Vampire Novelist Denise K. Rago

Tarot1

“How many times had she heard her grandmother tell her mother? Beatrice would shake her head and wave her hand like she was swatting flies, but Ernestine insisted that her granddaughter learn to read the cards and so the lessons began in secret, usually when her parents were already in bed. During the winter months there was little to do after their usual 3pm meal and so after her parents retired for the evening, Josette and Ernestine would sit at this very same card table, in front of a roaring fire and Josette would do reading after reading, memorizing the meaning of each card.

“You need to channel all that power,” she would remind Josette, “and feel the energy from each card. Study the symbols and images but make it your own, child.”

How she missed her grandmother, with her sharp wit and kind smile.

She quickly returned to the present as she slowly turned over each and laid them out in the familiar pattern.

If she’s looking for love I don’t see it here.

The woman leaned forward as Josette studied the cards.

Wheel of Fortune, the Fool, Death….

And this is my daughter, Josette Maraine.”

Josette glanced up from the cards to find her mother and the handsome stranger standing beside her.

“And this is Madame Reynard.” Beatrice gestured with a smile.

“Madame Reynard,” the stranger smiled and Josette could have sworn the woman melted into the fabric of the Louis XVI chair as he stared down at her.”

 

 

Tarot reading is a practice that’s been around for a very long time but have you ever wondered about its roots? Did it start with mediums and gypsies and spread from there? You might be surprised.

While traditional playing cards appeared in Europe around 1375 (when they were brought over by Islamic societies), the tarot didn’t appear until approximately 1440 in Italy and seems to have originally been intended as a game for nobles. There were four suits with cards numbered one through ten as well as court cards that included a queen, king, knight and page. The deck also included 22 symbolic picture cards that did not belong to any suit. The decks were used to play a game called triumph that was similar to bridge. In triumph, 21 of the 22 special picture cards were permanent trump cards. The game spread quickly to all parts of Europe. People began referring to as tarocchi, which is an Italian version of the French word tarot, around 1530. Today, the game is far less popular in Italy while the French tarot game is the most popular in its native country and regional tarot games are widely played in central Europe.

That’s all fine and well but when did the tarot begin to be used for divination and how did that come about? While it is commonly agreed upon that the rebirth of the Tarot, and its beginnings a means of divination, are attributed to Antoine Court de Gébelin in 1781, there are actually a few records of the tarot being used as such before this time. Manuscripts from 1735 and 1750 document simple divinatory meanings for the cards of the tarot as well as a system for laying out the cards. Giacomo Casanova wrote in his diary that in 1765 his Russian mistress frequently used a deck of playing cards for divination. It was de Gébelin, however, who wrote a paper about the Tarot, deciphering the origins of the symbolism as being representative of ancient Egyptian theology. He asserted the name “Tarot” came from the Egyptian words Tar, “path” or “road”, and the word Ro, Ros or Rog, meaning “King” or “royal”, and that the Tarot literally translated to the Royal Road of Life. Next came the Tarot’s association with Gypsies and then Kabbalah, or Hebrew mysticism. The association with Kabbalah would then fuel a belief that the Tarot originated in Israel and contained the wisdom of the Tree of Life.

Since that time it has been linked with almost every magical system or religion known to mankind. The Tarot is comprised of archetypal images that cross linguistic and cultural barriers. What once originated as a game has become a mystic symbol known round the world, one that represents knowledge and life.

Have you ever had your cards read? How was the experience?

 

I hated to admit it but I needed Victor. I could not leave Christian alone here. I needed to win him over and help him grasp the true nature of his destiny. Could he not see how important it was for him to assume the throne and command these vampyres who desperately needed a leader, someone strong, and detached who would be fair and who straddled both worlds, though he would never admit it. Christian saw himself as neither mortal nor vampyre; abhorring the taking of blood and wielding control over mortals.

It was only their art, music, museums and literature he loved and he gravitated towards the best of what the human race had to offer while wanting none of the complications of human relationships.

Perhaps he could not see it but he has a heart full of love and longing, regret, guilt and despair just like any human and I believe it saved him from becoming a monster, as the vampyre race tends to be depicted in literature and film. He did the unthinkable, leaving his maker and threatening the very order of his kind.

HV

Recently I did an interview with Justin Boyer of A Bibliophile’s Reverie. One of his interview questions was: “What is your favorite vampire film and why?”

