Speaking Truth to Power

Posted by admin on Thursday Sep 26, 2013 Under Uncategorized

For the next three months, I’m going to be blogging over at my novel’s website MexicoTrilogy.com, which I set up to market my book. I should probably be Tweeting, and Facebooking, and sticking pictures up on Pinterest, too, but since there are only 24 hours in a day, I’m hoping SEO will get readers to my site and to my book. I’d actually like to be, you know, writing novels. Anyway, visit me over at MexicoTrilogy.com, and let’s see if I can meet my goal of selling 500 books.

gabbyThroughout this whole process of putting a book out, I’ve been thinking a lot about what women must do to be part of the cultural and political discourse. Unlike me, some risk their lives.

In January 2011, Gabrielle Giffords was shot in a supermarket parking lot. Her crime? Holding a constituents’ meeting in a public place in a country so addicted to violence and guns it can’t think straight.

On October 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban terrorists on the way to school. Her crime? She wanted an education, to be able to read and write. For this, she was shot by a patriarchal group addicted to violence and women-hating.

wendy_davis_memeLast year when the Texas legislature held a special session to deny women access to reproductive medical care, Wendy Davis, at one time a poor, single mother herself, stood and filibustered for eleven hours so that other women might have the same opportunities and choices she has had. The Texas law that later passed is a legal shot in the head for women.

That Gabby Giffords lived to be a beautiful, bright voice of reason is nothing short of a miracle. That Malala lived to speak so eloquently for the rights of girls is a miracle, as well. That Wendy Davis had the strength to stand up to the whole male establishment in the state of Texas is awe-inspiring. They are speaking truth to power.

This phrase—Speak Truth to Power— comes from a document created by The Society of Friends, the Quakers, in response to the arms race.

They identified a country’s worst enemy as not something external to that country, but something internal. They concluded the enemy within was:

1.) The Lust for Power
2.) The Addiction to Violence
3.) The Denial of Human Dignity

boehner092013Nowhere did we see that enemy better illustrated than by Republican members of the House of Representatives at the victory party they held after cutting funds to the SNAP program, funds that go disproportionately to children, the elderly and, increasingly to military families. That many of the members who voted to take food from the hungry also personally receive millions of dollars in farm subsidies, which they all voted to renew, is beyond hypocritical and power-lusting. It’s vicious. It’s venal. Words fail, really.

If you count these congressmen’s addiction to the NRA, you’re pretty much looking at what Quakers consider to be our worst enemy. It’s us. We voted for this. And if we didn’t vote for it, we didn’t speak truth to power loudly or often enough.

So where does that leave a Romantic Suspense fiction writer, a self-published one at that? Where does that leave me?

Jimmy Carter SayingIf I don’t speak truth to power in all ways available to me, in my blog, in my books and at the scariest of all — family gatherings, I will have aligned myself with cowards, hypocrites and Machiavellian ideologues.

Self-publishing my novel Palace of the Blue Butterfly was one little way of speaking truth to power. The novel tells the story of an older woman who longs for some kind of transformation. There is romance but not on the man’s terms. It explores the terrible period of McCarthyism in this country. It does not glorify the very rich, and it refutes the lie that Americans are comfortable perpetuating—that Mexico is a backward country full of desperately poor campesinos and drug lords.

When the powerful in my little world said that the Mexican setting wouldn’t sell, that the love interest couldn’t be Mexican, that my protagonist was too old, I could have remained silent. I did not. While there was no gun to my head nor was I in anyone’s crosshairs, it took a certain bit of courage to demand to be heard. It was a small step, nothing as huge as the women above, but it was a step.

It’s interesting that at last year’s Romance Writers of America annual conference, the largest workshop— standing room only—- was on self-publishing. Women storytellers are no longer allowing themselves to be silenced.

What if the writers—the actual workers in the 1.5 billion dollar a year industry that is romance novel writing— organized, demanded better contracts, created more publishing houses than three media conglomerates? Think about it. That’s close to a million women writers. If they started speaking truth to power, our whole collective narrative could change. No longer would women feel they had to be thrilled by heavily armed Navy Seals or whip-wielding plutocrats like in Fifty Shades of Grey. They could fall in love with bumbling guys you wouldn’t even want carrying a leaf-blower. You know men who are kind, gentle, soulful and who aren’t addicted to violence or lusting for power.

I can almost see a collective sneer. Romance Writers. Who are they? A bunch of fluff ball girls. Alas, there are so many ways to extinguish women’s voices, and this isn’t the worst.

malalaTo the Taliban, Malala was an infidel, Gabby Giffords was in the NRA’s cross-hairs, and Texas Republicans have tried to slut-shame Wendy Davis by calling her Abortion Barbie.

Really, doing almost anything that isn’t sanctioned by a male institution is subversive. I would add now after Citizen’s United that doing anything not sanctioned by an extremely wealthy white male institution is subversive.

