Saturday, August 22, 2015

Rangers Lead The Way

All the talk recently about the first two women to graduate from the US Army Ranger School made me reminisce about my time in Ranger school, 37 years ago. Where to begin. Well, it was hard. Historically the graduation rate is around 50 percent, and most quit within the first few days, which surprised me. To apply for Ranger school you have to be recommended by your cadre or your commander, plus you have to surpass the prerequisites for physical fitness and military skills. Basically, you have to convince everyone that you're the kind of demented, hard-headed kook who could make it through the nine weeks of anguish. Before you left for the school, you are briefed by recent graduates about what to expect. I remember listening to their litany of misery and asking, "Didn't you do anything fun?" The two Rangers looked at me like I'd grown an extra head. I did spend the month before I was to report for the school toughing myself up. Besides my usual routine of gym work and running, I'd take long hikes through the desert in the middle of the day with a cinder block in my backpack. I wasn't kidding about being a demented, hard-headed kook. The first days of school were what I expected. O-dark-thirty wake ups, lots of running, crawling through the mud of the infamous Worm Pit, obstacle courses, sergeants yelling, being tired all the goddamn time. When a student decided to quit, the RIs (Ranger Instructors) would pounce on the hapless soul and torment him relentlessly for the rest of the day. I didn't understand how someone could show up to the school and not realize what they were getting into.


The Ranger chow line. Even honed Ninja-killers have to eat.

Despite all the hype of "elite" training, most of what we practiced were tried-and-true infantry tactics. Except that we did them for days and nights at a stretch. As motivated as we were, because of the strain it proved tempting to slack off when we could. One embarrassing episode happened to me after we had forded a deep stream. At first opportunity we were supposed to field strip our weapons and wipe them dry. I got lazy and only toweled off the outside of my M-16 and the bolt. Later that day, an RI at random asked to see my rifle. Upon field-stripping it he discovered water dripping from the firing pin. He shamed me mercilessly in front of my Ranger buddies but thankfully didn't write me up.
 
The press loves photos of Ranger students rock climbing and rappelling during the Mountain Phase because it makes for good copy. I had some mountaineering experience so I didn't think that particular training was so strenuous. What did kick my ass were the mountain patrols. Those Georgia hills might not be as tall as the Rocky Mountains but they're more than impressive enough and go on and on and on. Plus they're covered with mountain laurel that would snag our rucksacks and radio antennas, whip the back of our heads, and stab us in the face. To test our daredevil mettle, my platoon parachuted twice into tiny drop zones surrounded by menacing pines, once at night. Between phases we'd get a break lasting eight to twelve hours. After hustling rides into nearby Columbus, Georgia, we would drop off our dirty uniforms at a laundry, visit a steakhouse and shovel food down our throats, pick up our clothes, and rush to the barracks for some lusted-for rack time. Mother Nature cut us slack during the notorious Swamp Phase as Florida that summer suffered a prolonged drought. The swamps and creeks had dried to trickles, forcing the alligators to vamoose for wetter terrain and leaving us plenty of dry ground to tramp over. But the Yellow River had grown so shallow that we had to drag our rubber rafts as often as we rode in them. And yet, every afternoon like clockwork, a thunderstorm would pound the area. To avoid lighting strikes--which have killed Rangers--we'd pile our gear in a heap, lay at a distance in groups of one, and get soaked as we waited for the storm to pass. The RIs advised us to not wear underwear so as to prevent crotch rot; we were going commando during commando training--how meta is that! When on patrol we'd get one C-ration per day (a normal daily ration is three) and would consume everything in that little box. We'd chew the instant coffee to stay awake (didn't work) and ate the creamer because we convinced ourselves it tasted like cotton candy. The big trial was getting a passing grade on the patrols, basically a small-unit operation--a raid, an ambush, a reconnaissance--which is what Ranger school is fundamentally about. If you got lost, you failed the patrol. If you misplaced equipment, you failed. If your team missed the rally points, you failed. If you didn't orchestrate a proper mission, you failed. Fail half of your patrols in any given phase and you'd be recycled or dropped. Keeping track of all these details was challenging enough in ideal conditions. Compound that with sleep deprivation and nutrition deficits and we turned into hallucinating physical wrecks. Sometimes the trance would fall over you in mid-sentence. You dreamed about food, I mean you fantasized about it like sex. Even though we had showed up for school lean and mean, we each lost 20-30 pounds. Finally, after nine weeks, my buddies and I were standing in formation to get Ranger tabs pinned to our shoulders.

