Friday, May 30, 2014

Cyberflanerie: Writerly Whatnot Edition

Ellen Cassedy's generous & inspired monthly column of writing tips for She Writes
(P.S. Cassedy's guest-blog post for Madam Mayo, 5 Links to Learn Yiddish.)

Hugh Howey's Author Earnings

Jane Friedman shows the changing face of publishing in 5 charts

(This is why so much of my focus these past few years has been on publishing Kindles and making podcasts.)

The last installation of novelist Carmen Amato's Bookstores of the Future series

(P.S. My ancient ode to bookstores over at Red Room.)

Thank you, dear Gregory Gibson, one of my favorite writers and the best rare book dealer blogger, I am honored to find "Madam Mayo" on your blog roll at Bookman's Log.

Lucas Klein on Translation and Translation Studies as a Social Movement

That Andrew Wiley interview, again, because it just so totally floats my boat

COMMENTS always welcome.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cyberflanerie: Blogs Noted Edition

Mexican urban legend: John Kachuba on La Pascualita

Almost as gruesome: Andrew Wylie Interview in the New Republic

Via the ever-fabulous Swiss-MissTiny Town Is Inventing Bus Stops

Brigid Amos has a lovely new blog, Nebraska Notion
PS My favorite place in Nebraska, Carhenge

Seth Roberts' final paper, "How Little We Know"

Karen Casey Fitzjerrel's From the Back Roads

Introvert to Extrovert on Patricia Dubrava's blog, Holding the Light


Monday, May 26, 2014

Cyberflanerie: Print All Over Me Pants Edition

So if you've been following this blog you know I've been raving about Print All Over Me (, as a kind of LOLcats x designy x Instagram x China = future of fashion (a mention here and blog post about the sweatshirts and some sweatpants here). Herewith some sweatpants picks:

printallover . me

printallover . me

printallover . me

printallover . me

printallover. me

Friday, May 23, 2014

Cyberflanerie: Instacart Mexico City, Anti-Surveillance Mask, Lil Crabe the Flying Pretzel Man & etc

Not. I mean, it's not here in Mexico City yet. So my registering and trying out Instacart for a California zipcode was sort of totally pointless except for the fact that, wow, what a user interface!! Years ago I tried a couple of on-line grocery services, they both were bigger headaches than, oh hell, just getting in the car and going over there myself. Seriously, have a look at Instacart's super elegant & easy user interface. 

Also very interesting (this is the economist in me): the implications of such services for the labor market. Seems to me an enterprising student/housewife / retiree could put together a tidy little income from working Instacart, Taskrabbit, etsy and Craig's List, with a much better fit for one's schedule. Downside, of course, is no benefits.

Another amazing user interface is -- which I'll be using shortly for some of my ebooks. Meanwhile, you can get my ebooks on amazon and a few on iTunes-- plus, there's one that is a free PDF download. Check 'em all out here.

>See NYT article on Instacart (via Tyler Cowan's Marginal Revolution).

More totally random cyberflanerie:
Mr Heisenbug: Respect the Microbiota (not the voodoo doughnut, I guess).

COMMENTS always welcome.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Guest-blogger Heidi M. Thomas: A Roundup of 5 Things to Know About Old-Time Rodeo Cowgirls

As I plow on with my Far West Texas book and related "Marfa Mondays" Podcasting Project, I am also finding my way into a whole new literary subculture and, through Women Writing the West, meeting, if only on-line for now, some very accomplished novelists. One of them, who also manages the Women Writing the West blog-- bless you, dear-- is Heidi M. Thomas, who has just published her third novel, Dare to Dream, about a Montana cowgirl who dreams of becoming a professional rodeo rider. Based on the life of Thomas' grandmother, who rode rough stock in Montana in the 1920s, this sweeping saga parallels the evolution of women’s rodeo from the golden years of the 1920s, producing many world champion riders, and shows its decline, beginning in the 1930s and ending with World War II in 1941. Heidi’s first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, won an EPIC Award and the USA Book News Best Book Finalist award. Follow the Dream, a WILLA Award winner, is her second book, and Dare to Dream is the third in the series about strong, independent Montana women.

