Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Nuts and Bolts of Love

by Marti Attoun from the February 24, 2020 issue

Tagline: While helping her best friend at the local hardware store's birthday bash, Gloria finds a treasure she never expected...a new chance at love.

Observations: I really liked this story. I thought the author did a wonderful job setting the scene of the hardware store. Just check out this paragraph:

Today, the old hardware store had officially been a fixture in town for 100 years. Beneath a "Happy 100th Birthday" banner swinging from the pressed-tin ceiling, people visited and snatched up Nora's homemade cookies, plucking bargain paintbrushes and putty knives from galvanized washtubs.

See what I mean? You really get a sense of the setting.

I loved this part:

"...I don't think I've seen you in the store before. I'm Michael Bauer by the way. Third-generation owner of this historic hodgepodge."

Gloria laughed and introduced herself. "I'm shocked you don't remember me--I bought a mousetrap here in 1993."


It's been a while since I talked about showing versus telling, and there was a perfectly wonderful "telling" paragraph where the author summarizes their conversation. If you're writing a longer piece of fiction, it might be better to actually show this conversation happening in real time, but because these stories are only 800 words, sometimes you need shortcuts like this conversation summary.

Who doesn't love seeing a male character fumble about awkwardly because he's nervous? Not me! I love that and the author does a great job of it here. When I see a guy in this situation, it's adorable and endearing.

Photo by Daniel Bentley via Flickr CC license

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

When Life Gives You Lemons

by Kate Willoughby

I was cleaning up my desktop when I came across something I wrote last summer. I really loved this story and hoped Woman's World would too but, alas, it was not accepted. I thought I may as well post it here so someone reads it besides Patricia. LOL

When Ramona saw the lemonade stand manned by two little girls, she had to stop. Almost fifty years ago, she and her sister had spent several Saturdays one summer similarly occupied with a wooden stand that their father built them.
One of the little girls waved enthusiastically. Grabbing her wallet, Ramona got out of the car and approached the card table with a poster taped to it. The poster, decorated with big daisies and hand-drawn glasses of lemonade, said, “All profits go to the Halfway Home Shelter.”
“Boy, am I thirsty,” Ramona said.
“Then try our lemonade!” the younger girl exclaimed. She wore a pink T-shirt with a kitten on it.
The front screen door to the house opened and a handsome man about Ramona’s age, presumably the girls’ grandfather, came out.
“I’d love some lemonade,” Ramona said. “Especially since the money is going towards a good cause. What are your names? I’m Ramona.”
“I’m Olivia,” the one in pink said.
“I’m Grace. We raised twelve dollars yesterday, but we want to triple that today!”
“My granddaughters are nothing if not ambitious.” The man smiled as he laid one hand on each of the girls’ shoulders. Ramona noticed he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. “I’m Tom,” he said, “Tom Richardson.”
Ramona liked the merry twinkle in his brown eyes and his short salt and pepper hair.
Grace tugged on Tom’s shirt. “If we’re going to triple our money, we need a fresh idea, Granddad,” she said.
“You know,” Ramona said, eyeing their canister of just-add-water mix. “I just happen to have lots of personal lemonade stand experience and I might be able to help you increase your sales.”
The girls gasped. “Please tell us! Please!”
Grinning, Tom met her gaze over their heads and all of Ramona’s nerve-endings zinged with awareness. Although her husband had passed nine years ago, she hadn’t been attracted to a man in ages.
“Let me taste the product first.”
She took a sip and nodded thoughtfully. “This is good, but we can make it much better. My grandmother made the best blueberry lemonade in the state. People came from miles around to get some. It was so good that the Queen of England herself bestowed the special title of ‘Duchess of Deliciousness’ upon her.”
The girls stared at her with wide eyes.
“I think I saw something about this on the nightly news. Didn’t the First Lady have her over for tea at the White House?” Tom asked, spontaneously adding to Ramona’s tall tale.
“I believe so,” Ramona said, stifling a laugh.
“Grandpa, let’s go buy some blueberries right now!” Grace said. Olivia nodded eagerly.
“Hold on,” Tom said. “I don’t think it’s as simple as just dropping blueberries in our lemonade.”
“It isn’t,” Ramona agreed. “If you want to make lemonade as good as Grandma Esther’s…”
“We do!” both girls exclaimed.
“You have to make it from scratch. Fresh lemons, fresh blueberries. You should put that on your sign, too. ‘Blueberry lemonade, made from scratch!’”
“Wait. Are you saying you’ll actually share the Duchess’ recipe with us?” Tom asked with exaggerated shock.
Ramona had to laugh. “Of course, I will. The Duchess was always generous with her recipes. I also happen to know of a blueberry farm where you can pick your own and get more for your money than at the grocery store.”
The girls clapped their hands in delight as their grandfather laid out a plan to go to the blueberry farm the next day, bright and early. “That way,” he said, “we can come back home, make the lemonade and be selling it by the time it gets hot and people get thirsty. In the meantime, you can make your new sign, like Ramona suggested.”
Brimming with excitement, the girls abandoned the stand and ran inside.
Tom chuckled. “Thank you so much, Ramona. I think your recipe will give this little enterprise a real kick in the pants.”
“My pleasure. The memories I have of selling lemonade with my sister are priceless.”
After getting his email address so she could send him the recipe, she turned to go, but Tom said, “Say, if you’re free tomorrow, would you like to come with us to the farm? And maybe help us with that first batch?”
Their eyes met and Ramona felt a thrill she hadn’t felt in a long time.
“I’d like nothing more,” she said, her heart filling with hope.

