How an Iceberg is a Metaphor for a Great Story

Icebergs. I was thinking about icebergs this week.  The movie Titanic came to my mind, dragging with it the factual research I did just because I love learning about real events. That and more flowed through my brain in a moment of time along with the metaphor for writing a great story.

In case you’ve never thought about an iceberg, let me explain its deception. What you see floating on top of the water is only a fraction of what lies beneath.  A great story should be like that. The first page expands to the first chapter and holds your interest. Then as you turn the pages you go deep below the surface and find out the unexpected, the hidden things. Those parts of the story that bring it to life and take you on the adventure.

The iceberg which the Titanic hit was unexpected. It appeared smaller in the dark than it was, and the tragic adventure awaiting those unfortunate enough to draw near became the fate of the passengers.

Now, I’m not saying our novels should make people regret they read it.  Rather it should surprise them. The first page is in the middle of the action. The reader sees the action and wonders why and what is happening. If we throw a lot of backstory in the first chapter, then it resembles an inverted iceberg where all the height and breadth of it is there for all to see. Classic authors like Jane Austin and Charles Dickens began their books in such a way, telling us the why of the story and revealing the characters’ personality before we enter the scene.

The part beneath the water line is what makes the iceberg such a formidable foe for a ship or submarine that gets too close. Keeping that thought in mind consider the reader who discovers more of the characters and the story theme with every turn of the page. Now they are drilling down below the waterline and discovering more things of interest. An iceberg contains remnants of times past in its frozen layers. Once part of a larger ice mass, it now floats free in the water. As the reader turns pages of a novel he will discover the connectivity of characters with their past, the evil behind the idyllic setting, or the seeming uncrossable chasm between two lovers.

The difference between the massive ice and a novel is the conclusion. The iceberg will over time dissolve. What a boring fate. In contrast, a novel concludes with loose ends of the story resolved and the theme played, hopefully giving the reader a feeling of satisfaction as they reach the end. Or even better, a desire to read more from the author.

My thoughts on Endorsements

selective focus photography of orange hat

Photo by Artem Bali on

I’ve got a bee in my bonnet I thought I’d shared today. I love getting endorsements for my books, and I love giving them. But the thing that bugs me; fake endorsement.  Readers may stop trusting the endorser. Not what I want as a writer and blogger.

The Bee

It is acceptable among authors and publishers for writers to ask for an endorsement by sending a line or two they have written themselves. The celebrity, authority or author whose name appears on their book cover adds clout. So, they call or send a note. “I know you’re busy. You mentioned endorsing my upcoming book. To save you time I’ve written one for you. If you’re comfortable with the wording, may I add your name?”  Or something along those lines. Many are happy to do it.


Not me. I know people are busy, and it’s hard to set aside time to read a book. But for me, it is putting words in their mouths and I won’t do it. I ask for endorsements and send the person the pdf and the summary. Then let them write it in their own words. If they don’t finish the book and still write the endorsement then they’ve read enough to feel comfortable adding their name to the cover.

I always read the books I endorse. If I don’t have time, I decline the opportunity. Just as I give an honest review, I want to give an honest endorsement. I consider being asked an honor, and I don’t take that lightly.

The Sting

I was appalled to read the words “well-written” by an endorser for a book that wasn’t. It was amateurish and lacked professional editing.  Apparently, the individual endorser didn’t read the book. Some writers think readers don’t know what a well-written book looks like, so it doesn’t matter. Oh, but they do. Readers who trust the endorser for an honest assessment will be disappointed if their expectations aren’t met. I’m referring to terms like well-written or excellent wordsmith. Granted we all have our own opinions. If the endorser found it riveting, I may not. That’s different.

My Caution

In our effort to get a well-known person to endorse our work, we may find them more receptive if they don’t have to write the endorsement. Then you have a big name singing your praises on the cover. It may have little to no effect on your sales. Or your sales may skyrocket, but if your words are not well-written, the buyers will not return for your newest release. And if they trusted the endorser and were disappointed, the next book endorsed by the same person may be rejected out of hand by potential readers.

