ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly. The American Library Association labeled him one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. His work has also won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. Weston likes to be called a chaotic good paladin and challenges anyone to disagree. After all, no one can really stand a goody two-shoes lawful good character. They can be so annoying. It's so much more fun to be chaotic, even when you're striving to save the world. You can argue with him about this and other things online at Living Dangerously or on Facebook at Badasswriter.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Depreciation of Gratitude

I've been bothered for some time about the depreciation of gratitude in America. My wife says I'm overthinking things, and she's probably right like she is most of the time, but words matter, dammit.

Words mean something. And some words if you use them too much, cease to have the impact or gravitas for which they were created.

"What am I talking about?" you ask.

"What are you driveling about, Mr. Ocheesy?" comes from the cheap seats.

It's the overuse of Thank you very much. And it's done so dramatically too, as if the speaker might think they're being recorded for Facebook Live or Youtube which might get watched by a Hollywood producer or director. Next thing he or she knows, they've gone from expressing extreme gratitude for the absolutely smallest amount of effort to appearing on a reality TV show and signing endorsement deals for lattes. Thank you so very much, he says breathlessly, careful that the 15 megapixel camera on his iPhone gets his good side.

Insert eye roll here.

"Is that it, Mr. Ocheesy? Is that what you're babbling about?"

Yes, thank you very much. (See, here it was used sarcastically, so it's fine)

Thank you very much. I see and hear it everywhere.

A barista hands a young girl her Trenta five shot half-caf pumpkin spice latte with no foam at 210-degrees, slightly bent, eyes imploring, seeking the connection and says, Thank you very much.... or worse.... thank you so very much.



Frazzle Fart!!

A woman on an airplane gets handed her too-heavy piece of carry-on luggage from the overhead storage and smiles wanly in her best Katherine Hepburn as she says, Thank you very much.

A man who has the door held open for him by a young lady holding a Trenta Iced Green Tea No Syrup Splash of Cold Soy Milk in one hand and bows saying, Thank you very much.

I've seen it all. I can't go a day without hearing thank you very much five or six times.

"Why is this an issue, Mr. Ocheesy?"

Here's why it's a big deal. What do you say to someone who pulls your child out of the way of a speeding truck? Thank you very much? Congratulations. You've just given the level of thanks equal to getting a cup of coffee. I know. It's not your fault. You're not the one walking around thanking everyone very much about every single thing ever done to them (or maybe you are).

What do you say when you discover that someone found your purse and returns it with all your money and cards inside?

What do you say when you discover that someone helped your grandma out when she became disoriented in Wal-Mart by calling you.

I'd normally say, Thank you very much, but because of the gross misuse of the words, in order to express the appropriate level of appreciation, I now have to add several qualifying words and end up saying, I want to say thank you very much, but what you did was so much more than holding a door open or getting down luggage or accepting the Fat-Free Iced Caramel Macchiato Upside Down Extra Caramel you ordered from the cross-eyed barista, so let me express instead my extreme thanks to you and much appreciation for your above and beyond the call of duty actions.

"But Mr. Ocheesy, why is it a bad thing that America is becoming more polite?"
The fact is that they aren't. America is as impolite as they've always been. Thank you very much is a smokescreen. People are just throwing the words out there without thought. I can see the blankness in their eyes, their false expressions. They're just being lazy. They're a hunter shooting squirrels with a 50 caliber sniper rifle. They're a long haul trucker hauling a single box. They are giving the maximum gratitude for minimal effort, thus depreciating the sentiment.

Let's do something together.

Let's take back our gratitude.

Let's use words like thanks and thank you and I appreciate it and much obliged. You can even deliver your appreciation in a more worldly style, using such terms as arigato and gracias. Even a delivery of many thanks is better than the now uber-common throw away appreciation, thank you very much.

Words mean something.

Get inventive.

Create new ways of expressing your gratitude, because only Elvis had permission to say thank you very much and he's dead.

Let's express the appropriate level of gratitude for the effort put forth, unless you're being sarcastic, then thank you very much is often the most appropriate sentiment. 

So, thank you so very much for reading this. 

New Book Contract - Burning Sky (Solaris)

Just signed a contract with Solaris Books for a novel called BURNING SKY. It's about an O.S.T. or Operational Support Team. OST is the movement security detail for VIPs within Afghanistan. Comprised of active duty military, civilians, and contractors, all veterans of military police, security services, special operations units, and other combat agencies, these men and women spend seasons in hell to, not only try and fix what’s broken in each of them, but also to make enough bank to change their futures. They are  stress junkies and the world is better for it. But seven months after their last mission, safely back on American soil, Land of the Big PX, they feel like they've left something undone... like maybe even they've left something or someone behind. And the feeling is driving them crazy. One by one they come together, and discover that they've all been having the same dream... a dream of a woman, a goat, and a sky that won't stop burning.

I orginally wrote this pitch in the fall of 2013. Several other houses looked at it and it wasn't until Solaris looked at it that it found a home. Thank you Solaris. I think I've made an impression there. The fine men and women who work at Solaris know I do a quality job and get the work in on time. From Grunt Life to Grunt Traitor to Grunt Hero, and then back to Blood Ocean and Empire of Salt. Although the latter two were with Abaddon Books, I'm working with the same editors, so this will make six books with them. Natch!

