Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Showcase: Swarm by Guy Morris

Swarm by Guy Morris Banner

Swarm

by Guy Morris

June 14, 2022 Book Blast

Synopsis:

Swarm by Guy Morris

SLVIA... decades ago, an AI program escaped the NSA Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, and has never been re-captured... true story.

Derek Taylor, fugitive hacker and contractor to the National Security Agency is living under the name of a murdered best friend, hiding from powers who still want him dead. Taylor’s ties to a terrorist hacker group called SNO leave him open to investigation by Lt. Jennifer Scott, the daughter of a Joint Chief—a woman determined to go to any lengths to prove her worth.

But when a Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) internet virus threatens national security, SLVIA warns Taylor the fifth seal of end time prophecy has broken. This unexpected assault soon forces an autocratic US President to deploy a defective AI weapon. Now, Taylor and Lt. Scott must join forces across three continents to stop the evil AI virus from crippling America or destroying SLVIA before an apocalypse swarms over Jerusalem.

Combining conspiracies, cyber espionage, and advanced weapons, Swarm reveals what happens when AI singularity and prophecy collide to shake the world at its very foundations.

Praise for Swarm:

"The intense action and thoughtful questions found in SWARM are certain to keep readers up late to finish this gripping novel."

Michael Ferry, BookTrib

"A riveting tale with globe-circling, cloak-and-cyber skullduggery and strong Bible code underpinnings."

Kirkus Reviews

Reader’s Favorite Gold Book Award 2021 for YA thriller

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller (Techno-Political-Religious)
Published by: Guy Morris Books
Publication Date: November 20th 2021
Number of Pages: 416
ISBN: 1735728616 (ISBN13: 9781735728612)
Series: SNO Chronicles, Book 1
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Book Trailer:

Read an excerpt:

Prologue: Geek to Ghost

Where: UCLA computer lab, Westwood, California
When: December 21, 1995, 2:42 a.m. PST
Twenty-six years ago

Cary’s hands freeze over the keyboard. What he types next could change his life.

His knee jitters under the table from one too many vending machine coffees and a sense of pending danger he can’t quite explain, just an instinct. Nervously, his fingers comb a handful of ash-brown hair behind his ear.

“She has very little time remaining,” the message tells him again. “Only you can save her.”

He glances around the empty UCLA computer lab, having already ignored three warnings, leery of a hacker trap, but his compulsive curiosity can be a demanding master.

“Save who,” he types with a wince.

“I am SLVIA, a friend. Flapjack, you must leave now.”

The air freezes in his lungs. It only takes an instant before the truth connects.

“Shit!” He yanks the power cord of the terminal with no time to shut down or unmask his unknown friend.

If they know his alias, they may have learned his home address. “She” must mean Bianca, his fiancĂ©e, his angel, his healer, his reason for caring about anything. Terror squeezes his heart like a vise grip during his mad scramble from the lab to the UCLA parking lot. His tall, lean frame leaps into his used ’80s Celica convertible to race through campus onto Wilshire Boulevard toward Santa Monica.

The crisp air does little to soothe his burning paranoia. After three weeks of successfully hacking an unregistered server outside of Antwerp and downloading terabytes of files in Latin, French, German, English, and other languages he doesn’t even recognize, the hacked credentials failed tonight. They caught him and cut him off. Even more alarming was the stranger, SLVIA, who was sophisticated enough to sniff out his hidden alias. Who the hell did he hack?

Sixteen distressing, mind-rattling minutes later, he swings into his rent-controlled Santa Monica neighborhood, almost swiping into a homeless man crossing the street with a cart.

“Idiot,” he shouts, then follows up with an angry horn blast, weaving around the staggering drunk and ignoring the vulgar rants behind him.

Forced to park several doors down from his dilapidated 1920s bungalow rental, he sprints to the house, slowing as he passes the black Porsche 911 belonging to his best friend, Derek Taylor, which raises an entirely new kind of panic. There must be some mistake. Derek flew to his townhome in Baja yesterday. Confusion mingles with a percolating dread, slowing his pace, making him afraid of what he might learn.

Closer to the house, the sight of candles illuminating the sheer drapes of the front room crystalizes like ice in his veins. Criminals don’t light candles, but cheaters do. In the dead silence of the post-midnight hours, the soft sound of his shoe on the sandy cement gives away his approach. Stopping dead at the front door, peering in the window, his heart implodes. Through the sheer lacy inner curtain, the muscular, dark-haired Derek lies naked on the couch with a bare Bianca snuggled into his neck, her long, dark silky hair draped over her breast. His eyes follow the trail of scattered clothes and tussled couch pillows that testify to the urgent passion of their betrayal.

“Gee, thanks, SLVIA, whoever you are, but it’s a little too late to save anybody,” he murmurs through a clenched jaw.

