Amused Authors

You Write What…? by Tymber Dalton
November 10, 2008, 9:00 am
Filed under: life, writing | Tags: ,

I’m going to take a slightly circuitous route to my point today, which is how I end up writing what I write. I’m going to give you a glimpse of how things migrate from “real life” into my fiction. (So what’s new, some of you will say about my roundabout point warning.) I had an interesting experience this weekend where a cop really pissed me off.

I don’t mean he irritated me, I mean he f**king pissed me off.

He didn’t mean to. But he did.

(This is where the road gets curvy, so bear with me.)

We live in an area of Florida hit particularly hard by the housing market bubble exploding. Not “bursting” like some call it. Exploding in a nasty way like one of those HBO True Blood vampires, leaving a horrible, gross, sticky residue all over the freaking place.

Across the street from us, what used to be a nice wooded lot, is now an unfinished house. It’s been unfinished for over two years now, and chances are it probably isn’t getting finished any time soon.

A little over a week ago, a guy died in a house about five houses down the street from us. The family cleaned the house out, did a yard sale, and left what didn’t sell out in the front yard with a “free” sign on it.

Saturday afternoon, I’m sitting on the couch working on my laptop, and I kept noticing some kids (young teenage boys) going back and forth and around the unfinished monstrosity across the street. Then I noticed them carrying something. Well, apparently they wanted to create a clubhouse. They were dragging furniture from the other yard into the unfinished house.

While normally I’m not a “hey you, get off my lawn” kind of person, it’s never a good idea for kids to trespass, especially in an unsafe structure, and certainly not to create an instant homeless/drug house haven by introducing a comfy recliner and matching co-ordinates to the mix.

So I called the sheriff’s office. I told them I didn’t need to speak to the officer, just to have them run the kids home and tell them to stay the heck out of the death trap across the street. A couple of hours later, I notice a cruiser in front of my neighbor’s house. (I suspected one of the kids might have been one of my neighbor’s kids, but I didn’t get a good enough look to tell, and frankly, I didn’t want to rat the kid out. I didn’t want them in trouble, I just didn’t want them setting up a clubhouse in the unfinished house across the street from me.)

I walked over to say hi, and found two of our county’s finest and my neighbor staring at yet another piece of furniture that had been left at the end of his driveway. Apparently the kids got it that far and dropped it. He had no clue what was going on, and had called the S.O. because he was worried it might be stolen or something.

It took Barney Fife (the young one who pissed me off) and Matlock (slightly older who knew to keep his mouth shut) a few minutes of calling back and forth to dispatch, plus a drive-by by the guy who was the brother of the guy who died, who did indeed confirm the furniture came from his brother’s yard, to confirm there wasn’t a La-Z-Boy larceny ring in our area.

While this is all going on, my husband is engaged in his favorite hobby: putting up the Christmas lights.

Yes, tell me about it. I KNOW it’s barely past Halloween. I KNOW it’s not Thanksgiving yet.

This is what he LIVES for.

Last year, I installed (meaning I installed it with my own two hands) a new, dedicated 30-amp breaker and outdoor outlet box for his lights because he kept blowing my living room circuit plugging into the only external outlet in the front (which, for some unknown and totally asinine reason, is hooked into my living room circuit).

It took my husband approximately two days to overload the new circuit, and I had to help him redistribute the load.

This is where Barney pissing me off comes in.

When I was standing there talking to the cops, told them I’d called in earlier, what I’d seen, that I’d been working, that I was a writer.

Matlock asked me to repeat myself because he didn’t hear me the first time, and I said, “I’m a writer.”

Barney asks me, “Oh, what do you write?”

I was honest. “Lots of stuff. Paranormal, romance, erotica.”

“Oh, smut?” he says with a smirk.

Thank the gods he was an armed officer of the law, or I would have been tempted to slap him.

I smiled my sweetest poo-eating smile and said, “No, not smut.” I proceeded to explain what I wrote and said, “Hey, I get to work from home, set my own hours, and the mortgage company doesn’t care what I write as long as the check is in their hands every month.”

So we’re still watching my husband puttering around with the lights while they’re waiting for someone to get back to them from dispatch with more info. Barney asks about my husband’s electric Christmas light fetish, and I explained last year’s fun with trying to juggle the circuits around because he blew the new one I’d installed for him.

