Thursday, August 29, 2013

One Saturday Morning

by Tina Radcliffe from the September 2, 2013 issue

Tagline: Katy's handsome new neighbor needed help, so Katy, being the neighborly type, stepped in the lend a hand...

In a Nutshell: It's Saturday. Katy's neighbor is reluctantly, and only somewhat successfully, babysitting his infant niece. She converses with him about it. A week goes by. She sees him around but they don't talk. Saturday rolls around again and he's volunteered to babysit again. He also finds the courage to ask Katy out.

Observations: Woman's World often publishes romance stories that have a man or a woman coming to the rescue. This story looked to me to be one of those stories. You have the inept man trying to take care of a baby, and I assumed the woman would swoop in like a pro. But Radcliffe surprised me and made me laugh.

"I've fed her, changed her, sung to her. Nothing works." His dark eyes looked desperate. "I don't suppose you have any experience with babies?"

"I used to be one," I said with a shrug.


Nothing much happens after that. Rick works up the courage to ask her out. She says yes. End of story.  I'm not a big fan of the shy guy in romance. I don't mind him not being all assertive, but dude, grow a pair. Yes, I have a double standard. I don't mind if in a Woman's World story, the woman has to try hard to overcome shyness, maybe because I am that woman. But the guys...? I hold them to a different standard.

Photo by Paparutzi (cc)

Friday, August 23, 2013

One Good Turn

by Connie Ferdon from the August 29, 2013 issue

Tagline: Later, Sandra and Adam would tell their friends that their meeting was an accident...and it really was!

In a Nutshell: Sandra is in a hurry to get a birthday card in the mail for her sister, unfortunately, she gets into a fender bender while backing out of her parking spot. The man whose car she hit, Adam, offers to pay for the damage because it's his fault. When she gets back into her car, she finds out the battery is dead. He helps her with jumper cables, and afterward, even though the post office has closed, she's not upset at all because she has a date.

Observations: I thought this story did a good job of showing Sandra's interest in the hero.

The man glanced up with guilty eyes--but what eyes! Beautiful intense and blue.

Momentarily startled by his gaze, Sandra couldn't find her voice.

Regaining her faculties, she smiled--and her irritation dissipated.

Sandra nodded, torn between needing to get to the post office and not wanting to end her conversation with this gorgeous guy.

"No problem," she said with a smile, enjoying the warmth of his handshake. Reluctantly she withdrew her and and said, "I have to run. I'll call you later, okay?"

Thoughts of the very cute Adam Browning flashed through her head as she buckled up.

Those are all the instances where we see Sandra's interest in Adam, more than I remembered reading. It's clear the man affected her!

However, I wondered why he was still hanging around and whether he was driving away and saw her pop her hood... If that's what happened, why did he park "in the lot over there"? Why didn't he just drive back over to the lot she was in. It seemed strange.

Photo by Charles Williams (cc)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Leah Makes a Plan

by Janet Hayward Burnham from the August 12, 2013 issue

Tagline: When one determined little girl decides it was time for her aunt to get married...well, things happen!

In a Nutshell: Four-year-old Leah wants cousins. When she finds out the only way she can get some is if her Aunt Shannon gets married, she embarks on a single-minded quest to find her aunt a husband. Turns out she's quite skilled at picking up single men.

Observations: This was a fabulously cute story. The niece was so perfectly written that I could hear her matter-of-fact voice in my head. A pet peeve of mine is when people have kids talking and behaving unlike real kids. It's a tough thing to do well, but I think Burnham succeeded. Here's an example:

He asked [Leah] if she got paid to be a matchmaker. Leah, of course, asked him what a matchmaker was, and Spencer patiently explained.

"I only want to get some cousins," she said. "I don't think I'm a matchmaker."

 Leah, like most four-year-olds, is very focused on herself. She's not trying to make her Aunt Shannon happy. She just wants to get herself some cousins.

The only complaint I had about this story was, again, like last week, the ending seemed to go on a tad too long. I see the attempt to bring it full circle and loop us back to the beginning of the story, but in my opinion, it focuses on the niece, not the romance and therefore falls a little flat.

Photo by DonkeyHotey (cc)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sunshine Tomorrow

by Rosemary Hayes from the August 19, 2013 issue

Tagline: When Mary entered the park, she'd felt preoccupied and troubled. Then she met Alex...and, just like that, she saw nothing but clear skies ahead!

