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

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Driving in the Land of Tra La La

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Who do you think you are? They say it takes a village to raise a child, but does it take the universe to raise your ego? A motor vehicle is not a self realization device. You are not alone on this planet. The world doesn’t revolve around you. So stop driving slow in the left lane!

Is it just me, or has driving changed over the past twenty years. There was a day when those who were going slower would drive in the right lane, and those who were driving faster drove in the left lane (reverse if you use the U.K standard). If you were in the right lane and wanted to pass, you’d turn on your blinker to indicate that you were changing lanes, change lanes, pass the slower vehicle, turn on your blinker to indicate once again that you were changing lanes, then return to the right lane. That was how thing were. That’s how I drive most of the time. So what the hell happened?

I readily admit that in big cities this is an unrealistic mode of driving. Many times drivers will shift to the left lane to keep from being behind someone who is turning right. I get that. I do the same thing. It’s an acceptable break from the norm. But if you decide to get in the left lane and go slower than those cars in the right, then there’s a problem. And just for the record, if you are going to turn left, a mile and a half is too soon to get in the left lane. Trust me, you’ll have the chance to get in that lane in the last quarter mile. Just use your blinker, not at the last minute as you always do, but in advance, to prepare those drivers behind you of your desire to turn.

So why do you do it? Knowing that you can’t control very much in your life, is the opportunity to control the vehicle you’re driving too much a temptation to mitigate all the other problems in your life? Does your job suck? Are you in a rut? Does your wife order you about? Do you hate your life? Then get a counselor. Don’t try and solve your own mental ills through driving. I’ve seen you set yourself in the left lane with the selfish wherewithal of a ten year old and drive intentionally slow because it gives you power over all the drivers behind you. We know what you are doing. You aren’t really the All Powerful Oz of Automobiles. We know you are either weak-minded and insecure. We can see your thin little ego behind the curtain. So stop.

What? You say you didn’t notice me behind you? You were just driving tra-la-la down the road and there I was?Then you are oblivious. Clearly you weren’t ever informed that the rearview mirror was not for you to put on your make-up, nor was it there for you to crinkle your brown and pretend to be George Clooney, nor was it placed there by a family-centric engineer to enable you to yell at the kids or your elderly relations you’ve strapped to the backseat. FYI, the mirror was placed there so that you could observe the universe around you and get out of its way if necessary. Which means, if I am clearly going faster than you, get out of the fast lane, and get in the slow lane. It doesn’t make you any worse of a person. It isn’t a blow to your ego. It’s what you are supposed to do and demonstrates that you are a fine citizen of the universe.

If you absolutely, positively feel the need to mollify your ego on my behalf, stay out of the right lane and instead meet me at a stop light. I’m used to you pulling up beside me and pretending that your car is faster. I really don’t mind. I’m used to you in your truck, or sedan, or whatever, slamming the pedal to the floor and inching past me in the 100 meter dash. It’s cool. But just realize that I’ve barely pressed the accelerator on my RX-8, maybe half an inch, and I’m keeping up with you. My car is actually faster than yours, but I don't need to mollify my ego and blow you off the line. Truth be told, I paid more for mine. I pay more in maintenance for mine. And if my car ever breaks, I’ll pay a considerable amount more to replace the engine. After all, I have a rotary engine and you have cylinders. But that’s my problem. If you absolutely must drag race me, then I can accept that. What I can’t accept is that because you hate yourself you try and prop up your ego using me as a kickstand. Please, if you see me, or anyone else for that matter, speeding up in the left lane behind you, it means that either you are going too slow, or we are going faster than you. Pull over and let me pass. If you don’t, it’s either an admission of your total lack of concern for others, your selfishness, and your weak-minded insecurity or your complete obliviousness to the universe around you.

We know what you really are.

You aren’t fooling anyone.

Except yourself.


Nuff said.

Weston Ochse
Desert Grotto
Mexican Border
August 2010


   
  

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ack! It's Murder Almost!

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My publisher sent this picture to me. No words. No statement. Just a bloody knife. 



Could it mean that he's going to kill me if more copies of Empire of Salt aren't sold? Listen, if you've been waiting to do it later, please don't wait. Do it now. Reach out and get a copy. You could save a life.

A list of places you can purchase this book can be found on the Facebook Page or you can just blow on over to Amazon and order it there. Either way, my editor has a counter in his hand and unless it begins clicking with book sales, I'm about to be as rare as the sabre-toothed tiger.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Loup Garou Kid

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First draft of The Loup Garou Kid is done. Now to let it rest for a few days, then do an edit, then find some readers to QC. A solid 23k novella to conclude the trilogy begun with Vampire Outlaw and seconded with Lord of the Lash and Our Lady of the Boogaloo.


