Please help a fellow out …

What? Three posts this week?  Well, things are happening.  Like this little ditty:

My latest novel, A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP is currently in a cover competition.  I need your vote!  Yeah, it’s a beauty pageant of sorts … or a popularity contest.  I’m beating the bushes trying to get some votes.  You can vote once a day.  I’m really proud of this cover.  I won this competition a while back for my first novel, and I want to repeat that success.  So I need your help.

It’s on a marketing site (Author Shout) that hosts this competition every week.  All you have to do is cast your vote (hopefully) for A Curse That Bites Deep.

Here’s the link:  http://authorshout.com/cover-wars

You can vote once a day.  Please do!!

Thanks!

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

 

 

It’s coming soon!!!!

mossbackcove

It’s slowly coming together. What? Why, THE MOSSBACK INN COOKBOOK! What is it? Well, what I’ve tried to do is create a 1980s look in a cookbook, based on a fictional eatery that figures largely in my Traces of Treasure novel series. Hey, I collect cookbooks I know what it’s supposed to look like. […]

via Coming Soon! — TCC-GUY

Life Imitates Art?

img_6284If we were having coffee today I’d have to mention the treasure hunter.  Why?  Because my two novels are about a treasure hunter.  Me?  Naw, I’m not a treasure hunter, I just acted upon an idea I had like thirty years ago.

Anyway, six months after the publication of my novel, THE FEVER, I spotted a news story about a missing treasure hunter.  A somewhat clueless guy set off to find a treasure based on vague clues and disappeared.  That is the basic plot point of my novel.  Of course, there was no cross-pollination here and this is a very tragic story.  A guy died.

I based my story not on something real, like this, but on an idea.  A “what if” scenario. A tragic outcome was always a major possibility in the story and Sam, the hero of THE FEVER, always made sure certain people knew where he was going and when to consider him overdue.  He comes close a couple of times but … well, no more spoilers … that’s why you have to read it!

Why do I bring this up?  I was writing a pitch to a radio station today and I thought the real-life story might be a useful sidebar to the information about my own novel … and found an update I didn’t know about.  The guy’s body had been found about six months after he had disappeared. It’s a little too close to home and frankly the coincidence of the two stories still kind of freaks me out.

Here’s a link to that story:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/26/randy-bilyeu-dead-new-mexico-treasure-hunter

People say, art imitates life, but I always say it is a two-way street.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  More information about his books (and about him!) can be found at http://thefensk.com

Breaking the Code

img_6284If we were having coffee today, I think I’d have to break into my annual moaning session about marketing.  Yes, the books.  Again.

If you have ever aspired to be an author you really need to be aware of the biggest pitfall: Marketing.  I joked in a facebook writer’s group not long ago … writing a novel is hard.  Editing/revision is even harder.  Marketing kicks me in the …
Well, you get the idea. Now, if you are talented enough or lucky enough to attract the notice of a big publishing house, they do all that for you.  Oh, I imagine even then you have to do quite a bit yourself.  But as an indie author or an author from a smaller publisher, the mantle of marketing responsibility falls on your shoulders.

Marketing is a special skill I am still struggling to learn.  I actually worked in publishing for over twenty years, but it was mostly in IT.  Now I sort of wish I hadn’t treated all those marketing people like lesser beings.  To be fair, we IT hacks generally treat everybody as lesser beings.  Still, now I regret it.  I could use some help.  In an irony of ironies, sure, I could buy help but I really need to sell some books first so I can afford it.

There is another irony at work here too.  Writing.  Most of the type of marketing I am talking about involves writing.  I have published two novels and written three others that are in various stages of revision.  I used to be intimidated by a novel’s length but now I find that hammering out a ninety thousand word novel is not that big a deal.  What’s hard, is a two hundred word book blurb.  Sheesh.

So here I am, on a Saturday, when I am supposed to be chipping away at the third book in my series but I’m struggling to, once again, revise my Amazon book blurbs. Succinct, catchy, to the point.  Sell the book.  It sounds so easy.   There is no shortage of advice on-line, some of it is maddingly contradictory.  Mention names, don’t mention names, ask questions, don’t ask questions.  “Short” is the common suggestion.  Okay.

