Saturday, December 31, 2011

The True Spirit of Christmas

by Sandra Noble from the December 26, 2011 issue

Tagline: Megan thought she was facing a lonely Christmas until a handsome stranger with a generous heart proved her wrong...

In a Nutshell: Megan's daughter goes to spend Christmas with her dad and Megan is feeling lonely. She goes to get her favorite coffee to cheer herself up and the friendly store owner doesn't seem upset to be working Christmas Eve. That's when Megan gets the idea to spread some Christmas cheer to people she knows who are also working. She delivers meals to them, complete with fruitcake, and when revisiting that store owner, garners an invitation to go view the Christmas lights with him.

Observations: What I want you to notice with this story is the theme of good cheer throughout. Megan has good reason to feel down, being all alone on Christmas Eve, and yet...

No, Megan thought. I'm not going to feel sorry for myself. 

Megan takes action against the sadness, something Woman's World likes. As I've said before, the entire magazine is devoted to improving women's lives--their health, their outlooks, their pocketbooks, everything, so featuring a heroine who embodies that is a no brainer. (The hero is a positive and caring guy, too.)

I also noticed that this story was light on the romance, heavy on the Christmas spirit, but I suppose that makes sense, considering it's a holiday themed story.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Gift From Santa

by Marie Anderson from the December 19, 2011 issue

Tagline: Even Santa was surprised by Ed's grandson's unusual--and unusually sweet--Christmas wish...

In a Nutshell: Ed promised his daughter that he'd find out what his grandson, Willy, wants for Christmas. When the kid won't tell, he asks Santa what the boy wished for when he sat on his lap. Santa arranges a meeting after work and it turns out he's a she. Willy wants his widowed grandfather to find a new grandma, so guess who goes out for coffee?

Observations: I was with this story until almost the very end. I was ready for a matchmaker story in which the grandson or the daughter planned something crafty. But then I found out Santa was a woman. I've talked before about telling "one big lie" in a Woman's World story, after which you have to be as realistic as possible, perhaps to keep things balanced. And often in a WW story, the lie is a coincidence. However, in this tale, we are expected to believe that a woman is posing as Santa.

Hmm. Nope. Not buying it. Kids are sharp. I think they'd notice Santa's femininity, even under the costume and beard. Santa may be fat, but I doubt he has man boobs that big.

However, I'll give my usual disclaimer. Obviously, the editors thought the story was just fine--fine enough to publish.

I will add that I really liked the ending where she's named Merry (Meredith). Perhaps it's because of the season, but I didn't find that corny at all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Perfect Christmas Tree

by Wendy Hobday Haugh from the December 12, 2011 issue

Tagline: After meeting Zach, Molly had a feeling her Christmas was going to be as perfect as her Christmas tree...

In a Nutshell: Molly, divorced a year, is shopping for a Christmas tree. The tree farm manager, Zach, tries to help her, but the tree she really wants is not on farm property. He volunteers to talk to the person who owns the land and see if they can make a deal. Later, Zach shows up with the tree. Turns out he is the land owner.

Observations: Although I saw the twist a mile away, I still enjoyed this story. I wanted to point out the story starts out in Zach's point of view, which allows us to see how he's attracted to her. (There was one small blip into Molly's POV when she is "Grateful for his help," but it didn't pull me out of the story. I only noticed it afterward when I was studying it.) At the midpoint, we switch to Molly's POV and we then see that she's just as attracted.

I also liked how Haugh deftly handled Zach's honesty. He does tell that little white lie when he says he'll talk to the guy who owns the field (unless he actually went home and talked to himself. LOL) But later...

    Her eyes narrowed as she studied Zach's ruggedly handsome face, soft brown eyes and oddly sheepish expression. 
    "Are you telling the truth, Zach?" she asked.
    "Absolutely," he replied, unflinching. "The tree is a gift."

You can see he feels a little guilty about the white lie, but when he delivers that unflinching reply, I thought to myself--that guy's hero material.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Recipe for Love

by Mary Ann Joyce from the December 5, 2011 issue

Tagline: Lizzy met Cole in her cooking class and it wasn't long before things started heating up--at least for Lizzy...

In A Nutshell: While taking a cooking class, Lizzy falls "in like" with her partner, Cole. After one of their many coffee dates after class, she daringly kisses him. She worries that she went too far, but at the last class she finds out Cole didn't think so at all.

Observations: This story had an unusual structure, but it really worked. Joyce started out with a black moment--the impulsive kiss. There is a rather longish conversation between Lizzy and her friend that takes up the first third of the story, then we backtrack to find out what all lead up to the kiss. By the time Joyce brings you back to the present, you're anxious to find out what Cole thought of the surprise lip lock. (Isn't it funny how, of course, we know that he was fine with it, yet we feel the tension just the same. I guess it just goes to show you how easily we can fool ourselves.) Then, at the end we get another black moment when we fear that Cole isn't showing up for class because he didn't like Lizzy's cooties. Two black moments! Sometimes Woman's World stories don't even have one, but in this story we get a twofer. Awesome.

My Favorite Line: "I wish I were more like you sometimes." Then he gently wiped some chocolate from Lizzy's cheek. "You also wear your fondue well." LOL

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Romantic Appraisal

by Georgie Lee from the November 28, 2011 issue

Tagline: Christina recognized a real treasure when she found one.  Evidently, so did James...

In A Nutshell: The owner of a Victorian store needs an appraisal for a painting. The appraiser is handsome and promises to call her if he finds anything out.  Instead, he shows up at the shop and they decide to go to the Friday Night Flea Market together.

Observations: The only thing that stood out in the story for me was that there was a great deal of interaction between the hero and the heroine. Their conversations take up a good two thirds of the story. I notice that at the end when they decide to go to the flea market together, there is a bit of charming awkwardness which I think helps readers feel like this type of thing can really happen. It's fiction, but it's possible!

"Are you going to the Friday Flea Market?"
"I never miss it," I said. "Do you ever go?"
"Not lately, but I've been thinking that I really miss it."
I gave James an appraising look. Was he blushing?
"Right,"I said. "Time to get going before all the good stuff's gone."
"Do you want some company?"

She hints around and he correctly interprets it which came across to me as realistic.

The only off thing was the whole painting mystery. If they both knew who the painter was, it seemed strange to me that he couldn't find out anything more about it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Suitable Suitor

by M.L. Hickerson from the November 21, 2011 issue

Tagline: It took a romantically minded grandmother with a little Internet know-how to match up Gemma with Tom...

In a Nutshell: Jeanne joins an online dating site and arranges a date with a suitable man...for her granddaughter. She meets the guy and explains how she was doing reconnaissance without her granddaughter Gemma's knowledge. Luckily, the guy is a good sport and when Gemma arrives and is let in on the situation, they hit it off.

Observations: Hickerson has done it again. Her stories are always so fresh and new. She put a matchmaker and a blind date story into a can,  shook 'em up real hard, and this is what came out. All these characters feel real to me and I loved grandma's tech savvy. I had no complaints about this story. Zero.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Love in the Mail

by Cora Allen from the November 14, 2011 issue

Tagline: Later, Ben would say that fate had brought them together, but Maggie knew better.

