Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tickets for Two

by Linda Nielsen from the July 29, 2013 issue

Tagline: Kelly and Steve had briefly met, but it took a matchmaking grandma to get their romance off the ground...

In a Nutshell: Kelly is reluctant to go on a blind date with the grandson of a woman who resides at the assisted living residence where she works. She has her eye on a man who goes to the movies every weekend by himself, just like she does. Turns out he is the grandson.

Observations: I loved this story. If you're a fan of Woman's World stories, then you knew immediately that the grandson and the mystery man were one and the same person. (Or is it one in the same?) But I still felt that worry when he said he was there with a date. The grandma was great after the movie, the perfect blend of pushy and loving.

There were also a couple of places where we see evidence that these two are compatible. During the movie, Kelly is thinking about Steve...

Most of the residents at the assisted living facility where she worked hardly had visitors, let alone visitors who took them out to the movies. That said a lot about Steve.

And later, when Kelly cracks jokes, Steve laughs. We all know how important it is that a couple share a sense of humor.

I really had zero complaints about this story.

Photo by Hitchster (cc)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Just One Word (original and edited versions)

by Kate Willoughby from the July 22, 2013 issue

Tagline: Libby loved the story of her grandparents' romance. And she loved it even more the second time around!

As usual, instead of analyzing my own story, I am posting it here with all the changes Johnene made to it. I do this for myself as much as I do it for you guys. It's always interesting to see exactly what she did. New material is in blue.

Libby and her grandparents, Eugene and Pam, were attending the Taste of Newhall food festival. The evening was pleasant, and the three of them took their time as they walked from booth to booth, sampling foods from, where for a fee, they had their pick of samples from dozens of local restaurants.
When they reached the booth for Home Sweet Bistro, a dark-haired man in a white chef’s jacket greeted them.
     “Good evening,” he said. “I’m Aaron Porter, chef and owner of Home Sweet Bistro.”
     Libby smiled at took in his friendly demeanor smile and warm brown eyes. “I’m Libby Wells and these are my. My grandparents, Eugene and Pam Hardy. We’re shopping around tonight and I are looking for a place to hold their fiftieth anniversary party.”
     Aaron whistled. “Fifty years. Congratulations.”
     “Thank you,” Grandpa Eugene said, then, That looks like Is that meatloaf and mashed potatoes,?Grandpa Eugene said. He’d been relatively silent so far, letting Libby and Grandma Pam discuss the food.
     “It is,.” Aaron said, handing handed them each a samples. “My Our specialty is comfort food with a twist.”
     “I love Can’t beat comfort food.,” Eugene said. “This meatloaf is almost as good as yours, Pam.” He winked at Aaron. I vote for this place,” Eugene said, still chewing. 
     “Be honest, sweetheart,” Pam said, “this is better than any meatloaf I ever made.”
     Libby silently agreed with her grandmother. She chewed slowly, tasting—what was it?
     , finding the meatloaf moist and delicious, flavored with s”Sundried tomatoes and roasted pine nuts.,Aaron said, as if reading her thoughts.
     “This is better than my meatloaf,” silver-haired Pam exclaimed with a delighted smile.
     “Delicious,” Libby said.
     After visiting the restaurant with her grandparents a The next day, Libby and her grandparents had dinner at Home Sweet Bistro; two few days later, Libby met again with Chef Aaron, this time to discuss the party menu.  
Aaron led her to his cubbyhole of an office, then asked, “Where are Eugene and Pam?” he asked. They sat in his cubbyhole of an office.
“Grandpa wasn’t feeling well and Grandma Pam didn’t want to leave him. She said whatever I decided on would be fine.”
“Nothing serious, I hope?” Aaron’s face showed concern. expression darkened with worry. “I hope it’s not serious.”
“No, just a cold,” Libby said. she answered. “A little tender loving care and he’ll “He’ll be back on his feet in no time.”
“I read somewhere that said married men live longer,” Aaron said, smiling.  Just goes to show you what the love of a good woman can do. “How “So, how did they meet?” Aaron asked.
     Libby smiled. “When he Grandpa was in college, Grandpa he waited tables at a diner, and Grandma used to go in and ask to sit at his station. I guess he was kind of shy and couldn’t work up the courage He wanted to ask her out but didn’t have the nerve. But one day, because she always ordered French fries, he knew French fries were her favorite, he included arranged for a little surprise on her plate.”
     “What kind of surprise?” was it?” Aaron asked, leaning forward.
     “An invitation to dinner.” Libby held back a smile. She laughed.
     “On a napkin?” Aaron asked.
     Libby laughed. “No! One word, written on the plate with a squeeze bottle of ketchup. “A really small invitation. All it  It said was ‘Dinner?’ Grandma said yes, and the rest is history.”
     “That’s it? One word?”
     She nodded. “Written in ketchup. That one word was enough. Grandma said yes and the rest is history.”
     Aaron grinned. and leaned forward.So we definitely serve We need to have French fries on the menu for at the party.”
You’re right!” Libby said. “And what if I’m making make a little program type thing.? I’m thinking a little A storybook that tells about my grandparents’ about their life together. Of course, it’ll start with the French fry story.”, including the tale of how they met, so the guests will understand about the fries.”
     “Now you’re talkin’,” Aaron said. “We can pair the fries with a nice sirloin?, or maybe a filet.” Aaron suggested.
     “Grandpa’s a loves meat and potatoes kind of guy,.Libby agreed.
     “Now all we have to do is decide on And what about dessert?.
     Libby looked at the suggestions he’d jotted down. “If it were me,” Libby said, “I’d have the chocolate cake, but my grandparents love Grandpa loves strawberries. So does Grandma.”
     “So, it looks like we’ll have the strawberry shortcake?.
     “They’ll love that. This is going to be the best fiftieth anniversary party ever.” “Perfect,” Libby said.
     After Libby handed over the a deposit check, and rose to leave, she sighed inwardly. She was sorry their meeting was over. Aaron was so easygoing. and he had this And there was that adorable dimple in his left cheek.
All rightOkay, Libby,” he said, standing fingering the check thoughtfully. “I guess we’re all set.”
Tucking a lock of brown hair behind her ear, she managed a smile. She nodded. “I guess we are.”
She had gone as far as When she reached the doorway when he said, “Libby?”
“Yes?” She turned with a questioning look and held her breath.
“Tell your grandpa Eugene I hope he feels better.”
“Oh, sure. Of course.”
She told herself a man like that Aaron probably wasn’t single anyway.
The night of the party two weeks later was a success. , everything went splendidly. The guests of honor and all the friends and family loved Libby’s grandparents were thrilled with the storybook she’d made “in honor of their storybook romance,” and everyone raved about the food.  how the food tied in with Eugene and Pam’s fifty years together. Libby got a warm feeling in her heart every time she looked at her grandparents and how happy they were. When the strawberry shortcake was served, everyone it was time for dessert, all the guests agreed it the strawberry shortcake was the best they’d ever had.
All except Libby.
She didn’t get strawberry shortcake. The Because when the waiter brought her dessert, it wasn’t strawberry shortcake. Instead, it was a thick slice of luscious chocolate cake instead. And across the white plate in chocolate syrup she saw one word.: Dinner?
She looked up to see Aaron standing across the room, smiling at her. When their eyes met, he When she gasped, her grandma asked, “What is it, Libby?”
She held up her plate in answer just as she noticed Aaron entering the room. He lifted an eyebrow questioningly, that dimple of his winking, and she beamed at him and nodded. Libby smiled at Aaron and mouthed one word: Yes.
The rest was is history.

