I have to admit that I’ve been surprised that THE HAG RIDER is almost universally liked. It appeals to both adult readers and YA readers.
Yes, it’s about the Civil War and yes, it’s about a Confederate soldier, but it’s also about his struggle to come to terms with his conflicted viewpoints. And through it all, he is protected by a slave witch hired by his best friend and mentor, another slave. His allegiance is not to the South, it is to his soldier brothers for whom the war is camp duty and friendship.
Give it a try. It’s free May 18-21.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC. His next novel, Harmon Creek, is due out in June 2022 http://tfenske.com
Harmon Creek opens with a man sitting uncomfortably in court. We find out his name is Claude, and Earl Swanger is his attorney. Claude is a black man at odds with the world he lives in. He was arrested for petty bootlegging during prohibition and the sitting District Attorney is prosecuting him like a hardened criminal. Why? Because Claude is represented by his opponent in an upcoming election.
Claude is not part of the real story, at least as far as I know, but he’s based on a real person. My wife knew the real Claude much later when she’d visit the house of Earl’s widow, Lily May. He was a common presence in the house and on the property. The two had an interesting relationship. Well, relationship is probably the wrong word because there was nothing romantic here. He was a neighbor who had an uncommon devotion to “Miss Lily May” … he was more friend than a handyman and he certainly did a lot of work for her, but for the mid-Twentieth Century in a racially divided America it was certainly a kind of Driving Miss Daisy sort of friendship. Knowing this man was one of my wife’s fondest memories of her visits.
I have always been intrigued by this notion, so I endeavored to add Claude to the equation to perhaps inject some sense to it, at least in my mind. Also, the character Claude adds a great deal of depth to the story and creates a side-story that interweaves with the rest of the novel to make it more compelling, or at least I hope so. In most ways, it is as much Claude’s story as it is Earl’s.
Although the family thought Earl’s death was outright murder, after digesting as many facts as I could, I didn’t think so. I’ve studied murders and although some are cut and dried, most revolve around something quite different, more likely a misunderstanding that got out of hand.
Some of the later witness statements devolved into insinuations by the mysterious woman that Earl had perhaps been drunk or possibly had been behaving inappropriately with her. She apparently changed her story several times, with each iteration becoming more prone to the latter notion.
Please understand, I’ve read family letters both from him and about him, and this man was a nice guy, not prone to cheat on his wife, certainly not a drunk, and anyway, to do so in the middle of a campaign would be political suicide. I also didn’t think an incumbent would be so stupid as to assassinate an opponent. It’s too obvious.
Cheating? I mean, this was a small town, and Miss Lily May was out campaigning for Earl in another section of the district. It was getting into the final stretch. No, this was out of character for this guy.
Ah, but a setup…that would work. Even a somewhat dirty DA wouldn’t be above hiring someone to lure his opponent into the appearances of impropriety. Once I created this premise, the rest of it pretty much wrote itself. I had a backdrop of truth to paint my story against and the increasingly sordid tale meandered across several of the complications that naturally follow these types of crimes.
It’s an old motif. Witnesses who can’t keep quiet, or who you can’t trust completely, must be kept quiet by whatever means. And if the DA is dirty, he’s probably in cahoots with organized crime, which wasn’t just active in Chicago and New York; Huntsville TX sits within the range of a major organization operating out of Galveston at the time. Similar operations existed in Dallas and New Orleans. It makes sense that if there is unwanted attention in even a backwoods part of the operation, it is in these organization’s best interest to help smooth the waters and, if necessary, help each other in the process.
I don’t want to spoil the fun … you’ll just have to read it!
Thomas Fenske is a novelist living in North Carolina.
Look for HARMON CREEK in June 2022 on Amazon or ask your favorite bookstore to order it.
Today at 12PM EDT my friend and fellow writer Staci Morrison will be hosting an event on Facebook to celebrate both the one year anniversary of the inauguration of her MILLENNIUM epic fantasy series AND the publication of the fourth volume in that series, Sword OF THE SPIRIT.
Congratulations to Staci … four books in one year is quite an accomplishment!
I’ll be participating at 1PM EDT with some information about my own books … You can join at 12 for Staci or you can join at 1 to see what I have to offer. Other authors will be participating. There will be drawings for free books and some other stuff as well. I’ll be giving away a copy of THE HAG RIDER!
First things first. I realized after pushing out my last post that I neglected a few things about web site development. I’m trying to remember the first web site I created, but it was way back. 1992 or 1993. You read that right. I had a web site before most people knew the wide wide world of webs even existed. I created it by hand. I remember a colleague who I shared it with asked me “what book did you use?”
I blinked. “Book?”
