WeekendCoffee New Year

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d say welcome back.  Well, I’m the tardy one I guess. Sorry about that. Things always get a bit hectic during the holidays and I had other things going on as well.  I’m working deep revisions on my next novel and that is taking up most of my writing time.

img_0385I hope your holidays were good.  For the second year in a row, we hosted our family at a rental on the NC coast. I know, I know, holidays are for home and hearth, but after our previous year’s experiment, we found that Christmas at the beach is really quite laid back and enjoyable.  Let me start off with this: I don’t really like the beach during the “normal” beach-going season.  Crowds, hype, salt, and sand are just not my bag.  I like my downtime to be a period of relaxation.  During the off-season, lower rates are in effect so one can upscale a bit. And it is so quiet!

img_0394It is not totally deserted, a lot of people live down there year round and there are those who use their own vacation homes for much the same thing.  But let me put it this way: there were only perhaps three of twenty beach houses nearby that showed any signs of life.  The beaches had scant handfuls of people strolling every now and then. The soothing sounds of the ocean and seagulls were unspoiled by loud music and shouting. The traffic was light. The weather was absolutely fantastic.

My Christmas morning had something else pretty special. I keep track of International Space Station viewings and I found out it would be passing over just after six A.M. that morning. It was crisply cold and the sky was incredibly clear. I bundled up and went outside and here it came, right on time.  It was one of the best viewings I have experienced, horizon to horizon, a bright Star gliding across the heavens sending its silent glorious message: Merry Christmas.

img_0399It was one of the most relaxing holiday celebrations I’ve ever had.  Every morning I got up before everyone else and thoroughly enjoyed my solitary cup of coffee taking in the morning view.

Then back to writing.  The latest novel is shaping up.  I finished the rough draft some time ago, then I dropped the ball a bit. Both my unplanned retirement and, of course, my wife’s cancer battle, were huge diversions.  So I worked on my first deep revision in November during National Novel Writing Month.  Yeah, I cheated. But it was a good opportunity for me to get back in the swing of things, using the structure of NaNoWriMo to apply myself.  I completed the revision and turned it back around in December and did a second deep revision. Those two revisions resulted in about fourteen thousand words of fresh material.  After Christmas, I followed up with a quick polishing pass.  I have beta readers looking at it now.  Still waiting on a couple but they’ve been identifying a few tweaks here and there. I’m excited about this story and hope one more good revision pass will add the finishing touches.

So here I am on a Friday with a little time to write something besides fiction. I’ll keep you posted. Okay, let’s have a scone and a refill and we can dream of wonderful winter beach sunrises.img_0403

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img_0383Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  It’s a good time to catch up on his first two novels.  You’ll be glad you did when the third one comes out.

http://thefensk.com/main.html

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Retro Green Beans

Did you know Thanksgiving is in just a couple of days?  While shopping, I am always amazed at the huge stacks of green beans and mushroom soup and of course fried onions.  Did you ever wonder what people ate for Thanksgiving before this dish showed up? Read on for I one clue.

I’m here to tell you, I hate this “classic” green bean dish. I guess “hate” is a strong word. It’s not that it is bad, it’s just that it could be so much better.  How do I know?  When I got married, my darling bride turned me on to the dish her mother made at Thanksgiving for years and years.  After I started collecting cookbooks, I started looking for it. Yes, it exists.  I found it in two (I have thousands of cookbooks). One was a Gladys Tabor cookbook from the 40s.  If Gladys was alive today I have no doubt she’d be on The Food Network.  I also found it in a 1960s church cookbook.  So my hat is off to my wife’s late mom, Martha Cook.  Wherever she got this recipe, she cooked it every year and when I got married, she saved me from “other” casserole.  It is THE standard recipe at our house.

It looks harder than it is. I’m all about easy at Thanksgiving, and this is a type of homemade dish that is still easy.

