Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Events: Much Better With Friends!

When I decided to throw myself into my writing after the whole stupid cancer thing got my priorities in order, I made a promise to myself that I'd keep it fun, rather than get stressed out by things beyond my control. One of the things authors often worry about is whether or not people will show up for their book signings. Well, I've got a secret to make sure people show up: I do joint events with author pals! It's a great excuse to hang out with friends, and it often brings in a larger group of people to the bookstore.

Last week, I had two such events. First stop, Borderlands Books in San Francisco with Juliet Blackwell and Kate Carlisle. It was an added celebration that day, because Juliet had just hit the New York Times bestseller list with her new book, Vision in Velvet.

Gigi Pandian, Juliet Blackwell, and Kate Carlisle
at Borderlands Books in San Francisco, July  12,2014.
Borderlands manager Jude Feldman
with Juliet Blackwell.

Next stop, Village House of Books in Los Gatos with Sophie Littlefield and Rachael Herron. I'd never been to this bookstore before, but it was just about the cutest store I'd ever visited. It's in a former cottage, so it has a cozy feel, and the owners make great use of space. There's even a treasure chest full of flowers out front.

At Village House of Books.

Sophie Littlefield, Rachael Herron, and Gigi Pandian
at Village House of Books in Los Gatos, July 15, 2014.

Sophie and Rachael.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Bouchercon short story fun: an award nomination & a new anthology

Two bits of exciting short story news to report:

Locked room mystery "The Hindi Houdini" appears in
FISH NETS: The Second Guppy Anthology, published in 2013.
1. My locked room mystery story "The Hindi Houdini" has been nominated for a Macavity AwardThe award is given out by Mystery Readers International at the Bouchercon mystery convention in October.

This is the short story that appears in Fish Nets: The Second Guppy Anthology, and was nominated for an Agatha Award earlier this year. In “The Hindi Houdini,” magician Sanjay Rai, aka The Hindi Houdini, solves a locked room mystery at the Napa Valley winery theater where he performs.

Best Mystery Short Story Macavity Nominees:

  • Reed Farrel Coleman: "The Terminal" (Kwik Krimes, edited by Otto Penzler; Thomas & Mercer)
  • John Connolly: "The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository" (Bibliomysteries: Short Tales about Deadly Books, edited by Otto Penzler; Bookspan)
  • Martin Limon: "The Dragon's Tail" (Nightmare Range: The Collected Sueno and Bascom Short Stories, Soho Books)
  • Gigi Pandian: "The Hindi Houdini" (Fish Nets: The Second Guppy Anthology, edited by Ramona DeFelice Long; Wildside Press)
  • Travis Richardson: "Incident on the 405" (The Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble, edited by Clare Toohey; Macmillan)
  • Art Taylor: "The Care and Feeding of Houseplants" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2013)

2. "The Haunted Room," a Jaya Jones locked room mystery story, will appear in the Bouchercon 2014 Anthology. 

If you subscribe to my email newsletter, you got a sneak peak of an earlier version of "The Haunted Room."

The Bouchercon 2014 anthology will include stories by:

"The Haunted Room" will appear in the
Bouchercon anthology, coming in October 2014.
  • Patricia Abbott
  • Roger R. Angle
  • Craig Faustus Buck
  • Bill Cameron
  • Judith Cutler
  • Ray Daniel
  • Phillip Depoy
  • Sharon Fiffer
  • Delaney Green
  • Eldon Hughes
  • Tanis Mallow
  • Krista Nave
  • Gigi Pandian
Plus Guests of Honor:

  • Jeffery Deaver
  • Edward Marston
  • Al Abramson

Thank you to everyone who congratulated me on social media over the last couple of weeks! I always thought I was rather old fashioned because of my love of impossible crime stories that were quite popular during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, so it's really fun to see that people are enjoying my locked room mysteries.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Writers on Writing: The Writing Process

I’m in the midst of a book deadline, but I'm emerging from my writing cave thanks to Diana Orgain, who tagged me to blog about the writing process. It's a topic I love, because I've found that no two writers follow the same process, and I love hearing about how other people do it. 

