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.

Monday, January 25, 2016

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

Period.
 
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."  

Yeah. 

Right. 

You're not fooling no one.

So seriously. 

WTF are you going to do?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT - REIGN OF EVIL WINS AWARD

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I'm extremely delighted to share the good news. Reign of Evil won the New Mexico - Arizona Book Award for Best Adventure - Drama Novel. The award ceremony was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico last night. I would have attended, but we had Great Dane rescuing to do, which is immensely more important. Still, that does not overshadow the people who helped work on the book, from my editors Brendan Deneen and Peter Joseph, as well as Mr. Thomas Dunne for publishing the book, my agent who represented the book, Robert Fleck, and everyone in between. Thanks also to the readers and judges at the New Mexico - Arizona Book Awards.

SEAL TEAM 666 SWEEPS AWARDS

Last Year When Age of Blood Won
Amazingly, all three SEAL Team 666 books won this award in consecutive years. It just goes to show the popularity of the books. From a writer's perspective, the very last thing we think of when we're slogging through the book, second guessing ourselves, fighting with pacing and grammar and character arcs is an award. So the utter surprise I have for the book (s) winning awards continues to amaze me.

Here's a link to the full list of winners. 63 awards were given out in 56 categories. For more information on the awards, here's a link to the non-profit who runs them. 




Monday, November 16, 2015

Winter Fishing in the White Mountains

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Winter creek fishing is hard.

Yes, again I'm trying to get some trout fishing in during the Arizona winter. Last year it was the Lower Salt river and I think the water was too low. It was also colder than warlock blood, so my bet was the fish were huddled up somewhere.

About two weeks later I went nymph fishing on the Lower Provo in Utah's Wasatch Mountains. Cold. Cold. Cold. And like the trip to the Lower Salt, I was stumped. No fish at all. Not even a bite.

So either one of four things is happening.

There are no fish there,

They just aren't biting.

I 'm using the wrong lure.

I suck as a fisherman.

Well, I know that the last one is wrong. I've caught some amazing fish in my day. But you can't help but wonder.

In April last year I went back to the Lower Provo. It's a river much like the ones I grew up trout fishing in the Smokey Mountains- Tellico and Citico Creeks. This time I brought a couple of spinning lures and my spinning rod. Now the Lower Provo is a blue ribbon river, so if I didn't catch anything then, I might as well hang it up. Lucky for me, it was a grand day. I caught ten brown trout, one as large as my forearm. I have pictures of them here if you want to see some fish porn. And it was all on a specific lure-- one that mimics baby browns

Fast forward to this week. We're up in Greer and I'm fishing the Lower Colorado. The water levels are low. It's pretty damn cold. I wonder how much over-fishing has occurred over the last year. A lot of the river is hard to get to as it coils through private lands. Two days and no fish.

Did I even see fish?

Sure. On the South Fork of the Little Colorado I saw some real small browns. Fingerlings. A couple followed  my lure. I saw the belly of something larger roll lazily as my spinning lure flashed past it. But nothing really. I switched between silver and bold spinning lures as well. Nothing for the silver. Only nibbles on the gold.

Then at Sheep's Head Crossing I saw some little Apache Trout. Seriously. They couldn't have been bigger than my middle finger. Still, they wanted my lure. The only problem was that their poor little mouths weren't big enough. Which is good, because I wouldn't have wanted to harm them.

But I also have to remember that fishing isn't always about catching fish. It's about being alone with oneself. Being part of nature. And I have to tell you, it's absolutely gorgeous up here. I wrote an essay when I was deployed to Afghanistan called I Used to Be a Fisherman.

I guess I'd quite for a time.

Now I am a fisherman once more.

And it's just damned cold.

I'm going to try the Black River and Silver Creek in the Spring. It should be better then. And who knows, I might even catch something.

Until then, I'm going to keep trying to crack this winter fishing problem. Any advice and recommendation would be helpful. I did note that I was the only one fishing. Didn't see a single other person with their line in the water.

The last picture is a curious thing. I found half a dozen bird carcasses, a rabbit carcass, and a  squirrel carcass in a small area next to the water. My guess is it was a hawk's abattoir-- where it took it's kill to feed. Not sure what kind of bird this was. Thinking it might have been a pheasant or a peacock. 



Friday, November 13, 2015

Your Social Media Score Will Get You Published

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Are you serious?

I thought I was done with high school, but it seems that now if I want to get published, I have to be one of the handsome cool kids. The problem is that I'm not really one of the handsome cool kids. I'm just this dude who sometimes talks too fast and stutters and sometimes is a klutz and trips and most of the time goes web surfing for food and wine porn. Nothing too cool about that...except to me.

