Monday, June 27, 2022



Ideas. Where do they go?

Now that sounds like a rhetorical question, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s a literal one. Where do you store that idea that flashes like a brilliant meteor you try to catch before it flickers out while you’re working on something else?

Sometimes those ideas come from dreams. I’m very envious of folks that remember a dream and then turn it into a bestseller or sellers.😊I do well to remember the gist of my dreams let alone convert them into a block-busting series.😊

 Besides trying to remember them before they fade, I have an extra step. These days, everything I write has a Western theme. So not only do I have to remember a thought as it’s dissipating, I have to convert that idea into a Western setting and often to a different time.

Somehow the great ideas that start as a saga in my dreams often trickle down to a few sentences, a vague beginning and ending. I type up that sentence or two then wonder what happened to the rest of the dream. I save them in doc where they languish. And languish. And languish. Often times outliving my computers.

Recently, I started a folder labeled Unfinished Ideas then began combing through my documents. I found some of those ideas I’d forgotten about under ‘unknown’, ‘next western romance’, etc.


I haven’t converted those dreams into stories yet, but at least now I can find them.

What about you? What do you do with your ideas, your story-worthy dreams? Where do you keep them?  Have you actually converted a dream into a story? 

 Wherever you keep your dreams, I hope you hold them close, take them out, dust them off and one day bring them to life.




Monday, June 20, 2022

Word for Writers

 The Vocabulary Habit 

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, 

book and marketing consultant, writer and,

when my life needs a dose of joy, a poet, too!

 I was in love with writing—and even grammar—long before I was in love with words. I became smitten with words about the same time I fell in love with my husband about sixty-three years ago. When we opened the door to our new one-bedroom apartment ($75. a month, I kid you not!), we found a tattered book that once belonged to a previous tenant. It was one of the early paperbacks (pocketbooks) called something like “A Word a Day” and we committed exactly that—one word a day—to memory before we went to sleep each night. We did it together. That list was spot-on, a list of words that might appear on an SAT exam or a Graduate Record Exam (GRE). 

My vocabulary-intensity rating went up and down after that, mostly down. Jobs, children, and a business interfered. But lately it crescendoed along with my interest in poetry. And then one day (it was a cloudy, uneventful day during my self-imposed isolation during the Days of Covid) an email from WordGenius appeared in my email box. I may have signed up for it. If I did, I don’t remember, and I was a bit annoyed. Spam, I thought. But I played their little games and got hooked again. Then the emails kept getting more frequent. New and even more fun features. It was a little like the internet in general, designed for addiction. 

I was especially intrigued with the words that were directly related to writing. They reminded me of a column I once wrote for a print magazine in the early 2000s for…was it Writer’s Magazine? I remembered what the column was called, so I did a search in my computer for “Affecting Words” and there they were. Every single column. Soon I was adding words I collected from my new email games that I might someday use for more “Affecting Words” columns, words I didn’t know then, some words I had never heard! 

That list is getting longer, and I started thinking about a kind of memoir based on the love of words—especially words associated with writing—and what Carolyn See, a now-deceased writing friend called “The Writing Life” in her memoir. 

And then it turned out that another auspicious email from Elizabeth Seckman, the editor of your IWSG newsletter, showed up in my email box. The "Ask Carolyn" column needed more posts. I suggested a change from writer advice, to the love of words. She, also being a lover of words, readily agreed and now, starting in June, IWSG authors and fans will have a new series from me which will allow me to continue to indulge in this newly revived addiction of mine. They will appear in IWSG’s News & Updates monthly newsletter. The last Wednesday of every month, you will get a word fix if you are signed up for the monthly newsletter. If you're not, there's no secret handshake, just sign up HERE.   

If you are wondering if an author—a wordsmithery by trade—could possibly need a word game other than The New York Times’ crossword you may already do, here are some of “my” affecting words as a little test to see if you think you might run across some you need. As you can see, most are associated with writing or publishing in some way. Some may even nourish your crossword skills! In any case, why not give it a try! And send me words you’d like to see there at HoJoNews @ AOL dot com with “The Vocabulary Habit”in the subject line. 



Semantic Narrowing 




Synecdoche (one of my favorites) 

Test yourself. Or just join and play with me. (No, I don’t get paid for inviting you!) Of course, all my IWSG words won’t have appeared there and may not have appeared in there in the past. 

