ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly. The American Library Association labeled him one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. His work has also won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. Weston likes to be called a chaotic good paladin and challenges anyone to disagree. After all, no one can really stand a goody two-shoes lawful good character. They can be so annoying. It's so much more fun to be chaotic, even when you're striving to save the world. You can argue with him about this and other things online at Living Dangerously or on Facebook at Badasswriter. All content of this blog is copywrited by Weston Ochse.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New Horrorworld Interview from Afghanistan

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Horrorworld has interviewed me while I'm in Afghanistan. They want to know what's going on with me. If you want to read what they asked and what I said, you can do it here free of charge.

If you don't know about Horrorworld, you should. It's been around as long as I've been writing and is a clearinghouse for all things horror, to include ways to get in contact with all of your favorite authors.



Courtesy of Col Brian Wilson
 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

FATHER'S DAY IN AFGHANISTAN

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Father’s Day has always been a man’s day to me. 
Growing up, I saw my father and my grandfather as larger than life characters. Not only did they tower over my little tow-headed self in size, but their accomplishments and community stature loomed large. I was intimidated by them as a child. Their shadows were long and no matter where I went, I never seemed to escape them. 
But then came Father’s Day. It was a day of d├ętente, where no matter how bad I was I couldn’t get in trouble, and no matter how good I was, I’d never be noticed. For perhaps the first time, I realized that there was a day dedicated to someone other than myself. I remember making gifts out of wood, glue and moss. I also remember going to the local drug store and, forcing myself not to buy comic books—which was a tremendously difficult thing, especially with Turok's run in the early 1970s—I’d buy a gift I thought was a grown up gift to buy. I think once I even bought my father a bottle of Hai Karate cologne. It was the commercial of the man, side-kicking the bikini-clad girls on the beach that made me do it.
Darn girls. What do they know?
Then, eventually, as time progressed, my shadow grew to almost equal proportions and I became a father too. I’ve been given my share of homemade gifts, store-bought gifts, and cards for when my kids just didn’t have the cash. Each of these gifts, no matter how small or how large, was lovely, an offering of love and childhood fealty. I still have many of them. Some are on dressers or desks or shelves, still others are in drawers, me unable to get rid of them, each gift an inextricable piece of my children.
And now here I am at 47 years old, a father of two, a son of a father and mother, and a husband to a wife. It’s Father’s Day in Afghanistan and I’ve been encased in melancholy all day. Part of it was because of the Bram Stoker Awards Weekend I missed in New Orleans. I face-timed my wife several times and got to see a lot of people I think of as close friends. Although I might see them once a year, I’m the sort of guy who would run across a busy highway to save them if I saw them in trouble. I think when I saw Mikey Huyck, it kind of choked me up. See, Mikey and I go way back to the days I first started writing.  Although years might go by without us speaking to each other, we hold a special friendship which no one can really duplicate. Seeing him, I realized just how badly I’ve been missing him. And then there was seeing Rocky. I’ve loved that big lug Australian man since I first met him years ago. I’ve always been there for him and he’s always been there for me and I’m afraid that I might have missed my last chance to see him before… well, some things you just shouldn’t say. 
And I’m in Afghanistan.
I called my father yesterday. His shadow is as large as ever. He’s a great man. He’s earned great respect and we give it to him along with great love. My kids emailed me, showing their love.  My wife wished me Happy Father’s Day too, for the millionth time wishing aloud that she’d rather I be home than here. Normally, I tell her about duty and sacrifice and all those crazy ideas I learned from John Wayne movies and presidential holiday speeches. But not today. Today, for the first time, I really wanted to be home; or if not home, with my wife and Mikey and Rocky.
But I’m in Afghanistan. Sunday is just another day here. Father’s Day is an American holiday and on this NATO base it’s largely ignored. Still, several of my coworkers took time to wish me Happy Father's Day. Each time I smiled, but each time it was a dagger hurled through my heart, reminding me where I wasn’t, what I wasn’t doing, and who I wasn’t doing those things with.
I took an hour for myself midday. I went on top of the US NSE—basically a third floor covered patio that overlooks the camp and outside the walls. There’s always a breeze. I found a chair, tuned up some old Robert Flack in the headphones, and read some from my copy of Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain. I’m still early in the book and the lead protagonist Hans, a whining German hypochondriac, has still not realized that the world doesn’t revolve around him and that other people, especially their families, are an intrinsic ingredient to the overall health of the collective. I read for a bit. I listened for a bit. And I dozed. You know that sort of nap where you know you’re indulging but you don’t care because it feels so good—it was that kind of nap.
When I awoke I was still in Afghanistan. I sat up. I watched the people for a time. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, civilians and contractors. Men and women, young and old, American and ally. Unlike Hans, I thought outside of myself. Each and every one of them has someone or something to miss. What makes me special? Who the hell am I to indulge in a little self-pitying melancholy? I reminded myself that although I’m in a warzone, I’m at the Headquarters for all of Afghanistan with all the niceties therein. What about those fathers and sons out on forward operating bases? Somewhere in Nangarhar Province is a father at an observation post manning a gun position and the last thing on his mind is that it’s Father’s Day. There’s a father driving an up-armored vehicle down a dirt track in Paktika Province, ass clenched because he’s not certain the road is actually clear and that there’s a better than average possibility that he might hit a roadside bomb. And there’s probably a Special Forces A Team operating near Khost, within sight of a Taliban safe haven, preparing to take action on them before they can take action on us. I doubt they’re weepy-eyed over the idea that they’re missing Father’s Day.
I started this by saying that Father’s Day is a man’s day. In my taxonomy of understanding, a man isn’t merely the sum of his XY chromosomes. A man has always been someone who will do the hard thing for the right reason to contribute to the greater good without intentional personal benefit. My grandfather was a man. My father is a man. These warriors I witness every day are men. The men away from my base are men. And I’m pleased to say that I am a man. I might get a little emotional every now and then, but those episodes are just pit stops along my long journey through manhood.
I chose to come here. I could have stayed home. I had plenty of opportunities. But I wanted to serve my country. I wanted to be that man my father and grandfather showed me how to be. I miss my friends. I miss my family. I miss my wife, even though we talk every day. But I’m here for a season of duty. I’m here to serve. I’m here to build my shadow.
It’s Father’s Day. I just got an email from my dad thanking me for the inscribed beer glasses I gave him. He said they’re going to get heavy use. You go dad. You deserve it. And when I get back, we’ll drink some together. 
Cheers, Dad.


