Saturday, August 5, 2017

Suicide survivors and grief

This is such a difficult topic. Anyone who has been touched by suicide is forever changed by that loss. I've felt it, and if you're reading this, maybe you've felt it too.

I've been touched by suicide twice in my life: once by a family member and more recently by a high school classmate. In my experience, processing these intense feelings doesn't get any easier with time. Raw is raw no matter how you slice it. The stages of grief sound clinical but they are anything but.

With denial, it's typical to feel shocked and overwhelmed by life. It's hard to cope and process something that isn't understood. Anger can coat us with guilt for not recognizing the signs and for the victim leaving us to deal with their loss. The bargaining stage is full of what-ifs for how things could be different if-only... Depression is the mantle of sadness many survivors wear. And then there's isolation and shame that make us want to hide our hurt from the world and bury our emotions. That fog of sadness oft times becomes a lens through which we now see the world. Accepting the reality of what happened is difficult for many survivors. Even if they accept what happened, that doesn't make it right or okay. It just becomes a fact. This grieving process varies for each individual.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states that 44,193 Americans die each year from suicide. That's a rate of about 13.6 for every 10,000 individuals. For every suicide, 25 were attempted. (https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/)

With suicide being widespread and painful for the survivors, you may wonder why I'd include any mention of suicide in a cozy mystery. One of the things I try to do through my writing is to make some sense of this world. Oftentimes, events don't have happy endings, and I use fictional characters to ensure justice is served and to create a happier resolution.

The inception of my dreamwalker series was influenced by my loss over the natural deaths of two relatives. Unwilling to believe they were completely gone, I created a fictional spirit world in this series based on multiple influences in my life. My amateur sleuth Baxley Powell is a person whose spirit traverses worlds. Her goal in every book is to get justice for the dead, solace for the living.

 
Dadgummit, my latest paranormal mystery, centers around an energy thief, also known as an energy vampire, who steals people's energy, taking them to the point of death. Without revealing the whole plot, there are minor characters who are star-crossed in love. He's caught up in the energy thief's world, she's finally found someone who understands her. The energy thief takes the life of the young man, and the distraught young woman makes the choice to join her boyfriend in death via energy thief, in the vein of Romeo and Juliet. Her family is crushed, just as you'd expect them to be. But because of the dreamwalker, they receive an assurance. This pair gets a happy ending in the spirit world. Better yet, the energy thief gets what's coming to him.

Does that make suicide right? No. It doesn't. This is one person creating a scenario where the pain of suicide is lessened by a fictional resolution. Our reality is that we live in a broken world. Through religion or faith we have a belief system that may (or may not) help us through this time of trial.

How can we help suicide survivors? Here are some tips from the Survivors of Suicide website: listen, be compassionate, respect their need to grieve, be aware of support groups, be open and nonjudgmental, and more. http://www.survivorsofsuicide.com/index.html There are many more resources on the internet just a click away.



Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Release day for Dadgummit!

Happy Book Birthday to Dadgummit! Thanks to the wonderful folks at Camel Press, I am able to present book 4 of my Dreamwalker mystery series to readers. In this story, my psychic amateur sleuth tangles with an energy thief who has gone too far.



Read what the pros are saying about Dadgummit:

“Dadgummit is a stunning entry in the Dreamwalker Mystery Series by Maggie Toussaint, a mystery that explores murder and the unusual investigative skills of amateur sleuth, Baxley Powell.” – Readers Favorite

“This is one of the best books in the terrific series and I look forward to more adventures with Baxley and her friends.” – Dru’s Book Musing

“Plenty of suspense and a surprise twist.” – RT Reviews

“Highly recommended for both fans of paranormal and for those readers who just like a great story!” – InD’Tale Magazine

“Maggie Toussaint has a colorful writing style that takes readers from one venue to another with ease and total writing expertise.” – Mary Gramlich, the Reading Reviewer

Where to buy:

Amazon: Kindle and Print

B&N:  Nook and Print

iTunes:  iBook

Books A Million:  Print

I hope you'll click over to my website for more about Dadgummit: WEBSITE

Happy Reading,

Maggie Toussaint

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Southern Writers' Magazine

How exciting! My article "When A Door Closes" is featured in this month's Southern Writer's Magazine.
I drew my inspiration from what could have been a catastrophic event in my career. My mystery publisher pulled the plug on their entire mystery line. As I networked with other authors in my house and unbelievably other publishers who'd also cut their cozy lines, I realized the reaction from the news devastated some and energized others. I was upset, don't get me wrong, but I was also determined not to let it beat me.

