Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The All New Workshop Page: For Creative Writers






Ye olde home page, www.cmmayo.com, which got started back in the Paleolithic, I mean, the summer of 1999, has been undergoing some super seismic shifts, one of which is a re-do of the Workshop page. It even has a new name: For Creative Writers.

This is a page that I began over a decade ago for my workshop students at the Writer's Center (just outside Washington DC in Bethesda MD). It also served a class I gave at the Johns Hopkins Part-Time Writing Program, and later, workshops in Mexico City and for the San Miguel Writers Conference.

I've added to it through the years always with the goal of helping my students-- and myself, for in teaching and writing, I also learn.

The menu now offers:

+ HOME PAGE which includes a brief welcome and a bit about the "Orphic journey."

+ SCHEDULE
Info about my one day only Saturday October 11, 2014 Literary Travel Writing workshop at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

+ RECOMMENDED READING
Books on Craft
Books on Creative Process
Literary Travel Memoirs
War and Peace (Yeah! A whole blog about just that!)

+ PODCASTS FOR WRITERS

RESOURCES FOR WRITERS
Tips and articles galore

+ GIANT GOLDEN BUDDHA
And 364 More Free 5 Minute Writing Exercises

+ And the sign-up for my NEWSLETTER.

More news soon about the podcasts, including Conversations with Other Writers and Marfa Mondays.


YOUR COMMENTS are always welcome.

Monday, September 29, 2014

C.M. Mayo For Mexicophiles: Books, Articles & Essays, Blogs, Podcasts, Videos






Prompted by Jane Friedman's excellent advice, I have made some big changes over on ye olde home page, www.cmmayo.com, est. 1999. These include lassoing a bunch of content into an all new section, FOR MEXICOPHILES, which has menu of:

BOOKS

ARTICLES & ESSAYS

BLOGS

PODCASTS

VIDEOS

and of course, my NEWSLETTER, which by the way, will go out this week with updates about fall events and workshop.

ASAP to go onto the FOR MEXICOPHILES page: a fascinating podcast interview with Literal editor Rose Mary Salum, which will also appear in the occasional series, Conversations with Other Writers. More anon.

Your comments are always welcome.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Guest-Blogger Short Story Maestro Clifford Garstang on 5 Favorite Novels About a Dangerous World

Clifford Garstang is the author of In an Uncharted Country and What the Zhang Boys Know (Winner of the 2013 Library of Virginia Award for Fiction) and Editor of Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, an anthology of 20 stories set in 20 countries by 20 well-travelled writers. Here's the description:
"Assembled from over six hundred submissions, this collection reminds us that our world is dangerous: a man disappears in Argentina, despair reigns in post-Katrina New Orleans, teen bandits attack in Costa Rica, wild boars swarm in a German forest, biker gangs battle in New Zealand, security guards overreact in Beijing, rogue militias run wild in Africa, and more. These are not ordinary travel stories by or about tourists; the contributors are award-winning authors who know their way around—former Peace Corps Volunteers, international aid workers, expatriates—and dig deep beneath the surface. "

FIVE FAVORITE NOVELS ABOUT A DANGEROUS WORLD
by Clifford Garstang
Some of my favorite American writers create dark stories set abroad. That’s what I like to read and it inevitably informs my own writing and my selections for the book. Here are 5 of the best:
1. Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder: I also liked Patchett’s earlier novel set in South America, Bel Canto, but this book, set in Brazil, really grabbed me—it has mystery, a heroic structure, and explores fascinating, credible science. One researcher has gone missing and another goes searching for him in the heart of darkness—classic. 
2. Russell Banks’s The Darling: Set in Liberia, Banks’s novel (which is said to be based loosely on The Tempest) explores failures of both American and Liberian governments. A former member of the Weather Underground faces exposure back home, but also faces a near-constant civil war in her adopted home.
3. Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna: Kingsolver’s agenda-driven fiction isn’t for everyone, but I was drawn to this novel, set mostly in Mexico. Having grown close to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Mexico City, the protagonist settles in the U.S. and attracts the scrutiny of the Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committees.
4. Robert Stone’s Damascus Gate: This is a sprawling book that explores the history of Israel and the forces that would destroy it. The book is a fascinating look at one of the Middle East’s most dangerous flashpoints.
5. Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried . Like O’Brien’s fantastic Going After Cacciato, which won the National Book Award, The Things They Carried explores the horror of the Vietnam War and the intense personal toll it takes on all. 


