Today’s The Day

Although I never come right out and say it in the book, October 27 is the day the story “begins” in THE FEVER. 
A riddle, an obsession, & a lost gold mine…what could possibly go wrong?

http::/thefensk.com/fever.html

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A WeekendCoffee Backstory

img_6284If we were having coffee today I think I’d finally be willing to tell you about certain aspects of the backstory.

 

There was recently a national news story floating around concerning some changes in Texas law … you might have seen it, usually mentioning the plan to make it legal to carry swords or something like that.  Actually, that might be some sort of loophole, but what it really means is that the stalwart citizens of Texas will soon be allowed to carry knives longer than 5.5 inches.  This law has long been on the books.  They classified any knife longer than 5.5 inches as a Bowie knife.  Although Jim Bowie was a hero of the Alamo and was famous for his larger than usual knife, it has been illegal in Texas for quite some time — that is until this fall.

The current law was a major dramatic component to the backstory of my first novel The Fever.  It was based on a real incident I knew about.  It resulted in the arrest of the hero, who felt the same way about the irony of Jim Bowie’s knife.  This was the catalyst that threw my hero Sam into jail, where he made acquaintance with Slim, the derelict who slowly died in his arms.  Ah, but not before revealing his secret.  THAT is the other major backstory component, another bit of Texas lore.  Slim, it seems, had some personal knowledge of the location of the elusive Sublett mine.

That’s right.  And this, my friends, is a true mystery of mythical Texas proportions.  Ben Sublett was a real person who lived in West Texas and there are believable reports that he had access to some quantity of gold.  The stories go that he would disappear into the wilds of the parched landscape and return with gold.  People tried to follow him but to no avail.  He supposedly died without revealing the location to anyone.  If you google Ben Sublett you will see quite a few websites and articles dedicated to him and his lost gold mine.  They all mention pretty much the same details.  Like one curious fact … his name was actually William C. Sublett.  Not sure where “Ben” came from.
Here are a couple of my favorite links about Ben Sublett:

This one has a picture of a roadside Texas historical marker:  http://www.odessahistory.com/subltmkr.htm

http://www.sonofthesouth.net/ben-sublett-gold/Ben-Sublet-story.html

A friend pointed out to me that the historical marker in the first link above is just outside a place called Sam’s BBQ … I promise you that name “Sam” is just a coincidence.  Still a bit of added irony, no?

Old Ben apparently never got rich from his gold.  He seemed content to use it ,subsidize his life, like a sort of nineteenth-century social security.  The common thread in all of the stories about him is that he’d disappear and return with gold.  People have speculated on its location for over a hundred years.  The Guadalupe Mountains seems to be a common landmark, but if it was in the mountain range proper, well that is a National Park now so good luck with that, but there are a lot of possibilities in the general area.

I used both of these things as the core of my story.  An almost ridiculous arrest followed by a chance meeting that resulted in a deathbed confession.  “THE FEVER” was wedged into the hero’s soul where it smoldered until it became a full-fledged obsession.  THAT is what the story is about … a sort of “what would you do?” scenario.

How far would you go to feed your fever?


Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  Info on his novels, including THE FEVER, can be found at http://www.thefensk.com  Before you buy them, be sure to check out his new video trailers on the videos tab.

Two Years On …

 It has now been just over two years since I became a published author. This was something I aspired to for a long time. I’m proud of my accomplishment and am working on a third book in this little series that has come to be called Traces of Treasure. Will there be a fourth book? Who knows? At the time I wrote THE FEVER I hadn’t even dreamed of a second book.

It wasn’t an easy goal to achieve. I had dabbled in short stories over the years and wrote a pretty mediocre novella in the 90s (unpublished). On my way to my English and History degrees, I had taken quite a bit of creative writing. At first it was an attempt at a “blow off” course but it wasn’t. Sure there weren’t tests, especially no final, but you had to produce and you had to read. And you had to develop a thick skin because your work went on display to the entire class and everything you wrote went under the microscope of peer review. Believe me, in some respects I preferred tests. Oh, and you had to participate so that meant you had to read everybody else’s stories. If you didn’t write and/or didn’t participate in class, you didn’t get a good grade. 

A lot of people are drawn to short stories. I was. The prospect of writing a novel is daunting. They’re long and drawn out and detailed and involved. Short stories are, well, uh, um, how can I put this? They’re short. They have to be easier, right? 

