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Maria de Lourdes

Victoria

I am a bilingual writer born and raised in Veracruz, Mexico, currently residing in the state of Washington. I write novels, short stories and children’s books. I wrote my first novel, Los Hijos Del Mar (The children of the sea) because I wanted my sons to know their ancestry and to be proud of their heritage. The story, set during the late nineteenth century in México and in Spain, is based on the lives of my ancestors, the Victorias, who made a name for themselves in México’s pharmaceutical industry, and the Muguiras, Spanish immigrants who found success cultivating and trading coffee seeds. The novel weaves both families’ sagas into a shared destiny and their intertwined tales becomes, finally, the love story of my parents. Click here to read a chapter of Los Hijos del Mar.

My second novel, Más allá de la Justicia (Beyond Justice) is a farewell to my former profession as a litigator. Through the first-person narrative of my three characters, I bring my reader into the harsh world of our criminal justice system, the complex lives of the accused, and the people who work, relentlessly, in the pursuit of justice. While the novel is not a memoir, my work as a public defender influenced my writing, and the process became therapy, allowing me to understand how the experience had shaped me. Click here to preview Mas Alla De La Justicia

A number of literary journals have published my short stories. The theme that seems to permeate my prose in that genre is the struggle that Latinos face in the United States. My characters are often working women trying to survive in a country that is not their own. The inspiration for the stories often comes from the people I try to help in my current work as a mediator.

I particularly enjoy writing for children. I find the process uplifting, and a good source of balance, especially when the substance of my adult work is often dark, and daunting. The more I explore and learn about this genre, the more it calls to me, especially when I am around my grandchildren, who are my best, and most devoted audience.

TO GIVE AND TO RECEIVE

My father used to say that we have two hands; one to receive and one to give. He’d say that in order to walk straight in life we must give as much as we take. Lately, I feel as though I have taken more than I have given. I’ve been showered with gifts, I am not sure why. My birthday is not until January. And I am not talking about gifts that you unwrap (although I’ve received those as well) but the type that entail life - an invitation to walk, have coffee, a loving comment, dinner, or an unexpected hug. I feel so loved!

Last week I taught poetry at Puesta del Sol, the immersion program attended by my children when they were little. Aida, the phenomenal woman who organized the program, greeted me with a book of poems that the little ones wrote last year (I also taught them last year), complete with photos. Such a nice gesture! Here is a picture of my precious gift.

A few days ago I invited to dinner a couple of very dear friends. One came with flowers, the other with a scarf. Both women are very busy with very important jobs and yet they came and gave me four hours of their life. They even brought their "honeys" to entertain my husband.

Last Saturday I participated in the anniversary celebration of Seattle Escribe, the group of writers who live in Seattle and write in Spanish. There is so much talent in that group! Half way through the celebration I was given a necklace with a red apple. Simply beautiful. Here is a picture of this amazing, growing group.

My friends of over 35 years, the Ya-yas (thus named after the book Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya sisterhood) invited me to Lopez Island to spend a couple of days. While there I received hugs, advice, smiles and jokes. So many memories! So much shared much life!

Recently, a friend invited me to the first congress of "Kick-ass women" (mujeres chin…onas). Funniest conference I have attended in my life! The congresswomen gave me inspiration and hope that one day my granddaughters will enjoy the same rights and privileges as their male siblings. What a gift!

Last night another friend organized a dinner to celebrate my new novel, La casa de los secretos (release date is July, 2016). She is a gourmet chef and served us an exquisite banquet. She also gave me a beautiful necklace and a sweet card. But the best were the hugs of her daughters who are almost my granddaughters. One will be a writer. I am sure of it.

Yesterday my sister, who just returned from Mexico, came to visit. She came bearing gifts that my niece and my other sister sent me. (Look at this beautiful Jarochiland game and book!).

With the publication of my new novel, I have been showered with many gestures of love. Already there were several angels helping me with the manuscript from the beginning. Now my family and friends have rushed to help me organize the presentations in both countries. The have offered space, music, even food! A friend wants to dress me in a Oaxacan dress, another is offering to dance the Mixteca song, yet another offers me to write a review and introduce me to the media. The presentation of Veracruz is being sponsored a generous uncle. Many have promised to accompany and bring their tribes so I don’t have to read to the walls. Organizing the events has been intense work, the efforts of many, and no one has accepted a penny for their help. Another friend even offered me to create a "book trailer" and refuses any compensation. I don’t know how to thank so many wonderful people. Here is the invitation to the book tour in Mexico, you are all invited!!

