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.

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