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Michelle4Laughs: It's in the Details


Getting the Call with Heather Van Fleet

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 22 October 2014 · 14 views

For everyone suffering through the doubt and disappointment of not making an internet contest, hold your chin up. Keep pushing on. Hold the faith. Here's some words of wisdom for you from Heather.

Three years ago, if someone would've told me I'd be writing this blog post, then I probably would've laughed in their faces before calling them insane. I mean, seriously. I was Heather: The two-spaces-after-a-period, girl. The girl who didn't believe in the power of awesome dialogue. The girl who head hopped and wrote in first person present tense, with two points of view that sounded IDENTICAL to one another. *GASP* I know. I. Know.

But now, here I sit at my kitchen table, typing this blog through my happy tears, wanting nothing more than to hug my past self. And this is exactly what'd I'd say, too...

You'll get better, just keep writing. Don't stop, no matter the icky hand you're dealt. No matter if you've encountered three failed publishing houses (one in which stole all your royalties from your debut book.) Your skin will thicken over time, and those bad reviews are just opinions. People WILL buy your books. People WILL fan girl over Jack and Mason and David. Those three nights a week Starbucks trips and the 25 extra pounds you've put on? It'll all be worth it in the end, too, so quit your crying. Quit thinking you've failed because your first book didn't draw the agent love like you'd hoped. Quit saying you're going to give up because the fifty million Twitter contests you entered never went in your favor. And lastly, that idea in your head? The one about the single daddy and the half-Filipino girl? Put it aside, finish it later. Because THAT will be your book.

Through all of my crazy ups and downs, my heartbreak and tears, too, I am ridiculously ecstatic to announce that I. Have. An agent. A fabulous agent at that.

The agent that I accepted the offer from was actually not my first offer. In fact, my first offer was sent to me on September 22nd by a very nice agent with whom I'd submitted to over the summer. I was super happy with her. She said all the right things on the phone, was extremely professional and made me feel like I'd be a very welcome part of their literary home. I was set to say yes, had emailed a lot of other authors repped by her, too. All of which had very positive things to say. But I knew I had quite a few queries out still, (even a couple of fulls) so I did what was right: told her I'd like two weeks to think it over. That way I could contact the other agents first to be courteous.

So imagine my surprise when I sent off those emails and immediately had some responses. A few were very nice step asides, and then there were four of them that said they would definitely like to read the full and would get back to me by my date. I nodded to myself, and said 'Hey, that's cool."  But I was honestly thinking I had my mind made up already.

But then it happened. A week and a half later I received an email from an agent...one of my DREAM agents, mind you. I'd been following her for months now on Twitter, always thinking to myself "Now this lady knows her stuff." I admired her deeply, her work ethics, and her straight forwardness. Heck, as far as amazing goes, she was that, and then some. She'd had my full for a month and a half already, (give or take a few days) so I was ready for the big R. *shivers* Heck, at first I didn't even want to open her email because my four year old had just used black nail polish to decorate her My Little Ponies and the mess. Was. Horrific. But then I said, "Eh, why not add a little more yuck to my day all at once and open it? Get it over with so to speak."

So I did.

And then I blinked. Fifty times in a row. (well, kinda, sorta...) Because right there in the very email I was sure said thanks, but no thanks, was something entirely different. She said she loved my new adult story, and wanted to see if I'd like to be represented by DLG

Needless to say the fingernail polish was long forgotten because heck, nothing at this point could bring me down. Seriously. Two agents wanted ME? Was I dreaming? I mean, I had to be. But, like all things in publishing, I had to wait until my given due date to email my Y-E-S because I still hadn't heard from the other two agents reading my full.

I figured I 'd be okay waiting, because heck...I'd been waiting for so long as it was. I had a book releasing, too, and blog tours to prepare for. Not to mention a 13 year wedding anniversary to celebrate, and books to review for my blog. I could totally handle this. Totally.

