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.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Living Dangerously's Best Books of 2013

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It's time for my best books of 2013.

My lists are different than other people's lists. For instance, since this is my best books of 2013, this means that they could have been published any time at all, but read by me in 2013. I did a lot of reading over the summer. As most of you know, I spent six months in the glorious garden spot we call Afghanistan. After working 12-16 hours each day and every day, I'd go back to my rack and need something to calm my nerves and soothe the soul. Not able to carry actual books because of space reasons, I fully utilized my Kindle... more so than any other time for certain. I also don't rack and stack the books I've read. If they make this list, then they are prominent in my thoughts.



The Queen of Patpong by Tim Hallinan
I discovered Tim Hallinan quite by accident. I was in an airport and had a layover. I like to peruse the bookstores at airports rather than inventorying the backsides of my own eyelids. I've always been a fan of the detective story since college. At the Wofford College bookstore, I was given a list of books to buy which included all the old detective novels by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler which were for a class I was supposed to take. Except they contacted me the next day and told me they gave me the wrong books and I had to return them for James Joyce.  Errrg.  I had a week to return them, so I read all eleven books in one fell crime wave. They were glorious and made me a lifetime fan. Crime and detective fiction is an old standby of mine. But with so much competing for my time, I have to be selective. They have to be different. They have to have a hook. Hallinan has that hook. Written with an American expat protagonist living in the dark corners of Bangkok who is also a protector and shepherd to the women who are lured, cajoled, and kidnapped into the sex industry, I found this to be at once completely different than anything I was reading and yet the same, influenced by Hammett and Chandler. I've since read all of the Poke Rafferty books, but this was my introduction.

Life During Wartime by Lucius Shepard
I'd heard of Lucius Shepard's book for many years but never got around to it. Since I was going to war, I thought that now was the time I should definitely make time and try it out. And I wasn't disappointed. Having grown up on John Wayne and the purist view of soldiers and the military, it's comforting on a soulful level to see some of the terrible revealed. I first encountered the idea that the military wasn't perfect when I saw The Boy's of Company C and Platoon. Having spent 29 years on the military (and still ticking), I know that we are a mirror of society. There is as much good and bad in us as anywhere. Some of the things we do are well-meaninged yet turn out bad. Sometimes we find ourselves sliding down a slippery slope unable to stop the events from unfolding. Lucius captures this terrifically with a protagonist who joins a psychic unit, only to discover an even broader conspiracy. Written in the mid-1980s, it's also curious to see what he'd done with the near future. I love this book.

Night Film: A Novel by Marisha Pessl
I know I said I don't rack and stack books, but this is the best book I read this year hands down. It's Marisha Pessl's second book, and so wonderfully and skillfully wrought that I am at once envious of her and thrilled for her. This was one of my 3AM Amazon purchases as I lay awake trying not to think about Afghanistan. I had no idea. No forewarning. I had never heard of her. I hadn't read any reviews. But I got it anyway and did not get any sleep that night. The writing is flat-out beautiful. But not just beautiful like so many literary writers can be creating an impenetrable story, but beautiful and accessible. Without revealing the plot, what made the book even that much more wonderful was the back story and background she created for a mysterious movie director, his cult of fans, the codes in his movies, and all the ephemeral one would associate with a director who could be a dark and sinister David Lynch, kicked out of the mainstream and making movies on a private compound, possibly worshipping Satan or worse. If this is anywhere in your TBR pile, move it to the top NOW!

 American Rust: A Novel by Philipp Meyer
Another of my Afghan reads, I was drawn into the story by the author's straightforward prose and his telling of a tale of the country's soul. Not only is this the narrative of a young man in search of himself, but this is also the story of the Rust Belt in search itself. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and appreciated the way I was transported from the deadly streets of Afghanistan to the lush yet baleful existence of thy dying heart of America.



The Storm Giants by Pearce Hansen
This was an eBook only, self-published book, and another thing I read desperate to be transported out of Afghanistan. I don't usually read these because of poor editing. This one did not have the pall of poor grammar I normally associate with such things. In fact, I think I grabbed it because the author was offering it for free on Facebook and the title intrigued me. I thought it was actually going to be about storm giants. Cool, right? As it turns out, storm giants is a metaphor, but an apt and well wrought one. This is a crime fiction novel. You read earlier what I think of these. Add to it that the narrator is a bad guy too. This was a novel what worked on many levels and had many more layers than your average, or even good crime fiction novel. I liked it so much I bought the author's self-published collection, Gun Sex (cool title). I see that The Storm Giant's is on Amazon but currently not available. I hope this means someone's giving him a book deal for it. The book absolutely deserves a wider audience.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
Another Afghanistan read. This is Joe Hill's The Shining and Talisman all rolled into one. I've read his previous two novels, Heart-shaped Box and Horns. While they were good, they didn't blow me away like NOS4A2 did. Reading the novel, I felt as if John Irving was telling me a Stephen King story. But where John Irving can't write the stuff Joe writes, and Stephen King would have pulled many of Joe's gut-punches, Joe didn't hold back. He smacked me across the face just when you I was saying to myself, he can't possibly do what he's going to do. Having met Joe and corresponded with him a few times, I felt myself smiling with pride as I was reading this. As much as I've compared this to other authors, including his dad, Stephen King, this is purely Joe's voice. Even though he can't help but be influenced by his father, this is Joe's book. he takes ownership of the narrative and never let's go of it's neck. This is a book I'll go back and read again, which is the highest praise I can give.

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Although I read this in Afghanistan, I knew I wanted an actualy physical copy of this. I mean a 1280 page paperback book. The heft and the smell was everything I remembered as a child, curled up in bed reading Terry Brooks and J.R.R. Tolkein and Jack Chalker. It came in the mail and I knew that if I didn't like it I could also use it as a weapon against the Taliban. I'd never heard of Brandon Sanderson. I guess he finished Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, which I stopped reading somewhere around book 56 (actually 4, but it seemed like 56). That I'd never heard of him surprised me. I'm a pretty well-read author. I checked up on him before the purchase of the book and was impressed. After all, reading a 1280 page book is a serious commitment. And I was so happy I did. In The Way of Kings, Sanderson creates an entirely new world, an entirely new socio-political structure, and an entirely new magic system. I love it when authors do this. While I love the various billion re-tellings of the Lord of the Rings, it's so much more fabulous to get something new and fresh and mind-bogglingly original. The second book, which probably tops out at 7,000 pages comes in March. I can't wait.

So these are my best. Please seek these out if you can. Buy them from your favorite independent bookstore or online. Whatever. They have my highest recommendation.

Can't wait to read in 2014.

Isn't reading great?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dear Sir...Please Save Our Planet

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While listening to NPR Remix the other day, I was struck by a song they were using in a piece about William Temple Hornaday. The song is called Dear Sir and is performed by Black Prairie. You can actually listen to it in full and for free HERE.

