Current/Upcoming Projects – Spring 2020

Hey all, around this time last year I did a post talking about upcoming projects and then never really put out an update. Well, consider this that update! Below are the projects I’m currently working on and a few that are coming out very soon.

A Man of the Mountain

This story has been in the works for almost three years now. I actually wrote the first draft back before Aberrant Literature had even agreed to publish Whiteout. It’s a prequel to Whiteout, and tells the story of Jonas, a man hell bent on maintaining the Bigfoot Legend, and Shirley, the tabloid reporter who sets out to stop him. It’s releasing in three formats, audio drama, paperback, and kindle. The audio drama is out in full on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and just about everywhere else. Check out the first episode below:

The full audio book, paperback and kindle edition are also available for purchase on Amazon!

Downpour

I am currently knee deep in a round of edits from Jason Peters at Aberrant Literature, but we are getting into the final stages of this book! If you don’t know, Downpour is the sequel to Whiteout and sees Nick pitted against some fresh foes in the South American jungle. I don’t have any word on an official release date, but I can say with confidence that it’s coming out this year. Want a sneak peak? Here’s the prologue!

Cryptids Decrypted

A lot of my time right now is also going to producing a surprisingly popular podcast, Cryptids Decrypted. It’s a show where my friends and I break down myths about creatures on the fringe of reality, and I interview guests from the cryptozoological community. It’s a hell of a lot of fun and we’re about midway through our second season. Below is a link to our latest episode on Spotify.

Chadpocalypse

The first draft of Chadpocalypse is complete! I’m about midway through my first round of edits on it, but it’s on the back burner until I complete Downpour. Chadpocalypse is all about Chad, the one lowly bro who knows the apocalypse is coming and is tasked with stopping it. It’s inspired by 80s metal, Constantine, and a host of other weird shit. If you want to read my chapters in progress, I’ve posted most of them to ABCTales where they’ve received some acclaim. I can’t wait to get this one out to the public, but honestly, no idea how that’s going to look or when it’s going to happen. I’ll keep you updated as I know more.

A Woman of the Swamp

Ok, last project and this one is still in incubation. I’ve written a full outline and it’s an exciting story, but I haven’t even put the first chapter to paper yet. Theoretically this will come out some time after Downpour and will serve as an interlude between it and the final book in the Nick Ventner trilogy, Maelstrom. It centers around an amateur necromancer in the bayou who turns evil after failing to raise her husband from the dead, and of course, the monster hunting crew that’s called to stop her.

Downpour – Prologue

Hello! This is the prologue for Downpour, the upcoming sequel to my first novel, Whiteout. If you haven’t read Whiteout, STOP HERE, because there are spoilers ahead. Go pick yourself up a copy on Amazon, and then come back and check this out 🙂

Downpour is scheduled to be published in 2020 by Aberrant Literature, and is going to be one hell of an adventure.

Downpour

By, Ashton Macaulay

“Of course, you want to hear about South America. Land of the Dead, nothing but bones, angry corpses and a lack of proper booze…” Nick took a gulp from the beer in front of him and sighed in relief. The Haven may have been grungy, but they had strong beer and stronger cocktails. Nick took a long look at the woman sitting opposite him. Why would she want to know about the Land of the Dead?

A lanky man leaned on the bar for support and turned to Nick. “This time you’ve gone too far…” He let out a belch that could have shattered glass and slumped away to the dimmest corner booth he could find. Most tables at least had flickering lights above them, but everyone knew that the booth farthest from the jukebox did not. It was where people went to sleep off whatever it was Jimmy had served them. Slumping onto the worn vinyl bench, the lanky man snored softly, clutching a half-drunk glass of questionable brown liquid to his chest.

“Well, it doesn’t really matter if you believe me, Marcus,” Nick called out. “Wasn’t talking to you anyway.” Marcus didn’t even twitch. Nick turned his attention back to his date, remembering that he was not at The Haven to debate Marcus and the other drunks hiding in the shadows. “Sorry about that.” He made a dismissive gesture in Marcus’s direction.

She sipped a gin and tonic, staring at him intently. “Happen often?” A sly grin spread across her face as she set the drink down.

“More often than I’d like.” There was something familiar in her eyes, but Nick couldn’t quite place it. God I hope I haven’t been on this date before. It wouldn’t have been the first time. Why oh why did I take her to Jimmy’s? The answer was simple. He had never intended to spend the entire night at Jimmy’s. Nick had put on the best clothes he owned; a faded suit jacket, slacks that barely fit, and a pair of shoes he had stolen off a corpse. He had then wracked his brain for the names of the fanciest bars he knew, realized he could afford none of them for very long, and decided to do the bulk of the night’s drinking at The Haven.

