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?

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

Seal of Approval

 

seal

We decided to spend Christmas at the beach this year.  It was glorious.  We rented a nice oceanside beach house on the Outer Banks, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, taking advantage of off-season prices.  I took a number of sunrise photos. It was only natural because I got up early every day.  I took the photo above the last morning.  Nice, huh?  Look on the left side, near the waterline.  I didn’t see this when I first took the photo.

As I admired the view, I finally noticed it.  At first, I thought it was a large piece of driftwood.  Then I figured it was a large dead fish.  Then I noticed what looked like whiskers.

seal1
The is a zoom-in from the previous photo. 

“Oh, great,” I thought to myself, “A dead seal on our last day!”

I kept trying to comprehend what I was seeing; then it happened.  The tail flippers moved ever so slightly.

“Even better, a dying seal on our last day.”

The tide was coming in. I checked it on-line.  High Tide was in about an hour.  I could see the waves extending a little more up the sand every few minutes.  The seal raised its head once.

Then a flock of seagulls came up and started a wide circle around the deck and the shore, including the seal.  In my mind, they were focused on the body.

“I’m not going to stand here and watch breakfast being served.”

So I tromped out into the sand, in my shorts and croc-style clogs; not my sand footgear of choice. I was intent on at least inspecting it with a bit more detail before I called somebody.  It was a bit chilly and the sand at the end of the deck was deep and loose, so I made my way toward the body with some difficulty.  Somewhere between fifty and a hundred feet from it the status changed.  Forgive me for being less-than-accurate because what happened next greatly diverted my attention.

My approach caused the seal to suddenly perk up. It looked up, then turned toward the water. It looked back and then started its funny seal-walk toward the waiting waves. It wasn’t dead or sick … it must have been sleeping!

I fumbled with the phone in my pocket and quickly fired up my camera, and caught these shots of the rush for safety.

The entire sequence of events took maybe thirty seconds.  It was a rare and remarkable nature sighting and for me, it seemed to last much longer.

Finally, all that was left was this:

seal5

I saw it one more time, about twenty feet out, its little head poking out of the water, probably wondering what the heck happened and who the heck had barged into the room.

Since then, I’ve learned a bit more about seal sightings along the North Carolina coast. In the winter, seals move south, down the coast. A few go as far as NC, some even make it down to South Carolina.  It’s a rare thing to see, but not unusual. A lone seal like this is not unusual either. The young ones, probably teen-agers in seal years, often take off on their own.  Being on the beach like this is not unusual either.  It’s termed “hauling out” … and it is considered quite normal for seal behavior.

I did the wrong thing by approaching him. I had no idea. It turns out there is a number to call to report sightings … they would have told me what to do: just keep back and watch.  This one was probably waiting for the tide to be the alarm clock.  I did report the sighting after the fact, which is another thing they say to do.

Anyway, it was a great last day, and it was an awesome bookend for the year 2019.

Happy New Year.

BTW: Here’s a link with resources;
… I wish I had this available at the time:  NOAA Link

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  Make 2020 the year you catch THE FEVER … read it and the other two books in the trilogy.  You won’t be sorry.
http://thefensk.com

 

 

Are You Feeling Lucky?

what's so lucky about lucky strike_What’s so lucky about Lucky Strike?  Considering the theme of vengeance and the ensuing deep-seated criminal conspiracy, not so much.  In fact, we see several crimes in the pages, including threats, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, torture, and murder. What’s it all about?  Well, that is the big question, isn’t it?

The story doesn’t depend entirely on information from the previous two books in the Traces of Treasure series, but having that firm background certainly doesn’t hurt.  Of course, Sam Milton returns along with his paramour Smidgeon Toll.  Lance Norton, one of the main characters in the second book, is part of the story as well. The story also introduces an old lawman, a private investigator named Mule Hollis, who is following a parallel trail that leads directly to our heroes.

