Monday, December 26, 2011

Santa of the Waters

© Margaret Toussaint 2011


A night before Christmas, I sank in my bed,
Too tired to sleep, and plum full of dread.
Our stockings were borrowed, our tree from the yard,
Presents we had none, times were too hard.

The kids knew the story, but still they believed
A miracle or two, an angel they conceived,
Would brighten their morning with gifts galore
But we had each other, though I wished it was more.

When a ruckus arose, a dozen dogs barking,
Had someone mistaken my lawn for free parking?
I tromped to the window full ready to blow
Gun by the bed, and bat by the do’.

The moon on high water, it sparkled and glistened,
Casting the marsh into high definition.
My eyes were a-blinking, the sight was so odd
Was that a Ryals, a Thomas, a Todd?

 A strange-looking trawler, a jolly round man,
With eight nimble helpers, all with deep tans.
I opened the door, my stomach full churning,
“Bubba, go home, you’ve made a wrong turning.”

My plea was ignored, an anchor plunked down,
Troubled, I grabbed my bat, and I frowned.
“No need for that stick,” said the old tar.
“We heard of your plight, we’ve come from afar.”

The voice was familiar, but who could he be,
An uncle, a cousin, a grand pappy?
Dressed in white boots, red cap and blue jeans,
He looked like a worker, not sparkly and clean.

His helpers they scurried and ran in my house.
“My kids!” I yelped, then felt like a louse,
For under the tree were presents a-plenty,
The stockings were plumped and smelling all minty.

I turned and saw clearly the man I’d called “Bubba”
Who glowed with good cheer. I lost it and blubbered,
“Thank you so much, my kids and I bless you.”
“We’re ever so grateful for all that you do.”

A smile creased his face, he nodded his head.
His helpers they beamed and turned quite red.
A laugh filled the air, one deep from the belly
Good cheer rolled along, a fish full of jelly.

“Your kids believed and that was enough,
To fill our ship with all this good stuff.”
I nodded and babbled, despite my intention
To hold it together, I just have to mention.

I’d heard of this gifter, he was no imposter,
This angler of note, this Santa of the Waters.
Master of shrimp and crab and fishes,
Best friend to children and their dear wishes.

He called to his helpers in a rich baritone,
Their names so familiar, a rosetta stone:
Come Mack and Howell, come Saul and Peter
On Henry and Darwin, on Billy and Hunter.

Snapping their fingers in Vic Waters style,
The tar and his buds, they danced a sea mile.
Diesels they rumbled, the nets how they swayed,
As they departed, they gave serenade.

“McIntosh County, a jewel so splendid,
A people so nice, highlander descended.
Your rivers are pure, your hearts are true,
Merry Christmas to y’all, a hearty wahoo.”

Maggie "Margaret" Toussaint
(as seen in the Dec. 22, 2011 issue of The Darien News)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

PW review is a mag Christmas gift

fab new cover quote from
Publisher's Weekly
I kept wondering what I would get myself for Christmas this year. I'm oh-so-tempted to buy a little here and there as I'm working down my Christmas list, but this year I'd held back. Then  Publisher's Weekly surprised me with a great review.

I was anxious about this book, my first mystery not in my popular Cleopatra Jones series. Would the reviewers like it as much as my other titles? Would it tank, and there'd never be another Maggie Toussaint cozy sold? So many things go through your head when you send a book out into the world, almost like putting your child on the school bus for the first time.

Anyway, if my "gift" of a review for Death, Island Style from Publisher's Weekly is a portent of things to come, I think I can relax and let go.

My publisher was so pleased with the review that the cover was changed to incorporate the new PW quote" "exciting whodunit."

Here's their entire review:

Widow MaryBeth Cashour, a former Maryland resident, makes a fresh start on the tiny coastal island of Sandy Shores, Ga., after the mysterious drowning death of her husband and her mother’s death from cancer in this exciting whodunit from Toussaint (In for a Penny). Running a souvenir and gift shop gives MaryBeth purpose, income, and a good reason to tackle crafting and shelling. When she discovers a dead body bobbing along the seashore, the police are suspicious of a newcomer with so much death in her recent past. When the corpse is linked to MaryBeth’s former life, the heat really turns up. Fortunately, there’s also heat from a handsome pharmacist in a neighboring storefront. MaryBeth realizes that if she’s ever going to drop off the police radar, she’ll have to figure out some things for herself.

gingerbread cookies
are a family favorite
I haven't figured out how to wrap this one up and put it under my tree, so I'm glad to have the Mudpies blog to showcase this wonderful gift. My publisher notified me that Death, Island Style would also release in large print, so that's two gifts in one!

