The Rising, a new psychological suspense thriller by Kerry Peresta
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The Rising by Kerry Peresta
After an assault that landed her in a hospital as a Jane Doe two years earlier, Olivia Callahan has regained her speech, movement, and much of the memory she lost due to a traumatic brain injury. The media hype about the incident has faded away, and Olivia is ready to rebuild her life, but her therapist insists she must continue to look back in order to move forward. The only person that can help her recall specifics is her abusive ex-husband, Monty, who is in prison for murder. The thought of talking to Monty makes her skin crawl, but for her daughters’ sake and her own sanity, she must learn more about who she was before the attack.
Just as the pieces of her life start falling into place, she stumbles across the still-warm body of an old friend who has been gruesomely murdered. Her dream of pursuing a peaceful existence is shattered when she learns the killer left evidence behind to implicate her in the murder. The only person that would want to sabotage her is Monty—but he’s in prison! Something sinister is going on, and Olivia is desperate to uncover the truth before another senseless murder is committed.
To purchase The Rising, click any of the following links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Genre: Psychological Suspense, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Suspense, Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: March 29, 2022
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 168512092X (ISBN-13: 978-1685120924)
Series: Olivia Callahan Suspense, Book 2
Kerry Peresta answers the question: What’s Your Biggest Daily Challenge as an Author?
Writing is a lonely business. Unlike most authors, I’m an intro-extrovert. Pretty even on both counts. Most authors I talk to describe themselves as introverts. I am both.
The extrovert part of me—the part my readers and friends see when I’m working a book event or presenting a workshop—is pure adrenaline. I love to engage people, to communicate with new friends, find out their backgrounds and fascinating quirks. I leave feeling refreshed, excited, and encouraged.
As a partial introvert, I am completely EXHAUSTED by peopling all day. I go home and die. Literally. Lay on the bed, watch countless reruns of Law and Order or Criminal Minds, my favorite mindless activity. Drink a glass of wine. Sink into a forced nothingness. The next day, I don’t want anything to do with anybody. I might do a little shopping therapy and hope no one recognizes me, because I am all talked out.
So the conundrum is this: the extrovert part needs encouragement. It needs a kind word, a hug, a good review (yes, lots of those). The introvert part needs space and alone time.
However, the biggest challenge for me, as an author, is staying encouraged.
When I am steeped in encouragement, I find that I am more positive and energized, and I suspect many of us are that way. One friendly, uplifting comment or review can inspire me for weeks. That is how important a simple word of encouragement is!
When I’m in the introvert phase…my mind is set on a spin cycle of plot points and twists and character issues. Often a scene begs for an introvert’s calm hand. But in my current books, where I’ve developed a Wine & Whine women’s group that is sometimes somber, other times hilarious…an extrovert is needed.
The extrovert likes to write dialogue. Tons of it! I love to write dialogue! And I’m (as a friend of mine is fond of saying) an unapologetic user of exclamation marks! This is me in extrovert mode. Lots of exclamation marks that I have to remove when I edit my first draft. Editors frown on over-utilized exclamation marks!
Both personality types have their uses, but it is easier and more rewarding when I tap into the extroverted side and write chirpy, snarky scenes. However, it does take a mood, and often distractions and discouragement pull me into an abyss. Yes, I can write in spite of mood inhibitors, and yes, I can come up with a pretty decent chapter…but it would be fresher if my extrovert decided to emerge. With the slightest bit of encouragement, my extrovert pushes its way to the surface, lifts my chin, uncoils my tense shoulders, and urges me to write with confidence.
When no one seems to be handing out encouragement, and I have slumped into the pit of inertia, I call an author friend. I really love my fellow authors at Level Best Books. They are supportive, friendly, and most of all…available. There is nothing like a fellow author’s encouragement, because she’s been there. She understands that to write is to cut your life in half and relinquish it to a story that may or may not sell. Not everyone understands the toll it takes, emotionally. That writing can’t and shouldn’t be rushed. Plus, an author is his worst critic. These critical voices ramp up when he is tired, and tell him his writing is terrible and useless—that success is hopeless.
