Jeanine Kitchel and her husband Paul Zappella began traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula in the early 80s, searching for adventure. And they found it. What started as lazy beach vacations soon turned into land hunting expeditions fueled by the dream of dropping out and escaping their hectic nine to five lives in San Francisco.

By 1989 they bought land in Puerto Morelos, a fishing village south of Cancun, where they broke ground for their new house. In 1997 they left California behind and drove to Mexico with Max, their cat. Shortly after settling in, they opened Alma Libre Libros, one of only seven bookstores in the state.


By this time, Kitchel had become a serious Mayaphile and her love of the Maya culture led her and her husband to pyramid sites throughout southern Mexico. In the bookstore she entertained a steady stream of customers with their own Maya tales to tell—from archeologists and explorers to tour guides and local experts.


As she settled into life in Mexico, Kitchel, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, began writing travel articles about her adopted homeland and the Maya culture. She has written for The Miami Herald, El Universal/Mexico City, The Herald/Mexico City, Mexico Premiere, Mexico Files,, Sac-Be, The Baja Times, Mexico Connect and Fodors Travel Guides.


Kitchel’s first book, a travel memoir, Where the Sky is Born: Living in the Land of the Maya, is available on Her second book, Maya 2012 Revealed: Demystifying the Prophecy, is also available on Amazon.


Kitchel’s first novel will launch in April 2018. Wheels Up is a psychological crime thriller in the new genre called “narco lit.” The book tells the tale of Layla Navarro, who catapults to the top of Mexico’s most powerful cartel when her notorious drug lord uncle is recaptured and imprisoned.

To expand the cartel's influence Layla accepts an offer from a Canadian dealer to move cocaine from Colombia to Cancun by jet. Along for the ride are her abusive bodyguard/lover, the laid-back Canadian pot dealer who set up the deal, and a coke-addicted Vietnam vet.

The deal takes a bad turn during a stopover in Guatemala when Layla unexpectedly uncovers a sex-trafficking ring.

Plagued by self-doubt, she must fight off gangsters, outsmart government officials and navigate the minefield of Mexican machismo.

Against a backdrop of lush tropical settings, Layla plots to succeed, wreak vengeance, and find herself—not to mention stay alive.

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