Anyway, using tools to build websites is a new thing. And moving to a single page format like my cheap new web hosting site requires a bit of tweaking to get it right. But I can use things through links. Like it links this blog just great. And I have a perfectly good Amazon Author Page out there, listing all of my books. They pay developers six figure salaries to do a better job than I could ever do with my multiple book pages on my old site.
Enough about that. Here I am a little more than five weeks out and I am slowly gearing up my massive marketing machine. That’s how it feels sometimes. I often tell people that writing a novel is hard, revising the manuscript is harder, and marketing the sucker kicks me in the ass. Yet, with this being my sixth novel, I’ve learned a few things.
There are plenty of people waiting in the wings just dying to take my hard earned money and help me market my new release. I call most of them “preaching to the choir” services. They prey upon authors and, sadly, most of their focus is to other authors. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that in order to be a good author one must read a lot. But in my experience, most newer authors don’t read very much in the realm of other newer authors. Some do, (and I love you very much) but most don’t.
Then there is the whole eBook/print book thing. My small press is geared primarily toward eBooks, although print books are available and, more recently, available at places beyond Amazon. More on that later. I still don’t understand the aversion to eBooks. I’ve actually read more since I embraced eBooks than I had for years. My Kindle App is loaded on both my tablet and my phone, and it keeps my place on both. If you’ve ever been stuck waiting some place and wish you had something besides a two year old weathered magazine to read, well, pull out your phone and you can just start reading.
Anyway, the key to actually making money in the book biz focuses on getting your books into bookstores. It’s a tough nut to crack for unknown authors. I worked in scholarly publishing for 20+ years and can tell you this: you have to be able to carpet bomb them and that takes capital. See, when bookstores order twenty copies of your book in the hopes that it will sell, they expect that they will be able to return the unsold stock for full credit if the books don’t sell. Huge publishers absorb this cost of doing business. For every best seller they likely have dozens of not-so-best-sellers. Small presses and Indie authors can not compete on a national level so we have to resort to … well, whatever the hell we can.
Here. Now. Me. This. This is what I am doing here, trying to entertain you in a lame attempt to get you to remember my name and even better, my new release, HARMON CREEK. See what I did there? I put in a link. New authors take note. EVERY TIME YOU MENTION YOUR BOOK, put in a link. I don’t have a sales link yet, so I put in a link to a book page I set up on my old website. I have lost count of the book tweets and Facebook posts with authors mentioning “my new book” and they will say “available at Amazon” … yet NO LINK! I should already be navigating there. I guess I should search for you or your book? Really?
Another thing that helps is catchy graphics. Believe it or not, that was originally the purpose of this post, to illustrate the importance of catchy graphics. I’m a writer, not a graphic artist. I do, however, have visual representations that pop into my punkin haid from time to time. All of my book covers were first conceptualized by me. Thankfully, all but one were actually designed by someone who knew what they were doing. The lone cover I designed myself is my free cookbook (companion to my adventure mystery series) and it shows. But I think it matches the cookbook itself, which was designed to mimic the type of local self-produced cookbooks one might find in a rural cafe in the 1980s. I collect vintage cookbooks, I know that genre well. What I came up with, in my lame and crude attempt at design was this:
My book cover, surrounded by true life headlines relating to the primary subject matter of the book itself. Not too bad but I knew it could be better. Enter my awesome and talented daughter Audrey. Dancer turned social media expert that she is, she took my photoshop file and made it into something truly inspiring:
Same cover photo, same headlines, but she knew how to do things I did not and she made it both visually stunning and, well, amazing.
So, basically, what I wanted people to know was that the book is based on a true story. It’s personal to our family as well, the subject was her great-great uncle, her mother’s great uncle. I’ll be sharing more about the back story in coming posts, so stay tuned.
Thomas Fenske is an author living in North Carolina. More information here: https://tfenske.com
I just finished what I call the galley reviews for my June release, HARMON CREEK. Some people might call them the page proofs. What that means is that the book is in the pipeline and it will be foisted upon an unsuspecting public come June 1, or thereabouts.
My media savvy daughter reviewed some materials of mine (I’ve been book marketing for going on seven years now, but still consider myself a rank amateur). Two things she pointed out were my “yahoo” email address (been using it for over twenty years), and my book’s web page domain (thefensk.com).
I’ve used “thefensk” as a marker for a long time. I think it was originally a suggested username on some web site and I liked it. It is flippant and fun, but it doesn’t convey a sense of professionalism. With my new book coming out I want to embrace professionalism.
Sadly, I just renewed my current web provider for two years and also renewed the domain. But that’s too long to wait. They also charge a lot extra for an email address in that domain. So, my other option was to find a good intro deal for a new host, and one that would be more cost effective in the coming years. I was successful on both fronts … so although I’ll still update what I call my legacy site for the foreseeable future, I also have a more forward-looking NEW SITE located at https://tfenske.com!