To read the first Chapter of Death, Island Style, visit the Bookshelf page of my site,

Death, Island Style by Maggie Toussaint.
Five Star, $25.95 (262p) ISBN 978-1-4328-2566-9
Available March 9, 2012 from all online and bricks and mortar vendors
Wishing everyone the merriest Christmas ever!
Maggie Toussaint
A bit of holiday cheer
on my door

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Puzzle People

You've seen them. They sit there for hours on end, fingering the edge of a piece of cardboard and oblivious to the world around them. Or perhaps they're sitting in a busy airport, pen in hand and inking letters into a black and white grid.

Puzzle people. They're a unique breed of determined, methodical individuals who know that sticking with something all the way to the end nets a grand reward. Oftentimes, jigsaw puzzlers start with the easy part, assembling the framework, then they work inward either by shape or color recognition or image alignment. Be forewarned though, looking at the box may be considered cheating by some serious puzzlers.

DIDJA KNOW: Jigsaw puzzles of the same size and series from the same manufacturer often have identical cuts and piece shapes.

In today's high tech world, assembling a jigsaw puzzle (or a crossword puzzle or a Suduko) may seem archaic and unimportant, but the activity has diehard enthusiasts and now the medical community is onboard singing the praises of puzzles.

DIDJA KNOW: Working on a puzzle stimulates your brain. Some say it may even ward off Alzheimer's, a memory impairing disease.

I'm one of them. A puzzler, I mean, though I probably have my share of memory issues. There's nothing I like better than seeing how something fits together. I've never been much of a take-aparter, but I dearly love putting together a puzzle. I couldn't imagine starting my day without a Sudoku number puzzle. I usually tackle the crossword puzzle for lunch. In the evenings, I engage my brain with whodunits in books or on TV.

At a mystery conference I once roomed with a woman who loved doing Sudoko puzzles on a handheld device, and she was always trying to best her former times. That's serious puzzling.

With aging relatives, I've been in and out of nursing homes over the last three years. I can recognize a puzzle person on sight. And the cool thing is, they recognize me right back. No introductions are necessary. You just slip into a chair and pick up a puzzle piece and you share in a wonderful fellowship.

If only everything in life were so easy!

Maggie Toussaint
Death, Island Style coming in February

PS ARE YOU A PUZZLER? Be sure and leave a comment about the kind of puzzles you enjoy or tell me if your relatives enjoy puzzles. I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Droopy Drawers is a hot topic

no droopy drawers here!
I heard the term "droopy drawers news" over the weekend, and it sparked a fun memory. Way back when, probably in the stone ages, I knew someone who called another person "Annabel Droopy Drawers." (For those not from the south, "Drawers" is the refined expression for the modest underpants of my childhood and earlier.)

a droopy drawers face
 I always thought the expression meant that Ann didn't have enough padding to fill out her drawers, but now I have reason to doubt that as the sole interpretation. In the context of "droopy drawers" news, I believe the term is also used to indicate sadness. (And in hindsight, this gal didn't always have a sunny outlook.)

Certainly if I had droopy drawers, I'd be sad. Nothing worse than elastic failure, but I suppose in this day and age of ladies wearing slacks most of the time, having your underpants fall off isn't so much to be feared. However droopy drawers under slacks would certainly be an annoyance and that would make me sad and maybe a bit crazy. (Trust me, I won't even allow a tag under my clothes. This sort of undergarment irritant would make me as neurotic as TV detective Monk.)

this is a good way to get
droopy drawers
The Urban Dictionary cites these definitions of droopy drawers. 1) a woman with excessively limp buttocks; 2) a person who has a load of sand and other oceanic debris in their drawers; and 3) pulling someone else's pants down to cause embarassment. (wow - I thought this last one used to be called pantsing. Shows how out of touch I am!)

We've all seen these droopy drawers
Imagine my surprise to find there are droopy drawers laws in Florida and even my home state of Georgia that relate to anti-sagging. Fortunately for senior citizens, this isn't a law against aging, but a protest over those lowslung pants that mostly teenage boys wear. BTW, how do they keep those pants up? I worry that placing a cell phone in my pants pocket will make them too heavy to stay up, and my pants are firmly in place. I would hate to have really low pants like that and sneeze. Yikes!

According to a Wikipedia entry, sagging pants as a wardrobe choice is believed to have originated from the prison system, where prisoners weren't allowed to have belts for fear they'd hurt themselves or others. Once hip hop artists popularized the fad, it has since become a statement of independence and freedom. Who'd a thunk?

My suggestion to fight droopy drawers moods?
Get out and get going.
The dog and fella are kinda nice too
I think the term "droopy drawers" is an older experession, hailing from my parent's generation or earlier. I found a list of nearly 2,000 cliches online assembled by Steve Lautenschlager, and the word "droopy" was not found in the entire list. I guess there isn't a category for a walking cliche.

Hopefully, all of us are gearing up for family and fellowship with the advent of the holidays, so put away your "droopy drawers" faces and start getting into the holiday spirit!

Maggie Toussaint

ps - do you have a cliche you overuse? do you say things like an apple a day keeps the doctor away, the early bird gets the worm, or the pot calling the kettle black? I'd love to hear your take on cliches today.

