Calling a Code: Code Blues Free for Digital Book Day!

It’s Digital Book Day tomorrow!

In celebration, for the very first time, Code Blues e-book will be free on July 14th, 2014. To download it in the format of your choice, go to Smashwords ( and enter the code GT24E.

Or download it directly from your friendly neighbourhood Kobo (

Code blues cover 2013 EBOOK-200

Make sure you go to the Digital Book Day website to download up to 407 books, completely free, in genres like mystery, thrillers, sf and romance. You have to page down for the literature, YA and non-fiction, but it’s there.

I know I’m working on Monday, but I’m going to try and get up early or stay up late so that I can gorge myself on words.

I’m happy to see that Code Blues is quite high up on the landing page. At the top of mystery-thriller are CJ Lyons, the pediatric emergentologist turned NYT bestseller who organized the entire shebang; JF Penn, thriller author, speaker, and publishing maven; and Bob Meyer, the only bestseller I know who used to be a Green Beret. But if you go down another four books, there’s me! Sometimes, the late bird does catch the worm!

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 dive in to help her.

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

Because medicine can be murder.

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



And hey, if you’ve already paid full price for the first three Hope Sze novels, don’t be bitter. It just means that you’re helping to support an writer with two small children. Plus, if you bought them in paperback, you get 50% off the print version of Student Body, the brand new Hope novella, at our yoga-belly dancing-book launch September 20th.

The e-novella is on sale this summer for everyone, for 99 cents!

student body half price

Snoopy dance! In a dignified doctor-y sort of way, of course.


A few reviews of Code Blues, to whet your appetite:


“Terrific fun.” –Veronica Hares, R.N.


“I had just finished a night shift. My boys were coming come on the school bus. And I could not put the flipping book down.” –D. Poilly, M.D.

(If any of you know Dr. Poilly, these are strong words!)


I really enjoyed this fast-paced mystery.

Having lived in Montreal, I found the references to the city hilarious as well as relevant.

Hope is a truly likeable and very realistic character-I will certainly be reading the next books in this series, and am looking forward to her developing comfort with the hospital and the city.

A lot of fun to read, and a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

–Anne Zoeller


This is a wonderful first entry into what promises to be an on-going mystery series.

There’s a murder and suspects and romance and a white-knuckle finish.

But what really makes this story work and stick with you isn’t all of the above, but the carefully drawn picture of its world and characters.

The protagonist is a new medical resident in the physically deteriorating Montreal anglophone medical system. The facilities are crumbling, and the author skillfully paints a series of characters whose walls are crumbling too. This is a novel partly concerned with boundaries: professional boundaries (when does a physician give ‘too much’), romantic boundaries, relationships that are too co-dependent or too enmeshed to be truly healthy, despite how compelling and driven the characters find them. The novel is partly a meditation on compulsion and addiction–when does the goal-directed driven nature required of medical students and doctors slip over the line from adaptive and necessary to harmful?

—Gregory L. Smith

Code blues cover 2013 EBOOK-200

So c’mon. Get it while it’s free! Coupon code GT24E here, or just load up your Kobo here. If you leave a positive review, the book fairy will do a foxtrot.

You can also buy the print book from your friendly neighbourhood retailers, listed here. But I’ve got to give a special shout out to R&L’s Book Nook, which is hosting the Alexandria portion of Books & Bodies on September 20th.

Read, read, read!


Anatomy of a Bestselling Book Launch: 2. Come together

“It takes two flints to make a fire.”  Louisa May Alcott

Click here for Anatomy of a Book Launch 1: Just do it.

anatomy bestseller cover

I’m going to write this book about launching Terminally Ill and reaching Kobo’s Top 50 bestseller list. Yeehaw!

My friend Kandy said to put Terminally Ill front and centre. I just can't figure out how to put on a header. So, here. Relentless marketing for ya.

My friend Kandy said to put Terminally Ill front and centre. I just can’t figure out how to put on a header. So, here. Relentless marketing for ya.

The buzzword of 2014 is teamwork.

