Femme Fatale

Are you a femme fatale?

Would you date one?

Could you outwit one?

Will you die from one?

When I think of a femme fatale, I think of an alluring yet dangerous female. Like a black widow spider, only sexier.

I read an anthology of the century’s best mystery stories, and I was struck by the portrayal of women. Most of the stories had been written by men, and an awful lot of the protagonists were males drawn to that mysterious woman who might be the death of them, but they kept walking toward her anyway.

When O’Neil de Noux, a Shamus award-winning writer, invited me to participate in a Storybundle of femme fatales, I felt like the antithesis of a femme fatale. First of all, as a doctor, my job is to heal, not kill. And because I spend so much energy on studying and working, I end up wearing scrubs (“Yay! I get to wear pyjamas to work!” said my friend and fellow ER doctor, Mai-Anh). I usually wear zero makeup. This is not universal—one of my French female colleagues reapplies her lipstick at 3 a.m. on a night shift—but let’s face it, most of the French are much more femme than I am.

Of course, I could react to the sexlessness of medicine by dolling myself up in my off hours and in my fiction, but I don’t. My brain just doesn’t work that way.

O’Neil helpfully sent me two definitions of a femme fatale.

An attractive and seductive woman, especially one who will ultimately bring disaster to a man who becomes involved with her. -Oxford Dictionary

A beautiful, seductive, and usually evil female character in drama and literature. She is usually shown as a cruel, man-eating seductress. Men fall victim to her beauty and are eventually brought to ruin by her. -Urban Dictionary

O’Neil added, “If she’s a ‘kick ass’ woman going around shooting people, it doesn’t fit.”

Luckily, my characters and I don’t go around shooting people. See “healer,” above.

In the end, O’Neil put together a wonderful group of books, including mine, Terminally Ill.

Here’s the deal with Storybundle. It’s time-limited: you can only buy it for the next 19 days.

If you pay at least five dollars, you get 4 books.

If you give at least $15, you’ll get all 10 books! You can choose to give a donation to the charities Mighty Writers and Girls Write Now. It’s an awesome way to grab a bunch of award-winning writers.

I was amused to see that of the four books in the main Storybundle, two of them refer to doctors and medicine in their opening. Check this out:

ToxiCity

by Libby Fischer Hellmann

1998

Prologue

It wasn’t supposed to be this easy, watching life seep out of a body. Knowing you were the cause of it. Standing in the motel room, fingers against the carotid, feeling the pulse dwindle to a weak, irregular tremor. Smiling, as his skin became translucent, a bluish tinge to his lips. Not so hard, now, to understand that doctor who helped people die. And sometimes stuck around to watch. Hadn’t someone said at the moment of death, he’d shout at his patients, imploring them to tell him what it was like?

Bubba Goes for Broke

by David H. Hendrickson

Today he’d prove them all wrong. He wasn’t, as The Boss had said on more than one occasion, “the second or third dumbest fuck in the universe.” Bubba Winslow didn’t think he was even in the top twenty.

Redneck Riviera Box Set

by Julie Smith

They popped him in Alabama that last time, and the first thing Forest did when he got out— after he got drunk and laid— was call his buddy Roy. Roy was out in East Jesus, Florida this time— Forest didn’t quite know where, but it didn’t make much of a damn. It was somewhere to go.

Roy was so tickled to hear from him, he hollered at the phone like it was Forest himself. “Hey, ol’ buddy. Get your ass on over here. Where the hell are you, anyhow?”

“It’s where I ain’t that I’m callin’ about. I ain’t in jail in Alabama.”

“Hey, congratulations, ol’. buddy. Where in Alabama ain’t you.in jail?”

Bad Boy Boogie

by Thomas Pluck

She said to meet him in a train station lot. Jay drove there and waited, listening to an AC/DC mix tape Tony had left in the Challenger until a blue Aston Martin DB9 pulled nose to nose with him.

Ramona grinned above the wheel from behind black shades.

On the highway, she winced at the red marks on his nose and cheek. “If I wanted to help you, I should’ve gone to med school.” She weaved through traffic and drafted behind a box truck, the spy-car’s nose to the bumper.

“Way you drive, it’s good you’re a lawyer,” Jay said. “Maybe you can teach me sometime.”

Ramona wore navy slacks and lipstick that gave her the prim air of a strict schoolteacher. “I trained on the Nürburgring,” she said. “Driving here’s easy. Just expect everyone to behave like a complete jerk or a total idiot.”

And the bonus books

Candy

by Lawrence Block <–Grand Master. Winner of the Edgar, Shamus, and Anthony Awards.

The Perfect Man

by Kristine Kathryn Rusch <–New York Times bestseller. Edgar nominated. Shamus nominated.

Hit Somebody

by Steve Liskow <–two-time winner of the Black Orchid novella award. Stories in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. Has published thirteen novels.

Terminally Ill

by Melissa Yi <–I hope you know who I am. Derringer Award finalist. Writer of the Future. Recommended by CBC Books and The Next Chapter. Recognized nationally on CBC’s The Current.

Death Takes a Partner

by Dean Wesley Smith <–USA Today bestseller. Has published over 100 novels. (Stand aside, Steve.)

Bourbon Street

by O’Neil De Noux <–winner of the Best Police Book of the Year. The Derringer Award. The Shamus Award. The United Kingdom Short Story Prize.

So I hope some of you pick up the femme fatale Storybundle.

 

As for the questions above, my answers are

Are you a femme fatale? No. Although I could play one on TV, or for Hallowe’en.

Would you date one? If I were single, I’d be open-minded. This is not my usual type, though. I’m not into games, and I hadn’t dated any females before I got married.

Could you outwit one? I think so. Depends how devious she is.

Will you die from one? Hope not. I bet it would be painful.

I’d love to hear your answers, too!

I couldn’t talk about it.

I said I’d talk about it in December. But the holidays were so busy. I put it off until January.

Then January ebbed away. On the very last day, after an emergency room shift, I finally sent a message to my newsletter:

Hi,

I’ve been wanting to connect, but not knowing how to do it.

Last year, I received a very touching message from someone who had lost his father and found solace in my book, Buddhish.

He sent that message within hours of one of my friends losing her baby at 30 weeks.

