Thank you so much for hosting me at Harmony Ink as part of the blog release tour for my new YA novel Owl. I’ve had so much fun writing about my owl shifter Gabriel and the young human, Vin, who comes to mean everything to him. Gabriel spends most of the book trapped in his shifted form, put there by his autocratic grandfather as punishment for shifting in front of humans. Hopefully it won’t be too much of a spoiler to say that Gabriel finally gets to become human again before the end of the book.
When I was getting ready to write this part, I was lucky enough to be able to consult a group of young adults at the high school where I worked as a writing tutor. I told them about Gabriel, and asked them what they thought it would be like to finally become human for the first time in three years. We had a great conversation, and they insisted that I put a scene in the book where the owl goes to the mall. So here it is, thanks to CHS.
In this scene, Gabriel has very recently shifted to human for the first time, and he and Vin have a host of things to work out, now that their relationship has an opportunity to grow in a whole new way. (I removed a few sentences that contained a spoiler.)
“You okay?” Vin asked quietly.
“Yeah,” I said. “Just a little overwhelming.”
“Is it all the people?” he asked.
I shook my head and nodded to the rows of recessed lights that marched overhead. “There are no shadows,” I said.
“Oh wow, you’re right.” He looked down the wide hall before us. The blue and white tiles in neat patterns below our feet were all equally bright. “I never noticed.”
“You had no reason to. I’m used to moving from shadow to shadow, in both moonlight and daylight. And I’m used to searching shadows, because that’s where things hide.”
Vin was staring at me, and I realized this was the moment he fully realized I was more of a wild thing than a human thing. …Now he was walking around with a predator, one who had killed every day of his life for three years. Did he think I might suddenly revert, or that my instincts would take over if I was startled, or angered?
I almost laughed at the thought. My violent past had driven me to become a vegetarian. No fears of me wading into the mall and leaving a bloody trail of bodies in my wake. Besides, my human form was nowhere near as efficient at killing as my owl form, at least without weapons. But it made me realize how much Vin and I still had to learn about each other. It was a little nerve-racking. I would have to prove that he wasn’t in love with a monster.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m good at faking normal.”
He laughed a little nervously.
“Besides, humans are the only animals who kill for sport,” I added softly. “And pay others to kill for them.”
“Assassins, you mean?”
“Well, I’d been thinking about butchers, but that too.”
“I’m sorry, Riel. Just talk to me, okay. Tell me what to do to help.”
I met his eyes for a moment, then nodded to a bench not too far from the door that had a fake but comforting potted tree next to it. “Let’s sit there a moment.”
He let me set the pace to the green, backless bench and sat down beside me, letting me have the spot next to the tree. The mall was full of mothers with little kids and strollers since school was still in session. There were also some older folks walking briskly, probably for exercise. There were dozens of inviting doorways. All seemed normal.
“Shall we start with something to eat?” Vin said, “or do you want to wander around?”
We’d only been sitting for about five minutes, but I realized that to him, that was a normal amount of time to sit. I, on the other hand, was used to spending hours on the same branch.
I swallowed hard. “Um, wandering is going to be a little tough for me. I’m used to going from point to point, do you know what I mean?”
He looked blank.
“Branch to branch? I mean, when birds fly, they pick a spot to fly to. Unless I’m going a long distance, like between your house and your school. But when I arrive, the first thing I do is find a spot to land.” I hesitated for a moment. “I’m having a little trouble getting my head around the concept of being able to stand still again. My instincts are telling me that if I stop moving, I’ll fall.”
I watched Vin thinking that through. Maybe he would decide I was completely nuts. Damn. It hit me that I was totally dependent on him right now. I had no money, no identification, and a ninth-grade education. Hard as it had been to survive alone in the wild for three years, it would be a little tricky to survive alone as a human, at least at first.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m sorry you’ve got a bird brain for a boyfriend. Literally.”
Gabriel in his owl form. I took this photo near our camp in Vermont recently. Can’t you just see him looking out those eyes?
Photo by M. Raiya
Check out Owl today!
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.
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