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Madam Mayo

By award-winning literary journalist and novelist C.M. Mayo. Mainly Mexico, oftentimes Texas and well yonder. Author of METAPHYSICAL ODYSSEY INTO THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION, FRANCISCO I. MADERO AND HIS SECRET BOOK, as well as THE LAST PRINCE OF THE MEXICAN EM

Updated: 2016-10-23T02:02:42.208-04:00


In Plain Sight: Felix Sommerfeld, Spymaster in Mexico, 1908 to 1914 by Heribert von Feilitzsch


[amazon]My review, just published in Literal:IN PLAIN SIGHT: FELIX A. SOMMERFELD, SPYMASTER IN MEXICO, 1908 to 1914by Heribert von FeilitzschHenselstone Verlag, 2012It was Mahatma Gandhi who said, "A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history." Like Gandhi, Francisco I. Madero was deeply influenced by the Hindu scripture known as the Bhagavad-Gita and its concern with the metaphysics of faith and duty. And like Gandhi, Madero altered the course of history of his nation. From 1908, with his call for effective suffrage and no reelection, until his assasination in 1913, Madero received the support of not all, certainly, but many millions of Mexicans from all classes of society and all regions of the republic. But the fact is, during the 1910 Revolution, during Madero's successful campaign for the presidency, and during Madero's presidency, one of the members of that "small body of determined spirits," who worked most closely with him was not Mexican. His name was Felix A. Sommerfeld and he was a German spy. >>> CONTINUE READINGThe Comanche Empire by Pekka HamalainenWhy Translate? The Case of the President of Mexico's Secret BookOn Writing About Mexico: Secrets and SurprisesUna ventana al mundo invisible (A Window to the Invisible World): Master Amajur and the Smoking Signatures[...]

A Reading List for Writing Across Borders and Cultures


This was my handout for the panel "Writing Across Borders and Cultures" with Yours Truly, Dawn Wink and Kathryn Ferguson at the Women Writing the West Annual Conference, Santa Fe, New Mexico, October 15, 2016.RECOMMENDED READING FOR WRITING ACROSS BORDERS AND CULTURESA LIST BY C.M. MAYOC.M. Mayo Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual+ The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire+ Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico+ Sky Over El Nido: Stories+ (as editor) Mexico: A Traveler’s Literary CompanionMEGA BIG PICTURECampbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces.Crawford, Matthew B. The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction. Duffy, Patricia Lynne. Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: How Synesthetes Color Their World. Said, Edward. Orientalism. Scarry, Elaine. Dreaming by the Book. ON CRAFTEdwards, Betty. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Ricco, Gabriele Lusser. Writing the Natural Way.Smith, Pamela Jaye. Inner Drives: How to Write and Create Characters Using the Eight Classic Centers of Motivation. Zinsser, William, ed. They Went: The Art and Craft of Travel Writing. ON PROCESS / PUSHING PAST RESISTANCEBaum, Kenneth. The Mental Edge: Maximize Your Sports Potential with the Mind-Body Connection. Pressfield, Steven. The War of Art: Winning the Creative Battle.P.S. Gigazoodles more recommended reading at my writing workshop page (on tips, on craft, process, editing, publishing, and more).>> Stay tuned for the transcript of my talk for this panel.>> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.Recommended Literary Travel MemoirsRecommended Reading on MexicoOn Writing About Mexico: Secrets and Surprises[...]

Five 2 Word Exercises for Practicing Seeing as a Literary Artist in the Airport (or the Mall or the Train Station or the University Campus or the Car Wash, etc)


Later this week at the Women Writing the West conference in Santa Fe,  I'll be talking about seeing as an artist, apropos of which, this brief exercise:Wherever there be a parade of people, there's an opportunity for a writerly exercise. This is a quick and easy one, or rather, five. The idea is to look-- using your artist's eye, really look at individuals and come up with two words (or 3 or 4 or 7) to describe them. Yep, it is that easy. It helps to write the words down, but just saying them silently to yourself is fine, too. The point is to train your brain to pay attention to detail and generate original descriptions.As someone walks by:1. One word to describe the shape of this person's hair; a second word (or two or more) for the color of his or her shoes (referring to a food item), for example:knife-life; chocolate puddingShe had a knife-like bob and slippers the color of chocolate puddingcurve; pork sausageHis head was a curve of curls and he wore pinkish clogs, a pink that brought to mind a pair of pork sausagessumptuous; cinnamon candyShe had a sumptuous do and spike-heeled sandals the red of cinnamon candystubbly; skinned troutHe had stubbly hair and tennis shoes the beige-white of skinned trout.(By the way, it doesn't matter if the words are any good or even apt; the point is to practice coming up with them. Why the color of a food item? Why not?)2. Is this person carrying anything? If so, describe it with one adjective plus one noun, e.g.:fat purseShe carried a fat purselumpy briefcaseHe leaned slightly to the left from the weight of a lumpy briefcase crumpled bagShe clutched a crumpled bag white cupOn his palm he balanced a white cup3. Gait and gazeloping; fixed to groundshuffling; brightbrisk; dreamytiptoe; squinty4.  Age rangeolder than 10, younger that 14perhaps older than 20I would believe 112obviously in her seventies, never mind the taut smile 5. Jewelrya gold watch; a silver skull ringfeather earrings; a toe ringeyebrow stud; hoop earringsa wedding band on the wrong finger; an elephant hair braceletOne need not use all this detail; the point is to generate it in the first place-- to get beyond stereotypes (eg she was a short Asian woman) and write something more memorable and vivid. She had a knife-like bob and slippers the color of chocolate pudding. She carried a fat purse. Her walk was brisk, her gaze dreamy. Perhaps she was older than twenty. She wore a wedding band on the wrong finger and an elephant hair bracelet.>> How to select the detail and avoid clutter? See "On Respecting the Integrity of Narrative Design: The Interior Decoration Analogy."More anon.Emulation ExercisesWriting Loglines and the Concept of the EyespanGiant Golden Buddha and 364 More 5 Minute Writing Exercises[...]

Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion and the Whereabouts Press series


This year marks the 10th anniversary of the publication of my Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion anthology. This week I'm off to the American Literary Translators Association conference in Oakland, California, where, thanks to my amiga, Jill Gillian, editor of Argentina: A Traveler's Literary Companion, I will be participating on roundtable discussion panel of editors of the Whereabouts Press Traveler's Literary Companion series: founding editor David Peattie; Jill Gibian (Argentina); Alexis Levitin (Brazil); Ann Louise Bardach (Cuba); and William Rodamor (France).THE UNIQUE AND VISIONARY CONCEPT OF THE TRAVELER'S LITERARY COMPANION SERIESWhereabouts Press founder David Peattie's concept of the series is visionary, and I was truly honored to have been invited to edit the Mexico collection. As the Whereabouts Press website says, "unlike traditional guidebooks, our books feature stories written by literary writers. Through these stories, readers see more than a place. They see the soul of a place."Isabelle Allende praised the Whereabouts Press Traveler's Literary Companion series: "We can hear a country speak and better learn its secrets through the voices of its great writers. An engaging series— a compelling idea, thoughtfully executed."[[ MEXICO: A TRAVELER'S LITERARY COMPANION,EDITED BY C.M. MAYO ]]HEREWITH, THE WHOLE ENCHILADA OF LINKS. AS THEY SAY IN MEXICO, SERVE YOURSELF WITH THE BIG SPOON!Webpage for Mexico: A Traveler's Literary CompanionIncludes:> Table of Contents> List of writers and translators> Preface> "Lady of the Seas" by Agustin Cadena> About the cover-- the beautiful painting of the "Cocina verde co arroz al horno" (Green Kitchen with Baked Rice) by Elena Climent > National Public Radio interview about this book with Yours Truly> Q & A plus other interviews> Links to buy this book from amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and more."It will open your eyes, fill you with pleasure and render our perennial vecinos a little less distante." Los Angeles Times Book Review"One of the outstanding contemporary works on this country"David Huerta, El Universal, Mexico City"Highly recommended."Library Journal"Discovering it was like opening a door and walking into a brightly lit room filled with all kinds of literary treasures" Mexico Connect"This delicious volume has lovingly gathered a banquet of pieces that reveal Mexico in all its infinite variety, its splendid geography, its luminous peoples. What a treat!"Margaret Sayers Peden, editor, Mexican Writers on Writing+ + + + + Because I am at work on a book about Far West Texas, my translation endeavors have slowed to a bit of a crawl this year. That said, I should soon be finished with my translation of Mexican writer Rose Mary Salum's award-winning collection of short stories, The Water that Rocks the Silence. More about that anon.Translating Across the Border: Transcript of my talk for the American Literary Translators Association Panel, "Translating the Other Side", Tucson, Arizona, 2015"Café San Martín": Reading Mexican Poet Agustín Cadenaat the Café Passé in Tucson, ArizonaWhy Translate?The Case of the President of Mexico's Secret Book(ALTA 2014 in Milkwaukee)At the FIL or,The Mexican megabookmashup[...]

