For Writers

KN, p. 318 “The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)”

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The CIA is depicted in books and movies as either the enemy or our last great hope against the tyranny of despots who would do us harm. The CIA is a USA based, foreign intelligence gathering agency, and has no powers to arrest.

Its Mission is to:

  • Gather intelligence about foreign governments that will reveal any need to defend against terrorism.
  • Analyze the gathered information and deliver accurate intel to the President, the National Security Council, and other government agencies that make foreign policy decisions.
  • Conduct covert operations if needed and ordered by the President.
  • Help keep our own secrets from becoming public knowledge.

The USA was drawn into WW2 after we were attacked at the Pearl Harbor naval base. At the time, several different agencies operated independently of each other, reportedly at times with overlapping duties. We needed to find a more effective way to be informed about the intent of our foreign enemies and it was proposed that all the agencies be gathered under one umbrella, with one coordinating person. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was formed and  functioned under the Joint Chiefs of Staff as our espionage agency behind enemy lines in Europe during WW2, collecting information and conduct paramilitary operations when needed.

At the end of WW2, the OSS was dissolved and eventually, with the signing of the National Security Act, the CIA was created in 1947. It was to be an independent, civilian intelligence gathering agency answering to the President, not the military, an important distinction post-war.

The CIA has grown ever since, expanding and changing to meet the intelligence needs of the country. There is now a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) who oversees the CIA as well as 16 other intelligence agencies and who advises the President in these areas.

Did you ever wonder what it would really be like to be a member of the CIA?
One of the branches of the CIA most often represented by the entertainment industry is the Directorate of Operations. The type of work done under that umbrella is likely covert and likely dangerous. (Think the TV series Homeland) The Officers must all go through lengthy specialized  training, some of which may include:

  • Participate in a car chase while under fire, with the expectation that there will be no outside help.
  • Climb, run, chase, flee both inside and outside buildings, and over rugged terrain.
  • Train to be alert and ready to make decisions 24/7 with limited sleep and under intense conditions.

Case Officers recruit foreign nationals who have access to insider government or terrorist information that would be helpful to the USA.

Cyber Operations Officers access networks integral in gathering intelligence.

Language Officers support the covert operations where language and culture create challenges for the case officers.

Paramilitary Officers work the covert operations to help in the collection of the foreign intelligence.


If that kind of action doesn’t appeal to you, take a look at a few careers available at the Central Intelligence Agency, not involving car chases and/or rugged terrain. There are many different areas of expertise required to support the decisions and tactics used when carrying out particular missions.

Accountants keep the books and do the payroll, not as cut-and-dried as it sounds, because even spooks have to keep track of their expenses.

Analytic Methodologists uncover new ways to analyze the data coming in, from the point of view of economics, geopolitics, and pure math modeling.

Economic Analysts crunch the financial numbers for foreign trade and markets.

Mechanics maintain the specialized fleet of vehicles in the USA and around the world.

Military Analysts study what is happening with the armed forces around the world in terms of numbers, future plans, and capability.

Physicians supply medical assistance to CIA members and their families.

Security Officers provide the security for the CIA facilities, both physically and with security systems.

Targeting Analysts study the data for emerging security threats.

Interested in a career with the CIA? Can you pass rigorous security clearances?
Information available at


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KN, p. 316 “International Travel, Law Enforcement, and Wheelchairs”

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Sheila and I love great movies and books that include foreign destinations. But, after a recent trip I wondered what challenges an injured protagonist might face when he/she is alone overseas, can’t walk more than ten feet on his own, and must get back home to testify in an important case. I realized that it depends upon when the story is told.

Back in the late 70s, a wheelchair bound acquaintance of ours wanted to take a plane to visit family, but couldn’t find an airline willing to accommodate her needs. Not one, unless she chartered a private flight. Waayyyy too pricey for her budget. She had been a frequent flier for business until a debilitating disease sidelined her. She was stunned by the hurdles she now faced.

She began a concerted campaign targeting the airline industry to make it mandatory to have at least one seat accessible to the physically challenged on each and every flight if requested. Eventually, there were federal hearings and public interest, but it took years for the changes to be made.