Not just because of The Lego Movie. Because good things can happen as part of a good group.

I was poking around Chuck Wendig’s blog one day, looking at promotional ideas, and danzierlea’s comment hit me upside the head, “So book signings, right? You…wait for people to show up. If you’re in a small town on a cold as polar whatever day, nobody shows. So much for all that work. My idea is, get a bunch of authors – like, at least ten – to collaborate and do a group book tour/signing.”

What a great idea!

If I’m promoting myself (look at me, buy my book, I’m sad, nobody likes me), it’s a turnoff, unless I’m a big name with a following already. My Cornwall hospital peeps may buy my book, but they generally don’t have time to come to a launch, since they work nights and weekends, just like me.

Plus, this winter has been as cold as a polar whatever. We still have snow, although it’s melting.

I sent out invites. Williamstown author Lindsay Below jumped onboard to read from new e-book, Stalking Shade, under the name L.K. Below. I knew she would do it. Lindsay is one of the few people I know who had the guts to write full-time right out of high school. She writes in so many genres that one day, she came to our writing meeting with a song she’d written for a musical about Sirens.

En plus, after I won a cover contest with Kobo (details on this blog and podcast), they have offered nothing but support. Including sending a representative from Toronto (about 5 hours’ drive away) for my launch.

“Amazing,” I said to Kobo’s Jodi White. “Listen. I want to ask you something. I’d like to do a re-enactment of the opening scene of Terminally Ill, where Elvis gets chained and nailed in a coffin. I could really use an Elvis. Or, I don’t suppose you feel comfortable dressing up as the girl in a bikini?”

C'mon. You know you want to rock out with Elvis. Art by rawclips.

C’mon. You know you want to rock out with Elvis. Art by rawclips.

Eventually, the Kobo director of self-publishing and author relations himself, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, volunteered to come instead and jump out of a coffin. Thrillsville. I’d only met Mark once, at a conference in Oregon, but I knew he was my kind of people and a phenomenal asset, never seen before or probably since in this rural area, i.e. a storyteller, brilliant at marketing and publishing, a true people person, and somewhat crazytown.

“Could you bring your skeleton?” I asked. “I have plans for him.”

But see, I’m already leading into Part 3: Entertain Us.

Who wouldn't want these kids at a book launch? Photo by David Mark

Who wouldn’t want these kids at a book launch? Except the KKK. And they’re not invited. Photo by David Mark

So I’ll bring it back to group love. More people participating=a bigger audience. More friends and family to hit up. They may buy books, they may not, but if you’re doing an in-person event, first of all, you need bodies.

Bring the bodies in.

Worry about the money afterward. I mean, don’t go into debt. But if it’s cheap or free, bodiessssssss.

It took a ton of anxiety off of me. If no one came, who cared? I’d get an hour or two to pick Mark’s brain. I could freely promote the book launch not just as a “C’mon, guys. If you really loved me, you’d come” sort of thing, but as a once-in-a-lifetime EVENT starring a premiere publishing phenom. “He flies internationally to speak at conferences. This weekend, he had to choose between South Glengarry and Paris. He chose us.” True story.

Even if you’re not launching a book, and don’t have access to star power, friendship loveship courtship* can help you. Consider joining a book bundle. Joanna Penn and 11 friends bundled their books together for 99 cents and hit the NYT bestseller list. Kris Rusch also did a very successful book bundle or three and discusses teamwork and discoverability here. Heck, if you’re very organized, do a book bundle AND a book launch while bragging that now you’re an NYT bestseller!

Now it’s your turn. Have you done group signings? Did they work for you? Or has group power ever backfired on you?


*I’m not insane. Well, maybe I am. But this is an Alice Munro reference. She won a little thing called the Nobel Prize for literature in 2013. And she’s a Western grad, like me. Coincidence?


“Teamwork. A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction.” Justin Sewell

If you got anything out of this post, join the team. Buy my book(s)!

If you got anything out of this post, join the team. Buy my book(s)! Now available in paperback at R&L’s Book Nook in Alexandria.

