Saturday, August 14, 2010

A New Attitude

by Kate Willoughby from the August 16, 2010 issue

Tagline:  Doctor's orders or not, Dan knew he was too set in his ways to change.  And then he met Ginger...

Okay, since this is my story, I can't really review it. I did want to say, I love the tagline, but I wasn't so happy about the title change. I had originally named the story "Old Dogs Can." "A New Attitude" sounds generic to me. I thought my title made more sense, considering the story, but the editors do as they see fit. They know their audience. I'm happy that they published it at all.

It's funny because the whole story came about because I was emailing someone and commented that I had learned something and that apparently you could teach old dogs new tricks. I immediately thought that "Old Dogs Can" would be a great story title. The rest is history. LOL

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jessie's Cowboy

by Mary Ann Joyce from the August 9, 2010 issue

Tagline: Jessie's broken heart needed time to heal--and a trip to a dude ranch appeared to be just what the doctor ordered...

In a Nutshell: Jessie broke up with her fiance and goes to the dude ranch to forget about her troubled love life. She meets a cowboy there, Sam. They connect, but she's reluctant to share much about herself because she's only there for a week. At the airport she is feeling blue, but lo and behold, there's Sam. He'd told Jessie he volunteered at his cousin's dude ranch before, but what he hadn't told her was that he lived in Philly, same as her.

Observations: I loved this story, even better than the one I wrote! Sam is funny...referring to the horse Jessie just mounted...

"His name is Simon," said a cowboy in a plaid shirt as he rode up alongside her. "But I like to call him by his nickname--" he leaned toward Jessie and spoke low, "Demon." Seeing her mouth drop open, he grinned. "Just kidding."

I also liked when he called her "City Girl."

You might notice that often in Woman's World magazine stories, the author will explain the backstory of the main character right at the beginning, but not in this story. Instead, we see Jessie at the dude ranch, meeting the hero right off the bat. It's not until about the midpoint of the story that we find out about her fiance troubles.

Also, I've mentioned before that you can tell one big lie in fiction, but then the rest has to be "the truth," meaning realistic and plausible. In this story, the big lie the author asks us to swallow is that they both happened to live in the same city. The rest of the story was so cute and honest that I was willing to believe it.  Just be careful not to push the reader's ability to suspend their disbelief. For instance, it would be difficult to accept it if, when she returned home to Philadelphia, that Sam not only lived there, but was starting employment at the same company where she worked, or perhaps just bought the house next door to her.

My Favorite Part: When Jessie helps her off the horse. I'm a sucker for romantic gestures like this.

When they returned to the ranch, Sam dismounted first, then put his strong hands on either side of Jessie's waist and helped her to the ground.

Artwork: "Cow Boss" by Lorna Dillon

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Best Birthday Gift

by Beverly Breton Carroll from the July 26, 2010 issue

Tagline: Jennifer usually regretted her tendency to procrastinate--but  not today!

In a Nutshell: Jennifer is trying to mail her twin sister's birthday card but is lacking a stamp. A handsome stranger gives her one. Later, that same stranger is in need of some change while in line to buy a bagel, and Jennifer is there!

Observations: I thought this was a darling story. The characters ring true. His reason for not calling her is valid, and he was very smart to notice her address on the envelope. However, the jump from their first "date" and the epilogue paragraph was abrupt for me:

"...I looked up your number but thought it would make you nervous to hear from me--like I was some kind of stalker."

"You? Stalking me?" If only he knew. "But how did you--"

"Your sister's card. I saw the return address. So tell me, how was your birthday?"

I just celebrated my second post-Jake birthday. We're at the coffee shop, and while I sip my latte, he's stamping the last of our square blue wedding invitations.

I think the story could have benefitted from a phrase like, "Two years later"  to transition the reader. Perhaps the fact that the story is in present tense contributed to this.

Otherwise, it was well-written. I especially liked the circularity of the stamps and envelopes beginning and ending the story.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sarah's Smile

by Diane Burch from the July 12, 2010 issue

Tagline: Trace was shopping for white clover honey, but when he got to the market, he found something even sweeter...

In a Nutshell: Trace Harmon is determined to ask out the girl at the farmer's market. He strikes out time after time, getting interrupted. When he finally gives up after finding out that the girl was only summer help, she shows up on his doorstep to deliver honey. Turns out her grandfather runs the market.

Observations: This was a little unusual in that it begins with the hero already having met the heroine. But I was slightly confused as to the timeline. I coudl not figure out just how many times Trace went to the market.

First paragraph, he's introducing himself with a handshake. :

"Trace Harmon." Thirty and gun-shy after a bad break-up six months prior, he offered his hand to the pretty young woman at the counter in the busy open-air market.

Then, in his thoughts he's recalling the week BEFORE when he gone shopping for clover honey. There's a short scene where he gets the honey. I believe this scene is the FIRST meet. They get interrupted by a pushy customer.

Then, at the bottom of the first column, it says,

All week, the girl with the red hair occupied his mind--only now she had a name. So, the next Saturday he headed for the farm market again.

I think that refers to the SECOND meet, which brings us right back to where we started in that very first paragraph where he introduces himself with the handshake. Right? Wrong. Because here's what happens:

Trace walked over to where she was stacking heads of lettuce. "Hi," he said.

Sarah smiled. "Hi, Trace."

She remembered his name. That was a good sign.

So, when did he give her his name? That very first paragraph, right? Was that first paragraph the first meeting or the second meeting? I hope one of you can explain it to me.

Even with my confusion as to all of Trace's comings and goings, it was a cute story. I did think he was a little lame for not just hanging around until there was a lull, but I gave him points for persistence. It was cute how he got tongue-tied around her, and the ending was sweet.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Moonlight Magic

by Mary L. Briggs from the July 19, 2010 issue

Tagline: Janie had escaped to the pretty seaside inn for rest, relaxation and as it turned out, romance

In a Nutshell: Janie's on vacation. At dinner with the other two guests at the inn she finds out there's a legend that during a full moon a mermaid comes to sit on a rock and sing, and Janie ventures out to see if it's true. So does Joel.

Observations: I thought the premise of this story was oh so romantic. Who doesn't love a ghostly legend of love? As some of you might know, I keep a list of common plots that appear in Woman's World magazine. This story is so unique, it didn't fit into any of those categories.

Unlike the Fourth of July story, we see more personality from these characters, probably because there's a "long" scene where they talk with each other. Then later, when he surprises her at Mermaid's Rock, we see a little more of them. Even though the stories are only 800 words, don't skimp on characterization. It can really make readers feel more while they're reading. If you're going to skimp, pare down your descriptions. Cut out unnecessary actions, like getting into the car and driving somewhere. Just cut to the destination. Your words are better spent on the characters.

I was surprised to see nekkidness in the little inset photo! I guess Real Mermaids go topless. LOL

Artwork: Peter Spataro's Drift Inn Beach