Weston Ochse is the author of more than twenty books, most recently SEAL Team 666 and its sequels Age of Blood and Reign of Evil, which the New York Post called 'required reading' and USA Today placed on their 'New and Notable Lists.' His first novel, Scarecrow Gods, won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in First Novel and his short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has appeared in comic books, and magazines such as Cemetery Dance and Soldier of Fortune. He lives in the Arizona desert within rock throwing distance of Mexico. He is a military veteran with 30 years of military service and currently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan.

Monday, June 22, 2015

My Relationship With the Confederate Flag

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Hijacked.

Or maybe I never understood anything.

Still, let me explain my relationship with the Confederate Flag because it's complicated.

So, many of you might not know that I grew up in the South. I don't talk like a southerner, nor have I ever. I don't represent myself as a southerner. I don't live in the south, unless you count Arizona as the south, but you really shouldn't. South by direction but not South by context. The South with a capital S is really everything that was inside the Mason-Dixon Line.

Now that's settled, I want to put right out front that I am not now nor have I ever been a racist. The first woman I asked to marry me was black. It could have worked out. She was a beautiful twenty something model. I was six years old with a bright future ahead of me. Sadly, she turned me down.

Growing up I was white and privileged.

I took my seventh grade class where I read the state history book about the War of Northern Agression. Of course, I knew it was the Civil War, which was about state's right, self rule, and the desire to keep owning human beings. All that I knew was bad. Terrible really.

I knew some of my friends were racists, their beliefs passed down for generations.

I heard the N word far too much for my liking.

But I also knew that the greatest number of white supremacists were in Western Pennsylvania (according to a published FBI report) and not my home state of Tennessee. The way that I saw it was that we were pulling ourselves out of the historical tidewaters onto the dry land of we're not racists and dehumanizing assholes. And the flag, the rebel flag, symbolized this.

It symbolized the notion that we Southerners were still being spurned for being Southern.

It symbolized an underdog who was misrepresented and misunderstood.

It symbolized an idea that we could unite, rise up, and overcome the hatred being flung at us from a distinctly northerly direction.

Only it didn't really symbolize any of that.

It symbolized hatred and was used--is used--to represent tired, old, backward thoughts about who should have what freedoms and who shouldn't and it pisses me off to realize this.

I used to be proud of that flag-- proud for all the reasons I thought it symbolized. But while I was proud of it for one reason, generations of racists were proud of it for another.

I remember a crystalline moment in the military. I was a corporal stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. I was the TC (track commander) of an M577 Armored Personnel Carrier. We'd called it Southern Comfort with neat stencils in front and back and a confederate flag flew on the whip antenna. I was standing on top of it one day, rolling some camouflage, and along came our brigade commander, Colonel Wesley K. Clark, who would eventually be commander of NATO Forces and an esteemed 4 Star General. The conversation went something like this.
WKC: Corporal, what is that up there you're flying?
ME: The confederate flag sir.
WKC: What's that mean to you?
ME: That we'll never give up, that we'll never lay down, that we'll keep on fighting.
WKC: (Nods his head thoughtfully) Problem is that there are a whole lot of people who wouldn't think that flag represents the things you say. They'd probably be offended.

And then he walked away. He didn't tell me to take it down. He could have, and probably would have later had I not listened to him, and removed it. He knew what it meant to others. I just hadn't figured it out yet.

Since then I've never put the flag on anything. I've never waved it nor saluted it. I still felt an old love for it, that is until now.  I guess I really never understood that racist assholes had long ago taken from me what I thought was of value. In fact, it had never been of value. I'd always been wrong. I'm sad for that because I am still proud to have grown up in the South. I'm just pissed that we can't have a flag to represent us, to represent the ideas I thought it symbolized.

Confederate Flag, this is where we part.

Good bye.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Video Review of Grunt Traitor

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All reviews are great.

But for some reason, I like video reviews even more. It's like I'm sitting across the table from the reviewer. It's personal. It's close. It's cool. The reviewer is definitely a fan, but he's also smart. I enjoyed hearing what he said. If you watch this, please support the reviewer and comment in the feed... then get your butt in gear and get a copy of the book.  Lol.




If you follow this link, you can get a free book.

http://books.simonandschuster.com/Grunt-Traitor/Weston-Ochse/9781781083581

Grunt Traitor -- Free First Chapter -- Share Everywhere

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Welcome to the first chapter of Grunt Traitor, gifted to you by me, the author, and friend of your friend who reads cool shit.


