Vampire Novelist Denise K. Rago

A place I reference frequently in my novels is a little neighborhood in Paris called Le Marais. These days Marais is quite similar in feel to the West Village in NYC, chock-full of bars, restaurants, hotels, high and low fashion boutiques, trendy shops, hip designers, old fashioned bread shops, jewelry, wine shops, fashionable art galleries and museums all crammed into one small area. Long the aristocratic district of Paris, it hosts many outstanding buildings of historic and architectural importance. But what of its history?

Marais started out focused on religion with the Order of the Temple building its fortified church in the northern part in 1240. Many other religious institutions were added nearby (such as convents and the church of Sainte-Catherine-du-Val-des-Écoliers) and the area became known as the Temple Quarter. During the mid-13th century, Charles I of Anjour, King of Naples and Sicily, and brother of King Louis IX of France built his new residence in Marais. King Charles V followed with a mansion in 1361 and from then till the 17th century, Marais became known as the Royal Square, the French nobility’s favorite place of residence. French nobles were fond of building their urban mansions there – such as the Hôtel de Sens, the Hôtel de Sully, the Hôtel de Beauvais, the Hôtel Carnavalet, the Hôtel de Guénégaud and the Hôtel de Soubise. During the late 18th century, whilst still being known as an aristocratic area, Marais was no longer a fashionable district for the nobility. Then came the Revolution.

After the revolution, much of the area was abandoned by the rich, and poor bohemian types moved in. At this point, Marais was so squalid that it was nearly destroyed by city officials in their attempt to modernize Paris. This was also the beginning of the time period when the area started attracting a large Jewish community, quickly becoming one of Paris’ main Jewish communities. Unfortunately, the people living here were targeted by the Nazis occupying France during WWII. Since the 90s, however, the street, rue des Rosiers, has made a comeback as a major centre for the Jewish community.

The Marais today is now one of Paris’ main localities for art galleries. It’s also known for the Chinese community it hosts. Marais has also become a center for LGBTQ+ culture, starting in the 80s. 40% of Paris’ LGBTQ+ businesses are located in Marais. Florence Tamagne, author of “Paris: ‘Resting on its Laurels’?”, wrote that Le Marais “is less a ‘village’ where one lives and works than an entrance to a pleasure area” and that this differentiates it from Anglo-American gay villages. Tamagne added that like U.S. gay villages, Le Marais has “an emphasis on ‘commercialism, gay pride and coming-out of the closet'”.

One of the best things about Marais though is that it truly is the Paris of old. Before Napoleon showed up, the Marais is what most of Paris looked like – a labyrinth of cobblestone alleys. The rest of Paris was razed by Napoleon and replaced with huge avenues and gigantic squares, but standing in the Marais, we are privy to the small and approachable Paris of the past. There’s a reason I love it so. Explore Le Marais in the photos and video below!

I’m not quite sure where this summer went but it is rapidly coming to a close.
I am diligently working on edits for my newest novel, Eternal Hunger, but they are going slow as I have been really relaxing this summer; reading and just enjoying myself.
Now that fall is on our doorstep I will be publishing my newsletter filled with more goodies inside.
I hope your summer was a good one and thank you for dropping by.

Quick – what’s the first thing you think of when I say “masquerade balls”? Perhaps you think about Romeo meeting Juliet for the first time in Baz Luhrrmann’s epic 90s adaptation or Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” crosses your mind. Maybe you ponder the lonely Phantom of the Opera chasing after Christine. Whatever comes to mind, you might be surprised to learn that the masquerade wasn’t always just about partying and dancing the night away. Throughout history the masquerade has held a host of meanings to our ancestors. Join me on a journey through the years as we cast a spotlight on the masquerade!