What's interesting about the pitch, is I never name any of the characters. Instead, I labeled them by their archetype (e.g. Boy Scout, Preacher's Daughter, Narco, etc). Now I get the fun of naming them.

The book is scheduled for release sometime between Fall 2017 and Summer 2018. It will be published in the UK in trade paperback and in the US in mass market paperback.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Las Vegas Here I Come -- STOKERCON Schedule

Been on the silent side with my blog for a while. A lot of it has to do with writing-- both good and bad. But I'm back, just in time to publish my schedule for the upcoming horror convention in Las Vegas -- STOKERCON!!!

10am - 11am  ~ Reading in Red Rock 5 (Wonder what I'm going to read.)

2pm – 3pm  ~ Panel: Research: Where to Begin and How to See it Through in Red Rock 3

3pm – 4pm  ~ Presentation: Book to Film: How to Write Movie-Ready Fiction in Laughlin 2

5pm - 6 pm ~ Signing: Midian Unmade Anthology in Dealers Rooom                                      

6pm - 9pm   Dinner with Agent


11:30 am ~ Library of the Dead signing in Dealers Room

3:30 pm ~ Signing in Dealers Room

7:30 - 10:30~ Bram Stoker Award Dinner (Where I get my swag on. I might even wear a tux)

9am – 10am ~ Panel Crossing Boundaries: Horror Genre Mash-Ups in Red Rock

Hope to see everyone there!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

BREAKING NEWS -- Update on the Grunt Life Universe

Sorry Again about the April Fool's Prank
Thanks to everyone for their constant emails, IMs, Tweets, and smoke signals. I'm so glad you're enjoying Grunt Life and Grunt Traitor. I know you want more and I'm going to give it to you... in spades.

Firstly, sorry about that April Fools Joke. 

I've spent more time apologizing to people over this than anything else I've been doing the last week and I deserve it. I never pull these sorts of pranks, which is probably why people believed me. So let me say up front that no, Grunt Life is not being made into a movie by Paramount. And no Steve Buschemi is not going to reprise the role of Mr. Pink, and neither is Mark Wahlburg going to be Mason, Emily Blunt going to play Michelle, Eddie Redmayne going to play Thompson, nor is Freddie Prinz Jr going to play Olivares. And lastly, I am not quitting my job to be on set. (But that's not to say it might not happen in the future.)

Now back to reality. There's GOOD NEWS and BAD NEWS however. And since bad news doesn't get better with age, and instead sits in the corner growing mold, rotting, attracting insects, we'll get to that first.

I thought for sure that Grunt Hero was going to be out this spring, but I was informed by the publisher that it won't be out until next spring. This means Spring of 2017. Why is it being bumped a year? Well, it's not being bumped. Here's what happened. When I signed the contract for book two, it included a contract for book three or another Solaris novel if Grunt Traitor didn't do well. See, they still wanted to work with me regardless of the success of Grunt Traitor but wanted to see sales numbers first. Once they saw the sales numbers-- thanks totally in part to you --they Green-lit the third book, Grunt Hero. What I didn't know was that by the time they made Grunt Hero a go, their catalogue for 2016 was already full. So it's coming out in 2017.

I know.

I can hear you.

Wally, Thor and Sean... don't jump!

Michael, put away the sniper rifles. I love the publishers. They're good people. We can't shoot them.

Now for the GOOD NEWS!

Because you all have been loyal fans and love the series, I'm providing you with some Grunt Life fiction in the meantime.

First comes SHATNER RULES which is a 20,000 word novella set right after the occurrences of Grunt Traitor. That will be the cornerstone in Cohesion Press's SNAFU: FUTURE WARFARE. This
one you'll have to pay for, but it will be totally worth it.

You all can thank Yvonne Navarro for the next idea. She said, why not write 2 - 3 stories and give them away to your fans?

I thought that was a terrific idea.

So here's the deal. As soon as I finish the Joe Ledger and Aliens stories I'm working on, I'm going to begin writing these stories. I'm going to make them totally free on Amazon for a period of 30 days, then they'll go to .99 cents. If you don't have Kindle and need them in another format, I can hook you up on a case by case basis.


You need to tell me what you want these stories to be. Do you want them about Mason pre-invasion? Do you want a story starring only Mr. Pink? If so, when do you want it set. Perhaps you want a totally new story set during the invasion but not with OMBRA? I can do all of that and more.This is your chance to tell me what story you want to read.

So if you want to give me input, do it in the comments section of this message and I'll start working on them, of course giving credit where it's deserved. I'll only respond if its in THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW!!!

Again, sorry for the long wait until GRUNT HERO, but as the editor has said, 'I thought this was a very worthy conclusion to the trilogy,' and you are going to think so as well.

In the meantime, let's get us some free fiction.

And don't forget, to keep sales alive, you need to proselytize. Let all of your friends know how good these books are. You can even tell strangers.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

FUBAR, One Star Amazon Reviews, and Deciding to Actually Review a Book

Rant Zone: So I was curious about FUBAR a few minutes ago. Realize, I don't troll Amazon Reviews generally, but the book sold about 3000 copies a few weeks ago in a surge, so I wanted to see if any of those folks who bought it reviewed it. When last I saw, there were ten reviews. Now there are 23. Seriously? Can't it get more reviews than 23? I can poll the local nursing home and get 13 reviews from them.

