Sunday, August 23, 2015

Grunt Traitor by Weston Ochse is a great read

Weston Ochse can really write. He begins Grunt Traitor with Mason hip-deep in shit— not in alligators or crocodiles but in dead bodies. Some of those bodies belong to the alien Cray. Some are human. One of those bodies may belong to Mason’s girlfriend Michelle. Has Michelle been captured by the Cray? Or has she disappeared as part of Mr. Pink’s nefarious plans to stop the aliens at all costs? Though still alive, Michelle begs Mason to kill her. Killmekillmelillmekillmekillme, she says. Her plea does a number on Mason’s mind. It’s almost as if Michelle has somehow gotten inside Mason’s mind as well as under his skin.

Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa was the battleground in Grunt Life. Los Angeles and Fort Irwin, both in California, are the battlegrounds in Grunt Traitor. Other alien life forms have now joined the Cray, and they all serve the alien Master. Grunt Traitor is full of surprises, as characters double-and-triple-cross each other and new alliances are formed.

The action is so real you can taste it because Ochse knows what it’s like to be a grunt in combat. Weston Ochse can describe a grunt’s feelings perfectly in first-person POV. Battle is battle, and the horrors and confusion of the battlefield haven’t changed much over the years. Whether you served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, or near-future battles with the Cray, you’ve seen bodies blown apart. These days, that gives you what shrinks call PTSD, better known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD develops in virtually all humans after prolonged periods of stress punctuated with severe traumatic incidents such as personal bodily injury or witnessing death close up. Not only do victims of violence get PTSD, first-responders get PTSD. All combat soldiers develop some form of PTSD. PTSD is especially potent when friends and colleagues die while you inexplicably survive. If you’ve seen a loved one suddenly die right in front of your eyes, you likely have PTSD, too.

I’ve written before about the Magic Number 7 plus or minus two. Human beings can experience seven, give or take one or two, different stimuli simultaneously. More than that can and does cause parts of the brain to overload and shut down. When I was a practicing hypnotist and hypnotism instructor, I deliberately created sensory overloads to cause subjects to retreat into trance. I won’t go into details in a public forum, but suffice it to say that both overload and instant “shock” inductions can leave permanent imprints in the human brain. Stage hypnotists exploit those imprints to make subjects quack like a duck or bark like a dog. Sensory overload partitions the brain so the left hand doesn’t recognize what the right hand is doing. If the hypnotist neglects to remove those imprints, the subject will automatically reenter trance each and every time an anchor is triggered.

PTSD works the same way as sensory overload or a shock induction. It sets an anchor that fires—much like a loaded gun—whenever a trigger is touched.

American soldiers have this foolish notion that you should never leave one of your own troops—either living or dead—behind. We agonize over missing POWs. We organize special rescue ops to go behind enemy lines. We’re willing to risk an entire battalion to rescue one man. As a last resort, the quartermaster sends in graves registration people after the fact to collect dog tags and DNA. We honor the memory of those who fall in battle. It’s the least we can do.

The living aren’t always quite so fortunate, nor are those who die—either of wounds sustained in battle or by their own hand—after the battle’s over. Grunts are always expendable. In the old days, grunts were called cannon fodder. In the near future, grunts may be called humanity’s best and last hope.

All members of Task Force OMBRA are combat vets suffering PTSD. Most, like Mason and Michelle, have attempted suicide at least once to stop unbearable flashbacks from the past. Ochse is a genius to use a flashback to open Grunt Traitor. Not only does this flashback place the reader immediately into the middle of the action, it provides a brilliant way to sneak in backstory from Grunt Life. Flashbacks are a fact of life, especially for grunts.. Learn to live with ‘em, soldier.

What makes Grunt Traitor so compelling—besides the great characterizations, non-stop action, and complex plot—is the realization that something like this could actually happen in real life. Because we know so little about aliens and their motivations and methods, we humans are at a great disadvantage. Wouldn’t we be like blind men trying to describe an elephant when aliens make first contact? Aliens are, by definition, different than us. Isn’t that what makes them alien? Aliens are not human. We shouldn’t think of aliens as human. Should we?

It’s obvious Ochse has given great thought to what makes something alien. It’s also obvious he has read widely in SF and horror literature and he’s viewed most of the relevant films. He makes frequent tribute to writers and filmmakers who have been there before him.

