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!

 

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!”

 

Moon Lake Adventure

I spent this past weekend at exotic (and mysterious) Moon Lake, speaking to a group of 11-year-old Scouts. Great kids! I had a great time (and even looked for the legendary Moon Lake Monster, but without luck).

bearAnyway, I opened my talk with one of my favorite Scouting stories, which went something like this:

A bunch of years ago I spent 18 days backpack through Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Now, there’s a lot of bears at Philmont, so you can’t keep any food in your tent at night. Yeah, you do that and every hungry bear on the mountain’s gonna try crawling into your tent with you.

So every night before you go to bed, you’ve gotta take all your snacks and candy and anything else that smells like food and put it in a burlap sack called a “bear bag.” Then you take the bag about fifty yards out of camp and hoist it into a tree. That way, if any bears come wandering by, they spend the night trying to get into the tree instead of your tent.

At first, we were all really good about loading up the bear bag, ’cause none of us wanted some nosy bear sneaking into our tents. But there were a couple of problems. First, we weren’t seeing any bears. We weren’t seeing any tracks. And after a couple of days we started thinking maybe there really weren’t any bears, and that they were just a story made up to scare everybody.

And second, sometimes you’d put six Snickers bars into the bear bag, but you’d only get three back the next morning. So we all started getting a little lax about loading our best snacks in the bear bag.

One night after everyone had gone to bed, I went out for a little night hike. When I came back I was trying to be as quiet as I could, so I didn’t disturb anyone. There was one tent on the outskirts of camp, and as I got close I could hear a couple of the guys talking inside. One of the boys was saying, “Dude, quit moving around . . . you’re kneeling on my glasses!”

“Oh, sorry, I thought you were wearing them.”

“I am wearing them!”

Well, I started to walk around when I heard one of the kids go, “Shhhhhhhh!

And man, I froze, ’cause I believe in Bigfoot and I was sure someone had just heard him. But nothing happened, so I finally took another step and heard, “Shhhhhhhh! There it is again!

And this time I realized, “Ah, they hear me!”

But just to make sure I took another step and sure enough, “Shhhhhhhh! There it is again!

Followed by: “What do you think it is?”

“I bet it’s a bear!”

And a horrified voice: “I didn’t put all my stuff in the bear bag!”

“Where is it?”

And in pure panic: “It’s right here!

And the next second ZIP! went the zipper, and the next instant Pop Tarts, licorice, candy bars, power bars, raisins, bubble gum, and trail mix comes flying from the tent.

The next morning, we all searched the bushes for whatever was left of the guys’ snacks, but never did find any of it, which proved there was a bear in camp.

But I sure ate good that week.

Time Crunch Interview

A couple of months ago an eighth-grade boy named Max interviewed me for his English class. Now that he’s a big ninth grader, he came back for a follow-up.

Shane: The last time we talked, I hadn’t planned on writing a sequel to “Time Snap.” But you sort of  got me thinking about it and, well, here we are.

Time Crunch Ebook CoverMax: I was so excited to read it! And thanks for the free copy, by the way.

Shane: No problem. 

Max: So you said you did a lot of things differently this time. What did you mean by that?

Shane: When we talked before, I told you that I always write my first drafts longhand, then type it into the computer later. With “Time Crunch,” I sat down in front of the computer and started typing. And I didn’t print out any pages or do any editing until I had the whole thing done.

Max: Was it hard doing it that way?

Shane: No, it was actually kind of fun. I didn’t write an outline or anything, so I didn’t really know where the story was going. I’d get up every morning excited to get to work to find out what was going to happen.

Max: You really didn’t know?

Shane: Not a bit. The characters would get into trouble or find themselves in a jam, and I’d start writing faster than ever just to find out what they were going to do about it. It was pretty exciting. I mean, for me it was like a reader going through it for the first time. I didn’t know what was going to happen next and I couldn’t wait to find out.

Max: So did everything turn out the way you thought?

Shane: I’m not sure, since I really had no idea how things were going to turn out. But there was one character I was sure was going to be a bad guy. I had in my mind that he’d turn out to be a jerk, and I kept waiting for him to do something mean, but he never did. So that really surprised me.