Cal Newport's DEEP WORK / Study Hacks Blog / On Quitting Social Media


[[ DEEP WORK ]]Find out about a must-read book, a must-read blog, and a must-watch TED Talk by Georgetown University Associate Professor of Computer Science Cal Newport, all in one handy post at his Study Hacks Blog, "Quit Social Media."What Newport says in that post is provocative-- undoubtedly just the title will rub many people's fur the wrong way, and no surprise, it already has many commenters a-huffing & puffing. Here is my comment on Cal Newport's post:"Thank you for this blog, for your TED Talk, and for your books, especially Deep Work. I am a writer with 2 finance books published under another name, plus 4 literary books, plus an anthology– all of which is to say, I understand the nature and immense benefits of deep work. But dealing with the Internet… that has been a challenge for me over the past several years, and especially when all these shiny new social media toys seemed to be so necessary and (apparently) effective for promoting one’s books. Every publicist, marketing staff, my fellow writers, all seem slaves now to social media. I can assure you, every writers conference has a panel on book PR and social media. For a while, at the enthusiastic urging of one of my writer-friends, by the way, a best-selling and very fine historical novelist, I maintained a Facebook page, but when I realized what a time-suck it was, and how FB made it intentionally and so deviously addictive, I deactivated my account. I had also come to recognize that people addicted to FB, as seemed to be not all but most of my “FB friends,” often as they might “like” and comment on my posts there, are probably not my readers. (My books require sustained focus; I admit, they can be challenging.) I deactivated my FB more than a year ago, and I breathe a sigh of relief about it every blessed day.  As for your book, Deep Work, much of what you say was already familiar to me from my own experience as a writer, but I appreciated the reminders, especially in light of these contemporary challenges to sustaining focus. What was especially interesting and intriguing to me was the new cognitive research you mention. Next time I teach a writing workshop you can be sure that Deep Work will be on the syllabus."Do I miss interacting with friends and family on FB? Yes, but now I have more time for higher quality interpersonal interactions, such as, say, emails, telephone conversations, and--Land o' Goshen!!-- actually getting together in person.However, for the record here at Madam Mayo blog, I'm not (yet) giving up the three social media tools I still use, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, because:(1) With LinkedIn and Twitter I appreciate having a way to contact certain individuals when email is not a workable option (nieces and nephews, you know who you are!);  (2) I appreciate the broadcast opportunity, modest as it is (usually I just zip in to tweet a blog post or a podcast, then out, and not every day);(3) I turned off their notifications (wondering why I didn't do it sooner); (4) I do not find these services addictive, as I did Facebook, hence, I am not tempted to constantly check them. In sum, for me-- and of course, this might be different for you-- at this time-- and no guarantees for the future-- the benefits of maintaining my LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube accounts outweigh the costs. Speaking of costs, one of the vital arguments Cal Newport makes in Deep Work is that pointing out the benefits of utilizing any given social media tool is not enough; one must also take into full account its opportunity costs in your actual practice. Oftentimes these costs are devastating. But fear of "missing out," fear of admitting that one could have done so much better than to have spent weeks, months, even years of precious hours agog at mindless trivia-- in short, the fear and pride behind cognitive dissonance-- make many otherwise highly intelligent people blind to this simplest of common-sense argu[...]

Literary Travel Writing: Notes on Process and the Digital Revolution


[[ Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site in Far West Texas.Confession: After I snapped this photo with my iPhone I checked my email-- just to see if I could! Alas, I could.]]The aim of literary travel writing was-- and remains-- to bring the reader to deeply notice, that is, get out of her head and into the world of specific sounds, smells, tastes, textures, colors, ideas, histories, geographies, geologies... In the words of Kenneth Smith, "You have to open space, and deepen place." Start with escape velocity: from wherever you are, whoever you are in your known world, you rocket out, beyond the orbit of ordinary life. You float around out there-- there being your own backyard or, for that matter, the island of Molokai-- for a spell. Then, with a story to tell, you splash back to earth.Next step: craft the narrative, rendering your experience in and understanding of that time and place as vividly, as lyrically, and engagingly as possible. I've had plenty to say about the craft of literary travel writing; what I want to touch on here are some of the steps in the process and how they have or have not changed with the lure of digital technologies and the tsunami of the Internet.HEREWITH SOME NOTES, FIRSTLY, ON TAKING NOTES:THEN: [[ Miraculous Air ]]In olden times of yore, I mean in the 1990s, when traveling in Baja California for my travel memoir Miraculous Air, I carried around a pen and bulky notebook, and a camera with so many lenses and dials that if I were to pick it up today I wouldn't remember how to operate it. To get every raw thing down that I would need for my book, I had to scribble-scribble-scribble, and during interviews and/or at the end of a day's driving and hiking or whatever, boy howdy, I felt like a squeezed-out sponge and my hand like an arthritic claw. Once home, I spent hours upon hours typing up my field notes. And neither film nor film processing was cheap. Such was the first step of the process.[[Charlie Angell, in the Solitario,Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas. Photo taken with my iPhone. P.S. Check out Charlie's Tripadvisor reviews.]]NOW:These days, for my book in-progress on Far West Texas, I carry a pen and a slim Moleskine to jot down this-and-that, but my main tool is my iPhone. Rather than scribble my field notes and interview notes, I simply turn on my iPhone's dictation app and press "record" -- when finished, I have a digital file. I also take loads of photos and videos. Oh yes, this is infinitely easier on me as I am traveling, and as far as the pictures and video go, the cost is zip. Once home, however, transcribing the audio field notes takes me hours upon hours, and it is exhausting.[*] [*]Yep, I have voice recognition software but it doesn't work well enough-- in the time it would take me to correct the gobbledygook I might as well transcribe from scratch. I expect this to change. For some of my podcasts I have used a transcription service, but field notes are another matter-- too detailed, too personal. Furthermore, as tedious a job as it may be, transcribing my field notes helps me hyper-focus, recall more details, and gain further insight.I am the first to admit, were I to do another literary travel memoir, while I would dictate my notes, I would need a better strategy for getting them transcribed. So I'm working on this mid-way. Ayyy.===ON UTILIZING / PROCESSING / PUBLISHING PHOTOS & VIDEOTHEN: Photos stayed in a box. A few ended up in the book. (Several years after the book on Baja California was published I uploaded a few to my website. You can view those here.)NOW: Photos and videos can be amply shared on this blog, the website, Twitter, etc. A few will end up in the book, I expect.Is this aspect of the process really that different because of the Internet? A few years ago I would have said so-- I got very excited about the multimedia possibilities in [...]

Q & A at Madam Mayo Redux


This week I've been traveling in Far West Texas. Marfa Mondays podcasts to resume shortly. Herewith, dear reader, may you find some fascinating Q & As-- some on Far West Texas, some not-- previously posted, but that you might have missed:Shelley Armitage on Walking the Llano: A Texas Memoir of PlaceCarolina Castillo Crimm on De Leon: A Tejano Family HistoryPaul Cool on The Salt WarriorsJohn Kachuba on The Savage ApostleKaren Benke on Write Back Soon!Sonja D. Williams on Word Warrior: Richard Durham, Radio, and FreedomRoger Greenwald on Translating Poet Gunnar HardingStephan A. Hermann on Francisco I. Madero as MediumMichele Orwin, Founder of Bacon Press Books, on Independent PublishingAlan Rojas Orzechowski on Diego Rivera's Professor, Santiago RebullPlus you can find oodles more interviews on my Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project: Exploring Marfa, Texas & Environs in 24 Podcasts and my occasional series Conversations with Other Writers. Just to mention three faves:Marfa Mondays # 9 Mary Baxter on Painting the Big BendMarfa Mondays #13 John Tutino on Looking at Mexico in New WaysConversations with Other Writers #7 Rose Mary Salum on Making Connections with Literature and ArtAnd if you want to read or listen to interviews with me about my books, you can find them all right here. Many readers have been asking me about my current book in-progress. No, it is not all interviews, but it will include excerpts from numerous interviews, very similar in style to my previous travel memoir, Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico.= Related Content = Why Aren't There More Readers? A Note on Curiosity, Creativity, and CourageTop 10 Books Read in 2010Top 10 Books Read 2014[...]

