Two-Week Countdown

You've never read a Civil War tale like this! (1)If we were having coffee today, somehow, somewhere, I’m sure I’d mention the upcoming release.  My latest novel, The Hag Rider, is due out in two weeks!  Once all the writing and revisions are done, the editing and resulting changes are in, the copyediting and final review of the galleys are done, and the cover art is approved and ready … then an author must wait.  And wait.

If you self-publish, you can go ahead and push it out.  If you have a publisher, you wait for them to work it into their schedule.  It’s good, it teaches patience. It allows you to get a few pre-release reviews too, and in some instances gives you the ability to put in a few last-minute corrections your sharp-eyed early reviewers spotted.

So here we are … two weeks to go.  I’m working on some promotions but it is still just a tad early … I need the buy links to be in place.  I think that will be soon.

It’s got five good reviews now … check the book blurb and the reviews for The Hag Rider here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53125987-the-hag-rider.

Wait, what? What the heck is a hag rider?  Okay, we’re friends, so I’ll crack the door open a bit.  The entire story is loosely based on my great-great-grandfather, who enlisted in the 26th Texas Cavalry at the tender age of fifteen.  He listed his date of enlistment on his Confederate Pension application in the 1920s.  In fact, I think he flubbed his birth date (he was already in the initial stages of dementia at that time), but enlistment dates were checked against existing records (of which there were a surprising number).  If we took that date he would have been fourteen, but I prefer to use the birth date on his death certificate, which would make him fifteen.

I don’t know anything more about his service except his affirmation on his application that he never deserted.  There is, however, a very nice, if brief, sketch of the 26th Texas Cavalry written by its commander, Xavier DeBray, a French-trained military officer who relocated to Texas.  The 26th spent most of its time patrolling along the Texas coast and participated in the retaking of Galveston on January 1, 1863; it had been occupied by the Federal blockade fleet the previous October.  Later the 26th participated along with other forces trying to stop General Butler’s Red River campaign in 1864.

I read a lot of soldier biographies, where one gets a better sense of the war. So many people focus on the officers and the elites.  I then decided to scan for his name in an electronic version of The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.  It is a huge work, comprising many volumes.  It usually takes up two or three shelves in the library stacks.  It has the records from both sides, action reports, orders, all sorts of stuff.  Officers from both sides participated in cataloging all of the information over a number of years.  Anyway, I searched for his name, John Benson, and got a single hit.  A John Benson, origin unknown, was released from Fort Lafayette in NYC in the Spring of 1863, for exchange at City Point VA, which was a common thing in 1863.

I knew it was almost certainly NOT my ancestor but still … I wondered to myself, “What if?”

As I did more research, I began to formulate a believable scenario … my problem: how to get young John from Texas to NYC so he could be repatriated to the South in the spring of 1863.  This was the spark that gave me the idea for the entire story.  I think my fiction works and is believable.

Anyone who has read my other books knows, I love to put a subtle bit of paranormal into all my stories and this one is no different. The Hag Rider is the person who helps John, who is usually known as Jack in the story. He is sometimes called Captain Jack — a nickname foisted upon him in jest by his mentor, an old man, a slave, who teaches him a lot about life in the early part of the story. The Hag Rider is an old woman, a mixed-blood with some Native American and white ancestry, but her black ancestry has kept her a slave. She’s a hoodoo trick doctor, and an aquaintance of the old man.

When young Jack is attracted to the hoopla surrounding secession and aspires to enlist, the old man falls ill with grief.  He hires Vanita, the trick doctor, to protect Jack throughout the war.  Her weapon of choice is called hag riding.  It was a folkloric explanation of the time for night terrors; people would assume they’d been hag-ridden by a paranormal entity sitting on their chest. In Vanita’s case, she uses it as a way to instill something akin to a post-hypnotic suggestion in an effort to aid young Jack.

It is written as a Civil War memoir.  Yes, Jack serves for the confederacy but he is no fan of slavery and is quite confused by the many issues bandied about. Once in the cavalry, he feels honor-bound by his duty to his fellow soldiers and his unit.  He is captured and transported to that prison in NYC (the details work themselves out logically), then makes his way back across the south to his unit. Along the way … he finds that Vanita is following him every step and coercing help as needed through her tremendous power.

All initial reviews are very positive.  People seem to really engage with the story. It is not pro-Confederate; if anything it is anti-slavery, although, in the context of the story, Jack admits there is nothing much he can do about that institution except treat everyone he comes across decently, as his mentor always taught him.

