Touching All The Bases

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d be in a good mood.
“Why?” you might ask.
I’d tell you that I finally finished all the identified corrections on my latest manuscript.

Getting a book published is a process and you need to know you can’t skip any component parts of that process.  Well, to be more correct, you shouldn’t skip any of the steps.  If you’re lucky enough to get your manuscript accepted by a publisher and are offered a contract, the publisher proceeds to edit your manuscript. This is humbling because you, as an author, have been pouring over your own manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, striving to deliver the best possible work. When you get the manuscript back you find out just what a fumble-fingered oaf you really are.  I’ve reviewed some of the corrections wondering to myself, “who the hell wrote this crap?”

Yes, you get your manuscript back with hundreds of corrections, each of which you must review, and accept or decline. Sometimes you have instructions to rewrite a sentence or paragraph. Those must be flagged for the editor to review. It’s a process, usually involving two, three, or more rounds of correction/review.

At that point, it goes to the copyeditor, a process that can take several weeks.  This is a period of waiting, a chance for an author to revert to lazy habits. Or, sometimes, a really good author might take this opportunity to work on the next novel. I’ve done both.

When the copyeditor is finished, the publisher proceeds to package the book into something close to the final form and sends you a test edition, called a galley.  My publisher concentrates on ebooks so my galleys come in the form of a PDF file. This is the author’s most important step in the process. We’ve written the book.  We’ve spent months, sometimes years, revising the manuscript, crafting it into the product we sold to the publisher.  Now it is our turn to painstakingly read our own work. I mentioned a fine-toothed comb earlier. At this stage, we really need to sift the work for any errors we can find. I generally go to the library and sequester myself into one of those little study rooms for this process.

It is surprising, after revision, editing, and copyediting, I always find several dozen errors that need to be corrected. The corrections are listed with the full line, then on the next line, you put the full corrected line with the correction highlighted. You double-space after the correction. This allows the editor to easily find the exact line in the text and differentiate between corrections. Note: some of the “errors” are spacing corrections since the fully justified text sometimes results in inordinate spacing between words. This is your last chance to be creative.  For Lucky Strike, I submitted five pages of these corrections.

Once this stage is completed, the publisher applies the errors you found and sends you a corrected PDF.  You’re finished, right?  Nope. There is one more base you need to touch.  You need to double-check the corrections.

With my first novel, I neglected to do this.  I trusted them.  I was writing part-time, it was a busy time at work. I was new, I didn’t know what I was doing.  If I had checked even a few of those corrections, I’d have immediately realized that they had somehow not saved any of the galley corrections and the “final” version was, in fact, the uncorrected galleys.  Two weeks after publication I started getting reports of errors … very familiar errors.  The enormity of the problem became evident very quickly but I had a heck of a time convincing the publisher what had happened.  This is a story for another blog entry, but in short, I learned a very valuable lesson … double-check the corrections.

So, after I completed my corrections for the Lucky Strike, I double-checked the file and found a handful of errors that were either missed or were miscorrected.  In most cases, these were instances where there were multiple corrections in the same sentence. We call the corrections errata, so I sent a new file of errata errata.  This is what I just finalized. I got the new corrected PDF.  Yes, I checked it again.  Done!

But you know, it isn’t over there.  On publication day, an author should actually order all versions of their own book, just like a normal reader.  It is in our best interest to do this, so we can again spot check the published versions and also determine delivery times and availability.  Again, if I had done this with the first book, I would have discovered the error much earlier than my readers.

So, like the title says, touch all the bases!  Is it going to be perfect? Probably not.  There are always things that slip through the process.  How do other publishers do it? They do the same thing.  I used to never see errors in books, but after going through this process, I spot things all the time.  I don’t fixate on their errors, I just take a moment to feel the author’s pain.

What publishing nightmares have you survived?

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Thomas Fenske is an author living in North Carolina. His latest novel, Lucky Strike, is due out in October.  Now is a great time to catch up on his Traces of Treasure series … get more info on his web page.

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Interview!!

I just found out there was an author interview with me posted a couple of months ago.  It was supposed to post today but the interviewer accidentally posted it back in March.  No worries, my answers are still the same. I think.

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https://wings-authors.blogspot.com/2019/03/an-interview-with-thomas-fenske.html

It Might Curry Your Flavor

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d be skipping the sweet roll. Can’t do it, I’d say.  A1C is too high, the doctor said the last time I was in there and he mentioned the dreaded D-word.  I was ticked off.  I admit it.  No, I wasn’t ticked off at him. I wasn’t ticked off at fate or at life. No, I was ticked off at ME!  I knew better.

