Monday, February 27, 2012

Temptation Strikes: Southern Fried Everything

I was lucky enough not to have a weight problem for most of my young adult years. But as the kids grew and I became less active, the pounds crept on, a little at a time. Seems like I've been dieting steady for the last six years, fighting the same twenty pounds. I'm not ready to throw in the towel, but I've faced some tough times. Might as well own up to it: I'm a sucker for fried anything.

Growing up, fried chicken was the undisputed king of all my food groups. The crunchy outside and the tender, moist inside made for a mouth-watering experience that satisfied my hunger.

Fast forward a number of years, and fried chicken is a guilty pleasure for those of us who try to watch our caloric intake.I've eaten some substandard fried chicken in my lifetime, but the good stuff is to die for. I'm hungry just thinking about it. And grilled chicken, while it can be delicious when seasoned right, is a poor second, in my book.

For the record, fried shrimp is a staple in my diet. I can't pass that up either. And I love a spicy cocktail sauce with fried shrimp. Don't give me any of that imported shrimp. I want wild caught, and the shrimp from Georgia are tops, bar none.

Another huge temptation for me is sweet potato fries. I'm not a huge french fry fan unless they are piping hot, but sweet potato fries tempt me at any temperature. They are not on my diet per se, but I've made some sweet potato fries in the oven that are a close second to the fried variety.

Anybody out there a fan of fried okra? It's a special weakness of mine. Just the other day, I needed comfort food and ordered a small dish of fried okra, and was I glad I did. The batter was to die for, so light and thin and the veggies were stick to your ribs yummy.

Fried green tomatoes is a southern delicacy. The only thing I like better than fried green tomatoes is my friend Harriet's green tomato pickles.

While visiting my kids and eating in out-of-state restaurants, I've come across other fried veggies as appetizers: zucchini and whole onions. These have been irresistible as well.

No wonder there's an obesity epidemic around the world. We're all tempted by so many fried foods. Now they even make battered french fries, which means the potatoes are sometimes fried twice. Crazy, isn't it?

I've named my guilty fried pleasures. I know there are other fried foods out there. What are your favs? What fried dish makes your must-have list, regardless of your weight plan?

Maggie Toussaint
who struggles with her weight
and reaches for chocolate when scenes stall

Monday, February 20, 2012

What's in your newsletter?

A key part of becoming a brand name is regularly sending out information of interest to customers. In the realm of authors, a newsletter is an essential tool to connect with your readership and to keep them apprised of news in your world. Here are ten easy tips to get you started.

1. Use a template. Having a standardized format for content delivery helps ensure you don’t omit important information. Select a name for your newsletter that is recognizable. It can be as simple as “News from Maggie Toussaint” or you might take a different slant like my friend, JL Wilson, whose newsletter is titled, “As the author learns.” Decide upon a font and determine the number of columns. For longer newsletters, page numbers and table of contents are helpful features. Images engage readers, so sprinkle them liberally throughout the newsletter.

2. Start with a brief personal message. A greeting at the start of a newsletter sets the tone, personalizing the message and engaging the recipient immediately. Seeing their name in the newsletter gives you another moment of reader interest and creates the impetus to keep  reading. Many utilities offer this personalization feature, or you can create a simple macro to plug the names into the space after “Dear”. Alternately, a global word such as “friends” might be employed for the less technologically savvy.

3. Deliver your news. Tell what’s new in your world. If you have a new book coming out, announce it here. Engage the reader with details and heighten the anticipation. Provide an update on your current books to ensure readers have a second chance to learn about them. Highlight any recent success of former books, such as a contest win, which helps readers feel good about their purchases.

4. Announce your appearance schedule. Booksigingings, talks to local groups, conferences, online activities (blogs, chats, workshops) are of interest to your readership. Remember to point out any media appearances on radio or TV. Provide links to interviews in print media and ezines. If you have an upcoming blog tour, mention stops on that tour and provide links.

5. Expand your focus to the larger picture. Provide a value-added bonus for your readers by sharing interesting insider information. Topics might include market news, bookstore news, e-readers, an interview with an industry professional (agent, editor, bookseller), etc.

6. Offer your opinion. This could be tied in with the larger picture, but it should be clearly labeled as your opinion. By taking a stand on a market-related issue, you have another chance to connect personally with readers and become viewed as an expert. The goal here is to win readers and not alienate them.

7. Include an article about author’s life. Readers want to know how authors get their ideas, how they write, how much they write and so on. You might illustrate a point of research or highlight a marketing hook on your upcoming book release to keep the focus on your new product. Alternately, this section might list your recent blog subjects with permalinks to the original posts.

8. Offer a glimpse into the products you use/read. If you’ve read or reviewed a good book lately, let your readers know. This helps further establish you as an expert in your field.

