Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Dystopian Fans Speak Out!

by Maggie Toussaint
w/a Rigel Carson

Some excellent dystopian reads!
Dystopian books take us to different worlds where people behave badly under pressure. The stuff they need is unavailable or costs too much. Disasters hit in waves. People needlessly die, while others are on huge power trips. Hope seems a faint glimmer, but somehow people keep putting one foot in front of the other, proving the resilience of the human spirit.

Wait a minute. That sounds like today. Dystopia is supposed to be fictional. According to the Oxford Dictionary, dystopia is: "an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one."

I read and write dystopian fiction, but I struggled to articulate what draws me to these books. I love a good story, and when I get drawn into a story world, I don’t want to leave. I love books where the underdog beats the odds and emerges victorious. And I always like books where the good guy wins.

Even so, my rationale seemed thin, so I asked the good folks over at Band of Dystopian Authors and Fans why they read dystopian fiction. Here’s what 21 readers of dystopian fiction had to say.

#1. I'm fascinated with the idea of society hitting "rock bottom" and starting over again with a level playing field, kind of. In this type of disaster, "ordinary" people can become heroes, and you get to see the true colors of the people you thought you knew. Disaster, loss, upheaval: these things push you to the edge, and that's when you get to find out if you'll fall or fly.
#2. It no longer matters that you were thousands in debt, or never got that sports car you wanted, or never got to fly to Fiji or lose 50 pounds. You see what's truly important in life without all the bells and whistles and "wants" clogging your mind space. What's important? Love, friendship, family, strength, partnerships, community. . . And when you don't know if you'll be alive the next day, you take none of these things for granted. -- CR

I'm an introvert as well & I like reading about the will to survive and the struggles to do so without losing your humanity. -- KR

I agree with CR 100%. I also think it’s one of the best genres for showcasing an author's imagination and creativity. -- MP

I like that once it's all gone, we are all left to the basics and it doesn't matter what you did, it matters what you do next. It's easy to see that in a catastrophic situation, but reading it somehow gives me the courage to try it now. So what if I'm shy and lazy, I am going to go do something and talk to people, after I finish this last chapter, of course!! If we all acted the way some of the characters do about freedoms and insecurities the world would be a better place for everyone!! -- KSC

What CR said and because it strips people to who they really are in crisis. Good or bad. Strong or weak. Hopeful or taking the easy way out. It makes me think about who I would be in a world without rules and all about survival. -- BB

I'm getting a sense of empowerment and of a fresh start/equality from the responses. I agree with those. I really like the idea that an everyman (or everywoman!) can triumph and rise above humble beginnings. Reading dystopian fiction empowers our personal wish fulfillment in a role model sort of way. -- MT

It is a level playing field that we don't have now. Everyone's goal is survival. Whether that means by hurting others or working with others it's still the same goal. -- BB

I'm not an introvert by any means. I'm not necessarily proud of that fact. But, that's me. I love Dystopian stories because they remind me of what could happen if we're not careful. They make me open my eyes, and look where we're going. In my writing, my worlds are not post-apocalypse, or post-any disaster. They are just a representation of what could happen organically if we keep going. And, because I don't take it from an aftermath standpoint, I think it is even more scary because my people don't know what hit them. -- TH

Dystopian novels usually have the quality I like in other genres. There is usually suspense, mystery, conflict and twists and turns. Also it's that what if question. I could get really analytical and say it has to do with the meaning of life etc. They usually pose questions. If I go back to Anthem there is the recurring question we see in a lot of books: the I vs the we. --KSH

I enjoy Dystopian fiction as well. For me, it has to do with exploring great loss and finding characters who grow and blossom in the harshest of conditions. I think it's because we are always looking for the light at the end of the tunnel even in the darkest of times. -- CAH

