Outtabounds (2)

Ebook CoverBecause this is the first adult novel I’ve published in several years, the people asking questions about it are several years older than those I usually work with. And I’ve included an excerpt from the prologue to give readers a taste of what this one’s all about:

Prologue

Twenty-three years earlier . . .

TEN-YEAR-OLD Jeffrey Christopher crouched over his skis as he raced down the snowy hillside. A bump appeared on the side of the trail and he shot toward it, tucking his poles beneath his arms like an Olympic racer. He waited until the last instant, then pushed up with his knees and popped into the air, whooping with excitement. He landed in an explosion of snow, zigged and zagged to slow himself, then turned his skis and braked to a stop.

He turned and looked uphill.

“C’mon, Dad, hit it!” he shouted. “Hit it!”

James Christopher knew he’d be taking the jump the moment he saw Jeffrey heading for it. The boy loved watching his father fly through the air as much as he loved being airborne himself. James wasn’t really  interested in bumps and jumps anymore–growing old sometimes did that to a man–but risking life and limb (and watching his father do the same) seemed hard-wired into his son’s DNA. It made the boy smile. And that was all the reason James Christopher needed to take the jump.

He was Jeffrey’s hero and he knew it. Jeffrey once told a friend his dad was “the best skier in the world!” After that, James would have taken an Olympic ski jump blindfolded rather than disappoint his son.

He bent his knees as he made his approach, then hopped and popped into the air. He splayed his arms and legs–a classic spread-eagle–and landed cleanly. He braked hard, spraying Jeffrey with an icy shower of fresh, frosty, sparkling powder.

“Yes” Jeffrey exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear. “That was great!”

James smiled. He looked back up the hill for a moment, then turned back to his son. “So where do you want to go?”

“Loose Moose!” Jeffrey said without hesitation.

“Sounds good,” James agreed. “Let’s go.”

James took a moment to catch his breath as Jeffrey planted his poles and pushed off. He knew before asking that they’d be hitting Loose Moose. It was their signature run. Narrow monkey trails snaked through the pine forest on both sides of the creamy corduroy, and father and son both enjoyed darting between the trees, ducking beneath snow-laden branches, hopping fallen logs, and slicing through piles of loose powder before blazing back onto the groomed run again.

James breathed deeply–the air seemed unusually thin this morning–as he followed Jeffrey down the slope. Whenever they skied together, James insisted on Jeffrey taking the lead. He enjoyed watching the little firecracker, for one thing. But he also preferred being uphill in case the boy took a spill. It was much simpler to reach him that way than if–

James gasped, abruptly overcome by a wave of nausea and dizziness. He wedged his skis to slow himself, suddenly confused and out of breath. His chest began to burn, felt as if it were being crushed. He braked to a stop and bent over his skis as he tried to catch his breath. His head swam. His ears rang and his chest flamed. He could feel his heart pounding.

He had no way of knowing it, but an aneurysm–a weak spot in the aorta below his kidneys–had burst and begun spilling blood into his abdomen. The result of a genetic defect, the aneurysm had gone undetected for years. But now–weakened by a recent infection and aggravated by the stress of hard skiing–it had given way.

His heart began pumping faster to compensate for the diminishing volume of blood. The extra fluid in his abdomen created pressure against adjacent veins and arteries, further slowing the circulation of blood and depriving his body of oxygen.

Searing pain slashed through Christopher’s chest and he fell to the snow, gasping and clutching at his coat.

Jeffrey turned to look back uphill just as his father collapsed.

“Dad!”

The boy slammed to a stop, popped off his skis, and struggled to run back up the slope. He sank to the top of his ski boots with every stop in the soft snow but didn’t quit. He clawed his way up the hill with all the speed he could muster.

“Dad!”

By the time Jeffrey reached him, his father was unconscious.

“Dad!”

Confused and frightened, Jeffrey shook his father, then shook him again, desperately trying to wake him. There was a shushing sound and he looked up to see a skier slicing down the hill. The boy stood and frantically waved down the passing skier.

