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!)
I wanted to share a new excerpt from Sunset Empire with you. I hope you like it.
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?
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017
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.
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).
“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
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.
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
On Saturday, March 4, at 4pm, I’ll be at the Astoria Library, offering a free writing workshop on character-driven fiction. I’ll be sharing tools I use in my own writing, and we’ll do several writing exercises on character, setting, and point of view. It’ll be fun. Then, at 6pm, I get to read from Sunset Empire, and I’ll be talking about how Astoria’s history and legends influenced my writing. I’m looking forward to it. As a sneak peek, here’s another excerpt from Sunset Empire. I hope you like it.
Greasy Jim hated the rain. Lucky for him, he’d traded his favorite alley for something drier. He wasn’t the overly friendly type (unless, of course, he happened upon a young woman walking alone down a dark alley—then he was much too friendly), but he’d managed to fall in with a group of squatters who were taking advantage of a recently foreclosed Victorian, butting up against the woods.
One benefit to squatting was the house provided shelter from the autumn storms ravaging the coast. It was also large enough that each of the five middle-aged alcoholics had room to spread out without becoming too much of an annoyance to the others. Two of them had prior arrests for shop-lifting, and Jim would have been nervous about this, had he owned anything worth stealing. As it was, they were pretty good at scoring liquor, so everyone was in good spirits.
The downside to the house was the power and water had been shut off, so Greasy Jim was forced to visit the backyard to take a leak. The house was quiet and dark as he stumbled from his sleeping bag and down the stairs. Glancing out the front window, he could see that the neighbors’ porch lights were out. Probably after midnight, if he had to guess the time.
He trudged through the overgrown grass in the yard and stood at the edge of the trees, peering into the darkness as he prepared to do his business. The older he got, the harder it was to pee. Someone at a bar once told him that drinking was healthy because it reduced the risk of prostate issues. He’d joked that with all he drank, he’d never have a problem. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. He sighed, and closed his eyes.
He heard a slight rustle in the brush in front of him, and suddenly smelled something foul. Skunk. His housemates wouldn’t be too happy if he startled the thing and got sprayed. But, they’d been even less happy if he didn’t deal with the problem and one of them encountered the critter later. His booze privileges could be revoked. He glanced over at the back door. There was a rusty shovel leaning against the wall. He wondered if skunk tasted better than it smelled. Desperate times, desperate measures, he decided.
He zipped up and crossed over to the back door, the tall grass pulling at his legs. Shovel in hand, he made his way back to where he’d smelled the skunk, scanning the undergrowth for a white stripe. He couldn’t see anything in the dark, but the stench was growing stronger. Now it smelled less musky and more like decay. He choked back bile and covered his nose with one hand, gripping the wooden handle of the shovel in the other.
Something massive erupted from the trees. It wrenched the shovel from him, snapping the handle in half. He barely registered the release of pressure in his bladder before something grabbed both his legs, jerking them out from under him. He felt the air leave his lungs as his back hit the ground. As he was dragged into the woods, he found he had just enough breath left to scream.
Thanks for reading!
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017
Thrilling news! Sunset Empire is finally (finally!) available as both an ebook and paperback on Amazon. I’m so excited to share this book with you, because it’s really a love letter to the north coast of Oregon, blending fantasy with history and showcasing some of my favorite legends and sites from the area.
I’m also elated to share that it is included in the Secrets and Shadows box set, a young adult collection with ten fantasy, paranormal, and sci-fi novels from New York Times Bestselling, USA Today Bestselling, #1 Amazon Bestselling, and award-winning authors. This week Secrets and Shadows became a #1 Amazon Bestseller in the UK. I’m so grateful to all our readers who made this happen.
A few things about Sunset Empire:
- Stay tuned for giveaways on Amazon and Goodreads. I’ll also be giving away a Sunset Empire-themed prize when we reach 1,000 likes on my author page on Facebook.
- I’m currently looking for reviewers for Sunset Empire, so if you’re interested and willing to post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, message me with your email address. I’ll send you a free ebook.
- Subscribers to my blog are eligible for a free short story or chapter. If you’re interested in receiving one, contact me with your email and I’ll pass that along.
- If you order Sunset Empire now, it will arrive before Christmas.
Here’s a description of the book, and another excerpt. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!
She may be guilty of arson, but she didn’t kill the burned girl haunting her.