So what's the big deal with Ranger school considering few of us would ever engage in small-unit operations? I guess it showed that we were willing to go the extra mile. As for women, barring them from attending Ranger school was a reminder that they are still regarded as second-class soldiers, as less than fully able to perform in any capacity, that they are judged on appearance and stereotypes instead of merit. Consider women athletes, particularly gymnasts, and they certainly have the strength and drive to make the cut. In the military we already have women fighter pilots, astronauts, submariners, divers (now that is tough training!), and combat nurses. The irony of not letting women attend special operations training is that women are deployed anyway with SEALs, Special Forces, Rangers, Marines, and Air Force special operations. Several have been killed on those missions. They have to do the job but not get all the training. So to the Army's newest Rangers, Cpt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt Shaye Haver, I say congratulations and it's been long overdue.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

5 Great Horror Movies to Rinse the Bad Taste of Ouija Away

In my ongoing effort to save you from studio horror movies cobbled together from the compressed shit of Hollywood burnouts, I bring you alternatives to OUIJA! #insteadofouija

OUIJA has hit DVD/VOD and there's nothing we can do about that but don our gas masks, hunker down and pray for dawn. A horrifying prospect, but at least we can be entertained while waiting for the fallout to subside.

Here's a few fantastic 2014 horror movie releases to make you feel like the world is still worth living...

OCULUS seems to be a secret to this day. Despite some great buzz and a truly inventive style of storytelling, bouncing back and forth in time so fast the audience is left in a constant state of unease. The story wraps itself around a rapidly deteriorating family relationship brought to the brink of insanity by the presence of a haunted mirror. And that's where things get weird. The acting is pretty above average and the horror set pieces are jarring. OCULUS wasn't my favorite film of the year, by far, but it's one that I respected more as it went on to linger in my memory.

While not technically a horror film, THE GUEST, Adam Wingard's follow-up to the immensely entertaining YOU'RE NEXT, steps in line behind other "Oh shit, we let the wrong person in our house" flicks. Dan Stevens flushes his genteel Downton Abbey-esque manners into the shitter to reek havoc on Bumfuck, Nowhere (Think The Stepfather if he had Rambo's pedigree). What's interesting about Wingard is how he plays with genre. The film is basically a thriller thrown in a blender with some conventional horror trappings and is entirely successful.

STARRY EYES showed up late to the party. I'd already crowned my clear winner of the horror movie of the year award (coming up) and was surprised to find this little indie nugget sneak in under the wire. I love a slow creepy build (ala HOUSE OF THE DEVIL) and STARRY EYES plays out in a very similar way. Set amongst a thoroughly disenchanted group of aspiring actors and filmmakers, our bored and desperate heroine will do anything--ANYTHING--to catch a break. The results are brutal. 

We went into UNDER THE SKIN pretty much blind. I'd heard that this director was touching on some of Kubrick's technical milieu and that always has me interested but I wasn't expecting the quiet horror of this film. And quiet it is, there are long stretches without any dialogue whatsoever. Scenes of Scarlet Johansson driving around Glasgow with the deadest fisheyes, truncated by some horrific scenes in the infamous "Black Room." You'll know what I mean when you see it. Ultimately, the film is an examination of what it means to be human (UNDER THE SKIN, so to speak), to be touched by pain and suffering...but with ALIENS! 