“There’s something wrong with my dad!” the boy cried as tears coursed down his cheeks. “Please, you’ve got to help him!”

The skier took one look at the man lying crumpled on the snow. He could see blood trickling from the corners of the man’s mouth and knew the situation was more serious than a broken leg or a sprained ankle. Certainly beyond any help he could offer. He knew he could stop … but he didn’t know first aid.

But he knew where to find someone who did.

“Stay here,” he said. “I’ll get the ski patrol.”

Before the boy could respond the skier planted his poles and shot down the hill, relieved to have a task he could handle.

Jeffrey knelt beside his father feeling lost and alone and more frightened than he’d ever been in his young life.

Hot tears seared his eyes.

“Dad,” he whispered between sobs. “Oh, Dad …”

 

So that’s the first half of the prologue. (I hope it grabbed your attention!)

Moon Lake Adventure

Boy sCOUTI was recently invited to speak to the 11-year-old Boy Scouts from Altamont, Utah, at their yearly overnighter at spooky Moon Lake in the High Uintah Mountains. Last year I gave a funny talk about scuba diving, and even though this was an entirely new batch of kids, I decided that this year I’d tell them some funny flying stories.

Once I got there, though, and started meeting the boys, I realized I’d prepared the wrong talk. I had to change things on the fly, and started out by telling them about my trip to the doctor that morning, pretty much ad libbing the whole thing. This is how it went . . .

“Wow, I’m jazzed to be here again. I have to apologize because I’ve been limping around all afternoon, and I know some of you are curious about what’s wrong. You see, something really weird happened to me this morning, and I normally wouldn’t talk about it, but I figure we’re all friends and you won’t judge me too harshly.

“I had to go to the doctor, and he’s a nice guy but he told me that he needed to give me a couple of shots. He stepped out and talked with his nurse for a minute, and a few minutes later she came in carrying two syringes. And they were HUGE! When I first saw them I thought they were bazookas. They were so big she wasn’t carrying one in each hand, but she had her arms curled in front of her and was carrying them like chunks of firewood.

“I looked at the doctor and said, ‘Dude . . . you gonna hunt deer with those things?’ And without looking up from his papers he said, ‘No, these are for you.’ I just shook my head and said, ‘I’m not on fire, man, if you’re thinking of using them to hose me down!’

“He just gave me a sour quit’cher-whining look, so I just sighed and started rolling up the sleeve of my shirt.

“Now, have you guys ever seen How the Grinch Stole Christmas? And you remember how the Grinch–when he decides how he’s going to ruin Christmas for all the Whos in Whoville–he gets this evil grin that just curls around his face? Well, the doctor started grinning at me and he got the same evil grin and he said, ‘Dude . . . these aren’t going in your arm . . .”

“Oh, man! I couldn’t believe it! And I’ll skip what happened next (except for telling you the nurse said all the neighborhood dogs started howling when I screamed), but then I sat down–carefully–while the doctor wrote me a prescription. So then I was finished, but when I stood up to leave, I tripped and fell flat on my face. One of the shots had put my leg to sleep–completely to sleep!–just like the shots do that you get at the dentist. You know how your mouth goes funny and you can’t feel anything and you talk funny for a couple of hours? Well, that’s what happened to my leg. And even though I got the shot at, like ten this morning, my leg’s still asleep. And I’ve been really worried about it because I know later we’re all going on a night hike, and I know there are a lot of bears around here, and if one starts chasing us, I’ve only got one good leg to run on and you know the bear’s gonna come after me, right? Yeah, everyone’ll start running and I’ll be hobbling along and he’s gonna be thinking, ‘Get the slow guy! Get the slow guy!’ ”

Well, by now the kids were all howling, and I was having a great time too. I never gave a single word from the talk I’d written, but was sooooo glad I decided to go off script. I told them a few of my favorite funny bear stories, like the one where a fisherman’s standing in the middle of a river . . . well, I’ll save that for another time.

The point is that it’s times and experiences like this that makes being a writer so much fun. (I’m almost willing to go back to Doctor Deadleg just to get some new material!)