Please listen, then go to Slate's article about William Temple Hornaday to understand its significance. Jon Mooallem wrote an amazing piece about a letter Hornaday left that wasn't read until 70 years later. This letter partially fueled the group think idea of what is now termed as Shifting Baseline Syndrome and how cultural memory can cause us to forget things. It's also about the buffalo. Of course the letter, like the song, begins with Dear Sir.

The idea of Shifting Baseline Syndrome is both amazing and aweful. From Hornaday's point of view, he believed that an America without buffalo would eventually become normal. Although this never happened because of acts of conservation and restraint, it has happened to the passenger pigeon for instance, which we hunted into extinction at the turn of the last century. There were an estimated 5 billion passenger pigeons when America was discovered. These avians were extremely easy to kill, however and became a food staple, as well as a source for feathers. In 1822, a single family killed 4000 passenger pigeons for their feathers. In the 1890s, they were so numerous that an entire day could go by while a cloud of pigeons flew over. Seriously. They were an indelible part of our landscape. Well, not so indelible. They're gone. The last passenger pigeon died in 1914. You can read their extinction story HERE.

Why should we care?

Imagine a world without dolphins or whales. Image us thinking how natural that is.

You don't care?

Fine.

Then imagine a world without dogs or cats.

Can't happen you say?

There were more passenger pigeons in 1880 than all the dogs and cats in America combined.

We live in a world where the lack of a passenger pigeon is conceived to be normal. The sort of cutlural and possibly global amnesia that goes into shifting baseline syndrome is scary. I don't know how to stop it except to ensure that the things which make up our great planet continue to be a part of it. This sort of behavior takes a conscious act of will.

We have to pay attention.

Conservation and the protection of our planet isn't a political thing. It's a human thing.

Listen to the song and think about this for a moment. Then, if you have time, do a conscious act of will. Support someone conserving something or take action yourself. I support Sea Shepherd Conservation Society not only because of the efforts they go through to preserve whales and dolphins, but also because they are pirates.

Argh!

Monday, November 25, 2013

BACK IN THE USA UPDATE

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So I'm back.

Afghanistan is now 4 weeks in my rear-view mirror. I haven't been hiding under a rock, but I have been easing back into things. I can't tell you how awesome it was to return to a loving home. My wife is awesome. So were my parents. I missed my dogs terribly. And interestingly enough, I also miss many of the new friends I made on deployment.

Here are some of the things that have been going on-

  • Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has signed on to exec produce and star in the film adaptation for SEAL Team 666 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer).
  • SEAL Team 666: Age of Blood went on sale in both the U.S. and UK and is selling like gangbusters.
  • SEAL Team 666 Book Three is going to happen. We're working out contract issues.
  • Grunt Life, my military science fiction novel for Solaris Books, is complete and ready to be sent to my agent.
  • I'm doing a book signing tour in SOCAL. Information can be accessed by clicking on Upcoming
    Appearances.
  • I've maintained my weight and fitness.
  • I went trout fishing for the first time in 15 years, absolutely loved it, and caught four trout, three of which I kept and cooked for Yvonne. Yummers.
  • Bought a Suunto Ambit 2S GPS watch, which is really helping me keep track of exercising--oh, and it keeps time too.
  •  About to start my story for V-WARS and get to write about a Norse berserker vampire.  How cool is that?
That's about it, I think.

Thanks for keeping up with me.

Seriously.  Thanks.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

HIGH NOON AT DUBAI AIRPORT WITH ME AND BRUCE LEE

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Written on 21 October 2013 right after the events you are about to read occurred. The names haven't been changed to protect the stupid and the guilty.

+    +    +

I’ve had a pretty shit day.

Remember that movie from the late 1970s-early 1980s about an American who tries to smuggle hash out of Turkey and gets caught, then locked up, tortured, the bottoms of his feet beaten? It’s called Midnight Express and I can still see the main character wearing his aviator sunglasses, sweating high-caliber bullets, as he stands in the bathroom with enough hash strapped around him to make half of Los Angeles high, and then the policeman walks into the bathroom. The stress was just ramped up to Eleven.

That’s what happened to me today.

When the nice security men who’d served me tea and water and made me wait for three hours turned me over the Airport Police, I felt second cousin to the man in the movie. My Oh Shit meter went to a hundred and for the first time I thought that I might not be coming home.

But I get ahead of myself.

I haven’t even told you what happened.

Inside Dubai International
Backup three and a half hours. I finally get my luggage, then I head through customs. I’m waived from the Nothing to Declare lane to the I’ve Got Something And You Have To Find It lane. A Dubai ninja (woman of unknown age in head to toe clothing with even her eyes shielded) shouted AHA! When my bag went through.

Aha!? Seriously?

Then they had me take the bags over to a different area and I began racking my brain. What could it have been? Was it the body armor? I was just told by a friend that I wasn’t supposed to bring it through Dubai. Nice. Now you tell me. It’s not even mine. This belongs to a special mission unit. The one issued to me is sitting in a closet in Virginia somewhere. Shit. Shit. Shit. How was I going to explain it to my buddy that I had his armor confiscated by the Dubai Airport Sheriff or whatever they call themselves.

----INTERMISSION---
I just want to point out that you are helping me de-stress. I’m sitting here in a Dubai Starbucks drinking the hell out of an effing Coffee Americano and wearing my toe shoes because they hug my feet so nicely and frankly I need a hug right now. Talk of ninjas and things are my stress bleeding. I mean no disrespect. I’m just stressed from almost being locked up in a Dubai monkey cage for an indeterminate time for doing something stupid. Now, back to me being stupid.
----END INTERMISSION----

So the Dubai equivalent of a Sumo Wrestler begins to pull stuff right out of the bag I have the body armor in. Damn. This sucks. When he found the body armor, he smiled. But then he did something weird. He didn’t seem to be interested IN the body armor, but instead what was INSIDE the body armor. He re-xrayed the body armor. And I swear to you, just like the Dubai ninja, this Dubai Security Sheriff said, AHA!

What is it with these Dubainese and their love of the AHA!?
He pulls the body armor and begins going through the pockets. Pockets, the only things I’ve ever had in the pockets were…

Bullets

Shells

Ammunition.

OH SHIT!

He somehow wedged a bratwurst-sized finger into a magazine pouch and levered out a 5.56 mm round usually meant to fuel an HK 416 or an M4 for human destruction…NOT my passport through an airport.

I actually gasped.


I knew at once that I was in a world of shit. I was about to become the target for everyone’s hatred of America, all reduced-216 pounds of me with only my passport and tattoos of Elvis and Bruce Lee to keep me company.

The first thing they did was take my passport. They might have taken my tattoos if they hadn’t been inscribed into my skin.

