Today, I’m pleased to turn my blog over to Mary Merrel, author of AFFINITY-BIRD IN A GILDED CAGE. I read this great YA book a while back and am eagerly looking forward to the sequel. After reading it, I invited Mary to visit my blog and share a bit about herself and AFFINITY. Please give her a ‘pen-friendly’ welcome!
Hi Everyone, and thank you, Mae Clair for inviting me to your blog so I can talk about my Young Adult Urban Fantasy, Affinity-Bird in a Gilded Cage. There is something wonderful about the writing community. The people I have met are caring and encouraging in this tough but wonderful world of writing. Mae Clair is no different, except she seems to have more energy than the average writer. Whenever I feel woe is me, I don’t have enough time to write, boo hoo, I read one of her blogs and stop complaining and get back to work.
When I wrote Affinity, I wanted something that was completely different from my Paranormal Mystery Series. Something out of my comfort zone. Normally, stories and characters come to me, enter my head and bang around until I relent and admit they have promise and put them down in a notebook.
Affinity started as a short story I had to think up. I wrote it in third person instead of first person, my protagonist a teenage boy instead of a thirty-something woman and my genre YA Urban Fantasy instead of Paranormal Mystery. Slowly, the short story about Talon a young man with the ability to communicate with the crows emerged, and I liked it.
The crows followed Talon Corvus everywhere. When he went to work with his uncle for the summer, the birds came too. Talon recognized that one straggly-tailed old crow. The same birds had flown from Modesto to Sacramento to be with him. Maybe Iris was right.
Iris Yorita lived in his old neighborhood in Modesto. Snakes were drawn to her as the big, black birds were drawn to Talon. She called their ability an AFFINITY. Claimed it was a gift from God, and they should use it to help people. Talon thought she was out of her mind. How could a bunch of mangy crows or slimy snakes help anyone?
When a thief targeted the people in his uncle’s neighborhood, all fingers pointed at the new kid, Talon. He decided it was time to put this strange ability to the test. Find out who was robbing their neighbors and clear his name. As Talon worked on communicating with his crows things heated up. Something more sinister than robbery was going on, and it would take Talon and his new-found friends, Iris and Chloe who communicated with raccoons to discover what really was going on.
Excerpt – Affinity-Bird in a Gilded Cage
Talon walked through the garage and into the house followed by the rest of the freaks. As soon as he got inside, he sprinted for the office, propped open a large wooden blind and peeked out. The tree tops were black, the branches swaying with moving bodies. Small black birds perched on the gutters of the house. Some looked more brown than black.
“There are little black birds and little brown birds,” Talon said. “What are they? And some bigger birds have black backs and white stomachs. What kind are they? And a ton of crows.”
Iris’ fingers flew across the keyboard. A blind lower down popped open and Chen and Chloe sandwiched Talon. Scraggy jumped from Chloe’s arm to Talon’s shoulder and poked her beak between the blinds, not wanting to be left out.
“OMG,” Chloe said. “Talon. What did you do?”
“I don’t know.” He had reached out to his familiar birds and any other birds he could sense; totally stoked he had called more than the usual crows.
A big, black bird, that looked like a crow but larger landed on the courtyard arch, wings flapping and pushing aside the birds already there.
“Look at the totally ginormous crow,” Chloe said.
“Probably a raven.” Iris continued to type. “Okay, here we go. Talon, did you know your last name, Corvus, is the genus for crow or raven. I bet that big bird is a raven.”
“Yep.” Talon was stoked. “Uncle Nate told me.”
“So many birds,” Chloe whispered.
“There’s another one,” Chen pointed out. “See. At the top of the house. Ravens mate for life.” Another one of the huge black birds landed on the Mendoza’s roof. The smaller birds moved out of the way, making room for the raven and turning the roof into a living, moving thing. Tiny brown birds hopped around in small bursts of flight.
“How long have you been studying animals, Johnny?” Iris asked.
“Since I knew there was something odd about me.”
“When did you know?” Chloe asked in a small voice.
“It was just after my parents were killed. Junior high, I think. That whole time in my life was kind of a blur.”
“I’m sorry, Johnny, that you had to go through all that on your own,” Iris said.
“I was at my first foster home when they started showing up. At first I thought it was a coincidence that every home I stayed in had raccoons in the neighborhood.”
“My father was Korean, and my mother was Mexican. My uncles were pretty good to me. As much as they could be under the circumstances. Not everyone was accepting of the mixed marriage. I probably should tell them I’m okay. And let them know I appreciate all they did.”
