Why should I go to a mystery convention? To prostitute myself, of course. Bloody Words, Part I.

I was very worried about losing money at Bloody Words 2014.

Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith had beaten into me that the surest path to success in writing is simply production. Sit in your garret and write, day and night, month after month, year after year. Your craft will improve, and once you have hundreds or thousands of items for sale, someone will take notice. You don’t need to go to cons and promote if you don’t want to.

But then I got this Facebook message from Steve Steinbock:

Melissa, I decided to come to Bloody Words this year. Here are seven (or so) reasons why you should come: (1) To push Terminally Ill, (2) to join me, Howard Shrier, and Ken Wishnia in a Yiddish cussing contest, (3) celebrate the publication of your short story in Ellery Queen (whenever it comes out), (4) administer first aid when I fall off the dais, (5) sign my copy of Terminally Ill, (6) buy a drink for the reviewer who plugged your book in Ellery Queen, and (7) be the final name on the attendees roster (beating out S.G. Wong).

How could I say no? I plunked down $190 for the conference fee. I’d already booked that weekend off for Yocomo, the Montreal yoga conference. But I’d go to Bloody Words instead. Maybe I’d sell a few copies of my book.

Then it started to haunt me. What if nobody bought my book? What if I spent $199 per night at the Hyatt Regency and just went into debt? I started calling my friends to angst about it. My friends Bob Jeschonek and Richard Quarry told me not to think about it like a return on investment, just go and network.

My friend Kandy said to have fun. “You get to go to Toronto. You’re getting away from your kids. You don’t have to cook or do dishes. What are you complaining about?”

“OH MY GOD,” said her husband, Vince. “You’re going to a con? GO AND PROSTITUTE YOURSELF, LIKE ANY AUTHOR.”

So I did.

prostitution-225406_150

This is me. On Pixabay. Obviously.

I drove myself to downtown Toronto and hurried to Scene of the Crime Books, the book dealer who would sell my books during the con. Right afterward, I realized that I had lost my phone. With cash in the case.

Aaaaagh! After worrying about losing money, I’d just lost an smart phone plus cold, hard cash.

I’ll save you the suspense. Someone had already turned it in. THANK YOU.

I don’t know what I would have done with myself next, since everyone else was saying “Hiiiiiiii! It’s so good to see you!!!!!!” and I was more like this tree:

IMG_2382

Fortunately, I already had plans. I headed out to dinner at Aroma Fine Indian with my Medical Post editor, Carol Hilton. I tried the fiery Goan prawns, in honour of my most recently completed book, The Goa Yoga School of Slayers, sequel to The Italian School for Assassins. We talked about everything from medical politics to technology to travel. Kind of like the Medical Post, actually. Thanks, Carol!

Did you know that Carol has a degree in marine biology? Pretty nifty, eh?

Did you know that Carol (on the left) has a degree in marine biology? Pretty nifty, eh? And did you know that it’s hard to take a selfie in front of a window?

I hurried back to Bloody Words for Steve’s cool panel called The Sage, the Saint, and the Sleuth (religion, philosophy, and the “modern” sleuth). I didn’t want to rush up and mob him at the end, and it was possible he might not recognize me from my teeny Facebook photo, but he walked up to me, hugged me, and said, “It’s my newest best friend.”

Aww.

Steve Steinbock & me, "Melissa Yi." The bag is medical swag because Mrs. Steinbock is a radiation oncologist who helped take care of Stephen King. And Steve interviewed Stephen King for Ellery Queen. I move among royalty now, people. Kings and Queens.

Steve Steinbock & me, Melissa Yi. The bag is medical swag because his wife is a radiation oncologist. Another fun fact: Steve interviewed Stephen King for Ellery Queen. I move among royalty now, people. Kings and Queens.

We ended up having dinner and drinks with Tanis Mallow, a Noir writer, co-host of Noir @ the Bar in Toronto, and a warm and funny person; John McFetridge and his wife Laurie, who would whip out appropriate props like his latest book, Black Rock, and the newest issue of Quill & Quire with John on the cover. (Wow!) I’d already Tweeted Rob Brunet, because he’s a fellow Canadian who had a story accepted to Ellery Queen, as well as many other markets—he tries to have a new story published every month, and his novel, Stinking Rich, will debut in September. Ken Wishnia did show up to offer some Yiddish swear words, but it turned out that his writing has also been nominated for the Edgar, the Anthony, and the Macavity Awards. Uh huh.

IMG_2409

Rob Brunet & Steve Steinbock

Steve said these mystery conferences are like Brigadoon, a town springing out of nowhere. What I saw was a tribe of intelligent, crime-loving writers and super readers who enjoyed meeting like-minded people. One thing I find really sad about general North American society is that intelligence is undervalued. “You’re smart, aren’t you” isn’t always a compliment. Neither are the terms “intellectual” or “perpetual student.” Asian and Jewish cultures value scholars, but outside of universities, you’re a bit isolated. But here, you’ve got a bunch of people who like the same things you do! What a miracle!

I have to give a special shout-out to Steve Steinbock, though, and not just because of this, which I already blogged about here:

By a stroke of luck, all Bloody Words participants received this copy of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. The one where Steve pronounces Hope Sze an "utterly likeable character." I'll just keep repeating that. When I'm on my deathbed, I'll be like, "utterly likeable character," and my great-grandkids will be like, Wot?

Steve signed this and wrote, “Thanks for sending me Hope!” Words cannot express the goodness of this man. By a stroke of luck, all Bloody Words participants received the July 2014 copy of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. The one where Steve pronounces Hope Sze an “utterly likeable character.” I’ll just keep repeating that. When I’m on my deathbed, I’ll be like, “utterly likeable character,” and my great-grandkids will be like, Wot?

Steve is a walking encyclopedia, certainly of the mystery genre, but of Jewish mysticism and, I’m sure, other topics. He was embarrassed that I called him a scholar, but it’s rare enough to meet people who genuinely love learning. Not for a degree, not because of publications or prestige or money, but just to discover. Perhaps more importantly, he’s kind and caring. Rob Brunet said that Steve had taken him under his wing a few years ago, and Steve’s obviously doing the same for me. Most people have their group of friends and figure they’re busy enough, but Steve will recruit newbies and make sure they’re not just standing in the corner, looking agonized.