I think it is because we are trying to figure stuff out. So it is a learning process. We aren't experiencing those worlds in many ways in our daily life, but what if we were suddenly thrust into this? Would having read these stories accustomed us to the thought of living in this scenario? And also I think it is because on some level, we believe that the world we know could become a very real dystopia. -- DAL

I think it's an escape. Our society is really not all that different from a lot of dystopian books I read, I think it's just disguised a little better. -- LHR

I like the idea of starting over. While it seems hopeless and life will never be as it was, you build a new existence from nothing. -- RB

Honestly, it is the perfect escape. Reading or Writing I can escape to world that would truly show who I am. I like the idea of everyone being equal and having to start all over again, with the way the world is now would it be a bad thing! -- IS

It reflects a deep seated belief that we are controlled by evil states (meaning governments) who do not have our best interests at heart. Just like the alien interest in the '50s when we were afraid of communists. -- JH

I wrote an article about why we are so fascinated by dystopian literature and film. Some of the experts believe it is because we LIVE in a dystopian society, and it is how we find control over, and have hope, in our current situation. Love everyone's responses here! -- LLW

I have not figured it out either. I am 53 and just in the last few years discovered this type of book. I used to read Danielle Steel type book lol. -- SA

1. In dystopia there is hope. Oxymoronic? But true.

2. Dystopia is about an individual taking on the system and challenging it and sometimes dying trying to change it. Something I wish I could do in real life - but I can definitely do it through my books.

3. Because dystopia is already around me in many different ways and when I peek into the future I can just see it all accelerating towards a strange THE END which in many ways is already here and then I wonder what's after that? Because that's when the real story begins. --LH

I'm often fascinated though, when I tell people I write dystopian fiction, people assume I write YA. I don't, my protagonist is a female paramedic in her 30s and the content/themes etc. are very adult. There's no way I would give my book to someone under 20 to read. I've often wondered why this is the case, why dystopia is very often relegated to "YA". Is it simply because people aren't writing adult dystopia, or they're not sellable? -- KM

I like the world building, the possibilities (without being pure fantasy), the escapist quality, and the type of atmosphere I get from them (if that makes sense). I wrote an essay on it recently, and one of the features I actually love, is that being in a sort of "end of the world as we know it" situation gives the characters motivation for discovering what truly matters to them. -- EK

A dystopian world can be a great equalizer. You don't care where someone is from or what they look like as long as they can help you stay alive. Survival skills are worth more than all the money the once-wealthy possessed and oh yeah, no more bills to pay. -- TC

I also write and read dystopian. To me, the only difference between dystopian realities and our current reality is that in a dystopian world, the screwed up things that happen and that people do to each other are a lot more blunt and blatant. In our current reality, everything is sandwiched between fluffy deception, i.e., very strict policies on physical abuse, we'll remove the child immediately if we see an unexplained bruise. But you can emotionally twist and torment your children all you want with zero interference. But rape is wrong too. We pick the "big and obvious" battles to crusade against while allowing the less in-your-face injustices which can be just as detrimental run amuck. –KF

If you’d like to know more about this topic, I highly recommend a well-researched dystopian article written by Lindsay Winsemius, "The psychology behind why we love dystopian books." http://www.lindseywinsemius.com/blog/7-reasons-we-love-dystopian-books


View all my books at http://maggietoussaint.com/books/

Maggie Toussaint - mystery and suspense at MaggieToussaint.com
Rigel Carson - dystopian fiction at RigelCarson.com

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Book Review: Rising Mist by Karla Brandenburg

The Keeper of Secrets isn’t a job Max Maitland had on his bucket list. It came to him via heredity, and it’s the saving grace for his sister and her friend who have unusual talents. While the three of them are hunting down a demon that killed at least one person, Max is trying to balance his new social work career and a budding relationship.

The special someone doesn’t want any entanglements. Robin Chandler’s street smart, independent, and still smarting from her ex-fiancĂ©’s betrayal with her ex-best friend. Art is Robin’s salvation and her vocation, and she makes good money at it. Getting tangled up with Max is completely out of the question.

