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.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Michael Calvillo Brings Me Joy

My friend Michael Louis Calvillo passed away today. I met him at the World Horror Convention in Toronto. He asked for my advice. I gave it to him and he used it. The next year he thanked me and we've been friends every since. I think about that time and am glad that I answered him when he asked me. My life would have been a lot less if I hadn't because knowing him made me a better person.

Every time I saw him or even think about Mike it's with an aura of happiness and I can't help but smile. I'm going to keep thinking of him that way. Here is Mike rapping from a book of his. Listen to him with me and we'll smile together.

(Video taken with my cell phone at Killercon in Vegas.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Don't Call Me Hon...

unless you're my wife or my mother.

Do you really think I'll give you a larger tip if you call me hon?

If I buy something and you take my money, I am not your hon. I am a customer. Sir would be nice, especially if I just dropped a Benjamin.
Random picture: Me and Mike Casto

Is it a coping mechanism? Is this how you enable yourself to interact with the universe? Instead of treating a customer as a sir or a man you relegate them to a more informal status. But we just met? Maybe I don't want to be informal with you. Maybe I want to keep our relationship formal. Maybe I want to be the customer and you can pretend to be the employee. Maybe I want to be shown a little respect for dropping money at your place of work. Maybe I don't want someone to think you're my Amazonian love slave I've been keeping on the side.

Do you realize that you've lessened the value of the word Hon - Honey?

Do you have son? Daughter? Husband? Do you call them hon, too? After calling dozens, maybe hundreds of strangers hon throughout the day, do you think the value of hon might be lessened? After all, if you're going to call a stranger hon, then how much love and endearment can it really be worth? You might as well call your kid door or cake or shrub for all the value you've imbued in it.

In the past week I've been called hon a dozen times. Once at a high-end men's clothier, after spending 100+ dollars the cashier called me hon. I called her on it. She laughed self-consciously and said that the management said she shouldn't say it either, but that she'd been a waitress for so many years, she couldn't help it. I told her this is not a Waffle House and when I spend this much  money on something I want to be called sir.

Don't call me hon...

unless you are pouring my coffee, you're wearing and apron, and you know the difference between over easy and sunny-side up.

Don't call me hon unless you are serving me breakfast.

Or of you're my wife.

Or my mother.

Why not just call me sir and be done with it?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Blaze of Glory Review Contest

Blaze of Glory Review Contest

Here's the BLUF: The first ten people to review Blaze of Glory on Amazon or Barnes and Nobles will have the opportunity to win the signed, limited, leather-bound hardback copy, valued at $50. I'm including four runner up prizes, as well, signed copies of the Burning Effigy Press novella and Bram Stoker Award Finalist for Long Fiction, Redemption Roadshow. That gives you a 1 in 2 chance of winning. That's fifty/fifty. Better than the lottery and you know how much money you spend on the lottery with a microscopic chance of winning. Here you win when you read the book -- everything else is gravy.

Bottom line is that I need reviews. Yes! Reviews! Those strung together groups of words that talk about your feelings about the content of something you read.

Blaze of Glory is doing awesomely. It's number #1 still in African-American Horror Fiction category and in the top ten of several other categories. And all that without any reviews. But it's time to step up our game.

Buy the novel for $2.99, read it, review it, then drop me a line saying who you are and that you reviewed it.

Jack Ketchum liked it: “BLAZE OF GLORY turns the Monster-Apocalypse subgenre on its gory ear. It’s funny, suspenseful and resolutely quirky, with a great cast of characters.”

 Here's the book description to get you excited:
Original Interior Cover
For fans of Stephen King, David Gerrold, and Richard Matheson, picture this: the world is being eaten by monsters and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Everything seemed fine.
Life was as we knew it.
Nothing was out of place.

The first tiny creature, no bigger than a thumb, crawled out of the dark loamy earth of an Iowa corn field.


Creatures came from the ground in every country, from the smallest maggot-sized killer, to Cadillac-sized devourers, each one eating everything in sight, their apparent desire, to cleanse the earth of any vestige of mankind.

2 D A Y S A G O
Our hero, Buckly Adamski, watched the Governor of North Carolina start to dance and go crazy on the television, it wasn’t until the very end that the television announcer blew his brains out over the impossibility of it all.