----INTERMISSION----
Funny thing about my tattoos. Everyone and I mean every Tom, Dick and Abdul Said, recognized Bruce Lee. They must have grown up watching the same old movies I did, because they all smile when they see it. But Elvis? (and I’m wiping away a tear here) Elvis is an unknown entity in the faraway Lands of Islam. Not a single resident of the Middle East has ever heard of him. In fact, they all look at me strangely and ask why I have the portrait of a famous Pakistani singer on my arm. I have no idea who it is. Part of me suspects it’s a Pakistani Elvis impersonator. But enough of that. Back to me getting rolled up.
----END OF SECOND INTERMISSION----

Then they said come with me, where I met the only Airport Security Captain who was a professional bodybuilder was waiting for me crunching his fists together like he was turning bowling balls into marbles. Jesus but this guy’s shoulders could have held a love seat  Absolutely V-shaped, he had what looked like a 12 inch waist. But more importantly to my current condition, whatever smile he had was lost when his mommy took away his pacifier and he’d spent his next thirty years perfecting the demeanor of a brick.

I explained that I’d just come from a war zone  I explained that it was an absolute accident. I also explained that I was astonishingly sorry and it would never happen again. He stared at me like he’d rather see me dead, bade me sit, then ignored me for an hour.
Realizing I was under surveillance, I tried to wonder how to sit and compose myself. I fear I looked like a jonesing crack addict, because I think I was changing my posture all too often.

Then I was offered tea.

Then later, water.

A friend of mine came over and asked if he should call the U.S Ambassador. Shit was getting serious. He had them on speed dial. Did I really want to escalate this? What would go from a good story of a shit time later on my blog would turn into a front page spread of a US military member doing something stupid in a foreign country… not like we need that again. So I strategically demurred. Still, he sat with me for awhile. Then a new security man came and said everything was going to be alright. I breathed a sigh of relief because for a moment I thought everything would be okay.

Then a man came to whom everyone deferred. He looked sharp. They’d called in the big guns. He waggled a finger towards me and led me to the interrogation room.

----INTERMISSION----
HAHAHAHAHA!
----END OF THIRD INTERMISSION----

Some of you might know about my experience in this. I could tell the guy was nervous. He was unskilled. He really wasn’t sure what questions to ask. This was really the only part of the situation I felt in complete control. But I had to be careful. If I appeared to be too smug, they might think I’m an authentically bad guy. So I pretended extreme nervousness. I fidgeted. I worried my hands together. I stuttered a little and apologized profusely. But really, all I gave them was my story, my name, and someone else’s phone number. By the time we left the poor man was satisfied and left beaming. 

Mission accomplished.

They’d interrogated the bad guy American and were happy for it. They chuckled in their glass-fronted office. They’d bagged their bad guy and mad him squirm. All but the body builder. He didn’t smile. Instead, he listened to the information and took it in like a slab of marble would water.

They gave me more tea.

Now I have to admit, about this point I was thinking about what would have happened if an Arab-speaking person arrived in Newark with a bullet in his baggage. No joke, I bet they’d be halfway to GTMO before they were able to get their story out. Certainly no tea. All joking and de-stressing aside, I was absolutely appreciating their behavior and professionalism… even if they were all wearing man dresses.

Then came the man they were waiting for. He wore the uniform of a policeman. He said come with me and bring your bags. We went outside into the hot Dubai air. I was thinking about that phone call to the ambassador about now. We went down to another terminal, then back inside, then to an elevator. We stood there and he didn’t say a word. I thought of asking him what was coming up next for me, but I was too afraid of the answer. We took the elevator to upstairs, around several turns, and I found myself in front of a sign that read Airport Police HQ where I saw real interrogation rooms and real bad-looking men who looked like they pulled out blond-haired, blue-eyed American fingernails as an afternoon pre-prayer time activity. Having been in a police station once or twice (ahem) in the past, I immediately recognized their cold indifference, their professional disdain, and their barely concealed contempt. The Constitution might say that you are innocent until guilty, but I’ve found that most hard-working men of law find it safer to feel the other way. That way they aren’t so often disappointed. The Dubai Airport Police were no different.

At this point the tea stopped. So did the water. Everyone who looked at me was probably remembering someone they knew who’d been stomped on by the patriotic boots of America. I stopped fidgeting. I put on a hopeful/wistful look, one I’d used throughout my childhood when my mother had me wait for her, or when seventeen principals did the same. It was a combination of a What me worry-you must have the wrong man-I’m far too innocent to be guilty look that had got me out of more self-generated shit than I deserved. When they did look at me, their laughter stopped, their smiles fell, and they got real serious… like calling the Ambassador serious.

Nervous - from Midnight Express
But there was one thing that did draw their attention. They couldn’t help but ask about my tattoo. Is that Bruce Lee? Just as the men downstairs had done (sans Marble Head), each and every one of them, upon seeing my tattoos, asked me if that was Bruce Lee. I responded sagely, smiled, and complimented them on their recognition. We were starting to bond. We talked about different martial arts, using pidgin English and mock moves. I was doing my best to go from being a suspect to one of them. Soon, I was no longer that stupid American who brought the bullet back from the war, but had been transformed into that stupid American with the cool tattoo of Bruce Lee and that whatever his name is Pakistani singer who brought the bullet back from the war.

By now, three and a half hours had passed.

Our tattoo-based friendship notwithstanding, I was beginning to wonder if I was getting out of there.

They left to pray.

They came back for tea.

They talked about me and laughed, probably the same way a roomful of American policemen would about an Arab-speaker stupid enough to put himself in this situation.

Then the commander arrived. They all snapped to. Joking ceased. Salutes snapped. They explained to him the situation. He rattled off a few commands, then turned to leave. As he passed me, he gave me the look – Stupid American Trying To Bring A Bullet Into My Airport What Were You Thinking.

I lowered my eyes to acknowledge my mistake. I felt a sinking feeling.

He said something else. Then left.

I was called up. They filled out another form. I was asked to sign it stating that I would never accidentally bring a bullet into Dubai again—at least I hope that’s what it said because I signed it.

Then they handed me back my passport.

I was released.

Just under four hours.

I wonder how much different this could have turned out.

I wonder if I had been a foreigner in America if I would have gotten off so easily-- with an apology accepted with a handshake and a don’t do this again.

Now as I type the rest of this it’s 3:36 AM and I’m somewhere over Nova Scotia, obviously I realize that this could have gone very badly. We’ve all seen the movies. We’ve all heard the horror stories.

You know, I’ve joked about the police and security at Dubai International, but I do appreciate being set free with barely a slap on the hand. They  were doing their job and I did something stupid. How that round got in there is another question. After all, I hadn’t fired one of those rounds since April back in Virginia at The Crucible.

But it happened.

I say this to all of you coming back from the war. Check your gear. Even if you never used something, even if you’re sure something couldn’t be there, check it. Had someone given me this advice, the events that I recounted on this blog never would have happened.
But then again, neither would this blog entry.

