Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Perfect Match

by Mayori Krues from the September 21, 2015 issue

Tagline: Once Christina opened her heart to the possibility of finding love, love found her!

Observations: I very much liked the theme of this story--that love doesn't pay any attention to age, however, the story itself struck me as a bit average. The setting wasn't anything special, The characters were a bit flat. The plot wasn't anything new. I'm not saying that all of these things need to really stand out, but in this story, to me, none of them do. I think if just one of those things--setting, characterization or plot--and been unusual or more beefed up, this story would have been much better.

Again, please remember, I'm only one person and this is only my personal opinion. Obviously, Johnene saw fit to publish it so, to her, it was worth $800. :)

Photo credit: Pexels.com via Creative Commons License

Sunday, September 27, 2015

He Captured Her Heart

by Colette Shannon from the September 14, 2015 issue

Tagline: Dr. Alexis Anderson never dreamed she could fall for a man with a beard and a ponytail. But, sometimes, that's just how love works!

Observations: I liked this story and found it stood out because of the very unusual story structure. Here's a breakdown:

1. Conversation with Alexis and her friend - sets up Alexis' personal history as 40 and never married, establishes the timeline (summer is over and school just started), and that Alexis met someone over the summer but is questioning it.

2. Summary of her summer - we find out she rented a cabin, we see her meet Ranger Max, we are told about how Max pursues her.

3. Turning point - Still within the flashback, we go even deeper in, for a more detailed description where they first kiss. Here, we see that they have a lot in common, are sexually attracted to each other.

4. Black moment #1 - We're still back in time. They part ways. The summer is over.

5. Fast forward, black moment #2 - Back in the present day, sometime after that initial convo with the friend. A man is there to see her. Beard and ponytail? No.

6. Happy reunion - Ha! Of course it's Max. He just looks different. He cleaned up for her. (How sweet.) They decide to make a go of it, even though they live in different worlds.

So, see what I mean? There's a lot of back and forthing (not an official writing term). There are two black moments. There's also a lot of telling, because frankly, there was a lot of telling to do. But it worked. Shannon really had to pack so much info in there and really convince you that their summer was eventful and, as you know, she only had 800 words to do it with.

Photo credit: Robb Hannawacker via Creative Commons License

Monday, September 21, 2015

Could It Be Magic?

by Shelley Cooper from the September 7, 2015 issue

Tagline: Though Maggie no longer believed in magic, she'd fallen under Max Bennett's spell!

Observations: This will be a stream-of-consciousness critique which is where I type my thoughts as I read the story. I haven't done that in a while and I'm on a tight deadline this week, so here we go.

Magicians! Cool! I love magicians. I watched the TV movie Houdini with Adrian Brody and found it very interesting. But I digress.

Her dad performed at bar mitzvahs? I never got to see a magic show at any of the bar mitzvahs I've attended. That would have been fun.

Ooh, I'm jealous of Maggie having learned all those tricks. I used to know a couple of card tricks. They're fun, especially when you show them to kids. However, I am wondering if Maggie the little girl would really have been upset that they were tricking people. Maybe my sister and I were weird, but we loved baffling our friends.

Okay. Here's the scene:

"People want to believe in magic," my father told me once when I balked at performing.

"But we're tricking them!" I protested.

"No, Maggie, we're giving them hope. Magic--real magic--is in the eye of the beholder. You'll understand when you're older."

Hm. The hope line isn't flying with me. When I see a magic show, I'm not sitting in the audience hoping the trick will work or that magic exists. I feel this line is a bit contrived for something that I have yet to read in the story or is an attempt to get sentimental and evoke emotion. I'm going to read on and see.

Ah, we meet the hero. I like the description of him and I like how he's a magician in the booth at the school where the festival is going on.

 LOL. I love how she's standing there, arms crossed, and knows how he does all the tricks because she knows from her days with her dad.

Okay, I got engrossed in the story for a bit because it got good. We meet foster kid, Sarah, and get back story on her. I care about Sarah and I suddenly admire Maggie a bit more. The kids' interaction is spot on. As a former elementary school teacher, I'm sensitive to kids being portrayed in a not so realistic manner, and the way Tommy yells is perfect. I adored finding out about the diaper in the bag!

The line about her heart soaring was a tiny bit too much for me.

Oh, wow, she reconciles with her dad? AWESOME. That tying up of a thread isn't something you see every day in a Woman's World story.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Wonderful Mistake

by Rosalind Villers from the August 31, 2015 issue

Tagline: Florist Samantha worried she might be late delivering the wedding-party boutonnieres...but, in fact, her timing was perfect!

Observations: I was talking just last night with my son about adding tiny details to a story can really establish yourself as an "expert" to the reader, even if you're really not. When you get the details right, you earn the trust of the reader. I don't know if Villers has worked in a flower shop or knows someone who does, but either way, here are some of the things that made me feel the authenticity of this story.

