Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"The Gift of Love"

by Dana Stephens from the December 13, 2010 issue

In a Nutshell: A man skids into a ditch during a snow storm. Molly offers to let him call a tow truck from her house. While they wait, he helps her finish painting the room she was working on. They get to know each other over the next few weeks. Then, for Christmas he gives her an ornament to mark their first Christmas together as a sign that he is serious about her.

Observations: This first meet story had a fantastic concept in that ornament. What a darling idea. Unfortunately, when I got to the point where her eyes filled with tears, I just didn't feel the sentiment myself. That is what makes these stories so difficult to write, especially when you condense their emotional development into a sentence like this:

Molly learned that Ian was an EMT at the local hospital, and over the coming weeks, he came by on his days off until the dining room and living room were finished.

In order to pull off the Happily Ever After you need to show the hero and heroine falling for each other. It's tempting to let it happen off stage, but the fun part about reading romance is living vicariously through the characters. To me, when you "tell" (as in show vs. tell), you summarize events that are too tedious to describe in full detail. The "telling" sentence I quoted above could still work fine in a Woman's World story, BUT in order for it to work, you have to "show" the connection occuring somewhere else in the story, and I didn't see it. :(

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Breakfast with Santa"

by Elizabeth Palmer from the December 6, 2010 issue

Tagline: Connie hadn't expected Santa to ask what she wanted for Christmas!

In a Nutshell: Connie takes her niece Hannah to her company "Breakfast with Santa." The niece tells Santa that Connie needs a husband. Santa, who is really Rob from accounting, is happy to hear that and might be willing to fill the position.

Observations: This story delighted me. It started when I saw that Rob was from accounting. It seems that the accounting department is so ubiquitous in Woman's World stories. Perhaps because if you try to think of any other types of departments, there aren't that many to choose from!

I liked the reply that Connie gave to her sister when asked if Rob resembles Santa...

"His eyes sort of twinkle."

That set the reader up for the line later that I LOVED. Rob finds out that Connie is not Hannah's mother, but her aunt...

Rob turned up the twinkle.

I also laughed out loud when Connie is flustered when Rob/Santa talks to her instead of Hannah...

Hannah gaped at me. "Santa is talking to you!" she hissed.

I can just picture the little girl's shock and subdued outrage that Connie might be ignoring Santa.

Lastly, I thought I'd point out that this is actually a matchmaker story with a twist. Santa is acting as matchmaker on his own behalf. That just goes to show you that you can always find a new way to present a cliche plot.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Must Love Dogs"

by Sally Treadwell from the November 29, 2010 issue

Sally requested that I not post the analysis of her story. Sorry, everyone.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"The Food of Love"

by K.C. Laine from the November 22, 2010 issue

Tagline: Bonnie didn't realize that she had, long ago, found the way into Richard's heart!

In a Nutshell: Bonnie sells baked goods at the weekly farmer's market. When her brochures get swept away by the wind, Richard gathers them up. He also is impressed with her pot pies and buys several. He comes back the next week with a wooden box he made for her to keep her brochures in. They make a date to cook together.

Observations: Well, I thought I was going insane. I started reading this story and thought, "I've analyzed this before." So, I checked the list of my previous posts for the title, "The Food of Love." No luck. I checked the list of authors. No K.C. Laine listed. I check the date of the magazine, thinking I dug it out of the magazine rack and didn't realize it was from 2009. Nope. Current date. Then, I realize!

I had critiqued this story for the author before she submitted it. DOH. She had told me it had sold. I even saw people on the WWWriters loop praising it. Did I make the connection? No. LOL. (I try not to read those comments because I don't want them to color my opinion of the story before I review it on the blog.)

Sorry, Karen! Didn't they choose a yummy picture of a pot pie?

Anyway, back to the analysis.

I like the quirkiness of the heroine, with her pink wig and vintage glasses. Her costume boosts her sales and shows her to be a savvy business woman, which I admire.

Last week the author foreshadowed a box of truffles as being the heroine's favorite. This week, it's not an object, but a skill that's foreshadowed. Richard says, "Who always gave this woodshop nerd the time of day," which establishes his facility with wood. That paves the way for the special box he makes for her, again showing he's thoughtful and observant, traits all women want in their mates.

Come to think of it, Laine actually sets up a joke in the middle of the story, too. Bonnie recalls Richard burning the meatloaf in home ec class. Later when Bonnie suggests they cook dinner together for old time's sake, he says, "Just as long as it's not meatloaf."

This type of thing pulls your story together. It's how you can "weave" a plot in 800 words and make it seem tight.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Sweet on You"

by Charlotte More from the November 15, 2010 issue

Tagline: Molly's chocolate shop kept her busy, but not so busy that she'd stopped hoping for Mr. Right...

In A Nutshell: Chocolate shop owner Molly falls for her regular customer, a man who faithfully buys candy for his grandma every Friday afternoon. One day he buys a special box of expensive truffles and has them gift wrapped. Molly assumes he's got a new girlfriend. Turns out he surprises her outside the shop after she closes, gives her the truffles, and asks her out for dinner.

Teaching Points: This is a (pun intended) sweet story and pretty formulaic, which is not necessarily a bad thing, seeing as how the editors liked it enough to publish it.

Girl meets Boy. Girl assumes he has a girlfriend. Girl is proved wrong--she's the girl he wants.

The trick with writing these stories is figuring out

1) ...what the Boy does to make the Girl think he's attached. Often it's him getting or picking out a gift. Sometimes the Girl sees him from a distance with another girl.

2a) ...who the gift is really for. Usually it's a female relative. Could be a co-worker who is sick or something. OR

2b) ...why he was with that woman. Often it's work related, but it doesn't have to be. Any innocent, plausible reason will do.

3) the Boy reveals that he is really interested in the Girl.

Also, you'll notice that More foreshadows The Gift in the beginning of the story... Molly comments that the special truffles are her favorite. That way, at the end when Seth gives her the box of special truffles, he is shown to be thoughtful and observant, and Molly is touched.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"The Fortune Teller"

by Janice Curran from the November 8, 2010 issue

In a Nutshell: To help his best friend in his marriage proposal, Alex is subbing for the fortuneteller who cancelled. When the bride to be's friend enters the tent to "test his powers," they hit it off.

I've seen fortune teller stories before. I've even seen substitute fortune teller stories before! This was the cutest I've seen yet, mainly because of the banter between the main characters.

My Favorite Part: Alex is telling Marcia's future and predicting romance for her. He says her man will take her to a movie and Marcia says, "A chick flick."

Alex's quick reply is, "The crystal ball tells me the first movie you'll see together will be a chick flick. The second will be an action film." LMAO!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Halloween Magic"

by Lisa Weaver from the November 1, 2010 issue

Tagline: Officer Phillips was expecting some ghoulish encounters on Halloween, but the pretty witch took him by surprise!

In A Nutshell: Officer Phillips helps Emily get the neighbor's cat out of the tree. Afterward, he's called back again to Emily's, but not because of any real mischief. The neighbor is playing matchmaker. Emily and the policeman make a date for dinner.

Observations: This story is first person, present tense, which I always have to get used to.

A lot happens in this story, so much that I wondered how the author fit it all in. The hero and heroine interact quite a bit, which is terrific, but I found it a little choppy in the middle.

"Can you both stay for some hot cider?"

I radio headquarters to let them know I'm taking a break, then head inside, where the talk turns to superstitions.