In a Nutshell: Maggie jokes with the mailman about wanting a love letter instead of the plant bulbs she'd ordered. Three days later, she meets the handsome new neighbor who happens to work at the same hospital. He has a letter of hers that the mailman delivered to him by accident. He invites her to dinner on his deck that night.

Observations: There are a lot of story elements that occur over and over in Woman's World romantic fiction. I thought I'd go through this story and highlight the ones I noticed.

1. Clever addition of a character's backstory. Allen slips the fact that he just moved into the neighborhood into the dialogue very naturally.

Ben handed her the letter. "I'm not sure when this was delivered. I've been so busy moving in, I haven't checked my mail the last few days."

2. There are several instances where we see the heroine is attracted to and likes the hero.

--Ben smiled, which made Maggie's heart flutter just the tiniest bit. 
--So he's single? And he cares enough about his parents to move closer to them? Maggie returned his smile.
--An image of Ben, tall and fit-looking, and working in the garden, flashed through her mind.

3. The hero and heroine have a lot in common. They are neighbors. They work at the same hospital. They both love gardening.

4. Both characters discover that neither of them is attached.

"I went back to school after my wife died in a car accident."

And later

"Are you and, um, your husband busy tonight, Maggie?"

She smiled. "I haven't got a husband--and no, I'm not busy tonight."

Finally, best of all, there was a total surprise ending. At least, it was a surprise for me because I completely forgot about the mailman and never NEVER expected him to be a matchmaker. Man, that was great!!! That surprise boosted this story from good to great, in my opinion.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Date Night

by Shoshana Brown from the November 7, 2011 issue

Tagline: When Kelly's carefullly planned evening out with her husband fell through, she learned that real romance is an everyday kind of thing...

In a Nutshell: Kelly had a romantic date planned, but the babysitter gets sick. Her husband orders in and they have a romantic dinner at home. When the baby wakes up, crying, he goes to comfort her, and Kelly realizes a night out pales in comparison with her thoughtful spouse.

Observations: This story was heartwarming, especially if you're a mother and have experienced that golden moment when your husband gets up to take care of the child to let you sleep. It's hard to write these "problem within the marriage" stories because you don't want to paint the characters as too selfish or whiny. Brown did a good job of describing Kelly's disappointment but keeping her likable. These types of stories are few and far between because they're harder to write than first meet stories, but I wish we could see more of them.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

On Hold Again

So, the story I submitted and hoped would get into the Valentine's Day issue was returned because Patricia got to it too late. She said to submit it next summer. So, into the vault with it. Damn. I really thought it had a great chance of getting published.

At least Patricia loved it. :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Boy Next Door

by Dawn L. Cadwell from the October 31, 2011 issue

Tagline: Kara's mom had never mentioned her new neighbor--and he was definitely something to talk about

In a Nutshell: Kara is looking after her mom's orchids while Mom is on vacation. Tempted by the basketballs her mom pointed out before she left, she attempts a shot in the court her dad built when she was a kid, but the ball ends up in the neighbor's yard. A policeman catches her trespassing. She later finds out that the policeman also is the tenant. He likes to play basketball.

Observations: This story reminds me of one of the reasons why I love Woman's World romance stories. They often feature heroines "of a certain age." This week's story had a heroine who was forty! How awesome is that? I think that just goes to show you the possible demographics of the readership, or perhaps they're just more accepting of enjoying a story that isn't about a perfect young woman like we see so much in the media.

But don't worry. I won't get on my soapbox, even if it is my blog.

I also liked the down-to-earth-edness (<--new word invented by me) of the heroine, Kara. Here's one of the reasons:

Not only had I been trespassing, but what I'd been wearing qualified as a fashion felony.

LOL.

Also, note the ubiquitous Coincidence. Troy, the tenant policeman, happens to like basketball.

The only thing that didn't sit right with me was her taking his arm at the end of the story. I thought that was a little too touchy-feely for having only met him when she was trespassing and then at the end when she finds out he's her neighbor. Also, they're just going to play some hoops in her mom's backyard, not entering a fancy restaurant.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Blind Date

by Anonymous from the October 24, 2011 issue

Tagline: Abbie was on the lookout for a man with a red carnation in his lapel. When she spotted him, she realized he was no stranger...

In A Nutshell: Abbie has been divorced for a year. Her co-worker has been sending her on blind dates. At a cocktail party, the man in the red carnation she's supposed to meet is none other than her ex-husband. They realize they may have made a mistake in divorcing.

Observations: Reading fiction is a very subjective activity. Each person filters the stories, using their personal history, viewpoints, opinions, etc. But, to coin one of the fiction editor Johnene's favorite phrases, "This story didn't quite work for me." Call me cynical, but I have a hard time believing in divorced pairs reuniting happily. I always doubt that they'll overcome the obstacles that caused their divorce in the first place. Perhaps I might believe if a substantial  amount of time passes between the divorce and the reunion. That way, they might be completely different people. But in this story, only a year passes.

I do want to point out a few things I did like. The fact that the blind date is her ex-husband is a fantastic turning point. I always love when I think I know exactly where the story is headed and then the author laughs maniacally as the story careens off in an entirely different direction.

I liked the humor here:

"Why don't I get us a couple glasses of wine?"

"I'm already wearing mine."

Abbie had accidentally spilled hers when she literally bumped into her ex-husband.

And the ending was poignant and uplifting and had that perfect Woman's World tone.

However, luckily for this anonymous author, I'm not the fiction editor at the magazine, because they liked it enough to publish.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oof. Again.

Got another rejection from Johnene yesterday. It was for a story that was set at New Year's. Darn. Well, there are still two stories out there she can buy!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Meeting Cute

by Nell Musolf from the October 17, 2011 issue

Tagline: Jenny thinks the idea of trying ot meet someone in a cute way is just ridiculous. It really is, isn't it?

In a Nutshell: Lost in thought, Jenny almost steps into a square of wet cement. She overbalances and falls into some flowers instead. The man who poured the cement and owns the flowers takes her out for coffee.

Observations: This story starts out with a sourpuss, who, over the course of the story, turns her attitude around and finds a man. (If only it were that easy!) This is a great example of focusing a story around character growth.

I also wanted to point out Musolf foreshadowed something and followed through with another mention two times.

Foreshadow: Last weekend, while waiting for my tires to be rotated, I picked up a magazine with George Clooney on the cover.

Follow Through: Not too tall and going a little gray, this man would never be mistaken by anyone for George Clooney.

Foreshadow: Karen is a newlywed who thinks everyone should hop on the romance merry-go-round for a nice, long ride.

Follow Through: Enough time for the romance merry-go-round to slow down and let us hop on board.

