James H. Longmore/An Anxious Interview With the Owner of HellBound Books

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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…”

In closing….

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 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:

http://www.hellboundbookspublishing.com/

http://www.jameslongmore.com/#!/page_Company

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The Even Bigger News!

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!

 

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The Big News!

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.

Getting Published!

HellBound Books (http://www.hellboundbookspublishing.com/index-1.html) has agreed to publish two of my stories. A longer, more detailed version of Icarus Ascending will be included in the anthology, Demons, Devils & Denizens of Hell, and my story, Deranged, which I had submitted once before for the first volume but didn’t make the cut, is to be included in the anthology, Big Book of Bootleg Horror, Volume II. Contracts have been signed and, barring any bad luck, I’ll be in print–in these two anthologies–some time around the end of July. Very excited.  Thank you James Longmore and Mitch Workman for taking a real interest in my work. And a big hand for the awesome Becky Narron, without whom none of this would be possible.

Weird Coincidences

None of us could recall the exact date. I had to dig all the way back to a March 4th entry on my FB page to determine that the combined experiences transpired on March 3rd, 2017, miles apart, to two people with no or little previous knowledge of one another. Why? Who knows? But this is what happened.

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I have never experienced anything like sleep paralysis before, and haven’t since that night, but it was certainly frightening. I opted to sleep on the couch in the living room, while my wife slept upstairs with our grandson.  At some point in the middle of the night I became aware of an inability to move my upper body. I could scarcely breathe, and felt like something was holding me down. Somewhere in that nightmarish purgatory between sleep and consciousness I became rather concerned with this horrifying predicament, and panicked, struggling to free myself from an unseen force. A little bit at a time I was able to move my feet, and as I croaked out for help I succeeded in thrashing them about. I cried out over and over again for help, frightened I would suffocate–smoker and all–until at last the dog woke me up, profusely licking my face out of worry. After I regained my composure, and decided aliens weren’t really trying to experiment on me, I fell back asleep, taking great comfort in the warm ambiance afforded by the electric fireplace (which seemed like a good idea to turn on).

On March 4th I related this experience on my FB page. Catherine Lilly-Watts, friend and fan of a few of us lesser known horror writers, exclaimed immediately that her daughter had had a similar experience on the very same night.

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Catherine’s daughter, Brit, an 18 year old girl who goes by Max, related her experience to me. She told me that it didn’t feel like hands or a body holding her down, and that her symptoms were much like my own, but that her experience began with the sighting of a shadow. Max said that when she saw the shadow, she froze, and literally so, because after that she was unable to move. She told me she used a breathing exercise to gain composure, and was able to turn her head. But when she did so she “felt an abnormal feeling start coursing through [her] body, like static, and it made [her] eyes bulge, and [her] hands ball up into fists.” She said this lasted for about thirty seconds, then she seemed to be hit with another attack: she couldn’t even speak. When she again regained control, she ran to her mother. But, even in the safety of her mother’s  presence, she experienced the bizarre phenomenon a third time. This time, however, the paralysis was accompanied by an ethereal voice–she said it was in her head, but very audible–and (as she related the story) I believe the voice belonged to someone she knows, who was nowhere around, something she had never experienced before, either. Max said that the whole experience felt like something was “being sucked out of” her while she was being restrained.

I’ve heard all kinds of stories about sleep paralysis. Some claim it is the work of demons or succubus (or incubus), and some folks have claimed to experience frightening alien encounters. Some call it The Night Hag, a damned woman who haunts the living, sitting on their chests and causing nightmares, etc.

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While it was weird enough to learn Max had this awful experience simultaneously, it might have been even more disturbing to later learn that my son, Zachary, who grew up without me, went several years experiencing sleep paralysis, and claimed he has even seen demonic faces in conjunction with these spells. Thankfully he no longer, or at least hardly ever, has these experiences any more. My experience pales compared to his–and I’m glad! What I experienced was bad enough. I just hope that I, and both Max and my son, never go through these terrifying ordeals again. Unless–for me–it’s a succubus. That might not be so bad. I think I could handle a succubus.

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