Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Anne Tyler on Inspiration

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Anne Tyler (Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, The Accidental Tourist, Breathing Lessons), recently told The Huffington Post UK that she quite often writes “completely without inspiration.”

"The only reason I begin a book is that I love the act of writing. So for the first month I sit at a bare desk beneath a large window - always in the morning, my mind shuts down by early afternoon - and I force myself to come up with something to write about."
"I'll think, 'maybe this could be a book about an old person at the end of his life' or 'maybe it's about someone who thinks his wife has returned from the dead'.
She says it's "mechanical" at the start and likens it to pushing puppets around a stage.
"But eventually I'll have manufactured a skeleton of a story, and then I begin thinking about exactly who my characters are. That's the important part. I get to know them intimately - are they spenders or savers? Enjoyers or non-enjoyers? How do they feel about their siblings? 
"Most of these details will never be mentioned in the novel, but knowing them helps me figure out what the characters are likely to do in any given situation," she adds.

There’s much more in the full piece, and that’s here.

Tyler’s most recent novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, a multigenerational family saga set in Baltimore. The book was shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) in April. A Spool of Blue Thread is Tyler’s 20th book.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Orson Welles’ final film, The Other Side of the Wind, was never finished and no one knows with certainty what it was meant to be about. John Huston once asked Welles and got a cryptic answer. “It’s a film about a bastard director…” Welles answered Huston. “It’s about us, John. It’s a film about us.”

The May issue of Vanity Fair publishes a piece adapted from Josh Karp’s new book, Orson Welles’s Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind (St. Martin’s Press). It’s a book to look for, all about the making and non-making of a film whose title couldn’t even be explained. According to Karp, Rich Little, who was also in the cast, asked Welles about the title:
“Orson,” Little asked, “what does The Other Side of the Wind mean?” 
Looking down over his reading glasses, Welles, in his rich baritone, said, “I haven’t the foggiest.”
Though the film came to be about the film industry, it was initially going to be loosely based on novelist Ernest Hemingway:
The initial inspiration for The Other Side of the Wind can be traced back to an event that took place more than 30 years before Graver walked into Schwab’s that summer day and found Orson in the pages of Variety. 
Orson Welles in 1937.
It was May 1937 and Welles entered a Manhattan recording studio to narrate a Spanish Civil War documentary whose script had been written by Ernest Hemingway—who happened to be in the sound booth when Orson arrived.
Only 22, Orson was not yet the Orson Welles, but he was on his way as a talented voice actor earning $1,000 a week during the Depression and a Broadway wunderkind who’d had the audacity to stage an all-black Macbeth.
Looking at Hemingway’s script, Welles suggested a few changes, as he recalled to a reporter decades later. Wouldn’t it be better, for instance, to eliminate the line “Here are the faces of men who are close to death,” and simply let those faces speak for themselves?
Hemingway was outraged that anyone would dare tamper with his words and went after Orson, implying that the actor was “some kind of faggot.” Welles responded by hitting Hemingway the best way he knew how. If Papa wanted a faggot, Orson would give him one.
“Mr. Hemingway, how strong you are!” Welles said, camping it up with a swishy lisp. “How big you are!”
Grabbing a chair, Hemingway attacked Orson, who picked up a chair of his own, sparking a cinematic brawl between two of the great creative geniuses of the 20th century, who duked it out while images of war flickered on a screen behind them.
Eventually, however, the pair realized the insanity of their fight and soon slumped to the floor laughing, cracked open a bottle of whiskey, and drank their way into friendship.
Twenty years after this encounter, Welles would work on a screenplay about a hyper-manly, middle-aged, American novelist living in Spain who has lost his creative powers and become obsessed with a young bullfighter in whom he sees the promise of youth and perhaps something more. Meanwhile, a Greek chorus of sycophantic biographers, worshipful grad students, and literary critics trailed the writer, reminding him of his own greatness.
Sometime after Hemingway killed himself, on July 2, 1961, Welles changed the locus of the film to Hollywood and turned the novelist into a sadistic man’s-man filmmaker who may also be a closeted homosexual. He decided that all of the action would take place on a single day—July 2—which became his main character’s birthday and the last day of his life.
There is so much more to this stellar piece: so many other anecdotes, angles and stories. It can all be found in the May issue of Vanity Fair, and here. Look for the book later this month and -- maybe! -- we’ll finally get to see the film within the year.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Noir at the Bar Vancouver -- March 2015


It must be something about the collaborative nature of these events that makes them so compelling and enjoyable. I mean, anyone with eyes can see we, the authors, are there more to have a good time than any other thing. We’ve been let out for the evening: unchained from our Work in Progress, released from our desks. And we’re there with our friends and colleagues, so any nervousness we might feel in a similar situation without our pals to bolster our confidence just doesn’t appear.