9. Share an unrelated interest. If you actively help a cause, such as Brenda Novak’s work with multiple sclerosis, a brief mention is appropriate. Alternately, if you have an amusing pet or hobby or love to cook, this is a good place to mention it in an engaging way. The idea is to continue to engage the reader, to further establish you as a friend.

10. Provide contact information. Make sure you give readers a way to connect with you. You could limit this to an email address, but in this day of social connectivity, providing your user names for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and other social media will help you stay connected to readers between newsletters. At a minimum, include your website and blog addy.

Above all, your newsletter should reflect who you are as a writer and a person. Keeping in mind that no one has time to read an encyclopedia, ensure your content is written in an engaging style and is to the point. There is no gold standard for length in newsletters, though shorter is perceived as better from the sense that readers will read the whole thing. If you find you have ten pages of content for a quarterly issue, consider putting out a one-pager every month.

Your goal as a newsletter writer is to provide value and drive product interest. A good newsletter will appeal to the senses and keep them coming back for more.
Maggie Toussaint
mystery and romance author
Death, Island Style and Murder in the Buff coming in March

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Great cover was worth the wait!

I am walking on sunshine today. My cover artist, Nika Dixon, from Muse It Up publishing created the most fantastic cover for my upcoming mystery release. This campy mystery has a very modern feel, so the slick graphics are perfect for this story! (Coming March 9, 2012)

Murder in the Buff is a little different from my other titles. The language is a little rougher, the crime scene of a nudist colony is a little different, and the sleuth's husband was caught with his tongue down her sister's throat. As the story unfolds, both of Molly's parents become murder suspects, and Hadley tries to soften Molly's anger and get his marriage back.
So, as you can see, this isn't your typical everyday cozy. No folks sitting around drinking tea. No cats. (But there are two dogs, so I have redeemed myself slightly!) And there's a lovely organic garden, so all you folks who love healthy food will enjoy the gardening scenes.

This book is set in my favorite setting of coastal Georgia, and I know you'll enjoy all the scenery and shenanigans of the Campbells and Darters. Nothing like a little family strife to add seasoning to a mystery!

I'll post the blurb and a brief excerpt. This title will release in ebook format on March 9, so please put us on speed-dial!


Reporter Molly Darter must obtain the family-placed obituary of a dead nudist to keep her job at the weekly paper. With her husband’s infidelity stamped on her mind, she doesn’t want anything to do with naked people. But the dead woman is a friend, the nice lady from the Marshview organic produce stand.

 The nudists insist Barbara Jean didn’t die of natural causes. Though their murder claim rattles Molly, she has no intention of looking into a law enforcement matter. She has enough trouble on her plate dealing with her cheating husband, taking care of her precocious son, and waging war on her trampy sister.

 When revealing photos of her father and other community leaders consorting with Barbara Jean at the produce stand come her way, Molly must act. To protect her father, she delves into the dead woman’s past. Barbara Jean had former ties to the community and hidden wealth.

 Things heat up when her estranged husband’s undercover drug ring investigation collides with her murder probe. While the sheriff eventually labels the death a homicide, Molly’s questions place her in jeopardy.

Who killed Barbara Jean? Was it the judge, the preacher, or the banker? Or was the killer someone she knew intimately? Only one thing’s for certain. The killer is watching every move Molly makes.

Want more? Here's an excerpt:

Mama Leon leaned forward. “Do you know why I asked Ted to send you out here?”

I leaned back in my chair. He requested me? Did he know me from somewhere? I was forever getting names and faces confused. No. That couldn’t be it. With his muscular physique and the aura of power he wielded, Mama Leon wasn’t someone easily overlooked.

I didn’t know where this was headed, but it didn’t feel like a short conversation. Mama Leon clearly had an agenda. “You should’ve requested Ted. He does the real news.”

Mama Leon’s nostrils flared wide. “Ted is a Johnny-come-lately. You’re old school Justice County and that’s what I need. Someone who knows the ins and outs of this place.”

Mama had done his homework. Ted Page had moved here from Macon five years ago when the then-ailing Gazette came up for sale. We wouldn’t have a paper if it wasn’t for him, and I wouldn’t have a job. Loyalty fueled my defense. “Ted knows his stuff. Plus he has a degree in journalism.” My degree in general studies hadn’t prepared me for much more than matrimony.

“Ted has a dick. I wanted a woman. And I like the features you write.”

I’d been brought up using euphemisms for body parts. His forthright speech made heat rise to my face, and I had a feeling he liked keeping me off guard. I needed to move this along. I tapped my pen on the slim notebook resting on my jeaned thighs. “In that case, let’s get started.”