“You speak good English for a Mexican Oriental.”
“Talon, that’s racist and not appropriate,” Iris said.
“I’m as American as you white boy.”
“White boy. Wow, Chen, that one really cuts deep.” Talon ignored Iris’ sigh at their name calling. He didn’t mean to be racist, and it didn’t seem to bother Chen.
A bead of sweat ran down his temple. Not all the birds wanted to stay, and it was taking a toll he hadn’t noticed at first.
“I bet they’re crapping everywhere,” Chloe said with a giggle.
Even the serious Chen made a snorting noise. As they watched, Uncle Nate flew out from under the courtyard arch, his gray hair waving out behind him, and his mouth wide open. He glanced over his shoulder once, and then headed across the street without looking.
“Your uncle can run fast,” Chen said. “For a . . . old, white guy.”
Talon had never seen him move like that either. As Uncle Nate crossed the street, a police car with its lights flashing roared down the street. Talon watched in horror, sure his uncle was dead. The cruiser braked, the back end sliding sideways as it ground to a halt. Uncle Nate’s hands were on the hood as he skirted around the front end. He threw his hands up as Officer Brandt jumped out of the vehicle.
“Sssh, quiet.” Talon cocked his head to the side to hear better and so did Scraggy.
“What’s going on, Mr. Corvus?” Officer Brandt asked, way too calm for a guy who nearly ran someone over.
“Snakes.” Uncle Nate pointed to the Mendozas’ house. “Slimy snakes everywhere. I didn’t sign up for this, man.”
The officer’s shoulders jerked back, his head pivoting in the direction of the Mendozas’ house. He cleared his throat. “Calm down, Mr. Corvus.” Officer Brandt patted the air in front of him as he walked toward Uncle Nate. “I’m sure we can handle a couple snakes.”
“There’s more than a couple, man. There’s thousands of ‘em, I tell you. Thousands. Maybe more. I’m out of here.” Uncle Nate ran up the driveway and into the garage. Officer Brandt stood in the middle of the street. Slowly, he turned toward the Mendozas’ house.
Chen was making a kind of shushing noise, the blinds quivering with his shaking.
“You okay, Chen?” Talon asked.
“Uncle Nate…” He shushed some more, shoulders quivering as he gathered himself with a deep, shaky breath. “Uncle Nate is scared. Scared of snakes.”
“Terrified more like,” Chloe said.
“You think that’s funny?” Talon looked at Chen.
Tears ran down the kid’s face, his eyes mere slits as his cheeks puffed up, and his face split into a toothy grimace. He nodded.
“Hey, you freaks. Get out here,” Uncle Nate yelled from the family room.
“I don’t know if I like this…being called a freak,” Iris got up from her place at the computer. “And I definitely don’t like being summoned.”
Talon checked out the scene across the street. The police cruiser was in front of the Mendozas’ driveway now, and the birds flapped their wings, groups moving from branch to branch like a living wave.
“Pretty impressive, Talon,” Chen said.
Talon jerked, not realizing Chen was still in the room, the rat on his shoulder. Johnny pushed his glasses up and gave Talon a look before joining the other freaks.
Thanks again, Mae. I enjoyed doing this blog post and revisiting, Affinity-Bird in a Gilded Cage released October 24th of 2012. I plan on writing the next book in the Affinity Series this year. This time we’ll be with Brandon and his peregrine falcon as he and the rest of the super freaks take on the mystery of his grandfather in Affinity-Jailbird. You can visit my website at www.maryemerrell.com to see all I’m working on or find me on facebook and twitter, @MaryMerrell7.
You can purchase Affinity at Amazon
Check out my Paranormal Mystery Series as well, with Rosemary Fernandes and the gang. Book 3, Soul in Present Condition is due to be released April 2013. Thanks again.
Mary E. Merrell lives in the Central Valley of California with her husband, two dogs and four cats. She has two grown sons, Everette Merrell and Richard Mickelson who is married to a great girl, Brooke. Mary has worked at various jobs, selling furniture, a meat company and a manufacturing company. It wasn’t until she started selling real estate that her Real Estate Paranormal Mystery Series came to life in that old, vacant home. She enjoys reading all types of genres and writes Paranormal Mysteries and YA Urban Fantasies. When she’s not writing, she’s working on her decorative planter business LivingCreations with her husband, gardening and playing soccer. Please visit her website to see what she’s working on next. www.maryemerrell.com, or contact her through Facebook and Twitter.