Weston Ochse is the author of twenty books, most recently SEAL Team 666 and its sequel Age of Blood, which the New York Post called 'required reading' and USA Today placed on their 'New and Notable Lists.' His first novel, Scarecrow Gods, won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in First Novel and his short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has appeared in comic books, and magazines such as Cemetery Dance and Soldier of Fortune. He lives in the Arizona desert within rock throwing distance of Mexico. He is a military veteran with 29 years of military service and currently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan. Please contact him through this site.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Seven Days Until GRUNT LIFE Hits the Streets

With seven days until Grunt Life hits the streets, the excitement is mounting. This is my plunge into the military sci fi pool where I take on and try and break new ground concerning the realities of PTSD, suicide, and depression. Not only am I trying to make readers understand what it's like, but I'm also making PTSD sufferers heroes. Too often they think themselves the opposite. This is where I show them how they can save the planet, if only between the pages of Grunt Life.

Reviewers are raving over GRUNT LIFE so far.

Beauty in Ruins called Grunt life 'a fast-paced story with some daring ideas, Grunt Life: Task Force Ombra is a must-read for fans of the military science fiction genre, and definitely worth a read for sci-fi fans in general.'

Reviewer Bob Milne goes on to say that 'the opening arc of the story was, by far, the most interesting to me. Getting to meet the suicidal men and women recruited for Task Force Ombra, seeing how they're trained/conditioned in prison-like conditions, and watching as they engage one another in a confessional sort of catharsis is fascinating. Ochse devotes a considerable amount of time to setting the stage for his grunts, and I liked that.'

He also nailed my Lethal Weapon reference.  Nice!

Pop Cults focused heavily into the PTSD aspects with an absolutely glowing review of the book. 'With Grunt Life, I feel like Ochse was striving to write the kind of military narrative that Heinlein or Haldeman would have written. I am a huge fan of both authors, and Ochse is well on his way to
joining their ranks, but I don’t think he is quite there.  He is close, and he is on the right track — heck, he even acknowledges Haldeman at the end of the book. Ochse goes beyond the normal chaos of combat and asks of the tough questions that we, as a greater society, are just starting to ask. In this novel, he addresses one of the biggest killers of our veterans these days: suicide.  While the taking of one’s life has been addressed before, Ochse embraces it and integrates it into his story without making it the focus of the book or glorifying it. The book starts out with a suicide attempt, but it isn’t for the reasons that you would expect. Ochse was willing to get past the Hollywood and mainstream media explanations of military suicide and try to address some of the real reasons why veterans would be willing to end their lives. This is a subject that needs to be addressed openly and honestly, and Ochse was brave enough to risk turning some readers off to do it. I think that many of the readers who do get turned off by his frank observations on this subject might feel that way because it hits way too close to home. I don’t want this to sound like a challenge, but for some folks out there, this might be the book that makes them stop and think.'

Even SFF News weighed in. ''Grunt Life' at its heart is an Intense, Thought Provoking and Eye Opening look at the issues soldiers have to face everyday during and after their service.'

Reviews will be coming faster and faster. I hope to be able to link all of them. 

In the meantime, help this hardworking guy make this a NY Times Bestseller and order a copy  today!

For an independent bookstore near you, try this link to find where the book can be found.

Click this link to see all the Barnes and Nobles nearest you.
Mysterious Galaxy has Grunt Life available for preorder. They are one of the preeminent genre bookstores on the planet so consider supporting them. You can request a signed copy through them.
The Poisoned Pen, which is a mystery suspense bookstore in Scottsdale, is also a preeminent book store. They've shown me a lot of love by having me sign with them. Consider supporting them as well.  
 
Here's the back cover copy- 

This is a brand new Military SF series from Weston Ochse, an experienced military man and author.

Benjamin Carter Mason died last night. Maybe he threw himself off a bridge into Los Angeles Harbor, or maybe he burned to death in a house fire in San Pedro; it doesn’t really matter. Today, Mason’s starting a new life. He’s back in boot camp, training for the only war left that matters a damn.

For years, their spies have been coming to Earth, mapping our cities, learning our weaknesses, leaving tragedy in their wake. Our governments knew, but they did nothing—the prospect was too awful, the costs too high—and now, the horrifying and utterly alien Cray are invading, laying waste to our cities. The human race is a heartbeat away from extinction.

That is, unless Mason, and the other men and women of Task Force OMBRA, can do anything about it.

This is a time for heroes. For killers. For Grunts.
 

Monday, April 21, 2014

But They Chose to Join - Volunteerism and Service to Our Nation

Something's been bothering me... the words 'But they chose to join.'

Here's why they're bothering me. It was Easter and I reposted a picture meme of service men and women deployed to Afghanistan huddled around a meal at their DFAC (dining facility). I mentioned something about take a moment and think about those out there serving.