In A Nutshell: Mary is caught unprepared for rain, so she buys an umbrella. She goes to the park to think about whether to go back to her ex or not. She meets a man by the duck pond who convinces her she shouldn't.

Observations: There was a lot I liked about this story. There were some things I didn't. I loved how Hayes tweaked my curiosity and kept me reading at the end of the very first paragraph.

Walking helped clear her thoughts, and she needed to think clearly today. She had an important decision to make.

I immediately wonder what decision does she have to make?

Here, also:

Her old boyfriend had broken her heart when he left--and now, suddenly, he wanted to come back. Should she give him another chance?

Even though I'm one hundred percent certain she decides against it, I am pulled forward to find out if I'm right.

For some reason, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that he just moved into her apartment building.

I loved the hero's sense of humor.

However, I felt there was some clunky dialogue. Your mileage may differ.

"It's good to look ahead."

"I, for example, just had to buy an umbrella because I wasn't prepared and never considered what today might bring." 

Also, I would have eliminated the last paragraph, even though it looped back to her comment about looking ahead, and just ended it with him saying, "Sunshine."

But other than that, solid story.

Photo by Hunter-Desportes (cc)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Overseas Markets

Many people want to know what they can do with their rejected stories and where else they can submit short fiction. I asked one of my regular visitors, Chris, to compile a list of markets. Chris sells a lot of fiction to these publications and I'm so grateful that she was willing to help us out.

compiled by Chris
Guidelines for Fast Fiction and That’s Life (Australia). Humorous, positive contemporary stories of 700 (That’s Life) and 900 - 2800 words (Fast Fiction) with a strong plot. If the story has a twist it should arise from the story, rather than from a detail kept from the reader. To check your twist, imagine your story were being made into a film - would the surprise still work? For Fast Fiction please write to the following lengths;
1 page - 900 words
1.5 pp - 1,200 words
2pp - 1,400 words
3pp - 2,100 words
4pp - 2,800 words

Subject Matter: Read several issues of the magazines to get the flavour of the type of fiction we publish. Many writers waste a lot of time and effort because they haven't done this. Please avoid straightforward romance ie. boy meets girl and they live happily ever after. Also avoid stories narrated by animals or babies. Please remember that that's life! is a family magazine so graphic murders, sex crimes and domestic violence are not acceptable.
We normally write in chronological order, so please keep events in sequence and avoid "jumping" around time slots, as this can be confusing. Also, please bear in mind that if your story is themed then it needs to be sent to us about 3 months in advance of the magazine in which it needs to appear. For example a Christmas story would need to reach us no later than September.
Common twists to avoid:
  • The heroine/narrator is revealed to be a cat, dog, car, possum, tree or ghost!
  • A partner's mysterious arrangements turn out to be for a surprise party
  • The perpetrator's murder plan backfires and s/he eats the poison
  • A woman meets up with a handsome "stranger" for a steamy rendezvous and it turns out to be her husband
  • Someone nervous about a first day at school turns out to be the teacher; or about a wedding, the vicar; or an interview, the interviewer.
  • A woman spots her boyfriend/man of her dreams with a beautiful blonde lady - who turns out to be his sister.
  • Anything involving twins
A murder/death actually turns out to be part of a play rehearsal Common plots to avoid:
  • Woman gets her revenge on bullying husband, mother-in-law or boss
  • Widowed woman finds new love in her autumn years
  • The heroine is a writer
  • Anything involving winning money/the lotto
  • Con artist tries to fleece little old lady - but the old lady ends up conning him.
It's not that we would never use a story with these plot lines, but bear in mind we do get a lot of them. So your story would need a fresh angle to stand out.
Characters: It can be confusing if you have too many characters. A maximum of four is usually best.
Originality: Stories must be your own idea and original work, previously unpublished, and not on offer to any other magazine or publisher at the time sent to us. Should your story be accepted we may have to edit it to conform to page length, style, and the photos available to illustrate it.
Presentation: Manuscripts should be presented in a typed Word document format. Please ensure your name, address and telephone number are included in the manuscript. An accompanying letter is not necessary. PLEASE ensure you send it with a word count and let us know if it is 1st or 2nd rights. Also, we prefer not to receive bulk submissions, so please don't send any more than 4 stories at a time.
Address: Manuscripts should be emailed to
Replies: If you've heard nothing after six months your story is unlikely to be used. However, you may resubmit it if you wish. A story that may not have been suitable, in length or subject, at one point could be just what we need months later. Please be aware that due to the large volume of stories we receive we cannot offer individual guidance or assessment.
Rejection: If your story is rejected it can be for any number of reasons. Sometimes we have already published, or have in stock a similar story, or we may feel it will not appeal to our readers. This does not mean we will not like another of your stories, so don't lose heart.
Best is a weekly British magazine that uses one story of around 900 words per issue in one of several different categories such as Three Minute Thriller, Three Minute Mystery and Passion on a Page. Submit by email at Bear in mind you'll only hear back if they want to buy, so if you haven't heard in three to four months it's probably a no.