Max: There are a lot more dinosaurs in this book . . .

Shane: Oh, yeah. Like I said, I didn’t set out to write a series. But once I realized how much people liked the dinosaurs, I thought I’d better get back to work. So this one is set in the Mesozoic Era, and aside from the people all the main characters are dinosaurs.

Max: You said this is going to be a series?

Shane: It is now. The third book, “Time Jam,” will be out in October, and there will be at least one more after that.

Max: That’s awesome!

Shane: Yeah, I’m pretty excited. Like I said, it sorta just happened, but I’m happy with the way things are going.

Max: Is it a series that you have to read in order?

Shane: No, I’ve tried to write each book so that it stands alone. I’d like to think someone could pick up the second or third book and jump right into the story. And then maybe like it enough they might go back and read the others.

Max: Is it hard doing that?

Shane: It’s not hard, but I have to keep reminding myself there might be readers who don’t know the whole backstory, and I don’t want them to get lost.

Max: Can I back up a little bit?

Shane: Sure.

Max: You said you wrote this on your computer . . . what did you do next?

Shane: I’m a brutal editor. Once I had a first draft, I printed it and then went to work editing and polishing and rewriting and trying to make it better.

Max: But you didn’t do that on the computer?

Shane: No, to me it’s just different when it’s on paper. But having a hard copy lets me do the editing wherever I want. I take my dog mountain biking in the hills every morning–well, I bike and she runs–and when we get back I’ll pull out a chair and work on my books for a while. And we go camping a lot too. But I’ve always got my pages with me, and I try to get a lot of work done while we’re out in the hills.

Max: So you wrote about dinosaurs called “Siats?”

Shane: Siats meekerorum. It was discovered in Utah and was named after a mythical man-eating monster in Ute mythology. Siats means, “man-eating monster.”

Max: Sounds wicked.

Shane: It’s a good name . . . almost as good as “Lythronax.” That one means, “King of Gore.”

Max: That sure paints a picture.

Shane: I know, right? That’s one of the fun things about dinosaurs.

Max: So, you must have a lot of fun doing this . . .

Shane: You have no idea. I mean, writing can be a lot of work, and when I’m editing and polishing and trying to make things as good as I possibly can, sometimes I’ll agonize over a single sentence, trying to get it just right. But overall it’s a blast. I’m just really having a good time.

Max: And “Time Jam” will be out next month?

Shane: It’s gonna be tight. But that’s what I’m shooting for.

Max: So, um . . .

Shane: Are you going to get another free copy?

Max: Am I?

Shane: Count on it.

Max: Sweet!

 

Sneak Peak at “Time Crunch” (Part III)

This is an excerpt from my latest young adult thriller, Time Crunch. (Be sure to check out Parts I and II if you haven’t read them yet!) 

Chapter One: The Jet

Mr. Scherrer–the eighth-grade math teacher–grinned smugly.

“Okay, here’s a good one . . . Steve is going to paint the city’s cylindrical water tank. If the tank is ten feet tall with a radius of fifteen feet–and if one gallon of paint covers ten square feet–how many gallons of paint does Steve need to buy?”

Time Crunch Ebook CoverKids around the room instantly bent over their desks, punching at calculators and scribbling on scraps of paper. Near the back of the room, Chase McCord scrunched his nose. He’d seen a peculiar gleam in his teacher’s eyes and knew the problem couldn’t be as straightforward as it seemed.

Trick question, he thought. But what . . .

He quickly sketched a cylinder to represent the water tank.

Looking for the surface area, he thought, visualizing the formula.

He frowned.

But there has to be more to it than that.

Several students had already finished their calculations and were waving their hands, hoping to be called. Students able to solve the teacher’s notorious challenges were excused from the day’s assignment, which would be at least an hour’s work at home.

Surface area, Chase thought again. Not of a cylinder … but of a water tank!

He grinned, knowing he’d nailed it. Surface area described the “skin” of the cylinder. But a water tank would be sitting on the ground … so you wouldn’t have to paint the bottom!