It’s a fight to stay encouraged, and believe that hammering out 80,000-plus words is going to be worth it in the end. And sometimes…all the sweat, brainstorming, outlining, research, and hard work is completely rejected! For instance, at the query stage, rejection happens over and over again. It’s like a battering ram to the ego, those polite rejection letters. I have learned to call this ‘redirection’, and tell myself that any forward movement is better than none at all. At least it is moving me closer to the goal. Querying is often an exercise in discouragement and it takes determination and persistence to keep going. I am not in that stage now, I have a contract, but publishing is not a given, and I realize success is fragile and fleeting. I hold onto writing successes loosely, as it is a humbling business. A character-builder, for sure!
In the end, I believe staying encouraged as a writer is a choice. When inspiration and optimism take a nose-dive, there are options. Calling fellow authors, fellow writers-in-the-making, or supportive friends. Taking a breather and walking outside in the sunshine. It really is a miracle what the outdoors can do for sagging spirits. And this I know…persistence is everything. Even if I don’t feel like it; even if I am discouraged, I can choose to sit in the chair and put my hands on the keyboard. Just showing up is a win. And often, new ideas and mind-bending plot twists occur when we least feel like writing. This, in itself, is so encouraging!
Let me leave you with this: if you read a book and love it, go the extra mile and leave a review on Amazon—or reach out through social media and tell them how much you loved it and why. All authors, myself included, love to know specifics. When we are putting the story down on the page, we have no idea what will work and what won’t. When a reader tells us they loved their character’s personality, or a riveting scene…whatever it is, a lovely comment about it makes the author’s day. Maybe their entire week.
I know it does mine.
Excerpt from THE RISING, Book Two in the Olivia Callahan Suspense series
“How low you fall points to how high you’ll rise.”
The stark buildings and barbed-wire-topped walls surrounding the correctional facility reminded me of a Hitchcock movie.
My fingers tightened on the steering wheel. I found a parking spot, and waited in the car a minute, taking in the starkness and finality of a prison compound. My heart did a little lurch when I thought about Monty—my ex-husband and the father of my two daughters—inside. Incarcerated. I guess since I hadn’t seen him since his indictment, it didn’t seem real.
However, I’d learned that having sympathy for Monty was like having sympathy for a snake just before it sank its fangs. “It’s been eighteen months. You can keep it together with this psycho,” I hissed to myself. I hiked my purse onto my shoulder and walked out into the buttery sunshine toward the visitors’ entrance.
I presented my driver’s license, endured a frisk, offered my hand for the fingerprint process, and walked through the metal detector, which of course, went off. With stoic resignation, I endured another frisk, a few hard glances from the guards, and eventually pulled the culprit from the pocket of my pants, an aluminum foil candy bar wrapper.
While I waited for Monty at one of the small, circular tables in the visitors’ room, I scanned the list of do’s and don’ts. Hands must be visible at all times. Vulgar language not allowed. No passing anything to the prisoner. No jewelry other than a wedding band or religious necklace.
I stared at my hands, sticky with sweat. My heart beat in my throat.
I lifted my curls off my forehead and fanned my face with one hand. Three other visitors sat at tables. One woman with graying hair piled like a crown on her head stared at the floor. When she noticed that I was looking at her, she raised her head and threw me a sad smile. A younger woman at another table struggled to keep two young children under control, and an older couple with stress-lined faces whispered to each other as they waited. The room had tan, cinder block walls, a drop-in ceiling with grid tiles that probably hid video cameras, and a single door. No windows. A scrawny, fake plant in one corner made a half-hearted attempt at civility.
The metal door opened. My thoughts were mush, a blender on high. Could I do this? After two years of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and every other kind of therapy the docs could throw at me, shouldn’t I react better than this?
