Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"There's Something About Elaine"

by Mary Jo Young from the March 26, 2012 issue

Tagline: Elaine had a nice life, but it wasn't exactly a fun life. Until some steps outside her comfort zone set her on the road to romance...

In a Nutshell: Almost Amish "plain", Elaine comes out of her shell and gets a tattoo at the urging of her friends. After that, everyone at the hospital where she works notices something is different, but they can't figure out what it is, especially Ed, chief surgeon. It takes him a while, but he eventually asks her out and realizes what's been right under his nose all the time.

Observations: Wow! I never would have guessed that Woman's World would "approve" of getting a tattoo (or red lingerie for that matter!), and yet, look at the message in this story: sometimes you have to heave yourself out of your comfort zone in order to evoke positive change. That's a Woman's World attitude if ever I saw one. Do-it-yourself happiness.

There are several things I admired in this story.

1. We actually see Elaine's transformation both inside and outside.
2. I liked Elaine's unwillingness to explain what caused the difference in her stride and attitude. No need to broadcast it to the world.
3. Elaine flirted with Ed, but didn't cross the line into game-playing.
4. The story covered so much ground, so many days. Amazingly hard to do in 800 words.

All in all, terrific story.

Also, I think that even though the demographic indicates older readers, even we middle aged women, perhaps even especially we middle aged women want to be literally attractive and attract male attention and in this story Elaine did it from within. Wow. Another powerful message. "It's what's inside that counts," is a theme that could be applied to more stories than this one. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Save Romance!

So, recently I was talking with some WW writers and some people are concerned that the Romance feature might someday be cut from the magazine. I share this fear. So, I was thinking maybe it'd be a good idea to email the mag when there's a story we particularly like. That way they're aware that people really like that feature. It certainly can't hurt. :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Hearts on Fire"

by Mary Jo Young from the March 19, 2012 issue

Tagline: Kristen's heart fluttered as she spoke to the handsome fireman, but she knew he'd never call...

In a Nutshell: Kristen is checking the groceries of three firemen. The two in the front try to set her up with the third one. They get called away on an emergency and the third guy asks if he can call her. When she gets off work, she finds him waiting for her. They go out to dinner.

Observations: How could you not like this story. It has, not one fire fighter, but three! Yum.

I really loved how the three men joked with one another. The banter showed the hero's personality--humble, tolerant of his friends, and a good cook to boot.

Note the clever way Young introduced the characters' names--via dialogue and her name tag. No one had to introduce themselves.

There was a nice black moment when she gets off work, but it doesn't last long of course. And also notice how Kristen walked out with a couple of coworkers. Demonstrating personal safety is a plus.

I have nothing negative to point out. This one's a keeper.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

We Meet Again

by Cathrin Klein from the March 12, 2012 issue

Tagline: Matt and Erin had moved in very different circles in high school--but that was then. Now, the two of them felt just perfect together...

In a Nutshell: The substitute yoga instructor of the class Erin is taking happens to be someone she knew in high school. Erin had been captain of the cheerleaders. Matt had been the loner geek. However, now the tables had turned. She weighed more than she should, and he was in terrific shape, so she feels awkward. Eventually, she overcomes her negative self-image and finally decides to accept herself for who she is and let Matt into her life.

Observations: When I read a Woman's World story, I often jot notes in the margins--things I want to comment on in the blog, or places where I had a reaction. This story merited 9 margin notes.

1. LOL - As the roundest woman present, I was thankful to be in the back row. I loved the word "roundest."

2. Thoughtful to keep private - Matt approaches her to correct her yoga position and also to jog her memory. I liked that he kept the conversation as private as could be managed, considering the situation. Point in his favor. :)

3. No drama - Look at this bit: Now I was middle-aged, overweight and finally recovering from a divorce I hadn't seen coming. There's Erin's history, encapsulated. Of course, we all know divorce--especially a guerrilla divorce--has got to be horrible, but the author doesn't go into it here. Woman's World doesn't like a lot of drama and angst. As it is, this story had more than usual.