But, hey...reality and thoughts are two entirely different things, lemme tell ya. Heck, if it weren't for some very important writerly friends in my life, I probably would've gone insane during my wait. But I didn't. And I made it. And the day I hit send on that acceptance email to Stacey Donaghy of DLG Literary I knew that wait had definitely been worth it.

Publishing is hard. (Possibly harder than child birth and parenting, but that debate is still being had) But now I can breathe knowing I finally have someone in my corner to support me; that loves my work like I do.

There are four people I need to credit first for giving me the strength to get through this whole process.

1. The amazing Katrina Emmel. My CP. My friend. My confidant. The one person who helped me pretty The Imperfect Try up enough to garner agent attention at all. She's amazing, and one of THE best things that's ever happened to me.

2. Karen Bynum is quite possibly the best cheerleader in the world. She's been with me since the beginning. Heck, she's the one who encouraged me to find an agent in the first place. (Even if she never outright said so.) She's a girl who can make even the darkest days seem sunny.

3. Angela McPherson. One of my first authorly friends. She's IS the best friend a girl can have, even though she lives so terribly far away.

4. Finally, Kathleen Palm. Gah!! I have't known her for too long, but dang it, she's amazing. Always making me laugh through my tears. Always giving me Twitter hugs and sending me happy thoughts. I love this girl. SO much.

Okay, enough with the mush. I'm done crying. I'm, in fact, ready to party!!! (In my sweats, with my adult beverage in hand, of course.) 

Because I'm officially agented.

By Stacey Donaghy.

Holy. Crap.


Young adult and new adult author Heather Van Fleet lives in a small town on the Iowa/Illinois border. She’s a wife to her hubby and high school sweet heart, Chris, as well as a mom to her three little girls, Kelsey, Emma and Bella. When she’s not obsessing over her fictional book characters, cooking dinner, or running around chasing her crazy kiddos, you can usually find her with her head stuck in her Kindle, sucking down White Chocolate Mochas like they're water.


Website: www.heathervanfleet.com



NoQS Michelle's Minions

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 20 October 2014 · 24 views

It's always tough to limit yourself. It's going to come down to subjective opinion. Often, the entries I picked struck a cord with me. 

So many entries were fantastic, yet not quite right for me. Some might have been darker than I prefer. Some might have been too serious. I'm sad I can only take thirteen.

That is why contests are more for meeting people and learning about writing than just getting before agents.

Hugs to all of you, and I hope no one goes away too disappointed. Everyone is a winner for putting your work out there and facing down the fear of rejection. The greatest fear is not trying. 

You're all honorary Michelle's Minions!

Be sure to check Mike's blog and SC's blog for their picks. 

So it's time to celebrate my official minions! Dance. Congratulate. Be happy for others, knowing they also support you.

In no particular order:

Crossing Brielle
The White Lehua
Life After Redby
Popcorn Brain
I'm Not a Zombie But I Play One on TV
Princess Not So Charming
Dead Indeed
The Girlfriend Request
Wired for Wall Street
The Troll Diaries
The Girl Who Was Ordinary, Until She Wasn't
Poison Apples

New minions, keep an eye on your inbox. Mentors will be contacting you through the email you used to enter the contest. If that's not your actual email because a friend mailed yours in, you'd better let me know. Each entry will get one mentor assigned to them.

Please return your revised entry using the same format to the contest email by midnight on October 25th.  We need that time to swat down unruly formatting and create the posts before the agent round. Please do not be late. We will go live without you.

Come back on October 28th to see the agents Shriek, Scream and Shiver! 



Commas with Interjections and Direct Address

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 20 October 2014 · 18 views

Commas. Just when you think you've found where they all belong, there's another rule to confuse things.

Most people seem to know about using commas in a list (the Oxford comma), or including commas before conjunctions (or, but, and, so, if) connecting two independent clauses. But you also need commas when your sentence directly addresses someone or contains an interjection.

Some examples.

