Maggie Blackbird

Romancing Canada's Indigenous People

Today, I’m featuring fellow eXtasy Books/Devine Destinies author Cheryl Headford.  If you love LGBTQ+ young adult and new adult, she’s the author for you. She brilliantly captures the trials and tribulations of today’s younger generation.  She also collaborates with other authors, and has contributed to anthologies.

Author-Alert

About-the-Book

Lab RatTitle:  Lab Rat
Series:  N/A
Author:  Cheryl Headford
Publication Date:  February 08, 2019
Publisher:  eXtasy Books
Genre:  Erotic Romance, Gay, GLBT, Mystery, Suspense, Science Fiction {soft}, New Adult

You can run, but sometimes the farther you go the closer you are to where you started.

Blurb:  Gabriel’s life ground to a halt some time ago, but he’s still running—from his past, his family, and now the new man in his life. A man who just won’t get the message that Gabriel isn’t interested in love anymore.

Laurie won’t give up on the beautiful man who is broken and intent on running away. Even though he doesn’t know what Gabriel is running from, he’s determined to be at his side no matter what.

When Gabriel’s past finally catches up, they both stop running and find themselves plunged into something Laurie could not have dreamed of, and Gabriel never stopped having nightmares about.

Reader Advisory: This book contains a scene of attempted suicide.

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Excerpt

Gabriel:  Life sucks. I mean really sucks. I’m a good person, so why do bad things keep happening to me? While I’m not the type to help old ladies across the road—I’d probably scare them into a heart attack—I don’t go out of my way to hurt people either. And yet…

My family has pretty much disowned me, and I don’t blame them. They can’t cope with me, never could. Hell, I can’t cope with myself. They kind of tried for a while, in their own way. The thing is—it wasn’t my way. It wasn’t a good way. It wasn’t the right way.

When I was thirteen, something bad happened to me—really bad. They never got over it. Neither did I, but that didn’t matter. I got into drugs and alcohol in a big way. I became dark, too dark. Then, when I was fifteen, it all got to be too much. I couldn’t hold it all in anymore—the memories, the pressure, the…problems it left me with.

They say I had a breakdown. I don’t know what that is, but I ended up in hospital. I don’t know how long I was there or what happened to me there. I only know that I felt safe. For the first time since it happened, I felt safe. I didn’t want to come out. I wasn’t ready to come out, but they pronounced me cured because I could string sentences together and go for days without screaming or hiding under the bed.

My parents knew, though. They knew I wasn’t cured, that I never would be. They tried for a while, but they couldn’t cope. Not with the screaming in the night. Or the staggering in at three in the morning, either high or pissed—to stop the screaming in the night. They couldn’t cope with the physical conditions, the mental problems, the attitude, the violence. They couldn’t cope with watching the child they loved change into a monster.

When I was sixteen, I moved out and went off the rails. Surprisingly, I still managed to go to school now and again, and I got decent results in my exams. This led to the headmaster persuading me to go back for my A levels, and even more surprisingly, given what I was doing to my body by that time, I got three A levels in one year. And thus ended my academic career.

There was talk about going on to university, but to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered. I still had the nightmares, and I was afraid to go out into the world. I felt vulnerable and exposed in unfamiliar places and situations. I guess I was—I am—a complete nut job.

At the moment, I’m living in a grotty room, in a grotty house, on a non-descript street, in a second-rate town, that is…nowhere. I have two housemates who are used to me and know when it is and isn’t safe to talk to me, and who ignore the screams.

Tonight, I’m going out. It’s Saturday night. I always go out on Saturday nights. I go to the same place, see the same people, and do the same things. You’d think I’d get bored, but it’s safe.

I give myself a last look in the mirror and am reasonably satisfied with what I see. I need a haircut, and I’m way too pale, but at least the shadows around my eyes are camouflaged by the kohl, and where I’m going the vampire look is par for the course. The black lips in the mirror smile at me, but there isn’t any humour in them or in the piercing blue eyes that stare coldly at me when I allow myself to catch their gaze.

