Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Christmas Gift To You




Earlier this year I made the Kindle edition of Patches of Grey available to be borrowed from the Lending Library at Amazon.com by members of their Prime program. And now, for two days (not just any old two but Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), anyone and everyone who owns a Kindle or uses the Kindle App can download my novel FREE OF CHARGE. I hope plenty of you take advantage of this opportunity. Once you're done reading I'd love to hear what you thought of it at Amazon, GoodReads, Shelfari, or wherever else you may happen to post views on the books you've read. Tis the season of generosity, better to give than to receive, so I'm offering the best I had in me when writing my debut novel. I hope you enjoy Patches of Grey, that it joins many wonderful books to be found on your reading list, and that you have a most joyous holiday season.

p.s. - If you're always on the look out for eBook giveaways I recommend regularly consulting this calendar maintained by eBook Blitz



p.p.s. - I know what some of you are thinking. The world is coming to an end on December 21st. The Mayans told us plain as day. So what good is giving away free books 3 or 4 days after we've all been wiped off the planet? All I can tell you is that I'm an optimistic Doubting Thomas. I'm looking forward to Christmas, to the New Year, and to countless opportunities to ignore whatever resolutions I make for it. Planning ahead never hurt anyone, even when told that there will be no ahead.





Final Note: My heart cries for the lost children of Sandy Hook Elementary. Makes much of what we plan for and worry about seem so meaningless. In the end Christmas is not about gifts, sales, giveaways or any of the sound and fury that often occupies the bulk of our attention. It's about love.

Friday, November 9, 2012

FOUR MORE YEARS





Some of the excuses being made for Mitt Romney's loss are pretty amusing. e.g. - I've seen "he couldn't separate himself from right wing extremists" cited.

Silly rabbit. That would be because Mitt attached himself to them. Nobody made him go hard core on immigration to counter Rick Perry. Romney’s choice.

Nobody made Mitt endorse Richard Murdouck both before AND AFTER his horrific rape commentary. That was Mitt's call. He chose to co-sign such extremism all on his own.

Did Romney distance himself at all from Donald Trump's ludicrous, baseless, racist bordering accusations? Nope. Not even by an inch or two.

Romney may not be as conservative as he pretended to be (will the real Mitt Romney please stand up, please stand up, please stand up), but he did earnestly pretend to be as conservative/extremist/right wing as they come. There are repercussions for such behavior regardless of whether it’s heartfelt or play acting.

Another reason I saw cited for Romney's loss was because ads by the Obama team managed to make Mitt seem unlikeable. Hah!

Let us be straight with one another here. What made Mitt Romney unlikeable was Mitt Romney. His actions spoke, opposition ads simply spotlighted them.

Unless Barack Obama is a master ventriloquist who somehow put that 47% quote in Mitt's mouth, Romney basically created attack ads on himself.

Obama didn't even need to tie Romney to Bush like he effectively did with McCain. In their last debate Obama basically said that Romney is another GW copycat, except that Bush’s policies were less mean spirited than Mitt’s.

McCain made major mistakes, biggest of all being the selection of Sarah Palin. But at least she got him Alaska's electoral votes so she wasn’t entirely useless.

Romney went & picked an Ayn Rand devotee who couldn't even secure his own state for the ticket.

Mitt beat his own damn self during tough economic times that should have spelled doomsday for the incumbent. The main reason Mitt beat himself is not anything stated above but the simple fact that he was an awful candidate who tried to buy his way into the White House. DENIED.

After lurking throughout the campaign I decided to engage a die hard Republican friend of mine who was griping about the end result on Facebook. Conversation went reasonably well because I respectfully disagreed but made undeniable point he did not really attempt to counter.

Point I made is that whatever party you happen to side with, the obligation of that party to is put forth serious candidates to promote the cause.

You can severely disagree with the Democrats’ principles but at least acknowledge that Obama, Kerry, Gore, Hillary Clinton were credible candidates with serious intentions.

On the other hand, the Republicans ran a serial flip flopper whose crowning achievement was the healthcare mandate he then had to run against. When you battle yourself, no matter who wins, you lose.

Keep in mind that this is after running Sarah Palin in the VP spot as a blatantly shallow attention grabber the last time out. And we must not forget that Donald Trump was once the Republican party’s frontrunner even though his brief flirtation with running was clearly a publicity stunt. Herman Cain was just a small step up from Trump, his presence a weak attempt to prove that the Republican platform is for black people too.

To a certain degree it doesn't matter whose argument is superior. Plenty of valid points are issued by both sides. A quality candidate from either of our two main political parties can go on to excel at the presidency. But if instead of well qualified applicants you run clowns, more often than not you’ll lose.

I suspect the lesson has finally been learned and the 2016 election will feature quality candidates on both sides of the political theory divide.

Then again, money talks and if the super conservative ridiculously right wing fringe is spending plenty of it, another lame GOP candidate may emerge. This would guarantee another victory for the Democrats.

It seems necessary from reading my Twitter stream after Obama’s victory to point out that a vote for Romney was not by definition a vote for racism. His supporters baffle me but they aren't ALL bigots.

Too many of them are though, as evidenced by: Anti-Obama Protest at Ole Miss Turns Unruly

If you're white, not a bigot, and a student at Old Miss, it's a lot harder to hold your head high while wearing your college sweatshirt today.

Behavior like that makes future would be Republican voters go "Nah, I don't want to be affiliated with that. I'll go Democrat or be Independent instead".

Stupid people don't realize that they hurt their causes and themselves with stupid behavior. That's because they're stupid people. It takes a long long time to weed out ignorance. There's always somebody passing stupidity down to their kids, keeping moronic hate alive.

But a work in progress is still undeniably PROGRESS.

We may not be post-racial but we are most definitely post slavery/Jim Crow/segregation. The GOP needs to distance themselves in a hurry from those who should really be members of the KKK for all their backwardness of beliefs.

