Below are writing samples consisting of fiction, nonfiction, and blog posts. Further samples available upon request.
When I Realized This My Life Changed
A lot of my friends are dreamers.
It’s an honor to spend hours listening to their dreams and yeah, dreaming about the dream itself.
Recently we were talking about how sometimes we don’t feel a passion for God. We’re not in a “mountaintop” experience. We’re in the mundane of everyday life.
Mountaintop or mundane, we all have dreams. Maybe it’s a vision of what you want to accomplish, or a dream for impacting the world.
The thing is, when God gives us dreams there’s action required on our part: we have to spend time in the ordinary life of the valley.
“This means living the realities of our lives in the light of the vision until the truth of the vision is actually realized in us.”
It’s easy at this time of life to be frustrated I’m not on a mountaintop. I’m just starting my career. There’s no way I’m at the summit yet.
Sometimes I do crave the mountaintop. But God brings us to the mountaintop so we learn to see him and him alone (Matthew 17:8). The mountaintop is prep for the valley…but.
Living into the reality of dreams forces the reality of the valley.
We can only be shaped in the valley.
We can only get to the mountaintop walking through the valley.
However much we think we love the mountaintop, here’s some news.
“We see his glory on the mountain, but we never live for his glory there.”
On the mountain we see God’s glory. This is a phenomenal experience. We’re filled. We get the privilege of being in awe of Jesus’ kingly presence. But the mountain is us taking. Us responding.
When God calls us to the valley it’s a call to action. A call to live for him. To let ourselves be shaped by everyday life.
Anyone can feel satisfied on a mountain, basking in the glory of God.
But God calls us to the valley so we can also experience the personal presence of Jesus, not just his kingly presence. Intimacy is an extreme privilege only experienced in the valley.
It’s easy to assume mountaintop experiences are the privilege and being in the valley is equivalent to suffering, trials, and monotony.
In the valley we get to experience actively living for Jesus through the power of the Spirit, intimacy with Jesus’ personal presence, communication with Jesus in prayer.
We don’t experience the intimacy of Jesus healing the broken.
We don’t need prayer on the mountaintop.
We don’t need the power of the Spirit.
We don’t get to see freedom.
It’s a place to leave full, so we can walk into a starving world and offer Heaven.
We can’t plant our roots deep on a mountain with no water. We can’t bear fruit because we’re literally too high. We bear fruit in the valley where the stream is and where we can plant our roots deep (Psalm 1).
We don’t need to fear because we’ve seen his glory. We know his goodness. We know he sees our way (Psalm 1:6), so we know at the right season we’ll bear much fruit (John 12:24).
Jesus brings us to the mountain to see the big picture. To see who he is. But he takes us to the valley to live it out. To experience what we’ve seen of his character.
Life can’t be sustained on the mountaintop.
Life is sustained in the valley.
When the disciples came down from the mountaintop after seeing Jesus’ kingly presence, the first miracle Jesus performed was helping a mute boy speak.
Before he casts the evil spirit out, he calls the people a “faithless generation.”
It’s only then that he rebukes the spirit and “took him by the hand and lifted him up.” Mark 9 says, “and he arose.”
We must come down to the alley to “lift up the demon-possessed” and let God work through us so others can be free to experience intimate communication with Jesus too – not muteness born of Satan (Mark 9:17).
Yes, Jesus builds our faith on the mountain. But we must share that faith with our generation so they too, can rise up and experience intimacy with Jesus.
Prayer is powerful.
Prayer shows our faith.
We’re called to be people of prayer.
That’s a high calling. That’s a privilege only found in the valley.
If you’re anything like me you only want to read a book if it’s honest, real, and to the point. No beating around the bush, no false pretense. And whatever it’s about, it’s gotta be good enough to keep me turning the pages out of desire to find out what’s next.