A Roundup of 5 Things to Know About Old-Time Rodeo Cowgirls
By Heidi M. Thomas
1. My “Dreams” series is based on my grandmother who rode bucking stock in Montana rodeos during the 1920s. Competing with and riding the same roughstock as men was not entirely socially acceptable, but there were a number of women who won world champion awards at New York’s Madison Square Garden Rodeo, in Canada, and in Europe. While Grandma did not become one of those famous cowgirls, she knew and competed with Marie Gibson of Havre, Montana (and won in a steer-riding competition in 1922). Marie won titles at Madison Square Garden in 1927 and 1931. She was killed in a freak rodeo accident in 1933.

2. Montana produced several bronc riding champions, including Fannie Sperry Steele, Alice and Margie Greenough, and Marie Gibson. The Brander sisters were two more of Montana’s rodeo sweethearts, often riding a bucking Brahma steer—double. They went on to establish a dude ranch and put on many rodeos for visitors. 
3. The Miles City Bucking Horse Sale has been a well-known horse sale and rodeo in Montana since 1914. I remember attending the big social event of the year when I was in high school. Although I grew up on a ranch and helped my dad round up cattle for branding and shipping, I did not follow my grandmother’s boot steps into rodeo. For some reason I preferred not to get on anything that was going to buck me off!
4. The Madison Square Garden Rodeo of 1941 was the last time a woman was allowed to compete on the men’s circuit. Vivian White won the women’s championship title that year. My character Nettie in Dare to Dream mentors two young neighbor girls and they have to opportunity to attend that world-renowned rodeo in New York City. 
5. The World wars had much to do with the demise of women’s rodeo competition. Rodeos in general declined because most of the men were off fighting and because there wasn’t money to put on rodeos or travel to them. The death of Bonnie McCarroll and Marie Gibson aroused the age-old question—Is rodeo too dangerous for women? The formation of the Rodeo Association of America also contributed, as the all-male organization did not sanction women’s events.
-- Heidi M. Thomas, author of Dare to Dream

COMMENTS always welcome. Send an email about this post and you're automatically entered in Heidi M Thomas's drawing for a free book.
+ + + + + + + + + + + + +


Heidi M. Thomas is in the midst of a blog tour. Check out her other guest-blogs via her blog.

>Madam Mayo's previous guest-bloggers include the novelists:

Listen in anytime:
>Marfa Mondays: Cowboys Songs By Cowboys

Monday, May 19, 2014

Cyberflanerie: Better Books, Books of Note, Decluttering Books, Rare Books

The NYT's Charles M. Blow says, Reading Books is Fundamental.

Making Better Books:
The Book Designer's archive of articles "practical advice to help build better books"
Chronicling America in the Library of Congress (newspaper archives)
Book Aesthete Tumblr

Books of Note:
Sam Quinones' Tell Your True Tale East Los Angeles
The Daily Beast's Ted Gioia says The Smartest Book About the Digital Age Was Published in 1929. (José Ortega y Gasset's The Revolt of the Masses.)
My book! Updated edition in Kindle, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual.
>see also recent Madam Mayo posts on Gregory Gibson's Demon of the Waters and Bruce Berger's The End of the Sherry.
>see also lists of recommended reading on Mexico; creative process; craft of  creative writing; literary travel memoir.

Decluttering Books: 
Early Retirement Extreme on How to Get Rid of Books
>see also Madam Mayo's easy-peasy 10 Question Method

Rare Books:
Mexico Desconocido on Mexico City's antiquarian bookstores (en español)
>see also recent blog post,  Una ventana al mundo invisible (A Window to the Invisible World) or, Master Amajur and the Smoking Signatures

COMMENTS always welcome

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Una ventana al mundo invisible (A Window to the Invisible World): Master Amajur and the Smoking Signatures

My go-to antiquarian
bookstore in Mexico City
Re: The bibliography for my recent book-- now in paperback and Kindle-- Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual, which is being updated this week.

Window to the Invisible World

Una ventana al mundo invisible. Protocolos del IMIS 
Editorial Antorcha, Mexico City, 1960.
[A Window to the Invisible world: Protocols of the IMIS]

A Window to the Invisible World:
Protocols of the Mexican Institute
for Psychic Research
Mexico City, 1960
I was long into the labyrinth of research and reading for my book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution, when I happened into Mexico City's Librería Madero, expressing a vague interest in Francisco I. Madero and "lo que sea de lo esotérico." When the owner, Don Enrique Fuentes de Castillo, set this book upon the counter, I confess, the cover, which looks like a Halloween cartoon, with such childish fonts, did little to excite my interest. But oh, ho ho (in the voice of the Jolly Green Giant):

