Would you like to join my newsletter?

I’ve been reading for years about author newsletters, how they are the best way to get information out to readers in a timely fashion. I’ve resisted the notion for a long time, figuring I blogged and I’m easy to find on the web, for anyone who might need to know what I’m up to.  But Facebook algorithms being what they are and spam filters working the way they do, I finally decided to join the bandwagon.  I have a new monthly newsletter — and the first issue is coming in the next couple of days.

This is the email I sent out last week.  You may have already gotten a copy. If so, you’ve probably already made your choice about joining the newsletter.  Let me stress that whatever choice you made, it’s fine.

If you joined the mailing list, welcome.  If you figure you hear plenty about my work elsewhere, lovely.  Either way, I will not email you again unless you clicked the link and joined the newsletter list.

For those of you who didn’t get the email (either your spam filter caught it or you weren’t on my invitation list), this is what I sent out.  People who sign up for the newsletter are welcome to download a token of my appreciation:

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Just click the link in the letter below and it will walk you through the onboarding system.

Thanks for thinking about joining my newsletter!
Rhoads newsletter banner

Dear friend,

You’re receiving this note because we’ve been in contact in the last several years, whether because of my space opera trilogy, the Alondra stories, 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die, my travel essays, or through one of my blogs.

I’m finally launching a monthly email newsletter for people who don’t want the commitment of following a blog. Look for quick updates on my speaking & reading schedule, morbid travel destinations (probably a cemetery or two), and book giveaways.

If you’d be interested in receiving the newsletter no more than once a month, please sign up here.

If you’re not interested, you don’t need to do anything. I know you’re busy and I don’t want to clutter up your inbox. This is the one and only time I’ll send you an email about my newsletter.

Thanks for reading!

Loren Rhoads
Author & Editor

Rhoads Camp Fire lo-resPS. Last year, Northern California was struck by the worst wildfire in the area’s history. Paradise, California was scoured from the map. Nearly 100 people died and thousands were left homeless. In order to raise money for the survivors, I’ve edited Tales for the Camp Fire: A Charity Anthology Benefiting Wildfire Relief, a collection of short stories by Northern Californian horror writers. The book came out last month. There will be more details in my newsletter — or you can order it directly from Amazon.

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The Future of Death

These are the slides to illustrate the talk I’m giving at the Nebula Conference tomorrow afternoon.

This is my first time sharing my slides like this, so I hope it works!

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Is the Cemetery Dead?

Is the Cemetery Dead?Is the Cemetery Dead? by David Charles Sloane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked Sloane’s other cemetery book, The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History. Times have changed since that was written and cemeteries have started to struggle as they are replaced by street shrines, RIP murals, memorial tattoos, and other forms of remembrance while more and more people are cremated and their ashes either scattered or kept at home by survivors.

I wish Sloane had delved more deeply into the ethnic foundations of these “new” memorial formats. He mentions the institutional racism in cemeteries across the US (which existed into the 21st century in Texas, if not elsewhere), but he doesn’t follow up by looking at the intentional destruction of historic African American, Asian American, Latinx, and Native American graveyards across the country. That history, combined with the distance to visit the cemeteries themselves, would seem to encourage people to record and mourn deaths closer to home.

I also wish he’d spent more time on Ching Ming, Dia de los Muertos, and other traditions that are only recently being welcomed into American cemeteries.

Instead, the book combines memoir — Sloane’s family has run several cemeteries across the generations and he lost his wife suddenly, which forced him into making arrangements for her — with explorations into the ghost bike memorials, the internet cemeteries (though strangely, not Findagrave), and brief glimpses of new disposal methods like green burial and resomation. When I bought the book, I expected there would be much more of that.

It feels like Sloane is arguing that the cemetery is not yet dead, that it is in fact starting to feel much better. He lays out a number of ways in which cemeteries could change (and some are) in order to make themselves over for the current century. He argues that people can have it both ways — a permanent grave and a streetside shrine — without looking too deeply into why people might not want (or be able to afford) it both ways.