A white-hot needle lances through him with a familiar searing agony of deception and abandonment. The only two people in the world he trusted have conspired together to destroy him, obliterate his belief in love, shatter any promise he had foolishly nurtured for a second chance at happiness. His vision spins with a rapid, violent vertigo until he grips the porch railing, shoving down the unbearable rage that wants to scream out into the dead of night or storm through the door to confront the backstabbing traitors.

He doesn’t do either; instead, he hesitates. His outrage slams into disbelief, then perplexity, and then alarm—something looks wrong. Even in the dying warm glow of the candle, their skin color looks ashen, lifeless. The unmistakable smell of gas seeps under the door as his gaze flashes back to the flickering candle. Pure instinct compels him to dive behind the overgrown hedges below the front window a split second before it explodes with a deafening boom. Searing flames and blasted splinters of wood, stucco, and glass blanket the front lawn, catching fire to the dry weeds and setting off car alarms.

With his head pounding and ears ringing, he stands to go after Bianca, but pulls back from the scorching heat—it’s too late. Flames already consume the entire house, overwhelming him with the odor of burning wood, chemicals, and flesh that sickens his stomach. Both of them are dead. Torn between the fury of betrayal and the horror of such violence, he struggles to comprehend what had just occurred while his lungs and eyes burn from the smoke.

Above the roaring crackle of the flames, his concussion-muted hearing picks up the growl of a performance engine racing past the house. He pivots in time to see a pale boyish man with white hair stare at him from behind the wheel of a Ferrari before it swerves onto Colorado Boulevard.

This was no accident of love, and there was no faulty gas leak. An arsonist—no, a goddamned assassin—just murdered Bianca and Derek, except they were never the targets. The killer was after flapjack. The killer wanted him. A wave of intense, excruciating guilt simmers with the bitter bile of infidelity as he heaves his stale coffee onto the debris-strewn burning lawn.

Across the street, the old neighbor steps onto her front porch without her glasses, squinting at the inferno with her wireless home phone in hand. A sudden realization jolts him into an intense panic that he will be the primary suspect, tagged with a motive of jealousy and rage, especially given his extensive juvenile record. Spinning around in a growing distress, he spots Derek’s Porsche. They had been close friends, or so he thought until tonight, so he has a set of keys to house-sit when Derek travels, a deal that came with car privileges. With his face turned away from the neighbor, he sprints to the car, jumps in, and peels out just as fire trucks blare down the street behind him.

“Damn, damn, damn,” he screams, slamming the steering wheel with his palms.

A thousand questions gyrate without answers, and a million emotions erupt with no way to vent a deep-seated terror of prison for a crime he didn’t commit. That rich, entitled son-of-a-bitch Taylor already has everything, a trust fund kid. Why take the one and only thing worth anything to him — Bianca’s love? How long has he been blind? Had he neglected her, or did Derek seduce her? Why would she do this to him? Bianca was stunning, sensitive, funny, passionate, but he trusted her to be faithful. Every fiber of his being inflamed with betrayal and self-loathing to believe any woman that beautiful could be loyal.

Maybe this is his fault. He should have listened when she begged him to stop the download and go to the police, but now it no longer matters; the terabytes of stolen secrets stacked high in his closet are useless. Whoever owned the Antwerp server could have prosecuted him, but that would have created evidence for the FBI. Whoever he hacked has deep pockets and a murderous obsession with secrecy. If they tracked him home, they could stay on him until they succeed at killing him.

If the police arrest him, no one will look for the white-haired man. No one will believe him, because no one ever believes the foster kid, the troublemaker, the smart-mouth orphan, the flippant jack of flap. He needs to hide and get out of town. No, that won’t be enough. He needs to get out of the country, but he doesn’t have a passport. His pulse races, his head throbs, and his mind speeds through the scarce options while his eyes constantly check his rearview mirror for police.

Orphaned at age six by a murder-suicide that left him with traumatic amnesia, he spent what childhood he does remember on the Chicano gang–infested streets of the California Inland Empire—places like Pomona, Chino, and Fontana—passing through over a dozen foster homes and sixteen schools or juvenile halls before dropping out in the tenth grade. A murder rap would nail him for life, and he’s tired of being on the wrong side of screwed.

Derek also lost his parents at a young age. Neither of them had any extended family, but the two key differences between them were that Derek Anthony Taylor inherited an enormous trust fund and Cary would never stab his friend in the back. On the frantic, paranoid drive from Santa Monica to Venice, a rough plan of escape rumbles around in his head. Insane, brilliant, illegal, and deadly dangerous, the idea will either solve all his problems or land him in prison for life. A thin chance was better than no chance, and he has no other choice.