It’s a battle, really. The battle of a lifetime. How will we identify ourselves? And once we have done so, how will our lives change? I’ve had a lot of identities in my 20-something years. But I’m not here to talk about that. There’s a battle in our world right now and it’s stronger than it’s ever been. The scary thing is, we’re all fighting it whether or not we realize it.
Whether we see the fight on Instagram or in the cafeteria, on the big screen or in our home, it’s present everywhere we turn.
Sometimes I get exhausted trying to fight.
That’s when I have to go back to a time before the battle ever started, when the world was at peace with itself and where identity wasn’t something we bartered with.
The battle for identity all started in Eden, the garden of hope and destiny. The place where relationship with humanity was first birthed. The center of human connection with Jesus Christ, God, the Creator of everything we dub the universe, the galaxy, and our home today.
Eden was perfection.
The center of civilization, of learning, work, and rest. Eden was where relationships flourished. Where identity was given and received.
I love Eden.
Thinking about what it must have been like. Walking with God in the cool of the day, picking the flowers he created. Climbing trees with Adam maybe. Swimming at the bottom of waterfalls, or jumping down them if you were brave enough! Eating berries without having to worry if they were coated with pesticides.
Not having tan lines (see Genesis 2:25, I’m not kidding!).
But most importantly…being in person-to-person, physical, unhindered, regular, perfect, relationship with God. No shame. No arguments. No past.
No impure desires or inappropriate glory-giving.
Every aspect of Adam and Eve was freely given to God with zero shame and no regret.
They spent uninterrupted time with him and experienced his presence in the best garden ever created.
It didn’t have the city smell of Central Park or the ugly, broken down rocks that partially make up Yosemite. It didn’t have the sticky black dirt or little creatures that attack your feet on a Peruvian beach. It didn’t have the danger, the fear, the frostbite, the burning from the sun, pollution, or any imperfection of the world. Eden was created before the curse of sin.
And so as relationship flourished identity was formed.
Adam and Eve. The first humans to experience perfect identity in God.
Their identity was untarnished by sin or fought for by social media. Their identity was safe from comparison to the popular people of Hollywood.
Unsurpassed. Understood. Accepted.
How often do I wish I could have a taste of Eden! How amazing would it be to experience the comfort of perfect identity for just a moment?
But Genesis 3 shows Eden destroyed.
The perfection of Eden was lost forever when Adam and Eve doubted their identity and out of mistrust, sinned for the first time. In that moment humanity was wrecked. Identity shattered. Doubt, shame, anger, and blame all entered the world as perfect relationship with God exited.
Since this time, called the Fall, we have been searching for our identity like misguided tourists.
We go from college to college, inserting ourselves into student groups, sport teams, sororities, and lifestyles until we can hardly keep up with our classes. Four years later that identity is gone and we move on.
We think we find the right neighborhood, house, car, and social status, expecting it will satisfy. But a few months, years, or decades later we find we still don’t know who we are.
On Sunday we hear we are loved by God, by Tuesday we think we’re slaves of the clock. Friday rolls around and we celebrate like our lives depend on it, because to our amnesic, identity-forgetting minds, it does.
And then we’re back to Sunday. Reminded of who we are.
Monday the cycle begins again.
We’re like nomadic wanderers, in search of something we think we have yet to attain, but in reality it already clothes us as tightly as skin.
This doesn’t have to be our life. We don’t have to settle for wanderer or tourist. We have a home. We just haven’t seen it yet.
No, we aren’t nomads.
We are ambassadors who forgot to look at our paperwork.
We have to claim our identity if we are going to live the lives we were created to. We have to somehow get back to that perfect garden before we completely forget who we are and our mission here on planet earth is aborted forever.
Sound like a serious situation? Our mission on earth hangs on whether or not we claim our identity. So yeah, I’d say it’s pretty serious.
I’m working to reclaim that space where our identity was first realized, where perfection was the norm and relationship between humanity and God was at its zenith. I’m working to implement the identity of Adam and Eve, before the Fall, into my life.
