Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A New Home for the Blog

This blog has migrated to my website. The previous posts on this site will remain here, but all new blog posts are now on my website.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Press Release: ASIAN PULP debuts from Pro Se Productions

July 6, 2015 press release from Pro Se Productions
(ASIAN PULP features my Sanjay Rai short story "The Curse of Cloud Castle")  


In April 2013, Pro Se Productions released ‘Black Pulp’, a collection of stories written in classic pulp genres featuring lead characters of African descent. Not only were readers captivated by the cast of characters featured in the book, they also saw the potential of future volumes, both of ‘Black Pulp’, and collections featuring other ethnicities in much the same way. Pro Se Productions proudly announces the release of ‘Asian Pulp’, featuring seventeen of today’s best authors, in both print and digital format.

Leonard Chang, novelist and writer and co-producer of the TV crime drama ‘Justified’, states in his introduction to ‘Asian Pulp’, “The world of pulp fiction was a world that I understood—it was a reaction to trauma, both as art and as catharsis. Personal trauma. Emotional trauma. Physical trauma. National trauma. This is why I responded to it, why I immersed myself in it. And why, whenever I was in a personal and artistic crisis, it saved me. Fiction is a reflection of and commentary on life, and I needed to find a reflection of and commentary on my life.

That there weren't any Asian Americans in the pulp I was reading wasn't a problem (or if there were Asians they tended to be dismissible stereotypes) -- no, not a problem at all, but actually an opportunity. I've always viewed writing as providing myself with more reading material. I write what I can't find out there. Why not have a Korean American act as a private eye, and infuse in his character all the traits I wanted to see but haven't? Why not write about Korean American gangsters, criminals, and detectives? And this is where we, as writers, all began moving toward: writing about people we want to see on the page, in lives and stories that speak to us.”

Following in the tradition of the best selling ‘Black Pulp’, from Today's Best Authors and up and coming writers comes ‘Asian Pulp’ from Pro Se Productions! A collection of stories featuring characters of Asian origin or descent in stories that run the gamut of genre fiction!

‘Asian Pulp’ includes works from Don Lee, Naomi Hirahara, Kimberly Richardson, Percival Constantine, William F. Wu, Gary Phillips, Calvin McMillin, Mark Finn, Dale Furutani, Steph Cha, Henry Chang, Sean Taylor, Gigi Pandian, Louise Herring-Jones, Alan J. Porter, and David C. Smith. The anthology opens with an introduction from Leonard Chang.

“As an author of color who writes genre fiction,” says Gigi Pandian, “I love finding books where there are diverse characters in exciting stories. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved reading mystery and adventure stories, but characters in the types of stories I enjoy rarely reflect my own ethnic heritage or the diversity around me (my father is an immigrant from India, and I grew up in California). When I became a writer, I naturally created characters that were part of my own life experience. I enjoyed ‘Black Pulp’, so it was an honor to be invited to contribute a story for this new anthology. ‘Black Pulp’ was first and foremost a great collection of fiction--but I also loved how black writers and characters were brought into the spotlight. I hope ‘Asian Pulp’ does the same thing for Asian writers and characters.”

Mysteries, westerns, stories of crime and noir, and more, all with Asian characters in the lead! Between these covers are 17 tales of action, adventure, and thrills featuring heroes and heroines of a different shade that will appeal to audiences everywhere. ‘Asian Pulp’. From Pro Se Productions.

Featuring a fantastic, evocative cover by Adam Shaw and logo design and print formatting by Sean Ali, ‘Asian Pulp’ is available now at Amazon and Pro Se’s own store for $20.00.

This historic collection of authors and tales is also available as an Ebook, designed and formatted by Forrest Bryant and available for only $4.99 for the Kindle and for most digital formats via Smashwords.

To request digital copies for review, to interview authors, or for further information on this title, contact Morgan McKay, Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, at directorofcorporateoperations@prose-press.com.

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to www.prose-press.com. Like Pro Se on Facebook.


Details about "The Curse of Cloud Castle," pulled from an interview with Pro Se Productions. 

“The Curse of Cloud Castle”,” says Pandian, “is a mystery featuring Sanjay Rai, an Indian-American stage magician who performs as The Hindi Houdini. Sanjay is invited to perform his show at an old friend’s birthday party on a supposedly haunted island off the coast of California, and “the curse of cloud castle” plays out when one of the guests is murdered. But is the culprit a ghost, or an ingenious person who has pulled off the perfect crime?