Photo by Amy Gizienski via Flickr cc license

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Finding Love at 30,000 Feet

by Shelley Cooper from the January 13, 2020 issue

Elise has officially sworn off men and dead-end dating...until a handsome guy sits next to her on a flight and sends her heart soaring to new heights!

This story had it all--a yummy hero, a jaded but still open heroine, lots of humor, and a bit of writing I'll touch on later that was pure genius.

I loved this line. I loved the humor of it and all the alliteration, too!

After a string of dating disasters, I was more tempted to escape to a nunnery than I was to go on one more dinner date.

I also loved this funny line:

In truth, the only signs I planned on looking for were the ones pointing the way to my gate.

But here's a real teaching moment. 

Then I saw him for the first time.

This sentence doesn't seem like much, but it's totally amazing and here's why. It softens the implausibility that, after seeing him in the TSA line, they'd end up sitting next to each other on the same plane. Let's be honest. Coincidences abound in Woman's World stories and personally, I think it's part of the magazine's charm. Yes, they're crazy and probably would never happen, but they're still fun. 

So, using "the first time I saw him," construct tells the reader that she's going to see him again and for some reason, this "warning" makes it easier to believe. It's similar to when a mystery writer plants a piece of evidence early in the story. She even goes a little farther in this sentence:

The third time I saw him, he was sitting--you guessed it--in the window seat of my assigned row.

"You guessed it." Genius. This phrase openly acknowledges and embraces the fact that the reader has already predicted the coincidence. So don't be afraid to include a coincidence in your story. Woman's World readers love them, especially when they're as well written as this one.

I literally laughed out loud at this:

Up close, he smelled divine, like soap and, incredibly, oatmeal cookies. I reburied my nose in my book and tried not to inhale.

And rest of the flight was absolutely charming! I know I'm not the only one who swoons over those videos of dads dressed up like ballerinas and dancing with their daughters, or participating in her tea party, or trick or treating in a matching princess costume. So it was super easy to fall for this guy who submits to a little girl's makeover.

This was just a perfect story!

Photo by Phillip Capper via Flickr CC license

Countdown to True Love

by Heidi Rice from the January 6, 2020 issue

Tagline: When a blackout hits on New Year's Eve, Ariana is determined not to miss the fireworks ringing in 2020...and stumbles across a fresh chance at love.

Stream of Consciousness Observations: Ari's sister is such a bitch! If I were her, I'd avoid all calls from her. I'm so lucky that my sister is an angel.

Ooh, what an interesting job--apartment sitter in NYC.

LOL. Mr. Hot Bod.

Wait a second. I totally missed the part where the blackout happened and I had to go back and reread. Am I the only one? When I went back to reread, it's clear when it happens, but in the moment, I completely passed it by. It's entirely possible that the fault is mine, but honestly, I think there could have been a little more description there. For instance, here's a sentence in the story.

Ariana blinked as her eyes adjusted to the darkness.

Just adding the word "sudden" would have helped.

It's bad luck to miss fireworks on New Year's Eve in NYC? You learn something new everyday.

I'm not sure why she's in danger of breaking her neck because a fire escape is literally designed to save people.