Swiss Style Green Beans

2 Tablespoons Flour
2 Tablespoons grated onion
7 Tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
16 ounces sour cream
8 ounces grated Swiss cheese
4 – 5 Cans French Style Green Beans, drained well
1/2 cup crushed corn flakes

Lightly saute the onions in 4 Tablespoons of the butter and stir in the flour; stir until it is smooth.  Add sugar, salt, and white pepper; blend well.  Slowly stir in the sour cream and mix well and cook until smooth, and it begins to thicken, stirring occasionally.

Add the drained green beans and mix well.  Pour the mixture into greased casserole.  Top with Swiss cheese.  (this can be made ahead and refrigerated at this point)

Melt the remaining 3 Tablespoons of butter and stir in the corn flakes and mix until well coated, toasting lightly.  Spread on top of the cheese.

Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes.

Trust me, once you eat these green beans,  you never go back.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.

His books make great Christmas presents: http://thefensk.com

Thanksgiving on the Internet

If we were having coffee today I’d be talking about Thanksgiving.  Here’s a little rerun for you, I’ve posted it a couple of times on another blog.  In fact, I used to post this every year.  It was a classic long before the Internet but it became one of the earliest most shared posts back in the early days.  I hope you enjoy it.
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In olden times, long before the wide wide world of webs became popular, the ancient computer tribes followed something called USENET Newsgroups.  I’m not kidding.  Really, they did.
Newsgroups WERE the internet for the lucky few who could spell internet and if you were on-line, you could email and you could follow newsgroups and that was pretty much it.  Look up USENET on wikipedia sometime … it was quite a ride and it worked amazingly well considering it was a mishmash of random computer systems world-wide.
Anyway, I mention that because I was a small part of it for a number of years, helping to moderate one of the newsgroups called rec.food.recipes.  Food and cooking had a pretty good sized niche in USENET.  A moderated newsgroup meant that posts had to be approved before being unleashed, which kept things on-topic. In a general purpose newsgroup, things could get pretty crazy.  The terms FLAMEWAR and GODWIN’S LAW are still in use and they were both associated with the craziness that was part of the general newsgroups.
The moderated recipes newsgroup was fairly sedate.  People posted recipes they liked and made requests for recipes they had lost or just wanted … as in “anybody have a recipe for key lime pie?”
While I was a moderator, every year about this time of year, people would start requesting a legendary turkey recipe known as Black Turkey.  This is one of those things that used to get mimeographed or photocopied and sent around in offices — we’re talking pre-computer days.  In fact, it was one of the first really cool things I ever found on the internet, way back in late 1980-something.  Our newsgroup used to post it every year because we knew someone would eventually request it if we didn’t.
The copy below is the same one I used to post years ago.  It is attributed to author Morton Thompson, by way of an unidentified author, referenced by another author, Robert Benchley.
It is a fun read and believe it or not, when I posted it, people said they actually tried it and it was good, but reviews were mixed and I always thought that perhaps it might not be so good as to be worth all the trouble.  It’s a fun read, though.
Ah, but this is 2015, probably a good 17-18 years since I last posted it.  I did something I never thought about before … I researched it and found more information … two links are listed after the recipe … one is yet another rendering, this one attributed to Canadian humorist Pierre Berton, and the other, a blog post from a Craig Smith reads like an academic treatise and includes several renderings along with quite a bit of insight.  Doesn’t mention Pierre though.
Who knew Black Turkey could be so controversial?
Anyway, here, for your amusement, is the famous Black Turkey Recipe with additions.
——————-Black Turkey, circa 1963————————–
For about a dozen years, at the approach of turkey-eating season, I have 
been trumpeting to all who would listen, and to a good many who would 
rather not, that there is only one way to cook a turkey. This turkey is 
not my turkey. It is the creation of the late Morton Thompson, who wrote 
“Not as a Stranger” and other books.
This recipe was first contained in the manuscript of a book called “The 
Countess” which was given to the late Robert Benchley, who had eaten 
the turkey and was so moved as to write an introduction to the book. 
Benchley then lost the manuscript. He kept hoping it would turn up– 
although not as much, perhaps, as Thompson did, but somehow it vanished, 
irretrievably. Thompson did not have the heart to write it over. He did, 
however, later put his turkey rule in another book. Not a cookbook, but a 
collection of very funny pieces called “Joe, the Wounded Tennis Player”.
THE ONLY WAY TO COOK A TURKEY!!!!!!!
This turkey is work… it requires more attention than an average 
six-month-old baby. There are no shortcuts, as you will see.
Get a HUGE turkey– I don’t mean just a big, big bird, but one that looks 
as though it gave the farmer a hard time when he did it in. It ought to 
weigh between 16 and 30 pounds. Have the poultryman, or butcher, cut its 
head off at the end of the neck, peel back the skin, and remove the neck 
