Flowers for a Priestess

Today, because my mind is simply not cooperating to put together another blog post this week, I’m going to share another short story with you. I hope you enjoy it. :)

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Flowers for a Priestess

“She approaches.”

Bael’s heart skipped a beat. “Thank you, my friend.”

The tawny sparrow who had announced the arrival of the Priestess chirped and flitted off.

Have courage, he told himself. He wove his way through the forest until he reached one of his oldest and dearest friends. The gnarled tree leaned across the narrow dirt road that ran straight through the forest from one end to the other. One of its branches hung low; the Priestess ducked under it every day, greeting the tree as she passed through.

He opened his throat and cawed, summoning his crow friend to him. The glossy black bird landed on the low-hanging branch with a flower caught in her beak. Bael took the vibrant blue flower from his friend, sliding a gentle hand along her feathers in thanks. With a piece of twine retrieved from his belt pouch, he tied the flower to the branch, its petals glittering in a ray of sunlight that pierced through the boughs above.

The sparrow returned, chittering in excitement. “She is nearly here!”

Bael retreated in haste, climbing a nearby tree. His perch gave him an unhindered view of the path below. He flattened against the trunk to hide himself.

His breath caught in his throat, for on the wind traveled a light floral scent mingled with the tantalizing scent of a woman. Erana… He peered through the leaves, and there he saw the Priestess. Her white, gossamer gown clung to her curving form as she walked. He watched, mesmerized, as she reached the low branch.

She cannot miss it… I hope she likes it.

When the Priestess noticed the flower, her head turned this way and that, eyes scanning the trees. The smile that bloomed on her supple lips rivaled the shimmering blue petals. Delicate fingers untied the twine.

Her voice touched his keen ears. “Good morning, fair flower. Are you meant for me?” Visible to Bael’s eagle eye, the flower’s petals shivered. The woman’s smile deepened in response. She brought the flower to her nose.

Continuing along her journey, the Priestess patted the branch and ducked underneath it. She held the flower before her, still smiling down upon it.

Snaking down the tree, Bael followed behind her. His footsteps were silent, even with dried leaves and branches beneath his boots. He trailed her to the opposite edge of the forest, where he could go no further. He gazed upon her shrinking form as she entered the city that resided within his view. She took with her a portion of his heart.

She liked my flower. He puffed up with pride.

Tomorrow morning, she would return, passing back through his forest. Thus was her routine – from town to city and back again.

When Bael returned to his tiny cottage that night, he lay awake in bed for a long while. A forgotten book draped over his heaving chest. Once he nodded off to sleep, his dreams were filled with visions of the most beautiful creature he had ever been blessed to behold.

*Leaf* *Leafg* *Leafbr*

The Priestess’ acceptance of Bael’s gift instilled him with bravery. Dawn arose as he searched for the perfect flower. His longing this morning had risen to an unbearable level; the first thing that entered his mind when he awoke was Erana’s glowing visage.
He looked upon his chosen flower in satisfaction, hoping she liked the color pink. He produced his ball of twine and tied the flower to the tree with a gentle hand. Bael lingered, his mind drifting off.

The Priestess’ scent filled his nostrils, shocking him out of his reverie.

“Bael!” The sparrow’s warning shrieked through his mind. “She is very near!”

In a panic, Bael darted behind the nearest bush, pleading with it to hide him. With a rustle of leaves, the shrub shifted its arms to better conceal his friend. She will surely see me… if she does not hear my heart pounding first.

Erana filled his vision, and he clung to the bush as he watched his Priestess. Her cheeks flushed when she caught sight of his gift. She untied the flower and brushed its petals across her lips. Bael held his breath when her searching eyes passed over his hiding place.

“Please, come out.” Her voice sang through the forest.

You must greet her. Bael willed himself to emerge from behind the helpful shrub. At the last moment, he transformed into a stag, the shape in which he felt his bravest. Timid hooves pressed into the dirt as he stepped into her view. He dipped his massive antlers into a respectful bow due a Priestess of Gaea. Her beauty… my heart aches to be near.

Erana’s lush lips spread into a warm smile. Putting a bare foot forward, she stretched out her hand.

Bael’s powerful body shuddered and he danced back a few steps, anticipating her touch. Her scent is intoxicating…

“Do not be afraid.” She met his eyes as she spoke. Her fingers reached toward his flaring nostrils.

