Human Remains Could Win a Free Writing Retreat–And So Could You! (Check Out The Shiny, New First Chapter of Human Remains. I’m Just Going to Keep Saying Human Remains. That’ll Make Me Win for Sure.)

I’m thinking of buying a ticket to Saint-Sylvestre-sur-Lot, France.

Why? Shouldn’t I be staying home, working in the ER, looking after my kids, and finally finishing the fifth Hope Sze novel, Human Remains?

Well, yes. That would be the sensible thing to do.

But at one time, my overarching goal for writing was to connect to people, places, and things that excite me.


Not only does he write, edit, direct Kobo, and have a cool girlfriend, but Mark Leslie also carries me around on demand and fixed a loose thread on my hem–with his TEETH. Don’t mess with Mark.

Derek Murphy of Creativindie has rented a castle in Saint-Sylvestre-sur-Lot (as one does) and is holding a contest where you could stay with him and some other hand-picked successful authors, for free, for two weeks. This would force you to write like a demon. Then, in your off-hours, you would socialize and learn from other cool people and do castle-y things. Derek has taught me about colour, design, storytelling and fonts through his blog. Imagine what a group of us could figure out in person, in two weeks!

Even if I don’t win the castle stay–and I have to admit, I already have shifts lined up October-November, and I just remembered that I have to give availabilities for one of my hospitals, so this would be tricky)–ten people will win a free course from him. So there’s really no downside except some public humiliation, and I’m used to that!

And anyway, I wanted to show you the new opening chapter for Human Remains. After the gifted writers/editors Erik Buchanan and Mark Leslie Lefebvre put it through the wringer at Can-Con 2016, it’s kick@ss now compared to the first draft. Erik told me to put the PTSD/car paralysis up front, and Mark gave me advice on reader reaction.

Thanks, Derek! And good luck to everyone.

Do you want to enter the writing contest/retreat? Go for it! Deadline is September 20, 2016.
P.S. I’ve got to scan pics of myself at Edinburgh Castle. I’ll add them later because my family is sleeping. In the meantime, please weigh in on blue vs. red cover!



by Melissa Yi

All-New Chapter One

Even if the terrorists don’t win, they can make your life an icy hell.

An ambulance siren wailed faintly in my ears. I was sitting inside my Ford Focus, only one giant, tree-lined block away from the Ottawa Health Science Centre, but I couldn’t make myself step out of the car and into the darkness.

I watched the fog build up on my windshield. It wasn’t so cold that condensation immediately turned to frost, even though it was mid-December in Canada’s capital. Once upon a time, my boyfriend Ryan Wu and I had made out for hours in his car at a mall parking lot, steaming up the windows like this. The police had rapped on the door to ask if we were okay.

That was long before 14/11, the hostage-taking last month. Technically, it was a lone killer, not a terrorist, who’d transformed the rest of my November into a sickening blur.

Now, I felt as dead as the corpses that haunted me.

I’d told my parents that I had to check out the stem cell lab tonight. And I did. I no longer rushed everywhere a few minutes late, breathless and apologetic and smiling. I had to check every location the night before. I didn’t speak to strangers. I turned off the ringer on my phone so that my mother couldn’t tell me that fresh pineapple was on sale at T&T Supermarket.

As a medical resident, I’m perpetually locked inside a hospital. It’s dark when I wipe my muddy boots on the hospital welcome mat and it’s dark when I step into the twilight of winter solstice. I felt trapped. I felt like screaming as soon as the automatic glass doors sealed behind me. I had to ditch Montreal, even though Tucker—

My mitten-clad hands clenched on the steering wheel.

John Tucker.

Thinking about him was a stabbing pain in my chest. Worse than Ryan.

I forced myself to breathe very slowly, in and out. I’ve gone to therapy now, you see. Sort of mandatory for PTSD people like me. I’m supposed to focus on what’s happening here and now instead of getting bound up in the clusterfunk that is John Tucker and Ryan Wu and the fact that my medical career was torpedoed a quarter of the way into my family medicine residency because just looking at a hospital makes me shake, and how am I ever going to graduate like that?

No. According to my therapist, I had to focus on “the present moment.”

Seeeeeeee the snowflakes dissolve as they hit my windshield. Feeeeeeeeel the cool air on my face. Heeeeeear my phone buzz with a new texxxxxxt.

Where are you?


My heart pounded in my throat, and for once, it wasn’t out of panic. There are only a few people in the world who still make me feel something, and one of them was texting me right now.

I pulled off my mittens. The iPhone felt cool in my hand, since I’d left it on the dashboard while I nerved myself up. I typed, I told you. I’m going to check out the stem cell lab.

Are you on Lynda Lane?

That raised a faint smile out of me. Ryan knew me so well, or at least he knew the pre 14/11 Hope Sze. Parking costs $13 a day, so while the sun shines and the clinics are open, everyone fights over the free spots on Lynda Lane, a small road south of Smythe Road. But for once, he’d miscalculated, if only because the police had set up a stop to catch drunk drivers, despite the fact that it was well before 10 p.m. No, because of the R.I.D.E. program. I took a right around the park.

