Wednesday, December 26, 2012

E-reader Book Bash - Grab a book or two!

I'm happy to participate in the E-reader bash. 23 authors are giving away 27 romantic ebooks. That's a whole lotta love!

To enter, all you have to do is answer a question here at Mudpies in a comment between now and Dec. 29. There will be a grand prize and a second place prize, with each winner taking home more than a dozen ebooks! Winners will be posted late on Sunday, Dec. 30.

My book that's up for grabs is Murder in the Buff, a romantic mystery. In the story, reporter Molly Darter's job is on the line, and her marriage has gone south. When she gets the worst assignment of her life, she can't turn it down. The job? Getting an obituary from the nudist colony.

My question for the giveaway is: what hair style does the woman behind the fence sport?

Here's a short excerpt where you can look for the answer:

We’d also heard the naturalists were retired call girls. No telling what went on back in these dark woods. Orgies. Wild rituals. Substance abuse. Anything was possible in such a remote location.

I checked the time again and sighed.

If I left right now, my mother would never know I’d been here. However, Ted would fire me if I returned without this family-placed obituary. Jobs were scarce in our county of ten thousand people, and with my changed personal circumstances, I couldn’t afford to lose this one. Air huffed out of my lungs, up my warm face, giving flight to the wispy bangs on my forehead.

I dried my sweaty palms on my jeans and ramped up the air conditioning another notch. What was taking so long? I rubbed the back of my neck to ease the stiffness.

Behind the stockade fence, briars and weeds flourished. Spanish moss and ropy vines choked the tops of the oaks, pines, and cedars, adding to the sense that anything could and would happen deep in that jungle of green.

Jungle love gone wild.

I grimaced at that carnal image. My gaze fell to the thick ground cover outside my door. I couldn’t see the sandy soil at all. I gulped. There were probably rattlesnakes galore out here.

Cottonmouths and copperheads, too.

And ticks.

I bet every tick known to mankind lurked within the dark green foliage, waiting for me to step out of my vehicle. I’d have to be diligent as I checked every inch of skin tonight for ticks.

Without warning, a narrow-faced woman with gray braided hair peered over the top of the fence and waved her bare arms. My heart sunk as her lips moved. Dang, she was talking to me. With my windows up, I couldn’t hear a word she said.

Please, dear God, let her have clothes on behind that fence.


Okay. So all you have to do is leave your answer in the comments section of this blog. If you'd like to visit other blogs and have more winning chances, here's a list of the other blogs involved:
THAT DATING THING by Mackenzie Crown ~
HOME by Calisa Rhose ~
MONA LISA’S ROOM by Vonnie Davis (plus a little sweet) ~
STEPPING OUT OF LINE by Linda Carroll Bradd ~
DECEPTIONS OF THE HEART by Denise Moncrief ~ ~
BE STILL MY LOVER’S HEART by Lisa Hannah Wells ~
THE TREASURE OF COMO BLUFF by Alison Henderson ~
SOMEWHERE MY LOVE (A ghostly time travel romance) by Beth Trissell ~
FAERIE FOOL by Silver James ~
CLEAR AS DAY by Babette James ~
AN UNEXPECTED GIFT by Katherine Grey ~
TAKE ME HOME, COWBOY by Krista Ames (Plus 4 Anthology titles below) ~
THE DOLLHOUSE (For the Love of Christmas Anthology) by Dani-Lyn Alexander~
Carolyn Sullivan
MAGIC OF THE LOCH by Karen Michelle Nutt ~
THE BETTER MAN by Ceri Hebert ~
CONNECT THE DOTS (For the Love of Christmas Anthology) by Jennifer Eaton ~
FADEOUT by Rolynn Anderson ~

Plus four anthologies, courtesy of Krista Ames.

Thanks to Mackenzie Crown for putting this together. Besides commenting here, a comment at the other sites may increase your chances of winning. Best of luck to you all!

Don't forget to leave a comment with your answer to my hairstyle question! I'd love to put a copy of Murder in the Buff in your hands, and on your e-reader. MITB is available in all digital formats.


Maggie Toussaint

Friday, December 7, 2012

Hats and holidays

I wear many hats in real life and cyberspace. Truthfully, you won't catch me without a hat on my head if its daylight. It seems I got my lifetime dose of sunshine nearly fifty years ago, so I have to be extremely careful. Sunblock is my best friend.