Over all, I found the book raised a lot of questions, but was repetitive in bringing up the same answers. It reads more like a collection of essays pulled together than a book thought through from beginning to end. Unlike The Last Great Necessity, which felt like it had visited many of the sites it discussed, Is the Cemetery Dead feels like it looked up from its desk to view its sites through a window. There’s a distance from its subject matter that I wish had been crossed.

I would give the book 3.5 stars, but Goodreads doesn’t allow for that.

You can pick up your own copy of Is the Cemetery Dead? on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GstnWW

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

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Vacation in Nice

IMG_20190117_145029578My friend Scott Browne was on a book tour in France when he had a free day in Nice.  He stopped in to visit the lovely Cimetiere du Chateau.  I share his photos with his permission.

Please check out Scott’s books on Amazon.  He hasn’t written about cemeteries (yet!), but he’s a very funny and thoughtful man: https://amzn.to/2YT2Laa.

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A Taste of an Interview

IMG_0944Hello! I’ve missed you.  I’ve been swamped in my other life, editing a book of horror stories to benefit survivors of last year’s Camp Fire, the worst natural disaster Northern California has seen.  That book — Tales for the Camp Fire — will be out in May.

In the interim, I’ve been visiting some of the local pioneer cemeteries as research for that book, but so far, I haven’t gotten my notes polished up.  Soon my life will have more balance, I hope, and I can begin posting regularly on Cemetery Travel again.

In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy one of my favorite interviews I did last year.

The interviewer asked, “What was so glorious about your first visit to Highgate?”

Loren: Before I visited Highgate, I hadn’t spent a lot of time in graveyards. I was familiar with the little farming community cemetery down the road from where I grew up – and my date wanted to take our prom pictures in a lovely old garden cemetery near our small town — but Highgate was my first experience with a cemetery as an outdoor sculpture garden. I was immediately fascinated by the angels standing on graves or peeping out of the ivy. They were lovely, I could get as close as I wanted, and it was possible to walk all around them and look at them from every angle.  I still don’t know as much about art as I should, but I am an ardent student of beauty.  Highgate inspired me to look for the beauty that is so common in cemeteries and rare in real life.

Before I saw Highgate, I assumed that cemeteries were permanent and unchanging. Learning about that cemetery’s history of vandalism and neglect opened my eyes.  Cemeteries are really very fragile, almost ephemeral.  All it takes is an ice storm or a determined kid, to say nothing of a hurricane or an earthquake, to do irreparable damage. While Highgate is full of monuments to famous people, it was the stones that remembered average people that most captivated me.  I realized that once their monuments were damaged, it was possible the memory of their lives would be completely erased. I found that really poignant. It’s inspired my crusade to persuade people to visit cemeteries.  If people don’t begin to fall in love, then cemeteries will crumble away and be lost.

Her second question: “What is it about cemeteries that makes you feel alive?”

Loren: Other people may see my fascination with cemeteries as morbid, but I don’t.  Visiting cemeteries, especially while traveling, is restorative to me.  I can get overwhelmed by crowds and maps and concrete. I counteract that by walking in the sunshine, listening to the birds sing, smelling the flowers, and looking at some gravestones.  Cemeteries remind me that every day aboveground is a blessing.

Question #3: “What sort of things can people gain from a visit?”

Cemeteries offer a surprising variety of experiences. They provide habitats for birds and wildlife, as well as arboretums and gardens of surprising beauty. They can appeal to art lovers, amateur sociologists, birdwatchers, cryptologists, master gardeners, historians, hikers, genealogists, picnickers, and anyone who just wants to stop and smell the roses. Our relationships with the places we visit can be deepened and enriched by learning the stories of those who came—and stayed—before us.

Some cemeteries offer tours, whether self-guided, historian-led, or put on by actors in costumes who represent the people interred there. Others offer galleries or libraries dedicated to the works of people buried here. Some provide book clubs, host author events, show movies, or serve as venues for celebrations like Dia de los Muertos or Qing Ming. Friends of the Cemetery groups host cleanup days for cemeteries that need extra care, which is a great way for people to give back to their communities.

Parts of the interview were quoted in “Trails of the Unexpected” in Breathe magazine #18, which was published in January.  You can see the finished piece here: https://www.breathemagazine.com/portfolio-item/breathe-issue-18/.

 

 

 

 

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