He began punching his calculator, figuring the surface area without the bottom of the tank. He then figured out the amount of paint he’d need, coming up with 164.85 gallons.

He began to raise his hand, but quickly stopped himself.

Point 85 gallons?

Really?

No one was going to buy .85 gallons of paint.

He quickly rounded the number up and raised his hand.

“Max,” the teacher finally said to a boy in the front row. “You had your hand up first. What’ve you got?”

“He needs 235.5 gallons.”

Mr. Scherrer sucked in his breath and scrunched his nose. “Oooh! So close!”

Max’s face fell, and half the hands in the room dropped as students with the same answer checked their notes, wondering where they’d gone wrong.

The teacher took another few answers—none of them right—then turned to Chase.

“Mr. McCord, you’re smiling at me. Like to tell your classmates where they slipped up?”

Chase felt a rumble of appreciation for his teacher. Mr. Scherrer hadn’t asked for Chase’s answer: guessing he’d figured out the trick, he was asking for Chase to explain it.

“Good one, Mr. S.,” Chase said. “It’s a double trick question. The first thing is that since the tank’s sitting on the ground, you don’t have to paint the bottom”—

There were moans from students who’d fallen for the trap, and Max actually slapped himself on the forehead.

—“and when you calculate the amount of paint you get a decimal, so you have to round up to the nearest gallon.”

There were more groans as frustrated students realized they’d been fooled again (and most of them now realizing—like Chase—the question had been way too easy).

“Well done—”

The teacher stopped as a sullen-looking man strode into the room.

“Excuse me for interrupting,” the principal said. The man looked around the room, spotted Chase, and crooked his finger. “Mr. McCord, would you come with me, please? Bring your backpack.”

Surprised and a little worried (being pulled out of class by the principal was rarely a good thing), Chase stuffed his books and papers into his pack, then followed the gloomy man from the room.

“What’s going on?”

“You’re not in trouble,” the principal said. “But your father’s called and excused you for the rest of the day. Someone’s coming to pick you up.”

“Really? Why?”

“Don’t really know,” the principal said, though his voice suggested he didn’t approve, whatever the reason.

The man turned down a hallway … and not the one leading to the office.

“Where are we going?”

The principal used the same brooding voice. “Apparently, you’re not being picked up by car.”

Huh?

Chase didn’t know how to process that, but heard a rumble like approaching thunder before he could respond. The noise increased, becoming so loud it began shaking the building. The principal opened a door leading outside, motioning for Chase to lead the way.

The thunderous noise was coming from the sky, and Chase looked up to see a jet aircraft approaching the school football field. Rather than streaking through the sky, the strange plane was actually slowing as it dropped toward the grass. Chase saw the engines rotate, pointing down to allow the craft to land vertically.

Ah, he thought. One of Mr. Wolff’s new toys.

Mr. Wolff—the father of Chase’s best friend Zach—was CEO of a company that built exotic airplanes. Mr. Wolff often took Zach on business trips, and Zach—in turn—sometimes invited Chase along.

“Gotta have someone to hang out with,” Zach once explained. “You know, when dad’s in meetings.”

As a result, Chase had often flown on the company’s unique airplanes, though never on one able to take off and land vertically.

Haven’t even seen one of those!

The jet kicked up wind like a hurricane—dust and leaves and frenzied bits of paper whirling across the field—then settled softly to the grass. The whine of the engines subsided as a startled gym class gawked from behind a fence.

“Zach came to get me?” Chase asked, raising his voice to be heard over the engines.

“Don’t really know,” the principal said in the same glum voice.

After a moment a clamshell door opened behind the flight deck, dropping a set of steps to the grass. Chase expected to see Zach come bounding out of the plane, but instead a tall, thin man in a white shirt appeared. The man looked around, spotted Chase, and began waving.

Chase looked up at the principal—

“Sorry ’bout this!”

—then sprinted across the grass toward the jet.

The man in the door was the pilot, a man Chase met during an adventure a few months earlier. Chase raced across the field and up the steps.

