New Year/New Game

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today, I’d be beaming.  “It’s on me,” I’d say.  “Go ahead and have a pastry too.”

Several developments have cropped up on the author front.  For one, December was one of my most promising and successful months ever. We’re not talking about a big moneymaker yet, but a very good free book promotion on my first novel, The Fever, resulted in a definite uptick in sales for the other two books in the trilogy.  I also saw a distinct spike in the number of pages read on KindleUnlimited.  In this case, readers pay a monthly charge and they can read any of the books contained in the KindleUnlimited program. The royalty is a bit reduced but then again, these folks are a different market too, prolific readers who aren’t going to buy individual books.  I tend to focus on the “prolific readers” part of that equation.

A while back I dusted off an old manuscript I wrote five years ago; it was still a rough draft.  I pitched it to an agent at an author conference I attended and was invited to submit it.  It was a lark.  I mean, I already have a publisher who likes my writing.  I wondered if maybe I could step it up a notch.  I quickly worked it up and submitted it.  No word in seven months.  I even requested an update a couple of times, within the timeframes on the agency’s website.

Nothing.

Disheartened, I considered self-publishing.  It is indeed a viable option. I requested quotes for the various stages of pre-publishing work.  The costs are high.  I was willing to invest the money, but I also decided to do a little pragmatic introspection.  I already had a relationship with a small publisher, Wings ePress. It’s a small step up from self-publishing, but in many aspects, it is very similar. In the end, I decided to submit the manuscript to them.  I am happy to report that I have now contracted to publish this new novel, The Hag Rider.  It is not part of my published series, it is a stand-alone historical fiction book with a strong paranormal component.  I’ll give you more information about it in the coming months.

Right on top of that, I’ve been actively working on a new installment of my Traces of Treasure series.  I just finished the first revision pass.  It is working up very nicely and in a very short time.  I can see that my story development and writing is getting better with every project.  I did something this week I’ve never done. I enlisted one of my trusted beta readers to give the manuscript a quick read … after the first revision.  I have always waited to complete the second revision to do this.  I got a glowing report.  Very encouraging.  I still want to complete a second revision, but if I still feel the same way, I’ll be submitting it very soon.  (Oh, geez, I’m committing myself now).

Anyway, I’m hoping my progress continues into the rest of 2020, but I do know that editing and manuscript reviews of two different novels in quick succession is going to be a challenge, and it will take time away from new writing.  And working on two books in quick succession is confusing … “Wait, is this Sam or is this Jack?”

Anyway, I’m stoked.  Go ahead and order something else.  What do you have on tap in 2020?

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC. Get more information about him and his current books here:  http://thefensk.com

WeekendCoffeeShare

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today, I’d catch you up. The holidays, am I right? I was also busy working on the fourth book in my Traces of Treasure Series.

Truth is, I’m about posted out.  I had a great post yesterday, and I confess I was originally going to re-edit the beginning and update it as today’s weekend coffee share, but today I hesitated.  It’s a good post just as it is.

It’s about a seal encounter at the Outer Banks in NC last week.  Christmas was good with our family, but this encounter put a cherry on the top of the holiday.seal2

It was a rare and amazing encounter.  Read about it here:

SEAL OF APPROVAL

 

Beyond that, book sales have picked up after a very successful promotion in December.  “Picked up” is a relative term.  But it is definitely a blip in the right direction.  I’ve declared 2020 to be the Year of THE FEVER!  Catch it!  The trilogy awaits.

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Happy New Year to all of you.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC. More info on his books is here: http://thefensk.com

Seal of Approval

 

seal

We decided to spend Christmas at the beach this year.  It was glorious.  We rented a nice oceanside beach house on the Outer Banks, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, taking advantage of off-season prices.  I took a number of sunrise photos. It was only natural because I got up early every day.  I took the photo above the last morning.  Nice, huh?  Look on the left side, near the waterline.  I didn’t see this when I first took the photo.

As I admired the view, I finally noticed it.  At first, I thought it was a large piece of driftwood.  Then I figured it was a large dead fish.  Then I noticed what looked like whiskers.

seal1
The is a zoom-in from the previous photo. 

“Oh, great,” I thought to myself, “A dead seal on our last day!”

I kept trying to comprehend what I was seeing; then it happened.  The tail flippers moved ever so slightly.

