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!

Travel guide: Bulari


Whether you’re here to dance the night away in an exclusive nightclub, discover a new favorite artist in one of the many museums, or sample your way through Bulari’s incredible food scene, this once-ignored city has something for everyone.

(Bulari Saga art by Dusty Crosley.)

Welcome to Bulari! These days, the capital city of New Sarjun has thoroughly transcended its reputation as a hardscrabble mining outpost to become a hotbed of culture and cuisine. You don’t have to look too hard to see the roots, however. Scraping out a city this impressive in a climate so harsh was no small feat, and the citizens of Bulari are understandably proud. 

It’s a city of many contradictions, and travelers with an adventurous spirit are sure to find a thrill in the myriad of experiences available. Whether touring the stunning natural desert landscape, shopping your way through the Tamarind, or rubbing elbows with celebrities at one of many exclusive restaurants, Bulari has plenty to offer. 

When to go and weather

Prized for its mineral-rich hills rather than its climate, the Bulari Valley varies from uncomfortably warm to soul-meltingly hot. For that reason, most tourists visit sometime between the first of the fall thunderstorms and the last of the spring desert bloom. If you have time, escape the heat with a romantic getaway to the southern New Sarjunian town of Alusina for a weekend of wine tasting, art galleries, and river cruises. 

Neighborhoods: Central Bulari


The Tamarind
Surrounding a lush swath of park blocks just east of the downtown core, the Tamarind is a paradise for shopping, dining, and people watching. The towering eucalyptus, oak, fan palm, and tree aloe ward off the worst of Bulari’s heat, creating a pleasant place to while away the afternoon with a cup of tea or a glass of Alusinian cinsuat in one of the many parkside cafes. Most of the better hotels, such as the Blue Falcon, are located in this neighborhood, as well. 

The business heart of Bulari, the downtown area is clean, crisp, and cutting edge. Expect a well-heeled crowd of young professionals on their way to the top of the corporate ladder, with plenty of sophisticated dining options to impress potential clients. The neighborhood quiets down in the evenings as the night life fires up in the Tamarind.  

Government District
New Sarjun’s seat of power is also home to many of Bulari’s most interesting museums. Stroll the People’s Plaza for a good example at the early colonial architecture typical to the city, and be sure to visit National Museum for an in-depth exploration of the city’s history. Visitors are also welcome inside the lobby of the capitol building, where impressive columns showcase the famed local sandstone and rose salt. The international embassies are all here, too, if you run into any issues.

University of Bulari 
This gorgeous Hypatia Educational Facilities Corporation campus is just up the bluff from downtown, and offers a beautiful view out over the city. The University’s biology programs are particularly well-known, and plant lovers will delight in a stroll through the campus’s botanical garden to explore the extensive collection of local flora. 

Neighborhoods: North Bulari


Casino District
A trip to Bulari isn’t complete without a visit to the spectacular Casino District. Try your luck on the develier tables at the venerable Orveto’s Thousands, or sit in on a game of mystix at the newest jewel of the drag, the Lorelei. After dinner at one of the many exquisite restaurants, catch a show at Ayisha’s Palace. The gorgeous music venue’s namesake, Ayisha Amadule performs regularly and puts on an incredible show. Top off the night with a cocktail at the exclusive Devil’s Table before retiring to your high-rise hotel room at the Aterciopelado to admire the view of downtown Bulari. 

Geordi Jimenez Space Terminal
While you may be tempted to spend as little time as possible transiting the space terminal, it’s worth a second look. This busy hub is more than a transit center, it’s the lifeline of New Sarjun, and a great spot for people watching. If you find yourself with some extra time before your shuttle off-planet, catch a bite to eat on Levels A or B. The kitsch travel themed watering hole Le Comptoir Darna in particular is worth a stop. And if you need a last-minute gift (or a quick prosthetic repair), you’ll find something unique at a little repair shop called Hallelujah It’s Fixed run by the charming Hallelujah Oni. 

Travel advisory: While Levels A and B are perfectly safe, it’s best to leave the terminal’s Level C to the locals.

