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!

100 Writing Days of Summer: Join Me in a Summer Writing Program and Heat Up Your Work in Progress

Would you like to be writing a novel or memoir this summer? There is help, camaraderie, and expert inspiration that you can tap into all summer long. It’s a writing program called 100 Writing Days of Summer and I’m very pleased to be one of the participating authors. (You know I edit, but I write, too.)

Folks are at baseball games, they’re visiting restaurants, but most of the writers’ conferences aren’t gathering in person this summer, even though it’s prime writing time. School is out, the days are longer, office hours are shorter, the margaritas are colder. (You do you; I’m an iced coffee writer.) Your office can be on a picnic table in the back yard, on a boat, even in an RV. Have laptop, will travel (and write).

Here’s how it works:

  • It starts June 21 and runs all summer long.
  • A panel of eight established, successful authors (me included!) are all going to share their best ten writing tips, so you can turn a corner on problems you might be facing in your current WIP
  • The Author Panel’s expertise ranges from award winning and bestselling novelists, memoirists, YA authors, children’s book authors, fantasy, and flash fiction
  • Julia Roberts – the organizer – is a creative process expert and coach, and she will be your summer mentor in the Facebook group, on Zoom calls, and in the daily emails. Julia Roberts is also the founder of DecodingCreativity.com, the Write Without the Fight Facebook group & 5-Day Challenge, already taken by thousands of writers since its inception three years ago
  • Each email contains an expert writing tip or writing mindset advice, a picture prompt, and group updates
  • Julia will also host 10 two-hour writing sessions and coaching for anyone in the group who gets stuck or frustrated
  • The pop-up Facebook group will be our own “Conference Room B,” where we can meet other writers, socialize and connect.

100 Writing Days of Summer has all the elements of a writers’ conference, combined with the benefits of coaching and a writing retreat. If you’re stuck yourself, if you know someone who needs the coaching, or if people are asking you how they can get started, joining me, Julia Roberts and the other Authors of the Panel is a great way for any and all to learn, connect, and write!

We’ve got hashtags! You should be able to see what’s going on by checking out #100WDOS or #100WritingDaysofSummer/.

The Story Behind the Story: The Grain Merchant by Zara Altair

Most often, the mystery stories we read are set in a contemporary world, except perhaps in a place we don’t know so well. Their detectives are marked by their similarity to or difference from us. Zara Altair, however, has created a protagonist who lives much longer ago and farther away than mid-twentieth-century Los Angeles or Cabot Cove. How does that sort of hero come to be? How different are his life and the murders he must solve from what is ordinary to us? Zara Altair has built her world in Ostrogoth Italy of 512 CE, with habits, relationships, and politics that are fascinating — and so different from what we know.

What’s the theme behind your story?

Murder and politics in a small town in ancient Italy. 

What’s the logline?

In a small town in Italy in 512 CE, a Roman patrician must solve a murder and quell civil unrest while local politicians plot to stop him. He can trust no one as he tries to discover the murderer. 

Meet Argolicus the Roman patrician who thinks his way to finding a killer.

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

I wanted our hero, Argolicus, to stop living with his mother. I moved him to the family’s domus in town, which would pull him back into politics, which he doesn’t like.

How did the original idea change as you went along?

Two major changes happened as I was writing. At the beginning, Argolicus meets a woman whom his mother has set up as his potential bride. I knew that they wouldn’t marry, but as I was writing, she and his best friend fall in love at first sight. That was a surprise. 

As the antagonist and opponents close in, Argolicus’s mixed birth—Roman and Ostrogoth—becomes a big issue. Opponents imply that he is not only the wrong man to save the town, but is conspiring with the Ostrogoth king to destroy Roman tradition. 

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

Argolicus leaped off the page when I was reading the Variae by Cassiodorus. I was doing background research on Theodoric’s rule in Italy. Argolicus was a real person at the time of Theodoric’s reign in Italy. He is mentioned nine times in Cassiodorus’ Variae (iii 11, iii 12, iii 29, iii 30, iii 33, iv 22, iv 25, iv 29, iv 42) as praefectus urbis of Rome. His childhood and ongoing friendship with Cassiodorus and Ostrogoth neighbor Ebrimuth come from my imagination as well as his retirement in the very southern tip of Italy, the setting for the mystery series.