Now you see why I feel so loved.

Such kindness makes me reflect on what I should give to walk straight and not crooked. It is my turn to distribute words of love and comfort, give hugs to whoever needs them, and advice to anyone who wants it. It’s my turn to give my time and help my fellow human beings and my community. I must open my arms, my home, my mind and give the best of me. Perhaps the beneficiaries will not be the same people that have given me so much, but that does not matter. The important thing is to spread and share the rewards of my basket as they do in the Guelaguetza. Throw fruit in the air to lighten the weight of the hand that has received so much.

I thank you for all the gifts! I will do my best to reciprocate. 

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LET'S GO TRAVEL!

And we finally get to the most fun part of writing a novel. The celebrations! For this, my Oaxacan daughter, I'm not organizing a book tour with readings (readers can read at their own leisure) but a bunch of FIESTAS in Mexico and in the USA. Yes, parties with traditional music and snacks that are typical of the beautiful state of Oaxaca.

I am not envisioning long speeches but fun conversation with my readers. Mostly I would like to sing and dance, drink and be merry with you – oaxacan style.

For the presentation in Oaxaca I purposely chose to have it during the Guelaguetza http://gomexico.about.com/od/festivalsholidays/p/guelaguetza.htm - The Guelaguetza is a big festival, which honors the corn goddess, Centéotl, and also Our Lady of Carmen, in a combined celebration of new and ancient religious faiths. Those who can come to the presentation can also enjoy this wonderful festivity. 

I am happy to invite you all to the book tour and to the other cities, as well, including my own beloved Veracruz. I am coming from afar to humbly offer you my novel and to thank you for your help, support, and love. Hopefully you can join me!

Ps: the book tour in the US will be announced very soon

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The author's photo

It took me six years to research and write my last novel, a year and a half to find an editor and another year to edit it. We are still correcting the manuscript but the novel is FINALLY off to print next month!

My editor, Planeta, has selected the title. The book will be called “La casa de los secretos” (The House of Secrets). The designer is working on the book cover. That’s right, I don’t get to choose  the name or the  “face” of my story but I trust my editor more than my own instinct. I am not very good at selling anything, not even peanuts.

This week my editor asked for a photograph for the cover flap. She needed it yesterday. I sent a couple of old photos and they were quickly rejected. The quality was not good and besides, they didn’t want my grandchildren in my lap, which is the case with the majority of my photos.

I thought about calling the wonderful people who have helped me with my previous novels. But then, I don’t like to abuse my family and friends. Ten years ago my cousin, Karen Hewitt, took the photo for my novel “Les dejo el mar”. I bought her lunch, I think, I hope… (Karen, do I still owe you lunch?). With my second novel, “Más allá de la justicia” I actually had the help of a professional, Gene Frogge. He is a kind, generous man who volunteered to take the photos of all “Los Norteños writers” (a Latino writing group). Unfortunately for me (but great for him) right now he is happily walking the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage with his beautiful wife. I know he would have helped me if he were around. I also thought about calling my cousin, Maria Nesbit, who has become famous for her nature and bird artistic photography. The only problem is that she lives in Texas and my editor needed the photo right away. I don’t know why I didn’t think about the photo earlier. This is my third novel, so I should have known better. But when you are busy writing, publishing, and working to support your writing, the last thing you think about is your photo. Who cares about what I look like, anyway?

Well…it turns out that readers care. A lot. According to some marketing studies the author’s photo definitely influences the decision of whether or not a reader will buy a book. As a writer, I find this kind of amusing. If I were to give my readers a photo of me when I am writing, they would probably run for their lives (think pajamas, uncombed hair, no makeup, deep frown, and unmatched socks). 

Not what readers want to see, I am sure. On the other hand, as a reader I am one of those consumers who looks at the author’s photo. Have you noticed how they almost always pose in front of a bookshelf with a fist under their chins? They seem so… studious.  

Whatever the pose, the fact remains that the author’s photo is a selling tool. When readers look at the image they are basically trying to decide if they want to spend the next several hours with the author. It’s a fact that the right photo helps sell the book. So there was no way around it; I needed to come up with a headshot and fast. 

