Friday, September 27, 2013

Secret Rendezvous

by Elizabeth Brown from the September 30, 2013 issue

Tagline: Rosie was happy in her marriage, but she couldn't help wishing there was a little more romance in her life...

In a Nutshell: Rosie is having lunch with a friend when she sees a couple kiss. Her friend remarks that the two can't be married because married people don't do that in public. As Rosie tells her husband about it, she realizes how much she is grateful for. Hubby realizes it too and asks her out on a "date" the next day to prove it.

Observations: Okay, this is THE perfect already-married story. It's the best one I've read in the eight years I've subscribed to this magazine.

In most already-married stories, it's all about the character growth. You have a character--usually the wife--who is somewhat disgruntled or unhappy or in a rut in regard to the marriage. By the end of the story, she has a change of heart and sees all the wonderful things her marriage has to offer. Usually it's by looking at the history she has with her husband or at some facet of his personality or habits that she hasn't appreciated or looked at in a different way before.

In this story, we do get all that. But we also get the husband realizing as well. Usually, the husband is oblivious to his wife's emotional distress and he ends up surprised at the end of the story. Not so in "Secret Rendezvous."

I wanted to point out that Brown actively showed Rosie walking this path of self-realization. Here's the doubt:

I tried to think of the last time Harry and I did anything romantic. Two Friday nights ago we went on a "date," but all we talked about were the kids.

Huh. Been there done that!

But then Brown starts showing Rosie coming to her senses.

His brown hair was thinning on top, but still, I thought, he's so handsome. I used to love to run my fingers through that hair. Why had I ever stopped?

Because he didn't have hair anymore? Heh heh. Just kidding. This is where Rosie begins to realize what she has. The next paragraph continues that. She thinks about what they've built together and what they continue to work toward.

In a masterful stroke, she ties Rosie's observation of "the man gazing at a spot somewhere above [his wife's] head" at Costco to an observation at home with Harry doing the same thing, increasing the tension and weaving the story together a little tighter.

Lastly, where I would have expected the story to end with Rosie accepting Harry's invitation to lunch, Brown takes it one step further and shows Rosie choosing a special dress for the date. She brings us back to Rosie's observation of the kissing couple whom she thought looked like old time movie stars. Rosie's dress makes her feel like she might be "a star on her way to a rendezvous with a tall, handsome stranger." However, the author reminds us:

But in truth, it was me, dressing for lunch with a man I'd known intimately for 18 years--a man who, maybe, I was just getting to know all over again.

Happy sigh. That, my friends is a great ending. It would have been a fine ending if that last part, with her getting dressed, hadn't been there, but in my opinion, Brown knocked it out of the park with that final paragraph. I say in my online/email class that it's worth it to spend as much time on the ending of your story as necessary to make it SING. This is a prime example of why.

38 comments:

Sandi said...

First of all, I would like to tell you that this blog is extraordinary. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and talent. Second, I have taken up once again my goal to sell to WW. Your course is worth way more than what I paid for it. Raise your price, girl friend. Third, ahem, about this story. I was initially turned off with this story but warmed up to it as it progressed. The ending was very good. Also one question: PJ Platz sold two stories way back when. I loved them. Has she ever sold any more to WW? Thanks again for your generosity in sharing your skills and experiences with WW. Sandi Hughes

Kate Willoughby said...

Sandi, that's very sweet of you to say. As far as PJ Platz...she doesn't seem to be tagged here in this blog, but when I switched over, some stuff got lost. I searched "Platz" but didn't find anything. Sorry!

Pat said...

PJ Plaz was two authors (two friends, two sisters or a mother and daughter team)who went on to write romance novels. I can't remember there real names, but they sold 26 romance stories in a year and a half to WW in the late 80s and/or early 90s.

Pat said...

Loved this story, Kate. I agree with all your reasons why it was so great. Awesome review! Thanks for pointing out what works and works so well.

I really have to set some goals on writing and submitting again. My pile of rejections got to me this summer. I have to take Betsi's advice and send in one a month. Post this here will give a much needed kick in the butt.

