Monday, May 15, 2017


In other book related news...

But I refuse to grow disheartened. I will continue to write from the heart and hope that readers give it a try. I will continue to find and support and promote brilliant writing from a diverse array of authors. Some I will like, some I will love, from time to time there will be a MEH...

...and every so often I will be awed and powerfully reminded of why I fell in love with reading and writing in the first place.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


I decided to dedicate a post to one of my all time favorite questions. I just finished reading a book (the second of the two novels listed below) which inevitably leads me to ask myself - What Should I Read Next? Up above is a photo of the candidates. I'll eventually get to each of them, God willing. But which one should I tackle first?

1) The General in His Labyrinth - by the one and only  (who happened to write what may be the greatest novel of all time, my beloved Love in the Time of Cholera)

2) The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love - by  (I enjoyed the movie and when it comes to adaptations, I prefer to first read and then watch. But reading this particular book will move me another step along in my quest to read all of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winners

3) Purity - by  (who I consider to be a bit of a fool and a jerk for the Oprah snub, but the guy sure can write)

4) The Turner House - by   (Since I can never read too many novels by People of Color, particularly Caribbean and African American authors. I've heard good things about this particular one)

I'm having trouble deciding on my own so invite you to leave comments of recommendation. Thanks in advance to anyone kind enough to help me out. See below for reviews of the last two books I read. And if you're on Goodreads you may want to enter my contest there for a chance to win a copy of MATTERS OF CONVENIENCE.

MiddlesexMiddlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not many perfect books have been written but a handful can make a legitimate claim to the title. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides is the type of novel that would have made me fall helplessly in love with reading if I wasn't already there. The steady handed prose does not try to shock or even take us by surprise, but instead takes readers on a fascinating journey up a family tree, leading us to the end of a narrative branch where we reach its strange fruit.

View all my reviews

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium, #2)The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Stieg Larsson was not a great writer. Not by a long shot. But he had a knack for creating indelible characters. Lisbeth Salander is a fascinating woman whom readers first meet in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In The Girl Who Played with Fire we learn about her background, gain insight into the events she managed to survive and thus shaped her into a pint sized dynamo with a knack for overcoming astronomical odds. We're introduced to her evil father and comic book style villain of a half brother. There are also a bunch of secondary characters in this book that seemed barely necessary. Since this is the second part of a trilogy, presumably there is wrapping up of subplots and fuller development of background characters in the final installment. And I will probably read the third book since I've come this far. I'll continue to overlook flaws in writing that often seems amateurish in order see the crazy ride that Larsson created through to the end.

View all my reviews

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Matters of Convenience by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Matters of Convenience

by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Giveaway ends May 29, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Twist ending. I decided to go with a book that wasn't on my list. A work of non-fiction. 

                               The Secret Life of Houdini

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Comic Con

Curiosity led this cat to attendance at my first Comic Con event on this beautiful Spring day (that reached Summer temperature) in 2017. Along with me were my wife and our daughter. The latter is a big fan of graphic novels, the hilarious animated TV show Teen Titans, and all members of Suicide Squad with special affection for Harley Quinn. My wife doesn't go in for superhero stories much, but as a professional illustrator she appreciates the artistry that goes into creating comic books.

As for me, I can't help but marvel at the worlds of Marvel and DC and beyond. Others are far more fanatical about their fandom than I am. My level of enthusiasm is moderate enough to retain dignity, but I have nothing but love for the zealots who go full out. If you're going to be over the top passionate about something, it may as well be something cool. Batman and Superman stories may not receive official stamps of approval from fancy book award committees or Oprah, and they aren't assigned reading material in most English Literature classes, but they are unarguably cool.

A post shared by Roy Pickering (@roylpickering_author) on

A post shared by Roy Pickering (@roylpickering_author) on

I was too busy being dazzled by the bombardment of colorful imagery while squeezing through the bustling crowd to take as many pictures as I wanted, but I did manage to snap a few shots. Check them out below. Maybe I'll run into you at a future convention such as New York Comic Con in October. You're never too old to be a kid at heart. Only a dastardly villain would tell you different. Fortunately superheroes save the day and refuse to let them get away with it.

