Wednesday, March 14, 2018

In the Spotlight: When a Stranger Karen S. Bell @karensuebell #thriller

WHEN A STRANGER COMES by Karen S. Bell, Thriller, 224 pp., $12.00 (Paperback) $2.99 (Kindle edition)

Author: Karen S. Bell
Publisher: KSB Press
Pages: 222
Genre: Thriller

Achieving what you crave can also bring the terrifying fear of losing it. For Alexa Wainwright, this truth has become her nightmare. Born Gladys Lipschitz, the daughter of an unwed Soviet-era Jewish immigrant, her debut novel, A Foregone Conclusion, soared to number one on the bestseller’s list and became an international sensation. The accompanying fame and riches were beyond her expectations. Unfortunately, her subsequent work has yet to achieve the same reception by critics and readers. Yes, they have sold well based on her name recognition, but she dreads the possibility of becoming a mid-list author forgotten and ignored. She vows to do whatever it takes to attain the heady ego-stroking success of her debut. But is she really?

Witnessing an out-of-the-blue lightning bolt whose giant tendrils spread over the blue sky and city streets below her loft window, Alexa doesn’t realize just how this vow will be tested as she’s magically transported to an alternate reality. In this universe, the characters from her books are given the breath of life and she meets publisher, King Blakemore, who just might be the Devil himself. At first, she shrugs off her doubts about this peculiar publisher and very lucrative book deal offer because the temptation of riches and refound fame is too strong. But all too soon, Alexa realizes she’s trapped in an underworld of evil from which she desperately wants to escape. For starters, she finds herself in an iron-clad book contract that changes its wording whenever she thinks of a loophole. Desperate to get her life back, she devises schemes to untether herself from this hellish existence. She’s also aided by the forces for good who attempt to help her. However, King Blakemore is cleverer and more powerful than she can begin to understand. Playfully, he decides to give Alexa a second chance to save herself from eternity with him and to be free. He offers her the prospect of a rewrite, as most authors do as part of the writing process. Given this chance, will Alexa make the same choices and the same mistakes again?

Alexa, as the MC, is relatable, likable, and vulnerable with a keen sense of humor. Her world is very small because writing is her life and so she is an easy target for entrapment. Her pact with the Devil is an allegory for the evil lurking in our midst. The social decay of modern society with its excessive greed, the ignorance of our political leaders, and our indifference toward the survival of all species from the effects of climate change, among other environmental pressures, are perhaps brought forth by the darkest forces of human nature.

When A Stranger Comes is available at Amazon.

