bookexcerpt

Meet Na-um: A Character Profile of One of My Antagonists

For my Friday the 13th post, I thought I'd post a book excerpt introducing one of my main antagonists, Na-um! He was so fun to write — I just love writing my antagonists. The heroes are the most fun, of course, but there is a depth to the villains that I love to explore.

So do you want to meet him?

Na-um-Edited.jpg

Awesome, right? I was so lucky to find this pic — other than the hat, this guy could be Na-um. I love the vibe of this pic.

Na-um is a stubborn, confident, charismatic leader, strong and commanding, muscular and fit. He's determined to complete his mission (to prevent the Secret from being discovered), hot-tempered when things don't go exactly as he planned, and fierce when he has to be. But he's somehow human, relatable, even likable.

I love writing likable antagonists. They make the reader feel something more when the heroes finally win (or do they?) — a tangle of emotions that swirl through the readers' minds and hearts as the conclusion plays itself out.

No, I'm not evil, I promise. :)

Ready to meet him? Here's the book excerpt I promised, where Na-um makes his grand entrance into The Secret of the Codex. Enjoy!

*******************************

Somewhere in the Belize Rainforest

The Hunter sped through the forest, long black hair flowing behind him like a flag on the mast of an ancient battleship. His breathing settled into an easy rhythm, only slightly faster than normal despite his exertion. His ears, able to pick up every sound for miles despite his speed, tracked the beast in front of him. Though the beast was still a little over a mile away, he was closing the distance quickly.

Na-um, the one his people called “The Hunter,” pushed harder, hurtling himself through the forest even faster. He barely noticed the trees that he effortlessly dodged, the fallen logs he easily catapulted over, or the swaying foliage that barely brushed his feet but never slowed him down. He loved running like this—the freedom and serenity of the forest calmed him, cleared his head as it flew by at lightning speeds.

Then, as though the dense forest in front of him split down the middle, he could see the beast ahead of him. His eyes peered through the trees, leaves, and bushes and spotted the massive animal, hundreds of yards away. Na-um grinned wickedly, then pushed himself to the breaking point to close the distance.

Na-um jerked to a stop, sending up a spray of dirt and mud that cascaded down the straps of leather that comprised his outfit and the darkly tanned skin of his muscular forearms and legs. He was still a good distance away from the beast; his small disturbance in the forest wouldn’t attract his prey’s attention.

He sunk into a crouch, inching his way closer to the oblivious beast. Then he stopped.

Just in front of him, the dense undergrowth of the forest was ending, disappearing into a grassy clearing. Every muscle in Na-um’s body tensed. The beast nonchalantly lowered its muzzle to the ground, its jaws smoothly rotating as it fed on the tall grass of the clearing. Despite the apparent peacefulness of the beast, Na-um knew it wouldn’t stay still for very long. He had to move fast, or he’d lose his chance.

Moving as few muscles as possible, Na-um slowly and deliberately stretched his hand to the back of his neck. Sheathed along his back was a handmade spear, a razor-sharp arrowhead attached to the end of a thick bamboo stalk with strong twine. The spear made no sound as Na-um carefully slid it out and held it at his side. He raised it soundlessly into position.

The beast, unaware of its imminent demise, grazed contentedly. Its head never left the ground as it enjoyed what would turn out to be its final meal.

The spear soared across the clearing.

A sickening wailing emanated from the beast as the arrowhead struck its side and burrowed deep in its chest. It howled, raising its head toward the sky. Its mournful cries pierced the tranquility of the forest. Na-um came out of his crouch and sprinted into the large clearing, crossing it in no more than two seconds. He approached the beast, which lay sprawled out on the ground, hind legs futilely kicking the air. Na-um watched as the beast pulled in one last, shuddering breath.

The Hunter had won.

