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Michelle4Laughs: It's in the Details


Query Kombat 2015 Wrap Up

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 03 July 2015 · 7 views

MASSIVE congrats to the undisputed, undefeated, 2015 Query Kombat Grand Champion, Kate McIntyre. The query and first page of her novel, Fugitive Motel beat out over 250 others kontenders to get here. That's a truly amazing accomplishment.

Fear not Kate (and category winners), this is not the official awards ceremony. That happens tomorrow. I can't wait to see your QK badges up on your blogs, twitter, etc. You've earned them.

Congrats and good luck to everyone with requests out. We'd love to hear your success stories, so don't forget us!



Getting the Submission Call with Kelly Siskind

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 03 July 2015 · 7 views

It's Friday! That means it's time for some inspiration! Prepare to dance. Take it away, Kelly...

THIS IS NOT A TEST. Seriously. I have a book deal. Scratch that, a four-book deal. I’ve pinched myself. I’ve dunked my face in ice water. I’ve smacked my head against a brick wall. Bruised and battered, and pretty darn cold, I’ve come to the realization that I’m not dreaming. This is in fact my life.
Be assured, this has not been a quick journey. It began three and a half years ago when I put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, and wrote THE BIG HOT MESS THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED. That fine piece of literature is hidden in a dark corner to be revisited at a later date. Then book two happened. Then three.
*insert rejection here*
There were lots of NOs during this time. No, I didn’t connect with the characters. No, this book isn’t for me. No, this doesn’t fit my current wish list.
No. No. No.
I made toilet paper from the sheets and decorated my house.

Like most authors and creative types, I grew thick hide. I took each rejection and siphoned what I could from the comments and reworked my manuscript. I tightened up my prose. I shellacked and glazed that sucker until it shined, then I doused it in sparkles. Sparkles help everything.
Determined to make it the best I could, I entered it into Pitch Wars the summer of 2014. Brighton Walsh, writer extraordinaire and all-around awesome gal, chose me from her slush. Like the goddess she is, she worked tirelessly with me to tighten up my manuscript. Scenes needed to be reorganized, content moved. Basically, I Frankensteined the crap out of it.

Then came the agent round. My legs bounced with excitement as I watched my entry on the computer. I clicked refresh a bunch. Then a bunch more. Then a few more times…and only a few requests trickled in. Not going to lie, it hurt. I suffered a moment of defeat and made out with a chocolate bar under my duvet. Then I got back up and queried as many agents as I could. My agent offer came two months later, and I signed with Stacey Donaghy of the Donaghy Literary Group . She’s been my champion ever since. Tireless. Fierce. She deserves all the things and then some. Four months and two offers later, my writing has found a home. I danced. A lot.

I chose not to video the moment due to excessive flailing.
My debut novel, CHASING CRAZY, will be released by Hachette’s Forever Yours in February 2016. And that’s not all. They’ve also signed me for my contemporary romance series, THE SNOWFLAKE EFFECT, all three books to be released in succession, beginning spring 2016.

The moral of the story is, when you get rejection, learn from it, make toilet paper art, work harder, and don’t give up. Dreams really do come true, but a lot of chocolate needs to be eaten along the way.


A small-town girl at heart, Kelly Siskind moved from the city to open a cheese shop with her husband in Northern Ontario. When she’s not neck deep in cheese or out hiking, you can find her, notepad in hand, scribbling down one of the many plot bunnies bouncing around in her head. She laughs at her own jokes and has been known to eat her feelings—Gummy Bears heal all. She’s also an incurable romantic, devouring romance novels into the wee hours of the morning.
Her debut novel, CHASING CRAZY, will be published in February 2016 by Hachette’s Forever Yours.



QUERY KOMBAT 2015 Final Round

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 01 July 2015 · 32 views

Time for the battle to the finish!!! 

After a MONTH from Round 1 to here, we've dwindled down the 250 or so submissions to the final two standing. They are Elephants Never Forget and Best(iary) Western, two AMAZING entries.

Have fun with that, judges! Both are winners, but you decide the Grand Champion! 

It's the home stretch! In the week coming up, it's all about Query Kombat wrap-up: presenting the badges to the winners of each age category, thanking the judges, and starting the Name That Judge game on Michelle's blog.