"My grandmother believed that if you gazed into a mirror at midnight on Halloween, you'd see the reflection of your future spouse," Mrs. Jenkins says, peering over her mug of cider at Emily and me.

I'm due back on patrol, so I extend my thanks and leave.

This scene is so short that it can't be anything other than foreshadowing. It's so obvious that they're going to see each other's reflection later because there isn't much of an attempt to disguise this smoking gun with a little more conversation or internal thought. In my opinion, this could have been done a little more smoothly.

Also, because it is midnight when they look at each other in the mirror, I wonder how long did they sit and chat over cider? What time was it when he rescued the cat, because midnight is pretty darn late for both trick or treaters and/or matchmaking/false alarm attempts by elderly neighbors.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Meant To Be"

by Susan C. Hall from the October 25, 2010 issue

Tagline: Was it coincidence that brought Morgan and Tim together? Or was it something called destiny?

In A Nutshell: After exchanging glances with a man in the doctor's office, Morgan keeps seeing him around town. On the fourth instance, she finally introduces herself.

Observations: This was the coincidence plot pushed to its ultimate. The heroine accidentally runs into the hero four times. On top of that, they both end up being teachers. To me, this seemed heavy handed. I would never have submitted a story with this many coincidences in it, even if I acknowledged this with the title and the characters' conversations. However, clearly the editors liked it.

This just goes to prove that this business is very subjective. :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

"The Art of Love"

by Mary Ann Joyce from the October 18, 2010 issue

In a Nutshell: Ben's 12 year old son, Cooper, loves his new art teacher, Miss Penney. At the art show, Ben, who has been a widow for four years, hits it off with the art teacher.

Observations: I usually tell people to avoid too much sadness in their stories. Woman's World shies away from negativity. Their mission is to lift the spirits. So when I read the following paragraph in this story, I blinked in surprise.

When his wife died four years earlier, Ben had been devastated. If it hadn't been for Cooper, he'd probably never have left the house once he got home from work. But being a single parent forced him out--and he was glad for that. Cooper grew, time passed. They managed.

I thought, whoa. That's verging on no-no territory. However, if you really look at it, it's just a very factual telling of his history, very succinct and well done.

When I then got to the part where Cooper shows his dad the book he made illustrating a story his late mom had written, I got a little teary. I hadn't seen that coming.

Joyce doesn't let you wallow too long in that moment, though. She snaps you right back into the action as Cooper excitedly calls to Miss Penney, and when Ben invites her to Taco Night at their house, she accepts. So, although the story briefly visited a sad place, most of it was very upbeat and active. Like they say on TV, though, don't attempt this at home. I mean, it's a tricky thing to do and don't be surprised if you try it and get rejected. If I'd written this story, I'd have been completely prepared for rejection.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"A Fresh Coat of Paint"

by Karen Nikula from the October 11, 2010 issue

Tagline: The sweet little old lady next door knew that Sara needed more than home improvements to make a fresh start.

In a Nutshell: After just moving into a new house, Sara gets advice from a neighbor about where to find a good painter. She investigates and hits it off with the painter, who, coincidentally enough, is the neighbor's nephew.

Observations: People tell me all the time about how Woman's World stories often tell more than show, which is the opposite of what longer fiction requires, and they worry that they're compromising their literary integrity by doing that. The truth is, a professional writer, a writer who wants to sell, will write what the publisher and that publication demand. It's difficult to provide a reader with a satisfying, positive romantic experience in 800 words, and no matter how much you might want to channel your inner Hemingway or Steinbeck, the brevity of Woman's World stories won't allow you to. As a result, telling, not showing, will be something you have to give yourself permission to do.

Here's a breakdown of showing vs. telling in this week's story.
This story - The first paragraph summarizes Sara's backstory and a description of her current situation.
A novel would probably have shown Sara moving in, or examining the walls of her new house with distaste, making the decision to repaint.

This story - You get a little "flashback" where Sara remembers meeting Ellie and Ellie giving her Barry's name as a painter.
A novel probably would have shown Sara meeting Ellie.

This story - After Barry and Sara have a very brief conversation about what she does for fun, you get a summary of the rest of their encounter.If you're writing a first meet story, a conversation like this one is about all you can do to show the relationship developing.
A novel would have shown you the entire conversation so you could get a better grip on Sara and Barry's personalities and how they connect. 
In summary, in a Woman's World story, be prepared to tell as much as you show.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"A Change in the Weather"

by Sheila Llanas from the October 4, 2010 issue

Tagline: The thunderstorm took Sandy and Tom by surprise--and so did the romance that followed...

In a Nutshell: Sandy and Tom go out on a first date. Tom is shy and nervous through dinner. The rest of the date is not ideal, and yet they end up getting married one year later.

Observations: The majority of Woman's World stories tell what happens leading up to that first date. This one took up after that first meet and described the date itself instead. What a refreshing change.

Another difference is that the "black moment," when you worry that things aren't going to work out, occurs in the first third of the story, instead of near the end.

She wondered if this would be a typical first date: Tom would drop her off, tell her he'd call. She'd crawl into bed with a good book and never hear from him again.

I thought the bib wedding favor idea was cute, and I always love a wedding epilogue.

However, this story didn't really grab me. I think it's because Tom didn't appeal to me. I think his bumbling was supposed to be endearing, but he came across as a little too unassuming and awkward. Sandy is a better woman than I am, clearly!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Online Class - Register Now!

My online class is starting next week on October 4! I'm excited because I've revamped the schedule in response to feedback from the last time I taught the class. The first four lectures are so info heavy that it made more sense to go more quickly through them and leave more time at the end for the actual writing.

As usual, every student who finishes a story by the end of class is automatically entered to win a free critique of that story, a $40 value. (Wow, I sound like an infomercial.)

For more info, check out the sidebar. To register, click here. See you in class!

"Twenty-four Wedding Gowns"

by April Knight from the September 27, 2010 issue

Tagline: Lily had a big collection of bridal gowns. Now all she needed was one man in a tux...

In A Nutshell: When investigating a possible addition to her wedding gown collection, Lily meets a man who collects antique toys. They click.

Observations: The story opens with a conversation between Lily and her friend. This conversation accomplishes two things: 1) it communicates the backstory--how Lily got started collecting wedding gowns and 2) it introduces the friend so that at the end we can wrap it up with another conversation between the friends, giving the story some circularity.

However, if it had been my story, I'd have opened it with Lily on Jim's doorstep. I'd have inserted the backstory into their conversation instead, thereby giving myself a lot more room to develop their attraction. For the ending I might have had her contemplating Jim looking at her someday in the one gown in her collection that she really loves.

The reason why I would have nixed the friend is because the 800 word count is so restrictive that I feel we should take advantage of as much room as possible to have the hero and heroine interact and get that chemistry going. You'd still have the great appeal of the wedding gown collection idea, but combined with a more satisfying interaction between the two main characters.

However, Johnene, the fiction editor, liked it as is, so take my musings with a grain of salt. :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Strangers on a Train"

by Terri Osburn from the September 20, 2010 issue

Tagline: Trisha didn't know she'd swapped phones with Joe--but when she found out, she didn't mind one bit...

In a Nutshell: Trisha discovers she has a stranger's phone when she gets a call from the person who has her phone. While arranging a place to trade phones, they find out they're on the same commuter train.

Observations: This is a cute first meet story. In the first act of the story, we discover along with Trisha that she has the wrong phone.

