Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Romance With Class by Amy Michaels

Photo: John Lodder via Flickr CC License
from the April 30, 2018 issue

Tagline: Liz's literature class focused on classic romances, but could a more intriguing plot be unfolding off the page?

Observations: Loved this story!! I liked the romantic literature focus of the class. I really liked the ending.

Notice there were two matchmakers in the story, rather than the usual one.

Going back and re-reading, I saw this and it made me laugh:

"Did you notice that our reading list is all classic romantic literature? I have it on good authority that our instructor is quite the romantic," Rick said.

We find out later that the instructor is Rick's uncle. LOL

Friday, April 27, 2018

Growing Love by Jenny Welsh

Photo by Ed Bierman (Flickr CC license)
from the April 23, 2018 issue

Tagline: When Harry offers to build a garden for Ellen, can more than just flowers grow?

Observations: This story was so different. I can't recall seeing very many friends-to-lovers stories in Woman's World. I thought this really worked.

I really liked her moment of clarity. I liked that she was ready to move forward and take action.

The story didn't wow me, but it was good.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Falling for Jeff by Nell Musolf

Photo by Molly via Flickr Creative Commons License
Tagline: Janet thought she would never find love again...until she accidentally met Jeff!

Observations: Let's talk about setting today. Woman's World stories very often occur in everyday settings, like in this case--the grocery store. This is why when you're searching for ideas for stories, you can often look at what's going on in your own ordinary life to get ideas.

What did you do today? Went grocery store shopping maybe. Got gas. Picked the kids up from school. Bought spackle and paint to fix a ding in the wall. Those things could all be kernels for a story. Everyday settings like the grocery store, the gas station, the hardware store, etc. make the stories more accessible for the readership. They can identify more with the story and the characters because they are so much like themselves. This is in contrast to stories in which the reader lives vicariously and therefore wants to experience something more adventurous, exciting, dangerous.

You could easily build an entire story just by starting with a common, everyday setting. You could pick a setting and then think of a small problem or goal the main character has or needs to solve.

Sample settings and problems/goals for them:

Dry cleaners - The character lost a lot of weight and needs their clothes altered. (A lot of dry cleaners in my area have alterations included as part of their services) They have a wedding to attend but the clothes they were going to wear have a big stain.

Movie theater - The character thinks they lost their phone at the movies the night before. The character got two movie tickets as a gift and doesn't want to go alone, or, conversely, is trying to adjust to life without their spouse or ex and meets someone there.

Mall - There's fender bender in the parking lot. The person can't find their car in the parking garage. The person left a bag on the roof of their car, it falls off, and spills the contents all over.

Corner coffee shop - The customer picks up someone else's drink by accident. The person doesn't know what to order. The person is trying to find a new drink because their doctor just told them no caffeine.

Pharmacy - Sprained finger, needs a splint. Looking for a greeting card of some kind. Buying all the leftover Easter/Valentine's Day/Halloween candy on sale.

See what I mean? I just dashed these off in the last ten minutes.

However, there are plenty of Woman's World stories published that do NOT have commonplace settings. So don't feel you're limited. There are just as many stories that occur at places you don't go once every one or two weeks, like the arboretum, the museum, a concert, the beach, a blueberry farm, a cooking class, and so on.

Pro tip: Have a designated place for keeping these kinds of brainstorming ideas so you can refer to them when you need them.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Colors of Love by Wendy Hobday Haugh

From the April 2, 2018 issue

Tagline: Jessie had just moved into a  new home and needed someone to help her with the painting...

Observations: I loved this story. On the surface, it was your typical "man to the rescue" story with a little "matchmaker" thrown in for good measure. I really love when stories span more than a day. This one went on for weeks as they got to know each other over several dinners. I would like to have seen a bit more about those dinners, but didn't mind the lack because the black moment was so good.

If you're new to the blog, let me explain black moments to you. There comes a time in every book, movie or story that things look very bleak. In romances, you think they couple will never get their Happily Ever After.

In this story, I found the black moment to be particularly sad. It was this sentence that did it.

Two days later, she arrived home to find the papers gone and her spare house key sitting there.

What an image, right? How appropriate that the key is sitting there all by itself, just like Jessie is. I really felt her disappointment keenly. If you can make your reader feel something the way Haugh did in that black moment, then the happy ending will be that much happier.

I also liked the surprise that he wasn't actually a house painter. I had an inkling something was odd when Dwayne had said he wasn't sure he was the right guy for the job. I also thought he might end up painting a trompe-l'oeil mural directly on the wall, exposing a talent he didn't know he'd had, but the way Haugh did it was just as good.

Great story!

Photo credit: Ewen Roberts via Flickr CC license

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Bunny Kisses by Ann M. Janis

from the March 26, 2018 issue

Tagline: Could Sean be sweet on more than just Kate's cookies?

Observations: This was a super cute story. Having been to many a fundraiser and festival in my time, this evoked a lot of the same optimism I remember as a teacher and as a parent.

I did think the milk chocolate treat for a tail on the cookies made for a weird image. I know bunnies can be brown, but these cookies were pastel, so the brown tail seemed like an odd choice.

I'd also like to issue a blanket commendation to all the uber-dedicated aunts and uncles of Woman's World stories! Again, in my experience as a teacher and parent, it was work to just get parents to attend these types of events, let alone uncles and aunts. LOL But we authors have artistic license and we often need to use it!

I adored the ending:

He smiled, and her heart did a little bunny hop.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

An Irresistible Treasure by Marti Attoun

From the March 12, 2018 issue

Tagline: Shannon didn't expect to find romance in a thrift shop...but Gabe was a treasure she couldn't resist!

Observations: I haven't done a stream-of-consciousness critique in a while and I'm a bit behind with the stories, so here goes...

1. I love clownfish! I've loved them even before Finding Nemo came out. They're so adorable and the way they "make friends" with anemones to protect themselves is amazing.

2. I can totally picture Shannon's apartment. My MIL's house was much like this--a collection of oddball items and antique furniture that was so her.

3. LOL "unique second-hand hodgepodge"

4. "If the chicken Parm bombs, you can blame it on these guys." -- I am totally confused by this line.

5. Ah, the aunt is on vacation so the handsome nephew is filling it. This is a popular trope of Woman's World stories. However, I wonder why Shannon didn't know about this vacation. I'd think Evelyn would have notified her if she saw her every week for the aquarium upkeep. I'm thinking it was probably Evelyn playing matchmaker.

6. "I'm so thrilled that Evelyn finally got to see a real ocean again." -- Oh, that's a great loop back to the line in the beginning of the story.

7. Love this line:

"What she didn't tell me was she bought enough salt and pepper shakers at an estate sale to season the whole Midwest."

8. Cute ending, tying into the title. This is something I haven't mentioned in a while. If you're looking for a way to wrap up your story neatly, connect your title with your ending line. I'm not sure what's easier--writing the ending first and coming up with a title afterward, or vice-versa. Also, the setting of a secondhand or antique shop is a tried and true one too.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Baking Up Romance by Mary Davis

Tagline: Sara had no time for love...until she met Jim!

Observations: I can appreciate the cuteness in this story. Who doesn't love a baker? Or a male teacher? I thought the math angle was clever, but I don't have much else to say about this story. Sorry.

I wanted to mention that I see a lot of farmer's markets showing up in Woman's World. It almost seems as if the farmer's market is this year's yard sale.

P.S. I must be dumber than a fourth grader because there's no way I could do that math problem with out a pen and paper.

Photo credit: Crystal via Flickr CC License