A little lagniappe for your Mardi Gras

This is a little Alondra story I wrote a couple of years ago. It’s set on the last night of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It was originally written for and published by the Ladies of Horror project at Spreading the Writer’s Word.

Dumb Supper
by Loren Rhoads

Alondra hadn’t left her cottage in the better part of two weeks. Pearl had tried a couple of times to lure her out to Mardi Gras parties, but Alondra wasn’t a fan of parties at the best of times and the chaos of Mardi Gras season seemed overwhelming. Besides, she preferred to do her drinking at home.

That didn’t mean that the celebrations didn’t reach her. Even in the Garden District there were parties: loud voices, shrill laughter, jazz quartets on the verandas. Alondra set her books aside when the noise became too much for her to concentrate and retreated into the kitchen.

Her landlady loaned her some family recipes that Alondra had dutifully copied over. She’d never tasted authentic jambalaya until Marie brought her a pot of it. Now she was struggling to recreate that experience. Marie’s note to add two or three spoons of pepper sauce added mystery to the process. Alondra’s first batch had been too hot to eat. Now, finally, she thought she was getting the hang of it.

The evening was unseasonably warm for February, so Alondra had propped the front door open with her copy of de Grillot’s Witchcraft, Magic, and Alchemy to let in some air. She returned to the kitchen to check the rice.

She was daydreaming over the pot and didn’t notice as the temperature in the kitchen dropped. Something heavy clonked down on her kitchen table behind her. A chill wrapped the nape of her neck. Alondra turned, the dripping spoon held across her body like a weapon.

At the table sat a white woman with her hair pulled up into a disheveled pile. Rather than a Mardi Gras mask, her face had been charcoaled with two black diamonds that stretched from hairline to jaw. She wore a spaghetti strap Harlequin dress that left her shoulders bare, but Alondra was certain the chunky necklace she wore held real diamonds.

On Alondra’s table she’d dropped a skull splashed with crimson paint. The chill emanated from the skull.

“You need to help me.” It wasn’t a request.

She needed to renew the protections around her cottage, Alondra thought, and probably give the table a salt wash. She wasn’t inclined to be kind to strangers who marched into her home without so much as a by your leave. “Whose skull is it?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I bought it in a box of vintage Mardi Gras decorations.”

When Alondra didn’t respond, the woman continued in a rush. “We just moved to New Orleans in December. Charles insisted we go to his boss’s Three Kings Party, and then we had to eat that nasty almond cake, and he found the baby in his piece…and they said that meant we had to host the Mardi Gras party…” The longer the woman talked, the lower the temperature dropped. White puffs of breath accompanied her words.

Despite the warmth of the pot bubbling at her back, Alondra shivered. She interrupted the torrent of complaints. “What would you like me to do?”

“I’ve tried to get rid of it ever since we threw our party a week ago. In the middle of the evening, the house got so cold that the pipes started to burst. I put it in the garbage, but I found it in the breakfast nook the next day. I made Charles take the garbage out that day, but it turned up under the bathroom sink. I ran it out when the garbagemen came on Tuesday, but it was on my pillow that night when I came to bed. Since then, I’ve tried throwing it out of the car, mailing it away, and dumping it into the river. It keeps coming back.”

“Okay.” Alondra held up her hand to stem the flood of words. “I want you to donate a thousand dollars to Save Our Cemeteries. Then I want you to take a bath with a charm I give you. Wash your face, wash your hair. Gather up all the Mardi Gras decorations you bought and take them to St. Vincent de Paul’s.”

“Oh, I’ve done that already,” the woman assured.

“All right. Wait here a moment.”

Alondra crossed through the bathroom into the bedroom of her cottage. She found a handkerchief and pulled down her jars of herbs, mixing lavender and rose with a chunk of dragon’s blood and a piece of galangal. She wrapped the packet closed with a piece of yellow ribbon. Then she returned to the woman sitting in her kitchen and dropped it in her hand.

“What do I owe you?”

“Pay me what you think my help is worth.”

