We need to stick together

Matthew Shepard was murdered in Wyoming when I was fifteen.

The following spring, I was sitting outside a McDonalds in my home town after dark with my best friend when a car full of men in their early twenties drove by, real slow. 

They did a U-turn so they could drive by again.

They rolled their windows down. 

“Is that a girl or a boy?” one of them yelled, referencing my best friend; she was looking butch as always, with her baggy 90s grunge look, her figure lean and rangy. Laughter pealed from the inside of the car.

I can’t remember what else they yelled at us, and I’m sure my best friend yelled back some choice insults. 

But I remember that, until they finally drove away, I couldn’t stop thinking: 

“This is how it starts, this is the night my parents find my body beaten beyond recognition, left tied to a fence post to die. Just like they did to Matthew.”

The men finally left. We went home. And I added the experience to the extremely long “Reasons I want to move to Seattle” column in my mind. 

By the time Matthew Shepard was killed, my friends and I already knew how dangerous it was to be different in a small town. 

I ran with the theater and band nerd crowd. I had friends who were openly gay, and friends who were closeted. We experimented with goth and punk looks that made us stand out. 

We were ridiculous, we were fun, we were weirdos. 

We were kids. 

And every single one of us had a plan to leave our home town and find a place that felt safer to be ourselves. 

A lot of things have gotten better since I was in high school. 

My friends in the US can legally get married now. There’s a lot more representation for LGBTQ role models in media, and a lot more resources and acceptance for kids to learn to love themselves. (Even so, LGBTQ youth are still more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers. Source: The Trevor Project.) 

I figured we were — overall — on a positive path toward being a society that cared for and protected everyone in it, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

I bet you can see where I’m going with this, especially if you’ve been following US politics lately.

Tennessee just became the first state to ban drag shows and, effectively, trans people from performing at all. Trans authors are wondering if that means doing book readings is now against the law there — I’ve heard several folks talk about pulling book tour dates in Tennessee to be safe. 

Iowa lawmakers just introduced a law that would ban same-sex marriage, effectively dissolving families who don’t have the resources to move out of state. 

Dozens of states are looking at bans on gender-affirming care for youth, and a handful of these laws have started to pass. Oklahoma proposed a bill banning gender-affirming care for adults under the age of 26. 

It’s always been scary to be a kid that doesn’t fit in — and even scarier if you’re openly gay or trans. But the attack on LGBTQ kids at a legislative level is absolutely horrifying. 

My heart breaks for kids in states where the adults who are supposed to protect them are actively pushing legislation through that will deny them healthcare and basic rights.

(And you know the rhetoric those adults are spewing just increases the amount of harassment their own children are facing on a daily basis.)

Families are trying to protect their kids. A friend of mine in the south told me recently he’s planning on moving because he has two daughters and he’s worried about raising them somewhere that now restricts healthcare access for women. 

But not everyone has the means to move to a place where their kid will be safe — and not every kid has a family that’s willing to protect them, even if they did have the means. 

I don’t know what to do about any of this, except to make my voice heard in favor of trans rights and gay rights. 

This blog post isn’t even a “First they came for” attempt to speak out, because, hey. I’m a cis woman and they’ve already come for my healthcare and autonomy in the United States. It’s a “I see my trans cousin and trans friends and trans fellow authors under attack and I’m heartsick for us all” sort of post.

I don’t know what to do.

One thing I do know is that you’re a sci-fi reader, which means I’m probably speaking to the choir. 

Since I left my hometown at the age of 18, I’ve found my community primarily in the world of science fiction readers and writers, and I know what a welcoming bunch you are.

Science fiction is all about exploring how we can be better as a society, from Ursula Le Guin to Star Trek. It’s about learning to build empathy with others, from alien races to our fellow passengers on the Starship Earth. 

We may not all see eye-to-eye politically — who does! — but most people I know in the sci-fi community identify more with the book-reading weirdo in the corner than the aggressive bully.

And dammit, we weirdos need to stick together.

Now more than ever. 

If you’re looking for a way to help, I recommend seeking out and donating to organizations in your area that support LGBTQ (and especially trans) youth. Whether or not you’re in the US, I’m sure the kids in your area need to know people care about them. The Trevor Project is a good place to start.

If you’re looking to boost your empathy superpower in this area (yay for reading!), Book Riot has a fantastic list of recent sci-fi/fantasy books with trans characters. I can also heartily recommend Lila Bowen’s Wake of Vultures (weird western shapeshifter series) and my friend Neil Cochrane’s The Story of the Hundred Promises, a lovely fairy-tale retelling. 

