What is A Man of the Mountain?

Hello everyone, if you’ve been following me on social media recently, you’ve probably seen me talking about my latest writing project, A Man of the Mountain. So, I figured I’d take a second and answer some questions about what it is exactly.

What is it?

A Man of the Mountain is a prequel novella (think shorter book) to my first novel, Whiteout. BUT, you don’t have to have read Whiteout to enjoy this. It stands completely on its own and if anything, might be more fun to listen to before the novel.

In an unconventional twist, we’re releasing it as an audio-drama before putting out physical copies. What’s an audio drama? It’s basically an audio book with higher production quality, more sound effects, and a cast of different people reading different characters. Leigh James, a man we met on Reddit, fits given that I met my publisher on Craig’s List, recorded most of the narration, found all the actors, sound effects, and music for this. He did an incredible job, and is the real hero here 🙂

How much does it cost?

That’s the beautiful thing, it’s FREE! You can listen now on any platform you get your podcasts from: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and six others. You can also listen to it on the player below:

Now, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to sell it eventually! The episodes will always be free on your podcasting platforms, but in a month or so, we’ll be releasing the full audiobook for those who don’t want to wait for the episodes to release.

In addition, we’ll be selling the novella in e-book and physical formats, beginning on the day the last episode drops, 3/3/20. Pre-orders are live for the e-book with paperback/hardback coming soon.

Episodes release every two weeks!

What does this mean for your other podcast?

TWO CHRISTMASES! I’m still working on Cryptids Decrypted and will still be putting out around two episodes a month. In fact, next week, I’ve got an awesome episode releasing where I interviewed David George Gordon about inter-dimensional sea/lake monsters. It’s pretty fantastic. If you don’t want to wait for me to edit it, I’ve put up the raw interview video. Apologies in advance for the quality, I blame Skype and my lack of lighting knowledge.

Bonus Round: When is the full sequel to Whiteout coming?

We haven’t pinned down a date yet, but likely sometime in the first half of 2020! It’s called Downpour, and here’s a link to a sample of the first few chapters. Call it your reward for making it this far in the post 🙂

Star Wars – The Re-Review – Attack of the Clones

Hello and welcome back to my re-review series for the wonderful Star Wars Skywalker Saga, and a few spin-off movies along the way. So far, I’ve reviewed Rogue One (3.5/5)A New Hope (4.5/5) , The Empire Strikes Back(5/5) and The Phantom Menace(2/5) which unfortunately means it’s time for… Attack of the God Damned Clones. I’ll be honest, going into this movie, I knew that I was going to have some strong opinions, but I tried my best to keep an open mind. There must be a reason it’s rated 13% higher than Phantom Menace on Rotten Tomatoes, right? Wrong, dead wrong, good lord, this movie is hot, and I mean burning to death on Mustafar level hot, trash.

Much like Menace, Clones has a lackluster opening mired in political intrigue. There’s a short scene telegraphing that Padme is in danger by blowing up a hand maiden no one really cared about (sorry Corde), and then we’re immediately brought to the political theater. There’s even a line in the immediate aftermath of the attack where Captain Panaka tells Padme: “This vote is too important, your highness.” Where the original trilogy always opened on some intriguing predicament for our heroes, the prequels instead tend to dive headfirst into exposition. If I had a say in it, I’d throw the assassination attempt in the opening crawl and start the movie with Obi Wan and Anakin’s chase through Coruscant looking for the assassin. It’s one of the better scenes in the movie and gives the audience an interesting look at a planet that is otherwise just a backdrop for political machinations.

More of this, please

Luckily, Lucas did start to take the hint with Clones and moves the politics into the background for the most part. Unfortunately, the new focus of the movie is somehow worse, a love story between Anakin and Padme. Setting aside the age difference, how they met, and the creepy, stalker vibes Anakin gives off… Never mind, can’t set it aside, this plotline completely wrecks the movie. Attack of the Clones has plenty of interesting directions to go, but the bulk of it is spent watching Anakin’s transformation from obsessed teen, to creepier, murder-happy obsessed teen. The worst part is, it works on Padme, and we’re forced to watch some of the most painful romantic interactions I’ve ever seen on screen.

