Please Pick My Book by Its Cover – The Perils of Indie Authorship

It’s been a while since I posted on the site, so I figured I’d share a recent piece I wrote for Advanced Literate as a companion to my interview.  Hope you enjoy!

Please Pick My Book by Its Cover – Ashton Macaualy

Being an independent author is simultaneously one of the easiest and hardest things I’ve ever done. The easy part? All you need to do is write a few words, slap your name on them, and BOOM, you’re an Indie Author. Congratulations. The hard part? Getting people to read those words, or better yet, getting someone else to pay to publish them. The harder part? Finding people to buy those books once you’ve wrangled a publisher and have your cover on the digital shelf. It’s a never-ending cycle; one that I’ve been heavily engaged with for about four years now. So, if you’re new to the scene, struggling to get your work out there, or just tired of the infinite shameless self-promotion loop on social media, strap in and let’s talk about it.

It was four years ago when I started to think of myself as a hot-shit writer with a manuscript that could sell. I had just moved to Seattle and was, as a lot of writers are, jobless. Those long days in my 400 square foot apartment were spent watching Seinfeld, applying for jobs, and submitting everything I had ever written to anyone who would pay a few bucks on Craig’s List. Sure, I submitted to a few of the big publishers as well, but its four years later and I’ve never heard a word from any of them. Want ads aren’t what a lot of people would call the traditional route to getting published, but it worked.

About two months into this rinse and repeat cycle of applications and submissions, two equally incredible things happened. The first is that I got a job working as a contractor at Xbox; pretty sweet, a dream gig for me. The second is that out of the hundred or so submissions of my work to various entities, I received two responses. Both were similar, offering to buy one of my short stories for a twenty-five-dollar flat fee. The first, I accepted immediately, jumping at the chance to have anything published. The second I rejected, hoping to hold out on that story for later (recently published in Aberrant Tales).

After selling that first story, I didn’t hear back from the publisher for almost six months. I continued to write every morning before going to my 9-5, but interestingly, the publication hadn’t been a life-changing experience. That changed the day a brown bubble envelope arrived on my doorstep. I opened it up and to my surprise, I had become a published author. The feeling of holding that red-covered Aberrant Literature Short Fiction Collection – Volume 3 and seeing my name on the author list was unlike anything I had ever experienced. That’s how I met my now publisher, Aberrant Literature, and the man behind it, Jason Peters. That collection spurred our writing/editing/promoting partnership that’s been going strong ever since, but none of it would have happened if I had been above submitting my work on Craig’s List.

That’s the thing about writing: no one should be above anything. If your goal is anything other than getting as many people as possible to enjoy your work, I hate to say it but you’re in the wrong business. I put a lot of time and effort into getting my first short story published, and there was a lot of rejection along the way, but holding it in my hand made me happy because it meant someone had liked reading it enough to print it.

Fast forward three or so years, (time has a funny way of slipping by when you spend it with your imagination behind a keyboard), and my first novel has been out for about nine months. Jason and I worked tirelessly on that manuscript for a solid two years before it ever saw the light of day, and yes, even after it came out, I still needed to keep my day job. The work only intensified after the book came out because getting readers takes effort – not just some of the time, but every day.

Since May of last year, we’ve tried just about everything to promote Whiteout, and it hasn’t been easy. As it turns out, getting people to pick up a paperback from an author they don’t know is pretty damn difficult. I’ve tried just about everything: In-person events, hiding books in airports/supermarkets, tweeting relentlessly into the echo chamber that is #WritingCommunity (it feels good, but doesn’t move copies), paid promotion, and many more. At the end of the day, the best luck I’ve had has been at those in-person events, or interviews like this one for Advanced Literate. The most effective way to get someone to pick up your book is to engage with them on a personal level and convince them it’s worth their time.

I know, getting in-person gigs isn’t easy, but like this whole crazy profession, it requires persistence. I’ve walked into around fifteen bookstores to ask about opportunities to sell my work and sign copies. Of those fifteen, two of them were nice enough to let me come to Indie Author Nights and talk. Those experiences were some of the best I’ve had as an author. I interacted with others in the community – some of whom I still talk to, some of whom I avoid with a ten-foot digital pole – but more importantly, it gave me experience. Seeing your readers in person shows you how they react when you communicate certain aspects of your work and teaches you what delights them. I’ve carried those lessons over to my digital interactions, and while we’re not selling hundreds of copies a month, sales aren’t stagnant either.

Alright, this was a lot of words about the process, and you might be feeling discouraged. However, while it sounds like a slog, there’s one thing I haven’t mentioned: I’ve loved just about every minute of it. Sure, there have been nights where my eyes are burning red from staring at the screen too long and every word I type feels like the work of a fifth grader, but when I shut off the computer, I’m happy. Writing is one of the few things in this world that makes sense to me, and any opportunity I have to do it fills my spiritual tank (sounds gross when I say it out loud). No matter how many books I sell or copies I sign, I’m still going to get up two hours before I need to be at work every morning and write. So, if you love the craft as much as I do, stop reading this blog post, open up your manuscript you’re procrastinating on, and get to it.

Praise for Whiteout

Whiteout has almost been out for a month, and the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. I couldn’t be happier with the reception, and am so happy to see people enjoying Nick’s adventures as much as I do. Thanks to the fans, we currently hold a 4.73/5 on GoodReads and a 4.8/5 on Amazon.

