Join the Party! Free Drawings, Food & Drinks at Ladies Night Out May 1st

WhoYourHeroGrab your girlfriends and head for the river town of Stillwater, MN, next Thursday, May 1, for May Day on Main Street!

Stillwater is well known for its small-town merchants, who will offer discounts as well as drink specials, appetizers and food samples, fashion tips and decorating ideas throughout the evening.

Twelve Minnesota authors (myself included) will be part of the Who’s Your Hero romance book sale & signing at Rafters Bar & Grill, located on the second floor at 3rd & Main (317 Main Street).

Who can resist these guys?? (And if that’s not enough, one lucky winner will take home a basket of edible and other types of goodies!)

Festivities start at 5pm! I hope you can join us (after all, I don’t get out much!), but if you can’t, you can still purchase my books here.

What it Means to NOT be a “Girly-Girl” Mom (as described by my son)

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with my 11-year-old son.

I don’t remember how it came up, but as we were sitting in McDonalds between picking up his new glasses and an afternoon soccer game, he said, “You’re not a girly-girl mom.” And if that wasn’t enough, he continued: “My sister gets that from you.”

My first reaction was laughter. And as I chuckled, I asked him what the definition of a “girly-girl mom” is. Or, more specifically, how did he know I wasn’t one?

He thought for a while. Then he said, “You never wear dresses or skirts.” (True, except for the occasional wedding). “And you don’t put on a lot of makeup.” (Who knew he even noticed these kinds of things?!)

I told him about my very first job out of college: working as an inbound phone service rep, I was required to wear skirts/dresses and nylons. (No one ever actually SAW me, so how stupid was that?)

Earns MattelMy son looked intrigued, probably because he’s only ever known my work as the owner and ‘boss’ of Leader Motorcycle, and as such it’s true – I have never worn a dress or skirt to work (leather chaps and jacket, yes).

Then he said, “You didn’t have dolls or Barbies.” (Which is also true, but I didn’t remember telling him that. I did have a huge inventory of stuffed animals, most of them with names, whom I used to make up stories about.)

But those are outward things, physical things. I wanted to know if he sensed anything deeper. (This is a kid who compared our greedy politicians to the fall of the Roman Empire when he wasn’t yet ten. In other words, he’s a smart cookie – and surprisingly astute at times.)

So I asked again.

“You ride a motorcycle.”

Ah, yes. The only kid on his soccer team, at his Awana classes, and in his entire school whose mom has picked him up (or dropped him off) on a motorcycle. Personally, I think he’s better for it!

I guess that means I am decidedly NOT a “girly-girl”… and my “tom boy” daughter is (apparently) following in my footsteps! But that’s a story for another day…

Should Taiko True be a Stage Play or a Movie (Watch the Trailer!)

It took two years, but Taiko True finally has a new ‘expression’ – the trailer is done!

Originally I just wanted to compose a taiko piece. My friend Brett and I got the first ‘movement’ done… and I was stuck. This happened to be around New Years, and during that quieter time, the lead taiko players (male and female) ‘told’ me they wanted their story told.

I resisted; I had other writing projects in progress. But they were insistent… so I did. And then I wrote a ‘prequel’ to their story about how the drum corps came to be.

And then… hmm. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Thanks to Brett, the project didn’t wither, but rather, simmered for a while. During that time, I was exploring my fascination with fusing storytelling/song/imagery using video (see Cool Rider video).

So while the original plan was to make Taiko True a stage performance (to that end, we even submitted to the Fringe Festival here in Minnesota, although we were not drawn in the lottery), I’ve become more and more convinced that Taiko True could be a fantastic film/video story.

tt_dual_imageVideo would allow us to tell ALL the characters’ stories, either in separate films or in the newest mode of distribution, the “webisode.” It would allow us to shoot the mugging scene (for example) in an actual alley or on a street rather than being limited to what a stage can portray. And perhaps most appealing to me: the reach is exponential. A stage presentation, while incredible, would only reach a small geographical area, and then only those who are free on those particular dates.

The drawback? It’s difficult to capture – on camera – the raw energy of playing big Japanese taiko drums.

However, in recent months I’ve come across a few other video projects that have come closer to accomplishing this. Choreography and the skill of the camera person will no doubt play a huge role, so finding the right people for those jobs will be key.