Bael could endure no more. He reared and bolted straight into the forest. His antlers tore through leaves and branches, scraped across bark.

Why are you running? He wanted to scream at himself. Coward! His fear dominated his conviction, and his ears lay back onto his head as he fled to the cottage.

*Leaf* *Leafg* *Leafbr*

The fire from Bael’s lonely candle wavered in the darkness of the night. Its light flickered over the empty sheet of parchment sitting before him on a wooden table. He shoved his shame out of his mind and bent with quill in hand.

He wrote:

Erana,

I see you day after day, traveling through my forest. Your beauty has stricken my soul so that I ache for your presence. I long for each morning when you pass beneath my friend’s low branch.

I am the one who has been gifting you with flowers. I am the stag who approached you and fled. I am the one whose heart belongs to the Priestess Erana.

~Bael

Sleep came to him in short, fitful bursts.

*Leaf* *Leafg* *Leafbr*

Determination permeated Bael’s core. He sought a special gift this morning, the rarest of gleamflower colors. This time, his letter accompanied his offering as he tied it to the tree branch. His friend’s boughs creaked their encouragement. Bael slipped behind its thick trunk and waited.

When the Priestess rounded the bend, twittering birds followed her, fluttering along the tree line. She whistled and warbled along with them until she stopped in front of the low-hanging branch.

Bael had been proud of his find – a deep red flower, its layers of gleaming petals spiraling outward. He watched from behind his tree as she opened and read his note. Had he lifted his arm, he could have touched her. This close, he could see her cheeks redden.

“Bael!” she called out. “Please, do not be afraid. I wish to meet you.”

His hands shook and his heart hammered in his aching chest. With a deep breath, Bael stepped out onto the dirt road, standing just before her. The Priestess’ face glowed with a calming smile. Their eyes met; her gaze awakened in him a fiery passion that burned through his entire being. He lifted a shaking hand.

“Erana…”

Steady and calm, Erana slipped her tiny hand into Bael’s where it hung in the air between them. Her touched soothed him; he savored her satin skin within his rough, calloused hand. The breeze stirred, sweeping her scent around him to create a whirlwind of churning need in his heart. Her voice pulled him away from his admiration of the way her dress hugged her body.

“You are the Tender of this forest?”

Though nervous, Bael nodded and swelled with pride; he knew how well he cared for his forest.

“I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Bael. Never before have I entered such a peaceful, healthy forest.”

Bael tried his hardest, but he could not suppress the grin that split his face in two. “My thanks, Priestess.”

“No, it is I who thank you, kind Tender. Your floral gifts have brightened my spirit at a time when I needed it most.” Erana lifted the ruby-red flower to her nose, pressing Bael’s letter to her chest. When she spoke once again, it seemed she addressed the flower. “Your gleamflowers speak very highly of you. Thank you, Tender.”

“You are most welcome.“ Bael bowed low, the movement reminding him that her petite fingers were still firmly in his grasp. When he straightened, he met her eyes. He found that he no longer felt afraid. “Please, call me Bael.”

The Priestess squeezed his hand. “And you may refer to me as ‘Erana.’” Her smile warmed his heart.

“Erana.” He beamed.

“I would… love to see your forest, if I may?” For the first time, her composure trembled.

Is she blushing? Bael felt a shift in the air and he became strong confidence, wanting so much to comfort her, to show her that she need not be anxious.

“I would be honored to introduce you to my forest and my friends.” He patted the low-hanging branch. “Of course, you have already met the Sycamore.”

Erana laid her hand against Bael’s, sharing in the communication with the old tree. She looked up at him, her eyes shining.

Bael took her hand and led her northward. He wanted to show her the patch of gleamflowers that grew in the cool, shaded corner of his forest.

The walk was long, yet pleasant; he made introductions as they winded deeper into the forest, pointing out the more prominent places. Birds followed them, twittering their excitement. Despite her bare feet, Erana showed no signs of discomfort. It seemed she glided along the brush and dried leaves.

When they came upon the gleamflower patch, Erana gasped and tightened her grip on his hand. Her captivating eyes widened in wonder. Even at midday, the only light in the area came from the flowers themselves. They released fluffs of pollen that glittered, drifting through the air to convey a hint of their heady scent.