"Look out for that giant boulder, Rodger!"
"Rodger, look out for that giant boulder!"

Assuming the speaker took the time to say all this, they are directly addressing the soon-to-be-squished Rodger. A comma is needed before or after his name depending on the location of the name. Also notice that the people or person being addressed don't have to be called by name. A comma is still required even if the object isn't named.

"Everyone, look out for that giant boulder!"
"Look out for the giant boulder, everyone!"

"I love you, my little squishy face."
Butt head, that's my toe you're standing on." 

"Rodger never gets squished by boulders at home."

Conversely, here the speaker is only talking about Rodger, not to him, so no commas are needed.

"Geez, Mom, you're embarrassing me."

This sentence has two reasons for commas. First, you have an interjection that requires a comma and second this sentence is addressing someone. When the person being addressed is in the center of a sentence, they are offset by commas.

"Cool beans, Rodger, on becoming the next Flat Stanley."

An interjection is an add-on to the front, middle, or end of a sentence used to exclaim, protest, or command. Depending on how strong the exclaimation, it may or may not be its own sentence.

"Gee, that's swell."
"Hooray! That's swell!"
"Shit, Rodger was squished by a boulder."
"Oh, it got my toe too!"
"Ow! It got my toe too!"
"Being flat may be useful, but it's hard to kiss that way, isn't it?"
"Yes, I'm going to Rodger's funeral."
"Rodger should have listened to me, right?"
"Indeed, that was a bad day for Rodger."
"Well, he's at peace now."

Interjections can be a great way to break up your sentence structure and avoid monotony. Addressing characters in your sentences can help avoid confusion when multiple speakers are involved. Just remember the commas!

Now for the fun! Got any examples of your own? Keep them PG, please.



Query Questions with Jen Karsbaek

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 17 October 2014 · 58 views

Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.


Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a new series of posts called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers for the real expert--agents!

If you have your own specific query question, please leave it in the comments and it might show up in future editions of Query Questions as I plan to rotate the questions.

While you're waiting on the results for Nightmare on Query Street, what better substitute than an interview with one of the agents? Jen Karsbaek is here from the newly renamed Fuse Literary Agency

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
We typically close to queries in December, but otherwise have at it! If things are busy when you query it may take me a bit longer to get to you, but if you wait you’re just going to be further down the list when I do get back to queries.

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
I generally look at the sample pages, but if a query is particularly weak and/or is not strong and not in a genre I typically represent I will skip the sample pages.

Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
My assistant primarily helps me prioritize full manuscripts and gives a second eye for editing, I currently look at all of my queries myself.

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?
The sample pages should start where your story starts. If you feel the manuscript is better served by starting the sample pages after the prologue that should probably tell you something about your prologue.

Some agencies mention querying only one agent at a time and some say query only one agent period. How often do you pass a query along to a fellow agent who might be more interested?
If I see a query that I think someone else in my agency would like I will tell the writer to query that other agent. You can always query more than one Fuse agent, as long as you only query one at a time.

Most agents have said they don’t care whether the word count/genre sentence comes first or last. But is it a red flag if one component is not included?
Word count is not necessarily a red flag, but I do want to see it. Not including the genre of your work usually is a red flag, though. Often it makes it appear that you don’t know what the genre is.

Should writers sweat the title of their book (and character names) or is that something that is often changed by publishers?
There’s a decent chance your title will get changed, but you should still sweat it. A really good (or really bad) title will sometimes have me skipping straight to your query from my query box.

Some writers have asked about including links to their blogs or manuscript-related artwork. I’m sure it’s not appropriate to add those links in a query, but are links in an email signature offensive?
Those are totally fine in an email signature. Great, even, because if I am considering offering representation then you’ve given me more of the information I need to make that decision. Honestly, I think you can even include one or two links in the last line of your bio in your query “I blog about XYZ at www.myblog.com.”

If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested?
Only if the material was requested.

