Weekend Coffee Dreams

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

If we were having coffee today I’d tell you about the dreams.  Oh, not any dreams.  I guess we all have repetitive dreams, but last night I had more of a repetitive theme dream.

These revolve around finding some hidden section or room of the house.  Sometimes it is the current house, sometimes it is some past house, sometimes it is even (this will sound silly) some other dream house, a place that seems familiar from past dreams.

These are funny after I wake up, I mean, the notion that a room or in some cases a vast network of rooms, might exist.  I guess psychologists would read a lot into that.  Our house is cluttered, I guess deep down maybe I really wish I had extra rooms.  It wouldn’t have done much good in last night’s dream, the rooms were cluttered with broken furniture and leftover debris.

This dream even had another level.  Not another level to the dream, another level to the rooms.  During the dream, after marveling at the find, I later went back and looked a little closer and found a stairway and another set of rooms off to the side and below. I guess within the context of the dream it makes sense. The first one was supposedly outside an upstairs window.  When outside I had noticed something hanging near an upstairs window.  Later I remembered and sought to go out and take it down. The additional level provided access from below.  I didn’t get a chance to do more exploration before waking up.

I have had another series of dreams where there were vast furnished rooms branching off a hidden corner hallway, easily doubling, perhaps tripling the size of the house. Oddly, for some reason, it occurs to me in the dream to go into this area and I keep wondering to myself why I don’t use these rooms more.  I had a dream once that a house we had looked at when we were house hunting had a complete and fantastic basement section.  The house itself was somewhat lacking for our purposes but this basement section made it a no brainer that we should have bought that house.  In the dream, when I found this out, I got miffed at the real estate agent for failing to show us the extra rooms.

Anyway, this was so vivid, it was just on my mind when I woke up.  I need to go look around now, to make sure I haven’t missed anything in the twelve years since I moved into this house.

What sort of repetitive dreams do you have?

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  For information on his writing check out his web page at http://thefensk.com

A WeekendCoffee Backstory

img_6284If we were having coffee today I think I’d finally be willing to tell you about certain aspects of the backstory.

 

There was recently a national news story floating around concerning some changes in Texas law … you might have seen it, usually mentioning the plan to make it legal to carry swords or something like that.  Actually, that might be some sort of loophole, but what it really means is that the stalwart citizens of Texas will soon be allowed to carry knives longer than 5.5 inches.  This law has long been on the books.  They classified any knife longer than 5.5 inches as a Bowie knife.  Although Jim Bowie was a hero of the Alamo and was famous for his larger than usual knife, it has been illegal in Texas for quite some time — that is until this fall.

The current law was a major dramatic component to the backstory of my first novel The Fever.  It was based on a real incident I knew about.  It resulted in the arrest of the hero, who felt the same way about the irony of Jim Bowie’s knife.  This was the catalyst that threw my hero Sam into jail, where he made acquaintance with Slim, the derelict who slowly died in his arms.  Ah, but not before revealing his secret.  THAT is the other major backstory component, another bit of Texas lore.  Slim, it seems, had some personal knowledge of the location of the elusive Sublett mine.

That’s right.  And this, my friends, is a true mystery of mythical Texas proportions.  Ben Sublett was a real person who lived in West Texas and there are believable reports that he had access to some quantity of gold.  The stories go that he would disappear into the wilds of the parched landscape and return with gold.  People tried to follow him but to no avail.  He supposedly died without revealing the location to anyone.  If you google Ben Sublett you will see quite a few websites and articles dedicated to him and his lost gold mine.  They all mention pretty much the same details.  Like one curious fact … his name was actually William C. Sublett.  Not sure where “Ben” came from.
Here are a couple of my favorite links about Ben Sublett:

This one has a picture of a roadside Texas historical marker:  http://www.odessahistory.com/subltmkr.htm

http://www.sonofthesouth.net/ben-sublett-gold/Ben-Sublet-story.html

A friend pointed out to me that the historical marker in the first link above is just outside a place called Sam’s BBQ … I promise you that name “Sam” is just a coincidence.  Still a bit of added irony, no?

Old Ben apparently never got rich from his gold.  He seemed content to use it ,subsidize his life, like a sort of nineteenth-century social security.  The common thread in all of the stories about him is that he’d disappear and return with gold.  People have speculated on its location for over a hundred years.  The Guadalupe Mountains seems to be a common landmark, but if it was in the mountain range proper, well that is a National Park now so good luck with that, but there are a lot of possibilities in the general area.

I used both of these things as the core of my story.  An almost ridiculous arrest followed by a chance meeting that resulted in a deathbed confession.  “THE FEVER” was wedged into the hero’s soul where it smoldered until it became a full-fledged obsession.  THAT is what the story is about … a sort of “what would you do?” scenario.