Her turn in the role bombed at the box office and deservedly so, but Halle Berry wore the hell out of that cat suit and I happily snagged this doll, I mean, this action figure.

There is no cooler set of wheels than the Batmobile, any version of it.

And there is no motor vehicle more terrifying than Stephen King's CHRISTINE.

This bearded guy knew who to call.

“The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.” J.M. Barrie

“If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.” Coco Chanel

Superheroes need coffee breaks too.

I haven't written a comic book...yet. But I did write a novel entitled Matters of Convenience and you can enter the giveaway contest at Goodreads for a chance to win a free copy. Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Matters of Convenience by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Matters of Convenience

by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Giveaway ends May 29, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Price of Kindle edition of MATTERS OF CONVENIENCE to be discounted at Amazon 5/13/17 - 5/20/17. The earlier you jump in, the bigger the savings you get.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Doing it for the 'gram

So I finally got around to joining Instagram. And then hackers, apparently thinking that I'm the DNC or perhaps allegedly directed by mischievous President Obama (America's last legitimate prez), worked their way into my account for who knows what reason. Practice and alleviation of boredom are the lead candidates.

It is my third attempt at an Instagram account that is up now and I'm hoping will prove to be the charm. If you find weight loss programs and/or lingerie clad women posted there, it means that hackers have worked their magic once again, and that will probably send me into photo posting retirement. Unless Instagram proves to be too addictive to quit, and so far that is where all signs are pointing.

A few of the pictures I've put up so far can be found below. To see more, feel free to follow me and chances are good that I'll follow back to liven up my feed.  I've just about exhausted the 'gram worthy photos in my phone's photo gallery, so I'm inspired to venture forth in search of all things photogenic. I'd rather do that than bombard voyeurs with selfies. My plan is to capture exhibitions of the beauty of nature and architecture...and bookish stuff. Not only is literature in its printed form food for the soul, but it's often candy for the eyes as well.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Matters of Convenience by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Matters of Convenience

by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Giveaway ends May 29, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Ava Appelsawse

"The spice jars next in line to be used took up space in the kitchen. A great many more were on shelves in the basement, waiting their turn." ~ from The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse (written by Roy L. Pickering Jr., illustrated by Erin Rogers Pickering)

My darling daughter, who turns 11 this year, reintroduced me to the world of children's books. Since I had already entered the world of book blogging, it made sense to merge the two endeavors. In March of 2009 I posted a collection of mini-reviews of books written for miniature people. I began the post with these words: Having a child means getting to experience the wonderful world of children's literature all over again. I've been pleased to find out over the past few years that not only are the old standards as charming as I remembered, but plenty of great new books for little ones were written while I was busy growing up. Reading to my daughter on a daily basis allows me to revisit tales I fondly recall and discover new ones along with her. 

Fast forward to 2017 and these days I don't do much reading aloud to my daughter since she now reads for herself. And yet the world of children's books continued to call out to me.  My daughter's bookshelves are still filled with the books I read to her in her earliest years. They are a constant reminder in our household of a more innocent time and style of prose.

Several years back I wrote what was intended to be a rhyming board book for toddlers and their exasperated parents. It was inspired by the trying experience of finding the right daycare facility for my daughter. It's not half bad in my opinion, but I'm no Dr. Seuss and was not strongly compelled to bring it to the light of day. Some writing projects are destined to remain tucked in a drawer. I put the story/poem away and any career as a children's book writer I might have was put on indefinite hold.

Instead I threw full energy into completion of my second novel, Matters of Convenience. I somewhat improbably continued to write A Line A Day blog posts on an irregular schedule. My daughter changed from my baby girl to a beautiful young lady. Instead of picking her up at daycare with fingers crossed that it was a good day, I'm now a coach of her middle school basketball team hoping she'll work more on her dribble while being impressed by her post game. Still, the siren's song of children's books could be heard in quiet moments. And so it was that one day I set pen (or was it pencil?) down to paper and started to write what would become THE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING ADVENTURES OF AVA APPELSAWSE.

