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

Monday, March 26, 2012

My Daughter Joins the Navy

Today my daughter joins the Navy.

Alex, Yvonne and Zach - 2001
She's going to spend the next 8 weeks at Great Lakes, then a month in Pensicola learning Aviation Ordinance.



I'm beyond proud. I didn't ask her to join. I didn't push her. She chose the Navy, took all the tests, and signed up. Today she packed a small bag, left everyone including her boyfriend behind, and left with the recruiter. Tomorrow she'll be on a plane to Great Lakes.

A little about my daughter. Alex(andra) is 20.She'll be 21 April 2nd. She is a beautiful girl with a beautiful heart. She has her father's attitude. She likes to be the best and has little patience for incompetence.  She has an associates degree, which means she'll be paid E3 pay, instead of E1 pay, which is about 400 bucks a month difference.She'll also have free healthcare. Something she realized is a big deal. Yeah, she has a terrific head on her shoulders.


2002 at Von and My Wedding
Everything is great, but I'm scared. This is the first time since she was born that she won't be able to call me on the phone when she's sad or in trouble. I'm used to hearing her slightly-southern-accented voice on the phone saying, "Daddeee." It's my on button. But she will be incommunicado for awhile.If Navy basic is anything like Army basic, she's going to go through a physical and emotional shredder and I'm nervous as hell for her.


But then I realize that I've done what I can. I raised her to be a strong independent woman. When she wanted to live at home, I made her get a place of her own and she's better for it.She knows responsibility and is able to take care of herself. I taught her by example what is right and wrong. I never asked her to do anything I wasn't doing or wasn't willing to do and she respects me for it.More importantly, she learned those things such as commitment, hard work, integrity and demonstrates them every day.



I shouldn't worry. 
Supersoaker Green Prom Dress!  


I know everything will be alright.

But I just can't help it.

The rest of the story is in pictures...















Alex reading a card where we tell her how proud we are of her


Yvonne and Alex Talking about what a terrific girl she is

No caption needed

It might be blurry because of me

Everyone putting on a good face

The Navy Takes Hold

Last Day as a Civilian for Her

So Bright Eyed and Hopeful

A Few Last Words with Dad

There she goes... on her own path.


Good Luck Honey!!!


I am so proud of you!!!


Go out and show them how great you are!!!

...and call me!


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Revolver: Where Subplot Trumps the Plot

I saw the movie Revolver. This is not a review, but rather a comment on plot construction anyone can use, whether it be a screenwriter or a novelist.

Filmed by Guy Ritchie, Revolver stars Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, Vincent Pastore, Andre 3000 and a host of British bad guys that I'm sure my friends in Englad recognize. Revolver premiered in 2005. Guy Ritchie films have a certain style to them that I appreciate. He's sort of the love child of Akira Kurosawa and Quintin Tarantino to me. So I approached Revolver with that sort of anticipation.

But Ritchie pulled a David Lynch.

And I HATE Lynch. In fact, Mulhulland Drive makes me want to shoot myself in the head (Silencio)!

But I loved Revolver. So in this case, Ritchie out-Lynched Lynch.

So what's the big deal about Revolver and why have you never heard of it.

It was panned in England where it was released. It got 1/2 out of 5 stars. It took a while for it to get to the U.S. Only after adding some scenes and re-editing, did it come here, but even then, no one saw it.

Even though there are spoilers, I think you should still watch it.In fact, you can see it for free here. And if you want to know about what I have to say about plot construction, then I'm afraid you'll have to read below.

But it's only a little spoilage.

Not a lot.

I promise.


***SPOILERS***

IMDB has a very credible synopsis, so I won't repeat what it's already said. Instead, let me share with you the ending of the synopsis, then talk about it for a brief moment.


The movie's plot or throughline is about one man being tricked into helping another two men convince a second set of two men, in this case, major gangsters, that they are out to get each other. Filled with terrific Guy Ritchie action and dialogue, the movie has everything I love in a movie.

But the subplot is what makes it great. Interwoven like a sinus wave along the plot line is the idea that ego can so take control of you that it can turn your life into a game. It further states that if you listen to it, you become a victim of yourself. It's a pretty complicated idea, probably why English seemed to dislike it and it was only shown on 18 screens in the U.S. It was definitely hard to Grok.

But the majesty of the construction of the movie is that while you're watching the action of the plot, the subplot is weaving through and past you, so well, that in the end, the plot doesn't really matter at all. It was the subplot all along that was the most important. In this case, I think the disservice to both the plot and the subplot came with the ending. If you're going to try and do something like Ritchie did, you're going to have to wrap it up a little more neatly.  Nothing let's an audience or a reader get what you're trying to say than a little denoueument after the conclusion of the action.

