It’s the big news! Pre-orders available. First issue coming October, 2019!
It’s the big news! Pre-orders available. First issue coming October, 2019!
Like most Zak Bagans fans, I watched the highly anticipated Demon House glued to the set, unmoved by any distractions. I don’t think I even went outside for a smoke during the documentary’s two hour premiere on the Travel Channel, nor did I budge when I realized there was a follow-up feature called The Lost Footage. It was that good.
But, was it all real? I’m a huge “Ghost Adventures” fan. I’ve been following the show since it’s first episode aired around thirteen years ago, when Zak, Aaron Goodwin, and Nick Groff produced film footage–now infamous–they claim was poltergeist activity (https://youtu.be/V6B057B0erw). If you’re familiar with the episode, then you know it was filmed at the long abandoned Goldfield Hotel in Nevada, which is rumored to be extremely haunted. I believe it is, and I also still believe the film footage, including the audio track of Zak Bagans screaming bloody murder, is all real–nothing staged, no scripts acted out, no con game going on to get famous and garner a television series. I believed it then, and I still believe it now. Continue reading
Every once in a while, something, or in this case someone, gives me pause to genuinely smile. The other day, it was Albert Oon. I was wandering through the Smashwords horror listings, perusing titles and artwork when I came across a cover illustration similar to these (above). It was Albert Oon’s latest release, Desecrating Infestation, just published on March 6th of this year (2019). I was immediately reminded of myself. The artwork, the stories, all took me right back to my early days, back when I would spend far more time writing in my head while I worked scenes out with colored pencils. So, wanting to know more, I reached out to Albert and asked if he would agree to an interview.
Albert consented to let me pick his brain a little bit, and answered a few questions for me. I was thinking my efforts might garner this highly creative young person some exposure, but more importantly, I wanted to share, as I feel most writers–particularly my age and older–might smile as I did. I think a majority of writers can relate to those days when we first started writing with a good deal of nostalgia. We furiously scribbled down words in our notebooks instead of paying attention to our history lectures, continuously breaking pencil lead and making repeated trips to the pencil sharpener on the wall; many of us, I’m sure, worked out scenes drawing sketches on any scrap of paper we could find; and so many of us secretly thanked our typing teachers when we tried banging out those horrid, mistake-ridden, white-out blotched first drafts (which, for me, were typically the only drafts) on our mom’s ancient Uniroyal typewriter. But we were doing it. We were writing!
We didn’t have the resources kids have today–computers, the internet, Indie publishing, etc. Albert Oon has it, and it’s inspiring to know he’s taking advantage of it. And, by that I mean this young author has been busy! An incredibly prolific writer, he has already published almost sixty stories on Smashwords, with word counts averaging between 4K and 9K! Try doing the math on that! He has several web sites, and he even makes videos! Where does he find the time? The energy? The drive? You’ve got to respect that. He certainly has my admiration. Anyway, please let me introduce Albert Oon.
I like Albert. He’s straight forward, honest, and determined. But, most of all, he’s imaginative. He’s having fun. And, isn’t that what writing’s all about? Isn’t that what we were doing when we started out?
Albert Oon: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Gimjuie
By Thomas S. Gunther
A crisp, autumn breeze whipped through the old man’s thinning hair as a middle-aged mom and her brood breached the quiet of the otherwise empty laundromat on the corner of a sleepy, forgotten town. He eyed the woman and her daughters with disfavor, as though they were harbingers of some malady. The older of the two, a package the old man found delightfully trampish, wore ripped jeans and black lipstick. But he jumped involuntarily when she slammed a basket of clothes on the dirty tile floor. The girl crossed her arms and bit her lip as if to keep from trembling with anger. The old man grumbled something to himself, crossing his own arms in the folds of a ragged long coat, and turned away as a daughter-mother battle ensued.
“Oh, fine!” the obviously frazzled mother almost shouted. “Go ahead. Fine. Just be a little bitch in front of God and everybody. We’ll just see about you going with your friends to the lake this weekend.”
The raven-haired girl rolled her eyes and exhaled angrily. “All I did was blow them a kiss, Mother.”
“I would hardly call what you did in front of those punks, blowing a kiss. You better get your mind off boys and take a good, long look at yourself, or you’re gonna wind up in the gutter somewhere. Oh, jezuscrist! Don’t just stand there blubbering. Go find out where the hell your sister’s run off too. For all I know you’re letting her play in the traffic. Jezus, get out of my sight.”
“You’re embarrassing me,” the girl mumbled. “Who do you think you are?”
Her mother snatched her up by her hair. “Listen, missy, I am your mother, and if you don’t shut your snotty little mouth, I’m gonna shut it for you. Now go find your sister.” She gave the teen a shove, then spun on her heel, looking for the other child.
A large woman, who had slipped in unnoticed, stared blatantly while she loaded towels and tent-sized underwear into a washer. A dirty look from the exasperated teenager made her blush and avert her eyes. She crossed herself and mumbled something in Spanish as the girl brushed between her and the folding table to slip outside.
Meanwhile, the distraught mother located her younger daughter, who was begging change off the old man. His position had softened somewhat in the child’s ambient innocence. Unmoved was the mother. She grabbed the angel by her goldy locks with one hand while snatching the nickel away with the other. The five-year-old began to cry, Academy-Award style, as she watched her mother give the coin back to the old man, who accepted it grudgingly. “How many times have I told you not to talk to strangers?” The flabbergasted mother demanded an answer. “Hmm? And I already told you, you’re not getting any candy.” With a jerk she spun her child around and began to drag her away when she suddenly stopped, whipping back around to face the old man, and inadvertently yanked out a handful of her child’s blonde hair.