I first encountered this when I got my original book contract.  I blinked at it for quite a while.  They wanted me to supply the blurb.   Uh, uh, uh … I managed to cobble out something.  It was awful.

One impressive thing about having a book on Amazon is the fact that if you register as the author, you can revise your own book description.  I am on what is probably the fourth major revision of my first novel’s description.  Sure, I use the same one on my web page.  If I think it is good enough, I poll the other vendors like Barnes & Noble to change … but you have to ask.  Same with my publisher’s website.

So this is what I’m doing today … One day I’ll crack the code.  I’ll be able to tell because I’ll maybe start selling some books.
Here are the amazon book links … click read more at the bottom of the description to get the whole thing.

How did I do this time?

The Fever
A Curse That Bites Deep

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.
More evidence of his lack of marketing skill can be found at http://thefensk.com

WeekEnd Coffee Snow

img_6284If we were having coffee today, well, we’d probably be doing it by phone or Skype or something … it’s snowing hard out there.  It’s pretty and it’s nice and it’s a pain.
I grew up in Houston, Texas and I think I saw snow maybe twice in the first twenty years of my life.  In looking at Houston history blogs it’s funny when they talk about snow … they’ll talk about this snow and that snow … basically a counting on the hands sort of thing.  And although I haven’t lived in Houston since 1978 I know most of the earlier events they are talking about!

I’ve lived in North Carolina for almost thirty years.  We don’t get a lot of snow here either, but we can expect at least one event a year.  Some years more, some years less.  We sometimes go two years with any.  We also get significant ice storms every few years.  I hate ice storms.   You can expect days without power and I don’t care where you’re from, nobody is used to driving on ice.  Don’t do it.

Now, don’t get all Yankee on me about driving in snow.  It can be done, but you have to understand the fact that here, there just isn’t much snow removal capacity.  Oh, they brine the roads beforehand … that always seems to me to be more like priming the pump.  And sure, there is some snowplow activity, but the plowing appears to be more like they are using a Zamboni to prepare the ice rink. It amounts to scraping, scraping down to the point where they compact whatever ice is left onto the surface.  We end up with a sheet of ice.  If we are lucky and it gets sunny at some point, usually in the spring, the road clears pretty quickly.  No word yet on when the sun will be restarted.

So, no matter what part of Maine or Minnesota or Chicago you are from, you’d probably be one of the people I really fear on the roads out here … zipping along with too much confidence and likely to slide and run into me.

Several times in my life I’ve had to drive long distances in snow and ice.  Once, I was on a business trip, driving from central Virginia to Atlanta.  I neglected to check the weather for my entire route.  It was fine when I left.  In NC I hit some flurries.  As I went south, it got worse and worse.  I just stayed in the wagon ruts and kept going hoping some overconfident Yankee didn’t run into me.  Oh, I’m just joshing … it is the SUV drivers you have to worry about, really.  I lost count of the number of SUVs I saw flipped, run into walls, or stranded dozens of yards out into fields by the side of the interstate.  It was quite a trip.  The entire state of South Carolina at twenty-five miles an hour … the only way to go.

There is a section in my novel THE FEVER where the hero gets stuck on the highway in such a situation … it was a compilation of some of those trips.  One fan told me that was her favorite part but that she had to stop reading at some point and go put a sweater on.

So let’s sip our coffee and chat quietly and pray that the power doesn’t go out.

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Author Thomas Fenske is currently hosting a paperback book giveaway in partnership with the TomeTender Book Blog.  For more information:  http://tometender.blogspot.com/2017/01/thomas-fenske-presents-traces-of.html
More information on his books can be found at:  http://www.thefensk.com

 

 

Traces of Treasure

img_7200-1When my second novel, A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP, was accepted by my publisher they wanted me to add a “series” name.  It was a sequel to my first book, THE FEVER, and even if it was just two books they were seen as parts of a series.  I wasn’t sure there would be more than two, but that’s the way they did it so I was compelled to create a series.

