Thursday, October 30, 2014


                   STRANGERS IN THE MORNING
                    BY ROY L. PICKERING JR.

     My perception of beauty has been forever altered, for she is by all standards of critique known to mankind the most stunning woman to walk this earth.
     Her legs rise gracefully from dainty feet and continue into the stratosphere.  Her body's sultry, dangerous curves take the mind's eye on a journey it will not soon forget.  An auburn mane frames her magnificent visage, then sprawls across bare velvet shoulders.  Her eyes are a color I have never seen, though possibly once dreamt of as a child.  She looks so good it hurts to gaze upon her, but it is infinitely more painful to look away.
     There is a simultaneous burning in my heart, gut, and crotch. I know as I have known nothing before that she is the one.       
     Who am I kidding?  What chance in hell do I have with someone like her? This is the kind of woman you see in magazines attached to the arm of a billionaire or rock star.  Certainly a regular guy like me has no chance.
     The goddess re-crossed her legs, giving me a glimpse of inner thigh.  The road which leads to paradise. 
     I would slay a dragon for her.  I would swim the Pacific, climb Mt. Everest, hike across the Sahara.  All of this I would do simply to hear her say my name.  Check that, to scream it in a fit of passion and ecstacy.  I must have her, or die trying.
     How am I supposed to go about achieving this task?  By saying something to her, I suppose.  But what?
     It is a deceptively difficult question to answer.  A woman like the one across from me has surely heard every line in the book.  If it sounds like a manufactured dime-a-dozen come on, she won't even acknowledge my presence.  I will have to come up with something original and witty.  And it must sound sincere.  Delivery is key.  I must be charming in an effortless way.  This of course will take much preparation.  Unfortunately, time is not on my side.
     She looked at me.  She glanced up and for a millisecond our eyes met.  I think my heart has stopped beating.  Lord I know I don't do this very often, but I'm doing it now.  Give me this and I'll be the best Christian you ever saw.  And if you won't help me out - how about you, Satan?  My soul is yours, just as long as I get to keep my heart for her.  I'll toss in my baseball autographed by Thurman Munson too.  Even my dog, if that's what it will take.  Just please let me have this.
     She has to have a boyfriend who she's madly in love with.  Or crueler yet, she just broke up with someone and can't bear the thought of being with another man.  She decided last week to give die hard lesbianism a shot.  Or perhaps she's just left her doctor's office after finding out that she has a scorching case of something tremendously contagious and irritating.  There will be some impenetrable barrier prohibiting me from being with her.  There always is.
     I consider myself intelligent, adequately attractive, possessing a fairly keen sense of humor.  Maybe I won't be appearing on a list of New York's most eligible bachelors any time soon, but I compare favorably to a good percentage of the bozos I see around me.  Of course this is the subway, so that isn't saying much.
     My bad luck with women is legendary.  It's always the wrong place, the wrong time, the wrong something.  No matter how promising romantic ventures initially appear, the cookie inevitably manages to crumble.  
     This would more than make up for past misfortunes.  She's my every fantasy with a couple extra attractions I wasn't creative enough to dream up.  
     Did that happen?  Maybe it was just wishful thinking.  Perhaps her beauty has intoxicated me to the point where I can't tell what's real anymore.  But I could have sworn she looked at me again.  It was only for a flash, and it's possible she simply felt like looking ahead and I happened to fall in her line of view.  I'll wait and see if it happens once more.  If it does, I'll drop to my knees and beg for her hand in marriage.
     She has taken a magazine from her purse and is leafing through it.  Something she reads amuses her.  I thought nothing in the world could possibly improve upon her beauty.  Then she smiled and I know that I will do anything to be the cause of the next one.
     Our train pulls into Grand Central Station.  I am so transfixed by her gracefulness as she rises and walks that I don't realize she is exiting from the train and my life until it is almost too late.  I spring through the closing doors just in time.
