Unexpected fly-in idea for my next thriller.
There I was, minding my own business, when my sister and brother-in-law (secondary characters) pulled into the driveway to drop off a book (what else?). When I glanced down, something odd caught my eye. I bent to look closer. Couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A bug. Big. About three inches. Unlike any I’d ever seen. It made me think of a military transport plane.
My appreciation for visually compelling flora and fauna comes straight from my dad. Once when he was mowing the lawn, he spotted the most beautiful little snake that had ever crossed his path, that would be sixty years of snake sightings. Unfortunately, he couldn’t react fast enough to stop the machine from running over the slithering beauty, a moment that haunted him with sorrow and regret for the rest of his days. Twenty years passed and he never forgot that beautiful little guy.
Visual acuity serving the public for generations.
My entire family and I have a gift for keen visual observation. My sister used her talent to analyze crime statistics and connect criminal dots for a local police department. My brother’s skill served America in the U.S. Navy searching for Soviet subs during the Cold War. My daughter gained a reputation in fingerprint recognition for state police in their crime scene investigation unit, and my grandson aced his first Where’s Waldo? book.
I write fiction and compulsively edit and proofread, easily spotting that extra word space, unassigned font, or unintentional italicized word—not so much for public benefit, but hey, I’m the black-sheep-outlier, which by-the-way makes my novels intriguing with unexpected twists. My family sticks to facts. I prefer stretching facts, embellishing facts and making them more interesting. I don’t mind if imagination overrides.
So I’m looking at this bug and am relieved that it clings to life, though not moving fast. I run in for my camera. Now, my sister wants to get on her way and is getting more annoyed. She takes a quick look to humor me and drives away.
I dash inside, stash the book, and grab a camera with a telephoto lens. Tiptoeing closer, I see the bug hasn’t moved, much.
Moth? Camouflage bug? Insect spy drone?
Hours pass and I’m still thinking about this bug. (My dad would be proud.) Is it stuck on its back? Should I flip it over? Place it on the grass? In the shade? Feed it a leaf? Take it to the vet? Will birds devour the poor, helpless thing?
- I fantasize a noted entomologist will see this rare new species and name it after me.
- Or a military intelligence service will send a unit to retrieve their experimental spy drone, obviously the victim of a bird collision.
- Or I’m spending far too much time on this because Camo Moth is not so rare after all.
After a bit of Google searching, I learned the facts (my sister would be proud) about this UFInsect thanks to BugGuide.net. It might be a Sphinx Moth: Eumorpha Pandorus or Pandora Sphinx. I like those names—Pandora and Sphinx—they conjure ancient, exotic, and mysterious images and ideas.
Woe is me. I take my licks and reluctantly concede that Jacob Hübner, noted German entomologist beat me to it when around 1806 he identified this creature as Daphnis pandorus (so says Wikipedia).
A new dilemma. Pandora Sphinx or Spy Drone?
Now I’m torn, so I might use both in future novels. An Insect Spy Drone would fit nicely in my Premonition soon-to-be-series* of psychic thrillers featuring a reluctant psychic, her skeptical FBI brother, and his new boss, a legendary counterterrrorism agent.
But the Pandora Sphinx could work in a new contemporary mystery in which ancient writings are the only clue. Hmmm… I’m leaning toward writing both.
*Premonition of Terror began as a stand-alone thriller, but by the time I wrote the end, it begged for a sequel. And why not a prequel. It’s likely headed toward a Premonition trilogy.