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I'd heard rumblings of THE BABADOOK rising off the various film festivals like that blurry heat vapor off a summer blacktop, but when it came time to watch it, totally unprepared for it! First things first, if you're a jump scare-type (the lowest common denominator, in my opinion), then THE BABADOOK isn't going to be for you. There's a lot going on in Jennifer Kent's astounding debut horror movie. It's as much a film about the devastating impact of grief and loss as it is a monster in the armoire flick. But when the monster does appear (in shadowy glimpses), its presence is jarring and meaningful. Yep. Meaning. There's lots of MEANING. THE BABADOOK may do that unheard of thing in the horror genre, it makes audiences think. Probably the reason it hasn't taken off here. BURN!

There you go! What were some of your favorite horror films of the past year? (If you say ANABELLE, you're dead to me). I'm always available to chat about the horror genre on twitter @mark_henry. 


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When not obsessively watching every horror movie...ever, MARK HENRY writes erotic horror, humorous urban fantasy, and young adult horror (as Daniel Marks). In his most recent erotic novella, BALUSTRADE, a couple headed for divorce end up somewhere far worse, a marital retreat that may actually conceal the gates of hell.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mark Henry: Hangin' Out at Bitten By Books Today!


I'm still in celebration mode over the release of BEACH BLANKET BLOODBATH, so I'll be at Bitten by Books today, chatting like a crazy person. Head on over there! Unless you hate FREE STUFF.

There'll be videos, readings and a chance to win gift cards and a copy of PARTS and WRECK! Click here to get in on the fun!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Beach Blanket Bloodbath Hits Da Skreets





BEACH BLANKET BLOODBATH hit the streets over the weekend, two days early (believe me, I was just as surprised as anyone). And it's already hitting the lists (#12 in Satire, #55 in Urban Fantasy).

Here's what's the dillio: 

Zombie socialite, Amanda Feral, and her undead friends, Wendy and Gil, shamble into an idyllic seaside village for an event promoting Amanda's memoir, HAPPY HOUR OF THE DAMNED and, as usual, to get some rest, relaxation and consume cute coastal townsfolk. As is their unique luck, plans are derailed when they become embroiled in a gory mystery at the Miss Sand Flea Pageant. Beset with perky, sinister go-go dancers, the inevitable wereshark attack and an annoying octogenarian writer, Amanda must, once again, take time out of her busy schedule of critique and ridicule to solve the crime and save a local bookseller from ruin.

You can pick it up now (except not at B&N or iBooks, because ::shrug:: I have no idea why they're so slow)...






To celebrate the release, I'm throwing a huge three day LAUNCH BASH on Facebook. If you've never attended one of these, I can only describe it all out debauchery! Tons of authors hosting chats and doing giveaways and me playing drunken host/DJ/bartender. So mark your calendars! Swing by any or all of the chats and comment to be entered into the contests!

Who'll be there? Here's the list:

Mario AcevedoMichele BardsleyDakota CassidyDelilah S. Dawson,Renee GeorgeJess HainesLiliana HartJodi LintonNicole PeelerRobyn Peterman ZahnSusannah ScottSamantha SommersbyJeanne C. Stein,Jeff StrandJaye Wells, and Sabrina York

It all starts at 10 AM pacific time! So be there or be zombie food.

And for those of y'all that are already playing the home game (i.e., the Blowout over on FB)...here's that PRIZE FORM!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Help promote some gargoyle-y goodness and get some cool swag from yours truly!

