The Highest Bidder continuity covers (part 1)

Reading: Shadow Kin by MJ Scott
Watching: Primeval
Listening to: How We Do by Rita Ora

I love me a good cover!  So I’m excited to be showing off the covers for Desire’s new The Highest Bidder continuity 🙂  Here’s the first three:

Maureen Child – Gilded Secrets (July)
When scandal threatens the luxury auction house that bears his family’s name, Vance Waverly suspects the media feeding frenzy is an inside job. Could his gorgeous assistant, Charlotte Potter, be plotting Waverly’s downfall? There’s one way to find out: seduce the truth out of her!

Charlie is between a rock and a hard place. She can reveal Waverly’s secrets to her unidentified blackmailer or lose custody of her child. Whatever she does, she’ll lose the career she loves. But losing the man she’s come to love–her big, bad boss–could put her over the edge….

Read an excerpt  |  check out Maureen’s website

Charlene Sands – Exquisite Acquisitions (August)
For Macy Tarlington, the only good part of seeing her legendary mother’s possessions sold at auction is ogling Carter McCay, the tall Texan who buys the famous diamond ring. Even better is seeing him again when he rescues her from the paparazzi like a white knight in a Stetson.

Carter whisks her to safety at Wild River Ranch, hiding her identity by day and lusting after her by night. Yes, he’s sworn off love. But with the Hollywood runaway starring in his every fantasy, Carter may find Macy too much temptation–even for a hard-hearted cowboy.

Read an excerpt  |  check out Charlene’s website

Yvonne Lindsay – A Silken Seduction (September)
London-based artist Avery Cullen refuses to sell her late father’s art collection. But bold, brash Marcus Price will try everything to get her to reconsider. He even launches an all-out sexual siege on the lonely heiress in the gilded cage.

Securing the collection would be a coup for his auction house, but for Marcus, it would settle a lifelong score. He’s managed to keep his true motives hidden along with his family’s skeletons…and now he’s so close, he can taste success in Avery’s kiss. But after their torrid night of passion, is Marcus prepared for the outcome?
check out Yvonne’s website

Stay tuned for the rest of the series (including mine!) in the next few weeks.

Midweek Technique – where to start your story

How many of you answered “at the beginning – DUH!” ? 😀

Yes, it does seem obvious, doesn’t it?  But just where do you determine the beginning? Where your main characters first meet?  When your heroine wakes up?  When the killer is stalking his next victim?  Or when your hero is ruminating about this two-year old divorce?

As a contest judge, I see so many entries that start in the wrong place.  Definitely one, sometimes two chapters of slow, plodding narrative/introspection/description that really let a good story down.  Now, short of me reading your stories and saying “ah-HA!  Forget all that other stuff – here’s where you should start!” you’re going to figure it out yourselves.

So where do you start?  At a point of major change.

Chris Vogler (he of the awesome The Writers Journey), Michael Hauge (he of the awesome Writing Screenplays That Sell) and various other writing legends (Robert McKee included) call it The Call To Adventure.  It is your character’s ‘jolt’: some event or realization that shocks them out of their Ordinary World and shakes up their life.  They have to make a choice when confronted by this call – if they can ignore it and go back to their normal lives without a backwards glance, then it is not a true call.

To elaborate and get you thinking, here’s an example:

Your heroine is about to walk into an interview for a new job.  She’s sat in the reception area, thinking about how desperate she is for this job, how much this money would mean to her family, to her sick father who’s just finished another round of chemo and the bills are mounting up.  She wonders about her brother, who’s conveniently living overseas and unable to contribute.  Her dead mother who was a saint when she was living and would hate to see her little girl now working 24/7 to support her father.  She ruminates about her last few low-paid jobs, her terrible bosses and wonders what this new one would be like to work for.  She’s heard he’s demanding but fair – the same can’t be said for the man’s son who seems to be content spending his time surfing and partying.  Partying… she thinks briefly about last weekend, where she got to let her hair down for once, and ended up a little drunk and making out with the cute bartender in the parking lot.

This goes on for a page or two, until the office door finally opens and…. yep, the son aka cute bartender stands on the threshold.

So where would you start this story?  Hands up who said “where the office door opens”?

Why?  Because it’s our heroine’s Call to Adventure.  She has a choice – either step up and go right on into that interview (aka Stepping Across the Threshold) or turn and leave.  All that introspection, all that past stuff is past, and can be filtered in elsewhere.  You also don’t need pages upon pages of it because introspection tends to slow the pace – and you want your readers to jump right into your story at Chapter 1, not get bogged down with unimportant details.  A simple “She wanted this job.  No, she needed it.  More than she’d ever needed anything in her life.”  would suffice to show the reader her desire.  Then you can sprinkle in the whys later, through dialogue, deep POV and introspection.