Planes crashed to the ground, the Eiffel Tower crumbled, trains stopped running, the power went out, and the entire human race (what was left of it) paused to take a breath, wondering if it would be their last.

Buckley gathered those he could save in the penthouse of an old building in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina. Monsters are eating the city around them. They know they must leave. They know they have to make a run for it. But they also don’t want to die.

And there is an answer, but it will come from the craziest of places.

This novel also contains an essay called and The True Adventures of a Monster Screenplay in B-Movie Wonderland, which tells the tale of how the screenplay based on this novel was almost sold to Wesley Snipes, with many of the industry’s top horror movie stars attached to the film.

About the Author:

WESTON OCHSE was born south of Devil’s Tower in Gillette Wyoming. He attended National University in San Diego and graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Ochse (oaks) is the author of seven novels and nearly a hundred short stories. He’s won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in First Novel and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for short fiction. He lives with his family in southern Arizona. His website is www.westonochse.com.

This book was previously released in ultra-limited edition by Bloodletting Press, limited to 125 copies.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Westlake Soul Review: My Kind of Superhero

Westlake Soul made me cry.

This is a phrase that's going to be the calling card for Rio Youer's new book.

Here's probably how the conversations are going to go over the next year:

"Just read Westlake Soul."

"Did you like it?"

"It made me cry."

"Me too."

Here's what the publisher released as a tease:
"All superheroes get their powers from somewhere. A radioactive spider bite. A science experiment gone awry. I got mine from a surfing accident in Tofino. The ultimate wipeout. I woke up with the most powerful mind on the planet, but a body like a wet paper bag..." 

Meet Westlake Soul, a twenty-three-year-old former surfing champion. A loving son and brother. But if you think he's just a regular dude, think again; Westlake is in a permanent vegetative state. He can't move, has no response to stimuli, and can only communicate with Hub, the faithful family dog. And like all superheroes, Westlake has an archenemy: Dr. Quietus - a nightmarish embodiment of Death itself. 
Westlake dreams of a normal life - of surfing and loving again. But time is running out; Dr. Quietus is getting closer, and stronger. Can Westlake use his superbrain to recover... to slip his enemy's cold embrace before it's too late?
 Westlake Soul is the grandchild of Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Get His Gun, Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Tom Robbins' Jitterbug Perfume, and a hippie voodoo love child from the 1970s.
Rio Youers, Peter Straub and Me (Austin 2011)

Like Trumbo, Youers tells the tale a young man taken in his prime, locked within his own body. Trumbo, who won the National Book Award for Johnny, shares the feeling of helplessness and longing that Youers so terrifically captures with Westlake Soul.

Everytime I read a passage of Westlake's soul soaring free, Bach's seagull was pictured in my mind. Like the seagull, Westlake is trying to get away from his body and establish a connection with anything... anyone. The idea of being locked into something and being incapable of breaking away is central to both books.

But for all the tragedy in Westlake Soul, the humanity and the humor is rendered with a genius hand. The only other author I know who can successfully deliver brutality and humor in justaposed lines is Tom Robbins. Although Youers work in no way compares to Jitterbug Perfume in style, plot, or theme, the humor rendered by both authors is the same. This humor establishes Westlake's humble humanity and makes him a character we care about.

I'm not going to get into the plot. You've seen enough here to know what it's about. I just want to talk about the writing. This is not so much a review of Westlake Soul as it is an ode. Youers constant theme in his fiction is about the idea of being able to rehabilitate broken characters. In Westlake Soul, you not only journey through Westlake's own self-rehabilitation, but you also feel yourself healing as well. This is no easy task.

When fiction transcends the page as it did with Westlake Soul, you know that this is a special book.

I'm pleased to call Rio Youers a friend and fellow author. I'm even more pleased now to watch the success he will garner with this intense, sad, funny novel about what it is to be human.

Final Note: I was fortunate enough to hear Youers read the first three chapters. He has a softly poetic, lilting quality to his voice, as well as a slight British accent. It is with this voice my mind read the rest to me. It is this voice that is the voice of Westlake.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Books and Kids of All Ages - Signing Story

Yesterday's book signing at Barnes and Nobles (Westside) in Tucson went terrifically. Mary, the publicity manager, had pre-positioned my table for several days. She'd also had a sign announcing the event since the first of the month. Add to that they were having a Teacher Appreciation Day and there was a load of traffic.