But she does. Get tangled up with him. In Chicago and Sedona, and it gets pretty hot. And there are bad guys and Max’s family pushing them together – and pulling them apart.

This is the third in Brandenburg’s Kundigerin series. The paranormal elements are well-presented and interesting, the romance enjoyable. Max has such a kind heart, always giving of himself, that he won my heart from the get-go.

Maggie Toussaint and Rigel Carson for Muddy Rose Reviews

Book Review: Weeping Women Springs by Tamara Eaton

When you hide your light under a bushel basket, your light doesn’t shine. That truism has been handed down for untold generations, but the people who live near a secret spring don’t pay it any heed.

The story opens with a fully peopled, quaint small town. WWII arrives, and the men and boys of the town enlist. As tragedy befalls them, the women close ranks to survive. In doing so, their grief pollutes the restorative effect of the magical spring hidden in the town. Some of the women leave town too.

With each loss, the remnants grow more isolated, struggle harder to survive. This book is the story of Liv, Maxine, Ruth, Susie, and Anna. You’ll never think the same way about death again.

Maggie Toussaint and Rigel Carson for Muddy Rose Reviews

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Book Review: Deadly Places by Terry Odell

I was so pleased that Detective Ed Solomon got a story of his own. He’s been in the other Odell stories about Mapleton, Colorado, but finally he’s out from under Sheriff Gordon Hepler’s shadow.

With the sheriff on leave, Acting Chief Ed Solomon is running the show in Mapleton. Though the longer hours and increased responsibilities take their toll, Ed is increasingly drawn to case he’s been working on for a long time, the Deadbeat Dad Case. Another deadbeat dad is found dead nearby, and Ed believes the death is linked a popular social media outlet.

All too soon, the message becomes clear to Ed. If he’s going to catch this wily serial killer, he has to be all in.

Deadly Places is a solid police procedural in novella length written by a skilled author. I very much enjoyed returning to Mapleton. It felt like Old Home Week.

I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Maggie Toussaint and Rigel Carson for Muddy Rose Reviews

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Book Review: Tough Choices by Terry Ambrose

A novella with new characters set in Terry Ambrose’s Hawaii is a delightful way to pass an afternoon.

Marty Fitch hits Honolulu hoping to start over after his ex takes him to the cleaners. With his inventions career on hiatus, he launches a new “tell-all” video blog. Only, the Honolulu PD is angry when his live blog feed spoils a drug bust they’re working. Off Marty goes to jail, but his cousin gets him out.

Jail time was just the thing to ignite Marty’s imagination. He found a new story to follow, a new tale to spin for his blog listeners.

Marty is an everyman protagonist. He wants a second chance, and I found myself rooting for him to get it right as his story unfolded.

A fun ride in a great escapist setting will help you get your island time vibe going.

I reviewed a free advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Maggie Toussaint and Rigel Carson for Muddy Rose Reviews

Book Review: Defects by Sarah Noffke

In the dystopian world of Reverians, the Middlings serve the Dream Travelers. Teenaged Em’s Dream Traveler talent hasn’t manifested as it should. At her father’s urging, she takes injections to augment her special gift. As months go by and she isn’t “cured,” Em feels like a broken, unproductive member of society. The tension and disapproval are even strong within her family.

Life is only tolerable for Em because of her friends.

But things aren’t as they seem for the Reverians. Em takes chances to learn the truth, and as each layer of societal lie is peeled away, terrible truths are revealed about people she’s known, loved, and trusted her entire life.

How far will a society go to rid itself of Defects?

I’m a Sarah Noffke fan. Her YA books grab me and won’t let go. I’ve now read works in her Reverian and Luccidite series and highly recommend them both.

