Monday, April 23, 2012

What would you do?

What would you do if you saw your husband kissing your sister? Really kissing her with his hands in all the wrong places?

In my new mystery, Murder in The Buff, Molly Darter handled that scenario by throwing everything that wasn’t nailed down at her husband. She kicked him out of their home. She quit speaking to her sister.

She knew what she saw. Her eyes didn’t lie. Worse, her husband looked guilty. He tried to talk to her about it but she couldn’t stand to be around him. Every time she saw him that kiss of betrayal flashed in her head again.

Molly and Hadley’s marriage is a rich vein of conflict in this mystery. It echoes the theme of broken relationships that come into play in the murder plot. Love and murder – it just doesn’t get any better than that in my mind.

I write about people who make mistakes because I’m curious about human behavior. Love can be very messy.

Some people honor their romantic commitments. Some people cheat. Some cheaters fall apart when they get caught. (What were they thinking?) In real life, these things never end well. Arguments get nastier. Lines get drawn in the sand. Hurt pride rears its ugly head. Outsiders take sides. No one can back down.

This type of emotional conflict is great fuel for a story, plus as an author, I get to create the ending I want. That’s the beauty of fiction.

But I’m curious as to how you might handle a situation like this in real life or in the pages of a book. Would you go all ballistic? Would you withdraw and cry out your hurt all alone? Would you get even? Would you listen to what your spouse had to say?

Would your answer have been different twenty years ago?

What would you do?

Maggie Toussaint
Puzzling her way through life

Monday, April 9, 2012

Writers, pay yourself first

Pay yourself first. I heard this advice the first time years ago about financial matters. My husband and I were newlyweds with two incomes. A friend of his needed people to practice his financial spiel upon.

We volunteered, thinking it would be an evening that could have been better spent. Instead, we heard life-changing news. Pay yourself first.

The financial planner said that to get ahead and look to the future, you have to set money aside before you pay your bills or do any other spending. That simple advice stuck with us, and we took it to heart.

Recently, I realized I need to apply that concept to my writing. With a few books out, a few in the hopper, and more burning to get out, distractions abound.

Some days I can spend two to three hours answering my email, visiting the blogs of friends, or sending out a few words here and there in cyberspace. But if I do that first, I lose track of my quality hours of writing – those muse-happy first hours of the day.

On those dilly-dallying days, my writing goal of 1,000 words a day on the new book might as well be a million words. I can’t get it done.

How many of us have said that?

How many of us repeat that sentiment frequently?

Pay yourself first means to take a view of the big picture. You want to keep releasing books? You have to write them first. Put those words in the story bank. Build for your future.

I’ve had to be more rigid about social media hours in the morning. I still check my email – heck there might be a contract in my inbox, ya know? – but if there isn’t something of life-shattering urgency there, I shut down the email program. I’m not allowed to turn it on again until the daily word count is done.
No Facebook or other programs either.

Pay yourself first means being disciplined about your writing time. It means keeping that long-term goal visible instead of getting caught up in the social media whirl. Sure, the online stuff is fun. Sure, those people are good friends, but they won’t mind if you “Like” their posts or make witty remarks a few hours later.

Pay yourself first. 

I can’t say that phrase enough. Invest in your writing future.

Maggie Toussaint
New: Murder in the Buff and Death, Island Style
Check out all my titles at 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Friends with cancer

Another friend was diagnosed with cancer. The news devastated us all. I flailed around, not sure how to best help this particular friend.

 How do you show you care? 

Here are my thoughts on the matter.

Be a sounding board. The best thing a friend can do is sit and listen. Sometimes just the companionship is enough. Other times, listening is the trick. This is not the time to ramble on and on about every person you ever knew who had cancer; this is the time to use your ears.

The affirmative power of touch. Cancer patients often feel sick, so it’s important to ask about touching before you go barging in and bestowing big hugs. A pat on the arm or the shoulder is a good way to show you still consider this person a valued friend or family member. Let them direct how much touch they’d like to have from you.

Bring a gift. A new set of sleeping apparel (nightgown/pajamas) is a nice gesture. So is a specialty pillow or slippers. Avoid highly scented items like flowers and candles, which may aggravate nausea. Perhaps a thick robe, a shawl, or stylish headwear would also be welcomed. Books, movies, and music are a welcome diversion.

Meals. Your friend with cancer will have specific meal requirements. Find out what they are. Provide what works for you. Remember that the caretaker needs to eat too. Don’t forget if you volunteer to do this!

Practical help. Lending a hand is easy. You can cut the lawn, weed the flower beds, vacuum, do the laundry, clean the bathrooms, or whatever help is needed.

Bill-paying. Your friend may need help paying bills. It may be as simple as doing everything but signing their checks for them. Or spearhead a community drive to help provide financial assistance.    

Driving and errands. Many cancer patients require daily radiation treatments. If you can provide respite for their caregiver, that’s a help. A gas card is a help. Running errands, like grocery shopping, is also helpful.
Know when to stay away. If your friend prefers solitude, respect his/her wishes. A weekly card, a brief phone call, or a text message are a way to reach out to them.

Conversation. Don’t shy away from hard topics or sadness, but remember to also ask about your friend’s interests. Talk about the future. Allow the cancer patient to focus on something other than this illness.

Be consistent. Follow-through with commitments you make to your friend.    

Those are my thoughts on helping friends with cancer. Please share your thoughts on how you’ve helped someone, or how someone has helped you.  

Maggie Toussaint
tackling another one of life's mysteries