I did buy Steve a drink (he said I didn’t have to, but I spoke to the waiter), and ended up paying for his salad too, which embarrassed him again, and Steve and Tanis and Rob walked me back to my apartment, since I stayed at a lovely airbnb instead of the Hyatt.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.’

I have two things two say about this. Nowadays, most people lead lives of unseen desperation. They’re not necessarily quiet. They may be loud. Buy my book! I have a new car! Check out my abs! I am so smart! My cat is cute!

The problem is, it seems like no one else cares. For example, you may write a book, but no one reads it. Or they read it and tell you it’s terrible.

Steve read Terminally Ill. And when I asked him if he understood how the plot twists incorporated the idea of magic and illusion (one of the book’s themes is magic, and Steve is a magician as well), not only had he understood it, he told me the magical term for it: misdirection. He said that in the past, mysteries used to rely on plot twists more than an escalating body count, and he respected that. He told me that my greatest strengths were my character, the fascinating setting, and the plot. When I said, okay, so what are my weaknesses, he looked at me and said, “No weaknesses. Just keep working on your strengths.”

You can tell that, between medicine and writing, I’m always waiting for the left hook.

I respect Steve even more because, I, personally, would find it hard to listen to desperate writers blather on and on about their work. It would be easier to turn away and say, “Don’t worry. Have a drink.” And I’ve heard that many critics grow bitter, forced to read and review books they don’t like. So imagine Steve going to a con on his free time and surrounding himself with writers instead!

Steve Steinbock & Melissa Yi, without the medical swag. Why am I repeating our names? I heard it's good for SEO optimization. But I know it's annoying. Sorry.

Steve Steinbock surrounded by writer Melissa Yi, without the medical swag. Why am I repeating our names? I heard it’s good for SEO optimization. I know it’s annoying. Sorry.

To get back to the Thoreau quote, I’m generally cheery. My friend Yasmin once told me I was one of the happiest person she knows. But between medicine, writing, and life in general, I have tasted despair.

With Steve and the rest of my new friends, though, happiness wins.

And I loved how the people at Bloody Words were singing their song, loudly and clearly. The rest of the world may not understand or appreciate their writing or their weirdness, but they kept on singing.

I finally realized that Bloody Words was not about making or losing money. It was about friendship.

Also creativity and craziness. Like this.

What are these shenanigans?

Oy oy oy oy oy. Oy.

Why am I wearing a sign with my book cover? What am I doing to Ken Wishnia? Did I sell any books? How can a con inspire creativity? Tune in to my next blog post, Bloody Words Part II, for the answers.

From Elvis to CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning

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On Saturday, “Hope Sze” successfully resuscitated “Elvis,” to great acclaim. Photo by Margaret Caldbick.

Wei Chen will interview me on CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning program tomorrow at about 8:22 a.m. So please tune in (there’s a live stream online here, on the right side bar) and/or Tweet @CBCOntmorning. I’ll reveal a secret code for a free Kobo copy of the e-book!

For anyone who’s wondering about the back story, and isn’t sick of my spam (I was going to give it a rest, but I do want you guys to listen to me on the CBC, Tweet, and pretend I’m popular. Because that would make up for, say, when I was thirteen years old and my classmates would call me bag lady):

On Saturday, the escape artist, Elvis Serratore (Mark Leslie Lefebvre) was chained and nailed in a coffin and dropped in the St. Lawrence River, but Dr. Hope Sze (moi) brought him back. In other words, we acted out the opening scene of Terminally Ill for two appreciative audiences who fought through a blizzard to get there.

Today, I struggled to write. Anastasia’s latest game is that I’m the baby and she’s the mommy, so I’m mostly supposed to lie down, cry, pretend to drink milk, and play with the toys she brings me. A little difficult to juggle my laptop at the same time.

When I did get a break, I should’ve doubled down to work on The Goa Yoga School of Slayers, but saw that I’d gotten this on Twitter:

cbc radio sandy marlowScreen Shot 2014-03-24 at 6.59.43 PM

When I called Sandy Mowat, he said, “I thought you sounded like someone with a dual career who might enjoy talking on the radio.”

“You would be right!” I exclaimed. I asked how he’d found me.

“We go through all the newspapers, and I found the article in the Standard Freeholder.”

standard freeholder todd bigger Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 9.57.46 PM

So, as part of this book launch, I’ve had one previous article in the Standard Freeholder, one in The Seaway Valley News, one in The Seeker, and fingers crossed that I’ll get a mention in the Glengarry News (their reporter, Margaret Caldbick, took the amazing photo above at the Alexandria book launch). But it took Todd Hambleton’s latest article to get the attention of the CBC. Just like in the publishing business, you’ve got to reach critical mass before you might catch someone’s eye.

Or ear, as the case may be tomorrow, on CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning. Check us out!

Anatomy of a Book Launch: 1. Just Do It

“Do it badly; do it slowly; do it fearfully; do it any way you have to, but do it.”

― Steve Chandler

blog do it badly

I really didn’t want to do a book launch for Terminally Ill. I thought nobody cared about my writing, really (except my Unfeeling Doctor series, a little). I thought, Why bother people. I’ll just crawl in my hole and write more books.

But a librarian changed my mind.

The Cornwall Public Library hosts a Christmas party for its volunteers. I didn’t make it the year before, but this past Christmas, I realized, library volunteers=book readers. My kind of people. I HAVE to go.

Dawn Kiddell, the CEO/Chief Librarian, was taking people’s coats when I arrived. I’m sorry, how many CEOs do the coat check? Amazing. If they did, I bet we’d have fewer Wall Street buyouts.

Of course, I didn’t know anyone. But the food, catered by Dish, was excellent. So I ate and chatted a little with Dawn when she got off coat duty.