What am I working on?

Jaya Jones Book 3 is nearly done! And it’s close to having a title! (Want to help me pick a title? Click here to weigh in.) 

After sending Jaya to Scotland and India, this third book in the series finds Jaya heading 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.

How does my writing differ from others in its genre?

Everything I write tends to be a traditional puzzle-plot mystery that's also a fun, globe-trotting adventure with a touch of romance. In my Jaya Jones series and a new book I'm currently plotting, I also write about multicultural heroines. One of the challenges my agent faced in selling my books was that my work didn't fit neatly into any sub-genre. 

My Elizabeth Peters bookshelf.
Elizabeth Peters is the author who epitomizes this style of story, so it’s always a thrill when my books are compared to hers. If you enjoy my books and you haven't read Elizabeth Peters, you must read her books. I hope to one day be as good a storyteller as she was.

I'm sometimes dubbed a cozy mystery writer, because of the lighthearted and humorous tone in my books, and the fact that the books are family-friendly without gratuitous sex, violence, or bad language. 

Why do I write what I do?

My first trip to Scotland.
I grew up traveling around the world starting at a young age, and I fell in love with travel from my very first trip abroad to Scotland at age 10. By writing adventures that bring my American characters to different countries, I'm able to bring my love of travel and a multicultural world to the twisty twisty puzzle mysteries I enjoy.

I’ve loved Elizabeth Peters’ mystery novels since I was a teenager, so when I began toying around with writing, I knew that's the type of story I wanted to write. There’s something about the combination of international adventure, mystery, and romance in her books that strikes just the right note with me. Her books are my comfort food – the books I go to when I've had a bad day and want to curl up on the couch with a book that will make me smile regardless of what's going on around me.

How does my writing process work?

Before I turn to the computer, I do my plotting in a notebook on the train. I have a 25-minute train ride to and from work, which is the perfect amount of time to jot down ideas. I don't know what it is that makes trains so conducive to creativity, but I'm a believer.

Brainstorming on paper before sitting down at a computer is an integral part of my process. Sometimes ideas takes years to germinate, and sometimes they come together more quickly, but the idea is the same. As a visual, tactile learner, I need to make notes and sketches in a physical notebook.

When it comes to the actual writing, I write in intensive bursts. It's for that reason that I love National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, the challenge in which you agree to write a 50,000-word rough draft of a novel in a month. Writing in this manner is a great way to let go of your inner editor and let the story flow out of you. The words can be fixed later. But only if they're there on paper to begin with.

At a writer-friendly cafe in Berkeley. 
I write not at home but at cafes. At home, there are too many distractions calling to me. At a cafe, I can park myself in a chair across the table from a fellow writer, drink lots of good coffee, not turn on the Internet, and write for a few hours. 

I’m now alternating between two mystery series: the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series (Henery Press), and the Accidental Alchemist mysteries (Midnight Ink). That's something I didn’t anticipate doing, but it’s turning out to be awesome for my writing process. I don’t work on the two series simultaneously, but instead switch back and forth each time I get to the end of a certain phase of each book – e.g. when I’m done with an outline for a book, I’ll set it aside and work on something different, then go back to it with fresh eyes. After I turn in Jaya Jones Book 3 to my Henery Press editor in early July, I'll take a week off, then dive into Accidental Alchemist Book 2!

Next week, three fantastic up-and-coming mystery writers will answer the same questions I did:

Cindy Brown
Cindy Brown 
I met Cindy through the very cool Oregon Writers Colony, and I’m lucky to have read part of her forthcoming mystery novel, MacDeath. It's a humorous mystery set in the theater world, coming from Henery Press in early 2015.