Gene Fowler and Bill Crawford's BORDER RADIO, Plus a Batch of US-Mexico Border Cyberflanerie


The US-Mexico border: For most readers, so it would seem, those three words conjure ye olde as-seen-in-the-NYT problemos. But as I have posted previously (here and here and here, to offer a few examples of multitudes), the border has its wonders-- speaking of which, on its way to me via amazon is a book that promises to be a wacky fun read: Border Radio: Quacks, Yodelers, Pitchmen, Pyschics, and Other Amazing Broadcasters of the American Airwaves by Gene Fowler and Bill Crawford. Whoa, it has a foreword by Wolfman Jack! (I guess that tells you how old I am!)P.S. Check out the wicked trailer for the documentary in-progress from the Border Radio Research Institute's Facebook page. (Alas I could not figure out how to embed that video. So just click on the link.)EXTRA EXTRA: US-MEXICO BORDER CYBERFLANERIEMore about PeyoteA few weeks ago I posted an extra-crunchy batch of notes under the title, "Peyote and the Perfect You." * Thanks to Gene Fowler, none other, who very kindly sent me the link, I have added to that blog post this link (embed rather) to "Amada of the Gardens" a fascinating documentary on peyotera Amada Cardenas (1904-2005). allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="300" src="" width="300">*Marfa Mondays Podcast #22, not yet posted, scoots an hour and forty five minutes east on highway 90 over "The Town Too Mean for Bean," Sanderson, the Cactus Capital of Texas-- so stay tuned for more about peyote.>> Gene Fowler's article on Marfa and more: "Sound Speed Marker: An Archeology of Cinema">> Chris Gill's article on Valentine artist Boyd Elder: "Keeper of the Flame">> Olivia Judson's article on the eerie wonder of the Guadalupe Mountains: "When Texas Was at the Bottom of the Sea">> Lobo Film Fest at the Desert Dust Cinema. Featuring a movie you can watch on YouTube: "Wild Bichons" by Stefan Nadelman allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="360">> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.> Newsletter.= Related Content =Blood Over Salt in Borderlands Texas: Q & A with Paul Cool about Salt WarriorsThe Harrowingly Romantic Adventure of US Trade with Mexico in the Pre-Pre-Pre-NAFTA Era: Notes on Susan Shelby Magoffin and Her Diary of 1846-1847Translating Across the BorderQ & A with Sonja D. Williams on Word Warrior: Richard Durham, Radio, and Freedom[...]

Cymru & Comanche: Cyberflanerie


So "Cymru," the name for Wales in the Welsh language, is pronounced kum-ree. (Whodathunk?)I have finished reading the excellent albeit doorstop-esque The Last of the Celts by Marcus Tanner. If you have been following this blog, you know that I am at work on a book about Far West Texas, so you might be wondering, why the interest in the Celts? Of course, many Texans are descendants of Celts-- Scottish, Welsh, and Irish, above all. But it's more than this.Sometimes one's thinking, stuck in a cultural rut, needs to unlimber.  Reading into deep and/or lateral history gives one a freshly off-kilter look at what it means to be human, and it highlights forgotten or overlooked connections among now diverse peoples. Such as among, oh, say, Texians and Comanches.(If you're not familar with the term Texian, the Texas State Historical Association defines it thus: "[G]enerally used to apply to a citizen of the Anglo-American section of the province of Coahuila and Texas or of the Republic of Texas... As President of of the Republic, Mirabeau B. Lamar used the term to foster nationalism... In general usage after annexation [to the United States] Texan replaced Texian." As you might guess, Texians and Comanches did not sit around the campfires together singing the 19th century equivalent of "Kumbaya.") I've been reading piles of books on Texas. So much of this literature tends to fall into broadly categorizing people-- e.g., "Anglos" over here, "Spanish" or "Mexican" or "Tejano" or "Native American" or there. Or, for that matter, "white" or "black." Such categorizations might be convenient, and I grant, at times necessary for some modicum of understanding, but in fact, many individuals' ancestries and cultural identities are not so simple, nor is there anywhere near as much uniformity within such categories as many authors assume, or seem to imagine. (I was born in Texas but I did not grow up there. I still find peculiar the Texan notion of  "Anglo" someone who might as easily be of English as of French, Czech, or, say, Irish extraction.)Similarly, much of the literature on Mexico, whether in English or Spanish, discusses mestizaje as if the only mix were of Spanish and indigenous. But in fact, many Mexicans, like many Mexican Americans, for that matter, are part African, part Arab, Chinese, Russian, Swedish, Irish, you-name-it. (See also the preface to my anthology, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion.)[[ A Record of the Bodurtha Family, 1645-1896.My trace back to Reice Bodhurtha is via one of my great-great-great grandmothers, Lucy Morris Pope ]]My own ancestry is a mix of Irish, Scottish, English, German, plus a sprinkling of Welsh-- in other words, plenty of Celt in there. (For those of you new to this blog, in case you were wondering, why my interest in Texas, Mexico, and the US-Mexico  border? I have been married to a Mexican and living in Mexico City for nearly 30 years, and I was born on the border, in El Paso, Texas.)As far as I know, my own bit of Cymru goes back to a great-great-great-etc-etc-etc-great grandfather, one Reice Bodurtha, a founder of the Agawam Plantation (now Springfield), a Puritan colony in Massachusetts in the 1600s. (Not the Mayflower, but close! Not that I put too much stock in this sort of thing. Going back that many generations, say, twelve, to get to Reice Bodhurtha, we're talking about a few thousand direct ancestors. The numbers of ancestors double with each generation back. Do the math-- and keep your sombrero on: just about everyone alive today of European descent may be descended from Charlemagne!)Reading The Last of the Celts inspired me consider connections in unlikely directions. One example: The story of indigenous peoples in Texas is a tragedy of extinction by disease, extermination in some inst[...]



[[ SHELLEY ARMITAGE ]]The week before last, I posted a brief but glowing note about Shelley Armitage's Walking the Llano: A Texas Memoir of Place. This week I am delighted to share with you the author's answers to my questions about her lyrical and illuminating memoir of growing up in and later returning to explore the area around Vega, Texas. Vega sits on the Llano Estacado about half way between the eastern New Mexico / Texas border and the Texas Panhandle city of Amarillo. [Click here to see Vega, Texas on the map.] As you will see, some of my questions are with my students in mind (I teach literary travel writing and creative nonfiction), while other are apropos of my abiding interest in Texas (my own work-in-progress is on Far West Texas-- next door, as it were, to the Llano Estacado). Whether you are interested in writing travel and personal memoir or learning about this unique yet little known place, I think you will find what Shelley Armitage has to say at once fascinating and informative. C.M. Mayo: You have had a very distinguished career as an academic. What prompted you to switch to writing in this more literary and personal genre? [[ WALKING THE LLANO ]]Shelley Armitage: I haven't really switched but shifted my focus. I've tried in all my previous books to write well and evocatively and they all required research and imagination as a foundation. I never believed that scholarly writing couldn't be readable, even possess literary qualities. But it's true that because I was an academic I was always steered away from personal/creative writing, something I wanted to do from a young age on. As I mention in the book, an elementary school friend and I wrote a novel together, a kind of mystery using local characters. When I was young I also admired the writing in National Geographic though I had no idea how to prepare myself to write such. Now as a retiree, I have time (though shortened!!) to explore what I've always yearned to do, though I still struggle to write things that are personal; I am more comfortable as a participant/observer.C.M. Mayo: In your acknowledgements you mention the Taos Writers Conference and the Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico "where the book found a second life." Can you talk about Taos and the book's evolution?Shelley Armitage: Taos is a special place in terms of environment and history--and many other things. So being in Taos (high desert, mountains, verdant valley) combined with focus on writing was special. I was fortunate to study with BK Loren, a novelist and essayist, at the writers' conference. She gave me permission, through her suggestions and assignments--though not related to the memoir-- to work with narrative in fresh ways.I came to think about time in terms of what memory does with it, not something chronological. I spent lots of time in the Taos area hiking, just exploring the art scene, talking with other artists (particularly at the Wurlitzer Foundation). I've always found hanging out with other creative people, not writers, to be very stimulating and fun. Ditto looking at art, attending musical events, etc.At the Wurlitzer I was able to get a rough draft. A couple of years later when I studied with BK, I went home and started again. C.M. Mayo: Which writers and works would you say have most influenced you in writing Walking the Llano? You mention Southwest poet Peggy Pond Church and Southwest writer Mary Austin, as well as contemporary writers, including Rudolfo Anaya, Patricia Hampl, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Barry Lopez's writers retreat. Can you talk about some of these influences? Shelley Armitage: As a scholar I worked with the writings of both Austin and Church. I was Church's literary editor, worked with her until her death, and helped get her [...]