Some of you know me as America’s Favorite Lower Midlist Urban Fantasy Author ™, the author of both the Simon Canderous paranormal detective and Spellmason Chronicles series.
Yes, it’s that time of year again, where we talk about my next book the upcoming 9/24/13 release of Stonecast, book two of The Spellmason Chronicles
Here’s where I dare to dream about growing my readership and possibly becoming an Upper Midlist author! 
Fact:  I have awesome readers
Fact:  Hearing their love for my books is also awesome, sometimes bringing me to tears
Fact:  I use awesome too much
Fact:  Despite the enthusiasm of my readers, the book world at large has little-to-no idea that my books exists
So for the pending launch of Stonecast, I decided to utilize my greatest promotional tool (short of bankrupting myself running an ad in USA Today).
Those tools are YOU, people.  Yes, you are all tools! 
Perhaps I should rephrase that…
Loyal readers:  your numbers may be small, but I have no doubt that you are mighty, and now I call upon your powers of mighty mightiness!
Hence, I’ve created the Stonecast Street Team, and I want you to join it.
What’s in it for you, you ask, oh savvy reader?  I’m glad you asked.
In exchange for your promotional powers and undying allegiance (listed below), you will receive this.
As part of our binding—and possibly demonic—contract, you will receive the following to aid in your efforts spreading the love of all things Strout:
-the awesomest of swag according to San Diego Comic Con attendeeds, the beloved and much coveted Ace Roc tote bags.  Use it wisely, perhaps to carry all the other items around as you assail your friends and strangers with urbanly fantasical knowledge of yours truly
-bookmarks for the upcoming release of Stonecast.  Spread the love, people!  If you’ve got a local bookstore, promise to drop some off.  If you’re going to a convention, leave some on the giveaway tables.  Give them to strangers you see reading.  Share them with your friends. 
-a variety of backlist bookmarks:  I’ve got promotional bookmarks and postcards for both the Simon Canderous series as well as for Alchemystic. Share them with the same ferocity that an ebloa monkey shares its virus! (No biting other readers, please)
-a handful of shiny, hypnotic buttons:  You will receive a mix of Alchemystic “Get Stoned” or Stonecast “Books are enchanting!” buttons.  Keep one for yourself, but again, share with the unconverted non-believers!
-depending on supply, you will receive at least one copy of the first book of either of my two series.  Now don’t be greedy with it.  You must promise to give it away to another enthusiastic reader to share your love of either Simon Canderous or The Spellmason Chronicles.  We want new readers in our army, and the first hit is free!
-a Stonecast miniposter, signed by yours truly!  Like a Tiger Beat pin up, display it proudly in your home, your office, your cubicle, the taxi you drive, the elevator you take, the ship you sail… you get the idea.
-several letters of introduction:  To win over your fellow readers, you’ll be able to hand out a humorous, handy checklist where I introduce myself to them, hopefully enticing the recipient into reading one and/or all of my books
 What do I ask for in return?  Well, some of it I listed with the items above, but there are a few other things that I’d like you to promise to do in exchange for your bag of goodies as we near the on sale date of 9/24: 
-         Tweet, tweet and retweet: Over at @antonstrout on twitter, I’ll no doubt be plugging Stonecast. I try not to be too annoying about it, so you try to not be annoying either, but the more of my tweets that get retweeted, the more spread out the word will be.
-         Facebookage:  I ask that you share the things I post to my Anton Strout author page.  I promise to be engaging and funny, and you promise to share like the dancing monkeys you are!  No doubt the book covers, lolcat memes, and exploitation of my newborn twins will be the focus of my promotional efforts.
-         Blogs:  If you have a blog, cover me-the books, my life as an author, my sordid sex scandals.  I’ll answer whatever poignant and/or stupid questions you have.
-         Podcasts:  If you have a favorite podcast or host one, I’d love to be on it.  Pitch me to them or give me their information and I’ll see what I can set up.
-         Review it: Love Stonecast? Hate Stonecast? Doesn’t matter… do it!  Books need reviews to feed the beast that are the determination engines on the internet. The more, the better as it feeds the secret fires that get my books better coverage.  For your part, you must promise to review it however you will with your varying degrees of love/hatred on at least two of the three venues:  AmazonB&N, or Goodreads.  If you want to go crazy and do all three or others I haven’t mentioned, that would just be like extra sprinkles on an already delicious Sunday.
Now, listen:  I’m putting this together myself.  Rather than spending money on ads that may or may not work, I’m spending it getting all this stuff together and letting the enthusiasm you’ve already graciously shown me do its work. 
 This isn’t an opportunity for hoarders. Yes, getting free stuff is awesome, but not if it sits in your house going to waste.  You need to be participatory in order to enter into our mutual pact here.
 What I’d really like to happen is that we really go forth and spread the word about the books I love writing to the unwashed and clueless heathens who haven’t yet joined the movement.
 How do you get on board to get your own bag of swag? Just email your friendly neighborhood author at anton.strout@gmail.com with the subject line “Spellmason Chronicles Street Team”.  Please include your address (U.S. Residents only) and why you should be included in my share the love shenanigans.  I’ll keeping sending out what I can until the well runs dry here.
 I humbly thank each and every one of you for joining me in this.  Let’s get the enthusiastic word out there about the release of Stonecast, shall we?  I sincerely look forward to hearing from you.
 Best,
Anton

