It’s been a while, but this sleeping cat has awakened and he’s decided to gear up the old blog again in anticipation of his upcoming publication.
In my last post, I mentioned a bit about the new project,, HARMON CREEK. There will be more about it coming later. The best news is that it will be released in June of this year. That gives me not quite three months to get off my duff and dust off my blogging and marketing skills.
To get started, I’ll post about the story, sure, but also about the marketing and publishing process. For today, I’ll say that part of the delay in posting was due to my decision to actively pitch to agents and other publishers. It’s not that I’m dissatisfied with the publisher of my first five novels, it’s more along the lines of this was something I’d never even tried. Understand, querying is a lot of work. I sent out dozens of queries but only had one positive response and unfortunately that was received after I had all but given up on the process and submitted to my current publisher. Ah, well. I gave it the old college try (although in my creative writing classes in college we never covered queries).
What I learned, was that you should definitely do your homework and pay close attention to what individuals say they are interested in. Even more important, stick to the guidelines they provide. I know that likely half of my queries failed because I didn’t notice the term “double spaced” (which drastically reduces the amount of text they are requesting) and although I personally think that is so “pre-word processor” — well, the rules are the rules. My bad.
The what, though, that is where a lot of prospective authors fail. The category of “what” is a moving target and can change with the wind. It is whatever an agent thinks publishers can be convinced THEY can make a lot of money on — if they pick this manuscript. Usually it follows currently successful trends and has very little to do with the actual quality of your story or of your writing (although a negative impression of either or both of those can sink you pretty quickly). I won’t comment on the “what” I perceived, but take under advisement: I suspect tails of survival from war-torn Ukraine will soon be a must-have on the lists of agents and publishers. All I’m saying is — pay attention and don’t get your hopes up if your hard work falls outside the current trends.
All that said, smaller publishers, although they still want to make money, can be a little more forgiving in the trend department. And, who knows? YOU might be the next trend setter. I can say with a great deal of authenticity I was dressing grunge in the early 70s long before grunge became a trend. I still do, for that matter, but that’s another story entirely. Oh, and never forget self-publishing, but you can’t skip the same steps publishers take to prepare a manuscript for publication. More on that later as well.
Anyway, after almost a year, I’m back, baby and ready to share.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina USA. More info about him and his work: http://thefensk.com
I’ve been absent from this blog for quite a while and that can only mean one thing: I’ve been writing!
All authors have their own process. For me, it means hammering out a rough draft in a very short time, then spending a lot of time pouring over it, correcting, adding, deleting. Some prefer to painstakingly pour over the manuscript, working on each sentence in progression until it is perfect. That never worked for me. I get a few sentences in and something else attracts my attention and those few pages I managed to complete languish forever in some kind of writer’s purgatory.
No, I like to dash it off, working from a plan, to be sure, but for the most part I let the story tell me where it wants to go. Make that: let the story tell me where it needs to go. The plot develops from the outline, but strays if it needs to. Writing fast is creative and when a writer is on a productive streak new ideas just pop up out of thin air. What I end up with is a complete draft, the story exists from beginning to end. The editing and revision process is tedious, but then again, these actions should be tedious. I call it crafting the novel and it is a lot easier for me to continue to work on a the thing. It’s like building a house. One doesn’t erect the door and get it perfect and painted, then start adding walls in successive building sessions, then flooring, then ceiling and roof. One gets the framework in place as quickly as possible and the roof in place, and only then will they concentrate on the interior, gradually adding and improving until it is complete.
Anyway, my latest work in progress, a crime novel I call HARMON CREEK, is in the late stages of that process. It is based on a true crime. Well, sort of. It’s about my wife’s great uncle, who mysteriously died in 1930. He was a candidate for District Attorney in a mostly rural area of Texas. She’d told me about it several times. The family contended it had been murder, pure and simple, but whoever perpetrated it was never caught. I researched quite a number of newspaper articles about it. Various local papers reported on the case for several days. He died in a one-car accident at the site of a new bridge construction at Harmon Creek in Walker County Texas. Details were sparse, but one interesting detail emerged: stab wounds. There was also a statement from a woman who had purportedly accepted a ride from the man, but exited the car prior to the accident and procured a ride from a friend she had noticed following them. It seemed quite innocent but they never quite tied in any detail that explained how they found her and she and the “friend” were never identified. That was how the first article presented things.
