How to write on behalf of an extraordinary and beloved writer?
I am not Melissa, but I am sharing Melissa’s news. Please bear with me. My heart is broken with her passing, a pain I know many of you share.
The word traveled like wildfire – I think it was less than six hours after her death that the questions began on her inner circle fan page. How could it be true? I had spoken with the girls (Melissa’s twin daughters, Sarah and Juliet) about how we would tell her fans, her “people.” We came up with the idea of a blog post, and asked Melissa about it – she approved. But we thought we had weeks, months, maybe even a year. It was not to be. I now find myself in the untenable position of needing to share with the people who mattered so much to my best friend, the most horrible news.
First, the simple facts, as shared to close family and friends on Sunday the 27th of February 2022 by Shon Holyfield, who was Melissa’s husband for almost twenty years and is the father of their children.
I am so very sorry for this terrible news. Last night, Melissa passed away in her sleep from stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
In December 2021 Melissa experienced physical symptoms that needed medical attention. Within the month, Melissa was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – stage 4 (meaning that the cancer originated in the pancreas but had already spread all over her body.)
Despite the best medical attention available from doctors at multiple hospitals (and across multiple states), the cancer in her body was too far spread to be treated.
How did this happen so fast?
Pancreatic cancer is called the ‘silent killer’ because in almost all cases patients don’t manifest any outward symptoms until the cancer has advanced to a stage where it is not treatable.
This is the situation that Melissa found herself in. She didn’t exhibit any symptoms until it was too late.
How are the girls?
Amazingly stable. Their viewpoint has been that they will honor their mom by focusing on how appreciative they are for the 19 amazing years they had with their mom vs. despairing over what they won’t have in the future. We have a trip planned in a few weeks and we have a packed schedule lined up for celebrating life between now and resuming their studies this fall at NYU.
In April of 2022 we plan to have a celebration of Melissa’s life – both in person and available through online streaming. We don’t have the details yet, but we will be in contact to let you know when, where, how you may participate, etc. as soon as possible.
What can you do?
Your love, friendship, and warmth are so very appreciated. What is most helpful right now is to give us some time to get things lined up for the celebration of Melissa’s life in April. We understand there may be questions or a desire to do something; to call and express your heartfelt thoughts.
What is needed most right now is just a bit of space between now and the celebration of Melissa’s life in April – after which we will be more available. We hope that you can understand what the family needs most right now is a bit of time to heal.
We love all of you so very much. We know that Melissa also loved all of you. I am so very sorry for this terrible news. We hope that you are able to focus on all the amazing times you shared with Melissa and hold on to those warm memories as you begin your own healing process. We know she would not have wanted anyone that loved her to sit in despair, but instead to have a smile on your face and warmth in your heart as you reflect on Melissa’s amazing life and positive impact on all those around her.
I, too, am so very, very sorry to be passing on this news.
Melissa said in her last blog post, “I never like posting to my blog when I haven’t really got much news…” She cared deeply for her fans, as you know, and engaging with you all was one of her absolute favorite things. She would want you to know what happened, and what will happen next. She did, in fact, have quite a bit of news. She just never had a chance to share it.
For those of you who loved her and shared her world, but don’t know me, I need to introduce myself. I should never have mattered to you, but all of a sudden the weight of this tremendous honor and responsibility is thrust upon me, the responsibility to share on her behalf and speak for her. I hate it. I am neither qualified nor equipped for it. Please forgive me if I misstep.
Almost two decades ago, Melissa chose me to be her best friend. I didn’t have much choice. If you know her at all, even just through her books, you know she is an exceptional individual, an artist extraordinaire, gifted and radiant and glorious. I know it for a fact, as I know that if I said that out loud, she would roll her eyes at me and tell me to stop, and I would tease her a bit more, then we would proceed to debate the philosophical underpinnings of vanity vs. humility, the relative merits and potentials of mortals vs. gods, the unending questions of the influence of stars, the importance of integrity, the wavelengths of aesthetics, and whether or not I would actually die if she made me watch Better Off Dead with John Cusack yet again. (Melissa had a bizarre affinity for the most awful 80s movies.) (Of course I would have taken the chance and watched it with her yet again.)
All you really need to know is I have been with Melissa for a long time now, that she chose me and trusted me. In 2017 I became her official assistant and the compiler of the companion book for her series (among other things, including very inept tech support for her Facebook Live interviews). I’ve basically lived with her since then. I’ve had the honor of being in the room for many, many hours of her time in the Realms of Light and Shadow. (Despite creating a lovely office with a perfectly functional and attractive desk, Melissa somehow always winds up writing on the couch, often with a cup of tea by her side and one or several of her very large and devoted cats draped on or about her.)
It was one of my favorite things, to hear Melissa give her sudden little shriek or start laughing, then pluck her earphones out (she always had a writing soundtrack) and share something she had just written. It was always “Listen to what Carian just said…” or something similar. Never “Listen to what I just wrote.” She described herself as an “organic writer” or “pantser” (writing by the seat of her pants, rather than plotting her stories) and I can attest to the fact that she really did seem to just… channel her universe and her characters. There were several times she sought out company because she was feeling creeped out and unsettled, usually after writing Dore. (She would shudder with the memory of what he had just “done.”)
Sometimes, usually on long drives, Melissa would just… disappear. A faraway yet intent look would come into her eye, a particular slight smile or frown, and I knew well enough to stop talking and not question or interrupt her, because shortly she would be madly scribbling notes or recording voice notes. (I particularly enjoyed the times in the car, when she would ardently whisper the voice notes because I couldn’t be allowed to hear and thus be privy to any spoilers.)
I’ve witnessed the challenge of writing the final book(s) over the last couple of years, the frustration of those days when it just… wouldn’t… go. When nothing was working. As Melissa said: “So there’s the look in on my daily path, just plodding along in the dark, running into walls, backing up, finding a new path, running into walls, backing up… It’s been super fun.” She was so good at dry humor.
But here’s the thing: it’s not entirely true. Another part of Melissa’s process was that whenever she finished writing a chapter and felt good about it, she would have me read it. (I know, I am so incredibly lucky.) She would read it with me, it was her final pass. And I have to tell you, despite the struggles, she has written a very great number of beautiful, exciting, hilarious, deep, enlightening and altogether excellent chapters. Whatever excitement you may have been thrilling to at the prospect of the next book, it was well warranted because she has outdone herself.
