Left Coast Crime

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!

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.


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!

What's Your Publishing Personality?

Last month I attended Left Coast Crime, and I've been thinking more about an interesting discussion that took place during one of the convention panels I was on, Alternative Paths to Publication.

The focus of this panel was the ups and downs of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. The five of us on the panel had each published both ways. Chuck Rosenberg and I started our writing careers self-publishing and moved to traditional publishing contracts, whereas Cindy Sample, Claire Johnson, and Barbara Hodges are currently self-publishing after previously having publishers. (If you're reading this blog, I'm guessing you already know my story and how it evolved -- if not, you can click those links.)

Left Coast Crime Alternative Paths to Publication panel:
Gigi Pandian, Cindy Sample, Claire Johnson,
Barbara M. Hodges, and Chuck Rosenberg. 
An interesting theme emerged in our panel discussion: much more than our situations, it was our personalities shaped how we felt about being involved in different aspects of publishing.

It wasn't simply a matter of each of us assessing our goals to decide what type of publishing was best for us (though goals are still  important). Instead, regardless of what we each wanted to get out of publishing, it was the way in which we approached tasks that mattered most.

Cindy and I were the starkest examples. Where she absolutely loves being responsible for every last aspect of producing her books, I hated that part of publishing when I was doing it.

Now that much of the stigma of self-publishing is gone, what remains is authors making the right choice for their own circumstances--but a lot of that "right choice" has to do with what a person enjoys doing on a daily basis.

I could never be as successful as Cindy at self-publishing for a gazillion little reasons, all of which have to do with control and responsibility ("control" being the positive spin on "you're-responsible-for-every-single-thing"). Cindy is currently responsible for every aspect of producing her books, just like I was when I formed Gargoyle Girl Productions to publish Artifact in 2012. I learned so much about publishing by being my own publisher, and for that I'm thankful. But I learned even more about myself. Sure, it can be great to have control over exactly what your cover looks like; but it also means you're responsible for making that vision happen, including all the little details you never imagined were part of producing a cover. I learned that I'm not someone who enjoys being in control of the never-ending list of tasks associated with producing a book--I want to focus on writing the next one!

Artifact's book covers:
Gargoyle Girl Productions (left),
Henery Press (right).
I'm an incredibly organized person, but that wasn't enough. A comprehensive list with due dates is no good if you procrastinate on the tasks you don't want to do--and procrastinating was what I did with 90% of the things that had to be done. It didn't matter that I had the skills to pull of being my own publisher. What mattered was that because I didn't enjoy the non-creative side of the writing business, the mental drain was hurting my writing. You bet I jumped at the chance to work with Henery Press and Midnight Ink.

I should note that it's true authors often bemoan the fact that they need to publicize their books in addition to writing them, but the promotion you do as an author with a publisher backing you is nowhere near the amount you need to do without a publisher behind you.

There are many resources for writers considering what type of publishing is best for them, and the times are changing quickly, so I'm not going to go over nuts and bolts of either type of publishing in this post. Instead, I'll leave you with the best advice I gave give you: be true to yourself, and the right answer will emerge.

I'm getting ready for Malice Domestic, where I'm looking forward to many fascinating conversations with readers and writers over the long weekend. If you'll be there, be sure to say hello!


Left Coast Crime 2014: Photos from Monterey

I'm back from Left Coast Crime, feeling incredibly inspired by all the mystery readers and writers I talked with and heard speak over the long weekend. Here are some highlights:

Sophie Littlefield was a saint and got up before dawn to drive to Monterey with me in time for my Thursday morning panel, Leap of Faith: Writers Who Took Alternative Paths to Publication.

Here I am with fellow panelists Cindy Sample, Claire Johnson, Barbara M. Hodges, and Chuck Rosenberg (a fantastic moderator). We each had a completely different story about our path to publication, so it was a lot of fun to discuss our varied experiences.

Juliet Blackwell and Sophie Littlefield at dinner. 

 New pal Tracy Weber talking about her debut novel at the New Author Breakfast.