It's often been suggested to me that I do a follow-up to a novel or short story I've written. I've resisted the urge because they were meant to be standalone tales, even if ending in a way that makes readers want to know more about the characters down the road. For the first time I am now tackling a sequel. The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse was intended from the start to be a series. My wonderfully talented wife Erin Rogers Pickering is currently working on illustrations for the first installment while I have gotten started on book #2. Two and a half chapters of the first draft are done so far. I'm trying to figure out where the rest of the story is going, or else it will need to inform me. Either way works. 

Do you believe that We Need Diverse Books? I do. Do you believe greater emphasis by the publishing industry on promoting books told in Our Own Voices by writers from various backgrounds is important? I do. But lofty causes aside, ultimately my wife and I are two artists you may not have heard of (yet) with stories to tell through words and illustrations that we believe you and your little ones will connect with.

While I'm crafting the Ava Appelsawse sequel, stay tuned for updates on the first book in the series which is scheduled to publish later this year. If you have kids, or know anyone with kids, or perhaps were once a kid yourself, then this is the book for you. And this time I'm not stopping at just one, not that I have a particular number of them in mind. The older I get the more things I realize I do not know...yet. I have no idea how many books and stories intended for various audiences are stored within me. But as a major milestone birthday approaches I am more determined than ever to put as many tales as possible out into the world and see how far they go. I hope you choose to accompany me on the journey.

"In a slightly crooked house with the address of 123 Oaktree Lane there lived a seven year old girl named Ava Appelsawse."

"It was excellent tomato sauce, possibly the best in the world, for it was made with love."

"Ava decided the hamster was a girl.  It did not disagree and also did not complain about its name, perhaps because this was the most interesting thing about her."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

DOG EAT DOG ROMANCE - a short story

Dog Eat Dog Romance

By Roy L. Pickering Jr.  (Author of Patches of Grey)

This short story is dedicated to the newest member of my household. Rescued on a cold December day from the unforgiving streets of NYC. Tough as a rattlesnake, cuddly as a newborn bunny, feisty as barrel of monkeys, affectionate as Nana greeting her grandbabies, squirrel obsessed, not quite fully house trained but we'll get there, the best Christmas give ever - the one and only SHADOW.

“It’s perfect.  Absolutely perfect.”

“I know.”

“We could look for a million years and not find another place half as nice as this in our price range.  Hhardwood floors, beautiful moldings, floor to ceiling windows, a river view, a backyard, a fireplace even.  And look at all this space.”

“I know,” I repeat, for what else is there to say?  Claire is right.  This place is perfect for us.

“Are you sure they wouldn’t be willing to bend their rule about …”

“I’m positive, Claire.”

“So we either give him up to move in here, or else we keep looking.”

“That about sums it up.”

“Would you willing to find another home for him, Adam?”

“I was about to ask you the same question.”

“It’s easier to ask than to answer, isn’t it?”

“Maybe we should flip a coin,” I suggest.

“Over something as important as this?”

“A coin is the fairest judge there is, Claire. No matter how big or small the issue is.”

“Okay, let’s do it.”

I pull a quarter from the change pocket of my jeans.  

“Heads we give him up and move in here, tails we find a place that will let us keep Max Two.”

I toss the quarter into the air.  My eyes widen along with Claire's as we watch it rotate – George Washington’s head on top, then the eagle spreading its majestic wings, back to gorgeous George’s profile, the stoic bird of freedom once more.  The quarter hits the floor, bounces up and does its final spin, then settles in place.  We crouch to learn what our decision will be.

The sequence of events leading up to this moment began nearly a year ago.  That was when my best friend Leon went away for the weekend on a business trip.  While out of town, he needed someone to feed and walk his dog, Max.   

By no means was I what you would call a dog person.  As a kid I’d once been chased by a particularly nasty Nazi Shepard for half a block before making a narrow escape from his salivating clutches.  Also, a deceptively timid looking Chihuahua once bit me on the toe, proving that his bite was much bigger than his bark.  I had not been especially fond of dogs or open toed sandals ever since.

I'd spent enough time around him to know Max was well behaved, but this did not make me relish the idea of picking up after him when he did his business on the sidewalk.  Leon loved to go on about how smart his dog was, but if Max was truly intelligent, why couldn’t he be toilet trained?  Him flipping down the lid and flushing his waste away would have impressed me considerably more than his ability to sit, fetch, roll over, play dead, and bark on command.