Argolicus is a learned man who turns detective at the bidding of friends and neighbors who know him as trustworthy, wise, and fair. His tools are the logic of Aristotle, the self-restraint of Epictetus, the theology of ArDomhnall Gleesonius, and the empirical insights of Marcus Aurelius, all sharpened to an edge by ferocious curiosity. He collects evidence, deciphers politics, and digs into the deepest secrets of the human heart.

Proba is a new character created for this book. I have women friends who are geeks. I wanted a strong female character who was good at math. I wanted her to be realistic for her time and culture, but with skills not normally attributed to women at that point in history. She keeps track of her father, the grain merchant’s, transactions, so she is in the culture but with an unusual role. 

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

Every writer feels they could do better. We are always learning and improving our craft. Overall, I am pleased with the story. Argolicus makes a new friend, reconsiders his position in society, and, of course, discovers the killer. 

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

Argolicus would be played by Domhnall Gleeson; Nikolaos, his slave tutor, by James McAvoy; Proba, the daughter, by Ashley Rickards; and Ebrimuth, Argolicus’s friend, by Kyle Lowder. 

Bio

Zara Altair writes traditional mysteries set in Ostrogoth Italy featuring Argolicus, the Roman patrician who thinks his way to finding a killer. The Argolicus Mysteries are The Roman Heir, The Used Virgin, The Peach Widow, and The Vellum Scribe, with more on the way. A mystery lover since childhood, she has written about writing for a number of publications, including ProWritingAid and International Thriller Writer, and is a member of Sisters in Crime. She lives in Beaverton, OR, where she reads, walks among trees, and shares space with a cat. She coaches mystery writers at Write A Killer Mystery. To join her mailing list, visit http://bit.ly/ArgolicusReads.

Buy links

Amazon | Kobo | Google Play |iBooks |Barnes & Noble

Story Behind the Story: The Way Home by Eliana West

A letter from the past will change their future… For this story, Eliana West was inspired by a conversation about family history with her sister, and the way these things happen sometimes, the story she wanted to write bloomed right then and there! The result is a delightful novel, providing a happily ever after for two characters whose heritages are echoed in America’s history.

Eliana West says interracial romance isn’t just for Black readers.

What’s the theme behind your story? 

The theme for all of the books in my Heart of Colton series is forgiveness. These are stories about forgiveness, redemption and of course love.

What’s the logline?

A letter from the past will change their future.

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

I was talking with my sister about our family history and the story came to me almost fully formed. I also wanted to figure out a way to tell a story about the complex relationships between the descendants of enslaved people and the descendants of those who enslaved them. 

How did the original idea change as you went along?

My hero’s backstory changed quite a bit and new characters that evolved as the story went along, secondary characters that really became crucial to the story. Otherwise, the bones of the story have always stayed the same. 

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

Taylor Colton is kind of a combination of the Property Brothers and Ben Napier from Hometown on HGTV. For all of his success, he’s pretty insecure. When I had the idea for Taylor, I pictured him as a hero who struggles, not wanting to be the hero at first. For Josephine Martin, I wanted a heroine who worked in tech and a character with a strong will and a big heart. Ada Mae is based on my great aunt, and I drew a lot of inspiration from her personality and life. 

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

The first draft of this story was just terrible and I had a point where I didn’t think I could salvage it. I took my time and did a major rewrite and now I’m so pleased with the result. I’m not sure at this point that I would do anything different.

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

Oh boy, that’s a good question. Maybe Chris Evans for Taylor Colton, and Jaylen Barron for Josephine Martin.

What else do you want readers to know?

What I’d like readers to know is that interracial romance isn’t just for Black readers. Interracial romance is for any reader; diverse romance is just that diverse. If you haven’t read an interracial romance, give one a try. 

My books may be a challenging story for some people. I write stories that confront some uncomfortable aspects of race and history. But at the end of the day, these are romances, love always wins.  