 What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?
Whether or not you have publishing credits I want your bio to tell me why you are the person to write this book.
Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?
I am fairly editorial, although I like to start with things that are relatively polished to begin with.

What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
A fresh story with flappers, preferably set in Chicago; an amazing book club read; books with GLBTQ characters.


Jen Karsbaek joined first Larsen Pomada Literary Agency, then Fuse Literary Agency in 2013.
Jen is aggressively looking to build her list with women’s fiction, upmarket commercial fiction, historical fiction, and literary fiction. She looks for books with particularly well-developed characters and strong authorial voice. In historical in particular she is interested in books that bring the setting to life and maintain balance between historical accuracy and strong plot choices. She is also interested in mystery, fantasy, and occasionally romance approaches to any of the genres listed above. She is not looking for YA or anything that is primarily fantasy, romance, or science fiction.



Nightmare on Query Street is Open!

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 15 October 2014 · 55 views





Nightmare on Query Street Formatting

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 14 October 2014 · 40 views


The submission window opens at 12 noon (EST) on Wednesday, October 15th! (Tomorrow) The window will close at 8pm on Friday the 17th, or when we receive 225 entries. Any entries sent before noon will be deleted.

We are accepting all age categories and genres, excluding picture books and exotica. Despite the title of the contest, your book does not have to be horror.

MichelleMike, and SC will dig through the slush pile and choose twelve entries for each of our teams. After being critiqued by one of our awesome mentors (October 22nd-25th) those 36 finalists will go up on our blogs for the agent round (October 28th-30th).

There are a few important stipulation to be aware of:

1. If you are in the PitchSlam agent round, you may NOT submit an entry into the Nightmare on Query Street contest. 

2. To participate, you must be following ALL of our blogs (MichelleMike, and SC).

3. ONE entry per person. No exceptions. If you have more than one work ready, choose the work you think is strongest.

4. Submission guidelines need to be followed to the letter.

5. In order to participate in NoQS, your novel must be completed, polished, and ready to send to agents.

6. If you've already queried your novel to most or all of the agents participating in the contest, please do not submit the work. It would be counterproductive for everyone.

The Format:

Send your one and only submission to nightmareonquerystreet (at) yahoo (dot) com. Only one submission per email address/person is allowed. If you break this rule, all of your submissions will be deleted without question or warning.

Here's how it should be formatted (yes, include the bolded and everything!) Please use Times New Roman (or equivalent), 12 pt font, and put spaces between paragraphs. No indents or tabs are needed. No worries if your gmail doesn't have Times New Roman. 

Subject Line: First initial. Last name: TITLE, Age Category + Genre 
(example: M. Anthony: DEADEARTH, NA Apocalyptic Sci-fi )

In The Email:
Name: Michael Anthony
Title: DEADEARTH EP. 1: MR. .44 MAGNUM (yes, caps!)
Genre: NA Apocalyptic Sci-fi(Age category and genre. YA/MG is not a genre.)
Word Count: XX,XXX

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

(Can be from your MC's POV, but doesn't have to be. 100 words or less.)


Here is my fantastic query! Include only the good parts, no bio, greeting, or closing.

First 250 words:

Here are the first 250 words of my manuscript, and I will not end in the middle of a sentence, even if I hit 255 words :)


Conformation emails will be sent. If you don't get one, ask one of us on twitter. Submissions will cut off after 225 entries. We'll announce closure of submissions on twitter.

Again, the picks will go live for the agent round on October 28th. Prior to that, we will send finalists an email letting you know who your mentor is.

Please do not comment on the entries! No cheerleading this time. 

Requesting agents will:

Scream for a full request

Shriek for 50 pages

Shiver for 10 pages


Just as we did with Query Kombat, we're going to have a Twitter party where contest hosts and mentors get to mingle with the awesome writers who've entered Nightmare on Query Street.