“I don’t know about a book launch,” I said. My pre-orders for Terminally Ill were lacklustre. As in, zero online. Five people in the Cornwall emerg had signed up for a paper copy. Woo.

Dawn smiled. “Oh, I don’t know. I think it’s kind of fun. We provide a room upstairs. We don’t charge authors. You try to bring in your people, and we try to bring in our people, and we see how it goes.”

I realized that part of the reason I was shying away from a book launch was not just because I’m busy and need to write more books, but because I was scared. Scared that no one would show up. Scared that no one would buy my books. Scared that I’d fall flat on my face.

That goes against my motto, ever since I was 16 years old and read Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do what you are afraid to do.”

Okay. I’d have a book launch.

 

Photo by Emily Cole

 

Look at that gorgeous photo by Emily Cole. And reflect on this: you wrote a book. Now it’s time to party.

If we had to say what writing is, we would have to define it essentially as an act of courage.—Cynthia Ozick

“Things won are done, joy’s soul lies in the doing.” ―William Shakespeare

Spoiler alert: the book launch succeeded! In fact, it was the best book launch of my life. Not as glitzy as Writers of the Future, of course, but satisfying nonetheless. So I’m starting this Anatomy of a Book Launch series to pass on tips that I learned. If you want to support this series, please consider buying Terminally Ill in a format of your choice.

terminallyill_eBook_final with bleed and curlies

Or, for a limited time only, sign up for my blog & newsletter in the box at the bottom of the screen, and you’ll receive a free coupon code for Terminally Ill as a Kobo e-book!

Launch time! Terminally Ill in Alexandria & Cornwall

D Day.

Join Melissa Yi, also known as Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes, for her book launch party for Terminally Ill on March 22nd, 2014, at 10:30 a.m. at the Alexandria Public Library and at 2 p.m. at the Cornwall Public Library.

You’ll also learn cutting edge publishing tips from author, publisher, and Kobo director Mark Leslie Lefebvre, and enjoy a reading by Williamstown author L.K. Below. Full details at the event page.

We made the front page of the local news for the Standard Freeholder:

Standard Freeholder close up Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 8.01.59 AM

Standard Freeholder local page Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 8.01.08 AM

 

Lots of love for the Seaway News:

Seaway Valley scalpels & pens Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 7.59.03 AM

And The Seeker was the first one to report up:

Seeker Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 7.58.42 AM

So come on down! We’ve got free gifts, books, and Elvis!

Or, if you’re scared of the snow, just buy it here in the format of your choice.

melissayi_terminallyill_eBook_final daisho

Gotta love #6 for hardboiled mysteries on the Kobo.

Kobo #6 cropped Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 12.37.56 PM

Warning: Contains Me. In the Flesh.

Saturday, March 22nd, at 10:30 a.m. at the Alexandria Public Library

2 p.m. at the Cornwall Public Library

Jump to event page

terminally ill book launch poster with SDG & cornwall logos & kobo

I wasn’t going to do a book launch. It just seems to invite humiliation. I’m asking people to give up their precious time (on a Saturday!) to move their physical bodies (not just press Like!) to come see me, because I’ve done this archaic thing: write a book.

Brené Brown has written a lot about vulnerability, and I never understood why people got so excited about it, although this Zen Pencils cartoon kicks flying donkey eggs. I mean that as a compliment. Pow!

Then I realized that every time I write a book and publish it, every time I submit a story for publication, heck, every time I sit down at the computer to write, I risk failure and mortification. But I’m used to it. Each time I pick up a patient’s chart in the ER, I might screw the pooch.

I basically never wear white coats, except for author photos. And for this book launch!

I basically never wear white coats, except for author photos. And for this book launch! Photo by Jordan Matter

Raising kids? Ample opportunity for failure. (Side note: Anastasia broke our upstairs toilet by falling off of it while I was on the phone with the auto insurance agent. A. tells this story quite proudly. “I wanted to. I want to break the toilet!”)

melissayi_terminallyill_eBook_final with bleed and curlies

So if we’re “actually in the arena,…face…marred by dust and sweat and blood,” celebrating Terminally Ill, we are doing it balls out. Ovaries proudly on display. (That expression doesn’t work so well. But “ovaries lovingly nestled in our abdominal cavities” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. And this is more than any ol’ book launch.)

Mark Leslie Lefebvre will rock the casbah. Not only is he an author who has outsold Stephen King, the editor of Tesseracts 16, and the Director Self-Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo Inc., but he is a hilarious speaker and a genuinely nice guy driving all the way from Hamilton to attend. Mark flies around the world to speak and was just a guest instructor at the Superstars Writing Seminar, which costs up to $1499 in tuition. So if you have a novel tucked into your hard drive—or just in your brain, or your heart—please, please come and learn for free. I know that if no one shows up, I’m going to pick Mark’s brain mercilessly. So come on down and save his neurons.

If you just want to discover fresh new writing (readers! We love you!), Williamstown writer L.K. Below will read from one of her latest books. Lindsay writes everything from YA to romance and beyond. I once heard her sing a song she’d written for a musical about the Sirens. So I can’t wait to see what she’s up to.

Plus: door prizes! And music!

Even I’m getting excited!

One more exclamation mark: Publishers Weekly calls Terminally Ill “entertaining and insightful”! (http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-927341-23-0)

Montreal physician Hope Sze is looking for simple entertainment when she attends escape artist Elvis Serratore’s show, but when Elvis nearly dies in mid-act, Hope’s medical skills are available to save his life. She is less enthusiastic about his plea for her to use her detective skills to find out who tried to kill him by sabotaging his equipment. The subject of unwanted fame as a sleuth, Hope struggles with a too-complex love life, is faced with an ominous death at the hospital at which she works and becomes concerned about a young patient whose requests have deeply disturbing implications. She soon learns that if she does not seek out mysteries, the mysteries will seek her. The most recent installment in a series comprised thus far of three novels and a radio play, this novel demonstrates familiarity with the conventions of mysteries without being constrained by them and with the realities of Canada’s medical world. Although the tone is light, the author is not afraid to introduce darker themes. The three intertwining mysteries and Hope herself provide a narrative by turns entertaining and insightful. (Feb.)