This type of thing can tighten the weave of your story in a way that most readers won't pick up on.  They'll feel the story is better in some way, but they would never be able to figure out that something subtle like this does the trick.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Happy Endings

by Ellen DePastino from the October 10, 2011 issue

Tagline: A dog named Prince and his very charming owner turned Kate's walk in the park into something special...

In a Nutshell: When widow Kate and her daughter Jenny visit the park, they meet a man and his dog, who performs several tricks for them. Jenny has such a good time they all agree to meet again next week.

Observations: I laughed in a couple of places with this story. First, Jenny is mad about Prince Charming and in the book she and her mom just read, the dark haired prince with the chiseled profile is wearing a red tunic. When they get to the park...

Jenny suddenly stopped. "Mom, look," she said pointing. "It's Prince Charming."

The man was ahead of us on the path, his dog sitting at attention. The man stood, chiseled profile, sunlight gleaming on dark hair, red tunic. Actually, it was a windbreaker. But still.

LMAO.

The other spot I laughed at was here.

"I'm Kate, and I apologize for all the Prince Charming stuff. Jenny is crazy for fairy tales."

"I don't mind being mistaken for Prince Charming. Rumplestiltskin--that would be a problem," he smiled. (sic)

Besides the humor, I noticed a couple of other things. One, as often happens in a Woman's World story, we have a Big Coincidence--something we readers are expected to accept, even though it's highly unlikely. Here, we're supposed to believe that the dog's name just happens to be Prince. I want to go along with it, but I remain skeptical. My ability to suspend disbelief was stretched a little too far.

The other thing I noticed was that the backstory--what Mark and Kate do for a living, his relationship history--is inserted about two thirds in, not at the beginning as is often the case. This backstory also serves as a time transition. After this paragraph, we find ourselves squarely in the third act of the story. With only 800 words, you need to be smart like this so you can pack as much story in as possible.

Lastly, I noticed a missing period at the end of the sixth paragraph. I don't often find typos in the stories, but there's a first time for everything!

Well, dang.

A story I submitted a few months ago came back. :( They'd gotten too many blind date stories.

Back to the drawing board.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hear ye, hear ye!

Hey, I'm really really excited to announce that I've developed a new class. It's called "Selling to Woman's World Magazine - Beyond the Basics." Ever since I started writing the first lecture, I've been at it non-stop. Just today I finished the first draft, and I think it's awesome. (But I'm biased.)

As soon as I find a venue for it, I'll let everyone know when it will be offered. :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Must Love Shopping

by Mary Ann Joyce from the October 3, 2011 issue

Tagline: When Tom took his teenage daughter shopping, he expected doom and disaster. Instead, he found love...

In a Nutshell: Tom is a widower and his daughter needs a dress for her first school dance. The shopgirl notices he's at a loss, shoos him over to the TV where he can watch baseball, and helps the daughter pick out a dress. Afterward, Tom muses that his daughter got a dress, and he got a date.

Observations: This is one of those "slice of life" stories. The main character is going about his/her life, and Cupid strikes from out of the blue.

Sometimes your own life is one of the best places to pull stories from. (I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Joyce has a teenager at her house.) One of my most recent Woman's World stories built off a pineapple tasting I attended while on vacation. I transferred that "talk" from a pineapple plantation to a health food store, gave the story a hero who had to start eating healthy or else, and voila!

Anyway, this story was also told from the dad's first person point of view, an unusual choice, but perfect for this story. It helps us feel closer to the poor guy, trapped in a dress shop, unable to escape until his daughter has something to wear to the dance. I got the feeling that he was a real person--not one of those bigger than life characters that we enjoy reading about in novels. And that's what sets Woman's World romance characters apart. They have doubts and often self-esteem worries, but not to the extent that fictional characters usually have. They're more like you and me. So, keep that in mind. :)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stranger at the Door

by Mary Haupt from the September 19, 2011 issue

Tagline: The thing was, Chelly realized, her dream man had walked through the door and claimed her heart a long time ago...

In A Nutshell: Chelly dreams of a stranger who will walk into the general store she works at and sweep her off her feet. A stranger does come in, but he's rude. Eventually, she realizes that the boy she's known since first grade, who joined the National Guard and recently returned, is her true love.

Observations: I loved this story. Sure, it was your classic "shared past/old flame" plot, but the scope of it felt larger than 800 words. Let's analyze how the author was able to accomplish this.

You may have heard the phrase "show, don't tell." I believe this is because active scenes feel more immediate and as readers, we feel more fully immersed in what is happening. However, Woman's World stories don't leave us the room to show too much. So, telling becomes necessary. Haupt has done a masterful job of telling here, as you'll see.

She starts out describing Chelly's dream of a stranger coming to the store and announcing he was going to "take her away from all this." This is in narrative. We don't actually "see" this happening, like on a stage. We are told this by the narrator. (And this story does seem to be told from an omniscient point of view.)

Tommy, her co-worker, makes a pragmatic comment about that dream, a comment that made me laugh. I liked Tommy right away. This comment does more than make you laugh, though. It transitions the reader to the past where you find out that Tommy and Chelly have known each other since first grade and he's always had a thing for her, but has also always known that Chelly "was looking for something different, something more exciting."

Next, we transition back to the present and get the info about Tommy's choice to move on.

What follows is a middle of the story in which it appears as if Chelly's dream has finally come true. As I mentioned before, up until now the story was all narrative. It's only now that we are shown a scene, described as it happens. A handsome stranger comes into the store, but he's unfriendly and rude. She is disappointed. end of scene.

We switch back to narrative in which we cover a good amount of time, "told,  not shown." Tommy and Chelly exchange some letters, but Tommy eventually stops wriitng.

After that brief "telling," we get to another in-the-moment scene, deftly described by Haupt in a way that I found super romantic.

Then one rainy afternoon, while Chelly was restocking the shelves, someone came through the front door. The man wiped his boots on the mat and turned down the collar of his raincoat.

Tommy.

See what I mean? If this had been a movie, the women in the audience would have been heaving a collective sigh.

They greet each other. Chelly asks why he stopped writing, and Tommy shows how noble he is:

"I figured that if a handsome stranger ever showed up to take you away from all this, I shouldn't stand in your way."

Yup. That's when I decide if Chelly doesn't wake up and smell the coffee, she doesn't deserve him. But, of course, she does. Haupt even neatly recycles the pragmatic comment about the dream here at the end, but it's so subtle, you almost don't notice it.

This, my friends, is how it's done.

(Thanks to Mary Ann, Lorraine, and Deb for helping (or offering) to get me a copy of this story after I'd lost it.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It's Getting to be a Habit...

Once again, I have a missing issue. This time I actually had the story. I had marked it up with notes and it has disappeared. I am going to look at work this afternoon and see if I left it there. Stay tuned...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Leave It To Lucy

by Mary Ann Joyce from the September 12, 2011 issue

Tagline: After her crushing breakup,  Erin swore she was through with love. Fortunately, her best friend knew better...

In A Nutshell: Erin is coming off a bad breakup. Her friend gives her a job at her vintage clothing store and sets her up with an artist who needs her help. They hit it off.

