Virus!

In a case of life imitating art, I published Virus! about a year ago, long before the current pandemic came about. It’s a middle-grade novel and I hesitated to mention it at first (I didn’t want to frighten anyone who might already be worried about getting sick).

But it’s a fun book with a happy ending, so I thought I’d post the first chapter in case you’d like to take a look.Skimonster1117_ebook (And just for fun, Justin Bieber gets a little attention, like with this line: “Listen to Justin Bieber? He’d rather have rabies!”)

 

BRADY WILLIAMS poked a finger at the eighth-grade vocabulary list.

“Excruciating,” he said. “The English assignment was excruciating.”

Ethan Brown pulled a face like someone had stuffed a pair of sour gym socks under his nose. “Um, I don’t think Mrs. Poppleton will like that one.”

“Well, say math assignment, then. ‘The math assignment was excruciating.’ ”

Ethan nodded. “Okay, yeah. That’s good. She’ll like that.”

He bent over his paper and began writing.

Brady stretched and turned back to the list. The assignment was to use each of the week’s vocabulary words in a sentence. Which, he thought, was excruciating.

The trouble was that none of the words were, like, normal. They were words that no one ever used.

Like agonizing.

And officiate.

And capacious.

Actually using words like that in a conversation?

He shook his head.

A kid could get beaten up for talking like that.

 

HE SIGHED AND got serious with the list. Right away he spotted an unusual word and grinned.

“Climate,” he said as soon as Ethan was ready to write again. “We have a tree, but Dad won’t let me climate.”

Ethan wasn’t really paying attention. He had the sentence half written before he looked up and wrinkled his nose.

“What?”

“Climate! Get it? We have a tree, but Dad won’t let me climb it?”

Ethan rolled his eyes and began erasing what he’d written.

“Oh, come on,” Brady teased. “This stuff’s agonizing. Gotta have a little fun.”

“Yeah, I know.” Ethan brushed a pile of eraser shavings from his paper. “But my folks are gonna ground me from football unless I get my grade back up. I’ve gotta have an A- by next week or I’m off the team.”

“Paid off during the oral quiz last week …”

“Well, yeah, that’s true.”

The week before, Mrs. Poppleton surprised the class with one of her dreaded oral quizzes. Giving them no time to prepare, she called students one-by-one to the front of the room, gave them a word, and waited for them to correctly use it in a sentence.

It was about as fun as doing burpees outside when the grass was wet. And most of the kids kept their heads down, hoping they wouldn’t be called upon. After several students had stumbled with their words, she called on Brady.

“Debate,” she said.

Without missing a beat, Brady said, “I use debate to catch de fish.”

The class exploded with laughter. One boy—who’d just filled his mouth from a water bottle—snorted the whole thing over the girl in front of him.

Mrs. Poppleton tried to look upset. But then she’d broken down and laughed with everyone else. Best of all, she’d realized it was pointless to go on. And she gave the whole class full marks on the quiz.

 

BRADY GRINNED, then glanced at Mrs. Poppleton, who was busy grading papers. Around the room, most of the other kids were chattering quietly as they worked. As long as the work got done, Mrs. Poppleton didn’t mind people making a little noise.

Brady looked back at Ethan.

“Can’t stop thinking about the game last night,” he whispered. “Forty-four to seven. … Man, it doesn’t get better than that!”

“And against the best team in the league,” Ethan agreed. He gave Brady a quick knuckle-bump. “I mean, I knew we could beat ’em. But forty-four to seven? We creamed ’em! Tom Brady will play me in the movie!”

“Tom Brady? Not Aaron Rodgers? Sheesh, you’d be lucky to get Justin Bieber.”

“As long as the girls notice, I don’t care.”

“You must’ve thrown for like nine hundred yards.”

“A hundred forty-seven,” Ethan replied. “My dad kept track.”

“Still pretty awesome. Your arm sore?”

“Little bit,” Ethan said. “But what about you? You ran for … what? Four touchdowns? Five?”

“Just four.”

“Almost five, though. You popped the ball outta that kid’s hands and ran it all the way to the four-yard line. If that putz with the goofy helmet hadn’t knocked you outtabounds, you would’ve had a sick snatch-n-score.”

“I can’t believe he caught me,” Brady exclaimed. “He must’ve been flyin’ down the field.”

“Oh, he was haulin’, man. And then he hit you like a freakin’ bulldozer. The way you went crashin’ into those Gatorade buckets? I thought you were dead!”

“You’re not the only one. You know how some people see stars when they get hit?”

“Yeah …”

“I saw super novas! And—I think—I saw Elvis.”

“Elvis?”

“Elvis Presley. You know, the guy who—oh never mind.” Brady shook his head ruefully. “Anyway, he mashed me like week-old Cream of Wheat.”

He looked around to be sure no one was watching, then lifted his shirt to show off his ribcage. “Check out this freakin’ bruise …”

“Whoa!” Ethan’s eyes bulged as he leaned in for a better look. “He did that?”

“Him or a Gatorade bucket.”

“That’s wicked! Does it hurt?”

“Little bit.”

Ethan whistled softly, then pulled his shorts up over his knee to reveal a purple mark the size of a grapefruit. “Look at this.”

“Wow,” Brady said, marveling at the size of the bruise. “When did that happen?”

“Fourth quarter? When that clod with the hairy arms chased me outta the pocket and down the sideline? And then ran me over like a Mack truck?” He tapped the bruise. “Yeah, I came away with this.”

He grinned ruefully.

“My mom totally freaked when she saw it.”

“I’ll bet,” Brady said. He knew Ethan’s mom was insanely overprotective. She didn’t like Ethan playing football and was always looking for excuses to make him quit. She fussed over minor cuts and scrapes like an ER surgeon treating a javelin through the head.

The ultimate helicopter mom.

 

ETHAN TAPPED Brady’s left hand, which was wrapped with gauze. “So what’s this? You get cleated or something?”

“What? Oh, this?” Brady lifted his hand and looked it over. “Weirdest thing. I found a ferret in our window well yesterday.”

“A ferret?”

“You know … one of those long, furry animals that look like a cross between a squirrel and a wiener dog?”

“Yeah, I know what a ferret is. What’d it do, bite you or something?”