Remember, they’re only feelings.
I squared my shoulders. Wiped my palms on my pants.
As Monty offered his cuffed wrists to the corrections officer, he scanned the room under lowered eyelids. When he saw me, he gave me a scorched- earth glare. After the guard removed his handcuffs, he shook out his arms and rubbed his wrists. The raven-black hair was longer, and brushed his shoulders. He’d been working out. A lot. He wore a loose-fitting top and pants. Orange. As usual, he was larger than life, and in the bright white of the visiting space, surrounded by matching plastic tables and chairs, he was a raven-haired Schwarzenegger in a room full of Danny DeVito’s. I’d once had hope for reconciliation. The thought gave me the shakes now.
He dropped into the chair across from me and plopped his hands on the table. “What do you want?”
I spent a few seconds examining his face—this man I’d spent twenty, long years trying to please, and the reason I’d been assaulted and left for dead by Niles Peterson, a wreck of a man whose life Monty had destroyed as well.
The man responsible for my convoluted recovery from a brain injury that stole my past. Even after two years, I still had huge gaps in my memory, and staring at him felt like staring at a stranger instead of an ex-husband. “My therapist says I need to look back to move forward. I wanted to ask you a few questions, that’s all.”
“Okay,” he grumbled. “I’ll give you a few minutes. Oh, and you’ll love this. I have to attend counseling sessions about how to keep my ‘darker dispositions’ under control, and I have one of those in thirty minutes.”
Resisting a smile, I quipped, “Are they helping?” He rolled his eyes. “What are the questions?”
“I still have problems remembering stuff. There are things I need to… figure out about who I was before—”
“Before you hooked up with my ole’ buddy Niles?” he interrupted, with a smirk. “Before you threw away everything we had? Before you got yourself in a situation that could’ve gotten you killed? Before you started treating me like a piece of shit?”
I was careful not to react. I’d had enough therapy to understand how to treat a control freak that tried to make me the reason he ended up in prison. That part of my life—the part where Monty had been in charge and his spouse had to obey or else—was over. “Are you done?” I asked.
He clamped his lips together.
I folded my hands on the table and leaned in. “I’ll get right to the point. What drew you to me in the first place? What was I like before the accident, from your perspective?”
Monty tried to get comfortable in the plastic chair. Beneath his immense bulk, it seemed like a child’s chair. “Is that how you’re dealing with it?” His lips twisted in disgust. “It was an assault, Olivia. He tried to rape you, for God’s sake.”
I looked away. “It’s over, and he’s in the ground, thanks to you.”
He crossed his arms and glared. A corrections officer lifted his hand. With a grunt, Monty slapped both hands on the small table where the officer could see them.
After a few beats, he sneered, “You mean besides the obvious attraction of an older guy to a high school girl?” “Give me a break, Monty.”
He chuckled. “You were kind of…I don’t know…scared. I was drawn to you in a protective way. You were shy.”
I frowned. “What was I scared of?”
“Your crazy mom had married some jerk that kept you off balance all the time. Don’t you remember him?”
I thought for a few seconds. Nothing came.
“That coma still messes with you, doesn’t it? Well…might be good not to remember. Maybe he did things to you that he shouldn’t have.” Monty raised his eyebrows up and down.
I wanted to slap him, but I kept my expression neutral.
“A brain injury recovery is unpredictable. I still lose memories, even if someone has drilled them into me. I’m trying to use visualization. I have this feeling…that if I can see it, the rest will be like dominos.”
“So you may not ever remember? Even the good things about our marriage?”
I laughed. “We must have very different perspectives about the word ‘good’, Monty.”
Monty’s jaw muscles flexed. “Next?”
“Was I a capable mother? Was I available and…loving to the kids?”
Maybe it was my imagination, but his lower lip quivered. Did the guy have a heart after all? I’d always believed he loved our daughters. I hoped this was true.