  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 01 July 2015 · 36 views

Entry Nickname: Best(iary) Western
Title: Fugitive Motel
Word count: 90K
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy


By day, fifteen-year-old Iris Vox sleepwalks through high school. By night, she plays a grown-up behind the reception desk of her father’s Kansas hotel, checking supernatural Others in and out. Quick with a dart gun or a convenient lie, Iris provides her guests with live food, fresh blood, or a quiet place to spin a web.

It’s the only life Iris has ever known, but it was safer when her dad didn’t spend so much time a human smoothie. Born with a hereditary curse, he liquefies then pupates back to his normal shape. Dad’s metamorphosis used to happen on a schedule. Now it comes without warning, leaving Iris to hold everything together.

Just as sleep is a luxury to Iris, so is the truth. Her father won’t admit that something’s changed in his curse, or where her mother went. Enraged by her father’s silence, Iris turns to her guests for human contact. Consoling a vampire’s fading blood moll, soothing the self-hate of werewolves, and helping a handsome insect learn to fly, Iris finds her role as listener and solace. While Iris navigates her anger, the curses that fuel the Other world get stronger and stranger. Deeply buried magic is rising to the surface, bringing with it ancient beings who lack the “humanity” that makes Others worth protecting.

Faced with how these new beings will corrupt and endanger the world of Others, Iris finally learns her father’s secret, and its cost to her family. Now she has to decide whether she wants to become the next Innkeeper, or leave the Other world behind.

The 250:

5:45 a.m.

A man staggers in through our automatic doors. Glad for some action, I slide last month’s National Geographic under the counter to focus on my customer. Nothing special about him; anyone else would see a regional salesman coming in after driving all night. An older man with skin like a re-used paper bag.

But the stagger…it’s not quite right. Drunks weave. This guy lurches forward like he’s got an absolute goal. Our desk. Me.

Yep. Pale, sullen, haggard with a side of desperate determination? Definitely looks like one of ours, but I have to be sure.

“Can I help you, Sir?”

“Have you got a room, Miss?”

The man grips the rim of the counter to steady himself. His well-groomed fingernails point toward me. With a great effort he lifts his left hand and slaps it on the counter twice. That’s good. It’s half the sign. Still, he’s not finished performing.

“What are you looking for exactly, Sir?” I prompt.

There’s a long anxious pause as he tries to remember. He grips so hard that his nail beds turn whitish gray. My right hand creeps under the counter so that my index finger can rest on the pebbled steel of the trigger. I feel it and my heart rate drops.

“Rest and feed,” the man answers finally, fishing the words from some hard-to-access place in his brain, laying them out heavily on the counter.


The words before the knocks would have better though. Doing it backwards means he’s starving.


Entry Nickname: Elephants Never Forget
Word Count: 72K
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy


Only two are yet remaining,
Precious magic ever waning . . .

That’s just part of the mysterious message 16-yr-old Chessie receives when she’s forced to visit her great-grandmother for the summer. Bad enough Gram lives in middle-of-nowhere, Kenya. But when Chessie’s contacted by the spirit of Jhelani, an eons-dead elephant, things take a total left turn toward weird. Communicating with cryptic songs and strange symbols, Jhelani’s message slowly emerges: if someone cannot save the last of her once-immortal tribe, the Earth may pay an unknown price. Freaked out and overwhelmed, Chessie shuts down, breaks communication, and refuses to help.

Meanwhile, Kenyan teen Daniel can’t feed his family when his crops fail. Desperate for work, he’s coerced into a gang of poachers with their sights set on a huge payday: the remaining elephants of Jhelani’s tribe. Just this one job, he swears. Then he’ll find honest work. Hold his head up again.

Chessie finally comes to a decision. She wants to be the kind of person who, as Gram would say, “grabs life by the tusks.” But by the time she finds the missing elephants, the poachers are closing in. With elephants charging and bullets flying, Chessie’s taken prisoner and her world and Daniel’s collide. To survive, Chessie must conquer her fears and seize a dangerous opportunity to escape. And Daniel must decide where he’ll draw the line: thief, poacher, or accessory to murder.

First 250

When your family falls apart, I suppose you shouldn’t expect anything to be the same again. Not even your mother’s smile.

Mom’s goofy I-love-my-life smile hadn’t been seen in months, and I’d become all too familiar with the distant impostor that had replaced it. But the smile she wore right now? Pretty sure I’d never seen that one before. Like something you’d grab at the mall without stopping to try it on, it was too tight and way too bright.

