Ides of February

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

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

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

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

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

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

====================================================

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

 

Advertisements

#WeekendCoffeeShare #NoScam

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d be inclined to warn you about a new telephone scam that is making the rounds.  This one is designed to prey upon helpless old people.  They hope.  It centers on the “new” Medicare card. I must be on some heavy hitters list because I get calls for this one almost every day.

I generally try to be polite on the phone.  Even with telemarketers and scammers.  This one is obviously a scam because it starts out by asking if the one has received the new Medicare card.  They will then explain that they are here to help you to activate the new card.  Since I only recently joined Medicare I knew this was bogus.  It told me immediately they wanted to use this ruse to get unsuspecting people to divulge their Social Security Numbers.  In some cases, they want to charge a fee to help you activate your new card, which was already activated the moment you received it.

Sigh.  I started out telling them I wasn’t interested in whatever they wanted to offer me.  They try to scare you by telling you, through their heavy accents, that they ARE Medicare.  Medicare doesn’t initiate any kind of call.  I generally ask to be taken off the list.  One woman told me that she could not take me off the list until I answered all of her questions.  I told her I was reporting them to the FCC (useless since the phone number is spoofed–not valid) and she responded by chanting “bless this call, bless this call, bless this call, bless this call” … I just hung up.

So the next day I got ANOTHER call.  They have a lot of information, name address, obviously phone number.  Affirm NOTHING!  On this latest call, when the guy asked if I received the new card I answered “No. I’m not on Medicare.”

Obviously, his script had some component for that answer and he started, “Okay …” but before he could continue I just went off on him.

“I don’t have Medicare or Social Security. I don’t pay taxes and I don’t have anything to do with the United States Government whatsoever …” I was just rattling off anything I could think of.  I hesitated, and the line was silent for a long interval, and he said, “Uhhhh,” and hung up.

I’m tired of not being able to answer my phone.  I’m taking it back and proceeding to have a bit of fun in the process.  I know someone who just puts it down on the table and walks away and comes back later and hangs it up.  I know someone else who blasts a loud air horn.  I think I’ll stick with crazy.  Nice but crazy.  They want to mail you a packet? Say you don’t get mail anymore, that you opted out.  No Social Security, no Medicare, no Credit Cards, no Banks.  Money?  You don’t use it, never have.  You don’t even know whose phone this is … You don’t even know where you are.

Be alert and aware and let’s take our phones back.
Uh, since I don’t use money, could you pay?

====================================

Thomas Fenske is an author living in North Carolina. You can get more information on his books at http://thefensk.com./main.html

WeekendCoffee New Year

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d say welcome back.  Well, I’m the tardy one I guess. Sorry about that. Things always get a bit hectic during the holidays and I had other things going on as well.  I’m working deep revisions on my next novel and that is taking up most of my writing time.

img_0385I hope your holidays were good.  For the second year in a row, we hosted our family at a rental on the NC coast. I know, I know, holidays are for home and hearth, but after our previous year’s experiment, we found that Christmas at the beach is really quite laid back and enjoyable.  Let me start off with this: I don’t really like the beach during the “normal” beach-going season.  Crowds, hype, salt, and sand are just not my bag.  I like my downtime to be a period of relaxation.  During the off-season, lower rates are in effect so one can upscale a bit. And it is so quiet!

img_0394It is not totally deserted, a lot of people live down there year round and there are those who use their own vacation homes for much the same thing.  But let me put it this way: there were only perhaps three of twenty beach houses nearby that showed any signs of life.  The beaches had scant handfuls of people strolling every now and then. The soothing sounds of the ocean and seagulls were unspoiled by loud music and shouting. The traffic was light. The weather was absolutely fantastic.

My Christmas morning had something else pretty special. I keep track of International Space Station viewings and I found out it would be passing over just after six A.M. that morning. It was crisply cold and the sky was incredibly clear. I bundled up and went outside and here it came, right on time.  It was one of the best viewings I have experienced, horizon to horizon, a bright Star gliding across the heavens sending its silent glorious message: Merry Christmas.

img_0399It was one of the most relaxing holiday celebrations I’ve ever had.  Every morning I got up before everyone else and thoroughly enjoyed my solitary cup of coffee taking in the morning view.

