Gigi Pandian

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!

Edinburgh Writing Retreat to Celebrate my 40th Birthday

I'm home from Scotland, where I celebrated my 40th birthday with the writing retreat I envisioned nearly four years ago while going through chemo. (The story behind this trip can be found here.)

I've been pretty good at hanging onto my post-cancer seize-the-day mentality, so I rented an apartment in Edinburgh and invited my local writer's group to join me for a writing retreat vacation. Nearly half of them were able to make it! Rachael Herron, Lisa Hughey, Mysti Berry, and Emberly Nesbitt hopped on a flight to Edinburgh.


The Writing Retreat


I was so happy to discover that we were compatible travelers! We were all on the same page about writing all morning to meet daily writing goals before heading out for adventures exploring the city. I spent most of my writing time plotting a new mystery novel set in Edinburgh.

Mysti Berry, Gigi Pandian, Emberly Nesbitt,
Lisa Hughey, Rachael Herron

My favorite writing spot in the cozy kitchen of the Edinburgh apartment.

Writing at the Elephant House Cafe, where I used to study during my junior year abroad in Edinburgh, and where JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book





Visiting the Bedlam Theatre, where I performed on stage 20 years ago as a student


  


Exploring the City







A birthday meal at the Witchery by the Castle






Mysterious Edinburgh


Edinburgh was the perfect city for inspiration for the new mystery I'm writing with ghostly, Gothic overtones! These were a few of my favorite mysterious encounters. 

With how much I love puzzle plot mysteries filled with enigmatic clues, it's hard to believe I hadn't previously experienced a live action puzzle escape game. Dr. Knox's Enigma was the perfect introduction to one! 

https://www.dr-knox.com/





Mary King's Close is one of the tours that takes people underground to explore the centuries-old streets beneath Edinburgh's Old Town neighborhood. The modern day central city is built on top of the dark, narrow streets that once housed the city's poor. (A "close" is a narrow alley.)

Like with Dr. Knox's Enigma, in these underground tours the true mysterious history of Edinburgh is sprinkled with fanciful drama. Fact and fiction merge in ghost stories and with figures wearing the real-life beaked masks plague doctors used to wear to combat disease.





A "kirkyard" is a churchyard / graveyard. Greyfriars Kirkyard is famous for the story of Greyfriars Bobby, the terrier who is said to have spent more than a decade guarding his owner's grave, up until his own death. The faithful dog was then buried not far from his owner.



Getting out of town












Revisiting the Edinburgh Setting of "Fool's Gold," the novella prequel to Artifact


In 2012, I collaborated with mystery authors Diane Vallere and Kendel Lynn to write Other People's Baggage, a collection of interconnected mystery novellas featuring our mystery series characters (Jaya Jones for me, Madison Night/Mad for Mod for Diane, and Elliott Lisbon for Kendel). 
Baggage claim can be terminal. This is what happened after a computer glitch mislabeled identical vintage suitcases and three women with a knack for solving mysteries each grabbed the wrong bag.

The story I contributed to the collection was "Fool's Gold," which takes place in Edinburgh. It's set during the annual Ed Fringe Festival, the huge arts festival that takes place every August.


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.




Lest this highlights post get taken over by the fascinating histories of the Lewis Chessmen and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I'll do a more detailed post on my "Fool's Gold" inspirations next week!


I'll end with one of my favorite images from the trip


Now I need to come up with an excuse to do this again! 




Malice Domestic 2015: Highlights and Photos

The 27th annual Malice Domestic mystery convention wrapped up yesterday. I attended the traditional mystery convention as both a mystery fan and an author, so between being a fan-girl and putting on my professional writer hat, the three-day event was a bit of a whirlwind.

I'm at the airport, drinking plenty of coffee and green juice to recover from the long weekend, so it's time to share a recap and photos:

Welcome to Malice Domestic
Upon our arrival, this mysterious projection was waiting for us.

Malice Go Round

The first full day of the convention began with an introduction to Malice for first-time attendees, an informational session for people interested in volunteering, and then Malice Go Round: Like Speed Dating, But With Authors. 

There were 20 tables with eight readers and two empty seats; authors paired up and visited each table and gave a 2-minute pitch about their books. I passed out postcards of Quicksand and The Accidental Alchemist out of a magician's hat, since stage magicians are a common element between my two series. (Sorry, I was on California time, so I didn't think to take any photos of the event!)

Welcome Reception

This year marks Midnight Ink's 10th anniversary, so they hosted the welcome reception with a special cake and books by all of their authors. 
Midnight Ink authors at Malice.

Sisters in Crime

Malice Domestic and Sisters in Crime are probably the two most important groups that brought me into the mystery fold. I love connecting with my Sisters at Malice, and at a convention of several hundred, the SinC breakfast is one of the best ways to see everyone.

Don't worry, SinC President Catrina McPherson is left-handed, so a broken arm can't slow her down.
SinC President Catriona McPherson and
Vice President Leslie Budewitz at the SinC breakfast.
 

The Sisters in Crime Dorothy Cannell Guppy Scholarship was given out at the breakfast. The yearly scholarship that pays $1,000 for a SinC Guppy to attend Malice Domestic is being offered by agent Meg Ruley to honor her long-time client.
Dorothy Cannell and Leslie Budewitz presenting the first
Guppy scholarship to attend Malice Domestic.
Also announced at the breakfast was the exciting news that the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award, originally planned as a one-time grant for an emerging writer of color, will continue!

Frankie Bailey and I were involved in the inaugural grant committee last year, when Maria Kelson was awarded the first grant. Her work in progress is terrific.
Frankie Bailey and Gigi Pandian.

