Two Years On …

 It has now been just over two years since I became a published author. This was something I aspired to for a long time. I’m proud of my accomplishment and am working on a third book in this little series that has come to be called Traces of Treasure. Will there be a fourth book? Who knows? At the time I wrote THE FEVER I hadn’t even dreamed of a second book.

It wasn’t an easy goal to achieve. I had dabbled in short stories over the years and wrote a pretty mediocre novella in the 90s (unpublished). On my way to my English and History degrees, I had taken quite a bit of creative writing. At first it was an attempt at a “blow off” course but it wasn’t. Sure there weren’t tests, especially no final, but you had to produce and you had to read. And you had to develop a thick skin because your work went on display to the entire class and everything you wrote went under the microscope of peer review. Believe me, in some respects I preferred tests. Oh, and you had to participate so that meant you had to read everybody else’s stories. If you didn’t write and/or didn’t participate in class, you didn’t get a good grade. 

A lot of people are drawn to short stories. I was. The prospect of writing a novel is daunting. They’re long and drawn out and detailed and involved. Short stories are, well, uh, um, how can I put this? They’re short. They have to be easier, right? 

Allow me to burst your bubble. A good short story is much harder to write than a novel. I mean, to pull it off as a literary work of art. In a novel you can take your time to develop a story, to draw your reader in. To explain things. The aspects of beginning, middle, and end can be fully explored

Understand this: a really good short story is very hard to pull off. Sure, anybody can string a bunch of words together and tell some kind of story. It might even be entertaining. Most are at the high end of mediocre at best. And even if you do manage to pull it off, the financial prospects are minimal at best. There I said it. Financial prospects … and having said it I’ll let you in on a little secret. I shouldn’t disallow short story writing based on financial prospects because the financial prospects of being fabulously successful as any kind of author are pretty dim. 

In the long run, we write because we want to write, the same way an artist sketches or a wood worker sands with the grain for long hours to draw out the soul of a piece of timber.

Then there is the fact that being a writer involves a bit more than stringing words together. Sure some people can do it the first time through. Many more think they can. But there is another level of work that is required to produce a viable written work. I can’t speak for now, but creative writing classes when I was in college didn’t address any of the nuts and bolts aspects of being a writer. For one thing, revision. Of course a novel takes a lot of revision. As I said, we wrote short stories back then. Revision is one advantage to short stories. They’re shorter. Revision on a novel is hard. I spent three years on THE FEVER start to finish. That is entirely due to the fact that in the beginning I didn’t really understand how to effectively revise, how to edit myself, in short, how to actually craft the novel.

Oh, I knew the basics of what I needed to do, technically anyway. I had a foundation laid down, but there is an artistry to sit down and actually build something on top of that foundation of words. I changed the ending three times. I changed the beginning four times. Each time I thought it was better, and maybe it was, but as I read through it I would find myself dissatisfied. My first three revisions were pretty much a waste of time, useful only as a starter course in novel revision. 

I did hit upon a technique that has served me well since then. AT first I would run through a revision cycle, then pause and regroup my brain a little, and read through the novel start to finish. I noticed that the quality eventually improved through the work and I reasoned that in my revision cycle I was getting better and more insightful as I found my groove. So in the fourth revision, as I reached the end of the book, I went back around and attacked the beginning AGAIN, while I was hot. Eventually, I just began to swing around again and to start again. My revisions were more productive after that.

I did decide to take a short break later, after revision seven. I was burned out. So what did I do? November was coming up … and that meant NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month (where one endeavors to write a 50,000 word rough draft in 30 days). I took a month off, not from writing, but from THE FEVER. I wrote another novel. I still have that one, waiting to be revised. Then I started right back on revision eight of THE FEVER.

About other novels: I wrote two others before THE FEVER. All three are good stories but they need to be revised and crafted. All five, including THE FEVER and A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP were NaNoWriMo projects. 

A testament to my learning curve from the first novel revision is the fact that I only spent six months revising A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP. 