The second act begins when the phone rings. The two main characters exchange some cute banter about what it's been like with a phone belonging to someone of the opposite sex and arrange to exchange the phones. As often happens in a Woman's World story, the reader is asked to believe in a coincidence--that they happen to be on the same train. When you're writing your own story, don't push this coincidence thing too far. There's only so much a reader is willing to believe.

Act three is when they meet face to face. She feels an immediate attraction to him. There is a brief (as always) and minor climactic moment when he doesn't immediately give her her phone. He wants her to have lunch with him before he'll relinquish it. Of course, she agrees and we end the story on a hopeful note.

My Favorite Part: "Hi, is this Trisha Delisha?"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"A Delicious Coincidence"

by L.  Joy Douglas from the September 6, 2010 issue

Tagline: Dana had a feeling she and Travis would be laughing over the way they met for a long time...

In A Nutshell: Dana's on vacation with some girlfriends. A cute guy accidentally spills a drink on her. Later, he sends a surprise to her via room service along with an invitation to dinner. She accepts. Ends up they both live in Cincinnati.

Observations: I thought I'd analyze this story one paragraph at a time, just for the heck of it. Also, by the way, if you remove the paragraph notations and anything I wrote in parentheses, it almost reads like a synopsis. LOL

Paragraph 1, 2: We establish the backstory situation. Dana is on vacation with her single girlfriends. She's also just broken up with her boyfriend.

Paragraph 3, 4, 5: The drink is spilled. The man helps her clean up. They banter a little. (Here I thought the writing was a little jumbled. The man apologizes before she reacts to the frozen drink hitting her. But this is a minor thing.)

Paragraph 6, 7: Introductions are made amongst more banter in which she mentions her favorite drink is the pina colada.

Paragraph 8, 9: Travis apologizes again and the scene ends.

Paragraph 10, 11: We transition to her hotel room an hour later. A waiter delivers a pina colada and an envelope. Dana thought it was her friends, having forgotten their keys again. (This made me admire Dana's wisdom in not opening a hotel door to a "waiter" when you didn't order room service.)

Paragraph 12: He invites her to dinner.

Paragraph 13: Dana wonders if she's ready to date so soon after her break-up, then decides she is.

Paragraph 14, 15, 16: They meet at the restaurant. Travis is gentlemanly. He found out her room number by asking her friends. (The friends we readers were introduced to in the first paragraph.)

Paragraph 17, 18, 19: They find out they both live in Cincinnati. (That's the BC [Big Coincidence] that we Woman's World writers often ask the readers to accept.)

Paragraph 20, 21: We wrap up with the two of them remarking on how fate might have had a hand in their meeting each other.

All in all, I liked the banter and the idea was cute. It made me long for a tropical drink. :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Gift

by Jennie Pitkus from the August 30, 2010 issue

Tagline: Aunt Chloe's good fortune was the best thing that ever happened to Kelsey

In a Nutshell: Kelsey's aunt gives her $500, but her purse gets snatched. The security guard at the mall catches the perp and recovers her purse with the money still there. She returns the next day to thank him and they have lunch together, and then dinner and, well, you know the rest.

Observations: The appeal of this story for me doesn't come until two thirds of the way into the story. It was where Tom, the security guard, asks her out on a date. It's so cute. See, Kelsey's aunt gave her the $500 to do something fun with, and Kelsey had decided to go on a trip somewhere.

"So where are you planning to go?" Tom asked.

"I haven't decided yet. Where would you go?"

"Hmmm. Good question. Let me think about it for a few days," he said. "I should have some ideas by Friday night. How about we discuss them over dinner?"

Tom, you sly dog.

Otherwise, I didn't find it to be anything extraordinary. It was just your typical first meet story featuring a man to the rescue.

Oh, and you're welcome for the eye candy. ;)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Park Bench

by Janel Rodriguez from the September 13, 2010 issue

Tagline: The first day of Tracy's September vacation was sunny, warm--and unexpectedly romantic!

In A Nutshell: It's the first day of Tracy's vacation. She grabs a book, heads for the botanical gardens, and plants herself on a park bench. A man sits on other end of her bench and works on his computer. They exchange glances and smiles throughout the day sitting there, at the visitor's cafe where they dined separately, and again at "their"  bench. That afternoon, he treats her to an Italian ice and they  make plans to meet at the bench the next day.

Observations: Woman's World magazine likes stories that make the reader feel like this could really happen to you. Here you'll find ordinary people in ordinary settings. Tracy is just like you and me. We experience her attraction to the man here:

He caught my eye and we exchanged smiles. He's kind of cute, I thought.

And here:

Around three o'clock, my bench buddy got up to go, and I was surprised to feel my heart sink a little.

Luckily, the man comes through and offers to buy her an Italian ice. Yay!

This story is the perfect example of a sweet first meet story where the ending leaves you hopeful that their next encounter will set them more firmly on the path to love. The only think I would worry about is that they didn't really talk. Once he bought her the ice, I would like to have seen them converse. Also, the man must have a really expensive laptop that it went all day without needing to recharge the battery!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Magic Moment

by Karen M. Leet from the August 23, 2010 issue

Tagline: Jen had never seen the romance of airports--until the day she ran into Liam...

In a Nutshell: Jen and Liam literally bump into each other at the airport. Their flights are delayed, so they have coffee. Liam is going toLondon on an overseas work assignment, so they are forced to get to know each other over the phone. Six months later, they agree to meet when he comes back. He returns with a ring and a proposal.

Observations: This was a cute three-act story. First act: They meet and connect. Second act: They maintain a long distance relationship for six months. Third act: The emotional reunion at the airport when Liam proposes. There is a nice "black moment" when Jen has a little anxiety attack and thinks about bolting, and I think every story benefits from a climactic moment where you worry if things are going to work out or not. In Woman's World stories, they can be very minor, like in this story.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Getting the Message

by Elizabeth Palmer from the August 2, 2010 issue

Tagline: When Carla finally met at the Laundromat, she realized that some things are simply meant to be...

In a Nutshell: Carla's friend wants to play matchmaker and set her up with Luke. Carla is reluctant because of a guy at the laundromat she likes but hasn't approached yet. A patient wants to set her up with her nephew, who works in the hospital, like Carla does, but in radiology. His name is also Luke. Then, strangely, the librarian gives her a book that was recommended by another library patron with the same taste in books. His name? Luke, of course. It ends up that Luke is also the guy from the laundromat.

Observations: I thought this story was the perfect mix of Woman's World optimism and verging-on-implausible coincidence. The magazine has a knack for finding stories that test your ability to suspend disbelief by encouraging your hope for romance to blossom. Here, we are expected to swallow the fact that this Luke guy "appears" in Carla's life in four different ways.

What makes it work is Carla's skepticism. She embodies what we readers are experiencing as we read. This connects us with her character. Yet, at the end, we all hope that it will work out happily, and it does, which is our reward for putting or skepticism aside for just a few minutes.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A New Attitude

by Kate Willoughby from the August 16, 2010 issue

Tagline:  Doctor's orders or not, Dan knew he was too set in his ways to change.  And then he met Ginger...

Okay, since this is my story, I can't really review it. I did want to say, I love the tagline, but I wasn't so happy about the title change. I had originally named the story "Old Dogs Can." "A New Attitude" sounds generic to me. I thought my title made more sense, considering the story, but the editors do as they see fit. They know their audience. I'm happy that they published it at all.

