Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Universal Monster Legacy... just a click away!

All my Rowdy Friends... at Universal Monster Legacy

As you know, I'm a monster junkie... especially if it involves those of the Universal Studios kind. Therefore, I was howling with delight when I came across the Universal Monster Legacy website that Universal has started in connection with the promotion of The Wolfman movie, due out in theatres on Feburary 12th of 2010.

There's alot for a monster-lover to enjoy on the Legacy site. A timeline covers every classic Universal monster movie made, from The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Lon Chaney Sr. to the third in the Gillman trilogy, The Creature Walks Among Us. When you click on each movie, it gives you a wealth of information, including a story synopsis, cast members, and rare stills, all accompanied by the soundtrack from the film. It'll make the twelve-year-old in you remember those late night creature features of your youth, when you were first introduced to Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, and the Wolfman.

The Wolfman prowls again... on February 12th!
You can access the site at . You can also find out more about the remake of the new Wolfman movie, along with a very cool trailer. Check it out!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

2009 & 2010: Publications Past and Things to Come

With 2009 coming to an end and 2010 looming near, I thought I'd reflect on my publications during the past twelve months, as well as what I have in store for the coming year.


Feburary brought Cemetery Dance's release of my first short story collection, Midnight Grinding & Other Twilight Terrors; 32 tales of Southern horror between two covers. It garnered great reviews and was even chosen as Kent Allard's Favorite Horror Book of 2009 on his Dead in the South blog.

* * *

Around the same time, CD released the fifth addition of Richard Chizmar's Shivers anthology. Among tales by some of the best writers int he horror genre, was my story, "Cumberland Furnace", an old-fashioned ghost story based on a story my grandmother told me when I was a child.

* * *

The Sick Stuff from Thunderstorm Books arrived in April. The second in TSB's Elemental Series, this mini-collection of extreme horror tales that I penned back during those Splatterpunk days of the early nineties, boasted art by Zach McCain and an introduction by James Newman. Among the seven stomach-churning offerings were "Diary", "Housewarming", "Mojo Mama", and a favorite among my circle of friends, "The Abduction".

* * *

Autumn brought Harlan County Horrors, an anthology of rural Kentucky horror tales edited by Mari Adkins and published by Apex Books. This handsome volume contained my story "The Thing at the Side of the Road". It also showcased great tales by Maurice Broaddus, Alethea Kontis, Stephen Shrewsbury, and more.

* * *

Also this fall, Woodland Press released Appalachian Winter Hauntings. This collection of holiday horror tales set in the rustic setting of the Appalachian Mountains and edited by Michael Knost and Mark Justice (Pod of Horror) featured my ghost story, "The Peddler's Journey". The collection also contained stories by Elizabeth Massie, Scott Nicholson, Steve Vernon, and many more. You can read "The Peddler's Journey" for free -- my Christmas gift to you -- at .

* * *


Well, as many of you may have guessed, my first novel in thirteen years, Hell Hollow, was not realeased in November as was anticipated. This was mainly due to Cemetery Dance's sincere push to catch up on their overdue backlog of titles and their new emphasis on bringing us Cemetery Dance Magazine in a more timely manner. So it looks like it will be early to mid 2010 before HH makes its appearance. This 500-page whopper of a book is embellished by a wonderful cover by premier horror artist, Alex McVey. You can preorder your copy from CD at .

* * *

Also at the printer is Issue #63 of Cemetery Dance Magazine; the special Halloween Issue. Of course, Halloween is past, but wouldn't be cool to settle down before a fire on a frigid winter night to a jam-packed issue of cool Halloween tales? This issue contains my story "Pelingrad's Pit" and an interview with me by Joan Turner.

* * *

Currently, I'm signing the signature sheets for CD's Halloween round-robin novella, The Crane House. This collective tale features such great authors as Brian Keene, Kealan Patrick Burke, James A. Moore, James Newman, Norman Prentiss, Brian Freeman, Ray Garton, Al Sarrantonio, Rick Hautala, Bev Vincent, and yours truly.

I'm also hard at work on the "You can be a Star" story promotion that CD has offered to their loyal customers. Using detailed questionaires, I am writing specialized short stories for twelve individuals, using them as the main characters and key points of their day-to-day lives (family, home, work, etc.) I'm also incorporating their worse nightmares and fears, which is making this particular job both challenging and incredibly satisfying as a writer of horror. As well, I'm exploring settings that I'm not normally accustomed to, with several stories set in places like Austrialia, Canada, Germany, and other locations around the globe.

* * *

Also on the horizon is volume #1 of Full Moon Press's Essential Ronald Collection, the hardcover edition of Undertaker's Moon. Yes, I know what you're all thinking. Is this really going to finally happen? Is this book for real or is it some sort of urban legend? Hopefully, after years of delays, UM will see be released sometime in 2010. This book will contain the original novel (formerly released by Zebra Books as Moon of the Werewolf) and include a bonus novella titled "The Spawn of Arget Bethir". It will also boast the infamous "blue werewolf" cover by Alex McVey.

