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.

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!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Poisoned Pen Book Signing for Grunt Traitor

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The Poisoned Pen Bookstore will host Weston Ochse for a signing, reading, and conversation on Sunday, December 6th at 2 PM. Weston is a military veteran with 30 years experience and will be signing copies of Grunt Life, Grunt Traitor, SEAL Team 666, Age of Blood, Reign of Evil and FUBAR. This will also mark the first signing and appearance of his book, Red Palm, which is set in the shared-world Apocalypse Weird Universe. For those who would like to attend or order a signed copy in advance, please contact The Poisoned Pen at 4014 N Goldwater Blvd #101, Scottsdale, AZ 85251 or 480-947-2974.

The Poisoned Pen Bookstore, founded in 1989 by Barbara G. Peters, is an independent bookstore specializing in fiction. Discover with us current and classic works of mystery, thrillers, historical and literary fiction, and literature of the American Southwest, much of it offered in Autographed First Editions and imports. Our Book Clubs bring exciting new work right to your door. Located in Old Town Scottsdale’s Art District, The Pen is celebrated for its schedule of author and literary events and its global outreach through webcasts and worldwide shipping. 

If you haven't been to Old Town Scottsdale, this is a great opportunity to go. Lots of good restaurants. I especially like the Cornish Pasty Company which is right next to the bookstore. Check out their menu. If you know me, you know I love the Lamb and Salmon pasties!

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

My Unlikely Potomac Convalescence

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I've been feeling a bit down lately.

I'm pretty swamped with my day job. In fact, I'm writing this from a hotel in Washington D.C. I've


had meetings all day, you know, the kind where you walk around in a suit and tie with various badges and clearances to get into this building or that building. Sometimes I don't even know where I'm going. The kind of meetings where you're looking for someone and end up lost in the basement of a building, only to enter into the set of what looks like Star Trek, but is actually Cybercom... and I wasn't even looking for it.

I've also been pretty swamped writing. I'm going 90 miles an hour with Grunt Hero. I've knocked out about 40k words so far with another 50k or 60k to go by Jan 1. I have an X-Files short story due Nov 1. I also have a video game script due Nov 2 that I've already been paid for = extra stress. Any day now I'm going to start writing a Person of Interest  (CBS\Bad Robot) novel too. Plus, I have two other stories, one which I am contracted for due Jan 1 and the other one I've been invited to be a part of anthology due Dec 1 (OMG I really want to be in this anthology because this editor hasn't invited me to anything ever).

So, you see, I'm busy.

Plus, I'm wounded. Brought low by my own hubris. I ran the Bisbee 1000 last Saturday. I was all fine after the race, but I think somewhere between the 1000 concrete stairs and the 4.5 miles, I strained my knee. As far as I can tell, I
have Runner's Knee  (Insert Big Frown Here).

Normally, when I want to get away from how swamped I am, I go out running. Here in Old Town Alexandria, I love running the cobblestone streets to the river and then along the river. It's so picturesque and peaceful. So imagine my frustration yesterday, when I dressed in running gear, put on my special extra thick soled Altra running shoes, turned on my wireless earplugs and synced them with my phone, then turned my running playlist on my phone and then secured it in my flipbelt around my waist, put on my running hat, donned my sunglasses, synced my GPS watch with the satellite and heart rate monitor, then went outside, took two running steps, then stopped, because I couldn't take another step without fear of something breaking... and of course there was the pain. It wasn't debilitating, but I knew if I took more steps, it would become so.

So I walked.

And I grumbled.

And I walked.

And I grumbled.

Eventually I found wine and was better for a time.

Because of yesterday's No Exercising, when I got back to the hotel after the day's meetings, I was determined to do something exercisy. I went across the street to the CVS and bought a knee brace. My knee was already starting to hurt a little from the day's walking-- strange that it isn't swelling, but it is hurting. Still, the moment I put on the knee brace, it felt good. Real good. I tried a few running steps, and they weren't as bad as yesterday, but I could feel that secret little twinge of pain.

So what's a guy to do?

Did you know that in addition to my hotel providing me a guppy to love every night that it also has a stable of bikes? 

So what did this guy do?

I checked out a bike



And from the minute I got on that sweet wonderful clunky rattling blue and white contraption, I had a smile on my face that couldn't be wiped away. 

The wind couldn't do it.

The gnats couldn't do it. 
This was my route.

The grumpy old man with resting bastard face sitting on the park bench growling at me couldn't do it.

The chain coming off the bike couldn't do it, nor could the grease I got on my hands and my flipbelt.

Certainly the girl in the bikini couldn't do it.