“Captain King! Hi!”

“Hello, Chase,” the pilot said, shaking Chase’s hand. “It’s good to see you again.”

“You, too.” Chase glanced past the pilot into the flight deck: the copilot—a man Chase didn’t know—was adjusting knobs and flicking switches. A skinny birdlike man sat just behind him, pecking away on a laptop. “Where’s Captain Carter?”

“On another assignment today—”

Chase had already turned away, looking back into the cabin. Eight tough-looking men in jungle-camouflage fatigues were sorting through some kind of supplies. But—

“Where’s Zach?”

“Zach’s not here,” one of the men called. He was a gruff-sounding man with a face that could have been made from an old football. He gestured to Captain King, who gave Chase a clap on the shoulder before closing the door and returning to the flight deck.

The brusque man dropped into a seat and motioned for Chase to join him.

“What’s going on?” Chase asked as the engines began spooling up.

“We’re not actually joining Zach and his father, as you probably thought,” the man said in a voice like broken gravel.

“Then where are we going?”

The man nodded toward the other men before turning back to Chase.

“This,” he said, “is a rescue mission.”

I hope you’re liking this! I’m already working on the third book to the series, and I hope you’ll take a look at Time Snap and Time Crunch!

 

Sneak Peak at the Sequel to “Time Snap!” (Part II)

People keep asking, “Is it done yet?” And for the past couple of weeks I’ve been saying, “Almost!” (Every time I finish a “final draft,” I think, Gotta go over it one more time …”)

ReverseI’m talking about “Time Crunch,” of course, which is the sequel to “Time Snap.” But I’m just about there. (The problem is that there are a lot more dinosaurs in this one, and I’m trying to keep everything accurate and factual. But if you’ve ever tried researching dinosaurs, you realize no one really knows what they’re talking about. Take T-rex, for instance. Every site you read will give you different facts regarding its size, weight, eating habits, and just when did they live? It’s hard knowing which numbers to go with.)

Anyway, I’m just double-checking a last few things, and we’ll be done. In the meantime, here’s the second part of the prologue. (If you haven’t read Part I, you might want to back up and take a look before reading on!)

PROLOGUE PART II

THE DINOSAUR stood perfectly still, but Zach could see its eyes moving, flicking back and forth like a bird’s as it searched the trees. Zach could see the animal’s nostrils, which were at the very end of the snout.

Just like a tyrannosaur’s …

Paleontologists once thought tyrannosaurs spent so much time in the water their nostrils must have been high on their heads, enabling them to breathe. But Zach knew from experience that a tyrannosaur’s nostrils were at the end of its snout, further evidence of its ability to sniff out prey.

So this thing might be able to do the same thing, he thought grimly. It does, and

There was a sound like distant thunder, and Zach glanced up before realizing: That’s not thunder! That’s a growl! The thing’s growling! What—

There was a soft crunch behind his tree, the sound of something stepping on a dry stick.

Zach’s stomach dropped.

Oh, crap!

He kicked himself, realizing he’d been so focused upon the shoulder-slashed animal that he’d let the other one—the one he’d been running from—sneak up behind him.

Can’t believe I’m so stupid! he thought glumly. He scrunched even closer to the tree, trying to make himself as small as possible. There was a heavy chuff and—

I can hear it breathing! It’s so close I can actually hear it breathing! And—

—he became aware of a foul, sickly odor like rotting garbage.

Holy crap! I can actually smell it!

He tried easing beneath a heavy fern, praying the animals wouldn’t spot him, but knowing they didn’t actually have to see him. If they could smell even half as well as tyrannosaurs, he didn’t have a chance.

THE DINOSAUR WITH the slashed shoulder remained perfectly still, its eyes locked on a spot behind Zach. It was still growling—

But not in fear, Zach thought, breathing rapidly. But in warning

There was a rustle of leaves … not from behind, but from the side. Zach tried to look without turning his head. There was a crack—and a crunch—and a third dinosaur stepped from the trees. The animal had a black nose and jagged, snaggled teeth.

