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, November 29, 2017

Coincidentalism - Plagiarism - Or Zeitgeist

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One of the reasons I started writing was because I kept coming out with these great plot ideas. They'd often come fully formed to me. I just had no way to put them down on paper-- or so I thought. Then six months to a year later a book would appear with my exact same plot and even with some of the  same characters I would have written. I was like, WTF? Is someone reading my brain? And it happened over and over and over. And most of these were best sellers. Finally, I was like... if I'm ever going to be able to capitalize on these ideas, then I need to learn how to write; and fast!

James Davis Nicoll pointed out in a recent article on Tor.com that this isn't a new thing. It seems that it happened to icons of Sci Fi Charles Sheffield and Arthur C. Clarke.

One of the more remarkable examples of this type of unfortunate concurrence occurred in 1979. Working on opposite sides of the planet in an era long before everyone had email, Charles Sheffield and Arthur C. Clarke wrote novels about…well, let me just quote Mr. Clarke’s open letter, which was reprinted at the end of Sheffield’s book…
Early in 1979 I published a novel, The Fountains of Paradise, in which an engineer named Morgan, builder of the longest bridge in the world, tackles a far more ambitious project— an “orbital tower” extending from a point on the equator to geostationary orbit. Its purpose: to replace the noisy, polluting and energy-wasteful rocket by a far more efficient electric elevator system. The construction material is a crystalline carbon filter, and a key device in the plot is a machine named “Spider.”
A few months later another novel appeared in which an engineer named Merlin, builder of the longest bridge in the world, tackles a far more ambitious project— an “orbital tower,” etc. etc. The construction material is a crystalline silicon fiber, and a key device in the plot is a machine named “Spider”…
What blew me away when I read Nicoll's research was that even the name of the machine was the same. And look at the first names and occupation of the main characters. How can these have been so similar in ages before digital anything? You should go read the article. Nicoll does good work.

Another thing Nicoll mentioned that I was already aware of because of my love of late silver age and bronze age comics was that X-Men ripped off Doom Patrol. There I said it. Or did they? Could it have been the same situation as Sheffield and Clarke? We don't even know what that is? You be the judge as you look at the original covers over in Nicoll's article. Note that Doom Patrol came out three months before X-Men. 


Here we have two teams, their leaders in wheelchairs, who are shunned by normal society. On one hand we have mutants who were born with their powers and on the other hand you have mutants who obtained their powers through accidents. This coincidentalism (new word) takes place a lot in comics. What about Black Cat and Catwoman? Or Scarecrow and Scarecrow? Or Boomerang and Captain Boomerang? The one I love is Hawkeye and Green Arrow. It's also a rare piece of coincidentalism that Hawkeye was paired with Mockingbird, while Green Arrow was paired with Black Canary. You can go on over to Screenrant to see more comic coincidences.


Disney conducted a bit of coincidentalism of their own with the Lion King. Feel free to go and read the whole salacious article over on Cracked, but let's see what you think by this image alone. 


Fast forward to November 2012. Two books were published that month. My SEAL Team 666 book and Alex Shaw's Delta Force Vampire. In fact, my book was published 5 days after Shaw's. Does that make me a plagiarist? Is it coincidentalism? Like I could have come up with the idea, written the novel, and had it published in five days.

Then there's Evan Currie's book SEAL Team 13. That had to be a total ripoff. I had a host of fans come shouting to me that Evan plagiarized my idea. After all, it came out almost exactly a year later. Delta Force and SEAL Teams fighting monsters. Holy Fragmentation Grenade, Batman, there's a whole lot of cheating going on. Get the cheating police! Lock them up!

But it wasn't like that. It wasn't like that at all. If you've read Nicoll's article, which you should, you'll see that Clarke didn't think so either. And me, that guy who was WTFing before he knew how to write because something or someone was stealing his ideas right out of his brain, didn't think so either. While the comic industry tries to keep current with each other and commits coincidentalism on occasion, that's not what Me and Shaw and Currie and Clarke and Sheffield did. Instead, we were victims of the zeitgeist.

Or at least that's what I call it. I've heard others refer to it as the universal unconsciousness or the global mind. Whatever you call it, this zeitgeist is out there. It's entirely possible for people to come up with the same ideas at the same time without knowing each other. It's cultural. It's economic. It's scientific. It's based on learning the same information. It's the way our brain works. I'm sure that Clarke and Sheffield heard something or read something new and being sci fi authors, What Ifed it. Although I haven't talked with Currie and Shaw about this, I'm convinced that we near simultaneously thought about how cool it would be to have special military units dealing with supernatural stuff. And we just put our heads down, digital pen to paper, and came out with something that was popular. Zeitgeist.

Look at the 1950s. Where did all the monster movies come from, especially those who became a monster because of exposure to radiation. The zeitgeist. The world was in fear of a nuclear war so they found ways to express this fear in many ways that were similar.

I contend that this is a thing. My wife and I talk about it all the
time. She comes up with great ideas and I tell her to jump on them. Sure enough, if she isn't able to get her creative juices flowing in time, within six months to a year, some short story or novel will come out with her exact idea. As she says, "It's infuriating!"