The Artwork from Book II

Friday, August 20, 2010

Warning to all the children

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I stole this from Elizabeth Srsic. She made this, as far as I know. All I can say is that the importance of sharing this outweighed the felony. If I can only save one girl from the Great Old Ones, the jail time is worth it.

-W

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Literary Fiction Review 1

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I've been reading a lot of literary fiction (LitFic) the last several years. I'm a dark fiction author and I love reading dark fiction, but I believe that reading the same thing you write without respite is akin to inbreeding. Sometimes the LitFic I read is great, sometimes so-so, and sometimes it just doesn't work for me. But isn't that the same with everything?

So what is LitFic? I suppose there are many definitions. If you are to believe Wikipedia, which in this case is as good as any source, the term LitFic is used to "distinguish serious fiction from the many types of genre fiction and popular fiction. In broad terms, literary fiction focuses more on style, psychological depth, and character, the plot may or may not be important. Mainstream commercial fiction focuses more on narrative and plot."

I think that's a specious definition. That genre fiction isn't serious relegates Fahrenheit 451 to the junk bin. The claim to have more style, depth and character, I also find to be applied a little too optimistically, reminding me of the bombastic mean of Thurston Howell III in Gilligan's Island, and how ridiculous his self important, self superior utterances were. Personally, good LitFic tells an important truth and is free from genre tropes. At the end of the day it's the publishing universe that decides what LitFic is, but this definition works for me. Especially the part about telling an important truth.

Allow me to give three examples of what I mean.

Aimee Bender's story Faces was published in the Winter 2009 edition of the Paris Review. This story is a about a young girl with the inability to recognize people as individuals. She cannot tell them apart using what most of us use, a person's face. To her, everyone is the same. Her mother can't understand how her daughter can't relate to people and things the same way as everyone else. At the core, this story is about mother-daughter acceptance. It's also about the truth that there are people out there that do not react to things in the same manner as the rest of us. Knowing this is important. Aimee presented the story from the girl's pov in a heartbreakingly exacting and inapolgetic narrative. Of interest, Faces was shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson Award.

At Mort Castle's recommendation, I bought a collection of short stories written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Millhauser. The title story to the collection, The Knife Thrower was so reminiscent to Ray Bradbury's ability to capture the quintessence of childhood wonder, it felt like a second coming. Of technical interest is the authors use of first person plural, making a group the protagonist, which lends greater strength to the story in its conclusion. A knife thrower comes to town as part of a circus. Little does the narrator know that there is a cult of masochistic women, who determine their own value on being cut by the knife thrower. When the final contestant/cultist is killed by the knife thrower, the narrator (pluralized as the community) doesn't believe it really happened because such things are too far fetched. Like Bender's writing, there's an element of fabulism in Millhouser's work, rendered skillfully through the prism of wonder held by all children, idealized as society in general. Of interest, this collection was short listed for the O'Henry Award.

Finally we come to Katherine Dunn's Rhonda Discovers Art, her first published work in 20 years. Dunn is the author of Geek Love, a truly amazing novel about the power of persuasion amidst a family of intentionally mutated carnival freaks. In Paper Cuts Blog, Gregory Cowles provides comment from the author regarding the story. “It operates in marginal subcultures and it stars determined though hapless dreamers,” she said. “It pits the art of violence against the violence of art.” Which is Dunn's forte. In the story, after Rhonda kills the bully of her brother, inadvertently causing the death of her brother in the process, she embarks on a life of listless abandon. That is until she is introduced to a performance artist named Ruggs, who stages a piece of art called "Stir Fry," where he sits naked in a bathtub full of water with an electrical current attached, and a switch which he begs the spectators to throw. Rhonda is determined to put him out if his misery, just as she did the bully, and for the first time in years, finds a meaning in her life.

These are three of the more recent works I've read that have left an indelible impression upon me. Seek them out if you get a chance and see if you are able to form the same opinion as me. And if not, let me know.

That's all for now.

Weston Ochse
Desert Grotto
Mexican Border

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Message Board Alert!

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I just wanted to point out that I have a message board. I know. It's so old school. But that's the way I roll. In this modern realm of social media where clicking links are like having multiple conversations at a party, the message board remains that single one on one conversation that can withstand the test of clicking. When you leave, we are still talking. And you can even come back and we'll still be talking.