After her house burns down, Elyse Pthan is forced to move to Astoria, Oregon to live with the strict grandmother she never knew. Rebelling against her grandmother’s rigid rules, Elyse discovers the terrible heritage her mother kept hidden. Her family may be responsible for the 1922 fire that nearly destroyed Astoria, the death of a girl who longs for vengeance as she haunts the tunnels beneath the city, and mysterious disappearances spanning hundreds of years.
Helping her uncover the truth is Phantom, an enigmatic and surprisingly attractive boy, considering his scars, his talent as a pickpocket, and his status as the local social outcast. A boy with a hidden weapon and a dark heritage of his own, that could turn him from friend to hunter.
Phantom had been tracking the beast when he heard the first scream. It was coming from somewhere within Shively Park. He started running toward the sound, praying he wasn’t too late.
The creatures were growing bold. The one he was following had left its usual territory in the woods southeast of the city, and ventured alarmingly close to the Astoria Column, a popular place for tourists and locals alike. He wondered if the beast had been spotted by any of the visitors who had climbed the column’s spiral staircase for a view of the Columbia. He doubted it. On a sunny day, you could see all the way to the Pacific Ocean from that vantage point, but the day was overcast with a misty rain. In low light, the creatures camouflaged themselves so well against the backdrop of the forest, most people wouldn’t recognize them for what they were until it was much too late to get away.
Phantom had never seen one out in the open, but he knew they crossed roads sometimes because he’d seen deer carcasses outside the monsters’ traditional hunting zones. He’d even spent the night in a tree before, observing the creatures’ nocturnal activities. They liked the dark. At night, they had no need for camouflage. Darkness shielded them from detection, allowing them to move freely without fear of hunters like himself.
Running silently down the path toward the old bridge, Phantom could hear glass breaking. Someone, a girl, by the sound of her screams, was making a whole lot of noise. That was bad. She was about to attract the wrong kind of attention.
He couldn’t see the creature, but it was close. He could smell it. The air was thick with the pungent smell of death.
Phantom checked his weapon and then left the path, trying to stay hidden in the thick brush. He padded uphill so he’d have a better view of the bridge. He would need a clear visual of the beast to take aim.
He crouched down in a clump of ferns, behind a tree. Peering around the trunk of the tree, he could see her—the new girl, Elyse. What was she doing here? He thought back to his encounter with her at the battery and then later in the alley. She certainly had a knack for finding trouble.
She retrieved something from her pack and cradled it in her hands, before hurling it at the bridge like she was pitching a baseball. He cringed as the tea cup shattered, and looked around frantically, trying to spot the beast.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw it coming—a blur of dark fur that seemed to blend in with the forest. The girl was poised, ready to launch another cup at the wall, when she seemed to suddenly realize something was wrong. She whirled around, a look of sheer terror on her face.
Phantom took aim at the dark shape bearing down her and released the bolt. To his horror, he missed.
Want more Sunset Empire? Get it here. Happy reading!
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016
It’s launch day for the Secrets and Shadows box set! This young adult collection includes ten full-length fantasy, paranormal, and sci-fi novels from award-winning and bestselling authors. Do you have your copy yet? If not, click here.
I’m thrilled that my newest book, Sunset Empire, is part of this collection. To celebrate, I’m sharing one of my favorite scenes with Elyse and Phantom, which features Fort Stevens State Park on the Oregon coast. Enjoy.
Excerpt from Chapter Five, Social Food Chain:
Mr. Mills led the group into Battery 245 at Fort Stevens. After the dark, unsettling walk through West Battery, Elyse was glad to see the bunker was outfitted with fluorescent lights.
“Battery 245 was built in 1944 to upgrade harbor defenses in World War II,” Mr. Mills explained as he led them down the narrow corridor, which ended in a T. There were a series of darkened rooms with opened doors on either side of the hallway. “The battery was self-contained, with its own power generator, plotting rooms, magazines, and other facilities. It was also designed to be gas-proof in case of chemical attack.” A few students laughed. “Yes, yes—you’re all very clever,” Mr. Mills said, a slight smile on his lips, “but let’s save the gas jokes until we’re outside in the fresh air. Come. On to the mine observation station and the steam plant.”
Elyse followed the other students out of the battery and stopped to read the plaque at the entrance. Hearing a scuffle behind her, she peered into the corridor. Jared and Parker jogged up the corridor, laughing. They were trailed by Leif, Maddy, Jackson, and Ava. She turned back to the plaque, feigning interest as they passed. Something about their hushed snickering worried her. What had they been up to?