Like earlier this year, we've got some questions for entrants to answer under the hashtag #NoQS

10.15.2014 (Submission Day!): Title of your book and the time you emailed it.

10.16.2014: If I knocked on your MC's front door on Halloween, would I get a trick or a treat?

10.17.2014: What is your MC going to be for Halloween?

10.18.2014: Your MC goes on a haunted hayride. What would make him/her scream the loudest?

10.19.2014: If your MC could pull one prank on Halloween and not get caught, what would it be?

10.20.2014: What would your antagonist do for Halloween? 

10.21.2014: What scary setting will your MC be in on Halloween? Will they be hiding under a bed or prancing around a graveyard?

 10.22.2014: What is your MC's favorite scary movie or would they watch a scary movie? 



Team Mutant Charm Entry 4: LESSER EVILS, Adult UF

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 12 October 2014 · 17 views

Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy


Word Count: 98,000

Hero: Jean Grey. Like Jean, Lilah will do anything for the people closest to her. They both had traumatic childhoods that greatly affected how they view the world, but managed to rise above them and take control and ownership of their lives.

35-word Pitch: 
Lilah's involvement in her boss' death comes back to haunt her — literally. When her brother takes the fall, she'll have to kill the ghosts who have him before he becomes one.

First 250:
He smiled, and it flooded me with the desperate need to chop off his head. Since Mr. Tall, Dark, and Ghostly aimed to violently rip my soul from my body, I considered it an appropriate, and very necessary response. And I had a quota to beat.

A gust of cool autumn air whispered through my hair as I side-stepped the rusted frame of a car. "C'mon, you little bastard. Let's make this quick. I've only got fifteen minutes before my shift ends."  

The ghost responded by sinking further into the shadow cast by a derelict liquor store, just as a blackened cloud crawled across the full moon. I forced myself not to blink so I wouldn't lose him, and he shuffled to the right. Then the left. Back to the right. They always did that — shuffling back and forth, waving, floating about. The crazier ones jumped or made faces. All of it designed to figure out whether I could see them. Not all people could. Whether you considered that a good thing or a bad one was all a matter of perspective.  

I gave him a few more seconds to finish his shuffling before I took a few steps forward. The tattoo on my wrist heated and tingled as the magic in it flared to life, forcing him into solid form. He looked mostly human, though bent and twisted, both physically and psychologically no doubt, from untold years in Purgatory.  

Honestly, if Purgatory was designed to be some kind of rehab for sinners, someone should revoke its license. 



Team Mutant Charm Entry 3: BONESAW, Adult Sci-fi/Horror

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 12 October 2014 · 16 views

Genre: Adult/Sci-Fi Horror

Title: Bonesaw

Word Count: 90,000

Hero: Deadpool. My main character is sarcastic and funny, violent and self-serving, but he manages to do the right thing in spite of himself.

Pitch: Frankie’s having a tough week. He’s kidnapped, sold into slavery, and uncovers a plot to destroy humanity. If he stops it, they kill him. If he doesn’t, he dies. Like he gives a shit.


I was cruising around the Bottom when some kid ran up and handed me a note from O’Neill. Little rat faced bugger (the kid, not O’Neill), face all schmutzed up with soot or dirt or oil.  Anyway, I took it from him and he just stood there. Looking at me.

“What?” I said, and he held out his hand. “You gotta be kidding me.”

“O’Neill said you’d gimmie some money, so pay up.”

“Pay up or what?”

He took a second to think. Scrunched up his face, eyes searching the sky. Then he fixed me with a stare to kill a cat and said, “Pay up or I’ll cut your balls off.”

Jesus Christ. 

I might have done something, but he was just a kid, and a ballsy kid, too. So I leaned over and put my hands on my knees.

“Look, kid. I like you, which is why I ain’t gonna do nothing. This time. But you ever say something like that to me again—”

“Aw, screw you.” 

He pulled his leg back as far as he could and kicked me in the . . . I could tell he was aiming for my balls, but I turned away and he nailed me in the shin instead. 