Masquerades originated from pagan festivals celebrating the advent of the spring planting season. In the 15th century, this time was known as Carnaval season (yep, you got it – Mardi Gras!) and began after the winter solstice as part of the Feast of Fools. At this point, it was much less high society and more of a cirque du celebration – a time when villagers would gather wearing masks to partake in pageantry. Over time, these parties were taken over more by royalty and increasingly involved Royal Entries (the act of welcoming kings & queens to one’s city), processions celebrating marriage, and other such events of medieval court life. In fact, one of the earliest of these types of balls came in 1393 when Charles V1 of France held the first “Bal des Ardents”, or “Burning Men’s Ball”. (Perhaps there’s some relation to today’s Burning Man?…) This ball changed the whole perception of such events from one of royal pageantry to one of intrigue and risk. How so? Well, Charles V1 had the brilliant idea to celebrate the marriage of the queen’s lady-in-waiting by having 5 of his courtiers and himself dress in masks and flax costumes to dance the night away as “wildsmen of the woods”. The catch? If they danced too closely to one of the many flaming torches lining the dance floor, they caught on fire. Fun…?

By the time masquerade balls reached Italy, they were generally elaborate dances held for the upper class, where scandal reigned. Tied to the Venetian Carnaval, the balls only lasted for a few years until the fall of the Venetian Republic. Fortunately, along came John James Heidegger, a Swiss count who revitalized the popularity of the masquerade across Europe by bringing Venetian costumes to public dances in gardens in London. Along with this move came a name change, due to the reputation for unseemly behavior and unescorted women at masquerades – Ridotto.

Not all balls were fun and games, however. Gustav III of Sweden was assassinated by a disgruntled nobleman at a masquerade, while in 18th century France, balls and Carnaval was increasingly politicized and used to attack the monarchy. In fact, with the French Revolution, Carnaval and masking were temporarily banned till Napoleon brought Carnaval back in 1800. And the masquerade didn’t fare very well in colonial America where there was an actual anti-masquerade movement decrying the immorality and “foreign influence” of such events.

In popular culture, the French and masked balls have been linked so closely that a 1908 American film was titled AT THE FRENCH BALL (a story of adultery at a masquerade). Though with good reason. After Napoleon brought back Carnaval in 1800, the Parisian Carnaval was said to have all but died by 1830. But in 1831 after the July Revolution, it exploded back onto the scene, changing once again into a version akin to Hollywood and the red carpet. A new revolutionary generation was in town and romanticism had arrived. Along with them came the fashion press, satirical dailies, gossip columns, and cheap newspapers, all of whom provided Parisians and readers everywhere a blow-by-blow account of the masked balls during Carnival after 1830. Hundreds of these pamphlets, satires, and fashion magazines supplied running commentary on the pleasures to be found at the Carnaval masked balls at their height in the 1830s and 1840s (including the masked balls that took place in the middle of the Revolution of 1848) and it is this period that became shrouded in myth.

Unfortunately, today the masquerade tends to stay firmly in myth. Night clubs came to replace the daring, scandalous, erstwhile balls and now you’d be hard-pressed to find a true masquerade to attend. If you’ve been lucky enough to attend a masquerade somewhere, leave a comment and tell us all about it! We can merely dream and live vicariously through you. *sighs*

I’ll be running a contest to pick the book cover image for Eternal Hunger, the next novel in The Enchanted Bloodline Series. Winners to receive copies of Eternal Hunger. Following in the footsteps of Immortal Obsession and Blood Tears, Eternal Hunger continues the story of vampire Christian Du Maure as he moves between France and modern day Manhattan searching for a lost love. He hunts in the lush Ramble of New York City’s Central Park with his best friend, vampire Michel Baptiste. Clearly Bethesda Fountain in Central Park is also a favorite haunt of this author.

March is such a long month as we transition from winter to spring and so I thought I would devote several blog posts to those authors I love to read whom I want to share them with you! Who knows, perhaps you have read them as well,  or maybe, like me, you will make a fabulous discovery and add these authors to your list of ‘must reads.” As an avid reader I am always on the look-out for new authors and I am sometimes amazed at how I discover them.

