Behind the Scenes: Kobo’s Going Going Gone Contest #9: The Leap

Part 1: The e-mailPart 2: The CallPart 3: The ReadingPart 4: The WaitingPart 5: The TextPart 6: The “GO” CallPart 7: The Writing & Invitation, Part 8: The Party.

Today is the final day of Kobo’s Going Gone Gone Contest. So, y’know, if you could use $5000 and a Kobo Aura H2O, go for it. I’ll provide one last clue and a secret code here and one gigantic one in my newsletter that goes out later today.

But first, the conclusion to my behind the scenes posts! Da-da-da DUM!

#theface photo 3-2

Aaaaaaa! #the face by Robyn, me & Nathan. I’m wearing Tangente‘s White Jersey Dress with Ombre Ribbon Straps

August 26th, 2014

Since I’d travelled from Eastern to Southern Ontario for Kobo’s End of Summer Party, I wanted to thank Kobo’s senior people personally for choosing me for their soon-to-launched-but-presently-top-secret promotion.

One of the other writers asked me why I was doing this. “What would you say to him, ‘Nice device’?” He thought I was going to rave about the Kobo Aura H2O, which would be understandable, but…

“I just wanted to say thank you for choosing me,” I said, which sounds kind of ridiculous when I couldn’t even explain that I had a classified deal. It’s like saying, “Look! I’m engaged to the invisible man! Isn’t he gorgeous?” and everyone’s like, “Where? Where?”

Robyn came by, and I mentioned that I’d like to meet some people.

“Oh, Taka?” she said, and introduced me to the CEO, Takahito Aiki. I thanked him, and he handled it very gracefully.

The President had been carted off for photos post-speech, but once the spotlight died down, I noticed Rob Sawyer, the science fiction author/networker extraordinaire, who was the life of the party at World Fantasy 2000. I said, “Rob, you know everyone. Can you introduce me to the President?”

“Sure. We’ll just have to find him.”

Michael Tamblyn cheerfully greeted Rob, who introduced me. I shook the President’s hand and told him I appreciated his speech about Kobo as a David vs. Goliath, and that it was amazing that they’d chosen to highlight a relatively unknown writer like me, a David surrounded by New York Times-bestselling Goliaths.

“I like the way you network,” said my new friend Diane, afterward. “Some people are very single-minded about it, but you have a nice, natural way of approaching people.”

“Aw, thanks,” I said. It’s only recently that I’ve realized that most people aren’t offended and may, in fact, be charmed when you approach them nicely. Mark Lefebvre recently posted on KWL that I’ve “never been shy about getting to know other industry folks…in a professional and friendly manner.” Speaking of networking, here’s your daily clue. Have you noticed my latest Facebook friend? If you don’t know her already, check her out using the code HOPEGONE. If you still have no clue, sign up for my newsletter and all will be revealed.

I looked across the pool. “Now I’d like to talk to the girl with the purple hair.”


Erika Szabo was on her phone, but I introduced myself anyway. She said, “I’m a YouTuber.” She did tech blogging before, but now she makes her living vlogging on old school video games, maybe looking at moving into dance (she does pole, yoga, and Parkour), with a backup in retail. She was a self-taught journalist for six years, but she wanted to do something different, y’know? She likes to try different things.

I can’t tell you how different that is from my family, which is more like: 1. Work on something safe until the day you drop dead. 2. Invest wisely. 3. Never spend money. So of course, I thought this was very cool. Then we took off to the CNE, which is only $6 after 5 p.m.!

Everything was enormous at the CNE.

My son Max loves the Williamstown Fair. This was a fair, too, but everything was bigger. Even the food signs looked a story tall, not just displaying but screaming EAT THIS! PLAY THIS! Come here! Do it now!

I was glad I hadn’t brought Max, because he would have tried to play every game, eat every food, and generally make himself dizzy and sick (but satisfied).

Me & Erika & butter Jabba

Me & Erika & butter Jabba

Me & Erika BEING butter Jabba. Taking the leap.

Me & Erika BEING butter Jabba.

One big thing was zip lining. I’ve done it in Costa Rica. I didn’t think it was that big a deal. It’s very safe, and you get to look at the wildlife. To be completely honest, my favourite part was when one of the zip line guys looked me up and down and said to Matt, “Is that your wife? Uh huh.” So when people were lip lining over the CNE, and Erika said, “That must cost $50,” I wasn’t too impressed.

