From Fiction to Kitchen

I call this Faux Calzone or Poor Man’s Calzone. 

I don’t know if it is because I generally write early in the morning and am usually hungry, or just because I like to eat, but food always seems to find its way into my writing.  This is one “fictional” recipe that didn’t make it into The Mossback Cafe Cookbook (it didn’t fit into the concept), but this has long been one of my standby quick and dirty meals.  I’ll start with a quote from A Curse That Bites DeepOur hero Sam needs a quick meal but only has limited ingredients.  The pantry is stocked with tidbits salvaged from a recently deceased friend, a solitary older gentleman of limited means.  He settles on a cheap frozen pizza.

Once the pizza was unwrapped and in the pan he slid it in the oven and checked his watch. After a couple of minutes he pulled it out and lifted one end.
“It’s thawed enough,” he muttered as he proceeded to fold the pizza in half. He pressed the edges lightly.
“Used to use more cheese when I was in college, but this will do,” he said as he moved the pan back into the hot oven.
After a few more minutes he gingerly flipped it to brown the other side. When the allotted time was up he brought it out and tested the top with his finger. It was crispy but not burnt.
“This actually isn’t that old,” he said. “I guess the old guy did manage to eat from time to time despite my worries.”
He moved his meal to a plate and let it cool another minute before he tried a bite.
“Not bad,” he said, “not bad at all…poor man’s calzone, just like in college!”

I found it as a way to enhance a really cheap frozen pizza.  Sure, it’s not a true calzone, it’s almost more like a pizza taco, but it certainly moves the drab frozen pizza up a notch.  I made these as an appetizer once, cutting them into strips, and people loved them.  Years ago I worked as a consultant in northern New Jersey and one day we called in an order for some pizzas.  I noted that almost everyone folded their slices in half before eating them; I guess it is a regional thing.  I still do it, too, and it was the inspiration for this idea.

Here’s what you do.  You need a cheap frozen pizza.  Totino’s will do but you can go smaller and cheaper if you want to.  Although in the clip above Sam just cooks the pizza as it is, right out of the package, and you can certainly do that, it is better if you add a little seasoning and extra cheese.  It’s frozen so you need to thaw it somewhat.  At home, I usually use the microwave for that but you can heat it for a few minutes in the oven like Sam does in the novel.  You want the crust pliable enough to fold.  I made one of these yesterday and microwaved it for about a minute and a half at fifty-percent power.

Take the partially thawed pizza and sprinkle it with some additional Italian spices if you want … or garlic powder, whatever you like.  Sprinkle some shredded cheese on half of it. I added some Parmesan too, one “to-go” packet.

Fold it over and press firmly.  It’s not going to seal like a true calzone but that’s okay.  You can still press down a little more along the edges to get close.

Bake just like the package says, but bear in mind it was partially cooked earlier.  If the package said to cook it for 10 minutes at 400, I’d do it for four, carefully flip it and do it for another four.  Your mileage may vary.  You want the crust to be crisp but not burnt or really hard.  The extra cheese should just be starting to ooze a little.

Take it out and let it cool for at least two minutes before eating but take it easy, the filling can be hot.

That’s it, Poor Man’s Calzone, right out of the pages of my novel!  As you can see from the picture, it looks pretty good.  Simple, good, cheap.  Who am I kidding?  It was great!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. You can find more info about his novels and his cookbook at http://thefensk.com

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WeekendCoffee WooHoo

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s coming soon!!!!

mossbackcove

It’s slowly coming together. What? Why, THE MOSSBACK INN COOKBOOK! What is it? Well, what I’ve tried to do is create a 1980s look in a cookbook, based on a fictional eatery that figures largely in my Traces of Treasure novel series. Hey, I collect cookbooks I know what it’s supposed to look like. […]

via Coming Soon! — TCC-GUY

Weekend Coffee Cookbook

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

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

What cookbook?

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

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

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

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

Keep tuned!


