Critters and Plot Points

Carl Brookins 4Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.
He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.


Buy links:

The Case of the Yellow Diamond

The Inside Passage

On the second hottest day of the summer, I opened an email query. Essentially, the writer wanted to know how one of my plots had surfaced. I told him the truth. I couldn’t remember precisely, so I temporized. Now, new plot ideas are flitting around.

So far, we’ve had a hot and fruitful summer. Is it out of the ordinary? I don’t actually know. We seem to have attracted more birds than usual. Yesterday I observed two hummingbirds, flying wing to wing like fighter planes in formation. They roared in across the yard like a scene from one of those old black and white films about dog fights during WWII. I was about to duck when they diverted and whisked away overhead. Impossible to follow against the hot blue sky. I think they were checking out the feeders, although I don’t expect to find hummers at the seed feeders. Impertinent little buggers.

I sometimes like to read relaxing on our deck. One day I glanced up from the page to find a hummingbird hovering about a foot from my forehead. I am not hummingbird food. Did the bird want me to read it a story? No hawks so far this summer, so when I sit outside in the heat to read, the critters, aloft and underfoot, show up. It isn’t me that attracts them, it’s the seed and old bread. When the popcorn I supply to my writers’ critique group grows stale, I cast small handfuls on our deck and lo, overnight it is gone. Rabbits.

Crows sometimes visit. Since they are shy or skittish, we rarely see them up close. Crows are fierce-looking creatures. It is fun to watch them maneuver about the yard. First one or two sail silently to perch up in the big pine. After a few minutes of observing the many cardinals, finches, sparrows and woodpeckers in the yard, one makes a pass over the deck, scattering the smaller birds to the bushes and sending chipmunks and red squirrels under cover. The lead crow lands and struts about, picking up corn and sunflower seeds. It lifts its head, eyes me through the glass of the sliding door and calls. The Inside PassageIts companion, waiting in the tree, repeats the call. There is a raucous response from overhead and suddenly a dozen of the big black, sharp-eyed avians are all over the yard, the trees, the grass, the deck. Noisy, strutting, picking at seeds, flowers, grubs and worms in the long grass. And overhead, maybe two hundred feet in the air a black crow circles, silently, watching. It is obviously looking for danger. Time passes. The lookout notices something. What, I don’t know. These are urban crows, used to traffic and close human interactions. The circling crow dips a wing, sends out a loud call, and the dark flock rises almost as a single creature and swiftly departs for places unseen. Plot points abound.

I recall some of our encounters with gulls on the seas and lakes where we sailed. It was not unusual for a gull to roost on the gunwale or cabin of our sailboat for several minutes as we went along, hitching a ride for a time.

The crows will be back, and meanwhile, the populace of smaller birds and the unwinged return to their feast. The scene suggests a story plot. I noodle it a bit and make a note for reference. A robin, thrashing about in a basin, reminds me it’s time to refresh the birdbaths.