But when we checked over the cost, and it was $20.

Twenty bucks.

What a way to cap off the night. and my whole experience, really, plunging into the unknown, fingers crossed for the best.

“We’re closing. You have nine minutes to buy your ticket,” they said.

“Okay. You in?” I asked Erika.

“I’m totally in.”

So we plunked down our money and lined up for about 45 minutes, but it went fast because we made a new friend, Laura, an ariel circus performer who was having her vacation at the CNE. Finishing off the night with zip lining. As one does.

I didn’t think too much about the actual zip lining until we started climbing the tower. Costa Rica wasn’t this high—just above the tree line—and the trees make it look less high. As it was, I was climbing and climbing flights of stairs, and my heart rate accelerated. I was trying not to think about that short story about a woman who’s climbing the stairs to a tower in the darkness, counting every step (600, 601…), but when she goes down, there are more steps than going up (602, 603…). Plus my feet hurt in my flats.


When I got to the top, a cheery Aussie/Kiwi guy checked my equipment, and I said, “How high are we?”

“About fourteen stories. Are you scared?” He thought it was a joke. He’d commented on how another girl was shaking.

“It seems like not that steep an incline,” I said, trying to look at it logically. It wasn’t like a 90 degree drop to the bottom. Maybe 30 degree drop to give you a ride, but you still ended up at another tower.

“It’s not.” It was probably baby steps for him.

The problem was, no trees, nothing to break your fall. Just lights. We were higher than the Ferris wheels. And stepping off into darkness.

I said, “I assume it’s safe. How many accidents have you had here?”


“Great. Could you just check my equipment?”

“That’s what I’m here for.” He said everything was fine. And I had realized myself, at nearly the last minute, that my shoes might fall off. For some reason, no one had thought to tape my flats on. I was not inclined to walk down 14 flights to get taped up and then climb up another 14 flights again, but thank goodness, someone had tape. They taped my flats so tight, they hurt, but I didn’t mind. I didn’t want to have to walk back to my apartment barefoot, plus bean someone on the head with my shoe.

The women ahead of us were so scared, they argued over how to count to three. They climbed down the stairs and sat on them instead of jumping off. And apparantly one of them spit or drooled as she took off. But they did it, screaming.


Excuse me, is that Jabba the Hutt again? We’ve got to do the Jabba! (Before the zip lining.)



Erika and I agreed to just go.

I have to admit, when I walked down four stairs that ended in darkness, I thought it was madness, sailing into the darkness in a ball gown. Was this how Cinderella ended up in the 21st century?

But I’d paid my twenty bucks. And if I’ve paid my money, I want my money’s worth.

“Ready?” Erika said.

I nodded.

We lifted our feet and—wheee!

For me, since the equipment felt secure, I felt serene, just flying along with the lights of the rides and the tents below me.

I felt fine, but I did hold on to the tower when I got off. The person had to ask me to take a step closer so that she could unhook me.

But I was glad I did it.

Every day is a risk.

Like Erika says, DO IT. Go for it. Take the leap.

KWL is in the house! With Jodi, Mark, me, Christina & Tara

KWL is in the house! With Jodi, Mark, me, Tara & Christina. Good luck!

Behind the Scenes: Kobo’s Going Going Gone Contest #8: The Party


Unrelated: Max raced in the regionals today. He earned a spot by placing in his class race. He’s never achieved anything sport-related before.

Part 1: The e-mailPart 2: The CallPart 3: The ReadingPart 4: The WaitingPart 5: The TextPart 6: The “GO” Call, Part 7: The Writing & Invitation

Elegant young women greeted me at Toronto’s Muzik Pool Bar for Kobo’s End of Summer party, while I silently wondered if I’d be able to find the two people I knew, and if it was rude to glom on to them.

Fortunately, author-editor-Kobo director Mark Leslie Lefebvre had positioned himself right near the entrance, and it turned out that I knew one of the people chatting with him: Robert J. Sawyer, the premier Canadian science fiction writer, whom I’d met at World Fantasy in 2000. They introduced me to a third writer, Andrew Pyper, who said, “I’m not a colourist, but I like your dress.”

