Friday, November 21, 2008

A Departure From My Usual Blog

Someone asked me why I write about celebrities or persons of note when I am an author. Most authors, they said, write about writing, or their books, or the business of publishing. I should be trying to get readers—correction—book buyers to want to buy my stories.

They are probably right. Of course I want folks to buy POINT SURRENDER, or any of my several novels currently available. But I also want to entertain. As a person who reads many blogs, both as a writer and a reader, I grow weary of much of the hype, the endless dissertations on craft, marketing, format, etc. Most of what I could come up with has been said so many times by so many people (and so much better) that the words sometimes become invisible on the screen. But my intent is not to diminish in any way the efforts of my fellow authors; on the contrary, I laud you for your tireless contributions and thoughtful words.

When I write about people whose lives I find interesting, I feel that others might find them interesting as well. And therein lies a connection, however remote it might seem. I loved learning about James Herriot, Jackson Browne and Oscar Wilde. There is a certain romantic thread weaving these talented people together, a creativity I hope I share in just the least bit.

I wasn’t looking for a niche. Were my books biographical in nature, my blog topics would seem more relevant. Would it help to say I base my characters (somewhat) on public figures I find intriguing? Is that enough of a link to legitimize my habit?

So perhaps the answer is that I sprinkle in a subliminal, or at least subtle, plug for my books now and then. Kind of like those brief, 15 second TV commercials that aren’t long enough for a bathroom break. Let’s see:

“Looking for a great gift for the literary gal on your list? Escape the ordinary and pick up POINT SURRENDER by Anne Carter from Amazon today! Write me for a free, autographed book plate to personalize your gift—sure to thrill your most avid romantic mystery fan!”

There. Commercial duly posted. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

November 14: Another Tough Choice!

1840: Claude Monet, Painter
1900: Aaron Copeland, Composer
1904: Dick Powell, Actor
1906: Louise Brooks, Actress
1908: Joseph McCarthy, U.S. Senator
1921: Brian Keith, Actor
1922: Veronica Lake, Actress
1948: Prince Charles

There's a hundred years' worth of people worth talking about. Tune in Friday to see who I'll profile!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Mitchell et Mitchell - Part Two

Had she not been struck down by a drunk driver, Margaret Mitchell Marsh would have been 108 today. Born in 1900 in Atlanta (where else?) to a family well-defined by its number of soldiers and patriots, young Margaret ("Peggy") grew up immersed in stories of the Civil War. Not surprising, her upbringing was not too dissimilar to that of her famous heroine, Scarlett O'Hara. Her free-spirited intelligence set her apart from fellow debutantes, and by the early 1920's she was considered a "headstrong flapper".

While courted by both ex-football player Berrien "Red" Upshaw and newspaperman John Marsh, she married Upshaw but found him to be inadequate support so soon took a job as a writer working for Marsh at the Atlanta Journal. She was paid $25.00 per week as one of the first woman columnists at the South's largest newspaper. Her marriage didn't last long; Upshaw was found to be a bootlegger, and she divorced him in 1924. In 1925, she married Marsh.

It is said that she began writing her famous, Pulitzer prize-winning novel while laid up with a broken ankle. Having exhausted all of the historical books her husband brought home to amuse her, Peggy set up a Remington typewriter and took to heart Marsh's suggestion that she write her own book.

While she always claimed that Gone With the Wind was entirely fictional, historians have since discovered a number of undeniable parallels with actual people living before and during Mitchell's lifetime. Surely the death of Scarlett's mother from typhoid matches Mitchell's own mother's passing, a result of an epidemic flu. More enlightening is the discovery by Dr. E. Lee Spence of ties between fictional Rhett Butler and real-life blockade runner George Alfred Trenholm. It would seem that Ms. Mitchell based Butler's character quite specifically on Trenholm. (See Spence's book: Treasures of the Confederate Coast: The "Real Rhett Butler" and Other Revelations for more on this astonishing discovery, which Life magazine called "overwhelming evidence.")

Peggy was a reluctant author, hiding her manuscript from all except her husband. It was only after a friend commented that it was unimaginable that "anyone as silly as Peggy" could write a book that she gave the novel to MacMillan talent scout Harold Latham, who bought a second suitcase with which to transport the massive manuscript back to New York. Mitchell was immediately regretful and sent a telegram to Latham, asking for the book back. However, the editor had no intention of returning it, having determined it had the potential to be the blockbuster it later became.

Some stats: It took her 9 years to write, both typed and hen-scratched onto heaps of scrap paper;

The book was released in June, 1936; by early 1949, it was announced that the book had sold 8 million copies (Mitchell had hopes of selling 5,000 copies.)

David O. Selznick paid her $50,000 for the movie rights;

The ending of GWTW was written first, Mitchell writing her way back toward the beginning. The first chapter had not been written when she submitted to MacMillan;

Mitchell hated publicity, and wrote: "My time is not my own. It has not been my own since 'Gone With the Wind' was published. The very fact that since 1936 I have never had the time to sit down --to my typewriter and write—or try to write—another book will give you some indication of what I mean."

She added that "being the author of 'Gone With the Wind' is a full-time job, and most days it is an overtime job filling engagements and meeting visitors. In addition, I am giving all the time I can to war activities and future commitments in this field which will take me out of the city." Although the fame disrupted her life, it brought her an estimated $1,000,000 in book royalties, movie payments and other returns in less than four years.

The off-duty taxi driver who struck Mitchell had 23 prior traffic violations on record. He was charged with drunken driving, speeding, and driving on the wrong side of the street. Gov. Herman Talmadge ordered the flag over the State Capitol lowered to half-staff until after the funeral.

Friday, November 07, 2008

(Gone With) The Wind is in From Africa

Okay, that was sort of a lame title. But there's a reason. Stay tuned.

November 7th finds us celebrating the birthday of one of my favorite recording artists, songwriters, painters... Joni Mitchell turned 65 today but somehow I doubt she rushed to file for Social Security benefits. Parts of the title, of course, are lyrics from one of her biggest commercial hits, "Carey", and Mitchell's fans will know that. Joni has been called "iconoclastic and unconforming", and "restlessly innovative." I can't compete with those articulate descriptives, but I will say that I liked her because she didn't care if her syllable count matched from stanza to stanza. Not every line had to rhyme, not every note had to follow any kind of pattern. She traversed octaves in leaps and bounds, not worried if her vocals were consistent from song to song.

She was born in Alberta, Canada, as Roberta Joan Anderson, and at age 9 contracted polio. Under her mother's care, she recovered and later, taught herself to play the ukulele (she couldn't afford a guitar), attended art school and joined the local folk music set. After making her way to Toronto, she got the "Mitchell" from ex-husband Chuck, whom she married in 1965. The couple relocated to Detroit, then parted ways and Joni found herself in New York and making a record for Reprise with help from David Crosby. Stardom followed, and her 1970's Ladies of the Canyon brought forth both "Big Yellow Taxi" and "Woodstock", the now-infamous cover of which went on to become a huge launch for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

It occurs to me at this point that I couldn't possibly paint a viable picture of Joni on such a small canvas, and those hungry for more about his talented woman should check out this immensely consuming page about her life, works and many talents. Contained therein is the surprising revelation about a 43 year old daughter, alluded to in song but never acknowledged until the 1990's.

For the record, my personal favorites include "A Case of You", "Little Green" and "Free Man in Paris". Although I haven't personally heard her live for many, many years, I understand her voice has been diminished from her 56 years of smoking (yes, she admits to starting at 9 years old.) Check out for more.
Come back tomorrow for Part Two….