Natasha Raulerson

Happy New Year!

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Did you exhale in relief when the clock struck midnight and 2016 became a thing of the past? With a new year comes new hopes, aspirations, and possibilities. It’s a fresh start as we leave 2016 behind us and hope that tomorrow brings with it something amazing. Something, at the very least, better than yesterday.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the good. To find something positive in a trashpile of negative, but usually, there is something. Don’t let the world beat you down, especially if you’re a writer trying to achieve your dream. This industry is hard, but it’s not impossible. It may take a while to get published, and you may have to rewrite your novel a dozen times, but while you’re in the trenches, you’ll find people going through the same thing. People willing to help pull you out and uplift you. You’ll find amazing critique partners, nuggets of knowledge, and just genuinely good people you want to be in your life.

No matter what, strive to do your best. Don’t be coplacent when you make a mistake. Learn from it so you do better. Don’t give up on your dreams, no matter how far away they may seem. Make goals, but remember, if you don’t achieve them all when you expect, that’s okay. Just keep trying to achieve them.

This world is full of too much negativity, judgement, and heartache. Don’t let that drag you down. Write your heart out. Learn to take constructive criticism. Always be open to learning new things about the craft.

Most of all, remember you’re not facing 2017 alone.

Happy 2017 everyone. May it be your best year yet!

Natasha Raulerson

Managing Time

I’d always admired parents who wrote. They managed to figure out how to manage the chaos of family with the discipline of writing. I say discipline because any one who writes jfPxJj.gifknows discipline is involved. If you don’t take the time to write every day, even if it’s for five minutes, then time often gets away from you.

Cronus is sneaky like that. Making time slip through our fingers and before we know it, a month has gone by and that W.I.P. has gone wayward in whatever writing processor is used. Lost in the files of the computer. Forgotten in the wasteland of unfinished stories.

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By the time we get back to it, so much has changed that the story may not seem like something we ever wrote at all. It might feel foreign, like the concept has warped, or you just plain don’t like it anymore.

I’m a new mom. I thought, “Ha! I’ll still write every day. I can do this!”

Well, that goal did not happen in the first month and a half of my sons life. It’s hard! I admire those parents even more now. They’ve been doing it a lot longer, with more than one kid to boot.

I was still writing, it just wasn’t every day. Most of the time it’s been on my phone, a sentence or two, maybe a paragraph, and it was while my son was breastfeeding or sleeping in my arms.

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It might just be snippets, ideas, thoughts, or stuff I know I’ll trash later, but the point was, I wrote.

Now, I don’t have time managed to a ‘T’. I’m also editing, and paying clients come first.

My own words, however, have somewhat taken a back seat. My son is almost two months old now, and things are falling into a rhythm. Now, when he sleeps, I can write. I know people say to sleep when he does, but he’s getting pretty good about sleeping long stretches through the night. Those day naps give me time to do things around the house, work, and write in between.

Even if it’s five words, even if it’s one. I’m back to writing every day. Whether by hand, on my phone, or if I manage to sit at my computer to do something other than edits. Writing is my passion. It’s my dream, and if nothing else, I’m making sure to produce words every day to provide an example for my son.

I want him to follow his dreams no matter how hard it might be.

Leading by example. Managing time. It’s not easy, and I tip my hat to all those parents who have been doing it far longer and better than I.raw (1).gif

Natasha Raulerson

FAITHFUL by MICHELLE HAUCK

The next volume in the Birth of Saints series is available now!

Following Grudging–and with a mix of Terry Goodkind and Bernard Cornwall–religion, witchcraft, and chivalry war in Faithful, the exciting next chapter in Michelle Hauck’s Birth of Saints series!


A world of Fear and death…and those trying to save it.

Colina Hermosa has burned to the ground. The Northern invaders continue their assault on the ciudades-estados. Terror has taken hold, and those that should be allies betray each other in hopes of their own survival. As the realities of this devastating and unprovoked war settles in, what can they do to fight back?

On a mission of hope, an unlikely group sets out to find a teacher for Claire, and a new weapon to use against the Northerners and their swelling army.

What they find instead is an old woman.