Outtabounds

My newest thriller (and my first adult novel for several years) is just about ready for release. It’s called Outtabounds, and it’s about a legendary ski patroller who–after he’s fired from a large, destination resort, and with his knowledge of avalanches and explosives–decides to take revenge upon the patrol, the mountain, and the resort. I’ve been working on it for a long time–years, actually–and I’m jazzed to finally have it done.

Here’s an excerpt:

NEWMAN Chopperwas twenty-two, with dreams of becoming a paramedic. He was brash, confident, and aggressive to the point of being overbearing. A self-acknowledged expert on every topic, he had an opinion on everything and an over-inflated sense of his own importance.

Newman was known for standing at the top of the ski lifts when he wasn’t busy, feet apart, hands on his hips, smiling at passing guests as if saying, Relax and have a nice day now, folks: Mickey Newman’s on the job . . .

With a grin, Chase remembered the time a patroller radioed for a snowmobile to transport an exhausted guest from a remote hillside. Hearing the call, Newman had gone running for the nearest ‘bile, jumping onto the machine like Batman into the Batmobile. The ‘bile was parked at the bottom of a steep incline and Newman gunned the throttle to make the climb.

Unfortunately, someone had left the ‘bile in reverse. It shot backward, throwing Newman up and over the windscreen. His coat sleeve caught on the throttle and the snowmobile dragged him flapping and flailing across the slope before finally slamming into a tree.

Chase rolled his eyes.

Ah, he thought.

Mickey Newman . . .

JADEN JEX, on the other hand, was as nice a kid as Chase had ever known, though it was said he had the thinking power of a potted plant. Chase had heard one patroller claim the kid had “to think to breathe.”

Jex loved the beauty of the mountains, and he loved gazing about and admiring the view as he skied. It was not unknown for him to become so enthralled with the scenery that he’d forget to look where he was going. The patrol jester claimed there were few trees on the mountain he hadn’t skied into.

Once, while doing avalanche control (and for reasons no one had been able to explain) Jex had been assigned to carry a pack of explosives. It was strictly against patrol policy and common sense to “catch air” while in uniform. But when a tricky jump presented itself, Jex had been too tempted to resist. He flew over the bump, but then caught an edge on the other side. He tumbled head-over-skis down the slope with his pack of explosives, completely out of control and expecting to be blown to smithereens.

When he finally rolled to a stop, he desperately tried to rid himself of the pack–flapping, fighting, flailing in the snow–completely forgetting the waist strap that held the pack secure until he finally fell exhausted to the snow.

The other patrollers laughed themselves silly.

Chase rolled his eyes. Newman and Jex . . .

The two patrolmen, Chase thought, were as different as gravel and grapes, as different was any two men could be. But their hearts and intentions were in the right place.

Ben’s right, Chase thought. It’s going to be an interesting day . . .

 

Look for Outtabounds toward the end of October, 2018.

Shark Bites

 

I givJansen Printe a lot of talks, and one of my favorite bits is a comedy routine about scuba diving with sharks and manta rays. Even though “Demon’s Treasure” is a taut, young-adult thriller, a few jokes from my routine slipped in. The other day I received a note from a young reader who’s heard me speak; he laughed out loud when he remembered the jokes in the book from my talk.

Here’s an example:

. . . Nick also explained that sharks were known to bite into a person and then, not liking the taste, spit them back out again.

“So even if one does sink his teeth into you, it doesn’t mean he’s going to finish the job.”

“Yeah,” Jansen replied, “but you’ll still be full of holes.”

Without missing a beat, Nick said, “But that’d be awesome!”

“What? Why?

“Well, if that happened to me, I’d just plug my nose and blow real hard and the air would come whooshing out of all those little holes. Voila! Human Jacuzzi!”

Brother . . .

Shredder

snowboardMy new book “Shredder” is soon to be released. Here is an excerpt:

 

Trennon waited until Wulff had gone, then rode slowly, casually, down the mountain. He was feeling better . . . better than he had in days. And with a start realized he was even smiling.