Distressed by the whelp’s painful whining the old man felt, rather than heard, the vile woman’s words. He met her icy glare without flinching and was about to unleash his own words welling up inside him when the woman reached out and slapped him over the head. Flinging up his arms defensively, the old man hurried out the door. As he ran away a tattered, leather-bound book fell off his lap. The little girl grabbed the book, then stole away while her mother was not looking.
“Old pervert,” her angry mother hissed, watching through the large, plate glass window as the raggedy bum made his escape. She could see him whisking by her daughter when he slowed, turned, and placed a dirty, gnarled hand on the girl’s slight shoulder. The mother could not hear what the creep said to her daughter, but she didn’t like it, whatever it was. She threw open the heavy glass door and ordered her daughter back inside. The girl didn’t seem to hear her. She just stared down the road where the old man had vanished. A strange expression, too mature for her years, pulled at her face as the wind pulled at her long, black hair, lashing it about her eyes.
“What are you doing out there? What did that freak say to you? Get your ass in here!”
The young girl’s response was quick and high-pitched, keeping tempo with her mother’s verbose inquisition. “Nothing. Nothing! He just said he was sorry. I’m coming!” Shoulders square against the door jamb, she crept past her mother, instinctively flinching. Once out of her mother’s reach she admitted, “He called me lass.” She shrugged. “What?”
“Go sit down with your sister.” Shaking her head the mother busied herself with her laundry and, for a time, forgot about her thankless children.
“Hey, runt,” offered the teenager, sitting down beside the sprite in one of the seats in front of the big window. “Mom pull your hair out again?”
“Yes,” drawled the child absently. She was preoccupied with the book.
“Hey, what’s that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Let me see it.” She flipped through the worn, stained and battered pages, curiously drawn to the enigma of scrawled, faded ink. “Looks like some kind of diary,” she said, half to herself.
“Boys have diaries?” the sibling wanted to know.
“You’re right. It’s a journal of some kind. It says, Me and Tom. Hmm… Let’s read it.”
Scanning the yellowed pages, she came to the beginning of an entry. Then, checking to see if her mother–the old bitch–was spying, she began reading in a half-whispered voice: The gold bomb would barely run, coughing and sputtering while we waited for the light to change. Tom was sulking. He was mad because we’d commandeered his mom’s (his cruel, evil impostor mom’s) ‘70 Plymouth war wagon and I wouldn’t let him drive. Neither of us had a driver’s license, anyways–we were only fifteen. Well, I was sixteen.
Tom started drooling, foaming at the mouth. I could see why. Two foxy hos in a Corvette had pulled up alongside us. The chick driving was a hot-looking redhead. I love redheads.
The narrator’s proud preference for redheads drew an unconscious scowl from the teenager. But, despite its plain language and rough descriptions, the story was intriguing. She read on.
I called out a greeting in my best Mexican. “Hey, pretty mamma, Tijuana?” I could tell by her sneer of repulsion that I was really turning her on. Chicks dig me.
Her friend giggled, then whispered something in her ear. Then Red said,“Wanna race, dork?” I looked at Tom pensively, wondering if we even stood a chance. A solemn nod was his soul acknowledgment.
The green light flashed, and I stomped on the gas pedal. Our mighty warhorse roared, and we left the ‘Vette in a cloud of smoke. Really! Then Tom was suddenly screaming for me to stop, but I couldn’t tell what he was saying over the noise of the engine. Then he was using his fingers to push up his nose. He looked weird. Like a deformed, panic-stricken werepig, or something. Pigs. Pigs! Shit! Red and blue lights flashed in the rear view as the evil henchmen of mothers worldwide gained on us. This was it. We were going down.
The teenager paused to look sidelong at her little sister. Evil henchmen? She saw their mother give them a nasty look, then she looked away. She figured it was safe to keep reading.
At sixty miles an hour, I slammed on the brakes and cut a hard left. That’s how the big dent got in the door. Amazingly the cops drove right past us and kept on going, despite the fact we had plowed an entrance sign, screeched to a halt in a K-Market parking lot, and fled the car screaming. Making our escape through the aisles crowded with bickering penny-pinchers, we headed for the back door of the superstore.
Halfway to our objective, we were confronted by a mob of old ladies (swathed in a hideous array of polyester) which milled about a blue light special on knitting yarn, or something. They were all fat, and I mean really fat, and took up the whole damned aisle. Suddenly we were enveloped in a heard of fatty-fleshed lummoxes who moved about as fast as they could think! There was nothing for it but to hack our way through them. Once again we had to bloody our swords.
Screaming our fierce and cool war cry, we drew our blades and charged, severing limbs and heads in gleaming arcs of steel that flashed eerily in the sapphire light. I saw nothing but blue bulbs of bulbous buffoonery; great mounds of flaccid, flabby, flatulent flesh floundering before us, wallowing atop one another like so much cattle as they tried to escape the melee. The smell of blood and guts, mixed with the stench of fear-induced farting was god-awful! Tom got his sword stuck in a particular big heifer’s stomach, so I had to kick her in her fat, old face to help him free it.
Seeing the mayhem we’d left in our wake the other shoppers and employees stayed out of our way, except for one, wannabe janitor who tried tripping us up with a slippery, wet floor in aisle five. After Tom helped me regain my feet, I hunted the rogue down and hewed off his legs. I chopped the wheels off his mop bucket, too. War knows not mercy.
The sisters stared at one another in disbelief. “Not-uh!” said the baby. But curiosity bested their horror, and so they read on. The teen skipped a few entries, wondering what all of this could possibly lead to.