“Yeah. I thought it was tame. But when I tried to catch it, it took a chunk outta my hand.”

“Had a little Brady for breakfast, huh? What’d you do with it?”

“Took it to the vet. It had a tattoo in its ear—”

“A tattoo? Like a gangbanger tattoo?”

“No. Like a number. Or a code. I figured the vet would know what it meant. Probably know what to do with it.”

He turned his hand back and forth, giving the bandage another look. “It didn’t look bad last night, but it was kinda red and puffy this morning. So I wrapped it up.”

He lowered his voice confidentially.

“Didn’t want to gross out the girls.”

“Pus?”

“Some.”

“Kewl … I hope you don’t get rabies.”

“Yeah, I was worried about that, too. I’ve had a tetanus shot. But the vet thinks I should get a rabies shot, too. You know, just in case.”

“Ouch. What’s your mom say?”

Brady looked around before answering. “She doesn’t know yet.”

“You didn’t tell her? Brady—”

“Shhhh!” Brady gestured frantically for Ethan to keep his voice down. “Man, if I’d told her yesterday, she would have hauled me straight to the doctor. I might have missed the game!”

“I know, but holy cow, Brady … rabies! That’s scary stuff, man! You can’t be messing around with it!”

“I know, I know … I’ll tell her tonight.”

Ethan pulled a face and Brady said: “Really, man. As soon as I get home.”

Ethan frowned, but said: “Okay. I hate to get on your case, but rabies is bad news.” He checked to be sure no one was listening. “I heard about some little kids that found a sick bat and took it to school. And they all had to have shots.”

“It bit ’em?”

“No! And that’s the point. All they did was touch it, but with rabies that’s all it takes.”

“It doesn’t have to bite you?”

“Huh-uh. Not with rabies. That’s why you can’t take chances.” He rolled his eyes. “I can just see you getting rabies and biting someone at the next game.”

“Probably get a ten-yard penalty for giving a kid rabies.”

“At least. Have to put the name ‘Cujo’ on your jersey.” He glanced at a girl across the room. “Has Hunter seen it?”

Brady blanched. “Not yet.”

“Gonna show her?”

Brady pulled a face. “I do and she’ll haul me to the doctor.”

He peeked at Hunter Caldwell through the corner of his eyes. Hunter was the newest girl in the school. And next to Brady’s friend Sid, she was also the smartest. She had the energy of a bottle rocket, and a wardrobe that was the envy of every girl at the junior high, the senior high, the nearby college, and half the women at the local TV station.

The problem was that she was possessive, and she considered Brady her own personal property. Even worse was the fact she was a huge Justin Bieber fan.

Like huge.

Brady shuddered.

Even though he secretly liked a girl named Ellen, he didn’t mind being friends with Hunter. He didn’t mind eating with her at lunch, sitting with her in class, or even talking with her on the phone as long as he didn’t have practice.

But listen to Justin Bieber?

He’d rather have rabies.

 

BRADY SIGHED. He was about to make another joke, but stopped as he looked across the room. “Oh, oh … somebody’s in trouble.”

Ethan followed Brady’s gaze. Mr. Gum, the assistant principal, had just stalked into the room. The man had once been a marine drill sergeant, and he barked at junior high students like they were green recruits on their first day of boot camp.

The principal marched to Mrs. Poppleton’s desk and rasped something just loud enough for her to hear.

Mrs. Poppleton’s eyes went wide. Her face froze and she stiffened in her seat.

Mr. Gum lifted the radio he used to talk with the office. He turned his back and began speaking, his voice low enough no one could hear what he was saying.

Like everyone else in the room, Brady was focused on the man like a laser beam. Something was obviously wrong. Not only that, but—

He just looked at me!

Brady felt the hair prickle on the back of his neck. The assistant principal had turned around again. His eyes flicked across the room and Brady was certain that—for a split second—they’d focused on him.

The room suddenly felt unusually warm.

What’s going on?

Brady glanced at Ethan, then looked back at the principal. The man was looking away now, and though he seemed casual … he almost seemed too casual.

Like he knows something’s wrong, but doesn’t want to worry anyone.

And he almost seemed to be trying not to look at Brady.

Mr. Gum’s radio beeped and he held it to his ear. He listened for a moment, spoke a single word, then turned and looked at Brady.

“Mr. Williams? The principal would like to see you in his office.”

Brady blinked as his blood turned to ice. “Me?”

Now,” the former marine snapped, the drill sergeant to a lazy recruit. “And don’t stop on your way there!”

Chills crawled along Brady’s spine like huge, hairy spiders.

“Mr. Williams,” the man barked, “Mr. Huff wants you now!”

Brady stood and nodded. “Should I take my backpack?”

Now!” the man snapped.

“Ohh-kaay!”

More confused than ever, Brady gave Ethan a worried look, then kicked his pack beneath his desk and walked from the room. He felt the eyes of his classmates boring into his back as he left.

 

WHAT’S GOING ON? Brady wondered as he walked down the hall.

He defied Mr. Gum’s orders and stopped at the drinking fountain.

It didn’t make sense: whenever a principal needed to give someone a good chewing out, he just called the kid’s teacher over the intercom. Or maybe sent an aide to the kid’s room with a note. Never once had Brady seen a principal actually show up to collect a student in person.

Am I in trouble or something? he wondered. What did I do?

And—something else occurred to him—why isn’t Mr. Gum coming with me?

Brady stopped and looked around, noticing for the first time that the halls were empty. Deserted.

Weird, he thought.

Even in the middle of class there were always people in the halls. There was always someone heading for a bathroom, getting a drink, or retrieving supplies from a locker. And that was in addition to the troublemakers who’d been kicked out of class and told to sit in the hall.

But now?

Not a soul.

Brady glanced around as he walked, the sound of his footsteps echoing hollowly against the aluminum lockers that lined the halls.

The classroom doors

Brady stopped and looked up and down the hall. The doors to the classrooms all opened outward. And most teachers left them open during class.

But today …

Every door in the hall was closed.

It’s like we’re locked down or something, he thought.

He turned and saw that someone had quietly closed Mrs. Poppleton’s door after he left.

He felt a cold knot begin twisting in his stomach. Something was obviously wrong, but he had no idea what it could be.