Bio

Eliana West writes contemporary interracial romance. Her first book, The Way Forward, establishing the Heart of Colton series, was published by Tule Publishing in 2020. When not writing, Eliana can be found exploring the many wineries in Oregon and Washington with her husband, traveling around in Bianca, their vintage Volkswagen Westfalia. She is the founder of Writers for Diversity (https://www.facebook.com/groups/writersfordiversity), a community for writers of all genres, creating diverse characters and worlds. Check out www.elianawest.com

Buy link

https://books2read.com/u/38RpRZ

Story Behind the Story: Denied by Mary Keliikoa

Writers of mysteries have to calculate a lot of odds. What are the chances a clue introduced early will be too big and lead to an unsurprising reveal? What are the probabilities of success for the novel if a secondary character isn’t appealing enough? And there’s always the risk of not walking the line deftly enough between revealing too much information and providing too little information. Mary Keliikoa tackles all in her latest novel, working from a solid framework while adapting new ideas on the fly. 

What’s the theme behind your story? 

The theme is really about how people are not always who we believe them to be. In Denied, Kelly Pruett finds she has a bit of a misperception about her father, and Kelly’s client, after a falling out with her own father, will find some truths about him as well. In fact, thinking about it, the entire book is filled with characters who present differently than who they might be—which is the foundation of a mystery, right?

What’s the logline?

The search for a missing father and the truth puts PI Kelly Pruett into a high-risk game of chance with a killer willing to gamble everything to win. 

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

Mary Keliikoa didn’t change her framework while writing her latest mystery, but left herself room to write by the seat of her pants.

That’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but I’ve always loved the iconic feel of Portland Meadows, which is a horse racing track. It had been around for decades, and I thought the idea of it being a place for pooling lots of different characters around gambling and debt and what we do when we get into trouble around those things, started niggling in my mind. From there, the story just started coming in. What happens if you do have debt, and what other areas in your world will you leverage to get out of it.  

How did the original idea change as you went along?

The original idea really did not change. I knew pretty much from the beginning how I wanted it to go—what the motivations were and the twists. 

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

Denied is book 2 in a series, so many of the characters were developed in book 1. But as for the character specific to Denied, they tended to show up! For instance, when I was writing the scene where Kelly is checking out Vince’s house to see when he might have last been there, Vince’s girlfriend showed up. I hadn’t necessarily intended for her to show, but she did with all of her characteristics intact. I tend to fall on the side of pantster—writing the story without having a plot set in place—and that is definitely the fun of that. My brain works best when my fingers are moving, and it’s a surprise sometimes just as much for me as my readers when certain people decide they want to join the party.

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

Denied is my favorite of the series, and it’s because it really dives into a subject that I care about—healing relationships with parent and child. There is nothing I would change in the book and I feel that it has a lot of heart.  

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

I like Reese Witherspoon for Kelly Pruett, Mark Ruffalo for Jeff, her ex, maybe a younger version of Ellen Burstyn for Arlene, and Chris Hemsworth for Kyle. And Floyd could be played by any lovable basset hound!

What else do you want readers to know?

Just that I think you’ll really enjoy Kelly’s journey. She’s very much trying to make her way in the world as a single mom of a deaf daughter, and stepping outside of her father’s shadow. He was a great investigator, and she is always trying to measure up. But in this book, she has a little help from her sidekick basset hound, Floyd, and her love interest. And she finds out some big truths about what family means. If you enjoy Sue Grafton or Janet Evanovich, I think you’ll enjoy Denied!

Bio

Mary Keliikoa is the author of the Lefty- and Agatha award-nominated PI Kelly Pruett mystery series and the upcoming Misty Pines mystery series, featuring Sheriff Jax Turner, slated for release in September 2022. Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World and in the anthology Peace, Love and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by Music of the ‘60s. A Pacific Northwest native, she has spent a part of her life working around lawyers. Combining her love of the legal scene and books, she creates a twisting mystery where justice prevails.

When not in Washington, you can find Mary on the beach in Hawaii where she and her husband recharge. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun, she’s plotting her next murder—novel, that is.

Buy links

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/denied-9781603817837/9781603817837

B&N:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/denied-mary-keliikoa/1138693315

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/denied-9

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Denied-Mary-Keliikoa-ebook/dp/B08V3G2Z73

Story Behind the Story: Coming Home by Carmen Cook

What’s the theme behind your story?

