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Monday, May 23, 2005

ON THE OTHER HAND ... Christina Dodd talks about her brush with infamy


cita-old
Originally uploaded by Christina Dodd.



Every writer faces a moment in her career when she realizes that a good part of success has nothing to do with skill or planning, and everything to do with pure, dumb luck. For me, that moment arrived at the Romance Writers of America conference in 1993 when a bookseller came to me and asked, “Did you know the heroine on the cover of your newest release has three arms?”

That’s not a question one hears everyday. It’s along the lines of, “Catch the piano!” — a remark so bizarre most normal people would never imagine speaking those words in a single sentence. Certainly I’d never noticed that my heroine was possessed of an extra limb. After all, I’d had a 12x18 of the cover on my desk for months, and I hadn’t noticed anything except that the art was beautiful and my name was spelled correctly.

Buti t was true. CASTLES IN THE AIR featured a heroine with one too many appendages. The hero held one of her hands, she leaned on another hand, and she had one tucked into her skirts. It rapidly became clear that the news about my cover had flown through the conference. Everyone knew … and if they didn’t, I found myself telling them. “Hi,” I’d say, “I’m Christina Dodd. I write historicals, thus fulfilling a lifelong dream and making my mother proud.”

Yawn.

“My cover features a three-armed woman.”

“Oh, you’re the one!”

From that point forward, I became The Author of the Three-Armed Woman Book. Never mind that I’d had nothing to do with the art; I embraced that three-armed woman (ha!) as my own. At every opportunity, I pointed out that the first line of the story complimented the cover (“She had all her teeth,” the book began.) I gave speeches to business groups, and the high point was always The Showing of the Arms. At any booksigning, I requested that the bookseller order CASTLES IN THE AIR and I used it to open conversations and sell books — to everyone. I sold that book to literary snobs, to men, to other authors. I listened to all the witticisms, and I laughed dutifully. “Does he have another woman hiding under there?” “I bet she’s great in bed!” And, of course, the big question, “How could this have happened?”

According to the statistics posted on the RWA website, 2093 romances were published in 2003. What’s amazing is not that my three-armed woman made it to publication, but that more romances aren’t published with appalling mistakes.

But all good things must come to an end, and one day a bookseller told me CASTLES IN THE AIR was gone. I’d sold out the whole print run, one book at a time, and while I was doing that I sold quite a few other titles, too.

The infamous CASTLES IN THE AIR cover will live forever on my website. While you’re there, take a moment and look at the stepbacks for the RULES OF … series. Each one features a headless woman.

Really.

Christina Dodd, 1:40 AM
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