He thought about it for a moment and realized his head was still throbbing–

Ripley’s busy in there today . . .

–but the whole time he’d been talking with Wulff, he hadn’t even noticed.

Wow, he thought. He’s just like Chessie. . . . He makes me forget my problems.  . . . He makes me forget I have problems.

He breathed deeply, happily, feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders.

Wulff . . . a cop!

He couldn’t believe it. For the first time in months Trennon felt like things were working out. Like the enormous black cloud hanging over him since losing his brother had lifted. Like the sun was finally shining again.

He reached the bottom of the hill and hopped back on the lift. It was a quick ride and before he knew it he was on top of the mountain again. He slid to the side and plopped onto a convenient drift to strap in. He was giving his bindings a final tug when someone rode up beside him.

Two someones.

“Well, well, well,” Stoner one said, dropping to the snow beside him. “Look who we have here.”

“It’s our nosy little friend,” Stoner Two said. He plopped on the other side, sandwiching Trennon between them.

Trennon felt his heart drop as he looked from one stoner to the other.

“I think you have something that belongs to us,” Stoner One said. The man’s voice was low but filled with knives.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, I think you do . . . you have something of ours and we want it back.”

“What?” Trennon asked, trying to appear innocent as ice cream. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You know exactly what we’re talking about,” Stoner Two said, menace dripping from his voice like goo from a slime-smeared zombie. “So quit acting dumb or things are gonna get ugly.”

“Way too late for that,” Trennon quipped.

“You’re a mouthy little kid, aren’t you?”

“My mouth is legendary,” Trennon said before he could stop himself. He knew this wasn’t the time to be smarting off, but couldn’t keep the words from spilling out.

“Your mouth is writing checks your body can’t cash,” Stoner One said stupidly.

“And yours is saying words it can’t spell.”

Trennon looked back and forth, knowing he was in trouble. And knowing there was no way out of it.

Well, maybe one way . . .

He sat back in the snow as if giving up, then hopped to his feet and onto the slope. He aimed for the steepest part of the run and was twenty yards downhill before the stoners realized he was getting away.

“Hey!” one of the stoners shouted. “Stop!”

Right, Trennon thought. Like I’m really gonna just stop and let you catch me.

And then: Morons . . .

 

He flew down the run, quickly gaining speed, the stoners shouting and spouting obscenities as they tried to catch up. Trennon didn’t know what they’d do if they caught him, but was determined not to let that happen.

Where’s Wulff now that I need him? Trennon wondered cynically. Typical cop . . .

 

He shot down the hill, a rooster-tail of snow spraying up behind him. He thought about racing for the busiest part of the resort on the chance the stoners wouldn’t try anything around a crowd of people.

All those witnesses . . .

On the other hand, who knew what a couple of dumb, angry stoners might do? Besides, if anyone official became involved, Trennon would have to answer some pretty awkward questions himself.

He set his teeth and pushed for more speed. He knew his best chance was to leave the stoners so far behind they’d need the Millennium Falcon to catch up. He crouched over his board–

A speeding skier abruptly shot from the trees, skidding on the ice and cutting him off. Trennon jammed his heels into the ice to keep from losing control, but it was too late. His edge caught and snagged and pitched him forward, face-first into the snow.

“Aaargh!”

His head smacked against the ice, the impact shooting lightning bolts through his head–

“Aaargh!”

–but he quickly shook it off. He rolled over, looking up just as the first stoner reached him. The stoner tried to stop but was sliding too fast, bracing himself for impact. Trennon flinched and cringed just as the stoner ran over him, smashing him flat as a pancake and driving the air from his lungs before falling and tumbling away.

Trennon gasped for breath and tried to sit up, but the second stoner was right there, sliding fast. Trennon curled into a ball to keep from being body-slammed again. The stoner flashed past and Trennon tried hopping to his board, but Stoner One reached a hand out, tripping him up. Trennon fell forward, his helmet slamming against the ice. Bright light flashed behind his eyes. He gasped in pain, but sensed movement and rolled away as Stoner Two dove onto the snow, just missing him.

