Friday, May 6, 2011

SEALs, Glory, and Reflections


By Mary Margret Daughtridge

I have to smile a little whenever people congratulate me, in light of recent events, for having the foresight to launch my writing career around SEALs. Like I knew SEALs would take out Osama Bin Laden. Or their exploits would be in the news the same week SEALed Forever was released.

I smile mostly because when I started the first SEAL book, SEALs were so rarely in the news, I often had to explain exactly what SEALs were. Well, I don't have to any more.

Though people finally know how extraordinary they are, I cannot bask in reflected glory.

Really. I didn’t create SEALs. Nor have I burnished their reputations. They did that on their own. I just took a stock romantic suspense character and asked, “But what happens when the operation is over and they come home?”

I'm writing entertainment fiction, but I refuse to trivialize them. My biggest challenge is to depict how astonishing SEALs really are—I admit I clean them up a little; the universe they operate in is harsh—and still make my story-book guys credible. I mean, SEALs actually embody ideals that a lot of people don’t even try to live up to.

A TV commentator was listing SEAL qualities, like low-key, intelligent, flexible, dedicated, and aggressive. Then he added, “And the one that surprises most people: they are family men.”

I could add: though they are masters at controlling emotions, they have no problem admitting they have feelings—including the so-called “weak” feelings like fear, love, tenderness, and compassion.

I would also point out that being “flexible” sometimes translates into “willing to break the rules.”

In my early research, attempting to get into the heads of these men, I read a slew of SEAL memoirs. I found two separate accounts of a SEAL rescuing a baby.

One of the stories involved rule-breaking, the other a lot of power plays and cussing, but both gave a glimpse into the men’s deepest hearts. Each man never felt truer to himself, or more like a SEAL, than when he’d used his skills to a keep little one safe—and in neither case was a single shot fired.

A short time later, surfing the ’Net, I found an article about a “privately owned” airstrip in the eastern North Carolina sticks, which the CIA denied was a front organization used to bring spies into and out of the country undetected. The locals said, “Yeah. Right.”

Years later, all the elements—a baby to rescue, rules to be broken, an airstrip, and the question When is a SEAL most a SEAL –finally came together in Garth’s story, SEALed Forever.

Lt. Garth Vale’s career is going great. Okay, okay, his men call him Darth Vader behind his back—not meaning any disrespect, but hardly a testament to his lovability. Still promotion to Lt. Commander is in his sights until, against impossible odds, he and all his men survive an ambush in Afghanistan. WTF?

Now, instead of being a decorated hero, he’s undercover in Nowheresville, North Carolina running a tiny airstrip where black ops planes land, a job any E4 enlisted could do. None of what’s happening makes sense. Most especially not the stowaway baby he finds, stinking and too quiet, hidden in a box labeled “Bananas,” aboard a just-arrived spy plane.

Dr Bronwyn Whitescarver’s career isn’t going so good. A burned out ER doc, she hasn’t been able to put the parts of her life together in a long time. She’s come to tiny Sessoms’ Corner, NC, determined to open an office and practice medicine a new way. But the Universe seems to fight her every effort to get organized.Secrets Bronwyn has been keeping, even from herself, keep trying to surface.

Garth doesn’t need a baby. He’s got a career to fish out of the toilet, no place to put a baby to keep her safe, and no way to tell a civilian the truth about where he found her.

Bronwyn knows trouble when it stands on her front porch in the middle of a thunderstorm. Trouble is a buff guy with a dark, dangerous aura holding a sick baby and claiming to be the father. Getting involved could cost her her license. Bronwyn doesn’t need baby or man, or does she?

23 comments:

  1. Mary Margaret, congrats on your release! Timing really is everything, isn't it? LOL

    Loved your comments about the characteristics of a SEAL and your excerpt SEALed the deal for me. I'll be making my weekly jaunt to the bookstore this evening and looking for Darth, er, Garth.

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  2. Is there any greater gift from anywhere than a story premise as strong as the one you've happened onto? And why does it surprise us that a warrior is at heart a protector, not a weapon?

    Congratulations on another great story, great premise and--in this case at least--great timing!

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  3. What great timing Mary Margret! The story sounds just wonderful.

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  4. Ah, come on MM, you planned this whole thing, didn't you? Bet you were sitting in the Big House on in Washington telling them when to do the job! Smart like that, you are! Whoops! I bet that part about the Big House was classified information...

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  5. We're all proud of our SEALs at the moment, but you saw their story potential long ago. Sounds like a great book!

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  6. Mary Margret - great blog! I love reading about SEALs. And agree with you that they are larger than life, and having met a wonderful group of retired SEALs two years ago, can say that they are definitely family men.

    I love the premise of the book and can't wait to read it!

    There's just something about a man in uniform. ;)

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  7. Thanks, Tracey. Glad you liked the characteristics.

    When writing a list like that, I'm always afraid I'll lose the reader's attention--but I wanted make the point that I don't have to do anything to make them heroes. They already are.

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  8. "And why does it surprise us that a warrior is at heart a protector, not a weapon?"

    Grace, you are always so eloquent! Everyone has heard of Hell Week. It isn't just an endurance test. The trainees are being observed to see if, drained of physical strength and mental agility, they will still exhibit protectiveness and nurturance.

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  9. Thanks, Anita. Can't take credit for the timing, but I'm sure glad about it!

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  10. Carolyn

    [snicker]

    I'd tell you about the Big House, but then I'd have to kill you.

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  11. Cheryl, I saw their potential as storybook heroes outside romantic suspense.

    What I'm glad about is that the people who craft counterterrorism strategies and make the Big Decisions, finally are seeing their potential too.

    Not all that long after 9-11, the CIA knew where Bin Laden was, and had SEALs ready to go after him, but higher-ups wouldn't give them the go-ahead. True.

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  12. Thanks, Colleen.

    I couldn't possibly have crafted heroes with any depth without the help of retired SEALs. I know personally how generous and supportive they are.

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  13. MM, it's wonderful that you've found stories that show the other side of these men. It always amazes me that there are people out there selfless enough to walk into that kind of danger for the sake of others.

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  14. Joanne, you're right. It is amazing. But it also must be said that SEALs also walk into danger because they LIKE to.

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  15. MM, I'm hooked! A SEAL and a baby! That has to be one cool story and a sure winner!
    Amelia

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  16. I love books about SEALs, and this one sounds fabulous!

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  17. Perfect timing. I think I'd probably enjoy your Seals more than some of the real things lol. My husband was a SeaBee in VietNam and was staioned with some Seals - they even scared him lol.

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  18. My critique partner's husband is a retired Marine, so she's been around Marine's all her life, and she said it often surprises people how low key and family oriented these men are. I'm sure it's the same for SEALs. Tough when they need to be, but inside they're gentle and kind.

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  19. Congrats on your new book, Mary Margaret! You know I'm a big fan of heroes in uniform!! :)

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  20. Congrats on your release, MM! I love the characteristics of a SEAL, I can attest to all of the above and more. I used to date a SEAL a long time ago. Sigh...he was all that and a bag of chips. I'm going to have to download right to Amazon and download it! Hmm...maybe I see myself curled up with my Kindle tonight...

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  21. Congrats on your release and the fabulous timing! The SEALs are truly amazing I can see why you would choose them as your heroes!

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  22. Congrat on your new release! It sound really good and the timing couldn't get any better.

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  23. A lot of luck is involved in this business, MM. May events conspire to sell you a ton of books. :}

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