The dénouement (pronounced /deɪnuːˈmɑ̃ː/, /deɪnuːˈmɒn/, or UK /deɪˈnuːmɑ̃ː/; French: [denuˈmɑ̃]) comprises events between the falling action and the actual ending scene of the drama or narrative and thus serves as the conclusion of the story. Conflicts are resolved, creating normality for the characters and a sense of catharsis, or release of tension and anxiety, for the reader. Etymologically, the French word dénouement is derived from the Old French word denoer, "to untie", and from nodus, Latin for "knot." Simply put, dénouement is the unraveling or untying of the complexities of a plot.(cite)


And that, my friends, takes skill, especially when we are so wrapped up in the plot (or the game as the movies says), that we discover all the things we missed, only too late.

Similar films include Donnie Darko and The Usual Suspects. You'll also find aspects of numerology and the Kabbalah heavily influenced the film and were used to construct the subplot.

Have you seen it? What are your thoughts?


Friday, March 23, 2012

Example Pitch - Pitch It So They Can Hit It!

I've had quite a few emails and requests to provide an example of my advice on pitching your book (read Pitch It So They Can Hit It first so you can see what I'm talking about). I hesitate to share some of my own projects currently making the rounds, so I came up with a book pitch for the Hobbit.

So imagine if you will, JRR Tolkien is a struggling author. He learns of a publisher looking for high fantasy. He knows that  publisher is as busy as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest and knows that he has but one shot to make it. Does he create an in-depth, heavily-worded summary totaling 10,000 words, or does he opt for something in the 330 word category and stick to one page. In my universe, he does the latter... and the rest, my friends is history.

So here is the pitch provided two ways-- the original, and reproduced after.

Here it is for those of you who have a hard time reading it.


THE HOBBIT
Book Pitch by JRR Tolkien


(Beginning) Bilbo Baggins, a half-man-sized hobbit living in Middle Earth, is persuaded by the wizard Gandalf to leave his content existence and adventure with a group of thirteen high-excitable Dwarves to reclaim the treasure of the vile dragon Smaug. The dwarves question the choice of Bilbo, who is obviously afraid even of his own shadow, but end up deferring to Gandalf, who has attained legend status with many different groups, including their own. (Throughline) Together the adventurers encounter and defeat Trolls, recuperate at an Elvin stronghold, fight against goblins, giant spiders, evil wolves, encounter shape-changing men and a whole host of dangers, on their way to Lonely Mountain, where Smaug sleepily guards Thorin’s treasure. (Subplot)Interwoven throughout the narrative is an exploration of the question whether or not greed is inescapable. When the dwarves obtain the treasure after the defeat of Smaug, they set upon each other as each tries to claim a greater portion. This group of stalwart fighters would lay down their lives for one another, but the shiny future promised by a fortune in gold has an immediately greater intrinsic value than the notion of friendship and warrior bond. Bilbo encounters the twisted character Gollum who is a physical manifestation of greed and want. Bilbo is able to escape the fiend by finding the ring of invisibility, which Gollum had been deliriously seeking all this time.  (Antagonist) But Bilbo’s greatest issue is his fear. It’s almost physical in its ability to control him. But each adventure is like a gate by which Bilbo is able to travel through and conquer his fear until, by the end, he is able to approach the dragon alone with nothing but his courage as companionship. (Ending)Ultimately, the dragon is killed, the treasure is recovered, the dwarves realize their greed and repent to each other, and everyone lives happily ever after. But as in most tales, the value of the Hobbit is in the journey, rather than the end.

 This sort of reads as a review, doesn't it. By doing so, it demonstrates the wholeness of the idea.

Some of you might differ with my choice of antagonist. Smaug is an antagonist; as are all the monsters. This is really a classic tale of G vs E. But all those things, to me at least, are secondary to greed.

(Note that the spacing in the text in the first version is from the conversion from .doc to .pdf to .jpg. and are in no way my fault :))

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pitch It So They Can Hit It!

(Now with an example which can be found at this link)

Not to strain a metaphor, but most of you treat the batter as if he or she is your enemy. You prepare a pitch and sling it over the plate. Weighed down with too much blather, it’s like trying to hit a knuckle-ball laced with gerund slime. Remember this: you want the batter to hit your pitch. You want your batter to hit your pitch so damn hard it goes over the left field wall and becomes a mass market, best-selling book.

So now that I’ve decimated the metaphor, let me tell you what I’m really talking about. It’s your book pitch. It sucks. It’s way too long. It’s a chore to read. Editors and or agents are some of the busiest folks on Earth. They spend most of their day taking phone calls, working with the marketing departments, attending office meetings, and working with their top three authors. What’s left is a miniscule amount of time for them to read submissions in their slush pile or those they’ve asked for. So you got to have your pitch ready so they can hit it.

