Countdown to Penumbra-5

Penumbra-II

There are five days remaining until the release of Penumbra!

Today, I’d like to share one of the pre-release reviews.  Marianne Reese is a fellow author and book blogger. Please visit her Amazon Author Page to learn more about her. We found each other through a Facebook author forum and have been fans of each other ever since. She’s an awesome writer … check out her books.

She even has a cameo in the third book of the series, Lucky Strike. She read an early version of the manuscript and mentioned that she actually lived in one of the locations for a short time; it coincided with the timeframe of the book! So I stuck a scene with her in there, stranded with a flat tire and helped by one of the protagonists. It added a little compassionate depth to his character and allowed me to honor the support and help she’s given me over the past few years.

This review is located on goodreads.com.

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This is the fourth book in the Traces of Treasures series, and like the first three, it did not disappoint!
Sam and Smidgeon, along with their friends, are at it again on the hunt for a treasure, but who’s the true owner of the much sought after cache?
Friendship and faith collide with evil as the mystery unravels in this page-turning story.

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Short and sweet.  More to come.  Penumbra is available for pre-order at Amazon!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.
You can get more info at http://thefensk.com

Publishing Anniversary!

thefeverfreebieIf we were having coffee today we probably still wouldn’t be sitting at a table inside, but I’d be telling you about the upcoming anniversary.

No, silly, it’s not my wedding anniversary. July 1 is the publishing anniversary of my first novel, THE FEVER. It is hard to believe it has been five years. What was developed as a single story has turned into the Traces of Treasure Series … three books out now and more to come!

It is quite an astounding thing when a writer metamorphoses into an AUTHOR. For one thing, nothing can quite prepare you for the need to market yourself AS an author. You’ve been slaving away, tweaking sentences and paragraphs for years, coddling a mismatched set of letters into something that is hopefully legible to the teeming masses.

In my case, I had spent almost three years writing and revising THE FEVER before I submitted it to the small publisher Wings ePress at the suggestion of a fellow writer. After a polite nudging from the editor about a problem with the narrative (meaning there was just too darned much narrative), I spent another two months correcting that problem and actually changing a major part of the plot to accommodate changes I had made. Imagine my surprise when I received a contract along with the astounding revelation that they wanted to fast-track the book for publication in ONE MONTH.

This is the literary equivalent of throwing a child into the middle of the lake to teach swimming.  Publishing requires a number of steps that must be followed in order and there are handoffs between author and editor along the way. Covers have to be designed and approved, minor editor tweaks need to be reviewed and sometimes discussed and finalized. Then the copyeditor cleans the whole thing up, after which the author gets the “almost” final copy. The galley.  I need to go over every word in the entire book with a fine-toothed comb.

In subsequent books, I’ve had the luxury of a week to ten days to work on the galley. For this, my first book, I had just a few days.  It involves painstakingly reading the book to find any tiny error that might have been missed.   Sometimes a sentence has to be reworded to correct a spacing problem with justification. It is tedious because you are working from a PDF file, copying the offending line, then adding a corrected line with errors/corrections highlighted (at least with this publisher).

Once they make all the corrections they send you the final galley.  I figured, “Well, that’s it. In a few days, I’ll have a book!”

Experience has taught me there are two problems here.  First, checking EVERY SINGLE WORD in the book does not mean just the novel part of the book. It means the cover, the front matter, the title page, the copyright page … any manner shape or form of ink that appears between the covers right down to the biography and back page. The second problem arrives with the corrections. When the author gets that corrected galley, it must absolutely be checked that all the corrections have, in fact, been made.  The problem? I did not know to do either of these things.

The book was published and I was making sales.  Then I started to get a few polite emails pointing out some errors.  Quite a few emails, actually.  Familiar errors.  Errors I was pretty sure I had caught. Some glaring and embarrassing errors too, like my name was misspelled on the title page and in the biography (this was my fault and I should have caught it on the galley but didn’t check either).

I bought the books to double-check against the corrections I submitted.  NONE OF THEM had been done.  Frantic, frustrating communications with the publisher followed and they couldn’t quite wrap their heads around the fact that they had uploaded the UNCORRECTED GALLEYS.

I was told, “This is the first time this has ever happened!”  What the executive editor surmised was that she hadn’t saved the copy after making the corrections.  More on this later. The corrections were all made and new editions of the book were uploaded, although for some reason most of the errors persisted on the Kindle edition for another two years.  Publishers concentrate on the publication, not on the correction.  Anyway, that was my first real lesson in publishing. If I had simply double-checked the corrections, most of that would have been avoided.

Oh, I mentioned, “more on this” … I recently completed the galley review of the upcoming fourth novel in the series, PENUMBRA.  I poured over the galleys (every single word) and turned in quite a few corrections.  I got the corrected galleys and proceeded to double-check. Uh-oh. Not a single change had been made. Yes, the current executive editor had done exactly the same thing, not saved the corrections.  Like deja vu all over again!  Oh, I’ve learned to triple and in some cases quadruple check the corrections. I’m happy to report that PENUMBRA is in excellent shape and I think it is my best book yet!  It is due out in August.

I chalked it all up to inexperience on my part and what I call “Fenske Luck.”  The celebrate this anniversary, I’m offering the Kindle edition of THE FEVER for FREE through this weekend!  Go check it out, read the 38 reviews, and maybe grab a copy.  I’ll admit, it is definitely a first novel … each subsequent novel gets better.

To get THE FEVER … click >>>—> HERE

Warning: it is addictive … you WILL want to read the next three!

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Thomas Fenske lives in NC but he writes mostly about his home state of Texas!
You can find out more at http://thefensk.com

WeekendCoffee Noir!

