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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Guest Author & Giveaway: Toni McGee Causey

I have a confession to make right off the bat: I never intended to read Toni McGee Causey's (aka T. M. Causey) book, THE SAINTS OF THE LOST AND FOUND. Not because I didn't expect it to be good--I'd read a number of Toni's earlier humorous cozy mysteries and liked them a lot, and the book has been getting amazing buzz. But because it was the kind of book I don't read. Way darker than I am normally comfortable with, and with a lot of topics I avoid like the plague, including serial killers, abused women, and dead children. But I wanted to host Toni here on the blog, so I thought I'd at least read the first few pages, so I could talk about it with some knowledge.

But then I ran into an unexpected problem. The book isn't just good--it's GREAT. So great that I couldn't stop reading it, even when it pushed me well past my comfort zones. Toni's earlier books were lovely; light, frothy, amusing entertainment. This? This is a damned masterpiece. (And no, she didn't pay me to say so.) The writing was stellar, the characters enthralling, the story so intense that I had to keep reading to find out what happened. And while I'm going to warn y'all that there are definitely some trigger warnings for this book, it is also well worth reading. I am giving it my highest possible recommendation. She calls this book "Southern Gothic Suspense." I call it one of the best books I have ever read in my life.

I love this cover too--and Toni did that as well!
I asked Toni to come post a guest blog, and here it is. She'll be giving away a signed copy of the book (or an e-copy, if the winner prefers) plus a $25 gift card to the bookstore of the winner's choice (she'll do international as long as the card can be purchased there electronically) to one lucky commenter this Friday, the first of April. Take it away, Toni, and thanks for stopping by!



Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

One of the most dreaded questions a writer can field is the 'Where do you get your ideas' question, especially with regard to longer fiction. It's the kind of query that has a million answers, and often the author has no real clue how they put this idea with that one, stowing them somewhere in the crannies of their minds where the random ideas may bump and roll around until they become so entangled, they form a completely new idea. Or mess. It can work both ways. What makes this one better than that one? What makes this one the thing you knew you would use for a book, when there were a thousand other notions that seemed just as viable shunted off to the side, where hoarders even feared to tread.
This is the one time I feel like the kid at the back of the class who finally has an answer, who raises her hand with an "oh oh oh PICK ME PICK ME, I KNOW!" squeal. 

THE SAINTS OF THE LOST AND FOUND is the story of a woman, Avery Broussard, who sees lost things. Glimpses, like photo snapshots, of anything (or anyone) someone has lost bombard her as she moves through life and interacts with anyone. Lost keys, a phone, cameras, money, love. A child. Imagine having that ability to know the condition that lost thing is in, and see it, but not always be correct. She can see something lost in a wheat field, but may not know which wheat field.

Now imagine... you have that skill and you're trying to find a lost child... before a killer can finish his task... and you fail. One of your rare failures. 

Avery fails... and runs... and the story starts with just what happens when you cannot outrun your own abilities, or the vengeance someone will take for your mistakes.

So, where did that idea come from? Two odd-but-true events that took place probably fifty years apart. The first happened to my dad. The second, to me.

My dad told me his story... and he's not one to believe in anything extra-sensory. He swears it's true. He and my Paw Paw had been hunting. My dad’s family were very poor, and if  they didn’t hunt, they didn’t eat. This was back in the days of the Great Depression, and my Paw Paw’s three hunting dogs were prized because they helped most of the hunts be successful.  

