Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sunshine in the Forecast

by Elizabeth Palmer from the March 17, 2014 issue

Tagline: When Anna met Mike, she forgot about the cold winter and began to look forward to a warm and sunny future...

In a Nutshell: Anna has just moved north and isn't sure she likes it, especially when she discovers the oak tree in her front yard is a lost cause. She changes her mind when she meets the man from the nursery.

Stream of Consciousness Observations: Hm. I'm to the place where the magazine inserts a highlighted quote and so far, I'm not particularly drawn in.

Handy how the neighbor happened to have a slip of paper with those names and numbers on it. LOL

Ah! The neighbor warns her to ask for the young Mike Greene. There's a nice twist on the cliche. Very often in WW stories, there is a "mix-up" in a family business situation. Usually the older worker is unavailable or sick and the real love interest steps up to the plate.

Notice that Palmer has laid out the heroine's conflict in a couple of places. Anna isn't so sure about living up north.

I love the moment they meet. Mike is funny.

Now I'm really liking Anna's inner thoughts. Obviously we know she's going to choose to stay, but you can see that she's already subconsciously made the decision when Young Mike talks about the maple. Up until then she'd been just thinking about moving back, then after meeting Mike, her thoughts take a turn and become more about what she'll miss. Subtle change, but important.

All right, done with the story. I liked it. In fact, I guess you could say I warmed up to it. Get it? LOL. Seriously, it took me a tiny bit to get into the slower, more thoughtful tone, but once I did that, I was fine. I guess I was expecting a perky heroine, and Anna wasn't. I did enjoy watching her change her mind about staying.

Photo credit: Denis Jacquerye via Wikimedia Commons


Zadea said...

Kudos to Betsi for having such a perfectly-timed submission for the beginning of spring, but still, this story left me a bit cold. (ouch!)

The older neighbor as matchmaker has been done a lot, and there is not much action, more telling. Even if the telling is in dialogue, it's still telling.
And I may be going out on a limb here (ouch, again!) but as much as l liked the wording "splayed across the lawn like pick-up sticks," I couldn't quite buy that these were the branches of an oak--maple or ash tree, yes, but not the mighty oak, especially an oak so young as to have been planted within living memory. Oaks grow slowly and live hundreds of years. Also mentioning just the branches does not make it clear that the entire tree was lost.

Sorry, but little details like this interfere with a reader's "willing suspension of disbelief."

If any of my comments were the result of editing, not the writing, I do apologize!

Chris said...

Zadea, the bit about the branches being scattered like pick-up sticks on the lawn is followed in the next sentence by the neighbour mourning the loss of the tree. Okay, maybe the two could have been swapped around but it's a minor point. We're not told the neighbour's age but assuming the tree had been there maybe seventy+ years, then it would still be a hefty old beast, certainly no sapling!

Kate, the note with the phone numbers just happening to be in the old lady's pocket made sense to me, since she has seen that the tree is down and will need removal, so has helpfully scribbled the details on a scrap of paper before coming outdoors. It doesn't say that but that's how I read it.

I thought this was well up to Betsi's usual high standard, warm and with touches of humour that make you smile as you read it. We even had some inner conflict here, something that's all too rare in WW romances. I liked it a lot.

majbooks said...

I loved this story by Betsi.Her stories always have more than one layer, and that's very difficult to do in 800 words. This one had the heroine wondering about planting a new tree, or not planting a new tree. She decides to, and we realize this has a lot of meaning: she wants to see how it will turn out, and it's a permanent thing with roots. She's staying and looking forward to the future, maybe with young Mike. I also agree with Chris. The woman next door saw the tree had fallen and walks out prepared to give Anna the slip of paper. That didn't bother me in the least and it sets up the joke to follow when Anna meets "young Mike." As for the tree perhaps not being that old, I pictured it at least 50 years old, and the woman next door very elderly. I loved the humor in this story and how quickly it moved along. I didn't miss action here because I loved the dialog. There is only so much you can do with 800 words (less when edited by Woman's World) and I think this story is perfect. It's a little slice of life, very sweet, and I'm always in awe of Betsi's skill with these short romances.
--Mary Ann

Pat said...

I loved this story. The timing of it in the magazine was great too. After the cold northeast winter we've had it was nice to read a snowy, but warm story.

I agree with Chris and Mary Ann, Besti writes a wonderful, layered story. This is tiny slice of life where we see the heroine's growth. It's difficult to get a whole story arc in 800 words.

Betsi said...

Thanks, Kate, and everyone who commented, pro and con. Sometimes I get the urge to "branch out" (ha!) and make my stories bigger than the cute-meet concept easily accommodates, which can leave them a bit short on romance, like this one. Because of the limited word count, I trust the readers to fill in the blanks, as Chris did. The neighbor's mission was to help Anna solve a problem (demonstrating that Northerners are friendly too). Her matchmaking was secondary and not part of my original story plan.

I'm thankful that Johnene sometimes publishes these stories that don't "fit the mold" quite as neatly as others.