I’m being a good boy. My glucose numbers are stellar. I’m dealing with the random sweets part of this much the same way I dealt with drinking when I realized that was a deep dark hole I didn’t want to go farther down. I’m changing.  This is harder.  There are only two liquor stores here, but there are three donut shops.

I’m watching carbs.  I “did” Atkins a number of years ago so I have a good handle on the relative carb counts of food.  That is a big part of this.  I’m also exercising.  Regarding foods, it is easier than Atkins. I can have that occasional biscuit as long as I work it into my overall meal carb count.  Same with tortillas.  That covers at least two of my major food groups.

I’m still playing with a few things.  Like, take spaghetti squash. Some people tout it as a replacement for pasta.  I like it as a vegetable but I never much liked it with Marinara sauce. Ah, but I was hungry for Chicken Curry one day and wondered about making some rice, my usual accompaniment. I can eat rice in small quantities.   But sometimes it doesn’t fit in with other things I might have eaten that day. At the store, I saw some spaghetti squash and I wondered, “what if?”

I’m here to tell you today that curried chicken over spaghetti squash is a revelation! The slight sweetness in the taste is a perfect accompaniment to a spiced curry sauce.  Who knew?  I also found something else.  It seems to actually lower my glucose.  Anecdotal evidence, sure, but I’ve noticed it every time I’ve tried it. This combination is definitely in the mix now, an accident like my sweet potato secret. Ah, but you have to get my cookbook to get that.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.

For more information:  http://thefensk.com

 

Got It Covered

coffeeshareIf 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:

LuckyStrike-WEB

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.

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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
I’m posting hints from time to time on my FaceBook author page too, so please click that link and follow me.

Headshot!

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today, I’d be showing you the new pictures.  No, no, no, not the grandkids, the dog, or the cats … they’d be pictures of me!  With the upcoming publication of my third novel, I decided it was time to skip the selfies.

It’s funny, in the beginning, I didn’t even consider a photo.  It’s vain, I guess, but I generally don’t like photos of myself. But every new author, especially an independent author, should follow the same processes of self-promotion.  This blog is one example of that.  A web page is crucial too. (ahem: my web page) An author should learn to use Twitter and Instagram as well. Youtube videos are a plus.  And one should never miss an opportunity to drop a link into the conversation.

 

And, of course, headshots are part of this mix. I’ve generally used opportunistic shots.

One was at my daughter’s wedding.  It’s a good shot too.  It’s just, I’m so obviously at a wedding.  I liked one selfie I shot with my cat looking back at the camera with a “yeah, right” look on his face.  I had another one I shot while waiting for my wife at her chiropractor’s office.  But none of them convey “author, so, the other day I found a local portrait photographer. We walked around our tiny downtown area and checked out some quaint locations she likes to use.

img_0038I really liked this one, taken at a loft over one of the local storefronts:

Since my cataract surgery, I don’t really need glasses except for reading (my current pair are no line trifocals, clear on top and reading glasses on the bottom). So I tried some without glasses.  I don’t know, I think I like pictures of me better with glasses.  Maybe that’s because I’ve worn glasses full-time for about thirty years.  Anyway, most of my shots were without glasses.

Nice photos, but I don’t like them as much as the one with glasses, although the alternate one at the window is a close second: the pensive author.  I like the image they both project. I have color versions of all of them, but I think it is the old-school part of me that is really drawn to the black & white renditions.

What do you think? Grab another cup of coffee and let me know.

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

B/W photos by Tonia Taylor at Blue Door Portraits, Mebane NC

 

It’s a GO!

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d tell you about the contract.   You see, this week I signed a contract for Lucky Strike, my third published novel.  It is a big moment for me because it has been a long time coming.  The tentative release date is October 2019, which will make it three years since my last book.

It’s been a long two and a half years for me to get to this point.  I started this one shortly after the publication of my second book, but I short-circuited my own progress by embarking on my cookbook project.  It was a lot of fun and it showcased my novels very nicely but it took a lot longer than I realized and then I lapsed into aggressively marketing it and my other books.  I did manage to finish the rough draft of the new novel in 2017, and I indeed started revision but got sidetracked again by a request to help my publisher with more marketing.

2018 was momentous for me.  My wife’s cancer battle took up the first half, then my job took over.  Well, it was more the confounding array of details I needed to deal with when my employer made me an offer. I found out that an unplanned departure from work and a sudden transition to retirement is indeed a lot of work in and of itself.  It took me a while to complete that move; we’re talking physically, mentally, and psychologically.  Finally, late in 2018 I dug in my heels and began a deep revision of Lucky Strike.  Four months later, I have a contract.