Want to see what all the hype is about? Order through your local bookstore on Indie Bound, or pick up a copy on Amazon!

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In addition to the positive reception from fans, Whiteout has also been reviewed by Kirkus!

“In Macaulay’s debut contemporary fantasy novel, a monster hunter pursues a yeti in the hostile winter landscape of the Himalayas and discovers the entrance to a hidden world.

Nick Ventner is a blue-collar hunter—a whiskey-soaked, seasoned pro in all things lurking in the shadows. Nick and his apprentice, James Schaefer, think they’re rescuing a village in the Himalayas from creatures called wargs, but it’s not wargs that have been picking off entire teams of climbers. It’s a yeti, and Nick’s nemesis, a rival hunter named Manchester, knows it too. ” Full Review available on the Kirkus site.

Finally, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has helped get Whiteout to this point. I can’t wait to see where it goes next, but holding the book in my hands, getting the opportunity to talk about it at local bookstores, and seeing everyone’s reactions has been amazing. Thanks to all  of you!

Whiteout Pre-Orders are Live

Hey Everyone,

The time has come! Whiteout is now available for Pre-Order on Amazon! Release is only about a month away (May 1st), and I am so excited to share the final product with you. If you’re a fan, or a friend, or just want to help, please share our pre-order link around. A lot of our marketing for this book is going to be word of mouth, so every share is important! These shares are going to help make the book more searchable across platforms and help make us more noticeable. Easiest way to find it right now is by searching ‘Whiteout Ashton Macaulay’ or ‘Whiteout Aberrant Literature’, or by following one of the links above.

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This is not a drill, this is real!!!

For those who prefer other sites to Amazon, we are getting those pages up and running as well. As of now we are up on Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.

Now, for those of you who backed our GoFundMe campaign, the first wave of merch just came in (as evidenced by this poorly-shot mirror selfie, apologies, my cats can’t hold a camera). Once I get all the paperback copies, I’ll frenziedly sign them all and then get to shipping!20180330_074641

Thanks again to everyone who helped make this happen, cannot wait to share Whiteout with you all on May 1st!

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Short Story – When a Cold Wind Whistles

Here’s a short inspired by another North American legend, the Wendigo. I don’t often write thriller, but I had this idea one day and here we are. If you enjoy the short story, consider checking out my full novel, Whiteout, the tale of a drunken monster hunter chasing a yeti.

When a Cold Wind Whistles

“Someone once told me stories are best told on a cold night next to a warm flame.”

The wind whipped through the trees, scattering the ashes of their campfire into the snowy air.

“Others say, stories of the creature are best left alone. Just saying its name is enough to bring misfortune upon you.”

Bud and Larry sat listening, holding cans of cold beer between gloved hands. The old man had been guiding their hunt for three days, and hadn’t said much beyond ‘Deer, there’ or ‘Rest now’. Only after an hour silent by the campfire toward the midnight hour had he spoke at all.

“Fifty years ago, on a cold, starless night, I was guiding a camping group.” He let his eyes drift to the sky, watching the ashes turn from white, to orange, to black. “Family of four, nice enough folk. Mother worked in town, father was a business man. Both wanted the boys to see something that wasn’t concrete and glass.”

“He’s talking about the Millers,” whispered Bud.

Larry nodded, silently remembering the legend that had grown almost as old as the town itself.

“Yes, the Millers, that was their name.”

“One of the worst bear attacks in the county history,” said Bud, taking another sip.

“There was no bear.” The man sat silent for a moment.

In the distance, a branch cracked. Both men shivered, but the old man sat straight-backed, as if he had heard nothing.

“They had a dog too,” he added. “Cute thing. Always liked dogs.” He reached for the six pack of beers buried in the snow and broke one off the ring.

“Hey-” started Larry, but Bud stayed him with a strong hand.

It didn’t seem the old man was asking permission anyway. With a gnarled finger, he cracked the tab with a snap hiss that echoed off the quiet forest beyond. He drained the can in one go, tossing the empty shell at the fire and sending a shower of sparks into the sky.

“My father had always told me no one wanders these mountains for free.” He turned his eyes from the fire to look at each of the men in turn. They squirmed under his intense gaze. “I was a willful child. Something I think you two might know something about.”

Bud laughed and the old man nodded.

“Yes, I thought so. Well, being the child I was, I had no desire for ancient rituals and hokum.” He smiled, but it was thin, like the act was tearing at the edges of his fragile skin. “There’s an altar just at the edge of the woods where all guides pay tribute beneath an ancient elk skull that was nailed there centuries ago. I never paid our passage, figuring I could use that money to buy a better bottle when I got back. So, we set off, me, the father, the mother, the two boys, and Rufus, that cute, yapping dog of theirs.

The first two days were really something spectacular. Clear skies, lots of wildlife, and good conversation around the campfire. Much like we’re having here tonight.”

The men didn’t think it much of a conversation but remained silent.

“The first night, we sat around the campfire, drinking and reveling, the second, more of the same, and then there was the third. I should have known from the moment that damned yapping dog took off into the sunset that something was wrong. Never did see that dog again.” He reached forward and pulled another beer off the ring. Once again, he drank it in a single gulp.

