Help Me Pick a Title for Jaya Jones Book 3!

Would you like to appear in Jaya Jones Book 3 as a tourist at the Louvre in Paris?   

Here's how you can make that happen:

I need a title for Jaya's next adventure in France, coming from Henery Press in March 2015. While I love coming up with twisty-turny puzzle plots, titles often elude me!

Send me your title ideas by July 1, 2014. If your title is selected, you can appear in the novel as a tourist at the Louvre in Paris. (Or you can simply be thanked in the acknowledgements, if you'd prefer.)

You can send me an email at gigi [at], or leave a comment below.

Here's what the book is about:

Jaya's latest quest for a treasure from colonial India takes her to places she's never been—including the wrong side of the law during an art heist!

A clue about the French East India Company sends Jaya from her university in San Francisco to the Louvre in Paris, the quicksand-surrounded castle monastery of Mont Saint-Michel, and the park of fantastical mechanized creatures at Les Machines de L'ile.

To extricate herself from the clutches of a devious con man, Jaya seeks the help of her sort-of boyfriend Lane Peters who's being pulled back into his old life, librarian Tamarind Ortega, her best friend Sanjay Rai (aka The Hindi Houdini), and a 90-year-old stage magician.

15 Days in France

I kicked off my sabbatical with 15 days in France. I wasn't playing hooky from my 100 days of being a full-time writer. True, I'm definitely still in post-cancer seize-the-day mode. But in addition to being a fun vacation, the trip also served a practical purpose as part of my sabbatical: it was a research trip for two books I'm working on right now.

Jaya Jones Book 3 takes Jaya to several destinations in France, a country she's never been to before. And in The Accidental Alchemist, the first book in my new mystery series, American-born Zoe Faust lived in Paris for many years before ending up in Portland, Oregon, and her sidekick Dorian the gargoyle is from Paris. (Dorian is related to my stuffed animal gargoyle Dori, who stowed away in my luggage on this trip.)

While my critique partners are reading a draft of The Accidental Alchemist this month, I'm writing the next Jaya Jones book for NaNoWriMo. I finished an outline for the book over the summer, so this trip was exactly what I needed to fill in some details and get inspired to dive into the book. Here are a few highlights from the trip.

Les Machines de l'ile of Nantes

The old shipping warehouses of this port city along the Loire have been converted into a mechanical wonderland based on Jules Verne and Leonardo da Vinci.

Les Machines de l'ile (The Machines of the Isle) includes amazing creations including the Great Elephant that roams the park, and a carousel straight out of a fantasy novel. If you're into the steampunk aesthetic, you'd love this place. I'd never been here before, but after I stumbled across it last year when researching France, I knew that I wanted to visit and that it had a part to play in the next Jaya book. 

The Great Elephant at Les Machines de l'ile in Nantes, France.

A sign warns people to watch their children while the Great Elephant roams.

Clisson Castle

No trip to Europe would be complete without a day trip to castle ruins. Clisson is a medieval town not far from Nantes with a wonderful castle. 

Dori the gargoyle exploring Clisson Castle.

Clisson Castle.

Mont Saint Michel

When we arrived at Mont Saint Michel, the small island off the coast of Normandy, it was Halloween and a storm was approaching. That made for an amazing Halloween to explore the cobblestone streets and ramparts as the clouds rolled in.

Mont Saint Michel with a storm approaching.

The storm also gave me a perfect opportunity to kick off National Novel Writing Month on November 1 while sitting inside a cozy hotel room with my paper notebook while the storm raged outside. Our hotel room was a converted fisherman's cottage high on the mount, overlooking the quickly-rising tides. 

View from the hotel room, overlooking low tide in the Mont Saint Michel Bay.

I first visited Mont Saint Michel when I was backpacking after college and I knew I wanted to return. It's such an amazing place full of history and mystery that it's going to get blog posts of its own -- not to mention being an important part of the book! (One of my favorite mysteries, Old Bones by Aaron Elkins, also has two scenes at Mont Saint Michel.)

Mont Saint Michel on a foggy Halloween night.

Exploring the Mont Saint Michel Abbey.


Eating out in France is fun, even for someone like me who gave up meat. I enjoyed many meals before we got to Paris, but it was wonderful to rent an apartment and do some cooking! I love going to the markets in foreign countries to try new things that aren't available at home. The shallots in France are heavenly and my favorite snack was chocolate-covered rice cakes.

The Louvre is in the new Jaya book, so I visited twice, once during the day and once at night. Nothing as dramatic happened as when I visited in 1998, but it still provided much inspiration.

The Louvre at sunset.

The Musee D'Orsay.