close to the body, leaving the tube. You will want this for stuffing. 
Also , he should leave all the fat on the bird.
When you are ready to cook your bird, rub it inside and out with salt and 
pepper. Give it a friendly pat and set it aside. Chop the heart, gizzard, 
and liver and put them, with the neck, into a stewpan with a clove of
garlic, a large bay leaf, 1/2 tsp coriander, and some salt. I don’t know
how much salt– whatever you think. Cover this with about 5 cups of water 
and put on the stove to simmer. This will be the basting fluid a little 
later.
About this time I generally have my first drink of the day, usually a 
RAMOS FIZZ. I concoct it by taking the whites of four eggs, an equal 
amount of cream, juice of half a lemon (less 1 tsp.), 1/2 tsp. 
confectioner’s sugar, an appropriate amount of gin, and blending with a 
few ice cubes. Pour about two tablespoons of club soda in a chimney glass, 
add the mix, with ice cubes if you prefer. Save your egg yolks, plus 
1 tsp. of lemon — you’ll need them later. Have a good sip! (Add 1 dash
of Orange Flower Water to the drink, not the egg yolks)
Get a huge bowl. Throw into it one diced apple, one diced orange, a 
large can of crushed pineapple, the grated rind of a lemon, and three 
tablespoons of chopped preserved ginger (If you like ginger, double 
this -REB). Add 2 cans of drained Chinese water chestnuts.
Mix this altogether, and have another sip of your drink. Get a second, 
somewhat smaller, bowl. Into this, measuring by teaspoons, put: 
2 hot dry mustard 
2 caraway seed 
2 celery seed 
2 poppy seed 
1 black pepper 
2 1/2 oregano 
1/2 mace 
1/2 turmeric 
1/2 marjoram 
1/2 savory 
3/4 sage 
3/4 thyme 1/4 basil 
1/2 chili powder
In the same bowl, add: 
1 Tbl. poultry seasoning 
4 Tbl parsley 
1Tbl salt 
4 headless crushed cloves 
1 well crushed bay leaf 
4 large chopped onions 
6 good dashes Tabasco 
5 crushed garlic cloves 
6 large chopped celery
Wipe your brow, refocus your eyes, get yet another drink–and a third 
bowl. Put in three packages of unseasoned bread crumbs (or two loaves of 
toast or bread crumbs), 3/4 lb. ground veal, 1/2 lb. ground fresh pork, 
1/4 lb. butter, and all the fat you have been able to pull out of the 
bird.
About now it seems advisable to switch drinks. Martinis or stingers are 
recommended (Do this at your own risk – we always did! -REB). Get a 
fourth bowl, an enormous one. Take a sip for a few minutes, wash your 
hands, and mix the contents of all the other bowls. Mix it well. Stuff 
the bird and skewer it. Put the leftover stuffing into the neck tube.
Turn your oven to 500 degrees F and get out a fifth small bowl. Make a 
paste consisting of those four egg yolks and lemon juice left from the 
Ramos Fizz. Add 1 tsp hot dry mustard, a crushed clove of garlic, 1 Tbl 
onion juice, and enough flour to make a stiff paste. When the oven is
red hot, put the bird in, down on the rack. Sip on your drink 
until the bird has begin to brown all over, then take it out and paint 
the bird all over with paste. Put it back in and turn the oven down to
350 degrees F. Let the paste set, then pull the bird out and paint again. 
Keep doing this until the paste is used up.
Add a quart of cider or white wine to the stuff that’s been simmering on 
the stove, This is your basting fluid. The turkey must be basted every 
15 minutes. Don’t argue. Set your timer and keep it up. (When confronted 
with the choice “do I baste from the juice under the bird or do I baste 
with the juice from the pot on the stove?” make certain that the juice 
under the bird neither dries out and burns, nor becomes so thin that 
gravy is weak. When you run out of baste, use cheap red wine. This 
critter makes incredible gravy! -REB) The bird should cook about 12 
minutes per pound, basting every 15 minutes. Enlist the aid of your 
friends and family.
As the bird cooks, it will first get a light brown, then a dark brown, 
then darker and darker. After about 2 hours you will think I’m crazy. The 
bird will be turning black. (Newcomers to black turkey will think you are 
demented and drunk on your butt, which, if you’ve followed instructions, 
you are -REB) In fact, by the time it is finished, it will look as though 
we have ruined it. Take a fork and poke at the black cindery crust.
Beneath, the bird will be a gorgeous mahogany, reminding one of those 
golden-browns found in a precious Rembrandt. Stick the fork too deep, and 
the juice will gush to the ceiling. When you take it out, ready to carve 
it, you will find that you do not need a knife. A loud sound will cause
the bird to fall apart like the walls of that famed biblical city. The 
moist flesh will drive you crazy, and the stuffing–well, there is 
nothing like it on this earth. You will make the gravy just like it as 
always done, adding the giblets and what is left of the basting fluid.
Sometime during the meal, use a moment to give thanks to Morton Thompson. 
There is seldom, if ever, leftover turkey when this recipe is used. If 
there is, you’ll find that the fowl retains its moisture for a few days. 
That’s all there is to it. It’s work, hard work— but it’s worth it.
(What follows is not part of the recipe, but is an ingredients list to 
aid in shopping for this monster, or for checking your spice cabinet -REB)
Ingredients List:
1 turkey 
salt 
garlic 
4 eggs 
1 apple 
1 orange 
1 large can crushed pineapple 
1 lemon 
4 large onions 
6 celery stalks 
buncha preserved ginger 
2 cans water chestnuts 
3 packages unseasoned bread crumbs 
3/4 pounds ground veal 
1/2 pounds ground pork 
1/4 pounds 
butter 
onion juice 
1 quart apple cider
Spice List:

