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Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Book Works in Del Mar and the Bookworks in Albuquerque

That's me blogging--- taking a break in La Posada, Winslow Arizona, surrounded by the stunning artwork of Tina Mion (in the background is her masterwork "A New Years Party in Purgatory for Suicides"), after the book tour's swing through Southern California: Vroman's in Pasadena, Center for U.S.-Mexico Studies at University of California San Diego, Book Works in Del Mar, and then the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles.

In the photo below: my amigo, the King of the Baja Buffs, Graham Mackintosh, who graced my event at Del Mar's Book Works with his always smiling presence. (If there's a joke to life, I'm sure Graham gets it. Check out his latest rollicking memoir about Isla Angel de la Guarda: Marooned with Very Little Beer.) Then, c'est moi in the
Mexican pink jacket; the sales rep for Unbridled Books' (Frank, Bless Your Heart!); and owner of the Book Works, Lisa Stefanacci. If you're anywhere within a 100 mile radius of Del Mar, do not miss this cozy bookstore famed, by the way, for its thoughtful selection on books about the brain. The photograph in the photograph? That's the carte-de-visite of the last prince of Mexico, Agustin de Iturbide y Green. I so wish this group photo included Richard Feinberg, professor of International Political Economy at UCSD, who gave the very generous introduction to my presentation--- pictured below.

This Wednesday June 3 at 7 pm I'll be reading at the Bookworks (this one spelled as one word) in Albuquerque. Click here for more information about that. More anon.

Monday, May 25, 2009

William Wirt Calkins, My Great-Great Uncle, Author of the History of the 104th Illinois

Some fun news. I had not realized until this very week of my own book tour (for The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire), that my great-great-uncle, William Wirt Calkins (1842-1914), had written a highly regarded book. Calkins was married to my great-great aunt Louise Hossack, and though they never had children of their own, they took in as their foster daughter my great-grandmother Martha Hossack (later Pope). When I was little, I heard many stories about the sweet Aunt Louise who raised my great-grandmother Martha (whose father had been killed while traveling on business in the Midwest). My great grandmother died when I was still in school, but I remember her gardening and painting in her cottage in Frankfort, Michigan. Anyway, I gather she was not too impressed with literary endeavors because I do not recall hearing anything at all about William Wirt Calkins. It turns out that his History of 104th Illinois Volunteer Infantry is a major work on the U.S. Civil War. I just began leafing through it--- it's very vivid and charming and apparently, quite the Bible for Civil war Reenactors. He was also an avid amateur botanist and author of Catalogue of Living Illinois Mollusca (1872). P.S. Here's a bit more about those Hossacks. More anon.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire: Southern California Book Tour

This week the book tour for The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire goes to Southern California:

May 26, 2009 Pasadena CA
Reading, Discussion & Book Signing
7 p.m.

695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena CA 91101 tel (626) 449-5320

May 27, 2009 La Jolla CA
Book Discussion / Lecture
Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, UCSD
12 p.m.

C.M. Mayo to discuss the original research behind the story of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire. IOA Complex: Deutz Room. Free and open to the general public.

May 27, 2009 Del Mar CA
Reading, Discussion & Book Signing
The Book Works
7 p.m.

2670 Via De La Valle, Ste A230, Del Mar CA 92014 tel (858) 755-3735

May 28, 2009 Los Angeles CA
Reading, Discussion & Book Signing
The Mexican Consulate of Los Angeles
7 p.m.

2401 W. 6th St, Los Angeles CA 90057 tel (213) 351-6800

Coming up: Albuquerque, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Washington DC and more. Click here for the full schedule.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Northern California Book Tour Schedule for The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire: Books Inc, Book Passages, Mrs Dalloway's

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire
This week's readings & book signings in Northern California:

May 20, 2009 @ 7 pm PALO ALTO
Books Inc.

Town & Country Shopping Center, corner of El Camino and Embarcadero, tel. (650) 321-0600

May 21, 2009 @ 7 pm CORTE MADERA
Book Passages, Corte Madera Store

51 Tamal Vista, tel. 415-927-0960

May 22, 2009 @ 7:30 pm BERKELEY
Mrs Dalloway's

2904 College Ave, tel. (510) 704-8222.

For the complete schedule, including Southern California, Albquerque, Texas, and more, click here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Writers Center: C.M. Mayo, Luis Alberto Ambroggio, Yvette Neisser Moreno & Company--- and Grover Cleveland at the 7-11?

