Guest Author: Dee Tenorio

The Town Where You Live

I like to think of myself as having had two childhoods. My first, where I was born, was in Fresno, CA, the “dodgy end” to put a polite spin on it. I laugh when people describe Fresno as “the sticks” or something like that. I was in the city proper, which is a bit more like East LA. At the time, it was typical, I thought. The only white people I saw were teachers and police officers and a very few unfortunate that lived in our neighborhoods. Generally, everyone was brown and a few were black and that had virtually nothing to do with how they were treated. What would make or break you was what street you lived on. Mom had us situated on the safe parts of the blocks. In one neighborhood, all the gang members and shootings and such happened way down the block. In another, they were on the street behind us. Drug dealers were always a street over and if you just didn’t step on the drunk homeless guy sleeping against the Esee Market wall on the way to Kindergarten, you were fine.

So you can imagine my utter culture shock when my parents moved to San Diego county (I won’t even tell you about the Reservation where we lived a few times). They divorced and my Mom proudly took most of us kids with her back to her hometown, Poway. (Pronounced Pow-way, not Poh-why, btw.) [Bam: Ugh, Poway. I grew up there, too. I don’t know if we should high-five or give each other commiserating hugs.] Population…well, it felt like about 500. Mom was so excited because the town newspaper had expanded beyond one page to six! Oooooh! And nary a brown person to be found. Let me assure you, folks, I’m BROWN. Almost cocoa. And I was in a sea of cowboy hats, boots and had to share the crosswalk with five year olds riding their horses. The highlight of the year there was the Rodeo day parades in September. RO-DE-O.

I was pretty sure that I was in Hell.

And so began my second childhood. It took a long time to adjust, I have to admit. I was the only one who ducked at car backfire for years. And all these people trusted the police instead of avoiding eye contact and evading. And of course, everyone seemed to know everyone else. After the first two years, I finally realized I’d never be going back “home”. And you know, the lack of trains and sirens at night got to be kind of nice. After the third year, I realized no one had stolen anything from my front porch. Why…this wasn’t so bad after all. There were even other brown people moving into town.

Years went by and the town changed. It grew, as small towns tend to do. We got a Wal-mart and a Target and a movie theatre that had more than one movie room. Restaurants came to town. All kinds of folks moved in. Cowboy hats got a bit fewer, but Rodeo Days was a serious hell of a party. By the time I moved away, my small town had more than doubled and I found myself kind of longing for those quiet summer days, everyone knowing everybody, where they lived and where they’d been all day. It was kind of idyllic, as memories tend to be.

So one day, I started writing, a story about a firefighter and the girl next door, but I needed to put them in a place where the world wasn’t so big. Where everyone would tease them about the romance they weren’t having on purpose. And I remembered Poway, my Poway, with its brushy mountains and rocky hills, where kids rode horses and bikes all over the place all day long and where the worst thing that could happen to you was falling down or getting caught doing something embarrassing at the community center. [Bam: Or get pantsed in the park in front of the boy you love by some bitchy stick-eyebrowed whores who call you “Ching-chong-chang.” But that’s a story for another time. And my shrink.]

That’s when Rancho Del Cielo was born. I nestled it on my San Diego map between Poway and an even horsier town called Ramona. A little bit of my better childhood that I hadn’t appreciated as much as I should have, preserved for all time.

The story didn’t go anywhere, but it was my first ever romance novel that I submitted anywhere. Eventually, I had to shelve it and move on, but in my heart, Rancho Del Cielo remained. About six years later, I started another book, a comedy about a tomboy who turns to her best friend to help her become a “real girl”, and accidentally falls in love with him and I thought, you know, I can just see Cass and Burke living in RDC. Especially when the betting started in the story. “Betting Hearts” was my first ever book to get published and my inner kid rejoiced that other people might get to know the town where my heart lived.

