This is not the falcon you’re looking for….

10October_AnakinSome of you may be familiar with my falcon Anakin. He has been my hunting companion for 10 years and is the impetus and the center of the story in my memoir LIFT. On May 2nd Anakin escaped from the chamber he was living in while on a breeding loan.  He is a tiercel peregrine (Cassini/Anatum subspecies), 2003 hatch, band number RV084010, wearing anklets, but no other equipment. He was lost in Moreno Valley, CA but he could end up anywhere.

I need to know where he is in order to convince him to come down and come home. Currently there have been no sightings of him. This may be a long game. He is an excellent hunter and likely doing fine in the wild. So it could be months or even years before he turns up.

If you are interested in sharing there is a page on FaceBook with updates and information:  www.facebook.com/JediAtLarge  I would love anyone’s help keeping an eye out for him.

Yesterday, Falcon Finders got word of a found falcon in Nuevo. The story was convoluted… something about a motorcyclist who was in an accident with a falcon on his bike. Possibly, he was dead and his falcon was found in a tree wearing a hood. When we all started calling, the contact person who initially found falcon got cold feet and didn’t want to share any more information. She was adamant that they had already found the owner.

None of this story made much sense…but okay. I know falconers can be intimidating when we are demanding information about a bird. We’ve all had sketchy moments with people who have found our lost raptors. We can be a little pushy when we think someone with no experience has a bird of prey in their possession.

Still, I knew it wasn’t Anakin. He wouldn’t be wearing a hood and no one is going to just pick him up. My only chance at getting him back is for someone to spot him. Then I’ll have to charm him into coming back. He isn’t looking for someone to save him. So I dismissed the story as general weirdness and prepared to move on with my day.

At this point, I got a message through my parrot connections that the person who had the falcon wanted to find a safe place for it until the owner recovered from his injuries. It was nice that people thought of me as a safe and dependable place for a bird to land. I was flattered, but I was still dubious. Still, I listened to the story again and called the woman who had the bird.

She was a lovely and kind-hearted person who swore she knew a falcon when she saw one. Then she told me about how there was a falconer nearby who drove out into the chaparral with a falcon on his dirt bike to train it. The hooded falcon they had found was surely his and that could only mean that the falconer had befallen some sort of tragedy on his motorcycle. In fact, he could be dead! However, no one knew his name or where he lived exactly. He was a loner who kept to himself and a bit of an enigma. The falcon had the initials BH and a heart on its hood though… perhaps that would help solve the mystery.

Okay, I have to admit, I’m a sucker for a good story and this one was divine. It had a broken hero, romance, tragedy, and the possibility for a happy ending. I swooned…. I would take this man’s falcon into my home, nurse it back to health and then I was going to Nancy Drew this. I would FIND this falconer and reunite him with his beloved bird. I hadn’t found Anakin, but I could give someone else a happy ending!

And then reminded myself of Occam’s razor –in the absence of certainty—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better. I was getting ahead of myself. I asked her to snap a photo and text it over.

This is what she sent:

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I took a very deep breath, choked back my laughter and said, “Well, that’s definitely not a falcon.”

It’s a pheasant wearing a blinder to keep it from picking at its cage mates. There are a couple of pheasant farms in Nuevo. I frequently purchase pheasants for food and training. And this pheasant had sealed its fate….

Fortunately for her, anything with a good story or a name gets pet status in house.

She’s hardly a replacement for Anakin, but she comes with the best story I’ve heard in a long time. Let’s name her, shall we?  Got any ideas? The winner will receive their choice of a signed copy of  The Perfectly Trained Parrot or Lift.

Pheasant Hood

Want to attend a training workshop with Rebecca??

Morris Basketball Low ResRebecca offers four- hour parrot training workshops in her studio in Grand Terrace, CA and throughout the country. These workshops are a fantastic way to get one-on-one instruction from Rebecca in an affordable and intensive setting. All workshops include a Powerpoint presentation, video clips, handouts and training demos with parrots. They are also catered to attendee’s training concerns and challenges.

