Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Big Comeback... No, Seriously... I Ain't Kidding!

Alot of you may already know the story, but for those of you who don't... let's tell it one more time.

Back in the mid-90's, after a ten-year career as an author of Southern horror (eight years as a professional) I left the genre and returned to a normal, nine-to-five job, working for the Man. This was mostly due to the implosion of the horror publishing market and Zebra Books' abrupt decision to totally shut down their horror line, which was my bread and butter. Truthfully, for a long time I had no desire to return to writing and thought that my days as a horror author were over and done with. Then, in the summer of 2006, due to the urging of alot of friends and fans, I decided to give it another try. So, after a long hiatus of ten years, I once again took up the mantle of Southern horror writer and planned my big comeback.

A comeback that, unfortunately, nearly two and half years later, folks are still waiting for.

Hey, take it from me... I'm all fired up and ready to go. My fans are ready, too. They are still waiting for that first big Ron Kelly limited edition to be released to much fanfare and critical success (or so I hope!) But I'm afraid their patience may be wearing a mite thin. And, to tell the truth, so is mine.

The main reason for the long wait is the nature of the publishing business itself. From the time a manuscript is accepted by a publisher until the day of its release can sometimes span a year or more... and that's just as a mass market paperback. When it comes to the small press (or independent press, as some call it), the wait can be even longer. Setbacks and unforseen obstacles -- such as personal tragedy and the current state of the economy -- can change the momentum of a project in the works and slow it down to a snail's pace. This is what has happened to several of my comeback projects. Instead of running and leaping onto your bookshelf like a bullfrog on PCP, they are slowly making their way there like a turtle slogging through molasses in wintertime.

True, I've had a couple of things come out in 2008: namely Flesh Welder from Croatoan Publishing and Tanglewood from Cemetery Dance Publications. Fortunately, both were total sell-outs and well recieved critically. But it's the big books that alot of the fans are licking their lips over. The hardcovers with the glossy covers and steller artwork (by master horror artist Alex McVey, I might add). But, unfortunately, these are also the projects that have hit snags in the publishing timeline, due to one setback or another.

One of these projects is the re-release of my Irish werewolf novel, Undertaker's Moon, which was published by Zebra back in 1991 under the generic title Moon of the Werewolf. Shortly after I decided to try my hand at writing again, I made a deal with now defunct Nocturne Press for a very classy limited edition, with lots of cool werewolf illustrations and extras. After that publisher went out of business, UM moved on to Croatoan Publishing next. Then, when Croatoan hit some unforseen snags, the project ended up at its present home at Full Moon Press as Number 1 in the Essential Ronald Kelly Collection, due out in February of this year. I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that the third time is a charm. Much longer and this ol' werewolf's fangs may drop out and its hair turn gray from old age.

Two other projects -- both at Cemetery Dance -- are a long time coming... but they are coming... soon. The two books (a new novel and a short story collection) are both unannounced. But they are at the printer now and on the very verge of release. So, in that respect, there is some much appreciated sunshine gleaming over the horizon.

Also, a brand new project at a third publisher, is fast approaching completion. This, too, is presently "top secret", but will be announced sometime in early-January. Keep an eye on the horror message boards, this blogspot, and www.ronaldkelly.com for the big news.

Take it from me, folks, I'm just as anxious for the Ron Kelly Comeback Train to start chugging its way down the tracks. True, it's been derailed several times... in 2007, as well as 2008. But hopefully it'll gather steam and come roaring into your horror-reading station throughout the year of 2009.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, How Aluminum Are Thy Branches?: Holiday Memories from the 60's

Oh so natural... and dazzling to the eye!

As the Kelly family prepared for Christmas this year, decorating the house, putting up three of our customary seven Christmas trees (that whole crisis with Ryan's leg threw us off a bit!), I couldn't help but think of those magical holiday seasons of my childhood. Those first impressionable years of my life -- 1959 thru 1968 mostly -- seemed to be the most memorable. The wonder of Christmas in all its glory was fresh and untainted back then... especially to a wide-eyed child of my generation.