Ah well. This is the best it’s going to get tonight. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I don’t feel up to going out. I’m not myself at the moment, mentally or physically. It’s not as if I can even get pissed anymore. I learned the hard way that alcohol and my meds don’t mix, or do mix. Blegh.

But then, today hasn’t been a good day. If my head’s anything to go by, it’s not going to be a good night either, so what’s the point in being good? What’s the point in trying to look after myself? Fuck it.

I check my wallet to make sure I have enough for taxis and plenty of booze. Then I flick my hair over my shoulder and stalk out of the room.

I intimidate people easily, and I don’t know why. I’m a nice person—to everyone but myself. Okay, I’m not the most sociable. I have friends, but I don’t let anyone get too close. What’s the point? I’m not a good friend to have. I try, but good friends don’t turn cold for no reason. They don’t run away, don’t get so angry they have to hit the wall so they don’t hit you, for no reason at all. Real friends can be relied on, can give, can communicate and don’t drag you down.

Surprisingly, I do have real friends. Even though I’m such a bad friend, there are people who somehow seem to like me despite it all. I’m a shit to them. I spend all my time trying to push them away, and they spend all theirs trying to save me. I wish they wouldn’t. Although…sometimes it’s nice to have someone hold my hand when I wake up in hospital, or on the floor, or…worse. Sometimes it’s nice not to be alone. But it’s not safe.

“Hey, Gabe!”

****

About-the-Book

Opening ActTitle:  Opening Act
Series:  Upstaged, Book #1
Author(s):  Cheryl Headford, S.L. Danielson
Publication Date:  March 30, 2018
Publisher:  eXtasy Books
Genre:  Contemporary, New Adult

Boys will be boys no matter how different they might be.

Wannabe singer and band front man Erik Von Nordgren hates snarky brit Asher Berkley with a passion. From the moment he turns up at practice with his twin sister Daisy, who is one of the band the two have hated each other.

Through a series of ‘tit for tat’ incidents they annoy, frustrate and exasperated each other. The die hard goth with purple eyes and the hard core rocker with dreams of the big time have nothing in common and no need to cross paths. Except to wind each other up.

Until the day that Erik throws Asher in the school pool, when everything begins to change. Erik is so far in closet he’s in Narnia and Asher has a dark past and trust issues that stand in the way of any relationship, let alone one with the brash American who hurts him every time they try to get together.

A relationship doomed from the start, or so you’d think.

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Excerpt

The April weather was perfect. A beautiful Saturday afternoon, with white clouds streaked across a pale-blue sky, washed clean by the spring showers of the night before. Erik Von Nordgren paused to take a deep breath, fresh with ozone, before heading toward his parents’ three-car garage. Since the weather had improved, his band had been consigned to the garage on the basis that now they wouldn’t freeze there was no reason for his parents to suffer the falling plaster in the basement when the band could be as loud as they wanted outside.

Erik was proud of his home. The house itself was two stories high and freshly sided. The quiet cul-de-sac made it the ideal spot for their practice. That was one thing about living in the St. Louis ’burbs. There were plenty of spots with woods in the back where only the random squirrel could bother them.

Having joined his bandmates, Erik took to the stage and spoke into the microphone the time-honored phrase, “Testing, one, two, three.” He proudly surveyed the room, grinned at the small crowd of groupies, and then glanced over his shoulder at his bandmates.

The Von was an awesome band, even if he did say so himself. Joey, a good-looking if a bit nerdy boy of seventeen—half a year younger than Erik—stood ready on the bass, Erik’s best friend, Billy, sat back behind the drums, and Joey’s new girlfriend, Daisy, was hot as hell as she teased some sic riffs from a rather battered lead guitar. Their hook? They were trying to revive grunge.

After taking in his ragtag troupe from the makeshift stage, Erik surveyed the room and checked his reflection in the mirror that hung at the opposite end of the garage. He shuffled his feet, his new combat boots squeaking slightly as he broke them in. As he shifted his tall, muscular body, his ratty black jeans—two sizes too big for his six-foot-three frame—slipped low on his narrow hips. His chain wallet belt added a hindrance when the thick, heavy chain pelted his leg. He cracked his knuckles and flipped his unwashed, messy blond hair over the short sleeves of his tattered red plaid shirt. He puffed air into his hands to exorcise the nerves he’d never admit to having.

