Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Let it Snow!

by Kathy Hendrickson from the December 28, 2015 issue

Tagline: The season's first snowstorm--and a meeting with a friendly and good-looking local--caught Julie by surprise!

Observations:  I don't have much to say about this story. It's a solid story with a warm, fuzzy winter theme. We have freshly-baked cookies and a friendly, thoughtful and handsome neighbor who comes to the rescue of a modern damsel in distress.

I approve of the Jane Austen mention.

I wish I had more to say, but I don't. Good story. :)

Photo credit: Richard Berg, via Flickr Creative Commons License

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Ring Around My Heart

by Marie Savage from the December 7, 2015 issue

Tagline: When Sara inherited an antique wedding ring, she didn't expect that band of gold to bring love into her own life!

Observations: I haven't called attention to backstory in a little while, so I will today because there's a fair amount of it explaining the history of Sara's ring. This is so important to the story because if we didn't get this information, the moment when she starts to cry doesn't feel nearly as genuine. (I loved that moment, by the way, largely because of how Savage prepared me to care about Sara's precious memento.)

Also, there was a misunderstanding here in the middle of the story. I don't often get surprised by misunderstandings I'm sure you don't either. Because they're so plentiful in Woman's World stories, it's not difficult to see them coming. However, I didn't foresee John assuming she was married. When I saw it though, I felt a little dumb for not having seen it. LOL

There's also a shockingly nasty black moment. When John brings up the topic of the reward, I bet some of us recoiled and thought, "OMG, what a jerk." If we didn't (because he's the hero of a Woman's World story, so of course, he's not going to expect or ask for money), we certainly imagined Sara's dismay.

Of course, he really wants a date and she says yes. For any newbies out there, this is a Happy For Now ending that is typical for the magazine.

Photo Credit: Ben Mortimer via Flickr Creative Commons 

Friday, December 18, 2015

There Will Be Mistletoe

by Lisa Weaver from the December 14, 2015 issue

Tagline: A kiss under the mistletoe...Noelle couldn't imagine a more delightful holiday tradition than that!

Observations: I had mixed feelings about this story and a lot of circled things I wanted to talk about. I'll just cover them, point by point.

1. I was a little confused at the beginning of the story. At first Noelle seems excited about the costume. It seemed like it was her idea to dress so crazily.


"Are you really going to wear that?" My best friend Kim arches an eyebrow as she nods at the outfit in my hands.

"Why not? 'Tis the season to be jolly," I say, heading for the dressing room.

So, Noelle seems fine with the costume. Then...

When I emerge decked in the green velour vest and matching shorts, Kim can't contain her amusement. "Those red and white striped tights and pointy-toed slippers really complete the ensemble. Now I'm doubly glad you volunteered to take our shop's shift at the mall's gift wrapping booth."

"If I'd known about this costume beforehand, I might not have," I say.

See what I mean? Now it seems as if she was reluctant, after the fact. Also, that is a bit of a clunky expository-heavy statement that sounds distinctly, "as you know, Bob..." For you newer writers, I'm talking about having a character say something that is unnecessary because the character they're talking to already knows this. It would seem much more natural for Kim to have said, "Now I'm doubly glad you volunteered."

2. I think the word "fell" should have had quotes around it. That would have made it clear there was a double meaning.

You could say I fell for him.

3. I found it doubtful that they had a wooden ladder. If it was a grandma's ladder or an old ladder someone found in the basement, then maybe. I think they're all made of metal these days.

4. The first time kissing balls are mentioned, it's in quotation marks. That made sense to me. I've never heard of kissing balls. When I see mistletoe, it's little beribboned sprigs. Is this term/item common enough so that later in the story when Tyler talks about it, he calls it a kissing ball? Has everyone heard of these but me?

5. The fall... Hm. I accepted that he was in the right place at the right time. I accepted that he was strong enough to catch her. What I couldn't accept was that after she fell and was caught, she "was still holding up the kissing ball." This stretched reality a little too far for me.

6. I didn't see Tyler's standing her up coming, so that was a nice little plot twist. It's hard to surprise me.

7. I felt there should have been a tiny bit of inner dialogue here:

And when he invited me to meet him for coffee at the end of my shift, it was like something straight out of a fairytale...until my "prince" didn't show 

Dragging my focus back to Kim's comment, I say, "He stood me up, Kim. Obviously, he had second thoughts."

"There may be a good reason he couldn't make it," she ventured.

I roll my eyes, then I smile. "You're such a romantic."

(The missing period was in the magazine.) I felt we should have gotten maybe one sentence about how Noelle felt about this after that "prince" line, but instead we go right back to the present. Then, I would have expected Noelle to be upset, insulted, irritated...something. Unless she has amazing self-esteem, being stood-up isn't something most of us would take on the chin so cheerfully. I say cheerfully because she smiles at Kim. 

8. Later, when she sees Tyler in line, her heart gives a little leap. Again, I shake my head a little. This is not the reaction I would expect from a woman who was stood up with no explanation or even a phone call. At the very least, I'd expect her to feel mixed up. She can still be attracted to him, but be miffed about being stood up.

9. My brother never gave me jewelry for Christmas. I'm just sayin'...

10. Okay, Tyler had a great excuse, but he could have called the shop. If I ever stood someone up, I'd be obsessed over making sure they knew I didn't do it on purpose. 

11. I thought the black moment (Noelle asks if the gift is for Elle, who signed his cast with a heart, and he nods) was great. (I might have picked a name that wasn't so similar to the heroine's.)

So, yeah. I enjoyed the story and some of this is nit-picky, but this blog is about what I think of the stories. I encourage you to agree or disagree in the comments. :)

Missing issue

Calling all Woman's World subscribers. I did not receive my December 7 issue. If anyone can photograph or scan the story and email it to me, I'd appreciate it!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Quarter Short

by Emma Courtice from the November 30, 2015

Tagline: Angela had noticed the good-looking man who lived in her apartment building, but it took a well-timed downpour to bring the two of them together

Observations: Oh, man, I loved this story for so many reasons. Here, I'll list them.

Angela is kind. You see that from how she shares her umbrella with David. She is also perceptive and open to changing her opinion about people.

I don't know why, but I loved the little detail of Angela stepping back to avoid the splash when the bus pulled up and how David copied her. It made the story more realistic to me and it showed David being observant and open to learning new things. He's not the arrogant type who thinks he knows everything.

When Angela pulls out the quarter to pay the rest of David's bus fare, immediately the title of the story came back to me.  Often, that doesn't happen, but with this story, it did. It was a catchy, memorable and different title.

David is considerate. He tries to open her door for her. He makes a point of picking her up after work, remembering where the bus dropped her off. He also shows concern for her hair when she suggests he put the top down.

What I loved was that moment when Angela lets her hair down, literally and figuratively. That paragraph made the story.

Angela held his eyes for a moment. Then she pulled the pins out of her long auburn hair and gave her head a shake, the soft waves cascading down to her shoulders. "I'm willing to take a chance," she said softly.