He rubbed the ferret bite on his hand—

Feelin’ kinda itchy

—as he walked. He came to an intersection and noticed that the math and science wings were deserted, too.

And the doors are all closed here, too!

Brady stopped, thinking it over. With violence in schools occurring more and more often, most schools had lockdown procedures. Whenever there was a threat, teachers shut and locked their doors until the building was safe again.

But why now? Brady wondered. If we were locked down, Mr. Gum would have known it. He wouldn’t have let me out of the room.

He was about to move on when there was a sound: the click of a boot on the tile floor. He turned as a man dressed in camouflaged army fatigues stepped into the hall behind him. The man had a face like granite (no expression at all). And he had a weapon (a pistol or something) strapped to his belt.

And clipped to the other side … well, it looked like a gas mask.

What the

Brady stared at the soldier for a moment—

Is it career day or something? Someone’s dad returning from Afghanistan? The National Guard recruiting eighth graders to fight ISIS?

—then realized the man’s expression wasn’t completely granite. There was a flicker of … what? Concern, maybe?

Fear?

Worry?

Brady wasn’t certain, but it seemed the man didn’t want to come any closer. Brady frowned—

Navy SEAL you ain’t, dude!

—then continued walking toward the office, the soldier following at a wary distance.

Brady began walking faster, the soldier’s boots clicking ominously behind him. He turned the corner into the school lobby and froze.

Mr. Huff—the principal—was standing on the far side of the lobby. Normally a firm but friendly man, his face was drawn and twisted, lined with fear. A dozen soldiers holding rifles were standing around him.

One of the soldiers, a man with stars on his cap—

A general?

—was glowering at Brady through cold, hard eyes. His voice was sharp as broken glass.

“Is that him?”

Mr. Huff was staring straight at Brady, his eyes wide with terror.

He nodded.

And pointed.

“Yes, that’s him.”

And then: “Hurry … get him!”

 

So there you go! Like I said, it’s a fun story with a happy ending. I hope you’ll take a look!

 

SKIER DOWN!

The one question I’m asked more than any other is, “How many of your stories are based on real life?” And the answer is, Lots of them! Many of the incidents in my dinosaur books were even inspired by actual (and usual ridiculous) events. (The adventure with”Vampire Wasps” in Time Jam was actually inspired by a memorable and–yes–painful experience.

Anyway, the ski resorts all shut down early this season, but in a normal year things would have just wrapped up. With that in mind, I’ve attached a tale from my Ski Patrol novel, Outtabounds. This is one that was indeed based on an actual, harrowing, and very nearly tragic incident. (Names and places have all been changed, of course!)

Chopper

A PATROLMAN at the bottom of the mountain was pulling the canvas cover over a snowmobile when he noticed a man approaching. The patroller smiled and said: “Hi. Can I help you?”

“I certainly hope so.” The man spoke with a distinct New Zealand accent. “One of our mates seems to be missing. We were wondering at what point we should push the panic button.”

“Oh? When did you last see him?”

“About eleven-thirty. He skis better than the rest of us, so he nicked off. Our car’s still in the lot and he’s got the keys, so we know he hasn’t returned to the hotel.”

“Have you looked into any of the bars? Restaurants?”

“We’ve nipped in and out, yes, but there’s no sign of him.”

The patroller—a man named Hardman—sighed. Most missing adults eventually turned up at home or in a nearby watering hole. Chances were this one would too. But the car in the parking lot was a disturbing detail.

Worse, Lower Sweeps had already begun: there wasn’t much time left to mount a search.

He took a notebook from his pocket. “What’s your friend’s name?”

“Wendt … Jonathan Wendt.”

“Age?”

“Thirty-eight, give or take.”

“What’s he wearing?”

“Um, red coat, black pants … black helmet.”

“And where did you last see him?”

“About halfway down the run. The one you call … what is it now? Rodeo?”

“Does he have a cell phone?”

“Yes.”

Hardman lifted an eyebrow, but the man shook his head.          “We’ve been ringing him for the best part of an hour, but he hasn’t responded.”

Hardman nodded. “Okay.” He lifted his radio, then changed his mind and pulled out his cell phone. With the amount of information he needed to convey, the phone would be more efficient. He scrolled through his list of contacts, pressed CALL.

The phone rang three times.

“Dispatch, this is Ben.”

“Hi, Ben, this is Jeff. I’ve got a possible missing person.”

He heard a soft curse from the other end. “Okay … what have you got?”

Hardman relayed the information, then heard muffled voices as patrollers at the dispatch desk talked it over.

“Jeff?” Ben finally asked.

“Yes?”

“Can you stay with your guest?”

“Sure.”

“Okay. Why don’t you take him over to the clinic. Call us back from there.”

“Okay. Thanks, Ben.”

Hardman could picture the chaos he’d just created around the dispatch desk. Chances were, the missing man was lounging in a nearby bar, working his way toward a mild hangover. But until he was located, sweeps would be interrupted, dozens of sweepers placed on standby, and plans made to sweep the entire mountain again.

Even as he thought this, his radio rasped to life.

“Patrol Dispatch to all patrollers. We have a possible Code Green”—patrolspeak for a missing person—“stop all sweeps and stand by.”

Hardman looked up into the darkening sky. The sun had already set and it wouldn’t be long before the mountain was cloaked in blackness. Decisions would have to be fast and furious. On top of that—

There was a sudden burst of noise from the New Zealander’s coat.

“Ruddy Rudy,” the man said, fumbling for his pocket. He looked at his phone and shouted, “It’s him!” He punched at the screen. “Hello? Jonathan?”

Hardman could hear a voice, barely audible, rasping from the phone. “ ’Ello? ’Ello? Are you there?”

“Jonathan?” The man from New Zealand practically shouted at his phone. “Jonathan? Is that you?”

“Nathan …”

Hardman could hear the injured man gasping, could hear pain and confusion in the distorted voice.

“Nathan … I’ve … I’ve taken a bit of a spill.”

“Are you all right, Jonathan?”

There was a lengthy pause before the halting voice returned. “I’ve taken a spill, mate. … My head … I seem to be bleeding …”

“Where is he?” Hardman prompted Nathan. “Ask him where he is.”

