Kirkus Review of Hoodlum Army!

I am so excited about my Kirkus review! You can read it on the Kirkus website…

Or…why don’t I just paste it here for you all to see?

In this homage to the classic Robin Hood story, two contemporary, young female robbers acquire a cult following when the public learns their thefts are committed to fulfill good intentions.

In Roderick’s rom-com/heist novel, Robin Sherwood and Maryann Forrest meet-cute when they simultaneously stick up the same bank. Maryann robs the bank to finance a “farm-slash-cooking school” for disadvantaged teens, and Robin needs money to buy her parents’ foreclosed farm at auction. After college graduation, Robin thought she’d “marry some nice girl she met at a Pride rally, take up woodworking or league soft-ball, and buy a house in some progressive suburban enclave.” But now she’s tempted to continue robbing banks by a blue-haired hottie who “could be sexy even while talking through a mouth full of hot dog.” Robin crushes on Maryann even though she thinks her partner in crime probably is “straighter than a ruler.” After Maryann stencils in spray paint “DEATH 2 WALL ST. LOVE THE HOODLUM ARMY” on the wall of their second bank job, the women become underground celebrities (and Robin admonishes Maryann for not including a comma after “LOVE”). Spurred on by a fan-started Hoodlum Army Twitter account that quickly garners over 10,000 followers, the two decide to grow “our brand” by stealing not from a bank, but from a person, the notoriously slimy billionaire Larry Lemon. But the FBI is on their trail, as is police detective David Martinez, Maryann’s ex-boyfriend. Pleasures include a fast pace, entertaining dialogue, social commentary, and a certain sweetness. Plus, there’s a merry band of nontraditional characters working with Robin and Maryann to fleece Lemon, a mean, corset-wearing “fan of novelty toilets.” Word choices pleasantly surprise: An agent wears a “happy-dog smile”; David can be “ferrety” in his compulsive gnawing. Roderick weaves multiple storylines into a crazy quilt of fun with an author’s note that states: “CONTENT NOTIFICATION: racism, misogyny, xenophobia, queer antagonism, fat antagonism, trans antagonism, and appearance shaming (there is pushback against all of these). There is also minor gun violence.” And all of it wildly entertains.

A rollicking caper with a smorgasbord of kooky characters.

Kirkus Reviews

HOODLUM ARMY! A new romcom and giveaway!

Hey, everyone! I have a new romcom – a lesbian Robin Hood retelling – coming out on July 9! It’s currently available for preorder on Amazon.

A Robin Hood for the Modern Age…

Robin never thought she’d meet the girl of her dreams in a bank, much less when they were both robbing it, but her mother always said to find someone who shares your interests.

Maryann wants to start a cooking school for disadvantaged kids, Robin to save her parents’ farm from repossession. It’s natural that they team up to make the world a better place through crime.

Their job experience as a barista and a hotel maid doesn’t transfer to grand larceny, however. Some clumsy mistakes mean it’s not long before the FBI is hot on their heels. The agents seem to have criminal motivations of their own, so going to jail might be the least of Robin and Maryann’s worries.

Worst of all, Robin is falling in love. She doesn’t think Maryann has ever dated a woman, but sometimes it seems like maybe, just maybe, she feels something deeper than criminal conspiracy.

Will they find a happily-ever-after this side of prison…or the grave?

You can enter to win a signed copy & Amazon gift card (U.S. only) here:
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My Successful Queries

An open book sitting on a white surface, its multicolored pages forming a graceful arcWriting a query is a daunting task. When I was facing down the prospect of writing my very first one, it seemed impossible. How can I condense an 80k-word novel into one paragraph, in a way that’s engaging and meaningful? How can I convey the amount of heart and soul I put into my story in a trite marketing pitch? And how can I possibly make my query stand out amongst the dozens (or even hundreds) that an agent can get in a single day?

A lot of writers say that it’s more difficult to write a query than write the novel. I’m squarely in that camp. Knowing which elements to include, and which will just confuse things, can be seriously headache-inducing. It’s a completely different skill than writing a book. But it’s an  important skill, because querying is how most authors find agents and publishers. If you can’t write a good query, it doesn’t matter how amazing your book is: agents will never know, because they’ll never read it.

