journey. So it’s a huge honor to be a guest on her show!

Listen to the episode: From Big Idea to Book with Jessie Kwak

You can also check out the previous interview Joanna did with me, back in 2020: From Chaos to Creativity with Jessie Kwak


Hybrid Pub Scout

Emily Einolander of Hybrid Pub Scout not only was a fantastic host when I appeared on Hybrid Pub Scout earlier this year — they also published a wonderful review of From Big Idea to Book that I’m still glowing about.

Listen to the episode: From Chaos to Creativity with Jessie Kwak


The Indy Author Podcast

Matty Dalrymple of the Indy Author Podcast was a total delight to speak with, and I loved our far-ranging conversation about the nature of the writing process!

Matty also posts clips on her YouTube channel — so if you want to see how wild my hair decided to be the day of our interview, go check it out.

Listen to the episode: From Big Idea to Book with Jessie Kwak


Author Success Show

I also had the joy of talking to the absolutely delightful Jyotsna Ramachandran for the Author Success Show! We got a bit more into the nitty gritty of self publishing and the business side of the writer’s journey, as well as talking about craft.

Listen to the episode: You Don’t Have to Wait for the Muse to be Creative | Author Success Show Featuring Jessie Kwak

Creative Writer's Toolbelt logo

Creative Writer’s Toolbelt Podcast

I had such a thoughtful conversation with Andrew Chamberlain of the Creative Writer’s Toolbelt Podcast! The episode isn’t up yet (I’ll update this post when it is), but I highly recommend checking out past guests. This show is a fantastic source of inspiration for writers.

News Roundup: Short story sale, audio books, and more

I’ve been pretty head-down the past few months, dividing my time between finishing writing the Nanshe Chronicles, preparing for the launch of the first book in May, and working on a big book project with a new nonfiction ghostwriting client.

Not to mention extracurriculars like spending time with my family and some local travel!

A lot of cool things have happened over the past few months, publishing-wise. I realized that although I’ve been keeping my newsletter subscribers updated on all the Cool Things, I hadn’t breathed a word to the rest of the world on my blog.

(Guess you should sign up for the newsletter if you want me to remember to tell you things. Seriously, even my mom gets most of her news about my life there. I’m a horrible daughter.)

So with no further ado, here’s a roundup of all the news that’s fit to print from Q1 of 2022.


Did you know you can now listen to the whole Bulari Saga as narrated by the phenomenal J.S. Arquin? He’s also working his way through the Nanshe Chronicles, so we’ll be able to release those audiobooks at the same time as the ebooks and print are released.

They’re available anywhere you buy quality audiobooks, but you can also get them direct from me at a discount. And right now, both Double Edged and Ghost Pirate Gambit are on sale. 🙂

New Bulari Saga short story!

I’m thrilled to announce that I sold a short story to NOIR, an anthology of sci-fi detective stories that’s coming out later this year from Zombies Need Brains.

The story features a detective many of you already know and love, Detective Timo Cho of the Bulari Police Department. It’s titled “Storm Warning,” and it features Cho doing what he does best: asking too many questions.

Even more anthologies!

I have stories in two other anthologies that you can get your hands on right now. The first is Underland Arcana Deck 1, which is a collection of all the short stories published during the first year of the Underland Arcana collections. (Which are lovely little books — I highly recommend subscribing.)

In my story, “At the Heart of the River,” a river just wants to finally have the full affections of the young man who’s loved her all these years.

The second anthology is Dispatches From Annarres, a collection of short stories written by Portland authors who were inspired by Ursula K. Le Guin. My story, “Black as Thread,” is about a brother and sister who use fashion to fight an invading force. I’m delighted and honored to say “Black as Thread” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize for short fiction published by a small press!

From Big Idea to Book!

For all you writers out there, my latest book from Microcosm Publishing is finally out in the world!

Much as From Chaos to Creativity took you on a choose-your-own-adventure path to finding a productivity system that worked with your creative brain, From Big Idea to Book is designed to help you come up with a writing process that’s productive and which brings you joy.

If you’re curious, I wrote more about writing process and joy on the DIY MFA blog: “How to Recapture the Joy in Your Writing.”

I’ve also been doing podcast interviews about the book, which I’ll link to when they’re live!

And there’s plenty more to come

I think I’ve said all the things there are to say for the moment. I’m going to keep my head down and keep writing the next book — but rest assured there are plenty more exciting things on the way.

I promise I’ll try to remember to tell you about them… but if you want to make sure you don’t miss a thing, sign up for the newsletter. It’s fun!

[Podcast] No Shelf Control

Between my day job and my current book project (a non-fiction book about the writing process), I interview a lot of people.

It’s one of my favorite things about my job — getting a chance to chat with interesting people about things they’re passionate about: adaptive learning software, the college experience during COVID-19, cybersecurity, digital asset management software, writing and revising novels.

So it’s always a bit weird when the table gets turned and someone starts peppering me with questions.

That’s happened a couple of times lately. If you’ve been curious to learn more about me and my books, check out these two interviews.

No Shelf Control Podcast

No Shelf Control Podcast: Books, Booze and Banter. Episode 11 – Interview with Jessie Kwak (the Bulari Saga)

I sat down virtually with Lindsay Fairleigh and Lindsay Pogue to chat about productivity, how I name my characters, world building, and my choice to include a deaf character in the Bulari Saga.