Let’s not let this next generation of ridiculous, fun, incredible weirdo kids down. 

CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: Maddi Davidson

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

Maddi Davidson is the pen name for two sisters living on opposite sides of the country: Mary Ann Davidson in Idaho and Diane Davidson in Virginia. Together they have published several novels, a non-fiction book, and numerous short stories. Their tales range from the murder of a deranged scientist resurrecting the dodo to a spurned wife hacking the pacemaker of an ex-husband who richly deserved it.

“Narrow EscApe” is the first story in a planned series of Tastee Brioche Twistletoe adventures. Learn more at: https://maddidavidson.com/bitch-and-chips/.


Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

Tastee Brioche Twistletoe imagines herself a clever and successful thief, à la James Bolivar diGriz of Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat. When the operations of the criminal organization, Nemo Loquitur, draw police attention too close to Tastee’s home base, she sets a trap, hoping to ensnare one or more of the organization’s key operatives. Posing as a thief for hire, our heroine travels to a godforsaken mining planet, Galina 552, to steal orsothium, a metal more precious than gold. Despite having botched each and every heist she’s undertaken, Tastee confidently sets her plan in motion.

As sisters living thousands of miles apart, how do you collaborate on stories?

Surprisingly, it hasn’t been a challenge for us, not that it has been all beer and skittles (for the record, one of us likes Skittles, the other prefers Coconut M&Ms). Perhaps we did all our squabbling growing up.

A challenge for writing partners is ensuring that the writing hangs together and there is no obvious change of voice (i.e., when one of us takes over the writing). We are lucky that, as sisters, we share the same demented sense of humor, to the point where neither of us can, in many cases, remember who wrote what. That’s the idea, really, because “Maddi” is THE writer and nobody reading our work should be able to tell when The Other Sister started writing. Even more telling, in some cases when one of us is reviewing/editing/adding to a section, we find that the other one had the same idea. You end up deleting things you added because the other sister already put the same ideas in there.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories? What authors have inspired your writing?

Obvious from this story, one of us likes Harry Harrison. We’re great fans of authors who write over-the-top humor using almost believable characters. We’re both big fans of Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s series. Would that we could write half as well as she! While most of our writing to date has been in the mystery genre, we’ve begun to write stories in sci-fi and are relishing the opportunity to explore new pathways to humor.

What are you working on next?

We place about four short stories each year in various anthologies or magazines. We had such a great time writing this story that we hope to find more opportunities for Tastee to pursue her criminal career. We are working on humorous stories in various stages (idea, first draft, finalization, rewriting) in both the mystery and science fiction genres.



Get it here.


CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: C.E. Clayton

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

C. E. Clayton is an award-winning author born and raised in the greater Los Angeles area. After going the traditional career route and becoming restless, she went back to her first love—writing—and hasn’t stopped. She is the author of the young adult fantasy series “The Monster of Selkirk”, the creator of the cyberpunk Eerden Novels, and her horror short stories have appeared in anthologies across the country.

When she’s not writing you can find her treating her fur-babies like humans, constantly drinking tea, and trying to convince her husband to go to more concerts. And reading. She does read quite a bit.

More about C.E. Clayton, including her blog, book reviews, social media presence, and newsletter can be found on her website https://www.ceclayton.com/. C.E. is currently working on her Paradigm Flux novella.


Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

“Renegade Havoc” is the story of Pema and Talin as they come to realize that the power dynamic in the illegal smuggling organization they are a part of has shifted, and shifted in a dangerous way. In a way, it’s a story of self discovery and recognizing that sometimes change is not always good, and that you have to look out for yourself first and foremost. The story is told only through Pema’s eyes, as she has the most to come to terms with compared to her girlfriend, Talin, but this is still very much the story of both these incredible women. Without giving too much away, this story has a little bit of mystery, a fair amount of action, and some big “ah ha!” moments sprinkled throughout. It may be a short story, but it’s a fun ride from start to finish.

The world this story occupies is the same one as my Ellinor series (Resistor is book 1) that combines both traditional science fiction hi-tech and elemental magic like you’d find in most fantasies into something called magitech. Magitech is highly regulated in their world, and so there is a lucrative black market for the more … deadly types of magitech. That’s where Pema and Talin’s boss comes in. He specializes in using his own magical abilities to create and sell devastating pieces of magitech, which Pema and Talin then move across the city to different buyers for him. It’s very much a cyberpunk-esque world with massive high rise buildings, full of neon and sprawling slums on the lower levels. Which, let me tell you, is an amazing setting for the kind of illicit activities the main characters in this world get up to! It’s both dark and colorful, fantastic and grounded all at once. Creating the world of Eerden is one of the most fun experiences I’ve had when it comes to world building in a very long time!