I mean I was smiling like a complete idiot. 

People might have seen me and ran the other way.

I ended up doing about 12 kilometers. I drove the the Wilson Bridge, then around the buttresses, then all the way along the Potomac through Alexandria to Dangerfield Island and then back to my hotel. There was a spot by the river where the air was so aromatic, so perfumed with honeysuckle, you wanted to hyperventilate, filling your entire system with a natural healing restorative. I wished I had a Go Pro with Smell-O-Vision just so you could feel a scintilla of the happy effervescence radiating, 

Yes, it was a healing ride. 

I'm still grinning.

Because I feel better.

I'd been feeling a bit down lately.

But not anymore.

Thanks Potomac.

Thanks Kimpton.

This is a short video to show you how cool it was.
And I'm not really sideways at the end.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Reign of Evil Finalist for New Mexico - Arizona Book Awards

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I'm once again honored to have a SEAL Team 666 novel nominated for the New Mexico - Arizona Book Awards. SEAL Team 666 was a finalist and won the award in 2013. Age of Blood was a finalist and won the award in 2014. Now with Reign of Evil poised to win the award again, the books are poised to do a clean sweep.

I am so happy that the awards presenters and judges love these books. I know a lot of you love them as well, so it's nice to see your love getting the credit it deserves.

The only difference between this year and years past is that the book is in a different category. While in 2013 and 2014 it was in the Sci Fi Fantasy Category, this year it is in the Adventure Drama Category. Let's hope that the judges in this new category love the SEALs as much as the previous judges.

Here's the full category finalists. Best of luck to everyone involved. Writing and being published is such hard work. Everyone deserves to win.


Standing proud at the ceremony in Albuquerque
Fiction – adventure or drama

The Big Wheel
Jones, Scott Archer
Southern Yellow Pine Publishing

The Height of Secrecy
Mitchell, J.M.
Prairie Plum Press

Reign of Evil
Ochse, Weston
St Martin’s Press


Sparky and the King
Baldwin, Dan
Four Knights Press

What the Owl Saw
McFarland, Gerald
Sunstone Press

Zorn and Grayall Find Murder By The Way
Chanda, Val

Wasteland Press



For the full list of finalist books and all categories, 
go to the NM - AZ Book Award Page

Yvonne and I will be attending the awards in Albuquerque this year.

And thank you to Thomas Dunne of Thomas Dunne Books for publishing the SEAL Team 666 Series!!! 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Major Announcement - Weston Ochse to Pen Person of Interest Novel

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Hey Grunts!

I've just been contracted to write a Person of Interest novel. This is going to be my first media tie in. I'm really thrilled that, not only am I breaking new ground, but that it's such an awesome show. The book will be published by Titan.


For those of you not familiar with the show. It's produced by Kilter Films, Bad Robot, and Warner Brothers and appears on CBS. Person of Interest is about to go into its fifth season and is doing remarkably well.  Here's the low down skinny:

Person of Interest is an American science fiction crime drama television series created by Jonathan Nolan that premiered on September 22, 2011, on CBS. It is executive produced by Nolan, alongside J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, and Greg Plageman. It stars Jim Caviezel as John Reese, a former CIA agent who is presumed dead. He is approached by a mysterious billionaire named Harold Finch (Michael Emerson), who is trying to prevent violent crimes before they happen by using an advanced surveillance system dubbed "The Machine", which turns out to have evolved into a sentient AI. Their unique brand of vigilante justice attracts the attention of two NYPD officers, Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson) and Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman), whom Reese uses to his advantage as he investigates persons of interest. [Wikipedia]

So far there isn't a title for the novel, but it is due to hit bookstore shelves in June of 2016. I'll share more information as I know it.

Let me ask you. What's your favorite episode and why?

I'm leaning towards Root (Season Two).

Grunt Traitor Book Signing and Chat - Mostly Books

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Hey you Grunts!

My first local signing and chat for Grunt Traitor is right around the corner (Saturday, Sep 19 from 3:30 - 4:30). It will be hosted by the fine people at Mostly Books on East Speedway Blvd. The way they set it up is that we chat and maybe read and definitely Q & A in the back of the store first, then sign books. I know some places just have me sign books, but this is a little different, so try and be there on time.

Really hope to see you there. This is the Tucson Weekly Article about it. 

If you want to make sure Mostly Books has one of my other books, call ahead and contact them at: 520-571-0110

What are people saying about it?