So, here I am, two years on, with two novels in publication, plus a whimsical promotional cookbook that I spent a lot more time on than I ever thought I would, and I am working on a third book in the series (but working on that one outside of NaNoWriMo.) This one has been slower going, but that is due to the breaks. One long one because of eye surgery then, just as I was starting to roll I got the idea for that cookbook. It was fun, and it also taught me the rudiments of self-publishing. I hoped it would help draw attention to the novels and increase sales. THAT is still a work in progress. 

See, that is the other aspect of being a writer they didn’t teach me in school: marketing. Even the lucky few who get picked up by a major traditional publisher have to deal with it; although those publishers do a lot of the marketing, you still have expend a bit of effort to market yourself. With small publishers, or in self-publishing, the lion’s share of the marketing responsibility falls on the author. At just about this exact time two years ago, that reality started to dawn on me. “Okay, I’m HERE … Now What?” 

I had no web page, no blog, no Twitter presence, no “book” or “author” page on Facebook, no Instagram account or Pinterest presence. I hadn’t even thought about any of these things. What did I do? I googled “book marketing” and I scrambled to get things in place. As part of my pre-publication work I was presented with the opportunity to provide blubs and key words … huh? I cobbled something together. Remember what I said about short stories? You want to work literary wonders of high art? Learn to write effective 200 word book blurbs. A 95,000 word novel is child’s play compared to that. I’m still learning. Feel free to peruse my blurbs on Amazon and give me pointers. 

There is always work to do: I don’t post to this blog enough. I depend a lot on Facebook and Twitter. Sales are still lackluster and sales of my second published book lag far behind the first, which surprises me because I think it is really a much better book. Although a sequel, I feel I did a good job of making it stand on its own. If I had anything to do over, I would have asked the publisher to de-emphasize the “book 2” on the cover. I think it causes people to hesitate. You need that gut level … THIS LOOKS INTERESTING … you don’t want them to hesitate and wonder “what about book 1?” I remember the time I was looking for something to watch on Netflix and saw the series “EARTH 2” and started searching for “EARTH 1” …. Then realized, oh, we live on Earth 1. Anyway, I’m telling you now … you don’t have to read the first book. Sure, it helps … it’s a great story too, but you can read “Curse” all by itself and not be lost at all. 

Heck, even The Mossback Café Cookbook helps for both books. And it’s free! Mostly. Still trying to get Amazon to price match. 

So, two years on and I find that my status as a novelist is firm … and I’m making just enough money to keep working full-time at my day job, er, probably forever.

I will say this, I have a core of very enthusiastic fans for which I am very thankful. Through them I have found that once people read the books, they really enjoy them. Even my editor kicked back one scene in “Curse” then recanted because she realized she got too invested in the characters. I thought at the time, “my editor got invested in my characters … that can’t be a bad thing.”

So check them out. Don’t forget, I’m Author of the Month at authorshout.com


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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina … for information about all his books go to http://thefensk.com

WeekendCoffee WooHoo

bookofweekIf we were having coffee today it would be all about the contest.  “What contest?”  The weekly Cover Wars contest.  I don’t know why, but I chose not to proselytize here last week when the contest was starting. I don’t know why.  I guess I thought I had a lot of followers from here already and I posted about it outside of weekendcoffeeshare, but I just didn’t feel right about talking “vote for me” here.  Ah, but the week is over and my cover won!

One of the perks of winning:  A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP is the book of the week!

A little background: This competition is hosted by a book marketing site called Author Shout.  They offer a lot of author and book services and when you purchase marketing from them, they promote the heck out of your book on social media.  Every week, they have a free “Cover Wars” competition … they put up a batch (usually 10-15) cover photos and people vote for their favorite.

Sure, I think my novel A Curse That Bites Deep has an awesome cover, but I also know, this is WAR.  I enlisted the aid of my FaceBook friends and tweeted and posted on several mailing list groups I belong to.  The key to this contest is repeat votes … people can vote once every 24 hours.  I was able to gently pester my friends enough every day for seven days to get the win.  I’m always amazed at covers that get less than seven votes.  I mean, even if I was totally not going to win, I’d make sure I got at least seven votes, right?

So please excuse me for tooting my own horn a little this morning.  After all, it IS an awesome cover for an awesome book.

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

WeekendCoffee Fools

 

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Christmas photo?  April Fools!