 

    Goodreads Book Giveaway

        Terminally Ill by Melissa Yi

          Terminally Ill

          by Melissa Yi

            Giveaway ends March 06, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win


For anyone who can’t make it to our launch in the flesh (what, you don’t want to drive for six hours each way, like Mark? What’s wrong with you?), the Terminally Ill Goodreads Giveaway ends March 6th. Free, free, free!

 

I’ll give the last words to Elizabeth Gilbert, who speaks out on vulnerability:

“I live a creative life, and you can’t be creative without being vulnerable.  I believe that Creativity and Fear are basically conjoined twins; they share all the same major organs, and cannot be separated, one from the other, without killing them both. And you don’t want to murder Creativity just to destroy Fear!  You must accept that Creativity cannot walk even one step forward except by marching side-by-side with its attached sibling of Fear.

So here’s my magical thinking — I decide every day that I love Creativity enough to accept that Fear will always come with it. And I talk to Fear all the time, speaking to it with love and respect, saying to it: “I know that you are Fear, and that your job is to be afraid. And you do your job really well! I will never ask you to leave me alone or to be silent, because you have a right to speak your own voice, and I know that you will never leave me alone or be silent, anyhow.  But I need you to understand that I will always choose Creativity over you.”

Terminally Ill Robots. Squee!

I spent yesterday at the Ottawa CEMO High-Fidelity Resuscitation Skills day, which meant that I spent the morning doing mock codes with mannequins that groan and blink and try to die on you (“Those aren’t mannequins. Those are robots!” said my mother, when I described them) and the afternoon carving airways into pig cricothyroid membranes and the like. It cost me $900, but was the best CME I can remember.

Photo copyright jagged-eye. http://jagged-eye.deviantart.com/art/Laure-Robot-1a-210064518

A healthy robot named Laure. Photo copyright jagged-eye. http://bit.ly/Nd1nJO

Then I crashed at my brother’s family home, stuffing myself on delicious Indian food from Indian Punjabi Clay Oven.

In the meantime, Jodi White sent me a Kobo link that looked like this:

Me, attempting world domination.

Me, attempting world domination.

OMG. Squee!

Just a reminder that everyone who buys a print book of Terminally Ill will receive a free Kobo e-book. Contact me for details. Thanks!

Terminally Ill

Terminally Ill

$17.99$3.99
Authors: ,
Series: Hope Sze medical mystery, Book 3
Genres: Hope Sze, Medical mystery, Mystery
Tags: Hope Sze, medical mystery
Publisher: Olo Books
ASIN: B00I5RVPFO
ISBN: 9781927341254

An escape artist plunges into the icy waters of Montreal’s St. Lawrence River, chained and nailed into a coffin—and never breaks free.
After they dredge him from the waves, Dr. Hope Sze resuscitates him, saving his life. When he regains consciousness, but not his memory of the event, he hires Hope to deduce who sabotaged his act. Even as she probes the case, and the strange world of magic and illusion, she must confront her own fears of death on the palliative care ward—and tackle the two toothsome men who can’t wait for her to choose between them.

Buy from Amazon
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Apple Books
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About the Book

Available in trade paperback on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.uk, internationally, and at your friendly neighbourhood bookstore.

“Entertaining and insightful.”Publishers Weekly

Also available directly from Windtree Press and Gumroad.

“Narrating in a sprightly style while sharing some of the nitty-gritty of a resident’s job, Hope Sze is an utterly likeable character.”–Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine

TOP 50 EBOOK ON KOBO

Top 50 on Kobo

Top 50 on Kobo March 25, 2014

Listen to CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning podcast of Dr. Melissa Yi’s interview with Wei Chen.

Watch Youtube video with audio excerpts

If you have trouble redeeming a free Kobo code, try this link, then contact Kobo: help@kobo.com

or click http://kobo.frontlinesvc.com/app/ask_NA to call, chat or email the Kobo reps.

Full Publishers Weekly review:

Montreal physician Hope Sze is looking for simple entertainment when she attends escape artist Elvis Serratore’s show, but when Elvis nearly dies in mid-act, Hope’s medical skills are available to save his life. She is less enthusiastic about his plea for her to use her detective skills to find out who tried to kill him by sabotaging his equipment.

The subject of unwanted fame as a sleuth, Hope struggles with a too-complex love life, is faced with an ominous death at the hospital at which she works and becomes concerned about a young patient whose requests have deeply disturbing implications. She soon learns that if she does not seek out mysteries, the mysteries will seek her.

The most recent installment in a series comprised thus far of three novels and a radio play, this novel demonstrates familiarity with the conventions of mysteries without being constrained by them and with the realities of Canada’s medical world. Although the tone is light, the author is not afraid to introduce darker themes. The three intertwining mysteries and Hope herself provide a narrative by turns entertaining and insightful.

Full Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine review (link will expire):

Publicity-seeking magician Elvis Serratore, in tribute to Houdini’s visit to Montreal nearly ninety years earlier, allows himself to be chained inside a coffin and dropped into the St. Lawrence River. When the escape fails, Montreal medical resident Hope Sze is able to resuscitate him. Against physicians’ recommendations, the magician prepares for an encore, but wants Dr. Sze, with her reputation for solving crimes, to find out if someone wants him dead. Narrating in a sprightly style while sharing some of the nitty-gritty of a resident’s job, Hope Sze is an utterly likeable character.

#5 mystery kobo Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.16.02 PM

Top 5 in all categories on Kobo on March 25, 2014

 

Standard Freeholder

Standard Freeholder March 12

Standard Freeholder local page Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 8.01.08 AM

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Standard Freeholder, March 24

Seaway Valley News

Seaway Valley News, March 7

The Seeker, Feb. 27

The Seeker, Feb. 27

 

Hey! I beat out dozens of gardeners on Google News!

Hey! I beat out dozens of gardeners on Google News!

