About Me

I guess one could make a case that I am professionally schizophrenic. There are three sides of me: fiction writer, non-fiction writer, and photographer.

Fiction Writing

Les PickerThere is nothing like a well-spun yarn. Ever since I was a child I would spend hours, alone in my room, wandering through the magical worlds created by the likes of Jules Verne, Robert Heinlein, John Steinbeck. After winning a 5th grade writing contest, I swore that one day I would be a writer.

So far I have written and published four novels, each of which is described on other web pages within this site. Two of my novels are part of what will eventually be a trilogy, about the First Dynasty of ancient Egypt.

The First Pharaoh tells the story of one of the most incredible men in history, King Narmer, who united Upper and Lower Egypt into one Dynasty that lasted for more than 3,000 years. The First Pharaoh describes his life and loves, the challenges within the court, and the wars he fought to unite his people.

The Dagger of Isis tells the story of King Narmer’s great-granddaughter, Meryt-Neith, who ruled Egypt for 18 years as regent for her son. We witness Meryt-Neith’s lifelong rivalry with her cousin, Nubiti, her battles to keep Egypt united, and her struggle to protect her son from sinister forces until he comes of age.

I am currently writing the final book in the trilogy.

Sargent Mountain is a work of general fiction. It tells the story of Rose, a middle-aged woman, who finds out after her husband dies that he had a long-term affair with another woman, as unlike Rose as any woman could be. A chance encounter with ‘the other woman’ propels the novel forward, as Rose seeks to make sense of this shattering revelation.

The Underground follows Lisa, a reporter who, after the death of her father, finds out that her birth mother was murdered. Soon nothing is as she thought it was. Her life is turned upside down as she seeks to find out the truth about her mother… and her father, who raised her. Her journey takes her far away and brings her closer to her roots.

Non-Fiction Writing

On the non-fiction side,I have more than 600 writing credits in Forbes, Better Homes & Gardens, Time, Inc. Publications, Money, Fortune Small Business, Bloomberg Personal Finance, National Parks, and dozens of other publications. I’m a former newspaper reporter and editor, for three years was a columnist for Oceans Magazine and for four years was Editor-In-Chief for a national environmental journal. My photography has also appeared in National Geographic Society publications and many other magazines and newspapers. I’m a proud member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), Hasselblad Professionals and Nikon Professional Services.

For four years I was a weekly columnist for The Baltimore Sun and continue as a feature travel writer and photographer. For three years, I was a regular commentator on National Public Radio’s Marketplace, carried on 260 stations nationwide. I have written books about macular degeneration and winter ecology.

Photography

I have been photographing since age 11, when my father gave me my first camera. Since then I have photographed for major magazines and newspapers. I have been featured in gallery shows and my fine art images hang in offices, hospitals and private homes. In 2011 I was honored to receive the prestigious Canada Northern Lights Award for best travel photography. I also conduct photo workshops and tours for Nikonians Academy.

To learn more about my photography or to purchase prints of my photographic images, please visit my photo website.

I’m passionate about both my writing and photography and consider myself incredibly fortunate to earn a living doing what I love every day.

The Writing Life

Frequenty Asked Questions

Did you always know you’d be a writer?

Actually, yes. I’ve been an avid reader since my earliest memories. In fifth grade a won a writing contest and from then on I was hooked.

What is writing like for you?

It is pure joy and unbearable agony. I mostly love it, but there are aspects that I dislike. When I’m in the flow I want to write forever. When I’m out of the flow it’s agonizing to get back in.

How do you approach the task of writing?

As I do my research, I also begin to outline the story. I’m kind of anal in terms of organization, so I have to get my ducks in order before I can focus on the actual writing.

I typically start with a two or three page outline of the book, more of an overview than a detailed description. I then begin to flesh it out, taking special care to develop my characters. I ask tons of questions of myself. How do they look (I often find photographic examples on the Internet)? How would they react to certain situations? What influenced their lives?

As I flesh out my characters story ideas begin to come to me. Some of them I jot down in my iPhone, others on scraps of paper or dictated as I drive. Pretty soon I have enough “flesh on the bones” to develop a chapter-by-chapter outline. From then on it’s clear sailing, as I just write to the outline.

What is the writing process like for you?

If by that you mean the mechanical stuff, then it’s pretty routine. After breakfast and a pot of tea, I like to put in several solid hours focusing. I start by reviewing what I wrote the day before. Then I start churning out words. I don’t self-edit much, there’s always time later for that. Right now getting into the “groove” is the challenge.

As I write I find that my characters take on a life of their own. It often shocks or amuses me what they say. At other times I find that I am literally watching the scene as my characters interact. Soon the scene has played itself out and I hardly know what has happened. Many times I get emotionally involved in a scene and might feel my heart racing, or find myself laughing out loud or crying. Sometimes I write through lunch and don’t realize until evening that I haven’t eaten all day.

What about your family? How do they react while you are in the midst of the writing process?

Great question. Mostly they are okay with it. My wife may interrupt with the stuff of life; grocery needs, picking up our granddaughter or taking out the trash. When I’m too distracted I let her know and she is really, really good with letting me be.

Other times I get so engrossed in what is happening to my characters I can hardly concentrate on anything else. Once, at a restaurant, my wife asked me what was wrong. I seemed so inattentive and far away. I told her that I was completely discombobulated because I had left my main character in the midst of a battle. She thoughtfully called for the waiter and we left soon afterwards. I wrote until 3:00 A.M. that night.

What’s next?

I’m currently working on the third and final book of The First Dynasty trilogy. Expect that in late 2013. In the meantime, if you have questions, please write to me.