Yet I agreed to be Max’ caretaker.  My motivation was not exactly selfless.  Leon lived in a one bedroom apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan while I resided in a studio apartment in the middle of a nondescript neighborhood way out on the outer edges of Queens.  Although I would have preferred not to have a furry four-legged roommate, I was looking forward to spending a weekend in the city.  I was still two or three pay raises away from being able to afford rent on an apartment in a desirable part of Manhattan.  Every penny I could get my hands on was being saved for the glamorous future I envisioned for myself.  It dumbfounded me that Leon was actually moving out the following weekend.  He had bought a condo in Westchester that his longtime girlfriend would also be moving into.  Leon had reached a stage where being with Iris seven days a week, cozily nestled in a suburban neighborhood, was more appealing to him than having a bachelor pad in the heart of the greatest city on earth.  To each his own.  My own stage of life was far less advanced.  I didn’t even have a girlfriend, much less plans to cohabitate.

There was a park just two blocks from Leon’s apartment with a fenced in area where people let their dogs run free.  Saturday turned out to be beautiful, sunny and warm without being oppressively humid as August days in New York can be.  I was a little hung over from Friday night revelry with a group of friends I knew from college.  Just like back in our years as undergrads, the pitchers of beers and failed attempts to charm girls too sober for our own good had been plentiful.  Time outside to let the remnants of alcohol in my system evaporate in unobstructed sunlight would do me good.

When I arrived at the dog’s private section of park, there were maybe a dozen people there and roughly the same amount of canines.  But from the moment I took notice of those sea green eyes, her taut showcased abdomen, hip hugging shorts over the shapeliest bronze legs designed by a most benevolent Creator, I only had eyes for Claire.  As luck would have it, Max got all excited over the mutt attached to the leash in Claire’s hand.  Soon our leashes were entangled, giving me a tailor made opportunity to start up a conversation.  I learned her name, that her smile could light up one’s life, and that her laughter was the catchiest tune you ever did hear.  I really liked this girl.  The feeling was instant and irrevocable.  But she was short on time.  She had to go.  Precious minutes after making her acquaintance, Claire was gone.  I had not mustered the courage to ask for her phone number.  Everything had moved too quickly for decisive action on my part.  One minute I’m being tugged down the street by my friend’s dog, the next I behold a vision, hyper dogs knot us to each other, while untangling we speak inconsequential words at a volume not much louder than my pounding heart, and then I am watching her walk away, tragically aware that in all likelihood I will never see her again.

As the days passed I figured I would forget about Claire.  Instead she grew increasingly vivid in my mind’s eye.  I had to see her again.  If we could somehow run into each other and take up where we’d left off, I’d know soon enough if the spark I’d sensed between us had the strength to burst into flame. For sure, I was not the smoothest talking guy.  More often than not, the presence of a beautiful girl would act as Novocaine injected into my tongue.  Somewhere between expressing how I felt and trying to play it cool, my thoughts and words would trip over themselves.  The more I longed to impress, the worse of an impression I made. 

But talking to Claire had been different, easy as getting wet in the rain.  If we spoke a second time, I knew I’d say the right things.  I’d get her number, and I’d call her, and I would take her out, and from there the most wonderful of things would become possible and plausible.  In a city of millions of strangers in countless nooks and crannies, there was only one place I could think of to run into Claire again.

My plan was impetuously drawn up.  I would ask to borrow Max for a while the following weekend and show up with him at the dog park.  No, scratch that.  I remembered that Leon was moving to Westchester in a couple days.  By Saturday he and Max would no longer reside in the city.  I could show up without a dog in tow, but that would make me look a little desperate, make that a lot desperate, stalker-like even.  There was only one reasonable reason for me to show up in that dog park.  I needed to have a dog by my side.  And not just any dog.  I remembered that when Claire had commented on how cute Max was, I grinned and agreed without bothering to explain that he was not in fact mine.  She seemed attracted to the notion that I was a dog owner, so why dispel it?  When she commented that “they really do grow on you”, I moronically responded that “my Max is almost like a son to me, a son with really bad breath.”  This succeeded in making Claire laugh while further perpetuating my little white lie.  I had to have Max with me, or a close enough facsimile. 