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

Weekend Coffee Research

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

If we were having coffee today I’d have to hurry because I’ve been busy researching and want to get back to it.  Book three in my Traces of Treasure series has been off to a slow start and I am finally making some progress.  I’m pretty much what they call a “pantser” in my writing.  Well, a total pantser just starts writing, as if by the seat of their pants, going wherever the story may take them.  I’m not that hard-core. I have the germ of an idea and I cobbled together a basic outline based on that idea.

But at this stage of the story, early in, I tend to get bogged down in simple details.  I want to set the stage just right, and possibly set up for future action.  Working in the past (the story is set in 1983) is tricky and I am in a somewhat unfamiliar locale.  Limited resources prevent me from traveling there so I use a combination of Google maps & Satellite views and USGS topographic maps to help me.  I’m lucky on the latter because I can get USGS maps from the past.  Most of my action takes place in far West Texas so things don’t change too much.  But they do change, so I rely on the topographic map to keep me in the time frame.

I used to buy the maps for some location work.  Ironically, one of the characters in my first book did the same thing, spreading them out on the floor with a huge magnifying glass and a big lamp.  Now, you can get those same maps in PDF format.  I have to say, zooming the PDF gives one a much better view than any magnifying glass.  Awesome details emerge.

I found something so interesting, I had to write to the actual ranch I identified in the PDF to get some clarification.  I hope they write back.  They should.  It’s a big operation and they have their own web page and had detailed contact information.  It’s a working ranch so I’ll have to be patient.  It is funny where research takes you.  Their web page had a history of their ranch and it was a fascinating look into a place I’d never heard of before.  But it was a typical story too, one small piece of history that helps to fill in an overall sense of time and place.  Really interesting.

It feels really good to be actively writing again.  Getting excited about this story.  I think it is going to rival the other two in suspense and mystery.  I had to take off so long because of my eyes, then got lazy because of that downtime, it’s been tough to start up again.  Today was the first day I felt like I was really back.

 

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  Yes, a writer.  And he’s writing.  I promise.  More info: http://thefensk.com

Life Imitates Art?

img_6284If we were having coffee today I’d have to mention the treasure hunter.  Why?  Because my two novels are about a treasure hunter.  Me?  Naw, I’m not a treasure hunter, I just acted upon an idea I had like thirty years ago.

Anyway, six months after the publication of my novel, THE FEVER, I spotted a news story about a missing treasure hunter.  A somewhat clueless guy set off to find a treasure based on vague clues and disappeared.  That is the basic plot point of my novel.  Of course, there was no cross-pollination here and this is a very tragic story.  A guy died.

I based my story not on something real, like this, but on an idea.  A “what if” scenario. A tragic outcome was always a major possibility in the story and Sam, the hero of THE FEVER, always made sure certain people knew where he was going and when to consider him overdue.  He comes close a couple of times but … well, no more spoilers … that’s why you have to read it!

Why do I bring this up?  I was writing a pitch to a radio station today and I thought the real-life story might be a useful sidebar to the information about my own novel … and found an update I didn’t know about.  The guy’s body had been found about six months after he had disappeared. It’s a little too close to home and frankly the coincidence of the two stories still kind of freaks me out.

Here’s a link to that story:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/26/randy-bilyeu-dead-new-mexico-treasure-hunter

People say, art imitates life, but I always say it is a two-way street.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  More information about his books (and about him!) can be found at http://thefensk.com

Giveaway!

How about a new giveaway for the new year?

I’ve partnered with TomeTender Book Blog to give away a signed copy of both of my novels  … so you have two chances to win
thomas-fenske-banner

Enter the Giveaway

These books follow the story of Sam Milton and are inspired by a Texas legend — you’ll find mystery, romance, danger, and a touch of the supernatural.

… a riddle, an obsession, & a curse …what could possibly go wrong?

More info on the books can be found at www.thefensk.com … there are giveaway links there too.  Don’t forget to reblog!