British author, Angie Marsons writes great detective novels.  Her protagonist, Detective Kim Stone is a very interesting lady with a past which is revealed over the course of each novel.  I like that I don’t know everything about her.  ‘Blood Lines’ is the Fifth D.I. Kim Stone novel but hopefully not the last.  I love her characters and her novels are truly nail biters.

American author Ronald Malfi wrote one of my all-time favorite novels, ‘Floating Staircase,’ the story of a troubled writer and a haunted house.  He knows how to weave a tale which is brilliant yet horrific. I’ll read anything he writes.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog this month as much as I have enjoyed sharing such great writers with you.  I always welcome your comments and please share your favorite authors with me too.

March is such a long month as we transition from winter to spring and so I thought I would devote several blog posts to those authors I love to read whom I want to share them with you! Who knows, perhaps you have read them as well, or maybe, like me, you will make a fabulous discovery and add these authors to your list of ‘must reads.” As an avid reader I am always on the look-out for new authors and I am sometimes amazed at how I discover them.

I discovered British author Elly Griffiths while scrolling through books on Amazon. I like the book title, ‘The Crossing Places’ and the cover image which I found dark yet inviting. Turns out her main character, Ruth Galloway is an archaeologist who lives in Norfolk, England and who manages to get herself involved in solving crimes with the local police department. I have read each novel in this series. #9 The Chalk Pit releases this spring. Mystery novels always draw me in as well as the complex human relationships that Griffiths pens so well.

The cover of ‘How the Light Gets In’ drew me into the world of Canadian author Louise Penny who writes about the fictional village of Three Pines and the numerous characters which inhabit this village, including Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec. Her latest novel, ‘The Nature of the Beast’ is # 11 in this mystery series. I can’t wait for the next novel for she writes of a world which I find so welcoming, once I enter Three Pines I never want to leave.

I bought a signed, first edition of the Irish author John Connolly’s ‘The Black Angel’ having never heard of him. The novel came with a CD which featured a song by one of my favorite artists, Kate Bush. I was sold. As it turns out, yes, this was book #5 in the Charlie Parker detective series. 9 books later and I am still hooked on this series; a bit in love with Charlie Parker and amazed at John Connolly’s characters who are complex, unforgettable and dark. # 15, A Game of Ghosts releases in the USA on July 3, 2017.

“Read an Ebook Week” is HERE! What’s that mean? Now till March 11th, you can get “Immortal Obsession” and “Blood Tears” for 50% off! Visit my Smashword author page, go to the bottom of the page and click on the book you want, and purchase (coupon code is displayed on the book’s book page)! It’s THAT easy.

What are you waiting for? Go grab your copies and make sure you let your friends and their friends and their friends’ friends know! Oh, and there are a TON of other books on sale right now too so…have fun!

March is such a long month as we transition from winter to spring and so I thought I would devote several blog posts to those authors I love to read whom I want to share them with you! Who knows, perhaps you have read them as well, or maybe, like me, you will make a fabulous discovery and add these authors to your list of ‘must reads.” As an avid reader I am always on the look-out for new authors and I am sometimes amazed at how I discover them.

While in search of a book to take to the beach, I picked up ‘Among the Wicked’ by Linda Castillo. It was a mystery novel and had Amish women on the cover, two subjects which intrigue me. As it turns out this is the eighth book in a series so after reading it I had to go back and start at the beginning and read each one. I cannot wait for her next Kate Burkholder novel, a series about an Amish woman who leaves the fold only to become the Chief of Police in her home town. It’s so wonderful to learn about the Amish culture as well as trying to solve the mysteries along with Kate.

Another favorite author of mine is British author Sharon J Bolton. When I began reading her novels she was going by the name SJ Bolton. Her novels always contain a relevant social issue while being gripping and hard to put down. ‘Daisy in Chains’ was one of my favorites. Her newest release this spring, ‘Dead Woman Walking’ promises to be just a good.

