- A Kitty in the Henhouse
- Chicken Scratches and Other Writing Tips
- Eye Candy
- Happenings at the Henhouse
- Music of the Coop
- Pop Culture
- Squawk Authors: Latest and Greatest Books
- Squawk Friends
- Squawk Interactive: Captions, polls, etc
- Squawk's Favorite Books
- Stranger Than Fiction (Real Life)
- Teresa Reveals the CONFESSIONS OF A TRUE ROMANTIC
- CHRISTINA DODD HAS A TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY
- Christina Dodd Exposes the Glamour of Booktour
- Christina Dodd Treats You to an Extra Excerpt of IN BED WITH THE DUKE!
- GIRLFRIENDS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN Contest!
- Connie Brockway Posts Incriminating New Video
- SPOIL ME! BY CELEBRATING THE GOLDEN SEASON’S PUB DATE, TODAY!
- Teresa Says It Loud and Says It Proud: I WRITE ROMANCE NOVELS!!!
- CHRISTINA DODD SAYS “IT’S CHRISTMAS! DUCK!”
- Teresa Needs Your Help to Choose the SEXIEST MAN DEAD!
Yes, it’s true. In March 1991, my first book, CANDLE IN THE WINDOW, was published. CANDLE IN THE WINDOW won Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart and RITA awards and has never been out of print. Around my house, we call it THE BOOK THAT WILL NOT DIE.
On Tuesday, September 1, a mere eighteen and a half years later, my fortieth book, STORM OF SHADOWS hits the shelves. This is an Event Worth Celebrating, so let me share Some Thoughts About Publishing. Warning — this is Serious. (Christina waits for the dust from the stampede to settle, looks around at the empty room, and shows the qualities that have helped her survive so long —an immense ego and a willingness to talk into a vacuum.)
MY TOP TEN POINTS OF WISDOM
10. After ten years in the business, an author has A Well Established Career. After eighteen and a half, an author is an Expert, a Venerable Institution … a Crone. Pardon me while I go to pluck the stiff white hairs off the chin of my current manuscript.
9. From my vantage point, everyone in publishing is doing better than I am. From everyone else’s vantage point, I’m doing better than they are. The truth is somewhere in between — and an author who’s published is not going to get any sympathy at all from an unpublished author who’s written for ten years, finished three manuscripts and has twenty-five rejection letters. Believe me. I know. I was that author.
8. Editors are sometimes right.
7. How well an autographing goes is not an indicator of how well your career is going. Thank God.
6. I’ve published forty full-length novels and contributed six stories to anthologies. Some books are hard to write. Some books are easy. Some books are beloved by many. Some books are reviled by the vile. And as the author I never have an idea which books will be my most popular. Never. I have to give up trying. Soon.
5. Some people write mean reviews. I don’t read them.
4. Some readers just don’t like my writing. That’s okay, everyone has their right to their own taste. As long as they don’t write mean reviews about my books.
3. Some readers love my books. Some of them write good reviews. Some of them write me heartfelt letters of appreciation. Some of them come to meet me and say wonderful things, sometimes with tears in their eyes. Some of them buy my books and never let me know. God bless them every one.
2. I can’t remember my characters’ names, and I live with them day and night for months while I write their books. So I apologize in advance, but I’m hopeless and I’m never going to remember your name, either.
1. I am never going to understand what people mean when they say I write funny books. I write serious, meaningful, emotional, sexy books that somehow get translated into funny.
AND THE NUMBER ONE POINT OF WISDOM CHRISTINA DODD HAS TO SHARE IS:
1. When a Writer/Crone lies about having ten points to make but there are actually more, it’s not a lie. It’s “Fiction.”
MORE NUMBER ONE POINTS:
1. Nine out of ten people in the U. S. want to write a book. One out of that nine thinks s/he’ll do it “when s/he has a free weekend.” In many states, it’s a misdemeanor to kill this person.
1. Publishing is divided into two distinct occupations — Writing Books and Being an Author. Writing Books consists of being alone for months on end, creating imaginary people who converse, face challenges, and make love. Being an Author consists of introducing yourself to sometimes incredulous booksellers, talking to total strangers as they enter Wal-mart in the hopes of selling them a book, and interacting with publishers and editors in a manner that will convince them you’re sane enough to write forty more books. This is why all authors are schizophrenic.
1. It’s well worth pondering that most people don’t have a cool job that consists of being alone for months on end while creating imaginary people who converse, face challenges, and make love. It’s worth the schizophrenia.
1. The more you write, the faster you write, the more skilled you become.
1. Spend every last dime of your first advance taking your family to Disneyworld. Especially if you’re poor. Publishing your first book is a life-changing event. Treat it like one.