It's funny because the whole story came about because I was emailing someone and commented that I had learned something and that apparently you could teach old dogs new tricks. I immediately thought that "Old Dogs Can" would be a great story title. The rest is history. LOL

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jessie's Cowboy

by Mary Ann Joyce from the August 9, 2010 issue

Tagline: Jessie's broken heart needed time to heal--and a trip to a dude ranch appeared to be just what the doctor ordered...

In a Nutshell: Jessie broke up with her fiance and goes to the dude ranch to forget about her troubled love life. She meets a cowboy there, Sam. They connect, but she's reluctant to share much about herself because she's only there for a week. At the airport she is feeling blue, but lo and behold, there's Sam. He'd told Jessie he volunteered at his cousin's dude ranch before, but what he hadn't told her was that he lived in Philly, same as her.

Observations: I loved this story, even better than the one I wrote! Sam is funny...referring to the horse Jessie just mounted...

"His name is Simon," said a cowboy in a plaid shirt as he rode up alongside her. "But I like to call him by his nickname--" he leaned toward Jessie and spoke low, "Demon." Seeing her mouth drop open, he grinned. "Just kidding."

I also liked when he called her "City Girl."

You might notice that often in Woman's World magazine stories, the author will explain the backstory of the main character right at the beginning, but not in this story. Instead, we see Jessie at the dude ranch, meeting the hero right off the bat. It's not until about the midpoint of the story that we find out about her fiance troubles.

Also, I've mentioned before that you can tell one big lie in fiction, but then the rest has to be "the truth," meaning realistic and plausible. In this story, the big lie the author asks us to swallow is that they both happened to live in the same city. The rest of the story was so cute and honest that I was willing to believe it.  Just be careful not to push the reader's ability to suspend their disbelief. For instance, it would be difficult to accept it if, when she returned home to Philadelphia, that Sam not only lived there, but was starting employment at the same company where she worked, or perhaps just bought the house next door to her.

My Favorite Part: When Jessie helps her off the horse. I'm a sucker for romantic gestures like this.

When they returned to the ranch, Sam dismounted first, then put his strong hands on either side of Jessie's waist and helped her to the ground.

Artwork: "Cow Boss" by Lorna Dillon

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Best Birthday Gift

by Beverly Breton Carroll from the July 26, 2010 issue

Tagline: Jennifer usually regretted her tendency to procrastinate--but  not today!

In a Nutshell: Jennifer is trying to mail her twin sister's birthday card but is lacking a stamp. A handsome stranger gives her one. Later, that same stranger is in need of some change while in line to buy a bagel, and Jennifer is there!

Observations: I thought this was a darling story. The characters ring true. His reason for not calling her is valid, and he was very smart to notice her address on the envelope. However, the jump from their first "date" and the epilogue paragraph was abrupt for me:

"...I looked up your number but thought it would make you nervous to hear from me--like I was some kind of stalker."

"You? Stalking me?" If only he knew. "But how did you--"

"Your sister's card. I saw the return address. So tell me, how was your birthday?"

I just celebrated my second post-Jake birthday. We're at the coffee shop, and while I sip my latte, he's stamping the last of our square blue wedding invitations.

I think the story could have benefitted from a phrase like, "Two years later"  to transition the reader. Perhaps the fact that the story is in present tense contributed to this.

Otherwise, it was well-written. I especially liked the circularity of the stamps and envelopes beginning and ending the story.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sarah's Smile

by Diane Burch from the July 12, 2010 issue

Tagline: Trace was shopping for white clover honey, but when he got to the market, he found something even sweeter...

In a Nutshell: Trace Harmon is determined to ask out the girl at the farmer's market. He strikes out time after time, getting interrupted. When he finally gives up after finding out that the girl was only summer help, she shows up on his doorstep to deliver honey. Turns out her grandfather runs the market.

Observations: This was a little unusual in that it begins with the hero already having met the heroine. But I was slightly confused as to the timeline. I coudl not figure out just how many times Trace went to the market.

First paragraph, he's introducing himself with a handshake. :

"Trace Harmon." Thirty and gun-shy after a bad break-up six months prior, he offered his hand to the pretty young woman at the counter in the busy open-air market.

Then, in his thoughts he's recalling the week BEFORE when he gone shopping for clover honey. There's a short scene where he gets the honey. I believe this scene is the FIRST meet. They get interrupted by a pushy customer.

Then, at the bottom of the first column, it says,

All week, the girl with the red hair occupied his mind--only now she had a name. So, the next Saturday he headed for the farm market again.

I think that refers to the SECOND meet, which brings us right back to where we started in that very first paragraph where he introduces himself with the handshake. Right? Wrong. Because here's what happens:

Trace walked over to where she was stacking heads of lettuce. "Hi," he said.

Sarah smiled. "Hi, Trace."

She remembered his name. That was a good sign.

So, when did he give her his name? That very first paragraph, right? Was that first paragraph the first meeting or the second meeting? I hope one of you can explain it to me.

Even with my confusion as to all of Trace's comings and goings, it was a cute story. I did think he was a little lame for not just hanging around until there was a lull, but I gave him points for persistence. It was cute how he got tongue-tied around her, and the ending was sweet.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Moonlight Magic

by Mary L. Briggs from the July 19, 2010 issue

Tagline: Janie had escaped to the pretty seaside inn for rest, relaxation and as it turned out, romance

In a Nutshell: Janie's on vacation. At dinner with the other two guests at the inn she finds out there's a legend that during a full moon a mermaid comes to sit on a rock and sing, and Janie ventures out to see if it's true. So does Joel.

Observations: I thought the premise of this story was oh so romantic. Who doesn't love a ghostly legend of love? As some of you might know, I keep a list of common plots that appear in Woman's World magazine. This story is so unique, it didn't fit into any of those categories.

Unlike the Fourth of July story, we see more personality from these characters, probably because there's a "long" scene where they talk with each other. Then later, when he surprises her at Mermaid's Rock, we see a little more of them. Even though the stories are only 800 words, don't skimp on characterization. It can really make readers feel more while they're reading. If you're going to skimp, pare down your descriptions. Cut out unnecessary actions, like getting into the car and driving somewhere. Just cut to the destination. Your words are better spent on the characters.

I was surprised to see nekkidness in the little inset photo! I guess Real Mermaids go topless. LOL

Artwork: Peter Spataro's Drift Inn Beach

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Women on Writing Interview

Recently WOW-Women on, interviewed me for their syndicated blog, The Muffin. They were intrigued by my blog here. I was flattered and excited, and here's where you can read the interview if you like.

Friday, July 30, 2010

No Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving story I submitted got rejected by Woman's World. Alas. Still waiting to hear from the Trues, though.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Recipe for Love

by B.J. Heinlein from the June 7, 2010 issue (The first of three "long lost posts" that I'm dredging up from the queue. For some reason, I wrote these but never posted them.)

Tagline: Was it possible that Jenny's grandmother and Kirk's grandmother had dreamed of this meeting long ago?

In a Nutshell: Caterer Jenny Cross finds a copy of a cookbook her grandmother loved at a garage sale. Coincidentally, the man holding the sale has fond memories of his own granny involving that book. Inside the book she finds a recipe card for "Honeymoon Cake" and impulsively she bakes one that afternoon and brings it to share with the garage sale guy.