This book, Una ventana al mundo invisible, is nothing less than the official, meticulously documented records of the dozens and dozens of research-séances of the Instituto Mexicano de Investigaciones Síquicas or IMIS (Mexican Institute of Psychic Research) from April 10, 1940 to April 12, 1952, members of which included-- the book lists their names and their signatures-- several medical doctors and National University (UNAM) professors; an ex-Rector of the UNAM, the medical doctor and historian Dr. Fernando Ocaranza; several generals; ambassadors; bankers; artists and writers, including José Juan Tablada; a supreme court justice; an ex-Minister of Foreign relations; an ex-director of Banco de México, Carlos Novoa; Ambassador Ramón Beteta, ex Minister of Finance; and... drumroll… both Miguel Alemán and Plutarco Elías Calles. *

Close up of the subtitle. Madam Mayo disapproves of the font.
(Dude, what were you smoking?)
*I hate giving wikipedia links but as of this writing, the official webpage for the Mexican presidency doesn't go back more than four administrations.

President of Mexico,
"El Jefe Máximo"
Plutarco Elías Calles.
In retirement he joined the IMIS
and was a regular participant in the
research-séances documented in
Una ventana al mundo invisible
For those who are a little foggy on Mexican history, Plutarco Elías Calles served as Mexico's President from 1924-1928, and Miguel Alemán, 1946-1952. At the time of the séances documented in Una ventana al mundo invisible, Calles was in retirement, having returned from the exile imposed on him by President Cardenás in the 1930s. 

When Una ventana al mundo invisible was published in 1960, Alemán was long gone from power, and Calles had passed away. 

I had heard, as has anyone who goes any ways into the subject, that Alemán and Calles and other Mexican "public figures" were secret Spiritists, but here, dear readers, in the Protocolos del IMIS, are the smoking signatures. 

Yes, There are Other References to Una ventana al mundo invisible

The Revolution as
dolor de cabeza
Mexican historian Enrique Krauze was one of the first to cite Una ventana al mundo invisible in his chapter on Calles in Biography of Power, as does Jurgen Burchenau in his biography, Plutarco Elías Calles and the Mexican Revolution. But, as I write these lines, Una ventana al mundo invisible remains surprisingly obscure.

Of course, I googled. A Mexican writer,  Héctor de Mauleón, had discovered Una ventana al mundo invisible in a different Mexico City antiquarian bookstore and written up a summary for the October 2012 issue of Nexos. (But he complains of his copy's missing the picture of the conjured spirit, "Master Amajur." More about that in a moment.) And also recently, Grupo Espírita de la Palma, a Canary Islands Spiritist blog, which has posted several important bibliographic notes as well as a bibliography of Spanish works on Spiritism, posted this piece about the Jesuit Father Heredia's involvement with the IMIS--thanks to his friend, none other than Calles--and about this book.

How about WordCat? Yes, there are several copies of the 1960 edition of Una ventana al mundo invisible in libraries in Mexico City. And three copies in the United States: the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and (why?) the University of West Georgia. Ah, and WorldCat also shows several copies in Mexico of an edition © 1993 and published in 1994 by Planeta and another, expanded edition published by Posadas in 1979.

(A research project for whomever wants it: to delve into the Mexican hemerotecas of 1960-61 for any newspaper coverage, and 1979 and 1994 for anything about the Posadas and Planeta editions. My guess is, not much, for the press was largely under the thumb of the ruling party and this sort of information about Mexican Presidents would have been, to say the least, unwelcome. But that's just my guess.)

So, Now, Delving into the Contents...

Rafael Alvarez y Alvarez
(1857 - 1955)
Mexican banker and founder of the
Instituto Mexicano de Investigaciones Síquicas
The copy Don Enrique was offering, and for a very reasonable price, still had its dust jacket, small tears in places along the bottom and the top, but intact (the image on this blog post is a scan of my copy). The rest of it was pristine; the pages had not even been cut. Don Enrique cut slit open a few for me in the bookstore, and once home, I continued with my trusty steak knife (read about my other steak knife adventure here.)

I dove right in and learned that the founder of the IMIS, to whose memory the book is dedicated, was Rafael Alvarez y Alvarez (1887-1955), a distinguished Mexican banker, a president of the Monte de Piedad, and a congressman and senator. (Looking at his portrait with my novelist's eye-- that gaze! the bow tie!-- yes, the intrepid maverick.)