Observations: Woman's World loves stories that have a sort of updated Normal Rockwellian tone, and I feel that this story delivered that, especially with a vintage clothing store as the setting.

It is your classic matchmaker story but with a little bit more. Even though Joyce didn't spend a lot of time focusing on the heartache Erin must have endured, this felt like a "moving on" story as well because of the ending:

"So, how do you feel about having dinner with me this weekend?" Blake asks, warming up his smile.

"I feel happy," I say. And for the first time in a while, I really am.

And I haven't mentioned black moments in a while, but I noticed that this story doesn't have one. If you are familiar with basic story structure, usually there is a climactic moment, but Woman's World stories often fly in the face of this tradition. Personally, I always try to include a moment where the reader is worried, but the editors don't seem to mind if things sail along without any bumps in the road, to mix metaphors. So, keep that in mind when you're writing your own stories. :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Price Change

I just wanted to tell everyone that I'm going to be raising the price of my workshop to $25 on November 1, so if you were thinking about taking it, you might want to do it before the price goes up. :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

All On Our Own

by M.L. Hickerson from the September 5, 2011 issue

Tagline: When Julia met Matt, everything fell into place--it just took them both a little while to recognize it.

In A Nutshell: Julia is marking items off her "Twenties List," things she wants to accomplish before she turns thirty. Matt encourages and calms her before she bungee jumps and even promises to help her learn to tango and drive a stick shift. She, in return, teaches him how to make ravioli by hand.

Observations: I thought this idea was fresh and I kick myself that I didn't think of it. I mean, I saw "The Bucket List" movie! Doh! Although I did wonder why someone would want to bungee jump if they were that terrified of it...

What I found more problematic was the fact that because Matt had chaperoned high school dances, of course, he could tango. I'm not sure where in the United States high schoolers tango or even play tango music at their dances, but I found that implausible. However, I managed to forgive that and still enjoy the story.

I liked how Hickerson dropped that mysterious hint about the last goal on Julia's list. When I read "...she realized she'd already mentally crossed off the last goal on her list," I thought, "Hmm, I wonder what it is..." The story moved along right after that to her 30th birthday party, so I didn't "have time" to ponder it. As a result, the ending was great because I hadn't already figured out her last goal was to fall in love.

On a side note, I found it interesting that you don't learn the hero's name until a third of the way through the story. And I didn't quite understand the title of the story. Maybe one of you can explain it's significance to me. :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sounds Like Love

by Lisa Weaver from the August 22, 2011 issue

Tagline: Callie never believed the old family legend about the love bells--until they chimed for her...

NOTE: So here's the August 22 issue. Don't know how the August 29 issue could have arrived before this one, but the ways of the post office are a mystery to me.

In A Nutshell: When picking up blueprints for her grandparents' greenhouse, Callie meets a nice man on the elevator. At a family dinner later, it turns out he's the architect of the greenhouse and was invited to dessert.

Observations: In my online class, I give my students a list of common plotlines that I've seen in Woman's World magazine. One of the categories is "Proving a Saying or a Loved One's Advice," and this story loosely qualifies, except it's not a saying, like "Opposites attract..." or advice, like "The way to land a man is to do little things for him." This time it's something that happens to the heroine. In this case, it's hearing bells.

What I thought was cute was the fact that Weaver kept tricking you into thinking Callie has heard the bells. First, it's the man's cellphone. Ah, you think, that's him. But then he and Callie part when the elevator takes him to his floor. Darn.

But you are a savvy reader. You know that it's boy meets girl, boy loses girl, so you keep hoping.

At her grandparents' house, she hears the doorbell when he arrives and you think to yourself, Yes! Also, he brings a set of wind chimes with him, and you think--okay, pow, it's gonna be a double whammy. But then, the chimes don't ring. Finally, they're on a date a few days later and Callie does hear bells--bells that no one hears but her and you get that warm happy feeling that they're going to be walking down the aisle very soon.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

No Hot Water

by Lynn Cahoon from the August 29, 2011 issue

Tagline: Sheila was happy--in more ways than one as it turned out--that this particular plumber was available...

In a Nutshell: Sheila's water heater was supposed to have been fixed, but it breaks in the middle of her shower. She calls the plumber to complain. The owner of the company himself comes out to remedy the situation and it turns out he had once dated her in high school. They have coffee together.

Observations: This is a good example of taking an "everyday" situation/problem and building a romance out of it. In my workshop on how to write for Woman's World, I share a lot of ways to get ideas for stories, and this is one of them. Think of a problem and have another character solve it.

But this story had a great twist...it turned out to be a shared past/old flame story halfway through. I loved that little surprise. I also liked how they handled that..."Does he/she remember me?" awkwardness. Very smooth and cute.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Breaking the Spell

by Janice Sadler from the August 15, 2011 issue

Tagline: Luke was absolutely certain that he would never get past his heartbreak--until suddenly, he was ready to love again...

In a Nutshell: Luke declines an invitation to go to out with his co-worker Kay because he was dumped, but afterward starts to see what a great gal she is. A couple days later, the woman who dumped him stops by with tickets to an event. He realizes he's over her and that he'd much rather go out with Kay.

Observations: Wow. I loved this story. These characters were very real to me. I don't mind the big coincidences that often occur in Woman's World stories, but I found it refreshing not to see one (even if the setting was an animal hospital, cousin to the ubiquitous animal shelter setting.) Instead, the situation seemed extremely plausible. We also actually witnessed him falling for Kay. It felt like a long time had passed, but it really only took one paragraph:

Later, when we admit an injured puppy, I notice once again how very compassionate Kay is. While I'm examining little Bruno, I see Kay standing with her arm around the shoulders of his owner, reassuring the elderly lady that her little terrier will be fine.

Boom. There it is. The ex shows up, he rejects her and moves on. I liked how Sadler didn't demonize Emily the Ex and...

Holding my gaze, Kay says, "I thought you weren't free."

...she gave Kay a tiny bit of backbone at the end, which made me respect the character, because up until then I was thinking Kay was a little too nicey-nice. Lastly, everyone loves romantic gestures and Luke taking her hand in front of the people in the waiting room was a nice Hallmark moment.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Something Old, Something New

by Cynthia Howard-Hogg from the July 1, 2011 issue

Tagline: It didn't look like it contained any magic, but the old coin seemed to cast a spell on Anne and Tom.

In A Nutshell: Anne's sister is getting married and needs a coin to complete the saying "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a lucky sixpence in her shoe." Anne goes to an antique store and meets the owner. He invites her to tea.

Observations: I thought this story had a lot of heart. There were two sweet/sad moments in this story that tugged at my heart. The first is when the sisters are talking...

"If I ever get married, the something old will be me!" I laughed.

"Oh, you're not that old, Anne."

My laugh died away. Cassie saw my expression change and gave me a hug. "Annie, you're not old--and someday a wonderful guy will come along and not believe his good luck!"

I sighed. At 41, was it really very likely?

Doesn't your heart just go out to Anne? At the same time, don't you love the sisterly loyalty shown here?

