Femme Fatale

Are you a femme fatale?

Would you date one?

Could you outwit one?

Will you die from one?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


by Libby Fischer Hellmann



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

Bubba Goes for Broke

by David H. Hendrickson

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

Redneck Riviera Box Set

by Julie Smith

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

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

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

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

Bad Boy Boogie

by Thomas Pluck

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

Ramona grinned above the wheel from behind black shades.

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

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

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

And the bonus books


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

The Perfect Man

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

Hit Somebody

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

Terminally Ill

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

Death Takes a Partner

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

Bourbon Street

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

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


As for the questions above, my answers are

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

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

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

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

I’d love to hear your answers, too!

Fantasy time: Fairy Tales Are for White People, By the Light of the Kumquat Tree, Can-Con, and other cool beasts

And now for something completely different. Some of you may know that my first published stories were fantasy and science fiction, for two practical reasons: 1. Speculative fiction pays better than copies-only literary magazines, and 2. I really wanted to escape school through my imagination. Especially once I was a red-eyed resident ploughing through family and emergency medicine.

Now, medicine (and, to a much lesser extent, medical and mystery writings) pay a good chunk of the bills. But I still nurture a love for mind-blowing fantasy and made-you-think-and-feel science fiction.

Fairy taleS are for white people Galen Dara correct

When I attended Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s fantasy workshop, she asked for–nay, demanded–that we write a story based on food. She didn’t care what kind of fantasy story it was, but she had to be able to see, smell, and taste the food. My mind leapfrogged to Jacques Wong and Ho Ho BBQ, whom I’d first met in Gourmet Magazine through this wonderful article by Francis Lam.

Let’s face it. When rich people are throwing down hundreds of dollars on restaurant meals, they’re not usually driving out to Scarborough’s strip malls and seeking out the cheap Chinese joints.

We stumbled upon Ho Ho BBQ in real life, after visiting my grandmother. Jacques gave my son some free pork skin and beamed while Max ate it. You could not get better food or more heart at any three star Michelin restaurant.

So first I wrote the title, “Fairy Tales Are for White People.” Then I started writing about a fairy godfather.

Climbing up the basement stairs with a duck carcass, holding the slippery neck far enough away from his body so that his knees didn’t clank into the dangling legs, Trenton Lo caught his first glimpse of the fairy godfather.

Fairy Tales Twitter illo Screenshot 2016-06-07 19.55.56

Fireside Magazine immediately accepted “Fairy Tales Are for White People,” and Galen Dara made the best art. Gorgeous and capturing the spirit of family and beauty and perseverance. I adore it. Read it here and enjoy the full art! Feel free to support Fireside Magazine, which makes a point of paying both writers and artists properly and promptly.

Fairy Tales Twitter OMG Screenshot 2016-06-07 19.57.09 Fairy Tales Twitter vibrant cropped Screenshot 2016-09-05 04.58.42 copy

Everyone loved “Fairy Tales Are for White People.” I’m not trying to brag; it’s just something that happens once in a while. A story falls down from the sky, almost fully-formed, and it’s a story that immediately resonates with readers of different ages and backgrounds.

It’s also available as a standalone complete story here, on all platforms. I’ve added an author’s essay about the genesis of the story, the workshop with Kris, the yumminess of Ho Ho BBQ in real life.

Fairy tales Twitter enjoyed Screenshot 2016-09-05 18.05.59

The last one is rated R, but I do love it.

Fairy Tales fucking hell cropped Screenshot 2016-09-05 18.04.13 copy

Next, I went to LA for the Roswell Awards this year again, as I mentioned here. (And by the way, Rico is committed to Humans ‘n’ Hot Dogs, but he booked a film in August, so he didn’t have a chance to record it yet, but he will! Our crowdfunding campaign is still alive!)

My new writer/ER doctor friend, John Burley, flew down to meet me. He thought I was nuts for staying at an airbnb, but look at the back yard I shared. We sat and talked and he pulled kumquats off the tree. I don’t know if I’ve ever tried kumquats before, let alone eaten them straight from the tree, rind and all. The first time, I made a hideous face, but I guess it’s like shots, you get used to them.

2016-05-24 17.12.36

Enchanted Conversations was taking submissions for their Midsummer issue. I decided to weave a small, poetic tale based on this setting, and BOOM! They published “By the Light of the Kumquat Tree” here. Make sure you read the other luminaries as well. I always wanted to get published in this fairy tale magazine, so yay!

Finally, I’m heading off to Can-Con this weekend. I’m on two panels.

  1. Rewriting Fairy Tales, with Dominik Parisien, Fanny Darling, Charles de Lint, K.V. Johansen, Kelsi Morris, Melissa Yuan-Innes. Look at me, with Charles de Lint! Woo hoo! I’m sure I’ll adore the other panelists as well.
  2. SARS, Ebola and Zika, the last Decade of Outbreaks, with Agnes Cadieux, Dr. Dylan Blaquiere, Dr. Anatoly Belilovski, Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes, Dr. Alison Sinclair, Pippa Wysong (m). It’s 50 percent doctors and 50 percent non-doctors! Party on!

Oh, and thanks for all the comments on the Italian School for Assassins cover. Behold, the final version. It’s also available for sale on all e-book platforms here! (The print version will come in 2017.)

Italian School for Assassins 2016 Melissa_Yi_6_v4_2_1_1