Writers, artists in general, are a great tribe to belong to. We don't go around stealing ideas, frankly, because there are enough out there for all of us. But on occasion, a good idea presents itself in the zeitgeist. A few of us are able to pick up on it. An even smaller few are able to do something about it. It's what we do.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

S.T. Joshi - Literary Bully

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I hate bullies of all types. I was bullied when I was a kid. For a brief time, I was a bully, unable to deal with some severe emotional distress I was having at the time. Then I was bullied so bad I was put in the hospital. So when I see bully-like behavior, I stand up.

S.T. Joshi is a bully. Period. He pretends to be an academic critic, but his delivery is pure bully. He wears his Lovecraftian credentials on his sleeve, much like a Worshipful Master of a Masonic Lodge. But that's all he has. The fact that he's steeped himself in everything Lovecraft doesn't make him a reputable critic of the horror field as a whole. In fact, his obtuse specialty should minimize his authority regarding popular fiction, yet there are those of the tribe who don't realize this. So I guess it's up to me to shine the light of reason on the bullying this man is endeavoring and his attempts to create a caste system in the horror genre where everyone he doesn't like becomes the antithesis of his Brahminism - an untouchable.

I've thought of S.T. Joshi as a peripheral member of the genre, someone who pops up like a Butterball timer whenever he retells or re-shells a Lovecraftian treatise. I mean, how many times does Lovecraft need to be re-packaged? As far as I know, Joshi hasn't written a body of work separate from that and a few other dead white guys, so it's on the back of an impoverished Rhode Island writer that he's established himself, like a Lady Godiva of Cthlulu.

He recently came to my attention when he began to write about some of my friends, and no one bullies my friends. He's decided to write a treatise on 21st Century Horror, not realizing, I guess, that the American Library Association already covered the first decade of the 21st Century in their Readers Advisory Guide to Horror. I would trust a platoon of librarians over one hate-filled Lovecraftian guru any day. Go Librarians!

And they managed to do it without hatred. Because lacking in any credentials beyond Lovecraft, Joshi resorts to hatred. When I read the essay on my friend Laird Barron, titled Laird Barron: The Decline and Fall, I could not believe Joshi's gall at even declaring the so-called "fall of a writer" when that writer's career is just past its nascent stages. Is the man so shallow that he must fill himself with someone else's demise in order to prematurely ejaculate it in an essay? And let me set the record straight, there is no fall in Laird. He's rising like a spring wind.

Then I saw the piece Joshi did on another friend, Brian Keene.
For the past two or three weeks I have been in misery. In short, I have been reading the novels of Brian Keene. Were I not driven by my sacred duty as a literary critic to assess the work of this grotesquely prolific blowhard for my treatise, 21st-Century Horror, I would have been relieved of this excruciating agony; but the job is done, as is my chapter on Keene, which can be found here.

(Pro tip, Joshi: when you use the word blowhard in your thesis, it invalidates everything you're trying to say, unless you truly are a bully, in which case your Bulldydom is fixed and mortared.) Take this from this professor of creative writing. If his duty was truly sacred, his charge would be to present an impartial review, but by reading the above, you can clearly see it's anything but. Having read the work, it's so far from being academic, it could be something I'd grade in ENG 226.

Joshi went on to question the plots and actions of the characters in Keene's books. (Seriously, Joshi, have you read Lovecraft?) I held back editing Joshi's continuous abuse of past and present tense in the piece, mainly because I want readers to see it for themselves. The lack of writing ability paired with words such as blowhard, schlocky, and plebeian, demonstrate that Joshi is just a man holding onto Lovecraft's belt with one hand and smacking wildly at the universe with the other.

In the current culture of bullyism, it's easy to succumb. But remember this, we are all on this planet together. We do better for ourselves by propping each other up rather than knocking each other down.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Nick Petrie and PTSD

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First off, thanks to Ricky Grove for sending me a copy of The Drifter. It sat on my desk for a couple
months as I cleared out some projects and read some other books. Ricky sent it to me because of a conversation we'd had at STOKERCON this year on the Queen Mary. He knew that I'd spent the better part of three years and twelve hundred pages highlighting PTSD as a major plot point in my Grunt series (Grunt Life, Grunt Traitor, and Grunt Hero). He felt that, besides my works, new author Nick Petrie had it down what it was like to hae PTSD.

And he was fucking right!

Boy am I glad Ricky sent that book. I opened it and Petrie got me right away. I totally dig Nick's narrative voice. He has this hard-edged yet-thoughtful style. I was grabbed by his description of a dog he encountered early on in the book:

It wasn't a pit bull, actually. Those dogs bred for fighting were beautiful, in their own way. Like cruise missiles were beautiful, or a combat knife, if you didn't stop to consider what they were made to do.

This dog, on the other hand, was a mix of so many breeds you'd have to go back to the cavemen era to sort it out.

The result was an animal of unsurpassed hideousness.

It had the bullet-shaped head of a pit bull, but the lean muscled body and long legs of an animal built for chasing down its prey over long distances. Tall upright ears, a long wolfish muzzle.  Its matted fur was mostly a kind of deep orange, with matted polka dots.

An the animal was enormous.

