It’s time for 2017’s second Son of a Pitch (SoaP), a query event designed to help you get feedback on your query and first 250 words. Want to know more? You can listen to my writescast interview of SoaP creator, Katie Hamstead, or visit her blog for more information.
My submission for round one follows.
Title: Accounting for it All
Category and Genre: Adult, Romantic Suspense
Word Count: 89,000
When porn-star-turned-accountant Robin Whethers becomes the center of an IRS audit, she figures things can’t get any worse: she had no idea she was part of an apparently vast money laundering scheme, and to top it off, she has no real accounting knowledge.
Still, somehow the audit is the least of her problems.
Hanging over her is the impending death of her terminally ill mother, to whom Robin is estranged. Then there’s the accounting instructor she enlists to help her survive the audit: against her better judgement, she can’t manage to contain her blossoming feelings for him.
Oh, and the woman Robin considers to be the love of her life? She’s back in town, finally ready to try and make things work.
Robin might’ve thought she could confront her greatest challenge by learning to juggle numbers, but if she’s to ever be whole, she’ll have to learn how to juggle much more than that… before she winds up in jail, her mother passes, and the woman she loves disappears from her life once more.
First 250 Words
Thursdays are my favorite days at Pornucopia.
Is it payday? Yeah. In-house filming day? Yes. Am I glad to know I’ll actually get to work as a talent consultant? Of course.
But it’s the simple things that make Thursdays the best of days, and there isn’t anything more predictable than the Thursday morning safe-looting operation.
As soon as I’ve cleared out the safe, I’ll round the corner from my own office and into Jerry’s. “Hey, Jer?”
“Only got a few thousand in the safe this week. Still want me to—?”
He’ll throw his hands up, looking all exasperated. “Always. Go. To. The. Bank. Every Thursday. No matter how much or how little is in there. Always. Go. To. The. Bank.”
I’ll repeat “always go to the bank” with him as he says it for the second time. “Right,” I’ll add. “How could I forget?”
“Never forget.” He’ll say it as he takes a big old bite of his first ham sandwich of the day. Beneath that ham-sandwich smile and double chin of his, though, he’s dead serious. Jerry’s the big man in charge of all two of us in accounting, and I’ve got no intention of breaking the department’s only rule, especially since he’s the only person actually doing any accounting around here—and because he’s the only one that knows he’s the only person doing any accounting around here.
And getting paid for five days of work a week when I really only have one? I’m in no hurry to push for a change.
Thanks for reading and for your feedback. And best of luck to all SoaP entrants! Happy writing.
This sounds interesting. I don’t have much to say (which is a good thing). My comments are below.
I think it would be best if you use a period instead of a colon in your query. It’ll still have the same effect.
I was thrown off a bit with “he’ll do this” and “I’ll do this”. Are you presenting this as a daily routine?
Thanks for your comments! Good point about the colon; I’ll re-examine that in future versions.
And you’re right regarding the use of future tense in the first 250 words–she’s thinking of what’s to come once she empties the safe. I’m establishing that because in the following 500 words, things definitely do not go according to the weekly routine. Do you think that might be more clear were you able to read the following words, or is the future tense there still likely confusing?
Thanks for your feedback. I’ll check out your query and first 250 words shortly!
Query; Wow to the concept. You’ll get second and third looks, for sure!
I think there may be a few punctuation errors. I’m no expert, so run it through Grammarly app. (examples. comma needed after ‘then’ maybe not needed after ‘still’
and remember no bio or comps.
Excerpt – Starts out very well. I was confused by the ‘safe-looting’ section. Is she actually looting? I think you can afford to be a little tell-y here and give us some info.
I’m kinda curious to see how this progresses.
Also, if you so feel inclined: https://jayperin.wordpress.com/2017/09/11/first-blog-post/
Thanks for the feedback. I think the comma matters you’ve pointed out are changes that could definitely be made, but I think the manner in which each word is used lends itself to a little more flexibility. I’ll some more digging on this, though.
I did see the “no bios or comps” on the submission criteria for round two, but may have missed where it said that for round one. I’ll take them out of this post shortly to prevent any confusion.
Thanks for the notes on the excerpt as well. She’s not actually “looting” the safe, and I did have a line clarifying this in a previous draft, but maybe it’s worth working back into the current draft to provide clarification. She’s just *imagining* herself as a safecracker to make things more interesting, even though she’s totally got the combination and is only grabbing the cash to do a deposit-run to the bank.
Glad to know you’re curious! That’s what I’m going for 🙂
I’ll definitely check out yours and leave some feedback later today!
Nice query! I especially liked your fourth paragraph. It sounds like you’ve invested a lot of emotion and drama in the story.
Here are what I view as opportunities for improvement:
1. In your pitch, you start out in present tense (“becomes”, “figures”) but then you switch to past tense (“had”, “was”). My understanding is that the pitch is generally done in present tense. You may want to check your manuscript, too, making certain that you haven’t made similar tense switches in the narration of your novel.
2. The third paragraph seems to me to imply that the mother’s death was hanging over Robin’s head at the same time that the audit emerges. Perhaps make it clear that in the midst of the audit, she learns of her mother’s health issues?