It is never going to be 1950 again no matter how badly you want to turn the clock back. In the 21st century if you keep disenfranchising racial/ethnic/religious minorities, women, homosexuals - you'll lose.

You either change with the times or get run over by them. There really is no happy middle ground. Not if you require more votes than that obtained by a reasonable challenger to gain employment.

Once the GOP platform is not about exclusion, but rather, about core principles that they can run proudly on, they'll reclaim lost relevance.

It that doesn't happen they'll simply go the way of the dinosaur. Getting pounded in quest for Black/Latino/Gay/Immigrant/Women votes = extinction.

And for Pete's sake, let overturning Roe v Wade go. It's been decided. It's in the books. It makes sense. Move on. There are other causes.

With so many people PISSED about the state of the economy, all the Republican Party needed to do was put a credible candidate at the head of the ticket. They royally messed that up.

Final Electoral College tally: Obama 332, Romney 206.



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No Halloween Trick - Just A Treat





After considerable contemplation I have decided to put the Kindle edition of Patches of Grey into Amazon's KDP Select program. Unfortunately this means the digital version will be temporarily unavailable to those looking to upload it to their Nook or Kobo software. But if you're an Amazon shopper (and who isn't these days?) the good news is that Patches of Grey will be entered into their ebook Lending Library. In case you don't already know, the Kindle Owners' Lending Library is a collection of books that Amazon Prime members can borrow once a month, with no due dates.

As an added bonus, I will soon be offering the Kindle edition of Patches of Grey FOR FREE TO EVERYBODY for a period of 5 days. So you don't need to be an Amazon Prime member, simply stay on the look-out for a promotional announcement. I haven't decided yet whether the giveaway will last 5 days straight or if I'll scatter it around a bit. Either way I'll be sure to let you know when you can take advantage of a free book promotion here at A Line A Day, on Twitter where I go by the name @AuthorOfPatches, at my FaceBook fan page, on GoodReads.com, at my web site RoyPickering.net, and anywhere else I can think of. The Kindle edition of Patches of Grey only costs $2.99 ($9.99 for the print edition), but these days any hard earned dollar we can keep in our pockets is a buck that's greatly appreciated. That's why there will be no trick played by me on book lovers, only the TREAT of an opportunity to download my novel free of charge. Then you can finally find out what all the raves have been about.

Most important of all, I hope this blog posting finds you well after the havoc brought about by Hurricane Sandy. I live in New Jersey and work in New York City so electrical power was lost on both ends. My daughter's school is out of power as well. Fortunately I still have a sturdy roof over my head and dry floors underneath. Rather than being frustrated by the hassles of post hurricane damage I'm doing my best to remain upbeat while being grateful for what I do still have, including good friends and loved ones who have come through in the clutch. Sometimes it takes adversity to learn who you can truly depend on. I have survived the tricks that Hurricane Sandy played on us east coasters, spoiling planned Halloween festivities, and am greatly appreciative of the treat of reliable friendship.

No adversity must be weathered to obtain Patches of Grey though. And soon, for some, for a period of time - No Expense.



A very big p.s. - CONGRATULATIONS TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Why Elections Matter - And Debates Leave Too Much Unsaid




Is there ever going to be a serious conversation about what the repercussions would be if Roe vs Wade was overturned? This is not a theoretical matter because it could really happen in the not too distant future, at which point the matter ceases to be about opposing talking points and transforms into nitty gritty details to be dealt with.

I respect someone sincerely having a Pro Life position but I’m tired of hearing politicians say “I’m pro life”, “I believe in the sactity of life”, “all lives are sacred” without then detailing a follow up plan.

Suppose Romney wins the election and eventually he’s able to appoint enough conservative Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe vs Wade.

So it’s now illegal for a woman (guy who contributed to the pregnancy bears no consequence of course, a major flaw in plan) to get an abortion. Penalty for breaking the law must be decided on.

Jail time seems ridiculous. So I guess you go with a hefty fine. But not everyone will be able to afford the fine. Jail time for those who can’t pay? Result, prisons overflowing with poor women.

Whatever penalty is decided on, let us assume it’s quite pursuasive. This means far fewer abortions, far more babies. The number of women who get pregnant without planning to parent will stay the same. After all, many of those who are anti-abortion are also illogically anti-contraceptives.

So now what? I will conservatively guess that the birth rate increases by 50%.

Women who wish to avoid the penalty for getting an illegal abortion (I won’t even get into the safety of the inevitable bootleg abortions from the network of unlicensed practicioneers that will emerge) decide to give birth even though they don’t want/plan to parent.

A percentage of these women will give a half hearted shot at raising the children. I'm going to say 20%. These are mostly poor, single women pushed to care for children they don’t want in their lives. The picture will not be pretty in those households but all that matters is squelching abortions.

But how about the other 80%? The attitude of these women is that you can make them carry to term but you can’t make them parent. 10% of these pregnancies are hidden and babies end up left in dumpsters.

Now we must deal with 70% of babies born to women who did not want and do not plan to raise them. The system (which takes various forms, much of it private/charitable, but much of it also government run or dependent on government money) will have to take care of these children. Adoption agencies and foster care system become overloaded but all that matters is squelching abortions.

I will generously assume that if you’re going to overturn Roe vs Wade you’re also going to pass laws that make adoption extremely affordable. As result, 25% of these children find welcoming homes.

It would be nice if all of these households had guaranteed healthcare. That’s a separate though certainly not unrelated matter for another day/post.

25% is probably too high a projection. After all, a fair number of the children will be the result of rape and even incest. This makes them way less adoptable. It’s not like reducing the cost of adoption means everyone becomes willing to do it. Many people have no interest in parenting, or no interest in parenting someone who is not their biological child. As for those who are willing (God bless them), they’ll have some restrictions (such as no can do if child is the result of violent rape) for obvious reasons.