Also in 2010, I will be starting a brand-new novel and working on a Signature Series book for Cemetery Dance, as well as working on more short stories for Cemetery Dance Magazines. So 2010 looks to be even more promising for my fans than 2009 was. Of course, a big thanks to all of you for your interest and support. It's what keeps a writer of horror full of fresh ideas and keeps meat and taters on his supper table. I promise bigger and better things from the Kelly workshop of terrors in the coming year. Hope y'all enjoy it!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nifty, Nifty, Ron turns...

That's right. This morning I turned the big 5-0. A half century of living on God's good earth.
Now I have many things on the horizon to enjoy that I never really thought about before. Mailings from AARP filling my mailbox. Invasive colon tests. 30% Off Day at Walkers-R-Us.
No, seriously... I don't feel like I'm fifty at all. Why would I? I've got a wonderful and supportive wife that I've been married to for nineteen years, three beautiful children who keep me on my toes and keep me young, and a second writing career that promises to be bigger and better than the first one.
So I'm planning on grinning like a rabid possum and enjoying today. I'll eat my tombstone birthday cake and read my "Over the Hill" cards and take it like a man. See ya!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloweens Past & Present, Good & Bad

Well, another Halloween has passed and this one turned out to be a particularly fun and pleasant one. No ill-tempered young'uns, no costume malfunctions, no rushing off to someone's particular house across town to catch them before they turned off the porch light and stashed away the candy bowl. No, this October 31st turned out to be a pretty easy-going one and absolutely perfect weather-wise down here in Middle Tennessee. Cool, blustery, and with a big ol' full moon, to boot. You could almost hear the werewolves howling in delight.

The Kelly kids certainly seemed to have a good time. My oldest daughter, Reilly, dressed up as a purple-haired punk rocker, my five-year-old, Makenna, went as Hanna Montana (surprised?) and my nineteen-month-old son, Ryan, was decked out as Batman. Without the cowl, that is. Ryan's kind of funny about stuff on his face and head. He hates wearing caps and hats, so he certainly wasn't about to please dear old dad and wear his Batman mask. Funny... whenever the girls deck him out in a golden tiara (to my horror!) during playtime, he'll parade around the house wearing the thing for a good half hour. Better trade that dime-store crown for a John Deere cap, my boy... if only for your father's peace of mind.

One thing that made this year's trick-or-treating run smooth as silk is the spread of Trunk-or-Treat in the area. Several of the local churches did it last year. Folks would park in the church parking lot with their trunks open, full of treats and decorations. The kids ate it up (along with the candy) and the social interaction was fun for children and parents alike. This year Trunk-or-Treat went a step further. Several of the town merchants and churches decided to set up on the town square, some with their trunks open, some with booths. The volunteer fire department was even handing out drinks and hot dogs. And of course we visited family, as well.

All in all, a very pleasant and memorable Halloween for the entire Kelly clan.

* * * *

Of course, not all the Halloweens of my life have been as pleasant and brimming with good memories. One particular Halloween comes hauntingly to mind. One that still leaves an ugly shadow upon my yearly celebration, even across the lengthy span of 42 years.

When I was a kid, I grew up in a picturesque Southern town. It was nestled in a valley surrounded by wooded hills. Railroad tracks ran straight through this lovely hamlet. There were several churches, a grocery store, a post office, and a single elementary school (which, incidently, was located directly behind my back yard). Kids could ride their bikes from one end of town to the other without worrying about gangs or child molesters. And our Halloweens were the same; full of freedom and frights in the darkness, without our parents following us around in cars.

But my town wasn't a perfect town. Far from it. It possessed its share of bigotry and racial injustice. To the north stood a tall hill where all the black folks in town lived. It was known by all as N----r Hill (I'm sure you can fill in the blanks if you use a little imagination). The town dump was on that hill, along with tin and tarpaper shacks that no one should have been condemned to live in. But, unfortunately, it was merely a fact of life back then. My journeys to the town dump was always a sad sojourn, witnessing unfortunate poverty from within the safety of my father's two-toned '56 Chevy. Compounding my misery, was my father's constant barrage of comments and n----r jokes. I loved my father dearly and still do, but he was raised as many were in that era, with an aire of racial superiority and little tact to go with it. I can recall feeling a mixture of anger and sadness and fear, wondering if he would go to hell for his constant use (and abuse) of the N-word.

Thus the Halloween of my eighth year comes uncomfortably to mind. It was 1968 and it was a dark and dangerous time in my home town. During the April of that year, Martin Luther King had been assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis and, in turn, a people we had never seen as much of a threat now seemed to possess the potential to be so. I remember hearing my elders talk about how "uppity" the black folks were getting following the death of Doctor King and how something ugly was liable to happen, due to anger and bad feelings between the occupants of N-----gr Hill and the townfolks below. Animosity between races was building at a steady pace and it seemed like only a matter of time before hostile feelings got the better of reason, in both whites and blacks.