Can we do it? I don’t know. Certainly I can’t do it alone. But I’m not ready to quit trying. I am now in the process of looking for a producer/partner who knows filming, has some background in financing a film, and can help figure out how distribution would work. (If you know anyone, please drop me a note!)

It’s a lot – especially when I’m still trying to be a ‘lowly’ novel/novella writer, work the family business full-time and raise my kids. In my usual fashion, I will keep plodding away. After all, persistence is 90 percent of production, right?!

28 Years as a Biker Chick: a lot of “Changed Perspectives” and “New Waves”

I really admire the skill involved in photographing or videotaping motorcyclists (especially after seeing it in action during our video shoot for “Cool Rider”). Think about it. They’re constantly moving!

So when I stumbled across Lanakila MacNaughton’s Women’s Moto Exhibit I spent a couple hours just soaking up the images (see some on my Lady Bikers Pinterest board  or Lana’s web site).

Lana says she created The Women’s Moto Exhibit to document the new wave of “modern female motorcyclists.” To reveal the brave, courageous and beautiful women that live to ride. To use photography to promote a new perception of female empowerment and inspire independence and liberation through motorcycling. She “wants to change the way women are perceived not only in the motorcycle world but society in general.”

vixensI’ve been riding motorcycles since I was fifteen. That’s 28 years (you do the math!) – and a lot of “changed perspectives” and “new waves” of women riders! When I started riding it was rare to see a woman as the driver. I was a rebel then.

And, I think, some things don’t change. Women still feel a little bit rebel and a little more sexy when they ride. Not to mention that bikers are some of the most friendly folks on earth; there is an instant connection amongst motorcycle riders like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

So many photos of women bikers in one place got me to thinking about Gina, the heroine of Take Two: a Hollywood Romance, and her lady biker friends. Each of the women is as different as it’s possible to be. And yet, their love of motorcycling translates into a love for each other. In fact, when I saw this photo, I saw Gina and her friends.

Soon it will be time to tell their stories: Willow, Andie and Sabrina. And I’d like to invite YOU to have input on those stories! Visit my (short) survey here and tell me whose story I should write next! Click here to take survey!

Win handmade jewelry in the “Spring is in the Air” Blog Hop

first ride on RaiderHere in Minnesota, we are desperate for warm weather to arrive. Especially us biker chicks! I am especially anxious since I purchased a new motorcycle late in the season last year and was only able to ride it ONCE due to weather (check it out – that’s me!). The first nice spring day, that’s where I’ll be – even if I have to play hookey for an afternoon!

I’m sure that Gina, the heroine in Take Two: a Hollywood Romance, would feel the same. After all, she’s got a Harley (which looks amazingly like my new bike, even though I wrote the book long before I found it) that she uses to de-stress from her job with the “beautiful people” and the pressures of directing a Hollywood film.

When up-and-coming Hollywood heartthrob Zac Davies is poisoned on the set and needs a quiet place to recover, Gina invites him into her home – along with her two teenaged daughters. It’s no surprise he gets hooked on motorcycles at the same time he gets hooked on Gina!

As part of the celebration of spring, I’m participating in the “Spring is in the Air” blog hop March 21-24. As part of that hop, I’m giving away handmade jewelry: a necklace and earring combo!

I’m not sophisticated enough to run special software to track entries, so this is what you need to do to enter:

Make a comment on this post or ANY of my blog posts (my software will let me know when you do) You can include your email address in a format like this: tracey (at) gmail.com to avoid spam-bots picking up your email address.

Here are some blog posts you might find interesting:

  • my first stage drama about a taiko drum group: are they Rebels or Refugees?
  • how an ex-Marine uses ballet dance to share stories of war
  • the making of an audiobook
  • on being a ‘war hero’ at home
  • what singer Pink has in common with one of my Take Two characters

Remember, without your email address in the comments, you can’t win!

BONUS: If you subscribe to my newsletter during this period, I’ll add your name for an additional chance to win a LARGER prize that has yet to be announced! Sign up in the upper right corner!



Former Marine Uses Dance to Share Combat Experience

RomanBacaBalletWhen I came across an article about Roman Baca, former Marine and ballet dancer, I had to know more. After all, this is not a combination you hear of often!