Cindy Brown has been a theater geek (musician, actor, director, producer, and playwright) since her first professional gig at age 14. Now a full-time writer, she’s lucky enough to have garnered several awards (including 3rd place in the 2013 international Words With Jam First Page Competition, judged by Sue Grafton!) and is an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. MacDeath, the first in her Ivy Meadows Theater Mystery series, will be published in January 2015 by Henery Press. Though Cindy and her husband now live in Portland, Oregon, she made her home in Phoenix, Arizona, for more than 25 years and knows all the good places to hide dead bodies in both cities.

Ellen Byron
Ellen Byron
I met Ellen at the Malice Domestic mystery convention last year, where she was being awarded the Malice Domestic Grant for her work-in-progress. She’s got a long list of TV writing credits, but personally I can’t wait until her first novel is out.

Ellen’s T.V. credits, shared with Lissa Kapstrom, include comedies Wings, Still Standing, Just Shoot Me, and the drama, Young Americans, as well as pilots for NBC, CBS, and Disney. Ellen has written over 200 articles for national publications and served on the Editorial Board for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program’s books, Inside the Room and Cut to the Chase.  Theatre credits include the award-winning play, Graceland.  Her plays are published by The Dramatists Play Service. Ellen’s first mystery, You Can’t Be Too Thin or Too Dead, won a coveted William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant. 

Mysti Berry speaking on a panel at Left Coast Crime
Mysti Berry
Mysti is one of my local writing pals who inspires me on a regular basis.

Mysti Berry has an MFA, but never lets that get in the way of a good story. She's published two short stories, and is working on a novella for Stark Raving Press and a novel for her future agent, all crime fiction. Mysti lives and works in San Francisco with her husband the graphic novelist Dale Berry. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Post-Chemo Hair Update: A Milestone!

As my hair was growing out shortly after chemotherapy two years ago, I took weekly photos of my hair. With short hair, change happened quickly. I wanted to keep track of what I looked like with my hair at different lengths, because before stupid cancer, I'd never had short hair. But as my hair grew longer, change became harder to detect, so my last hair-focused photos were taken over six months ago.

Until now. This week, I hit a milestone. Looking in the mirror, I realized my hair is now as long as it was when I cut if off my freshman year of college! It's still shorter than it's been for most of my adult life, but I look like my old self again. Maybe I'll decide to cut my hair short again at some point, but it's a great feeling to be in charge of the decision this time around.

Friday, June 6, 2014

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.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Edgars 2014: My First Trip to the Mystery Writers of America Awards Banquet

For mystery writers, the Edgars are the equivalent of the Oscars. The Mystery Writers of America give out the awards at a black-tie banquet each year in New York City, and I'd never previously attended. Why not? I couldn't think of a good reason! It's true it's on the other side of the country for me, but I was planning to attend Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Maryland, the day after the Edgars, so I could do what a lot of other mystery writers do: take the train from NYC to DC the morning after the awards. So I booked my tickets and headed to New York for my first Edgars--and I'm so glad I did!

After arriving in New York, I met up with talented historical mystery writer Gigi Vernon (she's "the other Gigi," in spite of what she might tell you!). Gigi V. has a short story in the new Mystery Writers of America short story collection, Ice Cold: Tales of Intrigue from the Cold War

The two Gigis of mystery fiction: Gigi Vernon and Gigi Pandian.
The 2014 MWA anthology.

The awards were hosted by thriller writer Brad Meltzer, the current president of MWA. I've been reading Brad's books since his first thriller, The Tenth Justice, which came out the year I graduated from college. It was the year I was bumming around and trying to figure out what to do with my life, so I had time to discover a lot of great books that year, like Brad's debut. He was a charming and funny host, and the remarks and awards went by quickly because the program was broken up with video montages and entertaining guest speakers. The nominees and winners are listed here. And this year there were two authors from two sides of the mystery fiction spectrum named Grand Master: Robert Crais and Caroyn Hart. 

Brad Meltzer hosting the 2014 Edgar Awards.