Sunday's reading at the Writers Center in Bethesda MD was such a delight. My dear amiga, historical novelist and fellow Writers Center faculty member, Ann McLaughlin, gave the introduction and read her favorite passage from The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire-- which she knows so well, having critiqued multitudinous drafts! For the record, it was the scene where Maximilian watches the sunset from the roof of Chapultepec Castle, rendered, but of course, in Maximilianesquely labyrinthical syntax (& toss in the Deities of Memphis, swords of light, an eagle skimming the treetops...) Gracias Ann!

Read Art Taylor's full report on the event over at Art & Literature...

And thank you also to everyone at the Writers Center, especially Sunil Freeman and Kyle Semmel (the Writers Center's blogger extraordinaire--- check out First Person Plural)-- and my fellow readers, poet Luis Alberto Ambroggio and his translator, poet Yvette Niesser Moreno (pictured right, photos by Kyle Semmel), who read such superb poems and so beautifully. Their new book, Difficult Beauty, will be available shortly.

It was a heartfelt pleasure to see my dear friend travel writer Sara Mansfield Taber, as she was the one who, many years ago, when we were fellows at Bread Loaf, first introduced me to the Writers Center. Other writers in attendance: Dylan Landis, who has a new and much-vaunted book of short stories coming out this fall, and my fellow Unbridled Books novelist, Stephen Evans; John Curry (with whom I'm cooking up a panel for the American Independent Writers Conference this June-- stay tuned; the talented short story writer and novelist Ellen Prentiss Campbell; poet, translator and publisher Robert Giron (who just brought out an amazing anthology, Poetic Voices Without Borders 2); poet and childrens book writer J.D. Smith (whose book on mariachis will be featured on this blog asap); poet and Momotombo editor Francisco Aragon; poet Judy McCombs, book blogger Serena Agusto-Cox (at her blog, Savvy Verse & Wit, check out her report-- and a contest for a free copy of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire) and fiction writer Art Taylor, who reports for Arts & Literature.

And last but certainly not least, medievalist and blogger (Quid Plura?) Jeff Sypeck, who alerted me to a tromp l'oeil of--- surely it is--- President and Mrs. Grover Cleveland, on the side of a 7-11 at the corner of Connecticut and Porter, DC.

What, by Jove, does this have to do with my novel? Well, the prince's mother, nee Alice Green, grew up at Rosedale, then one of the grandest country estates in the District of Columbia. In the late 19th century, a substantial chunk of it was sold to President Grover Cleveland. His country house has since been torn down, but the now very urban neighborhood around old Rosedale is known as Cleveland Park.

Thanks to all my friends, Americans and Mexicans, long-time and new, it was grand to see you!

More anon.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mexican Cultural Institute of Washington DC: The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire

Herewith a few photos of the launch event for my new novel the other day in the beautiful music room at the Mexican Cultural Institute of Washington DC (Instituto de Mexico). It was an honor indeed to be introduced by the Institute's Director, the Mexican Embassy's Cultural Attache, Alejandra De La Paz, and then by Professor John Tutino, Chair of the History Department at Georgetown University. After his very kind introduction (and some amusing thoughts about how confoundingly complicated 19th century Mexican history is--- and its essentially transnational nature), I read a few sections from The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire--- in particular, the opening, set in Rosedale; the scene with Ambassador General Almonte in the White House levee; and the "high noon" of the Mexican Empire (to quote journalist William Wells), an 1865 ball in Mexico's Imperial Palace. I also talked about how The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is, for several reasons, a very Washingtonian story and at the same time, a story that goes into a very deep vein--- in fact, if tangentially, it is a story about what it means to be Mexican. Some excerpts from my talk:

The Second Empire was an assertion by the French, by the Catholic Church, and a large number of Mexican conservatives, that Mexicans were properly subjects of a crown. The Jaurista, Republican response--- ultimately victorious--- was that, no, Mexicans are citizens. Citizens of a Republic.

The prince as a person is not the main character; rather, it is the prince as the living symbol of an idea--- the idea that the Mexican Empire could continue into the future.