I inhabit the realms of mystery and romance, of traditional publishing and indie publishing, which can be something of a logistical challenge at best. The good news is I never have to wonder what I'm going to do next. Something is always happening. And I like it that way!

This week, starting this past Wednesday on Dec 5 through this Sunday Dec 9, my zany cozy mystery is yours for the taking on Kindle. With great reviews from Kirkus, Mysterious Reviews, The Reading Reviewer, and a wonderful fanbase on Amazon, this Five Star rated book is a winner for readers who enjoy romantic mysteries.

You'll want to follow this link to download a complimentary copy. 
Be sure to tell your friends. On The Nickel the holiday gift that keeps on giving!

This year, thanks to the gift of fabric and an inherited sewing machine, I've been sewing aprons for my family. In our tiny house, the only space to do this is on the kitchen table. Fortunately, my husband goes with the flow. Last night he rested the bowl of taco meat on the table top ironing board beside his place mat without batting an eye.

Other holiday traditions I enjoy, besides gathering with family and friends, is helping out at the giftwrapping both at our outlet mall. So many folks come in and want something special for their loved ones and they ooh and ahh over the pretty handmade bows and shiny paper. We have foil wraps, jumbo bows, and best of all, big ears to listen to everyone's story.

grandson Abe
That's right. Everyone has a story, and the need to share it drives us to seek out others. The best gift, IMO, is to take the time to listen to someone this season. Sit down and really listen to what they have to say.

I have a dear friend who works at soup kitchens in December. She makes big pots of soup at home and brings them in to share with everyone at the kitchen. Another friend spends extra time helping out at the shelter.

What about you? Do you have your hands full with the regular hustle and bustle? Do you cut corners on decorating or baking to make it all work out? Just wondering.

Don't forget to get your copy of On The Nickel.

Wishing you the merriest of holidays!

Maggie Toussaint

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Blame it on the Name, for Shame

Names are tricky, especially when you're selecting them for your characters. For the most part you want to select a name that reflects your genre, though there are plenty of exceptions to this rule.

A quick tour of the bestsellers on my bookshelf reveals these finds:
Lavinia and Tobias in Amanda Quick's historical romance, Late for the Wedding
Eve and Roarke in JD Robb's futuristic romance, Indulgence in Death
Lev and Rikki in Christine Feehan's paranormal romance, Water Bound
cult leader Ethan in Brenda Novak's romantic suspense, White Heat
wizard Gandalf and unlikely hero Bilbo in JRR Tolkien's fantasy, The Hobbit
magician Harry Dresden in Jim Butcher's fantasy, Fool Moon
every man David Beck in Harlan Coben's thriller, Tell No One
sleuth Lincoln Rhyme in Jeffery Deaver's thriller, The Broken Window

I've barely tapped the potential of my bookshelf, but you should see a pattern. A name evokes a certain type of character, triggers a memory, inspires curiosity, or even intrigues a reader by its very difference.

Up and coming authors show the same skill. Here are a few that I've reviewed:
down-and-out Addie in Celia Yeary's western, Addie and the Gunslinger
psychic Diana Racine in Polly Iyer's mystery, Mind Games
Deanna and Daws in LK Hunsaker's modern fiction, Moondrops & Thistles
archer Heather in SG Rogers' paranormal fantasy, Tournament of Chance
Edmund and Kiera in Stephanie Burkhart's steampunk, A Gentleman & a Rogue
Kendi and Jackson in Cheryl Pierson's romantic suspense, Temptation's Touch

And, what list would be complete without a few of my characters?
  • intrepid Cleopatra Jones from my mystery series - a gal with the weight of the world on her shoulders
  • birdwatcher & data analyst Hannah from House of Lies - a heroine who's plunged from her safe world into danger
  • reporter Molly Darter from Murder in the Buff, an every woman who rises to the occasion

Some names seem off limits to me. For instance, I wouldn't ordinarily use any of these names for my characters: Hannibal, Cher, Rambo, Hitler, Napoleon, Barrack, and a host of other famous people through the years. I might use their personality types though, or use a famous name as a weight they have to overcome every day of their lives.

And then there's unisex names like Chris. There's a couple I know, Chris and Ward. Ward's the female and I always call her Chris. I also know women named Lloyd and Sudy. Unusual names are common in the south, as are double names like Mary Lee, Betty Sue, and so on. Select names which reflect the genre or give a regional flair for best identification.

