Success: People, places, and things that excite me, from Shelagh Rogers to Bloody Words

Joanna Penn and Kris Rusch have blogged lately about success.

My success is minuscule compared to many writers, but my M.O. is not buckets of money. I like money, because it represents freedom, but I don’t neeeeeeed money or prestige.

I set out my goals here. I want my writing to connect with people, places, and things that excite me.

So when I picked up the phone and a neighbour named Rhonda asked me to join a new book club, and said maybe they could do my book for the next meeting, I was deeeeeelighted. (Also, surprised to hear that they’d hesitated to invite me, thinking I might be too busy. Ask me! I’m always looking for fun.)

Code blues cover 2013 EBOOK-200

Now starring the in the Glengarry book club! Will they like it? Guess I’ll find out next month.

And they did pick Code Blues, the first Hope Sze novel, which was awesomesauce. I just had to giggle in embarrassment when Rhonda told everyone it was a fun, quick read, and that they’d enjoy the Montreal references, but that parking tickets are now $52, not $30. Oops.

Steve Steinbock, the reviewer from Ellery Queen, Facebooked me seven reasons that I had to come to Bloody Words, the mystery conference in Toronto. (The list was hilarious. If I get permission, I’ll post it, but probably the funniest was (2) to join me, Howard Shrier, and Ken Wishnia in a Yiddish cussing contest.) I’d considered going after my friend Rebecca Senese told me about it, but the $190 conference seemed steep. After that message, though, I told Matt, “If Ellery Queen asks you to go to a conference, you go.” So I’ll be in Toronto June 6-8. And I have to say, it made my day that Steve was asking me to come. I’m a very small potato. Unbelieveable when someone higher up in the French fry industry says, Hey. C’mere.

Look. This incorporates both the theme of me as a small potato and the murder theme for me going to Bloody Words. You see how I did that?

Look. This incorporates both the theme of me as a small potato and the murder theme for me going to Bloody Words.You see how I did that?

Then Yasmin tweeted about my blog on Emergency Room: Life+Death at VGH, and I looked her up and realized that she’s one of the stars of the show. In fact, she got the closing words of the final episode. And the most hilarious parts is, she tagged my friend Anna to read the blog post…and Anna is the one who highlighted it in the first place, because she’s my Vancouver General Hospital friend who used to work in Montreal.

Yasmin ER star Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 8.54.43 AM

So it’s come full circle, and the closest I’ve come to a blog post going viral. In this case, it’s more like my blog post going water cooler, because it’s a relatively small group of people, but still. Shelagh Rogers. Need I say more?

Another Twitter win was that a new friend/fan made up a hashtag for Dr. Hope Sze, #HopeIsCool.

#HopeIsCool twitter Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 8.54.43 AM

I’ve never met @vmchick, so this here I am, connecting with new people who have excellent taste.  #livingthedream

“You’re quite the celebrity at the dentist’s office,” said my husband Matt, and in fact, when I made it for my appointment, Maria (the secretary), Dr. Levon Kichian (our dentist), and Kim (a dental hygenicist) all bought copies of Terminally Ill. “I started reading it already. Very intriguing,” said Dr. Kichian.

Loose Tooth

Look closely. Combines dentistry & bloody theme. Photo by Terri Heisele.

At the hospitals, they’re quite used to me writing, but if I call for a consult or for an admission, a staff member might say in passing, “Congratulations on your book” (which means they don’t plan to buy a copy, but they’re aware of my fifteen minutes of fame. Cool enough), or “I started reading your book. It’s beautiful. Now I have to buy the other two” (well, only Dr. Shah said that. But here’s hoping!).

One last win: Kobo’s Mark Leslie Lefebvre had pushed me to talk to bookstores. I found it hideously embarrassing, but I got over it, and now the Hope Sze books are available in the following select locations:

R&L’s Book Nook in Alexandria
58 Alexandria Main, Alexandria, ON K0K 1A0; (613)525-9940;

The Quirky Carrot
1 main street south; (613)525-2229; Facebook

Sunset Yoga
Église Ste. Marie de l’Assomption, Cp 119 4172 Route 34, K0C 1L0; (613) 662-YOGA(9642);

Penny’s Market
7340 regional road 23, K0C 1J0; (613)551-4806;

Coming soon:
Fassifern General Store; RR 5 in Alexandria, ON; (613)525-2144

You can also order any Olo Books/Windtree Press book from your local bookstore. Just go in and say, “Here’s my money,” and they’ll make it happen.

Thanks, exciting people. You rock!

“Only connect.” —E.M. Forster

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.