Today I started back into a manuscript that I’d outlined some time ago. See, I usually will outline a new idea even if I haven’t finished the current project so that the idea stays with me. Then when I’ve completed a WIP, I move back to the outline and either ditch it permanently or continue with the idea.

As I am reading through this one, another suspense/thriller–I have to smile at one of the characters.

I tend to write small tributes into each piece of work. Not to family, friends, or even public figures…but to my pets.  Why? One, people don’t like being anything but perfect in a book and who wants to read about perfect people? That’s not only boring, it’s unrealistic. So writing people you know into a book is no fun…and can get you in serious trouble. And Two, I’ve always thought it added to the book to include animals because most people have at least one or two. Or had at one time. They also have quirky personalities that are enjoyable to read.

Me? I’ve had too many (according to my husband and kids.) I’ve had several dogs, cats, fish, and birds. Even a couple of hamsters and mice. No I didn’t feed the rodents to a snake…my son rescued them from that sure death while at a friend’s house. I haven’t owned any reptiles but thought for a short while, it would be fun to have a lizard–until I visited a neighbor that owned an iguana. Definitely not my thing.

The piece I’m writing now has a bird in it…a talking parrot to be exact. I owned an African Grey for many years and he learned to speak well. These birds can learn up to a thousand words and mine was pretty well-versed. However–contrary to popular belief, these birds don’t really make conversation. They simply imitate sounds similar to a mina bird or mockingbird. So, if they hear you speak and they like the sound, they’ll imitate it.

Hence, my parrot whose name was Gizmo, could sound just like me. And my husband…and son.  I thought it was adorable. My husband thought it annoying…smile.

Here’s a few of his talents:

  • The bird could wake everyone up in the morning just like I did…with a loud roll call of the kids names and a “Time to Get Up!” A wonderful time and voice saver if I must say.
  • The bird could make the sound of the phone ringing so well and with perfect timing, we often would jump toward the receiver before realizing it came from the other room…then he’d say “Hello? What’r you doing?” in the husky voice of my eldest son. Some sort of conversation occurred too but no one could understand it.
  • Gizmo laughed just like me…more of a loud chortle than a laugh. Then he’d make all sorts of indistinguishable sounds that apparently were meant to be me talking on the phone with someone.
  • When our family conversations got loud and animated, he often joined right in and added to the noise.
  • Lastly, he could yell at the kids for my husband or I in our own voices…definitely saved us the trouble but was a little overdone if you ask me.

One day, my husband called me from the kitchen table while reading the newspaper…”Shelley?”
Hubby never lowered his paper as I answered “What?”
“It’s Saturday and we don’t have any big plans…what do you want to do today?”
No answer…because I was in the back of the house. In the shower.
“Shelley?”
“What?”
“Did you hear me?”
No answer.
He got up and walked toward the back and called my name for the third time. Behind him in my normal voice, Gizmo called from his perch, “What?”

Gizmo died two years ago and it was heartbreaking. For me. I think my husband was secretly glad he only had to live with ONE of me again. Ha.

This book, which is currently entitled Bad,  has a parrot in it that has similar annoying yet endearing habits and vocabulary. I am only 35,000 words into it but am excited to get it moving again. This bird, my hero and heroine, and a very complex antagonist are really fun to write.

It’s funny that I do this because I am definitely NOT an animal advocate…nor incredibly obsessed with animals. I just see them as part of our extended family and I try to write them as such.

Do you also write animals? Do you enjoy reading about them?

Have a great day!