But she’s not a random crone—she’s Claire’s grandmother. She’s also a Woman of the Song, and her music is both strong and horrible. And while Claire has already seen the power of her own Song, she is scared of her inability to control it, having seen how her magic has brought evil to the world, killing without reason or remorse. To preserve a life of honor and light, Ramiro and Claire will need to convince the old woman to teach them a way so that the power of the Song can be used for good. Otherwise, they’ll just be destroyers themselves, no better than the Northerners and their false god, Dal. With the annihilation their enemy has planned, though, they may not have a choice.

A tale of fear and tragedy, hope and redemption, Faithful is the harrowing second entry in the Birth of Saints trilogy.
Faithful– November 15, 2016
Harper Voyager

Also enter to win a signed paperback of Grudging, the first book in the series: 

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A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.

The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.

On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.

The Women of the Song.

But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power. And time is running out.

A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.



GRUDGING
November 17, 2015
Harper Voyager


Find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Goodreads


Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two kids in college. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, and Sun versus Snow.

Her Birth of Saints trilogy, starting with Grudging and Faithful (November 15, 2016), is available from Harper Voyager. Another epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing. She’s repped by Marisa Corvisiero of Corvisiero Literary.

Natasha Raulerson

FROSH 2: SECOND CHANCES

_FROSH2FINALHey guys! Welcome to the Blog Tour for FROSH 2: SECOND CHANGES by Monica B. Wagner. After reading the blurb, don’t forget to check out Monica’s amazing playlist!

Blurb:

In FROSH: First Blush, Ellie, Grant, Devon, and Charlie spent their welcome week falling head over heels for each other–before totally falling apart. Now, in FROSH: Second Chances, they’ll have to pick up the pieces.

After ruining Grant’s football career (and her own reputation), Ellie has been trying to lie low–which means not making more enemies. But some students still want her to pay for what she did, and now, Ellie’s determined to fight back–and fight for Grant.

Grant is adjusting to his new reality: no more football means no more free passes in class, and definitely no more distractions; especially from Ellie, whom he misses even after she destroyed his world. Can he find a way to move on without her–and without football?

Devon finally has it all: her brother’s sober and her boyfriend is an adorkable genius. But when her parents threaten to tear her and Charlie apart because he doesn’t ‘fit’ into their high society, she will go to dangerous lengths to prove that nothing–nothing–can defeat Devon Connors.

Charlie’s never questioned who he is: pre-med science geek, and now, Devon Connors’ boyfriend. But when he discovers a secret about his past, Charlie isn’t sure of anything–especially whether he can trust Devon with the truth.

Perfect for fans of Cora Carmack and Colleen Hoover, Monica B. Wagner’s sexy New Adult series follows these four characters all the way to winter break–when the only thing they’ll want more than first love is a second chance.

BUY LINKS

 

Hi! Thanks for inviting me to this blog today. : )

I’m here to share a playlist for each of the main POV characters on Frosh: Second Chances.

Ellie: Set Fire to The Rain and Rolling in the Deep – Adele. Can’t Remember to Forget You – Shakira ft. Rihanna.

Grant: The Scientist (Nobody Said it Was Easy) – Coldplay. Misery – Maroon 5.

Charlie: Are You Lonesome Tonight – Elvis Presley. I Will Wait – Mumford and Sons.

Devon: Fancy – Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX. Work Bitch – Britney Spears

Thanks so much for reading!

Mónica

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Mónica was born in a Peruvian city by a snow-capped volcano. Growing up, books were her constant companions as she traveled with her family to places like India (where she became a vegetarian), Thailand (where she *almost* met Leonardo di Caprio), France (where she pretended to learn French), and countless other places that inspired her to write. Now, Mónica lives in Chile with her husband, three boys, eleven hens, and stray dog. Keep up with Monica and follow her on Twitter @Monica_BW or visit her website: http://monibw.blogspot.com.

Natasha Raulerson

Back To The Future – On Writer’s Block & Editing

Sometimes finding that next word or that next sentence isn’t so easy. This can happen at 10k or 50k words into that work-in-progress. If you’re lucky, it never happens, but for the majority, there is always that moment that catches us. That makes it hard for fingers to brush over the keyboard in fluid movements. Instead it’s jagged tap-a-taps before hitting the backspace key–and somewhere in between is usually the overwhelming urge to throw said keyboard out the window. Not that the sudden block is the keyboards fault, but let’s face it, keyboards probably get more abuse from writers than anyone else. Mine has so much wear and tear that the letters have worn off the keys, and honestly, I’m surprised I haven’t cracked the damn thing. The keyboard is the medium from which we transport our thoughts to the screen–and sometimes, we’re very, very mean to it when we can’t make the correlation.

