Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On Royalty by Jeremy Paxman

When I present my novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, one of the inevitable questions I get is, how long did it take you to write it? It took over a decade, on-and-off, and according to my best calculations, full-time, about seven years. Why so long? Apart from actually writing it, I had to do the mountainous reading to even begin to make sense of 19th century Mexico and the French Intervention; extensive original archival research; and-- this is what surprised me the most-- get my head around the concept of royalty. And one reason it took me so long to get my head around the idea of royalty is that, for more time than I'd like to admit, I didn't realize that I needed to.... CONTINUE READING

Monday, May 30, 2011

Spiritist Manual by Bhima (Francisco I. Madero)

My translation, the first into English, of Madero's Spiritist Manual is in the final polishing stages; meanwhile, here's the cover for the forthcoming e-book which will be published by Dancing Chiva later this year. The cover incorporates the painting "Gerbera and Eye" by San Miguel de Allende-based artist Kelley Vandiver.Want the news? I'll be sending out my newsletter soon. Sign up here.

UPDATE: October 15, 2011: The book now has its own website with extensive Q & A, as well as resources for researchers (bibliographies, lists of films, video, etc) and much more.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano, Book Presentation in Mexico's National Palace, Part of the Cultural Events Series

The splendid translation by Mexican novelist and poet Agustín Cadena of my novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books), as El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano (Grijalbo Random House Mondadori), will be presented this Thursday, May 26 at 7 pm in Mexico's National Palace, as part of SHCP's (Mexican Ministry of Finance's) excellent series of cultural events. (For those of you in Mexico City, check out their amazing monthly schedule of concerts, performances, and book presentations.)

The presenters will be Dr. Javier Garciadiego as moderator, Carlos González Manterola (editor of the prestigious 20/10 series), historian Eduardo Turrent, and historical novelist Carlos Pascual. I'l also give a brief talk, and there will be Q & A. Todito en español.

I'll be posting the podcast of this event next week, and in the meantime, there is information about the book, including a reader's guide, reviews, photos, and more at the book's webpage in Spanish and in English.

Yes, it is based on the true story. The last prince of the Mexican Empire was Agustín de Iturbide y Green (1863 - 1925), the half-American grandson of Mexico's first Emperor, Agustín de Iturbide. The book has several years of original archival reseach behind it, and I talk about the research and the many sources, and also why I wrote it as a novel, in the reader's guide. You can listen to my talk in the Library of Congress (which has the ex-Emperor Agustín de Iturbide and Iturbide Family archives) here.

And yes, that is his picture on the cover of the book. It is circa 1865 when he was two and half years old. The original photograph is in the archives in Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City. He was dressed as was the custom for little boys at that time.

Monday, May 23, 2011

2011 American Independent Writers Conference

I'll be participating on a panel about historical fiction in the Washington Writer’s Conference, sponsored by the American Independent Writers Aasociation (AIW) and The Writer’s Center, at the Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD 20815
Saturday, June 11, 2011 from 9 a.m. to: 6:30 p.m.

Morning Sessions:

Session I: Literary Agents Roundtable - covering both the nonfiction and fiction market

Session II: Marketing Your Work - How-to lessons from leading publicists

Session III: Mysteries and Thrillers - Writing and publishing tips from published pros

Catered Luncheon with Address by John Ross, Executive Editor of American Heritage Magazine, former senior editor of Smithsonian, and bestselling non-fiction author of War on the Run.

Afternoon Sessions:

Session IV: Writing for Movies and TV – crafting and selling a screenplay

Session V: Connecting with a live audience – be a great live reader of your own work

Session VI: Historical Narrative –seasoned writers show to bring the past alive

Networking wine reception – meet, chat, and drink with other writers

First 50 attendees to register for conference may sign up for a ten-minute meeting with a literary agent.

For more information about pricing and how to register, visit www.amerindywriters.org/ or www.writer.org

More anon.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Spiritist Manual by Bhima (Francisco I. Madero)

Today I finished the draft of my translation-- the first into English-- of the very unsual little book by Mexico's President and leader of its 1910 Revolution, Francisco I. Madero. This is the famous Manual Espírita, or Spiritist Manual, published in 1911 under the pseudonym "Bhima," after a character in The Bhagavadgita. The translation, with my introduction and notes, will be published this November. The cover art features an extraordinary piece by Kelley Vandiver. More news about this publication anon.

P.S. To receive my newsletter, click here.