I couldn’t bring their father or baby back, but I thought, If this book can help one more person, I need to let folks know. But I’m having trouble talking about it because I wrote it at the darkest time in my life, when our first pregnancy ended at twenty weeks with a tiny little girl we named Isadora.

What do you do when someone dies, and you love that being more than you love your own life?

After my family and friends returned to their normal lives, I did what I always do. I read. And part of what I read was about Buddhism, which helped me a lot, because basically, it told me that life contains suffering. I wasn’t alone and isolated in my tragedy. We will all experience both horror and joy.

For the first year, I wanted to talk about Isadora all the time. I didn’t want to overwhelm people with my grief, but I needed to share it. I found wise and helpful friends everywhere. But now that I finally have two healthy children, it’s easier not to talk about tragedy and to pretend everything is fine.

It’s easier for me to say, “Hey, CBC Books recommended Human Remains as its top mystery for the holidays, along with Louise Penny!” than it is to say, “Did you know what happened to me before these two kids?”

On the other hand, as JK Rowling’s Albus Dumbledore pointed out, “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”

It’s not easy for me to talk about Isadora, but I believe the world needs more honest conversation, so I’m telling you about Buddhish. It’s part of the way I honour her. And I do have friends who care.

One of my writer friends, Lisa Silverthorne, told me that she circled February 26th (Isadora’s birthday/death day) on her calendar, and that she thinks of her every year. Another friend asked to see pictures of her and said that she was beautiful.

Thanks for listening.

Melissa

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I don’t necessarily “know” most people who subscribe to my newsletter. I’m terrible about sending it out, and when I do, I might get a few messages back, but it’s mostly throwing a bottle of words into the ocean of the Internet.

 

There are a lot of “shoulds” for newsletters. How often to send them out, the best kind of content, how to engage. Not one of them says, “Make sure you talk about the worst thing that ever happened to you.”

I sent it anyway, and I fell asleep. It was just before midnight.

When I woke up, I had messages from all over the world. People had lost their own babies. People had lost spouses. Some of them wanted to pray for me, or with me. Some friends who wanted to show support, even if they hadn’t lost anyone. The Cornwall Library and Champlain Library each bought a copy of Buddhish, and Lisa Henderson bought two for the Hillcrest Funeral Home.

 

One friend said she cried on nearly every page.

I also shared Buddhish with Sunset Yoga. Even though I don’t get to the yoga studio often, it’s like a tiny haven.

I was amazed. It reminded me of Leonard Cohen’s poem, “Anthem,” which is so famous and so true.

 

Yes, Isadora was the deepest crack in my life. And she let in so much light.

Even so, I stayed mute on social media. It was easier to keep her quiet and private, in a world where no one will count the reactions and judge us as worthy or unworthy.

But her birth day/death day comes up tomorrow, on February 26th.

And Leonard Cohen told me that I have to ring the bells I still can ring. He instructed me to forget the perfect offering.

So today, I’m taking a deep breath and sending her story into the harsh spotlight of Facebook and Twitter.

Buddhish, by Melissa Yuan-Innes, M.D.No one may notice.

It’s okay. I still love her.

All our offerings are imperfect. We have to take the light we can, and keep ringing our bells, even if no one hears us.

Welcome, Doctor-Writers! I Am Your Matchmaker.

Women in Medicine (WIM) 2018 Pre-conference Session

WIM MIW

Writers in Medicine. Marketing in Writing.

Do you want to publish your writing, traditionally or through the new world of independent publishing?

Do want tips on marketing, whether it’s boosting your online presence, media appearances, or hand-selling?

Are you overwhelmed and have no idea where to begin, beyond picking up your pen or booting up your laptop?

Come on down! As part of the Women in Medicine pre-conference, I’m offering a special class for doctors who want to get their writing in front of eager readers. Think of it as matchmaking between your words and book lovers.

I’m Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes, the emergency doctor who writes the popular Hope Sze Medical Crime Series, twice nominated as the best mysteries of the summer by CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter (here and here). I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil, and winning awards across genres since medical school.

When: Friday, June 8, 2018, at 12:45-1:45 p.m.

Where: Ottawa Westin


PRICE



Limited to 20 participants

Please add your e-mail and phone number so I can contact you in case of last-minute shenanigans.

After WIM MIW with me, you’re welcome to join a separate, special writing class with Dr. Saroo Sharda at 2 p.m.

Message me ahead of time if you have specific questions, so that I can tailor this workshop for you. And if you’re not a woman, or not in medicine, contact me anyway. I’ll see if I can arrange a separate class for you.

melissa [dot] yuaninnes [at] gmail.com is best, and works beautifully for e-transfers (better than Paypal!).

I also hang out part-time on Facebook and, more rarely, Twitter (@dr_sassy).

Top: Joseline Beaulieu. Bottom: Darlene Novosad. Aren’t they phenomenal?

Want proof that this will be fun? Check out these two yoginis, who appeared on the front page of the Standard Freeholder newspaper with my books.

I’m excited. This is going to be awesome.

Human Remains in Montreal (Librairie Bertrand & CBC Radio’s Homerun). Coming soon to Ottawa!


When I write, and when I’m in the ER, I’m always taking risks.

In the ER, it’s obvious. Anyone could crash at any time. But I’m surrounded by a good team.

When I’m writing, it’s more private. Most of the time, no one sees me succeed or fail.

Except at a book launch.

“The average book launch has two people, and one of them is a friend of the author,” said Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Kobo director.

Clockwise from top: Dr. Yi, Dr. Adams, Maria, Su, Dr. Wein, Day’s

In Montreal, I was.afraid I wouldn’t have two.

I graduated from Montreal over a decade ago. I don’t have that many friends left in the city, and most of them are doctors with families. “I’m on call.” “I can’t go out in the evening.” “Who are you, again?” (Okay, not quite.)

Dr. Adams and Maria

Librairie Bertrand is this gorgeous bookstore in old Montreal. They have a garden in the back. Horses clip by on cobblestone streets. I had the best chicken sandwich of my life around the corner. But would anyone come to my launch?

I’ve learned two things about launches: bring as many people as possible–bribe them if you have to–and make sure your hosts are happy. If it’s a bookstore, people must buy books.

So my stress wasn’t just for me, it was for Librarie Bertrand.

When I walked in, ten minutes early, Ian Shaw, the head of Deux Voiliers Publishing, was waiting for me.

