Behind the Book: Artifact

The story behind my debut novel

Artifact : Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery #1, published by Henery Press.

Artifact: Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery #1, published by Henery Press.

The idea behind the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series is that in each book, history professor Jaya Jones solves a present-day mystery linked to a historical treasure from India’s colonial history. The books begin in San Francisco before Jaya heads to a different foreign destination in each book—beginning with Scotland.

In Artifact, Jaya travels from San Francisco to the British Library in London to a Pictish archaeological dig in the Highlands of Scotland, piecing together the secrets of a lost Indian treasure hidden in a Scottish legend from the days of the British Raj.

It’s a good thing that I adore research, because I had to do a lot of it to get the historical details right! Though Artifact is a work of fiction, the backdrop of the British East India Company that Jaya investigates is true, as is the history of the Picts in Scotland that scholars have pieced together. If you like to let your imagination run wild like I do, you can imagine that the historical portion of the story and the treasure really could have existed.

I’m a Californian, but I’ve been traveling to Scotland since I was 10 years old, and to India since I was 12. Add that to the academic sabbaticals and conferences my cultural anthropologist parents took me to when I was even younger, and my fate was sealed. When I began writing a book, I knew it would involve travel and cross-cultural connections.

Me at age 10 on my first trip to Scotland.

Me at age 10 on my first trip to Scotland.

On one of my trips to India with my dad. He’s from south India, and the photos above were taken in Kerala and Cochin.

On one of my trips to India with my dad. He’s from south India, and the photos above were taken in Kerala and Cochin.

I also knew any book I wrote would be a mystery. Definitely a mystery.

My bookshelf devoted to Elizabeth Peters novels. (And that’s the Lewis Chessmen there on the shelf. These are ones I made out of plaster and painted as a fun project when I was a kid. See, I told you I couldn’t escape my fate.)

My bookshelf devoted to Elizabeth Peters novels. (And that’s the Lewis Chessmen there on the shelf. These are ones I made out of plaster and painted as a fun project when I was a kid. See, I told you I couldn’t escape my fate.)

Elizabeth Peters, Aaron Elkins, and John Dickson Carr are the authors who had the biggest influence on me. Especially Elizabeth Peters. I loved her Amelia Peabody and Jacqueline Kirby mysteries, but it was American art history professor Vicky Bliss who was my favorite. Vicky traveled to foreign lands on mysterious, romantic adventures that were fun, filled with memorable characters and fascinating settings, and on top of that were incredibly clever mysteries. That’s the style of novel I wanted to write.

This book is my comfort food reading! I can’t count how many times I’ve read it.

This book is my comfort food reading! I can’t count how many times I’ve read it.

Two of the Scottish ghost story collections I read as a kid. They helped shape the spooky overtones and folklore I wrote into  Artifact .

Two of the Scottish ghost story collections I read as a kid. They helped shape the spooky overtones and folklore I wrote into Artifact.

I finished a draft of Artifact after discovering National Novel Writing Month, and was so excited to have finished a full draft that I submitted it to the Malice Domestic Grants program. Much to my surprise, I won that year’s grant! Their grants are for promising unpublished writers, to foster the next generation of traditional mystery writers.

I used the grant to travel back to Britain to finish researching the book. I got a readers pass to the British Library in London and returned to the Scottish Highlands. There’s a long list of restricted items you can’t take into a reading room, because of all of the old, original documents. No cameras, no pens. This is a pencil sketch I made to remember the details.

My sketch of the a reading room at the British Library.

My sketch of the a reading room at the British Library.

Dunnottar Castle, near the archaeological dig in  Artifact .

Dunnottar Castle, near the archaeological dig in Artifact.

I finished writing the book, and you can read more about my publishing journey here and here.

The original cover of  Artifact .

The original cover of Artifact.

Six years and seven books later, I’m coming full circle, working on another novel set partly in Scotland! I’m not sure yet what will come of it, but I’m having a lot of fun being back in Scotland.

At the Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland, on a summer 2018 writing retreat.

At the Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland, on a summer 2018 writing retreat.

Bouchercon 2018

Bouchercon was so inspiring! I’m energized from connecting with readers and fellow writers. Writing is hard, but attending events like this reminds me why it's so rewarding. Big thanks to the volunteer co-chairs that made this year in St. Petersburg, Florida happen: Erin Mitchell, Jon Jordan, and Ruth Jordan. Here are a few highlights:

Talking Golden Age mysteries with the two Shawns—Shawn Cosby (writing as S.A. Cosby) and Shawn Reilly Simmons—Martin Edwards, and Shelly Dickson Carr. Martin’s nonfiction book THE STORY OF CLASSIC CRIME IN 100 BOOKS won the Macavity at Bouchercon. So fun to nerd out with my fellow writers who have been inspired by the same books.

Talking Golden Age mysteries with the two Shawns—Shawn Cosby (writing as S.A. Cosby) and Shawn Reilly Simmons—Martin Edwards, and Shelly Dickson Carr. Martin’s nonfiction book THE STORY OF CLASSIC CRIME IN 100 BOOKS won the Macavity at Bouchercon. So fun to nerd out with my fellow writers who have been inspired by the same books.

Crime Writers of Color breakfast with old friends and new. L-R Elizabeth Mahon, me, Shawn Cosby, Vera Chan, Sujata Massey, and Naomi Hirahara (who’s taking the photo).

Crime Writers of Color breakfast with old friends and new. L-R Elizabeth Mahon, me, Shawn Cosby, Vera Chan, Sujata Massey, and Naomi Hirahara (who’s taking the photo).

Meeting Abir Mukherjee was definitely a highlight. His debut A RISING MAN was awarded the CWA Dagger Award and shortlisted for the Edgar last year. It’s a brilliant novel. Here we are with Sujata Massey, whose new historical mystery THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL is also terrific.

Meeting Abir Mukherjee was definitely a highlight. His debut A RISING MAN was awarded the CWA Dagger Award and shortlisted for the Edgar last year. It’s a brilliant novel. Here we are with Sujata Massey, whose new historical mystery THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL is also terrific.

Abir, Sujata, and I donated an India-themed basket for the charity auction. Next to our books that’s a scarf from India from Sujata and Jaya Jones character art cards illustrated by my artist mom. I wished I could have bid on it, because you can’t get Abir’s latest book in the US yet—he brought the UK edition.

Abir, Sujata, and I donated an India-themed basket for the charity auction. Next to our books that’s a scarf from India from Sujata and Jaya Jones character art cards illustrated by my artist mom. I wished I could have bid on it, because you can’t get Abir’s latest book in the US yet—he brought the UK edition.

I attended the Nero Wolfe Banquet for the first time, and it was such fun! I was skeptical at first when told there would be singing, but it was a blast.

I attended the Nero Wolfe Banquet for the first time, and it was such fun! I was skeptical at first when told there would be singing, but it was a blast.

My fellow Archaeology Mysteries panelists Dana Cameron, Stacy Allen, and Mary Anna Evans. Who are our favorite fictional archaeologists? It’s a tie between Amelia Peabody and Indiana Jones.

My fellow Archaeology Mysteries panelists Dana Cameron, Stacy Allen, and Mary Anna Evans. Who are our favorite fictional archaeologists? It’s a tie between Amelia Peabody and Indiana Jones.

Setting the Stage panel with Lisa Unger, Con Lehane, Steph Cha, Christine Carbo, and James Anderson. I moderated this great group. They made my job easy.

Setting the Stage panel with Lisa Unger, Con Lehane, Steph Cha, Christine Carbo, and James Anderson. I moderated this great group. They made my job easy.

Sisters in Crime’s new president Sherry Harris and immediate past president Diane Vallere. I love these women. Sisters in Crime has been such an important part of my writing career.

Sisters in Crime’s new president Sherry Harris and immediate past president Diane Vallere. I love these women. Sisters in Crime has been such an important part of my writing career.

Mia P. Manansala won the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award! Mia won the Malice Domestic Grant as well. Her work isn’t published yet, but I can’t wait to read it once it is.

Mia P. Manansala won the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award! Mia won the Malice Domestic Grant as well. Her work isn’t published yet, but I can’t wait to read it once it is.

At the Anthony Awards ceremony, the wonderful Lesa Holstine was given the David Thompson Memorial Special Service Award. And Lori Rader-Day won the Anthony for Best Paperback Original.

At the Anthony Awards ceremony, the wonderful Lesa Holstine was given the David Thompson Memorial Special Service Award. And Lori Rader-Day won the Anthony for Best Paperback Original.

Kellye Garrett won the Anthony for Best Debut Novel for HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE, which I had the great pleasure of giving a blurb before it came out. It’s such a great book, and her amazing speech highlighted the lack of diversity in the mystery genre, which she and others are working to remedy.

Kellye Garrett won the Anthony for Best Debut Novel for HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE, which I had the great pleasure of giving a blurb before it came out. It’s such a great book, and her amazing speech highlighted the lack of diversity in the mystery genre, which she and others are working to remedy.

The 2018 Pitch Wars crew celebrating with Kellye! L-R Mia P. Manansala, Robin St. Clare, Sarah Nicolas, Kellye Garrett, me, and Jenna Lincoln.

The 2018 Pitch Wars crew celebrating with Kellye! L-R Mia P. Manansala, Robin St. Clare, Sarah Nicolas, Kellye Garrett, me, and Jenna Lincoln.

Congratulations to all the Anthony Award Winners!

BEST NOVEL: Bluebird, Bluebird – Attica Locke. BEST FIRST NOVEL: Hollywood Homicide– Kellye Garrett.

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL: Winner: The Day I Died – Lori Rader-Day.