Like any other skill, query-writing can be learned. There are lots of how-to articles out there. I always recommend the amazing Query Shark, which is a great way to learn the elements of a query, and get an idea of what works, and what doesn’t. You get to see how they’re pieced together, and see a reaction of a top agent to each element.

I thought I would also (gulp) use some of my own queries as examples, to dissect the elements.

So, here we go! This first one is for TRUE STORY, a YA contemp that I’m currently trying to find a home for. This query has gotten me quite a few full manuscript requests. My comments are in brackets.

Dear Ms. Mumblemumble [ALWAYS use their name. Never use the generic “Dear Agent” or “To Whom it May Concern”]:

I’m querying you because you indicated on Twitter that you’re seeking YA own voices books [Agents love to hear why you’re querying them specifically. They want you to be particularly interested in working with them, as well]. I am seeking representation for TRUE STORY, a YA contemporary romance, with elements of magical realism [genre], complete at 73,000 words [word count]. It’s an own voices book that deals with mental health issues [if you don’t know what an own voices book is, ask me. If your book is own voices, it’s a huge selling point, but if it’s not, don’t worry].

17-year-old Mike Charley is a girl, named after her grandfather by a bipolar mother who thought Mike was his reincarnation. Now Mike is in the foster system, and constantly in trouble: for running away from sketchy foster parents, for skipping school. The only safe place for her is in the fantasy worlds she writes about [This is an intro to my main character, and hints toward one of her goals: to overcome the things holding her back from happiness (stigma, hurtful past, bullying)].


Then she meets Vaughn, and is drawn against her will to the handsome, talented artist. There’s a connection between them that sets her spine tingling [intro to the secondary character. If it’s a romance, this is always the love interest. Also introduces another goal: get together with the guy she likes 😊].


When a car accident puts Mike in the hospital and Vaughn in a coma, Mike begins to have visions. Their fates are intertwined, and Vaughn’s life is now in Mike’s hands: she has ten days to complete the book she’s writing, or he’ll never wake up [This introduces the main conflict, and the stakes: “…or he’ll never wake up”].

This belief lands her in an institution, but Mike knows she’s not crazy [more conflict]. Trapped and helpless, not allowed to write, the day fast approaching when Vaughn’s father pulls him off life support, Mike has to find a way to finish her book…or a way to join her boyfriend in death [stakes: do it or die].

[The “meat” of my query is 176 words. That’s a good word count.]

I am an active writer, musician, and freelance editor. I have had five books published by Limitless Publishing: the romantic suspense Love or Money and four books in my magical realism Other Place series. I have two short horror stories set to come out in the 13: Déjà vu and 13: Night Terrors anthologies—an internationally bestselling series of anthologies. I am a neurodivergent person, and a neurodiverse rights activist who speaks at forums and events [My bio is long. It shouldn’t be longer than this, in most fiction queries, but most of this is relevant/interesting stuff. You want to let the agent/editor know that you’ll be a good person to work with, and you have attributes that are marketable—that you’re interesting as a person, and not just a great writer].

Thank you for your consideration.

Elizabeth Roderick

[phone number]

[Always contain contact info].

This query certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it is working for me, because it briefly introduces my characters, conflict, and stakes, with just enough specifics to help set it apart from other books without giving too much away.

Here is my query for THE OTHER PLACE, which got me multiple full requests, and an offer:

