If we were having coffee, we’d still be sipping in our cars in a parking lot like two police cruisers comparing notes.
Seriously, the social distancing thing is not too far off from my normal routine although in more normal times I tend to grocery shop for a few things every few days. And to think that in the 1970s and 1980s we used to make fun of the Soviet citizens standing in lines in the hopes of toilet paper. I used to wonder, what did they do? Now the reality is clear, everyone had a stash and simply added to it every chance they got.
Oh, wait. News. I’ve been sitting on this for a while, but now it is time to reveal the cover of my upcoming historical novel, THE HAG RIDER. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this one. It can and should be enjoyed by just about everyone, from YA on up.
This Civil War memoir explores fifteen-year-old Jack Benson’s transition to manhood as he presents his soldier’s account of life in the Confederate cavalry, a life convoluted by the spectral manipulations of Vanita, an old witch-woman who is sworn to safeguard him. Her hidden presence seems to protect Jack throughout the war in amazing ways, across countless miles, through patrols, battle, and capture.
This is unlike any other Civil War tale you’ve ever read and the first-person perspective on the realities of the war may surprise you.
Look for it in June 2020!
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. You can find more information about his books at http://thefensk.com
The third book in my Traces of Treasure series is coming out this October and I’m looking for new reviewers of this book and the other books in the series.
Why would anyone be interested in these books?
The answer is: I seriously don’t know.
I just write them and hope people find them entertaining.
But what I do know is this: the people who’ve read the first two books in the series really like them. But hey, not enough people have read them yet. I also know that although the subject matter seems a bit male-oriented, seriously, these books appeal to women as well as men. Check out the current reviews on Amazon if you don’t believe me.
These are mysteries centered on a sense of adventure, with a good dose of obsession. The hero of the series (so far) is Sam Milton. He’s a bit of a loner and loser in the first book, The Fever. He’s obsessed and he can’t help it. He got arrested at nineteen and while in jail he helped a sick and dying wino who rewarded him with the riddle. It, the broken little man said, would help Sam find a long lost gold mine out in west Texas.
The Fever is a bit of a what-if scenario. What if this happened to you? Well, you’d think about it, first dismissing it has hogwash. Then you might wonder to yourself late at night … what if? This is where the title comes in. Eventually, you can’t help it. You catch the FEVER, gold fever. When the book opens, a very tired and frustrated Sam is hiking out of the wilderness after yet another fruitless search. It’s dangerous terrain, the home of rattlesnakes and mountain lions. He’s trespassing. He sneaks in and out and drives the eight to ten hours back to his regular life, only to plot and plan his next trip. He’s careful. He has a set routine of procedures designed to keep him safe.
Then, after this latest trip, he stumbles upon the solution to the first clue in the riddle. It’s something he missed for years. It was so simple. Yet, he’s at the end of his hiking season; or is he? The book is about his rush to get back into the field to check out his hunch, throwing out many of the safeguards he had built into his past searches. Love? Family? Job? Who cares … this is gold we’re talking about.
A riddle and an obsession … what could possibly go wrong?
The second book, A Curse That Bites Deep, follows closely on the heels of The Fever. Sam has relocated to the area, relieving himself of the strain of those long drives. I’m trying not to add spoilers here, but suffice it to say, he’s much happier than he’s been in a long time. He’s in love with a cafe owner who befriended him in the first book. Things are finally looking up for him, well, that is until people start dying. One-by-one, people close to Sam seem to pass away. Some deaths can be explained as accidents, but others are obviously murder. As the situation continues to get even more complicated, he must take the initiative to confront the killer before the circle of death tightens around the love of his life. Is it just a random homicidal maniac or is it the curse he had earlier been warned about?
The third book, Lucky Strike, due out in October, definitely proves that Sam’s lost gold mine is not the only treasure-oriented mystery in this small west Texas town. But our friends have a problem: something is definitely wrong but the details are not obvious. They must claw and scratch their way through a bunch of muddled clues to put the pieces together. All the while they are facing a ruthless villain who seems to be everywhere at once. It is a top-notch mystery, sure to entertain. This story is as much about Sam’s girlfriend Smidgeon Toll, as it is about him. See that image on the cover? That’s not blatant sensationalism–she does that more than once in this story.
I need reviews, so I am willing to provide PDF review copies of all three books to people who are willing to read and review them. Books 2 and 3 do have a bit of exposition so they could probably be read standalone. Of course, any review for Lucky Strike would be an advance review but if I get good taglines from an early review I can use that in the book. I have an early August cutoff for that.
I’m wanting to sell books, of course, so if there is a massive rush to the box office I might need to be selective.