BILL CRIDER AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL IN A SERIES: Y is for Yesterday (Kinsey Millhone #25) – Sue Grafton.

BEST ANTHOLOGY: The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir – Gary Phillips, ed. 

BEST SHORT STORY: “My Side of the Matter” – Hilary Davidson, Killing Malmon.

BEST ONLINE CONTENT: Winner: Jungle Red Writers – Group Blog.

BEST CRITICAL/NONFICTION WORK: Winner: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI – David Grann.

Edinburgh Writing Retreat

I'm home after five weeks in Edinburgh, Scotland, where I was on a writing retreat to work on a new novel. It was an intense five weeks. To get the most out of the trip, I was strict about getting my daily writing done first thing each day, writing for 5 hours each morning, before letting myself explore the city and do research after lunch in this amazing city I've been visiting since I was 10 years old. Here are a few of the many highlights of the trip.

The inspiring view from my writing nook: Edinburgh Castle, which sits high atop a volcanic rock in the center of the city.

The inspiring view from my writing nook: Edinburgh Castle, which sits high atop a volcanic rock in the center of the city.

The dramatic sky over Edinburgh Castle.

The dramatic sky over Edinburgh Castle.

I was on my own in Edinburgh for part of my writing retreat and had various family members with me there for parts of the time—with the understanding that everyone knew my morning writing hours were sacred. The plan worked, no doubt helped along by these views. I handed a draft of the new novel to my agent and she loved it!

Dori the gargoyle didn’t hide out in my bag on this trip, but Hamish the Highland Cow (COO) followed me home one day, and was a great writing helper.

Dori the gargoyle didn’t hide out in my bag on this trip, but Hamish the Highland Cow (COO) followed me home one day, and was a great writing helper.

Visiting the Bedlam Theatre, where I performed during college many years ago.

Visiting the Bedlam Theatre, where I performed during college many years ago.

The passageway leading to the Writers Museum, which celebrates Scottish authors Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. I attended terrific magic show here as well, with magicians Lewis Barlow, Jody Greig, and Adam Black.

The passageway leading to the Writers Museum, which celebrates Scottish authors Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. I attended terrific magic show here as well, with magicians Lewis Barlow, Jody Greig, and Adam Black.

Why was there a magic show at the Writers’ Museum? Because August is Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival! It’s the world’s largest arts festival, opening the city to anyone who wants to perform. I first attended as a kid, but hadn’t been back in years. I was glad that this writing retreat overlapped with the start of the festival.

Why was there a magic show at the Writers’ Museum? Because August is Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival! It’s the world’s largest arts festival, opening the city to anyone who wants to perform. I first attended as a kid, but hadn’t been back in years. I was glad that this writing retreat overlapped with the start of the festival.

One of many events at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. I attended several performances and workshops here, doing research for the novel.

One of many events at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. I attended several performances and workshops here, doing research for the novel.

On the outskirts of the city, the ruins of Craigmillar Castle.

On the outskirts of the city, the ruins of Craigmillar Castle.

Exploring the castle.

Exploring the castle.

A secret courtyard filled with ruins that have been rescued from various parts of the city when old buildings are demolished! This hidden gem is behind the Museum of Edinburgh, and a fictionalized version made its way into my manuscript.

A secret courtyard filled with ruins that have been rescued from various parts of the city when old buildings are demolished! This hidden gem is behind the Museum of Edinburgh, and a fictionalized version made its way into my manuscript.

A few of the rescued stone carvings.

A few of the rescued stone carvings.

A view from the flat: Fireworks above the castle.

A view from the flat: Fireworks above the castle.

I've got a lot more work to do on this book, so now I need to find time to revise in between other writing projects I’m excited about, from Jaya to Zoe to a couple of short stories…

2018 Pitch Wars Mentor Wish List

Update: This is a post about the 2018 Pitch Wars program. Please note that I’m not currently a Pitch Wars Mentor. But it’s a great program you should check out!

I'm excited to be joining you this year as a Pitch Wars mentor in the adult category. (New to Pitch Wars and wondering what I'm talking about? Here's a great overview.)

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About me

The basics: I'm a USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award-winning mystery author, breast cancer survivor, and accidental almost-vegan. A more detailed bio can be found here. My publishing story: I've been both an indie author and traditionally published. I currently write two mystery series, the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries with Henery Press, and the Accidental Alchemist Mysteries with Midnight Ink. You can read more about my publishing journey here and here.I've benefitted so much in my writing career from the generosity of other writers, so I'm thrilled to join the Pitch Wars team this year to pay that generosity forward 😀

What I would LOVE to see from you

  • Novels aimed at adults that fall into mystery genre. Your book can be a mash-up of genres (e.g. a fantasy cross-over or a historical mystery), but for us to be a good fit you should be feeling that your book is at its heart a mystery.

  • Mysteries from cozy to thriller, as long as you'd consider your book lighthearted and fun as opposed to dark and depressing.Good examples of the types of books I'm talking about:

    • Elizabeth Peters's adventure mysteries. Are you a fan of Egyptologist Amelia Peabody? Art historian Vicky Bliss? Librarian Jacqueline Kirby? I still haven't been able to bring myself to read the final book in the Amelia Peabody series, because then it will be OVER. Sniffle. These books transcend genre, because the main characters are larger than life. If you have a character like this, fair warning I might have to arm-wrestle other mentors to get your manuscript for myself.

    • Juliet Blackwell and Victoria Laurie's cozy paranormal mysteries. These two brilliant women show how to push the boundaries of the cozy genre with page-turning stories. The circles of friends in these books show the important things in life worth fighting for, and Victoria has got page-turning tension down to an art form.

    • Andrew Mayne's Jessica Blackwood thrillers. An FBI agent from a family of stage magicians solves baffling crimes in this Edgar-nominated series. Some of the most clever puzzles I've ever read are in the pages of Andrew's books, and he's created an utterly unique main character.Those authors above write in different mystery sub-genres, but all have terrific mysteries along with main characters you'd like to be friends with. Is your mystery cleverly plotted? Will I want to be BFFs with your protagonist? Please send your manuscript my way!

    • Diverse casts of characters. #ownvoices stories are welcome, but not necessary. I write them myself—my character Jaya Jones is a mixed-race Californian with one parent from south India like me.

    • Unique mysteries outside the box. Have you had trouble figuring out what mystery sub-genre your book falls under? You're not alone! My debut novel, Artifact, is a cozy international adventure, a cross between Indiana Jones and Agatha Christie, so lots of agents and publishers didn't know what to do with me. And for my second series? A gargoyle chef is one of the characters in the Accidental Alchemist mysteries. Yeah... I didn't make life easy for myself. But once I found my team, that uniqueness helped the books stand out. I'd love to help yours do the same.

But please do NOT send the following

  • Anything too dark.

  • A main character who's not likable.

  • Manuscripts riddled with typos.

  • An awesome book that doesn't fall into the mystery genre.

  • A manuscript that you're not willing to work hard to revise.

My mentor superpowers (i.e. why you'll want to work with me!)

  • My editing superpower: I'm great at big picture plotting and story development (not copy edits). I have critique partners I've worked with for years, including bestselling authors, and this is the area where they come to me for help. I LOVE helping shape stories to bring them to the next level. I will recommend you read a writing craft book by Donald Maass if you haven't done so already, and tell you about why I believe in the Three Act structure of storytelling.

  • My mentor superpower: I won't lie to you. I'll be there for you to answer your questions about your book and the publishing industry truthfully. Together, we will get your book through the last push to being awesome.

  • My author superpower: I've found my passion writing mysteries, and apparently I'm doing something right. I've won several awards (the Agatha, Lefty, Malice Domestic Grant), been short-listed for several more, and hit the USA Today bestseller list. With eight books out, I have a handle on what makes successful book.

  • My human superpower: I believe in people fiercely. I survived aggressive breast cancer, so I care about the important things in life and don’t sweat the small stuff. Yes, I will make you work hard to make your book as good as it can be, but I will also be your biggest advocate.

Your mentee superpowers (i.e. why you and I would be a good fit)

  • You're willing to work HARD.

  • You have a positive attitude. This is hard work, but amazingly fun! Why else would we be doing it?These past few years of being a published author have been the best of my life, but also the years in which I've worked the hardest.

  • You have a cleverly plotted mystery on the more lighthearted side of the genre that you’re excited about sharing with the world.

Contact style—make sure this is a good fit for you:

  • Email. I'm on California time, and responsive a lot of the day, but I'm not someone who has my phone with me every waking minute.

  • Skype. I'm not a phone person, but love video calls.

  • Twitter. For fun conversation, not for direct messaging.

If you think we'd be a good fit to work together, I look forward to hearing from you! Questions? Send me any questions on Twitter. And everyone: Best wishes on your publishing journey!Want to keep in touch? You can sign up for my email newsletter, find me on Twitter to chat, check out Goodreads for what I'm reading, and follow me on Instagram for travel, writing, and gardening photos. 

My Successful Query Letter

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This year I'm participating in Pitch Wars, an incredible mentoring program for aspiring authors—which you can learn more about here. I'm serving as a Pitch Wars 2018 mentor, and one of the things the team thought would be helpful was for us to share our successful query letters with you. Here's mine!

Dear [agent],

It was a pleasure meeting you at the [X Writers Conference]. We spoke after your mystery writing panel. My 85,000-word mystery novel ARTIFACT is currently a finalist in the St. Martin's/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery competition, and was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant. [X editor] from St. Martin's made me her "Editor's Choice" pick at the [X Conference], and is interested in reading ARTIFACT even if it is not selected as the winner of the St. Martin's competition. 

