Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the series where I share snippets from new and past releases, and works-in-progress, and sometimes invite author buddies to do the same. Like today!
It’s moving week for the Hein house and chaos reigns. Boxes, boxes everywhere, but fewer than there could have been thanks to some determined decluttering.
Last week we did a major cull of electrical junk to take to the council’s electronic waste collection point. I am still shaking my head at some of the stuff we unearthed. Laptops with ancient operating systems and speeds like snails, and what is now laughable amounts of memory. A mobile phone that I used back in 2003 (why did I keep that? Why???). Cords that fit nothing we own now. Endless tangles of earbuds.
I guess they’re the throwaway tools of modern life, but I can’t help feeling frustrated at the waste. What do you do though? Technology changes fast. Things become obsolete. The only consolation is that these items served us well for the time they were in use and will now be recycled.
But enough of that. We’re here for a teaser, and this week it’s from a veeeeery special guest.
I am thrilled to welcome rural romance author Anthea Hodgson to Teaser Tuesday. Some of you (it should be ALL) will have read Anthea’s debut novel The Drifter. I loved this book. LOVED IT. So much so it was my favourite read of September 2017 against stiff competition. It was a beautiful story, wonderfully told and I have been hanging out for Anthea’s next release since.
Now it’s here!
Here’s Anthea to tell you a little about it.
Bringing The Drifter home – setting The Cowgirl free…!
The Cowgirl is my second novel, and I love it, firstly because writing it allowed me to go home to the wheatbelt of WA again, and secondly because I loved Deirdre so much in Drifter, I was keen to visit her and to find out what had happened to her to make her so grumpy!
The Cowgirl is her story, and that of Teddy, her granddaughter. Teddy and Deirdre live together on their farm, completely safe from the chance that anything will ever happen. Except of course that it already has, and the story of The Cowgirl is the story of what happened to Deirdre many years ago to change her from the vivacious woman we see in 1956, into a difficult, loveable old lady, and also the story of why young Teddy seems unable to leave the farm.
I think of Cowgirl as a rural fairytale about not following your dreams, and it has stories from around the world woven into its pages, from places Teddy would like to visit, if only she could. I wanted to show the limitations in the lives of both women of different generations, the barriers and heartbreaks in Deirdre’s life, and the yearning in Teddy for the world beyond the farm gate she isn’t brave enough to leave behind.
I think a lot of The Cowgirl is about duty and freedom, and I feel so grateful to the generations of women who have held their children up high, loving them, teaching them and making them eat their vegetables. Quite often the life we lead isn’t the one we dreamt for ourselves, but I wanted to show the wonderful value in the women who help us all through our lives, even though their work is so often overlooked and invisible.
I love Cowgirl because it allowed me to say thanks girls, and to say to Teddy – the world’s out there – don’t let anyone take it away from you!
Finally, I love Cowgirl because I told my publisher I wanted to take a silly old chook and make her fly – and I hope I have!
I do hope you enjoy The Cowgirl. She’s just back from milking, and she’s putting the kettle on…
‘I’m too old to entertain, Teddy. My knee’s been playing up.’ Deirdre gave it an experimental half-hearted kick to prove her point and Teddy rolled her eyes. ‘He doesn’t want to come here for dinner,’ she complained. ‘I thought part of his charm was that he liked his own space.’
‘He also likes to not starve to death,’ Deirdre snapped. ‘If you don’t have him for dinner, then I will – though it’ll cost me. My knee is giving me a terrible time in this cold weather.’
‘Do you have some sort of doctor’s certificate for that?’
‘Did we raise you to let people starve to death?’
‘Fine! Fine. I’ll have him over for dinner.’
‘Good. I’ll come, too.’
‘Would you like me to call the ambulance to bring you over?’
‘Don’t be sarcastic.’ Deirdre stood up and made her way to Teddy’s verandah. From where Teddy stood at her front door she could see Will washing something the size of a subterranean bread box. ‘Hey, you! Will!’ Deirdre shouted. He looked up from the dig. ‘Teddy wants to cook you dinner.’
Will seemed surprised.
Teddy groaned quietly.
‘I don’t need feeding,’ he called back.
‘You do eat, don’t you?’
‘Well, then, she’s a good cook. You won’t die.’
At that Deirdre nodded and marched down the verandah steps home to her house, past the bobbing green grevillea she’d planted between the two houses to attract honeyeaters in the spring.
Teddy sighed. She made a point of sighing because Deirdre wasn’t there, so she was fairly sure she could get away with it. Deirdre didn’t approve of sighing as a rule; it demonstrated a penchant for the dramatic that she found particularly irritating.
