"Terrific" - SERPENT RISING by Victor Acquista - Interview + Excerpt
"...a fascinating blend of mystery, thriller and the supernatural. A richly drawn cast of engaging and sympathetic characters transport the reader into an intriguing and rewarding journey." —Gary Morgenstein, author of A Mound Over Hell
Serena Mendez is haunted and she is hunted...
... Haunted by trauma—terrified and scarred as a young child, when a secret initiation into an ancient order of Lightbringers went horribly wrong. Unaware of the power latent in her blood, she is haunted by a life out of sync with her true identity. At twenty-one, she is abrasive, jobless, in debt, and addicted to sedatives. Haunted by her past, she knows nothing of her destiny.
... Hunted by an enemy—ruthless and powerful, a Brotherhood that has been pitted against the Luminarian Sects for thousands of years. An ancient struggle continues—The War of the Two Serpents—a saga extending back to the dawn of civilization, to the time of the second breaking, when the elite sought dominion over the masses. Those serving truth and light opposed these dark forces. In return they were persecuted, burned as witches, suppressed and nearly defeated by the powers of darkness.
But the flame was not extinguished.
An old Navajo dream-walker had a plan to open the seven chakras mystically binding Serena’s power. To fulfill her true destiny, to unleash the latent power within her blood, Serena journeys to six continents where she uncovers the truth of who she is, and what she must do.
A warrior stirs, a Lightbringer. She is Serena Mendez. She is awakening. She is a Candelaria…
Serpent Rising is a story of unfulfilled destiny, discovery, transformation, and courage to embrace the truth.
“Author Victor Acquista has opened a pandora’s box of adventure in his new breath-taking thriller, Serpent Rising. I was swept away from the first page in this wonder-filled, mystical, and compelling novel. Cleverly plotted with a female protagonist, Serena Mendez, that is truly original in ancestry, yet very 21st century-real, with personal problems that she manages to set aside to pursue the very truth of her being. We join her in this a non-stop rush that mixes equal parts of history, myth, and lore that I didn’t want to ever end! I’m already looking forward to more of Serena again and again. Acquista is the obvious heir apparent to the globe-trotting, can’t-be-put-down-novels such as The DaVinci Code and The House Of Secrets. Move over Dan Brown and Brad Meltzer, you have deserving company at your table with Serpent Rising!” —Patrick Kendrick, award-winning author of American Ripper: The Enigma Of America’s Serial Killer Cop.
Enjoy an Excerpt from
Impact…crash…darkness. The bedside table lamp and shattered light bulb lay on the floor, but Serena remained unmoved, without will or inclination to clean up the mess. She stared at the ceiling of her tiny efficiency apartment, lit solely by the eerie neon-green from the alarm clock’s LED. The glass fragments glittered, taunting her to get out of bed. Instead, she pondered the much larger mess of her life. She lay still, in a familiar paralysis of apathy. Somehow, a glimmer of hope broke through her complacence; she reached over and forced herself to set the alarm. Tomorrow she had another job interview. Desperation crowded out the apathy. Constricted by overwhelming inner and outer darkness, Serena’s breath became shallow. Her dry mouth and mounting anxiety muted her scream at life’s injustice into a muffled croak. Tomorrow would come…nothing would change.
Survival. A day without struggle followed by a night of peaceful rest—why did achieving this seem so elusive? Agitated, she threw the bedcovers aside. How much longer could this torture go on? Awake and staring overhead, she felt every bit as broken as the glass shards. Her light within had all but extinguished itself, not unlike the fragile bulb. Could tomorrow be her first step out from the deep dark hole that hollowed her insides? Tomorrow she had another job interview. She double-checked the alarm setting. Serena’s fingertips ached as she desperately clung to the possibility of change.
Reaching into her bedside drawer, she randomly pulled out some meds and dry-swallowed two pills. Serena didn’t look to check what they were; she kept four or five different sleep meds stashed there. Not that it mattered. None of them worked. Serena needed to speak to Dr. Jenkins about that. Sleep did not come easily to the twenty-one-year-old woman afflicted with anxiety, plagued by PTSD, her life in shambles.