If we were having coffee today I guess we’d both mention April Fool’s Day.  It always seems so appropriate to “do” something on April Fools Day.  The fact of the matter is, I joke all the time so I’m a bit jaded by April Fools. It’s a bit like a heavy drinker making a big deal over New Year’s Eve or St. Patrick’s Day as a drinking day.  I mean, for them, every day is a big drinking day so why seize on those events, right?  So, anyway, I’m just not in the mood this year.   Maybe it’s my weeklong backache, or the reorganization at work, or the growing grass and weeds in the yard which brings me back to, well, back to my backache.

 

Sigh.  With my back, I know I just need to give it some time.  It always manages to work itself out.  It twinged up on Friday a week ago and was feeling better last Sunday so I did a little bit of yard work but paid the price.  If I’d let it go last week, I’d probably be ready to go out and do battle now.  As it is, I’ll probably need to wait until next weekend.

As far as the reorganization goes, they are a way of life at work.  Somebody is always reorganizing something.  I’ve worked at the same place for seventeen years and I have completely lost count of the reorganizations.  The other day I tried to remember all of my bosses names and I drew a blank on a couple of them.  It is simply a way of life in big corporations.  I have two theories about why that is, and I think they are related.

One: some form of movement gives the outward impression of progress.  In fact, it is really just moving the many pieces around.  Oh, little things change, sure, but basically, it ends up being the same work.  Nothing ultimately changes.
Two: by its nature, this form of change tends to cause anxiety and discontent.  This leads to what I call passive layoffs.  These occur if people are already dissatisfied with the company and the unnecessary changes might just spur them to quit and move on. This is a win-win for the company because formal layoffs are very expensive.  If they can up the irritation factor just a little, they save a ton of money.

Silly April Fools notion?  Think about it.  Think about times you’ve worked at a job and some inane policy has come up that made you seriously consider moving on.  As far as I know, I made this term up but deep in my heart, I know it is a real thing.  No joke.  It’s a subtle form of managerial influence.  It is akin to the theory that fast food eateries have color schemes designed to influence you to eat fast and get the heck out of there by using a subconscious influence to increase their customer turnover and make more money.  We’ll have to see how all that plays out for me.   I’m pretty used to these changes, but we’ll have to see.  It’s a big unknown.  Yesterday I had one manager, today I have another.

In other April Fool’s Weekend news … there is an important sports milestone this weekend.  No, I’m not talking about Basketball.  Never have been a big fan, although sometimes I’ll watch the last two minutes.
No, I’m talking about a real sport:  BASEBALL SEASON STARTS TOMORROW.
Note: there is no “last two minutes” in baseball.

Downloads of the new cookbook have slowed down.  Please check it out.  It’s fun, it’s got some good recipes, and it’s free.  It’s also a good introduction to the world of my two novels.  As a reviewer put it this week:  “This little cookbook makes the novels seem almost like reading about friends” … ebook only right now, but like I said, it’s free and there are versions for virtually any device.

It is only in ebook formats right now, but like I said, it’s free and there are versions for virtually any device.  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/712183

So, even though I haven’t joked at all … that is so out of character for me, I think I can say, April Fools.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  You can make his back feel better and make him less uneasy about his job if you BUY HIS BOOKS.  More info at http://thefensk.com.  At least download the cookbook … you know you can get the pdf and read it at the office while you are pretending to work.  At least an increase in free downloads gives the impression of some form of progress.  😉

Another Great Review

I’m starting the new year off right … someone just posted Amazon review #5 for A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP.  

“… Set in Texas, it is an excellent depiction of the people and places of my home state. Buried treasure, ghosts, romance and constant danger will keep you engaged and entertained …”

The reviewer had read both books in the series and concluded … “Read them both!”

You can get more information on both THE FEVER and A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP (along with quick buy links for Amazon, Barnes &Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords) at:  http://thefensk.com

WeekendCoffeeShare – Christmas Eve Eve

If we were having coffee today, Friday the twenty-third, I’d wish you a Happy Christmas Eve-Eve.  

