Tuesday, March 17, 2015

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!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

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

Thursday, March 5, 2015

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! 
 

Monday, February 2, 2015

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. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

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!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Accidental Alchemist Book Launch Party Photos

A recap of the book launch party through 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!