Ellen Byron, Gigi Pandian, Diane Vallere, Kendel Flaum.
(Kendel is my editor at Henery Press - if you're enjoying QUICKSAND,
the third Jaya Jones treasure hunt mystery, she's the one who saved it!)
Wondering about the boas? It was thought up a few years ago as a way for SinC Guppies to easily find each other at the large Sisters in Crime breakfast.
The Guppies gathering for a photo at the end of the Sisters in Crime breakfast.

The Sisters in Crime Guppy chapter meets for lunch every year, and it's a great opportunity to put faces to names we know online, in a smaller setting.
SinC Guppies gathering at Booeymongers for lunch.

Attending Panels

The Golden Age of Detection Panel

This was one of my favorite panels. I love Golden Age mysteries, plus check out the lineup of panelists! Mystery scholar Doug Greene moderating, with Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine reviewer Steve Steinbock, author and scholar Martin Edwards, and fiction and non-fiction writer (and Sherlock Holmes expert) Daniel Stashower. I'm tempted to do a recap of the entertaining and informative panel here, but I'd ramble far too long, so I'll post panel notes separately at a later date.

Steve Steinbock, Doug Greene, Martin Edwards, Dan Stashower.
I'm looking forward to reading this new book by Martin Edwards on the Golden Age of mystery fiction that's out this very week.


Academic Mysteries Panel
Susan Van Kirk, Lori Rader-Day, Debra Goldstein, Triss Stein, Neil Plakcy.

Best Short Story Agatha-Nominated Authors Panel
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine editor Linda Landrigan (moderating),
Kathy Lynn Emerson, Barb Goffman, Edith Maxwell, Art Taylor.


My Sleuthing Duos Panel
Meeting for coffee to plan our panel.
Tracy Kiely, Gigi Pandian, Ritter Ames, Hannah Dennison, Wendy Tyson.
I hadn't met fellow panelist Ritter Ames before, and I was happy to learn about her Elizabeth Peters-inspired series. (My to-be-read pile of books grew exponentially this weekend...)


Stepping outside of the hotel to recharge

Green juice run with some of the Midnight Ink crew. 
Tracy Weber, Linda Joffe Hull,
Terri Bischoff (my fabulous Midnight Ink editor), Catriona McPherson.

Tulips were in bloom all around the hotel.


The Banquet

Pal Cynthia Kuhn (top row center) was awarded one of this year's William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grants for unpublished traditional mystery writers!
Past and present grant-winners with committee chair
Harriette Sackler (top left).

The Agatha Award Winners

My local Sisters in Crime chapter had not one but TWO
Agatha winners: Rhys Bowen and Penny Warner
(seen here with Parnell Hall - thanks to Penny for the pic)
Best Contemporary Novel: Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Best Historical Novel: Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen

Best First Novel: Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran

Best Nonfiction: Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer's Journey by Hank Phillippi Ryan (ed)
(This is a book full of essays by members of Sisters in Crime.)

Best Short Story: "The Odds are Against Us" by Art Taylor

Best Children's/Young Adult: The Code Buster's Club, Case #4, The Mummy's Curse by Penny Warner

Sara Peretsky was given the Lifetime Achievement Award this year. Caroline and Charles Todd were the guests of honor, and Ann Cleeves was the International guest of honor.


Closing Ceremonies Tea
Cindy Brown and Gigi Pandian before the closing tea.
There were many hats to be found at the tea. It used to be more of a tradition, and there's a mini movement to bring it back. (I don't yet have a photo of the Henery Press authors with their hats, but I'll add it when I get a copy.) 

Poirot and Miss Marple were on hand at the tea, just in case anything untoward were to have occurred.
Poirot and Miss Marple.

And now it's nearly time for my flight to Edinburgh, Scotland, where I'm doing a week-long writers retreat with my local writers group to celebrate my 40th birthday. This was an idea I had while going through cancer treatments four years ago, and I can't quite believe it became a reality. But on the heels of Malice Domestic, it's perfect timing. As I type up this recap, I'm reminded again of how inspiring it is to connect with other mystery fans and writers. I'm going to take that inspiration with me to Scotland.

Book Deal Announcement: The Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series Continues

It's official. I've signed the contract to publish the next Jaya Jones book with Henery Press!

It's perfect timing, just in time to celebrate at Malice Domestic, and then on to Scotland for a writing retreat that I've fantasized about doing since I went through chemotherapy nearly four years ago.


You know what else a book contract means? Book deal shoes! I love Fluevogs for being the perfect combination of oh-so-cute and oh-so-comfortable, but one really needs something to celebrate to justify the expensive shoes. I'd say a book deal is a great excuse for a new pair of shiny pink Fluevogs.


p.s. I'm still writing the Accidental Alchemist mysteries, too. That's exactly why I need this writing retreat!

A Dream During Cancer Treatments Becomes a Reality: A Writing Retreat in Scotland

One week from today, I'll be stepping off an airplane in Edinburgh, Scotland. Along with me will be several members of my local writers group who are joining me for a week-long writing retreat. And even cooler than that? The week culminates with my 40th birthday! (Update: You can see photos from the trip here.)

My first trip to Scotland, 30 years ago.
I hatched this plan nearly 4 years ago, while I was going through chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer, a time when I had no idea if I'd be alive and well at 40. The writing retreat was a fantasy that gave me something to look forward to. (So was throwing myself into my writing and going on a round-the-world trip — one down and one to go!)

Since completing my cancer treatments I've been healthier than ever, so I decided to make this writing retreat trip a reality. It's far too easy to slip back into the day-to-day responsibilities and ruts of normal life, but ever since that unexpected experience, I'm committed to seizing the day.