“Jonathan, I’m with a medic. We need to know where you are.”

They waited, but there was no response.

“Try again,” Hardman prompted.

“Jonathan? Jonathan! Are you there, Jonathan?”

There was no response.

Hardman lifted his radio as Nathan continued calling to his friend.

“Patrol Dispatch, Seven Sixty-two.”

“Dispatch.”

“Ben, we’ve made contact with the missing man. He’s still on the mountain and he’s hurt, but we’ve lost contact again. We don’t know where he is. Stand by and we’ll get back to you.”

Hardman looked at the New Zealander, who shook his head: he’d been unable to regain contact.

 

FARTHER UP THE mountain, Chase listened to the radio traffic: even though most patrollers carried cell phones, important traffic was usually broadcast over the radio so others were able to keep track of what was happening. By keeping informed, patrollers could often anticipate and even prepare for calls before actually receiving them.

Like everyone else, Chase had stopped his sweep; he was standing at the top of a steep, empty run. He knew things would be happening fast. Worst case, everyone would be transported back up the mountain by snowcat or snowmobile so every run could be swept again. If the missing man was not found, helicopters with infrared, thermal imaging, or whatever they used would be called in.

Everyone was in for a long night.

Which would be even worse for the injured guest.

 

NATHAN’S PHONE began chirping and the New Zealander punched at the screen. “Jonathan?”

“ ’Ello?”

“Jonathan? Jonathan! Where are you?

“I … I’ve been trying to … to make my way down the hill.”

“Jonathan, listen carefully: do you know where you are?”

“I’ve reached a lift. It’s closed. There’s no one here.”

“Look for a name, Jonathan! Do you see a name on the lift?”

“Says Quickdraw.”

Hardman stabbed at the transmit button on his radio, completely ignoring correct radio protocol.

“Ben! This is Hardman. The missing man is at the bottom of Quickdraw. He’s hurt, he’s bleeding, he’s barely functioning.”

“Ten-four!”

“Keep him talking,” Hardman urged Nathan. “Tell him to sit down and stay put. Tell him help’s on the way.”

 

CHASE DIDN’T HESITATE. As soon as he heard “Quickdraw”—the lift at the bottom of the box canyon—he turned his skis and shot down the hill. He reached up and keyed his radio as he skied.

“Dispatch, Seven Forty-seven: I’m on the ridge just above Quickdraw. Be there in five.”

He sliced through the snow, feeling neither the wind nor the snow on his face. He topped a rise and spotted a lone figure sprawled on the snow near the bottom of the lift.

Chase swept up to the man, popped off his skis, and knelt beside him. There was blood on the snow, blood on the man’s face, coat, and snow pants. Chase tapped the man lightly.

“Sir? Hello? Can you hear me?”

No response.

Chase glanced at the man’s chest, saw it expand and retract again.

Still breathing!

He popped off the man’s skis, carefully eased him into a supine position, and gave him a quick once over. He noted the blood frozen and crusted around the man’s nose, ears, and mouth, which he recognized as classic signs of head trauma. The bleeding seemed to have stopped. Chase didn’t see signs of bleeding anywhere else, and there weren’t any obvious deformities—signs of broken bones—in any of his extremities.

Chase leaned back and keyed his radio.

“Dispatch, Seven Forty-seven.”

“Dispatch.”

“I’m with our injured guest. I need a trauma pack and backboard, and let’s bring in an air ambulance. We can land it here below the lift. Guest is male, about 40 years old, breathing but unresponsive, probable head trauma. Vital signs to follow.”

“Copy your backboard, trauma pack, and air ambulance. Patrollers en route.”

Because of the severity of the man’s head injury, Chase knew the spine was also compromised. Under normal circumstances he would have directed someone to hold the man’s head still until he was secured to a backboard. But by himself he didn’t have that luxury.

He slipped off his backpack and med pack, then pulled off his coat. He molded this firmly around the man’s head to keep it from moving. That done, he assessed the man’s breathing and heart rate—both elevated as his nervous system compensated for the loss of blood—then made another search for injuries. There was a soft spot on the man’s head—just above the left eye—which Chase recognized as a depression fracture.

He checked to be certain the man’s airway was clear—that it wasn’t obstructed or filled with blood—then began checking more closely for any less-obvious injuries. After several minutes a patroller skied up with a trauma pack strapped to her back.

“Still unresponsive,” Chase reported as the other patroller kicked out of her skis. “Hypovolemic, probable skull fracture. Let’s get him in a C-collar, and then get some Oh-two onboard.”

“Ten-four.”

Two more patrollers skied up. Then three more, one towing a toboggan loaded with additional supplies.

“SkyRescue is inbound,” one of the new men reported. “Be here in five.”

Two patrollers were already positioning chem-lights to mark the landing zone in the growing twilight.

“Thanks,” Chase said.

As the first responder, Chase took charge of the scene, directing the other patrollers as they tended to the man’s injuries, affixed an oxygen mask, and then secured him to a backboard. It wasn’t long before he heard the thump of rotor blades and looked up to see a red, black, and white helicopter swooping low over the ridge with landing lights ablaze. He checked over his shoulder, glad to see two patrollers scrutinizing the landing zone, checking for debris.

There was a rush of wind as the helicopter settled onto the snow, and then the engine noise quickly died.

Chase looked through the swirl of snow. The pilot was his friend Taylor, the man as focused as a laser beam as he shut down his machine. A flight nurse and paramedic leaped from the chopper.

“Probable depression fracture above the left eye,” Chase warned, though he knew the flight crew wouldn’t take his word for it—they never did—and planned to assess the patient themselves.

“Okay, got it.”

Chase stepped back as the nurse and paramedic took charge and finally allowed himself to relax. He stretched a kink from his back, then walked over to the helicopter. Whiting had stepped from the chopper to watch the action.

“Working a little late, aren’t you?” the pilot asked.

“Yeah, well, things were a little too quiet. Just thought I’d liven things up a bit.”

The two shook hands.

“Well, ’preciate your thinking of us. A little flight time always beats sitting around playing cards … even in this weather.” The pilot nodded to the where the nurse and medic were working over the injured skier. “So what’cha got?”