What was the inspiration behind this story?

The main character in my Ellinor series has so many friends and former crew mates that have full lives with their own struggles and goals which are all separate from the main characters and their accompanying novels. There was (and is) a huge breadth of topics and characters that have stories to tell, both big and small. Talin and Pema are such characters, living with the fallout of Ellinor’s choices and trying to figure out what space they truly occupy in the criminal smuggling operation they are a member of. Given the role they play in the upcoming third book in my Ellinor series (Symbiotech), I really wanted to take more time and explore what these badass babes were up to and how they went from where things left off in the first book, to their reappearance in the third. Thankfully, you don’t need to read any of the Ellinor books to appreciate and understand what’s happening in this short story, but the events of the first book were a big part of the inspiration behind “Renegade Havoc”. I just had to showcase these formidable women and the lives they led when their former friend and crew leader was out of the picture.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

I am such a sucker for the Murderbot Diaries! I guess that would be more of a sci-fi mystery series, but Murderbot does solve crimes so I think it counts. But I love Murberbot as a character and how it goes about helping its human friends while insisting that it does not actually care about humans. It’s a really fun space opera, and the writing is so smart, that I really cannot recommend these novellas enough!

What authors have inspired your writing?

Anne McCaffery and Terry Pratchett were the biggest influences for both this story and the Ellinor series as a whole. I love how Anne McCafferey wrote science fantasy that was both very smart with her use of science, but also had these incredible dragons that humans got to bond with. Her “Dragonriders of Pern” series started my love affair of combining science fiction with more traditional fantasy tropes, which is why the Ellinor series uses both hi-tech more common in science fiction, but also incredible elemental magic like you get in fantasy. I also love the way that Terry Pratchett wrote his “Discworld” series and the humor he used as well as how he created this whole world that you could pop in and out of with different stories and character arcs, which is why my Eerden books are set up the way they are. So even though there are moments of violence and serious topics in the Ellinor books, there’s also a lot of humor to balance it out. The Azer centric prologues are especially inspired by the “Discworld” books in particular, just saying.

What are you working on next?

I’m finishing up final edits now for the third book in the Ellinor series (Symbiotech), and then I’ll be heads down on finishing a sci-fi crime and mystery duology that focuses on two detectives and will be part of the Eerden family of novels. So while some characters from the Ellinor series may be familiar, these books will have new main characters and focus entirely on solving murder mysteries in new parts of the city. After that? I may go back to the romantic fantasy I’ve been dabbling with, or maybe even a novella set back in Eerden… Really, I have too many stories to write, and not enough time to write them all!



Get it here.


CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: Erik Grove

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

Erik Grove is a writer, long-distance runner, and little dog wrangler living and doing things in Portland, OR. You can find his work in places like ESCAPE POD, the SPACE COCAINE anthology series, the Zombies Need Brains NOIR anthology and upcoming in NIGHTMARE. Follow him on Twitter @erikgrove or check out his webpage www.erikgrove.com for dog glamour shots, marathon training nonsense, and sundry writerly shenanigans.


Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

In “Terminal Sunset” Kate Hadon has 4 hours to pull off a double-cross before a solar storm burns everything on the planet’s surface to cinders and smoke. If she pulls it off she’ll be able to afford her own spaceship and a swimming pool full of whiskey and ice cubes. If she fails, she won’t make it to nightfall. The story takes place in my Moonshine Hustle series of space opera stories that features Hadon and her crew trying to pay their debts and get by in a galaxy choked by intergalactic capitalism, gangsters, and motherfucking space witches. Think of it as a scuffed up Guardians of the Galaxy directed by the Coen Brothers by way of Breaking Bad.

What was the inspiration behind this story?

I saw the first CROOKED anthology and said “Oh Jessie that’s MY SHIT!” and knew I needed to come up with something cool so I could hang out with the space heist kids for V.2. I’ve been working on the first novel in this series for a while and have a companion story out in a recently released anthology. “Terminal Sunset” is a prequel that takes place years before Hadon has her ship and a fully-formed crew. She’s younger, messier, and much more desperate. I wanted to write a lean pressure cooker story with a simple objective and high tension. I loved the idea of a mostly-abandoned world hours before the apocalypse and the prequel-ness of it all came together naturally during the conception of it. I had so much fun with Moonshine Hustle Year One, that I’m confident I’ll be returning to the era again soon.