The next day I strode into a pet store in my neighborhood, my fourth pet store visit of the day, and walked out after spending a ridiculous amount of money with a carbon copy of Max.  Two days after that …

“Hi, Claire.”

“Hi, Adam.  Hey, Max.”

Max Two strained at his leash, anxious to romp with the other pooches.         

“I was hoping I’d run into you again,” I said.

“Me too.”

Things were going extremely well so far.

“Sit up and beg, Max,” Claire requested.  Max and I had showed off a couple of his tricks to impress her the prior weekend.  Max Two didn’t have a single one in his repertoire, of course.  Not unless I counted peeing throughout my apartment and chewing my Air Jordans to shreds as tricks. 

“Max was performing all morning,” I said.  “He’s tricked out for the day.”  A lame excuse, but the best I could come up with on the fly.  Claire ran her fingers through his thick mane.  I could not have been more jealous of him.

“He’s so cute.  I love Chows.”

“Yeah, Chows are the best.  I’m thinking of getting a second one.”

“No actually, that’s a Chow,” said Claire while pointing at a dog sauntering past us.  “Max is a Keeshond.  I always mix those two breeds up.”  She then looked at me curiously, understandably so, no doubt wondering just how low my IQ was.  “Why did you agree with me when I mistook him for a Chow?” she asked.

“Uh.”  I realized that more than one incoherent syllable would be required here, but a multitude of alternatives were not rushing to occur to me.  “I didn’t realize you were talking about Max.  I thought you said ‘I love cows’.”  Clearly I was not the world’s quickest thinker on my feet.


“I’m just being silly.  Thought maybe I could earn another one of your lovely smiles.” 

Against all odds my predicament was salvaged as Claire granted my wish.

I undid Max Two’s leash to let him join his fellow beasts before Claire figured out that he was an impostor, much like his new master.  Max Two had tested the limits of my patience during his brief time in my care.  I knew nothing at all about house training a dog, much less getting one to sit up and beg or roll over and play dead.  But Max Two was certainly expert at finding trouble to get into, and at putting me into a state of panic every twenty minutes or so.  And man could he shed.  On every dark item of clothing and piece of furniture I owned was evidence that I was now a pet owner.  Within hours of bringing him home I was convinced that I’d made a huge mistake.  This feeling persisted until I saw Claire again she said “me too” and the genius of my plan was confirmed.

“So where’s Daisy today?”  Daisy was Claire’s Pomeranian.

“Oh, didn’t I tell you?  Daisy is my friend’s dog.  I was only watching her for the afternoon last weekend.”

So there I stood, new owner of faux Max, solely to impress a girl who for all I knew cared about man’s best friend as little as I did.

Then a logical question occurred to me.  If Claire did not own a dog and was not even watching one today, what was she doing here in the dog park?  This is just what I asked her, to which she replied – “Like I said, I was hoping to run into you again.”

We’ve been together ever since.

One year later Claire and I stand in an amazing rent controlled apartment, staring down at the head of a quarter.  In case you don’t recall, heads means we’re going to take the apartment.  It’s been a month since we decided to move in together.  A big step, but one we’re both ecstatic to be making.  She still lives with her parents and my place is much too small for two people.  So this is where we’ve decided to hang our hats, a great steal thanks to an inside tip from my friend the realtor, who currently lives in Westchester with his girlfriend and their dog, Max.  I'm not getting out of Queens, but with Claire agreeing to move into it with me this is a non-issue. 

As for Max Two, he’s out of luck.  No pets allowed in this palace.  Claire and I turn towards one another and it’s immediately clear what we must do.  Max Two has grown on both of us over this past year, not to mention that he is largely responsible for getting us together in the first place. 

I revealed to Claire long ago that Max Two was a look-alike of the real deal.  Since then I’ve managed to mostly house train him, failed in all attempts to teach him any tricks, and have been through multiple pairs of sneakers, Max Two’s favorite chew toy.  I’ve also embarked on the greatest love affair of my life.

“Two out of three?” I ask.

Claire replies – “Two out of three.”

Free on Amazon from February 1st to 5th of 2017: Kindle edition of MATTERS OF CONVENIENCE