Program book for the 2014 Edgars.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the festivities, which is one of the reasons I wanted to attend. Now that I'm published and taking my writing more seriously, I wanted to experience the broader mystery world. As a traditional mystery writer, my "home" in the mystery community is Malice Domestic, but I wanted to get to know friendly neighbors who I hadn't yet met. I didn't know many people, but I had a lovely time meeting new people at the cocktail party and at my banquet table. In some ways it was similar to the Agatha Awards (the traditional mystery awards given out at Malice Domestic), but the Edgars were bigger and fancier--including men in black-tie and women in fabulous Fluevog shoes!

Laura Curtis, Hilary Davidson, and Gigi Pandian:
all wearing Fluevog shoes to the Edgar Awards banquet.

A close-up of our Fluevogs. 

Very cute dessert plate at the Edgars.

While in New York, I had a chance to stop by The Mysterious Bookshop, with floor to ceiling mysteries--and those were some high ceilings! 
New York's famous mystery bookshop.

I didn't have much time to look for gargoyles, but I couldn't resist stopping to look at a few. 

Gargoyles on the Chrysler Building in New York.

The following morning, I caught the train to DC with a friend. With a three-hour train ride, I gave myself my own mini Amtrak writers residency. Between chatting and watching the scenery, I wrote four pages of plotting notes. Not too bad! Whenever I bemoan that life is too busy these days, I take a deep breath and remind myself it's busy because it's so damn fun. I take a moment to enjoy it--and then I get back to work. 

Writing on the train from NYC to DC,
heading from the Edgars to Malice Domestic.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Malice Domestic 2014: Photos & Highlights from the Traditional Mystery Convention

I often joke that I was born in the wrong era, because I grew up devouring the traditional mysteries from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction that ended long before I was born. But there are so many wonderful mystery writers carrying on the tradition, many of whom I've learned about through Malice Domestic, so by living in the present time I get to enjoy reading it all!

Therefore, the true reason I was born in the wrong era is because I'm awful at posting on social media in real time — I much prefer living in the moment and posting photos later. I arrived home last night, and I've been smiling all morning as I look through my photos. Here are some of my highlights from this year's Malice Domestic.

The fabulous volunteer board that runs Malice Domestic.

The mysterious display above the hotel bar.
I arrived on Friday afternoon this year, after attending the Edgar Awards banquet the night before in New York City. (My first Edgars! I'll post pictures from the Edgars later this week.) The first event I attended was the Opening Ceremonies, which was especially exciting this year because I was up for an Agatha Award.

Agatha nominees LynDee Walker, Kendel Lynn, and Gigi Pandian
at the Malice Domestic Opening Ceremonies.

At the Henery Press dinner on Friday night.

The Sisters in Crime breakfast was quite early for those of us on West Coast time, but so worth it!
Sitting with Verena Rose and Tonya Spratt-Williams
at the Sisters in Crime breakfast.
Frankie Bailey and Gigi Pandian at the Sisters in Crime breakfast.
At the breakfast, members of the Guppy chapter of Sisters in Crime wore boas as a fun way to find each other and see how many Guppies were in attendance. What a huge group we were this year!
The Guppy chapter of Sisters in Crime, wearing boas to the SinC breakfast,
getting ready for a group photo.
The Guppies began as the "Great Un-Published" chapter, where new authors could learn from each other at the beginning of their writing careers. It's still the chapter for newer writers, but published authors are welcome to stay on and share their knowledge. I learned about the Guppies at my first Malice Domestic, before I was published, and I love the camaraderie so I've stayed on.
Kendel Lynn, Diane Vallere, and Gigi Pandian in our Guppy boas
at the Sisters in Crime breakfast.
Hank Phillippi Ryan and Elaine Will Sparber announcing the new
Sisters in Crime book "Writes of Passage." Everyone attending
the breakfast got an Advance Reader Copy, hot off the press!

Hmm... I've realized this recap is going to be far too long if I keep posting individual photos, so I made a few collages!