In the Army we have a saying called K.I.S.S. No, not the Detroit metal band. K.I.S.S. stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. Don’t go into any more detail than is necessary to convey these five things: The Beginning, the throughline, the subplot, the antagonist and the ending. Do not leave off the ending. If you do the reader is going to think you don’t know how it ends. And NO! You are not allowed to leave the reader hanging unless your name is Brisco County Junior.

Being interviewed on NPR
My fellow zombie author Chuck Wendig has a terrific article about the throughline here.  He calls the throughline the invisible thread that binds your story together. You might know it as the plot. I’ve also heard it called the base, the centerline and the arrow— whatever you want to call it, you need to represent it in such a way in your pitch that the person reading it knows what’s going on and why it’s going on and how it is resolved.

Now here’s the hairy part.

You have to do it in one, double-spaced, one-inched margin, twelve-pointed font page.
I heard that you potty mouth, but I feel your pain.

I’d be dropping WTFs all over the computer screen if I read that too.

But what about the 30 page chapter summary I have, you whine in a miserable little voice.

Ooh, I say. Do you really have one? How cool? Funky beans! Wowsa and all that smack. The chapter summary is great. You’re a little ahead of yourself, but there’s no punishment for working hard. Feel free to include that in any submission. If you don’t have it, they’ll ask for it if they like your idea. If you do have one, then they’ll move on from your pitch to the summary.

BUT THEY HAVE TO LIKE YOUR IDEA BEFORE THEY’LL EVEN COMMITT TO READING YOUR OUTLINE.

Sorry about the all cap shouting, but I saw a few of you shaking your heads like you thought I was speaking crazy talk.

Now here’s the last bit of knowledge about the Pitch I’m going to impart. In addition to the five elements and in addition to a single page, use active voice and present tense. It doesn’t matter if the book is going to be written in past tense, write in present tense for this single page. Why? Present tense makes it live. It makes those reading it think that it’s happening now, that whatever they are reading is perishable and that they must read it.

So go back and take a look at your pitch. Maybe the reason it’s not getting any love is because it’s just way too onerous a document to read. In this day of 140 character communications, everyone wants to read something shorter.

So give it to them.

Pitch it so they can hit it.

~     ~     ~
Weston Ochse is the internationally-published author of such novels as TOMES OF THE DEAD: EMPIRE OF SALT and Blood Ocean (Afterblight Chronicles). His novel Velvet Dogma is available as an original ebook, as well as an audio book. SEAL Team 666: A Novel, his latest novel about a military unit that protects America from supernatural attack, is coming from St. Martin’s Press in November 2012. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, likes long walks on the beach, and has a tattoo of Elvis Presley.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SEAL Team 666 - Are We Ready for Military Fiction?

The biggest novel of my career thusfar is gathering steam. SEAL Team 666 was recently mentioned in a New York Times article discussing the popularity of new military memoirs:
  
The offerings go beyond real-life stories. In May, Thomas Dunne Books, part of Macmillan, will release “SEAL Team 666,” a novel about a trainee who has been recruited into an organization that “deals with supernatural threats, just as a powerful and ancient cult makes its final push at destroying the world,” the publisher said.  (Note: The book will be available in November. It is up for pre-order here)

It's sort of funny. I would have thought that these would have been more popular sooner. Was it the readers who demured, or was it the publishers? I've always been under the impression that those who like military fiction like it whenever they can get it. Additionally, I've always thought that supernatural thrillers/horror/dark fantasy is the same way. Fans of the genre read it whenever they can. So it was always strange to see so few military novels during the first eight years (yeah, I said eight...jeese) of our current wars.

Back in 2003, I wrote a novel called Babylon Smiles (now sitting on a shelf gathering dust). It is straight military fiction. Sort of a Kelly's Heroes style novel about a transportation company in Iraq who decide to rob the money train (untraceable and unaccountable money sent over from the U.S. to replenish the banking system in Iraq). Publishers couldn't have been less interested. I'd even proposed more books in the possible series. I think the writing was solid. I also think the story was pretty original. So was it because the publishers took the pulse of the readers and decided that readers weren't ready, or was it what we call in the military a self-fullfilling prophecy. "Readers don't want to read this, therefore I won't give it to them and because they don't have them, that genre is unpopular, therefore it backs up my decision."

The article goes on to say, "The current popularity of military-theme memoirs is reminiscent of the late 1970s and early ’80s, when similar books appeared in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, said Louise Burke, the publisher of Gallery Books. But the newer books hold a special appeal to younger readers whose lives have been filled with news reports of wars in the Middle East, she said."

