. . . not the only life you can lead. (Anna Quindlen).

 

I know this quote means one can change, but I interpret it another way: that I can live more lives than my everyday existence.

I mean, just look at my cows, my pond, the hills around me. Rustic, no? But in a minute, I can slip into my imagination and be walking down Vivienne’s street—the one you see at the left— following her on her way home from the gallery. Best of all worlds. Both of them!

After I write this post, I will go up to my cutting garden where I planted my older bulbs and pick an armload of tulips to arrange for the house. I’ll stop for a minute to look at the clouds over the mountain ranges, the sun setting over the foothills to the west.

Still, I might be thinking about Vivienne and Lili, imagining one of them at a window like this one on the right, but not quite, because Vivienne’s house is a bit more crumbling, its stucco a faded rose color and there are the cracks, the patina of age. And besides, Vivienne’s house only exists in my imagination and now, well, in yours.

There are several ways to listen to this story. You can take some time out—each episode runs about 35 minutes— sit by your computer or lie on your sofa, or you can download this onto any mp3 player—an iPhone, an iPod— and listen on your car radio or while you’re walking the dog. I preview each episode on my iPad while I fold laundry. How glamorous is that?

You could even pop into a cafe, stick your earbuds in and click on your iPod. Just imagine you’re at one of the elegant little cafes in the Roma district of the DF. See what I mean? The life you have led (or are leading) doesn’t have to be . . .

. . . the only life you lead.

But whatever you do, listen to the episodes in sequence! If you haven’t listened to Episode One, do not continue. Click on the home page, find Episode One and listen to it first. Palace of the Blue Butterfly is a romantic suspense novel. You wouldn’t want to spoil all the romance or the suspense now would you?

Episode 2 - click and listen

 

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Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 1

Posted by admin on Thursday Mar 24, 2011 Under Uncategorized

It’s a Thursday night after a couple of really terrifying weeks. I can’t even believe what the Japanese people have to face. Other than sending money to the Red Cross, I don’t know what to do.

If, like me, you feel the need for a little escape from real life, here’s what you can do. (Well, after you figure out the best way YOU can help Japan.)

Start chilling a martini glass in the fridge for your margarita.

Make margarita mixture:

2 oz lime juice
2 oz lemon juice
4 tsps fine sugar (regular will do!)
2 oz Herradura Silver Tequila
1 TBS. of Cointreau

Put the above ingredients in martini shaker in the fridge with the glass.

Get your jammies on.

Stick your feet in your fluffy bunny slippers.

Now shake the margarita mixture with ice until chilled and pour it into your cold martini glass that you’ve rimmed with salt.

Grab your knitting or your nail polish. (See you don’t have to hold a book. I’m telling the story to you!)

The next half hour belongs to only you and your margarita.

Just click your mouse over EPISODE 1

Now just fasten your seat belts, sit back, relax and enjoy your flight.

You’re out of real life for a while and on your way to MEXICO CITY.

Buen Viaje, Chicas!

Episode 1 - click and listen

 

Download instructions

Ta-da!

 

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Morelia, Michoacan or Goals are Dreams with Deadlines

Posted by admin on Thursday Mar 17, 2011 Under Uncategorized

Next week I will complete one of my New Year’s Resolutions — to self-publish my novel Palace of the Blue Butterfly, to put it out to the universe, so to speak.

In my mind’s eye, I can still see exactly where I was when I wrote the first words of what would become that book. Really, they were more like questions than anything else.

I was sitting on my private terrace in the Villa Montana in Morelia, Michoacan The waiter had taken away my lunch dishes — a lovely fruit platter, a sopa Tarasca, and a basket of warm bolillos. I picked up my black leather-bound notebook, and with the thin point pen I always use, I wrote Who is Vivienne? Why does she live in Mexico City? What has happened to her?

When I started this whole process, I never imagined being able to create an audio book. In the end, it’s funny how much the audio medium has impacted my life — first, by working for Public Radio, second, by teaching inner city kids in Oakland to record and produce radio documentaries and plays, and now finally this, my own audio version of my book. (Thank you Seth Harwood and Scott Sigler!)

I always thought I’d play by the rules and stick with the traditional route: write queries, wait patiently, get an agent if I’m lucky (I was), submit it to a publishing house and so on and so on and so on.

And then, I reached a certain age (Ladies, can I hear an AMEN!?!) when playing by the rules didn’t interest me so much. Ditto people’s approval. Enough already. It was one advantage of the economy tanking. I was forced to be more courageous. Weren’t we all?

Look, I figure everything I have in life comes from the fact that some woman somewhere did something untraditional, something she wasn’t supposed to do: fight for the vote, form a Union, demand the right to own property, sit in the front of the bus, play male sports and even insist that her husband do half the blipping housework.

I guess this blog, this audio version of Palace of the Blue Butterfly is what freedom looks like.

If you think I’m not the least bit scared, you’d be wrong. But if being scared is stopping you from doing something you really want to do, don’t let it.

I’ll tell you a little story about the next picture . . .

This beautiful city — sort of like a hill town in Italy — is Morelia, Michoacan. Anyone have any idea what’s going on there? Actually, many friends of mine live there, and they see nothing of the drug violence. Still, much of Michaocan is in the grips of a Drug Cartel called La Familia.

Well, my first novel — Bird of Paradise — which I intend to podcast here as well, was rejected by a big publishing house with these words to my then agent . . . “Tell your client drugs are over in Mexico.”

Gentle readers, I listened to that advice as if it came from on high.

The good thing is I wrote my second novel, which you will hear next week.