Allow me to burst your bubble. A good short story is much harder to write than a novel. I mean, to pull it off as a literary work of art. In a novel you can take your time to develop a story, to draw your reader in. To explain things. The aspects of beginning, middle, and end can be fully explored

Understand this: a really good short story is very hard to pull off. Sure, anybody can string a bunch of words together and tell some kind of story. It might even be entertaining. Most are at the high end of mediocre at best. And even if you do manage to pull it off, the financial prospects are minimal at best. There I said it. Financial prospects … and having said it I’ll let you in on a little secret. I shouldn’t disallow short story writing based on financial prospects because the financial prospects of being fabulously successful as any kind of author are pretty dim. 

In the long run, we write because we want to write, the same way an artist sketches or a wood worker sands with the grain for long hours to draw out the soul of a piece of timber.

Then there is the fact that being a writer involves a bit more than stringing words together. Sure some people can do it the first time through. Many more think they can. But there is another level of work that is required to produce a viable written work. I can’t speak for now, but creative writing classes when I was in college didn’t address any of the nuts and bolts aspects of being a writer. For one thing, revision. Of course a novel takes a lot of revision. As I said, we wrote short stories back then. Revision is one advantage to short stories. They’re shorter. Revision on a novel is hard. I spent three years on THE FEVER start to finish. That is entirely due to the fact that in the beginning I didn’t really understand how to effectively revise, how to edit myself, in short, how to actually craft the novel.

Oh, I knew the basics of what I needed to do, technically anyway. I had a foundation laid down, but there is an artistry to sit down and actually build something on top of that foundation of words. I changed the ending three times. I changed the beginning four times. Each time I thought it was better, and maybe it was, but as I read through it I would find myself dissatisfied. My first three revisions were pretty much a waste of time, useful only as a starter course in novel revision. 

I did hit upon a technique that has served me well since then. AT first I would run through a revision cycle, then pause and regroup my brain a little, and read through the novel start to finish. I noticed that the quality eventually improved through the work and I reasoned that in my revision cycle I was getting better and more insightful as I found my groove. So in the fourth revision, as I reached the end of the book, I went back around and attacked the beginning AGAIN, while I was hot. Eventually, I just began to swing around again and to start again. My revisions were more productive after that.

I did decide to take a short break later, after revision seven. I was burned out. So what did I do? November was coming up … and that meant NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month (where one endeavors to write a 50,000 word rough draft in 30 days). I took a month off, not from writing, but from THE FEVER. I wrote another novel. I still have that one, waiting to be revised. Then I started right back on revision eight of THE FEVER.

About other novels: I wrote two others before THE FEVER. All three are good stories but they need to be revised and crafted. All five, including THE FEVER and A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP were NaNoWriMo projects. 

A testament to my learning curve from the first novel revision is the fact that I only spent six months revising A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP. 

So, here I am, two years on, with two novels in publication, plus a whimsical promotional cookbook that I spent a lot more time on than I ever thought I would, and I am working on a third book in the series (but working on that one outside of NaNoWriMo.) This one has been slower going, but that is due to the breaks. One long one because of eye surgery then, just as I was starting to roll I got the idea for that cookbook. It was fun, and it also taught me the rudiments of self-publishing. I hoped it would help draw attention to the novels and increase sales. THAT is still a work in progress. 

See, that is the other aspect of being a writer they didn’t teach me in school: marketing. Even the lucky few who get picked up by a major traditional publisher have to deal with it; although those publishers do a lot of the marketing, you still have expend a bit of effort to market yourself. With small publishers, or in self-publishing, the lion’s share of the marketing responsibility falls on the author. At just about this exact time two years ago, that reality started to dawn on me. “Okay, I’m HERE … Now What?” 

I had no web page, no blog, no Twitter presence, no “book” or “author” page on Facebook, no Instagram account or Pinterest presence. I hadn’t even thought about any of these things. What did I do? I googled “book marketing” and I scrambled to get things in place. As part of my pre-publication work I was presented with the opportunity to provide blubs and key words … huh? I cobbled something together. Remember what I said about short stories? You want to work literary wonders of high art? Learn to write effective 200 word book blurbs. A 95,000 word novel is child’s play compared to that. I’m still learning. Feel free to peruse my blurbs on Amazon and give me pointers. 

