Travel

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…

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

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.

Research for Jaya Jones Book 4 in Bomarzo, Italy

Gigi-Pandian-Bomarzo-Italy-2015-b&w-web-text

Gigi-Pandian-Bomarzo-Italy-2015-b&w-web-text

Italy-Bomarzo-monster-side-square-Instagram-Gigi-Pandian-text

Italy-Bomarzo-monster-side-square-Instagram-Gigi-Pandian-text

Dori-the-gargoyle-at-Bomarzo-Instagram-small-text

Dori-the-gargoyle-at-Bomarzo-Instagram-small-text

Italy Vitorchiano Gigi Linda Lappin crop Instagram IMG_20150906_182600

Italy Vitorchiano Gigi Linda Lappin crop Instagram IMG_20150906_182600

Paris-Gigi-Pandian-Rue-Nocolas-Flamel-Instagram-TEXT

Paris-Gigi-Pandian-Rue-Nocolas-Flamel-Instagram-TEXT

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.