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?

I am a massive Star Trek fan so I have to say, I would go there probably steal a bunch of stuff, find the poor people working lousy jobs outside of the pretty Federation worlds, and get drunk with them.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

The first ones that come to mind are Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049, PKD in general, William Gibson, Cowboy Bebop, the Fallout games, every ferengi storyline on Star TrekJohn Wick (the speculative element is minimal but it’s there)and Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

What authors have inspired your writing?

Moonshine Hustle is me in dialogue with Star Trek and other so-called utopian sci fi. Everything that Star Trek hand waves away, that’s my playground. I want to write about student loan debt in the future. I want to write about sex in all kinds of gravity environments and vacuum toilets and sci fi alcoholism. So it’s Star Trek plus Lies My Teacher Told Me plus Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys plus the Wire that have the greatest influence on me here. It is with love and a punk rock sneer that I create not dystopian work but anti-utopian. Utopias are naive nonsense that imagines a human nature that I’ve never experienced. Call me a cynic but I’m not convinced the elites would just give up institutional control in a post-scarcity world. They’d trademark and copyright replicators and dilithium crystals and mortgage the moon to remain the 1%. Eat the rich! Sorry — what were we talking about again?

What are you working on next?

I am currently focused on making the first Moonshine Hustle novel, Vertigo Punch, a smutty, anarchist, action packed romp. I also have short fiction in the pipeline for a variety of publications.



Get it here.


CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: G J Ogden

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

G J Ogden is the author of numerous space opera and military sci-fi series that have collectively amassed over 5,200 5-star ratings on Amazon. He is a physics graduate and a former technology journalist with a lifelong love of science fiction and anything nerdy. On the rare occasions when he’s not writing, he is usually getting whooped in games of Warhammer 40K by his son.

Get a taste of G J’s writing with a free copy of his latest sci-fi novella at: https://www.ogdenmedia.net/omega-directive-free-novella.

You can also listen to his CROOKED V.2 story, “Sparrow,” in audio here.


Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

“Sparrow” follows Ramsey Lorcan, a bounty hunter from the Menders’ Guild that tracks down and eradicates deviant synthetic humans. We catch up with Ramsey as he’s hot on the trail of Malfunct SPR-0, or “Sparrow” for short. Malfunct SPR-0 is responsible for more than one hundred murders but has evaded capture for over a decade. Ramsey, along with his personal “Law Enforcement Assistant, High-Functioning” synth (Leah for short) is determined to be the one to cash-in on the contract and collect the enormous bounty that comes with it.

However, not everything is not as it seems, and his pursuit is about to take an unusual turn…

What was the inspiration behind this story?

As you probably gathered from my answer to the first question, Blade Runner is a strong influence on “Sparrow,” but as readers will discover, it’s quite a different take on the ‘cop hunting a rogue synthetic’ story. I’ve also been watching the TV series, Raised by Wolves, and I think their use of androids is really interesting, so that’s an influence too, I’d say.

The dynamic between organic and artificial life features strongly in many of my book series and I tackle it in a different way here, which was fun and exciting to write. I also love stories that have cool twists and, without giving away any spoilers, I think “Sparrow” delivers on that front too…

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?

Without a shadow of doubt, I would go to TNG-era Star Trek! I love the idea of exploring the universe, meeting new and interesting species, and getting entangled in conflicts and dramas on a galactic scale. Plus, life on-board seems like great fun. Holodeck? Yes please!

If I could de-age myself, I’d start at Starfleet Academy and work my way up from the lower decks to Captain, but if I could just skip to commanding a retro-fit Excelsior-class star ship then I’d “Make it so…”

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

I like a lot of classic sci-fi and Alfred Bester is one of my favourite authors. The Demolished Man is a superb book and probably just ahead of Tiger, Tiger (The Stars My Destination) as my all-time fave. It’s an ‘inverted detective story’, which means you see the crime being committed at the start of the book, and the story revolves around the police trying to solve the murder and catch the criminal.

The story follows Ben Reich, a corporation boss whose business empire is on the verge of collapse because of the rival D’Courtney corporation. He resolves to murder that corporation’s head – a feat made almost impossible because of powerful telepaths, called Espers.

Sci-Fi nerds will remember that Walter Koenig played a telepathic officer called Alfred Bester in the Babylon 5 TV series. I also named a character in my best-selling Star Scavengers and Star Guardians series after the Esper police detective, Lincoln Powell.

What authors have inspired your writing?

