Author Archive

Marked by Fate

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Defined by Their Choices — Marked by Fate.

Champions rise, shadows fall, and magic rules in Marked by Fate: A Fantasy and Science Fiction Collection. Battle alongside gods, travel across foreign lands, and fall for handsome heroes in this action-packed young adult collection featuring witches, shifters, angels, cyborgs, and more. Venture to oceans deep with mermaids, fly upon the backs of dragons, or speak with ghosts in this group of 25 coming of age novels from some of the best writers in the industry today, including USA TODAY and NEW YORK TIMES bestselling authors.

The friendships are real and the romances are breathtaking. Travel through new galaxies, explore fantastic fairy tales, take down dystopian governments, and escape urban fantasy worlds. Full of time travel mysteries and paranormal lore, Marked by Fate is a box set with a message — that all women, no matter the age, can conquer their fears and heartaches to become the fierce, strong heroines they were always meant to be.

Will you fall in love…save the world…or become the villain? Who will you be?

The set features the following authors:

USA Today bestselling author, Kristin D. Van Risseghem
International bestselling author, Rhonda Sermon
International bestselling author, Kelly St. Clare
Amazon bestselling author, Raye Wagner
USA Today bestselling author, Ednah Walters
New York Times bestselling author, Erin Hayes
USA Today bestselling author, Siobhan Davis
New York Times bestselling author, Jamie Thornton
Award-Winning author, Debra Kristi
Amazon bestselling author, Sarah K. L. Wilson
Amazon bestselling author, Hilary Thompson
Amazon bestselling author, Ingrid Seymour
International bestselling author, Jeanne Bannon
USA Today bestselling author, Melle Amade
USA Today bestselling author, Lena Mae Hill
Award-Winning author, C. J. Anaya
International bestselling author, Jackson Dean Chase
Award-Winning author, D. L. Armillei
USA Today bestselling author, Emily Martha Sorensen
Amazon bestselling author, Amalie Jahn
Amazon bestselling author, Dionne Lister
USA Today bestselling author, J.L. Weil
Amazon bestselling author, Alisha Klapheke
USA Today bestselling author, Angela Fristoe
Amazon bestselling author, Meg Cowley

How many books do you read in a month? One? Ten? 30?! (I wish.) The Marked by Fate box set contains a whopping 25 books! Some of the top young adult fantasy and sci-fi writers in the world have combined to give you the best of the best in this collection. Even better? It is on pre-order sale for 0.99c right now. Don’t miss your chance to discover and devour! Secure your copy today.

AMAZON: http://smarturl.it/MBFBoxsetAmazon
B&N: http://smarturl.it/MBFNOOK
Kobo: http://smarturl.it/MBFKOBO
iBooks: http://smarturl.it/MBFibooks

To celebrate the pre-release of the Marked by Fate box set  — we’re offering you the chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card! You can enter here: https://gleam.io/NA6ON/marked-by-fate-giveaway-3

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© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017

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I do believe it’s time for an adventure…

The floor is lava. No, really, it is. Yeah, it’s 2,000 years old and relatively safe to walk on, aside from those pesky grooves and holes that make it easy to twist an ankle, but still, it’s LAVA.

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I’m stumbling around like one of the living dead today after a weekend full of adventure. Everything aches—arms, legs, and feet, in particular. I’ve got scabs on my knees and shins, and my tailbone is bruised. But it was a crazy fun trip.

Early Saturday morning, my husband, fourteen-year-old twins, and I drove to Maupin, Oregon to go white water rafting on the Deschutes River. We booked our trip through Forward Paddle, who I highly recommend. Our guide, Jim, is the owner, and was wonderful. He kept us entertained with stories, coached us on upcoming hazards, and most importantly, showed us a good time while keeping us safe. (Safety is very important when one, you’re no spring chicken and your limbs don’t bend like they used to, and two, you’re putting your favorite people in an inflatable raft and braving class 4 rapids).