How far would you go to feed your fever?


Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  Info on his novels, including THE FEVER, can be found at http://www.thefensk.com  Before you buy them, be sure to check out his new video trailers on the videos tab.

Weekendcoffee Adios

If we were having coffee today I’d sadly tell you that LadyBird, our dog, had passsd away. 

It’s actually been almost three weeks but it’s been a hard thing to share.  Thanks for the condolences. 

She was a big dog, about 100 pounds, so at over 15 years old it wasn’t unexpected. She had slowed down considerably the last few months and it was even worse in her last couple of weeks.  

We’ve started to get over the initial sudden shock of her passing. Now it is the little things. Like walking down the pet food aisle … we still have cats … and turning to the dog food and stopping mid-turn.  All the usually “going out” times are still a minor struggle, especially coming back from shopping or something when in the past taking her out would be the first thing on my mind when I got home (at her age she couldn’t wait too long between outings). 

I had some  “jingle bells” attached to her coller so I could hear her getting up, especially in the middle of the night. I keep expecting to hear them, but they aren’t there.  Feeding time is a totally different routine. I keep looking at the empty spot on the living room floor where she spent most of her time, expecting her to be there.  Even the cats avoided that spot for the longest time. 

These and dozens of other minor rememberences will linger, I know. The bigger ones will never go away. She was 100 pounds of pure love. 

I guess I’ll end with my favorite prayer which at first sounds like a joke but … well, it isn’t:   “Lord, help me to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.”

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Thomas Fenske is a writer, living in North Carolina.  More information on his novels and cookbook can be found at http://thefensk.com 

Weekend Coffee Video

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

If we were having coffee today I’d still be giddy about my latest video trailers.  I have to admit here and now, I have never much messed with iMovie, but it was my grandson Griffin who showed it to me and inspired me.

Okay, my hand/eye/video coordination is not all that great.  But it was young Griffin who showed me that they have movie trailer templates.

I’m sure there are probably a thousand apps that do this, but this was easy, it was already there, and I had a few pictures I hoped would work … took me a few tries to cobble together something visually appealing and somewhat informative.  I have to admit that after viewing these I was inclined to buy my own books myself.

So give them a try … I put them together on a link off my page.

VIDEO TRAILERS

(The other is an awesome video by a youtube sensation, Hilah Cooking,  who highlighted a dish I created within the pages of my novel The Fever.)

Tell me what you think.  Even better, tell me they inspired you to check out my books.  I also have a new “Amazon specific” page on my website.  Look under “MAIN” on the menu.

In case you are also inspired to buy … I also have a new “Amazon specific” page on my website with links to purchase, share, or even download a sample.  Look under “MAIN” on the menu.

Hint: put down your cup before you view the video for A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP.

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Thomas Fenske is an author living in North Carolina.  His film making career is still a question mark.  Find out about his books at http://thefensk.com

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Two Years On …

 It has now been just over two years since I became a published author. This was something I aspired to for a long time. I’m proud of my accomplishment and am working on a third book in this little series that has come to be called Traces of Treasure. Will there be a fourth book? Who knows? At the time I wrote THE FEVER I hadn’t even dreamed of a second book.

It wasn’t an easy goal to achieve. I had dabbled in short stories over the years and wrote a pretty mediocre novella in the 90s (unpublished). On my way to my English and History degrees, I had taken quite a bit of creative writing. At first it was an attempt at a “blow off” course but it wasn’t. Sure there weren’t tests, especially no final, but you had to produce and you had to read. And you had to develop a thick skin because your work went on display to the entire class and everything you wrote went under the microscope of peer review. Believe me, in some respects I preferred tests. Oh, and you had to participate so that meant you had to read everybody else’s stories. If you didn’t write and/or didn’t participate in class, you didn’t get a good grade. 

A lot of people are drawn to short stories. I was. The prospect of writing a novel is daunting. They’re long and drawn out and detailed and involved. Short stories are, well, uh, um, how can I put this? They’re short. They have to be easier, right? 

Allow me to burst your bubble. A good short story is much harder to write than a novel. I mean, to pull it off as a literary work of art. In a novel you can take your time to develop a story, to draw your reader in. To explain things. The aspects of beginning, middle, and end can be fully explored

Understand this: a really good short story is very hard to pull off. Sure, anybody can string a bunch of words together and tell some kind of story. It might even be entertaining. Most are at the high end of mediocre at best. And even if you do manage to pull it off, the financial prospects are minimal at best. There I said it. Financial prospects … and having said it I’ll let you in on a little secret. I shouldn’t disallow short story writing based on financial prospects because the financial prospects of being fabulously successful as any kind of author are pretty dim. 