===> COMMENTS always welcome and you are also most welcome to sign up for my newsletter.


Recent Madam Mayo guest-blogs include:

SURF ON over at the home page, www.cmmayo.com

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Last of the Nomads by W.J. Peasley

W.J. Peasley's The Last of the Nomads is one of the most powerfully moving books I have ever read. It tells the true story of the 1979 rescue of an elderly couple, Warri and Yatungka, the last of the Mandildjara people, marooned in the vastness of Australia's Gibson Desert, starving and slowly dying of thirst. 

This goes on my top 10 books read list for 2014, and the list of recommended travel memoirs.

A bio of the author, W.J. Peasley
About the documentary of 1997 (includes clips)

==> COMMENTS always welcome. And you are most welcome to sign up for my newsletter.

SURF ON:
>Top 10 Books Read 2013
Kenneth White's Across the Territories: Travels from Orkney to Rangiroa
Guest-blogger Travel Writer L. Peat O'Neil with 5 Links on Walking and Literature
> Demon of the Waters: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Whale-Ship Globe by Gregory Gibson

And over on the home page, www.cmmayo.com
>>>More about my one day only Literary Travel Writing Workshop at the Writer's Center, Saturday October 11, 2014, in Bethesda, MD.
>>>Book Review for Tin House: Fanny Calderon de la Barca's Life in Mexico

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cyberflanerie: Writerly Whatnot & Miscellaneous Missives Edition

Michael Hyatt says imprints don't matter. Interesting argument, possibly valid. For the general reading public, certainly valid.

Learn about my one day only Literary Travel Writing workshop to be held at the Writer's Center, Bethesda MD on Saturday October 11th.

Updated and redesigned webpage: Giant Golden Buddha & 365 more Free 5 Minute Writing Exercises.

My amigo novelist Peter Behrens (and guest-blogger for Madam Mayo) sends this message:
"I'm leading a 5-day writing workshop next month at a retreat center on the west coast. Cortes Island isn't easy to get to, but it sounds like an amazing place. A few spots still open: I'd be very grateful if you could fwd the link to people who might be interested. http://www.hollyhock.ca/cms/Peter-Behrens.html There will be no chanting in my workshop." 
And my San Miguel de Allende writer amigo (and guest-blogger for Madam Mayo) John Scherber writes:
"My new book on the expat experience offers an intimate look at issues everyone thinking about settling in this historic town must consider. Health care, cost of living, crime, housing, and many others are answered with frankness and insight. Available in print, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and iTunes formats." 
Speaking of San Miguel de Allende, I'll be opening the season for PEN San Miguel on January 13 at 6 pm. Be there or be cuadrado.

New on the blog roll: travel writer and blogger Francis Tapon, new on the blogroll (over to the right and scroll on down)

Holly Brady, former director of the Stanford Publishing Course,  suggests the best fonts for books covers and the best fonts for book interiors.

===>>>COMMENTS always welcome. And you are also most welcome to sign up for my newsletter.


SURF ON:
>MADAM MAYO
> Cyberflanerie: Epic Travel Edition
> Cyberflanerie: Fun in Mexico Edition
>>>>>AND ON THE HOME PAGE, WWW.CMMAYO.COM
>>>>> Updated and redesigned page on recommended reading for creative writers
>>>>> Marfa Mondays: Cynthia McAlister with the Buzz on the Bees

Friday, September 12, 2014

Texas Book Festival

Delighted to announce that my book, METAPHYSICAL ODYSSEY INTO THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION: FRANCISCO I. MADERO AND HIS SECRET BOOK, will be a featured book at the Texas Book Festival in Austin the weekend of October 25-26, 2014. Details to be announced.

More events for this book, including a talk at Mexico City's Palacio Nacional (part of a conference on Madero and esoteric influences) and at Tepoztlan's La Sombra del Sabino later this fall.

> Read excerpts and learn more on the book's webpage.