Wait for me. I’ll walk with you.

Ryan drove from Nepean to the southeast end of Ottawa so that he could walk to the lab with me? I exhaled and shook my head. They probably wouldn’t let him inside. Well, I couldn’t blame him for playing bodyguard, although if I’d known he was coming, I would’ve worn my contact lenses instead of my glasses.

I flicked on my lights. Ryan’s an engineer with a lot of practical skills, but I could make it easy for him to find me while I concentrated on breeeeeathing.

A car drew into a space on the opposite side of the road. It was too far away from the streetlamp for me to figure out if it was Ryan’s black Nissan Sentra.

My breath hitched. I made sure my doors were locked, hating my own paranoia, but doing it anyway.

The driver headed for his back door. He moved like Ryan, with a long and easy stride. He looked about the right height too, but he was snapping a leash on a black dog with brown markings at the eyes and mouth.

I scrunched down in my seat. Ryan doesn’t have a dog. His parents, like a lot of Chinese immigrants, don’t care for canines. Dogs bark, they pee, they poop, they make for expensive vet bills. My dad likes dogs, but my mom fits the stereotype better, so we’ve never had one, either.

My eyes dropped to the dog. Maybe I should call it a puppy, because it seemed to have oversized paws and kept rushing all around instead of walking side to side. I smiled a bit despite myself. Puppies are funny, at least from a distance.

I watched the pair cross the road toward me, presumably heading to the park nestled between me and the hospital.

The man shielded his eyes from my headlights, shadowing his face. Closer up, he looked even more like Ryan. Those hips. That runner’s build, even hidden under a black parka.

I twisted in my seat, my heart thumping in my chest. Were there more than two guys in the world who could give me supraventricular tachycardia from ten feet away?

The man raised his hand in greeting.

The dog jumped into the air on its back legs. The guy leaned over, and the dog pounced on his legs with its muddy paws. The guy just laughed as he lifted the paws off his thighs.

I unlocked the door and popped it open. “Ryan?” I said through the crack, over the screeching protest of my car, because of my cardinal sin of leaving my headlights on.

“Hope,” he said, in his low voice, while the puppy danced around him.

This wasn’t what I was expecting. At all. I don’t like surprises since 14/11.

The dog was barking at me now. Yapping at me, really. Short, sharp barks, but it was wagging its tail. That gave me something to look at besides goggling at Ryan’s sharp-planed face and meeting his worried eyes.

I turned off the lights and slammed the door shut, locking it, which made the puppy bark some more and try to jump up on me. She was black, with floppy ears, except brown apostrophe-like markings around her eyes and chin and more brown on her underside and legs.

Ryan was watching me. He did that a lot now. Since 14/11. And maybe before then, if I were honest.

I wanted to hug Ryan and hit him at the same time. I did neither. “Who’s this monster?”

Ryan grinned at me. “Her name’s Roxy. I’m dog-sitting. My friend Rachel got her as a foster dog, so she’s making us all take turns walking and dog-sitting.”

Rachel. He never talked about anyone named Rachel before. And wasn’t that too cute for words—Ryan and Rachel and a puppy named Roxy. They all matched.

I tried to swallow down the acid and breeeeeeathe. Ryan was here with meeeeeee right now.

Plus, it’s harder to hiss with jealousy when a puppy barks, sneezes, and then barks some more.

I started to put my hand down to pet her head, and Ryan said, “You’re supposed to let her sniff you and decide if she wants to let you touch her first.”

I pulled off my mitten and let my hand hang where she could reach it. She started licking the back of my hand with her warm, wet tongue. I laughed despite myself, and Ryan’s teeth lit up the gloom as he laughed with me. “That’s the first thing she did to me, too. I thought she’d cheer you up.”

“How old is she?”

“She’ll be a year next month. She’s a Rottweiler shepherd.”

“A Rottweiler?” I snatched my hand away from her tongue. Roxy woofed and wagged her long, elegantly plumed black tail at me.

“Yeah. I looked it up. They were originally working and family dogs. They just have a bad rep. And Roxy’s cool. I wouldn’t have brought her otherwise.”

I touched the silky fur on her ears. She nudged her head against my hand, searching for more rubs. I laughed, and so did Ryan. He and I leaned together to pet her, our breath mingling in the cool air, only to bump heads hard enough that I said “Ow!”

We laughed again, me a little wryly while I massaged my head, and Roxy whuffed.

Ryan touched my forehead with his bare fingertips. “You okay?”

I nodded. “You?”

He smiled, and I blushed, which embarrassed me, so I concentrated on the silky fur between Roxy’s ears until his fingertips lifted away from my skin.

His other hand reached forward and our fingers twined together between Roxy’s ears.

Ryan’s eyes turned serious, watching me even as his body pressed forward. He was going to kiss me.

I felt numb, and not just because my naked hand was starting to cool off between Roxy-licks and the chill evening air.

Ryan’s head tipped toward me, still reading my eyes.

At the last second, he kissed the tip of my nose, just once, and lightly, like an exclamation point.

I laughed. My heart started beating again.