The second instance isn't quite as hard-hitting, but it's sweet just the same. Anne goes to the antique store, remembering the older couple who owned it. She finds, instead, their son...

"My mother grew up in England."

"The sweet woman with the charming British accent--she's your mother?"

"That was my mum," he said softly. "Did you know her?"

"I remember her well. She helped me pick out a tea set for my first apartment and instructed me on the proper brewing method."

There you saw the very subtle hint that his mum had passed away. Anne understands and moves right along, not belaboring it and perhaps stirring up the sadness. This part made me fall a little bit for the hero and think to myself that these two sweet people deserve each other.

There was only one thing that gave me pause in this story. After shopping for a while at the store...

Suddenly an antique clock chimed noon.

"Look at the time!" I exclaimed. "I have to get going."

I was a little puzzled where she had to go in such a hurry and why they'd waited for an hour to even get the tray of coins out.

Still, cute story full of well-written emotion. Woman's World doesn't like for their romantic fiction to get too bogged down with sadness and this story was a good example of how to do it with a light touch.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Missing Issue

It's been brought to my attention that I skipped the August 1, 2011 issue. I hadn't realized. I think it's because I'm missing that issue. I just looked all over my house and can't find it. It wouldn't be the first time the postal service misplaced my issue.

Maybe I can still find it at the grocery store. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

It Happened One Night

by Martha Tidwell from the August 8, 2011 issue

Tagline: Sally and Mitch were friends and neighbors--until that warm summer night changed everything...

In A Nutshell: At their annual block party, during a sports metaphor-laden conversation, they discover that Mitch and Sally both want to be more than friends.

Observations: This story featured two characters who already had a history, which can make things easier in a Woman's World story, because you don't have to go through all the First Meet Story motions: exchanging names, a handshake, noticing the other person is single, etc. You can just jump right into the situation.

The banter in this story was important. First, it was amusing. Who doesn't like taking a joke and running with it with someone else? Second, it showed how long they'd known each other and how easily they got along. Third, it showed them testing out the romantic waters. Fourth, it allowed for that right and tight ending:

This year we'll celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. It looks like we just might go the distance.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Highway to Love

by Carol E. Ayer from the July 25, 2011 issue

Tagline: Normally, a traffic jam is bad news. For Laura and James, this particular backup was no problem at all...

In A Nutshell: Laura and James get acquainted while stuck in a two hour traffic jam. When the semi truck is finally cleared off the road, they decide to have dinner together.

Observations: I'm often surprised by the creativity of Woman's World authors and how many different ways they can think of for people to meet. I've read every issue of WW for about six years and I can't ever remember seeing a traffic jam romance, but this really worked for me.

When we think of romance, we think of tropes like candles, walks on the beach and, like in this story, gazing at the stars. But I've noticed that often romance can be found in situations in which the couple encounter a minor setback or problem, like, also in this story, being caught in a traffic jam at dinner time. So, stretch your brain a bit and try to think of a situation that might be everyday--like a traffic jam--but when paired with a first-meet, could be an acceptance-worthy idea!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

In A Spin

by Barbara J. Smith from the July 18, 2011 issue

Tagline: Caroline's birthday may have gotten off to an unpromising start, but it turned into the best one ever!

In a Nutshell: Caroline's roommate had to bail on their plans to celebrate Caroline's birthday at the county fair. She goes anyway and meets a great guy on the Ferris wheel.

Observations: This story has a wonderful example of how Woman's World prefers that you keep the tone upbeat and positive. Smith might have been tempted to play up Caroline's disappointment after her friend cancelled, but she didn't at all. There is but one sentence devoted to that...

I was disappointed but I certainly understood.

The next paragraph then shows her arrival at the fairgrounds and how excited she is to be there, even though she's alone. You can't help but admire her attitude. This is why women love Woman's World magazine--we read the stories and feel uplifted.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Can You Spell L-O-V-E?

by Barbara Catlin Craven from the July 11, 2011 issue

Tagline: The two little cupids recognized a match when they saw it--they just had to figure out how to make it happen!

In A Nutshell: Matt's young daughter is at a sleep-over and she forgot her pajamas. When the divorced dad delivers them, he's roped into playing a game with the (also divorced) mom and daughter. It's obvious from the romantically inclined words the girls are making that it was all a set-up. But Matt and the mom end up not caring.

Observations: I thought this story was clever. It was fun seeing two school-aged matchmakers at work. Note Matt's small character arc in that he makes the decision to move on with his life, two years after getting divorced. So, this is a story with dual themes -- the matchmaker and moving on. A two-fer! LOL

A couple things bothered me. One, my parents divorced when I was twelve and I can tell you that the daughter probably would not be so pro-active in finding a new woman for her dad. She'd most likely really rather her parents got back together. But, hey, this is fiction, not nasty old real life.

Also, if "Alphabet Jumble" was Scrabble in disguise due to copyright reasons, then it would be awfully convenient that the girls happened to get the letters that would enable them to spell boy, girl, date, kiss, dad, mom. But I was willing to let that go because the rest of the story was so charming.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What's Your Number?

by Anna Jo Christopher from the July 4, 2011 issue

Tagline: When two strangers in a hurry shared a cab, their lives took a romantic turn...

In A Nutshell: After suffering through half of a truly horrible blind date, Valerie walks out. When she and a handsome stranger accidentally hail the same cab, they decide to share. They also discover they share the belief that they have lucky numbers.
Observations: I liked this story but was surprised to see such a vivid description of the bad date. Woman's World usually shies away from negativity and this loser that Valerie went out with was such a jerk! And yet the story wouldn't have worked without that description.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but note the motif of the lucky number in this story. It occurs first in the title. Then, right off the top we're shown that Valerie's lucky number is twelve. In the last third of the story, it's brought back as we discover that the hero, Kent, also has a lucky number. (Thankfully, it's not the same lucky number. I would have grimaced had Christopher chosen to go that far.)

One last observation--throughout the story they use the word "twelve," until the very end, when they use the roman numerals. It made me wonder why, bringing me out of the story. If I were submitting this story, I'd make sure I was consistent.

Okay, I lied. One more observation...this was the Fourth of July issue, and yet this story had no ties to the holiday at all. What's with that? Did no one submit a good Independence Day story???

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Week Without You

by Shelli Armstrong from the June 13, 2011 issue

NOTE: I'm catching up again! Somehow this issue got stuffed in my magazine rack and I didn't notice it until now.

Tagline: It took a lonely week to convince Darla and Gary that they belonged together...

In A Nutshell: When Gary moves on to another job, Darla is bereft, but during the first week without him, they manage to keep in touch. On Friday, he shows up and asks her out.

Observations: This story was cute. Gary was an adorable character even if he wasn't actually there, interacting with the heroine. Their notes and emails were endearing and funny. When it got to the part where Gary put his heart on the line with his email...

...Things are good here, but, okay, I'll say it: I miss you. Terribly...

