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.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Weston On A Stick - Walking Dead Style

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It all started at Phoenix Comiccon three years ago.

My wife Yvonne with the First WOAS
I was supposed to be there. In fact, I'd been asked to judge the Zombie Beauty pageant with none other than Elvira. I was so looking forward to the event. I was going to be awesome. Me and Elvira were going to hit it off and laugh at the zombies dressed up in pretty clothes, us sitting like silly kids in a church pew.

Ahhh, those should have been the days.

Except the military jumped in and said they needed me in Romania.

The President his own bad self called me up and said, "Wes, we need you."

"But sir. Elvira and I am supposed to hang out together."
A Zombie Taking a Bite out of WOAS

"Son," he began with a sufficient amount of gravitas in his voice for me to understand the global inplications, "Your country needs you. Not Elvira."

So I packed off and went to Romania.

And as I was in Romania, my wife was at Comiccon. She made sure I was there too, because she invented Weston on a Stick!

But I also made sure I had Elvira with me. I took her to Romania -- on a stick!

Wil Wheaton with YOAS and WOAS
Last year I made Phoeinx Comiccon and had a terrific time. Just one of the best times I've had in years. So I was a little upset this year when the President once again called me and said, "Wes, your country needs you to be in Afganistan."

Sigh.

Another year without being at Phoenix Comiccon, without spending time with my peeps, without hanging out with the uber-cool Wil Wheaton, and without seeing all the cool costumes.

Merle Giving You the Double Salute while he protects us.
And then I awoke this Memorial Day morning to find that uber-fan and friend Wendy Trakes arranged for Weston and Yvonne on a Stick at this years Pheonix Comiccon.

Bunches of my friends had their picture taken with me, which was just too awesome.

Then I saw the one with Wil Wheaton. I'm a huge W2 Fan! I like the guy. He's terrific.

And then I saw the one with Merle from The Walking Dead  -- AKA Michael Rooker -- AKA Henry the Serial Killer.

WOW!

And a double finger salute too!
Elvira in Romania -- On a Stick

It's nice to know that when my country calls me, my stunt self is on a stick and gets to spend quality time with quality people.

Now that's cool.

And for those of you missing us like good friends Eunice and Greg Magill, we're going to begin marketing Weston and Yvonne on a Stick so that you too can have us in your house, or on vacation with you, or at your child's graduation.

Think of it!

All it takes $19.95 and you too can get a picture, a piece of cardboard and a paint stirrer so that you can experience the wonders of having not really famous people on a stick!

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Also, make sure you show the love and get my latest original novel, Babylon Smiles. It's like the movies Three Kings meets Kelly's Heroes. It's a straight military fiction novel -- an Iraqi War heist novel. 

It's free for Amazon Prime Members and would make a great Father's Day Present.



Saturday, May 25, 2013

Todays Attack Brought to You By The Taliban

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The idea of the Taliban didn't seem so bad when I was sitting on couch watching television, my beverage of choice in my left hand, the remote in my right hand, me deftly flipping between the news and a cooking program with that guy with the cool car and the spiky hair.

"The Taliban hates America. News at eleven."

"The Taliban condemns the U.S. Army."

The Taliban outlaws everything."

The Taliban demands all Afghanistan return to its thirteenth century values."

The headlines are ludicrous. Ten thousand miles removed, it's hard to believe. But it's true.

There are a group of men who hate me and my entire family because we exist. It was an esoteric idea that I never really understood-- that I couldn't understand-- until I was here.

Another idea which I thought I understood was the concept of' 'the fighting season.' I think I thought of it like a 'football season' or a 'planting season' or a 'rainy season.' I treated it like it was a holistic period of time, rather than something begins with a Taliban commander shouting, "ready, set, go kill them all!"

So I've been in Afghanistan a month now. There's fighting all over the place, especially in the south. There are provinces where the people are fleeing. There are places where the Afghan military are holding their own. And there are a slew of attacks on innocent civilians. I'm sort of removed from it where I am. I read about these events, I hear about them, they are the topic of conversation, but like you sitting at home, unless the badness comes knocking at your front door, it seems like someone else's problem.