basil 
bay leaf 
caraway seed 
celery seed 
chili powder 
cloves 
ground coriander 
mace 
marjoram 
dry mustard 
oregano 
parsley 
pepper, black 
poultry seasoning 
poppy seed 
sage 
savory 
Tabasco 
thyme

turmeric
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Now, as promised,  two more links, just to complete your holiday excursion … enjoy

NaNoWriMo

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d be mumbling something about NaNoWriMo.  That’s National Novel Writing Month.  Yes, that’s a thing.  I would be mumbling because the only way I’ve found to successfully participate is by getting up earlier than I usually do. That will be alleviated somewhat by today’s Daylight Savings time transition.

NaNoWriMo is not just another celebratory month.  The celebration is by doing.  Participants actually try to write an entire novel in that month.  It’s a commitment, and it is a challenge to apply yourself to that singular goal.  No, you don’t have to be published in a month; far from it.  Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to write a fifty-thousand-word rough draft within that thirty-day time frame.

I can see you blinking your eyes, but seriously, it isn’t as hard as it sounds.  Here’s what you need in order to do it: An Idea, time to apply yourself to that idea, and perseverance.  Oh, and there is one other rule of thumb: never look back.  If you are going to do NaNoWriMo, you should just keep writing forward no matter what. As founder Chris Baty said in his book “No Plot? No Problem!” you need to send your internal editor on vacation for the month.  I know, it seems counter-intuitive, but seriously, you’ll never hit fifty-thousand-words by self-editing at this point.

