from CJ:

Since we're all about culture here at the Divas, and pop culture includes books and authors and how authors gain their oh-so-sophisticated views of our culture to include in their books, I thought I'd invite the very-sophisticated and cultured honorary Diva, Toni McGee Causey, to join us today.

Be sure to leave a comment--Toni will be stopping by throughout the day.

Toni is going to treat us with a literary glimpse into the life of a working mom/would-be author in search of gravitas and meaning....

(uh, crime fiction) (action adventure+breasts...hmmm.)

by Toni McGee Causey

A former literary professor of mine once asked me why I switched from writing literary fiction (which had been my focus in grad school) to comedic crime fiction. I told him I blamed my breasts. I’m pretty sure he strained off about five years of his life trying to not look at my breasts when he heard that answer.

When I was a newly minted twenty-four-year-old with two sons who were four and four months, I had aspirations of writing a novel and my then-attempts were going in circles. Literary slice-of-life works for some writers (and for some, extremely well), but all I was making was mush. Meanwhile, I was finally back in the swing of writing freelance when one magazine assigned me a feature article on the local coroner. I will call him “Hypolite.”

Hypolite was about three-hundred years old at the time, all tanned and loose jointed and skinny and wrinkled, with big black-framed glasses which weighed his face down so much that he hunched over most of the time. In spite of being a coroner and probably having seen the worst that mankind can do to one another, he was a very sweet, funny and gentle soul.

The point of the article was supposed to have been his unusual collection of musical instruments from around the world, but I harbored a secret desire to pump him for information about how a coroner’s office worked, what kinds of crimes he could tell me about which might turn into fodder for my fiction. At the time, my biggest daily dose of “serious” was trying to keep the four-year-old from taking the child-protection caps off of the electrical outlets to see if a fork really could fit in there. (He was a very wily kid; he disassembled his baby bed when he was two… while he was in it. I heard a “thunk” and came running and it was sitting all at a slant, having luckily wedged against itself, and he was trapped inside, laughing, because scaring mom was great fun.)

I was hoping Hypolite could open up the door to a more dangerous world, giving me the type of background I needed for my attempts at serious fiction — something which would have gravitas and meaning, pathos and tragedy. Something important.

We’d been talking a while, with Hypolite delicately trying to steer the conversation back to banal subjects more appropriate (he thought) for a “sweet, young mother” and I kept forcing U-turns back to the grisly. His attempts at resisting and my absolute determination meant we’d bantered far longer than I’d realized. In his last effort at wresting back control, he said, “Didn’t you recently have another baby?”

I admitted I had, and it was at that moment I realized it was way past time to be home to nurse the little rug rat (whose baby sitter had supplies). My bigger concern was leakage. But I was safe, I thought, as long as we didn’t discuss the nursing.

“Are you nursing?”

I felt the milk come down, and I knew my time was limited. I could be professional, though. I had on a thick nursing bra (and nursing pads, just for protection), so I had time before there could be any leakage or telltale signs of danger. I had planned ahead. I was perfectly safe.

At which point I looked down and realized that there were two streams of milk hitting Hypolite on his forearm.

He was sitting at a forty-five degree angle from me at a tiny table, and my breasts were shooting milk like they were mini Howitzers. I was soaking the coroner’s sleeve with breast milk.

I slammed my arms across my chest, and it only made it worse. The spray was fitzing around my cupped hands like a barricaded water hose on full blast. The geysers wouldn’t stop. Hell, I could have fed an entire third-world country if they’d been standing at ten paces, mouths open. Milk trickled down my arms. And legs. I was pooling milk on the beautiful hardwood floors, people.

So much for being a professional, serious crime writer.

As mortified as I was in that moment, I realized later it was a gift. (Long after I had escaped his home, wearing one of his old shirts over my dress to stem the humiliation, and after he’d called to check on me the following week to make sure I hadn’t offed myself.) It was a gift because it was funny, and it was real. It’s one of those honest moments in life where there is no spin, there is no façade, baby, it’s just you dealing straight with the world and the world watching. I think really good writing gets to that level of real for the characters, and this was my doorway into understanding that it was not only okay to be honest, but it was necessary.

Great writing brings the reader to the squirmy places where you want to protect the character or where you identify and empathize or where you simply want to see them get back out of the fix (humiliating or otherwise) and succeed in their goal. But it was the “funny” part which ended up being the biggest gift of all, because I realized how much I enjoyed making people laugh. (Hell, I told this story here, hoping you’d all chuckle.) Comedy is important; I think we need it for release, especially (at times) when dealing with dark, dangerous subjects.