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When she opened her eyes, it had taken Jodie a moment to realize she was lying on the living room floor. Automatically checking her wristwatch that now had a cracked plastic face, she saw that she had been unconscious for about 20 minutes. She was alone. That was good. There was blood all around her. That was not good. It had been difficult to get up and walk, but she needed to see the damage and tend to her wounds. Shuffling over to the front door, she engaged the deadbolt just in case he decided to come back. Usually, after one of these brutal fights, he stayed away for several hours getting so drunk that his rage turned into remorse.
            She turned on the bright florescent lights and looked in the bathroom mirror. What she saw was so shocking that she stared at her image in disbelief. Her left eye was swollen shut and the surrounding skin was dark purple. Her bruised and battered lips were swollen, cracked, and caked in blood. Two teeth were missing right in front giving her face the frightening hint of the homeless beggars she saw sleeping in the alleyways and picking through garbage. It hurt to keep her pummeled mouth open but her broken nose made breathing difficult. The metallic taste of blood oozing on her tongue and dripping down her throat made her gag. Her chafed skin, where his fists pounded on her chest and neck, was achy and throbbing. Gaping sores, almost to the bone on her arms and legs, were from where he kicked her with his heavy work boots after he knocked her down. Their exposure to the air or where they contacted her torn clothing stung as if touched by a hot poker. Ugly, chilling mementos of his snarling, wild-eyed mania as he bashed her again and again.
            With shaky hands, she turned on the water and noticed her swollen black and blue knuckles most likely from when she punched him hard in his face. She moistened a hand towel and carefully brought it to her eyes. The warm compress felt good and she stood like that for several minutes until a wave of nausea hit her. She grabbed for the sink feeling dizzy and broke out in a cold sweat. You fucking bastard, I hope I punctured your eye and scratched all the skin off your face! For a split second the horror of that fight gripped her again and she swallowed hard, her bloody saliva choking her. Trying to take deep breaths was excruciating, so she took quick shallow puffs of air in an effort to calm herself, but her heart was racing and pounding like a drumbeat in her chest. Focusing on her wounds, she tried to regain her composure as she gingerly washed the blood off her face and body but kept dropping the wet towel in the sink.
            And then the doorbell rang.
            She froze, as a spontaneous paralyzing fear shot through her. Quickly, she turned off the water silencing any noise. Maybe whoever was there would go away if they thought she wasn’t home. No one can see me like this. Then the banging started and for one frightening second she thought he had come back, angry that she bolted the door. “I know you’re in there.” It was Kerry, her next door neighbor. She hadn’t realized she was holding her breath until she started breathing again. “Are you okay?” Kerry yelled. “I almost called the police. Open the door and let me in. You might need to go to the hospital. Jodie? …Jodie?” Then she got annoyed. “Suit yourself.” And the yelling, banging, and doorbell ringing stopped.
            Waiting a few minutes until she thought it was safe, Jodie came out of the bathroom and sat on her bed. She looked at her packed suitcase, the empty threat that had started this most recent vicious confrontation. No more. Now she was certain. She had to leave. To get out of there. Right now. He used his fists on her…again. He had kicked her...hard. Next time he might kill her. Beaten to death. Another homicide in this godforsaken white trash part of town. Why am I so stupid? Why have I stayed with this guy? I thought we had something, a future. Said he was so sorry the last time. Said he loved me. Said he’d never hurt me again. Lying scumbag!
             She left without so much as a goodbye note. Why would he care anyway? The prick. But before she walked out, her wounds opening anew, her blood dripping on everything, and her hands trembling, she poured the remaining whiskey in the 2-liter bottle on the crappy sofa. Her rampage gaining momentum, she bashed the flat-screen-52-inch-TV with the empty bottle knocking it off its stand, causing it to crack in several places. Nearly passing out again, she managed to smash all five bottles of his precious booze on the cheap linoleum floor. Shattered glass flew everywhere making the whole room a minefield for bare feet. Good! I hope he comes home in the dark and walks on this in the morning.
            Her frenzy in full froth, she wobbled into the kitchen. Every dish crashed to the floor. Wine glasses. Crash. The pretty porcelain candlesticks they bought at the fair. Crash. Holding on to the kitchen counter to gain some strength before she grabbed her suitcase still on the bed, she found scissors in one of the drawers. Stumbling over to his closet and then his dresser, she cut up his shirts and pullovers, scissored the pant legs off his jeans, and clogged their bathroom toilet with his underwear. As an afterthought, she slashed the mattress, gouged the feathers from the comforter, cut the foam in the pillows into wedges. With a final relish, and gathering up all her remaining might and power, she slammed his laptop against the wall.
            Then she hobbled as fast as she could. Threw her suitcase out the door and onto the pavement, it being too awkward to carry in her condition while negotiating the few stairs. Luckily, her car was parked close. Easing herself into the driver’s seat, her lacerations making her wince, she stepped on the gas and left town, calming down only slightly when the trailer park was out of range of her rear view mirror. She did not speed. She did not want to get pulled over looking like someone’s punching bag. At least she could see okay out of her good eye. Driving carefully, she took the highway heading north. Anywhere but here. Any town but this. Another ending, another lonely drive to nowhere…and then a sliver of hope. Always that sliver of hope. A new beginning. A fresh start. I’ll figure things out. Be smarter. And finally get it right. Yeah, this time, I’ll get it right. Find a decent guy with a good job. Find a guy who doesn’t drink. Find the life I’ve always wanted.

When a Stranger Comes…is Ms. Bell’s third novel. Her debut, Walking with Elephants, was initially published by a small publisher who went out of business. Subsequently, she took over as an indie publisher. It went on to win the Awesome Indies Seal of Excellence and was a top-five finalist in the Kindle Book Review’s 2012 contest for the best indie books. Sunspots, her second novel, was awarded the Seal of Approval for good writing. She holds a Master of Science in Mass Communication and for 15 years, she was an editor/copyeditor for a “Big Four” public accounting firm. Ms. Bell was also technical editor for an accounting industry magazine.
Here are some reviews of her previous work published in the Florida Times Union:




In the Spotlight: A Collection of Twisted Tales by Kraig Dafoe

A COLLECTION OF TWISTED TALES by Kraig Dafoe, Thriller Short Story Collection, 114 pp., $2.99 (Kindle edition) $8.99 (paperback)

Author: Kraig Dafoe
Publisher: Createspace
Genre:Thriller Short Story Collection

Most of these stories have one thing in common, death. Although death is the common thread, there is nothing common in the way that it comes about.
This collection is chock full of interesting characters scattered among various settings that inspire the imagination, such as a Lavish English mansion or the dark interior of a rundown home.
This book is inspired by and written in the style of, Edgar Allan Poe.


A Collection of Twisted Tales is an ambitious project that testifies to the author’s appreciation of Edgar Allan Poe’s fiction in particular. In this collection, Kraig Dafoe offers a creative homage with many original ideas and unexpected twists.”
Professor Vanessa Steinroetter, PHD