Beautiful corpses: Su and Maria

Then artists Jessica Sarrazin and Jason de Graaf walked in; he had to go to his gallery in Montreal that week, so they coordinated with my launch. “We didn’t tell you in case we couldn’t come.”

Author Su J. Sokol opened the door, fresh off her super-successful Blue Met Panel (sold out. Not even standing room). Better grab her book, Cycling to Asylum!

Mayday, mayday! Dr. Yi & Sophia

And another author, Day’s Lee, a multi-talented writer of not only YA and children’s books, but also plays and films–check out my interview here or her own website. A powerhouse of a writer and a good person. Check her out!

Help! ABC’s! Sophia & Dr. Yi

Dr. Ted Wein stepped through the door. I was shocked. I haven’t seen him since he teased me about my pregnancy belly with my son Max. Since then he has set up a comprehensive Stroke Prevention Unit at MUHC, the first of its kind in Canada, which is tragically being closed.

Next, Dr. Chryssi Paraskevopoulos managed to come despite an onslaught of “red phones.” (They call you on a special red phone when then big cases come in.) I haven’t seen her since I graduated!

Fun fact: both these doctors were incorporated into St. Joseph’s Hospital, Hope Sze’s Montreal hospital, under different names. If you know them, see if you can spot them in Code Blues.

Maria Davila, a member of the Glengarry Book Club, dashed in after a hard day’s work.

Dr. Rob Adams of Alexandria made it as well! By this point, during the ebb and flow, someone asked, “How many people are doctors?”

“Half,” I realized aloud. “Hey, why don’t the civilians pretend to be human remains, and the doctors can resuscitate them?”

Most attendees were puzzled, but they’d met me before and were aware of my general insanity. I ushered them into place. Don’t they look lovely? The bookstore staff was laughing away.

Last, but certainly not least, Sophia Petritsis showed up and was the most enthusiastic corpse of all!

Plus, we ran into Dr. Ed Hargassner on the way out.

Altogether, that was pretty awesome!

And … CBC Radio’s Homerun featured Human Remains!

I’m very excited about this. Richard King, the CBC Homerun reviewer-author, called Human Remains “a great medical mystery. Wonderful characters and plot.” He was so impressed that he gave a copy to a physician friend. Hooray!

Want some Human Remains? I’ll be in Ottawa chairing the Emerging Crime Panel at Prose in the Park on Saturday, June 10th, at 16:00 (Parkdale).

I will also be signing my books at Louise Penny’s Ottawa International Writers Festival event June 16th. Although of course the focus will be on this New York Times bestseller and lovely human being, she’s graciously allowing the judges and the winners from the Capital Crime Writers Audrey Jessup Writing Contest to share a little of her spotlight.

Thanks to everyone who has supported Human Remains. We love you!


 

Human Remains Hit Kobo’s Top 10, along with the Handmaid’s Tale … and other wonderful launch day stories, from Cornwall

Here were my worries for the launch day of Human Remains.

1. Would anyone buy my book?

2. Would anyone show up for my launch in Cornwall?

This dredges up bad memories, like being picked last for a baseball team, times a thousand. I never thought I’d play for the Major Leagues. However, I want to not suck at writing and getting my books into the hands of people who like to read them.

A few more problems. Last time I launched a Hope Sze book, Stockholm Syndrome, I got the flu and then, for the first time in my life, pneumonia. I didn’t want to go through that again.

The last two Hope books had hit the Kobo bestseller list of Top 25 e-books after a CBC interview—but I didn’t have a CBC interview lined up for launch day, although Murder in Common had posted a review, and the Standard Freeholder and the Review had shown their support.

I’m lucky to have readers buy my books in person, in print, at my hospitals, but that doesn’t register on Amazon or Kobo. To hit the bestseller list, I need people to buy online.

Luckily, they did. They had my back on Facebook and on my mailing list. I hit Kobo’s Top 10 and cracked the medical list on Amazon.ca. Thank you, thank you!

This is me cracking Kobo’s Top 10 with MARGARET ATWOOD at #6. Hey, Maggie, want to hang out? Wait, we are already … ON THE BESTSELLER LIST.

Yes, you can buy Human Remains on Kobo! It hit #1 in Women Sleuths, don’t’cha know.

Hi, Amazon! Thanks for getting me to #1 in Medical Thrillers!

Kobo even does a map to show where your buyers are, world-wide. Thanks, Kobo!

So that was hurdle #1. Yay, people bought my book around the world!

#2: I drove to Cornwall, quite exhausted, not knowing who would show up. I was pretty assertive about asking people, even handing flyers to both an American and a Canadian border agent (hi, T!). But you never know who will actually take the time to haul their carcass to the Cornwall Library on a Tuesday evening.

Hooray, people came!

I wasn’t late! Good thing, too, because the usual elevator was broken, and I had to come up the freight elevator to get set up.

My launch was part of DNA Day, the only Canadian place to celebrate the discovery of the double helix structure and completing the Human Genome Project. I have to say that, when asked, at least two people named not only Watson and Crick but also Rosalind Franklin. I handed out DNA origami and played my interview with Dr. Bill Stanford before reading from Human Remains, answering some creative questions, and making them do the wave.

It was fun. Every time I do a launch, different friends can or can’t come. It’s like throwing a party and seeing who shows up.

Some of my friends rarely do physical book launches anymore. They’d rather stay home and write. At most, they’ll have a Facebook party. But I can name two good things that came out of my Cornwall launch.

1. I met Troy and Robyn Guindon. He’s an acclaimed local author, and Robyn is the pharmacist and owner of Wholehealth Pharmacy, where she prides herself on one-on-one care with her patients.

We laughed about the fact that my family still has our Christmas tree up. Robyn said, “We did that, too! One year, we put up little balls for Easter.”

“Anastasia wanted to do that, but we didn’t get around to it!”

Robyn also has a collection of historical mortar and pestles. “Do you ever use a mortar and pestle?” I asked.

“Once in a while, to crush aspirin that we use in a salve.”

A show globe. Normally green means all is well and red means a plague. Uh oh.

“For what?”

“Psoriasis, to reduce the scaling.”