I’d never thought in terms of a series … from a marketing standpoint it isn’t a bad idea, but I hadn’t even considered it.  Now I was on the spot … I needed to come up with something quickly.  I’m not quite sure where the idea came from, but Traces of Treasure just sort of stuck in my mind.  I needed something that conveyed the basic plot ideas of the two books.  My hero is a treasure hunter but his hunt always seems to be more about the idea more than the fact.

My hero is a treasure hunter but his hunt always seems to be more about the notion more than the fact.  Despite years of struggling with the idea, Sam Milton, has found very little in the way of the gold he was promised in the first book.  In the second book, he does find a treasure of sorts, but it wasn’t what he was looking for and it, in itself, seems to point to yet another mystery (wide open for book three, right?).   He always seems to find just enough of something to keep him going.   Basically, a “missed it by that much” mentality.   I guess a slot machine works on the same principle … the tiny payouts keep one hoping that the jackpot looms just beyond the next pull … or two … or three …

So Traces of Treasure was born.  The term left me open to explore other tangents with the same characters, but it was still vague enough to allow different story lines to be part of the same series.  I didn’t want it to be a “Sam Milton Adventure” or something like that.  Hey, he lives a dangerous life … he could die.  No promise or spoiler there … seriously, but this plot and storyline could go in a thousand different directions at this point.

Plus it fits the first book … Sam’s lifelong quest is based on a hope and a prayer, totally trusting the sincerity of a dying total stranger, and a wino at that.  And it fits the second book too … .Sam spends time and resources trying to get to the end of the crude tunnel he’d found in book 1.  He’s found a few specks of gold but as yet no mother lode … wait, maybe that’s where I got it … he found traces of the promised treasure.

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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 … this post reminds him that he really needs to add info about “Traces of Treasure” to the website.

 

WeekendCoffeeShare-Holidaze?

img_6284If we were having coffee I’d no doubt mention the upcoming holiday.  I really like Thanksgiving, which is really surprising because it generally turns out to be an ordeal.

For one thing, I do all the cooking.  Every bit of it.  It gives me a chance to dig in my heels and let fly.  That sounds better than it is.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, the food is almost always awesome.  But it isn’t that hard.  We’ve gone with a fairly set menu for years.  I sort of inherited this legacy when I got married.

When I was single, I usually went home for the holidays.  I grew up in Texas — Houston, to be specific,  and for a number of  years lived in Austin.  That’s less than three hours away.  When I got married, it seemed logical enough to just start our own traditions with my new family.  My darling bride’s family had a number of old favorites … a well-established tradition.  Her mother died not too long before we got married so I just sort of fell into what she had started.  She was a tiny woman but left some big shoes to fill.  Man, I wish I had been able to spend some time in the kitchen with her.

Growing up, we always had a spread at home … but we didn’t have anything really specific as in “THIS IS WHAT WE ALWAYS HAVE.”  Not that I remember, anyway. My mom always concentrated mostly on the dressing, but it seems to me that she just sort of threw it together and would even dry out french bread slices in the oven.  I’ve done that but don’t see anything wrong with commercially prepared bread crumbs.  My wife’s family was different in that respect. There were several dishes that had been on their holiday table for years and years.  Kinda fun, actually.  Any of them could be made at any time, sure, but they weren’t.

My wife’s family was different in that respect. There were several dishes that had been on their holiday table for years and years.  Kinda fun, actually.  Any of them could be made at any time, sure, but they weren’t.

Over the years I’ve added a couple including a couple I mined from an old collection of recipes I found at my mom’s house on a visit.  These hadn’t seen the light of day for dozens of years … they had just been shoved in a closet and forgotten.  I’ve incorporated them into my mix … figuring that they’d skipped a generation but now had come home to roost.