And one of my followers said simply 'But they chose to join.' I looked at it for a long time. That's not a simple sentence, no matter how simple it appears. To post that as a reply to my request seemed to mean that this person shouldn't have to take time out of their Easter Day to think about these service men and women because of a choice they made. After all, they chose to join

Seriously?

Think about that.

There are young men and women out doing what our nation commands, living under very rough conditions, at risk of violence or death, and receiving poverty wages but because they weren't drafted they get no respect? Not even a moment out of your day?

To make it perfectly clear, they didn't choose to join, they chose to serve. You join a gym or a club. You serve your country. Big difference.

I'm sure this has made me testy because of my nearness to the subject. I've spent the last 30 years in the military. 20 as a US Army soldier. 3 as a DoD contractor. 7 as a DoD civilian. When I go to work I see soldiers marching. I hear them call cadence. I see them salute. Fort Huachuca is predominantly a training post so most of these young men and women have chosen to serve and are getting ready for their first assignment. They're idealistic. They want to do things for their country. They want to have that feeling of service. They curate their own version of patriotism through their actions. They put up with poverty wages, working 15 hour days, being screamed at by drill sergeants, getting up and being forced to exercise and stand in formation, and eventually going to a combat zone instead of getting a regular job like regular people.

Me serving in Afghanistan 2013
When I chose to serve, I had lots of choices. I joke about how my mom made me join because I'd messed up two scholarships. That's partially accurate, she did lay down the law, but I had choices. I was smart, from a good family with great connections, I know I could have landed on my feet. Hell, I was waiting tables at the most expensive restaurant in Chattanooga at the time making almost $2000 a month back in 1984. It would take me more than a dozen years in the military to get back to that salary. But you see, I have this idea that we as citizens should give back to our nation. We should protect it and her people. Maybe it was my grandpa. Maybe it was John Wayne. Maybe it was all those old WW II movies. I dunno, but it made me want to serve.

Everyone doesn't have to. In fact, less than 1% of the US population serves. But that doesn't mean the other 99% get off free and clear. So when you're asked to pause a second and reflect on someone else's service that seems like a kind of respect.

I get that there are politics at work. I get that there are folks who don't like violence and war. Guess what? Soldiers hate it even worse. Let me set you straight. Whether you like the reason for a service man or woman being somewhere, don't confuse the issue with the person. The person was ordered to go there. They fight for those beside them, they fight for their command, and they fight for the ideal. 

But they chose to join. No, they chose to serve

Serving like my best buddy SGM Marshall who just received a Bronze Star for his outside the wire actions in Afghanistan.

Or serving like Sgt Keri Paulson, a young girl who could be anyone's daughter in a shopping mall anywhere in America but instead pulled a deployment to Afghanistan and turned out to be a crack NCO.

Or like my writer pal SFC Lincoln Crisler who's pulling an unaccompanied tour of duty in Korea, leaving his wife and kids back in America for a year.

Or serving like the 72 year old SFC (retired) Melvin Morris, who chose to serve by joining the Oklahoma National Guard in 1959, only to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor last week for actions he conducted in 1967 while serving in Vietnam.

They didn't join a bridge club. They didn't choose to join a political party. They didn't join a frigging bowling league. They chose to serve and deserve a damn moment of your attention.

But they chose to join.

Let me backtrack a few inches so people don't think I'm being overly semantical. It really is okay to say someone joined the military. You don't have to say that they chose to serve. But it's only okay if you understand that by joining the person is also serving. 

It is absolutely not alright to use the world join as an excuse not to show someone respect.






Monday, April 7, 2014

The Twelve-Fingered Shibboleth

It's not often I get to write a post like this, but when it happens, it's an awesome feeling.

Once upon a time there was this guy who wanted to be an author. He approached an author he admired, one to which he felt an unexplainable kinship, and he told him of this authorial dream. I was that author and I basically said to this fella the same thing I say to everyone. "Just write. Stop talking about it and do it."

And he did. His first book was Southern Gods and was magnificent. 


Then he got an agent and now has book deals and a new fantasy series coming out and is living the dream.

But somewhere along the way he wrote (is still writing) a YA series. When I saw that, I said to myself, "That's odd. I never took him for a YA author."

But then of course I've written a YA book (co-written with Yvonne Navarro and comes out this year), so why shouldn't he have.

I thought about reading it, but said to myself, 'Nah. I just don't have the time.'

Then we got together last month at Midsouthcon, a Memphis genre convention and he gave me the first two books of the trilogy, The Twelve-Fingered by and The Shibboleth. Now I felt like I had to read them. I like this guy and he's asked me to so I just had to.