With an expression full of child-like fascination, she tiptoed into the flowers. Careful steps brought her to the center of the patch without treading on a single leaf or petal. She twirled with glee amongst the gleamflowers. The pollen swirled around her dancing form, creating a shimmering spiral.

Bael watched her, enraptured. His Priestess… his Erana, dancing and laughing amongst his flowers. Needing to be closer, he made his own careful way toward her.

Erana stopped spinning and her lips curved upward in the warmest of smiles. She held her lithe arms out and he took her hands, letting her bring him down to sit with the gleamflowers. Blue eyes locked onto Bael’s and refused to let go. Her whisper carried a lonely longing to his ears.

“The life of a Priestess is a solitary one.”

Bael sensed a trace of invitation in her words. He cupped her cheek in his palm.

“Stay with me.” Bael’s thumb caressed her silken skin.

In answer, Erana rose up on her knees and touched gentle kisses to his jaw and cheeks. When she reached Bael’s lips, she leaned against him.

Bael embraced her, giving her the comfort she sought.

After their kiss had ended, they sat together in the patch of gleamflowers, Bael’s powerful arms wrapped around her dainty frame. In these long, blissful moments they eased one another’s loneliness.

Glittering pollen settled in Erana’s honey-colored hair. A few motes landed upon her cheeks and eyelashes, giving her an ethereal glow. Bael touched his forehead to hers and shut his eyes, their spirits intertwining. His whisper to her held all the love he felt deep within his heart.

“Erana…”

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Dealing with Fear and Doubt as a Writer

At some point in every author’s career, there comes a time when we are pitted against a threat that can do more damage to our ambition than a stack of rejection letters and Writer’s Block From Hell combined.

Fear.

I think with any new endeavor, self doubt is something that is unavoidable, and in its own way a necessary evil that we must overcome in order to grow. This goes especially for a writer – someone who is relying on their own imagination and creativity to be successful. It’s how you deal with this fear that determines whether or not it will become detrimental to your career as a writer.

For me, the fear creeps in when I allow myself to dwell on what others will think of my writing. It gets me every time – and until I can shake it, I’m frozen in place and unable to write. Part of me wonders if I’m any good at this writing stuff. On top of that, I worry whether or not I will be successful because of my subject matter. A vast majority of my stories involve or will involve either main or side characters that fall within the GLBTQ category – characters who are in some way or another gender diverse. This is a topic that is thankfully becoming more and more mainstream as the years go by… but unfortunately still endures a great deal of negativity. This scares me, and sometimes I wonder if I’ve killed my career before I’ve even gotten started.

I have to constantly remind myself that writing comes from the heart and soul – if you’re not passionate about what you write, chances are your writing will not reach its full potential. There are many reasons why I choose to write in this genre (the discussion of which really doesn’t belong in this particular post). Ultimately, the only thing that really matters is that I am passionate about my writing. My gender diverse characters really speak to me, and I know that I’m the right person to tell their story. Altering them to make them more “mainstream” goes against my very core – how can I connect with a story that’s fighting me the whole way?

My point is, as soon as I remember my passion and start writing for myself again, setting aside the fear and doubt, the story breaks free from my heart and spills out on the page. I have to believe in what I am writing so that the reader will believe it right along with me.

~B

~ What are some fears you’ve come up against while trying to reach your own goals? How did you conquer them and move forward? ~

“Snow Angel” Available

For anyone who’s been following along, you’ll remember that I had a short story accepted for publication by Dreamspinner Press back in September. That story – entitled “Snow Angel” – is now available for purchase on their site. How exciting :)

I’ll tell you that seeing my story up there in their store gave me a well-needed push to get some major writing done today.

Click here to get your copy of “Snow Angel.”

~B

Three Things I’ve Learned from NaNoWriMo

What an amazing experience Nano has turned out to be. Though my decision to join the challenge this November was impulsive, I do not regret it one bit. There are a few important things I’ve learned this month that I’d like to pass on in hopes of inspiring someone along the way to just go for it and chase that dream.

1. You have more spare time than you think.

Or perhaps I should say: You have plenty of spare time to write a novel.