That Halloween night had a different feeling to it. There was a blanket of tension over the entire community, and particularly in the faces of my mother and father. My parents forbid us to stray beyond the stretch of our street, but wouldn't give us a concrete explanation why that restriction had been set. Still, we netted a bagful of Halloween candy by eight o'clock. As was customary, my brother, Kevin, and I would don our pajamas by eight-thirty and begin the task of seperating our treasure-trove of candy into seperate piles: bubble gum, suckers, candy bars, etc.

It was nearing nine o'clock, when the worse fears of my hometown almost came true... within our own house.

Someone knocked on our door and, being the trusting lady she was, my mother went to answer it. As I arranged my candy, I heard her say "What do you want?" and then, in growing alarm, "You can't come in here!" I turned and looked through the door that lay between the living room and the combination kitchen and den. There were six or seven tall young black men entering the house, silently, but deliberately. They said nothing at all. They simply walked in, carrying the smell of autumn woodsmoke and damp leaves with them. I recall my mother backing into the den, her face full of fear. There was a strange look in the eyes of those home invaders. I was too young to comprehend that expression at such an early age, but now I would indentify it instantly as a mixture of malice and lust.

Two of them were actually through the doorway and in the den, when my father's voice boomed from the end of the hallway near the bathroom. "What are you doing here?" That was when the invaders lost their resolve. They scrambled for the door, afraid that my father was about to shoot at them (which was impossible, since my mother forbid firearms in our home). I remember the last one -- a boy no more than fourteen or fifteen years of age -- turning and looking at me full in the face. There was as much fear in his eyes as there was in mine. They seemed to say "What the hell am I doing here?". But, before leaving, he couldn't resist grabbing up a handful of my very best candy; Babe Ruths, Butterfingers, and Tootsie Rolls. Then he was out in the darkness and running with the others.

I remember my mother sitting on the couch, her face pale with shock and fear, while my father stood in the yard ranting and raving. I also remember feeling anger at the theft of my candy bars. My brother, only four at the time, didn't seem to realize the potential danger we had been in that night.

Many Halloweens have passed since then and now I can look back at 1968 objectively, with neither anger or fear, but with understanding. At the age of eight, I knew nothing of the impact Martin Luther King had made upon the African-American community or the anger and loss they had experienced following his brutal killing. But at the age of fifty, I can understand what they might have felt that year, when a smirking white face may have looked hauntingly like James Earl Ray to them and stirred feelings they wouldn't have normally even considered or acted upon.

And, as for my stolen candy, I can't honestly begrudge that frightened teenager his clutching handful of Snickers and Bit-O-Honeys. I figure it may have been well-deserved, considering that he was restricted from trick-or-treating in my neck of the woods; barred from my picturesque Southern street by long-standing prejudice and underlying fear.

Yes, that was a long, long time ago. But when the clock strikes nine on Halloween night, I can't help but think about that knock on our door and the misguided retribution it might have brought.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A HELLuva HOLLOWeen Contest

It's time for our annual Halloween contest over at Ronald This year's theme is a HELLuva HOLLOWeen in celebration of the upcoming release of my upcoming novel, HELL HOLLOW, due out in November. One lucky winner will recieve the following items:

-- A copy of the limited hardcover edition of HELL HOLLOW from Cemetery Dance Publications. This whopper of a book (five hundred pages in all!) will be personally inscribed by me, and remarqued and signed by cover artist Alex McVey.

-- An original softcover HELL HOLLOW advanced reading copy. This will also be personally inscribed by myself and remarqued by Alex.

-- And last but not least, a signed print of the villian of HELL HOLLOW, Doctor Augustus Leech. This is not the cover painting, but Alex's full-face depiction of Leech in striking shades of black and crimson!

So head on over to and register for a chance to win these three unique HELL HOLLOW-related items. The lucky winner will be drawn and notified on October 31st. Good luck to all and have a happy and safe Halloween!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Big Thumb's Up From Publishers Weekly!

This week, Publishers Weekly released a mighty nice review of my upcoming novel, Hell Hollow. This is what they had to say:
"Braiding together three distinct story lines --- a coming-of-age tale involving a quartet of adventurous kids, a woman's quest for vengeance against a maniacal hitchhiker, and the vigilante murder of a serial killer --- Kelly (Blood Kin) ingeniously blends unapologetically graphic horror, supernatural suspense, and poignant mystery. When 12-year-old Keith Bishop is sent from Atlanta to rural Tennessee for the summer, he stumbles across one of the area's darkest secrets: a haunted backwoods hollow where, back in 1917, a nomadic murderer allegedly "harvesting souls for Satan" was hunted down and killed. Somewhere in the shadowy, kudzu-covered grove, the madman's spirit remains alive, waiting for unholy retribution. Kelly's use of dichotomy, from the contrasting urban and rural settings to the generational dissimilarities between Keith and his 95-year-old grandfather, helps to accentuate the intensity and otherworldliness of evil in this well-crafted and wildly entertaining bloodcurdler."
If you haven't pre-ordered your copy, you can do it now at Looks like orders through Amazon and other retail outlets might increase due to the PW review, so hook your copy while you can!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Disney Dilemma: Which Side Are You On?