I adored The Twelve-Fingered Boy. Just adored it. Written from the POV of a sassy middle-teen, petty criminal I could feel the truth of the character. Shreeve, his name, has a little of me in him. He's that friend I never had. He's also part of the author. I could hear his voice saying some of the words. The Twelve-Fingered Boy was damn terrific.

But as good as that was, The Shibboleth is even better. Wow. I just finished it and fucking Wow. I'm so damn pleased that this author has accomplished what so many have tried and failed to do-- create something new and wonderful that will stand the test of time.

I mean, if this 48 year old white dude can read a YA novel and come away with the absolute knowledge that it's the best book I've read this year and in my top ten books of all time, then it's just fucking spectacular.

The guy's name is John Hornor Jacobs. I call him Jakes. If you don't know his name yet, you will. If you want to be fucking amazed and thrilled, Pick up The Twelve-Fingered Boy as a calling card. Once you read that, you'll plummet into the next book like I did. You can find them at an independent bookstore near you or at Mysterious Galaxy.

Gosh. I wish I was a fly on the wall when you finish these books just to see the smile on your faces.

And Jakes, if you're reading this, Good Damn Job. I'm proud as hell to call you a friend. I'm also proud to call myself a fan.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

MIDSOUTHCON UPDATE:

MIDSOUTHCON UPDATE: 

Day two I'm alive. Yesterday saw your usual parade of furries, superheroes, gamers, Trekers, Star Warsians, Whovians, Manganese, killer clowns, and giant apocalyptic rabbits. Had two great panels. One on Blending genres and the other on short story writing. Lots of folks were eager and passionate to learn and listen. Always fun to share my hard-earned knowledge. It's why I went to cons when I started writing and
how it helped me become who I am. I also introducedTom Howard to Nerdom. Turns out he was a card carrying member all along. Also met up with John Hornor Jacobs and his lovely keeper. Ended up staying up way past my bedtime and about 3 AM my body began to shut down important functions. Woke up this morning to the clamor of 27 spider monkeys clashing cymbals against the inside of my skull. Fed them breakfast and shocked them with aspirin so they'd shut up. I have a panel in 30 minutes, then to drop some sentences into Triple Six and maybe a late workout. If you see me say hi. If not, say hi anyway. Wait.....WTW..... kid in a horses head and a rabbit body just walked by. Sigh. Kids these days.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I Am A Google Glass Explorer!!!

I've been selected to be a Google Glass Explorer!!!

I don't know why this is so intriguing to me, so cool.

Part of it has to do with all the science fiction I've read since I was a child. This is one of the first things I've seen that really binds human and computer interaction. It's so cool it's almost cyberpunk. In fact, in my only cyberpunk novel (Velvet Dogma), which I wrote in 2005,  I created PODs, or personal ocular devices, which do much the same as Google Glass, if not a little more advanced.

I also like that I'm a Beta Tester for something I see infiltrating all of our lives in the next few years. In fact, I doubt there'll be a family out there without a version of Google Glass. To be able to test and provide feedback to me is very cool. It makes me feel like I'm a part of something much larger than I am.
 
Glass is in beta, and your testing and feedback are an important part of the Explorer program. By participating, you acknowledge that implementation of some Glass features and services are still under development and that you should not rely on the Device, software, or Glass services having the full functionality of a consumer release.

What am I going to use it for?

Social networking for sure. Is it going to make it easier? I'm thinking
  • Taking videos and pics using voice commands of
    • My dogs
    • Running
    • Fishing
    • Firing Weapons
    • Hiking
    • Cooking
    • Writing Related
      • Book Signings
      • Conventions
  • I like that it can be used real time as well as post later
Google Glass is also tied into Google maps and provides a HUD for your viewing, rather than having to look away from the road.

Of course there is also this hilarious Google Glass for Guys video.  Lol. (Please don't show this to my wife)

There's really so much I could use it for, but in the end, will it improve the quality of mine and my families life, or diminish it. That's the biggest question. See, in my novel Velvet Dogma there's a whole subculture of people who are addicted to the Sims on their PODs. They're effectively zombified because they no longer live in the real world. Is that what Google Glass will do?

We'll have to see. Literally. And you can see for yourself through my Google Glass eyes. You can Live Dangerously Through Weston's Eyes. Not exactly Being John Malkovich, but it could be real fun.

I'll be posting on it over the next year using the tag WestonsGoogleGlass for both twitter and for my blog. Look for it. Be a part of my journey.

Next step will be to get my Google Glass in the mail. Should come within 7 - 10 days. 

I'll let you know.

Until then, let the journey begin.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Grunt Life US Distribution News

GRUNT LIFE news! 