I read some of those books when I was younger. Although there were many books that were clearly anti-war (aren't we all), there were quite a few that glorified, not the war, but the accomplishments and the heroics of the individuals. We've spent enough time watching the news and seeing through the optic of a reporter about what's going on, there comes a time when readers want a more personal approach. They want to understand on a base human level what goes through the minds of soldiers when they are confronted with a dedicated enemy. I think that's one of my strengths. As a soldier, I understand these things. I can parse through the politics and the insanity, and get to the truth of what it takes to be a soldier and a hero-- merely to dedicate your life to the man or woman next to you.

I also realize that my optic is different than most people. I wake up and go to sleep with the idea that one day I'll go to war for each and every one of you. It's an ideal that I've embraced and live by... confortably. Maybe readers weren't ready for military fiction in the preceding ten years. Maybe, especially those who vividly remember the utter shock of the events of 9/11, spent those years reading works that took them away from any memory of that day. I can understand that. I can absolutely understand that. It's been eleven years, twelve by the publication of SEAL Team 666.

Ray Gustini said in The Atlantic Wire, when addressed the impending SEAL book bubble, Books about Navy SEALs are selling like crazy, which makes sense, consider how much real-life SEALs have been in the news of late. But some of the titles are just using the special operations point as a jump off point for horror novels, like the terrifically titled Seal Team 666, which MacMillan will release in May [November].

So are we ready?

I think so. I think readers don't want politics and don't want preaching. Instead, they want stories of bravery, heroism and selfless service.  Sarah Brown at the most excellent Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix nails it when she says, “You have admiration for these elite soldiers, and they’re doing heroic things, and you don’t have to wade into the politics of anything,” she said. “People feel they’re reading about the war, but it’s not as hard to swallow. How many books can you read about how we shouldn’t be there, or how we got there, or the history of the Taliban?”

Check. Check.Check.
Me in 1994 firing an SA10 in a Papua New Guinea

Both SEAL Team 666 and Babylon Smiles are politics free. They are books about people-- people who place themselves in situations so that you don't have to. SEAL Team 666 is also a book about the possibility of a supernatural darkness that hates us and wants us gone. Yeah, if  I needed someone to protect me from this sort of boogyman, I'd want a U.S. Navy SEAL. And in the case of 666, they are a group of special operators that have been protecting us since before the American Revolution.

Thank gosh they had our backs all this time.

So are you ready for it?

------------------
What people are saying about SEAL Team 666:



"SEAL TEAM 666 is like X-Files written by Tom Clancy: ingenious, creepy, and entertaining." -- Kevin J. Anderson, #1 international bestselling author of DEATH WARMED OVER

"SEAL TEAM 666 is a wild blend of nail-biting thriller action and out-of-the shadows horror. This is the supernatural thriller at its most dynamic. Perfect!"
-Jonathan Maberry, NY Times bestselling author of DEAD OF NIGHT and THE KING OF PLAGUES

"The supernatural isn’t just in the old house across the street anymore. Even the supernatural has it’s own division of terrorist. Thank goodness we have our defenders-- SEAL Team 666, a special military unit that protects us from supernatural threats." - Joe R. Lansdale

"Weston Ochse has always been a wised-up, clued-in, completely trustworthy writer of high-action fiction that deserved a wider audience, and SEAL TEAM 666 is his breakthrough book. Here, every story-line is as taut as a gunfighter's nerves, and individual scenes pop like firecrackers. I raced through this novel and when it ended, I wanted more."
- Peter Straub

Count Gore Gives Me Two Fangs to the Gut

For those of you who don't know who Count Gore de Vol is:

Count Gore De Vol is a television horror host who originally appeared on Washington, DC's WDCA from 1973 to 1987.[1] Originally named M. T. Graves and played by announcer Dick Dyszel, the character first appeared on the WDCA version of the Bozo the Clown program. When the character got a positive reaction, he was given his own program called Creature Feature. The choice of Gore De Vol as the character's name was either a pun involving the name of acerbic author Gore Vidal or the name of a prominent Washington D.C. funeral home, "De Vol." Gore De Vol became the Washington/Baltimore area's longest running horror host, broadcast every Saturday night on WDCA from March 1973 to May 1987.[2] He returned to the DC airwaves for a one-time special, Countdown with the Count, on New Year's Eve 1999/2000 (Cite). 



I first met Count Gore at Horrorfind, I think. What a personality! You definitely know when he's in the room.
(Check out that coffin. Is that Vampirella on the roof? No wonder he likes to sleep in one of those.)

Well, as it turns out, he finally leveled his fiery gaze on me and reviewed Blood Ocean and Multiplex Fandango. When I found out, I was terribly worried. I mean, Count Gore reviews are as coveted as rare gem.

