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.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Best Western I've Seen In Years - In A Valley of Violence

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So, In A Valley of Violence was on one of my pay-per-view channels and I DVRd it. We watched it last Sunday and I was so impressed, I immediately went out and bought the Blu-Ray. 

The director didn't set out to do anything special or different with the plot. It's a stock plot we've seen many times. Drifter comes into town, runs afoul of the local marshal, gets in trouble, then comes back to get his revenge. High Plains Drifter, right? Two things make this movie different. The first is the is the dialog. Instead of stock characters doing stock thing while a squint-eyed stranger spouts one liners, these characters were self aware. And when I say self aware I mean it in a Shakespeare-type self aware where they have asides or monologues, talking about the violence and how it affects them. The movie starts with a slow burn that eventually gets to an ending that is as violent as any western you've ever seen. The second thing that makes this movie different is the dog.


"I also really love the absurdist nature of many great spaghetti westerns, and while I think In a Valley of Violence has plenty of those fun elements, it also tells a story about how violence affects different people in different ways. It is a movie much more about characters than it is plot. It takes a group of archetypes and sorta flips them upside down and forces the characters to confront things not usually seen in westerns." - Director, Ti West (from a Filmmaker Magazine interview)

Also, the opening and closing credits were a total homage to 1970 Spaghetti Westerns with their garish colors and blocky lettering. I just loved it. I recommend you give this a try. I might like it more than you, but this isn't your average Western.



What it's like working with a dog: “Jack Lemmon, who I worked with when I was younger [in 1989's "Dad"], said it was like working with Marilyn Monroe,” Hawke continued. “They were always going to use the take that Marilyn was good in, never the take that you were, so you had to be good all the time. So that’s what it’s like working with a dog.” - Ethan Hawke (from an LA Times interview

Friday, June 2, 2017

How The Publisher Almost Didn't Publish My Book

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I have a new interview that's pretty thorough. I get more into detail about writing a sci fi trilogy, the craft of it, and why I chose PTSD as my subject matter.


But did you know that the books almost weren't published?


Both the publisher and I were worried about the amount of PTSD in the books. Something like this had never been done before. I mean we took it to the next level, describing suicides, how people wanted to hurt themselves, what it was that caused them to have PTSD in the first place. All of it. In technicolor.

We asked ourselves, were we doing something bad? Were we doing a disservice? Would readers appreciate it or would they think we were exploiting the issue? Moreover, would the reading public it? 

We felt a responsibility to not monetize other people's pain and asked ourselves, should we really publish Grunt Life and the follow on books?

Our decision didn't come lightly. As it turns out, we made the right decision.





To read more, check out the interview at My Life My Books My Escape.



Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Grunt Hero Smashes to Earth

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I'm so pleased that I can finally say that Grunt Hero has been published and it looks amazing. Solaris Books did an incredible job with the production (like they always do). Writing the series was so cathartic. Coming to terms with my own issues, realizing what kind of PTSD I have while writing about others, hearing from fathers and daughters and fellow veterans that I was getting it right have fueled me beyond belief.

I was also extremely pleased that I was able to tell the story of invasion and the after effects over three books. So many characters and so many loose ends to tie up. Quite a few of my loyal readers came up to me at PHX Comiccon and thanked me for wowing them. They were equally surprised I was able to answer all of the outstanding questions. And that, my friends meant the world to me because there were so many loose ends that I had to address without pulling the readers out of the story.

Back and 2015 I wrote an article for Sci Fi Bulletin about writing the first book. The title was Necessary Evil: PTSD in Military Sci Fi.  I wanted to write it to explain why I was writing the book and about how tired I was about soldiers being able to kill in fiction without any emotional cost to them.  Here's how it begins:  

I wanted to write a series of books about soldiers with PTSD and I wanted to get it right. I didn’t want my characters to be some lone gunmen, but to rather show them in a PTSD-positive light. But where would I start? How far could I go? How far should I go? After all, writing about PTSD is a trigger all unto itself. What is the line that separates entertainment and harm?
I recently wrote a few more blogs celebrating the release of the third book. 

