Congrats to Karen B. She’s our winner for this giveaway!
Look! My friend Cheyenne Blue stopped in to tell us all about her new book, Not-So-Straight Sue. I LOVE this book. You should read it. Twice.
To further entice you, Cheyenne is giving away an e-book copy here at Women and Words. Drop a comment below and I’ll draw the winner this upcoming Friday, Oct 21.
Outback Pubs by Cheyenne Blue
Fancy coming to the pub with me?
I bet some of you are already looking for your wallet and trying to remember whose turn it is to be the designated driver.
I’ve always loved pubs. My love affair started when I was growing up in the UK. I was *cough* fifteen when I started going to local pubs with my friends. We’d walk three miles down country lanes and across heathland to a local pub, drink half pints of Norfolk Dry cider, and then stagger home.
When I first came to Australia, I found the Aussie pubs hard to take. No more cosy nooks and fireplaces hung with horse brasses. It was the days before boutique cider too, so I had to learn to drink beer. But I soon found pubs in Melbourne with the sense of community that I loved. Irish pubs mainly (which is where I met my partner of nearly thirty years). Places you could walk in alone, sit down and be deep in conversation five minutes later.
Pubs are not just about drinking. Actually, the pubs I like are not really about drinking at all. They’re about instant connections on a conversational level. Laughter, banter, the craic (if you’re in an Irish pub). Sure, there’s usually alcohol, but in these days of responsible drinking, there are often as many schooners of soda, lime and bitters as there are of VB.
Pubs are the heart of a community, especially a rural one. It’s where you go if you’ve been locked out of your house and you’re waiting for the locksmith. Charity fundraising, drag queen bingo, golf days, fishing trips—they all start in the pub. Can’t be bothered cooking? Go down the pub for the pot and parmie special.
The classic Australian pub is an outback one. If you’ve ever driven for hours and hundreds of kilometres across a desert landscape, where the only sign of life is a mob of big red ’roos, you’ll know the special pleasure of coming into a tiny town. With a pub. Back in the ’90s, which is when I first started going outback, these pubs were often rough-walled, corrugated iron roofed, dirt floored, single room places with a rough-hewn wooden bar where the beer was bottled and not on tap. People were barefoot and wore stubbies (very short shorts worn by men) and singlets. An Akubra hat. The beer was cold and the conversation laconic. Aussie pubs were bloody awesome.
They still are. Nowadays, in these days of four-wheel drive tourism, the iconic Birdsville Hotel in western Queensland is visited by more and more people, but it’s still a pub in a tiny town. It’s still the first stop for anybody driving in. And there’s more like it: the Hebel Hotel, Adavale Pub and General Store, the Royal Hotel in Mount Hope, the Iron Clad Hotel in Marble Bar and the William Creek Hotel. The first time I visited William Creek (population 4) there was a light aircraft parked outside on the road, which doubled as a runway.
I have a new novel out this month. Not-So-Straight Sue tells the tale of a lawyer returning to outback Queensland to live in a tiny settlement and take up the reins in a one-person law practice. It’s a tale of friends and family, romance and love, of coming out and coming to terms with who you are. It’s very definitely a tale of outback Queensland. With pubs.
Here’s the blurb and an excerpt (about an outback pub of course):
“Sorry, I’m straight.” Those words, accompanied by a smile, were the ones Sue Brent used to turn down women. But the truth was buried so deep that even her best friend, Nora, didn’t know that Sue was queer. Sometimes, Sue even managed to convince herself. The only person in London who’d seen through her façade was Moni, an American tourist.
When a date with a friend’s brother goes disastrously wrong, Sue has to confront the truth about herself. Leaving London, she returns to Australia to take up the reins in an outback law practice. Back in the country of her birth, she is finally able to accept who she is, including facing Denise, the woman who burned her so badly years ago and set her on the path of pretence. But it’s not until Moni arrives in Queensland to work for the Flying Doctors that Sue is finally able to see a path to happiness. However, as things start to go her way, Denise arrives in Mungabilly Creek, begging a favour that might destroy Sue’s new relationship.
