It’s been a great two weeks since Pitcher Plant launched! I truly appreciate all the good wishes and support, especially from those of you who attended our online release party, made it to a book event, spread the word, left a book review, or bought the book. You may not realize it, but you did a good deed. Not only did you support this indie author, but a portion of proceeds from sales went to support students seeking a college education through the Lives in Transition Program at Clatsop Community College. I can’t thank you enough.
I can, however, share more about Pitcher Plant. Here’s another excerpt. I hope you enjoy it.
Climbing up the back steps of the house, we faced our first sign the house required more fixing than Mr. Peterson indicated. The back porch looked like it had once been enclosed, but was now a shell of two-by-fours containing the battered remains of a powder room. The exposed toilet was covered in rust stains and mold, and a spider web stretched over the bowl of the sink. Large black flies hovered around the bottom of the toilet stool and crawled through a crack between the floorboards.
“Guess we can add bathroom to the list of repairs,” I said, frowning as I snapped a photo.
“Deadbolt and doorknob too,” Mark muttered.
I glanced over to see him dialing in the combination. Sure enough, there was a round hole where the doorknob should’ve been and the deadbolt mechanism was missing. Mark slid the combination lock into his pocket and wrenched the door open with both hands. It squealed on rusted hinges, which looked as though they might crack in two at any moment. The wood on the door looked warped. “Maybe a new door as well,” I added.
Mark scowled at it, and then stepped inside the house. The crease between his eyebrows deepened as he took in the kitchen.
In a word, it was a nightmare. Like the back porch, some of the cabinets were hollow shells, with broken shelves and no doors. One of the upper cabinets listed so badly I was convinced it might fall. I turned in a slow circle, taking photos to document what would need to be repaired. The countertop was splintered plywood. There was a stove, and surprisingly, a dishwasher, but no refrigerator. The floor looked like it’d once been tiled but someone chipped it away, leaving only curving lines of dark mortar. I chanced a look at the sink and immediately wished I hadn’t. The skeletal remains of some rodent lay on the dirty porcelain bottom, surrounded by a halo of wiry brown hair and chunks of decaying flesh. I started to retch, and covered my nose and mouth.
“What?” Mark asked. He’d peaked at the electrical outlets behind the stove, directing the beam from his Maglite between the appliance and the wall.
“Rat,” I managed, and pointed at the sink. I backed away and gulped in air that didn’t hold the stench of death.
Mark crossed the kitchen. “Lovely.” He looked as disgusted as I felt.
“One would think, if you were selling a house, you might at least clean it up,” I said, eyeing the sink from a safe distance.
“One would think,” he agreed. He sauntered over to what looked to be a pantry or broom closet, and yanked open the door. It came off in his hands, leaving him holding the knob and struggling to brace the door before it slipped from his grip. He clucked his tongue and carefully leaned the door against the wall beside the tiny closet. Judging by the look on his face, this house wasn’t winning him over.
It was a look I knew well—he’d give me the same expression of disapproval whenever I suggested we break from our routine and do something novel, like try the new pizzeria in town or drive down to Cannon Beach to check out a new art gallery. Mark wasn’t a fan of change. I thrived on it. I told myself it was just one of those things between people who’d been married a long time. One partner wants to try something new, the other doesn’t understand why things can’t stay the same way they’ve always been. I’d learned long ago when Mark got that look on his face, the best thing to do was to give him space, let him stew awhile. He’d come around.
Leaving the kitchen, I stepped into a large room that seemed to be a combined living room and dining area, and took more photos. Beautiful windows were set into walls paneled in Douglas fir. I remembered the description of the paneling from Mr. Peterson’s ad—he’d described it as a rare feature, and said it added to the beauty of the house. He was right. The paneling gave the room a warm, welcoming feel, which was a nice change from the horrors I’d encountered in the kitchen. I imagined the ramshackle house not as it was, but as it could be—a vintage beach cottage with airy furnishings and maybe even an outdoor shower to wash the sand from our feet.
Along one of the living room walls it looked like there’d once been a fireplace—what if we restored it? I envisioned a hearth made of river rock, and smiled. Maybe the place had potential. The kitchen was a mess, but we could gut it and turn it into exactly what we wanted. It was a blank slate.
I glanced toward the kitchen, where Mark inspected the pipes under the sink. They were rusty and he looked annoyed, muttering under his breath. I sighed. I couldn’t fall in love with this house yet. Not before my husband rendered judgment.
That was another problem with us. I was a glass-half-full kind of girl and he was a perpetual skeptic. He thought I got too swept up by romantic notions, and I wished he’d live a little, and not be so maddeningly practical all the time. Still, he was here, playing along at least. Perhaps this time we’d meet each other halfway. I could stand to be a little more reserved, and maybe he’d get inspired by the house’s potential—maybe.
I returned my gaze to the large living-slash-dining room—the great room, as I’d started calling it in my head. An arched door with dirty glass panels seemed to lead to a hallway, and a set of French doors led to another room. The light fixtures in the ceilings were removed, and scary-looking wires poked willy-nilly from the ceiling. The electrical system in the house definitely seemed to have issues, as Mr. Peterson had mentioned. I walked over to a smaller door next to the one leading to the hallway and opened it.