MULTIPLEX FANDANGO: "Stoker winner and Pushcart nominee, Mr. Ochse hits the horror fan's sweet spot dead-bang with MULTIPLEX FANDANGO, which is currently a most worthy contender for the 2011 Bram Stoker award for best single-author collection... an enormous depth of heart and craft truly holds this collection together." Click Here for the Review.

BLOOD OCEAN: "Here's a terrific heart-thumper of a novel, a science fiction action-thriller set in the times following a horrific plague... filled with fascinating Hawaiian history, lore and cultural touchstones, Mr. Ochse has constructed a streamlined thrill machine for discerning readers with a penchant for rip-roaring adventure." Click Here for the Review.

Thank you Count Gore and your minions.




Saturday, March 17, 2012

Conventions, Friends and er... Band Camp

Two things happened last weekend that opened my eyes a bit.

I spent last Saturday and Sunday with 100,000 of my closest fans and friends at the Tuscon Festival of Books. Most folks know me as a dark fantasy author, but with Velvet Dogma and Blood Ocean, I think I've taken some strides towards being a science fiction author. Add to that SEAL Team 666 which is a supernatural military thriller, well,  one could argue I'm a supernatural military thriller author too. I know, I know. Those are just labels. Bear with me. I guess I'm as guilty as the next person when it comes to labels. I think I've sort of pigeon-holed myself into treating myself as a horror author, when I'm so much more.

Simon Wood
The first thing is that I bumped into Simon Wood this weekend. We've been friends for ten years. He started out as a horror writer, but has since been writing mysteries. He has five novels out and is striding towards the big time. I'm so proud of him. I've missed seeing him at horror conventions. Even though he has a pseudo of Simon Janus who writes horror fiction, he spends time in the places he needs to... probably with all of his mystery authors.

So I counted on my fingers the conventions I've attended in the last five years that weren't horror or weren't multi-genre. After I got done counting I came up with ZERO.

The second thing that happened is sort of odd to me. I'm normally the center or near the center of attention. It's just who I am. I'm energetic, gregarious and love to talk. This usually pushes me centerward, but this weekend, on several occasions, I found myself on the outside looking in. It was almost like when I was in high school, sometimes, where everyone had grown up with each other and or went to church with each other so they had a deeper bond than just old me and more to talk about.

So here's what happened. I spent time with Sam Sykes (Fantasy author I've met on several occasions), Kevin Hearne (a new urban fantasy author who I just met), Maria Dahvana Headley (an historical fiction author I'd just met) and Cherie Priest (urban fantasy/steampunk/empress of chattanooga whom I've Facebooked a few times because of our Chattanooga connection).  All four seem to be terrific people, open, engaging, talented. They know each other, either in pairs, or all together, and had clearly spent time talking to each other on other occasions. Eager to say hi and take my place at the center of all things, I joined them in the authors green room at the Tucson Festival of Books. They welcomed me, they included me, but they talked about things and people and places I wasn't part of. Why is that? Because of that big fat zero up there.

I really need to get out more. I need to make friends with more people. I need to go to conventions where the predominant T-shirt color isn't black. I know. Most of you all already know this. You're rolling your eyes going, Jeesh that guy is slooow.

Yep. That's me. I admit it. I'm slooow.

And it's not that I want to be at the center of things. No. I just want to make more friends. These look to be terrific people and I want to be able to talk to them. There are other people out there I want to be able to talk too as well. And to do that, I'll need to get out there so we can share experiences.  My whole, "When I was at a horror convention" reads like "When I was at band camp."

When I get back from Afghanistan next year, I'll have a list of places I want to go. I pledge that at least half of them will be conventions I've never been to before.

I'm going to improve myself.

Hell, I deserve it.

And oh yeah, my next convention is going to be LepreCon - Arizona's annual science fiction and fantasy convention with an emphasis on art. You'll note that the word 'horror' doesn't exist anywhere in there.

Double oh yeah - I've been asked to do the convention interview for none other than Joe Haldeman, of whom I am in utter awe.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Best in the Series - Science Fiction Review

Don Damassa's review of Blood Ocean can be found here.

"There's a fair amount of quasi-martial arts violence and a moderately puzzling mystery, but the real merit of this particular novel is the fine writing and the evocation of the protagonist's subculture. The best in this series that I've read so far."

To put that in perspective, this is the eleventh book set in the Afterblight Universe. Here's what I said in my last primer where I described trying to be a part of it early on:

As promised, here is your third and final primer for Blood Ocean. If you haven't read the first one, which discusses the Pali Boys, you can find it here. And if you haven't read the second one, which discusses character and setting, you can find that here

So why did I write this? I mean besides the fact that I'm getting paid a fine sum of English pounds with worldwide distribution of a beautiful-looking paperback book. I can't include that in my reasons, because I never knew any of that when I first pitched Abaddon when they first started out way back when.

