Thursday, June 20, 2019

Picture Bliss

by Mary Ellen Main

Tagline: When art teacher Sue Becker assigns her students a special Father's Day project, she never imagines it will color her life with new love.

Observations: I thought this was an adorable story. When the call went out recently for Father's Day stories, I was like, "What? How does anyone write a story based on Father's Day?" Well, Main did. :)

I liked the humor about Simon's stick figure drawing in the middle of the story. It's always great to add humor and to show your characters having a sense of humor. That's one of the most popular traits people look for in mates, isn't it? But I was puzzled about this part:

"Would you consider going out to dinner with me tomorrow evening, Sue...to get to know each other a little better?"

"I'd like that," she said, her heart swelling. "On one condition."

"What's that?"

"That Simon doesn't draw any pictures of what we look like together."

Carson grinned. "Well, I"m sorry but I can't promise that," he laughed, squeezing her hand in his. "He loves to draw what makes him happy."

Why didn't she want him to draw a picture of them? She's his kindergarten teacher and hopefully appreciates children's artwork. Maybe someone can explain it to me in the comments. :)

Photo credit: Ruth Hartnup via Flickr CC license

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Secret Recipe for Love

by Julie Brookman

Tagline: When Chelsea Edwards is pitted against her handsome nemesis, Joel, in the annual barbecue competition, the grill isn't the only thing heating up!

Observations: Chelsea was a sassy heroine, one I admired. She stepped up to grill by herself when her dad couldn't compete. She was able to hold her own when Joel was teasing her. She was pretty canny when she realized Joel was "trying to throw her off her game."

Usually when there are stories that revolve around cooking, I find something to gripe about. I've watched a lot of cooking shows and I am a good cook myself, but I saw nothing to ping my radar. Yay!

The bad news: I totally have a craving for ribs now.

Tropes: second chance, enemies to lovers

Photo credit: David McSpadden via Flickr CC license


Love on Page One

by Alyssa Symon from the June 3, 2019 issue

Tagline: When Bonnie boards her flight to a literary conference, she's given up on love--until a handsome stranger rewrites her story.

Stream of Consciousness Observations: The man is wearing a suit on the plane? He must be a business man going on a business trip. Gone are the days when people dressed up to travel.

Hm. Her heart throbbed? Odd word choice.

I like the stubble paragraph. I'm fascinated with facial hair. Wait, that sounds weird. I mean I just find stubble attractive. LOL

Even though I never saw the movie, I immediately think of "Weekend at Bernie's" when I see his name is Bernie.

Connecting over books? OMG. I'm jealous of Bonnie. My husband is not a Reader.

Black moment arrives. Of course, they have to part at the baggage claim. But being a savvy WW story reader, I know he's going to show up at the conference.

OMG. I LOVE how he reveals his presence at the conference! Although I totally expected him to be there, when he taps her on the shoulder and says she's in his seat...it's perfect.

I loved this story.

Photo credit: Stevep2008 via Flickr CC license

Saturday, June 1, 2019

A Love Remembered

by Lisa Weaver from the May 27, 2019 issue

Tagline: When Kate takes on the role of emcee at a Memorial Day bachelor auction, memories of lost love haunt her...until a former beau takes the stage.

Observations: I thought this was a fantastic Memorial Day story. It had:

  • a little sadness about her father's passing, which was appropriate
  • some humor with the triplets putting gum in the heroine's hair
  • a second chance
  • a misunderstanding with the winning bidder being in cahoots with the hero
  • a great ending that tied in with the hot air balloon date the hero planned
Handy tipWoman's World is always looking for stories that tie into holidays, and not just the major ones, like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Find some obscure "national" holidays and build a story around them.

Photo by Billy Bob Bain (Flickr cc license)

Monday, May 20, 2019

Interesting Article

I just wanted to pass along this wonderful article by Karen Rinaldi, describing a refreshing way to look at writing.

A Budding Romance

by Marti Attoun from the May 20, 2019 issue

Tagline: With spring in full bloom, the last thing on backyard gardener Jeannette's mind is love..until handyman Paul shows up and gives her butterflies.

Stream of Consciousness Observations:

I get a strong cheerful vibe from Jeannette in the first paragraph. This is very much what the entire publication is about--looking for the positive, enjoying life.

Second paragraph, we get the information that she's an older lady--old enough to have a grandson. It's a good idea to get this across early in the story, because if you wait too long, the reader will already have established an age in her mind and will need to regroup if it doesn't jive with the character's actual age. For instance, let's pretend we didn't know she was older. Let's say we get all the way to the end of the story and find out she's ninety when all along we thought in our heads that she was in her thirties or forties. Suddenly, we're ejected out of the story, which isn't ideal.

LOL at this line:

Worse, she'd been caught babbling to her blossoms.

I love the alliteration there, too.

Okay, I love this part:

...as Paul took a long admiring look at her colorful backyard, Jeanette snuck a long admiring look at Paul.

Super cute, even though there should be commas between long and admiring.

I'm wondering what a whirligig bumblebee is.

Okay, I see now that it's some kind of wind-powered garden device.

I like how the author compares Jeannette to the flying zebra. Very cute.

We get a summary "telling" part where we summarize what happens over a certain time period. I feel this is a handy tool to utilize when you want to transition to the third act, if you're following a three-act structure for your story.

I love Paul's line about not being in high school but how he feels like he is. I find myself wanting to poke Jeannette in the arm and say, "Don't let this one get away."