“Now, where was I?” asked Nick, trying to assuage the urge to tell Marcus off again.

“You were about to spout some lies about how you’ve been to the Land of the Dead,” said his date, her eyes shining with the tiniest hint of menace in the dim bar light.

Nick looked to Marcus who was snoring louder than ever and groaned as he noticed a barrel of a man pushing through the western-style double doors that concealed the bathrooms. Albert sported a long, unkempt beard, overalls, and a larger-than-necessary crossbow that always seemed to be strapped to his back. It said something about one’s mental state when they needed to take medieval weaponry to the toilet. Then again, monster hunters were a paranoid bunch. The man pulled at his overalls. “Why don’t you save us all a few hours and skip to whatever ending you’ve concocted this time.”

Nick flushed. He had told many lies at The Haven, that was for sure, but lately real life had been too interesting to embellish. “They’re not lies,” he said with a sigh. “When have I ever lied to you, Albert?” He immediately regretted asking.

Albert’s eyes glazed over, the wheels of his mind spinning. “I think it was,” he paused, scooping up an empty glass from a table and trying to drink it. Dismayed that it was indeed empty, he set it back down and scratched his chin. For a good minute, he sat there, staring at the ceiling, muttering to himself. Eventually, he returned from his great reverie and declared: “Yesterday. Yesterday you were trying to fill us with some cock and bull story about a man who fancied himself Bigfoot and murdered some folks in Clearwater.”

“That one was on the news, Albert!” Nick was growing exasperated. He looked to his companion for confirmation.

A flicker of recognition crossed her face, like she was about to say something, but she picked up her phone instead. Nick couldn’t be sure, but he suspected she was googling the incident.

“Oh sure, Local Eye, hell of a paper that is. Good thing too, I was worried Elvis actually was dead for a while there.” Albert let out a hearty laugh and zigzagged through the mess of tables toward the bar. “But that’s none of my business. She’ll see through you soon enough anyway.”

Nick cursed the day that Albert had wandered out of his mudhole and into the city. “Usually,” started Nick, trying to regain the flow of conversation. “Usually, it’s not this bad.”

“So, the great Dr. Ventner is a tale spinner, eh?” The woman finished her drink.

Never said I was a doctor. Nick didn’t bother to correct her and finished his own glass, motioning to the bar for another. “Mostly, yes,” he admitted. “But sometimes, just sometimes, I’ve got a tale or two that are true, and this is one of them. If you’re not satisfied by the end, the door is there.” This was a desperate play and Nick knew it. Tonight was the first date he had been on in years and surely he had given her the excuse she needed to leave.

A sleepy bartender shuffled over and plopped a glass down. It fizzled and popped with acidity. He placed another gin and tonic next to Nick’s companion. “Compliments of Mr. Albert over there,” said Jimmy, and then walked back to the bar to polish dirty glasses and watch his TV.

“You have this much time to impress me,” said the woman, motioning to the height of the glass. There was a joking manner to it, but Nick could not help but feel there was also a little bit of truth.

“Right, well, no time like the present.” Nick took a drink of the fizzy, popping mixture and felt an instant rush of confidence. The words spilled from his mouth like a river. “Well, it all started when I took what some would consider to be a rather ill-advised trip into the Amazon…”

Star Wars – The Re-Review – Rogue One

We have ten weeks until Star Wars – Episode 9 – The Rise of Skywalker releases, and conveniently, there are ten films in the series that come before it (yes, I’m counting the spinoffs). To view Episode 9 with the proper perspective, and gain shameless views for my site, I’m going back to watch all ten movies and review them with fresh eyes. Now, before I get into the first movie, a couple of notes.

First off, I love Star Wars, always have, always will, but on this run through I’m going to be looking at them a bit more critically. So, know that while these reviews might harp on the films, they are still some of my favorites.

Second, my watching order. I’ve thought about this for a while and am going with a modified version of the Ernest Rister order. I may have lost some of you already but let me break it down with a picture to explain who the heck an Ernest Rister is and why I’m following him.

Now we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the first film.

