Weston Ochse

In my line of work – actually, in both lines of my work – I’ve been forced to develop a thick protective layer of skepticism, especially when it comes to people telling me their biographies.  Rampant padding and overestimation might be another way of putting it.  I’ve seen people take credit for things others have done, and I’ve seen people try to convince me they are all that and a bag of chips when in fact they are nothing but paper tigers.  Keep that in mind when I tell you that within a few minutes of meeting Weston Ochse (we were manning the HWA booth at the Book Expo America in Los Angeles at the time) I learned he was an intelligence agent for the military, an enthusiast of not only pulp fiction, but contemporary crime fiction and Eastern philosophy as well.  And, he had even won a Bram Stoker Award for his first novel, Scarecrow Gods.  And…AND he’d been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  I was thinking sure, whatever.  Nobody could be that good.  But we hit it off great.  Wes is totally captivating to talk to, and has such an easy way of talking with people he’s only just met that I could have mistaken him for a veteran street cop.  In other words, I liked him.  Enough that I could forgive him a little padding of his bio.

And then, we went to lunch.  Keep in mind this is at the café in the Staples Center in Los Angeles.  There are tourists everywhere.  On the way to our table I heard at least half a dozen languages spoken.  We sat down, and seated next to us was this older Asian couple.  I had no idea what they were talking about, because of course they were speaking in Mandarin, but I’ve been a cop long enough to recognize tourists in distress.  The husband was looking at a map and shrugging every time his wife asked a question.  I thought, Ah, you poor people, I wish I could help you.

But then Wes turns to the couple and begins speaking fluent Mandarin.  I don’t know who was more surprised, the couple or me.  But Wes patiently found out where they wanted to go and then gave them the directions they needed.  In Mandarin!  Shocked as they were, they gushed with thanks.  And Wes?  He simply returned to his hamburger.  Like it was nothing.

I knew then that I was in the company of the real McCoy.  Here there was no padding, no bullshit.  Weston Ochse, I’m happy to report, is all that and a bag of chips.

Wes is an amazing writer with plenty of zombie credit to his name, but he’s also incredibly versatile.  He writes in several genres, sometimes focusing on the military, sometimes on everybody else, but always with a passion for life and a depth of human emotion normally reserved for the best of contemporary literature.

And did I mention that he’s currently stationed in Afghanistan, protecting our collective asses?  Because he is.

I hope you enjoy this extra special interview, because it was written in a soldier’s downtime from the hot box that is Afghanistan.  Here is Weston Ochse!

 

Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream. I’m glad you could swing by. You’re no stranger to zombie fiction. Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing? How do you approach the genre?

Weston Ochse:  My novel Empire of Salt was published by Abaddon Book as part of their Tomes of the Dead series. It takes place in the Salton Sea and features PTSD soldiers turned into zombies. It sold out in paperback worldwide and did incredibly well. My most famous zombie short story is probably “The Crossing of Aldo Ray,” which appeared in The Dead That Walk (edited by Stephen Jones). This was a very Cormac McCarthyesque piece about the dead and illegal aliens. It was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now. Are you prepared? Would humanity win?

WO:  I’m prepared. Are you? One thing The Walking Dead gets absolutely right is what someone has to do to save themselves and their family. Sometimes it’s terrible what you’d have to do. Let me ask you this? How much of your humanity are you willing to trade to stay alive?

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever? (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here. I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

WO:  I really enjoyed Feed. I thought it was very timely and gave us a perspective we’d never seen before.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

WO:  From Dead Snow, when the two men face off with the Nazi zombies with only a chainsaw and a sledgehammer a hammer and nail and all sorts of gear. It’s such a great scene with such great music that goes with it. It’s funny, but unintentionally so.

JM:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us. Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period. Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past. Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life. What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

WO:  And you call yourself a writer. Shame on you.

Seriously. Of course these things are a reflection of a deeper psychosis. In the case of zombies, their popularity I firmly believe is linked with our ever-increasing concern with the the dissolution of social bonds, loss of civilized structure, and the fracturing of neighborhoods as an identifiable block. And of course because it’s just cool and fun to kill dead things all over again.

 

Weston Ochse also maintains one of the best author blogs out there.  Please go by and check out some of the most original content on the web here, and when you’ve had your curiosity piqued, go here to read his books.