     For five terrifying seconds I cannot find her.  She has gotten lost in the crowd, could have gone in any direction.  Then I see her.  I resume breathing.
     "Excuse me, sir.  Pardon me, ma'am."
     I weave in and out of the masses, doing everything possible to keep her in my sights.  I feel like a C.I.A. agent on the trail of a spy.  The fact briefly dawns on me that I have gotten off at the wrong stop.  I am supposed to be on my way to work.  But what is another dreary day of labor compared to meeting the woman I plan to spend the rest of my days with?
     She gets onto a train headed for Queens and I faithfully shadow her.  It is too crowded for either of us to get a seat, so we stand, our bodies only a foot apart.  The amalgamation of her perfume and shampoo invade my nostrils.  The train unexpectedly jerks, our shoulders briefly touch, a wave of liquid heat blazes down my arm.  She clears her throat.  A chorus of angels could not make a more glorious sound.
     For twenty minutes we are side by side.  In that time I steal countless glances.  I am certain that she sneaks a few peeps in my direction as well, but whenever I try to meet her gaze she is looking maddeningly elsewhere.
     Then it happens.  Our eyes lock in an embrace more intensely erotic than any sexual experience I have ever known.  This is followed by something wonderful, something miraculous.  She smiles, and this time the smile is for me.
     My bedazzlement causes her to once again almost slip my net.  I squeeze through the subway doors and continue pursuit.  Heading down the stairs leading to the sidewalk, I begin wracking my brain for the perfect opening.  Perfection is a lot to ask of yourself before the morning's first cup of coffee.     
     I quicken my pace to get within striking distance.  My heart has accelerated likewise.  I am now only a few steps behind.  To get her attention, I need do no more than reach out and tap her shoulder.  As for what should follow, I've decided to play it by ear.  This isn't a movie where in one short scene the dashing hero captures the heart of the beautiful leading lady.  This is real life.  I'm just plain old Lloyd Briscol.  As I see it, my only chance lies in speaking from the gut.  I will proclaim that as soon as I first laid eyes upon her, I knew it was love.  It doesn't matter that this is the only thing about her that I know.  She is who I want to grow old with, the woman destined to bare my children.  What beyond that could possibly matter?
     Up until today, I have had led a mundane existence.  I've accomplished not a single thing that truly mattered.  In college, a little more studying per week could have changed my C's into A's, and those A's could have put me into medical school.  But I could never find the drive to put in that extra time.  A few more hours of overtime and a bit of kissing up would be all it takes to accelerate the forward process of my career.  Once again, I come up short on motivation.  I do not attribute this lack of aggressiveness to laziness.  It is just my opinion that the only things worth fully pursuing are those which you want with every fiber of your being.  Until I fortuitously looked up from my newspaper on the subway this morning, life had supplied me with a scant supply of such items.    
     With her by my side, I know I can conquer the world.  I simply need the opportunity to somehow make her feel for me as I do for her.
     She turns and heads towards the entrance of an office building.  I have to do something.  I must speak now or forever hold my tongue.  My mouth opens but nothing comes out.
     Perhaps she is reading my thoughts or absorbing my vibe.  Is it possible that all along she has sensed my longing?  Could it be that either God or Satan is answering my prayers?  Whatever the explanation, she stops.  She looks directly at me.  It's as if a spotlight is beaming upon us.  We are the only two people in existence.  I inhale deeply in preparation.  The moment has arrived.
     "Have a nice day."
     For the very last time she smiles at me.  Then she opens the door and is gone.
     Oh sure, I could have said something wonderfully clever.  I could have won her over in a handful of seconds, but what would be the point?  I am not so much of a dreamer that I am incapable of recognizing undesirable truth.  Like it or not but given no choice either way, the world is round.  The sky is blue.  And she could never live up to what I had imagined her to be.  So why let reality ruin such a beautiful fantasy?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dear Bookworms