“Olivia, you were a good mother. We had our problems, but you made a good home, and took excellent care of the kids. You were at every freakin’ event, every school fundraiser, everything.” He scowled. “I took a big back seat to the kids.”
“What problems did we have? When did they start?”
He leaned in. “You don’t remember our sex life? How terrible it was? Nothing I could do would get you to….” He shook his head. “You couldn’t even fix a decent meal. You should have been grateful you married someone like me so I could…teach you things.”
“Keep your voice down!” I insisted, embarrassed.
He cocked his head and grinned. “You always had this…desperate need for my approval or whatever. And when you conveniently avoided telling me you weren’t taking birth control it caused a lot of issues that could’ve been avoided.” He snorted. “Like being in here.”
I tried to rein in my disgust.
“So, let me get this straight. Your priority in our marriage was sex and good food and to pin all our issues on your child bride?” My tone hardened. “A young woman who came from a single-parent home? Who had no understanding what a good and normal guy was like?”
He gave me a look that could peel the skin off my face.
“How did you react when I didn’t do things the way you wanted?” I continued.
“Like any man who’d been disrespected. I corrected the issue.”
“How? By yelling? Physical force? Kicking your pregnant wife in the stomach?” This was a memory I had recovered.
A vein pulsed in his neck.
“How often, Monty? Were these reactions a…a lifestyle in our marriage?” “Look,” he snarled, “I don’t know that this is productive.”
“It is for me,” I said, brightly.
I glanced at the closest officer. He had his hands full with an issue at one of the other tables.
“Mom told me that Serena and Lilly floated out to sea one time, on a rubber raft. Do you remember that?”
His eyes found a spot on the wall.
“So you do remember. What happened?”
“Look, they were, I don’t know, four and six or so. I didn’t think it would be a problem for me to run grab a drink from our bag, and come back. I was gone less than five minutes. How could I know they’d lose control of the raft?”
An earthquake of anger shot through me. “You turned your back on a four-year-old and a six-year-old and expected them to have control of a raft? They were babies!”
“Yeah. Well.” He rose. “Looks like this question thing of yours isn’t working for me.” He pushed his chair in with a bang. The correctional officer gave him a look. Monty strode to the officer’s station and held out his wrists. Adrenaline made me a little shaky after he’d gone, but it wasn’t from fear of the man. My therapist would call this real progress.
I left the room and gathered my things from the visitors’ processing center. As I walked out of the prison facility, all I could think about was…why? Why had I married this guy? And stayed for twenty years? I couldn’t even remember myself as a person who could do that.
At least I’d dragged more information out of him. I was determined to piece together the puzzle of the past I’d lost.
Kerry Peresta — Author of The Rising
Kerry’s publishing credits include a popular newspaper column, “The Lighter Side,” (2009—2011), and magazine articles in Local Life Magazine, The Bluffton Breeze, Lady Lowcountry, and Island Events Magazine. She is the author of three published novels, The Hunting, women’s fiction, The Deadening, Book One of the Olivia Callahan Suspense Series, and The Rising, Book Two.
Book Three in this series releases in 2023 by Level Best Books. She spent twenty-five years in advertising as an account manager, creative director, editor, and copywriter. She is past chapter president of the Maryland Writers’ Association and a current member and presenter of Hilton Head Island Writers’ Network, South Carolina Writers Association, and the Sisters in Crime organization. Kerry and her husband moved to Hilton Head Island, SC, in 2015. She is the mother of four adult children, and has a bunch of wonderful grandkids who remind her what life is all about.
To learn more about Kerry, click on any of the following links: www.KerryPeresta.net, Goodreads, BookBub – @kerryperesta, Instagram – @kerryperesta, Twitter – @kerryperesta & Facebook – @klperesta
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Elena Taylor/Elena Hartwell
The Foundation of Plot, a Wait, Wait, Don’t Query (Yet!) guidebook. Out July 19.
Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator 2020
Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery 2020