Cherished Friends... or hated enemies?

Several weeks ago, three deaths occurred on Disney World property within a seventeen day period. One was a monorail driver who crashed into another parked monorail, one was a performer who fell from a show stage, and the third was a stuntman at the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. Unfortunate tragedies, all of them.

I remember reading about the last death online at AOL. At the bottom of each article, there is a comment feature that allows the reader to voice their opinion on the subject. Normally there are only a dozen comments at the most. On this particular article there were 236. As I skimmed through the various comments I began to come to a perplexing conclusion. Alot of folks out there in cyberspace hate Disney. Not just dislkike, but downright hate the kingdom that Walt built. In the case of these particular comments, it came to about 80%. Twenty percent expressed their sadness and condolences over the death of the stuntman, while all the others cracked tasteless jokes or leveled blame and accusation at Disney officials, citing unfounded negligence on their part for all three deaths.

I've come across this Disney-hating phenomenon for years, on a smaller scale. It seems that folks either love Mickey Mouse and all he stands for, or they hate his guts. The degree of emotion the very mention of Disney seems to conjure is usually spelled out in distinctive shades of black or white... there never seems to be any gray area at all. While Walt Disney World remains the number one vacation destination in the country and Disney films are among the highest grossing in the business, there are still folks out there who harbor a deep-seeded resentment of the entertainment organization and its offerings.

Personally, I love Disney. Of course, it wasn't always that way for me. When I was a younger man, Disney-related stuff seemed childish to me and I had no interest in it whatsoever. But when I married, things changed. During the second year of our marriage, Joyce and I traveled to Disney World (on six hundred bucks, no less... can you imagine that?) and, since that point, I have been a lover and supporter of all things Disney; the theme parks, the movies, the music... everything. I've also become a great admirer of the late Walt Disney himself. Not only was he a champion of family entertainment, but his vision in many areas was way before his time. It was just unfortunate that he died before he could see many of his innovations come to life.

My love of Disney only seems to grow now that I have children and I see the joy that it brings them. Since 1992, we have been to Disney World six times (with a new trip planned for June of 2010) and the planning of each trip is full of excitement and wonder, like a trip to heaven on earth. The same goes for Disney movies. When a new one is released, the Kelly family rushes off to the local theatre to discover what magic the newest Disney flick has to offer.

Disney-Haters, on the other hand, live at the opposite end of the spectrum. They come in two varieties: the snide dismisser or the venomous antagonist. Some are satisfied with making crude jokes and comments and simply leaving it at that. Others whole-heartedly despise Disney and let it be known in no uncertain terms. All Disney-Haters seem to believe Disney is some evil corporate entity that is out to pull the wool over the eyes of the public; a modern-day Adolf Hitler in mouse ears, out to conquer the world with candy-coated cyanide pills. I have no idea where this idea originated, but it continues to be perpetuated with an animosity that borders fanaticism.

Oddly, there seem to be more male Disney-Haters than female. This is likely due to testosterone-fueled machismo. Alot of men would rather have bamboo slivers hammered beneath their fingernails than confess any allegiance to Disney. Many of these Disney-Haters consider it unmanly to express an interest in anything that is fantasy-related. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they refuse to let their guard down and enjoy anything other than the customary male interests and pasttimes (football, hunting, NASCAR, etc.). To love Disney is a sign of weakness in their eyes. But there is hope for the die-hard Disney-Hating Male. I've witnessed it firsthand during visits to the World. I've seen burly, bear-like men, obviously resentful of being dragged to the parks, grinning like happy six-year-olds after exiting rides like Space Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, or the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

One stringent Disney-Hater has always been right-wing religion, or some particularly relentless factions of it. Disney boycotts have been orchestrated by organized religion groups, and myths and misinformation have been perpetuated by their leaders and followers; that all Disney films include subliminal messages of a subversive and sexual nature and even that Walt Disney himself was a pornographer before turning his talents to family fare. Much of the religious-right's animosity toward Disney has to do with the Disney corporation's obvious respect for their gay employees (their healthcare plan covers an employee's significant other... be they male or female) and an annual week-long gay and lesbian celebration at Disney World (actually this is not Disney-sponsered, but is a privately-sponsered event that encompasses all of Orlando.)

Another thing that strikes me is that Disney-Haters are also in the same league as Barney-Haters. The big purple dinosaur that everyone loves to make fun of and bash, has probably done more to prepare pre-kindergarten children for school than anyone else; instilling manners, good health practices, and respect for others, as well as teaching colors, shapes, numbers, and the alphabet. Sure, the big fella can grate on your nerves if played on the DVD player a dozen times in a row (like at my house!), but all in all, he is of great benefit to today's youngsters. Disney has the same effect -- promoting healthy imaginations -- on a more entertaining level. Most of the Disney/Barney-Haters are single people with no children, who are sadly ignorant of this benefit. But then I've also encountered family folks who steadfastly forbid their children excess to Disney or Barney, simply because of their own personal preferences or biases.