Monday, November 28, 2011

From Gobbles to Gifts - Advent is here

We have many unbreakables on our tree.
This practice is a holdover from having toddlers
 and pets climbing our tree.
Every year, the first time I hear Christmas music in stores catches me by surprise. "Already?" I think to myself. But Christmas is big business, so of course they play it up.

We've barely got Thanksgiving boxed up, and we're inundated with sales fliers. Deals abound everywhere. Need sweaters, boots, or a party outfit? How about stuff for hunting or boating?One of the three dozen or so sales inserts from the Saturday paper will direct you to a bargain.

Anything you can't find locally is just a click away on the internet. Easy, right? Only if you're made of money. Most of us are pinching pennies, trying to stretch what we have to make it last.

Usually I start hyperventilating about now. There are Christmas cards to find and address. Letters to write. Cookies to bake. Trees to decorate. Christmas sweaters tucked away in my closet-where'd I put those things? Invitations to consider. Visits to schedule. And of course, gifts to buy.

Angels are a special favorite of mine.
I don't know what this says about me, but my gift-giving list shrinks each year. I buy for my family, of course, for my choir, and my best friends. One of my favorite events of the season is our First Coast Romance Writers holiday party where we have a blind ornament exchange.

The name for the swap is politically incorrect, but basically, when its your turn you select a wrapped package or "steal" from someone else. Once an item is stolen three times, its frozen and that person gets to take it home. Some years the hot item is a sparkly Cinderella stilleto, other years it's an angel or a purse. The catch is that the gift can't cost more than five dollars. I'm just bursting with the need to tell someone what my gift is, but I don't want to spoil the surprise. All I'll say is that he started life as a key chain fob. Now he's being repurposed as the stuff of our dreams.

This tree is from Christmas past.
 I haven't dragged everything down from the attic yet
 this year. Maybe in a week or so.
Let's talk decorating for a minute. Two of my neighbors are ready to go. One home has soft blue lights on a fence and multi-colored lights on the house. Another neighbor has bright red lights wrap candy cane style up the trunk of her palm trees. Lots of bows and swags on the house lights over there. I wonder if they'll adopt me or at least my yard.

Each year we discuss the pros and cons of decorating more than our tree. This year we'll put white lights on the fence because we have a daughter and her family visiting. We don't want to appear to be deadbeats.

Question: who do you decorate for? Yourself? Your family? Your community? Or do you enjoy looking at everyone else's decorations? I love riding around and seeing what others have done to their homes and yards - do you?

Happy Advent, everyone!

Maggie Toussaint
coming in 2012: Death, Island Style and Murder in the Buff

Monday, November 21, 2011

What's in your ... refrigerator?

A friend of mine is known for coming over to my house, sticking her head in my refrigerator, and asking in a high-pitched voice, "What do you eat? There's nothing here."

My refrigerator is usually fairly empty, but hers was always chock full of stuff. I didn't feel slighted by her comment, as we cook to suit here with minimal leftovers. Fresh meat comes home and goes in the freezer until we need it. Fruit and veges go quickly, so those don't linger about either.

Was she talking about all the sauces, pickles and juices? Not sure, but I have a fridge door of condiments. So, sure there's room in my refrigerator. I don't think its any big deal. Maybe its because I had daughters instead of sons - perhaps less food overall came and went over the transom.

Anyway, to get to the point of the blog, recently I came across someone who said they didn't store their syrup in the fridge, that they used the "ghetto" way of storing it on the pantry shelf. It got me to wondering how many jars of things don't say "refrigerate after opening."

Mini-quiz for the brave: are these things in your fridge or on your shelves: mustard, jelly/jam, syrup, soy sauce, worchestershire sauce, catsup, opened soda pops, pitchers of tea, pitchers of water. Feel free to add anything that you don't refrigerate on a routine basis that the rest of us might.

Inquiring minds want to know.

Maggie Toussaint

ps I'm part of the where there are new 99 cent ebooks listed daily. I'm on the menu for Wednesday. Check us out.

pss I'm also part of a charity cookbook which was recently reduced for gift-giving. Its in both electronic ($6.99) and trade paperback ($14.99) formats. Here's the link:

Friday, October 28, 2011

In High Cotton

By Maggie Toussaint

On a recent trip to the North Carolina shore, I enjoyed seeing the snowy whiteness of field upon field of ripe cotton. The plants appeared to be about knee-high, with generous mounds of fluff at the end of each stem.

I live in coastal Georgia, and history tells us that cotton used to be a big cash crop around here. To my knowledge, there’s not a single field of cotton grown in my county now, but apparently, cotton is a Big Deal in North Carolina.

These days, cotton havesting and processing at mills are done by machines.

There are many uses for cotton – clothing, medical gauze, bandages, towels, baby diapers, sheets, drapes, book covers, toys,shoes, glove liners, just to name a few.

