Writing Samples

If you’re looking for me to ghostwrite for you, or you just want to see the kind of stuff I produce, here are a few snippets.

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Fiction – Flash Fiction

It’s the highest point on the whole playground. Kids aren’t even supposed to be able to climb this high, but people mostly underestimate what kids can do. I’ve actually climbed up here a lota times, you’ve just never been here to see it. D’you ever think about what would happen if I jumped off? The ground is a real long way down. Who thought that making playground equipment this tall was a good idea?  Oh well, it’s the perfect height for me.

And what would you do if I jumped? Quit telling me not to, or I just might. Ha! You’re really going with the You have so much to live for routine? I’ve heard it from the Disciples a million times. They always tell me salvation is coming for us, but that’s crap because kids like me get forgotten. Don’t you get forgotten sometimes, Isaiah? I mean, why does your dad drop you off at this park for hours a time anyway? Doesn’t your mom want you to be at home with her?

I’m sure she’s busy. So you get to hang out in the street with me. Just think about what it would be like if you didn’t get to go home at the end of the day. This is my home. Here. That tunnel there is my bedroom. It has six windows and arched doorways. Isn’t that fancy? And that room there is my living space. I’ve been thinking about getting a sofa for it, but I just can’t decide on a color.

I can say what I want! That’s the great thing about the ones who are forgotten, Sai: they don’t have to listen to rules and stuff because no one is around to scold them. I love not being scolded. And no one is around to tell me not to jump off this roof. I’m going to jump. Just shut up about it. Kids like me don’t get saved. And kids like you don’t gotta be saved, either. Come climb up here with me.

Now you’re going to cry, are you? Cut it out, Isaiah. Just let me do this. Let me jump and see what it’s like to fly through the air like you can. I can fly for a second. Just a second. It’ll be the most fun I’ve ever had, I’m sure about it.

Besides, from here, the ground is too far away from me to make me scared.


Fiction – Flash Fiction

The day I woke up under the younger tree seems ages ago now, which is kind of funny, since I could blink my eyes and be there again. I sit here, in this room filled with people who are the characters I’ve read in history books, and wonder what would happen if I were Step Back. I would see them standing around this room, just as I would see them arrive here this morning, and heading home this evening. I would see their births and their deaths all in a moment…but not a moment…because moments don’t exist. Not to me.

But I don’t Step Back. I don’t leave them now. Now that I have harnessed this power, I choose not to use it because I can’t stand the thought of leaving them behind. My eyes drift across the room and land on him. He is staring catatonically out the window and probably has already forgotten that I’m here. Perhaps he thinks I’ve left. I think to call out his name and bring his attention back to this place, out of his mind, but I hold my tongue. If I Step Back now, perhaps I can see, in an instant, what he is going to do next, and draw a conclusion about where his mind is.

But I don’t. It’s like cheating at a game I never really wanted to play—but now I can’t stop. The game is love. Or hate. I can’t decide. But I know he’s my competition. And in order to win, I either embrace it wholeheartedly or turn it away. Either way, if I make the decision, then I am the winner.

My stomach flips as his eyes dart over to me and then away.

Yes. This is when I should Step Back and wander to another time. A time when he feels differently. But always a time with him. I feel a small thrill at the excitement of seeing him in another place, somewhere far in the future, and hope he’ll remember me. But how could he not? I am the future, anchored by my foolish heart in the past. Time loops forever around my decision to stay. Unless I decide to leave this time, return to my own, and never Step Back again…then there is no future. All events, all stories, all lives are stopped at the moment when I first Stepped Back and came to this time. To this place. All stories are held on pause—waiting. Waiting for me to decide, for I hold the beginning and end of time in my vision. I selfishly hold all lives in suspense, dangling them over nothingness.

All things will end with me.


Fiction – Sample Chapter

Della was hunched behind the interface of her holograph when she first heard someone exclaim, “They found another planet!”

She perked up only slightly and gauged the reactions of the room, each face illuminated in a sharp blue light from their own holograph interfaces.

“Found, as in ‘discovered?’” asked Aeng, the unabashed skeptic.  “Or found as in ‘targeted?’”

A dull roll of chuckles ambled through the room.

“Both, I think,” came another voice, echoing Della’s own thoughts.

Following the announcement, chatter escalated. A furious hum replaced the silence which had reigned over the office moments earlier.

The SR—standard recruit—who had made the announcement branched off and began discussing it with someone she apparently knew. Della returned her attention to her holograph for only a second before Reijja’s face popped up behind her desk.

“What about that?” she asked, her eyebrows raised, almost seductively.

Della shrugged. “I hardly know anything about it.”

“You think they’re going to start terraforming a new planet?”

Della assured her, once again, that she had no way of knowing.

