Chasing the Light Blog Tour: Remembering Melanie

The Roaring Writers always intended to produce an anthology. We argued for a few years on what genre it should be and how we wanted to proceed. We never expected the anthology to take the form it eventually did or be produced for the reason it finally was.

Chasing the Light: A Benefit Anthology of Speculative Fiction was released on June 1, 2018 and honors the life of Melanie Griffin who passed away far too young. All production costs were donated, and the proceeds are going to Melanie’s life partner to help defray medical and legal bills. My story “Gold Mountain” appears in Chasing the Light and is excerpted below.

I am new to writing speculative fiction and a newer member of the Roaring Writers. My first year at the Roaring Writer’s annual retreat was both exhilarating and terrifying. I had begged my friend Margaret to let me join and she had talked me into the group. I was thrilled to be included but soon realized I was far behind most of the group technically and had tons to learn.

As an introvert launched into a group of friends with jokes and shared memories and, aware I lagged  behind most if not all of them in my writing skills, I was intimidated. When I am intimidated, I retreat into shyness.

Melanie found me in the kitchen the first or second day we were there. She was recovering from an illness that was obviously weighing her down but her eyes shone and she wore a broad, infectious smile that I discovered over time was normal for her. Melanie loved people. She loved talking to them and figuring out what made them tick. We talked for 20 min or so and by the end of that conversation we had bonded over cats, travel, and writing.

“Gold Mountain” was written the fall that Melanie passed away. It was my best story to date, and I think she would have liked it. I miss her, and the Roaring Writers are not the same without her.

Excerpt from “Gold Mountain”::

A tall, broad-shouldered man lay face up on the riverbank. Unblinking, wide, ice-blue eyes stared at the sky, his spirit vanished. He was pale-skinned, with hair the color of strong tea, shot through with iron-gray. The lightning bolt must have struck him as his shirt had shredded into blackened char.

I stroked Diaochan’s neck as I drew her away from the body and tied her loosely to a pine tree in the woods. A small cabin nestled in the trees. Walking back to the river, I chewed my lip.

At home, I would have owed this elder my prayers. I would have fought to find his family, lit incense for his spirit, but I was no longer in Guangzhou. Did the spirits of my ancestors follow me this far away from the Flowery Kingdom? Did I owe anyone anything in this land of everyone for himself?

A shovel and rocker, gravel spilling from it, lay abandoned in the river. Last time I was in Green Valley, Cheng Fan had been beaten for working a white man’s abandoned claim too well. Would they think I’d stolen gold from the rocker? Should I pretend I hadn’t seen the dead man? Just move on?

I rubbed my face. I had letters to distribute and money to gather so I could return to Dai Fow.

Dai Fow. Big City. San Francisco. City of hills and fog with a harbor full of ships abandoned by the forty-niners.

To read more, Chasing the Light is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon.

Find more information at The Million Words






Check out our blog tour:

Ken Schrader – Chasing the Light: Remembering Melanie – June 11, 2018

Faith Hunter – Chasing the Light – 12 June 2018

Alex Gideon – Null and Void – June 14, 2018

Janet Walden-West   – Chasing the Light blog tour and excerpt – June 18, 2018

Amy Bauer – Chasing the Light Blog Tour: Remembering Melanie – June 21, 2018




Chasing the Light: A Benefit Anthology of Speculative Fiction

My short story “Gold Mountain” is appearing in the charity anthology –  Chasing the Light: A Benefit Anthology of Speculative Fiction. Dedicated to the memory of Melanie Otto/Melanie Griffin, who passed away after a brain hemorrhage in late 2016, all profits from the book will go to Melanie’s lifelong partner to help defray medical and legal expenses.

Some years ago a group of writers who met at ConCarolinas decided to start a yearly writer’s retreat. They called themselves the Roaring Writers, and they are passionate and talented writers. I am proud to be a member.

Melanie was one of the founders. She was a lovely person who always saw the good in life. Her smile was infectious and lit up rooms. She loved writing photography, anime, cats, and above all her lifelong party of many years. I only knew Melanie for a few years, and I will always regret that I didn’t have more time to get to know her.

Chasing the Light: A Benefit Anthology of Speculative Fiction is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Yes, In My Town

We all say Not in My Town, but it happened in My Town early Sunday morning. A murder happened. Seventeen year-old Nabra Hassannen was walking back to her mosque after eating at the local IHOP Sunday morning with a small group of her friends when a motorist confronted them for some reason. The teens ran back to the mosque, but Nabra was left behind.