I tried to write through him and show the war as a product of the times, in a matter-of-fact style, just like many of the other memoirs I read during research.  As Vanita tells him, she’s looked ahead and seen the outcome and knows the South is going to lose and understands that this war is a necessary thing to get rid of slavery once and for all.  She tells him she’s helping because he is going to be fighting to lose. Word of caution: don’t mess with Vanita Valine.  Seriously. Just don’t.

==================================

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. Keep checking his web page for information about The Hag Rider … this is a book everybody will want to read, it’s not quite like any other Civil War story you’ve ever read and is suitable for YA as well as anyone else.  http://thefensk.com

Pre-Release Review Heaven

Look for The Hag Rider on Amazon in June, 2020.

There is always risk involved when an author branches into a new genre then solicits independent reviews. There are four reviews on GoodReads. This is one of them: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3275255642

Check me out here: http://thefensk.com

STAY HOME & READ

 

Stay home & read (1)

I know a lot of people are stuck at home right now.  What a great time to catch up on your reading! The safest way right now to get new books to read is to embrace eBooks; they provide a wonderful combination of low price, easy online shopping, and immediate delivery.

Wait, you don’t own a kindle?  Amazon has you covered: https://amzn.to/39U6Rno
All you need is a tablet, iPad, computer, or even a phone.

To help get you started, I am offering the first novel of my adventure-mystery series on sale for 99 cents, from March 31 through April 6.
Get it here: https://www.amazon.com/Fever-Thomas-Fenske-ebook/dp/B010U5K1PI/

Be safe. Stay home and read!

 

 

What a Month!

coffeeshareAnd it ain’t over yet!  Not quite.

If we were having coffee today, well, hopefully, we wouldn’t be, would we?  Maybe we picked up to-go coffee at the drive-through and we’re talking in the parking lot like two cop cars comparing notes, me in my car and you in yours.

I’m sorry that I’ve been out of touch.  I’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on, not one, but TWO novels.  In this case “finishing touches” means working through the changes from the editing process (third-party editors) and then working through the galley approval process, for one at least.  I still have that to complete on the second one.

My historical novel, THE HAG RIDER will be out in June.  It is set in the civil war and involves a bit of paranormal activity.  More later, but I can assure you my history degree came in quite handy while I was researching this one.  Hey, I’m finally working in my other field of study!  (I have a degree in English as well … so I’ve put that into use too).
The fourth installment of my Traces of Treasure series, PENUMBRA, will be published in August.  Still working on this one.  Same characters, plus a couple of new ones, a new mystery to unravel … early reports indicate this one surpasses all the others.

In other news:  COVID-19, Coronavirus, or as I like to call it, C19.

Demographics at this early stage of the game are useless. This is why I get tired of the endless talking heads on 24-hour news. We’re not even getting other news. How many people know a whack-job was stopped from bombing a hospital in KC last week? Not many. It’s true, look it up.

Here’s a statistic: A virus like this has the ability to spread exponentially. If unchecked, it WILL spread exponentially.  It can be like an out of control wildfire. Social distancing is the firebreak.
ANYONE can get this disease. Young, old, healthy, sick, male, female, and no matter the race and ethnic background.  It does not discriminate. Do not draw conclusions from the talking heads … if it gets into you, you have no idea how your particular metabolism will react to it.

The only defense against it is for people to refrain from socializing. Period. You can protect from the required occasional need for shopping by strenuous adherence to common sense: keep your distance and no face touching prior to effective hand cleaning or sanitizing. I keep sanitizer in the car

Yes, probably more people won’t get it than get it. A high percentage of people who get it survive it. Our fatality rate is small compared to Italy, but in Italy, it is at least 10% … it is what happens when the hospitals are swamped and they run out of supplies and equipment. A high percentage of the people who survive but are hospitalized do so because of respirators. When they run out, the fatality percentage increases. It will happen here too, in most areas. Also, when protective gear runs out, more health professionals get sick.

One other thing: yes, people who have some underlying condition have a real problem surviving. But a LOT of people get sick and die of this who had nothing else wrong with them. The truth be told, it will be years before the demographics on that are known. I don’t want to flip a coin on this thing …

“Let’s be careful out there …”
===============================

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  Remember, ebooks are the safest books to shop for and read and they are immediately available, virus-free!  I have a specialized page with links to my books and some handy tips into joining the ranks of electronic readers.  My books are also available in paperback, but right now … well, I hope nobody coughed on them.
http://thefensk.com/fd.html

Work From Home!