Then I started reading a few of the reviews. 
I know, what was I thinking?

But I did.

The single two star review that said it 'wasn't their cup of tea' was totally fair. As was the only three star review which said that the stories were a little far fetched. It does start out with a hum-dinger of a Lovecraft story, so if you weren't expecting it, then, yeah.

But the one star reviews are another thing all together. Investigating them, I see that one of those hadn't reviewed a single thing on Amazon and decided to break their review cherry on FUBAR with a one star review. What makes someone want to review? Is this the only thing they've ever bought on Amazon? Did they buy it then get an automated note from Amazon in their inbox urging the person to review? But then doesn't that happen every time? So why now? Why this one? Why me?

The other one star review was a single word review  (awful) by someone who votes all of Severed Press's books with Five Stars. Not sure what this means. Just noteworthy. Probably random. But again, why review? At least if you review, be constructive.

Then the third one star reads like this: "I was interested in true stories of battle and sacrifice. This book of short stories is fictional, morbid, depressing, and hopeless. I read four of them and to avoid depression had to stop. I can only hope that some the images in my head fade with time." Again, someone who probably doesn't read horror regularly. I don't mind this one. I struck a cord. Mission accomplished.

My big question, is where are the other 3000 reviews that should be there. Hell, even if 10% reviewed, that would be 300 (see, ma, I can do math). Have you reviewed it? Would you?

Now back to working on a secret Grunt Life novella to appear in the upcoming SNAFU: Future Warfare so Geoff Brown will stop sending Girl Scouts who follow me around and shout at me to finish my damn story. And my story (titled Shatner Rules) better be good too, because the fabled Mike Resnick is in this book with me. I was getting advice from him on AOL before I ever wrote my first story, so I owe that fella a lot. 

Yeah. Back to work. I need to score more one star reviews.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Use It and Lose It - My Fitness Goals for 2016

I have my Altra shoes. I have equipment. Hell, I have a whole home gym with a treadmill, an elliptical, weights, access to Daily Burn and DDP Yoga and god knows whatever online workouts
that are available; so to not exercise would be lazy.

Plus, I have a lifestyle I want to live. I don't want to drink water, eat lettuce, and call it a day. I want to eat fancy and healthy. I enjoy my wine and occasional martini. I like to watch TV, see movies, and play video games.

Also, as a best selling author, I spend a lot of time on my ass writing, researching, and editing my work.

So I have to exercise, if nothing more than to keep the continental drift of my gut at bay.

How many of you reading this have exercise equipment in a room, a closet or in your garage that you haven't touched. I'm actually laughing out loud as I type this because I used to be you too and ballooned up to 270 pounds. The ability to exercise was at my fingertips but I ignored it, just as I ignored long glances in the mirror that could have told me what I already knew. Plus, pictured don't lie.

Then came Afghanistan.

Then came a 60 pound weight loss.
And this is me at 215 Pounds

This is me at 270 pounds

And I'm back now.  Or mostly. I've gained ten of the sixty pounds that I'd lost back. That's ten pounds  in twenty six months, mostly the result of not exercising due to injuries. But now I'm hale and healthy. My legs and feet feel great. So it's time to kick it up a notch.

Goal 1: 9.5 minute mile. I ran a 15 minute mile in 2014. By the end of 2015 I'm at a 12 minute mile. I can do this.

Goal 2: Sirsisana-- headstand yoga pose. I want to do this.

Goal 3: Lose 20 pounds.

And how am I going to do it? The trick is to exercise every day. 


"But I don't have time, Drill Sergeant Ochse."

No time, then TABATA! What is that? It's a four minute workout. Check it out here

"But I'm traveling and don't have anything with me," you cry pathetically.

We'll just forget that pretty much every hotel that isn't Motel 6 has a workout room. If you're traveling, then TABATA. Or get your wifi cranking and go to Youtube and type in yoga or hotel room exercises. You'll be surprised at the shit ton of free workouts that all you have to do is follow. Now your laptop or tablet or phone is a piece of exercise equipment.

The trick is to do something. By doing something-- anything -- what it does is give a destination for your food. Instead of going to fat, it goes to repairing torn muscles and fibers or building new muscles and fibers. The trick is everything in moderation and switch it up.

"Wait! That's like three tricks you've mentioned," you snivel.

Yeah?  So? Thank you Captain Obvious, now stop quibbling and do what I said -- Use it and Lose it.

What are your goals for the year? How are you going to make sure it happens? Do you have a tracking mechanism? Do you have an online support group? I'm curious to know.

Please note that I am an Altra Running Affiliate. The shoes below are ones I own and use all the time. From the Instincts I use indoors on the treadmill, to the Lone Peaks I use for hiking and trail running, to the Olympus which I use for street running, I use all of these. I wouldn't be pimping them if I didn't. If your arches hurt and if shoes feel too tight for you, these shoes are the ones for you.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Grunt Traitor Makes Nebula Reading List

Click to Buy
The Nebula Awards are awarded by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. First step is to get on the reading list and guess whose military sci fi PTSD novel made the cut? Yep. Grunt Traitor. Can you be both humbled and thrilled cause I'm both of those!!!

The reading list used to be a top secret (if I tell you I have to kill you) list. But 2015 marked the first year that the Nebula Reading List became open to the public.

