Saturday, December 31, 2011

Accountability Post for 2012 by Juliana Brandt, Julie Jordan, & Swagger

Will we keep our New Year's Resolutions in 2012?

Juliana Brandt

To make my resolutions for this year, I wanted to check out if I succeeded at all in completing any from last year. I had to go wayyy back to my old blog ( to find my resolutions from last year. Impressively, I actually managed to do one of them! (Although it was totally by mistake.)

Last year, I had four resolutions:
1. Become a published author, whether it be a short story, an article for a newspaper/magazine, or a book.
2. Learn how to cook!
3. Play the piano every day.
4. Floss every day.

I did become published this year, though it was through Rachel Harrie's blogfest. Woohoo! :) Her fest was a ton of fun and I LOVE that she published a book out of the fabulous short stories everyone wrote. The only other resolution I kept was flossing and THAT only lasted half the year... *sigh*

SO, this year, I am going to cut the resolutions in half and see if that helps.
1. Floss every day!
2. Query and try my best to land an agent.

Juliana Brandt

Julie Jordan
I’m one of the many who has always wanted to be a published writer. 2012 is MY YEAR! My debut novel, Book 1 of 4 in my TIME Series, is an adult romance with a touch of paranormal. Janelle’s Time (Book 1) is at the publisher now. Janelle, the daughter of a New Hampshire farmer, and Richard, the youngest son of an English Duke, have a rough time getting it right, for all their great love. Will their love overcome all the obstacles? I’m already working on the marketing and promotion. This book, especially, must show at least moderate success or everything else planned for the year won’t matter much. . .  No pressure, right?

Moria’s Time (Book 2) was my NaNoWriMo project for 2011 and sits at 51,000 words. Moria, Janelle’s daughter, is the focus of a vision as an infant. She fulfills that vision for her life in service to others, but finds herself in grave danger - and in love. Will Moria and her lover survive the danger? Will their love survive her destiny of service to others? I need to finish and submit this.

Adelle’s Time (Book 3) is still in my mind, but the story is starting to gel. This book alone could take a big chunk of the year. Adelle, Moria’s twin sister, is an American country girl with an English aristocrat father. She dreams of being an English Lady, and will stop at nothing to achieve that goal. Will she be happy as an English Duchess in Victorian England, or will she find her way home to her American roots?

Logan’s Time (Book 4) is about halfway through the first draft. Finishing this book is also a priority. Logan, the Scots’ Duke of Muileach, grows up in the Scots’ Highlands. There are women in Logan’s life: Annella, his mother who abandoned him; Rachel, his wife; and Seanna, his sometimes-lover. Will Logan make peace with his mother? Will Logan and Rachel live happily ever after? Or, will Seanna destroy Logan’s marriage?

I’m not delusional - Wonder Woman couldn’t do all this in one year - but I’ll give it my best shot.

Julie Jordan


And from the Swaggers:

Kim Van Sickler: In 2012, I resolve:
1. To pursue the path to publication for my mermaid and witch MG books, including continuing to search for an agent and publishers, and rewriting as needed.
2. Write at least one short story a month.
3. Keep the Swagger blog going strong.
4. Complete a new book that's not narrated in female first-person present.

Kim's hubby knew exactly what to get her for their anniversary. Her first laptop, so she's not chained to the desktop.

Gina Gort: With the support of my family, I can swagger. 2012 Resolution: To press on regardless.
Gina will draw inspiration from her family in the year ahead.

Kathy Cannon Wiechman: 
I resolve to try to have a more positive attitude and be more proactive in my manuscript submissions.

Kathy's going to force herself to move to the next level.
Graziella Buonanno: I will write my WIP at least every day at least 15 hours per week.

Grace hopes her resolution isn't a fish story.
For all of you out there making resolutions, GOOD LUCK! We sincerely wish you the best for the upcoming year. Leave us a comment below about your goals in 2012. Then don't forget to come back to our blogs in June for the Mid-year Accountability Blogfest! 

Happy New Year!!

Juliana Brandt, Julie Jordan, & Swagger

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ten Best Real Headlines That Would Make a Great Book Premise

A reflection of and a few writing prompts to ring in the new year…

10.  Return of the Giant Carnivorous Hermaphrodite Snails (Yahoo, 6-3-2011).

9.     Man With Clown Nose in New Cumberland Poses No Serious Threat (Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa., 7-3-2011).

