Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sex, Lies and SEALs

A friend came over the other day. I'm going to call him Jason because that is not his name. We sat at my tiny new table in my tiny new dining area of my new place.

"Mary Margret," he asked, "how much do you know about SEALs?"

A general answer ( i.e. a lot, not much) wasn’t going to satisfy him. He wanted to know a specific estimate of my knowledge. At fifty percent, seventy percent, ninety?

After I recovered from my hysterical laughing fit, I said, "If you want to know how much I know about SEALS I’ll tell you:

Next to nothing! Everything SEALs do, if they haven’t been doing for the last fifty years, is classified. Everything."

Which is amusing in itself because one of my favorite neuroses with which I torture myself is that I don’t know enough. So what do I do? I pick an archetype about which it’s impossible to find one iota of concrete, current information. One single bit of supporting detail.

Here's an example. My hero for the book that’s coming next spring is, among other things, psychic. I thought it would be nice to give him job researching how to apply psychic skills within a framework that would be useful to SEALs. Neat huh?

But I needed to know, if a chief petty officer took such a notion, how would he go about it?

With luck and perseverance I found an article on the internet written by a now-retired SEAL about psychic research. Yes! The very man I need to talk to.

After fruitless attempts to track him down, I remembered the first rule: this is a closed group. I went to another SEAL and told him I wanted to talk to this man, and sent him a self-introductory letter.

In twenty-four hours I had addresses and phone numbers.

Here’ what I asked him. (Verbatim)

Would the command master chief's cooperation be all he needed to assure him of the money, and facilities he would need to do the research?

If not, how would he get the money? Is there a "research department?" at Coronado, or would he need to go through the research facilities at Point Loma?

Let's say his research design calls for testing trainees' remote viewing abilities pre and post some sort of combat exercise. Where would he get the time?

Would his teaching load be reduced?

Here’s what he told me:

He did it so cleverly that I only understood his answer after a couple of totally fascinating hours on the phone with him. (Did I mention that these guys are incredibly generous with their time?) I kept thinking I didn’t know how to make myself clear, and if I asked the question another way, he would tell me—and he let me think that.

Well, it’s all grist for the mill. One day I’ll write a scene in which the SEAL lies by misdirection for two hours.

Oh wait. I already have that scene in my coming book.

If you're wondering when I'm going to get to the sex promised in the title--I lied. There is no sex in this blog. The sex is in the book.


  1. Can't wait to read the book, Mary Margaret. I'm sure you did a great job of providing quality entertainment, which is what it's all about. The only people who would ever know if you got a small detail wrong, are people who don't exactly fall into our genre's expected demographic, right? It sounds like you did everything you could--and more than a lot of writers would do--to get the details correct.

  2. You cheated, Mary Margret!!! No discussion of sex?

    I find contradicting information sometimes when I'm doing research. Or sometimes, a situation is the norm, and then I'll find in a rare instance it's some other way...

    So like my mother always says, "I'm sticking to my story." LOL

  3. Hi, MM. I must say I envy your savvy in making contacts and doing interviews. That is the part that always makes my shyness rear its ugly head. In front of a group, I'm great; one-on-one, I get a bad case of nerves. Your subject matter is just fascinating. Thanks for sharing, and for being brave enough to do it.

  4. Christina,

    I get it about the shyness. Sure as I really admire someone, I become this craven wimp, who can't manage a four word sentence. Sooo bad for the ego!

  5. I just reread my blog entry. I wrote it around five AM EDT when I may not have been at my sharpest.

    I realized it could be read to mean my informant didn't help me. Not true!

    He gave me two hours and a lot of help! Although he didn't answer any of those questions specifically, he told me how I could handle the plot issues they address in a way that would work and would be at least in the spirit of what a SEAL would do.

    Even if there still isn't a fact to be found. :-)

  6. I guess that's why I write about aliens. They don't tell you a damn thing, but they don't care if you make it up, either! And the sex, well, the, um, sky's the limit, if you know what I mean! And, of course, you can kiss and tell all you like!

  7. A psychic SEAL? I'm sooooo excited.

    How interesting that Navy SEALs are so excited to give you information. I know it gives your books an authentic edge--and you stay fresh from the run of the mill SEAL stories by showing their softer sides, not just their tough guy/save the day sides the entire book!