Seeing Red


Today I’m hosting Noah JD Chinn of Mossfoot Editing on my blog. He’s graciously agreed to put his red pen aside, or should I say, his track changes and comment bubbles, so that we can learn more about him.

Noah has worked with a variety of writers including New York Times, USA Today and Amazon best selling authors. As both an editor and multi-published author, Noah knows what it’s like to be on both sides of the keyboard and I know first hand what that kind of experience can bring to a project. Noah edited my debut novel, STILL LIFE.

For the benefit of those who haven’t worked with an editor before, let me briefly explain what such a professional does when it comes to bringing your raw project to a shiny, ready for publication, finish. An editor ensures your manuscript follows a logical course to the best ending possible, making it stronger. Then they refine and polish it. He or she will do this while maintaining the writer’s voice and goals. An editor will find balance between the writer’s vision and the publisher’s expectations, all while meeting the needs of the reader. Good editors are sticklers and have an eye for detail. In fact, Noah is probably doing some mental editing on this blog even as he reads it.

Editors are writers, too. In addition to some world-class editing, Noah has also published several genre-blended books and short stories, that include a cartoon series, satire, science fiction & fantasy, paranormal suspense, horror, and his latest, a mystery set in 1985—each one sprinkled with his unique sense of humor.

Let’s get to know a bit more about Noah.                             Noah photo

Describe what would be the perfect manuscript to edit.

One that was good enough to win a Pulitzer yet needed hardly any work from me?

Kidding aside, my favorite authors are those who have a solid grasp of the mechanics of writing, because it means less nitpicking on my end. But more importantly, I enjoy working with those who understand and enjoy the nature of storytelling. Sometimes I’ll end up jamming with authors over email about how arcs might develop, or how to breathe life into a villain so they’re not a cardboard cutout, how to play with certain tropes so they don’t come off as cliche. If it’s a good story and I’m having fun working with it, that’s about as perfect as it can get.

What are the qualities of a good, marketable manuscript?

For a single book it boils down to two things: characters and world. You don’t just want to be invested in the characters, you want to live where they do for a time. Doesn’t matter if it’s a small town or a space station across the galaxy, it needs to feel real enough that you imagine yourself hanging out there with the characters.

For a series you want a sense of something bigger going on as well, to keep you coming back. Not just a matter of having loose threads to tie up, but mysteries you want to uncover, or larger plans you want to see build and coalesce. The trick is introducing or drawing out these things in a way that isn’t ham-fisted.

What are the worst (or common, you choose) mistakes a writer can make with a manuscript?

The most common mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of, they’re common for a reason. Heck, I came up with a list and still add to it from time to time. And sometimes they’re the hardest ones for a writer to notice because they’ve become blind to it.

Overusing visual tricks is one thing, like italics for emphasis, scare quotes, ellipses. Also, short two-word and one-sentence “bam” type paragraphs. These are things we add for visual and tonal style, and are fine as long as they’re not overused.

Over description, whether it be someone’s appearance or using too much stage direction to describe every move someone makes. For example: He strode across the room, turned the door knob, opened the door, left, closed the door behind him, and walked away. (Yes, I have seen sentences almost exactly like that)

Overuse of dialog tags (Bob groaned, grumbled, growled, etc) when “said” will do just fine. If Bob is saying it in a surly fashion, it should come out through the words rather than being told how he said it.

You’ll notice the term “over” pops up again and again, which is perhaps the real lesson to take away from this. Too much of anything will get noticed.

What was the oddest editing experience you’ve ever had?

The true oddities I’ve thankfully been shielded from. Some of the slush submissions our team had to sift through had some doozies, and they would share them from time to time–everything from creepy-as-hell story pitches (creepy as in “this person should be in jail”) to overconfident submissions where the author clearly assumes they’re a best-seller just waiting to be discovered by someone and they are blessing you with the divine opportunity to be that person… those are especially hilarious when they can’t spell. But I’ve never had to deal with those submissions myself, I just get to hear the laughs (and wails) from the editors that do.

Any words of advice to a writer who’s not sure if they should invest in professional editing?

Even my most polished writers still benefit from having a couple of passes from a copy editor (and a line editor to clean up). Writers become blind to their own failings–lord knows I am–and while using friends as beta readers can help, they’re not going to pay the same attention to detail that a proper editor will.