Jaya Jones was born in India to an Indian mother and American father. Now a historian in San Francisco, she receives a mysterious package containing a jewel-encrusted artifact, sent by her ex-lover the same day he died in a supposed accident. Jaya soon discovers that the secrets of a lost Indian treasure may be hidden in a Scottish legend from the days of the British Raj. And she's not the only one on the trail.Jaya's quest to catch a killer and find the treasure takes her from San Francisco to London to the Highlands of Scotland. Helping her decipher the few cryptic clues she possesses are a devastatingly handsome art historian with something to hide, and a charming archaeologist running for his life. Evading a shadowy stalker, Jaya follows hints from the hastily scrawled note of her dead lover to a remote archaeological dig along the windswept cliffs of Scotland. When a member of the crew is murdered, she must figure out which of the scholars vying for her affections might be the love of her life—and which one is a killer.

The first in a proposed series, ARTIFACT introduces a new headstrong heroine for fans of Elizabeth Peters' adventure stories, but with a modern twist. Jaya is an Indiana Jones for the 21st century.

A bit about me: I'm the child of two cultural anthropologists, one from the southern tip of India, the other from Albuquerque, New Mexico. I spent much of my childhood traveling, and I have lived in all the countries where ARTIFACT takes place. I'm on the board of Sisters in Crime's Northern California Chapter, and am a member of Mystery Writers of America and Romance Writers of America.

This is the letter that led to multiple agents being interested in the book, and that helped me sign with the amazing Jill Marsal of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, who I've been with ever since.If you're querying agents, good luck!

Malice Domestic 2018: Coming Home with an Agatha Award!

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On the first full day of the conference, this was a terrific panel with my fellow Best Short Story nominees, Barb Goffman, Debra Goldstein, Gretchen Archer, and Art Taylor! And thanks to Michael Bracken for leading the discussion in interesting directions.

On the first full day of the conference, this was a terrific panel with my fellow Best Short Story nominees, Barb Goffman, Debra Goldstein, Gretchen Archer, and Art Taylor! And thanks to Michael Bracken for leading the discussion in interesting directions.

Henery Press hosted a luncheon for their authors. Here we are! You can learn more about Henery authors at www.henerypress.com.

Henery Press hosted a luncheon for their authors. Here we are! You can learn more about Henery authors at www.henerypress.com.

One of the best things about this year’s Malice Domestic was meeting the amazing daughters of Elizabeth Peters (Barbara Mertz) and Joan Hess, Beth and Becca. I became a writer in large part because of Elizabeth Peters novels. I got to meet her once before I died, and this weekend it was so special to hear more stories from her daughter, who is maintaining her legacy. Joan Hess finished the last Amelia Peabody novel,  The Painted Queen , after Barbara passed away. I still haven’t read it, because I don’t want the adventures to be over!

One of the best things about this year’s Malice Domestic was meeting the amazing daughters of Elizabeth Peters (Barbara Mertz) and Joan Hess, Beth and Becca. I became a writer in large part because of Elizabeth Peters novels. I got to meet her once before I died, and this weekend it was so special to hear more stories from her daughter, who is maintaining her legacy. Joan Hess finished the last Amelia Peabody novel, The Painted Queen, after Barbara passed away. I still haven’t read it, because I don’t want the adventures to be over!

After the opening ceremonies, a behind the scenes look at the photo shoot of the Best Debut Novel nominees! Micki Browning, VM Burns, Kellye Garrett, Kathleen Valenti, and Laura Oles.

After the opening ceremonies, a behind the scenes look at the photo shoot of the Best Debut Novel nominees! Micki Browning, VM Burns, Kellye Garrett, Kathleen Valenti, and Laura Oles.

Meeting old friends and new at drinks with fellow writers of color. Kellye Garrett, Cheryl Head, Frankie Bailey, Mia Manansala, VM Burns, Sujata Massey. (Alexia Gordon, seen in the next pic below, joined us a little later.)

Meeting old friends and new at drinks with fellow writers of color. Kellye Garrett, Cheryl Head, Frankie Bailey, Mia Manansala, VM Burns, Sujata Massey. (Alexia Gordon, seen in the next pic below, joined us a little later.)

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Attending panels on a range of topics, from Golden Age detective fiction to the best in modern mystery.

Attending panels on a range of topics, from Golden Age detective fiction to the best in modern mystery.

More meals! A Sisters in Crime breakfast and an unofficial Guppies breakfast. Thanks to Debra Goldstein for organizing this breakfast for the Guppy chapter of Sisters in Crime! This is the Guppy chapter after the SinC breakfast.

More meals! A Sisters in Crime breakfast and an unofficial Guppies breakfast. Thanks to Debra Goldstein for organizing this breakfast for the Guppy chapter of Sisters in Crime! This is the Guppy chapter after the SinC breakfast.

Downtime catching up with author pals (with Annette Dashofy here) is one of my favorite things about Malice.

Downtime catching up with author pals (with Annette Dashofy here) is one of my favorite things about Malice.

Malice Domestic, the convention celebrating the traditional mystery, is always a blast. It was especially fun to be nominated for an Agatha Award this year for "The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn." And it was such an honor to win! Especially for a Jaya Jones locked-room mystery novelette that honors the Golden Age of detective fiction.Photos from the banquet are below, but to do a proper recap of the conference I'll start at the beginning.

And now for the Agatha Awards banquet!

The Agatha Awards honor traditional mysteries. Kellye Garrett (who won for her terrific debut  Hollywood Homicide ) and I grew up reading traditional mysteries we loved but that didn’t have many characters who looked like us. So we grew up and wrote our lives into the type of mysteries we adore. It was so amazingly cool to have Dayna and Jaya mysteries honored this year.

The Agatha Awards honor traditional mysteries. Kellye Garrett (who won for her terrific debut Hollywood Homicide) and I grew up reading traditional mysteries we loved but that didn’t have many characters who looked like us. So we grew up and wrote our lives into the type of mysteries we adore. It was so amazingly cool to have Dayna and Jaya mysteries honored this year.

Kendel Lynn from Henery Press has been part of my publishing journey from the beginning, so it was wonderful to have her there to celebrate.

Kendel Lynn from Henery Press has been part of my publishing journey from the beginning, so it was wonderful to have her there to celebrate.

Shelly Dickson Carr co-hosted a banquet table with me. It was wonderful celebrating with Shelly not only because she’s awesome, but the reason I met her in the first place was because I’d read her debut novel (Ripped) and loved it, so I said hello to her at a mystery convention a couple of years ago. I’d discovered the book because I love her author grandfather’s mysteries. And the connection gets even cooler: John Dickson Carr wrote locked room mysteries during the Golden Age of mystery fiction, and his books and stories are what inspired me to write the locked room mystery in “The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn.”

Shelly Dickson Carr co-hosted a banquet table with me. It was wonderful celebrating with Shelly not only because she’s awesome, but the reason I met her in the first place was because I’d read her debut novel (Ripped) and loved it, so I said hello to her at a mystery convention a couple of years ago. I’d discovered the book because I love her author grandfather’s mysteries. And the connection gets even cooler: John Dickson Carr wrote locked room mysteries during the Golden Age of mystery fiction, and his books and stories are what inspired me to write the locked room mystery in “The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn.”

A wonderful group joined us at the banquet table!

A wonderful group joined us at the banquet table!

At the Agatha Banquet with fellow short story enthusiasts Josh Pachter, Shelly Dickson Carr, and Steve Steinbock.

At the Agatha Banquet with fellow short story enthusiasts Josh Pachter, Shelly Dickson Carr, and Steve Steinbock.

At the Agatha Banquet reception with Kellye Garrett, Mia Manansala (who won last year’s Malice Domestic Grant, so stay tuned for her book), and Sujata Massey (whose latest novel  The Widows of Malabar Hill , set in 1920s Bombay, is terrific).

At the Agatha Banquet reception with Kellye Garrett, Mia Manansala (who won last year’s Malice Domestic Grant, so stay tuned for her book), and Sujata Massey (whose latest novel The Widows of Malabar Hill, set in 1920s Bombay, is terrific).

Fellow NorCal author Rhys Bowen won Best Historical Novel for  In Farleigh Field .

Fellow NorCal author Rhys Bowen won Best Historical Novel for In Farleigh Field.

The Malice Domestic community is what makes the conference not one to be missed, and this year the Agatha for "The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn" was icing on the cake.

Left Coast Crime 2018 in Reno

I gave my editor my manuscript of the fourth Accidental Alchemist novel last week (woo hoo!), the day before heading to Reno for Left Coast Crime. That meant I could relax and enjoy the convention to the fullest. A few highlights in photos are below.

I grew up reading the Gideon Oliver skeleton detective mysteries by Aaron Elkins, so it’s been one of the highlights of my writing career that he’s become a champion of my books and a mentor.

I grew up reading the Gideon Oliver skeleton detective mysteries by Aaron Elkins, so it’s been one of the highlights of my writing career that he’s become a champion of my books and a mentor.

Have you read Kellye’s debut, Hollywood Homicide, yet? It’s so good!

Have you read Kellye’s debut, Hollywood Homicide, yet? It’s so good!

Susan Bickford, Kellye Garrett, Wendall Thomas, Nancy Tingley, and Kathy Valenti. Such a talented group. I’ve read most of their debut mysteries and I’m already a fan.

Susan Bickford, Kellye Garrett, Wendall Thomas, Nancy Tingley, and Kathy Valenti. Such a talented group. I’ve read most of their debut mysteries and I’m already a fan.