So what do I do then if I want to get traditionally published?

Truth of the matter, everyone stands a chance to be a cool kid online. Social networking is the great equalizer and has leveled the stage for old Dungeons and Dragon nerds like me. We use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Blogger, Linked-in, Pinterest, Reddit, Youtube, etc. And publishers have found ways to determine what your sale-ability is.

Rob Eager shares in Stop Grading an Author's Social Media Prescence in a Guardian article:

I’ve actually sat in several meetings with literary agents, acquisitions editors and marketing directors who asked misguided questions, such as:

• Is this author on Facebook and Twitter?
• How many followers do they have?
• How often does the author post and do they get many shares and retweets?
 
There are a couple of tools they use to determine what a potential or current author's social impact is.

KLOUT is a big one. Do you know what your Klout Score is? Do you even have one? One guy claims that he wasn't hired because his Klout score was too low. Mine averages at about 70 (rated from 1 to 100). Conversely, wanna-be-bad-boy Canadian boy-man singer Justin Beiber's is 94. So what does Klout do?

“In this work, we present the Klout Score, an influence scoring system that assigns scores to 750 million users across 9 different social networks on a daily basis. We propose a hierarchical framework for generating an influence score for each user, by incorporating information for the user from multiple networks and communities. Over 3600 features that capture signals of influential interactions are aggregated across multiple dimensions for each user. The features are scalably generated by processing over 45 billion interactions from social networks every day, as well as by incorporating factors that indicate real world influence.” Social Media Today

The same article I referenced above also claims that clerks at resort hotels in Vegas look up customer's Klout scores as they check in to determine which ones should receive special perks like room upgrades because they know that the customers will broadcast their happiness across their social networks.



Whoops. Looks like I slipped almost 7 points in the last 90 days. Funny how that coincides with working on a contracted novel. Now I guess I'm not going to get any special attention at a Vegas resort. So sad.

Do you know that major publishing houses
have social network auditors?

As it turns out, major publishing houses have social media auditors. When Thomas Dunne Books (St. Martins Press) published my SEAL Team 666 book, I was audited by a nice fella who pointed out how awful my website and my blogger were and what I needed to do to fix the errors. Now, I was actually happy to get this. I mean, what the hell do I know about marketing and capturing audiences? I'm just a writer. If you're reading this and the page is stripped of everything and is all white, you can see that I have no idea how to do these things. I was asked several times to make sure I did what the auditor had asked me to do. And I did. But what would have happened, I wonder, if I'd ignored their audit?

One way you can measure your own impact is through Twitter Analytics. Twitter has a feature where you can check your engagement and reach. You can track your audience by their job, their interests, even their buying styles. It will even tell you what the best time of the day is to tweet.
  
There's also Google Analytics to consider. It tells you how many times the webpages you mange have been viewed, what the bounce rate is (where they only look at one page and then leave without going to another page on your site), and how long on average they spend on your site. My average, for instance, for this blog for the last thirty days is a session time of 1:51 seconds with 91% bounce. That last number is a good and bad thing. It shows while people were interested enough to come read something, they didn't want to stay and peruse the site.

Let's not forget Google Trends. You can plug anything in there to see how often it's been searched, such as your name and your book titles.

So there are ways you can judge yourself and determine

But not everyone is happy with this. Rob Eager has a valid point that takes me back to the cool kids in high school cliques:

Making acquisitions and marketing decisions based in large part on an author’s social media popularity is like assigning grades to students based on their accent or physical attractiveness: it’s subjective and largely unrelated to the actual skillset needed to succeed. (Stop Grading an Author's Social Media Prescence)

Regardless whether it's right or wrong or efficient, it's clear that publishing houses are trying to use social media analytics and auditors to help them sell more books. If and when they choose to value grade individual authors, it's sort of up to you to determine how willing you are to improve your individual impact in the social media universe. Your Klout score might mean the difference between them publishing you, or that other author they have who has a similar book.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

My Agent is Going to Make Me Millions And Other Hilarious Myths

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It's true!

I have an agent so all the hard work is done. All I need to do is write and the world is my oyster.

If only that were true. The problem with agents is what also makes them terrific-- they are not all alike. Additionally, each one has his or her own contacts. What you get in an agent is experience, contacts, and drive-- or what I call pugnaciousness. What you don't get is an automatic win.

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time a close friend of mine was seeking an agent for his first book. He went to a conference and pitched the book to several agents. One agent in particular was very excited about the book. This agent was so excited that he actively sought out my friend and was eager to represent it.. The agent was from a known New York-based agency and had plenty of contacts. Why not go with this agent? thought my friend. So a year ago, he went with this agent, the book was sent out, then nothing.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

My friend contacted the agent who was still excited about the book. No! The book is great. Don't change a thing. It's the best!