If you're looking for some guidance in picking your next book to read, perhaps the following reviews will be of assistance.

The Girl Who Fell from the SkyThe Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a beautifully crafted tale by Heidi Durrow. It is about a girl who is haunted by events that shaped her destiny early on without her having much say in the matter. Events that are only vaguely remembered and yet continue to form the fabric of each passing day. A father who has vanished without a trace. A mother who left this world in the splashiest of ways, taking her own life along with those of her other children by leaping from the roof of a building. There is a witness and a survivor, and this book is the latter's story, as well as an examination of race. She is her father's black daughter and also her mother's white daughter. As result her racial identity is both and neither, dependent on how one sees her, or how she chooses to see herself on any given day. She is trapped in a past that won't let go, facing the future with much trepidation, because she already knows that if she takes a leap she will do so without wings. But that does not mean she won't survive, because along with her blackness and her whiteness and her status as one who has been taken in upon being abandoned, like a broken winged bird, she is also a proven survivor. The narrative moves back and forth in time and is told from multiple perspectives, revealing the back story to readers a layer at a time, in as random a manner as the markings of heredity. It is filled with tragedy and longing and loneliness and confusion. Good intentions and poor decisions do battle and cancel each other out. Yet beneath it all there is muted hope that wings may one day sprout.

View all my reviews Doctor Sleep (The Shining #2)Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stephen King hasn't lost a step. A major key to his success is that if you strip away all of the spooky supernatural stuff, you'll find well developed characters who are easy to relate to, expert pacing, and no shortage of intriguing background stories and subplots. The inhuman demons who torment his protagonists may be what King's faithful readers come for, but the terror only works if those being terrorized are likable, and their behavior plausible. That's why it's easy enough for King to take breathers from the creepy and crawly to pen equally engaging stories set completely in our real world. But when he's ready to return to the darkness that resides in his mind, nobody does it better, and nobody can keep up with his pace. Doctor Sleep is a worthy follow-up to the magnificent The Shining.

22 books recommended by Stephen King since he has joined Twitter -

View all my reviews Juliet, NakedJuliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my favorite of the Nick Hornby books I have read so far, though I should add that I have enjoyed the movie adaptations I've seen more than the books I've read. To date there has been no cross over of those two lists. I haven't read the book versions of the Hornby movies I've seen (High Fidelity, About a Boy, Fever Pitch), and have not seen movie versions of the books I've read (How to be Good, A Long Way Down, and now, Juliet, Naked). Apparently A Long Way Down has been made into a movie, so upon seeing it, at last I'll be able to compare novel to movie. But you're reading this primarily because you're interested in my opinion of Juliet, Naked - so I should get to that. I'm giving it 3-1/2 stars on my personal ratings scale, but since GoodReads does not allow for half stars, I'm rounding down to 3 here. I could have been more generous and gone up to 4, but I've given 4 out of 5 stars to some very impressive literary efforts. 3 stars feels more appropriate for this one. Hornby likes to write about things that people are passionate about in addition to or instead of other people. The obsession could be sports, perhaps a particular team. Or music, perhaps a particular band or artist. That last one describes Juliet, Naked. It gives us the story of a man who is fanatical about a singer/songwriter who has not released an album in 20 years. The last album that Tucker Crowe did release is a musical holy grail to Duncan. He devotes countless hours sharing conspiracy theories about Crowe's life and music with fellow devotees on the internet. Duncan's long time girlfriend appreciates Tucker's music as well, but is more or less along for Duncan's single focus ride. Duncan and Annie are not particularly passionate about each other, and this has been the case since the beginning of their relationship rather than the result of affection dwindling over the ravages of time. They got together because in the small town they live in, they made more sense together than being with anyone else. Over the course of the book Tucker transitions from being a distant object of idolatry to a person that Annie corresponds with via email, and eventually, a flesh and blood person in their actual lives. Duncan has never had feelings for Annie comparable to his intensity of emotional reaction to Tucker's music. Nothing personal against her, as Duncan doesn't seem capable of feeling strongly towards anyone. By the story's end, Annie is perhaps finally ready to form a relationship based on desire rather than convenience of location. As for Tucker, he thinks primarily about himself and the mess he has made of his life while also managing to be a decent father to his youngest child. Towards the end of the book Tucker reflects that a considerable amount of significant events have taken place in a relatively short amount of time, yet he feels mostly unchanged by them. Likewise, I'm feeling unchanged by this book. Yet I have to say that it was an enjoyable and interesting read. Hornby characters think about themselves and others and their circumstances and their obsessions in entertaining fashion. It doesn't much matter what does or does not take place during your visit with them. Either way you're glad you stopped by.

