In just a month, I hit road the for a coast-to-coast book tour to celebrate the June 20th release of BEACH HOUSE FOR RENT. Book tour is a favorite time of year for me because I get to meet all of you and hear your stories! I treasure our interactions and your support. One question readers frequently ask during book tour is “What inspired your novel?”.
The idea for BEACH HOUSE FOR RENT sparked many months ago with a pelican rescue on the beach where I live. My dear friend Mary Pringle, who first introduced me to the Birds of Prey Center several years ago for my novel SKYWARD, took me with her to look into a report of a possible injured pelican on the beach. We found a young female pelican just sitting on the sand, her head drooped, and her beak on the sand. Her wing looked injured. She didn’t move when we approached. We walked up close with a towel, bent down and quickly wrapped her up for her safety and our own, and then put her in a transport box. She didn’t put up a fight one bit, an obvious sign that she wasn’t well.
We drove the pelican directly to the Birds of Prey Center, which rescues, rehabilitates, and releases all types of birds, such as hawks, eagles, herons, owls, pelicans, and now shorebirds, too. The petite, young juvenile was thoroughly examined, treated for a wing injury and labeled as “failure to thrive.” She was likely late to hatch and didn’t get the time to learn how to adequately care for herself and eventually got left behind.
She was a gentle seabird, who quickly beguiled us all. She would sometimes stroll up and down the hall of the rehab facility with her funny gait, seemingly saying hello to all. She spent the winter in a pelican enclosure and continued physical therapy.
Then in April of this year, she was strong and well enough for release back to the wild. Mary and I had the honors of leading the pelican send-off, so we took to a place on Sullivan’s Island where we knew pelicans frequently gathered. But, on this particular day there were no pelicans–go figure! We let her out of her transport box to see what she would do, but this pelican had no desire to fly away or explore, no matter how much we encouraged her to take off. She only wanted to stay near the humans.
Animal rehab staff and volunteers go to great lengths to prevent animals from getting too comfortable around humans so they can be successfully returned to the wild. But sometimes it doesn’t work out, despite everyone’s best efforts. It’s unfortunate, however, there is a silver lining for this non-releasable pelican. She remains in the great care of the Birds of Prey Center, and she will be an important species in the center’s education program.
My early experiences with pelicans opened up the world of seabirds and shorebirds to me. That–coupled with the realization that the United States has experienced a 70 percent drop in some shorebird populations nationwide since the 1970’s*–led to the creation of BEACH HOUSE FOR RENT, available June 20.
Like I did for loggerhead sea turtles, monarch butterflies, and bottlenose dolphins, I aimed to write a compelling story anyone will enjoy that will also bring awareness to threats facing our migrating shorebirds. It’s the “why” of my writing. I believe that when you know something, only then do you care. And I can’t wait to share the astounding beauty and fragility of the world of shorebirds with you, this summer through what I think will be a compelling and satisfying story in BEACH HOUSE FOR RENT.
For anyone who’s enamored and interested in pelicans like I am, I leave you with this– pelicam!
It’s nesting season here in Charleston and the pelicans (and shorebirds) are returning to Crab Bank, a tiny island and bird sanctuary in the Charleston Harbor, just offshore from Mount Pleasant. Thanks to the Coastal Conservation League, we can take a peek at the bird life without disturbing their habitat. It’s one of only five active seabird nesting sites in South Carolina, so it’s a rare treat to witness.
*source: Audubon Society