Nebula Commissioner Terra LeMay says “Even before I became the Nebula Awards Commissioner, I’ve always thought the Suggested Reading List was one of the best resources I’ve ever encountered for finding the most exciting new science fiction and fantasy works each year. It is a great privilege to have helped bring this list out to the public where any reader may benefit from it.”

Here's the full article about the reading list going public. 

Nominating for the list ends on Monday, so if any of you SFWA members have read books that you think should be on it, I suggest you hasten to the list. I added several myself that I felt were deserving of recognition.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pan-seared Trout Fllet in Brown Butter Pecan Sauce - Recipe


Pan-seared Trout Fillet in Brown Butter Pecan Sauce
Author: Living Dangerously
Duration: 30 minutes
Average Cost: $12.00 US
Serves: 2- 4
I've always loved trout. I grew up fishing for trout in the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Smokey Mountains of southeastern Tennessee. I can remember as a child, going out with my grandfather and father on Pactola Lake, night fishing for trout, lanterns hung over the side and bugs swirling as we reeled ice cold rainbows up from the deep. I remember fishing Tellico River in Tennessee and catching so many trout on our secret spinner that we had to throw most back. Oh, trout fishing is something I hope I never stop doing.

But we're talking about eating trout, not catching it.

For most people, you'll get your trout from the store. And that's cool. I do too. Living in southern Arizona it's so hard to catch decent trout, so I often get it from my local fishmonger.

Growing up, the way my family cooked trout was to stuff them with lemon and dill, then wrap them up and bake them. Very aromatic this way, very tasty, but they can get mushy.

Recently I've been stuffing them with dill, garlic and lemon and grilling them on a flat cast iron pan on the grill. These turn out very crispy on the outside and done and firm on the inside.

When I eat out, I most often see trout as a fillet, but the fish is so delicate and I was always afraid of mauling it. Yeah, honesty time. In my 47 years of trout fishing, I've never filleted a trout. 

Well, this past Friday, I had left over green chili cheddar grits and some fresh asparagus, so I wanted to pair some fish with it... barring fish, sausage. In the seafood section of our local grocers I spied two beautiful trout-- about a pound each. Upon seeing them I was determined to fillet them... by hook or by crook I was going to do this.

So, I bit the bullet and learned how and it was amazingly easy. How'd I learn? The way I learn most things, I googled it and watched a video. This video to be specific.

Did you watch it? Did you see how easy it was? Amazing. Whoever this guy is who dropped the F-bomb, thank you! It took me about twenty minutes to fillet two trout. I took my time... really took my time. I imagine I can cut that time in half next time.

So what's the recipe?

Here it is and it's simple too and only takes five minutes.


2 whole trout or 4 trout fillets (sans skin and bone) 
4 tbs butter
half cup pecans
1 tbs dill
1 tbs tarragon
1 garlic clove (diced)
salt to taste

Prepare fillets by dusting both sides with dill, tarragon, and salt. If you want more dill and tarragon, go ahead and add it. Much if it will fall into the butter sauce, but it will serve to flavor it too.

Heat large frying pan to high heat. Add garlic and butter. Once butter is melted, turn down to medium. Place two fillets in pan on the butter by laying the fillet away from you. This is a safety measure to ensure no hot butter splashes on you. Wait two minutes, then using a long spatula, carefully flip each fillet. (Note: that I don't put all the fillets in at once. You don't want to crowd the pan and muddy up the sauce.) Wait two more minutes, then the fillets are done. Repeat for the other fillets, but after the first minute, add the pecans.

After a full four minutes for the second two fillets, remove fillets and plate. Stir pan juices with butter and pecans for thirty seconds, then pour evenly over fillets. Your fillets should look something like this... and they'll taste magical.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Kayla Montgomery Inspires Me to Run

my legs... my legs... where'd they go... help me... help me... 

I enjoy running... words I never would have said pre-2013 when I began running again thanks to new motivation and the right shoes (Altras). I enjoy running, recording my progress on my Suunto watch so I can review it later, and the feeling of accomplishment I feel afterwards. I enjoy running races. I enjoy running trails. I enjoy running new cities. But as much as I enjoy running, with the aches and pains of my fifty year old body-- the body of a combat veteran with significant VA disabilities --I still find excuses not to run.

Oh my back.

Oh my legs.

I just don't have enough time.

I'm just too busy.

The locker room at the gym is too crowded.

Whatevs. (insert eye roll here)

We know what those are. 

They're excuses.

Let me back it up a little bit. Do you know what a maximum effective range is? Its a military term which refers to the maximum range at which a weapon is effective. For instance, I think a grenade has a maximum effective range of 45 meters. The old M16 had a maximum range of 3600 meters, if I remember correctly, but it's maximum effective range was only 550 meters. That means the only realistic chance of hitting something is within that 550 meter span.

Now that you understand that, let me fast forward back to where I was. I'd just talked about all the excuses I make for myself not to run. Excuses. I had a drill sergeant who once asked me what the maximum effective range of an excuse was. I remember staring at him in fear, his brown round hat shadowing his deep set eyes as he leaned forward, ready to rip my throat out at the slightest sign of non-conformity. I replied with silence which was probably what he expected. Then he turned to the entire platoon and bellowed, "The maximum effective range of an excuse is zero point zero meters." And we all instantly understood what he meant.

please help me... help me... please help me...

