If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our April author interviews: Perennial author Susan Wittig Albert--4/5, Sasscer Hill, horse racing insider--4/12, English historical, cozy author, TE Kinsey--4/19, Debut author, Susan Bickford--4/26.

Saturday Guest Bloggers in April: Heather Baker Weidner (4/1), Christina Hoag (4/8), Susan Boles (4/29). WWK Saturday bloggers write on 4/15--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 4/22--Kait Carson.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th. In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on June, 13, 2017. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Linda here in June!

Cross Genre Publications anthology, Hidden Youth, will contain Warren Bull's "The Girl, The Devil, and The Coal Mine." The anthology will be released in late November 2016. The We've Been Trumped anthology released by Dark House Press on September 28th contains Warren Bull's "The Wall" short story and KM Rockwood's "A Phone Call to the White House." KM writes under the name Pat Anne Sirs for this volume.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Visiting the Dead, Savannah-Style


I have always loved cemeteries. The church I attended when I was young had a sprawling one that ran from the back steps all the way to the edge of the woods. I’d play there every Sunday afternoon with the other kids, racing each other and eating dessert beside our favorite graves (mine belonged to my great-great-grandmother Shiloh—it was in the shade of a massive cedar tree and had faded pink plastic roses in a vase at the foot of the marble gravestone).

As a grown-up, I have since toured many historic burial grounds. I learned the Victorian symbolism of the ornate carvings at Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery, with the downtown skyline at the horizon. In New Orleans, I visited Marie Laveau’s resting place. One winter afternoon, I knelt among the stone markers of the slave cemetery at Barnsley Gardens, a small burial plot in the shadow of the ruined manor home that their hands had built stone by stone two centuries ago.

But my favorite cemeteries are the ones in Savannah, Georgia. Here the air is tangy with salt and dense with humidity, and the etched gravestones weather in the shadows of live oaks draped with Spanish moss. The most famous of the Lowcountry cemeteries is Bonaventure, brought into the international spotlight by Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It is my favorite too, but not because of its famous residents or infamous goings-on. I love Bonaventure because it nestles in the bend of the Wilmington River, participating in the tidal risings and ebbings of the saltwater marsh. There are benches scattered throughout where one can sit a spell, watch ospreys fish and herons beat their long lovely wings against the breeze.

Cemeteries keep stories alive, and in doing so, keep the memories of our loved ones burnished bright. As a collector of stories, I appreciate this about these resting places, and it’s one of the reasons I opened my novella “Trouble Like a Freight Train Coming” at Bonaventure. It’s the prequel to my Tai Randolph series, and as such, gave me a chance to take Tai back in time to when she was a tour guide. Like me, Tai loves stories.

Here’s the opening scene of that novella, available now in Lowcountry Crime: Four Novellas (which you can find here) and which also includes a story by our very own James M. Jackson, “Low Tide at Tybee,” and two other stories set along the coastal Southeast.
I brushed aside a tendril of Spanish moss and positioned myself next to the grave. My tour group gathered in a semi-circle around me, fanning away with their Bonaventure souvenir programs. Thanks to a tropical depression loitering inland, Savannah was experiencing an unseasonably warm November, the hottest I could remember in my quarter century upon the earth. A stray breeze from the river curled around my neck, and I lifted my ponytail to let it lick my sweat-dampened skin.
"Here in Savannah," I said, "every step you take, you take with the dead beneath your feet. This is a city literally built on human remains, thousands of years' worth. It goes back to the first prehistoric inhabitants of the land, the Yamasee and Timucua. Back to the Yamacraw, the first people to welcome James Olgethorpe, who then began layering English dead on top of the indigenous dead. Some have been moved to graveyards and cemeteries, but some still lie deep in the earth, layers of history, layers of stories."
"Like a lasagna," one of the men at the back said.
I forced a smile. There was always one in every group.
"Most people aren't aware of this," I said. "They get distracted by the cobblestones and carriage rides, the green beer and fried shrimp. The surface. But in Bonaventure, you can't deny it. In Bonaventure, the dead are literally right beside you.”
I enjoyed visiting Bonaventure on the page for this story, but nothing compares to walking those white-pebbled lanes in person. I have learned that a person who is interested in cemeteries and their accoutrements—funeral practices, gravestone art, epitaphs—is called a taphophile. My protagonist and I certainly qualify.

How about you? Would you consider yourself a taphophile?

15 comments:

Jim Jackson said...

While I wouldn't consider myself a taphophile, we enjoy wandering through cemeteries as well, both the very old and the more modern “botanical” cemeteries of which Bonaventure is one of my favorites along with Mt. Auburn in Boston and Spring Grove in Cincinnati.

