Guest Blog: What a Piece of Work is Man by Loren Rhoads

guestblog2

What a Piece of Work is Man

by Loren Rhoads

From the Via Veneto, home of La Dolce Vita, the yellow brick church didn’t look like much. Mason marched up the sidewalk past it, but something about the name Chiesa di Santa Maria della Concezione gave me pause. “I think we’re here,” I called after him.

One might expect that a centuries-old international tourist attraction like the Church of the Immaculate Conception would have a multilingual sign. Not until we climbed the first flight of stairs up to a landing large enough to be considered a patio did we see a small plaque with an arrow pointing toward the Coemeterium.

That caught me off guard. I hadn’t expected to see a cemetery, which I think of as bodies buried in dirt or, at least, bodies hidden behind stone. We had come to see skeletons. This Capuchin “cemetery” ranked with the Paris Catacombs and Kutna Hora’s Bone Chapel in the European triumvirate of weird assemblages made from human bones. The visit marked a pilgrimage for me.

The Capuchins separated from other Franciscan monastic orders in 1525 AD. The Capuchin monks wanted to exist closer to the way St. Francis of Assisi had lived at the turn of the thirteenth century. To that end, they wore sandals without socks and a simple brown tunic that had a hood to cover their heads when the weather turned bad. The name Capuchin derives from this hood, called a capuce.

Capuchin monks gathered in houses near woods or green spaces, where they could meditate. They planted orchards, in which their work served as prayer. They cared for the poor, especially the sick. They continue those ministrations today.

In 1631, the Capuchins of Rome moved from their friary near where the Trevi Fountain now stands to land donated by Cardinal Barberini near his palace. The monks exhumed and brought with them bones of 4000 of their brethren. These bones were piled under their new church of Santa Maria della Concezione, in six rooms connected by a sixty-meter corridor.

Sometime in the 1700s, arrangement of the bones began. Several theories exist about the identities of the decorators. Either they were French Capuchins who fled the Terror, or a notorious criminal who sought refuge with the monks and atoned for his crimes by positioning the bones, or a man of “ardent faith, who is almost joking with death,” as the brochure suggests. The Marquis de Sade, who visited in 1775, suspected that a German priest constructed the decor.

*

Just inside a thick wooden door to the “cemetery” sat a paper-thin old man in blue coveralls. People tossed money into his wicker basket as they passed his rickety wooden table. Since the Capuchin catacombs were our first destination in Italy, we only had large bills or very small ones, neither of which Mason considered an appropriate donation. He put in a couple of thousand lira notes and hoped that once everyone came in, he could make change out of the basket to add more.

Although I felt devastated to be forbidden to photograph the bones, nothing prevented note-taking. I tugged my notebook out of my backpack and jotted down descriptions of the crypts.

A dim hallway stretched ahead of us. Gray light flowed in through cloudy windows facing an alley alongside the church. Inside the “cemetery,” the cool air smelled of dust.

To the left of the hallway, a painting of Christ leading Lazarus from the tomb dominated the first room. Grasping his friend’s wrist, Christ tugged the revenant up from the ground. The former corpse was nearly naked: his shroud had slipped down beneath his buttocks. Turned away from the viewer toward his sisters and Christ, Lazarus’s expression was impossible to gauge. One can only imagine his thoughts after having spent four days in his grave. Lettered boldly in yellow at the bottom was the legend: “Lazare veni foras”: Lazarus, come forth.

The command made me uncomfortable as we stood outside a room crammed with bones. I had a sense that the monks had tried to use as many bones as possible here, in order to fit everyone in. Skulls formed two triangular arches, beneath which lay the dusty mummies of two monks in tattered brown robes. I wanted to climb the low fence, step across the holy dirt brought from Jerusalem, and take a feather duster to the cadavers. Mason pointed out that the Catholic Church probably had a sacred maid to dust the hallowed bones. Looked to me like she didn’t come around often enough.

