Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Good Home

by Elizabeth Palmer from the July 15, 2014 issue

Lily's trip to the shelter brought more than two sweet kittens into her life!

In a Nutshell
When Lily wants to adopt two cats from the shelter, the previous owner, who has been transferred overseas, wants to meet her first. Lily is touched by how devoted he is to his pets. When he returned unexpectedly, He wants to see Lily as much as he does the cats.

Cliches with a twist: I would venture to say at least one Woman's World story a year revolves around a pet adoption or has an animal shelter as a setting. I believe the reason is, adopting a pet is an altruistic thing to do. It shows good character and we want our hero and heroine to be admirable.

The trick to writing and selling a story with this animal adoption/shelter trope is to make it your own by putting a twist on it. In this case, Palmer had the (male) owner request that he meet the potential adopter. This tweaked my interest because it was an odd, but understandable request. Not only that, but it went a long way establishing what a caring man Adam is.

Safety First: It can be a dangerous world for a single woman. Always keep in mind that you don't want to portray your heroines doing stupid things, like agreeing to meet a man she met online in a secluded place. I noticed that when the pet adoption facilitator asked if Lily would agree to meet the cat owners, we found out that the man was her neighbor. It's not like the man provided ID and clearance from the FBI that he did not have a criminal record, but the fact that he was the woman's neighbor provides a tiny bit of security. It's a small detail, but one I thought worth mentioning.

Photo credit: Denniss via Wikimedia Commons


Tamara said...

I thought this was a nicely plotted story with a couple of nice twists: discovering that Adam is moving away and wondering how they'll ever get together; the little misstep when she thinks he's telling her he missed her and he's talking to the cat. Elizabeth Palmer does a good job. I, too, have considered the safety factor when writing these stories. I think some of them push it a bit too far, but it is happy fiction depicting an almost perfect world.

Mary Ann said...

I really liked Betsi's story. It has the perfect amount of romance, surprise and humor. Her characters always come to life for me, and that's not easy in these short-shorts. And I agree, there has to be a degree of "safety" portrayed, but really, these stories are sweet little fantasies that should take the reader on a pleasurable ride with no worries about the real world and dating dangers. I usually have my characters know a person in common, or meet somewhere public, or whatever, but I don't think the reader should be burdened by those thoughts too much. It's "romance!"
--Mary Ann

Tamara said...

Those kittens are adorable, Kate.

Pat said...

I agree with everything said above. As a reader I try not to think about the safety factor but as a writer, I always think about it which is why I have trouble writing for WW. My east coast mentality gets in the way a lot.

Betsi does the WW story so well.

Joyce Ackley said...

In my latest submission to WW, the setting is a mall parking lot. The mall is about to close, and my female character is hurrying to a department store to buy a birthday present for her niece. She falls and twists her left ankle. She is rescued by a man who sees her fall. He helps her to her car because she is unable to put weight on her foot. I thought about the safety factor of a story like this, and because of this, I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't rejected by the first reader. Got my fingers crossed, but I'm not feeling confident.

Tamara said...

Joyce, let us know what happens with this story. It's been my experience that the first editor doesn't give reasons for rejections, which is frustrating, because, with just a few scribbled words from her, we could learn what not to submit. This sounds like a cute story plot.

Joyce Ackley said...

Tamara, I agree. It would be helpful to know why the story didn't work. I received a note from Johnene once on a rejection letter. She liked the story but said my female was "too abrasive," or something like that. My character was a fiery redhead with a hot temper. Johnene didn't ask me to revise and re-submit. I like the plot on the one I just subbed, but that doesn't mean the editors at WW will. Sigh.

Betsi said...

Thanks to everyone who said nice things about my story.

I decided to write a story about cat adoption after seeing on FB that the EIC is a member of cat rescue groups. After I wrote it, I realized they might not like that the hero had asked for the transfer, even though he’d have to give up his cats. I revised it to say his sister had taken them, but his niece became allergic. Johnene replaced that with the line about him not knowing how difficult it would be to take them with him. I added the line about the volunteer knowing the hero in case they had concerns about the safety issue, but I was less worried about that. Woman’s World-land isn’t real life—the small towns in these stories are always safe places where men are good guys and always single!