I posted the event on Facebook, which drew out a bunch of my confederates, including Joe Palmer (and wife), Scott Glenner (and wife), Jason Reinhardt and his brother and sister-in-law (Joe and Jennifer I think), Rebecca (and sometimes Klingon husband), etc. My parents, who live in Tucson, took me and Yvonne out to lunch, along with Nephew Tynan and GF Maria.

But I also had some folks show up based on their love of Empire of Salt. A young family traveled from Casa Grande to see me, have me sign a copy of Blood Ocean and chat about the Salton Sea (setting for Empire of Salt).

Some additional folks showed up because they were fans of Abaddon's Afterblight series.

 On a funny note, I was positioned beside the customer service desk and the escalator. A pair of kids was driving the staff absolutely mad running up and down the escalator. There were moments where I absolutely believed that if the staff had been allowed to kill just one person, it would have been a certain kid driving them absolutely batty.

On a more serious note, Mary and I talked about the state of bookstores, and especially as it relates to signings. With the closure of Borders, Barnes and Nobles is the only big chain store left in America. Mary, like her counterparts in all the other stores, gets inundated with requests for signings. She turns most of them down, because she checks sales records and such. This directly affects self-published and small press authors, especially those who have books price pointed above $15.

I was glad she asked me to come back to the store. But then again, in her eyes, I earned that right. I don't sit behind the table. I stand and greet everyone who comes by. I engage people. I sometimes ambush them. In the end, I sell a lot of books for the bookstore. I remember one signing when I sold out all the books they had of mine. I still had an hour left, so I went and found some books my friends had written, like Joe McKinney, and sold them. I even signed two of Joe's books as the 'Fake Joe McKinney.'

Bookstores, whether they be a big chain or an independent, expect authors to help sell books. Doing a signing in a bookstore is less of an honor than it is a job.

They had two rare copies of Empire of Salt which sold immediately.
They also had four copies of Scarecrow Gods which sold as well.

Caleb came back five times and finally convinced his dad to buy a
copy of Blood Ocean. Check out the look in his eyes. Man was he

Daniel is a fan of Afterblight and was psyched that I was coming  for a signing.

It was a terrific book signing. I sold most of the books you saw on that table. Mary invited me back. I'll probably do it in June or July, so if you live in Tucson and you missed me, you'll get another chance.

Thanks Barnes and Nobles!  Thanks Mary! And thanks everyone for coming out to my signing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Shoveling Coal into the Action Furnace

Original Limited Edition
My fiction was at one time called thoughtful and profound. Scarecrow Gods was compared to the best of Stephen King, Peter Straub and Robert McCammon, especially such tales as Boy's Life and The Talisman. I think I might have wept over those comparisons when they came out. But I realized of course that they weren't real comparisons, but reviewers' struggles to compare me to like literary professionals in order to enable readers to better understand what sort of prose I had to offer.

I've been working on my action since that first novel. I felt it wasn't as good as it could have been. I think with each of my seven previous novels, I've gained a better grasp on action and the sense of pace I need to balance it out. In fact, I think Blood Ocean is about as action-packed and violent as anything I've ever-written, and an achievement in my own right.

I read from Chapter 10 (I think) at Salt Lake City during the World Horror Convention. The audience was left breathless and breathing heavily after 30 minutes of reading, the action was so profound. (Here is that reading courtesy of Lincoln Crisler - sorry for the quality of my voice. It's the only one I have)

So I think I got that action thing down now.  I think I've figured out how to translate the complex martial movements taking place in my mind to the page.

But I have to be careful that I don't forget the depth of character I and plot I desire to write.

In a recent review of Blood Ocean, Matthew Fryer said--

"Fans of China Mieville may also notice similarities with his sprawling and gorgeous “The Scar” with its floating city, cultural diversity and grotesque body modification, but those heavy sociopolitical depths aren’t attempted here. In fact, ignoring the horror content, this almost feels like a book for younger audiences. That’s not because this is euphemistic or lightweight storytelling. I think it’s partly due to a sense of optimism despite the odds, but mainly because it’s a wild ride driven by a fresh-faced youth that doesn’t contrive to be disturbing or profound, but concentrates on shoveling coal into its furnace." Read the entire review here.