Terminally Ill Tomorrow

Terminally Ill gets its world premiere tomorrow. And I’ll be…working in the ER with my posse. You think we’ll get any Elvis impersonators drowning while chained and nailed into a coffin?

Does that sound too bizarre? Actually, it’s based on real life. Here’s a clip of Dean Gunnarson, the man who inspired the book:

Yup, Sook-Yin Lee’s CBC Radio interview with Dean on DNTO really got my motor running.

Screen Shot tweets cropped

You won’t catch me chaining myself to a roller coaster track, but as the great Harry Houdini said, “Nobody wants to see a man die, but everyone wants to be there when it happens.”

You will catch me at the book launch Saturday, March 22nd, at 10:30 a.m. at the Alexandria Public Library and at 2 p.m. at the Cornwall Public Library. All paper copies will be only $15. Cornwall will also host a book draw, so you could win a copy of Terminally Ill absolutely free. And if you have any publishing questions, you can ask Kobo operations manager Jodi White, who will be travelling all the way from Toronto to attend.

Pre-order the e-book now for just $5.99 at Kobo and Smashwords. The trade paperback retails for $17.99 U.S. ($19.99 Canadian), and you can order it at your local bookstore. Plus, through our partnership with Kobo, if you buy a print copy, contact me for a coupon for a free e-book.

melissayi_terminallyill_eBook_final daisho



His breath whistled inside the coffin.

He heard the crowd cheering, although the plywood walls surrounding him dampened their yells. He could hear and feel the rumble of the crane lifting him and the coffin into the air.

He started to undo the chains on his wrists. Usually, those were the easiest.

He slid his wrists inward to gain a little slack, then twisted them to pop his wrists free.

The chains tightened on his wrists instead.

Meanwhile, the crane lowered his coffin into the St. Lawrence River.

Water splashed, and then he could hear the abnormal silence of the water surrounding the coffin.

He bent his wrists again.

The chains tightened once more.

Step two. He reached for the lock pick pinned on his left sleeve to jimmy the padlock on the chains. He always placed the pick on the inside cuff, where it would blend into his costume and he’d be able to reach for it blindly.

The pick was missing.

He reached for the pin secured to his right shirt sleeve, groping the fabric of his wetsuit to make sure he would not mistake the metal lock pick for a seam.


His heart hammered faster than usual, and his hard, hot breath seemed to fill the coffin. The wood underneath his body felt cold and damp, like water was already seeping inside.

He refused to panic. He could escape the chains. He always had and always would. They had built fail-safes into his act, including a fake chain with a middle cuff that made it easier to undo.

Using his fingertips, he skimmed blindly along the chain on his chest, only to realize that someone had removed the trick middle link.

He was handcuffed, chained, and nailed inside a coffin. In a river.

With no escape.

On Hallowe’en.


Indian Country Noir Book Launch II: The Library Variations

All aboard in Williamstown

All aboard in Williamstown

My book tour ended on an upswing.  First of all, my appearance was specially requested.

At the Williamstown Library, the librarian, Kathleen, beeped my card and said, “Melissa Yuan-Innes.  You’re the author?”

She had read about me in the Glengarry News, our local paper.  She had also met me at the hospital emergency room.  But it was one of the few times someone had recognized my name as an author, so I beamed and said, “Yes??”

“Would you be interested in doing a reading at the library in October?”

You betcha.

Secondly, new people arrived  (People I didn’t know and beg to come!)  One was a teacher who worked in Akwasasne and was friends with the librarian.  She had suggestions about where to sell and promote Indian Country Noir and the best place to eat on the reserve (The Bear’s Den).  Another was an assistant teacher who used to work with native people on Lake Manitoba.  She got a babysitter drove all the way from Morrisburg after she saw the event listed in the library brochure (!).  And for the first time, I got to welcome two nurses from the Cornwall emerg.  On my writing bucket list, my M.O. is to connect with people, places and things that excite me.  Done and done.