And yet, it is a very Washingtonian story on many levels, for it begins in Washington, with the prince's mother... What all of the histories of the Second Empire have missed is that she was not only a Washingtonian but she was from a very prominent Washington family. She was not an ordinary person. This explains a lot about what happened--- the arrangement she and her husband and his family made with Maximilian and later, when she wanted her little boy back, the wherewithal she had to get up what was truly an international scandal. She took the matter to General Bazaine, Supreme Commander of the French forces in Mexico, then, after her arrest and expulsion from Mexico, all the way to U.S. Secretary of State Seward, then to Paris, to U.S. Minister John Bigelow, who was in constant contact with the highest levels of the French Imperial Government! She even got the matter on the front page of the New York Times-- claiming Maximilian had "kidnapped an American child."

What an honor indeed to see the wife of Mexico's ambassador in the front row! And so many Mexican friends and Mexico buffs and Mexico experts, Barbara Tenenbaum, Andrew Selee, and also the gals from my writers group-- Kathleen Currie, Kate Blackwell (You Won't Remember This), Mary Kay Zuravleff (The Bowl is Already Broken)--- translator of Mexican poetry and amazing poet herself, Brandel France de Bravo (Provenance), travel writer L. Peat O'Neil, visionary librarian Jane Kinney Meyers, novelists Fred Reuss, Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, Joyce Hackett, Mexican award-winning short story writer Luis Felipe Lomeli, DC's own Poetry Goddess, Kim Roberts, and Dan Vera--- and thanks so much Dan, for sharing these photos of the event. It was also such an honor to see my editor, Greg Michalson, and his partner at Unbridled Books, Fred Ramey--- and last, but most importantly, my husband, to whom the book is dedicated.

The venerable Politics & Prose handled the booksales, and I was very sorry to disappoint friends that they ran out of books!! I understand they have more in the bookstore. (Click here for general information about ordering.)

P.S. All photos are courtesy of Dan Vera.

And for those of you in Washington DC area who don't know the Mexican Cultural Institute, be sure to visit their website and get on their mailing list--- it's such a beautiful venue, close to the metro, and always busy with cornucopia of concerts, shows, readings, cooking demonstrations, and screenings. It is a jewel on the cultural scene here in Washington.

I'll be reading this Sunday at 2 pm at the Writers Center in Bethesda MD--- and more info and more events are listed here. More anon.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Mexican Cultural Institute of Washington DC: The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, May 12 @ 6:30 pm

I'll be reading, discussing and signing The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, my new novel based on the true story, this Tuesday at 6:30 pm at the Mexican Cultural Instutute of Washington DC. John Tutino, professor of History at Georgetown University, will offer introductory remarks. The event is free and open to the public. More information here.

This is the launch event for the novel, which opens with a chapter about Rosedale, the historic country estate in Washington D.C. founded by the prince's grandfather, General Uriah Forrest.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Cinco de Mayo: It's Pub Date for The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo (Unbridled Books)

Here's the announcement:

Who knew that Mexico once had a half-American prince? Or that this little boy’s future was hotly debated not just in Mexico but in Washington D.C. and in every court in Europe? Set in the mid-19th century when Maximilian von Habsburg was Emperor of Mexico, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is based on the true and never before completely told story about a half-American, half-Mexican boy who, as in a fairytale, became a prince and then a pawn in the struggle-to-the-death over Mexico's destiny. Read all about it here and buy it now at your local independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble,, Powell's, basically, you-name-it, here.

Epic in scope, Mayo's impressively researched novel set in mid-19th century Mexico City mines the true story of the short turbulent reign of the archduke of Austria, Maximilian von Hapsburg, who was made emperor of Mexico in 1864. Childless and desperate for an heir, the emperor makes substantial monetary promises to the parents of a young boy named Agustin. With much trepidation, they agree to give over the boy, who becomes a pawn in a custody battle that begins when Maximilian adopts the two-year-old Agustin with the hopes of having him inherit the throne. Agustin's American mother, Madame de Iturbide (née Alice Green), soon becomes dissatisfied with the arrangement and pleads with Maximilian to return her son. Maximilian has Alice deported, which sets off an international brawl. Maximilian finally concedes as Mexico devolves “into bankruptcy and lawlessness” and Maximilian's wife, Carlota, becomes increasingly “unmoored.” Lengthy, expository, meandering and grandiose, Mayo's reanimation of a crucial period in Mexican history should satisfy history buffs and those in the mood for an engaging story brimming with majestic ambition.
Publisher's Weekly

...a ton of juicy history to savor. Mayo has an elegant style that weaves in and out of fact and fiction as she reaches into the minds of the major players and then deviates to introduce supporting characters (nearly all of them real as well)... After finishing this wonderful novel I have new respect for the trials suffered by our southern neighbor in the recent past and also a deep desire to learn more about so many of the names involved, not the least of which the little boy who almost became the future ruler of a nation.