Betsi said...

Not MY advice, Pat . . . I currently have 6 stories submitted, one mystery and 5 romances, but that's very unusual for me. If I have what I think is a good idea, I'll send it in, but I don't have a specific number in mind.

Oh, and I agree with everyone else that this was a good story. Funny that she did 2 married couple stories in a row, when they can go for months without any.

Chris said...

Yes, I noticed that, too, Betsi. Two married couple stories after months of newby couples is a trend I hope will continue. To me, the relationships tend to be more interesting when the characters already know a bit about one another.

Pat said...

Oops, my bad, Betsi. Must have been someone else who said they sent a monthly submission.

I also noticed the two married couple stories in a row, guess it just depends on what they get and when and what they really like.

Joy said...

Hi, Kate. Just found your blog. I have been submitting to WW for a few years, and it is great to have this forum. Though my WW rejection pile is pretty large, it does include several notes of encouragement from Johnene.
I currently have a couple of stories that have been out for four months now ... though pure speculation as to why, I was wondering if you'd ever had a story accepted after that long?
Again, love the blog - and thanks for the insight.

Sandi said...

Thanks for the information on PJ Plaz, Pat. I am sending in my first story after a long break and I have already started the next one. I hope to just send them as I get them completed. I hope that is not a mistake.

Tamara said...

Hello Joy. My recent stories have been taking longer than is customary to come back from Johnene. The last one was five months, and I am currently awaiting the verdict on one that I sent in early June.

Chris said...

I think they some problem with stories getting 'lost' in the system a while ago, Joy. I seem to remember someone saying that some submissions had been put into the wrong sorting box or something. I'm still hoping to hear about some of mine from the start of the year, but I'm in the UK so it's possible they got lost en-route.

Chris said...

That should be 'they had' of course. Oops.

Joy said...

Thanks, Tamara! I'll count it a win - no matter how long it takes -if I get as far as Johnene.
Fingers crossed for your June submission.

Joy said...

Ugh, Chris. Hoping the sorting issue has been "sorted!" :-)Best of luck to you across the pond!

Tamara said...

I mentioned this to Jody. I received an SASE from the post office marked "Received without Contents; Return to Sender". I know it was meant for WW, because my subissions to journals are online. I can't imagine how this happened or which of my submissions it got lost from. Or why the PO would send it back. But, it could explain at least one of the delayed verdicts.

Kate Willoughby said...

This is pure speculation because I haven't done any research on it, but it seems as if they're taking 1-2 months longer to respond than they used to. But it may just be me. Yes, I've had stories accepted after four months. In general, the longer the wait (within reason of course) the better. That means your story is going up more rungs on the editorial ladder.

Joy said...

Thanks, Kate. I will just think - and hope! - that the time lapse does equate to a higher ladder climb!
And, Tamara - how weird on the empty SASE.

Tamara said...

I'm tempted to write Johnene and ask whether she's sent me a rejection or contract in the past two months. She may be too busy for such inquiries if they're behind.

Tamara said...

However, it could have come from Gaddis; no way to know.

Mary Jo said...

Tamara, I have seen mailing mix ups before, but I cannot even picture the one you mention. Someone at WW got hold of your SASE, saw it was empty and stamped Return to Sender on it? You have to wonder how your precious stories are treated once they reach the WW office. Now it seems the editors are having a hard time wading out of the whole pile.

Have you tried any of the overseas markets that Chris suggested? I would like to know what experience American writers may be having there.

Tamara said...

That envelope is quite a mystery, Mary Jo. I did send two stories over the pond -- one to SORMAG and one to Yours. I sent the one to SORMAG last March and then sent a reminder to them; I've pretty much given up on that one. I sent the other one in August.

Chris said...

Sormag (Shades of Romance Magazine) isn't 'over the pond', Tamara, it's one of yours! Editor LaShaunda Hoffman used to publish a short story pretty much in each issue (that's online, though, I've never seen a hard copy). I had a couple in there, but pay is low. I think I got about $25. I emailed several more to her over the years but like you, didn't get a response, so stopped trying. It seems to be all about promoting romantic novels now.