I drove in with my neighbour, author and Carina Press editor Denise Callister Nielsen, and my son, Max.  My husband showed up and started reading books to Max.  My friend and teacher Becky McKay, who worked with native students in Cornwall, pitched in too, along with my neighbour, Luc.

Thirdly, they made me think.  I read the opening of my story and Becky asked why the white mother-in-law was such an unsympathetic character.  When I finished reading the story, at their request, people basically wanted to know if I felt comfortable writing as a native person/appropriating a Mohawk voice.

The answer is:  I think it’s offensive to ape and mock someone else’s culture, so I did my best to write sincerely and accurately based on articles in the Indian Time newspaper written by Phil Preston.  Did I succeed?  I hope so.  Did I offend someone?  I hope not.  But I don’t know.  No easy answers.

Last but not least, my friends and the Williamstown library got to benefit too.  At least half the people there had never been to that library branch before and two subscribed to the South Glengarry library system for the first time.  “I’m saving money,” said Cynthia, after buying my books, “because there are all these books here I’ve never read.”

Win-win.  Love it.

The Littlest Book Launch

Sitting pretty for Indian Country Noir

“I’ve seen it all, over the years,” said Gale Bowser, the owner of Second Time Around Books.  “The quietest book launch I ever saw was [a local politician who’d been elected many times].  I thought, great.  I put up flyers everywhere.  She walked in with her husband and publicist and sat here for three hours.  Not one person came in.  Not one.”

Of course it was not a good sign that Gale was telling me this.  Last year, I had a quiet book launch in Cornwall and brisk business at this store in Alexandria.

This year, I was already concerned about this Saturday date.  “I’m working,” said what seemed like 70 percent of the nurses I worked with.  “That’s ACLS,” said another nurse, which meant that the resuscitation course would take priority over literature.  “We have tickets to Beau’s Oktoberfest,” said another two friends.  Others didn’t specify, but said, “Tuesday is better for me.”  My own son had Chinese school and when I asked my husband if he’d rather come to the book launch or Chinese school, he said, “Chinese school.”

I called my mother and said, “Mom, your job is to come here (from Ottawa)  on time and stay for two hours.  And could you bring food?”

In the end, I had a mini party with my mother, my neighbor Luc, and my two friends, Jessica Sarrazin and Genevieve Paquette and her daughter Megan.  We talked and ate Vietnamese spring rolls and chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies.   They all bought my books.  It was pleasant.  A few people did walk in. My mother would say “Hi!” and they’d mutter, “Hi” and make a beeline for the back of the store.

I just tried to enjoy the food and company and not worry about the money.

If I had to go by sales alone, though, I had pre-sold more books by word of mouth and Facebook than by this book launch.  And certainly I could make more money working in the emerg than by hawking books.  So why do it?

It reminded me of Steve Pressfield’s War of Art.  He wrote the screenplay for _King Kong Lives_.  Nobody came to see it.  One of the popcorn guys gave him the thumbs down.  “Miss it, man.  It sucks.”

So I didn’t make a million dollars launching my books.  In fact, I’m still waiting to break even because I have to get paid for a lot of them.  Maybe not as spectacular a failure as _King Kong Lives_.  Probably not a failure at all, since I expect I’ll clear a small profit.

So what is the point of a book launch?  Selling books, yes.  Making money, of course.  But also validation for the writer, makng you feel like a somebody.  I could either feel good that five people had come to celebrate with me or feel bad that no one else joined the party.

In the end, I decided it was somewhere in the middle.  If you’re going to write, if you’re going to risk putting your work out there again and again until an editor says, I’ll take it, if you’re going to fire up your pen or computer every morning, if you’re going to get in the ring, *&)&^()_&, as Guns ‘n’ Roses put it, then to quote Dr. Seuss, “This happens in war every now and again. /Sometimes
you are winners. Sometimes you are losers. / We never can win against so many Poozers…”

Winner?  Loser?  Poozer?

Mostly, I feel like a winner about my Alexandria book launch.

In any case, I got back in the ring for my launch three days later.