The Strangely Beautiful Sierra Madera Astrobleme (What is an Astrobleme?)


[[ Sierra Madera Astrobleme. Photo by C.M. Mayo. ]]As those of you who have been following this blog know, I am at work on a book about Far West Texas and, apropos of that, hosting the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project. So in addition to reading about Far West Texas and related subjects, and interviewing artists and many other interesting people, I've been doing a heap of driving all over the place out there. Driving east or west on I-10 or I-20 or 90 is to barrel along with the steady flow of big rigs, pickup trucks, RVs and SUVs; driving north-south, on the other hand, it gets very lonely, very strange, very fast.Here is a photo* I took with my iPhone through the windshield while heading south on US-385 from Fort Stockton to Marathon. That jumble of hills over to the left is the Sierra Madera, which sits on the vast La Escalera Ranch, one of the largest ranches in Texas. Although I did not know it at the time, the highway was about to blaze me right through the Sierra Madera Astrobleme.[*Normally I would never fool around with my smartphone while driving, but I had been driving out here for sometime and not seen a single vehicle, in either direction. I daresay I could have taken got out of the car and taken a siesta in the middle of the road.][ Sierra Madera Astrobleme ][ Sierra Madera Astrobleme, off US-385 etween Fort Stockton and Marathon, Texas ] The Sierra Madera is indeed on Google maps, but neither of the maps I carried with me that day, the AAA and the Geological Highway Map of Texas, noted it, so I was wholly unprepared for the sight, on the open plains, well before the Glass Mountains, of the strange-looking huddle of the Sierra Madera off to the east--  and all bathed in the golden-orange glow of sunset. Alas, my photo does not do its stunning gorgeousness a shred of justice. It turns out that the Sierra Madera is an extremely rare "cryptoexplosion structure," in this case, a crater with a central mountain range raised not by volcanic or tectonic forces, but by the rebound from the impact of an unknown extraterrestrial object. The mountains and the approximately 6 mile-in-diameter crater, so eroded over some nearly 100 million years that I did not recognize it as I drove through it, are together known as the Sierra Madera Astrobleme. An astrobleme is an eroded remnant of a large crater made by the impact of a meteorite or comet. The term, first used in the mid-20th century, is from the Greek astron, star, and blema, wound. What was that object that slammed into the earth those nearly 100 million years ago? I searched the literature but could not find any description beyond "approximately spherical." So I wrote to Dr. Robert Beaufort, who host the United States Meteorite Impact Craters website. He kindly answered:"Identifying the class of meteorite that caused a particular impact crater is a genuinely difficult task... Because we are talking about gargantuan numbers of nuclear bombs worth of heat and shock energy, the impacting body itself, which is pretty tiny compared to the size of the crater, winds up distributed as parts per million or billion among the melted and/or redistributed target rocks remaining in and around the crater.  Finding traces of the impactor is pretty straightforward if you have a mass spectrometer to play with (which I don't), but actually telling which specific type of asteroid and associated meteorite you are dealing with is much more difficult.  Scientists have looked at differences in bulk elemental ratios and at differences in isotope ratios in different classes of meteorites, and found cases where the same characteristic ratios could be discerned, even though they were diluted to parts per gazillion in the earth rock [...]

Roundup by Robot


No need to haul around the chuck wagon!Rounding up cattle on the La Escalera Ranch in Far West Texas, using a Phantom 3 drone: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="260" mozallowfullscreen="" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="240">La Escalera Ranch ("Herding Cattle with a Drone") from Lyda Video & Photo on Vimeo.Cattle herding in Queensland, Australia, from an article in International Business Times: frameborder="0" height="260" scrolling="no" src="" width="240">Robot-herding cattle in the Azores-- with extremely annoying soundtrack. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="260" src="" width="240">Herding sheep by drone in New Zealand: Article in the Daily Mail. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="260" id="molvideoplayer" scrolling="no" src="" title="MailOnline Embed Player" width="240">What prompted my interest in this at once esoteric and emblematic rural activity? As those of you who have been flowing this blog know, I am at work on a book about Far West Texas. I spent the weekend transcribing some of my notes from driving around out there, including a spectacular stretch of US-385 heading south at sunset from Fort Stockton to Marathon. Judging from the number of gates out there with the logo that looks like a III, or a small ladder, La Escalera Ranch owns the zone. Hence, the Google, which landed me on their very interesting website with that video of the drone roundup. On that note, Kevin Kelly's The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future is a most enlightening read. Highly recommended.Marfa Mondays #11 Cowboy Songs by Cowboys and an Interview with Michael StevensThe Comanche Empire by Pekka HämäläinenMarfa Mondays #8: A Spell at Chinati Hotsprings[...]



Another fine example of the genre has been added to my frequently updated list of recommended literary travel memoirs: Shelley Armitage's Walking the Llano: A Texas Memoir of Place. Armitage's wistful, knowledgable, and lyric memoir may be one of best books ever to come out of the Texas Panhandle.> Visit Shelley Armitage's website here.>> Update on the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project: Ayyyy, I am still working on podcast 21, on the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts. Meanwhile, listen in to the other 20 podcasts anytime here.>> Your comments are always very welcome. Write to me here.>> The newsletter goes out soon. I invite you to sign up here.The Comanche Empire by Pekka HämäläinenFrom The Writer's Carousel: On Literary Travel WritingThe Story is True: The Art and Meaning of Telling Stories by Bruce Jackson[...]

Mexican Fiction in Translation: Agustín Cadena and Rose Mary Salum in ArLiJo


I am very honored and delighted to announce that the new issue #91 of Robert Giron's ArLiJo features two of my translations of Mexican short fiction: Agustín Cadena's "The Coco" and Rose Mary Salum's "Someone is Calling Me." >> Read ArLiJo #91 here << More about Agustín Cadena:> His blog, El vino y la hiel> "Lady of the Seas" by Agustín Cadena in my anthology Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion> A Note about Cadena's poem "Blind Woman" in BorderSenses> A Note about Cadena's short story "The Vampire" in MexicoCityLit> Café San Martín: Reading Mexican Poet Agustín Cadena at the Café Passé in Tucson, ArizonaMore about Rose Mary Salum:> Rose Mary Salum's blog, Entre los espacios> Rose Mary Salum, Founding editor of Literal> A Conversation with Rose Mary Salum (super crunchy)> A Note on the second issue of Origins, edited by Dini Karasik, featuring Mexican writer Rose Mary SalumA tip of the sombrero to you, my fellow El Pasoan, dear Robert Giron!Thank you for your long-time support for literary translation![[ ¡Viva ArLiJo issue #91! ]]A Note on Literary Projects & Literary Translation by Yours TrulyAlas, given that there are not 50 hours in the day and 700 days in the year I am not anywhere near ever becoming a full-time literary translator. My main literary projects at the moment are my own book on Far West Texas, and the related podcast series, "Marfa Mondays," but, as I have for many years now, I make it a regular practice to translate Mexican contemporary short fiction and poetry. (My most recent book is about and includes a book I translated-- an exception to my usual translation work on many levels, including the fact that the author was murdered in 1913. That book is Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual.)As a resident of Mexico City, and a writer and poet myself, I treasure the opportunity to translate my Mexican contemporaries and bring them to English language readers. And I have plenty to say about all that: See "Translating Across the Border," my talk for the 2015 American Literary Translators Association Conference panel on "Translating the Other Side."At present, I am working on The Water that Rocks the Silence, a collection of linked short stories,  El agua que mece el silencio,  by Rose Mary Salum (three more to go for a complete first draft); a short story by Araceli Ardón (advanced draft); a second short story by Ignacio Solares (rough draft); and poem by Alberto Blanco (draft). Fingers crossed, later this year, I may have some news about a collection of stories by Agustín Cadena. Would that the day had more hours!> For more about my published translations, click here.> My amiga the poet and writer Pat Dubrava and I both translate Mónica Lavín and Agustín Cadena. Read her post about her visit to Mexico City in her blog, Holding the Light.> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.> My newsletter goes out to subscribers soon. I welcome you to join the list here.Why Translate? The Case of the President of Mexico's Secret BookLooking at Mexico in New Ways: An Interview with John TutinoFor MexicophilesNPR Interview with C.M. Mayo on the Art of Literary TranslationOn Writing About Mexico: Secrets and Surprises[...]