 

workfromhomeIf you are able to, please work from home.  If you have never worked regularly from home, I “telecommuted” for the last twelve years at my last job and here are some tips for success I suggest you review.

Have a special work “place” in your home … another room like a spare bedroom is ideal. In my job, we HAD to do this and the door had to be lockable (gov security stuff)

Keep to a daily/hourly routine. (although my job was more like “hey, you can work 24 hours a day”). You need to police yourself.

My company had a special work-related instant messaging that worked great for co-worker interaction. If you have that, great. You might want to use FB messaging if nothing else.

I had a dedicated ip serviced phone/phone line, but you may not have that option. Skype might be a work option. It does not have to be video skype. It’s another good option for messaging too.

Learn to work from PDF copies because you’ll soon find yourself buried in pieces of paper if you print (and you’ll need extra supplies). In my last years at work, I had printer cartridges go dry because I printed so rarely.

I saw on TV someone suggested get dressed like a normal workday. I’d say that is optional unless you video conference.

Some people may want to do video conferencing, but I’d say voice conferencing is good enough. BUT, research screen sharing apps if you ever need to have someone look over your shoulder.

Most important: keep liquid beverages at least an arm’s length from your laptop/keyboard. Lean away from your workstation to sip. Hardware support is much farther away when you work at home.

Keep the TV off.
Do your work.
Get into a routine.

It all seems like common sense but for me, it required a learning curve. It’s a great and convenient option, so don’t squander the apparent freedom of it. Remind others at home that you are, in fact, at WORK.

It is hard to do at first but if you stick with it, it becomes normal.

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.

ezgif.com-resize (1)

Happy New Year to all of you.

===========================

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

=======================================

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

 

 

Trilogy!

Copy of kindleunlimited (1)If we were having coffee today, I’d have to admit the error of my ways.  Yes, that’s right.  I’ve been wrong for quite a while. I’ve only been fooling myself thinking my second and third novels could function as effective stand-alone reads.  Oh, readers can follow them just fine I suppose but more and more I have come to realize, to fully enjoy them, one needs to read them in order.  What I have created here, ladies and gentlemen is a trilogy.

The Fever sets everything up.  A Curse That Bites Deep is quite simply a continuation of the same story. Lucky Strike is connected too, in that the events of second book serve as the primary catalyst for what happens in the third.

Like a lot of authors, I tend to think THIS STORY when I’m writing.  In a series, using the same characters, it is far too easy to expect that everyone remembers the history, the nuances, and the trials and tribulations the characters have experienced along the way. Yes, the plot is unique but the characters and the way they react are deeply related to one another.

I’m currently working on a fourth book, but from the start, I’ve been trying to make the plot and resulting events more dependent on the situations contained in THIS STORY.  So far, I think I’m succeeding.  We’ll see.

So, sorry for the confusion. You were confused, trust me. I know this because I was confused.  IT’S a TRILOGY!  A TRILOGY, I say!

======================================

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in central North Carolina.  You can check out the TRILOGY at http://thefensk.com … just be forewarned, I don’t mention trilogy at all on my website. Yet.

The Pie!