Everyone was having a great time putting faces to names at a Guppy lunch. 

The four of us nominated for the Best Short Story Agatha Award were on the panel Short and Snappy, where we had such an interesting discussion that we didn't get to everything that we wanted to talk about! It was such an honor to be nominated with Barb Goffman, Barbara Ross, and especially the nominee who won, Art Taylor. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine says: "Art Taylor is quickly becoming one of the most distinguished short-story writers of his generation. Since his EQMM debut in 1995, he's sold nearly three dozen short stories, several of which have received critical recognition." Good company, indeed!

The Best Short Story Agatha Nominee panel, Short and Snappy:
Gigi Pandian (nominated for locked-room mystery "The Hindi Houdini"),
Barb Goffman (nominated for "Nightmare" and "Evil Little Girl"),
our moderator B.K. Stevens (a distinguished short story writer herself)
Art Taylor (whose story "The Care and Feeding of House Plants" won the Agatha),
and Barbara Ross (nominated for "Bread Baby").

For the Agatha banquet that night, I hosted a table. In honor of my latest book, Pirate Vishnu, I brought pirate treasure to share.
Filling paper treasure chests with goodies for my banquet table.
Henery Press donated cute mugs, and after Scooby Doo pirate characters
were a hit at my book launch party, I brought some to Malice. 
Pirate treasure and good fun at the banquet table.
Lifetime Achievement Award honorees
Dorothy Cannell, Joan Hess, and Margaret Maron.
Daniel Stashower (who won the Agatha for his nonfiction book
The Hour of Peril) and Gigi Pandian.
Leslie Budewitz, Gigi Pandian, Daryl Wood Gerber.
Gigi Pandian, LynDee Walker, Larissa Reinhart. 

The morning after the banquet, I was so glad I decided to stay an extra day and relax. Hanging out in the lobby, I got to catch up with online friends, some of whom I'd never met in person before. I met the generous Jenny Milchman online years ago, but only met her in person two years ago, and I'd never had the pleasure of meeting Kaye Barley in person until this weekend. 

Jenny Milchman and Kaye Barley. 
Harriette Sackler was the first person at Malice Domestic I ever spoke to. The Chair of the Grants Committee, she called me on the phone to let me know I'd won a grant for my work-in-progress (which became Artifact). After being speechless for quite some time, I recovered, attended Malice that year, and have looked forward to catching up with Harriette each year I'm able to make it to Malice.
Harriette Sackler and Gigi Pandian.
In between running into readers and writers in the hallway, I made it to fun panels, such as Witches and Werewolves and Ghosts, Oh My!, Mixed Genre Mysteries, and Authors Reveal Their Fictional Crushes, and insightful interviews. 
Authors dressing as their characters!
Dana Cameron, Jim Lavene, Juliet Blackwell, Leigh Perry (aka Toni Kelner).
Poirot Award Honoree Tom Schantz (of Rue Morgue Press)
interviewed by Jim Huang. 
As usual, I couldn't resist buying more books than would fit in my suitcase, including some that I already owned! 
A few of the books I had to get back to California.
Daniel Stashower's award-winning nonfiction is good, but his Harry Houdini mysteries are just brilliant. I already own them all, but not with these beautiful reissued covers, and besides, I needed something to read on the plane ride home! I already have Sujata Massey's The Sleeping Dictonary on my eReader, but I got her to sign a print copy for my dad. I also already read Steven Rigolosi's new book, The Outsmarting of Criminals, but it's so good I had to get a copy for my mom. And I picked up the new Mystery Writers of America anthology at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York the day of the Edgars. The sad thing for my pocketbook? This is only a few of the books I went home with. 

Now that I'm home, I'm exhausted but so inspired. I already can't wait until next year. I had a great meeting with my editor to go over her feedback on a draft of the third book in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series, so now it's time to get back to work on the book! It'll be out shortly before next year's Malice.