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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Living Dangerously Weekly - The End of Summer and the Start of Labor

Me at 6 and Excited for School
Labor Day used to mark the end of summer and the start of school. As August creeped by, I remember both dreading and loving the coming of Labor Day. It was the end of the summer magic, but it was also a new beginning. Classes would start. School would open. What new girl would I meet? What new friends would I have? To balance all that excitement in my head, I'm lucky my brain didn't explode.

Now I'm older. No more school. Even if there was school, it starts in many places long before Labor Day. Here in Arizona it started the first week of August. Kind of takes the oompf out of Labor Day. Makes it like any other three day weekend.

Labor Day is kind of special if you think about it. It's the only holiday dedicated to the American worker. It's a reward and remembrance for hard work. It's the acknowledgment that hundreds of years of people have helped make this country great. Most often we celebrate Labor Day by drinking and BBQing. That's all good, but isn't the message sometimes lost? How many of your kids, or you for that matter, know that Labor Day was designed to celebrate work and the work ethic?

I'm going to have a dinner on Labor Day for sure. Probably make lamb shanks and Yvonne will make a huge Greek salad. But the rest of the weekend is going to be filled with work. In honor of Labor Day and all of those workers who came before me and built the America I live in, I am going to work. I'm going to sacrifice my free time on the altar of the sweat of the American brow.

Blood Ocean (Afterblight Chronicles)I have to finish Blood Ocean by midnight on Friday. That's my deadline. I have 50 pages left. I have to get it done. Then I have to give it a read through over the weekend before I pass it to Yvonne for editing.

I also have to start Seal Team 666. St. Martin's Press has given me105 days to write it.All I have now is an outline and some character sketches. So I plan on starting to write that on Saturday morning.

It's been a tough summer with fires and monsoons at the Ochse Casa. On the other hand, it's been a good summer for writing opportunities. I'm not going to fritter them away. On Labor Day weekend I will be involved in the labor of writing, the labor that I love, and I will glorify it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chance Meeting of a U.S. Navy SEAL

Just to demonstrate how small a world this is...

I was on a flight from Tucson to Atlanta yesterday . About halfway through I opened a book called The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228by Dick Couch. I'm using the book as reference and source material for my up-coming St. Martin's book, SEAL TEAM 666, which I'm starting right after I finish BLOOD OCEAN. The Warrior Elite is a day-by-day walk-through of BUD/S training and gives an excellent perspective on what it takes to be a SEAL and what they have to go through during training. That they have nearly an 80% attrition rate says a lot.

Anyway, I'm reading this book when I get a tap on my elbow. I have an aisle seat and the fellow behind and across the aisle from me has just tapped me on the elbow.

"I see you're reading about Class 228," the man says.

I'd noticed him at the Tucson Airport. About 6'1" and 180 pounds, the muscles in his shoulders and arms were pronounced without being gaudy. Dressed in civilian clothes, he could have walked out of one of the adverts in my Esquire. He is good looking and self assured.

"I am. It's pretty good so far. Have you read it?" I ask by way of response.

"I have. Actually, I'm Class 227."


And there you have it. A SEAL on my flight. Small world. We get to talking. When two military men meet there is a certain dance we have. It usually starts with where we've been and how long we've done things and ultimate ends up by comparing assignments. Now, although I've deployed with SEALs on a number of occasions in my previous life, my assignments can't compare to theirs, so we proceeded to the next phase of the dance, which is name dropping. I do know quite a few folks in the special operations community. Knowing where he was probably from, I dropped some names from folks stationed in Coronado Island, San Diego, California, and Dam Neck, Virginia. I finally hit on a couple of names he knew. I could see the change in his eyes as our joint friendship of those people made us close in a way we never could have been before, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon if Kevin Bacon were a SEAL.

He asks why I was reading it and I told him about SEAL TEAM 666, At first he gives me a crazy look.
 "Is it a Christian Book?" he asks.

"A lot of Christian's are going to die in the book, but it's not a Christian book per se. It's more of a supernatural thriller book-- a horror book."

Then the light dawns in his eyes. He gets it.

I explained to him about how I was asked to write this and that one of my challenges is to keep the SEAL TEAM, as fictional as they are, as real and authentic as possible.

He appreciates that and tells me so.

Then we talked about what he was doing. He was on his way to Arlington Cemetery for a funeral. Although I didn't ask out of respect, I'm sure it was one of the SEALs who recently died in the tragedy in Afghanistan. Several of my friends were already busy with funeral duties, interfacing with the families of those who perished.