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So, what can we do to not only keep the words flowing, but to maybe not beat up the poor, innocent, and too-often abused keyboard?

Well there are some tactics. Maybe pushing forward works for you. Writing crap upon crap until finally it gives way to the diamonds in the rough that make the story flow again. Most times those original craptastic words are deleted and rewritten later, but if that’s the method that works, then that’s the method that works.

I tend to be the person who stares and stares and stares and wonders why my fingers aren’t moving. Then I note twenty-minutes have passed and the most I’ve achieved is three words and being mesmerized by the cursor blinking on the page.

Realizing that this method is not helping me get any work done, I’ve opted to try something new.

GOING BACK TO THE FUTURE!

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So what does that mean in writer terms exactly? Well, I was listening to K.M. Weiland’s podcast and she mentioned that about every third of her manuscript she goes back and edits. She also mentioned that some authors get caught in a sort of loophole where they forever edit what they already have and never continue on. I used to be that writer, so going back to edit while writing makes me reluctant. I don’t want to fall in that loophole again.

However, when I can’t push forward, it makes me wonder if something has gone wrong in what I already wrote, or rather, in the past of my manuscript. How have I wound up struggling so hard to write that next line? Well, the only way to figure that out is to go to the past–or what I’ve already written in the world I’m working on. To read over what I already have and see if I need to change something, or, what’s more likely, I may have forgotten a detail that’s meant to push the plot forward. Weaving together a plot is pretty damn hard. So by going back and rereading what’s already there, details that are forgotten in the whirlwind of the rough draft pop back out, and things are remembered, thus I can change the future of my manuscript. Making notes in the sidebar (I have Scrivener) can definitely help the process of not over editing–something that may keep you stuck in the past.

Instead of adding the actual detail that may be needed to enhance a scene, jot a note down so when you’re going through your first round of revisions, you remember what you need to do. Sure, fix a misspelled word, or maybe add a bit of dialogue if it comes to you, but don’t DO all the actual editing–at least if you’re like me and will get caught in that forever editing loop instead of finishing the manuscript.

By reading through the past, new ideas pop to mind. New avenues to take, paths to carves, 10_21_15_alison_greatscottcharacters to enhance or create. You may get through one chapter or four before that “GREAT SCOTT!” moment hits and you’re jumping back to the future of your manuscript to work on that scene with renewed vigor–and a safely intact keyboard.

I’ve learned this method keeps my mind in the manuscript, makes the gears spin in regards to the what has happened as well as what needs to happen, and helps me come up with ideas of where to take it based on where I’ve already been–and just like Marty and Doc, sometimes I wind up finding a nugget that with a little tweaking, lets me change the future into something much better than I originally imagined.

At the very least, I’ve got some notes jotted for when I actually start the full editing process.

Give it a shot. If nothing else, your keyboard will thank you.

Natasha Raulerson

P.A.G.E.S. – Making The First 250 Great!

Many of the writing competitions out there require a query and the first 250 words of your manuscript. That means not only one, but both need to be as strong as you can make it. As a judge for multiple writing competitions, I’ve seen some common mistakes in the first 250 that tend to bog it down. Sure, some people take longer to settle into their voice when they first start a new project. I tend to start in the wrong spot all the time. Editing and getting feedback before entering the competitions help.

So how do you make your first 250 pop? I sat down for a few hours trying to figure this out. What makes a reader want to keep going? What makes them put down the book and move on? There may be a lot of reasons–some that have nothing to do with how well written it is, but there are certain things you can do to make sure that the first 250 is the best it can be for your story.

This morning, I came up with the acronym P.A.G.E.S. Hopefully, this little mini guide will be handy tip to help you polish that intro.

P.A.G.E.S.

Making The First 250 Great

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When you have that PERFECT first sentence, you’ll know it.

Phenomenal First Sentence – A gripping first sentence can make a reader stop whatever else they’re doing. It can make the rest of the world fade away, and that same reader will HAVE to know what comes next. What caused this first sentence? If the first sentence is that good they’re going to want to know what the next one is, what does the rest of the story have to say? At the core, that first sentence, whether dark, light, humorous, witty, etc–it makes the audience want to know what happens next.

