Saturday, February 6, 2016

Brewing up Romance

by T.R. McClure from the February 1, 2016 issue

Tagline: Kara thought she'd have to close her coffee shop...until a handsome customer kept coming back for more!

Observations: As a coffee lover and barista, I liked this story a lot. I liked the spunky heroine. While I thought the name of her cafe could have used some imagination, I admired her on-the-spot promotional idea of sending the muffins with Tom.

There were two things I wanted to point out. I felt the dialogue and interaction between Kara and Tom felt real, especially the part where Tom asks about why her business has slowed down. That scene was described so perfectly, I could really picture it--him pausing and turning after having obviously wrestled with whether or not to ask that personal question. Loved it.

I also liked that bit of humor where Tom is asking her out and flubs it up by asking her to coffee. That made me smile.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Smooth Sledding

by Kady Winter from the January 25, 2016 issue

Tagline: After years of loneliness, Eddie was certain he'd never love again. Then he met Olivia!

Observations: I am SO EXCITED to critique this story, because Kady came to me wanting an edit on her second Woman's World story and so I'm really proud that it sold. To tell the truth, it was already a good story, but with some tweaks it became a story I would have bet a thousand dollars would sell. And it did!

I just read this revised version and Kady did an excellent job with the revamp. I can tell because I got teary at the end of the story. It really tugged at my heartstrings. I really was rooting for Eddie to be happy.

There are many things I loved about this story. There is an Americana feel to it, like we're reading a Norman Rockwell painting, come to life. This giant toboggan sled is something a Southern California born and bred girl like me has no experience with, so I found that terrific. There was that little "old-fashioned" touch of Eddie helping her out of the sled. Loved that.

But mainly, this story is another study in character development. If Kady comes here and sees this, maybe she can help me out here, because I seem to remember suggesting that she make the story be from Eddie's point of view and this really, deservedly, made him the star of the story. I can't find the original story she sent me. My computer ate it, apparently.

I'll give you a run down on how we come to care about Eddie. When we first meet him, he's working hard as a volunteer. Admirable. We immediately find out he's alone now and as we wonder why, we feel for him. Poor guy, right? Then in Act 2, we see he's not all doom and gloom. He is interested in the woman at the post office, but we also witness him struggle to work up the courage to talk to her. We find out why he's alone right now. We see him conquer his fear and his loneliness and make a decision to act and we think, "You go, Eddie!!" And then that "mean" author, makes him fail. Did you feel as disappointed as I did?

So, we move into Act 3. Eddie gets another chance. We're all rooting for him again. "You can do it, Eddie," we're all thinking. We meet Olivia and she's so nice and Eddie is trying so hard. The author creates a little tension as we hope Olivia conquers her own fear and says yes to the sled. We spend a nice amount of time here as they make an emotional connection.

After that, we are in the denouement of the story. It's funny how our experience as readers mirrors that of the characters who are also "coming down" from the thrill of the ride. The last paragraph really tugs the heartstrings. Eddie has come full circle. At the beginning of the story, he's not sure he has the heart to move on with his life, even after three years of mourning. At the end of the story, we see he has a lot of love left inside him.

Photo credit: Erik Hansen via Flickr Creative Commons License

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Help?

I have not received the January 25 issue. If anyone can send me a photo of it, I would very much appreciate it. :)

UPDATE: Thank you, Mary Jo, for sending me a scan of the missing story!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Kate's Stories

Here is a list of the stories I've had published by Woman's World. I needed a place to keep track. I might end up posting the stories in their entirety.

2005 - Her Lucky Stars, In His Eyes, Heaven Sent

2006 - Again and Forever, Hot Stuff

2007 - Sixteen Again

2009 - Truth or Dare

2010 - A New Attitude

2012 - The Perfect Storm

2013 - Two From Column B, Just One Word

2014 - The Best Christmas Gift

2016 - Love In Bloom

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Happily-Ever-After Kind

by Le Ann Dowd from the January 18, 2016 issue

Tagline: Everyone loves a story with a happy ending...even Uncle Jack!

Observations: I loved this story. I got to the first funny part and laughed. I got to a second place and thought, this is a funny story, but the laughs just kept coming. I also loved the hero Jack. He was confident. He was a great uncle and brother. He had his heart broken, which made me feel bad for him. He was adorably awkward and wryly hilarious.