Why Scotland? I liked idea of taking my local writers group with me on this celebratory trip to a place that's been special to me since I was a kid. I first visited Scotland when I was 10 years old, tagging along with my professor mom who was spending the summer doing research in the Highlands of Scotland.

Scotland captured my imagination on that first trip — Loch Ness and its famous monster, castle ruins perfect for exploring, ghost stories told by people with cool accents — so I returned many times. My longest stay was when I lived in Edinburgh while attending the University of Edinburgh for my Junior year abroad during college, I set a big chunk of my first novel, Artifact, in the Highlands of Scotland, and my novella "Fool's Gold" (in the Other People's Baggage anthology) is set in Edinburgh.

Dunnottar Castle, Scotland, along the coast where Artifact is set.

When I thought about where I'd want to go on a writing retreat, I liked the idea of Edinburgh because it's a mix of foreign and familiar, modern and mysterious. That way, I could get my creative energy flowing in a great setting, not be too distracted by feeling like I needed to go out exploring ever minute of the day, and share the experience with several of my dear friends. The plan is to spend our mornings writing in local cafes, then head out exploring the city and surrounding areas.

Having fun in Edinburgh in the '80s.

I wanted to do this trip with my writers group because 1) they're awesome, 2) writing is so much more fun when done with kindred spirits, and 3) they took my wig shopping before I started chemo and bought me my amazing mystery-writerly wig!

Pre-chemo wig shopping party with the Pens Fatales in 2011.


I'm so glad it worked for four of my writer pals to come with me. I'll be posting photos and stories of our adventures from Edinburgh on Twitter, Facebook, and perhaps even Instagram (we'll see...).

See you online from the other side of the world. But only while I'm not immersed in my next novel, which might just turn out to be set in Scotland.


Photos from Left Coast Crime 2015 (where Pirate Vishnu won the Rose Award!)

I'm home from Portland after attending the 25th annual Left Coast Crime convention for mystery fans. What a weekend! Here's a recap of the long weekend in photos, beginning with my surprising highlight before jumping back to the beginning of the convention.

As I mentioned elsewhere over the weekend, I'm officially the most surprised award-winner in Left Coast Crime history. I still can't quite believe that I was awarded the Rose Award on Saturday night! Thank you to everyone who celebrated with me in person and congratulated me online. I'm touched by all of your good wishes.

I was honored that Pirate Vishnu was nominated for the Rose Award for Best Novel of 2014 set in the West Coast region. But with the phenomenal competition, I thought there was no chance I was going to win. When toastmaster Gar Anthony Haywood announced me as the winner, he had to read my name again before I'd believe he truly said my name!


Now that my awestruck moment has kicked off this recap, back to the beginning of the convention:


Opening Ceremonies

On Thursday, March 12, the opening ceremonies officially began the gathering of over 500 mystery readers and writers. We mingled with appetizers and drinks, and the award nominees were presented with plaques. It was especially fun to have good friends as fellow nominees.  

With author pals Diane Vallere and Lisa Alber 

Best first novel nominees:
Allen Eskens, Lisa Alber, M.P. Cooley, Lori Rader-Day, Holly West

Best humorous mystery nominees:
Jess Lourey, Timothy Hallinan, Donna Andrews, Diane Vallere, Cindy Sample


And here's that phenomenal Rose Award competition I mentioned:
L.J. Sellers, Gigi Pandian, Johnny Shaw, Chelsea Cain, Terri Nolan
(And no, I'm not shrinking from my 5'9" height. I was wearing flat boots and there were a lot of tall people at this year's convention!)


Attending panels

Stacy Allen  speaking on the Modern Thrillers panel
Stacy Allen is an author I didn't know before last weekend, but I'm so happy to have gotten to know her. Not only is she a real life underwater treasure hunter (!!!) but she's one of the loveliest people imaginable. I started reading her mystery Expedition Indigo on the plane flight home.

Lee Goldberg moderating the Collaborating with a Co-Author panel
I spoke on the Plotters vs. Pansters panel, a mix of authors who outline (plotters) and who write by the seat of their pants without a plan ("pansters").
Karen MacInerney, Anne Cleeland, Lori Rader-Day, Maia Chance, Gigi Pandian


Slipping out of the hotel to see Portland

There's always so much going on at mystery conventions (here's the program) that it's impossible to do everything. One of the best things to avoid getting burnt out is to take breaks to recharge. I found a local vegan restaurant that was a perfect getaway. It even had mysterious art on the walls.

Henery Press authors at Left Coast Crime:
Nancy G. West, Cindy Brown, Gigi Pandian, Diane Vallere
With fellow Midnight Ink author Tracy Weber
Yup, I'm now writing two series for two publishers (The Accidental Alchemist mysteries with Midnight Ink and the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries for Henery Press). It means a more rigorous writing schedule, but also getting to know more amazing people.

 
Hanging out in the lobby and bar

Catriona McPherson, Stacy Allen, Gigi Pandian, Lisa Alber

With one of my favorite people, Camille Minichino
(who writes more mysteries under more names than I can list here!)

Charlotte Elkins
(who writes the wonderful Alix London art restorer books with Aaron Elkins)

Debut author Cindy Brown

Rosemarie and Vince Keenan, who are collaborating on their
Malice Domestic Grant-winning novel (coming in 2016)

25th Anniversary Celebration

This year marked the 25th Left Coast Crime convention. The celebration on Friday night included toastmaster Gar Anthony Haywood holding a raffle for LCC swag from over the years, a slideshow of photos from the convention over the years, and a stage magician. 