That’s true. Plus, I learned that friends are apt to dance around the hard truth that a writer may need to hear.

Let’s get personal. Tell us three things about you that we don’t already know.

What do you know? Who have you been talking to? What have they told you? Did they send you?

Ha, wouldn’t you like to know.

Let’s choose some really random stuff that you won’t find on my website or blog:

1) I got fired from being a security guard for throwing toonies on the ground trying to pop the center out.

2) In Japan I taught English to the director of the horror movie “The Grudge” at a Starbucks.

3) I still have a drawing my brother drew of me writing a story that he did over 20 years ago. The original is long lost, but I had taken a picture of it and printed off a copy that’s on my office wall.

Three truly fun facts!   But what’s a toonie?


photo: Royal Canadian Mint

A yes, sorry, forgot you’re not Canadian 😉  Toonie is a 2 dollar coin, which has a silver outer ring and a goldish inner center. When they first came out people complained that the center could pop out if they were dropped hard enough.


Other than the computer, what modern convenience could you never live without?

The refrigerator. No fridge means no ice cream. No ice cream means no life. Well, not one worth living anyway.

My hubby would agree.  Are there any unique challenges for an author who also edits professionally?

Finding time for your own writing.

And how do you balance that precious time between your editing job and your personal writer’s journey?

That’s a struggle I’m still dealing with. Working from home requires self-discipline, and I am not exactly a storehouse of that. If something has to be sacrificed on any given day, it’s almost always my own work in favor of editing. I’m hoping to get more focused as time goes on, but it’s not easy. There’s always a new distraction waiting somewhere. Facebook, video games, binge watching TV shows… by the time I figure it out I’ll probably have a VR headset and then I’ll be down the rabbit hole all over again.

Social media is addictive and fun, but it’s a time suck to be sure.

What do you enjoy most when you do manage some free time?

In a word: escape. Exactly what kind of escape can vary.

I live to have real life adventures now and then, bike riding long distance (got eight countries under my belt), hiking up mountains, or just travel in general.

I also like games. My favorite being Elite: Dangerous, because in it I can be a starship captain. There is no plot other than what you impose on it – be a trader, be a pirate, be a bounty hunter, be an explorer. Whatever you want. That freedom lets me create my own adventures in my head.

Writing is another kind of escape, and I sometimes do that in conjunction with my other escapes. I’ve written about my adventures, either as blogs or stories, and I’ve written about games like Elite Dangerous by taking my in-game adventures and fictionalizing it for fun. Yes, this editor writes fanfic.

I also play roleplaying games (of the paper and pencil variety), which kind of combines all of the above, and in a social setting with friends.

Every author has a process–what works for them when they write. What does your writing process look like from first scribbles to finished manuscript?

I usually have a vague idea of the shape of a story, but I’m not the sort to plot everything out ahead of time. I want to be surprised as well as I go along, and I usually am. More than once I’ve had stories end up far different than I originally thought starting out, sometimes because of how the characters develop changes where things go.

So basically, come up with a situation, come up with a character, see how character deals with situation.

What is your formula for finding the perfect plot twist? 

God I hope there isn’t one. Sorry, it’s just that “formula” to me feels like you’re looking for a magic bullet. And once you think you have that, it’s going to be a crutch rather than an aid.

J.J. Abrams talked about his success in screenplays and TV by introducing “the mystery box.”  It’s an effective way of hooking an audience, but getting them to ask questions and a desire to have them answered.

Then remember that this is the same guy who gave us Lost. Lots of great mysteries, but lots of disappontment when it came to giving us answers in the end. If you’re going to give us a mystery box, there better damn well be something good in it.

Anyway, sometimes a twist comes naturally, when you get to a part in a story, look back, and realize there’s something else going on the whole time. I had that experience with Trooper #4, where the role of the protagonist suddenly became clear to me about halfway into my first draft, and changed where the story was going.

If you’re writing with a twist in mind, then you need to make sure you cover your tracks, but still play fair. It’s never fun when a twist comes out and there were no clues beforehand. Clever readers might predict it, sure, but more often than not they predict several possible twists to cover their bases anyway.

If you could thrive solely either as an editor or novelist, which one you choose and why?