Friendship and redemption. All my stories seem to have underlying “The family you make” theme, and that’s definitely part of Coming Home as well. But more, it’s about having the ability to recreate yourself, no matter the circumstances.

What’s the logline?

Unexpected Risks. Unconditional Love.

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

Coming Home, which brings a music superstar back home to rediscover her roots and love, is the next novel in Carmen Cook’s Sapphire Creek series.

These characters have been lingering with me for a long time — through several other books, but remaining in the background. I’d been thinking about what would get Erin Chase to stop touring and spend some solid time in Sapphire Creek rather than any of her other homes around the world. She needed to be wounded in a way that Sapphire Creek was the only place she would want to be. And then there’s no-nonsense Zach, who has a habit of fixing everything for everyone around him. What in the world would he do with this superstar who doesn’t want to be fixed? With someone who makes their living making music, when he’s hiding the secret that his hearing has been damaged. They’re so similar in some ways, but face life in completely different ways. It’s been fun to play with that part of each of them.

How did the original idea change as you went along?

The subplot of the drugs in the small town of Sapphire Creek starting in book 1, Coming in Hot. I hadn’t really planned on focusing so much on it, but readers really want that plotline to be tied up. They want to know who the villain is, so even though I knew, I needed to start thinking of a way to incorporate that more heavily into the story (which led to a couple of short stories as well, so I could set up the needed characters).

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

Both Erin and Zach were introduced in earlier stories. Erin, specifically, has changed the most because her entire world was flipped on his head after the bus crash made her question everything in her life. That was pretty obvious and external. Zach has changed a little more subtly. Partly because he hasn’t been around the cast of characters as often so everyone is getting to know him again.

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. As I mentioned earlier, the path to this story shifted quite a bit, and toss in a global pandemic that threw off my writing schedule, I’m very pleased with how the story shaped up.

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

Oh gosh, that’s a hard question. I loosely modeled Erin after Carrie Underwood. For Zach…maybe a scruffed-up Justin Theroux.

What else do you want readers to know?

I do live readings on Instagram each Sunday at 10 am Pacific, featuring excerpts of different authors’ stories. I call it Revenge Garden Readings (or Readings from the Revenge Garden — I go back and forth) and have an IGTV channel featuring these readings. Early on in the pandemic, I was looking for a way to connect with readers and other authors and decided to (virtually) invite everyone to hang out in the garden with me. It’s been so much fun, and I’d love to have everyone join me. You can find me at https://www.instagram.com/carmencook_/

Bio

Carmen Cook grew up in Montana, riding horses and dreaming of life beyond the mountains. As soon as she could, she started traveling, heading across the country for college before backpacking through Europe. She then moved to the Pacific Northwest, where she promptly threw down some pretty deep roots by getting married and having kids. It wasn’t long before her imagination started running away with her and she began to write. Each Sunday she hosts Readings from the Revenge Garden on IGTV. Follow #ReadingsFromTheRevengeGarden to stay up to date on all the readings and featured authors.

Visit www.carmencooknovels.com to sign up for her newsletter to keep in touch.

Buy link

https://books2read.com/u/mgzVyz

Story Behind the Story: The Steel Rose by Nancy Northcott

Historical fiction requires the ability to effectively place wholly made-up characters in a world in a way that gets all the details right. Nancy melds the details of fact and the intricacies of plot with stakes that are relevant today, carefully laying out her series with one well-researched plot point after another. I remember when Nancy, whom I’ve known for literally decades, was just starting to build this series, with her great fandom of Richard III especially evident in its pages.

What’s the theme behind your story? 

I’m never sure how to answer that. I suppose it’s trust. The challenge for both the hero and the heroine is learning to trust their judgment and each other.

What’s the logline?

A wizard’s misplaced trust. A king wrongly blamed for murder. A bloodline cursed until they clear the king’s name.

The Steel Rose is the second book in The Boar King's Honor trilogy by Nancy Northcott.
The Steel Rose by Nancy Northcott is the second book in The Boar King’s Honor trilogy.

