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.

Strange Lights

skiMy book Demon’s Treasure will be out in a few days. In it,  a couple of characters beginning talking about strange sea mysteries such as ghost ships (like the Flying Dutchman), the Bermuda Triangle, and (one of my new favorites) the Bloop. (Gotta read the book to hear about that one!)

Anyway, it all got me thinking about something strange that happened to me several years ago.

I used to guide cross-country skiers on overnight wilderness treks. The trail was two and a half miles long–all uphill–and ended at a huge, two-story lodge. The lodge was about a half-mile away from a 400-foot cliff called the Overlook, that looked down upon our parking area.

One night a group of Boy Scouts arrived to ski, but by the time we had them outfitted and ready to head uphill, the second group we were expecting still hadn’t shown up. We decided to send the kids in anyway, with all of our guides but two. My friend Art and I stayed behind to lead in the second group when they arrived.

It was about ten-thirty at night when everyone skied off, and Art and I settled into the cab of our truck to wait. It was a nice night, cold and overcast, just right for skiing. Art and I passed the time talking, and after a while happened to glance up toward the Overlook. There, on top of the cliff, we could see lights, as if skiers with headlights had gone to the edge to look over the country.

Art and I exchanged glances, both of us realizing our guys hadn’t had been gone long enough to have reached the lodge, let along travel the extra half mile to the Overlook. We had radios, so we called up to our guides who said they were still half a mile or so from reaching the lodge.

“Is anyone else up there?” we asked. “You see any tracks?”

“Huh-uh. We’re pushing new snow. No one’s been up here.”

Well, we thought that was pretty creepy, but could only imagine someone had to be up there.

The lights eventually disappeared back into the trees. Our second group of Scouts never did show up. so around midnight Art and I skied in alone. Once we reached the lodge, the guys wanted to know why we were asking about tracks. When we told them, they exchanged wary glances, then told us a story of their own.

The ski trail follows a winding stream, and about halfway to the lodge reaches a dam. The trail zigs and zags up the hill, crosses over the dam, then heads back into the trees and up another mile to the lodge. It had snowed during the week, and the guys were pushing about 16 inches of new, unbroken snow as they skied. As they neared the halfway point, they turned a corner in the trail to where they could see the dam. And up on top was a light, as if someone was standing there wearing a headlight. As our guys came into view, the light turned as if someone was turning their head to look down at our guys.

The guides figured the same thing Art and I did, that someone else was simply on the mountain. They lost sight of the light as they started up the hill, but once they reached the top . . . nothing. No one there. And no tracks, either. No sign that anyone–or anything–had been there.

Well, that kinda freaked everyone out.

The next morning we skied to the Overlook, expecting to find the tracks of whomever had been there the night before. But (yeah, you guessed it) no tracks there, either. No sign at all that anyone had been there.

The experience gave us something to talk about around the fireplace. We never could come up with a good explanation, or even a reasonable theory. But when writing about the Bloop I thought back to that night. And imagined skiing around in the dark, knowing someone–or something–might have been out there . . . watching me.

 

Barkerisms

I have in my office a painting of the mountains at night. It looks nice from a distance, but if you get close you can see a coyote howling at the moon. Most people never notisquatchce it, but it’s one of my favorite parts of the picture.

I like to include little things like that in my books. Things most readers might never notice, but that people who know me (and know my writing) can spot and chuckle at. I call them “Barkerisms.”

For instance: any time I mention “time,” I rarely use a random number. Almost always the time will be a palindrome (a number that’s the same frontwards and backwards), like 6:46, or 9:29. (And that’s just because I used to be a mathematician.) If the time isn’t a palindrome, it might be something like 3:10 (someone’s birthday), 7:11 (c’mon . . . you oughtta get that!), or 12:25 (Christmas). So the next time you spot the time mentioned in one of my books, see if you can’t figure out the hidden meaning.

A huge Barkerism is Bigfoot. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but after a while I noticed that nearly every one of my books mentioned Bigfoot. They’re usually just subtle references, like “He raced through the trees like a kid fleeing Bigfoot,” or “He had the expression of a guy who’d just been bit on the butt by Bigfoot.” Saucer Crash takes place in 1947, which is 11 years before anyone coined the term “Bigfoot.” But I found a way to sneak him in anyway. (It’s subtle and you have to look close, but it’s there!) So the next time you see me mention Sasquatch, you can think, “Barkerism!”

I also love nicknames. In Demon’s Treasure (soon to be released) there’s a huge dude who kinda looks like Sasquatch. (Hey! There’s a Barkerism!) But rather than constantly reminding the reader that the guy’s a monster, one of the characters is always referring to him as Kong, or The Missing Link, or Apezilla, or . . . well, you see where I’m going. I had fun looking as many different ways as I could to say “Caveman.” In another book coming out this spring, there’s a tyrannosaur; but one of the characters never says the word “tyrannosaur.” Instead, he’s got a whole slew of different nicknames to have fun with instead.

I’ll mention one more: alliteration. That’s just a fancy term for words that rhyme. Here’s a couple of sentences I had fun with: “He was covered with more grime and slime and goop and poop than the floor of an old school bus.” (Hear the rhymes?) And from Demon’s Treasure: “Jansen’s arms and legs had been sliced and diced by the rocks and coral. The captain had actually turned pale when he saw Jansen’s collection of slashes, gashes, and other grotesqueries.”

Anyway, if you happen to read one of my books, be on the lookout for the next Barkerism!

 

 

Saucer Crash

     SaucerCrash01 I had been reading about the Roswell UFO crash. In one account I read that rancher Mack Brazel wasn’t alone when he discovered the crash debris. Turned out there was a young boy with him, a kid who often helped him with his sheep and around the ranch. I had never heard that before, and man, I was instantly picturing the story of Roswell, but from this rancher kid’s point of view. And what a kick it was to write! I gave an early copy of the manuscript to one of my neighbor’s kids, who’s a young rancher-kinda kid himself. (I told him the book covered a lot of his favorite topics: horses, sheep, rattlesnakes, bats, and arrowheads. And–oh, yeah!–UFOs, too!) Anyway, I had a great time with it, and I’m glad to finally see it in print.

https://amazon.com/dp/1973509547

 

Continue reading “Saucer Crash”