Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Falling for You

by Alison Richards from the February 8, 2021 issue

TaglineWhen Julie's handsome archnemesis, Mike, arrives at their annual work Super Bowl party, it's game on...until he scores a touchdown in her heart.

Observations: Congratulations to one of my workshop students, Alison Richards, on the sale of her story! I'm so excited for her. My apologies about the white strips behind the text. I can't figure out how to get rid of it. LOL

This story was about a potluck duel of sorts. The heroine fancies herself a skilled cook because her football inspired deviled eggs look so cute. Then, her handsome co-worker shows up with a dip that looks like an entire football field. 

I wanted to point out this one paragraph in the last third of the story because it's doing an important job. I hope you have the whole story in front of you because the point I'm trying to make will only make sense if you can go back and read the whole story again.

They chatted in the kitchen as she helped him make goal posts out of pretzel sticks. She told him about her father's stunt work and how she now taught volunteer classes in balance and fall prevention at the senior center. He explained that he'd moved to town when his youngest child graduated from college. His wife had passed away a few years earlier, and it was time for a fresh start.

Please notice that there isn't that much connecting going on in this particular paragraph. Most of that happens real time--when he comes to her rescue after her fall and when they're bantering. What I wanted you to notice was how this paragraph acts as a transition from the middle of the story to the next.

Basically the story goes like this:

Beginning of the story - We meet Julie and get a feel for her character. Then she falls.

Middle of the story - We meet Mike as he comes to her rescue. We learn about their "rivalry." They connect, real time, joking around with each other.

End of the story - They make a truce and pave the way for more romance in the future.

So, think of this kind of transition paragraph as one of the tools you can use when crafting your stories. 

Photo by Dennis Yang via Flickr Creative Commons license

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Love in Aisle #4

by Deborah Clack from the January 25, 2021 issue

Tagline: Cheryl is just picking up dessert at the grocery store...but when Kurt appears, it looks like love is on the menu...

Observations: I haven't done a stream-of-consciousness post in a while, so here goes! For those of you who haven't seen this, it's where I just type down what I'm thinking as I read the story. 

Nice description of the guy.

I love that line..."Are you having a salad crisis?" LOL

Aha! Clack clearly knows her greens. I don't like frisee or kale in salads. The texture of frisee is too fluffy and raw kale is too tough.

I'm always a little amused when characters' fingers touch when handing something over. Maybe I'm a germaphobe or something, but when I take or give things to and from strangers, I try really hard not to touch them. LOL But you know, it's a romance story device, so I'm fine with it.

Ha! I've never heard of break and bake. LOL

And once Cheryl mentions a dinner she's going to, I immediately suspect they're going to the same dinner.

I'm impressed by Kurt's ingenuity regarding the bundt cake.

I liked how Clack revealed that they were indeed going to the same dinner.

Really cute ending with the kale confession! But I did wonder about them faking eating dinner and "ditch[ing] them for dinner at Sal's Steak House." I kind of wish they'd just made a date to go out another night.

Photo by denabola 2025 via Flickr Creative Commons License

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Love on the Ice

 by Marcella Robinson from the January 18, 2021 issue

Tagline: Nora is still feeling the chill of her divorce...until Blake warms her heart with the promise of new love.

Observations: This was a lovely story. There wasn't anything particularly novel or different about it; it was simply well-written solid stuff.

My favorite part was this:

It was as if a veil of safety draped over Nora, being so close to him. Even though it was only her hand on his forearm, strength emanated from him. Strength that he could take on any burden and carry it with ease.

Then, Robinson made me laugh when she had that big strong hero fall after all. That was unexpected and, as is the new tradition on this blog, Robinson earns the Kate Willoughby Handshake for surprising me! 

Photo by XTRAICE via Flickr Creative Commons License

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Snow Day

 by Shelley Cooper from the January 4, 2021 issue

Tagline: In the midst of a snowball fight with her nephews, Maeve joins forces with their handsome neighbor, Simon...and gets hit with a surprising new chance at love.

Observations: Shelley Cooper has done it again. I loved this story! This is my favorite part:

Since she wasn't one to get a dare go unchallenged, she gathered a handful of snow and mounded it into a tight ball.

"What's she doing?" Patrick's voice held a panicked note.

"She's not going to throw that at Mr. Graves?" Peter sounded equally panicked.

"Yes, she is!" Parker's eyes shone with admiration as Maeve stood and aimed.

I also loved the rules that kept cropping up.

Photo by John Lodder via Flickr Creative Commons License

Skating Through Christmas

by Shelley Cooper from the December 21, 2020 issue

Tagline: Facing Christmas alone, Holly is struggling to get into the holiday spirit, when a surprising gift leads her to the skating pond...and a shot at love.

Observations: When I got to the part where her parents gave her her old skates, I knew this story was going to be fantastic and I wasn't disappointed. Maybe it's because when I was about seven years old, I took ice skating lessons with dreams of being a Chinese Peggy Fleming. (I think I lasted about a month. LOL)

The phrase "heart-clenchingly handsome," didn't float my boat, but I was highly amused by their holiday themed names - Nicholas Winter and Holly Snow. Too cute.