I don't know where I was at the time, but I do remember that I heard about a new publishing house called Abaddon Books and asked for their bible about Afterblight. I sent a quick pitch, and I mean quick, and I got back an email from Jon Oliver, then Editor-in-Chief of Abaddon, now Editor-in-Chief of both Abaddon and Solaris, that he was intrigued about the idea and would I send him a full pitch, which has a sample chapter as well as a chapter by chapter outline. So I found myself working on this for about a month. In fact, I finished the pitch while I was in a hotel room in Alexandria, Virginia, working on my laptop while the Steelers beat the Colts in the Superbowl.

My pitch at that time was about Native Americans in the Southwest, who must team up with an L.A. gang of biker samurai to fight off the Radiant Dawn - the white folks who want their blood. It was a damn good pitch. I sooo wanted to write that book. But the problem was that every Tom, Dick and English Harry submitted a pitch about Native Americans too.

Needless to say they didn't need me.

So I did what every other writer would do in my shoes... I sulked and wrote something else.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Blood Ocean Bracketology (Road to the Final Four)

I'm a big fan of March Madness. I love college basketball. Well, really I love watching Tennessee Vols college basketball. But with the NCAA looking into possible violations last year and the loss of their top ten coach and two best players, this year was a tough year to be a fan. Still I watched my team and had Tennessee won one more game, they might have been in the Big Dance (what us fans call the NCAA College Basketball Tournament). Instead, they are in the Little Dance, a regional Number 1 seed in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT or the also rans).


But Irony of Ironies, where my basketball team didn't make the bracket for the Big Dance, Blood Ocean did.

Fantastic Reviews did this. I guess what happened is they receive so many books that they can't review them all, so they created the Battle of Books. Here are the official rules:

Every 16 review copies we get will be placed in a bracket.

For the first round, the Fantastic Reviews judge (usually me, Aaron Hughes) will read the opening 25 pages of both books. The winner will be the book I most want to continue reading (not necessarily the better book -- how would I even know that after only 25 pages?). The winners advance to the second round.

For the second round, I will read through page 50. The winners advance to the semifinals.

For the semifinals, I will read through page 100.

For the finals, I will read through page 200.

The winner of each bracket will be read completely and reviewed at Fantastic Reviews.

At the end of 2012, the judges' favorite book out of all the winners will be named Fantastic Reviews Battle of the Books Champion.


This is an odd but somewhat cool sort of review. I'm looking forward to it. I'm crossing my fingers. I hope Blood Ocean does better than the Vols.

Monday, March 12, 2012

One picture a day - A Life After Death

Jamie Livingston is dead.

I never knew him.

The chance of us ever crossing paths while he was alive was as improbable as seeing the inside of the girl's gymnasium at Brown University. Yet we crossed paths after his death. A twitter led me to a page, which led me to a picture, which led me back to a page, which led me to google.
1st Pic - I wonder who she was

Jamie seemed to be quite the man.

He was born in 1956 and died in 1997 of cancer. Of immense interest is that 'between March 31, 1979 and October 25, 1997, the day of his death, he took a single picture nearly every day with a Polaroid SX-70 camera. Livingston's 'Polaroid a Day' photographic diary started at Bard College and though some photos have gone missing from the collection, 6,697 Polaroids remain. (Cite)"

According to his friend Lewis Schaffer in his March 12th eulogizing blog A Message a Dead Friend Left with 6500 Photos, Jamie never took more than one picture each day. Just one. It didn't matter what was going on. It didn't matter where he was.






1984ish - She looks so determined
I couldn't help but wonder what it was that motivated Jamie to take the pictures. Why take one picture and not another? Did he hold out as long as he could in the hopes that he'd get something cool, or did he take a snap right away and regret it when he missed something later on? Or maybe he just knew it. Maybe he was so sure it was the right picture that it him like a jolt. It seemed to me that he had an incredible amount of confidence and courage. In my writing sometimes I wait for that perfect word or idea, but maybe it was there all along. Perhaps there's something to be learned from Jamie's courage.









Bards College has his entire photo collection organized as a chronological as a set that you can see. I thought about posting the last picture, but it's just too sad. So instead I borrowed the photo from the first day of 1997, the year of his death. I look at the people in the photo and I wonder if they knew that Jamie had cancer. Clearly taken in the wee hours of the morning, right after celebrating the New Year, is that expression in their eyes one of tiredness, or is it that they've been clobbered by the inevitability of it all and know that their friend and companion won't make it through the year. The answer, of course, is a private one, but I can see a little of me in each of them.

I'm glad I followed the rabbit hole to the life of Jamie Livingston.

Jamie was quite the man.

Did I tell you he was in the circus?