Top Ten Reasons to Do a Book Launch


Second Time Around Books. L to R Melissa Yuan-Innes, Denise Nielsen, Yasmin Harrison, Monty (dog)


Cornwall book launch

Book launch at Sat Nam Yoga: Erin Bush & Juice, Julie Herman, Alan Davis, Melissa Yuan-Innes, Max, Luc Paquin

1.    It’s a party/miracle

I always felt a sort of post-partum letdown after publication.  I don’t know why.  In 2000, Writers of the Future hired an illustrator for my story, flew me out to L.A. for a week-long workshop with A.J. Budrys and Tim Powers, and hosted a huge gala.  I posed for photos and gave an acceptance speech in a sapphire ball gown.  But I still felt a bit of a letdown.

Fast-forward to 2009 and my publication in Escape Clause:  the Anthology.  Here’s one way of looking at it:  it’s a poem.  Big deal.  I’ve already been paid for it.  I should just stay home and write more.  This is how I spend 99 percent of my life.

And this is the other way of looking at it:  success!  My poem is published in a book!  Let’s celebrate.

Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Which one do you think is more fun?

2.    Good karma

Ink Oink Art is a start-up publisher.  Kit St. Germain is a writer/actor who says, “Any idiot can renovate their kitchen. It takes god’s own egg-splattered fools to make books.”  I heart any artist who has the chutzpah to fly in the face of conventional logic and risk their own money in order to support other writers and illustrators.  So when I had the same choice, to accept my contributor’s copy meekly or to risk my time and money trying to sell this puppy at a book launch, I leapt into the abyss.  I call this good karma because I’m helping the publisher and thereby myself by getting my work out there.  But obviously I used my judgement.  I still made sure I wrote 1000 words/day and marketed my novels and stories instead of going all book-launchy-wonky.

3.    It teaches you flexibility

I now live in the country.  The nearest bookstore is 20 minutes away in Alexandria. Gale, the owner of Second Time Around Books in Alexandria, was delighted to host.

The closest chain that sells new books is about 40 minutes’ drive away.  The manager seemed underwhelmed at the idea of launching a book, maybe having been burned by self-published tomes.  But I still wanted to do a second book launch, so I thought, why cling to the idea that a book launch has to take place in a bookstore?  I know a high-ceilinged, wooden-floored studio that’s one of the most elegant places in Cornwall where we could read by candlelight.  Erin Bush, owner of Sat Nam Yoga, said no problem and even agreed to make mint tea.

4.    Small business training

A book launch is a business.  I’ve done book launches in Montreal, Berkley, and the aforementioned LA.  I showed up, read if asked to, and signed books, blissfully ignorant of who ordered the books or provided free eats.  (This was my father’s most-impressed moment.  “Who’s paying for this?”  he asked, eyeing the cornucopia of food and drink.)    Since these events were DIY, I asked Gale what kind of cut she wanted, thinking she’d order the books and take a percentage of the profits.  It turned out that she’d prefer to take no cut (and no risk).  Her bookstore would just be the venue.

So I bought the books myself.  At first, I thought ten would do it.  I should be able to move five and if I had to give a few away as Christmas presents, so be it.  But when Christina Dudley Facebooked that she’d sold 77 in one night, I realized I was thinking too small.  Also, shipping was egregious, and the more books I bought, the more I could spread the costs out.  So I ordered 20.  If I sold 14, I’d break even.  If I didn’t, well, that’d be a lot of Christmas presents.

5.    Marketing

I did Facebook and Twitter, but what I think helped the most was that I told our local paper, the Glengarry News, about the book launch and Steve Warburton decided to do a feature on me.  Old school works!  If nothing else, I got my local 15 minutes of fame.

Even more old-fashioned, I printed up posters and asked my friends to post them.  I chatted with people at both hospitals and asked them to come.  Repeatedly.

Since I hate hard sells, I emphasized that it was a party and you could buy a book or not.

In my emails, I explained that I was taking a personal financial risk with the book launch.  Three people bit.  Before the book sale, I’d pre-sold three for cash and gotten verbal promises to buy another eight.  So if I sold three at the book launches, I’d break even.  Shoot, I might even run out!