At the end of the story, Cooper calls back two things that she introduces at the beginning, a great trick to tie things together, sort of like when you gather a stack of papers and then jostle them together so they're all squared up.

Here's a quote for the first call back.

"...The theme for this holiday is relaxation."

Then, at the end of the story...

The smile on his face reminded her of what the season was really about: togetherness.

For call back number two, the cancelled blind date doesn't seem significant at the beginning of the story until you (and the characters!) realize they were each other's blind date.

This story wins the Kate Willoughby Handshake for surprising me. I hadn't foreseen that they were each other's blind date.

Photo by Jeremy Keith via Flickr Creative Commons License

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A Perfectly Good Man

 by Marcie McEachern from the December 14, 2020 issue

Tagline: Kristen is unsure if moving to a new town was the right choice, until a dashing stranger gives her the sign she's been hoping for.

Observations: It's been a while since I saw a story with the trope of "Grandma's Advice," so I was glad to see it in this story. This is a tried and true Woman's World plot in which the heroine remembers a piece of advice, usually a saying, that a relative always said. It's usually about love, but it doesn't have to be. It's also usually a heroine, but you could swap the genders for a twist. Usually the advice ends up coming true, but McEachern put her own twist on it and wrote a story that did not conform to the norm. 

I liked the humor at the end of the story. 

Photo by Marco Verch via Flickr Creative Commons License

The Thanksgiving Saving Grace


by Maria Gorman from the November 30, 2020 issue

Tagline: When Grace gets a flat tire on the way to her sister's Thanksgiving dinner, a handsome stranger comes to her rescue...and winds up her guest of honor.

Observations: Okay, I have a confession to make. I am addicted to Criminal Minds. I never watched this show when it was on the networks, but I discovered it on Netflix and I can't stop watching episodes. Unfortunately, this means I am thinking about serial killers more frequently than most people, which is why I couldn't help thinking that Grace needed to be much more careful, especially on a back country road where there are no witnesses. LOL

Other than that, and my thought that she should have called her sister ahead of time to see if it was okay, I thought it was a solid man-to-the-rescue story. 

Photo by Rodney Campbell via Flickr Creative Commons License

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Apple of His Ice Cream

 by Marcie McEachern from the November 23, 2020 issue

Tagline: When an ice cream vendor starts stealing business from her pie stand, Amanda never expects he'll be stealing her heart too!

Observations: Marcie McEachern is quickly becoming a regular contributor. Obviously, she's figured out what the editors like.

In this story you'll find two Woman's World tried and true elements.

  • A nostalgic Norman Rockewellian event like apple picking
  • Comfort food x two!
I truly enjoyed seeing the heroine wrestle with her conscience and choose to take the high road. Sometimes reading a Woman's World story is like the opposite of watching a reality show in that we can actively see people making good choices that demonstrate character.

Photo by Jennifer Boyer via Flickr Creative Commons License

Heart to Hearth

by Jill Weatherholt from the December 7, 2020 issue

Tagline: When Jacquelyn calls in an expert to clean out her chimney, she never expects to start a fire in her own heart!

Observations: I really liked this story and it's funny because I need a chimney sweep's services too! We haven't had a fire in our fireplace for many years, and like Jacquelyn, I'm afraid to try until I have a professional make sure everything's okay.

I was a little surprised at how melancholy the story got. If it had been me, I'd have been worried I'd pushed the sympathy a little too far, but the editors didn't seem to mind.

I loved how he came dressed up. I also loved his chimney sweep joke. (It makes me want to watch Mary Poppins. LOL) 

Photo by Karl Baron via Flickr Creative Commons License

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Love a la Mode

by Carol Kalme from the October 5, 2020 issue

Tagline: When Judy goes apple picking, she gets more than she bargained for when she runs into an old flame.

Observations: You can't choose a more fall-inspired activity than apple picking, which is a personal bucket list item. I really enjoyed the part where they were recalling how they'd known each other in college. (For the record, I would give apple pie and peanut butter ice cream a try. It sounds good!) 

I wasn't crazy about him touching her chin and turning her face toward him. That seemed too intimate, considering they hadn't seen each other for many years and even then, they were customer and pie girl. 

I loved the surprise that they'd been set up. I've mentioned before that I'm difficult to surprise and this author accomplished it! (If you're a Great British Baking Show fan, you'll understand when I say I feel a little like surprising me is this blog's equivalent of the Paul Hollywood handshake. LOL) 

However, I did feel a moment of confusion when I wondered how the daughter could have known they were acquainted in college. It seems unlikely that either Richard or Judy would have mentioned each other to her. Then I thought okay, it was just a coincidence. The daughter had no foreknowledge that her boss and her mother had known each other. She was just playing matchmaker, which is fine, but I did have that moment where I questioned things and that might be on me and my analytic mind. What was your experience with this story? Tell me in the comments!

Photo by Shardayyy Photography via Flickr CC license.