Publishing Anniversary!

thefeverfreebieIf we were having coffee today we probably still wouldn’t be sitting at a table inside, but I’d be telling you about the upcoming anniversary.

No, silly, it’s not my wedding anniversary. July 1 is the publishing anniversary of my first novel, THE FEVER. It is hard to believe it has been five years. What was developed as a single story has turned into the Traces of Treasure Series … three books out now and more to come!

It is quite an astounding thing when a writer metamorphoses into an AUTHOR. For one thing, nothing can quite prepare you for the need to market yourself AS an author. You’ve been slaving away, tweaking sentences and paragraphs for years, coddling a mismatched set of letters into something that is hopefully legible to the teeming masses.

In my case, I had spent almost three years writing and revising THE FEVER before I submitted it to the small publisher Wings ePress at the suggestion of a fellow writer. After a polite nudging from the editor about a problem with the narrative (meaning there was just too darned much narrative), I spent another two months correcting that problem and actually changing a major part of the plot to accommodate changes I had made. Imagine my surprise when I received a contract along with the astounding revelation that they wanted to fast-track the book for publication in ONE MONTH.

This is the literary equivalent of throwing a child into the middle of the lake to teach swimming.  Publishing requires a number of steps that must be followed in order and there are handoffs between author and editor along the way. Covers have to be designed and approved, minor editor tweaks need to be reviewed and sometimes discussed and finalized. Then the copyeditor cleans the whole thing up, after which the author gets the “almost” final copy. The galley.  I need to go over every word in the entire book with a fine-toothed comb.

In subsequent books, I’ve had the luxury of a week to ten days to work on the galley. For this, my first book, I had just a few days.  It involves painstakingly reading the book to find any tiny error that might have been missed.   Sometimes a sentence has to be reworded to correct a spacing problem with justification. It is tedious because you are working from a PDF file, copying the offending line, then adding a corrected line with errors/corrections highlighted (at least with this publisher).

Once they make all the corrections they send you the final galley.  I figured, “Well, that’s it. In a few days, I’ll have a book!”

Experience has taught me there are two problems here.  First, checking EVERY SINGLE WORD in the book does not mean just the novel part of the book. It means the cover, the front matter, the title page, the copyright page … any manner shape or form of ink that appears between the covers right down to the biography and back page. The second problem arrives with the corrections. When the author gets that corrected galley, it must absolutely be checked that all the corrections have, in fact, been made.  The problem? I did not know to do either of these things.

The book was published and I was making sales.  Then I started to get a few polite emails pointing out some errors.  Quite a few emails, actually.  Familiar errors.  Errors I was pretty sure I had caught. Some glaring and embarrassing errors too, like my name was misspelled on the title page and in the biography (this was my fault and I should have caught it on the galley but didn’t check either).

I bought the books to double-check against the corrections I submitted.  NONE OF THEM had been done.  Frantic, frustrating communications with the publisher followed and they couldn’t quite wrap their heads around the fact that they had uploaded the UNCORRECTED GALLEYS.

I was told, “This is the first time this has ever happened!”  What the executive editor surmised was that she hadn’t saved the copy after making the corrections.  More on this later. The corrections were all made and new editions of the book were uploaded, although for some reason most of the errors persisted on the Kindle edition for another two years.  Publishers concentrate on the publication, not on the correction.  Anyway, that was my first real lesson in publishing. If I had simply double-checked the corrections, most of that would have been avoided.

Oh, I mentioned, “more on this” … I recently completed the galley review of the upcoming fourth novel in the series, PENUMBRA.  I poured over the galleys (every single word) and turned in quite a few corrections.  I got the corrected galleys and proceeded to double-check. Uh-oh. Not a single change had been made. Yes, the current executive editor had done exactly the same thing, not saved the corrections.  Like deja vu all over again!  Oh, I’ve learned to triple and in some cases quadruple check the corrections. I’m happy to report that PENUMBRA is in excellent shape and I think it is my best book yet!  It is due out in August.

I chalked it all up to inexperience on my part and what I call “Fenske Luck.”  The celebrate this anniversary, I’m offering the Kindle edition of THE FEVER for FREE through this weekend!  Go check it out, read the 38 reviews, and maybe grab a copy.  I’ll admit, it is definitely a first novel … each subsequent novel gets better.

To get THE FEVER … click >>>—> HERE

Warning: it is addictive … you WILL want to read the next three!

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Thomas Fenske lives in NC but he writes mostly about his home state of Texas!
You can find out more at http://thefensk.com

New Release >> THE HAG RIDER

You've never read a Civil War tale like this! (1)I’ve just released my fourth novel, The Hag Rider. It is historical fiction set during the Civil War and because of that setting, it covers subject matter that can generate an emotional response in many people. In normal times I’d let it go at that and leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions. But because of the nature of the book, I want to offer just a little more introduction.