===>>> COMMENTS always welcome. And you are most welcome to sign up for my newsletter.


MORE FROM MADAM MAYO
> The Memoirs of Rafael L. Hernández Madero
> William Curry Holden's Teresita, the Biography of Teresa Urrea, La Santa de Cabora
AND ON THE HOMEPAGE, WWW.CMMAYO.COM
> For Mexicophiles 
> Upcoming Literary Travel Writing Workshop at the Writer's Center, Bethesda MD

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's Not Like Making a Peanut-Butter-and-Jelly Sandwich But It's Not Rocket Science, Either, or: How I Did My POD (And You Can, Too)

Just in the past month I've had so many of my writer friends and historians ask me how I made my print-on-demand (POD) paperback books,



and the superb Spanish translation by Mexican poet and novelist Agustín Cadena,

Francisco I. Madero y su libro secreto, Manual espírita
-- the latter goes live in just a couple of days--

and knowing that many of you, dear readers, are writers, many with the same concerns about publishing, I post my answer herewith.

Now, I don't pretend to be the expert. That said, it's important to keep in mind that major innovations in digital publishing and also in book distribution and fulfillment are so recent, and a-morphing by the moment, that even the experts-- those who've set up web pages and offer to consult or even undertake to do it for you-- may not know that much more than what you can figure out for yourself. Or they may. Caveat emptor. And just try to keep your seatbelt on and your eyes uncrossed.


(I won't get into the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, whether with a commercial, small or university press; that's another blog post for another time-- and on that subject, see some of the links for further reading below. I am what is now termed a "hybrid author," one with books published by traditional presses-- in my case, University of Georgia Press, University of Utah Press, Milkweed Editions, Planeta and Random House-Mondadori, among others-- and one or more books self-published.)




Screenshot alert! Yes, you can buy my
book from Politics & Prose in Washington DC
--and about a zillion other bookstores'
websites. Yay!
WHY POD (PRINT-ON-DEMAND)? (OR DID YOU HAVE ROOM IN YOUR BASEMENT FOR AN ELEPHANT IN A COMA?)
Certainly, you could self-publish your book the old-fashioned way, that is, with offset printing, in which case you would call and email around to printers and get a few estimates… which is a little bamboozling, but Dan Poynter's excellent book explains all about that. If you go this route, probably, if your printer is a good one, the book will turn out looking nicer than a POD and you'll also be allowed a far wider selection of papers, sizing and bindings. But with offset printing, the problem is, well, then what will you do with all the books? Because with offset printing, the per unit cost of a book is a function of the print run-- and any size print run has to cover the cost of just getting the machines up and running and fed with your specially ordered sheets of paper-- so, to make it worthwhile, you'll probably want to do a print run of at least 1,000-2,000 books. But shipping all those books will cost you more than a chunk of change, and all those boxes of books, like an elephant in a coma, will swallow up a heap of space in your basement (unless you want to help your chiropractor buy his weekend house, don't even try to lift them up to the attic). And then, how did you plan to distribute the books and fulfill orders? Assuming you have all the time in your life and the iron-clad personality to play salesman. Uyy.


If you go POD, while the per unit cost of printing the book is probably going to be substantially higher, the quality not as good (but pretty good; most readers won't notice the difference), it will be far less expensive for you upfront because you can print only, say, one copy. Or twenty-five. Or 57. Or whatever number you want at the moment, and shipped to wherever you please. Nor will you have to worry about storing them, nor worry about distribution and fulfillment-- if, that is, you use a POD printer that also offers distribution and fullfilment such as amazon.com's CreateSpace

Plus, since POD is digital, you can easily make corrections. As anyone who has published a book knows, no matter how many times and how many people proofread it, there will be typos. And sometimes, toe-curlingly embarrassing ones. (I'll admit to having updated my PDF several times already, and my book hasn't even been out a year…)


There are many other POD printers, but as of this writing-- September 2014-- hands down, amazon's CreateSpace is your best option. There are several factors to consider, such as cost, customer service, quality, color options, and you can compare and contrast with other POD printers and sellers on a spread sheet… (as did Neal Guillen in his excellent presentation for last years' "Publish Now!" seminar at the Writer's Center), but I am confident you'll come to the same conclusion I did that, all in all, as of 2014, CreateSpace wins.


