Looking for an editor to clean up your work?

Welcome! You’ve come to the right place!

I’m EMS Flynn, and I’ve been a copy editor for more than four decades. Are you looking to make sure your fiction, nonfiction, novel, article, or marketing piece is the cleanest and most concise it can be? I can help you.

Over those four decades (and more), I’ve copy edited academic works, financial works, romance novels, literary short stories, high-tech manuals, comic books (well, that one was proofreading, which is very different), and more. I have a wide range of editing experience. Not only that, I’m a published author, so I’ve been on the other side of the process.

Now the numbers game… You’re nervous about having someone edit your work, and I don’t blame you. Check out the testimonials elsewhere (like here at http://emsflynn.com/testimonials/) on my site. I have happy returning customers.

I also offer line editing, which involves actually doing story breakdown (content editing). The price for that differs according to work, so we’d have to discuss that after I see the material. Line editing doesn’t involve grammar or punctuation; it examines structure overall and problems with the story itself. I also offer developmental editing, for varying lengths of work. There’s more, so if you’re looking for an editor with lots of experience who could help you, drop me a line.

Questions? Click here!

The Story Behind the Story: Ghost of the Past by Josie Malone

What happens when love is not enough? In every romance, the reader meets the protagonists and roots for them to overcome their obstacles and come together. Finding a way to tell that story when there may not be a happily-ever-after requires creating strong characters whose motivations compel the reader’s affinity however the tale ends.

What’s the theme behind your story?

Sometimes, love isn’t enough. 

What’s the logline?
Baker City: Where love is real, and the ghosts are too! 

What were you thinking about or what was happening when the idea occurred to you?
I knew that at some point in the series, the heroine would return to the small town of Baker City and meet up with the hero she left behind when she pursued her dreams. While he loves her, he has too many other commitments to chase after her.

How did the original idea change as you went along?
I built up her motivation so readers would understand her decisions. She didn’t want to be put on a shelf and wait obediently for him to return from his quest to find his brother who went missing on a covert Army mission — a quest she saw as futile. 

Ghost of the Past is Book 4 in the Baker City Hearts and Haunts series

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?
I’ve been working on this story for years, so it evolved into a contemporary one where she is a combat veteran with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. When the hero left the Marines, he became a contract soldier. He needed to come to terms with his dysfunctional family and learn what love is so he could appreciate what the heroine has to offer. 

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not?

This has always been a favorite story of mine. I love Heather, the heroine, and the hero, Durango. Although I deliberately left some questions unanswered in this book, I’ll continue to build Baker City and its characters, resolving ongoing problems or concerns.  

Who would play your leads in the movie if (when!) you make a deal?
I think Amy Adams would make a terrific Heather McElroy. Alexander Skarsgard would be perfect as Durango Hawke. 

What else do you want readers to know?

Ghost of the Past is Book 4 in the Baker City Hearts and Haunts series. Characters from the previous books appear in this one, but it is Heather’s and Durango’s story. 

Josie Malone lives and works at her family business, a riding stable in Washington State. Over the years of teaching kids to ride and know about horses, she’s taught three generations of families in many cases. Her life adventures span from dealing cards in a casino, attending graduate school to get her master’s in teaching degree, substitute teaching, and serving in the Army Reserve — all leading to her second career as a published author. She writes two paranormal romance series, Baker City Hearts, and Haunts (“where love is real and so are the ghosts!”) and Liberty Valley Love (“where no matter what, soulmates find each other!”). Visit her at her website, www.josiemalone.com to learn about her books. 

Buy link
Ghost Of The Past (Baker City: Hearts & Haunts Book 4) – Kindle edition by Malone, Josie. Paranormal Romance Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com. 

The Story Behind the Story: An American Dream, with Sprinkles, by Mayly Tao with Chuong Lee

You’d think a memoir based on donuts would be a sweet story, full of sugar and contentment. This mother-and-daughter story ultimately is the icing on top, but it starts during the horrors of the Khmer Rouge’s brutal reign in Cambodia following the 1975 disengagement of the United States in Southeast Asia. Fleeing genocide and labor enslavement during the barbaric restructuring of the country, Chuong Lee arrived in Southern California homeless and penniless, then married into the family of another Cambodian refugee, Ted Ngoy, who opened hundreds of donut shops in the Los Angeles area for other refugees. Mayly’s story celebrates her mother’s journey and her own unique upbringing as a donut “princess” who used modern social media to make the family business one of the most successful donut shops in the world. Every bit as harrowing as any thriller, every bit as American as a glazed donut, Mayly turned her life into a book that shows that while all American stories start with the same ingredients, her family’s approach is as different as yours was.