Perhaps one of the most lasting memories I have of those Christmas seasons I spent with my mother, father, and little brother in our rental house in West Nashville back in the mid-60's was our incredible aluminum Christmas tree. While many families remained true to the traditional pine or blue spruce, we ventured forward into the future! I remember the day Daddy brought home that skinny white box and opened it up. Inside was a segmented silver-painted wooden pole, a silver tripod stand, and dozens upon dozens of brown paper tubes. Within those tubes were the sparkling silver branches which sprang forth, full and perfectly-formed, when you pulled them from their paper sleeves. Once the branches were anchored securely into the angled slots of the tree trunk, it made for six feet of gleaming, glittering "space tree" that would have made the engineers at NASA proud!

There was one drawback to the aluminum Christmas tree, however. You could not string conventional Christmas lights on it. Due to the very real danger of using electric lights on the highly-conductive aluminum branches, another avenue for tree-lighting had to be found. That problem was resolved via the rotating "color wheel" invented to illuminate the "Tree-of-the-Future". I remember my brother and I lying on the living room floor for what seemed to be hours, watching the color wheel revolve as it changed the aluminum tree from bright red, to yellow, to blue, to green, then back through the spectrum once again. Our attention spans must have been cast in concrete and steel back then, if such a simple spectacle entertained us for such a long period of time. Incidently, I bought a cheap retro aluminum tree last year, with an equally cheap color wheel, believing that my children would be just as enthralled by its cascades of wonderous color as I had been as a child. They watched it for perhaps the first two go-arounds, then bored to tears, left that spinly little aluminum tree all to itself, to change color without witness. If mine and my brother's attention spans were ironclad, then those possessed by today's kids must consist of PlayDoh and Elmer's Glue.

There were alot of tacky Christmas decorations back then. Tacky but immensely popular. Bubble lights. Cardboard chimneys. Glitter-painted glass balls. Those pointy-nosed pixies with their long legs tucked beneath their crossed arms. Garishly painted plastic Santas that stood sentry on your lawn. The list was endless! But we enjoyed them all and relished their bright and gaudy brilliance.

Tons of tacky, tasteless stuff for your Holiday Pleasure!

One thing I remember from those early days of my childhood was our yearly trips to Harvey's Department Store to see Santa Claus. During those pre-mall days, you had to venture to the very heart of downtown to do your Christmas shopping and, for us, that meant enduring the hustle and bustle of Church Street in downtown Nashville. For a small boy, it seemed like a really big deal. My father would parallel-park his sharp-finned, two-toned '56 Chevy and we would enter Harvey's through the front entrance. Fred Harvey had opened the department store back in 1946 and was a first-class entrepreneur in every sense of the word. His way of doing business was to dazzle and impress, even if he did go a little overboard sometimes. His store was decorated with carrousel horses, fun house mirrors, and even a monkey bar on the top floor (no, not what you find on the playground... a snack bar with real monkeys on display. It was even rumored that Mr. Harvey would let the monkeys loose and let them run rampant through the store if business was down!)

The REAL Santa Claus spent his time at Harvey's!
Mr. Harvey also put out full-page ads in the newspaper announcing that the REAL Santa Claus was at Harvey's. That put all the other stores featuring St. Nick in somewhat of a predicament since everyone in town took Mr. Harvey's word for gospel. Kids and their parents would flock to Harvey's Department Store in droves, to the toy department and the most elaborately-decorated Santa station in the mid-South. I remember Santa sitting on his velvet throne, offering a friendly knee to sit on, a patient ear for your rambling list of toys wanted, and a candy cane when you left. The entire experience reminds me of the Santa Claus scene in the movie A Christmas Story, but without the big red slide. There were still plenty of terrified, shrieking children though. That was always a big kick for me as a seven or eight year old... to see how many little kids suffered trauma and emotional scarring simply because their parents dragged them, kicking and screaming, to sit in the lap of an overweight, bearded stranger wearing white fur and a blood red suit.

