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!

Shredder

ebook coverShredder” has a new cover, and I’m totally jazzed over it!

A lot of times I can’t put a finger on the exact moment or circumstances that inspired a new book. But this is one where I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the idea hit.

I’ve been skiing since I was in high school (both downhill and cross country), and I took up snowboarding in the early 90s. My first time was at night, with a kid named Steve who’d had exactly one lesson. (He was going to be my teacher.)

What a miserable way to learn to ride!

I had my skis in the back of my truck (just in case) and the whole way down the mountain I was thinking, “Soon as I’m down, I’m gonna chuck this board as far as I can throw it and get my skis!” Man, it was just terrible! I couldn’t do a thing, and I was spending more time on my rear end–or my face–than I was on my board.

It took more than an hour to get down the hill, but by the time I did I was finally able to stay upright for more than a couple of feet. That improved my attitude, and I thought, “Okay . . . I’ll give it one more try!”

Well, things got a lot easier after that. And if you’ve ever ridden, you know that it’s actually easier to learn than skiing. After one season, most riders can shred better than skiers who’ve been at it for two or three years. And I was hooked! There was a time my first season when I went riding every single night for more than a week. There’s a resort called Brighton that offers inexpensive night passes, and I’d load my gear up every morning, go to work, and then head straight to Brighton as soon as I was done for the day.

And it was just awesome.

Brighton has a chair called Majestic (it was a two-rider lift at the time, maybe it still is) that went right over a terrain park. You could ride and be entertained by all the people crashing and going yard sale. Anyway, one night I was riding Majestic over the park, watching all the daredevils risking life and limb and it hit me: I wanted to write a book.

More specifically, I pictured a teenager boarder riding the lift, and having a tough, heart-felt conversation with someone older. I wondered what could have prompted such a conversation . . . and I was off and running.

A bit of trivia I’ve never shared before, not with anyone. Most of my books have a “theme song.” Some song that reminds me of the story, and that motivates me when I’m working. The theme song to “Shredder” is “Shakedown” by Bob Seger. (Long story.) Total coincidence, but just as I was finishing this post, “Shakedown” came on.

‘Course, I had to crank up the volume, and was instantly transported back to the slopes . . .

Virus!

Skimonster1117_ebookMy book “Virus!” came out about a month ago, so I’m a little late getting this posted. But what a kick! If I ever wrote a book that was “pure adrenaline,” this is it.

When I began writing, I remember thinking, “I’ve got to start this story at ninety miles and hour . . . and keep getting faster!” You’ll have to decide for yourself how well I did, but I know there were nights I couldn’t get to sleep because I was so hyped up over what I was writing. (One young reader told me that he’d read the whole thing in about two days, and that when he was finished he “chuffing for breath,” as if he’d been the one doing all the running.)

Made me laugh.

I do have to make special mention of a few key characters. “Brady” was inspired by a young man I know, and so were “Sid” and “Ethan.” (I’ve actually been trying to work Ethan into a book for quite a while, and I’m glad he finally made an appearance.)

And Hunter . . . oh, man. If you ever met the young woman who inspired Hunter, you’d think I actually toned her down quite a bit. I used to joke that when she became older, that no young man would ever propose marriage to her. That instead, she’d simply inform some lucky guy one day that they were going to be married, and that was that.

I’m not sure if things actually worked out that way, but I have my suspicions . . .

I hope this book is as fun to read as it was to write!

Time Snap Interview

After reading Time Snap, an eighth-grade reader named Max interviewed me for his English class. Here is part of our conversation:

Max: Do you outline your stories?

Depositphotos_11147084_xl-2015

Shane: No, never. Sometimes I’ll have an idea where I want my story to go, but I like the surprise of making things up as I go. A lot of times I’m as surprised as anyone by what happens. Have you read my book, Demon’s Treasure?

Max: Oh, yeah. That’s the reason I was excited to read Time Snap.

Shane: Cool. One of the main characters started out as one of the “good guys,” and one of the “bad” guys ended up being a hero. When I started writing, I had no idea that was going to happen. And when the guys “flipped,” I remember thinking, “I can’t believe that just happened!”

Max: Did anything like that happen in Time Snap?

Shane: Not exactly. But I was surprised by  the dinosaurs that kept popping up out of nowhere. I didn’t really know I’d be writing about them until they came jumping out of the darkness.

Max: Like the “dinobirds?”

Shane: Exactly! One minute Chase was sneaking up to that clearing in the woods, and the next instant those dactyl-things were dropping out of the sky. I really didn’t know ahead of time that was going to happen. Scared the bejeebers out of me.

Max: What about the tyrannosaur?

Shane: The tyrannosaur was different. I knew he was going to play a huge part, so he was part of things right from the start.

Max: Do you have any favorite scenes?

Shane: All of the scenes with the tyrannosaur. They were so much fun to write. I love action sequences anyway, but the rex added an extra jolt of energy. I just had a great time with them.

Max: So, I’m not supposed to ask where you get your ideas–

Shane: Really? Why not?

Max: It’s supposed to be too obvious a question, I guess. Like one you get asked all the time? But I’m curious . . .

Shane: It’s okay. I actually like hiking around the desert looking for fossils, and when I’m doing that, I can’t help thinking of dinosaurs. You know, picturing what things must have been like back in the day. And then picturing what it might be like to actually run into a bunch of them. And then finding a way to make it happen . . .

Max: And you really found pieces of–what are they called? Fossilized poop?

Shane: Coprolites? Oh, yeah. I use them for paperweights.

Max: The girls are gonna think that’s gross–

Shane: But the guys will love it!

Max: Yeah. Um, so do you have any weird writing habits?

Shane: A few, I think. At least I think they’re unique to me. The first thing, probably, is that I can’t write at the computer. I have to write everything out longhand, and then type into the computer later.

Max: How come?

Shane: Probably ’cause that’s how I learned to do it. I started writing before we had word processors, so it’s still easiest for me to write everything out first. It takes a lot more work that way, but for me, it’s a tough habit to break.

Max: Anything else?

Shane: Well, I can do my editing when I’m sitting at my desk, but when I’m actually writing–when I’m actually creating stuff–I hate being cooped up. I like going to ballgames and sitting in the bleachers and doing my work there. Before I moved to the country, I often went to one of the local malls and found a table in the food court where there were a lot of people around and worked there. I don’t know why, but being around lots of people like that always sparks my creativity.

Max: Isn’t that distracting?

Shane: Sure. But it’s also energizing. I can come home from the mall, or a ballgame, and feel like I’ve got a lot done. But when I’m cooped up at my desk, I get bored, and tired, and it’s easy to get lazy.

Max: So is there going to be a sequel to Time Snap?

Shane: There wasn’t going to be. But I’ve been surprised by how much people like reading about dinosaurs. I actually had another project I’ve been getting ready to jump into, but I might put that off and do another dinosaur book.

Max: Sweet! Will you tell me when it comes out?

Shane: Count on it!