How Real-Life Veterans Inspire my Fictional Characters

marine-jesse-cottleLike a lot of people, I fell in love with double-amputee U.S. Marine Jesse Cottle when I came across this photo of him being carried on his wife Kelly’s back.

It’s clear in the photo that Jesse chose joy, chose to truly LIVE even after everything he’d seen and experienced (read more here). Jesse’s sergeant, who was with him the day he stepped on a pressure plate, said: “The way that [Jesse] continues to conduct his life is absolutely amazing and for that reason I would consider him a hero.”

Similarly, in his memoir Battle Ready, Navy medic Mark L. Donald describes in detail an event that laid the foundation for his later struggles with PTSD. He talked about friends and colleagues who didn’t make it home, and two friends in particular that he felt he had “failed” to save in his role as a medic (read more here). Yet there were two “forces” in his life that saved him: his mother and his faith.

When I hear veterans talk about faith, I often wonder if it came naturally to them, or if it was something they struggled with before they finally understood the role or impact of faith on their life.

I suspect it is the latter, and I often have my fictional characters grapple with faith. In fact, faith and sensuality exist side-by-side in my novels. Readers most likely to enjoy my writing are those who appreciate that these things co-exist in our own lives; who hasn’t questioned their faith in the darkest times of our own lives? Why should a character in a novel be any different?

video_zacAaron Bricewick, amputee veteran/hero of True Surrender, returns home to find that he has yet to face his biggest battle – the battle within himself – and finds himself questioning everything he’s built his life on.

Much as countless returning veterans are doing.

There are many definitions of “war hero,” and surely Jesse and Mark exemplify some of them. Perhaps there’s even a little of each in the character of Aaron Bricewick. I hope he does them justice!

Read Free Excerpts Here.

Help me Write the Next Lady Biker Book!

TakeTwo_COVER_NEW_FI need your help with the Lady Biker Series!

The first book in the series, Take Two: a Hollywood Romanceis the story of a Gina, a Harley-riding Hollywood director and single mom whose personal life collides with her leading man’s when he is poisoned on set.

Gina’s lady biker friends (Andie, Willow and Sabrina) have stories to tell (see the series overview here), and I have bits and pieces written about each. But I’d like readers (and would-be readers!) to tell me what you’d most like to read – and whose story I should write next!

Click here to respond to my short survey (I use the term loosely), or feel free to send me an email instead with your thoughts (tracey (at) traceycramerkelly.com)!

The Writing Life: Why Design a New Cover for Biker Romance “Take Two”?

TakeTwo_COVER_NEW_FI have some rather astute friends and readers.

When I ‘unveiled’ the new cover for Take Two: a Hollywood Romance a couple weeks ago, certain people immediately said, “Is that you on the cover?”

So, okay, confession time: yes, it is me (or more precisely, my legs and torso). And yes, it is my motorcycle. (I must have ‘channeled’ the heroine, Gina, because AFTER the book was published I found my Yamaha Raider – with a paint job eerily like I used to describe Gina’s bike!)

How did I end up adding “model” to my resume?

I suppose it makes sense to first address the question: why re-design the cover? I originally thought the celebrity stalker angle would be more of a draw, so the first cover leaned heavily on the movie star theme. But as time went on, I’ve found better traction with the biker angle. And, after all, Take Two is the first book in the LADY BIKER series. I decided the “biker” part needed to be more prominent than the small series logo I’d given it.

The producer side of me really wanted to do a photo shoot, with models for the male and female lead (of each book!). It would have been fun… but it would have taken a lot of time away from actually writing (the goal in the first place, right?), not to mention…

Money.

Being an independently published author, that’s an item in even shorter supply than time! And the kind of photo shoot I dreamed of – eight models (two for each book), a professional photographer, borrowing (or renting) some really cool motorcycles, makeup/wardrobe, and (oh pretty please) an assistant to manage all the logistical details… yikes.

It was time to embrace my logical side.

My friend Brett had taken a photo during the “Cool Rider” video shoot that gave me an idea. What if I did four covers with a similar “shot from low” angle, each a different color/brand motorcycle, showing torso and legs to make it obvious it was a woman rider?

Best yet, I could start with my own motorcycle (no begging or borrowing required)!