Traces of Treasure

img_7200-1When my second novel, A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP, was accepted by my publisher they wanted me to add a “series” name.  It was a sequel to my first book, THE FEVER, and even if it was just two books they were seen as parts of a series.  I wasn’t sure there would be more than two, but that’s the way they did it so I was compelled to create a series.

I’d never thought in terms of a series … from a marketing standpoint it isn’t a bad idea, but I hadn’t even considered it.  Now I was on the spot … I needed to come up with something quickly.  I’m not quite sure where the idea came from, but Traces of Treasure just sort of stuck in my mind.  I needed something that conveyed the basic plot ideas of the two books.  My hero is a treasure hunter but his hunt always seems to be more about the idea more than the fact.

My hero is a treasure hunter but his hunt always seems to be more about the notion more than the fact.  Despite years of struggling with the idea, Sam Milton, has found very little in the way of the gold he was promised in the first book.  In the second book, he does find a treasure of sorts, but it wasn’t what he was looking for and it, in itself, seems to point to yet another mystery (wide open for book three, right?).   He always seems to find just enough of something to keep him going.   Basically, a “missed it by that much” mentality.   I guess a slot machine works on the same principle … the tiny payouts keep one hoping that the jackpot looms just beyond the next pull … or two … or three …

So Traces of Treasure was born.  The term left me open to explore other tangents with the same characters, but it was still vague enough to allow different story lines to be part of the same series.  I didn’t want it to be a “Sam Milton Adventure” or something like that.  Hey, he lives a dangerous life … he could die.  No promise or spoiler there … seriously, but this plot and storyline could go in a thousand different directions at this point.

Plus it fits the first book … Sam’s lifelong quest is based on a hope and a prayer, totally trusting the sincerity of a dying total stranger, and a wino at that.  And it fits the second book too … .Sam spends time and resources trying to get to the end of the crude tunnel he’d found in book 1.  He’s found a few specks of gold but as yet no mother lode … wait, maybe that’s where I got it … he found traces of the promised treasure.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  More information on his books can be found at http://thefensk.com … this post reminds him that he really needs to add info about “Traces of Treasure” to the website.

 

Treasure or Trouble?  

Time to walk a Texas mile in Sam’s dusty boots … 

THE FEVER explores Sam’s obession with a seemingly unattainable dream.  Just how far would you go to feed your fever?  

A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP continues the story of Sam but this time there is a killer in the mix, and maybe a ghost or two. 

Remember … “if one searches really hard for something, often they’ll find it.  But the “it” they find may not be the something they were after.”

So, what’ll it be-Treasure or Trouble?  Or maybe a heaping helping of both!  
The books are available for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, and in Paperback.  http://thefensk.com

94 Years Young

momIf we were having coffee I’d be lamenting the fact that I am once again missing my mother’s birthday.  I live across the country from my mom, who turns 94 today.  I’d raise my mug in toast and say “Happy Birthday, Mom!”

The photo is my favorite picture of my mom,   High School graduation photo.  FYI, that’s pre-war … and I’m sure she was all piss and vinegar as they say.  She got married right after the war and I came along third in line to the throne with two following.

There’s a little-known secret about my early years …   my parents were remarkably cyclic … four of my five siblings were born five years apart.  Only my older sister was out of sequence.  She’s four years older than me.

What this means is that when I was a toddler/young hellion, and my older brother and sister started school. me and my mom were home all day … just her and me.  She was the typical 50’s housewife then … stay at home.  When she was a fledgling mother she had two infant/toddlers at the same time.  By the time I emerged from that cycle, for 2-3 year until my younger sister came along, it was just her and me.  By the time that was over, she had started working again.  Both younger sisters knew the joys of daycare but me, I never experienced that.  Oh, she had periods of at-home time with them, and of course with my older siblings, but I had her all to myself during those few great years.  I’m not gloating, I just feel fortunate. I’ve done a lot in this life, but those are some of my fondest memories.

So, Happy Birthday, mom!

Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina, far from his mother in Houston.  His second novel, A Curse That Bites Deep, was just published this month.

http://www.thefensk.com/main