“Even better, a dying seal on our last day.”

The tide was coming in. I checked it on-line.  High Tide was in about an hour.  I could see the waves extending a little more up the sand every few minutes.  The seal raised its head once.

Then a flock of seagulls came up and started a wide circle around the deck and the shore, including the seal.  In my mind, they were focused on the body.

“I’m not going to stand here and watch breakfast being served.”

So I tromped out into the sand, in my shorts and croc-style clogs; not my sand footgear of choice. I was intent on at least inspecting it with a bit more detail before I called somebody.  It was a bit chilly and the sand at the end of the deck was deep and loose, so I made my way toward the body with some difficulty.  Somewhere between fifty and a hundred feet from it the status changed.  Forgive me for being less-than-accurate because what happened next greatly diverted my attention.

My approach caused the seal to suddenly perk up. It looked up, then turned toward the water. It looked back and then started its funny seal-walk toward the waiting waves. It wasn’t dead or sick … it must have been sleeping!

I fumbled with the phone in my pocket and quickly fired up my camera, and caught these shots of the rush for safety.

The entire sequence of events took maybe thirty seconds.  It was a rare and remarkable nature sighting and for me, it seemed to last much longer.

Finally, all that was left was this:

seal5

I saw it one more time, about twenty feet out, its little head poking out of the water, probably wondering what the heck happened and who the heck had barged into the room.

Since then, I’ve learned a bit more about seal sightings along the North Carolina coast. In the winter, seals move south, down the coast. A few go as far as NC, some even make it down to South Carolina.  It’s a rare thing to see, but not unusual. A lone seal like this is not unusual either. The young ones, probably teen-agers in seal years, often take off on their own.  Being on the beach like this is not unusual either.  It’s termed “hauling out” … and it is considered quite normal for seal behavior.

I did the wrong thing by approaching him. I had no idea. It turns out there is a number to call to report sightings … they would have told me what to do: just keep back and watch.  This one was probably waiting for the tide to be the alarm clock.  I did report the sighting after the fact, which is another thing they say to do.

Anyway, it was a great last day, and it was an awesome bookend for the year 2019.

Happy New Year.

BTW: Here’s a link with resources;
… I wish I had this available at the time:  NOAA Link

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  Make 2020 the year you catch THE FEVER … read it and the other two books in the trilogy.  You won’t be sorry.
http://thefensk.com

 

 

WeekendCoffee Irony

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d be wondering about the little ironies of life.  If you’re like me you’re seeing reminisces about the forty-second anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death.  Forty-two years.  What’s the irony?  Elvis was forty-two when he died!

Note: if you are a die-hard Elvis fan you best move on to the next paragraph.  I was never one of his biggest fans during his life.  I appreciated his place in the history of American music, to be sure, and I even liked most of his movies.  But in his later years, he had become almost a caricature of himself.  It was no illusion, and later accounts of his life support that notion.  At the time, most people I knew pretty much considered him as almost a joke and we were not far off the mark. He was sheltered, pampered, catered to, all while he was pretty much sewing the seeds of his own destruction.  He still managed to put on a hell of a show though, but let’s face it, the information age would have totally destroyed him.

Actually, I’m gratified that his image was rehabilitated … it survives now, after 42 more years.  If he had lingered around with the same excesses and abuses for another ten or fifteen years, I doubt his image would have survived as long as it has.  Hopefully, he would have rehabbed but it doesn’t sound like his cadre of enablers was ever going to let that happen. I won’t say that death was a good career move for him, but, well … forty-two years later Elvis is certainly not a joke.

Life is full of these little markers.  On my forty-second birthday, I happened to go to the grocery store and noticed one of those little “buy alcohol” signs with the year of birth on it.  I realized that day that it had been twenty-one years since I turned twenty-one!  I think that was the first time the concept of old-age seemed to dawn on me as a creeping glacier of inevitability.

What sort of life-markers do you like to note?

So, kudos to you, Elvis.  You did all right, buddy.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  The release date of his latest novel, Lucky Strike is inevitably creeping closer … look for it sometime next month!

More info on this novel and my others at http://thefensk.com

Tang It …

apollo11Okay, I decided to share something I posted on Facebook because, well, the teaming millions have to know. Even those who lived through the event will remember what I am sharing.