It is written as a Civil War memoir from the viewpoint of a Confederate cavalryman, who was just fifteen-years-old when he enlisted.  Early in the book, we met Jack, a broken boy in Texas who runs away. He manages to discover parental love and wisdom through Moze, an enslaved man who in essence becomes his family.  Moze is anxious and reluctant when Jack is enticed by fiery secession fever and decides to enlist, to join the Civil War campaign. Concern for Jack leads his mentor to seek protection for his young friend through the only source available to him. A local witch,  Vanita, who is also a slave, embodies a source of mysterious power in spite of her life situation. Jack makes his way through the violent and confusing time of war, with her help, and through his reflection on lessons gleaned from Moze’s discourses about dignity, respect, and humanity.

Yes, it is set in the south during the Civil War, but this book is far from a glorification of the antebellum era.  At its core, it is a soldier’s story told through young eyes. Jack is against slavery and he strives to overcome the prejudices of the time while at the same time knowing he is a product of those times.

The Hag Rider is available from Amazon, in Paperback, Kindle, and KindleUnlimited.
Buy it here>>>–>>https://www.amazon.com/Hag-Rider-Thomas-Fenske-ebook/dp/B088QX1LHW

WeekendCoffee Book News

If we were attempting to have coffee today, I’d be lapsing into book news again. Sorry. I know it gets tiresome but I try to not make it so. Ah, but with a new release coming out Monday, June 1 … it’s an exciting time. A new release always is.

But I know I’ve talked about The Hag Rider several times in recent weeks, so I’ll just say the kindle edition is now available for pre-purchase on Amazon. <—<< click there to check it out.

In other news, this is not my only new release this summer. August 1, I will be releasing the fourth book in the Traces of Treasure Series, Penumbra. I consider the first three books in the series a trilogy, but I’ve always thought the second and third books could stand on their own — but a reader gets more enjoyment if they’ve read the first and/or second books. With this fourth book, the story stands on its own … yes, you’ll want to know the characters better but they (and the reader) are so consumed with the evolving mystery, the past is soon rendered moot.

That said, I want to unveil the new cover’ I consider this one to be the most awesome cover of all my books.

I’ll reveal more about the book later, but I want you to know I think this is the best book of the series so far. Like I said, it is due out in August.

In other news, in honor of this unveiling, I’ve put the kindle editions of second and third books of the series on sale for 99 cents. Sorry, I already had a special on the first book in April and it will be a while before Amazon lets me do it again. My hope is that if you have read The Fever, you will jump on this opportunity to experience A Curse That Bites Deep and Lucky Strike. They should both be on sale in the US and UK for 99c/99p starting sometime today through next Thursday. Update: I created a link to both books on my web page: http://thefensk.com/spec.html

As restrictions ease, please stay vigilant. I suspect this thing is not over. Just exercise common sense, please. Stay safe.

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

Two-Week Countdown

You've never read a Civil War tale like this! (1)If we were having coffee today, somehow, somewhere, I’m sure I’d mention the upcoming release.  My latest novel, The Hag Rider, is due out in two weeks!  Once all the writing and revisions are done, the editing and resulting changes are in, the copyediting and final review of the galleys are done, and the cover art is approved and ready … then an author must wait.  And wait.

If you self-publish, you can go ahead and push it out.  If you have a publisher, you wait for them to work it into their schedule.  It’s good, it teaches patience. It allows you to get a few pre-release reviews too, and in some instances gives you the ability to put in a few last-minute corrections your sharp-eyed early reviewers spotted.

So here we are … two weeks to go.  I’m working on some promotions but it is still just a tad early … I need the buy links to be in place.  I think that will be soon.

It’s got five good reviews now … check the book blurb and the reviews for The Hag Rider here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53125987-the-hag-rider.

Wait, what? What the heck is a hag rider?  Okay, we’re friends, so I’ll crack the door open a bit.  The entire story is loosely based on my great-great-grandfather, who enlisted in the 26th Texas Cavalry at the tender age of fifteen.  He listed his date of enlistment on his Confederate Pension application in the 1920s.  In fact, I think he flubbed his birth date (he was already in the initial stages of dementia at that time), but enlistment dates were checked against existing records (of which there were a surprising number).  If we took that date he would have been fourteen, but I prefer to use the birth date on his death certificate, which would make him fifteen.

I don’t know anything more about his service except his affirmation on his application that he never deserted.  There is, however, a very nice, if brief, sketch of the 26th Texas Cavalry written by its commander, Xavier DeBray, a French-trained military officer who relocated to Texas.  The 26th spent most of its time patrolling along the Texas coast and participated in the retaking of Galveston on January 1, 1863; it had been occupied by the Federal blockade fleet the previous October.  Later the 26th participated along with other forces trying to stop General Butler’s Red River campaign in 1864.

