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Must-see TV

Once I started writing–just over a year ago–my television viewing dropped off dramatically. Other than a few shows my husband and I have watched for years, I almost never turned it on.

But now that I'm looking for insight into organizations like the DEA and military special ops, I find myself hunting for good viewing material everywhere. For example, I found a great show on Hulu that used to air on Spike TV–the network for the testosterone-fueled set–called DEA. Well, perfect! It's like COPS but it follows around DEA agents. I have two whole seasons of badness to plow through.

Today I watched The First 48 (A&E) for the first time while sweating on the cross-trainer. I may not stick to this one, but I started recording it, just in case. It's all about real-life detectives trying to find a suspect within the first 48 hours after a murder victim is discovered. I also added Manhunters to the DVR list so I can get some insight into tracking fugutives.

Netflix provided a boon of documentaries from the likes of National Geographic, Nova, and others about the DEA, FBI, special forces, and the secret service (though I do have a contact for that one). Unfortunately, they're not all available on instant play, so I put them at the end of my queue to move up when I'm ready.

Yes, I still watch fiction. I love my CSI (Original) and Heroes (although it may have jumped the shark this season), and we usually watch movies on the weekends. But now, if I feel like watching TV, I can still work on my writing.

For me, that's the best of both worlds.

Write on!

Digging deep

Did you know that Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) have built sophisticated tunnels running under the border between Mexico and the US? The tunnels are reinforced or bored into rock, and often have electricity, phone service, and fresh air ventilation systems!

An article about a tunnel discovered in 2006 sparked the idea for the opening scene in my current WIP. DEA agent Steve Reyes and his team are ambushed during a raid on a warehouse where one such tunnel entrance exists. Here's a video of Anderson Cooper touring a tunnel found earlier this month in Tijuana. Amazing!

For my past books, I've done minimal research, usually which could be accomplished on the Internet. Which street connects downtown San Diego to Ocean Beach? Does UCLA have a swim team and a sports medicine degree? Are the cliffs of Malibu rocky like the central coast?

You get the idea. But for my current story, I need more. I just ordered several books about undercover DEA agents and money laundering inside the DTOs. If I want this to be a series, I figure I need to have a better understanding of what it's like for these guys to be undercover, and how the DTOs operate. I want my stories to ring true, and I hope what I read will spark a few scene ideas.

So, I have some heavy, but interesting Christmas reading ahead of me. What about you? How much research do you do for your stories?

Daily Squirrel: officer

The smile on Taryn's face refused to be tamed, even as she stood at attention. The slim gold bars in the Colonel's hand sparkled like glitter in the brilliant sunlight. Thirteen weeks of screaming instructors, room inspections, leadership exercises, push ups, and overdosing on caffeine were over. She'd made it!

In two more minutes she'd be an Air Force 2nd Lieutenant. The first woman in her family to join a longstanding family tradition. Every day, every event of her life, had led to this moment, and she intended to savor every second of it.