So, yeah: another Noir at the Bar event for Vancouver. A terrific evening and a fun group. From left: Charlotte Morganti, Linda L. Richards, Sam Wiebe, Glynis Whiting, ER Brown, Robin Spano, Owen Laukkanen, Dietrich Kalteis and MC Michael Karl Richards, March 24th at Shebeen Whisk(e)y House, Vancouver.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Noir at the Bar YVR



Join us, the usual suspects and a few more, at Noir at the Bar in Vancouver Tuesday, March 24th, 7pm. We're going to keep the readings sharp as there’s a whole herd of us, and we’ll be kept in line by actor Michael Karl Richards as MC. (Also known around here as Favorite Son.)


Wednesday, February 04, 2015

2015’s Top Natural Products Trends

When over 60,000 people flock to Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim next month, they will, in part, be looking for the next big thing. If that’s the case, they’ll be in luck. New Hope Natural Media, who put on these Natural Product Expos, have done some of the homework. Together with NEXT Trend, an out fit that provides business intelligence for the natural products industry, they’ve identified what they figure will be 2015’s biggest trends.

1. Protein power: Protein is the star again -- with food, beverage and supplement products featuring new, innovative protein sources and higher levels of protein per serving. From pea protein to cricket protein to products containing a mixture of both plant and animal protein, these ingredients are hot.

2. Paleo on parade: The paleo trend continues to gain momentum, with the emergence of a new paleo certifications, and more packaged foods made with simple, whole food ingredients that follow the paleo doctrine of no grains, processed sugars, dairy or legumes.

3. Mission matters: More and more natural products companies are starting with a philanthropic  mission and building a suite of natural, organic and healthy products to support and grow that mission and create a positive social impact.

4. Heritage to hipster: “Old school,” traditional ingredients long known for their nutritional benefits such as apple cider vinegar and turmeric are popping up in new ways in foods, beverages and even dietary supplements.

5. Coconut reimagined: Coconut has been a hot ingredient for several years now, but now we are seeing the debut of new healthy packaged products featuring coconut in imaginative, new ways that provide the health benefits of coconut—often in place of less-healthy ingredients.

6. Probiotics pop: Probiotics also continue to be hot, showing up in new supplement formulations, cosmetics, greens powders, snacks and even fresh-pressed juice.

7. Clean, simple ingredients rule: Innovation is showing up as simplification, as the ingredient lists for products continue to get shorter and cleaner. There are many new food and beverage offerings that include only high-quality, whole food ingredients. The move to cleaner, food-based ingredients could also be seen in supplements and personal care.

8. Vegan on the down low: The number of vegan foods and beverages is once again on the rise, but this year many vegan brands choose to emphasize the quality ingredients, delicious taste or mission of their products more so than their vegan positioning. The end result is a much more accessible offering for mainstream audiences.

9. Back to the source: “Local” is for more than just the farmers market, with a growing number of exhibitors touting the sourcing stories behind their products. From ketchup made with only New Jersey grown tomatoes to an entire supplement line featuring only ingredients grown in Nepal, the farm-tofield movement is taking on more local flavor.



10. Water 3.0 : The success of coconut water -- which is now almost a $1 billion beverage category since its emergence on the scene in 2006 -- has everyone on the hunt for the next healthy billion dollar beverage concept. Emerging are numerous product concepts that are based on healthy, natural, lowcalorie waters taken directly from plants. Examples include maple water, birch water, almond water, artichoke water, cactus water, olive water and watermelon water. Innovations in extraction processes and packaging are creating new opportunities for these types of plant water products. The fact that these offerings also tend to be minimally processed and made with only a few ingredients also position them well for the growing number of “Wholegrarian” consumers who seek out nutrient-dense foods and beverages made with real food ingredients.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Trend Spotting: You Saw It Here First


Pantone’s color of the year for 2015 is Marsala.

“Much like the fortified wine that gives Marsala its name, this tasteful hue embodies the satisfying richness of a fulfilling meal while its grounding red-brown roots emanate a sophisticated, natural earthiness.”

I’m not making this up. Here’s proof.

Zuck’s Books

What do Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and media maven Orpah Winfrey have in common? Well, probably more than a little, but what we’re looking at today is Zuckerberg’s newest venture: a book club.

Zuckerberg started out his Facebook year by announcing that his “challenge for 2015 is to read a new book every other week -- with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies.”

