Velocipede Versus Corset


Here’s a fun new review of The Velocipede Races from Paper Droids:

Which would you pick as a gift for yourself: a velocipede or a corset? I’m pretty sure you all can guess which I’d want…



Seven Questions : July 2016 : Jessie Kwak

This month I’m hosting the talented Jessie Kwak, a fellow cycling writer. Jessie and I have shared space in the bikey short fiction anthologies published by Elly Blue, and her current work-in-progress will be published as the next novel in the Bikes In Space series, following The Velocipede Races as a pioneer in the emerging bicycle fiction genre.

She is a freelancer writer of many talents and projects living in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not working with B2B marketers to tell their brand’s story, you can find her scribbling away on her latest novel, riding her bike to the brewpub, or sewing something fun. Her latest fiction work is Starfallset in a futuristic world of space bikes and gangsters.


EJS: Pitch your featured book in three sentences.

JK: When Starla Dusai, the deaf daughter of a notorious space pirate clan, is captured by the Alliance, she finds herself in a remote prison with no idea what happened to the rest of her family. Rumors of her family’s destruction quickly make their way through the black market underbelly of New Sarjun, where they reach the ears of her godfather, Willem Jaantzen. As the jaws of the Alliance’s justice system close in around her, will Starla be able to find her way out – or Jaantzen, in?

EJS: Is your book indie-published or traditionally published? Tell us a little about that journey.

JK: It’s indie-published. I’m working on a novel right now for Microcosm Publishing set in this same world. Starla and her godfather, Jaantzen, are minor characters in this novel, but they kept nudging me to tell more about their story. I started Starfall as a quick backstory sketch, but it quickly took on a life of its own.

Even though it’s short, I put a ton of care into the production. I commissioned the cover art of Starla – which I adore – and worked with a professional editor and cover designer to make sure everything’s as perfect as it can be.

I own my own freelance writing business, so the business side of indie publishing is really attractive to me. Plus, I love the ability to work on my own timeline and release something when it’s ready.

EJS: Why sci-fi?

JK: I’ve been referring to Starfall as “gangster sci-fi,” which is a label I’ll probably apply to the rest of the novellas I have planned in the series. I would say the series is very much more inspired by movies like The Godfather and Ronin – just set in a far-future world.

For my entire life, I’ve loved immersing myself in fantastical places – both in what I read, and the stories I made up. I’ve shied away from writing sci-fi for a long time, mostly because I was scared of the science-y aspects of the worldbuilding.

I’ll be the first to admit Starfall is very soft sci-fi, though. My stories are all very character-driven – my goal is first and foremost to tell a good story with people you want to spend time with, then make sure the world is realistic enough that it doesn’t knock you out of the story.

EJS: What’s a favorite sci-fi book and why?

JK: Growing up, Dune and Ender’s Game were my absolute favorites. Now, though, I have too many to count! I love Rachel Bach’s Paradox Trilogy – there’s adventure, romance, and kick-ass characters. I’m also thoroughly enjoying James S.A Corey’s Expanse Series. Rollicking adventures and fabulous characters – so much fun!

EJS: What makes a sentence great?

JK: It has an element of surprise to it, and the reader feels it in their soul. Margaret Atwood and Margot Lanagan are both masters of great sentences.

EJS: How and when did you first know you were a writer?

JK: When I filled two spiral bound notebooks with a story in middle school.

 EJS: What are your writing rituals?

JK: Since I’m a freelance writer for my day job, I have to make a clear delineation between when/where I write fiction, and when/where I do client work. For client work, I sit at a desk with my schedule and phone and notepad beside me. When it’s fiction-writing time, I’ll take my laptop to the armchair or couch and put my feet up with a cup of tea or glass of wine, depending on the time of day. For me, evening is often a better time to do creative writing, while morning is a better time to edit and outline.

Learn more about Jessie:

Read an excerpt from Starfall

Get Starfall for free by signing up for Jessie’s mailing list:

Follow her on Twitter: (@jkwak).




Slug Magazine Interview

About a month ago I spoke with Davey Davis, who–among other myriad projects– writes for the Utah-based SLUG magazine. The magazine features music, bikes, extreme sports, and other underground badassery. This particular issue is the BIKE ISSUE, so if you have an interest in the wheeling life, check out the many interesting articles there.

I originally connected with Davey through a program called The Clovers Project, which is a support/mentoring project for writers at different stages of their careers. Though Davey and I did not share a “clover” (a mentoring group) we discovered we both love bicycles, and once again, the bicycle made good things happen!

Read the full interview here.

Highlights include a discussion about the romance in The Velocipede Races, more info about my thought processes while writing the book, and details about how I designed the actual races.


Velocipede Races Out Today!