“Thank you! I had to decide what to wear for ‘summer casual.’” I’d chosen a swirly, asymmetrical, lime/lemon/blue dress.

“I’d say you nailed it.”

There! At least one man who liked my dress and two more who made agreeable noises.

Robyn Baldwin quickly pulled us away for pictures. “The photographer is here.” She was wearing a half-sleeved, shell pink sheath dress that fell above the knee.

“Where should we pose?” asked Robyn.

“By the pool!” said Mark. Did you know that “water” is “fisherman’s daughter” in Cockney rhyming slang? That’s your contest clue for the day. For riddle #2, figure out the story location, translate the Cockney rhyming slang into English, and start Googling.

Who's the shortest? I am, I am!

Who’s the shortest? I am, I am!

So we did a few quick pictures, and then Robyn headed off for some water, and I hung out with Mark a bit before he had to meet other people. I hit the bar. I was going to have water, but then I asked the bartender if they had girly drinks.

She raised her eyebrows. “I’ve got strawberry daquiris and pina coladas behind me.” Usually, those tanks are filled with slushies, but at a pool bar, they’ve got beach drinks.

“Perfect. Strawberry, please.”

Then I took a deep breath and wandered over to two other people sitting alone. “Hi,” I said to the woman. “I don’t know anyone here, so I’m introducing myself to strangers. My name is Melissa.”

Diane said hi. She was a journalist who freelanced for all major Canadian newspapers and magazines, and had sold her first article to The Medical Post! Kind of like me. She was looking for food, so I advised her to stand up beside the bar, where the servers circulated, and while noshing, we met Fabio from marketing.

Diane asked why we liked e-readers. Fabio liked downloading things instantly. Personally, I like that, plus they’re light, I can highlight the witty and hilarious things that people write, and yep, e-ink is easy on the eyes, and the battery lasts much longer than on my phone.

I like paper books, too, because I’m an impatient reader, and I find it easier to flip until something catches my eye, and then I read it. If the book is good, I’ll read it all the way through, but otherwise, mmm. I’m in and out.

I also found it funny that everyone would basically say, Who are you? Where are you from? And how are you connected to Kobo? Kind of like going to a wedding and people want to know how you know the bride or groom.

My answers made no sense, on the surface. “I’m a doctor-writer. I’m from far away. Yup, I came here just for this event. Well, it’s because I’m connected to this promotion that I can’t tell you about until September fifth.”

People were politely puzzled and slightly intrigued, I think.

Then they rounded us up for the speech.

I’m used to boring speeches, but this was a dynamic one. President Michael Tamblyn introduced the CEO, Takahito Aiki, and entertained us with a speech about how they’re the David in a Goliath world of e-readers, but they’ve held their own and pioneered their own way. Plus, did you know super-readers love to read in the bath or on the beach, so they end up wrapping their Kobos in Saran Wrap and Zip Loc bags, only to have them float away?

Therefore, da da da dum!

Introducing…the synchronized swimmers and the Kobo Aura H2O, the world’s first underwater e-reader!




P.S. Mark wrote a terrific blog about Kobo’s Going Going Gone Contest that closes tomorrow. Win your $5000 now, or forever hold your peace!

Behind the Scenes: Kobo’s Going Going Gone Contest #7: The Writing & Invitation

Ha ha ha. I see the top searches that hit on my website have now morphed into: going going gone fishing contest,  melissa yuan-innes,  drenched kids in bathtub,  kobo going gone contest answers,  clues to kobo going goinggone

Good! People want to win $5000 and a Kobo Aura H2O. So I’ll scatter clues in my posts for the next few days.

Not sure why the drenched kids in bathtub showed up. Although they might be appropriate, given the Gone Fishing stories.

Now, on to the back story. Part 1: The e-mailPart 2: The CallPart 3: The ReadingPart 4: The WaitingPart 5: The Text & Part 6: The “GO” Call.



A Clue, A Clue! When Kobo’s Director, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, first approached me about the Going Going Gone contest, he raved about Gone Girl and added thoughtfully, “Water is very important.” As a writer, a reader, and a doctor, I always notice these odd details. In a mystery, it tells you who the murderer is. So when I downloaded Gone Girl, I faithfully highlighted the references to water and to the river.