 On one such trip, two of the hunting dogs returned, but the best one did not. My Paw Paw and Dad searched everywhere, and couldn’t find her. Dad was about ten years old at the time, and after they’d been searching futilely for a while, Paw Paw told him to get in the truck. They drove for about an hour (once they were out of the woods), far south of the property they’d been hunting on, and my Paw Paw pulled up to a very old house where an even older black man sat on a rocker on his front porch. His eyes were milky-white, the cataracts were so thick, he could not have seen who it was who'd driven up, and he had no phone. When Paw Paw got out of the truck, Dad was surprised that the old man started talking first—and knew who they were. Without anyone having said a thing yet.
“You lost a dog a ways back,” the old man said by way of intro, and Dad said his hair stood straight up on his head.  
“Yep,” Paw Paw said, but didn’t elaborate as the old man turned his head and sort of stared out into the trees. Trees he couldn't see.
He hummed to himself for a few minutes, kinda nodded as if figuring something out, and then said to my Paw Paw, “You know that river where you were hunting?” 
“Yep.”
“Well, about two miles west of where you were, the river forks. You know it?”
“Yep.”
“Take the right fork, and go on down a ways, ‘bout a mile or so, and your dog’s hung up there in the barbwire fence.”
Paw Paw thanked him, promised him some food from the hunt, and he and Dad climbed back in the truck, heading the almost hour drive back to where they’d been hunting.
My dad’s not the kind of person who believes in woo-woo stuff, especially something like this, so he indicated he thought it was all a waste of time, but they found the fork in the river, veered to the right, and about a mile from the fork, the dog was hung up in the barbwire fence. 

I probably would have dismissed the entire thing as completely far-fetched, except that it was my dad telling the story, he was sincere in his disbelief-until-he-saw-the-proof aspect, and I’d had enough oddball experiences finding things that other people had lost that I knew there could potentially be more at work than someone simply telling a tall tale. 

For many years, I’d get flashes of where something was that I was looking for... I’d “see” it, and then sure enough, that’s where it was. I’d never thought much about it other than assuming I had simply probably memorized its location as I walked through a room—maybe something akin to a photographic memory—but I never assumed it was anything extraordinary beyond just memory, until one day, a friend was telling me about her mother’s lost high-heeled red stiletto shoe (her telling me was for a story reason), and as she talked about it, I “saw” the shoe underneath a very specific kind of porch.
I asked, "Does she live in a house that's raised off the ground?"
My friend was a little surprised, and said yes.
I asked, "Is it a little higher off the ground than maybe normal... it has steps in the center of the front porch that lead up to the front door, and no railings?"
My friend was getting a little weirded out, because her mother lived in Nova Scotia, and I'd just completely described her home... Even though we both knew we'd never talked about where her mother lived, and I'd never been to Nova Scotia or to her mother's.
Then I said, "Well, I have this weird image of that red shoe. If she faces the stairs and goes to the left, behind the third pylon, there's a depression in the dirt. The shoe is lying there. But it's been chewed on by a dog.
My friend laughed, because her mother didn't have a dog, but she said she'd ask her to look anyway.
She called me right back. The shoe was where I described it, exactly. In the condition I described it.
How does that even happen? I have not a single clue.
That freaked me out. Plenty.  

Not long after, a different friend, Julie, who lived in Arizona (and I lived in Baton Rouge at the time), was desperately looking for another friend, K, who’d left a suicide note. Many mutual friends had gone out searching, but K couldn't be found. When Julie called me and told me what was happening, as she talked, I could see K... she was sitting by a large tree, eyes closed, having already died. Her white car (I didn’t know she had a white car) was parked nearby. I could sense water, but not see it, which was odd and I could also see a woman with a backpack leaning over K, not yet realizing that K had died.
I told Julie all of this. She was noticeably disappointed when she sighed and said, “Unfortunately, where we live, it's a desert. There are no trees like that, and no water.” 
And I completely understood--she was hoping for that magical solution, and I honestly couldn't give it to her. It bothered me terribly to be so wrong, but it was a long shot anyway. I told Julie, “Ignore it then, it’s just an odd image.”
She called back four hours later, devastated. They’d found our K... two hundred miles north of where she lived, sitting on the bank of a dried river bed, leaning against a giant cottonwood tree. Her white car was parked nearby. A woman with a backpack who’d been hiking with friends had found her.
She'd only died about an hour earlier (Julie believed), based on a ticket she'd paid to enter the park. Witnesses would later confirm sightings of her when she'd parked and then gone and sat by the tree.
Aside from the shock and grief for the mutual friend, the entire conversation and ensuing discovery stunned me and if it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t blame anyone for not believing it. What was worse, I didn't know what to do about it. Help people? How?
Not long after, I told a couple of people, and the first thing they did was ask me about something they’d lost. It was a near-instant reaction on their part, and sometimes it was something important, but sometimes it was something that had just eluded them and they were tired of being thwarted. Every time, I 'got' an 'image' that popped in my head. And I was almost always wrong about my guesses. I think my ratio of correct “images” to questions was so low, it probably needed multiple zeroes after a decimal point. 