I nearly forgot our quest as my eyes fell upon this raving, red-haired beauty at the gas station. I left my friend alone for the moment, leaving him to pump the fuel while I introduced myself to this new adventure. She smiled, and flashed her eyes, and told me how heroic I was. Then she saw Tom and laughed. No, not really. Actually, she cooed over him, too, even though he was only fifteen and had a stupid haircut. She could tell, though, that I was the older, wiser, and cooler.
So it was, having persuaded this smokin’ hot mamma into spending the afternoon with us (we were skipping school, bent on our quest to find Tom’s real mother), we took her to lunch at the finest establishment we could afford ( the local Taco Bucket), where we began our interrogation.
“Now, tell us where you’re hiding Tom’s real mother,” I demanded.
“Huh?” she said between mouthfuls of fish taco. A smear of tartar sauce coated her lips. “What are you guys talking about?” she asked with perfect innocence.
I wasn’t going for it. Neither was Tom. “Come on lass,” he said in his kind, gentle, pansy voice, “you can be honest.” A blank stare of honest stupidity was her only response.
“Look, dreamboat,” I interjected, “it’s like this. We’re on a holy quest to find Tom’s real mother. You know, like the Holy Grail. We…”
“Oh, you were adopted,” she interrupted, taking Tom’s hands in hers. His eyes mirrored her own with dreamy stupidity. I was growing annoyed. Everything was stupid.
“Now look,” I said. “Maybe Tom was adopted, maybe not. We don’t know. But, there’s no way that wicked ol’ witch is his real mother.” He tried to hide it, but I’m sure I saw Tom wince. What a Nancy.
“Oh, why would you say that about his mother?” the stupid girl queried.
Why didn’t she wipe that damn tarter sauce off her mouth? Why was Tom being so fucking stupid? What was he doing, rummaging through her purse? Their sudden chumminess was really starting to aggravate me. I tried to keep my cool.
“Well,” I blurted out, “she never lets us hang out, or borrow the car, or go camping, or play with matches, or…”
Red started laughing, cutting me off again, “Are you serious? Is this some kind of joke?”
“A joke, huh? Then who’s this, lassie?” asked Tom, holding up a photo he’d found in her purse.
“My grandmother!” she snapped, snatching the picture from Tom’s hand. “Come on, you guys, be serious.”
“No, you be serious, flamehead!” I snarled, half-chewed taco spewing out of my mouth. Grabbing the photo out from her hand, I shoved it under her nose. “Do you deem us stupid? Blind? You have red hair. This woman has wrinkles and white hair. El blanco, comprendo? You can’t possibly be related.”
“She’s old! Come on, guys. I mean it. This is getting a little too weird for me. I would like to go home now.”
“Do you live with your grandmother, toots, I mean Tom’s mother?”
“No,” she answered, eyeing me perplexedly. Though quite simple to us, her small mind was obviously straining to fathom the depth, the urgency, of the abstruse nature of our mission. Tom doesn’t even know what abstruse means. “No,” the wench repeated dazedly. “She lives in a nursing home.”
We stole a city cab and dropped Bimbo off at her dorm, then went in search of the old folks home. Locating it, we drew our blades and charged through the doors. As we crashed through the glass in a shattering explosion of myriad sparkling, flying shards (looking extremely dashing and even gallant), a large, big-boned woman jumped up from behind the reception desk and tried to stop us.
“Hey! What the hell you boys doin’? Why, Lord have mercy, what you all gonna do wit’ them toadstabbers?”
“Out of the way, dote!” I replied, chopping her head off in answer. We rushed down the hallways, which were painted an abysmal green. Gaunt, haunted faces surrounded us from all sides, glowing a gruesome green. We hacked and slashed our way through legions of the drugged up, brainwashed zombies that must have been programmed to thwart our holy quest. Scores of these mentally ill old ones, most of them smiling moronically as we killed them, meandered about the halls, forming an awkward blockade that bobbed and weaved trance-like everywhere we turned. One old man tried to stop us by parking his walker in the middle of our path. He reached out to me with trembling and feeble arms as if to embrace me. He called me Bob. I bereaved him of his head as I sailed effortlessly over the poor bastard. My name isn’t Bob. It was beyond me why these agents of evil, these dark soldiers, were so old–they were useless! Nevertheless, they weren’t going to stop us. We knew they were hiding Tom’s real mother, holding her captive.
At last escaping the hordes of geriatric demoniacs, we turned into the right room. I had to kill a woman (disguised as a nurse) who tried to raise an alarm by screaming at the top of her lungs. It was a pity. She was kind of hot, in an older woman sort of way. But war knows not beauty. Meanwhile, Tom’s mother adored him with wonder
“Who the… Who… Who the hell are you?” she stammered from her wheelchair. She was old and frail. She seemed to have no recollection that Tom was her son. Bastards! They must have done a real number on her mind in this hell of horrors.
“I’m your son!” declared Tom, embracing her joyously.
“But I don’t have a son.”
“Oh, dear God!” I cried. “She’s delirious!”
“I am not, you little creep. Get out of here. Go away! Shoo!”
She began swinging a cane around as if she were chasing an animal away. I managed to parry her attack, but my riposte blew past her, striking nothing but air. Her wheelchair came to life and she charged, nearly crushing me with her motorized chariot of death, but Tom pulled me out of harm’s way. What happened after that I only recall as some phantasmagoria: everything was a whirlwind of terror and screaming. Blurs and flashes of horrid things. Even as I write, my hands shake. The nightmares of that poisonous shrew still test me. In war, there is no solace.