*******************************

What did you think? Does he seem scary? Spoiler alert: he kind of is. :D

Meet Mandy: A Character Profile from The Secret of the Codex

Happy Monday! In case Monday has gotten you down (already), I thought I'd brighten up your day. With Mandy! She's the sweetest and kindest character in The Secret of the Codex, and she was so fun to write.

I got the character inspo from my sister, Amanda. She's so sweet and kind and loving, and was the perfect inspiration for Mandy. Plus, their names are similar. Though I never call my sister Mandy! Go figure!

First, as always, a Mandy pic.

Mandy-Image-Close-Up.jpg

Mandy is dating Justin, her boyfriend of three years that most of the time doesn't deserve her. But then he'll do something that surprises her (and us) and shows just how much he really cares — he's just that way. But Mandy loves him just the way he is. She's the perfect match for Justin's craziness, even though it sometimes drives her crazy, but she loves taking care of him anyway.

Mandy is caring, sweet, and never has a bad word to say about anyone. She's sensitive and kind, always looking out for others. She develops a strong mothering instinct toward Holun (more on him later!) and takes care of the others when they're out doing whatever it is they're doing. She just instinctively wants to help!

And the others instinctively want to take care of her, too. Kayla especially; they grow into great friends throughout the book.

I loved writing Mandy — there are so many aspects to her personality that I wish I had!

Here's a brief excerpt about Mandy that I posted on Instagram a few days ago, told from Kayla's perspective: 

*******************************

Book Excerpt — Kayla and Mandy as Besties

Mandy’s cheeks were stained with tears, as had been the norm for the last twenty hours or so. But Kayla noticed another layer—the corners of her eyes had drooped, her light brown eyebrows were furrowed—that told a more intimate story. She was in incredible pain...

Mandy cared for him—Kayla could see that. Perhaps she’d loved him since she’d met him... that was just the kind of person Mandy was. Kind, compassionate, loving. Everything good in a person.

Kayla desperately wished she could take away the pain, even take it on herself. That someone so tender would have to go through something so harsh was almost unbearable. As Mandy broke down completely and fell out of the chair onto her knees, Kayla knelt down beside her and put her arms around her, let her cry.

*******************************

I had to edit the excerpt so I didn't give too much away, but I love this so much — it shows Mandy so well!

But this post is supposed to make you happy, so I'll give you a happy Mandy excerpt, too! This is where we meet her and Justin. 

*******************************

Book Excerpt — Meet Mandy and Justin for the First Time

“Mandy! Phone!”

Mandy Carlson, a third-year student in UCF’s graduate-level Maya Studies program, looked up from the suitcase she was packing and made a face. She flicked her mid-length strawberry blonde hair away from her neck in disgust. Though she loved her boyfriend of three years, Justin Stanford, she knew he knew it, too; that was the problem. He frequently took her for granted—and she hated the aggravating way this sometimes made him act. I’m not an animal, she thought. You could’ve asked nicely. Or, heaven forbid, actually bring me the phone.

She found her blond-haired, blue-eyed boyfriend in the living room, holding the cell phone she’d left on the coffee table. His eyes never left the TV as she snatched the phone away from him. She glared at him with her hazel eyes on her way to the kitchen, though he was too enthralled by the TV to notice.

“Yes? This is Mandy Carlson.”

“Ms. Carlson, this is Dean Stewart.” The caller wasn’t really a surprise. Her “teacher’s pet” reputation at school had begun to include the deans as well.

“Hello, how are you?” She kept it formal. The man was kind and gracious but Mandy still found him a little intimidating, even over the phone.

“Fine, fine. I have a request, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure, what is it?”

He hesitated almost imperceptibly, but she caught it. “Do you know Drs. Harrington and McGready?”

Her heart jumped a little. A knee-jerk reaction—a subconscious habit she couldn’t suppress whenever she heard his name. “I was in one of Dr. McGready’s classes last semester. Is he okay?”

Another moment of silence, this time glaringly obvious. When the dean didn’t respond, Mandy asked another question. “What happened?”

