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.

Order Your Copy!

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:




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