As I thought about my response, I flash forwarded to my next blog post and thought, hum….. I would love to explore this question further. There is something magical yet sinister about vampires.  Beautiful, seductive and utterly malevolent, they command the screen just as they command my respect and awe.

Each film I admire depicts the vampire in a certain time and place, trying to blend into the world in which they find themselves yet always an outsider.  Powerful, blood thirsty, beautiful. 

I must admit that although I enjoyed the premise of the film 30 Days of Night I found the vampires really scary and creepy.  I did love the story however. 

Enjoy…..

The Hunger [1983] is the story of a beautiful, female vampire with roots in ancient Egypt, play by the French actress Catherine Deneuve.  She presently lives in a gorgeous townhouse in Manhattan.  We experience her long life through all the art works she has collected.  She collects lovers too, including Susan Sarandon and David Bowie.

 

 


 

 

Dracula [1992] set in Victorian England features Gary Oldman as Dracula.  Need I say any more?

 

 


 

Interview with the Vampire [1994], my favorite novel by Anne Rice, is told through the eyes of vampire Louis de Ponte du Lac to a young reporter in present-day in San Francisco.  We are introduced to the famous vampire Lestat and follow both vampires through their lives in eighteenth century New Orleans and Paris. Lestat and Louis are beautiful vampires with a complex relationship filled with much betrayal and sadness.

 

 


 

In the film, Let the Right One In [2008], a young boy named Oskar is bullied in school and then befriended by a very unusual girl who moves into his housing project.  Meanwhile a series of gristly murders rock a working class suburb of Stockholm Sweden. I love this film as it depicts the century’s old vampire as a creature truly outside the mortal world yet trying to survive in it. The film was also made for American audiences too and I enjoyed both.  You will never look at a Rubik’s cube in the same way, ever.


Do you have a favorite vampire film?  Let me know, okay?

Thank you readers for asking for updates on my next novel. Although Eternal Hunger, like Immortal Obsession and Blood Tears is told in the present tense the vampires constantly flash back to their lives in eighteenth century France.

The character Ghislain who I introduced in Blood Tears is a favorite. He has quite a long and colorful history which will continue to be revealed in Eternal Hunger, as he mentors Christian who he has hidden away in the abandoned Chateau de Singes in the outskirts of Paris. This is the place Ghislain hopes to restore the vampire dynasty he envisions, starting with his son Christian who is about to discover more secrets from his past.

“Michel used to come here.” I found myself back in the massive, decaying yet somehow elegant library. “He would share his tales of debauchery,coming here with Gabrielle to–”
“And with Josette.” Ghislain whispered, following me.
It took me a moment to realize what he was trying to say.
“She came here?”
My mind began to whirl as I tried to call up memories, but I was hundreds of years old. Not everything seems to important at the time and like my human counterparts we forget things too.
“You have been here too Christian, though I imagine you tried to put it out of your mind.”
“What are you saying?”
He was suddenly facing me, pushing his write into my face and before I could protest, a thin trail of blood ran down his arm.
“This will help you remember.”
I latched onto him, his coppery blood stinging my throat. I rarely took vampire blood yet suddenly the images came and I was thrust back in time.

I always say, keep a diary and someday it’ll keep you.

~ Mae West

Who hasn’t kept a diary?

Who hasn’t thought about reading someone else’s diary?

Who wonders what famous people might have kept a diary?

I have kept a journal since high school and can’t seem to let more than twenty-four hours pass without writing in it. I don’t keep them under lock and key but in a large chest. Each diary is marked by a volume number and the date. Usually each journal covers one month in my life. I have gone through periods where I have written less but journal writing is such a part of my life, that like reading, I can’t live without it. What do I write about you ask? Anything and everything. It depends on the day.

Sometimes my journal writing seeps into the pages of my books and if you have read my novels, diaries play a large part in aiding the reader’s discovery of the back story of a particular character, or in opening a window into the past.

In Blood Tears, Amanda Perretti touches a ladies diary dated 1793, which is slated for the museum exhibition she is currently working on, and is shown a diary covered in blood and a woman who she recognizes from a painting in Christian’s home in New York; a woman who died in eighteenth century Paris.

Her hands vibrated with energy as the image of a stone bridge filled her mind’s eye, turning into the Pont Neuf, illuminated by torchlight and surrounded by the murky waters of the Seine. Across the bridge she could barely make out the outline of the kings palace set against the dark sky. Then the images shifted to a beautiful bedroom complete with a roaring fire, eighteenth century furnishings and a woman and child near the fireplace. Her blue gown flowed around her like water. The woman lifted up the child and turned and Amanda could have sworn it was the woman in the portrait, the one whom Christian and Michel both loved beyond words centuries earlier: Josette Delacore.