In the long run, we write because we want to write, the same way an artist sketches or a wood worker sands with the grain for long hours to draw out the soul of a piece of timber.

Then there is the fact that being a writer involves a bit more than stringing words together. Sure some people can do it the first time through. Many more think they can. But there is another level of work that is required to produce a viable written work. I can’t speak for now, but creative writing classes when I was in college didn’t address any of the nuts and bolts aspects of being a writer. For one thing, revision. Of course a novel takes a lot of revision. As I said, we wrote short stories back then. Revision is one advantage to short stories. They’re shorter. Revision on a novel is hard. I spent three years on THE FEVER start to finish. That is entirely due to the fact that in the beginning I didn’t really understand how to effectively revise, how to edit myself, in short, how to actually craft the novel.

Oh, I knew the basics of what I needed to do, technically anyway. I had a foundation laid down, but there is an artistry to sit down and actually build something on top of that foundation of words. I changed the ending three times. I changed the beginning four times. Each time I thought it was better, and maybe it was, but as I read through it I would find myself dissatisfied. My first three revisions were pretty much a waste of time, useful only as a starter course in novel revision. 

I did hit upon a technique that has served me well since then. AT first I would run through a revision cycle, then pause and regroup my brain a little, and read through the novel start to finish. I noticed that the quality eventually improved through the work and I reasoned that in my revision cycle I was getting better and more insightful as I found my groove. So in the fourth revision, as I reached the end of the book, I went back around and attacked the beginning AGAIN, while I was hot. Eventually, I just began to swing around again and to start again. My revisions were more productive after that.

I did decide to take a short break later, after revision seven. I was burned out. So what did I do? November was coming up … and that meant NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month (where one endeavors to write a 50,000 word rough draft in 30 days). I took a month off, not from writing, but from THE FEVER. I wrote another novel. I still have that one, waiting to be revised. Then I started right back on revision eight of THE FEVER.

About other novels: I wrote two others before THE FEVER. All three are good stories but they need to be revised and crafted. All five, including THE FEVER and A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP were NaNoWriMo projects. 

A testament to my learning curve from the first novel revision is the fact that I only spent six months revising A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP. 

So, here I am, two years on, with two novels in publication, plus a whimsical promotional cookbook that I spent a lot more time on than I ever thought I would, and I am working on a third book in the series (but working on that one outside of NaNoWriMo.) This one has been slower going, but that is due to the breaks. One long one because of eye surgery then, just as I was starting to roll I got the idea for that cookbook. It was fun, and it also taught me the rudiments of self-publishing. I hoped it would help draw attention to the novels and increase sales. THAT is still a work in progress. 

See, that is the other aspect of being a writer they didn’t teach me in school: marketing. Even the lucky few who get picked up by a major traditional publisher have to deal with it; although those publishers do a lot of the marketing, you still have expend a bit of effort to market yourself. With small publishers, or in self-publishing, the lion’s share of the marketing responsibility falls on the author. At just about this exact time two years ago, that reality started to dawn on me. “Okay, I’m HERE … Now What?” 

I had no web page, no blog, no Twitter presence, no “book” or “author” page on Facebook, no Instagram account or Pinterest presence. I hadn’t even thought about any of these things. What did I do? I googled “book marketing” and I scrambled to get things in place. As part of my pre-publication work I was presented with the opportunity to provide blubs and key words … huh? I cobbled something together. Remember what I said about short stories? You want to work literary wonders of high art? Learn to write effective 200 word book blurbs. A 95,000 word novel is child’s play compared to that. I’m still learning. Feel free to peruse my blurbs on Amazon and give me pointers. 

There is always work to do: I don’t post to this blog enough. I depend a lot on Facebook and Twitter. Sales are still lackluster and sales of my second published book lag far behind the first, which surprises me because I think it is really a much better book. Although a sequel, I feel I did a good job of making it stand on its own. If I had anything to do over, I would have asked the publisher to de-emphasize the “book 2” on the cover. I think it causes people to hesitate. You need that gut level … THIS LOOKS INTERESTING … you don’t want them to hesitate and wonder “what about book 1?” I remember the time I was looking for something to watch on Netflix and saw the series “EARTH 2” and started searching for “EARTH 1” …. Then realized, oh, we live on Earth 1. Anyway, I’m telling you now … you don’t have to read the first book. Sure, it helps … it’s a great story too, but you can read “Curse” all by itself and not be lost at all. 

Heck, even The Mossback Café Cookbook helps for both books. And it’s free! Mostly. Still trying to get Amazon to price match. 

So, two years on and I find that my status as a novelist is firm … and I’m making just enough money to keep working full-time at my day job, er, probably forever.

