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!

More Than A Cookbook

Just to be clear … The Mossback Cafe Cookbook is more than a cookbook. It is a true companion book to my novels.  They introduce the backdrop of the place and they intoduce owner Smidgeon Toll. The books are basically stories set in Texas and so, the cookbook has a strong Southwestern influence. 

The cookbook takes that base and gives Smidgeon a chance to tell us all a little more about her background and the cafe. 

The recipes are real and the  information she shares is a valuable resource that will enhance your enjoyment of the existing novels and subsequent stories in the series. 

So, when you see the word “cookbook” —  look beyond it, and consider this to be a stepping off point.  But don’t get me wrong, the recipes are easy and accessible to even fledgling cooks.  And delicious. 

Check it out … it is only in ebook form and it is only 99 cents.  

http://thefensk.com/cook.html
Happy Enchiladas!  

Thomas Fenske

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

WeekendCoffee WooHoo

bookofweekIf we were having coffee today it would be all about the contest.  “What contest?”  The weekly Cover Wars contest.  I don’t know why, but I chose not to proselytize here last week when the contest was starting. I don’t know why.  I guess I thought I had a lot of followers from here already and I posted about it outside of weekendcoffeeshare, but I just didn’t feel right about talking “vote for me” here.  Ah, but the week is over and my cover won!

One of the perks of winning:  A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP is the book of the week!

A little background: This competition is hosted by a book marketing site called Author Shout.  They offer a lot of author and book services and when you purchase marketing from them, they promote the heck out of your book on social media.  Every week, they have a free “Cover Wars” competition … they put up a batch (usually 10-15) cover photos and people vote for their favorite.

Sure, I think my novel A Curse That Bites Deep has an awesome cover, but I also know, this is WAR.  I enlisted the aid of my FaceBook friends and tweeted and posted on several mailing list groups I belong to.  The key to this contest is repeat votes … people can vote once every 24 hours.  I was able to gently pester my friends enough every day for seven days to get the win.  I’m always amazed at covers that get less than seven votes.  I mean, even if I was totally not going to win, I’d make sure I got at least seven votes, right?

So please excuse me for tooting my own horn a little this morning.  After all, it IS an awesome cover for an awesome book.

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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

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.  😉

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

Weekend Coffee Cookbook

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

If we were having coffee today, I’d have to talk about the cookbook.

What cookbook?

Well, it’s this way:  I saw somebody else had a cookbook based on their book series.  I was downright gobsmacked.  I’m a cookbook collector, I’ve created a couple of cookbooks before, my novel series Traces of Treasure has a small country cafe as a central locale, and I’m just slapping myself in the forehead for not thinking of this before.

Sure, I’m being derivative.  So, who isn’t?  As a collector I have to tell you, everybody and their dog has put out a cookbook.  Everybody is being derivative.

So, I’m cobbling one together.  I actually have the concept pretty well nailed down, I’ve got the recipes copied and (mostly) formatted.  Formatting, that’s the key.  Takes time.  And I need to find some more royalty free art to sort of jazz it up.  I’ve got a little, just need a little more.  Then finalize things and it will be ready to go.

If you’re interested, I suggest you sign up to my mailing list.  You can find a link for that on my web page.  That will be part of the promotional part of this, to get the mailing list moving along.  Anyway, I think it is an awesome cookbook.  Since the novels are set in  West Texas there are lots of Southwestern recipes and just a little bit of fun too.  It’s written as if the fictional proprietress of the little cafe has put it together.  She’s a lot of fun.

Keep tuned!


Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  You can find out more information about his books and subscribe to his mailing list at:
http://thefensk.com

The SHOES, Part 2

If we were having coffee today I’d have to beg forgiveness again because, well … I just have to give an update about the shoes.

I first mentioned the shoes last June, while they were still in the process of being transformed into the showpiece/centerpieces for our daughter’s upcoming nuptials.

To recap, Gretchen, my darling bride, took our daughter’s sweat-stained, ragged, worn-out pointe shoes, remnants from many years of intense dancing, and proceeded to turn them into works of art. To this end she used paint, decoupage, glue-on gems and flowers, and all manner of arts and crafty add-ons. She created about twenty unique pieces for this wedding.

When the florist delivered the bouquets and boutonnieres he mentioned to me that  no centerpiece flowers were ordered and I showed him what we had instead … he was impressed.

Anyway, as you can see from the pictures, after she finished decorating all the shoes, the plan was to display them in a tall glass vase. After looking them over, she decided a little height was necessary, so each vase was elevated with an inverted glass heart dish. A dab of lace around the dish, a round table mirror, a little decorative border and a few  additional accents completed the centerpiece … I think it was a marvelous and unique idea and I am not alone. In looking at facebook postings of wedding pictures, everybody included multiple shots of different shoes.