View all my reviews Where Monsters DwellWhere Monsters Dwell by Jørgen Brekke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was underwhelmed. Perhaps something was lost in the translation but the writing in this book didn't strike me as good enough to make it past form rejection letters from agents/publishers. Yet this didn't stop it from being published and apparently becoming an international best seller. How that happened is a much bigger mystery to me than the one solved between the front and back covers.

President of the Whole Fifth GradePresident of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There is plenty in this book that I found to like. It features an ambitious African American girl who sets no limitations on her future. Those ambitions are not superficial things like being a movie star or pop star, or hoping to marry her favorite movie/pop star. Not only does she have serious entrepreneurial aspirations but also practical plans for how to begin moving towards them. It starts with becoming President of her grade at school. Enter a conniving rival who is willing to stoop as low as necessary to throw a monkey wrench in these plans. Enter an ally who encourages her to put ambition ahead of ethics. Eventually Brianna learns that ambition is as noble as the path one takes to to make their dreams come true. If success comes at the expense of losing loyal friends and losing respect for yourself, can it be considered true success? Brianna Justice's attitude towards education is refreshing. Learning is promoted as interesting and fun rather than imposed drudgery. This is a girl with a good head on her shoulders and eyes firmly set on the prize. I applaud the messages of this story but feel that the execution could have been a little tighter. There was also one too many easily found "deep dark secrets" lying around for convenient plot machination. I'm not the intended audience of this book though. My 8 year old daughter loved it from beginning to end. There's much to be said for satisfying your target reader above and beyond anyone else. #WeNeedDiverseBooks

View all my reviews

Care to enter a contest to win a book?

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Patches Of Grey by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Patches Of Grey

by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Giveaway ends October 31, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Although a descendant of Christopher Columbus may attempt to take credit for this discovery, let it be known that I am the one who is informing you that the Kindle edition of PATCHES OF GREY is free at Amazon 10/24 -10-25.

I personally read books like the people depicted below.

And I enjoy reading with the mood set just right and essential props at my disposal.

Friday, October 10, 2014



White US couple sue sperm bank after getting pregnant by black donor

Jennifer Cramblett was five months pregnant when she realized the mistake

My advice...


Because no matter what happens and how you handle it, people are going to say ONE THING, or else they're going to say SOMETHING ELSE.  So don't be so easily overwhelmed.  Even Forrest Gump was smart enough to know that life is like a box of chocolates, not a bowl of Cheerios.

Here's my fuller take on this matter in one full blast:

I'm not saying that these women are raving bigots. I'm not saying they don't have a valid lawsuit on their hands, though if they are the ones responsible for this story becoming public, I do hold them accountable for what should have remained a relatively private matter.  Obviously you go to a sperm bank to have a measure of control over what DNA you get, so if a mistake is made, someone should be accountable. BUT, my #1 takeaway from the art of parenting is that no matter what curveballs get thrown your way, you love your kid because it's your kid. Life in general, parenting in particular, is about receiving what you didn't prepare yourself in advance to handle. You didn't prepare for a colicky infant. You didn't prepare for a kid with ADHD. You didn't prepare for a light sleeper,  or a tantrum thrower, or a likes to take off and runner.  So what?  You love your kid because he/she is your kid and you deal with what you have to deal with. Some parenting situations will be easier than others.  Maybe your kid will need extra help with learning ABC 123. Maybe your kid will learn super fast and need to have catered advanced education. Maybe your kid will be allergic to whatever foods happen to be most abundantly around all the time.  You have no idea what you're going to have to deal with as a parent. But whatever you have to learn on the fly, you just do, because you're a parent and that's your job.  You become expert at whatever it is you need to become expert at.  If that's handling a different grade of hair than you're accustomed to, then that's what it is. If you live someplace where people look at you funny (as if some weren't already doing so because you're a same sex couple), well that's what they invented moving vans for.  I don't see this as a story about race tolerance/intolerance so much as a story about whining, which is something I have little tolerance for. If you can't handle the unexpected then don't become parents in the first place. The job requires flexibility, adaptability, and the ability to think outside the box.  Not everybody can do it particularly well.  But everybody seems to be an expert at suing people these days.