It's a small world and the world of SEALS is even smaller. Smaller still, since the loss of so many in Afghanistan. This meeting served to remind me to take this project seriously. I have a universe of respect for SEALs and want to make sure that when you all finally sit down on your couch to read SEAL TEAM 666 that you grok that fact amidst all the supernatural helter skelter I'm going to slam on the page.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Why I Hate Kevin J. Anderson

I hate Kevin J. Anderson. It seems like every day he's taking a hike on some mountain, hill, monument, in some place far far away, dictating another fabulous new novel that he turns into a private secretary to transcribe. He's not strapped to a chair. He's not face diving into a monitor or passing out on the ASDF keys. In fact, he doesn't even use a keyboard for first drafts. Instead, he combines two fun activities into one and let's someone else get carpal tunnel.

Telephoto shot through a sniper scope of the hated author
as he dictates the last 42 chapters of his latest novel

Yeah. I fricking hate Kevin J. Anderson, especially now when I'm strapped to a chair in the dining room (because I moved my entire setup upstairs to get more done) with two deadlines looming. If he was me, he'd be somewhere in the Grand Tetons (note that the French named an entire mountain range after breasts), hiking, dictacting, and grinning form ear to ear that he is so adept at multitasking that his bank account goes ching ching ching.

And he's probably stress free too. I mean what's to stress about? Which hiking boots to wear?


Taken after KJA Dictated two new Dune novels
and the proposal for a new Star Wars trilogy

Earlier in the week I was reminded that I had an editing job to do on a project. I'd let it lapse as other projects piled up. Eunice Magill, a great friend of mine, emailed me about it, and I snapped at her. I was short, too short for such a good friend. At the end of the day, I appologized for being an ass and for allowing the stress to get to me. WWKJAHD (What would Kevin J. Anderson have done)? He'd have shrugged it off, taken another hike, and listened to the ching-a-ching-ching as it echoed through the valleys.

Oh to be Kevin J. Anderson and be able to tra-la-la through the world instead of sitting at the computer hammering in desperate bursts, hoping beyond hope that my inspiration and creativity won't be snatched away by Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, eMail, GMail. Google Plus, Linked-in, Shocklines, HWA message board, my message board at BrianKeene.com, this blog, my wife's blog (because sometimes that's the only way I know what's going on), the news, chat windows and the daily adorations of my three Great Danes.

So what's the stress?  Here are the projects I'm currently working on-

     Novel - Blood Ocean (Abaddon)

     Novel - Seal Tealm 666 Outline (St. Martin's/Thomas Dunne)

     Novel - Living Death Race 2000 (Books of the Dead)

     Novel - Black Fever (With Mike McCarty)

     Blight (Comic Book)

     Killing Time (Comic Book)

     4 short stories

     2 Novellas

     And promoting the releases of Multiplex Fandango and Velvet Dogma which are happening this month and next.

Blood Ocean (Afterblight Chronicles)In reality, I'm only really working on Blood Ocean. My deadline is for sometime in September. I'm about 100 pages shy of the end of the book. Normally, I could make that no sweat. In fact, I probably will make it no sweat. I plan on this weekend to be a 50 page weekend and I'm already 18 pages into that goal. But two things happened this week. Although they were good things, they were the sort of things that sent my blood pressure sky high.

The first was that Abaddon Books, bless them for keeping me on as an author, decided to put Blood Ocean up for pre-order everywhere books are sold. Isn't that neat? I mean, there's no stress with that, right? Except for the fact that I haven't even written the freaking book yet! I imagine people from India to Montana cliking pre-order buttons, looking forward to this book, maybe even planning to take it on a special trip with them, only to have it not be there when they expect it. Readers will be crushed. Bookstores will be burned. Entire populations will be let down. The United Nations will have me as an international pariah and starving children in Africa will weep.

Okay, maybe that's a little overboard, but I wanted to share with you some of the insanity I have to wade through in my brain just to achieve a coherent thought.  I actually think these things. Sure, I realize they're hogwash most of the time, but it takes awhile.