 

Training Basics: Beginning and Refresher Course
Learn the basics of using applied behavior analysis (or refresh your memory) to shape your parrot’s parrots behaviors.
Saturday, February 22, 2013
10 AM- 3PM  (Lunch Included)
22545 Barton Rd.,  Ste. 201
Grand Terrace, CA 92313-524
Cost: $59

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The Next Step: Training for Daily Living
After a quick refresher on training basics, jump into learning how to train behaviors which will help with cleaning, bathing, grooming, vet visits and encouraging good behavior. Bring your own challenges and have them addressed in class.
Saturday, March 29, 2014
10 AM- 3PM  (Lunch Included)
22545 Barton Rd.,  Ste. 201
Grand Terrace, CA 92313-5244
Cost: $59

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Training Plans for Managing Bad Behavior
After a quick refresher on training basics, jump into learning to work on aggression, screaming, feather plucking and other problem behaviors.
Saturday, April 19
10 AM- 3PM  (Lunch Included)
22545 Barton Rd.,  Ste. 201
Grand Terrace, CA 92313-5244
909-264-3602
Cost: $59

For More information contact Rebecca at rebecca@blueskywriting.com

SPACE IS LIMITED TO TEN ATTENDEES.  SIGN UP EARLY!! (Cancellation is non-refundable, but IS transferable to another workshop date.)
NOTE: The studio requires climbing a flight of stairs in order to get to the entrance. Unfortunately, it is not wheelchair accessible. 


Choose Your Workshop Date


 

Birds and Words

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I frequently get asked about how to break into publishing about parrots. This is not an easy question to answer, but I try to when I can.

I get it. My favorite writing is on the things I am most passionate about, and one of those things is birds. I’m incredibly fortunate to have been able to weasel my way into writing for magazines and publishers on parrots. It seems amazing to look back and to realize that I have been doing this for over ten years. I am very proud of A Parrot for Life and hope that The Perfectly Trained Parrot has an equally warm reception from the bird crowd. I love writing books and articles that help people.

So how did I do it? I wrote. I wrote a lot! The one thing that editors need more than writers is writers with good ideas for articles. I started the old fashioned way by pitching article ideas to smaller magazines. Starting with local bird clubs is a perfect beginning. These days having a well-read and enjoyable blog can also get you great clips. Blogging is a wonderful way to evolve as a writer as you discover what your audience responds to as well.

As you pitch to magazines with a larger circulation you will need not only great ideas, but examples of your previous writing to send. My first parrot article was written for the African Parrot Society fifteen years ago. The article was, of course, about Ty. From there, I pitched Bird Times and ended up writing a column for a little while. These clips led to me pitching and landing a contract for A Parrot for Life. (Of course, I had five years of experience training birds professionally at the time to back me up.)

Building a writing resume and getting into print takes time. You have to keep pitching, let rejections go and pitch again. When you land an assignment, produce writing that makes an editor’s life easier. You have to make a point of meeting deadlines and work hard to be a dream writer. All those stories about how difficult writer can be are true and you do NOT want to be one of those writers.

You also need to work hard to be an excellent editor. Always edit your work at least three times. One of those times, try reading your work out loud. Ty is an excellent listener for when I read my work to myself. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to get any feedback from the parrot. So finding friends to check your work for you is also helpful. There is also great software to help your efforts. Check out Grammarly. I recently was offered a free trial and fell in love with the interface. It has been an immensely helpful addition to my editing arsenal. There is a much more extensive article on editing on my writing blog here.

If you want to write on the side (or full time) about parrots, pets, or anything, you have to be a professional. Take your writing seriously. Get it done. Make it as good as you can. And always sit down and write again.

…I’m already pondering my next parrot book. And I’m looking forward to a year of posts on Heckled by Parrots. Be sure to stick around!!

Happy Thanksgiving

In celebration of family stories and memories made around the table, I’m sharing an essay from “The Perfectly Trained Parrot” narrated by the amazing Xe Sands.

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

The Perfectly Trained Parrot is Available!

TyEssayThere is nothing more fun (and frightening) than having your manuscript in book form finally in your hands. I was thrilled to receive my author’s copies from TFH a couple of days ago. The book looks gorgeous and it’s so much fun to see photos of my own parrots and of friends in the book. It was a little bittersweet to see Bali featured in several photos. I miss that little girl!!