AS OF 2014

I repeat, "as of 2014." Everything is changing so fast; I have no idea what this landscape will look like it 2015, never mind 2020. (Maybe there will be some kind of quantum nanobot printing, so we can dream our book and wake up to find it waiting for us there by our plate of eggs and bacon. Or, maybe Jeff Bezos will have been beamed up and we'll all be trying to figure out how to oil a letterpress.)


WHY CREATESPACE?

Key thing to know: CreateSpace is owned by amazon.com. Once you've uploaded your book, at the click of a button, you can list it for sale on both the CreateSpace.com store and amazon.com-- right alongside, say, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter, or whatever might be best-seller du jour. If someone buys it, whether in the Create Space store or on amazon.com, amazon will print it and amazon will collect the money from the customer, ship it to the buyer, and then deposit your share of the proceeds (which, by the way, is a far better percentage than the typical royalties you would get from a publisher) directly into your bank account. Oh, and you can buy copies of your own book at a discount better than most traditional publishers offer their authors.

Is that easy, or what? So why waste your time? 

> START HERE.


WAIT! DON'T I HAVE TO HAVE AN ISBN? 

(HOW DO I GET ONE?)

Yes, you do need an ISBN, your book's identifier. You have two choices: get it from CreateSpace, in which case your book will appear with the CreateSpace imprint, or get it yourself from Bowker, in which case it will show your own imprint (mine is Dancing Chiva). If you go the latter route, you will also need to buy a bar code (pictured left), also from Bowker. Just keep your credit card handy and follow the instructions on their website.


AND THEN HOW DO I PREPARE MY BOOK TO UPLOAD IT TO CREATESPACE?

Once you've visited that how-page on CreateSpace, you will see that you have the option of delivering a formatted PDF of a file made in Adobe InDesign or paying them a few hundred dollars (very reasonable for this work, by the way) to do that for you.

I went and did something a little bit complicated: I rented the Adobe In-Design software, confident that I could format my book myself, since I had been able to format my magazine and chapbooks in ye olde now defunct Adobe PageMaker. I was much too optimistic, alas; Adobe In-Design is a bit like riding a unicycle for a couple of miles. It can be done! But it's not like making a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich! 



Screenshot of the opening of my book's first chapter in Adobe InDesign.
If you zoom in closer on that dashboard, you might get really scared.
It does look a little Apollo 13-y.


So I hired a graphic designer, a very good one named Rose Q., whom I found on www.elance.com. (Is that a typical experience on www.elance.com or was I lucky? I suspect the latter but I do not have enough experience to say.) I already knew precisely how I wanted the book to look (more about book design here), so she basically followed my instructions, formatted it in Adobe Indesign, and sent me the Adobe InDesign file and a PDF, and then I went to CreateSpace and uploaded the PDF. All in all, I was very happy with this path. I can say what CreateSpace charges for book formatting is more than fair (I suspect they outsource to India), though how the quality of the formatting is I do not know. (But I still wanted to learn how to use Adobe InDesign myself, so for another two books, not discussed here, I hired a tutor from www.wyzant.com with whom I work via Skype. Am I from Palo Alto, or what.)

(WHOA. I'M ON THE SHADY SIDE OF 50. WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU "UPLOADED" THE PDF?)
I logged into CreateSpace, and when they prompted me to select a file to open, I clicked "browse," and a little window opened up wherein I could scroll down to find, in my own computer, the .PDF file. I clicked on that. Then I clicked on the button that said "upload." Peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich. 

AND THEN HOW DO I MAKE THE COVER?

You can use a template provided by CreateSpace, though in my opinion those look a little well, Createspace-esque. You could also hire a professional graphic designer, which will cost you a chunk of change. I designed mine myself, incorporating a painting by Kelley Vandiver (with his kind permission), my own photo taken with my iPhone of Casa Piedra Road (that's actually in Texas, don't tell anybody), some fonts I purchased from the Walden Font Co., and then I had my elance.com designer do it for me in Adobe InDesign and make the PDF. And I uploaded that. Ta da.

