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. All content of this blog is copywrited by Weston Ochse.

Monday, August 29, 2016

My Master’s Degree Dissertation in Cispus River Salmon Fishing Accompanied by the Detroit Super Band Kiss

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Sitting at The Bridge restaurant on the Kris River in Oradea, Romania back in 2011, drinking Leffe Blonde Beer, I could only dream of wading into the cold Carpathian runoff with a rod in hand. Wide and dark, the water ran from the heights of northern Romania into Transylvania, a region stained red with blood from Vlad the Impaler’s thirst for violence. What sort of fish ran in this river, I wondered? How could they be caught? Who before me had fished in this very spot? 

So it was only right and proper that when me and the boys pulled up to the Cispus River to fly fish for Coho Salmon on an early August evening towards the end of 2016 that we began the enterprise with a toast of Leffe, remembrances of old, promises of the new. Kurt (repeat offender in my fishing blogs), Brad, Justin and I clinked bottles and laughed, nothing but expectations and promises of salmon grandeur before us. I joked, “Isn’t this how all backwoods horror movies begin… four friends, drinking, merry, alone, out in the wilderness?” We laughed even more, just as the doomed characters in a movie would have laughed, right before they were picked off one by one. That was a moment… a certified moment. Then we got serious, attending to our gear, preparing, readying ourselves, now individual fishermen keen to conquer the river and its progeny, as much hunters as we were fishermen.

I had never fly fished for salmon before. In fact, I could count on one hand the number of fish I’d caught on a fly rod; all small rainbow trout. So my desire would have to rise above my lack of experience. I could have spin fished. God knows I’d earned several Master’s Degrees in that over a lifetime, but I was determined to fly fish. I was determined to learn the old sport, elevate my skill, and become someone who could populate a Norman Maclean or Ernest Hemingway tale without feeling guilty for being there. So, with my 4-piece Echo Solo rod in hand, I trod upriver, searching for a likely spot, whatever a likely spot looked like.

I’d never seen Salmon in a river before. While I’d fished and caught salmon on the Columbia River, that revered body as wide and as deep as a good woman’s soul, I’d never seen them near the surface. The only way I saw a salmon on the Columbia was when I’d been able to land a twenty-five pound monster in a boat (thank you Chuck). So when I turned a corner of the Cispus, the sun falling behind me, turning the tips of the waves and rivulets into silver daggers, and beheld half-a-dozen salmon laddering up some rapids into a pool, by heart caught in my throat. And as much cliché as that sounds, that’s exactly what happened as you of the salmon river fishing brother and sisterhood can attest.

Busy with laddering and spawning, they ignored me even as I approached, more goggle-eyed school boy than experienced fisherman. After a minute of reverence and confusion as to what I should be doing, I selected a fly with red, green, and black coloring. I don’t know what it was called, but Kurt said it was tied by a local guy who knew these waters. Assured the knot was perfect, I unloaded some line, then tossed the fly above roiling salmon and let it drift.

Bam! My father had told me over the years about his experience Steelhead fishing in Wisconsin when he was in college. He'd often reminisce about how the fish would strike and then take off like a freight train. This was another cliché proven true, because that salmon grabbed my fly and headed up river like the Chattanooga Choo Choo on methamphetamine chased by an angry battalion of highway patrolmen. I kept my left hand grabbing the line, so the fish was unable to engage the drag. The line grew taught, then stretched, then snapped.

Oh - Period - My - Period - God - Period. 

I immediately realized what I’d done, but that didn’t do much to fill the hollow that grew in my gut. 

That fish… that salmon… well, it was immense.


I shook my head to clear it, then with shaking hands, opened my gear and selected another fly, this one green and black. I’d thought that maybe I might find a salmon or two, but was really here to fish for cutthroat trout. That I’d stumbled into a mess of salmon was beyond anything I’d ever dreamed, standing there just moments ago, Leffe in hand. I had trouble controlling my breathing. It didn’t help that out of the corner of my eye I could see their backs breaking the water as they slashed back and forth, eager to reach higher elevations to spawn and fertilize. My eyes were having trouble seeing, even with the magnifiers I slid onto the bill of my hat. My hands were still shaking. I closed one eye, then the other. Sweat beaded into them. I was like a blind man trying to slide my tippet through the eye of the fly. It took twenty minutes that was really five and three miss-ties to get the fly ready. 