Let's really look at that. The first sentence sets David (and us) up and shows us this is an important moment. The second sentence gives us a complete image. The line of dialogue is where Angela puts it all on the line. It shows she's a brave and confident woman.

I think most stories have an emotional high point and when I'm editing Woman's World stories for people, this is often a criticism I end up giving. The authors often zip past this moment, not recognizing it for what it is. Or, if they recognize it, they often don't spend the time (or words) on it that it deserves. For instance, the above paragraph might have looked like this:

Angela held his eyes for a moment. "I'm willing to take a chance," she said softly.

That would have worked, but look how much better it is with that one more descriptive sentence! Milk that moment for all it's worth.

Photo credit: Matt Davis, via Creative Commons license

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Dog Walker

by Tracie Rae Griffith from the November 23, 2015 issue

Tagline: When Marilyn broke her ankle, Paul stepped in to sweep her off her feet. (I have to admit that when I read this tagline, I thought there was going to be a broom involved. LOL)

Observations: Tracie Rae Griffith is a regular contributor and this story makes it easy to see why. Way back when I began my quest to be published by Woman's World magazine, dog stories abounded. It's my suspicion that Johnene loves dogs. Or perhaps she just realizes that many of the Woman's World readers love pets of any kind.

Anyway, I've often said it's a great idea to choose two or more Woman's World story tropes and put them together and here we have "man to the rescue" and "a pet." Obviously, doing so doesn't guarantee you a sale, but it gives you a jumping off point. You still have to write a good story. (If you've bought my class, you know that I include a pretty long list of storylines which would be an easy place to spark your own ideas.)

I liked this part:

When he reaches out to shake my hand, I feel a tiny tingle.

I feel the same tingle the next day when our hands touch as I hand over Buddy's leash.

First of all, alliteration! LOL Second, adding that physical attraction is one of those small things that will help the reader believe that these two people are clicking. Don't go too far though. Woman's World doesn't like too much sexy.

There was also a place where I literally laughed out loud. It was where Paul suggests that the solution to their problem (Marilyn's cast is coming off and his services as a dog walker won't be needed anymore) is to break his own ankle. LMAO. Too funny.

Photo Credit: Maelick via Creative Commons license

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Where There's a Will

by M.H. Hickerson from the November 16, 2015 issue

Tagline: Maddie had never fallen quite so hard or so inescapably for anyone before!

Observations: So, remember last week when I talked about matchmaker stories in which we don't see much of the matchmaker? Here's a perfect example. Aunt Martha only shows up in the last paragraph. Otherwise, it's a cute man-to-the-rescue story with a situation I haven't seen before -- someone getting pinned under a box. I thought this was original and perfect from a "feminist's" point of view. Maddie needed help getting out from under that box. It wasn't that she was a woman, so she didn't know how to change a tire or flip a breaker. No, she honestly needed someone's help.

I liked that the stacked DVDs made it easy for David to compliment her on her choice of movies and it gave them something in common. And showing them working together did indeed bode well for their relationship. As Maddie herself pointed out, putting together furniture can be a source of frustration between people.

I did think David was a tiny bit presumptuous to just show up at the same time for the rest of the week, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he brought dinner at least a couple of times.

Photo Credit: HomespotHQ via Creative Commons license

The Office Matchmaker

by Shannon Fay from the November 9, 2015 issue

Tagline: Barb was a bit of a busybody, but you'd never catch Georgina or David complaining!

Observations: This was a terrific story. The characterization was wonderful. That very first paragraph tells us exactly who Barb is. I actually think we all know a "Barb."

I know some people at work think of me as a busybody, but that's simply unfair. The fact is, if I didn't pick up the slack around here, nothing would get done. Without me, there'd be no get well cards and flowers when someone is sick, no baby showers or retirement parties. Somebody has to organize these things.

I haven't seen a matchmaker's story from the matchmaker's pov in a long while, but it's a construct you might want to keep in mind. Most of the time, we see the matchmaking going on, but are not privvy to the actual plans and such, not like we are in this story with Barb.

I also admired Barb's cleverness, where she told Georgina and David an earlier time than everyone else. Genius!

Also, as is happening more and more, we're getting an epilogue paragraph that tells of an engagement.

All in all, great story, fantastic character. Shannon, if you're reading this, it'd be cool if Barb became a recurring character in more matchmaking stories, like in the mini-mysteries.
If you do this and it works, I want credit! LOL

Photo credit: Chip Griffin via Creative Commons License

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Serendipity

by Rosemary Hayes from the October 19, 2015 issue

Tagline: Jonah dialed the wrong number...but he made the right connection!

Observations: Well, somehow I skipped this issue, but better late than never, right?

All right. I liked the beginning, was bored in the middle, but loved the ending.

In the beginning, we see some humorous banter--always a plus in a Woman's World story. I think it tends to show the hero and heroine getting off to a good start and that their senses of humor mesh.

The middle had a moment of tension, but it didn't quite work for me. Perhaps it was supposed to show Lisa coming to the realization that she really liked Jonah. I've said before that character growth is something Woman's World likes to see and Lisa starts out not interested in dating and then growing to realize she just might be over the break-up. However, this false alarm didn't do anything for me. Personally, her thoughts about Jonah just before she went to sleep would have been enough.

The ending was fantastic. I could see Jonah standing there with that rose as clear as day.

Photo credit: Swong95765 via Creative Commons License

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Winning Hand

by Shelley Cooper from the November 2, 2015 issue

Tagline: Monica lost her chance to win one big prize, then ended up with a bigger prize!

Observations: This was the most original story I've seen in a long time. I loved it! The heroine was spunky and determined. The hero was kind and handsome--like all Woman's World heroes must be. I loved their banter. I was really rooting for them to have a happily-ever-after.

I have to admit, I predicted that it was going to get down to just the two of them and that she'd give up so his brother could win the minivan, but I was wrong. Doesn't matter though because the ending was still wonderful.

Well done, Shelley Cooper!

Photo credit: Nigel Chadwick via Creative Commons license

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Halloween Fun, After All

by J.M. Faddis from the October 26, 2015 issue

Tagline: As a girl, Amy had loved Halloween. Now, grown-up and focused on her career, she simply had no time for holiday frivolity--or so she thought...

Observations: I liked this story, but I find myself puzzled. I feel like it easily could have been a matchmaker story and am wondering if it is. Was Amy's mom trying to set her up? It seems like it. But then she does actually sprain her ankle, so I think, maybe it's not a matchmaker story. But then Amy narrows her eyes at her mom, and once again, I think it is a matchmaker story.

Either way, it really doesn't matter what I label it. The story is what it is. But was anyone else feeling confused? Maybe because I automatically read these stories with a critical eye, my brain wasn't allowing me to just enjoy the story as a story... All I could think about was figuring out what the intent was.

Photo credit: Dru Bloomfield via Creative Commons license

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Heart and Violets

by Karen Mandell from the October 12, 2015 issue

Tagline: Lara was a good neighbor--and now it looked as though her random acts of neighborly kindness would be most handsomely rewarded!