However—Joyce—if your instinct tells you that something in your story will result in a rejection, my advice would be to fix it before you send it out. A mall parking lot right before closing would be dark (we’re submitting for winter now) and deserted. Maybe not the right “vibe” for WW? The good news is . . . you never know what will sell. And you get to try again, and again, and again. ;-)

Tamara said...

Johnene doesn't ask for revisions, is my impression, but, as you know, she does sometimes revise stories she likes. I recently revised the first paragraph of a story returned by first editor with no comment. I sent it again and it has surely reached Johnene by now.

Joyce Ackley said...

Betsi, I didn't have the pleasure of reading your story. I don't subscribe to WW, and I think I was on vacation when it came out. But I am a cat lover ( I have 3), and I know it must have been a sweet story. If I run across it, I'll be sure to read it.

I didn't think too much about the safety factor in my story when I wrote it. My character had parked close to the store and was almost to it when she fell. I figure the mall would have been well-lit near the entrances and stores. I didn't have a gut feeling about it then, but I wondered about it after I subbed. You're right, nobody knows what will sell.

I wish us all luck with our stories. Hope I get to read yours soon.

Betsi said...

Tamara, that was a gutsy move! Did you keep the same title?

Tamara said...

Yes, I did, because I liked my title ("Beauty and the Geek"). I even put a note on it, saying I didn't know why she didn't like the story but that I thought the beginning was a bit harsh, so I rewrote it and was giving it another try. I thought if she didn't approve it and send it to Johnene, at least she might tell me what she didn't like about it when she returned it. That was in February, and unless she got mad and tossed it, Johnene should have it.

Chris said...

Joyce, I get the scans of the stories sent to me each week from another WW writer and send them to several friends over there. If you'd like to email me, csutton45athotmaildotcom (change the at to @ and the dot to .) then I can forward them to you each week. I've got a backlog of about twenty on file at present, plus the mini-mysteries!

This was another gem from Betsi, who really has got the gift of writing WW stories down to a fine art. Safety factors seem to matter a lot more here in the UK than in WW stories. I get the occasional rejection because an editor was worried that I had put my heroine in jeopardy, whereas the eds at WW seem to feel that all good looking single men just have to be trustworthy. The comments above are right, there is a cotton wool fluffiness to WW settings. It's a world where nothing bad ever happens and as long as you don't have your heroine getting into a car at night with a complete stranger, or going to his house after knowing him five seconds, then I think a lot of the 'normal' rules can be set aside.

Joyce Ackley said...

Thanks, Chris. You are so kind to offer. I will be contacting you later. I would love to read Betsi's kitty story.

Hopefully, my story is "fluffy" enough that the safety factor will be overlooked! LOL

I have a WW reject featured at

It came back with a rejection from the first reader. I added more to it and sent to Romance Flash. I got an acceptance right away.

Tamara said...

Joyce, I just read that story in Romance Flash, and I just can't imagine why WW rejected it. (I take it Gaddis gave you no feedback.)I was ready to drag out a few of my rejects and expand them until I noticed the $3 payment.

Joyce Ackley said...

I know, Tamara, I know. I have another story on Romance Flash, in the archives under Stories in the Menu. It's called Perri's Prince. Also a WW reject. In June, a similar story was pubbed in WW. It was called "A Real Prince." Made me sad that mine was subbed and rejected, then a similar published. Perri's Prince made it to Johnene and she penned a nice note on the rejection. Sigh. This is so disappointing to me...I have high hopes, then a big let-down. Maybe someday. I have had a mini-mystery out since February, so maybe there's a chance for that.

Tamara said...

That is frustrating. Do you think "Perri's Prince" might have been one that she sent to EIC who then rejected it? I'm going to go on there and read it. Did Romance Flash editor do a lot of editing? Chris has told us all about some overseas markets. I've been unsuccessful with them so far, but they do pay better than Romance Flash.

Betsi said...

I sold a WW reject to the UK magazine The People's Friend and just received a scan of it today. I only made $133 USD, but it was a story I loved so I'm thrilled to see it published. This magazine has a large circulation and the story is beautifully illustrated. Thanks to Chris for sharing the info!!

I have mixed feelings about sites like Romance Flash. Joyce's story is very cute, and it's great to be able to read quality fiction for free. But authors don't get paid enough as it is--even WW hasn't raised its rate in decades. I hate to see so many writers giving away their work for free. Or for $3.

Mary Jo said...