Chase quickly recounted the tale, earning a whistle from the pilot.

“Wow,” Whiting said. “Guy’s lucky you found him.”

“No question. If he hadn’t regained consciousness we might not have found him ’til spring.”

The flight nurse whistled for the pilot’s attention and made a quick twirling motion with his finger.

“Oh, oh,” Whiting said. “Looks like we’re going hot.” He shook hands again with Chase. “Guess I better get serious.”

“Yeah.” Chase jerked a thumb toward the clouds. “Feels like the wind’s picking up. You be careful up there.”

“Always.” He turned back toward the chopper. “Least I won’t be fighting the crazy holiday traffic.”

Patrollers and flight crew quickly loaded the injured skier into the chopper and—minutes later—Whiting skillfully lifted the helicopter into the air. In seconds it had disappeared into the gloom.

Chase looked around. For the first time he realized he and his crew were stranded in the bottom of the box canyon. He’d no sooner had the thought than the growl of snowmobiles filled the air, the machines apparently dispatched to tow the rescuers back up the hill.

Ah, he thought. Good to know Ben’s on the ball tonight.

 

An investigation showed the the injured guest crashed in the trees high up the mountain. He was unconscious and hidden when the patrol sweepers skied by. No one’s fault, and just one of those things. The scary thing to me was that there was no warning. One minute we were closing down the resort at the end of a long but exciting day, and the next we were racing to save a man’s life. It was a lesson to me on the importance of always being prepared. And always remembering, “Today could be the day you’re called to save a life. Will you be ready?”

Outtabounds

It was just ten degrees when I took my dog cross-country skiing around the farm this morning. (I actually had to scrape ice off the bottom of my Karhus!) But the sun was bright and the skiing was great. I usually spend the time thinking through whatever book I’m working on, but this morning I kept going back to Outtabounds, my ski-patrol novel. (The tag line is, Not afraid of ski lifts? You will be . . .)

Anyway, this is the prologue. I hope you like it!

 

PROLOGUE

Twenty-four years earlier . . .

Ebook CoverTEN-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 choose 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 step 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 …”

***

CHASE ROGERS slalomed through the fresh, creamy snow carrying a mongo—a steel bar used for driving holes into hard snow and ice. The bamboo poles and plastic ropes that marked closed and out-of-bounds areas were constantly working themselves loose, and keeping them buffed out was a never-ending chore.

He skied easily, enjoying the feeling of long skis on groomed snow. He stopped frequently to pull up the slack in a sagging rope or use the mongo to drive a new hole for a leaning pole. The sun was high in the sky—bright and warm—and it felt good on his face as he hopped over a rise and onto the face of a steep pitch.

There was a skier down on the snow near the bottom of the hill, someone kneeling beside him. Chase was a rookie ski patroller, but he’d skied long enough to recognize the scene of an accident. Forgetting the ropes, he turned his skis and within seconds reached the stricken skiers.

A young boy looked up with swollen eyes, instantly recognizing the red coat and white crosses. A look of overwhelming relief flooded the boy’s face.

“It’s my dad!” the boy cried, choking on his words. “Please help him! Hurry, please!”

Chase punched out of his skis, a million thoughts whirling through his mind. The man on the snow appeared unconscious, and there was no mistaking the blood trickling from his mouth. Chase knew he was facing a dire situation. Knew he needed help and knew he needed it fast.

He reached down to his chest harness and keyed his radio.

“Wrangler Patrol, Seven Forty-seven.”

A scratchy voice rumbled back. “Wrangler Patrol.”

“I need an Oh-two pack, backboard, and toboggan at the bottom of Powderkeg.” And then, though he knew it was unnecessary: “Please expedite.”

“Copy your Oh-two, backboard, and toboggan. Ten-four, patroller en route. Wrangler Patrol clear.”

Chase dropped beside the man on the snow. He took in the blood trickling from the man’s mouth, the clenched eyes—

He looks like he’s in pain.

—and the lack of discernible breathing. He shook the man roughly.

“Sir? Sir! Can you hear me?”

Nothing.

“He just fell!” the boy cried frantically. “He was grabbing his chest!”

“How long ago?” Chase asked.

“I … I don’t know! Five minutes? Ten? I don’t know!

“Okay,” Chase said. “Just relax.”

He placed his ear close to the man’s mouth and watched his chest. He heard no sound of breathing, felt no breath upon his cheek, saw no telltale movement of the chest.

Damn!

Chase quickly tilted the man’s head, pinched the nose shut, and blew two breaths into the mouth, ignoring the stubble of whiskers against his lips. The breaths went in and Chase saw the man’s chest rise.

Chase placed his fingers alongside the man’s neck and felt for a pulse: nothing.

He moved his fingers, felt again.

Nothing.

He ripped open the man’s coat, placed his hands in the center of the chest, and straightened his elbows: he shoved, compressing the man’s heart.

One, two, three

He winced as the man’s ribs cracked under the pressure, but forced himself to focus on his work.

four, five.

He repositioned himself alongside the man’s head and blew again into the whiskery mouth. He felt the breaths go in and saw the chest rise.

It’s working!

He quickly returned to the man’s side, positioned his hands and shoulders, began compressing the chest.

One, two, three

He knew help would be coming. Knew too that he couldn’t stop working. Couldn’t stop unless the man began breathing on his own or someone arrived to take over … or until he himself dropped from exhaustion.

He completed five compressions—the accepted protocol of the time—blew twice into the man’s mouth, began another cycle. He knew—he’d been warned—that cardiopulmonary resuscitation was a difficult, draining procedure. But he was surprised by how quickly he was tiring. His arms began to ache, his back already burning from the strain.

Five compressions, two breaths, five compressions, two breaths, the motions becoming automatic, his actions almost mindless. He couldn’t stop. He struggled to ignore his tiring muscles and focus upon his work.

Get oxygen into the lungs, into the blood.

Keep the blood circulating.

Breaths.

Compressions.

Breaths.

Compressions.

Breaths.

His shoulders burned, his aching elbows, knees, and back howling for relief. He began to worry that he’d become too tired to continue. The thin mountain air was insufficient to sustain him, the cold draining his strength as rapidly as the strain of performing CPR.