>You can see what my book looks like on the CreateSpace store and on amazon.com. Why not order a copy and then you can really see what it looks like!


HOW CAN I GET MY POD BOOK INTO BRICK-AND-MORTAR BOOKSTORES AND LIBRARIES?


This is a two-step process. One is easy, the other is a head-banger. Quantities of Kleenex, your choice.


STEP #1 

Make your book available via a major distributor such as Ingram. 
The reason is that there are so many books and so many different publishers out there that it would be a total migraine for librarians and booksellers to have to place so many different orders with different sellers. Instead, it's, wham, Ingram, done.


If you go the route of CreateSpace, getting your book onto Ingram is just a question of clicking, "yes" on the sign up page for "Expanded Distribution." (No worries, you will see that when you get there.)

I do not know if my choice was a good one or not (time will tell), but since I wanted to use my own imprint (my own ISBN), not CreateSpace's, CreateSpace did not offer both options. So while CreateSpace does my POD for CreateSpace and amazon, to get onto Ingram I went to Ingram Spark. So Ingram distributes it (which just means they make it available to their customers) and when a bookstore or library orders it, Ingram will print it and ship it to them.


Right, my book, same ISBN, is available on amazon / Createspace and Ingram. No problem. And because it is on Ingram it automatically gets listed on major on-line bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Powell's and a whole bunch of others.

You probably won't find this on the shelf
in any B & N, but you can order it 

on-line from them, yay!

I found Ingram Spark a little frustrating to work with because their customer service, though consistently helpful and kind, was not always available by phone, and by email, they often took as long as 24 hours to answer. CreateSpace, on the other hand, had a telephone number I could call at any time and an actual live human being answered quickly, and then actually answered my questions. (Yea, verily, miracles still happen on Planet Earth.) Also, unlike amazon, Ingram Spark charges a small fee for "market access." But in all, the advantage for me of using Ingram is that now I can market my book to libraries under my own imprint, Dancing Chiva. 


As for brick-and-mortar bookstores, I don't see them being very important for a self-published book on a niche subject such as a mine. 
(Yours, of course, may be a different case, and you might be willing, as I am not, to visit bookstores and try to sell to them directly.) I am assuming that the majority of my sales will be of Kindles and POD paperbacks via amazon. Yep, it is sad (I play a wee violin): most brick-and-mortar bookstores have already gone the way of the brontosaurus. 

Furthermore, my understanding is that most bookstores insist on being able to order whatever quantity they want and then return any unsold books-- at the publishers' or author's expense. When you set up your account on Ingram Spark, you can click that option, allow returns, if you so desire. But know that bookstores are notorious for ordering boxes of books and then returning them-- sometimes without even having brought them out of the back room. Oh well, you could click the option "destroy" the unsold books, however many those might be, if you don't want to pay the cost, whatever that might be, of their return freight. As for me, sorry, if you order my books, they're yours.



Screenshot alert!
My book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution
is also carried by the famous Powell's on-line bookstore, double yay!


STEP #2. 
I'd never even heard of this store,
but yay, they're offering my POD!
(If you order it, they source it from Ingram.)
You have to market your book. (Grrr. Advil. $$$. Guilt Management 101)
Just because it's for sale on amazon.com doesn't mean any one will notice it, never mind review it, and just because it's distributed by Ingram, huge step as that may be, doesn't mean, abracadabra, it will sell. Marketing a book is a whole different blog post and anyway, I am not the expert and I am mainly focussed on writing my next book because… that's what I do! 

My own rather lazy-daisy, low-key strategy with Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution has been to give autographed copies to selected individuals (if you teach Mexican history, don't be shy, ask me for a review copy here), blog, guest-blog, do a bit of social media, attend and speak at relevant conferences and wherever they'll have me (thank you, American Literary Translators Association, Rice University, and the UCSD US-Mexico Center, and the major book fair about to make an announcement today Texas Book Festival), give interviews (as for example, here and here and here), and do a postcard campaign to U.S. libraries. 


For postcard campaigns, I can recommend www.modernpostcard.com and renting the mailing lists of libraries available on www.newpages.com. For the latter, hat tip to my fellow Women Writing the West member and very successful self-published author, Susan Wittig Albert, who so generously shares her tips for getting a self-published book into libraries.