Today, April 12 is the official publication date of The Velocipede Races, my story of an intrepid young woman who defies the odds to do what she loves.

Race to your local bookstore to request a copy! You can also find the paperback and ebook versions on the websites of major booksellers.

However, if you are ordering on the web, the best way to purchase it is straight from the publisher, Microcosm Publishing. Get it from Microcosm here.

The Goodreads Giveaway is in its final hours but you can still sign up there for a chance to win a signed copy.

The Made-Up Words of The Velocipede Races

This morning I got a question on my blog about one of the made up words in The Velocipede Races, which made me think about made-up words in general. I admit I have a tendency to make up words; it’s part of the tendency to make up worlds. When you design an alternate world, naturally (it seems to me) you need new words to describe parts of that new society that are different from ours.

In the case of the The Velocipede Races, one of the reasons I made up words was so that I didn’t end up basing Serenian society  on any one country or culture too much. For example, if I had used “gentry” instead of “riesen,” readers might have immediately characterized Seren as England in the nineteenth century. I wanted to avoid that, because Seren is a blend of many cultures and places, with a generous touch of pure whimsy from my own imagination, too.

Another made-up word from The Velocipede Races is manotte, a Serenian slur for a woman who looks or behaves like a man. I couldn’t find a suitable slur in English. (Aside note: analyzing a language’s slurs can be terribly revealing about who and what is marginalized in that culture). In English, many of the slurs we have for women who look and behave like men are conflated with prejudices about sexuality. For instance: bull dyke or butch. I didn’t want connotations of sexuality in my slur (not because I imagined the Old Guard of Seren wouldn’t be horribly prejudiced about alternative sexualities, but rather because I didn’t feel Serenian society was open enough for any kind of discussion of those sexualities, even in their slang insults!) So a sexuality-charged insult wouldn’t do. Other words for describing women who are outside the gender box, such as mannish or unfeminine, didn’t fit the bill because they were adjectives, not nouns–and I feel that a noun insult carries a deeper vitriol: you are this thing; you have been boxed into a narrow and socially-despised category. So I came up with manotte. I like it because it has that French diminuative -tte at the end, making it infantilizing and patronizing, and it combines two English words: man and not: as in, you are not a man, so don’t try to be one.

My writing comfort zone is pure fantasy. I think most writers who love to write in made-up worlds also like to make up words. Language is a reflection of awareness, the very stuff of the categories and realities we perceive, the prejudices and understandings we have learned. Made-up words build a story’s world and shape a character’s psyche.

In The Velocipede Races, I made up only a few words (for me, at any rate). In my Tales of Blood & Light series, I have three separate cultures, all with their own languages, beliefs, and magic systems, and I have a ton of made-up words to describe the facets of their societies that are different from ours. Fantasy readers are probably quite accustomed to absorbing made-up words via context and suggestion. Other readers, I know, are deterred by such new vocabularies.

My editor, Elly Blue, and I discussed the made up words in The Velocipede Races and decided to include a glossary note at the beginning of the published book. Here’s is the note in its entirety:

A Note About Language

Some of the words that exist in Seren do not exist on Earth, or may be used slightly differently than we might use them here.

Seren is the name of the city-state where the story takes place, an imaginary combination of the prominent late 19th century cities of Europe and America.

Riesen denotes the upper class of the city, the people who are born to privilege.

Velocipedes are two-wheeled, human-powered vehicles similar to old-fashioned bicycles.

The keir is a bicycle or velocipede race that takes place on a track, similar to the keirin race that developed in Japan in the early twentieth century. The first laps are paced to ensure all racers achieve a shared starting speed before the final sprint for victory begins.

Finally, manotte is a uniquely Serenian slur used to insult a woman for behaving or appearing like a man.

I hope this post helps readers consider language and made-up words in a new light. Please note: even though I included “velocipede” in my TVR glossary, it is an actual word in the English language. You say it like this: vuh-la-suh-peed. Go ride one sometime!




The Velocipede Races is here!

photo 2

I spent the weekend buried in copies of The Velocipede Races, which arrived from the printers on Friday! I signed piles of copies for the generous Kickstarter backers and a few early lucky patrons who came upon me with TVR copies in my hands at Flow.

The book is absolutely beautiful, with a gorgeous cover illustration by Caroline Paquette, a muscle-corset done in the color known as Hot Hollywood Crimson. (This must mean it’s time for Hollywood to realize a bike-racing feminist costume drama is the next big thing? Starring Emma Watson and her brother? Directed by Tim Burton?)

Backers, your rewards are coming soon via mail or hand-to-hand. The official release date for the book is April 2016, but copies are already eagerly breaking free and racing into the wild.

You can order copies directly from Microcosm Publishing here.

I have a few extra signed copies, too, so you can contact me for a signed and personalized copy.

Review or add TVR on Goodreads