With a twitch of her hips, Kim set down a tray containing two tall tumblers of amber colored liquid on the glass-topped table between us.

Mama gestured for me to take a glass.

My throat tightened. What was in that glass? Was he being hospitable or was I being set up for something bad? “No, thank you.”

He waggled a finger at me. “Mama doesn’t like it when you refuse his hospitality. It’s safe. I’ll show you.” He drank from both glasses. Like that was supposed to reassure me. How did I know he hadn’t spit in my glass? No way was I drinking after him.

I shifted in my seat. “I really need to get that obituary. Perhaps we could start on it now.”

“We’ll get to that. Important stuff comes first. I’m offering you my hospitality. You refusing it?”


My wants and needs kept getting trampled. I was tired of it. Like this Friday afternoon assignment. I didn’t want to come here today, but Ted had made it a condition of my continued employment. The entire universe of men thought they could push me around. Why did they think I was such a pushover? Was there a sign on my forehead?

I took a few breaths to calm myself. I shouldn’t lash out at Mama Leon because I was spitting mad at my soon-to-be ex-husband Hadley. Mama’s offer of hospitality was a business gesture, a prerequisite to us developing a professional relationship.

I squirmed under his scrutiny. Then something inside me snapped. Living in fear wasn’t the way to go. I sipped from the glass and sputtered immediately at the strong alcohol taste. “What is this?”

“It’s writin’ juice.” He nodded his approval of my action. “I want you to write down every word I say.”

I smacked the tumbler down on the glass-top table. The liquid burned from my throat to my empty stomach. I shuddered convulsively. Writin’ juice? That had to be the most rotgut whiskey I’d ever tasted. I wasn’t drinking another sip, no matter what. “We charge by the inch for family-placed obituaries.” As soon as the words left my mouth I blushed again. Inches. I was not thinking about inches of anything.

“It ain’t the obituary we’re gonna work on. It’s something else. Folks in this county needs to know the truth. That’s why you’re here.”

Alarm bells clanged in my head. “And what truth would that be?”

Mama Leon crushed out his cigarette in his empty glass. “What I’m about to tell you cannot be repeated.”

This oversexed lunatic must be hyped up on a conspiracy plot left over from the Nixon era. I didn’t care about his personal, religious, or political beliefs. “I’m leaving.” I started to rise.

He grabbed my wrist and tugged. “Sit.”

I glared at him. “Look, it’s been a long week and I need to get home to my son. If you don’t have information for the paper, you’re wasting my valuable time.”

Mama Leon released my arm. “What if I told you something so big, so gripping, that it could turn this county inside out? What if I told you it was a guaranteed best seller idea for a book?”

My heart sunk. Odds were, he was conning me. But what if, out of some bizarre stretch of imagination, he was telling the truth? I couldn’t afford to pass up the story of a lifetime. “Talk.”

“Me and the girls are sitting on a gold mine in real estate.” Mama Leon stroked his angular chin. “The powers that be want us o-u-t out, but we’re not taking our sorry asses anywhere.”

“Go on.”

“Some new muckety-muck carpetbagger’s been coming around here, trying to take our land away. There’s a deluxe shopping complex going in out by the highway, and our land backs up to that. They want to knock down these beautiful trees and pave over the whole countryside. These live oaks are over two hundred years old.”

“No biggie. Don’t sell.”

“It’s not that easy. This guy has an insider working the system. Our property taxes have doubled every year for the last four years. Now they tell us we have to pay to hook up to city water and sewer, and we’re nowhere near the city.”

“Sounds like a cash-flow problem. Everyone in the county faces these same issues. Sell them a few acres near the shopping complex.”

“Not a chance in hell. That’s the most sacred acreage on our property. That’s where we’re gonna scatter Barbara Jean’s ashes.”

Enough of going in circles. “I don’t get it. You’re getting squeezed by the big money players, but that type of squeeze play isn’t front page news. Frankly, I don’t see a blockbuster idea in your misfortune. The world isn’t out to get you.”

“You’re wrong.” He glanced around the screened-in pool area and lowered his voice. “Because not only have they got my balls in a vise, they’ve taken their tactics to the next level.”

The next level?

This sounded like page one material, something that went above the fold. I wanted to cover it. A story like this would keep my job secure for weeks to come. I hung suspended in breathless silence.

When he didn’t continue, I leaned forward to prompt him. “And what level would that be?”

His chin quivered. “Murder. They murdered my Barbara Jean.”

blogger hates me and I can't get rid of this box
please continue reading

This ebook releases March 9. If you absolutely can't wait, I am in need of reviewers. Contact me for more information maggie AT maggietoussaint DOT com.

Don't you just love this fab book cover???

Maggie Toussaint
mystery and romance author