UPDATE October 15, 2011: The book now has its own website with extensive Q & A and resources for researchers.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guest-blogger Wednesday: Mexico, Mexico, and More Mexico

Wednesdays is the day for the guest-blog post here at Madam Mayo, but this week, some appreciation: herewith, from the archive, some favorite Mexico-related posts:

Michael Hogan on the Irish Soldiers of Mexico

Jane "Mexico Guru" Onstott on 5 Mexican Idioms That Don't Mean What You Think

Russell M. Cluff, Remembering Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Nicholas Gilman, 5 Funky Foods and Where to Find Them in Mexico City

Stephanie Elizondo Griest, 5 Glimpses into the Mexican Underworld

David Lida, 5 Secrets of Mexico City

J.D. Smith's Top 5 Mariachi Links

Jennifer Silva Redmond, 5 Favorite Baja California Writers' Websites

Tasha Tenenbaum on "Kahlo de Rivera" and the Long List of World-Class Mexican Artists

Graham "King of the Baja Buffs" Mackintosh's 5 Favorite Websites

Isabella Tree, 5 Favorite Books on Mexico

Eric B. Martin on Guillermo Fadanelli

Roy Sorrels on Why San Miguel de Allende is a Writer's Haven

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ten Juicy Books on Creative Process

Why reinvent the wheel? If you're feeling challenged in your creative endeavors (good old-fashioned block?) some excellent advice and guidance can be found in an ever-expanding library's worth of books on, precisely, creativity. Herewith, my top ten picks:

Burnham, Sophy, The Art of Intuition
An in-depth overview of intuitive methods and experiences from a leading mystic and literary novelist.

Baum, Kenneth, The Mental Edge: Maximize Your Sports Potential with the Mind-Body Connection
Also applicable to writers.

Butler, Robert Olen, From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction
No book better captures the feeling of the process.

Cameron, Julia The Artist's Way
New Agey and at the same time highly practical.

Flack, Audrey, Art & Soul: Notes on Creating
Deep. The artist as shaman.

Iglesias, Karl, The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters: Insider Tips from Hollywood's Top Writers
I'm not a screenwriter (yet?), but I love this book. It was like reading about distant but kindred tribe. Lots of useful tips.

Lamott, Anne, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Hilarious. For anyone at any stage in their writing.

Pressfield, Steven, The War of Art: Winning the Creative Battle
The best. If you're blocked and you want to buy one book to help yourself, this is the one.

Ricco, Gabriele Lusser, Writing the Natural Way: Using Right-Brain Techniques to Release Your Expressive Powers

See, Carolyn, Making a Literary Life
Painfully won (and fun) advice from another highly accomplished and prolific writer -- this one from LA. It's a hoot.

>> More recommended reading here

I'll be offering the 2 day "Techniques of Fiction" workshop next winter in the San Miguel Writers Workshops. For more information, visit my workshop page.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Shampa Sinha Writing on on Rumania

Wednesdays is the day for the guest-blog post here on Madam Mayo, but this week, something a little different: a link to "Bucharest and Beyond," Shampa Sinha's article for The Australian. It's an intriguing peek into place undergoing almost unthinkable change, and I'm especially delighted to share this link, for Shampa Sinha was, oh so long ago at the Writer's Center, one of my travel writing workshop participants.

LIKE a giant exotic insect, a large glass clings to the side of an apartment building in the Piata Romana, multicoloured straws emerging from it like tentacles.

From above, an oversized Coke bottle, lying along the building's roof, pours a murky stream of fake beverage.

This, we take it, is the face of the new Bucharest...

P.S. The most recent guest-blog posts:
-Richard Jeffrey Newman: 5 Sites to Learn More About the Shahnameh
-Daniel Olivas: 5 Books of for Writing The Book of Want
-Diane Saarinen: 5 Brassy and Well-Branded Book Blogs
>>To view the complete archive, click here.

More anon.

Monday, May 09, 2011

E-mailed Newsletters: 6 Yucky No Nos, 6 Dos, and 8 Newsletters I Relish Receiving

So now in the explode-o-rama of our Digital Age, the cutting-edge thing is for authors, artists, publishers, charities & etc. to engage in "permission marketing"-- that is, getting people who are interested in one's "product" to pony up an e-mail address, and then send them a newsletter. This works, sometimes. But mostly, because it's not well done, it's annoying.

When it works, though, it's rich and even lovely. I have subscribed to a number of newsletters that I am delighted to receive (more about them anon), and if I cannot read them immediately, I savor them later over, say, a sandwich at my desk. Others, oh no, unhappy story.

