Running Scared – The Beginning

Running scared 032517

My lungs are burning, but I can’t stop running. I feel the soles of my shoes slap against the hard, gray concrete as I push myself further, harder, faster. I must find him. Leaving him here is not an option.

How he got here is a long story, and I don’t have time to think about that now. All I know is I have to rescue him.

I jerk to a stop, my chest rising and falling as I duck behind a corner. I can almost hear the distant, ghostly echoes of large crowds in the stands above my head, to my left, surrounding me. But those crowds are long gone now, have been for years. This defunct stadium in a bad part of town now operates as a black site for an agency with no name.

And they’ve taken him.

It’s not fair, really. They don’t really want him. They just need the person responsible for the attack yesterday.

Okay, it may have been him. But he’s not truly guilty – he was forced into it. And I’m here to make it right.

My breathing has started returning to normal. I peek around the edge of the concrete wall, next to a faded ICEE machine. No one in sight.

I venture a step past the wall. A bullet whistles by, just inches from my left temple, and a chunk of the corner goes flying. I jump back behind the wall, my heart racing again.

They found me.

The Secret of the Codex – Excerpt #4

Happy Thursday! This isn’t a day I normally post, but I thought I’d put the next excerpt up anyway. I know, I’m crazy!

In this excerpt, we get to see more of Grady and Kayla’s interactions, and some foreshadowing of things to come…plus, you know, a dark cave with mysterious markings and unexplained origins. Pretty much the best thing ever.

(Oh – and this one picks up where the last one left off.)

Enjoy! Image 022415

Chapter 2 – Discovery by Melissa Frey

 After what seemed like an eternity, Grady could finally see the sandy bottom. He jumped down, his landing sending up a cloud of fine brown dust. Just before the air cleared and Grady could see again, Kayla jumped to the sandy floor. Coughing, Grady strained to see something – anything – but all he could see was a cloud of dirt.

When the dust finally settled, Grady pulled out his flashlight. They hadn’t been able to adequately illuminate this room from above, so the light from their flashlights and the small lantern he had clipped to his belt was the only light they were going to get tonight. Grady’s beam searched the walls, the ceiling, the floor, looking for any clue to where they were.

They had landed in a small room. With the exception of the shaft they had just descended, the room had only one exit – a tunnel that led further into the darkness. Grady shuddered. Why on earth is this here?

Grady suppressed the thought and went back to examining the room they currently found themselves in. Especially the floor. He wanted to be sure he knew where they were walking before they took their first step.

“Grady, look at this.” Kayla’s light was focused on the wall next to her.

Grady took a cautious step over to her, leaning down to examine the wall illuminated by Kayla’s flashlight. He didn’t see anything. Was he missing something?

“There’s nothing here,” Grady tentatively offered, hoping he wouldn’t sound utterly stupid.

Kayla shook her head and pointed, seemingly oblivious to Grady’s concern. “Look closer.”

Now Grady saw it – saw something – but he couldn’t tell what it was. Even from a foot away, he couldn’t quite make sense of it. But then, he didn’t read Mayan very well. Not as well as Kayla, anyway. “What does it say?”

Kayla’s brow furrowed and she bit her upper lip as she concentrated on the tiny symbol etched into the wall. Grady studied her face closely, fighting a grin. The expression on her face was so…well, cute.

After a few lengthy seconds of confusion, recognition suddenly flashed across her face.

“What is it?”

Kayla drew a sharp breath, and Grady instinctively tensed. This couldn’t be good.

Kayla exhaled pointedly before offering an explanation. “A few days ago, just before I left for the flight here, I received an anonymous package in the mail.” She hesitated, frowning.

“What was in the package?” Grady prodded.

Kayla glanced back at the wall, eyes wide. “This symbol.” She pointed at the small hieroglyph they’d been examining. She didn’t continue, but Grady waited. He sensed she wasn’t done.

He was right. Kayla was reaching for a chain around her neck, pulling something out from underneath her shirt, something attached to the chain. She pulled the chain over her head, handing it to Grady. “This was inside.”

Grady’s eyes fell on the charm at the end of the chain, then shot to hers before he took the necklace. Kayla continued. “This is the Mayan symbol for lightning – well, the universal symbol for lightning, but the way it’s chiseled definitely points to Mayan origins. That’s what’s here, on this wall.” Kayla pointed again. “Can you see it?”

Grady leaned in closer to the wall. Suddenly he saw the image for what it was, a tiny replica of the shape in his hand. “Of course!” How did he miss that before?

Kayla cleared her throat. Grady thought she sounded almost…nervous. Why would she be nervous?

“This charm… what if it’s a warning? To stay away? What if…” she swallowed hard. “Maybe we shouldn’t be here.” Grady saw something new flash across her face. It almost looked like…fear.

Grady abruptly felt an inexplicable urge to comfort her. “I’m sure we’ll be fine. How would whoever sent this know we would find this room? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Kayla slowly nodded, but somehow she didn’t look reassured.

