We’re always ready for adventure and a trip to the tomb of Marie Laveau qualifies as a grand adventure! Author Debby Grahl shares her experiences along with an excerpt from His Magic Touch, set in the enchanting city of New Orleans.
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Visit the Big Easy with Debby Grahl
New Orleans, known as the Crescent City or the Big Easy, recently celebrated its three- hundredth anniversary. It was first settled by the French, then taken over by the Spanish, sold back to the French who then sold it to the United States.
The city’s historic past includes such characters as the famous pirate, John Lafitte. and the infamous Delphine Lalaurie who, in 1836. was run out of New Orleans when her mansion caught fire and tortured slaves were discovered; such places as the notorious Storyville red light district, the iconic riverboat casinos, and everyone’s favorite party, Mardi Gras.
My husband David and I first visited New Orleans in 1989 and fell in love with the city. I’m a history buff by heart so I found the old Spanish architecture with its wrought iron balconies enchanting. All you have to do is walk the streets of the French Quarter to feel the magic.
There’s a saying, “Only in New Orleans.” And this is so true. As I sat on our hotel balcony sipping a glass of wine and munching on a bag of voodoo chips, I could see a musician setting up on the corner. Soon the clear sounds of his saxophone filled the night. The smell of spicy gumbo from the restaurant across the street wafted through the air. The clip clop of a horse-drawn carriage passed beneath me, its driver thrilling his passengers with tales of the ghosts who haunt the city. A man, painted silver, walked along juggling oranges, while a bicycle cab pedaled by. On Bourbon Street, a second line band strolled past. A group of laughing tourists carrying red go-cups went into a bar, and the long low whistle of a paddle wheeler on the river could be heard.
As I sat there taking it all in, I thought what a wonderful place to set a story. From its diverse people and cultures to its incredible food, such as hot sugary beignets, po boy sandwiches, and crawfish etouffee; every kind of music from funky blues to jazz, rock ‘n roll to country; and Voodoo shops, haunted houses, and above-ground cemeteries.
People claim witches and ghosts walk the streets, and I have to admit sometimes I believe it’s true.
It was while touring St. Louis #1, the oldest above-ground cemetery in the city, that I first encountered the Voodoo queen, Marie Laveau. Marie is thought to have been born in 1794. She began her career as a hairdresser to the influential ladies of New Orleans. It is said she knew all of the ladies’ secrets. It didn’t take long for her to dominate voodoo culture and society. then she became the queen of voodoo. During her decades as queen, she was consulted about family disputes, health, finances, and more. In addition, she performed her services in three main places as queen: her home on St. Ann Street, Congo Square, and Lake Pontchartrain. Some references to Marie Laveau in popular culture refer to her as a “witch.”
Tourists continue to visit her tomb. Some draw X marks in accordance with a decades-old tradition that if people want Marie to grant them a wish, they draw an X on the tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, yell out their wish, and if it is granted, come back, circle their X, and leave her an offering.
This is where we were when something strange happened to me. Suddenly I started feeling dizzy and faint. It got so bad, we had to leave the tour. Now, up until this point, I was fine. I swear Marie zapped me. My husband will tell you it was because of the heat, but I’ve never had trouble with heat before. A few years later, we went back, and I was ready for her. Needless to say, we had a perfectly normal tour.
After my first experience, I began researching local witchcraft and hauntings. The Hotel Monteleone, on Royal Street, is one of the settings I use in the book. Not only known for its Carousel Bar, it’s also one of the most haunted hotels in the city.
I hope His Magic Touch brings a little of New Orleans to life for you, and you get a chance to visit this unique city on the Mississippi.
The night before Jared Dupre’s wedding, a specter warns him that the demonic witch, Adam Montief, has kidnapped his brother in a centuries-old vendetta unknown to Jared. A powerful witch himself, Jared tracks Adam from New Orleans to a remote island off the coast of Connecticut, where he’s given no choice.
He must rescue his brother and break his engagement to Kendra O’Connell, or they both die. After complying, Jared engages in a sword fight and believes he has vanquished his foe, but when he returns to New Orleans, he finds evil still threatens all he loves. Kendra, not knowing why Jared broke their engagement, devastated, finds solace in another’s arms.
With help from an ancestor’s spirit, can Jared defeat the dark magic descending over the Big Easy while winning back the woman he loves?
An Excerpt from His Magic Touch
In the stifling heat, Angelique Montief flicked her wrist and set the bamboo ceiling fan spinning. Kneeling on a woven mat with sweat coating her body, she lifted a small wooden brass-bound casket from the bottom of a large trunk, inserted a gold key, and opened the lid. Inside two objects lay wrapped in thick cloth. She carefully unwrapped the smaller bundle to reveal a pentagonal mirror, a gift handed down to her by her grandmother, its ancient oak frame carved with tiny pentacles. She glanced over her shoulder at her locked bedroom door, then stared into the mirror and whispered, “Show him to me.”
When the glass remained blank, fear clutched at her chest. Again, she said the words, and the image of a plantation house engulfed in flames appeared. “No, please, he can’t be dead.” Tears blurred her vision. The fiery image changed to reveal a human form lying beneath flowering bougainvillea.
Hope rising, Angelique peered closer.
“Show me his face.”
She saw his indigo blue eyes blink open.
“I’m coming, my love.”
He couldn’t hear her, but she hoped in his heart that he knew she would find a way to get to him.
As the smoke in the room thickened, she knew her time was running out. She rewrapped the mirror and placed it into the smaller casket among cloth bags of herbs and potion-filled vials. Relocking the lid, she hung the key on a chain around her neck, dropped a jeweled dagger into her pocket, and tucked the casket under her arm.
Crouched beneath the smoke, she considered the quickest way to reach her son and escape.
Augustus had locked her in, placing what he thought would be an impenetrable shield across both doors. Angelique coughed, choked by the smoke. Her husband’s biggest mistake was underestimating her power.
Meet Debby Grahl
Award-winning author Debby Grahl writes contemporary and paranormal romance with elements of suspense. She lives on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, with her husband, David. Besides writing, she enjoys biking, walking on the beach, and a glass of wine at sunset. Her favorite places to visit are New Orleans, New York City, Captiva Island in Florida, the Cotswolds of England, and her home state of Michigan. She is a history buff who also enjoys reading murder mysteries, time travel, and, of course, romance.
Her latest book, Mountain Blaze, was released November 2, 2020. She is working on Island Heat, the second book in her Carolina series. Her other books are His Magic Touch, Decorated to Death, Rue Toulouse, and The Silver Crescent. Debby also has stories in several anthologies.