It has begun! I started the rough draft of my next writing project, Feathered Frenzy, tonight. This book is a short guide to help bird owners integrate their avian companions into their homes and lives. It's been a while since I've done a non-fiction book (I've been writing mostly fiction for the past 5 years, besides blogs and occasional short pieces), so this is a refreshing break from the norm for me. Here's a sample from the introduction that I just wrote. Bear in mind that this is a very rough draft, so I'll ask for your grace and mercy for possible grammatical and spelling errors. Enjoy!
Chapter 1 - Introduction and Overview
Welcome to the joys of bird ownership! Whether you just “adopted” your first bird, are adding birds to your “flock” or are an expert human companion to your avian friends, you’ve come to the right place for fast and easy information on how to adapt yourself and your home to the birds in your life.
Now what, pray tell, makes me qualified to tell you how to do such a thing? I’m not a veterinarian, or an ornithologist, or a biologist. There’s no fancy title after my name. I’m just a woman that works in professional licensing by day and writes novels by night. What makes me so special that I presume to tell you how to best integrate birds into your life and home?
I’ll tell you what qualifies me to write this book: over 25 years of experience with having birds as pets. I’ve had birds in my life since the tender age of ten, and for most of that time it’s been a multiple bird home. First
it was three budgies named Samson (Sammy), Delilah, and Petesy. They were my companions from middle school through college. I took a two year break from pet ownership after graduating college to get married and adjust to a job and home ownership, then came sun conures Zacchaeus (Zack) and Chloe, and budgie Oliver
(Ollie). Over the years I’ve not only learned a lot about having birds in your home, but I’ve noticed that the well of knowledge has drastically expanded. The diet and healthcare for birds has improved drastically, resulting in longer life expectancies. When I got Sammy for my tenth birthday in 1985, life expectancies for budgies was five to seven years. When I got Ollie in 2010, the life expectancy for budgies had increased to ten to fifteen years. And sun conures (along with other mid-size parrots) weren’t readily available or well known as pets in 1985.
A lot has changed, and the information we’re getting is improving every day. Unfortunately, that information is scattered. Birds are the number three pets in America behind cats and dogs, so naturally most of the pet care manuals available are geared toward our canine and feline friends. Finding in-depth information on bird care is still a bit of a challenge. It’s out there, but you have to hunt for it.
That’s where this guide comes in. The purpose of this guide is to pass along some of this scattered information, along with other tips and tricks I’ve picked up over a lifetime of sharing my life with birds. This is by no means a specialty guide on bird ownership, nor does it go in-depth on any topic. there are plenty of species specific books, training manuals and videos, and website information out there, and I certainly encourage you to read as much as you feel is necessary to grasp the basics of these important topics. In fact, I encourage you to do two things right now if you haven’t done them already:
1. Buy and read at least one book that is focused specifically on the species of bird you have; and
2. Join at least one Internet Group dedicated solely to the species or general type of bird you own. (For
example, I’m a member of a Sun Conure group on Yahoo!).
This book is to give answers to those unanswered questions that are still hanging in the air after reading those books and supplementing what you learn from the Internet group. Topics I’ll cover include what birds are best for your lifestyle (or how to adapt the bird you have to your lifestyle), the best cage designs, toys, food, and socialization tricks that have actually worked in my home. I’ll also share tips and tricks that keep my birds healthy and happy, save me time, keep my home orderly, and frankly preserve my sanity by integrating three active birds into my busy lifestyle!
Birds are great pets that enrich our lives and bring us joy through unconditional love and companionship. We are obligated show our love and joy in them by giving them the best home and care possible. Life with the birds may be hard work and challenging from time to time, but it’s never dull and it’s certainly worth the effort. And for all of our experiences, just imagine what life is like for them living in a human home.
Welcome to the feathered frenzy!
Hi everybody, I made great progress on my novel, Move, this week. I thought I'd share another sample chapter with you today. Enjoy!