You know what?  Like they say, it’s better late than never, but it comes at a cost.  When I re-started the revision, it really took me about half the novel to start feeling it again. Maybe “feeling” isn’t the right word.  Thinking the novel, that’s it.  It took me a while to get into “novel mode” again.  I don’t know about other authors but for me, this is the point where I can’t get the story out of my head.  When I drive to the store I have plot revisions percolating through my brain constantly.  I imagine my characters shopping for groceries and run and rerun conversations through my head.  Yes, even out loud sometimes.  I think about it in the shower and while cutting the grass. I’m analyzing plot devices while I’m watching television or movies.  It’s definitely an itch I have to scratch constantly.

Here’s what I learned: don’t lose your momentum. Oh, life intervenes, it always does.  But that momentum is important. I spent three years revising my first novel, The Fever.  I took short breaks but I never lost the momentum.  In this case, most of that similar amount of time was involved with no momentum whatsoever. Like I said, there was a bit of time involved in regaining that momentum. But I did it, and I regained the passion for this novel. Passion?  Heck, I’m stoked about it!!!

So, now I’m working corrections from my editor.  I still have to come up with blurbs and cover ideas. It is all part of the business of being an author.  Then the dreaded marketing push will start.  Or, wait, has that begun already?

I’ll tell you this, the new novel has a very intricate plot with many complex developments. The mystery is complex as well. The reader knows more about it than any of the characters but the different components of it are a challenge to several layers of characters.  Even the antagonist, who has a profound vendetta motive, is grasping at straws to find the answers he’s looking for.  And the reader has only a general idea of what it is all about as the twists and turns converge to what I hope is a surprising ending.  My beta readers and my publisher are all enthusiastic about it.  The major characters are back, including the ghosts.  There is a true villain too.  It’s a wild ride

I better get back to the edits.  More info to come.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  You can find out more about his other book at http://thefensk.com
It would be a good time to start catching up, as Lucky Strike is the third book in my Traces of Treasure series.

 

Ides of February

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d probably be mentioning book news.  Well, there isn’t too much news.  I’m hammering away at the fourth revision of my next novel.  Pretty sure I got away with three on my last novel. But this time, I just wasn’t sure so I’m making another pass.

I use a technique called fast writing. By concentrating on word count, one chips away at the plot until an entire story develops.  I find it quite creative as your mind is consumed with ways to keep moving forward.  The traditional thought of writing, to slowly craft as one goes along has one drawback. If the writer sees something shiny, they stop. Sometimes for hours. Sometimes for days. Sometimes for weeks.  Sometimes forever.

Fast writing starts a self-induced competition against time.  In National Novel Writing Month the timeline is thirty days.  Fifty-thousand words in thirty days.  It’s doable.  And like I said, it is very creative. Ideas pop into your head.  But I admit: the process is dirty.  The first revision is primarily concerned with scraping and scrubbing and applying a lot of elbow grease to the words from the first draft.  Quite a bit gets scrapped. And then there are the additions.  The first draft often hits the high points.  The second draft is the time to flesh out the characters, to delve into descriptive paragraphs illustrating the highs and lows of the lives you have created.

My novel was in pretty good shape after the second draft. I did another revision pass and sent it to some honest readers whose opinions I trust.   But it is a third installment sequel of a series.  I like to think each book in my series should be able to mostly stand on their own.  But a lot had happened in the two other books.  And like life, the characters’ lives have been affected by those circumstances.  So most of my early readers thought it needed more exposition. This is where I am now.  It’s not hard to bring in exposition, I crafted a literary device to help, but I also have to tweak here and there to make sure it all fits together.

Revision is hard work; I find it much harder than the fast-written first draft.  The only thing harder is marketing.  I’ve mentioned marketing before: it kicks most authors in the ass. Yes, me too.  I hope to submit this manuscript for publication very soon; I’ll keep you posted.

Speaking of marketing: when I cobbled together a small companion cookbook a couple of years back, I threw together a cover. I liked it okay. I’m no graphic artist.  But through time I was more and more unsatisfied with it.  Revision is so tedious, one must take a break every now and then (weekend coffee share qualifies!), so I decided to play around with a new cover design.  For one thing, my old cover was too wordy. This one is similar but much simpler.  I love it. Go check it out!

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Thomas Fenske is an author living in North Carolina.  You can check out his current works (including the cookbook) at http://thefensk.com

 

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

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.