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, April 25, 2011

Weston's WHC Schedule and Convention Primer

Weston's World Horror Convention Schedule

10 AM Reading City of Joy in Robertson
2 PM Dark Regions Press (Dealers Room)
3 PM It Was A Dark and Stormy Night in Dezavala
2 PM Dark Regions Press (Dealers Room)
7 PM Mass Signing
11AM Dark Regions Press Reading

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

By Weston Ochse

(Originally published in Storytellers Unplugged)

Why go to writer’s conventions?

Is it the free beer? Is it the free liquor? Or is it an attempt to deplete the vast reservoir of stale chips commonly found at parties at 3 A.M.? Or is a convention merely a reason to get out from behind your computer to interact with humans rather than emoticons?

I say it’s all the above, but most importantly, conventions are a writer’s vehicle for networking. I recently attended the World Horror Convention in San Francisco where all manner of writers, fans, editors, publishers, artists and actors were in attendance. Conventions of this ilk are the pinnacle of networking and allow writers such as myself networking opportunities that don’t normally exist. The problem is that I don’t always take advantage of all opportunities presented me. Together, using four situations that occurred during the World Horror Convention, let’s see if I succeeded in networking.

SITUATION 1. Me and fellow authors Chris Golden, Ed Lee, James Moore and Yvonne Navarro (frequently referred to as my wife) decide that Friday was a brilliant day to take a few hours off from the convention and trek to Fisherman’s Wharf. Chris and Jim leave early, hiking over the San Francisco hills. Yvonne, Ed Lee and I arrive a little later by taxi. We talk over an amazing seafood dinner, tour the wharf, then decide to forego a taxi and walk back to the hotel—at least 20 blocks over some serious hills. Picture this if you will…me happily singing Army cadence with Chris snapping jokes, Jim trying to get his knee to work like they had when he was twenty and Lee inventing curses as he flips me off, the latter of which I have a video of that I will post when I return from Miami.
Pissed Off Ed Lee

The hills get longer, the curses get louder and the knee gets worse. I’m still screaming cadence—
Up the hill,
No sweat.
Ain’t shit,
Better yet.

My zest for the challenge gets the better of me as I scream louder and louder. At first Lee enjoys it, recalling memories of his own Army days, but the more I call cadence, the more he begins to hate me. Yvonne soon begins to give me looks only a wife can give, but I ignore them. The only one unfazed is Chris who’s busy joyously making smart remarks about all of us as he stomps forward. I race ahead of everyone up an impossible incline, ignoring the pain in my quads, belting cadence at the top of my lungs. When I get to the top of that hill, I spin and begin filming. I forget who I am. I forget where I am. I begin filming, feeling like Francis Ford Coppola directing Apocalypse Now San Francisco Redux, screams escaping from my mouth as I get whacked out into it—
Your sister does it
Piece of cake.
Your momma does it,
For God’s sake.

Lee flips me off again. Jim groans but keeps moving. Yvonne’s glare bores into me. Chris continues to chide. And me, I scream—

You can do it,
Or I’m gonna kill.
Get your ass,
Up the hill!

So rate this networking experience. How’d I do? Think I helped my career?

SITUATION 2. Many of you know that for the third year in a row, I’ve been in charge of the Gross Out Contest Bouncers. We don’t really break shins, but we are the judge’s props placed amid the chaos of the contest to create fear and uncertainty about the safety of the Gross Out contestant. This year was no exception. We had a terrific crew—Jim Moore, Drew Williams, Nick Cook, Minh, Steven Shrewsberry, John Hay and myself. Contestants fled before us. Audience members huddled in fear. Everything was great with the world.

Then John Pelan convinces the actor Bill Mosely to do a cold read of Goon as a spontaneous addition to the contest. I saw House of 1000 Corpses. I saw The Devils Rejects. And I was in awe. But I wasn’t going to let that awe interfere with my job. Before Mr. Billy Badass Mosely took the mike, I grab it from him and proclaim to the universe my duty as a bouncer, saying You better entertain and gross us out Mr. Mosely or else I’ll rip that mike from your fucking hands and kick you off our stage just like I’d do to all the other poor motherfuckers.
Bouncing the Gross Out Contest

The crowd roars for a moment and I am god! Bill Mosely gives me the look he gave the old woman at the beginning of Devil’s Rejects right before he kills her.