“You’re no fun at all. Speculating without any information is half the fun of being alive.”

Della grinned; no phrase could better sum up Reijja as a person. “That’s not exactly what they pay me to do.”

“Right. I forgot. You’re paid to be a boring slod.”

“No. I’m paid to be scientist.”

Reijja raised one brow, a sideways grin contorting her smart-ass face. “Isn’t that what I said?”

Feeling like a genius, no doubt, Reijja dismissed herself back to her own work space. The chatter in the rest of the office had not subsided. Gossip and unfounded speculation. Della immediately opened her mail box on the holograph. It was empty, which wasn’t entirely surprising. So instead, she clicked on her ear piece and keyed in her SO’s extension on the screen.

Yes, Jjun-Parrai? His tone was short.

“Tauf. You know the gossip had already started. What’s actually going on?”

I don’t have time right now. He also sounded out of breath.

“If there’s a boat going out to this place, I want to be on it.”

I seriously have no information on it yet, Jjun-Parrai. I’ll call a meeting once I do. But he didn’t hang up.

“Tell me who to contact, then,” Della insisted. “I’ll apply, do whatever paperwork I need to do. I don’t want to miss this one.”

Tauf sighed. You’re our best computer tech. You really are. But there’s no telling what is actually going on upstairs right now. If someone starts looking for a tech, I’ll drop your name all over the place. But until then…

“But there is a team going out to this place, right?”

He hesitated. So far as I know. 

Della accidentally squealed.

Keep your mouth shut, Parrai. Hirai plijja…

“All right, all right. Keep me in the loop.”

Tauf clicked off.

Della switched her own ear piece off, but hadn’t even put her hand back to the holograph when the console began to beep softly in her ear. “Commander Kerin” flashed across the interface.

She answered, maybe too quickly. “Commander.”

You’ve been asked to report to sub docking bay eight. Be there in ten minutes.

“Ten—sub dock—I’ll be there, Commander.”

Kerin disconnected instantly. Della didn’t have even a moment to recover from sounding like an idiot. She stood up, knocking her chair back with her legs.

“Where are you going?” Reijja demanded, popping up in her chair.

Della thought about making something up, but decided instead to be vague. “Kerin called for me,” she replied in haste. That was true, wasn’t it? Any mention of the docking bay or Kerin’s urgency and Reijja’s imagination would run wild. Della smiled awkwardly and hurried to leave before her nosy friend could ask another question. Reijja watched her leave with a furrowed brow. She wasn’t fooled. Della was a terrible liar.

It was just under a ten minute walk to the docking bays with a quick pace, so Della had no time to waste. She power-walked down the hall to the elevator where one other person was already getting on.

“Going down?”

Della smiled. “I am, Warnn. Thank you.”

The AR smiled cordially, then stood in silence facing the door as the elevator began its decent.

Like Warnn, Della was an AR, or advanced recruit. It was basically the highest rank one could be while still having no real subordinates. Not the kind you could order around, anyway. And it was the highest rank one could achieve while still a student or intern. Della was both.

Della and Warnn had gone through orientation together just six months prior. They were stationed in different departments, however, and were barely more than acquaintances. She couldn’t even remember which department he was in.

Warnn stood there with his hands behind his back, rocking back and forth on his toes. Silence was really to be expected, but the way he was acting, swaying there like a loading screen, made it awkward.

“Do you know something?” Della asked, raising her tone in suspicion.

He half-turned his head toward her, his tall crests casting a weird shadow on his face. “Do you know something?”

Della slowly shook her head just as the elevator stopped, its doors opening up to the docking bay’s lowest level.

Directly across the narrow hall from the open elevator doors was a running holograph, the voice of a reporter filled the small space. The image was of a long piece of machinery that Della had seen before, but couldn’t place.

While we reached out to the head of the PED, we have received no comment. The leaked images suggest that the launch two years ago was not the observatory satellite that it was originally believed to be. According to retired head technician for the PED, Ru Dria-Ronjj, the “satellite” is actually a TR-3 planetary engineering probe. Before his retirement, Ronjj aided in developing the TR-1, which was the initial probe that began the terraformation of Gallrun, a now completely successful terraformed planet which boasts an ajjarian population of over three million.

So the question is now: has the PED began terraforming a new planet? And if so, why has it been kept a secret for over a year? Stay with us as answers unfold here on the Talar News Network.

“That’s just like them, isn’t it?” Warnn scoffed. “The media knows more than us and now so does everybody else.”

Della shrugged. “I think technically we know as much as everybody else now, too.”

Warnn grumbled and turned away. Della followed.

