Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Meant To Be by Rosemary Hayes

April 25, 2016 issue

Tagline: Becky believed there was someone out there for her...but she never imagined where she'd meet him!

Observations: I liked this story. That it was centered around Little League is a bit of Americana that is something often welcomed in a Woman's World story. Sometimes reading a Woman's World story is like strolling down Main Street at Disneyland.

This week, I wanted you to notice the transitions--those places where you're fast-forwarding in time to move the story along to the next important part or move from one scene to another. In a Woman's World story, there are no chapter or scene breaks. I learned this the "hard way," when I submitted a story with a double return to indicate a scene break only to find when the published the story, the scene break wasn't there.

To compensate, you have to work a little harder to get the reader from scene to scene.

Hayes transitions three times.

1. We start with two sisters talking. Becky is going to take her nephew to baseball tryouts. Here's that transition:

The weekend dawned with clear skies and a happy ripple of anticipation.

She mentions that it's the weekend right off the bat, establishing that we've jumped forward in time.

2. Becky is in line to register her nephew and notices the hero for a couple of paragraphs. Then we hit transition number two:

It was only when I was sitting in the stands later, watching all the kids being put through tryouts that I heard a voice next to me.

3. Becky and Andrew introduce themselves and talk in the stands and then...

We spent the next three hours watching the boys, getting hot dogs from the food truck, and enjoying a great conversation.

Notice the time words in each transition - "weekend," "later," and "three hours." Also notice in the first two instances, the transition is settling us into the next scene. It's just to get our brains to jump forward. In the third transition, it's different. Instead of instantaneous time travel, we get a summarizing paragraph in which we're told, not shown, what happens. It's still a fast-forward in time, but with information about what happened. Sort of like the difference between being "beamed" from LA to NY in an instant and taking a supersonic jet and being able to see the scenery pass below you really fast.

Transitions are an essential tool if you want to write these super short stories.

Photo credit: Eastlake Times via Flickr Creative Commons License

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Music of Hope by Tina Radcliffe

April 18, 2016 issue

Tagline: Josh never thought he would love again...until he met his son's piano teacher!

Observations: There were some aspects of this story that I liked and some that I didn't.

I liked that Josh was a strong enough person to take criticism about his cooking from a child. I liked that he was demonstrably grateful to his mother for helping out. I liked the tie-in between the canned spaghetti that Josh kept serving and the homemade lasagna that Maddy had made.

However, it read as if Josh didn't know his son was taking piano lessons at the beginning of the story. It might be because the son, Jake, had to explain how he'd had two lessons at Gram's house. This lead me to think there was an ex-wife and the dad just wasn't in the loop. However later, I found out that wasn't true. Josh is a widower.

Be careful about how you drop in backstory. Yes, it's great to do it in dialogue sometimes, but not in an "As you know, Bob" way. Some information should already be known to the characters talking and it doesn't make sense for Jake to tell his dad that he's taking piano lessons at Gran's house when his dad should already know this.

To me, Jake's character was hit and miss. Sometimes I really liked him and his dialogue sounded perfect. Other times, he did not sound like a seven-year-old.

I was unsure if Josh and Maddy lived in the same apartment building. Maddy, the piano teacher, just said, "We're in apartment 10, as if Jake knew where she lived. This is a tiny detail, but glitches like this can cause your reader to mentally stumble and take them out of the story. Do that more than once and you risk losing the reader completely.

So, a couple of confusing elements for me made it feel disjointed. Your mileage may vary. :)

Also is anyone else hungry for lasagna? LOL

Photo credit: Mark via Flickr Creative Commons license

Monday, April 4, 2016

Heart's Desire by Shelley Cooper

April 11, 2016 issue

Tagline: When Jill found her heart's passion, love wasn't far behind!

Observations: I really liked this story. I think there were a lot of small details in this story that Woman's World likes. I thought I'd list them. Small things add up.