“Sonofabitch!” I yelled, bouncing.

He scampered away before I could do anything, dodging between the legs of all the other poor suckers wandering around the streets. I watched him until he disappeared, rubbing my leg and shaking my head. Kids these days.



Team Mutant Charm Entry 2: CHEESUS WAS HERE, YA Contemporary

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 12 October 2014 · 22 views

Genre: YA Contemporary

Title: Cheesus Was Here

Word Count: 61,000

Hero: My protagonist, Delaney Delgado, isn't much for super heroes. She believes in people rescuing their own damn selves. If pressed, however, she'd have to go with Spiderman due to his mad photography skills. As a fellow camera slinger she can appreciate the irony in Peter Parker taking pictures of himself in full Spidey gear to keep Jonah Jameson appeased.  

 Del can’t believe in miracles; if they’re real, God exists and let her little sister die. When crazy religious signs begin turning up around town, Del’s driven to prove Baby Cheesus and Co are fake.

250: Every Sunday, my town turns into a war zone and I'm left huddled in the middle. On one side, St. Andrew's United Methodist Church hovers, ready to rake in the faithful. On the other, Holy Cross Baptist sends out a siren song, luring in congregants. I don't want anything to do with either of them. Me and God, we're not best buds these days. 

No man's land, occupied by those few agnostics, atheists and major-holiday-only observers, is a dangerous place to be. But I've got an excuse for skipping services this week. One even the white-haired old ladies can't argue with. Probably.

Outside, St. Andrew's church bell continues to ring, brassy and demanding. In answer, Holy Cross's choir lead, Ellen Martin, croons out a gospel song through speakers wide as a barn door. The bell falls silent and Ellen draws out the last triumphant note of "Hallelujah." I start laughing. Score one for Reverend Beaudean and Holy Cross. Pastor Bobby's arms must have given out while yanking on the bell pull. The weekly grudge match between the two churches as they compete for the faithful is as much a part of Clemency, Texas, as the faded wood sign on the edge of town proclaiming: "Welcome to Clemency, Y'all."

I shove away from the convenience store's counter, sliding my hands over the nicked orange surface, and count out my cash drawer. Time to finish getting the store ready for the day.



Team Mutant Charm Entry 1: INCONCEIVABLE, Women's Fiction

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 12 October 2014 · 34 views

Genre: Women's Fiction


Word count: 78,000

Hero: Hatty Brunelle relates to Clark Kent/Superman. She’s a journalist who wants to help people adversely impacted by public policies. Through the words she writes, she can take down the bad guys (corrupt politicians) and uphold truth.

Pitch: When Ozarks native Hatty marries Prince John, they make headlines for an unusual sex scandal: infertility. Tabloids dub her “Barren-ess;” royal in-laws demand divorce. The couple faces medical procedures or abandoning John’s future as king.


On your mark. My teeth pressed together, biting down hard on my determination to win, as I bent my knees into a crouch. Because I reeked of rookie, my mind seized on what I learned in training about minimizing feet movement and keeping my hands steady. I prepped for a photo finish; the winner would be the journalist whose image of Prince John Meinrad got the most shares on social media. Smiling photos were good. Awkward snapshots were better. Much better. Catch him wiping his nose or making a weird face to snag the grand prize: a fat check from Europe’s biggest gossip rag, Xpress. The tabloid forked over thousands of euros for the best worst photos of the royals. Faux pas means full pay, baby.

As I sized up the competitors along the press line, I recognized a couple of Xpress photographers near the back door of the childcare center. They were the pros, but I arrived early and grabbed the primo spot. My position put me close enough to touch the rear bumper of the purring black limo that waited for Toulene’s favorite royal. The early nerd gets to earn.

I held up my smartphone with its camera ready to go the moment the prince exited the building.

Get set. Thunder ripped into the quiet anticipation that had settled over the horde of reporters and photographers, but I held steady.


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