Weston Ochse
Currently in
Afghanistan

 



Friday, June 14, 2013

GRUNT LIFE Update #1 - Free Excerpt

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So Solaris Books has contracted me to write a military science fiction novel. I can't tell you how excited I am to write this. I've been trying to work with Solaris for years. They are top notch in the Science Fiction community and have published some of my favorite books and authors. To be a part
of their catalogue is humbling and thrilling. To make it even more fun, I get to write this while I'm in Afghanistan. Makes you wonder if my being here effects the content of the story. You be the judge.

PLOT: A private company grabs several thousand PTSD sufferers right at the point where they're about to commit suicide and makes them an offer they can't refuse. If you want to kill yourself, fine, but why not make it mean something by doing it in the protection of your own species. Thus was formed TF OMBRA, who is mankind's singular hope for the savior of planet Earth.

Here's an (unedited) excerpt from Chapter 1:


-GRUNT LIFE EXCERPT-
By Weston Ochse © 2013




-1-

//--END EXCERPT--//

It was my love of movies that made me choose the Vincent Thomas Bridge to kill myself. Although it was relatively convenient, joining Long Beach to my home of San Pedro, California, it had also gained a certain notoriety over the years. That it had been a shooting location for the films Gone in Sixty Seconds, Lethal Weapon 2, To Live and Die in LA, Heat and The Island was a bonus. The real reason I’d chosen to jump from it was because of my love of film director Tony Scott and the fact that he’d jumped from the same bridge back in 2012. The director of Top Gun, The Last Boy Scout, True Romance and the incomparable Man on Fire had one day parked his car on the bridge, climbed over the rail, and leaped to a better life. Some people said that Tony hadn’t meant to kill himself that it was the result of a bad combination of drugs that had given him suicidal thoughts, but I knew better. The truth was that sometimes life was just shit and there was nothing to be done about it.
     I stared out across the lights of the harbor. A cruise ship was pulling in. Beyond this the giant cranes used to load and offload containers of consumer goods glowed with warning lights. The San Pedro hill to my right was dotted with a thousand lights, each one housing someone in a home, watching television, eating dinner, fucking, or simply staring off into space. To my left was the great plain of Long Beach where another million souls did the same, unaware that a man who’d been awarded two silver stars and three bronze stars was about to swan dive just so he could see if there was something else on the other side of oblivion.
     I’d come prepared. I wore black fatigues, boots and gloves. A black skull cap covered my head and I’d painted my face with black camouflage. I wasn’t there to draw attention. I wasn’t there to make a statement. I was there for one final selfish moment, to do something for myself. I’d stepped over the rail and had backed into the shadow of a beam ten minutes ago. Cars sped past behind me, many of them with their windows open to catch the sea air, leaving me with a random montage of music by which to die.
     Grasping the beam behind me, I leaned forward and stared down at the stygian black water. I let my mind wander back to Iraq, then to Afghanistan, then to Mali, then to Kosovo. Like a badly edited film it flipped back and forth with no context other than death. The death of children lying like discarded dolls in the middle of an Iraqi street, at the bottom of a Serbian burial pit, or atop a mountain near Tora Bora. The death of women, raped and left bent over, a position so much like prayer, but never so fierce. The death of men, body parts raining like confetti at an end of the world party where those with the better ammunition and weapons were bound to attend if only they could survive the deaths of so many of their own. Death. Death. Fucking more death.
