A Sneak Preview of Danger Peak

courtesy MAREMAGNUM/GETTY IMAGES

It’s been over three months since I announced my upcoming novel Danger Peak, and you guys have been patient enough, so I thought it was time to share a sneak peak (ha!) of the book: the Prologue and first chapter (so, essentially, the first two chapters). The Prologue was originally just the first chapter, but that was back when the book was titled Action Bike and the chapter was titled “Danger Peak.” I didn’t want a chapter titled “Danger Peak” in a book titled Danger Peak, but I couldn’t think of another title for the first chapter, so I changed it to the Prologue, which, in retrospect, seems appropriate since it feels more like a Prologue than a proper chapter. (It’s short and moody, and there’s no dialogue.) This was fortuitous because I ended up adding an Epilogue to complete the bookends that began with the Prologue and inadvertently came up with a better ending. (Even my beta readers agreed.)

As I mentioned in my blog last week, there’s a lot of world building I need to do in the first few chapters (not just confined to the ones I’m presenting here), so keep in mind nothing terribly thrilling happens because I’m still setting up the story and establishing the characters. (Also, the chapters do get longer farther into the book.) I thought about posting a few chapters that are more exciting, but they appear towards the middle of the book and would be completely out of context, and you would have no idea what’s going on. Still, I thought you’d be interested in getting a taste of my writing style (fiction wise) and what the book feels like, and I hope these first few chapters whet your appetite of the adventure that’s to come. Without further ado, here we go….

Prologue

October 1989

Thirteen-year-old Robert Kin joyfully, almost mischievously, weaved his green customizable motorbike through the generic, manufactured labyrinth of his suburban town’s roads. Zipping along the treelined streets, he felt like a flying squirrel leaping from branch to branch. He liked to imagine the bony tree fingers were reaching out to him as he tried to outrace their grasp, and with the visor open on his safety helmet, he could feel the wind whipping at his face like a plunging skydiver.

Robert leaned gracefully into the turns until his body was almost parallel with the pavement. It was as if the bike were a part of him. As he scanned the rapidly approaching streets, the comforting vibration of the engine, quick burst of acceleration from the twist of the throttle, and jolt of noise made him feel like a god surveying his world. For Robert, the possibility of losing control, yet maintaining full control at all times, was the purest form of freedom. This level of exhilaration inspired him to create his town’s local dirt-bike club, the Wild Boars, with his best friend, Chris, and their short, often put-upon sidekick, Rinnie.

As he rode down the street, Robert noted the beauty of the leaves changing color and cursed the days growing shorter, which meant less time to ride his beloved bike. Fall was a particularly poignant season.

Robert purposefully rolled his vehicle through the fall foliage lining the cracked pavement. As he plowed through small piles of auburn-painted leaves just to hear the satisfying crunch, he dryly noted to himself, “Nature’s garbage.” This autumnal path of crispy detritus led him to his favorite landmark, the place he turned to time and again to get away from his small town and the even smaller-minded people within it.

Feeling somewhat like a soldier on a mission, he turned one last corner to enter the small patch of forest just outside the city limits. Slowing his bike to a stop, he switched the motor off and then dismounted. After removing his helmet, Robert sauntered up to the rusty gate emblazoned with the landmark’s name. The chill fall wind whipped his sandy brown hair, blocking his chestnut eyes. Annoyed, the seventh grader brushed his locks aside to read the dingy sign that seemed to have stood since time immemorial: “DANGER PEAK.”

There it was. It loomed overhead like a natural skyscraper, his town blanketed in its direct shadow. In order to see the entire mountain, Robert had to crane his head back at an unnatural angle. It smarted something awful, but the view was worth it. Danger Peak was almost twelve thousand feet high—just over two miles—and no one, not him or any of his friends, had been able to reach the top. Its peak was called insurmountable not just because of its height. Legends sprung from those brave enough to attempt the climb of an eerie mist that clung near the peak and obscured their view; gargantuan, fast-moving boulders that seemed to fling themselves at climbers from out of the ether; and, as if that weren’t enough, mysterious weather that welcomed travelers with spontaneous thunderstorms and gale-force winds. No matter what time of year it was or how beautiful the climate below, you could be certain all hell was breaking loose at the top of Danger Peak. It seemed supernatural. All of these obstacles mocked those intrepid explorers, daring them to once and for all conquer their neighborhood’s star landmark.