In selecting character names, make it easy for the readers to remember them. Give them strong tags and attributes. Make them three-dimensional so readers color in the face behind the name.

How do writers come up with names? Different ways. Name lists. Personal experience. Online lists of names. Yearbooks. Commencement programs. Obituaries. Prayer lists. Phone books. And when all else fails, mix and match author names from your bookshelf!

Please share your thoughts on names. I'd love to hear from you!

Maggie Toussaint
In For a Penny and On the Nickel out now on Kindle

Monday, November 12, 2012

Turkey Trot Misgivings

Holiday season is approaching at warp speed, and with it come various obligations. Some of these are great fun, others fall into the do-I-have-to realm.

Though I'm an introvert by nature, I enjoy hanging out with friends and family. It helps me bring balance and harmony back into my life to not be living and breathing books every minute of the day.

For instance, our extended family's Thanksgiving will be at a sister's house. That's fine, but we'd planned to let her off the hook due to some health issues she's been having, but she overruled us. She gets to do that because she's the oldest.

Along with that pronouncement came the list of food that others were already bringing. Turkey. Ham. Cornbread oyster dressing. Giblet gravy. Two kinds of cranberry sauce. Sweet potato souffle. Squash casserole. Tomato casserole. Pumpkin pie. Tea.

With all that stuff already on the menu, what could I possibly add? Keeping in mind that I'm on a low-carb diet, mashed potatoes are out, so are sweet desserts.

I'm 4th on the sibling totem pole, 4th out of 5, so most of my family is unconcerned that I'm at a loss about my contribution. Oh, and ice and dinnerware are already taken.

So help me out gang. What should I contribute? Tell me some of the traditional and nontraditional foods that grace your Thanksgiving meal.

And while I've got your ear, the ebook edition of IN FOR A PENNY will be free at Amazon Nov 14 to 18, that's this Wednesday to Sunday. Here's the hyperlink:

Now put your Thanksgiving thinking caps on and help me figure out this turkey trot quandry...

Maggie Toussaint

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The PRO in procrastination

Ever noticed how there's a "Pro" in procrastination?

Those of us who procrastinate don't take the subject lightly. We dive into it all the way, fully committing to doing our own thing in our own time.

There's so many of us, we've become a "Nation" of folks who just let it ride. Our national motto is "I'll get to it later."

Later's always better. First, later stretches to infinity, so there's no deadline imposed. Doing something later assumes you'll be fresher or better prepared or more motivated to take on that dreaded task. Postponing an action gives someone else the opportunity to step forward, and let's you off the hook.

Sound familiar? I bet it does.

When something comes up we're not interested in doing, it doesn't become any more appealing with time. In fact, once the task is postponed, it's easier to keep postponing it.

Got a household chore you hate? A work product you've been dreading? A term paper that's due tomorrow? Just thinking about those things is stressful.

Why do we duck out on certain things and not on others?

We're afraid we'll mess it up or do worse than last time.

The process is too complex to understand all at once.

We don't want to do it and you can't make us.

We don't care about the task.

We can't focus on something big; there's too many little things that have to be done.

We don't know how to get started.

It's not in our wheelhouse. The effort won't meet our minimum standards.

As a writer, I have definite tasks I procrastinate. First, I'm always reluctant to start a new book. The characters from the last story feel so real. I want to stay in their world. Second, I can research a topic to death. Once I start googling and opening files, the information flows all around me and leads me new places. Third, writing a synopsis makes me use the editing and creative side of my head at the same time. I worry my head might explode.

It's human nature to avoid pain and hardship and to seek pleasurable endeavors. You can't fail at something if you haven't tried it yet, but the trick is to understand why you don't want to do something.

If you're afraid, work on addressing the fear.

If you're overwhelmed, break the task into smaller steps and reward yourself for each step of the way.

If its out of your area, learn how to do it.

If starting is a problem, trick yourself by saying you're just going to get the tools for the job out.

Before you know it, you'll be motoring along on the road to completion. Commit to your task with a new focus and before you know it, you'll be moving on to better things.

Are you a Pro at procrastinating? Share with us something that you put off. And as a bonus, share with us how you've gotten past that stumbling block.

Happy November everyone!

Maggie Toussaint

In For a Penny, now $2.99 at Kindle
ps I'm looking for reviewers for my In For A Penny

Monday, October 29, 2012

Where's the (story) beef?