Have I written the first page of that book I mentioned? Not yet. Do you want to take bets on whether I do? I believe I will if I live long enough. But here’s the thing. In the meantime, I have lots of meat and potatoes for just such a book and I have renewed and fostered an old love. And all your visitors and subscribers to ISWG will be helping me with my trek. What more could one ask from reviving an old habit (or is it a hobby?) than that?

*Be sure to check in each month to see what fun, clever words Carolyn has to challenge us with. If you're not a member of our newsletter, be sure to sign up HERE


Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, editor, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books published by Modern History Press include the third edition of The Frugal Book Promoter with more to come including The Frugal Editor which won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and the coveted Irwin award in its earlier editions. Yes, she also loves #SharingwithWriters anywhere she can. Thank you, IWSG!

                                                      CAROLYN HOWARD-JOHNSON

Celebrate International poetry month with me!! 

Deeper into the Pond, part of my multi award-winning Celebration Series coauthored with Magdalena Ball,  Artwork by Jacquie Schmall 

Self-published in the tradition of poets everywhere since the advent of the Gutenberg Press 

Web site: 


Twitter: @FrugalBookPromo


Amazon Profile:

Amazon Buy Page: Https://


PS: Learn more about my fiction and poetry at: [Use this link without the “http://“ or “https:// to access the correct page! Ahem!]

Monday, June 13, 2022

What Can Bowker do for Authors?

If you are setting up a publishing company or self-publishing, Bowker is an important component of your publishing set-up.

Bowker provides numerous services for publishers and hosts the largest database of titles in the industry—Books in Print. They are also the sole legal supplier of ISBNs. All other sources, regardless of money paid by the author or publisher, are simply “renting” the ISBN. Titles using those ISBNs are still listed as published by the original purchaser of the ISBN, not the author or publisher “renting” the ISBN. (Examples would be using an ISBN provided by a distributor such as Smashwords or using one from a subsidy press.)

Once you have your contact information (address, phone number, email, web address, etc.) register your publishing company with Bowker. Upon approval, you will be given a password and be able to access their services and Books in Print. Then you will be accessing Bowker’s My Identifiers.

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. If your titles are to be sold through retail outlets, online or in the real world, you’ll need ISBNs. Each ISBN is unique to a book’s format and designates hardback, paperback, eBook, or other format. Currently, eBooks require only one ISBN regardless of format, but this could change in the future.

Once a ten-digit number, ISBNs are now thirteen digits – e.g., 978-1-9816210-2-9

Bowker sells ISBNs in batches of 10, 100, and 1,000. Single ISBNs can be purchased, but there are downsides. Part of the ISBN represents the publisher identifier number, but when a solitary one is purchased, it is not assigned to a single company. Since it does not represent a particular publisher, this can throw up the red flag of “self-published.” A single ISBN is also half the cost of a block of ten. Unless you only intend to publish one book and in one format, purchasing a single ISBN is impractical.

A block of ten or more allows for multiple books and formats. It also gives you a publisher prefix and legitimacy as a company. ISBNs are non-transferable, so once you have made your purchase, those numbers are assigned to your press forever and cannot be given or sold to anyone else. Fortunately, those numbers never expire.

Once your book reaches this stage, you can add it to Bowker’s Books in Print. (Which you do in your "My Identifiers" area.) Enter as much information as possible. You can go back and enter details later. Once the book is listed in Books in Print, it can be accessed by any retail outlet.

Bowker is one of many companies that supply bar codes. Some online businesses provide bar codes for free but be warned—often the disclaimer states that the bar code may not scan properly. (Wouldn’t it be terrible if you printed 1,000 books and the bar code didn’t work? No magic “beep” at the register?) Bar codes are necessary if your book will be sold in a physical store. Even if your print book will only be available online, it will appear more professional with a bar code.

Bar codes shouldn’t be purchased until your book is formatted and the price is set. When ordering through Bowker, you can order them singularly or in blocks for a discount. In your “My Identifiers” section, you will then be able to generate a barcode for each ISBN. Be sure you have set the price as it will appear in the barcode. Note that bar codes are not required for eBooks, only print books.

Now that you know all of the ways Bowker can help authors and publishers, why wouldn’t you take advantage of the opportunity? Time to look more professional and level the playing field with the big boys!