I had never heard of it, but it makes sense that you might try to gently abrade the white scales of psoriasis. So I learned something from Robyn, and you can, too! Plus, if you go, you can pick up one of Troy’s or my books, because she has good taste like that.

My books are also now available at Henderson’s in Lancaster!

2. A teacher at Holy Trinity asked me to come to his English class. So I drove away from my first book launch with a school visit set for the following week.

But first I had to face my next challenge.

3. In two days, on April 27th, I would have my first Montreal launch, at a beautiful Old Montreal bookstore called Librairie Bertrand.

I haven’t lived in Montreal since I graduated from the emergency program. Most of my friends have moved away.

I started wearing blue hair to some of my launches. My family thought this was hilarious.

What if zero people showed up in Montreal?

Max turns the big 1-1

Well, I couldn’t let Max turn eleven without mentioning it here!

This year, his goal was to pass level 10 swimming when he was ten. Not only did he pass level 10, but he also passed Bronze Star, although he struggled to lift bigger kids out of the water as he pretended to rescue them.

He also read a ton. I read all the Harry Potters to him, and our gifts were almost all books this year. I gave him graphic novels (“Please be Lunarbaboon,” he prayed over his last present), and his dad gave him the Percy Jackson series and Axel F sheet music. He’s read all the Wimpy Kid books, so we just finished Snoopy.

He wrote a melody for himself and played “The Entertainer” over and over at Christmas. He also started drawing comics.

On the downside, he failed organization, so we limited his screen time to an hour a day until he passed it the next term. He loves TV and computer more than anything else in life.

Overall, though, we’re lucky to have a happy, loving, healthy boy who’s slowly moving toward teenagerhood. He’s not there yet, but he’s showing signs. Like, I asked my family how Max had changed over the past year, and Anastasia said, “He has a little moustache.”

No one asks me about adolescence yet, but it reminds me of when strangers would ask, “Does he walk?” or “Does he talk?” At first, the answer was no, then “A little” and “Sort of” before it became a holy yes. It’s a continuum. He certainly doesn’t listen to me as much as he used to. “Why?” <door slam> Once he even cranked up the radio behind that door. So I know greater storms are coming. But for now, he’s still a pretty gentle soul. “Doux comme un agneau,” said his teachers in grade one, and he is.

Our friend Sandra gave us a night’s stay at the beautiful Alt Hotel in Ottawa. For some reason, they had a cube in the room. Max put it on his head, so Anastasia did, too.

Now I miss Max being 10.

Matt bought him a badminton set for his birthday, and that’s a big hit. Anastasia broke it three days ago. She tripped over the pole and broke it while chasing after a maple leaf. (“My leaf!” she cried. I mention this because it’s such a little kid thing to do. That leaf was crucial to her.) But Max rigged up a stick to put inside the hollow pole, and we played again today before Matt got a wooden dowel in there.

Happy birthday, Max-o. We love you.

Mommy

 

Human Remains pre-launches in Ottawa, with the Arthur Ellis Shortlist (or, my thoughts on Mother’s Day 2017)

I’m writing about my mini Human Remains book tour, starting from April 20th in Ottawa and culminating in Williamstown on May 10th. Join in the fun! Since I’m late blogging, I’ll add in some current tidbits as well.

For me, Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate caring people.

I don’t care so much if or when you procreated, but if you are loving and thoughtful, you’re on my team.

First, I do have to give thanks to my two little beans, whom I love. This is what they looked like on Mother’s Day morning:

Look at Anastasia read!

Look at Max try to sleep!

My son and husband made me breakfast, a pancake and the cheese bread Max learned to bake at le Relais, a local school. Anastasia was supposed to be helping, but mainly seemed to be popping bubble wrap.

Secondly, thanks to my own mother (and my father). I wouldn’t be here without them. My mom came to my Ottawa pre-launch on April 20th, which tickled author Patricia Filteau and reader Nancy, who took photos of her. My mom would get up and take pictures of me, no matter what was going on. Mother love! She’s the one in red plaid.

Janus Fox had made friends with me on Facebook, but this was the first time I met her in real life. Not only did she buy Human Remains and bring her copy of Stockholm Syndrome for me to sign, but she got two more for her American friends, so I’m officially in love. She also  won the door prize by correctly filling out the author crossword puzzle. That’s right, my readers are smart.

My friend Joseline Beaulieu came and brought me chocolate. My mother was so impressed, she ordered me to give Joseline a thank-you card, which I’ve forgotten to do, but Joseline is so nice, she said that next time, she’d bring my mom chocolates. That’s how nice she is—so nice that I felt embarrassed and said, “No, no, I should bring my own mother chocolates.” No wonder Joseline has helped turn the Madagascar School Project into such a success. 

Thanks to Linda Wiken for organizing the evening. She’s a successful author who started a new series based on a cooking club. So if you love eating and reading the way I do, that’s a perfect combination.

I was taking a selfie with my book, and Linda offered to take a picture of me. So then we did high fives.

Then we invited authors Mary Jane Maffini, Patricia Filteau, and Nick Wilkshire to join us.

For some reason, I suggested that we should jump. It was not a popular suggestion, but we got some funny photos out of it. Here are the outtakes that didn’t make it on Facebook.

The Ottawa launch highlighted the Arthur Ellis shortlist, including these writers I know:

Mary Fernando: a physician-writer who worked hard to try and get doctors a pension, so you know she’s a fighter. Her novel, An Absence of Empathy, is shortlisted for the Unhanged Arthur for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel sponsored by Dundurn Press

Brenda Chapman, No Trace, shortlisted for Best Novella, which is The Lou Allin Memorial Award. Brenda was one of my fellow judges for the CCW Writing Contest and seems very organized, not to mention has so many legions of friends and fans that Dundurn awarded her a seven-book contract

Elizabeth Hosang’s up for best story with “Where There’s a Will.” It appeared in The Whole She-Bang 3, which has three shortlisted stories. Whew! She’s also the CCW secretary-treasurer and reads Neil Gaiman, so you know she’s cool.

I’m proud of Ryan Aldred, whom I met at Bloody Words 2014. His novel, Rum Luck, is up for Best First Novel, Sponsored by Kobo.

I was super excited to hear that Gordon Korman was up for Best Juvenile/YA Book for Masterminds: Criminal Destiny. I love that guy. He was a cornerstone of my childhood, and Max likes him too, especially I Want to Go Home.