But identity demands action. When we claim our identity we live our purpose.
What would a life like that one look like? God working through us to affect everyone around us with his grace? Talk about #goals.
How do we find our identity? How do we impact the world?
It starts with knowing who we are.
If you ever took a philosophy class you’ve probably heard the phrase “know thyself.” I’m no Socrates but I think he was on to something. Knowing ourselves is vital if we are to accomplish anything here on earth.
For instance, I know myself enough to realize I will never be a successful math teacher, I thrive whenever I’m around people, I love being a morning person and a night owl (I’ve found the two don’t really jibe), etc. You get the point. But often people identify us for us unless we first identify ourselves.
So who are you? Maybe you’re tall or short. That’s literally just comparison, by the way. Maybe you’re an extrovert. Or an Enneagram type 3. Maybe you hate spiders (guilty as charged) and love history. Those aren’t really identities though. They are more like personal or physical attributes. Characteristics. Nothing more.
But so often they are treated with the gravest seriousness. Comparison creeps in. “If only I –
· was smarter.
· more entrepreneurial
· could be more introverted
· worked out like he did
· was on tour like they are
· had bigger dreams
They beat down what little identity we have and discourage anything else from growing up. Thankfully we don’t have to stay down.
Governor’s Compound, Eilis
If he’s wrong we’re both living a lie. I grip the documents in the moonlight. My uncle said they aren’t proof and I’ll just have to trust him with it. There’s no reason, political or personal, he’d lie to me. They’re about my parents, after all.
But he’d looked so hurt.
Our argument lies bitter in my mouth. The need to apologize turns my stomach. His words burn in my mind.
Willis, it was all for you!
A crash below forces me to the window, but everything looks normal. And our guards are the best in the country.
The necklace on my nightstand was a last gift from my parents. He took me in when they… The thought of apologizing – but my heart trumps my feelings.
In the hall I rub my eyes and cough. Are the guards smoking inside again? We fired that one three weeks ago.
But it’s not cigarette smoke. One of the pillars erupts in flames.
“Do you have him yet?” a foreign voice shouts below.
Clutching the documents, I force myself against the wall. These aren’t our guards. How’d they get past our security?
The carpet burns my knees. I edge forward and press my head against the bars of the banister, fighting to keep from breathing in the smoke. Another cough would give me away.
Two men with long knives run past. Another enters the hallway below, pistol in hand. I blow my hair out of my face. The third man turns, showing the whites of his eyes behind a sock mask. He fires toward the ceiling and I reel back.
“Troy Wrede falls tonight!”
The man runs out of sight. They’re after my uncle. I rush down the stairs, golden embers grazing my skin. Embers fall to the carpeted stairs and smolder. I want to stamp them out –
I stop. I’ve woken to a nightmare. The revolt wasn’t just a rumor. It’s real. And my home is in flames.
My uncle’s shouted words fill my mind.
It’s the people we fight with, Willis! Don’t forget it. The moment we fight each other we fall. You’re seventeen. I don’t expect you to understand these things.
I’d thought he was just being romantic. He is a politician, after all. Isn’t that what government is all about? Remembering my own words I bite my lip and run down the hallway, as if I can take back my heartless words with steps of bravery.
He was in his private office when I confronted him this evening. I grab the curtain separating the public hall from his private one. The tassels brush the floor, fabric dampening my footsteps. I have to find him.
As I hurry down the hall the night sensors light along the floor, filling it with a faint glow. If only I could shut them off…
The folder crinkles in my hand. If these rogues are from the motherland the last thing I need is for them to find it. Our personal accountant’s office door is shut. The secretary’s door across the hall not quite closed.
I push the door open. Rhoda’s small office is perfectly clean. Untouched and far from the fire. I shove the folder under one of her desk drawers.