It’s shit like this that makes for great memes, but kills a film

Focusing on Anakin was a given based on how Menace was made, but unfortunately, the script does nothing to move him forward as a person. Instead, Lucas rests on the fact that we know he’s going to become Darth Vader to justify a landslide of increasingly bad decisions with literally no character motivation to drive them. Maybe it could have been helped if Hayden Christensen had a bit more experience at the time, but the dialogue isn’t doing him any favors either. It’s easy to put the blame on Mannequin Skywalker, but the fact of the matter is, Hamill wasn’t that great in his first movie either.

What made Hamill’s lackluster performance bearable in A New Hope was the support from an amazing cast of characters and a very clearly defined character vision. Anakin has a pre-set story from the beginning, but none of the actions that lead him there feel earned. Instead we have: I hate sand, my mom is dying, better go slaughter an entire village of Tusken Raiders. It doesn’t help that he’s not given anything to play off with other characters either, because in the prequel universe, everything revolves around Anakin. It’s hard for a character to show growth when literally every conversation is about them and nothing else.

My feeling about any scene with teen Anakin

When the Jedi council meets, they’re talking about the Sith, but also Anakin. Padme isn’t given more than five lines that aren’t about Anakin. In fact, the only person that does seem to care about something else is Anakin’s alleged teacher, Obi Wan who fucks off to the other side of the galaxy for most of the film. So, rather than an engaging teacher-student relationship where we can watch Anakin transform, he’s sent to a boring planet with the object of his lust. And I do mean object, because this movie straight takes a machete to Padme’s character, removing everything that made her interesting and hog-tying her plot to Anakin. It makes me viscerally angry. At the beginning of the movie, Padme is a bit of a badass, working as a politician, sure, but still a strong character. She’s refuting Anakin’s advances, which good, because the age difference is weird as hell and he’s a creep, but she’s also got some good one-liners.

Somehow, over the course of a thirty-minute flower-field romp with bulbous ass-cows on Naboo, she falls helplessly in love with her stalker and forsakes everything that gave her character purpose. The love story that Attack of the Clones is firmly about never really has time to breath, feels rushed, and isn’t believable in the slightest. As far as I can tell, Anakin wins over one of the smarter characters in the prequels using cheesy pickup lines and by leering at her even after she’s asked him to stop. It’s especially unfortunate given that Natalie Portman could have supported Hayden Christensen with her acting had she actually been given something to do.

Now, while the love story in Clones is by far my biggest issue with the film, it’s also not the only one. The B-plot belongs to General Kenobi’s adventure to Kamino and Geonosis. The Kamino plot in particular is very problematic and confusing. Even as an adult, I found myself heading over to Wookiepedia afterward to try and understand just who the hell Jedi Master Sifo Dias was and why they had ordered a clone army. Dooku gets into a bit on Geonosis, but honestly, it’s needlessly complicated. It would have been just as easy to create a plot where Dooku orders the clones when he’s still part of the Jedi Order and say that’s why he had a falling out. There’s another freebie for you Lucas.

Put your helmet back on and go do some cool jet pack tricks

Kamino also does a disservice to a fan favorite from the original films, Boba Fett. Clones establishes that Boba is in fact an exact replica of his father, Jango, a bounty hunter that has similar Mandalorian armor to what Boba Fett wears in Empire/Jedi, but with a different color scheme. The problem here is, we see Jango without his helmet for most of the movie, and that’s a big sticking point for Mandalorians; they’re never supposed to do that. Just watch the first episode of The Mandalorian and they’ll tell you, once you put that helmet on, it never comes off. This pokes a few holes in Boba’s later plot lines, and also, feels completely unnecessary. The clones didn’t need to be modeled after a fan favorite character, and much like Boba Fett later in the films, Jango is done dirty and killed quick with less than ten minutes of total screen time. At least this time we got a few good fights out of him.

Which finally leads me to the only truly enjoyable part of Obi Wan’s arc, and that’s Geonosis. Aside from the stupid I love you line between Anakin and Padme, the twenty minutes the film spends on Geonosis are its best.  We get to see a droid creation facility, Padme spends most of her time trapped in a bucket, and we get some cool lightsaber battles. Before I get to that final climactic battle, I want to talk briefly about another side character that is just given some weird motivation in this film, R2D2.