I feel a connection to Debra Komar, who is shortlisted for Best Nonfiction Book for Black River Road: An Unthinkable Crime, an Unlikely Suspect, and the Question of Character. She’s the forensic scientist who specialized in genocide and has testified in the Hague and across North America to put truly evil people behind bars. She came to CCW in September for a talk and was generous enough to critique the resuscitation scene of Human Remains, as you can see here. (She was appalled that Hope would touch the body. “The body belongs to me, the medical examiner.” I tried to explain that for an emergency doctor, everyone is fair game, because you don’t know if the person is truly deceased until you examine them.)

I also know Cathy Ace from Crime Writers of Canada. She’s shortlisted for “Steve’s Story,” one of the stellar authors in The Whole She-Bang 3.

I’m sure there are more luminaries I missed, if you want to check out here.

Next stop on my book tour recap: launch day in Cornwall!

Questions: will anyone show up? The Standard Freeholder and the Review got people excited in advance, but you never know.

Will anyone buy my book? How about you? For a limited time, you can grab Human Remains for free on Kobo with the code HRemains.

Stay tuned!

Plays, picture books, and pagodas with author Day’s Lee

Author Day’s Lee

Please give a warm welcome to Day’s Lee!

Help! Day’s Lee has been stabbed! Dr. Chryssi Paraskevopoulos to the rescue!

You don’t know who Day’s Lee is? Let’s correct that immediately.

I met her at Prose at the Park last summer, and this is the kind of generous person she is.

Not only did she buy my books and feature me on her blog here on May 1st to kick off Asian heritage month, but when I told her that I was worried no one would show up to my Librairie Bertrand Montreal book launch, she drove into Old Montreal to support me. All this after meeting me one time!
I asked attendees to pretend to be corpses (Human Remains, see). She was among the first to agree, and she asked staff for a weapon to make it even more dramatic.

When I meet someone like that—instant friend, ultra-supportive, and creatively nuts—I KNOW we’re going to have a good time.

And so will you!

Dr. Chryssi Paraskevopoulos with Day’s Lee, who interviewed me here; Dr. Ted Wein with author Su J. Sokol; me with artist Jessica Sarrazin. Not pictured: Dr. Rob Adams and reader Maria, and artist Jason de Graaf

Melissa Yi: You write a lot about your heritage. Is that a choice you’ve made artistically, a choice that’s influenced by market demand, or both?

Day’s Lee: It’s a bit of both. I started out by writing short stories about the immigrant experience of my parents’ generation. Then, one day, as I was flipping through some magazines, I wondered if they might be interested in some articles about the Chinese community. I sent in a couple of submissions, and when they were accepted, I realized that I had a point of view that would be of interest to publishers.

MY: You write short stories, picture books, and YA. What appeals to you about each of these genres?

DL: Actually, everything appeals to me: short stories, novels, plays, feature articles, and scripts.

MY: Me too! I don’t see the division between formats. It’s all storytelling. How do pick what you’re working on?

DL: I think of the story and then figure out which format it should take. For instance, I’m filming a documentary about my family’s restaurant now because it just feels right to do it that way.

MY: I would be into that. I love food, I respect the hard work that goes into the restaurant business, and I’d like to know the behind-the-scenes stories. So that’s taking up all of your time?

DL: I’m working on three projects: (1) the documentary about my family’s restaurant, Lee’s Garden, which my parents owned from the early 1950s to the mid-1970s, (2) the third draft of a play which is based on my short story The Red Pagoda, and (3) revising my next young adult novel which doesn’t have a title yet.

MY: Wow. Do you have a day job, too? Because that’s a lot of material to juggle.

DL: I work full-time as a legal assistant. The job has trained me to be organized, to pay attention to details, and how to read legal documents. All of that comes in handy as a writer.

MY: Yes! Business know-how makes the difference between writers who are one-hit wonders and writers who build a long term career. Do you find that your writing has changed over time?

DL: I hope I’m better at it.

MY: For sure. Any skill gets better with practice. I know I’ve enjoyed reading all your books. I’ve got to ask you, though, since you know contracts as well as the art of writing, what do you think of the changes in the publishing world?

DL: When I first decided to make a go at being a published writer, there were all kinds of warnings about how vanity press (that’s what self-publishing was called then) can ruin your chances with a publisher.

There were horror stories about writers who didn’t heed the warnings, had spent hundreds of dollars, and ended up with a garage full of books they couldn’t sell.

I think it’s great that writers can now choose their own path and find their readers. There aren’t any gatekeepers anymore, but the writer’s job has expanded as many publishers now expect writers to take part in marketing their books, and of course self-publishers have to wear all the hats.

MY: It’s worth it, though, right? I mean, why do you write?

DL: I love books. When I was in elementary school, the library was my favourite place and I never missed a chance to take out a book. I knew then that I wanted to be a writer.

MY: Me too. We’re totally twins. Do you have a secret dream book or project?

DL: I would love to write a Broadway musical.

MY: Whaaaaaat? I love the way you think! Looking forward to it.

Want to know more about Day’s? Yes, you do. Start at her website and fly from there. We love you, Day’s!

I’m on TV today with Human Remains—and my first grader directed the cameras!

I was racing out the door for a television interview about my forthcoming book, Human Remains. My daughter, Anastasia, hopped off my husband’s lap. “I want to come with you.”

“Oh. I’m already late—”

“I want to come with you.”

My husband could look after her. That was the sensible option. Instead, reaching for my keys, I said, “Okay. Are you wearing clothes?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s go.”

We made it to CogecoTV with ten minutes to spare. I buzzed for entry. I’d already reminded Anastasia, “What are you going to do during my interview?”

“Play with my animals.” She’d brought tiny toy animals.

“And how are you going to do it?”

“Making no noise.”

This was dicey. Her brother, Max, understands rules and when his mother is not fooling around. Anastasia is more like what one of my rural neighbours said: everyone has one kid who has to pee on the electric fence.

And you never know how people are going to react to children. Most people claim to like kids, but as soon as you tow a small body into the room, just watch their face fall and their body language go on high alert.

I did it anyway. I think part of it is being a doctor; I’m separated from my kids more than with an average job. If they want to come with me, I bring ’em.