In those final dark days, Melissa trusted me with her laptop and her phone and her passwords. She told me and the girls we had her permission to publish what she’s written.
The day after she died, I took a deep breath and logged in. I found her files. There is A LOT done. Then I was utterly overcome by a sense of sacrilege, of blasphemy, like blasting down the doors to a sacred shrine while the goddess’s back was turned, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to look again. Yet.
In addition to the files comprising the actual work of her final book, there are hundreds of notes, whole notebooks full of them, whole libraries of voice notes on her phone. It may all be there, even the ending… I don’t know. But I do know that she wants what she wrote to be shared. I know her editors, I have the lists of her beta readers, I have my own experience from sharing her process through this incredible, sometimes arduous but mostly exhilarating journey.
Regarding the companion book, which has been my project: the first draft is done and it stands at almost 500 pages. (Definitely needs a trim!) Every word of it is Melissa’s words, excerpted from her books and things she wrote to me, questions she answered. Three main categories of information are included:
– Places. This includes (in order of introduction): the realm of Alorin, its regions and kingdoms, cities, strongholds, mountains, rivers and seas; as well as dimensions and realms “Beyond Alorin” including Illume Belliel and Shadow.
– Nomenclature. The history, lore and thaumaturgy of Alorin as a whole, including the Adept race, strands of elae, the application and uses of Patterning. Note that tribes and gods, religions, races, and magic particular to specific areas are included within the sections on those places.
– Dramatis Personae. All characters, in order of appearance. Very minor characters who only appear once if at all (including some of the Fifty Companions) are listed under the place or nomenclature they relate to.
Her intention was to have it illustrated, and she had chosen a talented young artist (who is also an ardent fan) for the work. She had whole Pinterest boards and folders full of illustrations and photographs that inspired her.
Then there’s the book of quotes, “How Deep Does The Alabaster Go?” A new edition of that is in the works, completed with quotes from The Sixth Strand and now likely also whatever quotes she has already written for the new book. I’ve received some excellent feedback from fans on how the book is presented, and we are looking at whether to include quotes from the story itself, not just the chapter headings as it now stands. I had planned to open a channel for suggestions from fans who may have a particular quote from a favorite character that they would like to see included.
Ah, also, swag. That “Hello, little spy” shirt (I want one!) among others: work is in progress on that too. Another thing I would love fan collaboration on, and several have already stepped up, thank you.
There is so much more I could say and share, but my purpose here is to just bring you, her beloved fans, into the know on where we stand. Be heartened, as Melissa’s mom said: there is more to come.
No-one could finish this story as Melissa could – it was her life’s work. But I promise I will do my absolute best to honor her and bring you her work, as she wanted. (To be clear, by that I mean we will publish/make available what Melissa has already written. The only writing that will be included is that which she has already done. I can’t say yet how much that is.)
In closing, I want to shore up and preserve – wide open – the communication channel Melissa treasured between herself and her readers. If you are a reader and her message resonated with you, then you know how much (little) importance she placed on a mortal shell. One does need fingers to type and a voice to discuss, among other things, so losing hers is absolutely, horrendously, arse-puckeringly (and tear-jerkingly) inconvenient, but the universe she created and the following she cultivated are a legacy that certainly transcends mortality.
So please, any message you want to send Melissa, you can still send, either as a comment on this blog or a message via “contact the author” on her website. Yes, it will be me who receives it, but I will save it with all the other messages she has saved over the years. Please feel free to share ANY story, insight, interaction, anything at all. I will preserve all of it as part of her legacy, for us – her friends and fans – and for her children, whose loss is heartbreaking and profound, balanced only by the privilege and joy of having such an exceptional individual as their adoring mama.
I don’t know how to do this, but I am trying. I loved her, we all did, and my hope is that together we can keep her legacy alive and bring her world and her message to as many people as would benefit from it.
“Death is not a tragedy to the one who dies;
to have wasted the life before that death, that is the tragedy.”
― Orson Scott Card, Shadow of the Hegemon
“Count not what is lost, but what is left.”
– Jayachándranáptra, Rival of the Sun (Paths of Alir)
“Let the birth of each new day be your own rebirth; grow, learn, love, admire.
Revel in possibility.”
– From the writings of Epiphany’s Prophet (Kingdom Blades)
“Pray not to be sheltered from dragons
but to be fearless when facing them.”
– A popular Malchiarri saying (Kingdom Blades)
Melissa McPhail and Heidi Kemp (email@example.com) October 2018 author photo shoot.
Thank you so much for this post.
I was hoping to speak with Melissa about beta reading when the next books were close to being done. Now, I find that I cannot bring myself to ask. I know that part of the beta readers task is to critique and offer feedback to the author. There is no way now that I could critique anything of these final books. It would be too hard for me to say anything at all without being able to banter with her about it. It would seem like sacrilege now to offer my opinion on her work.
You have been entrusted with this wotk by your best friend. I trust that you will be able to find what she wanted to give to us.
I only knew her briefly, through chats where we shared out love of Zelazny’s Amber series, our musing about seeing patterns in our daily lives, and our love of good stories well told.
I will miss her as a person whom I wished to become closer friends with, while you have the heavy burden of having a massive hole rent in the fabric of your life and soul. I don’t enfy you or her family now as you grieve for this shining beautiful person who I but glimpsed briefly.
My thoughts and prayers are certainly going to you all.
I am so sorry for your loss. May she rest in peace. Sending love to you and the family!
I will come back and write something to her after the tears stop and I have some more time to think.. I only knew her through her writing, but you can tell a lot about a person through their writing. She was a beautiful person inside and out. She will be missed and thank you for your message to all of us.
It’s sad I love her books so much I’m currently listening to them for the fifth time. I just saw that she passed and am at a loss. The hurt from loosing a mother a wife a friend is something that never heals. My prayers are with all of her family. May she walk the shadow realm and create worlds for us all in abundance
Hello Melissa, Heidi, Shon, Sarah and Juliet
I am writing this to you “pantster style” since reading of Melissa’s passing. Everything I wanted to share with Melissa just vanished. I don’t know of any words that haven’t already been said that can convey the loss that we’ve experienced.Sending you All the light of a thousand suns to help illuminate the path before Us!! May the Infinite Love of the multiverse shed its grace so that hearts and souls across the globe and beyond may continue to heal.