GRUNT TRAITOR
by Weston Ochse © 2014





Dedication
To Martin Cochran,
Father-in-Law, Adventurer,
Race Car Driver, Alaska Traveler,
Solice Seeker and Korean War Veteran.



We invaded ourselves first. Make no mistake about it, had the Cray not descended from the clear blue sky, we humans—as our own invasive species—would have killed ourselves off within two hundred years. Un-regulated population, pollution, water overuse, and our utter failure to shepherd intrinsically important flora and fauna would have been our crimes. Our punishment would have been starvation, suffocation, dehydration, and overpopulation. Maybe the invasion of the Cray was the best thing that could have happened to us. Maybe the advent of the Cray was our control-alt-delete. Regardless whether you believe this, we have an undeniable clean slate. What are we going to do with it? Are we going to change, or trot out the same old governments with the same old ideas?
—Excerpt from Conspiracy Theory Talk Radio,
Night Stalker Monologue #1343



PART ONE



A hero can be anyone; even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know the world hadn’t ended.
—The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan


Chapter One

The battlefield was a disorganized collage of panic and desperation, where screams of human and alien mixed in a savage orchestration of unconstrained murder. We’d run out of ammo an hour ago and were locked in hand-to-hand combat with the multi-winged, jagged-clawed alien Cray. Orders still flew across the net, but I’d long ago ceased to follow them. I had another mission.
The jaw-clenched mantra never leave a man behind fueled my muscles as they powered the leg
servos of my scratched, battered EXO across the dusty African earth. Airplane carcasses littered the landscape. A Cray hive split the sky like the devil’s middle finger. Both man and Cray crunched sickeningly beneath my titanium-coated Kevlar feet. I ignored that and everything else. Let the others fight the Cray. Let them do the impossible. I had to find Michelle. I had to find Thompson. My eyes scoured the horizon, but all I saw were the humans and bug-like Cray locked in battle, the exoskeletal hands and the multi-limbed claws of the creatures who’d ruined Earth, each seeking the fastest way to do the other in.
Never leave a man behind.
Never leave a man behind.
My HUD flashed a warning as my heart rate soared with panic. Where the hell were they? A black hole began to grow in my chest, pulling hope into its abysmal maw.
“Romeo Three, prepare to evac,” came Oliveras’s steady voice.
“Negative, Romeo Proper. We’re missing Thompson and Aquinas.” I spied an EXO trying to move and rushed towards it. The markings had worn away from a thousand Cray scratches.
“Mason, prepare to evac!”
I ignored the command, and reached the struggling figure. I helped it stand, then turned it. A grimy face, strong Irish features, wan smile: McKenzie.
“Thanks, pal. Thought I was done there for a second.”
He pushed away, stumbled a few feet, then was jerked in the air by a pair of Cray. I watched as he was lifted higher and higher, then released. He slammed into the earth, crumpling like a beer can, servo fluid and blood seeping from the shattered mess of metal.
Wait. I’d seen this before.
“Mason, get your ass back here.”
Oliveras’s command wrenched me free of my temporary paralysis. I broke into a run, ranging back across the battlefield. What had I missed? Where could they be? Then I saw it—a black box the size of a tractor trailer, sitting in the middle of an empty part of the battlefield. I headed towards it, but felt my legs slowing.
Checking my HUD, I saw my power was down to five percent.
Never leave a man behind.
I fought to move as fast as I could, but without power the EXOs were concrete suits. I was close enough now that I could see inside the black box. I slowed, then finally stopped a dozen feet away, my power at zero, my hope at zero, any chance of a future with the girl I loved at zero.
Michelle. Or what had once been Michelle.
“What have they done?” I wailed.
She hung from a pod affixed to the ceiling of the box, connected by tubes through which fluids moved in a slow soupy mix, presumably keeping her alive. She faced me, naked, the rivers of pain on her arms where she’d tried to commit suicide so long ago now stark white reminders of who she’d once been. If only that girl was still around. But she’d been turned into a horrific marionette. A hundred multicolored wires and cables ran from her shaved head to a computer terminal. I could only imagine her horror. Was she aware what had happened to her? What was it she’d said? Can you imagine? Being taken over by another entity and not being able to control your own body?
The aliens hadn’t done this to her.
We had.
My rage corrected me.
Mr. Pink had done this to her.
Her body shook and trembled. She took a great breath and raised her head, and her gaze met my own. For one brief moment, we were those same two people, reclining behind the generators, interlocked, the end of the world not even mattering, living only in each other’s eyes as we made each other laugh, cry and sing with pleasure. Then her face changed. She became sad, then angry, then enraged.
Killmekillmekillmekillmekillmekillmekillme.
The thought slammed into my head, devouring everything else. Kill her? Kill Michelle? I could never kill her. I’d rather die.
My suit powered up and I was once again able to move.
“Then why didn’t you save her, asshole?”
I spun and saw McKenzie. “What’d you say?”
“You never saved her. She’s out there now, and half machine because of you.”
I beheld him as if he were flesh and blood, but I knew it couldn’t be. I’d seen him die. We’d honored his body. I know this because it was the morning after she and I had—
Killmekillmekillmekillmekillmekillmekillme.
“Mason, get your ass over here.”
“Then why didn’t you save her, asshole?”
My eyes locked on another black box—five hundred meters away, according to my HUD. I pushed past the ghost of McKenzie and ran for it.
Killmekillmekillmekillmekillmekillmekillme.
Killmekillmekillmekillmekillmekillmekillme.
As each thought struck me, I stumbled, but I never went down.
The sound of drums began to come to me; a low heartbeat in the earth beneath my feet. At first it was on the very edge of my hearing, but gradually I began to make out the individual strokes. A drum like a drummer boy would play in a parade, like something that had been played for Washington’s Army, or General Lee’s, or General Patton’s, or Mr. Pink’s—the martial rat-a-tat-tat designed to bring everyone into patriotic lockstep.