Five minutes later I was into another fish. For fourteen minutes I fought the damned beast. I learned more about drag and playing a big fish in those fourteen minutes than I had the entire time I’d been fly fishing. One moment of not paying attention and it leaped, gave me the same dour look I’d seen from my former mother in law on too many occasions, then shook free of my fly.

Damn. That was two. And during those minutes, I discovered I had a problem. My tackle was too light. I was trying to catch fifteen- to twenty-pound salmon on 5wt tackle. That was no less true on the next salmon that took the fly. For forty-four minutes we fought… well, that’s perhaps an exaggeration. I tugged and held. It moved a few inches right or left. And we stayed that way. My tackle wouldn’t move it. God bless my rod, but it didn’t have enough power. Then the Salmon decided it had had enough fun playing with me, surged forward, and even with my drag, it moved fast enough to separate me from yet another fly and yet another fish. Where the first two salmon were lean and thick, this hog was a beast and my gear was no match for it.

Earlier I’d mentioned that I’d learned more in those fourteen minutes than I had the entire time I’d been fly fishing. Well, during those forty-four minutes with that beast, I'd received my Master’s Degree in Cispus River Coho Salmon Fishing Cum Laude and now was the time to prove it.

But the sun was going down. It shone just above the horizon of the trees, blinding me when I looked that way. In the golden shade of some great trees near by, the water dappled with spears of the dying day with caddis flies swarming above. I selected a #12 Caddis. Big for a trout, but it seemed about right for these immense salmon. I moved down to the lower pool. I cast once. Twice. And on the third cast, a salmon sucked down my fly. When I set it, the fly lodged behind the armor of its hinged jaw—true a hook set as ever was.

Ten minutes went by. Ten minutes of my dissertation in Cispus River Coho Salmon Fly fishing. I was tested on drag, on rod tip placement, on when to load line and when to unload. The river asked me question after question and I answered them. I heard honking in the distance, then shouting, then loud music. My friends wanted to go. It was time to leave.

“Sorry boys,” I said to the universe. “I can’t come quite yet,” my own replacement for the song Beth-- made famous by Kiss on their 1976 Destroyer album. “Beth, I hear you calling. I can’t come home right now. Me and the boys are playing, and we just can’t find the sound. Just a few more hours and I'll be right home to you. I think I hear them calling. Oh Beth what can I do.” 

Had this fish been my first, I would have lost it. The same could be said with my second and third. But I’d been schooled by the river. The salmon were harsh masters and had given me hard lessons. Five minutes later, I netted the top half of the salmon and grabbed the bottom half. In one heroic heave, I brought the scarred and lithe beast to shore, fell on it, then lay there for a transcendental moment as I became one with every man, woman, and child who’d ever caught a massive salmon on a fly rig.

Eventually I stood, shaking. My diploma lay before me, gasping, covered in dirt and slime, dimpled and scarred from the thirty-five-mile trek from the top of the dam where it had been released. My diploma for this day was a fifteen pound twenty-nine inch coho salmon. When I was finally able to move, I broke the line, leaving the fly where it was. I shored the rest of my line, then grabbed the salmon through the jaws. Holding it at my side, the tail drug on the ground. Noticing that was yet another moment. I saw a standing pool of water separate from the river and out of respect, paused to wash the salmon clean, then  headed downriver to the sounds of honking and yelling.

Walking back to the car to my boys, having now found the sound, pole in one hand, fish in the other, was a feeling like I'd never encountered. Satisfaction. Accomplishment. Amazement. Grateful. It wasn't as simple as an old drill sergeant once said, "Success is where preparation meets opportunity." I felt more like Sir Gawain after his improbable defeat of the invincible Green Knight than I did a fisherman trying his first time to catch a salmon with a fly rod. I knew then that my walk back towards my boys, all three of them watching me, wondering where I was, then seeing me and wondering what the hell that thing was that I was holding firmly in my left hand, then closer, realizing it was a fish, then not just a fish but a salmon, and wondering, for a moment being me in my triumph, was yet another certified moment.

Some people go their whole lives without ever catching a salmon on a fly rod,” Kurt said to me.

I glowed with accomplishment and thanked the river for her lessons in fishing. 