After looking at the rates of local studios I did a Google search of “affordable photographers” and came across the site “Thumbtack.” It looked interesting so I decided to try it. I described my project, my meager budget and clicked the button to send my request to the Thumbtack universe. I was shocked to get, almost instantly, several bids. I felt sad for the bidders. Here they were selling their talent for almost nothing, sort of like me! (I got 10% royalties and no advance).

Since I know very little about photography I asked my son, who is an artist, for his opinion. He studied the portfolio of the bidders and advised me that Nabor Godoy’s work was the best "hands down." I looked at Nabor’s reviews and was impressed by what people had to say about him. I called him. 

Nabor had an accent I couldn’t place. I could tell he was also struggling with my accent so we had an interesting conversation. Still, we worked through it and eventually agreed on a price and a place to meet. At the end he asked about my novel. When I said the setting was Oaxaca, he asked if I spoke Spanish. As soon as I said yes, he immediately switched to both our native tongue. What a relief! He was from Venezuela! We laughed and we talked for another half hour, which is the only proper thing to do for us, Latinos. 

The day of our meeting he was already waiting when I got there. I was impressed with his warm, professional demeanor and felt completely at ease in his company. We walked around town until he spotted the perfect background for the photos. He was funny and his sense of humor put me at ease. When he showed me the first couple of photos I knew I was working with an artist. The love for his work was apparent in the photos he took. I was completely satisfied with his third photo but he went on to take 191 shots!!. Yes, if you live in the North Bay area I definitely recommend him. Here is his website www.godoyshots.com

Those of you who know me well know that I hate shopping. Give me three choices of anything: clothes, food, coffee, appliances, movies, toilet paper and I’m good. Too many choices overwhelm me, which is why I never shop at Costco. I despise malls. You can imagine what it was like to have to sort through 191 photos! My first impulse what to send my editor the whole gallery and have her choose it but then I thought that would be unfair to her. I can’t think of a worse job than having to look at so many photos of a perfect stranger. I realized the tedious job was mine so I worked diligently to reduce the number to ten and then asked my siblings to help. They always come to my rescue – they have no choice.

We picked a winner and Nabor asked if he could “retouch” it. Essentially he wanted to get rid of my wrinkles, which is why I decided to write this blog and share with you the photo BEFORE it gets “plastic surgery” by him or by my editor. I happen to be proud of my white hair and wrinkles. I love being an abuela and when it comes to aging, my only wish is not to scare my grandchildren away so I can kiss them.

I hope the photo satisfies my editor. I hope it helps with the sale of the book so I can write more books. Above all I hope you like this, my Oaxacan child. It was written with much love every morning at 5 a.m. for the past six years, by a disheveled, crazy looking author, while you were hopefully getting your beauty rest. 

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LISTEN TO THIS

IT GIVES ME GREAT PLEASURE to share a scene of my third, unedited novel, via the first podcast of Seattle Escribe. This project was the brainchild of Zoila Haro Peña and the production credit goes to Jose Luis Buen Abad (@Luis Voz de Washington) and Dalia Maxu. This podcast is only the first of many literary voices to follow. So keep listenting and congratulations Seattle Escribe!

ME DA GRAN PLACER compartir una escena de mi tercera novela histórica, inédita, en el primer podcast de Seattle Escribe. Este proyecto es la creación de Zoila Haro Peña y el crédito de la producción va para JOse Luis Buen Abad (@Luis Voz de Washington) y Dalia Maxum. Esta es sólo la primera producción de muchas voces literarias que seguirán. Así que sigan escuchando y ¡felicidades Seattle Escribe!

 

 

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Leyend: El Pico de Orizba


It is said that many centuries ago, in the heyday of the Olmecs (which is considered the first Mesoamerican civilization), lived a great warrior named Nahuani.

This beautiful woman was accompanied at every moment by her dear friend and companion, Ahuilizapan, whose name means "Orizaba" and who was a beautiful osprey.

One day, Nahuani was defeated in one of the toughest battles she faced and Ahuilizapan, striken with sorrow, rose to the top of the sky and dropped to the ground. A mountain gradually formed in the place where she fell, and over time it grew into a big volcano.

Ahuilizapan’s pain lasted through the centuries, and after so many hundreds of years whenever she remembered what happened to Nahuani, her fury exploted, causing immense eruptions of the volcano during the course of time.

Since then, the villagers of they nearby towns have had to climb to the top of the volcano to worship Nahuani, the eternal friend of Orizaba to control her anger.

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© 2013 Maria de Lourdes Victoria. All Rights Reserved.