Friday, March 30, 2012

TBR welcomes Charmaine Gordon

Charmaine Gordon here. I’m relatively new to the solitary business of writing after a long professional career as an actor. Acting means audiences, people you meet at play’s or movies end. Applause, hugs and greetings. Now there are my imaginary characters to keep me company. All wonderful. All different. Life is sweet.
RECONSTRUCTING CHARLIE , contemporary Romance/Suspense published by Vanilla Heart. Available in print and e format:


In 1996 I killed my father.
Dear old Dad was great with a belt. A belt of whiskey. A belt from around his waist unbuckled when you least expected it and later I knew when it was coming and some of us escaped. Not me, not Mom. Never Mom. I’m the oldest. I didn’t want the little ones to see the okay dad turn into a monster on payday.

Chapter 1
I heard the television turned up loud before I opened the door. Mom always hoped for a distraction. Maybe this time instead of beating up on us, he’d watch the Minnesota Twins beat the hell out of the Boston Red Sox. 1996. Not a great year so far for the Twins. On this payday, after I dropped the kids off, I raced home just in time to be with Mom.
The front door banged open hard enough to rattle dishes in the cabinet. Mom’s treasure—a painted porcelain egg—rolled to the edge, teetered for a second and fell end over end to the hardwood floor. The small egg cracked with the force of a bomb. Mom stared at broken pieces from a life she had long ago. Her face turned white, every freckle showing, and my fists clenched.
He staggered around waving a tire iron in the air; muscled from working a jackhammer for the city all his sorry life and ugly drunk. Flowers flew off the table with sprays of water and shattered glass. Cursing, he went after Mom. This time I was ready. I wrestled it out of his filthy hands and hit him good. He lay torn up, didn’t move, blood everywhere on Mom’s clean kitchen floor. I stood there looking down at my father and thought how hard it was going to be for Mom to get the blood up. And how come he was the worst father in the world scaring all of us, hurting Mom and me. I breathed too fast and almost threw up. We were safe now because I’d done this terrible thing and I didn’t know how I could live with it.
Mom’s thick auburn hair came loose from her bun and she looked so pretty bending over him, a finger pressed to his neck as if she was a cop. On tiptoes, she pulled the ceiling fan chain and her sleeve rolled back. Black and blue marks covered her arm. I counted them. Mom had a lot more than I did. The breeze felt good. Then she wiped my fingerprints off the tire iron and replaced them with hers.
I watched Mom change from quiet refined Liz Costigan to someone I didn’t know.
“No more sweltering in my house,” she said.
She reached in his pants like a pickpocket and came up with a handful of dollars and coins. Handing me the money, Mom said, “I guess he drank the rest of his pay. Sorry it’s not more. Let’s get you packed.”
She was in charge, this new mother, and I didn’t question her. Icy cold inside myself, Mom dragged me along to my bedroom. I kept looking back expecting him to come after us.
“Reach up high on the top shelf, Charlie. Bring the suitcase down.”
Mom’s hands caressed the leather case I’d never seen.
“I packed my clothes and ran away sixteen years ago,” she said. “I was wild, out-of-control.”
“Were you ever sorry, Mom?”
“I have you and Jimmy, and my little girls. Take a shower. I have things to do.” She pushed me toward the hall.
I heard Mom opening and closing drawers, knew she’d be too busy to worry about me for a while and crept back to the bloody mess to make sure he really was dead. His dark eyes had turned to an empty stare. Shivering, I ran for the bathroom. Even a hot shower couldn’t warm me and blood refused to wash off. Words spun around in my head. ‘Out, out, damned spot.’ I scrubbed ‘til it hurt. Lady Macbeth, that’s me.
Wrapped in a towel, I watched Mom empty my clothes into her suitcase. I couldn’t move. He’s dead in the house and she packed my clothes for what? Mom added a dress hanging at the back of the closet, folded and placed it on top. The sound of the zipper closing on the suitcase startled me into action. I pried up the board in the closet, removed my money, and secured it into a money belt I’d bought in a second hand shop. Mom nodded approval.
“Wear this,” she said, handing me jeans and a long sleeved tee shirt. I dug some underwear out of the suitcase and dressed. “Take a windbreaker. Air conditioning on the bus.”
Unfastening a gold locket on a long chain she wore around her neck, she said, “Hold up your hair, my girl.”
We stood face to face, her hazel eyes looking into mine. I heard a tiny click when the clasp was in place around my neck. She kissed the locket and let it slide under my shirt.
“What’s in the locket, Mom?”
 “Two sisters, my dear Charlie. One wise. One foolish.” Mom smiled the saddest smile. She held my face in both hands.  “Yes, I have a sister, your aunt Eleanor. Now listen hard. Money and education. Most important.  And one more thing, precious girl, don’t let boys catch your scent. Keep clean. That’s something I forgot.”
Scared and bewildered, I wasn’t used to her making fast decisions. Any decisions.
“I’ll call the police after you’re gone. It was self defense. There are hospital records of abuse for years. The Union will take financial care of us. Your job is to make a new life. Catch a bus to Chicago. My sister is there.”
She pulled a box out from a drawer in my small desk and opened it. Fancy stationery paper, the old fashioned kind with the scent of flowers. Taking a deep breath, mom wrote in her perfect handwriting. I always believed mom had a lot of secrets. Now I got a peek at some just before I was leaving. Not fair and I felt like my little sisters when they stamped their feet against the world. I didn’t want to leave. She tucked two sheets of paper in a matching envelope and added an address.
“Don’t lose this, Charlie. It’s your passport to a new life.”
I couldn’t speak. Somehow words got stuck in my throat so I read the name Mom had written. Mrs. Stuart Alfred. I unzipped a side pocket on my backpack and placed the envelope in with care.
“Don’t let her turn you away. She’s my older sister. She hated your father.”
Panic set in. “What if she’s not there?”
“She’ll be there, same as always. I’ve kept in touch with her. Not often. Just enough.”
So sure of herself, this new mother.
 “Charlie,” Mom looked in my eyes so deep as if she was taking a picture, “don’t call. I’ll call you when I have something to say. Now hurry. It’s not too late to catch the bus.”
Mom hugged me and I ran.

