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!

The Music of the Codex


Happy Saturday!

When I first wrote The Secret of the Codex (it was just called The Codex back then, until I found another book by the same name! Spoiler: I like my new title better) way back in 2008/2009, I started collecting music inspiration in the form of a killer "Codex" playlist. I thought it might be interesting for you all to hear the songs that inspired the book as I wrote it. Some songs even fit a specific scene so perfectly that I got chills!

Ready? (If you want to skip my commentary, I recreated the playlist on Spotify and the link is at the end. Feel free to scroll.)


First up... The original Twilight soundtrack. Obvi.

Next up, RED. These guys are my theme band. (If that even makes sense.) Especially their second album, Innocence & Instinct. I still get chills when I hear "Never Be the Same" which I've unofficially dubbed the Codex theme song. Probably more on that later. :) Also, "Start Again" is another one of my favorites, which fits in well toward the end of the book. (No spoilers!)

Then some random songs—Fall Out Boy then a couple from Bones (which I loved)—and my Snow Patrol faves. "Make This Go On Forever" came on just as I was writing a pivotal scene in Chapter 6 and it was one of my first WOW moments when writing. The song fit the scene PERFECTLY. I realize now I'll probably have to go into more detail with these after the book is out!

Next up is Boys Like Girls. Not sure how I discovered them, but I'm glad I did. So many of their songs take me back to that first draft. This song especially, though I don't have a clue why. I probably just like the drops in the chorus. :D

Then The Fray, which I realize now I haven't listened to in forever. *goes and listens to The Fray*

Okay, I'm back.

Some other random songs, but notable ones.

  • "A Man I'll Never Be" by Boston—the band I listened to with my dad growing up. (Awww!)

  • "Bring Me to Life" by Evanescence—takes you back, doesn't it? Pretty sure I heard them on the radio today on the THROWBACK LUNCH HOUR. I AM OLD.

  • "Never Alone" by Barlow Girl—if you've never listened to this song, or this band, before, go listen now. Spoiler: the Spotify playlist is below. Makes it easy.

Then my rock phase shows up in the form of random bands (Rise Against, Saving Abel)...

After that is A Twist in My Story by Secondhand Serenade, another album that really takes me back to my first draft. It's great to have albums like that, so you can listen to something if you need inspiration and you're right back there, creating the first draft. Makes you want to get right back at it.

Then a random movie score, you know, to keep things interesting (Angels and Demons by Hans Zimmer—probably for those times when I just couldn't concentrate with words in the songs)...

Then Anberlin! This band is great. Their new stuff is great too. Go listen.

More random stuff (Sixx AM and a couple of others), 30 Seconds to Mars (awesome), a random Natasha Bedingfield selection, lots of Good Charlotte (must've been another phase), then more random songs by Papa Roach, Saliva, Story of the Year, Sum 41, Three Days Grace. Yes, I listened to a lot of rock. Must've edited out a lot of the angst in the editing. Haha, just kidding—it somehow managed to not be angsty! By some miracle...

So here's the Spotify playlist I've been hinting at!



I've found I can listen to just about anything when I'm writing, but when I'm editing I need silence. Which makes me a little sad, but that's how it is.

Do you listen to music when you read or write?

Meet Grady McGready: A Character Profile

Up next in my character profiles series is Grady McGready—Kayla's love interest and pretty much the best fictional crush EVER.

He's just like Kayla in all the right ways and just different enough to keep things interesting.

Here are some inspo pics I found for him...


Clearly not the same guy, but still...he only has a beard when he's been out in the rainforest for like a week, so I figured a clean-shaven one would be good too...

In The Secret of the Codex (releasing August 28th, pinch me!), Grady McGready comes on the scene just as Kayla's about to make an exciting discovery. They've seen each other at work—they work in the same department at the University of Central Florida, after all—but they've not interacted much. So when Kayla invites him to join in her discovery, just the two of them, sparks start to fly...

Grady is perfect for Kayla in all the right ways, and this fact becomes clear throughout their journey. He grounds her when her world is crashing down, he holds her when she needs to be held, and he doesn't push her when she needs time. I wanted to write the perfect guy, but one who stills has flaws. Because #reallife.

And #mushymoment: I hadn't met my husband when I wrote Grady, but I tell him often that he's my Grady—perfect for me in all the ways that matter. Somehow I feel my heart knew someone like that was possible for me—so I wrote Grady in anticipation of my husband.

Told you it'd be mushy. <3

Grady's a little complicated, too—but unfortunately we don't get to delve as much into his backstory in book 1 as we do Kayla's. But a little mystery is good, right? I'm sure we'll all find out more about him as the series progresses. (Book 2 is currently underway!)

So what do you think? If you've read the free excerpt on this site, how does my description compare to what you pictured in your head?

Until next time,

<3 Melissa

P.S. If you haven't signed up for my email list, why not? I'll send you the first 3 chapters of the book as a thank you, and you can meet Grady for yourself! Sign up here!