But I’m not going to let you go just yet.  Weston Ochse, as I’ve said, knows his shit.  And he proves it in his most recent release, Babylon Smiles.  If you liked Three Kings, if you liked Kelly’s Heroes, you owe it to yourself to check this out.  Here’s where you can get your copy.

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Good News About Dead Set: A Zombie Anthology

Earlier this year Michelle McCrary and I edited a charity zombie anthology for 23 House Publishing called Dead Set. It was my first ever stint as editor and I greatly enjoyed the process. And now, with the end of the year upon us and award season kicking up, all that hard work has started to get some positive critical attention. Dead Set, and several of the contributors to the anthology, have been nominated and/or recommeded for some major awards, something for which I am very excited.

First off is Dark Scribe Magazine’s Annual Black Quill Award. Dead Set has made the short list in the Best Dark Genre Fiction Collection category, which is a huge honor. Here’s the complete ballot:

And the Nominees Are…
DARK GENRE NOVEL OF THE YEAR:

Novel-length work of horror, suspense, or thriller from a mainstream publisher; awarded to the author

A Dark Matter by Peter Straub (Doubleday)
Kraken by China Miéville (Del Rey)
Sparrow Rock by Nate Kenyon (Leisure / Bad Moon Books)
The Caretaker of Lorne Field by David Zeltserman (Overlook Hardcover)
The Passage by Justin Cronin (Ballantine)
Under the Dome by Stephen King (Scribner)

BEST SMALL PRESS CHILL:

Novel or novella published by small press publisher; awarded to the author

A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files (ChiZine Publications)
Dreams in Black and White by John R. Little (Morning Star)
Invisible Fences by Norman Prentiss (Cemetery Dance)
The Castle of Los Angeles by Lisa Morton (Gray Friar Press)
The Wolf at the Door by Jameson Currier (Chelsea Street Editions)

BEST DARK GENRE FICTION COLLECTION:

Single author collection, any publisher; awarded to the author

Blood and Gristle by Michael Louis Calvillo (Bad Moon Books)
In the Mean Time by Paul Tremblay (ChiZine Publications)
Little Things by John R. Little (Bad Moon Books)
Occultation by Laird Barron (Night Shade Books)
Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse by Otsuichi (VIZ Media LLC)

BEST DARK GENRE ANTHOLOGY:

Multi-author collection, any publisher; awarded to the editor

Dark Faith Edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon (Apex Publications
Dead Set: A Zombie Anthology Edited by Michelle McCrary and Joe McKinney (23 House)
Haunted Legends Edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas (Tor)
Horror Library IV Edited by RJ Cavender and Boyd E. Harris (Cutting Block Press)
When The Night Comes Down Edited by Bill Breedlove (Dark Arts Books)

BEST DARK GENRE BOOK OF NON-FICTION:

Any dark genre non-fiction subject, any publisher; awarded to the author[s] or editor[s]

Horrors: Great Stories of Fear and Their Creators by Rocky Wood (McFarland)
I Am Providence: The Life and Times of HP Lovecraft by S.T. Joshi (Hippocampus Press)
Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever by Joe Kane (Citadel)
The Conspiracy Against the Human Race by Thomas Ligotti (Hippocampus Press)
Thrillers: 100 Must Reads Edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner (Oceanview Publishing)

BEST DARK SCRIBBLE:

Single work, non-anthology short fiction appearing in a print or virtual magazine; awarded to the author

“Bully” by Jack Ketchum (Postscripts 22/23)
“Goblin Boy” by Rick Hautula (Cemetery Dance #63)
“Secretario” by Catherynne M. Valente (Weird Tales, Summer 2010)
“The Things” by Peter Watts (Clarkesworld, January 2010)
“We” by Bentley Little (Cemetery Dance #64)

BEST DARK GENRE BOOK TRAILER:

Book video promoting any work of fiction or non-fiction; awarded to the video producer or publisher

Neverland / Produced by Circle of Seven Productions (for the book by Douglas Clegg)

Radiant Shadows / Produced by Circle of Seven Productions (for the book by Melissa Marr)

Specters in Coal Dust / Produced by Michael Knost & Black Water Films (for the anthology edited by Michael Knost)

Under the Dome / Produced by Scribner Marketing (for the book by Stephen King)

Unhappy Endings / Produced by Delirium Books (for the book by Brian Keene)

The following is taken directly from the Dark Scribe Magazine website and tells you a little about how the short list is established and how the voting process works. I encourage everybody to stop by and vote, even if it’s for something other than Dead Set.