I read a lot of soldier biographies, where one gets a better sense of the war. So many people focus on the officers and the elites.  I then decided to scan for his name in an electronic version of The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.  It is a huge work, comprising many volumes.  It usually takes up two or three shelves in the library stacks.  It has the records from both sides, action reports, orders, all sorts of stuff.  Officers from both sides participated in cataloging all of the information over a number of years.  Anyway, I searched for his name, John Benson, and got a single hit.  A John Benson, origin unknown, was released from Fort Lafayette in NYC in the Spring of 1863, for exchange at City Point VA, which was a common thing in 1863.

I knew it was almost certainly NOT my ancestor but still … I wondered to myself, “What if?”

As I did more research, I began to formulate a believable scenario … my problem: how to get young John from Texas to NYC so he could be repatriated to the South in the spring of 1863.  This was the spark that gave me the idea for the entire story.  I think my fiction works and is believable.

Anyone who has read my other books knows, I love to put a subtle bit of paranormal into all my stories and this one is no different. The Hag Rider is the person who helps John, who is usually known as Jack in the story. He is sometimes called Captain Jack — a nickname foisted upon him in jest by his mentor, an old man, a slave, who teaches him a lot about life in the early part of the story. The Hag Rider is an old woman, a mixed-blood with some Native American and white ancestry, but her black ancestry has kept her a slave. She’s a hoodoo trick doctor, and an aquaintance of the old man.

When young Jack is attracted to the hoopla surrounding secession and aspires to enlist, the old man falls ill with grief.  He hires Vanita, the trick doctor, to protect Jack throughout the war.  Her weapon of choice is called hag riding.  It was a folkloric explanation of the time for night terrors; people would assume they’d been hag-ridden by a paranormal entity sitting on their chest. In Vanita’s case, she uses it as a way to instill something akin to a post-hypnotic suggestion in an effort to aid young Jack.

It is written as a Civil War memoir.  Yes, Jack serves for the confederacy but he is no fan of slavery and is quite confused by the many issues bandied about. Once in the cavalry, he feels honor-bound by his duty to his fellow soldiers and his unit.  He is captured and transported to that prison in NYC (the details work themselves out logically), then makes his way back across the south to his unit. Along the way … he finds that Vanita is following him every step and coercing help as needed through her tremendous power.

All initial reviews are very positive.  People seem to really engage with the story. It is not pro-Confederate; if anything it is anti-slavery, although, in the context of the story, Jack admits there is nothing much he can do about that institution except treat everyone he comes across decently, as his mentor always taught him.

I tried to write through him and show the war as a product of the times, in a matter-of-fact style, just like many of the other memoirs I read during research.  As Vanita tells him, she’s looked ahead and seen the outcome and knows the South is going to lose and understands that this war is a necessary thing to get rid of slavery once and for all.  She tells him she’s helping because he is going to be fighting to lose. Word of caution: don’t mess with Vanita Valine.  Seriously. Just don’t.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. Keep checking his web page for information about The Hag Rider … this is a book everybody will want to read, it’s not quite like any other Civil War story you’ve ever read and is suitable for YA as well as anyone else.  http://thefensk.com

WeekendCoffee Cover Reveal

If we were having coffee, we’d still be sipping in our cars in a parking lot like two police cruisers comparing notes.

Seriously, the social distancing thing is not too far off from my normal routine although in more normal times I tend to grocery shop for a few things every few days.  And to think that in the 1970s and 1980s we used to make fun of the Soviet citizens standing in lines in the hopes of toilet paper.  I used to wonder, what did they do?  Now the reality is clear, everyone had a stash and simply added to it every chance they got.

Oh, wait. News.  I’ve been sitting on this for a while, but now it is time to reveal the cover of my upcoming historical novel, THE HAG RIDER.  Trust me, you don’t want to miss this one.  It can and should be enjoyed by just about everyone, from YA on up.

TheHagRider-WEB-NEW (2)This Civil War memoir explores fifteen-year-old Jack Benson’s transition to manhood as he presents his soldier’s account of life in the Confederate cavalry, a life convoluted by the spectral manipulations of Vanita, an old witch-woman who is sworn to safeguard him. Her hidden presence seems to protect Jack throughout the war in amazing ways, across countless miles, through patrols, battle, and capture.

This is unlike any other Civil War tale you’ve ever read and the first-person perspective on the realities of the war may surprise you.

Look for it in June 2020!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  You can find more information about his books at http://thefensk.com

 

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.

The Story So Far …

Thomas Fenske (1)As we progress into fall I always fall back to the basic plot of my debut novel, The Fever.  It starts at just about this time of year.  Sam Milton, the main character, is hiking out of the desert on a cool October night, lamenting his failure to find his elusive goal.