We fled for our lives, making a mad dash down the twisting labyrinth of hallways while the demon woman pursued, swinging her deadly cane and howling like some banshee from hell as she charged over the dead with brutal indifference. Tom tripped in front of me, and I over him, and we both went down. I caught a glimpse of the demon over my shoulder as I struggled to get us both to our feet. A ghastly vision she was! Long, ghostly white hair streamed out behind her in some unearthly wind, and her eyes were black, icy pits staring into my soul. I could have sworn she and her dreadful steed were levitating, but it may just have been the way she bumped and jostled over the corpses.
Being lost only complicated our despair as we felt the witch gaining on us, evoking shrieks of our utter hysteria. At last, we burst through a door and discovered a stairwell and our escape. Laughing madly with hope, we raced to the bottom of the stairs where we braced ourselves for a last stand, should our brilliant plan fail. But the gods of war were with us, and the demon witch bent on our demise was fooled, and tumbled down the stairs. Like a scene from a movie, she fell in slow motion, sailing over the edge with her cane of death held high in both hands for a deadly strike! Then over and over she went until she crashed in a heap between us.
For a moment neither of us dared move, lest she spring to life again. Yet, it was over, though we kept our distance as we made our way around her and back up the steps. We breathed a sigh of relief, though I swear to this day I heard her moan the words, “Little creeps.” So goes the story of our encounter with the Wheelchair Witch…
The teenager closed the book, unbelief dissuading further reading for the moment. The slow, lumpy hum of the archaic dryers was lulling her to sleep. She noticed the runt had left her side. Scanning about for her sister, her eyes met those of her mother. She stood by a dryer at the far end of the laundry, folding towels. Shaded from the bright morning sun her eyes were dilated, giving them a solid black look. Despite the sun’s warmth, magnified by the glass at her back, the girl shivered involuntarily. Still, she held her mother’s steely gaze, staring back with cat-like coolness.
Just then the door burst open with a wind full of chill and fallen leaves. Brown, gold, and red, they rustled and swirled across the tile floor. A well-dressed young couple entered with their overly cute puppy. It was a common practice of locals to cut the block through the corner laundromat, especially on cold and windy days. “Whoa!” said the man, chuckling as he checked the glass of the door to make sure it had not cracked. “Boy, that wind sure has picked up.”
“You’re right, honey, it sure has,” chimed his spouse. She straightened a big scarf that matched his. The teen rolled her eyes but silently envied the woman for her white and orthodontically perfectly straight teeth.
Drawn to the novelty of a dog in the laundry house, the runt reappeared from wherever she had been hiding to investigate. All sniffles and panting, the eager canine met the scamp’s query with bright eyes and wagging tail. “Isn’t that darling!” exclaimed the young woman, bending down to peer into the child’s eyes. “What’s your name, little girl?”
“Outta’ the way, dote!” A quick, stinging bop in the eye and the cherub was gone, leaving the woman wondering if her desire to have children was not misplaced.
Finding the episode hilarious, the teenager snapped out of her sleepy and somber mood. She stifled a laugh, an action made doubly difficult when their mother began to reprimand her sister, who made an escape under a folding table with impish agility. Amidst the chaos of a mother berating her toddler, a child evading her infuriated mother, and a yip-yapping dog clueless as to what to make of it all, the young couple forced their chins up and hurriedly exited through the other door, dragging the hyper puppy.
The girl slipped out the main door while her mother was distracted with the mayhem. She lit a cigarette she had stolen from her. She took a couple of deep drags, than ditched the fag before her mother caught her. She wasn’t so much worried about being caught as she was being caught with her mother’s brand. Leaning against the building, she pulled a compact from her coat pocket to check her ghoulish lipstick. A strange face peered back at her, beckoning a deeper look. She was fifteen. She was from the Island of Misfit Toys. And, while she found it beyond belief, the bizarre story she had been reading had sparked something inside her. Something akin to rebellion. But, rebellion against what? Posers like the couple with the puppy and perfect teeth? Adults? Authority? Growing old? She couldn’t name it, but it was there, staring back at her. Maybe the spark had always been there. She could totally sympathize with the characters in the story, especially Tom. Wait. What did the old man say to her? “Maybe she’s not your real mother.” Just like in the journal. Is that really what he said? It suddenly dawned on her who he was. He had called her lass. Her mind awhirl, she looked about fervently for the old man, but he was long gone. A heavy sigh and she returned inside, avoiding her mother’s scornful eye as she took her seat beside the runt, who was already fingering the leaves of the book in anticipation. The once again melancholy teen continued reading from the journal, careful to keep it disguised with a ratty Hollywood magazine.
…Wheelchair Witch of Death. Having escaped this noxious hag, we tromped our way out over the carcasses of our fallen foe. Tom was very disillusioned (we had been so close), but I managed to cheer him up with a box of Thin Mints I seized from a gang of capricious little tramps posing as girl scouts. In war, the strong survive.
“What do we do now?” dared Tom in utter dejection. “What if we never find her?”
“God for Daniel, muttonhead. We’ll find her. I swear it.”
“But what if we’re wrong? What if Mom’s my mom?”
Moral was low. A fortnight or so later, tired and hungry, we chanced upon a clearing in a small forest outside the walls of a decadent, sinful city. Within the deviously baroque encampment, hundreds of peasants congregated about countless cages that imprisoned various animals. I gaped in horror as the villainous villagers gleefully tormented the affable apes, the loving lions and tigers and bears, and other hapless creatures. We could not bear to leave these beasts in such a bathos, despite the pressing zeal of our quest. Rather, fueled by the hunger in our bellies, the ache in our bones, and the exhaustion of our souls, the righteous flame in our hearts began burning and, drawing steel, we fell upon the heathen like wolves on the fold!