Ruby sat at a picnic table at the park Saturday afternoon, enjoying the cool breeze blowing through the trees. It was much more crowded than it had been for the company picnic Thursday afternoon but then again, this event was open to the entire town. Tanger Falls hosted a spring festival every year during the first weekend in May. Although the event was open to the public, it was held as more of a local celebration for the permanent residents to celebrate the slower summer season. Tanger Falls, like many other mountain towns, got the majority of their tourism during the fall and winter, when the area was at it’s peak with changing leaves, holiday season celebrations, and the winter ski season. The spring festival was Tanger Fall’s way of celebrating “getting their town to themselves” for a few months.
“Wow, it’s so nice out today!” Denise said, sipping a milk shake. “The weather is perfect!”
Ruby nodded. “I’m glad the rain held off. I was afraid we’d be stuck inside after all.” The forecast had been calling for a chance of storms that day but so far, it was sunny and clear. “Do you want to hike one of the trails up the hill? I can find us an easy trail if you want.” Ruby loved to hike. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for her to hike the trails in the National Forest after work and on weekends during the long spring and summer days. She knew every trail on their side of the forest and many in the Gatlinburg area.
Denise shook her head. “I went jogging every day this week and frankly, I’d like a day off from strenuous activity.” She looked around at the people milling about. “I’d like to see some of the art exhibits at the convention center.”
“Now Denise, you told me I need to get out and you want me to be cooped up in the convention center? I thought we were supposed to forget about work over the weekend. All looking at that stuff would do is remind me of all the meetings and deadlines we have next week.”
“I know, I know, but I love it.”
Ruby peered at Denise over the rim of her sunglasses. “Do you love it, or are you keeping an eye on the local competition?”
Denise rolled her eyes innocently toward the sky. “Um, ok, maybe both.” She sighed. “I tell you what. Why don’t we part ways for an hour or so? You can hike one of the trails, I can scope out what the local artists are up to, and we can meet back here and decide what to do next.”
“I guess that’d be alright. I didn’t dress for a strenuous hike today anyway so maybe I can hike one of the lower trails. It’s been a while since I did the foothills trail back there,” Ruby said, pointing toward the entryway to
Denise smiled and stood. “Thanks! I’ll meet you back here in an hour. And I promise we’ll do whatever you suggest for the rest of the day.”
“Yea, alright,” Ruby said, standing and stretching. She really wanted to hike one of the longer trails, but could see that Denise wasn’t interested. Oh well, Denise was compromising for her by cutting her artistic musings to only an hour, and a shorter trail would be alright with her. She knew she could hike the foothills trail at the entryway of the forest in about half an hour and be back well in time to meet Denise. She wound through the crowd toward the forest entryway, trying not to bump into people. Every now and then she would see
people from work, who would smile and nod, or share a brief greeting. As the got near the trail entrance, she nearly bumped into Cheyenne, who was tugging her son behind her. She was going to speak, but Cheyenne avoided her eye and turned away quickly, tugging the young boy through the crowd and snapping something
about hurrying up.
“Geeze, I hope she didn’t sprain anything trying to ignore me,” Ruby mumbled.
“I hope she didn’t either,” a voice said behind her. She turned to see a man about her age with slicked back, shoulder length, black hair and piercing blue eyes.
Ruby blushed. “I’m sorry, I must sound crazy mumbling to myself. I forgot, my friend isn’t with me.”
He smiled. “No worries. I think everybody talks to themselves from time to time.” He extended his hand. “Hi, my name is Bryce.”
Ruby took his hand and shook it. “I’m Ruby. Pleased to meet you.”
“Actually, I should apologize. That was bold of me to butt my way into your musings. I just saw that interaction and it seemed curious to me. You obviously know each other, but she went to great pains to avoid you. Do you have a bad relationship with her?”
“I wouldn’t say a bad relationship. I mean, she’s my boss.”
“Ah, I see.”
“Well,”Ruby stammered, “we haven’t been getting along lately. We used to get along better but some things have happened at work and …” she trailed off and blushed. “I really shouldn’t burden a stranger with this.”
