In For A Penny
On the Nickel
Dime If I Know (Silver Falchion winner)
Death, Island Style
Murder in the Buff
Thanks for being here today Maggie!
By Maggie Toussaint
Raise your hand if you know what it’s like to be different. Uh-huh. That’s what I thought. We’ve all been too “this” or too “that” at one point or another.
For me, the biggest out-of-sync experience came at the start of 8th grade. My parents split just before Easter of 7th grade, and I had the summer to accept that new reality, the subsequent move to another county, and enrollment in another school zone.
I endured the terrible awkwardness of those first weekend custody exchanges, learned a new landscape, and thought I was okay with the whole thing. I didn’t know I’d have a new label attached to my name.
People whispered behind my back, “There’s the new girl. She comes from a Broken Home. Bless her heart.” (Maybe some of you are too young to remember there used to be a terrible stigma attached to divorce. I was just glad my parents were no longer fighting, you know?)
Anyway, being the new kid in school was hard for me because I’d grown up surrounded by a wealth of cousins in a much smaller town. For the first time, I was truly alone everywhere I went. That formative experience taught me to dig deep, to know who I was, and what I wanted.
In truth, it launched me into an adult mindset at 13, and in many ways it prepared me to be a mystery writer. I began to be more analytical and to say “what if” to myself as I addressed challenges.
I wrote romances to begin with, then my Cleopatra Jones mystery series, and several stand-alone mysteries. I recently began a new mystery series with a paranormal sleuth named Baxley (Nesbitt) Powell. She’s a dreamwalker, though for many years she denied her extra powers. Her awakening to her differences came at an early age when people would point to her and her family and whisper. She never wanted to be a Nesbitt. Never wanted to have extra gears of sensory perception.
During her school years, Baxley longed to fit in, but she was always excluded. The popular kids wouldn’t accept her because her clothes were different (tie-dyed and jeans during a very preppy fashion era), her family philosophies were too liberal, and her parents didn’t have real jobs. For years, she worried they might be secret pot growers. Bottom line, she became self-reliant and a straight-A student because she couldn’t wait to get out of her small town.
I couldn’t let Baxley grow up alone, so I gave her a BFF. You see, another young girl in her class also didn’t fit in. Charlotte Armstrong was ostracized because of her overweight issues as early as elementary school, and she and Baxley became inseparable. Their friendship endured the years when Baxley married a service man and lived at different military bases around the country for eight years. When her husband didn’t return from a mission, Baxley and her daughter moved back home to coastal Georgia.
My Dreamwalker Mystery Series began with Gone and Done It, in which Baxley is determined to
prove she can be a police consultant. In this story, she learns to accept the entirety of who she is, including her extrasensory powers and talking to the dead. In my new book, Bubba Done It, she has attained police consultant status, but she learns every case is different and discovers regular rules don’t apply to the paranormal world.
In short, even though Baxley has come full circle, from outsider to insider in her home community, she’s still coping with differences, still learning new things about herself, still eager to face each challenge. Because she’s learned what many others haven’t. There is no “Easy” button in life; it’s all a mystery.