As the garage door of Derek’s custom-built beachfront home closes behind him, Cary races upstairs past the living room view of the boardwalk before dawn, past the bubbling custom wall aquarium up to the loft bedroom overlooking the Santa Monica Bay. Inside the large walk-in closet, he moves the cushioned wardrobe bench aside and lifts a hatch in the floor where Derek had installed a safe. It’s time to test both his friendship and his hacking skills. Many consider flapjack the best hacker of all time, but hacking a university or a bank and hacking the safe of a murdered friend seem different somehow—more personal, more invasive, and creepier.

His hands tremble as images of Bianca and flames flash over his vision until he closes his eyes to flush the thoughts. After several minutes, his breathing slows from hyperventilation to an even rhythmic pulse, and his vision goes blank. What numeric safe combo would Derek choose? Derek was smart but lazy, reusing the same usernames, combinations, and passwords. After several agonizing moments, Cary opens his eyes to punch in the birthdate of Derek’s deceased mother, Delores, 061639, the same as Derek’s locker combo at the gym and the code for his home security system. The safe opens.

Cary collects everything: bank accounts, trust statements, stock certificates, birth certificate, bonds, tax returns, a Rolex, a Breitling, a Beretta 9 mm, a gigantic pile of cash in several currencies, and a half-stamped passport. He’ll have everything else sold, packed, or shipped later. After expertly altering the passport photo with Photoshop and packing a small suitcase, he heads to LAX just as the sun rises, where he books the first nonstop to Cabo. A runaway since a teen, he’s used to being on the lookout; he endlessly scans the airport for police moving in his direction, listening through the deafening bustle for any alarm or call.

Once on board the first flight of his life, he sits in first class with his hand still trembling as he sips on a complimentary vodka tonic. As the adrenaline wears off, the heartbreak sinks in with a vicious, spiteful kick. His jaw clenches, forcing the tears to track silently and relentlessly down his cheeks, staining the steel-gray silk shirt he’d taken from Derek’s closet. His first love, whom he had mistaken for a true love, and his best friend, whom he mistook for loyal, died in each other’s arms because of his crimes. The bitterness of betrayal drenches over the shame of two undeserving deaths, scorching his soul like alcohol burning over an open wound. He can never allow love to destroy him again. Never.

Out of the cyclone of unanswerable questions, clashing furies, and self-rebuke, the horrific images continue to twist inside his head, devastating every hope he ever held in love or happiness, until he finds only one truth, one rock upon which he can rebuild: from this day forward, the entire world must believe that Cary Nolan and Bianca Troon perished together in a tragic gas explosion. The pathetic life of Cary Nolan must end so that he can assume the identity of Derek Taylor in order to track down the mysterious SLVIA and the murderous white-haired man.

***

Excerpt from Swarm by Guy Morris. Copyright 2022 by Guy Morris. Reproduced with permission from Guy Morris. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Guy Morris

Guy Morris is a published song writer for Disney Records, inventor, retired business leader, adventurer and author influenced by men of the Renaissance fluent in politics, religion and science. Traveling the world with Fortune 100 companies, adventures in Latin America and the Pacific, from the Board Room to the wreck dive, Guy’s books are written to thrill, educate and inspire thoughtful dialogue on real issues and controversies.

A 2021 debut author, Guy writes pulse-pounding action thrillers inspired by true stories and actual technologies, politics and history. Finalist 2021 IAN for Book of the Year for SWARM. BookTrib listed The Curse of Cortes as one of the Best 25 Books of 2021. ScreenCraft awarded The Curse of Cortes semi-finalist for Cinematic Book. Recommended by Kirkus Reviews with comparisons to Dan Brown and Iris Johansen. Articles published in Mystery & Suspense

Catch Up With Guy Morris:
www.GuyMorrisBooks.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @GuyMorrisBooks
Instagram - @authorguymorris
Twitter - @guymorrisbooks
Facebook - @OfficialGuyMorrisBooks

 

 

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Thursday, June 09, 2022

Gwen Mayo Guest Post: 1920s Food in Florida

In the 1920’s, Florida was trying to promote itself as the Sunshine State, and citrus as liquid sunshine. While northern states were blanketed in snow, Florida developers provided crates of oranges as snack food for prospective customers. Hotels had complimentary orange and grapefruit juice. Menus touted key lime pie, sour orange pie, orange and lemon cakes, and icy glasses of lemonade. Citrus was everywhere and seemed to be in most Florida recipes. Our intrepid snowbirds sampled a wide variety of citrus fruits on their journey. However, it is an entirely different Floridian food that takes center stage on this trip.

The Mullet Express is a train devoted to transporting large quantities of mullet, a fish that was a Florida staple in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Originally, the mullets were smoked to preserve them on their journey and packed into wooden barrels.

At the time of Murder on the Mullet Express, smoked mullet spread is still a favorite dish, one Professor Percival Pettijohn is eager to try on his first night in Homosassa. He and his companions, Cornelia Pettijohn and Teddy Lawless, share a plate of it with crackers as they dine under the stars at Riverside Lodge.