Anyway, wanted everyone to realize that I have one place on the web where I regularly talk to friends and fans. I check it every day. You have to log in, but it's free and easy.

Come on by and and ask me something. I have a lot to talk about. Don't you?

http://www.briankeene.com/forum/index.php?board=90.0

Friday, August 13, 2010

Essay - 13 August

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Artists and Revolutionaries
By Weston Ochse © 2010


I’ve been inundated with labels my entire life. From being a teenager to a Buck Private in the Army, through the ranks, past my time as a DoD Contractor and to now, where I am what’s called a Govie (Government Civilian). I’m a husband and a father. I’m a son, a grandson, a cousin and a brother. In my writing persona I’ve been called a poet, a horror author, a dark fiction author, a fabulist, a cross-genre, multi-genre, whatever-genre author. I’ve been a screenwriter. I’ve been a winner of awards, a loser and a never ran. I’ve been a professionally published author, a small press author, a micro press author, and a mass market author.  I’ve been an instructor and a professor. I’m a master of fine arts. I’m a martial artist. I’m an American. I’m a self-proclaimed Southerner, even though I’m probably really a Westerner. For those who know me, they know I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. I proclaim in my email signatures that I am a stuntman for hire and a superhero for rent. I am all of these and let me tell you, it gets tiresome trying to explain it all.

I suppose it would be easier if we were like products on the shelves and had labels to indicate what we are. Imagine a world where T-shirts no longer sported sassy sayings or I’m with Stupids, but instead provided a single label to indicate what the wearer was. It would definitely streamline identity. But the problem is myself, like all of you, are many things at once. I am every one of those labels in the preceding paragraph. I never stop being any one of them. The only thing that changes is the order, descending from most to least used.

So then who am I? If a stranger was to approach me and they weren’t carrying a gun or a subpoena what do I say I am? I could rattle off all my labels. That would be the most accurate. I could give the Cliff Note-Sparks version, and just provide the top five labels currently being most used. But that still gives me short shrift. So there’s the rub. How can I identify myself so that all the labels are indicated, but I don’t run out of breath or bore the listener to death?

I was listening to National Public Radio the other day, either coming to work, going home for lunch to walk blind dog, or running some errand.  Fresh Air was on which is one of my favorite shows. More often than not they interview or highlight someone in the arts-- check labels above: master of fine arts and a multi-labeled author which is a kind of artist but not martial artist-- which is of great interest to me. So as I drove I listened and was introduced to Rafael Yglesias. An American novelist, screenwriter  of “From Hell,” Dark Water,” “Les Misérables,” and “Fearless,” mass market author, award winner, second generation Cuban American and New Yorker, Rafael was interviewed for his new novel, “A Happy Marriage,” which recently won the Los Angeles Times Book Award. During the course of the interview he said something that lodged in my brain. When referring to his father’s desire not to see him waste his life, he said that his father believed that there are only three kinds of people in this world: artists, revolutionaries and all the rest.

That stuck with me all week.

Do you mean there can only be three labels? Everything I am, all those nouns I placed in the first paragraph as synechdoche, the entire litany of labels stacked man-high can be crystallized into just three things? Understanding that these three labels—artist, revolutionary and all the rest—aren’t completely descriptive, they do capture the heart and soul of everything it is to be us.

On the face of it, it might seem that ‘all the rest’ should have the largest population. But I don’t think so, because the other two are so all inclusive. You see, revolutionaries are those that point the way, while artists are those who interpret and translate what the revolutionary is saying.

Revolutionaries can come in many forms. They are researchers, scientists, adventurers, and philosophers. They are politicians and the downtrodden who desire something else. They are social engineers who create new ways to interact. They are inventors. They can be anyone, as long as they are somehow trying to find a new way to do something.

And artists? We are the translators. We tell the world, either through fictional metaphor and hyperbole, or through factual non-fiction about the revolutions. We paint. We draw. We sculpt. We act. We street perform and we even mime.  

Artists and revolutionaries have a special symbiosis. We can live without the other but we cannot succeed without the other. What is a revolution if no one knows about it? What is a story if it’s about nothing?

That leaves us with ‘all the rest?’ Who are they?

Those unlucky few who are members of this group are those who don’t yet realize that they can be an artist simply by translating something. Whether it’s a blog or an email to a friend, it could interpret a revolutionary idea. It might not be very good, but then we never said that for something to be art it had to be good. Good is an observation filtered by each observer’s personal history. No, it merely has to exist for it to be art.

‘All the rest’ can also be revolutionaries. There will come a time when they will want to do something better, faster, stronger. They will want to change the way things have been done. They will become tired of the status quo and devise a way to remove themselves from it.