Then back to writing.  The latest novel is shaping up.  I finished the rough draft some time ago, then I dropped the ball a bit. Both my unplanned retirement and, of course, my wife’s cancer battle, were huge diversions.  So I worked on my first deep revision in November during National Novel Writing Month.  Yeah, I cheated. But it was a good opportunity for me to get back in the swing of things, using the structure of NaNoWriMo to apply myself.  I completed the revision and turned it back around in December and did a second deep revision. Those two revisions resulted in about fourteen thousand words of fresh material.  After Christmas, I followed up with a quick polishing pass.  I have beta readers looking at it now.  Still waiting on a couple but they’ve been identifying a few tweaks here and there. I’m excited about this story and hope one more good revision pass will add the finishing touches.

So here I am on a Friday with a little time to write something besides fiction. I’ll keep you posted. Okay, let’s have a scone and a refill and we can dream of wonderful winter beach sunrises.img_0403

======================================

img_0383Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  It’s a good time to catch up on his first two novels.  You’ll be glad you did when the third one comes out.

http://thefensk.com/main.html

Retro Green Beans

Did you know Thanksgiving is in just a couple of days?  While shopping, I am always amazed at the huge stacks of green beans and mushroom soup and of course fried onions.  Did you ever wonder what people ate for Thanksgiving before this dish showed up? Read on for I one clue.

I’m here to tell you, I hate this “classic” green bean dish. I guess “hate” is a strong word. It’s not that it is bad, it’s just that it could be so much better.  How do I know?  When I got married, my darling bride turned me on to the dish her mother made at Thanksgiving for years and years.  After I started collecting cookbooks, I started looking for it. Yes, it exists.  I found it in two (I have thousands of cookbooks). One was a Gladys Tabor cookbook from the 40s.  If Gladys was alive today I have no doubt she’d be on The Food Network.  I also found it in a 1960s church cookbook.  So my hat is off to my wife’s late mom, Martha Cook.  Wherever she got this recipe, she cooked it every year and when I got married, she saved me from “other” casserole.  It is THE standard recipe at our house.

It looks harder than it is. I’m all about easy at Thanksgiving, and this is a type of homemade dish that is still easy.

Swiss Style Green Beans

2 Tablespoons Flour
2 Tablespoons grated onion
7 Tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
16 ounces sour cream
8 ounces grated Swiss cheese
4 – 5 Cans French Style Green Beans, drained well
1/2 cup crushed corn flakes

Lightly saute the onions in 4 Tablespoons of the butter and stir in the flour; stir until it is smooth.  Add sugar, salt, and white pepper; blend well.  Slowly stir in the sour cream and mix well and cook until smooth, and it begins to thicken, stirring occasionally.

Add the drained green beans and mix well.  Pour the mixture into greased casserole.  Top with Swiss cheese.  (this can be made ahead and refrigerated at this point)

Melt the remaining 3 Tablespoons of butter and stir in the corn flakes and mix until well coated, toasting lightly.  Spread on top of the cheese.

Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes.

Trust me, once you eat these green beans,  you never go back.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

========================================

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.

His books make great Christmas presents: http://thefensk.com

NaNoWriMo

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d be mumbling something about NaNoWriMo.  That’s National Novel Writing Month.  Yes, that’s a thing.  I would be mumbling because the only way I’ve found to successfully participate is by getting up earlier than I usually do. That will be alleviated somewhat by today’s Daylight Savings time transition.

NaNoWriMo is not just another celebratory month.  The celebration is by doing.  Participants actually try to write an entire novel in that month.  It’s a commitment, and it is a challenge to apply yourself to that singular goal.  No, you don’t have to be published in a month; far from it.  Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to write a fifty-thousand-word rough draft within that thirty-day time frame.

I can see you blinking your eyes, but seriously, it isn’t as hard as it sounds.  Here’s what you need in order to do it: An Idea, time to apply yourself to that idea, and perseverance.  Oh, and there is one other rule of thumb: never look back.  If you are going to do NaNoWriMo, you should just keep writing forward no matter what. As founder Chris Baty said in his book “No Plot? No Problem!” you need to send your internal editor on vacation for the month.  I know, it seems counter-intuitive, but seriously, you’ll never hit fifty-thousand-words by self-editing at this point.

In practical purposes, to achieve the goal you need to write at least 1667 words a day. That’s all.  Single-spaced, that is probably about two to three pages. For the idea? We all have ideas.  You see on TV “writers” who painstakingly graph out their entire novel in great detail. That’s fine and good for some writers.  You can do all of that ahead of time, that is if you want. For me, I take my idea and loosely outline enough events to fill out something that will take about that 1667 words a day, one event per day. For me, that sometimes has a notation like “something else happens”  or “a new character shows up.” Well, you do need to know one or two major characters too.