UK mag My Weekly only considers submissions from writers who’ve had work published by them before, but you can submit for the Specials and Annuals. Fiction editor for these is Maggie Seed – email her on to check what she is looking for at the time.

From the same stable as My Weekly (DC Thomson) comes Weekly News. It looks more like a newspaper than a magazine but they still use fiction stories of 1,000 - 1,500 words. It's read by men as well as women, so male perspective is fine, but fiction ed Jill Finlay isn't keen on first person or present tense stories, so avoid those. Email her on

Ficta Fabula is a Canadian magazine, formerly called Pages of Stories. For their comprehensive guidelines contact editor Darlene Poier on
You may also like to consider what's called the 'grey market', an unflattering description for mags aimed at the older reader. In the UK we have People's Friend (also from DC Thomson). Guidelines on Unfortunately only postal submissions are considered.

Another mag aimed at older readers is Yours.
YOURS Short story (fiction) guidelines
YOURS is always looking for good short stories. Every submission is read but we receive more than a hundred manuscripts a month and are able to publish only one short story per issue.

Please allow up to six months for reply and enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope if you would like your manuscript to be returned. Submissions should be 1000-1,200 words long and not have been published elsewhere before. Manuscripts must be TYPED on one side of the paper and the title page must include the following:

  • 100 - 150 word synopsis.
  • An accurate word count.
  • Your full name (and real name if you write under a pen name), address and telephone number

If we can’t use your submission and you would like it returned to you please enclose a SAE with enough postage to cover the cost of the submission/s.

Know your audience

It is essential that you study three or four published stories in YOURS before writing anything for us. Many manuscripts are rejected because, although they may be well written, the stories are aimed at a completely different market, such as younger women or a largely middle-class readership. Read several issues of YOURS. This will give you a good idea of the type of reader you should be writing for and the general tone we use. Our readers range in age from fifties upwards, with most in their mid-sixties and seventies. They are mostly women, although YOURS is read by some men, so don’t ignore their interests! They are Catherine Cookson readers rather than Jilly Cooper fans

Good subjects

Some of the most popular themes with YOURS readers are romance, families, grandchildren, nostalgia and wartime comradeship. A lot of our readers did war work and/or had husbands or boyfriends serving in the Forces. Don’t be limited to these subjects though; the style and tone of what you write about must appeal to our readers as much as the content. The first line of your story should grab the attention; it is all too easy to start a story with a bang, which quickly turns into a damp squib by the end of the first page. Keep up the reader's interest until the end or they will not bother to get that far - and a brilliant surprise ending will not make them read it in the first place.
What to avoid

Avoid stereotypical images of older people as ill, frail and lonely. Make sure your story is plausible and realistic and do not rely on unlikely coincidences. Try and avoid the hero turning out to be a cat or dog.

Avoid downbeat subjects such as death, widowhood, illness and loneliness, or write about them in a positive way that does not dwell on negatives.

Try not to rely on obvious plot devices such as twists in the tale and memory flashbacks. These are very common and, unless superbly written, can be predictable. A good story does not always need a surprise.

Remember this

Always think of YOURS readers, not just as older people, but as ordinary human beings who have experienced everything in life - childhood, growing up, starting work, falling in love, friends and family, joy, sorrow, heartache, longing and laughter. YOURS readers have their own interests and needs which match their years of experiences but many of their hopes, fears and dreams are shared by all of us and they still enjoy a good story.