Coffee with the Dana Kaye crew: Sophie Littlefield, Ray Daniel, and Lynne Raimondo.

Mysti Berry at the San Francisco mysteries panel, with moderator Randal Brandt, a librarian at the UC Berkeley Bancroft Library who keeps a bibliography of mysteries set in the San Francisco Bary Area.

An impromptu "Noir at the Bar."

 Hanging out with the MacRae siblings, Andy and Molly, both of whom write mysteries!

 Catching up with short story writer Pat Morin between her volunteer duties.

 Henery Press authors at LCC: me, Susan Boyer, Diane Vallere, and Kendel Lynn.

Wonderful to meet my new Midnight Ink editor, Terri Bischoff, in person. I'm incredibly blessed to be working with such awesome editors.

 Running into one of my literary idols, Aaron Elkins.
I still have to pinch myself that this is my life. Two years ago, Aaron graciously read my first novel, before we'd ever met and before I was published. He ended up loving it and giving it an amazing blurb, which made me feel like I'd made it as an author before I even had a book out. We met for the first time when he was being honored at Malice Domestic last year, and now that I know him it's even more fun to see him.

With fellow panelists of Mystery Far Afield: Anne Cleeland, Lisa Alber, Aileen Baron, and moderator Jeffrey Siger (who I want to pack in my suitcase to be my moderator at all conventions). Very cool to be on a panel with pal Lisa, whose first book Kilmoon came out just this week!

With Lisa Alber at our signing.

 Hanging out with fellow Guppies Donnell Bell, Susan Boyer, and Leslie Karst.

Portland pals Holly Franko, Cindy Brown, and Lisa Alber.

 At the banquet dinner with Fan Guest of Honor Sue Trowbridge.

 I was having such a good time that it was difficult to take a break and head out of the hotel, but I'm glad I did. On a waterfront walk, I got to stretch my legs and see dozens of sea lions like these two.

In spite of several days of not enough sleep, the convention left me energized. I've got one week until a draft of Jaya Book 3 is due to my editor, so it's time to get back to work!

Left Coast Crime, Here I Come

From March 20 - 23 I'll be in Monterey for Left Coast Crime, the West Coast's annual mystery convention that bounces to a different location each year.

If you'll be there, you can catch me on two panels:

Thursday, March 20
10:45 a.m.
Leap of Faith: Writers Who Took Alternative Paths to Publication
With Charles Rosenberg, Barbara Hodges, Claire Johnson, and Cindy Sample

Saturday, March 22
9 a.m.
Mystery Far Afield
With Jeffrey Siger, Lisa Alber, Aileen Baron, and Anne Cleeland

I didn't do an official book tour for Pirate Vishnu after the book came out last month, but after the book launch party I had the opportunity to do three joint events with friends. And you know what? I'm now completely convinced that doing joint events with friends is the way to go. It's not only that we can draw a bigger audience and help readers discover other books we love--it's the fact that it's so much more fun. In our interactions with each other, we chat about things that are entertaining for both ourselves and the audience.

With Sophie Littlefield and Rachael Herron at Read Booksellers in Danville.

With Terry Shames at Orinda Books.

With Juliet Blackwell and Penny Warner at the
Alta Mira Scholarship Tea in San Leandro.

Photos from Left Coast Crime 2013 in Colorado Springs

After nearly getting snowed in, I'm back from Colorado Springs, where I attended the Left Coast Crime mystery convention. I've been attending mystery conventions for a few years now, and it's always inspiring to hang out with fellow mystery writers and readers. It's especially cool this year to have a book out, because I got to meet readers who've enjoyed Artifact. So much fun!

Here are some highlights:

The New Author Breakfast. Author Mike Befeler generously runs the author breakfasts, where new and established authors talk to readers about their latest books. At the New Author Breakfast, Mike introduced the roughly twenty debut authors in attendance. On California time, it's always a bit of a challenge to get up for 7:30 a.m. breakfasts, so I'm not sure how coherent I was when talking about Artifact, but I discovered lots of new writers I want to check out!
Gigi Pandian & Mike Befeler.