The story is a locked-room mystery, a story where the reader is given all of the clues in a puzzle plot mystery to solve a seemingly impossible crime. It’s a type of story that was especially popular during the Golden Age of detective fiction during the 1920s and ‘30s, and since it’s my favorite type of mystery, I’m doing my part to help bring it back.”

Sunday, July 5, 2015

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.


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.

Friday, June 12, 2015

What I Learned at the 2015 California Crime Writers Conference

Last week I attended the California Crime Writers Conference (CCWC), and wow did I learn a lot! For the last few years I've focused on attending mystery conventions where I get to meet readers, instead of the craft-of-writing conferences I attended while learning how to write a mystery novel. But CCWC was a fantastic reminder about how much all writers can continue to learn, no matter where we're at in our careers. Plus, it was fun!

The conference is a joint project between Sisters in Crime Los Angeles and SoCal Mystery Writers of America. It takes place every two years, and this was my first time attending. SinC LA president Diane Vallere and SoCal MWA president Craig Faustus Buck were the co-chairs. Their efforts, along with dozens of other volunteers, made it a fantastic weekend.

The first day of the conference included a signing for the new Sisters in Crime LA anthology, LAdies Night, published by Down & Out Books. All three editors and all but two of the contributing authors were in attendance!

It's a great lineup of authors (Julie G. Beers, Julie Brayton, Sarah M. Chen, Arthur Coburn, L.H. Dillman, Bengte Evenson, Cyndra Gernet, Andrew Jetarski, Micheal Kelly, Susan Kosar-Beery, Jude McGee, Gigi Pandian, Wendall Thomas) and editors (Naomi Hirahara, Kate Thornton, Jeri Westerson). My short story is "Tempest in a Teapot," an impossible crime mystery starring magician Tempest Mendez, a side character in the Jaya Jones treasure hunt mystery series.

LAdies Night authors and editors at the California Crime Writers Conference
(Thanks to Jackie Houchi for the group photo, and Anne Cleeland for the pic of me)


Next up, panels! So many great ones. The three that were the most eye-opening to me were a bookseller panel, a librarian panel, and panel where agents and editors reacted to opening pages. I jotted these tips in my notebook:

Bookstore Partners
  • The staff from Mysterious Galaxy had some advice I hadn't heard before: Don't do a reading at your event! Instead, tell personal stories about you and your book. People can read on their own, but they want to know what's special and interesting about you. (Readers, is this true??? I usually do both at an event.)
  • Want to do an event at a bookstore? Contact a bookstore three months in advance, ideally four. And to generate the most interest in your book, the month or so around your release date is really important -- though that buzz only applies to in-person events, not to a bookstore hand-selling your book, which can happen at any time. 
  • There's a thing called a White Box, containing Advance Reader Copies and other promotional materials, that American Bookseller Association members receive. 

Marketing Through Libraries

  • Ask your local library "What's your collection development policy?" to find out how books are added to their system. There's no one system that all libraries use to build their collections. 
  • Like bookstores, libraries like to have four months advance notice to schedule events. 
  • Many libraries have book clubs. 

Author Idol
A panel of agents and editors judged the brave souls who anonymously submitted the first pages of their unpublished manuscripts. The America Idol-style format wasn't for the thin skinned, but it was incredibly informative.

The first page of each manuscript was read aloud, and agents and editors raised their hands as soon as they would stop reading. The agents/editors then explained what it was that made them raise their hand -- sometimes it was as simple as the fact that it wasn't something they represented. (The lesson for unpublished writers: once you've polished your manuscript and are getting ready to submit it, do your homework to find out what an agent represents and a publisher buys.)

The exercise drove home the importance of the first page grabbing the reader on many levels. And yes, several of the first pages didn't receive any raised hands, meaning everyone wanted to read more.

Agents and editors on the "Author Idol" panel 

Keynote speakers Charlaine Harris and Anne Perry gave inspiring speeches, and also discussed Elmore Leonard's "10 Rules for Good Writing." They agreed with almost everything on his list, but like with everything in life, the real answer is, "it depends." I've always been a firm believer in knowing the rules before you break them.