Matt's point is just. Blood Ocean is intended to be a 'wild ride' and optimistic. Although I do get into characterization, as he points out elsewhere in the review, I don't think I plumb as deeply as I usually do. Of course I did it for a reason with Blood Ocean. As part of a series of books under the Afterblight umbrella, they were all fast-paced, violent pieces of fiction. To write the book any other way would be a disservice to those who had come before and the readers who expected thus.

But like I said. I have to be careful. Just the other day, I began work on a new novel. Ten pages in and it felt a little juvenile and lacked depth. I wasn't sure what was wrong, until I read Matt's review of Blood Ocean. You see, my mind was still locked on Blood Ocean. If Blood Ocean is to the far right of the scale and Scarecrow Gods is on the far left, I want to find somewhere in the middle to write this next novel I'm tentatively titling Aftermath.

Once aware of this, I sat down last night and wrote a few pages. It felt good. I could feel myself getting to know my new characters and the world within which they live. I could feel the tight spring of action, controlled by the impetus of character and thought. This is good. This is how I want to write.

Not that Blood Ocean is bad... not at all.

It is what it is meant to be.

But now I am writing something else.

Something different.

Something set in my world.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tornadoes, Hail and Fleeing Airline Attendants

Last Tuesday I flew into Dallas and experienced fist-size hail, tornadoes and disappearing airline employees who were fleeing for their lives. This is my story of those 24 hours.

0400- It all starts at my mother’s house in Tucson. Having arrived the night before from Salt Lake City at 1000 PM, I spend the night with the moms rather than drive 80 miles home and then 80 miles back the next morning in order to make my 0620 AM flight. I can’t sleep so I wake up and take a long hot shower.

0500- I leave moms house and drive to the airport. I’m hopeful that the trip will be uneventful. Oh, If I had only known.

0620 – I board the aircraft. It’s an American Airlines flight on an MD80, like all the aircraft I fly with American.

0625 – A stewardess comes and whispers in my ear and bumps me to first class. After a mimosa and a bran muffin, I am certain the trip is going to be splendiferous. I nappy nap.

1030 – Flight lands in Dallas. I get off the plane, trod happily to gate C35 and await my 1230 flight.

1230 – I board the flight and sit happily in seat 18D listening to tunes and hoping to get another whisper. No such luck. No worries. Life is grand. Life is great. How bad can it be? I write long hand for awhile as we pull away from the gate and get in line for take-off to Washington D.C.

1245 – I look up when someone mentions the green clouds outside.  Green?

1250 – Rains cats and dogs and hippos. Pilot says there’s weather moving in and that there’s a delay. I think I actually see a hippo fall from the sky.

1258 – WTF is going on? I take off my headphones. Sounds like I’m in the inside of a popcorn machine. Fist-sized hail hammers the fuselage of the MD80. We all stare outside in stunned silence as huge hail splashes all around us, piling up on the ground and not even  pretending to melt.

1310 – I take a video using my phone. (Note that my speakers on the phone are terrible and it is easily five times louder than that. At the end I say something in a normal voice right next to the phone and it's almost drowned out by the sound.)

1320 – It’s stiil hailing. Are you kidding me?

1321 – I tweet how surreal it is.

1322 – @RussDickerson tweets back about flying cows  - a clear Twister movie reference. There is no place to hide in an airplane.

1322.5 - @marcyrockwell tweets about crazy tornado footage and asks me to be safe… Yikes.

1322.75 - @VanHalen1970 tells me to take cover --- er --- where?

1323 - Someone pulls down a live feed on their phone showing real twisters near the airport. I look out at the 30 planes I can barely see through the deluge and know that if a tornado struck, we’d be noting but children’s toys in a hurricane.

1324 – Pilot gets on and tries to be funny. No one laughs.

1330 – Pilot still isn’t funny, but they do bring us water.

1400 – The sun comes out, melts all the hail and everything seems to be okay, except that it’s still raining.

1430 – Pilot says that we have to return to the gate to be inspected for hail damage. Hail damage? Can a plane be damaged by hail? If we fly through a hail storm do we land for inspection or keep going? Has my life been in jeopardy all this time?