“You should slow—”

“We looked for that dog for hours, but when it grew dark, we did the only sensible thing; made a fire, left out a tin of food, and hoped the dog would find it before some other creature got to it. As last light faded from the sky, the children fell into a tearful sleep. I hated seeing them like that, but there were more pressing concerns.

Around that fire there was no drinking and no reveling. The father wanted to go looking for the dog and several times I had to physically restrain him from doing so. The man was adamant. Eventually, I got him to calm down, explaining to him that he’d likely be killed. There are no shortage of dangers in the forest at night, especially in the dead of winter.”

 

Larry felt his eyes drift from the fire to the forest. The trees were thin and barren; the snow giving them an odd, grey glow in the firelight.

“It was around then that the wind got this high, warbling whistle to it, like some diseased bird calling in the distance. When it didn’t stop or slow, the parents looked to me for guidance.

‘What was that?’ asked the father, standing from his seat.

A darkness grew over me then. All at once, the foolish error of my ignorance was laid bare. There was a dry crackle as something snapped branches in the distance.

The father turned away from the fire. ‘Maybe it’s Rufus’, he offered.

‘The dog’s dead,’ I replied.

In the trees, the high-pitched warble continued, growing closer with every second, threatening to drive me to madness. How he thought it was the dog, I’ll never know.

‘Just listen here,’ started the father, walking toward me in an attempt at menace. ‘We’ve had quite enough of your-’

I covered my ears, hoping to drown out the noise, but it buzzed in my skull like a trapped animal. A cold wind blew through the camp and for the first time, I shivered.

The father struck me, trying to stir me to action, but growing up in the village, I had heard the stories. Just because I had put no stock in them didn’t mean I hadn’t listened. The warbling continued, intensifying until I could hear nothing else. The pain was immeasurable. Something wanted in, and it took all my effort to keep it away. Then, as the noise reached its fever pitch it cut out suddenly leaving us in silence.”

 

The old man paused, letting his eyes drift off the fire once more.

Larry wanted to tell him to stop, but they had never asked him for the story the first place. He didn’t put much stock in ancient legends but didn’t like jinxing a good hunting trip either. They only had one day left before heading back to town, and he wanted to get a good sleep.

“What happened?” asked Bud, leaning forward in his camping chair, nose practically touching the flame.

The old man let out a heavy sigh and raised a hand to his temple. In the distance, a wind blew once more and branches cracked.

“If you don’t want to tell it,” offered Larry, seeing a way out.

Bud shot him a look telling Larry to shut up and pushed the remainder of the beer cans toward the old man.

He opened his eyes again, looking down at the offering. “Kind of you,” he said, snagging another can and draining it in a single gulp, leaving a single beer on the ring.

“Sure,” said Bud, impressed.

Larry dropped a hand to the rifle resting by his side, watching the tree line where the branches had cracked. Probably just getting spooked, he told himself, feeling the wood of the stock. But never hurts to be prepared. With the moon blotted out by clouds, the fire didn’t offer much in terms of vision, but it still made him feel safer.

 

“The sound stopped, and for a long while, I just sat there, eyes shut, knowing that whatever was going to be there when I opened them wasn’t good.

‘Sir?’ asked the mother, her kind voice like an angel after the warbling. ‘I’m sorry he acted like that.’

I opened my eyes to see the husband had gone. The wife knelt before me, holding a cool hand to my forehead. ‘Where?’ I asked.

‘He stormed off looking for Rufus. He’ll be back soon.’ Her tone was calm, as if she expected nothing less.

‘No,’ I replied. ‘He won’t.’ I felt it, even before I saw it; the tug at my spine, letting me know I had become prey. I lifted my gaze, looking beyond the campfire, my heart freezing in my chest as I did so.

None of the stories did it justice. I stared into the glowing red eyes of a thousand dead men, all wrapped into one. The creature itself stood nine feet tall, skin pale and waxy as if it had been pulled straight from the grave. Bones poked out at odd, uncomfortable angles, in some places bursting through the flesh into the naked air.”

 

The old man put a hand to his side, remembering.

Larry pulled the rifle into his lap. He couldn’t be sure, but it felt like the wind had moved from a hollow whine to a low whistle.

Bud stared across the fire, eyes never leaving the old man.

 

“Its head was that of an elk, huge and dead for some time, lifeless, apart from the glowing red eyes. Its antlers had been sharpened to knife points and bore the dark, black stains of murder. I stared at it, and it stared at me. In its right arm, it carried a bundle, obscured in the darkness.

The creature cocked its head to one side and pulled the elk’s mouth wide to a grin of pointed teeth and lifted a clawed arm. Hanging limply, speared by a wicked claw, was the husband. He looked up at me through dying eyes, and whispered: ‘Run.’

I heard it as if the words were spoken right in my ear.

The wife must have heard it too, because she turned just in time to see the creature grip her husband with a second clawed hand. In a clean motion it tore him in half tossing the ragged body to either side with a sickening splatter.

The woman screamed, and the creature began its warbling whistle again. I tried in vain to reach for my gun but found myself frozen to my chair.

Maybe it was shock, maybe she was feeling the same thing, but the woman didn’t run. She stayed put.

‘Don’t,’ I pleaded with the creature. ‘I’ll pay the price.’ It was my ignorance that had brought it down on us in the first place.

It paid me no heed and crossed the distance to our camp in three easy strides. The red light of our fire danced in the creature’s eyes and with an effortless swipe, it put it out. Left with nothing but the light of the stars and the moon, the creature somehow looked ghostlier than before.

