Sunday, December 25, 2016

2016 Recap

A lot happened in 2016, like with every year to precede it, yet perhaps a bit EXTRA it seemed. For example, who saw the end of Vine coming? Below is a recap of the year's highlights and lowlights. Since I wrote about many of these events along the way, you can click on hyperlinks in text or accompanying photos for additional details as you take a stroll down Memory Lane.

Every year features some pointless leisure activities. Previous ones have given us acts such as planking and dabbing. 2016 gave us water bottle flips and mannequin challenges.

The US Treasury agreed with me and many others that Harriet Tubman is most deserving to grace the $20 bill. I continue to be baffled that anybody bothered to voice a tepid rebuttal and suppose that kudos must be given to Andrew Jackson for his impressive run.

The stature of Beyoncé and devotion of the Beyhive expanded to unprecedented size as she invented (or if not invented, certainly perfected) something called a visual album, causing countless minions to stand in formation while sipping lemonade.

Donald Trump’s inexplicable rise to power morphed from easy jokes material to genuine fear that common sense would not eventually prevail and send him back to Reality TV Land.

OJ Simpson recaptured our collective imagination and fascination without stepping one foot out of jail yet.  At this point he is probably more beloved than Bill Cosby since at least Juice is paying his dues.

We got a Roots miniseries reboot.  Less compelling than the O.J. soap opera but still plenty of good stuff.

We lost a Prince. #TheDayTheRealMusicDied

Then we lost The Greatest – Muhammad Ali.  And the count of VIP R.I.P.’s would continue to grow at a relentless pace throughout the year. 

Premier NBA legends called it a career. Tim Duncan left quietly but memorably in true Tim Duncan fashion. The far flashier Kobe Bryant went out as you would expect, shooting nearly every time he touched the ball until they turned out the lights in the building. 

The Olympics happened and provided many inspiring moments, one act of entitled American swimmers gone stupid in the host country followed by folly on US soil, and one awesome moment of frustration over lame excuses captured in a magical GIF.

After a bitter battle with so called “Bernie Bros”, the inevitability of Hillary Clinton breaking the Oval Office’s glass ceiling was reluctantly accepted by many (but not enough) of her detractors.

Way too many unarmed black people were gunned down by cops. One tragic hashtag bled into the next.

Domestic terrorists without badges also committed horrific acts. Makes you wonder who people capable of such monstrous acts idolize. Gun regulations continued to yawn at the possibility of anything being done to strengthen them.

The year of #OscarsSoWhite was supposed to be replaced by a year cinematically dominated by Birth of a Nation. But a not so funny thing happened on the way to the forum of glory.

Colin Kaepernick repeatedly took a knee and transformed from a once promising quarterback to a lightning rod freedom fighter.

There was plenty of talk about the need for more diversity of perspective in literature, pleas for brighter light to be shed on “our own voices”. Or so was the case in my social media timeline anyway. I didn’t see much change in the book publishing landscape as result but am able to state that I did try to make a difference - no matter how small. 

Diversity of representation did make some inroads though. After presenting a black Star Wars movie lead the previous year, 2016 teased us with the idea of a black James Bond on screen and gave us a black Hermione Granger on stage, black mall Santa, and a predominantly minority cast of Hamilton, the Broadway hit that earned all kinds of acclaim and awards.  The usual suspects lost their minds and threatened to boycott everything in sight of their trailer parks. 


August Wilson’s brilliant work finally made its big screen debut. Tyler Perry movies hold an insurmountable lead, but nevertheless, still cause to celebrate literacy.

Some songwriter named Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature but didn’t bother to show up to receive it.  Book writers remain accustomed to being snubbed. Or is that just me?

Athletes got in trouble for various infractions, including neglecting to read the banned substances list. Yes I’m looking at you – Maria Sharapova.

While not a great year in sports for the teams I root for (Jets have been trash, Knicks are mediocre with potential as shaky as Derrick Rose’s health and luck in winning rape lawsuits), 2016 is notable for being the year that THE CUBS WON THE WORLD SERIES.

The unthinkable took place and we now have to deal with it for at least four years. Or until impeachment for grabbing what isn’t meant to be grabbed, which is far more likely to happen than that much discussed wall being built. I tried to make sense of it. I probably failed.

Final year of the coolest presidency in my lifetime. Here’s a look back (I’m just not ready to look ahead yet) at how it began.