The introduction is by Gutierre Tibón, an Italian-Mexican historian and anthropologist, professor in the National University's prestigious faculty of Philosophy and Literature, and author of numerous noted works, including Iniciación al budismo and El jade de México.

A Brief Bit of Background on 19th Century Parapsychological Research

The goal of the IMIS was to progress in the tradition of pioneer American, English, and European parapsychological researchers. From my book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution, the first chapter, which provides 19th century background for Madero's ideas about Spiritism, which he considered both a religion and a science:

Read more at www.
"The exploits of mediums such as the Fox sisters, D.D. Home, the Eddy Brothers, and later in the nineteenth century, prim Leonora Piper (channel for the long-dead “Dr Phinuit” and the mysterious “Imperator”), and wild Eusapia Palladino (whose séances featured billowing curtains, floating mandolins and, popping out of the dark, ectoplasmic hands), spurred the studies of investigators, journalists and a small group of elite scientists. Noted German, Italian, and French scientists, such as Nobel prize-winning physiologist Charles Richet undertook the examination of these anomalous phenomena, but the British Society for Psychical Research, founded in 1882, and the American Society for Psychical Research founded three years later, led the fray. Though their ranks included leading scientists such as chemist William Crookes, naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, physicist Oliver Lodge, and William James (the Harvard University professor considered the father of psychology). Yet their researches almost invariably met not with celebration, nor curiosity on the part of their fellow academics, but ridicule, often to the point of personal slander."

On that note, for anyone interested in learning more about 19th century parapsychological research, a very weird swamp indeed, I recommend starting with science journalist Denorah Blum's excellent Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death. (See also Blum's website.)

Medium Luís Martínez and "Spirit Guide" Dr. Enrique del Castillo

As James et al had Leonora Piper, and Richet and Lombroso, Eusapia Palladino, the IMIS employed the medium Luis Martínez, who was able to evoke a broad spectrum of phenomena, from ringing bells to apports, ectoplasm, breezes, raps and knocks, levitation, and so on. 
Luis Martínez
Mexican medium

In séances with Martínez, the IMIS heard from its spirit guide on the "other side," one Dr. Enrique del Castillo, a Mexican doctor of the 19th century. According to Dr Tibón in his introduction to Una ventana al mundo invisible (p. 20, my translation):

"The way he looked was perfectly well known because once he "aported" his photograph, which was later made into a larger size, framed and displayed the Institute's workroom. Another aport of Dr. del Castillo were his spectacles, identical to those in the portrait. He brought them on October 24, 1944, at 10:30 pm, in a séance that was documented in Cuernavaca, and he said these words, directing them to Rafael Alvarez y Alvarez: 'In leaving my spectacles to you, dear son, it is with the wish that you will see clearly the future road we must take. May these spectacles take you on the path where we will always be companions.'"

Enter "Master Amajur"

Of special note was the séance on the evening of September 24, 1941, when Plutarco Elías Calles invited Carlos de Heredia, S.J., author of a book debunking Spiritism-- and Father Heredia, sufficiently awed (and according to Calles, converted)  affixed his signature as witness to genuine phenomena. That séance is documented in its entirety in Una ventana al mundo invisible. From Dr. Tibón's introduction (p.21, my translation):
"That memorable night there materialized another spirit guide for the circle: an oriental doctor named Master Amajur; and he did not only show himself completely to Father Heredia, he also spilled a glass of water, saturated it with magnetic fluid, and gave it to him to drink. Then there appeared the phantom of Sister María de Jesús and, before the astonished cleric, illuminated her face in a most unusual manner. Finally, Dr Enrique del Castillo appeared, surrounded by many tiny lights. These levitated the medium, chair and all-- the equivalent of raising almost 100 kilos-- and silently left him in the other end of the room. This phenomenon was verified for the first time. Later, I had the fortune to attend its repetition and I literally saw the medium fly two meters into the air."
Master Amajur he started showing up from the first documented séance of May 8, 1940 (p. 89, my translation of some of the highlights):
"Master Amajur [appeared] very clearly, he touched all of us and he wrote a message which says: Go forward and I will help you. When we asked him [for a message] he left a message for Colonel Villanueva that says: It would be good for you to attend a séance. [… ]The first materialization produced an electric spark above the lightbulb that was loose in its socket[… ] There was an aport: a small bottle of perfume and its essence sprinkled above us. The music box passed over our heads. The Master gave us his cloak to touch, which seemed to all of us a piece of gauze. One again he produced a fresh breeze: it smelled of ozone.
On June 12, 1940 (p.90, my translation):
[…] the Master came in. This manifestation appeared first as a human hand covered with a veil, imitating a human figure. Then it increased in size and luminosity until it came txo a height of about 1.5 meters. Only the head and bust could only be seen. It was covered in a bluish white veil which I touched with my face. It gave me the impression of being a cotton fabric… It gave me a large glass of water to drink… It put flowers in our hands, it gave us a perfumed air, and when luminous blobs passed near my face I perceived the smell of phosphorous."
On June 22, 1941 (my translation, p. 92):
In front of all of us, Amajur left on the wall an inscription that said: Go forward. Upon request, he gave fluid to a magnolia and then he began to cut the petals. One by one these were deposited in the mouths of the participants.

