Showing posts with label Stephen Campbell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stephen Campbell. Show all posts

10 May 2016

Lessons Learned in Hostage Taking

by Melissa Yi


April 2013: 22:20

During my first night shift at a new hospital, a prisoner escapes while awaiting medical attention. I chase after him through an empty hallway, open the door to a stairwell, push open a second door, and discover his footsteps in the snow.
Only afterward, when the police have rounded up the prisoner and I'm safely home, do I realize that I could have been taken hostage if the prisoner had been lurking inside the stairwell.
I begin researching hostage takings in hospitals. 

September 20th, 1991: 00:00

Richard Worthington storms into a suburban Salt Lake City hospital with a shotgun, a .347 magnum revolver, and a bomb. He screams, “My life was perfect! Dr. Curtis ruined everything! He butchered my wife!”
He wants to kill the doctor who performed a tubal ligation on his wife, which she'd requested after eight difficult deliveries. Worthington takes two nurses hostage, shoots the one who tries to wrestle the shotgun from him, and breaks into a room where 22-year-old Christan Downey, surrounded by her family and her labour nurse, is about to deliver her first baby.
Worthington orders the nurses to bring two other newborns into the room with them. Then he forces Christan's partner, Adam Cisneros, to retrieve the homemade bomb Worthington had planted at the front entrance.
Worthington tells one nurse, Margie Wyler, to call his wife. After the call, he shoots the telephone, yelling, "I'm going to die tonight, and so are all of you!"
Worthington decides to move them up to the third floor, where Dr. Curtis's office lies, even though Christan can't walk because of her epidural. She lies in bed, pushed by Adam and Margie; the two infants are carried by Christan's sister, Carre, and the second nurse, Susan Woolley. 
Christan's epidural begins to wear off. Susan whispers, "Margie, Christan must have that baby."
Christian, coached by Margie and Susan, delivers a healthy baby girl, Caitlin, at 3:23 a.m.
Police negotiations break down. Sometimes Worthington answers the functional phone lines, sometimes not. He demands to speak to his wife or to Dr. Glade Curtis. But he warms to Margie, calling her "a beautiful woman" when he discovers that she has 11 children.
By late morning, Worthington is screaming less and begins to weep. The adult hostages pray.
Eventually, Worthington allows Adam and the nurses to walk to the door, but becomes enraged when he sees the SWAT team. He pulls the nurses back in and demands to see his wife.
The police refuse, but Worthington allows Susan to come into the hall to repeat the request.
They refuse again.
"But you'll let seven of us die?" cries Susan, although she returns to the room.
Meanwhile, police negotiator Don Bell, knowing that a hostage taker is less likely to kill someone he cares about, asks Margie to hug Worthington.
"I don't know if I can," she says to him over the phone.
"You must," Bell replies.
She does.
"The next thing I knew, Susan and I were running down the hall--free!" says Margie. Susan is carrying one of the babies, Erich. Carre follows, holding a second baby, Bryan. Last to leave are the newest mother and child, Christan and Caitlin.
At 18:00, eighteen hours after the ordeal began, Richard Worthington begins to walk out of the office before dashing back in. The officers tackle him.
Worthington pleads guilty to criminal homicide, aggravated burglary, and eight counts of aggravated kidnapping. He receives 35 years to life. He claims that his now ex-wife, Karen, was responsible for his actions. In 1993, he hangs himself in his cell.
Alta View Women's Centre increases security at the hospital
Margie returns to nursing after only three weeks.
It takes 2.5 years of therapy before Susan finally comes to grip with her post-traumatic stress. She, too, returns to nursing.
Christan enters Alta View on November 1st, 1994, to give birth to her second daughter, Alexa. She asks for a different room.

Stockholm Syndrome


Pregnancy and giving birth is a time where you are intensely vulnerable, both physically and emotionally.
I started writing the latest Hope Sze mystery, Stockholm Syndrome.

I knew Dr. Hope wouldn't be pregnant ("I'm on the pill, thanks," she points out), but she is exactly the kind of person who would be sucked into a hostage taking. She would have to take care of a woman in labour. At gunpoint. Trying to outwit and outplay the killer.
This one is a thriller. This one, you can't put down. This one, I almost can't read any excerpt at a reading except the first page or two, because jumping ahead is such a spoiler.