Trennon had both boots strapped to his board, was basically one-legged. But while the stoners each had one boot strapped in and were dragging their boards around, they at least had one leg free to maneuver with. Stoner Two rose to his knees, lunged at Trennon–

Trennon twisted away at the last instant.

Thought, Enough of this!

He rolled onto his back, looked up as Stoner One dove upon him. Trennon coiled like a spring, kicked out as hard as he could, and drove his snowboard straight into the stoner’s chest, hurling him backward.

“Aaaiyyy!”

The stoner yelled, collapsing like a wet glove.

Trennon didn’t hesitate. He leaped onto his board, pointed the nose downhill, and began hopping to propel himself.

Stoner Two came after him. He was frog-walking with his board, reaching out with both hands like a gore-dripping face-chewer from The Walking Dead. Trennon ducked beneath the outstretched gloves, spun around on his board, and raced fakie down the ice. He looked back to see the stoners strapping in, now more enraged than ever.

 

Trennon felt his head pounding as he raced down the hill.

Man, if they weren’t mad before, they are now, he thought. And then: They catch me, they’ll kill me for sure! 

The trail curved around a slick, rocky ridge. The hillside below was too steep and dangerous to ride, fenced off with orange ropes and CLOSED! signs to keep people from trying. But danger was a relative thing. Compared to a couple of homicidal stoners, a steep, rocky hillside was nothing.

Trennon crouched, then used a bump on the trail as a kicker. He pushed hard with his legs, popped into the air, and sucked his knees up to his chest. He flew over the rope but instantly realized he’d miscalculated. He was higher than he expected, nothing but jagged rocks and gnarly pines below. He was flying fast and falling even faster. He had just enough time to clench his teeth before his board clipped a rock and he plowed into the snow. His knees shot up like pistons, driving the breath from his lungs in a painful whoosh! He flipped and spun and then slammed into the husk of a dead tree.

“Oof!”

He gasped for breath and tried to shake his head clear. It took a moment before he realized he was upside down, twisted like a pretzel, buried in a pile of loose snow and spongy pine branches. He tried to breathe but got nothing but a mouthful of cold snow. He coughed and gagged and fought a moment of panic, then finally managed a lungful of frosty air. He clawed at the snow but was anchored by his snowboard. He had to kick and wiggle and flail at the powder until he was finally able to roll himself upright.

He looked uphill. The stoners had ducked the rope, were searching for a way down through the rocks and trees.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Trennon thought grimly. I win, you suck: you cannot ride, you cannot huck!

The stoners could barely handle a halfpipe, let alone a treacherous, rock-covered face like this one.

Morons, he thought. Probably end up killing themselves . . .

 

It took Trennon nearly half an hour to wind his way through the rocks and trees and cliffs and scarps to the bottom of the suicidal hillside. At one point he even had to remove his board. The snow was too deep to slog through, and he had to use the board to shovel a path through the powder.

Yeah, there’s a reason this place is roped off, he thought when he finally found a flat spot to strap in again.

He picked his way between stands of pines and rocky outcroppings and finally dropped onto a groomed trail. A ski patrolman was standing on the side of the trail, watching.

Right, Trennon thought, knowing he was busted. Now the cops show up . . .

https://amazon.com/author/shanebarker

 

Demon’s Treasure

Jansen Print

Whenever people ask me about “Demon’s Treasure,” I tell them, “It’s about scuba diving.” But since everyone always wants to know a little more, I’ve included an exerpt from one of my favorite scenes:

JANSEN SWAM toward several jagged timbers that curled up from the sand like the ribs of a horrible monster. There was a flicker of movement and he turned to see an enormous moray eel poke its head from a hole in the rocks.

Holy cow! he thought, fanning himself to a stop.

The eel was thick as a baseball bat, black as ink, rows of ugly teeth gleaming from a cavernous mouth.

Man, that’s no eel … that’s Eelzilla!

The enormous eel turned a vile eye upon him as if sizing him up.

Perhaps wondering how he’d taste for dinner.