I'd forgotten about that until last night when I watched the video about Kayla Montgomery. She has MS-- multiple sclerosis. MS is devastating and causes nerve damage that disrupts communication between the brain and different parts of the body. For Kayla Montgomery it's her legs. Yet she's one of the best runners in the country.

Just watch the video.


If you haven't watched the video, stop reading and go back and watch the damn video.

If you've watched the video, no doubt you're looking for a Kleenex. Go ahead. I'll wait. And if you haven't, again, watch the damn video, fool! 

my legs... my legs... where'd they go... help me... help me...

Okay, now that you've watched the video (or you're being sneaky and not watching it and ignoring my plea), you can see where my drill sergeant is correct. She runs knowing that at the end she'll collapse. The hotter the muscles, the less control she has of them. Perhaps the most special moment for me was when we see her coach catching her, lifting her, and taking her into the field so she can recover, her legs not her own, her mind worried that they'll never come back.

Then of course there's the championship race where she falls down, everyone passes her, then she gets up and wins. Dear god that made me choke up.

Yeah. Kayla Montgomery. She's a bad ass girl.

So when I'm ignoring my drill sergeant and coming up with a pathetically transparent excuse not to run, I'm going to channel Kayla Montgomery. If she can run, then I should to.

The maximum effective range of any excuse not to follow her example is zero point zero meters.

So, what are you going to do next time you don't feel like running?

Sci Fi Gazette Looking Forward to Grunt Hero

Nice to be on someone's wish list. Internet icon Sci Fi Gazette posted their 2016 preview. Among such look forwards as the return of the X-Files, Stephen King's 11.22.63 being broadcast on Hulu, The Expanse TV series on Syfy Channel, lies Grunt Hero, my third book in the PTSD alien invasion series started with bestseller Grunt Life.

You should go to the complete list and check out the books, movies, tv shows and comics that Sci Fi Gazette is most anticipating in 2016. You can find that here.

What's the Grunt Life Series About? I talk about it here on my webpage and how I pitched it to Solaris Books.

But don't trust me. See what two of my literary idols have to say about it.

"Grunt Life was a major achievement in military SF! A real page- turner! This new David Gerrold, Hugo and Nebula Award Winner of The Martain Child
chapter in the series is even better!" -

“Add Grunt Life to your list of must-have books.  This is action adventure at its best.” - William C. Dietz, New York Times bestselling author of Legion of the Damned

Monday, January 25, 2016

Grunt Traitor Makes Another Best of List While Grunt Hero Makes Another Most Anticipated List

Love love love the fact that so many people are loving Grunt Traitor -- the second book of my PTSD alien invasion series which began with Grunt Life. Add to the fan base, Elitest Book Reviews who listed it as one of their Best of 2015.

Here's part of their original review:

EXCERPT: Weston Ochse’s GRUNT LIFE was one of my favorite novels released in 2014. It was also one of the finest Military SF novels I’d read, and I’ve been anticipating the sequel ever since. After the follow-up novel, GRUNT TRAITOR, arrived I took it with me on a plane trip…and ended up reading the whole novel that day. To put it mildly, GRUNT TRAITOR was a page-turner. GRUNT TRAITOR delivered on it all, making it the best Military SF I’ve read in years, and a huge step up (somehow) from the first book in the series. -Elitest Book Reviews
Elitest Book Reviews also has a most anticipated list where they list Grunt Hero (the third forthcoming book in the series) along with many other books, including ones by Joe Abercrombie, James S.A. Corey (an Expanse novel), Lois McMaster Bujold, Patricia Briggs, Daniel Abraham and Kevin Hearn. I'm in very good company. If I had a single wish this year it would be to sit down around a dinner table and just chat, drink wine, and eat a magnificent dinner with these fine people, many whom I know (Kevin, Daniel, Corey) and one whom I've publicly and rather pathetically crooned a love poem too (Briggs) while I was toastmaster at TusCon and she was Guest of Honor. Yeah. I do shit like that, but what the hell. You only live once, right?

You can see their whole list here.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Living Dangerously's Favorite Books of 2015

I read a lot. I read so much, it's a wonder I'm able to write anything. But I started out as a reader, not a writer, and I continue to be a reader first and a writer second. I think if there ever comes a day when those are reversed, by life will be less interesting, because no matter how much I enjoy living in my own imagination, it can't compare to living in the imaginations of many exceptional writers. I read a lot of terrific books in 2015. In fact, this year marked the first year I read more books on Kindle rather than in print, largely necessitated by my travel schedule. Let's face it. It's far easier for me to carry a single iPad instead of a box of books. It's pure logistics. So here's my list. Not all of them were published in 2015, but I read all of them in 2015 and it's my list and I can do what I want with it.

So which ones were standouts for me?

 Let me first begin with what I'm calling the Ghost Quartet. These are Little Sister Death, Head full of
Ghosts, The Boy Who Drew Monsters, and The House of Small Shadows. 

Little Sister Death by William Gay was published posthumously in 2015, but was probably written twenty years ago. It's the story of a writer who moves his family to Tennessee to chase a ghost story and then, you know what happens, gets in over his head. But its so beautifully written you don't even care if its sort of Amityville-esque. I probably never would have read this had the author's name not come up in a conversation I was having with David Schow over drinks this summer. I'm hugely glad I read it.