1. The best thing a writer can have if she wants to be successful is a mother who believes she’s wonderful. A husband who believes she’s wonderful and supports her for ten years while she tries to get published helps, too. Failing those things, the most important thing an author can have is an absolutely brutish belief in herself and her talent, and she can never ever allow the facts to change that faith.
1. The Girl Scouts have a song with the lyrics that go, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” The Girl Scouts know a lot about publishing. And people. And my friends.
Thank you for a great eighteen and a half years, and I look forward to writing the next forty books … for you.
For the wild at heart!
I’ve had a few arguments with people, but I never carry a grudge. You know why? Because while you’re carrying a grudge, they’re out dancing. — Buddy Hackett
Whenever I hear that phrase, “Just write the book of your heart,” I grind my teeth and turn an unattractive red color, sort of like Yosemite Sam right before he blows steam out his ears.
The Book Of Your Heart. What does that even mean?
As I understand it, The Book Of Your Heart is the deep, meaningful, sincere story of something Very Important to You.
Which leads us to the next logical question — do you only have one Book Of Your Heart? Unless you’re Margaret Mitchell and the book is GONE WITH THE WIND, one book will not give you a writing career.
Is your heart commercial? Does it team with interesting characters, fast pacing, and memorable dialogue? Because if it doesn’t, there’s a good chance you can’t sell The Book Of Your Heart. Do you want to write a book no one will ever read? Because every writer I’ve ever met who has suffered through the anguish, the anxiety, the pure put-you-butt-in-the-chair-for-hours-and-days-and-months-on-end agony, wants to publish that book. And have it read. To great acclaim. By Dan Brown’s audience. Every single one of Dan Brown’s audience. And that will only happen if The Book Of Your Heart is commercially viable.
Does this mean I advocate writing The Book Of Your Wallet? The one book that will be published to great acclaim and read by Dan Brown’s audience? Sure. Go for it — if you know what it is, and if you feel a passion for the story, a passion you can translate to the page. I’ve written forty books, plus six anthologies, and I’ve loved every single story. Each one has been a deep, meaningful, sincere story of something Very Important to Me. Moreover, I have a file of books that I want to write in the future, and I’m able to look at each one with a critical eye and ask, “Which of these do I want passionately to write ... which will also most further my career?”
I have a job I love — but it is a job, one that supports me and my family, and I intend to make intelligent (as far as possible in publishing), informed (as far as possible in publishing) decisions about the stories I tell. Because (thank you, God), my heart is teaming with books.
“So did you cry during PUPPY LOVE?” “No, Daddy, I cried during TOO YOUNG and THE TWELFTH OF NEVER.”
This was the conversation I had with my dad the morning after my husband took me to see Donny Osmond in concert. When I was eleven, my dad brought home my very first Donny Osmond album, a decision I’ve often wondered if he regretted--especially after he had to repaint my entire bedroom when we moved because my gazillion Donny posters had pulled all the paint off the wall!
Donny recently enjoyed a well-deserved resurgence in his career based on his CD, WHAT I MEANT TO SAY. The single BREEZE ON BY is was #18 with a bullet on the Smooth Jazz Billboard chart and the most telling review I’ve seen is the one that reads, “This is the best album George Michael never made.” He still sells out 15,000 seat arenas in England and when the tickets recently went on sale for his fall tour in the U.K., they sold out a year in advance in a single day. In the U.S., the CD was a #1 Pop seller at Wal-Mart and the #2 Pop seller at Amazon. If you like a smooth blend of jazz and pop a la George Michael in his LISTEN WITHOUT PREJUDICE phase, I HIGHLY recommend this CD.
On the real-life hero front, Donny’s been married to his wife Debbie for 31 years now (they married when he was 19). They have 5 boys and he’s already a grandfather.
Even my husband was impressed with the two-hour show we saw! Donny did several songs from the new CD and the adoring audience seemed to love them just as much as the old stuff. His voice was better than ever--strong, mellow, and mature. (Andrew Lloyd Webber recently invited him to do the Phantom role in London but he had to turn it down due to a scheduling conflict.) At the beginning of the second half, sitting all by himself at the piano, he did what we’d all been waiting for--several of his older songs reworked in lovely, slightly jazzy arrangements. He followed them with a version of THIS GUY’S IN LOVE WITH YOU (included on the CD mentioned above) that was absolutely sublime. (And yes, I did give in to the urge to scream, “We love you, Donny!!!” at least once. His response to such accolades: “I love you, too, babe!")