Book Club Resources
Look Inside
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Terminally Ill…with Kobo’s Mark (Leslie) Lefebvre and Scarlett Rugers

Hope Sze’s third medical mystery adventure, Terminally Ill, will hit the stands on February first, 2014, with a kicking cover by Scarlett Rugers, commissioned by Kobo:

melissayi_terminallyill_eBook_final

And a mini picture of the upcoming print book:

Terminally Ill POD cover

As I mentioned in the Kobo interview, I was very excited to win this cover, since the last thing I remembered winning was a very nice set of bath soaps. More details here: http://kobowritinglife.com/2013/08/20/meet-the-winner-of-kobos-win-an-ebook-cover-contest-melissa-yi/

And here’s the blurb:

Magic? Dr. Hope Sze steers clear of magic.
But when “Elvis the Escape King” chains and nails himself inside a coffin and lowers himself into Montreal’s St. Lawrence River, he can’t break free.
So Hope restarts his heart and saves his life. But now Elvis demands to know who sabotaged his stunt.
Hope hung up her amateur detective badge two months ago, in order to tend to cancer patients on palliative care. The only cases she solves right now are case studies on pain and over-stuffed emergency rooms.
Which gets just the tiniest bit boring.
Hope could escape Montreal any day now. She could transfer to Ottawa to join her beloved ex-boyfriend, Ryan. No more unspeakable Montreal drivers and stymied medical care. No more working with the charming yet infuriating Dr. Tucker.
Hope the Escape Artist can afford to act generous. As parting gift to Montreal, city of festivals (and murderers), she could help Elvis out. Just asking a few questions won’t hurt anyone.
Right? 
And so Hope plunges into her most unconventional and, possibly, her most terminal adventure yet. Where the magical art of escape and the dastardly art of crime vie for centre stage, and the better man may lose. Forever.

—–

I got to meet Mark Lefebvre, Kobo‘s director of author relations, at the Advanced Master Class in Oregon in July. I hadn’t realized that he was also Mark Leslie, the editor of Tesseracts 16, who’d recently published my short story, “Burning Beauty,” which just meant I liked him even more.

I could fawn all over Mark, who’s one of those guys that you just meet and you’re like, yup, I like you. I could give a shout out to Kobo, with it’s beautiful and simple interface, writer-friendly approach, and Canadian roots, but that sounds totally self-serving now, right? So you can read J. Steven York’s much more informative Kobo post here, and I’ll just show you some pictures of me and Mark L, hanging out on the Oregon Coast.

First, we did the traditional standing side-by-side thing. You can see that a) he is much taller than me, b) Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith own a lot of books, and c) I am fake-smiling.IMG_0812

So then I suggested that we do more crazy pictures. Those are more fun. Mark immediately decided to pick me up, which is great. I love wacky people. Also, you can now see my surf shoes. Unfortunately, Kobo chose to run the picking up picture of me where I seem to have giant hips, but what can you do? (This one is a little better.)

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We brought out a chair next. Props are always fun, and we reprised a classic pose. Clearly, he was saying something fascinating, like “Rutabagas, rutabagas.”

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Then we realized we had much better props–books! And what if we looked fascinated, reading each other’s books? Fortunately, Chris York happened to have a copy of her latest Christy Fifield book. And who wouldn’t jump on Mark’s books, like Haunted Hamilton?

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Which was cool, except I was like, Are we supposed to pretend to read while surreptitiously displaying the covers, or what? (I just think that Sean Young, the photographer, captured a pretty funny expression, so I included it.)

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And then we said, forget reading, we’ll just strike a pose.

IMG_0838

Back to the classic stance again. Everything comes full circle. Except see, now I’m the taller one. I think Max’s Magic Hat did the trick.

IMG_0841

The Next Big Thing (It’s Big! It’s Massive! It’s Chocolate Bun Cake Goodness!)

I kind of hated tag as a kid, because chasing other kids or running away from “it” just made me think, Why am I doing this?

“The Next Big Thing” is a much better sort of tag.

To wit, the insanely talented Cindie Geddes tagged me as the next big one so that I can talk about my next big one. I know, it sounds like a porno, but it’s actually writers hand-selecting other writers they admire to answer ten questions. Here we go.

1) What is the working title of your next book?

Terminally Ill

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

The unofficial title is “The Escape Artist.” I was listening to a podcast of DNTO and they interviewed an escape artist named Dean Gunnarson who nearly died after he was handcuffed, chained, and nailed into a coffin that was submerged into a river on Harry Houdini’s death day. I’d already started writing the third Hope Sze medical thriller, but that plot required a lot of research. Plot is not my forte when I’m sleep-deprived between my small children and my shift work as an emergency physician. But once I heard Dean’s story, I immediately envisioned him coming to Montreal for his stunt, with Hope as the doctor resuscitating him. It was so much fun, I just started writing.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Medical thriller

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

To be honest, ideally, I’d like to play Hope myself. Yes, I am an actor manqué. But if not, maybe Zhang Ziyi with Sandra Oh’s voice? (Hope doesn’t have an accent and is not soft-spoken like Zhang. We already know Sandra can handle the hard-hitting doctor persona and medical jargon, but she’s so closely associated with Christina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy, people would keep projecting that character on Hope because, well, they’re both female Asian doctors! Can’t have more than two of those in the world.) As for Tucker, Ryan, or Alex, I’m not up on hot male actors because I rarely have time to watch movies. Can someone help me out?

On second thought, Hope is not transcendently beautiful like Zhang Ziyi. I’d rather give the part to an unknown who needs a break. Like, have you seen Elaine Marcos in Every Little Step? I thought she was great, but her Imdb profile is full of parts like “Sexy lesbian” or “Paramedic #2.” I’d love to cast some relative unknowns burning with talent and ambition. Underdogs unite!

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

After Dr. Hope Sze resuscitates an escape artist who nearly drowns while nailed and chained in a coffin, she must deduce who sabotaged his act and wants him dead.

 

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Indie pub all the way, baby.

 

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Started it April 25th. Started winding it up October 8th. Now I’ve set it aside to gestate while I work on my African travel essays/poems, but I’ll pick it up again.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’m no good at comparing, but I’d love the readership of Tess Gerritsen and C.J. Lyons.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See #2.

