Melissa Frey

Fiction Writer, Freelancer for Hire, and Paleo Enthusiast

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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

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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.

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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...

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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.”

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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.

Sincerely,

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

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