Grady tried a different approach. “Look, let’s not worry about it now, okay? Let’s see what we can find down here tonight, and worry about the charm tomorrow. Agreed?”

Kayla looked past Grady and bit her lip.

He lifted a hand to touch her shoulder, then rethought it and lowered his hand. Instead, he moved directly into her line of sight and stared directly into her eyes, not moving until she met his gaze. “Agreed?” he repeated, refusing to back down. Something told him that Kayla wouldn’t give in otherwise.

Kayla hesitated a moment longer, then sighed. She nodded once. “Agreed.”

Grady smiled at her, then, without thinking, draped the necklace over her head. His hand brushed her forehead. For an instant, he took a half-step back. Then he steeled himself, took a deep breath, and stepped toward her, reaching for her hand.

The warmth of her hand caressed his skin. This was something he could get used to.

Before she could guess what he was thinking – he hoped – he pulled her toward the dark tunnel. “Come on. Let’s see what we can find.” He flashed a smile in her direction.

She attempted an answering smile. Grady’s smile widened. At least she was trying.

Hope you liked it! I really just wanted to create a story that you’d like to read, so let me know how it was. I love the feedback!

The Secret of the Codex Excerpt #3

So for this excerpt, I thought I’d go back and finish Chapter 1. This starts where the first excerpt left off. It’s a little long, but I love it because it starts to show the interplay between two of the main characters, Grady and Kayla, which I LOVED to write. Plus, you get to meet Jack, whose character was so much fun to explore! Enjoy!


“Jack, can you shine some light down there?” Kayla offered what she hoped was an overtly flirtatious smile in Jack’s direction. A little light flirting always seemed to win their handyman over.

Her plan worked like a charm. Jack McFarland wheeled an industrial spotlight over to the correct spot. “Anything for you, sweetie.” As the oldest worker on site, Jack was well-liked by everyone. He always had a nice word to say and a questionably interesting story to tell, if you had the time to stick around to hear it.

“I think we’ve hit the jackpot, Kayla,” came from one of the dig’s excavators.

Kayla gave a quick nod, but didn’t look up to see who’d made the comment. She was too busy leaning over the shoulder of the computer tech on site, Dr. Grady McGready, trying to make sure the lighting was just right.

She watched as his deep blue eyes, eyes that complimented his short yet unruly dark brown hair perfectly, surveyed the scene expertly from behind his computer screen. A colleague of hers at the University of Central Florida and an expert in Mayan religious rites and traditions, Grady was now also filling the shoes of the dig’s usual computer tech – the one who’d fallen violently ill just yesterday and had been medevacked to the States for treatment – thanks to his degree in computer science. One of his many degrees, if what she’d heard about him was true.

She took half a step back and looked at him more closely. They’d never really spoken to each other – excepting the occasional “hello” or nod as they passed in the hall and the usual business conversation at department meetings – and Kayla’d never really given him a second thought. But something about the way his sapphire eyes were examining the screen in front of them with such an understated confidence…

As she moved back toward the screen in front of them, she stole a glance at him out of the corner of her eye. He was only a few inches taller than her but easily outweighed her – though nothing about him made her think he was overweight. He just looked… strong. Like he spent a few hours a week running, maybe some occasional weight-lifting, but never spent much time at the gym.

Kayla didn’t really think he needed to.

She chastised herself. He was her coworker, nothing more. No need to complicate things. She’d been down that road before, and it hadn’t ended well. And that was an understatement.

Grady’s voice jolted her back to the present. “Shine that light a little to the left, Jack.”

Kayla struggled to get her mind back on task. Thoughts like that would only distract her. She was here to do her job – nothing more. She leaned up close to Grady, checking the monitor to make sure the lighting was right. Once she was satisfied that everything was ready, she called out to their long-suffering handyman.

“Hey, Jack, we’re all set. Thanks!” She waved him over.

Jack smiled at her as he headed their way. The group of people surrounding them – mostly the excavators that had made the discovery – now gathered behind Grady and Kayla to stare at the computer monitor.

The light illuminated a deep and narrow shaft. Though the light didn’t reach the bottom, the widening walls of the shaft made Kayla think it was close. Embedded in centuries of dirt and debris, darkened skeletons lined the sides of the shaft. On one side, jutting out from between the layers of skeletal remains, were crude yet flat rocks that stuck out from the wall in a sporadic but oddly recognizable pattern.

“Hey, are those steps?” one of the onlookers queried, pointing at the screen.

Kayla’s heart skipped a beat as she walked the ten yards to the shaft, taking the flashlight off her belt and pointing it down the hole. She broke into a grin. “I think so!” This is great, Kayla thought. I’ve only been here a few days, and we find this!

She could feel Grady’s gaze on her back. “So what’s the plan, Dr. Harrington?”

Kayla sighed, still gazing into the shaft. Then she looked up at the darkening sky and headed back toward Grady and the computer. “We’re losing the light. Let’s start on this first thing tomorrow. And please, it’s Kayla.”  She smiled sweetly at him, then turned back to the group and raised her voice. “Okay, everyone, let’s get some rest. We’ll start on this as soon as the sun is up.”