It’s important to note that we aren’t limited to being either an artist or a revolutionary. We don’t have to choose. We can be both. We are both. As artists we find new ways to perform our art. As revolutionaries we try different methods to inform the masses.
So really we are all artists and revolutionaries.

I am an artist and revolutionary.

All those labels can be gone. Everything people call me must change. From here on out I shall be referred to as an artist and a revolutionary. What fine things to be those are; makes me proud and happy to be alive. When I wake up in the morning, I’m waking up as an artist and a revolutionary. When I sit down on the couch to watch television, I am holding the remote control as an artist and revolutionary. When I water the plants and stare at the broad western sky, I am an artist and a revolutionary.

If only that could last.

Somewhere, sometime, someone will ask me, “But what kind of revolutionary are you? What kind of artist are you?” Then I will have to resurrect the labels. “I’m an author,” I’d say with a wan smile, knowing that the next question will be, “What kind of author are you?”

And the labels will return. But even with all the labels. Even with the litany of what I am, at the end of the day I am an artist and a revolutionary. And I like being those.

Weston Ochse
Desert Grotto
Mexican Border
August 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Radio Interview with Music, Zombies and Jousting

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I was just interviewed by DJ Gard Goldsmith out of Boston. It's a radio podcast lasting about 40 minutes where I talk about Empire of Salt, the Mexican Border, Abaddon Books, Coppercon, Stephen R. Donaldson and the glory of anti-heroes! We touch on a myriad of subjects. He reads from a section of Empire of Salt. He also does the crazy DJ thing.  Oh... there's music too.

Click on the link and listen or put it in the background for a bit.

Cheers

Click on this Link

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book I'd Like to be Buried With

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Matt Riley recently interveiwed me and asked me what book I'd like to be buried with. I thought long and hard and determined that it would have to be Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. The full text can be found at the following link. These are always fun exercises in mental gymnastics. I'm sure that my answer won't be yours. But isn't it interesting to see how people's minds work and why they think the way that they do?


http://www.mathewfriley.com/2010/08/weston-ochse-the-book-i-would-like-to-be-buried-with/

Friday, August 6, 2010

!$%^!

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The  Loser Manifesto
By Weston Ochse © 2010

 Let’s rationalize.

“It’s not so bad.”

“They didn’t mean it.”

“They must have forgot about me.”

“We’ll get them next time.”

“We was robbed.”

These are all rationalizations for failure. We say them because they make us and the people around us feel better, because after all, it’s more important to feel better about something than to actually do better at something.

It’s utterly amazing to me the lengths we will go to make ourselves feel better about mediocrity. Let me point out that middle of the pack isn’t winning. Even if we are first of all the middle, we are still losers. So for the record, mediocrity is loserocrity.

Last night, while watching my 109 pound, blind, ten month old Great Dane pretend to be Ricochet Rabbit in the living room, I was trying to write. On the television was a movie I’d recorded a few days ago. Called ‘Second Best’ and starring Joe Panteliano, it was about a man who was essentially the king of losers. He never sought to be first. He always rationalized his inability to win. Even when he was offered a chance to win at something, he turned it down.

And this is the crux of this essay. The reason he turned it down was control. He could control his own loserocrity. He enjoyed being better than the worst. By trying to win at something, he put himself in a position to be let down, which would shatter his perception as being best of the worst. He surrounded himself with friends who on the surface seemed normal, but who really were worse off than him in some way. By being their friends, he was actually a winner among losers. Does this sound familiar?

I thought about this and some of the group dynamics with which I’ve been involved. From my perception, I can see the truth of it. I’ve been a part of groups where there were people with more problems than me. I was better. If we were just a mediocre group of guys, then I was the Emperor of the Mean. But a funny thing happened on the way to the throne. I discovered it was crowded. You see, all of us in the group had our own perceptions about ourselves and the other members. All of us thought we were superior. There was a study sometime back where members of a group were asked a series of questions wherein they had to rank the other members in terms of success, looks, sexual prowess (perceived I imagine), and a host of other things. What happened was that no one person received more than one fist place vote in any category, and those votes most always went to the one casting the vote.

So what does this tell us? It tells me that our perceptions or misperceptions of reality are grand coping mechanisms. They are evolutionary delusions designed to keep us from going off the deep end. Look at a pack of wolves, for example. There can only be one alpha male. The other wolves, recognizing the superiority of the alpha and their own inferiority, succumb and become part of the pack. Perhaps the wolves cope with the idea that they are doing something beneficial to the pack which allows them to stay in line. Forgive my anthropomorphismic metaphor, but it’s what losers do to try and rationalize mediocrity. After all, there has to be a reason that 99 percent of us are willing to be second best.