Then came the VBIED attack last week which claimed the life of Americans. The attack was only a few kilometers from me. I didn't hear it, but only because I was still asleep.

Then there was the attack yesterday at a UN compound near (but not in) the Green Zone. I heard the suicide bomber explode himself. I heard the gunshots. I heard the grenades. I was in a bazaar buying a pair of lapis lazuli bowls for my wife and I. I hurriedly packed up my stuff, and headed back. Soon, we were on lockdown. I'm sure the entrances to the compound bristled with weapons, prepared for any sort of attack. All the while, we heard the sounds of battle.

Child Running From Yesterdays Attack - NY TIMES
The NY Times has a great summation of the attack, which you can read here. For me, it was inconvenient  For people like this family and the kids in the picture above, it was a traumatic event that they will never forget. They probably lost loved ones. When I see this kid, I see my own son, and it makes me mad.

Where are the days when we could square off across a battlefield, slap our shields, then run at each other?

I thought of posting some funny, anti-Taliban demotivational posters here because it's so easy to laugh at the Taliban. I even thought of ending the essay with a picture of the most awesome Christopher Walken demanding more cowbell. But as I began to write this, I started to become angry at the Taliban and the other organizations of their ilk Do you want to see what outrage is? Look at this Pulitzer Prize winning photo of a girl standing amidst the dead after an attack (Warning -- GRAPHIC).

THIS SHIT MAKES ME MAD!

So here I am.

I'm not on my couch any longer.

No more beverages of preference and no more remote controls for my TV.

I'm going to do something about the Taliban. I'm going to make their lives miserable. I am good at my job... no, I am great at my job. America has always been called a sleeping lion and these asshats have woken me up.

I have five months left and I'm going work as hard as I can to bring as many of these cowardly fighters down. I thought about this as I sat listening to the sound of gunfire and grenades last night. I woke up thinking about it this morning.

My country sent me to do a job.

And I'm going to do it.

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So I went to lunch and came back. It's raining outside now, a veritable downpour. I had time to rethink my stance on making fun of the Taliban and their ilk.

I think they're fair game.

So I will make fun of them. I know. I know. It's too easy. There's so much I can say or do. But I'll limit my jocular attitude to one picture.

Today's You're Stupid if you join the Taliban picture brought to you by Weston Ochse.


If offended, please call your local ISAF security force who will come to your home to hear your complaint.

Thank you.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Twilight of the Green Zone - An Afghanistan Story

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The Green Zone is not at all what I expect. To tell you the truth, I don’t know what I expect, but what I see isn’t it whatever it is. It’s not that I expect green streets and green buildings and green people. That's silly. I just expect something... different. Perhaps after six months I’ll be able to express this inexpressible difference, or it might mean I’ll have to travel to another war and visit another Green Zone to compare, but I know this isn’t what I thought it was going to be.

As we enter the Green Zone, the first thing I notice is the concrete. There’s more concrete in the walls and barricades of the Kabul Green Zone than the interstate stretch from Los Angeles to Barstow. Some indiscernible dust-covered trees line the streets. From the back seat of our armored up SUV, I notice an immediate change to street traffic. Gone are the throngs of folks going about their business. There are still a few street peddlers and beggars, but the number has been reduced ten-fold.  After the cacophony and furious energy of the drive from the airport, the Green Zone feels like a dusty street in an Old West town, the only thing missing, a pair of gunslingers, facing off, and someone whistling the theme song to a Clint Eastwood western.
Three soldiers hurry down the street, harried by children as if they are birds trying to get at some hidden food. Although the soldiers are in full body armor and carrying multiple weapons, their attitude towards the children is universal. They try politely to push them away, but the children will not be deterred. I know the problem right away. I’ve been to enough countries to know that even eye contact can gain their unwanted and furious attention. Let me emphasize, human compassion isn’t a mistake, but at certain times we can become victimized by it. Like these children, who have more professional sales acumen than a dozen Amway salesman, and more diligence than a friendly Fuller Brush man.