We are offered a glimpse into the life of Christian’s mother, Eléanore Du Mauré, who died when Christian was just a boy. She writes in her diary of an experience during the winter of 1737 where she meets a man who gives her more than she could ever imagine.

His arms had slipped around me and he was walking towards the fireplace…Before I could catch my breath we were together on the thick carpet in front of the fire. Flames danced higher and higher as we kissed. I no longer cared about my husband or my reputation; I wanted him. Hearing my gown rip, I found myself naked beside him……Andreas opened his mouth as two jutting fangs burst forth and came for me, and in that moment it all made sense…Would he drink my blood and kill me? I had no time to ask and neither did I care, for when he pierced my flesh both pain and pleasure ripped through me. I closed my eyes and prayed this night would never end.

Later on, Christian reads his mother’s diary and learns more secrets surrounding her life and his true heritage.

Famous diarists include Marie Antoinette, Samuel Pepys, Marcus Aurelius and Anne Frank.

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Whose diary would you like to read?

Catacombs Sign

 

From “Blood Tears”:

Ghislain had made Victor a vampire and though their paths crossed over the years they lost contact in the early nineteenth century.

And now he hides in the catacombs like a rat.

Ghislain was not sure which bothered him more, going below ground or being surrounded by the millions of bones that filled the horrid tunnels,  exhumed from the overflowing cemeteries in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and dumped into these quarries.  Taking a deep breath, he descended the spiral staircase, losing count after one hundred steps.  Even for him the darkness felt claustrophobic. He continued to follow the winding walls that dripped with water. The narrow doorway up ahead made him shiver as he read the sign above it:

‘Arrete! C’est ici  L’empire de la Mort.’  Stop, Here lies the Empire of the Dead.

Ghislain stepped over the threshold into the narrow passage. The stacks of human bones and skulls have the tunnel a chalky glow.

Peasant and nobleman alike, he thought; everyone ends up in the same place.

Catacombs 2

 

Paris has a deeper and stranger connection to its underground than almost any city, and that underground is one of the richest. The arteries and intestines of Paris, the hundreds of miles of tunnels that make up some of the oldest and densest subway and sewer networks in the world, are just the start of it. Under Paris there are spaces of all kinds: canals and reservoirs, crypts and bank vaults, wine cellars transformed into nightclubs and galleries. Most surprising of all are the the old limestone quarries that fan out in a deep and intricate web under many neighborhoods, mostly in the southern part of the metropolis.”

Today the tunnels are roamed by a different clandestine group, a loose and leaderless community whose members sometimes spend days and nights below the city. They’re called people who love the Paris underground.

~ Under Paris, National Geographic Magazine, February, 2011.

Paris’s underground ossuaries hold the remains of six million people. How did such a place come to be and why is it now referred to as “The World’s Largest Grave” with a museum?

Centuries ago, the city abandoned their Left-Bank burial grounds for the higher elevations of the Right – Bank. Soon urban expansion forced the burial ground into the center of urban life which quickly became a health hazard.

Saints Innocents (supposed to be italicized?) church became the City’s main cemetery and soon was overflowing. To continue to make room for the dead, the long-dead were exhumed and their bones packed away into the roofs and walls of the galleries built into the sides of the cemetery walls. By the end of the 19th century, Les Innocents cemetery, which was next door to the Les Halles marketplace, contained a burial mound filled with centuries of the dead and was, needless to say, a health hazard .

The rich limestone of the Left-Bank was used to build most of the city; however the quarries were left depleted, uncharted and abandoned. In the eighteenth century, mine cave-ins led to city inspections and then renovations of some of the passageways. Police Lieutenant-General Alexandre Lenoir was behind the idea of moving the Parisian dead to the newly renovated passageways. The remains of Les Innocents’ cemetery were unearthed and along with bones and other artifacts, a nightly procession of black clothed-covered wagons carried the millions of Parisian dead to their new resting place on the Left-Bank.

The process would take two years! Check out this interactive map of Paris to learn more!

 

 

And so Josette continue to describe her first meeting with Christian and Michel on a hot summers night…..