“If this thing stops showing up at my house, that would be worth a lot.” She took a roll of bills from her purse and set them on the table. “But if it shows up tomorrow morning…”

Alondra smiled. “I know you aren’t threatening me,” she said calmly.

The woman swallowed audibly.

“You can go now. I’ll handle things from here.”

As soon as the woman crossed her threshold, Alondra moved four pillar candles to surround the skull. She lit a stick of spaghetti from the stove and used it to light the candles and a disk of charcoal. Once the coal was smoldering nicely, she added three pearls of frankincense. As the smoke filled the kitchen, Alondra dished up a bowl of jambalaya for the skull and another for herself.

The temperature in the kitchen had returned to normal by the time she sat down across from the skull. Outside the cottage, the sounds of Mardi Gras continued, but it was almost midnight. Once the streets had cleared, Alondra would ask Jackson, her landlady’s husband, if he could give her a ride out to Holt Cemetery so she could give the poor skull a decent burial and some peace at last.

This time, the jambalaya tasted just right.

If you’d like to check out more of Alondra’s stories, click on the image above to be taken to my author page on Amazon. Plenty of shivers to be found!

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Never Enough 2022, part 2

This is the second half of last year’s year-end wrap-up. It’s taken me more than a week to pull together all the links to stuff I did last year, not because there was so much but because my dad fell in September and broke his pelvis. He was too fragile for surgery, so they kept him in the hospital for two months so he could heal and get physical therapy. That was the easy part. Things have been more difficult since he came home, especially since he’s in Michigan and I’m in San Francisco.

As all of that was playing out, my husband and I found a house we love, bought it, and moved in November. I’ve only lived here a couple of weeks, though, since I’ve been in Michigan so much. About half of my stuff is unpacked, so my records (and my thoughts) are more scattered than usual. The best thing about this new place is that it’s a short walk to the ocean.

Short Nonfiction:

Jennifer Brozek let me stop by her blog to tell her how I fell in love with cemeteries: http://www.jenniferbrozek.com/blog/post/2022/03/23/Tell-Me-Loren-Rhoads3

I wrote a post for E. M. Markoff’s Tomes & Coffee blog to explain some of the choices on the Death’s Garden Revisited playlist: http://www.ellderet.com/emmarkoff-blog/2022/4/6/guest-post-the-deaths-garden-revisited-playlist-by-loren-rhoads

I have three essays in the newest book from Horror Addicts Publishing, The Horror Addicts Guide to Life #2. My pieces include how to write when you don’t feel like it, the world’s most haunted cemetery, and working with horror writers when I published Morbid Curiosity magazine. It was really fun to see all those things collected up.

I assembled a list of five of “The Best Books about Cemeteries” for Shepherd.com. Please check it out: https://shepherd.com/best-books/about-cemeteries

A piece about my Halloween village collection appeared in Horror Curated, the new magazine being published by Horror Addicts. Please check it out on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/listing/1330791770/horror-curated-haunted-holidays

Live Events:

Bay Area Book Festival
May 7, 2022
Berkeley, California
I spend Saturday morning hanging out with the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Horror Writers Association at the Book Festival this year. Book sales were slow, but the company was really fun. It was a good way to ease into in-person sales again.

Hanging out with LS Johnson at the Bay Area Book Festival 2022.

July 2-3, 2022
San Mateo, California

I was on three panels and worked at the Liminal Fiction table in the Dealers Room this year.

Creating your own anthology
How do you get submissions, where do you advertise, how do you handle the subs when they come in, how do you vet the subs, should you do blind submissions, how do you pay and contract the authors, and how to do a charity anthology? Whether you wanted to start a small ‘zine, publish a print book, or go eBook format, this panel discussed all the ins and outs. The participants were Emerian Rich (HorrorAddicts), Loren Rhoads (Automatism Press), and J. Scott Coatsworth (Other Worlds Ink).

Pitch Perfect
This was a chance to pitch your story idea(s) live to industry experts and receive instant (and constructive) feedback. The participants were Steven Radecki (Water Dragon Publishing) and Loren Rhoads (Automatism Press).