Of course if we care about democracy, this is exactly why you, we, I have to speak truth to power every chance we get.

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Bird of Paradise: Romantic Suspense Novel Set on the . . .

Posted by admin on Thursday Aug 15, 2013 Under Uncategorized

. . . West coast of Mexico!

Finally! After all the proofreading and all the formatting and all the figuring out how to get Palace of the Blue Butterfly on Amazon Books and Goodreads, I‘m starting to revise my second romantic suspense novel Bird of Paradise.

This is sort of what I look like these days—only no fishbowl, no fish, no green branches, just me staring out into space.

Any normal person would wonder what I’m doing.

Well just FYI: Yesterday, my imagination took me to a beach on Mexico’s Pacific coast. I felt the sand on the soles of my feet, the wind in my hair, heard the waves, the shells being pulled out to sea, and in this trance, characters emerged from nowhere, for example, the French guy— Francois Richter. Where did he come from? He wasn’t in my first draft. But Bee, my main character, opened the door of the van, and there he was in the front passenger seat. I’ve spent my insomniac hours between 2 and 4 am trying to figure out who he is, what he’ll do.

I suppose the rest of you have real jobs, right?

Bird of Paradise started a long time ago when Dave and I took a trip to the west coast of Mexico. Our plan was to hit the funky beach towns around the Bay of Melaque for a few days and then luxe it up at Costa Careyes before heading east to Oaxaca, San Cristobal and Palenque.

Unfortunately, the first night in Barra de Navidad, I came down with a horrible flu—fever, coughing, absolute misery. In desperation, Dave went to the local pharmacy in search of some Mexican version of Nyquil and returned bearing a brown glass bottle, retrieved, it appeared, from some sorcerer’s den. “I don’t know about this,” he said, holding the bottle up to the light to see if it had congealed. “The guy got it from the back of the store. It was covered in dust.”

Since the bottle came with no instructions, I figured two tablespoons would do it. Boy did they. I think I hallucinated for a week; everything I heard or saw—the vacationing pot growers from Humbolt County, the surfer dude expats, the beautiful Europeans at Costa Careyes, swathed in gauzy, white pareos, who punctuated everything they said with the words “tu sais, tu sais” regardless of what language they happened to be speaking — charmed me.

It — the place, them — all seemed larger than life, mythic, iconic. Wow was I stoned!

Tropical beach in Mexico

Anyway, I never forgot them. Neither have I forgotten the stunning woman —an American travelling alone— writing in a notebook as she lay on her chaise lounge in front of the small cove of Playa Rosa, lifting her binoculars every now and then to look at birds.

Who was she? I wondered. What was she doing there alone?

Bird of Paradise is my answer.

Mexican Beach

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Palace of the Blue Butterfly: All Chapters are Posted!

Posted by admin on Thursday Jun 21, 2012 Under Uncategorized

En Fin! Finally.

Amazing what I can do with a little free time. Now all I have to do is get this novel formatted for Amazon, and all those who “Have Kindle Will Travel” can download it and be good to go.

I’m not giving anything away if I tell you that Lili takes a side trip to Valle de Bravo, a charming hillside town built around Lake Avandaro just a couple of hours outside of Mexico City.

Of course, you’ll just have to read the book and find out why she goes there and what she finds out when she does, but I thought I’d show you some pretty pictures I pulled from Travel and Leisure just to whet your appetite.

And if you do get that far in my novel, you’ll know why I chose the picture on the left instead of others available to me.

In the chapter I’m talking about, we will follow Lili as she walks by the lake, heads up to the plaza and wanders the streets looking for a certain address.

This picture on the right gives you a feel for her journey.

It will be hard to read a romantic suspense novel like Palace of the Blue Butterfly if the only images you have in your mind of Mexico are vast deserts, dusty run-down villages, narco-kingpins and a population completely obsessed and overwhelmed by poverty and drugs. We may want to look in the mirror a moment about the poverty and drugs thing, but that’s a political issue and for someone else’s blog, not mine.

I’ll be posting excerpts from the talk I gave on Mexico City from time to time just to dispel some of the antiquated ideas we have of Mexico.

You might be interested to know that Martha Stewart went to Mexico City last summer and had a fabulous time. You can go to her website and see a little You Tube video of her visit, watch her floating in a gaily colored boat at Zochimilco, riding bicycles in Chapultepec Park with Mayor Ebrard, dining at Dulce y Patria, an upscale restaurant in the Polanco neighborhood.

Of course it’s upscale. It’s Martha

She also shopped for rebozos (shawls) at Maggie Galton’s shop in the Polanco. Maggie Galton is a wonderful purveyor of the finest textiles. I mean, why else would Martha shop there?

Martha Stewart in Mexico

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Romantic Suspense

Posted by admin on Thursday May 12, 2011 Under Uncategorized

Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 8

Okay, so I’m a romantic. I admit it. Maybe because I’m from the South, but I love the Gothic. I love crumbling buildings draped with vines, overgrown gardens with a bit of wildness in them, anything scented and sultry and dark.