Still, I think a fledgling reader can enjoy the book as a stand-alone but here is a brief primer. The first book involves Sam Milton’s long obsession with a lost Gold Mine. As he becomes increasingly desperate, he gets careless and the book follows his struggles with the situations he finds himself in. The second book follows up with a seeming curse that throws a cloud over all the characters and introduces several ghostly associates who have a deep interest in what transpires, as one person after another falls victim to a hidden killer.

So much happened in the second book, it had to have made the news.  The bad thing about news coverage is that it sometimes attracts unwanted attention.  That’s what happens in Lucky Strike and the repercussions are profound.

An innocent search for some answers to what at first seems to be a small mystery results in a series of desperate acts and the villainous activities eventually involve everyone as they all scramble to make some sense of the situation.

Wait. What about the ghosts?  They’re back as well, but they are also confused by the dire situation.

Various twists and turns lead Smidgeon on a long quest from Texas to North Carolina,  collecting a confusing array of clues she must somehow piece together.

All the while a mysterious stranger creates havoc as he follows his own trail of vengeance, crime, and destruction.

Add it all up and … well, it doesn’t sound too lucky, does it?
Do you think you can figure it out?
Feeling lucky?

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Find out for yourself … experience the Traces of Treasure

Book 3: Lucky Strike
Book 2: A Curse That Bites Deep
Book 1: The Fever

All three are available in both eBook and Paperback and they are also available on KindleUnlimited.

The Story So Far …

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Cusp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

WeekendCoffee News!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WeekEndCoffeeShare SALE!

Audreypromo-smIf we were having coffee today I’d be telling you all about my big Labor Day Sale this weekend on my current backlist.

With the third novel in my Traces of Treasure series due out in a few weeks, I thought this would be a great time for the teeming masses to catch up on the first two books.  Both ebooks for The Fever and A Curse That Bites Deep are on sale through Monday 9/2 for just 99 cents on Amazon (99p on Amazon UK).

 

THE FEVER US Amazon Link
THE FEVER UK Amazon Link
A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP US Amazon Link
A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP UK Amazon Link

I tried to make the new book, Lucky Strike, as much of a stand-alone as possible, but your enjoyment is certainly enhanced by the stories in the first two books.

While you’re there you can also check out the free companion cookbook.

Of course, for your convenience, you can buy the paperback versions from both sites — but they aren’t on sale.  That’s out of my control.

Don’t sell ebooks short though, they have a lot of advantages.  You can carry an entire library around with you. You can easily read in the dark. You can adjust the text size. They are less expensive. They save paper. You can buy and get them 24 hours a day. There are free reader apps for almost any device.
The biggest comment I get is that people like to hold a book.  I got over that limitation by buying a nice folio cover for my tablet … it feels like a book, it really does, and the apps have a flip page function and you don’t even have to lick your fingers.

What excuses do you have for not buying a nice ebook for a great price?

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

 

WeekendCoffee Buzz … and Neil!

apollo11If we were having coffee today I’d be pretty vocal about recognizing the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing. I have privately noted the date every year since then.  It is hard to believe it has been fifty years because  I remember the events of Apollo 11 quite vividly.

In fact, I have followed the space program closely since the first flight of Alan Shepherd.  My fourth-grade teacher, Miss McGrath, dated some guy who worked for NASA (I grew up in Houston so he was part of the fledgling Manned Spacecraft Center) and he came in and got us all fired up about the whole thing.  We watched the entire flight of John Glenn on TV in school!  Big deal, you younger folks might think, but in 1962 it was indeed a big deal!

Even from the first days there were complaints about the spending of money on this entire effort.  These complaints continue today.  Improve things on earth first, they say.  I say, look around.  Chances are you’re reading this on a computer or better yet, a tablet or smartphone, based on information that was transmitted over the internet by wire or by wireless communication.  These weren’t just natural progressions in technology.