Congratulations to all the Lefty Award winners! Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel: Ellen Byron, A Cajun Christmas Killing (Crooked Lane Books)Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel: Rhys Bowen, In Farleigh Field (Lake Union Publishing)Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel: Kellye Garrett, Hollywood Homicide (Midnight Ink)Lefty for Best Mystery Novel: William Kent Krueger, Sulfur Springs (Atria Books)

Catching up with these amazing women: Cynthia Kuhn, Mariah Klein, Kathy Valenti, Nadine Nettmann, (me), and Kellye Garrett.

Catching up with these amazing women: Cynthia Kuhn, Mariah Klein, Kathy Valenti, Nadine Nettmann, (me), and Kellye Garrett.

Top to bottom: bloggers and reviewers panel; short stories panel; and S.J. Rozan interviewing guest of honor Naomi Hirahara.

Top to bottom: bloggers and reviewers panel; short stories panel; and S.J. Rozan interviewing guest of honor Naomi Hirahara.

Kathy Krevat/Aarons, Judy Copek, Tammy Kaehler, Marla Cooper, and me. (And of course I forgot to take a photo of my other panel, writing other cultures, with Jill Amadio, Dorothy Black Crow, Matthew Iden, and Bharti Kirchner.)

Kathy Krevat/Aarons, Judy Copek, Tammy Kaehler, Marla Cooper, and me. (And of course I forgot to take a photo of my other panel, writing other cultures, with Jill Amadio, Dorothy Black Crow, Matthew Iden, and Bharti Kirchner.)

Lunch with Margaret Dumas and Sophie Littlefield was a treat.

Lunch with Margaret Dumas and Sophie Littlefield was a treat.

Josh Stallings, Steph Cha, Stephen Buehler, and Travis Richardson.

Josh Stallings, Steph Cha, Stephen Buehler, and Travis Richardson.

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Bouchercon 2017 in Toronto

Huge thanks to this year's Bouchercon co-chairs Helen Nelson and Janet Costello. The Toronto convention was a fantastic celebration of the mystery genre I've loved my whole life. I saw old friends, met with my publishers, got to meet some of my favorite authors, learned about new authors I'm eager to read, and had a blast chatting with readers. Here are a few highlights in photos.

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My last Sisters in Crime board meeting! It was an honor to serve as Publicity Liaison for the past two years for an organization that has been a big part of my publishing journey.

My last Sisters in Crime board meeting! It was an honor to serve as Publicity Liaison for the past two years for an organization that has been a big part of my publishing journey.

Bouchercon capped Sisters in Crime’s 30th anniversary year. At left: Diane Vallere (SinC’s 30th president) and Sara Paretsky (SinC’s 1st president). At right: Diane Vallere handing over the seal to new SinC president Kendel Lynn. I roomed with pal Diane, and I was excited to learn more about her new mystery series coming in December.

Bouchercon capped Sisters in Crime’s 30th anniversary year. At left: Diane Vallere (SinC’s 30th president) and Sara Paretsky (SinC’s 1st president). At right: Diane Vallere handing over the seal to new SinC president Kendel Lynn. I roomed with pal Diane, and I was excited to learn more about her new mystery series coming in December.

My last official duty for SinC was to introduce  Jessica Ellis Laine , this year’s winner of the  Eleanor Taylor Bland Grant.  Now in its fourth year, this grant is to foster the next generation of writers of color. I’m happy that after it began as a one-time grant to honor African-American mystery fiction pioneer Bland, it’s continuing as a yearly $1,500 grant to attend a writers conference or do research to complete a novel.

My last official duty for SinC was to introduce Jessica Ellis Laine, this year’s winner of the Eleanor Taylor Bland Grant. Now in its fourth year, this grant is to foster the next generation of writers of color. I’m happy that after it began as a one-time grant to honor African-American mystery fiction pioneer Bland, it’s continuing as a yearly $1,500 grant to attend a writers conference or do research to complete a novel.

My panel — what a fun group!

My panel — what a fun group!

With fellow panelist Susan Spann (who writes the Shinobi mystery series) and Stacy Allen (who writes underwater archaeology thrillers).

With fellow panelist Susan Spann (who writes the Shinobi mystery series) and Stacy Allen (who writes underwater archaeology thrillers).

One of two publisher gatherings. (Alas, I didn’t get a picture of the Henery Press group.) A highlight of the Midnight Ink get-together was getting to know debut author Lissa Marie Redmond, whose first novel comes out in February.

One of two publisher gatherings. (Alas, I didn’t get a picture of the Henery Press group.) A highlight of the Midnight Ink get-together was getting to know debut author Lissa Marie Redmond, whose first novel comes out in February.

I love short stories, especially locked-room “impossible crime” mysteries, a genre most popular in Golden Age mysteries, but that I’m thrilled to see returning (more on that in a separate post). My lunch companions at the SMFS luncheon included cross-genre author Josh Pachter, Gerald So (who’s involved in running the SMFS blog), and Shelly Dickson Carr (granddaughter of John Dickson Carr and a phenomenal writer in her own right).

I love short stories, especially locked-room “impossible crime” mysteries, a genre most popular in Golden Age mysteries, but that I’m thrilled to see returning (more on that in a separate post). My lunch companions at the SMFS luncheon included cross-genre author Josh Pachter, Gerald So (who’s involved in running the SMFS blog), and Shelly Dickson Carr (granddaughter of John Dickson Carr and a phenomenal writer in her own right).

When you have coffee with one of your favorite authors, and they turn out to be every bit as awesome as their novels, it’s pretty damn cool! Have you read Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell novels? They capture the spirit of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody novels, but in their own unique way.

When you have coffee with one of your favorite authors, and they turn out to be every bit as awesome as their novels, it’s pretty damn cool! Have you read Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell novels? They capture the spirit of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody novels, but in their own unique way.

And it was the brilliant Ausma Zehanat Khan (who writes the award-winning Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mysteries plus a new fantasy series) who first introduced me to Deanna’s books. Bouchercon is always a whirlwind, so sadly I only got a chance to have a brief chat with Ausma.

And it was the brilliant Ausma Zehanat Khan (who writes the award-winning Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mysteries plus a new fantasy series) who first introduced me to Deanna’s books. Bouchercon is always a whirlwind, so sadly I only got a chance to have a brief chat with Ausma.

International authors: Barry Lancet (Jim Brodie thrillers based in Japan) and Ovidia Yu (playwright and novelist from Singapore).

International authors: Barry Lancet (Jim Brodie thrillers based in Japan) and Ovidia Yu (playwright and novelist from Singapore).

Meeting up with the Sisters in Crime Guppies, the online chapter that began for aspiring authors to support each other. I joined 10 years ago, 5 years before becoming a published author, and learned  so much  from the group. It’s always a treat to meet fellow Guppies in person. Thanks to Debra Goldstein for this photo.

Meeting up with the Sisters in Crime Guppies, the online chapter that began for aspiring authors to support each other. I joined 10 years ago, 5 years before becoming a published author, and learned so much from the group. It’s always a treat to meet fellow Guppies in person. Thanks to Debra Goldstein for this photo.

Bouchercon culminates with the Anthony Awards presentation. Congratulations to this year's winners!

Best Novel: A Great Reckoning – Louise PennyBest Paperback Original:Heart of Stone – James W. ZiskinBest First Novel: IQ – Joe IdeBest Anthology: Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016 – Greg Herren, ed.Best short story: “Oxford Girl” - Megan AbbottBest Children’s/YA Novel:The Girl I Used to Be – April HenryBest Novella: The Last Blue Glass – B.K. Stevens, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, April 2016Best Critical Nonfiction Work: Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life – Ruth Franklin

Congratulations to pal Jim Ziskin for winning both the Macavity and Anthony awards for  Heart of Stone !

Congratulations to pal Jim Ziskin for winning both the Macavity and Anthony awards for Heart of Stone!

At the airport, I ran into mystery historian Marv Lachman. One of his books is The Heirs of Anthony Boucher, a history of mystery fandom that includes a fascinating history of Bouchercon. I had the pleasure of being on a locked-room mystery panel with Marv at a previous Bouchercon. I don’t think there’s anything he doesn’t know about classic mysteries.

At the airport, I ran into mystery historian Marv Lachman. One of his books is The Heirs of Anthony Boucher, a history of mystery fandom that includes a fascinating history of Bouchercon. I had the pleasure of being on a locked-room mystery panel with Marv at a previous Bouchercon. I don’t think there’s anything he doesn’t know about classic mysteries.

Farewell, Toronto! I’m drowning under my pile of books, but that’s a good problem to have!

Farewell, Toronto! I’m drowning under my pile of books, but that’s a good problem to have!

Japanese Gargoyles (Onigawara)

As part of my research for the fifth Jaya Jones novel, I visited Japan. I'll share much more about that experience when the book comes out next year, but in the meantime here are a few of my favorite photos from the trip, beginning with onigawara — Japanese gargoyles!

Oni means demon, and onigawara means demon tile. These carvings adorn Buddhist temples and other buildings, much like European gargoyles adorn both Christian churches and many other buildings. 

Sanjusangendo Temple, Kyoto

Sanjusangendo Temple, Kyoto

Kodai-ji Temple, Kyoto

Kodai-ji Temple, Kyoto

Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto

Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto

Dragon head at Kodai-ji Temple, Kyoto

Dragon head at Kodai-ji Temple, Kyoto

And these aren't onigawara, but this was my favorite temple I visited: Otagi Nenbutsu-ji on the outskirts of Kyoto, past the famous bamboo forest. More than a thousand statues were carved by hundreds of people, many of whom were amateurs, but the figures they created show such character and humanity.

