**Visit All Things Urban Fantasy today for her Deadly Destination tour with C.J. Omololu & enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Transcendence**
Deadly Destinations roams to the spooky yet beautiful Greyfriars Kirkyard. The churchyard holds a special place in the Vampire Empire series. The Kingmakers, the third book in the series will be released on September 4, 2012.
We are giving away two copies of The Kingmakers at the end of this post, thanks to the wonderful people at Pyr!
Greyfriars Kirkyard holds many special meanings for us, above and beyond the fact that we were married in its church. The graveyard is one of the world’s spookiest destinations with a layout that is at once chaotic and beautiful.
You see, we have this thing. We like cemeteries, especially old cemeteries with gravestones so ancient that you can barely read the words, black with age and covered in lichen and ivy. Some of them are reputed to be haunted. Greyfriars is one of those, although that only excites one of us.
Graveyards offer a unique glimpse of people, their interests, and their fears. Mainly, however, the allure is that the churchyard is filled with history, lots of history. Some of the tombs at Greyfriars date back to the 13th century. They can unveil a wealth of stories that span a remarkable spread of time and historical events. Many of Edinburgh’s famous citizens reside there now, and their tombs range from rich and elaborate to poor and simple.
While walking the grounds, you can still see mortsafes that were used to deter Resurrectionists, or grave robbers, from exhuming your loved ones to become the object of an anatomy lesson at Edinburgh’s various schools for surgeons. These cages of iron were placed over the newly interred, if you were wealthy enough to afford them. Bodysnatching was a common practice up until 1832 when the Anatomy Act allowed for a more generous and legal supply of cadavers to the scientific institutions.
Greyfriars kirkyard plays a special part in our VAMPIRE EMPIRE series. It is the haunt of our hero, THE GREYFRIAR. We instilled our love of graveyards into both our hero and heroine, and they spend a great deal of time reading the stones. To our heroine Adele, the history of the stones gives her a glimpse of her ancient heritage, lost with the occupation of Europe by the vampire clans. For our hero, he took his nom de guerre from the church itself, and it will always hold a special memory for him as the place where he and Adele grew closer.
In our newest novel in the VAMPIRE EMPIRE series, called THE KINGMAKERS, we return once again to the magic of Greyfriars. One of the specific graves mentioned in the book is that of surgeon James Borthwick. The tomb is located on the outer wall of the church itself and includes a large relief of a dancing skeleton, one hand holding a scythe and the other clutching a book. Borthwick was a professor of anatomy in Edinburgh, which explains the illustrations of surgical instruments lining the sides. It is a dramatic figure to pass by.
Today, there is a tendency to use more sedate and pleasant images on our tombstones, but in the past, people were fascinated with macabre aspects of death and chose much more foreboding imagery to decorate their markers. The Victorians in particular were fascinated by death. Many of their tombs, including quite a few at Greyfriars, are covered in disturbing skeletal and cloaked figures, along with the occasional cherub and flower.
Another of the most famous tombs at Greyfriars is that of George “Bluidy” MacKenzie. He was a ruthless public prosecutor who condemned many Covenanters, a group of Presbyterian dissenters, to be imprisoned and left to die in a small section of Greyfriars Kirkyard, still dubbed Covenanter’s Prison. Others were executed, and their heads displayed.
When MacKenzie died in 1691, he was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, just around the corner from the Covenanter’s Prison. Children still dare each other to knock on the door of his tomb and shout, “Bluidy MacKenzie, come out if you dare, lift the sneck and draw the bar.” Then they run away, hopefully, before the corpse can rise from his coffin.
Within the more recent history, there have been claims that paranormal activity has risen since a vagrant broke into the tomb and fell, breaking the coffin and unsheathing MacKenzie’s remains. Shortly before our wedding at the church, there was an excavation in MacKenzie’s tomb which uncovered a mass grave, probably more Covenanters or perhaps plague victims.
Greyfriars has been the home to countless burials over the centuries. In 1562, the churchyard was on the same level as Candlemaker Row, a street that runs alongside the yard. Now the church grounds are higher than the street, for very grim reasons. The plague and other terrible disease outbreaks caused a surfeit of the dead and the need for mass graves. When you walk in Greyfriars Kirkyard, you are effectively walking upon thousands of skeletons. There were old reports that heavy rains unearthed the occasional inconvenient corpse.
We recently discovered a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson remarking on how Greyfriars was overrun by cats: “all sleek and fat, and complacently blinking, as if they had fed upon strange meats.”
Of course, this was NOT the reason we filled Edinburgh Castle with cats in VAMPIRE EMPIRE. But the coincidence is surely remarkable.
**The photos of the churchyard come from the Capital Collections.
Borthwich photo was taken from the Geograph project collection. See this photograph’s page on the Geograph website for the photographer’s contact details. The copyright on this image is owned by Kim Traynor and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.
All others are our own.**
Clay and Susan Griffith are writers who have also been married for over 15 years. They are the co-authors of The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire Book 1 and The Rift Walker: Vampire Empire Book 2 (Pyr Books). The Vampire Empire trilogy is a rousing combination of fantasy, steampunk, pulp adventure, and romance, and Paul Goat Allen, the sci-fi/fantasy moderator of B&N.com, referred to Vampire Empire as a “landmark event.” The third book of the series, The Kingmakers: Vampire Empire, will be out September 2012.
Clay and Susan have written many comic books over the years including The Tick, The Man-Eating Cow and, more recently, Ray Harryhausen Presents: It Came From Beneath the Sea…Again. They also script and contribute to the tv/web show Monster Creature Feature (www. mcftv.com).
Oh, and James Marsters (Spike himself!) is narrating the audio version of Vampire Empire. Check out this link for a sample of The Greyfriar.
They plan to continue writing together. And to stay married.
Want to read more from Clay and Susan Griffith?
This giveaway is provided by Pyr
Two lucky winners will each receive a copy of The Kingmakers by Clay & Susan Griffith
Available September 4, 2012 from Pyr
About this Book:
A war to the death.
Empress Adele has launched a grand crusade against the vampire clans of the north. Prince Gareth, the vampire lord of Scotland, serves the Equatorian cause, fighting in the bloody trenches of France in his guise as the dashing Greyfriar. But the human armies are pinned down, battered by harsh weather and merciless attacks from vampire packs.
To even the odds, Adele unleashes the power of her geomancy, a fearsome weapon capable of slaughtering vampires in vast numbers. However, the power she expends threatens her own life even as she questions the morality of such a weapon.
As the war turns ever bloodier and Adele is threatened by betrayal, Gareth faces a terrible choice. Their only hope is a desperate strike against the lord of the vampire clans—Gareth’s brother, Cesare. It is a gamble that could win the war or signal the final days of the Greyfriar.
The Vampire Empire trilogy rushes to a heart-wrenching conclusion of honor and love, hatred and vengeance, sacrifice and loss.
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