It was a closet under the stairs, the bottom of the risers draped with cobwebs. Gross. The floor of the closet was worse though. It was covered in junk—trash, discarded clothes, toys, and even a collapsed umbrella stroller for a toddler. I wondered who lived here before, and why Mr. Peterson hadn’t taken the time to throw out this stuff before putting the house up for sale.
A thump startled me. I scanned the trash on the closet floor and spotted droppings. There was probably another rat, a live one this time. Shuddering, I shut the closet door. There was another thump—too heavy to be a rodent. The thumps continued, and I realized they sounded like footsteps.
We weren’t alone in the house.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017
My new suspense novel, Pitcher Plant, launches in two short weeks! I’m excited about the May 12 book release, of course, but I’m also happy that the launch will coincide with opportunities to support two very worthy causes in my community.
The first is Write on Seaside, a fundraiser for the Seaside Public Library Foundation. As a reader and a writer, literacy is important to me. Libraries promote literacy and are the heart of our communities, a place where people learn and connect. The Seaside Public Library is a jewel in our small, coastal town, serving youth through early reading programs, after school activities, and summer reading campaigns. It serves adults too, providing a place for community meetings, hosting monthly speakers, and assisting people in finding resources.
Write on Seaside will feature six local authors: Diana Kirk, Brian Ratty, Jim Stewart, Deb Vanasse, Nick Vasilieff, and yours truly. We’ll be writing a story live, and people will have the chance to bid on story elements and plot twists to be included in the novella. There’s a whole cast of crazy characters, so if you want to name a puking seagull after your best friend (or maybe your arch enemy), here’s your chance. There will be a silent auction and books for sale, which we’ll sign and personalize. A portion of proceeds from the auction and book sales will go to support the library foundation. It should be a fun night.
Write on Seaside will be held on Thursday, May 11, at the Seaside Convention Center in Seaside, Oregon. The Author Meet & Greet is at 6:30pm, and the Writing Extravaganza begins at 7:00pm. If you’re local to the northern Oregon coast, I hope you’ll join me.
The other cause I’m supporting is the Lives in Transition Program at Clatsop Community College. The LIT Program promotes a supportive academic environment that assists students in overcoming barriers while achieving their personal and educational goals. It is comprised of two free college classes designed to promote academic success.
With a background in higher education, I understand how critical programs like Lives in Transition are in supporting students. I currently work as an academic advisor, and I’m committed to helping people obtain their education. One way I can do that is by investing in this program, and by encouraging others to do so as well.
For every book sold during release week (May 12-19), including preorders, I will donate $1 (up to $500) to the LIT Program. If you are planning on buying Pitcher Plant, would you consider preordering or purchasing it during release week? You’ll be making a huge difference in the lives of these students. I would appreciate it, and I know the students will too.
Thanks for your support of these wonderful programs, and stay tuned for more news on Pitcher Plant. We’ll be revealing the cover later this week!
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017
Last evening, I had the pleasure of attending a fundraiser to support a literacy program. The Libraries ROCC program is a partnership between three of our local libraries. It promotes reading outreach by providing every child in the county with a library card. As a writer, encouraging people to read is a cause near and dear to my heart, so I’m thrilled this program exists.
Libraries are so important to our communities. They foster literacy for beginning readers, give kids a safe place to hang out after school, host speakers on various educational topics, grant space for community groups to meet, and provide internet access for many patrons who don’t have it, like those with low income or who are seeking a job. One of my favorite librarians (and a beloved friend) works at the Seaside Public Library and does an outstanding job working with youth. My own children have benefitted from the wonderful summer reading program she has developed.
Beyond all that, libraries are simply sacred to me. They always have been, from the time I was old enough to have a library card. Stephen King has said that books are uniquely portable magic, and I believe this to be true. I remember visiting the library as a kid and browsing the stacks. I felt a sense of awe at the possibilities as I read the spine of each book, trying to choose just one or two to take home. Nothing has made me prouder as a parent than seeing my children fall in love with books. Seems like we’re at the library every week, feeding our addiction. It’s a pretty great addiction to have, although my to-be-read pile at home suffers every time I get distracted by a shiny new book. My boys tell me I’m only allowed to check out one book at a time. Choosing is still hard.
All these reasons are why it’s an easy decision to pull out my wallet and support programs like Libraries ROCC. It’s even easier when there’s an auction for little free libraries created by local artists. My favorite was the nautical-themed library designed by the talented folks at Vintage Hardware. (Everything Becky Johnson and her staff create is amazing, and they are constantly involved in community projects.)
The other libraries were gorgeous too. One was constructed of cedar and smelled just as wonderful as you think it would. Another was Oregon-themed, complete with a wood cut-out of the state. One had been painted with literary quotes.
I got outbid and didn’t come home with a library, but it was great to see them going for as much as $450 and to know they’d be well-loved and curated by individuals and business owners. The most heart-warming part of the auction involved a barn-themed library. A pair of tween girls feel in love with it and started a bidding war with some of the older attendees. I was worried as the bidding got higher that they’d get in trouble for raising their bid, but the adult with them seemed okay with the amount they pledged. Finally, they got the highest bid, and were so joyful, everyone applauded and cheered. I can’t imagine the library going to a better home than that of two enthusiastic young readers.
I did come home with a few things from the silent auction, one of them a gift certificate to Norma’s, a favorite local restaurant. Anybody want to join me for dinner?
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017