Back in the hall I run past the library. The ten-foot wall of books lays destroyed. Pages literally float through the air. Someone must have just left. A shiver shakes me even though it’s spring. I shake my head at the ironic thought.
Another gunshot! So foreign to my ears. I’ve seen guns half my life, but never heard one shot. Until tonight. Running toward the sound I keep my heels off the ground. This isn’t a game. The shot came from my uncle’s private office.
Dread fills me. Maybe he made it to his safety room. The thought gives rare hope.
His office door hangs on one hinge. Carpet smolders inside the doorway. The sweet smell of a cigar mixes with the dusty smell of burning carpet. I squeeze past growing flames. I’ve never stepped foot in here without shoes. The thought bounces away like a rubber ball. Completely irrelevant.
Three men have taken the room. Dressed in all black, one swings a sledgehammer into the white brick fireplace. Crumbled bricks already litter the floor. My uncle’s desk sits on the other side of the room and looks untouched. His personal bookcase has been thrown to the floor. Prized figurines, overlaid with gold, smashed in a pile in the corner.
“Come on out, Troy! Hiding in the dark never suited you!”
The voice sounds like it just hit puberty. I drop to my knees and crawl behind the couch to my uncle’s massive desk. Quietly open the lower left drawer. Perfectly arranged files. I slip my hand inside and feel for the lock.
More taunting from the men. But the lock isn’t clicking open.
Two tries later I realize he must have changed the code. Why?
At least some of his documents are safe. Is he? I press my hand over my nose and mouth as if this could slow my breathing.
In the dim light a shadow stretches across the desk. Someone’s coming. I scoot into the leg cubby, thankful Troy had it made larger than necessary, and draw my feet in as close as I can.
Charred boots. Rusted spurs. These are not mere thieves. The man sits and yanks open a desk drawer. Sticky notes, fountain pens, and my uncle’s golden stapler crash to the floor. I hold my breath. A snap from the fireplace causes his leg to jerk, nearly hitting me in the shin.
“Will you all shut up?” The hiss of a match. Its glow reaches me. “I’m trying this ol’ cigar here.”
“Think we need more fire around us? This place is gonna go up soon. Plus, you’ve already smoked one.” That high-pitched voice again.
“Shut it, Marc. You know how long it’s been since I’ve even had a cigarette?” He leans back in my uncle’s chair, boots grazing my bare toes. I press my chin between my knees.
“That’s changing tonight.” It’s a new voice. Deeper. Beautiful in the ugliest way. “All the riches you want. But you better get yourself over here and swing a few times. We’re almost through.”
I peek up to just barely see a ringed hand massaging the shoulder of the first man.
“Whatever you say, JP. You da boss.” He chuckles and stands up, grinding a cigarette into the floor in an odd, circular motion.
I exhale, lightheaded. Grasp my sweaty hands together. The faint light of the moon flickers through the curtains and I stare at the carpet in front of me.
A small pile of dirt mixed with yellowy powder. It sticks to my finger and I smell it. Salt and sea. A thousand memories rush me.
Why would these men be so far inland? And why would they have sand in their boots at all? The beaches have been closed since the barges stopped coming years ago.
These are by no means just angry men. They’re trespassers. Not just on personal property. But on land owned and guarded by the government.
Raucous shouts startle me. I bang my head in the small space. A brick flies over the desk and crashes into the wall in front of me. Another hits the heavy curtain and the delicate tinkle of glass falls to the ground outside.
“We’re through, ladies!”
The deep voice of JP congratulates the other two men with mostly words I’ve never heard before. The ring of a blade whipped from its sheath. JP’s voice again.
“Now for the slaughter. And then the beginning of a world made new.”
I bite my tongue so hard tears fill my eyes. The grit of sand scrapes my face but I can’t take my hands away. I’ll scream.
“Go get him!”
The kid, Marc, shouts a reply I can’t distinguish. I peek from behind the desk to see him disappear into the gaping hole of the fireplace. The other man stoops in after him. The last, JP, leans against the remaining bricks and lights a cigar. My uncle’s cigar.