I really enjoy the droid factory scene, it’s fun, it’s got some decent CGI and Padmanakin don’t have time to make doll eyes at each other. However, there’s a big problem for me in the way it starts. R2D2 and C-3P0 are supposed to be friends, but R2 straight pushes C-3P0 to what should have been his death. It’s a bizarre choice for C-3P0 to come along period, because, well, he’s not exactly the most mobile of characters, but even weirder to have R2 try to kill him. Even if it’s supposed to be tongue and cheek, that should have been a lethal fall, just saying. C-3P0 then gets his head swapped with a battle droid and somehow retains a weirdly inconsistent set of functions… In the final battle, both bodies are still shooting at the Jedi, and it just doesn’t make any sense to me. But, major gripe, R2 is a murdering sonofabitch, moving along.

At least 3-P0 gets some good puns and R2 brings his head back…

Alright, the last bit of this review, because it’s getting long and I could go on for days about how much I truly, deeply dislike this film, is going to be about the battle on Geonosis. This battle kicks ass, gave way to a bunch of great video game levels, and is generally fun to watch. It’s the one time in the series where we get to see an army of lightsaber-wielding Jedis go into battle and fuck shit up. Sure, they’re losing until the clones show up, but it’s an awesome sequence to watch. Mace Windu gets to bust out his purple lightsaber and decapitates Jango in front of his son, it’s a fun time for all. Even the lead-in with Padme, Anakin, and Obi Wan fighting a trio of CGI monsters is great and feels like a callback to the Rancor in Jedi.

When the clones show up, the battle retains its cinematic quality, albeit interspersed with some terrible dialogue again, and keeps the tension up. It leads us to the climax of the film where Obi Wan, Anakin, and eventually Yoda fight Count Dooku, and hell, that lightsaber fight is incredible. I still got chills when Yoda ignited his lightsaber for the first time and watching him flip around that room like a deadly pinball is awesome. Also, Anakin loses an arm, so, full circle for the Skywalkers.

This almost makes the film worth it… almost

Overall, Attack of the Clones is a hot mess. It focuses on the wrong parts of the storyline and the wrong characters for the most part. The film is at its best when it’s shadowing Obi Wan and not getting too bogged down in the convoluted evil plot working in the background. The dialogue and character growth are by far the worst in the series, spearheaded by the Anakin-Padme plot which is almost unwatchable. I think in future re-watches, I might skip this one. Attack of the Clones is the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull of this franchise, and critics should be ashamed for rating it higher than Phantom Menace.

Got a different opinion? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter/Facebook.

Writing the Book on the Jersey Devil – Brian Regal Interview

A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Brian Regal, a professor in the Science of History at Kean University in New Jersey. While Brian is currently studying the myth of who discovered America, in the past he’s written two books concerning cryptids, creatures that are not proven to exist, and the people who study them. His first book on the subject, Searching for Sasquatch: Crackpots, Eggheads, and Cryptozoology took a critical look at researchers looking for Bigfoot. In this episode, we dive into the topic of his second book, The Secret History of the Jersey Devil to examine one of the most bizarre myths I’ve ever encountered.

So, if you’re into demonic children, goat-horse-bat-devil hybrids, or just want to hear two skeptics talk about cryptozoology, give the episode a listen. I’ve got links to our Anchor page and below, but we are available on all major podcasting platforms, including Apple Podcasts where Cryptids Decrypted currently holds a five star rating 🙂

UFOs, Nuclear Engineering and Government Cover-Ups

Nope, I haven’t gone completely off the deep end, but the topics above were pretty heavily covered in my interview with Jan C. Harzan, the director of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON). Wondering what the hell a MUFON is? Well, in a way it shares a similar origin story to the fictional Men in Black, with a small group of midwesterners creating a group to study alien activity, and slowly growing into something larger. Right now, MUFON is one of the largest, if not the largest UFO monitoring network (aside from our government) in the world.

