Archive for the ‘Words Words Words’ Category

My recent collab is available … and reviewed!

Shock Totem - Issue 2 I collaborated on the short story, “Messages from Valerie Polichar” (my first collaboration, ever.) It just came out in Shock Totem Magazine. (This is also the first time my name’s been put on the cover!)

There’s some great stories in the issue. You can pick one up on Amazon.

It’s already been reviewed on a blog. Robert J. Duperre had this to say about our story:

Messages from Valerie Polichar by Grá Linnaea and Sarah Dunn – This, for a while, was my least favorite story. The inclusion of technology and technological terms in a work of fiction has a tendency to turn me off because it can date the tale horribly. However, this one, by the end, I grew to appreciate, and it became my second-favorite. It’s the story of a woman who obsesses with the dead and Facebook. Sound like an odd plot? It is. And it works.

Heh. I’m starting to get used to that. Reviewers seem to hate my stuff at first and then … i dunno, it infects their brain or something.

Thanks for the review, Robert!

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Whew. So much to do these days. My writing got scuttled by some ridiculous drama back home, but i’m slowly picking it up again. I still need to write about Istanbul and Sydney and and and … Whew.

Anyway, my browser is getting clogged again. Here are tabs i’ve been holding open:

Picking up a story i thought about a while ago, but never wrote, i have a ton of historical tabs open including Google Timeline, The Victorian era, The Inquisition, Spanish Nationalism,
Falange, The Spanish Civil War, Golems, The history of Jews in Spain,
Specifically Sephardic Jews and Marrano. Some key people in that time period are Daniel Mendoza, David Ricardo, Benjamin Disraeli, Sabato Morais, Emma Lazarus, Benjamin N. Cardozo, David de Sola Pool and Basil Henriques. Also the Portuguese Inquisition. I think this map will be useful and this article about The Nemesis for said story. I mix all this together and i get … who knows?

Whew. If the story comes together the way i’m hoping, it’s going to be killer.

I’ve been absolutely stunned with The Rsa. Amongst other amazing projects, the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts has a series of animations on cool philosophical insights. It’s like … but with cartoons!

Arg. I was going to go see Neil perform with Four Play, but sadly i’ll have to leave Australia before then.

I went through the long process of taking my netbook apart, so i could replace the screen, but discovered that my replacement LCD had the wrong cable form factor. Arg!

I’m extremely geeked about this project to crowd-source investments to fund projects.

Still futzing with the Virtualbox XP instillation on my Ubuntu laptop. I’m reading an article on how to make it more seamless.

Cat Rambo referenced this story by Barth Anderson, so i want to read it in the next few days.

I’m facinated with this low budget sci-fi thriller called “Monsters” by Gareth Edwards.

My God, this guy is my hero. The Khan Academy is one amazing dedicated guy who has posted over 1500 ten minute videos on mathematics, physics, biology, etc. His lessons are funny, direct and awesome.

This stuff is a little cheesy, but i’ve occasionally been looking at posts on The Happiness Project.

And of course, i’ve started following The Fiction-Writing Directorate again. They have an easy-to-follow method to get you writing. Write … OR ELSE!

Speaking of which, i should get back to it. Clarion Write-a-thon, ho!

Clarion Write-a-Thon

On the morning of the 27th i, and 53 other writers will walk many miles … in literary terms … *ahem* write many miles …

lemme start over …


Clarion changed my life. It’s one of the best spec writing workshops in the world, has been running for over forty years, and has opened more doors in my writing and my career than i thought imaginable.

Clarion needs financial support and i, and a host of other writers, are trying to help.

Help Me Help Clarion!

Here’s how:

Write-a-thon WriterMy plan is to raise $4900 for Clarion this year. If you and i can raise that much, we’ll send one talented writer to Clarion. I received a scholarship my year and that, combined with incredible generosity from my community in Eugene, was the only way i was able to go.

So, $4900 … whew! Tell you what, here’s two ways to help:

One: You can just donate to Clarion straight away.

Two: Or let’s do it walk-a-thon style. I’m looking for folks to sponsor me at pro rates, 7 cents a word. Pledge 7 cents a word up to a certain amount. If enough people sign on and *ahem* if i get 70,000 words in the 6 weeks of Clarion, we’ll raise enough to help someone like i was helped.