The next room — the only one on the corridor free of bones — served as the cemetery’s mass chapel. The altarpiece depicted Mary seated on a cloud. A toddler Jesus stood on her knee, his nakedness shielded a mere wisp of white fabric. With the help of three monks in brown robes and an angel in gray, they raised souls out of the flames of purgatory. Only one of the dead seemed to be female: she was modestly wrapped in more fire than the others. A dead man gave her the eye: bold behavior at the feet of his savior.

Next door, the Crypt of the Skulls had been decorated with curved niches formed by arm and thighbones, supporting cornices of skulls. Inside each arch lay another dusty monk.

In the tympanum of the central niche hung an hourglass made of two tailbones tip to tip. The bottom coccyx looked darker in color, as if the sands of time had all run down. A double row of very straight bones, perhaps somebody’s forearms, drew the hourglass’s case. Outside the case, four shoulder blades symbolized wings. While the message was certainly intended to be serious, I smiled at the artwork. Time flies, as these bones testified. The bone art seemed lighthearted, though not at all disrespectful. Joking with Death, indeed.

Ornaments made of bones continued overhead. A garden of ribs suggested furrows of earth, where tulips bloomed into single vertebrae. A chain formed by jawbones came to a point, from which descended a lamp made from a sheaf of thighbones. Unfortunately, it wasn’t illuminated. I wondered if it had been wired for electricity. Baroque squares with in-turned corners decorated the ceiling. A double row of vertebrae sketched these on the wall. Inside blossomed ten-pointed stars made of tailbones.

Next came the Crypt of the Pelvises. Against the back wall rose an ornate canopy made from stacks of pelvic bones. The flat planes of the hipbones nested together like scales or roof tiles. A fringe of vertebrae dangled from the cupola.

Mummies of three monks leaned into the room, so stooped they seemed to be bowing. Each cradled a wooden cross in the sagging sleeves of his robe. From their cuffs protruded hands that looked like withered sticks wrapped in autumn leaves. More than anything that had once been human, the monks’ leathery faces looked like masks from some science fiction film. I suppose that two hundred and fifty years of standing around in the open air will do that to a person.

Reading up on them later, I learned that some of the mummies are unidentified. I’d assumed that anyone important enough to preserve “whole” would have been important enough to remember. The records must have been misplaced or destroyed.

My favorite decorations in the Crypt of the Pelvises were crosses suspended from the ceiling formed of thighbones. X-ed across them were shinbones. Something about the mobile aspect of these dangling three-dimensional crosses struck my fancy.

Though the fifth room was called the Crypt of the Leg Bones and Thighbones, its predominant motif seemed to be skulls. Rows of leg bones interspersed with orderly stacks of skulls gave the overall impression of pinstripes. It was an incredibly beautiful arrangement — and functional, because it used up a great deal of bones. When you’ve got thousands of dead monks to jam into five rooms, you’ve got to get busy.

The room’s centerpiece caught my eye. Two severed arms, lopped off at the shoulders, had been affixed to the back wall. The arm on top was bare; the other wore a rough brown sleeve. Their skin had dried to the color of paper ash. Instead of curled into fists, bones protruded through their outstretched fingertips as if they wore Fagin’s gloves. The image shocked me more than anything else I’d seen. All the other bodies were either complete or defleshed. These amputated limbs looked inexplicably creepy.

(Much later, while researching the details of this essay, I discovered their significance. They represent the Franciscan coat of arms: the bare arm of Christ crossed over the robed arm of Francis of Assisi.)

The final room, called the Crypt of the Three Skeletons, was the most ornate. Complete skeletons of two children lounged over the altar made of pelvises on the back wall. The children reached up toward an adult skull. One child held a short spear like a fishing pole. The other balanced a winged hourglass atop his ribcage.

Another small skeleton lay flat against the ceiling. He held a staff formed of shinbones crested with a blade of scapulae. In his other hand swung a scale whose cups were skullcaps, dangling from chains strung of finger bones. A halo of foot bones and vertebrae encircled him. He was the least threatening death figure I’d ever seen. Even his grin looked wistful.