Fred Harvey's gift to Nashville... the Centennial Park Nativity

But the Christmas celebration at his downtown department store wasn't Mr. Harvey's only holiday contribution to Music City. As a gift to the people of Nashville, he set up an annual Nativity scene on the lawn of nearby Centennial Park, near the steps of the full-sized replica of the Greek Parthanon. Between the years of 1953 and 1967, this full-sized nativity, complete with human figures, camels, livestock, and palm trees -- all hand-crafted and imported from Italy -- graced the park, drawing thousands of holiday visitors.

The Centennial Park Nativity at Night!

I remember we visited the Nativity at least once during each holiday season. We would park our car near the Parthenon and, bundled in heavy winter coats, scarfs, and ear-flap caps, walk the length of the display in utter awe. For a child it was really something to see... the birth of Jesus depicted in such a way, the figures illuminated with lights that faded from white to blue to red, while a sound system softly played Christmas carols. I remember afterward, we would drive to the Krystal's on Charlotte Avenue, sit at the counter, and have some of those little square hamburgers that smelled deliciously of mustard and grilled onions. Yum! Sometimes we'd get home in time to watch shows like A Charlie Brown Christmas or The Grinch Who Stole Christmas on our black and white TV.

Then came Christmas morning! Oh to find a G.I. Joe standing, poised and ready for action, beneath the Christmas tree... along with an olive-drab jeep with a matching trailer, bazooka cannon, and working spotlight! A boy of six years old could ask for no better! And during those years of holiday joy in that little house on Elkins Avenue, Santa brought a platoon of Joes in various stages of military costume and gear. But after we moved from Nashville and out to the country, it seemed like we left a little of that Christmas magic behind. We rarely made it to Harvey's Department Store for the annual celebration and, after 1967, the Centennial Park Nativity was no longer put on display when exposure to weather had taken its toll on the figures.
And, eventually, our old tree was replaced by a newer, greener one -- still fake, but much more life-like and traditional. A new era of childhood holidays followed, but they were never quite the same. They never sparkled and shined the way they had with every hue of the rainbow blazing from the silvery branches of that wonderous aluminum Christmas tree.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friel & Little Nominated for Dark Scribe's Black Quill Award

I am extremely pleased to announce that two of my favorite authors of horror and suspense, Fran Friel and John R. Little, have been nominated for the prestigious Black Quill, awarded annually by Dark Scribe Magazine for excellence in dark genre fiction. The award catagories include best novel, small press publication, collection, short story, non-fiction work, short fiction magazine, and book trailer.

Here are how Fran's and John's nominations stand:

Fran Friel's Mama's Boy & Other Dark Tales for Best Dark Fiction Collection (anthology or single author collection). Fran's collection of dark short stories, novellas, poetry, and flash fiction, published by Apex Publications, completely knocked the wind out of me with it's freshness, well-honed prose, dark humor, and downright nastiness. It is an all-encompassing collection unlike any I've ever read before. Besides new and previously published fiction, it includes the Stoker nominated novella Mama's Boy. I'm still convinced that this sweet and gentle woman has an evil writing twin that she keeps chained to a typewriter in a crumbling castle tower. Absolutely first-rate entertainment, word for word, with enough humor and horror to keep the reader wondering what to expect next.

John R. Little's Miranda for Best Small Press Chill (novel or novella by a small press publisher). When I read John's The Memory Tree, I thought that it was one of the best pieces of fiction (horror or otherwise) that I had read in the past several decades. His novella, Miranda, published by Bad Moon Books, came within a hair's-breath of topping it. John's heart-wrenching story of a man who lives his life backward, from death to birth, and the only woman who can understand his dilemma and offer him love and companionship, was one of the most interesting and involving pieces of time-slip fiction I have ever read. With an incredible backwards text design by Cesar Pugh and stellar artwork by Alan M. Clark, this chapbook is much more than it appears to be... it is truly a literary event to be savored and enjoyed.

