Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mystery Date

by Jody Lebel from the February 25, 2013 issue

Tagline: When Karen met Dan, she couldn't help thinking: it's amazing the things that turn up at yard sales!

In a Nutshell: Karen is having a yard sale. A man buys a tackle box her late husband got himself at an estate sale. Later that evening, the man returns. He'd found a monogrammed high school ring in the tackle box and suggests they track down the owner together like Sherlock and Watson.

Observations: Lots of stuff to like here.

I liked the realistic details in this story. I've held yard sales before and could readily sympathize with Karen, especially considering she was doing it on her own.

I liked that grabby first line.

Good-looking men don't show up on your lawn everyday.

I liked the minor black moment when he returns with the tackle box. She's worried he wants to return it, and if the author has done her job right, the reader worries, too.

I liked how subtly we see that Dan is interested in Karen when he lingers for a while after he's made his purchase.

Solid story.

Photo by nathanmac87 (cc)


Jody E. Lebel said...

Well, for once WW didn't change the story too much. Most of the wording is the same with some minor changes.

The original title was Fishing for a Date. Dan bought a fishing tackle box, and also told her towards the end of the story that he had been fishing for a way to ask her out and that he was a bit rusty. It got cut.

Also it was a fall tag sale, so any references to fall leaves, and a late hummingbird at the feeder... CUT.

I had the husband ill and dead for 1 year.. Johnene made it 2.

I had a reference to the Salvation Army, and how she wished she had just donated this stuff...CUT.

I had a different explantion on how her husband had acquired the tackle box...minor.

You guys know I never put in exclamation points, there were 2. lol.

I was not unhappy with the changes.

Mary Jo said...

Jody, you know there have to be some cuts because the 800 word count required of writer must be down to 700 or less in the print space available. That annoys me no end because at such a short length, every word should count. I am sure all of us are aware of that, but then the editor has to start hacking away. Or adding to. Glad to hear that yours was left basically intact.

After WW stopped my subscription (thanks to USPS), it finally picked up with the March 4th copy and a two-month extension. So, I missed this issue and I don't know if it is still in the grocery stores. Maybe I can get one tomorrow.

It seems that many of the romance stories in WW are getting more interesting and better written. I am crediting that to your influence here, Kate, and the community of writers your blog has generated.

Jody E. Lebel said...

What's that about 700 words? Why don't they just ask for 700 words then? Is that new?

Mary Jo said...

So far as I know, they have always asked for more words than they have space to print. Just measure the print inches. They add up to between 600 and 700 words. Johnene was very irritated when I submitted a 700 word story along with the version in the 800 word length. She said, on the rejection, "I like to do my own editing."

I do have to wonder if this is the general policy in the publishing world today. Does anyone know?

Kate Willoughby said...

Aw, thanks, Mary Jo. I still think that there are some winners and some that...

wait for it

wait for it

...don't work for me. LOL

I don't want them to cut the word length, because every time they do that, they cut the pay, too!!

Jody E. Lebel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jody E. Lebel said...

Well, I'll be darned. It's that crossworld puzzle answer taking up our space. Now I won't worry so much if I'm not at 800 words. I try so hard to keep it within 5 words of 800 but never over. hmmmmph

PS that above delete was me...I screwed up.

Tamara said...

Jody: This is a good story. Your title was so much better.

Mary Jo said...

Jody, didn't you hear what I said? Don't short them too much on the 800 word requirement. JOHNENE LIKES TO EDIT THE STORY HERSELF. I guess that's why they pay her the big bucks (or not). Whatever would they do with a story that really needs little or no editing?

That crossword solution not only takes up almost 100 words of writing space, I find it very distracting from the story, itself.

Chris said...

In response to Mary Jo's question, is editing the general policy now?, no, many fiction eds are happy to leave well alone and publish as seen. This week I had contributors' copies through from New Woman (India) and Scottish Home and Country (um, Scotland) and the stories I sent are the ones that got published. Other mags work with the author to get it right, like My Weekly. Just finished my third rewrite of a story for them, but better that way than have someone else do it for me.

As for WW ever finding a story that needs little or no editing, I get the feeling such a story doesn't exist and that tweaking is all part of the job description there. Do any of the eds ever give talks at writers' conferences? Wouldn't it be good to hear this issue from their side of the fence.

Still, on this occasion it sounds as though Jody's pretty happy with what's been done, so all's well. I like the sound of the story from Kate's description, just wish I could see the real thing. (btw - for some strange reason I find I'm getting much more careful where I use exclamation marks on this site... can't think why).

Jody E. Lebel said...

Mary Jo....yes, I heard what you said. Twice in fact. I was talking about my fussiness in submitting as close to 800 words as possible. Now I see it really doesn't matter if it's 794 or 803 because she's going to hit it hard anyway.

Jody E. Lebel said...

Chris...or anyone else for that matter..I'd be happy to copy the story and send it to you if you want to leave me your mailing address at

Tamara said...

I think sometimes the editor thinks, unconsciously perhaps, "I'm an editor and I'm supposed to edit, so, 'let's see, what can I do to this sentence?'" You can always find something to change, but I think when editors change for the sake of change, they don't improve the work and they open up opportunities for errors. Also -- and I know I've mentioned this before and it doesn't pertain to WW -- I don't understand the policy some pubs have of changing all titles -- no matter what.

Mary Jo said...

Kate, you belong to RWA, don't you? Do you know if Johnene has ever been invited to speak at a national conference, or even at a chapter in the Seattle area? It would certainly be interesting to get her views from the viewpoint of editing the only magazine still printing this short romance fiction.

Tamara said...

I've read complaints of editors about writers who "think" they can write, writers who submit materials that are inappropriat for the publication, writers who are sloppy, can't spell, etc. Johnene doesn't get a lot of those, because they're weeded out by Patty Gaddis, who probably has some stories.

Tamara said...

When I said "some stories," I meant that she probably has some stories to tell about the material she gets. I just realized the word "story" is redundant. :)

Kate Willoughby said...

Chris, I don't know if editors from magazines ever go to writer's conferences.

Mary Jo, I am not currently a member of RWA. I have been, though. I do not know if she's ever been invited to attend RWA Nationals, however, I have proposed my workshop to RWA and been rejected a couple of times. Their view is that my focus (selling to one publication) is too narrow. So I'm not sure that Johnene would offer enough publication opportunities for them to make it worth inviting her.

As far as smaller conferences or individual chapters, I have no idea if she's ever been invited. I, for one, would love meeting her and picking her brain!

Mary Jo said...

Kate, well, too darned bad there is only one little magazine for you to focus on. RWA might think about encouraging romantic fiction in American women's magazines. Are there any members out there who might put in a word?

Jody E. Lebel said...

I think you might have better luck at conferences that concentrate on freelance and journalist writers. RWA concerns itself with novels and novellas. I don't recall seeing any slots in their lineup for short stories, even romances.