For reviews, I might also try Netgalley.com later this fall-- though I haven't really gotten my mind around that yet. My understanding is that it's a good way to reach bloggers, teachers, and librarians. (Yes, it costs a few hundred dollars, but it's cheaper than sending that many paperbacks through the mail.)

> Join the Independent Book Publisher's Association for advice, webinars, more resources and discounts-- the discounts alone just about cover the cost of membership. (That's where I got the story straight about CreateSpace and Ingram and first heard about Netgalley.)


IN MODEST BUT DELIGHTED CONCLUSION

As they say, aim for the stars and you won't blast off your toes. I did aim for the stars with my book, I put my heart into it, and I believe it is a paradigm-changing work on the Mexican Revolution, on Francisco I. Madero, and the history of Spiritism. That said, I take my own advice: As a self-published author, in a world where the big publishers still have the money and muscle, it's best for your Kleenex supply to keep your expectations modest.  (That said: Dear Oprah Winfrey, If you invite me on your show, I promise to be nice. And you might be interested to know that in my book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual-- fair use-- I quote from your interview with Wayne Dwyer about his "psychic surgery.")

P.S. New York Times best-selling author and also, on occasion, self-published author, marketing guru Seth Godin, offers his perennial words of wisdom for authors > here. < After having published nearly a dozen works over the past 20+ years with publishers both big and small, Yours Truly vouches for Mr. Godin's profound wisdom on this subject and, by the by, sends him a cyber shower of jpeg lotus petals. 


In conclusion, yes, it takes a little work, a little money, and a trudge up the learning curve to make it happen, but the advantage of doing a POD on CreateSpace / amazon / Ingram is that, rain or shine, night or day, and around the world, 



YOUR PAPERBACK BOOK
IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR SALE ON-LINE 
FROM MULTIPLE MAJOR BOOKSELLERS, 
AND NOT, AS IN THE DAYS OF BRICK-AND-MORTAR YORE,
 FOR THE SAME DURATION AS A TUB OF COTTAGE CHEESE, 
BUT, AS YOU PLEASE, 
INDEFINITELY. 

Anyone with a credit card can easily order your book and receive it as quickly as any other book, and if and when they do, you will be paid a very generous royalty by direct deposit in a timely manner. That simple fact is a TOTAL LET'S-DRINK-TANG-ON-THE-MOON GAME-CHANGER. 

FURTHER READING

> APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur
Highly recommended how-to book. One key tip offered by the authors, Guy Kawasaki and : stick with 6" x 9" for the size.  

=====>>>COMMENTS always welcome. And I also welcome you to sign up for my newsletter.

+ + + + + + + + 

MORE MADAM MAYO:

Traditional + Indie = Hybrid Publishing: Three Authors Dish at Jane Friedman's Blog
(Highly recommended)
Self-Publishing for All the Right Reasons (Reporting on the Writer's Center's "Publish Now!" Seminar)
How I Published My Kindles
Seven Reasons Why E-books Will Be Big in Mexico

AND OVER ON THE HOME PAGE, www.cmmayo.com
Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution
Excerpts, podcasts, resources for researchers and more, and you betcha, it is available on Kindle, too.
The Manuscript is Ready-- (Or Is It?)-- What Now? 
(From the "Publish Now!" Seminar at the Writer's Center)
New Events: My Literary Travel Writing Workshop 
one day only, Saturday, October 11, 2014 at the Writer's Center.

Monday, September 08, 2014

12 Tips for Summer Day Hiking in the Desert (How to Stay Cool and Avoid Actinic Keratosis, Blood, and Killer Bees)

C'est moi on (whew) August 30, 2014 at Meyers Spring,
an important rock art site of the Lower Pecos,
on the US-Mexico border near Dryden, Texas. 

As you can see, in my left hand, I am carrying a 
white umbrella. So I didn't need the hat, and that black 
backpack wasn't the best idea. I also should have worn a 
lightweight bandana. Oh, and more sunblock. 
Always more sunblock.
Just returned from hiking with the Rock Art Foundation in to see the spectacular rock art at Meyers Spring in the Lower Pecos of Far West Texas (yes, there will be a podcast in the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project, in which I exploring the Big Bend & Beyond in 24 podcasts. More about that anon). 

