WHERE THE RIVER SPLITS by JEFFREY PENN PAY (suspense/thriller/emtional drama)






PUBLISHER: Libros International


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David and Susan go on a canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness as a last ditch effort to save their troubled marriage. But when their canoe capsizes – leaving the couple stranded on opposite sides of the river – they each believe that the other is dead.  David soon discovers that his wife has survived, and satisfied that she is okay, decides not to reveal himself to her and instead takes this as a chance to start over so he begins a new life in the Wyoming mountains. Meanwhile Susan returns to St. Louis to cope with the loss of her husband.  But can anyone really start over?


“The journey to the end of the novel is never boring. The scenes set in rural Wyoming feature the geography as much as the characters. Locales in Canada and Mexico also figure into the plot… keeps coming back to St. Louis, which should add to its appeal.”– Steve Weinberg, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“As an experienced broadcast producer, I think this book would make an excellent movie script!”– Dan Dillion, KMOV

“A solidly written and well-structured thriller. That’s no small achievement”– John Dalton, Heaven Lake: A Novel Winner of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award

“Carries you effortlessly to the climax”– Robin Theiss, past president of the St. Louis Writers Guild and STLBooks owner.

“Through alternating points of view, the reader follows David and Susan as they face grief, surprise, betrayal and tough choices, culminating in a satisfying ending” – Denise Pattiz Bogard, St. Louis Writers Workshop

READ AN EXCERPT: http://tinyurl.com/68tfs3z


Jeffrey Penn May has won several short fiction awards. His story “The Wells Creek Route” received a Pushcart Prize nomination, and his novel Where the River Splits, an excellent review in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Merging his outdoor interests with his writing, Jeff has published mountain climbing articles, short stories and poems. He has also written education articles and technical writing guides. His work has appeared in the US, UK, and Canada. He wrote and performed a short story for Washington University Radio and was a consultant to a St. Louis theatre company.

After earning his a B.A. in English and Psychology, a Masters in Secondary Education, and a Writer’s Certificate from the University of Missouri, Jeff worked as a waiter, hotel security officer, credit manager, deck hand, technical data engineer, creative writing instructor, and English teacher. He was the principal of a small alternative school where he organized a fund-raising, climbing expedition and appeared in television and radio spotlights.

Born at Fort Ord near Monterey, California, and raised in St. Louis, Jeff comes from a family of all boys and has always been compelled to explore the outdoors, leading to many questionable “vacations.” His adventures include, but are not limited to the following: floated a home-built wood and barrel raft from St. Louis to Memphis, navigated a John boat to New Orleans, drove an old Volkswagen alone 8000 miles around the west, spent a month in a dirt floor shack in west-central Mexico digging for Pre-Colombian artifacts, climbed mountains from Alaska to South America, and spent several days in the Amazon jungle. Jeff teaches writing and fly-fishing and so far, he has survived more than twenty years of marriage and two teenagers.




Author site – AskWriteFish.com


They splashed through the water. She jumped in, the canoe tilting. He pushed off, slid in carefully, and they glided smoothly on the black water. They paddled away from the acrid-smelling blaze, into the cold air on the river. Their campsite receded quickly behind them, consumed by flames lapping along the bank, even the water “burning,” reflecting yellow-red. The river curved back near the fire and a tree fell just behind them, spitting steam, the heat choking them. Susan coughed. He tied a bandanna over his mouth and nose. Their clothes, drenched with perspiration, stuck to their skin. Orange embers floated, borne by the wind, and followed them, as the current pulled them through the bend and down river away from the sooty pall into open, cool air.

Moonlit mist lingered over dead pools, casting a ghostly aura over the river. As they glided swiftly toward huge boulders rising out of the mist, David heard the roaring of white water. He looked to the bow, Susan hunched over, gripping her paddle. As the river lifted them into the luminous white rapids, he shouted, “Left side. Left! Now right.” He tried looking ahead but couldn’t see. They rammed into a boulder, spun around, and shot backwards into a chute, David paddling furiously, guiding them through stern-first. She screamed, hands clutching the canoe and her paddle pressed uselessly across her legs. Working hard, he turned them around, maneuvering in preparation for the next rapids. He knelt on the seat but could only see his wife’s back.

“God damn it,” he yelled over the water crashing into rock. “Don’t just sit there.” At least make a suggestion, he thought as his mind raced, which way?

“And do what?” she yelled.

“I don’t care. Paddle!”

The current gripped them and pulled them past a boulder; the canoe turned sideways, the aluminum frame scraping against rock. Susan screamed, “Watch out!” She paddled frantically. They slammed into rock and tilted, the current pounding against the canoe, foam surging to its rim and held there for a moment before dark water poured in. The canoe went under, sucked down by the current, and they were in the river.

Trying to keep his head above water and his feet pointing downstream, he went under, hit something and came up choking and spitting, bobbing. Cold currents dragged him under again and again, as if something were grabbing at his ankles. No, he thought, no, and each time he clawed his way back to the surface, gasping.