Here’s the deal.  What I’ve found out is that by giving yourself this self-imposed deadline, something does indeed happen. Creativity.  As you push, push, push, cranking out words to reach your daily goal you are bombarded by new ideas.  The story begins to take on a life of its own.  Yes, sometimes you end up straying from your outline, but that’s a good thing. It was just a guide. And you can usually get back to it.

Anyway, that’s my November and now I’m stuck with it. I’ve published two novels from NaNoWriMo projects.  I have several other rough drafts I’ll resume work on one day.  In this context, the base novel is the easy part.  It is editing and revision that take the most time but you know what? You can’t edit a blank page.  The main events are there, and the story arc is complete.  I call that stage crafting the novel.

Don’t even get me started on marketing the danged things.  That’s the real challenge and it is the hardest stage of all.  The rough draft is almost a vacation.

It’s only November 3.  Kick yourself up to 2000 words a day and you can catch up in no time.  That 1667 word goal is just the minimum.  Check it all out at http://www.nanowrimo.org

Get Writing!

======================================

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC. Two of his past NaNoWriMo projects are on display at http://thefensk.com … you can further motivate him by buying/reading them.
There is also an Amazon giveaway running for the companion cookbook at:  https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/71bf07b34bec7fd9

The Curse of 29

img_6284If we were having coffee today I’d be lamenting the curse of twenty-nine. 

“What is that?” you might ask.

I’d sigh and tell you about Amazon.

Twice in the past year or so my first novel has breached the number of twenty-nine reviews.  Thirty looks so cool hanging out there on a book listing.

Ah, but twice, for unknown reasons, a review has been deemed unworthy by Amazon and the counter resets to 29.  The interesting thing is, it isn’t necessarily the most recent review that gets swatted away.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have any reviews at all.  It is very humbling to get any kind of feedback on one’s work.  I’m even happy to have the ten reviews on my second novel and the two reviews on my cookbook.  ANY number is good.  I just don’t understand this seeming curse with the number twenty-nine.

There is a theory among authors, that Amazon has a mythical number of reviews where they begin to spontaneously help authors with an added marketing push.  I’ve heard several supposed benchmarks for this point, anywhere from twenty-five to over a hundred.  Fifty seems to be the consensus.  What all this has to do with twenty-nine, I don’t know.

A fellow author, Marianne Reese, has noted a similar trend with her books — stuck at twenty-nine.  What are your experiences with disappearing reviews?

Anyway, I had a good two week run this time.  It felt so good.

==============================================

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.
Help him beat the curse: http://thefensk.com/fever.html  All reviews will be appreciated by me, even if they are rejected by Amazon.  Hey, it’s on KindleUnlimited … and it’s a good time of year to read it since all the action takes place between now and New Years.

October Notes

close up photography of four baseballs on green lawn grasses

It’s Autumn and you know what that means.  No, I’m not talking about fall colors or Halloween or even Thanksgiving.  I’m talking about BASEBALL.

I’m a lifelong Houston Astros fan.  I grew up with the team.  I’ve lived in North Carolina for twenty-nine years … still a die-hard Astros fan.  Last year, finally finally finally they put it all together.  And here we are again.  The playoffs are full of ups and downs.

Baseball is a wickedly simple game.  And it is played without time limits.  The irrepressible philosopher Yogi Berra said it best (and it is entirely true), “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Still, the ups and downs for fans will continue until the end, so I want to share the other most memorable, yet appropriate quote about baseball, this one from the movie Bull Durham (couldn’t find any other attribute).

Sometimes  you win
Sometimes you lose
Sometimes it rains.

All I can add at this point is another unattributable quote:  “PLAY BALL!”

=============================================

Thomas Fenske is a writer and baseball fan living in NC.
http://thefensk.com

Fall Giveaway

giveawaybannerIf we were having coffee today I’d remind you to enter my giveaway.  Yeah, I’m shamelessly using our coffee share to point it out.  Well, it IS what I’ve got going on this week.

Actually, I have had one in quite a while.  I recently had the opportunity to purchase several copies of my ebooks for a reduced price so I got them, basically book purchase redemption links.  I got enough for three sets of all three books.  Yes, they are all kindle copies.  What? You don’t have a kindle?  Did you know you can get a kindle reading app for just about every type of device?  I even have one on my Nook (which still somehow seems so wrong).

So, mosey on over to the contest entry link and try your luck.  While there you can read all about the books and even buy them if you don’t like the disappointment of not winning.

Thanks for your support.  Please reblog this post to get the word out.