And so on. Séance after séance after séance--96 in all--with sparks, music, levitations, ectoplasmic this & that, perfumes, flowers, and frequent appearances not only by Master Amajur and sundry others, but also a childlike spirit, "Botitas" (Little Boots), who would tug on the participants' pant legs. 

Photographing Master Amajur

Close up of "Master Amajur"
From the cover of
Una ventana al mundo invisible
Skipping ahead to the séance of June 17, 1943-- which Plutarco Elías Calles attended-- Master Amajur has agreed to pose for a photograph. At first this doesn't work; the photographer only captures a hand and then, suddenly, falls into convulsions. But then, after some further bizarre phenomena and friendly intervention by the spirit Dr. del Castillo, the photograph is achieved (p. 194, my translation):
"According to Mrs. Padilla [wife of Ezequiel Padilla, ex Minister of Foreign Relations, also in attendance on this occasion], and in agreement with all the other participants, at the moment of the explosion or flash from the photographer's lamp, in the shadow could be seen the complete figure of the master, as if a statue of about 2 meters covered in a cloak, from head to foot. It was also noted that Master Amajur received a powerful shock and on asking him if he would permit another photograph to be taken, he said no."

According to the dust jacket flap text, this is the very photograph that adorns the cover of the book. But, um, it looks more like a drawing to me. (As, by the way, many purported "spirit photographs" do. Google, dear reader, and ye shall find. Lots on eBay, by the way.)
Madame Blavatsky
The monumental figure of
modern esotericism
Author of The Secret Doctrine and
Isis Unveiled, etc.
Founder, Theosophical Society

For historians of the metaphysical, it is interesting to note that Master Amajur claimed to be a member of the Great White Brotherhood, a term which came into use in the West with Madame Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, in the 19th century. She claimed that her teachers, who often met with her on the astral plane, were the Great White Brothers or Mahatamas, the Ascended Masters Koot-hoomi (Kuthumi) and Morya. Later, her follower A. P. Sinnett expanded on this topic in a sensational book of its day, The Mahatma Letters (1923). Over the decades, other psychics claimed to receive channeled messages from various Ascended Masters, most notably "St. Germain" and Alice Bailey's "Djwahl Khul" or "The Tibetan.It would seem that "Master Amajur" falls into this rather blurry and ever-morphing category.* 

*So are the terms Great White Brother, Mahatma, and Ascended Master one and the same? In this article in Quest, modern-day Theosophist Pablo B. Sender elucidates. 

Interesting to note also that a google search brought up the tidbit that "Amajur" was the name of an astronomer of 10th century Baghdad-- though I hasten to add, according to the IMIS reports in Una ventana al mundo invisible, "Master Amajur" spoke Mexican Spanish. And of further note: there are Spiritist groups that continue to channel messages from Master Amajur today.

Dear readers, conclude what you will, and whether this finds you embracing a gnosis that "resonates" with you, cackling like a hyena, or just numbly confused, surely we can agree that this is all very remarkable.

So What, Pray Tell, Does All This Have to Do with Don Francisco I. Madero?
Francisco I. Madero
President of Mexico 1911-1913;
leader if the 1910 Revolution;
and as "Bhima," author of the
1911 Spiritist Manual

My book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution, is about Madero as leader of the 1910 Revolution and President of Mexico, 1911-1913 and how his political career was launched as an integral part of his Spiritist beliefs. (The book includes my translation of his secret book of 1911, Spiritist Manual, which spells it all out-- all the way to out of body travel and, yes, interplanetary reincarnation.) 