So if you are looking for something to read, like to leave reviews on Amazon or even better … are a book blogger — help a guy out and drop me a line. You can get more information on the books at http://thefensk.com — My email info is there as well.
If we were having coffee today I’d tell you about the contract. You see, this week I signed a contract for Lucky Strike, my third published novel. It is a big moment for me because it has been a long time coming. The tentative release date is October 2019, which will make it three years since my last book.
It’s been a long two and a half years for me to get to this point. I started this one shortly after the publication of my second book, but I short-circuited my own progress by embarking on my cookbook project. It was a lot of fun and it showcased my novels very nicely but it took a lot longer than I realized and then I lapsed into aggressively marketing it and my other books. I did manage to finish the rough draft of the new novel in 2017, and I indeed started revision but got sidetracked again by a request to help my publisher with more marketing.
2018 was momentous for me. My wife’s cancer battle took up the first half, then my job took over. Well, it was more the confounding array of details I needed to deal with when my employer made me an offer. I found out that an unplanned departure from work and a sudden transition to retirement is indeed a lot of work in and of itself. It took me a while to complete that move; we’re talking physically, mentally, and psychologically. Finally, late in 2018 I dug in my heels and began a deep revision of Lucky Strike. Four months later, I have a contract.
You know what? Like they say, it’s better late than never, but it comes at a cost. When I re-started the revision, it really took me about half the novel to start feeling it again. Maybe “feeling” isn’t the right word. Thinking the novel, that’s it. It took me a while to get into “novel mode” again. I don’t know about other authors but for me, this is the point where I can’t get the story out of my head. When I drive to the store I have plot revisions percolating through my brain constantly. I imagine my characters shopping for groceries and run and rerun conversations through my head. Yes, even out loud sometimes. I think about it in the shower and while cutting the grass. I’m analyzing plot devices while I’m watching television or movies. It’s definitely an itch I have to scratch constantly.
Here’s what I learned: don’t lose your momentum. Oh, life intervenes, it always does. But that momentum is important. I spent three years revising my first novel, The Fever. I took short breaks but I never lost the momentum. In this case, most of that similar amount of time was involved with no momentum whatsoever. Like I said, there was a bit of time involved in regaining that momentum. But I did it, and I regained the passion for this novel. Passion? Heck, I’m stoked about it!!!
So, now I’m working corrections from my editor. I still have to come up with blurbs and cover ideas. It is all part of the business of being an author. Then the dreaded marketing push will start. Or, wait, has that begun already?
I’ll tell you this, the new novel has a very intricate plot with many complex developments. The mystery is complex as well. The reader knows more about it than any of the characters but the different components of it are a challenge to several layers of characters. Even the antagonist, who has a profound vendetta motive, is grasping at straws to find the answers he’s looking for. And the reader has only a general idea of what it is all about as the twists and turns converge to what I hope is a surprising ending. My beta readers and my publisher are all enthusiastic about it. The major characters are back, including the ghosts. There is a true villain too. It’s a wild ride
I better get back to the edits. More info to come.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC. You can find out more about his other book at http://thefensk.com
It would be a good time to start catching up, as Lucky Strike is the third book in my Traces of Treasure series.
If 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:
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 yourfever?
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.
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.
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.
So, even though I haven’t joked at all … that is so out of character for me, I think I can say, April Fools.
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. 😉
If we were having coffee today, you might notice me struggling a bit. “It’s my eyes,” I’d admit. “Cataracts.”
Then you’d tell me about your experience, or your brother’s, or a co-worker, or your mom …
At my last checkup my eye doctor, an optometrist, told me it was coming. I first noticed a few changes early last Summer. It seemed to come and go. I pushed through the minor inconvenience because of our daughter’s upcoming wedding. Stupid, I know. This is something that doesn’t go away. Vitamins or exercise don’t help. I just didn’t want it to possibly get in the way of the nuptials. What got me was how fast it started to deteriorate.
In the final month before the wedding, I could tell it was changing pretty quickly. After the wedding, I finally got an appointment. Yep, he said, time to head to a specialist. Of course, I then had to wait. In my case, although I have cataracts in both eyes, my right eye is significantly worse than my left eye. Unfortunately, my right eye is my stronger eye, always has been. And in the last month both have been going downhill fast. I finally surrendered my car keys to my wife the other day. Oh, I think I can still drive okay, as long as I know where I’m going, but my depth perception has suffered too and she got tired of me running over curbs and such. My worry was someone possibly walking in front of me. I can see big stuff okay, but it is like driving in a misty early morning fog … all the time, everywhere, and bright lights like headlights and street lights are often exaggerated and blinding. That famous painting Starry Night? Welcome to my world.