Oh — and of course we chatted about what we were drinking during the show. Mezcal (neat) and soda water and a splash of orange bitters for me, in honor of Phaera.

Find the episode here.

Snowflakes in A Blizzard

Snowflakes in A Blizzard: Double Edged

I’ve had a book featured in Snowflakes in a Blizzard a couple of times before, and it’s always a fun experience. The interviews are a great way for readers to find new indie authors and explore new books they might want to try.

In it, I talk about my inspiration for Double Edged and the Bulari Saga, and reflect on what it’s like to wrap up the series with Kill Shot.

Read the interview here.

[Video] Productivity and Self-Compassion During Quarantine

Happy … Friday?

I’m told Monday is a … holiday? Potentially we’re still in May, I haven’t really checked lately.

Anyway, how are you doing? Still in quarantine like the rest of us, wondering what days are and how many ice cream sandwiches you need to eat to make a Complete Meal™?

Before this all went down, in the halcyon days of 2019, I published a book on productivity for creative people titled From Chaos to Creativity. But these days instead of feeling like a productivity expert, I mostly feel like I’m hanging in there.

Which is why when my publisher, Microcosm Publishing, asked if I’d be interested in doing a virtual event to talk about creativity and productivity during quarantine, I balked at the idea.

Sure, I wrote a book on productivity. But will anything I say actually be helpful to people right now?

I said yes anyway, then spent a lovely hour-ish talking with my editor, Lydia Rogue, about how we’re all getting things done during these times of chaos.

Turns out I actually did have some interesting things to say, and you can watch the replay here.

My two biggest personal takeaways?

Be kind to yourself

Maybe before this all went down you worked out every day and ate super healthy and wrote 2k words a day on your novel.

If you’re not doing that now, please please please stop beating yourself up about it. Do what you can, celebrate your wins, and give yourself the same grace you would give someone else.

Being kinder to myself when I don’t meet some self-set perfect standard has made a world of difference in these past few months. I’m happier. I’m mentally healthier. And in the end those two things have helped me get more done.

I’m going to do my best to carry this self-compassion on beyond quarantine, because it’s something I’ve been lacking most of my life.

Do what makes you happy

Not feeling motivated at all? That’s cool. Me neither.

I used to have a fairly rigid schedule, but in the last few weeks I’ve let myself do what seems most interesting at the moment, rather than forcing myself to march in lock-step to the tune of my to-do list.

The result? I’m accomplishing more, because I’m allowing myself to do work when I’m in the mood for it, rather than forcing myself when I’m not in the mood.

Writing this blog post wasn’t on my list today, but suddenly it sounded interesting.

And because I’m interested in it, it’ll take me about 30 minutes instead of several hours if I was forcing myself to do it when I wasn’t in a blogging mood.

Obviously, some of the things on your to-do list need to be done regardless of mood — but if you let yourself do things that interest you first, you’ll start developing more enthusiasm, and therefore momentum.

How’s your creativity doing right now?

Let me know in the comments — I look forward to hearing from you!

[Podcast] A conversation with Bookpod

I love to read, but I don’t have a ton of time, which is why I’m always looking for book recommendations. If I’m going to read something, I want it to be good!

That’s why I’m so excited to tell you about this new book recommendation podcast that’s hitting earbuds near you.

(Is that a thing I can say? Earbuds near you? Guess I’m going for it.)

Logo for BookPod: the Indie Filter Podcast, a book recommendation podcast. Image is headphones on a book.

Bookpod: the Indie Filter Podcast, is specifically aimed at helping readers find indie authors they love. Ben and Sarah Nadler read indie-pubbed books to find their favorites, then interview authors to talk about their books.

They alternate between author interview episodes and book recommendation episodes.

I know Sarah through a local weekly write-in we both attend, so I was thrilled when she asked me to come on the show. Our conversation is featured on episode four of Bookpod. (You can listen to it here.)

In the episode, we talk a bit about my personal story, how I got into writing, the importance of finding a good writing community, and my inspirations for the Bulari Saga. It was a super fun conversation.

One of the cool things about Bookpod is that each author reads a bit from their book. So if you listen to the end, you’ll get a little sample of Double Edged (the first book in the Bulari Saga), as read by yours truly. Apologies for not being a professional narrator, but I guess that’s part of the charm. 🙂

I know Ben and Sarah have a good collection of author interviews recorded, so I’m really excited to see where this podcast goes as they keep releasing new episodes.

If you’re looking for a new book recommendation podcast, give Bookpub a shot!

(And if you have reader podcast recommendations of your own, leave ’em in the comments. I’m always looking for new podcasts to put in my earbuds.)

(PS. You can find other interviews with me on my press page.)

[Podcast] I’m on Ink To Film talking about The Expanse

Blood’s on the wall, beratnas, we gonna rise up! In episode 117, SciFi author Jessie Kwak joins Luke and James to discuss the final episodes of season one of THE EXPANSE. Join the entire crew again next week for the second half of LEVIATHAN WAKES by James SA Corey.

I joined Luke Elliot and James Bailey on two episodes of the Ink to Film podcast to chat about my love of The Expanse series, and how it inspired so much of my own Bulari Saga books.