In the end I thank Mike Towles and Bruce Lee. Mike is my tattoo artist. He’s the one who put Bruce on my arm. It’s become a crazy and unexpected business card. Just as the tattoo of Elvis he put there has become. Only in this case, no one cared about the image of the mysterious Pakistani singer. All they cared about was the King of King Fu, who was as much martial art royalty in the Land of Islam as he was in Hollywood.


 --- --- ---

Weston Ochse has spent 29 years in the military in one shape or fashion. He's a world traveler and an internationally best-selling author of high action fiction. Please Note: This article is copyrighted by Weston Ochse. Any reproduction in whole or in part without the author’s permission is prosecutable by public law. If you'd like to borrow part of this or see it reprinted, contact me here. I'll probably say yes.  I'm that kind of guy. You can link to this article. Thank you. © 2013




Sunday, October 20, 2013

Leaving Kabul

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Today I leave Kabul, Afghanistan after a six month military deployment. Since I've arrived I've lost sixty pounds, am in the physical condition of a thirty year old, wrote three short stories, went off-base in combat gear 20+ times, wrote seventeen essays, discovered you can put blue cheese on pizza and make it transcend, visited eight other bases in all corners of Afghanistan, finished edits to one novel and wrote another, improved the performance of my military job by 800%, was given a NATO Medal and a cool certificate for playing war games, was awarded a Joint Civilian Service Commendation Medal and got a bunch of speeches from folks saying good smack about me, argued the price of carpets with the best rug merchants Afghanistan could throw at me, never fired my weapon, got three plaques, a dozen coins, pins, t-shirts, and patches from Houston Police
Department, Australia, and various other nations and offices, had SEAL Team 666 TEAM BLACK patches made, felt my bones rattle as a VBIEDs and PBIEDs exploded in our vicinity, knew fear as I rolled down the streets in uparmored vehicles with invisible targets on our sides, explained the idea of karma to an Afghani man and changed his entire way of life, ran a 5K and finished, missed my wife, dogs, family and my own way of life terribly, and grew immensely as a person.

My tour in Afghanistan is over. It was more than and less than I expected. I absolutely made it my own. I'm proud and amazed to have been here and met so many wonderful people, whose words and influence shall remain with me for the rest of my days.

But now it's time to come home.

I want what I had before.

I want to practice being the man I've become.

I want to be better, stronger, fitter, funnier, more successful, and more relaxed than I was before.

More importantly, I want to go home.

Look out America.

Ready or not, here I come.

Weston Ochse
Kabul, Afghanistan
(Last Day - Leaving)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

My Examined Life - The Turned On Writer

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As much as I might try and surface-read something, I can't help but become invested as I find myself agreeing and disagreeing about someone else's ideas of who a writer is, what a writer does, and the ownership of a writer's work. Even if the person who wrote the referenced article is a writer.

Especially if the person who wrote the article is a writer.

Phyllis Rose wrote a wonderful article in The American Scholar which I read the other day. While sitting at my computer array in Afghanistan, processing classified information on one system, and checking edits on my science fiction novel in progress on another, I relished Ms. Rose playing with the idea that when you meet an author, you aren't meeting the author. This idea is predicated on the idea that authors take breaks, turn themselves off, and present only those parts of themselves they want their readership--the rest of the world-- to see. I can buy the last part, but there's no way I can turn myself off. Not even a little bit. And as far as presenting to the world only those pieces of ourselves we want to present? We all do that, reader, writer, mechanic, soldier, and do-nut maker.
Author Playing Soldier in Afghanistan

But Ms.Rose, flexing her considerable talents, was playing with us. This thesis and her supporting facts were presented merely to show how this really couldn't be true. In fact, she soon comes to the heart of her article, this brilliant and beautiful paragraph which I provide here for you to read unsullied by my grimy soldier man hands.

"I have always loved Roland Barthes’s essay, “The Writer on Holiday.” This is what I remembered its saying: the writer is never on holiday. When Flaubert is in Egypt, going to brothels, he is really at work. When Henry James goes to dinner parties, he is at work. When Dickens produces theatricals, he is at work. Everything writers do is valuable because everything they do, potentially, is inspiration. Nothing in a writer’s life is wasted. Since ultimately what we all want most is to have our time on earth prove to be valuable, we examine writers’ lives to learn how to turn whatever happens to us into something useful or beautiful. Writers are models of creative alchemy, and at the heart of our interest in their lives is the appeal—mythic, perhaps—of a life in which everything counts. (Cite)"

Even Having Lunch In L.A. I Co-opt one of the staff
When I travel to L.A. for a book signing, I am at work. When I am running down a desert road, staring suspiciously at the edge of the road for a rattlesnake, I am at work. When I fish I am at work. When I'm with my family I am at work. And when I am serving a tour of duty in a combat zone I am at work. Rest assured that although part of me is processing material for a future creative effort, the greater part of me is keeping myself safe and prosecuting the war to the enemy as best as my ability allows.

Ms. Rose point out that 'we want to understand the mystery of creation. We are not satisfied with the sacral view of the writer. We want to learn the secret of creativity, because it can be the secret to happiness. We turn to all kinds of literature, biography and fiction both, to learn how to live, and in a way, all books are self-help books.'

I own my own share of biographies. From Bradbury to Heinlein, Douglas to Brando, Puller to Jefferson, Kipling to Barker, I have tomes upon tomes of works about those who have achieved the pinnacles of success. Do I have them because I want to relive their achievements one vicarious chapter at a time? In part. But like most of you, I also want to discover the grand secret to writing the great novel. I want to know what mystical elixer they drank or what mountaintop-living monk they spoke with. The secret is in there, I just have to read it close enough to figure it out.

And the secret is in the books, only it's not the secret we think. Elixers, mountaintop-living monks, magic pills, and sea sprites notwithstanding, the secret it to always be turned on. Many of us have day jobs. A great many of these jobs are boring beyond belief, jobs which we perform so we can spend the rest of our lives writing and creating. Regardless of what we call ourselves when others ask what we do, we have to think of ourselves as writers first. While our jobs may have regular hours, a writer is never off.

Writing is an occupation.

Writing is a conviction.

Writing is a necessity.

A job is a means of feeding ourselves, keeping a roof over our heads, and allowing us a few spare coveted moments of writing.

I'll say it again. To be a writer is to be always on. From an anatomical perspective, each of us has voluntary and involuntary muscles. Involuntary muscles are those which allow us to breath and pump blood through your body. Voluntary muscles are those which allow us to walk, talk, lift a pencil and write, or to sit at a keyboard and type. Opening ourselves to the universe is an involuntary function. The great secret is that we are always breathing in our surroundings. How else can we suddenly remember something we barely even realized we knew? Or understand a concept which hadn't been taught to us since the sixth grade? This is purely automatic and goes on without you even knowing.