I will add that I wanted to write a medical book because I returned to the ER after maternity leave, and I thought, I need to work hard on my skills so I don’t end up being “the dumb doctor.” If I write about medicine while I do medicine, I could kill two birds with one stone. Plus, nearly all my Amazon.com sales are from The Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World and my two Hope Sze books (Code Blues and Notorious D.O.C.), so the readers have cast their vote.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Sheer awesomeness.

Seriously, I don’t know what to say, except I love romance, so there’s still the Tucker-Ryan love triangle going strong, with Ryan pressuring Hope to transfer to the University of Ottawa and leave Montreal (and Tucker) behind. There’s the escape artist angle, with a bit of Harry Houdini lore thrown in, so if you like magic/crazy people who risk their lives for fun, that’s something new. On a more serious note, I talk about palliative care and end of life issues. The escape theme runs throughout. Will Hope escape Montreal and her reputation as the detective doctor? When is death an escape from life? If your life was unbearable, what kind of steps would you take to escape from it? That sort of thing. I’m trying to describe the plot without spoilers. So hard. Moving on.

On December 12th, Maggie Jaimeson (http://maggiemeandering.blogspot.ca/2012/12/the-next-big-thing.html) will take over the reins as the Next Big Thing. I consider Maggie one of the hardest working women in the writing business, combined with excellent business and research skills, not to mention a kind heart and a sense of humor—exactly what you need for long-term success in the field. Her latest romance, Healing Notes, is her best yet. I can’t wait to read her next big thing, Chameleon, an SF/Fantasy YA about lichen modifying human behaviour. Well, I guess it’s about the people. But I’m very excited about the lichen because I’m a geek that way.

Leslie Claire Walker (http://www.leslieclairewalker.com/?p=551)

My next Big Thang is Miss Leslie. I’ve been friends with Leslie since we were both winners and roommates at Writers of the Future in 2000. At a novel workshop seven years later, I literally cried because her writing was so good (and because I thought mine hadn’t improved like hers, but anyway). She writes about characters at the edges of society, about magic, about possibilities. Read Leslie. And read Hunt while you’re waiting for Demon City!

Three other writers I recommend, who are also Big Things:

Robert Jeschonek

Brilliant. I hate writers who bore me, and Bob never does. He’s got everything: heartfelt characters, thrilling adventures, humor, pathos, and a wild imagination. Run out and read him.

Steve Mohan, Jr. (also writes as Henry Martin)

I usually don’t read techno-thrillers because of cardboard characters (usually alpha male vs. The Bad Guy, with a love interest who isn’t very interesting), but Steve combines real characters with tough choices and stirring action, exploding genre lines.

Maxwell Innes

He’s six, so this is a long term bet, but according to me, his hopelessly adoring mother, he writes the most beautiful poetry I’ve ever seen.

The Most Notorious People Have Spoken

My peeps have weighed in about the Notorious D.O.C. cover. One line stood out to me. “The grey is more serious and the red is more sexy.” (Unrelated photo below, demonstrating serious +/- sexy.)

 Image

Grey

Pro

Better angle

One shoe on, one off makes it clear that she’s hit “instead of tinkering under the car”

Some like the tire tread and blood

Works as a thumbnail

Red draws attention to the title

Con

“I don’t like her body.”

“I don’t like her butt. It should be more toned. Is she someone who works out?”

“What’s with the panty line?”

“I don’t like the dress colour.”

“Yeah, the grey on grey.”

“I can’t tell at a glance if she’s face-up or face-down.”

“I don’t like the reflection in the car—it took me a minute to figure out what it was.”

“Why is she wearing flip flops? Why is she wearing a dress?”

Tire tread not realistic-looking

Paw print on the book spine (Olo Books logo)—unclear what this is

Red

Pro

Red top draws the eye

Red is the colour of blood (and is sexier!)

Model has Asian background, like the Lisa Lee character in the book (very important to me, as I hate whitewashed covers)

Shot in the rain, also like the book

Rollerblades in the background (part of the book—Lisa Lee was blading in the wee hours of the morning)

Model wearing work-out clothes

Con

Body angle not as eye-catching

Car wheel distracting

“Looks like it was shot in a garage with a reflective floor”

Not clear what the Rollerblades are in the background

No tire tread

Both shoes on

My take?

Both covers have strengths and weaknesses. But, in the end, my two covers are not so much competing against each other as competing against every other cover in the world.

The people who really disliked the grey cover were the ones who saw it in person. So it’s entirely possible that the grey works better online and the red works better face to face.

Which is a tricky question, since most people will buy this book online. It will be available to order in bookstores, but most people will see it on Amazon or as an e-book first—the opposite of the days of yore.

Which makes me wonder if I could have a different cover for e-book or print—or if I just have to choose the one that looks better as a thumbnail rather than in real life, which is an interesting reversal of fortunes.

First I have to get a copy of the red in print. Then I’ll decide. However, my decision will not be set in stone. And this is not a democracy. (Even if it were, only 22 people have voted so far, with the vote 13 to 9 in favour of the grey, which is not a stunning sample size.) Ultimately, I will choose the cover, and I may be crazy enough to do it differently for e-book and print book, or make one cover special order. Through the miracle of technology, I can also change my decision later. Hooray for indie publishing, and thanks for taking the time to vote!

The Most Notorious Cover

I showed off my new print book covers to my book club. Everyone liked Code Blues. High School Hit List‘s overlays confused one person, but the real drama came with  Notorious D.O.C.. To my surprise, they told me  to Photoshop the body, the colour, the clothes….I mulled this over, but since a) my Photoshop skills aren’t up to all that, and b) I’ve always objected to manipulating magazine shots to make women look like sexy robots (did you see the no-knees Lady Gaga cover?), where do I draw the line on my own designs?

Ergo, I made an entirely new cover. I’m not going to say which one is the original and which one is new. I don’t want to bias you any more. But if you could take a second to click and vote on your opinion and/or comment (politely), I’d love that. Thanks!