To all of you who now bear the task of breathing new life into the stories and worlds Melissa channeled, ThankYou! I anxiously await the outcome to this most wonderful and fascinating story that crosses the infinite realms of time, magic, fantasy and reality.
I’m so sorry for Melissa’s passing, when I just read this , my lovely wife May at 53 Also passed of pancreatic cancer four months after discovering she had stage4,2 beautiful souls left to soon,,
I’m so so sorry for your loss. May she rest in peace. My thoughts and prayers to the family and friends.
She was a terrific writer who created a universe for bookworms like me to get immersed in. I will be rereading all 5 books, with a cup of tea of course. I know it is not much but it is my way of honoring her memory. She will be missed.
Thank you Heidi for this message. I feel she is still here with us in so many ways, and as I look over to my bookshelf and see her books, I am so glad I got to experience even just a bit of her joy of writing and engaging with her readers. She is so loved.
Thank you so much Heidi for sharing this news. I am sure it was incredibly difficult, but your love for Melissa shown through! Thank you for trying to finish her work to the best of your ability, as a fan I appreciate your work. If there is anything we as a fan base can do to help, please reach out to us, I am sure there are many of us who would love to be of assistance!
Knowing she was a fan of Better off Dead makes me love her more. We will all miss her, but she lives on in all our hearts and in her incredible books. Thank you so much for sharing this blog.
Thank you so much for writing this, nothing will make this situation alright but this helped. Will treasure anything that will get published in the future just as I do everything written by Melissa so far. Best wishes to you and her family.
The first author I felt compelled to engage with. And she engaged right back such was her indomitable joy at giving back to the people who read her books.
A truly lovely human, my thoughts are with her and her family.
RIP Melissa shine bright ❤
Thank you. I would say you are doing a truly honorable job for Melissa. I have no doubt that she is very proud of you. May you experience mountains of satisfaction in pursuing this challenge.
Sincerest condolences to you and the family and thank you for taking the time to share this. I was truly heartbroken to hear the news. Melissa was one in a billion and the world is worse off without her. Two or three times she honoured me with a reply and I’ll treasure that always. Much love and best of luck. ♥️
Thanks for this Heidi. I too was devastated on the news. Having known Melissa since 2012 after I stumbled upon her magical piano playing in the FH lobby. I had seen her and Shon in the audience when I performed, but had no idea she was such a gifted musician, only to discover her other magical talent as a writer in Cephraels Hand – WOW!!!! One day I tried picking her brains on how she approaches creating such profound work and she just smiled and said “it comes”…just like music ran through her fingers!
It was always special to see her, albeit once or twice a year. She is a profoundly beautiful and divine being of the highest caliber who I will miss greatly – but not for too long I am sure.
I was absolutely devastated to hear about the passing of Melissa. The hole she has left was truly profound. I want to send you, Heidi, and her family all the love that she could possibly need. I personally know the peofound sadness that her passing has caused. But i rest knowing that when she Returns all will be well in the world.
I never met her but I feel like I knew her. I only participated in a couple of live FB gatherings, but what a blast it was to have her respond to a question or observation I made! Shocking! Exhilarating. I loved that she’d pop in on her group page and interact. She was so engaged and gracious. The pain I felt on hearing she’d passed away…like truly was gone was impactful and overwhelming. I can only imagine the pain of loss to her loved ones is all consuming. It still feels unreal, but in some ways she’ll always be with us. Goodbye little spy…stealer of hearts . Thank you.
First off, my deepest condolences on your loss and to her husband and the girls (twins) my profound condolences for the loss of your mother, wife. I told Melissa early on that her writing, world building to me was on par with or better than JRR Tolkien & Robert Jordan. She was a blazing star who has joined the Zanthers in the Heavens. You all have my prayers for sympathy and hope. That her light will continue to shine in each of you. I know it will for me. Her style of writing was exceptional! No other authors have ever moved me emotionally like Melissa did. Not even Heminway. I will pray that strength is given to you all when you deal with the arduous task of completing her work. I a fan, look forward to the ending. But I truly can not wait, until the glorious Celebration of Melissa’s life in April. Because I know she touched each and everyone of us in her own special way. Much love being sent to you all!!! You are all loved and cared for by many. May you feel the love of us, her fans being sent to you all!!!
My thoughts and prayers with you and Melissa’s family at this sad time, so shocked to receive this devasting news. I look forward to reading Melissa’s ending to this fantastic world she built, that we can visit and indulge in.
Love being sent to you all.
I am truly devastated upon hearing this news. I have loved her books and am awed by her incredible talent. What a courageous friend you are to help complete her legacy. Thank you for honoring her. She will be remembered as one of the best!
Melissa was a light in our realm and I will treasure her books. I consider her one of the best, and was honored to be her friend on Facebook, even though I never got to meet her personally. Thank you for helping in this difficult time. She would definitely be smiling I think.
First, a hug for you. Second, Thank You. For being the luckiest soul to be Melissa’s best friend and for sharing this with all of us.
Melissa was the first ( and only, so far) author I’ve ever had the pleasure to interact with. The first time I commented and she replied to me made me feel so very special. I’ve lost count as to how many times I have read/listened to her creation. I’m physically reading it again since she…anyway, this time, I’m lingering. Reading slowly, rolling around in her words. Soaking them all in. I will do the same with everything you share as well.
Again, thank you for sharing. Especially as you are dealing with her loss. We are all a part of her world. The one she created. <3
Of all the thousands of books I’ve read….by so many different authors, I can honestly say none touched me in quite the same way as Melissa’s work has. I am 49 years old and have been reading nonstop for almost all of those. A Pattern of Shadow and Light is the first thing I’ve ever read that made me feel the need to reach out to the author…not just with questions or comments….but because even though I knew that I would never REALLY know Melissa….I felt the need to connect with the person who had created such a wonderful world with so many incredible stories in it. The few conversations I had with Melissa about her characters are something I will treasure. The question has oft been asked, “If you could pick one author from all of history to have dinner with, who would it be?” Perhaps, Melissa, we will have that dinner one day…in another realm!
To all of you who knew her …my heart goes out to you.
Heidi…thank you for sharing this. I’m so very sorry for your loss.