For some reason this magical place is off the beaten path, so we had it all to ourselves for almost half an hour. If you find yourself in Kyoto, I recommend the extra effort to get here.

And I'll end with a couple more of my favorite photos of Kyoto. The Jaya Jones novel set in Japan, The Ninjas Illusion, comes out in the fall of 2017.

Dragons at Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Dragons at Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Autumn in Kyoto

Autumn in Kyoto

Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans

Bouchercon was a whirlwind this year, and not only because I fell into a Twilight Zone episode for a day (I broke my glasses!). This is the "world mystery convention," the biggest of the mystery conventions, and there were over 1,800 attendees this year. 

The day before Bouchercon began, Sisters in Crime presented a SinC Into Great Writing workshop for writers. This year the topic was Writing to our Differences: Doing Diversity Right. Walter Mosley was the keynote speaker, and he gave a brilliant talk about writing authentic characters.

Walter Mosley was the keynote speaker at Sisters in Crime’s SinC Into Great Writing workshop. He is absolutely amazing.

Walter Mosley was the keynote speaker at Sisters in Crime’s SinC Into Great Writing workshop. He is absolutely amazing.

The other speakers at SinC Into Great Writing were Linda Rodriguez, Frankie Bailey, Greg Herren, and Cindy Brown (with Midnight Ink editor Terri Bischoff joining the Q&A session), who spoke about being true to both life and your books by writing characters who are racially diverse, LGBT, and with disabilities. 

SinC Into Great Writing presenters: Terri Bischoff, Linda Rodriguez, Catriona McPherson (moderator), Greg Herren, Frankie Bailey, and Cindy Brown.

SinC Into Great Writing presenters: Terri Bischoff, Linda Rodriguez, Catriona McPherson (moderator), Greg Herren, Frankie Bailey, and Cindy Brown.

On the first official day of the convention, the opening ceremonies were a blast--and unique.  A New Orleans-style parade was held inside the hotel ballroom, with each honoree riding down the aisle on their own decorated float. (Alas it was dark so my photos didn't turn out!)

My day had begun with a Sisters in Crime board meeting. I'm serving on the national board for a second year, both because it's a fabulous group and also because I've gotten so much out of the organization in my writing career that I want to give back to this wonderful community. This year is especially exciting because it's our 30th anniversary! 

Sisters in Crime board members and staff. Top row: Sarah Glass, Kendel Lynn, Lori Roy, Beth Wasson, Susan Shea, GM Malliet, Julie Hennrikus. Bottom row: Gigi Pandian, Catriona McPherson, Leslie Budewitz, Diane Vallere (incoming SinC president), Karen Pullen.

Sisters in Crime board members and staff. Top row: Sarah Glass, Kendel Lynn, Lori Roy, Beth Wasson, Susan Shea, GM Malliet, Julie Hennrikus. Bottom row: Gigi Pandian, Catriona McPherson, Leslie Budewitz, Diane Vallere (incoming SinC president), Karen Pullen.

To kick off SinC's 30th anniversary, I worked with New Orleans videographer Julius Evans of Red Clay Films to shoot some interviews with Sisters in Crime former presidents and members on the morning of the SinC breakfast.

SinC has so many amazing members, and one of my highlights from this project was getting to interview Sara Paretsky. We're editing these videos, plus creating more of them, and SinC will be posting the videos throughout our anniversary year.

Creating videos to celebrate SinC 30th anniversary.

Creating videos to celebrate SinC 30th anniversary.

Speaking of anniversaries, my favorite panel at Bouchercon was the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine 75th anniversary panel. I love the Golden Age of mystery fiction, so it was fun to hear stories about the team who created Ellery Queen and authors I love, like Clayton Rawson and John Dickson Carr. And yes, Shelly Dickson Carr is John's granddaughter! Her first novel is great, so talent definitely runs in the family. 

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine 75th anniversary panel: Steve Steinbock, Otto Penzler, Janet Hutchings, Ted Hertel, Brendan DuBois, Shelly Dickson Carr, and James Lincoln Warren moderating.

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine 75th anniversary panel: Steve Steinbock, Otto Penzler, Janet Hutchings, Ted Hertel, Brendan DuBois, Shelly Dickson Carr, and James Lincoln Warren moderating.

My own panel was a discussion of the solitary process of writing a novel, and it was so interesting to chat about how  different  each of our processes are! Learn to be Lonely panelists: Terrie Farley Moran, Julie Hennrikus, Gigi Pandian, Kim Fay, Wendy Tyson, Kate White, and moderator Hank Phillippi Ryan.

My own panel was a discussion of the solitary process of writing a novel, and it was so interesting to chat about how different each of our processes are! Learn to be Lonely panelists: Terrie Farley Moran, Julie Hennrikus, Gigi Pandian, Kim Fay, Wendy Tyson, Kate White, and moderator Hank Phillippi Ryan.

Since we were in New Orleans, of course I had to slip out of the conference hotel to do some exploring.

Stacy Allen, my partner in crime for the Haunted History hour and the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum tour. Stacy and I are treasure hunt sisters, and I’m envious that she’s a diver so her treasure hunt thrillers feature underwater treasures!

Stacy Allen, my partner in crime for the Haunted History hour and the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum tour. Stacy and I are treasure hunt sisters, and I’m envious that she’s a diver so her treasure hunt thrillers feature underwater treasures!

Accidental Alchemist research at the historic New Orleans Pharmacy Museum.

Accidental Alchemist research at the historic New Orleans Pharmacy Museum.

Apothecary wares from the 1800s at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum.

Apothecary wares from the 1800s at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum.

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, the haunted bar in New Orleans that’s been around since the 1700s.

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, the haunted bar in New Orleans that’s been around since the 1700s.

I donated an item I'm very excited about to Bouchercon's silent auction: an original Jaya Jones work of art by graphic novelist Dale Berry. The drawing depicts my favorite scene in Michelangelo's Ghost (Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery #4), and I printed a limited edition print run of 100 copies, which Dale and I numbered and signed.

The book comes out next month, so I'll be using the printed pieces as promotions, but first and foremost, I love that I now have an amazing Jaya Jones illustration for myself that beautifully complements the stunning book cover. 

Jaya Jones original artwork by Dale Berry, donated to the Bouchercon charity auction.

Jaya Jones original artwork by Dale Berry, donated to the Bouchercon charity auction.

A huge thanks to all the volunteers who made the convention come together seamlessly: Convention co-chairs Heather Graham and Connie Perry, Bouchercon board chair Jeff Siger, Mike Bursaw, Dave Magayna, Judy Bobalik, Jon Jordan, and the rest of the team.

Malice Domestic 2016: Photos from the Traditional Mystery Convention

This year's Malice Domestic took place in Bethesda, MD, April 29 - May 1. The honorees this year were Victoria Thompson (Guest of Honor), Katherine Hall Page (Lifetime Achievement Award), Linda Smith Rutledge (Fan Guest of Honor), Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald of the Poisoned Pen (Poirot Award), Doug Greene (Amelia Award), and Hank Phillip Ryan was Toastmaster. What fun!

The welcome reception was followed by the signing for the new Malice Domestic Anthology: Murder Most Conventional. I was honored to have a new Jaya Jones short story, "A Dark and Stormy Light," selected to appear in the anthology. 

With Kathryn Leigh Scott at the anthology signing.

With Kathryn Leigh Scott at the anthology signing.

Featuring Jaya Jones short story “A Dark and Stormy Light.”

Featuring Jaya Jones short story “A Dark and Stormy Light.”

The impossible crime mystery sub-genre is big in Japan. Thanks to Steve Steinbock for bringing these to Malice to share with his fellow locked-room fans!

The impossible crime mystery sub-genre is big in Japan. Thanks to Steve Steinbock for bringing these to Malice to share with his fellow locked-room fans!

The best thing about Malice Domestic is the community of readers and writers who have a shared passion for mystery fiction. There are so many wonderful people I only get to see a couple of time a year, plus meeting new friends, so the long weekend is a treat. 

P.J. Coldren brought me a t-shirt, because the image reminded her of Dorian the gargoyle from my Accidental Alchemist mysteries.

P.J. Coldren brought me a t-shirt, because the image reminded her of Dorian the gargoyle from my Accidental Alchemist mysteries.

At the Malice hotel bar with Ellen Byron, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Nadine Nettmann, Terri Biscoff, Annette Dashofy.

At the Malice hotel bar with Ellen Byron, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Nadine Nettmann, Terri Biscoff, Annette Dashofy.

I love attending panels because I always come away with new discoveries. Shelly Dickson Carr's page-turner RIPPED was one of my favorite discoveries from this year's Malice. Shelly is the granddaughter of John Dickson Carr, one of my favorite authors, so I was intrigued. After picking up her book, I learned that talent runs in the family!

Shelly Dickson Carr, author or Ripped.

Shelly Dickson Carr, author or Ripped.

Outside the Sisters in Crime breakfast with Frankie Bailey, Catriona McPherson, and Beth Wasson (SinC’s Executive Director).

Outside the Sisters in Crime breakfast with Frankie Bailey, Catriona McPherson, and Beth Wasson (SinC’s Executive Director).

SinC president Leslie Budewitz with the Raven Award given to Sisters in Crime by Mystery Writers of America at the Edgar Awards earlier that week.

SinC president Leslie Budewitz with the Raven Award given to Sisters in Crime by Mystery Writers of America at the Edgar Awards earlier that week.

Diane Vallere presenting this year’s Dorothy Cannell Guppy Scholarship, which pays for a member of the Guppy Chapter of SinC to attend Malice Domestic.