She heard him sigh. “Ms. Carlson, Dr. Harrington and Dr. McGready are missing. They were at the Lamanai dig, working, and they seem to have found something. But as they were heading to the airport in Belize City this morning they were . . .” He paused, then tried again. “Well, by all accounts, it looks like they were ambushed.”

Mandy’s next word came out a whisper. “What?”

Dean Stewart sighed through the phone. “I’m sorry to drop this on you so suddenly, but I knew you were headed to Lamanai tomorrow, anyway, so I wanted to ask if you would head up the search party.”

Mandy couldn’t help but get a small bit of satisfaction from his request. Finally her years of making nice with the teachers were paying off. And if she were the one to find them . . . “I would be happy to.” In her sophomore year at the university, she had met Professor Grady McGready, immediately developing a crush. She had since matured and grown out of it, but was still concerned with his well-being—probably a little more than she should be.

Maybe she hadn’t grown out of it as much as she’d like to think.

The Dean sounded exceptionally relieved. “Please find them. Our school can’t afford to lose such great archaeologists—or such great people.”

Mandy smiled. She knew Dean Stewart well enough to know he really did care about his people. “Justin and I were just packing for our flight in the morning. Should we leave sooner?”

“No, the morning’s flight is the first one headed that way. Please let me know what you find out. We’re all concerned for them; any news would be greatly appreciated.”

Mandy smiled, her dimples making an appearance in the empty room. “Will do.”

He hung up without another word.

Mandy’s smile faded as she let the situation sink in; this news was particularly distressing. She always looked forward to Grady’s classes—what was wrong with a little ogling? She vaguely remembered Professor Harrington—she thought she’d had a class with her a few semesters ago—but couldn’t quite recall what she looked like. Mandy was always more attentive when it came to the opposite sex.

“Justin!” She yelled too loudly. She smirked as she returned his earlier favor. See how you like it.

Unfortunately, as she had come to expect, he didn’t notice her subtle rebuke. He simply loped into the room, energy drink in hand. “What’s up? What’d the dean want?”

She rolled her eyes at her always less-than-attentive boyfriend. “Something happened at the dig. Grady McGready and Professor Harrington were attacked on the way to Belize City. No one can find them, so they want us to head up the search.”

Justin grinned. Mandy knew without asking that he would be overly excited about such an adventure—and though she would never admit it, it was one of the reasons she put up with him. “Cool!” He took a large final swig from his drink, then chucked it into the recycling bin with a large, dopey grin. “Let’s go pack.”

*******************************

 So what did you think? Wouldn't you just love to meet Mandy in person?

<3 Melissa

The Trip to Belize City (Book Excerpt from The Secret of the Codex)

Lamanai Archaeological Project, Northern Belize Rainforest

Lamanai Archaeological Project, Northern Belize Rainforest

We made it to the weekend! For today, I thought I'd give you another book excerpt from my upcoming novel, The Secret of the Codex. And for bonus points: this is the scene I wrote while listening to Snow Patrol's Make It Last Forever — I highly recommend giving it a listen while reading. It just builds perfectly with the scene.Enjoy!

*******************************

Lamanai Archaeological Project, Northern Belize Rainforest

The morning dawned bright and clear, and uncharacteristically cool for this time of year. The heavy rains that had drenched the dig for the last few days had fortunately stopped—for now, anyway—leaving the air thick but chilly.

Kayla was up with the sun. She dressed hurriedly, layering her light khaki pants and deep blue tank top with a lightweight tan work shirt. She knew that, despite the cool breeze blowing now, the day would heat up considerably in a hurry. She exited her tent early and couldn’t help but smile brightly when she found Grady at breakfast, wearing khaki pants with a black polo shirt stretched across his chest. She noticed Grady’s returning smile a second too late, but nothing in his expression told her he noticed her lingering glance at his chest. She was beginning to think he was either very unobservant or very gracious. She didn’t think it was the former.