Winners of the Code Blues/Devil’s in the Details Contest

Congratulations to our wonderful winners who completely surpassed my expectations.  I thought people would post little details like “My respirologist has a squeeze toy in the shape of lungs,” but instead, these people offered full-fledged stories!  (You can tell they’re all professional writers.)

First place:  Michael Angel

Second place:  Anonymous

Third place:  Cindie Geddes

Honourable Mention:  Dr. Michael Moreton

And now, on to the stories!

First place:

Michael Angel

My only medical ‘detail’ story is really a small item that many others would miss, as it was about a young doctor, not a device or strange implement.

Back around 1999, I ended up in the emergency room when my ulcers ended up rupturing a blood vessel in the stomach. Once it was determined which end of my GI tract was bleeding, I was prepped for surgery to put a scope and a laser, I believe, down the esophagus to cauterize the leak.

I was very woozy, but remember being by myself in the hospital bed, late at night, feeling all alone. Two doctors, one crusty old resident and one young doctor, came to check on me one last time before I went in. I put on a brave face, but honestly, I was flat-out terrified. I’d never been so close to feeling out of control, completely at someone else’s mercy as to whether I’d make it through the night.

So I shivered. The older doctor noted this, saying something to the effect of “What’s the matter?” I replied, “I’m…just…cold.” He huffed, “It’s not that cold in here.”

The younger doctor didn’t say anything. He saw the look in my eyes, and simply reached out and took my hand in his. The very act, that ounce of compassion, instantly calmed me. He knew I was scared, knew I was shamming the ‘cold’, and let me know that though I wasn’t out of the woods, they were going to do their best.

I stopped shivering.

As you can guess, I made a full recovery, which included a regimen of drugs to kill H. Pylori. And though I never learned the young doctor’s name (I was too out of it that night to note his tag), I’ll never forget what he did.

– Michael Angel

Second Place (Anonymous)

Make Me a Woman

I recall as a teen contracting The Clap in the early ’70s, back when it was the second worst STD on the scene. (It was more fun to horrify each other with stories of Syphilis-inspired brain rot and madness.)

Although I made light of it, waxing lyrical about the “annoying drip, drip, drip of Gonorrhea”, and singing, “Gonorrhea, Why?” (to the tune of “Cara Mia Why?”) I was actually quite distressed, and I was a very shy young thing, too. I slipped into the VD Clinic as anonymously as possible (as I am now writing this post) and submitted with quiet dread to a pelvic exam given by a retired (back from the dead) male doctor with a hearing problem. Like going to Grampa for an oil check. (Oh, God.)

On my back, blinking at the bright light, trying my best to keep my mind elsewhere, I endured his fumblings with the speculum, which wouldn’t go in. Instead of taking it out and having a peek, he kept pushing on it, rather painfully from my end of things, as I, having analyzed the problem, called out, “I think I have a tampon in! I think I have a tampon in!” The nurse at his elbow lent her voice to mine. “Doctor, she thinks she has a tampon in!”

At last he heard us, stopped trying to shove my cervix up my nose from the inside, and allowed me to take the tampon out. It is no surprise that after the exam, when he got me to stand up and gave me a nice big injection in the butt, that I finally passed out cold on the floor.

Gonorrhea, why, indeed?
–Anonymous

Third Place:  Cindie Geddes

I went to my favorite doctor for an allergy shot. We got to talking and I mentioned some pain I was having in my abdomen. He felt the spot I pointed to and said it was likely some kind of calcium deposit (he probably said something more medical, but I’m not a doctor, so I don’t really remember) on my sutures from a hernia operation a year earlier. He used to be a surgeon. “We can just go in the next room, and I can get it right now,” he said.

“Can I watch?” I asked. I’m always fascinated by how my body works.

“Sure. We’ll use the vasectomy table.”

We went in, set the table so I was nearly sitting up, and went to it. He gave me some numbing injections, cut my ab open and dug around until he found the sutures. Sure enough, he found what looked like little rocks at the ends of my sutures. But cutting them off was going to be awkward because he was the one holding the retractor thingies.

“Can I help?” I was loving the whole thing. Couldn’t feel anything but tugging, but he was giving me the tour of what he was cutting and why, and it all looked pretty damn cool.

“Sure,” he gloved me up and handed me the retractor thingies, and I held them while he snipped the little rocks off. Then he let me feel the little rocks (still gloved), and that’s exactly what they felt like — rocks. Suddenly, my pain made perfect sense.

My recovery was the easiest I’ve had of any ab surgery (I’ve had, I think, nine) because I knew exactly what had been done and understood exactly what was happening during recovery.

I had a similar little surgery two years earlier. Cost: $7,000 (thank dog for insurance). With that one, I was knocked out, had the usual huge staff, waited in pre-op for three hours, post-op for six. Cost for this one: $700. Complete time from entering the vasectomy room to going home: 35 minutes.

My doc gave me his cell phone number to keep him posted on how my recovery was going and insists I use it still for any little question or concern I have.

This is all very very wrong in the US. I don’t use his name because I suspect he could get in big trouble. But it’s my favorite interaction with a doctor ever. And the easiest procedure I’ve ever had. I love this guy.

Cindie Geddes

Honourable Mention:  Dr. Michael Moreton

Dr. Moreton was gracious enough to contribute two stories.

The call came when I was in the Ante-Natal clinic at the United Family Hospital
in Beijing. It was from the Consular department at the American Embassy. A
pregnant American woman who was working with an aid agency in Tibet had
gone in to premature labor, they had contacted the assistance company to fly her
out but Washington had insisted that an Obstetrician go with the team. A wise
precaution. As, at that time in 2000, I was the only licensed western Ob in Beijing
there was not much choice of who should go.

I picked up an Emergency delivery pack from Labor and Delivery and the
appropriate medications that we were using to relax the Uterus from the
pharmacy and while waiting the SOS team to pick me up, did a little shopping.

We were using a military plane as they were roomier than any other planes. The
Chinese military is very business orientated and their ambulance planes were
available for hire.

