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.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Dead Dog Party

Rain Graves, myself and Yvonne Navarro
 There have been some great conventions over the years. There have been some whose moments shall live with me forever. Like the time Bill Mosely (House of 1000 Corpses) and I talked shop at WHC San Fran. Or when David Whitman, Wrath, Reggie Bannister (Phantasm), and Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead OG) ate crab cakes and drank wine at Horrorfind 1. Or sipping good scotch with Peter Straub into the wee hours of the morning at my first NECON. Or John Ringo pulling me from the room after I gave him a rousing military introduction that left him shaking with memories of basic training and satanic drill sergeants (TusCon 35). Or singing Flock of Seagulls songs with Mikey Huyck, Mike Arnsen and a dozen others, all of us surprised (except for Mike) that we knew all the words (WHC Phoenix). Or meeting improbably fans, like the Tennessee Knitting Circle (Horrorfinds 1 &2), The Mormon Hindi Hooker (WHC SLC), The Four Frat Guys from Florida (WHC Chicago), or Jorge who brought a note from my mother to WHC Kansas City.

First Sighting of Multiplex Fandango

There have been some great conventions. Until now I thought WHC Denver 2000 was the best convention. I met my wife there. I met most of my friends, to include the Cabal there. We almost burned down the Tor Party, when Geoff Cooper lit the pentacle on the floor. Dick Laymon and I giggled all over it. Feo Amante leapt atop the great bronze horse and almost made it gallop away. I established very close relationships in a small amount of time that have lasted to this very day.

At this point I’m not sure if WHC Austin 2011 was better than Denver, but I know for a fact it was its equal, at least in my eyes.  

Peter Straub and Me
A lot of a convention’s success has to do with the people. Those running it have to have a certain mentality and ability to multitask under intense strain and external pressure. I’m not sure who ran Denver, but the Austin crew had that in spades. Never once did I see them blow their tops, or freak out, or bat at invisible demons circling their hair, all of which I’ve seen happen before. Nate Southard and Lee Thomas and their crew were consummate pros and we were the better for it.

Another important aspect of a convention is location. Location. Location. Location. Just as in real estate and retail, location means everything in the tourist industry, and let’s face it, conventioneers are tourists. WHC Kansas city was out in the middle of the edge of forever. When the thunderstorms hit we felt displaced and in another galaxy, and were waiting for the Elder Gods to spread us on Ritz crackers. NECON convention center is a poor shadow of what the dorms and the campus provide. WHC San Fran and WHC NYC has pretty good spaces, but because they were downtown in big cities, everything was squished a little. Then of course there was the bar at NYC that shut down before midnight, leaving us wondering what to do until my Army Sergeant kicked in, and next thing you knew we had three dollies of alcohol delivering booze to the grand downstairs area that was the perfect scene for a bacchanalian extravaganza—which we had.
The Drake Hotel in Denver was an awesome place. It had convention spaces, great rooms, nice party rooms, a good bar, and was near lots of restaurants. Like the Drake, The Doubletree North in Austin had all of these elements. The bar was smaller, but the centrality of the convention spaces promoted the idea of unity.
Perhaps I don’t need to figure out which one was better. Perhaps I can just say that WHC Austin was equal to the best convention I’ve ever attended. By default, that makes it the best, right? Damn Right.
So many things happened on the way to the Dead Dog Party.