pie
If we were having coffee today, I’d offer you this piece I wrote on The Pie.
In the early 1990s, I was a moderator on what was called a USENET newsgroup; the newsgroup existed specifically for users to share recipes.  Before the web, USENET was basically THE internet. It actually worked a lot like facebook does today, with forums, posts, immediate access, and worldwide access.  But it was all text.  It was pretty much self-regulated too, by a cadre of computer professionals who helped form the early beginnings of the internet. It was a fascinating time to be internet savvy.
Anyway, a guy who was starting up a new recipe web page contacted the moderators and asked us to send him some recipes so he could flesh out the beginnings of his website, recipezaar.com.  He wisely did not want to just steal recipes, he was looking to create a recipe sharing site where people could freely exchange.
Sometime before that my wife Gretchen had seen an intriguing “Amish” Buttermilk Pie on a recipe segment of a local TV station.  All she managed to do was copy down the list of ingredients.  I used similar custard pie recipes to figure out the procedures and baking specifics.  We loved it.  But shortly after that, we lost the list of ingredients before we had recorded them elsewhere.  They were scribbled on the back of some envelope.
At one point I put out a request for buttermilk pie recipes on the newsgroup.
I bet I gained ten pounds testing the various recipes that were shared but not one was as good as that original.  Just when everything seemed hopeless I opened a cookbook and … there was the envelope!!!!!!
I did two things … made a pie to verify that yes, this WAS better than all the others, and then I wrote it down in several places.  By some serendipitous accident, this was the precise time this gentleman was requesting recipes so I submitted it, as sort of a fail-safe. I forgot about this for about four years until a friend of mine noticed it on recipezaar and asked me about it.  He said it had a bunch of positive reviews.  I hadn’t even registered as a user yet … but I got signed up and got the recipe attached to my profile. Fame at last.
This has continued to this day, but recipezaar was sold at some point, at least twice and possibly three times.  The original recipe has survived intact, along with all the reviews.  It is now the foundation of food.com.
All through its life, it has generally turned up first in searches for “Buttermilk” or “Buttermilk Pie” … and there is a reason for this.  Food.com no longer prints recipe numbers but the previous websites did … this recipe is #56, which I am sure is used as a unique database identifier (I am an IT guy). A search with no other criteria will turn them out in numeric order.  This is still the case.  If you look at the link I provide below, you’ll still see “56” … this is 56 out of over five hundred thousand recipes.
Now … a couple of years ago I concocted a free promotional cookbook … a companion book to my novels and I decided to include the buttermilk pie recipe (with minor modifications).
In the past month, I have heavily promoted the cookbook, most of that on Twitter.  So a few days ago when I received a message on Twitter about the pie I assumed it was from one of my thousands of new readers (seriously, this promotion month has been pretty good).
I probably confused her with portions of my response because I referred to other recipes and asked for a review.  After a few messages back and forth she informed me she got it from food.com!  With my big promotion, I didn’t even think about that location!
I call the recipe in the cookbook “The Best-Danged Buttermilk Pie” and it is listed as a customer favorite in the fictional cafe.  I even mention that fact in the latest novel, LUCKY STRIKE.
I’ll tell you this … get it from the website or get it from the cookbook, I don’t care.  Just GET IT.  This pie is that awesome.

The cookbook link is https://www.amazon.com/Mossback-Cafe-Cookbook-Thomas-Fenske-ebook/dp/B071XRC8MP

An alternate for the cookbook, with links to Nook and iBook and Kobo: http://thefensk.com/cook.html
====================================
Thomas Fenske is an author living in NC.

Are You Feeling Lucky?

what's so lucky about lucky strike_What’s so lucky about Lucky Strike?  Considering the theme of vengeance and the ensuing deep-seated criminal conspiracy, not so much.  In fact, we see several crimes in the pages, including threats, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, torture, and murder. What’s it all about?  Well, that is the big question, isn’t it?

The story doesn’t depend entirely on information from the previous two books in the Traces of Treasure series, but having that firm background certainly doesn’t hurt.  Of course, Sam Milton returns along with his paramour Smidgeon Toll.  Lance Norton, one of the main characters in the second book, is part of the story as well. The story also introduces an old lawman, a private investigator named Mule Hollis, who is following a parallel trail that leads directly to our heroes.

Still, I think a fledgling reader can enjoy the book as a stand-alone but here is a brief primer. The first book involves Sam Milton’s long obsession with a lost Gold Mine. As he becomes increasingly desperate, he gets careless and the book follows his struggles with the situations he finds himself in. The second book follows up with a seeming curse that throws a cloud over all the characters and introduces several ghostly associates who have a deep interest in what transpires, as one person after another falls victim to a hidden killer.

So much happened in the second book, it had to have made the news.  The bad thing about news coverage is that it sometimes attracts unwanted attention.  That’s what happens in Lucky Strike and the repercussions are profound.

An innocent search for some answers to what at first seems to be a small mystery results in a series of desperate acts and the villainous activities eventually involve everyone as they all scramble to make some sense of the situation.

Wait. What about the ghosts?  They’re back as well, but they are also confused by the dire situation.

Various twists and turns lead Smidgeon on a long quest from Texas to North Carolina,  collecting a confusing array of clues she must somehow piece together.

All the while a mysterious stranger creates havoc as he follows his own trail of vengeance, crime, and destruction.

Add it all up and … well, it doesn’t sound too lucky, does it?
Do you think you can figure it out?
Feeling lucky?

============================================================

Find out for yourself … experience the Traces of Treasure

Book 3: Lucky Strike
Book 2: A Curse That Bites Deep
Book 1: The Fever

All three are available in both eBook and Paperback and they are also available on KindleUnlimited.