The best of both worlds!

One recent point of debate involves Disney's forthcoming purchase of Marvel Entertainment for a staggering sum of $4 billion dollars. Some see great benefit in this transaction, while others are only spouting gloom and doom. Being a lover of both Disney and Marvel, I see it as an incredible melding of two grand universes. Of course, Universal Studios (Disney's main theme park competitor) may see it much differently. What will become of their Marvel-themed rides and character showings at the Island of Adventures theme park? Will they be forced to do away with that section of the park entirely, or will they be required to pay Disney (what a blow to their ego that would be!) for the rights to keep their Marvel-oriented entertainment intact? In any event, you can be certain that Disney will take full advantage of its ownership of Spiderman, the Hulk, and Wolverine. Personally, I would love to see a fifth theme park pop up on the Disney World property, devoted entirely to the Marvel Universe. A farfetched idea? Perhaps not.

So, which camp do you belong to? Do you love Disney and its many magical offerings? Or do you feel as some do... that Disney is a wolf in mouse clothing; money-hungry corporate villians with less than Walt-like intentions? In any event, this is America, where everyone's opinion counts. You have the freedom and the right to embrace Mickey Mouse... or set a trap behind the refrigerator for him.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Editing and Proofreading Services are now available!

To compensate for my unsteady employment (I returned to work after a five-month layoff only to find that I'm scarcely getting 30 hours a week) I am now offering my services as an editor and proofreader.

Since returning to the horror genre, I have helped several others with their manuscripts; doing full-line edits, proofreading, grammer correction, and providing honest and detailed critiques of their work, for a very reasonable fee. If you are an aspiring writer with a new novel that needs a little spit and polish to make the publishers sit up and take notice, or if you know an aspiring writer who might benefit from these services, you can contact me at We'll get to work and fix you up with a book you can be proud to submit to your next publishing contact.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mission Accomplished: Resident Evil 4 conquered...finally!

As you may remember from a previous blog, I was hot and heavy into the Wii version of the video game, Resident Evil 4. Well, after many nights of traveling from one horrifying level to another, I finally finished RE4 a few nights ago.
I found that the further I got toward the final chapter of the game, the more difficult the levels became. I ended up taking a rollercoaster ride in a abandoned mine with murderous Ganados and chainsaw-slinging manaics hopping aboard my mine-cart for close-contact warfare, fighting two El Gigantes in one cramped arena, and navigating a hedge maze full of rabid parasitic wolves. And then there was a frantic journey through an abandoned laboratory facility where I had to conquer several "iron maidens", horrifying gray-fleshed mutants that released long spikes like porcupine quills when you came close to them. One of the most difficult levels I encountered had me battling a half-man, half-crab mutant in a hanging cage called "the playground". If you reached the end of the playground and swung to a nearby ledge, believing that the hanging cage and its inhabitant had fallen into a bottomless abyss... surprise, the next level has the further mutated man-crab chasing you mercilessly through a tunneled cave. This mutant was nearly impossible to defeat, but, after two dozen attempts, I finally took the monster down with a magnum pistol and a rocket launcher.
Finally I came to the ending scenes. I encountered the mercenary Krauser, discovered that he, too, possessed the parasite, but eventually defeated him before the entire battle arena exploded. Then came the grande finale. The head honcho, Saddler, changed into a hulking scorpion/spider monstrosity with eyeballs on the joints of its elbows and knees. The key to weakening this almost undefeatable abomination was shooting the eyeballs and then leaping upon Saddler's back and stabbing the main eyeball. At one point, when Saddler is weakened sufficiently, the mysterious Ada Wong appears and throws you down a rocket launcher to take the monster out. After that, Ada reveals that she has rigged the entire island with explosives and that you have under two minutes to escape. You grab the President's daughter, Ashley, hop aboard a jet ski and have to transverse a maze of hazards in an underwater cave before escaping to the open sea and freedom.
When I had finally reached the end of the last level, I checked the Wii player's log and found that I had spent a whopping 41 hours, 23 minutes, and 55 seconds on Resident Evil 4. Now I am considering tackling the game again on the professional level. But I think I'll give it a few months before I give it another go.
I did discover one thing about playing such a high-tension game. You almost become addicted to the adrenalin rush that it produces. And when the game is over, the desire to feel that rush almost sends you into pangs of withdrawal, like a junkie without a fix.
Again, if you are a horror fan and a video game player, I highly recommend this game. It combines both worlds into one exciting, action-packed experience. The story is first-rate and the graphics have to be seen to be believed. If you own a Playstation 2, X-Box, or Wii, I suggest you snag yourself a copy and give it a try.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Flesh Welder and The Sick Stuff Still Available!