Snaggle Tooth abruptly lowered its head and bellowed.

Zach cringed beneath the fern, clamping his hands over his ears. The first dinosaur—Slash—snapped around and roared in reply. A second later the unseen dinosaur roared, then stepped past the tree, an enormous red, three-toed foot crushing plants and ferns just inches from Zach’s hiding place.

Zach clenched his fists—fighting not to react—as he gawked through the leaves. Snaggle Tooth had taken another step, showing rows of crooked yellow teeth as it snapped its head back and forth. It roared defiantly, then abruptly raced forward. Zach felt the ground shake as the enormous dinosaur rushed through the brush toward him.

Zach screamed—

Aaaaaaiighhh!”

unable to stop himself. It was pure reflex, but it didn’t matter. The red dinosaur roared, then charged forward. The animal was the color of dried blood, and Zach gaped, amazed at its speed.

The dinosaurs slammed together. Snaggle Tooth buckled under the impact and Big Red was instantly upon it. Red clamped down on Snaggle Tooth’s shoulder, sinking its teeth deep into the flesh. It shook its head, trying to rip through the tough muscle.

Snaggle Tooth roared in fury. It twisted away, lashing out with a clawed foot that ripped Red across the belly, shooting a spray of hot blood into the air—

There was a terrible roar—a shriek like a rusty saw biting into rocks—and Slash tore into the clash, snapping at Red’s neck, then slashing at Snaggle Tooth with a powerful clawed foot.

Zach was staggered by the violence of the fight, and he shrank back in the brush. The raging animals were just thirty feet away—a writhing mass of twisting, surging bodies—flinging broken branches, torn foliage, and uprooted shrubs into the air as they battled.

Zach began to wheeze, but couldn’t tear his eyes from the struggle; couldn’t believe animals could fight with such savagery.

Slash abruptly lost its footing and fell, but was instantly up again. It crouched, ready to leap back into the fight, but the other two were tangled together in a vicious tangle of snarling, slashing rage. In their fury they collided with the leaping dinosaur. Slash was thrown backward toward Zach, legs and forearms clawing at the air.

Zach curled into a ball, certain he was about to crushed, but the dinosaur caught itself and leaped back to its feet. It spun around, its powerful tail whipping through the brush and striking Zach across the shoulder.

“Oof!”

It was like being hit by a speeding truck.

Zach flew through the brush—arms and legs flapping uselessly—and landed hard on the opposite shoulder. The impact drove the breath from his lungs in a painful whoosh. He rolled over, shook his head clear, then looked up just as another tail snapped toward him. He ducked, then rolled away as Red crashed onto its side, exactly where Zach had been a split-second earlier.

“Ah!”

Zach began army-crawling like a four-legged centipede, but Snaggle Tooth and Slash were suddenly in front of him, a crazed, horrible ball of snapping jaws and slashing claws—

Zach spun around, but Red blocked the way as it again barreled into the clash. Zach screamed as a massive foot crunched down on his leg—

Aaaaaaiighhh!”

mashing it hard into the dirt as the animal rushed past.

Zach screwed his eyes shut in agony, then wrenched them open again. Hot tears stung his eyes, from both the pain and the terror.

There was a rotting log just ahead, and Zach scudded toward it, dragging his injured leg. The dinosaurs seemed to be all around him—first over him, then to the left, then to the right—and there was nowhere to go. He flattened himself beside the log just as one of the animals crashed to the ground, the log keeping it from mashing Zach into jelly.

Zach struggled to breathe as the fight raged on. A heavy foot crashed over the log, a curved claw catching Zach across his injured leg, but was just as quickly gone again. Zach fought the urge to curl into a ball, forcing himself to lay flat alongside the log, knowing it was the only thing keeping him from being crushed. It was—

One of the dinosaurs abruptly slammed to the ground, directly on top of the log, smashing Zach’s face into the dirt.

“Geghhhh!”

Zach tried to breathe, but the dinosaur was crushing him, squashing his lungs. He could feel the animal’s hot, rough skin against his arms and neck, felt something wet soaking into his shirt.