A Concealed Weapons Fashion Show. This was such a fun idea. A group of writers dressed up as mystery characters and walked down the catwalk. The audience was supposed to guess where they were hiding weapons, then the participants pulled out their hidden weapons.
The Concealed Weapons Fashion Show included
Brad Parks as 007 and Rhys Bowen as her character Lady Georgie.

Panels and Pals. We had a great group on the Occupations to Die For panel. Tammy Kaehler writes about a race car driver, Ellen Byerrum is a reporter and writes about one, Patricia Wood has an FBI agent character, and Naomi Hirahara writes about a Japanese-American gardener plus has a new series coming out with a 22-year-old female bicycle cop. This was one of those panels where we could have gone on and on chatting about how our various characters solve mysteries.
Naoimi Hirahara, Ellen Byerrum, Gigi Pandian, Tammy Kaehler, Patricia Wood. 

Here's Susan Shea with Terry Shames, both pals from my Northern California Sisters in Crime chapter, at the SinC table in the book room. Susan moderated the other panel I was on, Literary Inspirations for Traditional Mysteries. Any time I get to talk about the Golden Age of detective fiction is a good time!
Susan Shea and Terry Shames at the SinC table.

One of the reasons I love attending conventions is because it's possible to make the most wonderful connections that never would never happen if we all stayed in our writing cubby holes. I met author Deb Ledford when she and I were on a panel together last year. Here's Deb with my NorCal pal Mysti Berry.
Mysti Berry & Deb Ledford.

Author Interviews. One of the guests of honor at the convention was author Craig Johnson, who writes the Longmire mystery series that's now an A&E TV show. Lou Diamond Phillips is a big fan of the books, so he asked to audition for the TV show (he plays Henry Standing Bear). His flight was delayed for most of the day due to the snow storm, but he stuck it out so he could be there to do the interview with Craig Johnson.
Lou Diamond Phillips interviewing author Craig Johnson.

Fan Guest of Honor. Tom Schantz of Rue Morgue Press was the fan guest of honor. Rue Morgue Press (which takes its name from the Edgar Allan Poe story that's credited with being the first mystery story) brings classic mystery novels back into print. Since I love reading Golden Age mysteries, I think it's so cool that they do this.
Tom Schantz of Rue Morgue Press.

The book room. My bag was much heavier when I left Colorado, because it was stuffed full of books. Don and Jenn from Scene of the Crime, booksellers in the book room, have been really supportive of me as a new author — and they also tempt me with lots of books I want to buy... Here they are with Ingrid Willis, who's organizing Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, California.
Don and Jenn Longmuir from Scene of the Crime books, with Ingrid Willis.

Getting outside. Though it's tempting to feel like you're missing out back at the convention hotel, taking short breaks is essential. I spent a couple of hours with Mysti Berry at the Garden of the Gods.

Garden of the Gods, near Colorado Springs.

At Garden of the Gods.

Snow! On Saturday, a big storm blew in. I was relieved I'd gone on an excursion the day before and that my flight wasn't until the following day.

Attendees voted for the Left Coast Crime awards. Winners were announced at the banquet:
  • Catriona McPherson won the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery award for Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder
  • Rochelle Staab won the Watson (best side-kick) for Bruja Brouhaha
  • Craig Johnson won the Rocky (best novel with a western setting) for As the Crow Flies
  • Brad Parks won the Lefty (best humorous mystery) for The Girl Next Door

Lastly, here's Toby and Bill Gottfried at the table with information about next year's Left Coast Crime. "Calamari Crime" takes place in Monterey, California, March 20 - 23, 2014. I'll be there!

Toby and Bill Gottfried, organizing next year's Left Coast Crime.

Done With Revisions: PIRATE VISHNU Comes Out September 3, 2013

Gigi Pandian post-chemo hair, March 2013
Gigi's post-chemo hair, March 2013. 
Revisions inevitably take longer than anticipated. For me, it tends to take me about twice as long as I estimate. Since I've learned a thing or two over the last few years, I doubled the time I thought I needed to finish revising Pirate Vishnu: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery. 