After pictures and several mandatory retellings of my fish story and those of my boy Brad, who’d caught a salmon just a bit larger on a spin fishing rig, we all found ourselves in a moment of silence. A moment filled with what could have beens, what had beens, and remembrances of similar moments, each of us had shared individually or together as we'd fished this great wild world. Then Kurt broke the silence. He brought out the rest of the Leffe Blonde. We opened them and drank. We’d found our sound… the river, forever running and falling, and our heartbeats, still moving fast with the epic thrill of our salmon hunt, and our blood through our temples, reminding us how alive we were, at this moment, together.

-Finis-

Some more pictures

A selfie of me and the fish. It wasn't moving, I was just too excited. I think I was actually vibrating.

Kurt filleting one of the fish at his cabin. We later smoked them.
 
Brad with another picture of his fish.

Another picture of the salmon.
 
They're almost the same size but Brad's edged mine out by about 2 inches and a pound.



Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fan Letter Thanking Me -- PTSD and Self Harm

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Sometimes you get a fan letter that is more than just "you write good stuff, thanks." I get versions of this all the time and am always appreciative when it happens. As you writers know (and this may be a secret or not for readers), as narcissistic as us writers are, we also have moments in writing where we doubt our abilities... moments when we're convinced that we suck and have no right writing anything except a shopping list. 

Then there are those rare times when you get a fan letter that transcends everything else you've ever
received. I was sent one yesterday through my website. I read it twice before I wholly understood the gravitas of the man's words. I admit I cried. It was almost too much. You see, I don't write to change the world or change a person. I write to entertain, first and foremost. If I achieve that then I did what I intended. Often, I want a reader to think and perhaps understand. Those are secondary goals and if I achieve that, then I know I've done something real good. But to be told that my writing changed a life... maybe saved a life, that's something altogether different. It's frankly, humbling, because no writer, regardless of their narcissism, ever writes a fiction novel intent on saving lives.

Grunt Life, Grunt Traitor, and the soon to be published Grunt Hero (collectively called the Grunt Series) is an alien invasion story about a small group of grunts who all have PTSD to varying degrees. Because I wrote the first book when I was stationed in Afghanistan, I think I was able to tap into the PTSD theme better than had I not been in Afghanistan. In a war zone, everyone has PTSD. EVERYONE. Me included. So the suffering and symptoms I wrote was real. It was raw. It rang so true that my superb editor at Solaris Books, Jonathan Oliver, and rightly so, expressed his concern that the book(s) might be a trigger. It worried me as well. Neither of us wanted to do harm. We wanted only to entertain and maybe achieve those other things. We discussed the nature of Grunt Life and it's themes. Although we never voiced it, I think each of us knew that if either one of us had said to the other, 'maybe we shouldn't publish this," that we wouldn't have. And that's a bold statement I've never made in public before, but I believe it to be ultimately true. Jon cares about what he publishes. I care about what I write. We live by the mantra- Do No Harm.

We ultimately decided to let it roll off the presses. The first print run sold out before it hit the streets. We held our breaths as the reviews began to pour in. And they were great. They got what we'd intended. Never did a single reviewer condemn us for capitalizing in on suffering, instead they all mentioned how real and raw the narrative conveyed PTSD and its symptoms and how it made them realize things they'd never known. 

Collective exhalations of relief. 

Back to the email. I didn't know whether or not I should mention it in passing or provide it (names redacted of course) in whole. I didn't want to use it as an advertisement. I could never monetize someone's misery. That's not what this blog post is about at all. What I was thinking was this: maybe if I was able to help one person, perhaps others could be helped, not by buying any of my books, but by reading the email I received. 

Sort of like passing it on. Paying it forward.

Here's the email:

Dear Mr. Ochse, I recently discovered your excellent book Grunt Life and whilst I was reading it I came across something that has transformed my relationship with my daughter (redacted). You see she was a self harmer and I never really understood what caused her to keep hurting herself. When I read the passage about Aquinas and the need for her to self harm I finally understood what my daughter was going through and why. I took the book upstairs and just said to her please read that passage and then tell me what you think. After reading it she said that it described how she had felt when she was down and it was right about blaming herself for problems in her life and feeling guilty about them. I will never know how you managed to get such a complete and accurate description of the illness but regardless I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the chance to understand it. Yours sincerely, XXXXX

I am honored and humbled to have been able to help. I don't know what else to say.

Don't go out and buy any of my books. If you feel the need to spend money, why not go out and spend the money you'd spend on one of my books by giving it to a local veteran's groups or a PTSD charity. Here's a link to the National Center for PTSD where you can find more information. Here's also a link to a website providing access to Self-Injury Outreach and Support. Please go there if you need to or if you know someone with a problem.