I turned to look back down the hall and saw an ornate clock above the arched doorway. Hand and finger bones formed its large Roman numerals. A breastbone served as its single hour hand. I read later that the clock symbolized that eternity had no beginning or end.

*

The ultimate sensation I took away from the Capuchin crypts? Joy. I could not interpret the lacy tracery of vertebrae and foot bones and ribs on the vaulted ceilings as anything other than ecstatic. What wonderful creatures we are, how marvelously made! Inside us hide complicated puzzles. Whether you believe in the cosmic clockmaker or rest your faith in evolution, you have to admit that humans — with joints that knit together, tailbones like doilies and shoulder blades like wings, the myriad complicated bones of hands and feet, the inquisitive orbits of our eyes, the cuplike hollows of our pelvises — are miraculous creatures.

Mason pointed out that most of the tourists in the dusty twilight corridor grinned. It was difficult not to get caught up in the joie de vivre of the decorators.

The sole English-language text Mason and I found inside the “cemetery” said that the monks made the place for three reasons: because the body doesn’t matter, to glorify God’s handiwork inside man, but especially because time is so short that one can’t wait to do good works.

We bought a stack of postcards from the little man in blue. Mason threw a larger bill into the collection plate. The caretaker beamed at us and disappeared under the church to find the last brochure they had in English. After he returned, Mason and I slipped out into the Roman sunshine to search out the Pantheon and the Mausoleum of Augustus. Life seemed rich and full. I was in Italy with the man I love and Rome was full of dead people. Carpe diem.

 

 

*********

It’s part of All you Need is Morbid, which was published on Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/story/19869433-all-you-need-is-morbid
Loren Rhoads is the cemetery columnist at Gothic Beauty. She also blogs about graveyards as vacation destinations at CemeteryTravel.com. Her book 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die will be out in October 2017.

Kidnapped! Automatism Press

halogokidnappednotdate

Automatism Press is a two-person operation based in San Francisco. It was started in 1990 by Mason Jones and Loren Rhoads, went dormant for several years after the death of Morbid Curiosity magazine, and has recently returned with the books Lost Angels and Black Light, both published earlier this year.

Horror Addicts: What inspired you to start a press?

Loren Rhoads: When Mason and I first moved to San Francisco, we went to a lecture by Vale and AJ of RE/Search Books. They’d already published the William Burroughs/Brion Gysin/Throbbing Gristle book and the Industrial Culture Handbook, both of which we’d bought in Ann Arbor. At the time of the lecture, they were looking for help with their next book, which turned out to be Modern Primitives. They were very open about how they produced books, from interviewing subjects to design and layout to fulfilling orders. Working for them was a real education.

HA: Tell us about Automatism Press’s first book.

lend-the-eye-cover191

Loren: It was called Lend the Eye a Terrible Aspect, after the St. Crispin’s Day speech in Shakespeare’s Henry the V. We published it in 1994. It was a collection of stories and essays about North America on the brink of the 21st century: very earnest, very punk rock. In fact, it includes an essay by Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys about legalizing marijuana. One of my favorite essays is about the human need to form tribes by Claudius Reich.

 

HA: What inspired your second book, Death’s Garden: Relationships with Cemeteries?

Loren: My best friend’s husband was dying of AIDS in the early 90s. Blair gave me a bunch of photographs of graveyards he had visited. Originally, I was just going to publish his photos, but the more people I spoke to about the project, the more personal essays I got for it. Death’s Garden has been out of print for years, but I’m still really proud of it.

HA: How did Death’s Garden lead to publishing zines?

Loren: Mason started an indy record label called Charnel Music, which brought a lot of Japanese bands to the US. He hit on the idea of interviewing the bands and reviewing Japanese records, movies, candy – every part of Japanese underground or pop culture – so he started a zine called Ongaku Otaku. He would get the best things in the mail for the zine…and I got jealous. I wanted cool stuff in the mail, too. I realized I needed to publish my own zine.

I’d really enjoyed the process of assembling Death’s Garden, particularly the part where I got true stories from strangers. So I decided I wanted to receive confessional essays from people I didn’t know.