Not all-- Enrique Krauze, Yolia Tortolero Cervantes, Javier Garciadiego, Alejandro Rosas Robles, Manuel Guerra de Luna, among others, are important exceptions-- but most historians of Mexico and its Revolution sidestep, belittle, or even ignore Madero's Spiritist beliefs. In my book, I have quite a bit to say about why I think that is (key words: cognitive dissonance), but in sum, few have any context for Madero's ideas which, for most educated people in the western world, fall into the category of absurd nonsense and "superstition." 

My aim in my book-- and this blog post-- is not to convince the reader of the truth or falsity of any religious beliefs (ha, neither do I poke tigers with sticks for the hell of it), but to provide a sense of the history and richness of the matrix of metaphysical traditions from which Madero's beliefs emerged. And with this context, I believe, we can arrive at the conclusion that Madero was not mad, nor so naive and weak as many have painted him, but that, in fact, he was a political visionary of immense courage who found himself on a counterrevolutionary battlefield of such rage and chaos that, if it was fatal for him, would have been for almost anyone else as well. 

Madero did not, like some mad alchemist, cook up his ideas by himself; they fit into what was then and is now a living tradition. Madero's Spiritism was French, itself an off-shoot of American Spiritualism, and with roots in occult Masonry and hermeticism and mesmerism; in the early 20th century, Madero also adopted ideas from a wide range of difficult-to-categorize mystics, such as Edouard Schuré, and from the Hindu holy book so beloved of the Theosophists, Thoreau, and Mohandis Gandhi: the Baghavad-Gita. 

After Madero, on the one hand, we see Spiritism melding with folkloric and shamanistic traditions, as with the mediumistic healers Niño Fidencio, Doña Pachita, and the "psychic surgeons" of Brazil and the Philippines. On the other hand, a very small and adventurous group of what was primarily members of the educated urban elite-- as we see in Una ventana al mundo invisible-- continued the international tradition of parapsychological research that, as we know from his Spiritist Manual and his personal library, Madero greatly admired.


>My book, now in paperback and Kindle: 
Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual

>En español (Kindle):
Odisea metafísica hacia la Revolución Mexicana. Francisco I. Madero y su libro secreto, Manual espírita

>Resources for Researchers: Blogs, Articles, and More

>Mexico City's incomparable Librería Madero


>Después de la muerte por Léon Denis or, A Super Brief Introduction to the Opportunity Cost of Rare Book Collecting

>Madame Blavatsky, Messenger from the Mahatmas

>Niño Fidencio

>Madero's Commentary on the Baghavad-Gita

>Marfa Mondays: We Have Seen the Lights

COMMENTS always welcome

Friday, May 09, 2014

Demon of the Waters: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Whaleship Globe by Gregory Gibson

Apropos of the splendid Demon of the Waters, three topics in one blog post today: (1) Blogs (2) Kindles and (3) Literary Travel Memoirs. 

(1) Blogs: Oh, so many (or few?) good ones. Seems most bloggers never quite hit a stride; they sprint into the blogoshere, usually promoting something such as their new book, then poop out. (Or sink to posting pix of their food on FB.) As for excellent bloggers posting at a steady stride: one of my favorites was Seth Roberts-- alas, he passed away, very young and suddenly (check out the archives, highly recommended). Another blog I love, still going strong, rubber boots and all, is Katherine Dunn's Apifera Farm. (Don't be deceived by the simplicity of her posts about elderly farm animals and rescued cats; she's an artist and a poet of the highest order.) Seth Godin's is my daily mind-vitamin. Marginal Revolution. The Archdruid Report (though as I write, the felicitously hypergraphic Mr. Greer has awarded himself a vacation.) Jim Kunstler, whose blog invariably retails ye same olde, same olde doom 'n gloom, but somehow, every Monday, makes it freshly hilarious. (Did I mention, I have a very Mexican sense of humor.)  Early Retirement Extreme (extremely Krishnamurtian). On the literary front, I keep up with my novelist amiga Leslie Pietrzyk via her Work-in-Progress, my poet and translator amigo Zack Rogow's Advice for Writers-- and many others. And I get my Viking fix with Nancy Marie Brown's God of Wednesday, aura and face reading adventures with Rose Rosetree (seriously, these are skills anyone can learn and the concepts are especially useful for fiction writers-- a blog post expanding on that anon), and rare book fix with Gregory Gibson's Bookman's Log

Thank you, all. Except those of you who have sunk to posting pictures of your food on FB. You get a raspberry. For that matter, FB gets a raspberry.