But I’ll stick with my optimistic 25% guesstimate anyway. That leaves 45% of the babies whose biological mothers could/would not raise them going into the sytem.

Now as we know, the Romney/Ryan budget calls for making massive cuts to social services even though a massive INCREASE in funds to social services would be required to handle all of these children.

What we have here is another case of math that doesn’t add up. You want to “fix” our economy but simultaneously want to overturn a law that would eventually lead to a crippling of the economy. And keep in mind, this is the best case scenario I’m working with.

So maybe, just maybe, the issue isn’t quite so simple as saying “I’m pro life”, “I believe in the sactity of life”, “all lives are sacred”, “abortion is cold blooded murder that must be prevented at all cost”.

If that’s your stance, I understand and respect it. You believe in no exceptions other than perhaps when the life of the mother is at risk? Fine. I too wish that the number of abortions that occur each year considerably decreased, although since I am a man and cannot get pregnant, I’m not so arrogant as to think I have the right to tell a woman what she is allowed to do with her body. But if you are that arrogant/self righteous then I really need to hear your follow up plan. I need to know how many lives you are volunteering to care for if you insist on taking away women’s reproductive rights. If you are going to insist that every child be born then surely you will be doing your minimal share to address the consequences of this taking place. You don’t want to just overturn a rule of law and then let the chips fall where they may, correct? Not when those chips happen to be lives that you profess to care so much about.

If in fact you don’t have a follow up plan, then you need to go sit quiety in the corner and give more serious consideration to who you plan to vote for.



p.s. - NOBODY PUTS BABY IN A BINDER


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Judging Presidential Idol




Who do you think won the first Presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? Well, according to a CNN poll 67% believe it was Mr. Romney. That number sounds about right when compared to an unofficial poll of my Twitter feed. If Romney won, this means Obama was the loser. I disagree on both counts. It’s apparent to me based not on the debate but reactions to it that the winner was Style, and the loser was Substance. Substance is specifically indicating how you intend to address a problem and why you believe it has a solid chance to be successful. As for an effective style, it seems some examples would be ignoring and/or speaking over the moderator, being loudest and the most demonstrative, in general coming off as more aggressive than anyone else in the room.

Now I find nothing wrong with being demonstrative/loud/aggressive (rudeness to moderator is less than charming but not a deal breaker), so long as this is the manner in which you are delivering facts and common sense and a well laid out plan. If instead you are vague, denying what I plainly heard you say just the other day, making grand promises without showing a shred of evidence as to how it’s possible to achieve them, then I don’t care how much flair you demonstrate. While writing this I had a flashback to that little old lady from the Wendy’s commercials. Where’s the beef, she would demand to know. Mitt Romney did better than many expected from him and Barack Obama was less animated than a great number of his supporters hoped for. Expectations held in advance strongly influence determinations made after the fact. But ask yourself this. How can you declare Romney to be “the winner” when his claims on stage were both toothless and beefless? Perhaps Mitt made a stronger impression on you, particularly in comparison to his previous bumbling and stumbling. But do you intend to vote for an impression or for the real deal? Will you vote for the man who says and proves by actions how he’ll maintain Medicare and Social Security, promote improvements in the education system, lower the unemployment rate and deficit, increase our independence from oil and the nations in possession of much of it, cut the middle class a break in hard times rather than making the rich richer? Or will you vote for the man who says he’ll do all of that too, but gives no indication of how he would accomplish anything other than the opposite?

Mitt Romney’s campaign for president has been full of contradictions and inconsistencies. At one time or another he has been on both sides of most issues. The most blatant instance is his assault on and promise to repeal a healthcare plan that is based on his own model from when he was governor of Massachusetts and still possessed 47% of the heart provided by the Wizard of Oz. There are not enough hours in the day, much less in a debate where you only get half of the alloted time, to point out every instance of Romney’s hypocrisy. Yet many wish that Barack Obama had highlighted considerably more of them than he got around to. Consider me one of those people. But please don’t declare that I am someone who thinks Romney won the debate, and definitely do not place me on Team Style. No, I ride with Substance all the way. President Obama’s agenda may not be perfect (perfection is impossible anyway when met with obstruction from the Senate at every turn), but it is a plausible solution. It is tempting to want and believe in quick fixes, explaining why so much money has been made off of diet pills even though we know calorie control and exercise are what works. Turning the economy around cannot be done overnight, and not simply because George W. Bush was given 8 years to mess it up. Slow and steady is a believable course of action, no matter that it makes us understandably impatient. Waving a magic wand while cutting taxes on the rich to instantly create 12 million jobs is a far less plausible plan. That’s true even when it’s proclaimed with fantastic showmanship.

Left leaning political pundits are in an uproar. Social media is in a tizzy. Mitt Romney won the debate, they cry. All is lost. Perhaps Romney did win the debate per your personal standards of what victory looks like. If you think all is lost, though, then you must believe that the “independent undecideds” are just as easily swayed by sound and fury that signifies nothing. Keep in mind that up until now nothing has been able to swing them one way or the other. How this can be the case continues to befuddle me. I’m not sure whether they number in the millions, the thousands, or the dozens. I have no idea if they’re spread throughout the country or reside together Big Brother style. What I do know is that those who support Obama still support the President, those who support Romney still support him, and talking softly while carrying a big stick tends to be more effective than empty handed shouting.

"At some point, the American people have to ask themselves if the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans secret is because they're too good." - President Barack Obama

Fact Checks

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Part II of Black Literature: Dead or Alive?