I never considered any other name for the project than Morbid Curiosity.

mc10_cover

HA: Morbid Curiosity magazine was published annually for ten years. What was it like putting it together?

Loren: It was an amazing amount of fun. I was always impressed by the things people would confess to, from deeply personal medical issues to coming in contact with serial killers to adventures that might possibly get them arrested. I never knew what was going to come in the mail next.

Even better were the live events. I started out hosting yearly release parties at Borderlands Bookstore, which brought together hundreds of people. I just adored hearing people confess in front of an audience. Those readings led to open mics at the World Horror Conventions and then on to being on NPR and all kinds of crazy stuff.

HA: Why’d you quit?

Loren: By 2006, the world had changed. Stories that would have come to Morbid Curiosity were going up on Livejournal instead. Tower Records had been one of my biggest distributors, so when it closed down, it was suddenly a whole lot harder for me to sell magazines. I lost thousands of dollars in their collapse. And I had a kid by then, so I didn’t have the time or patience to make the magazine great any more.

Ten issues seemed like a good place to go out: while the magazine was still good, still loved.

HA: What came next?

Loren: Automatism published a couple of chapbooks. The first was Ashes & Rust, which Alan at Borderlands Bookstore recommended I put together after he invited me to read at my first Litcrawl in 2005. Ashes & Rust collected up four of my science fiction stories that had been published in little magazines. I described it as “Sex. Drugs. Rock’n’roll. Space aliens. Demonic possession. Murder. Friendship.” All the best things in life.

After that, we published the Paramental Appreciation Society chapbook. The Paramentals were a writing group that I belonged to for six years. It included Claudius Reich (who had been in both Automatism anthologies and most issues of Morbid Curiosity), Lilah Wild, Seth Lindberg, and A.M. Muffaz, all of whom I’d worked with on Morbid Curiosity. Mason was a member of the group, too, for a while.

The chapbook contains my erotic vampire story set in Golden Gate Park, a witchy fairy tale set in the Tenderloin, a dragon slayer’s adventure set in Lower Pacific Heights, and then explores what the BART trains are really running from.

HA: Then the press went silent for a number of years.

Loren: Yeah, my own writing and editing career took off finally. I sold Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues, a best of Morbid Curiosity book, to Scribner, which led to a collection of my cemetery travel essays called Wish You Were Here on Western Legends, a novel on Black Bed Sheets, a space opera trilogy at Night Shade, and a bunch more short stories published in books and magazines. I was too busy to be a publisher for a while.

HA: What brought you back?

Loren: The contract expired on my succubus novel and I got the rights back. It had always been planned as a two-book series, so I released the first book, Lost Angels, in April with my preferred text and a new cover.

HA: How did you publish the next book?

Loren: I served as a beta reader for Martha Allard’s Black Light. It is an amazing, aching ghost story with psychic vampires set in the rock-n-roll world of the 1980s. Martha had been planning to self-publish it when Mason heard me raving about it. He suggested we do it for her. I can’t say enough good things about the book. It’s beautiful and devastating.

HA: What’s next?

Loren: The second succubus novel was meant to be out this month, but I got offered a big project on a short deadline for a big New York publisher, so Angelus Rose is on hold until that monster is turned in. I’m still waiting on the contract, though, so I can’t announce its name yet.

When the second succubus novel finally does come out, Angelus Rose will complete the story of Lorelei and Azaziel. They burn down most of LA in the process. I’m excited to see it in print finally.

HA: Any plans beyond that?

Loren: I want to update Wish You Were Here, my cemetery travel essays. I’ve been collecting essays for a second volume of Death’s Garden called Death’s Garden Revisited. Emerian Rich has written a lovely piece for that book, actually. I’m hoping to kickstart the funding for that book next summer.deaths-garden-cover001

In addition, I’m going to experiment with putting a dozen of my Alondra short stories out as singles on Amazon. “The Shattered Rose,” from the Paramentals chapbook, is one of them.

But everything is on hold until I get my mystery project written. It’s supposed to come out in October 2017, so time is very, very short.