Oh, that’s hard. It’s always been my dream to make a living just as an author, but being an editor has one thing that my writing doesn’t – collaboration.  Working with a dozen different authors to make their stories better is very statisfying. Working on my own is just kinda lonely by comparison. But I’m also in control and exploring my stories and worlds, which is hella fun.

I might have to flip a coin on this one.

What is your favorite book of all time? (feel free to say mine, it’s okay :-D)

As much as I’d like to say that, it’s probably The Lord of the Rings. I don’t often re-read novels, but that and Stephen King’s On Writing are the only books I’ve ever re-read more than five times each. I don’t think any story has felt more “real” to me than LOTR.

Tell us a little bit about your recent release.

One of my favorite mysteries is The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett.  The relationship and banter between Nick and Nora Charles was just perfect. Hell, I envied their relationship. So when I decided to write mysteries I wanted to try and capture some of that with James and Lettice Cote. First in Getting Rid of Gary and now in The Plutus Paradox.

As for the setting, in many ways the 1980s was the end of an era for mysteries. Magnum P.I., Murder She Wrote… those kind of mysteries can’t really fly in the internet/cellphone age. And especially not post 9/11. Part of what appealed to the first readers of Sherlock Holmes was that it harkened back to Gaslight London in a time when electricity was taking over. There was a nostalgia for a time that was still in memory, yet gone forever.

I think of the 1980s in a similar fashion, and wanted to use these stories to tap into it.

What other projects are you working on? 

A fanfic story that I hope won’t stay fanfic. The developers of Elite: Dangerous had licenced some official fiction back when it was first released, and I’m hoping they’ll allow more licences to be released in the near future. That would be awesome.

I also have an adventure story called Relics I’m getting ready to submit. It’s basically a modern day Indiana Jones, except with a team of treasure hunters instead of just one. Unlike the James and Lettice mysteries, I’m fully embracing the idea of how technology is changing the adventure story, trying to use everything at our disposal in a logical manner.

Nice, both sound like ambitious projects and I wish you the best of luck!    Thank you, Noah, for spending time here today and being so candid. It’s been a pleasure. 

Click the banner below to catch up with Noah on his website:  Noah Chinn Books

   Noah's website:blog

Or contact him for editing:

Noahjdchinn               Mossfoot Editing


 Here’s the scoop on Noah’s latest book:

PlutusParadox-lgThe Plutus Paradox is the second James and Lettice Cote mystery. Set in Vancouver in 1985, it revolves around the sudden kidnapping of Lettice’s father, Harold–a man she thought had been dead for fifteen years. And as If that wasn’t strange enough, the couple are left to care for the missing man’s six year old daughter, Lettice’s sister, also named Lettice.

In a case that spans Vancouver’s preparations for Expo 86 to the reclusive leftover hippie communes of the Sunshine Coast, James and Lettice are on a race against the clock to find out why Harold disappeared fifteen years ago, and who has him now. They soon discover that Harold is a man full of contradictions, but also learn that not everything about his past is what it seems to be.

Amazon               Mundania Press                 Read An Excerpt


Author Interview: Barbara Meyers

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Today I’m interviewing author, Barbara Meyers. She is a multi-published and talented writer of contemporary romance and screwball fantasy under the pen name, AJ Tillock. 

Join me in welcoming Barbara. Let’s jump right in and get to know her a bit better.

Barbara, what do you think people would be the most surprised to learn about you?

They’d probably be shocked to learn about my spirituality/relationship with God. And further shocked that I believe everything positive flows from Him. And yes, that includes the creativity/ability to write romance novels!

Ahhh, yes, we romance novelists tend to tuck some sexy scenes into our writing from time to time. Now, whether the actions of our characters is sinful or not can be debated another day, eh?

What do you like to do on Sundays?

That depends if I’m working my day job or not. If I’m not I like to get up whenever I feel like it, have coffee very leisurely, then either make breakfast or make my husband go get bagels. We never have a plan. Last week I checked out the service at a new church. I might read or write or clean or take a nap. Sundays are always a surprise.

I like that, a laid back Sunday with hubby doing the hunter gatherer thing at the bakery—nice! Every author has a process—what works for them when they write. What does your writing process look like from first scribbles to finished manuscript?

