Touching All The Bases

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d be in a good mood.
“Why?” you might ask.
I’d tell you that I finally finished all the identified corrections on my latest manuscript.

Getting a book published is a process and you need to know you can’t skip any component parts of that process.  Well, to be more correct, you shouldn’t skip any of the steps.  If you’re lucky enough to get your manuscript accepted by a publisher and are offered a contract, the publisher proceeds to edit your manuscript. This is humbling because you, as an author, have been pouring over your own manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, striving to deliver the best possible work. When you get the manuscript back you find out just what a fumble-fingered oaf you really are.  I’ve reviewed some of the corrections wondering to myself, “who the hell wrote this crap?”

Yes, you get your manuscript back with hundreds of corrections, each of which you must review, and accept or decline. Sometimes you have instructions to rewrite a sentence or paragraph. Those must be flagged for the editor to review. It’s a process, usually involving two, three, or more rounds of correction/review.

At that point, it goes to the copyeditor, a process that can take several weeks.  This is a period of waiting, a chance for an author to revert to lazy habits. Or, sometimes, a really good author might take this opportunity to work on the next novel. I’ve done both.

When the copyeditor is finished, the publisher proceeds to package the book into something close to the final form and sends you a test edition, called a galley.  My publisher concentrates on ebooks so my galleys come in the form of a PDF file. This is the author’s most important step in the process. We’ve written the book.  We’ve spent months, sometimes years, revising the manuscript, crafting it into the product we sold to the publisher.  Now it is our turn to painstakingly read our own work. I mentioned a fine-toothed comb earlier. At this stage, we really need to sift the work for any errors we can find. I generally go to the library and sequester myself into one of those little study rooms for this process.

It is surprising, after revision, editing, and copyediting, I always find several dozen errors that need to be corrected. The corrections are listed with the full line, then on the next line, you put the full corrected line with the correction highlighted. You double-space after the correction. This allows the editor to easily find the exact line in the text and differentiate between corrections. Note: some of the “errors” are spacing corrections since the fully justified text sometimes results in inordinate spacing between words. This is your last chance to be creative.  For Lucky Strike, I submitted five pages of these corrections.

Once this stage is completed, the publisher applies the errors you found and sends you a corrected PDF.  You’re finished, right?  Nope. There is one more base you need to touch.  You need to double-check the corrections.

With my first novel, I neglected to do this.  I trusted them.  I was writing part-time, it was a busy time at work. I was new, I didn’t know what I was doing.  If I had checked even a few of those corrections, I’d have immediately realized that they had somehow not saved any of the galley corrections and the “final” version was, in fact, the uncorrected galleys.  Two weeks after publication I started getting reports of errors … very familiar errors.  The enormity of the problem became evident very quickly but I had a heck of a time convincing the publisher what had happened.  This is a story for another blog entry, but in short, I learned a very valuable lesson … double-check the corrections.

So, after I completed my corrections for the Lucky Strike, I double-checked the file and found a handful of errors that were either missed or were miscorrected.  In most cases, these were instances where there were multiple corrections in the same sentence. We call the corrections errata, so I sent a new file of errata errata.  This is what I just finalized. I got the new corrected PDF.  Yes, I checked it again.  Done!

But you know, it isn’t over there.  On publication day, an author should actually order all versions of their own book, just like a normal reader.  It is in our best interest to do this, so we can again spot check the published versions and also determine delivery times and availability.  Again, if I had done this with the first book, I would have discovered the error much earlier than my readers.

So, like the title says, touch all the bases!  Is it going to be perfect? Probably not.  There are always things that slip through the process.  How do other publishers do it? They do the same thing.  I used to never see errors in books, but after going through this process, I spot things all the time.  I don’t fixate on their errors, I just take a moment to feel the author’s pain.

What publishing nightmares have you survived?

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

Thomas Fenske is an author living in North Carolina. His latest novel, Lucky Strike, is due out in October.  Now is a great time to catch up on his Traces of Treasure series … get more info on his web page.

Advertisements

Disquieting Thoughts

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I would be happy if the waitress brought us our drinks.  I don’t much like to see the backside of anyplace I eat or drink. Out of sight out of mind, I guess.