As I am offering newsletters myself (click here to subscribe mine), herewith a list of what I won't do, because I myself object:


(1) Newsletter arrives too frequently
I do not need a newsletter from Writer X / Publishing House Y every day, every week, or even every month. My e-mail inbox, like everyone else's, is a tottering Himalaya, for heavenssakes. Delete.

(2) Writer X, Writer X, and nothing but even more about Writer X
I may love Writer X, but she's not that interesting. I do not need to know about her 47th booksigning. She could tell me about it when there's a meatier sandwich in there, otherwise... Delete.

(3) Big JPEG logo plus text that appears on my Outlook Express as an empty box with a red x
I am sure it looks all lovely and designed when Writer X / Publishing House Y sent it, but when I get it? Different story. Like many people, I block images on my e-mail program, so I cannot see what it's all about, and meanwhile I am dealing with a ba-jillion other e-mails. Delete.

(4) Trivial (to me) or irrelevant
If I am in Miami, do I need to receive a newsletter that is all about (and nothing more) a booksigning in Minneapolis on Friday? Do I need to receive an e-mail just (and only just) to learn that Writer X was featured on NPR yesterday? Thin gruel, guys. Delete.

(5) Hey, I Didn't Ask for the Newsletter in the First Place
Awfully cheeky! Delete.

P.S. But I certainly do not mind a one-time personalized invitation to sign up, especially from friends (I mean meatspace friends), fellow writers, and/ or merchants from whom I have purchased something.

(6) I Have Unsubscribed / Opted Out and Yet They Persist!!
Avon (cosmetic company, not the publisher), you have a special place in this bush league of inept marketers. I purchased some lotion from Avon on-line in 1999-- that was eleven years ago, people-- and I did not ask to subscribe to any emails, and I have now attempted to unsubscribe 4 times. Count 'em, four. Delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete. Yes, Avon is now on my "blocked sender" list, but when I check into my e-mail from a website, I can see that that danged Avon stuff, like a Zombie out of the Twilight Zone, just keeps on coming.

So what does work?


(1) Once... in... a... while
Like chocolate cake. At most once a month. Preferably less frequently.

(2) Quality content
A rich chocolate cake, with whipped cream and a cherry on top. My attention is already scattered; make it worth my while. Come on, it's 2011.

Clarification: "quality newsletter content" can mean a beautifully crafted original essay but it could also mean a link to someone else's bodacious YouTube video. Elastic concept.

(3) Primarily text, and especially at the top, so I can immediately see what it's about and judge whether I want to keep reading and/or save it to savor at lunchtime.

(4) A wide range of information so that if not all, at least an important part of it will be interesting and relevant to me.
Podcasts? Links to free articles? Video? Sample first chapter? Coupons? Free e-book? How-to? Interview(s)? Something funny?

(5) Nothing, unless I have signed up.

(6) Automatic unsubscribe-- I want out, I'm out.

All abide by the above dos and don'ts; each has its own personality and uniquely wonderful content-- and all are free! 

Even if you're not interested in the subject matter, if you send out a newsletter yourself, have a look at these; you may find them helpful, if for other reason than to better grok the genre. I know I did.

Richard Norman's Edenworkshops: A Bookbinders Resource

Katherine Dunn, Artist of Apifera Farm

Lubuto Library Project

The Arlington Institute's Future Edition

Carol Olmstead's Feng Shui for Real Life E-Zine

Rose Rosetree, Teacher of Energetic Literacy

Beltway Poetry News

UPDATE 2015: Jane Friedman's Electric Speed: Exploring the Best Tools and Resources for Writers in the Digital Age

P.S. Watch Seth Godin's TED video on the new marketing (the TV / Industrial complex is dead...)

P.S.S. View my newsletter archives and sign up for my free newsletter here.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

C.M. Mayo on Creative Writing: The Best from the Blog

You'll find a cornucopia of tips on craft, process, and publishing in this approximately 50 page e-book , a selection of my blog posts on creative writing here at Madam Mayo. It's a PDF download, free to anyone who signs up for the Dancing Chiva Literary Arts Club (also free-- read all about it here).

I founded Dancing Chiva Literary Arts a few years ago for my writing workshops in Mexico City; now it also publishes e-books and limited editions on Bajacaliforniana, Maximiliana, works for writers, and works by Yours Truly... No, I certainly have not given up on my publishers (most recently, Grijalbo Random House-Mondadori and Unbridled Books)--- but I will be publishing some of my own e-books (Kindle and iBook editions) as well as some works by others that deserve a readership, but do not enjoy the commercial potential for the rigamarole-o-rama of distributing to bricks-and-mortar bookstores. (One of these is Marie de la Fere's never-before-published memoir of Maximilian. Stay tuned.)

