Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Guest Blog: Vicious Half-Truth #1: Write What You Know by Mark Murata

To make a story vivid and compelling, to make it real, write what you know. Relive your family dramas, the life goals you achieved through tears and self-sacrifice, or your romances that flowered or never were. Visualize fields you’ve run through, ocean vistas that overwhelmed you, or quiet fireplaces with a cat or dog curled up.

But what if you run out of what you know after just a couple stories?

Well then, fake it.

James Rollins once told of how he researched on the internet a particular village in Latin America to include in his story. After the book was published, someone called him up, saying he had visited that same village a few years ago, and wondering when Rollins had been there. Research these detailed accounts of famous and obscure locations, including amateur videos -- like this panoramic view from the Areopagus in Athens, which starts with the Acropolis.

Read to your weaknesses. Use the popular-level magazines with articles by experts. Afraid of guns? Read a copy of Soldier of Fortune, cover to cover. Think psychology is bunk? Pick up an issue of Psychology Today. Even better, participate. If you wonder if sexy CSI workers really use those nifty techniques you see on TV, catch a writers’ conference with a CSI speaker -- it’s eye-opening and disturbing at the same time.

Eat in fast food joints to hear everyday dialogue. Listen to cliques of teenage girls in malls. If you don’t know what workmen sound like, watch Dirty Jobs with Mike Rove. If you need to add some elitist language, watch one of those reality modeling or fancy cooking shows.

Are your plots recognizable and your characters feel like stereotypes? Join the club. In how many Bruce Willis movies does a villain pop up in the second to last scene? When you saw Inception right after seeing Alice in Wonderland, didn’t the characters seem familiar? Or even copied?

Add fresh plot twists and personality quirks to fake it with the best of them.

Read widely. Fake boldly. Never let them see you guessing.


The art of "writing what you know" is quite a mixture of memory, imagination, and lots of research, isn't it? Articles on this topic is great! Thank you for guest-blogging today, Mark! You can read more of Mark's articles at his blog.



Monday, March 21, 2011

Author Interview - ELIZABETH LOUPAS

Today we have historical fiction author Elizabeth Loupas joining us! She is represented by the fabulous Diana Fox and her debut book THE SECOND DUCHESS just came out from NAL.

For the illustration, I drew the 26 year-old Barbara of Austria, the main character of THE SECOND DUCHESS. I wanted her to look as unique as she does in her historical depiction.

1) Welcome to The Blog, Elizabeth! What is THE SECOND DUCHESS about?

It’s about three people—a Renaissance duke and his two duchesses. The duke is Alfonso II d’Este, the last Borgia duke, grandson of Lucrezia Borgia, ambitious, powerful, resplendent. His first wife—only fourteen when he married her, only seventeen when she died mysteriously—was the beautiful and wayward Lucrezia de’ Medici. Did he murder her, or have her murdered? Everyone whispers but no one dares accuse him. Then he takes a new bride, Barbara of Austria, and Barbara finds she cannot rest until she knows exactly what happened to the duke’s first duchess...

2) What an intriguing concept! What inspired the story?

It’s a riff on Robert Browning's poem “My Last Duchess.” I’ve always loved the poem and have probably read it a thousand times. Then one day when I was tutoring a high school student through an essay on Browning, it struck me: what, exactly, did the second duchess have to think of all this?

3) I'm curious myself. What was your process for developing the heroine Barbara of Austria?

At first I thought Browning had made up his duke and duchesses. When I started to dig around I found that he’d based the “story” of his poem very loosely on real historical personages. So I started reading everything I could get my hands on, in English, Italian and German. (I had to get the Italian and German sources translated.) I based my Barbara on the historical Barbara as closely as I could. Even her looks are based on a real portrait.

4) How did you go about weaving your historical research into this fiction? Any finds that particularly made an impression on you?

It sometimes seemed as if I had to stop one sentence at a time to look things up. I collected everything I could find. The first images I found of Alfonso were engravings, and quite stylized. Then one day I came across a stunning painting of Alfonso as a young man, and his personality simply leaped to life.

Other great finds were images of objects in museums—the poison flask, the thumbscrew, the chess set, Barbara’s saddle.

And the books Barbara and Alfonso owned! I Modi is a real book, originally published in 1527, and the engravings will simply make your eyes pop out.

5) What was your road to publication like?

It took me several years to write the book itself—it was a start-and-stop project. Toward the end of that period I began to focus on the book seriously, finished it, polished it, and started sending queries. There were a few bumps and bruises along the way, as virtually every writer experiences, and I’m very fortunate to have ended up with the fantastic Diana Fox as my agent and NAL as my publisher!

Congrats, and thanks for joining us, Elizabeth!




If you're an author, editor, agent, or illustrator and would like a five question interview and a drawing of your character (or of yourself), email me at rtlovejoy (at) yahoo (dot) com. Check out the FAQ page for more information!

Monday, March 7, 2011

News Week - 03/07/11


Lisa and Laura Roecker's THE LIAR SOCIETY is finally out!!!!!! YAAAAY!

To celebrate, I pinkified the drawing I did of the main character, Kate. I drew it back in 2009 (the title is obviously different now then back then, though):


Calling all guest bloggers!

I will be out end of March and am looking for guest bloggers! Any article relating to the book industry, writing, and art will work. If you are interested, please email me at rtlovejoy (at) yahoo (dot) com. Due date for article is March 23rd.



Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Over email, I met a kind author named Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban, and now she is here to talk about her first YA book TWO MOON PRINCESS published by Tanglewood Press. Whether you're a reader and/or writer, I think you'll find her in-depth, and wonderful answers fascinating. She's got great advice on world building and provided some pretty photos. Plus, she's got a PH.D. in biology! Carmen was born in Galicia (Northern Spain) -- "A land of rolling hills and green valleys surrounded by ocean thought in medieval times to be ‘Finisterre,’ the place where the world came to an end."

For the illustration, I drew Andrea, the main character of TWO MOON PRINCESS. I wanted to capture her strong personality, balanced by soft moonlight. "Andrea is strong willed, naive and fiercely independent. She is also compassionate, loyal and has a strong sense of duty."

1) Thanks for joining us, Carmen! What is Two Moon Princess about?

In short:

A Spanish Princess.
An American Boy.
A King set on revenge.
An unrequited love
and a disturbing family secret
bring a World to the brink of War.

Two Moon Princess is a coming of age story. It's the story of a girl, Princess Andrea, who grows up in a patriarchal society where girls have no power, and thus no choice. To escape the life her parents have designed for her, she leaves her father's castle, and crosses a portal into another world. In this new world, modern day California, Andrea discovers she has the freedom to become whoever she wants to be. So it is no wonder than when, by accident, she returns to her parents' kingdom, she will do anything to go back. But going back may be impossible for her actions have unearthed an old feud and started a war that will challenge Andrea's beliefs and change her forever.

Two Moon Princess is also a love story. It follows Andrea through the giddiness of her first crush and the devastating pain of unrequited love to her awakening to a more mature love rooted in respect and trust.

2) What inspired the story?

The basic idea of a girl from the Old World (Spain) coming to California and falling in love with an American boy is autobiographical.

I made the girl's world medieval to emphasize the contrast between the stern, chauvinistic world where she grew up and the freedom she discovers in California.

The rest of the plot, including the unrequited love story, the old family feud, and the dark enemy king, I made it up.

3) Can you tell us more about the world Two Moon Princess is set in?

The first scene I ever wrote that made it into Two Moon Princess was the description of a broken arch by the ocean. The arch is real. It stands on a beach I used to visit as a child, in Galicia, northern Spain.

So I knew from the beginning Andrea's world would look like Galicia. It would be a land of rolling hills ending on cliffs as they reach the ocean.

And to the South there would be a river between Andrea's kingdom and that of the enemy king.
The river I imagined is the River Mino, that separates Galicia from Portugal, and the sacred mount Andrea visits in the story is the Monte Tecla that dominates the river mouth (left on the picture below).

As for the modern world, California, obviously, I didn't make that one up. I just drew from my memories for I lived in California for four years. You can see pictures of the places I mention in my novel here.

To create the history of Andrea's world, I stole freely from Medieval Spain.

During medieval times, the peninsula that now includes Spain and Portugal was divided in small kingdoms that constantly fought each other. It was a world of castles and kings and knights, and of princesses given in marriage for political reasons. A world where men played war and women took care of the wounded and produced more children for the next war.

I connected Andrea's world with ours through the real story of King Roderic, the last Visigothic king who disappeared in battle, fighting the Arabs in 711 A.D. In my version of this historical event, Roderic and his knights fled to the northern mountains and once there escaped through a portal into another world where they became the ancestors of Andrea's people.

4) Wow, your world is so thought out, I can see it in my mind! What was your process for building the world? Any advice?

The first part of this question I answered above. I think.

As for my advice on world building first and foremost: Make it memorable.

As writers we have only words to tell our story, thus we should use every one of them effectively. If we go through the trouble of creating a world we should also use it as a plot device, or even as a character. Why waste words (and the reader's patience) describing a world, creating a society, if it is not relevant to the story?

In other words, my advice is: Create a world that is germane to the story.

Think Dune (Dune by Frank Herbert), where the planet itself determines the plot and shapes the characters. Dune is the center of the empire, without its unique ecology, there would be no worms, no spice, no intergalactic travel, no Paul Atreides, ergo no story.

Think The Lord of the Rings where every wood, plain or mountain chain becomes intrinsic to the story for it models the society of the people (humans or otherwise) that inhabits it.

My last piece of advice would be: Make it consistent.

I remember reading a book once that was set in a tropical climate. When the author mentioned the houses were lit with pine rushes, she totally lost my trust. I don't care if this is our world, or an imaginary world, pine trees don't grow in the tropics for the same reason that lions don't have hooves. They just don't. It's a biological impossibility.

5) That's great advice and I couldn't agree more. How do you reach out to teens with your book?

In person, by doing school visits in my area.

Online, I have a website
where readers can gather information about Two Moon Princess and its world. They can also learn about Andrea's next adventure by reading a sample from the upcoming sequel to Two Moon Princess, The King in the Stone.

They can also follow me at my blog or at my Goodreads address.

I read many teen blogs. Over time, I've contacted several teens and they have reviewed Two Moon Princess in their blogs.

And, of course, I always answer the e-mails my readers send me.

Thank you so much for having me in your blog and super special thanks for Andrea's drawing.

Thank you, Carmen, for the beautiful interview and photos! It was a pleasure to have you on the blog. I hope you all enjoyed the interview, dear readers!

TWO MOON PRINCESS can be purchased here.




If you're an author, editor, agent, or illustrator and would like a five question interview and a drawing of your character (or of yourself), email me at rtlovejoy (at) yahoo (dot) com. Check out the FAQ page for more information!