I hope this blog post helps. 

Pass it on if you think you need to.

Be well.

Monday, August 8, 2016

My Tribute to the Crown Princess of Badassery - Jessie Graff

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Or should it be an ode.

Perhaps I should wax poetic, setting my words a tumble just as she herself does across the screen during America Ninja Warrior.

Or maybe it should be a love letter to her spirit, free, prepared, open for anything, even a Chicken Fight in the middle of nowhere, car explosions like love bombs from the heart.

or even better Haiku:

Badass Talented
Chick sucker punches life and
eats it in huge gulps.

or

Sidekick to the face
Great White Sharks inquire within
Sidekick to the face


Who is this person you ask?

The Lords of Wikipedia say: Jessica "Jessie" Graff (born January 12, 1984) is a professional stunt
woman and actress. She is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a black sash in Kung Fu, and is trained in five other styles of martial arts. She is also a championship pole vaulter and competitive gymnast. She is famous for being the first woman to qualify for the city finals on the fifth season of American Ninja Warrior. She was also a contestant on Wipeout in 2008. In season 8 of American Ninja Warrior, in the Los Angeles qualifying round, she became the first woman in American Ninja Warrior history to make it up the new 14 1/2-foot Warped Wall. Along with her, a second woman in the Los Angeles qualifying round, professional rock climber Natalie Duran, who finished 19th (but did not complete the course), moved on to the city finals. This was the first time two women made it into the Top 30. Later on season 8 of American Ninja Warrior, in the Los Angeles city finals, Graff finished second, breaking her own record for the highest finish by a woman in a city competition.

Bottom line is she's a stunt woman. She's been on Sons of Anarchy and Supergirl. She'll do anything. She doesn't care. In a recent Esquire article she said, "I'm just told to be there and I'll find out I'm doing doughnuts in the desert or rappeling down a building or fighting people." What an amazing job.

 

I'm often asked if I could do it all over again, what would I do. A secret corner of my soul says parkour. I can still remember dressed up in ninja clothes running down the street, diving over hedges, running up trees and cars, diving, somersaulting, just having the time of my life. The freedom of it, the knowing that there is nothing you can't do, is unimaginable.


So whenever I see Jessie, I think of this freedom, this excellence, this ability to overcome physical limitations and dominate that which comes before you.







The Art of the Nap

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Dwight Garner, in the September 2016 Esquire magazine, writes an article about napping called Second Only to Sex. It's funny, when I read the title, I was like... fishing? Then I thought, no, that's a dead on tie. Then what? As it turned out it's napping. The Pre-40 version of me would have agreed. The post-50 version of me agrees most of the time, but also thinks that napping might be as important as fishing. In fact, I remember that scene in A River Runs Through It, towards the end, where Tom Skerritt fishes, then naps, equally happy slumbering as he was chasing the long muscled trout in the great Montana river, while his sons do nothing but fish, leaping from stone to stone as they attempt to outmatch. 

Who's happier? 

Who's more fulfilled?

All of them are, yet I daresay, now that I've learned the art of the nap, perhaps the rambunctious boys might like a short, reclined respite after all their leaping and catching.

I have a chair in my living room. I call it my reading chair, but if I'm to be honest with the universe it's also a napping chair. I know that sometime during my reading that I will fall asleep and slumber for a time. Nothing deep. I'm still able to hear the occasional car rumble by or the dogs shifting in their sleep at my feet. Still, the sleep is such an assuagement that it has become something I look forward to. I don't fight it. I welcome it. I read. I nap. I read again. In fact, if I sit in my chair and don't nap, it feels awkward, as if I'd been out on a date with all the expectations therein, only to return home without even a peck on the cheek, a hug, or an exchange of numbers.

Says Vladimir Nabokov, “sleep is the most moronic fraternity in the world, with the heaviest dues and the crudest rituals. It is a mental torture I find debasing... I simply cannot get used to the nightly betrayal of reason, humanity, genius.” Of course, Vladimir also wrote, “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth." Perhaps that's the reason he didn't want to sleep... his little Lolita. Given the choice... well, that's for another article.

Garner rightfully points out that a stigma is attached to napping. The younger version of me imagined an older man, perhaps a pipe, perhaps a cat, napping, almost doddering through his day. But it's not like that. I feel refereshed after a nap. My body becomes emboldened.

