Gigi is one of my sweetest and smartest writer friends, and I adore her. She's a member of PensFatales, and I'm more than honored to host her (and a giveaway!) today at Yarnagogo.
Good Things That Wouldn’t Have Happened Without A Cancer Diagnosis -- Including
Having My New Book Out Today!
I received the news the month after my
36th birthday. Aggressive breast cancer. In the midst of a flurry of surgeries
and treatments, something unexpected happened. It’s been two years and two
months since my diagnosis -- and my life is even more amazing than I ever
imagined before being diagnosed with
cancer. And today, it’s even better still: my mystery novel, Artifact, comes out from Henery
It’s crazy, but cancer has a way of
making you see the things that are important in life with crystal clear precision.
I’m incredibly fortunate that my cancer was caught early and my treatments were
successful. But I’m also living with a very high risk of recurrence – which
serves as a daily reminder to live life to the fullest.
This wasn’t how my life was supposed to
go. I was hard at work writing mystery novels, was thrilled to have found a
wonderful tribe of writers, and had recently gotten married and bought a house.
Within one day, my worries no longer included fitting in a café writing date
into my work schedule or whether I should accept a freelance design gig.
Instead, my life was overwhelmed with learning about surgeons, tumors, and
chemotherapy drugs, and when I left the house it wasn’t to go on a photo shoot
but to go to the hospital.
As soon as the shock wore off, I knew I
wasn’t doing to lie on the couch feeling sorry for myself (although watching Murder She Wrote and Matlock can be pretty damn great when
recovering from a chemo session). My immune system was so shot that I couldn’t
have visitors, so I was set up to work from home. When I wasn’t working, I
needed a project to focus on or I knew I’d go crazy.
My agent had been pitching my first novel
to publishers, but publishing moves SLOWLY. Since the book had already received
accolades, I knew it was ready to be out in the world. I’d never previously
considered self-publishing, but cancer showed me what I wanted out of my
writing: to have fun crafting stories (done), find a circle of fantastic writer
friends (done), and to share my stories with the world -- that unfulfilled last
item was what I decided to pursue during my full year of cancer treatments.
As soon as I made that decision,
everything fell into place. By the end of my year of treatments, I had a
stronger bond with my friends and loved ones, was holding my published mystery
novel in my hands, and was feeling healthier than ever. And one year later, I’m
going strong and have a 3-book deal from a wonderful publisher.
I would never wish cancer on anyone, but
if you’re dealt a lousy hand you might as well turn it on its head and make the
best of it.
Here are 10 things that
wouldn’t have happened without my diagnosis:
1. Getting my priorities straight. Friends, family, and fulfillment. I
used to worry about things that now seem stupid and irrelevant. Let me
tell you: it’s not worth it.
a picture of my amazing writers group, the Pens Fatales – that’s me and Rachael
in the front row. We hardly ever manage to get the whole group together. The
event that made everyone make the effort to get together at the same time was
my cancer diagnosis. Right before this photo was taken, they took me wig
shopping to make buying a chemo wig a fun
rather than depressing shopping excursion!
2. Going on those trips I was putting off. London, Lisbon, Paris, and Prague. I’ve
always been a traveler, but as life got busier I traveled less and less.
No more. If I want to go somewhere, I’m planning and making it work. It’s
not always easy, but it’s so worth it.
3. Savoring the small things. A walk through the foggy hills. A
great cup of coffee. Laughing at a bad TV show with the husband. I no
longer take these things for granted. (OK, maybe I occasionally forget and
take things for granted, but then I slap myself and remember to savor
4. Learning to cook. It’s so much easier than I thought
it would be! Over the course of a year, small steps added up into being
someone who cooks delicious homemade meals every day.
care of my body.
Aside from a few side effects that remind me I survived breast cancer, I’m
feeling healthier than ever, because I’m taking care of myself. I adore
green smoothies! They’re seriously much more delicious than you’d imagine
if you’ve never tried one.
6. Creating a publishing plan. I’d been a bit aimless with my
writing before cancer. I’d joined writers groups and found an agent, but I
hadn’t learned more about publishing itself. But if I’m going to take on a
project, I’m going to do it right. Chemo was an excuse to do things
slowly, but not do things poorly. Because I formed my own imprint and
followed all the steps of traditional publishing, I was treated
professionally and received reviews including several that compare my
writing to that of my favorite author, Elizabeth Peters, and are
incredibly meaningful to me. (You can read more self-publishing details here,
if you’re interested in what goes into it.)
7. Holding my mystery novel in my hands.
Such a thrill! I
expect this would have happened someday, but because of taking action, I
got to hold my book in my hands the month I was done with cancer
surrounded by dozens of friends at my book launch party. Independent bookstore A Great Good
Place for Books hosted my book launch party. I served whisky from the
region of the Highlands of Scotland where the Artifact takes place, and throughout the evening fifty people
stopped by the cozy Oakland bookstore. I’m glad I took pictures, because
the evening was such a blur -- mostly because of seeing so many friends,
not the whisky!
9. Receiving book blurb from one of my all-time
favorite authors. The
reason this is something that wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for
my diagnosis is because I would never have had the courage to ask for this
if I hadn’t decided to live with no fear.
emailed mystery novelist Aaron Elkins, who I had never met but whose books I’ve
loved since I was a teenager, to ask for a book blurb. I knew he rarely read
books by new authors, but I figured I had nothing to lose. I was surprised that
he both agreed to check out the book and gave me an amazing blurb! Before the
book was out, I already felt like I’d made it. It had a cascading effect.
Because I’d introduced myself, we got to know each other and I had the
opportunity to step in to conduct his Lifetime Achievement Award interview at
the Malice Domestic mystery convention.
10. Signing a 3-book deal for my Jaya
Jones treasure hunt mystery series. Because of everything I’d done to with my book, I attracted
the attention of a publisher who was excited about the whole series. I’m
ecstatic to have signed with such a great publisher and have more time to
My takeaway is to remember to live like
you’re dying. Don’t put things off. Turn “someday” into today. What have you
always wanted to do? Do it. Yes, it’s
tough. But it’s worth it.
Leave a comment below about something you’ve always
wanted to do and we’ll enter you to win a copy of Artifact.
Artifact: A Jaya Jones Treasure
Historian Jaya Jones
discovers the secrets of a lost Indian treasure may be hidden in a Scottish
legend from the days of the British Raj. But she’s not the only one on the
From San Francisco to London to the Highlands of Scotland, Jaya must
evade a shadowy stalker as she follows hints from the hastily scrawled note of
her dead lover to a remote archaeological dig. Helping her decipher the cryptic
clues are her magician best friend, a devastatingly handsome art historian with
something to hide, and a charming archaeologist running for his life.
More information: http://gigipandian.com/books-stories/
Gigi Pandian is the
child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of
India. After being dragged around the world during her childhood, she tried to
escape her fate when she left a PhD program in favor of art school. But
adventurous academic characters wouldn’t stay out of her head. Thus was born
the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series. Find Gigi online at www.gigipandian.com (or Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest …)
Sign up for Gigi’s email newsletter to
receive a free, exclusive Halloween-themed short story in the Jaya Jones
Treasure Hunt Mystery Series this October: http://gigipandian.com/newsletter/.