I am lost for words, even now. Melissa I stumbled upon your mind and couldn’t believe what I had found, I devoured everything you wrote and hungered for more. I can’t wait to reread, you were a beautiful person and fantastic author, your connection to your readers was astounding. Loved always. Stephen
Melissa always replied to me, even if it was a fuzzy evening comment after a couple of glasses of wine along the lines of when the next book is ready; it’s ready take your time. I always appreciated so much that human touch and will probably share a reply or two to show how much she cared about her fans later. My thoughts are with everyone right now especially the kids. I should have waited till April but I couldn’t. Thank you for your replies, your stories and yourself. Namaste wonderful lady.
Thank you for, during what must be a time of heartbreak and grief, sharing this with us. I had the pleasure of discussing favorite authors Melissa and I had in common and some of the inspirations behind moments in her work on several occasions. I treasured those moments and I’m selfishly saddened that will never happen again.
My heart goes out to you, to the girls, to Shon, and everyone else who loved the bright light that was Melissa McPhail.
Thank you for much for sharing this. My heart goes out to her family and to you. A Pattern of Shadow and Light is my favorite series and even though I didn’t have a chance to meet Melissa, I am so grateful for her. Her work truly touched me and I am grateful that she shared her world with us. Love and prayers to you all.
Like many other people, I have very much enjoyed the stories told by Melissa. My condolences to her family and friends.
The world has lost one of the most creative, inventive and prolific fantasy fiction authors. I grieve for her family’s loss, and includes you, Heidi. I had little contact with Melissa over the years, but what little I had was worth it. I will miss her.
I’m devastated. I don’t know what to say. I find myself weeping. I didn’t know her but I found her work to be top notch. Everything from her incredible imagination to her unbelievable writing skills made her a master class in her artistry/industry. I’m a voracious reader and have been for decades. I’ve read A lOT (emphasis intentional) including many of the “greats.” I assure you Melissa was by far one of the greatest wordsmiths. Her knowledge and understanding of the English language was vast and her stories exemplified this knowledge. She was an exceptional writer. She didn’t waste words and her style was so beautifully succinct and downright poetic at times. It was a joy and an indulgence to swim in the ocean of rhetoric that she compiled to create her stories and rich characters. The world is far less interesting without her here. I’m sorry for her husband, children, close friends and family. And I’m sorry for her fans, myself included. God bless you Melissa. God keep you. Rest well. With deep gratitude and a heavy heart, I remain.
Thank you so much for writing this blog and posting it.
This has helped bring closure for me on something I just couldn’t understand.
The worst part was not knowing she was going away and not being able to say goodbye.
Melissa was a dear friend. I have known her for nearly 30 years. Most recently, getting back in touch again and working with her on projects.
I also got a chance to have a “tea with the author” meeting, and that was so much fun! I’ll never forget that. Next month, I was coming to her hometown and had scheduled to come by and do that again. I will miss this.
One of the things I appreciated most about Melissa was how much she WAS an author. And how much she was in her element when speaking to you AS an author. She lived it. She loved it. She CREATED her worlds and her world AS an author.
I remember giving her feedback on her books from many of her readers, as I got several readers onto her series. And she would smile. Even if I told her over the phone, you could see her smile through the phone!
The only thing that brings me some resolve is the knowingness that Melissa created her life to the fullest. And, I know that if she became aware that her body would hold her back on achieving what she wanted in life, she wouldn’t stand for it.
I can see her saying no way; this is not my style, my friends.
I know she will be back. And back bigger and better than ever. Watch out world!
Peace, my friend. Until we meet again.
Omg I’m sorry to hear about your passing dear. You were one of the few Authors that responded to questions that I asked you a few years back. I’ve loved your writing style since I picked up your first book. I’ve reread your books every time a new book would come out. May Cephrael and Epiphany welcome you. I hope whoever finishes your work does it justice. I’ve also hoped that Netflix or Amazon or even HBO. Will pick up the rights and make a series worthy of you.
Words cannot express nor convey the loss you and her family feel right now! My own wife was diagnosed just after Christmas that she had breast cancer, however we caught it early; a mere fluke of an annual mammogram needing to be redone but with the 3D technology. We have made it through the surgery and no cancer was found in the lymph nodes (found out today actually). While I am happy to have my soulmate for the rest of her life (or mine), it is brings to the forefront that we cannot take for granted what we have today as tomorrow is never guaranteed. I have been bugging my oldest daughter to read Melissa’s series because it is truly fascinating and the story line is phenomenal! Some authors get bogged down and their story either flows too fast and is disjointed but Melissa’s was truly a series that I will read over and over again and cherish for years to come.
I am glad that I had at least one interaction with her stating that based on the story line up to book five, she could easily stretch the series into a book seven if not eight; as she stated, the amount of character lines was just massive.
Again, my sincere condolences to her husband who lost his soul mate, their daughters who lost not only their mother but someone they looked to as a rock-solid foundation for advice only a mother can give, and to you, her best friend whose shoulders she has trusted (and knows) to be strong enough to carry her story forward – we know that while you have a daunting task ahead of you, you will make even a more concerted effort to ensure that her work – and legacy – will forever be written.
I am heartbroken. I had personally been in contact with Melissa praising her work and books. I really loved her work.
The world lost a true artist.
Rest in peace.
I am so sorry for your loss Heidi, my thoughts are with you and her family at this sad time. As well as the countless fans who are also mourning her passing. Thank-you for the taking the time to keep us informed.
Melissa was a beautiful soul who seemed to touch everyone she interacted with. Her legacy will live on for many years, it feels as though each of us who loved her work have taken a piece of her into our hearts.
I have only just heard the news via this blog post.
I can only offer my heartfelt condolences to you and the family. This is indeed tragic news, not only because Melissa was my favorite author, but also because she was something akin I suspect to a blazing star: at least this is the impression I got via her interactions with me/ other fans of her books, her writing process and her outlook to life.
I am pleased she had you/other loved ones around her during her last days.
You do have a large undertaking ahead of you but I have not doubt you will do it justice in honor of her memory.
I think it would be difficult for me to express fully the impact her work (the story, the characters, the interwoven relationships, the struggles and choices of the characters) has had on me but, simply put, I read her books at a very difficult time in my life and those books helped me find the strength to get through them well….they still do as I read the books every year.