There is always work to do: I don’t post to this blog enough. I depend a lot on Facebook and Twitter. Sales are still lackluster and sales of my second published book lag far behind the first, which surprises me because I think it is really a much better book. Although a sequel, I feel I did a good job of making it stand on its own. If I had anything to do over, I would have asked the publisher to de-emphasize the “book 2” on the cover. I think it causes people to hesitate. You need that gut level … THIS LOOKS INTERESTING … you don’t want them to hesitate and wonder “what about book 1?” I remember the time I was looking for something to watch on Netflix and saw the series “EARTH 2” and started searching for “EARTH 1” …. Then realized, oh, we live on Earth 1. Anyway, I’m telling you now … you don’t have to read the first book. Sure, it helps … it’s a great story too, but you can read “Curse” all by itself and not be lost at all. 

Heck, even The Mossback Café Cookbook helps for both books. And it’s free! Mostly. Still trying to get Amazon to price match. 

So, two years on and I find that my status as a novelist is firm … and I’m making just enough money to keep working full-time at my day job, er, probably forever.

I will say this, I have a core of very enthusiastic fans for which I am very thankful. Through them I have found that once people read the books, they really enjoy them. Even my editor kicked back one scene in “Curse” then recanted because she realized she got too invested in the characters. I thought at the time, “my editor got invested in my characters … that can’t be a bad thing.”

So check them out. Don’t forget, I’m Author of the Month at authorshout.com


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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina … for information about all his books go to http://thefensk.com

The Mossback … another look

This is just another fine-tuning of my Amazon blurb … I think it’s getting there.

cover-lg2a“The Mossback” made it’s first appearance in the pages of Thomas Fenske’s debut novel, THE FEVER, when owner Smidgeon Toll delivered a massive serving of Huevos Rancheros Especial to Sam, that book’s hero, and proudly exclaimed:

“There, what do you think of that?”

The description of gooey, spicy, goodness that followed spurred several readers to ask the author, “Is that a real dish?”   Now you can see for yourself!

Fiction has become kitchen.

Smidgeon will entertain you with her quirky, homespun wisdom as she shares a mini-history of the cafe along with some insight into what helps to make The Mossback a unique and delightful locale in the world of fictional eateries.

Along the way you’ll learn how to make her awesome square biscuits.  She also reveals details about the full-sized heap of bacon they serve on “THAT BLT, ” and introduces readers to other local favorites like the “Double Trouble Dog” and what has to be the “Best-Danged Buttermilk Pie” you’ve ever tasted.  As an added bonus, she has agreed to share her famous Potato Salad Secret, something surprising and simple that will take even the best potato salad recipe and crank it up a notch, maybe two!

Simply put, these are all part of what would have made The Mossback Cafe famous, well, if it actually existed.

So hop out of your pickup truck and mosey on in … there just might be some breakfast tacos or enchiladas lurking in your future.

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The Mossback Cafe Cookbook is still mostly FREE … check out my website for the free venues as well as the link to Amazon where it is 99 cents.  Feel free to share one of the other sites to them using the report a lower price option.  Or if you insist, buy it but be aware that there is a kindle version available at the Smashwords link.
While you’re there, feel free to browse my other books … summer is a great time to Catch THE FEVER!

WeekendCoffeeShare

img_6284If we were having coffee today, I’d be brimming with news.  I know it’s starting to sound like a broken record but most of it is about the cookbook.  It is what’s happening this week.  At long last the book has finally completed it’s initial rollout.

For almost a month it has been available on Smashwords, but at long last it is on Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.  There is a process on Smashwords that verifies the format … they came back with some formatting tweaks I needed to make before it could roll out to everything else.  Now that it has been tweaked, the rollout is complete.  All the links to the various venues can be found on my web page.

The last piece of the puzzle, Amazon, is in place, but there are a few kinks.  For one, although it is free on Smashwords, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo, I can’t offer it for free on Amazon, at least initially.  So it sort of a Firesign Theatre thing … “Free, Only a Dollar.”  Or ninety-nine cents to be more precise.  It should be up on Amazon for a few days.  In theory,  once Amazon notices it is free in other venues, they will price match.  We’ll see.  If you want, I think you can “report” a lower price, like on Barnes and Noble, and that should help spur them to action.

Anyway, that is what’s going on.

bookofweekIn other news, as reported last week, the cover of my second novel, A Curse That Bites Deep, won a contest last week, AuthorShout.com‘s Cover-Wars.  My stint as “book of the week” has given me a slight boost in web page views.  Today is the end … it’s been a nice run.

Have a happy Easter Weekend.

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

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

 

 

WeekendCoffee Fools

 

img_7251-2
Christmas photo?  April Fools!