I didn’t mind being constantly wrong. It was a relief, actually, because the hope that people have when they are asking about something lost is palpable, and dashing those hopes, or seeing their disappointment, was equally brutal.  

Which lead me to wondering... What if? What if you could do this for real... But you're human, you're not perfect, and you make mistakes? Would you go to the police? Would you volunteer? Where do you draw the line?
What if everyone wants your help? How do you have a life? Do you hide your ability?
What if a child's life depends on it?
What if your own life does? Or someone you love?
Years after losing K, Avery was born, and I think she’d probably been there all along, from the first time I found something... or maybe even as far back as when my dad told me that story about the hunting dog.
And those what ifs kept piling up, pressing forward, begging to be answered until I could ignore the questions no longer.
THE SAINTS OF THE LOST AND FOUND is not for the faint of heart. It's a dark book, and it may break your heart, but it may also give you hope.
For me, it's finally given me peace.


Tell us if you have ever had any sort of experience with finding lost things, or other weird paranormal oddities. And be sure to go find Toni here:

http://www.facebook.com/ToniMcGeeCauseyAuthor (for giveaways and contests)
http://www.facebook.com/ToniMcGeeCausey (more of the sillier stuff in life)

And get the book here:






50 comments:

  1. I love finding out what inspired an author to write a story. Thanks for posting and I just added this author to my TBR list. The book sounds so good!

    love2read28@gmail.com

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    1. Her earlier books, which are might lighter, are fun too.

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  2. Toni / Blonde BettyMarch 29, 2016 at 8:40 AM

    I loved this book. I can't find things, but I definitely can sense when things are off.

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    1. I used to be really good at finding things until I clamped down on my psychic abilities in my early 20's when they became overwhelming. But I still get all sorts of weird things happening. That's one of the reasons I loved this book :-)

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  3. I've got this book sitting in my Kindle app right now, but haven't felt up to dealing with darker tones yet. I'm very much looking forward to reading it when my head is in a better space, though. I have loved every bit of writing I've ever read from Toni. :)

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    1. It is definitely something you want to save for a time when you need a major distraction (because it will suck you right in) but can handle the darkness.

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  4. So interested in this author from Deborah's description of her writing style.So glad I follow Deborah Blake, because not only are her books awesome, but I always find out more authors with great books. Thanks!

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    1. Yay! I love promoting the authors whose work inspires and entertains me, and turning my readers on to great new books.

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    2. Isn't Deborah the best? And thank you. ;)

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  5. One of the best books I've EVER read!! I'm not sure it's extraordinary, but I'm VERY good at reading a person's personality, who they really are, sometimes just from a picture. I once took one look at a picture of my cousin and his then very serious girlfriend, and said, Nope. My mom said I'd never think anyone was good enough for my baby cousin. I said, no, just not her. Turned out, she was pure venom and tried to turn him against his own family.

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    1. I usually have pretty good instincts about people too. Which isn't always fun.

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    2. Aw, Kelli Jo, you totally rock. Thank you for posting such wonderful reviews! I grinned so hard, my face hurt. ;)

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  6. I cannot wait to read this! As to finding lost things, I usually sleep on it and will often dream where the object is. There's also a lot of other paranormal stuff in my life, let's just say 'weird is normal' and leave it at that ;-)

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  7. I don't really have any special gifts or experience with paranormal oddities. However, there are often days where I feel a sense of doom, where I don't want to leave the house and I don't want my husband to go anywhere. And on those days, something bad (fortunately it's usually not *really* bad) always happens. So, I guess there's that. And that has been going on my whole adult life. The Saints of the Lost and Found was my first read by this author, and I really enjoyed it. Thanks!

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    1. Thank you, Kristy -- so glad you enjoyed it!

      And wow, what a cool intuitive ability to have.

