Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Christmas to Remember! by Brenda Minton

from the December 25, 2017 issue

Tagline: A past good deed turns into a special Christmas for Lydia and Jason...

Observations: I know I said I wasn't going to analyze the Harlequin stories, but I think they're getting the hang of writing for Woman's World, so here we go.

This was a lovely story. It was easy to see why they chose it to appear in the December 25th issue. In the past, I have cautioned against including too much sadness in your stories. This is still true. You can mention the death of a spouse, but you can't dwell on it too much. This story strikes the perfect balance between including the melancholy but still managing to be an uplifting read at the end.

Here's that poignant moment where that information is revealed:

"My daddy taught me that Christmas is always in our hearts," the little girl said with authority. "My mommy is in my heart too, even though she's in Heaven."

Lydia didn't know what to say. She knelt before the girl, putting them at eye level.

"I think that's a very wise thing your daddy told you. And since we both know Christmas is special, I have something special for you. Homemade peppermint sticks. Would you like one?"

So, you get that sentimental tug, you introduce the information that this man is a widower, but then you move on.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Merry and Bright by Elizabeth Palmer

Tagline: Dani was determined to get the Christmas lights up. But a power outage interrupted her long enough to have chicken soup with her handsome neighbor...

Observations: Wow. This was a really terrific story. As I read it, I got happy ping after happy ping. I always go into a story neutral and let it take me where it will. This one brought me to a warm fuzzy feeling.

1. I loved the pluckiness of the heroine. Of course, we all know how devastating it would be to suffer a broken engagement, but Dani is resilient and we like to show the heroines in Woman's World rising to challenges. Woman's World magazine is all about showing women how to live better, be happier, achieve their goals. This mission is also evident in the fictional stories as well.

2. I loved the humor in this story. The heroine meets the hero and sees they're wearing identical hats...

"I'm Rick Black and I see from your hat that you've already met my mother."

3. Another funny part:

"Would it help if I told you I was an electrician?"

"Only if you can turn the power back on."

4. I loved when Rick said, "You seem pretty capable to me, but I'd be happy to help out." That right there is a hero demonstrating a) he is easy with his compliments and b) he is willing to help. Both good traits in a love interest.

5. The ending was wonderful. Am I the only one who got a warm feeling when reading this?

When they stepped outside, she gasped at the sight of her brightly decorated home.

"Simply beautiful!" Rick said.

Dani turned to thank him, but it wasn't her house he was gazing at. She blushed and looked back at the glowing lights, filled with joy. "Yes, it is."

Photo credit: Dion Gillard (via Flicker CC license)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Making Christmas Memories by Tina Radcliffe

from Issue #50

Tagline: Joan had just enough money for her twins to have their Christmas wish...would the handsome store manager be able to help?

Observations: I haven't pointed out a man to the rescue story in a long time. The man to the rescue story can be about a woman to the rescue too, but there's something about it being the man that I think resonates a little more strongly with the Woman's World readers, because the majority are women.

I mean, look at Steve Lind. The heroine has a big problem and the guy goes way above and beyond the call of duty to help her solve it.  If the man does this kind of thing for a total stranger, what might he do for the woman he loves?

In part, our job as romance authors is to create that perfect hero, the man the reader wants to fall in love with. One way to do that (quickly, in 800 words) is to show a man who not only talks the talk, he walks the walk.

Favorite line: "Sure. It's the season for miracles, right?"

Photo credit: Umberto Brayj (via Flickr CC license)

Friday, December 29, 2017

Just in Time by Mary Jo Young

From the January 1, 2018 issue

Tagline: Glenda was always running late...until she met a kindred soul at just the right time!

Observations: This week's story needed a little more romance for me. In my opinion, the ideal Woman's World story needs to show attraction between the man and the woman, a connection, some camaraderie and some humorous banter. I know this sounds like a laundry list, but I think with the exception of the humor, these things need to be present in order for us to believe that these two people might be able to build a future together.

In this story, for me, the hero and heroine didn't quite spend enough "quality time" with each other. For most of the story he was businesslike. This made sense because this was a business meeting. He loosened up a little at the end, just wasn't enough for me.

However, this is only my opinion. Obviously, the editors liked it. :)

I did think that the hero was clever in making the reservations for a half hour later because they were all chronically late. I actually do this sometimes with my husband. LOL

Photo credit: Tinou Bao (Flickr cc license)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Meeting Mr. Right by Dani Collins

This was one of the Harlequin stories. I thought it was well done and perfectly in line with what we're used to seeing.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Test-drive For Love by Jill Weatherholt

from the December 4, 2017 issue

Tagline: Nell was anxious about replacing her old car...until she met the car salesman!

Observations: This story was a good example of showing a heroine with a mindset that changes over the course of the story. She starts out thinking used car salesmen are shady and ends up realizing that's not true at all. The trick with writing these types of stories, is that you can't just abracadabra have the attitude change. You have to show it happening, while pushing the romance at the same time, and Weatherhold did this very well.

This would be a good starting point if you're stuck finding a story idea. Just think of different beliefs and then brainstorm ways a character could change his/her mind about that belief. Like "the best Christmases have snow," or "health food tastes bad," or "cats are snooty," or what have you. It can also be a belief about the character himself/herself. "I have a brown thumb." "I'm too tall." "I can't tell a joke." This is actually very much in line with the vibe of the magazine--to be positive and optimistic.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thankful Hearts! by Amy Michaels

From the November 20, 2017 issue

Tagline: Kate and her daughter expected a lonely Thanksgiving...but a winter storm changed everything!

Observations: I got warm fuzzies from this story. It was like a super short Hallmark movie on paper. I loved this idea of an entire neighborhood coming together. It's worth noting that when the hero and heroine work on something together--in this case, it was a blackout neighborhood Thanksgiving potluck (say that 10 times fast!)--it can forward their relationship.

Like, remember that movie, Speed, with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves? Remember how after the ordeal with the bus and the mad bomber, they ended up kissing? Just think of a Woman's World story like that, but way way way way way way way toned down. LOL Here in "Thankful Hearts," the crisis isn't nearly as intense or dangerous, but they get past it together. So that's one way to get an idea for a story. Think of a minor crisis and come up with a way for a hero and heroine to solve the problem by working together.

Photo credit: Patricia (Brownies for Dinner) (Flickr CC license)