Erik cleared his throat and gazed over the spectators—what he called their groupies. Possibly crowd was a bit of a euphemism, but hey, they had to start somewhere, and the fans were dedicated. Some Billy had introduced to him, like his friend Vince, who gave new meaning to bland. Then there was another kid, Sheri, who emulated Daisy’s style of vintage glam. But there was a new face in the crowd tonight, one that made him grimace. It was Asher or Ashen—or was it Dasher or Dancer? Whatever his name was, Erik didn’t care, he just knew this UK emo was gonna be trouble.

He’d only met the freak once, when he’d dropped Daisy off for practice. Unbelievably, he was her brother—twin, no less. They couldn’t have been more different. He wasn’t even sure what the guy was doing hanging in the garage with them, unless he was trying to be a decent brother to Daisy. It didn’t matter—there was music to be played, and at least they had some spectators.

Erik grabbed the microphone. Joey finished his intro, and Billy chimed in with a cymbal crash. Daisy didn’t miss a beat, and Erik began to sing. His voice was low, raspy, and resembled more of a groan than a melody, but the crowd loved it. After the first verse ended, he shot a look over his shoulder at Billy’s wild red hair bouncing in time with the rhythm as he struck the bass drum. Joey was gritting his teeth like he always did when he was deep in concentration, his fingers plucking the strings of the bass guitar. That kid was so slight Erik wondered sometimes how he could even support the weight of the guitar, but he managed. He’d known Billy most of his life, but Joey and Daisy were new. Daisy was different from the rest of them. She was a striking beauty, soft in her appearance. She decorated her large dark-blue eyes with bright makeup augmenting her doll-like features, and tied her long blonde hair into a half-braid, half-ponytail combination. Her outfits reflected her perky attitude and were usually very colorful. She was a shining star in the dark garage. If Erik ever hoped to have a sister, he’d want her to be like Daisy.

When the harmony finished its bar, Erik glanced up to find the pale kid in the back staring him down like the grim reaper. What the hell is that guy’s problem? It’s like the gaze of death over there. Whatever. He shut his eyes and forced the image out of his mind—music was all that mattered. As the lyrics slowly left his throat, another sound interrupted his flow. He spun, assuming the god-awful shriek had come from one of the instruments.

“Dude. What the fuck?”

Joey and Billy both shook their heads, as baffled as he was, but Daisy seemed near tears. She shuffled her feet, making her vintage violet and green dress shift with her.

“Dammit.”

Erik touched her arm. “What is it, Daisy?”

She pointed to the pale kid and made a fist at him. “It’s my brother. He’s playing with your toys.”

****

About-the-Book

Shades CompanionTitle:  Shade’s Companion
Series:  N/A
Author:  Cheryl Headford
Publication Date:  September 15, 2017
Publisher:  Devine Destinies
Genre:  Contemporary, GLBT, Young Adult, Romance-sweet, Gay YA

In a world where normal is an impossible standard, love can sometimes be the only thing worth fighting for.

Blurb:  Sixteen-year-old Shade has spent years imprisoned in a dark cellar after being snatched as a young child. Events since his release have left him traumatized and desperate to die.

Dory is a lively and engaging seventeen-year-old with mental health issues that make him a slave to his dangerously uncontrollable emotions.

When Shade comes to Eastbrook secure children’s home because no place else wants him, the manager appoints Dory, for better or worse, to be his champion, an appointment Dory takes very seriously indeed.

As friendship turns into something else, something new and exciting, they struggle to find their feet as every step leads to more complications.

When a spiteful act separates them, it seems their love is doomed before it even has a chance. Then Dory falls ill and it’s up to Shade to take up the standard and be his champion, although it might already be too late.

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Excerpt

“You can’t be serious. No. It’s out of the question.”

“Penny, you’re our last option. The hospital won’t keep him any longer. They can’t. His own family doesn’t want him, and no foster family will take him. He can’t go to a children’s home because he’s such a high risk. Frankly, I have no idea what to do with him.”