The first book mentioned on Zuckerberg’s newly created Facebook page A Year of Books is The End of Power by Moisés Naím (Basic Books, 2013). Subtitled From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be, “It’s a book that explores how the world is shifting to give individual people more power that was traditionally only held by large governments, militaries and other organizations,” Zuck writes. “The trend towards giving people more power is one I believe in deeply, and I’m looking forward to reading this book and exploring this in more detail.”

Since The End of Power was in Amazon’s number 23 position at time of writing, it would seem likely that Zuckerberg’s literary pronouncements might pack the same wallop Oprah’s did at the height of her powers in the 1990s.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Top Ten Books We Didn’t Read

Since the article is pretty much without qualification or meaningful explanation, I want to write off The Telegraph’s list of Top Ten Books We Never Finish but, honestly? The list resonates for me. What about you?

1. Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton
2. Capital by Thomas Piketty
3. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
4. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
5. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
6. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
7. Flash Boys by Michael Lewis
8. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I mean, the Clinton. Obviously. You want to, but you just can’t get there. Infinite Jest is one I’ve been taking runs at for years and, though I love the writing I read, I just can’t seem to make myself read all of it. A Brief History of Time, if you haven’t gotten to it by now, you might as well free that shelf space up. I don’t think Fifty Shades of Grey was ever meant to be gotten through. The Great Gatsby is another I’ve made valiant attempts at. Truly. But something in the writing fails to hold me. Am I deficient? Honestly: does it hold you?

You can see the list and The Telegraph’s explanations with regards to the individual novels here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

If It Bleeds: First Review

I suspect I’m not the only author who holds her breath between the time the advance reading copies for a book go out and the reviews start coming in. And I’m not one of those authors who insists she doesn’t read her reviews, either. I might be holding my breath, but I’m also doing it anxiously. There’s never been a time when reviews have been more influential than now, when so many people do their deciding online. And also? It’s just plain fun to know what professional reviewers think of your work.

With all of that in mind, I was super happy the the first review for If It Bleeds, out this September from Orca Books, was so good. Here’s an excerpt from a review by Don Graves:
“... author Richards hooks the reader within thirty seconds: West Coast Vancouver atmosphere, tight plot, judicious back story, dialogue and a body. Add the tension of a newsroom full of testosterone, egos and dubious fair play and you get…If It Bleeds…read it. Hope there is more to come. Author, Richards has the knack of giving the reader a novel in novella form.” -- Don Graves, Canadian Mystery Reviews.
If you’d like to pre-order If It Bleeds, you can do so here and here.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Noir at the Bar... Vancouver Style!

I’m so pleased to be a part of the first Vancouver Noir at the Bar event.

Noir at the Bar Vancouver takes place at 7 o’clock, Tuesday June 10th at Shabeen Whisk[e]y House in Gastown.

Attending authors are ER Brown, Dietrich Kalteis, Owen Laukkanen, Robin Spano, Sam Wiebe and me. I think, with this group, it’s going to be fairly awesome. Join us for pretzels and some serious noir (and perhaps not too serious) shenanigans.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Coming in September: If It Bleeds

I’m excited to share the cover of If It Bleeds, coming from Orca Books September 2014.

Part of Orca’s Rapid Reads series under their Raven Books imprint, If It Bleeds is the first book to feature Nicole Charles, a young Vancouver reporter reluctantly relegated to the society beat. From the publisher:
Nicole Charles didn’t go to journalism school to become a gossip columnist, but the job fell into her lap right out of school and her immigrant work ethic just won’t let her quit to find something she’d like better. It’s a good job, but she struggles with the stigma attached to her position by other reporters. More than anything, she wants to be a real reporter, but it looks like she’s never going to get a chance.
Then one night while covering a gallery opening, she discovers a dead body in a dark alley. An up and coming artist has been stabbed in the throat with an antique icepick. Nicole is right in the middle of the biggest story of the year. It’s the chance of a lifetime. Too bad someone had to die to make it happen.
If It Bleeds is the first novel in a series of mysteries featuring rookie reporter Nicole Charles.
I’m very happy to be adding a book to this series and truly felt honored to be asked. The mandate of the series links terrific storytelling with adult literacy. Again from the publisher:
Rapid Reads are short novels and non-fiction books for adult readers. In our increasingly fast-paced world we believe there is a need for well-written, well-told books that can be read in one sitting. Rapid Reads are intended for a diverse audience, including ESL students, reluctant readers, adults who struggle with literacy and anyone who wants an high-interest quick read.
So the mandate and my challenge was to write a compelling story with twists, turns and strong characters, but to do it at a shorter length and a lower reading level than is usual for me. And it was a challenge as well as a truly eye-opening experience.