Magician with volunteers from the audience


The banquet

I hosted a table at the awards banquet. Since I thought there was no chance I was going to win, I got to enjoy a relaxing evening with my table-mates!


To celebrate Pirate Vishnu's nomination, I brought a paper pirate ship as the table centerpiece. And to have fun with my new 2015 novels, I gave my table-mates miniature dollhouse gargoyle figures (The Accidental Alchemist) and brought the France-themed photo props from the book launch party for Quicksand (the third Jaya Jones treasure hunt mystery, following Pirate Vishnu). 

Table favors - miniature dollhouse gargoyle figurines

Sisters in Crime Guppy pal Patricia Gulley
with a France photo booth prop

Mysti and Dale Berry having fun with the French props
A list of all the award winners is posted here.

Huge thanks to Catriona McPherson, who forced me to write a brief acceptance speech even though I was certain I wouldn't use it. 

With Catriona McPherson, who won Best Historical Novel
With Cindy Brown

With Jenn McKinlay and Kate Carlisle



After the convention, visiting my parents who live near Portland

Pirate Vishnu nomination plaque feeling right at home
next to a carving from India




I'm looking forward to next year. But in the meantime, I think I'll sleep for a few days.

Update 3/18/15: I forgot to thank the fabulous volunteers who made the convention such a success! Lisa Alber, Bill Cameron, Kendra Elliot, Don Longmuir, Doc Macomber, L.J. Sellers, Johnny Shaw, Lucinda Surber, and Stan Ulrich -- thank you!

Quicksand Book Launch Day!

Today is the book release day for Quicksand, the third Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery!



A thousand-year-old secret room.
A sultan’s stolen treasure.
A missing French priest.
And an invitation to Paris to rekindle an old flame…

Historian Jaya Jones finds herself on the wrong side of the law during an art heist at the Louvre. To redeem herself, she follows clues from an illuminated manuscript that lead from the cobblestone streets of Paris to the quicksand-surrounded fortress of Mont Saint-Michel. With the help of enigmatic Lane Peters and a 90-year-old stage magician, Jaya delves into France’s colonial past in India to clear her name and catch a killer.
 






Huge thanks to A Great Good Place for Books for hosting my book launch party on Sunday! It was a France-themed party, in the spirit of the setting of the book. In addition to beer brewed by monks and French wine, we had a photo booth of French props.


Photos from the party are posted here

Amazon (paperback) Kindle | B&N | Kobo | Google Play iTunes

The Appeal of Locked Room Mysteries

Otto Penzler's new collection.
In November I spoke on the panel “Murder in a Locked Room: Solving the ‘Perfect’ Crime” at Bouchercon, the world mystery convention. I wrote up a recap of the whole convention here, and I'm revisiting the panel in greater detail today because I've been on a locked room mystery kick. 

Two things have renewed my interest: 

  1. Otto Penzler's new collection of locked room stories, The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries. 960 pages and 68 stories! As I write this, I'm about halfway through it. I've encountered many of the stories before, but there are many that are new to me. 
  2. French author Paul Halter, who is being hailed as the new John Dickson Carr—and for good reason. His plots are every bit as ingenious, and he uses supernatural overtones to great effect. Halter's books are being translated into English by John Pugmire and Locked Room International


“Murder in a Locked Room: Solving the ‘Perfect’ Crime”

I'm a huge fan of locked room mysteries, so I was thrilled to be selected for the panel along with Jeffery Deaver, Janet Dawson, Laurie King, Marvin Lachman, and Bill Gottfried moderating. I wasn’t sure how many people would attend a panel on a mystery sub-genre most popular during the Golden Age of detective fiction, so it was heartening to see well over 100 people of all ages in attendance. 

Murder in a Locked room panelists (left to right):
Marvin Lachman, Janet Dawson, Bill Gottfried, Gigi Pandian, Jeffery Deaver, Laurie King
Marv Lachman kicked off the discussion with a definition of locked room mysteries. The classic example is a murder victim found in a room sealed from the inside, with no way for a murderer to have escaped. But the term “locked room” is used more broadly for any “impossible crime” situation, such as an outdoor murder in a remote area with only the victim’s footprints in the snow.

Jeffery Deaver mentioned John Dickson Carr’s famous “locked room lecture,” a treatise inside his novel The Three Coffins that explains the overarching methods in which an impossible crime could indeed be possible. The specific methods used to carry out these theoretical ideas are endless, and therefore reading the lecture doesn’t ruin the solution of The Three Coffins or any other book.

Why are locked room mysteries so appealing? 

We all agreed that they provide the ultimate puzzle. Not only is the reader baffled by who committed the crime and why, but also how. There’s a promise to the reader that there will be a satisfying resolution at the end of the book. 

A secondary feature of many locked room mysteries is the Gothic, ghostly atmosphere that dominates the investigation—because if a crime is impossible, then surely it can only have a supernatural explanation. But that’s the trick of a good locked room mystery: like a good magic trick, what seems supernatural is in reality a clever illusion.

My John Dickson Carr bookshelf.
Stage magicians are therefore a natural for locked room mystery sleuths. Clayton Rawson’s Merlini character is a favorite of mine. Merlini appeared in several novels and over a dozen short stories. Rawson was a contemporary of Carr, and wrote most of his stories in the 1930s and 40s. 

Clayton Rawson's novels featuring The Great Merlini.

Janet Dawson mentioned Agatha Christie as an author who is primarily thought of as the queen of puzzle plots more generally, though several of her books feature locked room mysteries. And Laurie King brought up Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” as one of the stories credited with creating the sub-genre.