I asked my hubby to help with the photography (dare I call him “free labor”?). And book cover designer extraordinaire Gregory R pulled it all together.

TakeTwo_COVER_NEW_FI have to say that I’m tickled. I think the new cover says everything I want to say about this series that features women motorcyclists. Women who are not JUST biker chicks, but who are multi-faceted women whose love of motorcycles is almost as strong as their love for the men who come into their lives.

Help me write the next book!

I’d like to invite YOU to be part of the Lady Biker Series. Visit my (short) survey here and tell me what you’d most like to read – and whose story I should write next!

Take Two: a Hollywood Romance (Lady Biker Series #1)

TakeTwo_Slider

Indie Award Finalist (for the THIRD time!)

I’m so excited to announce that Take Two: a Hollywood Romance has been named Finalist in the Romance category for the 2014 Next Generation Indie Awards!

TakeTwo_COVER_NEW_FTake Two: a Hollywood Romance is the story of a Harley-riding Hollywood director and single mom whose personal life collides with her leading man’s when he is poisoned on set.

It is also Book One in the “Lady Biker Series,” which features four women bikers whose love of motorcycling binds them together.

Having been a lady biker for over 20 years myself, I decided it was time to write about this unique type of character. But the bigger project is not just about fictional stories; it’s songs, photos and true-life women that I’ve been inspired by and want to give back to (see Cool Rider Project).

Bio: Tracey’s work fuses writing, music and visual imagery and draws from her experience as an Army Reserve paramedic and exposure to helicopter medevac. She owns a motorcycle accessories business, rides a Yamaha Raider, and lives in small-town Minnesota with her husband and two young children.

IndieAwardThe Indie Awards are sponsored by the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group to honor the best in small press and independent publishing. The romance category receives hundreds of submissions each year. For more information, see www.IndieBookAwards.com.

I’m so tickled that Take Two joins Last Chance Rescue and True Surrender: a Military Romance, which are also Indie Award Finalists!

From Flight Medic to Cockpit: How I Became a Helicopter Pilot

I have the Army to thank for my love of helicopters.

But no, the Army did not train me to fly helicopters. It was a much more circuitous route…

I joined the National Guard when I was 17 and not quite out of high school. It was not for any life-long dream of being a soldier or for the noble purpose of defending my country. My purpose for joining was to pay for college, and the GI Bill seemed like a good deal. It never occurred to me at that time (and age) that I could actually be sent to war!

injuredThe Army trained me as a medic and an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician).

I was not a good soldier (as I’ve written about in the past), but I loved being a paramedic. I liked splinting a broken leg. Inserting an IV. Dressing a sucking chest wound.

One weekend a month I was a grunt soldier and a token medic. But for two weeks in the summer I was a soldier medic. And by my third year in the Guard, I had gained enough rank and experience to be assigned triage duty ‘on the field.’ After treating the injured on the ground, I found myself air-lifted out of the ‘battlefield’ in a helicopter.

It was love at first experience.

And I thought to myself: ‘I am going to be a flight medic.’

So I got certified and worked a few shifts at a civilian ambulance service. I figured it was a good gig: work on my homework during down time and get paid for it.

I can handle blood, guts and gore. What I don’t do well with – and what I hadn’t counted on – was the vomit. The battlefield of 20 years ago was about blood and guts; the ambulance on the civilian street was more about drunks, overdoses and trauma to which the human body’s natural response was…you guessed it…vomit.

It was also lots of boredom, punctuated by periods of utter chaos. I think I handled the chaos better than the boredom!

twiggle_helicopterSo, at the grand old age of 20, I gave up the idea of working as a flight paramedic, and set a different goal for myself: I would be the PILOT. I would learn to fly a helicopter – and I would do it before I turned 30 (which seemed like a long way off at the time, ha). And since I had no intention of staying in the Army, I would do it myself.

I was 29 when I started on this BHAG (“Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal”) and one month shy of 31 when I got my license. It was truly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done!

My writing is definitely influenced by the time I spent in the military and by the medical training I received there. When I became a helicopter pilot, it opened new relationships with some amazing people, such as the Whirly Girls (a nonprofit organization made up of female helicopter pilots). In fact, it was one of my fellow female helicopter pilots who helped me set up a ride-along with a search-and-rescue team, an experience that was priceless when writing Last Chance Rescue.

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!