This is my screensavor
Creativity is the same way. It's a simple process to adjust our great intergalactic scoop of knowledge gathering into a creative machine. All we have to do is acknowledge and reaffirm our position as creator. Once affirmed, our mind works behind the scenes for us. How many times have you sat at a keyboard or addressed pencil to paper not knowing what you were going to say, only to come away hours later with thousands of words, not knowing from whence they came. The words and thoughts were always there. You collected them without knowing it, processed them without realizing it, and your mind has been waiting for the opportunity to provide them based on the application of the appropriate trigger.

This trigger is where the magic begins. We don't know what it is but we do know how to summon it. Sit down, address the page, and write. Write anything. Think of your blank page as your Field of Dreams. If you build it they will come. But instead of the ghosts of dead baseball players, you'll find the page populated by other things (unless of course you are writing about dead baseball players).

In Neil Gaiman's seminal novel, American Gods, he says, 'That is the eternal folly of man.To be chasing after sweet flesh, without realizing that it is simply a pretty cover for the bones.' This was applied to how one person sees another. Although this extraordinary truism is directed at the continual hunt for the opposite sex based on beauty, it also can be used to refer to our own search for how others write and succeed.

But it all begins with being turned on.
My Newest Novel On Sale Now

Recognize who you are.

Affirm who you are.

Present yourself to the page.

Create.

Rinse.

Repeat.




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Weston Ochse has spent 29 years in the military in one shape or fashion. He's a world traveler and an internationally best-selling author of high action fiction. Please Note: This article is copyrighted by Weston Ochse. Any reproduction in whole or in part without the author’s permission is prosecutable by public law. If you'd like to borrow part of this or see it reprinted, contact me here. I'll probably say yes.  I'm that kind of guy. You can link to this article. Thank you. © 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thank Yous and Acknowledgements for AGE OF BLOOD

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So many people go into the making of a book. What you see below are the acknowledgements from the inside of SEAL Team 666: Age of Blood. After it went to print, I was assigned to Team Black publicity team. In appreciation, I sent them patches and had some more made to give out at signings. Special call out to Paul Hochman and Clare Toohey for your critical help. Both of you and those you work with are as much a part of SEAL Team 666 as Laws and Walker.

Here's what appeared in the book. 

Many people helped to make the book you’re holding (or viewing or listening to) and I owe them all a sincere thanks. Thanks again to Brendan Deneen, Peter Joseph, Pete Wolverton, and the whole Thomas Dunne team. Thanks of course to my agent, Robert Fleck, for being on the front lines of publishing so that I don’t have to. Shout out to the bands the Eagles of Death Metal, 009 Sound System, Mumford and Sons, QOTSA, and Everlast for rocking me through the writing process for this novel. And thanks most of all to Yvonne, without whose support, wisdom, and love, none of this would be possible.

Special shout-out to Jon Carte for being there at the real beginning of things. Thanks also to Dave Lake, Brian Wallenius, Barb and Dirk Foster, Hal and Gene, and Eunice and Gregg Magill. Thanks to Comic King Walt Flannigan and Keith Giffen (I Heart Lobo) for your props. Thanks also to Brian Keene, Drew Williams, Bob Ford, Geoff Cooper, and Stephen Lukac for a boys’ weekend to send me off to Afghanistan. And thanks to Brian K and Tommy H for introducing me to Herb and Diane Harmon (Hi Herb and Diane) and the serenity of Cedar Lodge.And thanks to all the readers and bookstore workers for making SEAL Team 666 such a huge success. I had emails from fans from Vincenza, Italy, where the book was in a military base library, to Hawaii, where tourists were buying copies to take out to the beach.

Lots of fan letters. Lots of new friends. I thank each and every one of you for taking the time to write, email, Facebook, tweet, or simply high-five me during a book signing. If you want to reach out to me about this book or anything else, I can be found on Facebook and Twitter under my name and you can always find
me at www .westonochse.com.

—Weston Ochse
Kabul, Afghanistan June 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Buying Guide for SEAL Team 666: Age of Blood

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I keep getting asked where the book is available so I thought I'd make a list and update it if you have links. The answer is simple. SEAL Team 666: Age of Blood is available EVERYWHERE. But here are some links for multiple countries, brick and mortar, as well as electronic.

The book comes in two editions.
  • The hardback and electronic editions are published by Thomas Dunne Books.
  • The soft cover edition is published by Titan Books in the United Kingdom.
Brick and Mortar (US)
Mysterious Galaxy
Book Soup
Poisoned Pen
Powell's Books
Hastings Books
Barnes and Nobles
To find it at the nearest bookstore - Indiebound


Brick and Mortar (Canada)
Indigo Books 

Brick and Mortar (England)
Waterstones
Blackwells
Foyles

Brick and Mortar (Worldwide)
The Book Depository

Online
Hardback Amazon (US)
Hardback Amazon (Germany)
Hardback Amazon (Canada)
Hardback Amazon (China)
Hardback Amazon (Japan)
Hardback Amazon (Mexico)
Hardback Amazon (Spain)
Hardback Amazon (India)
Hardback Amazon (France)
Hardback Amazon (UK)
Hardback Barnes and Nobles
Paperback Amazon (UK)
Bookstorepublisher.UK
Periplus (Indonesia)

Electronic Editions
Nook Barnes and Nobles
Kindle Amazon
iTunes

Publishers and Distributors
Macmillan Author Website
St. Martins Press
Thomas Dunne Books
Titan Books

Don't Forget the Book that Started it All
From Publishers Weekly
Ochse's supernatural Special Forces unit (introduced in SEAL Team 666) is deployed to find the daughter of a senator gone missing off the coast of Cabo San Lucas. The kidnapping turns out to be linked to the Zeta drug cartel, which plans to "reinstate old Aztec rule" with the help of a cult of "neo-pagan Aztec worshippers," and the team's rescue mission leads its members to a bloody showdown at an ancient temple buried under Mexico City. Those who enjoyed Ochse's first book will find more of the same to please them here.