Grady grinned from behind the computer monitor as the crowd surrounding him dispersed. Kayla’s tenacity was infectious – and quite endearing.

He started to join her at the edge of the shaft, but suddenly he couldn’t move. As though his mind had opened a gateway to the future – one possible future, anyway – he could see them together. He saw their nondescript home back in Florida, saw them having breakfast in their small kitchen every morning, saw her lying next to him in bed with the sunlight streaming through the window illuminating her cheek as she slept…

Grady shook his head violently, trying in vain to erase the idea of Kayla and him together. His inexplicable vision of them together was…well, unsettling to say the least. Where had those images come from?

He looked back at the monitor – hid behind it, more accurately – concentrating a little too hard on bringing his mind back to the present. He barely knew Kayla – she’d never given him a second glance, he was certain of that – but something was there, hiding just below the surface. Something he just couldn’t quite put his finger on.

He’d never really considered dating her – not seriously enough to act on it, anyway. She’d only ever been a coworker in his eyes. Oh, she was attractive – beautiful, he’d thought more than once – but she always seemed out of reach. Like he wouldn’t have anything close to a chance with her.

Life was cruel. Why had his mind conjured up those images of them together? He didn’t – couldn’t – have a future with her, not in this lifetime.

Then she was standing right next to him. “Dr. McGready, can I talk to you for a minute?”

Grady jumped. He hadn’t said anything aloud, had he? That would be…unbearable. “Call me Grady.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “And yeah, what’s up?”

Kayla looked over at him and smiled, leaning in just a little and lowering her voice. “Care to get started tonight? Our little secret?”

Grady grinned at her, feeling much more at ease. When he wasn’t thinking about them together, she tended to have a calming effect on him. Odd. “Sure, I’d love to.”

As the sun started to disappear behind the trees of the surrounding forest, they worked together getting the markers set up for the computer to read, sending a light down the middle of the shaft to help them better determine its length, and ensuring the lighting below would be sufficient enough for them to do some preliminary exploring.

Personal feelings aside, Grady was excited to have Dr. Harrington – Kayla – working with him on this project. He had been in Belize for the spring semester working on this site – one purported to be an important religious site for the ancient Mayans, though no one had yet determined why – and was glad to finally have another expert on the dig. And not just another expert, but the leading Mayan language expert in the U.S., if not the world.

“Okay,” Grady said as soon as he’d checked the computer screen one last time, “we’re all set. Let’s go.”



Kayla couldn’t miss the hint of a smile on Grady’s lips. She reached for the flashlight she’d laid by the mouth of the shaft and smiled back at him, pointing the light toward the hole in the ground. “You first.”

Grady grabbed his own flashlight, attached it to his belt, and headed toward the illuminated shaft. Kayla felt a wave of warmth caress her skin at the sight of the brilliant smile he flashed her way before climbing down.

After he’d descended the first few steps, he peered over the edge of the hole. “You coming?”

Kayla grinned and snapped her own flashlight to her belt. “Wouldn’t miss it.


I would love to hear any thoughts you have! I hope to post more soon. Until then, keep reading!

The Secret of the Codex Excerpt #2 (from Chapter 8)

So here’s something I just edited today; enjoy!


Excerpt from Chapter 8, The Secret of the Codex by Melissa Frey


Just outside the Mercenaries’ Camp

Na-um still couldn’t believe it. Over the past few days he’d sent dozens of groups of soldiers into the surrounding forest. And every single man had returned with the same report: the Americans were gone. How could a group of four people elude them so completely? Na-um could accept one or two groups missing something, but by now he’d sent everyone he had – and not a single one had been able to track them down. Even Holun was still clueless.

Something was off; Na-um could feel it in the air. It was almost as if Destiny…no. He couldn’t admit that, even to himself. They were right in their quest, he and his men. The Secret could not be released upon the world. It was much too dangerous.

But somewhere, deep in the recesses of his mind, that small voice repeated, over and over again: What if something was helping those four Americans, something bigger than all of them? Wouldn’t that mean that their cause was just?

Not seeing another choice, Na-um returned all his men to their training. Let the Americans go now; he would catch them later on.

After all, he did know where they were going.


Belize Rainforest

Kayla’s food supply was quickly depleting, and, even with rationing it, the water was almost gone. The long night of rest had helped them regain their strength, but Kayla was eager to get home. She wouldn’t feel safe until they were back at the dig, or, better yet, out of the country. Maybe not even then.

On the morning of the fifth day, Kayla heard a muffled sound. The others had heard it, too; all four crouched instinctively, concealing themselves in the tall undergrowth. Who knew that five days in the wilderness would so drastically hone their survival instincts?

The sound was coming from in front of them, and seemed to be getting closer. Kayla glanced over at Grady, whose expression matched what she was feeling exactly. Had the Mercenaries been close all along, waiting for them to wear down, waiting for the perfect moment to attack? Had the menacing army of men finally tracked them down?

