News and updates about Gordon's fiction, available at Amazon and at Barnes & Noble, courtesy of Oghma Creative Media.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Convection (an excerpt)

Category 5 Hurricane Erika is bearing down on the town of Fausse Terre, Louisiana, and most of the residents have already boarded up their houses and fled to higher ground.  Middle school music teacher Jay Morvant, however, has decided to ride out the storm, and he and the other folks who have stayed to face the hurricane in the Bayou Vista Apartments think it might be fun to throw a hurricane party.

It's an odd assortment of people.  There's elderly, devout Mrs. St. Pierre; the acid-tongued convenience store clerk Jennie Trahan; a young divorcĂ©e, Marie Ducharme, and her eight-year-old daughter Joelle; the genial and easy-going Marc Caillet; Dan and Alana Thibodeaux, the perfect young married couple; the cautious, quiet Abe Gerard; and the bear-like caretaker Skidmore.  Such guests would make for a strange party under the best of circumstances.  But once the hurricane hits, and the party-goers have no way to leave, they find that the party is about to get a lot stranger -- and that being in the middle of a dangerous storm may be the least of their worries.



Below is an excerpt from my novel Convection, which is available as an e-book from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

*************************

"Let's go down to the second floor," Jay said.  "That's where we found his glasses."

The east staircase was nearer, and they left Abe's apartment, closing and locking the door behind them, then turned toward the stairwell door.  Skidmore was the first to get there, and grasped the handle and pulled the door open.

There was a shimmer of movement on the far wall of the landing, and then a whirring noise audible above the din of the wind and thunder.  Dan had his flashlight beam up, and it was probably his instantaneous reaction that saved them; he jumped forward, knocking Skidmore out of the way, and grabbed the handle and pulled it shut.

"What the hell?" Skidmore said.

"Shit," Dan gasped.  "The entire stairwell is full of wasps.  Look."

He shone his flashlight down at the carpet, where three yellowjackets were crawling.  As they looked, one of them flew up in the air, toward Jay's face.  He yelped and ducked, and the wasp landed on the wall behind them.

Skidmore's boot dispatched the two wasps on the floor, and he knocked the third off the wall with an easy swipe of his hand and crushed it as well.

"Goddamn pests," he growled.  "Hate them bastards."

"You're not scared of them, though," Jay said.

"Nah."

"Anyone get stung?"

Dan and Skidmore shook their heads.

"It looked like there was a thousand of them in there," Dan said, a little breathlessly.  "I don't want to think what would have happened if we'd just walked in."

"I'm glad you got quick reflexes," Jay said.  "I guess we got to go down the other set of stairs."

"Where the hell did all those wasps come from?" Dan asked.

"You know how Jennie would answer that."

"Yeah.  You believe all that?"

Jay suddenly felt bone tired, more exhausted than he had in years.  "Dan," he said, "I'm damned if I know what I believe.  We all saw Mrs. St. Pierre's Angel of Death.  I saw a man that I thought was killed in a car wreck six years ago.  Jennie had a vicious dog show up in her apartment."  He looked over at Dan appraisingly.  "You saw your wife's face in the mirror."

His jaw tightened.  "Yeah, I saw."

"You got another explanation for all that?"

Dan didn't respond.  Gotcha there, Jay thought, but didn't say anything else.

The three men reached the door at the end of the hall in silence, and then stood there, staring at the handle.  None of them moved.

Finally, Dan spoke.  "You think the wasps are in there, too?"

"They weren't before," Jay said.

"They weren't in the other stairway six hours ago."

"That's true."

"Jesus, I'll do it," Skidmore grunted.  "Pansies."  He reached out an opened the door a crack, and shone his flashlight in.  He turned toward the others and said, "Ain't nothing there."

Jay smiled a little at the obvious relief in his voice.  You're not as tough as you'd like us to think, Claustrophobia Boy.

The three went into the stairwell, and then down the stairs to the second floor.  The door was still hanging askew, its splintered wood pale and ragged in the light from the flashlights.

"You think Abe's on the second floor?" Dan asked.