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Carniepunk Giveaway and Tour!

So, I'm sitting in my kitchen working at my laptop, as far as you know, when the doorbell rings. As any normal human being would, assuming there was a solicitor at the door or a sappy-eyed child selling diet-busting candy, I reached for my gun and slipped to the floor to avoid detection. Creeping across the hall, I lifted my head just in time to see the bestest shit-brown truck that ever existed barrel away leaving a puffy beige package on my doorstep, just like an unwanted baby...or THIS...
photo
YESSSSSSS!!! Carniepunk ARCs came!!! Now, some of you may know that this literary wonder was the brainchild of my friend and fellow Reluctant Adult, Kevin Hearne, author of such Iron Druidness as HOUNDED and star of a certain Single Ladies Dance Spectacular, featured here (feel free to witness that particular madness as you continue to read toward the inevitable contest):



As excited as I am about my story in CARNIEPUNK (July 23rd), THE SWEETER THE JUICE (a post-apocalyptic zombie horror-comedy, with drug-addicted trannies and port wine stains), I'm just happy that this beast of a book will soon be in the hands of our friends and fans! As I was saying, Kevin brought this up quite a while ago and was diligent in making it happen. Much more than I would have been, because...wait, what, celebrity gossip? Distractible is the word you're looking for. 

Anyway, as many of the League of Reluctant Adults as could make the time (Kevin and myself, Jackie Kessler, Kelly Meding, Allison Pang, Nicole Peeler, and Jaye Wells) and some other fun folks (Rachel Caine, Kelly Gay, Hilary Jacques, Delilah S. Dawson) offered up stories and time and lickety split (I don't know what that means, but it sounds dirty) and with the help of Suzie Townshend, agent provacateur, the anthology was snapped up by the lovely and talented Adam Wilson over at Simon and Schuster, some other folks joined on (Seanan Maguire, Jennifer Estep, Rob Thurman) and now it's in my sweaty palms, pages puffing with moisture. 

 You want it? Well, I'll tell you how to go about that little miracle in a sec, but first...a TOUR! So excited are we that you'll be able to read this treasury of weird that we've organized a very brief regional tour. TEXAS to be exact. Me, Jaye Wells (Red-Headed Stepchild), Nicole Peeler (Tempest Rising), Kevin Hearne (Hounded) and Liliana Hart (Breath of Fire) will be visiting barbecue joints, roadhouses and occasionally a bookstore for signings. You can read all about that on our event's facebook page! Go there and invite your Texan friends now (as that's part of the contest). Don't worry, there are lots of parts to the contest so you'll get your shot even if you pussy out on helping our little tour be a success. No worries, we hate it when people come to see us, preferring rather to stare blankly into quiet spaces while our books gather dust... Sorry. 

 Where was I? Ah yes, contest. Simply use the rafflecopter widget below to enter and follow us and do all that shit and you could WIN! The contest is open internationally and will go for a couple of weeks. I'll announce the winner on May 6th! Now get to it! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 14, 2012

CarniePunk!

So if you haven't heard by now, the CarniePunk anthology officially has a cover and a release date of July 2013!

Featuring several of our own Leaguers, we've got some delicious short urban fantasy stories for you to read!


A star-studded urban fantasy anthology featuring bestselling authors Rachel Caine, Rob Thurman, Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Estep, and Kevin Hearne, whose stories explore the creepy, mysterious, and, yes, sometimes magical world of traveling carnivals.

