Blood River: 1st Two Chapters

Tuesday, September 2nd — Severed Press is scheduled to release the Kindle Version of BLOOD RIVER.

To help promote the work, I wanted to offer a sneak-peak.

Below are the First Two Chapters for you to sample. (They are merely cut-and-paste from a Word document, so errors in format and such are all mine). Blood River is an adventure/suspense novel with just a splash of horror to keep it edgy.
Blood_River!_ebook_cover
Please feel free to share, and re-post, and tweet this link to as often as you’d like!

I hope you enjoy!

*Reviewers please contact me for Advance Review Copies, and/or interviews

BACK COVER SYNOPSIS:

Sent to a remote area deep in the  jungles of Indonesia’s Papua,  TV’s Catch & Release star Rick Stone and his film crew set out to do some extreme fishing in order to identify a creature preying on natives.

Stone and his team encounter more than carnivorous fish on the journey. The prehistoric-like surroundings present danger at every turn. It isn’t long before the purpose of boosting viewership and restoring network confidence with the first Reality TV Show are forgotten. Their survival becomes dependent on the ability to revert to animalistic behavior.

Rick Stone no longer cares about his show’s network ratings.  All he wants now is to make it home . . . alive.

_______

Chapter 1

1982. Rochester, NY

 

Rick Stone entered the kitchen, pulling the collar down over his necktie. “Coffee made?”

Karen turned away from the stove. “Gee. If there were any coffee at all, where might it be?”

Rick tried to smile. He took a mug from the cupboard. “Found it. Right here in the coffee pot,” he said.

“That’s where I was going to suggest looking first. You’re too smart for me, Rick.”

“You making eggs?” As soon as he said it, he regretted it.

“Are you kidding me?” Karen held up a frying pan. Scrambled eggs.

Rick sat next to Jared, who was in his highchair. He watched his son grab and fumble over the dry Cheerios in front of him. “We have to fight every morning?”

This is fighting to you, Rick? This is fighting?” She sighed. “You don’t fight. You never fight.”

He closed his eyes and placed the palm of a hand across his stomach. “I don’t need to get aggravated, not with the meeting this morning.”

“You going to wear that tie?”

Rick took a sip of coffee. Bitter. He ruffled his son’s hair. He ignored the dig. “I’m kind of nervous. The network hasn’t asked for a meeting like this before. Not since we were in talks with them for the show.”

“You’re nervous because if they cancel the show that you’ll have to get a real job.” Karen used the spatula to scrape burnt eggs onto three plates. She snatched two slices of toast out of the toaster, plopped in two slices of bread and lowered the level. “Want to butter these?”

Rick stood up. “I’ve got it.”

Karen carried the plates to the table, set hers down and then Rick’s, and fork fed Jared from the third plate. “Do you think they’re going to cancel the show?”

Rick pretended he’d heard concern, if not sympathy, or at least empathy, in his wife’s tone. He was fooling himself. It wasn’t there, not toward him, anyway. Not in regard to his career. “We’ve had three pretty good seasons.”

He had no idea how the last two fared.

Rick finished buttering the four slices of toast and set two down for his wife and two onto his plate. He looked at his watch. There was plenty of time until the meeting. When Karen was in one of her moods, which was more and more frequently, he just didn’t want to be in the house any longer than necessary.

“Of fishing. A TV show about fishing.” She wasn’t asking. She was merely stating. She did it regularly. It humiliated him, and she knew it.

Jared pushed the fork away from his face. His mouth shut tight.

Rick salted his eggs. “I don’t think he wants the eggs.”

“He likes eggs, Rick.”

“I didn’t say he didn’t like eggs. I said, ‘I don’t think he wants the eggs.’” Rick looked at his wristwatch again. “I better go.”

“Yeah. You better go.” She waved a dismissive hand at him.

Rick scraped his eggs off his plate into the garbage and almost cringed. She’d just made them for him, and he was throwing them away. Jared was right. Even with salt they tasted burnt. Too late now. He picked up his briefcase by the kitchen door, and stopped. Karen wasn’t even looking at him. She continued trying to feed their son. “I wish we could fix things, Karen. I don’t know how it got like this.”

“Got like what, Rick? Like what?”

She wanted to fight, always looking for an argument. Rick pursed his lips, hoped it resembled a smile. He knew it didn’t. “I’ll let you know how the meeting turns out.”

“You do that.”

Rick kissed the top of his son’s head.

“Dada,” he said.

“See you tonight, buddy.” He moved to kiss his wife. She lowered her head, stabbed a fork into eggs. Rick smoothed his tie with the palm of his hand as he stood up straight. He left the house without another word and walked to his car, contemplating.

It was hard to put a finger on when the marriage began hemorrhaging. Karen hated his job, that was a given. When they met, he fished as a hobby, spent long nights slaving away in a factory. When he won fishing derby after derby, sponsors took notice. Eventually, he was offered a job on television. Catch & Release with Rick Stone.