So here’s the menu, of sorts.  Turkey and dressing, of course.  I don’t have a special recipe … just sort of throw the dressing together with veg and giblets and broth made from the giblets.  Shhhh, don’t tell the family.  But for me that’s what gives it that special “stuffing/dressing” texture and taste.  I don’t stuff the turkey, but do drape six or seven slices of bacon over it.  That sort of bastes it … then the bacon gets really crispy and has a turkey-flavored kick.  I always think I should find some “t-day” use for it but it’s so good my daughter and I end up eating it.  One last word … the gravy made from the drippings is sublime.  You need a gravy separator because there is so much bacon grease but there is nothing like it in this world.

Then we have Mamah Salad.  It’s an aspic.  Sounds horrid, tomato soup, cream cheese, veggies, and of all things, peas.  It was a depression “holiday” dish from my late father-in-law’s family.  The matriarch, “Mamah” cobbled it together out of what they had available.  It comes out a sort of pastel peachy color … so it makes an interesting addition to the table.  It really grows on you until it becomes something I almost crave during the holidays.

Swiss Green Beans is another holiday dish that has been made in my wife’s family so long no one remembers where it came from.  I collect cookbooks and actually found a really close variation of it … from a Gladys Tabor cookbook.  Don’t know Gladys?  She was one of the premier food writers in the thirties and forties.  When you taste these green beans you are forever spoiled … what people have come to consider “traditional” green bean casserole pales in comparison and just doesn’t sit right on your palate anymore.  And it is just as simple … and has a lot of similarities.  The binder is a sour cream bechamel and it is topped with Swiss cheese and a coating of … no, not fried onions or bread crumbs but crushed and buttered corn flakes.  Trust me. It’s good.

I’ve added a corn/cornbread casserole … another simple dish mixing butter, sour cream, creamed corn, and whole kernel corn …  binding together with jiffy cornbread baking mix.  Also a sweet potato pudding recipe … swimming in butter and brown sugar and marshmallows.  Two recipes I rescued from my family’s closet were other gelatin salads … a cranberry-orange-pecan salad that ranks right up there with Mama Salad in “THIS IS WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT.”
Another one is another orange salad that combines cheese and orange jello and whipped cream.  Not just any cheese. It calls for good old-fashioned American Cheese.  I’ve tried it with other cheeses … just doesn’t cut it.  Also not processed cheese food product (someone should document the descent of civilization that took us from American Cheese to Cheese Food to Cheese Food Product).   You have to go to the deli and order a big hunk of real American Cheese.  It’s awesome.  Sometimes I opt the orange salad to Christmas.  There’s another recipe for a Strawberry-banana-pineapple gelatin salad we used to always make but it’s huge and never keeps very well and although we really like it we end up with a lot left over so I sometimes let that one slide.  Or make it at Christmas.

If I have time and room in the kitchen, I’ll make rolls … another hand-me-down recipe from Mamah.  Also, depending on space issues and the number of guests, I’ll make another dish or two for the grandkids …

Desserts?  Who the heck has room for dessert?   Pumpkin Pie, naturally.  I love pumpkin pie.  But everybody likes my Buttermilk Pie.  Gotta make Buttermilk Pie.  It was a recipe my wife saw on TV on some show she doesn’t remember, probably on PBS because this predates the food network.  All she managed to scratch down was the ingredient list.  Funny, I lost that once.  I was helping manage a recipe site on the early internet and asked for other recipes.  I bet I gained ten pounds testing recipes … some were close but none were exactly right.  Then one day I found the tattered envelope that had the recipe list … tucked away into a cookbook.  You can find that one on food.com … it’s recipe #56.  If you search buttermilk pie it is one of the first things that pops up.  Note: that’s recipe #56 out of hundreds of thousands.  The guy who originally started the database that ended up on food.com polled us on the recipe newsgroup for additions to help get started.  Pretty cool, really.

So my guiding forces are similarities and convenience.  Most of the dishes can be made the day before, including the green beans.  I first realized that when I was making the gelatine salads … they HAVE to be made the day before.  But everything can go in the oven, in stages, based upon cooking time.  I do the turky first, then as THE TIME approaches I schedule everything else into the oven.  Rolls last … right before serving time.

Man, I’m hungry now.  Everyone, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving this Thursday!  I better start cleaning the house now.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  His latest novel, A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP was just published.  More info at http://thefensk.com