Observations: I don't have much to say about this story except that it very much reminded me of the "old style" Woman's World story, the kind of story I saw when I first started reading the magazine in 2004. I'll try to describe what I mean.

It's mostly the ending. Of late, Woman's World style has developed into really tight stories, perhaps a result of the newish 800 word limit. There's a condensed feeling about them, like they're completely self-contained. I don't know how to describe it better.

The ending of this story felt more open--like there wasn't an end, so much as a beginning. Even though most of the stories these days actually depict the beginning of a relationship just like this one, the stories themselves end concretely.

I'm sorry if I'm not explaining it well. maybe some of you "old timers" can help me out in the comments.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Good Dog!

by Wendy Hobday Haugh from the September 29, 2015 issue

Tagline: Cassie loved her dog and Matt loved his dog. It wouldn't be long before the two dog-lovers fell in love with each other!

Observations: I saw something in this story that I hadn't seen before. At first, it's a regular
Woman's World story. A new guy moves in next door. His dog digs into her yard and her dog digs a hole to his yard and they meet and hit it off. Nothing really new or noteworthy. What was different was this:

And that's how our story began. The rest, in a nutshell, went like this:

What follows that line is a summarization ("telling", if you will) of the rest of their courtship and wedding.

I've seen weddings at the end of stories before. They're not common, but they do occur, but this is the first time I've seen the author just flat out state they were going to summarize. It was a little narrator-ish and pulled us back from the deeper POV we'd been in, but that was fine. Think of that distancing like when at the end of a movie, they pull back for that driving off into the sunset shot.

Monday, October 12, 2015

According to the Queen Bees

by Shannon Fay from the October 5, 2015 issue

Tagline: Her 8th-grade student-matchmakers had been a little out of line, but Janet had to admit she liked the way they thought!

Observations: What stood out to me the most with this story was the quite long dark moment. We are used to seeing an actual moment where you worry for the romance.

Here's where it happens in the story "On Blueberry Hill."

Her breath caught as they neared the young man handing out buckets. Ryan? Of course not. Much too young.

Here's an example from "When Tracy Met Rick."

"What I'm wondering is, since you had such a bad day, would you like to talk about it over coffee? There's a place in the mall."

"Oh, but I'm afraid I can't do that," said Tracy.

Disappointment crossed his face and he pointed to her hand. "I'm sorry. When I didn't see a wedding ring, I thought you were single."

"I am single. I just meant I can't have coffee with a complete stranger." She held out her hand. "I'm Tracy."

So it's often short, for obvious reasons. You only have 800 words to work with.

However, in this story, things look dim for about one quarter of the story. Poor Janet is upset for a long time. But in the end, Charlie redeems himself by explaining that he totally respects how much work she does and that he likes spending time with her. This bodes well for the relationship. Who doesn't love a man who can admit when he's wrong? And with flowers!

So, to review, dark moments don't occur in every Woman's World story, but they don't have to be fleeting. You can draw it out for more drama.

Photo credit: Who Da Funk Style via the Creative Commons License

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Perfect Match

by Mayori Krues from the September 21, 2015 issue

Tagline: Once Christina opened her heart to the possibility of finding love, love found her!

Observations: I very much liked the theme of this story--that love doesn't pay any attention to age, however, the story itself struck me as a bit average. The setting wasn't anything special, The characters were a bit flat. The plot wasn't anything new. I'm not saying that all of these things need to really stand out, but in this story, to me, none of them do. I think if just one of those things--setting, characterization or plot--and been unusual or more beefed up, this story would have been much better.

Again, please remember, I'm only one person and this is only my personal opinion. Obviously, Johnene saw fit to publish it so, to her, it was worth $800. :)

Photo credit: Pexels.com via Creative Commons License


Sunday, September 27, 2015

He Captured Her Heart

by Colette Shannon from the September 14, 2015 issue

Tagline: Dr. Alexis Anderson never dreamed she could fall for a man with a beard and a ponytail. But, sometimes, that's just how love works!

Observations: I liked this story and found it stood out because of the very unusual story structure. Here's a breakdown:

1. Conversation with Alexis and her friend - sets up Alexis' personal history as 40 and never married, establishes the timeline (summer is over and school just started), and that Alexis met someone over the summer but is questioning it.

2. Summary of her summer - we find out she rented a cabin, we see her meet Ranger Max, we are told about how Max pursues her.

3. Turning point - Still within the flashback, we go even deeper in, for a more detailed description where they first kiss. Here, we see that they have a lot in common, are sexually attracted to each other.

4. Black moment #1 - We're still back in time. They part ways. The summer is over.

5. Fast forward, black moment #2 - Back in the present day, sometime after that initial convo with the friend. A man is there to see her. Beard and ponytail? No.

6. Happy reunion - Ha! Of course it's Max. He just looks different. He cleaned up for her. (How sweet.) They decide to make a go of it, even though they live in different worlds.

So, see what I mean? There's a lot of back and forthing (not an official writing term). There are two black moments. There's also a lot of telling, because frankly, there was a lot of telling to do. But it worked. Shannon really had to pack so much info in there and really convince you that their summer was eventful and, as you know, she only had 800 words to do it with.

Photo credit: Robb Hannawacker via Creative Commons License

Monday, September 21, 2015

Could It Be Magic?

by Shelley Cooper from the September 7, 2015 issue

Tagline: Though Maggie no longer believed in magic, she'd fallen under Max Bennett's spell!

Observations: This will be a stream-of-consciousness critique which is where I type my thoughts as I read the story. I haven't done that in a while and I'm on a tight deadline this week, so here we go.

Magicians! Cool! I love magicians. I watched the TV movie Houdini with Adrian Brody and found it very interesting. But I digress.

Her dad performed at bar mitzvahs? I never got to see a magic show at any of the bar mitzvahs I've attended. That would have been fun.

Ooh, I'm jealous of Maggie having learned all those tricks. I used to know a couple of card tricks. They're fun, especially when you show them to kids. However, I am wondering if Maggie the little girl would really have been upset that they were tricking people. Maybe my sister and I were weird, but we loved baffling our friends.

Okay. Here's the scene:

"People want to believe in magic," my father told me once when I balked at performing.

"But we're tricking them!" I protested.

"No, Maggie, we're giving them hope. Magic--real magic--is in the eye of the beholder. You'll understand when you're older."

Hm. The hope line isn't flying with me. When I see a magic show, I'm not sitting in the audience hoping the trick will work or that magic exists. I feel this line is a bit contrived for something that I have yet to read in the story or is an attempt to get sentimental and evoke emotion. I'm going to read on and see.

Ah, we meet the hero. I like the description of him and I like how he's a magician in the booth at the school where the festival is going on.

 LOL. I love how she's standing there, arms crossed, and knows how he does all the tricks because she knows from her days with her dad.