The woman moved in between the creature and the tent containing her children. ‘Get the hell away from me!’ she screamed at it.

The creature let out a low, shuddering laugh. Frozen to my chair, I watched as bones and muscle tensed in its back. The whistling started again and the creature knelt to the woman’s height so that it could look at her eye to eye.

‘Fuck you,’ she spat.

The creature brought a clawed hand up into her chest, lifting her off her feet.

She gagged and spluttered, trying desperately to get a final breath. Blood flowed from her lips and down her chin. The creature twisted its claw and let her fall to the side. She was dead before she hit the ground.

Scared, shuffling noises came from within the tent and the creature turned its head hungrily.”

 

The old man’s eyes went vacant, staring into the fire, reflecting its light.

Larry stood up from his camping chair, looking around the forest uneasily. “I’ll say it, Bud. I don’t like this story.”

If the old man heard him, he didn’t say anything.

“Oh come on, Larry. It’s just a ghost story. Grow a pair and sit down.” Bud chuckled to himself. “I had no idea you were such a sissy.”

Larry racked the slide on his rifle.

“Will you cut that out. You’re going to hurt someone,” said Bud, standing from his chair. “Put the gun down Larry, it’s just a story.”

There was another crack from the woods and both men turned suddenly. “It’s a racoon, Larry,” put the gun down.

Larry’s heart beat violently in his chest.

“Wendigos you see,” started the old man again, “are inherently greedy, gluttonous creatures.” He snagged the final beer can.

Larry and Bud turned their attention back to him.

He stared straight into the fire, not looking up at either of them. “It had already killed two fully grown adults. Plenty to feast on for days to come. But when it heard the cries of those children. It wasn’t survival, or even sport, it was pleasure. The smile on those dead lips was one I’ll never forget.”

“I want him to stop telling this story!” yelled Larry, hysterically. He backed away from the campfire, suddenly afraid of the old man.

“Jesus Christ, Larry.”

Larry swung the rifle around toward the forest.

“Alright, that’s it.” Moving up behind him, Bud took the rifle and stripped it from Larry’s grip, elbowing him in the gut as he did so.

Larry fell to his knees, coughing.

“Get some sense in you, and you can have this back.” He pulled the slide back, releasing the round in the chamber and removed the magazine.

“Bud, please.”

Bud sat back in his camping chair and watched as the old man closed his eyes and finished the final beer. “Take a queue, Larry. Sit down and drink a little. It’ll calm your nerves.

“I’ll never forget the way those kids screamed,” the old man continued as if nothing had happened. “It left an imprint in my mind.” He raised his hands to his temples, massaging them gently.

“I couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything but watch as it shredded the tent and everything in it. Those poor kids. All the while, the creature sang its horrible, warbling song, gleeful in its work.” The old man stopped, shutting his eyes tightly.

Larry paced on the edge of the fire, holding his gut from where he had been punched. Desperation crept into the back of his mind and he felt something at the base of his spine. It was a tingling, pulling sensation that he couldn’t shake. “I don’t like this, Bud.”

Bud ignored him. “How did you escape?” he asked.

A low smile spread across the old man’s face, his skin taut in the firelight. “I didn’t really. The wendigo feasted for what felt like hours before it came to me. Like it wanted me to watch. Then, as I thought I might die from exposure, it knelt before me, eyes gleaming red, boring into mine. In that moment I saw every soul it had ever taken and every foolhardy child that had ignored the elders’ warnings.

The vision wore on for an eternity, but then suddenly, in a snap, it was gone. I didn’t realize it, but my eyes had been closed the whole time. When I opened them, the creature was gone, and I was left with the bloody remains of the family scattered around me. I left that place and wandered, eventually coming back to town to tell the tale.

I knew no one would believe me, and so I told them it had been a bear, woke early from its hibernation. When the rangers found the family, there was no question. No human could have done that.”

 

The forest went silent around them and Larry stopped his pacing.

“That’s it?” asked Bud. “The wendigo just left you?” He let out an exasperated sigh.  “Four beers for a bunch of buildup.”
He spat. “Well played, old man.”

“I’m not finished,” said the man, his voice growing quiet, gravelly and low.

A high-pitched warble cut through the forest.

Bud froze as the old man opened his eyes and stood in the firelight. They had taken on a red glow and his skin had grown pale.

Bud fumbled with the rifle, suddenly wishing he hadn’t unloaded it.

A massive rack of horns sprouted from the old man’s head, tearing through the thin flesh. His fingers extended to grey claws, creaking and popping horribly as they did so. “It’s like I said: No one wanders these mountains for free…”

A Man of the Mountain – The Light of the Morning

Below is the latest chapter from A Man of the Mountain, the prequel to my first novel, Whiteout, which just released. It tells the story of a man who just wants to keep the Bigfoot legend alive and the monster hunters who want to stop him.

For those who want to read Whiteout, it’s out now on all platforms and currently holds a 4.5/5 on GoodReads with 22 reviews in so far! Order below and share my work if you like it! It’s also free for Kindle Unlimited members!