But a year had passed. In the meantime, my agent got me jobs. Other agents sold other books. And life went on for the most of the rest of the agented-masses, but my friend was stuck in the waiting zone and might always be because of mistakes that were made in choosing the agent.

The End.
Boy, that story sucked. Right?

So what happened?

Let's go back to the beginning and investigate. The agent in question was an agent who represented client authors who wrote mysteries and thrillers. My friend wrote a science fiction novel. Had the agent ever sold a sci fi novel before? Had the agent any sci fi editorial contacts? The answer was a flat no. My friend went with the editor because the editor was excited about his book and that's the only reason. And oh yeah... an agent... that.

But not all agents are created equally.

Allow me to share my agent journey.

I've had four agents, meaning I am now on my fourth. 

My first agent said, Hey, I'm an agent and I said Cool, will you represent me and she said, Sure I will and we were excited. The problem was that she was an agent just like there are a whole bunch of editors out there. You can't just say you're an agent just like you can't just say you're an editor. First agent had no contacts and no experience, but she did have pugnaciousness. I stayed with her for a few years and got zero out of it.

My second agent worked for a well-known Sci Fi Agency with a well-known clientele. She was and is a cool cat who had all three things necessary for an agent. She had experience, drive and pugnaciousness. I might have stayed with her had it not been for one bad experience. During a BEA one year she had me meet the head of the agency. We all went into a lounge to talk about how to make Weston blow up HUGE and sat around a table. Then for the next 20 minutes, my agent and I sat uncomfortably while the head of the agency read a newspaper. At the end of the 20 minutes, he got up and left. It wasn't long after that I left the agency as well. I know when I'm not welcome.

My third agent also had the three necessary elements and we worked happily together for years. The only reason I left was because I wanted to go to a larger agency.

Now my fourth agent already has interest from several NY editors for my projects, we have several pitches out there, and she got me a Media Tie In novel for Person of Interest (Angry Robot/CBS) all within three months of signing with her. She has all three qualities in spades, especially the pugnaciousness.

What you get in an agent is experience, contacts, and drive-- or what I call pugnaciousness. What you don't get is an automatic career.

Not everyone needs an agent. I know loads of authors who don't have one. Some are already successful and can represent themselves. Others are satisfied with small and medium presses and self publishing. All that is cool. But if you want an agent, there are a few things you should do.

1. Research. If you don't already have one pining to represent you, conduct your own agent research. This should be done especially if you're going to a convention which has pitch sessions. Only pitch to those agents who you think can best represent you. Don't take the first one who likes you. That's like marrying your first date. Sure it works for some, but can you remember who your first date was and can you imagine being married to them? Try the following FREE places to research:


2. More Research. Research the agent\agency. Before submitting or signing with an agency, see if they are a good fit for you. The best way is to pay a few bucks and join Publishers Marketplace. There you can not only review a lot of good agency information fire-walled from the general public, but you can also see what the prospective agent has sold. There's a sales history you can research. I mean, come on. You research what car to buy so why not research what agent could make you the most famous?  

3. Even More Research. Research what manuscripts are wanted. An absolutely phenomenal sight is Manuscript Wish List.  If this site had been around when I first started writing, I think I might have achieved success much quicker. 

4. Know how to pitch your work. Now, this is a blog unto itself. In fact, I've given classes on this. But do these four things when pitching. 
  • Pitch yourself first. Give your elevator pitch about who you are. What's an elevator pitch? Here's a good industry definition about construction and here are some examples.
  • Compare it to works the agent can easily recognize. Make sure those works are highly successful. If there is no comparison this is good too because it means its high concept so say so. This helps them to immediately categorize and monetize what it is you're trying to get them to sell.
(Title of my book) is like Princess Bride meets Lord of the Flies.
(Title of my book) is like Dune meets The Stand.
  • Give a logline- a one sentence line that grabs the agent and provides context.
Example 1: Three film students go missing after traveling into the woods of Maryland to make a documentary about the local legend of a witch, leaving only their footage behind. (The Blair Witch Project)
Example 2: Luke Skywalker, a spirited farm boy, joins rebel forces to save Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader, and the galaxy from the Empire’s planet-destroying Death Star. (Star Wars...duh)
Example 3: Ben Mason is convinced not to kill himself by a shadowy organization and to instead weaponize his PTSD to better enable him to save the planet from alien invasion. (My novel Grunt Life)
  • Now pitch the novel. Begin with an elevator pitch that's concise, well-rehearsed, and informative. Plan to make this about 300 words and practice it until its perfect. Once this is done, you should have piqued the agent to ask questions. Be prepared for these by practicing your pitch on several people. Odds are, they'll ask the same questions as the agent.