Showing my age here, but there were several Wendy's commercials some time ago, with a grandma asking "where's the beef?" To refresh your memory, I've pasted one from YouTube below.

The "Where's the beef" lady isn't seduced by the fine bun, the clean presentation, or even the tidy condiments. She won't settle for less than the real thing, and she's not going to swallow her discontent and walk away. She wants a juicy hamburger.

Give that lady a burger!

Same is true with your story. You can dress up the characters in all their finery and quirks, but if you're not going anywhere with these characters, your customers/readers will not be satisfied.

I'm not saying your book has to be plot-heavy. The plot should be, in my opinion, character-driven. That means the main character(s) better have clear goals, motivations, and conflicts, and these should be relevant, even essential, to the plot.

Though it's hard to talk about plot independently, a strong plot should have obstacles that keep the character from reaching their goal until the story payoff at the end of the book. Each of these obstacles should challenge the character to change/grow or at a minimum, put the character into a jam.

The more you flesh out these obstacles and the more your character reacts to the circumstances, the bigger the beef. Sync plot to character change from start to finish and you'll have satisfied readers!

Maggie Toussaint

A murder story was every reporter’s dream - Molly in Murder in the Buff

Monday, October 22, 2012

Would you leave your child?

True story in my small town:

In March 2011, a man and his stepson went hunting in the nearby swamp on a 70 degree morning, got lost, got way too cold when the temperature plunged into the 30s, and couldn't find their way out in the dark. It started raining. The man tried to carry his son when the son couldn't go on, but it wasn't working. For better or worse, the man made the decision to leave the boy and go for help.

A long time later, the dad made it out, got help, but it was too late. The boy drowned in the swamp. People were abuzz all over town about whether or not the guy was guilty. He did leave the 15-year-old behind and allegedly the death happened in his absence.

The man's wife divorced him and remarried, and the new couple attended the trial, intent on seeing justice for her boy. I've talked to several people since the trial, and the opinion is split. One person said she'd been in that swamp before during the heat of summer and stepped in a boghole and her waders unexpectedly filled up with water. She said it was days before she warmed up again. She said it's very easy to make bad decisions during hypothermia.

Other people like myself say that they wouldn't have left the boy, no matter what. If we'd have both froze to death, so be it. A child is a child.

The dad was charged with two counts of malice murder, second degree cruelty to children, felony murder, contributing to the deprivation of a minor and involuntary manslaughter.

The trial took 4 days. During that time, testimony corroborated the boy drowned. The dad's own words in his testimony: "Everything looked the same. I do know the swamp like the back of my hand, but if you go there at night it all looks the same in the water. I said, 'son, you got to put everything into this or we're both gonna die back here. We're both gonna die. We're not gonna make it out.'"

The dad gave the boy his wool socks. He strapped his rifle across his back for the boy to hold onto. He carried the kid for hours. The GPS couldn't get a signal. He set the kid down and went out like spokes on a wheel from the kid's location, but couldn't get his bearings. This went on for hours, and it kept getting colder. Finally he made the decision to leave the boy.

It took another few hours for him to find his way out of the swamp and to send a search team for the boy. But it was too late. Way too late.

The jury deliberated only a few hours and returned their verdict. Not guilty on either malice murder charge, not guilty on second degree cruelty to children, not guilty on felony murder. He was found guilty of contributing to the deprivation of a minor and involuntary manslaughter.

Sentencing came next. The range of time served was 5 to 10 years for each charge. The judge said 10 years for each guilty charge to run concurrently, with 5 years in the state penitentiary and 5 on probation plus a monetary fine.

I did not sit through the trial and only know what I read in the paper and what others said who did attend. A child died. That's what the judge kept coming back to in his sentencing remarks. Everyone agreed that it was a tragedy. The jury said it wasn't murder. But for this bad decision made under duress, this dad lost his son, lost 5 years of his life, and even lost his wife.

It's easy to armchair quarterback and say what you'd have done. The thing I can't get past is I wouldn't have left a child. I just wouldn't.

What about you?

thanks to The Darien News story of Oct. 11, 2012 for the quoted material

Maggie Toussaint
On the Nickel, now on Kindle

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On The Nickel is now available as an E-book

Friends, Readers, and Countrymen,

Lend me your ... eyes! I have great news. The second book in my popular Cleopatra Jones mystery series is now available as an ebook on Kindle. It's priced at $2.99

Which book is On The Nickel? I'm so glad you asked!!

