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.


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


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


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.



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

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.

Celebrating Read Self Published Month with Cover Reveal and Giveaway!

This post is part of the blog tour for Read Self Published Month, when dozens of self-published authors band together to celebrate each others’ work. To find out about all the events — like readalongs and giveaways — check out the Read Self Published Month Facebook page.

Don’t miss my giveaway! Read to the end of this post to find out how to win ebook copies of all three of my books: Starfall, Shifting Borders, and the soon-to-be-released Negative Return.

Hi, I’m Jessie!

I’m a freelance writer and novelist, and this blog is mainly home to my writings about fiction and creativity.

As a reader, what you need to know about me is that I love writing characters who press each others’ buttons and have each others’ backs.

I’m fascinated by the family dynamic — both biological families and found families — and I mostly write stories about deeply flawed people who love each other deeply. Even when they hate each others’ guts.

What can I say — I have a sister.

My first book, Shifting Borders, is the story of two sisters dealing with the aftermath of the younger one’s truly, epically bad decisions. It’s a ghost story and a thriller, but my favorite reviews are the ones that say things like, “I normally don’t read this genre, but found myself hooked by the unfolding relationship between Valeria and Patricia.”

It’s dedicated to my little sister — but although I certainly drew on our childhood angst, it’s in no way inspired by her. If anything, she turned out to be the more responsible one.

My second book, Starfall, is the story of a jaded gangster bent on revenge, and the teenage girl who pulls him back from the brink. It’s a sci-fi adventure, but again it’s more a story about family. Jaantzen and Starla have both lost theirs, but life has conspired to bring them together into a new one — if they so choose.

My third book, Negative Return, is the story of a young bounty hunter who’s about to learn a hard lesson about who you choose to call your crew — and how the people you should trust aren’t always the ones you would expect.

Negative Return is on its way out to the world as we speak. Keep on scrolling to see the cover reveal, and sign up for my mailing list (or follow me on Twitter, @jkwak) to stay in the loop for when it’s released.

My books

Shifting Borders

When a resurrection goes awry in a cold Seattle cemetery, mother-of-three Patricia Ramos-Waites finds herself possessed by the ghost of her sister’s dead lover — and the target of a ruthless drug smuggling gang who are desperate to get their hands on the ghost she’s hosting.

As Patricia struggles to understand both ghost Marco and the danger she’s now in, she realizes this may be her only shot to heal the decades-old rift between herself and her sister.

Shifting Borders was shortlisted for Chanticleer Reviews’ PARANORMAL Book Awards for Supernatural Fiction 2016!

Read the first chapter, and get Shifting Borders in print and ebook here.


A headstrong teenager. A world-weary crime lord. A dangerous prison break.

Starla Dusai is fifteen, deaf — and being held as an enemy combatant by the Indiran Alliance. Willem Jaantzen is a notorious crime lord about to end a fearsome vendetta — and most probably his life. When he learns his goddaughter has been captured by the Alliance, will he be able to save her? And her, him?

STARFALL is the first book in Jessie Kwak’s Durga System series, a fast-paced series of gangster sci-fi novellas set in a far-future world where humans may have left their home planet to populate the stars, but they haven’t managed to leave behind their vices. And that’s very good for business.

Read the first chapter, and get Starfall in print, ebook, or audio here.

Negative Return — cover reveal!

Manu Juric is better at reading people than he is at killing them, but he’s managed to make life as a bounty hunter work so far. Until he goes after his most fearsome target yet: notorious gangster Willem Jaantzen.

After the attempt is horribly botched, Jaantzen spares Manu’s life in exchange for his help on one small heist. As Manu plunges into a web of uneasy dangers, he realizes he’ll need allies if he wants to get out alive — and that the one man he needs to trust the most is the man he’s been contracted to kill.

(Launch date to be announced shortly. Sign up for my mailing list to stay in the loop.)

Read Self Published Month Giveaway!!!

There’s already a massive giveaway in the works for Read Self Published Month (sign up here if you haven’t already), but I’m doing one of my own, too.

Leave a comment on this post, and I’ll randomly choose one lucky commenter to receive ebook copies of all thee of my books.

Thanks for stopping by to learn more about me! Be sure to hit the next stop on the blog tour. Zach Chopchinski started off the blog tour chain here, and Jeanne St. James is up tomorrow!

See all the stops here.



Cover photo by Jane Ryder via Unsplash.