Lend the Eye:

http://www.charnel.com/automatism/lend.html

Death’s Garden: https://lorenrhoads.com/2016/10/11/deaths-garden-revisited-2/

Morbid Curiosity: https://lorenrhoads.com/editing/morbid-curiosity-magazine/

All the available books on my bookshop: https://lorenrhoads.com/bookshop/

 

HorrorAddicts.net 134, Loren Rhoads

HA tagHorror Addicts Episode# 134
SEASON 11!
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe

————————

loren rhoads, gild the morn, the veil

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

43 days till halloween

scare factor song quiz, win a book, phantoms, halloween decor, costumes, bad alice, cemeteries, statues, loren rhoads, cemeterytravel.com, david watson, scary rooms in movies, underworld blood wars, books, hollow house, greg chapman, the plague pit, alan frewin jones, sarah killian serial killer for hire, mark sheldon, crystal lake publishing, tales from the lake, vol. 3, sumiko saulson, beneath the lake cast, blood of socorro county, sean t. young, through dolls eyes, jesse orr, the artwork, james goodridge, nightmare fuel, dj pitsiladis, phillip experiment, open ghost doors, goth drag king, jean batt, victor/victoria, just one of the guys, morbid meals, dan shaurette, se7en, ants, carbonara, ghastly games, goosebumps, zombie kids, one night ultimate werewolf, one night ultimate vampire, booopoly, vampires of the night, midnight syndicate, zombies board game soundtrack, terror trax, gild the mourn, best band season 10 poll, kbatz, frightening flix, the veil, dead mail, murdo, plague pits, london, carl, office angst, pen, valerie, halloween carol bonus, loren rhoads, lost angels

http://www.Cemeterytravel.com

Scary Rooms – USA Today

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2016/09/05/creepy-horror-movie-rooms-disappointments/89722886/

Underground Plague Pits

http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20160906-plague-pits-the-london-underground-and-crossrail

Halloween Carol Bonus
http://traffic.libsyn.com/horroraddicts/HorrorAddictsBonusHalloweenCarols.mp3

Once Upon a Scream- special edition pack

https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2016/06/15/once-upon-a-scream-special-edition-pack/

“Broken Pieces” by Valentine Wolfe

http://valentinewolfe.bandcamp.com/track/broken-pieces

HorrorAddicts.net blog Kindle syndicated

http://www.amazon.com/HorrorAddicts-net/dp/B004IEA48W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431022701&sr=8-1&keywords=horroraddicts.net

———————–

Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

horroraddicts@gmail.com

————————

h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

s t a f f

David Watson, Stacy Rich, Dan Shaurette, KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Mimielle, Killion Slade, D.J. Pitsiladis, Jesse Orr, A.D. Vick, Lisa Vasquez

Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email horroraddicts@gmail.com

b l o g  / c o n t a c t / s h o w . n o t e s

http://www.horroraddicts.net

An Interview With Loren Rhoads

Our featured author for episode 134 of the Horror Addicts Podcast is Loren Rhoads. Loren had an article in Horror Addicts Guide To Life and has written guest blogs for our blog in the past. Recently we asked Loren a few questions about her writing:

What is your story for episode 134 about?

29741039It comes from my book Lost Angels, which came out earlier this year. The succubus Lorelei sees an angel in her boss’s dance club.  She pursues Azaziel, who inflicts a mortal girl’s soul on her.  Lorelei has to survive Hell’s attacks long enough to find a fallen priest who can exorcise the mortal soul from her infernal body.  The scene I’m reading for the podcast takes place after Lorelei is possessed, when she’s trying to make an alliance with a fiend to protect her until the exorcism.

When did you start writing?

I started writing stories down in junior high, after I discovered the work of Edgar Allan Poe.  My family visited the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia – and Poe’s dorm room at the University of Virginia – and I realized that he was a real person who wrote real stories.  I’m not sure what I thought created books before that, except that they seemed fully formed objects without humans attached.  Once I figured out that people wrote stories, I wanted to do it too.