I am seeking representation for THE OTHER PLACE, a YA Contemporary novel with elements of magical realism. It is complete at 74,000 words, and is a stand-alone novel with series potential.
Justin just wants to draw and be left in peace, but when his mother takes up with a man who thinks his schizophrenia can be cured with prayer, he has to find a new home or risk involuntary commitment in a Christian mental institution.
He runs off to San Francisco, where he’s discovered by a gallery owner. His bizarre and beautiful drawings create a stir in the art world; people rave about his genius and flock to see his work. Meanwhile, Justin is homeless, couch surfing and battling his mental illness.
He reconnects with a girl named Liria, who has been appearing in his visions since they met back in his hometown. Liria, it turns out, has been sharing those visions. Compelled by their deep connection, she leaves her jealous girlfriend in order to be with him, supporting them both on her meagre income.
They discover that the gallery owner has been hiding something, and Justin realizes that being a genius can have a downside. Surrounded by people who want to exploit his talent, he must fight not only for his career and his freedom, but perhaps for his life.
I am a board member of the San Luis Obispo NightWriters association, assistant editor and columnist for their newsletter. I have recently had a short story published by Akashic Books.
Pursuant to your guidelines, I’m pasting the first 25 pages of The Other Place below.
Thank you for your consideration.


I hope that seeing these is of some help to you in your own querying endeavors. After all, if I can write a successful query, so can you!

Do I Need an Editor?

An open book sitting on a white surface, its multicolored pages forming a graceful arc

At some point in a writer’s life, we’ll likely wonder whether we should hire a professional editor for our manuscript. I’m an author, as well as a freelance editor, so I wanted to chime in with my opinions and advice on this subject.

Most articles fall squarely in one or another category: YES you ALWAYS need an editor, or NO, they’re a WASTE OF MONEY. In this piece, I’ll discuss both the pros and cons, as well as how to choose an editor if you decide to get one.

If your goal is self-publishing, you probably want to hire at least one editor. Successful indy authors often hire two: a developmental editor, and a proofreader. You will feel more confident about your manuscript if you go through an editing process before publishing, and readers will thank you with their dollars and positive reviews if you do.

I personally would never publish a book without having it go through an editing process, even though I’m an editor myself. We truly can’t see our own work with objective enough eyes to be sure it’s our best effort. Hiring an editor isn’t cheating, or selling out your voice. It’s just part of the process of publishing, and of creating good art.

However, if your goal is getting traditionally published, you may be on the fence about whether you should get an editor before querying. After all, if you get an agent, they will often give developmental critique, and a publisher will always put your manuscript through an editing process before publication. So, why should you bother paying for one yourself?

Hopefully this article will help you decide whether it’s right for you.


If you’ve spent any time being a writer, you’ll know the value of getting other eyes on your work. No matter how skilled or talented we are, it’s difficult to be detached enough to see our own errors, weak spots, and inconsistencies.

Critiquers and beta readers are invaluable in the revision process, and help us to spot our story’s weaknesses and strengths. However, even if these folks aren’t our family and friends, they might have difficulty being fully up-front with us about our work. If we’re also helping them with their own manuscripts, they don’t want to risk angering us. And besides, who wants to be mean?

Editors, however, are professionals. We get paid to be honest about your book. That shouldn’t mean we’re rude or cruel, but we have no qualms about telling you exactly what we think; after all, it’s our job. You expect it from us. And, we have a vested interest in seeing you published, because that will be another notch in our headboard, so to speak: a point of pride, and a means of getting further clients.

Whenever one of my clients gets a request or an offer, I feel almost as if I’d gotten one myself. I put some of my heart and soul into their book, and my clients always (so far) put me in the acknowledgments when I’ve worked with them. If my name is on something, I have a huge investment in making sure it’s the best it can be.

As much as I enjoy being a CP or beta, it just isn’t the same.

Editors also have more experience than critiquers or beta readers. Our experience can come in a lot of different forms; some of us worked for publishers before hanging out our freelance shingles. Others have degrees in English or Literature. Some, like me, just got our starts with a lot of practical experience such as writing books, short stories, queries, and pitches; judging contests; and being involved in a million critique partnerships.

This experience matters a lot. Writing and editing aren’t innate talents, like some seem to think; they’re skills that we hone through practice, and an editor will bring this skill to bear, helping you craft your novel into something you can be even more proud of.

Be sure you choose the right editor for your manuscript, however. If you get one who isn’t right for your book, it will be a waste of your money.

Being “right” for your book doesn’t always mean someone who is expensive, or even someone with decades of experience. It means they believe in your manuscript and share your vision for it. They need to have a good handle on your personal voice and style, and be willing to work with you instead of against you.