In practical purposes, to achieve the goal you need to write at least 1667 words a day. That’s all.  Single-spaced, that is probably about two to three pages. For the idea? We all have ideas.  You see on TV “writers” who painstakingly graph out their entire novel in great detail. That’s fine and good for some writers.  You can do all of that ahead of time, that is if you want. For me, I take my idea and loosely outline enough events to fill out something that will take about that 1667 words a day, one event per day. For me, that sometimes has a notation like “something else happens”  or “a new character shows up.” Well, you do need to know one or two major characters too.

Here’s the deal.  What I’ve found out is that by giving yourself this self-imposed deadline, something does indeed happen. Creativity.  As you push, push, push, cranking out words to reach your daily goal you are bombarded by new ideas.  The story begins to take on a life of its own.  Yes, sometimes you end up straying from your outline, but that’s a good thing. It was just a guide. And you can usually get back to it.

Anyway, that’s my November and now I’m stuck with it. I’ve published two novels from NaNoWriMo projects.  I have several other rough drafts I’ll resume work on one day.  In this context, the base novel is the easy part.  It is editing and revision that take the most time but you know what? You can’t edit a blank page.  The main events are there, and the story arc is complete.  I call that stage crafting the novel.

Don’t even get me started on marketing the danged things.  That’s the real challenge and it is the hardest stage of all.  The rough draft is almost a vacation.

It’s only November 3.  Kick yourself up to 2000 words a day and you can catch up in no time.  That 1667 word goal is just the minimum.  Check it all out at http://www.nanowrimo.org

Get Writing!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC. Two of his past NaNoWriMo projects are on display at http://thefensk.com … you can further motivate him by buying/reading them.
There is also an Amazon giveaway running for the companion cookbook at:  https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/71bf07b34bec7fd9

The Curse of 29

img_6284If we were having coffee today I’d be lamenting the curse of twenty-nine. 

“What is that?” you might ask.

I’d sigh and tell you about Amazon.

Twice in the past year or so my first novel has breached the number of twenty-nine reviews.  Thirty looks so cool hanging out there on a book listing.

Ah, but twice, for unknown reasons, a review has been deemed unworthy by Amazon and the counter resets to 29.  The interesting thing is, it isn’t necessarily the most recent review that gets swatted away.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have any reviews at all.  It is very humbling to get any kind of feedback on one’s work.  I’m even happy to have the ten reviews on my second novel and the two reviews on my cookbook.  ANY number is good.  I just don’t understand this seeming curse with the number twenty-nine.

There is a theory among authors, that Amazon has a mythical number of reviews where they begin to spontaneously help authors with an added marketing push.  I’ve heard several supposed benchmarks for this point, anywhere from twenty-five to over a hundred.  Fifty seems to be the consensus.  What all this has to do with twenty-nine, I don’t know.

A fellow author, Marianne Reese, has noted a similar trend with her books — stuck at twenty-nine.  What are your experiences with disappearing reviews?

Anyway, I had a good two week run this time.  It felt so good.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.
Help him beat the curse: http://thefensk.com/fever.html  All reviews will be appreciated by me, even if they are rejected by Amazon.  Hey, it’s on KindleUnlimited … and it’s a good time of year to read it since all the action takes place between now and New Years.

WeekendCoffee Reflections

img_6284If we were having coffee today I’d admit I didn’t have much to talk about today until I read the lead-in WeekendCoffeeShare posting from EclecticAli.

Her 80’s Mystery Party reminded me of something.  I always think of my first published novel this time of year.  Virtually all of the action takes place from October through December, and it is set in 1980.  I liked writing in the 80s.  All this fancy technology we enjoy today was still in an infant state back then; things were simpler.  It is an easy era for me because, well, because I lived in it.  I just have to reflect on my own experiences as I allow my characters to do whatever it is they do.