Alternatively, if you do start with your heroine sitting there, waiting for the interview, this can be a good opportunity to get some brief backstory across, enough to whet the reader’s appetite but not too much that will have them skimming the paragraphs.  The key to this is smart editing: knowing when too much is overkill and just plain boring (see example above).

It’s important to note that in category romances, the sooner you can get your hero and heroine together at the start, the better.  Why?  Because it will throw your reader right into the story, as well as highlighting the conflict that will carry your story along.  Of course, this isn’t a rule, but you only have a short word count so you have to make every.  Word.  Count.

Midweek Technique – switching point of view

Today I’m talking about point of view (POV). Stop me if you’ve heard any of these before:

  1. “You should only be in one character’s head per scene – no switching point of view.”
  2. “Readers don’t want to know what your hero is thinking –  it’s your heroine’s story, so tell it from her viewpoint.”
  3. “Whatever you do, don’t head hop!”
  4. “You should stick with just your hero and heroine’s POV.”
  5. “If you write first-person POV, your reader won’t empathise with your other characters.”

Now, while I’m not going to argue the pros and cons of these (sadly, all-too-real) statements, I will talk about effectively and smoothly switching from one character’s POV to the other.  And it is really, really simple.

Here’s a paragraph I prepared earlier:

Jenny gasped, the breath in her throat burning the way the whiskey had done only moments before.  Jason’s hand on her wrist tightened, fingers digging into her soft tender flesh and her anger flashed behind bright blue eyes.  He smiled, knowing he was affecting her, judging by the way her pulse leaped under his fingers.

Gosh, it’s actually painful  to leave that badly written paragraph intact :angry: !  Argghh!!  So, what do we know about this para?

Sentence 1 – we’re in Jenny’s POV.  Why?  Because of ‘the breath in her throat burning’.  This is something she feels, that no-one else can.

Sentence 2 – we start out in Jenny’s POV (his hand on her wrist tightened) but end up in Jason’s because of the ‘anger flashed behind her bright blue eyes’.  Because she can’t see her anger, and she wouldn’t think ‘my bright blue eyes’.

Sentence 3 – In his POV, because he feels her pulse beneath his fingers.

So how to fix it?  Before I do that, here’s some important things about POV switches:

  1. not every POV switch should start with an extra line space – in fact, if you do this in the same scene, it will only jar your reader, because ‘extra space’ means ‘later on’ or ‘this is a new scene’.  Yes, some publishers do it and it annoys the hell out of me!
  2. too many POVs in one scene and you start to lose the tension of the moment, plus annoy and possibly confuse your reader
  3. an effective way to start a new POV is with a new paragraph, and the character’s name, followed by something only they would know/think/feel

So, rewriting the above sentences (plus making our hero a little less like a violent jerk…):

Jenny gasped, the breath in her throat burning the way the whiskey had done only moments before.  When his Jason’s hand on her wrist tightened, fingers digging into her tender flesh, and her anger flashed behind bright blue eyes surged, giving her enough strength to break his possessive grip.

“Don’t touch me!”

“That’s not what you were saying last night.”

Jason He smiled and let her put distance between them, even though his entire body ached to get up and personal with that luscious mouth of hers.  A now-scowling mouth that had only been too willing to open up for him last night.  He sure as hell knew he affected her too,  knowing he was affecting her, judging by her those flashing blue eyes and her leaping pulse he’d briefly held leaped under his fingers.

Somewhat better 🙂

So to reiterate: when you are in one person’s head, use words and thoughts that they would say and feel, and describe stuff via their eyes.

Easy Way to Count your POV Switches

Use either the highlighter option in Word, or do a printout and use highlighter pens (I do blue for my hero, pink for my heroine).  So when you spread your scene out across your table or floor, you have a visual representation.

But how many switches is too much?

Well, I can’t answer that for you.  But I can tell you I had to rework one scene in my last book because I was all over the place with those switches.  It started off in his POV, then went to hers, then back to his on the same page, then back to hers, then his>hers again.  Gave me whiplash!

I’ve heard writers say “think about who has the most to lose in the scene and write it from their POV” but honestly, this is a bit hit and miss for me.  I work out whose head I’m going to start in based on a) how I ended the prior chapter or scene, plus b) what the reader needs to know about this character right now in the story.   My rough draft will be riddled with way too many POV switches and it really only takes minor editing (after I highlight my scene) to cut those jumps.  And sometimes that information in that character’s head can be best used in another scene, at another time.