What’s the theme behind your story? 

The theme behind my story is honor. Through An American Dream, with Sprinkles: The Legacy Story of the Donut Queen and Donut Princess, I honor my mother and her journey that she faced when she came to the United States from Cambodia. The theme of honor persists throughout the book—in my mother’s relationship with her parents, in her relationship with her mother-in-law, and the way that she ran her business so fiercely for forty years. The theme of honor continues with me as I carry on the family business and fight to create our family’s donut shop to be globally recognized. 

What’s the logline?

How did one immigrant survive her war-torn country and enslavement camps to run one of the most popular donut shops in the world?

What were you thinking about or what was happening when the idea of this book occurred to you? 

I’ve had this idea ever since I was a little girl. My mom told me many of her stories of her trauma during the war and what she went through. I remember crying and feeling an instant sense of compassion when she told me. As I grew older and was encouraged to stray away from writing, the idea to tell her story was placed on the back burner. It was only after we sold our donut shop that I finally had time to sit down and go through stories about the years of trauma to create this story.

How did the original idea change as you went along?

The original idea changed as I went along because the premise of the story was extremely sad. I decided to add my version of the story to assist with the resolution of my mother’s idea of the American Dream as it lives through me. 

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?

Since this is a memoir, the characters stayed the same, but the references to them were more defined by recognizing them in Teochew (a Chinese dialect) and/or Khmer (the Cambodian language). This changed as I thought about my audience and I considered what would describe them the best. 

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not?

I am pleased with the results, and I am hoping people will learn and get a firsthand account of what it was like to live through war and to come to America in search of the American Dream.

Who would play your leads in the movie if (when!) you make a deal? 

I would hope that Gemma Chan would play my character and Michelle Yeoh would play my mother. Both actresses are beautiful, fierce, and understand the role of mother/daughter in an Asian American family.

Mother, Chuong Lee, left, and Mayly Tao, daughter, right, standing in front of their family donut shop opened for forty years, DK’s Donuts & Bakery. (Photo: Business Wire)

What else do you want readers to know?

I want readers to know how proud I am to be able to tell my mom’s story and how I hope it will inspire others to document their family’s origin stories and celebrate them. I hope it will bring more compassion to this world, regardless of global borders. 


Mayly Tao is LA’s self-proclaimed Donut Princess and the owner of Donut Princess Los Angeles, a donut bouquet delivery concept. She is the host of her podcast Short N’ Sweet: A Donut Princess Podcast where she explores mindset, women’s empowerment, and small business tips. You can find her ”securing the box” at @donutprincessla. She is featured in the Donut King documentary as seen on Hulu and on domestic flights across the US. She also has her own YouTube channel, where she visits Cambodian-owned donut shops and highlights their stories. She hopes to elevate Asian-American voices and representation and vows to create a legacy for the next generation of Asian-Americans.

Mayly Tao is a Khmer, Thai, and Teochew Chinese Asian-American born to Khmer refugee parents who arrived in America to start a new life. Her uncle, Ted Ngoy, sponsored hundreds of Cambodians, enabling them to come to America, then helped them manage and own their own donut shops. She recently sold her family’s bakery after her mom decided to retire after celebrating forty years in business at DK’s Donuts & Bakery in Santa Monica, CA. 

Her focus on helping people and making an impact led her to creating new businesses as a serial entrepreneur. She successfully launched her new luxury-car rental business, Donut Exotics, in summer 2021. Her plans for 2022 include becoming a life agent to help families find life insurance; a mobile home-care business; and a liquid IV business, and to publish her mom’s book on her experience after the genocide. Stay tuned with her on her instagram @maylytao.

Buy link

Stirring the Plot: Taking your basic plot across the genres

Photo by https://mattbango.photo/at Morguefile.com 

About my upcoming presentation to the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Romance Writers chapter of the Romance Writers of America

Making your story work, no matter the genre

“Do you imagine your story as a single sentence or as a series of sentences? Do you find yourself telling someone about your story, only to have them tell you, “That’s not the kind of thing I’m looking for”?