Matters of Convenience was published!!! Time to come up with a plot for novel #3.

Oh, I almost forgot that one of my tweets went viral in 2016. That was cool.

And now let us joyfully welcome 2017 because even when it's raining that doesn't mean you can't dance and sing.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Good Tidings

I'm thrilled to have published my novel MATTERS OF CONVENIENCE and cannot wait to hear what readers have to say about it. Reviews left at Amazon, or goodreads, or any other web site that caters to avid readers, or written at your blogs or spoken on your YouTube channels will be greatly appreciated. The price to purchase a copy of either the print or Kindle edition certainly isn't prohibitive, but I'll be hosting giveaways from time to time just because.  There happens to be one going on at goodreads right now, with a winner to be chosen 12/24/2016. Below you'll find a link to where you can enter the giveaway along with reviews of the last couple books I've read. 'Tis the season of too much to do and not enough time to do it in, so I'm keeping this post brief.  It's also the season of gift giving, and surely some of your favorite people are book lovers. If so, MATTERS OF CONVENIENCE is custom built to fit snugly in a Christmas stocking. And there's certainly no sin in self gifting.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Matters of Convenience by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Matters of Convenience

by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Giveaway ends December 24, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

YoungbloodYoungblood by Matt Gallagher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a fine book of place, if not plot which this novel is rather light on. Matt Gallagher effortlessly (which of course likely means he took great effort) pulls us into an Army unit in Iraq and gives us a taste of what modern warfare is like for members of an occupying force. It isn't a tale of heroism so much as of following orders and doing what it takes to make it from one day to the next, hopefully without abandoning too much of one's conscience along the way. There is a bit of detective story thrown into the narrative, a bit of star crossed love story too. There are threats to the narrator Jack Porter from within his own unit that are as ominous as bombs and bullets coming from the official enemy. There is sand and heat and scorpions and falafels and brokered deals and needless death and unhelpful remorse and the biding of time. I feel somewhat knowledgeable about the day-to-day existence of a 21st century soldier stationed in an ancient land after having read this book. But I'm wise enough to know that reading what it's like is one thing, living it as Mr. Gallagher did and admirably documented, quite another.

View all my reviews

Z: A Novel of Zelda FitzgeraldZ: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A fine piece of literary historical fiction. I've always been fascinated by the Jazz Age and the artists who gave it its reputation. Especially the American writers who took a break from our shores to live in Paris and join the future icons from Europe in wine, cheese and debauchery. Therese Anne Fowler did an exemplary job of bringing familiar names and reputations from literature anthologies to life, skillfully transporting us to romanticized days. Reading this novel I felt like Owen Wilson's character in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, suddenly thrust into a world where each day was filled to the brim with an excess of genius, celebration, and elegant style. In the middle of this story we find Zelda Fitzgerald, a woman who on the one hand was perfectly emblematic of this time, yet on the other could not fit in the way she truly yearned to because she was a woman/wife/mother in a man's world. Zelda was a person of bursting talent and ambition that could not be fully exploited and showcased because of her role as Mrs. Fitzgerald. Fowler explores the great passion that brought and somehow held the Fitzgeralds together over the course of their tempestuous marriage. The reader knows before turning to the first page that greatness is in store for them, most especially for F. Scott, but Zelda is more of a mystery to us. As the pages are turned and the narrative unfolds, we learn that there is more to Zelda than her reputation. We watch her try to be a good wife as the time period defined this term to the man she loved, while also trying to be a woman ahead of her time who hoped to carve out her own place in the history books. We watch her desires nearly destroy her as her husband's vices wreak havoc on their roller coaster marriage and his health. Various famous names flit in and out of their lives. Ernest Hemingway plays a major role in expanding F. Scott Fitzgerald's insecurities and loosening the bonds of his devotion to Zelda. There is plenty of glamour and globetrotting and name dropping and a Great War and eventually another one. In the center of it all is a fun loving southern belle who decides to take a chance on a cocky northern soldier that her daddy does not approve of. She chooses to defy conventions and expectations, and tries to discover herself along the way rather than meekly accepting who society says she is supposed to be. F. Scott Fitzgerald casts a great shadow. Seeking light nearly destroyed Zelda, but she was a formidable woman who could withstand everything but the literal flames that consumed her on her final day. With able assistance from Therese Anne Fowler, Zelda has risen from the ashes and assumed her place as an icon from a magical time.