Like a timber wolf run through the wash with a pit bull, a Great Dane, and a fuzzy orange sweatshirt.

I just love the way he parses words.

I've since bought books one and two in hardback. Book three comes out in January in hardback and it's on pre-order. This guy is good. You're going to want to read him.



Thursday, October 26, 2017

My Foray into Comics - DC House of Horror 1.0

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The day is finally here. As a kid who grew up reading comics (Eerie, DC, Marvel, Savage Sword of Conan), finally being able to be a part of a major endeavor has always been a bucket list item. So when I got the opportunity to participate in DC's attempt to relaunch its horror brand from Keith Gifen and Brian Keene, I leaped for it with both hands. I was asked to do a Shazam story. So with Keith Giffen's velvet glove guidance, I produced something that everyone seems to be talking about.
From Comic Crusaders. They "by far" loved Brian Keene's and Bryan Smith's Harley Quin story, Crazy for You. They also dug Mary SanGiovanni's Man's World, saying that "this story of possession is one of my top selections in the book." They dug my story too, saying, "The way Weston Ochse has this story unfold is fun and really made me want more. I can’t think of a better ending to this story, or this comic."
From Comic Obsessed: Another possession story comes from Weston Ochse, this time about a rebellious Billy Batson and is quite mysterious in a lot of ways, I wouldn't mind reading more about this particular incarnation. Howard Chaykin's pencils get the job done. Overall, this was a quite entertaining one-shot and is one of the most creative thing that Giffen has delivered in years. I think this kind of format is better for him since his lack of plannification is not so affected by it. 
From Weird Science DC Comics: Billy Batson is a badass. He’s got a leather motorcycle jacket, an earring in one ear, and an attitude that could wither a rosebush. Worse yet, he’s been cursed with some nagging power, a dervish of murder that threatens everyone he knows—if he says the secret word—which is why he has to break up with his girlfriend. She doesn’t take it well, but Billy’s got other problems to deal with. This word, keeps gnawing at him, pressuring him to be spoken aloud so he can unleash carnage on the world. This story might be the best of the lot, and the ending is especially good from a spookiness standpoint. So I’m not gonna reveal it!
In other news, it appears that I have my own dedicated page on Comic Vine, which means I've definitely leveled up. They actually refer to me as a person. 

From Horrortalk.com: With the success of things like Afterlife with Archie, I would absolutely love to see any one of these stories expanded upon as an ongoing Elseworld's title. I'd be happy if this anthology became a yearly event too. DC House of Horror is evidence that the publisher can do horror and do it well. Pulling on our deep and long-standing connection to these characters and putting them in harrowing situations is only going to make for fun and amazing horror stories.

In other news, I also discovered that I have a page on the Comic Book Database. Many of you might not remember, but back in 2005 IDW Comics was putting a short story in the back of many of their comics. My ghost story Blue Heeler appeared in F. Paul Wilson's The Keep #2, Shadowplay #2, Shaun of the Dead #5, and CSI: New York - "Bloody Murder" #4. To the database, I am known as Creator 6097

I'm very pleased with the whole thing. Have you got your copy yet? Tell me what you think.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Say Hello to My Little Friends - A Tale of Being Stationed in Korea

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I just thought of something I hadn't thought of in years. I think writing the earlier post about the Palpable Fear in Korea triggered it. Let me begin the tale with, There I Was, because all good stories start that way.

So I was pretty newly stationed in Korea, knee deep in hand grenade pins, a T-72 tank coming over the hill and all I got was a P38.
 
Front Gate of Camp Page Circa 1985
Whoops. Wrong story. Before I begin, this is the true story of what happened on a morning back in the winter of 1985. The rules of decency were different then. We didn't know what we did about human trafficking and sex slavery, or if we did, it wasn't dealt with. As a young man still in my teens, I had no idea. So please read this with the appropriate time and distance applied. Then read the afterward for some more information.
 
So there I was, newly stationed in Korea, it's the winter of 1985, cold as hell outside, and we're about to get a lesson in skoshi jingus from our hard-as-nails Polish American platoon sergeant, Staff Sergeant Pavarnik. I'd already been out in the local 'ville and met some club girls. Nights were usually fueled by combat bottles of soju and OB beer as we club-hopped the five small clubs mapped out for us GIs in the village of Chun Chon. 
 
Morning PT runs were always fun. Most people were still drunk by the time we fell into formation at about 6 AM. Most of us had Cinderella Passes the night before, meaning we had to be back on post by Midnight. Overnights were a rare thing, especially if you were a private, like me. Our platoon sergeant had the special ability to discern who the drunkest of us was. He'd put them in the front of the formation; especially those who'd drank porta-a-ju the previous night-a vile concoction of port wine and soju. That way, about a mile in when they started puking, the formation would end up looking like the Pie Eating Contest in Stand By Me. We did this mind you, out in the 'ville, so I can only imagine what the locals thought of us.
 
 

One winter morning, the guy running beside me couldn't stop scratching his crotch. I'm not talking subtle hand movements that might not attract attention. I'm talking major muscle movements that a pilot might mistake for landing instructions.