Ryan dropped back to pet Roxy, smiling a little.

I petted Roxy, too. “Um, I’m supposed to go to the lab. Get the lay of the land so I don’t mess up on my first day.” I left nothing to chance anymore.

But first, I grabbed Ryan’s face—one hand on each cheek, just like Hollywood—and kissed him hard, on his warm, full lips. If I died in the next five minutes, I wanted to go out knowing that I’d kissed one of the men I loved.

Ryan kissed me back so deep and so long that Roxy started trying to edge between us. She sat down, thumping her tail solidly on the gravel shoulder.

We both laughed. I said, against his chest, “How long are you keeping this dog?”

“Until Rachel picks her up tonight. But I kind of like her.” Ryan patted Roxy’s head, and I admitted, “I like her, too.”

Then I pulled my mittens out of my pockets and aimed my body north, toward the brightly-lit H of the Ottawa Health Science Centre’s Central Campus, and started walking into the park.

Parks are creepy at night. The empty swings. The blue plastic slide that could be hiding a marijuana stash, if not a guy with a knife. So I was kind of relieved when Roxy barked and Ryan fell into place beside me, our boots crunching together. He pointed east. “Don’t you want to take the road?”

I shook my head. Even here, through the meagre screen of trees bordering Lynda Lane, the police cruiser’s blue headlights flashed south of us in their bid to Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere. There’s no proper sidewalk on the road, just cars wedged onto the shoulders, and a ditch, before the tree line.

I tried to avoid people as much as possible now. I’d rather walk past the empty climbing wall and kid-free jungle gym.

“This isn’t really a park, Hope. It’s okay during the summer because enough other people use it that they cut the grass. But in the winter time, it’s not a trail.”

“You can take the road,” I said, and when he frowned at me, I rubbed my eyes and tried to soften my tone. “I mean, if I get stuck, I’ll back track to the road. I’m not in a rush.”

Ryan sighed. But instead of arguing, he and Roxy followed me into the park.

Another siren whooped in the distance, setting my teeth on edge. As a medical student, I’d loved the sound of ambulances bringing me traumas and other fun cases to play with. That seemed like forever ago, but had been…last year. God.

Roxy drifted from side to side, testing the limits of her leash, before she sniffed a lump of snow with great interest. I glanced left, where some good-sized houses sat with their drapes drawn, maybe half a kilometre away. One of them had a TV screen flickering behind some cheap horizontal blinds.

My boots sank in the old, overgrown, dead grass and the few centimetres of snow that had accumulated on the ground. For some reason, snow that melts instantly on pavement will gather on any grassy surface and threaten to trap me. We only had to walk a kilometre—not exactly conquering the North Pole—but I paused at the foot of a half-frozen, rutted pond now blocking our path.

human-remains-child-cover-antonio-6x9-72Clearly, municipal money didn’t stretch to maintaining off-road paths in the off-season. I didn’t want to tromp around the lab with half-frozen, muddy feet.

I turned to admit defeat to Ryan, who was already lifting his eyebrows at me, when Roxy broke away from him, jerking her leash out of his hand.

Ryan swore.

Roxy barrelled east, toward the Lynda Lane.

Towards traffic. And drivers who might not see a black dog at night.

We both ran toward her, screaming, “Roxy! Roxy!”

I skidded on the snow. My right ankle turned over, and I wobbled, pain knifing through my lateral ankle.

Ryan spun around to catch me, but I was already righting myself and yelling, “Get Roxy!”

He broke into a sprint. He’s a runner, and even after I hobbled after him, yelling at our borrowed dog, teeth gritted—it was obviously a sprain instead of a break—I marvelled at the way Ryan cut through the row of skinny trees, never missing a step, despite the darkness and the uneven, slippery ground.

I cut into the trees, stumbling after Ryan. Shadows fell on me, but so did the street lamps and a bit of moonlight, so I concentrated on tracking Ryan, who had almost caught up to Roxy.

She wagged her tail, picking her way into the ditch bordering Lynda Lane.

Ryan scooped up her leash, but his back stiffened so abruptly, I rushed to his side, gasping, “What?” as cars whooshed on the road a few feet above us.

He pointed at Roxy.

She was sniffing something that looked awfully like a dead human body.

A body with a black bag over its head.

Buy Local: R&L’s Book Nook

I’m sold out of Stockholm Syndrome for the moment (yeah! Fist punch! Running man dance move! Wish I’d had another one for Melissa B), so now it’s time to turn the spotlight on our hard-working local stores. ‘Cause I, for one, basically haven’t done my shopping yet.youth-570881_640

Kobo director Mark Leslie Lefebvre first suggested I reach out to my local bookstores when Terminally Ill (Hope Sze #3) got traction. I felt shy, since I used to be a shy kid until I trained myself to be more extroverted. But I took a deep breath and called R&L’s Book Nook, the only bookstore in Alexandria.


Even though this photo is blurry, it has the most genuine smiles, because the photo-taker said, “Say ‘sex’!” I replied, “Are you French?” She lowered the camera to say, “Yes.” “I knew it! French people talk about sex all the time.” French Canadians, anyway. Not sure about France-French.