Everyone's been electronically shouting about A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. It's a novel about a possession and how a young teens possession was made into a TV show and how that experience effected the entire family. It's a story within a story, which I love. The tension is ratcheted throughout and Paul really nails the POV of the young girl protagonist. Just nails it.

The Boy Who Drew Monsters could be the American cousin to the next book- The House of Small Shadows. Keith Donohue ingeniously plots a novel wherein a child seemingly can't stop drawing monsters which makes his parents think he might be crazy. Reviewed by none other than Peter Straub for The Washington Post, the atmosphere of the novel is compared to Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, and The Haunting of Hill House. I have to agree with Peter and wait until you find out why he's drawing. I mean, that's what you want to know when you read the title, right?

The fourth of our Ghost Quartet is Adam Nevill's The House of Small Shadows. It's a very crafty pastoral novel that brings to mind Shirley Jackson. And there is a haunting, but its such a clever and complex haunting I never say what happened next coming. It's another story within a story, and the pay off is wondrous. I'm a huge Adam Nevill Fan and read everything he writes. If you liked this also consider reading The Ritual and Last Days.

The Death House by Sarah Pinborough felt a lot like these other novels, but it lacked a ghost. Instead, it had this ethereal claustrophobic quality similar to  Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. The book is a romance at its heart-- a first love romance -- and the ending is probably the most powerful ending of any book Sarah has written. Terrific job, Sarah!

I was eager to include The Lost Level by Brian Keene. This thin tome couldn't be more different that the previous five books, but it brought me back to old Edgar Rice Burroughs novels with the feeling of around the corner expectation I experienced in Arthur C. Clark's Rendezvous With Rama. This first foray into The Labyrinth makes me eager for future novels. Takes me back to my boyhood.


And now for a non-fiction interlude. Yes, I read non-fiction as well. The Telling Room by Michael Paternti, or its full title -- The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese -- is the tale of the author's relationship with a larger than life cheese maker named Ambrosio. It's about perception, how events change perception, the loss of innocence, a Castillian blood feud, and the futility of harboring grudges. The book is both entrancing and extravagant in its descriptions leaving me feeling as if it was I who traveled to Spain. Plus, there's wine and cheese galore. What's not to like about that?

Now back to fiction where I can talk about a first novel published by a small press that probably no one read, which is really too bad, because The Whisper King by Wil Radcliff should be on everyone's best of list. You know those shadows in your room that scared you when you were a kid. Well, what if those shadows were real and what if they were coming for you and what if when they got you they took you to another dimension for a reason you won't ever see coming. Yeah. That's this book.

Talk about claustrophobic, then read Nictophobia by Christopher Fowler. It's a haunted house novel but its not. It's more than that. Sure, the Shirley Jackson comparisons can be made for sheer atmosphere, but this is such an inventive treatment on the idea of light and dark that this novel will stand out for quite some time. Let me ask you this: to what extent would you change your life to ensure that those you loved remained alive?

Andersonville by Ed Erderlac is about the horrible conditions of the real life Civil War prison camp where Union Soldiers were lucky to survive each night. Add to this real life horror a secret mission, voodoo, magic, and the supernatural. Erderlac has woven this rich and complex tapestry into a masterful quilt of violence, spit, and rage. I actually blurbed this novel and said: “Andersonville is a raw, groundbreaking supernatural knuckle-punch. Erdelac absolutely owns Civil War and Wild West horror fiction.”

The best Military Sci Fi I read in 2015 definitely goes to William C. Dietz's Andromeda's Fall. I first read Legion of the Damned when I was stationed at Fort Bragg a lifetime ago. This is a return to that world with a strong broken female protagonist. With all out balls to the wall warfare, a suitable amount of intrigue, and The Legion of the Damned (imagine the French Foreign Legion a thousand years in the future whose brains and souls are now embedded in robotic machines), this is the first book of a slamming trilogy.


I've bad a secret bromance with Ernest Cline ever since he wrote Ready Player One. The guy must spend many secret hours in my head because everything he writes seems as if he's thinking to himself, what am I going to write for Weston next. Armada is The Last Starfighter meets Dungeons and Dragons meeets Star Wars with a little Enders Game thrown in. Alex Rogan--I mean Zach Lightman-- begins the novel seeing a space ship out his high school window, something all of us wished we'd done, especially me sitting in Ms. Hardaway's geometry class. It's really an incredible ride. Probably the best thing I read this year. I rarely go back and read novels, but I'm looking forward to going back and reading this one if only to sooth and satisfy my inner geek. Or I might just get this as an audio book. I hear Wil Wheaton did the reading for this--yeah!

So that's my Best of List of the books I read. If you haven't read any of these, give them a try. If this old kid from a trailer park on the edge of the universe likes them, chances are you will too.
Probably the best book I haven't read was Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warning. I've heard him read two of the stories from that book and they are incredible, especially the story called July (is that right?). I think I want this as an audio book if he's reading it. If not, I'll settle for the hardback. I just checked! Yes! He narrated it. Okay, so I'll probably get both and talk about it on next year's list.

