A WeekendCoffee Backstory

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How far would you go to feed your fever?


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

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Please help a fellow out …

What? Three posts this week?  Well, things are happening.  Like this little ditty:

My latest novel, A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP is currently in a cover competition.  I need your vote!  Yeah, it’s a beauty pageant of sorts … or a popularity contest.  I’m beating the bushes trying to get some votes.  You can vote once a day.  I’m really proud of this cover.  I won this competition a while back for my first novel, and I want to repeat that success.  So I need your help.

It’s on a marketing site (Author Shout) that hosts this competition every week.  All you have to do is cast your vote (hopefully) for A Curse That Bites Deep.

Here’s the link:  http://authorshout.com/cover-wars

You can vote once a day.  Please do!!

Thanks!

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

 

 

WeekendCoffee Fools

 

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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.  😉

The Eyes Have It

img_6284If 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).

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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

Confession Time

IMG_4814-1It’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. 

 Interested? get more info and links to buy the book at
http://www.thefensk.com