Charlaine Harris and Anne Perry discussing Elmore Leonard's "10 Rules of Writing" (moderated by Craig Faustus Buck)

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules for Good Writing

  1. Never open a book with weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said"…he admonished gravely.
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

And the most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.


Outside of the official program, one of the best things about attending events like this is getting to catch up with people in the mystery world, plus make new connections. In addition to catching up with writer pals I rarely see, I met amazing new people, and got to see both of my editors! (If you enjoy my books, it's in large part thanks to them and the rest of my editorial team.) 

With my awesome editors: Terri Bischoff from Midnight Ink & Kendel Lynn from Henery Press

Lunch with Naomi Hirahara

I also ducked out of the conference hotel for an excursion to the Magic Castle. Though I write about several magician characters, I hadn't ever visited this famous magicians' playhouse. Thanks to mystery writer and magician Stephen Buehler for getting me in!

And thanks again to the team who pulled off such a great CCWC!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Now available: short story "Tempest in a Teapot" in the new Sisters in Crime LA anthology "LAdies Night"

Last week marked the official release of LAdies Night, the new Sisters in Crime Los Angeles chapter anthology. The book features my new short story "Tempest in a Teapot," an impossible crime mystery starring magician Tempest Mendez (one of Sanjay's magician pals who lives in LA).

Based on the type of mysteries I write, I was resigned to the fact that I'd never have a pulp-style book cover, even though I love that classic mystery graphic style. But now that I've begun writing short stories published in collections with other authors, I'm getting a much wider range of book covers. I'm so excited about this stunning cover from Down & Out Books!

LAdies Night anthology's AWESOME cover!

The release coincided with the California Crime Writers Conference, a joint project of Sisters in Crime Los Angeles and SoCal Mystery Writers of America. Nearly all of the contributors were in attendance, and all three editors were there.

Anthology editors Kate Thornton, Jeri Westerson, Naomi Hirahara.

At the LAdies Night signing. (Thanks to Anne Cleeland for the pic!)

We did a joint signing, and I had all the authors to sign my copy of the book. I can't wait to dive into reading all the stories!

Anthology contributors at the California Crime Writers Conference. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Houchin.)

Friday, June 5, 2015

Jaya Jones and The Hindi Houdini in Edinburgh

Last week I shared a recap and photos from my writing retreat in Edinburgh, where one of the highlights was revisiting the Edinburgh setting of "Fool's Gold," my novella prequel to Artifact. Jaya and Sanjay solve a mystery at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that involves Scotland's famous Lewis Chessmen.

The novella was published in 2012 in Other People's Baggage, and this May was the first time I'd been back to Scotland since the mystery came out! So of course I had to stop by both the Edinburgh Fringe Festival office and the National Museum of Scotland where several of the chessmen are on display.

My Lewis Chessmen replicas, next to my book in which they appear.

Why are the Lewis Chessmen so intriguing? In addition to their origins remaining a mystery, the 12th century pieces themselves have so much personality, as can be seen in my photos below.

The Berserker biting is shield is one of my favorites!

When I was a kid spending the summer in Scotland with my mom while she did academic research, I got to attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world's largest arts festival (also purportedly the world's largest street festival) that takes place each August.

Several years after I attended the festival, I performed in a theatrical production in Edinburgh during my junior year abroad. Since I doubted I'd ever again perform in Edinburgh, when I became a writer it occurred to me that I could send my characters there!

So I combined the Lewis Chessmen with the Ed Fringe Festival in the locked-room mystery novella "Fool's Gold."

All historian Jaya Jones wants is a relaxing vacation in Scotland before starting her first year teaching college. But when a world-famous chess set is stolen from a locked room during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Jaya and her magician best friend, The Hindi Houdini, must outwit actresses and alchemists to solve the baffling crime.

The novella is connected to Diane Vallere's "Midnight Ice" and Kendel Lynn's "Switch Back." Four years ago, Diane, Kendel, and I had the idea of collaborating on a project. The result was Other People's Baggage, a collection of interconnected mystery novellas featuring our mystery series characters. The premise: These are the stories of what happened after three women with a knack for solving mysteries each grabbed the wrong bag.

We're still friends after collaborating, so either we did something right, or nothing can tear us apart! And this year, the third books in each of our series came out.


“Midnight Ice” by Diane Vallere (A Mad for Mod Mystery Novella, the prequel to PILLOW STALK). The third Mad for Mod Mystery starring Madison Night, WITH VICS YOU GET EGGROLL, came out April 14, 2015.