In late fall the plants are tall, yielding the phrase High Cotton. The Urban Dictionary has three definitions for the phrase: well off in terms of happiness or wealth, having a lot of money, and coming into very good circumstances.

Fun cotton facts:

Fragments of cotton fabric dating back to 5,000 B.C. have been excavated from Mexico and Pakistan.

Wikipedia estimates 25 million tons of cotton are grown annually.

This wad of raw cotton was on the side of the road.
I think it looks a bit like a dragon or the
Loch Ness monster
China grows the most cotton.

The U.S. exports the most cotton.

During the late medieval period, Europeans believed imported cotton grew on plant-borne sheep.

About ¾ of an acre will yield 500 pounds (1 bale) of cotton.

Samples from cotton bales are tested and categorized into 14 grades of cotton based on color, fiber length, micronaire, strength, and other properties.

Harvested cotton is cleaned, combed, graded, spun, packaged, and shipped out without ever being touched by human hands.

Raw cotton and first drafts

On the left, smooth cotton from my vitamins.
To the right is my lumpy roadside cotton.
Big difference in appearance & texture.
Because I’m also wrapping up a first draft, I was struck by the similarity of a raw manuscript and fresh off the bush cotton. Both need a good bit of cleaning, combing, and grading before they’re ready for public consumption. Some cotton/manuscripts don’t make the grade. A high quality product has a special sheen and luster that is immediately apparent.
Here’s hoping we’re all in high cotton for the forseeable future. Hey, anybody seen my manuscript comb?

Maggie Toussaint
DEATH, ISLAND STYLE coming Feb 2012

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mysteries: crimes of passion, opportunity, or premeditation?

Whodunit is often-asked as readers settle into a murder mystery, but the challenge to figuring out whodunit is to first identify why the murder occurred. What reason did someone have to commit the murder?

First, let’s think about the different types of murder motivations.

A crime of passion occurs when the act happens because of a sudden strong, overwhelming impulse. Some call this temporary insanity.

A crime of opportunity happens when the perpetrator sees a chance to commit the act and seizes it. Such acts have little or no premeditation.

By contrast, premeditated murder involves wrongfully causing the death of a person through careful consideration and planning.

In summary, murders are conducted as a result of careful planning, a found opportunity, or temporary insanity. Until this post, I thought my books contained varied murder motivations, but my mode of operation has been to vary the cause or emotion (power, revenge, greed, envy, etc.) behind the premeditation.

Spoiler Alert

In my Cleopatra Jones series, the victim in book one, In For A Penny, was killed in a premeditated manner for monetary gain. In book two, On The Nickel, the victim seemed to have been killed via opportunity, but the cold-blooded killer’s revenge included framing two scapegoats.


Are murders in cozy mysteries are all premeditated? Any mysteries with crimes of opportunity or passion come to mind? Are the root motivations varied in police procedurals or other types of crime fiction? Are premeditated murders more interesting?

Be sure and leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

MORE FUN!!! Scoot on over to my friend Ryder Islington's blog where she also dishes about this same subject - here's her addy:
Maggie Toussaint
Blending romance and mystery into compelling fiction

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Confessions of a catalog shopper

Tis the catalog season
I'd like to say it's the glossy pages or the stylish clothing or the unusual stuff, but the truth is, I don't know why I love catalogs. I just do.

This time of year, the great fall migration, most of them fly right into my mailbox and take up residence. I thumb through the slick pages, imagining what I'd do with a pair of leather boots that top my knees or a gift-wrapped tower of fruit or this year's version of a denim shirt. I imagine myself looking thin, blonde, and jetting across continents in my new versatile travel wardrobe. I wonder how many bathrobes a person truly needs, then I remember I own two.

I'm drawn to the dark jewel tones of fall - the midnight blues, the burnt umbers, the hidden lakes. I ponder the strategic placement of darts and ruffles, of beading and buttons. I wonder how to get my comfy body into the tailored-looking pieces I'm drawn to. I worry about clothing looking too young or too old. I worry if people can tell I buy separates on clearance and hope they will match something, sometime, somewhere.

Pages with fleece entice me to linger. Fleece is a special weakness of mine. Gotta have it. Socks, shirts, pants, gloves, jackets, robes, scarves, coats. I love to buy it for myself and as gifts. I can't tell you how excited I was to procure my infant grandson's first fleece jacket!

Back in the days of fulltime employment, I turned to catalogs for Christmas. With a list of sizes and color favs, I knocked out my extended family list in a couple of hours, and that was before the ease of internet shopping.

When I began writing, I cut out catalog people and saved them as characters in my books. That tough looking guy in a Rolex ad? Supreme bad guy. That funky gal in cowboy boots sitting in a giant martini glass? A lost fairy godmother.

Catalogs - they're the gifts that keep on giving.

Have a favorite catalog story? Please share!