THE COMANCHE EMPIRE by Pekka Hämäläinen: A Book Review by C.M. Mayo


The cover of Pekka Hämäläinen's The Comanche Empire, of a ghost-white warrior with a trio of blood-red slashes down his cheek, is as arresting as the argument that, as it opens, the Comanches' was "an American empire that, according to conventional histories, did not exist."In the United States public discourse conflates wildly heterogenous groups into easy categories— Native American, white, black, and so on and so forth— and then, with school board-approved narratives as mortar, we construct colossal political edifices. In their shadows, alas, many of us are blind to the complexities in our society and history. The complexities are riotous. And when we shine a light on but one of them— as Finnish historian Hämäläinen has in this brilliant study of Comanche hegemony— suddenly our easy categories and well-worn narratives may look strange, deeply wrong.As those of you who follow this blog well know, I am at work on a book about Far West Texas, that is, Texas west of the Pecos River. Anyone who heads out there, especially to the remote Big Bend, hears about Comanches, e.g., they crossed the Río Grande here, they watered their horses there. But the Comanches, an equestrian Plains people who hunted the buffalo, were latecomers to the Trans-Pecos. They did not settle there; they trekked through it on the Comanche Trail (more aptly, network of trails) on their way to raid in northern Mexico. They returned driving immense herds of horses and kidnapped Apache and Mexican women and children in tow, for markets up north around Taos, New Mexico, and Big Timbers on the Arkansas, which garnered them metal tools, cooking pots, corn and other carbohydrates, textiles, and above all, guns and ammunition.George Catlin"Buffalo Chase"The Comanche were raiding south of the Río Grande as early as the 1770s, but their large-scale raiding in northern Mexico commenced in the 1820s, plunging deep into Chihuahua, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Durango, Zacatecas and, in the 1840s, as far as Jalisco and the major central market and manufacturing city of Querétaro. This systematic "mass violence" which left the northern realm of the Mexican economy crippled and its people demoralized, turned it into what Hämäläinen terms "an extension of Greater Comanchería." Hence, by the late 1840s, when the U.S. Army invaded Mexico, what they were really invading was, to quote Hämäläinen, "the shatterbelt of Native American power." But this is to get ahead of the story. >>>>[CONTINUE READING]P.S. WHAT'S UP WITH "MARFA MONDAYS"?Those of you have been following my related podcast, Marfa Mondays, may be wondering, where is the long-promised podcast #21 on the Seminole Negro Scouts? After the US Civil War, the US Army invited the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts into Texas from Mexico, where they had taken refuge from the Confederacy's slavers, to help clear the Apaches and Comanches out of Texas. So I've been reading about the latter groups, whose history, it turns out, is far more wide-ranging and multifaceted than I had imagined. I may be a fast reader, but this is a monster of a bibliography. Add to that, in 2008, with Pekka Hamalainen's The Comanche Empire, the whole of the paradigm has been upended. So stay tuned: by the by, podcast #21 on the Seminole Negro Scouts will be posted. Listen in anytime to the other 20 posted so far here.>>Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.>> My newsletter might go out sometime soon-ish. I welcome you to sign up here.Q & A with Paul Cool on The Salt WarriorsThe Harrowingly Romantic Adventure of US Trade with Mexico in the Pre-Pre-Pre NAFTA Era: Not[...]

The Harrowingly Romantic Adventure of US Trade with Mexico in the Pre-Pre-Pre-NAFTA Era: Notes on Susan Shelby Magoffin and her Diary of 1846-1847, DOWN THE SANTA FE TRAIL AND INTO MEXICO


As a writer who has been living in Mexico for nearly three decades and, for an ongoing hairy spell, working on a book about Far West Texas, I am tardy in the extreme in reading Susan Shelby Magoffin's diary of 1846-47. Only recently did I pick it up in a bookstore on a visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I promptly devoured it and am still shaking my head that I had not happened upon this marvel of a chronicle before. Indeed, the diary stands an essential document in US and Mexican economic history. Herewith, a few notes. (In other words, this post is not a polished essay but for my own reference-- and may it also serve you, dear reader, as an inspiration for further surfing and reading.)YEA, VERILY, IN THE PRE-PRE-PRE NAFTA ERAAt the time that Mrs. Samuel Magoffin, or "Susanita," as she called herself, began her diary on "the Great Prairie Highway," few people apart from hard-bitten traders, Indians and Indian fighters had traversed the Santa Fe Trail. This was, as historian Howard Lamar writes the diary's forword, "the West's newest and most romantic business." In fact, a best-seller of the day, read and reread by the exuberantly admiring [[Josiah Gregg ]]Susanita, was her husband's colleague Josiah Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies, published in two volumes in 1844-- only two years before Susanita began her diary.>>Rare book collectors alert: A first edition of Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies, both volumes and in good condition, is offered by James Cummins Bookseller for USD 4,500. Now worries, dear reader, it is now in the public domain and you can read it for free on also the online edition available for free at enticement: furs, and mules, and Mexican silver. From Independence, Missouri, the well-armed caravans of wagons packed with cloth and clothing, books, and other manufactured goods rumbled across the oceanic prairies of not-yet-bleeding Kansas and the southeastern corner of Colorado to the old Spanish city of Santa Fe-- then in its sunset days as part of the Mexican Republic. From Santa Fe, some traders then turned south on the old Spanish Camino Real de Tierra Adentro to Albuquerque, El Paso del Norte, Ciudad Chihuahua, and yonder into deepest Mexico. [[Mexican silver coin, 1844 ]]According to historian Lamar, the trade began in 1822, when Mexico, having separated from Spain, abandoned its mercantilist trade prohibitions. One Captain William Becknell ventured down from the Plains and reported "fantastic success bartering with the New Mexican at Santa Fe." By 1825 James Wiley Magoffin had entered the trade, bringing along his younger brothers, including Samuel, the husband of Susanita. Susanita Magoffin believed that she was the first white woman to traverse the Santa Fe Trial-- although that distinction may belong to Mary Donoho, who traversed the trail in 1835. [See the article by Kelley Pounds.] Remarkably for a diary of such careful observation, its author was a teenager: she celebrated her 19th birthday on the trail at Bent's Fort. Even more remarkably, her journey coincided with the US-Mexican War. More about that war in a moment.>> See the website for the National Park Service Santa Fe National Historical Trail ]>> Read more about the trail at the website of the Santa Fe Trail Association.[[CLICK HERE to visit the interactive map at the Santa Fe Trail Association website.]][Map of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, from Santa Fe down to Mexico City.From the National Park Service website]][[ Route of Samuel and Susan Shelby Magoffin, 1846-18[...]