Philip Roth said it perfectly, capturing that a nap means. "The best part of it is when you wake up, for that first 15 seconds, you have no idea where you are. You're just alive. That's all you know. And it's bliss, it's absolute bliss."

The idea of just being, without the weight of responsibility, or the ties of duty of family or society... just being. Maybe that's the crystallization of the nap. The bliss. The being.

Napping is an important part of my existence. If for but a few moments every day I am free from everything, how much more would I appreciate the moments of my waking? I'm reminded of that time my wife and I stayed at the Valencia Mansion Bed and Breakfast in Valencia, Spain, nationally-mandated siestas in the front room after a short lunch of wine and arctic char sandwiches, the sun lumbering across the church plaza warming us as we napped arm in arm on a down filled daybed. Then to finally wake, sluff off the static cling of our Iberian dreams, then to rejoin an entire country who was now awake, re-energized, and ready to rekindle the rest of their day, eating, drinking, talking, living until that time in the morning they could sleep again.

Yes. the Spanish have it right. You must rest to live.

As do I, now a firm supporter and appreciative of the nap and everything it adds to my life.

What are your thoughts on the nap? Do you do it? Are you for it? Are you against it, like Thomas Edison, proclaiming that "sleep is an absurdity... a bad habit?"




Thursday, August 4, 2016

Some Current Readings: Paul Tremblay, Paul Pen, John Boden, and Rachel Autmn Deering

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I've read a few books the last few weeks as I was traveling and wanted to share some of the best I've read.

I've known Paul Tremblay since he started writing and I got to say, I am so pleased to see him getting better and better. "Wait," you say. "Head Full of Ghosts was awesome." Yes. And Disappearance at Devils' Rock is better. Not just the story, but the narrative structure. It takes major talent to do what Paul has done-- the way he reveals story. I found myself admiring the style all the way through as well as reveling in the story. This is a must read for anyone who wants suspense... Devil's Rock abounds with suspense. Way to go Paul!

When I finished The Light of Fireflies and realized that it had been translated from Spanish to English, I was blown away. I couldn't tell. The translation was so perfect, the narrative never seemed ESL. It also explains why I'd never heard of the author. All the way through the Fireflies, I was wondering how come I've never read anything by this guy. And that's why. I don't speak Spanish... yet. What's it about? I considered comparing it to VC Andrews Flowers in the Attic, but that would be a disservice to this novel. On the surface the book is about a mostly disfigured family who lives underground, but the narrative runs far deeper than that. This is probably the best book I've read all year and I've read some amazing books thusfar (Experimental Film, Disappearance at Devil's Rock, and Mongrels being three of my highlights).

While at Scares that Care Weekend in Williamsburg, I picked up a copy of John Boden's Jedi Summer with the Magnetic Kid. A narrow chapbook with a terrific cover, it drew me as a fellow child of the 80s. What the book contained were first person narrative slices of a long summer, culminating with the viewing of Return of the Jedi. I liked the story a lot and I loved the little brother feeding invisible dogs. I would have liked to see it be more than vignettes and more of a cohesive narrative. It has the potential to be incredible, sort of a High Fidelity Love Story to the Star Wars 80s. That said, what I read was wonderful.
Husk was a surprise. I hadn't planned on reading it. In fact, it was foisted on handed to me just as I was leaving Scares That Care Weekend. Husk is written by Rachel Autumn Deering. She, I, and a bunch of others had spent some time together during the convention, especially the night before when she and the Irish tattoo princess Melissa Hayward produced the unscripted and unrecorded impromptu party podcast called Midnight Hamburger. Rather than review this, I'll share the IM I sent her. Now, I don't often IM authors, but because this was her first work of prose (that I know about), and as an old-timer, I wanted to share some literary advice/criticism/love... whichever is generally appropriate.