Finally, the platoon sergeant can't take it any longer. He halted the formation in the middle of a Korean village alley. Vendors were rolling up the tin covering their frontages and grocers were putting out their vegetables. It's cold enough we can see our breath, but not cold enough for our platoon sergeant to allow us to wear sweats. We're still in tshirts and shorts and the running was all that was keeping us warm.

typical village street
"Private Brady, what the hell is going on in your pants?"

Brady was a narrow kid from Chicago who didn't get out much. "I'm not sure, sergeant," he said.

"Then why are you scratching down there? You got an STD?"

"I ain't got no STD, sergeant."

"Then what the hell is going on?"

"My girlfriend says that I have skoshi jingus."

This stops the sergeant. "Did you say skoshi jungus?"

"Yes, sergeant." Brady looked like he was about to cry.

"Drop your pants. I want to see if she's right."

"But sergeant." He looked around at the old Korean men and women surreptitiously watching us. "I can't do it here."

"You can and will do it, private. This is a serious business." The platoon sergeant parts the ranks and we sort of cluster around Brady. "Now, drop them."

Brady's expression implored the platoon sergeant to not make him do this, but after a good ten seconds, he reached down and pulled his shorts to his knees. He's wearing whitie tighties underneath which the platoon sergeant commanded to be pulled down as well. Brady eventually did this, then went to attention, closed his eyes, and balled his hands to his sides.

Now, I'm not the sort to go about staring at another man's junk, but I gotta say, on that day, me and everyone else in the platoon was staring at Brady's junk. Not really the junk, but the many little things around the junk.

Let me flash back three months earlier. I was at Fort Gordon Outprocessing Center, getting ready to PCS to Korea. I bumped into an old Spec 7 (when they had them), and when I told him where I was going, he got all serious like, and told me, "Whatever you do, don't let them take you to the Black Island." Now I was used to old timers messing with me, so I grinned. But he shook his head firmly. "This is not a joke, son. This is for real. Don't let them take you to the Black Island. If they do, you'll never see your family or the Land of the Big PX again."

"Why would they send me to the Black Island?" I asked, now nervous and unsure if he was messing with me or not. 

"They got all sorts of VD over there. Some of it is as bad as it gets. Rot your dick right off. But there's a special kind of VD called Black VD. You get that and you might as well call home and say goodby forever. Make sure you check the girl's VD card. Make sure it's up to date."

And then he left the smoke pit and I never saw him again.

Now, fast forward to us staring at Brady's junk and the hundreds of little black spots moving around it.

The platoon sergeant knelt down and got eye level to the junk. Then he nodded. "Sure as shit," he said. "Brady, you got skoshi jingus."

Then someone asked, "Is he going to the Black Island, sergeant?"

My head and several others jerked towards the guy who asked. No one ever talked about Black Island like no one ever talked about Fight Club.

We jerked our heads towards the platoon sergeant who had straightened up and was lighting a cigarette with a zippo, both brought along for PT. He inhaled, then exhaled. Brady's eyes were open and wide as he stared at the platoon sergeant. The platoon sergeant waited until he finished the cigarette before he answered slow and low, like the Martial Artist Jim Kelly in Enter the Dragon, when John Saxon and he are bilking a betting man by pretending that John can't fight. The platoon sergeant shook his head and said, "No, we're not going to send him to the Black Island. Right now, he's got worse problems than that."

"Wo--worse problems?" Brady stuttered.

"You have unauthorized pets all over your crotch. They are not allowed on Camp Page. Commandant forbids it. We're going to have to get rid of them before you can return to base."

"Wha--what?"

"Skoshi jingus. Means Little Friends. Your girlfriend gave you crabs, son."

At this we all started to itch a bit. We didn't know which club girl was his girlfriend, but chances were, she'd been one of our girlfriends for a night or to as well.

Then the platoon sergeant ordered Sergeant Slaughter to run back to base, grab the red ammo can by the platoon sergeant's desk, and return, pronto. It took about fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes of us freezing our asses off while the platoon sergeant smoked and stared at Brady's shriveling junk, all the while shaking his head. The only thing he said the entire time was a single sentence. "Brady, the sheer number of those skoshi jingus you have is impressive."

To this day I can't hear the word impressive and not think of those crabs.

By the time Slaughter returned, we were all shivering and shaking violently. During this entire time, the Koreans were shaking their heads. This was certainly something they hadn't seen, but I did hear several of them laughing about skoshi jingus, so I guess it was definitely a thing.
 
Slaughter handed the red metal ammo can to our platoon sergeant, who then placed it on the ground, opened it, and began taking out several items: a can of Zippo lighter fluid, a box of matches, and an ice pick. 

"This is something you have to do, son. I can't do it for you. Against regulations."

"Wha--what is it that I ha--have to do, sergeant?" Brady stuttered.

The platoon sergeant frowned. "Isn't it obvious?"

"I--I don't understand."

"Private Brady. You cannot and will not bring unauthorized pets onto our military base. It's against all regulation.You have to get rid of them here, now, in this alley." Then he added, "And you better do it before we all freeze our balls off."