I just melted. And then when he called her on the phone, he stepped up to the plate again when Darla said she'd received that email...

There was silence for a moment, [sic] "What'd you think of it?" Gary asked.

I melted again. That Gary might have been chicken for the two years previous that he'd worked with Darla, but he came through at the end. :) Again, it's really interesting to me that the character that grew the most during the course of the story wasn't even "on stage" half the time.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Catch a Falling Star

by Dana Stephens from the June 27, 2011 issue

Tagline: Jenny didn't realize it at first, but her wish had come true before she even spotted a falling star.

In a Nutshell: Jenny goes to the lake with her sister and brother-in-law. After an encounter with several yellow jackets, she takes an unexpected spill into the lake. Jack "rescues" her. To thank him, she invites him to dinner, and when she wishes on a falling star, one year later her wish comes true at her wedding to Jack.

Observations: Jenny leaned over the front seat of the Jeep. "Annie," she said to her sister, "are you feeling okay?"

"You and Jack," Annie said, elbowing her husband sitting in the driver's seat, "are like two worrywarts. The baby isn't due for another month--I'm fine, really."

I got off to a rocky start with this story. It might just be me, but I had trouble figuring out if Jack was Annie or Jenny's husband. I read it just now and could see that he was Annie's, but I can easily switch mindsets and get confused again, thinking he could be Jenny's. The pronoun "her" is a tad bit ambiguous, and the names are similar--two syllables with n's and a long e at the end... :)

Also, I wondered in the back of my mind about how smart it was to go somewhere remote if Annie's only a month away from delivery. However, I'm very detail oriented and most readers probably wouldn't think like I do.

However, I did like the yellow-jacket idea and the man to the rescue plot, and Dylan's joke really made me laugh. They're talking about fishing in the lake...

"Are they biting? We brought a couple of rods." That's Jenny talking.

"The only thing I've pulled out of the water so far is you," he said, his blue eyes twinkling.

LOL

Interesting twist in this story in that the circularity/motif thingy I'm always talking about was "out of order" in that the first mention of the wishing on a star was in the second to last paragraph instead of near the beginning of the story. Also, we see that they get married, which is always nice, but hard to do in these short stories.

Lastly, I noticed Jenny being proactive in that she searches for a falling star to wish on. Smart girl! Give Fate a nudge when necessary. :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Life's Bare Necessities

by Sherri Mostaghni from the June 20, 2011 issue

Tagline: Kristin and Darren shared a passion for coffee, chocolate, cute babies--and who knew what else?

In a Nutshell: Kristin likes Darren, the guy working at the coffee shop. One day after she'd already ordered, she gets a phone call. Her sister is having her baby! A week later, she goes to the cafe and Darren asks her out.

Teaching Moment: Check out the structure of this story: girl has crush on boy, something not too serious happens to drive them apart, girl talks to boy, boy asks her out. :) This is a good structure to follow. Choose the setting where the girl has the crush. Think of the thing that happens. Then put them back together and let the scene flesh itself out. If you can work in a motif, like the "life's bare necessities" that Mostaghni came up with, all the better.

My Favorite Part: "I noticed the name on your credit card the first time you came into the shop." He paused. "Does that sound too stalkerish?"

He's cute, isn't he? I also noticed that he took note of her name the first time he met her, which meant he liked her right away.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Something Just Clicked

by Maureen McDonald from the June 6, 2011 issue

Tagline: Brent didn't look like the man of Deb's dreams, but appearances can be deceiving...

In A Nutshell: After being "bribed" with a fancy coffee drink, Deb agrees to go on a blind date. The guy turns out to be charming.

Observations: I found the characterization in this story to be outstanding. It starts with the matchmaking friend, Helen. I loved how insidiously clever it was to remove the lid from the coffee to let the aroma do its dirty work. I loved the banter between the friends. You could see how comfortable they were with each other.

Brent seemed real and down to earth. He seems like a great father and a fun guy.

Then, Deb, the heroine, had several admirable qualities. She was understanding of Brent's phone problem until the third time. We didn't see her irritation, but I sure felt it. I've been in that situation with my own husband and found it annoying! She was accepting that Brent wasn't the handsomest guy on the planet, but instead was more impressed by his sense of humor and intelligence. At the end of the story, you also see she takes the opportunity to thank her friend and gratitude is always a plus to me, in real life and in fiction.

I especially liked the circularity motif of the coffee drink. Since I work at Starbucks, I enjoyed McDonald's creative drink names..."vanilla mocha latte something-or-other--with lots of cinnamon" and "cinnamon-cappa-frappa-whatever." LMAO!

Teaching Point: Notice the slick transition between the first scene between Deb and Helen and the date:

Halfway through the entree, Deb had to agree with Helen's assessment of Brent.

Boom. We segue very smartly to the next scene and move the plot forward at the same time. Two birds with one stone, something to strive for when you have such a short word count. We never see the two main characters actually meet, shake hands, etc. We just zip forward in time to the part of the date that matters.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"The Remedy"

by Colette Shannon from the May 30, 2011 issue

NOTE TO MY FOLLOWERS: From now on, when a story is written by an author whose work I blogged about before, I'm going to include a link to their "author page," so you can see all the Woman's World stories by that author that I've analyzed.

Also, I'm trying to play a little catch-up, since I fell behind, so you'll be seeing more than one analysis a week for a bit. :)

Tagline: Ellen had no intention of opening her heart again. Ever. Then her aunt introduced her to Logan...

In A Nutshell: After her heart is broken, Ellen's Aunt Phoebe lures new neighbor, Logan, to dinner on the same night Ellen just happens to always come. Ellen rebuffs him at first, but after a heart-to-heart with Aunt Phoebe, realizes she should take a chance on love.

Teaching Points: There is often a problem to be solved in Woman's World stories. For instance in the story "What a Guy!" a woman had a raccoon going bananas inside her house and the hero helped her get the critter out. In last week's story, the hero needed a cat sitter. Here in this story, there was a still a problem, but it was an emotional one that the aunt helped her solve, not the hero. But this is typical in a "moving on" story.

Moving on stories show how the hero or heroine is struggling with leaving behind a heartbreak of some kind. Sometimes it's being jilted. Sometimes the spouse passed away. Sometimes it's divorce. Moving on stories focus on one character's emotional journey. The amount of focus on the emotional journey vs. the romance differs depending on the story. "The Remedy" was about 50-50. In "Sometimes the Stars Align," there wasn't that much emotional journey stuff. It was more of an "old flame" story than a moving-on story.
I think that Woman's World likes these types of stories, because who among us haven't suffered through heartbreak? Moving on stories can encourage us to not give up hope and make us feel like, "Well, if she did it, so can I." I know I'm repeating myself when I say that Woman's World likes to promote positive thinking, but it's true. Just pick up one issue and you'll see what I mean. Keep that in mind as you write stories for them.