Here’s where Barney REALLY pissed me off.

“YOU installed it? As in, YOU installed it?” (I swear to the gods, those were his EXACT words and inflection.)

Matlock fortunately kept his mouth shut. (He must have been married.) My neighbor, who knows I’m a motorhead and knows I do most of my own home repairs/improvements, barely kept from laughing. Not at me, but as in, “Oh crap, he just stepped in it,” the kind of nervous laugh/smile a guy gives his buddy when he’s happily married long-term and knows that the buddy (who is usually either unmarried or newly married but clueless) just really pissed off a woman—and the laughing/smiling guy is sooooo glad it wasn’t him that just said the offending comment.

I looked at Barney and said, “Yes, I installed it. As in I hooked it up. Why?”

Barney was shocked into silence. Lucky for him.

My husband is a brilliant man, very sweet, literally The World’s Best Husband™. I am not kidding when I say this. But where some women have a husband who can fix anything and are as emotionally brilliant as a box of rocks, my husband is the best partner I could have ever prayed for, emotionally and intellectually, and then some, but I don’t let him touch tools for fear of him hurting himself or others.

My grandmother, in WWII, worked in the Tampa shipyards running a cutting torch/welder. My mother has spent over thirty years working with my dad, running a lawn equipment repair business. I have, at various times in my life, an assistant scuba instructor, run an auto repair/machining shop, been the parts manager of a marina, store manager for a national auto parts chain, among other things. I have learned how to do basic plumbing and carpentry and electrical work. I can, when required, work on my own car. I have rebuilt engines. I come from a long line of Florida Cracker women who didn’t bat their eyes at men to get them to do something. If we needed it done and the men weren’t around/couldn’t do it, we got it done one way or another.

I’ve done sh*t, in other words. I’m not all hat and no cattle. I don’t say that to come off like I’m bragging, because that’s not my reason for writing this. It’s just to state that I know what I’m talking about. And when I don’t, I admit it.

So this cop standing there getting ready to file a report about a wayward recliner, smirking at me first about what I write, and then about the fact that a “girl” might actually be able to do her own basic electrical installation reeeeeeaaaalllllyyyy pissed me off.

And how does this all tie in?

You can’t always write what you “know,” because, frankly, I have no clue what it’s like to go into space (“Love at First Bight,” Siren-BookStrand) or be a vampire or shapeshifter (“Love and Brimstone,” “Doggy Style,” “Dog Walk,” Amira Press). But when I write about a character sitting behind the wheel of her 1968 Mustang and her memories and how it felt the first time she learned how to drive it, how she feels as she starts the car and runs it through the shift pattern, that’s me (“Love and Brimstone,” Amira Press). I’ve been there. When a character is scrunched into the bowels of a boat’s engine room pulling injectors (“Red Tide,” wip), I’ve been there. When I write about a mom watching her son’s wheelchair race (“Cross-Country Chaos,” BookStrand), I’ve been there because my son is a wheelchair athlete. When I write about a young woman determined to do her best in a male-dominated profession (“Good Will Ghost Hunting: Demon Seed,” Lyrical Press) I’ve been there (in spades!). I’ve been in relationships and felt joy and pain and success and sorrow. I’ve never been a woman living with two guys (“Love Slave for Two,” Siren-BookStrand), but I blended things from real life for my characters and put them into a totally fictional setting. While I don’t know what it’s like to live in a psychopathic house and have someone trying to kill you, I do know what it feels like when a relationship is dying and being pulled between true love and a sense of obligation (“Out of the Darkness,” Lyrical Press).

So how does a “good” vanilla girl come to write some pretty wild things? I enjoy writing. I enjoy following characters and the stories they tell me. My stories, obviously, don’t revolve around sex, even the ones that are erotic books. The relationships between the characters, the conflicts both internal and external, are what my stories revolve around. I love living vicariously through my characters and the stories they allow me to write about them. Whether it’s a darker story (“Out of the Darkness,” Lyrical Press) that while technically a romance is more of a dark paranormal thriller with a romance embedded in it, or an outright ménage (“Love at First Bight,” Siren-BookStrand) it’s about fun.