Oh, a stealthy hand-holding! Okay. It is true that I have had trouble with the characters holding hands in other stories. Sometimes it feels like it happens too fast for two people just having met, but for some reason, it doesn't bother me here. I tried to look back and find the latest story in which the hand-holding bothered me, but I couldn't find it. If someone can point it out to me, I'll be happy to look at both stories to try to figure out what made it okay for me in this story but not in the other.

The ending is just as cheerful as the beginning.

Photo by Mulberry24 via Flickr cc license




Saturday, May 18, 2019

Mother Knows Best

by Elizabeth Palmer from the May 13, 2019 issue

Tagline: Tracy's convinced she'll never find love...until her boss, Wanda, works her motherly magic!

Observations: This story featured a couple of Woman's World tropes--the matchmaker and the mistaken identity--and did them well. If you're a regular reader of the 5-minute romances, you will probably have had an aha! moment like I did when you read this:

A few months ago, I'd helped her set up a profile on a dating website and she'd recently announced that she'd found "the one," promising me I'd finally get to meet him tonight.

I immediately assumed "the one" was for Tracy and not for Wanda and that this was a matchmaker story. I was so wrong! And I love that. I've been reading these stories faithfully for so long that it's very hard to surprise me, and Palmer totally did. The mistaken identity trope showed up when Tracy supposed the handsome stranger to be a con man and her treatment of him when she meets him later in person is hilarious.

I liked how his hand brushed hers and that he didn't take it into his. If you see two people above the age of 13 holding hands in public, it signals that they're a couple, right? To me, the person initiating the act signals that he or she wants to be more than just friends. The person who allows it confirms that they share the same feeling.

So, my personal preference in romance writing is to view holding hands as a milestone. It's a very soft and subtle, but significant, milestone, but a milestone just the same. A certain amount of time must pass and a rapport must be established before a couple holds hands. Crossing this delicate line shows that the relationship is moving forward.

This was another great story from one of the most prolific Woman's World romance writers.

Photo credit: Liz West (Flickr cc license)

From the Editor

At present, we are searching for summer romances with lots of chemistry! Please feel free to submit any and all stories to fiction@womansworldmag.com and to copy me, Alexandra Pollock, (apollock@bauerpublishing.com) on your submissions. If you have any other questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Art of New Love

by Heather Black from the May 6, 2019 issue

Tagline: When retiree Joni Carter visits the Blue Ridge Mountain overlook, she's looking forward to a quiet spring afternoon of sketching the incredible vista. But when a charming painter named Richard comes along, Joni feels a new sense of hope blossom in her heart.

Observations: I liked this story. The surprise of the drawing at the end was unusual. I laughed at the name of the one-eared cat.

I had a few nitpicks about word choice. Of course I did. LOL

"I'm Richard," he said, a twinkle flashing in his eyes.

No need for the word flashing, IMHO. A twinkle is a twinkle. Flashing is more abrupt and slightly more intense. A twinkle is gentle and flirty.

"Something to remember me by," he said, meeting her gaze knowingly.

Why knowingly? To me, that makes it seem as if he knows she's interested in him and will follow him to D.C., which comes across as slightly condescending.

How completely he'd captured her soul in just a few strokes...

I'd have preferred personality rather than soul. 

But again, I did like this story. :)

Photo by Pat (Cletch) Williams via Flickr cc license

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Time for Change

by Jeanne Moore from the April 29, 2019 issue

Tagline: As the annual spring festival starts in Serenity Shores, love is the last thing widow Arabella Reilly is looking for, but a handsome traveler may just change her mind.

Observations: This was a cute story. We have a curmudgeonly old woman discover that she is open to finding romance after all. I feel hopeful for them at the end of the tale. I really liked this sentence:

Their eyes met, and a flutter of understanding passed between them.

However, I had some difficulties with the mechanics, all of which are just my opinion.

Like "she sells sea shells by the seashore," Spring Sea Spree is hard to say, even in my head. When I have to stumble over something, it interrupts the flow of the story. But maybe it was just me.

I felt the three colons in the story weren't necessary and (sorry!) a little off-putting. Again, maybe it's just me, but I feel colons belong in term papers (or on blogs! LOL), not in short fiction stories. Two of them were also punctuated incorrectly. There is no capital letter after the colon.

I had trouble with this sentence as well:

"So..." Arabella began, trying to tame her beating heart.

This is nitpicky, but Arabella is alive, so of course her heart is beating. Maybe the author meant that her heart was doing something more than just beating. Racing, maybe? Galloping?

Finally, this story illustrated something that I've seen Woman's World characters do ever since I started reading the magazine, and it makes me grit my teeth every time. A person cannot smile, grin, laugh, beam, or giggle words. Here is an excellent Writer's Digest article on the subject. I encourage all beginning writers to read this.

https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/keep-it-simple-keys-to-realistic-dialogue-part-ii

The article also mentioned something I highly recommend, which is reading your story aloud. This is an excellent hack to utilize when revising your story. It's amazing how you can hear mistakes that you don't catch when you're reading silently. Reading aloud is also an excellent way to find out if your dialogue sounds stilted and unnatural.

I know it seems as if I hated this story, but I truly didn't. The bones of a good story were there and I finished reading it feeling optimistic for Arabella and Morgan. I was just tripped up by a few details.

Photo by Evgeniy Isaev (via Flickr CC license)