Finally, the rapids fanned out into the smooth surface of a large pool and he floated easily in the swirling water. “Susan!” he called but heard nothing in return. Her name echoed in his head, Susan, and he felt sick, his stomach knotting. I need to find her, he thought, twisting his head around, looking for her in the slow, swirling current. Was she on shore, he thought, why doesn’t she answer? The water felt smooth, almost caressing, and for a moment, he imagined that he and his wife were playing, swimming together. All he had to do was find her and touch her in the cleansing water, then everything would be okay. But his teeth started chattering, and he was miserably cold, aching to the bone. Move, he thought, must move now. He swam, not sure which way he was going, knowing only that he had to get out of the river. He swam into black shadows from the forest, then stumbled onto the wooded bank.

David’s head throbbed as he touched the bridge of his nose, the skin loose around a jagged gash, the blood sticky. He used his right hand to steady himself against a tree, but when he applied pressure, his wrist buckled, pain shooting to his fingertips. Holding the hand up close to his face, he could see two fingers protruding unnaturally, pale and crooked in the moonlight. “Damn,” he muttered, then tried to reassure himself, okay, it’s not that bad. Not bad. Could be worse. His clothes smelled like wet charcoal. He tasted blood. But the hot wind was gone, and no animals were scurrying for their lives.

“Susan,” he yelled and scanned the white water above the pool. Nothing. No sign of the canoe. While pushing through the underbrush, branches scraped his arms, and he was unable to see much but the turbulent white of the rapids. He climbed onto a boulder, then onto another, and leaned precariously over the river, searching the far shore. She must have swum to the other side, he thought, not drowned. No, that couldn’t be. She had to be okay. A noise floating above the roar of the rapids could have been his wife screaming for help, couldn’t it? He listened intently. Was it her?

David slid off the boulder and banged his shin on a fallen tree, then lurched forward into sharp branches, slicing skin from his palms. He caught his leg between the branches and fell. Lying flat, his face against the rain soaked pine needles, he fought for breath. Easing his foot free, he crawled out from the jumble of dead limbs. With the white water raging and reverberating around him, he stumbled along the shore, falling into the water again, hands sinking into the bottom, the foul stench of rotting trees bubbling to the surface.

Struggling to his feet, he waded into the moonlit pool. Standing knee-deep in the swirling water, he called, “Susan!”

A small object rolled to the surface. As he moved in deeper, up to his chest, his heart pounded with his love for Susan and the fear she might be gone, the water pressing against him, cold and constricting. He struggled to breathe and the current, even in this pool, pulled hard, again nearly taking him under. He lunged, falling and going under but catching the object before it was swept into the next set of rapids. Frantically splashing back toward the shore, he stood, knowing what it was by the feel of the laces and the sole — one of Susan’s tennis shoes. Looking down river, he thought, the current almost killed me, what chance did she have? Overwhelmed by the gruesome possibilities, he stumbled back, sitting in the shallow water near the shore. He fought to keep back tears, remembering how he had helped her when they crossed streams, her hand in his. He focused on the opposite shore, listening to the rapids blend into the swishing of tall pines in the wind. The moon cast shadows in the forest and the shadows moved like ghouls. Rocks lined the shore — small, round faces sneering at him. Maybe something was lurking in the dark woods.

David looked down at the moonlit water reflecting white and swirling around his legs, then at the looming boulders pounded by the torrent, and he felt light-headed, like he was floating above the forest, unbound from earthly emotion. Suddenly, he shuddered, teeth chattering, and he tried to gain control. The small shoe fell from his hand and he watched it bob in the turbulent water, the current suddenly taking it swiftly toward the rapids, and the boulders.

“No!” he yelled. “Susan,” he called again, but again no response. “Susan.”

He imagined his wife underwater, frantically swimming to the surface. Maybe she made it to the other side, but hit her head on something. That’s why she didn’t respond to his calls. Or maybe, she just couldn’t hear him above the noise of the rapids. Lightning flashed overhead, followed by a crack and rumble, then a hard, cold gust, chilling him. He looked to the far shore one last time, the pointed outline of treetops against the dark sky lit by lightning. Was that her? If Susan were alive, he thought, she must be on the other side. He turned into the forest, thrashing his way through the thick woods, determined to find a way across the river.

1 Comment

Filed under Books, FICTION, SUSPENSE

One response to “WHERE THE RIVER SPLITS by JEFFREY PENN PAY (suspense/thriller/emtional drama)

  1. I saw this and all I could think of was the River Sticks which works very well for a Horror/Thriller novel. I’m not thrilled with the concept of the book because right off the bat I think the husband is a horrible cheating backstabber. Afraid I won’t be reading it, but I’m more of a romance reader personally, so this really wasn’t up my ally regardless. Thank you for sharing though.



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