“Mason, get your ass over here.”
I ignored Olivares and began to sprint. Thompson was in there. He had to be. The drums... they’d saved me... he’d saved me. I owed it to the guy. I owed it to Michelle. Why did I ever leave them? Why did I—
“Mason, get your ass over here.
I snapped my eyes open to a blistering desert sun lancing between breaks in the camouflage fabric above me.
“Mason? You sleeping?”
My mouth felt like cardboard. My lips felt like sandpaper. Fuck. I brought my hand to my face to wipe away the vestiges of the nightmare and sat up, putting my boots on the ground.
You’re not in Africa, I reminded myself, shaking off the remnant of the nightmare. You’re in Death Valley, near Barstow, California. The battle is over and you’re a survivor. You’re also an asshole for leaving Michelle like that. You’re a dick for not finding Thompson. You should fucking die for leaving those two behind, but instead you get three hots and a cot, you get promoted, you get to watch fucking videos of how great life used to be.
Olivares came around the corner, dressed in desert fatigues, a maroon beret on his head, sunglasses covering his eyes. “There you are.” He clapped his hands. “Come on, we got to go. This is last day of Phase I for the new recruits. They’re going to be happy to get to the physical training.”
I shook my head, not at him, but to get Michelle’s image out of my mind.
“Listen, if you’re not up for it—” Olivares began.
I stood. “Fuck that shit. I’m not a profile,” I said. Profiles were soldiers who rode illness or injury to get out of work.
“Maybe you should be.” His face was serious. He pointed to the side of his head. “You’re not handling the mental shit well. I’m no psych, but you need to get over it.”
I grunted. “You’re right, you’re no psych. You’re also not in charge of me anymore.”
We’d both been promoted to master sergeants when we’d arrived at old Fort Irwin in Death Valley. TF OMBRA required experienced non-coms to train new recruits, and had pinned the rose on us and a bunch of others from the other Cray kill sites. Ohirra had been bumped to lieutenant and was now working in intelligence. Of course Michelle was out there somewhere. I knew it because these dreams were her doing. She was making sure I felt like shit for not killing her. I’d aimed my rifle at her...  I’d been ready to kill her for a moment, take her out of her misery... but I’d even failed in that. Then there was Thompson, our little drummer boy.
Never leave a man behind. I’d sure fucked that one up.
Olivares stepped in front of me. “Depression affects us all differently, Mason. Consider going to see the psych. Let them help you. Talk to someone. Just fucking deal with it.”
I went to push past him, but he grabbed me by my collar. “You think you’re so fucking tough.”
I shook him off. “I’m not tough. I’m just unlucky enough to have survived.”
He gave me a disgusted look. “You’re a shit NCO, you know that?”
I nodded. “You always were better than me.”
“It’s not about that. It’s about the recruits. If your shit isn’t together, you’re going to put their lives in danger next time.”
Next time. That’s all Mr. Pink could talk about. Next time. Where were the other aliens? What was going to happen next? Every surviving human on the planet was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe they were here already. Maybe they were on their way. No one seemed to know the answer, but we needed to prepare the task force to combat it. How do you prepare a soldier to fight an enemy you know so little about? The same way TF OMBRA had trained me and all the others. We could only study the hypothetical. Like these recruits, we’d been locked in a cell for six months and forced to read novels and watch movies, then demonstrate our ability to critically think and understand the challenges posed by an alien invasion by completing a series of graded tasks.
We’d been given ninety-six manuscripts, forty-seven movies, and seven biographies.
The biographies included Julius Caesar, Chesty Puller, David Hackworth, and other soldiers.
Of the movies, I’d seen around half. They were the usual suspects: Kelly’s Heroes, A Bridge Too Far, The Guns of Navarone, Hamburger Hill, They Were Expendable, We Were Soldiers, The Dirty Dozen, Where Eagles Dare, Saving Private Ryan, and Platoon. But there were also some foreign films I had never heard of, like Ivan’s Childhood, KanaƂ, and Gallipoli. There were also some science fiction movies, such as Starship Troopers, the 2005 version of War of the Worlds, Battleship, Battle: Los Angeles, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Puppet Masters, They Live, and Independence Day; I’d seen all of them except They Live and The Puppet Masters.
I’d read many of the books already. Or thought I’d read them; it was funny how being forced to answer questions changed the reading experience. They included Armor, Starship Troopers, The Forever War, Old Man’s War, Ender’s Game, A Mote in God’s Eye, Legion of the Damned, Hammer’s Slammers, and Bolo. But there were a lot I had never read, books by C. J. Cherryh, David Gerrold, Jerry Pournelle, and Robert Buettner, to name a few.
“Did you hear me?”
“Yeah, I heard you.”
He turned to leave, then turned back. “Listen, Mason. That was some fucked-up shit that was done to her. But she helped us defeat the Cray. She saved us. Something in our fucked-up PTSD heads, some chemical change, has enabled us to do this. I know she wanted you to kill her, but without her, we’d all be dead.”
“Which is why I owe it to her to do something.”
“Don’t go being a hero, Mason.”
“I know you don’t like heroes, Olivares, but sometimes you just got to be one.”
“Wouldn’t be necessary if everyone would do their fucking job.”
I nodded. “What are the chances of that happening? It’s why we’ve had to find heroes for as long as Christ was a corporal.”
“That’s not our job, now. We’re not training them to be heroes. Our job is to train these recruits to be soldiers.”
I snatched my beret from my pocket and adjusted it on my head. Then I snapped sunglasses out of my shirt pocket and put them on. “Come on, Olivares. Stop lollygagging. We got work to do.”
He frowned, then smiled, and patted me on the back. “There you go. There’s the asshole Mason I know and love.”
“You’ve never loved me.”
“No, I haven’t. I’ve never hated you either.” And with that he left.