Roena and Loretta, the R&L who own the store, were lovely. Someone had already asked for Terminally Ill based on my CBC Ontario Morning interview, so they took the Hope Sze series, as well as all my other books. They hosted the my Books and Bodies event in September 2014 (belly dancing pic with Joseline Beaulieu below), and made a huge window display with a dancing skeleton in my scrubs in honour of the event (Terminally Ill=skeleton, Student Body=dancing). I can’t find the pics right now, but trust me, it was spectacular and an author’s dream come true.

They make their own gingerbread and sell crafts, used books and new books, including books by local authors like Jennifer Debruin.


They make gingerbread, too. Houses, cookies, and lollipops. So all you non-readers but eaters, start salivating now.

#supportlocalbusinesses 10592670_735822413137606_5759031422990646708_n copy


Books & bodies with Joseline Beaulieu, Sept 2014

So get thee to R&L Book Nook! You can park at Gaetan’s Chip Stand and fill your mind and body with literature, gingerbread, and French fries!







As an aside: an hour ago, Pat Larkin bought my fifth-last trade paperback of Stockholm Syndrome. In fact, he bought the entire set for his daughter, Amy, a vet student in Calgary.

IMG_9307 Pat really went the extra mile here. He couldn’t get the Hope books in Williamstown, so he contacted me through my website. Then we played telephone tag until Amy flew back to Calgary. But Pat still drove to my house today, theoretically on his way to Cornwall (which is the other way), bought the entire series, and then inspected my electrical wiring and generator to give me tips on how to get my house wired up properly in case of another ice storm. (Summary: I will probably set up an automatic generator in the New Year. Our generator is too small, and we need a transfer switch.)

It doesn’t get any better than that.

But if you go to R&L’s Book Nook, you can make up your own story. Hey, I was there twice yesterday.

As the French Canadians also say, Gogogogogogogo!

R&L’s Book Nook in Alexandria58 Alexandria Main/Alexandria, ON/K0C 1A0/(613)525-9940

And I’m embedding the Cogeco interview because I wasn’t able to post it until late yesterday:

Being a bestseller is *sick*

The good news: Stockholm Syndrome hit the bestseller list on Kobo less than two weeks after its debut.

NUMBER ONE IN ESPIONAGE!!!!!!!! highlighted & craziness

The bad news: I was willing to grind myself to powder to get there.

Most people hit the brakes before they get to either point. They’re smarter than me.

Me? TL; DR: I got the flu, then pneumonia, then side effects from medications that landed me in the ER as a patient for two nights with palpitations while raving on dexamethasone. My colleagues were worried about me. And I’m still heading back to the hospital for another work-up today.

Meanwhile, I was still trying to do it all. So far this year, I hit Utah, Oregon, New York (twice), Los Angeles, Boston, Kingston, Ottawa, and Montreal. Drive to Boston solo with my kids? Sure. Make a two-layer homemade birthday cake for my daughter’s fifth birthday party? Of course. Stay at an acting class in Montreal despite getting assaulted with the flu? No problem.

Yeah, baby!

Us wrapped in Rush Couture

Max in Kingston

Max in Kingston

<–I bought this dress when I was pregnant with Anastasia, and now she can get inside it with me because it has peek-a-book cutouts on the sides. It’s from Rush Couture. This dress is popular on Facebook.
It looked weird on me when I was pregnant. Here it looks normal. 😉
BTW, at one of my Stockholm Syndrome book launches, one woman told me I had love handles. “Or maybe it’s your shirt.” As an author, I tell you, NEVER say mean things to a writer at a book launch.
Natalie Goldberg always brings someone who tells her she’s beautiful. Doesn’t matter if she messed up. Tell her she rocked it hard. As a fashionista and a physician, I present this dress as evidence that I did not detect love handles. If I had love handles, I would not choose to wear a peek-a-boo dress. QED.

I was doing it “all.” Except I ended up so sick, I couldn’t work the ER any more. I had to ask for help. And one of my colleagues started lecturing me how much I was burdening the group, and I’d better not take more than a week off.

I started yelling at that doctor. Which made him worry about my mental health. Which is a whole other worm-can.

In truth, I am not the best doctor right now. Not only on December 7-8th, when I was high on dexamethasone and short of breath with palpitations of up to 200 (my husband was upset that I couldn’t figure out how to dial the phone. In my defence, it was a new phone, and I was more interested in getting my clothes together for my scheduled appearance on Rogers TV the next morning). That night, the doctor kept telling me I shouldn’t go on TV. I was like, “I’m supposed to be on TV! That’s why I took the dex at night, to heal my vocal cords enough to sing! I’ll take the train if you really want, but geez. I also have a recording for CBC’s White Coat Black Art scheduled for the afternoon.” I was all set, even though I couldn’t find the Imovane they’d just given me to sleep, but RN Rebecca stopped me. She said, “You look pale. And sick.”