We geeked out horror-style and also talked about our new book Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2, a mostly nonfiction horror anthology. The participants were Emerian Rich (HorrorAddicts), Loren Rhoads, R.L. Merrill, Laurel Anne Hill, MD Neu, and Mark Orr.


I presented “Using Crowdfunding to Support Cemetery Projects” during the online conference for the Association for Gravestone Studies on 6/9/22.


Amy Z. Chan and R. L. Merrill interviewed me and Hudson Lin about crowdfunding on their Clubhouse podcast, What Are You Reading? Airdate: March 18, 2022.You can listen to the playback here: https://www.clubhouse.com/room/xeR0ZKL3?utm_medium=ch_room_terc&utm_campaign=D93dJ9jgBUr1Us3hGVVpfw-109918

The Curious State podcast interviewed me about “What Makes a Cemetery a Tourist Destination?” Airdate: May 23, 2022. You can listen to it here:  https://curious-state.simplecast.com/episodes/what-makes-a-cemetery-a-tourist-destination-rmU_cWWu

KALW’s New Arrivals featured me reading a snippet of This Morbid Life on June 9, 2022. Here’s that link: https://www.kalw.org/newarrivals/2022-06-09/loren-rhoads-book-a-memoir-about-life-in-san-francisco

Marsha Casper Cook and Trish Wilson invited me to their Michigan Avenue Media podcast to discuss Death’s Garden Revisited. Airdate: July 7, 2022. You can listen to the replay here: https://www.blogtalkradio.com/michiganavenuemedia/2022/07/07/author-interviews-michigan-avenue-media

The podcast of The National Funeral Directors Association, Remembering A Life, interviewed me about my cemetery work. Airdate: October 12, 2022. Here’s the link: https://rememberingalife.libsyn.com/episode-23-adventures-in-cemetery-travel

Horror Addicts featured me and Death’s Garden contributors Francesca Maria, E. M. Markoff, and Brian Thomas on their season finale. Airdate: October 15, 2022. You can listen to the playback here: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2022/10/15/horroraddicts-net-217-loren-rhoads-cemetery


Sherry J. Fundin interviewed me about This Morbid Life on her Fundimental.com blog on January 13, 2022: http://www.fundinmental.com/this-morbid-life-by-loren-rhoads-review-morbidloren/#.Y7hXh-zMJ1E My favorite part: “HOLD ON TIGHT! These essays are dark and gritty, filled with truth. Loren lays herself bare. This Morbid Life is an apt title for the book and is not for the faint of heart. She lets it all hang out and I loved every minute of it.”

The Fabulist magazine did a really great interview with me, connecting the Death’s Garden project to my Morbid Curiosity magazine: https://fabulistmagazine.com/a-personal-relationship-with-cemeteries-loren-rhoads-in-conversation/ They reprinted the interview in The Pocket Pixelarium in August 2022.

Angela Yuriko Smith invited me to her Lit Up video series for one of the best cemetery conversation I’ve ever had. Check us out at https://youtu.be/U4Ziv2b2nlU or watch it below.

Lex Vranick of Write and Wine interviewed me about cemeteries and the Kickstarter: https://writeandwine.com/blog/an-interview-with-loren-rhoads

Horror poet Melodie Bolt interview me about the nuts and bolts of doing a Kickstarter : https://www.melodiebolt.com/post/interview-with-loren-rhoads

Blogger Jo Nell Huff interviewed me about the Kickstarter and the contributors to Death’s Garden Revisitedhttps://coastalcrone.com/2022/04/07/deaths-garden-revisited-kickstarter-interview-with-editor-loren-rhoads/

Anthropologist and horror writer Paul Stansfield interviewed me about how Death’s Garden Revisited fits in with all my other books: http://paulstansfield.blogspot.com/2022/04/interview-with-publishereditorwriter.html

Horror author and secret romantic Robert Holt interviewed me about cemeteries and travel: https://holthorror.wordpress.com/2022/04/11/deaths-garden-revisited-interview-with-editor-loren-rhoads/

Horror author Priscilla Bettis interviewed me about the Horror Addicts Guide to Life #2 on May 28, 2022: https://priscillabettisauthor.com/2022/05/28/horror-addicts-guide-to-life-2-interview-with-author-loren-rhoads/

Miscellaneous Good Things:

The Association for Gravestone Studies Book Club kicked off in January by focusing on 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die. I was thrilled to be able to join the discussion at the end.