Whoa. We're in the guy's pov now? Okay, this is very unusual in a Woman's World story and it's done a little abruptly, IMHO.

I'm also finding it odd that he photographs the models in his apartment. Most photographers have a studio and as a model, I wouldn't feel safe going to his place for the shoot.

All right, I did like the story in the end, but I wouldn't be me if I didn't find a few things that bugged me. LOL

Photo by oopsart via Flickr CC license

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Prince for Christmas

by Patricia Gaddis from the December 30, 2019 issue

Tagline: When Elizabeth Blake jokingly asks Santa to bring her a prince, she never expects that her Christmas wish for love may actually come true.

Observations: I'm so excited to be critiquing a story by Patricia, who has edited many of my own stories. Sometimes a good editor is not a good writer, but Patricia is both. This will be a stream-of-consciousness analysis.

The first paragraph really does a nice job of setting the tone and describing the setting. Reading it, you can almost feel that snowflake melting on your tongue.

I liked this bit:

"Better call her dad," Heather advises. "They're us."

That the little daughter includes herself in the divorce was poignant to me. As a child of divorced parents, I can assure you the kids are just as deeply involved in the divorce as the parents.

Oh, they moved recently. Hm. Away from the dad?

Ah...Heather says she wants a daddy for Christmas, so maybe the dad is out of the picture somehow. Either way, it's probably best to explain these kinds of things so the reader isn't pulled out of the story, wondering.

Oooh, he's a fireman? Yes, please!

That was a charming story. Well done, Patricia.

Photo by Alistair Young via Flickr CC license

Friday, January 3, 2020

A Storm in a Snow Globe

by Kate Pearce from the December 23, 2019 issue

Tagline: Furious and stressed, Sally Hayes is set on giving her husband, Tom, the silent treatment...until he melts her heart and shows her what matters most.

Observations: I loved this story! It was so different, and that's probably because we see so few "marriage on the rocks" stories. Although, this marriage isn't really on the rocks. I think having the son wanting to join the military was a smart move, as an author because Woman's World definitely supports the military.

Announcement: I'm going to be adjusting my blog posts and only blogging when I think there's a teachable moment in the story. I don't think there's any point to posting when I have nothing to say about the story except that I liked it. :)

Photo by Peter Corbett via Flickr CC license

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Furry Matchmaker

by Rebecca Zanetti from the December 2019 issue

Tagline: When Melody Landsom finds a stranger's dog on her front porch, she never expects it will lead her to its handsome owner...and a second chance at first love!

Observations: I remember when I first targeted Woman's World as a publication I wanted to write for, it seemed like every other story had a dog or a cat in it, and I seem to recall there being a point where they flat out said, no more dog stories! LOL I guess I wasn't the only writer to notice they liked dog stories.

Anyway, this was an adorable dog story, even if this wasn't the first doggie matchmaker to grace the pages of Woman's World. I liked Melody and the dog. The handsome dog owner was cute too, even if it was weird that his last name was Lexington and he named his dog Remington.

I appreciate the wedding ending, but I didn't get that blissful happy feeling I expect from a romance. As I've said countless times before, I'm a details person who is extremely picky as well. The fact that her taking a leap "paid off..." I just didn't like that phrase, as if her reward was marriage. It came off a little mercenary. Again, this is only my opinion!! 

Photo by Rennett Stowe via Flickr CC License

Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Magical Holiday Treat

by Crystal Moore from the December 16, 2019 issue

Tagline: As the only singleton at her friend's Christmas party, Gretchen feels lonelier than ever...until she finds a surprise guest beneath the tree.

Observations: I loved this story and its humor from the very first sentence.

Gretchen stared at the sweater before her as a llama with a string of lights blinking around its neck stared back.

LOL. In fact there were many lines I liked.

Gretchen, if you didn't spend so much time at your bakery, you could meet someone. Wouldn't it be nice to spend time with a man not made of sugar and spice?"

I always love the snarky best friend, in novels and in Woman's World stories.

Sure enough, she saw the dachshund beneath the tree, but instead of having his nose in the presents, he was belly up, having his ears scratched by a guy who was so handsome, she wanted to slap a gift tag on him that said To: Gretchen.

This was the funniest line in the story and I think it's partly because of one word choice. See, Moore could have used "taped" or "put," but she chose "slap," which is much funnier for some reason. When writing your stories, don't be afraid to get down to the tiniest details, like switching out one word.

Photo by John Mayer via Flickr cc license