Look at the 20th Century:  most “advances” were slow, almost cosmetic, and this continued up through the 1960s.  It was after the space program that things really took off.  This is because of the huge investment in technology, which created new industries, and a lot of jobs, along with a lot of new ideas solving problems that people hadn’t even considered before.  This served to make people more interested in pursuing educational goals to advance various fields of engineering, that is, as opposed to more traditional trade pursuits.

All of us have been affected by the amazing advances in electronics, medicine, engineering, metallurgy, chemistry, manufacturing, robotics, heck, I’m running out of fields but there are more — I just can’t remember them all — you can trace all these things back to the initial investments in the lunar landing project.  It wasn’t just an investment in achieving a singular technological triumph, it was an investment in all of us that continues to enrich our lives to this day.  Maybe these things would have eventually happened, but I assure you the progress would have happened at a snail’s pace compared to the way it worked out.

You want a really good example? In May 1977 we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic.  Think about that.  Yes, air travel had advanced, mostly due to wartime necessity, but that’s pretty much it.  Television?  It existed in concept at the time of Lindbergh but wasn’t even crudely available for another twenty years.  When did things really start to take off?

To the deniers, I have to ask, where is the motivation for such a conspiracy — one that would involve hundreds of thousands of people?  The money?  It really wasn’t that much in comparison to the rest of the Federal budget … remember it was funded piecemeal over a period of years.  It still is.  The thing I hate about the deniers is this: at the core of their denial is that they deny humans are even capable of doing something like this.

Here are some common claims.  No stars in the pictures.  It’s daytime!  There is no atmosphere and no ocean to reflect blue, but it’s daytime and it’s really bright and the cameras must be f-stopped really tight.  I’ll tell you this, if there were stars in the pictures, that would be proof of a fake.  The flag?  It had a spring to make it unfurl.  Hanging limp would have looked really lame.  We weren’t entirely without class in the sixties. The danger of the Van Allen Radiation Belts?  It’s a phenomenon. Really, there’s much more danger from solar wind (which is where the radiation in the belts comes from).  We know about these things … there is layered shielding.  Most of the time you get more radiation from the electric burner on your stove. I saw some guy post once about “how did they take off from the moon without an engine?” … where did he get that?  Of course there was an engine.  Lordy.

In my opinion, two events precipitated these conspiracy theories, both of them were movies.  Star Wars and Capricorn One.  Capricorn One came after Star Wars … it was about a similar sort of conspiracy but involving a Mars landing.  Pretty low budget and forgettable movie but some people didn’t forget and it cemented the merest idea of a conspiracy in their minds.  The other, Star Wars, heralded a technological leap in movie special effects that continues to this day.  Note: before Star Wars, space special effects were pretty darn awful.  You have to think about this in context.  I think a lot of deniers consider the issue through the post-Star Wars special effects revolution, not before.

Yes, people have died.  Space has always been a dangerous endeavor.  So is the freeway and air travel. In times past, people would go off on ocean voyages and disappear without a trace.  Did they stop sailing the ocean? Nope, they built newer and better ships.

You might note that I used Buzz Aldrin’s name first in my title … that was both for aesthetics as well as to give Buzz a big shout out.  We all remember Neil Armstrong first and foremost; he stepped out first, after all.  But you know what?  They landed together; they were a team, and I think they thought of themselves as a team of three.  Success depended on all three of them … including Mike Collins, the man in the tin can up above.  So to all of you, Buzz, Mike, and Neil … thank you for helping us realize what is no doubt the most awesome technological event yet created by our species.  Think of it, yeah, America did this, but more than that … humans did this!  Let’s go back!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC … find more information about him and his writing at http://thefensk.com
NEWS!  His companion cookbook, The Mossback Cafe Cookbook, is now FREE on Amazon!  Take a look >>> HERE

The story of Oso

osoMy daughter started a new job in a new career yesterday. We were close to her new office after a doctor’s appointment so we offered to meet her and treat her to a celebratory dinner.  My wife rode with her on the way back and they were following me on our way home, about 25 miles to the west.