The Washington Post quoted me (and a bunch of other cemetery bloggers) in “Why We Love Visiting Cemeteries” by Andrea Sachs. https://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/2022/10/24/cemetery-congressional-woodlawn-green-wood/

The Washington Post quoted me again in “This Woman Bakes Recipes She Finds on Gravestone Epitaphs: They’re to Die For” by Sydney Page. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2022/10/24/gravestone-recipe-epitaph-ghostly-archive/

And I was almost interviewed at the last minute by the BBC! It was the day after we’d moved into our new house and I didn’t yet know where my microphone was so, in the end, I was relieved that they booked someone else. I had a really nice interaction with the showrunner, though. Maybe this year?

Lex Vranick, the mastermind of the Write and Wine chats on Twitter, wrote a wonderful piece called “Why Horror?” about why horror is important. She quoted me and a lot of other horror writers. https://lexvranick.com/updates/blog/why-horror

Doing my first kickstarter this year was one of the most intense months of my life. The second volume of my Death’s Garden books raised more than $5k. The campaign was chosen by Kickstarter as a Project We Love.

I hosted a Facebook Party which was attended by most of the contributors to Death’s Garden Revisited and fun seemed to be had by all.

I also hosted my first Ask Me Anything on Twitter. So many great cemetery questions! I look forward to doing another this year.

Dr. Sharon Pajka hosted a Cemetery Happy Hour. A handful of Death’s Garden contributors created cocktails to celebrate their favorite cemeteries. Check out this very fun and short video: https://youtu.be/H5BN8WWZq-c

The contributors to Death’s Garden Revisited helped me put together a playlist of their favorite cemetery songs. You can listen along on Spotify:  https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4S0255SPm7grf5NShTbLgT?si=ea4a5b5bb3d94d17

I continued hosting a session of Shut Up & Write on Tuesday mornings, up until my life fell apart in November.. Having the weekly date was so inspiring. Over the magic of Zoom, I met and wrote alongside authors from Hong Kong, Spain, Great Britain, and across the US. I also hosted two hours of Creative Support on Wednesday mornings, which I also halted in November. I miss writing with people. Once things settle down again, I hope to start one or both of them up again.

This Morbid Life won a gold medal from the Independent Publisher Book Awards for Best Regional Nonfiction eBook.

It also got this amazing review from Francesca Maria: “I loved this raw, intimate look into a fellow morbid soul. This deeply personal take on the dark things that fascinate us was enriched by Rhoads’s personal experiences, anecdotes, and journey of the self. Highly recommended.”

Bookworm of the Damned unboxed Tales of Nightmares on Tiktok on September 3, 2022: https://www.tiktok.com/@bookwormofthedamned/video/7139297316846013742

Xyzeereads on Instagram gave Tales of Nightmares ten ghosts and called it, “A delicious collection of frightening stories. Don’t ask me to choose a favorite.”

Blogging/Social Media:

I put up 110 Instagram posts this year, which is amazing, since I still don’t really feel like I know what I’m doing. You can follow along @morbidloren.

I managed only 30 blog posts here in 2022, when my goal was to post every Monday. I’m going to work on that again this year.

I posted 17 times on Cemetery Travel this year, which was better than 2022. I’m going to work on improving that this year.

I’m going to leave you with my favorite tweet of last year:

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Never Enough 2022

Every December I recap the writing triumphs and disappointments of the previous twelve months. Practically every year I feel like I haven’t done enough. This year I didn’t manage to finish and publish three books, but I did spend the better part of the last two months in Michigan, taking care of my folks, so three books was pretty ambitious. In the end, just as with the last two years, I feel that anything I managed was a triumph against entropy.