Nominations for the Black Quills are editorial-based, with both the editors and active contributing writers submitting nominations in each of the (7) categories. Once nominations are announced, the readers of DSM have an opportunity to cast their votes for their picks in each category. In a unique spin intended to celebrate both critical and popular success, two winners are announced in each category – Reader’s Choice and Editor’s Choice.

All dark genre works published between November 1st, 2009 and October 31st, 2010 are eligible. DSM does not solicit nominations, nor are there any fees associated with the Black Quills.

Please note that only one ballot per email/IP address will be accepted. Multiple ballots received from the same email/IP address will be discarded.

Reader voting closes at midnight EST on Friday, January 21st, 2011.

Winners will be announced on Tuesday, February 1st, 2011.

On behalf of myself, Michelle McCrary, Dead Set’s contributors, and everyone at 23 House Publishing, I’d just like to say that it is a huge honor to be recognized in this way by Dark Scribe Magazine.

My second piece of great news comes from the Horror Writers Association, where Dead Set has done quite well in the Bram Stoker Awards recommendations phase. The Stokers work quite differently from the Black Quill Awards. Dark Scribe’s staff and contributors nominate the shortlist for the Black Quill Awards, but in the HWA, the membership at large has an entire year to recommend various works. Each recommendation gets tallied together, and at the end of the year, the top recommended works in each category get forwarded to the Preliminary Ballot. After that, the Active Members of HWA vote on the Preliminary Ballot and the five or six works receiving the top votes go on to the Final Ballot. Right now, we are still in the recommendation phase, so Dead Set hasn’t earned the right to carry any sort of Stoker Award tags, but I thought it important to mention the attention that several of the work’s contributors have been getting.

Judy Comeau’s story “Seminar Z,” Lee Thomas’ “Inside Where It’s Warm,” and Nate Southard’s “In the Middle of Poplar Street” have all received several mentions, and I’m proud to have had the opportunity to publish their work. In addition, the book itself has received several recommendations in the anthology category, which is a reflection on the hard work of each of the contributors.

My best to everyone involved in this fantastic book. Here’s hoping 2011 brings you all great success and joy.

This Year’s Bram Stoker Award Roll Call

The inimitable Lisa Morton, writer and HWA powerhouse, has put together a great webpage for this year’s Bram Stoker Award nominees, including a short biography for each. Check it out here.

And if you happen to be the only person on the planet who has yet to see the list of nominated works, check out the full list here.

QUARANTINED makes the 2009 HWA Preliminary Stoker Ballot

I woke up to some great news this morning. My novel, Quarantined, made it onto the HWA’s 2009 Bram Stoker Award preliminary ballot. This is not the same thing as being nominated for a Stoker (that comes later, when and if a work advances to the final ballot phase of the process), but I am very excited. And as an added treat, my short story, “Plague Dogs,” also made it onto the preliminary ballot. Here’s a rundown of works on the ballot.

2009 PRELIMINARY STOKER BALLOT

Superior Achievement in a Novel
QUARANTINED by Joe McKinney (Lachesis Publishing)
AS FATE WOULD HAVE IT by Michael Louis Calvillo (Bad Moon Books)
PATIENT ZERO by Jonathan Maberry (St. Martin’s Griffin)
CURSED by Jeremy Shipp (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
SACRIFICE by John Everson (Leisure)
AUDREY’S DOOR by Sarah Langan (Harper)
ETERNAL VIGILANCE II: DEATH OF ILLUSIONS by Gabrielle Faust (Immanion Press)
TWISTED LADDER by Rhodi Hawk (Tor/Forge)
VORACIOUS by Alice Henderson (Jove)P
THE BONE FACTORY by Nate Kenyon (Leisure)

Superior Achievement in a First Novel
DAMNABLE by Hank Schwaeble (Jove)
THE BLACK ACT by Louise Bohmer (Library of Horror)
SLAUGHTER by Marcus Griffin (Alexandrian Archives Publishing)
BREATHERS by S. G. Browne (Broadway Books)
THE LITTLE SLEEP by Paul Tremblay (Henry Holt)
SOLOMON’S GRAVE by Daniel G. Keohane (Dragon Moon Press)
DISMEMBER by Daniel Pyle (Wild Child)
SLIGHTS by Kaaron Warren (Angry Robot)
THE DEAD PATH by Stephen M. Irwin (Hachette Australia)
THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan (Delacorte Press/Random House)