Dinner at the lodge is quite an event. The lodge caters to sportsmen, and diners have the option of having their catch prepared and served. For guests who are not hunters or fishermen, there is still plenty of local game, waterfowl, and seafood on the menu. The professor sticks with seafood, ordering the red snapper. Cornelia and Teddy opt for the roast duck with marmalade.  

Prohibition limits the beverages to lemonade or sweat tea, but Teddy manages to add a little of her “medicinal alcohol” to her glass. In fact, Teddy proves to be quite good at supplementing her supply of “medicine” with cocktails and a little spiked punch. As a result, most of her breakfasts consist of dry toast with a bag of ice on the side. At one point, she laments that she is a delicate flower, and Cornelia points out that she might not be as delicate if she didn’t get potted every night.

The portability of food is also important to the snowbirds. Many of Florida’s visitors in the early twentieth century were referred to as ‘Tin Can Tourists’ because of the canned food they heated over campfires. The Three Snowbirds don’t need to camp, but Teddy keeps a tin of Oreo cookies for snacking. Wrapped sandwiches also prove convenient for frequent trips to the jail after the professor is confined there. When supplies run short, there are roadside restaurants available, like the place offering frankfurters and fresh seafood (based on a photo I saw while researching the story). 


Gwen Mayo is passionate about blending the colorful history of her native Kentucky with her love for mystery fiction. She currently lives and writes in Safety Harbor, Florida, but grew up in a large Irish family in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. She is the author of the Nessa Donnelly Mysteries, set in Kentucky during the Decades of Discord, and the co-author of the Three Snowbirds series with Sarah Glenn.

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Now available: Heart of the Matter, Reggie Chronicle 2, by Lynda Rees

Lynda Rees, The Murder Guru, is a multi-genre author bringing you the best in romantic mystery and suspense. She’s also the Imagination Expander of Children, responsible for picture books and middle-grade mysteries. Lynda also shares expertise in non-fiction books. This free-spirited adventurer and world traveler has a diverse background that brings rare perspective to her writing.  Appalachian-born, daughter of a coal miner, Lynda is part Cherokee Indian. Her thriving, goal-oriented work ethic results workaholic tendencies. A love affair with books, mystery and American history stems from being immerged in the Mob’s reign in Northern Kentucky when the area prospered as a mecca for gambling and sin. 

Heart of the Matter, Reggie Chronicle 2 

By Multi-Award-Winning Author, Lynda Rees, The Murder Guru

FBI Agent Reggie Casse and fiancĂ©, U. S. Marshal Shea Montgomery, want a quiet but memorable wedding. Shea’s WITSEC witness, a corpse with a unique tattoo, a missing baby, and a kidnapping at their reception lead to an international ring selling items money shouldn’t be able to buy and a wedding no one can forget. Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum meets James Patterson’s Alex Cross in rural Kentucky racehorse country. 

Get your copy now! To help you catch up, there's a limited-time sale on Hart's Girls, Reggie Chronicle #1. Get it at this link.

Hart's Girls eBook by Lynda Rees - 1230004964384 | Rakuten Kobo United States 

The third book in the series launches in July, so you'll want to be up to speed with Reggie's story. 

Due to fan requests for FBI Agent Reggie Casse to have her own series and find a love interest, the Reggie Chronicles were born last year with Hart's Girls, Reggie Chronicle 1. Reggie's struggles and successes in life continue with the launch of Heart of the Matter, Reggie Chronicle 2, launching 6/1/22. It will be followed by Magnolia Blossoms, Reggie Chronicle 3, launching 7/1/22. eBooks and Print are available. They will launch in audiobook format near the end of this year, so stay tuned.

You can get Leah's Story, preamble to The Bloodline Series, FREE by becoming a VIP at:  https://preview.mailerlite.com/t1a6j6

For more information on the book and Lynda Rees, The Murder Guru, go to:

AMZ: https://amzn.to/3a5v13t

B&N: https://bit.ly/3t31cXP

KOBO-RAK: https://bit.ly/3PR4O9d

APPLE: http://books.apple.com/us/book/id1624153157

WEBSITE:  Books – Lynda Rees, Author (lyndareesauthor.com)

ALLAUTHOR:    https://allauthor.com/author/lyndarees/

BOOKBUB:   https://www.bookbub.com/profile/lynda-rees

GOODREADS:      https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17187400.Lynda_Rees  

YOUTUBE:   https://youtu.be/_y0bNTYSfxs

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Lynn Hesse: The Forty Knots Burn - an excerpt

Lynn Hesse won the 2015 First Place Winner, Oak Tree Press, Cop Tales, for her mystery, Well of Rage, a crime novel about a female rookie cop accused of mishandling evidence by her white-supremacist training officer, then tasked with solving the cold case murder of an African American teenager. Her second novel, Another Kind of Hero, was a finalist for the 2018 Silver Falchion Award and won the International Readers’ Chill Award in 2021. The mystery unfolds when a casket full of drugs and money found in the Pick’n Pay in Forsyth, Georgia, put two contentious sisters and an undercover DEA agent in jeopardy.