8.     Gold, diamonds dropped into Salvation Army kettles (

7.     Woman Missing Since She Got Lost (Chicago Sun-Times, 5-17-2011).

6.      Teen Dies of Shaken Baby Syndrome (Chicago Tribune, 3-9-2011)

5.     Boy, 9, suspended for reportedly calling teacher ‘cute’ (from

4.     St. Paul impounds fiberglass cow (from

3.     Sinead O'Connor Gets a Marriage License in Las Vegas (from

2.     Slip-Up in Chinese Military TV Show Reveals More Than Intended (from

1.     Sweet deal! Couple finds love in Black Friday line (from

Do you have any headlines to add?

Juliet Bond

Monday, December 26, 2011

Best Lyrical Writing Prompts for 2011

Here are my top 10 songs from 2011 that would make amazing writing prompts. I could write a book about each of you.

10. Sleep by The Roots 
To catch a thief, who stole the soul I prayed to keep
Insomniac, bad dreams got me losing sleep
I'm dead tired, my mind playing tricks, deceit
A face in the glass, unable to admit defeat
All that I am, all that I was is history..

9. Spectrum by Florence and the Machine
...And when we come for you we'll be dressed up all in blue
With the ocean in our arms, kiss your eyes and kiss your palms
And when it's time to pray dressed up all in gray
With metal on our tongues and silver in our lungs...

8. The Last Living Rose by PJ Harvey

Goddamn Europeans
Take me back to beautiful England  
And the gray, damp filthiness
Of ages and battered books
And the fog rolling down behind the mountains
On the graveyards and dead sea captains...

7. A Long Time by Mayer Hawthorne
Oh, Henry was a renegade
Never liked to play it safe
One component at a time
There's got to be a better way
Ohh people come from miles around
Searching for a steady job
Welcome to the Motor Town
Boomin' like an atom bomb...

6. Someone Like You by Adele  
...I hate to turn up out of the blue, uninvited
But I couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it.
A had hoped you'd see my face and that you'd be reminded
That for me, it isn't over...

5. Mean by Taylor Swift  
...I'll bet you got pushed around,
Somebody made you cold
But the cycle ends right now
'Cause you can't lead me down that road
And you don't know what you don't know...

4. Murder to Excellence by Jay-Z and Kanye West
The old pastor closed the cold casket  
And said the church ain't got enough room for all the tombs
It's a war going on outside we ain't safe from
I feel the pain in my city wherever I go
314 soldiers died in Iraq, 509 died in Chicago...

3. Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People
Yeah he found a six-shooter gun
In his dad's closet, in the box of fun things
I don't even know what
But he's coming for you, yeah he's coming for you....

2. Man Down by Rihanna
I didn't mean to end his life
I know it wasn't right
I can't even sleep at night
Can't get it off my mind
I need to get out of sight
Before I end up behind bars...

1. Good Life by New Republic
Woke up in London yesterday  
Found myself in the city near Picadilly
Don't really know how I got here
I got some pictures on my phone...

What songs would you add?

Kim Van Sickler

Friday, December 23, 2011

Swagger Tree (Composite Poem)

I asked the Swagger team to send in a stanza or two about a Christmas tree memory. I sent them [little tree] by E. E. Cummings as inspiration. In return I compiled their words into a collective poem. I got back some great pieces that tell a story, like Graziella's first tree in 1949 Italy that was sent to her by her American grandmother, fully decorated with butterscotch balls.

Swagger Tree

Juniper, green
Smelling, sparkling, exciting
First tree.
Delicate boughs,
dressed up for the season.
she stares up from the bottom,
mesmerized, enchanted, intrigued.

Delicate orange curls,
a dress for the season
she twirls with delight,
a birthday wish come true.
A lifetime ago

you and I crawled underneath

your parents' tree

holding hands and looking up
at the constellations
twinkling overhead
I used to decorate a pine
With ornaments and lights.
I loved its piney needle smell
On cozy winter nights.

No artificial tree could be
As lovely to behold
Until I learned pine allergy
Was not a Christmas cold.

A tree transported,
thousands of miles traveled,
a desert oasis of lights
that made me believe.