Jennifer McMahon writes really suspenseful novels. ‘The Night Sister’ was hard to put down and her latest novel, ‘Burntown’ will release this spring. Again, I discovered her by chance and have read all of her novels. I’m not sure how she does it but she can weave a tale that puts me in a trance and her stories are really creepy. I like creepy.

What is that saying about the best laid plans? Although my meeting with Victor was never far from my thoughts it seemed impossible to get away on a Friday night. It seemed when not being a parent to Julien all of my time was spent focusing on a housekeeper. Michel and I could not seem to agree on anyone and so we were at a stalemate. Either the woman did not want the job or the person I thought best for the job Michel did not like. Not that he would be around that much but he strongly opposed any mortals coming into our home. I totally understood. When I went to their townhouse in New York for the first time I was only the third mortal who had ever been allowed entry since 1901.

Vampires were not the most trusting souls and believe me, although I understood I was still annoyed. I wanted to slip out to the Louvre again and perhaps meet up with Victor. His words haunted me and I was convinced he knew more about Christian than he was telling me. Maybe I was desperate to learn something of his whereabouts but until I could get out I was no closer to learning the truth and I was losing patience.
Michel and I were ensconced in front of a roaring fire on a wintry November night locked in one of our typical debates.

“Julien is now two years old. I can’t keep him locked up forever Michel. He needs to get out and to be around other kids.”
He shrugged and gazed into the fire. I knew he knew I was right but he was trying to come up with a response.
I gently rubbed his arm. “Come on Michel. Surely you remember being a kid with Christian? Everyone needs a friend.”
He turned slowly, capturing me with his light green eyes.
“Everything you say is true but Julien is not your typical child. He is vulnerable to forces you cannot imagine. Even you are in danger every time you leave this house.”
“How many vampires do you really think know we are here? I went out to the Louvre one night and I was fine.”
I was waiting for a fight when the doorbell interrupted us.
“Are you expecting anyone?”

I was already at the door, wondering if Victor had also lost patience and was taking a more direct route.
He pulled me towards him before I could even speak.
I’m not sure how long we stood in the doorway but I never thought I would be so happy to see Tony. We had started out as adversaries, vying for the attention of a vampire we both loved and held in the highest esteem. Tony was their human servant in New York and then I came along and upset the delicate balance of their Upper East Side home.
I had been only the third mortal allowed into their world since they came to New York in 1901. Tony had been number two and I sometime wonder who had been the first person allowed in. I always assumed it was a woman, definitely a beautiful woman but who knows? I guess my jealousy was getting the best of me.
“Oh shit.” I wiped my eyes, leading him inside.

The King and the Dauphin both like to see me on horseback. I only say this because all the world perceives it, and especially while we were absent from Versailles, they were delighted to see me in my riding habit.

~ Marie Antoinette

Little did Louis XIII know that the hunting lodge he built, nestled in the forest of Versailles would become one of the most revered monuments on the twenty first century. It was his son, The Sun King or as we know him, Louis XIV who would transform Versailles from a hunting lodge to the seat of the French government and the French court.

The Hall of Mirrors and the gardens became his obsession and so thousands of aristocrats would walk the halls and the gardens of Versailles in a world surrounded by politics, gossip, court intrigue and affairs. Each monarch would add to the palace creating the stunning monument to French culture that it is today.

Perhaps Versailles is most famous for the last King and Queen to rule France, Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette. Who does not imagine what their opulent lives were like against the background of the tumultuous times in which they lived and died? So many books recount their lives and their death. The Revolution Francaise is one of my favorite periods in world history. I am constantly searching for answers but like the many pieces of a puzzle, there were many factors contributing to the downfall of the French monarchy.

Still, I consider Versailles more than just a museum dedicated to the History of France. It is a reminder of the power of kings to make their vision of France into something tangible which captivates us to this day.