Monday, June 6, 2022

4 Reasons Why You Should Travel to Research Your Novel

By Colleen M. Story

Should you travel to research your novel?

It may be a question you’re facing right now.

The answer isn’t easy. Traveling takes time and money, after all. And with Google Maps and other online resources, it’s possible to get most of the information you need for your story without leaving your couch.

Can you justify the cost of a trip? Or would it be self-indulgence?

Years ago, I decided in favor of indulgence, and I'm so happy I did. The story I researched (The Beached Ones) is now coming out with CamCat books in June 2022.

Might I have succeeded in telling the story without taking the trip? Maybe. But here are four reasons why if you’re considering it, I would encourage you to hop in the car (or plane) and go at your earliest opportunity.

The Diamond Horseshoe Café in Cheyenne, Wyoming. My characters stop here for breakfast but then tragedy strikes!

1. Traveling Helps You Improve Your Setting Descriptions

This is the first benefit I noticed while on my trip.

It’s one thing to see a location on a computer screen. It’s another to see it with your own eyes, to smell the air, feel the breeze on your skin, and sense the quality of the soil under your feet.

When traveling, you’ll also be able to absorb the culture of the people who live in that location. You’ll get a better sense of their daily lives, what they care about, how they dress and talk, and how they may interact with your characters.

I noticed when I was on the road that although the locations looked similar to how I’d imagined them while doing my research for the novel, that sense of how a place may affect a person while in it was quite different in many cases.

The key is to take profuse notes and lots of pictures, as you’ll need these to refer to when you get back home. Don’t be surprised if you also find yourself adding new scenes in new settings—or subtracting some. Sometimes you see something so inspiring that you have to find a way to get it into your book. Other times, the settings you had will no longer seem to fit.

The Salt Lake City Library: My characters go to an author presentation here. The architecture is amazing.

2. Traveling May Improve Your Story’s Logistics

Another major benefit of traveling to research my novel was experiencing the reality of getting from one place to the other.

Writers usually don’t include the boring details of traveling from here to there, but knowing how it feels to cover those miles can help you better portray the moods of your characters when they arrive at their stopping places along the way.

It can also help you avoid making some critical mistakes!

On the first day of my trip researching The Beached Ones, for example, I spotted a plane sitting out in a field by itself. I was excited because I had found this plane in my research and included it in my story.

Peppermill Casino in Reno, Nevada: My characters win a lot of money here!

On the Internet, though, I had seen only a picture and a town—no additional information. So I had imagined its location. When I realized where the plane was really located, in reference to the town, I knew it was going to throw a wrench in my scene.

It was a big wrench. My options:

1)     change the scene so my main character sees the plane where it is and risk losing some of the dramatic effect,

2)     leave the scene as is (and brace myself to hear from readers about the mistake),

3)     take the plane out of the scene entirely.

Warning: Traveling to research your novel may throw some frustrating wrenches in your draft. Be prepared, but be grateful. I believe my story ended up better because of what I discovered about that plane.

Bay Area Discovery Museum: Daniel searches for his younger brother here.

3. Traveling May Inspire Some Amazing Experiences that Benefit Your Story

On the last day of my trip, as the sun was about to set, I wanted to see one location once more in the evening light.

Little did I know how important the timing would be. I mean, freaky coincidental timing.

Returning to that critical location, I stopped to get some pictures, and just happened to run into a security officer. He was patrolling, as was usual in this location. I asked him some questions, needing to clarify a few things.

I soon realized that the muse had just introduced me to a very special person. I ended up talking to him for a good twenty minutes or more, and during that short spell, got nothing short of gold for my story. Pure gold.

This man had experienced exactly what happens in my climactic scene. He told me details I never could have imagined. I listened as he conveyed case after case, what had gone down in each, and his role in it.

It was surreal, as I hadn’t planned this meeting. But it was as if the universe had planned it for me so I could write the best ending to the story.

Warning: Traveling to research your novel may freak you out, especially when amazing people just happen to cross your path and dump story gold into your lap.

Golden Gate Bridge: A special location in “The Beached Ones.”

4. Traveling May Help Motivate You to Write to the Best of Your Ability

My experience talking to that officer motivated me to do what I needed to do to make my story as good as it could be.

That day I learned that what happens between my (at the time) private pages happens to real people every day.