"Where else can he be?" Jay said, and reached out and pulled on the door.  It moved with a grating creak, and Jay shone his flashlight down into the second floor hall.  It was empty.

They stepped through the door, swinging the flashlights around, looking at all of the closed doors of the abandoned apartments, their rooms empty, their inhabitants far away, out of the reach of the storm.

"Hey," Skidmore said suddenly, and pointed his flashlight toward the wall in the middle stretch of the hallway.

One door stood half open, leaning on bent hinges, just as the door they'd passed through had been.  It was swung toward them, and they couldn't see the entrance from where they were standing.

"Whose apartment is that?" Dan asked.

"Ain't an apartment," Skidmore said.  "That's a storage closet."

The three men walked up to the door.

Jay's heart was hammering in his chest.  The thought, This is where the monsters live, came unbidden to his mind, but he forced it away, and peered inside.

A vacuum cleaner lay on its side.  A basin sink was in fragments on the floor, the plumbing hanging bent and twisted from the wall.  There was a smear of red on the tiles, and another on the far wall.

"Jesus," Jay said.

"Look," Dan said, and trained his flashlight upwards.

Several of the ceiling tiles were missing, and the crawlspace above them gaped blackly, as if the darkness was some opaque thing that the beams couldn't pierce.

Skidmore stepped forward, but Jay caught his sleeve, and pointed downward toward the corner of the little room.

Sitting upside down on the floor, right underneath the hole in the ceiling, was an old brown leather shoe with a sprung sole.

Jay swallowed.  "I think we found what happened to Abe Gerard."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Hand of the Hunter (an excerpt)

Janina Vannoy teaches high school choral music in the little village of Guildford in upstate New York.  Her quiet life, however, hides a tumult from the past; when she was twelve, she was the first on the scene when her next door neighbor, Tom Christian, was murdered.  Tom's wife, the elegant Kathy Christian, was arrested for the murder, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and was committed to an institution.  But was Kathy really guilty?

Janina becomes obsessed with trying to piece together the details of what happened twenty-five years earlier, and becomes aware of gaps in her own memory of the events -- especially anything having to do with the mysterious Justin Lazarus, who appeared in Guildford shortly before the murder and vanished immediately afterward.  Very quickly, Janina discovers that the most important thing is not discovering whether Kathy killed her husband, but to determine the answer to one question:  who was Justin Lazarus?



The Hand of the Hunter takes Janina through two parallel timelines; her search for the truth in 1996, and her witnessing of the actual events in 1971.  Below is an excerpt from The Hand of the Hunter, which is available for download from Barnes & Noble.  In this scene, Janina as a ten-year-old is sitting under a tree in a park, trying to make sense of a frightening encounter between her mother and Justin -- and to her alarm, Justin finds her there.

*************

"What did you do to my mother?" Janina said, her voice still high and squeaky.  "Did you hypnotize her or something?"

Justin's smile faded.  "What are you talking about?"

"Don't ask me that!" Janina shrilled.  "You know what I'm talking about.  You know just what I'm talking about, so don't lie!"

The rest of his smile dropped away.  "I didn't hypnotize her," he said, his voice sounding inflectionless and weary.  "I just turned her thoughts away, into a different track."

"Why?"

"Because she wanted to ask me questions that I couldn't answer."

"How did you know that?" she asked, her voice bitter and accusing.  "And how did you know I'd be here, and how did you find me that day by the pond?  And about the truck tire on the day of the parade?  How did you know?"

"I don't know how.  I just do."

Janina considered this.  "Well, anyway, what do you want?  I know it isn't just to say hi.  You're a terrible liar."

The smile broke out again, sweet as sunshine after rain.  "I know."

"So what do you want?"

"I wanted to talk to you.  Look," he said, parting the fir branches and stepping inside, and hunkering down beside her.  "You ask me how I know these things sometimes?  Well, I know I can trust you.  Don't ask how, I just know.  And I'm here to ask you for a favor."

"I already gave you one."  She scowled at him.  "I promised not to tell anyone about you.  And I haven't, either."