What makes Grunt Traitor extra special, though, is this is a novel about second chances. Mason and Michelle were given second chances after attempting suicide. Phil, Mother’s nephew, was given a second chance. Even Thompson and Michelle got second chances .Would humanity have a second chance to survive in an alien-occupied terraformed world? You’ll need to read Grunt Traitor and its sequels to find out.

In my humble opinion, the best fiction is always a cautionary tale that teaches survival skills—skills we can learn nowhere else. Grunt Traitor is a survival tool like the books and movies OMBRA grunts studied during Phase I training. Think of Grunt Life and Grunt Traitor as Survival, Evasion, and Escape field manuals (FM 21-76) for winning a war with alien invaders.

Grunt Traitor is a great read.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

On Death and Dying

I couldn’t help but notice, while doing final page proofs of Light, my current preoccupation with death.
Death is my stock in trade. I’ve been a horror writer for more than a quarter century, and my Instruments of Death series of police procedurals examines the manner and means of death in graphic detail. So do my other novels and most of my short stories.

Death stalks us all every day of our lives. Death is the Great Mystery.

I began to explore death itself in the Winds-series of supernatural suspense novels that starts with Abandoned.

Abandoned was published last March by Eldritch Press. Darkness appeared in June from 2AM Publications. Light is scheduled to see print in September and Winds will come out at the end of October. Time will debut in March of 2016. Mysterious Ways and Daughters of Nyx will be out next summer. These are all stand-alone novels with some recurring characters I’ve learned to love. Each novel is around 120,000 words. That’s nearly a million words devoted to the themes of death, dying, and rebirth.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Ask me for my autograph

Rebuilding your readership one reader at a time isn’t easy. My horror novels have been out of print for a quarter of a century, and I have only just began to see my new suspense thrillers appear in print. I tried advertising on Google, in the pages of The Big Thrill, in various media. I sent out news releases and free review copies. I appeared on panels at science fiction and fantasy conventions and did readings, autographings, and group signings at the World Horror Convention, The Nebula Awards, OdysseyCon, and bookstores all over the country. I hawked books during television interviews, and I maintained a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, GoodReads, Library Thing, and Amazon. I maintain multiple websites and write weekly blogs on Blogger, WordPress, and Tumbler. New short stories bearing my by-line have appeared recently in Weirdbook, The Horror Zine, and Pulp Adventures. All of this is, of course, necessary to rebuild name recognition. But what really sells books is repeat customers and word-of-mouth. Faithful fans who buy everything I write and tell their friends about me are precious.
What I haven’t done and need desperately to do is stay in contact with each of those fans. I’m a shy guy and my comfort zone is reading and writing alone at home. I don’t answer my telephones when they ring, and I don’t respond to e-mails in a timely manner. I am on Facebook nearly every day, and I do respond to most messages. So, if you want to contact me, message me on Facebook. And if you just want to learn about what I’m currently working on, what appearances I have planned at conventions or bookstores, when my latest novels will be released, or follow my fictional adventures, sign up for my monthly newsletter at You can also read my weekly blog at

And never be hesitant to ask me for my autograph (except on a blank check). If you buy my books, I owe you a personalized autograph.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Sometimes I write short stories

Although I’m best known today for writing series suspense thrillers such as my Instruments of Death (Claw Hammer, Pickaxe, Icepick, Meat Cleaver) e-book series from Crossroad Press and my Winds novels from Eldritch Press and 2AM Publications (Abandoned, Darkness, Light, Winds, Time), I still write stand-alone novels (Deviants, forthcoming from Damnation Books) and occasional science fiction or horror short stories for magazines and anthologies. “After the Fall” appeared this week in the Fall 2015 issue of The Horror Zine Magazine ( “Dolls” is scheduled to appear in Weirdbook 31. And “Who Knows What Evil Dwells” appeared today in Pulp Adventures 18 (
I love reading and writing short fiction. I work on short stories concurrently with novels. Like most writers, I have thousands of story ideas in various stages of development. Novels, of course, are more lucrative than short stories. I make my living by writing novels, but I gain new readers from placing short stories in magazines and anthologies. Short stories introduce readers to my writing, and many of those readers go on to buy copies of my novels. Short stories, not unlike blog posts, are an excellent way to showcase a variety of my writing styles. I prefer to use multiple viewpoints in novels, but I normally limit short stories to a single viewpoint character. I hate first-person narratives in novels, but first-person is perfect for blogs and many short stories. Yes, Elizabeth. I do sometimes write in first person. I have even written some—but not many—first-person novels. There is a time and place for everything.