Ready? Ok, pick a dollar amount and pledge it to Clarion, either post it in comments, email me or send me a Facebook email.

I’ll tabulate the donation amount and write my ass off. At the end of 6 weeks, you’ll go to the Clarion Donation Page and make yer donation. Everybody wins!

You can even sponsor a specific work! I’ll write a number of short stories these 6 weeks and part of a novel. Some of the shorts will be flash, between 500 and 2000 words (at $0.07 a word, that’s a $35 to $100 pledge) and other’s will be normal short story length, between 2000 and 6500 words (at $0.07 a word, that’s a $140 to $450 pledge.)

Buy a story, just like a real editor!

Just write me and say something like, “I want to pledge for a short story of up to 4000 words” or whatever. While i’m working on your story, i’ll be sure to blog about it and you.

Here’s the general Write-a-Thon page.

So, what are you waiting for?


A word on cover letters

Cover letters. Some markets require them, some ask that you include specific information, some don’t want to see them at all.

At Shimmer Magazine, we like ’em. They’re a nice little wave from the author. “Hi, here’s a story. Thanks!”

A bad cover letter isn’t the end of the world, but when I open new slush for Shimmer, a lack of cover letter (or a cutesy one) makes me go, “Uh oh, better strap myself in for this story.”

Sometimes I’m wrong, it turns out to be a great story anyway, but usually not. Sure, a good cover letter doesn’t make your story any better and a bad one doesn’t make it worse, but don’t you want us to go into your story feeling confidence in you? A professional cover letter means you take your writing seriously — think about the impression you want to send.

So, for your perusal, I offer my very biased take on cover letters. Your mileage may vary. (Though I will say that these tips are probably useful when you’re sending a letter to Shimmer.)

Basic letter

First off, read the guidelines …

Lemme say that again. READ THE GUIDELINES.

Each market asks for specific information and formatting and it’s a red flag when you don’t follow the rules. You don’t want a mark against you before we even get to your story.

That said, here’s what I think is a generic, basic, bare minimum cover letter:

Dear Editor,

Please consider my 1000 word short story, “Monkeys Really Are That Awesome,” for publication in Shimmer Magazine. My story is attached in RTF format.

Thank you for your consideration,

Writy McWriterson

Boom! That’s it. You’ve told me you’ve sent a story. I have the name and wordcount and I get to feel like you care that a human being is about to read your story. Most importantly, I don’t have that “uh oh” feeling.

There are many different variations of this letter and some reasonable things to add. For example, personally I send:

Beth Wodzinski, Editor <------ Look this up on or most markets have staff pages.

Shimmer Magazine
PO Box 58591
Salt Lake City, UT

Dear Beth, <------ Some people use the full name, I think it's ok to just use the first name.

Please consider this original 3100 word fantasy short, “Monkeys Will Buy Your Brain For One Million Dollars,” for publication in Shimmer, attached in RTF format.

I’m an associate editor at Shimmer and also facilitate the Wordos writing workshop. I’ve recently won the Whidbey’s Writers Award and Writers of the Future and attended the Clarion Workshop. My fiction can be found in Shock Totem and Doorways magazine & the Escape Clause anthology.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Grá Linnaea
XXX Smith st.
Smallville, KS 12345
(987) 654-3210

This is very subjective and your mileage may seriously vary. I don’t say this is the *right* way to do a cover letter, but it has worked okay for me. That’s it, no magic. No rocket science, just the basic information. If a market doesn’t want to see a bio or my sales, I leave them off.

Unfortunately, in my job as a slush reader, I often see more *ahem* creative uses of the cover letter. Here are what I see as some common mistakes:

1.) “Dear Sir”

When I send out my own stuff I usually go to and look up the editor’s name(s). It just seems polite. It’s certainly not the end of the world to get a “Dear Editor” letter though. No big deal either way.

What is a problem is the “Dear Sirs” letter. For example, the Shimmer staff are mostly women. Even though I’m one of the few dudes, it really pisses me off when we get a “Dear Sirs” cover letter. Why are you assuming the staff is male? If you’re not going to look up who edits our magazine (Beth Wodzinski, btw), at least use the non-gender specific opening.

2.) Don’t be cute

Hey chums,

This is your new best buddy. I beam this fiction-unit to you from the planet Pluto where all the best fiction grows. Shimmer is the best magazine ever! Buy this story or I’ll burn out your brain with a laser drill.