They also need to be good at what they do, however. The only true way to know this is to do your homework before hiring them.

Always research potential editors, ask for references, and have them do a free sample edit (usually first couple pages of your manuscript) to make sure they are not only qualified, but a good fit for you. Make sure they seem enthusiastic about your book, and that their sample edits make sense and seem right (give them time to sink in before deciding this, because often the best editors will strike a nerve, and sometimes it’s difficult to keep from getting defensive when that happens). Email a few of their references and make sure they were happy with the editor’s work. Triple bonus if those clients got requests, agents and publishing contracts after working with them.

Make sure you’re really comfortable with someone before you give them money and hand over your word-baby. A good editor will give you the space and the information you need in order to make the decision, and won’t hound you.


There is a lot of bad press out there about sensitivity readers lately. I am myself a sensitivity reader. I’ve worked with many clients, including some of the Big Five publishers, on books containing neurodivergent/mentally ill characters, and characters with addiction issues. I love sensitivity reading, and I’m willing to die on this hill to defend the process.

If your manuscript has a character who is marginalized, and especially if you don’t share that marginalization, please consider hiring a sensitivity reader. We aren’t here to censor your book, but to make it better. We want your book to succeed. A good SR won’t be defensive and actively looking for problems. We will fact-check, and bring more soul, more feeling, and more humanity to your marginalized characters by virtue of our lived experience. Being a marginalized person is complicated, and it’s not something outsiders can easily understand. We can help you to understand, and your book (and your life) will be richer for it.

Most writers would love to have an FBI agent read over their manuscript with an FBI agent main character, correct? They’d delight in having someone to help them on the small details, and let them know how it feels to be in certain situations. It would help the narrative to really come alive. So why is there pushback over hiring sensitivity readers?

The answer, unfortunately, is often bigotry. People are defensive and frightened about confronting their prejudices and misunderstandings which might come through in their writing. That’s normal, and it’s okay, because you can’t grow without confronting these things. Don’t be scared. A good sensitivity reader won’t spend their time berating you. They’ll be relieved you reached out, and will genuinely want to hold an open (if sometimes difficult) conversation about your characters.

Again, be sure to connect with a SR before hiring them, to make sure they’re a good fit for your book, and that they communicate in a way that works for you. Always be respectful of the amount of emotional labor it takes to be a SR, but don’t be afraid to ask questions. As long as you’re truly listening to us, we’ll be happy to answer.


There can be cons to hiring an editor, believe it or not.

If you put effort into finding good critique partners or beta readers, and put a lot of time and thought into revising your own book, you can get an agent and/or publisher without getting your manuscript professionally edited.

The most obvious argument against hiring an editor is the expense. I haven’t yet engaged an editor prior to sending a book out to agents or publishers. It’s not that I don’t believe in it, I’m just very poor. If you have a few hundred bucks you’ll never miss, you don’t have much to lose by getting professional eyes on your manuscript, but few of us have that luxury.

Another con is that an editor is only one person, and their opinions, while hopefully informed, are opinions and are therefore subjective and personal. Even if their critiques and suggestions make sense to you, that doesn’t automatically translate into revisions that will land you a contract more easily. I have gotten suggestions from professionals (both editors and agents) which resonated with me, only to have a different agent tell me they didn’t agree with that advice, or give me the exact opposite suggestion. So who should I listen to?

There is no right or wrong way to write. This is a subjective business. Being careful in choosing an editor—finding one who is both skilled and shares your vision—can mitigate the amount of “bad” advice you get, but even if you find the perfect editor for your book, not all of their suggestions will resonate, and you can never consider their opinions to be foolproof.

Developmental editors aren’t there to “fix” your manuscript; they are artists, like you, and can only be a partner in crafting your story, not a doctor who cures it of any ills.

Those are the only cons I can think of, but you definitely should take them into consideration.

Hiring an editor is a personal decision. If you’ve already been querying and have had little to no success; if you’re getting conflicting advice from betas and CPs; or if you really want to have full confidence that your manuscript is ready for querying, an editor might be the answer.

Please let me know what pros and cons I failed to touch on. I always love to hear from you.