A few more years went by and I started hearing the whispers from under the bed, where my shelved books lived. The book talking turned out to be Josh and Miranda, the firefighter and his girl next door. So, since I felt homesick, I went back to RDC. Josh and Miranda had a much different story to tell this time around—someone is trying to kill them this time! Oh noes!—but RDC was exactly the same. A little good, a little bad, a lot nosy. It felt good to go home again.

So what about you, when you think about being a kid, do you remember your hometown fondly or do you thank God you escaped?


Everyone who comments is entered for a random drawing to receive and eCopy of Josh and Miranda’s story, “Love Me Tomorrow”, which comes out Feb 3rd from Samhain Publishing. Two winners will be drawn. If you want to know about the book or want a second chance to win, I’m also running a Trailer Contest on my blog, just click over to check it out!

Last 5 posts by bam


Bam has been reading romance novels since she was 9 years old. She especially enjoyed the Sweet Valley High series, particularly the romance-centric ones. Her first real romance novel was "Perfect Partners" by Jayne Ann Krentz. She's obsessed with old-school Harlequin Romance novels and reads four or five a week.

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15 Responses

  1. SweetNSourGirl says:

    I had a bit of a culture shock too, when was 11 I moved from a good-sized city of about 250,000 (ish) to a small town of 6,000. The attitudes everyone had were completely the opposite of what I grew up with! Everyone was white, which was strange to me since I went to school with almost every color under the sun.

    Thankfully, after seven long years, I moved back to my city to go to college and haven’t regretted anything since then.

  2. Dee Tenorio says:

    LOL Sweet! Isn’t it a trip? Everyone talked different and my browness had a completely different connotation. In Fresno, I was ridiculed for being a legal US citizen and in San Diego, it was outright assumed I was an illegal, lol. And people in Poway listened to Country music. What. The Hell. And then I found out what a Mormon was.

    Interestingly, it was the Mormons who listened to pop music, lol.

    My sisters mostly went back to Fresno eventually, but I guess by the time I was old enough, I’d grown away from what I’d been before. I still hide from cops though. Some things just never change, đŸ˜‰

  3. Dee! I totally know Poway. I live in Fallbrook! It’s even smaller and dorkier than Poway! This is hilarious, because I made up the setting for my next book with East San Diego in mind. Your Rancho Del Cielo is my Tenaja Falls. I think holding hands and squeeing is in order.

    I moved from Kansas to Oceanside when I was a twelve, so it was a culture shock in the opposite way for me. A good way, I think. Everyone should know what it’s like to be an outsider at least once in their life.

    And Bam–my worst new kid memory is being pantsed at the bus stop. A boy ripped my skirt up–way up–in front of everyone. The girls in my neighborhood said I got what I deserved for wearing a short skirt (it was knee-length). Sucked!

  4. Tracy S says:

    I grew up in a small town too. Not as small as Poway, but close. Small enough that when I had a Peeping Tom problem at 14, the police came out, hid in our shed and caught the little perv.

    Sounds like a book I would love.

  5. Dee Tenorio says:

    LOL, Jill–Girl, I swear, we REALLY gotta meet one of these days. Oh, I’ve been to Fallbrook, lol. I was a little relieved when we went back to Poway because from what I could tell Fallbrook had one house in it, lol. How funny, I wonder if we put them on enough maps, if people would start to think the towns are really there.

    I have to agree, once I recovered from landing in Oz, lol, I did end up well rounded from the experience. And living with an artist means moving a lot, so while I move all over SoCal, I’m pretty comfy being the new girl.

    Worst thing, so far, was when I moved into a new complex in San Clemente and this lady was looking at me, then over to the truck where the groundspeople were loading up to leave. She looked pointedly about three times, back and forth, clearly trying to figure out where my leafblower was and why I wasn’t getting in the truck. I smiled at her and stayed there until the truck left, then let her watch me head to my apartment. In the grand scheme of things, I think that’s not bad, considering how often I’ve moved, lol.

  6. Collette says:

    Fondly? Hmm, not so much.