If you want more information on how to craft a phenomenal first sentence check out this amazing post by Stephanie Scott over at Writing With The Mentors.

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Your character doesn’t have to be walking away from a major traumatic event. Action can be mundane or extreme.

Actively Do Something – Hopefully,that something is something important. Somethingthat brings us to the inciting incident. Hopefully, that’s more than just ‘looking’. Looking is fine, but looking is also telling, and too much telling is tedious. Besides, if they’re just looking, chances are you’re just scene setting. Is your character riding a bike? Having a conversation? Were they just in a car accident? Did a letter arrive? There’s so many things to have your character doing, and they need to be doing something other than just observing.

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Much like the episode of FUTURAMA where the universe is destroyed, you don’t want your characters just floating around without a setting.

Ground The Characters – While the characters are doing something, we need to know where they are. That doesn’t mean we need a 100 words worth of setting, but the reader needs something to ground them in the story. Are they on the shore of a beach? Sitting in their bedroom? At a doctors office? Without this pivotal information the characters–and the reader–are left floating in the ether. It’s nothing but a white back drop. Grounding the reader in the story with a bit of setting brings them in closer while the character is doing the aforementioned action.

 

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When the reader can visualize the beginning of your novel it means you’ve got the start of something good. 

Engage The Reader – This comes when you have a happy balance of the above. Give a reader all the elements–a great first sentence, have the characters doing something, and put the setting in. I don’t want all dialogue in the first 250–there doesn’t even have to be any, pending on the story. I also don’t want all scene setting. I certainly don’t want nothing but observation or backstory. I want a fleshed out first 250 that makes me want to read more, and that means learning how to put all the necessary tidbits into a small space.

 

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Figuring out the inciting incident is pivotal to figuring out where and when to start your novel.

Start In The Right Place – All of the above is great, but if you don’t start in the right place for your novel, you run the risk of losing the reader anyway. If you’re explaining too much backstory, or maybe you have a prologue that probably isn’t needed–chances are you started in the wrong spot. If you’re first two paragraphs are nothing but description of where the character is, chances are, you started in the wrong spot. You should be starting at the event that either is, or is quickly leading up to the inciting incident of your story. Once you figure out just what the inciting incident is, you can figure out where you need to begin.

 

For more help on figuring out where to start your story, check out this great post by Kes Trester at Writing With The Mentors.

There you have it. P.A.G.E.S. The basic elements you need to make your first 250 great. Infusing the voice is all on you. It can be tricky. Don’t be afraid to cut the original beginning to start later, or even rewrite it. Tons of authors state how they write the first sentence several dozen times, if not more. So much of writing is rewriting, but the thing is, you can’t edit or rewrite what you don’t have. First drafts suck, so don’t get too caught up on making the first 250 amazing right away. Make sure you finish the draft. That will also give you a clearer picture of the overall story, and if you have all the elements of P.A.G.E.S.

Play around with it. Expand. Remember, this is just the basics. You have to figure out how to make it work for your story.

If you’re interested a bit more on the query aspect, see QUERY ADVICE: DO’S, DON’TS, AND STRUCTURE.

Natasha Raulerson

Query Advice – Do’s, Don’ts, and Structure

It is becoming harder and harder to sift through advice in the writing community. Some is very subjective so it can vary, depending on what the topic is. Other advice however, is not just wrong, but it’s bad–and this can be detrimental to any author, especially those who are going the traditional route and putting a query out there.

Some advice is along the line of, the query shouldn’t be specific.

Yes it should. If your query is not specific then agents don’t know why your manuscript is different than every other story with the same tropes out there.

Another thing is that you have to have comp titles.

No you don’t. You can have them. Doesn’t mean you have to. Especially if you can’t think of anything modern to compare your work with. Sometimes it’s better to let it stand on its own. Other times, comp titles are amazingly useful. It just depends, but don’t think it’s a necessity.

Sometimes, even the query format is jumbled.

Standard query format is as follows:

Dear Agent,

Hook – Think something sharp and witty, like the tagline of a movie. Short and engaging. One to two lines max.

Body – This is the meat. 2-3 paragraphs giving the who, what, why, and of course the stakes. THIS SHOULD NOT BE VAGUE. This should include the protagonist/antagonist/love interest OR best friend. Three names maximum. Anything more than that and it gets confusing.