Back in August of 2009 I wrote this blog posting, posing the hypothetical question of whether or not African American Literature is still alive. By using the term “literature” rather than books/novels/fiction I hoped to draw a distinction between works of obvious literary merit and cases where brilliance isn’t quite so recognizable. Full disclosure: I was referring to books (self published as well as traditionally) that I snobbishly found by and large to be drivel. No reading of interior content or even much cover copy is required to make a quick analysis. A glance at the ridiculous titles accompanied by absurd cover imagery tells you all you need to know, basically, that these books are the publishing equivalent of coarse, low budgeted, misogynistic, violence glorifying hip hop videos. And when it comes to art that objectifies half the human race and prettifies the spilling of blood while setting back civil rights and social status equity strides by decades, I prefer the slick, well produced variety. Whether the protagonist is a pimp, whore, drug dealer or all of the above, bottom line is that you’ll probably have to go through A LOT of them to find decent writing. And yet A LOT OF THEM is precisely the number being published annually. The genre of urgan/gangsta/street books threatened to dominate the arena of “black books”, and in so doing, was causing damage that just may have been irrevocable.

I am therefore happy to report in September of 2012 as we prepare to kick off Banned Books Week that African American Literature is alive and kicking and thriving, delighting readers of fiction with melanin. As evidence I point to the titles listed below. Each of them was published in the 21st century (since 8/09 I’ve read several excellent novels by black authors [Kindred, Middle Passage, The Intuitionist, Tumbling, Things Fall Apart, etc.] that were published prior to 2000 as well) and reviewed after my concerned blog post. Those with asterisks next to them were published in 2009 or later. They collectively serve notice that great books by authors of color continue to be published in respectable numbers, meaning that we do indeed have balance, and that works just fine for me. I am not the swiftest reader, otherwise my line-up of evidence would be more plentiful. In addition to the books I’ve gotten around to, my TO BE READ cup runneth over. Apparently great novels are being written faster than I can read them, and this is the best possible news for the state of literature in any category.

My cynicism sometimes carries me away, and the speculation of others is often way off the mark. Turns out that radio didn’t kill the radio star, eReaders haven’t murdered the printed word, self publishing has not knocked off literary fiction, there's no reason to incarcerate book bloggers for the homicide of literary criticism, and ‘hood books have not stopped great works by African American authors and/or about everyday African American lives from entering the marketplace. They could certainly be promoted with more vigor, but the same can be said for literary prose in general. Twilight may have revived vampire stories (in glitzy teen fashion, anyway), but it is AA Lit that has risen from critical condition.



A Mercy – Toni Morrison

John Henry Days – Colson Whitehead

* Sag Harbor – Colson Whitehead

* Silver Sparrow – Tayari Jones

* Black Betty – Walter Mosley

* The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey – Walter Mosley

Hunting in Harlem – Mat Johnson

The Warmest December – Bernice McFadden

* Salvage the Bones – Jesmyn Ward


The Intuitionist - Colson Whitehead

The Taste of Salt - Martha Southgate

Home - Toni Morrison

Freeman - Leonard Pitts Jr.

The Cutting Season - Attica Locke

Loving Day - Mat Johnson

Ruby - Cynthia Bond

The Star Side of Bird Hill - Naomi Jackson

Ghana Must Go - Taiye Selasi



STATE OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN LITERATURE according to Malaika Adero




R.I.P. Miranda Parker, known to many as @DeeGospel on Twitter, founder of the hashtag #BlackLitChat

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Open Mouth - Grab Foot - Insert

"My only concern is the poor, especially minorities, blacks in particular. The rest are set so can fend for themselves." – Invisible Obama




Even if that was how he feels (and it isn’t), the real live flesh and blood President Obama would never say such a foolish thing. Not during the heat of a campaign. Not in public. Not even behind doors he believed to be closed to the media. He learned his lesson about sounding even remotely condescending towards any group of people not serving in Congress the last go around. Yet there are plenty of people who believe my make believe quote to be an accurate summary of Obama’s point of view. Why? He’s a Democrat, ain’t he? He’s liberal, ain’t he? He’s Black, ain’t he? He’s not truly American regardless of where he was born, right? No matter what he says and does, there is a portion of the electorate that does not believe Obama gives priority to their interests. They require no evidence of this. That’s the beautiful thing about prejudice (not just talking race based prejudice either), it can’t be reasoned away because it’s incapable of recognizing things such as logic and common sense. Why believe their lying eyes when all that matters is what’s in their hearts?

Mitt Romney on the other hand did not need to carry the burden of appearing to care for only a select few. We didn’t assume that he’s only looking out for his select group of brethren from the start. After all, he has church service and a health care plan in Massachussets and even his “rescue mission” of the Olympic games to point to as evidence that he cares about ALL AMERICANS. Other selflish looking acts on Romney’s part may have given some people doubts about his character, but it would and should have been no great challenge for him to believably claim he’s running for President to help EVERYBODY. He’s a politician so of course he would have been viewed by the media and many voters with a degree of cynicism, even if he had a similar resume to that of Mother Teresa. Yet he should have been able to plausibly claim that he cares for that kid in the projects just as much as he does for that CEO who generously donated to his campaign. He merely needed to do a little acting. How difficult could that be? Romney has repeatedly shown he can appear to be convinced of one thing on Monday, and of the opposite being his belief by Friday. So surely he’d be able to make it to the end of a campaign without actually confessing that he could give a damn about nearly half the country. No way would he admit that he didn’t plan to preside on their behalf were we idiotic enough to elect him.

Guess again. The cat is out of the bag. It was a transparent bag so we could see the cat in there all along. But at least the feline was contained and therefore could do minimal damage. Now the critter is out and ready to race through all 9 of the Romney campaign’s lives. Mitt looks like a President, or so we’re supposed to believe. Appearances weren’t deceiving for long enough though. It didn’t take debating with the President to expose him. It didn’t take someone proving that he’s paid hardly any taxes over the years. It didn’t take making an absurdly dumb choice for vice president to be his undoing. Mitt Romney simply opened his mouth and told “his people” how he truly feels, because he didn’t think any of “the others” were listening in. There are a lot of others. I don’t know if the percentage is closer to 47% or 99% of the population, but it should be sufficient to make sure Mitt Romney never sees the inside of the White House unless he pays to take a tour.