But please don't take my word for it. I urge all of you to find out for yourselves. If you haven't already read these two wonderful volumes of dark fiction, you may order them directly from the publishers at http://www.apexbookcompany.com/ and http://www.badmoonbooks.com/, or from the Horror Mall at http://www.horror-mall.com/ . After you have read these two incredible publications, you may cast your votes on the Dark Scribe website at http://www.darkscribemagazine.com/ . To vote you must first register. After that quick and painless process, you may access the reader's Black Quill ballot and make your selections. Voting closes at midnight EST on Sunday, January 25th, 2008.

And, while you're at it, remember... it's the holiday season. Why not order two or three copies of each for Christmas gifts? I can think of no better gift for the reader of dark fiction than to find Mama's Boy & Other Dark Tales and Miranda in their fireplace stocking.

Again, a hearty congratulations to Fran and John for their individual nominations and much luck to them during the final count. To be included with the other nominees -- the cream of the crop as far as dark genre fiction is concerned -- is surely an award in itself. Good job, guys, and keep up the great work!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Rest In Peace: Forrest J. Ackerman

On December 4th, Forrest J. Ackerman, known to millions of horror and sci-fi fans as "Mr. Science-Fiction" and the creator/editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine, died of heart failure in Los Angeles. He was 92 years old.

Given my love of this iconic figure of my monster-loving childhood and my limitless respect for all he has done for the genres of horror, science-fiction, and suspense, it would have seemed natural for me to have rushed to my keyboard upon learning the news of his death and written a tribute blog right there on the spot. But I didn't. Here it is nearly four days later and, finally, I am sitting here, expressing my feelings in the face of this great loss. I reckon that I was a little sad and depressed over his passing. Even fans need time to grieve... especially a world of adopted nephews and neices of our beloved "Uncle Forry".

This isn't the first blog I've written concerning Mr. Ackerman and his wonderful periodical. Scroll down to my October entries and you will find a heart-felt salute to Forry and Famous Monsters. I'd like to say I wrote it mainly because it was the Halloween season and because of a nostalgic journey into my childhood. But it was something more. Even before I discovered through the internet that Forrest J. Ackerman was ailing and on the point of death, I had him on my mind. I don't know why... I just did. I'd be writing a grisly tale of horror and some creepy/crazy pun he wrote in some distant page of FM would spring into mind, or an image of his mustachioed face with the upper portion of Frankenstein's clamp and bolt-laden forehead artfully added above his brow. I found myself digging out old issues of Famous Monsters and reading them, from cover to gruesome cover. It wasn't necessarily a conscious act on my part, at least I don't feel that it was. Instead, it was almost as though I sensed that something of great importance was about to happen... something that concerned Forry and my favorite monster magazine of all time.

Then, when I heard that Forry was dying, a melancholy feeling of grim understanding and acceptance came over me. Perhaps I had been immersing myself in Famous Monsters and the man who was responsible for it for a good reason. Perhaps I had been subconciously preparing myself for a loss that would rival the death of a very dear and well-loved blood relative. Whether I actually knew it or not, I was bracing myself for the loss of the best friend a monster-loving boy had during that memorable "Monster Boom" of my childhood.

There was something else that caused me to delay in writing this blog. More bad news. Other iconic figures from that significant period of the 50's and 60's were falling in rapid succession. Actress Beverly Garland, who was popularly known for her character on the old My Three Sons TV show, had passed away. Besides her extensive television career, whe was also a certified "scream queen" in dozens of old monster movies... many a Roger Corman classic such as Swamp Woman, It Conquered the World, and Not of this Earth, as well as other horror films like The Alligator People. And another great from that era, the incredible Bettie Page, was reported to have suffered a heart attack and was in a coma. That beautiful "girl-next-door" with the raven black bangs (and a Tennessee gal to boot) was no longer a vivacious vixen, but a frail lady of 85 and in grave health. It seemed like last week was a crucial time for surviving icons of that period of entertainmant history. Two had passed away, leaving one behind, struggling for life. And that was terribly sad and sobering... especially for a fan of all three.