Enter here: https://tometender.blogspot.com/2018/10/traces-of-treasure-series-by-thomas.html

 

===========================

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC … check him out here: http://thefensk.com

WeekendCoffee Genre Rebrand?

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

If we were having coffee today I might just mention cozy mysteries. Up until yesterday, I didn’t even really know what the term cozy mysteries meant. A reader asked me why I didn’t market my books as cozy mysteries. They were, she said, a pretty close match to the genre.

I’ve struggled with genre ever since I considered publishing.  These ideas came to me and I worked them through a believable story arc.  I polished them.  Worked out the kinks.  A publisher got interested.  Nobody ever mentioned cozy mysteries.

I did a little research.  I’ll admit, The Fever is a stretch, but still, it’s almost there.  I’d call it a quirky take-off on the genre. Nobody dies after the initial hook. But the hero is an amateur sleuth of sorts and he has to work through solving his mystery, with whatever help he can find.  Like I said, I guess it’s a stretch but as a lead-in to the series, it does set the stage.

Ah, but A Curse That Bites Deep fits right into the genre.  I think.  And the third book does too … but you’ll have to take my word on that.  So, I have to wonder, have I suddenly stumbled upon something here?  Sure, they might be sitting in the far left-field corner of the genre, but I think they are still in the ballpark.

If you like cozy mysteries, I honestly think you might like these books.  They’re probably not quite like any other cozy mysteries you’ve read but you don’t seriously want them ALL exactly like one another, do you?  The stories are comfortable and quirky and the characters and situations are down to earth and believable.  Give them a try and let me know.

==================================

Thomas Fenske is quite possibly a cozy mystery writer.  http://thefensk.com

Running Afowl …

If we were having coffee today I’d be in a confessional mood.  Yes, I’d admit, I’ve been feeding the neighbor’s chickens.  There is a hole in the fence and for quite a while a few chickens and guinea fowl have been getting out.  They wander into our yard all the time.

img_9849
Pepe

I’ve never had much experience with chickens.  A couple of them had been lurking really close to the house and a couple of months ago I decided to haphazardly throw out some birdseed.  Big mistake. The primary culprit is a big Rhode Island Red rooster we call Pepe.  If I go outside or if I talk to somebody outside or if I return in the car, I can expect Pepe to come running; really, he RUNS.  He knows ME.   He usually has a couple of his girlfriends in tow, we call them Beatrice and Henrietta.

img_9789
Pepe and Beatrice

For quite a while it was just Pepe and Beatrice.  Then Henrietta started hanging around.  I ran out of birdseed.  I went to a local feed store and inquired about buying some chicken feed.  The conversation went like this:

“What kind?” I was asked.

“I have no idea,” I answered.

“You don’t know what kind of chicken feed you need?”

The clerk looked at me like I was insane.  Maybe I am.  I bought the smallest bag of feed I could, twenty-five pounds.  It’s filled in pretty good.  Some days we have had as many as four or five chickens and maybe a stray guinea.

Okay, yesterday, Pepe was outside when we left for a doctor appointment.  We were running late.  He flapped his wings and crowed.  “No dice, Pepe,” I told him, “we’re in a hurry.”
I could see him in my rear-view mirror, standing in the driveway and plotting.

When we returned a couple of hours later we could see them.  Yes, them.  Pepe had been talking and the word was obviously out.  My neighbor’s side yard was full of ducks.  They were lounging near his carport,  some were roosting on his carport roof and even the roof of the house.  Now understand, we see his ducks from time to time. Mother ducks often come waddling through our yard, cute ducklings in tow on some sort of field trip. Never have we seen anything like this.  And the second I pulled up the driveway they started moving into our yard.

img_9960
note: just the first wave

When I first saw them all in total and saw them begin to move, the opening bars of the Ride of the Valkyries started rolling through my mind.  I wish I had a video of it because the music would have been a perfect backdrop, especially when the ducks started soaring off the roofs.  And yes, from some unseen corner, here came Pepe and the girls too, sprinting over as usual.  When all of them finally made the long waddle I counted twenty-two ducks, plus the chickens.

Obviously, we have bitten off more than we can chew.  I mean, we don’t feed them a lot.  It’s not a meal by any means, more of a snack.  My neighbor doesn’t care.  They eat bugs in our yard too. I usually pick up a tick or two every month but I haven’t had a tick all summer.

img_9967

I guess this isn’t the worst of it.  Others are waiting in the wings …

img_9910

========================================

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  Kindle versions of his novels THE FEVER and A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP are ON SALE 9/28 and 9/29.  http://thefensk.com/spec.html
There are no birds in the novels.