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

"Weston Ochse writes hard-nosed fiction with more grit and imagination than most authors could ever hope to muster. When he turns his skills to tales of the military, the words sing with the truth of personal experience." Christopher Golden, #1 New York Times bestselling author of SNOWBLIND

"Weston Ochse is the new voice of action science fiction." Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of CODE ZERO and FALL OF NIGHT

"Ochse writes with assurance and confidence, and that shines through in this superb military SF novel. Brutal, bloody, and brilliant." Tim Lebbon, award-winning author of Coldbrook

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

Mostly Books is in Monterey Village, 6208 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85712 (Click to go to the map)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Planet Jacked - A Grunt Traitor Essay

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I was asked to write an essay about Planet Jacking-- think Car Jacking on a global scale. It's not nice. It's not safe. And it's certainly not peaceful. When it happens, it's as violent and unexpected as a car jacking, only it happens to everyone at once.

That's what I've done with Grunt Life and Grunt Traitor.

Here's an excerpt of the essay.

I’d never really encountered the idea about terraforming until I read David Gerrold’s A Matter for Men, and boy did that scare me more than any horror novel I’d ever read. It’s one thing to have space duels with enemy ships or visitations from aliens seeking to see what we’re up to, but it’s another thing altogether when you begin showing aliens who’ve decided that they want your planet and have begun changing the entire ecosystem right out from under you. I mean, what do you do? What technology do we have to stop them?

If you want to read the rest, you can find the essay here.

Oh, and if you have the time, check out Grunt Life and Grunt Traitor. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Alien Invasion Stories from Armada to Grunt Traitor

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The Book Plank asked me to write an essay for promotion of my newest novel GRUNT TRAITOR. They told me I could write about anything. I decided since I've been working on the Grunt Trilogy for awhile that I'd write about alien invasions, especially on the heels of reading Ernest Cline's brilliant Armada.



Here's how it begins:

There’s something at once terrifying and romantic about an invasion. One wrong move could mean the destruction of everything you know and love, but in the heat of battle, there are crystalline moments in which true humanity shines. Like many military authors, I often look to history for guidance on how to write the future. I’ve always looked at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift as the perfect sort of battle to represent an alien invasion. One hundred and fifty British soldiers in a remote outpost are beset by four thousand Zulu warriors. The odds seemed impossible, yet in the end the British won the day.

The early Michael Cain movie Zulu retells this story and stands as one of my favorite military movies of all time. There are moments in the film that resonate. In the face of overwhelming attack, the sergeant major lowly commanding his men to take it easy. Right when everything seems lost, several men channeling the ridiculous still complain about having to fight and would rather go on profile. The stoicism of Michael Cain’s character in the face of implacable odds.

There’s so much about this movie and story. But overall what it tells me is that an alien invasion story isn’t about the aliens. It’s about how people react to the aliens.

If you want to read the rest, you can find the essay here.

Oh, and if you have the time, check out Grunt Life and Grunt Traitor. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Zombies in Science Fiction - Grunt Traitor Exclusive

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I was asked to write a guest blog for  Rising Shadow Dot Net. I decided it was high time to write about zombies in science fiction. After all, most of our zombies are science fiction, right? So how do you make a different zombie if so many have been done before?

Well, I did it in Grunt Traitor.

Here's a sneak peek before you go to the main article.

It all started when I read an article online in early 2013 about zombie ants. Have you heard of them? Since then, National Geographic even had a picture of one in a recent issue. The actual name for the fungus that infects the ants is Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis. It’s an entomopathogen, or insect-pathogenising fungus and totally freaking scary. Once infected, the ant leaves its normal environment, goes to the forest floor where it’s warm and humid and better for the fungus to grow, attaches itself to a leaf, then stays there for 4 – 10 days sprouting fruiting bodies the whole time until it dies and spreads its spores to infect more ants. 

Now, what if the aliens were able to take this fungus, change its cocktail of behavior-controlling chemicals to target humans, then weaponize it? How cool and devastating would that be, especially if you are a soldier who is trying to save humanity, all the while alien-zombified humans are trying to stop you?
 
 Does it make me a bad man to say I delighted in doing this to my fellow humans?

HA!


Oh, and if you have the time, check out Grunt Life and Grunt Traitor. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Grunt Traitor Came Out Screaming - The Problem With Second Acts

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GRUNT TRAITOR was born yesterday shortly after midnight. Weighing 7.8 ounces and running 432 pages, this brand new baby book came out screaming. Screaming because it was happy to be alive, but also screaming because it knew at once it needed to live up to it's older brother GRUNT LIFE and it was afraid it wouldn't be able.