From Booklist
In this follow-up to SEAL Team 666, a kidnapping propels the team into hell. The daughter of a senator vanishes from a beach, and video footage shows her being attacked by a giant sea creature. But evidence demonstrating she’s still alive sends the team to Mexico, where one of the team members is bitten by the creature. Rather than seek help when he shows signs of being possessed, though, he hides what is happening to him. Soon the mission goes haywire, and the mayhem and bloodshed escalate. Ochse’s novel attempts to blend the military fiction of Tom Clancy with the supernatural horror of early Stephen King. It shouldn’t work, but it does, thanks mainly to the SEAL-team characters, just the kind of appealing heroes you want fighting visions from all our nightmares. More in this genre-blending vein will be eagerly anticipated. --Jeff Ayers

Praise for Age of Blood:

“Ochse’s novel attempts to blend the military fiction of Tom Clancy with the supernatural horror of early Stephen King. It shouldn’t work, but it does, thanks mainly to the SEAL-team characters, just the kind of appealing heroes you want fighting visions from all our nightmares. More in this genre-blending vein will be eagerly anticipated.” —Booklist

Praise for SEAL Team 666:

*New York Post Required Reading Selection*

“SEAL Team 6, the real-life elite team that killed Osama bin Laden, has never seen the kinds of things that confront its fictional counterpart.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A fan of Tom Clancy-ish military thrillers would be as engrossed in this book as a fan of Jim Butcher’s novels about Harry Dresden.” —CriminalElement.com

"Even the supernatural has its own division of terrorist. Thank goodness we have our defenders - SEAL Team 666." —Joe R. Lansdale

Author Deployed to Afghanistan

"Weston Ochse has always been a wised-up, clued-in, completely trustworthy writer of high-action fiction that deserved a wider audience, and SEAL Team 666 is his breakthrough book. Here, every story-line is as taut as a gunfighter's nerves, and individual scenes pop like firecrackers. I raced through this novel and when it ended, I wanted more." —Peter Straub, New York Times bestselling author of In the Night Room

"SEAL Team 666 is like X-Files and Torchwood written by Tom Clancy: ingenious, creepy, and entertaining." —Kevin J. Anderson, #1 international bestselling author of Hunters of Dune

"A wild blend of nail-biting thriller action and out-of-the shadows horror. This is the supernatural thriller at its most dynamic.  Perfect!" —Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Dead of Night and The King of Plagues

“What we have here is a massively exciting and fast paced story that really flies along at a cracking pace. In fact, I would even say it doesn't even give the reader a chance to breathe, instead it makes them turn page after page to see what is going to happen next.” —Curiosity of a Social Misfit

“An action packed and well written first story in what I see becoming a great and popular series; which has a strong lead in the form of Jack Walker. Seal Team 666 has enough military jargon and weaponry to keep military lovers happy and enough horrible creatures and gruesome deaths to keep fans of the supernatural happy. Plus, I’m really excited to see which new creatures Ochse throws our heroes way in the next books.” —Nerd Like You

“All in all what you have here is a multi-genre horror/military fiction with very likable characters, a strong mythology, and a giant pile of source material for further stories. That I would definitely read.” —Following The Nerd

“The action is heavy and the violence extreme as the team battles monsters and man yet Weston Ochse is a strong enough author that he does not have to rely on gore to keep the reader’s attention. His military background shows as well as the way his characters act in combat is very believable.” —The Examiner (UK)

“SEAL Team 666 affords the same pleasures as Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series or Christopher Farnsworth’s Blood Oath and its sequels: namely seeing supernatural beasties receive a good old military-grade beating…. Ochse’s army background lends authenticity to this snappy, fast-paced thriller.” —Financial Times of London (UK)


Praise for Weston Ochse:

“Weston Ochse is to horror what Bradbury is to science fiction — an artist whose craft, stories and voice are so distinct and mesmerizing that you can't help but be enthralled.”—Dani Kollin, Prometheus Award-winning author of The Unincorporated Man

"Make way for a new powerhouse on the block. Hard work and formidable skills have already shot-gunned Ochse to the front of the genre's exciting new pack of writers. With creative brawn, brains, and balls, the guy's locked, loaded, and switched to full-auto, blazing away with his unique and original brand of modern horror, one of the few new writers, I'd say, who will help re-define the field for the future."—Master of Dark Fiction Edward Lee on Weston Ochse

“Weston Ochse is a mercurial writer, one of those depressingly talented people who are good at whatever they turn their hand to.”—Conrad Williams, August Derleth and International Horror Guild Award Winner

“Weston is one of the best authors of our generation."—Brian Keene, Bram Stoker Award-winning author The Rising

"Weston Ochse is perhaps the fiercest and most direct of the latest generation of dark fiction writers. I watched awestruck year by year as the bright candle of his talent grew into a roaring bonfire of brutally honest output, matched only by his deep empathy for the human condition."—Rocky Wood, author of Stephen King: A Literary Companion

“Horror fans will be drawn in by Ochse's cool, collected writing style and then blown away when he peels back reality's skin to uncover the supernatural terrors lurking just beneath the surface."

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Shout out to Dayton Metro Library

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Shout out to the Librarians at the Dayton Metro Library for ordering copies of SEAL Team 666: AGE OF BLOOD. If you are in this part of Ohio and can't afford a copy of the book, call up and reserve yours at the library. Try an inter-library transfer, if you want the book at a library near you. And if you're at a library that doesn't have AGE OF BLOOD, ask them to get it for you. I've found that librarians want you to read, so if it is in their power, they'll make it happen.

If you are a librarian or are a reader who has seen this book at your local library, drop me a line so I can give a shout out to the hard working men and women at the library.

Thanks Dayton Metro Librarians!!!


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Working Out With French Fries

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Weston Ochse (pronounced 'oaks') is the author of ten novels, is currently stationed in Afghanistan, and has lost 55 pounds in the last five months by working out six days a week and eating healthy six days a week. He has cheat days. He's not perfect. But these are some of his secrets.
--- --- ---

I lost two pounds in the last 24 hours. One pound was lost after my workout. When I woke up this morning after eating two grilled chicken breasts, a mixed salad, and a double-helping of French Fries for dinner, I'd lost another pound. How can that happen? And the funny thing is, this happens to me all the time. It's not magic. It's chemistry. I'm sure there's some professor out there who can explain it with an equation. But I'm an author. I use words. So here's my reasoning.

Sometimes my body craves French Fries. I'm sure you have no idea what I'm talking about. Not the craving you get when it's ten at night and you drive by a fast food restaurant and smell the air being pumped out from their artificial French Fry Pump-n-Spray machines, but the hint of a smell, that incites memories of laughter and joking with friends and that French Fry goodness associated with a slight crunch on the outside, soft heat on the inside, dipped in a glob of glorious ketchup, and the joy that leaps from your mouth as it anticipates the...

Sorry about the food porn. I couldn't help myself.

But you get the idea. We've all been there. If you've kept reading so far then you at least have a passing fancy towards French Fries. I've met a few people who don't like them. They are either so damn healthy and fit that they lose calories just by breathing, or they just haven't figured what to drench the fries in. If you're the latter, might I recommend the Canadian delicacy poutine, a gelatinous yet tasty accoutrement to French Fries which can covers your tasty potato bits in everything from duck confit to the traditional cheese curd gravy. Please note however that the American Lung, Heart, Kidney, Liver and Spleen Foundations have a picture of this delicacy in the mail rooms of their headquarters, designating it as Body Enemy #1. Personally, I think that's a little harsh, but my guess is they did it because it's from Canada.

Nuff said on that.

Back to regular French Fries and how they can become an integral part of your workout diet. That's right. Go back and read it again. Read it three times if you want. I know. It's a wondrous sentence. Some of you are probably going to get the words '...integral part of your workout diet' tattooed on your bodies. I don't blame you. But it's a true statement.