Observations: If you believe what you read in WW, garage sales are a great place to meet people. All you have to do is find something that has sentimental value for you and it will inevitably be special to the person holding the sale, or their relative. (In my own garage sales, I only sell the stuff I have NO sentimental attachment to. Go figure!)

Just make sure you don't inject any negativity in your garage sale story. Don't make it post-nasty-divorce. Don't make anyone cry over the item, unless it's happy tears.

Worth Waiting For

by Mary Ann Joyce from the May 31, 2010 issue (The second of three late posts.)

Tagline: There were things that Maggie wanted to forget about Sean McDougal...but lots more that she couldn't help remembering

In a Nutshell: Maggie runs into Sean in the grocery store. They were once great friends in high school until he married a cheerleader and moved away. A mutual friend sets them up and they rekindle their feelings for each other.

Observations: This story is a clear example of the three act structure. First act: Maggie tells a girlfriend (the matchmaker, it turns out) about the chance encounter. In that conversation, we get some info about the heroine: she owns a small shop, she's not a good cook, she works out. We get some info about the hero: he's recently divorced, is a high school teacher.

Act two: We see the heroine's thoughts, getting the history of their relationship in high school--Drama Club, after which the guy meets the cheerleader whom he marries and eventually divorces.

Act three: A few days later he calls her. He never forgot her and wants to take her to a party the matchmaker is throwing.

This kind of story can touch a chord in readers. Doesn't everyone have a person they longed for in their youth who spurned them? Wouldn't it be terrific if that person came back and admitted that they were stupid for letting you slip through their fingers? Yeah. Me too!

The only thing this story was missing was a black moment, but Woman's World doesn't seem to care about that.

In The Clouds

by Pegi Hickerson from the May 17, 2010 issue (The third of three posts I wrote but never published.)

Tagline: James hadn't thought of Kate for years. Seeing her again, he wondered how he'd ever forgotten her...

In a Nutshell: On her way to her high school reunion, Kate is nervous about flying. The man sitting next to her was her was her math tutor in high school. After reconnecting with him on the flight, she agrees to be his date for the reunion.

Observations: There are many "formulas" to be found in WW stories and this is one of them. Two people share a history and meet up again by accident. Usually, one of them had a crush on the other. Often the person with the crush was "undesirable" in some way, like they were geeky or the unpopular sibling.

I liked James' personality. He was cute when he said, "Please don't use the word 'bloomed' for a guy."

I thought it a tad strange that Kate didn't more easily remember a boy who had tutored her.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Perfect Fourth of July

by Joel Hisaw from the July 5, 2010 issue

Tagline: Amy's matchmaking efforts on her little brother's behalf had always fizzled. But this time? Fireworks!

In A Nutshell: Will goes to the family Fourth of July picnic dreading it because his sister is up to her usual matchmaking shenanigans. He notices and admires his cousin John's new girlfriend. Turns out she's not. She's the girl his sister wanted to hook him up with.

Opinions: This is the first story I've seen from Joel Hisaw. The matchmaking/mistaken identity plot is very familiar, but set against a Fourth of July backdrop. Will is likable, real. I'd certainly go out with him if I weren't married. I like the picture Hisaw painted with Kristin's dress--romantic and feminine, but still from a guy's POV.

However, there were a few rough edges. First, a little redundancy.

It was hotter than the Fourth of July...

and three sentences later

It was hotter than blazes...

Then, out of context these statements seem contradictory, but that wasn't my point. I was just pointing out the use of the words time to meet twice so close together.

At 28, he had plenty of time to meet the right woman.

and three sentences later:

He never seemed to have the time to get out and meet anyone.

These are minor glitches that you may want to keep an eye out for in your own stories. Having someone else beta read for you can help a lot.

I also found the ending to be abrupt. First, they're about to go sip lemonade together, and then, boom, it's three hours later and he's thanking his sister for setting him up. We never really see Will and Kristin connect. He liked how she looked. They're both computer geeks, but other than that, their conversation happened off stage, which I think robbed the story of the emotion we all expect from romance stories.

My Favorite Part: When Will greets his cousins, it's very realisitc and cute. Made me say "awww."

"Hey, it's the brats!" he teased. They grabbed hold of their uncle's biceps and he swung them around.

I want me an uncle like that! (Of course, he'd have to be the Incredible Hulk, because I'm not as svelte as I'd like.)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Sweet Surprise

by Susan C. Hall from the June 28, 2010 issue

Tagline: Gretchen had no trouble guessing the identity of her not-so-secret admirer

In a Nutshell: Gretchen owns a flower shop. A male customer ponders how her boyfriend could surprise her, since flowers are obviously out, and remembers a TV show where a guy gave his girl a puppy with a bow around its neck. Later in the day, a box shows up. It's a stuffed dog, complete with a bow. Guess who brought it!

Observations: I thought both the author and the heroine were clever in revealing and finding out the hero's name--via the credit card.

Did you catch the foreshadowing of what the hero is going to do later in the story? If you're a regular of this blog and read the Woman's World stories weekly, you may have. It's not that hard because the stories are only 800 words long. The authors can't exactly slip it in unnoticed amongst the other eighty thousand plus words. Still, it's a necessary tool.

I do have to admit, I wondered if he was going to be ridiculous and give her a real puppy. You can't give someone a live animal without being sure they want and can take care of it. Hall took care of that little worry by making it a stuffed dog. Smart!

There was a bit of a black moment--when the man apparently flees the store--but it happens in the middle of the story and not toward the end as you usually find in fiction.

For those of you who track this sort of thing, this is the second story set in a flower show or with a florist that I've seen in the past few months. So, don't worry if you write a story that's mildly similar to one that has just been published. Apparently it doesn't matter that much.

My Favorite Part: When the hero asks Gretchen out for dinner, Molly, the friend/employee answers for her! I liked Molly.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Road to Love

by Vienna Mars from the June 21, 2010 issue

Tagline: When Shellie stepped into the sunshine, a world of romantic possibilities opened before her...

In A Nutshell: Tired of working out in a gym, Shellie decides to get a bike. Ben, the bike store owner, is reputed to be "impatient with newbies," but Shellie thinks he's nice and agrees to join him on the beginner's ride. Later she finds out this is a new program he just started, for the two of them.

Observations: Act one opens with action (Shellie working out) which is a good way to engage the reader right off the bat. We meet her at a time of crisis during which she decides to make a life change. Act two, she meets Ben and likes him. Then, in the middle of their conversation, we get the backstory. She came home to take care of her late mother. This is a common plot--a son or daughter returning to their home town. Often they end up together with someone they knew from their past. This time, Shellie meets someone new.

Third act, the climax of the story, is a near collision between Shellie and her friend, who acts as the device through which we find out that the Saturday beginner's ride is brand new. I liked this little surprise twist at the end. That rascal Ben...he's a crafty guy. I never saw this coming, but then again, the writer couldn't really foreshadow this.

Artwork is "Bicycle Shop" by Ginger Cook.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Something To Smile About

by Karen Nikula from the June 14, 2010 issue

Tagline: The day she decided to get on with her life turned out to be the day everything changes for Jamie.

In a Nutshell: Jamie is divorced and is coming to terms with eating alone at one of her old favorite restaurants. Her friend suggests, "You can always bring a book for company." Lo and behold, she spots a man alone, reading the same book. They strike up a conversation and find they have things in common. He asks her out. She accepts.