So what do you get when you join the Dancing Chiva Literary Arts Club-- aside from the free e-book? Basically, a newsletter sent to your e-mail some 5 - 6 times per year (and very probably less often) with news, discounts, offers, bodacious links, and more. I aim to make the newsletter something you'll relish receiving-- the kind of surfable fun to save for when you have a sandwich at your desk. (Yes, there will be podcasts and book arts links.)

P.S. I don't share the e-mails on the mailing list with anyone, and I use mailchimp.com, a leading e-mail newsletter service, which allows you to opt out instantly, anytime.

To sign up and / or download the e-book, just click here. Once you sign up, you'll automatically receive the link to download the PDF and the password to read it.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Guest-blogger Richard Newman on 5 Sites to Learn More About the Shahnameh

Was it at the Associated Writers Programs conference or the American Literary Translators Association conference where I met Richard Jeffrey Newman? Or both? It has faded into the misty recesses of my ever-addled memory, but I do recall a sparkling conversation about translation. My own specialty is contemporary Mexican fiction and poetry; Richard's is much more daunting: Persian. I have more admiration than I can say for his latest work, The Teller of Tales (Junction Press 2011), the American English translation of a part of one of the greatest works of Persian literature, Shahnameh (Book of Kings), by the 10th century poet Abolqasem Ferdowsi. In one of the longest poems ever written, Ferdowsi relates the episodes of the country's mythical beginnings all the way to the Arab Muslim conquest in the 7th century-- in Newman's own words, "a narrative that, even today, is central to the collective and individual sense Iranians have of themselves as Iranian." (Read an excerpt from the The Teller of Tales here.)

Newman is, of course, a poet, and I say "of course" because poets make the best literary translators. His own book of poetry, The Silence of Men, was recently published by CavanKerry Press. Richard served as Per­sian Arts Festival’s first Lit­er­ary Arts Direc­tor, and he con­tin­ues to co-curate the monthly Shab-e She’r (Night of Persian Poetry) that Per­sian Arts Fes­ti­val holds from Sep­tem­ber through June at the Bowery Poetry Club. He is Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish at Nassau Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Gar­den City, New York, where he coor­di­nates the Cre­ative Writ­ing Project.

5 Sites to Learn More about The Teller of Tales
By Richard Jeffrey Newman

Shahnameh Historical and Cultural Questions – This page on the British Library website provides a very good overview of the historical and cultural importance of the Shahnameh.

Rostam: Tales From The Shahnameh – Rostam is a Hercules-like hero whose adventures in the Shahnameh are among the best known narratives Ferdowsi produced, especially the story of how he unwittingly kills Sohrab, his own son. Rostam: Tales from the Shahnameh brings Rostam's stories to life in comic book format.

Sohrab and Rostam – In this example of naqqali, a kind of traditional storytelling, Iraj Anvar performs the story of Sohrab and Rostam. Ralph Martin provides the English narration.

Pawn of the Gods or Independent Man – This article, by Antares Alleman and Arash Manzori, which I published in a special, Iranian-literature issue of the online journal ArteEast Quarterly explores the differences and similarities between the heroes in the Shahnameh and those in the Odyssey.

The Shahnameh used by the British as anti-Nazi propaganda – The central story in The Teller of Tales concerns the rule of Zahhak, an evil king whose reign is marked by a murderous depravity, epitomized by the fact that he had to feed human brains to the serpents growing out of his shoulders. If you scroll down to the end of this essay—which is about British World War II propaganda in general—you'll be able to see the five postcards the British produced in which they portrayed Hitler as Zahhak, a message they hoped would keep Iran loyal to them.

-- Richard Jeffrey Newman

---> For the complete archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.
Last up: Daniel Olivas on 5 Books for the Writing of The Book of Want.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Podcasting Update: Podomatic and iTunes

Now listening to my podcasts is much easier: I just upgraded my page at Podomatic.com to grab some more bandwidth-- and, as ever, you can also listen in via iTunes.

The latest podcast is my reading of the prologue to the anthology of 24 Mexican writers, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion (Whereabouts Press). More recent podcasts: "Hell, I Knew It Was Paradise," about Bob Van Wormer, the legendary sportfisherman of Baja California; tips to help novelists hang in there and finish; a panel discussion on the writing life at the Writer's Center; and lectures and readings from The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, my novel based on the true story.

Several more podcasts, on sundry subjects (mostly Mexico), will be posted soon.

P.S. If you'd like to receive an e-mail alert, I send out a (very infrequent) newsletter which includes a list of the new podcasts.