Order Here

OK, end plug, here’s the story

Need to catch up on Man of the Mountain? Links to Chapter 1 2,   3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 , 9

11. The Light of the Morning

A light chill had crept into the air as Shirley and Nick arrived at the forestry center. Bright sunlight filtered through the trees, cutting radiant beams in the early-morning fog. Sets, cameras, and lights had all been broken down and strapped to a series of interns who looked more overburdened than yaks in the Himalayas. With their backs bent, they looked to be regretting their summer employment decisions. All told, there were about twenty people ready to head up the mountain. To both Nick and Shirley’s dismay, there was no sight of Mansen.

“That prick better show up,” stuttered Nick, halfway through a gulp from his ‘water’ bottle.

“Should you really be drinking right now?” Shirley’s eyes watered as she caught a brief whiff of whatever was inside the container.

“If the beast is what I think it is, I’m going to want to be good and buzzed when we find it.” He cocked an eye at Shirley, and then apologetically offered, “You want some?” He held the bottle out to her.

“No thanks, I don’t drink.”

Nick looked at her, very confused. “Ever?”

“Ever.” Shirley had spent years trying to avoid the specter of alcoholism that came with depression and had so far been very successful. She might have been the only dry member of the Local Eye staff.

“Suit yourself.” Nick shook the confusion off and fished around in his bag. Eventually, he pulled out a pistol that could only be described as dainty. “You ever use one of these?”

Shirley couldn’t help but laugh at him. “No.”

“Well, it’s quite—”

`    Shirley lifted the corner of her jacket, unclipped the holster at her side and drew a significantly larger handgun. “If you pulled that on a bear, it might laugh you to death.”

Nick held the pistol limply, trying not to look too envious.

“This,” she pointed the pistol at the ground, looking down the iron sights, “would stop anything in its tracks.”

Nick reddened. “Bet it doesn’t have holy water in it,” he mumbled.

“Do bears care about holy water?”

“Ah piss off anyway,” he grumbled. “Where is Mansen?” He straightened, looking for a target of ridicule that wasn’t himself.

The cast and crew milled about, trying not to garner Nick’s attention. It seemed that word of what happened to the last production assistant that crossed him traveled fast.

Nick looked as though he might sprint and throttle one of them again, but luckily, Mansen appeared just in time.

He might as well have walked straight out of a camping store commercial. While the equipment was clearly brand new, it had been made up to look scuffed and worn. The signs were clear to Shirley, but on camera, they would be hardly noticeable. If there was one thing Mansen was good at, it was presentation.

He strode to the middle of the campground, motioning for a camera to follow him as he did. “Alright, thanks to everyone who stuck around. This is without a doubt going to be one of the most dangerous shoots we’ve ever been on.” He looked the camera dead in the lens cementing the fact. “There have been some accusations that we aren’t brave enough to go after the beast, or that our entire operation is a fraud.” He waved a hand flippantly in Nick’s direction. “Today we prove these rumors to be nothing but a pack of lies.”

As Mansen droned on, Nick turned to Shirley. “You have to admit, he’s good in front of a camera.”

Shirley shrugged. “I guess if we run into a TV exec up there pretending to be Bigfoot, we’ll be in good hands.”

An eternity later, Mansen’s speech ended, and it was time for the real work to commence. His booming bravado didn’t stop for a second. “Let’s get moving, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover today.” He sounded and looked like a 1900s explorer leading a group of adventurers into the bush. It was the all khaki everywhere that sold the image.

In the distance, storm clouds were building, and Shirley made a note to keep an eye on them. She was always prepared and had packed for the worst of weather, but the rest of the team looked like they could handle a flake or two at the most. Forecasts in Clearwater were notorious for changing at a moment’s notice. The weatherman always said it was due to the mountain range masking the patterns, but most of the town figured it was his drinking. At the forestry center, the temperature was already at zero. It would warm throughout the day, but come evening, they might be in trouble.  “Those storm clouds could be an issue.” She pointed them out to Nick.

He looked up at them with a sense of unease. “Think we can handle them?”

“I think we can ride them out if we have to, but if we get caught in a storm, sitting in a tent is about all we’re going to accomplish until it passes.”

Nick tapped a flask at his side. “Good thing I brought this then.”

“Is there anything you solve without drinking?”

Nick scratched his chin, as if preparing to answer and then turned his attention to Mansen instead. He walked just close enough to be sure that one of the main sound technicians would capture him. “Better get moving if you want to beat that storm.” Immediately, two interns who had been shooting b-roll pointed their cameras skyward to capture the impending threat.

Mansen scowled. “What’s the matter? Afraid of a light dusting?”

Nick looked back at the clouds. Even he knew they were much darker than a light dusting, but if Mansen was going, he was going. “If our fearless leader thinks we can make it, then I’ve got all the faith in the world.” Nick cocked a ridiculous smile at the nearest camera and gave an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Mansen practically growled at the idea of sharing his camera time. “Let’s not lose this daylight,” he shouted. The crew chugged into motion like an old locomotive and started up the trail.

Shirley hustled to catch up to the front of the line, not wanting to miss any of the action, but Nick held her back. “Easy there,” he said, slowing her pace until they were being passed by even the slowest crew members. He waited until every one of them had filed onto the trail and then fell into step at the end of the line.

“I would have thought you’d be in a dick swinging contest to lead the group,” she mocked in genuine surprise.