I go in for surgery on the right eye this coming week. It is perhaps the most common surgical procedure these days. Very routine. That’s why I mentioned the anecdotes earlier. I’ve heard a lot of them. I’m both dreading the surgery (as one does) and looking forward to it. Then I get to do it again, on the other eye. The doctor told me I’ll really see how bad the left eye is when the right eye comes back on-line.
One of the saddest things for me is the fact that I have to miss National Novel Writing Month this year. I’ve done it every year since 2011. My two published novels were NaNoWriMo projects. I enjoy NaNoWriMo, it is fun and I’ve made some lifelong friendships from the random writing buddies I’ve collected over the years. But NaNoWriMo takes commitment and with surgical disruptions and … well, hardly being able to see the computer screen (struggling even writing this!), skipping it this year is a no-brainer. Maybe I’ll write the third book in the series NaNo-style in January.
One of the good things that will come out of this is the fact that they can actually do proactive corrections. The flip side is that it is almost always out of pocket … insurance should pay for all this stuff but they balk at actually doing something helpful and forward-thinking. They’ll replace the cloudy lens with a buck basic replacement, sure, but for a few bucks more and what is basically some minor LASIK I can expect some real improvement. But it is an easy sell for the medical industry … the prospect of better eyesight, not just as good as before with glasses but BETTER … well, that is hard to pass up. And given what they are already doing, it just makes sense in the long run. Can I afford it? Not really, but can I afford to NOT do it? Well … not really.
So think about me this Thursday. Feel free to comment to me about your experiences. I know you will anyway, so I might as well invite you. It helps. It really does. Oh, and remember the cost and remember those two books hanging around out there on Amazon (and other popular sites listed on my web page). Hint, hint … a few more sales might help offset the cost for me, so tell your friends too.
(“Always play for sympathy, my boy,” an actor-mentor once told me).
Thomas Fenske is= a writer living in NC. His latest novel, A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP, was published October 1. More information: http://thefensk.com
It’s April Fool’s Day and I’m fessing up … I did play a little joke on my readers and now, finally, the truth will come out.
This is about character names. Names are always tough for a writer. My old creative writing professor at the University of Houston, Mr. Karchmer, always chastised us for worrying too much about names. Everybody did it, and looking around at a lot of the current deluge of writers, everybody still does it.
His point: they are just names, concentrate on the story. I know writers who get baby books for ideas, and there are online guides for “most popular names” for given years. All good stuff. I have an unpublished completed draft where the main character is Tucker Bailey … those are the names of two of my cats.
For my novel, The Fever, I decided to have a little fun. I spent way too much time on this too because it was a lot harder than I imagined it would be. When I started planning the novel, although I had already worked out most of the major plot elements in my head, I needed a number of good character names. I got an idea. What about … anagrams? So I experimented with a few choice phrases that had some bearing on the plot. A few of them were zero … I don’t remember exactly what I tried at first … but then I tried lostgoldmine. I used an online anagram generator for this and got a wide range of what looked like usable words. I had to ignore the words lost, mine and gold along with combinations that included those words because they was too obvious (for example, golden and mein).
I poured over the lengthy list pulling out what I hoped were suitable names worthy of the characters I imagined. Sometimes I found I could combine items on the list into viable names that didn’t appear directly in the list.
Through quite a number of revisions, all the names remained intact but down the line, as I solicited input from test readers, about ¾ of them hated my main character’s name … his first name was Milt. It was too bad, too, because I kinda liked old Milt. Another character had a name that was really just too similar to another character … that was Midge.
So in later revisions I changed them both to more accessible names. But a majority of the other character names survived intact: Smidgeon Toll, Loot Meldings, Godson Millet, Ted “Slim” Longo, Gillet Osmond .. even a place name made the cut, Dolings Motel. All should be anagrams of lost gold mine (barring a typo in this hasty blog entry).
I also added another small similar touch … Loot Meldings lived at 4653 Tesoro Rd … using a phone numberpad anagram, 4653=GOLD and of course Tesoro is Spanish for treasure.
I also have a confession … on two stray pages, I messed up and called Milt Mitch. Of course when I did a global search and replace to change Milt to Sam, those references to “Mitch” were missed. Although I corrected it in the publisher galleys, somehow that change did not make it into the Amazon kindle edition … and after MONTHS, I am still trying to get them to upload the fix. Nook, iBook, print editions are all good but the Amazon problem persists. The question, “Who the hell is Mitch” has been directed to me a number of times.
Anyway, please forgive me my bit of fun. I think it worked out okay.