I will say this, I have a core of very enthusiastic fans for which I am very thankful. Through them I have found that once people read the books, they really enjoy them. Even my editor kicked back one scene in “Curse” then recanted because she realized she got too invested in the characters. I thought at the time, “my editor got invested in my characters … that can’t be a bad thing.”

So check them out. Don’t forget, I’m Author of the Month at authorshout.com


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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina … for information about all his books go to http://thefensk.com

Weekend Coffee Celebration

img_6284If we were having coffee today I’d mention my celebratory mood.  Yesterday was the second anniversary of the publication of my first novel, The Fever … but yesterday I was also announced as “Author Of The Month” at a bookish website called AuthorShout.

About two weeks ago both of my books were announced as short-list finalists for Book of the Year at ReadersGoSocial too.  Sadly I did not make the cut but at least I placed.  Or would that be a “show” in horse betting?

Of course, this has all had a minimal effect on sales.  But we indie authors just keep plugging away.  We have to.  We have these stories clogging our brains that just have to find their way out.  At least I do.

My constant joke is that I make just enough money writing to keep working at my regular job full-time.  But the bills still have to be paid.  Stuff breaks. The Water Heater for instance … just sustained a huge unbudgeted financial hit from that.  It never ends, does it?  I really need to sell some books.

Anyway, the Author of the Month thing is really cool.  Check me out at AuthorShout!

authorshout

Be sure to have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

By the way, can you pick up the tab today?

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  Help him celebrate!  Buy his books. He really needs the money.  Heck, he’ll even like it if you “buy” the free one at this point (that’s the cookbook, free everywhere but Amazon).   Go check them out:  http://thefensk.com

 

The Mossback … another look

This is just another fine-tuning of my Amazon blurb … I think it’s getting there.

cover-lg2a“The Mossback” made it’s first appearance in the pages of Thomas Fenske’s debut novel, THE FEVER, when owner Smidgeon Toll delivered a massive serving of Huevos Rancheros Especial to Sam, that book’s hero, and proudly exclaimed:

“There, what do you think of that?”

The description of gooey, spicy, goodness that followed spurred several readers to ask the author, “Is that a real dish?”   Now you can see for yourself!

Fiction has become kitchen.

Smidgeon will entertain you with her quirky, homespun wisdom as she shares a mini-history of the cafe along with some insight into what helps to make The Mossback a unique and delightful locale in the world of fictional eateries.

Along the way you’ll learn how to make her awesome square biscuits.  She also reveals details about the full-sized heap of bacon they serve on “THAT BLT, ” and introduces readers to other local favorites like the “Double Trouble Dog” and what has to be the “Best-Danged Buttermilk Pie” you’ve ever tasted.  As an added bonus, she has agreed to share her famous Potato Salad Secret, something surprising and simple that will take even the best potato salad recipe and crank it up a notch, maybe two!

Simply put, these are all part of what would have made The Mossback Cafe famous, well, if it actually existed.

So hop out of your pickup truck and mosey on in … there just might be some breakfast tacos or enchiladas lurking in your future.

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The Mossback Cafe Cookbook is still mostly FREE … check out my website for the free venues as well as the link to Amazon where it is 99 cents.  Feel free to share one of the other sites to them using the report a lower price option.  Or if you insist, buy it but be aware that there is a kindle version available at the Smashwords link.
While you’re there, feel free to browse my other books … summer is a great time to Catch THE FEVER!

Chicken & Chips?

A few days ago I made the Special Chicken Casserole from The Mossback Cafe Cookbook.  

It makes good use of two unusual casserole ingredients: mayonnaise and potato chips.  It makes a brief appearance in A Curse That Bites Deep, mostly because my darling wife made this a few times, so I included a version in the cookbook. 

It’s good!  Here’s the intro from the cookbook:

“This was one of Mama’s favorite recipes. When I was little, we never opened on Sundays, but most of the time we had this casserole after church. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I don’t know how true that is, but I have to tell you that Sam and I didn’t start getting really serious until after I made this for him at home … and it’s still one of Sam’s favorites. Mine, too, considering the result.”

Wait, you wanted the recipe?  Get the cookbook!  It’s free here:  https://goo.gl/dwGSsp

WeekendCoffee Validation 

If we were having coffee today I’d still be beaming about the review. 

“Review?”

Yes.  My first independent (and unsolicited) review of THE MOSSBACK CAFE COOKBOOK. 

A book review blog, The Edifying Word, had previously reviewed my debut novel THE FEVER and they picked up this latest offering, giving it an awesome appraisal. I was especially happy that the reviewer understood the “companion book” intent of the cookbook. As I’ve said before, it is more than a cookbook and provides valuable insight into the world of the other two novels (and those to come). 

So check out this review at The Edifying Word and while you are there check out their other reviews.  

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina — thefensk.com