Okay, I got engrossed in the story for a bit because it got good. We meet foster kid, Sarah, and get back story on her. I care about Sarah and I suddenly admire Maggie a bit more. The kids' interaction is spot on. As a former elementary school teacher, I'm sensitive to kids being portrayed in a not so realistic manner, and the way Tommy yells is perfect. I adored finding out about the diaper in the bag!

The line about her heart soaring was a tiny bit too much for me.

Oh, wow, she reconciles with her dad? AWESOME. That tying up of a thread isn't something you see every day in a Woman's World story.




Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Wonderful Mistake

by Rosalind Villers from the August 31, 2015 issue

Tagline: Florist Samantha worried she might be late delivering the wedding-party boutonnieres...but, in fact, her timing was perfect!

Observations: I was talking just last night with my son about adding tiny details to a story can really establish yourself as an "expert" to the reader, even if you're really not. When you get the details right, you earn the trust of the reader. I don't know if Villers has worked in a flower shop or knows someone who does, but either way, here are some of the things that made me feel the authenticity of this story.

1. I work at Starbucks and there are several refrigerators - the freezer, the milk fridge, the back room fridge, the bar fridge, the cold bar fridge. If someone set a story at Starbucks and referred to a fridge, no one would probably blink an eye. Of course Starbucks has a fridge. But if you referred to it as the cold bar fridge, wouldn't that sound more real? This is what I'm talking about and in "A Wonderful Mistake," "the cooler" sounded like real florist lingo to me.

2. Villers also talked about the workings and problems of running the small business. Saturdays were busy. Samantha had a driver, but he called in sick. Having to deal with employees who made possible disastrous mistakes. (Weddings are so important and I could easily envision a Bridezilla moment if the boutonnieres never got delivered.) Having to fill in at the last minute to correct that mistake.

3. When Jacob knocks over the arrangement, Sam is quick to tell them that the flowers were sturdy. That's a detail I wouldn't think of as a mere admirer and sometimes grower of flowers. Of course, a florist would know which stems would hold up and which wouldn't.

So, in summary, I'd like to encourage you to research for these types of details. Yes, it's only an 800 word story, but when you see how much authenticity a few words and phrases add, I think you'll see it's worth the time.

Photo credit: gadgetdude via Creative Commons license

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Young at Heart

by Kay Layton Sisk from the August 24, 2015 issue

Tagline: Deb's daughter thought her mother needed some romance in her life. Deb was way ahead of her!

Observations: This was a matchmaker story turned on its head. We start out thinking, oh, another matchmaker story. In fact, half the story was devoted to the daughter trying to convince her mom that Mr. Bewley is interested in her and that they should all get together the next weekend.

But then Sisk threw in a twist. Mom and Bewley have already fallen in love! Adorable surprise. I loved it.

So don't be afraid to take a trope, like the matchmaker, and put your own spin on it.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Love at the Farmers' Market

by Diane Crawford from the August 17, 2015 issue

Tagline: Everybody at the farmers' market seemed to love Lily's zucchini brownies--and she was please when one good-looking customer came back for more!

Observations: I always look forward to Diane Crawford's stories. (Hi, Diane! Long time, no email! :) ) This one was a solid offering. When I read the tagline, I immediately thought of another story set at a farmer's market. The heroine in that one wore a crazily-colored wig as a sales gimick...

Anyway, what I liked about this one was that she lead you to believe that the guy her grandmother wanted her to meet and the zucchini brownie lover were one and the same person. If you're a long-time reader of Woman's World stories, I'm sure you weren't fooled at all. But that doesn't really matter, Woman's World readers are willing to suspend their disbelief and pretend for the sake of the reading experience. That's really what we all do when we read romance, right? It will always end happily, but we enter a state of temporary disillusion so we can have fun worrying that it won't.

When the reveal finally happened...I loved that part, where she pretended to be psychic and spouted all the wrong information. I thought that was hilarious. And the hero's response was perfect.

"Reception must be bad today. My name is Tanner, my grandmother is Ruth and I'm an EMT." He took the brownies. "How about we discuss your psychic abilities over coffee when you're finished here? There's a coffee shop around the corner."

I also really liked how I felt at the end of the story. Sometimes when I finish reading a Woman's World story, I feel quietly content that things will work out. With this story, there was more excitement and optimism in the heroine. She was really psyched (yes, I still use that term) to go out with Tanner and it came through.

Lastly, I couldn't help but notice there was a recipe for zucchini brownies in this issue. Coincidence? I don't think so. :)

Photo credit: BarbaraLN via Creative Commons license

Friday, August 28, 2015

My Charming Opponent

by Tamara Shaffer from the August 3, 2015 issue

Tagline: Jennifer really didn't expect to enjoy the fencing class she'd signed up for. But that was before she met Jack Anders...

Observations: This week we have a "moving on" story in which the recently divorced heroine is trying something new. I think we all admire a woman who puts a painful past behind her and looks ahead to her future. What we don't expect, as readers, is for her to try fencing!

I thought there was enough detail and realism to make me suspect that Shaffer has taken fencing lessons or knows someone who has. (My sister took fencing in college. I am sure she still has her epee. She was a theatre major. 'Nuff said.) It was clever to have them matched up because they were both lefties and handy way to have them connect over this commonality.

As you can see, there was a misunderstanding on Jennifer's part when she sees him get in the car with the woman and toddler. This little tool is one we see often in Woman's World stories. Don't be afraid to use it. The trick is making sure the reveal (that it's actually the sister/cousin/neighbor/co-worker) flows. For instance, Shaffer could have written something like this:

"You're a formidable opponent, as well as a pretty one. It's a good thing my sister was able to drive me to class last week, since my car had broken down, otherwise I wouldn't have met you."

A bit clunky, right? A little, "As you know, Bob..."

So, make sure that when you drop that info about who that decoy really is, you do it naturally. The conversation has to sound normal, not stilted. A good way to make sure it's not stilted is to read it aloud. Or have someone else read it aloud to you.

Photo credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5


Monday, August 24, 2015

When Tracy Met Rick

by Rosemary Hayes from the August 10, 2015 issue

Tagline: Tracy's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day turned into something quite the opposite when she met Rick...

Observations: I laughed when I read the beginning of this story because the same thing almost happened to me. This was back in the day when you actually had to insert your key into the door to unlock it. I put my key in and it didn't unlock. I was confused until I saw that a person was sitting in the driver's seat! I was so embarrassed, even though it was an honest mistake. Same make, model and color, as in the story.

I thought that Rick's opening line was funny. I always appreciate a hero with a sense of humor.

There was a little gray moment when Tracy declines his invitation to go for coffee, which is usually something I like. Even though they're only 800 words, these stories benefit from a wee bit of tension, however, I kind of thought saying she didn't go out with strangers, just so she could introduce herself, seemed a little lame.

A wedding at the end is always a surprise and an admirable feat. It's not easy to go from strangers to spouses in 800 words. :)

Photo credit: Kevin Krejci via Flickr, Creative Commons license


Monday, August 17, 2015

On Blueberry Hill

by Kady Winter from the July 27, 2015 issue

Tagline: As teens, Kelly and Ryan had been too young for happily ever after. Now, all grown up, would they get another chance at love?