Focus! he ordered himself. I’m not stopping!

He’d seen the look in the kid’s eyes—the boy had looked at Chase with an expression of trust and confidence—and Chase was not going to fail him. Not for anything. No matter how tired he became.

Come on! he thought as he blew into the cold mouth. Breathe!

Breathe!

He continued compressing, breathing, compressing, breathing, compressing, breathing. He became dimly aware of movement around him.

People.

Activity.

Voices.

He wanted to look, to see what was happening, but couldn’t tear his eyes away. Was too tired, too numb, too exhausted to do anything but continue the rhythmic cycle of chest compressions and breaths.

One, two, three

More motion.

A hand gripping his shoulder.

A voice.

“Chase …”

“No,” he whispered numbly. “Can’t … stop …”

“Chase,” the voice repeated, a little more urgently. “It’s okay … we’ve got it. Stand down …”

“Can’t … stop …”

Hands gripped his shoulders, began pulling.

No!

“C’mon, Chase, it’s okay. C’mon, man, let go … let go, Chase … we’ve got it.”

Chase felt himself being pulled away. He resisted, struggled briefly, finally let go. He blinked, saw people in red coats kneeling over the stricken man as they continued administering CPR. More breaths, compressions, breaths. Someone feeling for a pulse. More breaths, more compressions. Other skiers had stopped to watch and a patroller had his hands out, shooing them away.

After several minutes a grizzled patroller—the patrol doctor—motioned the men performing CPR to stop. The doc placed a stethoscope against the unconscious man’s chest. He listened, repositioned his stethoscope, listened again. By now a rescue toboggan had arrived and a patroller was preparing it for transport … but without the urgency Chase expected. It was several moments before he realized why.

It was over.

He sat back on the snow as icy beads of sweat trickled down his back feeling … what?

Distress?

Failure?

Defeat?

None of the words seemed exactly right.

He was completely, utterly drained, both physically and emotionally. He looked to the side and saw the man’s son kneeling in the snow beside his father. Tears streaked the boy’s cheeks, the young face flushed and filled with anguish. The boy looked like he was on the verge of losing control.

After a moment the boy looked up and their eyes met. For a brief, horrifying moment Chase thought the boy might show some sign of anger that Chase had been unable to save his father. But despite his grief the boy managed to mouth the words, Thank you.

It was as if a dam suddenly burst within him. A flood of emotions overwhelmed him and Chase collapsed on the snow. He began to cry, sobbing like a baby.

He was twenty-two years old.

It was his second day on the job.

 

Wow . . . reading that always takes me back to the mountain. Anyway, I hope you like it! You can read more details here!

Brex and the Snowboard

I was doing a Q & A with a

local school not long ago, and one of the kids asked if I ever use real stories in my books. Right away I thought of this story, that made it into Time Jam. It’s a silly story–and pretty disgusting!–but it really happened!

EXCERPT FROM TIME JAM:

“No, seriously, man.” Zach peeled a blackened chunk of pterosaur steak from the engine and tossed it onto a growing pile of burnt flesh and filthy rags they planned to burn later. “This has gotta be, like, one of the top five most disgusting jobs I’ve ever had.”

Snowboarding
Snowboarding sport photo

He shuddered as he plucked an unidentifiable piece of pterosaur from the engine, holding it between two fingers the way he’d hold a dead snake.

“Probably top three.”

Chase laughed again. “Top three? What in the world is number one?”

Zach didn’t even pause to think about it. “Snowahlamie Mountain.”

Chase stopped what he was doing, suddenly nauseated. “Oh, jeez,” he said. He not only knew what Zach was referring to, but ranked the experience as his own number one.

“Hey, don’t hold out,” Captain Jenks said as he tried to loosen a stiff bolt. “What happened?”

“Last winter,” Zach said. “Me’n Chase and my ten-year-old cousin Brex were snowboarding at Snowahlamie Mountain. Out in Utah?”

“Dinosaur country,” the pilot said. He gritted his teeth as he leaned against the stubborn bolt. “Okay …”

“There’s a big lodge halfway down the mountain,” Chase added. “And one of the underground sewer lines burst.”

Zach: “It wasn’t real deep, and all the warm … sludge … began eroding away the dirt, and the snow—”

Chase: “Making a hole about five feet across—”

Zach: “And filling it with … sludge—”

Chase: “But people coming down the hill couldn’t see it.”

Captain Jenks stopped work on the bolt to listen.

We saw it,” Zach said, nodding to Chase. “And just barely missed it. But because it had just happened, the resort didn’t know anything about it—”

Chase: “We didn’t know what to do—”

Zach: “So Chase called nine-one-one.”

Captain Jenks: “You called nine-one-one?”

Chase spread his hands. “Hey—who you gonna call?”

Zach laughed. “And the poor dispatcher thought we were prankin’ her. Chase kept saying, ‘Seriously!’ and ‘I’m not kidding!’ and ‘This is for real, man!’ ”

Captain Jenks: “So what happened?”

Chase: “Dispatcher finally called the ski patrol—”

Captain Jenks: “The ski patrol?”

Chase: “Yeah, I didn’t get it either.”

Zach: “But then we looked up the hill—”

Chase: “And here comes Zach’s little cousin Brex.”

Chase and Zach exchanged somber glances.

“He was flying down the hill,” Zach said. “I mean, if it was the Olympics, he would have gotten the gold.”

Chase: “We started waving and yelling—”

Zach: “But he thought we were telling him to go faster—”

Captain Jenks could see where the story was going and began to chuckle.

“Yeah,” Zach said, seeing the pilot had figured it out. “And he went right in—”

Chase: “Massive belly flop—”

Zach: “Right into the … sludge.”

Both boys shook their heads.

“We had to help him out of the hole,” Zach said. “I mean, he was literally drowning in it—”

Chase: “Flopping around like a fish—”

Zach: “Splashing his arms—”

Chase: “Still strapped to his snowboard—”

Zach: “And man … it was horrible.”

“You can’t even imagine how bad it was,” Chase said. “A ski patrolman finally came to help—”

Zach: “His name was Chase, too—”

“Yeah,” Chase said, remembering. “He took us down to the patrol locker room where they have showers so we could clean Brex up and stuff. But still”—he shuddered—“it was the worst! I mean, I’ve never, ever, been around anything so disgusting.”