But it was the death of Forry Ackerman that effected me the most. Although I almost felt that I had lost a vital link to my childhood, he still lives on... inside every kid who ran down to the corner drugstore or newstand to pick up the latest copy of Famous Monsters... the same kids who grew up to be horror writers and movie directors of science fiction and fantasy. Stephen King and Stephen Spielberg are among them. And, in my own small way, so am I.

Most of you know me and my opinion of the certainty of the hereafter. While I grieve the loss of Uncle Forry, I can't help but believe that he has moved on to a much better place than his native planet Earth. I can just imagine him now, walking arm-in-arm with those horror giants who have gone on before him -- Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, and Price -- strolling through the hallways of that great Acker-Mansion in the sky.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ryan Escapes Imprisonment... Mobile and Mischievous Once Again!

As I mentioned a few blogs back, my eight-month-old son, Ryan, suffered a spiral fracture of the left femur around the beginning of November. Because of this injury, he was originally sentenced to four to six weeks of confinement in a body cast that began just below his chest and ended at both ankles. Because of his medical condition, lack of mobility, and constant confusion at being unable to move his lower half, I decided to take a long stretch of family medical leave, stay home with him, and make sure his recovery went as smoothly as could be expected given the circumstances. My wife, Joyce, and I knew it would be a hard and rocky road, both for Ryan and the entire family.

Luckily, the road turned out to be less rocky and lengthy than was first forecasted. On a routine follow-up visit at Ryan's orthopedic doctor the day before Thanksgiving, the x-ray taken of his femur looked so incredibly wonderful that everything was taken off of him and he rode home (a good fifty miles from Nashville to Brush Creek) in non-confining comfort... a free man.
The doctors are utterly amazed at how swiftly the fracture healed... so much so that we've nicknamed him "Little Wolverine". I must say, Ryan's new attitude following the absence of his restraint is equally amazing. He is much happier now and seems more friendly and outgoing. Before the accident, he was very suspicious of adults, even of relatives such as his grandparents, and overly clingy toward his Mama and Daddy. But he seems much more willing to put his trust in others now. In that respect, I believe this adverse experience has helped him quite a bit. Physically, he is beginning to use his left leg and is pretty much learning to crawl all over again. The various Christmas trees we've decorated around the house, as well as the brightly-wrapped gifts underneath, have served as a great motivator at getting him moving again. I expect him to climb to the top of the living room tree and give the angel on top a big sloppy kiss before Christmas Eve rolls around.

This past Thanksgiving, we had much to be thankful for and many people to thank personally. I'd like to thank several here publicly. First, Dr. Jordan, the pediatrician who first examined Ryan, as well as the emergency room staff at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville, who did all in their power, through expertise and compassion, to make that long Friday night/Saturday morning hospital stay as painless and bearable as possible. Thanks to Dr. Greene and his orthopedic office staff for being friends as well as doctors, nurses, and x-ray technicians (and for getting us in and out of the office as swiftly as possible). A big thanks to the Smith County Sheriff's Department and Ashley at Tennesse DHS for their investigation into this incident (perhaps some day we will learn the real truth concerning November 6th). And an extra big thanks to MetoKote (my workplace) for their patience and compassion, friends and family, and my church family at New Middleton Baptist Church. During that long month when we only had one income coming in, you made all the difference in the world. The entire Kelly family is extremely grateful for each and every act of kindness that was bestowed upon us.

Now here it is Wednesday afternoon and I can't help but feel a little sad. Next Monday, Ryan is off to a new daycare provider and I return to work (Gloom, despair, and agony on me!) It is sad that my "bonus time" with my new son is coming to an end, but we did some solid bonding during that four-week period. What was once a dyed-in-the-wool Mama's boy is now somewhere inbetween. His cheerful cries of "Da-Da-Da-Da!" can be heard ringing through the house. And I can't help but beam a big, sappy smile because of it.