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The Bird's Word

The Bird's Word

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Mortis by Hannah Cobb

Posted by Cindy on April 3, 2014 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)



You lucky humans! You get my avian input 4 times this week!  This time, I'm sharing a book with you. I'll let the author tell you all about it.






What is the premise for Mortis?

An underground school steals orphaned infants and trains them to be assassins.


Where did you come up with the premise for Mortis?

This is a tricky question to answer. As a writer, my ideas come from everywhere—my mind is a sort of bubbling stew made of bits and pieces of things I’ve read and watched, phrases I’ve overheard people say, places I’ve been. I can remember exactly when Jane and Felix and Willy first popped Athena-like into my head, though. My college was on spring break and I was sitting in the back of my family’s twelve-passenger van on the way home from visiting my grandparents, trying not to be carsick or yell at my rowdy siblings, entirely unable to record this first glimpse of a story I really wanted to write. As soon as I got home I raced for pen and paper.


Which came first—the premise or a character?

Character always comes first for me. I need to know what sort of a person my protagonist is, and how she will approach a problem, before I can try to write her through that problem. In Mortis, the problem turned out to be that my protagonist’s home is a school that trains assassins. Jane is getting ready to graduate when she stumbles across dark secrets about her school. She has to decide if she will keep quiet, and stay safe, or if she will betray her school and fight against its evil.


Who’s your favorite character from the book and why?

Jane, the protagonist. I like her quiet strength. It takes a long time to write a book, though, so I am invested in all the characters, even the villains.


Who do you say needs to read Mortis? Why?

I wrote this book for a teen audience, or for anyone who likes fantasy/adventure stories.


Tell us about the villain.

There are quite a few antagonists in Mortis. When Jane chooses to set herself against the school that raised her, she makes enemies of all her teachers and classmates, even people who had been her friends. The person Jane fears the most is Kade, one of her teachers. Kade is creepy because he represents what Jane is afraid she could become: an assassin who kills without compunction, who has no loyalty to anyone except himself, who will do anything to acquire power.


Tell us about the MC. What is she like?

Jane grew up in a school that trains assassins, so she has a wide range of martial skills; to keep safe she has always tried to hide these skills, so her classmates and school masters won’t single her out as either an enemy or a pet project. But her curiosity keeps pulling her out of the safe, quiet shadows she likes to hide in. She wants to understand the world around her, but while she is exploring she discovers some hard truths about what her school is and what kind of person she is about to become.


What is she afraid of?

Jane is afraid of becoming a pawn in the game her school is playing, and she is afraid of losing the people she loves. She has to make hard choices between supporting the people she cares about, or standing against the evil of Mortis.


Why are the villain and main character at odds with each other?/What is the main conflict?

Jane grew up learning how to become one of the world’s best assassins. When she decides to destroy Mortis, the evil school that trained her, she has to find allies who will help her fight Mortis.


How is your book different from other YA fantasy?

This is an exciting time for teen fiction in general; there is wealth of great books out there. Readers who enjoy Mortis will probably also enjoy books like Kristin Cashore’s Graceling or Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms series.


What was your favorite part about writing Mortis?

I love surprises in a story. I don’t write an outline before I begin, so I discover new things about my characters and their world as I write. In Mortis there is one character in particular who begins the story as Jane’s friend. He becomes one of Jane’s most dangerous enemies when she decides to fight back against Mortis. I didn’t know till close to the end of the story if this character would end up being a good guy or a bad guy.


What was it like when Taegais Publishing offered you a contract? What was your reaction?

I was surprised and delighted. At that point in my life I had just embarked on my career as a librarian, and though I was still writing, I was mostly focused on the “real” world. I had written Mortis several years before and pretty much shelved it for the time being. I am truly grateful to Amy at Taegais for remembering a book she’d helped me work on years before, and calling to ask if I was still interested in publishing.


What surprised you about the publishing process?

Getting your work published is a big commitment. There’s a lot of back-and-forth in the editing process between the writer and the editor, with the end goal of a much better (and publishable) manuscript. I’m really blessed to have gone through this process for the first time with Amy, who is a very patient editor.

 



Author Bio

Hannah Cobb lives in Maryland, where she maintains a cover identity as a librarian by day and moonlights as a writer. When she isn’t writing, Hannah enjoys designing elaborate period costumes and collecting swords. Mortis is her first novel. You can find Hannah online.

 

Get your own copy of Mortis on Amazon.


What Is It?

Posted by Cindy on April 2, 2014 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Okay, so you know this game. I describe an object.  You figure out what it is and leave me a comment with it. If you're right, I'll whistle in your honor.  Ready?


This shiny stick is much wider at one end than the other. Humans use it up to three times a day, and some use a bent one to become surrogate hens to parrot chick.  Isn't that sweet of them? Some crazy cartoon superhero based on a blood-sucking insect yells the name of this object for some strange reason. Specialized ones have a point and a serrated edge useful for eating a specific kind of fruit.


If you think you know what it is and would like to have me whistle in your honor later, identify the object in the comments.


