Friday, June 29, 2012

Alas, Another Rejection

The day I got back from vacation, I found a rejection from Johnene in the pile of mail. Big sigh. I wasn't surprised about this one. It wasn't one of my better stories, but I'd written it and all I risked was postage and some paper.

I did send two out, though, so I'm crossing my fingers on those. One is for Valentine's Day and one is aimed for the Chinese horoscope issue. Like I said in my cover letter on that one, I've never seen a Chinese horoscope themed romance story, so I hope this will fit the bill! I know my mom would really appreciate seeing a story celebrating our heritage.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Good Samaritan

by Katherine Baker from the June 18, 2012 issue

Tagline: Karen was sorry she would never get to know the handsome stranger who'd pulled over to help her. Boy, was she in for a surprise!

In a Nutshell: Karen gets a flat on the way to an important meeting. She works for a literacy foundation and is hoping for a generous donation. A man helps her change her tire. Turns out he's the guy she was rushing to meet. She gets both the donation and a date for lunch.

Observations: It's been a while since I saw a story with car trouble. Although flat tires occur often in Woman's World stories, I wasn't rolling my eyes at this one. I think part of it was Karen's personality, which is spunky. She tries changing the tire herself--something I'd never do. (That's why I belong to AAA!) Also, when the man pulls over to help her out and she realizes how handsome he is, she thinks to herself:

     Well, hello there, Mr. Good Samaritan!

That made me smile.

Another thing I wanted to talk about was the fact that Mike made a point of telling her the check had been made out the day before and that he'd already decided to donate to her foundation. That was an important plot point, because otherwise, that business would have "mixed" with their personal interest in each other, causing a conflict of interest. That was a smart move on the author's part to make their romance run more smoothly. Perhaps if this had been longer story, or even a novel, that conflict could have been milked, but with only 800 words, it's better to not cause the conflict in the first place. :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Little Voice

by Nell Musolf from the June 11, 2012 issue

Tagline: Samantha had learned to pay attention to her intuition. And right now it was telling her to pay attention to Randy!

In a Nutshell: Samantha is a lonely divorcee. While shopping for a frozen diet meal she bumps into a guy she knew in high school. They're both divorced and planning to eat alone. That plan changes.

Observations: I liked how the author took the internal monologue that most of us use when we're deep in a character's point of view, and sort of made it it's own character. I thought that little voice also acted as the vehicle for Samantha's character growth. I had thought that the little voice was only giving her advice at the beginning of the story and that she had "matured" past needing that by the end, but that wasn't the case. The little voice suggested that she ask him to dinner. Oh well, that would have been cool. :) I always like to see character growth in a story, even when it's only 800 words long.

I also wanted to point out the "heroic behavior," something that I think is always a plus in a Woman's World romance. Samantha finds out he had a crush on her in high school...

     "A crush on me? You sure never showed it."
     "Why would I? You were already taken."

Boom. A gentleman, obviously. At that point, I find myself talking to Samantha. "Grab this guy and don't let him go."

And she doesn't! :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Never Too Late

by Anna Jo Christopher from the June 4, 2012 issue

Tagline: Betty was surprised to realize that she was suddenly seeing her next-door neighbor Hal in a whole new light...

In a Nutshell: Betty and Hal are long time neighbors. Hal needs a partner for a dance class he enrolled in. He says he wants to learn to dance to impress a friend he met at the senior center. After the class is over, he admits he made up the friend. Betty is glad.

Observations: One of the cool things about Woman's World magazine is that they publish romance stories about elderly people. This was one of those stories. Remember when writing these, acknowledge the age of the characters, but portray them as vital and active. One line that I thought accomplished this in a humorous way was this one:

     I stare at him. "Dance class? At your age?"
     He looks offended. "Hey, I'm not ready to be put out to pasture yet. Anyway the instructor said it's never too late to learn." 
     I chuckle and say, "I'm kidding, Hal..."

Another thing I haven't mentioned in a long time is the circularity story element--mentioning something, usually in the beginning of the story, and then mentioning it at the end again to bring the story full circle. Sometimes it's echoed in the title as well. The title, "Never Too Late," was mentioned in the quote above, and then again at the very end:

     He squeezes my hand, and I take in his thick white hair, clear blue eyes and warm smile.
     Thank goodness, I say to myself as I squeeze back, it's never too late for love. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Office Romance

by Tamara Shaffer from the May 28, 2012 issue

Tagline: A quiet evening and a chance meeting, and two lonely people get a second chance for love...

In A Nutshell: After getting divorced from her husband, Cerise works cleaning offices at night to make ends meet. She meets a widower who is working late to catch up. They hit it off.

Observations: There wasn't a lot of witty banter or humor in this story. The setting wasn't quirky, nor did I detect any odd coincidences. It was just a sweet, quiet, solid story of two people meeting.

As I've said before, when you have a character with a history to get over, it's best not to dwell too much on it. This character's husband left her for another woman. That had to be really tough. But in Woman's World stories, you want to communicate that backstory as matter-of-factly as you can, like Shaffer did.

     Charlie is four and I've been cleaning offices since his dad left us for a woman he met at the office where he worked.
     "Office romances are a bad idea,"my mom says.
     That one was certainly bad for me. I've gotten over the heartbreak, but I had to take this job when he left, and cut my college classes down to just two per week.

Another thing I noticed about this story was that it covered four nights, four meetings, four chances for them to connect. The first night, they meet. The second night they exchange names and he shares some personal information. Third night, she does the same. Fourth night, he buys her a Kit-Kat and asks her to dinner.

It's easy to see a real relationship starting this way.