If we were having coffee today one of the first things I’d want to do is show you the new cover from my latest novel. Cover art is always a bit of a challenge because I am not artistically inclined in that way.
At 66 years old I am still pretty much at the stick figure stage. And they aren’t particularly good stick figures either. But I have ideas, and I shared a few of my ideas with my publisher’s graphic artist and she did a pretty good rendering of them. So here it is for everybody in the coffee shop to see:
The book will be published this coming October and is the third in a series of following the adventures of Sam and Smidgeon, who are on the trail of a different kind of treasure this time. As the cover hints, there are long road trips involved and more than once, Smidgeon, the heroine of the book, strikes a very similar pose.
Well, to be honest, they aren’t at all sure what’s going on. It’s a mystery from start to end with a pretty good villain if I say so myself but unlike some mysteries, the reader knows more about it than the characters. Still, I’ve saved a few surprises for the ending. It has many of the elements of the previous books, including tiebacks to my cookbook, The Mossback Cafe Cookbook, and the first two books in the series. Ah, but I have (hopefully) added enough exposition so the casual reader is not totally lost if they happen to read this first.
I even threw in a couple of cameos. One of my favorite writers is Ernie Pyle. He was a remarkable writer, best known as a war correspondent in WWII who eventually died in combat on Okinawa. In reading one of the book compilations of his articles, I noted a man by the name of Elkins he came across in both North Africa and Italy. Pyle was always quick to give home town information of anyone he wrote about and Major Elkins was a college professor from College Station Texas. He actually called Major Elkins “his friend” on both occasions. It was not a term he freely used. When I read that, I started wondering. Years ago back in Texas, I worked very closely with a woman, whose married name was Elkins. I recalled her husband had grown up in College Station as the son of a professor. I asked her about it.
“Oh, yes,” she said, “That’s Bob’s dad! Bob still has letters Ernie Pyle wrote to him.”
Small world. So, I wove this coincidence into the start of this book, a bit of an introductory vignette you might say, and Major Elkins is a part of that bit of storyline.
We novelists, if we are lucky, also employ the use of something we call beta readers. We’ll share our almost completed manuscripts in the hope for an honest assessment of the story. It is part of a working process to make for a better manuscript. I’m hoping for comments on readability and possible logical errors in the story. One caught a discrepancy in a small detail linking back to book 2. It had no bearing on the story, but I like the little details to be accurate so I was glad to be able to correct it.
Anyway, one of these readers wrote back and commented that she had once lived in one of the small West Texas towns I mention in the story. I got a few more details from her about it and she hadn’t put it together that this part of her life almost exactly paralleled the timeline of the story. Well, I couldn’t let something like that pass. I wrote her into one scene, a true cameo, but it also served to add a little more insight into one of the characters.
If writing wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t do it. Anyway, enjoy your coffee.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. Information on his work, including the upcoming Lucky Strike, can be found at http://thefensk.com
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