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d be telling you about last night’s reading.

Reading?

That’s right, for the first time anywhere I took part in a reading in a local bar. This reading was associated with another author event this weekend, a local author fair at the library.

The bar event was called “Noir at the Bar” and, for the most part, featured readings about crime or mystery. Many pieces were short stories. I cobbled together a few scenes from my first novel The Fever.  The timing was short, less than ten minutes, so I was probably a bit pre-occupied with time so I tended to rush a little. Seriously, twelve or fifteen minutes would have made a big difference for me. And the lighting was a bit splotchy, with some kind of revolving color wheel, which probably bothered me more than others. I wouldn’t say it was one of my best speaking engagements but it certainly wasn’t even close to the worse.

It seemed well-received though. I was the only author who presented my work with commentary, others just read. I was given a lot of positive feedback on using that approach, so that was good.

Saturday’s event will be more standardized, a hodgepodge of local writing talent from many facets of the writing community will all be crammed together into a room in the library.  There will be readings there too, but mystery writers were asked to shift to the bar event because the main event was basically overbooked.

Getting into the trenches and getting the word out is just another one of many things an author must do.  I need to do more of it.

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Thomas Fenske is an author living in NC.  His latest novel, LUCKY STRIKE, will be officially published next week (You can pre-buy now).  To celebrate that, the Amazon/Kindle edition of his first novel, THE FEVER, is on sale for 99 cents through September 30.
You can find links to all of my books at http://www.thefensk.com/main.html

WeekendCoffee News!

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d have a couple of things to share.

First off, I’d apologize. I really don’t want to bore you with book news two weeks in a row. Sure we had Hurricane Dorian threatening our doorstep and all, but where I live in NC it wasn’t an issue.  Much different story farther east.  But anyway, I simply MUST share some book release news.

LuckyStrike-WEBMy new book, Lucky Strike, has always been slated for a publish date of October 1.  A local author event late in September has complicated those plans a little.  The Kindle edition is still slated for an October 1 release, but my publisher has graciously allowed an early release of the paperback version.

Restaurants often have what is called a soft-opening, an invitation-only chance for them to work out operational kinks.  This is kind of like that … I am calling it a soft-release of my book. I guess that’s a bit ironic, considering the fact that it is a hard copy, but what it means is that you can buy the paperback today from Amazon.

This will allow me to have copies on-hand for the author event, but it also allows readers who want that paperback to get them right now!  Woo Hoo!

Of course, you can pre-order the ebook too … it will be delivered to your kindle device automatically on the official release date of October 1.

I have links to both on my webpage … http://thefensk.com/lucky.html

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC … get more information on Lucky Strike and his other books at http://thefensk.com

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?

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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.

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.

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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.

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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!

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

 

The Curse of 29

img_6284If we were having coffee today I’d be lamenting the curse of twenty-nine. 

“What is that?” you might ask.

I’d sigh and tell you about Amazon.

Twice in the past year or so my first novel has breached the number of twenty-nine reviews.  Thirty looks so cool hanging out there on a book listing.

Ah, but twice, for unknown reasons, a review has been deemed unworthy by Amazon and the counter resets to 29.  The interesting thing is, it isn’t necessarily the most recent review that gets swatted away.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have any reviews at all.  It is very humbling to get any kind of feedback on one’s work.  I’m even happy to have the ten reviews on my second novel and the two reviews on my cookbook.  ANY number is good.  I just don’t understand this seeming curse with the number twenty-nine.

There is a theory among authors, that Amazon has a mythical number of reviews where they begin to spontaneously help authors with an added marketing push.  I’ve heard several supposed benchmarks for this point, anywhere from twenty-five to over a hundred.  Fifty seems to be the consensus.  What all this has to do with twenty-nine, I don’t know.

A fellow author, Marianne Reese, has noted a similar trend with her books — stuck at twenty-nine.  What are your experiences with disappearing reviews?

Anyway, I had a good two week run this time.  It felt so good.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.
Help him beat the curse: http://thefensk.com/fever.html  All reviews will be appreciated by me, even if they are rejected by Amazon.  Hey, it’s on KindleUnlimited … and it’s a good time of year to read it since all the action takes place between now and New Years.

WeekendCoffee Reflections

img_6284If we were having coffee today I’d admit I didn’t have much to talk about today until I read the lead-in WeekendCoffeeShare posting from EclecticAli.

Her 80’s Mystery Party reminded me of something.  I always think of my first published novel this time of year.  Virtually all of the action takes place from October through December, and it is set in 1980.  I liked writing in the 80s.  All this fancy technology we enjoy today was still in an infant state back then; things were simpler.  It is an easy era for me because, well, because I lived in it.  I just have to reflect on my own experiences as I allow my characters to do whatever it is they do.

A writer can’t help but add a little autobiographical info into anything they write, but writing in the recent past allows for a bit of mundane reflection. If I wrote in, say, the 1860s, I would have to do a tremendous amount of research.  Writing in the 80’s, I’ve already done that research.  When my character found themselves in an ice storm in the middle of nowhere with a non-functioning heater in the car, I can draw on my experience because, yes, that happened to me.  (I had one reader tell me she had to get up and put on a sweater while she was reading that section — high praise indeed). It’s what I call “writing with a slice of life.”

img_8900Anyway, it’s fall, and I am once again thinking about my novel, The Fever as the season progresses.  This weekend would easily match the late-October setting in the opening of the novel.  It’s an adventure and a time machine.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  You can catch up at http://thefensk.com

Note: my fall giveaway contest continues for another week at tometender-bookblog.