“Leave Me the Way I Was Found” Commentary

I ended up writing eleven euphictions for Cover Stories. The eleventh one that didn’t make the anthology was “Leave Me the Way I was Found”. I was crazy excited about this story for a lot of reasons. And though I knew it had a perfectly good home in Cover Stories, I really believed I could sell it and finally retire.

I sent the piece to two different places, the first being Pseudopod. Ever since I discovered Pseudopod (I believe through Wil Wheaton’s site), I’ve wanted to have one of my stories on their podcast. A month after I sent them the piece, they rejected it. However, it was the kind of rejection letter writers wish they received all of the time. The response did the usual thank yous, but then went on to constructively explain their problems with the story. They had two major concerns: 1) the story would probably work better on the page rather than a podcast, and 2) the ending.

The second place I sent the piece to was Shock Totem. I found out about the magazine through GUD‘s Kaolin Fire’s Twitter feed. After a read I review of their first issue, I decided to send them the story. Shock Totem responded five weeks later and wanted to buy the piece under one condition: fix the ending.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that if someone has an issue with a story I’ve written, I can take it or leave it. But if two or more people point out the same thing, then there’s more than likely a problem that needs to be addressed. So when two different publishers told me they had a problem with the ending of “Leave Me the Way I was Found”, I knew it was true, whether I saw it or not.

Shock Totem’s solution to the ending was simple, and that was to remove the final line of the story. And amazingly enough, it made the story a hundred times better. Not only did it take care of the ambiguous ending, the new final line made the story even more frightening. That’s 10 Bonus Points to the editors at Shock Totem.

Shock Totem has a section at the end of the magazine called “Howling Through the Keyhole” where the writers can talk a little bit about the stories in the issue. This is what I wrote for them:

“Leave Me the Way I Was Found” was one of those stories that came together fairly quickly. Before it was accepted by Shock Totem, the story was written to be included in Cover Stories: A Euphictional Anthology, a book I’ve been putting together with nine other writers for a 2010 release. Euphiction is when you take a song, use the song title or a song lyric as the title of your story, and then create a fictional “cover” in less than 1000 words. For the project, I chose ten (now eleven) songs from the Walkmen’s You & Me, and “Leave Me the Way I Was Found” is a lyric from the song “Long Time Ahead of Us”. Speaking of, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Gigantic Music for allowing me permission to use the Walkmen’s music for this project.

I’ve always had a fascination with H.P. Lovecraft, especially his more unnamable creations; the things the brain is simply unable to process without jeopardizing its very sanity. With that in mind, I considered the possibility of a Lovecraftian horror and how if such a thing existed today, it would inevitably go viral. And “Leave Me the Way I Was Found” considers what happens next.

Writing the story as if it were an academic article was just another way to keep the reader distant from the horror, because as Lovecraft understood so clearly, there’s no way to do it justice unless you keep it just out of sight. This is one of those details I love about Lovecraft, where he’ll spend paragraphs describing walls and bookshelves, but when it comes to the creatures, he dismisses them with words like indescribable. Anyway, this is my attempt at telling a Lovecraft story by way of being inspired by a song lyric, a piece I’m extremely proud of.

This story is dedicated to my father, who was wonderful enough to read me Lovecraft stories for bedtime when I was a child.

Interested? Then purchase your copy of Shock Totem today. And if you like that story, remember there’s a hundred more just like that one – most of them even better – in Cover Stories.