Tamara said...

I guess I assumed it was overseas, since I found out about it from you and I sent it online to an email address that includes "UK".

Betsi said...

Mary Jo, after sending 7 submissions to the overseas markets, I've only received 1 reply -- a rejection from Fiction Feast. I'm afraid I don't have the patience to keep sending my stories out into the void, although others might. Mary Ann sold one of her first foreign submissions, so we know it's possible.

majbooks said...

Hi All,
I sold a reworked story that had been previously published in WW to the magazine in Australia called That's Life Fast Fiction for their fiction special. It was really cool to see because they illustrated it very nicely, and it made a two page spread. The pay wasn't bad either. About $300 American for a previously published story that I barely had to change. Thanks to Chris for giving us all the foreign market information!
--Mary Ann

Mary Jo said...

I never thought about sending my two WW stories, published last year, to Australia's Fast Fiction. I think that is a good idea, but I want to send them my version, not Johnene's. I honestly thought she dumbed down the man in my tatoo story.

Betsi said...

Mary Jo, that's an interesting point. I revised a bit to make mine more suitable for the UK market, but I started from MY versions -- it never occurred to me not to.

Mary Jo said...

That does sound like the way to go, Betsi. Greatly wishing we actually had a market for women's popular short fiction in this country. The publishers are convinced that American women will not read it, that they prefer to buy romance novels or whatever. How many recipes and how-to articles have they printed in the past fifty years anyway?

Chris said...

Ladies, what's the problem here? So what if you don't get an acceptance with your first half-dozen subs - send another half-dozen. If you can send stories by email to markets outside America, why not do it? There's no cost involved and very little effort other than tweaking your story.

Mary Jo has recently sent a story to Fast Fiction in Australia and is now working on another. The biggest issue with rejected Woman's World stories is they tend to lack much in the way of conflict, and that we can work on. But from what I've seen so far, all of these stories had merit and deserved to be given another chance. Come on, you owe it to your characters to get them out there!

Betsi said...

Chris, I'm not discouraging anyone else from doing it, and it's SO generous of you to share this information with us! But if I can just keep selling a couple stories a year to WW, I'll be perfectly content. :-)

Mary Jo said...

Betsi, I know you once had a streak of super selling to WW, but how many rejected stories will you put back in your files now when Johnene says they just don't work for her? I think that is what Chris is talking about. Find a home for those babies. As Chris says about Johnene, her loss.

Kate Willoughby said...

Tamara, under what name did you submit that story, the one that got you an empty SASE?

Tamara said...

That's just it; I don't know. The SASE had no return address other than Carol Stream, IL, which is a main mail station outside Chicago. It had no date either. I have sent five stories since June--two romances and three mysteries. The SASE must have fallen out of one of them on its way there, because if they'd sent it back, it would have either an Ashville, NC, or a Seattle postmark.

Mary Jo said...

Do you suppose they have hired an Illinois helper for Patricia and Johnene in the WW fiction department? If you sealed the envelope, Tamara, how could the SASE fall out? Even if you didn't seal it, that would be quite a trick for anything to fall out of a flat envelope in the mailing process. Curious.

Chris said...

If the envelope wasn't fully sealed, or the glue not that tacky, I can see how the flap could lift and the contents come out. There's a lot of zipping through machinery and being thrown about in mailbags when letters are in transit. It sounds like the outer envelope got to WW's offices but with no story, just the SAE inside. If so, well, at least they did the decent thing and bothered to return it with that stamped explanation, so you'd know. That earns them a big tick in my eyes. I suppose you'll have to wait to get a reply on the other four to work out which story you'll need to resubmit. Then, when it's a yes, it'll be all the more satisfying for the waiting!

Betsi said...

Here's a tip for the future -- I always write a "clue" to the contents on the SASE, usually one word from the title under the return address.

Chris said...

Me, too, Betsi. Just in case they don't mention the story's title in the letter.

Tamara said...

I will do this marking of my SASE from now on.