I was just talking to somebody about restaurant practices.  We all hear horror stories.  I’ve had quite a number of jobs and second and third jobs.  I was a maintenance man in the student center in college and saw the food service areas up close. That was before I realized what to look for though.  At that time, I was more involved with things like pulling the mangled remains of a bent fork out of drive chain of the huge dishwasher. (One time, I mounted one on a piece of wood and gave it to the manager to give out as an award.)  This happened a lot. It was great for the workers. They didn’t have to load/unload the dishwasher for a period of time.

My first duty in my first job was sanitizing a soft serve shake machine. We took it apart every night, washing all the inner components and in the morning we’d actually sanitize it with bleach and a half dozen rinses before reloading the precious cargo.  Every day.  Why? Because the health inspector would periodically take samples from it to check for bacteria.

But wait, what don’t they check?

I’m talking about things I learned at other jobs.  Take lemons.  You get lemon in your tea or water, but did you ever stop and wonder for just a minute … do they actually wash the outer surface of those lemons?  Actually, some places do.  Most don’t.

Most everybody loves to get butter on their popcorn at the movie theater.  First of all, it’s not butter.  It is some vaguely-butter-flavored-foodlike-substance out of a can. Nobody knows exactly what it is or where it comes from.  But that’s not my point.  When I worked for a movie theater, I never once, not ever, saw anyone wash the dispensing container.  It’s low? Open a can and pour some more in.

I was a barista for quite a while.  My pet peeve when I got to work, usually after my day job, was the towel used to clean the steaming wand, you know the one that creates that wonderful froth and heated milk for your precious lattes and cappuccinos? After that frothing action, you need to clean off the scalded milk residue.  When I arrived for EVERY shift, I would pick up that towel with the tips of two fingers and carefully deposit it with the soiled linens.  I’d go through five or six towels a shift but I’d assume the towel I removed at been on duty since the early morning. Hint: forget about the towel … take a look at the wand before you order your expensive drink. I’d rather they wipe it down with a dirty towel than not wipe it down at all.  You ever scald milk in a pan on the stove then try to clean the pan?  THAT happens to the wand every time.

Espresso machines have another pitfall: the screen.  There’s a metal screen up where the espresso head clamps in.  Nobody can see it, but if you work the machine you are supposed to know it’s there.  You should take it off and scrub it with a bristle brush every day.  It screws in with a single screw.  It’s a pain.  A lot of people skip it because of the pain part but it’s a necessity.  Oh, it’s bathed in super-heated steam again and again, but it also sits quiet and warm for a while too.  It’s also a good idea to just blow it out several times a shift, run water without the espresso head locked in. That at least blows out the tiny coffee particles that stick to it.

We washed all our drip coffee stuff in the dishwasher, thankfully.

Let’s return to tea. You go someplace and it is self-service ice tea. It’s in that big, dispensing urn, right?  It’s big.  How often do you think they actually pull that thing down and really scrub it? It probably won’t fit in the dishwasher. Places I worked might swish some hot water through it, maybe once a day.  Sweet tea sits in that thing for HOURS at room temperature every day.  The health department checks the soft serve? They should check those things.

Some more drip coffee?  Sure. The basket and pot have likely been through the dishwasher.  Oh and some water, please?  No, no lemon, thank you.

What sort of health-impacting issues have you encountered?

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

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

The Reviews are NOT In

reading the book

The third book in my Traces of Treasure series is coming out this October and I’m looking for new reviewers of this book and the other books in the series.

Why would anyone be interested in these books?

The answer is: I seriously don’t know.
I just write them and hope people find them entertaining.

But what I do know is this: the people who’ve read the first two books in the series really like them. But hey, not enough people have read them yet.  I also know that although the subject matter seems a bit male-oriented, seriously,  these books appeal to women as well as men. Check out the current reviews on Amazon if you don’t believe me.

These are mysteries centered on a sense of adventure,  with a good dose of obsession.  The hero of the series (so far) is Sam Milton.  He’s a bit of a loner and loser in the first book, The Fever.  He’s obsessed and he can’t help it.  He got arrested at nineteen and while in jail he helped a sick and dying wino who rewarded him with the riddle. It, the broken little man said, would help Sam find a long lost gold mine out in west Texas.

img_5454The Fever is a bit of a what-if scenario.  What if this happened to you?  Well,  you’d think about it, first dismissing it has hogwash. Then you might wonder to yourself late at night … what if? This is where the title comes in.  Eventually, you can’t help it. You catch the FEVER, gold fever.  When the book opens, a very tired and frustrated Sam is hiking out of the wilderness after yet another fruitless search. It’s dangerous terrain, the home of rattlesnakes and mountain lions.  He’s trespassing.  He sneaks in and out and drives the eight to ten hours back to his regular life, only to plot and plan his next trip. He’s careful. He has a set routine of procedures designed to keep him safe.