The hyacinths I wrote about are now gone, but the Lilac — OMG — planted right by the (antique, of course) gate smells divine. It makes even carrying groceries from the car a romantic experience. The lilacs will fade, and in their place, the old Bourbon rose, Madame Issac Perrier, will bloom. After that, I HAVE to have gardenias.

This summer I’m going to try growing the gardenias in containers on the porch. I’m even going to get a misting fan — one of those reproductions that looks like it could have been in Havana in the twenties — to give them the humidity they need. It will be worth it, though. The scent of white gardenias on a summer evening will transform hot, hot August into something well, romantic.

And because I’m southern and grew up with a lot of storytellers, I listened to many ghost stories out on the porch at night. I can still hear them in my head along with the moths batting against the screens and the frogs croaking in the creek. Well, put all that together, and, I guess, I’m a natural for Romantic Suspense.

As I was growing up, the south was modernizing fast, so by the time I got to Mexico, that country seemed more southern to me than the south, more gothic, more brooding and, yes, more romantic, like this hacienda on the left.

Doesn’t this ruin sort of remind you of what the setting might have looked like if Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca had been set in Mexico?

A confession. I’m working on a novel set in one of these crumbling old hennequin plantations in the Yucatan. Like Rebecca this as-yet-untitled-book has ALL the gothic elements of my kind of Romantic Suspense: the independent woman of little means, the brooding mansion, the secrets, the malevolent presence, the wounded hero. And the Yucatan? That, too. Just imagine the colonial ruins, the cenotes, the howler monkeys, a naive protagonist, a wealthy, jaded expat. Hey, I’m there!

You see, I envision writing a series of novels, each one set in a different location in Mexico. Bird of Paradise (my first novel) is set on the west coast of Mexico, and even though the drug lords roam the streets and highways, there’s still the feisty protagonist of little means, the secrets, the brooding… well you get the picture. Of course, Palace of the Blue Butterfly , set in Mexico City, has, as you know, all those things and more, and now . . . Well, you just have to click and listen to find out.

[wpaudio url=”http://www.allaboutjanesranch.com/pods/POBB8.mp3″ text=”Episode 8 – click and listen” dl=”0″]


Download instructions


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Chick Lit: What is it, Anyway?

Posted by admin on Thursday Apr 21, 2011 Under Uncategorized

Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 5

Here’s the way I look at it. If I weren’t supposed to enjoy reading and writing books like Laura Caldwell’s ChickLit/Romantic Suspense novels, would hammocks, Lipton’s Diet Ice Tea with Lemon and Bain de Soleil suntan lotion ever have been invented? I think not, girlfriends.

So what is Chick Lit? And why do women like it? Well, as Laura Caldwell herself says, “[Chick Lit] connotes a work that appeals to women, and has as its primary objective, the desire to entertain.”

Wow. Think about it. Where else in society can we find something whose primary objective is to appeal to us, entertain us?

Not something that exhorts us to be better—lose weight, get that mammogram, cook healthy Crock-Pot, family meals?

Not something that plays on our weaknesses so we go out and buy cosmetics and shoes?

Not something that leaves us feeling slightly like failures because, according to whatever we’re reading, we failed to do X?

I don’t know, but chocolate doesn’t count. Its primary objective is just to be chocolate.

However, with Chick-Lit, someone actually sat down and spent a great deal of time, energy, imagination and what-have-you with the sole objective of entertaining us ladies. People can turn their noses up at it, but in a world that works against women much of the time, Chick/Lit tells me that I, and my female world, matter. Sounds sort of important to me.

Hammock by OceanAnyway, Laura Caldwell merges the genres of Chick/Lit and Romantic Suspense, and her success blazes a trail for other women like me (maybe you?), and other novels like mine (maybe yours?). Caldwell’s books create a shelf in the bookstore for what I call trans-genre novels. You know, books that otherwise might have seemed deviant to publishers, books that had ummm . . . genre issues. They really used to hate that. But hey, remember when I said I thought everything I had in life was because some woman somewhere did something she wasn’t supposed to do? Well, here’s another example.

Like other Chick-Lit/Romantic Suspense writers, I write for women. I write about what that great ChickLit writer of the 19th century—none other than Charlotte Bronte— called the “stormy sisterhood” of the passions. In novels, like in life, I want to be on the edge of my seat even if that seat is a hammock by the beach.

Well, it’s that time of year now when you’re gathering up your beach reading. This time add beach listening to the list. Just follow the instructions on how to download for a Mac or PC. Then pop in your earbuds, close your eyes, rock in the hammock and listen to . . .

[wpaudio url=”http://www.allaboutjanesranch.com/pods/POBB5.mp3″ text=”Episode 5 – click and listen” dl=”0″]


Download instructions


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Mexico Trilogy Graphic Link