I am absolutely delighted to make this post. Cheryl Headford is a person who is very close to me, so close you might say we're almost the same person. Almost. Cheryl is, of course, a much more 'normal' person. For the Gods' sake she's a lawyer, how much more boring...erm...normal, can you be :)
Anyway, Cheryl has her very first book out with Featherweight Press so let's hear a bit about it.
There are those who can't see, and those who don't want to see, but we're all blind sometimes.
Ace is seventeen years old; bright, beautiful and blind. He shares his life between a progressive school which is teaching him to be independent and capable of living a full life; and home, where his family seem determined to prevent him from doing so.
Over protective parents and spiteful, jealous brothers, are enough to try the patience of a saint. So far, Ace has let them get on with it and sailed through his life, marking time at home and only truly living at school. However, that can’t last, and with his last year of school coming up and the spectre of having to fight to attend university hanging over him, it’s time to take a stand.
Fortunately, a ring of the doorbell one afternoon, radically changes his life and, with a new boyfriend at his side, Ace s ready to take on the world.
Ace has never been one to let his blindness get in the way if he could help it and he has lots of things that help. Here are a few of his favourite things, which you can find in the story and which are actually available out there for anyone to find.
One of Ace’s brothers’ favourite occupations is to buy him outrageous clothes and possessions. Not being able to see what he’s wearing or using, Ace knows no better and provides his brothers with countless hours of hilarious entertainment at his expense.
Until he meets Haze, Ace has no idea that the phone he uses is a pink, Disney Princesses™ one. One of the first things Haze does for Ace is take him out shopping and one of the things they buy is a new phone.
The phone is something like this
with large buttons, small screen and screen reader.
There are even more specialised phones available which Ace could have gone for but, as far as I’m aware, these aren’t available on the main street
The screen reading feature, where the phone ‘talks’ to you and ‘listens’ to you, is the most revolutionary thing for Ace. He can now access many of the features we take for granted, that were closed to him before; things like setting alarms and reminders, browsing, reading texts, and many more. He’s so delighted with it he’d have been happy to spend a whole afternoon playing with the features.
Ace loves to read, and Haze gets quite a shock when he takes a look at the bookshelf.
Ace’s books are bigger and heavier than ‘normal’ books and have neither words nor pictures, at least none Haze can see. The books are written in Braille, which is a system of raised dots, representing letters, numbers and punctuation. It was developed by Louis Braille (1809 – 1852), who was himself blind, as a teaching method for his blind students.
Braille is used for everything from public signs, to books, to menus to music annotation. It is generally worked across a ‘cell’ of six dots in three rows of two. In each cell one or more of the dots are raised and it is the pattern of raised dots that makes the letter, number, word etc.
Ace’s computer is a lifeline. Not only does it allow him to conduct research, do schoolwork and keep up to date with what’s going on in the world, but it allows him to keep in touch with his friends via Skype. Haze meets Ace’s best friend, James in this way, and boy do sparks fly.
Ace’s computer has a number of special features, such as the screen reader, and also a special braille keyboard
Ace finds a very sensual way of demonstrating how everything works, which gets Haze a little hot under the collar.
With all his technology and specialist knowledge, however, there is really only one thing that opens the world, both real and cyber, to Ace, and that’s his own courage and confidence in himself, which he has with plenty to spare. With his heart and Haze’s ferocious protectiveness, there seems to be very little they can’t achieve together.
Ace is blind and Haze is damaged. They live in different worlds and not everyone is happy when they become boyfriends. Haze is struggling with the after effects of a traumatic event in his past that has left him at the mercy of an uncontrollable rage. When Ace’s brother steps up his campaign of torment against Ace, they’re all in danger from Haze’s outbursts, though it isn’t until things get completely out of control that the healing can really begin. But with Ace unseeing and Haze perched on the edge of a cliff, will either of them survive long enough to benefit?
While the computer was starting up, Ace took off his glasses and put them on the table, rubbing his eyes.
“They make my eyes ache after a while. They’re really heavy on my nose.”
“I’m not surprised, they’re…er…big. Why do you wear them all the time?”
“I don’t know. I suppose…because I’m not quite so much of a freak with them on as without them on.” He tilted his face up and seemed to regard me thoughtfully. There was something about the way the sun touched his face and made his hair glow that made me shiver.
In the midst of all the golden light his hair was not so much white as the palest spun gold and his pale skin seemed to be even more translucent, almost iridescent. He was fey, like some faery creature only partly in this world. I bit my lip, trying vainly to stop my mind taking me down dangerous roads. This was definitely not the time to be having those kinds of thoughts.
“Can I…touch you?”
“What? Uh…um…what do you mean?” I jumped half out of my skin at the sound of his voice and even more so at what he said. Had he read my mind?
“Your face. Can I touch your face? I can’t see what you look like but my fingers can tell me if you’ll let me touch you.”
“Oh. Of course.”
I stood perfectly still as he got up from the chair and stood close in front of me. His long white hair fell across his face, I had an urge to brush it out of his eyes, except of course that would have been stupid.
It was strange how pretty his eyes were up close. They weren’t colourless after all. There was a ring of pale violet around the milky pupils and a much darker violet around the outer edges of the irises. They were stunningly beautiful, and I couldn’t take my eyes off them.
I was still staring at them when his cool fingers brushed against my cheek. The touch was gentle and hesitant but still startled me.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“You didn’t. It’s just…” I tore myself away from studying his face. “I was just surprised by how beautiful your eyes are.” I could have bitten off my tongue. What a stupid thing to say. For God’s sake, I just met the boy. What the hell was I doing?
“They…they are?” The objects in question opened wide and a hesitant smile touched his lips. “Really?”
He blushed delicately. “No one has ever told me that before.” Biting his lip, his face turned reflective. “Most people just say they’re weird if they can bring themselves to look at them. I get the impression that most people avoid doing so. That’s one of the reasons I wear my glasses all the time.”
“Then most people are blinder than you are.” Bloody hell! That was totally unlike me. I was far too ordinary to be that bold. But it was awesome to see the smile break over Ace’s face and light it up.
“Hold still,” he said softly and brushed his fingertips across my cheek again. A shiver went through me and I closed my eyes as he continued his exploration of my face.
When he had finished with my face, he touched my hair and let it slide through his fingers. His face changed subtly, and I shivered again.
“You’re beautiful, Haze,” he said as he let his hand fall.
“If you think that, then your fingers are as blind as your eyes.”
For a moment he seemed shocked then he grinned. “Do you have any idea how many people would be scared of saying those things to me?”
He shook his head. “You’re a breath of fresh air, Hazel Fennell. I haven’t felt so…light, in years.”
Cheryl 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 and her two cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. The part of her that needs to earn money is a lawyer, but the deepest, and most important part of her is a storyteller and artist, and always will be.
Release Date October 2013
Cover Artist Deana C. Jamroz
. 288 pages / 79,000 words
Available At: Featherweight Press Store (ebook)