Whether he was talking, singing, or dancing, he claimed the stage with extraordinary confidence. After struggling for 20 years with the burden of being a genuinely talented individual who could never break free of the “teen idol” label, it was clear that this was a man who had finally embraced his past and felt comfortable in his own skin.
As he sang and danced, I kept catching fleeting glimpses of the boy I had loved superimposed over the man and for the first time in a very long time, I remembered what it had been like to be the girl who had loved him--a girl full of hope and yearning and dreams and possibilities. I went to that concert in search of Donny Osmond, but what I found was a little piece of myself that I hadn’t even realized was missing.
And that, Donny, is why we still love you.
(Teresa is rerunning this classic Squawk blog to celebrate Donny Osmond appearing on DANCING WITH THE STARS this season. Make sure and tune in and vote! )
I know what you're expecting. A lot of suggestions that contain the words "moon", "june" and "croon" along with instructions for sprinkling fresh rose petals on your sheets and taking long walks on a moonlit beach. But having been married 25 years now (Yes, I live in Kentucky. I COULD have married when I was 12 just like I COULD have written my first book when I was 5.), I'd like to give you some more practical advice. Whether you've been married 3 years, 33 years, or have just spotted the guy you think you'd like to marry sitting in front of you in your freshman English class, I hope you can put these tips to good use.
1) Lower your expectations and accept responsibility for your own happiness. This may very well be the key to happiness in ALL things in your life. How many times have we wailed, "He/My Job/My cat just doesn't make me happy!" Well, guess what? It's not anyone else's responsibility to make you happy. You're not perfect and neither is he. But if you can learn to embrace his flaws and teach him to find yours endearing ("She snores like a freight train. Isn't that adorable?"), then happiness will be within your grasp.
2) When you first get married, try to put a 100 miles and at least one river between you and both of your families. This isn't always possible but if it is, it will give you a chance to establish your identity as a couple and a "family" without well-meaning interference from either set of in-laws. It also helps you learn to depend on each other instead of running home to mom and dad whenever you have an emotional or physical need to fulfill.
3) Practice the 3 C's--caring, commitment, compromise. Without these 3 qualities, it's difficult to have any sort of successful relationship. My husband and I learned a lesson about commitment the very first year of our marriage. (You'll never have worse or stupider fights than your first year of marriage! We once threw our Precious Moments wedding cake topper into the garbage can to "symbolize the destruction of our marriage".) We were having one of those utterly ridiculous fights when one of us tossed out the dreaded "D" word. It scared us both so badly that we vowed to never again speak of divorce, no matter how bitter the disagreement. If you know you're committed to working through every problem that arises, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Of course there are special dispensations for infidelity, abuse or other transgressions of trust.)
4) Never stop dating. Ah, this is where the rose petals and moonlit walks on the beach come in! I know it can be hectic if you're both working and there are small children and not a lot of money, but a simple Friday night movie or dinner date (even if it's 5 for $5 night at Arby's!) can help to remind you of why you fell in love in the first place. There's nothing more painful than two people with empty nest syndrome who suddenly realize they've become strangers over the past 20 years.
5) Make your kids the spokes of your marriage, not the hub. If you think of your marriage as a giant wheel, picture you and your husband at the center of the wheel with the kids revolving around you. There's no greater gift you can give your children than two parents who love and respect each other.
6) Never stop laughing either with each other...or at each other. This is why it's so important to marry a man with a sense of humor. Marriage can be great fun, especially when you're married to your best friend. I still giggle when I remember how my husband forgot to reverse the blade on his beard trimmer and accidentally shaved off half of his eyebrow. (It wasn't the mishap that was so funny, but his reaction--"Don't look at me! I'm hideous!" You'd have thought he was the Elephant Man!)
7) Ask for help when you need it. This is a tough one for men. It's usually a lot harder for them to commit to seeing a counselor without coercion or threats. (Don't be ashamed to use either!) The common mantra is "it takes two to improve a relationship" but the truth is that we each have tremendous personal power to effect change so don't be afraid to seek help for yourself if he goes all caveman on you.
8) Be aware that you can still get "crushes" after you get married. There should be a red flag next to this tip. The trick is to recognize the difference between "infatuation" and "abiding love". My heart still lights up every time my husband walks into a room but it's very easy to believe that once the initial "sparkle" of your first attraction deepens to a glimmer that you've "fallen out of love" or "grown apart", which can make you prey to the attentions of that cute guy in your office. If this were true, we'd all have to change mates every 6 months just to keep the adolescent thrill alive. If you find yourself experiencing a "crush" that seems irresistible, then be ruthless about removing yourself from the situation, even if that means changing jobs. I can promise you that 6 months down the road (about the time you'd start noticing your crush's back hair and his annoying tendency of talking through his nose), you'll be glad you did!