“But this is a secure unit, and that kid’s done nothing wrong to anyone but himself. Do you have any idea what kind of kids we have here? We can’t watch him all the time, and half the little bastards would be queuing up to hand him the razor blades.”

“What else can we do? He’s stable enough for the hospital to discharge him, but he can’t live alone, and no one else wants him. We’re out of options.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I feel for the kid. He’s in an impossible situation, but we’re just not set up to handle someone like him. Are you sure he wouldn’t be better in a care home or psychiatric unit?”

“Honestly? I believe that’s where he’s likely to end up, but the kid’s sixteen and has been through the most horrific experience. He deserves a chance.”

“And you think he’s going to get it here?”

Penelope Creedy, Penny to her friends, struggled and failed to keep the incredulity out of her voice. It was evident the social worker was new; she hadn’t had the idealistic desire to help everyone beaten out of her by the system.

“No, no I don’t. Not really,” the social worker said, “but the poor thing has to go somewhere.”

“I don’t understand why he can’t go to Hillcrest or Maes Y Ffynnon.”

“They won’t take him. It’s too much responsibility for them, and they can’t give him a high enough level of care.”

“Care?” Penny laughed aloud. “We don’t provide care to our kids, Donna. We provide food and shelter and locked rooms. If we’re lucky, we get them to study now and again, and a couple even go to school. Most of them are under psychiatrists and headed straight for prison. Occasionally, we see one of them turn around, but mostly we’re marking time until they can be unleashed on society and start committing their crimes.”

“That’s a very bleak view.” The social worker had a hint of censure in her voice, which made Penny defensive. Damn these idealistic idiots with their rose-coloured views.

“This is a very bleak place,” Penny snapped back.

“No worse than his last.” The comeback was soft and sincere and made Penny feel vaguely guilty. She sighed and closed the folder that lay open on the desk in front of her. She ran her finger over the name on the cover and sighed again. “It’s one prison for another, Donna. Is that really what he needs?”

“A prison he can handle, Penny. It’s freedom that’s too much for him.”

Penny’s stomach flipped at her words. “All right, we’ll give it a try. I’ll take him on a temporary basis, while you keep working to find a family. I don’t want you slacking off, thinking he’s going to be settled here. You’re to work hard at it. He’s here for three months, tops.”

“I’ll see what I can do. I promise.”

The relief and triumph in her voice made Penny’s stomach flip again. It was all well and good being an idealistic social worker, but that did the kids no good once the front gates closed on them. To think of an innocent in the middle of all this…

“I’ll bring him right over.”

“Now?”

“Why wait?”

“But I’ve nothing prepared.”

“He doesn’t need much. We’re holding just about everything he owns in the world in two suitcases his family dropped off at our offices.”

“Why would they do that? Why would any family abandon a child like that? Especially one who needs them so badly?” It was an all-too-frequent occurrence, and Penny had hardened over the years, but this time it hurt.

“Nine years is a long time. A child goes away and a man comes back, good as, anyway. They did their best, but when he started hitting out, then with the suicide attempt—they have other children, young ones. He was behaving… inappropriately.”

“And that’s a good enough reason? Your child cries out for help, and you send him away?”

“I’m not pretending to understand. I’m left to deal with the fallout.” Donna’s clipped response was defensive, but Penny was having none of it.

“No, Donna, I am.”

“And I can’t thank you enough. I’m sure Shade will be grateful, too.”

“I’m sure he won’t. Is Shade what we’re to call him?” Penny couldn’t help but groan inside. With a name like that, he was going to be in for some hassle with her lot. As if he didn’t have enough to make him a target.

“Given the alternative, I think so, yes.” Now it was Donna’s turn to sound incredulous.

“I’m not too sure about that either. He hasn’t been Shade for a long time.”

“I’m glad you understand.”

“Not enough. Not nearly enough.”

****

About-the-Author

Cheryl HeadfordCheryl was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.

Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.

Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a re enactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.

It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.

In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son, dog, bearded dragon and three cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. She’s never been happier since she was made redundant and is able to devote herself entirely to her twin loves of writing and art, with a healthy smattering of magic and mayhem

Find Cheryl:  Web Site | Facebook | Instagram

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