Mayo resurrects a sad story from the footnotes of history and embroiders the few details known about it into a rich historical novel... Mayo comfortably blends fiction with fact while illuminating a dark corner of North American history.

The Last Prince deserves attention. It is an ambitious book for tackling such a complicated little sliver of history, and Mayo brings her historic characters to life with a compelling story for a modern audience.
Rose City Reader

...impeccably researched and beautifully rendered. Those readers who love complex historical novels and who want to learn more about this time period in Mexican history will enjoy Mayo’s work.
Caribou's Mom Book Blog

...a story that is both grand yet intimate about a child who sparked an international scandal. The intriguing tale of the Prince of Mexico offers a fine historical lesson about why Maximilian’s paternalistic adventure in a country that did not want him was doomed from the start.
The Latin American Review of Books

The search for an heir is the ostensible subject... The couple find a boy who had been born to a grandson of the previous emperor of Mexico, Augustín Iturbide, and they sign a contract with the parents saying that they will raise him, starting at age two... If this is all too confusing, don't sweat it: everything is made clear, charmingly so, in The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire. The book is chockablock full of royal families, royal rumors, royal disputes, as well as being an Upstairs, Downstairs to 19th Century royal life of uplands Mexico.
The Review of Arts, Literature, Philsophy and the Humanities

T]his epic novel takes on a convoluted period in Mexico's history and the complicated families ruling or eager to rule in the mid-19th Century. Mayo does exceptionally well with multiple points of view, description, and character development to create a vivid dramatization. The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire would make a great book club selection and discussion.
Savvy Verse & Wit

This short but tumultuous period of Mexico’s history is fantastically told by first-time novelist, C.M. Mayo, fans of Mexican history will devour it.
Sherri Gallentine Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, CA

Click here to read excerpts, view photos, and much more.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Arts Club of Washington D.C.: Michael Sragow and Brenda Wineapple

My amiga poet Kim Roberts, administrator for the National Award for Arts Writing, sends this news:
The Arts Club of Washington has announced the winners of the third annual National Award for Arts Writing. The $15,000 Award, although relatively new, has one of the largest purses of any annual book award in the U.S., and is the only award for non-fiction books on the arts for a general audience. For the first time in the Award’s history, there are two winners, who will split the prize: Michael Sragow, for Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master (Pantheon Books) and Brenda Wineapple, for White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Alfred A. Knopf)

This year’s judges for the Award were noted book and film critic David Kipen; Linda Pastan, former Poet Laureate of Maryland; and Reynolds Price, National Book Critics Circle Award-winner and author of twenty-two novels. Winners of the National Award for Arts Writing must be living American authors, and books must be published in the U.S. in the previous year. The award honors and encourages excellence in writing (“prose that is lucid, luminous, clear and inspiring”) and can be about any artistic discipline. The award goes to books that help readers build a strong connection with arts and artists.

For more information on the award, and how to submit books for the 2009 competition, see the Arts Club of Washington web site:

P.S. Kim Roberts also edits the Beltway and the Beltway Poetry News, a veritable cornucopia. More anon.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Nancy Zafris at the Porches, a Writing Retreat in Rural Virginia

This is a splendid opportunity for anyone with a literary manuscript that needs a critical eye. Nancy Zafris, novelist, short story writer, series editor for the Flannery O'Connor Award (and for nine years fiction editor at the Kenyon Review) is leading a 3 day retreat at the Porches in rural Virginia this September. More anon.

Elise Blackwell's Blog for PEN on Mexican Fiction

Blogging for PEN, writer Elise Blackwell begins:
In his preface to the fabulous Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction (Dalkey Archive Press), Sealtiel Alatriste compares an anthology to “describing a landscape by showing someone a tree branch, a rock, a fragment of a mountain, a peaceful cloud, and a bicycle wheel....READ ON

Excellent blog post, do check it out. More anon.