Here's the first little bit of that article:

I encourage everyone not to let roadblocks get them down. Opportunities are still out there, if you only know where to look!

[I don't have permission to post the entire article, but I can at least post something more legible of what's in the teaser they prepared. The snip follows.]

 When a Door Closes by Maggie Toussaint
Runners pace themselves. If they go out too fast, they won’t last to the finish line. They push through the burn and find their stride. Authors go through a similar pacing process throughout their careers.

We learn how to navigate the ups and downs of story crafting, submissions, rejections, contracts, edits, blog tours, booksignings, reviews, conferences, newsletters, and social media. When we hit our stride, we feel confident and think, “I’ve got this.”

Then something unexpected happens. For some, financial or health concerns take precedent over their creative journey. For others, their publisher drops their books or an entire product line.

One day everything was fine for them, and the next, it wasn’t. When my publishing world upended, I stumbled and couldn’t quite catch my breath. Here’s what happened.

In the fall of 2015, my publisher announced it was closing its entire mystery line. The books already acquired for 2016 would still be published, but that was it. On our author loop, shock and concern dominated our posts. Many said this was a career ender for them because no house would acquire an ongoing series.

Several authors quit. They couldn’t conceive of writing for another house. Others stalled in the complaining phase of this turn of events. The rest looked around and said, “What’s next?”

A few decided to change genres, a few started a new series to shop around. Some, like me, had a backlog of manuscripts in a current series. If we wanted to keep publishing, we needed a new house or the stamina to become indie-publishers.

Finding a new house with an ongoing series is difficult, but indie publishing is no cakewalk either. Another consideration crept into my decision making process. Many of the larger mystery conferences require that authors be with a Mystery Writers of America approved publisher to be eligible for panel consideration.

Concurrently with my publisher closing their mystery business, other big houses shut down their cozy lines. Suddenly the ground was thick with unemployed cozy mystery writers, which is my genre. I knew that I couldn’t delay making a decision.... more at Southern Writer's Magazine.



Dadgummit, my August 1 release from Camel Press is receiving exciting reviews. It's up for pre-order at all venues. Check out the early reviews at http://maggietoussaint.com/dadgummit/ 

That's it for now. I hope you're having a great summer!

Maggie Toussaint
http://www.maggietoussaint.com

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cover Reveal: Turtle Tribbles

I'm so very pleased to present the cover for the next novella in my Lindsey & Ike Romantic Mystery Series. Turtle Tribbles, the second installation in this three-novella set, is a cozy mystery featuring amateur sleuth Lindsey McKay.


For all of my Bailey the dog fans, Bailey is her irrepressible self: headstrong and curious and super friendly. She loves being Lindsey's assistant, but so does Sheriff Ike Harper. He just wishes Lindsey would focus on her newspaper and him, LOL! Lindsey & Ike's relationship encounters some rough water during the course of crime-solving...

Here's the blurb for the novella:

In Book 2 of the Lindsey & Ike Novella Series, newspaper editor Lindsey McKay must decide if she’s ready to take the next step with her boyfriend, Sheriff Ike Harper. He’s anxious for her to move in, but she worries something is missing. Meanwhile, the Turtle Girl, a college intern named Selma Crowley, begs Lindsey to cover her turtle story. Someone is stealing federally protected loggerhead turtle eggs off a Georgia barrier island, and it has to stop.

The earnest young woman convinces Lindsey of the story’s potential, and the next day Lindsey ferries to the island to see the nests and take photos. Selma promises she’ll have tangible evidence of the theft on Friday, but the revelation doesn’t occur. Worse, Selma’s missing, and no one’s seen her since Wednesday evening. Because she demanded proof from Selma for the newspaper story, Lindsey blames herself for the intern’s disappearance.

When Selma’s body is discovered, Lindsey vows to get justice for Selma and her turtles. Selma’s tribbles are over, but the tribbles are just beginning for Lindsey and her trusty sidekick, Labrador retriever Bailey.

Ready to get your copy?

Turtle Tribbles released last year bundled in the Happy Homicides 3 Anthology. This year it's going solo. I updated the story a smidge for this individual release. Right now, this author's edition version is on pre-order at Kindle. It releases on May 1, 2017. To reserve your copy today, click on this link: PRE-ORDER NOW.

If you haven't signed up for my quarterly newsletter, I hope you will fill out the form on the sidebar of this blogsite.