You don’t think about how many of the words we use aren’t actually needed until you must. The tone of the book is noir, so that was a jump-start, but still. I found myself sanding every paragraph as far as I felt it could go, then coming back the next day and sanding some more, carefully working through each syllable, simplifying sentence structure, choosing less complicated words. I’m so proud of the result and in so many ways. And I don’t think I’ll ever look at a sentence in the same way again.

I’ll post more about the book when it comes out in the fall. Meanwhile, If It Bleeds is available for pre-order here and here.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Writing Like Hemingway

There’s more to Ernest Hemingway’s prose than brevity, clarity and active language. But those are the things that Hemingway App will help you with. In other words, it’s a fun starting point on an edit, but it won’t make you a literary genius.

That said, Hemingway App is awesome and has an interface so simple and easy to use, it might have been designed by the master himself.

Dump a chunk of text into the online editor and get a grade score as well as easy to parse advice on how to make the sample cleaner and more clear. The (editable) sample text you encounter when you go there also explains how it all works:
Hemingway makes your writing bold and clear. 
Hemingway highlights long, complex sentences and common errors; if you see a yellow highlight, shorten the sentence or split it. If you see a red highlight, your sentence is so dense and complicated that your readers will get lost trying to follow its meandering, splitting logic — try editing this sentence to remove the red.
Adverbs are helpfully shown in blue. Get rid of them and pick verbs with force instead.
You can utilize a shorter word in place of a purple one. Mouse over it for hints.
Phrases in green have been marked to show passive voice. 
Paste in something you're working on and edit away. Or, click the Write button to compose something new.
Strictly speaking, HemingwayApp isn’t an app at all. That is, don’t look for something you can use on your phone: it doesn’t seem to work that way. Rather, at the moment, it’s all done online, in your browser window, though a downloadable desktop version is on the way.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Random Acts

Just now, walking through an East Vancouver neighbourhood. I encounter three 20-somethings, each holding a brass goblet -- likely wine. They’re chatting together pleasantly.

“How very civilized,” I smile.

“Here,” one young man says to me, holding a small plastic bag in my direction. “Take one.”

It’s filled with hand-written notes.

“What did you get?” He asks as I read it and smile. I tell him. Then thank them. It seems a lovely gift for a day that often gets lost in a lot of other things.

When I move on, it’s with a smile and my heart? It feels slightly more full.

Celebrating Your Greatest Love

Valentine’s Day is one of those odd holidays that can create a lot of expectations and breed disappointment. I’ve been in a committed relationship for many years, and there’s even pressure on the two of us to create a perfect day and event. Those without partners or dates on February 14th can feel the pressure so much more acutely. But Valentine’s is a wonderful day for those who are single to celebrate their strength and independence. Loving and valuing yourself is the most important thing and most of us (in and out of relationships) need to do it more.

So here’s to Valentine’s as the day to celebrate all of the love in our lives including (and perhaps especially) the love that all of us need to nurture for ourselves.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Cover Update

Am so proud to be able to share that the David Middleton-designed cover of my 2013 novel, Death Was in the Blood, came out ahead in a very tight race at The Rap Sheet. Thanks to all who voted. You can read more about it on The Rap Sheet here.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Best Crime Fiction Covers of 2013

Was so pleased to see that the beautiful cover of Death Was in the Blood was one of those selected by J. Kingston Pierce, editor of The Rap Sheet, as one of the top crime fiction covers of 2013.

Fourteen other covers have been included and, honestly? They’re all gorgeous. You can see them here. While there, though, scroll all the way down to cast your vote for your favorite.

As Pierce says:
You will find 15 fronts from crime, mystery, and thriller works published last year. All of them, I think, are special in their own ways, whether it’s because of their typographical excellence, their bold imagery, or the manner in which they suggest the intensity of drama to be enjoyed between their covers. 
However it turns out, I’m pleased and proud that the David Middleton-designed Death Was in the Blood was among those considered.


Wednesday, December 04, 2013

“Bueller’s House” on the Market

The film was unforgettable. But that house? It left an indelible impression.