Jan was an engineer for 37 years before joining MUFON

Now, a quick note before I link you to the interview. Before you all think I’ve lost my mind, more than usual that is, I want to confirm that I am still firmly a skeptic, and not jumping on board the conspiracy train. In this interview, Jan shows a lot of distrust in what the government tells us, and a few other problematic views, but I still think it’s interesting. The whole point of Cryptids Decrypted is to hear odd stories from people on the fringe of science studying creatures that haven’t been proven to exist. Well, as of yet, aliens fit that category.

So, without further ado, here’s my interview with Jan C. Harzan. It’s available on all podcasting platforms from the link here, or you can listen below.

If you prefer video, here’s the video!

Wrongful Possession

This is the short story based on September’s suggested prompt, which came in the form of a meme:

So anyways, here’s a story about a demon possessing the wrong person. Please like, subscribe, comment, or do something to let me know if you enjoyed reading it!

Wrongful Possession

Ken was taking a lonely walk through a particularly dreary cemetery on a Friday afternoon. His colleagues had left work early to prepare for a party that he hadn’t been invited to, and as a result, he was feeling more than a little lonely. For a while, he considered wandering the streets aimlessly, but the bustling crowds only made him feel more alone. At least at the cemetery he was technically surrounded by people, and he was quite sure none of them minded him being there.

     Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, Ken wasn’t the only animated life in the cemetery that afternoon. A large, stone church reached toward the heavens, peeking out from between mausoleums. It was an old, sad-looking building with a massive bell tower that hadn’t clanged since a pair of bad riots in the eighties nearly tore the structure down. Ashley was hiding on the top of that bell tower.

     Not to put too fine a point on it, Ashley was a demon recently escaped from Hell. Like most other freshly escaped demonic entities, she was on the hunt for an easy possession. While she would certainly be on Hell’s shit list for leaving in the first place, entering a mortal was one of the few loopholes that would keep her off their radar. It wasn’t an intentional blind spot per se, but Hell certainly wasn’t putting their best engineers on demon tracking.

     As she sat on top of the church, she counted the passing seconds, wondering how long she had before enforcement would arrive. She had no doubt that her name was already being broadcast to every demon hunter in the Midway area, it was just a matter of how busy they were. Either way, there wasn’t much time to find a host.

Originally, she had chosen the church out of hubris, hoping to prove her skills by possessing one of the clergy. After several failed attempts that had ended in painful repulsion by the holy-hot spray bottle that was blind faith, Ashley opted for a new approach. The church was filled with the pious, sure, but the cemetery would likely have mourners, and mourners were vulnerable to say the least. However, there was a problem with this plan. Apparently, no one liked to bury a loved one on a Friday afternoon.

Ashley was near giving up and turning herself in when she spied Ken shuffling through the gravestones. He was the bipedal equivalent of a seedy motel she didn’t want to stay in but was the last place with available rooms. Knowing time was short, she leapt off the tower with a practiced flourish and swan dived into Ken’s head. To her surprise, there was no resistance, and a mere second later she was at the wheel, so to speak.

     Ken, who didn’t notice most things, felt an odd sensation like all his skin was prickling at the same time. There was a brief feeling of vertigo, and his vision tunneled out, giving the impression that he was sitting far behind his own eyes. Cackling demonic laughter echoed off the now cavernous walls of his skull. He didn’t have much of an opinion about it and waited for the situation to sort itself out.

     Ashley attempted to adjust to her new skin but felt lances of pain and discomfort as she did so. She looked down at the body, ensuring she wasn’t poking out in any odd directions, but no, everything was normal. “Hell, what is that?” she said aloud, grasping at a dull, throbbing pain in her lower back.

     “Oh yeah, that tends to flare up when its raining. Doctors don’t really know what it is,” said Ken from the back of his brain.  

     There was an awkward pause. Ashley had never been confronted by a host before. “Silence fool, your body is mine!”

     Ken fluffed the folds of his brain like a pillow and leaned back in thought; He didn’t really much care for his body. “Yeah, alright then. Am I being possessed?” Religion was never something that had tickled Ken’s fancy, but he had seen The Exorcist a few times.