I think I’ve taken bits from all over the place! Walter M. Miller Jr.’s A Canticle For Leibowitz certainly inspired elements of my Planetsider post-apocalyptic sci-fi trilogy, and Alfred Bester, certainly, is a strong influence. I include AIs and androids/artificial beings in almost all my stories, which I think comes from reading John Sladek’s Roderick books, along with the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica.

I would say that I’ve been more strongly influenced by science fiction TV shows. I’ve already mentioned Babylon 5, but I’m a super-fan of the Battlestar Galactica reboot and Firefly, and I’m a devoted Trekkie too. I love space adventures with plenty of high-jinx and strong characters who are all flawed in unique ways.

What are you working on next?

I recently finished the first draft of the fifth and final book in my Star Guardians series. This is a follow on to my best-selling Star Scavengers series, which is like a cross between Firefly and Indiana Jones. Star Scavengers follows an interstellar relic hunter who makes a discovery that inadvertently draws a planet-killing alien entity back to human-occupied space, and Star Guardians picks up from this with a renewed threat.

The Star Scavengers series has garnered more than 1,500 5-star ratings (at the last count!) and Star Guardians is off to a great start too! You can read Star Guardians without having read Scavengers first, but obviously you get more out of it by starting at the beginning.

Other than editing and proofing the final Star Guardians books, I’ll be working on world-building and outlines for my next, as yet untitled, series. This will be a new universe and will tread familiar “space opera” territory for me. So, expect dynamic, flawed heroes, a sweeping plot full of mystery and intrigue, and plenty of high-stakes action. I have the premise already mapped out, and I’m really excited to get started!



Get it here.


Renegades of Tomorrow Bundle!

I’m incredibly delighted to announce that Double Edged, the first book of the Bulari Saga, was selected to be part of the Renegades of Tomorrow StoryBundle curated by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA).

If you’ve never seen a StoryBundle before, it’s a really cool deal. Basically, you can get bundles of themed ebooks at a ridiculously low price. Here’s the info on the Renegades of Tomorrow bundle:

Renegades of Tomorrow

“Not on my watch.”

Why do rule-breakers and rogues intrigue us? Perhaps because we know the rules often need changing. Meet thirteen reluctant heroes of all types as they face an unjust system and find they can’t leave well enough alone. Then join each of our carefully selected renegades on their thrilling adventure to make things right, one way or another!

SFWA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, advancing, and supporting science fiction and fantasy writing in the United States and elsewhere. This year the SFWA Independent Authors Committee had the pleasure of sorting through over a hundred excellent books as we narrowed our selection down to these special stories.

We were fascinated and inspired by a determined cop who risks the wrath of her AI superiors to save her mentor from a ruthless crime boss in In The Paradise Factory. We were moved by the story of an illegal cyborg fighting to survive in Ternary and nanotech addict struggling to recover in ACHE. We reveled in tales of prison revolts, steam punk adventure, sci-fi espionage, underworld intrigue, and of entire galaxies standing on the brink of war in this exciting and varied look at the difference one person can make when they dare to say “not on my watch.” – The SFWA

The StoryBundle Deets

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Glitch Rain and Other Stories by Alex Livingston
  • Petra by Matthew S. Rotundo
  • The Diamond Device by M. H. Thaung
  • ACHE by Kelvin Myers

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $20, you get all four of the regular books, plus NINE more books for a total of 13!

  • The Ascension Machine by Rob Edwards
  • The Hands We’re Given by O.E. Tearmann
  • Situation Normal by Leonard Richardson
  • Ternary by Kristin L. Stamper
  • The Paradise Factory by Jim Keen
  • Double Edged by Jessie Kwak
  • Ardulum by J.S. Fields
  • Blue on Black by Carole Cummings
  • Centricity by Nathaniel Henderson

This bundle is available only for a limited time via StoryBundle. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub, .mobi) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to The SFWA!
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.

Cursed Saint Caper! Plus Nanshe Chronicles FAQ

Hey hey! Nanshe Chronicles 3, aka Cursed Saint Caper is officially out, which means that the Nanshe Chronicles trilogy is now complete. Good news if you’re the sort of person who likes to know you’ll get closure before diving into a new series. 🙂

You can buy the print book directly from me (ebook is included!) or grab it on Amazon. If you’re a Kindle Unlimited reader, all three of the Nanshe Chronicles books are enrolled — but probably only for a few months, so get on it quick.

You can also grab Ghost Pirate Gambit, Blood River Blues, and Cursed Saint Caper on Audible, narrated by the wonderful J.S. Arquin.