The one thing missing in all the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing broadcasts is the ever-present TANG commercial.  As part of the news coverage of every space flight I can remember, there were always TANG commercials.  Always.  They probably lined up these slots years in advance … I’m sure they were as big for them as Super Bowl commercials are for everybody else.

Ah, but younger folks might not even know what Tang is — and yes, it does still exist. It’s a powdered breakfast drink, generally orange-flavored (although I think they eventually expanded the line). Well, orange-flavored is a bit of an exaggeration … it was more a sort of semi-orange-flavor.

They used to advertise it as “what the astronauts drink” … It came in a jar like instant tea or instant coffee. If you believed the commercials, this product was the apex of American civilization in the 1960s. The moon landing was second, of course, because they obviously couldn’t have made it to the moon without Tang, right?

I seem to recall one of the astronauts, Frank Borman I think, saying ‘do you really drink Tang’ was one of the most asked questions of them. The second most asked question was probably ‘how do you go to the bathroom’ … really a related question I guess.

Although for all of us it was indelibly linked to the entire space program, it was totally skipped in all of the hoopla over the anniversary of the landing.
Sample commercial:

WeekendCoffee Buzz … and Neil!

apollo11If we were having coffee today I’d be pretty vocal about recognizing the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing. I have privately noted the date every year since then.  It is hard to believe it has been fifty years because  I remember the events of Apollo 11 quite vividly.

In fact, I have followed the space program closely since the first flight of Alan Shepherd.  My fourth-grade teacher, Miss McGrath, dated some guy who worked for NASA (I grew up in Houston so he was part of the fledgling Manned Spacecraft Center) and he came in and got us all fired up about the whole thing.  We watched the entire flight of John Glenn on TV in school!  Big deal, you younger folks might think, but in 1962 it was indeed a big deal!

Even from the first days there were complaints about the spending of money on this entire effort.  These complaints continue today.  Improve things on earth first, they say.  I say, look around.  Chances are you’re reading this on a computer or better yet, a tablet or smartphone, based on information that was transmitted over the internet by wire or by wireless communication.  These weren’t just natural progressions in technology.

Look at the 20th Century:  most “advances” were slow, almost cosmetic, and this continued up through the 1960s.  It was after the space program that things really took off.  This is because of the huge investment in technology, which created new industries, and a lot of jobs, along with a lot of new ideas solving problems that people hadn’t even considered before.  This served to make people more interested in pursuing educational goals to advance various fields of engineering, that is, as opposed to more traditional trade pursuits.

All of us have been affected by the amazing advances in electronics, medicine, engineering, metallurgy, chemistry, manufacturing, robotics, heck, I’m running out of fields but there are more — I just can’t remember them all — you can trace all these things back to the initial investments in the lunar landing project.  It wasn’t just an investment in achieving a singular technological triumph, it was an investment in all of us that continues to enrich our lives to this day.  Maybe these things would have eventually happened, but I assure you the progress would have happened at a snail’s pace compared to the way it worked out.

You want a really good example? In May 1977 we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic.  Think about that.  Yes, air travel had advanced, mostly due to wartime necessity, but that’s pretty much it.  Television?  It existed in concept at the time of Lindbergh but wasn’t even crudely available for another twenty years.  When did things really start to take off?

To the deniers, I have to ask, where is the motivation for such a conspiracy — one that would involve hundreds of thousands of people?  The money?  It really wasn’t that much in comparison to the rest of the Federal budget … remember it was funded piecemeal over a period of years.  It still is.  The thing I hate about the deniers is this: at the core of their denial is that they deny humans are even capable of doing something like this.

Here are some common claims.  No stars in the pictures.  It’s daytime!  There is no atmosphere and no ocean to reflect blue, but it’s daytime and it’s really bright and the cameras must be f-stopped really tight.  I’ll tell you this, if there were stars in the pictures, that would be proof of a fake.  The flag?  It had a spring to make it unfurl.  Hanging limp would have looked really lame.  We weren’t entirely without class in the sixties. The danger of the Van Allen Radiation Belts?  It’s a phenomenon. Really, there’s much more danger from solar wind (which is where the radiation in the belts comes from).  We know about these things … there is layered shielding.  Most of the time you get more radiation from the electric burner on your stove. I saw some guy post once about “how did they take off from the moon without an engine?” … where did he get that?  Of course there was an engine.  Lordy.