There was a horrendous roar as the dinosaur twisted—

“Geghhhh—”

—grinding Zach even deeper into the dirt. The dinosaur lurched—

Geghhhh!

—and was back on its feet. With a terrible shriek it charged the others, kicking Zach’s log as it leaped.

Zach gasped for breath. Crushed by the weight of the dinosaur, his ribs burned like fire, hurt so bad he was certain one or more of them was broken.

He coughed—thought he tasted blood—then gathered his strength and crawled through the crushed, mangled ferns toward a nearby tree. He hurt everywhere, certain he was suffering injuries worse than strains, sprains, and bruises.

He dragged himself behind the tree, breathing hard. His shirt was wet, and sticky, and when he touched it his hand came away red with blood. He cringed, but thought: No, it’s not me … it’s from one of the dinosaurs!

The fight was still raging fiercely in the trees, just feet away. The animals were roaring, bellowing, screeching, snorting—

Zach had never heard such horrible sounds, prayed that he never would again. He glanced back around the tree just as Red bit down on the back of Slash’s neck, then buckled as Snaggle Tooth rammed in from the side, folding the crimson dinosaur like a soggy taco.

Zach turned back for the forest, away from the fight. He took another breath, then staggered away, keeping the tree between him and the raging dinosaurs.

Finally, when he was well out of sight, he tried hobbling a little faster. He was beaten up, banged up, bruised, battered, torn, and crushed, feeling like he’d been run over by a freight train.

Man, he thought as he dragged his injured leg through the brush. This isn’t fun anymore

 

So there you go! I hope you’re as excited as I am! Watch for “Time Crunch” around the end of May, 2019!

Sneak Peak at the Sequel to “Time Snap!” (Part I)

Wow! I’ve just finished the sequel to “Time Snap!” It’s called “Time Crunch.” It’ll be available by the end of May, and I’m super excited about it! Here’s an excerpt from the prologue:

 

Depositphotos_11147084_xl-2015

FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD Zach Wolff stopped on the trail and looked back over his shoulder. Sweat ran down his face as he chuffed for breath.

Man, he thought, wiping a sleeve across his forehead. It’s like I can’t breathe here.

He sucked in a deep, lung-filling breath, but the air made his head swim: it clearly had more oxygen than he was used to breathing.

He buried his face in his shoulder—trying to mop off the sweat—then looked quickly all around. The forest was too thick to see much, the trees too tall to permit much sunlight. The shrieks, cackles, and cries of birds and small forest animals filled the warm air like a chorus of anxious monkeys. And there was a … scent … in the air that reminded Zach of a warm, humid greenhouse.

Filled with must, and mold, and decay

Zach closed his eyes—

There was a sudden snap from the trees, and Zach felt his stomach drop as he looked back over his shoulder.

Crap! It’s still coming!

He turned and began running again. The trail was narrow, and the roots and limbs of tangled ferns and shrubs tugged at his legs. He wasn’t running as hard as he could—

Can’t afford to get tired!

—but just fast enough to keep his lead.

The trail abruptly spilled from the forest onto a wide swath that cut through the forest like a meandering road. Rotting stumps and logs lay everywhere, and Zach knew instantly what he’d found.

Dinosaur highway, he thought. Made by animals big enough to knock down fifty-foot trees.

He looked up and down the “road,” trying to decide which way to go. It didn’t really matter, but—

Another crunch came from the trees, and Zach turned right, jogging down the side of the crumbly swath. The ground had been pulped and pounded, chopped up, chewed up, and crushed again and again by the feet of enormous animals.

Makes sense, he thought. An apatosaur could smash its way through the middle of the forest. But why bother when there’s a perfectly good trail to follow

 

IN ADDITION to the rotting stumps and logs were enormous piles of excrement—dinosaur dung—some as tall as he was. Many of the moldering piles were old, black, and crumbling. But others were still fresh: green and fragrant and buzzing with flies. Zach ignored them, hoping the ripe smell would mask his scent. But rank as the putrefying dung was, Zach knew it might not be enough.