I got a few things very right on this trip and a few things, well, I could have done better. Herewith, for you dear reader, and for me-- this will serve as my own checklist for the next rock art foray-- 12 tips for summer day hiking in the desert:



1. Don't just bring water, lots of water, more water than you think you can possibly drink-- bring it cold and keep it cold.
Everest Lumbar Waist Pack

Of course, not drinking enough water can be seriously dangerous. But warm water when it's this hot is just bleh--and if you're carrying a plain old plastic water bottle in your hand, out here, boy howdy, it gets hot fast. (Last year, I hiked this way over Burro Mesa in the Big Bend National Park. Six hours. Head-slapper.) The thing is, you don't just want to hydrate; you want to keep your core from overheating, so every swig of cold water really helps. Before heading out, fill your insulated water bottles with lots of ice. In your car, keep them in an ice chest or, if that's not possible, wrapped in a blanket, or whatever's handy, until the moment you have to take them out. I did this for the first time, and wow, what a difference. 
> Recommended: Camelback lightweight insulated water bottle
> Recommended: Everest lumbar waist pack that holds two bottles (and carry a third in-hand).
(What works for you? Suggestions welcome.)

2. Slather on the sunblock.

Yes, sun block stinks and feels gross, but if you're like me -- a descendant of those who once roamed the foggy forests of England, Ireland and Scotland-- if you don't, you may end up helping your dermatologist buy his ski condo. And no, he probably won't invite you.
> Watch this fun video, "How the Sun Sees You."



> For those with actinic keratosis (that's the fancy term for seriously sun-damaged skin), try Perrin's Blend. If that doesn't work, off to the dermatologist you must go. 

> Here's how a bald guy, Tony Overbay, dealt with actinic keratosis using the latest in dermatologist-recommended chemotherapy (uyy, I am hoping my Perrin's Blend works…)
>Recommended: Whole Foods article on how to choose the best sunscreen.

3. Wear a long sleeved white collared shirt.

This protects you against the sun, keeps you cool (the white reflects the sun), protects you from bug bites and scratches. Light clothes always beat dark! Flip the collar up to protect your neck. About scratches: the desert tends to be filled with cactus and thorny scrub. 

4. Knot a light-colored scarf around your throat.

This protects you from the sun. A bandana works fine. Mike Clelland (more about the guru in a moment) suggests cutting the bandana in two, so it's lighter. Porquoi pas? I didn't do this. Alas. Bring on the Perrin's.

5. Wear tough but lightweight trekking trousers.
For the same reason you want to wear the long-sleeved white shirt: trousers protect your body parts, in this case, calves and knees, from sun, scratches, and bugs. Do not wear shorts unless, for some reason you probably should be working on with your psychiatrist, you don't mind scarring and blood. And do not wear jeans. I repeat, do not wear jeans. 
> Recommended: Northface trekking convertible trousers. I wore these on the trip. Very comfortable.


6. Keep your pack as light as possible, in both senses.
Hey, you've not only gotta stay cool, but you've gotta hump all that water! 

A few specifics:
> Use a lightweight pack and carry it on 
your hips, rather than the flat of your back (see photo of lumbar waist pack above). This helps keep your back cool. But I don't speak from experience on this one: I'm going to try this for next time.
> Carry lightweight insulated water bottles.
> Ditch the hat and ditch the heavy hiking boots (more about that below. There are, of course, other places and times when a hat and hiking books would be advisable).
> Skip the camera or use a lightweight camera (I use my iPhone).
> Eat a light breakfast and bring only a little food-- since this is a day hike, you can eat a big dinner when you get back. But you will need sustenance on the trail. I recommend date, fruit and nut bars-- love those Lara bars-- that is, food that is high in energy but won't spoil in the heat, and that doesn't require any dishes or utensils. Don't bring anything with chocolate in it. (I brought a Snicker's bar. Ooey... gooey.)
>Bring a white plastic grocery bag and use it to cover your pack. Two advantages: the white reflects sunlight and keeps it cooler than, say, an unprotected black or other dark-colored pack, and, in case of rain, will help keep it dry. 