The glass dishes were a little unstable as a platform and this required a late-breaking modification … we glued them, and very late at that, so we were quite fearful of the glue curing in a timely fashion. It made for tricky transportation because I did not feel safe boxing them … so I put them on the floorboard of the two cars we were driving with a little light padding around them … and tried not to take any sharp turns during the 170 mile trip to the venue. All arrived intact.

Like most wedding preparations, these shoes were just one of many details.

The wedding? Simply magical.img_6809

 

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. His latest novel, a Curse That Bites Deep has just been released. More info: http://thefensk.com

#Weekendcoffeeshare – Flashback

img_6284If we were having coffee, I’d mention my recent flashback.  You see my wife has been a bit under the weather of late and I was just picking up a prescription for her.  Oh, thanks for asking, I think she’ll be okay, but I glanced at the prescription on the way to the car and saw what she was prescribed and I was transported back in time.

You see, it was 29 years ago that I participated in a drug study for that very drug.  Yes, I was a paid guinea pig.  I was living in Austin at the time, working a the University of Texas, and had long noted the regular advertisements in the student newspaper about drug testing opportunities.  Christmas was coming and money was a little tight and the prospects of  an easy $1200 seemed like a good idea.  Easy.  Yeah, right.

You had to be clean, drug-wise.  There was no problem with that.   Ah, but you also had to be CLEAN, drug-wise, during the entire study.  This was a little more intense.  That meant, of course, no alcohol, but it also meant, well, no anything else.  I mean caffeine, aspirin, cold remedies … nothing prescribed nor over-the-counter.  No caffeine included no chocolate too because it indeed has caffeine.

I passed the initial screening and passed the interview and so I had to begin decaffeinating myself.  The protocol was to go into their facility on a Saturday night to enforce a 12 hour fast prior to dosing.  It wasn’t like a blind test or anything, the drug was essentially already approved, this was what they called an absorption study.  They’d monitor our blood for traces of the drug before, during, and after the dosing.  It meant they needed a lot of blood draws.  Apparently not as many as some because we didn’t qualify for a vascular catheter where they would stick us once and grab a vial whenever they needed  No, we were stuck each and every time.  Once before the dose, then hourly for four hours, then every two hours for a few draws, then the interval increased.  Then, after 24 hours (and our 24-hour draw) we were released and had to return every day for the next six days for another 24-hour draw.  Then a week off.  This was repeated four times.  You had to complete the entire series of tests to get the entire payout … half of it was a completion bonus so if you dropped out it wasn’t quite worth it.

I have to admit that it was both interesting and grueling at the same time.  It was Autumn and we basically stayed in a big dorm and watched football all day.  They fed us okay.  We had to keep track of our trusty clipboards.  You got to know the guys who were ahead of you in line … it helped to notice that they were going to their next scheduled blood draw so you’d know you were up soon.  They did not like you to mess up their schedule and they’d hunt you down.

You became a bit of a connoisseur of phlebotomists.  Some were awesome.  Some, not so much, and you’d already be wincing inside when you turned down the hall and saw they were working.  The hourly draws were the worse … God forbid you got bruised on both arms.  We’d all try to alternate but if you got bruised on, say, your right arm, you might feel the need to double-up on the left the next two draws.  One phlebotomist told me it wasn’t so much the person as you might just get a needle with a tiny defect.  I didn’t believe him 100%.  One woman bruised me every time.  We developed all sorts of theories and techniques for avoiding injury, like slinking down in the chair to straighten out the arm and veins.  They would laugh and say that didn’t matter but I swear it seemed to work for me.

By the time we got to the every other hour intervals it seemed like a huge relief, and when it switched to every four hours, it was like heaven.  There was one at 18-hours when most of us would be asleep in our assigned bunks and they’d come wake us.  Seriously, the worst was the the six daily 24-hour draws because the facility was far across town from where I lived so I had to get up extra early (my scheduled time was 6:52AM) and drive all the way there for one stick, then go back home.

After Saturday morning we’d have a week off. There was still no caffeine or any kind of medication allowed during the off week between testing weekends.  Some people got sick and had to go on antibiotics … OUT.  Some just couldn’t take it any more … OUT.  There were pro-rated payments for participation but like I said, HALF of the amount was a completion bonus.

There were also other tests going on, but we were pretty lucky because for three of our weekends the place was pretty empty. That fourth weekend, though, the facility was packed.  And there were issues with thefts that weekend too.  It obviously wasn’t our group … we had a camaraderie, but there was friction with the new groups, and with the thefts there was a lot of paranoia.  With the tension, people were upset a lot of the time and we were all searched prior to leaving that weekend too.  My sunglasses were taken which was stupid of somebody because they were prescription.  I eventually found them in one of the dorms … I guess they weren’t interested when they found out they couldn’t see through them.