Observation: One thing that didn't quite work for me in this story was the circularity/motif. If you follow my blog, you'll probably be familiar with the technique of establishing a motif in the beginning of the story (and also sometimes in the title, as with this story) and then wrapping up with it at the end. In "The Remedy," here's that first mention, the first two sentences in the story:

I felt sure my broken heart would never be whole again. But Aunt Phoebe, my mom's older sister, apparently thought she had a magic remedy.

So we get the feeling that Aunt Phoebe has a master plan or at least an old-fashioned solution to getting over a broken heart.

At the end we have:

I stepped inside, he closed the door, and I realized Aunt Phoebe's remedy was already working its magic.

This beginning and ending mention of "the remedy" would have been great if I had been able to identify what that remedy was! LOL I feel a little stupid because the only remedy I could see was that Aunt Phoebe told her the story of her own heartache and how it had turned out wonderfully when all was said and done. But Aunt Phoebe obviously would have preferred not to have the talk at all and seen Ellen paired up right after dinner. The talk only happened because Ellen got cold feet. So that couldn't have been the remedy.

Okay, thinking about it harder, maybe the remedy was just to do it--meet a new man. Phoebe obviously set the dinner up ahead of time. But then that doesn't jive with the last sentence, because the remedy wasn't meeting Logan, it was the heart-to-heart Ellen and Phoebe had.

Either way, I see a problem. However, like I always say, I'm not an editor at Woman's World and I sometimes don't understand their publishing/editing choices. Clearly, they liked the story and the fact that this bothered me but not them, just goes to prove how subjective this business is.

Coming Soon: As I think back about other moving on stories, I'm trying to remember if there are other problems, besides divorce, death or a break up. I'm going to do some research and get back to you on that.

Artwork: Peter Worlsey's "Two Women Talking" 2010.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Must Love Cats

by Jan Romes from the May 23, 2011 issue

Tagline: Vanessa had just about given up on ever finding her one true love--until the day she met Luke

In a Nutshell: Vanessa waits tables and finds out the handsome guy in the booth needs a cat-sitter a couple of times a week while he's out of town on business. Over the course of a few weeks, they get to know each other and eventually he asks her out for dinner.

Observations: This was a tightly written story, one in which you could really believe they had a future together. One reason is that the story occurred over a month, and after Romes really showed you that they hit it off, she continued to build on that initial connection until at the end they were ready to get even more serious. She also had that circularity thing going with the pot-lid theme, which was cute.

Also, notice the casual tone and you got the feeling you were really in Vanessa's head. The first paragraph is a good example:

Vanessa Oliver smiled as she remembered the conversation with her friend. "Vanessa," Ginnie had said, "remember: for every pot there's a lid." Doubtful. Every lid she'd met lately didn't fit. Self-absorbed lids. Lids that wanted to get to first base on the first date. But mostly, nothing-in-common lids. She was a square pot. They were round lids.

The short, incomplete sentences give the impression that these are her thoughts. (They also help emphasize each undesirable quality and convey her annoyance/resignation at the same time.) Also, as a bonus, if you do it well, it cuts down on your word count! LOL

There was no black moment, but I didn't miss it. Well, actually I guess I did miss it because I noticed it's absence, but it didn't bother me. LOL

Great story from an author I don't recall reading before.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Make A Wish!"

by April Knight from the May 16, 2011 issue

Tagline: Marley never imagined her birthday wish would actually come true--but then she met Bob, er, Josh...

In A Nutshell: Celebrating her birthday with her friend, Marley wishes for a man. Obligingly, her friend has already arranged a blind date with Bob. Unfortunately, the sketchy description of Bob leads her to approach the wrong guy, twice! The second guy, Josh, offers to help her identify the real Bob. Fortunately, Bob never arrives and Josh asks Marley out for dinner instead.

Teaching Points: When writing these stories, you actually have to make the reader AND the heroine fall in love with the hero, so make sure your story has a place, or places, where you show the hero demonstrating heroic behavior in some way. He can be thoughtful, kind, helpful, romantic, funny, brave, or any combination thereof. This can be shown in action or in dialogue.

In "Make A Wish!" here's where I fell in love with Josh:

"I'm a high school science teacher and a lonely bachelor--except sometimes I pretend I'm a knight in shining armor who rescues beautiful damsels in distress."

Here's Marley's equally funny reply:

"I work in a bookstore...my hobby is wandering around coffee shops looking for men wearing blue shirts."

Which brings me to another point. Humor is always welcome in a Woman's World story. The goal of their magazine is to improve women's lives and if you ask me, laughter is one of the easiest ways to accomplish that. Another really funny part was in the beginning of the story:

"I wish I would meet a wonderful man, fall in love and be married by my next birthday!"

"That's a lot to ask from one candle."

So, those are the lessons to be learned from this week's story: make your hero heroic and make the reader laugh.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My Apologies

I'm late posting and I completely forgot to put up the poll for the "Stars Aligning" story. Unfortunately, I don't have time to post an analysis this week. I'm on a very tight deadline for a book. Forgive me and come back the first week of June.

Thanks for understanding!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"Sometimes the Stars Align"

by Kate Karyus Quinn from the May 9, 2011 issue

Tagline: After all these years, for Julie and Greg, the time was finally right.

In A Nutshell: Julie has been a widow with three children for five years. One day she's particularly tired and the manager of the grocery store helps out with her kids. Turns out they almost became a couple back in high school. Now, they continue to "see each other" at the grocery store until he asks her out on a picnic with her kids. Nervous, she says no, then a week later decides she made a mistake.

Observations: I thought this story was fantastic. First off, Quinn starts with a hook:

Julie was primping for a trip to the grocery store.

And just like that, you're sucked in to find out why.

Also, I immediately sympathized with Julie's situation, having to raise her kids by herself. Quinn did a great job of describing the sad situation without getting overly maudlin, something Woman's World shies away from.

The history Julie and Greg had together was completely realistic and romantic at the same time. I'm always a sucker for "the one that got away" stories. It's here also that Quinn cleverly inserts that "stars aligning" phrase that is the title and also the ending.

What follows is a pretty long "telling" summarization of the courting. Oddly, we don't see a lot of interaction between the two characters. I always maintain that it's important to see the hero and heroine face to face in a story so we get to know them and they get to know each other, but I was surprised to see that Greg only actually speaks twice in the entire story! In my own defense, I have to point out that those two lines are killer and the romance holds up despite the lack of dialogue and the preponderance of narrative. There's a brief "black moment" when Julie doesn't go on the picnic with him, but Quinn follows that with a paragraph that shows Greg to be hero material.

Greg wasn't a high school boy anymore, though, and he didn't give up as easily this time. "Julie," he said, "maybe it's still not the right time. If you're not ready, I'll wait."

I just fell in love with him right there.

You hear all the time that women of a certain age--especially with three kids!--have little chance of finding someone special, but this type of story gives us hope and a warm feeling in our hearts. This is the type of story we all want to write. It's no wonder the editors pounced on it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

"One Sweet Guy"

by Susan Holloway from the May 2, 2011 issue.

Tagline: Josie had a weakness for chocolate--and, it turned out, cute guys in running shorts!