In 1986, Congress passed the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which guaranteed that people with disabilities would receive fair treatment when traveling by air. All domestic and foreign airlines doing business in the United States were covered by the provisions of the ACAA. The airlines did not advertise the changes, feeling they would be inundated with frivolous requests from able-bodied people taking advantage of the law. It took many more years before the airlines saw that it was good business to be kind to unlucky vacationers and wobbly grandmothers. Amendments to the law were passed (as recently as 2023 in its latest version), helping to fulfill its intent.

In this computerized age, special requests for assistance must be made in advance on the airline websites based on level of need, and are digitally carried along with the passenger information until he/she gets back home again. It seems to be first-come, first-served as to how many special needs passengers are on each flight, and those people must be self-sufficient (or have a traveling companion) once on board.

The flight attendants will help with stowing crutches, but are not caregivers. I watched a senior citizen with a broken ankle enter a plane bound from Europe to the USA. Escorts supported her on both sides to get her to that point, but the aisles were too narrow for them to continue to give assistance. Flight attendants were about to send her back to the airport, when the woman said she would hold onto the seatbacks and hop her way to her seat a few rows away. Someone not as strong/determined would have needed a traveling companion.

Each airport/airline has its own system of delivering wheelchair people to the planes. In its best version, once checked into the system, a transport person is assigned to stay with you in the airport until your flight leaves – including getting you to restaurants and bathrooms. One International airport has a central location for all the wheelchair travelers from all the airlines.

An App tracks everyone by name and flight, then makes sure the travelers are delivered to the right place at the right time. At the other end, an escort takes the passenger through customs and baggage claim, then delivers him/her to the ground transportation point.

After you check in at the airport, and have your boarding pass in hand, one USA domestic airport transport gets you through security (and to the gate) then leaves you at the gate on your own, no matter how long the layover.

My own experience: I traveled to Portugal during the holidays and temporarily hampered by a wonky knee that couldn’t support all the walking, I needed a wheelchair to get through the four airports (each way). I took a taxi, a wheelchair, a plane, a moving lift cart, a van, more wheelchairs, two more planes, another wheelchair, and another taxi to reach my destination. I repeated all that on the return.

My new knee has titanium in it and set off the security alarms repeatedly. Pat-downs were required at every security screening and I was told a doctor’s note would not have prevented the process. I boarded one of the planes early because of the wheelchair protocols and settled into my aisle seat. But, just when I thought it was safe to close my eyes, a late-arriving harried traveler tripped and dumped his shopping bags on my head, then elbowed my head as he tried to regain his balance, knocking my glasses askew. I was none-for-wear, and couldn’t have jumped out of the way in any case, but to his credit, reported his blunder to a flight attendant. Twice.

Help was spotty, depending on the airport. At an International airport, I was taken on a tour of the terminal, could have gone shopping if I chose, was delivered to the wheelchair bathroom, and was asked about snacks and meals. In a different airport, the transport people left me at the gate, then forgot to come at the appointed time to wheel me down the football-field-long jet bridge to the plane. The gate attendant helped out.

When it was time to head home, savvy traveler that I am, I gathered my grit and my crutch and entered the first taxi for the homeward bound trip. Four airports, three flights, wheelchairs, and taxis later, I collapsed into bed after 22 hours of travel. A few days later, the bills beckoned and I’m pretty sure I paid the correct people the correct amount of money. I made it through the jet lag and I didn’t see any bodies laying around. It’s all good.

Moral of the story? Make sure you take this essential travel companion: a sense of humor.

If the protagonist in your book has to fly to another continent, he/she shouldn’t be expected to make any good decisions for at least 24 hours, and certainly not be expected to testify in court right away. Why not? The usual culprits involve brain fog, extreme fatigue, irritability, headaches, sleeplessness, and I can go on.

Of course, when the brain goes dead after the flight, those decisions could be comical. Or wickedly deadly. I could have used my crutch to trip a few people who behaved badly while I sat  in my wheelchair, smiling innocently.


*The Kerrians are fictional characters, but all the events in this post actually happened. Promise.



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KN, p. 314 “Does Your Protagonist Need Total Knee Replacement?”

