Let’s talk

If we were somehow having coffee today I’d probably be in a hurry to get back, so here is a truncated narrative on my views of all the current issues.

Masks. Wear them. It is NOT a political statement. It is NOT an action based on fear. If you are a conservative like me, yet think that means you are anti-mask, understand this, if it helps. I consider wearing a mask to be an extension of my second amendment rights. Period. I will arm myself however I wish to protect me and my family. Period.  If you don’t wear a mask on principle, I hope you at least wash your hands after going to the bathroom, but I don’t hold out much hope.

Black Lives Matter.  Of course they do. This choking stuff? Where did that come from? It’s obviously a bogus tactic. Here’s the deal: if someone is being choked to keep them from continuing to struggle, it is completely counter to human nature. Not being able to breathe is one of the strongest fear responses ingrained into every human being. Can’t breathe… must struggle.  It is a counter-productive tactic.

To the ‘all lives matter’ people: yes, of course they do too, and I’ve seen a lot of videos of the same thing happening to all races (and the same thing above applies) but you have to understand that the highly disproportionate numbers of these cases involve blacks.  Period. And for what? a counterfeit bill?  Another guy in Texas didn’t dim his headlights? No one faults police for reacting with force when someone points a gun at them. The cases people are protesting weren’t like that. They were convictions, trials, and executions for infractions that should in no way involve execution. I think people have a right to be worked up. Enough is enough.

What about the rioting and looting? Wrong.  Never a justified response. There is a big difference between protest and riot. It doesn’t help the valid cause people are marching for … not at all.  Kudos to the brave souls who worked to stop it.  It could very well have escalated into something no one wants to experience.

Military bases named after Confederates, and Statues honoring them? I’m from the south, and I have a degree in history so I can add a little perspective. Grant has a great observation on this in his memoir (an awesome book), reflecting on the surrender of Lee:  “I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”

We, in the south, were influenced by teachers themselves influenced by a flawed narrative known as “the lost cause.” It involved rationalizations that do not hold up to historical scrutiny, in my opinion. Most of the monuments are extensions of the lost cause mentality and were erected to displace shame. The fort namings are an extension of this … no doubt something to placate the suspicions of placing “US” forts on southern soil by naming them after southern “heroes.” Oddly, some of them were awful military leaders … Hood and Bragg?  People call Grant a butcher (part of the lost cause narrative) but Hood literally squandered his army in fruitless frontal attacks. Sigh.  People say “they” are taking away our heritage. No, our heritage was the enslavement of human beings. In realistic terms, by pushing the nation to the point of secession and war, the south ironically fast-tracked abolition. Slavery would have persisted for decades without the war. The south was never going to “win” … the best they could hope for was a stalemate and even if that had happened, they’d find out their expected European markets had sourced raw materials from other more stable sources and continued border conflicts would have bankrupted them pretty quickly.

In closing, understand that change takes time. I know, there has already been a lot of time wasted, but attitudes and habits need a lot of nudging to get them in the right place. Shoving them in place usually doesn’t work. Patience and persistence. We all have a long way to go. It doesn’t have to take a long time, it shouldn’t, but it will take time.

 

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

WeekendCoffeeShare

If we were in some way able to meet for coffee today I’m sure we’d be drawn to the events of the past week. The overbearing question is, why are we still at this point? Frankly, it amazes me that we haven’t figured it out yet … Rodney King put it plainly:

“People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?”

It was a profound statement from a guy whose suffering at the hands of heavy-handed police officers was broadcast far and wide. Yet this continues and continues and continues.

Frankly, I have only had good experiences with law enforcement, even when I was on the short end of their efforts. I have always found them polite and supportive. Frankly, I am white.

I grew up in the South. I grew up knowing two branches of racism. I did not grow up in a blatantly racist home, I grew up in a home that more practiced paternalistic racism. Many people don’t see any difference but understand, I did not grow up thinking poorly of people of color. Sure, we had a black maid. Believe me, I knew a LOT of kids whose families wouldn’t hire a black maid, they had white maids. My folks hired a black contractor too, to build an addition to our house. In many ways I think my mother wanted to provide jobs and opportunities where she could.

When I was about eight I was with some friends riding our bikes around a nearby shopping center (the early 60’s, right?). It was a hot day, and I was thirsty and I saw a water fountain so I stopped to get a drink. My friends were horrified.

“What are you doing? You can’t drink from there!” he said, pointing at a sign on the fountain. “Colored Only!”

I just shrugged and took a drink. “You can be arrested for that,” I was told. I look back now and can only say, “Yeah, right.”