Speaking with the US distributor. Barnes and Nobles put in a 'really good order' for the book so it 'should be in all stores.' I know Mysterious Galaxy and The Poisoned Pen Bookstore are two indies who've put in orders. Do me a favor. If you have a favorite local store, be it a big box store or an indie, please inquire if they are going to have Grunt Life and if not, ask them to consider ordering some copies, or maybe you order a copy, to jump start it. This is the critical part of a writer's career to which we have no control. It's sort of up to you all to help me out with this. I thank you in advance. And to pay you back, I'll continue writing the best fiction I can, providing you with recipes and fitness tips, and entertain you with the craziness surrounding me, my wife, my dogs, and my life. 


Click this link to see all the indie bookstores nearest you.

Click this link to see all the Barnes and Nobles nearest you.

Mysterious Galaxy has Grunt Life available for preorder. They are one of the preeminent genre bookstores on the planet so consider supporting them.

The Poisoned Pen, which is a mystery suspense bookstore in Scottsdale, is also a preeminent book store. They've shown me a lot of love by having me sign with them. Consider supporting them as well. 

Here's the back cover copy- 

This is a brand new Military SF series from Weston Ochse, an experienced military man and author.

Benjamin Carter Mason died last night. Maybe he threw himself off a bridge into Los Angeles Harbor, or maybe he burned to death in a house fire in San Pedro; it doesn’t really matter. Today, Mason’s starting a new life. He’s back in boot camp, training for the only war left that matters a damn.

For years, their spies have been coming to Earth, mapping our cities, learning our weaknesses, leaving tragedy in their wake. Our governments knew, but they did nothing—the prospect was too awful, the costs too high—and now, the horrifying and utterly alien Cray are invading, laying waste to our cities. The human race is a heartbeat away from extinction.

That is, unless Mason, and the other men and women of Task Force OMBRA, can do anything about it.

This is a time for heroes. For killers. For Grunts.
I need you guys to help out. The first few weeks a book is out can chart the success or failure of the book and future books (if it's a series, like I want this one to be).

Thank You.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Joys of Power Bowls

Or how to optimize taste and quantity while delivering low calories and high protein.

Here's the thing. You need protein. Web MD says that adults in the U.S. are encouraged to get 10% to 35% of their day's calories from protein foods. That's about 46 grams of protein for women, and 56 grams of protein for men. Most people get enough protein, but they also get the fat that goes with it. Not good. So how do you get enough protein without the fat? Let's see.

But before we do that, though, let's find out what happens if we don't eat enough protein.

RunsOnPlants says you become more tired, lose muscle tone, you feel weaker when exercising, your recovery from injury and pain takes longer, and your hair falls out. Livestrong adds another important point. If your goal is weight loss, don't skimp on protein; compared to fat and carbohydrate, protein is the most satiating of the macronutrients, meaning it will help fill you up and keep you feeling full so you avoid overeating and food cravings.

I notice lack of protein when I'm tired and when an exercise that I normally do easily becomes more difficult. Because I constantly exercise, I need more protein to help in building muscle. The more muscle you have the more efficient your body is in processing, rather than storing, what you eat.

But doesn't eating a lot of proteins mean a lot of calories? It does if you're thinking of  a Fred Flintstone steak. If this question crossed your mind, then you probably aren't well-read on protein alternatives.

Enter the world of Power Bowls.

What's a Power Bowl? IDEA Health and Fitness describes it as a bow which can be filled with any power foods that you can think of including fruit, vegetables, protein, and more. They provide five of their favorite recipes

Thrive Forward has recipes that concentrate on complex carbs and proteins designed to give you the most protein and nutrients, while reducing calories and keeping you full.

I see Power Bowls as a blank canvas to do whatever you want with them. The picture above has most of the ingredients I normally like with the exception of the vegan sausage.

The ingredients are: Farro, baked cauliflower in sesame oil, blanched asparagus, quick cooked kale, Field Roast brand Apple and Sage vegan sausage, cold Baja mirepoix (avocado, cucumber and red bell pepper), sunny side egg, little siracha, little ponzu. About 700 calories with 28 grams of protein. 

I normally don't have the vegan sausage (which was terrific btw), but I always have farro, kale, Baja mirepoix (my name for it), and egg.

Let me talk Farro for a moment. It's the only grain in this Power Bowl. But as Three Fat Chicks say, it's a good grain. It's also the oldest cultivated grain in the world.