4. LMAO - I agonized all week over what to wear [to lunch]. Eventually, I gave up; Matt had seen me in yoga class. Hilarious!

5.  Transition - This story covered a few weeks, another out of the ordinary aspect of this story. It was probably possible due to slick, lean transitions like this...

     After our next date, Matt leaned in to kiss me, and I pulled back. How could I explain how unattractive I felt next to him?
       The roses arrived with a note: I'm sorry I overstepped. Our friendship means the world to me. Matt.

See? We go from inner conflict, bam, to the next part of the story.

6. Character arc - This story, like "It's Raining Men!", focused a lot on the development of the heroine. In that story we see the heroine learn to believe in her own abilities in the workplace. Here, when Erin makes the decision to forget about her appearance, I felt like she had emerged from her chrysalis as a beautiful butterfly.

7. Too fast - Unfortunately, when Matt declared his love, it came out of left field for me. I'm like, "What?? Well, that was fast." I'm afraid I just didn't buy it. I know he was supposed to have carried a torch for her all these years, but I just wasn't convinced. Perhaps those quick transitions weren't all that great after all. I would liked to have seen him perhaps suggest exclusivity or just declare that he was "serious" about her. But again, the editors thought this was fine. :)

8. Love this - Matt's last line--the last paragraph in the story--is a wonderful metaphor for second chance stories like this one.

     "I must be dreaming--this stuff just doesn't happen."
     "Maybe not when the curtain goes up the first time," Matt said. "You have to come back after intermission. All the best stuff happens in the second act."

Despite the seventh margin note, I did think this story was fantastic.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Other Personality

I also write very very very racy romance fiction. One of my books is available for a free download until March 17 at Amazon, Ellora's Cave, and Barnes & Noble. There's an excerpt available at all three sites. Here's the back cover copy:

Book One, Be-Wished Series
When three close friends made margarita-fueled wishes on magical woven bracelets, none of them ever dreamed that their sexy wishes might come true. But then a real-life fairy appears with Universal Wish Federation credentials and a ludicrous claim that Mariah's wish is her command. And before Mariah can say bippidy-bobbidy-boo, old flame Tucker arrives in town…and in Mariah's bed.

Life on the road is a lonely one, but when Tucker bumps into Mariah again, all that changes. Sparks immediately fly and it's all he can do to keep his hands off her. As things deepen between them, he swears he'll be damned before he passes on a chance to reconnect with a woman he never forgot.

But wishes aren't always simple and Happily Ever After is never guaranteed. It will be up to Mariah to go all in and make her wish last a lifetime…or lose Tucker forever.

I thought I'd mention the free offer here in case you wanted to see what my longer fiction is like. :) But again, it's erotic stuff. Fair warning!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Little Help

by Emma Courtice from the March 4, 2012 issue

Tagline: Marsha didn't mind helping a neighbor in distress. Not even if the neighbor in question was that arrogant Daniel Wilson...

In a Nutshell: Daniel has locked himself out of his house and is unwilling to break a first floor window or wait the hour for his mom to arrive with the second set. Marsha agrees to let herself be boosted to the open second floor window. But the keys aren't where he thought they were. She pulls him in the ground floor window and he lands on top of her just as Mom arrives. Mom lets slip that Daniel has talked about Marsha before, and Marsha has since reformed her opinion of him. They make a date for lunch.

Observations: This story didn't have as much romance for me as I would have liked, nor did I particularly feel like the heroine and hero had a bright future together. I think perhaps it was because Marsha's dislike of Daniel was so strong and her change of attitude toward him wasn't...

She acknowledges the fact that he does have a mother. She smiles at his childlike pouting, and laughs when he agrees the situation is somewhat funny. We don't actually get a reaction from her when she finds out that Daniel had talked about her to his mother and Daniel is embarrassed about it. I think that one sentence to that effect would have convinced me more.

I also couldn't quite believe she could make it into his second story bedroom from his clasped hands. She's not even standing on his shoulders. But, hey, this story clearly made it past the editors. So I have to chalk it up to another story that proves I'll never be able to predict which of my stories will or will not pass muster.