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Marilee Dahlman

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    Marilee lives in Washington, DC, where she writes fiction first thing in the morning and works as a lawyer for the rest of the day. Her stories have appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Cleaver, Metaphorosis, Orca and elsewhere. She can be found on Twitter @marilee_dahlman.

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  1. Marilee Dahlman Fortune’s Riot, thriller (90k words) Comparables: Wanda M. Morris’s All Her Little Secrets meets Linda Fairstein’s Alexandra Cooper novels. Hook Line: In a world gripped with increasing violence between the top 1% and those who got left behind, a young NY prosecutor battles to discover who killed her boss and protect others from the same financial catastrophe that destroyed her own family. Pitch: Allie Walker moved from Iowa to New York for one reason: to bring down corrupt millionaires. Her family lost everything when a Ponzi scheme orchestrated by a woman named Theodora Blaine unraveled. Now Allie, drowning in debt, plans to wield her prosecutor’s badge like a pitchfork and stick it to the uber-rich. She’s investigating a mysterious trader who will trigger a market crash in three days and wipe out the life savings of innocent people. Allie suspects that Theodora’s son is plotting the crash and will rise from the ashes with millions dripping from the pockets of his designer motorcycle jacket. When Allie’s boss Caroline is murdered before they are supposed to interview him, Allie suspects he’s the killer. Allie is dating the city’s celebrity DA, whose political rise is fueled by the Blaine wealth. The DA dumps Allie and twists the knife by ordering her to leave Theodora’s son alone. Allie digs into Manhattan’s criminal underworld. She is stalked and assaulted and this reinforces her determination to discover who killed Caroline and protect others from the financial catastrophe that had destroyed her family. In the process, Allie might lose her job, reputation and life. Prose Sample: Blaine’s eyes narrowed. “Why are you so interested in getting inside my trading room?” He placed his hands on his waist. He was slight, and maybe a bit less than medium height, but he stood with a straight back, a fencer assessing his opponent before the bout. It made him seem taller. Blaine was also acting like I wanted to see inside his underwear drawer. I suspected why. Rumor was that he’d decorated his trading room with antique swords in order to foster a bloodthirsty attitude among his traders—probably not something he wanted to show a prosecutor. When law enforcement busted into his mother’s Theodora Investments headquarters, they’d found a museum’s worth of medieval weapons. But Gabriel Blaine had been a teenager then, completely innocent. Yeah, right. A few seconds of silence passed. I shifted on my feet. Couldn’t they have taken me to a conference room for a real meeting? Or at least invited me to sit down? “With you here, who’s managing the trading room right now?” “Not managing—running,” Blaine snapped. “It’s called running the room.” “Fine, who’s running the room?” “Rayan Zardari, our newly promoted head of trading. Dexter Nelson’s there, too. Dex is our chief operating officer.” Right. Prada Man and the coffee lover. Kendrick cleared his throat—a habit of his, apparently, and one that was starting to irritate me. “We’re happy to have accommodated the district attorney’s office. We would also be pleased to answer questions at a future date.” My face reddened. I’d learned nothing from these people. “Mr. Blaine, I can assure you, if the algorithmic ghost trader is one of your designs—we’ll find out.” I felt the urge to step closer, raise my index finger at him, but I had stuffed my hand into my pocket at some point. “That trading program is submitting a huge number of orders with no intention of executing trades, undoubtedly for the sole purpose of triggering other market participants to submit orders and manipulate the price of certain stocks. The scale and speed of the ghost algorithm’s activity has the potential to seriously disrupt the markets, gutting the investments of ordinary people everywhere.” Blaine shook his head, smiling. “You don’t understand my designs at all, do you?” “You don’t think so?” He leaned forward slightly. Strands of black and bright blue hair fell forward on his forehead, and silver threads in his dark suit caught the light and gleamed. “My algobots are excellent traders, far superior to humans. They always will be. Why? They follow directions. They have perfect concentration. They are faster than anything you can imagine. And you know what’s most important?” Blaine straightened, looked me in the eye, and smiled. “They never let emotion cloud their judgment.” BIO: This is my debut novel. I’m a published writer, and my short stories have appeared in print or online in The Saturday Evening Post, The Bitter Oleander, The Colored Lens, Cleaver, Molotov Cocktail, Mystery Weekly, Orca Literary, and elsewhere. In September 2021, I won Apparition Lit’s monthly flash fiction contest.