And she was cooking, for the first time in months. “Mom? What’s going on?” I dropped into a kitchen chair and watched her pull something from the oven.

“Roast chicken? Dibs on the drumstick,” Bent shouted, slamming his scrawny ten-year-old frame into the chair nearest the chicken. He leaned across the table, freckled nose practically up the bird’s butt, and took a deep sniff. “Look, Chessie, mac-n-cheese, too.”

Mom set a tray of steaming cornbread on the table and sat down, still beaming. “Your great-gram has invited us to visit her. In Africa.”

I paused, forkful of mac-n-cheese halfway to my mouth. My stomach felt hollow. I had the feeling no amount of mac-n-cheese was going to fill it, not even one with four gourmet cheeses and a crispy crumb topping. “Can you get enough time off for a trip like that?”

Her smile flickered like the lights during a thunderstorm, right before the power went out for good. “I . . . I can’t go. But you two will go without me.”



Getting the Submission Call with Piper Huguley

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 30 June 2015 · 40 views

Timing is everything. I'm happy to have time between Query Kombat rounds for this wonderful post from Piper Huguley on how she got her publishing contract. And it's just in time for the release of her upcoming book A VIRTUOUS RUBY. What a stunning cover! I have to do a preorder right now! 

I never thought that when I got the call, I would have to chose between two offers.  I always assumed that I would have no choice—I would just have to go with whomever offered a contract to me. I mean, I write in a genre that really doesn’t exist—inspirational African American historical romance.

It didn’t happen that way.

Social media is responsible for my getting contracts.  I didn’t think it would happen that way either.

If it weren’t for Twitter and Facebook, no contract.

And both offers came about as the result of a call for submissions.  A small e-pub made a call for submissions and I submitted to them. 

Latoya Smith, who was at Grand Central, made a call on Facebook for African American submissions.  She asked for a number of genres, but not historical.  I inboxed her (good thing she didn’t think I was a stalker person) and asked her if a historical would be okay to submit.  She said yes. 

In early February 2014, I submitted A Virtuous Ruby to both places.  And waited.

While I waited, I readied myself to self-publish.  The Golden Heart nominations were announced and then the quarter finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.  I did have a lot of time to spend thinking about where the submissions were.

Early in June though, Latoya sent me the most positive rejection from Grand Central saying that the board thought the numbers would be too small to acquire it, but if I had something contemporary she would like to see it.

Well, I had nothing contemporary.  Didn’t hurt my feelings though.  I’ve heard the whole “small audience” argument before about my stories. 

About a month later, I heard from the small press that they were going to take Ruby to the publication board. It would take about five weeks for them to let me know.

Interesting.  I wondered why it would take that amount of time, but okay.  Shortly after, I received an inbox message from Latoya saying that she was leaving Grand Central for another publisher and she wanted me to submit once she settled into her new job.  She didn’t say where she was headed but the announcement would be at the upcoming RWA conference.

While I was at RWA, I was in a room listening to a historical presentation when a cheer came up in the next room where Samhain was conducting a spotlight.   I found out later that the cheers were for the announcement that Latoya Smith was joining Samhain as an Executive Editor.

Knowing that Latoya was coming to Atlanta for a conference, I inboxed her to ask her if she wanted to meet.  I guess I wanted to reassure her that I wasn’t crazy, but looking back on it, maybe my actions were saying something else…..:)  She responded kind offer to take me to breakfast. Over breakfast on August 5 (of course I remember the date), we had a lovely conversation.  She would settle into her job soon and I would be able to submit A Virtuous Ruby shortly thereafter.

About three weeks later, I heard from the small publisher.  They wanted to acquire the entire “Migrations of the Heart” series.  I hadn’t heard from Latoya and so I contacted her and asked if this was the time to submit.  She said it was and so I did.

About two weeks later, Samhain offered three contractions for the first three stories in the “Migrations of the Heart” series.

I never thought I would have to decide between two contract offers.  But I did.  When I reviewed the contracts, I knew that Samhain was the best place for my stories.

That is my call story. And it may not be the story that you thought I would tell when the time came.  But there is this thing about God’s timing. And I believe in it.

You see, I first met Latoya at a Moonlight and Magnolias conference in 2012.  She offered to talk to a group of writers in a room during a down moment in the conference.  I backed out.  I did not go.  

Why didn’t I go? Because I wasn’t ready.