What are your favorite topics to write about?

That’s a hard question.  Last year I wrote a space opera trilogy.  This year, I’m completing a series about2148570 angels and devils in the real world.  Next, I’m going to finish a book about a witch doing everything she can to prevent the death of someone she loves.  I’ve written a lot of stories about Alondra’s adventures, which have appeared recently in the books Fright Mare: Women Write Horror and nEvermore!: Tales of Murder, Mystery, and the Macabre.  One of my Alondra stories will appear in Best New Horror in 2017.

I guess my favorite topics are women, because I find the ways they think and interact with the world fascinating.  I’m also interested in love, what it is and how it is used. And I’m interested in traveling, how being out of your familiar space shows you who you really are.

Who or what inspires you?

6355365Strangely enough, I find a lot of inspiration on Facebook.  I’m curious every morning to see what we will be angry about each day. All kidding aside, I’m glad to see the discussions of racism and sexism and how people grapple with those issues.  We’re in a place now where people feel they can speak out, which I think is amazing.  Of course there is a lot of turmoil, but it’s leading to growth.  I find it all riveting: challenging, but ultimately positive.  My stories are my attempts to add to those conversations.

What do you find fascinating about the horror genre?

I’m glad to see so many women bringing their stories to the genre now.  When I was growing up, it was all King, Straub, Streiber, then Clive Barker.  The only well-known woman at the time was Anne Rice, but her vampire books weren’t considered “real” horror.  Now we have Gemma Files and Caitlin Kiernan and Dana Fredsti, Maria Alexander and Lisa Lane and Eden Royce … more women than I can name in a paragraph. No one can deny that they are writing real horror, whatever that means.  And they are all writing such different stories.  I can’t wait to discover more of it.

Could you tell us about the As Above, So Below series?

23130135Originally Lost Angels and Angelus Rose were one massive novel. No one would publish it at that length, so I split it into two books. Black Bed Sheet Books originally published the first book in 2013 as As Above, So Below.  When the rights came back, Brian and I decided that it was time to publish the second – more apocalyptic – half of the story.  Angelus Rose will be coming out on Automatism Press in November 2016.

Could you tell us about your nonfiction writing?

In my not-so-secret other life, I write about visiting graveyards.  As I travel, I always stop into local cemeteries to see how they reflect the cultures that surround them, what’s different and what is similar from place to place. I always like to grab a little peace when I travel, so a graveyard is the perfect place.

In August, my parents took me to the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario to see a couple of plays.  I snuck off one morning to see St. Mark’s Churchyard, which predates the War of 1812.  One of the large flat grave markers is all gouged up.  Apparently, when the church served as a hospital during the War, that gravestone was where the surgeons performed amputations. The marks of their cleavers striking off limbs is still visible, two centuries later.  Great story, right?

18010009At the moment, I’m publishing other people’s stories on my Cemetery Travel blog.  The goal is to gather a collection of them to be published as Death’s Garden Revisited.  I encourage anyone who has had something special happen to them in a graveyard – whether they took a date there or visited the grave of someone meaningful or stopped in while they were on vacation – to get in touch with me at cemetarytravel.com.  The call for submissions is here: https://cemeterytravel.com/deaths-garden-call-for-submissions/.

What are some of the other books you have available?

The Dangerous Type, Kill By Numbers, and No More Heroes, my space opera trilogy, have been accused of bringing grimdark to outer space.  The books are about surviving in the galaxy after humanity started – and lost – an interstellar war.  They’re available in paperback, as ebooks, or as audiobooks.

My collection of cemetery travel essays, Wish You Were Here, collects my stories from Morbid Curiosity magazine, my cemetery column at Gothic.Net, and from various literary magazines.  The essays range from London to Paris to Prague to Rome and Tokyo, then across the US from Boston to Maui.  A new edition of the book will be coming out from Automatism Press early next year, but for now, the book is still available from Western Legends Press.