Some of my favorite Jack lines/thoughts:

I figured I'd catch up on office emails while the kids did...well, whatever kids do at these things.

Besides this childcare thing looked like a slam dunk. By my calculations, one grown man ought to be more than a match for two little kids. How hard could it be? I'd asked myself. Okay, spell it with me: Capital H-A-R-D, exclamation point!

"And I'm single," I blurted, then blushed.

Dowd used first person to get us that much closer to him and it worked very well. By the end of the story, I felt as if we were friends.

This story is a good example of how you can almost create an entire story around one fully developed character, because you notice we don't really get too much about Miss Story Time, Kathleen. We didn't have to. We met and got to know Jack instead. We saw him grow too. He started out, like I said, a bit overconfident and intent on working too much to alleviate his hurt at being left at the altar. By the end of the story, he had a greater understanding about how challenging and tiring it can be to watch over children. He also reached out to Kathleen, apparently ready to put the heartache aside and start again.

Photo credit: Don Shall via Flickr Creative Commons License

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Wish Upon a Star

by Tracie Rae Griffith from the December 21, 2015 issue (Sorry about this. I had misplaced this story.)

Tagline: Living far from her family, in a new town, Emilee would celebrate Christmas alone this year. Or so she thought...

Observations: I wasn't bowled over by this story, but I will say that I hold holiday stories to a little bit higher standard. Holiday stories, I feel, should have that extra something that makes us feel warm inside, and I didn't have that feeling at the end of this story.

I thought the fact that she was a daycare worker and he was a high school counselor was cute and I really loved the part where he's holding his crying niece in his arms and all he can say is, "Help." Darling!

However, from then on the story lost a little steam. Emilee's feeling that she was going to have a great holiday came across as unfounded. She helped her cute neighbor settle his niece down and shared hot chocolate with him. I'm not sure how that is any indication her holiday will be a good one.

There was also a bit of a dead-end conversation about skiing...

"Looks like we'll have good ski conditions," Jack said, looking out the window at the snow that had begun to fall. He turned to face her. "Do you ski, Emilee?"

"I love it," she said, pleased to see the smile her words brought to Jack's face.

"Well, I guess we'd better get going."

Huh. Perhaps something more was edited out. With stories this short--and I believe it might say something to this effect in the guidelines--every word must propel the plot forward. The skiing conversation doesn't do anything. I'd rather have seen that part go away and a bit more added to the part where he's inviting her to the open house. Perhaps a small gray moment where she demurs and says she doesn't want to intrude and then Jack says something that makes us all sigh happily.

Photo credit: Foolfillment via the Flickr Creative Commons License


Monday, January 11, 2016

Mom's Online Dating Adventure

by Susan Jaffer from the January 11, 2016 issue

Tagline: Okay, Lori had suggested online dating...but she never imagined her mother would take her advice!

I thought this was a cute story. Considering how popular online dating is, I'm surprised we don't see more stories featuring it.

Positives: I liked seeing the relationship between mother and daughter. I think many of us have experienced a reversal of roles regarding our parents. I'm old enough now so that my mother is looking to me for advice and help and my sister and I have my dad's power of attorney. I saw that reversal to a lesser degree here in this story.

"Seriously, which dating site was it?"

"I'm not going to tell you, Lori, because you'll look up my profile and make fun of it."

This rang so true and real.

I also liked all the reject candidates. That was cute.

Negatives: I was a little confused about Uncle Dan. When his name was first introduced, I got the feeling that he wasn't Lori's blood uncle, but his relationship was still murky until near the end of the story when we find out what the deal is:

"As you pointed out yourself, Lori, he's not actually your uncle," Mom said. "He's an old family friend, like Aunt Bev and Aunt Lindsay. I've known Dan since high school."

This is definitely an "as you know, Bob" paragraph. The mom even says, "As you pointed out yourself." There are defter ways of getting this type of information across. For instance, here is where Uncle Dan is first mentioned:

"Not exactly. Dan--you know, Uncle Dan--overheard our conversation, and he said he could help get me started."

There it is again. It even says "you know." Yes. Lori knows. Which is why it's awkward to put forth the information to the reader like this.

The author could have said something like this instead:

Lori nodded. It amused her that even though Lori was an adult, her mom still felt compelled to call him "Uncle Dan" when he wasn't a relative at all.

We're in Lori's POV. Take advantage of that.

Photo credit: John Ward via Flickr Creative Commons license