Here's the Nutritional Value for Faro thanks to Three Fat Chicks:

Additionally, farro has twice the fiber and protein than modern wheat. Different than some other whole grains, a carbohydrate in farro called cyanogenic glucosides has been found to stimulate the immune system, lower cholesterol and help maintain blood sugar levels. While farro does contain gluten, the gluten molecules are weaker than modern wheat, making it more easily digested. Below are more detailed facts regarding farro’s nutritional value:
Per ½ cup raw farro:
  • 170 calories
  • 1.5 g of fat
  • 0 g saturated fat
  • 0 mg of sodium
  • 34 g of carbohydrates
  • 5 g of dietary fiber
  • 2 mg of iron
  • 6 g of protein
  • 4 mg of niacin
  • 60 mg of magnesium
  • 2 mg zinc
In addition to minerals and vitamins, farro is rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, lignans and betaine.  Betaine, when combined with choline, has been shown to prevent or reduce stress-included inflammation, which can be beneficial for individuals suffering from certain medical conditions.
I don't do too many grains, but when I do, and when it's a Power Bowl, farro is it. Just look at the protein in 1/2 a cup. Incidentally, I have to get my farro at a food co-op. I can't get it at any of my grocers.

So there you have it.

The Power Bowl.

Do you have any favorite Power Bowl recipes? Please share them here. Here's a great site for a whole lot of Power Bowl ideas.

And remember. Eat healthy, exercise often, and enjoy life longer.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Velvet Dogma - The Road to Cyberpunk

I've always loved Cyberpunk.The raw, neo-noir, underground feel of it is one of my favorite kinds of science fiction. When I think of cyberpunk I think of the movie Blade Runner, and the books Neuromancer William Gibson) and Dr Adder (KW Jeter). So I was extremely pleased when I was able to write a cyberpunk novel for a major publisher.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the term cyberpunk, allow me to provide a short Wikipedia-produced primer:
Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a near-future setting. Noted for its focus on "high tech and low life," it features advanced science, such as information technology and cybernetics, coupled with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.
Cyberpunk plots often center on a conflict among hackers, artificial intelligences, and

 I played the pre-Windows video 
game based on the novel. Brilliant!
megacorporations, and tend to be set in a near-future Earth, rather than the far-future settings or galactic vistas found in novels such as Isaac Asimov's Foundation or Frank Herbert's Dune. The settings are usually post-industrial dystopias but tend to be marked by extraordinary cultural ferment and the use of technology in ways never anticipated by its creators ("the street finds its own uses for things"). Much of the genre's atmosphere echoes film noir, and written works in the genre often use techniques from detective fiction.
"Classic cyberpunk characters were marginalized, alienated loners who lived on the edge of society in generally dystopic futures where daily life was impacted by rapid technological change, an ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body." – Lawrence Person

The article goes on to say that 'Cyberpunk writers tend to use elements from hardboiled detective fiction, film noir, and postmodernist prose to describe the often nihilistic underground side of an electronic society. The genre's vision of a troubled future is often called the antithesis of the generally utopian visions of the future popular in the 1940s and 1950s.'

Now that we have an understanding of Cyberpunk, on to my story.

It was 2005, I'd just won the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association for my dark fantasy novel, Scarecrow Gods. I was looking to break into the mass market paperback market side of the business. I'd heard that Medallion Press was taking submissions and trying to expand into the fields of horror and science fiction. I could have tried a horror or dark fantasy novel, but I have many loves, and cyberpunk has always been one of them. The idea of inventing a new future, reflecting what I think could be the terrible consequences of current behaviors and inventions, was too good to pass up. Plus, I'd just spent four years living in Los Angeles and had a terrific understanding of its culture and its heartbeat.

Not only was it a welcome challenge to create a near future 'high tech low life' setting, but I had to populate it, creating entire subcultures. These included skater hackers whose skateboards are mobile servers; an underground religious-technology group who eschews modern computers and longs for a return to the early days; and a group so against the idea of a persons organs being levied to the highest bidder that they'll poison themselves with a most awful disease.

I wrote the pitch and sent it in- synopsis, three chapters, and a complete outline. It took about three months to get a reply, but I received a message on my answering machine from an editor who was on her last day at Medallion. She said she loved the idea, and would like for me to send Medallion the completed manuscript. She then gave me the name and contact information of her replacement. I was giddy. Not an acceptance, but damn close enough. They wanted my novel!

So I wrote the novel. It took me about five months. And I sent it to the editor in question. Several months went by. I contacted them by email. Medallion Press had moved their offices. Could I please resend. I did. About two weeks later, I followed it up with a phone call to the direct line of the editor. After all, this editor was expecting it. Hell, she was probably looking forward to it. The call went something like this:

Me: Hi. This is Weston Ochse. I just wanted to let you know I finished and sent in Velvet Dogma. It should be somewhere on your desk.
Editor: (the sound of crickets)
Me: You know. Velvet Dogma. The editor you replaced called me on her last day and asked me to complete the manuscript and send it to you. She said she loved it.
Editor: (I can hear her breathing)
Me: Velvet Dogma. It's a cyberpunk novel about a woman imprisoned for 20 years, only to be released in a society that--
Editor: Stop. I don't know what you're talking about.
Me: You don't?
Editor: I'm also not working on my predecessor's projects.
Me: You're not?
Editor: (I think she's now doing the NY Times Crossword Puzzle. What's a a six letter word for pain in the ass? A-U-T-H-O-R.)
Me: Uh, thanks very much.