I wished I'd known you Jamie.


(Btw, I was introduced to this by a simple twitter from Sarah Pinburough. Thanks Sarah.)

John Horner Jacobs on Multiplex Fandango

Where John Horner Jacobs calls me Bastard Ochse. Look! I have a new first name.

John Horner Jacobs wrote this on his blog the other day.  I used some of it during my radio and television interview. I was asked how to describe this collection. Frankly, I suck at describing my own work. So most often I go about retelling how others described my work. I thought John did a terrific job, so I used his.

Also, it's always interesting when someone tells you what their favorite stories are within a collection. Very often, it tells a lot about them as people.  Several folks have taken the time to pick 'Forever Beneath the Scorpion Tree' as one of their favorites. I wonder why that is. It's a very literary story, but it's also filled with imagery. What do you think?

Okay, here's the stolen (okay, borrowed) words of John Horner Jacobs. The original can be found here.

Back in 2003 I quit smoking. Because I was already overweight, my doctor gave me a script for a drug called Adipex, which was some sort of amphetamine or appetite killer. It helped me keep the weight off after quitting the cigarettes, but it also had some serious side effects. The most annoying of them was the anxiety that, during the course of a day, would become this persistent and overwhelming sense of imminent doom. It’s hard to explain, I’d take the pill, my heart would begin racing a short time later – and I’ll admit that it was pleasurable at times too – but it was the pervasive feeling that at any second my phone might ring and deliver to me the worst news imaginable. And I am a father.

It’s the same feeling I had reading Multiplex Fandango.
With Scarecrow Gods and Velvet Dogma, Weston OchseMultiplex Fandango, Weston Ochse proves he’s a true master of the short story form. proved that he’s a master – a brilliant fucking master – of the novel form. In


The stories begin innocuously enough, a couple finding each other in Mexico, two guards keeping watch over a rather evil rift, a crack-head looking for a fix, a young illegal immigrant making for a border crossing, a desperate father trying to get back to his homeland and family, boys fishing in summer heat. But each story – populated by real characters with the weight of history and sorrow on their backs – moves toward a realization, sometimes of doom, sometimes of redemption, with a grace and profundity that makes me somewhat jealous. This collection is terrifying and moving and thought provoking by turns. Each piece has a sense of inevitability that only the best works of fiction possess.

If I had a complaint about the collection, it’s the winking pulp b-movie sensibilities of the titles. These stories outstrip their pulp origins, each one resonating and luminous, taken in whole outweighing the sum of parts. I really can’t recommend the collection enough.

My favorites, the ones that just totally blew me away, were “The Crossing of Aldo Rey,” “Forever Beneath the Scorpion Tree,” and “Redemption Roadshow.” That bastard Ochse can go from hard as steel to delicate and sorrowful in a sentence. The prose is just brilliant.

Go ahead and sink the money into this one. It’s totally worth it. Right here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Come with me to Tucson Festival of Books


'll be at the Tucson Festival of Books tomorrow with 30,000 of my closest friends. I'm participating in a panel and will be signing books. I'll be there all day and Sunday morning. If you want to hook up, twitter me @westonochse when you get there. I should be hanging out somewhere.

THIS IS FREE! Everyone within driving distance should be here. In addition to panels and signings, there will be hundreds of events, booths, publishers, writers, artists, editors...etc.

They have a pretty phenomenal food court that will have cuisine from many of the best local restaurants, representing food from around the world.

My Panel is: What's in a Genre? Marketing and Selling an Original Idea
Multi Genre Workshop
Workshop / Sat 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Integrated Learning Center - Room 119

I'll also be at my Wife's Panel: Where the Paranormal Hits the Pavement: Urban Fantasy
Panel / Sat 1:00 PM - 02:00 PM
Integrated Learning Center - Room 150

I expect to be Tweeted!

http://tucsonfestivalofbooks.org/section/index



Monday, March 5, 2012

Open Letter to Brent Weeks

Dear Brent,

How's it going?

I'm doing pretty well. You know, working hard, but looking forward to coming home to read some good books. At the end of the day, no matter how bad it was, if there's a good book waiting for you how bad can it be? Oh yeah, and wine. Can't forget that.  Good book and good wine.

So I read your Night Angel Trilogy in 2009. Tremendous stuff. It made me a big fan. And that's no small thing. I'm very picky about my fantasy. As far as I'm concerned, my friend Steve Donaldson's work is the standard and anything not measuring up to that gets tossed across the room. And in my house, a lot of fantasy novels are tossed across the room. As a fellow author, I feel readers should be able to demonstrate their disappointment to the universe in this way. If any of my books don't meet their standards, I'd expect nothing less, although some of my limited editions could kill someone if tossed carelessly.

