Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Someone to Lean On

by Jody Lebel from the December 31, 2012 issue

Tagline: Beth was in meltdown mode when the handsome, confident detective stepped in to calm her down and cheer her up.

In a Nutshell: Beth's apartment was burgled. She is particularly upset over the loss of her grandmother's teapot. The kind and observant detective retrieves the teapot and they share the pistachio ice cream he brought to replace the half gallon she lost.

Observations: I thought this was a solid Woman's World story. It had a humorous, thoughtful and observant hero. He notices she's on the verge of a breakdown and he lightens the mood.

It had a strong heroine who has proven herself by living on her own for six years successfully, but we see she is still vulnerable when she finds someone has broken into her home.

It has a sentimental item--Beth's grandmother's teapot, which is returned. Sentimentality and nostalgia are commonly seen in Woman's World stories.

It has a cute ending in which the detective cheekily says:

"I told you [the burglar] wouldn't be back. I never said I wouldn't."

LOL. How cute. He's a guy I would definitely want to share ice cream with. Of course, I'll gladly eat ice cream alone too. Heh heh.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Christmas Gift

by Connie Ferdon from the December 24, 2012 issue

Tagline: The postman mistakenly delivered a very happy holiday surprise!

In a Nutshell: When Hannah opens a package without looking at the shipping label, she finds something that belongs to the man down the street. She just moved into the neighborhood, so she hasn't met him yet. He also opened a mis-delivered package meant for her. They decide to have coffee together just as it starts to snow.

Observations: My mouth is all puckered from sour grapes. I think my holiday story was better than this one. But Johnene didn't think so, for whatever reason, and that's the way the cookie crumbles. I'm good with that. Sort of. LOL

I had difficulty suspending my disbelief when reading this story. I started out with anticipation. I noticed Hannah's optimism when she reassured her sister. "I know you worry about me, but I wish you wouldn't. When I meet the right guy, it'll happen." I thought choosing a golf club as the gift was amusing because it allowed for Hannah to have visions of a retiree as her neighbor.

But then I began encountering tiny niggling things. Adam opens the door and pulls on a sweater, allowing Hannah to see his fit body. Convenient for the author, but strange for me as the reader. I thought it was strange that he wouldn't have put his sweater on before opening the door. This wasn't a big deal for me, though, so I read on.

Adam has gotten a package at his house for her, another mis-delivered package. Hmm. Their UPS driver needs to be fired. Two mistakes on the same street? That was hard for me to swallow. Plus, I had to believe that both Hannah and Adam opened the packages without regard to the address label.

Ferdon introduced the slinky nightgown as a humorous conversation starter, but that, too, was strange. I just don't see a woman giving her sister a negligee, even if she worries about that sister's love life.

So, to quote Johnene, this story just didn't work for me. It had many elements of a good Woman's World story, but those elements didn't add up for me. I really would have liked a really warm fuzzy feeling from reading the December 24th issue story, as well. This issue more than any other should have made my heart swell up with emotion.

Maybe your mileage differed. If so, let's discuss.

Photo by: makelessnoise (cc)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Bells

by Anna Jo Christopher from the December 17, 2012 issue

Tagline: Ryan thought his first Christmas away from his family would be a lonely one. Then he met Maggie...

In A Nutshell: Ryan has recently moved and not looking forward to a holiday with no family nearby, but he has had his eye on Maggie, a pretty bank teller. One day as they chit-chat, he finds out she volunteers to serve meals at a shelter. He decides to volunteer, too.

Observations: Surprisingly, this story didn't tug at my heartstrings as much as I would have liked for an issue so close to Christmas. It was solid, make no mistake, but I always expect more emotional umph from a Christmas themed story.

Anyway, I did enjoy the ribbing that Ryan's coworkers gave him at the beginning of the story. The mention of direct deposit sets the story firmly in current times. It also shows that Ryan can take a joke, even at his own expense. This is a nice bit of characterization, something that's sometimes difficult to add when working with only 800 words.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, negativity can have a place, but you have to temper it. Ryan is wistful about being alone for the holidays, but Christopher doesn't belabor this. And in the paragraph after the description of his situation, she writes:

The queue advanced quickly, and Ryan shook off his melancholy thoughts. He didn't really have any friends yet, but he would in time. 

There she shows him to be a positive person, a role model for the reader, if you will. :)

I also liked how she handled the simultaneous speaking:

The spoke at the same time: "Would you like to help--?" she began, as he asked, "Will you need help--?"

They both laughed.

It's nice to know how to punctuate that type of situation.

Finally, I wanted to point out another subtle thing that I think helped flesh out his character and give him a sincerity that all Woman's World characters need. A reader might question his motives in volunteering at the shelter, thinking he might just be doing that to connect with Maggie. But cleverly, Christopher already established that Ryan is a giving sort of guy by showing him making the generous donation for the canned food drive. Smart writer! All that talk between Maggie and Ryan was more than filler.

Photo by: Chase Lindberg Photography (cc)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Success is Sweet

I just got my contract for the Chinese New Year story I submitted! I'm very, very excited. Johnene wrote that it was the first story written for that holiday they've ever received. The on-sale date is January 24, but look for it a week ahead of that.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Glow of Love

by Sherri Mostaghni from the December 10, 2012 issue

Tagline: Karen wanted to light up their new home with the magic of the season. If only she could persuade her husband to see the holidays her way...

In a Nutshell: Karen and her husband Jim just moved into their first house. She wants to decorate the exterior with lights, but her husband is reluctant. When she gets home from work, she finds he's done the house up right after all.

Observations: This is a wonderful story about an already established relationship, something I find hard to write. In one of my classes I talk about these stories and how they often show a problem in a marriage being solved. This story doesn't do that. It merely demonstrates what a great marriage looks like. What a refreshing change.

Even though we see the surprise a mile away...

"I know. I'm jealous you still have a few days to putter around our new house. Maybe you can do some Christmas decorating."'s still heart-warming to live vicariously through Karen.

While the surprise was fantastic on it's own, I thought that Mostaghni added extra holiday sentiment by adding that final paragraph.

"It's beautiful, sweetheart! Absolutely brilliant!"

He thought I meant the lights. But I meant him and the gift he'd given me: the gift of listening.

Bam. See what I mean? Then she adds this last sentence, which ups the warm fuzzy feeling even more, making it a perfect ending.

And I told him so later that night in the glow of our Christmas lights.

Photo by Jo Naylor (cc)