Always Demand the Galleys

I received the latest issue of Sycamore Review today and was quite upset to discover that my story (along with most of the others in the issue) had the last pages cut off. Many end abruptly in mid-sentence. It’s a clear layout mistake. I can’t imagine how the editors let the issue go out looking like that, but they did, so now one of my favorite stories has essentially been squandered, as you can’t just resubmit a published story to other lit mags. They didn’t even bother to alert me to the fact that there was a problem, nor did they apologize for the errors. I wonder if they even noticed.

I’m so angry about this, I’m having to restrain myself from throwing the issue in the recycling bin.

Usually, lit mags will send the authors galleys, which are .pdf proofs of the issue before it gets printed. This allows the authors to approve any changes the editors may have made and make sure formatting errors don’t pop up. I remember the first story I published in a lit mag was fine, but the justified layout caused some strangely-placed hyphens at the ends of some lines. I circled them, sent them back to the editor, and they took care of it. Any mistakes that might have been left in the story would be entirely my fault. Sycamore Review didn’t bother to send out galleys, and since it took nearly a year from acceptance to publication, I didn’t press the issue. My mistake. I’m not even sure their editors received galleys. If they did, either they’re incompetent or the printer made an error. If it’s the latter, perhaps they’ll reprint the issue and send corrected copies to their subscribers. Somehow I doubt it.

Anyway, if you happened to read the story in Sycamore Review and just can’t wait to find out how it ends, I’ve pasted the last page below. I’ve also put the full text of the story in the Short Stories section of this site in case you’d like to read the whole thing. (Usually, I don’t do that with stories since, in most cases, I believe I should be supporting the mags that are nice enough to publish me with an excerpt and a link to buy the issue. But in this case, fuck ’em.)

I was really proud of this story. Shame….

The end of Spawn of Doctor Macabre [spoiler alert]:

An hour later, I found myself parked outside of Brianne’s house. Dasha would probably call it the last straw if she woke up and found me gone, but that’s a risk I was quite comfortable taking. I had to know that Kaitlyn was ok. The moon floated above the treetops, nearly full, so I scurried around back before someone saw me creeping about. The kitchen window was closed but unlatched, and slid right open. I climbed through as quietly as I could.

I padded past Brianne’s room. Her door was closed, but I could hear her clock radio serenading her—she always liked to fall asleep to the classic rock station. Kaitlyn’s door was open and she slept quietly, spooning her pillow like it was a stuffed animal. She had kicked off the covers, and I could see she was still wearing her horrorshow get-up. Her hair was flattened by the pillow and the shredded shawl served as a blanket around her shoulders. She looked at peace, though, a slight smile on her slumbering face. I wondered if she and her mother might have settled in for a long, tearful heart-to-heart, full of unrealistic optimism and promises they’d never keep.

I set the box of videos at the foot of the bed, then stood looming over her, watching her sleep. Only for a minute. I imagined her waking up in the morning and finding the videos, stashing them in the back of her closet under piles of neglected toys, returning to them like a hidden cache of candy when Brianne was out of the house, obsessing about them like I had. Maybe it wasn’t just a phase. Maybe these movies would get her through the worst of whatever future nightmares lurked in the shadows. Perhaps she’d treasure these so much that someday, once I was long gone, she’d conjure up another revival as the next Doctor Macabre, just like me. She stirred but didn’t wake, and I knew I should stop pressing my luck and get out of there. But I couldn’t help myself. I was pretending again. Always pretending.

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