Ed at Eleven

Ed at Eleven is my comic horror anti-romance about a girl who leaves her cult to pursue a relationship with a local news anchor. Things get bloody from there.

It’s been kicked about and reworked in a number of ways since the summer of 1999, when I wrote an initial screenplay version in eight days. In 2010, I wrote the first draft of its current incarnation as a NaNoWriMo novel.

It took me a few years to really figure out how to edit a novel. The first revision to the book was hard as hell. But I kept hacking at the weeds, until the book swelled from just over 50,000 words to just over 80,000. Then I revised again. And again. And then I read through it and fixed some typos and errors.

This weekend, I started another huge push on the novel, trying to turn scenes that are “ok” into scenes that are “pretty great.” It’s a fun place to be.

So … I’m sorry if you haven’t heard from me in real life. I’ve been in the dark woods, tearing my hair out and such.

One more week of edits, and then it’s going out the door.

No point keeping a novel in the cave forever when it could be out there getting rejections. But even if a book is rejected, at least it’ll be getting read. 😉

I’ll be announcing some good news shortly (pretty much as soon as I can provide a link for it), but in the meantime I thought I’d post again with some thoughts on how things have been going this summer.

I’ve been writing. Actually, I’ve been re-writing. It started with Daukherville, but that mountain still seems steep to me. Ed at Eleven has reclaimed my attention, and for once the editing is going well. I’d love to have a draft finished by October, and it looks like it might actually happen.

Most importantly, it would be a real second draft, rather than yet another first draft. Have I learned how to edit? Has dedicating myself to shorter fiction served the purpose I’d hoped it would? Could be.

In the meantime, while I’ve fallen off my target of twelve stories in twelve months (I’ve hit four in six so far, so there’s still hope for catch-up), I still have three of the pieces out in the wind, awaiting rejection.

“Sprachlos” (a detective story involving literary forensics) has made it past the first readers at Cemetery Dancewhich is delightful news in and of itself. I continue to wait for the form rejection, but Brian James Freeman, the managing editor of all things Cemetery Dance-related, has told us that anything rejected from this point on will have been seen by all the editors. Holy fuckballs, Batman. For me, Cemetery Dance is nothing short of a pie-in-the-sky market that I’ve dreamed of seeing a story in for decades. That I’ve made it this far really and truly is an honor.

“Seal” (about a nice day on a lake) has been submitted to Ellen Datlow’s Kickstarter-funded anthology Fearful Symmetries. As of their last update, 20% of the stories have been rejected, 4% have been kicked up to Ellen Datlow herself, and 50% have at least been read. The editors have stated that they plan to have all responses sent out by the end of August.

Finally, I submitted my most recent story, “The Broker,” based on an idea Amanda gave me about two ne’er-do-wells and their real estate broker, to Midnight Echowhich could be considered the Australian equivalent to Cemetery Dance, for their ghost-themed issue #10.

All three were written this year, and I believe in them all. Whether the markets above take them or not, I have a lot of hope that I can sell these pieces and step away from the lead balloon of my self-publishing efforts.

In other news, I’ve also collaborated with a talented filmmaker, Brian Lillie, on a screenplay for a short film that we submitted to this year’s Shriekfest.

As far as reviews of books go, you might have noticed a drop-off in frequency (i.e., that they’ve pretty much stopped altogether). I’ve made the decision that to do them (and do them as I was, with no fear of posting negative reviews) is no longer professionally acceptable. I will still post a review if I read something I truly love, or if something is the work of an old master, no longer publishing, but my negative thoughts I will now keep to myself (and immediate friends, who no doubt will hear all my rants).