Gnarled and grey

Dropped needles in brittle heaps
Love anyway.

Regina Gort

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best & Worst Writing Excuses of 2011

Top 10 Best Excuses Not to Write in 2011

10. I have a doctor’s appointment.
9. I’m critiquing a ms. for a friend.
8. I’m taking a walk (good chance to reflect on story ideas).
7. I have to shop/wrap/decorate for Christmas.
6. I’m too distracted and can’t focus.
5. I’m reading a good book.
4. Lunch with my sibs.
3. Granddaughters’ dance recital.
2. Son’s wedding day.
And the Number 1 best excuse not to write in 2011: Hubby’s in the hospital.

Top 10 Worst Excuses Not to Write in 2011

10. I have a headache.
9. I need to wash my hair.
8. The floor needs mopped.
7. I’m too tired.
6. I need caffeine first.
5. I’m planning a funeral for the character I killed off.            
4. Blood sugar’s low, & I need to eat.
3. The dryer’s buzzing.
2. I have coupons that expire today.
And the Number 1 worst excuse not to write in 2011: Justin Bieber’s on The View.

Kathy Cannon Wiechman

Monday, December 19, 2011

A gift that keeps giving

A friend of mine recently lost her brother to cancer. And when she came over to visit a few days ago she brought with her an envelope of his writings. She pulled it out, and with eyes full of tears she told me that he wrote these during his treatments. She said the most special to her was a poem he wrote for her birthday. “He wasn't a writer by any means but this is the most precious gift I have ever received,” she stated.

This got me thinking about Christmas and how something simple but meaningful can stay with someone for a lifetime. I keep a stack of letters my grandmother wrote to me and inside she always had a little poem.

It made such an impression on me as a kid that poetry became and continues to be a big part of my life.

So this Christmas give someone who has everything a Cinquain poem.

Cinquain is a short, usually non-rhyming poem consisting of twenty-two syllables distributed as 2, 4, 6, 8, 2, in five lines. It was developed by the Imagist poet, Adelaide Crapsey. Another form, sometimes used by school teachers to teach grammar, is as follows:
Line 1: Noun
Line 2: Description of Noun (2 adjectives)
Line 3: Action (3 words that end in -ing)
Line 4: Feeling or Effect (4-word phrase)
Line 5: Synonym of the initial noun.

Here is one I wrote for my husband:                        
Husband Father
Nurturing Loving Listening
Keeper of my heart

-Regina Gort

Friday, December 16, 2011

I Swagger

Don't forget to join!

Today we are participating in this blogfest and re-posting a post. We give you one of our first posts from October 2011. Check out other top-notch re-posts by bopping to the other sites listed at:

to walk with an air of overbearing self-confidence.

Swaggerer Jon Egan circa 1980's

 A few years ago, I hardly swaggered. I more or less staggered.

When at my husband's work functions, people would ask what I did for a living. I would stammer, “Oh, I'm a stay-at-home mom.” On occasion with a couple drinks in me, I might even blurt out, “I write sometimes.” But the follow-up question would leave me staring like a deer in headlights, “So, what have you published?”

At that time I had published a poem in a children's book ( ). I had attended conferences, belonged to a critique group, was writing my first novel, and had written for as long as I could remember. But I had no confidence in myself as a writer. I didn't have any credentials to call myself a writer.

All of that changed though.

Shortly after I found out I was pregnant with our third child, an opportunity came into my inbox from the Highlights Foundation ( ). For years, I had been getting their newsletter about workshops for writers and though I really wanted to go, I knew it wasn't a financial priority. But I decided to apply for a scholarship. I was working on my second YA novel and I figured it couldn't hurt to try. Despite my collection of over 50 rejection letters from publishers, I applied.

It wasn't long before I received an e-mail that invited me to Honesdale, PA, for a YA Novel workshop with Rich Wallace ( ). The foundation covered most of the cost for the workshop. I was elated. Someone aside from my husband believed in me as a writer. So we scraped up enough money for a plane ticket and I was off.

 Swaggerer Rich Wallace

Needless to say, I found my voice. And I learned how to be confident in it.

I made life-long friends that believed in me, encouraged me and inspired me.