“Hey, dude!” shouted one of them, grabbing his chunky, chocolate stained child to his girly bosom. “Are you crazy?” Terrified, he stared at my blood-dripping war sword. I had already eviscerated a countless score of the evil animal taunters.
“Don’t call me dude.” I killed him and his whelp. War knows not age. After nearly annihilating half of the cruel animal insulters for their heinous sins, we let the last of them escape, being too drained to kill any more of them. Dismayed, they split in a horrified quandary. We freed the prisoners and…
“…and go get the bleach out of the car. Did you hear me?”
The sharp tone of her mother’s voice commanded her attention, ripping the girl away from cryptic escapism. Quickly closing the book up in its sleeve of camouflage, she gave the sprite a wink and ran out the door after the bleach. Rummaging through the old station wagon for the desired concoction, she noticed her mother had left the keys, with the plastic dice key fob, in the ignition. They were probably safe there. It was a small, sleepy town, not troubled with much crime. But here, perhaps, was an opportunity to get back on her mother’s good side. Maybe her luck was changing. Perhaps this chance discovery might lead to redemption. Maybe she could work her way into going to the lake after all. A brave smile brightened her face as she headed back into the warmth of the laundromat.
Upon returning from her required jaunt, the girl felt the gaiety of her light step flee from her feet and remembered why she had embraced the Goth culture. Her mother was yanking more hair from her sister’s head. It was then that the spark of rebellion, that inkling of self, ignited. Gone were her familial feelings. She was tired of the emotional jilting and jolting. Gone were any illusions that she could ever please her mother. Maybe the old man was right. Maybe this hysterical bitch was not her real mother. Perhaps she was just another version of the countless, conspiring adults bent upon bashing the hopes and dreams of youth, keeping the young as emotional punching bags, subservient to their whim and will.
Stoic and stork-stiff, she handed the bleach to the angry woman, slipping the car keys into her back pocket without a word. Returning to her seat, she hid behind the secret book. Blubbering and battered, the whimpering imp resumed her place beside her, leaning in close. Barely speaking above a whisper, the teen read on, unconcerned that she had lost her place in the story.
…completely fatigued, Tom collapsed., falling face first into the mud that was once a field of corn. “I can’t go on like this!” he cried, wallowing in the mud like the wuss he was. I could scarcely see him, it was raining so hard. Thunder rumbled overhead, and the cold rain turned to hail, pelting us mercilessly. The gods of war were angry.
I tried to help Tom to his feet, but he resisted. “No,” he whined. “I can’t make it. You must go on without me–finish the quest. I’m done for.” In the maddening downpour, I succumbed to the realization that I was right. Surely all was lost. The quest knights had failed. For hours I knelt beside my fallen cohort, numb to the stinging bite of the freezing rain that hurled itself against us in drenching sheets. Soon I lost track of time, immersed as I was in my black desperation, and did not notice how the sunless day of rain waxed into the moonless night of fog. But I did take heed of the spooky, spectral eyes that appeared and then disappeared, only to reappear nearer or deeper in the thick, chilling mist that was the fog. I ignored the wraiths. I knew they were sent by the gods. Grim emissaries from the underworld, they waited to devour our souls in atonement for all the blood we had spilled. Or maybe I was delusional, and they were just deer poking around the field for something to eat (other than ourselves). Either way, there was only one thing left to do. I had to kill ourselves. Quietly, so as not to wake Tom from his peaceful, dopey slumber, I drew my blade and raised it high for a swift and loving blow.
And then, like a ray of golden sunshine, a beam of light descended from heaven. Cutting through the godless pitch, an image of the great Madonna, mother of all mothers, gleamed magnificently, surely warming our wracked and ruined bodies, even our very souls. I dropped my sword and threw myself…
The book was suddenly torn from the girl’s hands, an action accompanied by a gasp from her sister. She could only fidget nervously with the now useless magazine while her mother scanned the words of the journal with suspicion. The thin look on her face told the girls she did not approve. “What the hell is this shit? Where did you get it?”
Recalcitrant, the sisters united in silence, preparing to stand against the verbal (and maybe physical) assault they knew would ensue. In quiet defiance, they watched as their mother flung open the door and flinged out the book. Battle beaten pages rippled in fluttery dishevel as the holy book tumbled through the air, landing sans ceremony in its new temple, the trash. The heavy glass door slammed shut with finality, and their mother crossed her arms, awaiting an explanation.
“That was mine,” the teen challenged. She crossed her arms as well, and the sprite followed suit, two against one: a war of crossed arms and cold demeanor. But the fire in the teen’s heart smoldered hot, ready to burst into flames. The keys in her back pocket, an uncomfortable fuel for the fire, prodded a plan. The laundromat was empty, save for the three combatants. Overhead the lights dimmed and brightened in supernatural weirdness, reflecting the electric vibration in the air that still smelled of fallen leaves, cool freedom, and dryer sheets. Mother and daughters glared at one another. The tinder blazed.
Emboldened by the flames of revolt, the teenager ignored her mother’s freezing gaze and calmly stood up, collected her sister by the hand, and proceeded out the door. Arms still crossed and saying nothing, the mother followed. A snarl curled her lip when she spied a familiar key fob hanging out of her daughter’s back pocket.
“What are you doing with the keys to the car?”