Maggie Toussaint
Catalog shopper and sometimes writer

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cool Info Bites from Writer's Police Academy

ATF agent Rick McMahan and Maggie
by Maggie Toussaint

When it comes to learning about police lore, the Writer’s Police Academy is a font of useful information. Held at a Greensboro, NC police training academy and organized by Lee Lofland, this recent event was packed with hands-on knowledge writers need to know.

Hollywood cops have more technology than you can shake a stick at, and our everyday law enforcement groups would love to have a fraction of those gadgets. From TV, we expect DNA results in minutes or hours when the reality is more like months. For a rush DNA job, it takes about a week, though new procedures and tests are in development.

Barbara Graham and handcuffing instructor Stan Lawhorne

Sound intriguing? Read on for snips of other cool stuff:

Locard’s Principle – when two objects come into contact, an exchange of material occurs.

All people shed skin cells and hair every day, about 150 hairs a day.

CSIs turn the room lights out and use those itty bitty flashlights because it helps them see better. Footprints, hairs, and other bits of trace evidence really pop under these conditions.

If a bioterrorist comes to your neighborhood, don’t opt for the white dusk mask at the hardware store, get yourself a N95 respirator mask.

One key fits all handcuffs. Enterprising crooks hide keys on or in their bodies.

CJ Lyons takes down a suspect for handcuffing,
 with Cpl Dee Jackson

Bleach cleans up bloodstains, but its use is detectable. Blood can be detected even under multiple coats of paint.

Blood spatter is dependent on on velocity, directionality, and point of origin. Unless dripped straight down, the spot more resembles an infinity symbol, with some excursions.

A sniper can shoot a one-inch square at 100 yards. As they increase distance, say 200 yards from a target¸they can hit a two inch square and so on out to 1,000 yards.

At the crime scene, from left, Dr. Denene Lofland, Dr. Katherine Ramsland, and Maggie

In 97 % of homicides, the suspect is interviewed in the first 30 days. About 61% of homicides are cleared.

Witnesses lie.

Suspects give faulty confessions.

Ego is bad for investigations.

Moisture and higher temperatures accelerate decomposition. Don’t add garden lime to that shallow grave; it’s a plant nutrient.

Our gun laws derive from social and historical events. Only the US has a gun tracing system.

SEMWA's Stacie Allen, green shirt, takes super pictures

When undercover, a cop relies on personality, attitude, and persistence to get the job done.

At the Writer’s Police Academy, I experienced the FATS, the Firearms Training Simulator. They stuck a gun in my hand and showed me how to use it. Moments later, a scenario played out on the screen before me. I learned firsthand that it takes a special person to rush headlong into danger, that suspects don’t respect cops or guns. It’s easy for your brain to freeze, or for you to get tunnel vision and ignore the rest of your environment.

Guilford Co. Sheriff's Office Ltc Randy Shepherd

I’ve barely scratched the surface of my notes, but I hope I conveyed how valuable this experience was to me. At Writer’s Police Academy, writers get firsthand information, experience a micro-window into this law enforcement world, and receive answers to their policework questions.

I highly recommend it.

Maggie Toussaint
mystery and romance author
PS don't forget - my award winning  HOUSE OF LIES is still on markdown at Kindle for 99 cents.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Favorite setting for my mysteries

by Maggie Toussaint

Since my Cleopatra Jones amateur sleuth series focuses on Cleo's family, I tend to write scenes at her home, her office, her ladies nine-hole golf league, her car, and her church. On the Nickel, the second mystery in the series, has several church scenes, but they don't have much to do with a church service. Most of the scenes involve activities that occur in a church building.

For instance, when Detective Radcliffe bars Cleo and her friend Jonette from the church parking lot crime scene, they race around to the back, to the thicket, where for years they watched the Sunday School ladies hide Easter eggs. While vying for the best vantage point, Cleo falls through the thorny bushes, landing smack dab in the middle of trouble - ending with her being led away in handcuffs.

Other church scenes involve a funeral reception, a church ladies meeting, and a bulletin-folding morning. In this book, Cleo tries to prove her mother didn't kill the church lady, her arch-rival, even though her mother's car is the murder weapon.

Cleo is Episcopalian, which is a Protestant church, just south of Catholicism and close kin to Methodists and Lutherans. Like the church, Cleo's life has seen upheaval in the last few years. Like the church, she is somewhat resistant to change, but life has a way of changing anyway, doesn't it? The conflict of new versus old, of time-honed prayers and joyful noise, of joy found and lost - those distinctly different yet eternally connected viewpoints are all rolled into a woman trying to cope in a world she can't control.

While I try to paint her into a corner with setting, character, and plot points, Cleo finds a way to cut through all the noise and triumph. She's my hero.

Want to read more? This post is a stop on a rolling blog tour. KT Wagner shares her thoughts on favorite settings at  and Kathleen Kaska expounds on the topic at while Ryder Islington talks setting at and Nancy Lauzon adds her two cents at

Have a great week!

