THE THING ABOUT RESEARCH is the unexpected tidbit you learn along the way. Take my recent trip to the Cascade Raptor Center in Eugene, OR while researching a storyline for Book 8. The Executive Director, Louise Shimmel, arranged for me to spend time with several members of the staff, including Bird Curator, Kit Lacy, a serious young woman dedicated to the animals who knows her stuff. During our tour, she explained the use of leather jesses attached to the raptors’ legs to keep them from injuring themselves by flying up against the cage if they are frightened or startled. I saw eagles, several kinds of hawks, owls, and other really impressive raptors. Then we got to a less traditionally attractive bird.

“Except for these guys,” she added as we passed the turkey vulture enclosure.

My ears pricked up.

“Why not? Why don’t turkey vultures wear leather jesses?”

Kit hesitated, then said, “Well, turkey vultures defecate straight down their legs.”

Not sure how this explained anything, I waited. She then explained that urine and feces got caked onto the jesses, stiffening the leather and caused chafing and skin problems for the bird.

Cool! I love learning these weird things that are part of a world I would never know about if people weren’t so generous in sharing their time and expertise with me. I still have more questions. Questions are like that—one leads to another. How are turkey vultures configured anatomically that they poop straight down and other raptors don’t? Is there some kind of evolutionary advantage to pooping this way?

I’m still not sure how I’m going to use this bit of information in the book, but you can bet it’s going in!

Sometimes these become essential to the story. In Forest Park: A Logan McKenna Mystery Book 2, a man who did intake at the morgue explained to me how if you bend a corpse’s wrist, the hand opens. Try it on yourself. Make a loose fist, curl it towards your body, then with your other hand, flip your wrist back and voila! Your hand pops open! This detail determined a critical turning point in the murder investigation in that book.

Speaking of books…I need to get back to writing this one! Hope you are staying safe and sound out there, finding ways to stay sane amidst all that is going on in our world right now. Engage your mind. Develop a talent. Make some popcorn and watch an old movie. Get outside at least once a day. Have some fun! (Oh…and drink a lot of water and eat your veggies.)