"I was relieved when I finished it. I thought, at least this didn't happen in real life. And then I turned to the last page and I saw it did happen in real life," said Stephen Campbell, when he interviewed me on CrimeFiction.fm.

Sorry, Steve. CBC Radio Ottawa Morning's Robin Bresnahan and Ontario Morning's Wei Chen were also interested in the link between reality and fiction. And I'm ever so grateful that CBC Fresh Air's Mary Ito took the time to ask me about my "snarky" heroine and "very graphic" thriller.

If you want to hear more, I'm appearing at the Brantford Public Library on May 11th for Mystery Month. I originally wrote this post so I could upload videos for the talk, but I'm running out of time and will have to upload them later.

In the meantime, Happy Mother's Day. I say that without irony. In the end, if you look at the real-life hostage taking, who survived? Think of the courage it would take to have a baby, or return to nursing, in the same building where you were held at gunpoint for 18 hours.

I worked this Mother's Day, and it was busy, but much more peaceful than that other hospital in 1991. I'm proud of the book I wrote, and I think it's good practice to consider how we might act in terrifying situations, so that we have some mental preparation, if it should ever come to pass.

Hug your loved ones tight.

05 January 2016

Promote or write?

by Melissa Yi

Dear SleuthSayers,

My medical thriller, Stockholm Syndrome, hit the shelves December first. I slammed the promotion hard for three weeks before the holidays and managed to rise to #12 on the Kobo bestseller list. My question for you is, do I stop now?


I burned myself out last month. At least two people reminded me of the metaphor of a candle burning at both ends, and I replied, “Up ’til now, I’ve had enough candle!” But it was a good reminder that no one’s candle is infinite.
However, I have hardly made a dent in Amazon, which is troubling. Amazon gives you a month on its Hot New Releases list and then you drop into obscurity.
What I really want is to cut into the national (for me, Canadian), American, and international market. To do that, I can’t keep bugging my 700 Facebook friends. I need to get more sales outside as well as within my area. And for that, I need more exposure. Because when there are 2 million books on the Kindle, it’s hard to get readers to notice you. Discoverability—everybody wants some, but it’s hard to find.


Some writers go the organic route. Write good books, publish them often, and your readers will find you. Trust the algorithm. Spend your time writing, not shilling yourself on ads and shows that may or may not pan out.
Pro: you write a lot more books this way. I pretty much stopped writing in December, which is unheard-of for me, but it’s hard to promote full-tilt and write full-tilt and work and look after kids at the same time—hence the burn-out.
Con: It’s possible that no significant number of readers will find you and you’ll die with just a handful of fans.

The opposite route: pimp yourself non-stop and never write another book.
Pro: people will hear about you.
Con: they will get sick of you, you don’t have enough product to attract repeat readers, and you can impoverish and humiliate yourself while braying about your one accomplishment.

So what’s a girl to do? I see both sides. I wrote in obscurity for years, so I’ve amped up my stage presence over the past year or so. But I know that in the big scheme of things, I’ve captured only the most minuscule crumb out of the pie. Stockholm Syndrome is a seriously good book. I don’t want it to disappear after a hundred people read it.
On the other hand, I feel stupid talking about one book over and over. I like creating new things, and my brain will stagnate if I dwell on one item.
Here are some potential marketing choices/goals.
  1. Hire a publicist.
  2. Try to get more radio interviews.
  3. Try to get more television coverage.
  4. Try to cut into the Ottawa/Montreal market, which is pretty much untouched right now, for me, let alone national/international markets.
  5. Get some blog reviews--unlocked yesterday! Murder in Common's June Lorraine says, "A page turner....Dr. Hope Sze is a resident at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Montreal. She is on-call when the labour and delivery unit is turned into a danger zone.…An introspective thriller…A shaky, claustrophobic and menacing situation [with] reflective humour as chaos whirls around her."
  6. Get some print reviews.
  7. Get some awards.
Alternatively, here are some writing choices/goals.
Look carefully
and you'll spot my
EQ card at the top right.
  1. Write the next Hope Sze novel.
  2. Write related short stories. On Crimefiction.fm, Stephen Campbell and I talked about how a short story is the perfect ad for your work: the magazine or reader pays *you*, you get pages of exposure to your ideal reader, and Ellery Queen even sends you an annual Christmas card afterward.
  3. I’m also working on a collection of mystery short stories, called Reckless Homicide, at the request of a reader.
  4. Write something completely unrelated. This month, I aim to publish The Emergency Doctor’s Guide to a Pain-Free Back.
  5. Write something that has a high chance of getting published. In my case, the Medical Post has been very, very good to me, and I need to submit more columns.
  6. Write unrelated short stories/novels for fun.
  7. Market stories already written--something that has fallen off my radar with the time crunch, but I should be more aggressive about this.

