Etta the Harris hawk checks out the New Mexico landscape.
A couple of years ago, I met a local falconer. I tagged along on hunts, as he released a falcon after homing pigeons on a cold winter morning or let a hawk chase rabbits on a spring afternoon. (For those of you who are squeamish, the birds of prey don't succeed as often as you might expect, but they get exercise.) I visited the falconer’s home to see newly hatched hawks and falcons. I even wrote an article about him and his birds for a local publication.
Raising falcons is an intense, time-consuming, and expensive hobby, so I don't plan to get into falconry myself. But as an author, I could do the next best thing – I could write about it.
A three-week old hybrid falcon and a day old Harris hawk.
In What We Found, a young woman stumbles on a dead body in the woods. Audra gets drawn into the investigation, but more than one person isn't happy about her bringing a murder to light. Fortunately, she has some allies, including her brainy 12-year-old brother and self-appointed sidekick, Ricky; a sophisticated Navajo coworker, Nascha; and her goofy but loyal boss, Eslinda. And because this is suspense with a dose of romance, she has a love interest – Kyle, a mysterious young man who happens to be the brother of the murder victim.
Kyle is recovering from physical and psychological wounds he received during military service. He finds some peace helping his grandmother, Nancy, work with the falcons and hawks she keeps. Audra gets her first tour of the aviary from Nancy:
A beautiful bird sat on a perch. I couldn’t identify different kinds of falcons and hawks, but this was clearly a bird of prey, with a sharply hooked beak and long claws on the yellow feet. It was only about a foot high, but the tiny black eyes rimmed with yellow had a fierce look, warning that this was not a cuddly pet.
“This is Lucy,” Nancy said. “She’s a peregrine falcon, an old girl like me. She was a rescue.” The bird turned her head and shrieked, her little pink tongue visible in the open mouth. Nancy ran the back of her fingers down the bird’s breast.
I’d never been this close to a falcon before. She had beautiful coloring, dark brown on the head and back, with a white throat that gave way to a mottled pattern of cream and brown on the breast. I had the urge to reach out and stroke her like Nancy had, but I wasn’t sure the bird would take that from strangers, and anyway it seemed rude.
I drew closer and could tell one wing was different, part of it missing. I got a sudden image of Kyle and wondered if Nancy took in injured creatures of all kinds. “Are all your birds rescued?”
“No, but several are. Once I had birds, people knew me as ‘The Bird Lady’ and started bringing me injured birds.” She smiled at the falcon and I could feel the connection between the two of them. “In the summer, the hunting seasons are closed and the birds are molting. You can’t fly the birds, so I started breeding them. I think it’s good for their health, to pair up.”
That made me think of Mom. I was reading symbolism into everything.
The falcons are realistically portrayed in What We Found, so they don't help solve the crime or anything like that. But the falconry aspect helped me develop thematic elements of the story, added some unusual action, and provided readers with insight into an usual pastime. One reader wrote, "The falconry aspect was almost as intriguing as the unveiling of the murderer!”
Writers hope to create characters readers will love. Secondary characters – villains, love interests, sidekicks, friends and family and others – can make the story world feel real, add tension and complications, and provide comic relief. They can also allow the main character to express herself in different situations and with different kinds of people, thus letting readers get to know her better. Each story requires a different cast of characters, but I like to include strong female friends, a gentle hero, a few quirky minor characters, and fascinating animals – wild or otherwise – if they fit.
For another aspect of the book, read the real story of our accidental involvement in a murder case, the experience that inspired What We Found, in a guest post on Digital Book Today.
Author Kris Bock on a scouting hike with a falcon nest in the cliff in the background.
Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. What We Found is a mystery with strong romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. Whispers in the Dark involves archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. Rattled follows the hunt for a long-lost treasure in the New Mexico desert. Read excerpts at www.krisbock.com or visit her Amazon page.
Kris writes for children under the name Chris Eboch. Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; and the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page.