Nick smiled. “Oh, I never travel at the front of the line. All that stuff in movies about stragglers getting picked off is just propaganda to inspire courage.” He whistled. “Yup, if there’s a beast up there, I want to make sure Mansen runs into it first. Besides, we’ll have a better chance of finding sign back here if we’re not being hassled by all of those god-damned interns.” He said the last line loudly and with venom. One of the young men carrying sound equipment just ahead of them flinched. Nick laughed, “Too easy.”

What was initially excited chatter from the crew about finally doing something real was quickly extinguished by the exhaustion that came from carrying an entire film set uphill. The lower trails of Clearwater Mountain were easy enough, but getting anywhere near the summit even with minimal gear was an exhausting task. Accomplished mountaineers would have laughed at the sweat and toil of the crew, but to them, it might as well have been Everest.

As the group crested a particularly steep set of switchbacks, Nick stopped off to the side of the trail, panting. He set his pack down. The line continued to move ahead, taking no notice.

“What’s a matter, tired?” Asked Shirley.

Nick bent down, ignoring her and examined something clinging to the bark of a tree. How he had seen it was a mystery. From a distance, it looked like any other moss or lichen, and for a moment Shirley thought he was simply stalling for a reason to catch his breath.

“That’s very interesting,” he murmured, reaching into his bag and pulling out a large leather-bound book.

“No wonder you’re exhausted. What on earth possessed you to bring that?”

“Possession had nothing to do with it.” He flipped through the pages. Eventually, he reached one with a sketch of a tall ape-like creature easily recognizable as sasquatch. He skimmed the lines with his finger, holding the moss next to the book for identification. “Are there any native tribes in the area?”

Shirley scuffed her shoes in the dirt. “Not anymore. Townsfolk drove them out years ago.”

“Drove them out?” asked Nick, pushing the small sample into a plastic-lined pocket of his backpack and snapping the book shut.

“Clearwater wasn’t exactly hospitable.”

“Oh good.” Nick shouldered his pack. “So, I suppose the hope of a cultural center would be folly.”

“We’ve got one about logging.”

“Wonderful, if we have to deal with a chainsaw-wielding spirt, we’ll be in luck.” Nick picked up the pace and hustled to catch the back of the line once more. It wasn’t hard at the languid pace they were making.

Shirley walked beside him. “What was that you found?”

“We are meant to believe it’s fur.” His voice grew distant.

“Meant to believe?”

“I haven’t ruled out the genuine article yet, but I see no reason that clump would have gotten stuck on that tree. It’s far too obvious. I think we were meant to find it.”

Shirley thought the sample would have been difficult to notice by anyone who hadn’t been paying the closest attention. “Why would anyone want to leave a fake sample?”

“Fame, glory, make the History Channel look like an idiot after the episode is released.” Nick sounded as if he were relishing the option. “Sounds like something I might do. If I had my analysis kit with me, we could find out for sure, but,” he motioned to the bag on his back with a slight groan, “as you said, too much weight.” Nick readjusted his pack and let out a long sigh. “I really thought we might find a sasquatch up here, but looks like it might just be another pretender.”

Shirley felt an all-too-familiar unhappiness rising inside her. “These attacks are very real,” she snapped, immediately regretting the tone. “Sorry.”

If Nick had taken offense, he didn’t show it. “I have no doubt about that, I’ve seen the photos.” Nick stopped to examine Shirley for a second. “Who did you know that was killed?” He crossed his arms.

“I’m sorry?”

“Mother, brother, father, sister, lover? Which was it?” Nick watched her expression closely with each suggestion.

At even the mention of it, Shirley felt a tingling begin at the back of her spine. Aw shit. Without warning, it felt like someone had gripped her chest in a vice. Pain lanced up her right arm. With numb fingers, she pulled out the small orange bottle she kept in her pocket and put one of the pills under her tongue. She could feel the forest closing in around her and struggled to stay on her feet. It’s not a heart attack. It’s not a heart attack. It’s not a heart attack. Slowly, she sunk to one knee, trying to keep her breathing in check.

Around her, the sounds of the forest disappeared, replaced with the frantic beating of her heart, and a thousand shouting voices telling her that she was about to die. Ever since the incident, Shirley had been unable to cope with even the mention of it. Her panic attacks had become less frequent, but that was mostly due to her avoidance of the subject. Most people in town knew what had happened, or thought she was a lunatic and never spoke to her.

Nick dropped the all-knowing act immediately and knelt next to her. “Are you alright?” Genuine concern had crept into his voice.

Shirley tried to speak but could only manage a stammer. Eventually she said, “She was very close to me. I don’t talk about it.” That was it. Even saying the words caused the crime scene images to play before her like an old film reel. The trees had been covered in her, and there had just been so much blood. STOP! she thought, loudly, and the memories began to quiet.

“I’m sorry.” The words came out like he had never said them before. “You should have told me this was personal. I just thought you were insane.”

Shirley laughed. “Well, you weren’t wrong.”

Nick helped pull her to her feet, and they rejoined the back of the line once more.

After a while, Shirley felt her heart rate slow, and was back in her daily rhythm. When she had caught her breath, she resumed the conversation. “What else could possibly be doing this?”

“A lot of things when you think about it. Victims have been decapitated, slashed, mauled, you name it. The only consistency is the brutality.” Nick winced, remembering the sensitivity of the situation, but did not apologize.

Shirley didn’t mind. She preferred brutal honesty to people walking on egg shells around her. “And the presence of four claws,” she reminded him. The thought brought a slight grimace to her face.