> Highly recommended: Mike Clelland's Ultralight Backpackin' Tips, a superb resource for keeping it lighter-than-light, yet making sure to bring what you need for comfort and safety. 
> And be sure to visit Clelland's blog for many helpful videos and more.

7. Watch out for killer bees!

Seriously, Africanized bees have arrived in some desert locales north of the Mexican border. What do bees want? Sweet things and water. So don't carry around open cans or bottles or suddenly pick up open cans or bottles-- bees may smell the water or soft drink from afar, crawl inside, and then, if you do anything they don't like, such as pick up that can, they will go bezerk, and call in their buddies who will also go bezerk and might sting you hundreds of times. No kidding, people and animals have died from killer bee attacks. So be especially careful around any blooming plants where bees might be feeding. Ditto any open water, such as a tank, spring, or any puddle. And whatever you do, if you see a hive, don't go anywhere near it. Normal honey bees, however, are not a problem. Unless you have a severe allergy, a few stings might actually be good for you! (Read more about bee sting therapy on the Apitherapy Association webpage). Your real problem is, it's hard to tell the killers from the honeys until they attack. 

8. Wear gaiters.

www.dirtygirlgaiters.com
I followed Mike Clelland's tip and bought a pair from Dirty Girl Gaiters (they're for guys, too). They weigh about as much as a feather, they're easy to attach to your lace-up running shoes and indeed, they keep the dust out. Their biggest advantage is that you can therefore avoid wearing those ankle-high and heavy hiking boots. You'll exert yourself less and therefore, on the margin, stay cooler. (I'll admit however that on this last hike, a loose ball of bubble-gum cactus went right through the gaiters and stabbed me in the ankle. Oh well!)

9. Forget the hat and trekking pole; use a white umbrella.

Really! Who cares if it looks nerdy? It's nerdier to pass out from  heat stroke or end up looking like a tomato. So let those guys in jeans, black T-shirts, and baseball caps cackle all they want, as they sweat & burn & chafe. The white umbrella protects you from sun and the rain and-- crucially-- helps keep your head cool. A hat will trap heat on your head-- not what you want out here. Plus, in a tight spot, you can also use the umbrella as a trekking pole. Added bonus: scares mountain lions. I would think. Don't take my word for that, however. Also good, once folded, to toss a rattlesnake or tarantula. Not that I've had to do that, either. Just saying.

Not for National Geographic, but
thanks, iPhone camera app
10. To avoid chafing, first apply an anti-chafe roll-on or cream.
Fortunately for me, I don't have this problem, but a lot of people do. Why suffer?

11.  Take it slow and rest often.
In shade, if possible. (Oh, right, you have your umbrella!)

12. In your car, leave a reflector open on your car's dashboard and another over your stash of cold water.

If you've had to park outside, after a day of baking out in the desert, it's going to be an authentic Finnish sauna in there-- unless you use a dashboard reflector. In which case it will still be a very warm-- but far more bearable. I picked up my pair of dashboard reflectors at Walgreen's for $3.99 each and I was glad indeed that I did. Certainly you could also just use a roll of aluminum foil.

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Stay tuned for the next Marfa Mondays podcast which will be about Apaches. Meantime, listen in anytime to the ones that have already been posted, including:

> Looking at Mexico in New Ways: An Interview with John Tutino

> A Spell in Chinati Hot Springs
> Mary Baxter, Painting the Big Bend
> Cynthia McAllister with the Buzz on the Bees

+ + + + + + + + 


SURF ON!


MORE ON MADAM MAYO:


> Why I am a Mega-Fan of the Filofax

> Small Mistake, Mongo Sucking Whirlpool
Guest-blogger Jennifer Silva Redmond's 5 Favorite Baja California Writers' Websites


AND OVER ON MY HOME PAGE, www.cmmayo.com:


> Mini-Travel Clips, many of the Big Bend (Hoodoos, Lajitas, along the Rio Grande, and more)

> Excerpt from Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico: Bay of Angels
> A Visit to Swan House (article in Cenizo Journal on Simone Swan's visionary adobe teaching house in Presidio, Texas)
> Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project: Exploring Marfa, TX & Environs in 24 Podcasts