Books

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


City of Books

The best thing about playing tour guide is you see things anew through other people’s eyes. My brother had a business trip in Portland this week, so I made the two-hour trek from the coast to meet him for dinner. We drove over to the Pearl district, and as we were paying for parking, I heard the sound of bagpipes.

“The Unipiper!” I said.

“The what?” he asked.

IMG_1442“He’s this dude who rides around Portland on a unicycle, wearing a kilt and a Darth Vader mask, while playing bagpipes that shoot fire,” I explained. And sure enough, as we crossed the street, we ran into the man himself. The Unipiper was gracious, letting me take a photo with him and giving my brother a keychain before pedaling on his merry way. A pretty good ambassador for the city.

“Okay, you’re done,” I told my brother. “You’ve encountered a quintessential PDX icon. You can go home.”

Then we walked into Powell’s City of Books, and I realized we weren’t finished yet. There was much more to see. If you’ve never been to Powell’s, you should remedy that posthaste. It had been too long since my last visit, and I’m glad we went. The first thing we saw was a display dedicated to all things Oregon: t-shirts, magnets, cutting boards, jewelry…whatever your tourist heart could desire. They even had Bigfoot air fresheners. What more could you want, really? Stegosaurus taco socks? Fine, done. They had those too. Along with posters, book bags, and all kinds of geeky accessories that made me want to blow my paycheck.

IMG_1443I managed to resist, and chose one book to bring home, after my brother recommended it. Ready Player One was a book I’d always meant to read, but hadn’t, so it was nice to have a reminder. He asked me for recommendations on books from Oregon authors. I was thrilled to point out books from writers I love: Chelsea Cain, April Henry, Ursula K. LeGuin, and more. It’s such a joy to talk books with someone and find out you adore the same authors. You love Jim Butcher too? No way! Powell’s is so huge we didn’t even make it to the upper floors. When his arms were full of books and my stomach started growling, we walked over to a pub to eat and chat some more.

Living 1,500 miles apart, we don’t see each other often, so it was great to catch up. Of course, I tried to sell him on moving north by gifting him a book on weird places in Oregon as well as a sand dollar from one of my favorite beaches. I stayed later than I meant to, and didn’t get home until one in the morning, but it was worth it to spend time with my brother.

Driving down the Sunset Highway in the middle of the night, surrounded by trees and patches of fog, I kept an eye out for Bigfoot. It seemed a good night for spotting him. There was a full moon and I’d had a fortuitous encounter with the Unipiper earlier, so why not? Alas…no such luck. My air freshener will have to suffice.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017


Ghost Stories at the Library

Thank you to everyone who joined me last evening at the Astoria Library! I had a wonderful time talking about character-driven fiction with fellow writers, and it was fun to swap ghost stories during my presentation on Sunset Empire. I hope you enjoy reading about Burning Helen, the ghost in the tunnels under the Liberty Theater. Much appreciation to Ami for all your hard work facilitating this event.

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As promised, I sent a short story to everyone who signed up for my newsletter. If you’d like to be on my list and want a free story, comment below or send me an email at solasbeir at gmail dot com.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017


How I Found My Publisher

A few people have been curious about how I found a publisher for my suspense novel, Pitcher Plant, which will be released this spring. I thought I’d take some time and answer the question.

I connected with Filles Vertes Publishing through #PitMad (short for Pitch Madness), a pitch party on Twitter. The event was created by young adult author Brenda Drake, and I encourage you to check out her blog to learn more about her work and the details on #PitMad. She collects success stories from authors who have found agents and publishers through the event, so that’s a great resource for learning about what has worked for other people.

#PitMad occurs quarterly—the next event is March 23. If you have a completed, polished, unpublished manuscript, you pitch it to agents and publishers with a tweet on the day of the event. You have to be brief and focus on the main concept or conflict of the book. You include the book’s title and use hashtags so publishing professionals can sort by genre. For example, #YA would be used for a young adult book (there’s a genre list on Brenda’s blog). You include the hashtag #PitMad so your tweet shows up in the event feed. You can pitch three times on the day of the event, and it’s good to vary the times (think breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Professionals may view the feed at different times during the day, though I’ve noticed many of them check in early in the day. You can use the same pitch each time, or try different versions.

The key advantage to #PitMad is it’s a way to get out of the slush pile. If an agent or publisher favorites your tweet, that’s an invitation to send your query to them. You’ll want to follow their submission instructions (usually this means including #PitMad in the subject line of your email so they can easily spot your query). You’ll likely get a response more quickly than if you query without an invitation. You should research where you submit, because you want to tailor your query and make sure it’s a fit for that professional’s manuscript wish list, and also because anyone can say they are an agent or a publisher, and you want to be certain they’re legit.