I’ve been really thrilled by the response to this series — a huge thank you to everyone who’s already read it, reviewed, emailed, etc. You’re all amazing!

I’ve also gotten a few questions about the series, so I thought it would be fun to do a quick FAQ. Here we go…

Do I need to read any of your other books first?

Absolutely not! The Nanshe Chronicles is set in the same universe as the Bulari Saga, but they are both written as a standalone series set about thirty years apart. If you’ve already read the Bulari Saga you’ll find a few Easter eggs and at least one crossover character in the Nanshe Chronicles — but you can start with whichever series sounds more interesting.

Well, if I haven’t read either series, which should I start with?

It depends on what you’re in the mood for. Do you like a good heist with a quirky crew? The Nanshe Chronicles is basically Cowboy Bebop meets Leverage, with each book a standalone adventure where the crew of the Nanshe set off to explore fantastic new locations. The character arcs build over the course of the series.

The Bulari Saga, on the other hand, it’s all about politics and power struggles in the underworld of the city of Bulari. Picture Godfather meets the Expanse. Each of the five books build on one another to make a full story arc — so if you are looking for a meaty, high stakes drama to sink your teeth into, that’s a good place to start.

What about all these novellas?

There are three prequel novellas in the Bulari Saga and one in Nanshe Chronicles. They’re all designed to add more context and character backstory, and you definitely don’t need to have read them to enjoy the main series.

You can get the Nanshe Chronicles novella, Artemis City Shuffle for free by signing up for my mailing list.

If you do want the full Bulari Saga experience, I recommend downloading the ebook boxed set, which contains all five novels, three novellas, and a bunch of short stories. All for only $9.99.

You keep calling the Nanshe Chronicles a trilogy. Are you stopping after Cursed Saint Caper?

Absolutely not. I picture the Nanshe Chronicles as an ongoing series, with these first three books serving as the jumping off point. I actually have nine books planned!

This first trilogy is all about the crew getting together and learning to trust each other. Future books will explore character backstory more in-depth and build a richer world, in a similar format of the crew heading off on wild adventures.

When will book 4 come out?

I’m aiming for March 2023.

Who’s your favorite of all your characters?

How could you even ask that?? I could never have a favorite character!

(It’s definitely Manu.)

[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
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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:

Meet the Crew of the Nanshe

I love a good “hiring the crew” montage. 

The uneasy gathering in the warehouse in Ronin. Viola Davis approaching the wives of her husband’s dead crew in Widows. Danny Ocean recruiting his accomplices in Ocean’s Eleven.

As I started writing the Nanshe Chronicles, I lived through my own crew-hiring montage. I already knew Raj and Lasadi, Starla’s parents — but I had no real ideas about who the rest of the characters would be. 

They had to be fun, flawed characters that I wanted to spend an entire series with. They had to have chemistry with each other. They had to have depth and mystery, and — most of all — they had to feel like real people whose dialogue and actions I was just recording.

I went for long walks. I jotted down ideas. I watched movies. And I just kept scratching until the magic started to happen and, one by one, the members of Raj and Lasadi’s little crew started to show up and talk to me.

The first book of the series is coming out in a little over a week, so I thought I’d give you a sneak peek at who you’ll be spending time with in the Nanshe Chronicles… using the tried and true heist writer trope of a most wanted list, of course. 🙂  

The art is from my cousin Nico Longoria, a talented freelance comic artist. Check out their Instagram and website for more amazing art!

Bounty board

Woman with dark blond hair in a braid, and pale skin, wearing a headset.

Lasadi Cazinho (Captain)

  • Birthplace: Corusca 
  • Last seen: Battle of Tannis (Corusca; presumed alive) 
  • Distinguishing features: Pragmatic and level-headed, ace pilot and capable commander. Fanatically attached to the cause of a free Corusca. 
  • Wanted for: Captain in Corusca Liberation Army terrorist organization 

Man with shoulder-length black hair and light brown skin.

Raj Demitriou (Grifter)

  • Birthplace: Arquelle 
  • Last seen: Battle of Tannis (Corusca) 
  • Distinguishing features: Quick thinker and charismatic leader with a penchant for lost causes. Captain in Arquellian navy, dishonorable discharge. 
  • Wanted for: Desertion 
  • Special handling: Family political connections require extremely delicate care in case of capture 

Man with black hair and pale skin, winking. Wearing a pair of goggles pushed up on forehead.