She leaned in the doorway and watched Will hit something with a really large hammer that he’d commandeered from the workshop. She couldn’t see what it was. Maybe it was fragile. Well, if it hadn’t been fragile before he started smashing it with a hammer, it certainly was now.
She let herself notice the power in Will’s back as he bent to the task, and the dark hair along his arms. She made herself look at the wheelbarrow for a couple of seconds, and then she let herself look at his hands. Strong, she thought. Artistic. But worker’s hands, nonetheless. She wondered what he’d like for dinner. Then she decided she didn’t care, because he was getting lamb roast. She tied her messy auburn hair back, went to the kitchen and started where every good meal should begin – with dessert.
She cracked dark chocolate into a bowl, listening to the happy clicking noises it made as it hit the ceramic base. Once the cream was heating on the hob and beginning to flow gently around the saucepan, she took it off the flame and gazed at its milky paleness. When Teddy was young she had told Deirdre it was the colour of princesses’ skin.
What? Don’t talk nonsense. What would you know about princesses? Deirdre had snapped.
I know they have skin the colour of cream, she’d answered. How do you reckon Snow White got her nickname? She smiled into the bowl. Her grandmother didn’t approve of flights of fancy, and she wasn’t interested in dreams. Deirdre concerned herself with the cold hard light of day.
It wasn’t long before a large leg of lamb was sizzling in the oven. Teddy collected her milking bucket and headed out to milk the cow. As she was walking to the milking shed she saw him again. The damn Carnaby cockatoo was back. She shook her head at him and he shrieked at her.
‘Go away!’ she called. ‘Go find a girlfriend!’
The cocky shrieked again and raised his crest in alarm. The milk bucket in Teddy’s hand was metal but light and she swung it as she strolled to the old cattle yards where she could see Cow approaching, waiting for dinner. She swung it up and over her head in case she could scare the cockatoo, but the gesture seemed to entertain him and he circled overhead, landing in the enormous York gum by the side of the shed.
‘Dumb bloody bird,’ she muttered.
Barnaby the Carnaby had been a chick when she had found him in a hollow in an old stump behind the hay shed. There were feathers nearby and she’d assumed his mother had been taken by a cat.
Best just to kill the poor little chap, Deirdre had said. He’ll only suffer.
She knew it was true. If he was an orphaned lamb she’d have disposed of him swiftly. No, she’d said. I want to give him a chance. Just a day. I’ll see if he’ll eat in a day. He’s nearly grown.
And now he wouldn’t leave. But Windstorm wasn’t the place for Carnaby cockatoos – they were more likely to be found at Kellerberrin or Esperance. He was too far north, too far west and he was never going to find a partner. Occasionally he vanished for a while and she’d hope he’d worked it out and moved away, but then she’d hear him shrieking down in the bush, telling some pink and grey a joke he was never going to get.
Cow arrived in her own time with her udder swinging beneath her.
‘Afternoon, Cow,’ Teddy said and pulled up the stool. She didn’t mind milking; it was relaxing. Well, it was relaxing when she didn’t have to rush home from town or from drenching sheep, or cut a weekend in Perth short. Then it was a pain in the bum, pure and simple.
She had time to think while she squeezed the fresh milk into the bucket. Today she thought about Will and wondered why he owed Audrey, then she thought about the buried house and wondered why it had never been mentioned before. Life was often pretty quiet on the farm; it wasn’t like they weren’t hard-up for conversation sometimes. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.
The sky was blue; it was always blue in the wheatbelt. Sometimes blue and hot, sometimes blue and windy, and sometimes cold icy blue. But blue. When Teddy was out here, gazing upwards, she often thought the sky was deeper than the earth, and richer – with the dreams and wishes of millions of souls sewn into its fabric through time and space, and across maps that had long since disappeared. When she was younger, she had photographed the sky for days at a time, trying to capture its exact blue shades, trying to map them all. How she loved feeling the wind on her face from a thousand years ago, from a cave on a hillside in Turkey or from a field by a loch in Inverness. Blue. Unchanging air on her skin, slipping freely past the dark cold earth that chained her there. Spurt, spurt, spurt.
Cow kicked at the bucket. Her feed had run out and she was bored. ‘Sorry, old girl,’ Teddy muttered and quickly finished. Then she stood slowly and, glancing at the blue sky above, took the afternoon’s milk to her grandmother, who she knew would be waiting.
Doesn’t that sound wonderful? You can almost taste the air and feel the heat of the vibrant blue sky.
The Cowgirl is out now. Order your copy today in paperback or ebook from these stores, or simply trot on down to your favourite independent book shop or chain for some in-person bookish joy.
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