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Twelve years ago, Kerrian’s Notebook came to life because of several bullets that managed to find their way into my body during a drug bust gone bad. Yup, I was injured on the job. The bullet holes healed, but bones were broken during that same shootout and intense rehab began. I was out of commission for over a year, bored and with a bad attitude, until I found that people were interested in what I had to say about life as a law enforcement officer. I could focus on something besides quad lifts and stretching.

I did get back on the job on limited duty at first, then went back fulltime as a Detective when the doc cleared me around the 18 month point. Truth be told, I lost a step in the ‘racing after the bad guys’ part of the job when we caught a runner, so I mostly left that to younger partners with better knees. Light repair surgery took care of torn ligaments, but a few months ago, total knee replacement became a necessity when Osteoarthritis settled into my achy bones.

You know me, I asked the Doc a LOT of questions pre & post surgery. My surgeon builds the knee replacement device to fit the specific patient on the day of the surgery. Other surgeons take the one-size-fits-most approach.

During my total knee replacement surgery, any remaining damaged cartilage was removed. The end of the thigh bone and the top of the lower leg bone were sliced off to create a flat surface, then areas drilled out to accommodate the titanium implants. Those implants were press fit (inserted) into the bones where the two bones join together, then Palacos Bone Cement was used to permanently attach the implants to the existing bone. Fun fact: the cement is green.

My own ligaments and tendons are still there. A plastic spacer (replacing the long gone cartilage) was inserted between the metal pieces to create a smooth surface, making it easier for the bones to glide against each other. The result should be that my stride will return to normal.


Recovery has taken longer than the average Knee Replacement Surgery since I have bowed legs. Because of that, one of the bones needed to be turned a bit during the surgery, allowing the knee apparatus to line up properly with the thigh and calf bones.

Surgery took a little over two hours. The brochures state that each person/situation/surgery is different. Yup. I’ve had stabbing pain in my knee cap, like somebody stuck a screwdriver in it. Repeatedly. I had no feeling in a large section below the surgical spot for about three months, making rehab a tad strange at times. The knee was massaged, iced, rotated, pulled on, you name it, we tried it. Then finally, when feeling partially returned, I began to make real progress with stairs, standing to get out of chairs, etc.  After five months, my knee function is returning to normal, slowly, but getting there.


Physical therapy consists of strengthening the muscles above and below the knee. Quad lifts, leg lifts, all manner of moving that leg to get the body used to the new thing invading the space. Occasionally, the knee buckles, due to weaker-than-they-should-be quad muscles. We’re working on that. Sometimes, I hear/feel clicking when I walk. That’s normal.

Balance issues do occur as the body adjusts to its new position in space. One leg is marginally shorter than the other. After the other knee gets replaced in a few months, the body will adjust again.

If your legs are physically toned before the surgery, recovery is easier. If you sit around the house a good part of your day, then rehab will take longer. Sometimes, people are allergic to the metal being used in the implants, infection sets in, and the surgery has to redone. Sometimes, scar tissue builds up, locking the knee in place, and the surgery has to be redone.


Attitude is everything in recovery from any major surgery. Younger patients (below 50) will recover more quickly than older patients, based mostly on physical fitness and willingness to do the demanding rehab.


Several TV shows and movies have included injured characters in the storyline. The protagonist is reluctant to go under the knife ostensibly because the team will have to work without their leadership. People hem and haw over the decision, with lots of drama involved. BUT, what’s really going on with the reluctant patient is that they will miss doing the job they love to do if anything goes wrong. If you write an injured character into the plot, don’t forget the emotional toll that major injury causes. The worry and sleepless nights are real. However, if the character needs a legitimate excuse to leave the job, the damaged bones can be a hidden gem.

Think Jason Hayes in the popular military TV show, “Seal Team.” During the third season, to avoid going under the knife, he had PT after wrecking his knee. Eventually, he followed the doc’s initial advice and had the work done. He needed a minor, rather than major repair, only missed one mission, and his anxiety level dropped dramatically.

If you or anyone in your circle sustains an injury, use it in your stories. Courage in the face of months of recovery, fears, tension, the effect on loved ones (good and bad) who have to change their routines to help? It might not be fun in real life, but it all works on the page.


*Charlie Kerrian is a fictional character, but this knee replacement story is real and rehab is ongoing.




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