Observations: I wanted to point out the tension building in this story. I thought Winter did an excellent job of ramping up the drama. And yet, it's interesting in Woman's World stories, how sometimes the climax of the story occurs in the middle and not near the end, as in this story.

The story begins with quite a bit of backstory. I've said this before and I'll say it again, where in a romance novel you're cautioned about dumping too much backstory in the front of the story, here in Woman's World Land, it's okay.

By the time we arrive at the blueberry farm, we are invested in Kelly as a character and we are as anxious as she is to see if her old flame, Ryan, is there.

We get excited and then disappointed when we see his son. There's a short break in the action as we wait for the son to fetch his dad and during that break, we're getting more and more anxious. Then, the big moment arrives:

"Kelly?"

She turned.

Right there. You see the two very short sentences? See how her turning is its own sentence? That is a very subtle touch there that draws that moment out until we're holding our breath, waiting to see if it's Ryan.

That's the climax of the story and it's near the middle. After that, the tension wanes. We get confirmation that Ryan is also single and that he never forgot her either. We also slide into a sweet, sentimental moment with them as they reminisce.

I don't know about you, but I got chills when I read the end.

Photo credit: Caleb Slemmons, via Creative Commons License

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Birthday Surprise

by Shannon Fay from the July 20, 2015 issue

Tagline: Derek went with his daughter to her friend's party, never imagining he would enjoy it as much as she did!

Observations: I really enjoyed this story. I liked how Fay had me not liking the hero at first, then changing my mind and making me root for him.

At first, I didn't like Derek at first because he was ditching his daughter to work. Now, I'll admit to my share of drop-off's at birthday parties when my kids were younger, however, this guy only sees his daughter on the weekends! I was angry with him for resisting her invitation. However, as noted in Vogler's The Writer's Journey--an EXCELLENT book for fiction writers--the hero must "resist the call" at first.

When Derek decides he needs to step up and join his daughter, he shows a bit of character. So, I thought maybe I was too quick to judge.

When he goes to the refreshment table and says, "Is this an open bar?" I laughed. He has a sense of humor. So, there's another point.

By the time the story ended, I was glad he was going to see Aggie again. I liked seeing he spent some time with his daughter at the party.

I thought that the "surprise" theme (in the title and then mentioned twice in the story) was subtle and well done.

Photo credit: Paul Sapiano via Creative Commons License


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sunshine Ahead

by April Knight from the July 13, 2015 issue

Tagline: Raine O'Day didn't mind that her name made people smile--especially people as cute as Patrick!

Observations: It never ceases to amaze me how much Woman's World loves their tropes. The car trouble trope is familiar, but the thing that makes it a little bit different is the fact that the cowbell is making the noise. I thought that was a cute little twist.

On the characterization front, I liked the little ways Knight made the Patrick and Raine likable. Raine was a good sport about her name. I have noticed that sometimes, people with names that are easily made fun of sometimes have a chip on their shoulder about it. I liked that Raine wasn't overly sensitive about her unusual name.

I liked how Patrick's sense of humor was a little off-kilter. I thought it made him adorable. I also liked that he turned the name thing around and nicknamed her Sunshine instead.

Then, when Raine found out it was the cowbell in her trunk that was making the noise, again, she was a good sport.

Sometimes I hear that in romance novels, you don't want your heroine to be a Mary Sue--meaning a woman who is just too perfect and who has no flaws. I actually think that for Woman's World stories, you sort of want to err a little on the side of a Mary Sue. The characters in these stories don't have that much of a character arc to make, if any, and so it's okay to paint them with a Father Knows Best type of brush.

Photo credit: "Cowbell-1" by Michael Malak - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cowbell-1.jpg#/media/File:Cowbell-1.jpg

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fourth of July Fireworks

by Lisa Weaver from the July 6, 2015 issue

Tagline: When Amy's van broke down on the way to the parade, help arrived in the handsome form of Fireman Dave...

Observations: I'm so short on time. I have a deadline looming and I'm a little scared I won't make it. So I'm going to do a stream of consciousness critique.

The first thing I notice is that this is first person, present tense. Not my favorite, but only because I have to get my brain into that groove.

The first few paragraphs are chock-full of information and action. Every single word is necessary and this is something you're forced to learn how to do in a Woman's World story. Eight hundred words isn't much.

The car breaks down. This is a common enough trope in Woman's World stories.

Ah, one of her charges, Lila, knows Fireman Dave. I wonder why.

Oh, he takes his shirt off? Woot! That usually doesn't happen. I love Amy's reaction of trying not to stare, but failing.

Okay, Lila's kitten must have been up a tree and Dave rescued her.

Fast forward to the parade...the moment you see Amy jump to the conclusion that Dave is married, you know that she's wrong. However, it's always fun to see the explanations and in this story it was a little out of the box. I've never seen a dog be mistaken for the wife. Weaver also explains why he's driving a total soccer mom car.

The ending fell a little bit flat for me.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Like a Rainbow

by Nell Musolf from the June 29, 2015 issue

Tagline: Megan was drawn to the man she'd just met in the paint store. It was something about the color of his eyes...

Observations:  Nell Musolf is an "old hand" at Woman's World stories and she employs a couple of devices that we see all the time.

1.  The eccentric, lovable relative appears often in Woman's World stories. Here it's Aunt Zelda. The relative can have an active part in the story, or as in this one, she's just someone the protagonist thinks about.

2. The eccentric, lovable relative usually has some bit of wisdom that he/she loves to say like "Keep your eyes--and your options--open." This bit of advice always proves to be true.

I liked how the colors ran all through the story. It was a nice motif.

Photo credit: By Visitor7 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, July 6, 2015

Unforgettable

by Rosemary Hayes from the June 22, 2015 issue

Tagline: Callie would never forget the day she lost her cellphone...and found love

Observations: Okay, this story gave me a little ripple of happiness at the base of my neck. Sometimes it's the goosebumps on the arm, but this time it was the neck.

I wanted to point out a story device I'm going to call bookending. We've talked about it before. I've also called it coming full circle. It's where you mention something at the beginning of the story and then mention it again at the end. What's cool about this example is how Hayes bookended using POV as well.

At the beginning of the story, the narrator Callie talks about special dates that stick in our minds. It's something everyone experiences and it helps us feel a connection with the storyteller. In this little section, we're a bit removed, as is the narrator.

Then Hayes eases into the real story, introducing it with that ellipsis and then going into a deeper POV so that we are Callie on the day she lost her cell phone and fell in love with the man who found it. We happily live the story of how they met, smiling and hoping that romance will win the day.

And then, boom, Hayes states a date: June 24. And just like that, we're zipped back out of the story and looking at the events from a distance again because Callie has resumed her role as narrator. She summarizes what happened with Ethan after that first meeting in the cafe, and it works. We don't need to be Callie any more because now we're like friends and she just finished telling the story of how she met the love of her life.