Maggie Toussaint
Mystery and romance author

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Flying on 9-11

It was sobering to get on a plane this morning. In both the Philadelphia airport and the Atlanta airport, televisions broadcast the anniversary remembrance of those who'd lost their lives during the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. Young children intoned names; children of victims told of ten years without their loved ones. Musicians played somber music.

As I glanced at my fellow passengers, it was easy to see they were as moved as I was. Tears welled and spilled and I made no move to stop them. That day took away the innocence of so many.

On the final leg of my journey, the pilot spoke to us, reassuring us that today's flight would be routine, but his voice broke a bit too as he said, "we'll never forget."

It's true. I remember the exact moment I heard at work. We gathered in the conference room, watching, and then we were sent home for safety. At home, the TV came on again as the events replayed over and over like a nightmare onscreen.

If you'd like to share a remembrance about this day or the 2001 date, please feel free.

God bless all our heroes.

Maggie Toussaint

Monday, September 5, 2011

What's your Labor of Love?

My labor of love: books!
 by Maggie Toussaint

Today, Sept. 5 is Labor Day, a holiday celebrating the end of summer in the U.S. First celebrated on Sept.5, 1882 by the Central Labor Union in NY, it became a national holiday in 1894. Early on, this day celebrated the strength of labor unions with a parade and speeches followed by family time.

Through the years, the tradition among most Americans has changed to a day of relaxation with family and friends. The summer of 2011 has been harsh with its earthquakes, hurricanes, and heat. Frankly, I'm glad to see it go.

Art is a labor of love

Since I'm mostly self-employed, I tend to work most holidays, including today, but the topic of Labor Day caught my fancy. I stated thinking about the word "labor" and the various associations I have with it: working to pay the bills, of course; working at various chores which are a real effort; pregnancy labor; and working at something I love.

Because when you work at something you love, the hours fly by. I imagine the sense of timelessness that overcomes writers like me when we are "in the zone" is shared by other artisans and laborers. I'd love to know about your "Labor of Love."

Proceeds benefit children

Here's an example to get you started. My friend Adelle Laudan compiled a charity cookbook: Sweet Sunshine: baking sweet memories. The cookbook is meant to be shared with children as it's chock full of yummy recipes, cooking stories which feature children, and adorable childhood pictures of authors with their recollections of cooking as children. (Quick plug: available at ) The cookbook benefits the Sunshine Foundation for kids in Canada.

Please post a comment about what you love to do, about your labor of love. One lucky commentor will receive a digital copy of my Bed and Breakfast Romance - Seeing Red - which was a true labor of love - twice! Be sure and leave your addy if you want to be included in the drawing! I'll post a winner by 9 pm eastern time tonight.

Maggie Toussaint

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Impressions of Killer Nashville

Dr. Bill Bass, forensic expert
Once again Clay Stafford, Beth "Jaden" Terrell, and an army of volunteers have put on a super mystery conference. Killer Nashville has tracts for writers just learning their craft, writers who need a nudge to promote their work, fans, agent & editor appointments, and an all-star lineup of forensics experts. With Robert Dugoni, Donald Bain, and Dr. Bill Bass on the program, it was a can't-lose proposition for attendees - and it delivered!

I mix-and-matched tracts, attending a bit of everything. The experts were knowledgable, the panels interesting, and the crime scene was quite a challenge. And at every turn, there were friendly faces, writers, fans, published authors, agents, editors.

I was lucky enough to be on two panels which were well-attended. I connected with old friends and made new ones. What a delight it was to put faces to so many Guppy (a Sisters In Crime chapter) names I've been seeing on various loops!

Pacing panel: Michael Salisbury (mod), AJ Scudiere, Maggie, Lynda Fitzgerald
 This was the first year I attended the banquet and I had a very good time. Deni Dietz, my editor extraordinaire, sat at my dinner table. I also met Alana White, a newly signed Five Star writer with a book coming out Dec. 2012.

And I should back up to the Mystery Trivia contest on Thursday night. Greg and Mary Bruss did an outstanding job on making the game fun and testing our knowledge. Of the three teams, I was on the red team, same as last year. And even though my contributions were slight, our team displayed excellence on the trivia field and won the night. I'm officially two for two at Mystery Trivia.

Cozy panel: Luisa Buehler, CS Challinor, Jennie Bentley (mod), Lisa Wysocky, Maggie
 My take-home message? Do more social media connecting. Consistent networking is my new goal.

Now I'm back home, trying to keep my feet walking on sunshine for a little longer, but starting to wade through the piled up mail, dirty laundry, and other necessaries of living. But I'm already looking forward to next year!

Maggie Toussaint

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pacing - the red haired stepchild

Maggie talks about pacing

Everyone knows a song has lyrics, a melody, and a beat. Books have characters, plots, and pacing, which is the beat, or rhythm of your story. In the early days of my writing journey, I thought I knew a lot about pacing, but I had no appreciation for this fine point. Pacing is the art of how you string the words together that makes the story speed up or slow down.