"It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.” – Obama campaign

“Had he (he being Mitt's dad, who was born in Mexico for fascinating reasons) been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this.” - Mitt Romney









On a completely unrelated note, please check out my interview with the blogger behind Layered Pages.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Handling Rejection for Dummies...I Mean Writers



I am nearing the completion of the final draft of my second novel, Matters of Convenience. Rather than self publishing such as I did with my first novel Patches of Grey, my plan is to start off on the traditional route. That means querying literary agents, hoping that this results in requests for the full manuscript, praying that it ends up in representation and that this eventually yeilds a publishing deal with one of the major players in the industry. Then all that's left to wish for is that a respectable number of copies get sold so things might go a little smoother the next go around. Along with querying and submitting and hoping and praying, also inevitable is rejection that must be shrugged off, perseverance that needs to take place. Nothing is guaranteed but the chances are great that an answer of NO (followed by multiple echoes) will be encountered prior to that elusive YES. If after some yet to be determined period of time a YES fails to materialize, Plan B goes into effect. But optimists don't think much about Plan B until Plan A has been exhausted. And optimism is the only option for a writer. Therefore the likelihood of rejections must be faced head on. Oh, did I mention that this year I'll also be looking to get a publishing deal for a children's book I've written that my wife will be illustrating? That means two separate channels of rejection will be in place. Not very pretty to picture. I need to motivate myself, and if any fellow writers/artists find their way to this blog posting, perhaps you will find encouragement as well. But what can I say that hasn't already been said eloquently by others? Not much. So I'm handing it off to them and that's what you'll find below, words of inspiration by those who fought the good fight and emerged victorious. Rejection doesn't discourage me, it just hardens my shell to help me bust through the wall. Also invaluable, having a sense of humor and an inflated ego. There will be no second person who believes in you and your talent if you aren't the first. The only way for a writer to handle rejection is self imposed amnesia. Then, even if you need to close your eyes, take your next shot.




"I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, "To hell with you." (Saul Bellow)

"The vital point to remember is that the swine who just sent your pearl of a story back with nothing but a coffee-stain and a printed rejection slip can be wrong. You cannot take it for granted that he is wrong, but you have an all-important margin of hope that might be enough to keep you going." (Brian Stableford)

"Believe in yourself and in your own voice, because there will be times in this business when you will be the only one who does. Take heart from the knowledge that an author with a strong voice will often have trouble at the start of his or her career because strong, distinctive voices sometimes make editors nervous. But in the end, only the strong survive. Readers return time and again to the unique, the distinctive, storytelling voice. They may love it or they may hate it, but they do not forget it." (Jayne Ann Krentz)

"This is for writers yet to be published who think the uphill climb will never end. Keep believing. This is also for published writers grown jaded by the process. Remember how lucky you are." (Terry Brooks)

"You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist." (Isaac Asimov)

"If you've FINISHED writing a novel you are amongst the elite!!! You ARE NOT A FAILURE IF YOU CANNOT LIVE OFF YOUR BOOKS. You only fail by NOT TRYING." (Nadia Cornier)

“Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're probably right.” (Henry Ford)

"All writers are crazy. So never mind what the editors and your family and your critique group tells you. Submit your manuscripts and keep submitting until you get an offer. Then you can be crazy, with a paycheck." (MaryJanice Davidson)

“I will act as though what I do makes a difference. (William James)

“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly. (Buckminster Fuller)







Multiple volumes of Independent Author Index Short Story Compilation are now available to download. Featured in the compilation are two short stories of mine - "Decisions" and "The Kiss". Check it out! No really - Check it out!






Tuesday, August 14, 2012

IMAGINE

Several years back I used to write a monthly sports column for Suite101.com. For a good while after I moved on to other things my collection of articles remained archived there. Eventually the archive was eliminated. Quite a few of my articles were picked up by other outlets so can still be found online, but many of them vanished for good. The majority of these pieces were time sensitive, pertinent to a particular event. But a number of them are relatively timeless because the world of sports, much like the world at large, often operates in a cyclical manner. Yesterday’s news revisits today’s front pages and then fades away only to return again…and again…and again. When I wrote about the relationship between steroids and high profile athletes I did not bother to name names. Sports fans will recognize who I’m referencing in most if not all of the cases. But the names are basically interchangeable, as are the sets of circumstances. The primary difference between them is that some were caught red handed and with others there is a sliver of room for doubt. Ben Johnson, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Marion Jones, Lance Armstrong, Manny Pacquiao, Alex Rodriguez. There have been many others. There will be many others. Tests to catch them will grow increasingly sophisticated. New concoctions will be created to temporarily stay one step ahead of officials. Some athletes will be caught and proven guilty. Some will be caught and acquitted due to lack of sufficient proof. Some will never be officially accused, merely speculated about. Some we’ll remain clueless about. Round and round it goes. And so I’m reprinting IMAGINE here at A Line A Day because even though I wrote it way back in the day, I may as well have written it ten minutes ago…or ten years down the line.






Imagine if you are a fanatic about professional wrestling. You watch with baited breath as your heroes do battle against their arch enemies. The combatants are bigger than life. There is something quite theatrical about their outlandish personalities, costumes, and storylines. The bad guys are so obviously bad, the good guys somehow overcome tremendous adversity and stacked odds to prevail time and time again. Yet nothing about this strikes you as suspicious, much less preposterous. Perhaps you are still too young and naive to be jaded. That will come later. Imagine if you are a true believer in the muscle bound men who defy gravity and logic, only to be told one day that it's staged, a scripted carnival act choreographed for your entertainment. Imagine how you would feel when this deception was brought to light. Imagine the sense of betrayal, the end of your innocence.