1. A grandma is mentioned. Family is important.

2. Proving an old saying to be true, especially when a grandma is saying it, is a reliable trope for Woman's World.

3. Jill's sister is a stay-at-home mom. While Woman's World supports many modern beliefs, like women working, etc., they still do value old fashioned ones.

4. Brother is in the Navy, a noble career.

5. Jill's initiative is very important. She's such an upbeat character, you couldn't help but like her. If she's not happy, she doesn't mope around and complain or blame. She gets out there and does something about it. This is KEY.

6. Jill is full of gratitude and she's willing to demonstrate it.

7. Jill has a sense of humor and so does Jack.

8. Cooper adds so much romance by having Jack propose in the coffee shop where they had their first date. Not only that, but Jack thinks of getting her a heart-shaped diamond. Brilliant! (Pun intended.)

9. Cooper also brings the story full circle by quoting the saying again.

Photo credit: Marnee Pearce via the Flickr Creative Commons License

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Cake to Remember by Rosemary Hayes

April 4, 2016 issue

Tagline: Megan's cake-decorating lesson proved to be sweeter than she ever imagined!

Observations: Good solid story this week. Nothing that stood out as exceptionally bad or good for me. I will say that there's a Woman's World trope here that we haven't seen too much of lately, which is a role-reversal. Woman's World has a somewhat traditional readership with a, shall we say, expectation for traditional male and female roles. But every once in a while, we see a female in a traditionally male career and vice-versa.

Here we see the hero is a cake decorator, which is kind of adorable. I've said it before and I'll say it again, you won't see a lot of alpha males in Woman's World stories, in fact, quite the opposite. You're going to see more of the guy next door. Keep that in mind when creating the heroes of your own stories.

Also, I know this cake doesn't have roses like mentioned in the story, but I thought it was too beautiful to pass up.

Photo credit: lynngrace23 via the Flickr Creative Commons License

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Love In Bloom by Kim Winklhofer

March 28, 2016 issue

Tagline: After years of loneliness, Jessie had given up on love--then she met Christopher...

This was my story and I've always enjoyed showing you the before and after so you can see an example of what editors actually do. Words in blue were added by the editor.

You'll see there was quite a bit of work done. I can see that the bit about divorced women was removed, which doesn't surprise me. Why go the "negative" route when it's not necessary? In fact, many of the tweaks were in that vein. It's funny how I preach that in my class, but failed to follow my own suggestion. LOL

You'll also see the story was firmly planted in the April, so that it would connect with the time of year the story was hitting the stands.

At the risk of insulting the editor, I will say the ending didn't sing for me. I prefer it where it's is eagerness and joy that we're left with, instead of her soft reply. I think it's the word "soft" that bothers me. I think if she'd smiled or cocked her head or something, it wouldn't have felt so shy to me. However, in hindsight, I really should have written something in the first place that tied in with the theme of flowers and spring and blooming. Again, this is a tip I give in my class--to really, really work on the endings so that they are superb. I seem to have gotten a little lazy here. LOL