 Sigh. As it turned out, I wasn't writing the novel at the request of an editor, but doing it on Spec and Medallion Press didn't look like it would be its home. Three weeks later I received a form rejection confirming the obvious.

Thanks for that.  Sigh Redux.

Thus began the cold sad life of a lonely manuscript trying to find a home. As I write this, I think of that old School House Rock animated jingle (I'm Just a Bill, Sitting on Capital Hill). My manuscript is singing too, a lonely jazz dirge about being homeless in the big city. I let it make the rounds for about a year, then shelved it.

I moved on.

I wrote several more books and saw my first two mass market paperbacks come out from Abaddon Books: Empire of Salt (Zombies) and Blood Ocean (post-apocalyptic sci fi).

Then came Crossroads Press. David Wilson was putting together a publishing house for eBooks. He asked me to submit. I looked around and realized I still had Velvet Dogma. Then I thought, how perfect to have a novel that centers around the internet, published on the internet for the first time. He didn't offer an advance, but the royalty share was more than competitive. I thought, why not?

But I wanted to design the cover. After searching for images, I came across the image which was finally used for the cover. I contacted Danielle Tunstall in the UK, negotiated a purchase price, and the cover for Velvet Dogma became one of her first images sold as book covers.  Collete Von Tora was the model and I just loved the action and movement in the image. Then I put the book cover together, concentrating on the use of space to highlight the image, not crowd it. I also worked on using a font that was clear, but didn't detract from the overall cover. The cover ended up winning an eBook Cover Design Award (ironically from the site I used to learn how to best use space on an eBook cover).

So the book was published. I made a thousand bucks the first two months. I've been making several hundred bucks a month on it since 2011. I've far surpassed what Medallion Press would have paid for it and the book is doing well, so well, that it was recently #1 on Amazon's Cyberpunk and Steampunk lists, the latter I have no idea why.

Some observations about the book now that it's been out three years.

  • I should have hired a professional editor. I tell people to do this all the time, but didn't follow my own advice. There are about 20 errors in the book. I'm actually working with the publisher to correct these now.
  • I pitched a softball in a lot of areas. What I liked about many of my cyberpunk influences was the raw grit and darkness they brought to sci fi. While I achieved this holistically, I missed a lot of opportunities to get darker. I blame this on myself. I wrote the novel for a publisher who wasn't then known for publishing science fiction, much less cyberpunk. I softened the effects to fit the market, something I've never done again. 
  • For the most part, reviews are good to great. There are a few readers who took the time to itemize what they didn't like, many of whom complained of recycled parts and unreal technology. I'll buy that. I took all that I liked best, and invented my own ways to use them. At the time I wrote the novel, there were no other novels about organ levying. Since then, however, there have been quite a few. What was new then, was no longer new six years after I wrote it when it was eventually published. This tells me how fragile near-future fiction can be, and like Rutger Hauer, who plays Roy Batty, the leader of the rebel replicants in Blade Runner, this sort of fiction has an expiration date.
 
So that's the journey so far.

I'm not sure if this will be my one and only cyberpunk novel. Whether or not it is, it remains my only journey into a wonderfully dark and inventive subgenre of science fiction.

If you are interested, Velvet Dogma is currently only 99 cents and available for immediate download.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Weston's February Fitness and Health Review - 2014