If we were having coffee today I guess we’d both mention April Fool’s Day.  It always seems so appropriate to “do” something on April Fools Day.  The fact of the matter is, I joke all the time so I’m a bit jaded by April Fools. It’s a bit like a heavy drinker making a big deal over New Year’s Eve or St. Patrick’s Day as a drinking day.  I mean, for them, every day is a big drinking day so why seize on those events, right?  So, anyway, I’m just not in the mood this year.   Maybe it’s my weeklong backache, or the reorganization at work, or the growing grass and weeds in the yard which brings me back to, well, back to my backache.

 

Sigh.  With my back, I know I just need to give it some time.  It always manages to work itself out.  It twinged up on Friday a week ago and was feeling better last Sunday so I did a little bit of yard work but paid the price.  If I’d let it go last week, I’d probably be ready to go out and do battle now.  As it is, I’ll probably need to wait until next weekend.

As far as the reorganization goes, they are a way of life at work.  Somebody is always reorganizing something.  I’ve worked at the same place for seventeen years and I have completely lost count of the reorganizations.  The other day I tried to remember all of my bosses names and I drew a blank on a couple of them.  It is simply a way of life in big corporations.  I have two theories about why that is, and I think they are related.

One: some form of movement gives the outward impression of progress.  In fact, it is really just moving the many pieces around.  Oh, little things change, sure, but basically, it ends up being the same work.  Nothing ultimately changes.
Two: by its nature, this form of change tends to cause anxiety and discontent.  This leads to what I call passive layoffs.  These occur if people are already dissatisfied with the company and the unnecessary changes might just spur them to quit and move on. This is a win-win for the company because formal layoffs are very expensive.  If they can up the irritation factor just a little, they save a ton of money.

Silly April Fools notion?  Think about it.  Think about times you’ve worked at a job and some inane policy has come up that made you seriously consider moving on.  As far as I know, I made this term up but deep in my heart, I know it is a real thing.  No joke.  It’s a subtle form of managerial influence.  It is akin to the theory that fast food eateries have color schemes designed to influence you to eat fast and get the heck out of there by using a subconscious influence to increase their customer turnover and make more money.  We’ll have to see how all that plays out for me.   I’m pretty used to these changes, but we’ll have to see.  It’s a big unknown.  Yesterday I had one manager, today I have another.

In other April Fool’s Weekend news … there is an important sports milestone this weekend.  No, I’m not talking about Basketball.  Never have been a big fan, although sometimes I’ll watch the last two minutes.
No, I’m talking about a real sport:  BASEBALL SEASON STARTS TOMORROW.
Note: there is no “last two minutes” in baseball.

Downloads of the new cookbook have slowed down.  Please check it out.  It’s fun, it’s got some good recipes, and it’s free.  It’s also a good introduction to the world of my two novels.  As a reviewer put it this week:  “This little cookbook makes the novels seem almost like reading about friends” … ebook only right now, but like I said, it’s free and there are versions for virtually any device.

It is only in ebook formats right now, but like I said, it’s free and there are versions for virtually any device.  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/712183

So, even though I haven’t joked at all … that is so out of character for me, I think I can say, April Fools.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  You can make his back feel better and make him less uneasy about his job if you BUY HIS BOOKS.  More info at http://thefensk.com.  At least download the cookbook … you know you can get the pdf and read it at the office while you are pretending to work.  At least an increase in free downloads gives the impression of some form of progress.  😉

A funny thing happened on the way to the WeekEndCoffeeShare

img_6284If we were having coffee today I’d have to break the news.

You’d say, “It’s not the freaking cookbook again, is it?”

I’d smirk, and say, “I’m afraid so.”

The first thing I’d say is that I’m embarrassed.  Ever since I got this idea, I’ve been hammering away at it.  I recruited family members, friends, and acquaintances to give me feedback.  Most have read my novels.  I wrote my novels.  Finally this week, I was ready to take a big leap and upload this thing to Amazon. I had second thoughts about the title.  I loaded up my first book and did a quick search. Ack!!

Okay, I admit it.  In the novels, I never called the restaurant The Mossback Inn.  Never.  Not once.  Always Cafe.  Nobody noticed.  Especially me.  As big a problem as it now seems to me, it probably doesn’t matter.  Still, I could have sworn I did that search earlier, but obviously, I didn’t.  So I considered my options.  Although I’ve marketed it informally for a couple of weeks, I still considered it in beta mode, that is, in computer terms, a high-level test.  If I still need to make changes, now would be the time.  Thank heavens I hadn’t uploaded it.

