Hello everyone. Winnie Griggs here. I’m very excited about the recent release of The Road Home, the new novella I wrote as part of the Journeys of the Heart collection. This story is one I’ve been wanting to write for some time, but it’s a little bit of a departure for me. For one thing Anisha, my heroine, has a mother who was born in India and a father who is an American merchant sea captain.
For another, I pictured her with a pet that was a bit out of the ordinary, something to match her own exotic appearance. And since her father was a sea captain who sailed all over the world, I wasn’t limited to animals in her native country. After trying out several animals, I finally settled on a parrot. But this in turn spurred me to additional research. I never realized there were so many species! From small to quite large, from colorful to drab-in fact there are more than 350 species that belong to the order parrots are members of. It was quite fun to browse through all the pictures I could find of these colorful, exotic birds.
But I had to narrow my search so I came up with a list of criteria for what characteristics I wanted her feathered companion to have. He needed to be long-lived, intelligent, loyal, imposing and able to talk (not all parrots can). I finally settle on the African Grey parrot. African grey’s, while not the most colorful of the parrot family, have a lot to recommend them. They are long-lived, in fact have been known to live for upwards of 80 years. But more importantly, they are considered the most intelligent of the parrot family and can develop quite an extensive vocabulary. They have been described as having “… the intelligence level of up to a five-year old with the temperament of a two-year old…” Bingo – this was exactly what I was looking for. And thus Anisha’s companion, Sundar (which means ‘beautiful’ in Hindi) came to life for me.
My research into parrots, however, led me down a fun rabbit trail of additional research. During all of my digging into keeping pet parrots, I found some really gorgeous Victorian birdcages. Some of them were unbelievably extravagant. You can get a peak at some of them using this link.
So what about you? Do you have first hand experience with parrots? If not, how do you feel about them as potential pets – can you picture yourself with one? Leave a comment today and be entered into the drawing for a copy of the novella collection that contains my story, The Road Home.
Here’s a short excerpt from the opening of the story:
Where had they gotten off to?
Wyatt Murdoch’s irritation was turning into worry. This was the third time his two young charges had tried to slip away from him on their journey from Indiana to Texas, and they’d only made it as far as Arkansas. Thank goodness they’d arrive at their destination tomorrow. Of course, that assumed he found them before the train left. This was the longest they’d managed to keep out of his sight and the train would be resuming its journey in less than twenty minutes.
Why did they keep running away when they had no place to go? And how could a ten year old girl and eight year old boy have so completely disappeared when he’d only turned his back for a moment?
He supposed he couldn’t really blame them for wanting to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and warm spring sunshine, especially when they’d been cooped up on the train for four very long days. But they could have just asked him.
He scanned the horizon and caught sight of the circus tents off in the distance. Of course. That would have drawn Hallie and Jonah like ants to a picnic.
He started off in that direction at a fast walk. If they missed the train because of this nonsense…
He was some distance from the circus tents when he caught sight of his charges. But they weren’t alone. A woman, small in stature but big in presence, walked between them holding onto a hand of each. There was something faintly exotic-looking about her—it had something to do with the warm golden color of her skin and the shape of her eyes.
There was also the fact that she wore some kind of padded leather affair on her left shoulder, and regally perched upon that shoulder was what looked like a large gray parrot.
Someone associated with the circus, no doubt. Was she an actual performer or just an assistant?
More importantly, had she caught the children trying to sneak into the big top or one of the side shows? Or worse yet, had they gotten too close to her parrot and hurt it in some way?
He hoped she was looking for their caretaker—namely him—and not the sheriff. But from the frown on her face and stiff determination of her posture, she was obviously unhappy about something.
He quickened his pace. “You two have a lot to answer for,” he said as soon as he reached them.
But it was the woman who responded. “You are the person responsible for these children?”
He noticed that she had a faint accent of some sort, but he couldn’t quite place it. “I am. And I apologize for whatever they—”
She cut through his apology. “It appears you are not doing a very good job of watching out for them.”
Her accusation and tone got his back up. “Keeping up with them is not the easiest job in the world.”
“So watching over them is your job? Are you their nanny?”
“Are you their nanny?” The parrot squawked. “Are you their nanny?”
There were muffled giggles from the children at the bird’s echoed words, which Wyatt chose to ignore.
He tugged on his cuff, trying to maintain his dignity. “No, I am not their nanny,” he said. “I am their escort. Now if you will just hand them over, we have a train to catch.”
If anything, the woman clasped their hands tighter. “They tell me they ran away because you have not been treating them well.”
Wyatt glanced from Hallie to Jonah, making his displeasure clear. Another loud squawk from the bird did nothing to smooth his temper. “What you should know about these two runaways is that they are not only slippery, but they also lie.”
Her frown only deepened. “Those are harsh words to use about children, sir.”
How in the world had he gotten into this ridiculous discussion with a circus performer? Before he could respond, she turned to the children.
Her expression was that of a schoolmarm handing a failing grade to a favorite student. “Have you been telling me untruths?”
Both children shook their heads vigorously.
“He doesn’t let us do anything fun and he’s always fussing,” Hallie said.
“Anyone can tell he doesn’t even like us,” Jonah added.
The woman once again turned an accusing look his way.
But it was his turn to cut her off before she could speak. “That is neither here nor there, madam. It is my job to escort these children safely into the keeping of their great-uncle, and I intend to do just that. Now, I don’t have time to stand here and argue with you. We need to be on that train when it pulls out from the station.” He held out his left hand, keeping his right carefully down at his side. “Come along you two.”
The children looked up to their circus-performer friend, obviously ready to ask for her support. Had they formed such a quick bond because of the exciting nature of her life? Or was it just that they thought anyone better than he?
To his surprise, the stranger gave them a shake of her head. “Go on with your escort as he asks. It’s his job to keep you safe. And you should apologize for causing him worry, even if you don’t think he likes you. He may not be the most pleasant of people, but he is trying to look out for you, and you should respect him for that, not make his task more difficult.” She shot him a quick glance, then turned back to the children. “Besides, I’m sure he’s not really a bad man at heart.”
Was that condescension in her tone? His irritation changed to shock when the children came to him without further argument.
“We’re sorry, Mr. Murdoch,” Hallie said. “Aren’t we, Jonah?”
Wyatt was dumbfounded. How had she gotten these two mischief makers to obey her without argument?
Journeys Of The Heart
From merry old England to the wilds of Texas, take a delightful journey into adventure and romance in these novellas written by authors Camille Elliot, Winnie Griggs and Erica Vetsch. In these three stories you’ll travel alongside a feisty spinster, an English lord, a trail boss, a determined widow, and an unusual train companion—a parrot.
The Road Home by Winnie Griggs
Wyatt Murdoch feels his life is over—his career certainly is. In fact, he’s agreed to escort two orphans halfway across the country mainly because he needs a distraction. But when the task proves more than he bargained for, he seeks help from the exotic beauty with the talkative parrot who befriended the children when they slipped away from him.
Anisha Hayes, who’s hiding wounds of her own, has left her uncomfortable home to seek adventure. However, something about this unorthodox trio touches her heart, so when Wyatt asks for her help she agrees to put her plans on hold to accompany them. After all, it’s only a temporary detour.
But when they reach their destination, both Wyatt and Anisha find it’s not as easy to part ways as they’d planned…