The low ceiling of the narrow hall ended and the space around them opened up into the enormous docking bay. It was the bottom-most bay on the station and so the slotted walkway on which Della stood was the only thing between her and the city far below. The cold wind whipped up under the open bottom of the bay, ruffling her clothes and chilling her skin. A single boat, the word Harbinger shimmering along its side, was anchored in the bay and near the gangway stood a group of around fifteen people. From this distance, and with her heart racing, Della could only recognize the Commander. She took a few shaky steps forward, trying not to look down past the thin layer of clouds to the metropolis of Talar below.

“Ah, good. You’re here,” Kerin said, interrupting himself. He turned to wave over the two approaching ARs.

They were quick to stop in their tracks and salute.

“Commander,” Warnn barked.

Kerin pulled two holotags out of his shirt pocket. “ARs, it’s you’re lucky day. As of this moment, you are reassigned.”

Della took one of the small holotags on her hand, a tiny pin-sized stick of metal with a projection the size of a business card protruding from it. Her name strolled across the top in red letters. Beneath that, it read simply: D3-b45, SO: Talar-Frey, Allra.

“Good, everyone is present now,” Kerin continued. “ARs Zuna and Warnn, you are to report to the main deck, to your new SO. Agents Thorin, Karvo, and Eoin, report to Deck Two, room 8b for your assignments. AR Della, your new SO is waiting for you on Deck Three, the tech lab at the rear of the boat. All of your questions will be answered once you arrive at your station. The rest of you are to report to me down in the forward battery.” He took a breath and glanced down at the holotag in his hand. “You have a quarter hour before you’re expected to report. Use that time to wrap up any unfinished business via your holo-comm. This bay is sealed, so you will not be permitted to leave.”

What? Della wanted to demand. Not leaving? Wrap up unfinished…

She glanced up at the ship. Across the bay, a team of people was loading the cargo hold with crates and crates of supplies. Had she truly been reassigned to a boat? It was her goal, ultimately, but she expected more time to prepare. She expected a promotion, first of all. She was just a junior officer. An intern! She still had to study for her finals in three weeks. There were a hundred more qualified people who didn’t have graduation still lingering on the horizon.

It was one of the other ARs that spoke up first. “Commander, sir…I wasn’t aware—I mean—”

Della felt her own heart began to race. The expanse just below her feet was no longer on her mind, only the commander’s unexpected orders. She’d left her holograph running. She had not even said “See you later,” to her best friend. In fact, she’d lied. How could she have known?

“Once again, all your questions will be answered by your SO.” Then his stance softened considerably and he looked almost sympathetically around at the group of wide-eyes. “But yes. You will be leaving today on this boat. Take this time to say your goodbyes. You have a quarter hour.”

Della pulled out her holo-comm to call her family, though she had no idea what to say.


Non-fiction – Journalism

Teachers at Dumas Junior High are promoting positive conversation this holiday season by letting their students know why it is they are thankful for them. It’s call the “Thanksgiving Project” and this is the school’s first year to do anything like this. The idea came from a YouTube video from a school in California and the school administrators were blown away by the concept.

Kurt Baxter, the Junior High principal, was excited about it. He said this is a great way to “show the kids they do care about them as individuals and that they matter at Dumas Junior High School.”

In the project, each teacher selected two students. The teachers then wrote down and presented to the students the reasons why they loved their job because they get to work with these kids. The kids were chosen because of their student leadership, their hard work, their good character, and a myriad of other reasons.

The exchange was captured, either on video or through pictures, and compiled into a montage video. The staff got to sit down and see the full movie at a staff meeting on Tuesday, just before the holidays, so they could share the messages that inspired both them and their students.

“It was so cool seeing those kids smile, knowing that they matter and that their teachers really do care about them,” said Baxter.

If you would like to see the project, the video will be on display throughout the day after the Thanksgiving break on the television in the Junior High’s entry way. It will also be playing on school’s home page, http://www.dumasisd.org/dumasjh.


Non-fiction – Journalism

Cactus Nazarene Ministry Center, located in Cactus, TX, has been changing their community by searching out and meeting the needs of their neighbors. Vito and Jenni Monteblaco run the center and is an inspiring one about how two people can get out there and make a true difference.

The Monteblancos started CNMC in Fall of 2013. In a small, but incredibly diverse town, they saw a need for inclusion for all their neighbors and did not hesitate to do their best to meet those needs.

“It began out of a passion that, for us, comes from our faith. There are people in this community that are in need. Part of that is just needing a friend, beyond that they have material needs, spiritual needs,” said Vito Monteblaco.

The project was originally sponsored by the West Texas District Church of the Nazarene and the national Church of the Nazarene. They were able to purchase land and a very good price and the Nazarene Church in Amarillo donated the trailer that the Monteblacos now live in. The Dumas Nazarene Church donated a house, too, and it houses other staff and mission teams.