After my third daughter was born, our family experienced a traumatic event ). It changed us all, forever. But the one thing that remained intact was my voice. I wrote my way through grief, and two years later I am still writing.

Swaggerer Melissa Kline

In fact, I am doing more writing than ever and I am doing it with swagger. It is something no one or circumstance can take from me. 

I challenge you to find your voice and swagger, too.
The Guilt of Honesty  

Looking over a cliff
and if I don't take the first step
I will fall
or be pushed by circumstance
into the jagged rocks below.
Swaggerer Kim Van Sickler

But if I jump
calculate my velocity,
I will hit
the cool water

where I can swim
Maybe even bask on a rock
Swaggerer Kathy Cannon Wiechman
cleansing in sun and water,

before I climb
back up the cliff face
inch by inch.

And onto the path
that leads

Swaggerer Graziella Buonanno  
by Regina Gort

Swaggerer Juliet Bond (second pink shirt from left)

Swaggerer Regina Gort

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Suspense, Scares and Stress: Tips for Keeping Up Suspense in Your Novel

This holiday season, I want to share some tips I have eagerly absorbed during workshops with fabulous authors, editors and agents. Because they are a compilation of goodies from my notes, I am going to share them with everyone who is savvy enough to read and follow this blog J  FOR FREE!  

My holiday present to you!


1. What does your character want?
2. What are the obstacles that will prevent your character from easily getting what they want? (Make a list of possibles)
3. Can those obstacles be foreshadowed early in the story?
4. ABACBC – imagine three rainbow-like arcs that all intersect. Storyline A will resolve itself after storyline B has been introduced but the reader will be hooked into B now so they won't want to put the book down.  Then, introduce storyline C before resolving storyline B. These are the smaller storylines that intersect and keep the reader hooked.
5. Set up expectations and then surprise your reader by NOT doing what they expect the MC will do.


1. Begin the story with a character experiencing the after-effects of something, but slowly reveal what that incident was.
2. When nearing the climax, give the reader a sense of speed by using more dialogue, shorter paragraphs and sentences.


1. Keep your audience guessing – provide little mysteries along the way to keep the reader hooked.
2. “Kill Your Darlings” Put your characters in sticky situations.  Then, throw rocks, sticks and firebombs at them to force them towards an epiphany.
3. Help them find a way down from the tree and make sure the set-up for the rescue – or conclusion, has been hinted at earlier in the book so that the reader recognizes it when it happens. A great example of this is the Newberry winning book “When You Reach Me.” The fabulous ending is embedded so perfectly early in the plot that you feel excited and satisfied when it’s revealed.
4. Eventually, or even a couple of times through – teach your character a lesson.
5. The reader has to feel like they ARE the main character. Chase them into the story and fill them with anticipation. Think roller coaster ride.
6. Sometimes, you want your reader to anticipate something bad is going to happen.


1. A well-used technique is to introduce action at the end of one chapter that resolves itself in another.
2. Cutting the action early may also engender suspense and cause anxiety in the reader. A good example is My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville, when a mean teacher finds an incriminating note. Before he opens it, the chapter ends and the reader has to hang in there for two more chapters before finding out what the teacher’s reaction is. In the meantime, another storyline/challenge is set up.

3. Hint at stories to come – for example, in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” grandpa starts an intriguing story about a creepy chocolate factory, but it’s bedtime and they are interrupted – can’t finish it until later.
4. Vary the kind of cliffhanger at the ends of your chapters so the reader doesn’t expect the technique or become bored by it (or aware of it.)


1. Bad dialogue
2. Unnecessary description
3. Forced motivation (Make sure the set up is there and that it’s natural.)
4. Vague action

1. Creativity and variation
2. Confidence

Last of all, if you are feeling a pull throughout your writing, one that brings you back to your own story with enthusiasm, you know you are on the right track!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Juliet Bond

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mason Jar Story

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Allow to simmer for as long as it takes.

to prepare the stock:
1 C reading other like works directed toward your intended audience
(To provide a richer flavor, sprinkle with reading a wide variety of genres)
1 C networking
1 C critiquing
1 C instruction in the type of writing you're trying to do
You may freeze this stock indefinitely, making sure to replenish it as needed.