Again, I am so sorry for your loss.
Know you have the support of everyone of us who travelled to Alorin and back.
Firstly, my heart is with you and all who knew and loved Melissa and I hope for strength and healing for all. Your words have comforted me and I am sure many of us who are still reeling with the loss of such a vibrant star. I appreciate you so much and want to thank you for your loyalty and strength of character. Bloody Hells! How could this have happened to such a healthy person? My first foray into Melissa’s world made me laugh and cry, my second, third and forth rereads have been truly illuminating. All thoughts have force, there are patterns in all things, it begins and ends with a thought and so many other concepts throughout her writings that captured not only my attention but my embedded in my consciousness. After reading your post and subsequent posts from fans and friends and weeping with acknowledgment, agreement and acceptance, I want you to know that we share your loss in a way. I doubt that helps very much considering the circumstances but that source of feeling is there. I hope that the well of collective strength will aid you and her precious family some measure of solace in your journey of healing. To read her books was one thing but to get to know her in a way that I’ve never imagined an author would allow fans to bridge a gap between authors and fans was so special to me. What an amazing person! I was and am in awe of your best friend. There are so many quotes from her books and the feelings they evoked from me that I wanted to share with her but I am normally very shy about digital communication and rightly so because I’m sorely lacking in the talent to communicate in writing the ideas and feelings that are transcended when reading a favorite book. Though we are devastated to know her path has ended in this world, I am so proud of her accomplishments and the enduring legacy Melissa leaves behind. She will be missed by many but especially by you and those who loved her best. Peace, sweet Heidi, please give our love and support to her girls and family from me. I am just a fan but one who has been truly touched by the experience of Melissa’s writing. At the risk of sounding creepy, I look forward to the continued interaction with her fan base, future compilations of quotes from her books, tshirts and swag! I read quite a bit from the classics to fantasy fiction through the non-fiction gamut and I really really love her books and have come to just love and respect the author! I hope that as fans we can help promote and build up this legacy for Melissa, to prove that we are united in the purpose of paying homage to a treasured soul. Peace, strength and love to you throughout the healing process and always.
Thank you so much Heidi. Condolences to Melissa’s family and friends. Her shining light has been taken from all far far too early.
Melissa’s writing resonated deeply with me. For the first time in over 60 years of reading did I feel I was reading an adult story. Many fantasy books come across to me like “coming of age stories”, but Pattern of Shadow and Light is different much more complex and grown up in its themes. Her writing is always showing compassion and a rare indepth insight into the human mind. It is a privilege to be part of her group.
What a beautiful tribute, Heidi. I am so, so sorry for your loss, and for Shon and Sarah and Juliet’s loss. And of course, on a much smaller scale, for our loss as readers. I have only read the first book in APoSaL, but I was so impressed by Melissa’s beautiful prose and her confident execution of her vision. I was, and am, looking forward to finishing everything she has published, and whatever else you all choose to publish. Prayers and thoughts to you all. Take your time; we all support you!
Thank you for this post. I know how hard it must have been to write and to shoulder this giant. Your words are an inspiration. Beyond the world Melissa created (one of the best and most awesome – in the literal sense), it was Melissa’s interactions with fandom that were truly inspiring. Her humor, her wit, her love of all of us, it was so very apparent. It is clear you channel a likeness to her and we clearly could not be in better hands.
About a month ago I asked the fandom if there was a wiki for the books. I was told that the fb page was the only place for the series. I reached out to Melissa hoping to get involved in changing that. It heartens me to know that while I may never hear directly from her again that her world, her dreams, her family, nd her friends will continue her legacy. Despite the greatest sorrow over someone I didn’t personally know well, I am excited to see what else comes from what she created and to read her words again and again.
All the love,
very sorry to hear, a good friend of mines brother also recently passed due to pancreatic cancer
Ah this news is so sad. I only found Melissa and her work 3 years ago. Her wonderful work has recently been my bolt hole from a very similar situation. My beloved husband has stage 4 prostate cancer and been given just a few months to live. I really do know how you feel. We are also determined to embrace and celebrate life. My husband is a talented artist and photographer so we’ll have lots of visual memories of him. I will treasure Melissa’s words and work. I wish all of you fond memories and happy lives.
So sorry to hear that. My Aunt’s good friend and roommate went through the same. She was only 50. I worked as a nurse in a hospital setting for several years….I’ve never seen worse than pancreatic cancer. Thoughts and prayers go out to you and your husband ❤️
May we meet again in the returning Melissa, and know each other by Epiphany’s grace
I have no words. My heart. Head and stomach are sick. 🙁
I love your books, but I loved our friendship more. We will miss you!
Jim, Fu Mei, Seamus and Connor
I just happened by this site today hoping for an update. Most horrible news. My heart goes out to Melissa’s family and friends. What a loss.
I had a FB chat with her once and was honored at how fast and how often she would respond to me. She didn’t know me, and we’ve never met. Very kind of her to take the time. It will forever be one of my treasured conversations.
When friends are looking for a new series to read I always responded, “Melissa McPhail, and your welcome.”
If Mrs. McPhail had a favorite charity or cause please post it. I imagine lots of folks would like to honor her without being intrusive to the family.
Thank you and the family for sharing her with us and passing on the news.
All my best,
I’m stunned and sad to hear of Melissa’s passing. Thank you so much for sharing what happened and what happens next. I look forward to the final chapters in this glorious story. I’ve listened to the audiobooks and read the books also. I love the realm of light and shadow. She was so creative and imaginative- just amazing. She will be missed
Melissa dearest spirit of the universe ❤️.
A kind soul that made a short visit to our world before returning to the realm where goddesses dwell.
She delivered two beautiful children as much enlightened as her.
She chose you to be her other half, her best friend and trusted you with all for you are as kind and gentle as she was.
Shining love and spreading joy to all around you.
You are the one she felt closer as you could communicate without words just a look in the eyes was enough.
You are an angel and your kindness was all she wanted.
Melissa i am blessed i met you.
I love you and i think you are still around watching over your beloved ones…
A loving, gentle, caring, stoic, determined, fearless, strong woman.
A great mother.
You belong to a cosmos where the good prevail.
You departed most probably as you had planned before seeing our world ruined by wars and pain.
Your girls will carry on your heritage and your people will honour you daily for you shed light on every person you met and shared your wisdom with all.
