Thank you so much for hosting me here on Sparkling Reviews as part of my blog tour for the release of my novel, YA novel, Owl. I’m really proud of this book and excited to share it.
The most challenging part of writing Owl was that one of the two main characters, Gabriel, is a shifter who is trapped in his owl form for a good chunk of the story. How to show his growing friendship with a human, when he can’t speak? I decided to tell the story from the owl’s point of view. That way, I could show what he was thinking and sometimes what he would have said if he could have. It helps that Gabriel is a very witty guy and has no trouble poking fun at himself. He ended up setting the tone for the book. And that makes things feel even darker and more dramatic when everything finally begins to unravel and life gets grim.
The excerpt is from early on in the novel when Gabriel and his human friend Vin are just getting to know each other. They are out in Vin’s kayak—Vin is paddling, obviously, and Gabriel is perched on the bow.
Gabriel made a decision to help a friend, and it cost him. He’s been exiled from his clan, trapped in his owl form, living in a swamp, and slowly losing his humanity. If not for Vincent, Gabriel would have no chance of regaining what he lost.
Vincent is popular and successful, but no one knows the real him, who is gay and would rather become a musician than a lawyer… no one but the owl living in the hollow tree. As Vincent shares his secrets, he not only unburdens his heart, but stirs Gabriel’s. In each other they have a chance to heal… to live.
Unless Gabriel’s grandfather has his way.
Dreamspinner Press: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/searchresults?q=m.+raiya+owl
Harmony Ink Press: https://www.harmonyinkpress.com/books/owl-by-m-raiya-635-b
“It’s really pretty back here.” Vin paddled us into a deep cove beside the headland with the cottage. The mouth was narrow, but it opened into a wide, shallow expanse of water with a small crescent beach at the back. It was utterly private. The water was so still and clear we could see the sandy bottom as we floated over it. There were a few clams, their dark shells standing upright on the bottom as they fed. A couple small perch swam under us, startled at our shadow, and took off.
I saw a little painted turtle and pointed it out with one wing. We watched it in silence. The cove was mesmerizing. We floated in the liquid glass for a long time, and then Vin paddled us up to the beach and landed.
“Time for a break,” he said, and hopped out.
I flew over the beach a little way and landed on a piece of driftwood. He pulled the kayak out of the water and brought his waterproof bag over to me, then smiled a little sheepishly and headed to the back of the beach. I had the same thing in mind, so I flew off to some pines and took care of my messy stuff. I saw a trail below me that led, I assumed, to the cottage on the headland. I spotted a frog in some seaweed washing at the edge of the water and in a second, he was in my gullet. I’d gotten up part way through the night and hunted awhile. The two moles I’d caught were long gone, but I was used to being hungry, and I didn’t want to leave Vin on our day together. I flew back to the driftwood, shaking water from my feathers.
Vin rejoined me in a minute, spread the towel on the sand, and sat down on it with a sigh, leaning on the log next to me and stretching his long legs out. I watched him bury his feet in the sand. I used to like to do that.
“I brought some food,” he said, digging around in his bag. “Can you eat roast beef?”
I probably shouldn’t, but I moved closer eagerly as he took out a little, soft-sided cooler big enough for a couple sandwiches. In a plastic baggie, he’d packed some plain roast beef. And potato chips. I couldn’t resist. He broke off some meat and held it out to me. I took it gently from his fingers. It was delicious.
“I love it when you squeeze your eyes up like that,” he said.
It was from the glare on the water, I firmly told myself, and straightened my wings. Dignified owl at all times, that was me.
“I hope it’s not affecting you, not being nocturnal,” he said, feeding me another bite. “I meant what I said last night, about making sure your needs are being met.”
Oh, they were. Roast beef bliss underway.
Vin laughed, opened one of his colas, and took a long drink. I hopped over to the bag of chips and opened it with a talon. A few spilled on the sand. I looked at Vin guiltily, but he just laughed. I picked up a chip, hop-flapped back to the log, and then, on impulse, offered it to him.
He bent and took it with his lips.
I gave a soft, happy hoot. He laughed too, and fed me another piece of meat.
Gabriel is a barred owl, and this is a photo of one that I was lucky enough to take near our camp in Vermont recently. Who can resist eyes like that? Not Vin, for sure. He’ll risk anything to help Gabriel become human again, but the time will come when they’ll look back on their time on the beach as the last few moments of peace before life gets even more complicated.
And here’s their kayak on the beach. (Okay, it’s really my kayak. Same difference.)
Photos are by M. Raiya
Raiya is a Vermonter and splits her time between a home in the mountains and a camp on a lake, writing full time when she’s not taking long walks with her dog, swimming, kayaking, or birding, always with a camera in hand. M. Raiya’s novel Depth of Return won first place in the 2017 Rainbow Awards in the Gay Paranormal Romance category, and her novel Another Healing was a finalist in the 2015 Rainbow Awards.
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