Bryce motioned to a “Psychic Readings” booth next to the forest entrance. “Actually, it’s my job to help people with their problems. I’d be glad to help. Why don’t you come in?”
Ruby glanced at the booth. “No offence, but I really don’t believe in that stuff.”
“None taken. Come on, have a seat. Tell me about one thing troubling you with your work and I’ll see if I can advise you on how to make it better. No charge.”
Ruby raised an eyebrow. “No charge?”
Bryce smiled. “A free demonstration. Come on, you can take it or leave it. No charge, no obligation. Just
one thing. Give me a try.”
She sat in one of the two plastic chairs in the booth. “Ok, fine. How does this work. Don’t you look in a crystal ball or draw tarot cards or read a star chart to get my fortune?”
He laughed and pulled his plastic chair so he was facing Ruby. “No, I don’t work like that. I do psychic readings. All I need is to hold something of yours that you wear a lot to focus on your energy. I’ll share some of what I sense. If you still want my help, all you have to do is ask.”
“Ok, what do you want to hold?” Ruby asked.
“Something with metal works best. Metal holds energy better.”
“What does energy have to do with it?”
“Everything that happens, every experience that we have, is energy. Energy is never lost. It’s just redistributed. Every experience you have becomes part of your energy. Objects that you carry or wear frequently store the most energy because they’re with you through most of these experiences.” He motioned to her right hand.“What about that ring? Do you wear it every day?”
Ruby looked down at the red ring on her right ring finger and slid it off. “Yes I do. This is the ruby ring my mother gave me when I got my associates degree.”She stared at it. “I always meant to go back for my bachelor’s and get a real class ring but never did it. I guess this kind of became my college ring.”
“How long ago did you graduate from tech school?”
“Ten years ago.”
Bryce reached for the ring. “That should do. Let me hold it for a moment.” He put the ring in the palm of his right hand, covered it with his left hand, and closed his eyes. He sat still for several moments; long enough that
Ruby wondered if he fell asleep. She was fixing to poke him when his blue eyes sprang open and he handed her the ring. Ruby shuddered as she took back the ring. It was ice cold. She glanced at it a moment, but didn’t see anything wrong with it. She slid the ring back on her finger and it warmed up again quickly.
Bryce stared at Ruby. “I’m sorry, it was almost overwhelming. You’ve been through a lot. I see that the past ten years haven’t been easy for you. You’ve experienced a lot of broken relationships and a lot of loss.”
Ruby looked around. “No more than most people, I suppose.”
“Actually for your relatively young age you have lost a lot. I see your mother passed away in a lot of pain a few years ago, and your father is no longer a part of your life. You have no family close to you.”
Ruby looked down. “Mom died of pancreatic cancer five years ago.” She sniffed. “It was awful. Mom, she was my best friend. Sometimes I still can’t believe she’s gone.” Ruby wiped the tears forming in her eyes and looked up. “But she’s in a better place, you know. She’s not in pain anymore and I’m glad. I miss her, but I’m glad she isn’t sick or hurting anymore.”
“What about your father? Who’s this woman he’s with now?”
Ruby grunted. “Dad married Katrina nine months after Mom died. She was a medical assistant with the Mom’s doctor. This woman …”
Ruby glared at Bryce. “She’s earned no title in my life.”
Bryce leaned back and spread his hands innocently. “My apologies.”
Ruby stared at Bryce a moment. “I believe she had her sights set on him the day Mom was diagnosed. I don’t know if anything was going on between them while Mom was sick. I suspect it could have been. Anyway, she convinced him that he needed to leave Tanger Falls and get away from this place to start over. They moved to Atlanta right after they got married. He’s never come back.”
“Have you gone to see him?”
“Once or twice, during the holidays,” Ruby said. “Katrina changed him. I don’t know him anymore. He used to be hardworking and down to earth, but now all he cares about are material possessions and social connections. He’s shallow and superficial, just like her.”
Bryce leaned forward. “Perhaps the pain of losing your mother was so great that he developed this new life to protect himself from grief.”
