Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Last Chance to Win?

The Susquehanna Writers are pleased to welcome author Tracey Cramer-Kelly today. Tracey is the author of the romantic suspense novel
Last Chance Rescue. Not only is Tracey a helicopter pilot--helicopters figure heavily in the story--but she also rides motorcycles and owns her own cycle shop. We've invited Tracy to share a bit about her life with motorcycles. She's also chosen an excerpt from her book that highlights her interest in and knowledge about helicopters.Take it away, Tracey...

Although motorcycles don’t make an appearance in Last Chance Rescue, they are certainly an integral part of my life—and a great way to meet interesting people.

And people are the seed—before I know it I’m creating characters based on bits and pieces of someone I met or an experience I had.

A short piece I wrote about motorcycles was recently published in Why We Ride (a book of essays from women riders) and can be read at

As a bonus, I thought your readers might enjoy the following piece about The Great Motorcycle Spirit…

My transformation is almost complete.

“Where the devil did I put those gloves?” I mutter.

By “gloves,” I don’t mean winter gloves. I mean riding gloves.

Because today—for a few hours, at least—I am, simply…a biker chick. Today I will seek comfort and tranquility where I have found it so many times before: in the arms of an “iron horse.”

There is ritual in my preparation. I slip my feet into well-worn black leather boots that reach up my calves. I pull my favorite blue jeans down over them.

Then it’s time for my leather chaps. I wrap the top belt around my waist, making sure to tuck my shirt in properly. Once the belt is engaged I wrap my legs in leather like a tortilla. I run the zipper—bottom to top—on the inside of my leg and thigh.

I slip into my favorite leather jacket—the one with fringe and a rose emblem etched into the hide—the way another woman might slip into a dress or a suit.

My psychologist is waiting for me in the garage.

My psychologist is silver and black with just the right amount of chrome. I never have to wait two weeks to get an appointment, and it doesn’t cost anywhere near $180 an hour.

I swing my leg over my psychologist and settle into my new seat. I turn the key and hit the switch. I can’t resist twisting the throttle just to hear that distinctive motorcycle “growl.”

Finally I nod to my husband and we are off…

The throttle is easy in my hand and I have to check my speed. After two decades of riding, the gears are an extension of my body, and I shift without conscious thought. I take comfort in the cadence of two wheels on pavement—and on the shadow that rides beside me.

Yet I find myself still tied to concern. For the friend whose 36-year-old sister recently died in a car accident, leaving two children (six and nine) motherless. For the production problems and the competitor who copied our product. For the friends who are struggling through a painful divorce…

The list could go on, but I know I must shake it off. I must let the tranquility that comes with riding find me and cleanse me.

It is a glorious day in Minnesota and we are riding one of my favorite routes—gentle hills and county roads that curve and sweep toward and along the Mississippi River. The tips of the trees are showing evidence of fall—splashes of red, yellow and orange.

Eventually, the Great Motorcycle Spirit works its magic. Yes—I am even smiling!

Gratitude begins to flow again. Gratitude for my children and husband. Gratitude that I have the health and the means to ride…and that the country I live in allows freedom of choice. And yes, gratitude for work that I love (most days!), and a hobby—riding a motorcycle—that never fails to remind me of my own personal freedom.

This flow of gratitude becomes a torrent as I stand on the banks of the Mississippi River, my husband’s hand in mine and the sun kissing my head, spreading its warmth. I tilt my head back and smile into the heavens—to the Great Motorcycle Spirit.

Wow, Tracey, that was an amazing ride we took with you. And now we're off into the wild blue yonder with a lengthy excerpt from Tracey's book, Last Chance Ride:

The helicopter shuddered and swayed as it lifted off the helipad. Instinctively Brad Sievers gripped the edge of the bench, willing his stomach to calm down.

The chopper was so full he could hardly move, and he felt overly warm and claustrophobic. Though he wore a headset, he could hear the Colorado air pulsing through the giant blades above.

Minutes ago he'd been terribly insistent about tagging along on this search-and-rescue mission; now he wasn't sure it was a good idea. What the hell am I doing? he thought. I'm in advertising, for Chrissakes!

"Okay, listen up," the team leader said.

The movement of the chopper was so foreign to Brad that he had difficulty paying attention. The team leader talked about the missing snowmobilers -- what they looked like, where they were last seen and probable scenarios. He threw out a lot of numbers -- coordinates, Brad realized later -- and assigned teams to what he kept calling quadrants. "And Jessie will take our ride-along in CHIPS," he finished.

Brad had known Jessie Van Dyke since kindergarten -- in fact, it was entirely possible he'd chased her around the playground in "kiss and tell" -- but they'd been only casual acquaintances through high school. He hadn't seen her in ten years -- until he showed up at their high school reunion in Minnesota just weeks ago, hoping to impress his old crush, Aimee Kinderbach -- who blew him off in the end.

He must have had a blank look on his face because Jessie said, "CHIPS is our medevac chopper. It's equipped with heat-seeking equipment, electronic mapping, medical equipment -- the whole nine yards. It's parked at our rendezvous helipad." She tugged on Brad's harness, adjusting the fit like another woman would adjust a tie.

They disembarked on a plateau that was in the middle of nowhere according to Jessie. Brad wouldn't have known it; the plateau was lit up like the Fourth of July, a line of snowmobiles idling to one side. A blast of cold air hit him, making him thankful for the jacket.

