Today I’m turning my blog over to the lovely and fabulous Tracey Brogan who is here to promote her newest release Highland Surrender, and in another break from tradition, I’ve posted a review.
One of my critique partners loves to say, “Focus on the steak, and not the peas.”
Now, keep in mind, she is very health conscious, and in her daily life I’m sure she’s all about choosing the vegetables and whole grains over the artery-clogging red meat. But what she’s referring to when she says this is story arc. It’s a great piece of advice, and one I often remind myself of when stuck in the middle of a cluttered, wayward scene, or even more so when I’m wallowing in the quagmire of revision swamp.
We all know that once you have the foundation of your story, it’s essential to add layers. Maybe you want to pile on more emotion, or twine secondary characters around each scene. You want to include twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. You want sensory details, and fresh metaphors. Those are all equally important elements. They give your work depth, complexity, and help engage the readers’ interest.
But remember, the secondary stuff is just that – secondary. Before you start agonizing over why the little brother set off a firecracker that the heroine thought was a gunshot so she ran into the street and got run over by two mimes riding a tandem bike, or before you spend two days polishing the dialogue of the dinner party scene where fifteen different characters are talking about what their various super powers are, figure out the MAIN story.
The foundation of your book is the journey of your hero and heroine. That’s the steak. The rest is just the peas.
I am notorious at over-plotting before I ever commit words to the page. I know every backstory detail about my pistachio-loving heroine and why she refuses to sing in the shower. I know my hero wears a size twelve shoe, and that the reason he quit being a boy scout is because he’s secretly afraid of snakes. I also know his father wears a bathrobe all day and virtually never sleeps past 5 o’clock in the morning because watching the sunrise reminds him of his first love. Sure, that’s interesting… But his father might not even be in this book! I haven’t gotten that far yet. I might include him, if the plot calls for it. Then again, I might not. So I have to remember that those kind of details are the peas. A nice side dish to the main entrée. They add flavor and variety. But they are not what fills the reader up!
So the next time you find your mind wandering down a path with a supporting character, feel free to walk with her for a few minutes. She may have some fascinating things to tell you. But don’t veer off the path for long! Your obligation is to the steak. Your attention must start and end with the hero and the heroine and their adventure. Once their story is firmly set, you can add the other characters, the other charming quirks and random idiosyncrasies that enrich your prose. You can season and tenderize and garnish.
Just remember to focus on the steak first, and worry about the peas later.
Defiant Highland beauty Fiona Sinclair is shocked by her brothers’ treachery. To seal a fragile truce, they have traded her hand in marriage to their sworn enemy, a man she has never met, a man she was raised to despise. With no choice but to wed, Fiona makes her own private vow: though she may surrender her freedom, she will never surrender her heart.
Commanded by his king, Myles Campbell is no more willing than his reluctant bride. Still, she is a rare beauty, passionate enough to warm even the coldest marriage bed. Buy Myles quickly realizes Fiona Sinclair is no common wench. She has a warrior’s spirit and a fierce pride that only a fool would try to tame. And Myles Campbell is no fool. Their marriage was meant to unite warring clans. They never imagined it would ignite a once-in-a-lifetime love…
Scottish Highlands, 1537
Fiona Sinclair could not reconcile the irony of nature’s twisted humor. For today of all wretched days the sky should be burdened with clouds as dark and dismal as her mood. But the morning dawned soft and fair, mild as a Highland calf, and she knew that God himself mocked her. At any moment, Myles Campbell and his father, the Earl of Argyll, would pass through the gates of Sinclair Hall, unwelcome, yet unhindered by her clan. Soon after that, she must stand upon the chapel steps and marry a man she had never met, and yet had hated for all of her life.
Through her narrow bedchamber window, sounds from the bailey filtered up. The smithy’s hammer tapped a mellow cadence as if this day were just like any other. Perhaps he shaped a horseshoe or a pointed pike. She smiled at the latter and imaged the heaviness of that same pike in her hand. Oh, that she had the courage to plunge it deep into the earl’s heart, if indeed he had one.
She rose from the threadbare cushion on the bench and moved without purpose toward the stone fireplace. A low fire burned, warding off the spring morning’s chill. From habit, Fiona slipped her hand into the leather pouch around her waist. She squeezed tight the silver brooch inside, its design and inscription etched as clearly in her memory as on the pin itself. A boar’s head, symbol of Clan Campbell, with words chosen by the king himself.
To Cedric Campbell, a true friend is worth a king’s ransom. James V.
The brooch had been a gift to the Campbell chief, the man about to become her father-in-law. But he had left it behind nearly seven years earlier, pierced into the flesh of Fiona’s mother so that all the world might know he had dishonored her. The priest found Aislinn Sinclair’s lifeless body in a secluded glen outside the village, stripped bare and broken, marked by Cedric’s lust and spite. Thus a feud, long simmering at the edges, boiled over.
But today the king thought to put an end to it with this farce of a marriage between a Sinclair lass and a Campbell son. It would not work.
Fiona paced to the window, restless and melancholy. She leaned out to breathe fresh spring air, hoping it might lighten her spirits. The too-sweet scent of hyacinth clung to the breeze, along with the ever-present brine of Moray Firth. Along the west curtain wall, more hammering sounded as masons worked to bolster the steps leading to the main keep. As if precarious stairs alone might halt the Campbell men from gaining entrance. But nothing would. Her fate as a Campbell bride had been declared the very day she drew in her first breath, and sealed when her father blew out his last.
It takes a very special Highland romance to hold my attention, and Tracy Brogan did just that with Highland Surrender. The plot and the characters were well developed. It was easy to fall in love with Miles, (it’s a good thing he’s fictional), and I cheered for him to coax the unwilling, Fiona into love with him.
This is definitely a book you’ll want to read. I look forward to more books by the talented Ms. Brogan.
To follow Tracy’s Book Tour, visit these sites:
February 17, 2013 – My Devotional Thoughts (Guest Post &Review)
February 18, 2013 – Just One More Chapter (Guest Post & Review)
February 19, 2013 – Laurie’s Thoughts & Reviews(Guest Post)
February 20, 2013 – Book Junkie (Guest Post &Review)
February 22, 2013 – I Totally Paused (Guest Post & Review)
February 25, 2013 – P.T. Macias (Guest Post & Review)
March 1, 2013 – My Escape (Guest Post & Review)
March 4, 2013 – TBQ’s Book Palace (Guest Post& Review)
March 5, 2013 – Deal Sharing Aunt (Guest Post& Review)
March 6, 2013 – Romance Book Junkies (Guest Post & Review)
March 7, 2013 – Between The Pages (Guest Post & Review)
March 10, 2013 – Harlie’s Books (Guest Post & Review)
March 11, 2013 – Sara In Bookland (Guest Post& Review)
Tracy Brogan is a two-time RWA Golden Heart finalist who writes funny contemporary stories about ordinary people finding extraordinary love, and also stirring historical romance full of political intrigue, damsels causing distress, and the occasional man in a kilt. Her first two books, CRAZY LITTLE THING, and HIGHLAND SURRENDER both earned a 4-Star review from RT magazine and have hit the Amazon Best Selling Books list.
Tracy lives in Michigan with her bemused husband, her perpetually exasperated children, and two dogs, who would probably behave better if they could understand sarcasm.