View all my reviews

My Favorite Instagram Page

My Favorite Blogger

My New Favorite Web Site


Saturday, November 12, 2016



Why are there people upset at those who are upset that Trump was elected president? Those people have CLEARLY given their reasons - because of the many well documented abhorrent things Trump has said and done over the years. Even if you believe he's bluffing about deporting and wall building, or locker room bantering about stuff like groping women, there are still terrible things that are beyond dispute such as him belittling people verbally and profiling African Americans so they couldn't rent apartments in his building. Why be bothered by people who are angry and disrespectful towards a single person (no matter how important a job he now has, Trump's still just one very flawed man), but you were never upset about millions/billions of people that he apparently sees as lesser humans? This amounts to co-signing that you feel some people are inherently inferior to others. Can't you see that? If not, why not? For the love of God, the man's election is being celebrated by the Klu Klux Klan. How can you not understand why this would be upsetting to people? You are familiar with what the KKK represents, right? I'm not saying Trump's a member, but he barely bothered to disavow David Duke so if the hood fits. Why does this not bother YOU? Because Trump is soon to be THE PRESIDENT? If so then why weren't you upset when he falsely accused the sitting president of being a foreign born Muslim no matter how much evidence to the contrary was presented. Could it be that the office of president was no big deal to you for the past 8 years, but suddenly it's prestigious again now that Trump has been elected? I certainly don't co-sign outlandish statements such as calls to assassinate. Of course that's ridiculous. But why should protests and facebook statuses upset you? They're not about YOU. They're about this man who has been elected president of the entire United States of America who has been incredibly disrespectful towards a large % of its citizens. Or could it be that you're upset because you do co-sign his disrespect and superiority complex towards others of other races/religions/gender? Please tell me that isn't so. If it isn't, then respect the rights of others to be very bothered by Trump's election just as citizens of this nation have always used their freedom of speech to express dismay over various matters that have troubled them about this country. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, Loving vs State of Virginia ruling was in 1967. Not exactly ancient history. So of course people have the right to be very worried that certain inalienable rights are suddenly very much in danger of being revoked as result of the 2016 elections. You don't have to be worried or upset yourself. I won't insist that you feel empathy. But you can at least understand why others are troubled. This country was founded on the concept of protest after all.

                         MATTERS OF CONVENIENCE

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Matters of Convenience by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Matters of Convenience

by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Giveaway ends December 24, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

For a chance to win a copy of MATTERS OF CONVENIENCE from Amazon - GO HERE
Cost of book is on me. All I ask from you is a tweet.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