She waited until they left, and then slipped back inside Battery 245. Her footsteps sounded overly loud as she walked down the corridor alone. At the junction, she turned a slow circle, studying each of the rooms. Nothing looked amiss, except one of the doors was closed. Not just closed—it was barred shut with a length of rebar. She was certain it hadn’t been before.
She stared at the door and then approached quietly, listening. The silence was eerie. Stomach churning, she grasped the rebar and pulled it loose from the door’s iron handle. Carefully, to minimize the noise, she set it on the floor of the corridor. Then she opened the door.
The boy with the scar sat cross-legged on the floor of the room, holding a cell phone. He looked up and then raised his eyebrows. “Oh. You. Not who I expected.” His bottom lip was busted and bleeding and his left eye was starting to swell.
“Who were you expecting?” Elyse asked. She thought she should feel guarded around him, considering what Lien had said about him being questioned in the Jenna Williams case. But she wasn’t afraid of him.
Phantom smiled, and then winced when his lip split open more. “The owner of this phone.” He returned his attention to the phone and swiped the screen, seemingly ignoring her. Then he glanced up. “What was the most annoying earworm from summer?”
Elyse stared at him. He’d clearly been beaten up, and he wanted to chat about music? Maybe his brain had gotten rattled in the fight. “What?”
“The most irritating pop song this summer. What was it?”
Elyse thought about it. “Tell Me, by Kat Savanna.”
“Never heard of it.”
Elyse laughed. “Yeah, you did. It was all over the net. You couldn’t have missed it.”
Phantom just looked at her blankly. “Maybe if you sang it?”
Elyse shook her head. “Uh, no.”
“Please?” He gave her a hopeful smile. It looked painful.
She crossed her arms. “I’m not going to sing it, but the lyrics were like, ‘Tell me I’m the one, summer’s just begun, tell me, say it’s true, I’m the only one for you.’ You know—total mindless, repetitive crap—gets in your head and you can’t get it out.”
Recognition dawned on his face. “Oh, that one.” He shuddered with mock horror. “It’s awful. Perfect.” He played with phone and then, more to himself than her, said, “Now—just have to change the ringtone…and…done.”
Phantom set the phone on the floor, and then retrieved a leather wallet from somewhere behind him. From the way he studied it, Elyse was certain it didn’t belong to him, any more than the cell phone did. He took out a twenty and shoved it in his jacket pocket. He started to close the wallet, then paused, thinking. Elyse watched, fascinated, as he retrieved a second twenty and stashed that in his jacket pocket as well. Then he closed the wallet, placed it on the floor in the middle of the room, and balanced the phone on top of it. He eyed the two items and then, satisfied with his work, rose to his feet and brushed off his jeans. “Let’s get out of here.”
Elyse put her hands on her hips. “So…I take it you’re a pickpocket?”
Phantom gave her a sly smile. “Something like that. But the way I see it, dude locks me in here, the least he can do is pay for my cab ride home.” His smile widened to a vulpine grin. “And dinner.”
“You’re not going back to school?”
He frowned, and Elyse got the impression she’d asked a dumb question. “I can’t very well show my face on the bus if I’m supposed to be locked in here, can I?” he asked. “Kind of ruins the mystique.”
Elyse had no idea what he was talking about. “Your lip is bleeding,” she said.
“Is it?” He wiped at it absently, and glanced at the blood on his fingers. “I’ve had worse.” She found herself staring at his scar and looked away quickly.
“You’d better run along,” he said, dismissing her with a wave of his hand. “Being seen with me will do nothing for your social standing.”
Elyse planted her feet. “I don’t care about stuff like that.”
“You should.” Phantom stepped around her, out into the hallway.
Elyse wondered why he would care about her social standing, but didn’t say anything. Instead, she followed him into the corridor and asked, “Why do they call you Phantom?”
He grinned. “For one, I’m pretty good at getting out of bad situations.” He pushed the door closed and secured it with the rebar.
It didn’t look quite right to Elyse, so she adjusted the metal bar so the door looked exactly the way it had when she’d encountered it. “And? What are the other reasons?”
But he just smiled and shook his head. “Some other time. Thanks for the rescue.”
Stay tuned for more news about Sunset Empire. It will soon be available as a single paperback!
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016
BIG NEWS! Sunset Empire is being published! It will be included in a new young adult box set, Secrets & Shadows! It releases on November 30.
The box set contains paranormal, urban, science fiction, and fantasy novels from ten amazing authors. Check out the cover. Isn’t it gorgeous?