Suddenly, I was shocked into cancelling. I can’t be ugly on TV. That would be bad. It was like, if you want to get young women to quit smoking, you can try and reason with them about how it’s expensive, and selling out to the man, and giving you lung cancer and emphysema, but the real money is in telling them they’ll get wrinkles. No way!

I knew I needed to sleep. My husband was mad at me for getting up in the middle of the night and working. I knew, logically, I’d never get better that way. And yet I couldn’t stop.

I tried to work with the flu until I was seeing double and forgetting to order chest X-rays, and the other doctor sent me home. Then I made myself pick up my Stockholm Syndrome books and ended up dehydrated and nearly delirious when they detained me at the border for 1.5 hours (hint: if the government sends you the wrong business number, you’re screwed. If the border guards are chasing after illegal cigarettes and the remaining guard has no clue what to do with you, you’re screwed). Even yesterday, when my friends and colleagues are like, “Are you much better now?”, I’d have to say that not only did it seem like my pneumonia came back with a vengeance after we stopped all antibiotics for a few days, but I’m not completely compos mentis–at the children’s Christmas party, I answered a page from the neurologist and forgot my purse on a bench in the hallway. RN Annie was too tactful to say anything, but I knew she’d noticed I wasn’t right.

The good news is, I managed to get to Ottawa to record an interview with Fresh Air’s Mary Ito, and it was pretty cool. You can listen to it here They’ll keep it up for two weeks.

CBC Fresh Air main w- soundcloud Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 2.21.58 AMI was able to put a good game face on for the 3 h drive and the recording, although I did lose my parking pass immediately.

I was taking selfies in the booth. Scared the heck out of the next group coming in to record.

I was taking selfies in the booth. Scared the heck out of the next group coming in to record.











I hadn’t checked Kobo recently–too nervous that I sucked, especially since they hadn’t mentioned the free code during the interview–but I nerved up and did it.

And guess what I saw?

#8 IN MYSTERY! highlighted

#8 in mystery overall. Not just #4 in thrillers. All of mystery and suspense, people. Maybe you’ve heard of Tom Clancy or Lisa Jackson? Or James Patterson?

But, greedy Gus that I am, I wondered how I was doing overall. I was euphoric when Mark Leslie Lefebvre told me Terminally Ill (Hope Sze #3) had broken Kobos’ Top 50 after my interview with Wei Chen on CBC’s Ontario Morning. Terminally Ill ended up hitting as high as #27 for all of Kobo’s books. Not segmented by genre. Every. Single. Book. On. Kobo.

Could Stockholm Syndrome repeat the magic? Even if Fresh Air hadn’t given out the time-limited magic Kobo code of STOCKHOLM100 during the interview, only on Facebook and Twitter?

#12 overall BIGGER cropped

NUMBER TWELVE, PEOPLE. That’s better than Terminally Ill.

I was freaking out, didn’t sleep (again), high-fiving Max.

OMG. Look at it. Fifteen Dogs just won the Giller Prize. Mary Ito interviewed Andre Alexis, too. NFW.

Should I not tell you about the bad stuff? Probably. But for those of you who already know my protagonist, Dr. Hope Sze, we’re pathologically honest. I could pretend to be perfect, but I’m no good at lying. So here you go.

In other words, it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times. And I’m my own worst enemy. But mostly the best, because my husband, my friends, and my colleagues are rallying around me. And because I feel like telling near-strangers, I love you.

Because I do. Because we’re alive. Including me, despite myself.

Take care of yourselves. I care about you.



“Each patient carries his own doctor inside him.”

Norman Cousins, Anatomy of an Illness

“A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended.”

Ian McEwan, Atonement

“The loner who looks fabulous is one of the most vulnerable loners of all.”

Anneli Rufus, Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto

“The need for change bulldozed a road down the centre of my mind.” —Maya Angelou

“I can paint a barn with someone else’s blood. I just can’t stand to see my own.” ―Colonel Henry Blake, a surgeon on M*A*S*H Episode Guide Team, M*A*S*H EPISODE GUIDE: Details All 251 Episodes with Plot Summaries. Searchable. Companion to DVDs Blu Ray and Box Set.

“Some people should not be allowed to see beyond your surface. Seeing your vulnerability is a privilege, not meant for everyone.” Yasmin Mogahed

“Being an open and vulnerable doesn’t mean you are weak..” Jayesh Varma

“A heart that can break is better than no heart at all.” Marty Rubin

“There is more hope in honest brokenness than in the pretense of false wholeness.”

Jamie Arpin-Ricci, Vulnerable Faith: Missional Living in the Radical Way of St. Patrick

People who cannot find time for recreation are obliged sooner or later to find time for illness.

People that go through serious illness – you can either go one way or the other. You can either become despondent about it all. Or it kind of rejuvenates you, makes you focus on what’s important.~Jack Layton

Do what you are afraid to do: writing as a daring adventure

Me, Dave, Max & a bit of Philo's head.

Me, Dave, Max & a bit of Philo’s head.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.―Helen Keller

David Farland, the New York Times bestselling author also known as Dave Wolverton, ran a Professional Writers’ Workshop over March break. He’d told me it was a business class, but since we each submitted 20 pages of our writing beforehand, I liked the idea of combining business with craft. Dave had a completely different approach to novel marketing from what I was used to, i.e. from Dean Smith, Kris Rusch, and Mark Lefebvre.