Elizabeth Roderick is an author and freelance editor/writer. You can find her on Amazon.





#SonOfAPitch #TeamDiscord Entry 11: Mixey

Title: Mixey
Category and Genre: YA contemporary
Word Count: 99,000


Mixey is the story of 16-year-old BAYARD ANNISTON, son of the most famous black lesbian sex-toy-shop-owning political activist in semi-upstate New York. His new year is turned upside-down following his mom KENDRA’s regular holiday protest of their town’s all-white crèche. Kendra’s arch-nemesis LABIANCA has hatched a plot to make this year’s arrest a felony, and New York State’s new Three Strikes law has Bayard’s mom — a career arrestee —looking at life in prison.

Bayard’s life takes an even more surreal turn when LaBianca’s daughter Mercury, the audacious, feminist star of the girls’ ice hockey team, declares big hots for Bayard. If the lovebirds can’t reconcile their mothers before Kendra’s trial, third may be a base too far.

Mixey is a funny, feminist, sex-positive romp through two modern families’ stories of loyalty, revenge, secrets and the triumphs and pitfalls of first intimate relationships. It has a laugh-to-cry ratio of 163:2.

First 250 Words:

As was to be expected, Mom got arrested on Christmas Eve. But any resemblance to a normal holiday for the Anniston family ends there.

I was home supervising the turkey in the oven.  Mom was more than an hour late.

At 7, the turkey timer dinged, and I got a text from Mom:

  >>Bayard, can you meet me at the station w $50?

  >>Long story. ATM card’s inside Eyes on the Prize,

  >>vol 1. Thanks, buddy!


Normally Reggie, Mom’s old friend and most frequent arresting officer, drives Mom home in the squad car on his way back to New Paltz after a brief arraignment in Poughkeepsie. Something definitely wasn’t going according to plan.

I glanced out the window at thick, swirling new snow. My hands were still practically stuck in shovel-grabbing pose from the two feet I cleared out last week. I sighed, because it feels so good, and grabbed the ATM card from the book.

With all my winter gear on, I looked like a cross between Iron Man and Ernest Shackleton.  I heard the magic beans sound from my pocket. Probably Mom again. Dutiful Son de-gloved and checked his phone. The text was from Auntie Cheryl:

  >>Favorite nephew. The roads are a frozen mess.

  >>Grandpa and I are going to hit a hotel hopefully not literally.

  >>Not sure we’ll be able to get through tomorrow.

  >>The struggle’s real, Padawan

I stepped out into the life-size snow dome of our town. Family holiday traditions can be so much work.


AIEEEEEE! It’s finally here! The new round of Son of a Pitch!

I’ve got some great entries on #TeamDiscord this round. I’m so happy to have y’all here! Get ready to kick some butt!

For ease of access, I’ll post links to the entries below, so they can always be accessed from this post.

Entry 1: Accounting for it All

Entry 2: Biting Secrets

Entry 3: Hunting Legends

Entry 4: Fearless

Entry 5: Infinity Line

Entry 6: Let the Canyons Weep

Entry 7: Gracey

Entry 8: Nightmare Beauty

Entry 9: Death of a Bachelor

Entry 10: Power Surge

Entry 11: Mixey

Can’t wait to see the successes on #TeamDiscord!

#SonOfAPitch #TeamDiscord Entry 10: Power Surge

Title: Power Surge

By: Isa Isa Chan

Category and Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Word Count: 78,000



Erin is a cutter. Most days, therapy, meds, and the threat of hospitalization curb the urge to slice her skin with sharp objects, but when she gets stressed, she can’t stop her fingernails from piercing her flesh.

Having to finish senior year without Adderall is stressful. José flirting like he wants to be more than friends makes her skin buzz. A stalker adds anxiety to the mix. She’s on the verge of a breakdown when she realizes her stalker isn’t human. She thinks the demon is a hallucination, but it attacks her friends on the beach, and José promises her it’s real.