Turns out, there’s more than a few reasons. For one thing, it’s special beyond being the abode of Ferris Bueller’s friend. The house was designed by A. James Speyer in 1953. According to TopTenRealEstateDeals:
Speyer was a well-known architect, professor at Illinois Institute of Technology and was Curator of Twentieth Century Paintings and Sculpture at The Art Institute of Chicago. The combination of talents between the Roses and James Speyer created what might be considered by some to be the epitome of a sophisticated adult treehouse designed for endless creative inspiration.
No wonder the house he built for designer Ben Rose and his wife Frances in Highland Park, Illinios, remains a mid-century work of art.
At 4,300 square feet, the home consists of four bedrooms and four baths and is situated on one acre of wooded land. In 1958, the house was one of twelve homes in the nation featured in a Bethlehem Steel publication promoting the use of steel framing for residential design.
Fantastic, right? But, of course, it is for this that we mostly recall that house:
We still cringe at remembering the red 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder convertible fall from its jacks and go careening through the plate glass wall into the ravine below. Teenage lesson learned? You can’t remove mileage from an odometer by running a car in reverse. The 1986 film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” now a cult classic, starred Matthew Broderick as Ferris, who just wanted to play hookie from school for a day to explore and enjoy the city of Chicago for one last time before the responsibility of college began. 
The house is currently on the market at $1.295 million.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Please Don’t Let Your Fiction Suck!

Ernest Hemingway was very good at
creating writing that did not suck.
Avoiding serious suckage should be any writers Job One. Sure, there is so much that is important. So many things to do and not do to create work that seems real to the reader. Things to elevate your words and lift your characters off the page. But before you get anywhere near any of that you need to start with the basics: making sure your work doesn’t suck.

Here Script magazine looks closely at this very issue. Though this piece relates specifically to writing for the screen, there’s a lot here that all writers should be paying attention to in their fiction. Some you may already be watching for, but a few you might not have ever considered.

Though this advice doesn’t have all the smoothness or even the snap we got used to from dear old Elmore and -- certainly -- not all of it applies to work that is meant for the page, not the screen, there’s a surprising amount that does apply to all types of fiction. For instance:
4. The scene begins at the very beginning of the exchange, rather than the middle. Yes, many conversations begin like this in real life. But on the page, it’s crushingly dull. Instead, enter the scene mid-conflict by jumping in as late as possible (without being confusing). Then, make sure to exit the scene before it’s all wrapped up neatly. This leaves some tension to push the reader into your next scene.
And another:
8. We’re introduced to too many characters on the first page. Introduce us to just a few characters at a time. It’s like going to a party: If the host tells you everyone’s name at once, you won’t remember a single name. But if you start by talking with just two or three people, then move on to the next small group, you’re way more likely to get to know and care about each individual.
The full piece is here.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Quote of the Week: Lou Reed

“You do this because you like it, you think what you’re making is beautiful. And if you think it’s beautiful, maybe they think it’s beautiful.” -- Lou Reed

Legendary singer/songwriter Lou Reed died today of as yet undisclosed causes. He was 71. His literary agent, Andrew Wylie, told The New York Times that he “believed that his cause of death was related to a liver transplant Mr. Reed had earlier this year.” From the NYT:
Mr. Reed played the sport of alienating listeners, defending the right to contradict himself in hostile interviews, to contradict his transgressive image by idealizing sweet or old-fashioned values in word or sound, or to present intuition as blunt logic.
“I’ve always believed that there’s an amazing number of things you can do through a rock ‘n’ roll song,” he once told the journalist Kristine McKenna, “and that you can do serious writing in a rock song if you can somehow do it without losing the beat. The things I’ve written about wouldn’t be considered a big deal if they appeared in a book or movie.”
While Reed’s musical (and sometimes personal) exploits are the first thing that comes to mind when you hear his name, Reed was also an accomplished author and photographer. His books include Lou Reed’s New York (Steidl, 2008), Emotion in Action (Steidl, 2008), Between Thought and Expression (Hyperion, 1991), Pass Through Fire (Hyperion, 2000) and an illustrated book of poetry (with Lorenzo Mattotti) called The Raven (Fantagraphics, 2011) based on a series of songs Reed released in 2003. There are others, all  encompassing multiple facets of Reed’s very deep and real talent.

Reed is survived by his third wife, singer and performance artist Laurie Anderson.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Quote of the Week: Alice Munro

“I can’t play bridge. I don’t play tennis. All those things that people learn, and I admire, there hasn't seemed time for. But what there is time for is looking out the window.” --  Alice Munro
Alice Munro has become the second Canadian and the 13th woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. On so many levels, it’s a wonderful win.


The Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to 110 Laureates since 1901. Upon naming her the winner, the Royal Swedish Academy called Munro a “master of the contemporary short story.” In 2009 Munro was awarded the Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work. The Nobel Prize amount for 2013 is set at 8.0 million Swedish kronor, which is about 1.2 million dollars.

I wrote about Munro her win for January Magazine this morning. That piece is here.
“That’s something I think is growing on me as I get older: happy endings.” -- Alice Munro