I stopped by to visit my old friends at Notre Dame.

Dori the Gargoyle Exploring Paris 

My stowaway Dori had fun, too. (Dori is distantly related to Dorian, the gargoyle in The Accidental Alchemist, but Dori is much fluffier.)

Dori the gargoyle at the Eiffel Tower.

Dori the gargoyle at Notre Dame.

Dori the gargoyle exploring the Marais neighborhood.

Dori hiding out in my luggage.

Time to get back to work on those books the trip inspired!

Night Train from Prague to Paris

Vyšehrad, Prague.
I returned a few days ago from my celebratory post-cancer-treatment trip to Prague and Paris. Now I'm jet-lagged and broke, but it was worth it! Highlights below.

Related posts: I'm posting artsy mysterious photos from the trip over at the Gargoyle Girl photography blog on Mondays for the next several weeks. I'm also writing up a separate blog post about delicious healthy eating options in Prague and Paris for cancer survivors, vegetarians, and others with food restrictions—coming next week.


We flew into Prague. I had been to the city once before, for only two days right after college. I had always wanted to go back, but at the same time I wasn't sure if my memories had romanticized the city. Was it possible it wouldn't be as intriguing as I imagined? I'm happy to report it was even better than I expected. The sites, the people, the food, the gorgeous architecture... The whole vibe of the city was wonderful. If Czech wasn't such a difficult language to learn, I would be very tempted to spend a sabbatical living in Prague.

Views of Prague from the Klementinum (National Library) Tower.

Whenever I travel to a country where English isn't the primary language, I try to learn at least a few words of the language, both to communicate and to be respectful of the fact that the world is a lot bigger than my home country. Czech was more difficult than I expected, but by the end of the week I had about a dozen key phrases down. The problem? Unlike the French, who often switch to English upon hearing my accent, the lovely Czech people were so happy I was speaking Czech that they'd try to keep speaking to me in Czech! I had no trouble finding English-speakers, though. It's true that most young people speak English. But I did use "mluvite anglicky" ("do you speak English") quite a bit once we left the touristy center of the city. 

We spent nearly a week exploring the city and surrounding areas. After visiting the requisite sites—e.g. Old Town Square with the amazing clock tower, the hidden underground level of the city, and the Prague Castle complex that includes the towering St. Vitus Cathedral covered in gargoyles—we headed further afield, including hiking down to the old fortress ruins at Vyšehrad and checking out some alchemy sites for the mystery novel I'm currently writing.

Views of St. Vitus Cathedral in the Prague Castle complex.

The Vltava River, from Vyšehrad.

Astronomical clock tower in Old Town Square.


From Prague, we caught a City Night Line train into France. The train station deserves a blog post of its own, if not a whole mystery novel, so for now I'll just say that it's fascinating how different the old northern train station is from the new main train station. I'm pretty sure we were either in a Twilight Zone or Doctor Who alternate reality. But the train still showed up, and a wonderful porter got us set up in our sleeper car at the very end of the train. He explained that the train would be split up in Germany during the night, with destinations in Germany, Switzerland, and France.

On the sleeper car, I felt like we were in an Agatha Christie novel! (However, no jewel thefts or murders took place on the train ride. As the husband had to remind me, that was a good thing.) We spent the evening watching the scenery go by.

Autumn in Paris: Luxembourg Gardens.

We stayed at a hotel in the Marais neighborhood (4th Arrondissement), the perfect central location for leisurely walks with frequent breaks at cafes that provided excellent coffee and even better people-watching. I love the presentation of coffee in Europe, where elegant little trays that give you everything you could need for your coffee, including a tiny chocolate.

Cafes in Prague and Paris. Below, Mama Coffee in Prague, full of laptop-users; Les Deux Magots in Paris, with an interesting literary history; one of many random street cafes where all the seats face outward for blatant people-watching.

Street art in the Marais.

Since I've spent a lot of time in Paris before, this trip was for relaxing more than sightseeing, but we did wait in line at Notre Dame to climb the 387 steps to see my favorite gargoyles.

With the gargoyles at Notre Dame.

This post is long enough, so I'll stop now and you can catch more photos at Gargoyle Girl!


Prague & Paris (Plus a Goodreads Giveaway)

Rather than doing daily blog posts here, I'm going to be posting lots of photos from my upcoming trip to Prague and Paris on Twitter.

I've only been to Prague briefly before, but it was such a mysterious city that I have some ideas for research for my next mystery...

And for those of you on Goodreads: Up until October 24th you can enter to win a copy of Other People's Baggage, the collection of three mystery novella's including Fool's Gold, a prequel to Artifact