Dave’s approach is to use traditional publishing.

I’d turned indie in 2011, so this was a shocker. If you haven’t heard about author woes in legacy publishing, Kris outlines some of them in this article.

The whole point of indie publishing is that you don’t have to wait, you choose your partners, you decide how good a product to put out, and you pocket the profits. I like it.

Except for the sales numbers. I’d prefer world domination.

I listened to Dave and realized that he acknowledges all the problems that plague traditional midlist authors. But his solution is this: don’t be a midlist author.

Be a lead. Be a super lead. Go big or go home.

“I think you’re doing yourself a disservice by releasing Stockholm Syndrome as a small book,” said Dave, at our lunch over Italian sandwiches. “There is no question that you can write. You’re a Writers of the Future winner.” He’s the coordinating judge, so he sees a ton of stories every quarter, and sends just eight finalists to the judges every three months. “I was hooked on the proposal. There is nothing missing from it. I could see it as a movie. I’d like to see you go big.”

He knows big. He has guided several New York Times bestsellers like Brandon Sanderson and the one I know the best, Stephanie Meyer. You know that’s a good teacher.

I mulled this over. I’ve been writing for decades. I was a Writers of the Future winner in 1999. I’ve been working on my writing very seriously since 2003, a dozen years ago. My writing has progressed to the point where, yes, I’m shortlisted for the Derringer award this year, and also, perfect strangers on Amazon comment that my books get better and better.

Stockholm Syndrome focuses on a hostage-taking at a hospital, so that’s topical.

I’m a doctor writing medical thrillers. That’s marketable.

Of course all the curses of traditional publishing could befall me. I could not sell my book. I could get a crummy advance. I could lose the rights to my characters, if I didn’t know what I was signing.

But I’ve been learning the business all this time, too. I have the resources and the resolution to hire an intellectual property attorney.

And if I don’t sell it big?

Dave’s solution is to trunk the novel and keep writing until your skills and the traditional market converge and you get the deal you want.

My solution would be to go indie.


Me and Dave, with Justin in the background


Okay, I’d lose a year or more of indie sales by going traditional. But that’s not significant. I’m not reliant on our writing income, so I can afford to gamble.

I’m not doing it for my other books. I’ll keep writing short stories, essays, poems, and books of all stripes. It’s just the one Hope novel.

It sucks for my existing fans. I know that. They’ve supported me for the past few years, and now they’d have to wait years for the next Hope book.

It’s also scary for me. Dave already made some suggestions that shocked me like, “Oh, you could just throw in a sister who got killed, so that’s why she solves crimes.” Or, “Could this be the first book? Her first day on the job?” and wipe out three novels, a radio drama, and a novella in one swoop.

But I don’t have to deal with that yet. Just the possibility that, for this one project, the stars may align with trad pub. Or not.

If the stars align on indie, I get to keep building my world, building my craft, building traction until lightning strikes.

Of course, lightning may not strike.

I’m glad I did this workshop. I’m glad I’m learning from different people, including my classmates.


Dave asked Max to join the picture. I told Max he’d graduated from our class.


For some reason, I didn’t expect to make friends. I didn’t expect Jenn, Tara and Jeanette to offer us rides from Salt Lake City or Jacqui to drive us back and stop at two museums along the way. Y’know what I was saying about generosity?

And knowledge! I sat beside Ali Cross, the bestselling author who co-founded IndieRecon who does martial arts.

Jacqui worked as a nuclear chemist before she decided to throw down, learn everything she could, and write full time for the next two years.

Jean, Jeanette, and Janet are building second careers as writers–I really admire people who succeed at one profession and then set their sights and skills on scaling another.

Jason came all the way from China. He and Philo and Dave and Jacqui got to chat about the middle kingdom.

Justin and Brock are like me, hands full with a demanding day job but carving out time for writing.

Tara writes in a multitude of genres and Brit is an indie writer, like someone else I know.

Jenn and Katy are brand new fiction writers. Jenn had written articles before, but she met Dave at a conference and leapt right into a professional workshop with a dozen writers. Katy is a multiple Nanowrimo winner who excelled at asking other people questions without bragging about herself, but it turned out that she has eight children and offered that her husband could look after Max too, so you know how good she is. The fact that new writers trusted us with their work humbled me and reminded me that you should always be compassionate when you critique.

I didn’t get to know everyone, but it’s exciting to hang out with passionate people.

My whole life, I’ve been risk-averse when it comes to big ticket/tent pole aspects of my life. Choosing medicine first and writing second. Not having kids until I finished my emerg exams, but we started trying soon afterward. Paying off our mortgage ASAP. Investing conservatively. Holding on to my writing earnings in cash because I may never earn another penny from my words. The only way I let myself go was by writing whatever bizarre stories caught my fancy, by jumping into indie publishing, and by wearing funky clothes. Basically, I took a lot of artistic risks–my motto when I was 16 was Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Do what you are afraid to do”–but not for “real life.”