     Somewhere along the lines I’d ceased to be a hero and had become a death merchant. The very term hero had become a laughable idea. “Who do you think you are, a hero?” my platoon sergeant had once asked. I’d wanted to respond that I did, that I was, but I knew that the platoon sergeant had already turned that corner. It was then that I’d realized that there would come a time when I’d be just like him. If I'd ever get to the point where I didn’t know the difference between a hero or a zero and lose my grasp on what’s right and wrong, I promised myself that I'd end it.

     So there I was.
     On the Vincent Thomas Bridge.
 
 

More Updates will be coming soon.

Leave comments.

Now back to work.

Weston Ochse
Currently in
Afghanistan

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Recent Military eBooks Finds and My Old Favorites

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This is Free
After 27 years in the military (and still counting), it's no wonder why I like military books. I remember as a kid, the first military stories I remember were written by Rudyard Kipling. Remember KIM, from The Works of Rudyard Kipling One Volume Edition. It was the story of the orphaned son of an Irish soldier, who not only is saved, but is introduced to the world of military intelligence. Or A Man Who Would Be King, the tale of two ne'er-do-wella who adventure and make their way to becoming, not only kings, but gods. Or the poem Gunga Din? I was raised on these and remember them with fondness. Any wonder why I joined the military? I wanted to be like them all. I wanted to be like Kim.

Of course these were old tales. What about new tales? I'm a fan of science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, horror, and pretty much everything that has a military bent. I thought I'd share some of my recent finds, along with some of my own work, explaining what I was trying to do when I wrote them.

One recent find was the science fiction ebook, Poor Man's Fight. Written by Elliott Kay, it's premise follows the idea that education isn't free and federal service is required in order to pay it off. For some it's more than others. Kay does a terrific job bringing us into his universe, and the sort of boot camp I'm glad I was never a part of.

(CLICK ON BOOKS AND LINKS TO LOOK AT THEM)

Of course, anything by Joe Haldeman is amazing, especially The Forever War , which I recently downloaded again because I wanted to read it for the fifth or sixth time, experiencing once again the service of the men who fight for a world they will never ever see again, thanks to the unforgiving time dilation of the universe.

Marko Kloos deals with overcrowding and the lack of food shortages in Terms of Enlistment. I really liked the way he protrayed the different services and found his combat extremely believable.

John Scalzi's Old Man's War pays homage to Old Man's War and opens its own new volumes into the idea that a person can serve their country after they turn 70, uploading their consciousness into a more powerful version of the best they ever were. I love me some Scalzi!

Robert Beuttner's Orphanange provides the idea that when Earth is attacked, we can only retaliate with Vietnam War-era weapons and our orphans, in the hopes that these scraps and rejects can save us all. You just hope it's enough, right?

In my own Babylon Smiles, I tried to paint a picture of what life was like in 2003 Iraq, before the insurgents and road side bombs. I had help from a lot of veterans and haver been told that I got it right.

(CLICK ON BOOKS AND LINKS TO LOOK AT THEM)

SEAL Team 666 and SEAL Team 666: Age of Blood, both published by Thomas Dunne Books, are both of my forays into supernatural special operations. I tried to make the reality of the SEAL Team as close as possible, while thrusting them into situations where superior firepower might not even matter. Ghosts, demons, humunculi, chupacabra, and all sorts of various creatures are fair game in these books. Age of Blood was just turned in and will be available in November.

Border Dogs is a novella prequel to SEAL Team 666 and brings the team up against narco-trafficers and patriots. I wanted to highlight some of the border issues with this one, while providing some, what I think, is interesting backstory.