Heidi you are an angel ❤️
Love to the girls
-Your family in Greece
Heidi, my heart is broken at the news of Melissa’s passing. I’m at a loss to know what to say. Her writing was and still is an inspiration to me to keep writing to keep believing in my dream of a finished novel. I was so surprised when she answered my email. I felt a kinship to her. She truly was like a sun that pulled stars into her orbit and light, if you will. My prayers are with you as you endeavor to walk the path she left for you to follow. Go slow, take time to cry and smile and even find joy in the treasures left behind.
My deepest sympathies to Melissa’s family and friends. May she Iive on in the next world free from cancer and all the troubles of a mortal world. We will miss her. I am just a simple fan who found her books per chance on a FB post and was intrigued enough to take a chance. What a wonderful suprise awaited me as I entered the world of Alorin. Once in a while I would post encouragement as she continued writing the series and I was just as surprised that she would take the time to respond. Something small but significant and that made her special. May she she rest in peace and her loved ones find solice in their grief
I know this is a most difficult time for you and the family…and for all of us who knew and respected Melissa. So many have been touched. When I catch myself in the loss, I too focus on her light. It continues to spread. It is good to know that you are carrying out Melissa’s wishes for this round. I have no doubt about your ability to do a great job. Our paths will cross again with Mellisa. And I look forward to that next round. A funny note–before I read one of Melissa’s books, she suggested I skip a section in it. I bet you and some of her fans can guess which chapter I made sure not to skip! It might help to know I grew up in Iowa…Bible Belt. And I worked in k-12 education for 45 years with my husband of 50 years. She was being very considerate!
I am so, so sorry for your loss. Keeping all of you in my prayers <3
It’s hard to find the words, really. I recently (4th March) started re-reading Cephrael’s Hand during my newborn daughter’s overnight feeds and realised, again, how much I enjoyed this series – and couldn’t wait to see the ending.
A quick google and I was hit by this bombshell…
I’m utterly devastated at a human level, I did shed a tear reading this blog. Absolutely not because the series may never end, but one of life’s “good guys/people” has left us.
I’m at 13% of Cephrael’s Hand and I’m going to bloody continue. Best tribute I can think of. RIP Melissa and god speed to your family.
If this is your first time through the series….I want to assure you that every last page is a work of art. You will almost assuredly laugh….and you will probably cry. I know everyone has different tastes in literature, but I can’t imagine anyone not appreciating her talent. Have a wonderful time in the realms of light and shadow.
Words cannot express how heartbroken I am over this news. These books have become so important to me over the last few years, quickly toppling another series as intrinsic to who I am as a person as the blood that runs through my veins. I’ve read all five books at least a dozen times over, listened to the audio books nearly twice that. I love the world she created, the characters, everything was just so beautiful. But more than this, Melissa’s success has been what’s kept me writing, and working on my own stories and trying to reach that seemingly unattainable goal of publishing something. The world is much darker for her loss and I will never be able to express how grateful I am to have stumbled upon this series by complete accident. Thank you, Melissa. For everything you’ve done. Cephrael’s Hand cast its ill light upon you far too soon. May we meet again in the Returning, and know each other by Epiphany’s grace.
Eleni told me about the devastating loss of Melissa. I was very sorry to receive such terrible news. Through providing travel experiences, we share an intimate bond with people, regardless of the contact we’ve had. She was an inspirational figure full of life and creativity. Her love and enthusiasm about Greece was unparalleled and her drive to live life to the fullest was formidable. I want to offer our sincere and deepest condolences on behalf of all of us here in the office that will cherish out tiny contribution in ensuring that wonderful people like Melissa enjoy their time in Greece. May she rest in peace.
Christos & True Trips team
Thank you for the update, I have no idea how many times i have cried since learning the news. She was an inspiration and my favourite author. I went through depression and her books not only saved me but inspired me to move forward. I remember the first time leaving a message on her blog and when she took the time to read/ respond, I felt like I was the luckiest person to have been able to tell her how amazing she and her books were. She left behind more than just words on a page… the world she created is sure to continue to entertain, help and inspire more people. My heart goes out to all her family, friends, and fans who share the heartbreak of losing such an amazing person.
I once asked her for a favourite quote on one of her books “The quest for truth is man’s greatest adventure.”
Hello Hai Ting!
You are absolutely right. She responded to you and made you feel special. She truly loved her fans not because (like many famous people believe) she was trying to squeeze an extra buck or two out of the “peasantry “….but because she actually felt that ALL people ARE special. She responded to every question and comment I ever made. I truly felt that I was getting to know the real person behind the words I’ve loved so much. I genuinely don’t know how she found the time to make us all feel included. We will all miss her greatly, but we will always have her books….which are quite literally….a part of her.
Devastating loss for her family and the world! Her creativity and words transported us to another realm. She will live on thru her books and memories. Melissa Rest In Peace with the Angels.. as a devoted fan i thank you..
May epiphany guide her through the gates and the cycle of rebirth continue for her immortal soul, as she was so gifted with her craft and its ability to pull in the reader that she must share strand with Tanis. Be reborn, be healthy, be wealthy with love, happinesses, plenty, and with a way to continue to touch as wide a population with positivity as possible. I know — I understand this is metaphor, but I want it to be true. Make it true for such a soul who gave so much to me without ever being within 2,000 miles of my person. What a thing. What a terrible, awful, horrid, mind numbing loss. She’d surely have better, more prosaic pantsy words, but this runon is all I have.
I am sorry for all of your losses, and for the void that now exists where once it was filled so completely. We could try rebuilding the world-grid….
My deepest condolences to you and Melissa’s family and friends. I only know Melissa through her books. This series just happens to be one of my favorite series of all time. The first time I read Cephrael’s Hand years ago, I was blown away and was such in awe.
Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your stories to the world. <3
Words cannot convey the feeling, but I will try.
Thank you Melissa for bringing your creativity to our lives and our own stories.
Thank you Heidi for being the friend she needed and there for her in that moment as well as all the moments before.
I’m certain that you and her girls made her life a truly happy one.
Death is nothing to us, for when we are, death has not come, and when death has come, we are not.