Observations: I was surprised to see that the woman was reading a mystery instead of a romance. A lot of Woman's World stories feature romance readers, but when I saw the man was reading the same book, I understood why it couldn't be a romance. :)

I had high hopes for this couple because Nikula showed them connecting on so many levels.
  • They were reading the same book.
  • He was about her age.
  • They aren't too good at figuring out "who done it."
  • They liked the same writers and had similar taste in movies and TV shows.
  • They're both divorced.
  • They garden.
  • They like to talk about movies after seeing one.
I also liked the rosy ending:

He held open the Omelet House door and the two of them stepped into the sunshine.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Gift

by Anna Jo Christopher from the May 24, 2010 issue

Tagline: After 20 years of marriage, Carol knew everything there was to know about Dean. Or did she?

In A Nutshell: Carol is about to celebrate her twentieth anniversary, but she's not as happy as she should have been because husband Dean has been AWOL lately, helping his brother with home improvement projects. Turns out he was really constructing a bookcase for her as an anniversary gift. Awww...

Observations: Perhaps the trouble with analyzing the WW stories week after week is that I have become very savvy about spotting "surprises," and I did see this one coming the minute I saw this:

Carol gazed at the pile of books stacked beside her bed. Dean often teased her good-naturedly about her addiction with romance novels.

But this is actually great writing. Christopher plants that knowledge in the readers' minds in the middle of the story as part of Carol's backstory. The paragraph is actually describing the couple's early history when she worked at a bookstore and meanders on to talk about her current stack of books.

Then, a little while later, when the writer (and Dean) unveil the surprise, the reader thinks, "Oh! That's right! She's an avid reader! What a perfect gift!"

So, if you're planning to surprise the reader, you have to be clever and non-obtrusive about laying the foundation for it. Do it early and don't belabor it otherwise, it will red-flag it too much.

Friday, June 11, 2010


I sold my eighth romance to WW! I just got the contract today and I'm thrilled! It's called "Old Dogs Can" and it will appear in the August 5th issue.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First Date

by Colette Shannon from the May 10, 2010 issue
Tagline: When work buddies Andy and Melissa got together outside the office, would friendship turn into something more romantic?

In a nutshell: Andy listens as Melissa bemoans the fact that her ex-boyfriend is now getting married. After work they walk in the park and then decide to go out for dinner together.

Observations: Melissa hasn't thought of Andy romantically, but there are a couple of subtle turning points which show her change of heart. Many aspects of fiction which are more pronounced in novels and novellas are understated in WW stories. The HEA is one of them. Obviously in romance novels, the Happily Ever After ending is tremendously emotionally fulfilling. At least, it's supposed to be. In a WW story, it is often much more mildly so, Like in this story, they end up just about to go on their first date.

But I've wandered away from those turning points... Here's the first one.

"Now I realize he just wasn't interested in marrying me."

"The guy must've been crazy," [Andy] said.

Andy's comment surprised me, and I blushed.

Here is the second:

Although we were sitting in the shade, I felt a warmth spreading through me.


I noticed for the first time how his eyes crinkled slightly at the corners when he smiled--and I suddenly couldn't remember ever feeling so at ease with a man.
Even with only 800 words to work with, Shannon showed Melissa falling for Andy, not in a huge way, but very subtly.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

An Unexpected Gift

by Kathy Perrin from the May 3, 2010 issue

Tagline: He had welcomed his granddaughter to the world and met a lovely woman named Joy--all in one magical day...

In A Nutshell: A widower is shopping for earrings for his daughter to celebrate the birth of his first grandchild. He hits it off with the saleswoman.

Observations: Sometimes you can build a story around a life event. I did a story once about a woman whose daughter was getting married. This one revolves around the birth of a grandchild.

There is a very subtle black moment in the story, but oddly enough, it has nothing to do with the budding romance. The hero finds out that he can't get the diamond earrings he liked, but Joy has a fantastic solution for him--to get emerald earrings instead because they're the birthstone of his new granddaughter.

The story ended with a clever reference to the jewelry theme:

"...Would you be interested in getting a bite to eat?"

"I'd love to," Joy said, her eyes sparkling like diamonds

Cute story.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spam Alert

I sometimes find important email in my spam folder. Like today. Unfortunately, when I tried to transfer it into my inbox, it disappeared. I can't find it anywhere. So, if you emailed me and haven't heard back, that's what happened. Please resend your message!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The House Hunter

by Elaine Togneri from the April 26, 2010 issue

Tagline: Evelyn couldn't say what she loved more about the house--its vintage charm or the great neighbor...

In a Nutshell: Evelyn falls for her real estate agent.

Observations: I really enjoyed this story, but I really wish the tagline hadn't given away the ending. I think if it hadn't, I would have been guessing about how it was going to work out between Randy and Evelyn until the end.

Togneri does a great job of showing their attraction for each other.

--She'd rather have gazed at Randy's mahogany eyes...
--Randy says, "'re wonderful." Then he goes pink and stammers something about her being a wonderful client. Right. We see through you, Randy, and so does Evelyn!
--Her heart beat faster even though she knew it was just business.
--Later, Evelyn was torn between wanting to finally find her dream home and spending her weekends with Randy.
--She felt Randy's eyes on her and turned away to hide her blush.

We were able to almost see the entire courtship, perhaps because they already had a relationship established. It felt like a longer story than it was. I mean that in a good way. :)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Love Works!

by Tracy Wilson-Burns from the April 19, 2010 issue

Tagline: Rowena didn't believe in office romances--even if she did believe that she was falling for her coworker...

In a nutshell: Rowena is attracted to the new guy at work. After two months, he finally asks her out, but she has an ironclad rule against not mixing business with pleasure, but he reveals that he's only a temp. Yay!

Observations: This story spans a longer period of time than normal--a couple of months. We see the attraction build and experience Rowena's frustration. We also see her bumbling because she's a little nervous around him. I honestly wondered how this romance was going to work out. I hoped she wasn't going to compromise her principles, and she didn't.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wrong Date, Right Guy

by Elizabeth Palmer from the April 12, 2010 issue

Tagline: Merilee had to give Susan credit--her timing might have been off, but her matchmaking instincts were perfect!

In a nutshell: Meriliee arrives for dinner at her friend's house and meets another guest, Kyle, out front. He's the carpenter who redid the hostess' front porch. Turns out, the hostess wrote down the wrong day for her dinner party and is unprepared, so Kyle and Merilee go out for dinner instead.

My opinion: This was a very cute story, one I wish I'd thought of. What's nice about it, and so many other WW stories, is that it seems entirely possible. These could be real people. The characters in books are often larger than life and their circumstances are unusual, but not in WW stories. So, keep that in mind when you're writing them.

One trick I use is to think about what's going on in my life or in the lives of friends or family. Once, a friend of mine was stressed out because she'd committed to help frost a a hundred cupcakes for her niece's first birthday party. I plan to write a story around that event someday.

This was a solid cute first meet story.
The painting of the geraniums is by Rae Friedman.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Beautiful Life

by Sheila Llanas from the April 5, 2010 issue

Tagline: When the handsome stranger appeared, Sarah wondered if her dream was about to come true...

In A Nutshell: Sarah owns a thrift shop. One of her best customers almost buys a snow globe that Sarah loves because it makes her imagine and hope that her life might end up as perfect as the snow globe scene. The customer's brother comes in. He's inspired by the globe to ask Sarah out on a "date."