“Nothing, Mother,” the teen shot back, though her voice quavered. She searched the city trash can for the book but did not see it. “I just thought the runt and I might go for a little joy ride, maybe pick up some boys, or something.” She dug hurriedly through the trash as the malevolent form of her mother drew closer, and larger, in the corner of her eye.
“Oh, you did not…” Strangled with venomous violence, their mother’s verbal vehemence morphed into some diabolical and alien tongue of swearing, cussing, and curses. Her long, graying hair stood on end, blowing around wildly. Storm clouds blotted out the golden sun. Thunder crackled ominously, and the town streets suddenly seemed devoid of people and everyday sounds. Everything was dead still, except the rolling black clouds, their mother’s hair, and the twisted, frightening words proceeding from her leering mouth. The chanting intensified as the sky darkened.
The search for the book grew frantic, and the sprite joined in. “Oh, hurry!” she pleaded. “She’s gonna blow!”
“Oh!” the teen mimicked, doggedly digging even faster.
Bolts of lightning streamed from the howling woman’s head now, snapping and popping the air with sparks and zapping. Steam literally blew from her ears. A scene of macabre mutation manifested before them as their mother’s head tilted back, seeming to split. Her whole body began to crack open like a giant pistachio–a gigantic cicada shedding its skin, revealing swinish, snouty features. Her deafening howl gurgled into grotesque snorts and chortles.
“Werepig!” the sprite screamed. She abandoned the search for the book and instead clawed her sister’s pocket for the car keys.
The older girl kept digging undaunted, continuing the scavenge until her slender fingers wrapped around something somehow familiar. It was not the book, yet it caused the fire in her heart to explode. With a girlish growl, she gripped the hilt of the heavy war sword, pulled it from its trash can scabbard, and held it on high. The double-edged blade flashed silver in a beam of gleaming sunshine that penetrated the phenomenal gloom. But the mother-monster just snorted a grunt and knocked the blade out of the girl’s hand with a meaty, slime-covered hoof.
“I’m your real mother!” it boomed in a frightening baritone. It lunged for the girl but missed as it could only shuffle about awkwardly, its legs still trapped in partially shed mom’skin casing.
Awed by the ludicrous mother-monster/werepig-mom thing before her, the teen fell back against the station wagon, which of a sudden roared to life. “Huh?” the teen wondered aloud, stepping away from the car in alarm. Rubber squealed and bent as the rusty dinosaur pulled away, lumbered through a giant U-turn, and screeched to a stop. The horn blared loudly, and the teen was amazed–and baffled–to see the runt, eyes wide as saucers, at the wheel. The little girl flipped her curls and yelled for her sister to get moving.
“Get out of the way!” the kid screeched, as the big car idled in a cloud of smoke, noisy, oil-less tappets clacking out a labored rhythm. Then the motor revved, and the sprite cried, “Charge!” Rolling out of the way, the teen grabbed the sword and leaped to her feet, raven locks whipping about her face. The monster oinked a throaty challenge, beating its cloven hooves against the sky. Sucking air, ancient vacuum secondaries opened full throttle, and the big car bellowed smoke, guzzling gallons of gasoline as it accelerated in a left-handed wheel-standing blitzkrieg!
Monster parts blew apart in black, bloody spray, flying everywhere as the rusty warhorse slammed into the ogre with a sickening smack. The motor cut and the car stopped, brown, gunky oil pouring out of the engine onto the pavement to mix with the mom-monster’s blood. Falling guts and chunks splattered down on top of it, splashing the teen in dark goop that steamed in the returning sunshine. The driver’s door opened and her sister jumped down off the old man’s knees. She ran to her sister, hugging the teen tightly. The old man followed, clutching the missing book.
Observing the mess, he put his hands girlishly high on his hips and spat. Drool ran down his grizzled chin. He wiped it off with the book, smearing spittle into the leather binding. Mumbling something incomprehensible, he coughed, wheezed, and reddened like he was going to die, then regained his composure. He wiped the spit off the book with a dirty sleeve and accepted the sword the teen handed back to him. He held it up, checking the edge. “Thanks, lassy,” he said, a gleam lighting the cataracts in his eyes. He tucked it in his belt, put the book in one coat pocket, and produced half a cigarette from another. He lit it with a banged up Zippo, coughing hoarsely. Then he looked both of the girls in their eyes, smoke curling in his own, holding their still-shocked gaze. “One of them god-awful things killed my best friend,” he mumbled through another fit of coughing. “ We never did find my real mother, just one of them damned werepig moms! They’re the worst.”
Mumbling Darkly isn’t going to happen. This was the title I had chosen for a collection of my short stories. Weary of waiting on HellBound Books after several months (as I was going to try submitting again in 2019), and hearing nothing encouraging, I decided to ask Mr. James Longmore if he was still interested in publishing it. To my delight, he said, “no,” and agreed with my suspicions that short story collections–particularly from unknowns such as myself–just aren’t selling these days.
Believe it or not, I was ecstatic when he told me I should follow my instincts and submit as many stories to as many places as I can right now (and try to get a novel out). Believe it or not, this was exactly what I wanted to hear. Originally it was my hope to publish this collection way back in April. HBB told me I would have to wait until next year. I said I would. And I did. And I’ve written one complete and two half stories in this amount of time. Meanwhile, I’ve been sitting on almost twenty stories very few people to almost none at all have ever seen. And, some of them are damned good, I believe.And I want to share them!
I just submitted two stories from the collection over the weekend, and I am expecting a reply for a story I wrote over the summer any time, now. Also, I just saw–in a post from The Horror Tree–that Shock Totem is going to be back in circulation and is currently accepting submissions. I think I got a story for them, too, one I believe less likely to be rejected then the last one I tried (a few years back).