As we find out, his search in the far reaches of western Texas is complicated by fears of the unpredictable weather so he limits himself to a few months in the Spring and a few months in the Fall.  He’s ready to hang it up for the year, and as his frustrations mount, perhaps forever.

Then, by chance, a friend’s casual observation puts everything right back on the front burner.  That’s what the story is really about, pitting his obsession against his worries about changes in the weather.  And the story does not disappoint.  One reader told me she had to get up and put on a sweater during a described winter storm Sam endures during his quest.

The stories are set in the 1980s, so there is no instant access to weather reports, and no way to call in air support if things get dicey, and he’s traveling through a sparsely-populated area, so even the car radio is unreliable.

So, that’s why I think this is a great time of year for you to walk a few miles in Sam’s dusty boots. Take a chance, maybe you can solve the cryptic riddle along with Sam. But I have to warn you, like Sam, you will no doubt catch THE FEVER.

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If you want to explore Thomas Fenske’s world, peek into the Traces of Treasure Series … Book 1 is The Fever, Book 2 is A Curse That Bites Deep, and Book 3 is Lucky Strike.  If you’re hungry, the companion cookbook might strike your fancy as well.

On the Cusp

LuckyStrike-WEBHere we are … it is time for the official release of my latest novel, Lucky Strike.  It’s the third book in my Traces of Treasure Series.

Although I strive to make each book a stand-alone story, since the events are sequential, certain nuances are enhanced if you have read the preceding books. With that in mind, here is a primer on the series, with a few minor spoilers.

IMG_4814Book 1, THE FEVER, introduces Sam Milton, a loner and a bit of a loser — but there is a reason for this. Ten years before the novel opens (set in 1980) he helped Slim, a dying drunken derelict in jail. Before he slips away, Slim rewards Sam’s kindness with a family secret: an old riddle that is supposed to reveal the location of a legendary Texas lost gold mine. “I know it don’t make no sense,” Slim tells him, “but it ain’t supposed to until you get there. You just have to keep searching until it does make sense.”

This is easier said than done. Sam’s spent ten years planning and searching, and he has become alienated from his family, lost friends, sacrificed love, and spent a lot of money.  In the first chapter we are introduced to Sam as he hikes out of the desert after yet another frustrating search. He’s beginning to question his quest, but the embers of THE FEVER burn steady, despite the dangers involved.  Spurred into a new search by an encouraging hint, he heads out into the darkness again on his most perilous trip yet.

Judgement dayIn A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP Sam continues his obsession but with changes. He’s found love and moved close to the primary location of his quest. Finding work at his girlfriend Smidgeon Toll’s restaurant, The Mossback Cafe, things seem to have reached a happy medium for him. After a series of inexplicable deaths and a mysterious fire at the restaurant, Sam knows he must find a killer so that he can protect Smidgeon.

LuckyStrike-WEBIn LUCKY STRIKE, several puzzling finds perplex our heroes as they attempt to re-open The Mossback.  A mysterious stranger also appears, asking curious questions and putting Sam in a perilous situation. Sam is in danger after finding two cryptic notes, and his girlfriend Smidgeon takes off cross-country to find him, following a sprinkling of hints.

It’s a wild ride with several unexpected twists you won’t want to miss as they try to unravel a wide array of clues and outwit a relentless villian.

Links to all the books in the series are on this page: Traces of Treasure

Don’t forget to check out the free companion cookbook as well … The Mossback Cafe Cookbook … wonderful recipes from the best little fictional cafe in Texas.

 

WeekendCoffee News!

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d have a couple of things to share.

First off, I’d apologize. I really don’t want to bore you with book news two weeks in a row. Sure we had Hurricane Dorian threatening our doorstep and all, but where I live in NC it wasn’t an issue.  Much different story farther east.  But anyway, I simply MUST share some book release news.

LuckyStrike-WEBMy new book, Lucky Strike, has always been slated for a publish date of October 1.  A local author event late in September has complicated those plans a little.  The Kindle edition is still slated for an October 1 release, but my publisher has graciously allowed an early release of the paperback version.

Restaurants often have what is called a soft-opening, an invitation-only chance for them to work out operational kinks.  This is kind of like that … I am calling it a soft-release of my book. I guess that’s a bit ironic, considering the fact that it is a hard copy, but what it means is that you can buy the paperback today from Amazon.

This will allow me to have copies on-hand for the author event, but it also allows readers who want that paperback to get them right now!  Woo Hoo!

Of course, you can pre-order the ebook too … it will be delivered to your kindle device automatically on the official release date of October 1.

I have links to both on my webpage … http://thefensk.com/lucky.html

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC … get more information on Lucky Strike and his other books at http://thefensk.com