“Right, and the claw marks. It certainly does fit the bill of a territorial dispute, but without any knowledge from the people that were here first, we have no way of knowing. Sasquatch will stay in one region their entire life, which can be hundreds of years. That’s why there are so few of them left. Even when pioneers came with muskets, torches and colonization, the sasquatch stayed in the same spot, choosing to fight and die rather than leave.” There was a low melancholy respect for the beast in his words.

A light snow began to fall around them.

“Well this is sooner than expected,” said Nick, sticking his tongue out cheerily.

Shirley looked up at the clouds, dismayed. “That’s not good. If the storm is moving that quickly, it’s going to be a big one.”

“Something our pal up front should know about?”

Shirley groaned. “Probably.”

“Well then, let’s pay him a visit.”

Mansen was slick with sweat despite the cold and barking at anybody who bothered to distract him from the monumental task of putting one foot in front of the other. Cameramen buzzed around him like flies, no doubt shooting footage that would later be cut to preserve Mansen’s pristine reputation. Next to him was a young woman with a map, looking far less exhausted, and far more excited.

“How much farther?” he panted at her.

“We should be about halfway to the falls by now.”

The trails were still clear, but on the sides, they began to see piles of snow from the last storm. The farther up they got, the more snowpack there would be, and the harder the hike was going to get. Unfortunately, the trails also got steeper just before the falls.

“Halfway?” Mansen sounded defeated.

“Well, it’s about to get a lot harder if this storm keeps up,” said Nick jovially, jogging to the front of the line.

“Jesus Christ, why are you here?”

“I don’t know how many times I’ve had to tell you, Mansen, I might be better than you, but I am not the son of—”

“Shut it. I don’t have time for your childish games today.”

A cameraman moved up close beside them, wanting to capture the confrontation.

“Well, you see,” started Nick, and then Shirley cut in.

“At the rate this storm is moving, we’re going to be stuck in a full-on blizzard by nightfall.”

“Well it’s a good thing we brought all this gear then,” huffed Mansen.

Shirley scowled. “I don’t think you understand. Most people would turn back—”

Mansen let out a superior laugh, cold and high, echoing off the trees around them. “Clearly you’ve never operated on a schedule Ms. Codwell. I don’t suspect the tabloid enforces them.”

Shirley balled her fist up, ready to strike him. The cameraman zoomed to it.

“No, we are not turning around, we are nearly there. If it’s going to snow, then we’ll find the beast in a whiteout. We’ve done it before, and we’ll do it again. Now, kindly fuck off to somewhere that isn’t next to me.”

Shirley was ready to argue more, but Nick pulled her back. Together they waited for the line to pass and once more began to bring up the rear.

“So, we’ve got what we need to survive the storm?” asked Nick, looking for reassurance.

“Yes, but it won’t be comfortable. Do we have what we need to survive whatever is out there?”

Nick began counting his fingers and mumbling something about holy powder.

“Nick?”

He looked up as if completely forgetting the question.

“Can we survive it?”

“Probably!” He exclaimed. “Better odds than I have most of the time anyway.” He rubbed his hands together excitedly. “Oh, this is going to be fun. I love camping.”


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A Man of the Mountain – The Spiral

Below is the latest chapter from A Man of the Mountain, the prequel to my first novel, Whiteout, which just released. It tells the story of a man who just wants to keep the Bigfoot legend alive and the monster hunters who want to stop him.

For those who want to read Whiteout, it’s out now on all platforms and currently holds a 4.5/5 on GoodReads with 22 reviews in so far! Order below and share my work if you like it! It’s also free for Kindle Unlimited members!

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OK, end plug, here’s the story

Need to catch up on Man of the Mountain? Links to Chapter 1 2,   3, 4, 5, 6, 7,

9. The Spiral

The hike down the mountain had taken hours, but the return trip passed by in a series of blurs. Miles were gone in seconds, and half the time, Jonas barely felt in control of his own feet. A red tint had come over his world, casting everything in dim light. He tried to keep up the guise of being just another hiker on the trail, but with each passing minute, it became more difficult. Primal instincts surged just behind his eyes, telling him to run, slash, and hunt down those who threatened him. He thought of Mansen’s smug face and had to stifle a howl.

Going down there was a mistake. I left town for a reason. Hearing Mansen debunked so flippantly felt like a bullet to the chest. Hell, maybe a bullet would have been easier. In less than five minutes, the man who had been his idol had been brought lower than low. Had Mansen been accused by anyone else, Jonas might have been able to deny it, but not Shirley. Hearing her frustration with the man made it all the worse. Not only was Mansen making a mockery of the legend, he was disrespecting the only people willing to tell the truth.

Jonas’s body was a raging furnace, each breath feeling like the vent of a volcanic fissure. Hardly noticing, he stepped off the main trail and onto the paths only he knew. His legs were numb and mechanical, continuing to move without any real effort. After a mile or so, nearly to the cabin, he checked his surroundings to ensure there were no cameras, and no curious hikers. Satisfied, he let out a roar of rage and anguish, and fell to his knees. He beat his hands into the melting snow until he reached the forest floor. The impact of his fists on the soft earth beneath felt righteous. He smashed and pounded until his blood poured from his knuckles and his joints were swollen. Tears ran down his cheeks, carving clean lines in the dirt.