So I have this expensive watch that gives me all sorts of terrific data. I'm going to begin doing monthly summaries and self analysis so I can determine how best to fine tune my workouts. My stats. 48 years old male with military service related disabilities. Doesn't smoke. Drinks wine. Lives life well.

~~~


February was a tough month. I had to travel for my job and I'm behind in my current SEAL Team 666 novel and a novella due to another publisher. Add to that a lot of personal and professional challenges, finding the time and motivation to exercise was the hardest since I returned from Afghanistan in October 2013. As it turned out, I only exercised 16 out of 28 days.

My Suunto Ambit 2S watch recorded and posted 17 total moves to Movescount.com for a total duration of 7:44 hours, total distance of 33.55 kilometers, and total caloric burn of 4443 cals.

The break down is:

  • Running Outside 4:14.22 hours
  • DDP Yoga 2:12 hours
  • Running on Treadmill 43.42 minutes
  • Circuit Training 33.09 minutes
Pathetic.

It looks like I ran a lot more than anything else, which is much different than my previous months. My Average HR was 134. Since 137 is 80% of my heart rate max, this is pretty good, but I could make it better. My average speed is 7.5 km per hour. I need to improve that.

Yoga absolutely suffered. I think with all the challenges to my time, I didn't want to commit the time, which is a terrific mistake. Those 2:12 hours were only two Yoga sessions the entire month. One on Feb 1 and one on Feb 26. The latter I did outside and it was grand. But the muscles that aren't worked by anything else are screaming at me, something that hadn't happened since July last year.



I also wasn't able to do a single spin class this month. Grrrr.

I need to recommit to yoga.

I was thinking I could just dash off a run because it's a quick burn of 400 calories and spikes my metabolism, but that's not good enough. I need Yoga. I need circuit training. It's a balance.

I also see where there were several three and one four day period where I didn't exercise at all. Shoot, I was
in Virginia Beach and ran along the Atlantic Ocean when it was 40 degrees. If I can do that, there's no excuse not to exercise more.

One highlight his month was my second ever 5K. Yvonne signed us up for the Run or Dye 5K and it was a terrific blast!!!

About weight and body composition. I've gained about 5 pounds since I returned 5 months ago, but I feel that most of that is muscle. I didn't do any weight training in Afghanistan, but I've been incorporating that into my circuit training and can see the difference.

Weight Watch:

  • March 2013    275 Pounds
  • October 2013  217 Pounds
  • March 2014     222 Pounds
  • Next Month Goal - 219 Pounds
  • Ultimate Goal - 190 Pounds


My exercise goals for next month:
  • Exercise 25 days, even if it's nothing more than a five minute Tabata
  • Balance running with Yoga and use circuit training to shock the muscles.
  • Do at least 4 Spin Classes
  • Improve running speed to 8 km per hour
  • Learn and Do the DDP Black Crow
What's the DDP Black Crow you ask?

Here's some guy doing it real cool.


Here's Diamond Dallas Page's instruction:

Finally let's talk about food.

Bacon Leek Pasta
Most of you who follow me on Facebook see me cooking fantastic dishes. And they are. But many of these are super bowls with kale and ferro, or have fish or chicken as the main ingredient, or are totally meatless. I think I had one steak last month and one plate of spare ribs. I ate no sausage of any kind except for a few pieces in the Paella I made. Eating healthy isn't hard. It's math and surprise. Math, meaning, a male my age and size burns about 2400 calories a day before exercise. I do the math and drink and eat less than that, then I can lose weight. There's a few more twists and turns, but that's really the magic. But just as you have to jumpstart your workouts by doing different things, you also need to jumpstart your eating. You need to surprise your tummy.

So I cook. I try new things all the time, but try and make them a little more healthy. The must decadent thing I made all month was Bacon Leek Pasta (Thanks Food Network Magazine). But I used a low glycemic index gluten free pasta instead of regular pasta and I also didn't use any cream at all, but instead reserved pasta water and folded it in. I also used bacon bits instead of slab bacon. How many calories a serving? 600 cals. Go back to the previous paragraph and do the math. Yep. Fun eating can be done.

I need to watch what I eat when I go out, but I've been pretty good about that. I drink a lot of water too. If it's not wine, it's water. That's it. No sugar drinks, no tea, and a coffee every morning.

So that's it, I guess.

Let me review my goals:
  • Exercise 25 days, even if it's nothing more than a five minute Tabata
  • Balance running with Yoga and use circuit training to shock the muscles.
  • Do at least 4 Spin Classes
  • Improve running speed to 8 km per hour
  • Learn and Do the DDP Black Crow
  • Lose 3 pounds

March here I come!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Why I Love Being An Author Reason #239


Why I Love Being An Author Reason #239: I get to meet other authors who have greatly affected my life.

William C. Dietz and I have been Facebook friends for several months. He and the 3500 of my closest friends chat about this or that. You know, it's Facebook and about as deep and lasting as a line of coke. But I've always been thrilled when I saw him post a comment to one of the increasingly ridiculous things I do. After all, he's someone I've read.

Then it was pointed out to me that he reviewed one of my books on Amazon. 



What the What? William C. Dietz reviewed one of MY BOOKS?


Must be a prank.

Here's what it said: In Babylon Smiles Ochse gives us an outstanding book filled with memorable characters, a terrific sense of place, and a rip roaring war story that I enjoyed immensely! Extremely well done. - William C. Dietz

So I sent him a thank you on Facebook, half expecting a response saying that it was a different William C. Dietz.

But it was him. 

And we've begun to chat.