Ergo, mystery buffs, read the free Hope stories, check the locations, and look at the water in the locations. The Internet is your friend. Plug riddle bits into your search engine and see what comes up. At least one of my friends has solved it.

In unrelated news, a bull held us hostage yesterday.

In unrelated news, a bull held us hostage yesterday.


I get a lot of e-mail, including ads from Kobo, so I didn’t think too much of this one titled Kobo’s End of Summer. I assumed it was some sort of sale.

Then I took another look. It was from an individual, Jodi, instead of the company, so it had landed in my Inbox instead of my promotional folder.

I clicked on it.

Dear KWL Authors,

We would like to extend this invite to you to join our executive team next Tuesday, please see below and rsvp…

 My first thought was, Oh, Toronto. On the other side of the province.

What, next Tuesday? No can do.

But they were asking me to meet the Kobo President. Huh. When was the last time you were asked to meet a company president? I’m not, usually. Even if I were just in the same room, it would be kind of nifty.

I checked the timing. Tuesday, August 26th. Our promotion was supposed to roll at the debut of September. That was incredibly good timing. I could shake the president’s hand, maybe, and say, “You have no idea who I am, but THANK YOU.”

I took a third look. They offered to reserve me parking. If they have to reserve parking for you, they can’t invite the whole world. At least, probably not thousands upon thousands of KWL authors. This must be a particular bunch.

In fact, only the fact that I’m spearheading the Gone Girl promo netted me this invite.

Sure, it’s short notice. But I do have that day off. I’d kind of tried to keep that week off because Anastasia’s starting school. But her first official day’s not until Friday. So actually, I could drop her off with her babysitter and head down to Toronto.

Holy Moses.

I have to go.

I’m going to Toronto!

Behind the Scenes: Kobo’s Going Going Gone Contest #6: The “GO” call

Part 1: The e-mailPart 2: The CallPart 3: The ReadingPart 4: The Waiting & Part 5: The Text.

July 25, 10 p.m.

I don’t outline my writing. I like to “write into the darkness,” typing like mad, suddenly saying, “Hey, that’s cool” and chasing an idea or character down. Which is fantastic for fun and discovery, but leads to a lot of mental instability afterward, trying to piece things together (does this make sense? No, he wasn’t born yet. Argh!).

Dog by Lizzyliz. This dog knows darkness.

Dog by Lizzyliz. This dog knows darkness.

One thing that does work well for me, though, is sleeping on an idea. I won’t wake up in the middle of the night, dreaming of a snake in the shape of a benzene ring, but it’s that kind of story equivalent. So I called Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Kobo Director extraordinaire, to see, now that the project was a GO, if I could get any hints on what I should actually write, besides something in the vein of Gone Girl.

The legal team had gone home before the VP approved the deal, but Mark would slide me the contract the next day, before he flew to Texas for the annual Romance Writers Association meeting.

I’d have to meet with marketing in the next seven to ten days, through Skype or a Google Hangout. I said, “I’m on vacation now. How about tomorrow?”

He was slightly taken aback, but recovered quickly. “I’ll send an e-mail and see if Robyn’s available.” And he did. I love people who are efficient like that.

The only thing was, I didn’t come away with too many story ideas. Just that contestants would have to decipher clues. Also, he said, “Humour is good. I know you can write with a good, dark sense of humour.”

Phew. I can write super-seriously, but that’s not my usual bent. Life is horrible enough without eviscerating the jokes.

I turned off my light, thinking about Hope Sze, the detective doctor, humour, and darkness.


Hey. Do you want to win $5000 and a Kobo Aura H2O? Of course you do. Get thee to Kobo’s Going Gone Gone Contest before October 10th.


Winter Ambition: A Reading List for Ballsy Women

Helloooooo to any Bullish readers! I’m a big Jen Dziura fan. Here’s one of my favourite Bullish lines: “adult fun is better. You can drink scotch in nice places and chat with European bartenders instead of chugging wine coolers in a chilly parking lot while some guy who’s failing algebra tries to get in your bra.”

Jen suggested ballsy books as our first blog topic. I’m a writer who basically thinks reading=breathing, so I’m thrilled to join this blog network. I’m also a doctor, so I may have a slightly different take on testicles.

Art by niera94. A bold book, wouldn't you say?

Art by niera94. A bold book, wouldn’t you say?