I wasn’t raised to really care about such distinctions. Am I perfect? Nope. Bias is a deep wound that is not easily healed but you know what? I’ve always been aware of it and I try to keep myself on an even keel and rise above it.

A few years ago I worked in a convenience store and this cemented my overbearing current view of blacks: they are just folks, like anybody else. They work, they love, they hurt, they cry. Just like me. Just like you. When you look at someone in this country, you need to not see white or brown or any other color, you need to see a person who deep inside is pretty much just like you.

===============================
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC … his novel THE HAG RIDER will be published on June 1, 2020. More information: 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.

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

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!

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

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

 

STAY HOME & READ

 

Stay home & read (1)

I know a lot of people are stuck at home right now.  What a great time to catch up on your reading! The safest way right now to get new books to read is to embrace eBooks; they provide a wonderful combination of low price, easy online shopping, and immediate delivery.

Wait, you don’t own a kindle?  Amazon has you covered: https://amzn.to/39U6Rno
All you need is a tablet, iPad, computer, or even a phone.

To help get you started, I am offering the first novel of my adventure-mystery series on sale for 99 cents, from March 31 through April 6.
Get it here: https://www.amazon.com/Fever-Thomas-Fenske-ebook/dp/B010U5K1PI/

Be safe. Stay home and read!

 

 

What a Month!

coffeeshareAnd it ain’t over yet!  Not quite.

If we were having coffee today, well, hopefully, we wouldn’t be, would we?  Maybe we picked up to-go coffee at the drive-through and we’re talking in the parking lot like two cop cars comparing notes, me in my car and you in yours.

I’m sorry that I’ve been out of touch.  I’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on, not one, but TWO novels.  In this case “finishing touches” means working through the changes from the editing process (third-party editors) and then working through the galley approval process, for one at least.  I still have that to complete on the second one.

My historical novel, THE HAG RIDER will be out in June.  It is set in the civil war and involves a bit of paranormal activity.  More later, but I can assure you my history degree came in quite handy while I was researching this one.  Hey, I’m finally working in my other field of study!  (I have a degree in English as well … so I’ve put that into use too).
The fourth installment of my Traces of Treasure series, PENUMBRA, will be published in August.  Still working on this one.  Same characters, plus a couple of new ones, a new mystery to unravel … early reports indicate this one surpasses all the others.

In other news:  COVID-19, Coronavirus, or as I like to call it, C19.

Demographics at this early stage of the game are useless. This is why I get tired of the endless talking heads on 24-hour news. We’re not even getting other news. How many people know a whack-job was stopped from bombing a hospital in KC last week? Not many. It’s true, look it up.

Here’s a statistic: A virus like this has the ability to spread exponentially. If unchecked, it WILL spread exponentially.  It can be like an out of control wildfire. Social distancing is the firebreak.
ANYONE can get this disease. Young, old, healthy, sick, male, female, and no matter the race and ethnic background.  It does not discriminate. Do not draw conclusions from the talking heads … if it gets into you, you have no idea how your particular metabolism will react to it.

The only defense against it is for people to refrain from socializing. Period. You can protect from the required occasional need for shopping by strenuous adherence to common sense: keep your distance and no face touching prior to effective hand cleaning or sanitizing. I keep sanitizer in the car

Yes, probably more people won’t get it than get it. A high percentage of people who get it survive it. Our fatality rate is small compared to Italy, but in Italy, it is at least 10% … it is what happens when the hospitals are swamped and they run out of supplies and equipment. A high percentage of the people who survive but are hospitalized do so because of respirators. When they run out, the fatality percentage increases. It will happen here too, in most areas. Also, when protective gear runs out, more health professionals get sick.

One other thing: yes, people who have some underlying condition have a real problem surviving. But a LOT of people get sick and die of this who had nothing else wrong with them. The truth be told, it will be years before the demographics on that are known. I don’t want to flip a coin on this thing …

“Let’s be careful out there …”
===============================

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  Remember, ebooks are the safest books to shop for and read and they are immediately available, virus-free!  I have a specialized page with links to my books and some handy tips into joining the ranks of electronic readers.  My books are also available in paperback, but right now … well, I hope nobody coughed on them.
http://thefensk.com/fd.html

Work From Home!

 

workfromhomeIf you are able to, please work from home.  If you have never worked regularly from home, I “telecommuted” for the last twelve years at my last job and here are some tips for success I suggest you review.

Have a special work “place” in your home … another room like a spare bedroom is ideal. In my job, we HAD to do this and the door had to be lockable (gov security stuff)

Keep to a daily/hourly routine. (although my job was more like “hey, you can work 24 hours a day”). You need to police yourself.

My company had a special work-related instant messaging that worked great for co-worker interaction. If you have that, great. You might want to use FB messaging if nothing else.