One option was just to ignore it, or add a paragraph in the forward about how it was originally called The Mossback Inn.  That was a viable possibility.  The other option was to just bite the bullet, make the changes to Cafe, and continue on as before.  There really weren’t that many changes needed in the cookbook.  There were quite a few on the website.  I needed to change the cover, but once again, that is not a major change.  I decided to check out one thing before I made the decision. I Googled it.

I found a minor wrinkle.  There is a Mossback Cafe in Kingston Washington.  I checked out their web page.  It looks like a charming place, using locally sourced foods.  Farm to fork, I think they called it.  Heck, I’d like to eat there.  There is no way my cookbook impacts that place.  But I wrote them anyway, just to be on the up-and-up.  The owner wrote me back, somewhat amused by it all, but he agreed, my cookbook would be fine as The Mossback Cafe Cookbook, saying they more call their place just Mossback anyway.  He even commented on a few of the recipes and invited me up sometime.  Awesome.  You can check them out here:  http://mossbackcafe.com — like I said, it looks like a really nice place

cafe-coverSo, today, I’m launching an extended beta test with the rebranded title.  The Mossback Cafe Cookbook.  I think “Cafe” will likely play better in social media.  What do you think?  The rest of the cookbook is exactly the same.

Feel free to download a copy.  There are files for epub (good for Nook, iBooks, Kobo),  mobi (kindle), or pdf (just about everything will open pdf … hey, you could read it at work!).

Check it out and report back.  It’s a small book, but it is packed with good recipes.  And it gives a glimpse into one of the major characters of the books.  No spoilers, you have to read the books to find out more.  It’s a fun book to browse and hopefully a few who look at it will be enticed to check out the novels …

 

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  You can find out more about his writing (including the cookbook) at http://thefensk.com

WeekendCoffee DST Remorse

newmossbackcover2If we were having coffee today I would no doubt be complaining about Daylight Savings Time.  Yes, I hate it.  I mostly hate it for a week or so when the clocks go forward.  After that things sort of settle out.  My feelings, though,  go more toward why is it even necessary?

I don’t buy most of the arguments.  I frankly don’t see where it saves energy in this day and age.  What it mostly does, is give people more play time in the evening.  And since there is still the same amount of daylight no matter how you slice it, gradually increasing until the Summer Solstice, then decreasing until the Winter Solstice, all in all, I guess it doesn’t much matter.

I still have three favorite observations about DST.  One, the popular slogan is invalid.  Spring Forward and Fall Back sounds fine enough, but it has always seemed to me to be backward — it doesn’t make practical sense.  If I fall, I almost invariably fall forward, or at least to the side.  Ah, but if something startles me, I’m entirely likely to spring back.  You see?

The other two observation have to do with the intent and the implications.  I understand the concept of  “who needs sunlight at 5AM?”.  Sadly, we can’t change the way days progress.  What DST switches show us is the true arbitrary nature of time.  It’s arbitrary!  Admit it.  For all our dependence on it, we are dependent on something totally arbitrary.  So, to my way of thinking, when it was arbitrarily set up originally, it was made just a bit askew.  More on this after I make the second observation.

In the US, “STANDARD TIME” is now barely over four months of the year.  MOST of the year is that special designation of Daylight Savings Time.  What the heck?  How is that “Standard?” And people wonder why the aliens are so hesitant to make contact with us.

So my arbitrary solution is this:  Let’s just choose to buck up and change to a new standard time in the fall … Fall Back (ugh) not an hour, but a half-hour.  And then just leave it there.  We’ll sort of have the best of both worlds.  It is probably how it should have been set up in the first place.  It’s not as crazy as you might think … there are half hour time zones in some areas and the world goes on.

In more important matters, we’re likely to have another cup while I mention the cookbook I told you about a few weeks back.  I have a pretty good version of it available NOW, free for the asking.

Just send an email to mossbackinn@yahoo.com and tell me what version you need, mobi (for Kindle), epub (for Nook, Kobo, or iBooks), or pdf (for everything, really, including downloading it and reading it at work).  It’s really a load of fun, a companion book to my two novels, full of Tex-Mex and Southwestern dishes and some just down home good comfort food too.  Like I said, it’s FREE!  “Smidgeon Toll” is a character in both books and by character, I mean she IS a character.  You’ll like her.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  Find out more:  http://www.thefensk.com