It's always great to have Suzanne Johnson here as my blog guest. Please welcome her, enjoy her guest post about New Orleans legends, check out her new release, Belle Chasse, and enter her terrific giveaway.
A City of Stories: Welcome to New Orleans
by Suzanne Johnson
Every city has its legends and stories, but in the U.S., it’s hard to find any place with more unusual tales than New Orleans. It’s widely considered the most haunted city in the States, a byproduct of its unique history.
A lot of the most infamous New Orleans stories are of the gruesome or frightening variety, and I have a theory about that. First, the city is old by U.S. standards, and thanks to a miscalculation during the Civil War, much of its old architecture is still standing. (All the soldiers were sent north to guard the city, so the Yankees simply sailed up the unguarded river and took the city without a fight. Duh.)
Second, as an old port city that has belonged to France, then Spain, then France again, then finally the United States, it is a true melting pot of cultures and nationalities, and each came in with its own traditions. Free people of color fleeing Haiti brought with them their voodoo, which blended with Catholicism for a unique mix of rituals and beliefs. Also as a port city, and because the climate is so inhospitable, my adopted hometown has a core history of violence.
But today, I’d like to share a few of the interesting New Orleans stories—real ones and legends—that are part of the reason I love this place!
* The Rougarou, or Loup-Garou. The “rougarou” is the South Louisiana version of the werewolf—which is an interesting legend for Louisiana to have because the state has no native wolves. According to legend, the rougarou—which is always white but sometimes is a dog or bear rather than a wolf—is a cursed human who can only be freed of the curse by killing someone else and passing it on to the victim. As the victim “dies” (to be resurrected as a rougarou), the beast must reveal his human identity. In the Sentinels of New Orleans series, the loup-garou, aka rougarou, are rogue werewolves that do not adhere to the pack structure and have poor control over their beasts. They are often killed by one of the packs.
* The Patriot Pirate. This particular story is true, and dates back to the War of 1812, when the Americans and British were continuing to fight over the “new world” territory. The final battle of the war, which became known as the Battle of New Orleans, took place in 1815. General Andrew Jackson, heading up the American forces, was badly outnumbered by the Brits and didn’t have enough weapons or ammunition. Against his better judgment, he sought help from the real “King” of the New Orleans area, the French pirate Jean Lafitte. Lafitte not only tricked the British into thinking he was supporting them, but brokered a deal with the Americans so that he and his followers would be pardoned for all their pirating crimes. Against all odds, with American soldiers fighting alongside Lafitte’s renegades and pirates, the battle was won and the British retreated. Alas, the charming “gentleman pirate” Lafitte was soon bored with life as an upstanding citizen and he renewed his life of piracy. Thanks to the magic of human memory, however, he lives on in his immortal undead form in the Sentinels series, and much of BELLE CHASSE takes place at his home in the preternatural world.
* The Napoleon House. This story is also true. Nicholas Girod, the mayor of New Orleans, had a fine ca. 1797 house in what is now the French Quarter, at the corner of Chartres and St. Louis streets. In 1821, when Napoleon Bonaparte was sent into exile, Girod prepared the second-story apartments for the exiled emperor and began hatching a plot to bring him to New Orleans. Napoleon never made it, having died before the plans could be enacted. But ever since, the Girod residence has been known as the Napoleon House. It’s now a bar and restaurant, and is a great place to soak in the local history and watch the world go by. Several key scenes in the Sentinels series take place here.
* The Casket Girls and the Vampires. The Frenchmen living in New Orleans in 1700 had a problem—there was a distinct shortage of suitable young women for them to marry. The French government had the perfect solution, however. They sent many virtuous young women, taken from orphanages and convents, and sent them to “Louisiane” with a government-issued trunk of belongings, “casquettes” or “cassettes.” The girls became known as “les filles a la cassette.” Until they could be paired with husbands, the girls lived in the Ursuline Convent with the nuns, sleeping in the attic. According to legend, the girls’ trunks were shaped like coffins and contained vampires. During the evening hours, the dormer windows of the attic would open and dark figures would be seen flying from them…even after the windows were nailed shut by fearful residents.
Have you been to New Orleans? Which is your favorite legend?
Sentinels of New Orleans
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: TOR Books
Date of Publication: November 8, 2016
Number of pages: 336
Word Count: approx. 93,000
Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen
Suzanne Johnson's "strong and intriguing" (Publishers Weekly) urban fantasy series continues with Belle Chasse. The Sentinels of New Orleans series has earned starred reviews from Library Journal ("a resourceful heroine who relies on her magical ingenuity") and PW ("vivid...a lively tale jam-packed with action, magic, and intriguing plot twists").
