Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.comIf we were having coffee today I’d tell you I was still thinking about yesterday’s fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo One fire.

Fifty years. I have a FaceBook friend who had her fiftieth birthday yesterday too. I told her something I can’t tell many people.  I vividly remember that event happening on the day she was born.

I was a child of the space age. I was only eight years old when Alan Shepard blasted into space. It was like I had crossed over a bridge from my innocent young kid life into a bigger world. Sure, I grew up in Houston and it was all gung-ho space city, home of the space center and all the astronauts lived there and all.  My fourth-grade teacher dated some guy from NASA and he came and talked to our class.  We watched the entire John Glenn flight at school, the whole thing from launch to splashdown.  I read every news story about the space program.  I followed all six Mercury flights and all ten Gemini Flights.

I had the flu for Gemini 8, really, I did, but watched all day. I was not surprised at all that Neil Armstrong was picked to command Apollo 11 … because he had kept his head, thought on his feet, and totally saved the day when Gemini 8 almost became our first space disaster.

I was looking forward to the first Apollo flight.  We had a long string of space successes and it looked like we were on a roll.  Then I remember the first news flash about a fire during a ground test for that first flight.  I remember being cautiously optimistic that maybe the heat shield would protect them, or maybe the escape tower activated and flew them to safety.  Then came the report that the fire was IN the capsule.  I knew they were dead. Sure thing. I was fifteen years old, a mediocre student, lousy in math and science, but I knew about pure oxygen environments inside the spacecrafts of the time. I knew immediately they were goners, probably the same way everybody in the control room knew it.

I had the same feeling in 2003 when my son called me and told me to turn on the tv because there was something going on with the Columbia space shuttle.  The TV flicked on and I saw the multiple streaks in the sky and blurted out “that’s it, they’re dead.” My daughter turned to me concerned, “how can you know that?”

“That would be one streak if it was an intact vehicle, if it is in pieces, there’s nothing left.”  That’s all it took for me, one look long enough to focus on the screen.  It was tough for me because I had managed to witness the first launch of Columbia in 1981.  And earlier that week, in 2003, I managed to catch sight of the orbiter’s Venus-bright track across an early morning sky.  All of this ran through my mind when I saw those multiple streaks. It’s exactly how I felt when I heard the words “inside the cockpit” in 1967.

Ironically, that tragedy caused a total revamp of the moon project.  A failure in space would have doomed it, but happening on the ground, before the flight, gave them the chance to figure out what was wrong.  What would have been guesswork with a space failure became a solid investigation with all the evidence right there.  We were on a roll.  We still had that goal. We made that goal.

I know a lot of people think it is all a waste of money, but really, we, humanity, have reaped tremendous benefits from space research.  That computer or tablet or phone you’re reading this with, the internet, wireless networking, cell communication, all the fancy gadgets we use every day owe a great debt to things that were started back then.  Sure, eventually we would have maybe progressed this far, but it would have taken a much longer time.  The space race jump-started a new industrial revolution. It did.  It got research moving, and that in turn funded more research that made things happen. In the early 1960s computers were still huge things.  That phone in your pocket has more power than all of the computers NASA used in the Mercury program.  ALL OF THEM.  The beginnings of the technology existed at the time, but the motivation to advance the technology did not exist until we made the push.

And guys like Gus Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee were sitting there inside a pressure cooker built by the low bidder on a government contract trying to make it happen.  Is it good they died?  No, it was and will always be a horrible tragedy.  But they knew the risks and they knew the score.  What came out of that was a better system and understand this … we figured out ways to use the newer, more powerful computers to help design the next generation of systems … and on and on after that. They needed the micronization to fit inside the vehicles but once they started to hit that stride, they created systems to design new systems … THAT is when the exponential growth in technology began.  Slow at first but gaining momentum every day. THIS is what we owe to those guys, those early pioneers and to their loss.  That was the motivation so many people forget.  Not landing on the moon.  We owed it to those three guys to do our best to minimize such losses.

Sure, we’ve had two more equally tragic space losses, and there will be more.  Consider this: we lose people to plane crashes, train crashes, even car accidents, yet we still travel.  We just strive to make it safer. But in the case of the space program, everybody gained from this one tragic loss.  Before you hit reply to tell me I’ve got it wrong remember what you’re using … the g-g-g-g-g-g-grandchild of that room sized UNIVAC that calculated orbital trajectories.


Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  You can find out about his books at http://thefensk.com

Life Imitates Art?

img_6284If we were having coffee today I’d have to mention the treasure hunter.  Why?  Because my two novels are about a treasure hunter.  Me?  Naw, I’m not a treasure hunter, I just acted upon an idea I had like thirty years ago.

