Friday, March 30, 2012


By Maggie Toussaint

Maggie Toussaint
“I’m not brave.” There. I’ve said it. Out loud. Sure, I take risks with my books, but me, Maggie Tousssaint, I’m a big ole chicken. But that very fear turned out to be the saving grace for Murder in the Buff.

When I had a hard time breaking into publishing with conventional mysteries, I wondered if my subject material was too tame. How could I think outside of the box? How could I challenge myself as a writer and a person?

As I cast about for ideas, I remembered there was a naturalist colony in the woods of my old stomping grounds. Most of us locals debated for hours on end – what were they doing in there with all the bugs, ticks, snakes, and buzzards? I’ll admit my curiosity level rocketed off the chart.

Uh oh. A puzzle. I love puzzles. The idea of writing about a nudist colony tantalized me. And it scared me half to death. Could I do it? How would I do it? Would I have to do onsite research?

That idea nearly gave me heart arrythmia. But it got me thinking. If everyone was naked, where would they hide the murder weapon? Strangers would stand out, so it would have to be someone known to the victim. Hmm. I liked this idea more and more.

But. I did not want to see naked strangers. So, I did two things that really helped me. I talked to a former classmate of mine who’d been in there, and her eyewitness account was invaluable. And I decided to create a collage to use as a writing focal point.

I collected images of people, of items I thought would be related to the story. This wasn’t hard for clothed people. But it was increasingly difficult for the naked people. I started looking for images of people that looked more free-spirited or mean or conniving. I stumbled onto an article about naked grannies in England that gave me hope for my project. I found several images in magazines of naked people with the sexual parts out of eyesight through careful positioning.

I needed images that were provocative without being lewd. Granted, “racy” is in the eye of the beholder, but I didn’t need to see EVERYTHING. That’s what my imagination is for.

I labeled everyone on the collage, and I propped the final posterboard on the wall behind my computer monitor. Instant centering during my writing phase.

The final project turned out great, but it needed a special publisher to allow it to shine. Muse It Up took a chance on MURDER IN THE BUFF, and I’m so glad they did.

Here’s the blurb for MURDER IN THE BUFF:

Reporter Molly Darter’s world is crashing around her. Her cheating husband and trashy sister wrecked her marriage, and now she has to collect a nudist’s obituary to keep her job. The nudists convince Molly their friend was murdered. Molly scoffs until explicit pictures of the nudist with town leaders and her father surface. Family loyalty kicks in, and she hunts for the killer in earnest to save her dad.

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.

MURDER IN THE BUFF is available at: Muse It Up Publishing and Amazon.
Maggie Toussaint

Thanks to Maggie for sharing with us today. For those of you who missed my review of her fun mystery, MURDER IN THE BUFF, please go to the post for March 14th at

Thanks for stopping by!


Diana Cosby said...

Fun premise! I've never used a story board like you set up, but I can see the merit. For me, I usually have pictures of the hero, heroine and villain. Setting pics are a must as well. Thanks for sharing your insight, and your novel's highlights. Wishing you amazing sales and continued success! *Hugs*


Maggie Toussaint said...

Thank you for having me here today. I hope lots of readers and writers will be inspired to use art to enhance their lives.

My mother-in-law is a wonderful artist and we have many of her pieces in our home. At times I feel like I have a private art gallery!!

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Diana,
It's nice to see that others are similarly moved by visuals. The nice thing about a collage is that you can make it on anything - a posterboard or a box. I collect pictures from magazines before I throw them out and keep a file of pictures that have "spoken to me." Then when I start a new project, I go through my stash to get started. Sometimes I keep looking for images but oftentimes I already have what I need.

One of the fun things was that I had cut out the red-painted rooms randomly before and when I flipped through my files I realized they were perfect for this story. Who knew?

Let the Muse be your guide!

jess said...

Love the post and your book sound fun. I used to do collages in my youth -- I'd create them around my poetry. :) I've always wanted to do them using my books but it seems such an effort. Do you look for your pictures all at once or does the collage evolve the same way a book does. I could see spending hours on the collage because I love them so much. How much time did yours take overall?

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Jess,

Time management is a problem for me! I love doing this and can spend hours searching for this or that. Or I can just start collecting pictures for the folder instead of staying with the task at hand.

Sometimes I break it up into steps. I collect pictures for a limited amount of time and add them to a story folder. I print out my list of names and places I need to see. Then I match them up.

The positioning on the collage board can take awhile too. It is art, after all ((grin)). But seriously, I get so charge up doing this that the time isn't wasted. As I work with each image, I'm thinking about that person or place, creating memories. It's all good!

Thanks for visiting!


Paula Martin said...

I really admire you for thinking out of the box. One day maybe I'll have the courage to do that! Many congrats!

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Paula, I had to push myself outside the box because it's very easy to stay inside your comfort zone. But interesting things happen out there, beyond the box. Stuff that sparks my imagination and my writing. It was well worth the trip!

Thanks for the visit.


Anonymous said...

What a neat idea! I love both the story idea and the collage. :D I had to laugh when you said you didn't want to see naked strangers! I'd feel the same way. :D

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Adriana,

Thanks for posting a comment. I struggle with my feelings about the human form. I recognize it as work of art ((grin)), but not all art is equally enjoyed by viewers. So I adopted this nontraditional approach (for me, anyway) for this story. I got so much out of it, I continue to use photos for character and setting identification.

I appreciate your visit!


Sheryl said...

Haw, haw. I got a very vivid image of you breaking out in a hot sweat as you lurked in the bushes, Maggie - for research purposes, of course.Love it! :)

Celia Yeary said...

Maggie--this just cracks me up. I would never think to write a story around a nudist's colony. Priceless, and only you could come up with such a thing. Knowing your brand of humor, I can imagine the characters. I'm sure this will be a fun story and very successful.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Sheryl,

I didn't do a lot of lurking in the bushes, but I still drive by the site and wonder what the heck is back there. The picket fence intrigues me, to say the least.

Thanks for the smile!


Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Celia,

You're so sweet to say those things, and nope, I didn't pay her to do it, either!

Thanks for visiting.


Pepper Phillips said...

Sounds like a great story and I'm sure it hasn't been done before.

I was lucky enough to attend Jennifer Cruisie's workshop on collages at RWA National, and what she showed of her work and others were nothing less than art pieces.

I've wanted to do one for ages. I have the board, even some stuff to glue on it. But the brain stopped there.

Whatever happened to the artist that resides in me? I don't know but I need to find her.

On a side note, when we were first married we saw a movie, at a drive-in no less, that was set at a nudist colony. When the heroine finally took of her shirt you could hear people groaning and yelling, "Put it back on!"...I never thought that some boobs could be ugly, but I was young then.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Pepper,

You made me laugh with your comment about the drive-in! I'll bet you get succumb to the siren call of the collage board during the heat of summer. Let me know if you do!

Thanks for the visit.