With a series of traps this diabolical, Robert and his friends reasoned there must be something spectacular the mountain was guarding at its peak: a pot of gold perhaps, like the fabled rainbow’s end, or maybe even a mystical secret of the universe.

The only glimmer of hope of scaling this impossible peak was the curious path winding its way toward the zenith. Somehow a dirt-bike trail had been carved out of the mountain’s side. Some say it was manmade, but Robert always wondered how that could be since no one had made it to the top—at least no one had made it back alive. In a way, the mountain’s trail was more a tease than a promise; it only made the journey more frustrating. Even with the aid of a motorbike, you still had to face the daunting gauntlet of mists, boulders, and never-ending storms. You still had to see through impenetrable fog and dodge deadly lightning strikes.

In fact, the closest someone had come to besting the mountain was Robert’s older brother, Danny, the year before. The high-school junior made it just over halfway before succumbing to the mount’s various traps. With the aid of a helicopter, the authorities found his body near the midpoint—his bike, in pieces, fifty feet away.

But that wouldn’t stop Robert. As leader of the Wild Boars, he knew he and his pals had to find a way to top Danger Peak. It was their one shot at becoming legends in the eyes of their school and hometown. More than that, it was his dream. Robert would find a way to be the first to scale the mountain . . . or die trying.

Chapter 1: The Wild Boars

“You went back to Danger Peak . . . again?” Chris, Robert’s best friend since kindergarten, asked.

Chris, Robert, and their younger friend Rinnie were holding another meeting of their Wild Boars club in the large treehouse in Robert’s backyard. Chris and Rinnie’s dirt bikes were still parked at the wide, bumpy base of the ancient tree. Chris’s blue bike dwarfed Rinnie’s considerably; Rinnie’s gray bike resembled the first draft of Chris’s fully developed model. The younger boy’s bike was not only smaller but also less powerful than Chris’s or Robert’s, and he was often teased that it wasn’t much faster than a regular pedal-powered bicycle.

Perched in the yellow-and-orange-streaked sky of the late autumnal afternoon, the clubhouse was their stronghold against the outside adult world. As the wistful chorus of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” drifted from Robert’s miniature AM/FM radio mounted on the tanned ’70s wood paneling that made up the majority of their ramshackle treehouse, Robert musingly considered a title change to “Boys of Fall.”

“Man, you are obsessed!” Chris exclaimed, leaning back against the wall, almost inadvertently switching the radio off.

“Yeah,” the short, pudgy Rinnie chimed in as he casually flipped through an issue of Nintendo Power magazine, “and you’re also preoccupied!”

Chris rolled his eyes. “That means the same thing, dorkus,” he taunted their pint-sized sidekick. “How did you graduate grammar school with us again?”

“I copied my tests off your mom,” Rinnie wisecracked, tousling his ratty, rust-colored hair triumphantly. With that, Chris went in for a windup with his fist, but Robert, ever the peacemaker between the two, blocked him.

“That’s enough, you guys,” he said. “I didn’t call this meeting to start another fight.”

“Then why did you call this meeting?” Chris asked, gazing around the circular treehouse. A cartoon wall calendar featuring a black cat sticking its head out of the maws of a rotting jack-o’-lantern signified the month of October, and various magazine photos of specialized motorbikes adorned the walls. Then his eyes fell on Robert’s handmade poster that sported a crudely drawn purple boar screeching by on a motorbike while shouting their club’s motto in a hovering word balloon: “JUST HAVE FUN!”

“To just have fun?” Chris answered his own question, almost duty-bound.

“No,” Robert said immediately. Then, sensing his friends’ disappointment, he changed his tone and corrected himself. “Well, yes and no.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rinnie asked. Rinnie was a sweet kid but a little slow. He was—as some impolite company would whisper behind his back—the so-called runt of the litter. With his short stature, hunched-over posture, and dirty hair, he resembled a rat. Occasionally, Chris would remind him of this in no uncertain terms, but this time was different.