Her mother said she wasn’t used to wearing the abaya. She only wore it for religious holidays, and she may have tripped over the long dress. Whatever the reason, she didn’t make it. Facts are a little sketchy still, but twenty two-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres was arrested yesterday and charged with her death. Her mother told the news that he beat Nabra with a metal bat and dumped her body in a pond. I drive by that pond virtually every time I go anywhere.

It’s Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims and one where they fast from sunrise to sundown. The teens had been to midnight prayer at the ADAMS Center, home to the largest Muslim congregation in Northern Virginia, located  here in Sterling. They walked to the local IHOP to eat after prayers so they could face another day of fasting.

For some reason when I read about Nabra’s murder last night, I fell apart. I didn’t know the girl. I didn’t know the family. I’ve never been to the ADAMS Center although I have been invited. My husband asked me if it was because it was so close to us and I was home alone when it happened. Maybe, but I’ve heard of murders and assaults close to me before. Somehow though, when I read the news last night, I cried and cried hard. A 17-year-old girl who had just finished praying and indulging in some innocent fun with her friends was brutally murdered on Father’s Day.

I haven’t written much on this blog since the election. I’ve struggled with how to talk to people I know are supporting the Trump administration. If we are to get anywhere we must not stop talking to one another, but it’s been hard to talk civilly to people that are supporting the hate-mongering coming from the right-wing often in the name of some Christianity that Christ wouldn’t recognize if he walked among us today.

When we rant about Sharia law or refuse to allow mosques to be built in our neighborhoods or support bans targeted at keeping a particular religion out of this country, we are supporting oppression and hatred and taking a stance fundamentally opposite to the freedom of religion this country was founded on. Good people can make poor choices and support hatred for seemingly rational reasons, but it is still a support of  hatred, no matter the spin. It doesn’t necessarily follow that this murder is a result of the climate of fear and hatred that is ongoing, but we will certainly never know that it’s not connected and it’s really hard not to believe that we as a nation failed this family.

I’m not naive enough to believe that we will ever live in a society that is all pollyanna and non-violent sunshine, but I hope that we can pull back from the white supremacy and minority bashing that is roiling us and vote out anyone in power who is actively engaged in appealing to our lesser angels not our better ones.

Rest in Peace, Nabra.


Home and Energized

I’m home from my annual writer’s retreat and so energized to get writing. I let this blog go quiet in favor of other projects and lack of time so I’m renewing my commitment to posting on Story Currents in a timely fashion.

If you are interested in Cons, ConCarolinas is a wonderful convention in Charlotte. If you are a writer, I will post more later on founding a writing group. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Happy New Year and All That Jazz

Happy New Year, Everyone – Good riddance 2016! I can’t say that I’m all that hopeful that 2017 will be a great year, but January always provides an arbitrary shiny new slate and it’s here.

One of my goals for this year is to organize myself and create a time-management plan that I’ll stick to. The plan is in place, and I think I have a good chance of working within it. Unfortunately, I’m already a bit behind. Yes, I know it’s only the 6th!

My husband and I decided to have some long-overdue house maintenance performed, which aside from stress and some sore muscles from two weeks of moving furniture and loads of stuff hither and yon and yon and hither resulted in a “may you live in interesting times” moment two days ago when my house threatened to explode in a ball of flame, not the type of fireworks I want to see for the New Year.

The fix the electrician thought would hold our outside electrical box until the part he needed to order could come in didn’t see eye to eye with some high winds and driving rain that came through our area. While some folks may find it fun to listen to whoomphing sounds coming from your walls, even with the inside electricity turned off, and to smell burning char with zero idea how to stop it, I am afraid I’m not made of such stern stuff.

A panicked call to our electrician resulted in his arrival and installation of the part that had come in far faster than we all hoped. So my house is still standing and if my office is not yet ready for work in the New Year because I’m missing a desk that the supplier seems to be having great difficulty selling and getting to me, at least I’m not missing the house to wrap around it.

My goal this year is to post at least once a week on my personal blog, preferably more, now that the group blog I participate in – The Million Words – is up and running. If any of my writer friends or scientist friends want to guest post about what they’re working on, drop me a line.

The desk is supposed to arrive today. Wish me luck.

The Holidays are Coming – Everyone Hide

turkey-1299176__480I am a guest this week on Lillian Archer’s blog. “Down the Rabbit Hole” delves into historical accuracy in speculative fiction, detailing a few of the bumps in the road I’ve run into, over, or been derailed by.