“Switch Back” by Kendel Lynn (An Elliott Lisbon Mystery Novella, the prequel to BOARD STIFF). The third Elliott Lisbon mystery, SWAN DIVE, came out March 17, 2015.

“Fool’s Gold” by Gigi Pandian (A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Novella, the prequel to ARTIFACT). The third Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery, QUICKSAND, came out March 10, 2015.

Kendel Lynn, Diane Vallere, and Gigi Pandian in 2012 at Mystery Ink.

This weekend I get to see my Other People's Baggage collaborators Diane and Kendel at the California Crime Writers Conference June 6-7, 2015!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Edinburgh Writing Retreat to Celebrate my 40th Birthday

I'm home from Scotland, where I celebrated my 40th birthday with the writing retreat I envisioned nearly four years ago while going through chemo. (The story behind this trip can be found here.)

I've been pretty good at hanging onto my post-cancer seize-the-day mentality, so I rented an apartment in Edinburgh and invited my local writer's group to join me for a writing retreat vacation. Nearly half of them were able to make it! Rachael Herron, Lisa Hughey, Mysti Berry, and Emberly Nesbitt hopped on a flight to Edinburgh.

The Writing Retreat

I was so happy to discover that we were compatible travelers! We were all on the same page about writing all morning to meet daily writing goals before heading out for adventures exploring the city. I spent most of my writing time plotting a new mystery novel set in Edinburgh.

Mysti Berry, Gigi Pandian, Emberly Nesbitt,
Lisa Hughey, Rachael Herron

My favorite writing spot in the cozy kitchen of the Edinburgh apartment.

Writing at the Elephant House Cafe, where I used to study during my junior year abroad in Edinburgh, and where JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book

Visiting the Bedlam Theatre, where I performed on stage 20 years ago as a student


Exploring the City

A birthday meal at the Witchery by the Castle

Mysterious Edinburgh

Edinburgh was the perfect city for inspiration for the new mystery I'm writing with ghostly, Gothic overtones! These were a few of my favorite mysterious encounters. 

With how much I love puzzle plot mysteries filled with enigmatic clues, it's hard to believe I hadn't previously experienced a live action puzzle escape game. Dr. Knox's Enigma was the perfect introduction to one! 


Mary King's Close is one of the tours that takes people underground to explore the centuries-old streets beneath Edinburgh's Old Town neighborhood. The modern day central city is built on top of the dark, narrow streets that once housed the city's poor. (A "close" is a narrow alley.)

Like with Dr. Knox's Enigma, in these underground tours the true mysterious history of Edinburgh is sprinkled with fanciful drama. Fact and fiction merge in ghost stories and with figures wearing the real-life beaked masks plague doctors used to wear to combat disease.

A "kirkyard" is a churchyard / graveyard. Greyfriars Kirkyard is famous for the story of Greyfriars Bobby, the terrier who is said to have spent more than a decade guarding his owner's grave, up until his own death. The faithful dog was then buried not far from his owner.

Getting out of town

Revisiting the Edinburgh Setting of "Fool's Gold," the novella prequel to Artifact

In 2012, I collaborated with mystery authors Diane Vallere and Kendel Lynn to write Other People's Baggage, a collection of interconnected mystery novellas featuring our mystery series characters (Jaya Jones for me, Madison Night/Mad for Mod for Diane, and Elliott Lisbon for Kendel). 
Baggage claim can be terminal. This is what happened after a computer glitch mislabeled identical vintage suitcases and three women with a knack for solving mysteries each grabbed the wrong bag.

The story I contributed to the collection was "Fool's Gold," which takes place in Edinburgh. It's set during the annual Ed Fringe Festival, the huge arts festival that takes place every August.

Fool's Gold

All historian Jaya Jones wants is a relaxing vacation in Scotland before starting her first year teaching college. But when a world-famous chess set is stolen from a locked room during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Jaya and her magician best friend, The Hindi Houdini, must outwit actresses and alchemists to solve the baffling crime.

Lest this highlights post get taken over by the fascinating histories of the Lewis Chessmen and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I'll do a more detailed post on my "Fool's Gold" inspirations next week!

I'll end with one of my favorite images from the trip

Now I need to come up with an excuse to do this again!