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4 posts from August 2013

Some GallAugust 28, 2013

I had to call 911 on myself. If you follow me on FB or twitter, you already know this, but I'm still not quite over it. I've had six surgeries in my life, and multiple weird emergency room-type problems. But the very last thing a dispatcher/firefighter/cop ever wants is to be transported to the hospital by his/her peers. 

So when I say that last Thursday, I called down the hall to get my firefighters to come check on me, I was BEYOND HORRIFIED. I had terrible abdomen and chest pains, and I was pale, sweating, and shaking. The only thing I wanted to do was lie down and let it pass. But I was scared. Mostly, I don't get scared over physical problems, even when I should. But this one frightened me.

After the rookiest-of-the-rookies (he only has 2 weeks on) hooked up the 12-lead to my chest (over my best bra, THANK GOD -- it also happens to be my most comfortable, which is why I wear it on 48-hour shifts), the crew said they needed to take me to the hospital. I started crying, and it was only partially from fear and pain. Mostly, it was because I was getting put in the ambulance I send to people. I send it. I don't ride it. 

The guys were good. They were reassuring. I'm proud to work with them, because I know they treat everyone as kindly as they treated me, even though they let the rookie put in my IV (he did fine.) They also gave me morphine, for which I will always love them. 

Turns out I was having a gallbladder attack. Very prosaic. Happens all the time. The ER sent me home to watch and wait, surgery scheduled for two weeks out (it's the most common surgical procedure in the States). 

I only made it two days before my gallbladder started getting infected, and holy helen, was I sick. I spent three days in the hospital, and while I know logically that hospitals are terrible places to be, it was another thing altogether to learn it firsthand. The nurses are trying their best, but they are overwhelmed. It was frustrating and nerve-wracking, and it made me grateful for every kindness they showed me. They didn't have to be nice. But they were. 


The surgery was done on Sunday, and I was home by Monday night. I'm lucky in that I already had vacation scheduled (to go to Yosemite to the Strawberry Festival, which was then cancelled due to the Rim Fire, which is good, because if I can't go, NO ONE CAN GO), so I don't feel guilt about putting out my coworkers. 

(Also: can we just talk about belly buttons for a minute? This is the THIRD surgery I've had which required the belly button to be what was basically a door flap in my tummy. I hate that everyone is like, "Oooh! Take a peek in here! Easy access!" I need a better lock on that thing. Maybe an alarm. Belly button alarm!) 

Now I'm overjoyed to be at the place I love to be. Home. This is where I belong, fighting to keep cats off my abdomen and listening to dogs bark at people who dare to breathe outside. 

But I took a break from all that to open this text box to write to you, my darling reader. I wanted to tell you funny things about being in the hospital, silly things about how much I loved swapping lipstick advice with the nurses. But really, I just wanted to say hi. This enforced slow-down? The fact that I can't just get up and run hard all day as I usually do kind of freaks me out. It's good for me, though. It reminds me to say hello to YOU. 

I always say that I want a stay-cation even though it's almost beyond my powers to actually lie low. Now I have one. I'm doing my best to enjoy it. I just made the biggest spinach smoothie EVER and drank it all. I'm listening to Vespers (Tell Your Mama). Next, I'm going to watch a movie or two. Maybe back to back. And knit. I also, of course, have three or four books cued up on my e-reader, and I'm going to read till the words wobble. 

Tomorrow, more of the same (though I might write. I can't promise I won't). 

For your enjoyment, here's a taste of Vespers, a 4-person family band. Who doesn't love a family band? 


Cover Reveal! August 19, 2013

Y'all, I think this is my most gorgeous cover ever

PACK UP THE MOON is the book coming out in March (available for preorder now at Amazon, B&N, and Powells). 

Pack up the moon_final3JPG

I mean, really, could you just DIE? This is the book that should come with a box of Kleenex (I'm working on making that happen) and I could almost cry just looking at it. I love this book. 

And in other big news, CORA'S HEART, the fourth book in the Cypress Hollow series, will be available to US/UK/Canada readers next month (exact date to follow, but it will be in September for sure -- make sure you get my newsletter!). I like its cover, too.
Eeeeeeee. This is a really exciting time, folks. I have the best two jobs in the world. I'm actually not sure which makes my heart beat faster, writing The End, or saying, "911, what's the address of your emergency?" 