Christmas this year I was given two fantasy novels from my wishlist. One was yours, the other belonged to an author who shall remain nameless. Yes, his was tossed.  But the Black Prism wasn't. I held off reading it, because I wanted to be able to dedicate time to it. I was also involved in edits for two of my novels that are coming out, so I wasn't necessarily in the mood for your thoughtful prose.

But last week I read Black Prism. Let me say that you've improved with characterization to such a degree, I found myself liking each and every one. Your characterization was already good, mind you, but it's even better now. And what you did with the Prism (no spoilers here) took a lot of talent.  Good on you. And of course your magic system based on color is brilliant. I really enjoyed Black Prism.

But then I went to order the next book.

WTF, man!!??
Brent Weeks' Website

Night Angel Trilogy was published in 2008. All three books in one year. Black Prism was published in 2010. And book 2 isn't due out until September 2012? Which will probably make book 3 available in 2014? Seriously!  SERIOUSLY!

What a slacker!

Do you realize that I deploy to Afghanistan in July. If I want to read The Blinding Knife, I'm going to have to try and find a copy in the local Taliban Friends of the Library. I think I'll be a good 7,000 miles from the nearest Barnes & Nobles.

WTF, man!!??

Do me a favor. Do not put so much time between releases of you intend to write good books. It's just not cool.

One more piece of advice -- write quicker.

That's all.

Thank you.

And keep up the good prose (but write quicker).

Sincerely,
Weston


Saturday, March 3, 2012

BLOOD OCEAN Review Roundup: Or where I reinvent reading with my merciless skill

Reviews have been pouring in from sources such as the Financial Times of London to a young man who started reading again because of Blood Ocean (I'm not kidding).  Here's a short rundown--


1. Financial Times of London: I have 'Merciless Skill' says the Financial Times of London re BLOOD OCEAN:

"The plot, in which a young Hawaiian, Kavika, seeks revenge for the murder of a friend, almost takes a back seat to the multilayered, often ironic and sometimes sickeningly degenerate seaborne society depicted here with such vivid, merciless skill."

I like it that I have merciless skill! There's more at this link.


2. Abaddon Books: This is the publisher, so it's not really a review, but they did ask me a whole bunch of questions about the process of writing the book. Questions like:



Abbadon: Tell us a bit about Blood Ocean and why people should buy it. 
Weston: If it was a movie, I’d call it Road Warrior meets Battle Royale. To compare books its like if The Horseclans Books and Lord of the Flies had a Hawaiian baby and this was the result. Honestly, this is as original as they come.
The rest of the Q & A can be found here.


3.  Fantasy Nibbles: The folks over at Fantasy Nibbles gave Blood Ocean a great review. They also have a scoring system, which I'm not familiar with. Looks like algebra to me. All I know is I scored higher tha Paolini's Eldest, and equaled his first novel Eragon and it thrills me to no end that I can write better than a sixteen year old. 


This was a brilliant read, fast paced & exciting with undertones of sheer terror. Really well written. I enjoyed it immensely. I’ve not read any of the other books in The Afterblight Chronicles, but they’re now being added to my list. This works wonderfully as a standalone though.
The rest of the terrific review can be found here.  


4. Falcata Times: Another solid review. The folks over at Falcata Times are good people.


One of the things about the wonderfully inventive Afterblight series is that you can never be sure of what you’re going to get, this release being a prime example of that. Here, within this title by Weston Ochse is a story of betrayal, a tale of redemption all blended with a coming of age element set in an apocalyptic future.


The best part of the review (which can be found in its entirety here) is that the reviewer said that he/she was glad they read it. I figure with the job of reviewing books, reading can become onerous sometimes. Glad to not be that book that they HAVE to read. 


5. The Big Thrill. This is the monthly online magazine of the International Thriller Writers. They did a little piece on Blood Ocean too. It can be found here


6. And finally, there's Kevin Stewart: Here's the story. There's a new local restaurant that Yvonne and I adore called Pizzeria Mimosa. The owner had previously reached out to us because she's a horror fan. So on one occasion Yvonne brought her a copy of her first novel AfterAge and more recently I brought a copy of Empire of Salt. The owner thanked me publicly on Facebook, which was read by Kevin, who then went to Amazon, where he read the first chapter for free, then he was hooked.  Well, as it turns out, Kevin is a hard-working mechanic and doesn't have a lot of time to read fiction. In fact, he hasn't ready any fiction since 2001 - Battlefield Earth (that book is SOOO much better than the movie). But he read Blood Ocean. And now he's back in the world of reading fiction.


Blood Ocean is an incredible, and fast paced imaginative story, that will keep you reading long past your bedtime.

Kevin blogged about it and posted a review on his site and at amazon. It's a lovely story.