One was also at Sci Fi Bulletin titled This is What Happens When a Horror Author Writes Science Fiction. Although my tongue was firmly in my cheek when I wrote it, I did want to point out that there is a need for more darkness in some science fiction.  Here's how I began the blog:

My science fiction publisher told me that my last three military sci fi novels were the bleakest books they’ve ever published and that’s a good thing. Let me explain.



I also wrote a blog for Sci Fi Now. This one was about the craft of writing and was titled The Ancient Art of Writing Trilogies. I wrote it because I felt that I failed to write a trilogy for SEAL Team 666 and took my lessons learned when I approached the Grunt Books. I spend a lot of it disambiguating between trilogies and series. Here's how it begins:

I grew up reading The Bobbsey Twins, Tom Swift Jr, Nancy Drew, and The Hardy Boys. These mysteries were packaged by the Stratemeyer Syndicate and specifically targeted kids. Like many of my contemporaries, I liked reading these books because they were about kids like me solving fantastic mysteries. I fell in love with the characters, following them from book to book. I was especially fond of Frank and Joe Hardy, adventuring with them in The Sinister Signpost, The Phantom Express, The Ghost of Skeleton Rock and so many more. Reading them was like reading about old friends and I never tired of it.

Finally, I have an interview up at The Quillery where they posed some hard questions and put me on the spot. 



I Blame It On The Green Power Ranger

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By now everyone knows that a crazy man from Mesa, Arizona came to Phoenix Comiccon thinking that he was the Punisher and that he needed to kill bad cops AND the Green Power Ranger. Not sure where the Green Power Ranger fit into it, but you can't explain crazy. Seems the 'Punisher' had three loaded pistols, a shotgun, a knife and ninja stars. Yes. Now pause a moment to imagine when and where he thought he was going to use throwing stars.

Because of this, numbers were down. That still didn't keep the wait on Friday from being 1.5 to 2 hours to get into the hall. Chewbaccas were passing out left and right in the desert heat. I didn't anticipate the heightened security and I sauntered over from my hotel at 1030 thinking I was going to make my 11:00 panel. The line had at least 4,000 people in it. I walked up to who I discerned (correctly) as the head of security, showed him my guest badge, then was told to get to the back of the line. I pressed, pointing out politely that I was a guest of the con and had con business I had to get to and he let me in a side door where Don the Maintenance Man patted me down and escorted me into the convention center. I doubt Don the Maintenance Man was part of the backup security plan... or was he.

Still, the con handled the situation and by Saturday, the lines weren't as long.
Great convention this year. I'll give a full report later in the week.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Bring Back the McRib You Franchizing Scoundrels!!

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I stand with Young Xanthe Pajarillo. 
Watch her video and stand strong with us!

What I learned from this video:



-McDonalds franchise owners have been given the option of selling the McRib or not and only 55% have decided to sell it, thus disenfranchising 45% of the American and Tourist McRib-eating public.
-Thanksgiving without a McRib is like a Christmas without snow.

-Consumers have had to resort to McRibLocator.com, which gives disappointing results because it shows how far your wondermeat is away from you.

-The McDonalds on Shakala Lane next to the In and Out Burger is definitely NOT selling the McRib.

-The All Day Breakfast is like a really poor substitute for the McRib.

-The removal of the McRib from the menu has adversely effected families during the holidays. 

-Especially those who would order a 50 piece chicken McNugget and 10 McRibs as their 21st Century version of poultry and ham, which results in messed up and broken holiday spirits.

-If you call the hotline they won’t take you seriously.

-I'm disturbed to inform you that the nearest McRrib to my house is at 551 Telegraph Canyon Road, Chula Vista, CA, about 410 miles away.

 BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE!!

THE MCRIB SAGAS CONTINUE!!

I DON'T STAND WITH CARLA THE THROAT PUNCHER!