Jay Kamiya (Mechanic)

  • Birthplace: Corusca 
  • Last seen: Battle of Tannis (Corusca; presumed alive) 
  • Distinguishing features: Mechanic with a miracle touch, tendency to hotheadedness; full tattoo sleeves. Known associate of Lasadi Cazinho. 
  • Wanted for: Member of Corusca Liberation Army terrorist organization 

Woman with long, curly black hair, dark skin with freckles, red jacket.

Ruby Quiñones (Hacker)

  • Birthplace: Unknown 
  • Last seen: Ironfall (Dima) 
  • Distinguishing features: Tech genius with a promising future that went south (reasons classified); red leather jacket, freckles, golden tattoos on collarbones 
  • Wanted for: Intellectual property theft 
  • Special handling: If captured immediately deliver to Huancaya Corp 

Young man with a coif of curly black hair, freckles, dark skin. Holding up a peace sign.

Alexander Quiñones (Thief)

  • Birthplace: Unknown 
  • Last seen: Artemis City (Artemis) 
  • Distinguishing features: Fast talker with even quicker fingers; teenage brother of Ruby Quiñones, ward of Aymaya Apostles.  
  • Wanted for: Stealing anything that’s not nailed to the ground 
  • Special handling: Minor; requires maximum security if detained 

Introducing my new series: The Nanshe Chronicles

I’m about to head on my first international trip since before the pandemic, and I’m beginning to immerse myself in the process of exploring a new city and culture.

I used to dream of being constantly on the move — road trips with the wind in my hair and the open highway stretching out in front of me, backpacking adventures stumbling into small towns and new sights, life a constant stream of new and fascinating experiences.

Like most people, my travel plans in 2020 were shunted down the road by the pandemic — but that didn’t stop me from exploring.

Because near the end of 2020, I began writing the Nanshe Chronicles.

I’d spent the previous three-ish years working on the Bulari Saga, which takes place almost entirely in the city of Bulari. I enjoyed immersing myself in the world, but I was itching to hop on a ship and start exploring the rest of the Durga System.

As a writer, my world building process is basically to make things up as needed to serve the story, rather than creating a world from scratch and layering story over it. I’d mentioned dozens of places, but didn’t know much about them. I knew a few facts, but I didn’t know how these places felt.

When I started working on the Nanshe Chronicles, I knew I wanted to do the exact opposite of the Bulari Saga, when it came to location. Instead of diving deep through the layers of a single city for five books, I wanted each book of the Nanshe Chronicles to take the reader — and me — to fantastic new locations.

Like any science fiction writer, I draw on what I know in order to write what I don’t know. I thought it would be fun to share some of the real-life travel inspirations behind locations in the first three books of the Nanshe Chronicles.

Let me take you on a tour.

Nanshe Chronicles 1: Lost in the labyrinth at San Jose, CA

A plucky space ship soars towards a menacing space station on the cover of Ghost Pirate Gambit.

In book one, Ghost Pirate Gambit, the newly-minted crew of the Nanshe are still learning to trust each other. I needed to send them out on a job — and into a physical location — that would put them under enough pressure that their deeply-locked secrets would break out. A place designed to test them physically and psychologically.

What better inspiration than the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA?

My Grandma Kwak instilled in me a longstanding fascination with ghost towns, houses with turrets, and the Winchester Mystery House — so when I got a chance to go during WorldCon one year, I jumped at the chance. Instantly, I knew how I was going to use the visit in the novel I’d just begun starting to plan.

(I wrote a longer post about my visit over on Patreon.)

The house, if you’re not familiar, was built by Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearms magnate William Winchester. As the story goes, after the death of her husband and newborn in 1881, a medium told her that she should leave her home in New Haven and travel west to construct a home for herself and the spirits of people who had been killed by Winchester rifles.

Supposedly the medium told Sarah that the way to placate the spirits was for the home to be under construction continuously — for the hammers to never stop ringing.

She moved to California hired workers, and from 1884 until her death in 1922, her mansion was continuously under construction.

In Ghost Pirate Gambit, Auburn Station is the fever dream of a long-dead space pirate who thought if she constantly kept her station under construction it would keep her safe: airlocks that open to nowhere, halls that corkscrew dizzily, corridors that dead-end without warning.

And plenty of boobytraps to keep out unwanted visitors. 😉

Nanshe Chronicles 2: From Canaima, Venezuela to Aguas Calientes, Peru

A plucky space ship hovers over a verdant planet on the cover of Blood River Blues.

Just after college, I spent six months living in Santa Elena de Uairén, Venezuela, working as a carpenter and volunteer coordinator for a small local NGO.