After breakfast, as she and Grady approached the off-road vehicle that would take them to the airport, Kayla surveyed the group loading their gear into the Jeep.

Of the easily two dozen workers presented the opportunity to travel with them—Kayla and Grady had held a short meeting last night around the campfire to discuss their upcoming trip—only three people had shown up for the expedition that morning, one of whom had offered only to drop them off at the airport. Still, Kayla was grateful for the support they did have, and determined to make the best of it.

Kayla and Grady exchanged introductions and good mornings with the three men as they tossed their bags in the back of the Jeep. They took the front seats as their small group jumped in the back and began the long, bumpy drive to Belize City.

A few miles down the road, however, the Jeep started sputtering, shaking and jerking all over the road. Kayla glanced over at Grady, who was clutching the steering wheel in an attempt to keep the vehicle under control. Just before she opened her mouth to ask what was going on, the Jeep jolted violently, then stalled. Grady, groaning from the driver’s seat, threw the vehicle in park and jumped out. “Everyone stay put for now; I’ll see what the problem is.”

Kayla ignored him. She hopped out of her side of the car, slinging her backpack over her shoulder. She still hadn’t found her missing notepad—it hadn’t been in the work trailer as she’d hoped—so she wasn’t going to let anything else important out of her sight. “What is it, Grady? What happened?”

Grady was crouched down at the back of the Jeep with one hand on the bumper to steady himself, looking underneath. “Great. It looks like something cut the gas line.”

“What?” As Kayla leaned down to look, she saw a small object protruding from a rubber hose underneath the Jeep. “What is that?” she asked, pointing at it.

Grady had seen it too. He reached under the vehicle, dislodging the object.

“Be careful,” Kayla breathed.

As he turned the small object over in his hand, Kayla shivered, realizing what the sharp object that Grady now gingerly held between his thumb and forefinger really was.

In his hand was a small arrowhead, one clearly handmade but also clearly very deadly. She looked toward the surrounding forest, contemplating what kind of person would do something like this, eyeing the foliage for any sign of trouble. It was then that she noticed something stuck in the back tire—another razor-sharp arrowhead, larger than the first but shaped just like it. A quiet gasp escaped her lips.

Grady’s eyes shot to her face. Kayla could feel his eyes on her, but she couldn’t look away. Her gaze was locked on the arrowhead jutting out of their back tire.

She knew when Grady saw it. “Okay, this can’t be an accident.”

Kayla was frozen, staring into space and trying to make sense of the situation, when suddenly she felt Grady jump beside her. But before she could turn to him, she caught something out of the corner of her eye that looked a lot like a flame . . .

Then she heard Grady whisper in her ear: “Kayla, run. Now. RUN!” He shoved her toward the trees, away from the Jeep, then smacked the palm of his hand hard on the back door as he yelled to those in the vehicle. “GET OUT! NOW!” In the next moment, only seconds after he’d started running for the trees, the Jeep exploded, shattering into a million pieces. The force of the explosion knocked Kayla forward and she crashed to the ground. She felt the heat of the blast scald the back of her legs as the flames licked the morning air.

It only took her a second to figure out what had happened. She leapt to her feet. “NO!” Kayla screamed, reaching back instinctively toward her new friends in the Jeep. Grady grabbed her around the waist, holding her back. Another smaller explosion made them both jump and fall back to the ground. Kayla was sobbing, tears streaming down her face; she couldn’t remember when she’d even started crying. “Why?” she wailed between sobs. “Why would someone do this?”

But Grady didn’t have time to answer. Suddenly Kayla felt herself being torn from the ground. Before she could react, she felt a sharp pain at the back of her head; then everything went black.

*******************************

I'd love to hear what you think below!

<3 Melissa

P.S. If you'd like to read more, The Secret of the Codex releases 8/28/18! If you sign up for updates here, I'll be sure to keep you informed. Oh, and you'll get the first three chapters for free, too, just as a thank you for signing up!