I think what I love best about The Perfectly Trained Parrot though, is that each chapter has an essay on living with parrots at the end. If you have been a long-time Heckled reader, you’ll recognize that they are all “Tuesdays with Ty” blog posts. I’m so glad that they found a home in print form. I think that a comprehensive training book is a wonderful thing to have, but I also think that we should never lose sight of the wonderful moments that parrots bring to our homes. I’m so grateful to have Ty in my life and I hope that those who read The Perfectly Trained Parrot find the same joy with their own birds.PTP

If you are looking for you own copy, check Petsmart and other brick and mortar stores to get one before Christmas. They will be available on Amazon as well and you can pre-order, but you won’t receive a copy until after January 1st.

If you are a parrot blogger or have a really strong online presence, I might be able to get you a copy early. I have few review copies available, just drop me a line!

Thank you all for your years of support. I’m looking forward to getting back out there to promote the new book, hugging friends I haven’t seen in a while and meeting new ones.

Happy Training!!

Lift: The Audiobook

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I am consistently amazed by the opportunities the Internet is opening up for artists and entrepreneurs. Not to say we’re all getting rich… but the possibility for new endeavors, reaching more of an audience and sharing your dreams is so amazingly immense these days. It’s noisy out there, but I think perhaps I prefer this to the days when I was a 12 year-old girl, pouring through the Writer’s Market trying to figure out to whom I could send my poems, songs and stories. No really, that was was me, the pre-teen pushing purple prose wherever I might because I had a wonderful neighbor who taught me where the Writer’s Market was in the library and how to use it.

Now I’m an author of ten books, the Writer’s Market is online and although a letter is still a beautiful piece of correspondence, sometimes a quick but carefully composed email to an agent or a publisher is the best choice.

And I can write whatever I want for anyone to see. There is a vehicle for that and you no longer need permission. I have a few things on Amazon published without anyone’s blessing. And now I have the ability to create and distribution my own audiobook. Check out the new arm of Audible/Amazon — Audiobook Creators Exchange where creating an audiobook has just become affordable and easy.

I decided immediately that I wanted to use ACX for Lift and got Red Hen Press to agree to let me jump on the opportunity. You can set up auditions and hire voice actors on ACX and that was my initial thought. As I started asking around and really thinking about the process seriously however, I realized in this particular circumstance I might be the best person to read this book. It is a memoir, after all, and there are also a lot of falconry terms in the book which make for difficult reading for anyone not indoctrinated.

So read it myself it was! Being the lead in the plays and musicals in high school, the years on stage as a freeflight bird show presenter might actually have some real world application. I started investigating some local recording studies and figured my cost was going to be about $1100.

This makes the project a labor of love. Lift has sold about 600 copies in print form and I don’t expect it to do even that well as audiobook. (I’m hoping, but I’m always hoping.) I likely wouldn’t make my money back on this project, but I desperately want to do it anyway. If you have listened to the Tuesday’s with Ty podcasts you can probably guess I really enjoy reading to you.  So to this end I set up a Kickstarter to fund the project and set a goal of $800.

Thanks to some really wonderful backers — one particularly generous– I met my goal in five days! At last look I’m at $1100

But there is more I could do! Kickstarter and Amazon will take out fees much like Paypal, credit cards and any other form of money conveyance. That will take a chunk out. And I would love to pay a voice actor to read the intro/outro to the book and commission some music for the beginning, transition and ending of the book. And you can help! All you need to do is back the project and at the $15 level you will get an advance digital download of Lift as soon as it is done. Actually, that is what I want more than anything — to know that some of you want the book! And there are many other cool perks available. Check it out!

If you read this blog and you haven’t read Lift, I would so love for you to. I realize it’s a book that hinges on falconry, a book that involves hunting with raptors and a story that has a rather difficult prologue. I promise though that it is a book about so much more than blood and conflict of the soul. It is a book about what it means to be human — to lose, to win, to learn to trust and most importantly to believe. It’s amazing what you can learn from a bird.  At least, that was what it became for me in the writing. I hope you will consider supporting making it into a audiobook and I would LOVE for you to spread the word!

But do it before October 4th– that’s the Kickstarter deadline!  Go check it out here!

How Many is Too Many?

