Monday, July 18, 2016

Love Awaits by Mary Ann Joyce

From the July 11, 2016 issue

Hi, all, I was at the Romance Writers of America conference this past week. I had meant to bring my Woman's World magazines with me so I could blog, but I forgot them at home, along with my toothbrush and toothpaste. I had a blast. I learned a lot. I was able to reconnect with some Woman's World writers, even!

Tagline: Takeout Thursday is just another day--until Marcy receives a fortune that could change her love life!

Observations: I thought this story was adorable. Upon scanning it and looking for a teaching point, I thought I'd zero in on the hero, Jake. Often, when I'm editing a WW story for someone, the author spends so much time setting up the situation and/or describing the backstory that we end up with almost no interaction between the hero and the heroine.

This is a mistake.

You need to show them interacting so that we get some inkling that they're compatible and that they're a good match for each other. It's an instance of "show, don't tell." You can't just say, "They were a match made in heaven." You have to do a little showing as well.

Also, while the heroine may know the hero and be enamored of him, to the reader, he's a stranger. The man needs to be "on stage" long enough for us to get to know him. He needs to actually say something other than, "Nice to meet you, Mary. I'm John." Does that make sense?

In this story, Joyce did a great job of introducing Jake. The first thing that made him likable to me was when he looked around looking for food. I thought, "Typical man," and Marcy reacted like I would when she tried to feed him. Obviously, the dog anecdote endeared him even more to me.

I wanted to point out two more things I just noticed.

I'm not sure if it's foreshadowing, but did you notice Jake slipped the fortune cookie into his pocket? This is so he could write that fortune and leave it on Marcy's desk. Now, Joyce didn't have to mention that at all. If she hadn't, we probably would have assumed that he got the cookie when we "weren't looking." But because it is there, and in the backs of our minds we readers know it's there, it makes the story all that much tighter. It's little details like that.

Also, I loved that when Joyce introduced the fact that Jake makes special stops at Marcy's cubicle, she did it near the end and not at the beginning. I think this placement was very smart. As the story stands, there's a slight tension because we think oh, poor Marcy, she's been pining away for Jake and Jake doesn't even know she's alive. So, we're a little more emotionally invested. But then, later, we find out that Jake does these fly-bys and we feel a little zing of hope.

Now, take a moment and imagine it had been put in the beginning of the story, perhaps in that paragraph where Jake enters the break room. Then we have a story about a woman who has a work crush and a man who has a work crush and neither of them are doing anything about it. Different story, right? The way Joyce did it, we're rooting for Marcy. See what I mean? :)

Photo credit: Andrew Malone via Flickr Creative Commons License


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Treasure to Remember by Kathy Hendrickson

From the July 4, 2016 issue

Tagline: Amy didn't think she'd ever find Mr. Right--until she met a gorgeous guy at the antiques mall!

Observations: Ah, the antiques mall. What a fun place to bop around and it's the perfect Woman's World type place to find romance. There's that Americana, Normal Rockwell atmosphere that really resonates with the readers of WW.

I found a few things to comment on, which is always a relief. LOL Sometimes I read a WW story and have nothing to say about it.

There was a bit of a repetition in the beginning...

Amy had all but given up on finding true love. She didn't even want to talk about it to anyone...

Then a couple paragraphs down...

"I know you don't want to talk about it, dear, but I know there's someone out there just for you!"

There was also some repeating at the end.

"How about we go to lunch and then to my grandfather's lock shop?"

and

"Great," he said. "Let's go have lunch, and then we'll stop by my grandfather's store to find a key for that box."

This may have been on purpose for emphasis, but it read repetitive to me. If it was an error, it gives me the opportunity to suggest you find at least one person who can critique and proofread your stories for you. Sometimes we miss things like this because we're too close to the story.

Hendrickson fooled me in this story. When the granny spouted a saying, I thought for sure the saying would show up again the the last sentence of the story, but it didn't. LOL

I loved it when Nicholas said "Don't leave. I'll be right back." There's a hero with just the right amount of assertiveness. He's also a great grandson, obviously. I also LOVED when the grannies exchanged that secret smile. ADORABLE.

All in all, a solid story that I enjoyed.

Photo credit: Paul Sableman via Flickr Creative Commons License

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Wedding Wager by Shelley Cooper

June 20, 2016 issue

Tagline: Erin thought the spark she'd carried for Erik was dead...until she saw him again!

Observations: I'm going to do a stream-of-consciousness critique this week. I haven't done one of those in a while. This is where I just tell you my thoughts as I read the story. I hope the thoughts I have end up being good ones. LOL

Aww, they're childhood friends who went to summer camp together. I hated summer camp and only went once. I think it might have been a weekend and it was the most miserable weekend of my life. However, I'm well able to imagine that other people had a fantastic time, like in The Parent Trap (new version. <--one evah.="" favorite="" movies="" my="" nbsp="" of="" p="" very="">
Having your wedding at your old summer camp is a very quaint setting. I hope there's more meaning to this location.

OMG I love that she got the root beer float to share with her new friend. That's so sweet. Love that.

Planning futures with boy crushes...man, can I identify with that. I used to write love letters in my diary to Rudy Baldoni who lived across the street from my dad's house. He was so out of my league it wasn't even funny.

Okay, LMAO. "It's been ten years, Mel. That spark is deader than the campfires we used to sing around."  Hilarious.