Daniel Stashower, best known for non-fiction,
also writes the Harry Houdini Mysteries. 
Many present-day writers are carrying the tradition forward. Authors include Paul Halter, a French author with several novels translated into English by John Pugmire; Daniel Stashower, who writes the Harry Houdini mysteries; the prolific Bill Pronzini, who writes the Nameless detective series; and panelist Jeffery Deaver, who wrote an impossible-crime magician thriller for his fifth Lincoln Rhyme novel, The Vanished Man. There are also many modern Japanese authors writing in the genre. Many, but not all, have been translated into English—as our moderator Bill Gottfried learned when he accidentally ordered a Japanese locked room mystery printed in Japanese!

As for me, I haven’t yet pulled off writing a full-length locked room novel, but I love writing locked room mystery short stories. When I started writing my Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series, I created a small sidekick character who was a stage magician: Sanjay Rai, who performs under the moniker The Hindi Houdini. But Sanjay refused to remain a sidekick, so I’ve written several locked room short stories with him as the hero, beginning with “The Hindi Houdini” (that was the story short-listed for Agatha and Macavity awards).

For a handout at the Bouchercon panel, we compiled some of our favorite locked room novels, stories, anthologies, and reference guides. Here’s a portion of the list we gave out:

A “starter guide” to Locked Room Mysteries: Novel Recommendations from the Panelists

Note this is NOT an exhaustive list, but rather a few favorite novels from the panelists. 
The handout given to attendees also included additional reference guides, anthologies, and short stories.


  • Edmund Crispin THE MOVING TOYSHOP
  • John Dickson Carr THE BURNING COURT
  • John Dickson Carr THE CROOKED HINGE
  • John Dickson Carr THE THREE COFFINS, aka HOLLOW MAN (includes Carr’s famous “locked room lecture”)
  • Carter Dickson THE JUDAS WINDOW
  • Carter Dickson A GRAVEYARD TO LET
  • Arthur Conan Doyle THE SIGN OF FOUR
  • Paul Halter, THE INVISIBLE CIRCLE
  • Keigo Higashino MALICE
  • Gaston Leroux THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
  •  Ellery Queen THE CHINESE ORANGE MYSTERY
  • Ellery Queen THE DOOR BETWEEN
  • Clayton Rawson DEATH FROM A TOP HAT
  • Daniel Stashower DIME MUSEUM MURDERS


Happy reading! 
 

Visiting the Seattle Mystery Bookshop & My Old Stomping Grounds

I lived in Seattle many years ago while attending graduate school, but haven't been back in years. Long before I wrote a mystery novel, I loved reading them, so I frequented the Seattle Mystery Bookshop. (Um, yes, that may have been why I turned into a much better mystery writer than grad student!) It was so much fun to return to the bookshop as a published author.



Staffer Fran read The Accidental Alchemist and made it a Staff Pick. I especially love her review because I won her over! An excerpt:

I have to admit that going into Gigi Pandian's new novel, The Accidental Alchemist, I was a bit skeptical. A reformed alchemist, a French gargoyle that cooks, a murder, AND recipes? I thought that, perhaps, she was a bit ambitious. I was wrong. She's great!

...The pace never lets down, the people are multilayered, and the plot is complicated enough so that it all blends into what promises to be the beginning of a fun new series… 

This a fabulous beginning to a series I'm looking forward to following!” 
--Seattle Mystery Bookshop STAFF PICK from Fran


And I just heard that the book was their #1 trade paperback bestseller in January!



In addition to visiting with old friends, no trip to Seattle would be complete without a stop at one of my favorite stores: Gargoyles Statuary. I lived down the street from this wonderful little shop in the U-District. Someone needs to open a store like this in San Francisco or Berkeley. Any takers?


p.s. Since I've always been a mystery writer at heart, I loved the gray and rainy Seattle weather when I lived there. The weather cooperated beautifully while I was there -- fog and cloud-covered sky, but the rain held off while I was exploring. Luckily the San Francisco Bay Area has plenty of fog, too. So even though I didn't end up in Seattle in the long run, I've got plenty of atmospheric weather to inspire me. 

Pirate Vishnu Nominated for the Rose Award at Left Coast Crime

What a wonderful surprise to find out that Pirate Vishnu has been nominated for the Rose award at Left Coast Crime

Left Coast Crime is the West Coast's big mystery convention, and this year it's in Portland, Oregon, the City of Roses. Therefore the Rose is the name of the award for the best mystery set on the west coast. It's such an honor to be nominated for an LCC award with such a distinguished lineup that also includes talented dear friends Diane Vallere (nominated for the Lefty for best humorous mystery) and Lisa Alber (nominated for the Rosebud for best first novel). 


This is why a nomination for this particular book is especially meaningful to me:

Pirate Vishnu is divided into three parts: The Illusion (San Francisco), The Monsoon (south India), and The Barbary Coast (back to San Francisco). I love finding connections between different parts of the world, especially if I can shape those connections into puzzle-mystery twists. The twist that ties San Francisco to Kochi, India in Pirate Vishnu was something I figured it out while on a trip to India with my dad!

Visiting the southern tip of India with my dad, close to where he was born.

A family legend about one of my great uncles from India inspired the book (you can read that story here or in the March 2014 issue of Mystery Scene magazine) -- and that trip to India with my dad made it come together.

After our trip, he made sure I got the India scenes right. In one instance, when I asked why he made a certain edit, he simply said, "even though it's technically correct, it just isn't done." Ha!