And like those old documentaries of wildebeests being chased by great cats on the Serengeti Plane, one soldier falls behind the other. I want to roll down the window and shout for him to watch out, but the windows are locked. So I’m forced to watch as two children on his right tug eagerly on his jacket as a third child, a beyond-cute young girl shoves her arm elbow deep into his other pocket, liberating whatever he has in there. She nods, and the children run off, laughing, just like any other children in the world, just like they hadn’t successfully robbed a fully armed soldier.
We drive on, now moving slightly faster than walking speed. The only other cars around are other up-armored SUVs, one or two local cars, and nothing else.  
Then I see the man with no legs. As I try and think up words to describe him I come up with fervent and angry, but then I think angry is an unfair term. Maybe then fervent and insistent. Yeah, that’s it. I’ve mistaken insistent for anger before, like when my drill sergeant was insistent that I do something, then he was angry about it. Yeah.  Insistent. But he seems angry too. I can’t get past that. But let me back up and describe what I see.
Our SUV is stopped in line waiting to pass through one of the many ‘gates,’ each one making an individual safer than the previous ‘gate.’ Outside my window is a man, scurrying about like a spider on a skateboard. His limbs are moving so fast, it’s not until he slows down that I notice he only has two limbs. It takes a few more seconds to figure out if they are arms, legs, or a combination of the two. When he finally halts his motion at the back bumper of the uparmored SUV in front of us, I see why I am so confused about his limbs. He wears canvas shoes on his hands, which he uses to both propel himself back and forth, and to slap the sides of the SUVs. His trunk rests on a flat wooden cart beneath a shawl of a blanket, where he somehow keeps his balance.
But this man is not handicapped. He might not have legs, but he has eyes and the power in those eyes is enough to close the gap between him and those unlucky enough to meet his gaze. I somehow know this right away. I try not to look directly at him, but every time my traitorous eyes look into his, he surges towards me with windmilling arms and his insistent-angry eyes. It’s as if he’s challenging the entire universe, but only you have the ability to speak on its behalf. His gaze makes you feel insignificant. After all, how can you speak for the universe?
He bangs his canvas shoe on the side of the SUV and it makes me jump. Scott and Crazy Eyes laugh at me as I meet the no-legged man’s gaze. It’s fueled with an inviolate authority, an incomprehensible demand for something I cannot give. Even if I gave him everything I have, I know it will not be enough for the moment. He is Afghanistan and I can’t help him.

Then as the SUV moves on, I feel grateful, and a little guilty.

It really is too much.
We creep forward and make a few turns. Several women have blankets laid out with charms and sundries. Now this I recognize. Outside every military compound since before Hannibal crossed the Alps sit women selling their wares—small trinkets of the conquered to be sent home as trophies. Ever as inconsequential and insubstantial as the piece may be, the prize of the item grows as the narrative increases.

One stands out. I only see her for a moment, hunched over her blanket, carefully arranging the pieces as if it were a game of capitalistic chess. Then she looks up. We see each other. She flashes a peace sigh and our gazes meet. Amidst her wrinkled dark skin and even darker hair, glowing from within the shadow of her scarf are bright blue eyes. It stops me for a moment and the world goes into slomo. I suddenly knew her. She is a child of the soviets. I think of our own American Asian kids spread across Vietnam, Korea, Okinawa, Thailand and the Philippines. I think about how they are treated-- outcasts with blue eyes, reminding everyone who sees them about a war just as soon forgotten. Beauty condemned. Much as my own blue eyes, myself a child of war a millennia removed, now accepted. Would it take them as long? Would it take her as long? Where does beauty start and the guilt of survival end?
Then we pass and time resumes to normal. A phantom image of her peace sign says with me.
Crazy-eyes catches my gaze in the mirror. “Not what you expected, is it?”
“I don’t know what I expected,” I say, not being entirely honest.
“Whatever it was,” he says, with the wisdom of Solomon, “It wasn’t this. That’s for damn sure.”
Soon we’re pulling through a last gate and I see military men and women from more than a dozen countries. Scott jumps out and ground guides us so we don’t run over anyone. I watch the people as they pass. The memory of the race from the airport, the children, the man with no legs, and the women with blue eyes fade as I begin to take in the details of my new home.
We pull to a stop. Scott opens my door.
“Get your shit together. I need to go find you a room.”

