I’m so excited to announce that my next cemetery book is available now.
Death’s Garden Revisited collects 40 powerful personal essays that explore 60 cemeteries — accompanied by 80 full-color photographs — to illustrate why people visit cemeteries. Spanning the globe from Iceland to Argentina and from Portland to Prague, Death’s Garden Revisited explores the complex web of relationships between the living and those who have passed before.
Genealogists and geocachers, travelers and tour guides, anthropologists, historians, pagan priestesses, and ghost hunters all venture into cemeteries in these essays. Along the way, they discover that cemeteries don’t only provide a rewarding end to a pilgrimage, they can be the perfect location for a first date or a wedding, the highlight of a family vacation, a cure for depression, and the best possible place to grasp history. Not to mention that cemetery-grown fruit is the sweetest.
You can see a preview below:
You can order your copy of the book in paperback or in hardcover directly from Blurb. The ebook is coming soon.
Contributors and Kickstarter backers: The books arrived earlier than expected. I’m getting those into the mail as soon as I can!
In every conversation I have about cemeteries, in every interview, on every podcast, I get asked two questions. One is “What is your favorite cemetery?” On the surface, that’s a funny question, because its underpinning is the second question: “Why would anyone visit a cemetery?” Unspoken, usually, is the rest of the question, either “by choice?” or “on purpose?”
I’m not sure when Americans were taught that it’s weird or creepy or disrespectful to visit cemeteries, if you aren’t driving straight to the gravesite of someone you’re related to, saying a few words, and leaving as soon as you can. I’ve even had people ask me if it’s legal to visit a graveyard where you don’t have a family connection.
Promenading at Bonaventure. Vintage postcard with undivided back, pre-1907.
During the 19th century, people flocked to cemeteries. They took carriage rides through them. They strolled in the shade of world-class arboretums. They fed flocks of birds or picnicked or read poetry. They studied the statuary and read the epitaphs and considered visiting cemeteries part of a moral education.
Out of sheer curiosity, I’ve been asking all kinds of people why they visit cemeteries: genealogists and geocachers, tour guides and travelers, historians and teachers, bloggers and horror writers and people who’ve never written anything before but have a good story to tell.
I’ve collected their answers into a book called Death’s Garden Revisited: Personal Relationships with Cemeteries. It will be available for crowdfunding next Thursday, which will allow you to reserve a copy before it’s published in October — and to help fund full-color photos to illustrate each story.
You can click on the image below to be taken to the Death’s Garden Revisited pre-launch page on Kickstarter. There you’ll see a button that says “Notify me on launch.” If you click on that, Kickstarter will send you an email on March 17, the day the campaign goes live.
When I’m not writing about cemeteries as travel destinations, I am a novelist. Whenever I can, I work cemeteries into my ficiton.
In the Nineties, just as I was beginning to explore cemeteries, I collaborated with Brian Thomas to write an epic love story between an angel and a succubus. As part of our location scouting for the books, Brian took me to cemeteries all around Los Angeles.
The first cemetery we visited was, of course, Forest Lawn. Brian lived in Glendale at the time, so Forest Lawn was practically in his neighborhood.
As we developed the story, I wrote some chapters and Brian wrote others. One of the pieces he wrote was about the angel Azaziel meeting a teenage runaway named Ashleigh amidst the statuary at Forest Lawn. Further into the story, Brian returned to Forest Lawn and particularly to the stained glass Last Supper window for a wonderful scene where the fallen priest Joseph regains his faith.
Marilyn’s lipstick-stained marble niche in Westwood Village Memorial Park
I’ve written about exploring Westwood Village Memorial Park in the dark on Cemetery Travel before. When I was revising the second book in the angel/succubus series in 2019, I realized that Lorelei and Azaziel needed a place to have their first real date, so I wrote Westwood into Angelus Rose.
In that same revision, I found a place to work the cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels into the book, too. When Brian and I initially wrote the books, the cathedral was still under construction. All these years later, when the books were finally being completed, it felt weird that the cathedral — such an important part of the religious life of Los Angeles — didn’t appear in our story. I revised the scene where the high school choirs perform for all the angels in the city and set the concert in the courtyard at the cathedral. I’m really pleased with how it turned out.
Angels in Angelus Rosedale, Los Angeles California
Once we imagined the trajectory of Lorelei and Azaziel’s love story, Brian knew where the books had to end. He took me time and time again to explore Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery. The angels, palms, family tombs, chapel, and columbarium all appear in the book Angelus Rose, although they end up worse for wear.
Many years ago, I started a channel on Youtube. It was intended to showcase videos I recorded, but over the years, I’ve appeared on a number of other people’s podcasts and blogs, talking about cemeteries.
The Cemetery Travel playlist collects interviews I’ve done with Joanna Penn of Books & Travel, Goth podcast Cemetery Confessions, genealogy podcast Extreme Genes, cryptozoology podcast Strange Familiars, and most recently with Tui Snider’s Tombstone Tuesday podcast. There are also some video clips from the interview I did with Bridget Marquardt for Ghost Magnet.
That playlist is a work in progress, so if you have a favorite video I haven’t included — or you’ve made one of your own that you would like me to check out, please send me the link.
I hope you’ll check out my channel. I’m working on another video that I hope to have finished in May. Let me know if there’s is anything related to cemeteries that you’re particularly curious about and I’ll try to assemble a video exploration on the subject.
Six or seven years ago, I had a brainstorm to create a video that would introduce CemeteryTravel readers to the cemetery where I grew up, the one that taught me to love graveyards. I quickly realized that I couldn’t film it by myself. Unfortunately, my kid wasn’t interested in serving as my camera person.
Another brainstorm later, I decided to ask my friend, collaborator, and former director Brian Thomas if he would shoot the video for me. When we were in college, I had the honor of appearing in some of Brian’s student films and I knew he has a gift with a camera. I asked him to shoot me gardening in front of my grandparents’ headstone and touching the Youell tree stump. He came up with all the other moving shots in this video.
We shot the footage in 2014 and there the project languished. Every so often I would open iMovie and take a stab at assembling the bits, but my lack of editing skill made the work highly frustrating and very depressing. The gulf between what I wanted and what I could manage was crushing.
It took another brainstorm to finally get the job done. Earlier this year, I approached my friend John Palisano, who had published the first edition of Wish You Were Here and created an amazing book trailer for me. I asked John if he would edit the raw footage together for me.
After John said yes, his son Leo got interested in the project and put together this lovely video. Leo edited the footage together, added some of my photos where pieces were missing — and then animated them, and put up with my niggling comments of shortening this piece or that. He chose the stone-grain typeface for the title cards. He added the blue jays from Brian’s original videos as intro and outro sound. He made the the video of my dreams at last.
I was literally incapable of making this video without their help. Thank you so much, Brian, John, and Leo!
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