“You can’t believe everything you read have to keep trying,” Allison commented to her co-worker, Jessie, as they made
            Jessie frowned. She and Allison were crafting corsages and boutonnieres for an April wedding. It was prom season and Jessie’s flower shop had been flooded with orders.
            “I know,” Jessie replied. While she didn’t take that article about divorced women as gospel, it certainly had discouraged her.  According to the magazine, divorcees over a certain age had a slim chance of remarrying.
            “All you have to do is try,” Allison said.
            “What do you mean? I’ve been trying. Didn’t I tell you Jessie frowned. The flower arrangements trimmed in delicate ribbons only served to remind her that she was still single.
           "Oh, come on, Allison, do you really think I haven't tried? Have you forgotten about that blind date I had last month?”
            Allison finished tying a ribbon on  the bouquet she was making, then stood up to stretch her legs. made a face. “Month being the operative word…” She trailed off, her attention suddenly drawn to a car pulling up to the store. “I think  "Maybe you should go on the offense. Make a pass at the Harry Potter guy. someone, or at least show him you’re interested. Like the Man Wizard. He’s adorable. He doesn’t wear a wedding ring, you know, and he's adorable! Ask him out!. Would you go out with him if he asked you?
            "I'm so not listening to you," Jessie said, rolling rolled her eyes. Her matchmaking co-worker Allison loved to give nicknames to customers, and one of their most faithful patrons was Christopher customers had the last name of Potter, who often bought flowers for his mother. Allison had observed that w With his dark good looks and bookish eyeglasses, he really resembled Christopher Potter was like a hunky and grown up, hunky Harry Potter.
            Allison continued. He likes the beach. You both like the beach. He likes to travel and so do you. You both love Thai food... and Monday night football. Need I say more? go on?
           "That's true," Jessie said. "We do have a lot in common, or so it seems, but  All that was true. She and Christopher had chatted often. They did have a lot in common.
“I don’t know. Maybe.” Jessie tucked some hair behind her ear as an older woman got out of her car and approached the shop. “But don’t get any ideas. Christopher is a good customer and I wouldn’t want to lose his business him.”
            “Good customers, you we have. It's a boyfriend you want." a lot of. Boyfriends? Not so much.”
            The April showers had stopped, and the sun was coming out as an elegant-looking woman got out of her car and approached the shop. Just then, the The phone rang and Jessie went to answer it while Allison greeted the customer. 
            “Welcome to Flowers by Jessie," Allison said, ". How can I help you?”
            The woman smiled. “I’d like to send something to my son for his birthday. But do you have something a little more masculine than a bouquet?”
            Allison showed her some of the miniature bonsai trees and the woman loved them.
I believe this is something my son would like, and I want I’d like this to be delivered to him around six p.m. by Jessie. I’ll even pay extra for that if necessary if I need to, but it needs to be her.” At Allison’s quizzical look, the woman added: conspiratorially, “My son has given buys me flowers every single month, ever since his father my husband passed away, and he’s always talking about his florist, Jessie, and how pretty she is and I thought it would make his day for her to deliver them in person." , as a mother, it was my duty to…”
            A sudden suspicion bloomed in Allison’s mind as she got ready to record the necessary information into the computer. brain. “If I could have your name please?”
            “Deborah Potter. My son is Christopher Potter, and he lives at 105 Oak Lane.
            “Mrs. Potter!” Allison beamed. “You jJust leave everything to me," she said. "I'm sure you won't be disappointed.
            A few days later, Jessie pulled up at to Christopher Potter’s house with the bonsai tree on the seat next to her. Allison usually did the afternoon deliveries, but she practically pushed Jessie out the door, saying it was her big chance with Harry Potter. She was more nervous than she had a right to be. Christopher Potter was a sweet guy who obviously loved his mother a lot. He was funny and handsome and single. Whether he was attracted to her remained a question. She told herself to remain professional as she rang the doorbell. This was just an everyday delivery.
            When Christopher opened the door, her heart accelerated.
            "Jessie!" He grinned. "What a nice surprise!" Christopher’s eyes widened in surprise. “Jessie?”
            “Yep. I have a delivery for you.” She held out the bonsai tree his mother had chosen. “Happy birthday," she smiled. "It's from your mom.”
            “You’re kidding. Wow, and it's really great to see you again!" thanks.” 
            Another car drove up and a teenaged boy jumped out as he read the card. A kid got out holding a couple of bags. As he got closer, Jessie got a whiff of something yummy.
I have an order for Jessie and Christopher," he said. Order for Jessie?”
She and Christopher looked at each other, surprised.
“I’m Jessie," she said.
"I'm Christopher," he echoed, reaching for his wallet.
The kid handed her the bags "It's from the Thai Kitchen," the boy said, handing her the bags. "Already paid for." one of Jessie’s favorite restaurants. “Here ya go. It’s already paid for,” the kid answered as Jessie glanced at the delivery van where she’d left her purse. “The lady tipped me too.”
The kid turned to go, but Jessie called out, “Do you know who placed the order, by the way?” she asked.
“Allison from the flower shop," the boy called out while rushing back to his car.
Jessie gasped. She was going to kill Allison.
“Allison from your store?”
“It seems like it.”
Christopher chuckled. “It smells great. I love the Thai Kitchen.”
Jessie shook her head. “You realize what’s going on right?”
His eyes twinkled. “Sure. My Hmmm...my mom and your friend think we need to spend the evening together eating eat Thai food together while and chatting about miniature potted trees.”
She couldn’t help laughing. “I’m really sorry about this," she said. .”
Jessie's heart fluttered as Christopher He gazed down at her with his and she suddenly felt quite small and feminine. He had the most gorgeous brown eyes. and a smile like a warm hug. "I'm not!"
“Don’t be sorry,” he said. “I’m sure not.”"Then neither am I," she replied softly.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Matching Hearts by Tina Radcliffe