And below is what I had to say in tweet sized outbursts:

Final thought: Since this is a case of accidental interracial sperm donation rather than a less plausible incident of accidental interracial adoption, nobody is saying that Jennifer Cramblett and her partner shouldn't even be parenting a black child in the first place.  The child is black of course because in our society: Black + White = Light Skinned BLACK rather than Both.  Biracial somehow is a concept too complicated for many to grasp.  And Jennifer Cramblett (at this time, but time does sometimes heal stupidity) is a walking billboard for those who say that a person who self identifies as white cannot be a proper parent for someone who is ID'd as black.  To those who see matters that way I have nothing to say except DO NOT GET ME STARTED. ONE LOVE.

Conclusion: Lawsuit dismissed. She's free to sue again for negligence and it is certainly negligent in matters of this nature and expense to grab # 330 instead of # 380.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Q and A: #AuthorInterview

Favorite All-Time Read: That has never been an easy question for me to answer.  For now I will cheat and say it is a tie between Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and The World According to Garp by John Irving, with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz nipping at their heels.

Who do you consider your author crush? See my answer to first question.  If I must pick only one I will say John Irving since he is the only one of the three I have met.  The other major literary hero/crush I have been fortunate enough to stand face to face with is August Wilson.  Two gargantuan talents who were kind and generous to me.

What do you like most about this author? There are a great many things to admire about the prose of John Irving.  I will say his greatest talent is laying out goals for his main characters to strive for in a manner that puts you in their skin, making you feel the urgency and desperation, causing you to share the exhilaration of the moment of triumph upon arrival, if indeed it does arrive.  Otherwise, experience the despair of coming up short as if it was happening to you.

How big of a reader were you, growing up? I was an extremely avid reader as a kid and that habit remains undiminished.  Shortly before Thanksgiving last year I gave #ReaderThanks on Twitter (where I go by the name @authorofpatches) to Beverly Cleary, Donald J. Sobol and Jules Verne for being amongst the first to fuel my fire for stories. 

As an adult reader, what genre do you tend to read the most?
Literary fiction, but I certainly do not restrict myself to it.  I have two rules for myself as a reader.  Read often...Read varied.  This not only keeps things fresh as a lover of stories created by others but is also invaluable to me as a writer.  The influences on my writing come from many sources.  When it comes to reading, what I seek are good books.  This is not technically a genre, but perhaps it should be. 

Do you have to be in a certain mood to write?
I do not.  Certainly there are times when I feel more creative than other occasions.  I am more of a night owl than a morning person and this extends to my pen hand.  But there is no telling when the muse will strike, and if I must summon her I will do so rather than waiting for her to show up.  A writer writes as much as possible.  The more I am writing, the happier I am.  It is also a very effective diet plan because when immersed in writing I tend to neglect getting around to eating.

And do you have an ideal writing space?
Not really.  I have a lovely writing desk in my attic that I have not sat down to write at in ages.  These days I am much more likely to be found writing on my couch, or at my dining table, or on the train to or from work, or at my 9-5 corporate desk, or on a park bench.  One of my favorite writing experiences was scribbling a short story while sitting at a loud and crowded bar.  It happened to be an outdoor bar, but when walls surround me my mind is no more confined than when they do not.