Final Word. SFWA has a great information page about agents, including the dos and don'ts. Please go there and read it.

Second Final Word. Know this last thing-- agents should never charge you money for doing anything. They only make money when you make money.

Really, this is my final word. And oh yeah? About my friend? He's relooking things and deciding what to do. I know we all wish him glorious luck.




Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Zombies, Grunts, and Cormac McCarthy

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What do these three things have in common? Well, if you read Blood Meridian you'd know. I was recently interviewed about my writing and asked about influential authors. Here's what I said about Cormac McCarthy:

Cormac McCarthy. Besides the fact that I’m envious because he can get away without any of the usual punctuation, there is no one out there writing with such power about the relationship and constant battle man (humankind) has against nature, be it the nature of self, the physical nature of the universe, or the nature of an idea. He is a master of it. Perhaps my favorite part of any text in any book, other than the section below (from The Sound of Summer Running by Ray Bradbury), is from the last thousand words of the second book of his Plains series called The Crossing. The pang and loss the main character feels as well as his inability to do anything about it is so stark and powerful, the passage left me breathless.

 But not everyone is ready for McCarthy. The move The Counselor directed by Ridley Scott and starring Cameron Diaz and Michael Fastbender wasn’t a hit. I personally think that the movie is magnificent. It’s pure McCarthy. But what viewers want is a happy ending. They want to see a happy character arc. But as I mentioned, McCarthy is the master of man versus nature and in the movie man comes up against the intractability of nature. Realize, with nature, you can’t argue with it, you can’t fight against it, it’s there. In this case, nature is like a zombie.

 One last thought on McCarthy. I'd never read any of his work prior to 2000. The reason I picked him up was because the New York Times came up with a list of the top fifty books of the last fifty years of the twentieth century. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy was number one. Based on that, I had to read it. Talk about a powerful book about man versus nature… Blood Meridian will scour your heart and make you weep
.

 The rest of the interview can be read here.


Scaring the daylights out of Amy B. Smith
Salton Sea Zombies. A review just in of my 2010 Zombie novel EMPIRE OF SALT from Abaddon's Tomes of the Dead series. Hachi Snax gives it a 9 out of 10. I suppose of you're jonesing for something new in zombies this would be it. The review manages to be very comprehensive without ruining any major plot or character arcs. Good job.

"So, what was Ochse's take on the shambler trope? And how did it fare? Empire of Salt is, quite simply put, an excellent zombie yarn. It combines a fresh take on the often stale undead formula, mixes in a good amount of shoot-em-up action, and incorporates a solid young adult underpinning that is enjoyable, not annoying or cloying. This is no mean feat."

The review can be read in it's entirety here

Something Grunty This Way Comes. Another review of Grunt Life. What can I say? It's become everyone's favorite military sci fi novel. A lot of the thanks goes to the solid editing staff at Solaris Books. While I can write, they can edit and made some recommendations that seriously helped the book along.

Man, this book amped me up! It shakes up the genre and gives it a much-needed shot in the arm...GRUNT LIFE is a huge win for me, and I highly recommend it. Author Weston Ochse is ex-military, and his extensive knowledge of the armed forces shines through in this novel, resulting in a high energy, high entertainment read. I can’t wait to see where book two takes the story. GRUNT LIFE is available now in a variety of formats, so give it a look.

For the full review click here.
You see? 

And you didn't think I could put zombies, grunts and McCarthy together.

Do me a favor... at the very least, go out and buy a copy of Blood Meridian. Sure, I'd like for you to buy my books too, but I'd also like you to share in my admiration for a master- Cormac McCarthy.


“War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner.”- Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Morpheus Tales Gets Me to Say I'm Afraid of Butterflies and Other Stuff

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Graffiti from Bisbee, Arizona
Yeah, I know.

What a pansy.

Afraid of butterflies.

Which is what made my mother's idea a few years ago to make the day after Christmas a tradition to
go to the Tucson Butterfly House where you can stand inside and let hundreds of various species from around the world land on you a terrifying proposition. Now picture me standing in the middle of said house, butterflies all over me, sweat beading on my brow, my fists clenched, totally unable to move. Yeah, I tried to tough it out. Didn't work. Thankfully, that was a short-lived Christmas tradition. But nice try, mom.

So why am I afraid of butterflies?