It would always be that way for the three of us. Many a night I would will myself to breathe as I fell into their arms; yes I would become both their lovers and the three of us would exist in our own world once the sun set. I was the wife to Luc Delacore, a wealthy minor aristocrat to whom my mother secured a marriage contract when she found out she was dying. It was either marry Luc or be destitute and I could no more stomach a life of poverty than I could fly and so I agreed.
I was already Gaétan’s lover and he was more than generous with his gifts and I was willing to give him anything in return in the hopes that one day he would make me immortal. It was our dance and I thought it would go on forever and it might have, until this night I speak of, when my life fell apart and reconstructed itself in the blink of an eye.
By day, I ran a small household, married to a man I did not love but could tolerate, and by night I wandered amongst the world of the Parisian vampires. As society unraveled and the citizens of Paris revolted, the world of the vampires came apart as well, as if they had no other choice but to mimic the mortals they fed upon creating their own living hell. My lover Gaétan would become embroiled it Le Revolution Française as would Gabrielle who had made both Christian and Michel vampires and was reluctant to release them from her bed. Gabrielle and Gaétan would eventually join together in a battle to control the city, leaving death and destruction in their wake, but that is another story.
I did not consciously set out to seduce and fall in love with both Christian and Michel nor did they glamour me, for I was beyond hypnosis. Each had what the other lacked and I found them both intoxicating and as integral to me as the sunshine and fresh air. I could not live without them yet I could not see what was to come, despite my abilities to see the future, to touch objects and watch as images and feelings ran through me like water.
Nowadays, you would label me psychic for I possess the gift of psychometry, yet I read Tarot cards to entertain my mother’s friends at her numerous parties. That is how I met Gaétan and when my mother saw how our relationship was unfolding she encouraged it, hoping it would lead to marriage for he was rich and obviously taken with me.
She had no idea that ‘Monsieur Richard’ as he called himself, was an ancient vampire who could have snapped both of our necks and left us in ruin if he so desired. He had fallen in love with me and my blood and promised me immortality if I gave him what he so desired: my blood. He came to my bedroom one night and took both my virginity and my blood, leaving me ecstatic yet weak, filled with dreams of power and riches. He showered me in clothing and jewels and took me everywhere in Paris and all he wanted was to drink my blood.
I was never afraid. Quite the contrary. I loved the world of the vampire. It was both silent yet powerful, mysterious, glamorous and fraught with drama. I possessed what they wanted, blood, beauty and a willingness to submit to them. All of them. I had power, money and all a woman could ever want, and with Christian and Michel I felt our lives were just perfect and that we would never cease to be together, yet as French society began to crumble all around us, we three were crumbling internally.
Though I had never seen them in the act of making love to one another, I always felt Christian and Michel were bisexual. They were inseparable and would remain so long after I was dead and buried. I was a momentary distraction in their long lives. Though I wanted both of them we never became a ménage a trois. Christian would never hear of it and so I would be with first one and then another.
So much was left unsaid between us, undercurrents of anger, lies told by each of us, promises made though never to be kept. It was the way of things and we lived shrouded in lies; so many lies.
Shakespeare said it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
I am not so sure.

Pont Neuf 1

 

If you’ve been following the saga of The Enchanted Bloodline series, you know that the Pont Neuf is almost as important a “character” as Christian and Michel (particularly in Blood Tears). In fact, Christian describes his feelings about the Pont Neuf in this excerpt:

The city he remembered had been swallowed up and digested by the industrial age, yet the majestic Pont Neuf still took his breath away. Christian stopped on a bastion, remembering how magnificent the bridge seemed in ages past, built of stone and so wide that people could promenade leisurely while carriages passed without incident. Mortals toiled in their shops during daylight hours, yet scurried home before darkness fell when all manner of bandits and prostitutes emerged. He and Michel would hide in the shadows, waiting for the whores and drunks to amble by on their way to a tavern or one of the numerous brothels. In the gaslight it was always impossible to see the beautiful vampires until it was too late.

God, it was so easy to kill then.

Do you know the history of this amazing bridge though? The Pont Neuf (or “New Bridge”) is the oldest standing bridge across the river Seine in Paris. It stands right by the western point of the Île de la Cité, the island in the middle of the river that was the heart of medieval Paris. The bridge is composed of two separate spans, one of five arches joining the left bank to the Île de la Cité, another of seven joining the island to the right bank.

The construction of a new bridge over the Seine was initiated by Henri III, who laid the first stone in May 1578. His successor, Henri IV, decided to take on the task with the idea of creating “The New Bridge” as a way to win over the people of his newly conquered capital city. And it worked. Parisians from all walks of life adopted the Pont Neuf and saw it as the symbol of their city and the most important place in town.