Then, after this latest trip, he stumbles upon the solution to the first clue in the riddle. It’s something he missed for years.  It was so simple. Yet, he’s at the end of his hiking season; or is he? The book is about his rush to get back into the field to check out his hunch, throwing out many of the safeguards he had built into his past searches.  Love? Family? Job? Who cares … this is gold we’re talking about.
A riddle and an obsession … what could possibly go wrong?
img_6739The second book, A Curse That Bites Deep, follows closely on the heels of The Fever.  Sam has relocated to the area, relieving himself of the strain of those long drives.  I’m trying not to add spoilers here, but suffice it to say, he’s much happier than he’s been in a long time.  He’s in love with a cafe owner who befriended him in the first book. Things are finally looking up for him, well, that is until people start dying.  One-by-one, people close to Sam seem to pass away.  Some deaths can be explained as accidents, but others are obviously murder.  As the situation continues to get even more complicated, he must take the initiative to confront the killer before the circle of death tightens around the love of his life.  Is it just a random homicidal maniac or is it the curse he had earlier been warned about?

LuckyStrike-WEBThe third book, Lucky Strike, due out in October, definitely proves that Sam’s lost gold mine is not the only treasure-oriented mystery in this small west Texas town. But our friends have a problem: something is definitely wrong but the details are not obvious.  They must claw and scratch their way through a bunch of muddled clues to put the pieces together. All the while they are facing a ruthless villain who seems to be everywhere at once.   It is a top-notch mystery, sure to entertain. This story is as much about Sam’s girlfriend Smidgeon Toll, as it is about him. See that image on the cover? That’s not blatant sensationalism–she does that more than once in this story.

I need reviews, so I am willing to provide PDF review copies of all three books to people who are willing to read and review them. Books 2 and 3 do have a bit of exposition so they could probably be read standalone. Of course, any review for Lucky Strike would be an advance review but if I get good taglines from an early review I can use that in the book. I have an early August cutoff for that.

I’m wanting to sell books, of course, so if there is a massive rush to the box office I might need to be selective.

So if you are looking for something to read, like to leave reviews on Amazon or even better … are a book blogger — help a guy out and drop me a line.  You can get more information on the books at http://thefensk.com — My email info is there as well.

WeekendCoffee Punctuation

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today, I’d be in a tizzy about punctuation. Not just any punctuation, mind you, but specifically colons and periods.

I keep getting zinged by editors on my enormously bad habit of spacing twice after colons and periods. I am currently using great effort to force myself to space singly right now as I complete every sentence.

The habit dates me. I learned to type on a typewriter. It was a standard rule I was taught. TWO spaces after colons and periods. TWO. If not, you’d get that big ruler smacked across your knuckles. I told you, it was a long time ago.

Somewhere along the line, as word processors came into being, the rule changed to a single space. I believe very large numbers of us didn’t get the memo.

It is a habit that is almost as hard to quit as smoking. It’s automatic, especially when I am on a two-thousand-word writing spree.

How many of you still double space after colons and periods?

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

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. You can buy his books on Amazon. Handy links are available here: http://thefensk.com

His second novel, A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP is on sale through June 2 at Amazon, the ebook is only 99 cents.

 

It Might Curry Your Flavor

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d be skipping the sweet roll. Can’t do it, I’d say.  A1C is too high, the doctor said the last time I was in there and he mentioned the dreaded D-word.  I was ticked off.  I admit it.  No, I wasn’t ticked off at him. I wasn’t ticked off at fate or at life. No, I was ticked off at ME!  I knew better.

I’m being a good boy. My glucose numbers are stellar. I’m dealing with the random sweets part of this much the same way I dealt with drinking when I realized that was a deep dark hole I didn’t want to go farther down. I’m changing.  This is harder.  There are only two liquor stores here, but there are three donut shops.

I’m watching carbs.  I “did” Atkins a number of years ago so I have a good handle on the relative carb counts of food.  That is a big part of this.  I’m also exercising.  Regarding foods, it is easier than Atkins. I can have that occasional biscuit as long as I work it into my overall meal carb count.  Same with tortillas.  That covers at least two of my major food groups.