Notice whenever a butterfly lands on your finger that they grab it much like you'd grab a chicken wing. They wrap their feet around you, not for balance, but because they're mouths are located in their feet. These cute, slowly flapping, colorful butterflies are tasting you, sucking on you, wishing they could eat you, at the same time you are oohing and aahing. Yeah. Let's see you do that if they were ten times the size.

Yes, the image I have is of you running.

Also in the interview are some great questions that have never been asked before. So if you want to know about me, my writing process, and the Grunt Life military sci fi series, then this cool free supplement is for you.  For the interview go HERE!!


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

84 Million Reasons Why Not To Sell Your Soul for Exposure

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I recently read Wil Wheaton's blog called 'You Can't Pay Your Rent with the "unique exposure our platform and reach our site provides" and was exceptionally pleased with his response. It takes a certain amount of balls-chutzpah-audacity-guts for someone to turn down HuffingtonPost.com. I just googled 'audience reach of Huffington post' and clicked Huff's own braggadocios post which says that in 2014 they had 84 million hits. So let's take them at their word for the purposes of this blog.

84 million hits.

How many of you would sell your soul to get 84 million readers to read your work?

So when Huff Post kindly asked WW if they could reblog his blog Seven Things I Did to Reboot My Life he was obviously intrigued.  (BTW, it's a really good blog. Make sure you read it after you finish mine.)

Then Wil asked what the pay was, you know remuneration, ducats, mullah, coin, dollas, recompense-- you know, what the hell will you pay me for my blood, sweat and words-- the response was “unfortunately, we’re unable to financially compensate our bloggers at this time. Most bloggers find value in the unique platform and reach our site provides, but we completely understand if that makes blogging with us impossible.”

Sigh. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me to give them words for free I could at the very least buy a good used car with pinstripes and probably a sunroof.

BTW, I'm a WW fan. The above photo was taken when I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2013. My wife (Yvonne Navarro) and I normally attend Phoenix Comiccon, but because I didn't attend because I was knee deep in the Hindu Cush (boy that sounds dirty), my wife didn't attend either. She'd previously established having me as 'Weston on a Stick' when military duties pulled me away from conventions, etc, so the super cool people at Comiccon put both she and I on a stick and had various celebs photo with them, including WW, as you can see above.
Now back to the blog...

Why people give their work away is beyond me?

Exposure?

Bullshit.  I'm dropping the bullshit flag right here! You are offsides! Get back in line and look at those books, magazines, electronic fropperies you gave your work away to. What's the distribution? 84 million? What? Can't hear you? 84? Maybe? What? Oh, your mother read it? Gimme a break.

WWWWD=What Would Wil Wheaton Do

WW told the kind hard-working paid editor at Huff Post, no thanks.

Okay, I see you're defensive. You're saying to the screen BUT THAT WAS WIL WHEATON.

I get that. Fair point.

I recently was paid to give a presentation to a local Sisters in Crime chapter. (I only mention I was paid because I want you to see the trend.) In it, I talked about my strategy to be a professional from the earliest of my writing days. You see, professionals get paid. Whether you're a plumber, a doctor, a priest or a hooker, if you're a professional, you get paid for it. Sure you can give your services away for free, but why do it? Of more than a hundred published short stories less than a handful were given away and those were to charity markets and less than another handful were less than pro rates. I only did the latter because friends asked me and I acquiesced. Not every time, mind you, but when I could. My very first story was a pro-rate story. Sure, it took a long time, but instead of selling my soul and giving away mediocre work, I was forced by my desire to be a professional and be published by professional markets to produce professional-grade work.

Bottom line, I don't give my blood, sweat and words away and I'm no Wil Wheaton. Now for the 84 million dollar question. If Huff Post asked me to reblog one of my posts for only a wink and a nod, I'd be hard-pressed to say no. I might eventually capitulate and sell my soul. I haven't been fortunate enough to have to make that decision yet. 

But that's not the point.

The point is that my first response would have been - Pay Me! And when they came back and said no, I would have been pissed. 

Sure, I might have paced the room and spat about like a glaring of wet cats. 

Sure, I might have shook my fist at the fickle internet gods and goddesses and then shouted in my best English accent which actually sounds Pakistani - CRY HAVOC! UNLEASH THE GODS OF WAR!

But then I'm not sure what I would do.

84 Million is a fucking lot!

1 Million is a fucking lot!

All I can say is that I'd first think WWWWD and then try and do it.

Because god forbid, I sell my soul for exposure. 

It's just not the thing cool professionals do.

And this is what Merle Dixon (aka Michael Rooker) thinks about people who give their blood, seat and words away.

As The Thing was oft to say, NUFF SAID!