I totally goofed up today and did not post my guest blog for James M. Jackson! He got it to me in plenty of time and neglected to post this! I can't not do it, though. You'll LOVE it. Here's a bit about Jim:
JAMES M JACKSON is the author of Bad Policy for Barking Rain Press. Known as James Montgomery Jackson on his tax return and to his mother whenever she was really mad at him, he splits his time between the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Georgia’s low country. Jim has published a book on contract bridge, One Trick at a Time: How to start winning at bridge, as well as numerous short stories and essays.
Please visit http://jamesmjackson.com/
My partner, Jan, and I love road trips. For me, there is nothing like seeing a biome first-hand to start to understand its history, its people, and yes, its birds. Neither one of us had been to the Rio Grande valley.
This January we rectified that gap in our experiences.
One of our other members was a new birder. Several had been in the area several times and had joined the trip in hopes of seeing two or three specific birds they had previously missed. My rusty skills left me in the middle of the pack between these two extremes. And frankly, these days I would just as soon spend an hour watching a robin working over a pile of leaves for a morsel as see a brand new bird. But truth be told, I would not drive hours to see a robin, but I would for a new-for-me bird!
One of the things I do when I’m not out looking at birds is write. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy seeing different parts of the country. I won’t place a character in a locale if I don’t have some experience there.
If the birding is slow, I start to think about how a story might fit a particular local. For example, the Rio Grande is not very wide and the Border Patrol folks travel the river in high-speed boats you can hear ten minutes before they arrive. So smugglers…
Others stick out like this green kingfisher. They wear bright colors as if to say, “Look at me! Look at me!” When we do look closely, we notice the mud on its bill from capturing a tasty morsel from the mud.
Sometimes the sound techs will get a bird in the right habitat, but wrong season, and I’ll hear a warbler signing its mating song in the middle of winter.
For example, Seamus’s girlfriend (a bodyguard) has been away on business for a long time and Seamus is wondering what their status is but hasn’t figured out how to resolve the situation. He takes a run in a nearby park and the comparison between his life and what is natural slaps him in the face.
On my run, I purposefully slowed my pace and added a loop to include Burnett Woods, where the trees sang with spring bird migration in full swing. Coupling was in the air and in the woods. I was having difficulty putting one foot in front of the other. If you don’t like the way things are going, I chided myself, do something different.
Seamus also uses his grounding in bird nature to make comparisons. He and his son are eating. He has no appetite because someone has just been killed. Not so his son, Paddy.
Paddy, who still had the metabolism of a hummingbird, eyed my plate and at my nod swapped his empty one for mine.
“When were you last in your basement?” [the cop asked]
“My basement? I have no clue. Maybe to get food for my bird feeders? Tuesday? Wednesday?” I wracked my mind trying to piece together the last week, but my sleep-deprived brain didn’t work. “Look. I’m tired. I’m hungry. I want to help because whatever you’re investigating, I didn’t do it. Is Abigail okay? What happened?”
Lewis snapped his fingers at the sergeant who brought over a 4x6 print, which he laid face down on the table between Lewis and me.
“Go ahead,” Lewis said. “Take a look.”
I searched their faces for a clue, but they sported flat cop eyes—daring me to turn over the photo. Instinctively, I picked it up by its edges. Not that I didn’t trust them…actually, I didn’t trust them. For whatever reason, I mentally counted to three before flipping the print over. I gagged. A nude man, his face blown away by a shotgun blast, elbows, knees, and ankles shattered, burn marks on his chest, sat in my basement on one of my porch chairs. Orange adjustable straps, just like the ones I owned, held his body to the chair.
All those scenes from Bad Policy took place in the Cincinnati area where we lived for many years. Now that we’ve visited the Rio Grande Valley, I might be able to add a future scene from that area—as long as the point of view is from a character who hasn’t spent much time there. If the character actually lived in the area, I’d have to go back and study it more---hmm, that’s not such a bad idea…