If that scenario doesn't disturb you, then try any of the following on for size, because unlike professional wrestling, there has never been any question that these sports are supposed to be for real.


Imagine if you found out that your favorite boxers were on the take, their bouts rigged from the outset by gangsters who control the sport you love. Imagine discovering that your favorite shoeless ballplayer and his teammates were bribed to throw the World Series for fast cash. Imagine if the player you most admired due to his grit and hustle was a gambling addict who bet on his own team's games when he became a manager.

If you can imagine all of that without your heart breaking, then perhaps we should move beyond history and on to current events. Imagine if players in the sport you love are growing bigger, faster, stronger, and better by the day. Imagine if they easily demolish records that had seemed set in stone and capable of withstanding the test of time. Imagine idolizing these men who take to the field of play with their bats and gloves and perform one amazing feat after another. Imagine if you believe you are living in a time when several of the greatest men ever to play the game are simultaneously demonstrating their out-of-this-world abilities, surpassing the milestones of the game's legends. Imagine how exciting this would be. Imagine how riveted and uplifted you would be. Imagine how lucky you would consider yourself to be. Imagine the wonderment that would fill your soul at the crack of the bat and soaring of the ball into the blue yonder.

Imagine now if those many blasts over the right, left, and centerfield fences turn out to have been artificially produced.

Imagine if the world's fastest couple was merely the world's most doped up couple, running not so much on adrenalin as on pharmaceuticals. Imagine if the accusations turn out to be true, that you've been deceived, that the pursuit of excellence you admired was chemically assisted. Imagine if those world records and Olympic medals are tainted.

Imagine if it all turned out to be a mirage, nothing but smoke and mirrors. Imagine if you invested your hopes, lived vicariously through the exploits of these men and women, were crushed by their losses and exhilarated by their victories, only to learn that it is nothing but a drug induced fabrication. Imagine if you come to realize that you have not been witnessing the glorious acts of extraordinary athletes, but rather, the remarkable results of steroid use. Imagine if your role models are proven to be cheaters and liars. Imagine if you no longer feel you can trust your eyes. Imagine if you decide to stop admiring and aspiring to be like these athletes, because they have proven themselves to be little more than con artists. How would you feel?

Imagine.


Points of views other than my own fence straddling one: This article is cynical about intents of the media rather than athletes regarding steroid accusations.

This writer thinks it likely that Usain Bolt (but not Michael Phelps) was the doping star of 2012 Summer Olympics.












Question of the day: Should Pro sports leagues just give up and allow PEDs?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Giveaway and Announcement

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Patches Of Grey by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Patches Of Grey

by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Giveaway ends September 03, 2012.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win




By all means join GoodReads.com if you haven't already (it's a fantastic site for anyone who cares at all about books) and enter for the chance to win a copy of my debut (and now AWARD WINNING ) novel - Patches of Grey. The winner will be selected on Labor Day.



For those of you unwilling to wait that long or to trust in the luck of the draw, if you read books on a Kobo or Kobo App and have $3 to your name - Patches of Grey is now availabe at Kobo.com



Speaking of being in a rush, THIS is a perfectly acceptable speed to run out like a BOLT of lightning and get yourself a copy of Patches of Grey in the format of your liking.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Books You May Want To Check Out


Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe: I have been meaning to get around to this book for years. It did not disappoint. Things Fall Apart is the story of an African man named Okonkwo. He is an important man in his tribe and lives the way he understands a man's life is meant to be lived. To compensate for the weaknesses of his father his main purpose is to demonstrate strength. In order to achieve a greater degree of success he figures he must be more ambitious, aggressive, and domineering. And this is what he pulls off. So long as his place is firmly established in a world that is familiar to him, one in which he understands the rules and what it takes to excel, all is well. But after Christian missionaries arrive in the village we learn that this is not the story of a man, but rather, the chronicle of a way of life that is destined to fall. Okonkwo's gods fail to measure up against the Christian God mainly because ancient ways are always overwhelmed by the march of modernity. The gun is mightier than the machete, science outmatches superstition, and what on the surface appears to be a more compassionate way of life triumphs over barbarism because biblical cruelty is more cleverly disguised. A fascinating novel indeed.




The Warmest December by Bernice L. McFadden: Violent alcoholics beget violent alcoholics beget... Pretty much everybody in this beautifully written novel is in agony. They are each perpetrators and victims, tormentors and the ones suffering from a brutal disease. The cycle appears to be endless, but Kenzie is fighting to break the pattern. This novel, which is told from her point of view, is filled with unfathomable cruelty that it seems nobody would be foolish enough to stick around and take. Surely fleeing for their lives is an option. But instead of running from barbaric cruelty they are each running from their own demons. These demons take on liquid form and exist in bottles obtained from bars and liquor stores. The reader pities them for their hopelessness, urges those being bullied to take a hint and act out of self preservation rather than inexplicable loyalty. But neither Kenzie nor her brother nor her mother listen to the reader, or to friends, or to each other, or to concerned strangers such as policemen sometimes called to the scene of the crime. The jaded officers know in advance that their advice will be ignored, for the story is a sadly common one. The thing about a cycle is that it's extremely difficult to locate an exit point. No matter where you are it looks the same. There are glimpses of small hope, moments of grace, occasions that provide a view of genuine happiness, but eventually the moment to suffer comes back around. As long as Kenzie is consumed with understandable hate, she suffers and requires destructive medication to deal with the pain. She cannot escape by running, but rather, by confronting and figuring out how to forgive. Easier said than done.