Galaxford The Mighty

Somewhere out there is an evil “how to get published” book that apparently lots of people read. It implores you to GET NOTICED. Be funny! Be cute! Remind the editor how much you love their magazine and try to form a relationship with them! How can you sell your story if the editor doesn’t notice you, right?


You don’t want me to notice you because I find your letter annoying. I’m going to read your story, no matter what. Help me stay in a good mood before I read it.

3.) Drop the hype. Don’t cajole, beg, apologize, etc …

Sorry you didn’t like my last story. I only wrote it in half an hour. You probably won’t like this one either.

I think there’s this idea that if you apologize for your work before I read it, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. No dice. Again I think, “uh oh” and open your story with trepidation.

This may be only personal to me, but I’m not a big fan of “Sorry you didn’t like my last story, maybe you’ll like this one better.” It’s nothing personal, dude, we didn’t accept your last story, we might not choose this one, we’re picky. Your cover letter is not going to guilt us into buying something. Better to just send the stories one by one and see if something hits.

Same for cover letters that tell me how much I’m going to LOVE your story. Let your work speak for itself. Don’t tell me how amazing-super-great-awesome your story is and how I’m going to faint when I see it.

No offense, but you’re unqualified to say whether I’m going to like your story or not. Just send it to me. I’ll let you know what I think.

4.) Don’t summarize your story

“Magic Monkeys Of Utah,” is a fun tale of merriment and woe where a lone monkey is able to overcome great adversity to save the woman he loves. It draws from the mythic tale of Perseus in that …

Arg! I don’t want to know! I’m about to find out when I READ YOUR STORY.

Repeat after me: The short story market is not the same as the novel market.

When you submit a novel, yes, they want a summary of your book, but, with very few exceptions, short story markets don’t want summaries. Save yourself the work and show the editor that you are familiar with the process.

5.) Don’t pad your sales, don’t lie and leave your mom out of this.

Seriously, we’re a magazine. We know pretty much every other magazine out there. When I open a letter and see a list of eight magazine’s I’ve never heard of, my first thought is, “did they make these up?” We’re not trying to be mean, but we don’t care if your mom (or your college journal or a zine you yourself started) bought one of your stories. The only reason we want to see your previous sales is because we might see one that prints stories similar to us. And for God’s sake, DON’T LIE. I won’t say I catch everyone who lies about their sales, but there are certain writers who will never make a sale with us now.

Personally, I think it’s standard to list only three markets. Three. I don’t need to (and won’t) read your list of 50 sales. Tell me the best three, or the most recent three and let me get to your story.

If you don’t have any sales, no big deal. I’m going to read your story anyway, remember? If your cover letter is professional, then I’m going to go into your story with a fuzzy warm feeling in my heart.

6.) But DO use a cover letter

Should you just skip the whole cover letter thing and let me just get to your @!#$%& story? Well, it’s true some markets say explicitly they don’t need or want them. But unless they say that, assume we’d at least like the basic kind above. Here at Shimmer, it feels a little rude when you send a blank email with a story attached to it. We give a lot of personal comments on stories, but we generally don’t bother with folks who send us the blank emails. Sure, don’t be cute, but at least drop us a note.

Good luck!

Another review of “Life In Steam”

Frank Dutkiewicz of Diabolical Plots reviews the 25th annual Writers of the Future anthology and offers some pleasing words and reasonable critique of my story, “Life In Steam.”


Life of Steam by Gra Linnaea. Third place second quarter

Mendel is an Inquisitor for the Dominican Order. His job is to determine if the Babbage machines of competing planets are just simple computation tools or abominations to god’s creation. The planet Wood has one that far exceeds the churches rules. Mendel is conflicted. Fulfilling the Dominicans directive means ending a miracle of life.

A universe where planets are flat islands of rock embedded in the firmament of the sphere of heaven? Spiderships powered by steam? An orthodox religion that holds sway over entire worlds? Life of Steam is as an original concept that I have [n]ever read. I love this author’s imagination and the incorporation of a sci-fi element into such a fantastic fantasy.

I liked this MC and the dilemma that he is confronted with. A previous conflict in his past boosted this story up a notch for me. The ending and resolution came off as a predictable and a bit flat, however. I don’t know why but somehow it felt as if this story deserved more. High marks on originality.

Grade A-


Read the full review here.