Speaking of next years list, I already know that John Irving's Avenue of Mysteries will be on it. Such a spectacular novel, I'm actually holding back finishing it so I can savor the ending. This could possibly be the best book he's ever written, which is saying a lot considering A Prayer for Owen Meany, The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules, and Dark Night at Twisted River are such amazing tomes.

 Now get out there and read something. 

Maybe even something of mine.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

I Made Tangent Online 2015 Recommended Readling List with American Golem

So it looks like I made Tangent Online 2015 Recommended reading list. This is super important to me because when I first started writing in the late 1990s Tangent Online was one of my GO TO places to get inspiration, look for markets, and learn the craft of writing. So to be mentioned there is seriously very special.

There were 416 stories on this year's list: 353 short stories, 47 novelettes, and 16 novellas.

Here's how they were graded:
"As is our custom, there are four sections to each length category. Those making the list in the short story, novelette, and novella lengths but having no stars, and those with either one, two, or three stars, according to how well the reviewer or reviewers valued a particular story."

My short story American Golem received three stars. Very cool. I was so pleased to be in John Joseph Adam's anthology Operation Arcana with so many talented authors. This was one of those rare times I was asked to be in the anthology and was terrified that I'd mess it up. Fans of the story will be pleased to know it will be available in Audio soon. More on that later.

I also wanted to give a shout out to fellow Operation Arcana author Genevieve Valentine for her story "Blood, Ash, Braids." Very well done!

You can view the full list here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Grunt Life Chosen As Top 5 Books for 2015

The end of the year tends to be a time for reviewers and readers to reflect on what they
thought was he best things they read the previous year. I'm sure you've seen a lot of things posted about it. You might have written your own list. I know I still plan on doing it, but I'm a little behind.

On the heels of Sci Fi Gazette choosing Grunt Traitor as one of their Top 3 Sci Fi novels of 2015, comes this. The review site Shattered Ravings just listed Grunt Life as one of the Top 5 Books they read in 2015. This is very timely and apropos since I've just finished the third book in the series that Grunt Life began. And to think that the publisher and I were worried that Grunt Life and the ensuing books which dealt in great detail about PTSD and its deleterious effects wouldn't be read and would be panned. I'm honestly glad I was able to pull it off.

Thank you Matthew Scott Baker and thanks Shattered Ravings. And congrats to the others who were on the list.

For the full review, go to Shattered Ravings.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Sci Fi Gazette Selected Grunt Traitor as One of Their Best Novels of 2015

In this season of awards and recognition, it's super nice that such a hallowed site as Sci Fi Gazette would take the time to not only read Grunt Traitor but select it as one of their Top 3 Science Fiction Novels of 2015. Mentioned along with Fallout 4 and The Expanse, this is truly a top honor!

Both Grunt Life and Grunt Traitor have received rave reviews from fans, but it's another thing to get a critical reception by reviewers whose job it is to not necessarily enjoy a book, but to break it down and look at its components for concrete and existential value and THEN enjoy it. It's also difficult sometimes for Military Sci Books to get reviews because well... they're military focused and have guns and blood and guts and stuff that not every sci fi fan wants. But I've always thought that the best Military Sci Fi has a lot of heart as well. With my characters suffering from PTSD in an end of the world alien invasion scenario, I took care to try and pull this off. It seems that it worked.  Whew!

Here's a snappy of the page.

For the full article about Sci Fi Gazette's Best of 2015, you can find it here.

Thank you, Sci Fi Gazette!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Altra Running in 2015 - From Scotland to Mexico

Who am I? I'm a 50 year old disabled combat veteran of the United States Army who was so broken, I couldn't run from 2000 to 2013. Even before that my running was sporadic. Shin spints, stress fractures, plantar faciatus, all conspired to keep me limping through the 90s. No sooner would I get better, then I'd do a 26 mile ruck march and a battalion run, and it would start all over agian.

But now I'm running again thanks to my Altra shoes.

Although I ran less in 2015 than 2014, it was still a terrific year of Altra running. Part of my slow start had to do with tearing my calf November 2014 thanks to a little dehydration and no stretching. I had to take baby steps, which meant I really didn't fully recover until May 2015. Then in October, I ran the Bisbee 1000 which is an 8 KM race with a thousand concrete stairs. Those stairs didn't seem like much on the day of the race, but two days later it was sort of hard to walk. That slowed me down for November and the first part of December. Still, despite running only 756 KM in 2015, I increased my speed. I went from a 15 minute mile to a 12 minute mile. BTW, if you think that 15 minute mile was slow, realize that before 2013 my speed for the mile was ZERO. I didn't run. I couldn't run. That is until I bought a pair of Altra's while I was stationed in Afghanistan. I went from running 50 feet in July of 2013 to running my first 5K in September 2013. And Oh yeah, I also lost 60 pounds.

Highlights of my running year:

Running along the Patomac.

Running the Bisbee 1000 and conquering the course. Check out my Altras!

Running along the Patomac in Alexandria. Although they're tough on my legs, I love running the cobblestones.

Running in Scotland down to the North Atlantic, along the coast, where Vikings landed and Celts fought for surival.
More Scotland. That's Hen Rock. Dramatic.

Running Joe's Pass Trail to Montezuma Point right on the Mexican Border and being eye level with vultures.

