The Accidental Alchemist

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.



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. 

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!

My First Audio Book Sale!

I signed the contract last week and the announcement went out in yesterday's Publishers Lunch, so it's official: I've signed my first audio book contract! In addition to The Accidental Alchemist hitting bookstore shelves and eReaders in January, it will now also be an audio book. Special thanks to the Sisters in Crime Guppies for spotting the announcement. Thanks for all the congratulations yesterday!





The Accidental Alchemist: a gorgeous book cover, plus Alchemist mugs

My next book, The Accidental Alchemist, comes out in January, 2015. This month, the fun has already begun -- check out the gorgeous book cover! 

The Accidental Alchemist is the first book in a new series, and I'm working with a new publisher (Midnight Ink), so I didn't know what to expect. Therefore I was absolutely thrilled when they hired one of my favorite illustrators (Hugh D'Andrade) to design the cover. Isn't it awesome?



Here's the book jacket text:

A modern tale of ancient intrigue from a USA Today bestselling author

When Zoe Faust—herbalist, alchemist, and recent transplant to Portland, Oregon—begins unpacking her bags, she can't help but notice she's picked up a stow away: a living, breathing, three-and-half-foot gargoyle. Dorian Robert-Houdin is no simple automaton, nor is he a homunculus; in fact, he needs Zoe's help to decipher a centuries-old text that explains exactly what he is. Zoe, who's trying to put her alchemical life behind her, isn't so sure she can help. But after a murder victim is discovered on her front porch, Zoe realized she's tangled up in ancient intrigue that can't be ignored. Includes recipes!

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


I was so excited to see the beautifully illustrated cover that I knew I had to do something cool with it. The book is now available to pre-order, so I decided to make mugs -- and give everyone who orders the book a chance to win one!


Each month from now until the end of the year, I’m giving away a mug to someone who has pre-ordered the book. Yup, the earlier you order the book, the more chances you’ll have to win. Simply email me at gigi [at] gigipandian.com to let me know you’ve ordered The Accidental Alchemist, and you’re entered to win a mug.

Pre-order the book:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound
Directly from the publisher, Midnight Ink



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.

Paris

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!

A Three-Book Deal for a New Mystery Series!

I'm thrilled to announce the news that Midnight Ink has acquired my new mystery series in a three-book deal!

The Accidental Alchemist is the first book in a new mystery series about alchemist Zoe Faust and her gargoyle sidekick, Dorian, who was accidentally brought to life by a French stage magician. It's set in Portland, Oregon, but like my Jaya Jones treasure hunt mystery series, this one also involves a lot of history from different parts of the world.

I wrote the first draft of The Accidental Alchemist for NaNoWriMo two years ago, while I was going through chemotherapy. I'm sure I was subconsciously thinking about the Elixir of Life from alchemy as subtext, but what I was consciously writing about were things I felt passionately about: my life-long fascination with gargoyles, my new-found love of cooking, and my passion for twisty puzzle-plot mysteries.

As a kid, I always joked about having a pet gargoyle. It was never going to happen in real life, but why not in fiction? As for cooking, I never thought much about it until my cancer diagnosis. But once I started learning how to cook, I learned how absolutely amazing vegan food can taste and how much fun cooking is! Cooking from scratch has become so much a part of my life that it made its way into this series. So as I craft this complex mystery plot, I'm weaving in my other passions. It's a lot of fun to write -- and once it's out I hope you enjoy the finished product!

Dori the gargoyle with my NaNoWriMo mug filled with a homemade smoothie.