Brady reached down and grabbed the can of lighter fluid and the book of matches. He stared at them much like a pig would looking at a wristwatch. He just couldn't make sense of it. Eventually, he began to cry. Not gentle-weepy-I-just-saw-a-chick-flick-tears, but huge sobs wrenched from the depths of his soul that made us all feel uncomfortable. But I was with Brady. I couldn't figure out at all what he was supposed to do with those three items. 

The platoon sergeant lit another cigarette and let Brady ball for a full minute, before he finally said, "For God's sake. Sergeant Slaughter, will you please explain to Private Brady the tried and true and only trusted method of getting rid of skoshi jingus."

"Yes, sergeant," Slaughter said. He went over to Brady and placed all three items in his hands. "Stop, balling, son. This is important."

Brady wiped his eyes with the back of his hands then held the items out in front of them. "Truly, sergeant, I want to do this right. I just don't understand."

Slaughter nodded gently. "It's alright, private. Everyone understands. What you got to do isn't hard, but you have to be quick and resolute."

"Quick and resolute," Brady repeated. 

"Step one is you take the lighter fluid and spray it all over your crotch, making sure to soak into all that hair down there."

Brady's eyes narrowed.

"Step two is you light a match. Now step three has to happen immediately after step two so you have to be ready. Match in one hand ice pick in the other. Are you right handed, private?"

"Sergeant?"

"Which hand do you jack off with?"

"The right."

"So light the match, place it in your left hand, then put the ice pick in the right hand. You're going to want it to be in the hand with the greatest dexterity."

"Dexterity," Brady said, turning the word into its own question.

Slaughter grabbed the book of matches out of Brady's hand. "So step 2 is to light the match." He did this, then dropped the box of matches on the ground and switched the lit match to his right hand. Then he grabbed the ice pick out of Brady's other hand. "No, remember what I said about dexterity?" he asked.

Brady nodded. "Quick and resolute. Dexterity."

Slaughter smiled. "You're going to get back on base yet. So step one is douse your crotch with lighter fluid."

"Making sure to get my hair down there," Brady said.

Slaughter nodded. "Step two is to light the match, step three is to light your crotch on fire," then Slaughter made hard fast stabbing motions with the ice pick as he said, "And step four is to stab as many of them little fuckers as you can running out of the flames because you don't want to have to do it again."
 
I looked from Slaughter's face to Brady's who was just beginning to figure out what he was supposed to do with the three items.

Were they for real? That was the most insane thing I'd ever heard.

But the platoon sergeant and Sergeant Slaughter never cracked a smile.

"Do you want to practice it, or just go for it?" Slaughter asked, stone-faced.

"Pppractice?" Brady stuttered.

"Just get it over with," the platoon sergeant said.

Slaughter handed the lighter fluid to Brady and said, "Commence step one."

Brady stood there. 

"Open the god damned lighter fluid and spray, yourself, private?"

Brady stood there, silent tears, now sliding down his face.

I didn't want to be there. This was becoming awful super fast.

"Spray yourself with the lighter fluid, private!" Slaughter screamed, face now inches from Brady's. "Do it or I'll do it for you."

Brady gripped the lighter fluid with shaking hands and opened the top of it. Then he turned it down and sprayed his crotch, the wet liquid causing him to jump as it hit him. But he squeezed the can until it was dry. Ice crystals immediately began to form.

Slaughter took the empty can and tossed it on the ground. "Now move onto step two, private!"

"I don't want to light it."

"You don't have a choice."

Now in tears, "Please don't make me set my penis on fire, Sergeant Slaughter."

"Then why'd you sleep with a club girl who had crabs?"

Brady blinked several times.

"I didn't know she had crabs."

"Did you check her VD card? They don't give VD cards to women with crabs."

"I--I didn't check her VD card."

"Well, doesn't that make you look like an idiot. And now you're standing out here in the middle of the goddamned 'ville, shorts around your ankles, shwanz all shriveled and wet, ice pick in one hand and a match in the other, about to burn your fucking dick off because you didn't want to be impolite and ask the nice club girl if she had skoshi jingus. Who's the fucking idiot now?"

"I am," Brady said in a soft voice. 
 
"Now, hand me that ice pick, pull up your fucking shorts, and let's get the rest of you idiots back to post."
 
Brady handed the things over. "What about the lighter fluid?"
 
Sergeant Slaughter shook his head. "That wasn't lighter fluid, private. That was water. By now your skoshi jingus are frozen in nice little ice crystals that will kill them. What we didn't just kill, the medic will take care of."
 
The platoon sergeant finished smoking his cigarette, rolled the pack back in the sleeve of his short sleeve PT shirt, then formed us up. Soon we were running back to base, silent and serious, the only sound was occasional clang from the red ammo box that Brady had been told to carry back. 



Afterward: Since the 1990s, the US Military along with the Korean goverment began to crack down on prostitution, recognizing it for what it was. I saw the prostitutes in Itaewon decrease from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s until they were almost gone entirely. Historically, many of the girls at the clubs were third daughters or unwanted daughters and given over to a mamasan for a sum of money that they would then have to work off (see the buying out term above). The mamasan, or Hajima, ran the club and ensured that the girls were paid for their time. I was 19 years old when I was first stationed in Korea and didn't know any of this. It was only later that I learned. I actually bought out the contract of one girl, hoping to free her from the club system. But when it became clear that I wasn't planning on spending my life with her, she went back to work at the very same club. It was a different time. For more information about the history of prostitution in South Korea, go here.