As the noise came closer, Kayla slowly began to recognize the sound – was that a car? All four remained frozen in their defensive positions, but began looking at each other with questions in their eyes. What now?

Then a Jeep came into view. They were well hidden in the trees, but from her vantage point, Kayla could see the driver of the vehicle. She exhaled, then heard the others follow suit as they recognized their savior. Jack McFarland drove up to them as they came out of the trees, waving him down.

Justin spoke first – a little too loudly, Kayla thought. They had been out here for far too long – her instincts were all off. Certainly the danger had passed. “Man, are we glad to see you!”

Jack grinned as he stopped and the four weary travelers climbed aboard. As soon as they were inside, he headed back the way he came, not wasting any time. “I thought I’d never find you guys! I’ve been out looking for days, hoping against hope that I would somehow find you. Looks like I was right.”

Kayla tried to get her bearings, but after nearly a week in the forest, the trees had all started to look the same. “How close are we to the dig?” She desperately wanted to shower and get out of the clothes she’d been wearing for the past week.

“Only a few miles.” They all groaned loudly. Jack laughed. “You’ve been gone awhile. We’ve all missed you.” He patted the hand that Kayla was resting on the passenger seat.

She smiled over at him. “You have no idea how grateful we are. We’ve been walking for five days.”

Jack whistled low in surprise. “No worries. We’ll get you all cleaned up and feeling up to par in no time.” Jack smiled, then his expression suddenly changed. “Oh! Kayla, I almost forgot. I’ve got a gift back there for you.” He jabbed his right thumb between the seats toward the back of the vehicle. “Grady, a little help?”

Grady leaned back and reached for something stashed behind the Jeep’s backseat. When he turned around, he was holding Kayla’s backpack, the bag that held every one of her prized possessions – at least the ones that’d traveled with her to Belize.

“Oh, Jack, thank you so much!” She reached back and grabbed the bag from Grady, hoisting it between the seats while being careful not to hit Jack with it. “You don’t know how lost I’ve been without this.” She began rifling through it, utterly relieved to find everything still in its place, if a little worse for wear.

Jack smiled at her. “I thought as much. It was just laying there in the tall grass, near the Jeep…”

His voice trailed off and Kayla’s mind immediately recalled that fateful explosion. When she thought of the men she’d really only met an hour or so before they were gone, she was grateful that Jack had declined joining them on the trip. The decision to stay had saved his life.

The remainder of the short ride was quiet. Kayla stared out the window while Mandy and Grady laid back, resting their eyes, and Justin sat with his eyes closed, rubbing his temples. Kayla glanced back at him and sighed. Glad this whole mess is finally over.

If she had been able to see what was coming, she wouldn’t have jinxed it.

The mess was just beginning.


I’d love to know what you think! Obviously, I’ve skipped quite a lot since my last post, but thought skipping around might be more fun. Hope you like it!

Chapter 1 – The Secret of the Codex

As promised (many months ago, sorry), here’s an excerpt from the first chapter of my book. As it always will be until it’s in book form, the text is subject to change.

Hope you like it!

IPad and Keyboard 032015 Blog Post - Trust Still Learning...


The Secret of the Codex – Chapter 1

University of Central Florida, Anthropology Department

“Professor Harrington?”

Dr. Kayla Harrington looked up from the papers she had just finished grading to see a young blonde-haired, blue-eyed student standing in the doorway of her office with a messenger bag slung over her shoulder. She couldn’t have been more than twenty. Kayla could almost remember being that young – when she wasn’t trying to forget.

Kayla smiled and motioned her in.

The girl smiled timidly in return, tentatively entering the room. “I brought your mail.”

Kayla nodded her thanks, reaching for the stack of papers and scanning the first few items with idle curiosity. Nothing good ever came in the mail anymore.

She’d gotten through a few pieces of mail before she noticed that the girl hadn’t left yet. She slowly drew her eyes up to meet the girl’s gaze. “Yes?”

The young student flashed another timid, almost apologetic smile before responding. “I know you’re about to leave, but I was wondering if you had my final graded yet.”

The flight! Kayla’s heart skipped a beat. She’d nearly forgotten about it. Her eyes flew to the clock on the wall.

Her heart slowed down. She still had a few minutes. She offered the student a sheepish smile. “Sure, I should have it right here…” She shuffled the papers in front of her and quickly found the student’s final. Sorting the students’ papers alphabetically may be a little obsessive, but it did have its advantages.

After a brief once-over, she handed the paper across her desk with a wide smile. “You wrote a good paper. The conclusion was a little weak and didn’t sound like you’d thought it all the way through, but all in all, good job.”

The student smiled in return, more confident this time. She eagerly scanned the front page, her eyes quickly lighting on her grade. She looked happy with a B. “Thanks, Dr. Harrington. See you next semester.”

Kayla offered a quick wave as the young girl rushed out of her office. Kayla glanced over at the clock again. Ten minutes until she needed to leave for the airport. Enough time to finish looking through the mail.