 

Ty

 I answered an email the other day that I thought might be helpful to share with all. What do you think? How do you decide what too many is?

Dear Rebecca,

What is a good retort to when people say, “You just have too many animals; you need to get rid of them.” The best retort I have is, “You just have too many kids; you need to get rid of them.” And no, I don’t believe that parrots are the same as children (though they do act like them), but well-meaning friends believe any bickering between the husband and myself or ANY day-to-day problem comes as a result of having so many animals.

Thank you so much for any advice–this is really driving me crazy!

Just Right


Dear Just Right,

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to answer. I read your email and honestly did not know how to answer. I tried to think of what I would say, but the honest truth is that no one has ever said these words to me… “You have too many animals, you should get rid of them.” And then when I asked myself why no one has ever said this to me, I wasn’t sure why they hadn’t. For one single female my menagerie is pretty immense—1 dog, 3 parrots, 2 falcons, 1 hawk, 3 pheasant and 10 pigeons. Oh, and there are the six goldfish I just bought… Is this too many animals? And if not, how many more would be too many? And what do people think of me? And if someone did suggest I had a problem, what would I say? I slept on it and my answer still isn’t a simple one.

The first thing I suggest is to take a deep breath and save your retort. Forgive your friends. Humans by nature want to “fix” things. We want to produce solutions that save our friends in speedy ways that both rid them of their heartache and also make it easier for ourselves. It is very hard listening to a friend in pain and not be able to help, especially if that friend is in a bout of troubles. Your friends are compassionate, generous and they love you. –They are also self-centered and uncomfortable having to listen to your woes. I know this because I’m like that as well; it is called being human. And being a good friend can be pretty damn exhausting.

Loki

When a friend suggests your animals are too much for you, thank them for their suggestion. Then take their hand and tell them that you weren’t looking for a solution, you were looking for a friend and that you deeply appreciate their willingness to just listen.

Reward the good. Ignore the bad. That’s the animal trainer in me, speaking, but it’s also the only code that has never failed me, a practice that reminds me which lens I should be looking through.

Be grateful that you have friends wonderful enough to listen to your day-to-day hiccups and domestic shake-ups. There are people who are unable to engage with others and are too ill to figure out how to fix it. There are people who barricade themselves against the world surrounded by so many animals they can barely take care of them, but expect these animals to fill that sucking wind of silence which only another human being can fill. They collect more and more animals trying to fix something and yet have no idea what is broken. Having too many animals is the symptom, not the disease. Obviously you are not ill. You are probably not a hoarder. So you can also laugh at this image of yourself, embrace your sense of humor and tell your friend that perhaps they watch too much television or that maybe they should watch more, because removing the clutter in a hoarder’s house does not suddenly fix the problem.

Is it possible all the animals are a symptom of some issues in your life? Perhaps. I am certain that the amount of feathered and furred bodies in my home is very much in correlation with the difficulties I have committing to people, the ridiculous expectations I have of the significant others who come into my life and my fear of being hurt. The animals don’t disappoint me and they give me a safe direction for my nurturing and love. But would ridding my home of the animals fix my issues? No. Again, it is a symptom not a solution. I know this about myself and I work on it and perhaps this is why no one suggests I have gone overboard with my menagerie. Or perhaps it’s just that they are too afraid of me and my trained predators to even make such a suggestion. –I’d like to think it is actually because I seem balanced.

Rebecca & Booth

So if people are suggesting you have too many animals, perhaps you should start asking yourself if there is something else in your life that needs adjusting. Western society is so good at trying to fix symptoms that we rarely ask one another, “What’s REALLY going on with you? I know there is more to it than what you are saying. Let’s get to the bottom of this.” So finding what is actually bruised, bumped and perhaps not working as well as it should is a thing that you mainly have to do for yourself. Maybe if whatever is off kilter is put upright in your life, the number of critters you have now will be just right in everybody’s eyes. Or at least, it won’t bother you when people suggest there are too many.