It's a nice little device to have in your writer's toolbox.

Clever/funny lines:

1. My stomach fluttered. I wasn't sure if it was because of his friendly laugh or because I had found a kindred "loser."

2. "I'm in the cafe across the street, actually. I'll be the person with two phones on the table."

Photo credit: SGT Christopher M. Gaylord, via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The One For Me

by Melody Murray from the June 15, 2015 issue

Tagline: Matchmaker Ellie was so busy playing cupid for others, she never considered her own love life!

Observations: Okay, maybe I'm hormonal, but this one made me get a little misty.

This was a misunderstanding trope, done very very well.

One of the things that stood out for me was, at the beginning of the story, I wasn't quite sure who the heroine was going to be. Was it going to be the matchmaker herself, or her cousin? I wasn't certain for a really long time. It wasn't until Reggie said, "It's just that I'm already interested in someone else," that I was sure the story was really about Ellie the matchmaker. That was a full halfway into the story that I was kept guessing.

I also thought Ellie's character was terrific. She was so happy and optimistic -- a little crusader for true love. How can you not like someone like that? Here's a line that I identified with:

"Because, really, she's nothing like me. She's prettier and...and shorter. You'd like her." Ellie was quite tall for a woman and had always wished she were more like her cute, petite cousin.

Who among us hasn't wished she were shorter or taller or had better hair or whatever? We all have insecurities and when the author shares the character's insecurities with the reader, it helps us feel closer to that character. And here's an even stronger example of that:

"I'm pretty sure she doesn't see me as someone she wants to date." His dark eyes looked sad.

OMG. That totally reeled me in. I felt so bad for Reggie. From that point on, I'm totally rooting for him, wanting Ellie to see the light and praying that deep down she's interested, but wasn't aware. However, I did still have a niggling
doubt. Reggie was so passive. He was just ready to accept that she wasn't interested, but then the author redeems him when he comes right out and says he's interested in her.

The only thing that bugged me was Reggie holding his hand out to her at the end. That pinged on my Corny Radar a little bit. But I still got a little teary-eyed.

Takeaway: Share your character's insecurities to help the reader identify with them.

Photo note: There were no images for a matchmaker that I could find, but I remember Jane Austen's novel about a matchmaker which was made into a wonderful movie. If you've never seen Emma, with Gwenyth Paltrow, you need to rent it. It's terrific.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Very Good Plot

by Laurel Winter from the June 8, 2015 issue

Tagline: Marie realized that a garden was a very nice place for love to grow!

Observations: I adored this story for so many reasons. It was so very skillfully written and I'll point out what impressed me.

In the beginning, we get a good feel for who Marie is. Right off the bat, we see her attraction to the man who parked next to her. We find out she has a small balcony that is too small for a garden planter, but big enough for the table where she would like to entertain. She likes to garden.

Then we see the guy again. We see he's polite, and that helps the reader like him as a potential mate for the heroine.

He waved her toward the garden gate. "You first," he said. "I have to figure out where I'm going."

We find out about the mix-up and there is some minor tension while we wonder how they'll fix the solution and then the guy suggests they share the garden plot. Is he interested? Maybe! We read on to find out.

For a little while we see them bonding and forming a connection through a thing they both like to do and when the day is over, we see them commit to the next day as a couple would, negotiating...

"Are you coming tomorrow?" she asked. "I mean, if we want to work together..."

"I'd like that," he said. "Around nine or ten?"

"Eight-thirty might be better," she said. "A good start before it gets too hot."

"You're right.," Greg agreed.

He offers to bring her coffee and asks how she likes it, so he's thoughtful and considerate, another plus.

Then, the best part is the ending. After all the groundwork has been laid for Greg and Marie's blooming (sorry about the pun) romance, the author refers back to the three goals Marie had thought about at the beginning of the story--having dirt under her fingernails, tomatoes in her future, and the possibility of having a friend over to share a drink on her tiny balcony. BOOM. That's how it's done, ladies and gentlemen.

Photo credit: Stacy via Flickr Creative Commons

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Johnny's Back

by Deanna Scott from the June 1, 2015 issue

Tagline: All through high school, Natalie had had a crush on her bad-boy neighbor. Now she was all grown up...and the bad boy was back!

Observations: I liked most of this story. There was a lot of backstory, but it didn't bug me. I like the old flame trope. I liked how Natalie talked to her dog. I liked how she was contemplating making a first move. I liked how they caught up with each other. But, for me, I didn't sense much attraction from him and when he finally asked her out? It should have felt inevitable, but instead, it felt awkward.

The only reason I can think of to explain this is this line:

"It's taken me more than 10 years to get up the nerve to ask, but do you think I could talk you out from behind that door and into taking a walk with me?"

Nothing in the story made me think he'd been holding a torch for her all this time. All the attraction was one sided. Yes, we were in her point of view, but it's still possible to show Johnny's interest through his dialogue and body language.

When he talked about his mom sending him her stories, that would have been a great place for him to--not talk about how his mom was proud of her--but what his response to them was. What did he think of them?

I also felt Johnny's character was too flip. Perhaps this was because so much had been made of his bad boy reputation. Or perhaps it's just that lack of feeling. He's described as being nonchalant at one point, but I think it went beyond that one line.

Disclaimer: I'm only one person. This is my opinion and it may differ from yours. It certainly differed from the editor's, since Woman's World thought enough of it to buy it.

Photo credit: Hannes Grobe via Wikimedia Commons License

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Just the Two of Us

by Tracy Wilson-Burns from the May 25, 2015 issue

Tagline: For Karen, the idea of a romantic getaway with Max was just a beautiful fantasy.

Observations: I adored this story. It was so refreshing to see something that wasn't a first meet. I don't think I can fault Woman's World for that, because I'll be they don't get too many stores that are not first meets.

Today I want to talk about the old adage, "Write what you know."

For the most part, I think that adage is mostly a bunch of baloney. I haven't worn ice skates for decades and I certainly never played hockey when I did have them on. I've never been a man either. However, I do write hockey romances and about half the chapters are in the man's point of view. Further, authors who write murder mysteries are most likely not writing from real life experience. Just because you are not familiar with something doesn't mean you can't write about it.

All you need to do is research. When you write, you make a promise to the reader that they will be able to suspend their disbelief for the amount of time it takes to read your story. When you break that trust with inaccuracies and implausibility, you break that trust and make readers angry or frustrated. I'm sure you know what I mean. You've most likely been on the other side of that equation.

Sometimes when you read a story, something about it doesn't seem quite right, but you may not be able to put your finger on it. That something might be a lack of authenticity which might or might not stem from a lack of research. I read hockey romances by authors who do not appear to be real fans. They have some of the lingo, but the way they use it isn't authentic.

I did not find that in this story. In fact, I wanted to point out how true to life those two little girls were. Wilson-Burns either has kids herself or is apt at observing kids and transferring that to the page. My guess is that she's a mom herself, because Karen reacted like a real mom.