It’s a mess and I don’t recommend it to anyone. It starts with an idea and I write down every possibility and save it in a Word doc. Characters, setting, plot, back story. I keep doing that all the time I’m working on the book. Adding to it, solving problems, playing what if…? asking myself questions like “Why did her mother show up?” and dating each entry. I also write whatever scene is in my head even if I don’t know where it will go in the book or even if I will use it. I end up with a bunch of separate Word docs and then I cobble it all together into a manuscript. Somewhere along the line I attempt to write a synopsis, a tag line and a blurb because it helps me clarify what the story is about.

I love to hear about what works for other authors when it comes to writing. It makes my sticky note obsession seem harmless (hold on while a tear a few slips off and find a place to stick ‘em).

What modern convenience could you never live without?

Computer! I don’t think I’d be writing books if I didn’t have one.

(nodding) Definitely. 

What is your all time favorite book?

Jane Eyre

Nuff said. Is there a specific author who inspires you?

I never think of an author as inspiring me. There are a lot of authors I admire and the reason I admire them is because they’ve had long careers and they write consistently good books. Authors like Sandra Brown and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

How did you come up with the title for your latest book?

The book opens when the heroine is not quite awake and in the middle of a recurring dream about her ideal lover who she refers to in her mind as “Fantasy Man.” Wah-la. There’s the title.

Oh. My fantasy man just popped into my head. I see how that works. Tell us a little about the book.

Ha ha. Well, Fantasy Man turns into Reality Man when she realizes he’s in bed with her. She wasn’t expecting that and he has no idea she’s there.

Okay, I’m going to add Fantasy Man to my TBR list while you tell us what other projects you’re working on.

I’ve been dragging out some of my older unpubbed manuscripts and taking another look at them. And I have an almost completed contemporary romance about a former adult film actress who starts a new life in a small Iowa town.

It certainly sounds like you’ll be busy for awhile. Thanks for squeezing this interview into your day.

And thanks everyone for tuning in!

We’re writers and we love an audience. To prove it, everyone who leaves a comment over the next 30 days, reblogs this interview, and links it back to this blog will have their name put in a hat (rafflecopter, actually) for a chance to win something cool. What can you win? Barbara is giving away an ebook of FANTASY MAN (US only, sorry) and I will send you the first two chapters of my current work in progress just for kicks.

Now, here’s the official info on FANTASY MAN by Barbara Meyers.


One lie of omission could turn her wildest dream into a world of hurt.

Quinn Fontana never thought witnessing two murders would lead to her first taste of freedom. But when her overprotective brother puts her on a plane for L.A. to hide until it’s time to testify, she can’t stop the shiver of anticipation. If her life is going to be cut short, she plans to live it to the fullest. And that includes seducing her intended protector—her brother’s best friend and star of her private fantasies.

When security consultant Reif Callaghan awakens after a rowdy night out with his coworkers to find a warm, willing woman in his bed, he’s almost past the point of no return when he realizes it’s Quinn. And he’s come way too close to debauching his best friend’s little sister.

Her enticing offer—one night, no holding back, no regrets—is a temptation he can’t resist. Until he realizes she’s been hiding a piece of vital information that could cost not only their one chance to turn fantasy into reality, but their lives.

Warning: Contains fantasy-come-true sex, get-it-out-of-their-system sex, angry-as-hell sex, and on-the-run sex. Also, accidental ferret-napping. Asthmatics are advised to load up on antihistamines before reading.

Amazon                                                         Samhain Publishing

                                  Catch up with Barbara on her blog:

Interview: D.B. Kennison

Thank you, Sophie H. Morgan, for hosting me on your blog today. This was such a fun interview to do with a fellow writer from across the pond. ;-D

Sophie H. Morgan

I’m thrilled to host a fantastic author on today’s blog. You might have read my glowing review of STILL LIFE by D.B Kennison yesterday – if you haven’t, you can read that here – so I’m pleased to get the ins and outs of this author’s mind from the horse’s mouth. Please welcome D.B. Kennison!

Welcome, Darlene! Thanks so much for appearing on my blog today. 🙂 Firstly, name something I wouldn’t be able to find out about you through Google.

I love to swim. So much so, that I think I must have been a fish or porpoise in another life. When I’m in a ‘zone’, I will swim at least a mile every day. 

