Monday, April 2, 2012

A Different Take on... Amanda McIntyre

One of the best things about writing is the people you meet - the friends you make whose path you would otherwise never have crossed. For me, Amanda McIntyre fits that bill. Besides the fact she's a terrific writer with an imagination that a corkscrew would envy sometimes when it comes to "twisted", she is also a wonderful friend. Funny, giving and visionary in so many ways, Amanda has shared a lot of writing and creative adventures with me and each has produced unique memories! (Thanks, QE1. Don't ever make me drive a Bradley Assault Vehicle over mountains again. LMAO) It's my pleasure to be able to offer her a chance to talk about something close to her heart that isn't to do with writing. So here, in her own words, is Amanda - eloquently entertaining us in her own unique style!

LASTING IMPRESSIONS - from Amanda McIntyre

We live in a world filled with symbols. In marketing, we dub this as ‘branding.’ Few wouldn’t recognize the twin golden arches as being McDonalds, or the red bull’s-eye as the Target logo, or how about that kindly bearded southern colonel on the side of a bucket of chicken? But branding goes beyond marketing. Oh yes it does. From clothing choices (think Lincoln’s stovetop hat, or Madonna’s famous coned corset,) to hairstyles (think Katy Perry’s hair color choice of the week, or Marie Antoinette’s bevy of beehive wigs) to the type of car we drive. All create an image of how we’d like others to perceive us.

And we take it with us right to the grave—

I admit. I am a Taphophiliac. Technically speaking, that is someone who has a fascination with funerals, gravestone art and epitaphs. For me, however, it’s all about the art and symbolism and there isn’t a cemetery I drive by that I am not craning my neck to catch a glimpse of some ethereal stone sculpture rising high above the rest in homage to the mortal remains buried below.

Now before you cringe at this odd fascination, take into consideration that cemeteries have been around for a very long time. In earlier times, it was thought - especially among the Puritan sect - that only a privileged few would make it past the pearly gates of heaven. The rest pretty much just died. But times changed (thankfully) and as Puritanical belief waned, the burial locations inside the churches (nearest the alter for a better shot at heavens doors) gave way to the land outside the church. They called this “God’s Acres” (Stories in Stone, Douglas Keister, Gibbs Smith Pub. 2004) And that’s when the symbolism and great stone art in cemeteries began to take flight.

Today headstones reveal symbols more personalized to the life of the deceased — whether in context of who they were, or an engraved symbol of something dearest to them in this life — the symbolism is there as its always been, but to a lesser degree. In Victorian days, for example, it was not strange to invest scores of money into hiring a famous sculptor to create a suitable memorial for your eminent departure. To that end, (no pun intended) the cemeteries of this world house some of the very best in historical architecture, many a proverbial outdoor museum with exquisite statuaries and ornate family vaults. Far too many to name, the stories behind these magnificent works of art is as intriguing as the result.

One of the more famous of these stories is the Blocher Mausoleum, located in Buffalo New York in Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery. Its nineteenth century design has been referred to as something called ‘follies’ in Victorian architecture. According to Penguins Dictionary of Design, ‘follies is defined as “a costly, but useless structure built to satisfy the whim of some eccentric and show his folly.”(Referenced in Stories in Stone) Whether useful or a whim, the structure is a testament to just how important making a ‘lasting impression’ was and probably still is, to this day. You can see pictures and learn more about this amazing Blocher memorial here.

I have always had a fascination with history and those who know me know my love for researching odd historical tidbits. Perhaps that too, plays a part in my taphophilic tendencies. While some people have their ‘bucket’ lists of exotic cities and countries they long to one day visit before they…well, you get the idea. Mine include some of the world’s cemeteries. And thanks to the scores of tourists who share my particular interest, as well as the scores of ‘ghost hunters’ scouring at night some of the most famous cemeteries, the thirsty taphophile can be satisfied for hours taking the film tours on YouTube.

However, nothing can beat the real deal — last fall, I had the giddy good fortune to take a tour of New Orleans. The city alone is a mecca of historical wonder, but top on my ‘bucket’ list was a visit to one of its ancient cemeteries. Of its three famous historical Catholic cemeteries, St Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest. Founded in 1789, it is the eternal home of some of ‘N'awlins most famous residents including the voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau. Unfortunately, due to the decline in safety and rise in crime in the area, the guide chose instead to take us to St Louis No.3, near Bayou St John and Esplanade Avenue. Though flooded after Katrina, the tombs, some of the most elaborate of the three, were fortunately unscathed. I will never forget the experience.

On a three-hour tour (which I highly recommend) I could barely contain myself as we pulled alongside the curb and merged into the sultry 100-degree plus afternoon. Great billows of murky grey clouds consumed much of the blue sky, leaving only patches open to the heavens above. Off the cost, a tropical storm was brewing as the city braced itself for a deluge. Our stay wasn’t nearly as long as I would have liked, but I was able to snap a few pictures encapsulating the moment. If you’d like to learn more about the fascinating cemeteries of New Orleans, I recommend this link.

Among the top fascinating cemeteries on my bucket list:

High Gate Cemetery London, England
Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland
Cimitero Monumentale, Milan, Italy
Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France
Cimetiere Montparnasse, Paris, France
Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo New York
Charter Street Cemetery, Salem, Mass.
In addition, I’d like to return to New Orleans and visit more of her historical cemeteries!

So there you have it, the perhaps morbid and gothic extension of my love of researching history! Certainly, I must not be alone in my strange fascination. What cemeteries have you visited, or would like to? What should I add to my bucket list of ‘must see’ cemeteries? Inquiring minds want to know!!

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Thanks for sharing, Amanda! I'm fascinated with this unusual interest of yours and I'm sure some readers will be as well. For those interested in finding out more about you, I'm posting a link to your website and here's the gorgeous cover from the book I know you'll have with you in Chicago next week - another genre you love! Westerns and Time Travel. (Yep. It's pure McIntyre! As unique as the lady herself. LOL)

Wild and Unruly (Decadent Publishing) - available from Decadent and also HERE.

Please visit Amanda's website -

If you're in Chicago at the RT Booklovers Convention, don't miss saying hello to Amanda. She'll be the one gracefully juggling an impossible schedule and keeping that lovely smile in place in spite of the chaos around her.

(I will be there as well, but not nearly as graceful as my gal pal. On me, the chaos shows. Looking to say hi? Check the bar. LOLLOL)

Hope everyone has a great couple of weeks - next time, a wrap up of RT Chicago!

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