The girls' dialogue was spot on. The closed door argument was perfectly rendered with the em dashes. (I was actually in awe of that. Sometimes you picture something in your head and it proves very difficult to communicate in words, but Wilson-Burns did it beautifully here.) The fact that the 10-year-old said something and the 8-year-old echoed it...so true to life.

This kind of authenticity sparkles and I guarantee that every single mom who read this story was nodding her head and remembering moments like these in her own life and that kind of identification draws the reader in and makes her almost part of the story. It's invaluable and something you should strive for.

Photo credit: Forest & Kim Starr [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Scent of Lilacs

by Karen M. Leet from the May 18, 2015 issue

Tagline: Rona had noticed the handsome new tenant in her apartment building. One spring day, something made him notice Rona too!

Observations: If you'll pardon the horrible pun, this story was blooming with romance!

When I talk about romance in Woman's World stories, I am usually referring to how you show the romance developing between the hero and heroine. We all want to believe that the couple will ride into the sunset at the end of the story (or sometime farther in the future) and it's hard to believe that if the author hasn't done a good job of building that foundation. In my first Beyond the Basics class this is one of the first essential story elements I show you how to create.

But in this case, I'm talking about the romantic gesture at the end of the story that made me inhale with surprise and delight. Giving a woman flowers is not particularly inspired, even if it is inherently romantic. However, Leet injected thoughtfulness into the gesture. The hero didn't give her any old bunch of random flowers. He gave her lilacs, her favorite scent, the flower mentioned in the poem they share-quoted.

There's a lesson to be learned here. You can have a romantic gesture in your story, like a candlelit dinner. That's perfectly fine. But if you want to catapult it into "OMG, that's so romantic!" territory, see if you can bring in an element that you mentioned earlier in the story, like Leet did. Or think about some other way that gesture can be personalized to fit your characters and their situation.

Photo credit: Sharon & Nikki McCutcheon via Flickr Creative Commons

Thursday, May 28, 2015

In the Market for Love

by M.L. Hickerson from the May 11, 2015 issue

Tagline: Nick might not have a fondness for vegetables, but there was something--or-someone--that kept him coming back to the produce stand...

Observations: I found it interesting to find a common romance novel trope in this 800 word story. There have probably been a ton of other stories this trope has appeared in, but this is the first time I've ever noticed it. Sometimes I mentally separate Woman's World romances from full-length romance novels; they're sort of like apples and oranges.

What trope might I be thinking of? It's a trope that promotes lovely conflict--something all novels need, but is not really mandatory in a Woman's World story. And the conflict is all internal.

Look back and see if you can find it.

Did you figure it out? The trope is The Secret. When one of the protagonists has a secret, it always begs to be told. The character is always worrying about it and wondering when it should be revealed. (The author wonders this too. LOL) We always worry about the reaction of the other character when the truth finally comes out.

In this story, Nick's secret was that he had no idea what to do with all those vegetables he'd been buying. (I did find myself wondering what he was doing at a farmer's market if he didn't like veggies, but it didn't stop me from enjoying the story.)

I liked that Nick ended up confessing. (Good boy. Honesty is the best policy.) I loved how their relationship grew slowly and steadily, so that by the end when you got that little plot twist, you totally believed that they could have gotten married and had a little girl, five years later.

And look at the last line.

Investing in the market had made Nick a very rich man.

There's another twist. Instead of using the word "market" like she (he?) had been, Hickerson suggested that Nick had invested in a type of stock market, and I thought it was very clever and different.

Photo credit: Infrogmation of New Orleans via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, May 22, 2015

Free as a Bird

by Nell Musolf from the April 13, 2015 issue

Tagline: When Karen and Tom worked together, they'd been just good friends. Could they be something more now?

Observations: I wanted to talk about characterization with this story, because I really thought the heroine was well done. One of the things about Woman's World stories--and really all romances, if you think about it--is how we can live vicariously through the heroines. We love reading these stories because it makes us feel as if we are in love too, or about to fall in love.

A good way to help that along is to make the heroine likable. Give her qualities that we can identify with, that make us say, "Hey, I'm like that too!" So with this story, I"m going to look at ways that Musolf did that.

1. Karen has a crush on her old boss. Who among us hasn't had a crush on someone we either weren't free to pursue and/or thought was out of our league? Anyone? Bueller? We automatically feel for her because we've been in her shoes.

2. "I took a moment to smooth my hair and make sure no blueberry muffin crumbs decorated the front of my sweater." Again, this is something we've all lived through, right? Where we're thinking, "Oh, please, let there not be something in my teeth" etc. This little moment also adds some tension for us.

3. Likability is increased when we respect the character and admire decisions he/she makes, like both of them staying professional for ten years, when they apparently both had feelings for each other.

4. And when Karen took action...that was great too.  Tom says:

"My problem is I don't like eating out alone." 

Our eyes met over the tops of our coffee cups and my heart did the thumping thing again. "You aren't seeing anyone?" 

That was Karen, taking a step forward. And here again is another step. Tom says he should try taking out someone like her and Karen says:

""Someone like me? How about me?"

That is ballsy! Again, I admire her bravery. I think Karen was a terrific character.

Photo credit: Jazzbobrown, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Walk in the Woods

by April Serock from the May 4, 2015 issue

Tagline: Sarah didn't exactly have a love of nature, but spending time outdoors just might lead to love of another kind...

Observations: I haven't done a stream-of-consciousness critique in a while, so let's do that. It's simple and easy for me, which is something I need because lately my brain is mush.

I love the first paragraph and how once she sees the handsome park ranger, her enthusiasm for the nature class increased.

Then the next paragraph makes me laugh and I am eager to read what the mishaps are, especially since I am not the most adept person when it comes to communing with nature.

OMG, she had to empty water from her sneakers. That reminds me of when my child fell into the tidepools. His shoes took like three days to completely dry.

I'm enjoying their "courtship," which seems to consist of Sarah getting into trouble and Ryan tending to her afterward. This section is pretty long, but it's well done and engaging.

I'm laughing at this part:

"I take it you haven't had much experience in the woods," he joked.

"Really?" She laughed. "What was your first clue?"

And then later, another funny, self-deprecating remark from her when she hears they're going on a night hike:

"Oh good! Walking in the woods at night. What could go wrong?"

I am now anticipating/hoping for some actual wooing from Mr. Park Ranger.

Okay, so he doesn't really go for it. He sort of hints around, but that's cool because it makes Sarah act on her own behalf. Girl power! Cute ending.

Looking back, this was a well-paced story with a lot of "telling," but it had enough dialogue and interaction that you still felt you were in the moment. I felt we saw enough interaction between them to reassure us that they have a decent chance and falling in love. I admire her moxie in suggesting she cook dinner for him, even if he pretty much told her he'd be up for that.

Photo credit: Francesco Veronesi

Sunday, May 10, 2015

You've Got Mail!

by Tina Radcliff from the April 27, 2015 issue

Tagline:
Andi Brown liked her new job, but sharing the same name with a co-worker was causing nothing but confusion...until she met the other A. Brown!