With the wizard-elven treaty on the verge of collapse, the preternatural world stands on the brink of war. Unless former wizard sentinel DJ Jaco manages to keep the elven leader, Quince Randolph, focused on peace and not personal matters.
With no one on the throne, Faerie is in chaos, with rival princes battling for power. The still-undead pirate, Jean Lafitte, is building his own army of misfits, and DJ stripped of her job and hiding in the Beyond to avoid the death sentence handed down by the wizard Council of Elders can’t get anywhere near her beloved New Orleans or her significant something-or-other, Alex.
It's time to choose sides. Friends will become enemies, enemies will become allies, and not everyone will survive. DJ and her friends will learn a hard lesson: sometimes, even the ultimate sacrifice isn’t enough.
I expected Christof to start a snowstorm above Rand’s head. What I didn’t expect was for the prince to lower his head and charge Rand like a raging bull, head-butting him in the midsection. They hit the ground, and I saw my chance at the same time Eugenie spotted me.
I motioned her toward the woods where the transport lay. To hell with the Blue Congress wizards. We were going to make a run for it while Christof kept Rand too busy to notice.
She set off for the woods, and I met her halfway. “My family thinks I’m crazy!” she wailed, loud enough to draw the attention of the tall, skinny Blue Congress wizard with the rooster haircut.
Holy crap. I whipped out the elven staff, paused long enough to aim just to the right of the wizards. They already had their hands up and were doing some of their nifty Blue Congress magic when I released my fire and blew up the tombstone next to them, sending a rain of marble and playing cards onto their heads. Around us, evidence of their magic appeared as tombstones began moving to block our escape route.
I grabbed Eugenie’s arm and pulled her around a marble stag the size of a small SUV. It had lowered its head and pawed the ground as if to charge. Blue Congress magic was so damned cool— create and re-create.
“Stop, DJ!” Eugenie grabbed my arm as I tried to race past her. “A sinkhole!”
I looked stupidly at the ground in front of us, which had opened a gulf big enough to drive a Greyhound bus into. “Go around and run fast,” I shouted, sending another shot of the staff toward the Blue Congress wizards and blowing up a ginormous marble eagle perched atop a nearby tomb.
We didn’t stop to see if the stag was chasing us, but ran for all we were worth. Finally, at the edge of the tree line, I hazarded a look back at Christof and Rand. The faery stood watching us; the elf had crumpled on the ground. Not dead, though, because in my head, far behind my protective barriers, I heard him yelling my name.
Christof grinned and motioned for us to move along. He didn’t have to motion twice, because the wizards were chasing us, still chanting and doing their finger dance. The stag was getting way too close.
I raised the staff and blew a hole in the earth in front of the advancing stag, forcing him to change direction. Luck was on our side for a change— the stag began charging toward the wizards instead, who had to stop pursuing us in order to protect themselves from being trampled beneath marble hooves.
“Let’s run to the transport before those idiot wizards can get out from under the stag.” I grabbed Eugenie’s hand and we ran to the clearing. “Help me roll this werewolf out of the transport.”
To her credit, she didn’t ask a single question. We tipped the werewolf onto his side and rolled him outside the interlocking circle and triangle, leaving him at an awkward angle with his
feet in the air. Oh well.
I touched the staff to the edge of the transport and said, “Winter Palace, Faery” just before the Blue Congress wizards reached the edge of the clearing. I waved at them as the transport sucked the air out of my lungs. They were too late.
As soon as we materialized on the round floor of ice in the Winter Palace, Eugenie screamed. I figured she was getting her first look at the grisly remains of Faerie Princess Tamara until a blinding light knocked me off my feet and a big crack appeared in the ice between us.
“Where is my brother?”
I whirled to see Florian sitting on a block of ice behind us bundled in a heavy coat, a blanket spread beneath him, no doubt to protect his royal assets from getting cold and wet.
“He’s in Shreveport, Louisiana, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help church, having a fi stfi ght with an elf,” I said, pretty confident that of all the things he might expect me to say, that wasn’t it.
About the Author:
Suzanne Johnson is the author of the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series but perhaps is best known for her romantic suspense and paranormal romance books written as Susannah Sandlin, including the Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series, the Wilds of the Bayou suspense series, and The Collectors romantic thriller series. Her awards include two Holt Medallions in 2013 and 2015, a 2015 Booksellers Best Award in romantic suspense, and nominations in 2014 and 2015 for the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Award. A displaced New Orleanian, she currently lives in Auburn, Alabama. Suzanne loves SEC football, fried gator on a stick, all things Cajun, and redneck reality TV.
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