Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Author Tracy Brogan Didn't Choose to Write

Today, I'm pleased to have author Tracy Brogan as a guest on my blog during her blog tour. Find out why Tracy didn't ignore her calling and why writing chose her. Plus, don't miss my review of her newest historical romance novel, HIGHLAND SURRENDER.

By Tracy Brogan

While on a plane last July, flying home from the Romance Writers of America® conference in Anaheim, California, I sat next to a redneck Texan. I knew he was a redneck because he wore a ten-gallon hat, kept a chaw of tobacco in his mouth for an entire three-hour flight, and because as he settled into his seat, he said, “Howdy. You don’t mind sittin’ next to a redneck, do ya?”

I am not making that up.

He was a fascinating guy, and quite a talker. We covered politics, religion and race relations. I’m sure half the people around us were listening intently to our vivid conversation, even as the other half wished fervently that we would just shut up. We didn’t agree on every point. He told a joke I found racist and I told him so. He thought some of my beliefs were too liberal. But oddly enough, the question he asked which prompted the most thoughtful answer from me was when said, “What made you choose to be a writer?”

I flippantly responded with, “I didn’t choose writing. Writing chose me.”

I think I was trying to be clever and witty. But the truth is… writing did choose me. People often ask, “When did you start writing?” Or, “When did you know you wanted to be a writer?” Or some variation of the question posed by my cowboy friend.  For me, that’s like being asked, “When did you decide to be right-handed.” It just always was.

I recall drafting my first short story when I was fourteen and my father was diagnosed with cancer. But even earlier than that, I’d kept a journal full of thoughts and feelings and ideas. I kept journaling for years, right up until the time my first child was born and suddenly both my hands seemed to be busy all the time, and I stopped. 

But even when I wasn’t committing the words to paper, or more recently, clacking away on a keyboard, I have always had stories playing out in my head. A song on the radio might trigger a whole novel’s worth of material. I have a black and white photograph of Time’s Square from the 1940’s that prompted another story. Pictures of celebrities, an anecdote told by a friend, it’s all fodder for stories to me. It wasn’t until just recently I realized other people don’t automatically do this. (Wow, they must be so bored!)

The danger, of course, of having ideas always rolling around in my mind is that sometimes I’m so busy imagining what might be, and I forget to appreciate what is. I struggle to stay in moment and be fully present for my kids and my spouse, and sometimes even for the story I’m currently working on. The one with the deadline! It’s much more fun to brainstorm new ideas than wrestle with an uncooperative GMC or a sagging story arc bogging down the work-in-progress on my screen.

But focus I must. Because writing has chosen me and that’s a calling I cannot ignore. I am incredibly fortunate to have a job I love. But it’s still a job. And right now, I’d better get back to work!

Thank you, Tracy, for sharing your story with us and for answering the call to write! If you hadn't, your readers would have missed out on some great books. More specifically, HIGHLAND SURRENDER wouldn't have returned me to the wonderful world of medieval Scottish highland books I fell in love with years ago. HIGHLAND SURRENDER sucked me back into a world I didn't know I missed. Read my review below and you'll see why!

Title:  Highland Surrender
Genre:  Historical Romance
Publisher:  Montlake Publishing (Amazon)
Release Date:  December 4, 2012
Format:  eBook and Print

Buy Links:
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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’s been a while since I’ve read a Highland historical romance. I cut my romance-reading teeth with highland romances, and they will always be my favorite historical locale. So it was a breath of fresh air to come back to Scotland in HIGHLAND SURRENDER. As is typical of highland romances, the romance revolves around a feud between rival clans. The plot is a tried and true classic, but Ms. Brogan weaved it in a fresh and exciting way.

Fiona Sinclair and Myles Campbell have been betrothed since her birth. Unfortunately, a rift occurred between the clans when her mother died and she has known nothing but hatred for the Campbells. The book opens on Fiona’s wedding day after King James demanded their betrothal proceed, in part hoping to gain a truce among the warring clans. Fiona’s brothers are playing their own political game and force Fiona to marry Myles, not that they could defy a direct order from the king. Fiona doesn’t go willingly into this marriage to the new Chief of the Campbell clan. Myles accepts his plight to satisfy his king, and hopefully bring an end to the feud with the Sinclairs. But all is not right between the families. Secrets, intrigue, sibling rivalry, and betrayals abound. A perfect mix of elements to weave into a fantastic historical romance!

Myles surprised me and I loved him from the start. He wasn’t the typical brute who took what he wanted, then damn the consequences. He was patient and caring with Fiona, willing to give her time to adapt to their marriage of convenience and being uprooted from the only home she has ever known to live with her enemies. Beautiful Fiona was equally well-developed. She was rightfully bitter and angry, expected from any woman who thought to marry for love, but instead became a political pawn. It took a while for her to warm up to Myles, even when he began wooing her on the night of their wedding. Because of all this, their love grew organically and completely realistic.

The story was gripping and emotional. I cared for Fiona and Myles and truly wanted to see them fall in love and to unite their families. HIGHLAND SURRENDER is well-written (although using more current language than most historicals I’ve read), and without a ton of historical backdrop. The novel flows smooth and quick, leading you to a fast and gratifying read. Secondary characters were well-developed and well-liked. I especially loved Myles’ spunky, sneaky Aunt Vivi and would love to see Ms. Brogan write a story about her.

I loved Fiona and Myles story and their beautiful romance. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Brogan in the future. If you’re looking for a fantastic Highland historical romance, look no further. You won’t be disappointed.

About the Author

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.