The traveling carnival is a leftover of a bygone era, a curiosity lurking on the outskirts of town. It is a place of contradictions—the bright lights mask the peeling paint; a carnie in greasy overalls slinks away from the direction of the Barker’s seductive call. It is a place of illusion—is that woman’s beard real? How can she live locked in that watery box?

And while many are tricked by sleight of hand, there are hints of something truly magical going on. One must remain alert and learn quickly the unwritten rules of this dark show. To beat the carnival, one had better have either a whole lot of luck or a whole lot of guns—or maybe some magic of one’s own.

Featuring stories grotesque and comical, outrageous and action-packed, Carniepunk is the first anthology to channel the energy and attitude of urban fantasy into the bizarre world of creaking machinery, twisted myths, and vivid new magic.

OOO


Rachel Caine is the New York Times bestselling author of the Morganville Vampires series, the Weather Warden series, the Outcast Season series, and the new Revivalist series!

Delilah S. Dawson is an artist and an associate editor on CoolMomPicks.com. She lives with her family in Atlanta, where she is currently writing the next Blud novel.

Jennifer Estep is the New York Times bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series for Pocket Books and also writes the Mythos Academy young adult series.

Kelly Gay is the author of an urban fantasy series featuring Charlie Madigan. A two-time RITA Award finalist, she resides in North Carolina.

Mark Henry is an adult urban fantasist, comedic horror writer and unrepentant smart-ass. His work has been translated into garbled slurs by notable alcoholics. He lives on the fringe of Seattle society with his saintly wife and assorted hairy monsters.

Hillary Jacques is an up-late, Alaska-based author of speculative fiction. Her romantic urban fantasy Night Runner series is published under pen name Regan Summers.

Jackie Kessler writes about demons, angels, superheroes, supervillains, and, in her semi-secret identity as a YA author, Riders of the Apocalypse. She lives near Albany, NY, with her Loving Husband and Precious Little Tax Deductions.

Seanan McGuire is the New York Times bestselling author of the InCryptid series and the October Daye series, which earned her the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2010. The Newsflesh trilogy, published under the pseudonym Mira Grant, earned her the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2011.

Kelly Meding was born and raised in Southern Delaware and discovered Freddy Krueger at a very young age, and has since had a lifelong obsession with horror, science fiction, and fantasy. She writes the Dreg City urban fantasy series and the superhero-based MetaWars series.

Allison Pang, a biologist in a former life, spends her days in northern Virginia working as a cube grunt and her nights waiting on her kids and cats, punctuated by an occasional husbandly serenade. Sometimes she even manages to write. Mostly she just makes it up as she goes. She loves Hello Kitty, sparkly shoes, and gorgeous violinists.

Nicole D. Peeler resides outside Pittsburgh to teach in Seton Hill’s MFA in Popular Fiction. When she’s not in the classroom infecting young minds with her madness, she’s writing manga and the Jane True urban fantasy series.

Rob Thurman is the New York Times bestselling author of the supernatural thriller All Seeing Eye, the gritty urban fantasy Cal Leandros series, the Trickster Novels, and standalone thriller-suspense novels.

Jaye Wells is a USA Today-bestselling author of urban fantasy novels about magical vampires and junky wizards. She loves to travel, drink bourbon and do things that scare her. Jaye lives in Texas.




Who the HELL Do We Think We Are?

We're a bunch of paranormal romance and urban fantasy authors who occasionally blog, make filthy jokes and prowl the halls of conferences and conventions with switchblades!

Current roster: Mario Acevedo, Michele Bardsley, Sonya Bateman, Dakota Cassidy, Carolyn Crane, Molly Harper, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Stacia Kane, Jackie Kessler, J.F. Lewis, Daniel Marks, Richelle Mead, Kelly Meding, Allison Pang, Nicole Peeler, Kat Richardson, Michelle Rowen, Diana Rowland, Jeanne C. Stein, K.A. Stewart, Anton Strout, and Jaye Wells

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