Observations: You've heard of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. In Woman's World it's often girl meets boy, girl assumes boy is taken, girl finds out she's wrong, girl dates guy. If you're looking for a formula to follow that WW seems to love, this might be the one.

In My Opinion: I liked the fresh idea of using a snow globe to spark romance, however, there were a few things that detracted from my enjoyment of the story.

There was tad too much description of Nell, the sister/customer, to suit me. Clearly the author wanted to set up a contrast between her and the traditional Sarah, however, this wasn't a story that dwelled on Sarah's character/emotional arc, so this entire paragraph seemed unnecessary.

What I would like to have seen more of was interaction with Sarah and Dan, the hero, and more of Dan, period. One of my goals with heroes is to create one that I'd like to fall in love with, and Dan fell short of that for me. He asks Sarah out, but to go for a walk. I'm like, "Dude. A walk? Seriously?" He doesn't even spring for the bread for the ducks. LOL

Monday, April 12, 2010

Something Magical

by Clare Mishica from the March 29, 2010 issue

Tagline: On a starry, moonlit night a beautiful raven-haired woman helped Zach's heart begin to heal...

In a Nutshell: Zach is a widower who reluctantly goes to his sister's place for the weekend and a party. When he finds his daughter, not in bed like she's supposed to be, downstairs with a female party guest, he finds himself as enchanted as his daughter. Turns out the woman is his nephews' teacher. They find they have a mutual dislike of party scenes and make a "date" to have coffee in the kitchen instead.

Observations: With "Something Magical," we get a very good feel for Zach and what a good father he is, how shy and sad he is. Readers seem to like seeing wounded characters--often widows/widowers--find love again. They enjoy seeing the sun come out on these characters' lives and helps us feel more optimistic about our own lives.

Notice the "lesson learned" ending. This type of ending typically shows the character reflecting on their own character arc. Sometimes it's even something a loved one or friend talked about at the beginning of the story and when the author ends the story with that same observation, it gives the story a feeling of having come full-circle.

For example, the ending for "Something Magical" is:
Zach climbed the steps two at a time, thinking how sometimes you don't realize that there's something missing in your life until, unexpectedly, you find it.
This would have been one of those full-circle stories if Mishica had had Zach wonder that something was missing in his life or have him feel like he needed to find something. But I can see why she didn't do the former. If you're a widower and single father, if you start thinking something's missing in your life, it would seem pretty obvious what it was. :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Once Around the Park

by Diane Crawford from the March 22, 2010 issue

Tagline: Mix three dogs, two dog-walkers and a sunny spring morning--and you've got all the ingredients for a brand-new romance!

In a Nutshell: Shelly is dog-sitting for her aunt and uncle. At the park, a man's dog tangles his leash with Shelly's dogs' leashes. Shelly and Tim hit it off while walking. Later, after Shelly figures she'll never see the man again, he contacts her uncle asking for her phone number.

Observations: I found the humor in this first person story to be very appealing. For instance, Tim says, "Luke's starting his obedience classes this week--which, as you can see, he desperately needs."The pets' names, Lucy and Ethel and Starsky and Hutch, were also cute.

Again, we have the misunderstanding where one of the protagonists sees the other with someone and assumes they're married or taken. However in this story, Tim is alert and explains, "Someone I work with. We're brainstorming a new project this week." So, Shelly's mistaken assumption doesn't last long. Tim's hasty explanation is a subtle indication that he's interested. He wants Shelly to know he's unattached, obviously! Nice touch. That makes me like Tim.

I also liked that both the hero and heroine were proactive people. Shelly wasted no time in calling Tim once she had his phone number. Tim returned to the park several times, hoping to run into Shelly again. However, the ending didn't make sense to me. (See below.)

Favorite Part: Shelly wants to circle the part once more time and:

[she] could've sworn the little dogs rolled their eyes at the suggestion.

In My Humble Opinion: "I'm pretty sure the dogs will be tied up."

Maybe someone can explain this ending to me. The only thing I can think of is that this was a reference to the dogs tangling their leashes at the very beginning of the story. If that's it, it's not that amusing. Also, why would the heroine even suggest that Luke (the dog) accompany them to dinner? She doesn't even own her own dog...

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Man to Love

by Birdie Etchison from the March 15, 2010 issue

Tagline: Dave was always there--until one day he wasn't. That's when Carrie realized what she might be missing.

In A Nutshell: Carrie is a truck stop waitress. Dave is a regular customer who is sweet on her. She's afraid to say yes to his repeated attempts to take her out on a date. Just when she thinks she might have been making a mistake, she sees him with a young girl and she assumes he's married. This seems to be confirmed when he introduces the girl as his daughter. Turns out he's divorced and just got custody. Carrie and Dave start dating and end up getting married.


1. This was a tightly written story with a casual voice that makes you feel as if the author was a girlfriend. One way Etchison does this are these little asides (in bold):

"I like waitressing. You meet nice people and--" I pause and smile. "I get good tips." Dave is my best tipper, and I think he knows it.

The next day, the door opens at 12--did I mention Dave always comes at noon?--and in comes Dave with Hannah.

Also, the last two paragraphs are in such a friend-to-friend tone. There's no flowery, over-reaching vocabulary or sentence structure.

As for me, I have a man who loves me, and who I'm happy to love right back. How neat is that?

Lastly, she uses first person, present tense, like she's really there with you talking face to face.

2. Once again, we have a misunderstanding where the protagonist thinks, "Oh, no, he's married!" But it's quickly resolved, of course. But this is a handy and common way to create a climactic high point. Strangely, in WW stories, this climax is often two thirds of the way through, a little earlier than in longer fiction. I haven't figured out why yet.

3. This is the second story in a row to feature an epilogue paragraph, a highly unusual occurence! Really! If you're a subscriber, you know I'm not just making this up.

This story could have ended here where Dave has just asked her to go with him and his daughter to the zoo:

I nod and Hannah smiles. "Sounds good to me."

But no, Etchison shows us how the story really ends, which I like. The author even brings back Carrie's friend, Molly, for a little cameo-type appearance.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rose's Roses

by M.L. Hickerson from the March 8, 2010 issue.

In a Nutshell: Rose owns a flower shop. A handsome man comes to order a bouquet. Rose assumes it's for his girlfriend, but soon finds out it's for his sister. The next day he sends Rose some flowers along with an invitation to dinner.

Observations: It's not unusual for the plot of a Woman's World story to hinge on a misunderstanding such as the protagonist assuming the love interest is married or taken when he/she is really not. Rose's Roses follows that "formula." However, what sets this story apart is the epilogue paragraph in which the two get married. That occurs very rarely.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Fortunate Encounter

by B.J. Heinlein from the March 1, 2010 issue

In A Nutshell: Jenny is at a charity bazaar and visits the fortuneteller. She is told that the man of her dreams will show up soon, wearing a blue tie with green stripes and that she will soon land a big marketing account. The next day, a man wearing just such a tie brings her a new marketing account, but only because his grandmother was the fortuneteller, filling in for the real one.

Observations: When I saw the story was about a fortuneteller, I wondered if the heroine was going to believe in them or not. She didn't, and it was easy to identify with her. She was smart about pinpointing clues that the fortuneteller's talent wasn't real, so when she leaves the tent, we're confident the lady was a fake. However, when the guy shows up wearing that (must have been ugly) tie, we're surprised and read on to find out was the fortuneteller for real?

The fortuneteller was equally smart, getting Jenny's business card so she knew where to send her grandson.