Most of it was junk mail, magazines, and a stray bill that somehow got sent to her office instead of her home. But near the end of the stack, wedged between a magazine and a furniture ad, was a small, manila envelope.

Kayla’s brow furrowed as she turned the package over in her hands. No return address. She reached for a letter opener and sliced open one end. Then she upended it, dropping its contents on her desk.

There, sitting atop the stack of newly-graded papers, was a silver charm attached to a long chain, almost like a necklace of sorts. Kayla leaned down without touching it, scrutinizing it for a moment, then picked it up, laying the charm in her left palm. From end to end, the charm nearly stretched the length of her palm. The metal was haphazardly chiseled into a crude rendering of the symbol for lightning. But the way it was rendered… something seemed oddly familiar.

She slowly stood, stepping around her large suitcase on her way to the overfilled and overflowing bookcases that lined the far wall of her small office. They were too big for the space, but she didn’t care. They served their purpose. Barely.

She quickly found the book she wanted – she could always find things in her “organized clutter” as she called it, though no one else ever could – and she reached up to pull it out of its slot. It slid out easily, too easily – she had to jump under it to keep it from crashing to the ground. Her hands were the only thing that kept the large tome from hitting her in the head.

She flipped the book open quickly, stealing a glance at the clock. She needed to leave soon.

But not quite yet. She scanned the book, trying to find what she was looking for. Then, abruptly, she did.

She laid the charm in the book, right beside the picture on the page, comparing the two. The distinctive way the symbol was drawn pointed to a very specific origin. She didn’t know why she didn’t recognize it immediately.

Now she really did have to leave. She returned the book dutifully to its proper place, draping the long necklace around her neck and dropping the charm beneath her shirt, then stepped over to the worn leather couch to retrieve her luggage. She leaned down and picked up her large suitcase by the handle, slung the strap of her smaller bag on her shoulder, and started for the door.

Then she remembered the papers she’d just graded and turned quickly to snatch them up – the way she kept her desk semi-organized in neat stacks ensured that she didn’t grab anything else in the process – just before leaving and locking up her office. She placed the newly graded papers on the front desk counter with a bright smile to the department’s long-suffering receptionist before leaving the building for the summer.


Lamanai Archeological Project, Northern Belize Rainforest

Kayla stood up and stretched, yawning. Her long auburn hair fell down her back as she closed her eyes to the blinding glare of the sun. It had been a long day, and it wasn’t even close to being over. She was fairly certain that this day still had quite a few more working hours in it.

Kayla blinked and shielded her eyes with one hand as she glanced down at the sandy ground where a dusty terracotta bowl was lying in pieces at her feet. After half a second’s deliberation, she called over a nearby grad student to finish up the analysis. The monotonous portion of the work – though in truth she really didn’t mind it – didn’t need to be completed by the person heading up the dig; plus, it would give one of her favorite students much-needed field experience.

After letting the student know where she was going, Kayla trudged to her tent, pulling her gloves off on the way. She smiled serenely as she reached the entrance and eyed her cot. Without stopping to remove her shoes, she flopped down on the makeshift bed.

After a few minutes of trying to sleep – though she’d known it would never happen before she’d even started trying – she reached for the necklace she still wore, the one she’d received just before she came here. She held the charm up to the light, turning it over and over, and stared intently at the lightning-shaped charm between her fingers. She had spent the entire plane ride here trying to figure out what it meant.

She didn’t know why, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a warning of some kind. But a warning against what?

A polite voice interrupted her reverie. “Knock, knock.”

Kayla sat up and smiled up at the pretty young student she’d left with the terracotta bowl, the charm in her closed fist. “Hey, Jackie. Are you having trouble with the pottery piece?”

The girl called Jackie smiled back at her, flipping her long black hair out of her face. “Nope, all done.” Her grin widened, and Kayla thought she saw her eyes begin to sparkle. “Dr. McGready is asking for you. I think they found something.”

Kayla blinked. The dig had only been up and running for a few short months – and they had already found something? She hurriedly dropped the charm beneath her shirt and jumped up with a grin. “Coming.”


There it is – my writing is finally out there in the world! You’ve finally met Kayla, and if you’ve read this far, thank you! Please let me know what you think – if you’re intrigued to find out what happens next, to meet my other characters (I have four main ones alone), to see where the story takes them (and us!). It’s been so much fun writing – I hope you have as much fun reading!

Until next time! *love*

Why Fiction?

So before I get into the details of my book (which I’m so excited to share with you I can hardly stand it), I wanted to explain why I write fiction, and why you should care. (Plus a bit of insight into my writing process which may or may not cause you to want to have me committed.)

Storytelling has been around since the beginning of language itself, and has almost always been used to illustrate a point.

Stories are relatable and easy to understand at a basic, human level. We connect with stories because they reflect our experiences or give us insight into experiences we’d never had in an understandable way. Great communicators use stories to teach us important truths, truths we’d never understand any other way.