I always write about mature women who must survive and thrive. Charlie came to me in the night and there I was, stuck with a teenager after raising a batch long grown.
Flying by the seat of my pants, the characters push and pull, directing me as I write.
While writing my first book, I was surprised to find how much of me fell onto the pages. Phrases, experience woven in, and finally I gave in and just let it happen.
Maybe because I worry about my fictional friends as if they’re real. I wake at night, scenes running through my head, make it better, stronger.
Next up is the third in a series titled A Sin of Omission. Shelley Jackson learns that it’s better to be open with your best friend and your lover than to keep secret something that will change everyone’s life.
My first with Vanilla Heart was TO BE CONTINUED, Romance/Suspense. Next came STARTING OVER, Romance/Suspense; NOW WHAT? Romance/Suspense with a touch of paranormal; HAVEN, my first novella second in a series after RECONSTRUCTING CHARLIE.
            For me, what’s the most challenging is conflict and when it works through, I’m relieved.
            Robert B. Parker, John Sandford, Elmore Leonard are big faves and my Vanilla Heart family write wonderful books. I love Chelle Cordero’s writing, Smoky Zeidel, Janet Lane Walters, Melinda Clayton and S.R. Claridge. TBR are books by Anne Albert and Malcolm Campbell and all the other core authors of VHP.

You can find me here:!/CharJGordon     

I’m giving away an ebook copy of RECONSTRUCTING CHARLIE at the end of this week. 

Thanks for visiting TBR, Charmaine. Best of luck to you.


  1. Welcome to TBR, Charmaine. Beautiful book covers!

  2. Hi Cate. Kimberlee Williams, publisher of Vanilla Heart designs all covers.She's a wonder. The VHP authors love her.

    Thanks for this wonderful opportunity to be on TBR.

  3. Hi Charmaine!
    You know I'm a fan! Can't wait to read it!

  4. Hi Wendy. Thanks for stopping by. I'm writing as fast as I can by the seat of my pants-bad guys, good folks, happy ending and OMG!

  5. Loved the interview. I can almost see the young girl and her mother.

  6. That sounds like a very moving story. OMG, I bet it gets a movie. I was crying. Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. Marilyn, I'm so pleased you stopped by and that I painted a clear picture of mother and daughter.

    Rhonda D, what a delightful comment. Is a producer reading this? Thanks for taking the time to drop in.

  8. Charmaine, As a critique partner and one who has read most of your books glad to hear you're moving in with the next one. Of course I do see it every two weeks.

  9. Hi Janet, critique partner and friend, Thanks for taking the time to stop by TBR. Cate does a great job.


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