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.
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
If 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.
If 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.
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
If 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.
It was a rare and amazing encounter. Read about it here:
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.
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.
“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:
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
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
If we were having coffee today, I’d have to admit the error of my ways. Yes, that’s right. I’ve been wrong for quite a while. I’ve only been fooling myself thinking my second and third novels could function as effective stand-alone reads. Oh, readers can follow them just fine I suppose but more and more I have come to realize, to fully enjoy them, one needs to read them in order. What I have created here, ladies and gentlemen is a trilogy.
The Fever sets everything up. A Curse That Bites Deep is quite simply a continuation of the same story. Lucky Strike is connected too, in that the events of second book serve as the primary catalyst for what happens in the third.
Like a lot of authors, I tend to think THIS STORY when I’m writing. In a series, using the same characters, it is far too easy to expect that everyone remembers the history, the nuances, and the trials and tribulations the characters have experienced along the way. Yes, the plot is unique but the characters and the way they react are deeply related to one another.
I’m currently working on a fourth book, but from the start, I’ve been trying to make the plot and resulting events more dependent on the situations contained in THIS STORY. So far, I think I’m succeeding. We’ll see.
So, sorry for the confusion. You were confused, trust me. I know this because I was confused. IT’S a TRILOGY! A TRILOGY, I say!
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in central North Carolina. You can check out the TRILOGY at http://thefensk.com … just be forewarned, I don’t mention trilogy at all on my website. Yet.
If we were having coffee today, I’d offer you this piece I wrote on The Pie.
In the early 1990s, I was a moderator on what was called a USENET newsgroup; the newsgroup existed specifically for users to share recipes. Before the web, USENET was basically THE internet. It actually worked a lot like facebook does today, with forums, posts, immediate access, and worldwide access. But it was all text. It was pretty much self-regulated too, by a cadre of computer professionals who helped form the early beginnings of the internet. It was a fascinating time to be internet savvy.
Anyway, a guy who was starting up a new recipe web page contacted the moderators and asked us to send him some recipes so he could flesh out the beginnings of his website, recipezaar.com. He wisely did not want to just steal recipes, he was looking to create a recipe sharing site where people could freely exchange.
Sometime before that my wife Gretchen had seen an intriguing “Amish” Buttermilk Pie on a recipe segment of a local TV station. All she managed to do was copy down the list of ingredients. I used similar custard pie recipes to figure out the procedures and baking specifics. We loved it. But shortly after that, we lost the list of ingredients before we had recorded them elsewhere. They were scribbled on the back of some envelope.
At one point I put out a request for buttermilk pie recipes on the newsgroup.
I bet I gained ten pounds testing the various recipes that were shared but not one was as good as that original. Just when everything seemed hopeless I opened a cookbook and … there was the envelope!!!!!!
I did two things … made a pie to verify that yes, this WAS better than all the others, and then I wrote it down in several places. By some serendipitous accident, this was the precise time this gentleman was requesting recipes so I submitted it, as sort of a fail-safe. I forgot about this for about four years until a friend of mine noticed it on recipezaar and asked me about it. He said it had a bunch of positive reviews. I hadn’t even registered as a user yet … but I got signed up and got the recipe attached to my profile. Fame at last.
This has continued to this day, but recipezaar was sold at some point, at least twice and possibly three times. The original recipe has survived intact, along with all the reviews. It is now the foundation of food.com.
All through its life, it has generally turned up first in searches for “Buttermilk” or “Buttermilk Pie” … and there is a reason for this. Food.com no longer prints recipe numbers but the previous websites did … this recipe is #56, which I am sure is used as a unique database identifier (I am an IT guy). A search with no other criteria will turn them out in numeric order. This is still the case. If you look at the link I provide below, you’ll still see “56” … this is 56 out of over five hundred thousand recipes.
Now … a couple of years ago I concocted a free promotional cookbook … a companion book to my novels and I decided to include the buttermilk pie recipe (with minor modifications).
In the past month, I have heavily promoted the cookbook, most of that on Twitter. So a few days ago when I received a message on Twitter about the pie I assumed it was from one of my thousands of new readers (seriously, this promotion month has been pretty good).
I probably confused her with portions of my response because I referred to other recipes and asked for a review. After a few messages back and forth she informed me she got it from food.com! With my big promotion, I didn’t even think about that location!
I call the recipe in the cookbook “The Best-Danged Buttermilk Pie” and it is listed as a customer favorite in the fictional cafe. I even mention that fact in the latest novel, LUCKY STRIKE.
I’ll tell you this … get it from the website or get it from the cookbook, I don’t care. Just GET IT. This pie is that awesome.
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?
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.
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.