~ Jim

Tina said...

Thanks, Jim -- I'll put those two on my list. I also enjoy Rose Hill in Macon (popular on the tourist path as the resting place of Duane Allman). Visiting famous graves isn't really my thing, though I did make my proper respects, but I like the artwork of that one.

Warren Bull said...

I know that at one time people used to visit cemeteries to stroll around and read the headstones.

Gloria Alden said...

Tina, I've never heard that word before, but I definitely have always enjoyed cemeteries as far back as a child when my parents visited the graves of their grandparents, and especially when my grandfather took us to an old hidden cemetery in the woods some miles north of us that he'd discovered when hunting. It had the grave of a soldier who fought in the Revolutionary War, as well as other pioneers. Soldiers who fought in that war weren't given money, but land instead in N.E. Ohio. Almost every time my family went on vacations we'd visit the cemetery where some famous person was buried, and even after my parents were gone, my siblings and I still did this. In college for the Folklore class I took, I wrote a long paper on cemeteries and visited cemeteries all around to write down epitaphs - something that is rarely done anymore. In the cemetery where my parents, son, granddaughter and sometime in the future, I'll be buried, are the graves of family members going back to great-great grandparents.

Because I like reading epitaphs because they say something about the person buried there, I wrote one for my son for his tombstone, and my daughter put one on her 6 year old daughter's tombstone beside my son, and I wrote one for my own tombstone that my ex bought for me last summer - without the death date, thankfully, and I'll be beside my son and granddaughter some day in the far off future, I hope.

Shari Randall said...

Taphophile? I guess I qualify. Walking in cemeteries is so peaceful, plus it's truly one of the best ways to learn the history of a place. I especially love Mt. Auburn in Boston and Elm Grove in Mystic, CT.

Tina said...

That's two votes for Mt. Auburn -- definitely going to have to check that out.

I have always loved the peaceful environment of cemeteries and reading the names and epitaphs. You meet very few people with names like Godbold anymore. And even though Bonaventure is my Savannah fave, I also enjoy Colonial (which is right in the heart of Downtown Savannah) and Laurel Grove, where Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts, is buried (which I know from my days as a professional Girl Scout).

Margaret Turkevich said...

Spring Grove Cemetery is an arboretum and national historic landmark. I have varieties of bushes bred there.

My favorite cemetery is Lafayette, on Washington Street near St. Charles in New Orleans. The above-ground tombs are decorated with all manor of Mardi Gras beads and trinkets, including decorated high heeled shoes from the Krewe of Muses.

Tina said...

We went to Lafayette when we were in New Orleans too. I love any culture that embraces funerary rites and practices as much as NOLA does.

Grace Topping said...

I spent a good portion of my life near cemeteries. Growing up I lived one block from two very large cemeteries. When I was in the Navy and living at Fort Myer, I lived in a barracks right next to Arlington National Cemetery and I could actually see the headstones from my window. My friends and I would spend evenings walking through the cemetery and discovering the graves of famous people (Audie Murphy, etc.). But one of my favorite burial places, in a church, not a cemetery, is the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. It is like a who's-who of famous people. It gives me shivers reading the names of people who made history (Lord Nelson, etc.). I guess I'm a taphophile.

Tina said...

We toured there when we visited London -- like you, I got shivers. No place had ever felt so old to me except places in nature. As a friend of mine from Denmark reminds me, he eats from dishes that are older than the USA.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Bonaventure is a wonderful cemetery to visit, particularly if you've read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Another cemetery that I felt was worth the special journey to see was Riverside in Asheville, NC, where O. Henry as well as Thomas Wolfe and his family are buried. Thanks for this message and congratulations to you and Jim on the anthology!

Tina said...

Thank you, Paula! And I'll be sure to add Riverside onto my list.

KM Rockwood said...

I've always liked cemeteries--their beauty and peace, their sense that we and the troubles that seem so important to us are merely minor step in the progression of the circle of life. Puts things into perspective.

Karla Brandenburg said...

Absolutely a taphophile! I found my love of cemeteries accidentally. I did a cemetery walk, intending to borrow names from gravestones for characters, and was so caught up in the symbolism and the beauty of the park that I immediately imagine a character who was more at home in the cemetery than anywhere else. I love the peace and there are so many beautiful monuments marking the landscape.

Tina said...

I learned the word from you, Karla! PS: I really enjoyed the first in the Epitaph series and I look forward to the second!

And you are right, KM -- graveyards are full of both stories and perspective.