And Butterfly Winter. I wanted write a story about what would happen to bombers on a plane that refused to drop its atomic bombs at the end of the world. It's a story that has made grown men cry. The problem lies in the title. Frankly, it just sucks for a military book. I'm going to change this soon. No one wants to by a military title with the word Butterfly in the title. What was I thinking? ::face plam::


I've also written a lot of popular short stories, such as the Bram Stoker finalist Righteous, which you can listen to free here, or Hiroshima Falling. I've been asked if I can collect them into one place and will probably turn them into an eBook for all of my military fans.

(CLICK ON BOOKS AND LINKS TO LOOK AT THEM)


And lastly, I'm working on a military science novel for Solaris Books. Titled GRUNT LIFE, it's about a private company that contracts several thousand men and women right at the momen they're about to commit suicide in order to turn them into the only fighting force that might be able to save the planet from the coming invasion. It's coming along great. Written in first person, I'm really feeling the story. Of course, I'm writing it from Afghanistan, so that in and of itself is interesting.

 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

HP Has a Solution to my Computer Problem in Afghanistan--NOT!!!

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So I pulled out my broken computer this morning and let it do it's Kabuki Dance of Death one more time because I decided I need to start the day with a laugh. It gives an error code when it's trying to boot up, so I typed that code into trusty old Google. Looks like it might just be a Windows 8 issue--- as in it crashed.

Oh!

Hunky fucking Dory!

That's easy to fix then.

So I googled the code.

This is what I got from the makers of my computer. Here is their helpful information posted at the HP Official site.

You might have to Click on this to make it larger, sorry.

What you'll note is that all of the commands rely on Windows actually loading. Well, if Windows has crashed, then how can it load? And no, the F-Keys aren't functioning.

Note also that this was posted by an 'HP Expert.'

And finally, note that HP encourages you to click on the 'KUDOS' button at the bottom to 'Accept as Solution.'

Then note that as of the creation of this post, 1,788 persons have viewed this 'HP Solution' and not a single one has accepted this as a solution.

Seriously, HP?  Did you pay this person? Is there any oversight? Is it a guy in his underwear playing WOW in his basement or is it an actual living breathing HP-certified helper? Do you know this has been on your site for two years?

Question: If windows has crashed, how do you expect us to follow directions that rely on windows to be open?

Sigh.

I used to be so happy with my HP and the laptop.

I used to think it was the Schnizzle!

Note to HP. You can have the shiniest and bestest looking computer in the universe, but if your computer crashes and stops working and if your 'Help Desk' people are complete morons, then that is the last impression you are leaving on a customer, and anyone that customer decides to speak with into eternity.

Also, a special message to the CEO of HP.  My mother has written you an email. She's already had one reply 'escalating the issue.' You have no idea. You better duck. You better hide. Because she's not going to let off. Trust me when I say that the only way you can piss off a mother more, is if you fuck with their kid when he's deployed fighting a war. And get this, she just retired. So she has all.... the time... in the world... to make sure that you and all of her friends understand the issue at hand.

...and the drama continues.

Weston Ochse
Currently in
Afghanistan

Monday, June 10, 2013

SPLAT! My Laptop Commits Suicide in Afghanistan!

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So there I was, early morning, ready to put some serious words down on the page and I noticed that my screen was frozen.

Frozen? I have a top of the line HP Envy. How the hell can it be frozen? It cost more than my all-in-one HP desktop. It cost as much as a used car. In fact, with what it cost, I could feed an Afghan family of six or a year. But I needed it. Or at least I thought I did. After all, I was going to be doing all of this stuff in Afghanistan with it. Skyping, watching movies, listening to music, writing, etc. As it turned out, my wife and I use Facetime in my iPhone and we never even used Skype. So I use my expensive laptop for the other things.

Still, I thought it would be faster. After all, I suped it up. Here's what I had (yes, notice the past tense):

*dv6t Quad*
o Windows 8 64
o System Recovery DVD with Windows 8 64
o 3rd generation Intel Core i7-3630QM Processor (2.4GHz, 6MB L3 Cache)
o NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) GT 630M Graphics with 2GB of dedicated video
memory
o 12GB DDR3 System Memory (2 Dimm)
o 750GB 5400 rpm Hard Drive with HP ProtectSmart Hard Drive Protection
o NO mSSD Hard Drive Acceleration Cache
o 6 Cell Lithium Ion Battery
o 15.6-inch diagonal Full HD Anti-glare LED-backlit Display (1920 x 1080)
o Blu-ray player & SuperMulti DVD burner
o HP TrueVision HD Webcam with integrated dual array digital microphone
o Intel 802.11b/g/n WLAN and Bluetooth(R)
o Backlit Keyboard

I mean, hell! This was the HP Snizzle Version. Yes, you did see that it said 3rd generation Intel Core i7-3630QM Processor. It's essentially the Lamborgini of processors. If last year's computer was a javelin, this is a fucking bottle rocket with a warp drive second stage system, but for the life of me, I couldn't tell the difference. It still had the classic PC lag.