There now, the bee has escaped from my bonnet and I feel better.

What are your thoughts on getting and giving endorsements?


Computer Meltdown-Oh No!

computer meltdownThis past week my sweet hubby spent days trying to rescue my computer from meltdown. The Microsoft tech my husband spoke with on the third day really knew his stuff and remotely fixed everything. Hurrah.

The lesson learned. Don’t put off repairs. My computer was acting up and I kept putting off taking it in for cleaning, repairs, whatever it needed. After all, I had to write. Edits, proposals, blog posts—the list goes on. They were all due soon.

Here are the horrendous scenarios

It kept acting up. Widows 10 kept trying to load. Temporary crash while doing a proposal. Recovered the proposal, sent it off. Windows 10 tried to load again. Loaded Windows 10. Big Mess. Hubby talked to computer geek. Followed suggestions. Widows 10 installed. Now no Word program. No camera and no audio. Can’t write. Can’t do online critiques. Great! Hubby went back to the cyber drawing board and called Microsoft a few times. Now all is restored. At least where Microsoft 365 is concerned.

And then

Hub reinstalled Scrivener but I have to find the docs to place back in program. That’s where I construct my stories and rearrange scenes, outline ideas. In other words, my next novel creations are in their infancy somewhere in my pc.

You know it will happen

And did I mention my editor sent my MS to me for some additional edits when I had no Word program? Those are the things writer’s nightmares are made of. If not for my phone and mini tablet, I would have been unable to access my emails and send a note to my editor.

 broken computerBiggest lesson

My computer is important to my writing career. I must invest in programs, updates and even be willing to replace it sooner than later. I’d backed up my novel and proposals on a stick. But all my other stuff would have been lost if things had gotten worse. Microsoft has a cloud storage I’ll be using with this new version. Save your work in more than one place. A stick, the cloud, and external hard drive. Eva Marie Everson emails her latest draft to herself every day. If something happened to her computer she has a copy that can easily be restored.

Don’t put off keeping your PC in good working order. Runners don’t wear ratty tennis shoes. Cyclist don’t ride bikes with bent wheels. Dog groomers have their scissors and styling blades sharpened often. And painters don’t use rickety ladders.  If you are serious about your wordsmithing keep your equipment in good shape.

It won’t be long and docx will be the only acceptable format for publishers. They move with technology so we must as well. Keep your receipts and turn them into your tax preparer. Get an external hard drive, sticks, and subscribe to a cloud storage space. Don’t be like others we’ve all heard about who lost their complete manuscript due to a computer malfunction. The latest version of Word saves your work even when your power dies or you have a temporary crash. But if your computer has to be wiped because of a virus that has shut ‘er down, you may be frantically trying to recreate your masterpiece from memory.

How do you back up your documents and keep your work protected? Leave a comment inquiring minds want to know. 

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A Lesson in Plot Twists from Supergirl


A different twist. That’s what I see every week as I watch Supergirl. The original trailer didn’t appeal to me but my husband was intrigued. Week after week it draws me in. Supergirl is not Superman. Both are from Krypton and she is his cousin. But beyond that the similarities stop. She has a group around her who know she is Supergirl. She is learning how to use her super powers and find her identity. She was sent to earth at the same time as Superman to be his protector when she was 13. However, her spacecraft was trapped in a time warp for 25 years. When she finally arrived on earth Superman is an adult and places her with a human family where she has a sister. No loner here. She knew her Kryptonian heritage and has a whole load of aliens to fight. Supergirl is not always in control of her emotions. She gets jealous, flustered and fights with her sister. Her alter ego Kyra Danvers works for a Media Company that is in direct competition with the Daily planet. She is not a reporter but the executive assistant to CatCo Media’s owner and CEO. Her tough female boss isn’t fooled by her glasses disguise. (Don’t you just love it.)