Back to cravings. When you're eating between a 1200 and 1800 calorie diet and burning about 500 calories a day, do you get the craving for French Fries or possibly even potato chips? I do. Sometimes I'll burp slightly and it will taste like a potato chip. Now, not having had one in weeks, this is an interesting phenomenon, so I'm left with the idea that I have potato chip phantoms lurking in my
large intestines, or my body is trying to tell me something.

While I am a writer of horror and dark fiction by trade, and I think it would be very cool to have ethereal parts of anthropomorphized processed foods speaking to me, I defer to the idea that my body is trying to tell me something instead.

And this is it. Too often in our attempts to become healthy we completely remove fat from our meals. This makes us crave. This makes us cheat. This makes us fail. The bottom line is that you cannot remove fat from your diet. I know, right, another great tattoo idea. But wait, there's more.

The glycemic index for potatoes is exceptionally high, which means your body burns it up quickly and what it doesn't use as energy, it stores as fat. But your caloric burn continues after your workout for up to 48 hours. I eat fries once a week and it's not even my cheat day. My cheat day is a small pizza with blue cheese and mozzarella cheese and pepperoni. Now that's a cheat!

I'm not a scientist, but as an author I'm a researcher. This is what I've discovered and this is what I use.

1 - Glycemic Foods. I'm very careful about high glycemic foods and only eat them rarely, which includes the potatoes used in French Fries.

2 -Afterburn. I eat them within three hours of exercise, capitalizing on the continual burn. A NY Times article reporting on a study conducted by Dr. Knapp in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise that test subjects burned an extra 37% calories over the next 14 hours. This is commonly known as the afterburn, created by Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). When I cheat, I make sure I cheat during this period so it's like I'm exercising and eating at the same time.

3 - Water. I drink 6-8 8oz glasses of water every day. This is in addition to coffee, tea, etc. You need it for your body. There has been tons of research on the subject. Here's a sampling from Reuters.

4 - Fried Foods Are Bad. Let's face it, everything is bad in too many quantities. Fried Foods are even worse. I'm not for a second kidding myself into believing that I can exercise and sit back and eat fries and lose weight. The body doesn't roll that way. But, so I can have that one glorious plate of fries, I eat absolutely no fried foods at all except for this French Fries cheat.

5 - Fat Is Good. I always eat a little fat with each meal. I've read in a hundred places that your body needs a little fat to balance it out. I usually stick with a little cheese, but will also add fish, both fresh and canned. Here are a few random facts I've been told from google-
  • The brain is 70% fat. Insufficient fats can cause lower IQs, mental illnesses, depression, etc.
  • The right fats help to lower blood pressure, thin blood, and prevent clots.
  • Fats help the body to absorb essential vitamins including A,D,E, and K.
  • Without fats hair and skin can become flaky.
  • Lack of Omega-3's can cause eye problems such as Macular degeneration.
  • Lack of Omega-6's can lead to Diabetes.


  • 6 - Fat vs Carbs. I do reduce my complex carbohydrate intake. The folks over at Mercola have a take on it I tend to believe, going back and following historical trends. If it's processed, I limit it. Then again, I do have a pizza every week and guess what. I don't gain weight after that either. So, I replace the easy to grab cookie, cracker, bread, etc, with fresh fruit, veggies, or a piece of mouth candy, and I save my carbs for the good stuff (another great tattoo idea).

    7 - Probiotics. Have a healthy tummy. There should be millions of little beasts in there cleaning and brushing. You should have a bowel movement at least once a day. I take probiotic pills once a day (Dr. Ohirra) and two sets of two fiber capsules a day to help the body out. I can tell the difference when my stomach is not perfect.

    So, enough science and fact.

    Let's go straight to my supposition.

    Here's what I think happens to my body. I've read a bunch of places that agree with me and almost as many which don't. Everyone's an expert on their own bodies. This is my belief and I've been living and breathing it through 55 pounds of weight loss. So what's happening? I think our bodies have been evolutionary conditioned to process a certain amount of fat. We're omnivores. It has to be the case. When we exercise and limit our caloric intake, we also teeter on the edge of starving our bodies, putting them into starvation mode, and eating enough for our bodies to use. I'm as much a victim\culprit as the next person. I often don't eat enough, I think, and my body begins storing energy fearful that I'm killing it. Moments like when I eat a plate of French Fries convince my body it isn't starving and it uses what I give it to rebuild and replace. It's such a funny thing. I usually lose the most weight after a week of maintaining the same weight eating healthy, then in one swoop after eating French Fries, it's gone.

    This is what happens to my body.

    This is what's working for me.

    I'd love to hear about your experiences.

    What's working for you?

    Do you work out with fries like me?

    Isn't it glorious?

    (Major warning - Here is the reason: when a starchy food such as a potato is cooked to a temperature above 248 degrees, it produces a cancer-causing chemical called acrylamide.)

    --- --- ---

    Weston Ochse has spent 29 years in the military in one shape or fashion. He's a world traveler and an internationally best-selling author of high action fiction. Please Note: This article is copyrighted by Weston Ochse. Any reproduction in whole or in part without the author’s permission is prosecutable by public law. If you'd like to borrow part of this or see it reprinted, contact me here. I'll probably say yes. You can link to this article. Thank you. © 2013

    Wednesday, September 18, 2013

    GRUNT LIFE - Up Against Deadlines and War

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    I knew this was going to happen.

    I have 33 days left in Afghanistan.

    The book is due in 27 days.

    I have roughly 60 pages left to complete the first draft of my novel for Solaris Books, Grunt Life.

    It should be easy.

    But the problem is that I have 33 days left in Afghanistan. We're trying to deal with an enemy here who wants to kill innocent civilians as well as our own soldiers. It's my job to try and protect both of them. I'm constantly busy. I'm working 14-16 hour days. I come home exhausted. But like tonight, I sit down and pump out some pages and do some edits. Grunt Life is all that I am working on. It IS my spare time.

    This is going to be an amazing book. If it hits right, it's going to hit HUGE. As writers we are able to recognize such things. My internal voice keeps saying, "You got something special here. Don't fuck it up." And I'm trying desperately not to.

    How am I going to finish and edit this novel in 27 days and not screw it up?

    Stressed?

    Who me? Stressed?

    Gah!

     Enough whining.

    Now I got to get back to it.

    More words.

    More pages.

    Progress the plot.

    Kill aliens.

    Catharsis.

    Redemption.

    Gunfire.

    Sex.

    War!

    GRUNT LIFE!

    Thursday, September 12, 2013

    Victory at Last: From Fat to 5K

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    When I arrived in Afghanistan, I was 275 pounds and could barely walk three times around the 550 meter interior square of my base. By the end of these first few attempts, I was gasping, my knees and back were hurting, and I was done. I'd once had an idea of getting in shape before I deployed, running, doing martial arts, exercising, until I was once again that lean mean fighting machine I'd been before the army started to take its physical toll-- somewhere around my ten year mark in service while I was assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. But when I ran, my feet hurt. When I walked, my feet hurt. When I breathed, my feet hurt.