That might have been the start of the decline. While she knew his dream had always been to find a way to make a living doing what he loved, he suspected she never thought it could happen, and so resigned to marry him–a simple factory worker.

In two months, it would be winter. He didn’t work winters. They filmed twenty-four shows per season. He was paid weekly, the checks spread out over fifty-two weeks despite being for the most part unemployed from December until April.

It was possible the four and a half months he was home every year bothered her. She often said she felt smothered, that he was always around, and she had no time for herself. That hurt. Before marriage, they could not find enough hours in a day to spend together. Things changed. People changed. Life happened.

____

Chapter 2

 

 

Brent Halperin wore his hair long, pulled back, and tied off into a ponytail. He dressed in dark, expensive suits with silk ties. You knew they were silk because Halperin told anyone who would listen, and even people who ignored him. Overall, he was a good enough guy, just a little too full of himself. He considered himself something comparable to a Hollywood film producer instead of the producer of a Saturday morning fishing show that came on after cartoons.

“Stone, how are you today?” They shook hands. They were on the eighth floor of an eight story building downtown. There were some TV sets on the first two floors, and offices from the third on up. Cubicles filled the center area and they were outlined by offices. Mr. Harry Krantz, the network president, had a corner office that overlooked the Genesee River.

“Won’t lie, I’m feeling a little nervous. Except for pre-filming meetings each season, I can’t remember ever being called to a special meeting with just you and Mr. Krantz,” Rick said. He worried he might be sweating. Thought he could feel the beads on his forehead, but did not want to appear apprehensive by wiping them away. Instead, he smiled and pointed. “New tie?”

“This is satin-silk. Virtually no texture. Want to feel it?” Halperin said, holding out the point of his tie. Rick ran a hand over the material and nodded. “Nice, right?”

“You have the best ties,” he said. It sounded lame. To anyone else, it would have been an absurd comment. Halperin relished in the compliment.

“Thank you,” he said. “I mean it. Thanks.”

“Sure,” Rick said.

“Well, why don’t you come in? Harry’s already here. We can get started right away. How does that sound? And trust me, Stone, I think you are getting nervous over nothing. Nothing. In fact, we have a. . .you know what, let’s go into Harry’s office. We don’t want to unofficially start the meeting out in the hall without him. Do we?”

Halperin knocked lightly on the door and pushed it open without waiting for Krantz to respond. “After you,” he said.

Rick entered the office. Windows made up the two corner walls. The others were decorated with framed photos of Harry Krantz with famous people, many autographed.

Krantz stood up when they entered the office. His hair was white and thick. He couldn’t be over fifty. The professional gray slacks, navy blue sports coat, and tie were a staple in his wardrobe. “Rick. Rick. So good to see you.” He walked around his desk to shake hands. “Please, have a seat.”

Rick sat in one of the two chairs in front of Krantz’s desk. Halperin took a corner of the desk, and drummed a pencil eraser on his thigh.

“Would you like some coffee, water, anything?” Krantz said, sitting in his chair once again. He clasped his hands in front of him.

“I’m good, thank you,” Stone said.

“Okay. Then we’ll get right down to it.”

Rick took a deep breath. He had been trying to figure out what the meeting might be about since he learned of it last week. Now that it was time to get down to it, he wasn’t sure he was ready to find out what was going on.

“It won’t be much of a surprise to learn that we have both good and bad news,” Krantz said. With his fingers laced, Krantz resembled a man about to pray. “We’ve received the numbers for Catch and Release, and frankly, they don’t look good. Ratings are down.”

“Drastically.” Halperin set the pencil aside. He’d lost his smile. This was it. The meat of the meeting. The show was sinking. They weren’t happy.

“We just completed our fifth year. It was almost like no one watched a single episode.”

Rick moved around in his seat, sat forward, and leaned back. This was his career, his livelihood. Truth was he could handle the show being cancelled more than having to tell his wife the news. She would be quick to throw an I-told-you-so in his face. He’d never live it down. He’d never be able to live with her. He laid a hand on his belly, worried he might get sick and throw up the few burnt eggs he’d managed to swallow during breakfast. “So, what are you saying?” He sat forward, leaned an elbow onto the arm of the chair. “What are we saying here?”

Krantz held up a hand. “Relax, Rick, no need to worry. We’re just giving you the bad news.”

“There’s still the good news,” Halperin said. The grin returned as he stood up and walked behind the desk. Halperin stood next to Krantz, hands stuffed into pockets.

Rick wanted to smile in return, but the twisting knot in his gut prevented it. “Then let’s have it. The good news. Because right now, I can’t help feeling like I’m on the verge of being fired. I’m not . . . am I, being fired?”

The executives laughed, looked at each other and laughed again. “Fired,” Halperin said. “No. Not at all.”

