Friday, May 12, 2017

Pitcher Plant by Melissa Eskue Ousley Blitz and Giveaway

When Tawny Ellis spots a run-down fixer-upper on the Oregon coast, she and her husband jump at the chance to own a cottage near the beach. But as the expensive repairs turn their dream home into a nightmare, their marriage unravels. And worse… something is lurking in the house’s dark past.
Tawny’s daughter has a new imaginary friend that bears a striking resemblance to a little girl who squatted in the house with her drug-addicted mother. These illegal tenants have been missing for years.
The house’s previous owner is enraged with Tawny, the same way he was with the squatters. As he stalks her family, Tawny suspects that she knows what happened to the last people who slept in the house. Her family might be next.

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Guest Post: The Inspiration for Pitcher Plant
Melissa Eskue Ousley

A friend and I were recently talking about writing and she asked me how I came up with the idea for Pitcher Plant, my new suspense novel set on the Oregon coast. Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint the origins of ideas for novels, but I remember the exact moment I decided to write this book.
My husband and I were house hunting and had decided to look at a potential contender. It was a weathered gray fixer-upper, not far from the beach in the town of Seaside. The old house was gorgeous—or it could have been, given some major renovations. There was charming paneling on the walls and a beautiful, curving staircase. The house had the potential to be a lovely beach cottage, but unfortunately, the repairs that would be needed were too extensive for our meager budget. 
I felt like the house had a history though, both because of the architectural details and because the previous owners had left some belongings behind: a baby’s car seat, an umbrella stroller, a rolled-up rug. Who had lived there before? What had happened to them?
When we walked into the kitchen, the first thing I saw was a dead rat in the sink. It had been there a while. I could see its bones. That’s when I made a decision: the house had a story and I wanted to tell it. 
Pitcher Plant is in no way autobiographical, but I did use the house we toured as a starting point for the story, visualizing the floorplan as I wrote. I changed the location in the novel to protect the privacy of the current owners, but some details I kept the same. The basement, for example, was just as dark, dusty, and creepy as I describe.
I don’t think the house was haunted, but it was big and vacant and draped in cobwebs, and that made it easy to imagine a ghostly resident. I love a good ghost story. I was raised on a steady diet of Stephen King novels and family tales of the supernatural. 
My grandmother told me she once lived in a haunted house. Her ghost, though spooky, was friendly. She slammed doors from time to time, but she also fixed a broken washing machine and sewed a button on a dress. She even had a name. My grandma dubbed the ghost Ella, not knowing why, only to find out that an elderly woman with the same name had passed away in the house some time before. My dad, who had been a young boy at the time, corroborated the story. Is it a true story? I don’t know, but to hear them tell it, they believe it.
I’ve experienced a few odd things myself over the years, working alone in an old building at a university, and seeing humanoid shapes out of the corner of my eye. Coworkers had similar experiences of working alone at night and seeing shadows, hearing phantom footsteps or the sound of knocking on doors, and having copy machines malfunction way more than they should. 
Pitcher Plant is a ghost story, but there’s also a psychological element. How do you explain the unexplainable? How do you know what you’re experiencing is real? What if there is no ghost, and it’s all in your head? In addition to the paranormal, I wanted to introduce a psychological twist so readers will experience the main character’s search for the truth in a race to stop a killer. I hope you enjoy the read.

In the middle of the night, I woke to the sound of someone singing. After Mark’s rough day, I didn’t dare disturb him. I got up and quietly pulled the door shut behind me as I left our bedroom. Sara’s bedside lamp was on. I went in her room to find her sitting on the floor next to her doll, singing and coloring. “Sara, honey? What’re you doing?”

She looked up at me. “Playing with Tara.” 

I didn’t realize she’d named her doll. “Well, it’s two in the morning. You and Tara need to go back to bed.” I felt grumpy about having to leave the warmth of my bed to tell her that, but I tried to temper my annoyance. “There’s school tomorrow, sweetie.”

She nodded, and started picking up her crayons. I knelt down to help her. The drawing was of her and another little girl, holding hands. The girl had hair in braids. “Aw, were you drawing a picture of you and Sophie?”

Sara shook her head. “No. That’s Tara. She comes to play with me at night.”

A chill ran down my spine, though I wasn’t sure why—not right then. I tucked my daughter and her doll back in bed, and gave Sara a kiss on her forehead.

I moved to turn off the lamp when Sara whispered, “Tara wants a goodnight kiss too.” I smiled and kissed the doll’s forehead. Then Sara said, “No, not the doll, Mom. Tara.”

I stared at her, puzzled. It occurred to me Tara might be the name of an imaginary friend. It wouldn’t be the first time Sara had one. “Okay…where’s Tara?”

“Don’t be silly, Mom. She’s right here.” Sara patted the place next to her—there was a slight indentation on the pillow next to her head. “Can’t you see her?”

I shook my head. “I’m sorry, honey. I can’t.” Sara’s brow furrowed in disappointment, so I added, “How ‘bout I blow her a kiss? Think that would be okay?”

Sara smiled, nodding. I puckered up, kissed my own hand, and blew it at the spot next to my daughter. Then I turned off the light. “Sweet dreams.”

“Sweet dreams, Mama,” Sara said. I couldn’t see her in the dark, but the blankets rustled as she burrowed into them.

It wasn’t until I was back in my own bed that I remembered the photo we’d found before we moved in. The little girl who’d lived here before—Tara.

Melissa Eskue Ousley is the award-winning author of The Solas Beir Trilogy, a young adult fantasy series. Her first book, Sign of the Throne, won a 2014 Eric Hoffer Book Award and a 2014 Readers' Favorite International Book Award. Her third book, The Sower Comes, won a 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award. Her fourth book, Sunset Empire was released as a single book and is also included in the bestselling Secrets and Shadows box set, a young adult collection. Melissa lives on the Oregon coast with her family, a neurotic dog, and a piranha. When she’s not writing, she can be found walking along the beach, poking dead things with a stick.

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Blitz-wide giveaway (INTL)