Plots. Aren’t they fun? You take a premise or an idea and you craft a story, using elements out of nowhere (or somewhere). In my workshop “Stirring the Plot,” we’ll be looking at plots, how you can mix and match them so you can come up with a fully fleshed out story, even crossing genre barriers. In the workshop you’ll also have a chance to work on your very own story plot in a series of exercises.

So what the heck is plot? It’s the observation of the human condition, the bones of your story, what your story means. That’s the fancy definition. Plot is story, more than theme (which is a main idea, a central topic or idea or underlying meaning of a story and shapes the events of the story), less than the events and characters of your novel. It’s not genre.

Okay, in that case, what’s the difference between story and plot? The novelist EM Forster explained the difference this way, using the example of “The king died and the queen died.” Two events, two simple statements.

You’ve probably heard how to connect the two deaths and work them into the start of a story: “The king died and the queen died—of grief.” Now, think of how you can turn the simple statements into variations of plot. The plot asks why and how the story happened. Could it be:

  • Was the king murdered and the queen decided to take revenge, only to be killed trying to do so?
  • Did the king die of an illness, and in her grief the queen made a series of decisions that destroyed the kingdom, only for her to realize too late what had happened? If this were a historical Japanese story, she’d probably get herself to a convent or commit dramatic suicide. If this were an opera, there would be a lot of singing.
  • Or, say, the king died and the queen died of grief, plunging the kingdom into a war among the children over who would rule?
  • Or the king died because the queen murdered him, and the ensuing guilt drives her mad, leading to her suicide?
  • Or did the king die when aliens landed, led by the queen, who’s been in disguise all these years and waiting for her people to invade?
  • For that matter, did the king and/or queen actually fake their deaths and run away for a reason you’ll come up with? Did they kill their doppelgangers for a reason you’ll think up?

So many questions!

All those from the initial simple statement. And there are more, of course, but I’ll leave that to you to think up.

Plot requires the ability to figure out the intricacies between characters and the events in the story. In essence, it’s what you find yourself thinking about after you finish reading the story.

We’ll be discussing popular plots. They won’t be new to you and they aren’t the only plots out there—you can probably come up with more on your own, but it’s a useful starting point and it’ll allow you to think of all the variations.

Here are the 20 plots, stated briefly. The plots are pretty much self-explanatory by their names, and you’re already going to get an idea of the themes involved:

1: Quest
2: Adventure
3: Pursuit
4: Rescue
5: Escape
6: Revenge
7: Riddle
8: Rivalry
9: Underdog
10: Temptation
11: Metamorphosis
12: Transformation
13: Maturation (coming of age)
14: Love
15: Forbidden Love
16: Sacrifice
17: Discovery
18: Wretched Excess
19: Ascension
20: Descension

And you’ll be able to figure out how to work those basic plots into a story appropriate for your genre. Think about those and how your story reflects one of more of these. You’ll be doing more of that later.

Intrigued? In that case, I hope to see you next month at my FF&P workshop!

4-Week Course Starts March 7, 2022
Through a series of exercises, this workshop tells you how to identify your story’s strongest plot points and how to start shifting its elements so you understand exactly how your story comes across to your audience and how you can strengthen it.
$35 for non-FF&P members • $25 for FF&P members

Red Herrings And How To Keep Track of Them

Writing mysteries? Then you may want to stop by my February 3 presentation to the Columbia River Chapter of Sisters in Crime, where I’ll outline the use of red herrings for the whodunit set (and others).

Click here to register (it’s free) in advance for the meeting (9 pm Eastern/6 pm Pacific). After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

We Are All Other

Originally published in Novelists Ink, October 2021

How authors can dive into cultural research 

By Elizabeth MS Flynn 

Authors are eternally curious, and they are fortunate in that they can not only assuage their curiosity by doing research for their latest work in progress, but also learn a lot of interesting (not necessarily related) facts as well. They can discover fun facts like when buttons came into use (earliest noted 5,000 years ago!), but they also can find out about other cultures and what makes them unique, and how that can be used for unique characters and stories. 