The heroine is a magically Gifted seer, Amelia Mainwaring. One of her ancestors, Edmund Mainwaring, unwittingly helped murder two royal children, the boys known as the Princes in the Tower. He flung himself on the mercy of their uncle, King Richard III, who told him to keep silent because of the political situation. King Richard died at Bosworth Field without ever giving Edmund permission to reveal the truth about the boys’ deaths. 

The Tudors came to power after Bosworth. They blamed King Richard for the boys’ deaths and anything else they could. If Edmund had tried to speak up, he would’ve been executed for treason, and the truth would’ve died with him. Tormented by guilt, he cursed his direct heirs to not rest in life or death until the family cleared the king’s name. Now the souls of his heirs are trapped in a wraith-ridden shadowland after they die. This includes Amelia’s twin brother, Adam. She’s desperate to free his soul.

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

Since this is the second book in a trilogy, I was thinking about the structure of the first book. As you know, the first book in a series sets the parameters for those that follow. The first book, The Herald of Day, had two plotlines. One was the hero and heroine’s quest to clear King Richard and break the curse. The other was about their efforts to restore the true timeline after a power-hungry wizard changed England’s history to create a dictatorship of the mageborn.

So I needed a plotline about the blood curse and one that would involve high stakes such as those in the altered timeline of Herald.

How did the original idea change as you went along?

It stayed pretty much the same after the initial plotting session. I’ve been a Ricardian (one who doesn’t believe Richard III was anywhere near as bad as Shakespeare painted him, for those unfamiliar with the term) most of my adult life. I have a pretty good working knowledge of the controversy surrounding the king, so I’ve had the idea for the arc about the blood curse in The Steel Rose for a long time. I also knew I wanted to use a particular magical artifact at some point.

The larger plot, centering on the Battle of Waterloo, did require some adjustment as I read more about the battle. I knew that I wanted Julian, my hero, and Amelia to be involved in the Allied victory, and Napoleon’s return to a France economically devastated by his earlier wars gave me a way to use that magical artifact for something important. The research pushed a fairly amorphous initial idea into a concrete shape.

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

I knew Amelia would be a seer and the hero, Julian Winfield, would be a descendant of one of the characters in The Herald of Day. I also wanted them both to be different from the characters in the prior book. The heroine of Herald is a seer, but she’s untrained and not confident when the story opens. The hero is bitter about the curse hanging over his soul, but he’s comfortable at court or with a blade in his hand.

While Amelia is a seer, she has had years of training in her power and has a fair degree of confidence with it. As she uses it in The Steel Rose, however, it changes, and she must adapt to those changes. She must also figure out how to interpret visions she doesn’t understand.

Julian is a nobleman, but he’s not a Mainwaring and so isn’t cursed. He wants to help Amelia lift the curse, though, because Amelia’s twin brother, Adam, was one of his closest friends. Since they’re researching curses, one of them needed to be bookish, and I chose Julian. He also breeds horses, and leads Britain’s secret network of magically Gifted spies. He’s a book guy but one who packs a punch.

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story?

I’m happy with it. I had a relaxed deadline, and my editor was patient with my recurring need to “check just one more thing” during the revision process. I had time to make the book just as I wanted it.

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

For Julian, Luke Thompson, who plays Benedict Bridgerton on the TV series Bridgerton. He’s handsome but seems able to blend with a crowd, as Julian would have to, and he knows how to project thoughtfulness as well as being physically active.

For Amelia, I would choose Elizabeth Olsen. She’s attractive, has an unassuming but confident demeanor, and can project sympathy, thoughtfulness, and courage.

What else do you want readers to know?

I’ve read quite a few Regency romances and am particularly drawn to those featuring Waterloo or its aftermath. I enjoyed the research, and I learned a great deal. I should add that my version of the fate of the Princes in the Tower tweaks history to suit my story. I actually think there’s a very good chance those boys lived into the reign of Henry VII, who followed their uncle Richard on the throne.

Nancy’s “shameless hucksterism” prompted her to point out that The Herald of Day is free starting April 28 and for a couple more days thereafter (whether or not you’re in Kindle Unlimited) to celebrate the release of The Steel Rose. If you’re not reading this on April 28, 2021, just be sure to check the price before you commit!