“Or perhaps he’s selfish jackass,” Ruby hissed. She twisted the ring on her finger.“It doesn’t matter. For all intents and purposes, you’re right. I’m an orphan. My mother died and the father I knew is dead too. I had no siblings and my cousins live all over the southeast and I’m not close to them. So yea, I have no family. All I have is my work and my friend, Denise.”
“What about boyfriends or lovers? I didn’t see any men in your life. I mean, other than your father and people you work with.”
“Tanger Falls isn’t a social hotbed.”
“When’s the last time you went on a date?”
Ruby laughed. “A real date? It’s been so long that I can’t remember.” She looked down and twisted the
ring again. “I had a boyfriend in college. We dated for a year. He wanted to get married.”
Ruby sighed. “He decided to join the military and I didn’t want to be a military wife. All that moving around – there’s no stability in that kind of life and that’s not for me. My place is here. My roots are here. He wasn’t
willing to settle here and I wasn’t willing to leave, so that was it. We broke up.”
“Do you know what became of him?”
“He’s stationed in Texas, where he lives with his wife of 6 years and their two kids. Their third child is due in the fall.”
“How do you know? Did you keep in contact?”
Ruby smiled. “Social media.”
“I’ve dated a few people but nothing’s worked out. I guess I’ve given up.”
“That’s too bad,” Bryce said, “you’re a beautiful woman.”
Ruby brushed the hair out of her face. “I was school beauty queen my junior and senior years. Head cheerleader and prom queen my senior year. Voted ‘best looking’ senior superlative. For all the good that all did. All of my classmates are married and have families and I’m still single with no one in my life but my co-workers and my best friend in the apartment next door.”
“What about your co-workers? Any prospects there?”
Ruby shook her head. “All married.”
“How about online dating?”
Ruby snorted. “Please.”
“Ok,”Bryce said. “I saw this friend you’ve mentioned a couple of times. So there is someone you’re connected with in a good way in life?”
Ruby nodded. “Yes, Denise. She moved in the apartment next door to me just after Mom died. She’s a graphic designer at the firm where I work. We’re best friends.”
“Then you’re not completely alone. That’s good. Perhaps you’re good for each other. You can inspire and encourage one another in creating a better life.”
“I’m not doing so good in that area, as you probably saw.”
Bryce nodded. “I saw a recent disappointment that stung you. It was something at work. Were you passed over for a promotion?”
“I was.” Ruby sighed. “I don’t know what happened. I thought I’d get it. I’ve been working there for eleven years, since they opened. I know the place and the clients better than anybody else. My boss even offered to give me a reference, but when it came time to hire for the position they decided to hire somebody from out of town. They hired a woman from Sevierville, and she’s been awful. She’s changing everything and she’s mean to me.”
“I’m sorry to hear this,” Bryce said. He stared off for a moment. “You said that woman that passed by you a moment ago was your boss?”
“And she promised to give you a reference for the job?”
Bryce turned his gaze to Ruby. “I hate to tell you this, but she lied to you. Not only did she not give you the reference, but she helped this other woman get the job.”
Ruby gasped. “How do you know? I mean, how were you able to see that by holding my ring?”
“I can see people that are connected to you in a limited way. But I didn’t see this by holding your ring. That woman, Cheyenne, she bumped against me in the crowd back there. I sensed deception from her. Holding your ring helped me pull the pieces together and see more clearly.” He closed his eyes. “This other woman that got the job – what’s her name?”
“Yes, I see. Millie is a friend of Cheyenne’s. They went to school together.” He furrowed his brows as if concentrating. “They are going through similar trials and Cheyenne wanted to help her friend. I see they’re both single parents?”
“Cheyenne is getting a divorce. I don’t know about Millie.”
“She has children but never married the father. Something happened – I can’t see it clearly but it seems he left her. There was deception.” He blinked and stared at Ruby. “It seems you’re surrounded by liars.”