For those of you who missed out on acquiring copies of my chapbook, Flesh Welder, and my mini-collection of extreme horror tales, The Sick Stuff, I still have a few copies left of each available. Both of these publications sold out within two weeks of their release and are rare and hard to find.

For more details email me at and I'll be glad to fix you up with some signed copies.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hell Hollow on the Horizon

For the past couple of weeks, Cemetery Dance has been mailing out advanced reading copies of my new novel, HELL HOLLOW, to reviewers and members of their Early Readers Club. It looks pretty nice, with a full-color cover and all. And it contains all 498 pages of the original novel, so it's a whopper of a book.

HELL HOLLOW was one of two novels that was scheduled to be published when Zebra Books pulled the plug on their horror line back in 1996. It would have originally seen print in 1997, which means it has been in limbo for nearly twelve years. Now it will be available to readers in a classy, limited edition hardcover from Cemetery Dance Publications, along with a lettered limited with a few extra frills, like a beautiful full-color frontispiece by cover artist, Alex McVey.

The folks at CD have told me that HELL HOLLOW will probably be released in October or November of this year. October would be perfect for me, it being the month of Halloween and the fact that I will have a short story and interview in issue #63 (the Halloween issue) of Cemetery Dance Magazine.

Any way you cut it, I hope it gets here soon. It seems like I've been to hell and back (several times) waiting for HELL HOLLOW to reach the printed page. You can pre-order your copy now at

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Resident Evil 4: Interactive Horror at its Best

For a long time I thought video games were a big waste of time. Why sit in front of the TV set and spend hour upon hour developing game skills and strategies to attempt to play my way from one level to another, when I could be doing something constructive like writing or mowing the yard or trimming my toenails? I never thought I'd get sucked into the video game craze. Never.

Then along came Resident Evil 4.

A couple of months ago my family recieved a Wii game system from a good friend who happens to be in the video game store business. The Wii is quite an innovative invention, incorporating virtual-reality technology into the customary video game. You control movements and functions on the screen with the use of a controller (which resembles a regular remote control) and, with some games, a connecting "nunchuck" which adds a toggle motion switch and two additional function buttons to the controller. For games requiring a gun (such as combat or hunting games) a zapper can be used which combines the controller and nunchuck on a central frame, much like the frame of a crossbow.

While my wife and kids love games like Mariokart and Lego Batman, I found my video game obsession in Resident Evil 4, a game based on the popular series of that name and, in the opinion of most, the best of the lot. Resident Evil 4 combines intrigue and secret-agent type elements with horror. The storyline involves Leon Kennedy, a special agent for the US government, and his search for Ashley Graham, the teenaged daughter of the President. A mysterious cult in Europe has kidnapped Ashley and it is Leon's job to locate her and bring her back safely. The location of the game is simply described as "somewhere in Europe", but due to the fact that a Spanish theme and language is incorporated throughout, I would say that it is a safe bet that it takes place in Spain.

During his quest to rescue Ashley, Leon encounters all sorts of menaces and terrors, mostly the various villagers of the countryside. These villagers are known as Ganados (Spanish for "the herd") who were infected by a parasite known as "Las Plagas" which control the behavior of the host and turn them into a homicidal zombie. The Ganados usually go about their farm chores until Leon shows up and then they attack him brandishing knives, hatchets, sickles, and even dynamite. At one point. Leon comes upon a chainsaw-weilding maniac wearing suspenders and a potato sack over his head. The Ganados are relatively easy to kill with head and heart shots, but the chainsaw-slinger is nearly impossible to bring down. You must make multiple head shots and, if you don't dispatch him quickly, he will promptly dispatch you by beheading you in the most gruesome manner with a fatal swipe of his chainsaw.

Leon loses his head when meeting the Chainsaw Dude

Other creatures that you encounter along the way are Del Lago, a slug-like lake monster who snags the anchor of Leon's boat in one scene and must be destroyed by multiple throws of a wicked-looking harpoon, and El Gigante, a hulking giant that holds a strong resemblance to the cave trolls in Lord of the Rings. El Gigante is a tough cookie to bring down and you're usually trapped inside a fenced or rock-walled compound with him, dodging boulders he rolls or uprooted trees he swings. You can wear him down , however, with grenades and shots from a shotgun or rifle, until an ugly tentacled parasite emerges from his upper back and Leon can jump upon him and slash at the parasite until El Gigante falls dead. This takes alot of hard work and persistance, though, and El Gigante can kill you several times before you learn what it takes to get past this obstacle of the game. Also, when you defeat the zombies and monsters, they usually leave a glow eminating from their "death spot" that contains treasures like gold or ammunition for various weapons. When you kill El Gigante you are rewarded with a fortune in gold bars.

Leon faces the angry El Gigante!