Book publications:

2022 brought two of my books to life:

Death’s Garden Revisited: Personal Relationships with Cemeteries was the culmination of a dream I’ve held for decades. It collects 40 powerful personal essays — accompanied by full-color photographs — to illuminate the reasons 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. I could not be prouder of how this beautiful book turned out.

You can get a copy of your own from Blurb.com.

On a completely different note, I edited Tales of Nightmares for the Wily Writers collective. I love horror short stories and these writers are some of the best of the business. To be honest, I feel that there’s something magical about that sense of terror that grips you in the middle of sleep, when your heart pounds, you can’t catch your breath, and you know the monster is seconds away from grabbing you. You’ll find no dream sequences in this book. These nine stories are designed to induce nightmares.

Get your own copy from Amazon.

So Much Short Fiction:

Thanks to the Wily Writers series, I had four short stories out this year, all of them reprints.

Tales of Dread, edited by Lisa Morton, included “Guardian of the Golden Gate,” about the deadly lure of the Golden Gate Bridge.

My Tales of Nightmares included “Elle a Vu Un Loup,” set on Michigan’s Mackinac Island during the full moon.

Tales of Evil, edited by Angel Leigh McCoy and Alison J. McKenzie, included “Devil in Her Heart,” which explores why the Beatles stopped touring in 1966.

Tales of Foreboding, edited by E.S. Magill and Bill Bodden, included “Still Life with Shattered Glass,” the most popular story I’ve ever written.

I wrote two new stories for the Ladies of Horror Flash Project and you can read them for free:

A Wondrous Curiosity” was published on July 29, 2022. This time, Alondra discovers there’s a reason when the locals avoid the beach.

Riders on the Storm” was published on June 28, 2022. This Alondra story is a creepy little fantasy about elemental magic and climate change.

I reprinted the first three Alondra chapbooks with new covers by Lex at Huntress Studios, then assembled a fourth one. I am really pleased with this collection of my short stories. You can find them all on Amazon for your ebook reader. Details and links are here.

Upcoming Short Fiction:

The second half of the year was better for placing stories. Right up against the deadline, I finished a new story for Jennifer Brozek’s new anthology — and she took it! I polished up a really old story, one that I worked on at Clarion in the 80s, and it also found a home. Finally, after it was accepted in 2020, my Alondra/Lorelei crossover story should appear in Occult Detective!

“Nightbears” will appear in Manor of Frights, edited by Emerian Rich, to be published by Horror Addicts in 2023.

“The Devil’s Debt” will appear in the next issue of Occult Detective magazine.

“The Ambush Hunters,” a brand-new Alondra story, will appear in 99 Fleeting Fantasies, edited by Jennifer Brozek, to be published by Pulse.

“Sakura Time” will appear in the upcoming Wily Writers anthology Tales of Darkness, edited by Yvonne Navarro.


I only did one fiction reading this year, which is a shame. I was invited to several, but I’m still not ready to be closed in a room with a crowd, so I was especially grateful when the Berkeley Public Library invited me to their Scary Stories, Past and Present event. I opened for David Warner reading the first chapter of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. I read “In the Pines” from my collection Unsafe Words.

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Death’s Garden contributor Mary Rajotte

Although we’ve never met in person, I was introduced to Mary Rajotte through the Horror Writers Association several years ago. I really love her ability to spin a story. When I asked her to contribute an essay to Death’s Garden Revisited, I wasn’t sure what I would get.

“Ebb and Flow: Finding My Way Back to Family,” the essay Mary sent, is a touching meditation on the way that cemeteries can bring a family back together, flowing together and apart like waves on a shore. I cannot wait for you to read it.

Officially, Canadian author Mary Rajotte has a penchant for penning nightmarish tales of folk horror and paranormal suspense. Her work has been published in a number of anthologies and she is currently compiling her first collection. Sometimes camera-elusive but always coffee-fueled, you can find Mary at her website http://www.maryrajotte.com.