But where do authors start? When researching other cultures—any culture at all, whether it’s one we’re familiar with or one with which we have no familiarity at all—we are faced with how to track down the information we need, ascertain accuracy, and enrich our work. Start at the basics: 

General research 

Wikipedia is one place to start, but can’t be the only place. Believe it or not, another place would be children’s books and textbooks, because those authors have to boil down and explain complex concepts to a younger audience. If you’re trying to figure out how to tackle a subject and you’re not sure where to begin, tracking down a children’s book on the topic or a related one may be a good place to begin. 

I asked Lerner Books, the publisher of children’s books and middle-grade books, what they would recommend for a start on difficult, complex subjects, and they responded with a few possibilities: For Black history, Ruth and the Green Book and Unspeakable. For Asian American/ Pacific Islander history, they recommended Kiyo Sato and Sachiko. For LGBTQ history, Lerner recommended No Way, They Were Gay? Covering all of those plus Latinx and Indigenous, the publisher recommended Into the Streets, and, finally, for all of those and more, Dictionary for a Better World

Interviews and biographies 

Track down a member of the culture you’re interested in (if you’re doing research for a look at daily life circa 35 BCE, however, you may have to stick to the history books and biographies), but keep in mind that the responses you get may be specific and unique to that subject. Always keep in mind the background of the person. If possible, track down more than one interview subject. 

If you can’t, you may want to get the information by diving into a related point of interest, something you can find information about, and expand from there to find what you need. If you want an idea of some of the issues that were notable during the middle to late 20th century, for example, you could examine a biography of a notable person during that time. And keep in mind if you want to interview as a journalist, decide whether you want to get to the heart of the story or more about the people. 

Social and religious attitudes 

Anthropologists will tell you that you must separate your own beliefs and attitudes from that of your research subject if you want to understand the mindset of another. You may be a Christian, but to truly understand, say, Hinduism, you’ll have to set aside your skepticism about the existence of multiple gods. Simply put, your beliefs are not necessarily those of another culture. Margaret Mead made her name as a young anthropologist in Samoa, but her work was eventually considered to be flawed because she made many of her conclusions based on her assumptions going into the study instead of describing the culture with an unbiased eye. 

Authenticity readers (also known as sensitivity readers) 

These readers are specialists in a given topic, and as author services provider Reedsy explains, they read manuscripts specifically to look for “cultural inaccuracies, representation issues, bias, stereotypes, or problematic language.” One example might be focusing on the differences between China, Korea, and Japan. The latter two cultures have their origins from the former, but they are very different, and the languages are not intelligible to each other—in speech. The Korean and Japanese written languages have their origins in the Chinese language, and to some extent the Korean, Japanese, and Chinese people may be able to discern what is being written in the other language, but only to some degree. 

Spoken language, though, requires an article on its own, as does being able to discern between the facial characteristics of the three cultures. (Hint: If the Asian cultures can’t do it consistently, neither can anyone else.) All three of those cultures are different yet similar, not unlike how there are differences between Scotland, Ireland, and England, all of which have similarities but are different and also come from a long shared history. Differences can be hard to discern: if you’re not from European ancestry, the differences between the Nordic people and the Mediterranean people may be negligible. If you’re from European ancestry, you see the difference keenly. 

Then there’s viewpoint, which can be classified under social and religious attitudes. Consider the differences in how cultures think. To get an idea, you may do well to find books on sociology and anthropology. In his Geography of Thought, Richard Nisbett avers that there are differences between Eastern and Western thinking; Western culture emphasizes individualism versus Eastern culture, which emphasizes common values within the society. Western goals of the individual aren’t the same as the Eastern goals of the individual, which are counted into the goals of the society as a whole. But there are similarities, too. Both have the concept of family embarrassment—“saving face” is a common admonishment in Eastern societies (as in, don’t bring shame to your social group), and is echoed in Western societies when you hear your parents saying, “Don’t embarrass me.” (On the other hand, according to Nisbett, to compliment someone in public can give face. And public praise in both Western and Eastern societies is a good thing.) 

As Asiaexchange.org blog notes, it may take time to adapt to a culture different from your own, but your reward will be a deeper understanding of the culture and topic: “Embrace those things that are uncomfortable, those things that don’t make sense, those things that are frustrating. Those are the things that will teach you the most.” 

There are mystifying elements in any society, ones that don’t make sense to anyone not in the know. But there are elements common to every culture. Every culture, every society, every person needs food, shelter, community. But they may approach those things very differently. Knowing those things will flesh out your characters into real people, not stereotypes. 