Add to the basic stock:
1 T engaging premise
1 T likeable and entertaining characters
1 T voice
1 T  believable dialogue
Fold in just enough backstory to keep action moving along.
Bring mixture to a slow boil. Add:
1 t pacing
1 t suspense
1 t fulfilling promise to the reader
You will need to taste the mixture frequently to ensure it is the right consistency.

If mixture is undercooked, will appear thin and runny.
If mixture is overcooked, will appear mushy and heavy.
Mixture is done when critique partners urge you to submit it. In that case, serve immediately and enjoy.
What do you think? How would you change/improve this recipe? Do you have a recipe of your own?

Kim Van Sickler

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Girl’s Guide to Christmas 2011

A few weeks ago, my friend Rian wondered aloud at the way her children have been going on and on about the “Black Friday” sales. The thing is, her kids have never been to a Black Friday sale. So how did they know of them? Experts now say that, on average, Americans are exposed to more than 2,000 images, stories and ads per day. These ads seep into our brains through newspapers, radio, print, billboards, television and internet.  They tell us, not only what to buy, but who to be. And they generally carry some pretty nasty messages about girls and women through repeated images.

I’m pretty sure you’ll recognize the images as I describe them:

The shockingly skinny girl.
The "Is she dead?" ad.

The woman posed as a child.

And the child posed as a woman.

  The "Woman as object" ad.

The assault ad.

The insult ad.

The TV shows that force girls to grow up too soon.

 The toys and products that do the same.

(Oh, this?  This is a padded toddler bra. Yep, I said toddler.)

These ads and products remind me that:
 81% of ten-year-olds are afraid of being fat.
 In the 1970’s the average age of a girl who started a diet was 14. By the 1990’s, the age had fallen to 8.
 Americans spend over 60 billion dollars a year on diets and diet related products.
 42% of 1st through 3rd grade girls say they want to be thinner (source: America the Beautiful II).

Black seems like the right color for a day when the “girl” aisles offer great deals on sexualized dolls whose professions are limited to teacher, nurse and fashion designer. I have to remind myself that there is good stuff out there for girls. You won’t find it on the shelves at Walmart, or in Teen Vogue but it is out there. And it’s worth looking for if you want to counteract some of those 2000+ messages our kids are getting.

There are some great websites for girls but my favorite (which has a corresponding magazine) is New Moon Girls featuring poetry, stories and articles written by girls, about girls. The focus is generally on friendships, body image and adventure with resources for parents and some great features like this virtual “button” that girls can use to identify ads that are not respectful of girls and women and celebrate those that are.

Books with Great Girl Characters:
Lovell, Patty.  Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon. Ages 4-10. Molly Lou Melon barely flinches as she systematically sets out to prove herself.

Yolen, Jane. Sleeping Ugly.  Ages 5-10.  Sleeping Ugly reminds the reader that beauty is more than skin deep.

Hannigan, Katherine.  Ida B.  Ages 8-13. Ida B. is a fourth grader whose story will resonate long after you have put this book down.

Cushman, Karen.  The Midwife’s Apprentice.  Ages 11 +.  Our heroine befriends a cat, names herself Alyce, and learns something to deliver babies.

Donelley, Jennifer.  A Northern Light. Ages 13 +.  Mattie's frank and humorous voice reveals much about poverty, racism, and feminism at the turn of the twentieth century.

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Ages 13 +.
Amazing survival story set in a post apocalyptic future.

Bray, Libba.  Beauty Queens.  Ages 16 +. Teen beauty queens fight for survival on a "Lost"-like island.
Anything by Carolyn Mackler, Laurie Halse Anderson or Laura Ruby are fabulous!

Teen Voices
New Moon Girls
Bust (for older girls)

Books to Learn More:
Can’t Buy My Love by Jean Kilbourne
So Sexy So Soon by Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne
Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
Who’s Raising Your Child? Battling Marketers for Your Child’s Heart and Soul by Kathleen McGee

Films for Parents and Older Kids:
America the Beautiful
Still Killing Us Softly
Tough Guise
Miss Representation

This year, I skipped the Black Friday sales to find items that send a better message to the girls in my life.   I’d love to hear what you’ve found. Please send me some suggestions by posting comments! Let’s let girls know that they are (as the fabulous Pink sings) perfect.

Watch Juliet's video here
Juliet Bond