Melissa Benoist filming "Supergirl"


All these differences create a new Super world. One audiences are captivated by. The ssame applies to getting your novel out to the masses. Deadlock-DiAnn-Mills-134x210Take a common storyline and mix it up. DiAnn Mills has lots of strong female characters who are FBI, CIA and Secret Services agents and lots of other typical manly roles. The adventures speed along like Die Hard movies and crash to a dramatic conclusion.


A different twist in your novel

My debut historical novel has a rancher who sends for a mail order bride. There are many books with the mail order bride theme. My bride however is a doctor hiding form her past. The rancher is raising an orphan niece and there are characters who aren’t who they claim to be. The mail-order idea has been converted to a more modern setting by several authors with cyber dating, and marriage arrangements for material gain.

Every mystery has a problem to solve but the problem and the course of action have limitless possibilities. Some writers like Barndilyn Collins are heavy on research so lots of details educate as well as entertain the reader. Doulbe Blind

While others are sprinkled with humor and dorky characters. Check out Linda W.Yezak’s The Cat Lady’s Secret.Cat Lady's Secret-2


Crime novels can be written from any viewpoint even the family pet. We know romance novels always end with a couple finding true love. The journey to happily ever after has to have challenges that lend themselves to lots of “what if” moments. Otherwise its just—boring.

What novel have you read lately that surprised you with its delightful twists?


Setting Description from Different POV Deepens the Storyline

Point of view (POV) is always a challenge. I shared in a previous post Manuscript in a box: Print It Out For A Fresh Perspective how I found some interesting booboos. As I read through I noticed I’d skewed POV in a few places. In a scene where we are experiencing everything from Dan’s POV, I wrote his words warmed Isabella’s heart. How would Dan know that? He wouldn’t. Unless I gave him the ability of a mind reader, he wouldn’t know. He might have noticed her smile or a blush. But he can only experience his own warm heart.

POV is like wearing camera glasses. You can only see through one characters eyes.  Photo from

POV is like wearing camera glasses. You can only see through one characters eyes. Photo from

Imagine, as you write, you are wearing camera glasses. You can only write through the eyes of one character. You can’t know the inner thoughts of the other characters in the scene. In Dan’s POV if his words offend Isabella, I need to have her verbalize it or show body language that the reader can experience with Dan.

POV setting

Point of view has more facets beyond staying in your character’s head in dialog. POV takes in setting. Have you ever read a book where the main character is male, but the description of setting through the eyes of this character seemed more feminine? As your character enters a new setting, think about how he might see it. A cowboy might enter a saloon with a different focus than a school marm.

Setting is view through a lens distorted by the characters perception and emotions. Photo from

Setting is view through a lens distorted by the characters perception and emotions.
Photo from

Camera Glasses

Let’s put on our camera glasses and look at the saloon from each POV.

The cowboy

Tony batted his Stetson on his thigh to release some of the trail dust before placing it back on his head. Passing through the saloon’s swinging doors the piano music invited him to relax after days on the trail. A tiny blond with sultry blue eyes and painted lips swayed toward him. He knew he’d part with some of his wages to steal a few kisses. Tony placed a silver dollar on the bar smiling at the bartender.

“Keep the whiskey coming ‘til this is gone.”

The droopy mustache twitched as the bartender poured. “The best in the house, sir.”

Tony gulped the watered down whiskey as a rosewater scent surrounded him and a tiny hand touched his arm.

The School Marm

Now let’s see how this same setting effects the School Marm.

Millie’s heart constricted as she stepped through the swinging doors of the saloon. Curious looks from sweaty, ill-kept men focused on her. A blond woman in a colorful short dress that revealed too much of her womanly form scowled at her. The bartender’s eyes roamed Millie’s form, his droopy mustache straightened with his smile, revealing missing teeth. Millie took a breath to quiet her racing heart only to have her nose assailed by body odor and smoke. Bile rose in her throat.

“God deliver me.”

Mille had warned her little brother. “Mark my words, Henry, you enter that den of iniquity again you will find me dragging you home.”

“Sis, you don’t have the stomach for it.” Henry had laughed at her scolding threat.