Baca was a classical ballet dancer before his enlistment in 2000. In 2005-6, he spent time in Fallujah, Iraq as a machine gunner and fire team leader. When he returned, he and his girlfriend founded Exit 12 Dance Company (New York), and although he says he didn’t intentionally create war-related pieces to begin with, it grew out of his experience and desire to communicate things that aren’t easily communicated with words.

He discovered what I have suspected for some time: that the beauty of movement, the impact of music and the violence of war can be put together with sometimes devastating effects. He says: “Dance pieces about loss and brutality can cut to the heart of human experience.” For him and others, dance has proved a powerful tool in dealing with the emotional and psychological distress of war.

To me this is fascinating. It’s part of why I’ve wanted to turn True Surrender into a movie (with an ending showing the courage to overcome and thrive). And in my attempts to do something similar – tell a story using taiko drums and the movement of the body (see Taiko True) – I have considered working with a dance choreographer or company. This pretty much cinches it!

Some of Exit 12’s Pieces:

Habibi Hhaloua (2009, the company’s first piece) – Arabic for ‘my beautiful, you have my eyes’ – is about a US Marine on patrol in Iraq. While dancers performed on stage, embodying soldiers’ preoccupations with courage, death, and home, Marines patrolled the back of the theatre, instilling into the audience the fear and trepidation of conflict.

For Homecoming, Exit12 recorded real letters that were written to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan from loved ones back home, and choreographed a piece set to the messages. The dancers also evoked what the letters didn’t say.

Mutual understanding was the focus of Conflict(ed). ‘The performance starts with a single dancer in an abaya, the traditional Iraqi garb,’ says Baca. ‘She is coming to terms with having to wear the covering, and then it transitions to an American military woman coming to terms with having to wear the uniform. It pits two military personnel and two women in abayas together in this kind of conflicted quartet. The performance culminates with the dancers just trying to communicate on a very basic level.’

More information: Marine Uses Ballet to Heal & Share Stories of War / Ballet With Bullets / From Bunker to Ballet

Taiko True Drum Players: Are they Rebels… or Refugees?

Or perhaps a bit of both?

You see, at one time or another, the members of Taiko True either auditioned for, or were part of, a more recognized and “traditional” (read: “more professional”) Japanese taiko drum corps.

Some Taiko True members still hold a simmering animosity toward this other drum group. But each of these drum players uses taiko as more than a good workout; they take out their anger, shame, insecurities and pain on those drums – and for some, Taiko True is more family than… well, their own family!

Meet two of the players. Up close. Right now.

CHARLOTTE grew up on the streets. A pivotal event happened to her at age eight – an event that led to a life of secrecy and is the reason she’s never gotten close enough to a man to become intimate. Why does she play taiko drums? Watch the video!

MICHAEL is a high-powered executive whose intensity makes him one of the best players in the group. But there are things that money can’t buy, and peace of mind is one of them. Watch the video for insight into his life!

Win a Starbucks Gift Card During “Romance is in the Air”

romance_is_in_the_airI’m hangin’ with over 160 other authors and bloggers in the “Romance is in the Air” blog hop this week in a fun run-up to Romance’s “Big Day” on Valentine’s Day!

As part of that hop, I’m giving away a gift certificate to Starbucks! I’m not sophisticated enough to run special software to track entries, so this is what you need to do to enter:

Make a comment on this post or ANY of my blog posts, going back to October (I won’t look any further than that!) You can include your email address in a format like this: tracey (at) gmail.com to avoid spam-bots picking up your email address.

Here are some blog posts you might find interesting:

Remember, without your email address in the comments, you can’t win!

BONUS: If you subscribe to my newsletter during this period, I’ll add your name as an additional chance to win a LARGER prize that has yet to be announced! Sign up in the upper right corner!

Get on the Hop Here!
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Taiko Drumming and Storytelling: a Match Made in Heaven?

I’ve been playing and studying the taiko drum for five years. In that time, I’ve discovered that playing taiko has many nuances. It is, in fact, tricky to master all of them, all at once; and I notice that taiko drum performers tend to have elements they gravitate to.

tt-odaiko-6For example, I’m a “drama queen”; I like lots of body movement and big flourishes, or succinct hand/arm movements (like a sweep with  a emphasized stop). My friend Brett focuses on creating rhythms within rhythms (or rhythms “against” rhythms). Other players are more interested in “power hitting” (which tends to be more serious and intense) like the photo you see here.