So rate this networking experience. How’d I do? Think I helped my career?

SITUATION 3. It wasn’t but a few minutes later that the next situation occurs. After Bill Mosely read, the judges had finished their deliberation and Brian Keene grabbed the first Asian in the room to help him count the hanging chads, Rain Graves asked the bouncers to stall. Several bad jokes later, and the crowd getting ugly, John Pelan speaks up from his place at the table. Weston, he says. Show us your tits and I’ll give you a contract. My head twists and my jaw drops into the expression made famous on Looney Tunes for What the fuck did he just say? I knew he was talking about publishing a story I’d submitted to him for the next Darkside Anthology, but what the hell was this need to show my body parts to a ballroom filled with people.

Several thoughts ran through my head—
Why does John Pelan want to see my tits?
How badly do I want to be in the Darkside Anthology?
Why does John Pelan want to see my tits?
Will I respect myself in the morning?
Will my wife respect me in the morning?
Why does John Pelan want to see my tits?

Me and Bill Mosely
I hesitate for a full minute, the crowd cheering me on, John cajoling from the stage, my wife waiting to see what I’d do. Finally, I make my decision. I grab the microphone and say, You all heard it. You are my witnesses. Consider this a verbal contract.

And I did it. I showed my tits to the world, one at a time, side shots, until the whole audience howled.

So rate this networking experience. How’d I do? Think I helped my career?

SITUATION 4. Peter Straub is an icon. He is the most accessible ‘most successful’ writer out there. Since 2002, we’ve been on a first name basis, something that continually blows my mind because of the great respect I have for the man and his accomplishments. Every convention, I make a point of spending a few minutes with Peter. Not because I’m sucking up. Not because I want anything from him. None of the reasons you’re thinking of. I speak with him because I genuinely like him. I think he’s one hell of a guy.

Sunday afternoon, near the end of the convention, Peter sat down beside me and we chatted for a few moments. We didn’t talk about the craft. We didn’t talk about anything of great import. The world was safe from our speculation. We just asked about each other, talking about his health, my dog, and other things personal and private. It didn’t last more than a few moments, then he went his way, and I went mine.

So rate this networking experience. How’d I do? Think I helped my career?

There you have it-- four situations where I was able to network with fellow writers. Did I help my career? Let’s see the results.

SITUATION 1. Ed Lee sent a restraining order. Jim Moore sent his hospital bill. My wife is pissed. Chris Golden loved the whole thing. And my voice is hoarse from all the screaming.
SITUATION 2. Bill Mosely promised me later that if I ever set foot in Hollywood, he’d introduce me to the real cast of Devil’s Rejects and eat my spleen for lunch.
SITUATION 3. A warrant is out for my arrest for lewd and lascivious acts.
SITUATION 4. This seems to be the only thing I did where bodily harm wasn’t promised me.

What do we learn from this? Tone it down? The road to success is paved with calm and collected stones? Even with Peter, I didn’t help my career; I was just a friend talking to a friend. Maybe I’m in the wrong business. Maybe I just don’t understand what it takes to successfully network. Or maybe, just maybe, networking at conventions is an unconscious process we undertake that requires nothing more than us being ourselves. Some people try too hard and you can see it. Some people become stalkers instead of friends. Some people use their ego as a shield keeping everyone of less worth at bay. I’m glad to say that in my circle of friends, this isn’t the case.

And in the end, as I sit here in Miami nearly a week after the convention Ed Lee, Jim Moore, Chris Golden and my wife have fond memories of our Bataan Death March across the city. Bill Mosely told me how much fun he had. Every other author was jealous of me, admitting that tit-showing would be a small price to pay for being in the anthology. And Peter is still my friend.

There is no Davinci Code of Secret Cabal Networking. There are no secret handshakes, or mysterious meetings in room 312. There are no passwords or He-man-woman-hater-high signs. There are no satanic rites to success. If anything I did WHC weekend helped my career it was by being myself and by writing well. All else was osmosis.

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