976431Back in the misty past, I edited a magazine called Morbid Curiosity.  It published confessional nonfiction essays about all kinds of things, from adventures in modern medicine to grim travel destinations to encounters with serial killers and much, much more.  A collection of my favorite pieces from the zine came out as Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues: True Tales of the Unsavory, Unwise, Unorthodox, and Unusual.  It’s available online as an ebook, but I still have some copies of it in paperback.

Where can we find you online?

My homepage: www.lorenrhoads.com

My blog: www.lorenrhoads.com/blog

The As Above page: http://lorenrhoads.com/writing/as-above-so-below/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/loren.rhoads.5

Twitter: www.twitter.com/morbidloren

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/morbidloren/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/976431.Loren_Rhoads

Cemetery Travel: https://cemeterytravel.com/

David’s Haunted Library: Kill By Numbers

David's Haunted Library

 

 

24693711

It’s tough to be a human in space. Other races look down on humans because they think of them as violent sociopaths. With the human empire disbanded, they are spread out across the galaxy trying to make a living. This brings us to former assassin Raena  who is trying to get a new start on board the alien space ship,the Veracity. Raena has a complicated past, she was a prisoner as the Templars were wiped out by a genetic plague and the situation has created some bad psychological effects.

Raena is having nightmares of shooting her ex-lover in the head and she has to deal with the fact that the now extinct Templars have left booby-trapped biotechnology throughout the galaxy and her ship is infected. Raena and the pirate crew that she is with must learn to trust each other and figure out how to fix the booby-trapped technology or the galactic economy could collapse.

Kill By Numbers by Loren Rhoads is the second book in the wake of the Templars series and could be best described as a character driven action adventure story. This book starts off slow and gets deep into the character’s personalities before getting into the  story. The thing I really enjoy about Loren Rhoads writing is that she creates characters that seem real and gives a lot of detail on them.  To me the sign of a great character in a book is if you want to read about them even if there is no conflict with them. I love good character development in a story before we get into the action and Kill By Numbers does an excellent job of it.

I love the concept behind this book, Raena is a human on a ship of aliens so Raena doesn’t fit in. Raena is trying to start a new life and escape her past, the crew of the Veracity is trying to help but what they want for her and what she wants for herself are two different things. Everyone on the ship is a different kind of alien but because of her past, Raena is the oddest one. I liked the idea that everyone on the ship was so different making it like a melting pot of races.

Another interesting aspect of this book is how the media is portrayed in this futuristic setting. The crew of the ship gathers at the same time every day to see the news and then talk about the new scandals across the galaxy. The media are a lot like how it is in the present and everything that goes on in the news is seen as truth even if there are no facts to back it up. The media are a small part of the story but I liked how even in the future people are addicted to getting information about other political systems and alien races. The best part of the book is the relationship between Raena and Gavin. Gavin wants to help Raena with her new life but seems to hurt her as he tries to help. Kill By Numbers is like an action packed soap opera in space and the kind of book that hard-core Science Fiction fans will love.

KIDNAPPED BLOG, Loren Rhoads: Where Horror Lies 3

halogokidnappednotdateThis time of year, when the veil is thin, is a great time to make a pilgrimage to thank our forefathers in horror.

RLS grave001Robert Louis Stevenson, Vailima, Upolu, Samoa

The author of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde decided to stay in Samoa in 1899.  In December 1894, when Stevenson died of apoplexy (a brain hemorrhage), he was 44. Local Samoans built him a hardwood coffin and stood guard over his body through the night. The following day, they cut a road through the jungle to his gravesite, which they called the “Road of Loving Hearts.” Working in relays, they carried the coffin to the grave. Stevenson was buried just below the 1560-foot summit of Mount Vaea in a tomb overlooking his family estate Vailima and the ocean.

Bram Stoker, Golders Green Crematorium, London, England

One of the oldest crematories in England, Golders Green may also be the best-known crematorium in the world. Over the years, many famous people have chosen to be cremated there. Some remain there in urns in the columbarium or beneath rosebushes in the garden. The current crematorium was completed in 1939. Its three columbaria contain the ashes of thousands of Londoners. London’s Cemeteries says Golders Green is “the place to go for after-life star-spotting.” My hero Bram Stoker is in one of the columbaria, which can be visited with a guide.