I have to admit, my finger got tired from going back and forth to the font color button. The ratio of original words vs. revised words is quite a bit larger than in previous stories of mine. Some of the changes I could see the reasoning behind. Most of them had me puzzled. 

I wish she would have left the part about Libby getting a warm feeling when she looked at her grandparents. I also liked her sharing Aaron's message with her grandmother and I was sad to see both parts edited out. 

But hey, a sale is a sale!

Photo by Biyu

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer on Mulberry Lane

by Melanie Dusseau from the July 15, 2013 issue

Tagline: After rushing to Lily's side when she fell from her ladder, shy Ben realized he'd fallen hard, too--for his pretty new neighbor...

In a Nutshell: Lily falls off the ladder while trying to clean her rain gutters. Hearing her scream, Ben rushes to help her, then agrees to help her realign the down spout and show her how to mow her lawn like a pro. She offers dinner as "payment."

Observations: Two things jumped out at me about this story, things that set it apart from the norm.

1. There was a surprising amount of description in the beginning of the story. Usually writers don't have enough room in the word count to include much description of characters or the setting. The fact that is here is a refreshing change.

2. There seemed to be an abrupt change of point of view right where the little quote from the story appeared as a graphic. I wondered if Johnene put it there to help the reader make the transition. If so, it didn't really help me. I still found it jarring to be reading about Lily and then go right to Ben hearing her scream. If it had been my story, I'd have remained in Ben's POV the whole time and if I felt I needed to describe what Lily looked like, I could do it from his eyes.

I recently took Angela James' workshop, "Before You Hit Send," on self-editing, and it was fantastic. In it, she said that overuse of exclamation points is a mark of an amateur. I'd like to add that I find it annoying as well. It makes heroines seem empty-headed and way too perky. Anyway, I think Lily had five.

I found Ben to be a little too beta for me. There's shy and then there's nerd. I know nerds are hot right now, but you will pretty much never see a hero of mine "blush." His cheeks might redden or turn red. He might flush, but he won't blush. Blushing, to me, is girly.

I did like the part about the pink tools. I've seen those in the store and always sort of wanted some.

Photo by Lee Jordan (cc)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Color of Love

Tagline: Libby's decision to have her house painted had some unexpected, but very romantic results!

In a Nutshell: Libby hires Paul the Painter to paint the exterior of her house, but gets Dan the Son of the Painter instead. He gives her some very good advice about color choices and they hit it off.

Observations: This is a plot we see often in the pages of Woman's World magazine--the woman needs some service and in the course of the man providing it, they flirt a little and end up on the path to romance.

We also see two nice relatable characters.

Dan: He's a teacher. Admirable profession. He cares for his father and is willing to run his business for him when he's recuperating from surgery. He offers her that advice, based on the experience and knowledge she doubted he had.

Libby: She immediately shows sympathy for the dad, even though this news made her wary about the quality of the service about to be provided. When she realizes Dan was right, she doesn't hesitate to admit it and tell him so. She offers to pay him for the time it took to come out and paint the swatch on the front of the house.

The only part I didn't like was her touching his cheek at the end. I read that and winced, thinking invasion of personal space. I didn't feel their relationship had developed to a point where she was free to touch his face. I would have preferred she gesture toward his cheek, but not actually touch it. And his taking her hand was too much for me, too. Other than that, it was a solid story.

Photo by Mini OzzY