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction,
MAMA FISH by Rio Youers (Shroud Publishing)
HUNGER OF EMPTY VESSELS by Scott Edelman (Bad Moon Books)
DIANA AND THE GOONG-SI by Lisa Morton (MIDNIGHT WALK)
DOC GOOD’S TRAVELING SHOW by Gene O’Neill (Bad Moon Books)
THE GRAY ZONE by John R. Little (Bad Moon Books)
THE LUCID DREAMING by Lisa Morton (Bad Moon Books)
DREAMING ROBOT MONSTER by Mort Castle (MIGHTY UNCLEAN)
LITTLE GRAVEYARD ON THE PRAIRIE by Steven E. Wedel (Bad Moon Books)
ROT by Michelle Lee (Skullvines Press)
BLACK BUTTERFLIES by Kurt Newton (Sideshow Press)

Superior Achievement in a Short Fiction
IN THE PORCHES OF MY EARS by Norman Prentiss (PS Publishing)
BLANKET OF WHITE by Amy Grech (BLANKET OF WHITE)
KEEPING WATCH by Nate Kenyon (MONSTROUS: 20 TALES OF GIANT CREATURE TERROR)
ONE MORE DAY by Brian Freeman (SHIVERS V)
THE CROSSING OF ALDO RAY by Weston Ochse (THE DEAD THAT WALK)
WHERE SUNLIGHT SLEEPS by Brian Freeman (Horror Drive-in)
THE NIGHT NURSE by Harry Shannon (Horror Drive-in)
PLAGUE DOGS by Joe McKinney (POTTERS FIELD 3)
THE OUTLAWS OF HILL COUNTY by John Palisano (Harvest Hill)
NUB HUT by Kurt Dinan (Chizine)

Superior Achievement in a Anthology,
MIDNIGHT WALK edited by Lisa Morton (Dark House)
POE edited by Ellen Datlow (Solaris)
HARLAN COUNTY HORRORS edited by Mari Adkins (Apex Publications)
HE IS LEGEND: AN ANTHOLOGY CELEBRATING RICHARD MATHESON edited by Christopher Conlon (Gauntlet Press)
LOVECRAFT UNBOUND edited by Ellen Datlow (Dark Horse Books)
DARK DELICACIES 3: HAUNTED edited by Del Howison and Jeff Gelb (Running Press)
BUTCHER SHOP QUARTET 2 edited by Frank J. Hutton (Cutting Block Press)
GRANTS PASS edited by Amanda Pillar and Jennifer Brozek (Morrigan Books)
MIGHTY UNCLEAN edited by Bill Breedlove (Dark Arts Books)
BRITISH INVASION by Chris Golden, Tim Lebbon and James Moore (Cemetery Dance Publications)

Superior Achievement in a Collection,
A TASTE OF TENDERLOIN by Gene O’Neill (Apex Book Company)
SHADES OF BLOOD AND SHADOW by Angeline Hawkes (Dark Regions Press)
MARTYRS AND MONSTERS by Robert Dunbar (DarkHart Press)
IN THE CLOSET, UNDER THE BED by Lee Thomas (Dark Scribe Press)
A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FIENDS by Michael McCarty (Sam’s Dot)
GOT TO KILL THEM ALL AND OTHER STORIES by Dennis Etchison (Cemetery Dance)
DARK ENTITIES by David Dunwoody (Dark Regions)
SHARDS by Shane Jiraiya Cummings (Brimstone Press)
UNHAPPY ENDINGS by Brian Keene (Delirium Books)
YOU MIGHT SLEEP… by Nick Mamatas (Prime)

Superior Achievement in a Nonfiction
WRITERS WORKSHOP OF HORROR by Michael Knost (Woodland Press)
STEPHEN KING: THE NON-FICTION by Rocky Wood and Justin Brook (Cemetery Dance)
CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT by L. L. Soares and Michael Arruda (Fearzone)
ESOTERIA-LAND by Michael McCarty (BearManor Media)
MORBID CURIOSITY CURES THE BLUES edited by Loren Rhoads (Simon & Schuster)
THE STEPHEN KING ILLUSTRATED COMPANION by Bev Vincent (Fall River Press)

Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection
CHIMERIC MACHINES by Lucy A. Snyder (Creative Guy Publishing)
MORTICIAN’S TEA by G. O. Clark (Sam’s Dot)
DOUBLE VISIONS by Bruce Boston (Dark Regions)
VOICES FROM THE DARK by Gary William Crawford (Dark Regions)
BARFODDER by Rain Graves (Cemetery Dance)
STARKWEATHER DREAMS by Christopher Conlon (Creative Guy Publishing)
TOWARD ABSOLUTE ZERO by Karen L. Newman (Sam’s Dot)
NORTH LEFT OF EARTH by Bruce Boston (Sam’s Dot)
GRAVE BITS by Todd Hanks (Skullvines Press)

“The Night Nurse” by Harry Shannon

Harry ShannonA new Harry Shannon short story is always a treat, and his latest, “The Night Nurse,” which you can read here, is no exception. There’s a brief interview included with the story that gives some pretty good insight on how and why “The Night Nurse” was written.

“The Night Nurse” has got a great twist at the end that really lands the story. I was so impressed with it that I recommended it for a Bram Stoker Award. I hope you like it, too.

Final Stoker Ballot 2008

Final Stoker Ballot 2008

Superior Achievement in a Novel

COFFIN COUNTY by Gary Braunbeck (Leisure Books)
THE REACH by Nate Kenyon (Leisure Books)
DUMA KEY by Stephen King (Scribner)
JOHNNY GRUESOME by Gregory Lamberson (Bad Moon Books/Medallion Press)

Superior Achievement in a First Novel

MIDNIGHT ON MOURN STREET by Christopher Conlon (Earthling Publications)
THE GENTLING BOX by Lisa Mannetti (Dark Hart Press)
MONSTER BEHIND THE WHEEL by Michael McCarty and Mark McLaughlin (Delirium Books)
THE SUICIDE COLLECTORS by David Oppegaard (St. Martin’s Press)
FROZEN BLOOD by Joel A. Sutherland (Lachesis Publishing)

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction

THE SHALLOW END OF THE POOL by Adam-Troy Castro (Creeping Hemlock Press)
MIRANDA by John R. Little (Bad Moon Books)
REDEMPTION ROADSHOW by Weston Ochse (Burning Effigy Press)
THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. ZACH by Gene O’Neill (Bad Moon Books)

Superior Achievement in Short Fiction

PETRIFIED by Scott Edelman (Desolate Souls)
THE LOST by Sarah Langan (Cemetery Dance Publications)
THE DUDE WHO COLLECTED LOVECRAFT by Nick Mamatas, and Tim Pratt (Chizine)
EVIDENCE OF LOVE IN A CASE OF ABANDONMENT by M. Rickert (Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
TURTLE by Lee Thomas (Doorways)

Superior Achievement in an Anthology

LIKE A CHINESE TATTOO edited by Bill Breedlove (Dark Arts Books)
HORROR LIBRARY, VOL. 3 edited by R. J. Cavender (Cutting Block Press)
BENEATH THE SURFACE edited by Tim Deal (Shroud Publishing)
UNSPEAKABLE HORROR edited by Vince A. Liaguno and Chad Helder (Dark Scribe Press)

Superior Achievement in a Collection

THE NUMBER 121 TO PENNSYLVANIA by Kealan Patrick Burke (Cemetery Dance Publications)
MAMA’S BOY and Other Dark Tales by Fran Friel (Apex Publications)
JUST AFTER SUNSET by Stephen King (Scribner)
MR. GAUNT AND OTHER UNEASY ENCOUNTERS by John Langan (Prime Books)
GLEEFULLY MACABRE TALES by Jeff Strand (Delirium Books)

Superior Achievement in Nonfiction

CHEAP SCARES by Gregory Lamberson (McFarland)
ZOMBIE CSU by Jonathan Maberry (Citadel Press)
A HALLOWE’EN ANTHOLOGY by Lisa Morton (McFarland)
THE BOOK OF LISTS: HORROR by Amy Wallace, Del Howison, and Scott Bradley (HarperCollins)

Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection

THE NIGHTMARE COLLECTION by Bruce Boston (Dark Regions Press)
THE PHANTOM WORLD by Gary William Crawford (Sam’s Dot Publishing)
VIRGIN OF THE APOCALYPSE by Corrine De Winter (Sam’s Dot Publishing)
ATTACK OF THE TWO-HEADED POETRY MONSTER by Mark McLaughlin and Michael McCarty (Skullvines Press)

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