Demons are just the tip of the iceberg. José is a hunter in-training, and Erin’s Grandpa is like his Obi-Wan Kenobi. Erin was supposed be a hunter too, but Grandpa feared her ADHD would get her killed. Now, the hunters have become the hunted, and Grandpa needs all the help he can get – including Erin’s. A normal girl would be terrified, but fighting for her life calms the buzzing that makes Erin crave sharp objects. Perhaps, hunting demons will help her kick her cutting habit once and for all.

First 250 Words:

The cold March air made my lungs burn and my legs itch as I ran, determined to not let my cousin beat me again. This was supposed to be a warm up for our weekly sparring match, but I was sprinting just to keep Mel’s short, muscular form in sight. I glanced over my shoulder. I saw a man behind me.  His pale nose peeked out from under the black hoodie that obscured the rest of his face. I hadn’t thought it unusual to see another runner follow us around two turns, but this one had followed me around five.

I sucked icy air into my lungs as I crossed a bridge. Water rushed under it, blanketing brown muck with blue, breathing color and life into the field of dead marsh grass. The road ahead of me was lined with trees and a few scattered beach houses that were still boarded up for the winter.

I glanced at my phone. It was dead. Mel was too far ahead to hear me yell, and there was no one else around. I wasn’t exactly defenseless, but I was tired and hadn’t been in a real fight in almost two years. Still, a small part of me hoped the man would catch up and would want to hurt me.

I imagined myself ducking as he reached out to grab my red ponytail. I would jam my elbow up into his stomach and crush his face with my knee.


#SonOfAPitch #TeamDiscord Entry 9: Death of a Bachelor

Title: Death of a Bachelor

Category and Genre: Adult, Gay Romance

By: Emooy13

Word count: 81,000



When snooty professor Cathal Kinnery meets blue-collar chef Damon Eglamore at a gay bar, they hate each other immediately. So it’s not hard to imagine Cathal’s horror when Damon marries his best friend. When Damon’s wife dies, however, things only get worse for Cathal: not only is he losing his best friend, but her final wish is that he stay with Damon and make sure the other man makes it through his mourning.

Cathal has no intention of getting truly involved in Damon’s life–after all, they can’t speak two words to each other without getting into a shouting match. After a few weeks of living alongside Damon, though, he finds that Damon’s problems run much deeper than grief. Damon doesn’t know who he is without his wife, and as Cathal helps Damon figure it out, he slowly comes to find he wants to be part of a family again. But can the two of them actually get over their own fears enough to admit that they can help each other?

It’s going to take a cross-dressing Shakespeare production, a baking competition complete with concussions and a five foot tall T-rex cake, and Damon’s own son coming out to make the two men stop yelling long enough to find out.


First 250 Words:

The man sitting at the end of the bar was older than Damon, maybe twenty-four. He had a thin, fox-like face and long, dark hair that he twirled around a finger as he wrote on a napkin. A martini sat untouched in front of him, and his eyes were lost in thought. Definitely gay, but he wasn’t… intimidating. Unlike every other man who wasn’t on the dance floor or making out with someone else. 

Damon sat down next to him and gestured to the bartender for a beer. He was already a little drunk, but if he wanted to relax, he’d have to get a lot drunk. The other patron continued writing what looked like a math problem. He finished his equation, considered it, and then scribbled the whole thing out, his brow furrowed. Scowling, he drank the martini at one go. Only then did he glance in Damon’s direction. “Fuck off,” he said, biting the olive from the swizzle stick. “I’m not looking for company tonight. I came here to get drunk.”

Damon colored, but he kept the embarrassment from his voice. “Why’d you think I came here for anything different?” 

 “There’s plenty of room, but you sat by me.” He looked at Damon, taking him all in, and his eyes narrowed further. The scowl fit his face too well, and Damon didn’t appreciate his scrutiny. “And guys like you don’t come here for the conversation.”

#SonOfAPitch #TeamDiscord Entry 8: Nightmare Beauty

Title: Nightmare Beauty

Category and Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Word Count 82,000By: Soulzero777



Rachel Summers has never understood why she was cursed. That is, until a mysterious elderly woman visits her with strange warnings. While catching up on sleep at Dr. Jefferson’s Mind Management Laboratory, Rachel unexpectedly meets Aaron Winters, a boy who is under the same curse as she is. As their relationship grows and takes an unforeseen turn, so do the nightmares-dark creatures who frighten their targets to gather fear for their leader-as they grow more deadly and powerful.