I had a dedicated ip serviced phone/phone line, but you may not have that option. Skype might be a work option. It does not have to be video skype. It’s another good option for messaging too.

Learn to work from PDF copies because you’ll soon find yourself buried in pieces of paper if you print (and you’ll need extra supplies). In my last years at work, I had printer cartridges go dry because I printed so rarely.

I saw on TV someone suggested get dressed like a normal workday. I’d say that is optional unless you video conference.

Some people may want to do video conferencing, but I’d say voice conferencing is good enough. BUT, research screen sharing apps if you ever need to have someone look over your shoulder.

Most important: keep liquid beverages at least an arm’s length from your laptop/keyboard. Lean away from your workstation to sip. Hardware support is much farther away when you work at home.

Keep the TV off.
Do your work.
Get into a routine.

It all seems like common sense but for me, it required a learning curve. It’s a great and convenient option, so don’t squander the apparent freedom of it. Remind others at home that you are, in fact, at WORK.

It is hard to do at first but if you stick with it, it becomes normal.

New Year/New Game

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today, I’d be beaming.  “It’s on me,” I’d say.  “Go ahead and have a pastry too.”

Several developments have cropped up on the author front.  For one, December was one of my most promising and successful months ever. We’re not talking about a big moneymaker yet, but a very good free book promotion on my first novel, The Fever, resulted in a definite uptick in sales for the other two books in the trilogy.  I also saw a distinct spike in the number of pages read on KindleUnlimited.  In this case, readers pay a monthly charge and they can read any of the books contained in the KindleUnlimited program. The royalty is a bit reduced but then again, these folks are a different market too, prolific readers who aren’t going to buy individual books.  I tend to focus on the “prolific readers” part of that equation.

A while back I dusted off an old manuscript I wrote five years ago; it was still a rough draft.  I pitched it to an agent at an author conference I attended and was invited to submit it.  It was a lark.  I mean, I already have a publisher who likes my writing.  I wondered if maybe I could step it up a notch.  I quickly worked it up and submitted it.  No word in seven months.  I even requested an update a couple of times, within the timeframes on the agency’s website.

Nothing.

Disheartened, I considered self-publishing.  It is indeed a viable option. I requested quotes for the various stages of pre-publishing work.  The costs are high.  I was willing to invest the money, but I also decided to do a little pragmatic introspection.  I already had a relationship with a small publisher, Wings ePress. It’s a small step up from self-publishing, but in many aspects, it is very similar. In the end, I decided to submit the manuscript to them.  I am happy to report that I have now contracted to publish this new novel, The Hag Rider.  It is not part of my published series, it is a stand-alone historical fiction book with a strong paranormal component.  I’ll give you more information about it in the coming months.

Right on top of that, I’ve been actively working on a new installment of my Traces of Treasure series.  I just finished the first revision pass.  It is working up very nicely and in a very short time.  I can see that my story development and writing is getting better with every project.  I did something this week I’ve never done. I enlisted one of my trusted beta readers to give the manuscript a quick read … after the first revision.  I have always waited to complete the second revision to do this.  I got a glowing report.  Very encouraging.  I still want to complete a second revision, but if I still feel the same way, I’ll be submitting it very soon.  (Oh, geez, I’m committing myself now).

Anyway, I’m hoping my progress continues into the rest of 2020, but I do know that editing and manuscript reviews of two different novels in quick succession is going to be a challenge, and it will take time away from new writing.  And working on two books in quick succession is confusing … “Wait, is this Sam or is this Jack?”

Anyway, I’m stoked.  Go ahead and order something else.  What do you have on tap in 2020?

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

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC. Get more information about him and his current books here:  http://thefensk.com

WeekendCoffeeShare

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today, I’d catch you up. The holidays, am I right? I was also busy working on the fourth book in my Traces of Treasure Series.

Truth is, I’m about posted out.  I had a great post yesterday, and I confess I was originally going to re-edit the beginning and update it as today’s weekend coffee share, but today I hesitated.  It’s a good post just as it is.

It’s about a seal encounter at the Outer Banks in NC last week.  Christmas was good with our family, but this encounter put a cherry on the top of the holiday.seal2

It was a rare and amazing encounter.  Read about it here:

SEAL OF APPROVAL

 

Beyond that, book sales have picked up after a very successful promotion in December.  “Picked up” is a relative term.  But it is definitely a blip in the right direction.  I’ve declared 2020 to be the Year of THE FEVER!  Catch it!  The trilogy awaits.

ezgif.com-resize (1)

Happy New Year to all of you.

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

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC. More info on his books is here: http://thefensk.com