Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bits and Pieces

I've been thinking about some stuff lately...

Alot of Southern singers and musicians have died in air crashes over the years... Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline, Otis Redding, Ronnie Van Zant, Stevie Ray Vaughn... the list goes on and on. I always wondered if there were gremlins on board who hated Southern accents.

* * * *
I was named after Ronald Reagan. He was an actor back then, not the governor of California or the President. Little kids ask me if I was named after Ronald McDonald. The clown visited my daughter's school once and she told him that her father's name was Ronald, too. He said maybe we were distant cousins. I don't think so.
* * * *
Whatever happened to Val Kilmer?
* * * *
98% of Southeners HATE grits.
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Every time we unload the diswasher, my son, Ryan, goes for the sharpest knife in the cutlery holder. Does that mean he is a Norman Bates in training?
* * * *
Do you think Elvis is kicking Michael Jackson's butt for marrying his daughter right about now?
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My oldest daughter, Reilly, has had a recurring nightmare about Lucifer bringing an army of demons to earth to battle humankind. I asked her if I could turn it into a novel and she said, no, she'd do that herself. So far, she's doing an incredible job of it...
* * * *
Who invented plastic door handles for cars? I have a '96 Toyota and I've broken the handles off both the driver and passenger doors. And a replacement handle is 76 bucks! The Japenese are really smart and innovative about alot of things. But plastic door handles?
* * * *
At church the other morning, a three year old boy named Drew asked me if I was an old man. "No," I replied. "At least I don't feel old." Later, I considered it and realized that I was 16.3 times older than he was. Dang... I am old. Thanks alot, Drew.
* * * *
If Harry Potter is so popular, why haven't they made a Pez despenser of him yet?
* * * *
My great-great-grandfather, Andrew Nesbit, was always suspected of being a Confederate spy. Following a Civil War battle in Tenneseee, he came home, kissed his wife and child, then rode off. The tracks of his horse led to the edge of a lake, then disappeared. My great-great grandmother hired private detectives for years, trying to locate him, but they never could.
My great-great grandfather McGraw, however, was, without question, a Confederate, through and through. When asked by Union officers if he wanted to be hanged or pledge allegiance to the United States, he declared
"Be hanged, by damn!" Which they promptly did.
* * * *
Okay, that's all folks! (Porky Pig coined that phrase... and no, he's not from the South. If he was, they'd have stripped that bowtie and vest off and had him hanging in the smokehouse by now. We Tennesseans like our bacon and ham, you know.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Back Into the Mouth of Hell

No, it's not the sequel to Sam Rami's Drag Me To Hell or the title of my next novel. Woefully, it is my call back into work after five blissful months of lay-off from my job.

I'm not saying I don't like my job or the folks that I work with. It's just the hottest part of the summer, which makes laboring in a plant with massive curing ovens overhead seem like the fetid, blazing depths of purgatory. We're talking 110 degrees-plus, folks. It ain't no picnic in the park. Well, for Lucifer and Baal maybe.

So if you call or email in the middle of the day, sorry, but I ain't there. I'm not sitting in air-conditioned comfort writing stories and books. And I'm not at home enjoying the summer with my kids. I'm back at the saltmine and my young'uns are confined to daycare for the next three weeks until school starts, of which I'll be paying the equivilent of the gross national product of a small, third-world country.

If you hear a weeping and a wailing and a gnashing of teeth, it's just Ol' Ron punching the timeclock and jumping back into the fire and brimstone...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Elam Eyes Part 3: Old Dogs up to Old Tricks

Those doggone dogs are up to no good again!
As some of you may have noticed at Hypericon, my eyes were much straighter following my operation in the spring, but they weren't 100% perfect. I reckon $9,000 just doesn't buy very much perfection any more.
After my procedure to correct the strabismus in my left eye, it seemed to have been successful after a lengthy recovery. But it with the passage of time and more and more hours in front of the computer screen, my eyes seem to be drifting back toward those annoying vision problems that plagued me before.
Lately, me and my eyes seem like a coon-hunter and couple of bluetick hunting dogs. A hunter trains his dogs to hunt in tandem, focusing on a single objective, say, a raccoon or a fox. But when their master's attention is off them for a moment, they can stray, one going after a rabbit, the other after a squirrel. That's the way I feel sometimes. I notice my eyes deviating a little (not nearly as much as before) when I'm driving a long distance or when my eyes become fatiqued after a long day of writing.
About a month and half ago, I went to my eye surgeon for a follow-up visit. He did that annoying little test where he covers your eyes individually to see if they are working properly. He perched -- almost anxiously -- on the edge of his stool, grinned, and rubbed his hands together almost gleefully (or at least I kinda remember him doing that) and asked "So... do you want to do the other eye?" Well, I didn't exactly flash him a big, ol' country-boy smile and say "Heck yes!" I instantly had a flashback to that long month of difficult recovery with my left eye. The weeks of double-vision, the whites resembling freshly ground hamburger, the pain and the swelling. And, afterward, it seemed like my left eye is much weaker and more succeptable to allergies than it was before, and it still does. So I told him I'd think about it. I'd hate to go through the same surgery and suffer the same long-road recovery, to have little or no benefit and two weakened eyes. Not to mention even more medical bills to pay.
So I'm going to wait it out and see what happens. Maybe Google some eye exercises and see if that helps strengthen the newly mended muscles of my left eye. True, my increased writing schedule has seemed to have had a negative impact on my recovery, but I can't let up now. I let my eyes rest up for ten long years. Right now I intend to get back to the business of being a horror writer and, if neccessary, let those doggone dogs run their rabbits and squirrels every now and then.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Horror Novels: Meat and Taters or Salad and Perrier?