"I know.  This is a bigger favor."  He looked at the ground.  "I wish I could explain everything to you, but it wouldn't be safe.  For me or for you.  But I'll tell you this; I'm in a lot of trouble.  Not trouble like you'd usually think of -- but I'm in danger, bad danger.  And I'm afraid that other people might get hurt.  I have to leave, soon.  All I'm asking you is this."  He reached out his hand, and touched Janina's forehead.  Quite suddenly, her hazel eyes went blank, and the taut muscles in her face relaxed.  The angry scowl smoothed away.  She looked as expressionless as a doll.

Justin moved his face close to hers, and his voice dropped to an almost inaudible murmur, like the wind in the fir branches.  "I may need help.  It may be soon, or it may be later, much later.  All I'm asking is that if I need help sometime, you'll try to help me.  I swear to you that I am not trying to hurt anyone.  I've never wanted to hurt anyone.  But I've been alone for a long time, and I need someone who I can count on to help me when the time comes.  Will you do that for me, Janina?  Wait, and listen, and help me when I need your help?"

Without blinking, almost without moving, Janina whispered, "Yes.  I will help you."

"Good.  Thank you."  He touched her forehead again, and she blinked, and looked confused for a moment, and then looked up at him.  The scowl returned, but there was a measure of ambivalence in it now.

"What's that you got?" he asked brightly.

She looked down at her hand, still holding the partially eaten graham cracker, and frowned.  He laughed, and pointed.  "No, that, silly."

"It's my radio."

He picked it up, smiled, and said, "You like music?"

Even her distrust of Justin couldn't mask her intensity on this topic.  "Yes."  The word came out like a plea.

"When I was growing up, there was always music.  If you know what station to tune in to, you can sometimes find music like it on the radio.  Let me see."  He began to turn the tuning dial.  There was the familiar static and blips of other radio programs, and then, spilling out from the little speakers, was the most beautiful music she had ever heard.  It surpassed even the classical music of two days ago; it was as if the stars and the sun themselves had acquired voices.  It brought tears of sweet, painful joy to her eyes.  Justin smiled at her, a little sadly, and set the radio down on the soft, needle-strewn ground, and was gone.

The music ended after minutes or hours -- Janina could not be sure which it was -- without any announcer's voice to give it a name.  Silence followed it, many minutes of silence broken by nothing but the wind, the birds, and the voices and laughter of the two boys playing frisbee.  Finally, when she was sure that no more music was forthcoming, she picked up the little radio and looked at it.

The radio's switch was set to "off."  Somehow she knew it would be.  When she switched it on, she was greeted by a crackle of static that seemed to her to be the most empty, despairing sound she had ever heard.  There was a dry little click as she shut it off.  Then, still clutching the radio in her hand, she wept bitterly.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Periphery (an excerpt)

Imagine you're 61, and you have lived all your life severely nearsighted.

Ida Peck has never seen the world except through thick glasses.  If she's awake, they're perched on her nose, and she lives in perpetual fear of losing them.

Then her friend, Leonie Williams, tells her about laser surgery, and despite some misgivings, she has it done.  And it works... perhaps too well.

Because now, with her vision restored, Ida has peripheral vision for the first time in her life.  And to her alarm, she begins to see things out of the corner of her eye.  Things that no one else can see.  Her doctor and her friends tell her that it's completely normal, that it's nothing to worry about; these things aren't real.

Unfortunately for Ida, they're very wrong about that...



Below is an excerpt from my novella Periphery, which is available through Barnes & Noble.

***********

Bertha smiled a little.  "No, Leonie, I've never known Peck to lie.  You can just put your claws back in and relax.  But that don't mean that some shadow she saw pushed me down the stairs.  It might have looked that way," she added quickly, as Leonie opened her mouth to respond.  "But looks don't mean real.  Leastways, that's what my mama always said."

"I saw it, Bert," Ida said, almost apologetically.  "I saw it push you.  It's following me around.  Ever since I touched it."  She looked over at Leonie, for a little moral support, and Leonie nodded.  Evidently, any misgivings Leonie felt were submerged under several feet of loyalty.  Heartened, Ida added, "None of the other things I've seen have been doing that."

Bertha's eyebrows crept upward, in unison, this time.  "You've seen other things?"