Another exciting part of writing this novel was that I got to tell a parallel story set between 1900 and 1906 in San Francisco's Barbary Coast. Those historical chapters are sprinkled throughout the book and parallel the present-day story. I had such fun writing those historical chapters that I'm definitely going to do something similar in the future.

My great grand uncles in India.

PIRATE VISHNU

A century-old treasure map of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast. Sacred riches from India.
Two murders, one hundred years apart. And a love triangle… Historian Jaya Jones has her work cut out for her.

1906. Shortly before the Great San Francisco Earthquake, Pirate Vishnu strikes the San Francisco Bay. An ancestor of Jaya’s who came to the U.S. from India draws a treasure map…

PRESENT DAY. Over a century later, the cryptic treasure map remains undeciphered. From San Francisco to the southern tip of India, Jaya pieces together her ancestor’s secrets, maneuvers a complicated love life she didn’t count on, and puts herself in the path of a killer to restore a revered treasure.




Pirate Vishnu is the second Jaya Jones treasure hunt mystery, published in February 2014 by Henery Press. The third book in the series, Quicksand, comes out March 10, 2015 -- the week of Left Coast Crime!

The Accidental Alchemist Book Launch Party Photos

I brought my stuffed animal gargoyle to join in the fun. He doesn't look exactly like Dorian, the gargoyle in The Accidental Alchemist, but hey, he's still a gargoyle. 

Here he is inside a magician's top hat (relevant to the book). We used the hat to draw names of attendees to win Accidental Alchemist mugs and Book Passage gift certificates.

The gargoyle made the rounds. 

And yes, there was gargoyle-themed beer (in honor of Dorian), as well as French wine (in honor of alchemist Zoe Faust).

Several pals from my writers group joined in the fun.

Future writer?

Bookstore manager Cheryl McKeon was instrumental in making the event a success.

I talked about the story behind the book, did a short reading, and answered audience questions...

...before we got back to socializing and polishing off the gargoyle beer.

I've seen many favorite authors in the Book Passage newsletter over the years, so it was great fun to be included in their latest newsletter to advertise the event.

Thanks to everyone who joined me in person and in spirit!

The Accidental Alchemist AUDIOBOOK

Do you like listening to audiobooks? You're in luck: The Accidental Alchemist is my first novel that's been made into an audiobook!


I didn't know what to expect when I signed the contract, so it was an unexpected surprise that the folks at Audible asked for input, through a "Casting Notes Invitation." Thinking about casting notes brought back memories of when I was involved in theater in high school! I listened to audiobook narrator samples, thought about comparisons to actors playing different roles as a frame of reference, and made notes about the speaking style I envisioned. It was fun to be part of the process and see just how much more goes into a successful reading than simply speaking the words on the page.

Listen to a sample.

Buy the audiobook.

I was so pleased that Audible hired Julia Motyka as the narrator. Her voice perfectly captures the two sides of alchemist Zoe Faust: forever 28 and optimistic about life but also having lived as an outsider for centuries. 

And the fabulous narrator can even do Dorian's French accent! I hope you'll enjoy her narration as much as I do.





Book Launch Day for The Accidental Alchemist!

The Accidental Alchemist hits bookstore shelves today! It's the first book in my new mystery series set in Portland, Oregon, featuring a centuries-old female alchemist and her French chef sidekickwho happens to be a gargoyle who was accidentally brought to life by a stage magician. 


Stay tuned for lots of fun tidbits about the book, along with some fun contests I've been cooking up. In the meantime, here are some details about the book and the book launch party happening next week: 


On the book jacket: Unpacking her belongings in her new hometown of Portland, Oregon, herbalist and reformed alchemist Zoe Faust can’t help but notice she’s picked up a stowaway. Dorian Robert-Houdin is a living, breathing three-and-a-half-foot gargoyle—not to mention a master of French cuisine—and he needs Zoe’s expertise to decipher a centuries-old text. Zoe, who’s trying to put her old life behind her, isn’t so sure she wants to reopen her alchemical past… until the dead man on her porch leaves her no choice.

There's plenty of culinary alchemy, and recipes are included. 


BUY THE BOOK at a bookstore or through an online retailer:



Buy directly from one of my favorite independent bookstores:



Buy the AUDIOBOOK


This is my first audiobook! (I'll talk more about that experience in another blog post.)


Thursday, January 15
6pm
Book Passage at the Ferry Building in San Francisco




Advance Praise for The Accidental Alchemist


“Pandian launches a supernatural cozy series that hits high marks for a modern twist on an ancient practice. Amusing supporting characters and historical details solidify this engaging mystery.”
—Library Journal

“Pandian sets this series apart from other paranormal mysteries with Zoe’s cute nonhuman sidekick and some mouthwatering vegan recipes.”
—Publishers Weekly

“This new series is off to an excellent start with an intriguing, eccentric amateur detective… This reviewer is eagerly anticipating more from this series, and a return of a cast more fun than an episode of Portlandia.”
—RT Book Reviews

“Zoe and Dorian are my new favorite amateur-sleuth duo!”
—Victoria Laurie, New York Times bestselling author

“The Accidental Alchemist is a recipe for a great read. Gigi Pandian’s pen never disappoints.”
—Juliet Blackwell, New York Times bestselling author

“A magical, whimsical cozy that will delight readers who enjoy Juliet Blackwell and Heather Weber mysteries!”
—Avery Aames, aka Daryl Wood Gerber

“The pace never lets down, the people are multilayered, and the plot is complicated enough so that it all blends into what promises to be the beginning of a fun new series… This a fabulous beginning to a series I’m looking forward to following!”
—Seattle Mystery Bookshop staff pick 

The Mutual Admiration Society, Featuring Victoria Laurie & Juliet Blackwell

I've gotta say that one of the coolest things about being a writer is getting to know some of my favorite authors. And even more amazing? The fact that several of my favorite authors have enjoyed my books and endorsed them. (Yes, I still pinch myself about this fact.)