To my astonishment, everyone at the station took to Anastasia. The producer, Bill Makinson, showed her around the station and told her she could help him press the buttons for the cameras during my interview with the lovely Brenda St-Louis about Human Remains.

Bill told me afterward, “Anastasia figured it out. We use the wide angle if you’re both talking and switch to the other camera if you’re taking turns. She knew what to do. She can read really well.”

What? My six-year-old knows more about behind-the-scenes TV production than I do!

They even fired up the bingo machine at the end for her. She solemnly plucked each ball out and said, for example, “O 29.”

I love taking risks and having it turn out better than if I’d played it safe.

Human Remains will debut April 25th, DNA Day. If you’re in Cornwall, come on out to the library at 7 p.m. I’ll have DNA origami, an interview with stem cell scientist Dr. Bill Stanford, and the coolest people turning up—except for the Ottawa, Montreal, and Williamstown launches, of course! Thanks to the Review and Standard Freeholder for getting the word out. You can preorder it the e-book for only $2.99!

I know some of you have kindly agreed to review Human Remains. Thanks to those who have done the deed on GoodreadsAmazon changed the rules and won’t allow reviews on pre-orders, so thank you so much for your patience. Amazon reviews should open up on Tuesday, April 25th.

I should also have a special promo code for you on DNA Day, so please join my mailing list here.

In the meantime, tune in at I’m participating in this gnarly promo with other mystery authors today at http://annertan.com/free/ (yes, I’m last-minute. Did you miss the part about how I was almost late for my own interview?)

Tune in to Cogeco’s Community Matters today, which is Tuesday, April 18th, at 17:30, 18:00, 22:00, 22:30. This is bingo night!

Tomorrow, watch us all over again at 09:30, 17:30, 18:00, 22:00, and 22:30.

And then come celebrate science and literature with me!

Cheers,

Melissa

Human Remains is ready for pre-order, and I love the Medical Post

1. Human Remains, the fifth Hope Sze crime novel, is available for preorder online, including on Amazon.ca .com .uk/Kobo/iTunes/Nook/Google Play (all links here), and will debut on April 25th (DNA Day). Yay!

2. Now I have time to talk about other good stuff, like the fact that the Medical Post chose my article as one of the best of the year.

Dr. Yuan-Innes reflects on a old Welsh myth of the sin eaters that Margaret Atwood writes about in one of her short stories. “We study to the point of exhaustion and work inhumane hours for the privilege of seeing the worst of human nature,” Dr. Yuan-Innes writes. While she had gotten into medical school believing doctors were heroes, the revelation in Atwood’s story gave her pause: doctors are sin eaters in their own way, often shunned and depraved as a result of their work.
Shunned and depraved, c’est moi. If you want to read the full article, it’s here.
All the articles are gated (you have to make an account with an e-mail and password), but it means that the people who read them care. I love reading the comments and seeing what people have to say.

I wrote my first Medical Post article in 2009, “The Doogie Howser Dilemma,” when patients said I looked too young to be a doctor. It sounds like a compliment, but I could tell some patients were actively uncomfortable. They wanted me to look more, um, seasoned. Fortunately, time has mostly taken care of that one, although I did laugh recently when a patient said, “This appendix scar is 22 years old. I think it’s older than you.”
I wrote about that, too, in my mini-article that was part of a cover story on Misconceptions in Medicine (“What do you feel are some of the biggest misconceptions (or myths) that exist about being a doctor?”). I wrote back, “I’m not an old, white man who plays golf.”

Since then, I’ve raged about the Ontario government cutting physician pay and blaming doctors for their mismanaged care. I made a video called YMCA doctors, with the help of Dr. Christine Suess, Dr. Renee Givari, Dr. Tim Heeley-Ray, Dr. Akram Akbar, Dr. Diane Poilly, a beloved civilian, and three videographers, including Jeff Dorn and Dominic Gauthier—and the Medical Post and CareNotCuts.ca helped me spread the word.

Yep, that’s our Christmas tree in March. Rock on.

I’ve written about travelling to South Africa, including dissecting an impala and manually inflating its lungs with my breath. This article also appears in my book, The Knowledgeable Lion.
I’ve talked about how to balance motherhood and medicine, including my guilt over not diagnosing my own daughter’s hearing difficulty until she was old enough to turn up the TV and yell back at us, “Whaaaaaaat? I can’t HEAR you!”
The Medical Post has helped connect me with other doctors, including Dr. Shawn Whatley, who’s organizing the NonclinicalMD’s conference where I’ll be speaking in May. Hats off to Julie Connolly, a physician-author herself, who participated in my YMCA doctors video on health care cuts and tells tales from the single mother-doctor trenches—here’s her latest, which makes me flinch. The log of poop on the floor would’ve been the last straw for me. Julie makes the fact that we still have our Christmas tree up seem absolutely normal and unimportant. (My son, Max, said, “Leave it up ’til next year!” My daughter, Anastasia, said, “Let’s decorate it for Easter. When I told RN Mary B, she grabbed my hands and said, “God love ’em. Those are well-adjusted kids.”)
I feel so much gratitude toward The Medical Post. They’ve been an independent newspaper for over 50 years, reaching 20,000 subscribers, and providing a strong voice and current information for medical professionals.
On a personal level, the Medical Post was one of the first newspapers to publish my columns. In Cornwall and on my sojourns at CHEO or the Montfort, I met doctors who recognized me from my newspaper writing. Anna, a nurse at Glengarry, loved my article, “Are Women Ruining Medicine?”  She said, “I tried to photocopy it, but the paper was too big.” (That article also appears in Fifty Shades of Grey’s Anatomy.)

E-book, print, and audio!

Writing-wise, working with the Medical Post has been a professional boon. A collection of my columns, The Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World and Other True Tales From the Emergency Room, was my bestseller on Amazon. Last year, the 62nd Canadian Business Media Awards nominated my work for Best Regularly Featured Department or Column.
Thank you, Medical Post. We need independent, thoughtful, fact-based journalism more than ever.

Signing off from Mont Tremblant

Human Remains for Valentine’s Day: Chapter 2

I hardly celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s not that I’m against romantic love; I figure one of the ace cards in my life is that I met Matt in high school and didn’t waste a few decades finding the right person. (This is us, struggling to say goodbye before he flew off to Greece on a school trip. Our friend Zygo took a picture of us through the bus window.)