Anyway, six months after the publication of my novel, THE FEVER, I spotted a news story about a missing treasure hunter.  A somewhat clueless guy set off to find a treasure based on vague clues and disappeared.  That is the basic plot point of my novel.  Of course, there was no cross-pollination here and this is a very tragic story.  A guy died.

I based my story not on something real, like this, but on an idea.  A “what if” scenario. A tragic outcome was always a major possibility in the story and Sam, the hero of THE FEVER, always made sure certain people knew where he was going and when to consider him overdue.  He comes close a couple of times but … well, no more spoilers … that’s why you have to read it!

Why do I bring this up?  I was writing a pitch to a radio station today and I thought the real-life story might be a useful sidebar to the information about my own novel … and found an update I didn’t know about.  The guy’s body had been found about six months after he had disappeared. It’s a little too close to home and frankly the coincidence of the two stories still kind of freaks me out.

Here’s a link to that story:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/26/randy-bilyeu-dead-new-mexico-treasure-hunter

People say, art imitates life, but I always say it is a two-way street.


Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  More information about his books (and about him!) can be found at http://thefensk.com

Breaking the Code

img_6284If we were having coffee today, I think I’d have to break into my annual moaning session about marketing.  Yes, the books.  Again.

If you have ever aspired to be an author you really need to be aware of the biggest pitfall: Marketing.  I joked in a facebook writer’s group not long ago … writing a novel is hard.  Editing/revision is even harder.  Marketing kicks me in the …
Well, you get the idea. Now, if you are talented enough or lucky enough to attract the notice of a big publishing house, they do all that for you.  Oh, I imagine even then you have to do quite a bit yourself.  But as an indie author or an author from a smaller publisher, the mantle of marketing responsibility falls on your shoulders.

Marketing is a special skill I am still struggling to learn.  I actually worked in publishing for over twenty years, but it was mostly in IT.  Now I sort of wish I hadn’t treated all those marketing people like lesser beings.  To be fair, we IT hacks generally treat everybody as lesser beings.  Still, now I regret it.  I could use some help.  In an irony of ironies, sure, I could buy help but I really need to sell some books first so I can afford it.

There is another irony at work here too.  Writing.  Most of the type of marketing I am talking about involves writing.  I have published two novels and written three others that are in various stages of revision.  I used to be intimidated by a novel’s length but now I find that hammering out a ninety thousand word novel is not that big a deal.  What’s hard, is a two hundred word book blurb.  Sheesh.

So here I am, on a Saturday, when I am supposed to be chipping away at the third book in my series but I’m struggling to, once again, revise my Amazon book blurbs. Succinct, catchy, to the point.  Sell the book.  It sounds so easy.   There is no shortage of advice on-line, some of it is maddingly contradictory.  Mention names, don’t mention names, ask questions, don’t ask questions.  “Short” is the common suggestion.  Okay.

I first encountered this when I got my original book contract.  I blinked at it for quite a while.  They wanted me to supply the blurb.   Uh, uh, uh … I managed to cobble out something.  It was awful.

One impressive thing about having a book on Amazon is the fact that if you register as the author, you can revise your own book description.  I am on what is probably the fourth major revision of my first novel’s description.  Sure, I use the same one on my web page.  If I think it is good enough, I poll the other vendors like Barnes & Noble to change … but you have to ask.  Same with my publisher’s website.

So this is what I’m doing today … One day I’ll crack the code.  I’ll be able to tell because I’ll maybe start selling some books.
Here are the amazon book links … click read more at the bottom of the description to get the whole thing.

How did I do this time?

The Fever
A Curse That Bites Deep


Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.
More evidence of his lack of marketing skill can be found at http://thefensk.com

WeekEnd Coffee Snow

img_6284If we were having coffee today, well, we’d probably be doing it by phone or Skype or something … it’s snowing hard out there.  It’s pretty and it’s nice and it’s a pain.
I grew up in Houston, Texas and I think I saw snow maybe twice in the first twenty years of my life.  In looking at Houston history blogs it’s funny when they talk about snow … they’ll talk about this snow and that snow … basically a counting on the hands sort of thing.  And although I haven’t lived in Houston since 1978 I know most of the earlier events they are talking about!

I’ve lived in North Carolina for almost thirty years.  We don’t get a lot of snow here either, but we can expect at least one event a year.  Some years more, some years less.  We sometimes go two years with any.  We also get significant ice storms every few years.  I hate ice storms.   You can expect days without power and I don’t care where you’re from, nobody is used to driving on ice.  Don’t do it.