We took off and had an uneventful flight and we landed in Lhasa. It was crystal
clear day and after the murky skies of Beijing the intensity of the light gave
everything film-set appearance. Unfortunately there was no time for sightseeing
and we drove to the hospital.

I was apprehensive; I had been to Chinese hospitals on evacuations before where
they were reluctant to release the western patient. Partly as it was a loss of
face but also a loss of a golden goose. This time it went without incident and
the staff were very accommodating. I handed out the products of my shopping,
canned hams, pantyhose and cigarettes always seemed to be useful for this part
of the ceremonies. The patient was pleased to see us and her contractions were
infrequent and mild. After monitoring things for a few minutes we loaded her
onto the ambulance and started for the airport. It was at this point that I started
to feel light-headed and a little breathless. I discounted this feeling that just
thinking about Mountain sickness had caused psychosomatic effects.

When we were on the runway loading the stretcher on which she was lying
was a difficult maneuver. It took four of us to do it as we had to raise it to chest
level to get it onto the plane and I was in a position where I took a lot of the

weight. When the stretcher was loaded, I stepped back and at that point it hit.
A blinding headache, a wave of nausea and a desperate feeling of shortage of
breath overwhelmed me. They bundled me onto the plane, shut the door, gave
me oxygen and within minutes I felt better. Luckily the plane had two beds, so the
patient and I lay alongside each other on the return journey. She was very calm
and reassured me that everything was under control.

Dr Michael Moreton is a Canadian OB/GYN who spent over nine years in China. He is
now the International Medical Coordinator of The Bangkok Hospital, Thailand.

___
The call came when I was in the Ante-Natal clinic at the United Family Hospital

in Beijing. It was from the Consular department at the American Embassy. A
pregnant American woman who was working with an aid agency in Tibet had
gone in to premature labor, they had contacted the assistance company to fly her
out but Washington had insisted that an Obstetrician go with the team. A wise
precaution. As, at that time in 2000, I was the only licensed western Ob in Beijing
there was not much choice of who should go.

I picked up an Emergency delivery pack from Labor and Delivery and the
appropriate medications that we were using to relax the Uterus from the
pharmacy and while waiting the SOS team to pick me up, did a little shopping.

We were using a military plane as they were roomier than any other planes. The
Chinese military is very business orientated and their ambulance planes were
available for hire.

We took off and had an uneventful flight and we landed in Lhasa. It was crystal
clear day and after the murky skies of Beijing the intensity of the light gave
everything film-set appearance. Unfortunately there was no time for sightseeing
and we drove to the hospital.

I was apprehensive; I had been to Chinese hospitals on evacuations before where
they were reluctant to release the western patient. Partly as it was a loss of
face but also a loss of a golden goose. This time it went without incident and
the staff were very accommodating. I handed out the products of my shopping,
canned hams, pantyhose and cigarettes always seemed to be useful for this part
of the ceremonies. The patient was pleased to see us and her contractions were
infrequent and mild. After monitoring things for a few minutes we loaded her
onto the ambulance and started for the airport. It was at this point that I started
to feel light-headed and a little breathless. I discounted this feeling that just
thinking about Mountain sickness had caused psychosomatic effects.

When we were on the runway loading the stretcher on which she was lying
was a difficult maneuver. It took four of us to do it as we had to raise it to chest
level to get it onto the plane and I was in a position where I took a lot of the

weight. When the stretcher was loaded, I stepped back and at that point it hit.
A blinding headache, a wave of nausea and a desperate feeling of shortage of
breath overwhelmed me. They bundled me onto the plane, shut the door, gave
me oxygen and within minutes I felt better. Luckily the plane had two beds, so the
patient and I lay alongside each other on the return journey. She was very calm
and reassured me that everything was under control.

Dr Michael Moreton is a Canadian OB/GYN who spent over nine years in China. He is
now the International Medical Coordinator of The Bangkok Hospital, Thailand.

I was a House Physician at the Liverpool Royal Infirmary in 1964. A
patient was admitted with confusing symptoms and after investigation
it was found that he was suffering from chronic arsenic poisoning, as he
had been exposed to arsenic in his workplace for many years.

Even on the professorial medical service nobody had any experience in
treating this problem. We made rounds and presented the case to Dr
Sutton the junior consultant on the service. When we came to therapy
he turned to me and said “Phone Dr Preble and see if he has any
advice” This was quite logical Dr P was a Consultant Veneriologist and
had had experience in using arsenic in the treatment STDs before the
advent of penicillin. He surely would have seen overdoses and would be
able to advise.

I called him at his private clinic in Rodney St.

‘Good afternoon sir, I am Dr Moreton, a House Physician at the Royal
and I need your advice —- “ He cut me off.

“Don’t say a word on the phone, dear boy. Come and see me this
afternoon”

For more of Dr Michael Moreton’s tales, please read the Medical Post.

I got the blues. Code Blues.

Code Blues

Dr. Hope Sze rolls into Montreal with three simple goals:  1) survive her family medicine residency, 2) try pain au chocolat, 3) go on a date sometime in the next two years.

Then she discovers a doctor’s body in the locker room.

When she tries to uncover his killer, two men are more than willing to help her.

The one man with charm to burn, the one man who makes her melt, has zero alibi.

 

Code Blues.  Sex, drugs, and doctors.

 

Written by an emergency physician trained in the crumbling corridors of Montreal.

***

In the tradition of J.K. Rowling, I wanted to release my first novel on a significant date and chose August 15th, 2011, our 13th wedding anniversary.

Since I just got the edits last night from Camden Park Press and the 300 dpi image from Nicolas Raymond a few days before, it’s been crazy, but I did it.  Code Blues is now live on Smashwords and will take 24-72 hours to make its way into Amazon’s Kindle system.  I plan to release it on paper too, but not today.

P.S.  My children are still alive.  Matt and I did manage to celebrate by doing lunch at Ban-Lao Thai and going to DHC to view disturbing horsehide and wax sculptures by Berlinde De Bruyckere.