    Sure, the weight was a part of it, but my feet hurt when I was 180 pounds too. What was I going to do? After coming back to my room out of breath and almost out of hope, I'd search the Internet to see if there were others like me and if there were, what the hell they were doing to make it better. Luckily, I was paying attention to my Internet searches.

    I'd long ago been diagnosed as a pronator. I also have one leg slightly longer than the other. We all know those people who can strap on the cheapest pair of running shoes and run forever without pain. I'm not one of them. I put on even expensive running shoes created for my specific issues and I'm in pain within 30 seconds that gets severe and debilitating across the top of my foot within minutes. This is the result in a long-held belief that people like me need motion control shoes-- basically the sport equivalent of metal braces in ones shoes. Think Forest Gump as a kid. This has since been proven absolutely wrong by many studies, but I talk more about that in my article Confessions of a Toe Runner: My Journey to Pain Free Feet.

    But I learned. And what I learned was that I needed to free my feet. The idea that there were shoes meant to force my feet to run an unnatural way for my body was supposed to have been a good idea. But along came neutral shoes. And zero drop shoes. And toe shoes. In a feat of desperation, I ordered a pair of zero drop Five Finger Bikila's and began running.

    And I haven't stopped yet.

    My feet have absolutely ceased to hurt.

    Are they because of the weird looking Five Finger design? Oh sure they are. Of course they are. Pain is too busy laughing at my feet to actually possess them.

    Seriously. The reason is because of the zero drop and because my forefoot can spread out.

    Ever feel like your forefoot is bound like a Chinese Victorian woman's? You should have room in the front of your shoe.

    What's zero drop, you ask? For years, traditional training shoes have been built with a 12-15mm heel-toe differential. But in the shoe revolution we're in now, moderate minimalist shoes typically have a 4-10mm heel-toe drop and zero-drop shoes are generally those that fall in the 0-4mm range. Many studies in recent years have suggested that a significantly raised heel is one of the culprits to many common running injuries, partially because they tend to encourage heavier heel striking, higher impact forces and greater rotational forces (overpronation). (The Running Times)

    Fast forward to September 11, 2013 and the 5K Memorial Run.

    So there I was, in Kabul, Afghanistan, 7000 feet above sea level, a little after eight a.m., on the starting line of a race I never thought I'd be able to run in my life. Sure, I'd run 5Ks before, but only accidentally onpurpose as part of a military run where I was just one member of a larger painful mass of men and women, running until our platoon sergeant finally let us stop. This race was absolutely on purpose. This race was different. This race was going to be my signature stamp on 5 months of weight loss and training that not only saw me lose 50 pounds, but also saw me begin to run pain free for the first time since 1994.

    I'd practiced the run both on the treadmill and outside. I was ready for it. I knew my pace: a little over 8 minutes a kilometer. Not fast my any means, but it is my pace for now. I was stretched. I was hydrated. I was ready.

    Lap 1 - We all started in a clump. I kept my head on the road and focused on my pace. I didn't want to start out too quickly. About  halfway through the lap I checked my time. I was faster than my pace by over a minute and forced myself to slow down.

    Lap  2 - I'm a little pissed right now because I was hit in the face with water from a hose. The guy was supposed to hold it out and let us run under it if we wanted, but he got bored and started aiming for us. I want windshield wipers on my RayBans. I feel sorry for the guy. There's more than 300 of us who wants to kill him. I spend the next lap angry as a wet dog and forget about any pain or breathing.

    Lap 3 - I'm dry now. I ran four practice laps the day before as a warm up. My legs are feeling tight and I'm wondering if I might have sabotaged myself. I watch as two muscular security guys give up and start walking.

    Lap 4 - I've been passed now by people who are super fast. I wonder if they even know what pain is? They seem to be floating. Damn them.  I remember we keep our own lap count. If I stop early, no one would no. Except me. I'd know. What kind of signature would that be? Plus, I'm only breathing a little bit hard. My feet don't hurt. Move out soldier!

    Lap 5 - Holy cow! I'm being lapped by a woman 20 years older than me. Ignore it. Ignore it. It has nothing to do with you. My legs feel leaden, but my feet do not hurt. My breathing is fine. And hey look, there are those two guys, walking back the other way, too embarrassed to make eye contact.

    Lap 6 - Damn. People have already finished. I have 2 laps left. Stop it! You have THREE laps left. Right. Three laps. And I am dam hot. Thirsty too. Where's that guy with the water-- ahhh. And look. There are those two guys and they're getting T-shirts!  Cheaters.

    Lap 7 - I grab a bottle of water, rip off the top, drink about four gulps and toss the water to the side. I forgot to look, but since I didn't hear a scream, I'm good. I begin noticing people I know cheering for me on the sidelines. So cool.

    Lap 8 - A friend of mine who has already finished joins me. He says for me to come on. He's a nice guy, but I have my pace. It's my secret weapon. Head down, eyes forward, feet in front of other, pace, pace, pace. Is that a dog passing me? It's a bomb dog on a leash.  Cool!

    Lap 9 - I'm on my last lap. This is pretty amazing. My feet do not hurt. My breathing is good. I'm going to go faster. I increase speed.  I tear around the last corner and am at full out sprint. Look at that man run.

    I cross the finish line and raise my arms.

    No one knows how special this is except me.

    No one knows what a life event this really is. I'm not supposed to be able to run. The Veteran's Administration has already formally acknowledged how badly the military messed up my body. This wasn't supposed to have happened.

    I spend the rest of the day basking in the joy of my accomplishment.

    And now it's the next day.

    There will be more 5Ks. There might even be a 10K in my future. People are sending me emails telling me I should do marathons or ironman competitions, but I'm rational and a little worried it will all come crashing down. I haven' felt pain yet, but I'm wondering if it might show up. All my research says it won't, but I'm still taking care of myself. Still, I send them back replies, thanking them for their excitement on my behalf, promising them that if I decide to do an Ironman, they'll be the first to know it.

    My next race is in early November in Arizona. It's a Run for Your Lives Race and I'm going to be a zombie. A fast zombie wearing toe shoes.  Muaahahahaha. Forget The Walking Dead... I'll be The Running Dead.

    The irony is that with this death, I breathe new life into myself.

    Now pain free, I'm going to take advantage of it.

    Toe Shoes and a 5K?

    Smells like...

    Victory.

    Click to make it bigger


     
    *     *     *

    Weston Ochse has spent 29 years in the military in one shape or fashion. He's a world traveler and an internationally best-selling author of high action fiction. Please Note: This article is copyrighted by Weston Ochse. Any reproduction in whole or in part without the author’s permission is prosecutable by public law. If you'd like to borrow part of this or see it reprinted, contact me here. Thank you. © 2013