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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Seductive Musings

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Research update

The Sonoran desert near the U.S./Mexico border

It’s 114 degrees, the sun beating down relentlessly. There’s no bathroom. Whatever shade you can find is going to have attracted other creatures hoping to get away from the heat and bright daylight — scorpions, coyotes, other human beings. You have only as much water as you could carry and only one change of clothes. Shoes that seemed sturdy are now torn from desert thorns. Sand is everywhere — between your toes, stuck to the sweat on your skin, in your drinking water.

You can’t travel by day. It’s just too hot. So you take your chances with the scorpions and hide in the shade of bushes, so tired that you don’t think twice about resting your head on the bare, hoping that nothing eight-legged will come along. And you sleep. A little.

Hunger and thirst wake you. You rummage through your pack, feeling slow and stupid from hunger and dehydration. You know that if you can’t reach your destination before your water runs out, you’ll die. There’s no one here to help you. And if you do see other people, you’re better off remaining hidden.

This land is where drug smugglers and human traffickers rule. Armed with AK-47s and other weapons, they won’t think twice before shooting you and leaving you for the vultures. And they might even do worse...

So you sip your water and wait for sunset when you’ll stumble blindly northward again, unable to see the thorns that tear at your shoes or the snakes that curl up not far from the path seeking warm sand or the human predators who have an advantage over you with their night vision goggles.

Okay, okay, I’ll stop. But I thought I’d share with you my research lately. You may find hints in it of things that will happen in Natalie’s story.

I’ve been researching topics around my next I-Team book since shortly after Christmas, focusing heavily on the U.S./Mexico border. Natalie is in Mexico when the story opens, touring Cuidad Juárez with a group of U.S. and Mexican journalists.

One thing I’ve focused on quite a bit is the experience of the illegal border crossing. I wanted to get into the skin of someone whose done it, so I’ve been watching episodes of Border Patrol and reading books about it from a variety of points of view. And all I know is that I don’t even want to find myself having to sneak into the U.S. via the desert. The arachnids are enough to keep me away. Yes, an arachnid patrol would be more than enough to dissuade me. Who worries about men with guns when there are spiders and scorpions around? [Shudder]

I’m learning what I can about desert flora and fauna, as well as terrain and popular places for crossing the border. It’s absolutely fascinating.

The latest topic I’ve picked up is Navy SEAL training. I wanted to know the lingo, the basics about BUD/s and Hell Week and, in particularly SEER training. How do we train our most specialized troops to resist torture? My sister-in-law’s brother recently left the SEALs, so I’m hoping he’ll be able to answer some questions for me.

Navy SEALs fastroping

I also spent quite a bit of time researching the work deputy U.S. marshals do along the border and had lunch with a couple of marshals. They were fun to hang with and had lots of helpful information and stories to share.

I usually do research before I write a book, but I also keep it flowing while I’m writing so that new impressions and words and situations are presented to me. That helps me be more authentic in my writing, and I think it helps keep me inspired, too.

With Kat’s story, I didn’t have to do that much research, but with Natalie’s I do. Of all the I-Team books, this one is based the least on my own experience, meaning that I really can’t take anything for granted.

Shackling bill update: The bill will be read by the Senate President tomorrow and the first committee hearing is at 1:30 PM on Wednesday. At this point, I plan to testify. I’m also trying to track down women who gave birth while in custody to see whether they have experiences about giving birth in shackles that they can share with us. There are a number of organizations that have signed on to support the bill, but it faces some challenges, too. How the Department of Corrections (which runs the state prisons) will respond remains to be seen... But the county sheriffs (who operate county jails) are in favor of it and will be testifying for it. YIKES! I’m nervous about Wednesday and already worrying about what to wear so that I look like a sane, sensible citizen and not a print journalist slob from Boulder.

I will probably be overwhelmed with work between now and Thursday evening, so I might not be back till then. I hope you all have a great week!

11 comments:

Crystal said...

Pamela -
No matter what you decide to wear, no matter how unfamiliar the process, just think about how many lives you have the potential to truly change for the better with the shackling bill. Wow. I am so proud of you.

Thank you so much, Crystal. What a kind thing to say! And it really doesn't matter what I wear. I'll be writing up my testimony tonight. Maybe I can post it. Have a great day!

Ronlyn said...

HUGE HUGS!!!!
You have such passion for this bill that I know you will do well and speak eloquently, with compassion and dignity. I have faith in you.

PS, Scott went through FLETC as a Border Patrol cadet (before an injury made it impossible to continue). If you have questions I'm sure he'd be happy to answer them.

Cecile said...

Hey hon! Just wanted to drop you a line to say HIIII!! And I hope all is well for you! All your hard work will pay off.... soon....

Scorpio M. said...

Good luck, Pamela! Will be sending you positive thoughts for your hearing.

Your research for Natalie's book sounds fascinating. Whenever I read about border crossings I am always struck by the endurance of man, of their decision to face agony, sweat & death for just a chance. Sobering.

You asked (from yesterday's post): What is it about Gabe that makes [me] adore him?

Right from the beginning Gabe just felt more accessible. Even though initially, he had all the hallmarks of an anti-hero: emotionally-detached, womanizing, almost dispassionate there was something about him that hinted of goodness. His was a heart in conflict with itself.

As the story progressed, you revealed a man who had once loved life, a good, trusting, loyal soul. It was simply charming to see him get back to that place. To witness his playfulness, laughter, joie de vivre. All this made Gabe very lovable to me. (And then, of course, he did what he did...how could I not love him forever??)

So, ya think Zach has potential to top Gabe?! Oh my..I can hardly wait! :-)

Just popping in to say it is Senate Bill 193.

I got a hold of a woman who manages drug treatment for moms in prison and runs a halfway house (like the one Megan fled) for moms and babies. She is testifying AND she's bringing women who've gone through labor and birth in shackles.

One of you — you know who you are — said she's thinking of this bill as "Megan's Law," referring to Megan in Unlawful Contact. And that totally choked me up.

Megan is fiction, but her experience was very real, composed of the experiences of both women and teenagers from Colorado prisons.

So this is for them.

Debbie H said...

You will do great at the Senate meeting. Just be yourself.

I have lived in the desert, not the one you speak of, but desert area. You definitely have the critters down. I can take the spiders and scorpions, but not the rattlesnakes. That is what freaks me out. I grew up having to be aware of all of those creatures. There is a cactus that you can drink the water from. I don't remember the name. Possibly a barrel cactus. You would have to have a knife and the knowledge of cacti.

Hugs!

Pamela, everyone else has already said it all - you'll do fine. This bill means so much to you that it's bound to come through. You won't be thinking of yourself at all.

Kara C said...

I hope 193 turns out to be your lucky number! Thank you for fighting so hard for people who can't fight for themselves.

oklanannie said...

Thanks to your voice, Senate Bill 193 is on its way to unshackling those women prisoners who can no longer speak for themselves.

Mitzi H. said...

Wishing you (and all female inmates) the best in changing this "archaic" law.

I have no doubt if these "men" were giving birth to their babies while incarcerated...they would revise this law posthaste.

But men don't give birth (but make the rules) and the best we can do is enlighten them on the physical and mental needs of the newborn and it's mother.

I sure hope they take your testimony seriously and have enough compassion to recognize the unnecessary use of shackles on women during childbirth!!!

P.S. Wear Blue....an attorney friend of mine once told me it is the color of honor and truth.

Good Luck to you and all of us women, Mitzi H.

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