Of course, I knew that on some level, but the officer helped me to feel that more truly in my heart. My characters are fictional, but they represent real people. The story is made up, but it is symbolic of real lives.

Sailboat: A small sailboat just like this figures large at the end of “The Beached Ones.”

“Well that’s what writers do!” you may say. We all know this. But it’s different to look into someone’s eyes and feel it. To stand opposite someone and realize that you don’t want them to read your book at some point in the future and feel that you got it wrong—that you let them down.

We all struggle with self-doubt. We don't know if our stories mean anything or not. This whole journey, particularly the final step, showed me that the story I was striving to tell was more meaningful than I imagined, particularly to the people who go through similar dramas every day.

After meeting some of those people, I was a bit terrified—worried whether I was up to the task.

Only you can answer that question. (Order the book here.)

The point is that traveling to research your novel may have you shaking in your boots at the prospect of returning to the manuscript.

But that fear, in turn, will likely serve to make the writing better.

Pacific City, CA: One of the last locations I visited on the trip.

Have you found benefits to traveling to research your novel?

Note: The Beached Ones is forthcoming from CamCat books in June 2022. Get your FREE excerpt here, or preorder now! (Buy links and book trailer here.) Get FREE chapters of Colleen’s books for writers here.


Colleen M. Story is a novelist, freelance writer, writing coach, and speaker with over 20 years in the creative writing industry. Her latest release, The Beached Ones, is forthcoming from CamCat Books in June 2022. Her novel, Loreena’s Gift, was a Foreword Reviews’ INDIES Book of the Year Awards winner, among others.

Colleen has written three books to help writers succeed. Your Writing Matters is the most recent, and was a bronze medal winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards (2022). Other award-winning titles include Writer Get Noticed! and Overwhelmed Writer Rescue. Enjoy free chapters of these books here.

Find more at her author website ( or connect with her on Twitter (@colleen_m_story) and LinkedIn.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

#IWSG Day - June 2022

Insecure Writer’s Support Group—A database resource site and support group for writers and authors. Featuring weekly guests and tips, a monthly blogfest gathering, a Facebook group, a book club, and thousands of links–all to benefit writers! 

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer help and guidance. It’s a safe-haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer—aim for a dozen new people each time—and return comments. This group is all about connecting!
Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog!  
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.  

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

The awesome co-hosts for the June 2 posting of the IWSG are SE White, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguire, Joylene Nowell Butler, and Jacqui Murray!

Remember, the question is optional!

June 1 question - When the going gets tough writing the story, how do you keep yourself writing to the end? If have not started the writing yet, why do you think that is and what do you think could help you find your groove and start? 

Here are some quick ideas...
Take a deep breathe.
Take frequent breaks.
Go for a walk.
You can people watch and observe and listen.
Have a little bit of writing-related fun where you give your inner writer a little TLC such as, doodling or writing some bad poetry. 
Buy some new accessories (maybe a bullet journal or colorful post-its)
Accept that you'll always have room to grow so you need to stop beating yourself up for not being 100% productive all the time

The Insecure Writer's Support group is expanding!
The group has a new feature: In-Person Writing Groups!

Here's more information: 

Applicants pay a $5.00 one-time fee to use the IWSG logo ad are sent the following email along with the IWSG In-Person Group badge: 

Welcome to the IWSG In-Person Group club!

We have attached the badge for display online and in person.

In representing the IWSG, we ask that you follow these guidelines:

* Adhere to our mission statement –  
The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is a website media business with affiliates to enhance our service to visitors. We are a home for writers in all stages, from unpublished to bestsellers. Our goal is to offer assistance and guidance. We want to help writers overcome their insecurities, and by offering encouragement we are creating a community of support.

* Conduct the group in a positive manner, encouraging growth and inclusion for all. Writers should be treated equally and fairly no matter who they are or what genre they write.

* Encourage members to become part of the IWSG at some level – blogging, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.  hashtag #IWSG 

* Encourage members to subscribe to our newsletter – 

Your group will be listed on the IWSG In-Person Groups page with your name as leader and your location.

Please keep us up to date on your progress, growth, and member accomplishments/events so that we might celebrate with you!

Just a reminder that the July 06th IWSG post day falls during a busy vacation period, so keep that in mind when you plan your holiday activities for next month.