Trilogy!

Copy of kindleunlimited (1)If we were having coffee today, I’d have to admit the error of my ways.  Yes, that’s right.  I’ve been wrong for quite a while. I’ve only been fooling myself thinking my second and third novels could function as effective stand-alone reads.  Oh, readers can follow them just fine I suppose but more and more I have come to realize, to fully enjoy them, one needs to read them in order.  What I have created here, ladies and gentlemen is a trilogy.

The Fever sets everything up.  A Curse That Bites Deep is quite simply a continuation of the same story. Lucky Strike is connected too, in that the events of second book serve as the primary catalyst for what happens in the third.

Like a lot of authors, I tend to think THIS STORY when I’m writing.  In a series, using the same characters, it is far too easy to expect that everyone remembers the history, the nuances, and the trials and tribulations the characters have experienced along the way. Yes, the plot is unique but the characters and the way they react are deeply related to one another.

I’m currently working on a fourth book, but from the start, I’ve been trying to make the plot and resulting events more dependent on the situations contained in THIS STORY.  So far, I think I’m succeeding.  We’ll see.

So, sorry for the confusion. You were confused, trust me. I know this because I was confused.  IT’S a TRILOGY!  A TRILOGY, I say!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in central North Carolina.  You can check out the TRILOGY at http://thefensk.com … just be forewarned, I don’t mention trilogy at all on my website. Yet.

Are You Feeling Lucky?

what's so lucky about lucky strike_What’s so lucky about Lucky Strike?  Considering the theme of vengeance and the ensuing deep-seated criminal conspiracy, not so much.  In fact, we see several crimes in the pages, including threats, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, torture, and murder. What’s it all about?  Well, that is the big question, isn’t it?

The story doesn’t depend entirely on information from the previous two books in the Traces of Treasure series, but having that firm background certainly doesn’t hurt.  Of course, Sam Milton returns along with his paramour Smidgeon Toll.  Lance Norton, one of the main characters in the second book, is part of the story as well. The story also introduces an old lawman, a private investigator named Mule Hollis, who is following a parallel trail that leads directly to our heroes.

Still, I think a fledgling reader can enjoy the book as a stand-alone but here is a brief primer. The first book involves Sam Milton’s long obsession with a lost Gold Mine. As he becomes increasingly desperate, he gets careless and the book follows his struggles with the situations he finds himself in. The second book follows up with a seeming curse that throws a cloud over all the characters and introduces several ghostly associates who have a deep interest in what transpires, as one person after another falls victim to a hidden killer.

So much happened in the second book, it had to have made the news.  The bad thing about news coverage is that it sometimes attracts unwanted attention.  That’s what happens in Lucky Strike and the repercussions are profound.

An innocent search for some answers to what at first seems to be a small mystery results in a series of desperate acts and the villainous activities eventually involve everyone as they all scramble to make some sense of the situation.

Wait. What about the ghosts?  They’re back as well, but they are also confused by the dire situation.

Various twists and turns lead Smidgeon on a long quest from Texas to North Carolina,  collecting a confusing array of clues she must somehow piece together.

All the while a mysterious stranger creates havoc as he follows his own trail of vengeance, crime, and destruction.

Add it all up and … well, it doesn’t sound too lucky, does it?
Do you think you can figure it out?
Feeling lucky?

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Find out for yourself … experience the Traces of Treasure

Book 3: Lucky Strike
Book 2: A Curse That Bites Deep
Book 1: The Fever

All three are available in both eBook and Paperback and they are also available on KindleUnlimited.

WeekendCoffee Noir!

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d be telling you about last night’s reading.

Reading?

That’s right, for the first time anywhere I took part in a reading in a local bar. This reading was associated with another author event this weekend, a local author fair at the library.

The bar event was called “Noir at the Bar” and, for the most part, featured readings about crime or mystery. Many pieces were short stories. I cobbled together a few scenes from my first novel The Fever.  The timing was short, less than ten minutes, so I was probably a bit pre-occupied with time so I tended to rush a little. Seriously, twelve or fifteen minutes would have made a big difference for me. And the lighting was a bit splotchy, with some kind of revolving color wheel, which probably bothered me more than others. I wouldn’t say it was one of my best speaking engagements but it certainly wasn’t even close to the worse.

It seemed well-received though. I was the only author who presented my work with commentary, others just read. I was given a lot of positive feedback on using that approach, so that was good.

Saturday’s event will be more standardized, a hodgepodge of local writing talent from many facets of the writing community will all be crammed together into a room in the library.  There will be readings there too, but mystery writers were asked to shift to the bar event because the main event was basically overbooked.

Getting into the trenches and getting the word out is just another one of many things an author must do.  I need to do more of it.

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Thomas Fenske is an author living in NC.  His latest novel, LUCKY STRIKE, will be officially published next week (You can pre-buy now).  To celebrate that, the Amazon/Kindle edition of his first novel, THE FEVER, is on sale for 99 cents through September 30.
You can find links to all of my books at http://www.thefensk.com/main.html

WeekendCoffee Video

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today, I’d pull out my phone and show you my latest book trailer.

You’d probably say something like, “Book trailer? You mean, like a bookmobile?”

LuckyStrike-WEBNo, it is a video promotion for my upcoming book release.  Book trailers were all the rage a couple of years ago, but I haven’t noticed too many of them recently.  I have two trailers for both of my other books, one I bought, the other three I cobbled together. The first one I put together myself was made by putting tother music and text in a PowerPoint presentation.  I made the last two using the same app I used this time. Like I said, all of them have just been cobbled together.

It’s a good metaphor.  Generally, I gather a number of static images that hopefully relate to various themes in the book, then assemble them together with brief phrases that hopefully convey content.  I can’t take credit for the production. It’s all part of an app on my iPhone called iMovie.  The music, the backgrounds, and all the timing is part of a “trailer template” they offer.

The “free use” photos I used were chosen because I thought they reflected aspects of specific book content. I began by inserting them into the template. There were already words in the storyboard but those are easy to replace. You have to be careful with content as the splash phrases need to fit together but you can’t be too wordy or the text size is reduced. Brevity also helps with visual appeal … a viewer has to be able to read it quickly. You can play it at any time while to see if it works or if you need to tweak.  There is a lot of tweaking. I try not to overthink it.  Most of my tweaking is with the text content.

I don’t know that any of my trailers have generated sales, but I have to admit that they are a lot of fun to put together.  With the book release coming up, I’m excited to have it up on youtube to use in pre-release promotion.  You know, like this posting!

Oh, the link!  View my trailer here:  https://youtu.be/yMXbZoBdIx8
Be sure to leave feedback and if you like it share it!

How about you? Did you do anything creative this week?

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.
His latest novel, LUCKY STRIKE, is coming out in a few weeks.
Get more information on it and his other works at http://thefensk.com

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.

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.