Because of this fact, fiction is powerful. Yes, it can be a welcome escape from the monotony of everyday life, but there are more important things going on, under the surface. There are underlying moral (or amoral) themes, lessons to be learned, and viewpoints to consider. And when a person is incited to change by the telling of a simple story, the power of fiction is on full display.

Great fiction reveals to the heart what the mind is too intelligent to understand. [Tweet this]

In my writing, themes I didn’t intend to show or didn’t even know were there showed up, and it astounded me. I’ve heard it said that a story shows the struggles the author is dealing with at the time they wrote it, and can I just say… I may or may not have some trust issues. Ahem.

So as you venture into my fictitious world with me and meet my characters, read their thoughts, see how they react to what happens to them, I hope you’ll be looking for the lessons unintentionally woven throughout the pages. It pleasantly surprised me when I looked back on what I’d written – I hope it will do the same for you!

Oh, and before I go, that bit of insight into my writing process as promised…

I said above that the themes in my story just showed up out of nowhere. Well, my characters kind of did, too. There was some intentionality – and sometimes randomness – in initially creating them (I got one last name off a headstone at Arlington National Cemetery!), but once they were created and I got to know them (stay with me here), I basically just wrote down what they told me happened. That’s the crazy part.

But it’s true, and I’ve heard other authors say the same thing! My characters are more real to me than many other actually real people, probably because I know them so well. Once I’d created them and set them loose in the story, they did what they would do based on who they are and I watched, writing it all down. There was even one scene that I knew someone had died in, but I didn’t know who until I wrote the part where my character walked into the room. Creepy, maybe, but so cool.

So stick with me, and try not to call the insane asylum. I’d appreciate it.

I Am a Fiction Writer: The Case for Authenticity

I am a fiction writer.

There; I said it.

I write fiction. That’s what I was put on this earth to do; I believe that 100%, with every fiber of my being. So why is it so hard to claim it?

Finding my calling wasn’t easy, and I’m not even sure I had that one epiphany moment where the pieces just fell into place and writing fiction presented itself as the obvious choice. No; there were many epiphany moments that have led me here, have shown me my life’s purpose.

But still I fight it. I’ve listened to others for so long sometimes I forget how to listen to the voice inside me, the one God uses to tell me what His plan is for me. The one that quietly but insistently whispers to the depths of my soul. The one that tells me my life’s purpose. The one that is supremely difficult to hear but is still there, still trying to get through to me. The one that I’ve let others drown out too long. Including myself.

Well, no more. I’ve done a considerable amount of research and soul-searching in the past few months (sorry this blog’s been so quiet), but sometimes taking a step back is necessary for clarity. And this past weekend, I started hearing that voice again, quiet, yet loud and clear: “Step into your calling, Melissa. You were uniquely created to do this; the world needs you to do this. Life is short; you can’t guarantee that you’ll have tomorrow to start this. Start now.”

My last surviving grandparent died a few weeks ago, and burying your oldest relative can make you realize just how short life really is. So, in part, this is for her, the grandmother I know supported me and would have continued to support me every step of the way.

But back to my question about why it’s so hard for me to step into my life’s calling. To explain, I’ll give you a brief (BRIEF, I promise) background on how I got here.

In college, instead of following my heart, I listened to the people who told me to find a “good” major that will be “guaranteed” to make me money. So I got a BBA in Accounting. And the whole “guaranteed job” thing worked – for a short time.

Then I had the opportunity to stay at home and focus on what I really wanted to do for a career. I’d always wanted to write a “real” book (I’d written a short one in high school that I’d hesitate to go back and actually read), so I started. I got one page in, didn’t know where I wanted to go with it, then stopped. For almost a year. Then, thanks to a new author I discovered and went absolutely crazy over (in case you’re wondering, it was Stephenie Meyer), I suddenly discovered the direction I wanted to take my book. The first draft was done in less than a year! And I knew I wanted to write fiction for a living.

Then life got in the way. Funny how that always happens, right? I think it took me another year to get through my first round of edits (my second draft), then life threw me a curveball and I didn’t work on it for over a year. It may have even been two. Slowly, deliberately, I got back into it, but only fit it in here and there, editing in spurts. At the beginning of last year, I finally felt brave enough to send my completed third draft out to some readers. Everyone who got back to me had really good feedback, and really liked it! So you’d think I’d get really inspired and prepare my manuscript to send to literary agents, right?

Uh…not so much.

So here I am, eight years later, with a book in the final edits (fifth and final edit, I HOPE) but still not 100% complete. Why?

My why for writing is pretty solid. I love it, I want to do it every day for the rest of my life, but yet I don’t seem to stick with it. So what else is going on?

For me, I struggle with the money. I hear it now (and have heard it all over the Internet, believe me): “You have to write for you, not for the money. You have to write because you’re a writer and you can’t not write. You have to write to create art. You have to write even if no one ever reads a word.”