Diane Vallere presenting this year’s Dorothy Cannell Guppy Scholarship, which pays for a member of the Guppy Chapter of SinC to attend Malice Domestic.

One of the dangers of conventions is staying indoors the whole time, but I slipped out of the hotel for lunch with Midnight Ink authors and friends.

Edith Maxwell, Terri Bischoff, Catriona McPherson, Dru Ann Love, Aimee Hix.

Edith Maxwell, Terri Bischoff, Catriona McPherson, Dru Ann Love, Aimee Hix.

With Tracy Weber.

With Tracy Weber.

Linda Joffe Hull, Tracy Kiely, Nadine Nettmann.

Linda Joffe Hull, Tracy Kiely, Nadine Nettmann.

The Agatha Awards were given out at the Saturday evening banquet. Time to dress up!

The Henery Press crew before the banquet.

The Henery Press crew before the banquet.

Before the banquet: Kendel Lynn and Diane Valere. With Sybil Johnson.

Before the banquet: Kendel Lynn and Diane Valere. With Sybil Johnson.

Celebrating with Cindy Brown (in purple) for her Agatha nomination for her debut mystery, MacDeath. With Priscilla Caporaletti-Bean, Susan Boyer, Cindy Brown, and Nancy West.

Celebrating with Cindy Brown (in purple) for her Agatha nomination for her debut mystery, MacDeath. With Priscilla Caporaletti-Bean, Susan Boyer, Cindy Brown, and Nancy West.

With Susan Boyer, in our cute MacDeath-themed hats from Cindy Brown.

With Susan Boyer, in our cute MacDeath-themed hats from Cindy Brown.

Hank Phillipi Ryan presenting the Agatha awards, Art Taylor accepting his Agatha for Best First Novel, and Martin Edwards accepting his Agatha for Best Nonfiction.

Hank Phillipi Ryan presenting the Agatha awards, Art Taylor accepting his Agatha for Best First Novel, and Martin Edwards accepting his Agatha for Best Nonfiction.

Dan Stashower with Barb Goffman and her Agatha Award for Best Short Story.

Dan Stashower with Barb Goffman and her Agatha Award for Best Short Story.

Doug Greene with his Amelia Award teapot. Doug runs mystery publishing house Crippen & Landru, has written and edited numerous nonfiction essays and books, and is an expert on the locked-room genre.

Doug Greene with his Amelia Award teapot. Doug runs mystery publishing house Crippen & Landru, has written and edited numerous nonfiction essays and books, and is an expert on the locked-room genre.

This year's Agatha winners were: Best Contemporary Novel: Long Upon the Land, Margaret MaronBest Historical Novel: Dreaming Spies, Laurie R. King Best First Novel: On the Road with Del and Louise, Art TaylorBest Nonfiction: The Golden Age of Murder: The Mystery of the Writers Who Invented the Modern Detective Story, Martin Edwards Best Short Story: “A Year Without Santa Claus?” by Barb Goffman Best Children’s/Young Adult: Andi Unstoppable, Amanda Flower 

Left Coast Crime 2016: A Lefty Award for The Accidental Alchemist!

Left Coast Crime

Left Coast Crime

Dori the gargoyle had fun with the book bag we got when we checked in.

Dori the gargoyle had fun with the book bag we got when we checked in.

I'm honored to have returned home from Left Coast Crime in Phoenix with the Lefty Award for Best Mystery set in the LCC Region (western US) for The Accidental Alchemist!Here are some photos from the long weekend.

The Opening Ceremonies

Lefty nominees Matt Coyle, Gigi Pandian, Josh Stallings

Lefty nominees Matt Coyle, Gigi Pandian, Josh Stallings

Gigi Pandian and Diane Vallere

Gigi Pandian and Diane Vallere

Sisters in Crime

Sisters in Crime photo booth

Sisters in Crime photo booth

Sisters in Crime board dinner

Sisters in Crime board dinner

Panels

Misc. Fun

Melissa Lenhardt, Nancy Cole Silverman, and Cindy Brown.

Melissa Lenhardt, Nancy Cole Silverman, and Cindy Brown.

Lunch with Vera Chan and Gary Phillips.

Lunch with Vera Chan and Gary Phillips.

And late-night fun with some party crashers.

And late-night fun with some party crashers.

The Awards Banquet

With my Lefty Award for The Accidental Alchemist

With my Lefty Award for The Accidental Alchemist

instagram LCC 2016 Catriona Jess Gigi

instagram LCC 2016 Catriona Jess Gigi

blog - LCC-2016-Phoenix-IMG_20160227_222540-Gigi-Pandian-Terri-Bischoff-Lefty-award

blog - LCC-2016-Phoenix-IMG_20160227_222540-Gigi-Pandian-Terri-Bischoff-Lefty-award

The Masquerading Magician: Book Tour Photos

Thanks to everyone who came to see me on The Masquerading Magician book tour! It was great to meet so many readers, and this tour had the distinction of including my debut as a stage magician. After that performance with a magician friend, I now understand how fun it is to baffle an audience.

That’s Dori the gargoyle in my magician’s hat, before my book Q&A and magic act at Book Carnival in Orange.

That’s Dori the gargoyle in my magician’s hat, before my book Q&A and magic act at Book Carnival in Orange.

I made my magic debut with a mentalism magic act. I read minds with magician/mystery novelist Stephen Buehler.

I made my magic debut with a mentalism magic act. I read minds with magician/mystery novelist Stephen Buehler.

Several of my high school friends came to see me in Orange County!

Several of my high school friends came to see me in Orange County!

Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego.

Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego.

Up to Oregon: Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing.

Up to Oregon: Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing.

Dori the gargoyle at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop.

Dori the gargoyle at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop.

With Fran of the Seattle Mystery Bookshop.

With Fran of the Seattle Mystery Bookshop.

Bouchercon 2015

Bouchercon is the World Mystery Convention for mystery writers and readers to get together each year. "Murder Under the Oaks" took place in Raleigh, NC, from October 8 - 11, 2015. I attend mystery conventions like this one as both a writer and a reader. With my author hat, I have business meetings to attend, panels where I'm a presenter, and book signings where I get to meet amazing readers. But as a mystery fan, the coolest thing about conventions is getting to hang out with other writers and readers to chat about mysteries.

Back row: Gigi Pandian, Debra Goldstein, Martha Reed (departing), Julie Hennrikus, Beth Wasson (executive director), Frankie Bailey (departing), Lori Roy, G.M. GM Malliet, Laura DiSilverio, Susan Shea, Diane Vallere, Simon Wood (departing) – Front: Sarah Glass (web maven), Cari Baker Dubiel, Hank Phillippi Ryan (departing), Leslie Budewitz (incoming president), Catriona McPherson (last year’s president)

Back row: Gigi Pandian, Debra Goldstein, Martha Reed (departing), Julie Hennrikus, Beth Wasson (executive director), Frankie Bailey (departing), Lori Roy, G.M. GM Malliet, Laura DiSilverio, Susan Shea, Diane Vallere, Simon Wood (departing) – Front: Sarah Glass (web maven), Cari Baker Dubiel, Hank Phillippi Ryan (departing), Leslie Budewitz (incoming president), Catriona McPherson (last year’s president)

SinC President Catriona McPherson handing the “Seal” to incoming President Leslie Budewitz.   I’m one of the new members of the Sisters in Crime board of directors, so the morning before the convention kicked off, I attended my first SinC board meeting (more details about the board and our roles can be found  here ). Are you a member of Sisters in Crime? If not, why not?  Here’s  why you should join.

SinC President Catriona McPherson handing the “Seal” to incoming President Leslie Budewitz.

I’m one of the new members of the Sisters in Crime board of directors, so the morning before the convention kicked off, I attended my first SinC board meeting (more details about the board and our roles can be found here). Are you a member of Sisters in Crime? If not, why not? Here’s why you should join.

This year’s  Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award  winner, Vera Chan, was introduced at the Sisters in Crime breakfast. One of my roles on the SinC board is to facilitate this fantastic award, which is now a yearly $1,500 grant, so let me know if you have any questions about it!

This year’s Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award winner, Vera Chan, was introduced at the Sisters in Crime breakfast. One of my roles on the SinC board is to facilitate this fantastic award, which is now a yearly $1,500 grant, so let me know if you have any questions about it!

It’s always a treat to hang out with Diane Vallere and Kendel Lynn. I met the two of them early in my writing journey. Kendel is now the editor of my Jaya Jones treasure hunt mystery series, but before that, the three of us collaborated on   Other People’s Baggage  , a collection of three interconnected mystery novellas. We’re still friends after writing a book together, so I know these pals are the real deal.

It’s always a treat to hang out with Diane Vallere and Kendel Lynn. I met the two of them early in my writing journey. Kendel is now the editor of my Jaya Jones treasure hunt mystery series, but before that, the three of us collaborated on Other People’s Baggage, a collection of three interconnected mystery novellas. We’re still friends after writing a book together, so I know these pals are the real deal.

Big thanks to Karen Pullen for arranging the Guppy Lunch, and to Jim Jackson for making sure we all introduced ourselves to put faces to the names we know on the online group.

Big thanks to Karen Pullen for arranging the Guppy Lunch, and to Jim Jackson for making sure we all introduced ourselves to put faces to the names we know on the online group.

And thanks to Art Taylor and Gerald So for arranging a lunch meet-up for the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

And thanks to Art Taylor and Gerald So for arranging a lunch meet-up for the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Harriette Sackler (moderating), Art Taylor, Barb Goffman, Gigi Pandian, John Shepphird.    I spoke on a short story panel along with three of the authors up for Anthony awards for Best Short Story this year, so as you can imagine, we had a great discussion. We talked about the rising interest in short fiction, what draws us to this form, the craft of writing short stories, favorite stories that inspired us, and of course I brought up my love of  locked-room “impossible crime” short stories .

