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When a Stranger Comes

When a Stranger Comes
Satisfying one's greed can come at a devilishly high cost.

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, she was beyond thrilled and amazed when 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?
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 I direct him to have a seat and he walks with a slight limp over to my cushy cream-colored leather, L-shaped sectional sofa, puts his briefcase on the floor and sits down resting his arms on the back. The body language of being in charge. I sit opposite in my club chair from my old apartment. This well-worn greenish, suedeish recliner, a garbage night found treasure, is a constant reminder of how far I’d come and stands out as an oddity in my well-furnished home. It’s also my talisman for chasing away writer’s block. Sit in the chair and ideas being to flow. I don’t understand how it works, it just does. I’d had a lot of need for its remedy in the last few years.

            Cousin Alex sits looking at me and then around at the loft and back to the view offered by my wall of glass, like he’s making a mental calculation of the cost of my lifestyle. The rather large sofa that he’s sitting on is dwarfed by the 15 ft. ceilings and more than ample square footage of the open floor plan. Soft, soothing earth tones are the color palate for my walls, pillows and throws, offset by the large, woolen antique Oriental rug in opulent blues, reds, and greens over my dark, bamboo floors. I see him eye my wildly colorful and quite costly Chihuly hand-blown glass bowl, the perfect complement to the glass coffee table designed by Piero Lissoni, where it is placed for optimum enjoyment. While he studies the surroundings, I study him boldly in the silence before Margaret comes in with the drinks. He wasn’t much of a talker and I wasn’t feeling like making small talk myself, which afforded me the opportunity to continue observing him quite intensely until I knew why he seemed familiar.

            Stonily observing every detail of his face, it suddenly became clear to me in a rush, that Alex was actually someone I knew very well. It was so startling that I almost gasped audibly at the shock when I realized he was a character from one of my books sprung to life. Not in name, of course, but in every other way. A dark-haired, blue-eyed handsome lad that is the consistent image in my mind when I write the villain or the love interest. With his chiseled features, thick black hair, lightly tanned skin, sexy stubble of facial hair, Alex is the manifestation of the exact words used to describe the good guy in my debut. 

And he is right here in this room. Right here in the flesh. Alive. Sitting on my sofa. I know that description is not like looking at a photo and readers can come up with their own mental image. But here’s the thing, his face, Alex’s face is what I saw in my mind when I wrote his character, Rick, in Foregone. The first romantic hero that I pictured and the basic model for all the others that came later. His exact face. A knot forms in my stomach. How does one deal with absurdity?

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