I stepped out from beneath the camouflage awning and followed in Olivares’s steps. Staring at his back, I knew I couldn’t say the same myself. I’d once hated him terribly. It had been Michelle who had reminded me how selfish it was to hate another human when there was a whole universe of Cray to hate.

END OF CHAPTER ONE
For order information, click here - Simon and Schuster

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness Sucks Big Rocks!

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Me in Feb 2014 after a Run or Dye 5K
I can ride a bike twelve miles without issue.
I can knock off a 5K anytime I want.

I've been doing Yoga now for two years and am in the best shape I've been in for the last two decades.

So why in the hell did 25 squats cause me so much pain that I can't work out for 72 hours?

How in the world was I laid low by a simple stretch!

Sigh.

So here's what happened. I decided I'd try out the Daily Burn. For those who don't know about it, it's a monthly subscription streaming workout video service. I wasn't able to get through the first workout because of wifi issues, but that's for another blog. I was able to do the burpees (which I've done before) and the reverse dips (which I've done before) and the situps (which I've also done before. Those weren't the issues. It was the warm up that got me. They started out by doing 25 squat stretches. 25 fast squat stretches. I could barely keep up. Then the wifi went wonky and I threw an hour long temper tantrum about the quality of our router and whether or not we should nuke it. But as I said, that's a conversation for later.