9) Never take each other for granted. One of the fundamental tenets of cognitive therapy is that "feeling follows action", also known as "fake it 'til you make it". My husband never goes off to work without a little note tucked in his lunch that says, "I love you" or "You're my hero" or "You're my forever love." Not a day goes by that he doesn't send me an e-mail that simply says, "I love you" or "I missed you". Sometimes we tend to treat strangers with more kindness and courtesy than we treat those who share our homes and our lives.
10) And along those same lines, Recognize and cultivate romance in the small things. I'll never forget an Ann Landers letter I once read. A woman was writing to tell Ann her husband was never "overly affectionate". He didn't reach out for spontaneous hugs or hold her hand in public or say "I love you" with any regularity. But he made sure her car had regular tune-ups and every single week without fail, he brought her a bag of her favorite candy. It wasn't until after 35 years of marriage and his death that she realized that every time he handed her that bag of candy, he was saying, "I love you." I thought of this at the Star Trek convention a couple of years ago when I was sitting in a cold, drafty convention hall and my husband showed up with two things--my sweater and a bag of dark chocolate M&M's. I just smiled up at him and said, "I love you, too."
So how about you? Can you share your wisdom with us? What is the best (and the worst!) relationship advice you ever got?
I want to read over-the-top stories filled with non-stop adventure, hot sex, and a man who has slept with dozens of women but only wants the heroine— and he can’t have her! I want books with plot holes big enough to drive a sixteen-wheeler through, but are written so well I don’t care! I want sheiks — men who ride across the hot desert with their white robes flying, who snatch a woman from her bed and steal her virginity with no notice of what is politically correct! And pirates! Let’s hear it for swashbuckling pirates who ravish women without guilt. I want guys who can do it all night long without chemical aid. And I want them to be rich! I want men who inspire adjectives like hotly, sardonically, wetly, savagely! I want to see women masquerading as boys while they work for the hero! Sure, I like heroines who are engineers and doctors and CIA operatives — but what happened to the rest of us? I want to read about women who are teachers and secretaries and librarians! Especially librarians! Especially a librarian who starts out timid and by the end of the book wins the life she wants, the wealth she wants, the man she wants, and the best sex in the history of the world!
> I want a bodyguard who demands to protect his woman whether she likes it or not!
I don’t care what people who don’t read romance think of romance! I have my primal sexual fantasies, and I demand the right to indulge them in my reading without bowing to some stupid false values set up by the politically correct police! So bring on the clichés!
Get in the paranormal mood!(Speakers on!)
The advantage of having the most famous cover mistake in history (CASTLES IN THE AIR, the heroine has three arms, and if you want to know how this happened, read my article at http://christinadodd.com/castles.html is that when another author gets socked with a bad cover, everyone — booksellers, authors, readers — rushes to tell me about it. Now I’m not talking about bad covers from publishing companies who are working on a shoestring budget. I’m talking about covers that come from multi-billion dollar corporations with professional art departments operating with huge budgets who put out hundreds of different titles a year … and who just happen to blow it once in awhile.
For instance, here’s my friend Heather MacAllister’s alien baby cover.
And her one-legged heroine cover.
My friend Susan Mallery, who used to write as Susan Macias, has had a few whoppers, too, notably FIRE IN THE DARK, her western historical with the naked rubber man in the water with, if you look closely, a floating orange penis. I was with her when she got the cover in the mail … I’ll never forget her outburst of maniacal laughter. It was sort of scary.
Speaking of weird penises, let’s look closely at Elizabeth Bevarly’s SNAKES ON A PLANE cover. One word of advice to the heroine...RUN!!!
How about Suzanne Brockmann’s famous Pillsbury Doughboy?
But the cover I’ve been saving as the piece de resistance is a book by Maggie Price.
Take a look at this. Check out the expression on his face. Then note the title …BWAHAHAHAHA!!!
For the wild at heart!
STORM OF VISIONS Book 1 of the Chosen Ones
Read an excerpt and explore my paranormal website!
February 2 is the twentieth anniversary of the day I got The Call that my first book, CANDLE IN THE WINDOW, had been bought by a very astute editor. (The time was 3:30 pm, not that I noticed.) On September 1, 2009 my fortieth full-length book, STORM OF VISIONS, was published. I’m not bragging (well, only a little), just giving you a framework for my story.
Because a couple of years ago, I wrote a scene in INTO THE FLAME where the hero sees the heroine for the first time in two and a half years, and startles her. The line I wrote was, “She didn’t jump, he’d give her that. But Firebird Wilder had always had balls of steel, and she showed them now as she coolly turned to face him.”