Shattered Reality! Podcast: Madero, Spiritism, and the Mexican Revolution


This past week for Shattered Reality! podcast Kate Valentine and Fahrusha interviewed me about my latest book,  Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual. Considered Mexico's "Apostle of Democracy," Francisco I. Madero was the leader of the 1910 Revolution and President of Mexico from 1911-1913. In the year he launched the Revolution he wrote Manual espírita, then published it in 1911 as "Bhima," a pen name taken from the Bhagavad-Gita, when he was president-elect. What's it all about?>> Listen in here <<(Transcript to be posted shortly)I'm always delighted to talk about Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution-- which includes my translation of Madero's Manual espírita as Spiritist Manual-- and I have been fortunate to do so many a time since it came out in early 2014. For those looking for a more scholarly discussion, on the book's webpage you can find my lectures about Madero, Spiritism, and the Mexican Revolution for the UCSD Center for US-Mexican Studies (podcast); University of Texas El Paso (transcript); and The American Literary Translators Association Conference (transcript), among others, plus an ample and frequently updated page of Resources for Researchers.In scholarly venues, with noted exceptions, I usually find myself before an audience flummoxed to horror by the idea of Mexico's revolutionary hero as a Spiritist medium, so it was a fun treat to have this freewheeling podcast conversation with Kate Valentine, an expert on UFOs, and Fahrusha, a well-known professional psychic. They were not in the least kerfuffled by, for example, discussions of channeling the dead, table tipping, and apparitions--  to mention only a few of Francisco I. Madero's esoteric enthusiasms. Whether you relish discussions of the paranormal or not, if you have an interest in Mexico per se, I warmly recommend the Shattered Reality! interview with Andrew Chestnut, professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, about his book Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte the Skeleton Saint. Of late there has been a raft of sensationalist reporting on this visually spectacular cult which originated in Mexico City and is now popular among narco-traffickers, prisoners, and black magic practitioners, among others. Chestnut provides a well-grounded history of Santa Muerte (he identifies Aztec influences, as well as Spanish representations of the Grim Reaper, imported with the Conquest in the 16th century), and some very crunchy sociological insights. (I am often asked if Francisco I. Madero's Spiritism had anything to do with La Santa Muerte. The answer is a resounding no.)>> Again, listen to my Shattered Reality podcast interview here.Some of my other interviews on Madero, Spiritism, and the Mexican Revolution include:> Jeffrey Mishlove's television show New Thinking Allowed> Greg Kaminsky's podcast Occult of Personality> Stephan Woodman's The Mexican Labyrinth> University of Chicago Social Sciences Division newsletter> All Q & A here.Your comments are always welcome.CLICK HERE.I invite you to subscribe to my free podcast-packed newsletter.CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.No spam. Nor ham.Newsletter goes out every other month-ish.Book review for Literal:Ax of Apocalypse: Streiber and Kripal's The Super Natural: A New Vision of the UnexplainedPeyote and the Perfect You: Some NotesOn Francisco I. Madero as Medium:An Interview with Rev. Stephen Hermann, Author of Mediumship MasteryWilliam Curry's TeresitaThe Biogra[...]

Another One Hundred Foreigners in Morelos: José N. Iturriaga (and Yours Truly) in Cuernavaca's Historic Jardín Borda


[[ The two volume anthology by José N. Iturriaga,a collection of writings by foreigners in Morelia,from the 16th to the 21st century. ]]To see one's own country through the scribbles of foreigners can be at once discomfiting and illuminating. Out of naiveté and presumption, foreigners get many things dead-wrong;  they also get many things confoundingly right. Like the child who asked why the emperor was wearing no clothes, oftentimes they point to things we have been blind to: beauty and wonders, silliness, perchance a cobwebby corner exuding one skanky stink. And of course, there are things to point at in all countries, from Albania to Zambia.As an American, I have to admit it's rare that we pay a whit of attention to writing on the United States by, say, Mexicans, Canadians, the Germans or the French. True, we have the shining example of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, which every reasonably well-educated American may not have waded through but has at least heard of (and if you haven't, dear reader, now you have.) But de Tocqueville's tome is a musty-dusty 181 years old (the first of its four volumes was published in 1835, the last in 1840-- get the whole croquembouche in paperback here.)>> Dear reader, what am I missing? Do write with your suggestions.[[ José N. Iturriaga, signing copies of his anthology,July 1, 2016Centro Cultural Jardin Borda ]]This past Friday, July 1, 2016, I participated in the launch of novelist and historian José N. Iturriaga's anthology Otros cien forasteros en Morelos [Another One Hundred Foreigners in Morelos], the companion volume to Cien forasteros en Morelos [One Hundred Foreigners in Morelos], from the 16th to the 21st century.(For those rusty on their Mexican geography, Morelos is a large state in central Mexico that includes Cuernavaca, "the city of eternal springtime," which it actually is, and Tepoztlán, a farm town surrounded by spectacular reddish bluffs that, despite an influx of tourists from Mexico City and abroad, still has a strong indigenous presence, and has been designated by Mexico's Secretary of Tourism as a "pueblo mágico." The most famous resident of the state of Morelos was Revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata.) The launch was held in the Centro Cultural Jardín Borda (Borda Gardens Cultural Center), an historic garden open to the public in downtown Cuernavaca-- about an hour and a half's drive from Mexico City. [[ Jardín Borda, entrance patio ]]As Iturriaga said in his talk, for almost forty years he has been studying the writings of foreigners on Mexico, precisely for the fresh, if not always kind nor necessarily accurate, perspective they offer on his own country. I admire Iturriaga's work, and his curiosity, open-mindedness, and open-heartedness more than I can say. It was a mammoth honor to have had an excerpt from my novel included in his anthology, and to have been invited to participate on the panel presenting his anthology. The other two panelists, whose work is also in the anthology, were poet, novelist and essayist Eliana Albala and journalist and poet María Gabriela Dumay, both of whom came to live in Cuernavaca in the early 1970s, political exiles from Pinochet's Chile.Mexican book presentations tend to be more formal affairs than those in US (the latter usually in a bookstore with, perhaps, a brief and informal introduction by the owner or a staff member. I have war stories.) In Mexico, in contrast, there is usually a felt-draped dais, always a microphone, and two to as many as five panelists who have prepared fo[...]

Top 21 Surfing Faves: Marginal Revolution, Scott Adams, Holding the Light, Root Simple, Apifera Farm, Book Man's Log, Kevin Kelly, and More


Yes, it is true that most blogs, never better than mediocre, end up abandoned as their authors migrate over to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like. Nonetheless, there are many worthy, richly fascinating, and consistently updated blogs out there, some old, many new. Herewith, I share with you, dear reader, a my top 21 surfing faves as of this month.CRUNCH-CH-CH-Y ECON & ROARINGLY ECLECTIC WHATNOTMarginal RevolutionDILBERTERIE AND PERSUASION FILTER-O-RAMAScott Adams By the way, if at first glance Adams' blog appears pro-Trump, look again, it is not. Over the past months Adams has been analyzing and explaining some of the more esoteric techniques that Trump employs in his speeches and debates and even Tweets. Long before any of the op-ed crew in major media, Adams predicted the rise of Trump. His blog is fascinating reading, and it's worth the trouble to read many of his previous posts. And yes, this is the cartoonist who came up with Dilbert. And no, I am not for Trump. Hey, I live in Mexico.SOUTH OF THE BORDER, SOMETIMESMexico Cooks!Rachel LaudanDavid LidaSam Quinones > Read my review of his latest book, Dreamland, for Literal Magazine.TEXAS, HIS TEXASThe Rambling Boy Read or listen to my interview with Lonn Taylor here.AMIGAS ARTISTASHolding the Light Patricia Dubrava, translator, poet, writerWork-in-Progress Leslie Pietrzyk, writerOne Sarah Zalan, photographerART & ANIMALSApifera Farm > Read my 2011 post about this blog here.God of WednesdayRARE BOOK BIZBook Man's LogDESIGN & ECLECTIC WHATNOTSwiss Miss Her Friday Link Packs are always a treat. The latest included a link to this Japanese shop and this stunning video by Method Design.Screenshot from this Vimeo video by Method Design.IMPENDING DOOM OR, LIFE WITH HORSES PROBABLYJames Howard Kunstler Rolling preacher-like thunder and, on many an occasion, wackily wicked imagery.The Archdruid Report His sci fi is not my cup of chai, but his skill and prolificacy as an essayist is a wonder.Club Orlov Cranky sailboat doomer, but at times the language kicks samovar, e.g.:July 19, 2016"And there are all those who, whenever I publish something that mentions climate change, crawl out of the woodwork and gnash their exoskeletal mandibles at me, to the effect that climate=weather, and it's all a conspiracy theory. They are idiots and deserve a boathook in the eye."July 5, 2016"People were summoned to explore the heavens, they were promised universal prosperity, a world without borders, gender equality, and a third gender, and a fourth, and a fifth, and watermelons that taste like raccoons, and raccoons with the hair of mermaids. But people wanted a hug, warm tea, summers in the country, and to spend time with their relatives."SETH GODINwww.sethgodin.comPEP TALKSeth GodinTECHNO WOW, WHOA, WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?! This is Kevin Kelly, whose latest is The Inevitable: Understanding the Twelve Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future). Several blogs in there, including Cool Tools.YUM & FIXITOrangetteRoot Simple (best roasted tomatoes in the galaxy and solar ovenerie!)+ + + +For those of you who might be wondering, my book in-progress on Far West Texas proceeds... ayyy, and having taken a karmically necessary detour to write this book review/ essay (the strangest thing I have ever written), I am still working on Marfa Mondays podcast 21. There will be blood. Of the 19th century. I invite you to listen in to the other 20 Marfa Mondays podcasts anytime her[...]