Cute story.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Matchmaker

by Tamara Shaffer from the February 22, 2010 issue

Tagline: Aunt Grace knew that all Laura and Grady needed was a little nudge in the right direction...

In A Nutshell: Grace has always wanted her niece Laura to find someone after Laura's husband died. When Laura needs someone to paint the exterior of her house, Grace suggests Grady, a friend of her husband's. They hit it off.
Observations: The matchmaker plot is nothing new to Woman's World, however, this story felt fresh. Why? I think it's because it came from the point of view of the matchmaker herself. Usually matchmaker stories are told from the point of view of one of the matchees.

Another thing that made this story a little different is that it really focused a lot on Grace's character. Sure, the hero and heroine are moving forward in their romance, but it's Grace's personality that really comes through.

She is so unapologetic about her endeavor.

Even my loving but skeptical husband, Charlie, is impressed with how neatly I managed this one.

You see more of Grace's feistiness here:

"He's available," Charlie said, giving me one of his looks, "for painting. I hope you're not trying to play Cupid again."

I went right to Laura.


"Grady invited me to a movie," [Laura] said, with more enthusiasm than I'd heard from her in a long time. "I can't thank Uncle Charlie enough for referring him to me."

And I couldn't wait to tell Charlie.

Monday, March 1, 2010

I Know You By Heart

by Kate Karyus Quinn from the February 8, 2010 issue

Tagline: Amanda knew that David was happy being "just friends"--but that wasn't enough for Amanda anymore...

In A Nutshell: Amanda is having dinner with her best friend, David. David cuts the evening short and Amanda is worries it's because of an offhand comment about the two of them knowing each other by heart. The next day is her birthday and she doesn't hear from him until late. A text message directs her to go to a certain restaurant. When David shows up with an engagement ring, Amanda realizes he loves her.

Observations: This was an amazing story. I loved it for so many reasons.

1. The title is probably the best WW story title I've ever seen.

2. She hooks you right off the bat with this paragraph:

"Happy Birthday, Miss Amanda May." These were the words Amanda's best friend, David, had greeted her with each birthday for the last 10 years. She was pretty sure she wouldn't hear them this year. Not after she had ruined everything.

3. Her third and fourth paragraphs pack a double whammy. They forward the plot AND give you their history.

4. The story is firmly set in the present. Sometimes these sweet stories seem like they take place in yesteryear, but David texts Amanda--very modern.

5. There was a black moment, something I always like in a WW story:

This is the part where he lets me down gently, she thought.

6. Throughout this story you find out so much about the couple. It's peppered in very skillfully--so skillfully I didn't notice one of the instances until after several reads.

There, on the lifeline she had traced during her palm-reading stage, was a ring with a sparkling emerald at its center.

7. The use of the title phrase, "I know you by heart" came up twice in the story. First, it was the phrase Amanda blamed for ruining their friendship, and later, after he'd proposed, she realizes that David knew her by heart, too. This is tight writing, building in a nice sense of closure.

In My Humble Opinion: It's only after reading this several times that I notice the text is pretty wordy.

Meet me at the bistro across the street from the Mexican restaurant with the awesome salsa, and next door to the bad dry cleaners.

If it were a real text, he probably would have named the restaurant and been done with it. However, I forgive the author this. We needed to be let in on their inside "joke." :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Book of Love

by Elizabeth Palmer from the February 15, 2010 issue

Tagline: Holly had noticed the handsome grad student who spent so many hours in the library. Had he really noticed her?

Observations: First person present tense is not my preference, however, I think it worked for this story. It can keep the reader in the moment, making the action feel more immediate.

This story had your typical threesome: the hero and heroine, and a friend. The friend is handy character for getting backstory across.

Secrets in stories can go two ways. One, you keep the secret from everyone and reveal it as a plot twist. Or two, you reveal it to the reader, but not to the characters in the story. "The Book of Love" took the latter route. We know Byron likes the Sylvia. Sylvia's the only dunderhead who doesn't realize, but it can be fun for a reader to feel she's in on a secret. It's like being invited to a surprise party.

My Favorite Part: When Byron "peers up, as though the answer is on the ceiling." LOL

Friday, February 12, 2010

Like Clockwork

by Ann Poland from the January 25, 2010 issue

Tagline: Michelle had to know more: Who was the good-looking guy who walked by every day--and was he single?

In A Nutshell: Michelle is curious about the man who passes her hair salon every day at the same time. One day she follows him. She loses him. She follows him two more times and fails. Finally, on her fourth try, he smoothly ambushes her and smiling, tells her he knew she was following him. When she tells him why, he admits to being a detective! He's been visiting his grandfather at the residence hotel. They have coffee together, then many brunches.

Observations: I thought this story was cute. I liked the two plot twists. The first was when Michelle herself was surprised. The second was when we found out he was a detective.

I also noticed the backstory on this story is skillfully dribbled in, instead of presented at the beginning of the story, which is a nice change of pace.

As for the ending, it's one of those WW soft happily ever after endings, where they're not quite ready for a wedding, but they're in a relationship.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Old School Friends

by Ginny Swart from the February 1, 2010 issue.

Tagline: It took a ghost from her husband's past to remind Kelly just how happy she and Scott were in their marriage.

In A Nutshell: When Kelly's husband, Scott, finds old school chums on an online social network, she feels like she doesn't measure up to one of his old girlfriends. Kelly even sarcastically suggests he look her up while on his upcoming business trip. Luckily, Scott understands that Kelly is exhausted from tending their sick child. After confessing her woes to a friend, the friend sets her straight, so when Scott returns home from a business trip, she's her confident self again. They both realize how lucky they are when the old girlfriend proves to be completely undesirable when compared to Kelly.

Observations: I happen to know that this is Ginny Swart's first sale to WW. She did a fantastic job. I love this story. The "problem" of finding old flames on the internet is contemporary and is something the modern woman can relate to.

WW likes their stories to be positive, however that doesn't mean your characters have to be problem free. I loved how Swart showed the heroine's vulnerability and self-doubt without making her seem whiny. It was clear she was overtired from her duties as a stay-at-home mom.

Another thing I loved was seeing how supportive Scott was of her. Swart shows this in three places:

1. When he notices his wife isn't herself, he says, "I'll finish cleaning up. Go watch TV."
2. After doing the dishes, he goes to her and says, "What's up? You seem unhappy lately."

3. Kelly complains, "My guess is she'll (the old girlfriend) be driving a fancy car and have a beautiful apartment. And she'll look fabulous." To which Scott replies, "Like you do when our daughter isn't keeping you up. Beth's almost over the chicken pox. When she's better, you'll feel better, too. Being a mom is hard work."

4. Scott also gives a big speech at the end of the story in which he tells Kelly that seeing the old flame made him realize how wonderful their marriage is, something Kelly had already re-discovered while he was gone.
Swart really makes the reader want a man like Scott.

In My Humble Opinion:
This transition seemed abrupt, but perhaps was necessary considering the very tight word count.

Scott gave her a squeeze. "You're forgiven. And now that your patient is better, any chance of finding a babysitter so the two of us can have dinner out?"

They'd ordered dinner and were sipping their wine when Kelly asked lightly, "So did you see Charlene?"

See that? A zero word transition. One moment they're home and discussing a date and the next the date is ending and they're talking.
Also, while I really liked this story a lot, the ending didn't flood me with a super warm feeling like some WW stories do. It was a good solid ending, but not a superb one.