Think about it this way: You’ve been gearing up to tell this story for a whole month (possibly longer, for some). You’ve already fallen in love with your characters, and have had ideas for your plot rattling around in your brain for weeks. By the time November hits,  you’re chomping at the bit to get writing. You want to write this. You need to write this. This novel becomes your life. When you sit down to write, it’s not a chore – it’s hard work sometimes, yes, but it’s also a blessing and an honor to be able to work with your characters and finally get this thing out on paper. Before you know it, you’ve written your first 2000 words, and you’ve only been at it for an hour.

If you have a true passion for writing, all you have to do is sit down in front of a computer (or pad of paper, whichever is your preferred method) and write. Honestly, that’s all it takes. If you have ten minutes before you have to clock in to work – use them. Ten minutes can be a few lines or a few paragraphs, depending on how productive your mind wants to be that day (it will decide for you, trust me – so just go along with it). If your kid is watching a TV show that’s a half an hour long – write for a half an hour.

We all have jobs, kids, family, housework, relaxation time, workouts, dinner to cook, etc., etc. Find time or make time. Get up fifteen minutes early every day, or go to bed fifteen minutes late.  My point is, you do have spare time, and you have enough to write this novel. You just have to make it your priority. It has to become your passion and your focus, and you have to want this with all of your being.

2. Preparation is a wonderful tool – but don’t adhere to your prepared plot so religiously that you miss an opportunity to create a better story.

I prepared. I prepared like crazy. I wanted to have the whole thing planned out from start to finish, with every moment of every scene ready to go. In my outline, everything looked great. I knew how this was going to go, and I was so ready.

About the middle of the month, Davin did something I hadn’t planned. Naughty, naughty thing. I went back over the scene to try to conform it to my outline.

The only problem was, there was no other way for this scene to go. Davin did what needed to be done, end of story (ha!). No matter how hard I tried to convince myself that I could get things “back on track,” the truth was, Davin had completely derailed my story (his story)… and he was 100% right.

What effect did this change of plan have on the rest of my outline? It was no longer applicable. In essence, it became useless. I can’t tell you how many hours I wasted lamenting over the fact that I was doomed, that I couldn’t get my novel right, that I was a terrible writer for not planning correctly (yeah, that one sucked). I repeatedly stabbed holes into my bulletin board, deep in thought, trying to decide what to do.

How did I end up getting out of this mess? Advice from another writer, actually. (Though we’re a solitary bunch, it’s good to communicate with other writers now and then. For one, it makes you feel a little less crazy. Second, they often have tips and advice that have worked for them over the course of their writing career that just might help you out of a bind.) Being part of Nano, they sent us periodic “pep talks” in our email that I have to say really did their job. It seemed each email was directed at a current problem I was struggling with in my own novel – and that allowed me to move forward re-motivated.

In one of these emails, author Chris Cleave (www.chriscleave.com) shared a Q&A session he had with his followers on Twitter, and his answer to one of the questions unraveled that knot in my chest and gave me exactly what I needed to continue with my novel… this time with a more open mind.

The question: “How much do you think planning / structuring your #NaNoWriMo project counts towards completing it?”

Chris Cleave’s answer: “Not much, I think. A novel is a living thing and it resists containment within the structures we erect for it. Even worse, the novel has intelligence and it will inevitably turn against its creator. Think of it like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park. The problem is that a good character in a novel will reach a point of maturity where he or she is not necessarily biddable.”

He went on to say that we learn more about our protagonists as we write, and if we just listen to what it is they are trying to tell us, we can end up with a story that is more alive and real than our original plan would have allowed.

Well, how about that?

It was like some higher force heard my cry for help and sent me the information I needed to move forward. As soon as I read this, I closed the word processor page that held my outline and decided to just write the story, as Davin wished. I would go with my gut and let the story unfold before me, and I would become the medium through which Davin would tell his tale.

Let me tell you, it’s been a lot more fun this way. It may involve considerably more rewriting later on when the editing and revising process comes around – but the story I have come up with in this way has been more satisfying. I feel like I’m on the right track. Now, on December 1st, I have 52k words and am about halfway through the novel.

3. I’m a writer.

This is perhaps the most important thing that I’ve learned this past month. I’ve always had a passion for writing, but during these last few weeks I’ve developed a need for it, a realization that this is simply something I have to do. Creating characters and stories gives me a sense of being whole and complete. This month has only further strengthened my resolve to become a full time writer.

I have a fairy tale in my heart that I need to share. :)

~B

~ For those of you who have participated in Nano, either this year or in previous years, what have you learned about yourself and your writing? ~