I have a checklist on my website that allows you to consider what makes your characters fully thought-out human beings. Taking a look at the elements allows you to decide whether your characters are real, memorable people. 

So in this way we are all other. We have so many things in common; whether it’s saving face or your parents saying, “Don’t embarrass me,” there’s the element of “We do that too!” no matter where you go. All it takes is a little research. 

Elizabeth MS Flynn is a professional editor and has been for more than forty years, working with topics as diverse as academia, technology, finance, genre fiction, and comic books. Her work for this article comes from her studies in anthropology, with a linguistics and folklore concentration. 

References and Resources 

  • alllooksame.com 
  • Asiaexchange.org. “Navigating cultural differences in Asia.” 
  • Bieschke, Marke. Into the Streets: A Young Person’s Visual History of Protest in the United States. Zest Books, 2020. 
  • Bunting, Joe. “How to conduct an interview like a journalist.” thewritepractice.com. 
  • Dictionary for a Better World. Carolrhoda Books, 2020. 
  • Enjeti, Anjali. “Craft Capsule: Why You Need an Authenticity Editor,” pw.org. 
  • https://www.facebook.com/groups/writersfordiversity/. 
  • Flynn, Elizabeth MS. “A Look from the Other POV” checklist, http:// emsflynn.com/we-are-all-other-a-pov-checklist/. 
  • Goldsmith, Connie, with Kiyo Sato. Kiyo Sato: From a WWII Japanese Internment Camp to a Life of Service. Twenty-First Century Books, 2021.
  • Kuang, R.F. “Racial Rubber Stamp,” SFWA blog, 2018 
  • Lernerbooks.com. 
  • Mead, Margaret. Coming of Age in Samoa. Harper Perennial, 1971. 
  • Nisbett, Richard. The Geography of Thought. Free Press, 2004. 
  • Oluo, Ijeoma. So You Want to Talk About Race. Seal Press, 2018. 
  • Quora.com. “What’s the difference between the facial features of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean people?” 
  • Randomwire.com. “How to tell the difference between Asian languages.”
  • Reedsy. “Sensitivity Readers: Who Are They and Should Authors Use Them?” 
  • Social Psychological and Personality Science. 
  • Statista.com. 
  • Stelson, Caren. Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story. Carolrhoda Books, 2016. 
  • Sting. “The Russians.” The Dream of the Blue Turtles, 1985. 
  • Strauss, Gwen, Calvin Alexander Ramsey, and Floyd Cooper. Ruth and the Green Book. Carolrhoda Books, 2010. 
  • Tett, Gillian. Anthro-Vision. Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster, 2021. 
  • West, Eliana. Elianawest.com/diversity.
  • Wind, Lee. No Way, They Were Gay? Hidden Lives and Secret Loves. Carolrhoda Books, 2021. 

Testimonials! We got ’em!

“Thoughtful, thorough, and experienced. Highly recommended!”—Heather Hiestand, author of The Marquess of Cake

“Elizabeth did a fabulous job of proofreading and line editing for me!”—Alexis Morgan, USA Today best-selling author of the Paladins series

“Fast turnaround, accurate editing, and a final proofread. Works for me!”—Jacquie Rogers, author of Mail-Order Ruckus


“Timely, professional and accurate. Exactly what I was looking for.”—Susan Mallery, New York Times best-selling author of the Fools’ Gold series

“Eilis is a gem! She always goes the extra step to polish my manuscripts so they sparkle. Fast, professional, and precise. When other writers ask for a recommendation for an awesome copyeditor, she’s always at the top of my list.”—Crista McHugh, USA Today best-selling author of the Kelly Brothers series

“Eilis edited my historical romance and provided the right balance of edits to smooth out the rough spots and help make my writing pop!”—Mimi Sebastian, author of the Necromancer series

“Eilis’s edits made me look at each sentence and really think of the intention and purpose of each word. Totally taxing on the brain, but the work was so much stronger when finished.”—Anna Alexander, author of The Cowboy Way

“Thank you for being the copy editor of my dreams! Also really interesting collaborating since you are also a writer. Some of your editing suggestions got me thinking a little differently (in a good way) about a line of dialogue or prose, so it felt a bit like a creative collaboration too!”—Laura Navarre, author of Interstellar Angel