Monday, November 24, 2014

Good Sports

by April Knight from the November 17, 2014 issue

Tagline
Julie and Will met and discovered they liked an didn't like a  lot of the same things!

In a Nutshell
Julie is thinking about changing jobs so she'll meet more men. While staring at a sporting goods store window, lost in thought, she meets a man who is just as non-athletic as she is.

Observations
I wish I liked this story more than I did. This one came in solidly average to me.

My favorite line was "Hey, would you like to have a coffee with me?" He pointed to a cafe across the street. "We can discuss all the things we aren't good at."

Photo Credit: pdphoto.org (pdphoto.org) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wrong Number, Right Man!

by Anna Jo Christopher from the November 10, 2014 issue

Tagline
Becky's silly mistake resulted in a very romantic outcome!

In a Nutshell
Becky is helping her grandmother out, changing the batteries on her wall phone. When she accidentally direct-dials the police department, an old flame comes to investigate the emergency.

Observations
This story was everything we'd expect in a Woman's World story and done well. I wrote many positive comments in the margins. First, I loved the foreshadowing in the very first paragraph:

Sometimes I think nobody in the world makes the kinds of silly mistakes I do. But then I think, if I hadn't made that one silly mistake, I wouldn't have become the happiest woman on earth.

Not only do I identify immediately with the heroine (because I make a lot of silly mistakes), but I find out that I am in for a full-on happy ending. Woman's World stories rarely end with marriage, but judging from this paragraph, I am hopeful.

Next, the whole problem with getting the phone back on the wall...that is also totally me. I have been there, done that. So I sympathized with the heroine. I have not, however, accidentally called the police. (Although I sort of wish I had.) I loved this surprise, which I didn't see coming. I did notice some odd attention spent on describing the memorized emergency numbers, but didn't think anything of it.

I was surprised a second time by the fact that the cop and the heroine knew each other. Old flame stories are not exactly uncommon, but I wasn't expecting this twist. Perhaps because usually there's only one surprise to be found.

I liked the humor too:

"Those were fun times," he said. "Cops and robbers. We terrorized the neighborhood."

I raised an eyebrow. "Glad to see you chose the more ethical road." 

And finally, there was the hinted-at happy ending. The marriage, the tying in of the snickerdoodles mentioned at the beginning of the story, and a reminder about the silly mistake wrapped everything up beautifully.

When comparing this week's story with last weeks, I think these are both familiar plots, but story two had a couple of surprises and some humor, which made all the difference.

Photo credit: Nightflyer via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Abracadabra!

by Pamela Hart from the November 3, 2014 issue

Tagline
Rosie had a feeling a little black cat would bring her luck. And she was right!

In a Nutshell
Rosie adopts a black cat. Two little trick-or-treaters, dressed as black cats, come to the door with their handsome (divorced) dad. They all just moved into the neighborhood.

Observations
I was not wowed by this story. There was nothing wrong with it. It just didn't stand out in any way. We've seen these characters before--the single woman, the divorced dad, the happy kids. We've seen this plot before--two people meet because of some activity the kids are doing. There was no outstanding banter or emotion or a creative twist. I read it and shrugged. Maybe you had some other reaction.

Photo credit: By Chris Yarzab (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons




Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Full Moon Madness

by Lisa Weaver from the October 24, 2014 issue

Tagline
When Alex met Katie, Halloween went from scary to enchanting!

In a Nutshell
A woman is out on Halloween and a werewolf notices her being followed. When she is ambushed, she takes down one guy herself and the werewolf, an undercover cop, captures the other. They make a date for coffee.

Observations
This was a very unusual story in that it was bursting with surprises! I very much enjoyed the first person hero POV. It was refreshing. The beginning was very "telling," and you really get a narrator feeling from the guy. It might have been dull except for the fact that he's in protector-mode, which is a great trait to have if you're the hero in a romance story.

My first surprise was when the woman took the one guy down with a karate chop. That was awesome and so unexpected. Then, when the werewolf turned out to be a copy, I was like, "Whoa! Double whammy!"

However, there were some fight mechanics that were a bit off. Forgivable in a story like this, but in a more gritty and realistic story, would irritate me. Katie manages to take a guy down with karate and still hold onto the basket. I questioned why he didn't cuff the first guy before taking him back to the scene of the crime. I also thought with all the grabbing and karate chopping, the cupcakes would either have flown out of the basket or been hopelessly messed up.

I also thought it was a little stupid of her to go down that street, especially after his seminar at her school was one on safety. Knowledge of karate doesn't mean you should take unnecessary risks.

But, still, a great story!

Photo credit: By Kristin Ausk (originally posted to Flickr as Cupcake sampler box) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Puppy Love

by Shannon Fay from the October 13, 2014 issue

Tagline
If Marina could rename the puppy her daughter had found, she might call him Cupid!

In a Nutshell
Marina and her daughter find a lost puppy under the porch of their new house. While putting up "found" posters, they run into a man and his son putting up "lost" posters.

Observations
This week we have a "Brady Bunch" story. A man and his son and a woman and her daughter. Not as many kids, same premise.

I liked Becky and how, even though she was disappointed that her mom said no to adopting the dog, she immediately brightened at the thought of trying to help the people who had lost him.

I LOVED how the two families met putting up their signs. What a great idea! Wish I'd thought of it.

The scene where the kids take off toward Becky's house to get the puppy was so funny and plausible. Any parent would identify with the line, "Ever feel like you're not in charge?" Hilarious.

I also liked the moment when, after she talks about her recent divorce, Matt says, "Believe me, it gets better." That was a real tender moment and an important one. I've mentioned before that it's challenging to get the reader to truly believe that a happily-ever-after could come true when you only have 800 words to set it up. But if you include a moment like this one, where the hero and heroine truly connect and where some real emotion happens, you're that much closer to pulling it off.

I wish the ending where she invites them to stay for pizza was a little less--dare I say it?--cheesy. If it had been my story, I'd have worked that line over until it hit the nail on the head. You could leave the set-up the way it is:

"Would you and Ryan like to stay for dinner?" Marina said. "We were just going to order pizza. Nothing special."

An average ending would be more like, "Pizza's our favorite. How about we bring a two-liter of soda to go with it?" Something along those lines.

Or I might try to tie in something from earlier in the story, like...there's a lost and found theme. Maybe Matt could turn to Ryan and say, "Well, son, we lost our puppy, but it looks like we found some new friends." But then, that's a little corny too. Hmm. Anyway, my point is, it needed some work, in my opinion.

Photo credit: Adrian Flint (Sony Digital Camera) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Some Enchanted Evening

by Susan C. Hall from the October 20, 2014 issue

Tagline
The moment Paige spotted the handsome stranger across the crowded room, she knew. Somehow...she knew.

In a Nutshell
Paige is a teacher. She notices one of the parents and finds out he's divorced. He asks her to help him cook an acorn squash. They hit it off.

Observations
This story didn't grab me. I thought it was strange that he would ask her out. I know his son was not in her class, but it still felt weird to me. Perhaps if they'd had more of a conversation than "Where can I find Mrs. Ericson's room" I would have understood and accepted that this was a normal progression, but it seemed out of the blue to invite her to his house for dinner.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get past that. However, I did think the end was clever.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

SOLD!

I was surprised to find an envelope from Woman's World today. I have not submitted a story for a very long time. Since June of 2012! Even more surprising was that it was a contract, not a rejection.

It's a holiday story. My very first holiday story sale to them.

I am walking on air!