    I went from 30,000 to 250,000 which was not so bad then to 6,000 (including the university) for my senior year of high school which was incredibly horrible. Talk about an outsider, Jill, I looked like I’d come from another planet when I showed up for school the first day. It actually makes me laugh thinking about it. Now, anyway. đŸ˜‰

    Now I’m in 2.8 million (Chicago–9.5 for Chicago”land”) and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  7. Dee Tenorio says:

    Bam–forgot to mention to your comments:

    We could go with the high-five about not facing the inland temps anymore, that’s for sure. Especially if you throw a “No doubt!” in there for good measure. I lived literally across the street from Pomerado Elementary. Lived there the whole time.

    As for the stick eyebrowed whore…well, lol, there’s always a ton of those cows. At least none of us have to live with those old school pictures.

    Tracy–No peeping Toms that I know of, but after we started dating, shocked soon to be hubby informed me that all and sundry could see us through my bedroom window at night just driving by. Always wondered why traffic picked up after sunset…

    Collette–Oooh, Chicago! I’ve only been to the airport, but one of my favorite pictures I have is the sunset I took from there. Just beautiful.

  8. Amy S. says:

    I still live in my hometown. It’s okay. Sort of small. I have also spent a lot of time in Ohio since my mom’s family lives there. It is a big difference going there. More stores, roads, and traffic. And bookstores, no bookstores here and even our walmart quit selling books.

  9. Kammie says:

    I’ve never been fond of the big city life and grew up in a suburb. I have fond memories of my hometown. When I married, I wanted to go back, but couldn’t find a house with big enough rooms or closets to hold my stuff. I’m now living in an area that’s a bit away from it all and quiet. I like it!

  10. Michelle says:

    I grew up in a seriously podunk town until I was 15, then moved to the “populated” side of my state. To this day, every story I imagine takes place in my BFE hometown. I can’t help myself, it’s ingrained in my psyche. I still haven’t come up with a good pseudo-town name, but I’m working on it!

  11. Dee Tenorio says:

    Well, I wanted to get back here and do the random selection for winners. The free e-copies of “Love Me Tomorrow” go to…

    Collette and Michelle!

    Email me at laideebug @ gmail dot com (with necessary corrections) with your preferred format and I’ll get the books to you!

    Thanks everyone for coming and answering! Don’t forget, if you enter the Trailer contest (link in the post) there’s still a shot for you to win! Deadline is Feb 3rd!


  12. I’ve lived in Portland, Oregon since I can remember though I was born in a very, very small town.

    I remember going back up there a few years ago when my brother & SIL got married. The place almost gave me the creeps it was so small. I’m used to planes flying overhead, train whistles, church bells chiming and cars. Not dead air. It was quite a culture shock.

    But I love reading about small towns and the inhabitants. Make me think of good things. đŸ˜€

  13. Michelle says:

    Thanks, Dee! I can’t wait to read the story!

  14. ms bookjunkie says:

    The winter I was thirteen, I was obliged to spend two months in the small town where my mother was raised. I went from an international school of three dozen different nationalities, of people of all colors and religions, with awareness, tolerance and respect for others, to the only school in the surrounding area of that small town – where the population was totally white-bread (and whose ancestors had inhabited the area for generations) and did not travel. Anywhere. Ever.

    I was considered suspect because I came from The Big City. Weird. I just considered them backwards… and creepy. I kid you not, you could tell who came from the smaller, outlying hamlets: They were just slower, intellectually, physically. Generations of inbreeding *will* tell.

    Also, I came from a school with a pretty tough academic curriculum. In Small Townsville, academic achievement and the pursuit of it was considered suspect. Not to mention, I read. A LOT. For some reason I never bumped into my classmates in the library…

    I cannot find the words to describe my relief when my sojourn there was finally over! I am never, and I mean NEVER, living in a small town again. It’s not good for my mental health!

  15. orangeplaid says:

    I remember moving to from a normal size city to the small town, everyone was related and everyone knew exactly where you were and what you were. It’s strange for me now because some of those small town values are important to me wherever I go, the value of old friends and of knowing people for so long that there is no need to explain yourself is great. I can take those values and leave behind the judgments and find great places with food and culture, which is pretty great.