Some of horror’s progenitors have no graves.  After H.G. Wells was cremated at Golders Green, his ashes were scattered over the Dorset Coast.  Shirley Jackson’s son was given her ashes after she died in 1965.  Angela Carter’s ashes aren’t easy to visit either. I can’t seem to find where they ended up.

Any list of graves is likely to be deeply personal.  I’m working through visiting the graves of these writers, who have all inspired me.  Whose graves would you visit?

 

***************

CIMG0977-headshotLoren Rhoads is the author of The Dangerous Type, Kill By Numbers, and No More Heroes, the In the Wake of the Templars trilogy published this year by Night Shade Books. She’s also the author of Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel. You can follow her morbid antics at http://lorenrhoads.com

KIDNAPPED BLOG, Loren Rhoads: Where Horror Lies 2

halogokidnappednotdateThis time of year, when the veil is thin, is a great time to make a pilgrimage to thank our forefathers in horror.

New Jew Kafka002

Franz Kafka, the New Jewish Cemetery, Prague, the Czech Republic

The most famous of the New Jewish Cemetery’s denizens is easy to find, thanks to good signage. Franz Kafka’s monument is a top-heavy six-sided obelisk made of pink-and-gray granite. He died in 1924 of tuberculosis, in agony from his hemorrhaging lungs. All of his novels remained incomplete and unpublished at the time of his death, so only a few friends mourned him. Kafka shares his grave with his mother and hated father. In fact, he predeceased them both. He’s commemorated as Dr. Franz Kafka, in deference to his law degree. An inscription on a marble plaque at the base of the monument remembers his three sisters, who vanished into the Nazi death camps.

Jack London002

Jack London, Jack London State Historic Park, Glen Ellen, California

Jack London was among the most widely read authors of his time. His short story “To Build a Fire” has scarred schoolchildren for almost a century. Four days after his death on November 22, 1916, Charmian London placed her husband’s ashes on a small rise behind the ruin of the house they had been building together in Northern California. She marked the grave only with a large lava rock from the Wolf House ruin. The boulder is strangely shaped: a weird, worn, organic form for a rock. Moss covers it like velvet, softening its broken edges.

Swan Pt lovecraft002H.P. Lovecraft, Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island

Lovely Swan Point’s most famous permanent resident is Howard Pillips Lovecraft. An obelisk labeled Phillips marks the plot belonging to Lovecraft’s grandparents. The back of it holds Lovecraft’s parents’ name and dates. At the bottom, he is remembered as Howard P. Lovecraft, “Their Son.” A smaller stone purchased by Dirk W. Mosig — the leading authority on Lovecraft in the Seventies — was unveiled during a small ceremony in 1977. The low granite marker spells out Howard Phillips Lovecraft, August 20, 1890 — March 15, 1938, with the epitaph, “I am Providence.” Those words came from a letter Lovecraft wrote to his Aunt Lillian, eventually published in 2000 in Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters, edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz.

Photo by Mason Jones

Photo by Mason Jones

Edgar Allan Poe, Westminster Hall Burying Ground, Baltimore, Maryland

Westminster Hall’s best-loved resident lies just inside the gates. A large monument marks the grave of Edgar Allan Poe, his wife Virginia, and her mother Maria Clemm. Poe was originally buried in 1849 the plot of his grandfather David Poe, elsewhere in the churchyard. His unkempt grave went unmarked for decades, despite several attempts to provide a suitable monument. Eventually, he was moved to this more prominent plot when his mother-in-law died in November 1875. It took 10 years before his wife was exhumed from her grave in New York and reburied in Baltimore beside him.

 

***************

CIMG0977-headshotLoren Rhoads is the author of The Dangerous Type, Kill By Numbers, and No More Heroes, the In the Wake of the Templars trilogy published this year by Night Shade Books. She’s also the author of Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel. You can follow her morbid antics at http://lorenrhoads.com