So I’m not going to bludgeon you with flowers. Instead, I’m going to give you anatomical hearts and
circulation pictures and the second chapter of Human Remains, because nothin’ says romance like trying to resuscitate a dead body in the snow. This book is almost ready to rock and roll! Let me know if you want to be part of my “street team,” reviewing an advance copy.

And if you want to read Stockholm Syndrome first, they’re down to their last two copies at Librairie Paragraphe Books! Go grab it in the next 24 hours, support an indie bookstore, and rebel against the norm by reading about a hostage-taking while everyone else.

Human Remains

Chapter 2

The body wore a shiny, new, navy ski jacket. It lay crumpled on its left side, its black-jeaned legs slightly bent, and one arm rolled up underneath it, while the other arm hung forward, half-blocking the chest. Its skimpy black gloves and beat-up Converses didn’t look like much protection against the snow.

But of course, the most shocking thing was the black bag over its head.

Ryan stood frozen. His breath spun into the air, making white clouds in the night.

Roxy bent her head, tipping her floppy ears forward. Her nostrils flared and glistened under the dim light of the streetlamp.

“Let me check it while you call 911,” I said to Ryan. Even as I spoke, he pulled his phone out of his pocket. With the other hand, he reeled Roxy’s leash in tight to his body. He yanked off his left glove so he could work the buttons while watching the body.

If this was a crime scene, I shouldn’t touch anything, including the bag taped around its neck.

But I was a medical doctor.

Okay, a resident doctor. But still. My job was to make sure he was alive.

And if he wasn’t, my job was to bring him back.

There’s a saying in medicine, “They’re not dead until they’re warm and dead.”

Snow meant zero degrees Celsius or lower. This man was definitely not warm and dead.

I swallowed hard.

I had to do my job.

If only I could do my job with gloves and a face mask.

I crouched low. “Hello?” I raised my voice to be heard above the traffic, including the stuttering roar of a helicopter. Normally, I’d shake him, or do a sternal rub, but I didn’t want to touch the body.

More snowflakes landed on the jacket.

The bag didn’t flutter with the man’s breathing.

No airway. No breathing.

“Hope, he’s—” Ryan didn’t want to say it, but we both knew he was thinking the D word. Not Disability, but Death. “Don’t touch it, Hope.”

If only I had an ultrasound machine to do a sono pulse check, looking for a beating heart, instead of going skin to skin. “Just the radial artery,” I said. I reached for the closest arm, the right arm, sheathed in the painfully new ski jacket.

The wind carried Ryan’s words toward me as he spoke on the phone. “Ambulance. But maybe police. We found someone with a bag over his head. He’s not moving. He looks…gone.”

I touched the man’s sleeve first, through my mitten. His arm felt firm, even with that light touch, and it belatedly occurred to me that I didn’t have to check for a pulse if the man had rigor mortis.

The arm resisted me when I lifted it. It did move, but only a few centimetres before I’d have to apply greater pressure. The muscles had seized up. But it didn’t feel locked-in, like I imagined rigor mortis would.

On the other hand, it was literally freezing outside. Was I feeling rigor mortis, or one very cold person?

I didn’t trust my numb hands to undo the black tape around his neck, and surely there might be fingerprints or hair trapped in the tape that constituted police evidence, if this was a homicide.

I yanked off my mittens and used my nails to lift a bit of the right sleeve and expose the skin. In the dim light, I couldn’t detect bruising or obvious lacerations on his dark brown wrist.

Since I didn’t have any open cuts or sores either, it was probably safe to touch him bare-skinned.

Ryan was giving directions. “We’re near the corner of Lindsay and Bullock. Yes, just south of the hospital. My girlfriend is a resident doctor from Montreal. She’s checking for a pulse.”

I slid my hand just inside the radial styloid, pressing hard to compress the artery against the bone and maximize any pulse.

His skin felt slightly cooler than mine, but not icy. Faintly warm.

No pulse.

The radial pulse is the first to go. Unless you’ve got a blood pressure of at least 80 millimetres of mercury, the body shuts down circulation to the arms.

The blue lights of a police cruiser raced up Lindsay Lane toward us, its siren splitting the air.

“Ryan,” I hollered, above the din, “there’s no radial pulse.”

Roxy barked twice and jumped onto her back legs. I sucked my breath in. Nice dog, but she was still a Rottweiler who wanted to snack on a dead body, as far as I was concerned.

“No radial pulse. That’s right, no radial pulse,” Ryan yelled into his phone while winding Roxy back into place beside him.

“I’ll have to open that bag over his face!”

“What?” Ryan frowned at me, trying to triangulate between 911, Roxy’s antics, and my voice.

I enunciated short, hard sentences. “The bag over his head. He can’t breathe. Do they want me to rip it open?”

Ryan’s eyes were so wide, I could see the whites glowing under the street light. “What? No, Hope, he’s dead. I think they want you to leave it for the police!”

I was already reaching for the bag, bracing for myself for whatever sick smell that would balloon out at me as I tore it. “Just ask them. He’s still warm.”

“Uh…my girlfriend, the doctor…she’s worried about the bag over the head. Do you want her to take it off?” He shook his head. “Yeah, he looks dead, and he has no pulse, but he’s still warm…yes, I’ll hold.” He glared at me. “Hang on a second.”

I nodded. In the ER, the staff and I could make the decision, but in the field, at what could be a crime scene, with the police car screeching to a halt on the other side of the street.

I stood up, and my vision started to blacken at the edges. I hadn’t eaten much today. Too busy packing and driving from Montreal through the snow. I blinked, waiting for my vision to come back. I’d never fainted in my life. I had no intention of doing so over a corpse.

“Hope, they said not to touch the bag. Hope? Are you okay?”

“Fine,” I said, too loudly. My vision was starting to clear. “I’ll do CPR.”

I donned my mittens to nudge the body onto his back. He wanted to stay curled up. Ryan had to hold down the shoulder while I twisted the hips flat on the ground.

I dropped to my knees, interlaced my fingers, and extended my arms to begin CPR. The new Advanced Cardiac Life Support algorithm is all about CPR. Get that blood pumping. Even if he’s hypoxic with a bag over his head.

His ribs cracked under my first compression.