This is my 26th literary child and I love this one as much as I loved the first. It's funny, though. I always feel my greatest achievement is writing the book. The publishing of it always seems so anticlimactic. But then someone comes along and comments on my baby and it makes me realize that it's no longer just my creation. It's been let loose in the world and now belongs to everyone. 

Grunt Traitor has a tough road to walk. It's the second book in a series. It's a sequel to a fan favorite - Grunt Life. While people might want to buy Grunt Traitor, they're hesitant. I get that. I feel the same way too and sometimes it seems too much effort to go back and read the first book. I mean, what if I buy it and don't like it?

For the author, a second book represents tremendous danger. The strength of sales of this second book are going to dictate what the publisher's plans are for the series and the author. Stale sales of a second book can easily cause a series to be cancelled, or no further contracts offered. 

So it's really up to the author to write a hell of a second book. In fact, the author really needs to have a plan. Let me explain, but first read Deborah J. Ross, who explains the middle book syndrome excellently.  

"Middle books present particular challenges that reflect whether they are truly the second of three parts or whether they are “the continuing adventures” of a successful-but-complete first book. A trilogy is like a three-act structure, only on steroids. The whole work gets fractal, if I’m using that term correctly. Overall, you have three books, but each book has a three-act or four-act architecture within it. And each scene has its own buildup and partial resolution of tension, etc."

 Not only must an author successfully create a three act arc over the space of three books, but the author must create one which continually captivates the readers. This overarching arc represents the cohesive tension the author creates to link each book. It's not just enough to have the second book be the continuing adventures of. Somehow the second book has to have an intrinsic value. It has to answer unanswered questions posed in the first book, but leave enough unanswered to allow for opportunities in the third book. Doing this without making the second book feel incomplete is tremendously difficult.

Thankfully, I knew this going into it. I'd done my homework. I knew that there were some great authors out there who'd had problems with second novels.

Working on the sequel to Shipbreaker, Paolo Bacigalupi said, “It felt like I was writing a sequel for a sequel’s sake, rather than because there was a story that felt immediate and necessary and that required the canvas of a multi-book series.”

So I had to have a plan. And I had one. You see, I'd failed in this before so I'd began formulating the plot for the second book even before I finished the first book. I think this was hugely important. Writing a sequel for a stand alone novel is too hard, because if the author is doing his or her job well, then all loose ends have been tied up. My job when writing the first book was to determine what loose ends to tie and which ones to leave alone. Too much and the reader feels cheated.

By planning the second book as I was writing the first, I gave myself an incredible head start. I was able to hit the literary landscape running, continuing the overarching three act arch of the trilogy, while also concentrating on the three act structure belonging to the second book. This is a mistake I made in my SEAL Team 666 trilogy from Thomas Dunne Books. Each of the three excellent books was a complete stand alone novel. I didn't have any overarching problem or situation. Think X-Files and Cancer Man. Even though Mulder and Scully would wrap up an investigation each episode,  there was always a bigger problem to solve-- a greater mystery.

In Grunt Life I established that there was an alien invasion. Not a big spoiler, but the aliens did invade and they kicked humanity's ass. In Grunt Traitor they are still kicking our ass. The thing is, though, we don't know who they are or why they've come. Not once was there a broadcast from the alien commander telling us why. It was as if we were ants and an intergalactic foot stomped on us-- which is how I think an alien invasion would take place, if we ever have one (fingers crossed it doesn't happen because I have plans).
Was I successful? I suppose you'll be the judge. Sales will be the footnote for my success or failure. I've had a tremendous outpouring of well wishes and people who said they bought copies. But will this be enough? 

Gosh, I hope so, because in this case I did everything right. Now it's up to the bookstores and salesmen and fans to hand sell my books by word of mouth.

The thing is, I'm read to write the third book -- Grunt Hero. Grunt Traitor wrapped up well, but there are still some unanswered questions. I'm hoping that the audience will hang around long enough to find it out, because I'm doing something that has never been done before and I want to hear the collective jaw-drops when everyone finally finds out.


To get your own copy of Grunt Traitor go to this link and choose your bookseller.

PRAISE FOR GRUNT TRAITOR AND GRUNT LIFE

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

"Weston Ochse writes hard-nosed fiction with more grit and imagination than most authors could ever hope to muster. When he turns his skills to tales of the military, the words sing with the truth of personal experience." Christopher Golden, #1 New York Times bestselling author of SNOWBLIND

"Weston Ochse is the new voice of action science fiction." Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of CODE ZERO and FALL OF NIGHT

"Ochse writes with assurance and confidence, and that shines through in this superb military SF novel. Brutal, bloody, and brilliant." Tim Lebbon, award-winning author of Coldbrook