Thank you for this update. I truly enjoyed all of Melissa’s work. I, as many others, came to this website for an update on her books, but instead received this most terrible news. She was a wonderful soul and a brilliant write. She will be truly missed. My heart goes out to all that were close to her.
with love and peace,
I was looking for a book update. And saw your post of the loss. I am overwhelmed with emotion for her husband, the twins and her friends at the loss. Please express my condolences, prayers and comfort along with those from so many of her fans.
Heid please know you have support as you undertake Melissa’s request to move forward with this project.
She trusted you
Thank you for sharing your memories, and time with her process. I look forward to future posts as you step into Melissa’s world of notes, voice clips and files. What a project of love and remembrance it will be.
Hugs and prayers
Thank you for letting us know, and my thoughts go with you, her family, and friends. She is one of the best, and she will be missed.
I will only write a short note to let you know my thoughts and prayer are with you and Melissa’s family. Time marches on and flowers bloom and she is still in your heart. I wanted to encourage you to believe that it will hurt less and the memories will grow into lovely days of remembered laughter spent together and soft fireside chats. I wish you peace and courage in the journey that stretches ahead for you and Melissa’s family.
I would like to express my condolences to the Family of my favorite Author.
I fell in love with the Realms of Shadow and Light a few years back now. This series is the best writing I have read in my 32 years of life.
Truly a sad day. I was just making the rounds on my favorite authors blogs to get updates and I am in shock. My thoughts and prayers are with you and her family.
I am heart broken. I sought out the blog today to tell Melissa how much her writing means to me. Today I found myself telling someone that “we are limited by what can envision ourselves accomplishing.” when it hit me just how much of a profound impact she’s had on me. I have been able to face and overcome so much adversary. I’ve been able to cope with tragedy. I didn’t commit suicide when I was considering it largely due to the philosophies I picked up from her books. I’ve grown so much as a person because of Melissa.
She will be in my heart until the day I die, right next to Pelas, Tannis, and Trell.
Rest in Peace, Melissa.
Hello, this is Judy from West Valley Veterinary Hospital, I learned of Mellissa’s passing from you when you were in the clinic yesterday & again I just want to express my sincere condolences of the extremely sad news. I’ve been with the clinic almost 15 years ( currently retired over 2 yrs ago but subbing right now) & I first met her there when she brought in her main coons as kittens & my first impression of her was obviously Melissa was stunningly gorgeous! She also was as beautiful inside! She would automatically hand me a cat to love on as she knew how I adored them! Her cats were my first encounter of that breed & I could not wait to hold them!
The news of her passing was no doubt a total shock & my heart goes out to her family & friends.
With love, Judy❣️
I jokingly posted a comment to Melissa about being old and hoping I wouldn’t die before reading all of her books. I never thought such a beautiful, vibrant, super talented young woman would leave this world before me. I am so saddened by this news. She truly became my favorite author and this is a loss for all.
I had been wondering about when her next book would come out but knew she liked to take her time so had not worried about it. I finally got to looking at her Amazon page today to see where things were at and was shocked to read about her passing. Her writing is easily in the top 5 of all the authors I read and I read a lot! She will be sorely missed. I wish I had seen this earlier so I could have seen the memorial. I look forward to seeing her final works once you have all had time to process all the feeling that go with such a loss and can move comfortably forward.
Just crushed… my heart goes out to all of Melissa’s family and friends. I hope you are able to find comfort, joy and hope amid the pain of loss. She always struck me as such a genuine person. I always felt like she was sharing her raw, unfiltered self when she interacted with her readers and the was a truly amazing and beautiful thing. I always appreciated the way Melissa interacted with us.
I discovered Melissa’s universe shortly after ‘Kingdom Blades’ was released and have been an avid fan since. Melissa wrote often about the challenges of writing a world with twenty-plus active storylines, not to mention all the character arcs that went with those storylines, but she navigated it all so masterfully. You could tell she wasn’t just writing a story, she was crafting a masterpiece. Some forty-five years ago, my 4th grade teacher read ‘The Hobbit’ to us in class and I have been hooked on the fantasy genre ever since. It is not hyperbole to say that Melissa stands in the pantheon of greats. Tolkien, Lewis, Jordan, Martin, Feist, Butcher, Sanderson, Brooks, Salvatore, I’ve read them all and will attest that she more than earned her place at the table of greatness.
May you rest in peace.
I am utterly shocked and heartbroken by the news of Melissa’s passing. I try to make it a habit every few months to check in on the blog and see the progress but was so saddened to see the news. My condolences go out to Melissa’s family and friends!
She has touched my life through her magnificent series and I will cherish the fond memories I’ve had every time I read it. She was a beautiful soul, and has changed so many peoples lives in a positive way, mine included!
I wish you all the best during this time of sorrow and healing.
I … don’t know what to say, but I have to write something. I admire the story Melissa has created, so incredibly many-faceted and deep, yet at the same time so utterly consistent and believable. What has always astonished me is the wonderful ease with which the reader is able to follow the story despite its intricate complexity and the number of characters. I don’t know of any other author whose talent could have rivaled hers in this regard.
It has been my habit to check this blog every once in a while to see whether there would be any news about the new book. I had no idea what a horrible shock would await me when I decided to do this today. I involuntarily have to think of the death of Janis Joplin and how much the world of music lost on that day. Melissa’s passing away is every bit as tragic.
I wish you, Heidi, Melissa’s family, and all of her friends the strength to carry on. Keep her in memory as the wonderful person she was. (How do I know she was wonderful? I only knew her by her books and this blog, but this is more than enough in order to know that she was someone I would have loved to meet in person.)
Rest in peace, Melissa, and thanks for the wonders you created.
I can only say thank you, Melissa for sharing your world with us. I am utterly heartbroken.
Sending love and light to the family, so sorry to hear this.
Absolutely gutted to be reading this. This was the last thing I expected to be reading, finaly taking a moment to check in on the books. Nothing could compare to the loss you and her family feels. Melissa was beloved by all.
I literally just read all of her books and came here to see when the next book would come out. I can not even express the emotions I am experiencing right now. I devoured the series in a matter of weeks. I couldn’t put them down. I hope everything is going well with going through everything she left behind. I can imagine what it would be like going through her notes and bringing whatever she left behind to us. I wish you the best of luck and can’t wait to get the chance to see the rest of her vision.