Some of us could never be sane without the touch of fur, the brush of feathers and simplicity of animal adoration. But all of us need other people. The question of whether or not you have too many animals is irrelevant. So you don’t have to answer it. If you really are in over your head or you know someone who is, be compassionate enough to try to figure out the real reason why. I guess my answer boils down to being kind, to your friends and to yourself. What you should say is something patient and kind. That is the answer. In fact, I think kindness is almost always the answer to everything. It shouldn’t just extend to the animals in our lives.

xxRebecca

Have you Picked up RISE Yet?! Only $.99

AVAILABLE NOW!

Some months ago I had a small melt down online about the long journey of writing and publishing Lift and considering the acclaim the little book managed to muster, dare I say, the shockingly poor sales. 411 copies it’s first year, in fact. (My expectations weren’t high, but when you consider my parrot owner’s guide, A Parrot for Life has sold about 8,000 copies, this seemed especially dismal.) I only meant to shake off a little pain and frustration and move on.

I am still utterly amazed how many hits the page gets and deeply grateful for all of the support and kindness that welled up from readers of that post. My mighty 411 are fierce and wonderful and I love you. In fact my eBook, Rise: A collection of  writings imspired by Lift –is for you. Here is the description:

In celebration of the Kindle version release of LIFT, an award-winning falconry memoir, author Rebecca K. O’Connor shares a complementary collection of essays, short stories and poetry that further examines life in the shadow of a raptor’s wings.

LIFT, Rebecca K. O’Connor’s arresting memoir of love, loss, relationships and one impossible peregrine falcon is further illuminated with this collection of writings on the world of falconry. The opening short story, “A Good Falconer Lets Go,” about a teenage boy and his red-tailed hawk is a classic coming-of-age tale with a falconry twist. If you are a dog lover, “Heart to Tear” and “About a Dog”, essays which read like O’Connor’s love songs to the dogs of falconry will resonate with you, if not evoke a few tears. In short essays such as “The Knife” and “Storytelling” O’Connor explores early moments in falconry in the icy-clear voice readers grew to love in LIFT. The collection also includes a glossary on falconry and a bonus excerpt of her novel in progress, a post-apocalyptic wilderness adventure. If you have read LIFT and loved it, this short collection will add to your experience. If you’ve yet to read O’Connor’s writing, RISE may encourage you to read more.

Sound interesting? You can buy it for .99 in the US here on Amazon. Or if you’re in the UK get it for £0.70 here. And if you don’t have a Kindle you can download it in just about any format– for Nook, HTML, PDF, ePub ect. on Smashwords for .99.

But WAIT! Did you read Lift? Then Rise is my gift to you. You can download it for free on Smashwords.  Email LiftandRise@gmail.com -prove you’ve read Lift and riddle me this:

What is the name of the ranch near Palm Springs where Rebecca and Anakin met and hunted with Butch, the old cowhand and where later Rebecca took her mother out to hunt? — Need a hint? It’s a color + a fluid and it’s only one word.

Please share this post. I hope you will go grab a copy. And if you haven’t read Lift and would like to join my army of 411 (Okay, there are a few more of you now, but you will always be affectionately 411, to me) you can also now officially get Lift for Kindle here and in the UK.

Avaialable Now!

If things seems super quiet over here, it’s only because I’m buried. I haven’t forsaken my friends here on Heckled! I’ve been out doing lectures and workshops and prepping for writing a new parrot training book. (Now how did I train that again. Not like that. Right.) 🙂

I have been writing, though. I have video coming up for Bird Channel and article for Good Bird and Birds USA. Stand by for those! I have an eBook coming out to accompany the eBook release of LIFT. Look for that July 1st. But if you are a Kindle, Nook or iPad person and would be interested in a short read from me, check out my short story “One More Winter” on Amazon and Smashwords. It’s only $.99 and if a handful of you buy a copy, you would be buying me a beer.

Booth would love it if you read my short story too…

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Help a Friend Have an Adventure

While I contemplate this year’s blog entries, goals, perhaps a few adventures of my own — go check out Quark’s “Blog Your Way to the North Pole” contest and vote for Patricia Sund, blogger and parroter of Parrot Nation fame! (Also Bird Talk Columnist owned by the infamous Parker & Pepper). There may not be parrots at the North Pole (hey, there aren’t even penguins), but she is sure to report back with her usual humor and flair. Aren’t you curious what Patricia would have to say about her polar explorations?