Jessie tapped his arm. "This way." She led him around the helicopter they'd just landed in. Behind it was the smaller helicopter, CHIPS. It, too, had its propellers going.

Jessie swung open the back door and plugged in her headset.

"Hey guys," she said. "We've got company tonight."

She indicated that Brad should take the rear-facing seat, and showed him where to plug in his headset. She introduced him to "Pilot Sam" and "Navigator Rick."

"Brad's been hanging out with us and couldn't resist sticking around for the real thing." Jessie settled herself into the seat across from Brad.

A pair of lit-up computer screens in front of Rick caught Brad's attention. "How does that work?"

As if in response to his inquiry, a voice came over the radio. "Checking all systems ... all teams power up."

Lights began blinking on the computer screen. "Every team has a transmitter as well as GPS on their radio," Rick explained. "We can track them from above and the mission coordinator can track them from the base site."

Brad found himself riveted to the lights on the screen as the teams responded one by one: "Ready on Alpha." "Ready on Bravo." "Ready on Charlie ..."

It took him several minutes to realize what the words meant. "Team names?"

Jessie nodded. "Based on the military alphabet. That was the team leader, Dan, calling for the ready-check."

Finally Rick spoke into his mouthpiece. "We have audio and visual on all teams. We are ready to rock and roll."

"Ditto on the ground," another voice said. "Move out!"

The helicopter began to rise as snowmobiles passed it on the right. Out the rear window panel, Brad watched as the launch pad and snowmobile lights disappeared from view. "How do you know where to look?" he asked.

"Sometimes we don't," Rick said. "But in this case, we have fairly reliable information about where they are."

"If we didn't, we may have been put on standby until the ground teams found them -- or first light," Jessie said.

"Or if the weather was really crappy," Rick added.

"Here. Make yourself useful." Jessie was holding something that looked like a cross between binoculars and 3-D glasses. "They're night-vision goggles."

Brad wasn't sure what he was looking for but it felt better to be contributing, so he strapped the goggles on and peered out the window at the ground below. His thoughts drifted to the woman across from him…

Their chance encounter at the reunion had stuck with him after he returned to his new job in Dallas. He tried to forget the way she touched his lapel when she said, "I never would have guessed you for advertising; I didn't think that would give you fulfillment." And the way her eyes searched his when she teased him about being shallow.

And then he lost his job.

And the self-doubt -- was he the reason they'd lost the account? -- started eating at him. He'd been drinking himself to devastation every night, but it hadn't made him feel any better. If anything, that brief conversation with Jessie came to mind more often. So, on a half-drunken whim, he'd driven from Dallas to her home state of Colorado, intending to put her "shallow" comment to rest.

But the conversation didn't go the way he'd envisioned it ...

"Team Foxtrot has a visual." The voice cut into Brad's thoughts, jarring him back to the present. He wasn't sure how long they'd been flying.

"Cannot confirm it's our target," the voice continued. "We'll check it out."

"Are we close enough?" Sam said.

Rick was studying a map on one of the computer screens. "That's southwest of us about 20 miles," he said. "If it's not legit, we can circle back easily and still cover prime terrain."

It was Sam's turn to radio. "CHIPS to back up Foxtrot." He swung the chopper around.

"Affirmative, Chips II."

"Who's on Foxtrot?" Rick asked.

"That would be Micah and Ryan," Jessie said. Brad had just had a long conversation about stock car racing with Ryan, a young Vietnamese-American who was full of jokes.

Fifteen minutes later Rick said, "We're coming up on Foxtrot."

"They look stationary," Jessie said. "I have a visual on their objective ... looks like a wreck, all right."

Well, if you want to read more, and I can't imagine why you wouldn't--I'm guessing everyone will be rushing right out to snag a copy of this one--why don't you leave a comment for Tracey? She's on a blog tour this month, and will be selecting a random commenter as the winner of a copy of Last Chance Rescue.

Either drop Tracey a line telling her what you liked about her postings or share your own transportation story--bike, plane, train, dirigible, camel, whatever--if it gets you from here to there, it counts.

Don't miss your Last Chance to win...


Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Great excerpt and I loved your article about riding your cycle. I have many friends who ride and they speak of it as you do though not with your flare.

Laurie J. Edwards said...

That's cool that you ride your own bike. I'm still a back-of-the-motorcycle gal. Or, in our latest venture, a sidecar rider. :-)

Cate Masters said...

Great post, Tracey. Loved the piece about the Great Motorcycle Spirit. My husband once taught me to drive, or tried to. :) I still love to write about guys on motorcycles! Best of luck with Last Chance Rescue.

Tracey Cramer-Kelly said...

Ooh, I have flare, I love it, thank you Susan! Laurie, we had a Ural sidecar for a while, and I'd "go passenger" with our son (who is now nearly 7). It was a hoot on the dirt roads around our home.

Tracey Cramer-Kelly said...

Cate, thanks to you and Susquehanna Writers for hosting me today. I'll be happy to respond to your visitor comments.

s7anna said...

I love reading books with a biker theme...sounds great...

Happy Reading
Anna Shah Hoque

Lori M. Myers said...

Tracey, thanks for allowing us to come along for the "ride." I'm glad I was hanging on!