In my opinion, two events precipitated these conspiracy theories, both of them were movies.  Star Wars and Capricorn One.  Capricorn One came after Star Wars … it was about a similar sort of conspiracy but involving a Mars landing.  Pretty low budget and forgettable movie but some people didn’t forget and it cemented the merest idea of a conspiracy in their minds.  The other, Star Wars, heralded a technological leap in movie special effects that continues to this day.  Note: before Star Wars, space special effects were pretty darn awful.  You have to think about this in context.  I think a lot of deniers consider the issue through the post-Star Wars special effects revolution, not before.

Yes, people have died.  Space has always been a dangerous endeavor.  So is the freeway and air travel. In times past, people would go off on ocean voyages and disappear without a trace.  Did they stop sailing the ocean? Nope, they built newer and better ships.

You might note that I used Buzz Aldrin’s name first in my title … that was both for aesthetics as well as to give Buzz a big shout out.  We all remember Neil Armstrong first and foremost; he stepped out first, after all.  But you know what?  They landed together; they were a team, and I think they thought of themselves as a team of three.  Success depended on all three of them … including Mike Collins, the man in the tin can up above.  So to all of you, Buzz, Mike, and Neil … thank you for helping us realize what is no doubt the most awesome technological event yet created by our species.  Think of it, yeah, America did this, but more than that … humans did this!  Let’s go back!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC … find more information about him and his writing at http://thefensk.com
NEWS!  His companion cookbook, The Mossback Cafe Cookbook, is now FREE on Amazon!  Take a look >>> HERE

The story of Oso

osoMy daughter started a new job in a new career yesterday. We were close to her new office after a doctor’s appointment so we offered to meet her and treat her to a celebratory dinner.  My wife rode with her on the way back and they were following me on our way home, about 25 miles to the west.

A few miles down busy Interstate 85 I saw something in the road. I had a lot of glare on my dirty windshield, not an ideal situation in the late afternoon driving west, but I soon focused on the object. It was a dog standing in the middle of the lane.  A car was parked nearby and a woman seemed to be chasing the dog.  I managed to change lanes but was concerned about traffic, speed, and my followers so I continued on.  I reasoned that it was likely the woman’s dog and she’d get him.

Okay, I didn’t have the best reaction.  But in a few moments, I realized I didn’t see my daughter’s car behind me anymore.  I called both her and my wife.  No answer.  I was concerned that maybe they had hit the little dog.  The bad thing about the Interstate highway is that there is no easy way to return. Finally, my wife called me back.  They had stopped.

The woman I saw had, in fact, coaxed the dog out of the roadway and was holding it, but she lamented to them that she was just passing through and didn’t know what to do with him.

“That’s okay,” my daughter told her. “We’ll take him.”

He turned out to be a scared, but very sweet, Rat Terrier.  He had no collar so they stopped on the way home and bought one.  I had already started scouting out the local “lost and found pet” Facebook pages after I got home.  I was just waiting for him to get to the house so I could snap a picture.

He was found about twenty miles from our house, along the county line between Orange County and Durham County.  We live in Orange County but along the opposite county line. There is a lot of cross-county interaction; many people commute to Chapel Hill and Durham (and even Raleigh), so I knew it would be better if I could cast a wide net.  There are local Facebook pages for our town and for Orange county, so I started there.  The county to the west, Alamance, has a lost and found pet page, I posted there too. Orange County has a lost and found pet page as well, so I posted there.  I had to join and wait for approval at both of those last two.  I knew there were two motels within a mile of the spot where he had been picked up, so I called and left my number, in case any guest reported a missing dog.

Okay, I felt guilty that I didn’t stop, but now I was doing what I do best:  I was writing and using the heck out of Facebook.  I had also taken a few minutes to get to know this little guy.  We kept him isolated from our dog and cats, which I knew was important from some past experience in taking in other strays.  He really was a sweetheart but we didn’t know his health history. In the case of a stray, you really should observe the new animal for a few days.  We likely had nothing to worry about, this dog was clean and well-groomed. His claws were impeccably trimmed and polished.  I decided to check something else.

oso2“Sit!” … he sat and lowered his ears and looked soulfully up at me.  Yeah, this was somebody’s love bug.