... and come back tomorrow. I have a special guest post on an odd day because my human didn't read the calendar right when she signed us up. That's okay. That just means I get to squawk 4 times this week!

Food! Wonderful Food!

Posted by Cindy on March 31, 2014 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

I, like most birds, love to eat. I won't say that eating is my favorite pastime -- that would be shredding oatmeal boxes -- but eating ranks pretty high on my list of fun things to do.


Sadly, many people think parrots just eat seeds. That's not only wrong, but it's not healthy for the bird. If you ate nothing but sunflower seeds every day, you'd probably live for a while, but you'd run into health problems and die too soon. It's the same way with birds who eat nothing but seeds.


So, what's a better, more healthy diet?

 

First, seeds.  A diet of nothing but seeds becomes unhealthy, but seeds themselves are good in limited amounts. There are intersting ways to get seeds. You can just get a bag of seeds. Those are fun to crack apart, but you can also get these little biscuits or balls of seeds. Those are easy to hold onto and fun to break apart. Some birds like seedy bread. I personally don't care for it, but that's just my choice. One word of caution, though. If you get seeds that have been colored with food dye, you may end up with brightly colored bird poo, walls, and floors.


Pellets. Some people like to use pellets because they're supposed to be a full diet. Some people say that the way they're made takes all the healthy stuff out.  Me? I'm not a fan because when I chomp down, pieces go flying. That's fun to watch, but I don't get much to eat that way.  Boo hiss.  Again, like the seeds, if you get dyed pellets, you should expect to have bright-colored walls, floors, and bird poo.


Fruits and Veggies. Veggies and fruits are fun and tasty. Like humans, some birds don't like to eat their veggies, but like humans, they really need to. I personally like corn, beans, and carrots. My  human gets frozen ones and thaws them out for me. Other people use fresh veggies and fruit. Both are fabulous.  Keep in mind, though, that some fruits and veggies are messier than others.


Bird Candy can be good for snacks, but we need to watch our birdie figures. Too much bird candy will make us gain unhealthy weight. When I say "bird candy," I don't mean the chocolate and sugary stuff you humans are fond of. That stuff can be dangerous for birds.  I'm talking about seeds glued to a stick with honey or about yogurt-covered stuff. Some is okay, but a lot is not.


Nuts are fun and tasty, but unless you're a macaw -- they need the extra oil -- keep the nuts to a limited number. I don't like more than a few a day, myself. Some people say not to give birds peanuts because of an icky mold-related disease called aspergillosis. Some people say that peanuts are fine if they don't have any spots or shell damage. I'd say, ask your vet on that one.


Those are some things to think about when you go grocery shopping for your bird. Next week, I'll tell you about some toxic stuff to avoid.

Weird Socks

Posted by Cindy on March 30, 2014 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Okay, so I know my human has been terribly busy this week, but she really needs to see about getting my blog up on time.


Here's a picture for you to caption.  The picture was taken by PDMI Publishing's extra fabulous artist: Elizabeth Mueller.



Here.  I'll get you started:


Humans contract rare disease turning their feet weird colors!


Your turn!

Einstein the Parrot

Posted by Cindy on March 27, 2014 at 9:10 AM Comments comments (0)

You humans can be funny, but if you want true hilarity, you need a bird. Here’s a great video of a bird going for a laugh. Enjoy!


Einstein the Parrot ... The video's caption says this is a different Einstein than the one on the earlier video but still a very clever bird.

 


Playing with Toys

Posted by Cindy on March 23, 2014 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Over the last several years, I've run the gamut from few toys to enough toys to keep an entire flock busy. Both extremes are no good. Not enough toys, and I spend my extra time counting feathers. If you think that's fun, try counting your hair. I kept losing my count, and then I had to start over. After the first dozen times, that becomes boring. With too many toys, my apartment gets too crowded, and that's no fun, either. A bird needs some room to stretch.  Right now, I have a good number.


For my first toy, I have a tube bell. These are pretty nice. Mine is a lovely blue color (yes, parrots do see colors) with nice, little white and black speckles. Tube bells are different from the usual bells. Instead of a big trapezoid or sphere, the tube bell is shaped like my oatmeal boxes, but a lot smaller and not shreddable. The clangy part of the bell is deep inside the tube. I can't get to it no matter how hard I try. You might think that would make me mad, but it's a good idea, actually. I'm not dumb enough to do it, but I have met some other parrots, who were a few seeds short of a food bowl, almost choke themselves when that clangy piece comes loose.  That's no threat to me, though. I can play as hard as I want! The clangy part won't come loose and try to kill me.


I have another toy.  It once had a bunch of wooden pieces on a white string. I chewed my way through the string and the wooden pieces made a terrific noise on the floor of my apartment. My human strung the pieces back up, but she used this not-fun brown string. It's bristly, which scratches the bare skin of my face. I'm waiting for my human to fix it before I play with it some more.


My third toy is a group of knotted strings. I can chew the strings and untie the knots. Sometimes, my human ties the strings back on after I pull them apart. Sometimes, she doesn't.  I think she's afraid I'll try to make another anklet out of it, but I've learned that lesson. Still, I don't want to risk any more strings coming alive and trying to remove my foot, so taking the shredded ropes out is probably a good idea.