Life is absurd. Really weird, down to body parts, even. (I mean, can anyone explain the reason why a penis looks like it does? And for anyone who thinks a woman wishes she had one, have you not been paying attention to us? How many times have you heard us ask, “Jeez, do I look fat in this?” Do you really think we want something attached to our body which can inflate all on its own? I rest my case.)

Sorry, I digressed.

Life is weird and funny. Crime is even crazier. Did you hear about the couple who allegedly faked that they had just given birth to septuplets and allegedly went to a town’s council, allegedly telling them the babies were in critical condition… (and I love this part) in a secret location because a member of the family was trying to kill them and they needed cash to help their babies? You know, that’s just damned beautiful in its stupidity. I’m wondering what they intended to do when someone wanted to actually see the kids. Run the visitor past the maternity ward, praying there were enough babies in there at the right time?

It’s bizarre, and if I’d been a member of that community, I’d be annoyed they (allegedly) fleeced a few people and got a little money, but as a writer? That stuff is golden. I love finding ways of turning those stories and finding just the right angle to show the humor, the idiocy, the chaos of it all, and how it affects the character. So thank God for leaky Howitzer breasts and funny little coroners. I probably wouldn’t be here today writing comedy / crime-caper if I hadn’t soaked him thoroughly, but it does make me wonder about the rest of you. I can’t be the only one with a leaky-breast-shooting-someone story.

Okay, well, maybe I am, but I’ll bet you all have witnessed some humiliating moments. Or some freaky crime in your community. C’mon… share.

About Toni:
Toni McGee Causey is the author of the critically acclaimed “Bobbie Faye” novels—an action/caper series set in south Louisiana; the series was released this summer in back-to-back publications, beginning with CHARMED AND , GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE GUNS , and WHEN A MAN LOVES A WEAPON -- which is out August 4th and has just received 4 stars from Romantic Times.

As an MFA in Screenwriting, Toni had scripts optioned as well has having just this year produced an indie film, LA-308, which she and the rest of the producers will be submitting to festivals. Previously, Toni wrote non-fiction for the local newspapers, edited Baton Rouge Magazine, sold articles to national magazines, was a contributor to the anthology Do You Know What It Means as well as Killer Year: Stories to Die For . She has had several of her blogs syndicated nationally from her group blog, “Murderati” To learn more about Toni, her life, and her books go to: www.tonimcgeecausey.com

About CJ:
About CJ:
As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. Her debut, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), became a National Bestseller and Publishers Weekly proclaimed it a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller."

The second in the series, WARNING SIGNS, was released January, 2009 and the third, URGENT CARE, is due out October, 2009. Contact her at http://www.cjlyons.net


  1. Toni,
    Chuckle? I'm laughing so hard I can barely type! What a great why to start my day. And what great advice on writing comedy.

  2. I almost choked on my green tea reading this. LOL!

    WOW! I think moms everywhere would give you a standing ovation for this story! I love that your lactating breasts led you to life of writing crime fiction. I think it's sometimes easier to do the heavy but when you go down the funny road - it can be tougher. It's not easy to make people laugh so I applaud you!

    Personally I LOVE the funny in fiction. When I tell stories about my crazy Italian family - friends tell me I should write a book about them - or do a TV show. When you experience a situation in the moment you may not think it's funny but afterward in the re-telling it takes on a life of its own. I remember when I was in university I invited a good friend to Easter lunch at my house. The whole extended family was there and during the antipasto the yelling started and my friend whose exposure to ethnic groups outside of her own middle class white anglo/saxon background was minimal. She was utterly shocked when the yelling started and wondered why my family was fighting. I replied - oh they're just talking about the weather. They were actually. Sigh.

    Anyway - thank you for joining us today Toni - I hope you'll come back again soon!

    and CJ - thanks so much for inviting Toni to spend the day with us! ;D

  3. Toni, I thought I would die six times reading this! That's what I love about your writing--I think I see what's coming and then you hit me up side the head with something even wilder than I was imagining. You are the queen of slice of life stories--the kind I really want to read!

    One afternoon last soccer seaon, I sashayed around my son's practice with the bottom half of a too-small, crotch snap, white silk teddy flapping out of the back of my jeans like a flag. Discovered it when I got home. : )

  4. Love it! Double Damn love it. I'm off to buy one of Toni's books.

  5. Toni,

    Thanks for starting my own writing day off with a laugh. Lactating breasts leading to a life of writing crime fiction - you just can't make up stuff like that LOL


  6. You made me laugh out loud at my desk at work. I just ignored the stares and kept laughing.

  7. What a hoot, Toni! And I mean that literally... thanks for the laugh. I can just picture that little old coroner keeping a straight face as he asked if you were nursing!
    I hope you'll come back again. I'm a fan of Murderati too - great blog.
    Best of luck with your books!