A few miles down busy Interstate 85 I saw something in the road. I had a lot of glare on my dirty windshield, not an ideal situation in the late afternoon driving west, but I soon focused on the object. It was a dog standing in the middle of the lane.  A car was parked nearby and a woman seemed to be chasing the dog.  I managed to change lanes but was concerned about traffic, speed, and my followers so I continued on.  I reasoned that it was likely the woman’s dog and she’d get him.

Okay, I didn’t have the best reaction.  But in a few moments, I realized I didn’t see my daughter’s car behind me anymore.  I called both her and my wife.  No answer.  I was concerned that maybe they had hit the little dog.  The bad thing about the Interstate highway is that there is no easy way to return. Finally, my wife called me back.  They had stopped.

The woman I saw had, in fact, coaxed the dog out of the roadway and was holding it, but she lamented to them that she was just passing through and didn’t know what to do with him.

“That’s okay,” my daughter told her. “We’ll take him.”

He turned out to be a scared, but very sweet, Rat Terrier.  He had no collar so they stopped on the way home and bought one.  I had already started scouting out the local “lost and found pet” Facebook pages after I got home.  I was just waiting for him to get to the house so I could snap a picture.

He was found about twenty miles from our house, along the county line between Orange County and Durham County.  We live in Orange County but along the opposite county line. There is a lot of cross-county interaction; many people commute to Chapel Hill and Durham (and even Raleigh), so I knew it would be better if I could cast a wide net.  There are local Facebook pages for our town and for Orange county, so I started there.  The county to the west, Alamance, has a lost and found pet page, I posted there too. Orange County has a lost and found pet page as well, so I posted there.  I had to join and wait for approval at both of those last two.  I knew there were two motels within a mile of the spot where he had been picked up, so I called and left my number, in case any guest reported a missing dog.

Okay, I felt guilty that I didn’t stop, but now I was doing what I do best:  I was writing and using the heck out of Facebook.  I had also taken a few minutes to get to know this little guy.  We kept him isolated from our dog and cats, which I knew was important from some past experience in taking in other strays.  He really was a sweetheart but we didn’t know his health history. In the case of a stray, you really should observe the new animal for a few days.  We likely had nothing to worry about, this dog was clean and well-groomed. His claws were impeccably trimmed and polished.  I decided to check something else.

oso2“Sit!” … he sat and lowered his ears and looked soulfully up at me.  Yeah, this was somebody’s love bug.

I kept checking the posts.  In minutes there were already leads.  The shares continued.  He got to the house at about 8PM.  At about 11 I got a call.  It was a woman whose neighbor had seen the pictures on one of the Facebook shares.  After a brief exchange, I was pretty sure this was legit.

I told her I could bring him by in the morning.  No way, she said, she was getting him right away!  She said his name was Oso.  I had taken to calling him Roadie, because he had been in the middle of the road when I first saw him.

Of course, I wanted some verification.  As a first step, I went up and called him by name.

“Oso!”

His ears perked up in recognition, sort of like, “he knows my name!”  He ran to me and immediately rolled over.  Okay, step 1 complete.

The lady brought a folder with all the papers to verify.  She also showed me pictures on her phone … perhaps hundreds of photos of him.  Yeah, I was convinced.  He also obviously missed his Mommie very much … there was no questioning his own recognition of her.

So yes, I felt guilty I didn’t stop.  But like I said, I had a good backup.  And I knew how to use my strengths to help make things right.  Pets get away sometimes, no matter what you do.  He’s just a sweet and very much loved pup who managed to rush out the door.  My dog does that every now and then.  She’s a beagle mix who lets her beagleness overtake her desire to be an obedient dog on occasion.  It happens.

I have a confession: we really liked him and almost hoped he wouldn’t be reunited.  One wonders how people choose not to return found pets, but I can see how the temptation might be strong.  One owes it to these much-loved pets to fight that temptation and find their owners!

Anyway, Oso’s adventure had a happy ending.

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