(No, I cannot abide Slate, nor that race-the-bottom conglomeration otherwise known as Huffington Post, and every time I read the New York Times, which I do once in a while, when distracted, as when stepping into a pothole, I am reminded why I prefer my personal menu of blogs. No, I do not read other newspapers. But I do maintain a subscription to Mexico City's Reforma because others in my household, for reasons known only to themselves, feel compelled to remain informed about that genre of disturbing but reliably repetitive earthly events I call "bus crashes," and I am happy to be able to bundle up and donate the leftovers --I mean of the newspapers-- to our local dog rescue charity. If you happen to write for Slate, Huffington Post or the NYT, no offense intended; I am sure I just haven't been fortunate enough to come across your pieces. I find bus crashes so distracting, you see.)

Now a blog post can be a "big baggy monster," to steal a quote about the novel, but 'nuf meandering.
The cover for the Kindle.
Sorry, Madam Mayo votes for
the hardcover's dustjacket (see above).
This Kindle cover looks very
generic, which this splendid book
most assuredly is not.

(2) Kindles. So it was in Gregory Gibson's Bookman's Log I came across a post with the very unassuming title of "Kindling." Turns out that, through his agent (why, sir? it's not rocket science) he has issued a Kindle edition of his 2002 Demon of the Waters: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Whaleship Globe. So unassuming was his post that, in fact (did I miss it?), he didn't even provide a link to buy the book. (Herewith, dear readers.) 

Long story boiled down to a sentence: Demon of the Waters makes my top 10 books read for 2014.  (How do I know, with my voracious reading habits, that between now and December I won't find others to push it down the list to, say, #11? Why, it's that good.)

Of special interest to me was the narrative structure which, a la Melville, included chapters on shipbuilding and the whaling industry's trade, tools, and so on. Whaling was, as Gibson puts it, "Big Oil" of its day. I can see why many readers would object to all that exposition (many reviewers do), and at the beginning especially, Demon of the Waters does seem meandering and overly detailed, but I say it works because so much of this hellish tragedy would be incomprehensible without it. For those of us in the early 21st century, whaling is an exotic, horrifically brutal, and culturally rich tradition that, though we might fancy we know it when we stroll through Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard, take home a print of a whaleship or, say, resin replica of an antique whale bone carving, is really as foreign to us as we, with our cars and email and microwavable whatnots, would be to those whalers.

Charles Melville Scammon,
whaler and naturalist
(Personal sidenote: I especially delighted in the connection with my own Miraculous Air, a travel memoir about Baja California, which includes two chapters about Charles Melville Scammon, a San Francisco-based whaler of the grays, and author of a very rare book indeed-- most copies, still in the warehouse, burned after the San Francisco earthquake-- The Marine Mammals of the North-western Coast of North America Together with an Account of the American Whale-fishery. Many of the whaling scenes Scammon recounts were similar to those 20-30 years earlier in Demon of the Waters, and no doubt, many of his crew could have been kinsmen from the same little New England towns as those of the Globe.)

(3) Literary Travel Memoirs. Though the title and most of the content put Demon of the Waters squarely in the category of history, I consider it a literary travel memoir, for it is not only a memoir of a rare book dealer's encounter with a manuscript uncovered in Indiana (I'd stretch that to the literary travel memoir category in itself), but at the end, of the author's journey to Mili Atoll. I won't give away the ending, but I will say it unpacks multiple surprises and has that rare symphonic quality of the very finest of novels. 


Madam Mayo
>Top 10 books Read 2013

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The New Now Not Secret But Super Special Ingredient in My Writing Process

His middle name is Quetzalpugtl.

>Read more about the secret ingredient.

Cyberflanerie: Chapeaux, UFOs & Other Sundry Communications Edition

+Oh, how civilization has declined! Anita Loos' astonishing hat collection, of all things. 

+Blomqvist 's Swedish UFO site on Kripal's article, "Visions of the Impossible" and book, Authors of the Impossible, and more. Great links to Kripal.

+Jacques F. Vallee on Boing Boing and home page.

+Wink Books Tumblr.

+San Miguel Writers Conference Blog on 25 Literary Magazines You Can Submit to for Free.

+Charlotte Peltz offers a most original use for a rolled-up newspaper in 10 easy Steps to Housetraining.

COMMENTS always welcome.