In the movie, part of Joey Pants’ manifesto said that 99% of the world is losers. 33% of them are oblivious to their position in life. They were born losers and don’t even know, nor do they care, if they are losers. The next 33% know they’re losers and don’t care. They instead feel good about the one percent that succeed. The final 33%, the one that Joe Pants assigned for himself, was the group that was cripplingly envious and hated the 1% for their success. Moreover, they lived a life of Schadenfreud, taking pleasure at the misery of others.

Which makes me wonder about Reality Television. We really don’t watch it because we are idolizing the people. We don’t watch it to elevate persons to a winner status. If so, then why is the number one rated American Idol shows those that show the losers at tryouts? No, we watch reality television because we want to feel better about ourselves by watching other people’s failures. In this day and age one can shuffle never move more than twenty feet a day and feel more superior than someone else. Their lives revolve around the circular journey from their bedroom to their living room to the bathroom, sitting on the couch with remote in hand like it’s a magic wand. And it is. It makes them feel better about who they are because at least they aren’t a has been B Movie Star stumbling drunk and crying on the set of a television show because his wife left him and his child filmed him eating a hamburger off the floor; nor are they a South Jersey orange-skinned girl destined to be three hundred pounds, but already an emotional train wreck because cruising the mall never taught her the vicissitudes of real life behavior and how to get what she wants without stomping her feet; nor are they like the man going to a fake court with a fake judge being sued by his real son because he failed to pay for the kids braces; nor are they swapping wives, getting interventions, or hoarding cats, dogs, or little statues of Elvis Presley. In fact, after an hour of someone else’s misery they feel awesome about themselves.

Sporting events give us more opportunities to feel better. Being American is a distinct advantage. After all, when an American is on the podium winning a gold medal he is doing it for us, which means that we win too. We are winners because of the track stars, the basketball players, the football players… thank god for all those winners, because if my team won, it means that your team lost.

Perhaps there is a dearth of Alpha Males. Here’s a question. What if there are hundreds or thousands of groups of friends without a real Alpha Male, with each member wanting to be an alpha but unable to do so?  That means that we group together as losers. Do we practice Shadenfreud as  a spectator sport? Do we rack and stack each other?

Of course there’s one definite way to avoid all this. It’s really simple. We stop rationalizing. We stop saying things like, “I’m not as fat as the next guy” or “I never really had a shot because I didn’t even try.” We stop making excuses. Instead, we begin doing. We try and win. If we lose, then we admit to losing and move on.

Don’t think that I’m one of those egotistical people who believes that he should win everything all the time. I’m not. And I’m not saying that you should, either. What we should do however is try and win occasionally. Most of us are comfortable in our mediocrity, but that comfort is mediated by our ability to win sometimes. It gives us something for which to strive. It allows us a memory of winning and achieving something special we can use during the down times. And if in the end we can’t seem to win anything at all, then we can still be winners, reliving those bright moments when we were not losers.

Remember, schadenfreud is alive and well in Reality Television and in group dynamics. It’s a game everyone can play, where you the viewer and sometimes participant will always be left with the delusional perception that you are better, and that life aboard the Starship Sofa is that which you’ve always dreamed.

Do me a favor. Keep that pose. Think those thoughts. Be that loser. I want you there. It will make it much easier for me to win. Here, let me pat you on the head and tell you how awesome you almost were.

Weston Ochse
Desert Grotto
Mexican Border
August 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

This Makes it All Worthwhile

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Sadly, this young lady wasn't aware that Empire of Salt wasn't beach reading material. She didn't know that the book takes place on a beach. She also didn't know the zombies come from the water. So sad for her.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I Will Not Read Your F%*king Script

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Screenwriter Josh Olson, who penned the script for A History of Violence, had a rant in the Village Voice last September titled I Will Not Read Your Effing Script. From a writers point of view it really hit home. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked to read something by someone else. On those occasions when I fold, I most always resent it. I end up spending too much of my time working on someone else's work, only to receive a short unhappy comment from the guy or gal, who really only wanted me to tell him that his or her work was just an awesome effing piece of work and should be mounted in the Louvre.

Enough of my drivel. Check out the article.

(On an interesting 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon note, the cover artist for the first two novels in the Cycle of the Aegis Trilogy (Recalled to Life and The Golden Thread) is Vince Locke, who also did the cover art for the graphic novel, A History of Violence.)