Well, guess what? I’m ready to experiment now. Medical-wise, I got privileges at two new hospitals last year and started speaking at health care conferences. Financially, I did a lot of research and moved our money (including my sacred writing money!) into low-cost index funds and a few GIC’s. Writing-wise, I’m focusing on mysteries now, but I’m doing a fantasy workshop with Kris in April, just for fun. And I want Stockholm Syndrome to light up the sky.

Soar, eat ether, see what has never been seen; depart , be lost, but climb.―Edna St. Vincent Millay

If you knew that your life was merely a phase or short, short segment of your entire existence, how would you live? Knowing nothing ‘real’ was at risk, what would you do? You’d live a gigantic, bold, fun, dazzling life. You know you would. That’s what the ghosts want us to do – all the exciting things they no longer can.
Chuck Palahniuk

Zen Pencils did the best cartoon for daring greatly, both the Roosevelt and the Brene Brown quote.

Want to quit your job? Here’s the best rallying cry, by Jon Morrow.

And if you’re free tomorrow, come celebrate Fifty Shades of Grey’s Anatomy in Williamstown at 10:30!

Stockholm Syndrome talks about a Nickelback song, so now I’ve got these stuck in my head. And Wayne Gretzky could’ve stuck to hockey, but he took risks here:

And this is a revolution, no?

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 #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.


Behind the Scenes: Kobo’s Going Going Gone Contest #5: The Text

Party people, have you solved Kobo’s $5000 Going Going Gone contest? I wrote the free mystery stories behind the contest and brainstormed a bit with Kobo’s creative team on the riddles. I’ll give you a clue at the end of this post. Or, if you want to figure out how I ended up with this Cinderella deal, I described it in Part 1: The e-mailPart 2: The CallPart 3: The Reading, and Part 4: The Waiting.

The Text

July 22, 2014

Sometimes, I overhear nurses and secretaries telling the emergency room patients, “Please. Be patient!”

They don’t wanna be patient.

Neither do I.

See? Anastasia doesn't wanna wait, either. She is, however, willing to impersonate a mime.

See? Anastasia doesn’t wanna wait, either. She is, however, willing to impersonate a mime.

But I did my best to forbear, because what else are you going to do? Drive to the other side of the province to storm the Kobo office? Call Mark Leslie Lefebvre, the Director of Self Publishing and Author Relations at Kobo, and nag him, “Did you get it? Huh? Huh? Did you get it?”

I didn’t want to go deep into Stockholm Syndrome, the next Hope Sze novel, while I was kind of on tenterhooks here. Frustrating. But I’d just read The Negotiator, by Ben Lopez, which was terrific, so I wrote a few scenes based on the psychology of hostage-taking.

Then, for a stay-cation, almost a month after The E-mail, I took my kids to the beach at Charlottenburgh Park. It’s 235 acres of green space east of Cornwall, Ontario, but everyone makes a beeline to the sandy beach, with its shallow, relatively warm and safe water near the shoreline, cordoned off from the power boats.

From last year, but I love her "swimming" on the sand.

From last year, but I love her “swimming” on the sand.

This was the first year Anastasia was more independent. When she was a baby, she’d hang out on the beach, and when she was a toddler last year, I ended up carrying her on my hip and rushing toward the bathroom every half hour. But today, she actually walked around in the water by herself! And put her face in the water to make bubbles! And dog-paddled a little! What!

I checked my phone to see if I needed to teach yoga that night when I was surprised by another text. From Mark.

It’s a GO.



My friend Jessica solved the three riddles in Kobo’s Going Going Gone contest. She enjoyed the challenge, and now she could win $5000 and a Kobo H2O Aura. So here’s my tip, through Jess: the people on Red Flag Deals also solved the riddles and posted hints on their site. Good luck!

Ellery Queen, I love you. Thanks for reviewing TERMINALLY ILL. Plus, the new Hope Sze novella!

Kris Rusch sent me an e-mail titled “Good review.”

Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine reviewed Terminally Ill in its July issue. Kris said it was too long to type in, but had a good pull quote.

I liked the sound of too long. Better than a one-liner. I downloaded the July version, stat.

Melissa Yi, Terminally Ill, Olo Books, $17.99. 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.

I found the pull quote and highlighted it for you! You’re welcome.

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

Click to buy. You know you want to. And if you already bought, mwah!

I’m officially in love with the reviewer, Steve Steinbock, who also wrote in the intro, “The best of crime fiction—of any fiction—transports us to times or places different from our own while touching something familiar in us. All of the titles in this month’s column accomplish this in one way or another.”

Hmm. Wonder if I can use that, too.

The other authors he reviewed include Isabel Allende. Um, hi, Isabel. Excuse me while I faint.

I know the haters out there are like, Big whoop, so I’m just going to explain why I’m tooting my own horn. Again. And I still have some toots left over, so bear with me.


Haters, why don’t you resent this seagull instead? It’s much braggier than me. Photo by Pixabay.

EQMM is the longest-running mystery magazine in the world, founded in 1941. Stephen King declared Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine “the best mystery magazine in the world, bar none.” Dorothy Parker was a fan, okay?