 

 

Pont Neuf 4

And why did they take to it so well and so quickly? Because the Pont Neuf became the first truly communal entertainment space in the city. It was free and anyone could come there – anyone at all, rich or poor. After decades of religious violence, this was exactly what the Parisians needed – a place to finally come out of their houses and enjoy themselves in public again.

The Pont Neuf has played an important role in Parisian history and an important role in my novels. It’s one of my favorite places in the world and I love being able to share it with all of you!

Many of you have been asking for a peek into my latest novel, Eternal Hunger, book three in The Enchanted Bloodline Series.  Enjoy and I would love your feedback.

 

Prologue

From the diary of Josette Delacore ~ Paris, 1793

They flowed out of the heat; detaching themselves from the shadows on a tepid summer night in the year of our Lord 1787. I was but a girl of fifteen yet already deflowered by one of the most powerful vampires in all of Paris on whose arm I gently clung. I was months away from marrying a much older man, yet at that moment time stood still for me as they approach us. I could feel Gaétan shift slightly in front of me as if to shield me from them.

But I was already transfixed as they came closer.

Both were tall, well over 6 feet and thin, but that is where any comparison ended, as they were opposites in appearance and later I would learn, in almost everything under the sun, or should I say the night sky? It was obvious that my lover Gaétan hated them and when the tall blond vampire took my hand and pressed his cold lips to my skin I shuddered and shattered all in an instant. Perhaps if they both had just kept walking by my life would have turned out differently but I had begged an introduction and when his dark eyes locked with mine, I found myself exposed, as if a locked door within my heart flew open and my soul lay exposed for him to touch and feel.

When he told me his name as his voice curled around me like my favorite silk scarf, and although I did not know it then, I had fallen into a chasm I had no hope of escaping: Christian Du Mauré.

I braced myself as he explained to Gaétan why they were not with Gabrielle, which made my heart sink for just a second. I sensed that Gaétan could not wait to whisk us away, but I would have none of it. I could not let this tall stranger slip away.

Then I turned my attention to his friend: Michel Baptiste.

He was a human sculpture come to life with flowing black hair that caressed high cheekbones and full lips. His eyes glistened in the torchlight and though I could tell they were light, only later would I discover they were almost a Peridot green; like a stain glass window with the light shining through. When he became angry, they would darken and over the next three years I would see them darken more than once, but at that moment I was so taken with both of them I could barely breathe.

Their energy embraced me and I found myself unable to choose one of them.

DeniseWritingProcess


 

If only it were that easy. How many times have I read or heard this simple directive when it comes to writing?

“Just write.”

Some writers extol the blank page. Like the empty canvas of the painter, anything is possible. The blank page staring back at me holds both the promise of a new chapter and the ramblings of my unconscious mind.

Dare I say I am not sure which is which sometimes?

When asked if I write in a linear fashion after first creating an outline, I usually smirk, then laugh, as I think of all the writings/ramblings I have created that remain in folders on my desktop computer, waiting to be born.

My writings stem from the voices in my head – yes, the voices of my vampires talking to me, prodding me to tell their stories. I cannot plan for it or schedule a time to “sit and write” in a disciplined fashion. Too many other parts of my life call to me and so when my muse taps on my shoulder through the voice of my main character, Christian Du Mauré, or his best friend, Michel Baptiste, or their mortal lover, Josette Delacore, I sit down and write what I hear and “see” in my mind.

It’s sort of like watching a film. I see them in a room, or wandering at night through Central Park, and as they converse I record it. Yes, I go back and edit it, and although each conversation may not be meaningful at that moment, it may become part of a chapter or even a whole chapter. I won’t know until I sit down and write.

I may “feel” Michel needing to say something to another character and so I sit and write his dialogue; whether it is in the here and now or in the eighteenth century. I visualize what my characters are wearing and feel their emotions – especially their loneliness and grief.

Slowly, the chapters fall into place and then I have Part One, and then Part Two.

When I begin a novel, I do not know where the story will take me, as the characters are continually surprising me. And although I may say to myself, “Christian feels so much guilt over leaving Josette behind,” I am never sure how to share this with the reader until I write it. He will tell me.

Writing is the unknowable, which is the magic and the maelstrom of my creativity.

I leave you with E.L. Doctorow who puts it so nicely –

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Exactly.