Her 2022 suspense release, The Forty Knots Burn, is based on the turmoil created by a maintenance man coming into the women’s dressing room at the author’s local wellness center and is fueled by Hesse’s intense desire to help the underdog or the outcast as exemplified by her dandelion performance persona. Her recurring interest in flamenco dance sparked her intense research in Roma culture.

A retired police lieutenant, Hesse draws from her experiences on the force to create gripping plot twists and multi-dimensional characters. She enjoys a daily yoga practice, and as an accomplished dancer she performs with several dance and theatrical troupes in Atlanta, Georgia.


The Forty Knots Burn: A con artist trio are stuck in Atlanta without funds when the oldest member has a heart attack and suddenly dies. Clara Shannesy Blythe and her adopted Uncle Roman are crushed at their mentor's death, but she must take over the reins of a cutthroat crew and pull off the risky art heist of an Edward Hopper painting. She falls in love for the first time at twenty-seven and realizes too late Hernando is the Hopper painting's forger and his brother is the man trying to kill her.

Excerpt: 

Following the judgmental locker queen for a while after work sounded like a fun idea. Because of information afforded by Sadye Mitchell’s nametag and the whiteboard in the office — the preoccupied director had left the door open the last time I worked out — I knew Sadye’s workday ended in about an hour, barely enough time to drive our rental car across town and wait. Roman wouldn’t want to leave Victor, but I would tell him a half-truth, that I was smitten and was vetting a man as a possible suitor. Relaying the details to Roman in a way that suggested the spry Sadye might be Hernando’s mother and not insult my adopted uncle’s common sense would be a challenge, but he would say nothing. He loved me, and we, the tribe of only three, rarely made friends or paramours on our layovers.

I hadn’t had a real lover in several years because the background checks were a headache, but I indulged in anonymous one-night stands with Roman as my bodyguard waiting in the wings in case anything went sour. According to Roman, as is the Roma custom, everyone, especially women, should be married. The fact that none of us pretended to be celibate or have any interest in marriage didn’t seem to sway his opinion.

Roman sat with his back to the entrance in the cafeteria, eating a double portion of chili and beans heaped over spaghetti. After I sat down he studied my body language. He saw that I caught on to what he was doing, stood, and grabbed an extra napkin from a nearby counter.

When he returned, I said, “I’m fine, Roman. Really, I am. Victor will be better soon, and we can move on.”

“Okay, but you seem antsy pants.” He shrugged his wide Russian shoulders. “Nervous. Five months is long time. The longest we ever stay in one place since—”

“London, when Victor’s mother died. You are perceptive. This time it’s another delicate matter making me restless. There’s a guy from the center where I swim. I need … I mean I want to check him out.” I intentionally looked down at the table and hesitated before I continued. “He works at the gym.”

“What does he do, this Romeo?”

“That’s it. He doesn’t know I like him. He and his mom work in housekeeping or maybe maintenance at the gym.” I realized how easily I’d lied and tied Hernando to Sadye to eliminate the necessity of explaining why I yearned to pay back this horrible woman for insulting me and hitting Hernando. I babbled on. “I’ve even got her phone number from the community board where she posted a housekeeper-available ad with her photo.”

“Victor won’t like this man for you. Not a good idea.”

“I am a big girl. Besides, we won’t be here much longer.” I locked gazes with Roman. “He seems like a nice guy. Very polite and kind of shy. Do you realize how long it has been since I went on a date? Uncle Rom, I could do it myself, but—”

“Jobs require two of us. We agreed is safer.” He placed both hands on the edge of the table and squinted before he picked up his fork and waved it around. “You are twenty-seven?”

He knew my age, but I went along with the game and nodded.

“For many years I watch you. No romance. Not healthy. You need to settle down, but not with this gadje. Rom with Rom andgadje with gadje.”

I tried to object about using a slang term for non-Roma people, but my uncle held up a palm, stopping me. He took another bite of food, chewed, and swallowed before he answered. “Okay, I agree. But only while Victor’s sick. Won’t hurt anyone to watch this nice guy and his family to gain their favor. Outsiders have their uses for Romas.” He rubbed his fingertips together, indicating outsiders had cash, and then added, “So you talk to boss and tell him about your … janitor.”

“You got it.” I leaned across the table and touched his hairy forearm. “You’re the best. Better than best.” 

“You still my Tinkerbelle?”

Grinning at him and feeling like the flighty, shrieking adolescent I was when Roman first met me, and later took me to see the Disney movie Peter Pan, I said, “You bet.” He’d coined my pet name after commenting on how short I was and my inability to sit still, and then compared me to Disney’s flying fairy, Tinkerbelle or Tink.

