Disastrous

Photo Courtesy of Melanie Hauser
I might have mentioned before that I’m originally from Houston. The situation there is dire … thankfully, all my friends and family seem to be holding their own so far. My younger sister lives with our 95 year old mother in the house we all grew up in. It has flooded once before, with Tropical Storm Allison. This time, so far (literally knocking on wood here), the water got up to the house but not into it. They haven’t had power since Saturday night. 

I’ve seen a lot of conjecture on the media about this situation, but there are a few things you should know.

 Houston has *always* had flooding problems. The place is basically a swamp they built a city on. Most often, it is localized, but any part of the city can get at least temporarily inundated. I always hated even the temporary inconvenience of flooding. I’ve had to clean up after a catastrophic flood only once, in 1976 … the first citywide flood I’d seen. I worked for The University of Houston, at the University Center (the student center) at the time and their “satellite” student center  flooded. Small wonder, as it was underground. The aftermath was awful, especially in the food service area. 
Some of my earliest memories back into the fifties are of our street flooding. Those floods rarely extended much beyond the curbs. The worst one of my childhood was Hurricane Carla. It got about 1/3 of the way up the yard. Unlike Harvey, Carla blew and rained and moved on. That’s what these storms are supposed to do. 

This tendency to flood is a major reason I decided to move away. I’m a wimp about flooding, I admit it. 

I hear the Mayor, Sylvester Turner, has gotten some undeserved flak about not ordering an evacuation. I knew him in college, he is one of my favorite people from those days. He’s a stand-up guy. He made the right choice. The critics need to understand two things …
ONE: anybody can choose to evacuate on their own. One of my sisters chose to do just that. There was plenty of warning. If you have a place to go, then get there as early as you can. 
TWO: where was anybody expecting to go? This storm in particular, was (and still is) a big question mark. San Antonio? Austin? Dallas? There were chances all three might be affected. It is easy to “say” evacuation … but as Houston found in 2005 after Katrina and when Rita was threatening, there are a LOT of people in Houston. People were literally stranded in the worst traffic jam in history. And in this case it very well might have placed hundreds of thousands at serious risk of death or injury. Can you imagine being stuck in gridlock then slammed with a storm? And for all anybody knew, they might be going someplace worse. There was no clear track to this storm. Still isn’t. They’re pretty good with predictions but sometimes, these storms will basically make their own weather. 

Twenty plus years ago, we thought we were high and dry here in central NC, 130 miles from the coast when Hurricane Fran threatened. It maintained hurricane strength all the way to Raleigh! It was one of the scariest nights of my life. Not so much flooding here, but trees were down EVERYWHERE and power was out for quite a while. 
In short, these are natural disasters. Disaster is the action word here. It’s never going to be good. 

Keep your thoughts and prayers with the people in harm’s way, especially my mom. 

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC. 

http://thefensk.com

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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.

The Mossback … another look

This is just another fine-tuning of my Amazon blurb … I think it’s getting there.

cover-lg2a“The Mossback” made it’s first appearance in the pages of Thomas Fenske’s debut novel, THE FEVER, when owner Smidgeon Toll delivered a massive serving of Huevos Rancheros Especial to Sam, that book’s hero, and proudly exclaimed:

“There, what do you think of that?”

The description of gooey, spicy, goodness that followed spurred several readers to ask the author, “Is that a real dish?”   Now you can see for yourself!

Fiction has become kitchen.

Smidgeon will entertain you with her quirky, homespun wisdom as she shares a mini-history of the cafe along with some insight into what helps to make The Mossback a unique and delightful locale in the world of fictional eateries.

Along the way you’ll learn how to make her awesome square biscuits.  She also reveals details about the full-sized heap of bacon they serve on “THAT BLT, ” and introduces readers to other local favorites like the “Double Trouble Dog” and what has to be the “Best-Danged Buttermilk Pie” you’ve ever tasted.  As an added bonus, she has agreed to share her famous Potato Salad Secret, something surprising and simple that will take even the best potato salad recipe and crank it up a notch, maybe two!

Simply put, these are all part of what would have made The Mossback Cafe famous, well, if it actually existed.

So hop out of your pickup truck and mosey on in … there just might be some breakfast tacos or enchiladas lurking in your future.

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The Mossback Cafe Cookbook is still mostly FREE … check out my website for the free venues as well as the link to Amazon where it is 99 cents.  Feel free to share one of the other sites to them using the report a lower price option.  Or if you insist, buy it but be aware that there is a kindle version available at the Smashwords link.
While you’re there, feel free to browse my other books … summer is a great time to Catch THE FEVER!