1455 – We return to the gate and are told to grab our things and deplane. We get into the airport and not a single airline employee is within sight. We’re told to stay away from the windows. There’s a tornado warning in effect, but a guy tipsying with a martini is our good Samaritan.. Not that the airline told us anything. They scurried into the shadows like rats leaving the ship.

1510 – It becomes apparent that things aren’t as they seem. Not a single airline employee is around. Not a single vehicle moves on the tarmac. I begin to feel like I’m in The Langoliers.

1520 – Fuck it. I’m not going to be left hanging. Whenever the airline employees return—if they return—I’ll be one step ahead of them. My traveling partner and I begin working the phones. I call and get the next flight out, then so does he. We make tentative hotel reservations in Dallas, wary of cancellation fees and times.

1530- Next flight is AA1476 and departs from C30 at 1755 PM. We’re set. We settle into a bar for a couple drinks. My partner shoots tequila and beer. I have a huge snoofter of cab… or two… maybe three. While I'm drinking I watch coverage of tractor trailers being tossed about and imagine that they are airplanes. I close my eyes until the scene goes away.

1545 – The PA system says ‘American Airline Employees All Clear,’ several times. As they reappear like they’ve been kicking back and having a great old time behind the walls of the airport, I realize that the airport placed the safety of American Airlines peeps above the travelers. Nice! 'Preciate that DFW!

1630 – We check the flight. Good to go. More drinks.

1655 – Whoops! Flights cancelled. In fact, all flights are cancelled. Nothing going to D.C. until tomorrow.

1656 – We hit the phones. We cancel our hotel in D.C. I manage to get on Flight 808 leaving at 1155 the next morning. I manage to get a boarding pass, but my traveling partner doesn’t. We’re informed that our bags are unreachable, so we exit through security, intent on making it to the hotel so we can decompress.

1700 – 1745 – We stand in line to get a boarding pass and watch humanity at its best. People cut lines. Men scream at each other. Women cry. Children tug at their parent’s hands, wanting nothing more than to go into a corner and lose themselves on their laptops and revel in the creepy pornish universe of Teletubbies. The asshole in all of us come out. Which is a good thing for me.

1746 – Our turn. We pour on the nice. Juxtaposed against everyone else’s assholery, we are the shining stars of what humanity should strive to achieve. The man behind the counter loves us. He appreciates our deep and honest love for him. He whispers to us about a flight leaving in a few hours for D.C. It’ll be the last flight. Do we want on it? Hells yes we do. We both get standby tickets. I am #5 and my traveling mate’s is #36.

1800 – We manage to choke down some pretend Italian food.

1900 – 2010 – We stare at the ever shifting standby board.

2012 – A surreal moment pause. We’re joking around about how much this is crazy when an old yokel straight from the farm comes up. In an almost intelligible Jed Clampett drawl, he disses the government and spins the problem to be their fault. I look at his dirty fingernails and his overhauls and just nod my head in sympathy; after all, this poor old soul just doesn’t have any idea. They call for Double Platinum to board and he pulls out his boarding pass which reads Double Platinum, excuses himself, then boards the aircraft. WTF?

2011- Everyone boards the aircraft.

 2019 – I board the aircraft, cancel my hotel reservation in Dallas, and remake mine in D.C., as I walk to my seat. And it’s an aisle! YEAH!

2026 – My partner makes it onboard and does the same. Sardines in a can. Sweaty but happy, we take off with glee.

0130 – We arrive in D.C. and low and freaking behold our bags are there.

0150 – We get a rental car.

0230 – We make the hotel.

0245 – I’m in my room.

0300 – Damn it. I can’t sleep.

0400 – I finally fall asleep.

0700 – Alarm goes off. Oh hell. Here we go again.

I learned several things that day. The first is to remain calm and not to be THAT GUY. So many folks freaked out, didn’t know what to do, and just stood there waiting to be told what to do. I’m neither THAT GUY nor am I THAT GUY. I am THIS GUY. And in the end, I got to where I needed to be, albeit with a little more excitement than I wanted.

I also learned that it’s everyman for himself. American Airlines proved that when they disappeared without even a word. I helped those I could. I gave advice when I saw the need. And I let the assholes be assholes.
There’s an old saw that says ‘The measure of a man (or woman) is not derived from how they act day to day, but how they react to adversity.’

I’ve lived by that for a long long time.

Good article on the Huffington Post about the storm.