“We just threw his clothes away,” Zach said. “I mean, who’d want to ever wear ’em again?”

Chase: “We found him some stuff in lost-and-found to wear home. And poor Brex drenched himself in cologne and aftershave every day for a month, thinking he still smelled like … well, you know.”

Zach: “It was like a mental thing: no matter what he did and no matter how many times he showered, he was certain he could still smell it. For like a month!”

Chase shuddered again, then turned back to the gooey mess in the engine.

“You know, come to think of it,” he said, getting back to work, “this really isn’t all that bad …”

Ooh! I can’t read that without shuddering! And remember, it really happened! And it reminds me of the time . . . well, we’ll save that story for another time!

“Time Jam” Interview

When Time Snap first came out, my young friend Max interviewed me for his school paper. We talked again when I finished Time Crunch, and with Time Jam now available, Max asked for another visit.

 

SHANE: Well, here we are again.

MAX: Yeah, and thanks for the advanced copy. That makes things easier for me. So … I know you said Time Jam was harder to write than your Ebook Coverother books. How was that?

SHANE: Y’know, when I wrote Time Crunch, I hardly felt like I was working. I didn’t know in advance what was going to happen, and every day I got up excited to get to work to find out what was going to happen next. There were a lot of times I’d finished writing a scene and think, “Whoa … I can’t believe that just happened!” But the whole time, the scenes were just flowing together, almost like someone else was doing the writing, and I was just typing it into the computer.

MAX: So what was different this time?

SHANE: Well, I still didn’t know what was going to happen. But I had to work a lot harder for it.

MAX: Is that why it took so long to finish?

SHANE: Exactly. I had to think about it a lot more. I still don’t know where a lot of the ideas came from. Looking back, I can’t remember what prompted certain events and situations—and when I look at them, I even wonder how I ever thought of them—but I know they didn’t come as easily as they did in Time Crunch.

MAX: What was the hardest part?

SHANE: The editing. And rewriting. Ernest Hemingway said he rewrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms 39 times before he was satisfied. That’s sort of what I felt like. When I wrote the final draft, I went back to punch up the beginning—that’s the page most people read—and ended up going through the whole book again. And then I did that two more times.

MAX: So are you satisfied?

SHANE: Let me put it this way. One of my personal “curses” is that once I finish a book, I can’t go back and read it just for the enjoyment of it. No matter how much I’ve tried to polish it, I know I’ll find parts I’d like to rewrite.

MAX: So you really don’t ever read them again?

SHANE: No. And I’d really like to. But even when I’m just reading, I can’t help thinking like an editor. And it makes me miserable to find a sentence or paragraph that needs a little something and know I can’t do anything about it.

MAX: Not to change the subject, but I noticed this book is a lot different than the others.

SHANE: Yeah, I tried out a few new ideas.

MAX: Like the quotes from Zach’s science fair paper below the chapter titles …

SHANE: Right. And then the chapters from the tyrannosaur’s point of view. The quotes just seemed necessary. I didn’t want people to forget that this wasn’t just another walk in the woods; that something awful and terrible was about to happen. And I didn’t want the tyrannosaur to be just another nasty animal in the forest. I wanted her to be just as important as Chase and Zach and Tali.

MAX: Let’s talk about Tali …

SHANE: Well, you remember Klorel, in Time Snap? People are always asking when we’re going to see her again. I couldn’t get her into this story, but Tali fit right in. And I liked having her there to torment Chase and Zach a little.

MAX: So, are we going to see Klorel again?

SHANE: We might. But you know the way I work: I don’t like to plan that far ahead. If and when she shows up again, it’s going to surprise me as much as anyone.

MAX: Speaking of which, I can’t let you go without asking about the ending …

SHANE: Well, that surprised me, too. I don’t want to give anything away, but it just kind of happened. I was pounding away on my keyboard and BOOM! It happened. And I remember thinking, “Oh, oh. Now I’m in trouble …”

MAX: Sooooo, is it fair for me to ask—

SHANE: All I can tell you is, I don’t know either. But I’m excited to find out!

Sneak Peak at “Time Jam”

It’s almost here! Time Jam, the third book in the Chase McCord series (and the follow up to Time Crunch) is almost here! Just waiting for the cover to come back and it’ll be available. I’m so excited I can’t wait, so I’ve included a sneak peak here:

 

Prologue

“It’s called the Chicxulub Asteroid. It’s pronounced CHICK-shuh-loob, and it’s important because it killed the dinosaurs.”

—Zach Wolff’s Science Fair Paper

SHE WAS CALLED Tyrannosaurus rex, and she was hungry.

Standing still as a rock, she watched the meadow from inside the trees. A warm breeze blew in from the grass, strong with the scent of grazing animals, and Tyrannosaurus eagerly breathed it in. The smell of prey quickened her pulse and she bared her teeth in anticipation.

Depositphotos_133745638_xl-2015Across the meadow a pair of enormous alamosaurs were stretching their necks deep into the forest. Nearly a hundred feet long, the alamosaurs were able to pluck limbs and leaves from trees other animals were unable to reach, happily munching on greens available only to them.

Tyrannosaurus could have reached the alamosaurs easily, but she made no move toward them. Either animal would have provided her food for several days, but she was aware of more vulnerable prey.

The breeze shifted, bringing with it the scent of horned triceratops, stealthy albertosaurs, spike-headed chasmosaurs, and duck-billed segnosaurs. Tyrannosaurus didn’t know the animals by name, but she knew which were prey, which were hunters, and which—like the alamosaurs—were unimportant.

Along with the rich, earthy smells came a chorus of noisy honks, hoots, bawls, squeaks, and bleats as grazing animals rumbled about the meadow. Tyrannosaurus listened intently, recognizing the sounds as calm and unworried.

None of the animals had yet detected her.

Tyrannosaurus had the keen eyes, nose, and ears of a skilled hunter. But the soles of her feet were equally perceptive. She could detect the tremors of lumbering alamosaurs and stampeding triceratops from as far as twenty miles away, and she was often aware of prey long before she could see or smell it.

But there were no tremors of fright from the ground now: the surrounding forest was peaceful.