I’ll be using the new site for most promotion aspects and I could certainly use a lot of help getting it established in search engines, so please click on the link!!!! Yes, this link: https://tfenske.com
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC … look for his new release, HARMON CREEK in June. More information on this and his other books can be found by starting here: https://tfenske.com
It’s been a while, but this sleeping cat has awakened and he’s decided to gear up the old blog again in anticipation of his upcoming publication.
In my last post, I mentioned a bit about the new project,, HARMON CREEK. There will be more about it coming later. The best news is that it will be released in June of this year. That gives me not quite three months to get off my duff and dust off my blogging and marketing skills.
To get started, I’ll post about the story, sure, but also about the marketing and publishing process. For today, I’ll say that part of the delay in posting was due to my decision to actively pitch to agents and other publishers. It’s not that I’m dissatisfied with the publisher of my first five novels, it’s more along the lines of this was something I’d never even tried. Understand, querying is a lot of work. I sent out dozens of queries but only had one positive response and unfortunately that was received after I had all but given up on the process and submitted to my current publisher. Ah, well. I gave it the old college try (although in my creative writing classes in college we never covered queries).
What I learned, was that you should definitely do your homework and pay close attention to what individuals say they are interested in. Even more important, stick to the guidelines they provide. I know that likely half of my queries failed because I didn’t notice the term “double spaced” (which drastically reduces the amount of text they are requesting) and although I personally think that is so “pre-word processor” — well, the rules are the rules. My bad.
The what, though, that is where a lot of prospective authors fail. The category of “what” is a moving target and can change with the wind. It is whatever an agent thinks publishers can be convinced THEY can make a lot of money on — if they pick this manuscript. Usually it follows currently successful trends and has very little to do with the actual quality of your story or of your writing (although a negative impression of either or both of those can sink you pretty quickly). I won’t comment on the “what” I perceived, but take under advisement: I suspect tails of survival from war-torn Ukraine will soon be a must-have on the lists of agents and publishers. All I’m saying is — pay attention and don’t get your hopes up if your hard work falls outside the current trends.
All that said, smaller publishers, although they still want to make money, can be a little more forgiving in the trend department. And, who knows? YOU might be the next trend setter. I can say with a great deal of authenticity I was dressing grunge in the early 70s long before grunge became a trend. I still do, for that matter, but that’s another story entirely. Oh, and never forget self-publishing, but you can’t skip the same steps publishers take to prepare a manuscript for publication. More on that later as well.
Anyway, after almost a year, I’m back, baby and ready to share.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina USA. More info about him and his work: http://thefensk.com
If we were having coffee today I’d be gently raising my mask to take a quick sip while I related my elation to some good book news.
Writing a book, or several books, occurs in several stages. Of course, there is the original concept, structure, and actual writing. After that, an author must pore over their manuscript, tweaking, nudging, adding, subtracting … I call this revision stage “crafting the novel.”
If one is fortunate enough to publish, after the requisite editor back and forth and acceptance of the finished manuscript, the most daunting task begins. You have to sell the damn thing. Marketing generally kicks me in the ass. That’s an official publishing term.
This weekend I have embarked upon my most aggressive marketing campaign ever … I paid for some outside promotion of my entire four-book series on Kindle. For me, it was not cheap, I have been fairly conservative in spending money on promotion. Spend a buck to make a buck, right?
The series promotion expects that the first book in the series will be either free or very cheap. I went with offering it for free. Amazon lets one offer a kindle book for free for five days. They also let one offer a discount price for seven days. I used that second function to offer the other three books at varying discounts. The result? Readers can acquire my entire series for $5.97. Normally that would be $15.96. Four books for under six bucks!
The sale continues through the weekend but the results so far have been encouraging. So far, I’ve given away 4029 copies of THE FEVER. That’s like introducing myself to 4029 new readers! BUT — 117 readers also bought book two, A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP, AND 52 more took a chance on book three, LUCKY STRIKE, AND 46 bought book four, PENUMBRA! I even saw an uptick in my self-published companion cookbook, which is always free anyway.
Will I make my money back? Not quite; not yet. But an author must not only sell individual books, they must also sell themselves. In that respect, this has been quite successful. My hope is that people who like THE FEVER will want to go back and see what other trouble the characters get into in Books 2-4 and be willing to chance another $3.99 on them. They do seem to get into a lot of trouble and each books is better than the previous one.
I have also seen in the past that Amazon backs up increased sales (even free sales) with additional targeted promotion. I’ve even had them suggest my own books to me in the past … this is a real thing.
