Tuesday, November 18, 2014

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.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

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!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tea with Amelia Peabody: A Tribute to Elizabeth Peters

I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth Peters, so I was incredibly happy to see that the Northern California Chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt was planning an event celebrating Elizabeth Peters and her indomitable heroine Amelia Peabody, the Victorian era Egyptologist in 19 of Peters' mystery novels.

A few dozen fans and scholars gathered on Sunday afternoon for a lovely tea, similar to what Amelia would have been served at Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo. Following the tea service, several scholars gave short lectures on the real-life stories behind the books. In addition, there was a costume contest for the guests who dressed as characters from the books (I did not, but about half of the guests did!).




"Gummy Mummy"


Slide from one of the lectures,
speculating about the real life model for the character Emerson.


A look at the setting of Crocodile on the Sandbank,
Amelia Peabody Book 1. 


More fun with background from the books. 


Guests in costume, with the resident Mummy. 



Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween in Hardcover!

For the past month I've been so focused on finishing my latest novel that I neglected to blog about the exciting news that the Jaya Jones treasure hunt mystery series is now available in hardcover!

Henery Press is still publishing all the titles in their original trade paperback format (as well as in all eBook formats), but these hardcover editions are an additional buying option. They're aimed at libraries in particular, since hardcover books last the longest in circulation. If your local library doesn't yet have copies of my books, you can request the hardcover editions.

The Jaya Jones treasure hunt mystery series in hardcover.
"Fool's Gold" (prequel novella in OTHER PEOPLE'S BAGGAGE),
ARTIFACT (#1), and PIRATE VISHNU (#2).

As the Henery Press office sorted through the new hardcovers, one staffer commented on Facebook: "They look SO LOVELY!! I keep walking by and touching them. (so yes, when the authors get them, they'll be all fingerprinty and if used in a murder, I'll be a suspect.)"

The Henery Press office, taking stock of the beautiful new hardcover books!

Now for my dilemma. When my writers group formed in 2009, only one of us had books out. I started a single shelf on my bookshelf (the top shelf of one of my biggest bookshelves) devoted to books by members of my writers group. Earlier this year, the shelf filled up! Where am I going to put all of our new books?

My writers group shelf that ran out of room last spring.

Perhaps this lovely, rainy Halloween will inspire me to reorganize my bookshelves... 



Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Book Cover for Quicksand (Jaya Jones Book 3)

Here's the fantastic book cover the Henery Press team created for the third Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery:

http://henerypress.com/books-humorous-mystery-series-book/quicksand/

I love how the new cover is perfectly suited to the new story (isn't the illustration of Mont Saint-Michel gorgeous?) but also has the same style as the first two books in the series.



Here's a teaser from the Henery Press email blast that went out this morning:

Art Thieves & Adventure

Take a trip to Paris this spring where you'll find an art thief, a con man, and an ancient treasure. (Along with a page-turning love triangle!) QUICKSAND, the third Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery, has it all. Look for the next big adventure when it releases March 10, 2015!

QUICKSAND: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery
http://henerypress.com/books-humorous-mystery-series-book/quicksand/
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.




Monday, September 22, 2014

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, Sept. 21-27, 2014

Each year, Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read. Launched in 1982 in response to an increasing number of challenges to books, Banned Books Week shines a light on the shocking number of books that are still being censored in the United States.

I'm an author who writes pretty inoffensive books and stories. Family-friendly adventure mysteries with no graphic violence, sex, or swearing (at least not stronger than the occasional "damn"). So why should I care about Banned Books Week? 

First, books as seemingly unobjectionable as A Light in the Attic have been banned. Really? A Light in the Attic? That's one of my favorite books from my childhood. I can still recite many of those wonderful poems off the top of my head. ("Batty" is perhaps my favorite.)

Here are two posters from the ACLU that illustrate the wide range of books that have been banned in the United States.




If A Light in the Attic is being banned, what else is being censored? Those posters capture only a small sampling. There are more.

Second, anything that infringes on freedom of speech is frightening. Free speech and freedom of ideas are core values of this country. Censorship isn't the answer to objectionable books. Nobody is holding a gun to your head to force you to read a certain book. At least I hope they're not. If they are, your real life story will never make its way into one of my lighthearted mystery novels. 

Third, if such a wide range of books are objectionable to someone, somewhere, what comes next? As a mystery novelist, I use some rather interesting research materials, as you can see in the photo of my bookshelf, below. Facts and ideas aren't poisonous. Like anything in life, it's what we do with them. 

My free speech water bottle on a bookshelf with research books for writing mysteries.


Therefore, as both a reader and a writer, censorship troubles me. But luckily, I'm not alone. 

The American Library Associate has a policy of not banning books from libraries. It's parents who should be involved in figuring out what's appropriate for their children, not the state. And once we're adults, we should have the freedom to choose what we want to read. 

As the Supreme Court stated: "If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable." --Justice Brennan, Texas v. Johnson.

This week, the ACLU of Northern California will be running a series of blog posts on their website that explore the history of banned books along with personal stories. 

I love that there are organizations like the ACLU that defend freedom of speech and the freedom to read. 

--Gigi

Friday, September 19, 2014

Talk Like A Pirate Day

Ahoy! September 19 is "Talk Like A Pirate Day."

Yes, it's a real day! Sort of. As the official website says, "a goofy idea celebrated by a handful of friends has turned into an international phenomenon that shows no sign of letting up." In addition to a virtual presence, people organize everything from fundraisers to pub crawls in honor of the day.

It's true I love fictional pirates, as evidenced by my mystery novel Pirate Vishnu. But that's not the reason I find Talk Like A Pirate Day so fascinating. I think it's so great because it was a small idea shared by a few passionate friends, but it spiraled into something much larger than they ever imagined.


A similar thing happened with National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo.

In 1999, twenty one friends got together in the San Francisco Bay Area. They had no grand ambitions that first year, and were shocked with what they accomplished.

Year two: A friend set up a website, more than 100 people signed up, and they threw a "Thank God It's Over" party at the end of the month.

In year three, they expected maybe a couple hundred people to sign up. Five thousand did.

(You can read the full NaNoWriMo history here.)

I discovered NaNoWriMo in their sixth year, and signed up along with 40,000 others. Not everyone finished a 50,000-word novel that month, but I did.

Because of the random idea of a few friends who wanted to try something crazy, I completed my first novel. If it hadn't been for them, I might not have pushed through to finish a full draft of a novel. The first draft of a first novel is the hardest thing to complete, because it's before a writer knows if they can pull it off. Writing a first novel is a crazy endeavor. But thanks to those crazy friends, I learned that I could do it--and that it was fun.

So thank you to all the friends out there who are cooking up zany plans in their living rooms. I look forward to hearing about your creations.

Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day!