Insight into the mind of Tucker from ONE NIGHT WITH A COWBOY

I’m a woman. I’m a civilian. I’m not a testosterone-fueled man. I’m not career military personnel. In light of all of those points, I do one thing to help me write my military characters…I talk (on IM, by phone, on Skype, etc) to active duty, career military personnel as often as possible. Below, paraphrased because I don’t always take notes during these conversations, is what I’ve heard some of them say…

1) “They came by the shop today asking for volunteers to go be door kickers in Afghanistan. If I was 10 years younger I would have volunteered to go.” …Let me interpret this statement for you. This was about 4 or 5 years ago, before the troop reductions had begun. This active duty Marine, nearing his 20 year mark, was safely stationed  in the US. Someone from the Corps came to his squadron to ask for volunteers to go to Afghanistan and become part of a team whose job was to literally kick down doors to inspect the residences and search for insurgents, and men were going, while others who didn’t volunteer wished they could.

2) “I had to pull one of my guys off the Afghan det. He’s really pissed.” This was just last month. A Staff Non-Commissioned Officer is explaining how one of his troops was scheduled to go to Afghanistan this summer with the rest of the squadron, but for some reason he can no longer go and now this Marine is upset because instead he will have stay in the rear, safely in North Carolina.

3) Just a few months ago, another Marine was about to leave in January for Afghanistan when he went to Medical with severe back pain. He was told if his condition didn’t improve, he wouldn’t be able to deploy with the rest of his unit. He was nearly inconsolable about that. He said, “Now I’ll never get to go. We’ll be out of Afghanistan by the time the next det goes.” He did everything he could to heal and though he didn’t get to deploy with the advanced unit as he’d hoped, he did get to go with the main unit and is there now.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I’m seeing reader reviews of ONE NIGHT WITH A COWBOY in which the reader doesn’t understand why the hero would volunteer to deploy to Afghanistan when events at home in Oklahoma make him believe it would be beneficial for him and the woman he cares about if he could separate himself from her for 6 months and then come back. It’s not a large amount of reviewers who say this, it’s just a few, but in my mind, even 1 is too many. 2 reviewers called his motivation “juvenile” and “infantile”. A couple of others thought it wasn’t a believable scenario he’d volunteer to go to Afghanistan. Sometimes that disbelief is because he ends up in a pretty hellacious region of Afghanistan. What we have to realize is this, soldiers don’t get to pick where they end up going. You say you’re willing to deploy, they don’t let you choose which base. This isn’t Club Med. “Kandahar or Korengal? Both are lovely this time of year, though I must say the food is better in Kandahar…”

These men I discuss above are the men I based Tuck’s character on. It’s their motivation I tried to capture.

I know the failure is mine as an author that I didn’t convey the above motivation better in the story. If I’d done my job, Tucker’s motives wouldn’t be questioned, he wouldn’t come across to some readers as a bratty child picking up his toys and leaving when things get tough. My only excuse is I failed to remember that not everyone has my experience with these kind of men. Not every reader is getting the “Good morning, Sunshine”  instant message that I get from the war zone on the other side of the world at night before I go to bed. Not every reader is waking up the next day to another message about how, now that the day is done in Afghanistan, it’s been a hell of a day and he’s heading to bed hoping tomorrow will be better. Not every reader can hear the disappointment in the voice of the man who just got told he can’t go with the rest of this squad. And that’s my fault for not realizing that and writing that better into the story. I’ll try not to make the same mistake in future books should I choose to focus on a military character again. For now, I hope this helps to give readers who haven’t had the same experiences I have a little insight into what I see, and what I’d hoped to convey.


8 responses to “Insight into the mind of Tucker from ONE NIGHT WITH A COWBOY

  1. Brett had been stationed with a Cargo Handling Battalion in VA. In 1990 he got orders to a Coop Boat in CA. Couple days after we leave VA word came Cargo Battalion was being sent to the Gulf for Operation Desert Storm. Brett called his old command & asked to be recalled. I asked if he was crazy. He said THIS is what we train for. It is a mindset in military personnel. Can’t deny I was relieved when they told him it was too late, he had new orders. He also left shore duty a year early because a ship needed his rate. I completely understand Tucker’s decision. I love that you write the military scenes as authentic as you do. Thank you!

  2. Wow….I love this post. I TOTALLY understand what you’re saying, but from the point of view of the mother of a soldier. While I have told Travis (my son) repeatedly that I hate him being deployed….he recently blew his ankle out AGAIN (which is what happened that disqualified him from the Special Forces training he was in). Told him that I hate him being in pain, but I really hope the injury is bad enough to keep him from being sent on this next deployment. He said “I don’t wanna leave my family, but it’s my job. I have things I need to do over there to get the job done & it’s not fair to let it fall on someone else just because I’d rather stay home with my family.” Made me so very proud….at the same time it broke my heart.

    The mindset of a soldier is something most people don’t understand….unless they are directly connected. Reading your story the first time, I totally understood why Tuck went…but that’s my knowledge & soldier attachment. I think it’s great that you have posted the blog making people more aware.

  3. i thought your book was well written! being an army spouse and having pulled 2 deployments ,first in Iraq and the second one which my husband and son were both on the same base in Afghanistan , i can tell you that they do want their deployments if they love the military and this country. it is what they train for. my husband was military for 34 years and would have pulled a third deployment if he didn’t have to retire. they don’t have a choice where they go for the most part. yes they can volunteer for some duties, but it still doesn’t determine where they actually end up. maybe you should interview us military spouses to found out how our men think, sons and husbands, so that other non military readers can understand better. it is a hard lifestyle for all family and loved ones, but it’s one we learn to accept and deal with if we love our soldiers. i’m very proud of my soldiers and wouldn’t have chosen to live our life any other way. I LOVE A MAN IN UNIFORM!!! i told my husband that was what i would miss, seeing him in his uniform always gave me goosebumps!! keep on writing and we’ll keep on reading!!!

    • Thank you, Robin, and please thank your son and husband for their service for me. I’m also thinking even after retirement, there could be some “private” wearing of the uniform once in a while… 😉