Rogue One – The First Star Wars Story

From the moment the movie starts Rogue One tries to carve a unique space for itself in the Star Wars universe. There’s no opening crawl, and instead we’re thrust straight into the action, a first for the Star Wars series, and a good indicator that this sits outside the mainline films. Unfortunately, in an effort to set a new tone and quickly introduce us to all its characters, Rogue One’s first hour feels very disjointed in both tone and filming style. In the first thirty minutes we’re introduced to a myriad of new planets never seen on the screen, and each is barely given enough room to breathe before the film cuts somewhere else. This is understandable given the film’s already two-hour run time, but it can definitely be confusing, even for a fan of the series.

Putting aside the jumpy first half, Rogue One does introduce some memorable characters with the standouts in some of the more minor roles. Personally, K-2S0, yet another sassy robot, and the pair of Baze and Chirrut are some of the most interesting characters, despite not being the leads. K-2SO’s one-liners help break up the film’s darker tone with some comic relief, Chirrut gives us some insight into what happened with the Jedi temples after Order 66, and Baze carries a damned big gun. Saw, played by Forest Whitaker is another standout side character, but he’s given so little screen time, that its hard to really enjoy his performance.  

A blind jedi boi and a thick gunner make eyes at each other on the beach
Name a Star Wars couple you’d ship more, I’ll wait.

Getting to the leads, their characters aren’t bad either, but Cassian Andor, Rogue One’s captain, swaps between cold-blooded assassin and suddenly hopeful rebel at the drop of a hat. While I like the idea of showcasing a more problematic character in Star Wars rather than another cookie-cutter hero, Cassian wasn’t that. Instead, he came off like a half-baked Han Solo with more dramatic flare and it just didn’t work.

Jyn Erso on the other hand is a bit more interesting. Born the daughter of the Death Star’s architect, she’s got plenty of reasons to be confused by the way the factions of the world work, and her character works best when she’s all the powers at be. Unfortunately, the story of Rogue One ends up being pretty cut and dry, leaving a simple black and white position for her character to take. When it comes to siding with the plucky rebels, or The Empire, hell bent on destroying whole planets with their shiny new Death Star, there’s not much of a choice. There wasn’t anything the writers could have done to ameliorate this as the plot was set from the get-go, but it does shortchange an otherwise memorable character.

If only this line had been given a sarcastic delivery

There’s also a few returning characters that are a heavily mixed bag. Through the magic of ridiculously expensive CGI, a not-so-believable Grand Moff Tarkin returned, and to be honest, he felt unnecessary. The scenes with him were distracting just because of the uncanny nature of his animation and didn’t do much to further the plot. Vader on the other hand is a true badass, aside from possibly one of the worst lines in Star Wars history…

Darth vader has a terrible fucking one liner
Just… SO bad. Who thought this was a good line? Was Lucas involved?!

Yeah, oof, and this is in a series that had the lines “I hate sand” and “She died of a broken heart”. Even with those in mind, this is by far the worst line in the entire saga. On the bright side, the rest of his screen time is memorable and sets up his entrance in the next film beautifully. Come to think of it, that’s what Rogue One is best at overall: setting up A New Hope.

At its core, Rogue One is a film about filling one of the series’s biggest plot holes and making it seem like a stroke of narrative genius. As a quick refresher, and another spoiler, Episode 4 ends with the rebels blowing up the immaculately constructed Death Star by having a farmer shoot 2 torpedoes into an exposed vent on the station’s surface. This causes a chain reaction that blows the whole damned thing up. Originally, fans were left to believe this was a terrible design flaw on the Empire’s part, but Rogue One has a better answer: sabotage.

Rogue One’s narrative of an engineer at odds with the Empire’s goals of creating a planet-destroying weapon works, and creates a believable reason for the Death Star to be more vulnerable. It’s aspects like this, bridging the gap between movies where Rogue One really shines, and most of them happen in the film’s back half. The last forty-five minutes of Rogue One are arguably some of the best in the Star Wars franchise. The battle for Scariff is memorable, has a point, and unlike many of the other films, does a fantastic job of demonstrating the human cost of such an effort. It gives more weight to A New Hope and shows the audience exactly what the cost was to set up Luke’s miraculous trench run.

Overall, despite these misgivings, I still really enjoy watching Rogue One. It’s a fun film that gives us something different from the mainline saga. The battles are intense and easily some of the best in the series, most of the characters are memorable, and we are introduced to some cool new worlds, albeit briefly. The script’s tone and some of the more gratuitous fan service (looking at you CGI Tarkin) were definitely not necessary, but they don’t take the film down as a whole.

Final verdict: 3.5/10 – Absolutely worth watching if you’re a fan, and gives great context that somehow makes A New Hope even better.