Harriette Sackler (moderating), Art Taylor, Barb Goffman, Gigi Pandian, John Shepphird.


I spoke on a short story panel along with three of the authors up for Anthony awards for Best Short Story this year, so as you can imagine, we had a great discussion. We talked about the rising interest in short fiction, what draws us to this form, the craft of writing short stories, favorite stories that inspired us, and of course I brought up my love of locked-room “impossible crime” short stories.

Raleigh is a foodie town, so there were many cute restaurants to check out, including the  Happy & Hale cafe with organic salads and green juice right across the street from the hotel. (Zoe Faust and Dorian the gargoyle would be pleased.)

Raleigh is a foodie town, so there were many cute restaurants to check out, including the Happy & Halecafe with organic salads and green juice right across the street from the hotel. (Zoe Faust and Dorian the gargoyle would be pleased.)

Three of this year's Anthony winners: Art Taylor, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Lori Rader-Day. The Anthony Awards were voted on by attendees and announced on the last evening of the convention.

Three of this year's Anthony winners: Art Taylor, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Lori Rader-Day. The Anthony Awards were voted on by attendees and announced on the last evening of the convention.

Another award given out during the ceremony was the David S. Thompson Award, presented by the Bouchercon Board to recognize extraordinary efforts to develop and promote the mystery and crime fiction community. Bill and Toby Gottfried were given this year’s award. The Gottfrieds live not far from me, so I’m lucky I get to see them on a semi-regular basis at Janet Rudolph’s Literary Salons.

Another award given out during the ceremony was the David S. Thompson Award, presented by the Bouchercon Board to recognize extraordinary efforts to develop and promote the mystery and crime fiction community. Bill and Toby Gottfried were given this year’s award. The Gottfrieds live not far from me, so I’m lucky I get to see them on a semi-regular basis at Janet Rudolph’s Literary Salons.

Huge thanks to the team who worked behind the scenes to make the convention a success.Last year was a blast, too, and I'm already looking forward to next year in New Orleans -- hope to see you there!

Research for Jaya Jones Book 4 in Bomarzo, Italy

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Italy Vitorchiano Gigi Linda Lappin crop Instagram IMG_20150906_182600

Italy Vitorchiano Gigi Linda Lappin crop Instagram IMG_20150906_182600

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I recently returned from Europe, where I made three detours to work on my next two novels.First, the Renaissance "Park of Monsters" in Bomarzo, Italy. I got plenty of history and inspiration wandering through the labyrinthine paths of the macabre garden. I'm not going to say more here, because I'm still in the middle of my research. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.Oh yes, Jaya is going to have a grand adventure here...My second writing-related stop was an unexpected treat. Ex-pat mystery novelist Linda Lappin genrously invited me to tea at her home, near Bomarzo -- which happened to be inside the walls of a Medieval Tuscan village!Linda is the author of the novel Signatures in Stone, set at Bomarzo. That's how we happened to meet online. I found her book when I was reading up on Bomarzo, and I greatly enjoyed it so I posted my review on Goodreads. Linda noticed it, and when she learned I was working on my own novel set at Bomarzo, she sent me links to resources, and then invited me to her home on my trip Italy. In addition to her marvelous hospitality, I love the fact that GPS couldn't give directions inside the old car-less walled city, so she had to write out detailed instructions so I could find the place.The last detour was Paris. I wanted to fact check a few things for the third Accidental Alchemist novel I'm working on (yes, I know the Internet exists, but this was more fun). I wasn't seeking out Rue Nicholas Flamel for my research, but I stumbled upon it on my last day in Paris.Time to get back to work on these books now. 

Press Release: ASIAN PULP debuts from Pro Se Productions

July 6, 2015 press release from Pro Se Productions

(ASIAN PULP features my Sanjay Rai short story "The Curse of Cloud Castle")  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

‘ASIAN PULP’ DEBUTS FROM PRO SE PRODUCTIONS!

In April 2013, Pro Se Productions released ‘Black Pulp’, a collection of stories written in classic pulp genres featuring lead characters of African descent. Not only were readers captivated by the cast of characters featured in the book, they also saw the potential of future volumes, both of ‘Black Pulp’, and collections featuring other ethnicities in much the same way. Pro Se Productions proudly announces the release of ‘Asian Pulp’, featuring seventeen of today’s best authors, in both print and digital format.

Leonard Chang, novelist and writer and co-producer of the TV crime drama ‘Justified’, states in his introduction to ‘Asian Pulp’, “The world of pulp fiction was a world that I understood—it was a reaction to trauma, both as art and as catharsis. Personal trauma. Emotional trauma. Physical trauma. National trauma. This is why I responded to it, why I immersed myself in it. And why, whenever I was in a personal and artistic crisis, it saved me. Fiction is a reflection of and commentary on life, and I needed to find a reflection of and commentary on my life.

That there weren't any Asian Americans in the pulp I was reading wasn't a problem (or if there were Asians they tended to be dismissible stereotypes) -- no, not a problem at all, but actually an opportunity. I've always viewed writing as providing myself with more reading material. I write what I can't find out there. Why not have a Korean American act as a private eye, and infuse in his character all the traits I wanted to see but haven't? Why not write about Korean American gangsters, criminals, and detectives? And this is where we, as writers, all began moving toward: writing about people we want to see on the page, in lives and stories that speak to us.”

Following in the tradition of the best selling ‘Black Pulp’, from Today's Best Authors and up and coming writers comes ‘Asian Pulp’ from Pro Se Productions! A collection of stories featuring characters of Asian origin or descent in stories that run the gamut of genre fiction!

‘Asian Pulp’ includes works from Don Lee, Naomi Hirahara, Kimberly Richardson, Percival Constantine, William F. Wu, Gary Phillips, Calvin McMillin, Mark Finn, Dale Furutani, Steph Cha, Henry Chang, Sean Taylor, Gigi Pandian, Louise Herring-Jones, Alan J. Porter, and David C. Smith. The anthology opens with an introduction from Leonard Chang.

“As an author of color who writes genre fiction,” says Gigi Pandian, “I love finding books where there are diverse characters in exciting stories. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved reading mystery and adventure stories, but characters in the types of stories I enjoy rarely reflect my own ethnic heritage or the diversity around me (my father is an immigrant from India, and I grew up in California). When I became a writer, I naturally created characters that were part of my own life experience. I enjoyed ‘Black Pulp’, so it was an honor to be invited to contribute a story for this new anthology. ‘Black Pulp’ was first and foremost a great collection of fiction--but I also loved how black writers and characters were brought into the spotlight. I hope ‘Asian Pulp’ does the same thing for Asian writers and characters.”

Mysteries, westerns, stories of crime and noir, and more, all with Asian characters in the lead! Between these covers are 17 tales of action, adventure, and thrills featuring heroes and heroines of a different shade that will appeal to audiences everywhere. ‘Asian Pulp’. From Pro Se Productions.

Featuring a fantastic, evocative cover by Adam Shaw and logo design and print formatting by Sean Ali, ‘Asian Pulp’ is available now at

Amazon

and Pro Se’s

own store

for $20.00.

This historic collection of authors and tales is also available as an Ebook, designed and formatted by Forrest Bryant and available for only $4.99 for the

Kindle

and for most digital formats via

Smashwords

.

To request digital copies for review, to interview authors, or for further information on this title, contact Morgan McKay, Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, at directorofcorporateoperations@prose-press.com.

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to

www.prose-press.com

. Like Pro Se on

Facebook

.

***

Details about "The Curse of Cloud Castle," pulled from an interview with Pro Se Productions. 

“The Curse of Cloud Castle”,” says Pandian, “is a mystery featuring Sanjay Rai, an Indian-American stage magician who performs as The Hindi Houdini. Sanjay is invited to perform his show at an old friend’s birthday party on a supposedly haunted island off the coast of California, and “the curse of cloud castle” plays out when one of the guests is murdered. But is the culprit a ghost, or an ingenious person who has pulled off the perfect crime?

The story is a locked-room mystery, a story where the reader is given all of the clues in a puzzle plot mystery to solve a seemingly impossible crime. It’s a type of story that was especially popular during the Golden Age of detective fiction during the 1920s and ‘30s, and since it’s my favorite type of mystery, I’m doing my part to help bring it back.”

The American Library Association Conference in San Francisco

I attended my first ALA last week. The American Library Association convention took place in San Francisco this year, giving me a great introduction to the amazing event. With my author hat, I signed books for librarians; with my reader hat, I took in the huge (and I mean HUGE) gathering of librarians and book-lovers.



The Sisters in Crime booth

Sisters in Crime is an organization that does so much for its members and for the mystery genre as a whole. (Here's a brief history of SinC.) One of their programs is "We Love Libraries," in which they give $1,000 to a library each month. So it's no surprise that each year at ALA they sponsor a booth where members can sign books. Big thanks to SinC Library Liaison Cari Dubiel for coordinating this year's table, and to all the volunteers who worked at the table to promote SinC and its authors. 

SinC Library Advisor Mary Boone and Doris Ann Norris
volunteering at the SinC booth.

Authors Kate Carlisle and Jenn McKinlay at the SinC booth.

Henery Press donated copies of Quicksand that I signed at the Sisters in Crime booth, and Midnight Ink donated copies of The Accidental Alchemist for me to sign at the Llewellyn booth. Unlike bookstore signings where event attendees are already familiar with an author, ALA signings provide a wonderful opportunity for librarians to discover new authors. It was a lot of fun to talk about books with avid readers and librarians who are passionate about what they do.