Those are all my permanent toys. I also get a few temporary toys. One is a nut. You might not think a nut is food, but you're only half right. Before it's food, it's a toy to toss around or to use for a preening aid. Same thing with crackers and seed biscuits, but don't try that with your veggies. You'll make a mess of your feathers.


Another temporary toy is actually a game I play with my human. She does Hide and Seek with my food by wrapping paper around seed biscuits.  I get to tear the paper apart and eat the food inside. Fun!... unless you're starving because you haven't eaten in two entire hours. Then having to forage for your food is annoying.


My favorite temporary toy is an oatmeal box.  You have no idea how much fun there is in shredding an oatmeal box down to a pile of cardboard confetti. The best part is to focus your shredding efforts on the part of the box where the chain goes through. If you make that big enough, the box makes great noise when it hits the floor of the cage. Unfortunately, once the box falls, I have to wait for my human to put the box back up so I can get back to chewing like a cardboard shredding machine.


In addition to permanent and temporary toys, there are also some special toys that I only get sometimes. Birds don't have holidays, but my human graciously includes me in her celebrations. A few times a year, I get a toy hidden inside some food. The food -- seeds, pellets, and other stuff -- is glued to a stick. So I have to eat my way to the toy before I shred the stick into little pieces. Very, very fun!


Those are all my toys. How about you tell me about your toys?

Caption This

Posted by Cindy on March 21, 2014 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)


Wow! My human has been busy today! I was starting to think she'd never get around to posting my blog, but here it is!


This Internet thing you humans developed is fascinating. I’ve been able to find all kinds of weird stuff, including some fun and funny pictures.  Although the pictures look amusing, there’s often a severe lack of info about what’s going on. Here’s one such a picture.  What would you put for a caption?



 

Thanks to fabulous PDMI Publishing artist Elizabeth Mueller for the photo.


Name the Object (and Other Links)

Posted by Cindy on March 19, 2014 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)


There is an article shared around on Facebook today about Christian fiction and how clean or not clean it should be. I'd link to it here, but when my human tried to open it, the dumb thing had so many pop-up ads that it made her computer squawk. I almost weighed in on this topic myself here, but my human has already done so here, here, here, here, here, and here.  Then Aaron DeMott, another writer coming out with his own book soon ... with cats! *hiss*, also weighed in on it here.  No sense chewing on a destroyed oatmeal box, so go read those articles if you want and let's get back to Wacky Game Wednesday. Okay?


I'll describe a familiar object.  Your job?  Figure out what it is.  If you are successful, I will whistle in your honor later.  Okay?


One form of this object is made of paper, light cardboard, and patterns of dried pigments. Another form is patterns of light and dark on a piece of glass. There might even be pictures. However the marks are made, this object forms a message that makes sense to some humans who know how to decode it. (Even some birds can make sense of it, but if you ask us directly, we'll deny it.)


Post a comment and let me know what you think it is. If you're right, I'll whistle in your honor later.

 


/By the way, I'm working on some other games, too. I may save them for special occasions.

Soup

Posted by Cindy on March 16, 2014 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Judging from how wet my veggies are when they get to me, you humans believe in washing your food before you eat it. That's another great thing you have in common with birds. The difference, though, is that you wash your food and then typically heat it up before you eat it. I've seen my human eat soup, but your soup is made deliberately. Bird soup, on the other wing, is a tasty byproduct of our amazing cleanliness.


Most of the time, I trust my human's cleanliness. She's pretty cautious about everything else. Sometimes, though, things happen. The dogs come into the room. They are undoubtedly able to mess up my food by just being in the room.  Sometimes, I just know my food has gotten dirty. There may not have been anything I could see, but sometimes, sometimes I just know something was in my apartment and messed with my food. The only thing left to do is wash it again.


Washing food is easy.  Grab your food with your beak and carry it over to your water bowl.  Dunk the food into the water.  If you think the food has gotten really dirty, you might want to drop your food in there and leave it to float for a few minutes.


Invariably, when you retrieve your food from the bath, some will stay behind and add to your soup.  Depending on what you have to eat that day, you'll have some tasty soup.  In general, my soup has some peas, carrots, corn, beans, seeds, and pellet pieces.  I dunk my crackers in to get a little salt in my soup.


Someitmes, I try out some weird soups, like when I have an oatmeal box to shred.  I drop some of the shredded box into my water. I've tried it a few times, but I think there are better ways to get fiber.  Unlike my veggies and crackers, dunking cardboard doesn't make it more edible.  Chewy, yes, but not very good for soup.


You should try out some soup of your own.  My human just started a new group on Facebook to share recipes for soup and other things.  Go check it out and post your own favorite soup recipe.

Shasta the Yellow Nape and Her Human

Posted by Cindy on March 14, 2014 at 6:20 PM Comments comments (0)



You humans can be funny, but if you want true hilarity, you need a bird. Here’s a great video of a bird going for a laugh. It would have been better without the squawkboxes in the background, but Shasta is still a goof. Enjoy!


Shasta and her human ... with other background ruckus.


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