Ballsy #1: Balls Gone Wild
When I borrowed this book from the Cornwall Public Library, the circulation clerk said, “I loved Gone Girl, but I think this one is even better. It’s weirder.”
I agree.
I tell Flynn neophytes that Gone Girl is about a twisted marriage. Sharp Objects is about a twisted family.
What I love about Gillian Flynn’s novels, having read a grand total of two, is their sheer intelligence. The woman does not pull any punches. When I’m reading her books, I’m laughing because she’s so freaking funny (my favourite Gone Girl line is the one about how real Amy wants to punch fictional Amazing Amy in her stupid, spotless vagina), but wincing at how true to life the characters are while they mentally and physically maim each other.
For example, the narrator, Camille, in Sharp Objects muses about carrying a dead nine-year-old child, Anne, through the Missouri woods like this:
It would be hard to carry a child through these woods. Branches and leaves strangle the pathway, roots bump up from the ground. [Anne’s hair] would have tangled itself in the passing brush. I kept mistaking spiderwebs for glimmering strands of hair.
I was caught right there. The horror, imagining oneself lugging the victim’s body, juxtaposed with the grace of hair and the fragile beauty of spiderwebs.
Later, Camille talks about how her adolescent facial “features changed by the day, as if clouds floated above me, casting flattering or sickly shadows on my face.” But after her sudden transformation into a beauty, “I was no longer the pity case (with, how weird, the dead sister). I was the pretty girl (with, how sad, the dead sister).”
Ain’t that the truth.
Why am I opening with Sharp Objects?
Ballsy isn’t always good. Sociopaths are ballsy. They’re not my role model. We need kindness and compassion too. So I remember the ups of having guts (yes, I’d like to be a New York Times bestseller like Gillian Flynn) and the downside (not enough to kill children and pull out their teeth).

Going Going Gone high res 6x9 poster 10753_email_book1_668x500_14_8_26
Full disclosure: I have a vested interest in Gillian Flynn. Kobo sponsored me to write three mystery short stories inspired by Gone Girl in their $5000 Going Going Gone Contest (yep, you could win five grand and a Kobo Aura H2O just for reading three stories and solving three clues before October 10th). But I’d recommend GF anyway. She’s the real deal. Thrilled to see the movie tonight. [Update: saw it. Hooray!]


Ballsy #2: Gonads Get Rich
Financial advisors will tell you that they add value, and that’s why they should get paid. I understand this, and I do recommend one of my financial advisors, Jessica Sarrazin, who has just started in the business, but offers personalized, meticulous care.
Financial independents (not sure what else to call them. People who want to strike out on their own) know that index funds usually outperform mutual funds. So they go direct and cut out the middle man.
But obviously, it’s confusing to jump into financial waters, especially if you don’t have a clue. So—ta dah!—I recommend Jin Won Choi explains concepts clearly and without a lot of fanfare (does anyone else hate financial websites aimed at women that have way too high a pink:content ratio?). Jin understands math, since he’s a 31-year-old Ph.D. in mathematics, and he doesn’t get bogged down in jargon like some other sites. I did get a basic membership, but most of his content is free and relevant, even if you’re not Canadian like us. Read through his blog, click on his tools, and see if he works for you. The Short Book on Investments (, his free e-book, in exchange for your e-mail address, is a good staring point.


Ballsy #3: Testicular Torsion
What? Another Asian guy? Yes, and he’s brilliant in a different way. American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel nominated for the National Book Award, somehow combining tales of Chinese legends, schoolboy politics, and friendship. I’ve read it to my son several times. While I was inwardly squirming at Chin-Kee, the deliberately stereotypical Chinese cousin, Max was laughing.
Boxers and Saints tells the story of the Boxer Rebellion in China from two different points of view, a boy who becomes a rebel and a girl who joins the Christians.
In Level Up, Dennis’s parents pressure him to become a doctor, but he’d rather play video games. You might think you know how it ends, but I was surprised and touched by the last page.
Gene Yang illustrates the struggle between family, calling, ambition, and friendship. Balls against the world. Balls from multiple points of view. Hence the medical joke title (testicular torsion is when a testicle accidentally swivels around and cuts off its own blood supply. Gene Yang shows you how how to turn around).

I could go on, but I can’t wait to see what everyone else recommends. Cheers, and happy reading!