The bad thing? Well, I don’t know if there was a bad thing. Why? Because I learned, and I’m passing that knowledge off to you.

I don’t know how that cautionary tale of yielding too quickly to authority may apply to your life, but if it does, you’ll know what I mean.

Listen to your own truth.

Love, Jane

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Santa Fe Road Trip Numero Tres for the Year

Posted by admin on Thursday Mar 10, 2011 Under Uncategorized

Dave and I are taking off for a week to see our beautiful daughter in Santa Fe!

Jane's card, front and backAn added plus: my friend Frances is coming up from old Mexico, and she’s bringing my business cards for Palace of the Blue Butterfly.

Here they are!

The talented Mexico City graphic artist Daniela Garces made them for me. She knew instantly what I wanted—a section of the Mural of Tlalocan that shows the Rain God Tlaloc’s wife. Her name — Quetzalpapalotl — translates into Blue Butterfly.

Notice how the artist etched Tlalocan into the right hand side of the card? Pretty cool.

Furthermore, The absolutely fantastic Michael Caroff from Caroff Communications helped me solve my technical problems with the podcasts. Yeah Michael!!! I’m almost good to go. Two more recording/ editing sessions, and I’m ready to launch. I’m aiming for March 21, if not before.

Quetzalpapalotl designOnly there’s one little secret, girlfriends. I have to go back and edit a love scene. It was one thing writing it, but it’s a little tooooo explicit for my listening comfort level. Think about it. My voice. Those words. The whole blogosphere. In short, NO WAY. I mean, I’ve got parents, kids, a son-in-law (can you imagine???) his friends, my friends’ kids, former students — you name it — who will listen to this. I’m going to tone it down for the audio version. Believe me. You’ll still get the idea.

Now, behind my blog on the WordPress dashboard — where all this stuff gets written in code and inserted — I have a post that reads: Palace of the Blue Butterfly Episode One. So yesterday, I curled up in my wonderful Bergere chair, stared out at the snow covered mountains and listened.

Oh. My. God. It worked!

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Okay, I admit it. I’m longing for spring. I want to look out my kitchen window and see the bush lupine blooming by the fountain.

But as it is we’ve had snow, and while it is really beautiful, I want to feel that first balmy spring breeze, pick daffodils for the table and start planning the vegetable garden. Sigh . . .

And I want to see my steer Big Mac hoof deep in high, green grass. Isn’t he sweet? He’s kind of like a house cat only 1000 pounds heavier and with horns.

Speaking of pounds . . .

Last week I promised to give you my friend Peggy’s Coconut Pound Cake recipe. I should have known from the first bite that she’d uncovered every southern woman’s secret ingredient. But, nah I told myself. Peggy wouldn’t touch the stuff with a ten foot pole. First of all, she’s a nurse. Second, she’s trim, athletic, does Pilates, Yoga, you name it.

“Tell me the truth, Peggy,“ I demanded, “You DID NOT use CRISCO in your pound cake.”

“Oh yeah, I did. You can’t make a pound cake without it.”

I should also add that Peggy’s an outstanding cook. She knows these things. She knows about CRISCO. Now, I have to wonder if she keeps the leftover bacon grease in a coffee can on the stove. I soooo doubt it, but if any of you are from the south, you’ll know exactly what I mean. My mother and grandmother put two tablespoons of that stuff in EVERYTHING whether it needed it or not.

Anyway, this pound cake is scrumptious. Just like my grandmother’s. The next time I make it (three months from now when my cholesterol levels have come back down) I’m going to eliminate the coconut. NOT that I don’t LOVE it the way it is, because I do, but Rich from my book group doesn’t like coconut, if you can imagine, and I want to serve this cake with Russian tea next time. You see, we’re reading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy—the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation. I’m going to replace the coconut with two tablespoons of cognac and a teaspoon of lemon zest. I’ll let you know how it works out. Meanwhile unless you, like Rich, have some weird aversion to coconut, try this recipe! You won’t be sorry.

Peggy’s Coconut Pound Cake

2 sticks (1 and 1/2 lb.) butter, softened
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening. (That’s the secret code for Crisco)
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour ( I sift before measuring and then sift again)
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 TBSP coconut flavoring
1 tsp. almond extract
3 and 1/2 oz flaked coconut ( I use Angel Flake)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 inch Bundt cake pan or a tube pan. ( Don’t use the spray. You really have to grease this guy.) In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and shortening with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs two at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the milk and the flavorings. Beat in the flour alternately with the liquid ingredients, beginning and ending with the flour. Fold in the coconut. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake 1 1/2 hours, or until the cake shrinks slightly from the sides of the pan. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack right side up, and allow to cool completely.

Well, with all the snow and no sign of spring, reading is keeping the cabin fever at bay.

Here’s another book for the chai tea (from last weeks blog)/ coconut pound cake theme: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. Here’s what Ron Charles of the Washington Post said about it last March . . .

“With two months till Mother’s Day, there’s no excuse for another last- minute FTD bouquet of dyed carnations: Get mom a copy of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Bethesda writer Helen Simonson. This thoroughly charming novel wraps Old World sensibility around a story of multicultural conflict involving two widowed people who assume they’re done with love. The result is a smart romantic comedy about decency and good manners in a world threatened by men’s hair gel, herbal tea, and latent racism . . . ”

I’d like to add there’s NEVER an excuse for a bouquet of dyed carnations! Gad! Horrors!

This book has all the sugar and spice of chai tea and the heavier substance of poundcake. The book, the tea and the poundcake belong together.

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