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A few tips on writing your query letter. First, always be courteous and professional (say thank you). You’re applying for a job, so don’t assume you’ll get a contract. If possible, let the agent or publisher know why you’ve chosen to query them—in this case, because they liked your pitch. Include critical information: the title, word count, genre, and if requested via the submission guidelines, whether or not the query is exclusive. Follow that with a brief description of the book, and then a short bio. With your bio, you want to focus on relevant experience: other books you’ve written, notable accomplishments like awards or bestselling lists, and other experience related to writing. You don’t need to include much else, although if you wanted one sentence on your other interests, just to show your personality, that would probably be okay. Publishing professionals are more interested in the content of your book and whether or not it has the potential to sell than your hobbies.

As an example, here’s the query letter I sent to Filles Vertes Publishing after #PitMad:

 

Dear FVP Team,

Thank you for your invitation to share more about my novel at this week’s PitMad event. Here is the pitch you favorited: Buying a seaside fixer-upper seemed like a great idea until Tawny unearthed a murder victim. Now she’s next.

Set in a beachside town in the Pacific Northwest, PITCHER PLANT is a suspense novel with romance and elements of horror. It is complete at 85,500 words.

When thirty-year-old Tawny Ellis spots a weathered fixer-upper for sale in Seaside, Oregon, she jumps at the chance to own a house near the beach. She and her husband Mark are tired of sinking money into a high-priced rental, and hope by investing in the house, they can supplement their income by opening a bed and breakfast. Their marriage begins to unravel as repairs cost more than expected, budget cuts threaten Mark’s job, and Mark grows jealous over Tawny’s budding friendship with an attractive handyman. Tensions rise as Nicholas Stroud, the house’s former owner, begins stalking Tawny and her two young daughters. Tawny learns that Stroud lost his childhood home through foreclosure, and believes he may still be angry over the loss.

Then one of Tawny’s daughters starts talking about a new friend, one who might be imaginary. This friend bears a striking resemblance to a former resident, a little girl who squatted in the house with her drug-addicted mother during the foreclosure. Now the girl and her mother are missing, and Tawny suspects Stroud may be responsible for their disappearances. After finding evidence of foul play in the house, Tawny fears she and her daughters may become Stroud’s next victims.

I am an award-winning author living near Seaside with twin boys, a neurotic dog, and a piranha. Sign of the Throne, my debut young adult novel published by an independent press, won a 2014 Reader’s Favorite International Book Award and a 2014 Eric Hoffer Book Award. My third book, The Sower Comes, won a 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award. My fourth book, Sunset Empire, was released this week in the Secrets and Shadows YA box set. Today I was excited to learn that the collection is a #1 Amazon Bestseller in the UK.

Besides my weekly blog on MelissaEskueOusley.com, I contribute monthly articles about writing, editing, and marketing to BookDaily.com and I have edited for Barking Rain Press and Lorincz Literary.

Thank you for your time and for considering my submission. The first 25 pages are included below.

Sincerely,

Melissa Eskue Ousley

 

I hope this is helpful. Comment if you have questions, and best of luck with your submissions!

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017


Books & Bread

What two things go well together? Artisanal breads and books! Join me and other local authors at the Blue Scorcher Bakery during the Second Saturday Art Walk in Astoria, Oregon. The event will be held on Saturday, February 11, from 5:30pm-8:30pm, at 1493 Duane Street. You can find a great new read and have it signed while you enjoy gourmet treats. This is a free event for readers of all ages.

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With multiple reading genres represented, there’s something for everyone: poetry, coloring books, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, memoir, metaphysical, mystery, self-help, young adult, and more. Featured authors include Matt Crichton, Heather Douglas, Melissa Eskue Ousley, Diana Kirk, Andrea Larson Perez, Angela Sidlo, and Deb Vanasse. Here’s a little more about each author and what they write.

Matt Crichton

21880_230476308899_4073520_n-copy I have a degree in engineering, have been a member of AmeriCorps and Peace Corps, worked at the YMCA teaching computer-based projects, and am currently pursuing a teaching (math!) certification. I like music, yoga, and cooking, and building fires on the beach. Somewhere along the way, I picked up poetry. Or maybe I should say it picked me up. Many of the poems I write come unexpectedly and I had better have a scrap of paper nearby or it will be lost to eternity. I write to express feelings, in response to lived experiences, to get the words that bug me out of my head. I write when inspired. I do not have a specific day or time I write. I wait for the lightning. I believe everyone should write if they are inspired. You never know who or how your words will affect.

Heather Douglas

img_2940-copyHeather Douglas is a writer, illustrator and educator and the author of two coloring books, That’s So Pacific Northwest Coloring Book, My Astoria Coloring Book and one book of poetry entitled Creosote and Rain. She was a Writer in Residence through Astoria Visual Arts in fall 2016 and also writes for Coast Weekend, ESL101, Medium and is creator of local blog Astoria Rain (dot) com. Writing, creativity and old growth forests keep her sane and grounded in this crazy world. More of her work can be found on Oscar Astoria (dot) com.

heather-booksMelissa Eskue Ousley

melissa-eskue-ousley-2017Melissa Eskue Ousley is an award-winning author living on the Oregon coast with her family, a neurotic dog, and a piranha. Her debut novel, Sign of the Throne, won a 2014 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award and a 2014 Eric Hoffer Book Award. Her third book, The Sower Comes, won a 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award. Sunset Empire, a fantasy set in Astoria, debuted in the bestselling Secrets and Shadows young adult boxed set. Pitcher Plant, a mystery set in Seaside, will be released this spring. Her short stories have been included in Rain Magazine and The North Coast Squid. When she’s not writing, she can be found walking along the beach, poking dead things with a stick.