Rick leaned forward again and pressed fingertips together. “Then I don’t get it. If the show is tanking, and I’m not being fired, what, ah, what’s the plan?”

“Glad you asked,” Krantz said.

“Imagine this,” Halperin said. “We take Catch and Release on the road.”

“On the road?”

“People are tired of seeing you reel in four types of trout, three different salmon. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve done some great fishing on the Great Lakes. Educated people about safety and lines, and reels, and laws. In Lake Ontario, especially, but let’s face it, it’s dry. It gets boring. Viewers watch you talk to the camera about your lures and hooks. Sometimes, you catch something big, and sometimes there’s nothing. An hour show of you throwing small fish back into the water,” Halperin said. “It’s the reason we’re losing viewers.”

“We want to think bigger,” Krantz said. “We want to explode against the competition, and really think outside the box on this one. How does that sound?”

He nodded. “I mean, yeah. It sounds great. I just . . . I don’t have any ideas. I’m assuming you have something outside the box in mind?”

The smiles again. Rick had a sinking feeling. A producer and a network head smiling at him. It was hard not to feel like chum about to be scooped overboard and fed to sharks.

Krantz opened a manila folder that had been on the desk in front of him. He removed a few 8×10 black and white photographs and a couple sets of stapled documents. Krantz flipped through the photos as if he were seeing them for the first time, and then offered the entire contents across the desk.

Hesitantly, keeping an eye on Halperin, Rick took the materials.

“Please, take a second. Look through the file,” Krantz said. “We received this in the mail from a fan of your show. At first, it was just going to get a cookie-cutter reply letter from you with one of your pre-autographedheadshots. The secretary handling those things brought the letter to Brent’s attention,” Krantz said.

“And once I read it, I gave it right to Harry.”

What teamwork, Rick thought. He nodded again, thoughtfully, and then looked down at the photos. He bit his lip and winced.

“Not easy to look at, I know,” Halperin said. He held up both hands. “Go ahead, though. Keep at it.”

The first image depicted in a glossy, black and white 8×10 was of a dead man. There were missing appendages and giant chunks of flesh gouged from the corpse. Rick lowered the file. Bile crept up his esophagus and burned on its way down when he swallowed. “What the hell is this?”

“Keep looking. Read the attached letter, then we’ll answer questions,” Krantz said. “It’s all in there. The explanation.”

Rick flipped through the photos. Each one was more graphic than the last. Close-ups of the wounds, the severed limbs. . .He wasn’t sure he could take much more. Finally, he just set the photographs aside and read the letter.

The writer was a guy from Pennsylvania who claimed to watch Catch & Release religiously, but was, as Rick had just been informed, getting bored of the same old, same old. The entire first page, however, praised Rick and his angling as well as the network for sticking with the show. He mentioned the fact that he couldn’t stomach Lance Crowley’s show.

Crowley starred in a nearly identical fishing show on a competing network: Casting with Lance Crowley.

“At least he doesn’t like Lance,” Rick said. “That’s a win right there.”

Halperin shrugged. “Who does?”

“Don’t stop reading,” Krantz said.

Rick turned the page to find a clipped newspaper article glued to the paper.

 

Man killed by unknown monster in the River Eilanden

 

Rick began to read the article, sitting back in his chair. The grisly account told of a tribal man fetching water for his village when he was attacked in the river. Unknown creatures killed the man, biting off an arm and a foot. News of the attack spread through area villages. With more than twenty reported missing people this year, and now an eyewitness to the most recent river attack, a panic has set in. The villagers, who purport to survive by fishing, are afraid to go anywhere near the water, and village chiefs are demanding Papua authorities rid the river of the creatures –fearing they are angry spirits bent on destroying the people.

The second page of the letter expressed the author’s idea about how to make Catch & Release an elite programming masterpiece–his words.

Rick read the third page of the letter twice before skimming through the photographs and the newspaper articles again. He set the documents back inside the manila folder and closed it on his lap.

“Your wheels are turning,” Halperin said. He wound a finger round and round by his temple. It looked more as if he was indicating something or someone was crazy rather than excited.

“They’re turning,” Rick said, “but in a million directions. I’m not sure I get it.”

“What’s not to get?” Krantz said. “It’s laid out for you.”

“And you like this? You want to do this idea?” Rick wasn’t sure he knew exactly what the idea was. He did not want to appear disconnected from them, but instead as though they were all on the same page. It was silly. If he didn’t follow, he should be able to say so. Instead, he worried more about feeling left out.

“I personally think it’s brilliant. Pure brilliance!” Halperin clapped his hands together so hard that Rick nearly jumped.

About the author

2 thoughts on “Blood River: 1st Two Chapters”

  1. True Tomasso style. You have a way of drawing the reader in, describing the scene with enough detail to bring it to life, yet not overwhelming the reader with unnecessary detail.

    There is no “I’ll just finish this chapter…” rather you lead the reader through the events and they are compelled to continue reading to find out what happens next.

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