Maggie Toussaint and Rigel Carson for Muddy Rose Reviews

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Killer Nashville, shiny and bright

I always have to catch my breath after a conference, and this one is no exception. As a card-carrying introvert, being social for extended lengths of time totally zaps me. It's like I end up drawing energy from the days ahead while I'm there because I want to see and do so much.

From the moment I arrived at Killer Nashville 2015, I felt like I'd come home again. The group at registration are so sweet to let me hang out with them on Friday morning. They do all the hard work of fielding questions and being there for the entire conference. And they're all volunteers!

The hostess with the mostest: Jaden (Beth) Terrell
Conference manager Jaden  (Beth) Terrell has her fingers on the pulse of the conference at all times. Just about anytime on the conference Friday, there's a line of people waiting to talk to her about something important.

View on Amazon
The Killer Nashville Anthology got a lot of buzz at the conference. I am proud to have had a story in the collection. The book hit the Top 100 list on Kindle for Anthologies on the second day of it's release. Proceeds from this book benefit new and/or struggling writers. "High Noon at Dollar Central," the prelude to my ongoing Dreamwalker series, is in Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded. Check out the anthology at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

I barely had time to say hello to my pals Paula Benson and Debra Goldstein, but someone did snap a pic or two of us with the anthology. I had some face time with C Hope Clark, another SEMWA board member, which was nice.

This year I found myself on three panels, two for the conference and one for the new BookCon. We had good attendance at all the panels and lots of questions about our topics of mysteries and genres.

Booklover's Bench founder, Terry Odell, posed for a quick pic with me
Thursday evening, Terry Odell and I hit "movie night" at the conference, with a short from John Gilstrap's high school days. The clip was funny, but the best part was running into friends there, both new and old. So nice to see Clay Stafford and Jacquie, Stacy and Ron Allen, and to meet some of the Atlanta SINC crew.

From left, Rae James, Terry Odell, Maggie, and Jenna Bennett
Friday, I was in session 4, "What's Your Genre?" ably moderated by Rae James, with co-panelists Jenna Bennett and Terry Odell.

Deni Dietz of Five Star and Maggie take a selfie
After a SEMWA board meeting at lunch, I filled in the afternoon giving critiques, and then capped off the day with editor Deni Dietz. A good time was had by all!

From left, Diane Kelly, Maggie, Jenna Bennett
Saturday, my first panel was session 35, "Secrets to Successful Series," led by Diane Kelly and with co-panelist Jenna Bennett.

Right after that, I headed over to the BookCon, where Jaden Terrell posed questions to  Jenna Bennett, Phyllis Goebell, and me on the topic of "Cozy Mysteries and Writing Across Genres."

Saturday afternoon I facilitated for Clay Stafford's interview of John Gilstrap.

The Southeast Mystery Writers of America reception preceded the banquet, and we had a great turnout for the SEMWA reception. The banquet was amazing, as always, with great food and live music. Next came speakers and award announcements. This year I was honored to announce the Silver Falchion Award for Best Mystery, which I won last year. And the winner was: Hunting Shadows, Charles Todd.

The conference continued for another day, but I was homeward bound. Lots of hugs and see you next year's came as I was leaving. I totally love coming to this conference and seeing my mystery writing friends.

Oddly, people kept approaching me to meet me, as if I was a big celebrity or something. I didn't know what to make of that and felt like Candid Camera might pop out from behind a column to reveal the prank. Whatever. I can pull off being a celebrity for a few days, if that's what's needed. But man oh man, am I glad to be home and comfy cozy.

View on Amazon
And in a marketing aside, Kindle Press has my mystery set in the future on sale for the entire month of November. If you like my writing but weren't too sure about the whole science fiction thing, I guarantee you, all the bad guys in G-1 are people! Check it out: G-1 on Kindle

Maggie Toussaint
aka Rigel Carson

My Series
Mossy Bog Series (romantic suspense)
Cleopatra Jones series (cozy mystery)
Dreamwalker series (paranormal mystery)
Guardian of Earth series (dystopian thriller)