Okay, I do know. Writing The End is a big more exciting. I've been doing the 911 thing long enough my heart only races if a child is involved in the call (isn't that odd? True, though. Most cops/firefighters/dispatchers all react the same way -- help is just help, everyone moves as fast as they can until it's a kid, and then it's GO GO GO GO FASTER THAN YOU POSSIBLY EVER COULD!)

Also: I'm working on the synopsis for the next Kleenex book, and I swear, just writing my ideas in Excel made me cry in the cafe. It's GONNA BE GOOD. 

Yay. Just yay. 

I Love a ListAugust 9, 2013

1. A Dream I Had (NO! Come back! Please?) 

In the dream, I am walking past a payphone. It rings. I answer. My (deceased) little mama is on the other end. 

"What's it like where you are?" I ask, when I get over my shock.

"It's nice," she says. "It's not anything like you'd imagine, though. I like it." 

"Can you see me all the time?" Thinking, oh, crap.

"Well, I guess I could if I needed to, but I don't." 

Whew. I hand the phone to a passerby. "Hey, can you hear anyone on this line?" 

Guy listens. "Yeah," he says, handing it back. "It's your mom." 

"Mom!" I say. "You're really there! Why don't you ever call me?" 

She answers in exasperation, "Landline, Rachael. We can only call on landlines, and you got rid of yours." 

It was really a sweet dream. And I was happy to know she likes where she is. (And yes, we got rid of our landline. As a 911 dispatcher who preaches that you should always have one, and always call from it for faster and more accurate service, I was pretty unhappy when California shut off the thing that allowed all landlines to call 911, with or without service. Now it's $25/month just to have service to call 911 and nothing else. I'm not paying $300 a year for a service I can call on my cell phone (with, granted, a delay).)

2. What Lala sends me while I'm at work in the middle of the night. I believe this is cruel and unusual. 


Apparently Digit got on the couch and stared at Clementine (who was terrified of him, as usual) for ten minutes before curling up, TOUCHING her. Gah. I can't stand it. The ear! Digit is an old softie now. I barely recognize him. I have not even one healing scar right now. Who is this cat? 

3. Easy Thai Red Curry. 

I'm obsessed with red curry right now. Obsessed. This is a recipe I modified from somewhere (?), and it is SO EASY and SO FAST and SO GOOD. And if you make it with chickpeas instead of chicken, it's vegan! (I made it for a dinner party which needed to be gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian. No small task. Oh! Link came from Mary-Heather, that's right.)


Chop a chicken breast or two, toss in a large heavy skillet over medium heat in olive oil and some salt until it goes white and not scary-looking (but don't overcook it. Whatever that means). Set meat aside. In same pan, heat 1tbs coconut oil. Add 2 chopped leeks, a chopped red pepper, some salt and pepper. Cover and cook on medium heat until veggies have softened, maybe 5 minutes. Add 2 tsp(ish) of minced garlic (or more!) and a tsp of grated ginger (or more!).* Add 1-2 tbs of red curry paste (not powder. For this you want the paste. I like Mae Ploy). Stir to coat, cook another 5 minutes. Add half a cup chopped sugar snap peas (swoon), a 14oz can of full-fat coconut milk, and the cooked chicken. Raise heat to boil, then lower to simmer. At the end, throw in a good handful of chopped cilantro

Serve on cauliflower rice (or normal rice, but dude, cauliflower rice doesn't get soggy and it's so good and easy. You can chop it in your food processor while the curry is cooking, and BAM. 30 minute meal). 

* I use minced garlic and chopped ginger because I'm lazy. Here's the red curry paste I like. I only use 1 tbs in this recipe because I'm sensitive to heat, and this stuff is spicy. 

Guest Post - Gigi PandianAugust 6, 2013

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.



10 Good Things That Wouldn’t Have Happened Without A Cancer Diagnosis -- Including Having My New Book Out Today!

By Gigi Pandian

 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 Press.

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.

Here’s 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 them!)

 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. Gigi3

 5. Taking 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 treatments.  

 8. Being 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! 

9Receiving 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.


I 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 write. 

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 Hunt Mystery

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 trail.

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/