After dinner, we’d decided we would go out. After all, it was New Year’s Eve, and the only place to go in Mungabilly Creek was the Royal. Bursts of guitar sounded as the band Billy had mentioned tuned up.
“Besides,” said Moni. “It’s good for your business to be seen about the community. And Billy is going to shout us.”
“I’m around the community a lot,” I said. “I mostly shop locally. I trade Mrs T’s tomato sauce for veggies. I buy passionfruit butter from the community centre and support their handicraft days—where do you think all the knitted oven mitts came from? I go to the Royal sometimes.”
The Royal was thumping when we arrived. It seemed like everyone for a hundred kilometres was there, and in the beer garden, the band started up, playing an Acca Dacca cover. They weren’t too bad and would probably sound even better after I’d had a few glasses of wine. The bar staff poured beer as fast as they could, but it still wasn’t fast enough, and the crowd was three deep at the counter. They were also giving free soft drinks to the designated drivers, and this pleased me. I was always glad to have more business, but I’d rather it wasn’t as a result of a drunk driver. I went to the bar and bought a bottle of wine, rather than keep returning and fighting the crush to buy by the glass. Moni disappeared, presumably to try and find a table or at least a corner. I found her eventually, out in the beer garden, deep in conversation with two blokes I’d never seen before. Not that it meant anything; half of Queensland was in the Royal tonight, it seemed.
I was right; after a couple of glasses of wine, the band started to sound much better. Certainly they were much louder, and even if we were at home, it would be pointless trying to have a quiet night with the sounds of Aussie rock being hammered out. Billy found us and shouted us a glass of wine, and I also talked to many of my outlying clients who had come in for the evening. Moni wasn’t drinking much, she seemed more content to talk and watch the band. I thought about what the two of us would do later, alone in my bed, and realised she had a point. I wanted to be awake and sober, so I limited my own wine intake to match hers.
Although we were constantly talking to other people, my hand sought and found hers, and her fingers entwined with mine. In the moments when we were alone, we would steal kisses, short ones, more brief brushes of the lips than real kisses, but it reaffirmed our connection, a reminder of what was to come later that evening—as if I could forget. Anticipation built, and joy bubbled over. It seemed so right having Moni here, next to me, in the little town I was fast thinking of as my town, the place I wanted to be. Seeing her enjoying the evening, laughing at some of the antics on the bare patch of ground that served as the dance floor, and her eyes sparkling in the dim light as she glanced up at me from under lowered eyelashes made me wonder if she thought of Mungabilly as her town too.
I was content. I was more than content. I was happy.
Around eleven, she leant into me. “I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking that we don’t need to stay until midnight. Don’t we have a wide veranda all to ourselves where no one will tread on our toes or spill beer over us? Don’t we have a big bed only a few steps from that veranda?”
When she put it like that, I saw no reason to stay. “Come on then.” I grasped her hand and started forging a path through the crowd.
We were halfway to the door when there came a loud crash and the sound of breaking glass.
“Looks like the real business of the night has just started,” said Moni. “Definitely a good time to leave.”
But then there were raised voices, somewhat slurred but definitely aggressive, another crash, and more shouting. But this time there was an edge of panic in the voices. Moni stopped. “Did someone call for a doctor?”
I stopped too and listened. “Yeah.”
“Not-So-Straight Sue” is available now from Ylva Publishing and from 2 November 2016 on Amazon:
Cheyenne Blue’s fiction has been included in over ninety erotic anthologies since 2000. She is the editor of Forbidden Fruit: stories of unwise lesbian desire, a 2015 finalist for both the Lambda Literary Award and Golden Crown Literary Award, and of First: Sensual Lesbian Stories of New Beginnings.
Her collected lesbian short fiction is published as Blue Woman Stories, volumes 1-3, with more to come. The first two books in her romantic Girl Meets Girl series, Never-Tied Nora and Not-So-Straight Sue are out now from Ylva Publishing, with the final book Fenced-In Felix due in November 2016.
Cheyenne has lived in the U.K., Ireland, the United States, and Switzerland, but now writes, runs, makes bread and cheese, and drinks wine in rural Queensland, Australia. Check out her blog at www.cheyenneblue.com and follow her on Twitter at @IamCheyenneBlue and on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/CheyenneBlue