Also, I’ve been reading a ton of short stories from a lot of writers I like, but I haven’t been able to claim that I’ve finished many collections or anthologies or even magazines, as I tend to skip around like a madman. (Mandler asks: Do madmen skip around? I say: Ah, go fuck yourself.) I’m seeking out a lot of great voices that are new to me, and I’ve found a few (Sarah Langan, David Nickle, Laird Barron, Livia Llewellyn, Helen Marshall, and Nathan Ballingrud to name a few of my new favorites from the last year and a half or so), but I’m pretty much in the middle of all their books. I never desired to speed read, and I never made the effort to learn, so I still read rather embarrassingly slowly, probably just slightly faster than someone reading it aloud. Maybe that makes me a bit of a numbskull, but hey–I like sticking close to the words. I see little reason to rush through sentences.

So that’s where things stand. I’ll update as the rejections make their way in, but for now it looks like the waiting game is the game for me.

The waiting game … and the writing game.

I promised myself last year that I would never let the total number of rejections catch up to my number of submissions.

It’s a promise I’ve kept ever since.

Call it progress.

Another piece I wanted to share. This is another collaboration between myself and Mr. Gerry. As I edit the novel based on the score based on the screenplay, I continually return to this piece for guidance. Rob did a great job, and this music has put me back on the right track with Ed more than once.

From Rob’s program notes:

Ed at Eleven: Suite from the score for the motion picture (2010)–commissioned by Adam Gallant for the UNH Brass Quintet

This piece began in 1999 when Kristopher Kelly, myself, and coworker Keith Leonard decided to come up with a movie story instead of calling strangers to ask them about their cable service. Kris wrote a screenplay, but the story has evolved since (soon to be a novella, Kris?). The casting of the young, quirky, yet mainstream leading lady has changed with the times; Christopher Walken is still the obvious villain. Rob Gerry plays the hero, as he is more dashing than ever. Here’s some promo copy to whet your appetite:

Ed at Eleven (synopsis by Kris, summer 2010)
Ed (Rob Gerry), a news anchor with the secret ability to push his eyeballs out of their sockets, discovers he is happiest when sneaking into places no one wants to go. He stuffs himself in his own oven. He breaks into his dentist’s office and sits in the operating chair. He crawls into a coffin buried for centuries and sleeps with the dead. A young camera operator, known only as the Girl of Smiles (played simultaneously by Ellen Paige, Thora Birch, and Christina Ricci), begins stalking and soon falls for this local man of mystery. She’s on the run from entrepreneur, social gadfly, and self-help leader, Imayen Fosurat (Christopher Walken), who believes the key to happiness is not having any choices. When Imayen discovers the Girl of Smiles’ secret love, he hatches a plan to destroy Ed. As Ed prepares for his biggest job ever–breaking into an abandoned prison to spend an evening in an electric chair–the Girl of Smiles must face her inhibitions, reveal her secret love, and prevent Imayen from turning Ed’s dreams into a deadly trap. (96 mins. Rated R for bloody violence, strong sexual content, and language.)

So that’s the story. The music is a collection of tunes and themes that had been sitting around for a long time. Some of them were written with the score in mind, others were not. But I think I’ve found logical, pleasing places in the sequence for these other tunes, and writing effective transitions was a fun challenge.

One musical element I’d like to point out is the “Ed at Eleven” motto or theme: E-D-A-B. E, D, A are obvious enough; the B comes from the set-theory protocol of labelling B as 11. This theme occurs throughout the piece, both melodically and harmonically, literally and in transposed forms (the evening news fanfare uses just these four pitch-classes). The following is a series of possible scenes that could correspond with the music I’ve chosen.

-Overture/Ed’s Theme (Ed in oven–cut from bulging eyes close-up to Ed in anchor chair)
-11 o’clock With Ed (evening news cliché cue)
-Daydream 1 (Ed’s mind drifts during a report)
-Commercial Break: Fosurat’s Mango Salsa (mariachi music)
-Daydream 2/The Girl at Home (The Girl remembers dancing while watching Ed on TiVo–her music blends with the commercial music; commercial ends)
-Our Man (Alone) On the Street
-Club IF (Ed gets jumped OR Imayen plots with henchmen)
-Daydream 3/Ed Gets the Girl (Ed gets out of trouble. Don’t ask me how. But it’s a happy ending.)