Wednesday, April 23, 2014

It’s been a long hiatus, I know, but I really have been writing, and learning, and exploring new opportunities since my last post. I’ve finished another novel, continued querying agents, published a few more short pieces, and now here I am – back again.

Why? Lots of reasons, really: I miss the contact, the sharing, the accountability of writing a new something every week. And because, after 39 rejections from agents and small publishers, I have a signed contract for my debut novel!

Forty & Out will be released by Deadly Writes Publishing this September and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the personal attention Judge Bill and Sharon are giving as we move toward that date. More on that as the big day approaches – count on it! I’ll also be shifting to a new website in the coming weeks, but these posts will stay linked and archived. Too much history here to just walk away.

For this week though, as I try to learn my way around Twitter, I’ve been participating in #PitchSlam (detailed here), and we’re encouraged to share our entries for comment from other participants. So here goes:

Name: Cynthia L. (Cyndi) Pauwels writing as C.L. Pauwels

Genre: Adult suspense

Title: Fatal Errors

Word Count: 80,000 words

Song (book’s soundtrack?!): “Karma” by Kamelot

Pitch (35 words): Karma’s a bitch. With a suspended prison sentence looming, Fatál recklessly attempts an almost-legal hack and uncovers blackmail. The desperate extortionist turns murderous and Fatál combines tech savvy and her Gypsy sixth-sense to stop him.

Feedback from the organizers on my pitch: “The first line is a cliché saying, and takes up precious words that could be used to help clarify a few details that will, in turn, ratchet up the tension. For instance, explaining why Fatal attempts this hack when he's almost in the clear will. Also, what is this blackmail? Defining it will solidify motives and give character insight. Also, cutting adverbs and adjectives like recklessly and desperate tighten the prose and free up words to address the mentioned issues. And when a gypsy sixth-sense (vague, go ahead and define it as clairvoyance or sooth-seeing or whatever it is) the genre is altered and becomes supernatural suspense.”

(I’ll reserve my comments on the feedback for now.)

First 250 words: So I’m a hacker—get over it. Not all of us are nerdy, unwashed males hanging out in questionable Internet chat rooms. We’re not socially inept. Some of us are reasonably articulate and civic-minded. And we’re female. We like to explore the system, see what we can learn, expose security weaknesses, not create havoc for havoc’s sake. My friend Carmen and I work in the college computer lab to pay our way through school. At least I did until my supervisor Patrice double-crossed me. As my Gypsy grandma always says, karma’s a bitch. My boss—excuse me, former boss—needs to watch her back.

It had ended, and started, on a typical late November morning in southwest Ohio. Damp, gloomy. Most of the Gem City Business College students had already cut out for the long holiday weekend. Patrice showed up at my cubicle just before nine.

“Grab your bag,” she said. “I’ll buy at Beaner’s.”

I saved the database I was normalizing, dumped another back-up file onto my flash drive before logging off, and followed her out the door.

Patrice found a two-top near a window in the corner of the storefront coffee shop a block from campus. The tiny space was eerily quiet for a weekday morning, with only a smattering of customers. I cupped my mug, hoping some of the warmth would seep into my chilled hands, and lost myself in the aroma of chai. Her blunt words shattered my reverie.

So…what do you think? I’d love your feedback! And I’ll be sure to share the contest results as they come in. Kudos to the agents/managers who are coordinating this effort and reading/judging all the entries. What a job!