Now I am. I’m looking forward to the journey and in seeing the stories of Ruby and her sister emerge in July, September and November of 2015.  One more thing about God’s timing-- 2015 was my target date all along—it is the one hundred year anniversary of the start of the Great Migration--the historical event that is the backdrop of the “Migrations of the Heart” series. 


Piper Huguley, named 2015 Debut Author of the Year by Romance Slam Jam and Breakout Author of the Year by AAMBC, is a two-time Golden Heart ®finalist and is the author of the “Home to Milford College” series. The series follows the building of a college from its founding in 1866. On release, the prequel novella to the “Home to Milford College” series, The Lawyer’s Luck, reached #1 Amazon Bestseller status on the African American Christian Fiction charts. Book #1 in the series, The Preacher’s Promise was named a top ten Historical Romance in Publisher’s Weekly by the esteemed historical romance author, Beverly Jenkins.

Huguley is also the author of “Migrations of the Heart,” a five-book series of inspirational historical romances 
set in the early 20th century featuring African American characters. Book one in the series, A Virtuous Ruby won the Golden Rose contest in Historical Romance in 2013 and was a Golden Heart® finalist in 2014. Book four, A Champion’s Heart, was a Golden Heart® finalist in 2013. A Virtuous Ruby will be published in July 2015 by Samhain Publishing.

She blogs about the history behind her novels at http://piperhuguley.com. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.

A Virtuous Ruby links 



New Agent Contest Announcement

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 29 June 2015 · 46 views

Last summer, I did a New Agent Contest in July. I decided to send out a few agent invites this morning and maybe start to think about doing another one this year.

I'm rather overwhelmed to announce that there are already 8 agents signed up to take part! So I think it's safe to say that New Agent will take place. In fact, it's moving beyond a mini-contest!

New Agent is just as it sounds: a contest for newer agents. A chance to roll out the red carpet and welcome another batch of new agents to the writer community. So a big welcome and thanks to them for finding time.

As I just started planning this morning, I don't have much set yet. The agent round will be July 27th-29th. The contest will feature query letters and first 250 words. There will be four or five experts as slush readers to form teams. As of now, I have a romance, WF, contemporary expert. A MG expert. A mystery and thriller expert. A few more will be invited and all will be named in an upcoming post. 

There will be 30 entries chosen by the teams to go to the agent round. Some of those will be group picks (entries that more than one team wanted.) Each entry will get a very short window to "tweak" their entry. No big revisions or huge changes. Just touchups with advice from their team leader. 

I haven't settle on a submission date yet, but somewhere around July 17th. 

You may look at my blog posts from last July for more info on what may happen. Or ask questions in the comments. Finished and polished manuscripts only. One entry per person. We ask that those already in an agent round not participate. (If you were picked for QK but didn't make the agent round, send your entry!)

Because this contest is so last notice, I'll need your help to spread the word to your writer friends. Use the hashtag #NewAgent. There will be a twitter party during submission.

Now to the last point. I'm debating whether to charge a small entry fee of $5 to help cover my time and bills over the summer. But if my GoFundMe account makes it's goal, I'll drop that idea. Honestly, it's a way to show your appreciation for the work that goes into these contests. And a big helping hand to me. (Plus, my hubs will be happy.)  

So that's it. I'll try and update with a firm submission date. And look for more news after Query Kombat. 



Query Kombat 2015 Round 5

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 28 June 2015 · 49 views

Team Platypus will rock your socks off!

Team Platypus is Awesome!!!! Podunk for the win!
THE FINAL FOUR have been crowned. Three from Michelle's team, one from Mike's. These are the top FOUR out of over 250 entries--an amazing accomplishment by these authors. 

Team Platypus for the win. Go Podunk!!!
All the action is over on Mike's blog for the next two days! 

Good Luck Kombatants!

(And by that I mean Team Platypus:o)



Query Kombat Round 4 Winners and a Game

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 27 June 2015 · 46 views

Congrats to the winners of Round 4 who have become our Final Four! The next round takes place on Sunday and goes for two days before the final round starts on July 1st. A big cheer for the last four standing from sixty-four entries! Among them is our Grand Champion and YA Champion!

Librarians, Curses and Mysteries
Life Sucks, I'm Stuck in Podunk
Best(iary) Western
Elephants Never Forget 

And coming after Query Kombat is another chance to win prizes! One that anyone may enter. We'll play guess the judges!