The Shipping News by Annie E. Proulx: Annie Proulx has a lovely way with turns of phrase. That said, I expected a little more from this book since it won a Pulitzer Prize. Extra expectations are not the fault of a book or its author though. The story is quite simple and proceeds at a measured pace. It does contain some dramatic events (heartless adultery and abandonment, sudden accidental deaths, murder, beheading, stalking, return from the dead even) but these things happen "offstage" and are described in matter of fact fashion. Far more attention is paid to the smallest of day to day details such as fishing, boat building, house repair, small town newspaper business. The Shipping News is in part a love story, a finding love again after being hurt story, yet this aspect of the tale is largely devoid of heat and passion as well. The story is all quiet observation of a man named Quoyle and those closest to him getting by the best they can. While remaining a decent man and father he learns a new way to live and a new way to love. Along the way he discovers that his worth is greater than he had been previously led to believe, once he finds people better able to appreciate him for who his.




Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward: Novelists like Jesmyn Ward don't come along very often. Only truly special writers can slip readers beneath the skin of a character, make them feel as if they are experiencing the events happening on page first hand. Reading Salvage the Bones one is drawn into the oppressive summer heat of Louisiana; aches with helpless desire; is burdened by a stifling sense of loss; vicariously goes through youthful yearning to be loved, even if only as much as a treasured pet. Prior to the arrival of Hurricane Katrina, the pace of the narrative is slow and steady. We wait for the inevitable devastation to arrive, knowing far more about what is to come than the family we're observing up close. A motherless girl lets the local boys take what they please from her until she meets one from whom she wants something back. She is a lone woman in a world of men, and it is through her eyes that we pass idle time waiting, watching, remembering, wishing for what is plain will not be, settling for whatever she is able to grab hold of. This girl does not get placed on a pedestal like her brother's prized dog, but like China she is able to nurture when called upon, ready to fight tooth and nail for survival when necessary. Read this novel. Then join me in the wait for Jesmyn Ward's next one.




Penny Dreadful by Laurel Snyder: I had never heard of this book or the author before deciding to give it a shot as bedtime reading for my six year old daughter. From the cover copy I saw it shared traits with books we've read to her so far such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Holes, Half Magic. These books each feature young protagonists and the element of magic. The twist in Penny Dreadful is that by the end we're not certain if magic ever really played a part in what took place or if certain critical events were instead the result of chance. Did Penny wish things into being or did they coincidentally take place shortly after she wished for them? With Penny being such a vague wisher, asking for improved circumstances rather than for something specific to change them with, we can't be 100% sure. The story takes a little while to get going in the eventful sort of manner that children enjoy. I thought my little one might grow impatient with the set-up and ask for another book. But she remained sufficiently intrigued so we kept reading. Once Penny and her parents leave The City and move to the interesting house they have inherited, the narrative picks up steam. In her new home the formerly rich and sheltered Penny learns the value of friendship and using her inner resources to get by in a world where everything is no longer handed to her on a silver platter. Her feisty best friend Luella is the character my daughter was most amused by and related to best. Her pivotal role is basically to introduce Penny to normalcy and childhood experienced the way it ought to be done, with joy and exuberance and curiosity and daring. Before meeting Luella, Penny knows of adventure through books. After, she finds that no adventure is greater than life itself.




Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín: To say this book starts off slowly is a major understatement. It lulls you. For 50%+ of the page count the narrative is quite uneventful, a stomach churning journey at sea being as dramatic as it gets. This journey takes the protagonist, a young Irish woman, from the small town she has grown up in and is all she knows to Brooklyn, NY. Once she arrives in a strange land you expect the narrative to pick up steam, but it does not. Instead it quietly moves forward via a writing style that is not at all showy, but simple and straight forward and lovely and easy to be carried along by. Just as we're beginning to seriously wonder if anything dramatic is going to happen, something does, something that returns Eilis to Ireland for a month. I won't say what the event is, not that specificity matters all that much here. What matters is that once Eilis is back in her hometown she comes to realize that life contains a handful of vital choices - some that are made for you and some you make for yourself; some that are well thought out over a long period of time and others that are made in an impetuous flash; some which can be easily undone, some that are tortuous to undo, and some that are irrevocable. Each of us is in charge of our own destiny. Each of us is equally subject to the whims of fate, helpless to do anything about it. Eventually we will look back and see this is where that ended, this is where that began, and we will reflect on the fact that our lives easily could have gone far differently if only. But that is a life unlived. Dwelling on what did not come to be will get us nothing except for a solitary trip down memory lane. This lesson is masterfully laid out before readers who are patient enough to see the story through to the end.




Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving: John Irving is one of my favorite authors. The best of his best (Garp, Hotel New Hampshire, Owen Meany, Cider House Rules) are amongst the finest novels ever written in my opinion. This isn't to say that I'm incapable of finding fault in his books. For example, I found Son of the Circus to be disappointing. But John Irving at his worst is more fascinating to read than many writers at their best. An interesting thing about Last Night in Twisted River is that it is in many ways a meditation on his writing career. It's as if he decided to give a gift to faithful readers who have followed him book after book by tossing in as many familiar elements as possible. The more John Irving novels you've read in the past (I've read them all), and the more you happen to know about his personal life which works itself into his books, the more elements/themes you'll instantly recognize. Some examples are bears, farting dogs, wrestling, loss of a child, car accident caused while sexual activity is taking place in one of the vehicles, abortion, New Hampshire, Canada, and a main character being a writer. That character masters his craft at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. One of his books is adapted into a film and wins an Oscar. Sound familiar? Irving seems to be winking at his beloved long time readers throughout this book, giving them liberal dashes of the old while presenting them with the new. Technically the plot is about a man and his son spending the majority of their lives on the run because of an accidental killing and their attempt to cover it up. But what this book is really about is the process of becoming a writer, a process that never stops no matter how many books one has already written. Each book is a new beginning, a new opportunity to learn how to get from beginning to end, even if this means going from end to beginning. It isn't for everyone, the way I feel some of his biggest successes happen to be. But for John Irving fans it's a must.



R.I.P. Donald J. Sobol. I devoured his Encyclopedia Brown books as a child.



