Saturday, July 31, 2010

Women on Writing Interview

Recently WOW-Women on, interviewed me for their syndicated blog, The Muffin. They were intrigued by my blog here. I was flattered and excited, and here's where you can read the interview if you like.

Friday, July 30, 2010

No Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving story I submitted got rejected by Woman's World. Alas. Still waiting to hear from the Trues, though.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Recipe for Love

by B.J. Heinlein from the June 7, 2010 issue (The first of three "long lost posts" that I'm dredging up from the queue. For some reason, I wrote these but never posted them.)

Tagline: Was it possible that Jenny's grandmother and Kirk's grandmother had dreamed of this meeting long ago?

In a Nutshell: Caterer Jenny Cross finds a copy of a cookbook her grandmother loved at a garage sale. Coincidentally, the man holding the sale has fond memories of his own granny involving that book. Inside the book she finds a recipe card for "Honeymoon Cake" and impulsively she bakes one that afternoon and brings it to share with the garage sale guy.

Observations: If you believe what you read in WW, garage sales are a great place to meet people. All you have to do is find something that has sentimental value for you and it will inevitably be special to the person holding the sale, or their relative. (In my own garage sales, I only sell the stuff I have NO sentimental attachment to. Go figure!)

Just make sure you don't inject any negativity in your garage sale story. Don't make it post-nasty-divorce. Don't make anyone cry over the item, unless it's happy tears.

Worth Waiting For

by Mary Ann Joyce from the May 31, 2010 issue (The second of three late posts.)

Tagline: There were things that Maggie wanted to forget about Sean McDougal...but lots more that she couldn't help remembering

In a Nutshell: Maggie runs into Sean in the grocery store. They were once great friends in high school until he married a cheerleader and moved away. A mutual friend sets them up and they rekindle their feelings for each other.

Observations: This story is a clear example of the three act structure. First act: Maggie tells a girlfriend (the matchmaker, it turns out) about the chance encounter. In that conversation, we get some info about the heroine: she owns a small shop, she's not a good cook, she works out. We get some info about the hero: he's recently divorced, is a high school teacher.

Act two: We see the heroine's thoughts, getting the history of their relationship in high school--Drama Club, after which the guy meets the cheerleader whom he marries and eventually divorces.

Act three: A few days later he calls her. He never forgot her and wants to take her to a party the matchmaker is throwing.

This kind of story can touch a chord in readers. Doesn't everyone have a person they longed for in their youth who spurned them? Wouldn't it be terrific if that person came back and admitted that they were stupid for letting you slip through their fingers? Yeah. Me too!

The only thing this story was missing was a black moment, but Woman's World doesn't seem to care about that.

In The Clouds

by Pegi Hickerson from the May 17, 2010 issue (The third of three posts I wrote but never published.)

Tagline: James hadn't thought of Kate for years. Seeing her again, he wondered how he'd ever forgotten her...

In a Nutshell: On her way to her high school reunion, Kate is nervous about flying. The man sitting next to her was her was her math tutor in high school. After reconnecting with him on the flight, she agrees to be his date for the reunion.

Observations: There are many "formulas" to be found in WW stories and this is one of them. Two people share a history and meet up again by accident. Usually, one of them had a crush on the other. Often the person with the crush was "undesirable" in some way, like they were geeky or the unpopular sibling.

I liked James' personality. He was cute when he said, "Please don't use the word 'bloomed' for a guy."

I thought it a tad strange that Kate didn't more easily remember a boy who had tutored her.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Perfect Fourth of July

by Joel Hisaw from the July 5, 2010 issue

Tagline: Amy's matchmaking efforts on her little brother's behalf had always fizzled. But this time? Fireworks!

In A Nutshell: Will goes to the family Fourth of July picnic dreading it because his sister is up to her usual matchmaking shenanigans. He notices and admires his cousin John's new girlfriend. Turns out she's not. She's the girl his sister wanted to hook him up with.