DECISIONS - A Short Story




Mike stared at the ebony liquid which had formed the shape of the glass in his hands.  'Should I or shouldn't I?' was the quandary playing tennis in his head.  It had been over an hour since he first sat down and posed this question to himself. He had not moved an inch closer to resolution.
       "It's not a television, it's a drink.  It won't do nothing till you pour it down your throat."
       Mike turned towards the voice that had derailed his train of thought.  Its owner was a dapper looking man in his sixties.  Dapper wasn't a word utilized with great frequency in Mike's vocabulary, but in this case it seemed a perfect fit.  How else would a man in a tweed three piece suit, a bow tie encasing his neck, a derby upon his head, and a walking stick in hand be described?  All that was missing was the British accent.
       "I was just thinking," Mike said in explanation of his meditative pose.
       "That's what libraries are for.  Bars are for drinking, not thinking."
       "How about thinking about drinking?"
       "Are we composing a nursery rhyme?"
       "It looks that way."
       "The name's Dave."
       "Hello, Dave.  I'm Mike."
       Dave ordered himself a beer.  "What has you thinking so hard, Mike?  If you don't mind my asking."
       "I was supposed to be getting married tomorrow.  But now I'm not.  My girlfriend pulled out.  Out of the marriage, out of the relationship, out of my life.  One minute I'm all settled, everything mapped out nice and neat.  Next minute I'm here, wondering what happens next."
       "She give you a reason?"
       "Two.  She doesn't love me and she does love someone else."
       "Pretty good reasons."
       "They are," Mike admitted.  "I don't blame her.  Truth is, I don't think I'm in love with her either.  I'd been thinking about breaking things off for the longest time. But I was never able to convince myself totally that it was the wise thing to do.  So I kept waiting for some kind of sign."
       "Why get married then?  If you don't mind my asking."
       "We were together five years, lived together for the last two.  What else was left?  Our families, our friends, hell, people we hardly even knew kept asking us the same question over and over. When are you two getting married?  We got tired of answering it."
       "So you lost a woman you had already grown tired of?"
       "Something like that.  You get used to a person.  You get comfortable, like a child with his favorite blanket or his thumb in his mouth.  It's tough to let go of your security.  Don't believe me, just ask all the buck tooth people walking around." 
       "That's as good a reason to get loaded as any I've heard."  Dave lifted his glass to toast.  Mike didn't return the gesture.
       "I need to drink to get loaded and I'm not drinking.  I'm just thinking about it."
       "You're starting to lose me, Mike.  What's to think about?"
       "I'm an alcoholic.  Or I was.  Or I might have been.  It all depends on how you look at it."
       "You haven't found me yet, Mike."
       "I used to have a drinking problem.  Well, I don't know if it was a problem.  It didn't cause me any difficulties.  I functioned as well as the next guy.  It was just a habit of mine and when alcohol becomes a habit, society tends to see that as a problem."
       "Society holds many a warped view on many a subject that's none of its damn business."  Dave took a swig of his beer as exclamation point to the statement.
       "Anyway, I decided to quit one day, so that's what I did.  No AA meeting or any psychological mumbo jumbo.  Once I make a decision, I stick with it.  If I'd been an official drunk I wouldn't have been able to stop cold turkey like that."
       "Maybe.  If it makes sense to you, what else matters?  So what made you quit, if you don't mind ..."
       "I don't mind.  I got out of bed one morning, grabbed a brew from the fridge, and sat down to drink it.  About halfway through I realized there was something terribly wrong.  I couldn't recall when, or why, or how I had switched from Wheaties to a cold one.  What made me go from the breakfast of champions to the breakfast of bums?"
       "It sure sneaks up on you, don't it?"  Dave motioned to the bartender for a refill.
       "Actually, it landed on my head like a piano.  The moment I remembered the last person I'd seen having beer in the morning, I knew I would never touch the stuff again."
       "Who would that be?"
       "My dad.  No way I was turning into him.  Now he was a world class drunk.  And a world class jerk.  Not the footsteps I intended to follow."
       "Let me tell you something, Mike.  I've drunk some powerful concoctions in my time.  Once had me some hundred and eighty proof Tennessee moonshine that could have launched a space shuttle.  But I never had anything that could turn me into another person."
       "No need for the lecture.  I figured it out on my own.  I also found out that my dad had more valid reasons than thirst for his drinking."
       "Every reason is valid, Dave.  The second you start judging is the second you start playing God, and I believe that job is taken."
       Mike looked down into his glass, swirling its contents with a swizzle stick.  Some people may have seen it as completely not empty, others as entirely full.  But one fact remained undisputed.  He had yet to consume a drop.
       "I have another question for you, Mike.  If being an alcoholic isn't your problem, and turning into your father isn't the problem, then what is?"
       "He's got a brain in his head, that's all."
       The gravelly voice entering the conversation from Mike's immediate right belonged to another gentleman in his sixties.  The man’s face was covered with a three quarters salt, one quarter pepper beard.  His rumpled attire was considerably less formal than that of his counterpart.
       "Sorry, but I couldn't help overhearing your conversation," he continued.  "The name's Lou.  Mike, your reservations are well worth heeding.  You have explained away every reason for not drinking, yet you still haven't taken a sip.  Your gut is telling you that having a drink is a step you're not ready to take.  I'll take gut instinct over hedonistic intellectualizing any day."