AND with all the bells and whistles it had WINDOWS 8?  Seriously? I paid $4.99 to get rid of Windows 8 just so I could go back to the classic look. Windows 8 Blows!

Sigh.
This is not really my computer,
but it might as well be
But it doesn't matter now.

After my computer froze, I turned it off, and it's never come back on again. It recognizes that it has a problem. It gives me a frowny face like it's being operated by a 12 year old girl and tells me it's going to analyze and correct the disk, but then it hangs fooooooorrrrrrrrreeeeeeevvvvvvveeeeeeerrrrrr, or at least six hours before I tried to restart the process again.

I even tried the boot disks, but the computer won't recognize the CD drive. So what are the boot disks good for then, other than to throw out the window next time a sketchy man on a scooter gets too close to our uparmored SUV?

News at Eleven: Soldier Decapitates Taliban Bomber with HP Boot Disk.

As unlikely as it sounds, it could happen. I mean, if this product of the Tennessee education system can publish more than a dozen novels, then seriously! ANYTHING. CAN. HAPPEN.

So what am I to do. I have a novel deadline with Solaris Books that I will not miss. Thankfully, I was using Drop Box, so my work in progress has been saved and is complete. I lost several other stories and articles I'd started and left under documents, but I can live with that. Ha. Listen to me. I can live with that, he says. I have to live with it because I was the douche canoe who didn't save them in Drop Box.

So now here I am in Afghanistan, without a computer, with only a Kindle Fire and an iPhone and all this writing to do. I can't tell you the last time I was anywhere where I didn't have a keyboard and the ability to type something.

Two things are certain:

  • I'm going to have a fight on my hands with HP.
  • I'm going to need a replacement system sooner than later.

Stay tuned, I suppose, so we can see how I make it out of this mess.

If nothing else, come back for the drama.

Cheers.

Weston Ochse
Currently in
Afghanistan

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Free Audio Story - Bram Stoker Award Finalist - RIGHTEOUS

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Hi folks.

Remember the story I received hatemail for a few months ago?  It was a semifinalist for the BRAM STOKER AWARD FOR SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN SHORT FICTION. Well, now it's a finalist. The voting is over. Weekend after this  is the Bram Stoker Awards ceremony in New Orleans.

Courtesy of Tales to Terrify, they have provided the story here free of charge for your listening pleasure.

To remember a little about the story:

RIGHTEOUS is a story about PTSD. It's a story about a thing called Secondary PTSD. It's also a story about guilt, both shared and individual, both human and that of our nation. It's a story about America's love of war. And of course it's a story about an insane father who talks to his dog. And of course, because it's a story written by me, the dog talks back.

Here's a very small sampling which might get you into the mood to listen to this-

Five sentences changed my life forever. 

Yes, I’ll marry you, is how Susan changed my life.

It’s a boy, is how a wide-hipped, chippy-eyed nurse changed my life.

Metastasized means that your wife’s breast cancer has spread to her lymph nodes is how the medical community gave up trying to save Susan and changed my life.

On behalf of a grateful nation, I present this flag as a token of our appreciation for the faithful and selfless service of your loved one for this country, is how a straight-faced Uncle Sam socked me in the heart.

Then one night I was three sheets to the wind with a bottle of Cutty Sark and Pulp Fiction blasting on television. When Samuel L. Jackson screamed the words from Ezekial 25:17, I sat up and was beset by a moment of clarity as he talked about the path of a righteous man. Then he said the words that started me on this path of the righteous man: “Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”

And always, as Mutt is eager to point out my errors. Those are seven sentences, Dude.

“But they are seven good sentences,” I offer.

Mutt thinks for a moment, then nods. They are. Especially for an asshat.

Thanks to John Skipp for editing the Psychos anthology and for letting me be a part of it. Thanks to Larry Santoro from Tales to Terrify for making it available to you all for FREE.