The television special was supposed to bring renown and grounding to the legend, but instead, it would become a joke. Mansen was supposed to be a member of a secret society, not the laughing stock of it. Eventually, Jonas’s adrenaline waned and weary exhaustion flooded his limbs. Lances of pain shot through his beaten hands. Through his anger for Mansen, he began to see images of Nick Ventner. It was a silver lining through the haze of pain, anger, and fatigue. Mansen might not be the hunter Jonas needed to face, but Nick might be. Jonas had seen the pistol concealed on Nick’s right hip and how he had casually dropped his hand to it when approached. If nothing else, he knew about the legend, and had some training.

The thought gave him the will to stand. Jonas pushed himself to his feet wincing with every ounce of pressure on his hands. That was a dumb thing to do. He looked at his bruised knuckles, blood oozing from the places he had beaten raw. There’s still so much work to be done. Jonas walked to a snowbank and shoved his hands into it. Icy tendrils of beautiful, numbing pain worked their way through him. The mountain provided, and he would provide for it. The legend wasn’t going to die, it was going to grow.

I have been given a gift, he reasoned. In the end, Rick was going to be a far easier kill than previously anticipated. There was still the issue of getting past his crew, but Jonas hardly spared them a thought. The real challenge was going to be taking down Nick. Two high profile kills in one day. Even if he died and was exposed, he would go down as the man who was dedicated to the legend above all else. Who knows? Maybe Shirley will write about it.

When his hands were sufficiently numb, Jonas removed them. The air might have been cold, but it felt like the breath of a dragon. His fingers thawed, and steam rose off them into the chilled air. With each passing moment, he felt righteous purpose building. There was still work to be done, and glory to be had. A fight was coming whether Mansen deserved it or not. One way or another, the legend would be made in a few days’ time.

Reinvigorated, Jonas trudged back in the direction of the cabin. As he approached it, he immediately noticed a package far larger than the usual drop. His employers had always stuck to the routine, and anything that broke it was suspicious. With some trepidation, he approached the parcel and tried to pick it up. He managed, but it was far heavier than what he was used to. He half carried, half dragged the box into the entryway of the cabin and shut the door behind him. He unclipped the knife from his belt and sliced through the tape to open it.

The first thing he noticed was a large sheet of yellow paper with a note scrawled on it. Welcome to the big leagues, kid. Sounds like Mansen is going to be coming up the mountain soon. You know what to do. Hopefully these gifts will help you level the playing field.

     Cheers, Management.

P.S. Good to see you getting into town a little bit. I hope you will take the liberty again in one year’s time. Until then, stay on the mountain, there’s work to do.

Any trepidation he had felt evaporated. The note cemented exactly what it was he needed to do. Clearly his employers also knew there was going to be a fight, and if this wasn’t tacit approval, he didn’t know what was. Unable to contain his excitement, Jonas began pulling out the contents of the box one-by-one. Christmas had come early.

It was an entirely new set of gear. The suit he pulled out was far thicker and appeared to have a layer of Kevlar beneath it. It was the closest thing to bullet-proof he was going to get. Next, there was a set of claws made to look like bone. Silver glinted beneath the ivory white curves of each nail. Shining razor edges had been embedded beneath them. It was light and allowed for more movement than the older model. The rest of the gear followed suit with higher functionality and theming than the suit he had previously worn. The final addition nearly took his breath away.

At the very bottom of the box was a full headpiece. It had been molded to sport a long, pronounced, forehead, overgrown with fur, followed by deep-set eyes and a mean jaw. The effect was so lifelike that it looked as though it could have been severed from the actual shoulders of a sasquatch. Jonas held it in his hands with great care and lowered it onto his head. Initially, there was pitch black inside, but after a few seconds, screens illuminated where the eyeholes would have been. The dark interior of his cabin lit up in shades of red and blue.

Jonas raised a hand in front of him and marveled at the white-hot center, fading to red around the edges. A wave of deep gratitude swept over him. No one had ever given him such a gift. The playing field hadn’t just been leveled, it had been flipped. Mansen isn’t going to stand a chance…


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A Man of the Mountain – Something Really Stupid

Happy Friday everyone! Apologies for the hiatus, I’ve been doing a major edit/rewrite on some of the earlier chapters of this story. Will update the chapters on the site!

Below is latest chapter from A Man of the Mountain, the prequel to my first novel, Whiteout, which just released. It tells the story of a man who just wants to keep the Bigfoot legend alive, and the monster hunters who want to stop him.

For those who want to read Whiteout, it’s out now on all platforms and currently holds a 4.5/5 on GoodReads with 22 reviews in so far! Order below and share my work if you like it!

Order Paperback

Order Hardcover

Order Kindle

Need to catch up on Man of the Mountain? Links to Chapter 1 2,   3, 4, 5, 6, 7

8. Something Really Stupid

The set was not far from the liquor store, Nick’s first priority. Nick barely waited for the car to stop in the forestry center parking lot before hopping out to look for Mansen. Almost immediately, he spotted Mansen’s trailer, and went straight for it, moving like a hungry dog. Without hesitation, he marched through the door like he owned the damned thing.

Shirley followed behind, exchanging nervous glances with many of the production crew. Luckily, none of them seemed keen to act on the intruder, and instead were content to gawp. She hurried to catch up to Nick, not wanting to miss what was sure to be a spectacular confrontation.

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