The next day it was reported that she’d added to her story, but to a Dateline aficionado like me it sounds more like she changed her story, which is always an indicator that a lie is involved. The Sheriff also floated a new theory: the puncture stab wounds were likely caused by nails from the nearby railing when his car crashed through it. I thought, puncture wounds on a moving victim from a stationary object. Hmmmmm. Within thirty-six hours of the wreck, he pushed the local authorities to declare it an accident, albeit with weak protests from the justice of the peace and medical officer.
That’s pretty much the gist of the story. There were follow-up stories for several days. The governor dispatched a Texas Ranger to aid in the investigation and the woman changed her story yet again, this time adding a contention of inappropriateness to her story. She was still unnamed. None of this was part of the family lore but the guy was obviously a straight shooter good guy. He’d formerly been county attorney and was now going up against the incumbent for the next step up the ladder. The family contended the incumbent was quite dirty. The most troubling aspect of this story for me was the fact that the progression of news stories simply stopped cold. After about a week there was no more mention of his death, of the investigation, of anything. Gone. Kaput. Nada.
So I compiled the limited facts and anecdotes and used a mystery writer’s eye (and like I said before, a long association with Dateline and 20/20 programs), and pieced together a progression of possibilities. With an incumbent district attorney involved, it seemed too easy to think the guy had simply been bumped off. It is rarely that simple. So I built a progression of cascading events using what I thought to be plausible actions and counter actions. I don’t want to offer spoilers, but I think I explain all of the questions raised in my mind by the various news articles quite nicely. To me there was an obvious reason the case simply disappeared.
And, of course, the country was in the beginnings of the great depression, and the election followed in two weeks. After that, basically life went on.
I have to admit, there was some fun involved in writing this too. I introduce a glimpse into lower echelon criminality, and had a bit of fun digging up criminal slang of the 1920s/early 30s. Here we see the mysterious unnamed “woman” and her “friend” concocting the beginnings of a plot at the behest of the DA’s underling.
“I got a special deal, a sort of blackmail deal.”
“Branching out, are you?”
“McIntyre wants me to frame a john.”
“Not me, I hope,” he quipped.
Betty laughed deeply, “I already have the goods on you.”
“So let me see if I can guess. He wants a Sheba who’s known to skate around to be seen in public with some weak sister.”
“That’s the crop. I’ve got the goods to play the end game, but I’m not much with the planning.”
“Which is why you want me in on the deal. What’s my end?”
“I figure maybe a yard, but I might be needing more help than just a plan.”
“A cool C note? Tell me more.”
Another side story involves Claude. I had to include Claude. One of the most intriguing parts of my wife’s family stories involved her great aunt, the victim’s widow, and her … well I don’t quite know how to categorize him … her friendship with a black man named Claude. Think Driving Miss Daisy’s Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman’s character), except Claude wasn’t exactly an employee. Nothing romantic, nothing like that. To hear my wife describe him, he was oddly devoted to her great aunt, almost like a compulsion or a duty. That’s how it seemed to me. So, Claude has a big piece of this story, which I ultimately use to explain his later devotion to the great aunt, even thirty years later.
I’m still smoothing out the kinks, but I think this will be my best book yet. HARMON CREEK, look for it.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in central North Carolina.
If we were having coffee today I’d be gently raising my mask to take a quick sip while I related my elation to some good book news.
Writing a book, or several books, occurs in several stages. Of course, there is the original concept, structure, and actual writing. After that, an author must pore over their manuscript, tweaking, nudging, adding, subtracting … I call this revision stage “crafting the novel.”
If one is fortunate enough to publish, after the requisite editor back and forth and acceptance of the finished manuscript, the most daunting task begins. You have to sell the damn thing. Marketing generally kicks me in the ass. That’s an official publishing term.