3. Also, another line about how Robin’s mother’s impending death might affect/devastate her–or perhaps about how she might reoncile w/her–might help an agent/publisher see more drama in the situation.
Best of luck with your query!
Thanks a lot for your feedback! My goal in the change of tense was to establish that the laundering was in the past (no longer ongoing at the start of the story, that is). You’re not the only person to have commented on that, though, so for clarity purposes I’ll have to go back and take a look at that.
Your first reading of the third paragraph is actually correct. Robin’s mother has been terminally ill for some time, but because of her strained relationship with her mom, she has not gone to visit her (though she supports her mom and family in other ways, like by sending money home to help pay for her mom’s hospice care).
I like your final thought! It’d be nice to work something in where we get a sense that she ultimately seeks reconciliation prior to her mother’s passing, too.
Thanks again for your feedback!
Hi, RR! At first glance, this reads easily for me. On second read, I had a few thoughts.
Query. Like others mentioned, I think keeping the whole query in present tense would be an easy change for flow and consistency. Also, while I get that it’s critical to the MC’s character, the whole “porn-star-turned-accountant” bit didn’t really make sense to me till I saw an explanation you gave above to another commenter. Also, it should be “judgment” 🙂
Sample. The questions in the opening were a little jarring to me, because I had no frame of reference for the character yet aside from their location. Then we switch into future tense (and your explanation above Does make sense), but I wonder if a little more time with the MC 1st would make that less alarming.
I hope this helps! 🙂 Happy writing!
Thanks for your feedback! And also thanks for raising awareness about the podcast episode on Son of a Pitch! 🙂
Yeah, the tense issue will need to be explored. Like I mention in my reply to Dick above, my goal was to show that the laundering had taken place in the past (but is no longer ongoing), but I think I may need to tease that out differently, or simply reshape the presentation of that detail.
The judgement/judgment thing totally got me! I looked into it, though, and it actually looks like both uses are equally common nowadays. It may be one of those “who says ‘whom’ anymore?” things where the language has just had to adapt over time. But hey–the more you know!
Thanks for your comments on the sample, too. I’ll take a peek at that and maybe rework it as well. One major thing I’ll have to consider is the present-future switch as well. I think this totally makes sense once we get to the following paragraph, but we just don’t have the space to cover it as part of this event 🙁
In any case, you’ve definitely given me some things to think about, and I appreciate that a great deal!
I’ll be sure to leave feedback on your query and sample as soon as I have a moment to really devote myself to it!
No need for the Dear Agent or the thanks for the next round, but the rest is perfect.
Thanks! I saw you were looking at formatting a few minutes ago, and happen to have already updated the post! Thanks for the reminders, though.
I like your query! Have you made changes based on previous comments here? I’ve read it a few time looking for something to ‘critique’ and coming up pretty empty. The only suggestions I have are:
1) Transitioning from this sentence “Then there’s the accounting instructor she enlists to help her survive the audit: against her better judgement, she can’t manage to contain her blossoming feelings for him.” To this one, “Oh, and the woman Robin considers to be the love of her life? She’s back in town, finally ready to try and make things work.” confused me at first, not because of the man/woman issue, but because she has blossoming feelings for someone and then it jumps to love of her life. Not saying it has to be changed, it just threw me on my first read.
2) The first sentence of the last paragraph is a little wordy – “Robin might’ve thought she could confront her greatest challenge by learning to juggle numbers” I think it’s the might’ve thought that doesn’t flow for me.
Same with the sample. I like the voice and dialogue. It has the right tone and dialect that sounds casual and has some sass.
For the questions part, I might suggest either changing the structure or adding a bit more before you get to the questions. We just meet her and if your query wasn’t fresh on my mind I would be confused about her role – actress or talent consultant???
“Is it payday? Yeah.
In-house filming day? Yes.
Am I glad to know I’ll actually get to work as a talent consultant? Of course.”
I like the “safe-looting operation” but wonder if I would have been confused if I hadn’t seen your comments on here first since there wasn’t much information.
That’s all I have. If there are any spots you are concerned about, ask me, but nothing jumps out at me for big changes. Sounds fun, different, and interesting. I would read more.
Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. I actually haven’t changed it since posting aside from removing some extra info I had in there (bio and comp titles). You have some good thoughts on those transitions and the wording for that sentence in the final paragraph, though–I’ll have to revisit that before Friday.
The questions thing seems to be a recurring thing that’s throwing people off in the first 250 words, so I’ll have to find a way to more naturally introduce that. I’m glad the safe-looting operation worked for you, at least with the context provided in the query.
One question I do have is how you felt about the switch from present to future tense as Robin considers what she’ll expect once she finishes clearing out the safe. Did that work for you? Was it off-putting? My goal there is to tease what the routine is normally like so that once it’s broken, it stands out to readers that much more (sadly, we don’t get to see the break in the routine until maybe 500 words after the first 250 words end).
Anyway, I’m glad you thought this sounded fun and would be curious to read more. That’s all I can ask for with a query and first 250 words!
Thanks again for your comments,
The switch from future to present didn’t really bug me or feel awkward. However, if enough people are bothered by it, it is probably worth reconsidering. I would honestly tell you not to worry about it, but since it is at the beginning of your book, and might 0ff-put some agents, you might need to change it, just to be safe. Hard decision.