We went through a set of rapids aptly named Devil’s Hole, rushing over a wall of water and submerging in a swirling whirlpool before bobbing up and going on our way. It was quite a ride.

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Halfway through the trip, Jim asked how we felt about going over an eight-foot waterfall. This was met with silence as every passenger looked around, wide-eyed, at the others. “You okay with that?” I asked my boys. One was cool with it, though he looked a bit nervous. I’m sure I did too. The other, my adrenaline junkie and rollercoaster enthusiast, was all for careening off a waterfall. “Yeah,” he said. “Let’s do it.”

We went through a practice run—row, row, row, and then pull in your oar and stuff your butt in the bottom of the raft as fast as you can. “The most important thing is to stay in the boat,” Jim told us. “You do not want to fall out.” He didn’t care if we lost our oars, hats, or sunglasses—we just had to do whatever we could to hold on. There was a reason for this: the Diaper Wiper. If we fell out, the river would swallow us up, give us an ultimate wedgie, and then spit us out on two large rocks called the Meat Grinder and the Cheese Grater. Not a pretty picture, but an excellent motivator.

We beached the boat to watch another raft in our group go first. I have to say, it did not give me a great deal of confidence to watch them disappear over the edge of the waterfall and then see their guide fly out of the boat. (The guide was fine, by the way. When we caught up to him, he laughed it off—though he did get teased by his fellow guides. All in good fun.)

Then it was our turn. We dug in our oars, rowed furiously, and then tucked in as quick as we could. I grabbed the handle on my bench and hung on tight, which was a very good thing because I felt my body fly up and land on the inflated edge of the raft. Aside from one of us losing an oar and all of us coming up sputtering water, everyone was okay, and we let out a cheer as we zipped past the Cheese Grater. I believe we now have bragging rights for surviving the Diaper Wiper. Maybe I’ll put that on a t-shirt.

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So that was Saturday. On Sunday, we headed up to Mount St. Helens, to explore Ape Cave, one of the longest lava tubes in the United States. The lower cave is 1.5 miles round trip, a nice walk down a gentle incline. If you go, take two flashlights in case one goes out.

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It’s not terribly dangerous in the lower cave since the tunnel is huge, but you wouldn’t want to trip and fall over a boulder or ridge in the lava floor. There are some cool features—a suspended boulder called a meatball, and ridges that narrow to look like train tracks.

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At the end of the cave is a tunnel that grows increasingly narrow. You’ll have to army-crawl if you do it, but it’s not too scary if you’re not claustrophobic.

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To illustrate how pleasant a stroll the trail is, here’s a photo of me in the lower cave. See, not breathing hard at all.

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The upper cave is an entirely different animal, and I don’t recommend it if you go alone, if you’re in poor health, or if you have small children with you. It’s an amazing, but strenuous, experience. Even though it’s only 1.5 miles long, it takes hours to get through because you have to climb over 27 (yes, 27) piles of boulders, each mound of rocks as big as a house.

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Between those, you have to climb up several rock walls, formed by spilling lava. The largest, an eight-foot wall, had few handholds. It was good thing we were with a group, because it took teamwork to scale that one. Here’s a photo of me after surviving that.

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Dear Diary,

It has been five days since we entered the cave. The water has long since run out, and we lost Uncle Archibald to the mutant cannibals who inhabit this God-forsaken place. I fear I shall never see the sun again.

On the bright side, my boys had a fantastic time. It’s an experience they won’t soon forget. (Neither will I. I bruised my tailbone on a rock and have that to remind me.)

We celebrated each obstacle conquered and enjoyed climbing up on rock shelves to shine our lights and look up and down the tunnels. Where the lava tubes narrowed, we could feel gusts of cold wind. The lava flows were different textures—smooth, rolling mounds and hard ridges on the floors, and spiky ripples on the ceilings.

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Near the end of the tunnel is a skylight, which was a welcome sight after all that darkness.