Bio:

The Steel Rose is the second book in Nancy Northcott's The Boar King's Honor trilogy.
Nancy Northcott, author of The Steel Rose

Nancy Northcott’s childhood ambition was to grow up to become Wonder Woman. Around fourth grade, she realized it was too late to acquire Amazon genes, but she still loved comic books, science fiction, fantasy, history, and romance.

She has written freelance articles and taught at the college level. Her most popular course was on science fiction, fantasy, and society. She has also given presentations on the Wars of the Roses and Richard III to university classes studying Shakespeare’s Richard III. Reviewers have described her books as melding fantasy, romance, and suspense. Library Journal gave her debut novel, Renegade, a starred review, calling it “genre fiction at its best.”

In addition to the historical fantasy Boar King’s Honor trilogy, Nancy writes the Light Mage Wars paranormal romances, the Arachnid Files romantic suspense novellas, and the Lethal Webs romantic spy adventures. With Jeanne Adams, she co-writes the Outcast Station science fiction mysteries.

Married since 1987, Nancy and her husband have one son, a bossy dog, and a house full of books.

Nancy’s social media links:

www.nancynorthcott.com

Twitter: @NancyNorthcott

Facebook:  https://facebook.com/nancynorthcottauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3468806.Nancy_Northcott

Buy link: readerlinks.com/l/1794929

Story Behind the Story: The Mermaid Mahjong Circle by Claudia Grossman

Claudia Grossman’s first novel is about being caught up in adventure. For Claudia’s characters, it’s how one little MacGuffin sets them off in a way that summarizes the mysticism of true friendship and the joy of art and beauty. But The Story Behind The Story is Claudia’s own adventure, choosing to publish independently instead of waiting for agents and publishing houses, letting her characters drive her story and letting her determination drive her success. Her characters are empowered by the mahjong tile they find; Claudia is empowered by her own creativity.

The Mermaid Mahjong Circle is an adventure for Goldman’s characters and herself.

What is the theme behind your story?

Women empowering themselves through the things that matter the most to them—women whose art is their heart and whose heart is their art.

What’s the logline?

A fantastical, fabulous, feminist fairy tale.

How would you describe your book?

The book is a lot of things; mostly, I hope, a little jewel.

At its heart, it is a modern-day, grown-up fairy tale. It’s the story of two best friends, both artists, and an adventure that takes them from the present to the past and back again, thanks to a tale about a mysterious mahjong tile crafted a century ago.

It is neither about your grandmother’s mahjong nor is it your granddaughter’s fairy tale.

It’s modern because it’s set in the current day, mostly; because the heroines are two grown-up women of a certain age; and because it is about women who create their own destiny and their own happiness. Unlike the fairy tales that so many of us grew up reading, where the woman waited for the prince to come along so that her life could begin, in this fairy tale, the women create their own fulfillment. Fun little fact: except for two very minor characters, all of the characters in this novel are female, even the dog. And that was intentional because I wanted it to be about a woman’s heart and her art and the power of that connection.

The book is also about the creativity in all of us that can lead us to discover new things about ourselves—whatever that creativity and passion might be. It’s about finding and nurturing that spark, and about empowering ourselves to create and, as a result, to enrich our own lives and the lives of those around us.

It’s about the possibility of “what if,” of believing in things that we may not be able to see, of stretching our imaginations and opening our minds.

It’s about best friends and the power of friendship.

On a very personal note, it’s about finding your voice, even if you’ve never had the courage to do so before.

And it’s about bringing a sense of enchantment to life.

Finally, the novel is a love letter to San Francisco, my favorite place in the world. The book gives the reader the chance to see the city through the eyes of an artist and to glimpse its heart and soul.

How did you come up with the book’s title? What is the connection between mermaids and mahjong?

I’ve been fascinated with mermaids ever since I was a little girl. Fairies, pixies, and mermaids—I spent countless hours reading about them in storybooks and I became utterly enchanted. Beautiful, ethereal, and delicate, they were a magical mix of color and luminescence. The storybook illustrations were gorgeous—the mermaid’s shimmering tails and flowing hair, the fairies’ tinted, translucent wings—and those illustrations informed the rich descriptions and colors that I’ve written into the book.