The Midnight Ink / Llewellyn Worldwide Booth 



Flux Publicist Mallory Hayes.

The Exhibit Hall

Between my signings there was time to explore the exhibits. I learned that it's not only specialty library services vendors who exhibit at ALA, but pretty much anything book-related is welcome -- so there were plenty of fun surprises at every turn.

This was only HALF of the exhibit hall at the Moscone Center.

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

Look who I found at ALA: artist Jennie Hinchcliff! I adore her mail art and books. Simply seeing her briefly made me want to send more hand-written letters. 

Jennie Hinchcliff from mail art zine Red Letter Day.

Definitely an inspiring day.



What I Learned at the 2015 California Crime Writers Conference

Last week I attended the California Crime Writers Conference (CCWC), and wow did I learn a lot! For the last few years I've focused on attending mystery conventions where I get to meet readers, instead of the craft-of-writing conferences I attended while learning how to write a mystery novel. But CCWC was a fantastic reminder about how much all writers can continue to learn, no matter where we're at in our careers. Plus, it was fun!



The conference is a joint project between Sisters in Crime Los Angeles and SoCal Mystery Writers of America. It takes place every two years, and this was my first time attending. SinC LA president Diane Vallere and SoCal MWA president Craig Faustus Buck were the co-chairs. Their efforts, along with dozens of other volunteers, made it a fantastic weekend.



The first day of the conference included a signing for the new Sisters in Crime LA anthology, LAdies Night, published by Down & Out Books. All three editors and all but two of the contributing authors were in attendance!

It's a great lineup of authors (Julie G. Beers, Julie Brayton, Sarah M. Chen, Arthur Coburn, L.H. Dillman, Bengte Evenson, Cyndra Gernet, Andrew Jetarski, Micheal Kelly, Susan Kosar-Beery, Jude McGee, Gigi Pandian, Wendall Thomas) and editors (Naomi Hirahara, Kate Thornton, Jeri Westerson). My short story is "Tempest in a Teapot," an impossible crime mystery starring magician Tempest Mendez, a side character in the Jaya Jones treasure hunt mystery series.

LAdies Night authors and editors at the California Crime Writers Conference
(Thanks to Jackie Houchi for the group photo, and Anne Cleeland for the pic of me)

Panels


Next up, panels! So many great ones. The three that were the most eye-opening to me were a bookseller panel, a librarian panel, and panel where agents and editors reacted to opening pages. I jotted these tips in my notebook:

Bookstore Partners
  • The staff from Mysterious Galaxy had some advice I hadn't heard before: Don't do a reading at your event! Instead, tell personal stories about you and your book. People can read on their own, but they want to know what's special and interesting about you. (Readers, is this true??? I usually do both at an event.)
  • Want to do an event at a bookstore? Contact a bookstore three months in advance, ideally four. And to generate the most interest in your book, the month or so around your release date is really important -- though that buzz only applies to in-person events, not to a bookstore hand-selling your book, which can happen at any time. 
  • There's a thing called a White Box, containing Advance Reader Copies and other promotional materials, that American Bookseller Association members receive. 

Marketing Through Libraries

  • Ask your local library "What's your collection development policy?" to find out how books are added to their system. There's no one system that all libraries use to build their collections. 
  • Like bookstores, libraries like to have four months advance notice to schedule events. 
  • Many libraries have book clubs. 


Author Idol
A panel of agents and editors judged the brave souls who anonymously submitted the first pages of their unpublished manuscripts. The America Idol-style format wasn't for the thin skinned, but it was incredibly informative.

The first page of each manuscript was read aloud, and agents and editors raised their hands as soon as they would stop reading. The agents/editors then explained what it was that made them raise their hand -- sometimes it was as simple as the fact that it wasn't something they represented. (The lesson for unpublished writers: once you've polished your manuscript and are getting ready to submit it, do your homework to find out what an agent represents and a publisher buys.)

The exercise drove home the importance of the first page grabbing the reader on many levels. And yes, several of the first pages didn't receive any raised hands, meaning everyone wanted to read more.

Agents and editors on the "Author Idol" panel 

Keynote speakers Charlaine Harris and Anne Perry gave inspiring speeches, and also discussed Elmore Leonard's "10 Rules for Good Writing." They agreed with almost everything on his list, but like with everything in life, the real answer is, "it depends." I've always been a firm believer in knowing the rules before you break them.

Charlaine Harris and Anne Perry discussing Elmore Leonard's "10 Rules of Writing" (moderated by Craig Faustus Buck)

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules for Good Writing

  1. Never open a book with weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said"…he admonished gravely.
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

And the most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Connections


Outside of the official program, one of the best things about attending events like this is getting to catch up with people in the mystery world, plus make new connections. In addition to catching up with writer pals I rarely see, I met amazing new people, and got to see both of my editors! (If you enjoy my books, it's in large part thanks to them and the rest of my editorial team.) 

With my awesome editors: Terri Bischoff from Midnight Ink & Kendel Lynn from Henery Press











Lunch with Naomi Hirahara

I also ducked out of the conference hotel for an excursion to the Magic Castle. Though I write about several magician characters, I hadn't ever visited this famous magicians' playhouse. Thanks to mystery writer and magician Stephen Buehler for getting me in!


And thanks again to the team who pulled off such a great CCWC!

Now available: short story "Tempest in a Teapot" in the new Sisters in Crime LA anthology "LAdies Night"

Last week marked the official release of LAdies Night, the new Sisters in Crime Los Angeles chapter anthology. The book features my new short story "Tempest in a Teapot," an impossible crime mystery starring magician Tempest Mendez (one of Sanjay's magician pals who lives in LA).

Based on the type of mysteries I write, I was resigned to the fact that I'd never have a pulp-style book cover, even though I love that classic mystery graphic style. But now that I've begun writing short stories published in collections with other authors, I'm getting a much wider range of book covers. I'm so excited about this stunning cover from Down & Out Books!

LAdies Night anthology's AWESOME cover!

The release coincided with the California Crime Writers Conference, a joint project of Sisters in Crime Los Angeles and SoCal Mystery Writers of America. Nearly all of the contributors were in attendance, and all three editors were there.

Anthology editors Kate Thornton, Jeri Westerson, Naomi Hirahara.


At the LAdies Night signing. (Thanks to Anne Cleeland for the pic!)

We did a joint signing, and I had all the authors to sign my copy of the book. I can't wait to dive into reading all the stories!




Anthology contributors at the California Crime Writers Conference. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Houchin.)


Jaya Jones and The Hindi Houdini in Edinburgh

Last week I shared a recap and photos from my writing retreat in Edinburgh, where one of the highlights was revisiting the Edinburgh setting of "Fool's Gold," my novella prequel to Artifact. 

Jaya and Sanjay solve a mystery at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that involves Scotland's famous Lewis Chessmen.

The novella was published in 2012 in Other People's Baggage, and this May was the first time I'd been back to Scotland since the mystery came out! So of course I had to stop by both the Edinburgh Fringe Festival office and the National Museum of Scotland where several of the chessmen are on display.

My Lewis Chessmen replicas, next to my book in which they appear.

Why are the Lewis Chessmen so intriguing? In addition to their origins remaining a mystery, the 12th century pieces themselves have so much personality, as can be seen in my photos below.

The Berserker biting is shield is one of my favorites!

When I was a kid spending the summer in Scotland with my mom while she did academic research, I got to attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world's largest arts festival (also purportedly the world's largest street festival) that takes place each August.

Several years after I attended the festival, I performed in a theatrical production in Edinburgh during my junior year abroad. Since I doubted I'd ever again perform in Edinburgh, when I became a writer it occurred to me that I could send my characters there!

So I combined the Lewis Chessmen with the Ed Fringe Festival in the locked-room mystery novella 

"

Fool's Gold

.

"

All historian Jaya Jones wants is a relaxing vacation in Scotland before starting her first year teaching college. But when a world-famous chess set is stolen from a locked room during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Jaya and her magician best friend, The Hindi Houdini, must outwit actresses and alchemists to solve the baffling crime.

The novella is connected to Diane Vallere's "Midnight Ice" and Kendel Lynn's "Switch Back." Four years ago, Diane, Kendel, and I had the idea of collaborating on a project. The result was 

Other People's Baggage,

 a collection of interconnected mystery novellas featuring our mystery series characters. The premise: 

These are the stories of what happened after three women with a knack for solving mysteries each grabbed the wrong bag.

We're still friends after collaborating, so either we did something right, or nothing can tear us apart! And this year, the third books in each of our series came out.

OTHER PEOPLE’S BAGGAGE: 

“Midnight Ice” by Diane Vallere (A Mad for Mod Mystery Novella, the prequel to PILLOW STALK). The third Mad for Mod Mystery starring Madison Night, WITH VICS YOU GET EGGROLL, came out April 14, 2015.

“Switch Back” by Kendel Lynn (An Elliott Lisbon Mystery Novella, the prequel to BOARD STIFF). The third Elliott Lisbon mystery, SWAN DIVE, came out March 17, 2015.

“Fool’s Gold” by Gigi Pandian (A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Novella, the prequel to ARTIFACT). The third Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery, QUICKSAND, came out March 10, 2015.

Kendel Lynn, Diane Vallere, and Gigi Pandian in 2012 at Mystery Ink.

This weekend

I get to see my 

Other People's Baggage

 collaborators Diane and Kendel at the 

California Crime Writers Conference

 June 6-7, 2015!