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Finally, we reached the ladder and emerged from the cave. (The tunnel goes on even further, but we’ll have to come back to explore that part. It was late in the day and we had another 1.3 miles to hike before we made it back to the parking lot.) See the hole in the ground there? Yeah. That’s the exit.

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I’m sure we’ll return. Mount St. Helens is huge and there’s much to explore. We hope to head to Lava Canyon for our next adventure. Maybe next time we’ll encounter Sasquatch. I hope he’s not a mutant cannibal.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017


Free Writing Workshop!

I love scary stories. I read them, I write them, and I probably watch more horror than is healthy for the psyche. When I stumble upon a great horror book or film (I’m looking at you, Babadook), I want to shout about it from the rooftops. My poor book club has been bombarded with my suggestions for spooky reads, and I can’t blame them for backing away slowly, reminding me that my tastes run a bit darker than most. Having said that, I completely understand if you’d rather not spend an evening or two with me, talking about the supernatural.

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If you’re feeling brave, however, join me on Friday, August 4, at 5pm at Book Warehouse (1111 N. Roosevelt Dr. in Seaside, OR) for a book talk on the paranormal. I’ll tell you some ghost stories (including something crazy that happened to me last week–shudder), and I’ll be signing my novels, Sunset Empire and Pitcher Plant, both of which are set on the north coast of Oregon and feature murder and restless spirits.

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Then, on Friday, August 11, at 5pm, come back to Book Warehouse for a workshop on writing spooky and suspenseful scenes. I’ll share my secrets for scaring the socks off readers. You might not sleep that night, but you’ll learn how to write an engaging story.

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© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017


Writer’s Block

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Today I’m pleased to feature a post on writer’s block from friend and fellow author, Heather Douglas. Heather is a writer, illustrator, and educator based in Astoria, Oregon. She is the author of a book of poetry and was recently awarded Astoria Visual Art’s Writer in Residence. She also writes for Coast Weekend. More of her work can be found at OscarAstoria.com.

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“Writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all.” –Charles Bukowski

Whether the phrase writers’ block conjures up an image of Jack Nicholson in The Shining obsessively typing the same phrase on his typewriter, or a romance novelist at their peaceful mountain retreat with a cup of tea waiting desperately for inspiration to come, the struggle is real for many writers.

Stephen King, a very prolific writer and America’s most famous of the horror genre once said “amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us get up and go to work.” While King is absolutely correct, it doesn’t hurt to have a few strategies to employ from time to time.

My relationship with writing has reflected the ebb and flow of my own creative life. In elementary school, I was encouraged and rewarded by events like the Oregon Writing Festival at Portland State University where I could meld minds with kids like me. I loved creative writing and poetry and had some of my work published in the local paper and won some school wide writing contests. Along with other kids in my neighborhood, we created a newspaper called The Tapiola Times (named after the park I grew up next door to); we wrote movie reviews, comic strips and from time to time ‘investigative’ article and features. Putting pen to paper and writing was easy back then and was a blast—I was good at it, I liked it and I could say what I wanted and think hard about it without getting flustered in everyday conversations.

Middle school began what I would call the ‘essay and book report years.’ The formulaic pattern of essay writing was stifling. I was no longer expressing my own imagination and creativity, but writing analysis about the creative work of authors who were dead and gone. It’s not that I had no love for the classics. I spent half of one summer reading Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Ubervilles in a tent I had set up in my parents’ backyard—but I didn’t get to choose what classics I wanted to write about—yet, there is value in pushing through work that is difficult.

Yet, I craved a balance between expressing my own creativity and following the rules in school. I no longer loved writing, but I never suffered from writer’s block because I adapted; I began to rely on my work ethic—something I had thankfully nurtured through sports—you push through the pain, get the job done and don’t complain. I begrudgingly became friends with the essay, the book report and the worksheet. I was rewarded and encouraged by my teachers for my efforts in writing.