Standing in the doorway her eyes adjusted to the dim light. “We’ll see whose laughing once I get you home.” Anger overtook her timid spirit.

Mille spied Henry’s red hair under the familiar straw hat. He hadn’t noticed her yet. His eyes fixed on his cards. She approached the table in the back of the saloon. The piano’s out of tune rendition of Camp Town Races drowned out her quick footfalls on the tobacco stained wooden floor.

Notice how each character experienced the room differently. Tony found it a respite from the trail. While Millie saw the worst of the place. When writing a scene think about from whose eyes the reader is viewing the setting. The setting description can be revisited with a different character POV if it gives the reader a better picture of the surroundings and builds the story.

Saloon girl

Sally adjusted her bodice before descending the stairs. She counted the steps. There were thirty. Each step pulling her down to a job she hated. A job full of shame as red as the velvet curtains hiding the stage where the floor show took place three times a night. On the last step she took a deep breath and pasted on the sultry smile Maggie had taught her. The Rosebud was full of cowboys and gamblers anxious to take their money. Sally needed to work the room tonight. She’d refused to be a part of the floor show which would have netted her an extra fifty cents a night.

She was a mother now and her baby lay in his crib with fever. The piano music drowned out his whimpers. Sally surveyed the room and fixed her gaze on a young cowboy not yet inebriated. This saloon had more class than any of the others she’d been unfortunate enough to work in. The bartender loved to look but never touched. Maggie kept a clean house.

“Flatter ‘em, dance with ‘em. Even a kiss for the right price. But if they get to handsy slap their face.”

Maggie’s muscly, tall husband, Francis, watched for offenders and manhandled them out the swinging door before they had a chance to protest.

Sally felt safe for the first time in years. Baby Jimmy was cared for by Maggie’s maid when she worked. No patrons were allowed upstairs. If she didn’t earn enough tonight she’d volunteer to help clean after closing. Baby Jimmy needed a doctor’s care. This was no kinda place to raise a child but what other choice did she have. Placing her hand on the cowboy’s shoulder she whispered near his ear.

“Buy a girl a drink, handsome.”

Sally’s POV revealed something we hadn’t expected in a saloon. A place of safety. Now we have three story lines brewing. And three different perspectives of the same setting.

Do you have anything you’d like to share about POV? Leave a comment.

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Writing Tip and TV Repair

TVWeirdness was happening on our TV. My husband noticed it first. When I finally heard it, I wasn’t sure I’d heard it. It’s only on certain channels. And less noticeable in cartoons. But during regular programming it is well—weird.

While the action is happening a voiceover explains the action. As the characters sat down at a table and during their conversation, a voice interrupts the action to explain they are sitting around a table and opening beers. Then the voice tells us the character Paul has a frown. Then the voice explains Tammy is touching his shoulder after handing him a beer. Then she walks out of the room. Talk about slowing down the action, pulling me out of the story making me want to run away screaming.

It took a call to the cable company to solve the mystery. Everyone is probably aware TVs come with the capability of closed caption for the hearing impaired. But did you know there is a language button on your cable box for the sight-impaired? They can listened to the dialog and an explanation of the action. How the language button got activated is still a mystery. Having the same problem on more than one TV became a mystery for the cable company to solve from their end.


On-The-Nose Writing is Annoying to the Reader. Photos from

Broken sound =broken scenes

But this misadventure is not a total loss. This annoying mishap reminded me of on-the-nose dialog. The kind of dialog …well, let me illustrate.

“You look upset, Clara.” Brad remarked.

“Do I?” Clara questioned.

“By your furrowed brow and tapping foot. Not to mention your crossed arms I’d say so.” Brad observed as he neatly arranged her favorite lunch of chicken salad sandwich and tomato soup on her desk.

“You are so observant. How well you know me.” Clara added with a glare.

Brad placed his hands on her arms and pulled her to him to stop her from tapping her foot and erase the furrowed brow with one of surprise. Clara wrenched his arms away continuing to glare. He thought he was so smart. Well, she’d not have it.