Send your manuscript to*:
Short Stories
Yours Magazine
Bauer Media
Media House
Peterborough Business Park

Or by email to: (Subject: Short Story Submission) – email submissions must include contact telephone number and address details. All successful submissions are accepted on an All Rights basis that gives Bauer Media exclusive copyright.
Another British magazine that uses fiction is Woman’s Weekly. Their guidelines state;
Fiction is a vital ingredient of Woman’s Weekly, the place where readers can escape and switch off. This doesn’t mean predictable plots. Escapism means getting involved in a really gripping tale with believable characters. Above all, we are looking for originality and a wide variety of themes and moods, such as mystery, humour, relationships and family issues, with warmth still an important factor. Try to be subtle in your writing and remember the maxim: “Show don’t tell”. We recommend you read several issues of Woman’s Weekly and Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special to get a feel for our audience. Unfortunately, we can’t offer criticism but if your writing shows promise we will contact you.
For the weekly magazine: Short stories of 1,000 and 2,000 words. Serials in 3, 4 or 5 parts of 3,300 words each.

For Fiction Special (At least 20 stories 12 times a year):
Stories of 1,000 to 8,000 words
We read only typescripts. Handwritten work can’t be considered. Double line spacing on one side of the paper only and wide margins. Number each page and make sure your name is at the top of each page. If sending stories from abroad, please enclose an international reply coupon (NB by Chris  - these are no longer available, so UK stamps would be required).
If you would like us to acknowledge receipt of your manuscript, enclose a stamped, addressed postcard. Please note that it can take up to sixteen weeks for manuscripts to be considered, and that we are unable to enter into any correspondence by e-mail.
Please send stories/serials to:
Fiction Department, Woman’s Weekly,
IPC Media,
Blue Fin Building,
110 Southwark Street,
London, SE1 0SU

Fiction Feast is another UK mag that uses fiction.
Stories of 750-3000 words. Postal submissions only Response time usually around 12 weeks. If you haven't heard back in that time, email fiction editor Norah McGrath stating the name of the story, the date it was submitted and a 2-line plot outline and she'll get back to you.
Pay is currently £200 for 1 page rising to £400 for 3,000 worders (NB from Chris - please bear in mind that pay rates for all mags are subject to change)
Send seasonal stories six months in advance
Submission address:
Norah McGrath,
Fiction Editor,
Fiction Feast,
24-28 Oval Road,

Lastly, in S. Africa there is You magazine ( Stories of 1,500 words may be emailed to Cecilia van Zyl:
As mentioned elsewhere, IRCs (International Reply Coupons) are no longer available, so for overseas submissions where return postage is required (SAEs) UK stamps would have to be obtained.

Addition 3/6/14 - Shades of Romance, an online magazine for readers and writers, pays $25 for romantic short stories, 500 to 1,500 words, in any romantic sub-genre. Shades of Romance also accepts articles on the craft and business of writing. The deadline for submissions for the next issue of the quarterly publication is June 1, 2014. For guidelines and a list of upcoming issue themes, go here. 

Woman's World Mini Mystery Guidelines

We purchase short "solve-it-yourself" mysteries of 700 words--a count that includes the narrative and the solution. Stories should be cleverly plotted, entertaining cliffhangers that end with a challenge to the reader to figure out whodunnit or howdunnit. The solution to the mystery is provided in a separate box.

Robbery, burglary, fraud and murder are acceptable subjects, but spare the readers any gory details or excessive violence, please! We are also not interested in ghost stories, science fiction or fantasy.
We pay $500 per mystery and retain First North American Serial Rights for six months after publication.

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Fresh Beginning

by Jenn Walker from the August 5, 2013 issue

Tagline: If it hadn't been for her sleepy little niece, Aimee might not have met the handsome stranger!

In a Nutshell: The new guy in the apartment building insists Aimee use the dryer in the complex's laundromat first. She has a cranky niece in her arms and he's happy to read a book on his tablet computer. They connect while waiting for the clothes to dry.

Observations: I've been meaning to say this for a while but kept forgetting. I'm noticing more and more non-traditional names cropping up in the stories, so I may have to go back and delete the tip about using traditional names from my class lectures.

Besides the somewhat trendier names, there was also some nifty technology that showed up in this story, mentioned by brand name, even--an iPad. This surprised me, but in a good way. It makes sense that young people, such as Aimee and Carter, would be comfortable using gadgets like the iPad.

I absolutely loved Carter. If you're looking to create a likeable hero that readers and the heroine can fall in love with, this guy is a good example. He was just the right amount of everything. He was:
  • kind
  • confident
  • a reader!
  • good with kids
  • cute sense of humor
If Aimee is smart, she'll reel this one in right away.

My two favorite parts were when he took the initiative to ask her to stay after her laundry was done and when he faked surprise that his clothes were dry.

Photo by LOLren (cc)