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




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.