So what do you think, SleuthSayers? I’m at a crossroads.

What would you do? What have you done, what have you learned, and which way do you lean? Do you write or promote?

Either way, Happy New Year, happy writing, and happy reading,
Melissa Yi

24 November 2015

Don't Buy This Book

by Melissa Yi

Birth smells.

That’s the opening line to my upcoming medical thriller, Stockholm Syndrome.

An agent’s assistant said it made her want to vomit. She forced herself to read the first chapter and still wanted to puke. So the agent sent his regrets.

Stephen Campbell, who interviewed me for Crimefiction.fm*, had a more measured reaction. “It’s interesting,” he said. “I never thought about how birth would smell, but of course you’re right.”

As a doctor, I should note that birth smells aren’t the worst. Most parents are unaware of them, because they stay at the “office end” (head of the bed) instead of the “business end” (delivering the baby), plus 99 percent of the time, they’re ecstatic about their healthy newborn, not sniffing for overtones of amniotic fluid.

But as a writer, I tell you exactly what I think. That means the average person may not be able to handle Stockholm Syndrome.

Is that a problem? Maybe. As the Indian teacher Chanakya pointed out BCE, “A person should not be too honest. Straight trees are cut first and honest people are screwed first.”


On the other hand, we have to take risks with our work if we want to create lasting excellence, as Edgar-nominated author Kris Rusch/Nelscott pointed out here

My advance medical readers reacted to Stockholm Syndrome like this:

From: Dr. Greg Smith
Subject: Hope Sze's triumphant return
Message: The best yet, I think. Dang thing kept me up til 3:30--been a while since a book did that.

Tracy VanDalen Bradley, Respiratory Therapist: I finished it in three days. You can’t read just one chapter.

Dr. Paul Irwin: God, you write great. Your mind/thought process is at least as peculiar as mine.

But can the non-medical reader handle a book about a hostage-taking on an obstetrics ward?
Maybe.
New York Times bestseller Dave Farland wrote, “I was completely hooked--an intriguing and introspective thriller.”
Author of The Freshman Murders and reknown computer scientist Gerald Weinberg posted an advance review on Kobo:
Here's a book that's easy to read, but hard to review.
It's a page-turner, thrilling while sensitive, super-serious while witty, and gutsy while insightful.
So why so difficult to review?
In the first place, I want to give my reader information about the story, but I don't want to give
anything away. No spoilers.
More than that, however, it makes me feel like an appraiser of fine property confronted with an
item for which there is nothing comparable. It's simply unlike anything else I've ever read.

Stockholm Syndrome. Not for the faint of heart or stomach. It may garner a lot of one-star reviews. Those used to really bother me, but a) I stopped reading them, and b) now I think they’re kind of funny. Like the ones for Susanna Moore's In the Cut, where more than one reader said they threw the book in the garbage because they didn’t want anyone else subjected to it.

If you want to decide for yourself about my book, I’ve posted the first chapters on my website, and you can enter the Goodreads Giveaway here.

I’m having a Facebook party December 1st  at 7-8 p.m. EST, with party favours, but foolishly set it as a private party, so friend me and message me if you want an invite here.

On December 6th, I’ll have a party at our local library in Cornwall. Theme: Swedish, for Stockholm. We’re going to wear blue and yellow and drink glögg.

Will anyone buy Stockholm Syndrome? Or will they just run away screaming?





*That interview will air December 2nd.