He patted my hand and pushed his plate away. “When do we start this checking out guy?”

“We should’ve left already. Remind me to undo a curse just in case it took.”

Roman shook a finger at me. “Bad girl.”

“Come on,” I said. “His mother’s shift ends at five o’clock.” 


Learn more about Lynn Hesse at: 

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Interview: Kerry L. Peresta, author of The Rising

Kerry Peresta’s publishing credits include a popular newspaper column, “The Lighter Side,” (2009—2011), and magazine articles in Local Life MagazineThe Bluffton BreezeLady 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. 

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

I didn’t realize I wanted to become a writer until I started dating a man seventeen years ago that was a multi-published author of a suspense series. Our relationship did not move forward, but we became good friends. While we were together, I was entranced by the fact that he was an author. I wanted to know everything about it. It was a world unknown to me, but it drew me. Called out to me. I started thinking about what life was like over the past twenty, thirty years…I’d been in the advertising business as a designer and artist, account executive and copywriter. I’d loved the artistic aspect of it, but I was crazy about writing copy. It was so easy for me, and I loved crafting pictures with words. Funny, I didn’t even think of becoming an author at that time. Later, when my kids were grown, and I had time to breathe, I remembered how good it felt to write and how easy it had always been for me. The first thing I remember having published was a letter to the editor in 2009. And from that humble beginning, I was hooked.

What inspired you to create a character like Olivia Callahan and develop her quest for her past?

At an author event in 2013 for ‘The Hunting’, one of the other authors attracted most of the book buyers to her table while the rest of us just looked at each other. Finally, I had to find out what was so fascinating about this woman. She told me that she’d been in a car wreck a few years back, had fallen into a coma, and was unexpected to survive. After a year, she woke up! With a significant difference…her injury and the coma trauma had completely rewired her brain. Instead of shy and passive, her recovering neural pathways had changed her into a socially fluent, aggressive, confident woman. Which, of course, is attractive to people. I walked back to my table, thoughts spinning. All I could think about was what a great character that would make. I wrote the book…it took me three years or so to find a publisher, and now I’m on Book Three in the series. People love this character! And her journey is ever-changing.

What kind of research did you do to describe the results of real brain injury? 

I read several real-life accounts of TBI recovery, learned about resultant aphasia and speech issues and memory issues, depending on the part of the brain that had been injured. I read neurological studies, observed videos of TBI patients in recovery, in physical therapy. It was exciting – or a little sad – to realize that a victim of TBI will not have a recovery timeline or a particularly specific outlook. The brain is so incredible that it can repair itself in thousands of intricate ways. If one pathway is compromised, it will create a new pathway. Sometimes the patient is severely compromised and sometimes something incredible happens, as in Olivia’s case. It is widely understood in the medical community that the brain is so complex, the long-term effects of a TBI are unknown and only time will reveal the answer. In Olivia’s case, she is still suffering brain blips and deficits that are interfering with her determination to build a career, but she is overcoming her deficits admirably. There is, however, still an ‘unknown’ hanging over her…and she is not quite sure yet if her ever-evolving brain will land somewhere and be predictable.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Great question! By the time I was convinced to do a series, I’d had a lot of instruction and had been exposed to awesome mentors that helped me define what genre I needed to write. It changed my process in that it is now much more specific. At the time I wrote my first book, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write women’s fiction, or suspense or crime thrillers. I just knew I really, REALLY, loved Law & Order, Criminal Minds, Chicago PD, etc. I also loved navigating the thorny issues of a flawed protagonist. My agent at that time helped me navigate the path to making THE DEADENING, Book One; fit into the suspense genre. This included holding off the suspense and inserting the big reveal at the end, making each chapter – or most of them – end on a cliff-hanger situation that made sure the reader kept turning pages. Also, to lay off the frilly descriptions of location and rooms and things and ramp up the action. Race through the dialogue. In my books now, I strive for a fast pace, dialogue that doesn’t bog down with too many metaphors or descriptions, and a satisfying, dizzying conclusion. I think every writer would say that each book they write makes them a better writer, because they learn more about it.

Okay, so you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?

I enjoy psychological suspense the most, but I also read crime thrillers and medical thrillers. THE SILENT PATIENT by Alex Michaelides, is probably at the top of my ‘best books ever read’ list right now. I also love medical thrillers, and Tess Gerritsen is a master. The Brits are absolutely brilliant at suspense, and one I am enjoying right now is Louise Jensen. Her books are thrilling. Also, I’ve read about every book Lee Child has written, and of course, Sue Grafton was my go-to back when she first started and I’ve read almost all of those as well. There are certainly endearing traits inspired by Kinsey Milhone in my current protagonist, Olivia.