"This morning, sitting in the sun room of a 200 year old home that rests on a prominence of the Potomac River, still basking in the glow of a super-mega-cool-fucking convention and drinking coffee, I read Husk. I had no expectations, no thoughts to what it was going to be about, nor do I really know you except for Midnight Hamburger (we'll always have Midnight Hamburger), so it was with exceptional delight that I found the novella eminently engaging. Your writing is a glowing example of Kentucky Hollows Gothic and your treatment of PTSD is near on perfect. There were sentences I re-read because of your capacity to sew the perfect words together. I'm not sure if you know it, but the Sci Fi series I'm currently writing for Solaris is all about PTSD. Other than having a bit of it myself, I've been a student of the vicious beast for several years now. You did well in showing and not telling on how it can grip a man and not let go. And then the end... so damned Shakepearian... so damned O'Henryian. The impact was there. If you ever decide to turn this into a novel-length piece, which I think it should be, the impact would be even more as you shore the beach of their relationship, just as he's simultaneously trying to bestill the beast that's on him, be it real, or imaginary. Yes. Husk is great. I can't wait to read what else slithers out of your keen and cool imagination. Be well."

Have you read these? What are your thoughts? If you haven't read these, please do! They are awesome and I wasn't even paid to say so.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Poetry and Science of Nisqually Fly Fishing

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I'm new to fly fishing but not new to fishing. When I was in Afghanistan, I wrote an essay called I Used to Be  Fisherman, where I vowed to return to fishing and I did. Growing up catching crappie from a bamboo pole when I was three, to fishing for trout in the Black Hills with worms and corn, to fishing for trout everywhere with my secret suite of rooster tails, I've caught enough trout in my life to feed everyone I've ever met at least twice over. But those are numbers and I guess when  you get to my age, numbers no longer matter. 

What matters to me is the contest. Right now, I feel confidant that I can walk up to any trout-laden body of water and catch a trout within minutes using a rooster tail. I've caught them from thirty inches on down, in streams no wider than the desk I'm typing this on, to wide rivers I can barely see across, to lakes that seemed more like oceans. Sure, I can catch them, but it's just no contest. I want to challenge myself. I want to put myself in the most difficult position to catch a fish then do it. Little did I know I'd have to embrace both poetry and science to do it.

What matters to me is the science. I asked my friend Kurt what flies I should bring when we fished the Nisqually. He didn't know and that he'd see what sort of bugs were on the river. Bugs. I've loved playing with bugs since I was a wee tyke and now I get to play with them again. Kurt's response reminded me of Paul in Norman Maclean's semi-autobiographical novella A River Runs Through It-- that fabulous tale written about a family living in early 20th century Montana whose true religion was fly fishing. Paul believed in having the generals, those flies that are are the most common because nine out of ten times, those are what you're going to need. But there was a part in the novella also where the narrator (the author) began catching heaps of trout, leaving Paul skunked because the narrator had some exotics. As it turned out, there was a stonefly hatch and the narrator happened to have some with him. I can't tell you how much time I spent researching online what magical flies to bring and use on the Nisqually, and in the end, the science of it was nothing more than observing the nuances of nature... something the old spinner fisherman in me would have ignored on my quest to achieve a number. 

What matters to me is the poetry. Some might call it technique, but to me, watching a fisherman manipulate the fly through the air along thirty feet of fly line is pure poetry. I could stand and watch it all day. In fact, at the end of our fishing day, I watched Kurt fish a riffle I wasn't good enough-- poetic enough-- to reach through my technique. I was satisfied to stand back and watch, part in admiration and part in learning, experiencing his slower poetry in motion. I remembered the first half hour on the river. I thought my line was messed up, but he came over and showed me that I was casting too quickly. By the end of the day, my improvement was such that I'd probably tripled my casting distance... but it still wasn't enough. But that's okay. There'll be another time and another after that where I can try and perfect my poetry.

The Nisqually presented itself to us that day as a rumbling slash of silver through moss-covered Washington forest beneath mottled gray skies. We were still on the military base, so access was restricted to the area. As such, we didn't see another fisherman all day. I remember standing on the bank and staring at the river as a whole and seeing it as one thing. Then once I stepped into it, I saw it completely differently. Places I'd thought unfishable, suddenly became possible lay-bys for fish. I crept into the river, careful not to splash and found my first spot. After a life lesson in how to cast terribly, I soon figured out how to get the fly out about twenty feet. For most of the day, that was the best I could do. Still, in the second hour, I floated a rather small bi-color caddis with black on top and brown on the bottom over a promising riffle and was delighted when a trout shrugged into it, ran with it, then graciously allowed me to catch it, snuggling itself into my net, both of us hyperventilating. I actually let out a whoop! That nine inch rainbow was the first fish I'd ever caught on a fly rod in my life. At that moment, whether it had been three inches or three feet, it would always be my first and as such, I let it return to the river with its own life lesson.