  2. Ghost Hacker 1. Story Statement New York prosecutor Allie Walker must uncover the identity of the hacker who killed her boss and plans to unleash a ghost trading algorithm that will destroy the financial markets. 2. Antagonist Force There’s the upper 1%, and those who got left behind. At BlaineBlade Trading, there’s both. Its president, Alexander Blaine, made an overnight fortune from developing the fastest high-speed trading systems in the world. His obsession for success is fueled by his background: his notorious mother ran a Ponzi scheme that destroyed thousands of lives. Blaine will go to any length to restore his family’s riches and power. But will he do it legally, or has he crossed the line to hacking and murder? BlaineBlade’s chief operating officer, Frank Nelson, is old school. He paid his dues, grinding his way through decades in finance, and has nothing to show for it but a country club membership and stories nobody wants to hear. He knows all about the trading industry. He has a politician’s grin that hides his jealousy of stratospheric success of sneaker-wearing thirty-year olds. Has Frank turned to hacking and murder to break into the billionaire’s club? 3. Breakout Titles Ghost Hacker Ghost Algo Before You Blink 4. Two Smart Comparables A modern legal thriller like Wanda M. Morris’s All Her Little Secrets, where a young lawyer gets caught up in a conspiracy after the sudden death of her boss. Fast-paced and set in the murky underworld of financial trading and cybercrime, similar to Matthew Mather’s Darknet. 5. Hook Line A ghost hacker wants to wreck the world’s economy but a young prosecutor won’t let him get away with murder. 6. Conditions for inner conflict Inner conflict: Allie’s childhood was rocked when her family was defrauded by Alexandra Blaine. This gave her a strong sense of justice. But in order to track down her boss’s killer, she must trespass into the dangerous underworld of hackivism. An example is when Allie decides to infiltrate a secret meeting of men who just staged a violent raid of a technology forum. She does it, but not without a heavy dose of apprehension that she’s stepping on the wrong side of the law. Secondary conflict involving social environment: Allie has a chip on her shoulder against the uber-rich. Investigating the ghost algo and her boss’s death means coming face-to-face with the new titans of Wall Street, people she despises under any circumstance, especially now that one may have murdered her mentor and boss. She’s also disturbed by people at the opposite end of the spectrum, dangerous activists protesting economic disparity. She feels they’ve corrupted her brother, Josh. Allie’s attempts to stop Josh’s spiral into hard crime is a subplot, along with a romantic subplot with the city’s celebrity District Attorney. The DA’s anti-corruption liberal ideals align perfectly with Allie’s but that doesn’t necessarily mean she can trust him. 7. Setting Contemporary New York City and nearby New Jersey during a cold and wet November. Specific places include a newly-built downtown skyscraper, a penthouse trading firm office decorated with medieval weapons, a high-security computer server farm where trades are electronically matched, a riotous street protest, the District Attorney’s office, Central Park, a hole-in-the-wall Chinatown restaurant, an elegant Upper East Side co-op, and the top of a satellite tower during an icy rainstorm.
  3. GHOST HACKER 1. Story Statement New York prosecutor Allie Walker must uncover the identity of the hacker who killed her boss and plans to unleash a ghost trading algorithm that will destroy the financial markets. 2. Antagonist Force There’s the upper 1%, and those who got left behind. At BlaineBlade Trading, there’s both. Its president, Alexander Blaine, made an overnight fortune from developing the fastest high-speed trading systems in the world. His obsession for success is fueled by his background: a notorious mother who ran a Ponzi scheme that destroyed thousands of lives. Blaine will go to any length to restore his family’s riches and power. But will he do it legally, or has he crossed the line into hacking and murder? BlaineBlade’s chief operating officer, Frank Nelson, is old school. He paid his dues, grinding his way through decades in finance, and has nothing to show for it but a country club membership and stories nobody wants to hear. He knows all about the trading industry. He has a politician’s grin that hides his jealousy of stratospheric success of sneaker-wearing thirty-year olds. Has Frank turned to hacking and murder in order to break into the billionaire’s club? 3. Breakout Titles Ghost Hacker Ghost Algo Before You Blink 4. Two Smart Comparables A modern legal thriller like Wanda M. Morris’s All Her Little Secrets, where a young lawyer gets caught up in a conspiracy after the sudden death of her boss. Fast-paced and set in the murky underworld of financial trading and cybercrime, similar to Matthew Mather’s Darknet. 5. Hook Line A ghost hacker wants to wreck the world’s economy but a young prosecutor won’t let him get away with murder. 6. Conditions for inner conflict Inner conflict: Allie’s childhood was rocked when her family was defrauded by Alexandra Blaine. This gave her a strong sense of justice. But in order to track down her boss’s killer, she must trespass into the dangerous underworld of hackivism. An example is when Allie decides to infiltrate a secret meeting of men who just staged a violent raid of a technology forum. She does it, but not without a heavy dose of apprehension that she’s stepping on the wrong side of the law. Secondary conflict involving social environment: Allie has a chip on her shoulder against the uber-rich. Investigating the ghost algo and her boss’s death means coming face-to-face with the new titans of Wall Street, people she despises under any circumstance, especially now that one may have murdered her mentor and boss. She’s also disturbed by people at the opposite end of the spectrum, dangerous activists protesting economic disparity. She feels they’ve corrupted her brother, Josh. Allie’s attempts to stop Josh’s spiral into hard crime is a subplot, along with a romantic subplot with the city’s celebrity District Attorney. The DA’s anti-corruption liberal ideals align perfectly with Allie’s but that doesn’t necessarily mean she can trust him. 7. Setting Contemporary New York City during a cold and wet November. Specific places include a newly-built downtown skyscraper, a penthouse trading firm office decorated with medieval weapons, a high-security server farm where trades are electronically matched, a riotous street protest, the District Attorney’s office, Central Park, a hole-in-the-wall Chinatown restaurant, an elegant Upper East Side co-op, and the top of a satellite tower during an icy rainstorm.
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