And what became of Brady? He stopped going out to the 'ville entirely after that.





DC House of Horror and Resurgence of Horror in Comics

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DC Comics reached out to eight popular horror authors to write DC House of Horror Vol1, which is an 80 page comic that they are hoping will be the resurgence of horror to comic books. My guess is that they reached out to me because the American Library Association honored me by labeling me one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. That and my recent literary success, I suppose. And probably because Clive Barker and Stephen King were too busy. Still, they picked me to be a part of it and I'm stoked. Also writing in the comic are Edward Lee, Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, Bryan Smith, Nick Cutter, Wrath James White, and Ronald Malfi. We were paired with artists Rags Morales, Bilquis Evely, Howard Porter, Scott Kolins,  Howard V. Chaykin, and Dale Eaglesham. It also features the maniacal Keith Giffen riding herd over us all. If I told you some of the conversations I had with Keith you'd crack up.




You see, back in the 1950s, EC and Eerie Comics had titles like Tales from the Crypt, Tales of Terror, Weird Tales, etc. Then came a resurgence in the 1970s when DC published supernatural fiction and occasional horror stories in such titles as Ghosts, The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love, Secrets of Haunted House, Secrets of Sinister House, Swamp Thing, Weird Mystery Tales, Weird War Tales, and Tales of Ghost Castle. I broke my eye teeth on those when I was a kid. By the late 80s, though, these titles were all gone with the exception of Swamp Thing. Then in the 90s, Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics began to bring it back. Then comics like Jonah Hex, Ghost Rider, and Constantine made horror in comics even more popular.

DC House of Horror is an attempt to bring horror back to DC. This is Vol 1 and if it's a success, then we might see Vol 2 and some resurrections of their old titles. I'm personally hoping that Weird War Tales comes back because of my military background. You know I could write some bad ass weird war scripts.

In DC House of Horror, all of us were given a DC franchise character and told to put our own spin on them. I was given Shazam and I placed the events in the 1970s. Others were given Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, etc. What makes this great is that we were pretty much told to do with these characters what we wanted to. The stories wouldn't be cannon, so the sky was the limit. We had a load of fun. And I got to bring in the movie The Exorcist and a quote from Hunter S. Thompson on the first page of my piece to start the party off. See if you can spy The Exorcist movie posters on the subway wall.


This isn't my first foray into comics. Many of you stalwart fans might remember that I had a short story in the back of several IDW comics, including The Keep, CSI, and several others I don't remember. But this is my first time writing a comic script and having it published. I'm beyond honored.

So how can you help? Have you ordered a copy? Then go to or call your local Comic Book store. If you don't have one, then call Liz Scott at Phat Collectible in La Habra, CA at  (714) 680-3760. Tell her Weston sent you. I know they ordered a bunch of extra copies.


 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Secret to Selling eBooks

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Here's my secret to selling eBooks. Change my name to Amanda Hocking, Selena Kitt, or Joe Konrath. That's me trying to be funny, but actually, I'm in awe of these folks. Not only are they immensely talented, but they've managed to break the eBook code. According to Joe's blog post Ebooks Slowing? Yes And No, he's made $26,000 in six weeks, Amanda Hocking sells 1200 eBooks a day, and Selena Kitt made $120,000 this year on Kindle books.

Maybe if I knew what the secrets to marketing them was I could do it. Right now, my eBook only books are with Crossroads Press. The books did really well in the beginning, but now I get a trickle of sales for all of them.




The the eBooks for my other books are controlled by publishers. Those include the SEAL Team 666 books (SEAL Team 666, Age of Blood, and Reign of Evil), my collection FUBAR, as well as the Task Force Ombra Books (Grunt Life, Grunt Traitor and Grunt Hero). Let's not forget about Halfway House and Ghost Heart. Those all do decent, but nothing like the numbers some of those I mentioned are getting. Hell, I'd love 10% of those numbers.

I'm thinking about trying something. I have two Special Unit 77 novellas (Cold War Gothic and The Bohemian Grove) that have appeared in two of Cohesion Press's SNAFU anthologies. The novellas are closely linked. Think special undercover civilian clothes wearing military unit placed in 1970s San Francicso to fight supernatural entities posed by the Red Menace. I'm thinking about doing a third. Maybe if I can get an artist to help me brand the covers, then I can try some of the tactics I've been seeing. I'm thinking a pen name might help like Joe Konrath or Amanda Hocking. Too funny. I just crack myself up. But seriously, I'd publish them under my own name and see if I couldn't get some solid numbers. 

Something to think about.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Palpable - The Fear of North Korea

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My first trip to the Republic of Korea (South Korea) took place in 1985 when a then young army private got his first posting. I was assigned to a special weapons unit in Chun Chon. I thought being in Korea was going to be all about club girls and parties. Then I was told within five minutes of arriving that we were within seven minutes of missile attack from North Korea. It was then that I knew this was serious business.