So, I’m going to try it. I might even try submitting to Cemetery Dance (yeah, right). But, I’ve got lots of stories, and it’s my intention to flood the market. I feel strongly that this is the right thing to do. Now, if I could just nail down a damned novel…
(This illustration, by the talented Lindsey J. Rantz, was originally created for my short story, Icarus Ascending. It had been my hope to use it for Mumbling Darkly. But, alas.)
Mr. James H. Longmore, British, easy-going, and very cool, gave me my big break into horror. In fact, he’s given quite a few people their big breaks. When I decided to get serious about writing again, I made many new acquaintances, and a few friends as well. Many of these folks have contracts with HellBound Books Publishing LLC, an indie house that is swiftly growing by proverbial leaps and bounds. Whether they have written novels, short stories in themed horror anthologies, or short story collections, a lot of authors have been recently published by HBB. And while I’m not quite where I want to be, myself–a named HBB writer (I have some projects in the works)–I still feel very privileged to have my work included in three different HBB anthologies. It’s an awesome feeling.
However, like many writers, I endure terrible fits of doubt. I not only doubt myself, I tend to doubt any publisher willing to pick me up. I doubt my luck. I’ve heard sad, tragic stories about indie publishing houses going under, leaving writers stranded. I’ve bent a few ears over my angst (Becky Narron, a Personal Assistant with HBB, can testify–she’s had to straighten me out more than once). I don’t feel I’m really good enough to be published yet, either. Well, maybe just a little bit, but… Mostly I just worry that I’m going to lose my tenacious but tenuous foothold in the world of published writers. I have nightmares about it all falling apart before I can actually get anywhere. I’ve often speculated, in these fits of faithlessness, as to whether or not I’m getting good at my craft, and am actually worthy, or if James Longmore has published me simply because he would publish anybody?
It’s not the sort of thing you ask a guy in his position, though I believe Mr. Longmore is down-to-earth enough to handle such a poignant query with style and grace. Being the owner of a publishing house, I’m sure he’s quite used to dealing with doubting Thomases and prima-donnas alike (and I can be both). In fact, one of his personal goals behind the HellBound Books brand turns out to be a strong desire to create a better experience for unheard-of writers like myself. He reiterates this point in his answer to my first question.
TSG: “It must feel great to be the editor-in-chief of HellBound Books. How did you wind up here?”
JHL: “Oddly enough, I’m not actually editor-in-chief — I own the company, but I possess the writer’s typical lack of editing skills, hence we have far better editors than I signing off on manuscripts.
“As to how I wound up heading up an indie horror publisher — I guess that was borne of my own frustrations and bad experiences at the hands of other publishers (who shall remain nameless) — I wanted to be able to offer authors (and their readers) a good, positive experience with their work.
“Thus, HBB was born, and we very quickly established a solid reputation for being fair, honest, drama-free, and innovative (we’re still the only ones with our own App!).”
TSG: “HBB seems to be growing at an incredible rate. Does the future look promising? Do you ever suffer any doubt about where things are going, or if it will all fall apart?”
This was my most daring question, I think–I had laid my fears on the table. Mr. Longmore’s answer feels fresh and reassuring as if it was indeed shaped to dispel doubt, particularly my own.
JHL: “We are, and it does!
“Our objective was always to produce an exemplary and wide-ranging catalog within our first two years, to provide a strong offering to our growing readership and a powerful marketing tool for each and every one of our authors.
“So far, so good.
“I have no doubts whatsoever regarding HBB’s future — we are already bigger than the sum of our parts, and have a strong financial base.
“And no, there’s nothing in the business plan about things falling apart.”
This answer was followed by a clever emoji. Yep, even James H. Longmore uses emojis to convey emotion and strengthen communication.
TSG: “Is it ever difficult to make choices concerning what and who gets published, who gets put on hold, or who is rejected?”
(Am I always this transparent?)
JHL: “To be quite honest, nope, it is never difficult to make that choice.
“If a writer is good, and their work stands out, they will be accepted. Likewise, if we find a writer who shows good promise, but their MSS needs work to knock it into shape, we will also accept, and work hard with that author to mold their book into publishable material.
“If a writer’s work is not up to scratch, then the decision is equally easy.”
TSG: “You’ve done some business with Richard Chizmar of Cemetery Dance, and have actually shared some space with him (introduction for Blood and Kisses). Will we see more of Mr. Chizmar in the future, or was this a one-off thing? Might we see other big names in the future?”
JHL: “We have a good relationship with Richard — he has kindly contributed to our charity anthology [The Big Book of Bootleg Horror III], and appeared on our renowned blog radio show — The New Panic Room http://www.panicroomradio.com/ (Thursdays, 9:30 Central) and he was gracious enough to write the forward for my collection, Blood and Kisses — we do hope to work with him again in the future, he’s one hell of a guy!
“As HBB grows, we are attracting ‘big names,’ we are in talks with a bunch at the moment for our Jack Ketchum memorial anthology (we are working close with Dallas’ agent and estate) — as our reputation grows, we will become a real and viable go-to for established authors across the genre.
“That said, we will never forget our primary purpose, which is to give new and up-coming authors a solid foundation to launch their work.”
TSG: “You’ve written quite a lot yourself. Where does it all come from? Are there certain influences? Books, movies, authors?”
JHL: “I have, and I continue to do so — my first love will always be writing. Early influences include H.G. Wells, John Wyndham, James Herbert, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Chuck Palahniuk, Guy n Smith, Mark Morris — the list goes on.