Preference of genre to write in?
The first full length novels to enthrall me were those by Jules Verne.  I rapidly went through 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in 80 Days.  I have read many more science fiction novels since.  Yet when it comes to stories of my own creation, I am most comfortable writing about people here on earth dealing with situations and emotions we can all relate to.  On any given day depending on who was asked about which story of mine, I suppose it could be called literary fiction, or mainstream, or contemporary, or upmarket commercial, or ethnic/African-American.

How did the inspiration for Patches of Grey come about?
To date the sparks for my novels have come in the form of a question that I felt compelled to fully explore.  With Patches of Grey the question had to do with self identity.  People fit certain descriptions and to varying degrees allow this circumstance to determine how they see themselves.  Of the various descriptors placed on us, race is one that I am especially intrigued by.  We do not choose it.  The ways in which it differentiates us from those of another origin are primarily cosmetic, at least at a glance.  But the ways in which it determines how we view the world and our desires and our prospects are often potent.  These issues are what set me off to writing about a young man coming to terms with how to define himself, and with how others see or fail to see him, regardless of what he does to influence perspective. 

There are times when aspiring authors come face to face with rejection. Do you have any counsel on how they can handle such moments?
Shrug it off. If you are lucky enough to get helpful feedback rather than a form rejection letter with zero personalization to it, consider yourself lucky and be sure to consider the advice.  But you are the final judge so feel free to ignore what does not strike you as being true.  It is your story.  Write it as best as it can be written, which will mean plenty of rewriting, but you alone must declare what readers will get to see.  Rejection of your writing does not mean that it is not any good.  It does not mean your dream has been killed.  It is simply the fork in the road.  Take it. If you do not find this answer sufficient motivation to keep on keeping on, check out my blog post HANDLING REJECTION FOR DUMMIES – I MEAN WRITERS

How do you deal with writer's block?  I write until it goes away, which must mean it was never truly there to begin with.  That uneasy feeling must have merely been garden variety laziness.

Do you have a writing process that you adhere to? Not really.  Unless you call staring at a blank piece of paper or white box on computer screen until my fingers start moving a process.  Once they do start moving, the only way I know of to write a novel is to first put down everything that comes to mind, followed by twisting and shaping and reshaping the unwieldy first draft down to its essence.

Shorter works seem to be in vogue more than ever.  Do you think that more and more authors will go that route such as you did with your ebook novella Feeding the Squirrels?
Attention spans are decreasing daily it seems.  The internet has a lot to do with that.  It used to be that publishing a novella was much more difficult than publishing a novel because publishers did not really get to charge much less for a novella in order to turn a profit.  So readers might feel ripped off by paying just as much for considerably less word count.  But we live in a new day, a largely electronic one, and people seem to have less free time than ever even though days continue to be the same 24 hours long.  This has provided an opening for greater receptivity to short stories and novellas.  None of this is why I wrote Feeding the Squirrels or why it was published in e-format.  That is simply how things worked themselves out.  I had no idea I was writing a novella at the time.  I was working on a literary experiment, a series of short stories that each featured the same lead character, and eventually I figured out a way to link them and form a whole.  It is a novella that like life itself, happened while I was busy making other plans.

Is there an aspect of being a published author that you enjoy more than anything else?
I love reading what somebody else (perhaps a reviewer I submitted to, maybe someone who picked my book up and gave it a chance) thought about the result of my hours of toil - most especially when they are enthusiastic about it.  Every so often someone says something that causes me to look at my writing in a new manner and it brings forth a smile from deep within.

A writer's life has its ups, downs and sideways. How can they best deal with those times?
Go and write some more.

Do you think social media and overall web marketing are the most powerful tools in promoting a book?
The most powerful tool in promoting a book continues to be writing a really good one that leads to positive word of mouth that catches on like wildfire.  The author has little control over this process after the writing a really good book part.  Social media and web marketing offer some of that control, so authors would be foolish not to partake.  Unless of course they have already managed to garner positive word of mouth that caught on like wildfire and led to plenty of people buying and reading their books, in which case they can get involved with social media as much or as little as they want.  But just about everybody is embracing facebook/twitter/instagram/whatever these days, including those who seemed to think social media was just a passing fad not so long ago.  If you can't prove them wrong, join in the fun.  There's room enough for everybody.

