Night Terror! (An excerpt from “Time Crunch”)

Writing Time Crunch was an awesome experience for me. I’d just undergone shoulder surgery and couldn’t write things out freehand the way I usually do. And I wasn’t camping a lot either, which is where I do a lot of my work. So instead I wrote the entire book on my computer, and I never edited a single word until the entire first draft was finished. The surprising thing is that the book just flowed. Without wanting to sound too corny, there were a lot of times I felt like someone else was writing the book, and I was simply manning the keyboard. It went so well that I actually tried to do the same thing again with Time Jam and Time Break (except for the surgery), but those books really made me work!

Anyway, this is one of my favorite scenes from Time Crunch. It’s a scene I always return to when I need a good boost of energy. I hope you like it!Final Ebook Cover

 

RAPTORS.

Chase was dreaming of velociraptors, of being surrounded by dozens of deadly, snarling animals. But he felt like he was standing in glue—couldn’t move—couldn’t get away as the raptors swarmed him—

Look out!

Crack! Crack-ack! Brraaaaaaat!

Chase jerked awake as men began yelling, and shooting.

“There! In the trees!”

Brraaaaaaat! Brraaaaaaat! Brraaaaaaat!

There was a blood-curdling scream, followed by a horrifying bellow that sounded like a high-speed drill chewing through gravel. More shouts, yells, roars, gunfire—

Brraaaaaaat! Brraaaaaaat!

Chase ripped open his sleeping bag, grabbed for his pants and hauled them on in a single motion. He pulled on his shirt—not bothering with the buttons—and jerked on his boots—not bothering with the laces. He scrambled for the door, searching frantically for the zipper, but something abruptly crashed into the tent, rolling it over. A heavy body slammed Chase through the fabric, bowling him over backward. He landed hard on his back—

Oof!

—but was instantly tumbling again as the tent flipped up and over, again and again. He landed on his injured ribs—

Aaah!

—and then crumpled as the tent slammed into a tree or a rock. He pushed himself to his knees—pack, sleeping bag, flashlight, water bottle, and other supplies scattered about—and searched for the door, but the tent was no longer right-side up. He looked frantically about in the darkness—

A razor-sharp claw ripped through the top of the tent and a terrible head pushed inside, the silhouette clear and terrifying in the starlight. Gaping jaws snapped together, snatching the sleeping bag and pulling it out through the torn fabric. Chase could see the bag whipping violently back and forth as something tore it apart.

Chase scrambled through the slashed nylon, then dropped to the ground and skittering away on all fours.

All around him, men were running, screaming, shouting, large dark shapes darting in from the trees with amazing speed and power, the howls and roars almost indistinguishable from the shouts and yells. The bonfires were still blazing, but the bright light didn’t make things any easier to see. There was a constant barrage of gunfire—

Brraaaaaaat! Brraaa—brraaaaaaat! Crack! Crack! Brraaaaaaat!

Chase couldn’t tell exactly what was happening, knew only that the camp was under attack, everything confused and chaotic and out of control. He scrambled to the side of a supply box and crouched beside it, ducking as something huge and terrifying rushed past.

His heart was pounding hard and fast, his lungs wheezing as he fought for breath.

The trees! Gotta get to the trees!

Someone ran by shouting—

On your six! On your six!

—something else darting past an instant later in a different direction.

Chase looked directly at one of the blazing fires, the firelight instantly destroying his night vision. He couldn’t see anything more than a couple of feet away.

Still on all fours, he scrambled for the trees, dropping flat when he saw something running at him. He screwed his eyes shut, steeling himself to be snapped up by sharp yellow teeth, but the thing rushed over the top of him, a heavy foot stepping right on his butt and grinding him into the ground.

Chase couldn’t help crying out—

Aaaiigh!

—but then the thing was gone. Chase didn’t hesitate, began army-crawling through the ruined, mangled campsite. He put his hand into something wet and slimy—he recoiled in horror—but shook it off and continued crawling.

“Behind you—”

Crack-ack! Brraaaaaaat!

“Look out!”

Aaaiigh!

Chase could hear the voices, but couldn’t tell one from another, didn’t know who was doing the yelling or the screaming.

He scrambled between two fires and reached the first tree. He skittered around, getting behind it, keeping it between him and the raging fight, then heard a horrible shriek. He looked up just as a screeching nightmare raced toward him on two legs, forearms outstretched, ready to tear him to pieces. The thing leaped—

Brraaaaaaat! Brraaaaaaat! Brraaaaaaaaaaat!

—and exploded in midair, hot blood and foul dino juice spraying Chase like a fire hose.

Someone was yelling—

“Run for it, kid! Get out of—aaaiigh!”

Chase panicked and ran, bolting mindlessly through the woods. His boots were still untied, his shirt still open, flapping behind him as he tore through the brush and trees. He could still hear the fight raging behind him. The shouts were incomprehensible now, though the yells and roars and gunfire crackled furiously in the air.

He tripped on a bootlace, fell flat on his face, but was up and running again without remembering getting back to his feet.

He ran into a thicket too dense to get through and turned, running now in a different direction. He wasn’t sure, but the sounds of the fight seemed to be dying away. Whether because the terrifying dinosaurs had been driven off or the camp completely over-run, he didn’t know. But he kept running. Unlike the others, he didn’t have a weapon, nothing to fight with, no way to help.

He kept running.

After several minutes he realized he could no longer hear the sound of gunfire. He wasn’t sure if the team had stopped shooting or if he’d just run too far to hear it. But he didn’t waste time trying to figure it out. His legs were in full-flight mode and he was still running as hard as he could. He splashed through a small stream, then turned and ran along what seemed to be a trail, just visible in the starlight. He was slowly regaining his night vision, the stars providing just enough light to pick out trees and rocks and stumps blocking his way.

He came to a fallen log, the remains of an enormous pine, the rotting branches rising into the air like the ribs of an ancient monster. He turned away, running slower now but still as fast as he was able. He was chuffing for breath, wheezing like a kid with asthma, and could feel the blood pounding in his hands, and ears, and feet.

After several more minutes he stopped. He looked around, spotted a tall, sweeping pine, and dove beneath the branches. The springy boughs were bent under their own weight, providing a small hollow near the trunk. He curled up against the scaly bark, breathing hard. Something snapped in the trees and he jerked his head in that direction, but … nothing seemed to be there.

He stayed alert, looking back and forth, searching for threats, but nothing seemed to be moving. The forest was still, and quiet, as if the very bugs were worried about making noise. A soft breeze rustled the leaves and—farther away—a bird mourned in the darkness. Chase heard a distant hoot—

Sounds like an owl

—and then a cricket or two opened up. And then a few more. And more. And it wasn’t long before the forest was again ringing with the soothing, comforting chirrups of cricket song.

Like absolutely nothing’s wrong in the world and never will be.

Chase pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. He was breathing easier now, and he even felt his heartbeat begin to slow a little.

His mouth began to tremble, first just a little and then more sharply. Hot tears scalded his eyes. He fought them off for a moment, but then the horror, and fear, and terror of the night overcame him.

He lowered his face to his knees and bawled like a baby.

 

Wow! I just love reading that! When I sat down to write it, I didn’t know what was going to happen. (I was actually writing as fast as I could, just to find out!) If you like it, check it out on my Amazon page.

 

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!

 

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!”

 

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!