Santa Elena is on the edge of Canaima National Park, which is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever seen in my life. You can stand at the edge of a cliff and look over the brilliant emerald canopy of the Amazon rainforest as far as the eye can see. You can climb the tabletop mountains (tepuis), hike rivers made of pure jasper, and see the tallest waterfall in the world.

And while the tourists gawk, the locals are doing their best to scrape by in a place so remote that — unless you’re incredibly wealthy — the nearest airport is an eight hour bus ride away.

I drew on my time in Santa Elena de Uairén for Nanshe Chronicles 2, Blood River Blues. In it, the crew touches down in New Manila for a job that has them facing down old ghosts as they con their way into racing the famous Liluri Star Run.

Part of the race takes place deeper in the mountains of New Manila — and anyone who’s been to Machu Picchu will probably recognize where I took inspiration for the town of Moie. Aguas Calientes is the spot most tourists overnight in before trekking or bussing up to Machu Picchu: it’s a lovely village set into the cliffs of a deep mountain ravine, with a river tumbling through the middle. I tapped into the visuals of the town as much as the frenetic tourist energy it exuded when writing about Moie.

Nanshe Chronicles 3: Scarred hearts and scattered bones in Alba de Tormes

A plucky space ship floats by a hot pink gas giant on the cover of Cursed Saint Caper.

The locations in Nanshe Chronicles 3, Cursed Saint Caper were inspired less by a physical place I’ve been than a single line I wrote down on a Post-it:

“Dendera, temple of dreamers.”

I don’t remember why I wrote that down, or where I heard about Dendera. I didn’t research it at all — I didn’t want to. Something about the idea of a dreaming temple sparked my imagination, and I didn’t want to tie it down with reality.

In doing some quick googling now, I find that Dendera was an Egyptian temple dedicated to the goddess Hathor, and supplicants who visited the temple could stay in special quarters where they could commune with the goddess in their dreams.

Coming from a Christian background myself, the idea of a dreaming temple brought to mind Christian mystics like Sta. Teresa de Ávila and St. Julian of Norwich. I’d seen Sta. Teresa’s heart at the convent of Alba de Tormes, carefully preserved in an ornate reliquary; I remember studying it, searching for the scar where she’d been pierced by the arrow of Christ’s love.

Did I find the scar? Hard to tell. Was Sta. Teresa’s experience real? It was to her, and in my mind that’s the important bit.

I’ve stood in sacred places like Alba de Tormes and read the writings of people who truly believe they’re channeling the divine. But I’ve also come across plenty of con artists and self help gurus who are only trying to channel other people’s money.

No matter your religious or philosophical tradition, people will try to use faith to make a quick dime on people who just want to trust.

It was that dichotomy of holy and scam, divine and con artist, true faith and shell games that inspired me in this book. The crew of the Nanshe will need to unravel truth from fiction in their own dreams as they tackle a con artist. This job takes them from the glitz and glamour of Artemis City to the mystic, unsettling quiet of the distant gas giant Bixia Yuanjin.

Introducing the Nanshe Chronicles

When I wrote the very first book set in the Durga System, Starfall, I had no idea the adventure I was about to set out on.

I didn’t know how much readers were going to resonate with the main character, Starla — and I had no idea how much I would eventually become intrigued by the story of her parents, the notorious Raj and Lasadi. 

I was worried when I began writing the Nanshe Chronicles. I’d spent years living with the characters and stories in the Bulari Saga, and meeting the crew of the Nanshe was odd at first. 

Lasadi doesn’t trust that easily. Jay doesn’t give up many secrets. Raj and Ruby seem like open books on the surface, but then you find out they’re only showing you select pages. And Alex is still figuring himself out — let alone learning how to share himself with others. 

Slowly, though, I began to find my way into this first book. Then the second. Then the third. Eventually, the crew started to open up to me, and I started to realize they were something special.

As I write this, I’ve finished the first three books in the series, along with a prequel novella, and I feel like I know this crew pretty damn well. 

I’m having a blast writing these books, and there are plenty more adventures to come in this series!

Stay tuned for more sneak previews and goodies as we get closer to the launch date. I can’t wait to share this new adventure with you!

If you haven’t already, go pick up Artemis City Shuffle for free and start on the adventure!

How to get your hands on Ghost Pirate Gambit

Right now you can pre-order Ghost Pirate Gambit in print, ebook, and audio directly from me. I’ll be launching this book into Kindle Unlimited on May 24th, but if you’re not a KU reader, don’t worry. If you’ve pre-ordered from me, you’ll get to read the book before it goes into Kindle jail. 🙂

Don’t forget to add Ghost Pirate Gambit to your Goodreads list!