Check out the new excerpt from Patches of Grey

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

PATCHES OF GREY is a B.R.A.G. Medallion™ Honoree









I am thrilled to announce that my novel Patches of Grey has been named a 2012 B.R.A.G. Medallion™ Honoree. The full list of honorees can be found here. Be sure to check out the indieBRAG web site to learn more about this fantastic organization and who they choose to honor. I am humbled to be among the group of independent authors that they recognize and recommend. You can also learn more about their mission to spotlight quality on the part of authors who self publish in print or digitally in this blog post by Helen Hollick.

Post at blog of Lulu about indieBRAG

I am exceedingly grateful to indieBRAG and continue to be appreciative of all my readers and reviewers. The journey continues and keeps getting sweeter.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Congratulations LeBron James

I have written a considerable amount about LeBron on this blog and elsewhere. Much of what I've had to say has been critical in nature. Much of it he brought upon himself with immature and arrogant behavior. I won't bother to repeat my accusations. Type his name in the Search box to find my rants and remarks on the subject of the man who would be and now finally actually is King...of the NBA. The man is polarizing for obvious reasons. Neither his talent nor his displays of obnoxiousness can be denied. But after doing a whole lot wrong, during this strike shortened season he managed to do a good deal right. He matured. He showed some humility and restraint. He was a leader on and off court by play and example, including when clutch was required. He proved he has what it takes to be a champion, at least one of a certain variety. We may never know if he can be the best of the best when the deck is not stacked in his favor. But he wanted a ring above all else, especially above carrying the load entirely on his own broad shoulders, and he did what it took on and off court to win one. He is a title holder beyond MVP now and this cannot be taken away from him. As for the popularity and respect and legacy benchmarks he gave away to realize his dream, that is his Decision to live with. I assume he is losing no sleep over it. Not anymore. The Champ Is Here. He learned some tough lessons to get to this point. Now he'll be soon learning that the only thing more difficult than making it to the top of the mountain is staying hungry enough to remain up there as others desperately try to claim the spot for themselves.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer Reading Plans

Summer readin’ had me a blast - Summer readin’ happened so fast
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ @TNBBC posed the following question on Twitter: Do your reading habits change in the summer? Everyone is posting their summer reading lists... #confusediam



I replied: Mine do not. #JustMe?



I don't read brainless books. If the temperature is above 80 degrees & I'm on a beach w/ a pina colada I STILL DO NOT READ BRAINLESS BOOKS.



I get a tan in the summer. I get in a little better shape usually. But I don't get dumber and neither do my reading habits.



As a kid when school provided suggested summer reading the books were classics. Why should “summer reading” as an adult mean brain candy?



Applying "Summer Reads" label certainly does suggest that readers will seek different types of books than they do at other times of year. Why?



I guess literature didn't already have sufficient labels so it needed a seasonal one. When is someone going to create a SARCASM font?



When you see the titles that are advertised as great for summer reading it tends to be frivolous reading. “Frivolous” as I define the word anyway.



You’ll see certain books labeled “chick lit” for example 10 months out of the year, a “summer read” for the two warmest months. I’ll ignore it all twelve months.



My guess is that the majority of people reading 50 Shades of Grey Twilight in the summer don't switch to Nabokov for the winter. Lite reading is an all year round thing for them.



I’m certainly not against escapist fare, and perhaps summer is the most appealing time of year to read such literature for some people.



But whatever the genre or plot, if I’m going to invest myself in a novel I want and expect quality fall, winter, spring AND summer.



Looking for a summer read that won't make you think or feel or care? If so, Patches of Grey isn't the book for you.



** The artwork in this posting can be found at the Etsy shop - Erin Go Paint **

Friday, May 11, 2012

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY

https://www.etsy.com/listing/98480270/a-girl-and-her-doll-8x10-print?ref=shop_home_active_5
                                                                     Mother in Training


I have a wonderful mom and my daughter has a wonderful mom.  What more could a man ask for? My fondest wishes to all of the mothers out there. If necessary, insist on being treated like the queens that you are, even if only for a day.  But hopefully you won't need to ask.  On the other 364 days of the year you may have to settle for being treated like mere duchesses.


p.s. If you're looking for gift ideas, click on the link directly below.

Great Gift Ideas For All Of The Great Moms (and moms to be) Out There  



Enjoy the floral arrangement courtesy of Erin Rogers Pickering. Also to be found below are a few of my thoughts on parenting.




On occasion (usually reaching a crescendo around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day) I see some harsh exchanges on social media about single parent (usually the mom) households.  Some people act as if it’s inherently wrong. Some act as if it is a flawless scenario.  I find fault in both extreme viewpoints.  Below are my thoughts on the topic.

Parenting is hard. A solid support network must be situated. Whether there 1, 2 or 10 parents in place, it's easy to screw the job up.

No shame AT ALL in being a single parent, unless you want to place that shame on the parent who voluntarily is rarely if ever around.

But by the logic of math, it’s tougher to get the job of parenting done right when there’s just one of you.



You can literally be the best parent ever, and have the most cooperative kid ever, and things can still easily go wrong due to that math.

Child-raising requires a solid support network. That It Takes A Village cliché could not be more accurate.

Daycare expense eats up a huge chunk of a single salary if it doesn’t happen to be a CEO level salary.

A single parent household means a greater likelihood of latchkey kid scenario. That has blatantly obvious potential to go wrong.

Parent can be saying and doing all the right things, kid can have heart of gold, yet if that kid is on their own too much, trouble won’t need to work hard to find him/her.

That’s why the solid support network is critical. Locally located family members who are willing to pitch in are literal life savers.

Also essential to the single parent is a job that is parenting friendly. If flex hours and telecommuting are options offered by employer, that’s huge.

A strong support network will enable a good single parent to be comparable to two good parents and better than two inept ones.

“Two are better than one” is too simple an equation. Try “a strong support network has more of a fighting chance than a single person who can’t possibly be two places at once”.