A writer can’t help but add a little autobiographical info into anything they write, but writing in the recent past allows for a bit of mundane reflection. If I wrote in, say, the 1860s, I would have to do a tremendous amount of research.  Writing in the 80’s, I’ve already done that research.  When my character found themselves in an ice storm in the middle of nowhere with a non-functioning heater in the car, I can draw on my experience because, yes, that happened to me.  (I had one reader tell me she had to get up and put on a sweater while she was reading that section — high praise indeed). It’s what I call “writing with a slice of life.”

img_8900Anyway, it’s fall, and I am once again thinking about my novel, The Fever as the season progresses.  This weekend would easily match the late-October setting in the opening of the novel.  It’s an adventure and a time machine.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  You can catch up at http://thefensk.com

Note: my fall giveaway contest continues for another week at tometender-bookblog.

October Notes

close up photography of four baseballs on green lawn grasses

It’s Autumn and you know what that means.  No, I’m not talking about fall colors or Halloween or even Thanksgiving.  I’m talking about BASEBALL.

I’m a lifelong Houston Astros fan.  I grew up with the team.  I’ve lived in North Carolina for twenty-nine years … still a die-hard Astros fan.  Last year, finally finally finally they put it all together.  And here we are again.  The playoffs are full of ups and downs.

Baseball is a wickedly simple game.  And it is played without time limits.  The irrepressible philosopher Yogi Berra said it best (and it is entirely true), “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Still, the ups and downs for fans will continue until the end, so I want to share the other most memorable, yet appropriate quote about baseball, this one from the movie Bull Durham (couldn’t find any other attribute).

Sometimes  you win
Sometimes you lose
Sometimes it rains.

All I can add at this point is another unattributable quote:  “PLAY BALL!”

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Thomas Fenske is a writer and baseball fan living in NC.
http://thefensk.com

Fall Giveaway

giveawaybannerIf we were having coffee today I’d remind you to enter my giveaway.  Yeah, I’m shamelessly using our coffee share to point it out.  Well, it IS what I’ve got going on this week.

Actually, I have had one in quite a while.  I recently had the opportunity to purchase several copies of my ebooks for a reduced price so I got them, basically book purchase redemption links.  I got enough for three sets of all three books.  Yes, they are all kindle copies.  What? You don’t have a kindle?  Did you know you can get a kindle reading app for just about every type of device?  I even have one on my Nook (which still somehow seems so wrong).

So, mosey on over to the contest entry link and try your luck.  While there you can read all about the books and even buy them if you don’t like the disappointment of not winning.

Thanks for your support.  Please reblog this post to get the word out.

Enter here: https://tometender.blogspot.com/2018/10/traces-of-treasure-series-by-thomas.html

 

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC … check him out here: http://thefensk.com

WeekendCoffee Genre Rebrand?

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

If we were having coffee today I might just mention cozy mysteries. Up until yesterday, I didn’t even really know what the term cozy mysteries meant. A reader asked me why I didn’t market my books as cozy mysteries. They were, she said, a pretty close match to the genre.

I’ve struggled with genre ever since I considered publishing.  These ideas came to me and I worked them through a believable story arc.  I polished them.  Worked out the kinks.  A publisher got interested.  Nobody ever mentioned cozy mysteries.

I did a little research.  I’ll admit, The Fever is a stretch, but still, it’s almost there.  I’d call it a quirky take-off on the genre. Nobody dies after the initial hook. But the hero is an amateur sleuth of sorts and he has to work through solving his mystery, with whatever help he can find.  Like I said, I guess it’s a stretch but as a lead-in to the series, it does set the stage.

Ah, but A Curse That Bites Deep fits right into the genre.  I think.  And the third book does too … but you’ll have to take my word on that.  So, I have to wonder, have I suddenly stumbled upon something here?  Sure, they might be sitting in the far left-field corner of the genre, but I think they are still in the ballpark.

If you like cozy mysteries, I honestly think you might like these books.  They’re probably not quite like any other cozy mysteries you’ve read but you don’t seriously want them ALL exactly like one another, do you?  The stories are comfortable and quirky and the characters and situations are down to earth and believable.  Give them a try and let me know.

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Thomas Fenske is quite possibly a cozy mystery writer.  http://thefensk.com