It worked! I made my deadline!

I sent off the manuscript to my copy editor over the weekend. Advance Reader Copies will be out in May, and the novel will be published September 3, 2013.

Now it's time to relax and have some fun! Well, perhaps I'd better clean my house, too... After ignoring housework while finishing these revisions, the house is a bit of a disaster area, especially my study. But even though I neglected housework while finishing the book, I remembered to take photos of my hair growing out. Here's the latest one.

Later this week I'm heading to Colorado Springs for Left Coast Crime. I'll be on two panels at the mystery convention. If you'll be there, please find me and say hello!

Literary Inspirations for Traditional Mysteries
Friday, March 22 at 9 a.m.
With panelists: Sara J. Henry, Charlotte Hinger, Christopher Lord, Susan Shea, and Mary Vensel White

Occupations to Die For
Saturday, March 23 at 11 a.m.
With panelists: Ellen Byerrum, Naoimi Hirahara, Tammy Kaehler, and Patricia Wood

Here's a tiny teaser of the new book I just turned in. More details will follow in April, along with the book cover.

Pirate Vishnu: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery

A century-old treasure map of San Francisco.
A sacred treasure from India.
Two murders, a century apart. 

Historian Jaya Jones has her work cut out for her. 

Highlights from Left Coast Crime 2012

I'm back from Left Coast Crime, a fantastic convention for mystery fans. I caught the Amtrak Capitol Corridor train up to Sacramento, rather than driving, which was a great start to the long weekend. I spent the hour-and-a-half train trip writing down ideas for a novella.

In addition to attending panel discussions on entertaining topics, one of my favorite things about mystery conventions is the combination of being able to catch up with old friends and meet so many interesting new people. Left Coast Crime 2012 was no exception. Here are a few of my highlights. 

The Guppy lunch: A dozen of us from the Sisters in Crime Guppies Chapter got together for lunch on Friday. I'd previously met only a few of the Guppies who attended the luncheon, so it was wonderful to meet several writers I'd previously known online.

Sisters in Crime Guppies lunch at LCC 2012.

Moderating a panel: I moderated a panel on short stories with authors Tim Wohlforth, Richard LupoffDeborah Ledford, and Jack Erickson. My only complaint was that the session was too short! We only had 45 minutes, and we were having such a great discussion that I didn't have a chance to ask everything I wanted to. The room was packed, and I was happy to see so many people interested in short stories, a form I love.

Moderating a short story panel.

Attending panels: I learned a lot at the e-publishing presentation by Elle Lothlorien, who's had great success self-publishing her romantic comedy novel The Frog Prince. On the publicity and social media panel, I was happy to see the panelists shared my philosophy that since you can't do all social media (at least not if you ever want to sleep), you should chose the aspects that are fun for you, and those are the things you'll do well at because you're genuine and you'll stick with them. It was also inspiring to attend the panel with the debut novelists nominated for Best First Novel; their enthusiasm was catching.

Hanging out at the bar: Since one of the best things about mystery conventions is getting to know other mystery writers and readers, a lot of socializing happens over coffee in the hospitality suite or drinks at the bar. I was slightly apprehensive about socializing post-cancer, since I'm doing my whole healthy eating and drinking thing. However, I needn't have worried. I was so busy talking with fascinating people that I didn't miss my old habits. I was also so caught up in the moment that I didn't take many photos (but Sophie Littlefield posted many more photos here).

Hanging out with old and new friends.

Celebratory Saturday night: Along with my roommates Sophie Littlefield and Juliet Blackwell, I dressed up for the awards banquet on Saturday night. Two members of my local NorCal Sisters in Crime chapter won awards: Kelli Stanley was awarded the Golden Nugget and Ann Parker won the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery award.

Dressed up for the banquet with Juliet Blackwell and Sophie Littlefield.

When it was time to leave on Sunday morning, I had a tough time packing since I'd bought so many books! 

I can't resist ending with a view of the dramatic clouds outside our hotel room window.