“Yes,” my inner voice (not the smart, quiet one from before, but the annoying stupid one that yells really loud and seems to only want me in misery) interjects, “I know all that! But you still have to have a job and make money. And you can’t make money writing fiction, can you? Nope, because of the rise of ebooks and self-publishing, the path to traditional publishing is dead, and you have to be a marketer above anything else. That’s the only way to sell books. Everybody knows that. Everybody’s telling you that. You have to go learn that.”

So my keep-me-miserable inner voice is telling me all the things I shouldn’t be doing, for all the reasons I shouldn’t be using, and the result is – you guessed it – misery.

(Not to say I’m miserable, but not following your calling is a sort of soul-crushing misery that I’m binding today and throwing out the back door!)


So here’s my manifesto, the things I’m writing down here so you all can keep me accountable:

1. I must write to write.

I love it, so why am I not doing it? Even if I make no money doing it, ever, I still must  write. If it truly is my life’s calling, the people who need to read my words will read them.  Somehow. Even if it’s only one person.

2. Stop listening to everyone else.

There are so many intelligent people out there, even people who have monetized their craft and are making good money writing and selling books. But why do I think my path will look the same as theirs? I need to learn to drown out every voice except that quiet one deep inside and figure out where it’s leading me. Where God’s leading me.

3. Put away all distractions.

Learning is good, but at some point I have to stop learning and just act. Oh yeah – and Facebook.

4. Be my truest authentic self.

I’m not into building a huge platform online and spending all my time on that. There are skills I can learn and have learned that will help me in today’s online economy, but my heart’s in the fiction. That’s where I truly shine. My focus should be on that.


So I hope you’re ready! My fiction’s about to take over this blog. I hope you’ll join me on the journey! Let’s see what fun we can have along the way, and not worry so much about the destination. Whether my book is published and sells millions of copies or it never sees the light of day, if I am my authentic self, the rest will follow. Whatever “the rest” is.

An Open Letter to My Seasoned Coworkers from a Millennial

An Open Letter to My Seasoned Coworkers from a Millennial 042816

Dear Seasoned Coworker,

There are so many things I wish I could tell you in person, things I wish you understood. Here are the top three: First, I’m not as lazy as you think I am. Second, my smartphone will be on my person at all times (it’s too expensive to be left anywhere else), and third, and most importantly, we’re on the same team.

That day when you rolled your eyes at me for checking Google before I cracked open a phone book, I wasn’t mad. I actually kind of get it. For years, the phone book was the gatekeeper to everyone’s phone numbers, and you probably can’t understand why I don’t even bother with phone numbers anymore. But I can honestly tell you that I have no idea how to use a phone book. This may be why you think I’m lazy, but I’m really not.

You see, the world has changed, and is still changing. I’m sure that’s readily apparent to you. But what you perhaps do not understand is that I’ve lived in a constant state of change my whole life. With the advent of the Internet and social media, which are changing literally by the second, my entire life has been a succession of one change after another. It’s truly exhausting, but I’m adaptable. I’ve adapted by taking in previously unheard of amounts of data and filtering them like an expert to retain what serves me and discard what doesn’t.

Remember when you were upset that I was constantly sending emails back and forth to vendors and customers and you weren’t able to catch every detail? I’m not trying to circumvent you, I promise. Delegation is part of my filtering process, which is necessary to keep my head above water in the endless stream of information assaulting me from all sides. I am trying to take things off your plate, especially things that I know frustrate you. Plus email is infinitely faster for me than making a phone call.

We all need to slow down. I get that, more than you realize. I do that with a yoga video I found on YouTube. I meditate in silence, then draw inspiration and spiritual guidance from books on my iPad. I play soothing music on Spotify, pull up recipes on my favorite blogs, then FaceTime my nephew three time zones away.

My life is a constant influx of information. Call it being a product of my environment, and that’s probably true, but this is where I am, who I am, who we are: our lives inexorably tied to a screen. True, we need to learn to unplug at times, but to disregard technology entirely would be a disservice to all the friends we’ve never met in person, or all the people we’re able to help that live on the other side of the world, or the mentors we can learn from that happen to live in a different state than we do.

But here’s the bottom line, what we really want to say to you: We need you. We promise you’re not irrelevant. Your methods may seem outdated to us at times, but you’ve walked this earth longer than we have, and we would put ourselves at a disadvantage if we ignored all that knowledge and wisdom.

So work with us, please. We’re young, yes, but we have so much to offer the world. We just want to make things better, and you can help us do that.

We want to incite change in our company, our environment, the world, and we want things to change for the better. But we can’t do it alone.


Your Millennial Colleague (you know, the one on their iPhone)

Wellness/Paleo Website Launch!


This past February, my husband and I took an amazingly relaxing trip to Tampa, Florida. (Above is the sunset in St. Petersburg.) We almost didn’t make it out of Michigan due to a snowstorm, but as the palm trees came into view, we could almost feel the weight (probably the weight of the snow) lift off our shoulders.