Kirkus Reviews said this: "The second in this amusing and romantic series (In for a Penny, 2008) is a welcome addition to the cozy ranks."
If that doesn't whet your whistle, read this glowing review by Rising Star Reviews:
"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."
Note: In For A Penny is also $2.99 on Kindle!
Here's a snip of Review from Auntie M Writes: "Toussaint gets all the points right: love-able but demanding teenagers; the push from an ex wanting a second chance; the pull of an exciting new love; even the behind-the-scenes hierarchy and drama of Southern churchwomen groups.
This is perfect for summer reading, with its lighthearted, balanced storyline combining more than a hint of romance, as Cleo scrambles find the real murderer of Erica Hodges, and all before her St. Bernard delivers those puppies!"
Here's a snip from THE READING REVIEWER: "What a complete and utter delight this book is. Cleo is a wonderful character and all the people in her life just add icing to the cake to make the book a great read." -- Mary Gramlich
And a last enticement:  "A good curl-up-on-the-couch mystery!" from reader Ruthann Heidgerken.
Click on over to see the book, like and tag it, and read the first two chapters through the LOOK INSIDE feature!
I'm glad to be able to bring this series to you in digital format. The third book in this series is under contract and will release in hardcover in 2013.
Maggie Toussaint

Monday, October 15, 2012

Too much stuff

I wish I'd taken a picture of my late sister's sewing room before we dismantled it. She'd been quilting for at least twenty years, and there were boxes, bags, and bins of fabric everywhere. Knowing only a smidge about sewing, I knew enough not to throw out the pieces I would ordinarily consider scraps.

I contacted some charitable groups who made out like bandits with all the goodies, but the family kept some large pieces, just because. We also found a huge bin of quilted tops. All they need is batting and quilting together. We saved those pieces too.

Again, not because any of us want to quilt, but we wanted to keep my sister's labor of love in the family. Another sister told me she has an aunt's silver, Mama's good dishes, Nana's furniture, and a lot of Daddy's things at her house. She claims she has no room for this treasure hoard of fabric we saved.

When we moved back to Georgia about seven years ago, we'd already undergone the huge downsizing purge. We'd trimmed our possessions down by 3/4 because we didn't need all that stuff anymore.

We moved into a cozy cottage in the deep South, and life was good. Then we came-by a few things here and there. Stuff that was useful in some way. Before long, all the closets in our new place were stuffed. I've got new stacks of fabric in my office and I don't know where I will put it, much less the cache of fabric for the "family."

Clearly, I have too much stuff. On Sunday our pastor spoke on the follies of stuff, citing the Bible passage about the rich, young ruler who couldn't give up his wealth. I don't know that I've amassed great wealth, unless you count seashells, driftwood, and good memories, but I'm loathe to part with any of my stuff. I might need it, you know?

I have yoga stuff, music stuff, writing stuff, promotional stuff, festival stuff, newspaper stuff, computer stuff, and more stowed in here. Prime stuff, in my estimation.

I guess if I'm lucky enough to live a long life, I will downsize and move again, but it's not something I look forward to. I really like my stuff.

Do you feel the same way about your stuff?

What are you unwilling to part with?

Maggie Toussaint

ps -- smoking hot review of Murder in the Buff at Amazon this past week. Here's a snip:

"This is a suspense story mixed with romance and the dynamics of a family. It is a story that will keep you guessing and totally entertained. This is the first book that I have read by Maggie Toussaint and definitely not the last." Marilou George, amazon reviewer


Get your very own copy of Murder in the Buff: Muse It Up Publishing  BarnesandNoble

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bear cakes, books, and babies, oh my!

Ben and a Bear Cake
Nothing I like better than visiting my kids and grandkids. Our family is spread out all over the country, so we can't just jump in the car and show up for dinner. My oldest grandson recently had the honor of being served a bear cake, and I was lucky enough to come away with the best picture ever. I also jumped gleefully off the diet wagon and had a pancake and they were that good.

Donnell Bell and Maggie at Marigold's
On this same trip I had lunch with mystery author Donnell Bell (The Past Came Hunting), and she's on the silent auction committee for Left Coast Crime. Her co-chair is Mike Befeler, so if you're headed to Left Coast Crime next March go ahead and be thinking of items you can donate to the auction. I just had a wonderful idea occur to me for what I'd like to donate.