The Dark Region Writers Union
  • The First Meeting of Friends at the Convention, where although we hadn’t seen each other in many months, sometimes years, we fell into an easy chatter.
  • Lincoln Crisler introducing me at my reading like it was a boxing match at Ceasar’s Palace. (Thanks Linc)
  • Meeting Joe Morey from Dark Regions for the first time, seeing Multiplex Fandango ARCs and sitting down for a few hours signing them to fans. Joe brought 40 and left with none.
  • Having Dinner with Rocky Wood at the Bikini Bar- perfect convergence of the NFL Draft, bikinis, burgers, bikinis, beer, bikinis, fried pickles, bikinis, and friends.
  • Dinner with Yvonne Navarro at Pappadeaux (with Chris Marrs and Richard Payne)and Taj Mahal (with ourselves).
  • The artist reception and chatting with my agent (Bob Fleck) and my publisher (Jon Oliver), as well as a host of other writers and friends and fans.
  • Having Joe Lansdale tell me "That Book is F#ucking Good," meaning MULTIPLEX FANDANGO, and wishing I could use it as a blurb for the cover of the book.
  • The Weather in Horror Panel, which I’d made fun of up until we actually began, then realized that all my favorite stories were predicated on changes in the weather.
  • The Martial Arts Panel, where Joe Lansdale and Wrath White held court while Brian Keene and I fired quick 9mm shots in between expert thesis statements on the art of pain delivery mechanisms.
  • The Mass Autographing where I was allowed to unveil my Steaks and Bitches T-Shirt, sign books, chat words, and sit down for a few stolen minutes with Joe Hill.
  • Late night pizza, great beer, Deadites and Erasureheads, Peter Straub martinis, talking books not politics, and Brian Keene and Mary Sangiovani becoming perfect bookends to Yvonne and Me.
  • All my new friends and fans, including…
  • Talking projects with Russ Dickerson and Gard Goldsmith.
  • Eating awesome Mexican in downtown Austin, entertained by the vodka-stuffed thirty-something wedged into a twenty-something slip of a dress, who could barely walk, and not seeing the bats with Scott Edelman, Eunice Magill, Scott Brown, Kelly and Ann Laymon, Chris Marrs, Angel Leigh McCoy, Rain Graves, John Tomaszewski, and others.
  • Meeting Victoria Blake from Underland Press, who I’d talked to so many times on the phone.
  • Chatting with Steve Niles and watching the evil grin take over his face.
  • Sitting in the wonderful foyer on the gigantic couches, chatting with John Jacob Horner, about his new books (Southern Gods—which is amazing) and life in general. John’s a new great friend.
  • And last but not least, the Dead Dog Party, where Bob Ford, Kelli Owen, Jack Ketchum, Christopher Teague, Gard Goldsmith, Simon Clark and several others toasted the end of the con, only to discover that there was one other reason to toast when President Obama came on the television and announced the death of UBL.
  • And the dénouement came on the bus ride to the airport with Chad Savage and Simon Clark, tales of dubstepping, Family Guy and improbably friends meeting in a solitary van, headed to the airport that would see us all to our homes.
Yeah. WHC Austin was pretty incredible. I made some deals. I have a lot of work to do before the next convention. I have some serious deliverables that could make or break me. We’ll have to see how they turn out.  What helped were the three things that hit me right before the convention.
Some guy at the Mass Autographing
  • My original story “Driving the Milky Way” was accepted to the mass market anthology House of Fear from Solaris Books. Thanks Jon Oliver!
  • My original story “20th Level Chaotic Evil Rogue Seeks Whole Wide World to Conquer” was a last minute add to the mass market anthology Demons from Black Dog & Levinthal Press. Thanks John Skipp!
  • Bad Moon Books asked me to write the introduction to Clive Barker’s next book with them, Candle in the Clouds. Thanks Roy Robbins!
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Dead Dog Party. 

I discovered that my mind was in a different place than all of the other conventions. Both emotionally and intellectually, I approached this convention differently. In Denver, I didn’t know what to expect, so I was very open to everything. But then after Denver, I came to expect certain things. Whether it was that things be like they’d been in Denver, or whether the people I’d met should act the same way, or that my increasing levels of success dictated that I should be treated a certain way,  or what, I don’t know. But I realized at WHC Austin that I’d previously had a certain amount of expectation when I attended conventions. And to the glory of everything right in the world, this convention I somehow misplaced that expectation. I approached it openly, as an opportunity to meet new friends and new fans. As a chance to introduce myself to people who either knew me or didn’t know me. I felt new. I felt original. And I think people could tell. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to figure this out. What, ten years? Probably because I was thinking too much about me than about everyone else.

So perhaps it’s a mindset too.

I’ll have to remember that for my next convention. 

And the one after that. 

And so on.

It was an awesome time, whose energy will live on within me for months to come, fueling my creativity, and focusing my drive.

Might as well be the start of a whole new year.

Yvonne Navarro and Rocky Wood

Jalani Sims from the University of Oklahoma MFA Program

Ashley Balantine (aka Tattoo Girl)

Guru Mike Castro

Nicole Castle-Kelly (Warren, MI)

Joe McKinney

Rhodi Hawk and Mary Sangiovani

The British Invasion singing "Hunka Hunka Burning Love"

Rain Graves and John Tomaszewski

Eunice McGill Trying to Act Sneaky with the Camera
Pre-Bat Fiasco Meal

Yvonne can find a dog anywhere

You can find the rest (many many more) of the pictures HERE

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