March 21, 2016 issue

Tagline: Casey never dreamed that her baggage would attract the man of her dreams!

Observations: This is a story I wish I'd thought of! I loved the premise. It rings so true, because how many times have we made a mistake at the baggage carousel? I've done it many times, but I've never met a handsome stranger, darn it.

I wanted to talk about coincidences today. Often, we readers are asked to swallow a pretty big coincidence in a Woman's World story. This is a good example. They're both from a small town, but happen to meet at the Boston airport. Not only that, but they have the same luggage and luggage tag. (So I guess that's two coincidences.) It's pretty hard to believe, but Radcliffe used a little trick that I'm going to share with you. (Sorry, Tina.)

She got the characters to admit it was a pretty unbelievable coincidence.

"Nice to meet you. What are the chances we'd meet in the Boston airport, so far from home?"

Casey chuckled. "Especially when we live in such a small town."

See? She acknowledges that it's a big pill to swallow which sort of makes it okay. I'm not saying it's necessary for you to have the characters remark upon a coincidence if you put one into your story, but it can add a hint of credibility.

Photo credit: Rick via Creative Commons license

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Littlest Matchmaker by Joanne Carlton

Tagline: Thanks to three-year-old Leo, Sandra and Doug's future was crayon-bright with possibilities!

Observations: I liked this one. There were quite a few things I wanted to point out.

1. Like so many of the stories recently, there is a lot of focus on one character and how she grows. She's lonely at the beginning of the story, but she doesn't sit at home and mope about it. She goes out to the park. She makes friends in her building and at work and we see her go out of her comfort zone with the volleyball game.

2. Note the black moment occurs and is resolved early on when at first Sandra worries that Leo is Doug's son and that Doug is married.

3. So much time was covered that it felt like a much longer story.

4. There is a good chunk of "telling" in their conversation after the volleyball game. Sometimes this is necessary with Woman's World stories to force scenes to advance a little more quickly than they would have if you'd written them normally. It might have been so that Carlton could fit in the wedding at the end.

"Say hello to Leo for me and tell him I think he's a whiz at colors."

Doug said that he'd been out of town a lot lately, attending two conferences and a seminar. He flashed that lopsided grin, then said, "I hope you don't mind that before I left town, I asked Sam about you."

Sandra didn't admit that she was delighted, but she knew Doug could tell she didn't mind one bit that he'd asked about her. They sat together and talked for the rest of the evening, and on the walk home, Sandra didn't hesitate when Doug asked her out.

See how much happened that was summed up in the narrative? There are two more paragraphs of the wedding. Carlton could easily have expanded the part where he walks her home and asks her out and have the story end there, but instead we saw the wedding.

5. The "I see white," line didn't quite work for me. Yes, brides wear white, but that wasn't quite enough for me to make it sentimental or emotionally fulfilling.  But other than that, great story.

Photo credit: Adam Kaminski

Where the Heart Is by Rosemary Hayes

Tagline: Cassie returned to her old hometown and realized she never wanted to leave it--or the man she'd left behind--again!

Observations: This was an old flame story that had all the elements it should: a character returning home, the aforementioned old flame, a rehashing of their history, and the promise of something more. However, it didn't grab me. Neither of the characters seemed particularly interesting to me.

Photo credit: Jenna Norman