      Every single time I've ever dreamed about someone dying, someone in my family turned up pregnant, and every time I've dreamed of pregnancy, someone has died. It's kinda horrible, but I finally know what to look for when I have those dreams.

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    2. Toni--there is no way I can be pregnant, so do me a favor and don't dream about me :-)

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  8. Sounds like the inspiration for Saints is just as intriguing as the novel itself! I tend to be a skeptic myself, but I have often seemed to have a weird thing about dreams. While my siblings were getting married and starting families, I went through a streak of dreaming they were pregnant right before they announced to anybody. And the gender of the baby in the dream was always spot on. I get sketchier results with friends, however.

    A boy I cared about very much was killed in a car accident many moons ago. I went through a month long stretch after his death of dreams that were nothing more than conversations with him at a night club we used to frequent. But it was all so vivid and stark that I can still remember all of those conversations almost 20 years later. The last time I dreamed of him that way, he stood up and said, "I gotta go. You'll be okay now. Don't worry about me anymore." And then I woke up. In the week that followed THAT, I counted four vanity plates with his name on it and nineteen instances of his name in advertising, on trucks, etc. Took me a while to make a connection on that weirdness. April 19. His birthday. Cue the Twilight Zone music right here....

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    1. Wow--talk about a message. That is awesome.

      I had that sort of dream about Mike -- lots of conversations, but one that was so real, it was physically tangible. He made me touch his hair (which had grown out), and he put his arm around me. After a long conversation, he said, "I might not be around as often--there's so much to do here. But you'll be okay. I'll keep checking on you, but don't worry about me--I'm having a blast." And he grinned that trademark grin and I *knew* it was real. Just too much about it was completely real. I haven't dreamed about him like that since then.

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    2. That's lovely. I believe the dead can come to us in many different ways. I have a friend whose deceased husband leaves her pennies in places they shouldn't be. It's very cool.

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    3. The evening after my son died, he came to me in a dream. It was as real as speaking to him, as I did the night before his wreck. He comforted me and explained why it was his time to leave.
      He was a big prankster and now we know he still plays jokes on us; knowing we left something in an exact place and we can't find it but the next day, it's right where we left it! Or asking him to help us locate something and it shows up in a place we already checked many times. And we also find the pennies in odd locations.

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    4. I love that he still interacts with you, that he is still there, being himself. I hope in some very small way, that's a comfort, to know that he still exists... just in a way that you can't physically see him, but he's still your son.

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    5. Angie-la, I'm so sorry for your loss.

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  9. This is a book that everyone should read. It is beautiful and heartbreaking. It has nail-biting tension and a few giggles. It is the book Toni was meant to write.

    There are times I wish I could find lost things but my woo-woo is written in bricks and mortar and wood and steel. I can sometimes walk into a building or house and "read" the emotions captured in the walls--good times or bad, births and deaths, hopes and dreams. When I walked into the house my beloved father-in-law bought with his second wife for the first time, I wanted to turn around and walk out. There was no happiness in that place and ten years later, he was injured there--injuries that led to his death 3 days later. But to leave on a happy note, pennies. Heads it's my dad, tails, my FiL. We find them a lot, and know they are watching over us. There's a long story there as to how we know it's them. :)

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    1. Neat! My friend's deceased husband leaves her pennies too.

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  10. Oh, Silver, thank you! And I *love* the pennies story.

    What a cool (but scary) intuition to have about a space. I felt a happiness immediately when we first walked into our building. I don't get a read everywhere, though. I'm kinda relieved about that. ;)

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    1. Your building is a happy place, Toni. Good vibes there!

      My dad was cremated but the collumbarium in my parents' church wasn't finished at the time so he sat in the priest's office for a year. A week before the internment, I saw a little cartoon video about "Pennies from Heaven"--about when you find a penny, someone you love in heaven is thinking about you. CJ and I started finding money on the sidewalk, in parking lots, on floors. My total came to my birth year. Her total came to her birth year. Years later, when my FiL passed, we'd often find two pennies together--one heads, one tails. We still do. :)

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  11. I hate to say it, but I can't read the read type. Too harsh for my eyes.