As some of you may know, I've been trying to break back into the mass market paperback game for some time now... for a couple of years, in fact. I'm mostly doing it for the benefit of my fans; for those who can't afford to plop down forty or fifty bucks for a signed limited edition, but want to read my novels on a regular basis.
Putting them back out in paperback is the best way to do that. It satisfies my old fans and conjures up alot of new ones who haven't yet had the opportunity to read a Ron Kelly novel of Southern-fried horror.

But it's proving to be a much tougher row to hoe than I first thought.

It's not because today's horror publishers don't take to my fiction. They all seem rather pleased that I'm back behind the keyboard again. And it's not because I write Southern fiction or in-your-face, roller-coaster type horror. Rather it's a problem that wasn't a problem at all back in the old days.

Recently, I sent a manuscript of HELL HOLLOW to the leading mass market paperback publisher of horror filling the bookracks today. I had high hopes of HH making it into paperback, since pre-orders for the hardcover limited have been brisk and everyone seems to be looking forward to reading it, especially since
it is my first published novel in nearly thirteen years. But then I got the email last week, giving me a very polite and dignified rejection. I wasn't devestated like I would have been in the early days. After all, I have alot of irons in the fire right now with several different publishers, unlike my time with Zebra when I had all my eggs in one basket. A rotten basket whose bottom dropped out unexpectedly and made a big ol' gooey
mess of things. But then most of you know that tired, old story already.

Anyway, why was HELL HOLLOW passed on this time around? Well... because it was too long.

That's right. When I sent a follow up inquery a couple of months after I'd sent it in, the editor emailed me back and said "It looks great... it's just the length we're concerned with. Exactly what is the word count anyway?" So I did a quick word count and sent the answer back to him. "124,000 words." Then, a few days later, another email. "Sorry, but we usually top off the novels we currently publish at 90,000 words. To publish a novel this huge would be a little more than we could manage. Paper costs are high due to the economical crisis and we just couldn't justify releasing a book with such a large word count." Then later on, another email, suggesting that I: a) edit the book down to 90,000 words or b) wait until the economy improves and submit it again later on.

This rejection, due to the word count, was rather surprising to me. After all, I'd cut my teeth in mass market paperback publishing back in the early 90's writing those big ol' thick horror novels. And I was encouraged to do so. Zebra pretty much requested that my novels be around 350 to 450 pages. They wanted big hoss-like books on their rosters: the kind you could prop a door open with or that your kid could sit on at the supper table in place of a booster seat. And the fans seemed to have a great hunger for those meaty horror novels. Four hundred pages weren't nothing back then. Stephen King was writing 800 to 1,000 page whoppers and the horror fans were eating them up. It gave the writers plenty of room for character and plot development, along with multiple scares throughout, ending with a dynamite keg of a climax. It was just the norm back then. Go and check out the shelves of a used bookstore (if you can locate one these days) and take a look at all the chunky horror novels put out in the 80's and 90's. Then look at today's horror novels and, in comparison, they look... well, kinda puny.

Now, I'm not saying that today's horror novels are puny in content. Most of them pack as much of a wallop (or more) than most of those horror novels that houses like Zebra, Liesure, Pocket, or Tor put out back in the heyday of the horror boom. Folks like Brian Keene, Tom Piccirilli, Bryan Smith, and Edward Lee are writing novels that give readers effective horror within a limited page count. So, is that what today's horror reader wants? A quick read? Or is that something that they have been conditioned to expect in today's publishing world? A two hundred page book for seven or eight bucks, where they were getting four hundred pages for four or five bucks back when the horror novel was so plentiful and entire horror sections were proudly displayed in most of the brick and morter bookstores?

I don't know... maybe I'm totally off base here. Maybe that is what folks want these days. Time is so limited in today's world that readers want to sit down and consume a novel in a day or two, rather than a long-time commitment of three or four days. It's just that folks seemed mighty excited when they found out HELL HOLLOW would be weighing in at a hefty 500 pages. Like they'd been force-fed salad for an awful long time, when they really had a hunger for a big ol' plate of meat and taters.

So... what am I going to do? Am I going to sit down and edit down my steriod-pumped novels? Books like FEAR, BLOOD KIN, and HELL HOLLOW? No, I'm not. To do so would be a slap in the face to my loyal fans. Why should my readers get a novel of original length in hardover, but get a shorter watered-down version in paperback? Well, quite simply, they won't be given that opportunity. I'd never go to that length simply to break back into the paperback market.

Thank God for the small press, for if not for them, I would more than likely not be publishing (or even writing) today at all. They have the confidence and insight to see that it isn't the page count that makes the book special, but the quality of the storyline and characters. Will I continue to write collosal novels like the ones I wrote back in the 80's and 90's? Probably not. The novel ideas that I've come up with following my return to the horror genre are more stream-lined that the ones I wrote back then. In fact, I'd say my next novel, A DARK AND BLOODY GROUND, will weigh in at around 85,000 or 90,000 words. But then, if I do planned sequel novels for FEAR and BLOOD KIN, they will likely be back in the 120,000 plus range. It just depends on what the storyline warrents. And, ultimately, it comes down to providing an enjoyable and memorable journey for the reader. In my opinion, that's all that really matters.