I’m still playing with a few things.  Like, take spaghetti squash. Some people tout it as a replacement for pasta.  I like it as a vegetable but I never much liked it with Marinara sauce. Ah, but I was hungry for Chicken Curry one day and wondered about making some rice, my usual accompaniment. I can eat rice in small quantities.   But sometimes it doesn’t fit in with other things I might have eaten that day. At the store, I saw some spaghetti squash and I wondered, “what if?”

I’m here to tell you today that curried chicken over spaghetti squash is a revelation! The slight sweetness in the taste is a perfect accompaniment to a spiced curry sauce.  Who knew?  I also found something else.  It seems to actually lower my glucose.  Anecdotal evidence, sure, but I’ve noticed it every time I’ve tried it. This combination is definitely in the mix now, an accident like my sweet potato secret. Ah, but you have to get my cookbook to get that.

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

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.

For more information:  http://thefensk.com

 

Got It Covered

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today one of the first things I’d want to do is show you the new cover from my latest novel.  Cover art is always a bit of a challenge because I am not artistically inclined in that way.

At 66 years old I am still pretty much at the stick figure stage.  And they aren’t particularly good stick figures either.  But I have ideas, and I shared a few of my ideas with my publisher’s graphic artist and she did a pretty good rendering of them.  So here it is for everybody in the coffee shop to see:

LuckyStrike-WEB

The book will be published this coming October and is the third in a series of following the adventures of Sam and Smidgeon, who are on the trail of a different kind of treasure this time. As the cover hints, there are long road trips involved and more than once, Smidgeon, the heroine of the book, strikes a very similar pose.

Well, to be honest, they aren’t at all sure what’s going on. It’s a mystery from start to end with a pretty good villain if I say so myself but unlike some mysteries, the reader knows more about it than the characters. Still, I’ve saved a few surprises for the ending.  It has many of the elements of the previous books, including tiebacks to my cookbook, The Mossback Cafe Cookbook, and the first two books in the series. Ah, but I have (hopefully) added enough exposition so the casual reader is not totally lost if they happen to read this first.

I even threw in a couple of cameos.  One of my favorite writers is Ernie Pyle.  He was a remarkable writer, best known as a war correspondent in WWII who eventually died in combat on Okinawa. In reading one of the book compilations of his articles, I noted a man by the name of Elkins he came across in both North Africa and Italy. Pyle was always quick to give home town information of anyone he wrote about and Major Elkins was a college professor from College Station Texas.  He actually called Major Elkins “his friend” on both occasions.  It was not a term he freely used. When I read that, I started wondering.  Years ago back in Texas, I worked very closely with a woman, whose married name was Elkins. I recalled her husband had grown up in College Station as the son of a professor.  I asked her about it.

“Oh, yes,” she said, “That’s Bob’s dad! Bob still has letters Ernie Pyle wrote to him.”

Small world.  So, I wove this coincidence into the start of this book, a bit of an introductory vignette you might say, and Major Elkins is a part of that bit of storyline.

We novelists, if we are lucky, also employ the use of something we call beta readers.  We’ll share our almost completed manuscripts in the hope for an honest assessment of the story. It is part of a working process to make for a better manuscript. I’m hoping for comments on readability and possible logical errors in the story. One caught a discrepancy in a small detail linking back to book 2. It had no bearing on the story, but I like the little details to be accurate so I was glad to be able to correct it.

Anyway, one of these readers wrote back and commented that she had once lived in one of the small West Texas towns I mention in the story.  I got a few more details from her about it and she hadn’t put it together that this part of her life almost exactly paralleled the timeline of the story.  Well, I couldn’t let something like that pass.  I wrote her into one scene, a true cameo, but it also served to add a little more insight into one of the characters.

If writing wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t do it.  Anyway, enjoy your coffee.

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

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. Information on his work, including the upcoming Lucky Strike, can be found at http://thefensk.com
I’m posting hints from time to time on my FaceBook author page too, so please click that link and follow me.

Headshot!

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today, I’d be showing you the new pictures.  No, no, no, not the grandkids, the dog, or the cats … they’d be pictures of me!  With the upcoming publication of my third novel, I decided it was time to skip the selfies.

It’s funny, in the beginning, I didn’t even consider a photo.  It’s vain, I guess, but I generally don’t like photos of myself. But every new author, especially an independent author, should follow the same processes of self-promotion.  This blog is one example of that.  A web page is crucial too. (ahem: my web page) An author should learn to use Twitter and Instagram as well. Youtube videos are a plus.  And one should never miss an opportunity to drop a link into the conversation.