Are you a fan of nightmarish tales? Mary’s zine FRIGHTMARISH is your invitation to stories of a darker nature.  Each quarterly issue contains short folklore-inspired fiction, Gothic poetry, puzzles, activity pages, and creative nonfiction. To find out more about Frightmarish: a Gothic LitZine, visit Mary’s blog.

Tell me about your favorite cemetery.

I’ve only been there once, but I was immediately smitten with Mount Royal Cemetery in Montréal when I visited there in 2016. The trek up the mountain really introduced me to the grand opulence of the iconic entrance gates of one of the oldest rural cemeteries in North America. Being able to see Montréal from the panoramic lookout was incredible and really offered such a stark contrast to the cemetery’s tree-lined trails and lush gardens filled with songbirds. It’s such a massive place but it’s very serene and welcoming. I didn’t see everything I wanted to, so I’m planning to go back in the near future so I can study the incredible mausoleums and statues more, and maybe even bring my oracle cards along to do some readings while I’m there.

What is your favorite thing to do in a cemetery?

I’ve been enamored with tarot and oracle cards for a long time, but only recently started to explore the medium more deeply. Although I don’t have any ancestors in nearby cemeteries, when I’m able to revisit their resting places again, I plan to take offerings and spend time sitting with each gravestone to reconnect with my long-lost family.

Is there a cemetery or gravesite you’ve always wanted to visit?

As an author of Gothic stories, sometimes set in the Victorian era, I’ve always wanted to visit Highgate Cemetery in London, particularly the Egyptian Avenue, the Terrace Catacombs, the elaborate sculptures, the natural setting that has inspired so many writers and artists. It seems like a place one can easily get lost. Its lush surroundings seem like the perfect place to inspire my next story.

If you have any say in the matter, what would your epitaph be?

I was dropped from moonbeams and sailed on shooting stars (one of my favorite sets of lyrics from Radiohead).

Do you have a favorite song about cemeteries or graveyards?

Little Grave by Chelsea Wolfe.

I made a Death’s Garden Revisited playlist on Spotify, if you’d like some cemetery songs to listen to.

Also, please check out Death’s Garden Revisited, which is for sale at Blurb.com. The book is really beautiful and Mary’s essay is lovely!

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Death’s Garden contributor: Rain Graves

I met Rain Graves x-many years ago through the World Horror Conventions. She told stories at several of the Morbid Curiosity open mics and had an essay in Morbid Curiosity magazine, too.

In 2010, Rain invited me to the first Haunted Mansion Writers Retreat, which literally changed my life. I edited The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two, thanks to her.

Rain’s essay in Death’s Garden Revisited is about her first visit to Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. Recoleta is where Evita Peron is buried. I’ve always wanted to see the cemetery for myself. Rain makes it come alive.

Officially, Rain Graves is a two-time Bram Stoker Award winner, legally ordained Priestess, and retired Argentine Tango dancer/instructor. Publishers Weekly cited her poetry in Barfodder as “Bukowski meets Lovecraft” in 2009. She lives and writes in Houston. Approach with caution and blue lotus offerings (Nymphaea Caerulea). You can catch her at raingraves.com.

What’s your favorite thing to do in a cemetery?

Have a picnic.

Tell me about your favorite cemetery.

My favorite cemetery is the one I wrote about in this book, La Recoleta, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Is there a cemetery or gravesite you’ve always wanted to visit?

The Tombs of Cleopatra VII and Mark Anthony (undiscovered as of yet).

What would your epitaph be?

Love is a Phoenix; Rise and be free.

Do you have a favorite song about cemeteries or graveyards?

“Dreams of Wounded Knee” by Bill Miller, “Cemetery” by The Headstones, “Pet Sematary” by the Ramones.

I made a Death’s Garden Revisited playlist on Spotify, if you’d like to check it out.

Also, please check out Death’s Garden Revisited, which is for sale at Blurb.com. The book is really beautiful and Rain’s essay is spooky!

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