-What I learned from this Video:

-The drive thru was filled all the way up so she had to go inside. Thank god, because she was clearly drinking.

-You supposed to offer an Extra McRib for a dollar when you ask for the McRib Meal.

-Never tell a drunk woman that she doesn't really need an extra McRib.

-McScuse me bitch is a new term.

-Charlene was just throat punched.

-You are invited by Carla to also punch Charlene in the cooter.


I DO STAND WITH THIS GIRL DOING HER OWN RENDITION OF CARLA!




 I DON'T STAND WITH CARLA 
THE VOODOO COOTER  PUNCHER!

 What I learned from this video:

-Never give Carla a voodoo doll of Charlene.

-You can buy voodoo dolls on ebay.

-If you repeatedly punch the voodoo doll in the cooter an ambulance will come.

-Voodoo works.







I DO STILL STAND WITH XANTHE, THOUGH!

What I learned from this video:

-America fell hard for the sauce we all adore.

-Germany serves the McRib all year around.

-McDonalds chose to rob her family of tradition.

-They'll do what it takes to bring it back on the menu.









NOW WHO DO YOU STAND WITH? 

CARLA OR XANTHE OR BOTH?

TAKE A SIDE!

MAKE A STAND! 

EAT A MCRIB!




Saturday, October 22, 2016

Welcome to LaGrange House

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We've been teasing this enough that even some of my oldest friends are saying, 'alright already!' (Barbara Foster) So I won't belabor this or tease anyone any longer. Yvonne and I were recently able to realize a dream. We bought a vacation/retirement home in Astoria, Oregon. Why Astoria? Besides the fishing and the culture and the small town environment and the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean and a butcher shop and a couple of cool coffee shops and the seafood and the relation to all the beaches on the ocean and the razor clams and the salmon... I can't think of any reason.

A sunset view of the Columbia River and bridge to Washington State

We've been looking for a home near and around there for over three years. Yvonne and I both have saved searched in Trulia and Zillow. A new home will occasionally pop and we'd look at it but it wouldn't have those things we were looking for.

What is this criteria?

A view of the water-CHECK

A home with interesting characteristics-CHECK

A home situated so one could walk downtown-CHECK

A home we could afford a down payment on and a second mortgage-IMPORTANT CHECK

This is the view from our house of the river and bridge. Notice the ocean going vessel beneath the bridge.
At this point the Columbia River is 4.5 miles across. 

So about the second week in August this happened.

The home was listed on a Monday.

Yvonne saw it on a Tuesday.

We got serious about it on Wednesday.

We hired an agent on Thursday.

We flew out on Friday.

We saw the home in person on Saturday and made an offer (along with eleven others).

We were nervous as hell all day Sunday.

They accepted our offer on Monday.
The day we put an offer in on the house. Not for the faint of heart. 32 steps from the street to the landing,
then another 13 steps to the front door. 

Yep.  It happened that fast.

The home is a 1900 Victorian and retains some of its charm.

Yvonne is up in Astoria this week taking bids for some extra work that still needs to be done on it: e.g. French Drain, gutters, chimney sleeve, etc. The home was flipped and the flipper was lazy. You should have seen the names the flipper was called by the inspector. He sure didn't like some of the shabby work. Before closing, the flipper fixed and repaired a bunch of stuff, but there's still stuff to be done.

The idea is for us to be able to go there on vacations, as well as our friends and family. I'd rather have the place used, than empty.

Why call it LaGrange house? We have some great friends named Herb and Diane who have a home on the Potomac everyone affectionately calls Cedar Lodge. Far from a lodge, this sprawling manse could house a battalion. Originally built in the 1700s, it's been added on to over the years and is just the most restful spot on the planet. We'd like to create another such spot, only this one one the West Coast.

Why LaGrange? Besides the fact that I like that word, a Lagrange Point in science is a location in space where the combined gravitational forces of two large bodies, such as Earth and the sun or Earth and the moon, equal the centrifugal force felt by a much smaller third body. Lagrange House rests equally between what is and what can be, locked in stasis by the gravitational weight of the past and future. It is a place outside of time. A place outside of enmity. And a place outside of the worries of the world.