Some like the smaller drum (called a shime, SHE-MEY) while others gravitate toward the big drum (odaiko), often above shoulder level. I prefer the Chu, which you might consider “mid sized” (relatively speaking!) because I feel it allows the most expression.

As you might expect, there’s a big range of approaches to taiko drumming as well, from very traditional Japanese that incorporates other Japanese instruments (or even Japanese dance), to “westernized” takes on the art that use other sounds and instruments, and/or a more choreographed type of movement.

I myself am attracted to the more fluid taiko drumming styles. Japanese style seems so conformist to me – something I’ve never been good at (even my time in the Army didn’t cure me of that aversion to conformism). And my background as a storyteller and experience producing music videos lends itself to a more dramatic inclination that I recently got a chance to explore.

I wrote my first drama/stage performance, Taiko True (about the members of a taiko drum club), in early 2012. In late 2013, I had the opportunity to make some of those scenes come alive on video (much like I’d done with True Surrender when we turned scenes of the book into a music video).

Once again, I was humbled and exhilarated by the process!


A sneak peek at the rehearsal for the fight scene:

Martial arts meets taiko drumming Martial arts meets taiko drumming Martial arts meets taiko drumming Martial arts meets taiko drumming taiko drumming fight mugging taiko drumming fight mugging taiko drumming fight mugging taiko drumming fight mugging taiko drumming fight mugging taiko drumming fight mugging taiko drumming fight mugging taiko drumming fight mugging

In coming weeks, I’ll share more about Michael and Charlotte of Taiko True, whose involvement in taiko drumming is how they find courage in themselves to overcome challenges in their past (and present)… learn to trust in another person… and eventually find love.

For your entertainment, here’s a video showing our practice and rehearsal in preparation for the video shoot. Big thanks to Tracy, Zac, Jennifer, Aaron, John and Brett!

For more information about Taiko True, click here. To read more about taiko drumming – and see some of my favorite Taiko videos – click here.

“Happy New Year” Movie is NOT Happy (Here’s Why)


I’ve been watching the progress of the movie “Happy New Year” for quite some time: from its original inception as a one-act play; to a crowdfunding push to turn it into a movie; through the film festival circuit; and (finally) to a physical CD that could be purchased.

I wanted this movie to succeed because the themes are so similar to that of True Surrender. The characters even face similar obstacles: PTSD and amputation.

“Happy New Year” is a fictional story, as is True Surrender. But there’s a vast difference between them.

Sergeant Lewis (like Aaron in True Surrender) has everything go wrong. Without giving too much away, at the core of his PTSD is the guilt he feels for surviving while his compatriots died.

But he also has some things going for him: a supportive ‘roommate’; other veterans who respect him; and he catches the attention of a female doctor-in-training.

He doesn’t quit; he keeps getting on those parallel bars and pushing himself. He goes out to a strip club and gets a lap dance while in his wheelchair (which ends badly). He sticks up for the VA residents. The girl kisses him. I’m thinking: okay, he’s on the way up.

But then he needs another surgery on this leg, and when he wakes, he’s an amputee. From there, to put it frankly, it was a complete downer. It does not end happily. In fact, the end is downright disturbing.

Which was likely the intent. This film had a point to make (veteran suicide); the writer wants you to be affected, to think.

Some will argue that it wouldn’t have the same impact if it had a happily-for-now ending.

Maybe it’s my basic optimism, my belief in faith and the human spirit. Maybe it was the cover photo, which shows a figure in a wheelchair with hands raised and fisted that connotes (to me) victory or, at the least, inner strength and perseverance. Perhaps it was the scenes selected for the trailer (which were the more upbeat ones). Or possibly the description that ends with “Lewis faces his fiercest battle yet” which is coincidentally similar to the description I wrote for True Surrender back in 2011 … that predisposed me to seek a triumph-of-the-spirit theme.

The fact is, I like to see characters suffer (just ask my critique readers!). But then I want to see them rise above their situation, find strength and courage deep within themselves … and triumph. That’s what I want to see in a movie even more so than a book, because a movie is about entertainment and escape.

So, if True Surrender were ever to become a movie, it might have some similar scenes (nightmares for example). But the end would be a lot different – and a lot more satisfying.