Free Cookbook

As a bonus, I'm a participant (under my pen name of Rigel Carson) in a cookbook project, so there's a free cookbook for you, if you'd like one! My Gingerbread Man recipe is a family favorite at my house and everywhere I've carried them. COOKBOOK LINK
 

Thanks for stopping in!
Maggie Toussaint





Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Cover Reveal for Dadgummit

I'm very happy to present the cover for my upcoming Dreamwalker Mystery series novel, Dadgummit. We were looking for an image of a mountainside lake with a bit of atmosphere. I think we nailed it!


In this 4th book of the series, my sleuth Baxley Powell goes on vacation to the mountains with her family and friends. What could be better, right?

For starters, there's an armed guy running around the mountains claiming he's on patrol. His visit the first evening puts our sleuth on notice that there's no relaxing around here.

Secondly, the cops have an unusual case, a case wherein they can't see any obvious means of death on a very healthy appearing young man. During a sweep of the area, they come across Baxley and friends, run their names, and realize they have a bona fide psychic police consultant on hand, one with a 100% solve rate.

So, Baxley's vacation turns into a work-cation for her, but her encounters with the paranormal have never been anything like this! Soon she's hanging out with some "people" straight out of Cherokee mythology and trying to figure out who killed Haney, the young man by the lake. As if that's not enough something is running around stealing people's energy. Oh my my.


Dadgummit releases August 1, 2017 from Camel Press. The trade paperback is available for preordering at Amazon, and it will be available in both print and ebook format at multiple venues upon release.


To read an excerpt, visit my website at http://maggietoussaint.com/dadgummit/

Happy Reading!

Maggie Toussaint

ps Don't forget our monthly contest at Booklover's Bench! We have a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or B&N up for grabs! Contest runs through the 18th of the month. http://bookloversbench.com/win-a-gift-card-march-2017/

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Book Release!

Really, Truly Dead is out! This longer-length novella available exclusively on Kindle for the first 90 days, and also uploaded to other vendors after that.

Here's the Kindle buy link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06VTKF5G6

And for those who haven't seen it yet, here's the back cover blurb:

An amateur sleuth and her dog return home to a town of secrets … and an ugly murder

In this novella, science writer Lindsey McKay takes a leave of absence from her job and returns home with her dog to save the family newspaper. She left Danville ten years ago and she trusts she can wrap this up quickly. She promises her Atlanta boss she’ll return in two-weeks.

Sheriff Ike Harper is thrilled at Lindsey’s homecoming. She’s the gal who got away, and now he has a second chance at the woman he’s always admired.

Lindsey encourages her father to fight for the paper’s survival, but he won’t cooperate. Meanwhile, the murder of a local judge is a boon for the newspaper, but it’s too late. With her leave running out, neither the tragedy nor Lindsey’s hard work can save the failing business. Then the sheriff arrests her father for the murder, and she faces a new challenge.

Determined to clear her father’s name, Lindsey stirs up a hornet’s nest of trouble. Will saving her father’s life cost Lindsey hers?

Happy Reading, Everyone!

Maggie Toussaint

Friday, February 10, 2017

Really, Truly Dead Cover Reveal!

I'm so happy to present the wonderful cover for my novella, Really, Truly Dead. The creation is the work of Boulevard Photografica and it really and truly (sorry, I couldn't resist!) sets the tone for the romantic mystery. See for yourself!


The novella will release in the next few days on Kindle Select at Amazon. This is the first of three in a novella series. The collection will be issued in a print book later this year.

Here's the blurb for the story:

An amateur sleuth and her dog return home to a town of secrets … and an ugly murder

In this novella, science writer Lindsey McKay takes a leave of absence from her job and returns home with her dog to save the family newspaper. She left Danville ten years ago and she trusts she can wrap this up quickly. She promises her Atlanta boss she’ll return in two-weeks.

Sheriff Ike Harper is thrilled at Lindsey’s homecoming. She’s the gal who got away, and now he has a second chance at the woman he’s always admired.

Lindsey encourages her father to fight for the paper’s survival, but he won’t cooperate. Meanwhile, the murder of a local judge is a boon for the newspaper, but it’s too late. With her leave running out, neither the tragedy nor Lindsey’s hard work can save the failing business. Then the sheriff arrests her father for the murder, and she faces a new challenge.

Determined to clear her father’s name, Lindsey stirs up a hornet’s nest of trouble. Will saving her father’s life cost Lindsey hers?

Stay tuned for release information in the next few days!