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The Unheeded Omen:
“when an arrant mind wanders,
and breaks open the protective shell,
rising up, a wicked demon saunters,
from the darkened depths of hell.”
--Louis Banks--
The general populace has long considered ravens to be associated with bad omens, though never putting much stock in such trivial absurdity, I delightedly accepted the opportunity to move my family into a lavish home located on Raven road.
In the early morn, in the spring of the year 18--, bracing yet dreary, leaves insignificantly rustled as a gelid breeze swept along, washing away droplets of early precipitation. Clouds hanging oppressively low, still darkened, loomed overhead, threatening another ghastly shower to descend upon us while we rode protected from the elements, while the wheels of the carriage jostled us about as they trundled over cobblestone. The voyage was relatively short, reaching just beyond the edge of town, which I had and would continue, to call home for many a year.
The caw of ravens echoed overhead as we veered down the road of our new dwelling, with seemingly thousands of the blackened beasts residing in its progression of Oaks.
My darling Penelope and our two young progenies, plus one in the womb, sat delighted as the driver directed the carriage down the lane to the two-story brick mansion as it seemed to us, having lived a life of little resource. This was the beginning to a new epoch, this auspicious occasion afforded by a promotion I procured; we received the home joyfully with the compliments of my company, as part of my bonus.
As the carriage rolled into view of the domicile, the children curiously gazed through the panes of glass, pressing their noses to achieve a better glimpse, their fidgety disposition putting smiles on our faces. Penelope and I showed approval for their enthusiasm.
The usually neatly manicured grounds were awash with the residue from the storm of the previous eve. Well-groomed hedges of significant splendor and foliage lined the drive, their once proud branches drooped towards the ground, some almost bear of leaves, and as the carriage circled in front of the home, ivy, overspreading the exterior, glistened in the dim light of day.
A valet, another benefit of my new station and being a servant of the house for numerous years, met the carriage as we stopped.
As we departed, the valet bowed deeply and gestured toward the portico, commenting that he had allocated our possessions to their proper place and now, the vast luxury of the domicile awaited us.
We embraced the cold air and made haste for the door, the children enthusiastically, first through its threshold. I followed my beloved, nodding attentively to the valet and, approaching the door, I noticed my new neighbor, an elderly man, pitifully disheveled, standing on the porch of his own discriminately decrepit home across the adjoining field.
The grass of the field, more resembling brome, between us was unkempt and thus made it impossible to tell where the abandoned yard ended and the neighbor’s began. The neighboring house was decayed from years of neglect, paint long ago wearing thin, cracked and peeling, and shutters hung precariously from their mounts. A broken fence of rotted wood surrounded the property, half its horizontal slats lying at angles to the ground and hidden by overgrown sedge. The windows seemed blackened by death, empty eye sockets peering at our new home and the roof seemed to house more ravens then did the trees, as any of its worn shingles were barely visible. Overgrown and under trimmed vegetation scattered the lot, yet the view of the house itself, unfortunately for me, was unobstructed. Upon looking at the melancholy house, a sense of indispensable gloom washed over me.
My new neighbor seemed to be as unkempt as was his yard and I noticed, with ease, the elderly man’s demeanor appeared to be one of utter indifference. I waved to him in what I considered to be a polite gesture and, perplexingly, he just turned and entered his house without response, which I thought a bit odd as I entered my new home.
I absorbed the splendor of my new abode, which was of stark contrast to my neighbors, while trying to shake the awkward encounter from my mind. Artful paintings hung from the brightly colored walls while decorative rugs dotted the cherry hardwood floors. The furnishings bore elaborate carvings, with soft velvety cushions, while brass and silver trinkets topped the stands and mantles. Fires burned in the ornate fireplaces casting a warm glow about the rooms, filling them with a cozy air, and simultaneously casting eerily dancing shadows about. Spacious was the home, with formal living and dining rooms, a parlor, four bedrooms upstairs and indoor plumbing, a fairly new innovation. We quickly settled in and, with assistance from the valet, we fell into a routine, living a somewhat leisurely life compared to the drudgery of life before my promotion.


Kraig Dafoe was born in Potsdam, New York and grew up in Canton. He played high school football and joined the Army Reserves at the age of seventeen.

Kraig has earned his BA in English writing and graduated cum laude from Washburn University in 2017.

Kraig has published two novels and published poetry. He is currently working on another writing project.

His current novel is A Collection of Twisted Tales.

You can visit his website at


Friday, March 2, 2018

Book Blast: Sgarrwrath by Sarah Kennedy - Win a $25 Gift Card

Title: Sgarrwrath
Author: Sarah Kennedy
Publisher: XlibrisUS
Genre: Fantasy
Format: Ebook

The Flame is the most mysterious and powerful entity in the universe. Even the Guardians, in whose hearts Flame burns, who breathe and wield its power, have never seen its Source nor harnessed its full potential. They are content to serve the Light. Arawn is not like the others. He is young, untested, and he seeks more power though a prophecy reveals the predominance of the Flame belongs to another. Arawn is easy prey for Sgarrwrath who lures him into Darkness to corrupt Arawnís Flame to his will. His brotherís, three powerful, incorruptible Guardians refuse to abandon hope. They journey into Darkness, how far will they go to save him?

I have always loved to write stories and was blessed with wonderful parents who still encourage me to follow my dreams. To hone my craft, I have taken courses through the Institute of Childrenís Literature and Long Ridge Writerís Group. In 2005, I was published in Angels on Earth, and in 2011, I published my debut novel, Sgarrwrath, Prequel to the Prophecy of Hope, which recently received an Honorary Mention in the Halloween Book Festival Competition of October 2013. Today, I live quietly in a small town with my three rambunctious cats.   



Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Gift Certificate to the e-retailer of your choice
  • This giveaway begins February 26 and ends on March 9.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on March 10.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone! 


a Rafflecopter giveaway