Now, don’t get all Yankee on me about driving in snow.  It can be done, but you have to understand the fact that here, there just isn’t much snow removal capacity.  Oh, they brine the roads beforehand … that always seems to me to be more like priming the pump.  And sure, there is some snowplow activity, but the plowing appears to be more like they are using a Zamboni to prepare the ice rink. It amounts to scraping, scraping down to the point where they compact whatever ice is left onto the surface.  We end up with a sheet of ice.  If we are lucky and it gets sunny at some point, usually in the spring, the road clears pretty quickly.  No word yet on when the sun will be restarted.

So, no matter what part of Maine or Minnesota or Chicago you are from, you’d probably be one of the people I really fear on the roads out here … zipping along with too much confidence and likely to slide and run into me.

Several times in my life I’ve had to drive long distances in snow and ice.  Once, I was on a business trip, driving from central Virginia to Atlanta.  I neglected to check the weather for my entire route.  It was fine when I left.  In NC I hit some flurries.  As I went south, it got worse and worse.  I just stayed in the wagon ruts and kept going hoping some overconfident Yankee didn’t run into me.  Oh, I’m just joshing … it is the SUV drivers you have to worry about, really.  I lost count of the number of SUVs I saw flipped, run into walls, or stranded dozens of yards out into fields by the side of the interstate.  It was quite a trip.  The entire state of South Carolina at twenty-five miles an hour … the only way to go.

There is a section in my novel THE FEVER where the hero gets stuck on the highway in such a situation … it was a compilation of some of those trips.  One fan told me that was her favorite part but that she had to stop reading at some point and go put a sweater on.

So let’s sip our coffee and chat quietly and pray that the power doesn’t go out.


Author Thomas Fenske is currently hosting a paperback book giveaway in partnership with the TomeTender Book Blog.  For more information:  http://tometender.blogspot.com/2017/01/thomas-fenske-presents-traces-of.html
More information on his books can be found at:  http://www.thefensk.com




How about a new giveaway for the new year?

I’ve partnered with TomeTender Book Blog to give away a signed copy of both of my novels  … so you have two chances to win

Enter the Giveaway

These books follow the story of Sam Milton and are inspired by a Texas legend — you’ll find mystery, romance, danger, and a touch of the supernatural.

… a riddle, an obsession, & a curse …what could possibly go wrong?

More info on the books can be found at www.thefensk.com … there are giveaway links there too.  Don’t forget to reblog!

Traces of Treasure

img_7200-1When my second novel, A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP, was accepted by my publisher they wanted me to add a “series” name.  It was a sequel to my first book, THE FEVER, and even if it was just two books they were seen as parts of a series.  I wasn’t sure there would be more than two, but that’s the way they did it so I was compelled to create a series.

I’d never thought in terms of a series … from a marketing standpoint it isn’t a bad idea, but I hadn’t even considered it.  Now I was on the spot … I needed to come up with something quickly.  I’m not quite sure where the idea came from, but Traces of Treasure just sort of stuck in my mind.  I needed something that conveyed the basic plot ideas of the two books.  My hero is a treasure hunter but his hunt always seems to be more about the idea more than the fact.

My hero is a treasure hunter but his hunt always seems to be more about the notion more than the fact.  Despite years of struggling with the idea, Sam Milton, has found very little in the way of the gold he was promised in the first book.  In the second book, he does find a treasure of sorts, but it wasn’t what he was looking for and it, in itself, seems to point to yet another mystery (wide open for book three, right?).   He always seems to find just enough of something to keep him going.   Basically, a “missed it by that much” mentality.   I guess a slot machine works on the same principle … the tiny payouts keep one hoping that the jackpot looms just beyond the next pull … or two … or three …

So Traces of Treasure was born.  The term left me open to explore other tangents with the same characters, but it was still vague enough to allow different story lines to be part of the same series.  I didn’t want it to be a “Sam Milton Adventure” or something like that.  Hey, he lives a dangerous life … he could die.  No promise or spoiler there … seriously, but this plot and storyline could go in a thousand different directions at this point.

Plus it fits the first book … Sam’s lifelong quest is based on a hope and a prayer, totally trusting the sincerity of a dying total stranger, and a wino at that.  And it fits the second book too … .Sam spends time and resources trying to get to the end of the crude tunnel he’d found in book 1.  He’s found a few specks of gold but as yet no mother lode … wait, maybe that’s where I got it … he found traces of the promised treasure.


Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  More information on his books can be found at http://thefensk.com … this post reminds him that he really needs to add info about “Traces of Treasure” to the website.


Another Great Review

I’m starting the new year off right … someone just posted Amazon review #5 for A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP.  

“… Set in Texas, it is an excellent depiction of the people and places of my home state. Buried treasure, ghosts, romance and constant danger will keep you engaged and entertained …”

The reviewer had read both books in the series and concluded … “Read them both!”

You can get more information on both THE FEVER and A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP (along with quick buy links for Amazon, Barnes &Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords) at:  http://thefensk.com