Ruby slumped in her chair. “See, this is what I mean. Everybody has an excuse for why they’re doing what they’re doing and keeping me stuck in place. So they’re single moms and I’m supposed to roll over and play dead so they can get ahead?”
“Ruby,”Bryce said, “I’m not telling you how to perceive this information, I’m just sharing what I see. Remember, I asked you here so I could help you.”
She sighed. “Ok, you said you could help. What should I do? What help do you have to offer?”
Bryce leaned back. “I understand your frustration. You’ve seen a lot of grief and loss in your life, and you deserve better. And you’re right in that their misfortunes are no excuse to mistreat you or anybody else.” He closed his eyes again. “Millie manipulated Cheyenne into helping her get that job. I believe that Cheyenne fully intended and expected for you to get it, but Millie was desperate and wouldn’t let it go until Cheyenne did what she wanted. That wasn’t right. There were plenty of other places where she could have secured just as good a job or even better. She looked to Tanger Falls to run from her problems instead of staying in Sevierville and working them out, and now you’re paying for her mistake. That’s not right.” Bryce opened his eyes, and they flared with anger. “In fact, making others pay for your mistakes is the greatest injustice in life. Millie will pay for this one. I say be patient. By this time tomorrow she will know the error of her ways and it will be set right.”
Ruby stared at Bryce. “Ok, how?”
“What do you mean, how?”
“You said you’d help me. So how is this going to happen? What am I going to do?”
“You aren’t going to do anything. You’re going to go about your life and leave this to fate.”
“Ok, so how’s that going to work by this time tomorrow?”
Bryce smiled, but something about the smile was frightening. “There are many possible solutions. But I will tell you this. Millie is being mean for the sake of being mean. There’s no ulterior motive for it. She’s just being spiteful. She feels like the world is mistreating her and she has a right to mistreat it back. But she’s wrong.” Bryce reached for Ruby’s hand again and held it. “Don’t worry about it, Ruby. Fate is a funny thing but it always acts appropriately. I can see that she’s about to move out of your life permanently.”
Ruby shuddered and pulled her hand away from Bryce’s cold grasp and glanced at her watch. “Look, I promised to meet my friend back at the festival and I’d better go before she comes looking for me. What do I owe you?”
Bryce shook his head. “I said it was free. You honored your part of the bargain by accepting my offer. I’ll honor my part. But please, don’t worry. Things will move in a better direction for you soon.”
Ruby smiled stiffly and waved. “Thanks for your time. It was a pleasure to meet you.”
“The pleasure was mine,” Bryce said, kissing her hand and walking away into the crowd gathering for the children’s afternoon play.
Ruby rushed through the crowd back to the picnic table, where Denise was waiting. Denise stood as she saw Ruby approach. “Hey girl, how was the hike?” She pulled back. “What’s wrong? You’re pale. You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Ruby thought about telling Denise about Bryce, but changed her mind as she saw her friend’s bright smile. Warmth penetrated her and drove out the chill from her encounter with the mysterious man. “It’s nothing. It was just a little chilly in the woods with that breeze blowing. I feel better out here in the sun.”
Denise studied Ruby for a moment, then nodded. “Ok, glad you’re better. How was your hike?”
“My hike? Oh, it was ok. It was revealing. You know how that time alone is. You get some clarity and perspective on life.”
“Good, I’m glad to hear it. So, what’s next?”
Ruby looked at the people milling about. “I think I’ve been outside enough for one day. Why don’t we go see that movie in Knoxville?”
Denise raised an eyebrow. “I thought you wanted to stay out of crowds?”
Ruby shrugged. “Well, we’ve been in one here. The only difference is that we’d be in the air conditioning there. And it looks like the weather is nice, so it will be a pretty drive. Why wait? I’d kind of like to get out of town for a
few hours anyway.”
Denise nodded. “I’ll split the cost of gas with you if you’ll drive.”
Ruby smiled. “Ok, let’s go.”
Bryce watched from the edge of the woods as the two women walked away. Everything was set. Now it was time to get moving.