More Than A Cookbook

Just to be clear … The Mossback Cafe Cookbook is more than a cookbook. It is a true companion book to my novels.  They introduce the backdrop of the place and they intoduce owner Smidgeon Toll. The books are basically stories set in Texas and so, the cookbook has a strong Southwestern influence. 

The cookbook takes that base and gives Smidgeon a chance to tell us all a little more about her background and the cafe. 

The recipes are real and the  information she shares is a valuable resource that will enhance your enjoyment of the existing novels and subsequent stories in the series. 

So, when you see the word “cookbook” —  look beyond it, and consider this to be a stepping off point.  But don’t get me wrong, the recipes are easy and accessible to even fledgling cooks.  And delicious. 

Check it out … it is only in ebook form and it is only 99 cents.  

http://thefensk.com/cook.html
Happy Enchiladas!  

Thomas Fenske

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

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!

Great News!

Judgement day

My latest novel, A Curse That Bites Deep, will be published October 1!

My publisher, in association with most of the major eBook retailers, have decided to offer the a 25% discount on eBook pre-orders until the official release day. On the first of October it goes back to normal price.

That’s a crisp one dollar bill off, folks!  It will reserve your copy and it will be available on release day.

This is a sequel to my debut novel, The Fever, and continues the story.  Ah, but things take an evil turn in this one.   People are dying, suspicions run high, and poor Sam seems to be in the thick of things.

More information and quick buy links can be found on my web page:http://www.thefensk.com

If you have already caught THE FEVER … you won’t want to miss this continuation.
If you haven’t caught THE FEVER … yet … well, there is still time!

 

WeekendCoffeeShare: The Find

img_6284If we were having coffee I’d have to tell  you about the find.  I mean, we all seem to spend half our lives trying to find something, either our glasses, the car keys, or the remote control.  Sometimes it’s something we hung onto for six years and threw away as useless only last week.  Sometimes, it is something we weren’t even looking for.  Those are the best, especially when it is something significant or remarkable.

That’s what this conversation is about, something I found that was both significant and remarkable.  And I wasn’t looking for it, either, but I’m glad I know where it is now.

What I found was the original note I wrote detailing the basic premise of my novel, The Fever.  I remember the fact of writing it but here was the remarkable thing: I didn’t know I had dated it.  I don’t date anything, but I did this time.  It was written 30 years previously THAT SAME WEEK.  I’d come across it from time to time but hadn’t seen it since long before I wrote the novel.  The mere fact of writing it down pretty much committed the few facts I jotted down to memory, but the note itself had been floating around the house for quite a while.  I hadn’t planned on writing anything that day in 1986.  My wife and I had gone to San Antonio for a weekend getaway.  She was several months pregnant and had decided to take a nap after some of our running around and I retired to the hotel bar to let her sleep for a short while.  Bored, I asked for some stationery and wrote down a page of notes.

There wasn’t a lot of detail but at the heart of it was this:  “Shift to flashback – ten years earlier.  Scene: Jail holding tank (Austin?) Protagonist is incarcerated >> befriending grizzled old-timer who has been manhandled by police during arrest.  He was punched in the throat and is coughing up blood. Our hero holds his head up and gives him water and talks to him but he is dying.  At this point he is told certain details of the lost Franco mine in West Texas.  They seem to be the muddled words of a dying wino but the hint of truth rings clear.  The information seems to be a bit more than an empty legend.  The man dies and the information is quietly filed away.”

The novel has all of that, although I later found a bit of Texas folklore to use as the goal — not sure how I concocted the “Franco” mine, but it was the idea I think.  But the injured wino in jail, making his deathbed confession remained the catalyst of the story over all the years of speculation, writing, and revision.

The note ended up with: the hero beginning to … “research the legend.  The information he was given jives with the legend — and then some.  The fire burns in his breast now and he tries to find every and any shred of evidence he can.  He studies historical records, oral histories, geologic maps, & topographic maps >> IF it exists — maybe he can find it.”

All remained central to the story.  Even the “fire burns in his breast now’ … later naturally applied itself to the title: The Fever.

It’s ironic I find it right now too, I’d tell y ou … here, right on the cusp of the publication of the sequel to The Fever.  I never envisioned an extension to the story, but now there is not only an extension, there is even a third book in the works.

All from my decision to take a short break in a bar in San Antonio Texas.


Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  He is the author of The Fever and A Curse That Bites Deep (Due out October 1).  More info:  http://thefensk.com