In college, I majored in English and was required to write copiously in the standard essay format. I wrote very little, if any creative pieces. I realized that if I was going to write about more than just famous works, I would have to write on my own. It was a tumultuous time for me emotionally, and I began to lean on writing as a form of expression and therapy; I wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages of journal entries in great detail about what I was feeling at the time. I even earned a coveted compliment from a notoriously unrelentingly strict professor of James Joyce. He said I had talent and should consider getting a PhD to teach English. Although I was beyond flattered, I couldn’t imagine that the rest of my writing life would be spent centered around studying the works of a dead author—no matter how talented or epic.

While writing saved my life in a time of great existential loneliness during the college years, I went through a long phase of what I can only call tongue in cheek a phase of “creative constipation”—otherwise known as a decade of writer’s block. I stopped filling my journals and collapsed in exhaustion after my college graduation with the hopes of taking a huge break from essay writing and literary analysis.

Although I stopped writing, the ideas never stopped coming. Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic author, said about creativity, “possessing a creative mind is like having a border collie for a pet; if you don’t give it a job to do, it will find a job to do—and you might not like the job it invents.”

In the past 5 years I have found my way back to writing through blogging, journalism, poetry and the occasional non-fiction story. I also teach high school students to find their voice through writing. I want them to feel inspired and empowered to try out different genres of writing. I don’t want them to experience the frustration of having no outlet for their feelings.

It has been a difficult journey, but these days I have a healthy balance between work ethic and inspiration. If I were to give advice to my young writing self about moving through creative blocks, this is what I would say now.

You are Free to Write Crap

In Natalie Goldberg’s book Wild Mind Living the Writer’s Life, one of her bedrock rules to writing is this: “you are free to write the worst crap in America.” You have to start somewhere, and keeping the pen moving whilst writing what you may think is the worst crap is better than not writing at all. Worst case scenario: it IS crap, but that’s what multiple, successive drafts are for. Best case scenario: it actually isn’t crap and you’re just too hard on yourself.

You Are a Writer if You Write

If you run, you are a runner. If you write, you are a writer. If you’ve always “wanted to write,” or you have a plan to “write someday,” or you have “a novel in your head,” you’re a dreamer, not a writer. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. One of the lessons you learn as you mature is that work ethic nearly always beats talent.

Writing is Work

Hemingway famously said “there is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Writing can be scary, emotional and terrifying. But it’s work and it’s very worthwhile work.

Smack Down the Internal Editor

What Natalie Goldberg calls the “monkey mind” is the internal critic—the monkey that sits on your shoulder and peers down on what you do. It’s your ego and the one that constantly corrects you and forces you to doubt yourself.  It’s the perfectionist side that causes you to freeze like a deer in headlights.

There Are No Hard and Fast Rules for Writing

Work with the limitations of the day, but there are not hard and fast rules for writing. Some will say “write every day at the same time.” Some will say “make sure your desk is free from clutter.” Some will say “a messy desk is a mark of a creative mind.” Writing is amazing because there very few places where you can’t write. I have yet to think of a place where you can’t write—well, maybe…don’t write while you’re driving.

Talk To Other Writers

Chances are other writers feel exactly the same struggles. Find comfort in talking to them and rekindling the reasons you love writing.

Trust Yourself

Your narrative matters. Repeat: your narrative matters. Your unique perspective matters. What someone else thinks of your ability as a writer is none of your business. Write because your voice matters. Write because you have something to say. Write because although it may be hard work, you love it.

Thank you for joining us today, Heather! Check out Heather’s work at OscarAstoria.com.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017


More Sunset Empire

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Much appreciation to everyone who came out to Lucy’s Books last Saturday for the Second Saturday Art Walk! It was fun to chat with so many readers–some of you I’ve known for a long time, and some I met that day. I’m glad you came out to enjoy the sunshine and talk books with me. Many thanks to Lisa Reid for hosting me and being a champion of my work. (Thanks for the wonderful reviews and Lucy’s Books bag too!)