Now that I'm hale and healthy, I want to double my running in 2016. I also want to up my speed to 9 minute miles. What's really helped me recently is interval training via the Daily Burn. I used to suck at squats, giving the backs of my thighs no end of post workout or delayed onset pain. But they've gotten better this year. I can do squats without debilitating effects. I'm going to keep working on them until there's no pain at all.

Oh, and what makes Altra's so special to me? That's easy. They have a wide toe bed, almost like a Birkenstock, so my toes aren't pinched and can find their own space. They are also Zero Drop, meaning the toe and heel are the same distance from the ground, unlike other modern running shoes which put so much padding in the heel, it's like running on high heels. I take the inserts out of mine as well, so it's natural running for me. Truly, the brothers who invented Altra had runners like me in mind.  Thanks Guys.

Check out Altra and watch their videos here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Snap -- I Tripped and Fell in My High Fructose Corn Syrup

Up front. High Fructose Corn Syrup 
(herein referred to as HFCS) is bad.

You shouldn't be eating it at all, but damned if it isn't hard not to. I thought I'd been doing fine, but when a friend of mine whom I'm cooking for let me know that he can't eat any HFCS-containing foods, I started checking my labels.

And damn!!

There goes my favorite BBQ sauce. Syonara Sweet Baby Ray, it was sweet while it lasted. (And it's not just Sweet Baby. Virtually all BBQ sauces have HFCS.) For the record I'm trying Ann's Organic BBQ Sauce. Here's a list of some other BBQ sauces put together by BBQ Sauce Reviews.

There are even some BBQ Sauces out there that claim online not to have HFCS. Like Bull's Eye who claims that their BBQ sauce does not contain HFCS. Just check out their website here. But if you go to the store and read the label, it's the first ingredient mentioned. Thank God companies still have to mention at least some ingredients.

So why the frufru about HFCS?

Doctor Mark Hyman explains it better than I ever could in his not so very subtle article titled 5 Reasons High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You. (Notice he didn't say can but used the very definitive helping verb will)

Some basic biochemistry will help you understand this. Regular cane sugar (sucrose) is made of two-sugar molecules bound tightly together– glucose and fructose in equal amounts.The enzymes in your digestive tract must break down the sucrose into glucose and fructose, which are then absorbed into the body. HFCS also consists of glucose and fructose, not in a 50-50 ratio, but a 55-45 fructose to glucose ratio in an unbound form. Fructose is sweeter than glucose... Since there is there is no chemical bond between them, no digestion is required so they are more rapidly absorbed into your blood stream. Fructose goes right to the liver and triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol) this is why it is the major cause of liver damage in this country and causes a condition called “fatty liver” which affects 70 million people.The rapidly absorbed glucose triggers big spikes in insulin–our body’s major fat storage hormone. Both these features of HFCS lead to increased metabolic disturbances that drive increases in appetite, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and more.
 He goes on in the article to give many examples of how the corn industry has propagandized HFCS
claiming that it's the same chemically as cane sugar. He shows where the industry has created their own fake news websites and have targeted doctors with information, even going so far as to vaguely promise that there will be consequences if they don't stop saying HFCS is bad for the human body.

But if you don't trust a medical doctor, then why not trust the master drill sergeant of all body coaches, Jillian Michaels of The Big Fat Loser fame in her article MYTH: High-Fructose Corn Syrup Is No Worse for You Than Table Sugar.  

In a recent study at Princeton University, researchers found that rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to water sweetened with table sugar — even when they consumed the same number of calories. A second study they conducted monitored their weight gain over a period of six months and found that the rats consuming HFCS showed abnormal weight gain, significant increases in circulating triglycerides (which prevent the hormone leptin from telling the brain you’re full), and significant fat around the belly. Many health organizations link the increased use of HFCS in foods to the increased obesity rates in this country. Though nothing has been proven 100 percent, many studies point to these negative effects from HFCS.
 Summarized- You get fatter from eating HFCS in the same quantity as regular sugar. 

Oh, and there's chemistry involved. There will be a test. 

A study done at the University of Pennsylvania found that fructose does not suppress the hunger-hormone ghrelin the way that glucose (table sugar does). Women who ate fructose instead of glucose had higher ghrelin levels throughout the day, overnight, and into the next day. To put it simply, these women felt like they were starving all day, thanks to the fructose. In addition to making ghrelin levels rise, HFCS somehow tricks the body into not releasing the hormones insulin and leptin (the hormones released when your body feels full).

So here's what all this means to me with the start of 2016. I'm going to go through my refrigerator and pantry (and our pantry annex) and get rid of everything with HFCS. It's going to be a lot of things. It's not going to be pretty. Then I'm going to concentrate when I shop and buy only those things HFCS free. I mean to do otherwise is kind of stupid, right?

I don't drink sodas or anything with artificial sweeteners (until they start artificially sweetening Chardonnay then I'm screwed), but I know I'm going to encounter this out in the wild (eating at restaurants). I just have to choose carefully and ask questions.

I promised there'd be a test, right? 

Okay. Here's the test. 

Do you want to continue eating HFCS and see how long you live? Or do you want to do away with it and see how long you live? My favorite BBQ sauce and ketchup isn't worth taking 5, 10, 15 years off my life. I can see you now on your final day. "I'm dying, but at least I continued eating X Brand BBQ Sauce."  



You're not fooling no one.

So seriously. 

WTF are you going to do?