Oh! This is great. "Bet you a dollar, if you stir those ashes, you'll find an ember still burning." This is beautiful. It not only brings back their original bet to climb the rope, it connects with her spark metaphor. Awesome. This is the stuff that makes a story nice and tight.

Erik still hasn't shown. This is a Woman's World black moment. The point in the story where you are worried there's not going to be a happy ending. Usually in Woman's World, the worry is not very urgent or dire. Sometimes it's barely even noticable.

Erik arrives, finally! I love this moment, but I wish she'd elaborated more on what he looked like now and what that sight does to her insides.

Hm. The invitation to go for a walk seemed abrupt. I would have smoothed this out a little had it been my story.

They've just gone on their walk and he takes her hand and says he wants to get reacquainted and I'm feeling a little lukewarm. The story was going great and then it sort of lost steam for me. I am not feeling the attraction. Erik seems monochromatic to me. There's no life to him, no personality.

I'm finished with the story. I LOVED the friendship between Melody and Erin. I wish I had felt the same connection with Erik. He just felt flat for me. However, the whole bet motif was fabulous.

Photo credit: David Morse via Flickr Creative Commons License



Thursday, June 23, 2016

Passing the Test! by Elizabeth Palmer

June 27, 2016 issue

Tagline: Rachel had nerves of steel...until she met Kelly!

Observations: This was a refreshing premise I've not seen before. It was totally believable that a grown man from New York City would need driving lessons. I liked how the story spanned six weeks, however, I was still somewhat surprised when he leaned over and actually kissed her. It seemed a little out of the blue to me, but it wasn't enough to sour me on the story. I liked it a lot.

One other thing to point out is the use of the sexually ambiguous name to create a brief misunderstanding. This is another tool you have in your Woman's World Toolbox. The misunderstanding is a trope we see often in WW stories. They never last long, but they're handy. Usually the main character jumps to a conclusion, like in this story, about the sex of someone, or that the love interest has a significant other. It's good to know about all these tropes so you can mix and match and hopefully come up with something new and refreshing.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Running for Love! by Amy Michaels

June 13, 2016 issue

Tagline: Jenna isn't a natural at jogging...but the cute runner and his dog keep her going!

Observations: I loved this story for many reasons.

I really identified with Jenna. I hate running and this paragraph was funny...

The fact that I'm running at all is a miracle. I'm a nurse whose exercise routine has mostly consisted of carrying fast food up two flights of stairs to my apartment after a 12-hour shift.

So, the premise of the story is that Jenna is a proactive woman. She sets goals and she meets them. It's fun to see her try to meet the cute runner, and fail. We've all been there. We've all told ourselves we're going to do something and then chicken out. So we feel for her.

Here was another bit that had me laughing.

The next day I'm back at it, determined to speak to him when we pass. I've practiced running in place and talking at the same time until I can say a few words without supplemental oxygen.

LMAO.

Shortly after that, we have a mid-story turning point, which is a great thing. It's that point in the story where everything is turned on its ear. You think the story is going this one way and then BAM, it switches gears. Brent sprains his ankle and we suddenly have a woman-to-the-rescue story.

It's icing on the cake that he has to put his arm around her to hobble back to his car, right? LOL And then he confesses...

"To tell you the truth, I tripped because I was checking my watch to see when you'd appear."

Score! This shows he's attracted to her as well. Showing the attraction is something I think you should always do in a Woman's World story.

At the end of the story, Jenna overcomes her fear and asks him out. Okay, he already made it clear he'd be amenable, but still, she does it. I think that's a big part of why I enjoyed this story so much--I feel proud of Jenna at the end as well as happy that she's going to go on a date with Brent.

Photo credit: Candida.Performa via Flickr Creative Commons License

Friday, June 10, 2016

Perfect Casting by Nell Musolf

June 6, 2016 issue

Tagline: Caitlin found her leading man for what may be the role of a lifetime!

Observations: There wasn't really anything wrong with this story, but it didn't particularly grab me. The characters didn't engage me too much. When Nick tried out for the part, I wasn't sure if he was trying to appear bewildered or if he actually was. I think Musolf did a great job showing that they have a future together, but I find myself not that interested in reading about it. Your mileage may vary.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Cup of Love! by Rosemary Hayes

May 30, 2016 issue

Tagline: Nikki liked the coffee messages Ethan set to her...but would he ever ask her out?

Observations: Well now. I happen to be a barista with ten years experience, so the coffee shop details were particularly interesting to me. (The photo used in the magazine isn't true latte art. It looks like someone shook cinnamon onto the drink using a template.)

I liked, but didn't love, this story. I think I've seen this plot before: a character is stood up for a blind date at a dining establishment, and the owner or employee notices and commiserates, and they end up together. In fact, I kept thinking I'd actually read this story before.

My gripes...

There were more exclamation points than I like. (Sometimes if you add too many exclamation points to a man's conversation, it makes him seem a little silly, maybe even effeminate.) I counted nine and if it had been my story, I don't think any of them needed to be there. If in doubt, leave it out.

It's not "coffee art," it's "latte art." You can't make art in a cup of coffee because there's no foam. And you don't usually see words because the art is created by pouring the foam and sometimes using a tool like a toothpick to add detail. But this is not something your average coffee drinker would know.

I felt frustrated by the convenient interruptions by Ethan's somewhat incompetent employees and then his vacation on top of that...but I liked the ending a lot. It had that cheery optimism and was very believable.

Photo credit: Kenny Louie via Flickr Creative Commons