From a business point of view, estimates EQMM’s circulation as 180,000. According to its own reader survey, more than 70% of EQMM readers buy books by the authors they first read in this magazine’s pages. Half of their readers devour more than 15 mystery novels every year.

So. I could pay Bookbub $1550 to advertise Terminally Ill at an over-$2 price. Or I could target 180,000 people who already like mysteries enough to subscribe to the premier mystery magazine. (Or both, but I’ll let you know if that happens.)

Plus, now I have a pull quote that spans the series, since it praises the character instead of one book. However, I’m still pushing Publishers Weekly’s “entertaining and insightful” as hard as I can. Which isn’t very hard. It’s on the book cover and the online blurbs.

I can’t say enough good things about EQMM. Not only has the editor, Janet Hutchings, always written me kind rejection letters, but they recently reviewed my story, “Because,” calling it an “experimental short-short” and the Fiction River: Crime anthology that published it “high quality throughout.”

Best of all, Ellery Queen bought one of my short stories, “Om.” So even if readers skip past both reviews, at some point, their eyes might land on my yoga murder story, and I hope to sell EQMM many more. Short stories can be gold like that, as Mark Leslie Lefebvre and I talked about in our Kobo podcast here.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre, unable to conduct a podcast interview because he's too busy being resuscitated as Elvis Serratore, the escape artist from Terminally Ill

Mark Leslie Lefebvre, unable to conduct a podcast interview because he’s too busy being resuscitated as Elvis Serratore, the escape artist from Terminally Ill. Photo by Margaret Caldbick of the Glengarry News.

Kris herself pointed out in her Business Rusch series, “Instead of paying $500 to buy an ad in a magazine that people might or might not pay attention to, the writer is getting paid $500 to publish a story in that magazine. The reader will look at the story longer even if the reader doesn’t read the story than if the writer had an ad in that magazine.”

Also, EQMM sent me a Christmas card. I freaked out when I got that. They paid me for a story, and they’re sending me a Christmas card in an gold-rimmed envelope? #livingthedream

Anyway, I just revived myself with smelling salts. Excuse me while I plotz. That’s Yiddish. I gotta practice because I’m heading to Bloody Words 2014 June 6-8th, and Steve Steinbock (yes, the very same Steve Steinbock. I’m swimming with the big leagues now) has challenged me to a Yiddish cursing contest.

One last cool thing. I Facebooked Steve a thank you and mentioned that Kris Rusch had tipped me off. He wrote back, “I have some of her books. I’ll have to give them a read.”

Wait a minute. I might help out an Edgar Award nominee?

The world is a crazy place. But I just love it sometimes.

While you’re waiting for the next Hope Sze novel, a brand new Hope Sze novella, Student Body, will appear in e-book imminently, at a temporarily low, low price before its official paperback book launch. I’ll announce it in my newsletter first. Here’s the cover:

Student body POD cover.indd

Student body EBOOk coverStudent body EBOOk cover

P.S. To my two Melissa Yin fans: I just finished the second draft of The Goa Yoga School of Slayers, the sequel to The Italian School for Assassins (with thanks to Italian writer Barbara G. Tarn for editing my dreadful Google translate Italian), so stay tuned for another silly, lighthearted mystery cozy!

[Note: Review copyright 2014 by Steve Steinbock. Have I mentioned Steve? Steeeeeve.]

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.

From Fangirl Blogging to Tweeting with Shelagh Rogers


“Elvis” (Kobo director Mark Leslie Lefebvre), Barnaby Bones, reader Lesley Orr, and Melissa Yi. Yes, I know this is a giant picture. But it’s so awesome. Photo by Margaret Caldbick.

So I was pretty excited when my friends told me that we’d made the Standard Freeholder and Seaway Valley News last week and the Glengarry News (with this photo) this week.

Then I got retweeted by Shelagh Rogers.

When I was at McMaster University, cloistered in a windowless basement apartment that cost only $275 a month, I’d listen to Peter Gzowski and Shelagh Rogers on CBC Radio’s Morningside and dream about them interviewing me, about my books.

Yes, I know. Only me and 10 million other people had the same dream.

But yesterday, I moved one tiny step closer. I was approving comments on my previous post, a rave review of the show Emergency Room:Life+Death at VGH, And not only did the show’s producer, Kevin Eastwood, thank me on Twitter, but a few people had favourited it and retweeted it. Including…

@shelagh reteweet Screen Shot cropped 2014-04-03 at 4.55.22 PM

So what do you say to one of your media idols? I don’t care if this question is so 2002. Comments welcome!

In the meantime, a few people have asked where they can buy Terminally Ill.
melissayi_terminallyill_eBook_final daisho

Why, online, of course, through Kobo and other fine e-railers, and in trade paperback at R&L’s Book Nook (613-525-9940; in Alexandria.

Personalized copies are also available from the author (moi), but I am sold out, and a rush shipment should arrive next Wednesday, right in the middle of a bunch of my ER shifts. If you see a zombie staggering around with a stethoscope and books, say hi.