There are some intriguing characters in the game who show up from time to time. One is Mendez, a towering bald village chief in a long overcoat, sporting a fake eye with a blood-red pupil. At one point, Leon must defeat Mendez when he changes into a horrifying mutant that is part scorpion/praying mantis and part human, which reminded me very much like something out of John Carpenter's The Thing. There is also the Merchant, a shady arms dealer who showes up to sell you pistols, rifles, shotguns, and rocket launchers. You can buy these items with gold you have accumilated during the game, or precious gems and jewelry you have come across. There are other characters I haven't encountered yet, like the beretted mercenary Jack Krauser and a mysterious operative in a slinky red dress named Ada Wong, both former acquaintances of Leon.

The Merchant is always a welcome sight... if you have the cash.

I am only halfway through the game now. I've rescued Ashley from imprisonment and am now in the castle, battling giant insects in the sewers and Los Illuminados, evil monks armed with medieval maces, shields, and crossbows firing blazing arrows. My good, friend Alex McVey, is a fan and player of RE 4 and has given me invaluable tips for getting out of some nearly impossible situations, like surviving the hoards of Ganados in the first village scene (run around, avoid getting killed until the church bell rings and all the zombies march inside and lock the door behind them. Then you have the deserted village to yourself and can pass through a locked door into the next level) or dodging the pickup truck careening down the one-lane path to the castle (shoot the driver through the windsheild using the sniper rifle from a distance and allow the truck to crash before proceeding. Then you'd better run like hell toward the drawbridge, cause there's a bunch of angry Ganados in the truckbed ready to do you harm).
When I'm playing Resident Evil, my wife and kids like to sit on the couch and watch it like a movie, cheering me on, chastisting me for screwing up and letting my guard down, or groaning at the more gruesome and gory death scenes. Concentrating on your game is tricky when you are enduring shouts of "You big dummy! You let El Gigante squash Ashley into jelly! (my wife) or "Yeeeeech! That chainsaw dude just cut your head off... again!" (my kids).
I don't want to say that I suffer from an obsession with this game, but I spent a good chunk of last Sunday afternoon trying to defeat a blind gladiator with a parasite growing out of his back and long metal claws that would put Wolverine to shame. When we checked the Wii player's log for the day, I discovered that I'd played for a whopping five hours and a half!

Leon, Ashley, and Ada surrounded by the dastardly Ganados!
If you have an X-Box or Wii, I strongly recommend Resident Evil 4. But a friendly warning -- it's best to tackle it with a steady aim, nerves of steel, and a strong stomach.... especially when giant grasshoppers peel the flesh from your face and your eyeball is dangling by its optic nerve (hmmm, sounds like my recent eye surgery). Resident Evil 5 is already out for X-Box, but the Wii version is yet to be released. In the meantime, I believe this version will keep me busy for quite a while.

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.
* * * *
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?
* * * *
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.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Vintage Cemetery Dance on eBay!

While going through my bookshelves this weekend, I came across some old Cemetery Dance magazines. And, lo and behold, they included alot of the really vintage, ground-breaking stuff... issues #1,2,3,4,5, and 7, among others. And all were in excellent condition. Alot of great fiction in these early issues... stories by Joe R. Lansdale, Bentley Little, David Silva, Steve Vernon, Brian Hodge, and I'm in there, too. So I thought, what the heck, let's put them on eBay and see if we can pay a few bills that are getting a little moldy, they've been lying around so long.

If you're interested you can check them out here:

If they don't sell the first time, I'll be relisting them, to give folks a second chance. This is a great chance to own a piece (or two or three) of horror genre history... the best of the small press magazines at its very beginning.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gravy and Biscuits with a Side Order of Keene

Left to Right: Brian, Ron, Gregg, Katie, Hunter, & Mark

You know, it's funny how some things in life end up surprising you in a big way. How an event you thought would be enjoyable, but minor, turns out to be the highpoint of your entire weekend. This happened last Friday, at the beginning of Hypericon 5.

As some of you may know, Ronald holds an annual breakfast at a Cracker Barrel resturant in Goodletsville, Tennessee the Friday morning before the beginning of the Hypericon festivities. Last year it was limited to a party of two: yours truly and Hunter Goatley, my good friend and webmaster. Others who had planned to attend either got misdirected to another Cracker Barrel or had partied too hearty the previous Thursday night and neglected to rise early enough to join us. I knew we would have at least a couple more attend this year; Katie O'Neill and her beau, Gregg. And Mark Hickerson said he would try to make it this year as well.

As I drove the seventy miles from Brush Creek to Goodletsville, my mind was buzzing with expectations of the convention to come. I mentally mapped out my schedule, which consisted of two book signings, two discussion panels, and a late-night reading. I also considered several fellow writers who I was looking forward to meeting for the first time: Bryan Smith, Maurice Broaddus, and Wrath James White. But there was one Hypericon guest -- the guest of honor, in fact -- who I felt more than a little anxiety at the prospect of meeting.

