Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Back in the Saddle... Again!

Round 3 of my Hailey's Comet Career


"Okay.... two years worth of writer's block is long enough. Now get your butt behind that keyboard and get to work!"

That's what I told myself in mid-September of 2018. For at least a couple of years (it could have been longer) I was stuck in creative Neutral, not with my foot on the pedal, spinning my tires in anticipation, but in a steady, rumbling idle that was going nowhere. After pitching my Southern-fried zombie novel THE BUZZARD ZONE to David Wilson at Crossroad Press back in 2016, I set to work. Then, when I got three-quarters of the book done, it happened. The fabled Writer's Block. I'd had mild cases of it before, like a brief bout of the stomach flu; twenty-four hours on the mental crapper and then I was fine again. But this time it was full-blown. I was stuck -- like Indiana Jones floundering in quicksand -- and I found myself going nowhere. And, before I knew it, with no fresh material going to publication, I found my writing career dead in the water, like Daffy Duck at the hands of an Elmer Fudd gone wrongfully postal. 

This wasn't the first time my career had been plunged into literary limbo. It first happened in 1996, when the horror market imploded (due to an oversaturation of too much horror fiction on the bookracks...much of it pretty danged bad). My agent called me on an autumn day (October 9th at 3:30 in the afternoon... I remember it well), and I, all excited over the prospect of a new multi-book deal from my publisher, Zebra Books, was shocked out of my socks by the news that the Big Z was shutting the doors of its haunted house of mid-list horror paperbacks. Further more, the two novels that were already scheduled for release, HELL HOLLOW and RESTLESS SHADOWS , would be returned to me with Zebra's blessings... along with a big, fat pink slip.

As many know, that was the beginning Ol' Ron's ten-year hiatus from, not only the horror genre, but from writing as well. There was a couple of reasons for my self-exile. One was the near non-existent horror market in the later half of the 1990s and my agent's sage advice that I "write anything but horror". It was a bit of advice, in my depressed and downtrodden state, that I took entirely too much to heart. I tried writing in other genres -- mystery, young adult, children's book, even a short-lived delving into the "gasp!"romance market. But nothing took. I was a horror writer, dammit, and that was what I was meant to write. The second reason that I abandoned horror for a decade was my religious convictions. I'm a Christian (a genuine dyed-in-wool Southern Baptist) and, at that time, the Holy Spirit  was working overtime on me. I began to rationalize that I wasn't really supposed to write horror... that God hadn't given me the talent to scare and disgust with the written word, but maybe, you know, that other fellow was providing the inspiration. I wondered how I could attend church on Sunday and then turn around write about vampires, werewolves, serial killers, and all kinds of dark nastiness the rest of the week. So I decided to stop writing completely. Just give it up and turn my life and aspirations to something else. And, for ten long years, I was completely miserable.

To make a long story short, after alot of soul-searching and realizing that God wanted me to write horror (perhaps for the sole reason of perpetuating the good-versus-evil story... which had wandered into a gray area in horror at that time) I decided to finally return to horror writing. Between 2006 and 2016, things when great. Both HELL HOLLOW and RESTLESS SHADOWS were published, as well as all eight of my Zebra novels as the Essential Ronald Kelly Collection by Thunderstorm Books. Anthology invitations were steady and the new advent of digital books brought all of my work to the Kindle/Nook reading public. Throw in several short story collections -- MIDNIGHT GRINDINGAFTER THE BURN, and MISTER GLOW-BONES, to name a few -- and Round 2 of my seemingly lost writing career was on track and cruising along nicely.

Then that nasty bout of W.B. hit me (sort of rhymes with V.D. doesn't it... and hits the creative nuts just as hard!) David at Crossroad kept emailing me; sending my e-book royalty statements with cryptic notes attached, chanting zombie...zombie...zombie. I knew that I needed to sit down and finished TBZ; after all David was all ready to publish it and he even had the cover. But I just couldn't bring myself to sit down and finish it. It seemed much easier to come home from work and plop down in front of the TV and watch Netflix, than limber my fingers and begin typing. Then in mid-September of last year, David gave me the kick in the rump that I needed. "We can get this book out by Halloween if you can get it to me by the first of October." The thought of having a book out by All Hallows Eve was appealing to me and so I took a deep breath and sat down in front of the keyboard. And, lo and behold, it all came back to me. I started writing again.

Needless to say, the remaining fourth of TBZ went slower than I anticipated and I didn't get it finished until nearly November. David certainly didn't waste any time, first releasing the book in trade paperback and placing the e-book on preorder status, until it's release in mid-December.

Now things seem to be moving in the right direction again. TBZ is doing well and my much-awaited sequel to my little collection of extreme horror tales, THE SICK STUFF, is finished and in production at Thunderstorm Books. MORE SICK STUFF will be released in a limited hardcover edition this April. After that, Thunderstorm will be publishing a limited hardcover of THE BUZZARD ZONE, and I have several other projects currently in the works.

So, for now, Ol' Ron is back in the saddle again. But in the back of my mind there's that nagging feeling that creative disaster could strike again. It's almost like my career is like a literary form of Hailey's Comet, one that comes and goes every ten years. But I can't let that slow me down now. I'll simply wait until 2028... and, holding breath, keep right on typing. 

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