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Diana Kirk

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Diana Kirk, author of Licking Flames: Tales of a Half-Assed Hussy has been published in Thought Catalog, Nailed, Literary Kitchen and is a regular contributor to The Psychology of It and Five 2 One Magazine. When not writing personal or feminist essays, she’s pretty busy wifing, mothering and running two investment firms from her super fancy basement office.

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Andrea Larson Perez

dsc_1126-2-copyAndrea Larson Perez, 52, relocated to the lower Columbia region in 1994. She has lived in Astoria, Oregon since 1997. A native of St. Petersburg, Florida, she is married and a mother of two sons, 26 and 23.  She graduated from California State University, Sacramento with degree in Public Relations and a minor in Journalism.

After nearly 30 years serving clients in communications capacities, Andrea decided to turn her attention to writing.  Her first book with Arcadia’s Images of America Series gave her an opportunity to dig into interesting local history at Camp Rilea where her husband, Col Dean Perez, was the Post Commander.  Her interest in history and keen research abilities helped immensely in compiling and editing  the first published history of Camp Rilea.  Many supported and encouraged the process, most notably the past and current staff at Camp Rilea and the Oregon Military Department.

Her second title is part of Arcadia’s Postcard History Series focuses on vintage postcards of Astoria, Oregon.  Having been a collector and postcard enthusiast for many years, her interest connected her to other local collectors and was a “natural” to become a book.  It has been very well received and is headed to a second printing!

Andrea is currently considering a third title with Arcadia.

When not enjoying time with family or traveling, Larson Perez spends a good deal of time researching her family tree looking for stories to tell about characters she meets.  Happy to be known as the “family historian,” she has uncovered many previously unknown facts about her ancestors who arrived in colonial America in 1630.

She enjoys membership in the Astoria Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and serves on the Board of Directors of the Astoria Co-Op Grocery and The Astoria Ferry.  She also participates in many community organizations, activities and events.

Angela Sidlo

fullsizeoutput_1fbAngela Sidlo is coauthor of the new feel-good anthology book series The Silver Linings Storybook: Successful Leaders Share Inspiring Stories of Overcoming Stormy Days in Personal and Professional Life. The Silver Linings Storybook launched in June 2016 and published, landing on two #1 Paid Best Seller categories on Amazon.com.

Sidlo coauthored in Volume 1 & 2 of the new storytelling series, to share her story of self acceptance through hormonal imbalances, depression and fibromyalgia. Through her experiences she has developed programs and products as a health coach and aromatherapist to assist women who want to lose weight, balance hormones and live the life they dream of. Sidlo believes that “Healthy Individuals Create Healthy Communities”.

Deb Vanasse

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A recent transplant from Alaska, Deb Vanasse is the author of seventeen books.  “Vanasse is talented,” says Foreword Reviews. “She can turn ordinary words into the sublime.” When she’s not at the keyboard, you’ll find Deb walking the beach with her dog, tending her vegetable garden, or immersed in a book.

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Thanks for reading. Hope to see you at the Blue Scorcher!

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017

 


News on Pitcher Plant

Who’s got a publishing contract? This girl! I’m thrilled to share that my suspense novel, Pitcher Plant, will be published this spring by Filles Vertes Publishing. FVP is a press with awesome staff, contagious creative energy, and great industry knowledge. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with them.

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What’s Pitcher Plant about? It is set on the northern Oregon coast. Here’s a description:

When thirty-year-old Tawny Ellis spots a weathered fixer-upper for sale in Seaside, Oregon, she jumps at the chance to own a house near the beach. She and her husband Mark are tired of sinking money into a high-priced rental, and hope by investing in the house, they can supplement their income by opening a bed and breakfast. Their marriage begins to unravel as repairs cost more than expected, budget cuts threaten Mark’s job, and Mark grows jealous over Tawny’s budding friendship with an attractive handyman. Tensions rise as Nicholas Stroud, the house’s former owner, begins stalking Tawny and her two young daughters. Tawny learns that Stroud lost his childhood home through foreclosure, and believes he may still be angry over the loss.

Then one of Tawny’s daughters starts talking about a new friend, one who might be imaginary. This friend bears a striking resemblance to a former resident, a little girl who squatted in the house with her drug-addicted mother during the foreclosure. Now the girl and her mother are missing, and Tawny suspects Stroud may be responsible for their disappearances. After finding evidence of foul play in the house, Tawny fears she and her daughters may become Stroud’s next victims.

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Join us on January 28 for the FVP launch party on Facebook, 7:30pm-10:30pm EST. Connect with publishing industry professionals and enter to win prizes! Giveaways include two full manuscript critiques, partial and submission package critiques, Amazon gift cards, and more!

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017