Vampire Novelist Denise K. Rago

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.

 

It’s that time of year again.

These are two of my favorite Christmas songs.

Perhaps Jethro Tull got it right in the opening verse of A Christmas Song which derides humanity for focusing on gaiety and partying at a time of year when so many have so little.

Once in Royal David’s City, stood a lonely cattle shed,

Where a mother held her baby

You’d do well to remember the things He later said.

When you’re stuffing yourselves at the Christmas parties,

You’ll just laugh when I tell you to take a running jump,

You’re missing the point I’m sure does not need making

The Christmas spirit is not what you drink.

I must confess, I have so much in my life that is happy and good and if you know me at all, you know I am not talking about the material; but the joy of the company of my loved ones and the relationships I cherish with family, friends, co-workers and my social media “friends” as well. I have had a wonderful year. Not bragging, just tell you how blessed I feel to have such loving people in my life. At the end of the day it will be the experiences I have had with all of you that are my true gifts, not the presents under the tree.

On the heels of musician Greg Lake passing away so close to Christmas I would be remiss if I did not include at least one stanza from the beautiful yet sad, I Believe in Father Christmas.

I wish you a hopeful Christmas

I wish you a brave new year

All anguish, pain and sadness

Leave your heart and let your road be clear.

Until next year.

Denise

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It is that time of year again, not that I don’t wake up each day and say to the Universe, ‘thank you,’ but next week we in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving. I feel the need to publicly thank my loved ones, this great country that I live in, and my creativity. I do not know where it comes from, but I feel blessed to enjoy writing and creating books that readers enjoy.

Each night as I put my head to my pillow I give a prayer of thanks to all those I hold dear. In the morning, usually while I am driving to work I give another prayer of thanks for all the blessings I have in my life.

A wonderful quote comes to mind as we approach Thanksgiving.

“It’s experiences, not material things, that bring enduring happiness.”

This has been my lifelong philosophy and at the end of my life it will be people I will miss, not the things that surround me. No one ever said, “I wish I bought more stuff.”; it’s time with our loved ones that matters the most.

Simple pleasures, honest relationships, good meals and great books.

I am blessed to be having Thanksgiving dinner with most of my family next week. A true blessing.

What more can I ask for?

May you have a Happy Thanksgiving!