I took advantage of my year there. I spent many a night atop one of the many mountains near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) looking out across the range to North Korea and wondering what they were all about. Sometimes we'd get some soju and get wasted, tossing the bottles down the mountain and trying to blow up the landmines that had been placed there to protect us. 

Then I went to the Joint Security Area (JSA) near the DMZ. I traveled the Bridge of No Return. Once crossed, you know that if anything happens no one will save you. I was able to stand face-to-face with a North Korean soldier, standing at attention right across a line painted on the ground. He stared at me. I stared at him. I didn't hate him. But I feared him. He wanted to kill me. He wanted me dead. All I wanted was to stay alive. There's a difference.

I learned about the North Korean Axe Murders. Back in Aug 1976, less than ten years from when I was there, some Americans went to cut down a tree in the DMZ that was blocking a critical view. North Korean soldiers came at them and killed them with axes. Thus began Operation Paul Bunyan. You can read about it here and here.

I've spoken with friends of mine who'd been in Germany when there was a wall seperating the country into a free West Germany and a soviet East Germany. Those who had also been to Korea said that the pervasive feeling of fear in Korea was far worse than anything they'd felt in Germany. No one really thought the Soviet Union would attack, but one could never tell with North Korea. It's a common belief on the ground that if North Korea ever felt like it was backed so far into a corner that it couldn't get out that they'd just say 'Fuck it' and fire everything they had. We're talking over 10,000 artillery pieces, each capable of reaching Seoul. Imagine living in New York City and having 10,000 high explosive rounds hitting Manhattan. Yeah. That's the sort of devastation I'm talking about. And that's just the first volley. What if they fire again. And again. I'm not even talking about any nuclear options.

That's why the feeling of fear is palpable. You become accustomed to it, but it never goes away. Walking the streets of Korea is much like walking in Afghanistan. You never know when you're going to get hit. I've consistently tried to put this feeling into my military fiction novels. From SEAL Team 666 to the Grunt Life books, I've tried to imbue it with fear. But it's hard to do. You almost have to be there.

Many years later, back to participate in a military exercise, I was afforded the opportunity to see one of North Korea's tunnels. It seemed as if NK was always digging tunnels under the DMZ in the event they wanted to surprise attack the south. I'm not talking small tunnels either. There are those, but there are also tunnels tall and wide enough that three tanks side-by-side could come through. The tunnel I went to wasn't one of those. It was built by North Korean commandos to allow them to infil and exfil the Republic of Korea (ROK) as they came and went, killing and kidnapping. The tunnel was ominously close to the DMZ. The tunnel was still in use.

It took well over five hundred steps to reach the tunnel, down a dark slash in the earth. Myself and my companion wore headlamps and as we descended it became colder. When the stairs finally stopped, we leveled off into a tunnel that had a light powered by a battery that illuminated a sad nimbus of area, showing me that the tunnel was about ten feet wide and seven feet high. Several batteries sat next to the light. Other than ourselves, there were two living beings in the menacing space. One was a young ROK soldier on a flimsy stool, sitting behind a .50 caliber machine gun on a tripod, the barrel pointing north. The other living being was a yellow bird in a cage that sat on the ground right at the edge of the light.

I turned to my left towards the Republic of Korea. We weren't at the end of the tunnel. We were
somewhere in the middle. I turned to my right and tried to see into the darkness of North Korea. I couldn't help but imagine what would happen if NK commandos decided they wanted to attack us. The fear I'd felt years before on the DMZ came back to me in a sickening wave. Claustrophobia began to set in and I hunched my shoulders. It was then I realized that the young ROK soldier hadn't addressed us or said a word, so intent was his gaze on the darkness of the north.

"What's the bird for?" I asked my partner.

"It's a canary. If the north decides they want to get rid of the guard, they'll gas the tunnel. The canary will die first."

"And that tells the soldier to escape right?"

My partner looked at me then. He'd been stationed in Korea for years. He knew the truth of it. "No. That tells him to fire and he'll keep firing until the gas gets him."

I stared at the young soldier.

He remained steadfast, unblinking, peering into the dark, awaiting his own demise.

It was halfway back up when we took a moment to breath that I asked, "It doesn't ever happen like that, does it?"

Again I got the look. "It happens more often than it should," he said.

Then I remembered the bird. It had been as silent and as intent as the ROK soldier.






Author Interview - Talking about FUBAR, Grunt Series, and Burning Sky

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I think this interview slipped through the cracks. I was recently interviewed about everything from the writing process, to FUBAR, to the PTSD-suffering grunts in the Task Force OMBRA series, to my new series which starts with Burning Sky. I wanted to make sure everyone saw this.


If you want to read the whole article, go to this link!


Friday, August 11, 2017

Brief Notes on "A Little Life" - Here Be Dragons

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I'd planned on writing an epic blog post about a book I'd read that took up the first four months of 2017. My intent was to break out each character -- Malcolm, JB, Willem, and Jude -- and tell you what each one meant to me. I wanted to relay the aching sensation I had every time I returned to read the book and the intense joy I felt with being in love with the character Jude. But in the face of Hanya Yanagihara's epic words, mine would seem but unintelligible whisper. 

This is not a book review. I'm not going to tell you the plot, except only that it is about a not so little life. What I will tell you is that this is not only the best book I've ever read, but it is my favorite book of all time.