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I wanted to share a new excerpt from Sunset Empire with you. I hope you like it.

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From high above the forest floor, the hunter watched the girl. She was pretty, but she was too busy talking on her cell phone to watch where she was going. He had to suppress a laugh when she almost stepped on the deer carcass. That would teach her to hang up and walk.

Where had she come from? He glanced down the path—probably from one of the houses on the edge of the forest. The more pressing question, however, was where was she going? He doubted she knew. She seemed to be wandering the path aimlessly, with no idea of the trouble she could get into.

From his perch, he could clearly hear her side of the conversation as her voice echoed among the trees, even though she wasn’t speaking overly loud. With dismay, he realized this was because the forest had gone eerily silent. The wind picked up, and in the breeze he could smell death.

Go back, he thought, as if he could will her to hear him and take his advice. Wherever you came from, go back. She didn’t, of course. She just kept walking, chatting on that stupid phone of hers.

He narrowed his eyes, irritated. What was this girl’s problem? Surely she could sense that something was wrong in this part of the forest. All the birds had flown away. There were no squirrels chattering from the trees, or any other sounds of wildlife. But no, she was too busy talking to notice. She had barely given the dead deer more than a glance.

He checked his weapon. He couldn’t just stand by like last time—not now that he was sure it worked. He was going to have to reveal himself. He was going to have to save her.

Then, something curious happened. The girl stopped and looked around. “I’ll have to call you back,” she said. She hung up her phone and slipped it into her pocket. She turned a slow circle on the path, staring into the forest. Then, she shivered and wrapped her arms around herself, starting back the way she had come.

The hunter followed her with his eyes, and then surveyed the forest. The smell of decay was fading. Maybe the creatures weren’t coming after all. Silently, he inched his way down the tree, watching for trouble. Six feet from the bottom, he heard a scream.

He dropped the rest of the way to the ground and ran up the path after her, ducking behind a tree when he saw she had stopped and wasn’t dead. She was staring at a spot on the ground, her delicate features contorted with disgust. Whatever was on the ground was smoking. She shuddered in revulsion and then took off down the path, back to civilization.

When he was sure she wouldn’t see him, the hunter emerged from his hiding place. He approached the blackened thing on the ground cautiously, toeing it with his boot. A banana slug. The only reason he could identify it at all was because he could see the piebald yellow and brown markings on the end of its tail. The rest of the six-inch creepy-crawly had been burnt to a crisp.

Who was this girl?

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© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017


Signing at Lucy’s Books

One of my favorite spots on the Oregon coast is Lucy’s Books, a jewel box of a bookstore, owned by a lovely friend, Lisa Reid. Lisa has curated an awesome collection of books and makes great recommendations. She’s been incredibly supportive of my work, even letting me include her store in my novel, Sunset Empire.

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I knew my characters would be exploring the tunnels under 12th Street, and the windows in Lucy’s provide the perfect vantage point for watching a gang of teens up to no good, sneaking across the street to enter the basement of the fictional Chinook Bar & Grill. I asked Lisa if one of my characters could work in her shop so he could observe the mischief. She said yes, and gave Phantom a job.

That’s why I’m excited to join her on Saturday, July 8, from 5-8pm for the Second Saturday Art Walk in Astoria. I’ll be signing copies of Sunset Empire and Pitcher Plant, both of which are set on the Oregon coast. I’ll also be doing a drawing for a book-themed prize, so stop by and say hello.

Here’s an excerpt from Sunset Empire, an exchange between Phantom and his boss (who may or may not be based on the real life owner of Lucy’s–you’ll have to ask Lisa).

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“I know that look, Sean Hughes.”

Phantom turned to see Lucy eyeing him from the cash register. “What look?”

Lucy smiled. “Your girl-trouble look. Who is she?”