Monday, May 05, 2014

The Secret Ingredient in My Writing Process

Thanks to my amiga, novelist and blogger Leslie Pietrzyk, I'm posting today as part of a "blog hop" of writers blogging on process. So check out Leslie's post on her process over at her blog, Work-in-Progress

Before Leslie, it was Anna Leahy on the Lofty Ambitions Blog; today it's Yours Truly (scroll on down), and apres moi, not the deluge… but my DC writing amiga, editor and writer-for hire, world traveller, and blogger, Judy Leaver.

Question 1: What are you working on?
World Waiting for a Dream: A Turn in Far West Texas-- apropos of which I'm hosting the 24 podcast series, "Marfa Mondays." Listen in anytime. Latest podcast: Looking at Mexico in New Ways: An Interview with John Tutino (and if you think you know anything about Mexico, it'll knock your huaraches off.)

I see this book as a companion to Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico. Baja, Big Bend, they have a surprising amount in common.

Question 2: How does your work differ from others of its genre?
Well, go read my work, you tell me. One thing I will say, however, is that I offer a sharply different take on Mexico than you'll find in most books on that mammoth and cliche-saddled subject.

Question 3: Why do you write what you do?
Because I believe that through narrative we become human; truth is beauty; exploration is infinite. Long story short, I choose the subjects I do because they seem best suited for me to work in these directions.

Question 4: How does your writing process work?
The answer to that would be more than I could cram into a blog post, but I will offer hereby my secret ingredient: Pug. Picadou! Born in 2000, ever since she came to me as a tiny puppy, the minky chica has been my writing assistant, providing a background white noise of puggy snores and, most crucially, frequent walks. Walks, dear readers, refresh and rewire the creative brain. For me, as for many people, however, they just wouldn't happen every day without all that barking.


As a puppy, oh, she was a princess-- of the universe and all realms beyond. (She knew she was a pug.) She had such a strong, joyous and silly-willy way. For the first time I felt inspired to write for children-- and a poem in her "voice." One of those poems, "People Who Pat Me" appears in Karen Benke's anthology on creative writing for children, Rip the Page! -- and will appear in Spanish translation by Agustin Cadena in a collection of micro-fiction published in Mexico. (I always say, prose poems and micro-fiction, same thing.)

When she was in her prime, I wrote an essay about our daily walks, "The Essential Francisco Sosa or, Picadou's Mexico City." It was published in Creative Nonfiction magazine, won two prizes (Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Journalism Article, Personal Comment, First Place (Gold), 2005 and Washington Independent Writers Award for Personal Essay, 2005), later appeared in an anthology, Hurricanes and Carnivals: Essays by Chicano, Pochos, Pachucos, Mexicanos and Expatriatesedited by Lee Gutkind, (University of Arizona Press, 2007) and-- this was my first foray into audio-- as a CD.

Audio CD
The Essential Francisco Sosa or,
Picadou's Mexico City
by C.M. Mayo

She was small for a pug, small enough to fit into a Sherpa bag, so she traveled with me oftentimes-- once as far north as Jackson Hole, Wyoming. (But no, I haven't taken Picadou on my forays in the Big Bend-- the desert, with all those coyotes and rattlesnakes, is not Picadou's style.)

Here's a photo of her beneath the lovely green canopy of the Parque Juárez of San Miguel de Allende-- where we went for the writer's conference.

Picadou in the Parque Juárez

Picadou also spent a lot of time in Washington DC, where I lived on and off for a few years. (I still teach once in a while at the Writer's Center, where I serve on the board.) Here's a (very brief) video of her at Rosedale, the historic estate in Cleveland Park (with an attached dog park--yeah!) that features in my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire. 

Back when I was flogging my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, my guest-blog post about Picadou appeared (with more photos) in Marshal Zeringue's #1 author & dog blog, Coffee with a Canine.

And here she is in her fire-engine-red coat on a stormy day visiting Sky Meadows  in Virginia:

Here she models her new spring coat (another one of the results of my learning to make little videos with iMovie):

Dashing back into the office, Mexico City:

Here she is on a visit to California, looking uncharacteristically serious, with her uncle Pabu:

Over the past few years, Picadou was more often than not snoozing on my lap as I wrote… for this blog, for my podcasts (though sometimes the snoring was a problem...) and my latest book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual.  

Last month, after a long life of 14 years and almost another month, Picadou crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

Rest in peace, little one.

Picadou at 14 years.

In answer to the question everyone asks: Yes. More about Uli anon.

Next up in the blog hop: Judy Leaver. Check in with her blog next Monday.

COMMENTS always welcome.