Allow me to share my journey to this book. 

In 2016, I'd read about this Pulitzer Prize winning novel called The Goldfinch (2013) written by Donna Tartt. Although I write horror, thriller, and science fiction, I don't generally read a lot in my chosen genres. I spend most of my time toiling through the sub-genres of literary fiction, such as neo-romanticism and  meta-fiction. I dabble in the classics, love a good detective novel, and when I see a list of best of books, I tend to try them out. 

For instance, the three great books I read in 2016 were The Goldfinch, The Secret History (1992), and A Gentleman in Moscow (2016). The Goldfinch lived up to its reputation and was a magnificent journey through a life that began with an explosion, a theft, and a promise. I chose to read The Secret History next, because it was also written by Donna Tartt and advertised as being a modern A Catcher in the Rye. I thrashed through that novel gleefully, enjoying the academic bildungsroman journeys of its cast. Because I'd read The Secret History on my iPad, Amazon's sagacious algorithm advised me to read A Gentleman in Moscow next. I enjoyed it as much as the other books, even though the bildungsroman was completely different. I found in this book a new soul and an idea that was was old can always be new. I loaned a copy to my mother, because we often enjoy the same sort of books. She didn't read it right away and I was worried that she hadn't liked it and was too gracious to tell me. Then the other day, I received a short succinct Facebook message reminiscent of a teletype from last century that read: You are correct. A Gentleman in Moscow is one of the great novels of our time. Thank you for introducing me to it. Hard Stop.

What does one do after that? What does one read? As it turned out, I'd also read A Gentleman in Moscow on my iPad, but because I'd loved it so, I bought a hardback. There were parts that were so brilliantly written that I wanted to mark them, go back and reread them. This is what I loaned to my mother (hoping one day to get it back). Because I'd also read it on iPad, I returned to the Oracle of Amazon and asked what I was to read next. That's when it introduced me to A Little Life. Sometime in January, after I turned in my latest novel Burning Sky to Solaris Books fulfilling my contract, I sat down and began reading A Little Life on my iPad. 

At over 700 pages, this is a serious book. I hadn't known how long it was and had I known, the length might have scared me away. The first fifty pages or so was a bildungroman of four characters, fresh out of college. This was the getting to know them phase of the book and then things changed drastically.
"The clearest sign that A Little Life will not be what we expect is the gradual focus of the text on Jude’s mysterious and traumatic past. As the pages turn, the ensemble recedes and Jude comes to the fore. And with Jude at its center, A Little Life becomes a surprisingly subversive novel—one that uses the middle-class trappings of naturalistic fiction to deliver an unsettling meditation on sexual abuse, suffering, and the difficulties of recovery. And having upset our expectations once, Yanagihara does it again, by refusing us the consolations we have come to expect from stories that take such a dark turn." (The New Yorker)

It is in the author's unflinching delivery, her reluctance to let us lick our own tattered wounds, that
sends the emotional narrative sizzling. There were moments reading this book that I wondered if I wasn't going to need a support group once I was finished.
If A Little Life's heart is the push-pull of individual annihilation, then its heart is friendship.  Notice in the quote below that it mentions friendship as solace, because everything else that happens is so terrible.

"Friendship is the solace in A Little Life, as it is in any life riven with anxiety, and it is rendered so exquisitely lifelike here – replete with beauty and dark currents – that it almost approximates the real thing. The characters’ friendships represent the type of love known as agape, described by CS Lewis in The Four Loves as the highest level of love known to humanity: “A selfless love, a love that was passionately committed to the well being of the other.” Most books are still caught up in a world where romance and sex takes precedence, but we’re now in a cultural moment in which relationships – romantic, sexual, platonic, polygamous, online, all this together and more – are accepted as much more fluid and complex than they used to be. A Little Life succeeds and connects because it is willing to explore those nuances. We mightn’t be able to recognize ourselves in the darker material – the cutting, the urge for annihilation – but something rings true and real about the love between friends in an anxious world." (The Guardian)

Not for nothing, A Little Life had some recognition:

    2015 Man Booker Prize, shortlist
    2015 National Book Award for Fiction, finalist
    2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, shortlist
    2015 Kirkus Prize in Fiction, winner
    2017 International Dublin Literary Award, shortlist

Recently, I reached out to a book dealer in New York and bought a signed first edition for a sum I wouldn't normally pay. The most I'd paid for a first edition previously was for my third favorite book, China Mieville's The Scar (This is a middle book of a trilogy, as is my second favorite book, The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy. Funny that I like middle books.). The signed first edition of A Little History cost even more than The Scar, but then, what is one to do if one might want to sit in a chair, hold a book, and reminisce about one's journey through it. 

My experience with A Little Life might be different than your own. But unless you read it, you will never understand the frustration and joy one can simultaneously experience. Just know this. Do not do so gently. Be wary. There was once a belief that on the edges of old paper maps where the cartographer didn't know what was there would be written the words Here Be Dragons. Unless you have traveled through a black soul and seen the other side, you have no idea what you are about to experience. So I'll leave you with this. In A Little Life, Here Be Dragons.