We took the week and rested, ate amazing food, laid out and walked on the beach, drove all over the Tampa Bay area, and watched Supernatural. (Thank you, TNT) And after our minds finally cleared, we decided that we needed to start something.

At first, we weren’t sure what we were going to start. We knew that between my own Paleo/health journey and his desire to become more fit we’ve accumulated a lot of knowledge about wellness, health, and nutrition. So we brainstormed, planned, scrawled all over some white boards, planned some more, thought way too much, and came up with an idea. A website! (Not very original, but bear with me.)

We knew so many people who wanted help getting their health back on track, so we wanted a place where people could go to find help on their wellness journey. Somewhere people could peruse articles, check out some Paleo recipes, and gain inspiration to start and maintain a healthy lifestyle day in and day out.

Our website isn’t up quite yet, but we wanted to start getting the word out. If you are considering starting your journey to a healthy life, are ready to get started, or are simply curious, sign up to get notified when the site launches! It’s really only a few clicks away. (Get notified here.)

Also, we’d love to connect with you on Facebook! My Facebook author page is here; send us a message! If you have any questions or already have ideas of things you’d like to see on the website, email us at

And don’t worry; my blog will still be here! I will just transition my health and wellness posts to

What would you like to see on the new site? Blog posts, recipes, pictures, something else? We want to create content you’ll love! Sound off in the comments!

5 Ways You’re Probably Holding Yourself Back

We all do it.

We have great intentions, lofty goals, but we somehow never see the results. Somehow, some way, we’re stuck. Frustrating, isn’t it? I’ve lived in this place a long time, and am currently clawing my way out.

Beach Sunset Taking Picture in Florida

But in the process of learning how to move forward, I’ve learned a little about the things that were holding me back. Perhaps they’re not mind-blowing revelations for you, but identifying the problem is the first step in finding the solution.

1. You’re Not Learning

It’s easy to binge watch Netflix. Not that anyone here’s done that before… Ahem. What’s not easy is challenging yourself, pushing yourself, learning and absorbing all you can.

Does it matter what you’re learning? Not really. It’s about training your mind to process and retain information. So learn anything and everything you can. I mean it. Want to learn the migrating patterns of a particular bird? If that’s your thing, run after it. We have this amazing thing called “The Internet” that might help…

Learning to learn can be a beautiful thing. And it helps you grow as a person; sometimes just the act of learning itself will help you grow. Just try it.

2. You’re Thinking Horrible Things

Imagine you love someone a whole lot. Like a ton. Remember your first girlfriend maybe. Or think of your husband. Or your kids maybe. Now what would you do if you heard someone tell them they were worthless? Besides wanting to punch them in the face (don’t do that), you would, in no uncertain terms, tell them to leave immediately and never speak that way to your loved one again.

Have you ever told yourself those kinds of things? If you have, you’re undoubtedly reading this right now with a lump in your throat. Push those thoughts as far away from you as you can by replacing every negative thought with at least one positive thought. Bonus: if you can find a way to make the negative a positive, you are well on your way to conquering that evil voice inside your head!

I’ll be the first to tell you that this is in no way easy, but it’s well worth it, I promise.

3. You’re Listening to the Wrong (External) Voices

Anyone ever tell you something you should do? No? So you’ve never been around people before? Everyone, whether they mean to or not, has at some point given you advice. It’s not a bad thing – until we start listening to them more than we listen to our own voice.

What’s the best way to avoid this? Know yourself. It’s hard, so hard. But completely worth it. Figure out who you are, and do it relentlessly. Then you’ll be able to take all that advice, filter it through your personality, then use what serves you and discard what doesn’t. Again, it’s hard. But anything worth pursuing is.

4. You’re Allowing Fear to Run Your Life

Ouch. I’m stepping on my own toes here. Always (read: every single time) ask yourself your motivation behind choosing to do or not do something. Is fear holding you back, telling you you won’t succeed, or that you’re not good enough, or that _________ (fill in the blank)?

Don’t let fear run your life anymore. Jeff Goins sums it up well: “…courage isn’t the absence of Fear; it’s the willingness to face it in spite of how you feel.” So let’s all do one thing to be courageous and laugh in the face of fear. Then another. And another. And soon, fear will go and bug someone else.

5. You’re Convinced This is All There Is

You’ve been there, haven’t you? Somehow someone (probably yourself) convinced you that where you are is where you’ll stay. Sometimes it definitely feels like that. But here’s a quote I love, and though I usually use it to pertain to travel, it fits here, too: “Life’s not meant to be lived in one place.” (Author unknown) That isn’t only talking about your geographical location, but maybe for you it is. Or maybe it means something else.

The point here is that you learn, grow, venture out, try new things! The worst that can happen is that you find out something you don’t like – but maybe you’ll stumble onto your life’s purpose. And what could be cooler than that?


All that to say: we don’t have to stay here, people. We can live in victory, in freedom, in complete and utter happiness, if only we discover how to let go.

Because only in letting go can we find true freedom. (Tweet that)

What one thing can you do today to start moving forward? Let me know in the comments!