“Believe it or not, I have to agree with Rinnie,” Chris admitted.

Robert pensively stared into the middle distance. Absently, he mused on how Chris’s straight jet-black hair and emerald eyes mirrored those of the calendar’s Halloween cat. He would’ve stood up to pace the room if it were big enough. As it was, even though his club was large by treehouse standards, the three of them had almost outgrown its one room since it had been built eight years before by his dad and brother, Danny. In fact, the treehouse was specifically built atop the tall, proud oak with Danny in mind, and subconsciously, Robert always felt like he was trespassing—especially after his brother’s death. It was like standing your army on hallowed ground, planting your flag on someone’s grave.

“Well?” Chris asked Robert impatiently, breaking his daydream.

“Oh, sorry,” Robert apologized.

“Apology accepted,” Rinnie said cheerfully.

“He was talking to me, butt wipe,” Chris spat.

“Oh, ‘butt wipe,’” Rinnie mocked. “That’s a new one. Very classy.”

“Remind me,” Chris then said, turning to Robert, “why do we let him in here?”

Robert was defiant. “I let him in here because it’s my treehouse,” he said, defending the oft-picked-on Rinnie.

“Thanks, man,” Rinnie said.

“No problem.” Robert smiled.

Chris screwed his eyes tightly, daring himself to correct his friend. “I thought this was Danny’s treehouse,” he said.

Robert inhaled deeply. “Right,” he said.

“Hey,” Rinnie interjected and pointed to his magazine, “do you guys know about the Konami cheat code?”

Chris suddenly lunged at Rinnie, rudely ripping his Nintendo Power away, and ordered, “Gimme that!”

“Stop,” Rinnie protested. “I just got it in the mail this morning!”

“Enough!” Robert shouted. At last, he gave his team the meeting’s agenda. “I think we should scale Danger Peak once and for all.”

“But hoooww?” Rinnie whined. Now even Robert was getting annoyed with him.

This time, it was Chris’s turn to defend Rinnie. “What I think he means is,” he softly began, “it’s been tried before. You know, Danny . . .” He purposefully let his words trail off. He felt he had already been pushing it with his former insensitive comment about the treehouse rightfully belonging to Robert’s brother. From the corner of his eye, the calendar cat seemed to be mocking him.

“I know,” Robert replied, “and that’s why we have to try it ourselves, for Danny’s sake.”

“Do you think he cares?” Rinnie asked in a surprising outburst. “I mean, he’s six feet in the—” Robert shot Rinnie a look that made him catch himself, and Rinnie’s cheeks immediately flushed crimson. Chris coiled his fist for another smackdown when they all heard Robert’s mother call merrily from outside their clubhouse.

“Robby, come in to eat, and say goodbye to your friends!”

Breaking the ice, Chris was the first to speak. “Your mom still calls you ‘Robby’?” he asked. A brief pause, and then the three friends erupted into nervous laughter. Not wanting to end on a fight, Robert put out his right hand, palm down, and announced their other catchphrase: “Friends to the end.”

“Friends to the end,” Chris and Rinnie repeated, placing their hands on top of his.

MTP

P.S.: Every time I post a blog, I gain at least one or two “followers,” which is great, but you should know if you simply “follow” my blog without entering your email address in the opt-in box at the bottom of the Blog/FREE Book page, I have no way of sending you your free PDF copy of Lists, Life, and Other Unimportant Details. I know I sound like a broken record, but I also don’t want people to think I’m peddling false advertising. For more details/information on how to sign up and get your free book, read the instructions at the top of the Blog/FREE Book page.

P.P.S.: Next week’s blog: The First (and Probably Last) Danger Peak Photo Essay

2 responses to “A Sneak Preview of Danger Peak”

    • So in other words, you “don’t want a piece of it; you want the WHOLE THING!” lol. Well, you’re in luck, because the book is coming to Amazon late next week. Barnes & Noble will follow a week or so after that. For new-school people who don’t like paper, the ebook will become available a month after that. Happy reading!

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