Birder Murder Mysteries and the Art of Juggling

Birder Murder Mysteries and the Art of Juggling

Posted on March 28 by Steve Burrows in Mystery
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For some time now, I’ve been learning to juggle. I’ve pretty much mastered the principle of throwing objects up in the air at different times; it’s just catching them on the way down I’m still having trouble with. Regardless of how high I throw things, they always seem to come back to me at the same time. The same is true of writing a series. I have written one Birder Murder Mystery per year for the last four years and sent them out into the public arena. This is the equivalent of throwing them in the air. But the details of what happened in each of the books are proving to be my falling objects.

"...it is little wonder that this juggler is sometimes confused as to whether a particular descending detail is the ghost of Birder Murder past, present, or future."

In my defence, there are reasons for this that go beyond senility and an excess of single-malt scotch. A Shimmer of Hummingbirds released on March 11, and I am in the midst of preparing talks and presentations about it for promotional events. While readers quite correctly consider this to be my current book, the requirements of the publishing industry mean it was finished and submitted to the publisher some months ago. For a long time now, my thoughts have been consumed with the new Birder Murder I’m writing, A Tiding of Magpies. However, because the Birder Murders are an ongoing series, this week I was also asked to submit the synopsis for my next book (title still under wraps), which required giving some thought to yet another plotline. Add to this the references, reviews, and comments about first three books that show up from time to time, and it is little wonder that this juggler is sometimes confused as to whether a particular descending detail is the ghost of Birder Murder past, present, or future.  

Readers, bless them, don’t seem to appreciate this dilemma. At this point, I am approaching half a million words written across five Birder Murder Mysteries, but some people still refer to vague details under the impression I’m going to be able to remember exactly where they came from. That description of the Curlew flying across the landscape reminded me of the time I saw one in the U.K., a reader told me recently. She failed to say whether it was a good description (or a good memory, come to that), but the optimist in me assumed she liked it. And that’s the thing. When someone takes the trouble to comment on a detail from one of my books, it’s clear they’ve found some significance in it, so I don’t want to devalue it by asking which particular Birder Murder Mystery it appeared in. If nothing else, it might suggest I use the same descriptions in multiple books. (For the record, I don’t. Or at least, not consciously.)

As for that Curlew passage, one day I’m going to go back through my books to find it. I suspect it’s in A Pitying of Doves, though it could be in A Siege of Bitterns. Or A Cast of Falcons.  At least I know it’s definitely not in A Shimmer of Hummingbirds. Probably.

Steve Burrows

Posted by Dundurn Guest on October 30, 2014
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Steve Burrows

Steve Burrows has pursued his birdwatching hobby on six continents. The first Birder Murder Mystery, A Siege of Bitterns, won the 2015 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Steve lives in Oshawa, Ontario.