Maggie Toussaint

ps Over at Booklover's Bench we're giving away a tablet. The contest ends on Feb 18, 2017. To visit the page: http://bookloversbench.com/win-a-samsung-galaxy-tablet-feb-2017/

Sunday, February 5, 2017

How to: Online Critique Groups



So you’ve decided to join an online critique group? Good for you! When guidelines are established up front and followed, online critique can be enjoyable and boost your writing level.

An underappreciated aspect of critiquing other writers’ work is that you are less emotionally tied to every word and can discern where something stops working. It has been my experience that evaluating how a story is put together will cross over to your own work and help you to elevate your craft.

For critique to be constructive, praise the parts that are working as well as note where something doesn’t work. Articulate in a kind and helpful manner why it doesn’t work for you. Offering suggestions on possible different directions to take may be welcomed.

Who is a good match up for you?
(This may surprise you.) Any publication-minded writer who is familiar with story structure, who has a keen eye, and who has a kind way of phrasing their observations. I have had critique partners since the 1990s, so I know this to be true. The genre matchup between your work and your critique partner(s) need not be identical. Also, while it may be helpful if the other members of your critique group are at a similar place on their publication journey, it doesn’t matter as much as you might think.

Family members, best friends, or anyone who might rubberstamp your work to avoid hurting your feelings are rarely desirable for critique partners. Also, be on the lookout for toxic critiquers. These folks find fault with everything, and their input is rarely constructive. My advice? Bow out of that situation and try again.

What are your exchange parameters?
In general, the larger the group, the smaller the page count swapped (i.e., it would be arduous for a group of six people to swap 25-30 pages every week; 10 pages is a better amount for a larger group).For groups of two or three writers, 20-25 pages is a good ballpark number. Most groups use standard margins of one inch, double spacing, and a standard font such as Times New Roman size 12. Using Track Changes in Word gives you a way to add comments in the margin of the page. If your members aren’t familiar with Track Changes, another option is to use all caps or a different color of font for your remarks.

Clearly define what input you are seeking. For a piece that’s highly polished, a writer may want to know where you were tempted to put it down. For a first draft piece, a writer might want to know if the story flows, if the characters are believable, and so on. This may be author-specific or manuscript specific.

If you have more than two people in a group, decide if the critiques go back to the author or to the entire group. It can work either way, and it can also stimulate a discussion post-critique, if that’s what your group wants to do.

When will your group meet?
Keeping to a schedule is a good idea. That way, there are fewer surprises on submission dates. Decide upon frequency of submission and expected time of response. Some groups exchange weekly, some every other week, or some only at the beta reader stage. Whatever works for your group is the right answer.

Where will your group meet?
Most online critiquers opt for getting the exchanged files in their email Inboxes. Some may set up private social media groups for the exchange of files. Others may elect to connect via phone or a video chat service such as Skype.

How to critique
 Avoid stomping on someone’s dream. It takes a high degree of trust to put your work out there for peer review. The same people you are swapping with are also reviewing your work. Instead of offering negative feedback, provide constructive comments.

It is easy to make line edit suggestions, but grammar and punctuation are rarely the primary focus of an online critique group. Instead, critique partners often note story construction weaknesses, characterization inconsistencies, timeline issues, lack of setting in a scene, slow pacing, opening or closing hook needs strengthening, missing beats, untagged dialog, head hopping, and so on.

Showing vs telling is a common critique comment. If you notice an author “told” something instead of “showing” it, make a constructive comment to illustrate a showing in this situation. The goal is not to rewrite the work, but to offer a suggestion so that the author may own that revision.

Give praise where praise is due. A particularly well-drawn character, hero or villain, is a treat to readers, and the author should be praised for getting this right. Perhaps the dialog sparkles, the pacing is spot-on, or the settings are three dimensional – make sure you tell the author you noticed.

Writing styles vary. You want your critique partners to respect your style, so respect theirs. Style and voice are individual, and your goal as a critique partner is to make sure the work you are reviewing reflects the author, not your personal style.

Be kind. Nuance, humor, and tone don’t come through well during a critique, so make remarks in a neutral way. If you don’t understand something, say that instead of saying “you did something wrong.” Asking for clarification will help the author figure out what areas of the work need strengthening.

In summary, offer constructive feedback on writing craft elements in a neutral manner. Respect voice and style. Provide an example, if needed, for clarification of your remark. Praise aspects of the sub which are well done. Remember to be courteous and professional in how you phrase your remarks.

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Check out this giveaway for a new tablet! Contest is live February 1-18, 2017: http://bookloversbench.com/win-a-samsung-galaxy-tablet-feb-2017/