 

And, of course, headshots are part of this mix. I’ve generally used opportunistic shots.

One was at my daughter’s wedding.  It’s a good shot too.  It’s just, I’m so obviously at a wedding.  I liked one selfie I shot with my cat looking back at the camera with a “yeah, right” look on his face.  I had another one I shot while waiting for my wife at her chiropractor’s office.  But none of them convey “author, so, the other day I found a local portrait photographer. We walked around our tiny downtown area and checked out some quaint locations she likes to use.

img_0038I really liked this one, taken at a loft over one of the local storefronts:

Since my cataract surgery, I don’t really need glasses except for reading (my current pair are no line trifocals, clear on top and reading glasses on the bottom). So I tried some without glasses.  I don’t know, I think I like pictures of me better with glasses.  Maybe that’s because I’ve worn glasses full-time for about thirty years.  Anyway, most of my shots were without glasses.

Nice photos, but I don’t like them as much as the one with glasses, although the alternate one at the window is a close second: the pensive author.  I like the image they both project. I have color versions of all of them, but I think it is the old-school part of me that is really drawn to the black & white renditions.

What do you think? Grab another cup of coffee and let me know.

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

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

B/W photos by Tonia Taylor at Blue Door Portraits, Mebane NC

 

It’s a GO!

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d tell you about the contract.   You see, this week I signed a contract for Lucky Strike, my third published novel.  It is a big moment for me because it has been a long time coming.  The tentative release date is October 2019, which will make it three years since my last book.

It’s been a long two and a half years for me to get to this point.  I started this one shortly after the publication of my second book, but I short-circuited my own progress by embarking on my cookbook project.  It was a lot of fun and it showcased my novels very nicely but it took a lot longer than I realized and then I lapsed into aggressively marketing it and my other books.  I did manage to finish the rough draft of the new novel in 2017, and I indeed started revision but got sidetracked again by a request to help my publisher with more marketing.

2018 was momentous for me.  My wife’s cancer battle took up the first half, then my job took over.  Well, it was more the confounding array of details I needed to deal with when my employer made me an offer. I found out that an unplanned departure from work and a sudden transition to retirement is indeed a lot of work in and of itself.  It took me a while to complete that move; we’re talking physically, mentally, and psychologically.  Finally, late in 2018 I dug in my heels and began a deep revision of Lucky Strike.  Four months later, I have a contract.

You know what?  Like they say, it’s better late than never, but it comes at a cost.  When I re-started the revision, it really took me about half the novel to start feeling it again. Maybe “feeling” isn’t the right word.  Thinking the novel, that’s it.  It took me a while to get into “novel mode” again.  I don’t know about other authors but for me, this is the point where I can’t get the story out of my head.  When I drive to the store I have plot revisions percolating through my brain constantly.  I imagine my characters shopping for groceries and run and rerun conversations through my head.  Yes, even out loud sometimes.  I think about it in the shower and while cutting the grass. I’m analyzing plot devices while I’m watching television or movies.  It’s definitely an itch I have to scratch constantly.

Here’s what I learned: don’t lose your momentum. Oh, life intervenes, it always does.  But that momentum is important. I spent three years revising my first novel, The Fever.  I took short breaks but I never lost the momentum.  In this case, most of that similar amount of time was involved with no momentum whatsoever. Like I said, there was a bit of time involved in regaining that momentum. But I did it, and I regained the passion for this novel. Passion?  Heck, I’m stoked about it!!!

So, now I’m working corrections from my editor.  I still have to come up with blurbs and cover ideas. It is all part of the business of being an author.  Then the dreaded marketing push will start.  Or, wait, has that begun already?

I’ll tell you this, the new novel has a very intricate plot with many complex developments. The mystery is complex as well. The reader knows more about it than any of the characters but the different components of it are a challenge to several layers of characters.  Even the antagonist, who has a profound vendetta motive, is grasping at straws to find the answers he’s looking for.  And the reader has only a general idea of what it is all about as the twists and turns converge to what I hope is a surprising ending.  My beta readers and my publisher are all enthusiastic about it.  The major characters are back, including the ghosts.  There is a true villain too.  It’s a wild ride

I better get back to the edits.  More info to come.

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

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  You can find out more about his other book at http://thefensk.com
It would be a good time to start catching up, as Lucky Strike is the third book in my Traces of Treasure series.

 

Ides of February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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