1. I work at Starbucks and there are several refrigerators - the freezer, the milk fridge, the back room fridge, the bar fridge, the cold bar fridge. If someone set a story at Starbucks and referred to a fridge, no one would probably blink an eye. Of course Starbucks has a fridge. But if you referred to it as the cold bar fridge, wouldn't that sound more real? This is what I'm talking about and in "A Wonderful Mistake," "the cooler" sounded like real florist lingo to me.

2. Villers also talked about the workings and problems of running the small business. Saturdays were busy. Samantha had a driver, but he called in sick. Having to deal with employees who made possible disastrous mistakes. (Weddings are so important and I could easily envision a Bridezilla moment if the boutonnieres never got delivered.) Having to fill in at the last minute to correct that mistake.

3. When Jacob knocks over the arrangement, Sam is quick to tell them that the flowers were sturdy. That's a detail I wouldn't think of as a mere admirer and sometimes grower of flowers. Of course, a florist would know which stems would hold up and which wouldn't.

So, in summary, I'd like to encourage you to research for these types of details. Yes, it's only an 800 word story, but when you see how much authenticity a few words and phrases add, I think you'll see it's worth the time.

Photo credit: gadgetdude via Creative Commons license

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Young at Heart

by Kay Layton Sisk from the August 24, 2015 issue

Tagline: Deb's daughter thought her mother needed some romance in her life. Deb was way ahead of her!

Observations: This was a matchmaker story turned on its head. We start out thinking, oh, another matchmaker story. In fact, half the story was devoted to the daughter trying to convince her mom that Mr. Bewley is interested in her and that they should all get together the next weekend.

But then Sisk threw in a twist. Mom and Bewley have already fallen in love! Adorable surprise. I loved it.

So don't be afraid to take a trope, like the matchmaker, and put your own spin on it.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Love at the Farmers' Market

by Diane Crawford from the August 17, 2015 issue

Tagline: Everybody at the farmers' market seemed to love Lily's zucchini brownies--and she was please when one good-looking customer came back for more!

Observations: I always look forward to Diane Crawford's stories. (Hi, Diane! Long time, no email! :) ) This one was a solid offering. When I read the tagline, I immediately thought of another story set at a farmer's market. The heroine in that one wore a crazily-colored wig as a sales gimick...

Anyway, what I liked about this one was that she lead you to believe that the guy her grandmother wanted her to meet and the zucchini brownie lover were one and the same person. If you're a long-time reader of Woman's World stories, I'm sure you weren't fooled at all. But that doesn't really matter, Woman's World readers are willing to suspend their disbelief and pretend for the sake of the reading experience. That's really what we all do when we read romance, right? It will always end happily, but we enter a state of temporary disillusion so we can have fun worrying that it won't.

When the reveal finally happened...I loved that part, where she pretended to be psychic and spouted all the wrong information. I thought that was hilarious. And the hero's response was perfect.

"Reception must be bad today. My name is Tanner, my grandmother is Ruth and I'm an EMT." He took the brownies. "How about we discuss your psychic abilities over coffee when you're finished here? There's a coffee shop around the corner."

I also really liked how I felt at the end of the story. Sometimes when I finish reading a Woman's World story, I feel quietly content that things will work out. With this story, there was more excitement and optimism in the heroine. She was really psyched (yes, I still use that term) to go out with Tanner and it came through.

Lastly, I couldn't help but notice there was a recipe for zucchini brownies in this issue. Coincidence? I don't think so. :)

Photo credit: BarbaraLN via Creative Commons license

Friday, August 28, 2015

My Charming Opponent

by Tamara Shaffer from the August 3, 2015 issue

Tagline: Jennifer really didn't expect to enjoy the fencing class she'd signed up for. But that was before she met Jack Anders...

Observations: This week we have a "moving on" story in which the recently divorced heroine is trying something new. I think we all admire a woman who puts a painful past behind her and looks ahead to her future. What we don't expect, as readers, is for her to try fencing!

I thought there was enough detail and realism to make me suspect that Shaffer has taken fencing lessons or knows someone who has. (My sister took fencing in college. I am sure she still has her epee. She was a theatre major. 'Nuff said.) It was clever to have them matched up because they were both lefties and handy way to have them connect over this commonality.

As you can see, there was a misunderstanding on Jennifer's part when she sees him get in the car with the woman and toddler. This little tool is one we see often in Woman's World stories. Don't be afraid to use it. The trick is making sure the reveal (that it's actually the sister/cousin/neighbor/co-worker) flows. For instance, Shaffer could have written something like this:

"You're a formidable opponent, as well as a pretty one. It's a good thing my sister was able to drive me to class last week, since my car had broken down, otherwise I wouldn't have met you."

A bit clunky, right? A little, "As you know, Bob..."

So, make sure that when you drop that info about who that decoy really is, you do it naturally. The conversation has to sound normal, not stilted. A good way to make sure it's not stilted is to read it aloud. Or have someone else read it aloud to you.

Photo credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5