Mermaids were magical to the shy little-girl me; mahjong came from my love of color and art and design.

I find mahjong tiles, with their delicate art, to be so interesting. They are like tiny canvases, each with its own story to tell. And I love the sound they make when they click together. Full disclosure—I’m not a mahjong player myself. But the game always had a presence in the New York Jewish culture that I grew up in, and I was always aware of it.

Here’s the connection: 

One day when the word “mermaid” popped into my mind, I started randomly doodling words that might go along with it because playing with words is a true joy to me. Mermaids and mahjong—it just sounded like fun. In fact, I thought that Mermaids & Mahjong would make a great name for a funky little store in San Francisco that sold vintage clothing and accessories (which do come up in the book, as it so happens). But because I’m a writer, not a retailer, once the combination of mermaids and mahjong came to me, I knew there had to be a story in there somewhere. And, as it turns out, there was.

And circles?

As I say in the prologue to the book, “The beauty of circles is that they go around endlessly, joining people, generations, lifetimes. Sometimes the connections are seamless; sometimes surprising; and many times, magical.” That all proves true.

How did the original idea change as you went along?

I always thought it was a myth when writers would say that their characters took them where they wanted to go—until it happened to me. I found that one scene would often lead to the next in ways I hadn’t originally thought. No sooner would I write one clue to the mahjong tile mystery than a new twist presented itself. But I always knew how the book would end. I wrote it from start to finish (without an outline, which was an adventure in itself), except for the four separate “mermaid stories” within it. Each of those is like a standalone tale and those were written afterward.

Do you have favorite characters? Who and why?

I’m partial to Lorelei, the 800-year-old mermaid who is our storyteller and Evie and Hannah’s fairy god-mermaid, and who is filled with personality. She owns every room she enters. I also love Aunt Venny. She’s headstrong and spirited, with an indomitable, positive energy.

How do your professional life and your creative life blend?

My career has been spent as an advertising and marketing communications copywriter (think Peggy Olsen in Mad Men), so words and wordplay have always been a big part of who I am—like writing headlines, for example, or naming nail polish colors, a job I held for a decade. I love crossword puzzles; I love the Before & After category in Jeopardy; I just love playing with words. Combine that passion for words with a really big imagination, and writing a novel became something I just had to do. It took many years for me to find my story and for my story to find me, but when it did, it was like magic.

Bio:

Claudia Grossman has spent her career as an advertising and marketing copywriter, both in New York and Los Angeles. She has been published in the Los Angeles Times, in Victoria magazine, and in blogs for both More magazine and skirt! magazine, as well as having authored a series of children’s educational books about Jewish culture. She writes a blog of often humorous life observations entitled Rice on Your Head(www.riceonyourhead.com). She and her husband live in LA, although San Francisco will always have her heart.

Buy link:

The Mermaid Mahjong Circle—A Fairy Tale for Women by Claudia Grossman is available at amazon.com (https://amzn.to/3uYFCDa) and other online booksellers, both as a paperback ($15.00) and as an ebook ($9.95).

An Editor’s View of World-Building for Writers


If you’re writing fiction, you’ve got to build a world for your characters. Sometimes it’s easy to cheat; it’s the street you grew up on when you were a kid, or it’s a famous place. But wherever you want your characters to reside, you have to tell your readers about it – where it is, when it is, how it feels to live and work there, what the physics are like, what it smells like, and (very important!) whether the food is any good.

I’ll help writers of every age and skill level understand the essential parts of world-building. My overview will help writers meet the editor and agent test – which will ultimately enable writers to populate the minds and imaginations of their readers with a fiction as real as the world in which we live.

From Westeros to West Hollywood, I’ll help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your genre. You’ll then be able to identify those strengths and use them to tell the story you want to tell. I’ll touch on fantastic places and characters as seen in comics, games, movies, and novels of every kind.

Tune into Discord on Monday April 19 at 6pm Eastern (that’s 2200 GMT, 3 pm on the US West Coast). You don’t even have to join. It’s part of Discord’s Writers of Strange Fiction monthlong online convention!