He wants me to write more books in the Babylon Smiles universe. 

I'm seriously considering doing it.

Why is this such a big deal? You ask. 

He's just an author, you say.

TRUDAT, but he's not just an author. He's one of THE authors who wrote a book that looked like one I wanted to write. In Fayetteville, North Carolina, outside of Fort Bragg, somewhere on Yadkin Boulevard, there was a used bookstore that I used to go to. I was a broke ass sergeant with a starter wife and no money. I was in Special Ops, so we'd frequently deploy for 2 - 8 weeks at a time, anywhere in the world. So before I would leave, I'd scrape about 20 bucks together, descend on the bookstore, and come out with ten to fifteen books. This is how I scored Legion of the Damned shortly after it came out in 1993. I read it once, then turned around and read it 

again, something I've only done a few times in my life. It's interesting. I can remember the exact moment when I was sitting on the floor of the shop and pulled it off the shelf. I can also remember reading it and knowing that when I started writing, this was the sort of book I wanted to write. I read it on a drop zone in Bangladesh.


Whenever I think about this book, the red glowing eye blinks to life in my memory.

I've just read that he didn't start writing until he was 39. That wasn't too much older than me when I started writing. And he's still going strong.

I just downloaded Andromeda's Fall, which he recommended as the first book of a prequel trilogy to Legion of the Damned. I'm going to read them, then read Legion again. Hashtag-I Can't Wait To Start Reading Them!

Yep. Reason #239. I love being an author!!!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Culling the Herd - The Vile Murder of a Giraffe

On the way home from work the other day, I listened with growing alarm as Copenhagen Zoo Director Bengt Holst talked about the need to kill a giraffe. The animal wasn't sick. It wasn't in pain. All told, it was in excellent health and had many decades to live. The problem was that the giraffe had sub-standard genes and didn't fit well into the zoo's captive breeding program.

I tried to see it from the zoo's point of view. I tried to give them a fair shake. But the more I listened, the more Herr Holst's words sent shivers  down my spine.

I'd heard and read the same sentiment about another population in the 1930s and 40s-- a human population -- one in which millions were extinguished because of the idea that they were sub-standard.

When asked why the giraffe wasn't placed elsewhere, given to another zoo system, any other alternative than to kill the giraffe, conduct a public autopsy, then feed the meat to the lions, Herr Holst commented that he didn't want the giraffe sent to an un-ethical, substandard zoo or carnival or private estate.

Seriously?

What finally sent me over the edge was when Herr Holst, clearly operating from the same script Zoo spoke's man Stenbeak Bro used when he said the same words to an AP reporter-- 'I'm actually proud because I think we have given children a huge understanding of the anatomy of a giraffe that they wouldn't have had from watching a giraffe in a photo.' Then Herr Holst went on to almost gleefully say that the 'children who attended the autopsy 'were very fascinated by the wonders of a giraffe.'

 My beautiful blind Great Dane chewing on
a pillow (Photo by Yvonne Navarro)
Holst missed the point. Instead of teaching that a zoo is a safe haven for endangered species, Herr Holst has done what no other Zoo director has accomplished in my lifetime. He's indicated that zoo's are only safe havens for those animals with good genes. All others shall be euthanized. Bad genes equals murder, dismemberment, and exploitation.

As an owner of rescue Great Danes, each with genes so substandard that they were thrown away,
tried to be burned alive, and in one case, shot in the face with a shotgun, the very idea that man has the right to kill any of the creatures on this planet because we deem them as substandard, absolutely infuriates me.

This National Geographic article tries to be unbiased, but you can tell even they were shocked at the murder. One thing they do say, in closing, that certainly resonates is that 'if zoos cannot offer this to the Mariuses in their care, they will lose the public's goodwill, and will deservedly find themselves heading toward extinction.'



Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mentioned in Arizona Daily Star with Ben Bova

The Arizona Daily Star mentioned me the other day in the same breath as Ben Bova (See below, provided by Ann Ochse)

Pretty psyched to get the attention, especially with Ben Bova. He was one of the first science fiction authors I read as a child (Sorry Ben, if you are reading this. Not trying to make you feel old.) The book was Escape and was published in 1969:

Danny wasn't a bad kid at heart, but the government put Danny in prison for a long list of crimes, with no end to his sentence. He had to get back to his girl. He had to get back to Laurie. Watched over at all times by a Big Brother-like sentient computer, there was no way out of the escape-proof prison except to... Escape!

Oh, it was a great novel and set me on my path for loving to both read and write Coming of Age stories.

Now it's my turn. As my writing career becomes bigger and bigger, I have more opportunities to effect young and old readers. I wrote in a previous blog (The Privilege and Honor of Being Read), where I talk about my growing popularity and how there are so many people out there who are being influenced and entertained by my writing. This is an honor and a privilege and I recognize the trust you as readers place on me. It's a trust I cherish.

Please pre-order my new military science 
fiction novel from your local independent 
bookstore, Barnes and Nobles, or Amazon
I hope to meet many of you, my fans, at the Tucson Festival of Books, coming up in March. This is a huge event. If you are anywhere in the same time zone, consider coming out. And if you do, check my schedule, track me down, and say hi. Ask me a question. I'll chat about anything.


All the Best

Weston Ochse
Renaissance Man
Super Hero for Rent
Yakuza of the Written Word