Monarchy in Mexico: The Super Crunchy Conversation with M.M. McAllen About Maximilian and Carlota


It has been a while since I posted the podcast of my super crunchy conversation with historian M.M. McAllen about her very fine narrative history, Maximilian and Carlota: Europe's Last Empire in Mexico. Since one of my own books, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, is about this same period, believe it, we got super crunchy in there. At long last the transcript is now available!>> Read the M.M. McAllen Transcript <<>> Listen in to the M.M. McAllen Podcast < Rose Mary Salum> Sergio Troncoso> Michael K. Schuessler> Edward Swift> Sara Mansfield Taber> Solveig EggerzThis is an ongoing occasional series. Another will be available in 2017.Selected interview transcripts from the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project:> Raymond Caballero: On Mexican Revolutionary General Pascual Orozco and Far West Texas> Israel Campos: BBQ Pitmaster in Pecos> Greg Williams: Gifts of the Ancient Ones, the Rock Art of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands> Dallas Baxter: This Precious Place> Michael Stevens et al: Cowboy Songs by Cowboys> Mary Baxter: Painting the Big Bend> Paul Graybeal: Marfa's Moonlight GemstonesThere will be 24 in the Marfa Mondays series; 20 have been posted to date. The 21st will be posted shortly.Your comments are always welcome.CLICK HERE.Newsletter? Yes indeed.It goes out every other month-ish.SIGN UP HERE.Maximilian ~ Carlota Research BlogQ & A with Texas Historian Carolina Castillo CrimmQ & A with Mexican Historian Alan Rojas Orzechowski About Santiago Rebull, Maximilian's Court Painter and Later, Professor of Diego RiveraPodcasting for Writers:To Commit or Not (or Vaguely?)[...]

Ax of Apocalypse: Strieber and Kripal's THE SUPER NATURAL: A NEW VISION OF THE UNEXPLAINED


Just posted in Literal Magazine, my review of Whitley Strieber and Jeffrey J. Kripal's THE SUPER NATURAL:  A NEW VISION OF THE UNEXPLAINED. It's a crunchier review than my usual 500 / 1,000 words; I went into detail about my own encounter with a mystical text, Francisco I. Madero's Manual espírita of 1911, plus brief discussion of Jeffrey Mishlove's The PK Man. This book is a flying ax of apocalypse. But whoa, let's first bring this identified flying thoughtform to Planet Earth: to Texas; Houston; Rice University; Department of Religion; and finally, the office of the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought, Jeffrey J. Kripal. Professor Kripal, who describes his work as comparing "fantastic states of mind and energy and their symbolic expressions in human history, literature, religion, and art," is one of two authors, alternating chapters, who have launched this catch-it-if-you-can metaphysical ax. The other is Whitley Strieber, a Texan internationally famous for his horror fiction and series of memoirs beginning with Communion: A True Story, the 1987 best-seller about his encounters with UFOs and entities he calls "the visitors." Whether you indulge in Strieber's shiver-worthy writings or not, you've no doubt seen the image of a "visitor" from the cover of Communion everywhere from the movies to cartoons: a bulbous rubber-like head with darkly liquid almond-shaped eyes.If you've read this far and are tempted to stop, I urge you to take a breath—a bold breath. Should you still feel bristling hostility, as many educated readers do at the mere mention of such subjects as UFOs and "the visitors," that's normal. Soldier through the discomfort, however, and you may be able to open a door from the comfy cell of mechanistic materialism onto vast, if vertiginous vistas of reality itself—and not to the supernatural but, as Kripal and Streiber would have it, the super natural. That door does not open with a key but with what Kripal terms a cut—as provided by Immanuel Kant, that most emminent of bewigged German philosophers. More about the "Kantian cut" in a moment.Never mind the remarkable contents of The Super Natural, the fact that two such authors would write a book together is remarkable in the extreme. Strieber, while building a passionate following for Communion, his many other works and esoteric podcast, "Dreamland," has also attracted widespread ridicule for his memoirs which go beyond retailing his perceptions of his abductions by "the visitors" to adventures, both in and out of body, with orbs, hair-raising magnetic fields, blue frog-faced trolls, and the dead. Nonetheless, Kripal, as one steeped in the literature of the world's religions, identifies Strieber's Communion as "a piece of modern erotic mystical literature," and indeed, nothing less than a litmus test for his own academic field:>> CONTINUE READING on Literal MagazineYour comments are ever and always welcome.CLICK HERE.Newsletter? Yep. It might go out in July. Maybe again in September.It will have news and new podcasts, including from the Marfa Mondays Podcasting ProjectSIGN UP HERE.Selected Book Reviews by C.M. Mayo:Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemicby Sam QuinonesLiteral MagazineNut Country: Right-wing Dallas and the Birth of the Southern Strategyby Edward H. MillerWashington Independent Review of BooksA Slow Trot Homeby Lisa G. SharpMadam Mayo BlogLife in MexicoBy Frances Calderon [...]

Peyote and the Perfect You: Some Notes (Basics, History, Links, Videos, a Hypothesis about the Heart Chakra, and an Embryonic Bibliography)


SOME NOTES & ETC ON PEYOTE FROM THE RESEARCH FOR MY BOOK IN-PROGRESS ON FAR WEST TEXAS>> Read about my book in-progress>> Listen in to the 20 "Marfa Mondays" podcasts (mainly interviews) posted to date>> View my maps of Far West TexasFar West Texas, an area approximately the size of West Virginia, includes a goodly patch of the territory that stretches deep into Mexico where peyote, or lophophora williamsii grows... oh so very... very... very... v-e-r-y... slowly. A runty, dull-gray spineless cactus with wispy white hairs, when found, peyote-- an Anglicization of the original Nahautl name, peyotl-- is usually growing in clusters. What certain indigenous peoples have done for an eon is slice off the tops-- the "buttons"-- and eat them. Calories and dietary fiber are not the point; apparently the taste is puckerlips nasty. But adepts claim that this humble-looking plant is no less than "the divine cactus," and eaten as a sacrament, as "holy medicine," it can bring one's mind into a mystical realm where psychedelic visions can help one see across time and space and heal one's thoughts about oneself and the cosmos. As one participant in a peyote ritual reported, echoing so many others, he found "profound gratitude for his life" as it was. PEYOTE AND THE HUICHOLSThe Huichols, who live in Mexico's Sierra Madre, are the indigenous group best known for their peyote ritual. >> For more about the Huichol visit the website of the  Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and >> See the documentary "The Last of the Medicine Men: The Huichol and Peyote".PEYOTE IN FRAY BERNARDINO SAHAGUN'S GENERAL HISTORY OF THE THINGS OF NEW SPAINThe first known written mention of peyote is in Franciscan missionary Bernardino de Sahagún's Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España, or General History of the Things of New Spain. The original 16th century manuscript, which contains 2,468 colorful illustrations and text in both Spanish and Nahuatl (the language spoken by the Aztecs phonetically transcribed using Latin), is also known as the Florentine Codex because it is in the Medicea Laurencziana Library in Florence, Italy. >> To view the digitized manuscript which contains many intriguing and colorful illustrations, but, alas, not one of peyote, click here.[[  Pages from the Florentine Codex.(This does not show peyote, alas.) ]]Of peyote, Sahagún reports (as quoted in Omer C. Stewart, Peyote Religion: A History):"On him who eats it or drinks it, it takes effect like mushrooms. Also he sees many things which frighten one, or make one laugh. It affects him perhaps one day, perhaps two days, but likewise it abates. However, it harms one, troubles one, makes one besotted, takes effect on one."Sahagún also reports that, according to his indigenous informants, the first to use peyote were the Chichimecas, a number of semi-nomadic northern tribes never completely subdued by the Mexica (or Aztecs). [See also Conflict and Conversion in Sixteenth Century Mexico: The Augustinian War on and Beyond the Chichimeca Frontier by Robert H. Jackson.](By the way, you may have noticed that I never link to wikipedia, aka The Maoist Muddle, unless there is absolutely, but absolutely, nothing else and a link really would be better than none. FYI: When I checked wikipedia for this post on the Florentine Codex, the images shown were from the wrong book.) PEY[...]