     “Am I being possessed?” mocked the demon in a singsong voice. “Agh!” she exclaimed, clapping a hand to the side of her head. A sharp pain shot across it like a lightning bolt. “What the fuck was that?”

     Ken hadn’t felt a thing. “Probably a cluster headache,” he admitted. “The doctors say there’s not much to be done about them. Told me to reduce stress, but I tried to tell them I don’t have much stre—”

     “Are you not at all concerned about your current predicament?” Ashley had one hand to her back, and the other on her temple. The pain in her head was easing, but there was a lingering sensation reminding her that it might come back.

     Ken thought about the question. Being possessed wasn’t exactly ideal, but then again, what had been recently? “It’s nice to have someone to talk to,” he admitted.

     Ashley let out a low growl. “Nothing about possession is supposed to be nice.” She suddenly felt a wave of sadness wash over her. All her years trying to find a way out of Hell, only to be wasted on this useless flesh bag. Tears sprang to her eyes unbidden. I might be the most useless demon in the world.

     Ashley’s thoughts echoed through Ken’s head and he couldn’t help but chuckle.

     “What’s so funny?!” Ashley snapped.

     “Well, see, that’s the depression talking. It’s funny to see it from the outside for once.”

     He’s laughing at you because you’re a pathetic excuse for a demonic entity. He’d be more frightened of a newborn than you.

     “I’m really not saying that.” Ken stifled another laugh. For the first time in years, he wasn’t the victim of his own consciousness, and it felt great. A weight had been lifted from him the second the demon stepped in.

     “What have you done to my mind, mortal?!”

     “Well, it’s not what I’ve done, is it?”

Ashley tried to growl at him, but it came out as a whimper.

“Ease up a bit.” Ken had never been so care-free. “Like I said, that’s just depression. Apparently, it’s attached to my brain, which you currently inhabit.”

     “Fuck this!” screamed Ashley.

     “You could try exercising; the doctors say that might help! Or maybe pick up a new hobby.” Ken couldn’t help it, he burst out laughing. All the idiotic solutions people had proposed came rushing back to him. He would have felt bad, but she was a demon after all, right?

     A horrible, crushing weight constricted on Ashley’s new chest and she sat down, propping her back up against a tombstone. Tears were running down her cheeks in wide rivers. “I’m from Hell, but damn. Do you ever get used to this?” she asked, feeling a rare moment of vulnerability.

     “Ehhhh,” ken hesitated. “Not really, no, but sometimes it’s less horrible than others.”

     Ashley thought about it. She had been in the mortal’s body for under a minute and had never felt worse. “Screw it.” She coiled her ethereal legs and sprang out, landing back in her demon form on the cemetery path.

     Ken was thrown violently back into his body, nearly keeling over from the impact. Standing before him was a horrible winged creature with jet black eyes and horns to match. She turned towards him and opened her mouth, revealing hundreds of pointed, white teeth. “Well, doesn’t that feel better?” She stretched muscled limbs and they cracked horribly, echoing off the graves. “I’m going to do you a kindness, mortal.” She crouched, ready to pounce and widened her mouth.

     “Sorry miss,” came a voice from the side, “but I don’t believe you have a license to be on this plane.” The deafening roar of a shotgun blast cut through the quiet cemetery.

     Ken watched as the demon was shredded by a hundred pellets that burned anything they touched. Black gook sprayed him, leaving a clear impression of his silhouette on the gravestone behind him. He looked to his left and saw a man dressed in all black cleaning a triple-barrel shotgun.

     “Sorry about that.” The man tipped his black hat politely. “Good job getting her out though. Father,” he motioned to another man who was cowering behind a mausoleum a few hundred feet away. “Good news, no exorcisms needed today.”

     A shaking man in priest’s robes stepped out crossing himself.

     The other man put his shotgun in a leather holster and brushed what was left of Ashley off his coat. “This one could probably use tending to though.” He tipped his head toward Ken.

     The priest nodded and bustled over. “Why don’t we get you cleaned up, my boy? Come inside.”

     “T-thanks,” Ken managed, still in shock.

     The priest wrapped an arm around his shoulder and together they walked toward the church. Despite it all, Ken had one thought: I miss her already.