Here’s the description and the author line up for the set:
Packed with fairies, witches, shifters, ghosts, space soldiers, deadly magic, gritty dystopian worlds, complicated relationships, and the ultimate swoon worthy love interests, follow ten badass heroines with remarkable powers and gifts as they face extraordinary challenges and decisions with potentially deadly consequences. They will stop at nothing to protect everyone and everything they love. They are fierce!
With over a million words and more than 700 combined four and five star reviews, this is your ultimate young adult collection of mesmerizing paranormal, action-packed urban fantasy, enthralling time travel, gripping dystopian and captivating space operas from 10 Award-Winning, New York Times, USA Today, and International Bestselling authors!
USA Today Bestselling Author DelSheree Gladden
USA Today Bestselling Author Angela Fristoe
International Bestselling Author Rhonda Sermon
NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Susan Stec
NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Laxmi Hariharan
International Bestselling Author Kelly St. Clare
Award-Winning Author Kristin D. Van Risseghem
International Bestselling Author Sophie Davis
International Bestselling Author Siobhan Davis
Award-Winning Author Melissa Eskue Ousley
The boxset is now available for pre-order, on SALE for only 99 cents, which is a crazy low price for ten books.
Pre-order here: http://amzn.to/2fuiyZs
Sunset Empire will be released at a later date as a paperback. Here’s the cover, designed by the incredibly talented DelSheree Gladden (who is one of the authors in the box set).
I’m so excited to share this with you all! Stay tuned for opportunities to get an advance reader copy of Sunset Empire for read and review.
Also, if you’ve not yet read The Sower Comes, the third book in the Solas Beir Trilogy, now’s your chance. There’s a new giveaway on Goodreads. It ends November 16.
Thanks for reading!
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016
Synchronicity is the idea that there are meaningful patterns of coincidences that occur in life. Some people see coincidence as a purely psychological phenomenon with no deeper meaning. When your attention has been drawn to something, you start noticing it more often. Say you were interested in buying a yellow car. You might not ordinarily notice yellow cars, but once you were in the market for one, you’d begin seeing them everywhere.
You could say the same for signs and symbols—we encounter random stimuli and generate meaning from that. Except, sometimes what we encounter does not seem so random. Sometimes it seems like a message meant just for us from a higher power in the universe. When I’ve encountered synchronicities, there’s often a sense of déjà vu, like I’ve stepped into the Twilight Zone. Here are some examples to illustrate what I mean.
I recently wrote a young adult novel called Sunset Empire. There are a few themes in the book, among them elephants, Thailand, and a creature from Scandinavian folklore called the huldra. I don’t yet know what will happen with this book—when it will be published—but encountering related synchronicities has been magical.
Last October, I was headed to my local library for a meeting with my writing group. Later in the month I would be presenting at the library on some of the mythical creatures featured in Sunset Empire. As I pulled up to the curb to park, a car passed me. The vehicle had a vanity plate that read huldra. While I live in an area with a significant Scandinavian influence, the word is still fairly obscure to most people, so it was surprising to see the license plate. What’s more, the odds of me arriving at that spot and looking up at that exact moment to see the passing car were slim. Had I pulled up to the curb a moment earlier or a moment later, I would have missed seeing it entirely. The experience felt like a nudge from the universe, one that made me smile.
One of the gifts I received for Christmas was a beautiful bracelet with a dragonfly motif from Thailand. Elyse Pthan, the main character in my book, is Thai-American, a tribute to my sister-in-law and her family. I’m fairly certain the giver of the bracelet was unaware of my connection to Thailand, which makes the bracelet even more special to me. Dragonflies are symbolic of change, and I hope 2016 will be a big year for forward movement with this book and my writing career. We shall see.
Then there are the elephants. Elyse wears a necklace with a small gold elephant. It’s amazing how many elephants are out there once you start looking. I see them everywhere now—on clothing, on a throw pillow in a magazine, and even on the beach. The tides on the Oregon coast have been higher than usual over the past month because of winter storms, and this has washed up all manner of debris. While beach combing with my family this December, we found bits of plastic with Japanese writing and a wooden board from vessel with a home port in the Bahamas. We also found a toy elephant with its trunk raised high, a symbol of good fortune. It’s a tiny plastic toy, less than two inches long. What are the odds we would find this on a beach that stretches for miles? What are the chances this little grey elephant, which would easily blend in among mounds of driftwood and kelp, would catch our eye? Perhaps this find was a coincidence. Maybe it means nothing. Or maybe it’s another one of those nudges from the universe, a sign I shouldn’t give up, that I should keep searching for a publishing home for this story. I hope so. I want to believe something good is headed my way.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015