I am truly heartbroken, I usually check Melissa’s blog every so often and haven’t for several months. I decided to see how the final books were coming along and saw your post. I have read so many fantastic books from amazing writers but Melissa blew my mind with her amazing characters and the ways she could intertwine then in and out. She will be missed by me and I didn’t even know her. My deepest sympathies and I look forward to Melissa’s final words.
Thank you, Melissa. You created something beautiful
This is very sad news. I’m two books in, and I will finish what has been written either way. Sorry to hear of her passing, and condolences to Melissa’s family, friends, and fans. 🙁
I am so depressed and saddened by the passing of Melissa, she was a phenomenally gifted writer. I had the first book in my audible que for over two years and finally got around to listening to it a three weeks ago. It was so amazing I devoured the other four books in rapid succession, I just started looking to get involved with the community of fans and discovered this tragic news. The more I look the more I see that this series is terribly underrated, the world building, the characters complexity, the relationship, the depth of detail all of it weaves together to become a work that stands proudly and equally among the greatest fantasy works. My heart goes out to Melissa’s friends and family, I wish you the best in navigating your hearts through this tragedy.
I have just headed to this page after finishing the 5th book to see when the next would be. All I can say is I am devastated by the news. The books were incredible and so easily took me away to the lands of Light and Shadow.
To hear of Melissa’s passing was awful and I feel for her family and friends left behind.
Her characters and story will live on and her books had some truely inspirational quotes which gave such an insite into her mind.
My sympathies are with your self and her family and I hope you all get the time you need to heal.
I just finished my re-read of the series (listening actually – and Nick Podehl’s rendition of the work is stellar). So, I came looking for news of the next installment. I was stunned to learn this sad news. Melissa was a fabulously gifted author and her work has become one of my favorites. I am deeply sorry for the loss of your friend.
After promising myself I would not check up on the progress of the 6th book until I had heard it had been released, I broke that promise, checked, and really wished I hadn’t. I have just this minute learned the shocking news that this article has given me. What a tragedy and such a shame, I have loved her work from day one. My deepest condolences to yourself Heidi, her family and fans. Rest in Peace Melissa, and to quote you, “We all have within us the potential to be gods.” You truly were one of your craft. Thank you.
I have been out of the loop. I came here because it’s been awhile since a book came out and I wanted to see if a new one was coming soon. Melissa was an absolute genius and this series has been a masterpiece of fantasy that has created a most elaborate and unique story I have ever have had the privilege to find. Though Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings may be classics. A Pattern of Shadow and Light just resonates so much more. With relatable personalities. Amazing Continuity through the books and a steady forward movement of the many story lines that are intertwined together to the point that its incredibly impressive how it was devised and how it was separated so the reader could follow.
The characters had real personalities, which while they evolved over time, they stayed true to their personalities.
I am devastated. Melissa was one of the best fantasy authors of our time and the world won’t seem as magical without her.
While I don’t know her personally, my heart aches at her passing. The stories and the world she left for us are absolutely magical though. They helped me through the hardest time in my life when I was at my lowest. But getting sucked into that world and her stories helped me so very much.
Thank you so much Melissa. I am eternally grateful for you and I will miss you and dream of the stories that could have been.
I started this series and had commented on Melissa’s social media that I felt overwhelmed with the initial, quick pace of the first book.
I didn’t expect a response from her. I just assumed the promotional ad was like all the others. I’m so glad I was wrong.
Melissa responded asking that I give the first of this incredible series a fe more chapters.
I checked back here after finishing the last, and saw her update. Writing 6&7 concurrently! I was amazed! She has woven the very fabric of this story from the finest imagination, the depths of the well of creativity, and bound it with her very heart and soul.
I checked back earlier today for an update and I’ve been shattered all day.
I did not know her. I’d never met her. I only know the world she created and that singular response to my near complaint. She approached it with such grace. It is different, to me, to mourn a loss to which I had no physical tie. But I feel it. Palpable.
I cannot imagine the immense sense of loss her family (you included, Heidi) has felt. Even in her passing, she has been gracious by requesting the story she has so beautifully been telling be echoed through her best friend and daughters.
The world is so undeserving of such incredible humans and yet could use many, many more of them.
How is it that I have only now seen this blog post and heard this tragic news? My prayers go up for her beautiful soul and for all who have suffered at her passing.
I’ve been a huge fan of Melissa’s work for years (I first read Cephrael’s Hand mere months before The Dagger of Adendigaeth was published), but until now I guess I always felt it was more respectful to observe quietly from the sidelines. I loathed the idea of pestering someone to finish their creative work when it is clear that you can’t rush the process. Ever since finding this blog, I have come here once or twice a year to see how things were going; however, I didn’t want to comment or ask pesky questions because I didn’t want to add pressure to Melissa’s life. It was always abundantly clear in her posts that she deeply felt the weight of her readers’ anticipation for the next installment of her series. I think she felt every single thing very deeply, such is the nature of her compassion and empathy.
At any rate, I am now left to regret not commenting sooner and potentially being graced with a reply from such an exceptional woman. I can’t tell you how thrilled I would’ve been to have the opportunity to become a beta reader for her! (Not saying that would’ve happened, but the mere fact that such readers exist is news to me… and it appears from others’ comments that Melissa interacted with commenters and may have even found beta readers that way.) I guess I will try not to regret this inaction on my part… rather, I will be grateful that I had the opportunity to enjoy sharing this world with her and all of you.
Here it is, almost a year after this is published and I am just discovering this terrible news. I just kept looking for the next book and decided to dig deeper only to now be sitting here shocked and crying. I am an avid reader and have loved many authors, but I am not exaggerating when I say that I believe Melissa Mcphail to be the best I have ever read. She was SO incredibly talented and special, there is no one that holds a candle to her work. I am truly devastated at this worlds loss by her leaving it, but so grateful that I got to experience her contribution. My love goes out to her family and you, her amazing best friend. Please finish her story, her message. It needs to be done. You can do it. Thank you.
“Here it is, almost a year after this is published and I am just discovering this terrible news. I just kept looking for the next book and decided to dig deeper only to now be sitting here shocked and crying.”
Exactly what I was thinking!! Thank you Marie
I just finished listening to the series Again and dig deeper:((
My deepest heart felt condolences
I am sure even after a year it’s a difficult journey
She was a wondrous story teller. May you find the courage to share her last storys