Sometimes it seemed better to stay awake. Steadily worsening vivid nightmares had been infiltrating her dreams. She tossed and turned, trying to stave off the inevitable, trying to deceive herself that tonight the meds would work. Ensnared between apathy and hope, Serena nestled into a crevice of momentary comfort. Her breathing slowed; the cadence of soft snores interrupted the green stillness.
It felt cold in the cave. Even lying on the sleeping rug, the rock floor was hard. She shivered, more from fear than the cold. Why did her great aunt, her shibízhí, insist she sleep here alone tonight? She remembered her shibízhí saying with no moon the cave would be black. Serena blinked, but it didn’t matter whether her eyes were open or closed; she couldn’t tell the difference. Repeating and following her aunt’s instructions, she crawled to the edge of the pool then stood up to her knees in the still water. Keep your eyes open. Keep your eyes open. Her shibízhí had said that was the most important thing, not to close her eyes. But she couldn’t see anything. She wanted to be brave; she didn’t want to disappoint her shibízhí, but she was scared. It was so dark.
That’s when she saw something. It was just a blur, a smudge of light. Something glowed and slowly took shape—long and curved, it moved toward her. Immersed in blackness, water up to her knees, the creature moved closer. Wavelets rippled against her small trembling body. What was it? The creature glowed with the shape-shifting form of something. She strained her eyes. It looked like a… “No!” she screamed, shutting her eyes and not daring to move. “Shibízhí, shibízhí, help me!” There was no response, and then it touched her skin, curling around her leg.
Serena bolted up, heart pounding and sweating as she reached to turn on the bedside table lamp, but the broken light with its shattered bulb still lay on the floor. Partly yelling, partly sobbing, “Damn dream! Goddamned dream! Goddamned aunt! Eleven years and you still haunt me!”
She steadied herself by taking two more pills. Wide awake, lying in near total darkness and still terrified, she tried to fall back to sleep. Jaws clenched tight, trying in vain to stop her teeth from chattering; she shivered, gooseflesh covering her arms held close against her chest. It touched me. It touched me. That’s never happened before…
Excerpt Copyright © Victor Acquista. Shared with permission for blog tour.
In the author's words . . .
Q&A with Victor Acquista
What makes Serpent Rising special or unique to you? Can you give us a little story behind the story?
For me, incorporating social messaging is an important element in creating fictional stories and characters. I want to expose some aspect of the human condition and have readers engage in thought provoking ways while still enjoying an entertaining story with memorable characters.
Humanity has difficulty distinguishing truth from falsehood; this leaves people vulnerable to propaganda and other mind control techniques. I wondered about why this reality characterizes the human condition. Although fake news and media spin are very much in the news lately, I realized that the battle between truth and falsehood has been present throughout human history. This led to my conceptualization of the great War of the Two Serpents.
In this fictionalized battle, the forces attempting to control information and keep the masses of humanity in the dark have largely been victorious against the opposing factions that want information to be freely available. In a sense, this is also a battle between light and dark.
I wanted the main character to be a champion for truth, and I wanted a female character to further characterize this War of the Two Serpents as also a battle between opposing masculine and feminine aspects of humanity. Readers familiar with suppression of the divine feminine will understand why I wanted a woman as my champion for truth.
Mythology and esoteric teachings are areas of personal interest. Blending these with the social theme I wanted to explore, and the protagonist I envisioned, all provided the ingredients for a rich and detailed narrative.
Tell as a little about what makes your main characters tick.
Serena Mendez is a deeply flawed protagonist. She experienced a traumatic event in her childhood that led to PTSD. This event was actually a botched initiation into an order of Luminarians. When readers are first introduced to her, Serena’s childhood trauma acts as the backdrop for her dysfunction and accounts for some of her snarkiness. But it’s her excuse to run away from her destiny.
In truth, she has genes tracing back to the Candelaria sect of truth warriors and Luminarians. They carry the flame of truth to dispel darkness and battle against the venomous lies of the enemy. This explains the series title, The Saga of Venom and Flame. But Serena is unaware of her role in this War of the Two Serpents. Until she recognizes and embraces her destiny, she will remain dysfunctional.
Serena’s journey is one of discovery and transformation to eventually become a fully realized Candelaria. Although she is a reluctant heroine, she finds the courage to venture into the unknown on a quest to complete her training.