You've published over 50 short stories in journals and magazines. How do you know when a story is a short story or when it warrants a whole novel?
Do you think that short stories are a good way for writers to hone their craft?
I always have a pretty good idea in advance how long a story is going to be, and that of course determines whether it will be called a novel or a short story.  Today I cannot imagine being a writer who does not work in both formats.  I took on the challenge of novel writing before tackling short stories.  Prior to enrolling in a short story writing course in college I believed that I only had BIG stories inside of me.  A short story seemed nearly impossible.  Confining myself to just a few pages was a daunting task, but I gave it a shot since a grade depended on it, and I got the hang of it.  The best part of writing a tale is finishing it, and this can be done much more quickly and often with a short story than a novel.  It is not like I consider short story writing as practice for writing novels however.  They are very different from each other – and very much the same.  I advise young writers to try anything and everything, and then stick with what they love best.

How can an aspiring author get better at writing, whether the intention is to write a short story or to write entire novels?  This is another question that I addressed at my blog A Line A Day in the posting, Advice to Aspiring Authors.  Truth be told, there is only one way to get any good at writing.  Read a lot, write a lot, repeat steps 1 – 2 over and over and over again.

How can authors better prepare themselves prior to publication?
Read a lot, write a lot, repeat steps 1 – 2 over and over and over again.  Also check out some of the advice that is out there for writers.  There is certainly no shortage of it.  Much is even free.  A lot of it is repetitive and obvious.  But every so often you will discover a nugget that had not occurred to you that may end up being quite helpful.  Then go back to reading a lot and writing a lot.

What are some of the things you wished you had known before you published your first book?
I knew EVERYTHING there was to know, which is to say I knew not only that I wanted to be a writer, but that I had to be a writer because a writer is what I am.  Only thing left was to prove it by writing.  In order to work up the courage to lay my soul on the page for random people to pick over, I needed to believe I had something valuable to say and that there were others who would agree.   I understood some other essential things to be true and have learned a great deal more over the years, but what I knew from day one is what truly mattered.  I had to write.

What are your thoughts on critique groups and beta readers?
I have used both over the years to varying degrees of satisfaction.  It is of great value to let other pairs of eyes read what you have written.  Find some who are unbiased, select one of two who may be partial but are also honest.  But again, it is your story, you are the one with final say on how it ends up being told.  Best of luck with telling it well, and with it catching on like wildfire.

What do you have coming up next for readers?
I recently completed my second full length novel – Matters of Convenience.  Snippets from it can befound at the Pinterest board I created and an excerpt posted at my blog A Line A Day during composition of the first draft is located HERE.  Next up will be recording myself reading an excerpt from it.  Yet to be determined is by which method I will bring Matters of Convenience to the light of day.  Perhaps I will land a deal with one of the Big 5 Publishers or a smaller independent publisher.  Maybe I will join a cooperative of independent authors working together as a mini publishing house.  Or once again I may opt to go it alone and simultaneously wear the hats of author, art director, copy editor, publicist, marketing department, mailroom guy, etc. etc.  Going it alone will not be particularly lonely since enlisting the aid of many people will be necessary to help me spread the word.  We shall see.  I also recently completed the first installment in a planned children's book series.  If I end up going the DIY route for them, it will be in collaboration with my extremely talented wife Erin Rogers Pickering who will serve as the illustrator.  No matter how things work themselves out, I am eager to get more of my work out there and I am preparing for all that will entail.  And I am looking forward to hearing what readers have to say.

Kindle edition of Patches of Grey will be available for free 10/24 - 10/25.

If you wish to take a shot at winning a copy of the print edition, enter the contest at Goodreads:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Patches Of Grey by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Patches Of Grey

by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Giveaway ends October 31, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

So there is no shortage of opportunities to obtain a copy of Patches of Grey for free in October of 2014.
But if you are one those who has already bought or is planning to spend a little hard earned money to purchase it, you have my deep gratitude.  Happy Reading!