LaGrange House. 

And it's ours to share with the world.


View from the third floor window - THIS SOLD IT FOR ME

Other side of the same window

View from a side deck

View from the front steps



Tuesday, October 11, 2016

My Thoughts on PTSD: a #HoldOntoTheLight Post

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Author's Note: While I'm talking about one of my books in this essay, I'm merely using it as an example to express certain points. Please don't feel as if you need to go out and buy my book when you read this. If you want to, then thank you, but I wanted readers to understand that the point of this essay wasn't to sell you something. My use of the book as an example was designed to highlight aspects of PTSD. 



POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER is a very real and sensitive subject, but that doesn’t mean we have to tiptoe around it. Nor does it mean we should leave it alone because we’re afraid we’ll trigger something. I’ve spoken with and served with enough vets with PTSD to know that they’d prefer to deal with it head on if they could. Which was a major reason why I made it the central theme of my very first military science-fiction novel – Grunt Life (Solaris Books). The book's characters are steeped in the realities of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’s most notable symptoms – suicide, and depression. The publisher was worried when I turned in the manuscript. And I get that. But then again, how many authors out there have my military credentials. As a military man with thirty years of military service and combat deployments, I know about PTSD first hand, and used all of my chops to give it the respect and spotlight it needed.
 
Still, it is a heavy issue and might turn some off. Despite that, I wanted it to be a central theme to Grunt Life. Not only am I trying to make readers understand what it's like to have PTSD, but I'm also turning PTSD sufferers into heroes. Too often they think themselves the opposite. They feel broken and different. This is where I show them what their true value is, if only as a fictional construct, as active agents who are solely able to save planet Earth.

Grunt Life is a PRO-PTSD novel if nothing else.

But let’s take a look at some facts about PTSD from the U.S. Veteran's Administration:
  • About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people (or 7-8% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives. 
  • About 5.2 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.
  • Women are more likely than men to develop PTSD. About 10% of women develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with 5% of men.
  
Also:

Experts think PTSD occurs:
  • In about 11-20% of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom), or in the range of 11-20 Veterans out of 100 who served in OEF/OIF.
  • In as many as 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) Veterans, or in 10 Gulf War Veterans out of 100.
  • In about 30% of Vietnam Veterans, or about 30 out of 100 Vietnam Veterans.
My personal belief is that if you've seen something you can't unsee or if you've been in an accident or a combat zone that you have PTSD period. For many of us it doesn't manifest in a major way. But I still flinch when my screen saver comes on and a dozen small other contrivances every day.

Many PTSD sufferers, like the characters in my book Grunt Life, can see no way clear of their disorder and often take their own lives. This excerpt from Forbes Magazine is sobering. "Almost once an hour – every 65 minutes to be precise – a military veteran commits suicide, says a new investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs. By far the most extensive study of veteran suicides ever conducted, the report, issued Friday, examined suicide data from 1999 to 2010."

The data in the Forbes Magazine article was then compared with a previous investigation – primarily an estimation – that had been conducted over the same time period, and had found a suicide rate of eighteen per day. Many of these suicides involve older veterans; 69 percent of the suicides recorded were by veterans age fifty and older. But another way to look at this is that 31 percent of these suicides were by veterans forty-nine and younger. In other words, by men in the prime of life.

And then there are the shockingly common active duty suicides. Just two weeks ago, the military released data showing that suicides among those on active duty hit a record high in 2012. There were 349 suicides among active duty personnel – almost one a day. That means there are now more suicides among active duty soldiers than there are combat deaths.