Brian Keene. The resurrector of zombies and conjurer of conquering worms. A prolific and thoroughly unique horror author who, in my opinion, had been instrumental in stirring up the stagnant pool of horror fiction and bringing it back to vibrant life, for the betterment of both fans and horror writers alike. Sure, I'd corresponded with Brian a couple of times through email: once to ask his advice on motion picture options and another to invite him to contribute to my Somewhere South of Hell anthology (which he readily agreed to). Also, I'd been a guest on the One-On-One thread of his discussion forum. So it wasn't exactly like we were strangers to one another.

But there is always that underlying bit of trepidation and uncertainty when meeting someone face to face, especially someone as respected and famous (or is it infamous?) as Mr. Keene. I mean, most new fans of the genre hold him above Stephen King as the current master of contemporary horror. I remember recieving a shipment of books from Mark Hickerson shortly after the 2006 Hypericon... a box loaded with signed copies of Brian's novels. Books like Terminal, The Conqueror Worms, The Rising, and City of the Dead... all modern classics after the span of only a few short years. And Mark's stories of Brian's convention exploits were even more intimidating. "He's a freaking force of nature!" Mark would tell me and, mentally, I would conjure the imposing figure of a boisterious, hulking form clad in black t-shirt and jeans, and sporting a thunderous Zeus-like voice, stalking the hallways of Hypericon with an adoring entourage of sycophants following closely behind him, like the Israelites following Moses to the Promised Land.

During that long interstate drive Friday morning, I began to wonder how our first meeting would transpire. Would I approach him like some gibbering, doe-eyed fanboy? Or would I encounter him at a reading or panel and be devastated with a lackluster and indifferent response of "Ron? Ron who?"

As it turned out, I was to find out much sooner than I expected.

I turned off Exit 97, fifteen minutes before our agreed-upon breakfast appointment of ten o'clock. Thinking that I had beaten everone there, I drove by the front of Cracker Barrel, searching for a parking place. It was then that I spotted my old pal Mark sitting in one of the high-backed rocking chairs out front. And, occupying the rocker next to him, was someone I didn't recognize at first. Okay... maybe I did recognize him, but it was one of those cases where someone appears where you least expect them to, like Elvis at Burger King. Naw, I thought to myself. That can't be for real.

But, after parking and strolling down the covered porch of Cracker Barrel, I began to realize that it was for real. The guy sitting next to Mark stood up and extended his hand, looking genuinely pleased to see me. It was Brian Keene, in the flesh.

It was then that all my former misconceptions of this master horror author completely flew out the window. This man was very courteous, very laid-back, and very respectful of his company and his surroundings. We sat on the front porch of the restaurant and rocked for awhile, talking while we waited for the arrival of the others. And something took place that really put my mind to ease. In the span of only a few minutes, Brian made me feel like an old and dear friend. I've only met a handful of writers who possessed a similar gift for putting someone completely at ease, Joe R. Lansdale being one of them.

Soon, Hunter, Katie, and Gregg arrived. They too seemed genuinely surprised and delighted with the presence of our unexpected breakfast guest. Mark simply stood back and sported that big ol' satisfied grin of his; the one that says "I never cease to amaze you, do I, Ron?" No, my friend, after all these years, you never do and you probably never will.

It wasn't long before we were inside, feasting on a breakfast of eggs, ham, bacon, pancaskes, and gravy and biscuits. The conversation was intriguing, to say the least. Brian and I talked about the business of writing and shared the opinion that Alex McVey was undoubtedly the finest artist working in the horror genre today. We also talked about our families and discovered that our infant sons are a mere one day apart in age. Our eating came to an end, but our conversation continued, including talk of Katie and Gregg's sight-seeing romp through Tennessee and Alabama, and Hunter's insightful update of Robert McCammon's upcoming novel, Mister Slaughter. As the conversation continued over coffee, I could detect the waitress eyeing us anxiously (wanting to free up our table, no doubt) and neighboring customers studying us uneasily as they overheard the more bizarre and grisly tidbits of the subjects we were discussing. But, then, what should they expect from a bunch of horror writers and fans?

A little after noon, we left Cracker Barrel and headed to downtown Nashville for the Days Inn Stadium and the start of a wonderful weekend of panels, readings, book signings, and just plain hanging out and enjoying each other's company. It felt good to spend time with old friends and get acquainted with new ones. My wife, Joyce, and my children, Reilly, Makenna, and Ryan came down and joined me on Saturday afternoon, and my brother, Kevin, even stopped by on Sunday morning to visit awhile. So not only did I enjoy my horror genre family that weekend, but my true family as well.

Me and Brian at Hypericon 5

One lesson that I learnt this Hypericon weekend was to never judge a book by its cover... especially ones that sport out-stretched zombie hands or massive worms burgeoning from out of the depths of the earth. Brian Keene may be more outspoken than I am, may write fiction that is more outrageous and in-your-face (and socially relevant) than my own brand of Southern-fried horror. But, underneath it all, we're brothers in a very unique way. We share the same blue-collar roots and the same love of family and friends.
And one other thing. We also share the same demented passion for scaring the living crap out of folks. Not that that's a bad thing to be good at... or is it?