As I step outside and plant my feet on frienly ground, looking at my razor-wire twisted horizon, I take a deep breath.

Six months.
I have six months of this.
“You okay?” Scott asks.
I shake it off. “Yeah. Sure. Just taking it all in.”
“Don’t do it now or else you’ll have nothing to do for the next six months.”
In the back of my mind, Rod Serling and Bart Simpson compete for a comeback. But instead of saying anything, I grab my stuff and follow them, towards my new home.



(To keep up with all of my previous Afghanistan Stories, click on the following link - AFGHANISTAN)
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Check out my work online, or purchase them at your favorite bookstore.
Babylon Smiles is a brand new release-- an Iraqi War Heist Novel in the spirit of Three Kings and Kelly's Heroes. If you like SEAL Team 666 or any of my other work, you'll love this.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

War Desk - Afghanistan

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I've shared pictures of my office at home. Lots of space. Desk covered with comic book covers. Arizona sunlight streaming in. dogs basking in the rays. Books galore. Pictures of friends and past literary conquests.

Afghanistan has none of that. I live in a fifteen by fifteen square foot space, with a wall locker, a bed, and a desk setup-- and I feel lucky to have it. Some folks are stacked three and four to a room like mine. Housing is in a shortage, so to have enough space to call my own is a luxury.

So here's my creative space, or my war desk, if you will.



What's there? Let's see if I can give you a tour. Gunbelt. Hat. Head lamp. Some books. Lots of water. a book of postcard pics from the National Gallery of Art -- Hudson river School -- to remind me how beautiful America is. French soap. A compass from my wive. Food. My computer.  Random pills. Kindle. Ear buds. Pocket knife. Ray Bans.

Here's Hemingway in Africa, 1954.


I daresay his is a little more rustic.

I've already edited SEAL Team 666: Age of Blood here, worked on a short story, and a comic book with William F. Nolan. It's a good space. I have tunes to listen to, and if the sounds of helicopters and vehicles get too loud, there are always headphones.

I look forward to doing more work here.

And when I'm done, I'm coming home.


Monday, May 6, 2013

The Vicissitudes of Being Edited - Toward vs Towards

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Here I am, once again, going through edits on this, my eleventh novel. It's an interesting process. I'm pretty open to most edits, after all, I am a product of the Tennessee education system of the late 1970s and early 1980s, which received the least amount of money per child than any other state at the time. Therefore, I understand my own faults. I'm also a product of pop culture, so I tend to spell things in the popular manner, instead of the appropriate manner, sometimes.

Frankly, I'm just happy to be edited by real competent people. Thank you St. Martin's Press and Thomas Dunne Books for assigning a platoon of Ivy League graduates to assault edit SEAL Team 666: Age of Blood. I can always use a good edit. Hell, as is the case, I can always use five good edits. Bring them on.

One of the funny things, though, is I can always tell when someone is trained in British grammar or U.S. grammar. Or more specifically, I can always tell whether The Element of Style by Strunk and White or The Chicago Manual of Style is their grammar reference.

Geoffrey K. Pullum in a NY Times article says, 'The anodyne style advice that Strunk and White offers is harmless enough,' but their 'simplistic don’t-do-this, don’t-write-that instructions offered in the book would not guarantee good writing if they were obeyed.' The article continues to quote others about the book's shortfalls, but the one thing about The Elements of Style is that it is pleasantly short and to the point. Truly, The Elements of Style is a thin book, if whose pages were torn and rolled, could be smoked in a matter of days, if not hours.