Opinions: This is the first story I've seen from Joel Hisaw. The matchmaking/mistaken identity plot is very familiar, but set against a Fourth of July backdrop. Will is likable, real. I'd certainly go out with him if I weren't married. I like the picture Hisaw painted with Kristin's dress--romantic and feminine, but still from a guy's POV.

However, there were a few rough edges. First, a little redundancy.

It was hotter than the Fourth of July...

and three sentences later

It was hotter than blazes...

Then, out of context these statements seem contradictory, but that wasn't my point. I was just pointing out the use of the words time to meet twice so close together.

At 28, he had plenty of time to meet the right woman.

and three sentences later:

He never seemed to have the time to get out and meet anyone.

These are minor glitches that you may want to keep an eye out for in your own stories. Having someone else beta read for you can help a lot.

I also found the ending to be abrupt. First, they're about to go sip lemonade together, and then, boom, it's three hours later and he's thanking his sister for setting him up. We never really see Will and Kristin connect. He liked how she looked. They're both computer geeks, but other than that, their conversation happened off stage, which I think robbed the story of the emotion we all expect from romance stories.

My Favorite Part: When Will greets his cousins, it's very realisitc and cute. Made me say "awww."

"Hey, it's the brats!" he teased. They grabbed hold of their uncle's biceps and he swung them around.

I want me an uncle like that! (Of course, he'd have to be the Incredible Hulk, because I'm not as svelte as I'd like.)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Sweet Surprise

by Susan C. Hall from the June 28, 2010 issue

Tagline: Gretchen had no trouble guessing the identity of her not-so-secret admirer

In a Nutshell: Gretchen owns a flower shop. A male customer ponders how her boyfriend could surprise her, since flowers are obviously out, and remembers a TV show where a guy gave his girl a puppy with a bow around its neck. Later in the day, a box shows up. It's a stuffed dog, complete with a bow. Guess who brought it!

Observations: I thought both the author and the heroine were clever in revealing and finding out the hero's name--via the credit card.

Did you catch the foreshadowing of what the hero is going to do later in the story? If you're a regular of this blog and read the Woman's World stories weekly, you may have. It's not that hard because the stories are only 800 words long. The authors can't exactly slip it in unnoticed amongst the other eighty thousand plus words. Still, it's a necessary tool.

I do have to admit, I wondered if he was going to be ridiculous and give her a real puppy. You can't give someone a live animal without being sure they want and can take care of it. Hall took care of that little worry by making it a stuffed dog. Smart!

There was a bit of a black moment--when the man apparently flees the store--but it happens in the middle of the story and not toward the end as you usually find in fiction.

For those of you who track this sort of thing, this is the second story set in a flower show or with a florist that I've seen in the past few months. So, don't worry if you write a story that's mildly similar to one that has just been published. Apparently it doesn't matter that much.

My Favorite Part: When the hero asks Gretchen out for dinner, Molly, the friend/employee answers for her! I liked Molly.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Road to Love

by Vienna Mars from the June 21, 2010 issue

Tagline: When Shellie stepped into the sunshine, a world of romantic possibilities opened before her...

In A Nutshell: Tired of working out in a gym, Shellie decides to get a bike. Ben, the bike store owner, is reputed to be "impatient with newbies," but Shellie thinks he's nice and agrees to join him on the beginner's ride. Later she finds out this is a new program he just started, for the two of them.

Observations: Act one opens with action (Shellie working out) which is a good way to engage the reader right off the bat. We meet her at a time of crisis during which she decides to make a life change. Act two, she meets Ben and likes him. Then, in the middle of their conversation, we get the backstory. She came home to take care of her late mother. This is a common plot--a son or daughter returning to their home town. Often they end up together with someone they knew from their past. This time, Shellie meets someone new.

Third act, the climax of the story, is a near collision between Shellie and her friend, who acts as the device through which we find out that the Saturday beginner's ride is brand new. I liked this little surprise twist at the end. That rascal Ben...he's a crafty guy. I never saw this coming, but then again, the writer couldn't really foreshadow this.

Artwork is "Bicycle Shop" by Ginger Cook.