In a Nutshell: Josie slips while jogging backwards to ogle a cute guy, also jogging. Hearing her cry of pain, he returns, assesses the situation and calls the paramedics. The next day he shows up with a pizza and brownies because they both love chocolate. She has a broken ankle, but they make plans to have dinner again.

Observations: Man to the rescue stories are popular with Woman's World. Just a couple of weeks ago we saw "There's Always a Bright Side," also about a jogger. (Apparently jogging is a very dangerous pastime! LOL) These plots aren't too complicated to construct. You create a problem for the heroine, being careful not to have it too dire. Then have the hero comes along to help her out. Make sure the two main characters are attracted to each other and set up a date. That's all there is to it.

Regarding this particular story, there were a couple of places that confused me. I wasn't sure what the man was referring to when he said, "That was quick." Her hurting herself was quick? Another moment of confusion for me:

At the hospital, Josie was x-rayed and sent to the OR. One moment of guilty pleasure, and she ended up in surgery.

I'll admit to being dense enough to have stumbled when I read this. Obviously her guilty pleasure was gawking at the hero, but the way it's written, one could believe she has a kinky fetish for being x-rayed. LOL

Lastly, he comes to visit her in the hospital the next day which, of course, is terrific, but I found myself wondering if the doctors would actually have kept her there or sent her home with her cast on. These days it seems like hospitals don't keep you over night unless it's absolutely necessary. Then again, I could be wrong, but I'll admit thinking about that took me out of the story.

Even so, it was a cute story even if the magazine put a photo of chocolate pie instead of a brownie. :) I really loved when she realized she hadn't shaved her legs. LOL. That cracked me up.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Mystery of the Missing Issues

It seems that I can't find the next issue of Woman's World. Grrr. I apologize. I'll post a new critique when I find them or receive the next one in the mail.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"There's Always a Bright Side"

by Colette Shannon from the April 18, 2011 issue

Tagline: Lisa's day had gotten off to a bad start, but after meeting Alan in the park, things were definitely looking up...

In a Nutshell: Lisa gets a cramp while jogging. A man offers to help her. Turns out he works at the same hospital she does. After he escorts her back to her car, they see it has a flat tire. He changes it for her and asks her out for breakfast.

Observations: This story reminded me of something I angsted about a lot when I first started writing for Woman's World--how a single woman can meet men who are essentially stranges and still manage to be smart about her personal safety. Often the "stranger" the heroine meets turns out to have a connection of some kind. He's the nephew of her grandmother's friend. He's the guy her friend has been trying to set her up with and here, she's meeting him by accident. Or, like in this story, they work at the same place. Often one of the characters is new at the company.

You want your characters to be smart women whom you respect and who are smart enough to make wise choices when it comes to going out with strangers.

"Happy Anniversary"

by Shoshana Brown from the April 11, 2011 issue

Tagline: Graham had forgotten their anniversary, but Lily realized that a good memory isn't the important part of a happy marriage.

In a Nutshell: Lily goes to a lot of trouble to make her and Graham's wedding anniversary special, but he forgets. Her inclination is to be hurt and upset, but instead chooses to focus on the everyday thoughtfulness he demonstrates the other three hundred and sixty four days a year.

Observations: If you're a fan of the magazine, you recognize this is an off-shoot of the marriage in trouble plot. While Lily and Graham's marriage isn't exactly in trouble, Graham is. LOL. But the story still shows one of the characters recognizing with new eyes the qualities of the person they married. That's the important part.

I think that if Woman's World has a mission statement, it probably includes something about helping women increase their happiness, and this type of story can do that. Marriage isn't easy and sometimes knowing that others have weathered the storms--even if they're fictional characters--it can help us find the wherewithal to do the same.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Love is in the Air"

by Carol E. Ayer from the April 4, 2011 issue

Tagline: In the play, things didn't turn out well for Romeo and Juliet. In real life, Megan suspected they were all headed for a happy ending!

In a Nutshell: Megan's grandma plays the role of Juliet in a senior's acting troupe and falls for her leading man, Thomas. Megan thinks Thomas' grandson is nice, too. Weeks later, Megan meets her grandma for dinner only to find Thomas and the grandson there too. The elderly couple announce their engagement and the younger couple acknowledge there might be something between them as well.

Observations: This story delighted me. The first place a smile broke across my face was here, after the grandson Greg and Megan watch the older couple walk away hand in hand. Greg remarks:

"Nothing like young love."

Hilarious.

Next, I was as surprised by the engagement announcement as the fictional grandchildren were. I love being surprised. I was really expecting a set-up--that grandma would skedaddle after Megan arrived, forcing Greg and Megan to have dinner together alone. I'm realizing now that that's a terrific strategy. We Woman's World readers are used to the tropes of the publication, so take those tropes and spin them around like Ayer did.

I loved Greg calling his grandpa an old dog and I liked the younger couple mimicking the older couple's banter when Greg asks Megan to dance. It was charming.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Matchmaker

by Diane Crawford from the March 28 2011 issue

Tagline: Clare and Andy would have a funny story to tell anyone who asked, "So how did you two meet?"

In a Nutshell: While shopping at the pet store, Clare hears a voice asking her out for a date. Turns out it's not the man shopping for dog supplies; it's a parrot. Attracted to him (the man, not the parrot,) she's later happy to meet him by accident in the park where she runs. After they run together, with his puppy, he mimics the parrot as he asks her out.

Observations: I pride myself on being observant and quick, but I only thought this story was cute when I read it. Then, when I started working on this analyses and re-read the title, I laughed, delighted. I'm sure that's why the editor wrote that tagline so that you'd be on the lookout for that funny thing, which was obviously the parrot helping them meet, but when you think of the parrot in the role of matchmaker...that boosts the idea into fabulous, at least for me.

As we've seen before, Woman's World stories often contain the element of coincidence, as you see in this story. Often you see the couple meet, then part, and one assumes they'll never see each other again. Then fate steps in and they meet again by coincidence. When you write this type of story you have to invent the reason and/or place where they meet again. In this case, Clare is a runner who was waiting for the weather to get better so she could resume her running. Andy's reason for being in the park is his new puppy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Out with the Old"

by Krista Weidner from the March 21, 2011 issue

Tagline: Erin's classified ad helped her get rid of something she'd held on to for too long--and find something she hadn't known she was looking for!


In a Nutshell: Erin wants to give away the piano her ex left behind. The man who eventually wants to take it off her hands is cute, but he's getting it for his wife. But wait! The brother who came along to help him move it is his just as cute twin!

Observations: I always love a good plot twist that sends the story in a new direction, changing everything. In this case, just when you think that Erin won't find romance, in walks the unmarried twin.

I really enjoyed the easy banter between the brothers. My two teenaged sons bicker all the time, so a story like this one, even though it's fiction, gives me hope!

I also liked the upbeat tone the story ended on. Sometimes the stories end on a positive note, but it's understated and placid. This one had a bit more umph to it.

It's just amazing what you can find in the classifieds these days!