       "Who died and made you his conscience?" asked Dave.
       "Who made you the serpent in the garden?" Lou asked in reply.
       "Relax guys," Mike refereed.  "What's the big deal?  I either get tanked or I don't.  The world keeps spinning either way."
       "It is a big deal," said Lou.  "You don't want to be a drunk. No matter how fancy he may dress himself up, a drunk is still nothing but a drunk."
       "And a self-important, holier than thou, propaganda spouting, weak willed nosy body is still nothing but a guy named Lou," Dave rebutted.
       Mike couldn't believe that his dilemma was serving as the catalyst for a senior citizen bar room brawl.  "If I do decide to drink, that won't make me an alcoholic," he said, hoping his logic would defuse the situation.  “Not if I have just the one.”
       "But you're not a hundred percent sure of that or else you'd be drunk already," said Lou.  "Gary, I'll have my usual," he said to the bartender.
       "Yeah, I guess you could say that," Mike had to admit.
       "Seltzer," Dave practically spat in disdain as Lou's drink arrived.  "Let me guess your line, old timer.  You're a former drunk.  Got saved by AA so now you want to return the favor by converting the world."
       "I haven't touched a drop of liquor in eight years.  But I'm not a former drunk, Dave.  I'm a drunk, same as you.  Only difference is I'm fighting the demon, you're succumbing to it."
       "A day at a time, right Lou?"
       "Damn straight."
       "Well I'm a former AA member too.  My wife told me to get sober or get out.  So I got sober.  Stayed that way for three years.  I was a die hard just like you, praying to the great dry God."
       "But you were weak and you failed.  That's your problem.  Helping to push this young man over the edge will just make one more ruined life you're responsible for."
       "Hey Lou, have a little respect.  This is my story, I'll tell it.  My wife and I got divorced anyway.  Not because I was drinking, but because it wasn't meant to be.  And the last three years were the worst because I was sober every day of them."
       "Is there a moral to this tale?" Dave asked.
       "Moral is you want to be sober, be sober.  You want to get drunk, drink up.  But a man needs to make that choice, not let that glass do it for him.  If Mike doesn't drink because he's not thirsty, or because he’s not in the mood to get a little light headed, then fine.  But if he doesn't drink because he's afraid, because he thinks the content of that glass is stronger than his free will, then that makes him prisoner to the booze just the same as any drunk on skid row suckling a flask like it was mother’s milk.  A sober prisoner is no better off than a drunk one, Lou.  He’s worse off, actually.  At least a drunk prisoner might be having a good time.  You probably wouldn’t know one of those if it walked up and bit you on the nose."
       Mike cleared his still dry throat.  "I have to admit, I'm afraid of what might happen if I start drinking again.  Maybe it won't be as easy to quit next time.  Maybe I'll screw up my life.  But is a screwed up life better than one lived in fear?"
       "Of course not," said Dave.
       "Hell yes," answered Lou simultaneously.  “Nothing wrong with a little fear.  Nothing wrong with humility.  You do know what excessive pride leads to, don’t you?”
       Mike picked up the glass.  "I miss Angela already.  It doesn't matter that we don't love each other anymore.  I got used to waking up and seeing her there beside me.  I guess I'm just a creature of habit."
       And with this toast said, Mike closed his eyes, brought the glass to his lips, tipped back his head and began pouring the liquid down his throat.  When he placed the now half empty glass down, Lou had already risen from his seat.
       "I'm a creature of habit too, Mike.  That's why I'm here.  Even after I stopped drinking, bars were the only place I ever felt comfortable.  So I'll probably be seeing you around.  Maybe I'll even see you sober again someday."  
       Lou walked away, disappointment registering in his every step.
       "I'd love to stay," said Dave, who had also risen from his seat.  "But I have an appointment to make.  Some other time perhaps.  Good meeting you, young fella."
"Same here."  Mike shook Dave's hand and then watched him walk out of the bar, every bit the sophisticated, gentlemanly drunk. 
Taking in a deep breath, Mike again lifted the glass to his lips and finished it off in one gulp.  He placed the glass on the bar and then walked to the pub's jukebox, removing quarters from his pocket.  He was good and ready to select some "my baby done me wrong" music to accompany his melancholy mood.  Problem was, there were so many top quality sorrowful tunes to choose from.  Whichever he selected would wipe away an equally good alternative, and he had neither enough time nor enough change to listen to all of them. 
That was the thing about choices.  The moment you made one, you also threw another one away.  Dave put the coins back into his pocket and returned to his seat at the bar.  
       "I'll have another one, please."
       "Pepsi, right?"
       "You got it."
       Mike held his newly filled glass before him, staring intently at the soda, wondering if he would eventually switch to something stronger.  If he did, would it be his downfall?  Would that make him just like his father?  If he refrained, did that make him any better off?  Or was abstinence synonymous with lack of belief in his powers of self-control?  He simply didn't know which scenario would make him more pathetic.
       Maybe Angela had a valid point when she said that the end of their relationship was ultimately caused by his ambivalence towards practically every aspect of life.  But what did she know?
       After all, he had firmly chosen Pepsi over Coke. 

Now available at Amazon - MATTERS OF CONVENIENCE