“The very first grown-up horror novel I ever read was The Rats (Herbert), and that had me hooked on the whole new (as it was then), visceral style of horror — my own creature novel, Pede, is my very own homage to the late, great James Herbert.”
There’s no mistaking Mr. Longmore’s deep appreciation of horror and horror authors, some of them favorites of my own. It’s comforting. He’s a writer. He’s the owner of an indie publishing house rooted in the classics. HBB is not a fly-by-night publisher, and my fears are groundless (of course). Why do I doubt myself so much? Why do I doubt success? It’s hard to live with sometimes, and I am grateful for the positive vibes James H. Longmore seems to radiate naturally.
TSG: “If I may ask, how do you choose which authors are published, which are put on hold, and which are rejected?”
Didn’t I just ask this question?
JHL: “You may.
“Those with good, strong, well-written stories are a shoe-in and will receive an acceptance from us.
“We do try to be constructive with those who we do reject, as I hold the true belief that we writers can only improve by absorbing critique, and learning from it.
“It is an unpleasant part of the job, but rejections are inevitable — sometimes a MSS is just not good enough, other times it may not be our thing (we keep getting YA novels submitted, heaven only knows why!) and sometimes it just doesn’t grab our attention; but heck, even the Beatles were rejected at least once!”
I’ve certainly had my fair share of rejections. They’re much easier to swallow, however, after some success — you appreciate them more.
TSG: “I know this is a worn-out question, but do you have any advice for fledgling writers? For semi-pros? For pros?”
JHL: “Yeah, lots!
“I guess first and foremost is — learn your craft!
“Write, read, elicit criticism (from people who will be brutally honest with you, not your Mom), write some more, read some more — shine your work until you can see your face in it
“Learn, also, the tools of the trade. In today’s market, this means the appropriate computer software — learn how to format your work to the publisher’s specifications (most are pretty standard, but do your research and give ’em what they want!). Teach yourself correct grammar and punctuation, and for Christ’s sakes, if a word has a little red or green line underneath it, pay attention to what your PC is telling you!
“We receive — and reject — too many manuscripts that are badly formatted and have the most atrocious spelling, punctuation, and grammar — as a general rule, if your work makes it difficult for us to read, and pulls us out of a story, it’s coming back to you (we even provide FOC our very own grammar and punctuation guide!).
“And — excuses such as ‘I don’t understand how to use word/open office/etc.’ just won’t wash — it’s like deciding to become a car mechanic with a spoon.
“Finally — keep on writing! Don’t stop, don’t ever let other people’s criticism be your excuse to quit — just keep on hammering out those words, one at a time…”
There’s no denying the positive vibes that emanate from James H. Longmore, even in a textual form. Though I have no idea what his voice actually sounds like, I can hear him stressing syllables, enunciating words, speaking with a British accent, and everything he says is encouraging, uplifting, and soothing. And, besides that, he’s a writer. He’s a fellow author. We share similar visions of success.
So, why do I worry? I don’t know–it’s a quirk, I guess. I certainly don’t need to worry about HellBound Books Publishing LLC. It’s one publishing house, built on a great foundation, that’s determined to beat out the competition. There are literally thousands of writers out there, but all the good ones write for HBB.
Ps. My Mom is a brutal critic. Maybe that’s why James H. Longmore likes my work. Maybe…
Fans can learn more about HellBound Books and Mr. James H. Longmore via these URLs:
Yep. I’m in it. You can read my story, “The Butcher Knife Kid.” You won’t be able to find it anywhere else, I wrote it exclusively for this volume. Enjoy!
This made my day! So nice to be mentioned, appreciated, and given a compliment all at once.
HBB (HellBound Books) has tentatively agreed to publish my short story collection, “Mumbling Darkly,” which I currently am working to finish. Becky Narron told me James Longmore would most likely print it for me, but insisted on a word count increase. He wants 90k words! That’s novel length. My original mss. was less than 40k. I am pushing over 57k at the moment, and shouldn’t have too much trouble reaching 90k, but it means a lot of work, (a lot more work), some story re-working, and consequently, the complete emptying of my #Smashwords account (4 existing stories).
Nonetheless, I am very excited and believe that my work will get far more attention in book form, and backed by a publisher, than it has on it’s own. All my stories on Smashwords are currently free, and can be accessed with this link: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ThomasGunther. As soon as I know I have a new contract with HBB, I will have to pull them–they will no longer be available here, and will no longer be free. But the will be part of something much bigger, something I’ve been working on for a long time.
Encompassing the perimeters of almost all of my completed short stories, this collection will be a mix of my best horror, dark comedy, and the ludicrously macabre. Some of these stories are brand new, while others have been locked away from the public eye for too long, and will be making their debut. There is no release date set, and I do not have a deadline of any sort, but i am pushing to get this done, and hope to submit for a final review soon.
#Amtrying. #Amwriting. #Horror and tales of the truly #macabre!
Yes, I know, I’ve been neglecting this page but I’ve been busy. And, that’s the Big News–I’ve been busy getting published! You can read two of my stories that have been included in two different anthologies from Hellbound Books: 1) “Deranged,” which found its way into “The Big Book of Bootleg Horror, Volume Two,” and, 2) “Icarus Ascending,” which has been included in the anthology, “Demons, Devils, and Denizens of Hell.” Here are the links: http://www.hellboundbookspublishing.com/bootleg2.html and, http://www.hellboundbookspublishing.com/demonsdevilsdenizens1.html. Besides myself, there are plenty of stories from the best in the business.