In a Nutshell:
Tired of getting her co-workers mail, Andi takes matters into her own hands. She strikes up a work place acquaintance with him until he goes one step further and asks her out for dinner.

Observations:
I'm afraid I've fallen out of the habit of reading theses stories weekly. The magazines have piled up and so I find I don't have an easy recollection of the types of stories that have been published lately. So, when I tried to think back on if I've seen a misunderstanding story lately, I couldn't remember.

However, this is a very good opportunity to talk about the trope of misunderstanding. In full-length romance novels, misunderstandings, if handled well, often create a believable conflict between the hero and heroine. If handled badly, it can seem contrived and lead to reader frustration.

In Woman's World stories, the misunderstanding is very often a way to get the hero and heroine together, as in this story. It gives the two main characters a reason to meet, and meet cute. Usually, the characters take it from there, again, as in this story.

Don't get me wrong. The other type of misunderstanding--the conflict kind--also happens in Woman's World romances. In our short 800-word stories, the misunderstanding is often based on an assumption, like the woman she sees him with must be his wife/girlfriend, right? Pfft. No. It's his female cousin/co-worker/neighbor. This kind of hokey plot works for the editors and readers of Woman's World. The trick is to make the characters interesting, get some good banter going, put a spin on it that seems new and different--like a unique setting or event or problem we haven't seen very often.

Photo credit: Russavia via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Kristen's Bucket List

by Patty Murray from the April 20, 2015 issue

Tagline
Could love be the next check on Kristen's bucket list?

In a Nutshell
Kristen is visiting the Grand Canyon. She meets an elderly woman traveling with her handsome grandson. By the end of the afternoon, he has her phone number.

Observations
You have to admire Kristen's spirit and how, undeterred by her recent divorce, is eager to take life by the horns and go out and fulfill her dreams. She's braver than I am. As hermit-like as I am, I'd take a friend.

Jake is a terrific guy, clearly dedicated to his grandmother. It's really a wonder why he's still single. LOL

However, even with these two well-drawn characters, I found myself wondering what cities they lived in.

Otherwise, I liked the story. I liked the ending. It had just the right amount of sugar and optimism for a Woman's World story.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Life Happens

Two things.

One, I have not received the March 6 or March 13 issues. If anyone can scan and send to me, I would appreciate it.

Two, my father had a serious stroke recently. He is non-ambulatory and can't speak. It's been hard dealing with that and taking over his finances. So forgive me if my analyses aren't timely.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Romance Recycled

by Emma Courtice from the March 30, 2015 issue

Tagline
Gayle enjoyed romance novels. Now it appeared some real life romance might be coming her way...

In a Nutshell
Gayle's granddaughter "needs a book for school" and the library is out of copies, so they must go to a used book store. The proprietor is a nice guy and it turns out he has a granddaughter too, who may or may not have had a hand in arranging the serendipitous meeting.

Observations
I wanted to point out a few of the things I noticed about this story. First, there was a nice addition of backstory in the sixth paragraph. The backstory is all the stuff the reader might need to know about the characters in order to enjoy the story that's unfolding now. We find out that Gayle is recently widowed. We had already discovered she has a high-school-aged granddaughter earlier. And we don't really find out much more than that at this point because it's not necessary. With only 800 words to work with, don't tell more than you need to.

There was a bit of characterization that I wanted to point out...

Gayle ran a finger along a row of titles. "Well, I used to read a lot, but nowadays it's hard to find the time."

"You have to find time for the important things," he said.

I loved seeing that he thought reading was important. I thought, "Gayle, he's a keeper."

I also noticed a sign that they were attracted to each other--or at least Bill was attracted to Gayle...

"Nice to meet you, Gayle." He held her hand a fraction of a second longer than necessary.

Notice, it's really not much. Just one sentence. But it's important to show the characters are interested in one another. It helps the reader believe the romance has a chance. Because haven't we all read stories where after you're done, you wonder if they're going to end up breaking up eventually?

Finally, I thought that the tying in of the important stuff line was perfect. We see the granddaughter, Kayla, speaking up and showing her true colors as a "meddling" matchmaker. We see that Bill isn't the only one who says that you have to make time for important things. (A tenet I believe, as well.) And we get that feeling of circularity--almost like tying up a loose end at the end of a novel--except this isn't a loose end. It's just that feeling of everything coming full circle.

Photo Credit: Stewart Butterfield via Wikimedia Commons


Friday, April 3, 2015

Rx for Love

by Julie Elstner from the April 6, 2015 issue

Tagline
Jess realized that John Garrett might turn out to be just what the doctor ordered!

In a Nutshell
Jess is a reporter for the local paper and she has to do an interview with a doctor before her father's 60th birthday party. Later, she meets the doctor at the party.

Observations
I thought the "pink looks good on you" joke was cute and endearing. I liked the ending a lot and how Dr. John Garrett knows what he wants and isn't shy about letting people know.

However, I thought that the confusion about the name was (sorry!) a little weak. Jess, to me, is a female name. I had to actually think a couple of moments to think of what Jess would be short for if it were a man. Jesse, I guess. Whereas, Jess, in my mind is short for Jessica or Jessie. If you're going to go for the unisex name misunderstanding, then I would choose one  like Chris or Alex.

I also stumbled a bit when she finished the interview and went to get a bottle of champagne. Early in the story there was some concern over her being late to the party because of the interview. But then she takes the time to get the champagne. My thought is, poor planning, Jess. It's your dad's 60th. You shouldn't wait until 20 minutes before the party to think about a gift (if the bubbly was the gift.)

Photo Credit: CDC via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Laughing All the Way

by Shelley Cooper from the March 23, 2015 issue

Tagline
Once just neighbors and friends, Naomi and Jacob now saw each other through the eyes of love...

In a Nutshell
When the mother of the bride cries at the wedding and reception, the father of the groom tries to get her to laugh. As they reminisce about how their son and daughter fell in love, awareness of him flickers in the mom.

Observations
OMG. I totally teared up reading this one and I haven't done that in a long time. It was this line that did it:

"And what did that wonderful girl of yours..." He stopped, took a long breath, then cleared his throat. "What did Janey do when Julian came home from Afghanistan, broken in body and spirit?"

That pause as the dad has to rein in his emotions? And the fact that Julian was a soldier? I was a goner. I'd love to see in the comments below how many of you got misty as well.

While there was a slight info dump via dialogue when the mom answers that question (As you know, Bob...), I just glossed over it, anxious to find out what happened outside of that hospital room.

Then, there's the moment when Naomi realizes. Another big sigh. Cooper captured that moment perfectly. This is something that I sometimes notice is not done enough in Woman's World stories, especially ones that I edit. I know the word count is extremely tight, but if you're going to skimp, the emotional payoff moment is not the place to do it.

Also, notice that there is no black moment. None was needed, which is really interesting to me and worth noting.

Photo credit: Brian Reid via Flickr Creative Commons