Ash falls down his sock mask and he spits, pulling the mask from his face. This time the gasp is out before I can stop myself.
It’s Justice. I’ve seen him here three times in five years. And each time I’ve felt like I’m looking into the eyes of a snake.
Shouts from the tunnel draw his attention and he moves away. When I can see him again two silent tears race down my face. Because he’s not alone.
He holds my uncle at gunpoint.
It Takes More Than Caffeine To Get Published (and it's definitely not all about the writing)
A few years ago I was working my dream job by night and going to classes by day.
I’d been asked to write content for a publishing company. Might sound boring to you, but it also involved watching a lot of interviews of famous authors, getting the behind-the-scenes on the life of influencers, and communicating with some top-branding people.
Talk about #goals.
Now It’s the end of 2018, I’ve signed with an agent, and I’M THE ONE working to publish books, talking with marketers, and hustling away to turn my hundreds of pages of Word documents into a few actual trees’ worth of paper and ink.
I’ve been training with professional authors, walking into publishing houses and talking with those on the inside (occasionally via sneaking in), and launching quite a few books as I grow to understand the inner workings of the publishing industry.
Few things I’ve learned:
Introverts Aren’t Getting Published
I attended a conference/meet-up in Nashville last month and one of the words I heard most was “introverts.” The constant joke was how interesting it was to get a bunch of writing introverts in a room to hang out.
A lot of writers are introverts.
Not a bad thing at all. Probably good. I’m just not not an introvert. I actually get really tired if I’m alone for long because people energize me like nothing else does!
But here’s the thing: today, PLATFORM is essential when it comes to getting a book published.
If writers aren’t building their platforms they aren’t creating that list of potential buyers. If they don’t have buyers, their book can’t influence anyone.
And that’s the point, right?
Platform Is Essential
I’ve received emails saying my nonfiction proposal is “enjoyable” but my platform does not warrant my being published.
Publishing is a business deal. Publishers want free marketing.
Writers need to start building their platform right alongside their writing. It will make the road to publication that much faster.
It can be really hard to market yourself, but “hard” can’t be an excuse. There’s a passionate person at the core of every book or idea.
That passionate should naturally turn into marketing. When we’re excited about something we want to talk about it.
That’s what real marketing is: spreading the excitement about a product so others can benefit as well.
Marketing Doesn’t Need To Be Fake
I started launching books as a way to connect with authors. I had no idea the ins and outs I’d learn as a result.
Marketing is a HUGE deal. Good marketing can land a book on the bestseller list. Bad marketing can tank a book (and an author’s career).
The best launches I’ve been on have been run by people truly passionate about the authors and their books.
Passion can’t be contained or stamped out.
Once someone reads something they really like they are going to talk about it. Passion is contagious.
Algorithms have their part to play but more times than I probably realize, it’s the contagion of passion that best markets books.
Romantic Ideals Have Their Place
We’ve all heard the romanticized stories of authors writing their future bestseller on napkins, too poor to buy paper, huddling over cups of coffee, up all night writing their dreams into words.
While those stories can be inspiring and definitely have their place, it takes more than caffeine to get published.
When I first start writing a book it’s often about the dream. By the middle of the story it’s about seeing if I can finish what I’ve started.
By the last edit it’s about seeing if my dream is strong enough to match the competition the industry brings.
Thankfully I now have an agent fighting in the dream too. That makes it two against, well…let’s not do that math!
After all: It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. —Mark Twain
Whatever stage you’re at in your creative journey, never underestimate the role your own passion brings to the success of your project.
It takes unique ideas, great writing, and heartfelt marketing to convince a publisher to take writers’ work to print.
Right now marketing is that tipping point between a YES or NO.
Marketing is born from passion.
Pursue what you’re passionate about and like me, you’ll be surprised where that passion takes you!