Now, three years after its origin, the ministry is a non-profit public charity, running exclusively on public donations and grants. There are times when no one gets a paycheck, but the Monteblacos don’t mind. To them, their work is much more important than a paycheck.

As many as 20 ethnicities are represented in the population of Cactus, many of them recent immigrants. One of their primary focuses is ESL classes, teaching English to those who need to learn it in order to get jobs or go to school. This past semester, the CNMC had over 115 active students. The next semester begins Jan 30th. Registration is the week prior.

Another great need that the Monteblacos saw in their community was activities for children. They began an after school program to give kids stuff to do that is safe, well supervised, and educational. The CNMC picks up kids from school and keeps them at their facility until the parents can pick them up. They learn to do an assortment of things such as baking, gardening or reading. They also offer tutoring for those who need it. There are days where they have upwards of 65 kids. The program just began this past fall and they are already looking to expand.

They also started a soccer league for the kids, and are looking into starting an adult league as well.

The CNMC is constantly evolving to meet the needs of its community. It does that by getting out there and getting to know the people in their town.

Recently, the CNMC did their big give-away, called “Bundle Up Cactus.” The event is focused on providing winter clothes and essentials to anyone in need. Many vendors participated, setting up booths and participating in the event. Texas Health and Human Services was present, among many others. The ministry served over 400 people and 106 family units during the event. It was the first time the CNMC had put this on and had no idea what to expect. They were blown away by the turn out.

“If we see a need, we do what we can to meet that need,” said Monteblaco.

With a big mission like the Cactus Nazarene Ministry Center, the people involved have to be driven to continue. Monteblaco said he was pushed to move forward by, “watching the smiles on people’s faces when they get a coat, they jump up for joy because they watch their child score a goal, watch a kid become passionate about school. Faith impacts that a lot. This is what God has called us to do.”


Non-fiction – Memoir excerpt

When I think of that house in Vernon, Texas, I think primarily of Dad’s last days as himself, for he never seemed the same afterward. I remember the backyard there where we played, and I remember the kitchen, and that conversation, almost flawlessly…

“What would you think about moving to Fort Worth?”

The sound of Dad’s voice makes me stop in my tracks. I stare at him through the open doorway into the kitchen where he stands washing the dishes, his back turned to me.

“Fort Worth?” I repeat.

“Yeah. What would you think?”

I edge around the dining table and wandered into the kitchen. Dad doesn’t turn around as I approach. The square room with a single open doorway seems dimmer than usual and I notice the curtains over the small window above the sink are down.

“How come?” I ask quietly.

“Well, I got a new job there, sweet pea.”

“A new job? Are you not going to preach anymore?”

“Nope.”

I really like him being a preacher, but I say nothing of objection.

“I’m going to be a real estate agent.”

I lean against the counter, studying the dull pattern of the counter-top laminate, my small fingers wrapped tightly around the drawer handle. I don’t respond to his news.

“You know what a real estate agent does, Haylee?”

I shake my head without raising my eyes. I think Dad looks down at me from his dishes.

“I’m going to sell houses and properties. I’ll have a fancy office in a big ol’ office building.”

I am again silent, listening to the clinging of dishes and running water. Out of the corner of my eyes, I look up at my dad’s face. His expression displays a mind, not engaged with the dishes, but preoccupied with excitement and optimism. It is a face I always love to see.

Finally appearing concerned with my lack of verbal response, he turns toward me, drying his hands on the faded coral colored dish rag. “So? What do you think? Are you excited about living in the big city?”

I am not sure. Not even a little bit. But I nod, and I tell him I am really excited. I smile and hug his waist.

“How long until we move?”

“We won’t move until after you finish the fifth grade. Your mom and I are planning on this summer.”

Summer is only a few months away.

“Are we taking Jalayna and Brooklyn?”

He laughs. “Of course.”

I think about running to tell Jalayna the news, but don’t think she would want to stop watching Blue’s Clues long enough to pay attention. She will, after all, still get to have all her favorite things when we move from the little town of Vernon, Texas. She hasn’t started school like I have. She doesn’t care about much more than her toys and the animated colors on the television screen. She won’t be changing schools. And Brooklyn is all of eight months old. She would just stare at me for a moment, and then laugh at nothing in particular. I like her that way, though.

“You okay?” Dad asked me when I stand at his feet in the quiet for several minutes.

Before the move is all said and done, I will tell him I am nervous, that I am scared, that I will miss my friends, and that I will miss him being the preach at church every Sunday. But what I won’t tell him, what I don’t really even know yet myself, was that I have every ounce of faith in him, that he is my hero and that I will happily follow him anywhere he thinks he can make a better life for his family.

All content (c) H.J. Swinford, 2010-2017