Frankly, one of the reason I enjoy writing the ménages is because of the extra interplay between the characters outside of the bedroom. You’re not just dealing with two people. You’re dealing with a bunch of relationship dynamics that are so fluid it’s difficult to keep up with them sometimes. Alliances, give and take, all of it. It’s wicked fun. (No pun intended.)

So even if a book is total “fantasy” from the point of view that I have no real-world experience to toss into the stew, there is always something “real” in it, for me, even if it’s just how a character reacts to something that happens, because I’ve had a “translatable” experience in real life.

And somehow, somewhere, Barney will make a guest appearance.

Lesli Richardson (aka Tymber Dalton)


12 Comments so far
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“The best revenge is living well.” And the best way of changing the world is a little at a time, by being an example of a different way. Whether you taught the bigoted policeman anything or not is his own headache–but in your work, you will teach many more people.


Comment by asherose

Thanks, Kathleen. While I write with a goal of publishing so I can continue to write and pay my bills, the satisfaction I get when a reader tells me, “You really made me think,” or, “You made me laugh/cry/laugh and cry,” is what keeps me going. *LOL*

If I can educate them along the way, all the better. *le sigh*


Comment by Lesli Richardson

I think the advice “Write what you know” is often taken too literally. (Yes, I know what I said. Snicker all you want.) Most of the stuff we write about we haven’t physically done. If that was the law, a lot of authors would be in jail. Probably all of us, because who has been on all sides of the same incident? At least the company would be good.

Glad you forestalled the crack house moving in across the street.

Comment by Charlotte McClain

*LOL* Charlotte. I agree with that. There can be a germ of truth in our stories without having “done” all we write about. Human (or even non-human) emotions are pretty universal, so in that way it’s easy to keep a realistic grounding even when writing about fantastical things.


Comment by Lesli Richardson

Love it! I put up the christmas border around the living room already. Only because I was running track lighting and would be on a ladder anyway.

Comment by Kristy Bock

Who needs restraint? I have this newsflash in my head… Reporter says into camera, “Resident Arrested for Assault with Smutty Book!” In the background, Lesli is cuffed, the paramedics are resuscitating the cop and she’s politely informing the reporter that it is *not* smut!

Comment by Aubrey Leatherwood

OMG! Lesli, I read this and was laughing so hard I could hardly contain myself. LOL Seriously though as a daughter of a fix-it and maintenance guy, I can totally relate. I was taking apart my own alarm clocks when they broke and putting them back together again by the time I was twelve, and they worked when I was done! So, I can totally relate. As to the whole, “what do you write?” question I’ve had that too. What I find really humerous is when I can get one of these Barney’s to read one of my books or one of my favorites that someone else has written, suddenly it’s like “hey that had a plot!” Idiots of the world unite. There’s always one out there. Keep on keeping on girlfriend!

Comment by Regina

Kristy – Oh, he’s gone waaaaay beyond that. The entire house is wreathed with lights now. *LOL*

Aubrey – ROTFLMAO! It was just his attitude and look, you know? I so wanted to say something like, “Hey, porn is the stuff you probably whack off to in the bathroom — this is NOT porn.” *LOL* Buuuuuttt, I thought that might not be a good idea. *LOL*

Regina – Amen! *LOL* Thanks for the support. Yeah, it always boggles my mind when I meet a guy who is surprised by a woman who can DO stuff. *LOL* I want to say, “Yeah, we can do stuff besides cook and pop out babies, you know.” *LOL*

Comment by Lesli Richardson

Oh my, loved this blog. I could clearly picture your face when “Barney” said, “YOU installed it!” OMG I laughed and laughed.

Comment by Cassie Exline

you gotta be kidding me….what is wrong with people….

Comment by Savannah Chase

Cassie – What was funnier was my neighbor. He actually winced, like, “Oh, boy.” *LOL*

Savannah – I just hope Matlock didn’t give Barney any bullets… *LOL*

Comment by Lesli Richardson

Heh…Reckon I howled loud ’nuff fer the neighbors to comin’ runnin’ ter see what was so funny.

Somebody sent me over heah on account of you being a “Cracker Woman” an me jes’ finishin’ a post on what a Cracker is vs. a redneck. I see that ya’ is truly the of the Cracker breed …an’ ain’t it a fine thang?

Comment by Aunty Belle Cracker

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