I am a professional. Don’t try this at home.
In INTO THE SHADOW, my heroine stumbles onto the hero sitting in the Japanese garden. He jumps to his feet and says, “Is this your private place? Should I leave?” and she says, “No, it’s okay, my private place is big enough for the both of us.”
Unless I’m writing erotica (and I’m not), that’s just embarrassing.
I don’t even want to discuss the infamous, “He pinned his eyes to her chest,” or the time during the passionate kissing scene when I described the hero as “big-boned” and said the heroine “stained against him.” Euw. Just … euw.
I’m not the only writer who does this stuff. At one of my first Romance Writers of America conferences, one of the award winners got up and thanked her critique group. Before she joined them, she wrote sentences like, “Angrily, he thrust his hands into his pockets and tried to get a hold of himself.”
Susan Mallery, author of HOT ON HER HEELS, is the queen of great typos. Instead of, “He dropped the wrench and swore loudly,” she wrote, “He dropped the wench and sweat loudly.” (Please note, that was a double typo.) Her personal fav (and mine,) “She stood like a deer caught in the headlines.”
Connie Brockway, author of THE GOLDEN SEASON, gave me her own favorite faux pas, “He eyed her with relish.” Pickle relish, with a touch of mustard, she adds.
Teresa Medeiros, author of SOME LIKE IT WILD, said once her spell-check changed the line, “Touche, Lucy!” to “Douche, Lucy!”
Lisa Kleypas, author of BLUE EYED DEVIL, composed this gem, “Held in his gaze, she felt shaken and stirred.” It seems her hero had the eyes of James Bond’s bartender.
My nightmare is that one of these lines will slip through all the editing and make it onto the printed page.
Oh, wait. That’s happened, too. My husband was reading CANDLE IN THE WINDOW, a medieval, and came to me with a question. After the hero and heroine were married, I wrote, “They stood on the battlements and waved until the wedding guests were out of sight.” Scott wondered, since the heroine was blind, how long she had waved.
STORM OF VISIONS is on the shelves now. Buy a copy for your chance to find the faux pas that will haunt me for the rest of my life. No, I don’t know for sure there is one. But the chances are pretty good. In the meantime, here’s an exclusive excerpt:
“> Caleb leaned, shirtless, against the kitchen counter and watched as Jacqueline cleaned the cut she’d put into his ribs with her scissors. It was jagged, it hurt like hell — and he felt a solid sense of pride in her accomplishment. He’d taught her to fight like that, and no man alive had ever done a better job of spitting him.
Of course, no man alive distracted him like a half-naked Jacqueline. After the sex on the bathroom floor and the sex on the lumpy mattress, she had showered — no sex in the shower, she had locked the bathroom door and wedged the towel cabinet behind it — and donned ugly faded plaid pajama bottoms and a clean, baggy, short sleeved t-shirt. He supposed that was her naïve way of saying Hands off. Instead she looked sweet and clean, and smelled of soap and Jacqueline.
“You need stitches,” she said for the dozenth time.
And for the dozenth time, he replied, “The scissors are new and clean, my tetanus shot is up to date, and I can get antibiotics in New York City. Just put a butterfly bandage on it. Then start packing.”
She dabbed the paper towels into the basin of warm water, then wiped the area around the wound. She didn’t look up, didn’t respond.
His gaze shifted to fingerless leather gloves she wore. They were well-made, almost the color of her skin, and supple enough to move as she moved. “You didn’t used to wear gloves all the time. Why wear them at all?”
“You heard me today at the winery. It’s a combination of style and protection.”
“Protection?” He mocked her openly. “From the corkscrew, you mean.”
This Jacqueline was wiser than the teenager he’d known, less likely to rise to the bait, more inclined to take her time in answering him — or not answer him at all. “How did you find me?” she asked.
He laughed sharply, and winced at the pain. “We never lost you.” He had tracked her for the two years of her exile.
She picked up the scissors.
Although perhaps he could have been more tactful about saying so. He tensed, prepared to fend off another attack.
She glanced up and saw him watching warily. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to stab you again.”
To read another excerpt of STORM OF VISIONS, read how I got the idea for the Chosen Ones, and view the series video, visit my website. While you’re there, please join my mailing list and become part of the Christina Dodd family.
To report mistakes, go to ICan’tHearYou.com, and don’t forget, the second in the Chosen Ones series, STORM OF SHADOWS, is out now, and on July 3, the third book, CHAINS OF ICE, will be published to great acclaim (from my family!)
If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.-Tallulah Bankhead