I fished for another forty minutes, trying different black colored flies because I saw black fly hatches in the shallows. Kurt was sharing a new fly with me when I had a strike on a gnat I was running. Had I been paying attention, I might have landed it. I probably should have kept fishing with the gnat, but I switched flies to what Kurt gave me and BAM. Within two minutes, I had my second fish of the day. This one almost eleven inches. After landing it, I held it in my hands, coddling it until it regained its bearings, then it floated a moment, then shot for the depths. Over the next several hours I had several more strikes, but my inexperience kept me from landing whatever fish I'd temporarily fooled.

My final fish of the day hit like a locomotive. I was certain this one was twenty or maybe even twenty four inches. But then it shot into the air and I laughed aloud. Perhaps one day it might reach those legendary lengths, but today it was a mere six inches with the heart of a lunker. It fought me harder than the other two together. I let it run, enjoying the moments where a fish was dancing at the end of my poetry. When it finally tired, I landed it and the two of us stood there, in the gray Nisqually, rain pelting us, me laughing, the fish too exhausted to join in. Eventually, it got its wind back, and it left my hand, life lesson learned.

Poetry and science. That's what fly fishing is to me. That day on the Nisqually will forever be in my mind, not only as the day I first caught a fish fly fishing, but the day I truly felt I'd learned that fly fishing was more than just waving a stick about... the day I finally became a fly fisherman.

___

My friend Kurt being poetic on the river
Gear: Simms Waders. Korkers Redside Boots. Echo Four Piece Travel Rod 9 ft 5wt. 9ft 4lb leader.

Note: That essay I mentioned in the opening paragraph is now available in an expanded version in the new book called Taut Lines: Extraordinary True Fishing Stories.

Lesson Learned the Hard Way: I left my felt bottoms to my boots at home and discovered that wading on mossy rocks with rubber boots was akin to roller skating in an ice skating rink. I fell down too many times and in the end, not having the right gear limited me in my fishing choices.



Monday, June 13, 2016

Some Books I've Loved - The Catacombs, Experimental Film, and Mongrels

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Periodically, I like to share some books I've loved. I constantly read in addition to writing and want to share what I think deserves greater attention. So if you feel like reading some good stuff, consider adding these to you list.


The Catacombs by Jeremy Bates
This was a truly solid read. While I've seen movies about the Paris Catacombs (An American Werewolf in Paris and the truly terrifying As Above, So Below), I've never read a novel set in the location. Bates layered a terrific narrative surrounding this locus making it a definite I'll never ever travel there.

   
Experimental Film by Gemma Files
I've fallen in love with this niche subgenre I'm calling Found Footage Fiction. From Marisha Pessl's prodigious Night Film which my mother said was too claustrophobic to read, to Adam Neville's Last Days, this subgenre has in its nature the need to create two distinct narratives, that of the protagonist and that which he or she is following. Truly, a unique format. Gemma excels at adding to this cannon with Experimental Film, taking me to places so unexpected, I actually exclaimed aloud on several occasions.


Mongrels: A Novel by Stephen Graham Jones
If you wondered what a werewolf novel written by Cormac McCarthy might look like, then this is it. Not only is this road coming of age story fraught with the necessary bildungsroman angst one might expect with a young man growing up in a vulpine family, but the narrative style is so lyrical, I found myself reading it aloud. Seriously, when did you last read a werewolf novel. They are few and far between. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best among them.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

First Paragraph of My New Novel 'Burning Sky'

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A few days ago, I announced the signing of a contract for a new mass market paperback to be published by Solaris called Burning Sky. I sat down today and wrote the first 1111 words. I discovered that the main character, who is referred to by his team and others as Boy Scout, has an affinity for Cormac McCarthy, Herman Melville, and those books that pit man against nature.

I thought I might share the first paragraph with you. Sure, this is going to get a hundred edits and this might not be the first paragraph in the final version, but today, the first day writing this, it is the first paragraph and one that I'm proud to share.




Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Depreciation of Gratitude

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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.

Uggg!

Arrg!

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)

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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

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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!!!


Friday
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

Saturday

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)

Sunday
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

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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.

BUT I NEED YOUR INPUT. 

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

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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

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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. 

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.
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Friday, February 12, 2016

Grunt Traitor Makes Nebula Reading List

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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.