Countdown to Penumbra – 1

Penumbra-IIOkay, 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.

The kindle link is HERE.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina
You can find out more about him and his writing on his web page: www.thefensk.com

Countdown to Penumbra – 2

penumbra-web

There are two days until the release of Penumbra!
It is the fourth book in my Traces of Treasure Series.

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:

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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.

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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!

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

Countdown to Penumbra – 3

penumbra-web

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.

If you haven’t read any of the other three books, don’t despair … you can read this one first if you want, but be warned: you’ll end up wanting to read the other three.
Penumbra will be released on August 1. The Kindle edition is available for pre-order on Amazon right now.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.
You can get more info at http://thefensk.com

Countdown to Penumbra-5

Penumbra-II

There are five days remaining until the release of Penumbra!

Today, I’d like to share one of the pre-release reviews.  Marianne Reese is a fellow author and book blogger. Please visit her Amazon Author Page to learn more about her. We found each other through a Facebook author forum and have been fans of each other ever since. She’s an awesome writer … check out her books.

She even has a cameo in the third book of the series, Lucky Strike. She read an early version of the manuscript and mentioned that she actually lived in one of the locations for a short time; it coincided with the timeframe of the book! So I stuck a scene with her in there, stranded with a flat tire and helped by one of the protagonists. It added a little compassionate depth to his character and allowed me to honor the support and help she’s given me over the past few years.

This review is located on goodreads.com.

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This is the fourth book in the Traces of Treasures series, and like the first three, it did not disappoint!
Sam and Smidgeon, along with their friends, are at it again on the hunt for a treasure, but who’s the true owner of the much sought after cache?
Friendship and faith collide with evil as the mystery unravels in this page-turning story.

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Short and sweet.  More to come.  Penumbra is available for pre-order at Amazon!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.
You can get more info at http://thefensk.com

Countdown to Penumbra-6

Penumbra-II
Six Days to Go!

With less than a week to go before publication, I’m going to let you in on a few of the surprises in my August release, PENUMBRA.

For the first of these surprises, I’d like to introduce you to a new character, Ximena.  Well, actually, she’s not quite a new character. We’ve met her twice before, in the first two books of the Traces of Treasure Series. She was a young girl in The Fever, a passenger in a car Sam encountered at a gas station in Fort Stockton Texas. She served as a translator for her aunt, an old bruja woman who discerned the danger surrounding Sam’s life and gave him a small stone that contained the power to help protect him.

After surviving the troubles in The Fever, Sam managed to lose track of the stone and danger followed him again in A Curse That Bites Deep because of its absence. The old woman sensed this and perceived the peril that Sam faced, so she looked him up to warn him. The young girl, now a few years older, served as the driver for her aunt.

In Penumbra, this girl is now a young woman of about nineteen. Her aunt recently died, passing the torch of responsibility to her young charge, who we learn is Ximena (pronounced Hi-men-a). Although new to brujeria, she does not take this duty lightly.

Brujeria is a form of spiritual belief akin to witchcraft in Latin American cultures. Ximena has been well instructed, and as we will find out, possesses perceptions and powers that go far beyond even a loose interpretation of normal.

Consider this passage from Penumbra, when Sam is about to encounter some of the bad guys unarmed.

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..the phone rang again.
“Smidgeon?”
“Sam! Where are you?”
“We just pulled into Carlsbad. Ximena made me stop and call you.”
Smidgeon’s heart skipped a beat. “What?”
“She suddenly pointed at a payphone on the side of the road and said I needed to call you right away. Is there anything wrong?”
“I just got off the phone with Holly. She told me that Earl called and let her talk to Dave. He’s in Carlsbad with Earl and Ding. She is supposed to come by herself along with the paper and meet them at a small store on Lea Street at 5 in the morning. She said it is on the west side of town.”
“I have the paper.”
“I know that. I was just fixing to call Mule to ask him what we should do when you called.”
“Call Holly, and tell her to stay put. I’ll handle it.”
“Sam, how can you face off with Earl and Ding? You don’t even have a gun.”
“I have Ximena.”

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She’s young and she’s short, about five feet tall, but she’s already proven that she can handle herself in a tense confrontation.

What can she do?  What does she do?  Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

Penumbra, the fourth book in my Traces of Treasure Series, is an adventure mystery that continues the adventures of Sam, Smidgeon, and Lance, along with a few other friends and characters.  Yes, the ghosts are back as well, more ghosts than you might expect. The first three books in the series are basically a trilogy, but this continuation of the series is quite capable of standing alone.  But I have to warn you: after reading this one you will be hooked; you will definitely want to go back and read the other three.  Just saying …

It will be available on August 1 at Amazon in Kindle, KindleUnlimited, and paperback.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. Find out more at http://thefensk.com

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