Mule deer just out for a stroll
I am most pleased to announce a new book contract! HOT WATER, the second book in my seaside series, was acquired by The Wild Rose Press. In this romantic suspense, a small town cop trying to make detective is paired with the state arson investigator. They're on the trail of a serial arsonist who has a habit of leaving dead bodies in his fires. Thanks to fan Martha Carney who kept insisting that Laurie Ann deserved her own story.

Because all good things come in threes, I'm working on the final book of that trilogy. The working title is Still Waters, but there are a lot of books with that title out there, so count on it having a different name when I shop it to my publisher. The series started out with MUDDY WATERS, in which Roxie the realtor and Sloan the security expert hunt for a missing inheritance.

Blue skies in Colorado
Last in the great news department is the pending re-release of ON THE NICKEL, the second in my popular Cleopatra Jones mystery series. The first in that series, IN FOR A PENNY, was released in July as an e-book. Both books were hardcover and large print editions for Five Star / Cengage. My publisher for the e-book versions is Muddle House Publishing, my own imprint.

I worked with the most fantastic cover artist ever to develop the new cover for ON THE NICKEL. I found a batch of photos I liked. Polly helped me to pick the picture that had the clearest message, then she went to work on the fonts. She even managed to work the nickel into the cover without it looking cheesy. Hail to Polly Iyer, a great author and cover artist. Check her site at to see all the powerful covers she created for herself. I'm awed that she took me on.

Look for ON THE NICKEL to debut in late October. Mama's car killed the church lady, but who was behind the wheel?

Craig in Colorado
Thanks for visiting Mudpies and catching up on my news. Here's one more tidbit: Happy aniversary to me! 35 years ago today I said "I do" to a wonderful man.

Until next time,

Maggie Toussaint

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A tale of two conferences

Laura Hayden of Author Author, center
 Bookends. That’s how it worked out. Killer Nashville ran from Aug 24 to 26 and Dragon*Con was from Aug 30 to Sept 3. During my three days of down time I barely had time to empty the suitcase and reload it.

Not sure I’ll book back-to-back events again, but when the dates to things you want to attend are preset, sometimes you don’t have any choice. Killer Nashville is my favorite mystery conference and I don’t want to miss that. I have two science fiction books written so I needed to attend a conference in that genre. Dragon*Con is held in Atlanta, which is a five-hour drive, so it all seemed feasible.

Since the conferences were so different, I’ll talk about each one separately.

Beth Terrell, me, Robbie from B&N
What fun to hang out with Clay Stafford and Beth “Jaden” Terrell again! I met this conference producer and director duo at my first KN and we’ve kept in touch ever since. Beth was her Energizer Bunny self, keeping the train moving without ever losing her cool. Despite Clay’s recent accidents, he was on hand to welcome folks and that was much appreciated.

 The first night was a hoot with Mystery Bingo, created by Greg and Mary Bruss. They created clever cards with mysterious categories. In the “I” category were means of death. You wouldn’t believe how many times “gas” came up as the answer. After a dozen rounds of bingo and no gas at all on my card, I traded that loser in for one with gas on it, and three games later, came up a winner. The prizes were free mysteries from the Bruss’ store Mysteries and More. I selected Murder of a Sleeping Beauty by Denise Swanson, which I read in one night. (good book!)

me with Dr. Bill Bass
Friday, I helped with Registration, from 7:30 a.m. until nearly noon. I took a brief time-out to hear part of Dr. Bill Bass’ talk about forsenics at a fireworks factory explosion. While the slides were gruesome, the reality is that people aren’t whole after an explosion, and it takes a big effort to reassemble them. (What a job, right?) One interesting aside is that he said that shaved legs are common for women, so if they find a shaved leg, they automatically place it into a female pile of limbs.

My husband and I had lunch with Robert Spiller of Colorado and my agent, Holly McClure of Sullivan Maxx at the nearby brew pub. The food was great, the conversation even better.
I participated in the E-revolution panel on Friday. Peter Green, the moderator, did a good job of keeping the discussion on track, and I felt like I got my message across. E-publishing isn’t for wimps. It’s hard work, though the payoffs can be wonderful.

