Time Snap

My new book “Time Snap” just came out and I couldn’t be more excited about it. (And I can’t get enough of that cover!) I ran into some problems with the actual publishing (the fact that I just had shoulder surgery and have to do all my work one-handed hasn’t helped), but now that the wrinkles have been ironed out, I thought you might like to see an excerpt:

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CHASE’S KNEES SAGGED like they’d turned to Jell-O. As the lightning died away the outline of the big rex melted again into the darkness. But looking up, Chase imagined he could still see the dull gleam of the animal’s enormous yellow teeth.

The rex growled as if thinking, I’ve got you now!

Chase felt fear squeeze his heart like an icy hand. He knew they only had one chance to get away, and that there was no room for mistakes.

“Klorel, Zach … run!”

They didn’t need to be told twice. The next instant Klorel and Zach were sprinting through the trees with Chase hot on their heels. The big rex bellowed … angrily? Hungrily? Chase couldn’t tell—didn’t care—as he raced after his friends.

Klorel tripped on a root and fell flat on her face. Not missing a beat—as smoothly as if they’d practiced it a thousand times—Chase and Zach reached down as they passed, grabbed her by the arms, and pulled her to her feet.

They still had a chance to escape. But Zach suddenly became tangled in the roots and fell hard enough the air gushed from his lungs in a loud hooff! Chase turned to help just as the rex burst from the trees. The tyrannosaur lunged and Zach rolled away just as a massive foot thumped into the mud, exactly where he’d been a second earlier.

“Zach!”

Chase cringed and darted to the side as the tyrannosaur bellowed. The rex whipped around as if searching for its prey and Chase saw the great tail swinging toward him. He ducked just as the tail lashed the air, felt a whoosh! as it passed over him.

The tyrannosaur darted forward and snapped at something in the brush, the huge jaws slamming together with a crack like a gunshot. There was a wet crunch

Chase felt his stomach heave, knowing Klorel had been in that direction.

—and the great head rose over the trees, leafy limbs and branches dangling from its jaws.

Outraged at having missed its prey, the rex turned and lunged again. Chase dove aside as a massive foot came crashing down, just missing him. He scrambled to his feet then instantly ducked again as the tail whipped by over his head.

The tyrannosaur obviously knew Chase—or someone, or several someones—was there, hidden in the brush. But in the rain and the darkness and the thickness of the brush, it didn’t know exactly where.

The rex bellowed, stamping a foot into the mud so hard it shook the ground. Mud flew through the air and splattered Chase like a school bus splashing through a puddle.

The tyrannosaur wheeled around and snapped at the brush. Chase had lost track of Zach and Klorel—didn’t know which way they’d gone—but couldn’t help thinking they were right there, beneath the rex. He reeled back, hot bile rising in his throat, certain the rex had gotten one of them.

The dinosaur crunched down again—the huge jaws cracking together—then whipped its head back and forth, shredding its prize into pieces. Chase saw leaves and branches flying from its mouth, but the rex didn’t seem to realize it had missed the real treat. It shook its head and stamped the mud, then abruptly wheeled around again. Chase dropped and rolled to avoid a clawed-foot, then instantly had to roll the other way to miss the other one. The tyrannosaur was thrashing around like it was covered with biting ants, and Chase was right beneath it, scrambling back and forth and trying to avoid being mashed into the mud.

A great foot crashed down and part of a massive claw caught Chase across the leg, pinning him to the ground. Chase cried out in pain, but the claw moved and Chase wiggled free, the dinosaur not knowing he was right there. Chase army-crawled through the mud, realizing he wasn’t just in danger from the terrible teeth and jaws. He was just as likely to be squashed flat by a massive foot or batted into outer space by the whipping tail.

He reached the trees and scrambled to his feet, wanting to run, but was afraid the rex would see him. He knew his best bet was to stay out of the dinosaur’s line of sight while trying to avoid being trampled, batted, beaten, or eaten.

The rex lunged at something in the brush, and Chase darted behind the trunk of a thick tree. He watched the dinosaur stomp back and forth for another moment, then took a step back from the clearing. And then another.

Finally, when he was sure he was out of sight, he turned and ran deeper into the trees. He ran for several minutes, then turned and angled in the direction of the jet. He hoped Zach and Klorel—if they’d gotten away—would be doing the same.

He could still hear the tyrannosaur thrashing about in the trees. But the animal didn’t seem as enraged as it had been before.

As if accepting that—for now—its prey had escaped.

Crazy, disturbing thoughts raced through Chase’s mind as he slogged through the trees.

A million different animals to choose from, and it finds us again, Chase thought. He

winced as a wet branch whipped across his face. It’s almost like it’s looking for us. Like it’s tracking us. But how?

Some kind of wild dinovision?   

Extrasmellory perception?

Rogue reptilian radar?

What?

A strange thought began tickling the back of his brain. He sensed the big rex wasn’t just looking for a quick snack. It seemed more like a dog chasing a ball while the kids played keep-away.

Huh.

 

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!)

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!