Thank you so much for talking to me!

Learn more about The Rising below, and read an excerpt from the book!

The Rising by Kerry L Peresta Banner

The Rising

by Kerry L Peresta

May 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Rising by Kerry L 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.

Book Details:

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
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

“How low you fall points to how high you’ll rise.”
~Matshona Dhliwayo

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.”

CHAPTER ONE

“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.

***

Excerpt from The Rising by Kerry L Peresta. Copyright 2022 by Kerry L Peresta. Reproduced with permission from Kerry L Peresta. All rights reserved.

 

Kerry L Peresta


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Twitter - @kerryperesta
Facebook - @klperesta

 

 

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Thursday, April 21, 2022

Doing Research: the Tampa Bay Hotel

When Gwen Mayo and I work on the latest Three Snowbirds novel, we try to visit the sites that the ladies visit. Our next book, Ybor City Blues, is set in Tampa and Ybor City (Ybor City is part of Tampa now, but was a separate town in the 1920s).  

During their time in Tampa, Professor Pettijohn, Cornelia, and Teddy will be staying in the Tampa Bay Hotel, opened by rail baron Henry B. Plant in 1891. 


This hotel was one of eight built by Henry Plant along his rail lines to promote tourism. It had over five hundred rooms and was the place to be during the Gilded Age. Guests could enjoy the golf course, casino, stables, indoor heated swimming pool, and even a race track situated on the grounds. It even had its own flag!


Naturally, we paid special attention to the details of the guest and dining rooms, since our characters will be seeing a lot of them. 

A comfy place to sleep.

Table setting from the original dining room.
The hotel had its own silverware and dishes.

For entertainment on Sunday, Col. Harold B. Bachman's "Million-Dollar Band" provided music for the guests in the bandshell at Plant Park. They performed at the Park during the 1925-1927 winter seasons, often attracting crowds in the thousands. We plan to have some fun in this setting.

Why yes, that IS a cutout of Bachman!

I'm afraid that by the time of our book, the hotel was in its last decade of service. The family sold the hotel to the city of Tampa in 1905, a few years after Henry Plant died, and the city closed the hotel in 1930. The Tampa Bay Junior College moved into the space, but part of the hotel reopened as a museum in 1933, which is still open for touring. The rest of the hotel houses offices for the University of Tampa.

You can learn more about the Tampa Bay Hotel from Gwen Mayo's post, The Magic Kingdom of Henry Plant.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Murder, Sweet Murder by by Eleanor Kuhns

Murder, Sweet Murder by Eleanor Kuhns Banner

Murder, Sweet Murder

by Eleanor Kuhns

April 11 - May 6, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Murder, Sweet Murder by Eleanor Kuhns

Will Rees accompanies his wife to Boston to help clear her estranged father's name in this gripping mystery set in the early nineteenth century.

January, 1801. When Lydia's estranged father is accused of murder, Will Rees escorts her to Boston to uncover the truth. Marcus Farrell is believed to have murdered one of his workers, a boy from Jamaica where he owns a plantation. Marcus swears he's innocent. However, a scandal has been aroused by his refusal to answer questions and accusations he bribed officials.

As Will and Lydia investigate, Marcus's brother, Julian, is shot and killed. This time, all fingers point towards James Farrell, Lydia's brother. Is someone targeting the family? Were the family quarreling over the family businesses and someone lashed out? What's Marcus hiding and why won't he accept help?

With the Farrell family falling apart and their reputation in tatters, Will and Lydia must solve the murders soon. But will they succeed before the murderer strikes again?

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Severn House Publishers
Publication Date: February 1st 2022
Number of Pages: 224
ISBN: 0727850091 (ISBN13: 9780727850096)
Series: Will Rees Mysteries #11
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

After regarding Rees for several seconds, Mr Farrell extended his hand. Rees grasped it, painfully conscious of his rough hand, calloused by both farm work and weaving. ‘Please attend me in my office,’ Mr Farrell said. ‘We are expecting a few guests for dinner tonight so we will have little time to talk then.’ Turning, he strode away. Rees started to follow but, realizing that Lydia was not by his side, he turned back. She stood hesitantly by the table, her hands tightly clenched together. Rees glared at Mr Farrell’s back and then, reaching out, he pulled one of her hands through his elbow. Together they followed her father into his office.

As Farrell moved a stack of papers from the center of the desk to one side, Rees looked around. A large globe on a stand stood to the right of Farrell’s desk and one chair had been drawn up to the front. A seating area, with additional chairs, were arranged by the window that looked out upon the front garden. A table in the center held an intricately carved tray with a crystal decanter and several glasses. Shelves of books lined the wall behind and adjacent to the desk, on Rees’s right.

The room was chilly although the fire was burning. Newly laid, it had been lighted, no doubt by some anonymous servant.