Jet Park
There’s not currently much of note in Jet Park, but rumors have it the space terminal’s nearest neighborhood is on its way up. There have been some significant investments lately from local business owners, including the gentech-focused Juvex Spa Center, and a brewery venture backed by the controversial owner of the Jungle, Willem Jaantzen

Neighborhoods: The Fingers

Travel advisory: It’s best not to visit the Fingers without a local guide.


Dry Creek
This formerly working class neighborhood has been in steep decline over the last few decades as violence between local gangs made the neighborhood quite dangerous. Bottom line, avoid Dry Creek.

Once a wealthy settlement in its own right, Altamira’s fortunes were reversed after being swallowed up by Bulari proper a little over a century ago. Now, Altamira is one of the nicest of Bulari’s Finger slums, in part due to the iron rule of a local criminal organization led by one of recent memory’s most infamous Bulari citizens, Thala Coeur. The street gang boss turned former mayor continued running the neighborhood from exile, and is rumored to have retaken her throne. Altamira is safe enough if you have an escort.

Carama Town
The smallest of Bulari’s Finger ravines spilled out long ago to create the largest of the town’s slums, spreading into the plain south of Bulari’s downtown. Carama Town is a largely working class neighborhood where new immigrants tend to cluster in regionally-influenced micro-neighborhoods that each have their own flavor. If you have time to kill and a good driver to guide you, a trip through Carama Town’s famous traffic can be a thrill. 

Of course, most tourists don’t go any farther than Anjali Lumaban Boulevard, a stunning monument to one of the city’s founders. On weekends, you’ll find a vibrant farmer’s market in the plaza, a good place to buy souvenirs and taste the local street food. And don’t miss the various culture and music festivals held throughout the year.

Where to eat


Bulari is a city of immigrants, and they’ve all brought their most impressive recipes. No matter your favorite dish back home, you’re sure to find a restaurant in Bulari that makes it better. 

The Jungle
Topping every epicurean traveler’s must-visit list, the Jungle’s reputation is certainly fueled by the notoriety of its owner, Willem Jaantzen. However, the dining experience lives up to the hype. There are no bad tables at the Jungle! Incredible living foliage creates a private retreat at every table, and exquisite white-glove table service makes every guest feel like royalty. Only the luckiest guests can secure an invitation to the exclusive Golden Orchid room in the back of the restaurant, where Bulari’s elite conduct business over chic cocktails and appetizers. 

Be sure to make your reservation well ahead of time, or prepare to wait for hours for a seat at the bar. 

Jade’s Finest Coffee and Chicken
At first glance this hole-in-the-wall downtown diner may not look like much, but don’t be fooled. You may not see anyone sitting at the tables, but Jade’s does a brisk business in takeaway — it’s a local favorite both for residents and business people on their lunch break. Don’t miss the chicken in black bean sauce!

The Oasis
The Oasis is the best place in Bulari to try the city’s most famous local dish, korris. Any of the dishes on the menu will delight, but if you’re in a group, do yourself a favor and let the owner, Ajesh Paiman, choose a feast for you. Oh, and if you believe the rumors, the Oasis is also the place to catch a glimpse of some of the biggest players in Bulari’s seedy underbelly. Be warned that the korris here is spiced for locals, not tourists, so ask for a milder version if you’re not accustomed to New Sarjunian heat. 

The Devil’s Table
Buy-ins at the high roller’s tables here may cost as much as your shuttle ticket back into orbit, but anyone can enjoy a cocktail or dinner at the bar. Be aware that the dress code is strictly enforced, but even if you didn’t bring evening wear it’s worth a shopping spree in the Tamarind for a glimpse inside this exclusive experience and a chance to set eyes on the proprietor. One of Bulari’s rising darlings, Phaera D also owns the Lorelei Casino and has been scandalizing the press lately with rumors that she’s stepping out with the notorious Willem Jaantzen.

Lucky’s Palladium Coast
If you need to get away from the always-on energy of the Casino District, Lucky’s is the place to go. A few blocks off the main drag, patrons don’t visit Lucky’s for the food so much as the camaraderie. It’s a great place to drink with the locals! Sit at the bar and you’re just as likely to run into a great gambling legend as an off-duty dealer. Keep an eye out, and you might just spot some of the most powerful names in the casino business doing business over mediocre noodles. 

Curious to visit Bulari yourself? Pick up Double Edged — the first book of the Bulari Saga — and immerse yourself in the adventure today.