6.    Plan for success, prepare for failure

I bounced into Sat Nam Yoga with 24 cream puffs and 30 banana muffins, all mini-sized to minimize the guilt.  Erin had set out three types of cheeses, pepper jelly, hummus and pita, grapes (“Look, Mommy, they have grapes, just like us!” my son Max exclaimed), cookies…a feast.

The hordes of people who said they’d come or might come turned into a handful. I felt like a right idiot. But my son was in heaven:  a giant space to run and slide in his socks.  The reading turned into a cozy candlelit Q&A about my writing and a discussion about our missions in life.  I felt bad that Erin had splashed out for a small crowd, but she said it didn’t matter to her if there were five people or 50.  In the end, I decided the only person who could decide if it was a failure or not was me.  And I had fun:  good food, good company, and I sold three more books, so if all the “save one for me” people came through, I’d already broken even.  I probably wouldn’t choose to do another event on a Friday night, especially the night of Black Friday, but it’s all learning, right?  That’s a metaphor for the writing life and maybe life in general.

7.    Networking

Ottawa author Leslie Brown joined me the next day in Alexandria.  One of the first things she did was ask me if I’d joined Access Copyright.  If you have Canadian publications, you can sign up and two years later, they’ll start sending you money.  I don’t know the details, but it’s a million dollars they’re dividing up.  I’d never heard about this, but I don’t really end up talking to writers much, and a lot of my writer friends are American.  I’d let my SF Canada membership lapse just because I changed email addresses and I didn’t want to wade through all their emails.  My bad, but something I was able to correct by networking at my book launch.

Networking, part II.  The Glengarry News article talked about another writer, LindsayBelow, who came to the book launch with her mother.  I actually knew her because her teacher, Andy Rorabeck, had invited me to speak to his writing group at his high school a few years ago and she was one of the members.  They invited me to join their critique group.  Since my latest book is set in high school, a recent graduate and two teachers could really give me some reality checks.

8. Get the audience reaction you craaave

After I read my poem, one of my friends mouthed “Wow.  Wow.”  The audience applauded.  Leslie’s brother Steve said, “It’s the kind of thing you have to sit for a minute, and then you applaud.”  No higher honour.  And not the kind of thing you get sitting in your room.

9.  Sell your backlist

Only two people read the magazines I brought with my previous publications, but one wanted to buy “Space and Time Books” and the other “Waiting for Jenny Rex.”  This is a tiny taste of what it’s like if you write, say, _The DaVinci Code_ and then everyone runs out to buy _Angels and Demons_.  Small scale, but still beneficial to the magazines who bought my work even years ago.

10.  Pay it forward

I hope Erin might get more yoga subscriptions.  I know Gale certainly got more business.  My neighbour didn’t even know where that bookstore was, but he walked out with $82 worth of books, not counting my own.  Other friends browsed and bought, including children.  Who knows how their imagination may get fired up by their books?  An elderly lady bought my book and said she wanted to give me some greeting cards.  I paid her $10 for the cards.  She didn’t even know what to charge me because she wasn’t used to asking for money for her work.  “Don’t be ashamed to make money from your art,” I told her.  Maybe it will help her. Who knows?

It certainly helped me.  I sold my 20th book in Alexandria, leaving me with just my contributor’s copy–plus at least six people who couldn’t come to the launches but asked me to save them a copy.  So that’s a help to the publisher, Ink Oink Art.  And for me, because I’ve always been afraid I could never make a living from my writing.  I would like to make a cork board and pin up all the cash I made from these books so that every time I se it, I think, “Look at what you did.”  Of course the money is trivial compared to what I could have made in the emergency room, but I don’t care.  The money is a tangible reminder that dreams can come true and that I am trying to live as though everything is a miracle.

Second Time

The hordes at Second Time Around Books, incl. at table: writers Lindsay, Leslie Brown, Melissa Yuan-Innes

More photos here.

Copyright Melissa Yuan-Innes, 2009