Even if your story is in first or second person, your query needs to be in third person, present tense.

This is the person, this is what’s happening, but when this happens, things get messed up.

The query DOES NOT give away the ending. It gives the STAKES. Try to avoid clichés such as, “Timmy must decide if finding out the secret is worth risking his life.” This is vague. Mysteries, secrets, etc. They don’t tell me anything. What is the secret? It’s okay to tell the agent. What happens if they don’t fix the problem? If the secret is something that will effect other people, how is it only Timmy’s life at risk? There’s more. You just have to dig a little deeper.

An easy formula to use to help identify the stakes:

Character must do THIS or else THAT (usually a consequence) will happen.

The stakes should finish the body of your query.

Novel Info – NOVEL TITLE is an age category genre complete at XX,XXX words. Comp titles if you want. It is out for simultaneous submission.

Reason For Querying Of Agent – If you so choose. Again, this is not a required field. Up to you. I would say only do this if you have a specific reason to. For instance you saw their post on ManuscriptWishList and thought it would be a good fit. Otherwise, they generally expect that you’ve done your research. Keep this brief.

About Me – A little bit about yourself and any writing accomplishments you have. It’s okay if you don’t have any too. It’s not going to keep you from getting rep. Keep this brief.

Thank you for your time and consideration. (You don’t need to mention the full manuscript is available upon request. You should only be querying if your manuscript is complete and polished–that’s what agents expect, so they already assume it’s available. Also don’t suck up and be like, “I promise you won’t regret requesting my manuscript!” Bad form. Keep it professional.)

Sincerely,

Name
Phone Number
Email
Social Media

Just a note. You can put the novel info and reason for querying at the beginning or the end, but do not break it up. Me personally, when I’m judging competitions, I prefer the novel info at the end so I’m not bias. Some agents prefer it first. Again, this is a just depends, but really as far as I can tell, it’s not going to hinder your chances. It’s the meat of the query that matters.

The meat of your query should be a minimum of 250 words (unless it’s a PB) and at max 350 words. Some go over the 350 word max, and a little bit is fine, but try not to go much longer than that.

Edit: The word count is also becoming very subjective among agents. Some are even now saying 250 words or less. It comes down to researching your agents in regards to submission guidelines.

So, how do you know this is good advice? Well, you still need to do your homework. Read agent websites and blogs. Check out known query resource sites. Ask authors who have managed to snag an agent how they did it. (Honestly, we don’t bite, we’re happy to answer questions when we can.) Follow people who make it into competitions such as Query Kombat, Pitch Wars, Pitch Slam, etc. They had to write queries to get in–good queries. Ones that follow standard format and have all the elements to let an agent or judge know why their story is unique.

Don’t just read one article and assume that’s the end all be all. Even for what I wrote, there’s wiggle room. For instance some people use one POV for the body, others use two. Two is a lot trickier, and I prefer one, but a lot of people have great queries from two POV’s. It all just depends.

One last note.

DO NOT PUT RHETORICAL QUESTIONS IN YOUR QUERY. MANY AGENTS HAVE STATED STRAIGHT UP THEY DO NOT LIKE THIS. 

Here’s some resources to get you started.

Agent Query Connect – this website has several forums that allows you to post your query. You’ll get brutally honest feedback. It’s where I learned quite a bit about query writing when I started.

Query Shark – This is run by the amazing Janet Reid of Fine Print Literary. She has amazing advice. Read through Query Shark. All of it.

Query Kombat – A competition run by Michelle Hauck, Michael Anthony, and Laura Heffernan.  Think Mortal Kombat, but with queries. This competition is currently in progress. So read through the feedback that the judges leave as it may even apply to your query. #QueryKombat

Pitch Slam – Another fantastic writing competition run by Leatrice McKinney. Most recently she is also participating in WCNV giving more opportunities for diverse writers and #ownvoices. Both of these are great competitions to follow and gain insightful information on query writing. #PitchSlam #WCNV

Pitch Wars – Probably the most notorious writing competition to date, created and hosted by the amazing Brenda Drake. There is so much to be learned from this competition. Not only by following the community on Twitter, but also, recently, the mentors have created a blog where we offer advice to the writing community: Writing With The Mentors. #PitchWars