And the second thing? Now this is good news. St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Books (not sure which or what the difference is) accepted my outline for Seal Team 666. This is a big project. I got the contract on Thursday. All 26 pages of it. I do believe they have the intention of publishing this in Swahili. Not sure. So much gobbelty gook in the contract, all I do know is that it's coming out as a trade hardback first, then all the other editions. I also saw the line that said they want the book turned in by November 1. That actually stopped my heart. So check this out, kids. In the middle of feeling wonderful, my heart actually stopped, the floor opened up and I fell through into the lava pit of Oh Shit!


Let's do the math. Let's say I get Blood Ocean done by Sept 1. Then that leaves 2 months to write a 90,000 word novel. That's 45,000 words a month. That's 1500 words a day, which comes out to anywhere between 6-8 pages, depending on dialogue and decription. And that's if I don't do anything else at all, like, edit Blood Ocean, which I definitely will. So if I miss a week for editing, the daily required total goes up to 1800 words a day. If I get sick for three days, it goes up to 2000 words a day. If I get jury duty and get sequestered for another two weeks, that means that I have to write 3000 words a day and get it done in a month.

Oh. My. God.

Breathe. I need to breathe. Okay, I know. WWKJAD? Then when I got the answer, I realized that it didn't help. Well, it did help in a sort of way. I discovered that my fear of deadline was replaced by an intense hatred for Kevin J. Anderson, because it became obvious what he'd do if he was beset with my problems.

He'd go on a freaking hike and have it done by noon.

Here KJA shown after his arrest
for inappropriate contact with
wildlife in Redwood Ntnl Forest
So thank you KJA.

Thanks for having so much damn fun and for making it look too easy.

Now back to writing. I've only done 8 pages this morning and I need to do 12 more by the end of the day.

Wait? Did someone just friend me on Facebook?

Groovy.

(Note that KJA was not actually harmed in the making of this post--although he might have been had I been able to get out of my +4 Chair of Miserable Confinement (D&D reference) and track his happy ass down. I'd spot him right away because he'd be the one hiking away, seemingly talking to himself, dollar signs falling out of the sky behind him.)

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, also check out fellow Abaddon author Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds

P.S.S. Feel free to click on one of the quick take boxes below or leave a comment.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Velvet Dogma - Orphaned No More


Velvet Dogma.

It rolls off the tongue doesn't it.

Gotta love that title. I've loved it for six years. Yes. Six years. Because that's how long ago I first wrote the novel. Fresh on the heels of winning the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in First Novel with Scarecrow Gods, I was told of a publisher who was looking for something specific. They wanted a novel with a strong female protagonist. Hell, I can do that. I did that recently with Tomes of the Dead: Empire Of Salt. But back then, it was a definite stretch. Yet the opportunity was there so I wrote the outline and first three chapters and pitched the novel. Amazingly the editor loved my idea and accepted it. She didn't offere me a contract, but she told me to write it. And I did.

It took me five months. That was the fastest I could write it. I edited it. Friends and readers read and critiqued it. And six months later I turned it in. The editor read it. Then I got a message on my answering machine. It went something like this, "Wes, this is XXX. I want you to know that I'm accepting Velvet Dogma, but I'm leaving tomorrow for a new job."

For me it was all good news. That is until the next day, or really a few weeks later when I tried to contact the new editor.

Silence.

More Silence.

Even more silence.

Then I cold called the new editor. She knew who I was and told me that she wasn't working with any of her prdecessor's projects. This, my friends, is what the undustry calls 'orphaning' a book. I was stunned. I had a novel proposal accepted. I wrote it. I submitted it. It was accepted. And all this from a major New York house. Now it was back in my lap with no love.

I half heartedly sent it out to another publisher who immediately loved the idea. So immediate that two years later, they got back to me and told me that they didn't want it.

At that point I as pretty sick of the whole thing. It sat. I think I asked my agent to send it to one or two publishers. I can't remember. I had other novels published and written in the meantime. I'd move on.

Finally, this year, I got over myself. I decided to dust it off and publish it as an eBook. After all, Velvet Dogma is a damn good book. It was accepted by a major house, only to be orphaned when an editor packed her bags and moved on.

HuskShit happens. Then you die. Then I publish an eBook. Or actually, Crossroads Publishing publishes it. I went to them and asked if they wanted it. They jumped at the idea. The cool thing was that I'd been thinking about this for some time now. In fact, I'd been in contact with Danielle Tunstall, whom I'd discovered this spring looking for some pictures for a different project. Her photos and digital enhancements are just amazing, as you can see. She did the cover for Matt Hults' book HUSK. I contacted him and we talked about her, then I got her contact information and bought the rights to the picture. I wanted to make sure that this picture was the cover. Not only is it perfect for the novel, but it has a lot of movement.