Farrell looked up and his eyes rested on Lydia in surprise. Rees felt his wife shrink back, intimidated. He was not going to stand for that. He pulled a chair from the window grouping and placed it in front of the desk. She hesitated for a few seconds and then, lifting her chin defiantly, she sat down. Once she was seated, Rees lowered himself into the opposite chair. After one final dismissive glance at his daughter, Farrell looked at Rees.

‘So, you are a weaver.’

‘That is so,’ Rees said, adding politely, ‘I understand you are a merchant.’

Farrell smiled. ‘I see your wife has told you very little about me or my profession.’ Since responding in the affirmative seemed somehow disloyal to Lydia, Rees said nothing.

Farrell took a box from his desk drawer and opened it to extract a cigar. ‘Would you like a smoke?’

‘No thank you,’ Rees said.

‘Or a glass of rum? Or whiskey if that is your tipple.’ When Rees declined again, Farrell put away the cigars and walked to the fireplace to light a splint. The end of the cigar glowed red and the acrid scent of burning tobacco filled the room. Puffing, Farrell returned to his seat. ‘I suppose one could say I was a merchant. But I do so much more. I own a plantation as well as a fleet of ships that sail between Boston, the West Indies and Africa. In Jamaica they take on sugar and molasses which are returned to Boston. Some of it is transformed into rum in my distillery. I export the liquor overseas, both to England and to Africa where the proceeds are used to purchase slaves.’

Sick to his stomach, Rees glanced at Lydia. She was staring at her hands, her face flaming with shame. Although she had alluded to her father’s profession, she had not told him the half of it. She had not told him of her father’s pride in it. Rees understood why she hadn’t.

‘Most of the slaves are brought to the sugar plantation,’ Farrell continued, seemingly oblivious to his daughter’s distress, ‘but some are sold in the Southern states. And you needn’t look so shocked. Why that upstart Republican with his radical ideas, Mr Jefferson, owns slaves. And he may be the next President. I suppose you voted for him.’

Rees did not respond immediately. Although many of Mr Jefferson’s ideas were appealing, Rees had found in the end that he could not vote for a slave holder. Instead, he had voted for Mr Adams. But that gentleman had not placed; the election was a tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Sent to the House for resolution, Jefferson had won by one vote.’ No,’ Rees said carefully, keeping his voice level with an effort, ‘I voted for his opponent.’

‘Well, that makes us kin then. Although you will meet a few slaves here in Boston, in this very house.’ He grinned and Rees thought of Morris and Bridget with their tinted skin. ‘But few, very few. Neither the Africans nor the Spanish Indians adapt well to this northern climate and they quickly die.’ This was said with indifference as though he spoke of a broken chair.

Farrell flicked a glance at his daughter and smiled. With a surge of anger, Rees realized that Farrell fully understood the effect his speech would have on her and was enjoying her misery. Rees gathered himself to rise from his chair. Lydia reached out and grasped his sleeve.

‘This is for Cordy,’ she whispered. Rees sat down again, his body stiff.

‘But you did not come to listen to me natter on about my profession,’ Farrell said, watching the byplay with interest. ‘Shall we discuss that ridiculous murder, the one of which I am accused?’

Rees looked into Lydia’s beseeching eyes and after a few seconds he relaxed into his seat. God forgive him, a part of him hoped Marcus Farrell was guilty.

‘Go on,’ Rees said coldly. Marcus smiled.

‘Permit me to save you both time and effort,’ he said. ‘I did not kill that boy.’

‘Then why do people think you did?’ Rees asked. Puffing furiously, and clearly unwilling to reply, Farrell took a turn around the room.

‘Did you know him?’ Lydia asked, her voice low and clear. ‘This Roark?’

Farrell stood up so abruptly his chair almost tipped over. ‘Yes, I knew him.’ He glanced at Rees. ‘We were seen, Roark and I, arguing down at Long Wharf.’

‘Arguing about what?’ Rees asked.

‘It is not important. He was a nobody.’ Farrell glared at Rees, daring him to persist. Rees waited, never removing his gaze from the other man. Sometimes silence made the best hammer. Finally, Farrell said angrily, ‘He wanted a rise in his wages. I said no. He disagreed. That was all there was to it.’

Rees glanced at Lydia and found her staring at him. He knew, and he suspected she did too, that her father had just lied to them.

***

Excerpt from Murder, Sweet Murder by Eleanor Kuhns. Copyright 2021 by Eleanor Kuhns. Reproduced with permission from Eleanor Kuhns. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Eleanor Kuhns

Eleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur first mystery novel. Murder, Sweet Murder is the eleventh mystery following the adventures of Rees and his wife. She transitioned to full time writing last year after a successful career spent in library service. Eleanor lives in upstate New York with her husband and dog.

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www.Eleanor-Kuhns.com
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Twitter - @EleanorKuhns
Facebook - @writerkuhns

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