Jansen couldn’t help feeling repulsed. He knew that an eel holed up like that could latch onto a diver, anchor itself in the rocks, and then hold on until the diver drowned.

An eel that size could do it, too, he thought. There’s no way you could get free of it. And even if you could, you’d catch some face-rotting disease from those slimy teeth.

Eelzilla watched him for another moment then—giving him a final, malevolent glare—slipped slowly back into its hole.

Jansen shivered again.

Okay, he thought. Important safety tip: stay away from the rocks!

He turned back toward the wreck and instantly spotted a large, coral-encrusted hulk.

A cannon!

Jansen swam quickly over and settled on the mud beside the huge gun. He reached out and touched the old, rusted iron.

Wow!

He was more certain than ever the wreck was the remains of a warship, a pirate ship, or a treasure galleon. And he felt a thrill as he touched the cold iron. After all, it was one thing to see a pirate ship in a movie.

But to kneel on the bottom of the ocean and actually touch a gun no one had seen or touched in four hundred years …

That was awesome!

His imagination clicked into action, and in the silence could almost hear the roar of the desperate battle. He could see the flash of guns and smell the acrid, eye-stinging smoke as it enveloped the ships. Could hear the shouts and screams of men fighting for their lives.

This is so cool!

He looked around, spotting more timbers jutting from the sand. And in the middle of it—
Something moved over the wreckage. Jansen felt chills as he recognized it.
It was a shark—a sleek 12-footer—gliding over the wreckage.

It was coming right for him.

https://amazon.com/dp/1976731658 Continue reading “Demon’s Treasure”

Diving Stories

scuba

In my book “Demon’s Treasure” there are references to “BCDs” and “octopuses.” (Yeah, and that’s the correct word, there.) A BCD is a diving jacket. Push a button and it fills with air, letting you float on the surface (or hover just above the ocean floor). Push another button, the air bubbles out, and you sink. Diving made easy.

I took my diving lessons in a swimming pool with a bunch of prank-playing jokesters. One in particular, a kid named Nick. I’d be kneeling on the bottom of the deep end of the pool, and Nick would sneak up behind me and push the inflate button. My vest would swell up like a balloon and I’d go shooting for the roof like a missle from a submarine.

Great fun.

(One night I was down in the deep again, and I’d made certain Nick wasn’t anywhere around. But while I was working, he swam up behind me and hit the button.

“WHOOOSH!”

My vest swelled up to the point of bursting and I went flying out of the pool. I went up so fast I actually shot out of the water. As luck would have it, an old lady happened to be walking by when I went exploding from the water. She screamed, slipped, and fell on the wet cement. And guess who got yelled at. Yeah. Me.

I kept looking for ways to get even, but Nick wasn’t just crafty, he was wary. He always had an eye out for me.

One night though, I was hovering near the surface, watching him. He was on the bottom of the deep end practicing with the “octopus.” An octopus is actually a spare breathing regulator . . . the thing you breathe through when you’re underwater. Some divers have a spare for times a partner might run out of air. Nick was practicing a skill where he’d spit out his regulator, then reach behind him, feel for the air line, and place the regulator back in his mouth. This is important if you ever lose your regulator underwater.

Anyhoo.

I was watching Nick practice when a huge blop of hair came floating by. It was disgusting . . . but it gave me an idea. I grabbed the hairball, swam down behind Nick, and stuffed the hairball into his spare regulator. Then I swam around to face him and–through scuba sign language–told him I just wanted to watch him work. He nodded, spit out his regulator, reached behind him, stuff the regulator back in his mouth, and took a couple of breaths.

Wrong regulator.

I motioned for him to do it again, and he did.

Wrong regulator.

I gestured for him to do it again and . . . he couldn’t find the regulator. He reached farther back, twisting around, trying to find the air hose. After several seconds his eyes started to bulge and his face started turning blue. He was getting desperate. He flailed wildly around then finally grabbed a regulator, stuffed it into his mouth, and took a huge gulp of air–

Except he got nothing but hairball.

His eyes got as big as saucers and he just about exploded.

But he never did prank me again.