Okay, tomorrow is the big day! I know, I’ve bothered you all week, but I just wanted to be sure I got the word out.
This will mark three books published in 10 months. It’s not quite as amazing as it sounds. For one thing, for a number of reasons I had a three-year-hiatus in publishing, well, except for my companion cookbook. So, this pretty much puts me back on track for a book a year. It amounts to the four books of the Traces of Treasure Series, and the stand-alone historical novel The Hag Rider (my other Summer of 2020 release).
I managed to cobble Penumbra together in a little over five months, from the first page to the final revision and signed contract. My first book, The Fever, took close to three years. Writing is like any other journey. There are left turns and right turns, and any number of hard stops. One encounters bumpy roads and pitfalls. Actually, in writing, we create a lot of bumpy roads and pitfalls.
Anyway, thanks for coming along for the ride. There will be more to come, most certainly. I have assembled quite a crew of characters who are meant to take this series forward, but I probably won’t feature ALL of them at the same time as I did in Penumbra.
Look for Penumbra on Amazon tomorrow, in Kindle, KindleUnlimited, & paperback. I’m working on getting copies into some bookstores as well but with my small publisher, this is a work in progress.
I guess it is time for another review! Bonnye Reed is another prolific Goodreads reviewer with almost 2900 reviews posted. She’s reviewed several of my books and I am gratified that she has so far liked my work:
I am pleased to refer Thomas Fenske to friends and family. He writes a tight, intriguing story set in the desert southwest – or as we know it, God’s Country. His characters are contrary but honest, and his background and scenic descriptions are spot-on. The addition of mystical and possibly unhappy spirits is an added bonus. I have enjoyed everything I have read from Thomas Fenske, and this is another five-star effort.
Penumbra is stand alone, the fourth in the series Traces of Treasure. Sam and his girlfriend Smidgeon along with several of their friends get drawn into another intriguing search for missing treasure. They travel over the desert SW, driving from Van Horn, TX north into the White Mountain Wilderness north of Ruidoso, NM, and back around and through the Mescalero Reservation and Tularosa, Alamogordo, and several trips through Roswell – back in the age of payphones and Roswell without aliens everywhere. It was a good trip, very nostalgic and satisfying. It was also back in the ago of mandatory 55 mph all across the US, but the drudgery of travel in that time period is left out thank goodness. Most of us remember that all too well. .
Mixed into Penumbra is a posse of good friends, conscientious law enforcement, polite, helpful people, and excellent food – I enjoyed that part of traveling back in the day. You will, too. And the bad guys are satisfyingly bad. Definitely a win-win novel.
I am blushing when I read such high praise. You can judge for yourself.
Penumbra will be available on Amazon Saturday, August 1, in Kindle, KindleUnlimited, and Paperback. Pre-order Kindle NOW at Amazon!
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.
You can find more information about him and his writing at http://thefensk.com
There are three days until the release of Penumbra!
Today I’d like to share a little bit about the story. This is the fourth installment of the Traces of Treasure Series and, like the others, it involves a search for a treasure. The first three eventually became a trilogy, one story led directly to the next. I fooled myself into thinking they could each stand-alone, and to some extent, I guess they can, but they are definitely tied together. Penumbra, though, is a story unto itself. We have the same characters, but we are not as concerned about their past exploits this time. Events move quickly and although there is some sense of their community of friendship, they are too busy doing what they are doing to bother much about the past.
What they are doing is trying to find the lost boyfriend of an acquaintance of cafe owner Smidgeon Toll. Of course, the pendulum of fate has made another pass: HE was on a quest for a lost treasure. In order to find him, Smidgeon and her boyfriend must enlist the aid of their friends to first get on his trail, then discern more about this treasure he was after. Along the way, they encounter a huge, centuries-old mystery, confront a crew of bad guys who kidnap and murder their own way in pursuit of the loot. New friends join the quest as well, including Ximena, who I mentioned a few days ago.
Another new friend is Bea Welbourne, a special collections librarian at a nearby university. Bea has no reason to become involved, but she’s intrigued by the tale she’s heard and is even more intrigued by the trail of clues she manages to uncover. She’s no stodgy librarian, she is smart, fit, and can hold her own out in the wilderness. When told she doesn’t need to help them, she simply responds that she enjoys a bit of excitement. She certainly gets more than she bargained for.
I don’t want to say too much more, because I’m getting into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say, there are many veiled layers concealing the core of this mystery. All the pieces fit together, but it takes a while for our hardy crew of treasure-hunter, investigators to a conclusion. It is full of twists and turns, with criminals lurking and popping up when you least expect it. And there are several supernatural things complicating matters at several turns. Oh, and the cover? You’ll see all of that in the story.