This weekend I have embarked upon my most aggressive marketing campaign ever … I paid for some outside promotion of my entire four-book series on Kindle. For me, it was not cheap, I have been fairly conservative in spending money on promotion. Spend a buck to make a buck, right?
The series promotion expects that the first book in the series will be either free or very cheap. I went with offering it for free. Amazon lets one offer a kindle book for free for five days. They also let one offer a discount price for seven days. I used that second function to offer the other three books at varying discounts. The result? Readers can acquire my entire series for $5.97. Normally that would be $15.96. Four books for under six bucks!
The sale continues through the weekend but the results so far have been encouraging. So far, I’ve given away 4029 copies of THE FEVER. That’s like introducing myself to 4029 new readers! BUT — 117 readers also bought book two, A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP, AND 52 more took a chance on book three, LUCKY STRIKE, AND 46 bought book four, PENUMBRA! I even saw an uptick in my self-published companion cookbook, which is always free anyway.
Will I make my money back? Not quite; not yet. But an author must not only sell individual books, they must also sell themselves. In that respect, this has been quite successful. My hope is that people who like THE FEVER will want to go back and see what other trouble the characters get into in Books 2-4 and be willing to chance another $3.99 on them. They do seem to get into a lot of trouble and each books is better than the previous one.
I have also seen in the past that Amazon backs up increased sales (even free sales) with additional targeted promotion. I’ve even had them suggest my own books to me in the past … this is a real thing.
If we were trying to have coffee today I’d no doubt be all excited! It’s release day for my latest novel. PENUMBRA.
Some people make a big deal about release day. For me it is a bit anticlimactic…okay, it’s official. Distribution is a little wonky today too. This month my publisher is expanding the print copies into a new supplier. We have been exclusively Amazon for a while. Now Amazon will provide print copies sold on its platform and the new supplier will be able to more easily provide copies to bookstores and libraries.
Of course with anything new, the publisher had no real guidance into how long the new books would be in limbo. When they are available, they’ll be available. To make matters worse, the print copies on Amazon are delayed as well.
It’s a good thing I didn’t plan anything big for release day. Today’s big “release” activity? I cut the grass!
Okay, tomorrow is the big day! I know, I’ve bothered you all week, but I just wanted to be sure I got the word out.
This will mark three books published in 10 months. It’s not quite as amazing as it sounds. For one thing, for a number of reasons I had a three-year-hiatus in publishing, well, except for my companion cookbook. So, this pretty much puts me back on track for a book a year. It amounts to the four books of the Traces of Treasure Series, and the stand-alone historical novel The Hag Rider (my other Summer of 2020 release).
I managed to cobble Penumbra together in a little over five months, from the first page to the final revision and signed contract. My first book, The Fever, took close to three years. Writing is like any other journey. There are left turns and right turns, and any number of hard stops. One encounters bumpy roads and pitfalls. Actually, in writing, we create a lot of bumpy roads and pitfalls.
Anyway, thanks for coming along for the ride. There will be more to come, most certainly. I have assembled quite a crew of characters who are meant to take this series forward, but I probably won’t feature ALL of them at the same time as I did in Penumbra.
Look for Penumbra on Amazon tomorrow, in Kindle, KindleUnlimited, & paperback. I’m working on getting copies into some bookstores as well but with my small publisher, this is a work in progress.
I guess it is time for another review! Bonnye Reed is another prolific Goodreads reviewer with almost 2900 reviews posted. She’s reviewed several of my books and I am gratified that she has so far liked my work:
I am pleased to refer Thomas Fenske to friends and family. He writes a tight, intriguing story set in the desert southwest – or as we know it, God’s Country. His characters are contrary but honest, and his background and scenic descriptions are spot-on. The addition of mystical and possibly unhappy spirits is an added bonus. I have enjoyed everything I have read from Thomas Fenske, and this is another five-star effort.