Leonie rolled her eyes, and gave Ida a now why the hell did you bring that up? look.  Ida gave a little shrug, and said, "Well, a couple of other things.  Out of the corner of my eye, you know.  But none of them have gone... gone real the way this one has."

Leonie took a deep breath.  "Look, Bertha, you know Ida's telling the truth.  You said yourself you hardly ever fall down, you felt like something pushed you.  And Ida felt it bite her finger.  Whatever you say, she's not lying, you know she's not."

"Yes, Leonie, I know she's not lying.  But you have to admit, it's a big mouthful to swallow."

"That it is," Leonie said.

Ida nodded.  "I just had to tell you," she said.  "After what happened this afternoon.  I had to tell you."

"I'm glad you did.  And as strange as it sounds, I do believe you.  I saw your face when you saw it in my living room.  That wasn't the face of someone making something up.  So don't worry, Peck, I'm not going to call the men in the white jackets."  Bertha gave Ida a wry grin.  "But I'm going to watch my step when you're around, just the same."

Ida sighed deeply; just having her two best friends believe this crazy story made it somehow easier to bear.  She looked toward the dark window, and it was almost with a feeling of expectation that she saw the little man crouching against the wall in the corner of the room.  He was perfectly motionless, his mouth still stretched in an impossibly wide grin, his blunt, squarish teeth showing down to the gums.  Just sitting there, watching them.

Leonie grabbed Ida's arm, but Ida didn't move; she kept her eyes fixed on the window.

"It's back, isn't it?" Leonie said, in a hushed voice.

"Yes," Ida said, quietly, without turning toward her.  "Over in the corner, to the right of the window."

There was a pause.  "There's nothing there," Leonie said.

"Yes, there is," Ida said, still staring straight at the window.  "I can see it."

There was a creak, as Leonie stood up, and she walked toward the corner of the room.  "Honey, there's nothing there."

There was a subtle change in the little man's face; his tiny eyes glittered dangerously, and the grin became a leer.  His long, thin arms moved slowly, the fingers flexing.

Before Ida could react, Leonie reached out and put her hand flat against the wall, where the man's chest was.  Three things happened, nearly simultaneously.

Ida shouted, "Leonie, don't!" and whirled to face the corner.

Leonie said, "It's cold!" and then shrieked, pulling her hand back.

The figure of the man vanished.

Leonie stood there, dumbly looking down at her right palm, which was cradled in her left.  She turned toward Ida, breathing hard, and rotated her hand toward Ida and Bertha.

Across Leonie's palm were four deep, parallel scratches.

"Claw marks," Bertha said quietly.  "Land o' Goshen."

And Leonie's eyes rolled upwards, and she collapsed in a dead faint.

My fictional history

I've been a fiction writer for as long as I can remember.  I made up fanciful stories in elementary and middle school, and added attempts at poetry in high school.

Now, admittedly, all of this was pretty bad writing.  In fact, I have done everything I could to make sure that all surviving copies of these early works were destroyed, which will frustrate the hell out of my future biographer but saved me from horrid embarrassment at the hands of my children.  ("You wrote that, dad?  Dear god, you sucked!")

I'm now fifty and I'd like to think I've improved a little, through sheer dogged persistence (and a lot of help from friends who were willing to edit my work).  In the last twenty years or so, I've begun to write novels, and to say that I write compulsively is kind of an understatement.  I have eleven novels and a collection of short stores that my aforementioned friends tell me are fairly good.  So I've decided to try to break into the e-book market, and have uploaded several of these to Barnes & Noble's e-book site (you can see them here). 

I thought that it might be interesting for my prospective readers to have a place where I post updates, news, and excerpts, so I've created this blog as a way to do that.  I'll probably post once a week or so, and will include news on what I'm currently writing, excerpts from my published novels, and general musings on the writing process.  I hope you'll find it interesting.

And if my fiction sounds intriguing to you, give it a shot.  I'd be delighted with any feedback you can provide (either here, or on Facebook, or posted to the Barnes & Noble website), and if you'd like to write a review for me, that'd be awesome.

Anyhow, happy reading, and I hope you enjoy my writing.