Since the professor had lost his mind and Phantom’s mother had fallen into a chronic state of depression after his dad died, Lucy Rose was the one person in town he could count on. As his mother’s best friend, Lucy knew what he’d lost, and she’d looked out for him over the years, making sure his fridge was stocked and giving him a job at her bookstore.

Phantom spared a last look at Chinook’s, but Elyse had disappeared from view. He went back to stocking shelves. “Her name’s Elyse Pthan. She’s new at school.”

“Have you talked to her?” Lucy asked, coming over to tidy the front display.

Phantom smiled. “I bought her dinner.”

“That sounds promising. So what’s the problem?”

“We’re friends. I thought we could be more than friends, but then things got complicated.”

“How so?” Lucy asked.

“She’s a Legacy girl. And the granddaughter of Evangeline Porter, chair of the Sean Hughes Sucks Society,” Phantom said.

“That is a problem,” Lucy said, nodding. “But, you know, as much of a force of nature as Ms. Porter might be, I doubt she controls her granddaughter’s mind. Or her heart.” She reached into the box at Phantom’s feet and pulled out one of the new books. “This one will go in the window, I think.” She rearranged the books in the window to include her latest find. “Does Elyse know about Jenna?”

“I told her about the accusations against me,” Phantom replied. “Didn’t want her hearing it from someone else.”

“That’s wise,” Lucy said. “But does she know how you felt about Jenna?”

Phantom shook his head. “I don’t think I can go there yet, Lucy. Wound’s still fresh.”

Lucy put her hand on his shoulder and gave him a sad smile. “I know, sweetie. Give it time.”

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017


Writing Place

I can write anywhere—coffee shops, planes, waiting rooms, standing in line. I usually carry a journal with me in case I’m stuck somewhere, waiting, and then I type what I’ve written later. My preferred place to write, however, is my desk at home. It’s a minimalist, stainless-steel table with a pretty wooden box placed on top to hold office supplies. I’ve set out a few mementos to inspire me: a chunk of amethyst purchased at the gem and mineral show in Tucson, a ceramic owl to hold pens and pencils, a paperweight I created when I took an art glass class with my mom, a vase full of objects found along the seashore—shells, rocks, and a toy elephant. A special place—no, a sacred place—dedicated to creativity.

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Over the past year though, my sacred place to write became increasingly cluttered. Papers kept piling up and I kept putting off organizing them. In my defense, I’ve been busy: taking on a new job as a full-time academic advisor, teaching a writing class, completing nine editing projects (two of which were full-length novels), and releasing two books of my own. My place of inspiration became uninspired, which didn’t stoke the urge to create.

Finally, this weekend, I made time to go through the piles, tossing outdated and unnecessary documents and filing important ones. Why did I keep all this stuff? I guess I thought they were important at the time. It’s hard for me to be creative when I’ve got things hanging over my head, whether they are deadlines for other projects or piles of paper begging to be sorted. Purging was good for my soul, and my newly organized space is inspiring me once again.

My characters have been chatty lately, and I’m ready to see where they want to take me as I transcribe their adventures. I’ve got at least two novels in my head that are ready to hatch, and several others are still incubating. Finishing a book is just a matter of writing every chance I get, chipping away until I’ve got 90K words or so—a novel. My goal for this summer is to complete a first draft of one of the books I want to write. We’ll see how far I get.

I’ll have to be stingy with my writing time. I may go on hiatus from the blog from time to time if I’m on a writing stint, but I’ll surface with news about upcoming projects and events. If you’re on the north coast of Oregon and want to talk writing, stop by Lucy’s Books in Astoria for the Second Saturday Art Walk on July 8. I’ll be there from 5-8pm talking about my recent releases. I’ll also be at the Book Warehouse in Seaside in August and Klindt’s Booksellers in The Dalles in October. More news to come about those events.

I hope you have a wonderful summer. Between work and writing, I’ll try to remember to make time for the beach. The ocean is calling, and it can’t hurt to have more inspiration—find some sand dollars, play in the waves with my boys, and build a driftwood fort or two.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017