Wherein The Chicago Manual of Style is a prodigous tome which could be used as a lethal weapon.

But does size matter?

There are many who would say it always matters. On that subject, I'll defer, but as far as grammar, because I'm from the U.S. and writing primarily for a U.S. market, I refer to the Chicago Manual of Style.

What's the difference, you ask? Here's an example with whether to use that or which. Also, here Absolute Write people pine about the books in kind of a funny way.

There's also the serial comma. Dear lord, arguments about this havecaused wars.

PRO SERIAL COMMA: "By train, plane and sedan chair, Peter Ustinov retraces a journey made by Mark Twain a century ago. The highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector." Languagehat dug this gem out of a comment thread on the serial comma. It's from a TV listing in The Times. It supports the use of the Oxford comma, but only because it keeps Mandela from being a dildo collector. However, even the Oxford comma can't keep him from being an 800-year-old demigod. There's only so much a comma can do.
 
I've been converted to the serial comma because my NY Editors like it and because of my appreciation for Nelson Mandela.

But now I'm facing a different dilemma.  The use of the word toward or towards, as in showing direction to an object or a place.

Which one is correct?

I'm afraid that both of them are. Yep. You have it right. The British way is towards and the U.S. way is toward. In some space-time-continuem insanity, it seems that I've been using the British way and assing the s every time. In What Tim Lebbon-running, Sarah Pinborough-Chardonnay Drinking, Neil Gaiman-singing British universe have I found myself in? I didn't even know I was there.

So what do my Ivy League-trained, serial-comma-loving-NY-publishers want? The American way. Check out Mirriam Webster for the reasoning.

I feel bad for the line editor. He corrected my towards to toward 185 times in this manuscript. I hope he was paid well for each one. In fact, if he was paid for each one, I might be his favorite client.

So onward and upward, towards toward success I go. Soon, I shall learn the lessons, which that that which I should learn to be the author of which editors dream. HAHA

Seriously. And here I sit in Afghanistan, editing, contemplating editing, and editing.

Sigh.

As my wife says, this is what makes me a professional.

Cheers

Weston Ochse
Kabul, Afghanistan

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Things to Come from Weston- Next 365

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Here's what's coming in the next 365 days from me in one manner or another. I hope I didn't leave anything out, but I have a nagging feeling I did -

Short Fiction

Behind Enemy Lines - A collection of four supernatural military thriller novellas from Weston Ochse, Michael McBride, Gord Rollo and Gene O'Neil. My novella is titled Tranquility Tides. To be published by Dark Regions Press (Complete)

Death Race 2000 - A woven collection of four novellas, to be published by Roy James Daley, Books of the Dead Press (Editing)


When I Knew Baseball - Short story appearing in World War II Cthulhu ebook anthology published by Cubicle 7 (Complete).


The Weight of a Dead Man - a short story co-written with Yvonne Navarro and edited by Paul Kane and Charles Prepolec and published by Titan Books, appearing in Beyond the Rue Morgue (complete).

Lovers Leap of Faith - short story appearing in Inhuman Magazine (complete).

Gravitas - Short story appearing in Nightmare Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams (Complete).

The Fine Art of Courage - dark fantasy Hemingway story appearing in Cycatrix Press anthology.

Beneath the Scorpion Tree, reprinted in the Haunted Mansion Volume II (Complete).

Unamed short story in an unnamed steampunk weird western anthology (working).

Unnamed short story in an unnamed military fantasy anthology (working).



Novels

Halfway House, Novel, published by  Journalstone Books. Haunted house novel set in Los Angeles (Complete).

Grunt Life, Novel, published by Solaris Books. Military science fiction novel set in the near future (Working).

SEAL Team 666: Age of Blood, published by Thomas Dunne Books. Sequel to SEAL Team 666 (Complete).

SEAL Team 666, U.K. Edition, published by Titan Books.


Works on the Backburner


Ranger Candy- novel about revenge

Third Book in Aegis Trilogy

American Golem - novella

Comic Book with William F. Nolan