Herbal Tea by H.J. Brues in A Brush of Wings

March 21, 2010

I’m on a little vacation right now, traveling with a group of friends who forced me to leave my laptop at home before allowing me to climb into the car. So, yeah, you guessed right: I had to post these words in advance, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to join the party and tell you a little about my story in the Dreamspinner Press A Brush of Wings anthology.

 I found the idea of writing about guardian spirits very appealing—I can hear my fellow authors thinking get in line—and I had one of those what-if moments when I was preparing a cup of herbal tea. I love the slow, calming ritual of making tea, love the powerful scent of most herbal teas—and if you’ve ever smelled an infusion of valerian root you’ll  understand why I say most—love mixing flavors and drinking the hot, colorful liquid while I let my mind drift.  I thought I could put all those feelings in a story, and so I chose to write about an herbalist, someone who would know everything about medicinal plants and their uses.

Original that I am, I called the result Herbal tea. Since I don’t want to spoil the plot for you, here’s a little sip:

 I looked at the rainbow flag and tried not to clench my fists. Maybe I was being my usual paranoid self and it was just one of those equal opportunity things, but I had the impression they were laughing themselves sick back at headquarters.

The place looked harmless enough on the outside, with its potted geraniums and clear windows, the stenciled sign reading “The Ancient Herbalist” in simple, blue cursive. At least it wasn’t a sex shop or one of those sleazy bookstores, though it reeked of alternative bullshit; that, I could bear for one day—or so I told myself as I pushed the door open to the chime of a dozen little bells and almost gagged on the overpowering scent of herbs. Jesus. “Herbalist” was right, by the smell of it.

There were no patrons sitting at the white, wrought-iron tables yet, so I walked over to study the prints on the nearest wall. They were all renderings of plants—medicinal, I guessed—with a sure hand for detail and sedate backgrounds that emphasized the almost botanical textbook air to them. As I moved closer, I noticed a few smaller frames holding something that looked like… tea bags? Yeah, several tea bags, the front of two cardboard tea boxes, and a row of teabag labels. Weird, the things people choose to hang on a wall.

“Welcome.”

I turned around to meet the most amazing violet eyes I’d ever seen on a man. My old neighbor Wallace used to have a cat with those eyes, though they weren’t as full of healthy curiosity as the pair holding my gaze in the herbal-scented room.

“Would you care for a cup of tea?” he asked, his voice a little too much on the amused side for my comfort. I was glad he didn’t wait for my answer, because I might have blurted out the wrong thing—considering I only drink black coffee—and it gave me time to study his retreating form as he walked back to the counter.

He was wearing drawstring pants that hung loosely on his lean hips, two layers of oversized T-shirts blurring the contours of his light frame. I felt overdressed in my black suit, almost the cartoon image of an FBI agent trying to get some answers from a skater punk.

“You don’t look ancient to me,” I said, surprising a laugh out of him.

“I don’t look like an herbalist either,” he replied with a smile. A very nice smile—of the sexy-nice kind. Definitely someone was having a ball back at headquarters.

 ******************

 Want to taste some more? If you do, I know you will also enjoy the wonderful stories the other authors have written for this Dreamspinner Press anthology (congratulations you all, and great job, Anne!):

 To buy the paperback

To buy the eBook

 I will be very happy to read your comments, questions or herbal tea recipes, and will answer them as soon as I can get my hands on my laptop.

7 Responses to “Herbal Tea by H.J. Brues in A Brush of Wings”

  1. I am absolutely enchanted by your idea of focusing the story on the atmospheres evoked by tea. I am quite a fan of the ‘tea ritual’ myself, thus I can already smell the herbalist’s shop and picture the jars of dried leaves… not to mention the attractive shopkeeper!

    I am so very curious to know more about the fascinating situation you’ve set up, and discover who the two character are. Great choice of excertp – just tantalizing enough to make me crave for more!

    Cornelia

  2. clarelondon says:

    Congratulations on your story in the anthology, it sounds like a fascinating theme.
    Clare :)

  3. rjscott says:

    Hi HJ… I just love the description of your shop… and the preconceptions of the visitor… looking forward to reading… HUGS X

  4. sarah says:

    Great excerpt – just enough to draw us in – can’t wait to read more!

  5. oooh, interesting! Great use of atmosphere.

  6. H.J. Brues says:

    Hi Cornelia
    Thank you for your words. I’m glad to meet another tea fan; I must confess that my friends look at me funny every time they open a kitchen cabinet and see row after row of tea containers of every kind…
    I hope you enjoy the rest of the story!

    Hi Clare, R.J., Sarah and Chrissy
    Thank you for your comments! I’m thrilled to be part of this anthology!

  7. Hello, H.J.,
    I am writing to you here since I could not find an email address. I just wanted to let you know I absolutely loved your story. I was enchanted by the atmosphere, by Justin’s character, by Jamie, by Cy and the strategy of keeping him occupied collecting the teabag labels, the little details like the personalized mugs… wonderful!
    I also love how you handled the story, and how the mistery of what exactly is going on accompanied me right until the end. And the use of the language – little original details such as ‘nibbling at his chin like a piranha’ had me completely enchanted.
    Yours is probably my favourite story out of the whole anthology. Well done!

    Cornelia

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