Breaking The Nightmare Curse would be a dream come true for Rachel and Aaron, if they weren’t busy figuring out their mutual attraction for one another or saving each other from the nightmares as they appear in the daytime and in public. Add The Nightmare Witch’s obsession and determination with Rachel to control her body and imprison her in her own mind. Now, Rachel and Aaron must learn from the elderly woman’s tragic past to save not only themselves, but also every child in the world.


First 250 Words:

Rachel Summers giggled as she skipped in a field of blooming flowers. There were flowers of every single color. She made sure she said “hello,” to each flower. She smiled as she sniffed their warm and light fragrance. The sun was shining high in the sky. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky and there was a very light breeze.

Her mommy and daddy were with her too. Rachel and her mommy were both wearing dresses with a floral design on them. Rachel’s was a light blue. Her mommy’s was a light purple. And her daddy was wearing a long-sleeved light blue white buttoned T-shirt and khakis. Rachel and her parents giggled and smiled when the petals and leaves tickled their bare feet.

The flowers went on for miles and Rachel was in complete contentment with her parents.

Rachel smiled as she hugged her mommy. Her daddy happily wrapped his arms around his two favorite girls.

“I’m five years old,” she said, holding five of her fingers.

“That’s right, honey,” her mommy beamed

The three of them played in the flowers. Their laughter filled the air. Then, they played “Ring Around the Rosie” and a flower color guessing game. Then Rachel’s parents disappeared. And the joined family laughter disappeared as well. 

“Mommy?! Daddy?!” Rachel called. But, only silence and the cold rush of the wind returned. She looked around in every direction and began to cry.

#SonOfAPitch #TeamDiscord Entry 7: Gracey

Title: Gracey

Genre: Adult – Upmarket

Word Count: 98,000



For many at LaGuardia Arts, the daily commute from the outer boroughs to the “Fame” school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side represents the first step toward their dream of being a professional dancer.

In Gracey’s case, the trip starts in Howard Beach, Queens, a neighborhood notorious for its connection to organized crime. In fact, Gracey’s father has tenuous connections to this world, and is a crack addict who has spent half his life in prison. Her mother is so desperate to become a movie star that she neglects, and even places Gracey in danger to reach her goal of stardom.

As Gracey spends more time with her social climbing friends in Manhattan, she pulls further away from Howard Beach. But there’s one person she can’t forget: Michael, her childhood best friend, whose home life was even more chaotic than her own. Even mingling with the elite, Gracey can’t shake off the memory of how she and Michael tried to save one another, and how they lost touch. It isn’t until Gracey’s father and Michael return that she’s forced to choose between her new life and accepting her true self.


  First 250 Words:

I was conceived in the basement apartment of my grandparents’ two-family home in Howard Beach, Queens. Where all the Italians live and eat New Park Pizza. Where the women curse you out from across the parking lot while their men pump iron at Gold’s Gym. Where one wrong move will have your name running through mouths, or featured in the Chronicle: “Man Gone Missing.”

My father had only been out of prison for a few days when my mother seized the opportunity to lose her virginity. They’d been high school sweethearts. He promised he wouldn’t make the same mistakes and go back to drugs. I’d always wondered why someone who prayed ten times a day, and sang in the church choir, would sleep with a convict, but they do say love is blind.

Mom told her grandmother to guard the basement door, and that her boyfriend, John, was coming over. Great-granny Rosaria, who would now be 106 years old, may she rest in peace, remains to this day the most open-minded member of our family. She was supportive of “the gays,” cross-cultural dating, and sex before marriage.

Only a few days after my parents’ romantic, or not so romantic, night together, my father was sleeping on a wooden bench in the local precinct, soon to be delivered back to a prison in the mountains of upstate New York. He’d broken parole, again, leaving my mother at home, with stunned parents, and a soon to be crying infant.

Author of gritty fiction|Freelance Editor