Penumbra is stand alone, the fourth in the series Traces of Treasure. Sam and his girlfriend Smidgeon along with several of their friends get drawn into another intriguing search for missing treasure. They travel over the desert SW, driving from Van Horn, TX north into the White Mountain Wilderness north of Ruidoso, NM, and back around and through the Mescalero Reservation and Tularosa, Alamogordo, and several trips through Roswell – back in the age of payphones and Roswell without aliens everywhere. It was a good trip, very nostalgic and satisfying. It was also back in the ago of mandatory 55 mph all across the US, but the drudgery of travel in that time period is left out thank goodness. Most of us remember that all too well. .
Mixed into Penumbra is a posse of good friends, conscientious law enforcement, polite, helpful people, and excellent food – I enjoyed that part of traveling back in the day. You will, too. And the bad guys are satisfyingly bad. Definitely a win-win novel.
I am blushing when I read such high praise. You can judge for yourself.
Penumbra will be available on Amazon Saturday, August 1, in Kindle, KindleUnlimited, and Paperback. Pre-order Kindle NOW at Amazon!
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.
You can find more information about him and his writing at http://thefensk.com
There are three days until the release of Penumbra!
Today I’d like to share a little bit about the story. This is the fourth installment of the Traces of Treasure Series and, like the others, it involves a search for a treasure. The first three eventually became a trilogy, one story led directly to the next. I fooled myself into thinking they could each stand-alone, and to some extent, I guess they can, but they are definitely tied together. Penumbra, though, is a story unto itself. We have the same characters, but we are not as concerned about their past exploits this time. Events move quickly and although there is some sense of their community of friendship, they are too busy doing what they are doing to bother much about the past.
What they are doing is trying to find the lost boyfriend of an acquaintance of cafe owner Smidgeon Toll. Of course, the pendulum of fate has made another pass: HE was on a quest for a lost treasure. In order to find him, Smidgeon and her boyfriend must enlist the aid of their friends to first get on his trail, then discern more about this treasure he was after. Along the way, they encounter a huge, centuries-old mystery, confront a crew of bad guys who kidnap and murder their own way in pursuit of the loot. New friends join the quest as well, including Ximena, who I mentioned a few days ago.
Another new friend is Bea Welbourne, a special collections librarian at a nearby university. Bea has no reason to become involved, but she’s intrigued by the tale she’s heard and is even more intrigued by the trail of clues she manages to uncover. She’s no stodgy librarian, she is smart, fit, and can hold her own out in the wilderness. When told she doesn’t need to help them, she simply responds that she enjoys a bit of excitement. She certainly gets more than she bargained for.
I don’t want to say too much more, because I’m getting into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say, there are many veiled layers concealing the core of this mystery. All the pieces fit together, but it takes a while for our hardy crew of treasure-hunter, investigators to a conclusion. It is full of twists and turns, with criminals lurking and popping up when you least expect it. And there are several supernatural things complicating matters at several turns. Oh, and the cover? You’ll see all of that in the story.
There are four days until the release of Penumbra!
How about another review?
Diane Bylo is co-owner of the Tometender Book Blog. She is an awesome book-reviewing machine. I just checked her totals on GoodReads and Diane has at this moment, 6490 reviews posted. By the time you go check, it will most likely be more!
She took a chance on my first book, The Fever, and has reviewed every one of my titles since then. I told her I thought this was the best book so far, and she agreed. Here’s what she had to say:
Thomas Fenske’s writing, his characters and the scrapes they get into always remind me of simpler times and dare I say the family television of yesteryear? PENUMBRA is the latest in the Traces of Treasure series and it combines mystery, mayhem and a touch of the unknown as Sam, Smidgeon and their friends take time off from the diner and head to the hills for adventure.
This time out, Sam isn’t at the top of his game, so when someone Smidgeon met before seeks her help in finding her missing boyfriend, the plot thickens as the whole truth comes out. There is treasure buried in them thar hills and isn’t that just right up their alley?
Whose treasure is it? How can it be found? Who knows the secret to finding something buried centuries before? Who will live to uncover the truth? Who is scamming who? Hang on tight, this down-home mystery has Sam and company up to their pickaxes in deceit and the supernatural and you are going to love it as old friends return, once again!