I’ve never broken anyone’s ribs during CPR. It’s one of the risks of CPR, but it’s never happened to me.

I could be puncturing his lungs with his own ribs, with each compression.

I swore.

“Over here!” Ryan’s cry pierced the night air. Roxy barked ferociously as a police officer bolted across the road toward us.

Another siren whooped.

The first police officer yelled on his radio while I continued compressions, gritting my teeth.

Roxy barked and leaped in response. Ryan had to beat a retreat, holding her back.

A second officer sprinted to my side and took over CPR while I checked for a pulse in the wrist. It was strong, thanks to his efforts.

“Good compressions. Can I take off the bag?” I pointed at the garbage bag.

Sweat trickled down the side of the CPR officer’s face as he pounded the man’s chest. He shook his head and glanced at the officer on his radio, possibly for a second opinion, before turning back to his compressions.

Two more officers crunched through the snow toward us, already calling on their radios for more back up, but I was most relieved when an ambulance jerked to a halt on Lindsay Lane.

Paramedics hustled to the scene with a stretcher, a kit, and a monitor. One of them sliced open the head bag with scissors, reminding me that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

The sour smell of vomit hit the air as chunks fell out of the bag hole. I held my breath while the other paramedic cut open the jacket to apply electrodes to the man’s chest. Yes, it did look like a man. No breasts.

The CPR officer was gasping, so I said, “Do you want to switch off?” He nodded, and I signalled another officer, who ran in, dropped to his knees, and started compressions so enthusiastic that the man’s slim, dark brown-skinned chest indented with each one.

We paused for a second to check the rhythm: an occasional narrow complex at 30 beats per minute. No pulse.

Hypothermia is one of the causes of pulseless electrical activity. So is hypoxia.

“Restart CPR! And I can get an airway in!” I called, moving to the head, but the airway guy was already on his stomach, shoving what I assumed was a laryngeal mask airway or a Combitube into the man’s mouth. It was hard to see what was going on, in the dark, with everyone shouting on their radios, and Roxy still barking up a frenzy.

“Got it!” called the airway guy.

“Great. Let’s get him warm and oxygenated. Can you get a sat?” I turned to stare at the yellow tracing on the monitor, which was just showing the jagged movement of compressions right now.

“It’s not picking up, but the CO2 detector is yellow.”

“Good job! Give him an amp of Epi!” I said. We had airway and we were providing primitive breathing and circulation. Epi is controversial in hypothermia, but you can give one dose.

“Let’s load him up and protect his C-spine,” said the second paramedic. I helped lift the legs on to the stretcher while they managed to get a cervical spine collar on him and some pads on either side of his head. A third officer took over CPR.

“I can take over compressions,” I told the CPR police officer, even though I’ve never done them while jogging along beside a stretcher, but he shook his head.

The patient’s belly looked distended. I opened my mouth to mention a nasogastric tube, when they had the chance, but a female police officer took my arm and said, “We have some questions for you. Could you come to the station with us?”

#

While you’re waiting for more Human Remains (deeeeelicious, I tell you), check out two mega-giveaways: science fiction and fantasy (I’m giving away Fairy Tales Are for White People!) and mystery/thriller (I’m giving away Code Blues, the first Hope Sze novel, in hopes that sane people will leave a good review).

Just to show you that I’m not a complete V-Day Grinch, I’ll end with another story. Remember Zygo, who took the picture of me and Matt in high school? When Anastasia was a baby, we attended Zygo’s own wedding with his lovely wife Jenny and a Tardis wedding cake. (Gosh, I miss that sweet little baby. However, I have to admit that Matt carried her around the entire time.)

Ah, love. I heard it makes the world go ’round. Of course, I’ve also heard that the earth’s spin is due to “gravitational collapse of accreting material,” but details, details.

I finished Human Remains!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hope hits Ottawa. And other good news.

human-remains-child-cover-red-antonio-6x9-72On November 30th, 2016, while my kids stayed up past their bedtimes, begging me to read to them and pay attention to them, I ignored their beautiful little faces and finished the first draft of Human Remains.

“What’s it about?” asked my new friend and author Su J. Sokol.

What would you do if you found a warm, pulseless man on the ground, with a bag over his head?

If you’re Dr. Hope Sze, you try to resuscitate him.

Then you try to figure out who killed him.

HUMAN REMAINS

the fifth Hope Sze novel

We’re talking human remains literally and metaphorically. In addition to finding a dead man, Hope has to rebuild herself after thwarting the hostage-taking on the obstetrics ward.

“Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. But hope without critical thinking is naïveté. And I I try to live in this place between the two.”–Maria Popova of BrainPickings.org

How do we strike this balance? Look around you. The world is excruciating at times. Imagine if you’re Hope Sze, running into murder and the depths of human perversion. How do you regenerate a sense of hope and optimism that’s still grounded in reality?

That’s part of what this book is about. And maybe part of the reason this book was so hard for me to write. But I diiiiiiid it, as my kids used to say.

Speaking of which, my kids survived my neglect. Anastasia was pretty cool about it. She worked on an Angry Birds activity book and set an alarm clock. She asked me to set it off when I finished, which I did.

Max waited for me to read to him, even though we’d just finished reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child that morning. I read a little of A Wrinkle in Time, a book I love and first read when I was in grade five.

While you’re waiting for Human Remains to hit the shelves, you can buy my books in Ottawa at Books on Beechwood. Yaaaaaaay!

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You can always make new friends at Books on Beechwood. This lady asked my advice about children’s books, but was intrigued by Stockholm Syndrome and The Emergency Doctor’s Guide to a Pain-Free Back.

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Stockholm Syndrome is available in Montreal at Librairie Paragraphe Books. You can order it through Librairie Bertrand too (more on that later).

And if you’re in my neck of the woods, please support R&L’s Book Nook, The Review, Fassifern General Store, Penny’s Market, and the Cornwall Public Library. My books are also available in New York City and the Boston area. Woo hoo! Full list of retailers here.

I’ll be more active on my blog and social media in the next month or two, as I clean up Human Remains. Cheers!

P.S. Website comment:this didn’t post to Facebook and Twitter. Looks like Mailchimp may have discontinued their social plugin. Why, Mailchimp, why? I don’t know if likes or comments will post through to my blog any more. Sad face. But otherwise, wheeeeee!