So what's Velvet Dogma about you ask?



In the year 2040, the world has finally achieved the perfect merging of human and machine by developing a method by which the computer has direct integration into the brain. Called Personal Ocular Devices, or PODS, the interface fits over the eye feeding information directly along the optic nerve into the brain, allowing minds and computers to become one.

But not for Rebecca Mines who has been held in solitary confinement for the last 20 years. Arrested under the 2002 Patriot Act as a cyber-terrorist for unleashing a program called Velvet Dogma, her parole restricts access to all computers and all but the simplest of machines. Although the government is still fearful that she'll resume her previous profession, Rebecca wants nothing more than to find a place to exist in peace. She has a life to live, and twenty years of personal stagnation from which to recover.

But she discovers that things have changed dramatically since she’s been in prison. Not only is organ theft sanctioned, but all of her organs have already been levied to the highest bidder. No sooner does she promise the judge that she’ll be a law-abiding citizen, then she finds herself on the run from not only Chinese Black Hearts, eager to confiscate her organs, but the authorities who realize that they’ve let her out too soon.

Velvet Dogma will be published in September.

If you're an eBook reviewer, let me know. I'll make sure you get a complimentary copy.

More to come...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Living Dangerously Weekly - Inventing Science, Seafood, the U.S. Navy and Velcro Pimp

It's been a hell of a week. At the start I worked on the outline for the St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Books project, SEAL TEAM 666. Now it's all tricked out and ready for prime time. Waiting to see what the editors think and keen to get contracts signed and deals sealed. In fact, I was on the plane over Mississippi with free internet, sitting in first class (free upgrade), when I finished all the edits and additions. Glad to put that baby to bed.

The rest of the week I spent working on Blood Ocean. I'm on track to finish this, but keep feeling like I'm behind. I'm at a technical part of the novel where I have to invent some science. Gotta love soft science fiction novels. I wonder if Mr. Murray from my H.S. biology class knows that I'm totally faking being a scientific expert because I actually learned more from my English teacher. Mr. Murray almost kicked me out of the class because I just couldn't get it. Still, back to writing the novel, the secret about inventing science is that it has to be about 90% accurate so that the reader will embrace it. The rest is bright lights and tinkly bells. On an interesting note that only serves to stress me the hell out, Blood Ocean is up for pre-order at Barnes and Nobles Online. I'm not even finished with it!

I did spend the week in D.C. The day job demanded that I genuflect at the seat of government power and do some serious work regarding intelligence training. I mostly came home exhausted, but still managed to plug a few pages of Blood Ocean away every night. Thursday night was a special night. My old friend Dave Lake and I went to The Wharf in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. This is my favorite restaurant. My favorite bartender was there as well, Brian Wallenius (aka Velcro Pimp). It was a grand meal that took four hours. We talked old times and new. We drank two bottles of wine. And we had incredible food. Check it out: Oysters on Half-Shell, Corn-fried Oysters over a lump crab and corn succotash, She Crab Soup, and perfectly prepared Rockfish stuffed with lump blue crab.  Mmmm Damn!  (If you're really hungry, have the same apps then order the Lobster and Shrimp Linguini. It comes with half a lobster in the pasta and the other half on top of the pasta)

Now for the really big news. My Daughter is in the NAVY!!! She's going to be an Aviation Ordinance Woman. She's going to have access to bigger guns, bombs and missiles than her dad. It's just awesome.

Last but not least, a word about Velcro Pimp. Brian Wallenius has made it to my short list of best bartenders on the planet. Not only does he remember things near perectly, but he has a personality to match. We got to talking and he really wanted me to create a psycho killer character for him. And you know what, I think I will. I've already decided that he's going to go by the name Velcro Pimp. I'll write it as a short story. So there you have it. If there are any takers for this story, let me know and I'll write it. But for now it's fermenting in the vats of my mind.

Lest I not forget. Shock Totem #4 is out featuring my story Playlist at the End. To my knowledge, it's the only horror story using an mp3 playlist as a narrative framing device. It was a load of fun and nasty as hell.


You can get this from the folks at Shock Totem or at Amazon- Shock Totem 4: Curious Tales of the Macabre and Twisted. The playlist is going to blow you away.

Until next week.