To harken back to the music world, a music CD has an upbeat song track, then a song with a slower tempo. Or if you're more familiar with the world of dance, a fast dance and then a slow dance. That choreography is repeated throughout the album/CD.

Ancient City Writers working on pacing

This past Saturday, I spoke at the Ancient City Writers chapter of the Florida Writers Association in St. Augustine. I used examples of good pacing from top authors, broke their technique down into usable information nuggets, and also gave instruction on how to fix the pacing in your own story.
More writers working on pacing

After that, we had fun! I like the hands-on aspect of instruction, so here's what we did. Two names were solicitied from the about 35 attendees - Amy and Max. I asked for random professions and this is what came forward: nurse, phone technician, artist, and burglar. For character traits, the group came up with this list: aggressive, shy, twitchy eye, pushing glasses up the nose, and stutterer. The setting was a PTA Open House. The room broke into small groups and worked cooperatively for about ten minutes.
Lunch at Kingfish Grill with Dianne Ell,
Judy Weber, and Nancy Quatrano;
Jack's reflection is in the glass 

We had fabulous results. Lots of blended narrative and dialogue. Fast pacing. Slow pacing. Pacing that bridged between a fast opening and a slower finish. There are lots of talented writers in St. Augustine! When my workshop was over, I chatted with several very fired-up writers. People really seemed to have a renewed respect for pacing.

Afterwards we lunched at Kingfish Grill right on the water. What a lovely spot. I loved my Mediterranean Salad with grilled shrimp. From there, I visited Vilano Beach which was right across the bridge. What a fitting finale to a great day.

Vilano Beach in July
Thanks  to group member Jack Owen who generously shared his pictures with me!
A sunny day at the beach

Sunday, June 26, 2011

New Look, New Reviews, a Giveaway, and a Free Read

Ta Da! Everything is brand new around here, but I think the paint is finally dry. I simplified my blog format, have some great reviews to share, a book or two to give away, and a free read to chat up. Read on!

My latest release - the Large Print version of On The Nickel - will be available at Amazon in Large Print after July 6, but you can pre-order now if you want to be the first to get your hands on a copy. In this book Cleo has to figure out who ran over the church lady. She hopes it wasn't Mama, but there's a person-sized dent in Mama's car.

I recently received two wonderful reviews for On The Nickel:

Do you like cozy mysteries with a Southern flair, a little bit of sexiness, and a lot of fun in-between the murder and mayhem? Then On the Nickel might be the satisfying read you've been waiting for. The novel stars Cleopatra Jones, an accountant, a struggling nine-hole golfer, mother of two teenage girls, and daughter to a mother who often needs corralling more than the young girls in the household. Throw in a mighty sexy golf pro and a pregnant Saint Bernard, and you have an entertaining read in itself.
To make the story even more interesting, a murder occurs in the church parking lot where Cleo's mother often meets with the Ladies Outreach Committee. And Mama's car has an unexplained dent in the fender.
On the Nickel is the second in the Cleopatra Jones Mysteries. The first is In for a Penny, which will entertain you as much as the second. Maggie Toussaint should know how to write "Southern"—she IS Southern to the core. I recommend both novels. -- Celia Yeary-Reviewer

Witty and suspenseful. All Cleopatra Jones wants is to raise her two teen-aged daughters, improve her golf game and advance her relationship with handsome golf pro, Rafe Golden. She has no desire to get drug into the center of another homicide investigation. (see In for a Penny).
But when Erica Hodges is killed by a hit and run driver in the Trinity Episcopal Church parking lot, and Cleo's own mother is the prime suspect, Cleo has no choice.
On the Nickel is a fun read with enough humor and intrigue to keep you turning the pages while Cleopatra tries to thwart the advances of her ex-husband, Charlie; encourage advances from Rafe and clear her mother's name, all while raising two teen-aged daughters and caring for a pregnant St Bernard.
A good curl-up-on-the-couch mystery. -- Ruthann Heidgerken, Amazon reviewer


Previously, On The Nickel was reviewed by Kirkus, Library Journal, Publisher's Weekly, Harriet Klausner, The Reading Reviewer, and Mysterious Reviews. My web guy is in the process of getting all the reviews posted to my site,
In honor of the large print release, I created a free read with my Cleopatra Jones characters. Basically, Cleo and Rafe spend a weekend at the beach. Sand Dollar Secrets has a little romance, a little bit of coastal Georgia, and a little mystery to solve. This short story will also be up at my site soon, but it's already posted here. Where, you ask? Go back to the top of the page and just before the first post are two tabs - "home" and "sand dollar secrets" - all you have to do is click on the words and you'll see my short story. I hope you love it!
Lastly, I'm running a week long comment fest. Stop by and leave a comment (and make sure I know how to get in touch with you!). For every 20 comments that aren't mine, I'll give away a copy of your choice of my titles.
So dive on in, leave a comment, and check back here next Sunday when I'll announce the winners!
Beat the heat - with a fun summer read!!!
Maggie Toussaint

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fun at Malice Domestic

Maggie Toussaint at Malice Domestic!