Energy Arts "Dragon and Tiger" Medical Qigong Online Training


I just completed the 10 week on-line training in "Dragon & Tiger" Qigong. The videos with Bill Ryan and friends are clear and concise, and the package also includes an excellent series of bonus videos with Ryan's teacher, Bruce Frantzis. Highly recommended for any and all--and especially writers, because we writers tend to pool energy in our head while that in the body, left sitting in a chair, stagnates. Qigong wakes it all up and gets it flowing. With a qigong practice of 20 reps of the 7 moves I definitely feel sharper and brighter, both mentally and physically. More anon.P.S. Slowwwwwly but surely I am working on my book about Far West Texas. Apropos of that, stay tuned for the next podcast, 21 of a projected 24. Listen in anytime to the 20 podcasts posted so far here. Your comments are always welcome. CLICK HERE.I post every Monday and oftentimes more often.Newsletter? Yes indeed. You are most welcome to CLICK HERE to sign up.The StandStand: One Highly Recommended Way to Keep on Writing While StandingGrokking the GIFAt the FIL or the Mexican MegabookmashupThe Mental Edge by Kenneth Baum and Other Resources for Writers[...]

Top 28 Posts for Creative Writers By Yours Truly


A bit belatedly, for this was meant to accompany the post on the occasion of this blog's 10th anniversary, herewith a compilation of my top posts for creative writers from 2006 through March 2016.Most address questions from my workshop students and fellow writers on craft and publishing; a few posts were prompted by my own concerns: I wanted to work out what I thought about Facebook and writers' newsletters, to take two examples. May these posts serve you also, dear reader. ON THE CRAFT OF WRITING+ The Secret Ingredient in My Writing Process+ Writing Loglines and the Concept of the "Eyespan"+ Language Overlay: A Technique of Fiction+ The Arc of Writerly Action+ 10 Juicy Books on Creative Process+ On Decluttering Your Writing or, Respecting the Integrity of Narrative Design: The Interior Decoration Analogy+ A Dozen Dialogue Exercises+ Techniques of Fiction: The Number One Technique in the Supersonic Overview+ To All the Many People Who Ask Me to Read Their Manuscripts+ Top 10 Reactions to Henry James' The Ambassadors+ 10 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Writing Workshop> See also my article The Manuscript Is Ready --(Or Is It?)-- What's Next? > See also my blog Reading Tolstoy's War and PeaceON PUBLISHING+ Five Super Simple Tips for Better Book Design+ Q & A with Independent Publisher Michele Orwin, Founding Editor of Bacon Press Books+ It's Not Like Making a Peanut Butter-and-Jelly Sandwich, But it's Not Rocket Science Either, or, How I Made my PODs (And You Can, Too)+ How I Published My Kindles+ Why Aren't There More Readers? A Note on Curiosity, Creativity, and Courage+ So How's the Book Doing? (And How Many Books Have You Sold? And What Was Your Print Run?)+ Self Publishing for All the Right Reasons (Reporting on the Writer's Center's "Publish Now!" Seminar)+ E-Mailed Newsletters: 6 Yucky No Nos, 6 Dos, and 8 Newsletters I Relish Receiving+ Story Farm: Katherine Dunn's Apifera+ Book Trailers: Some Categories>See also my articles Answers to the 3 Most Frequently Asked Questions about the Writing Business and Out of the Forest of Noise: On Publishing the Literary Short Story.ON BLOGGING+ Writers' Blogs and My Blog ("Madam Mayo"): Eight Conclusions After 8 Years of Blogging> See also my article Getting Started with Blogs and WebsitesON TIME MANAGEMENT+ Podcasting for Writers: To Commit or Not (Or Vaguely?)+ Adios Facebook! The Six Reasons Why I Deactivated My Account+ 30 Deadly-Effective Ways to Free Up Bits, Drips & Gimungously Vast Swaths of Time for Writing+ Why I Am a Mega-Fan of the Filofax (Also on "Cool Tools" blog)+ Little Walls Against the Technium+ Decluttering a Library: The 10 Question Could-Be-a-FlowchartSo when is my next writing workshop? Probably not until 2017 because I am at work on my book about Far West Texas. Look for more posts about Texas and, apropos of that book in-progress, my "Marfa Mondays" podcasts. Twenty of a projected 24 podcasts have been posted to date. Listen in anytime. Your comments are always welcome. CLICK HERE.I post every Monday and oftentimes more often.Newsletter? Yes indeed. CLICK HERE to sign up.Resources for Writers PageWriting Workshop ScheduleGiant Golden Buddha & 364 More Free [...]

Top 13 Trailers for Movies with Extra-Astral Texiness


Extra-Astral Texiness: DefinitionsFirst, what do I mean by "astral"? I don't mean "of the stars," but the old-fashioned esoteric concept of the imaginal realm. Yes, I am a mite old-fashioned, and apropos of my most recent book, about the secret book by the leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution, I plowed through a sizable library of antique books on various aspects of the astral. So that's a word I like to sling around! Whether you, dear reader, believe in the astral or not, I think you will agree that (1) everyone has an imagination and (2) the imaginal realm, aka the astral-- or whatever you have a notion to call it-- includes works of fiction and movies. Imagine those works, if you will, floating like little bubbles through the ether. (Well, porquoi pas?)Speaking of Texas-sized astral bubblies, apropos of my book in-progress about Far West Texas, of course my horse (as they say in Mexico) I have a long list of "to dos" that includes grokking Giant, that Rock Hudson-Elizabeth Taylor-James Dean mashup filmed in Marfa and parts thereabouts-- I have watched it and read the Edna Ferber novel it was based on, too. And now I've finished reading Don Graham's Cowboys and Cadillacs: How Hollywood Looks at Texas, in which I first came across the term "Texiness." Writes Graham:"The Texas Chic-urban cowboy version of the old Western legend offered a sexier version of Texas. Call it Texiness. Frontier values, however romanticized they might have been in Red River or Giant, were supplanted by fashion value, by hype." (p.6)I hereby redefine "Texiness": I say all that hyper-appealing high-heeled cowboy boot clickin' movie fah-shun goes back to Giant's Rock Hudson and James Dean, and indeed, decades yonder: the Founding Pope of that Whole Hamburger-Helper Enchilada was John Wayne. And a big tip of the sombrero, along with a shake of the pepper flakes, to Italian director Sergio Leone for corralling Clint Eastwood. (Maestro of the concept, Leone himself was definitely not Texi.)(Film historians: sorry, Tom Mix looks pasty-faced and nerdy, and antiques including Gene Autrey and Roy Rogers don't count. Nope, movies based on Karl May and Louis L'Amour novels and Buffalo Bill shows neither.)In The Air-conditioned House of MirrorsIf you're at all familiar with my work on Mexico, dear reader, you know that I like to take cliches, stuff them in a cannon, and light the fuse. That this "Texiness" stuff exemplifies the real world of Texas.... let's just say I am preparing to launch that idea, along with its ostrich-leather Luccheses, into orbit around, say, one of the moons of Neptune.Says Graham, and rightly: "Texans have two pasts: the one they lived in and the one Hollywood created."What I'm saying is, Astral Texas isn't Texas, exactly; it's a bunch of fancies about "Texas" concocted by a jostling Chinese puzzle of a crowd of screenwriters, novelists, costume designers, executives, and bean-counters of all stripes, many of them New Yorkers, or Danes or Germans or Italians or whatever, who wanted to put butts in seats from Rome to Tokyo and all parts in between, or, to put it in more elegant terms, sell their product which was international entertainment. The Alice-in-Wonderland thing about it is that Texans watched those movies too, with consequences for their ideas about themselves-- or at least concepts of fashion. (Yes, the house of mirrors goes back to Zane Gra[...]