Victoria Laurie's new M.J. mystery,
out January 6, 2015.
I discovered Victoria Laurie's books in 2011, when I was going through chemotherapy and wanted to read fresh, engaging mysteries to keep my mind occupied. I devoured her ghost hunter and psychic eye mysteries, and I now eagerly await each new release. The M.J. Holliday ghost hunter mysteries are my favorites, so I'm thrilled that No Ghouls Allowed is out today! I know what I'm reading tonight.

Victoria's books are in the same genre as my new series (paranormal cozy mysteries), so when it was time to get reviews for The Accidental Alchemist, I summoned the courage to ask her if she'd be willing to read the book and give it an endorsement if she enjoyed it.

I was thrilled that Victoria took the time to read the book, and gobsmacked by how much she loved it. She even called me on the phone to tell me so! Who does that anymore? It was  unbelievable and lovely.

“Zoe and Dorian are my new favorite amateur-sleuth duo!” 
New York Times bestselling author Victoria Laurie

It's a wonderful feeling to receive a great review from a trade publication (I'm happy that The Accidental Alchemist received praise from Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and others), but it's not the same as receiving a heartfelt endorsement from an author you admire.

Juliet Blackwell's latest mystery,
published in December 2014.
Juliet Blackwell is another of my favorite mystery authors. She's now a good friend of mine, but the first time I met her was when I approached her at a mystery convention to tell her how much I loved her first novel.

I was attending my first mystery convention, Malice Domestic. I didn't know a soul, but I'd read and loved Juliet's Feint of Art (written as Hailey Lind). Everyone at the convention was so friendly that it was easy to go up to Juliet and introduce myself. We quickly became friends, and she was an early and enthusiastic supporter of my rough draft of The Accidental Alchemist.

The Accidental Alchemist is a recipe for a great read. Gigi Pandian’s pen never disappoints.” 
New York Times bestselling author Juliet Blackwell

Juliet's books have always been great, but they keep getting better. If you're a fan of paranormal cozy mysteries, you should check out her new book Keeper of the Castle.

I'm tempted to ramble on about others, but it's time for me to get writing! I'll end with something that brings this blog post full circle:

If you've known me for a few years, you might remember hearing me squeal with excitement and disbelief that Aaron Elkins endorsed my first novel. Victoria Laurie and Juliet Blackwell weren't writing books when I was an impressionable kid, but Aaron Elkins was. I fell in love with his Gideon Oliver mysteries at the same time I did Elizabeth Peters' Vicky Bliss mysteries, as a teenager in the early 1990s.

Aaron Elkins signing my copy of
Gideon Oliver novel CURSES.
When I was getting ready to publish Artifact, I knew I'd regret it if I didn't have all the fun I possibly could with the book. That meant asking Aaron Elkins, a man I had never met, if he would read the book. I'd previously blogged about how much his books meant to me, so when I contacted him he already knew I was a big fan of his. That made him willing to check out Artifact.

When Aaron Elkins gave me an endorsement, I knew that whatever else happened in my publishing career, I'd already made it.

Artifact is witty, clever, and twisty. Do you like Agatha Christie? Elizabeth Peters? Then you’re going to love Gigi Pandian.”
Edgar-winning author Aaron Elkins

Happy New Year!

Bouchercon 2014

I'm home after four days at Bouchercon, the world mystery convention, which was held in Long Beach this year. On my way home on Sunday I was on a flight with several other Bay Area authors, and our conversation as we waited to board sums up the whole convention experience: even though we attended the fan convention as authors, we were most excited when talking about the new mystery books and authors we discovered over the long weekend.

I roomed with a pal who was attending the convention for the first time. This wasn't my first Bouchercon, but it was my first time with multiple books out and multiple events scheduled. In other words, it was the first time I felt like I was attending professionally. But since I was a huge mystery fan long before I became a writer, I had to set alarms on my phone so I'd remember to stop browsing in the book room, chatting with old and new friends, or attending cool panels -- so I could be sure to attend my own events!

Roomie Mariah Klein in front of the hotel.

My gorgeous book cover for The Accidental Alchemist was on display at the Midnight Ink table. The publisher gave away Accidental Alchemist mugs and I signed Advance Reader Copies of the book for readers. And it was great having a chance to get to know my editor, publicist, and fellow Midnight Ink authors better over the weekend.

The Midnight Ink booth at Bouchercon, with The Accidental Alchemist on display!
Here I am with my fabulous editor Terri Bischoff. 

At the "Author Speed Dating" breakfast event on the first day, writers table-hopped to tell readers about their books. I handed out goodies from a magician's hat, because stage magic is one of the overlapping subjects in the two books I've got coming out in early 2015: The Accidental Alchemist coming from Midnight Ink in January, and Quicksand, the third Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery, coming from Henery Press in March. I paired up with fellow Henery Press author Susan Boyer, who writes the Liz Talbot mysteries, the first of which won an Agatha Award. We had fun until we started to lose our voices!

With Susan Boyer at "Author Speed Dating."

The Macavity Awards, given out by Mystery Readers International, were presented at the opening ceremonies. My locked room mystery "The Hindi Houdini" was up for Best Short Story. Up against fabulous short stories including Art Taylor's "The Care and Feeding of Houseplants" and John Connolly's "The Caxton Lending Library and Book Depository," I knew I wouldn't win, but it was such an honor to be nominated alongside those authors and stories. The Macavity went to to Art Taylor's story from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. You can see the full list of Macavity nominees here.