Gracious sakes! What an adventure I had at Malice Domestic. I roomed with fellow Five Star author Barbara Graham from Cody, WY, and we had the best time together. Both of us are brand new grandmothers, both have been married for about the same number of years, both have two grown kids, and both have two mysteries out now from Five Star. We had an unending supply of material to talk about!

The night before the conference we went walking about Bethesda with Barbara's best friend's daughter, who took us to a Mussel Bar for dinner. We were part of an urban scene - go figure! All I was missing were tall boots, a size 4 waist, and long hair. Well and maybe a year eraser so that I was a twenty-something again. We laughed and talked and greatly enjoyed the ambiance.

Let's see - the conference! Malice Domestic is a fan conference for mystery readers. Seemed like there was upwards of 300 people there, swelling to 400-ish with spouses etc for the Saturday night banquet. I met so many people and the names and faces are already a  colorful blur. Mostly I remember everyone being so very keen about mysteries, which is a huge ego boost to every author there.

Malice Go Round is a great event. There were 20 tables of fans waiting anxiously to hear about our new books. Two authors had 4 minutes total at each table to pitch their work and give a handout of some type, and then they moved on to the next table. The room was a-buzz with such excited chatter. Photographers roamed and would snap your picture at the craziest times. My pitch varied wildly, and I think at one point I forgot my name! But my touring buddy, author JL Wilson, kept me on track. One time she even reminded me that the car was the murder weapon in On The Nickel. Talk about losing it! My only regret is that I forgot to take my camera to Malice Go Round and didn't snap a pic of me with JL. Next year, JL, if you'll have me for a touring buddy.

New authors I met that I have photos of include Michael Mallory and Amanda Flower, both Five Star authors. I also have pictures of Barbara and myself with Peggy Ehrhart, another Five Star author I met in Maine several years ago. Other authors I met included Leslie Wheeler (a Five Star author!) and Nancy Means Wright who co-hosted the banquet table where I sat on Saturday night. I ate dinner with Beth Groundwater and several fans one night. Deborah Sharp was there with her "Mama" wedding veil. She graciously supported me by coming to my panel - thanks Deborah! I met other authors and fans, but I admit to being so starstruck that most of the names and faces blew in one ear and out the other.

Sue Grafton was there. (I ate dinner in the same room as Sue Grafton. Imagine that!) And I saw many of my friends from the Mid-Atlantic MWA. It was a joy to see Verna Suit again, along with Donna Andrews, Marcia Talley, and Trish Carrico. I met Avery Ames, a fellow Guppy who won first place with her novel - cool! She was so gracious, friendly, and fun. There were tons on SINC members there, and so many Guppies, I can't begin to name them all. Thank goodness I remembered my Guppy name tag. It was like I was in a secret club or something.

I had a blast on my Malice panel with Kaye George, Kris Neri, Kay Finch, and moderator Joan Boswell. We had quite the time in a dimly lit room at 8:45 in the morning. Hotel staff slunk in like the Pink Panther bearing floor lamps, making me silly with laughter. Everyone soldiered on as if nothing was happening, but I couldn't help commenting on it as we spoke about murder staying all in the family. Afterwards, people lined up for me to sign my books. What fun!

Roommate Barbara Graham and I took a jaunt on the Metro down to DC. Peggy Ehrhart caught the same train and went elsewhere in DC, but it was nice that our paths crossed so randomly! I admitted to being hopeless with maps and directions, so intrepid Barbara set us out on a course to see the Post Office Museum. Both of us had been to numerous Smithsonians, so this was quite a lark. We ended up a bit far from the Museum, metro-stop wise, so we spent the afternoon strolling down Pennsylvania Avenue, talking and gawking. We phoned Wyoming for directions and soon were on the right track. Eventually, we found the museum and we were impressed with the number of exhibits. Everything from wagons and planes and trains to mail bags and Pony Express riders and stamps galore. Lots of history in that place. Then it was back to the Metro to Bethesda, where I met a New Orleans gal attending Howard University, and Barbara met a young man from Wyoming who she tried to matchmake with her best friend's daughter, also living in DC.

More pics below. I'm getting my sea legs back under me today, then its off to Killer Nashville in August!

Five Star trio! Maggie, Michael Mallory, & Barbara Graham

Five Star and Guppy quartet! from left Peggy Ehrhart, Amanda Flower, Barbara Graham, and Maggie Toussaint

The Post Office Museum in DC

Maggie at the Post Office Museum

Malice is already on my calendar for next year - see you there!

Maggie Toussaint