Janet Walden-West obviously has the Holidays on her mind and is apparently a bit grumpy about pie in her most recent post Pie Isn’t Worth It.

In “A Journey of a Million Words,” Ken Schrader plays with asterisks and makes his introductory post at The Million Words.

Finally, a reminder to check out the posts on mental health of the Hold Onto The Light Campaign. The Holidays are here and depression runs rampant across the land.

“Seventy-One Important Questions for the Conservation of Marine Biodiversity”


A few years ago, a group of multidisciplinary marine conservationists, including myself, met together and hashed out what we thought were the most important problems facing the field of marine conservation that were not being addressed. Our conclusions were published in “Seventy-One Important Questions for the Conservation of Marine Biodiversity”  in Conservation Biology. The questions comprise a broad array of disciplines, including fisheries, climate change, ecosystems, policy, marine citizenship, societal and cultural considerations, scientific enterprise, and other anthropogenic effects and will take years to address. Check out our methodology and conclusions at Parsons, E.C.M., Favaro, B., Aguirre, A.  et al. 2014. Seventy-one important questions for the conservation of marine biodiversity. Conservation Biology 28: 5, 1206–1214.

In Memoriam: Melanie Otto

Three years ago give or take, a good friend of mine wrote a blog post describing a writer’s group she had helped form and the weeklong retreat that ensued.

Struggling to learn how to write, the next time I saw Margaret I begged her to let me join the group. I learned later she took my name to the others in the group and convinced them to let me join.

As an introvert, I began to reconsider what I’d asked for as the weeklong retreat approached. Spending a week with ten other people only one of whom I really knew was a bit daunting, but I went, learned a ton, got myself going in the right direction on my writing, and realized I had fallen in with a fantastic group.

All my fellow Roaring Writers were strong writers but more important to me they were kind, funny, caring people, each and every one willing to help answer any writing questions I threw their way.

We wrote. We talked about writing and about life. And we laughed. We laughed a great deal.

The next year, I was comfortable with everyone and the same thing happened. We wrote and we laughed and laughed and laughed.

We’re not laughing this week.

One of us is gone forever.

Melanie Otto
Photo by Judy Bienvenu

Melanie Otto was a fellow Roaring Writer with a heart of sunshine. She laughed and smiled. She encouraged me. Discussed my writing. We both loved cats and spent some time giggling over our furry pets, the way you do when you meet someone you know you can be silly with.

Melanie was recovering from a bad cold or flu that first year and had to miss some of our writing workshops, which upset her, but she still smiled and laughed her way through the week. She had an infectious enthusiasm that I envied.

A list of interests is always so much less than the sum of the person, but sometimes it’s what we have. An avid photographer, Melanie taught classes and always seemed to have a camera nearby. I met her through our mutual love of writing, and she was an excellent storyteller. She loved anime and cats, but most of all she loved Judy, her partner of twenty years.

This past Friday, Melanie succumbed to a brain hemorrhage that occurred the previous week. At dawn on Friday, she passed away, as Judy noted, “always a photographer, she went to chase the light.”

The Roaring Writers have lost a spark, a woman who was calm and happy and above all enthusiastic about life. We will miss her. I will miss her. Rest in peace, Melanie.

Melanie had an AVM, a congenital condition, that made it impossible to get affordable life insurance and which resulted in the brain hemorrhage. Donations to help Judy and Melanie’s brother, Craig, defray funeral expenses can be made at the Melanie Otto Memorial Fund by Craig Otto.

New Writer’s Blog – The Million Words

I am a member of a writer’s group with some amazing people. We are all at different points in our careers, with a few having published books and short stories, and others still striving for that first acceptance.

The publishing industry is in a state of complete flux, with authors scrambling to publish and make a living in a crowded industry, with overworked agents and editors, low pay, and vanishing brick and mortar bookstores.

My colleagues and I have been lucky. The science fiction/fantasy convention circuit has a number of authors willing to act as mentors to aspiring authors, and we have been privileged to learn from them. Many of those established authors have spent significant portions of their time helping other writers.

In that spirit of sharing knowledge, we decided to start a group blog to share our experiences with other authors and anyone else interested in the vagaries of the current publishing world. Our blog will discuss our personal journeys as we strive to get published and share some of the advice that we have received.

Check out The Million Words and the first post, “The Promise,” by my colleague, Alexander Gideon.