And so she waited.

***

A NEW SMELL drifted by, the scent of a male tyrannosaur. Tyrannosaurus lifted her head. There were times when she would welcome the male, but this was not one of them. This was her territory and she was not in season: if the male came close, she would drive it away.

Flies buzzed around her eyes and she blinked, but

other than that remained perfectly still.

Tyrannosaurus was a patient hunter.

A pack of feathered dromaeosaurs abruptly rushed through the clearing. Dromaeosaurs were sleek, agile predators that—like Tyrannosaurus—walked on two legs. They were fast enough to catch small animals and—hunting in a pack—could bring down a triceratops, or even a lumbering isisaur. But today they would feed upon whatever the tyrannosaur left behind.

Tyrannosaurus saw the dromaeosaurs, but paid them no mind. Like the huge alamosaurs, they were unimportant.

There was a rustle of grass and Tyrannosaurus turned her head, aware of movement outside the trees, just out of sight. Her ears flicked and her nostrils flared, testing the breeze. The approaching animals were anatosaurs, and there were several of them. Adult anatosaurs were almost as large as Tyrannosaurus, though slow and awkward. They had broad shovel-like bills filled with teeth, but the teeth were not meant for fighting, but foraging.

And they were prey.

Tyrannosaurus remained still. The anatosaurs plodded into view: green animals with purple heads and thick, muscular tails. Most of the animals were fully grown, forty feet long and eighteen feet tall at the hips. But there were several juveniles and even a few tottering infants, only recently hatched. Many of the animals were walking hunched on two legs, though a few rumbled along on all fours.

Tyrannosaurus watched patiently. She lacked the ability to plan an attack. Her actions were driven purely by instincts honed and sharpened over millions of years.

But those instincts were precise, powerful, and deadly.

And they guided her more effectively than any teacher.

***

MORE ANIMALS PASSED, the middle of herd now in front of her.

And Tyrannosaurus sensed it was time. She crouched, loading her powerful legs like springs, then exploded from the trees. With a terrible roar she rushed into the meadow, directly into the unsuspecting anatosaurs. The startled animals panicked, bleating and honking in terror, bolting in all directions. All of the animals were on all fours now, their heads low to the ground as they galloped for safety.

Tyrannosaurus ignored the confusion, focusing upon a single animal, a juvenile. The young anatosaur bleated in fear as the tyrannosaur thundered toward it, and at the last instant turned sharply, unexpectedly, and raced off in a new direction.

Tyrannosaurus rushed past, just missing the animal. She whirled around, but the young anatosaur was already several yards away, speeding for the trees. Tyrannosaurus was fast, but only for short distances, and the fleeing anatosaur was already out of range.

The tyrannosaur roared angrily—

Another animal abruptly rushed past, confused by fear and panic. Tyrannosaurus sprang forward, snapping at the anatosaur’s neck. The animal honked and tried to turn, but Tyrannosaurus was moving fast. She slammed into the anatosaur, knocking it to the ground. The animal rolled and struggled to regain its feet, but Tyrannosaurus was already slashing with her powerful jaws. Able to crunch through solid bone, her yellow teeth sank into the warm neck—

And that was that.

***

TYRANNOSAURUS FED GREEDILY. Her teeth were strong—able to hold tight a fighting, struggling animal—and she could tear off and swallow more than five hundred pounds of meat in a single bite.

Most of the other animals fled into the forest when Tyrannosaurus attacked. But the dromaeosaurs—along with several smaller scavengers—had gathered nearby, waiting patiently for the giant predator to finish her meal.

By nightfall, there would be little left of the unfortunate anatosaur.

***

IN TIME, TYRANNOSAURUS stepped away from her kill. Blood dripped from her jaws, but her belly was full. She looked around the meadow, growled at the dromaeosaurs, then turned and lumbered into the forest.

If she had looked into the sky—and if she’d cared about such things—she would have seen what appeared to be a bright spot like a small moon or a large star. She wouldn’t have understood, but the object was a rock—an asteroid eight miles across—hurtling toward the Earth.

In a matter of days, that asteroid would cause her death … even as it destroyed the world around her.

 

Wow! I hope you’re as excited as I am! The book will be available in just a few more days! Please watch for it! https://www.amazon.com/Shane-Barker/e/B005I6WGR6

“Time Jam” Update

People have been asking for an update on “Time Jam,” the follow-up to “Time Snap” and “Time Crunch.” It was scheduled for release this month (October, 2019), but even as I work on the final draft, I keep finding things I want to be “just a little bit better.” I was Silhouette of Brachiosaurus and Iguanodonreally happy with “Time Crunch,” and I want to be absolutely certain that “Time Jam” is just as fun. I’ll need just a little more time with it, but I hope to have it ready before Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, here’s a quick snippet to give you an idea what it’s all about:

CHASE TURNED, JOINING his teammates as they squeezed through the crowd toward the showers. He was almost to the locker room when a hand grabbed him by the arm and jerked him to the side.

“Hey–”

He turned–surprised–to see Zach Wolff standing there with wide eyes.

“Hey, Zach–”

“Chase!” Zach hissed through the noise of the boisterous crowd. “C’mere! We’ve gotta talk!”

“Give me a minute,” Chase said. “Coach wants to talk to the team, then I’ve gotta take a shower–”

“Chase, listen,” Zach insisted. “We’ve gotta chance to see The Asteroid!”

“An asteroid?” Chase glanced toward the showers before turning back to Zach. His friend was flushed with excitement, but not because of the ballgame. “So what?”

“Not ‘an’ asteroid!” Zach whispered, his voice urgent. “Thee Asteroid!”

A knot of rowdy kids collided with Chase, nearly knocking him over. He shot them an irritated glare before turning back to Zach.

“What are you talking about?” Chase asked impatiently, anxious to rejoin the team. “What asteroid?”

“The Asteroid,” Zach said for the third time. “We have a chance to see the Chicxulub Asteroid–the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs!”

 

WOW! I’m so excited about this book! It’s different in a lot of ways from anything I’ve done before, and I can’t wait to share. If you haven’t yet checked out “Time Snap” or “Time Crunch,” give them a look. And be watching for “Time Jam!”