Blimey, that’s good. I’m a strict landlubber. Or a dangle-your-feet-in-a-pool person 😉 Can you tell us a little about STILL LIFE (for those who haven’t read its awesomeness yet)?

51qlFbdgWRL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_STILL LIFE is a quirky…

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Do you prefer bent, straight or blended?

A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be part of an author round table on International Thriller Writer’s on air forum—Author’s on the Air ( blog talk radio ), talking about next steps in a debut author’s path. It was an interview of four other thriller writers for an hour long sharing of personal journeys.

With fellow debut authors, Matt Brolly, R. K. Jackson, H.A. Raynes, and Brendan Rielly as guests, I was among impressive company. I’ve since scoped out their books and have added all of these debut novels have to my TBR list.

What an opportunity it was to share our books with thriller readers. It was interesting to hear about the varied experiences on writing, publishing, and what comes next for a new author. There were some similarities among the group but as I listened to each writer talk, it was obvious my novel was slightly different from the straight thrillers featured. The line that kept running through my head was, one of these things is not like the others.

My debut, STILL LIFE, is listed as a romantic suspense novel. As a mixed genre with offbeat comedic wit among the pure thrill reads it seemed like a rose among more ominous corpse flowers. The comparison brought me back to an interview I’d heard about a month before where the author of a dark romantic suspense project had a difficult time selling her project to a publisher because of the genre blended concept.

Fast forward a few months and I have come to learn that it is challenging to market a genre-blended or genre-bent project. It neither fits neatly into the romance nor thriller categories and some readers have a problem with that. I consider my book a suspense mystery with a story thread that is romantic. I call it my kitchen sink book because it has a little something for everyone.

This blending of genres is challenging for some purists. They just can’t get past the mix. I’ve had readers think I missed the mark of writing a good romance, while still others don’t understand the quirky humor of my characters, strange plot twists or the need for graphic violence and profanity. Some have complimented my ability to nail a deep POV, while another opined my failure to flesh out a fully romantic character.

All of this has me shaking my head and wondering, can a novel with a hybrid storyline find a solid foothold in the book market? Me personally, I’m not opposed to reading romance novels, they’re just not the first books I turn to. My tastes run along a darker bent. I am first a fan of thriller and mystery fiction with page-turning suspense and influences from writers such as Blake Crouch, James Patterson, Stephen King, and Jeffery Deaver. However, I’m also a fan of Tami Hoag, Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, and Lisa Jackson. As such, it’s understandable that my writing may reflect some of the traits of both genres. I think that’s okay and based on these reviews of STILL LIFE I’m not alone:

“The last 10% of this novel is wicked intense, as our heroine runs for her life from a psychotic killer.” “But it was also surprisingly funny, sweet, and sexy as hell. Everything builds towards a suspenseful climax which will keep you on the edge of your seat.” ~ROMANCE4THEBEACH

 “The first title in the “Randi Lassiter” murder mystery series paints a grisly picture of a deranged serial killer and the grotesque capabilities of a twisted mind. But romance readers don’t despair! Sparks fly between the jilted Randi and her hunky detective, and not even gruesome murder scenes can stop this pair from igniting.” ~Library Journal

According to Writer’s Digest genre-blended books have been around for a while now and can be successful when done right. Marketing and sales may be a challenge for the publisher trying to slot and sell your book, but the bigger issue is meeting audience expectation. Readers take great comfort in knowing that their latest book isn’t going to surprise them too much or leave them disappointed.

It’s important that the base genre be at the forefront or that the blended genres are equally balanced, with crossed lines nearly invisible so that fans are not distracted from the story.

Entertaining readers and meeting their expectations is the same. Romance fans want to be swept up in a steamy relationship, mystery fans want to try to solve the whodunit along the way, and genre fans in general want standard outcomes to still be met by the end of the book. Added elements or crossover should enrich the storyline, not throw it out of balance.

Again, I ask, can genre-blended fiction find a foothold in the book market?


It may be a challenge to find the right placement and there will always be readers who prefer their fiction to run to the traditional only and that’s fine. But let’s embrace those adventurous souls who want to mix it up and have a little fun. In fact, check out the unique favorites Lincoln Michel chose to talk about in Publisher’s Weekly last November (  10 Best Genre-Bending Books ). Now there’s some bent genre reads to add to my TBR list.

Keep reading. And for goodness sake…try something new!