  8. Marianne - Thank you! I'm thrilled to be here--and CJ's awesome for inviting me!

    Joanna -- heh... you mean... other families somewhere don't yell? Who are these strange creatures of which you speak?

    Laura -- awwww, thank you. ;) And I am cracking up over that white silk teddy flapping around. You know you should totally do that a second time, but with something with a crazy pattern on it, like smiley faces, like this is a fashion statement. Just imagine, you'll see the next young starlet hanging out with her underoos showing and it'll be all because you started a trend! (oh, wait, they already show more than their underoos...)

    Carl, thank you! ;)

    JayBee and Julia (oops, hope you didn't get in trouble!) and Cate --thank you. And you know you're in pretty bad shape when the *coroner* calls your husband to make sure you didn't off yourself out of humiliation.

  9. Toni-
    You already know I love you and think you are absolutely hysterical and I laughed myself silly reading this. I remember when I was nursing and happened to have my nursing pad fall out while walking through the shoe department at Macy's. My then 3 year old (Kaylee - who you met) ran behind me waving it saying in her very loud 3 year old voice "Mommy, you dropped this out of your shirt". I turned several shades of red.

    Anyway, I am very thankful for your leakage experience because it gave the world Bobbie Faye and a world without Bobbie Faye would be a sad place indeed.


  10. As always you are way too funny woman.

    Great story

  11. Thanks again Toni for stopping by and making our days--the gift of laughter is one of the most valuable and precious gifts to give!

    And thanks to everyone else for making Toni feel so welcome!

  12. Totally hysterical. Just got back from the retinologist and this was the first thing I read once my vision came back. I did laugh out loud. Oh, yeah, as a mom who nursed three, I could relate, but I found the inflatable body parts just as funny. Thanks. Love it.

  13. Toni, it was fantastic to see you at RWA last week. You are one funny lady...makes me wish you lived closer!!!

  14. Toni, I laughed so hard I almost cried. My kid looked at me funny (ok, she is 14, so that part isn't all that hard lol). I read that part out loud to her and had her snorting too.

    I am still trying to figure out how you were shooting milk that far through bra and pads...

  15. Lori, LOL! Man, kids will get you every. single. time. ;)

    Terri & CJ -- thank you both!

    Debbie--I'm so glad you laughed--and way cool that this was the first thing you read after your vision came back.

    Kim, it was great to see you, too! And so many of the divas here. We'd be *dangerous* if we lived near each other. ;)

    Christina--seriously, in that moment, I just did not understand how it was happening, either. Especially through the clothing. But the dress was a little tight still (post baby birth) and thin and the bra was kinda crappy compared to what they have now. I think the compression of the boobs with the dress and the bra actually just made it worse.

    When my husband got home from work that day not long after I had, he knew something was wrong when he saw the dress cut to pieces and lying on the floor amidst puddles of milk. I had had to cut the damned thing off with scissors and as soon as he picked up the pieces, he deduced that it had been a very. bad. day. I think he turned right around and went to buy chocolate ice cream. ;)

  16. VERY funny story, not to mention great advice. Thank you!

  17. Toni, Toni, Toni. You are so REAL! I love that. Not to mention gorgeous and brilliant and funny. Charmed is in my purse - it's my read as we leave for our cabin later today. Can't wait.
    Thanks for the grins, sweetie.

  18. Didja hear about the bank robber whose getaway car sputtered to a stop and he thought maybe he was out of gas but it was too dark to tell so he opened the tank and lit a match to see and ...

    I've got to hang out in this den of divas more often, Toni. This tale of yours is hilarious!
    That poor coroner had dinner on that story for years, though, so it wasn't a total loss.

    I like how they repackaged your books into the new format, but I must say, I very much miss Bobbie Faye's Very (very very very) Bad Day as the original title. It was just too cool.

    Hope your future writing is going great.

  19. Wow! Truly this post needed a *spit-take* warning attached! What a hoot. Those embarrassing moments are gold in fiction. That's just too funny. I'm still laughing picturing the whole incident. *snort*

    Thanks for sharing your genre's humble yet milky origins.

    --Chiron O'Keefe
    The Write Soul: www.chironokeefe.blogspot.com


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