The crime scene dummy and an intrepid author
I shopped at the Barnes and Noble bookstore onsite as well as at the Mysteries and More site where I purchased crime scene bandaids. I can’t wait to use them! The Crime Scene was great, and though I thought the wife did it, I didn't have the patience to prove it.

For dinner, my husband and I met up with my editor Deni Dietz of Five Star and we drove to The Speckled Elephant for Thai food. Deni’s dish of Phad Thai (spelling?) was the best, we all agreed.

me with Jennie Bentley
 I caught up with old friends and made new ones including Ernie Lancaster, Glen Allison, and Stacy Allen. NYT bestseller Jennie Bentley was all smiles during the conference. And we had a great time catching up on news. Alana White, fellow Five Star author, and her husband sat at the banquet table with us on Saturday night, along with Outer Banks writer Joseph Terrell and Veronica. The food and the music at KN were outta sight.

During the conference, I met up with three unpublished writers for critique purposes. We talked about their works, and I hope my remarks will continue to move them along the road to publication. I also staffed the MWA booth with Stacy Allen and SEMWA president Rick Helms.

Maggie, Jay, Marsha, Addie, Terri Lynn
 On Sunday, I had the honor of moderating a panel on Murder and Mayhem which was staffed by four lawyers telling true tales from the courtroom. Jay Drescher, Terri Lynn Cooper, Marsha Lyons, and Addie King – you folks rock.

Doris and Steve Covey
 My posse of Stephen Covey (the live one, as he likes to say), Doris Covey, and Jean Osborn arrived in Atlanta a little after one on Thursday. We checked into our hotel, hopped on MARTA, and picked up our badges at the conference site. Downtown looked busy to a smalltown gal like me, but I  had NO IDEA of the crowds to come, about 30,000 strong.

Jean with the Ghostbuster mobile
 Jean had signed up for a special program which ran from 10 to 4 Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, so I didn’t hang with her much during the con, though she was the best roommate ever.

 I elected to attend the Writers Workshop track at Dragon*Con, which is chaired by Nancy Knight. She kindly offerred to place me on a panel of my choosing, so I selected “Creating Memorable Characters” on Sunday morning. We sat through a couple of excellent panels and then decided to stretch our legs.

costumed participant
My first thought was “where’d all these people come from?” The hallways were thronged with people between sessions from each of the 62 tracks spread over 4 downtown hotels. Skywalks and connectors were crammed with people and you couldn’t move without the whole group stepping forward. For a claustrophobic person, this was extremely challenging.

 Steve and I toured the marketplaces associated with the conference and the art show. Lots of weapons, costumes, comics, bustiers, books, space toys, masks, hoodwinks, fantasy toys, and more. I couldn’t take it all in. There was an excess of everything.

costumed folks took to the streets during the parade
Did I mention a lot of folks were in costume? You could be walking down the hall next to Princess Leia, a steampunk character, a comicbook character, and so much more. Words fail me even now. It’s as if a firehose of people were sprayed over my mind. Lots of rich color and texture.

 I resolved to only come out of the Writers Track for food, bathroom breaks, and to return to our hotel six metro stops to the north. I met some folks, even some who knew me, which is always a pleasant surprise. Mary Marvella, who I’ve run across online for years, saw my name on my badge and stood up and hugged me like a long-lost relative. We had a two-hour lunch where we talked about everything under the sun. Ran into Laura Hayden at DragonCon as well - what fun! She was dressed as Dr. Who.

periodic table elements in the parade
 My panel on Sunday went well, though I was one of half a dozen authors with such serious scifi credentials that I should have been too humbled to speak. But memorable characters are something I know a lot about, from personal experience and writing, so I said my piece. During Q&A, questions were directed at me, so I felt my presence had made an impact. Afterwards, I sat down with a rheumatologist and talked writing for nearly a half hour. What fun.

parade float
 All too soon it was time to head back to the hotel. Monday was a travel day, but Steve and Jean wanted to hit a few more sessions. Doris and I went to Lennox Center, shopped at Macy’s, and had lunch at Panera. The car ride home that afternoon was accented by thunderstorms, a bad accident on I-75 between Atlanta and Macon, and catnaps.

all tuckered out on Marta
 Again. Either experience would have exhausted me. But doing two so close together has me still reeling a bit. I hope you’ve enjoyed the pics. Remember to follow your dreams. And don’t forget to spend time with your friends. These are important!!!

 Maggie Toussaint