All the time she is supported and encouraged by her friend, Bryson Reynolds. He is a genius with a photographic memory as well as a geeky hacker and expert in cyber security. Bryson has an interesting backstory including the mysterious death of his parents and their apparent involvement with the Illuminati. He is trying to understand how his father and his uncle are wrapped up in an apparent conspiracy and how Bryson’s story intersects with Serena’s.
What type of hero do you like best?
I’m partial to flawed heroes and heroines and I want them to have interesting backstories that account for the character flaws. I think perfect characters who have no flaws or weaknesses are boring. I find a character arc that includes confronting and/or overcoming their flaws to be appealing.
Superman is boring even with his weakness to kryptonite. His bigger “weakness” is the conflict that is wrapped into his feelings towards Lois Lane. On top of this, he works to conceal his identity. He also has a soft spot for protecting innocent people. These character traits and how he wrestles with them are what make him interesting.
I can’t talk about heroes without talking about villains. I like villains who have characteristics that people can relate to and the villains also need good backstories to explain why they are the way they are. The villains must also be reasonably matched or even somehow superior to the hero. Superman vs. ordinary bank robbers is not interesting, but battling criminal mastermind Lex Luther he is matched against a worthy opponent.
In addition to a flawed hero that is interesting. The hero/heroine needs to be relatable. I want to be able to relate to the challenges and trials they are faced with. I want to route for their success but also feel their pain along the way.
Are there particular themes or motifs wrestle with or address in your book?
As mentioned previously, the main theme has to do with truth/falsehood and our collective vulnerability to mind control and manipulation. A secondary theme embedded into the novel relates to realizing one’s full potential in spite of being damaged. Yes, Serena Mendez is a flawed heroine, but she is capable of extraordinary accomplishments. In life, we are all the heroes and heroines of our own stories, our own personal narratives. How can we each maximize our full potential? This is something I want readers to ponder as they join Serena on her Circle training and quest. Perhaps readers will feel inspired by Serena as they travel with her on a journey of self-discovery.
I believe in extended human capacities and want to encourage readers to be all that they are. My mother used to remind her seven children that, “A man’s reach must be further than his grasp.” I would like readers to believe their reach is much, much further than they realize. In Serpent Rising I introduce concepts related to DNA, chakra openings, kundalini, and esoteric teachings. It’s my hope that some readers will explore these concepts further, especially with respect to uncovering their full potential. Finally, I hope readers will be motivated to be truth seekers and Lightbringers in their own lives.
What else have you written?
I write cross-genre in both nonfiction and fiction. I’ve written two self-help books themed around health, wellness, and wellbeing: Pathways to Health—An Integral Guidebook and Health Wise–Integral Lessons in Transformation. These relate to my background as a primary care internist and my deep interest in Integral theory. Both books are easy reads and incorporate many holistic principles and practices. They both contain spiritual elements as I believe at our core we are spiritual beings. To exclude spirituality from discussions about health and wellbeing seems to me to be a serious oversight.
I’ve authored a science fiction novel Sentient. This novel is about two highly advanced telepathic species with very different social structures. One is highly competitive and uses telepathy to gain individual advantage, the other is structured as a collective consciousness. When they collide, it results in near total genocide of one race. Their struggle to survive and how this relates to humanity’s evolution are all important story elements.
The second novel in The Saga of Venom and Flame, titled Revelation, is set for release in 2021. This is the continuation of Serpent Rising and follows the efforts of Serena and Bryson to prevent the Illuminati from establishing a New World Order.
I have five published short stories, three are in anthologies and two are stand alone. Finally, I recently completed the manuscript for a satire.
Victor Acquista has become an international author and speaker following his careers as a primary-care physician and medical executive. He is known for "Writing to Raise Consciousness." His multi-genre works include fiction and nonfiction and often incorporate social messaging to engage readers in thought-provoking themes.
He is a member of the Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America, the Florida Writers Association, Writers Co-op, and is a Knight of the Sci-Fi Roundtable.
When not pondering the big questions in life and what’s for dinner, he enjoys gardening and cooking. He lives with his wife and dog in Ave Maria, Florida.
Visit him at victoracquista.com.
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Title: Serpent Rising
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller/Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: BHC Press
Content Rating: PG
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