Each participating judge will proved a few clues to their nickname. The person who correctly guesses the right nickname will win the prize offered by that judge! Prizes range from a query critique to a 1st chapter critique or whatever the judge prefers.

If more than one person guesses correctly a random draw will be done to determine one winner. (Unless the judge offers to giveaway more than one prize.)

This game will begin on/or around July 6th. Stay tuned for more Query Kombat fun!




Getting the Call with Kimberly Callard

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 26 June 2015 · 38 views

I haven't done one of these stories in a while, and it's great to get back to them! Especially when it's someone I know in the writersphere. You just never know how long it's going to take. Here's your Friday dose of inspiration. 

When I started querying my first novel, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. It was bad. Really bad. But I didn’t know it. Even worse, I had no idea what a query letter was, so my first queries pretty much said “here’s my book, I hope you like it.”

Yeah. I told you it was bad.

But I learned. I went on Google and looked up query letters. I cut 15,000 words from the ms (not nearly enough, but I didn’t know that). I wrote a completely new first chapter that didn’t start with the MC waking up.

It still got rejected.

I kept querying, and reading, and learning. Eventually I realized my story was beyond repair. It was time to trunk it.

It had taken me over two years to write that first ms, and I’d spent another year querying and learning. I had the spark of a new idea floating around my head, but the thought of spending another two years squeezing out the story scared me.

That’s when I heard of National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo – seriously, you’d think a bunch of writers would come up with an easier to pronounce acronym). I knew there was no way I could manage to write 50,000 words in a month, but I figured even if I only scratched out 10,000 words, I’d be 10,000 words farther along than I was at the start of the month.

So in November 2012 I let housework slide, and squeezed writing into every available minute. And at the end of the month, I had a 50,000-word MG Fantasy.

Even better, I found a critique group through the forum.

I started revising with the help of my crit group, and in May 2013 I took the shiny first chapter of my half-revised novel to a conference. I came home with requests for fulls from an agent and an editor, plus the event organizer sent it to her agent.

I was overwhelmed, excited, and a bit frantic. The editor asked me to finish revising and submit ASAP, so I did. And then I waited. And waited.

No response ever came. I politely nudged, but still…nada.

So I revised some more, and queried more. Any time an agent was nice enough to give feedback, I took it, tore apart the ms and worked to make it better.

I was getting a fair number of requests, and lots of personalized, encouraging rejections. I was determined not to give up. But by May 2014, I was running out of agents to submit to (I also write Picture Books, and was looking for an agent to rep those too, thus limiting my numbers). I sent out to what I’d decided would be my last batch of agents.

A month later I got a request for 50 pages. I also got a concussion (you can read that boring, embarrassing story here), which meant I couldn’t use the computer. I sent out the partial with my husband’s help, and then went back to hide in my dark, quiet room for the next eight months.

In February 2015, I was finally feeling well enough to go on the computer again, and the first thing I did was send a nudge to the agent with my partial. She replied that she’d missed my original email, but remembered the story and would read it right away.

Two days later, she requested the full.

Three agonizing weeks after that, she asked for an R&R, with a one month exclusive on the re-submission. Her notes were amazing – every one resonated with me. She even got on the phone and talked though all her revision notes with me. By the end of the phone call I was psyched to jump into the revision.

I spent the next two months revising, and finally sent her the shiny new version.

After a week of gnawing my way through more chocolate than I’d have thought possible, she emailed back to say the ms still needed some work, but she wanted to sign me. Squee!

A phone call the next evening confirmed it, and on May 6, 2015 – 363 days from querying her, 2 years from my first query for that story – I signed with the awesome Brianne Johnson of Writer’s House. *Insert Muppet arm flail here*

The stats for those who like ‘em:

Queries: 33
Requests: 11 (4 Partial, 7 Full – not counting the editor)
Offers: 1


K Callard lives in Ottawa, Canada with her husband, three kids, and a life-sized stuffed polar bear. Somewhere in that chaos she manages to write Middle Grade and Picture Books. When not writing or taking care of her family, she decorates cakes, reads, and tries not to embarrass herself (or others) with her geekiness. She blogs about her writing journey at kcallard.wordpress.comand tweets about just about anything at @k_callard. She is represented by Brianne Johnson of Writer’s House.



Query Kombat '15 Round 4

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 25 June 2015 · 33 views

Round 4 is taking place over on SC's blog. Hurry over there and see how the Elite 8 are doing. They'll be up for the next two days! 


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