    As for finding lost things, when I was a child the nuns taught us this little ditty:

    Tony, Tony, please come 'round!
    Something's lost and must be found!

    As a orayer to St. Anthony of Padua, patron saint fo finding lost things.

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    1. Sorry, Gloriamarie. I have a hard time with white type on black backgrounds, but the red it okay for me. If you want, send me your email and I'll send what she wrote to you in regular black.

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    2. I've tried the Tony Tony prayer... it works sometimes!

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  12. I completely believe that my husband and I had a premonition back in 2008 right before we lost our sixteen year old son.
    He had a dream two weeks prior that he was looking for him and could not find him anywhere. He woke up knowing he was gone. He didn't tell me about it until a week later, it freaked him out so bad.
    The day of the wreak, that morning I had a dream that I urgently needed to get him home from school, RIGHT NOW. I almost called the school to check him out and send him home, but it was only the third day of that school year.
    I was working at home, it was a Friday, I signed off at 4:00. He should have been home thirty minutes later. I called his dad, he hadn't heard from him, so we started calling his cell. It went straight to voicemail. Shortly after, there was a knock on the door, it was our pastor and right behind him, the sheriff of our rural county. I knew.
    A tanker truck had crossed the center line and crushed his truck on his way home from school. His passenger survived, he was list instantly.
    I just wish I had recognized these incidents for what they were. ��

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    1. Oh, Angie, I cannot imagine the pain of having those sorts of dreams and then living through the reality so soon after. There's no way to know, though, prior to his accident... you couldn't have known if you pulled him out of school if *that* wouldn't have caused something. It's excruciatingly painful, but we often cannot know those crossroads until we see them in hindsight. It's a terrible thing, not knowing if *this* is the thing that's a premonition we should act on, or if it's something we definitely *shouldn't* act on.

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    2. Angie, I'm so sorry for your loss. If I had a nickel for every premonition that I knew in hindsight was real... I know there is no way to make this feel any better, but you couldn't have stopped this. Big hugs and healing to you.

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  13. I just started reading Saints, and I hope I'm up to it. I don't usually do dark, but I trust you to let some light shine through. Sweet that your brother visited. My sister has felt my mother's help in sewing projects, and someone reported seeing "an angel" over me when I told a story for the high school talent show (risky for teachers to get silly in front of students, but it worked). Mom supported by storytelling, so I'm not surprised she was there to back me up. Never gonna wear a red stiletto, though . . .

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    1. It is definitely not an easy read. But well worth it.

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  14. I have had weird moments/experiences I can't explain, so I usually keep them to myself. Imagining something taking place and a month or so later seeing it play out in front of me and having that deja vu moment.

    Gift of sight, ESP, serendipity? Freakshow?

    Denise

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    1. I get that too. I would call it ESP, but either way, it is pretty spooky, isn't it?

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  15. I loved this book and read it as fast as I could, at the end I wanted more. I sincerely hope you write more, I would love to know what happens next for Avery. Her brother and her friends.
    I don't see lost things. But I used to have dreams, warning dress they called them. My momma had this gift to. When she passed my dreams stopped and now years later I only get them here and there.

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  16. Very interesting, esp. the bit about the lost dog. Folks, get this book. It's fantastic. I don't read such dark book very often, but there's also that tiny bit of hope built into it that kept me going.

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    1. Oh, Jody, thank you! And thank you so much for mentioning the hope.... I'm glad that you felt it throughout... that was *my* hope, that readers didn't feel that it was all bleak and hopeless.

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    2. That was part of what kept me going too...that and it was just too gripping to walk away from. I needed to know how things ended for Avery.

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  17. This book is the best thing I have read in a long time. I don't normally like dark stories, my life has had enough dark moments, but I could NOT put this book down. The darkness was kept at the edges as if Avery was even protecting the readers from it. I described the story as magical and haunting in my review on Amazon and still feel that way. Definitely make sure that you have some free time to read it though because you will get sucked in and not want to put it down.

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    1. Thank you, Kim!! I love that description of Avery. I think that's very accurate.

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  18. Well now I'm just creeped out! lol

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