"No man but a blockhead ever wrote for anything except for money."
...Samuel Johnson

"Writers are a dime a dozen."
...The Editors

Betsi said...

I'm not sure I fully agree with either sentiment, Mary Jo, but they did make me smile!

Mary Jo said...

I know, Betsi. Writers put time and energy and passion into their writing and would hope to receive a just compensation when their story is published. The editors are swamped with story submissions and have to search for that one piece that will fit their publication. It is WAR, I tell you.

Joyce Ackley said...

Tamara, Romance Flash did no editing at all. I see in one place where a paragraph break is needed, and it's not there. That was my mistake when I sent it. I checked it over a dozen times and thought I'd fixed everything.

I don't like being underpaid or not receiving any pay for my work. I haven't been able to find any paying markets and have not tried the UK ones. I think I'll look into that. I figure if I'm published anywhere, it's at least getting my name out there.

I don't know if Perri's Prince reached the EIC or not. It's been a while since I sent it. I don't think I even know where the letter is. The note on it was from Johnene.

Mary Jo, your quotes make me smile. I am not a confident writer, and so I sometimes settle for just having my name in print.

Thanks for your compliments on my story.

Tamara said...

I've accepted not being paid when I've been published in literary journals, especially since I'd sent that last one (Serving House) to a lot of publications and been rejected. One of the online literary journals paid me $129 for an essay; I guess it was so many pennies per word. I write the WW romances and mysteries for the money, though--and I guess I find some fun in the process and commisseration. Gee, Mary Jo, that quote from the editors is cold.

Mary Jo said...

Tamara, I just put "The Editors" on that quote because I do not know who originally said it. I just know I have heard it many times. A good editor looks for a good story, though.

Does anyone have the guidelines for the UK market The People's Friend? I cannot get them to come up on my computer. I have ordered some annual UK publications and hope to get some guidance from those. Would you believe the postage is as much as the entire order?

Tamara said...

Mary Jo,

I've heard editors' complaints about how people who think they can write send stuff in and people don't read guidelines, etc., so I guess each side has its complaints.

I think Chris is our resident expert on UK pubs.

Chris said...

Mary Jo, why didn't you ask me for the link to People's Friend - we email almost every day! They are readily available online. Go to this link and select the guidelines you prefer.

Joyce, there are so many markets both here and overseas that you can try but please don't think you are going to get anything like the money that Woman's World offers. Bauer is a HUGE company and can afford to pay accordingly. DC Thomson, publishers of UK mags The People's Friend, My Weekly and The Weekly News, are Scottish based and pay is on a smaller scale, so as Betsi pointed out the money is nowhere near the $800 that you are all used to. But as I keep saying, if you want to see your work in print (and who doesn't when you've put all that effort into writing it?) then you've got to be brave and dip your toe in the waters of overseas submissions. I sent Kate a long and fairly comprehensive list of various markets last year which she kindly made available on this site, so please check it out. It's the first one listed under Links.

One final thing - I recently sent one of my rejected WW romances, called Suited and Bootied (some of you may remember giving me feedback on it before it went), to Fast Fiction in Australia. FF has recently had a fiction editor change and the new ed, Nikki Roberts, accepted my story within a week. It can be done.

Melanie D said...

Hi, Chris:

Do you have a name for the editor of Fast Fiction? Also, any idea what they mean by indicating if it's first or second rights? Do they mean previously published?

Thanks so much for compiling the guidelines for overseas markets. I think I'm finally going to take the plunge and send a WW reject.


Chris said...

Melanie, first rights are the rights you grant to the first magazine to publish your story. With some mags, like WW, that will kill a story stone dead because they don't just require first rights but all rights worldwide. Happily, though, there are a number that will buy only their country's first rights and will consider previously published work.

Since few magazines will accept stories that have already been published in the same country, this means submitting overseas. In your covering letter or email, make it clear that the story has been in such and such magazine, and when. Not only does it prove its worth, but it saves any awkwardness later if they accept it on the basis of it being unpublished and then withdraw their offer. You don't need to offer them 'second rights' in your cover letter, just say it's been previously published. Fortunately, Fast Fiction is happy to consider previously published work, as long as you are upfront about it.

In charge of fiction at present is Nikki Roberts.
Full guidelines are available on

You'll see that they have several different categories of length, so tailor your story to within a few words of one of those word counts. Good luck.