The day figures prominently in my novel, The Fever. In fact the entire Christmas week is a big part of the story.   In the book, the day has been celebrated by several of the characters as both a Christmas celebration and the commemoration of a shared tragedy — the destruction of their old workplace by a fire-bombing.  It was a bar called Trotsky’s. No one knew if it was radical right-wingers lashing out at a perceived symbol of Communism, or radical leftists intent on preserving the memory of a revered servent to the cause.  Really, it was just a bar with a catchy name. 

The “holiday” concept was born out of my own usage of the term when I used to host an informal get-together as a chance to celebrate with friends before they headed home for the holidays.  

Ironically the day has gained some traction as “Festivus” from a Seinfeld episode. Ah, but another sitcom, New Girl, has just aired an episode about Christmas Eve-Eve. I an glad I put it in the book, so if it takes off you’ll all know where it originated.  

So, Happy Christmas Eve-Eve!  And also, a warm Season’s Greetings to you and yours. 

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More information about Thomas Fenske’s novel THE FEVER can be found at  http://thefensk.com

Treasure or Trouble?  

Time to walk a Texas mile in Sam’s dusty boots … 

THE FEVER explores Sam’s obession with a seemingly unattainable dream.  Just how far would you go to feed your fever?  

A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP continues the story of Sam but this time there is a killer in the mix, and maybe a ghost or two. 

Remember … “if one searches really hard for something, often they’ll find it.  But the “it” they find may not be the something they were after.”

So, what’ll it be-Treasure or Trouble?  Or maybe a heaping helping of both!  
The books are available for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, and in Paperback.  http://thefensk.com

The SHOES, Part 2

If we were having coffee today I’d have to beg forgiveness again because, well … I just have to give an update about the shoes.

I first mentioned the shoes last June, while they were still in the process of being transformed into the showpiece/centerpieces for our daughter’s upcoming nuptials.

To recap, Gretchen, my darling bride, took our daughter’s sweat-stained, ragged, worn-out pointe shoes, remnants from many years of intense dancing, and proceeded to turn them into works of art. To this end she used paint, decoupage, glue-on gems and flowers, and all manner of arts and crafty add-ons. She created about twenty unique pieces for this wedding.

When the florist delivered the bouquets and boutonnieres he mentioned to me that  no centerpiece flowers were ordered and I showed him what we had instead … he was impressed.

Anyway, as you can see from the pictures, after she finished decorating all the shoes, the plan was to display them in a tall glass vase. After looking them over, she decided a little height was necessary, so each vase was elevated with an inverted glass heart dish. A dab of lace around the dish, a round table mirror, a little decorative border and a few  additional accents completed the centerpiece … I think it was a marvelous and unique idea and I am not alone. In looking at facebook postings of wedding pictures, everybody included multiple shots of different shoes.

The glass dishes were a little unstable as a platform and this required a late-breaking modification … we glued them, and very late at that, so we were quite fearful of the glue curing in a timely fashion. It made for tricky transportation because I did not feel safe boxing them … so I put them on the floorboard of the two cars we were driving with a little light padding around them … and tried not to take any sharp turns during the 170 mile trip to the venue. All arrived intact.

Like most wedding preparations, these shoes were just one of many details.

The wedding? Simply magical.img_6809

 

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. His latest novel, a Curse That Bites Deep has just been released. More info: http://thefensk.com

Don’t Take My Word For It

I’m stoked about my first teview.  It’s from the tometender review blog (a top-rated GoodReads reviewer!).  

http://tometender.blogspot.com/2016/10/a-curse-that-bites-deep-by-thomas-fenske.html?m=1&zx=ccdbf732a0f14b9b

A Curse That Bites Deep is available in paperback from Amazon or in eBook format from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and Smashwords.  Buy links here … http://www.thefensk.com

Help me get rhe news out, please reblog!  

Book Release / Giveaway!

Judgement day

At long last, my second novel, A Curse That Bites Deep has been published.  To help celebrate the release, I’m giving away several kindle copies through Amazon.

Ah, as with most things associated with a curse, there’s a catch.  Follow me on Twitter.  Not a big deal, the giveaway will guide you.

Here’s the link: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/21b5f6291cccaac8

 

If you happen to win, please favor me with a review.  If you don’t happen to win, hey, you can still be bitten by the curse, and $3.99 is not really that much … it’s likely cheaper than a latte.

More information at http://thefensk.com