I kept checking the posts.  In minutes there were already leads.  The shares continued.  He got to the house at about 8PM.  At about 11 I got a call.  It was a woman whose neighbor had seen the pictures on one of the Facebook shares.  After a brief exchange, I was pretty sure this was legit.

I told her I could bring him by in the morning.  No way, she said, she was getting him right away!  She said his name was Oso.  I had taken to calling him Roadie, because he had been in the middle of the road when I first saw him.

Of course, I wanted some verification.  As a first step, I went up and called him by name.

“Oso!”

His ears perked up in recognition, sort of like, “he knows my name!”  He ran to me and immediately rolled over.  Okay, step 1 complete.

The lady brought a folder with all the papers to verify.  She also showed me pictures on her phone … perhaps hundreds of photos of him.  Yeah, I was convinced.  He also obviously missed his Mommie very much … there was no questioning his own recognition of her.

So yes, I felt guilty I didn’t stop.  But like I said, I had a good backup.  And I knew how to use my strengths to help make things right.  Pets get away sometimes, no matter what you do.  He’s just a sweet and very much loved pup who managed to rush out the door.  My dog does that every now and then.  She’s a beagle mix who lets her beagleness overtake her desire to be an obedient dog on occasion.  It happens.

I have a confession: we really liked him and almost hoped he wouldn’t be reunited.  One wonders how people choose not to return found pets, but I can see how the temptation might be strong.  One owes it to these much-loved pets to fight that temptation and find their owners!

Anyway, Oso’s adventure had a happy ending.

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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

WeekendCoffee Punctuation

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today, I’d be in a tizzy about punctuation. Not just any punctuation, mind you, but specifically colons and periods.

I keep getting zinged by editors on my enormously bad habit of spacing twice after colons and periods. I am currently using great effort to force myself to space singly right now as I complete every sentence.

The habit dates me. I learned to type on a typewriter. It was a standard rule I was taught. TWO spaces after colons and periods. TWO. If not, you’d get that big ruler smacked across your knuckles. I told you, it was a long time ago.

Somewhere along the line, as word processors came into being, the rule changed to a single space. I believe very large numbers of us didn’t get the memo.

It is a habit that is almost as hard to quit as smoking. It’s automatic, especially when I am on a two-thousand-word writing spree.

How many of you still double space after colons and periods?

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. You can buy his books on Amazon. Handy links are available here: http://thefensk.com

His second novel, A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP is on sale through June 2 at Amazon, the ebook is only 99 cents.

 

It Might Curry Your Flavor

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d be skipping the sweet roll. Can’t do it, I’d say.  A1C is too high, the doctor said the last time I was in there and he mentioned the dreaded D-word.  I was ticked off.  I admit it.  No, I wasn’t ticked off at him. I wasn’t ticked off at fate or at life. No, I was ticked off at ME!  I knew better.

I’m being a good boy. My glucose numbers are stellar. I’m dealing with the random sweets part of this much the same way I dealt with drinking when I realized that was a deep dark hole I didn’t want to go farther down. I’m changing.  This is harder.  There are only two liquor stores here, but there are three donut shops.

I’m watching carbs.  I “did” Atkins a number of years ago so I have a good handle on the relative carb counts of food.  That is a big part of this.  I’m also exercising.  Regarding foods, it is easier than Atkins. I can have that occasional biscuit as long as I work it into my overall meal carb count.  Same with tortillas.  That covers at least two of my major food groups.

I’m still playing with a few things.  Like, take spaghetti squash. Some people tout it as a replacement for pasta.  I like it as a vegetable but I never much liked it with Marinara sauce. Ah, but I was hungry for Chicken Curry one day and wondered about making some rice, my usual accompaniment. I can eat rice in small quantities.   But sometimes it doesn’t fit in with other things I might have eaten that day. At the store, I saw some spaghetti squash and I wondered, “what if?”

I’m here to tell you today that curried chicken over spaghetti squash is a revelation! The slight sweetness in the taste is a perfect accompaniment to a spiced curry sauce.  Who knew?  I also found something else.  It seems to actually lower my glucose.  Anecdotal evidence, sure, but I’ve noticed it every time I’ve tried it. This combination is definitely in the mix now, an accident like my sweet potato secret. Ah, but you have to get my cookbook to get that.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.

For more information:  http://thefensk.com