“Oh no you don’t. I’ll tap my foot if I want to.” Clara declared.

Pretty awful isn’t it. Can you see the on- the-nose writing?

Let’s rework this piece to avoid on-the-nose and give us hints into their relationship. I apologize in advance for its lack of polish. I want to show the obvious diffence. So, he it is.

Brad noticed Clara’s warpath stance, crossed arms, tapping foot and furrow brow. It screamed get out of my way.

“So who ticked you off this time?”

Brad sat the lunch sacks on her desk before facing her.

“You know me so well.” Clara’s sarcasm had no effect on her assistant.

“Are you going to tell me or wear the floor out pacing?” Brad leaned against the desk watching her.

Clara made a few more laps before she stopped in front of Brad. Their eyes locked for several seconds before Clara sank into his arms. Muffled sobs wet his shirt.

The second grouping tells us so much more about their relationship than the first. And his inner observation is that little voice for the visually impaired telling us what we need to see. On TV where all the actions and facial expressions are seen, the additional information is aggravating. On the nose writing can be just as annoying. The action in a story needs just enough of that little voice to create the scene and place the reader in the moment. Your word picture needs to compliment the dialog and give it a real feel.

Did you see the difference?

How often have you caught yourself pausing while reading and saying… “Thanks, Captain Obvious.” You know, when you read  “I’m so angry.” She said angrily.

On- the -nose writing is so easy to do, and it takes a few read-throughs, usually by others, to catch the more subtle ones. Like my TV, you may need help from the professionals to fix the problem. But once you’ve eliminated it, your words will sound much better. Your readers will embrace your characters as friends and enjoy learning their story.

Have you caught any on-the-nose writing in a published novel? Do you find it in your own writing? Please tell me about it in the comments.

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Penning Words on a Page Helps Heal Grief

This past weekend my brother-in-law passed away. He had been very unwell. My husband felt peaceful at his passing. There were tears as well. Then Charley took the time to pen the following on Facebook.

My brother-in-law Kenneth Huff loved to fish.

My brother-in-law Kenneth Huff loved to fish.

As a writer I am expected to be able to find the right words to express what is in the heart. Today as my brother died and slipped into the pages of ancestor lists and left me the lone survivor of everyone who completed my family when growing up (not counting cousins), I have no words to explain what I feel. I can only say it is nothing like I had imagined. I am thankful I am not alone, and I know I will never be alone. In a little while I will stop looking back at the ones who have passed, will turn around, and with the biggest smile look for what still lies ahead. I refuse to believe that I will ever reach “the point where life takes away more than it gives.” (Co-professor to Indiana Jones, last episode)

It may never win him a Pulitzer Prize but it does bring healing and closure for him. When my sister died I wrote her eulogy. It was only read to a few people who cared about our family. But it too brought healing.

Not everything writers pen sees the light of publication. Our gift of words serves many purposes. In times of loss it ministers to our souls. Even in times of trouble, trials and loss don’t desert your gift of words. Fill your journals with your emotions and memories. Let the grief and anxiety and confusion fill page after page.

When I pen my grief I feel a connection with my Heavenly Father that verbal communication can’t reach at this time. My lips may be silent but my heart is full. The grief needs to fall out of me onto paper. Some thoughts and feelings need not be expressed to another human. But my God sees those words and caresses me with understanding. Then as I write my impressions of that caress and the words I hear him whisper into the ear of my soul I find peace.

That peace may evolve into something publishable. If not. No matter. The sorrow of others will be easier to empathize with because I have written my secret needs in a letter to my Father in heaven. I know he can carry my friends and family through their grief as well.

Write for yourself while you go through tough times. Let your words be the key to your recovery.

Charley in the foreground with his older brother Kenny a Christmas in the 1950s.

Charley in the foreground with his older brother Kenny a Christmas in the 1950s.

RIP Kenneth Huff.

Do you use your gift of writing to sooth your own hurts or anxieties?

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