The opening ceremonies. Fancy!

It was only a little over a year ago that I participated in the New Author breakfasts at mystery conventions. I got up early to support the authors I knew with new books out. Plus, I had my own selfish reason for attending: I learned about several new authors I hadn't previously heard of but who are now on my reading list. (I've already downloaded Andrew Mayne's Angel Killer.) 

New Author Breakfast. Top row: Lisa Alber, Kathy Aarons, Annette Dashofy.
Bottom row: Tracy Weber, Ray Daniel, Sybil Johnson.

Appearing on the Locked Room Mysteries panel was a treat both because of the line-up (Jeffery Deaver's The Vanished Man is absolutely brilliant, and Marv Lachman's Heirs of Anthony Boucher makes him the resident Bouchercon historian) and because the subject is dear to my heart. I've always thought I was rather old-fashioned because I love locked room "impossible crime" stories that were most popular during the Golden Age of detective fiction between the two world wars, but I learned that I'm not alone! The audience was packed with well over 100 people of all ages. (I'll do a separate post on what we talked about, because otherwise I'd go on forever.)

On the Locked Room Mysteries panel with Marv Lachman, Janet Dawson,
Bill Gottfried (our moderator), Jeffery Deaver, and Laurie King.

With Jeffery Deaver, who in addition to writing brilliant books is the nicest guy.

Mystery conventions often raise money for local literacy charities through a silent auction and a live auction. Dozens of authors contributed to the auctions that raised money for the Long Beach Public Library Foundation and WriteGirl. Camille Minichino donated this hand-made miniature (check out all the miniature mystery novels!). I donated a Pirate Vishnu-themed treasure chest filled with San Francisco chocolates and a signed hardcover edition of the book.


Top: Camille Minichino's mystery miniature.
Bottom: my Pirate Vishnu treasure chest.

Conventions are always a combination of meeting new friends and catching up with old ones I don't see often enough. Diane Vallere and Kendel Lynn have been two of my stalwart writer pals since early in this journey. Sadly they don't live locally, but happily we all love attending mystery cons.

With Diane Vallere and Kendel Lynn. 

And then there are some people who feel like old friends as soon as you meet them. Steve Steinbock, who writes a regular column for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, is one of those people.

With Steve Steinbock.

Since there are far too many great books and far too little time, of the ways I decide which classic mysteries to read is by listening to Les Blatt's Classic Mysteries Podcasts, so it was nice to catch up with him in person.

With Les Blatt, who runs the excellent Classic Mysteries website. 

The Sisters in Crime breakfast was extra special this year because it included the presentation of the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award to Maria Kelson. I served on the committee that read through many outstanding applications. Maria's rose to the top, and I can't wait to see her book in print.

Eleanor Taylor Bland grant-winner Maria Kelson.

With Frankie Bailey and grant-winner Maria Kelson.

Laura DiSilverio handing over the Sisters in Crime presidency to Catriona McPherson.

I didn't remember to take photos at the Bouchercon Anthology signing, but here's the book. My locked room mystery story "The Haunted Room" appears in the anthology. (If you subscribe to my email newsletter, you may recognize the story from its original incarnation as a Halloween 2013 exclusive gift to newsletter subscribers. The new story is even better thanks to Dana Cameron's editorial guidance.)

The Bouchercon anthology, Murder at the Beach.

UPDATE: Thanks to Tanis Mallow and Rob Brunet, I have these photos from the anthology signing!




The Anthony Awards, named for Anthony Boucher, were given out at Bouchercon at a celebratory event on the last evening of the convention. The lovely Catriona McPherson won an Anthony for As She Left It.

Catriona McPherson with her Anthony Award
and our shared editor Terri Bischoff.

On the last morning of the convention, while not attending panels I camped out in the lobby in hopes of catching up with people I hadn't yet seen over the long weekend. It worked! Though I didn't manage to see everyone on my list (with over 1,600 people in attendance that would have been tough), in addition to two scheduled meetings I ran into several more people I hadn't seen all weekend. I'm glad I kept my own Bouchercon tips in mind, even if it was on the last day! Thanks to chair Ingrid Willis and all the volunteers for a great convention.

View from the Long Beach Hyatt.

Now that I'm home, I'm incredibly inspired to finish writing my latest mystery. If only I could pull myself away from all of these great new books.... Wish me luck. I'm going to need it.

Book Deadlines & Bouchercon

Yesterday I gave a draft of my latest novel to my critique readers (woo-hoo!), and tomorrow I head to Bouchercon to hang out with mystery readers and writers. I already shared my 5 Tips for Getting the Most out of Bouchercon, so I'm just popping in to share my schedule.

Surrounded by notes of all kinds as I wrapped up a draft.

Here's what I'm up to at the convention: 
  • Thursday, Nov 13 at 8:30am: “Author Speed Dating” breakfast, table hopping to chat with readers.
  • Thursday, Nov 13 at 1pm: Panel & Signing, Murder in a Locked Room, along with Bill Gottfried (Moderating), Janet Dawson, Jeffery Deaver, Marvin Lackman, and Laurie King.
  • Friday, Nov 14 at 11am: Signing Advance Reader Copies of The Accidental Alchemist at the Midnight Ink table.
  • Saturday, Nov 15 at 12:30pm: Bouchercon Anthology Book Launch & Signing.
Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention.

My short story “The Haunted Room” appears in the Bouchercon mystery anthology, released this month.

The Bouchercon 2014 short story anthology.
 Now I'm off to finish packing!