Tyrannosaurs have good noses, he thought. The part of their brain that regulated the ability to smell was larger than those of other predators. Zach knew, of course, that just because tyrannosaurs could track prey like hounds after squirrels didn’t mean all big carnivores could.

But it didn’t mean they couldn’t, either.

 

HE JOGGED ANOTHER fifty yards, cast a quick glance over his shoulder—

Good! Nothing there yet!

—then darted off the swath and back into the forest.

The trees were the strangest he’d ever seen. There were pine trees, of course, fifty or sixty feet high with trunks five feet across. And there were gnarled, moss- and vine-covered trees that filled the sky with their branches. Shafts of sunlight filtered down through the leaves and fronds like bright spiderwebs, illuminating a million different shades of green.

Zach ran for another minute, then slowed to climb over a fallen log. He stepped behind one of the thick, gnarled trees, looked back into the forest, then leaned back against the mossy trunk.

Man, can’t run much farther, he thought. He took a deep breath of the warm, fragrant air and felt another rush of dizziness. His sides were beginning to ache, and he knew he couldn’t go on much longer.

He closed his eyes for a moment, giving his heart a chance to relax a little. He only  needed to rest for a minute—just long enough to catch his breath—before he began running again. He stifled a cough, then looked up into the treetops.

Something

The forest was suddenly quiet. The birds, the bugs, and the small forest animals had become silent. The stillness was eerie, and Zach felt the hair on the back of his neck rise as if charged by an electric current. He glanced around the tree—

Still nothing there.

—then looked ahead.

Time to go

He took another breath, then pushed himself away from the tree and froze.

Something moved in the forest ahead.

Zach caught his breath, then slowly bent his knees, lowering himself to the ground. He kept perfectly still, his eyes locked on the dense foliage. Several seconds passed. Then several more. Zach could feel his heart pounding, his lungs burning as he held his breath.

Everything was still, and quiet.

Zach watched carefully. He was just beginning to think it had been his imagination—or maybe a frond swaying in a breath of unfelt breeze—when the leaves rustled. He pressed himself back against the trunk of the tree, scrunching down as far as he could.

And then he saw it.

The dinosaur emerged slowly from the trees, its head down and its eyes peering straight ahead.

It looks like a tyrannosaur, Zach thought, though he knew it wasn’t. Tyrannosaurs were Cretaceous animals and wouldn’t exist for another sixty million years.

But it’s not an allosaur, either. It’s too big. It’s got a longer snout and it’s … stockier … than an allosaur.

He shrank back into the ferns, watching. Allosaurs were supposed to be among the fiercest predators of the Mid Mesozoic. But this was more than forty-feet long, sixteen-feet high at the ribs: bigger than any allosaur, larger even than T-rex. It was covered with pebbled, mottled-grey skin that blended with the foliage, ugly jagged scars running across its jaw and shoulder.

Zach racked his brain, thinking of every picture he’d ever seen—every description he’d ever read—trying to decide what the thing was.

Could be a siats, he thought, pronouncing the name “see-atch” in his mind. Siats was a recently discovered predator thought to be bigger and more terrifying than T-rex. Or maybe it’s a lythronax … the “King of Gore.”

Zach shuddered, not excited about either possibility. A dinosaur more ferocious than T-rex?

A dinosaur known as the King of Gore?

Running into either one would be bad news.

But it might be something new, he thought. Something undiscovered … something no one’s ever seen!

He knew paleontologists had only identified a fraction of the dinosaurs that once ruled the world. And there were literally thousands—millions—of species yet to be discovered.

So if it is something new, I could name it, he thought. Call it … Zachiosaurus.

The enormous dinosaur stood with its massive head and tail stretched parallel to the ground. After a moment it turned, looking in Zach’s direction. Zach’s blood froze as he stared back, praying the thing hadn’t spotted him. His stomach churned in fear.

They might not name it after me because I discovered it, but because I was the first person to be eaten by one . . .

 

I hope you’re as excited as I am! I’ll post Part II of the “sneak peak” in a couple of day!