The very last Saturday, when we got our checks after our last blood draw, they also had pots of coffee, bottles of coke, and chocolate cake & brownies waiting for us.  It was an ordeal, to be sure, but like I said, it was interesting.

This was for THAT drug.  Huh.   Hope it helps her.

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  Information on his novel, The Fever, is available at http://www.thefensk.com
His next novel, A Curse That Bites Deep, is due out next month!

Is it the weekend already?

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com
sit down, have a cup
Wow, how about a cup of coffee?  If we were having coffee, it might be time for me to tell you a little about my time as a barista.   It seems only fitting because, depending on where we were having coffee, the subject would come up sooner or later.

Throughout the nineties, I was an old-school barista at a gourmet food store in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  I admit it, I was a coffee snob back then.  Ah, but we got a discount, plus … we ground beans fresh every day for the coffee bar, so whatever dabs of coffee were left for the day were free for the taking.  I drank high-quality beans every day for YEARS.

Okay, it’s our turn … you know what I’d order?   A coffee.
Internally I’ll smirk if you ordered anything else.  Although I don’t insist on pricey gourmet beans anymore at home, I’m still a little bit of a coffee snob out at a coffee bar.  Especially at that Ess-place.  Sure, if I’m dragging and need a cup of coffee and it’s the only place around I’ll pop in there but to me they’ve both popularized coffee and ruined coffee at the same time.

I worked in a simple, traditional coffee bar environment.  We had a full range of coffee drinks but nothing fanciful or made up.  We served drinks in real glasses and cups with real spoons.  It was thought that you’d sit down and enjoy your expertly made coffee drink so you could  appreciate the skill and care that went into it.

I’m going to tell you a secret that most of the current crop of baristas don’t know.  That latte that you pay $$ for in a paper cup?  You’ve just bought a shot of espresso and a lot of milk in a paper cup.
Here’s the secret:  a latte is a visual drink, meant to be served in a tall glass … meaning one actually made out of glass.    A cappuccino?  The same … It is also a visual drink, although it is a bit more subtle than a latte, it should be made in a large cup with a saucer.

The artistry in my lattes was in using the glass itself as a canvas, ending up with three distinct layers of milk, espresso, and froth, with the espresso just beginning to cascade down into the milk like an ever-changing sunset of subtle hues and swirls until the unwitting customer drops a glob of sugar into it and swirls it into oblivion.  Brownian motion, I guess.  A cappuccino has a slight dome of froth that is ringed with a halo of thick crema.  I would serve them and point out the beauty, proud of my work.
Sigh.  A traditional barista lives in such moments, each instant replaced by a stir and then you move on to the next order.   It reflects in the tip jar … I made a lot of tips, but not on to-go orders in paper cups.

What about all those fancy artistic flares places do these days, like drawing with the crema in the froth?   I’d never make it because as a visual artist I am a total flop.  I might be able to do a Bob Ross thing, you know, “maybe add a little log cabin over there,” but your drink would be stone cold by the time I finished. 

At our bar we didn’t make up new drinks like frapa-whatever (a pet peeve because people would come in and order those and since it is a proprietary item we’d have to pretend we didn’t know what it was) or reinvent a drink with a traditional name, like macchiato, forcing us to ask you if you know what that really was, a specific drink that is totally NOT like at that other place.

There isn’t much else to espresso drinks.  When you are training, you learn to froth, you learn to make shots.   Good froth and good shots.  There is a process to do it right.  The rest is really just recipes using those building blocks along with things like flavorings.  Don’t get me started on flavorings.  But those are really all the tools you need.

I always almost laugh out loud when I see a thermometer on the frothing pitcher.  Thermometer?  You hold a stainless steel pitcher in your hand … you froth by feel, by smell, and by sound.  If it gets too hot, it is too hot to hold.  Really.   You can smell it if it scalds.  It happens.  You throw it out.   A froth that sounds bad is like fingers on a blackboard to me.   Something is wrong.  Try again.   There is an artistry to it and it takes a while to master but like riding a bicycle, once you have it, you have it.

My advice to anyone who likes coffee drinks?  Get what you like, as long as you understand you are paying for a glass of milk.  Oh, and if there are several of you, count shots.  If the place has two double spout espresso heads and you’re ordering five or six shots remember that they can only make four shots at a time and the time between means several drinks are sitting getting cold.   There are four of you but only you are getting a double … everybody loses.  And keep an eye on that barista.  If they draw espresso first, then froth they are doing it wrong.  The milk will stay hot longer than the espresso, so they should froth first, then pull.

Ah, our coffee is done, time to get on with the day.   Thank heavens we didn’t have fajitas, Lord knows, I could go on and on about fajitas …

Writer Thomas Fenske is author of The Fever and A Curse That Bites Deep (due out in September) … read more about him at http://thefensk.com