I want to make it clear that Grunt Life is a work of fiction. I chose to have PTSD as a central theme because I see so many war-themed books out there who won't touch it. Those that do tend to use a PTSD sufferer as a bad guy, shooting people, out of control, and nothing more than a cardboard character you’re supposed to hate. But there have been other books about PTSD and you probably didn’t even know it. Tolkein’s characters literally ring with the ramifications of their actions and what they have seen and done. The societal breakdown in Lord of the Flies is PTSD manifest, the ultimate desensitization and dehumanization of humans. Heinlein’s Glory Road, for all of its fantastical interstellar swashbuckling, is at heart the story of a PTSD sufferer returning from combat in a Southeast Asian country.

While the messages in these novels were more subtle, I’m using the sledgehammer approach in Grunt Life. There is no doubt that the characters have PTSD, which is why Solaris called the book the darkest science fiction book in the history of their publishing house. If my only success is to bring more attention to it, then good. But I think I’ve achieved more.

The popular website Pop Cults focused heavily into the PTSD aspects with an absolutely glowing review of Grunt Life. They actually got what I was trying to do, which means it worked.
 
 'With Grunt Life, I feel like Ochse was striving to write the kind of military narrative that Heinlein or Haldeman would have written. I am a huge fan of both authors, and Ochse is well on his way to joining their ranks, but I don’t think he is quite there. He is close, and he is on the right track — heck, he even acknowledges Haldeman at the end of the book. Ochse goes beyond the normal chaos of combat and asks the tough questions that we, as a greater society, are just starting to ask. In this novel, he addresses one of the biggest killers of our veterans these days: suicide. While the taking of one’s life has been addressed before, Ochse embraces it and integrates it into his story without making it the focus of the book or glorifying it. The book starts out with a suicide attempt, but it isn’t for the reasons that you would expect. Ochse was willing to get past the Hollywood and mainstream media explanations of military suicide and try to address some of the real reasons why veterans would be willing to end their lives. This is a subject that needs to be addressed openly and honestly, and Ochse was brave enough to risk turning some readers off to do it. I think that many of the readers who do get turned off by his frank observations on this subject might feel that way because it hits way too close to home. I don’t want this to sound like a challenge, but for some folks out there, this might be the book that makes them stop and think.'

 My colleague in both writing and the military, the inestimable Myke Cole says that “PTSD is not a disease it’s a world view. War, disaster response, police work, these things force a person to live in the spaces where trauma happens, to spend most of their time there, until that world becomes yours, seeps through your skin and runs in your blood… PTSD is what happens when all that is stripped away. It is the curtain pulled back, the deep and thematic realization that life is fungible, that death is capricious and sudden. That anyone’s life can be snuffed out or worse, ruined, in the space of a few seconds. It is the shaking realization that love cannot protect you, and even worse, that you cannot protect those you love. It is the final surrendering of the myth that, if you are decent enough, ethical enough, skilled enough, you’ll be spared.

It used to be, for the most part, that you had to be in a particular line of work to earn this world view. For one to get PTSD you had to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s not necessarily the case anymore. The internet has democratized PTSD opportunities, allowing viewers to watch beheadings, terrorists burning victims alive, people being shot, run over, and falling to their deaths. The very act of witnessing these things puts a person in that space that Myke describes when one realizes that life is fungible. Some are able to take it better than others. Because I’ve seen enough death in my own life, I don’t watch these. I’ve never watched a beheading and never will.

But many people do.

Can you imagine what it does to them?

Have you watched these videos?

How did it make you feel?

Hs it changed you?

Would you even know if it did?

It’s also important to understand that the military isn't the only high percentage group with PTSD sufferers. Police and fire fighters, as well as rape victims and victims of sexual abuse have a very high rate of PTSD as well. Nurses, doctors and paramedics have a high incidence of PTSD. You could literally spend your day interacting with PTSD sufferers and not even know it.

So at the very least, treat everyone with respect.

If you write about PTSD, do it in a positive and constructive manner.

And that woman in the middle of road rage or the guy not moving fast enough for you in the line you're queued up in, they might be having a hard time of it, so maybe think about treating them that way.

You don’t know what they’ve seen.

You don’t know what they’ve done.

We all need to learn to live on this planet together.



About the campaign:

#HoldOntoTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment. 

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Home for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.