Then the next morning I go to get up and KABLAMO! I'm hobbling. The muscles in the back of my legs feel like they've gone five rounds with Rocky Balboa. I figured I'd pulled something. I struggled into my clothes and went to work. I figured my legs would get better. By noon they were twice as bad. By the evening, I wanted to cry. 

I had to find out what was wrong so I went to the best source of information at my disposal in a desperate attempt to find out if I had scurvey, or Hanta Virus,or the Swine Flu. Google! Way back in my head I remembered seeing a Facebook meme about some sort of tape worm that wiggles through your muscles and I was like OH GOD PLEASE DON'T LET IT BE A NIGERIAN MUSCLE WORM!!!

Turns out it wasn't. It was DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness. Here's a description from an article about weightlifting:

This is the classic delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which tends to kick in from as soon as six to eight hours post-exercise, and peaks around the 48 hour mark, though there is much individual variation of this timeline. And while lower body soreness tends to be more inhibiting and memorable, the phenomenon certainly isn’t limited to the legs. 


DOMS. Son of a bitch!

Squats are certainly unfamiliar. I never do them. And part of me says that if it hurts, then stop. Don't do anymore squats. Many people go their whole lives happily--nay gleefully--without ever doing a squat stretch. So then why do I care? Why don't I just never do them and move on.

Because I want my whole body to be in shape. I thought that biking and running and hiking and yoga and the occasional martial arts session would put me there. But clearly the back of my quads is weaker than the rest of my body.

Squat Therapy: 4 Drills That Will Improve Your Squat

It's now almost 72 hours after I did those damn squat stretches.  My legs still hurt. On a scale of 1 - 10 I'd rank it a 5. 

It's supposed to be better tomorrow. 

Either way I'm doing yoga. 

Even if my legs fall off I'm going to do some yoga tomorrow. 

I'm craving exercise. 

I'm jonesing for an elevated heart rate.

And when I'm fully recovered, I'm going to start training my legs for squats and this bad ass chick is going to show me the way.



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Interviewed By Nerds With Balls

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While I was at Phoenix Comicon this year, the cool guys from Nerd With Balls came by and absolutely begged me for an interview. After I let them bow and scrape for seventeen minutes, I finally allowed them to ask questions. This is how it turned out.


Lots of good shots of books.

Some decent back and forth.

But seriously, thanks to these cool guys for having me on. They were pros and I'm lucky to have been interviewed. Best of luck to Madrid and the fellas!

NOTE: Once you play it once, it moves onto the other interviews. Here's the actual link to the interview-  https://youtu.be/wOA7RnWrN2M

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

SEAL Team 666 Crossover - Opening Paragraph

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People have been begging me for more SEAL Team 666. Some have hinted at the possibilities of a cross-over. I've even had power writers like Jonathan Maberry ask if maybe Joe Ledger and Triple Six might do something together. And why not? It's a popular trilogy. It's cool. It's fun.

Well, finally I can offer you all a fix so you can stop jonesing so much. Really, it's a shame to see you like that in public. Have you no shame?

So, Joe Nassise is editing an anthology called Urban Allies to be published by Harper Voyager sometime early next year. The idea was to create an anthology of stories and partner two writers with their own universes together to create each special story. I've been partnered with the cool-as-hell David Wellington. We decided to cross-over Jack Walker from Triple Six and Laura Caxton, Pennsylvania Vampire Hunter. You can visit him at his website if you click this sentence.

This Be David Wellington
We don't have a title yet, but this will entice you.

And oh yeah, this takes place right after the events in Reign of Evil (SEAL Team 666 Book 3) so if you haven't read the book, don't read this paragraph.















URBAN ALLIES STORY
By Weston Ochse and David Wellington

     Grief can take on many forms. Sometimes it’s a granite headstone in a cemetery. Sometimes it’s a shrine by the side of the road. There’s a noble sort of grief in the elderly man sitting alone on a park bench. There’s the respectful grief for a soldier, his boots resting atop his coffin as his unit files by, reverently saluting. Grief can be a source of fuel someone can tap into to accomplish something they wouldn’t have ordinarily been able to accomplish. Grief can actually be a power for good. Or grief can simply be a crazed man wielding a bloody coat hanger, beating the shit out of a ghost hanging on the wall who won’t stop moaning in the voice of his dead girlfriend.



So are you caught up with SEAL Team 666 or David's Vampire Hunter Series? You better be by the time this anthology hits the streets or you're going to feel left behind. (And no, not like Nick Cage in The Rapture)