Thursday, November 3, 2011

Author Rochelle Staab: Are You Superstitious?

Having loved books for as long as I can Rochelle Staab Headshotremember, I’ve thought of authors as celebrity-types, unreachable by their fans. Blogdom has shown me a different side to authors and I am honored to call a number of them friends. Among those friends I’ve made is a very fascinating author who’s cozy mystery, WHO DO VOODOO?, made it’s debut appearance this week.

I’m delighted to welcome the multi-talented author Rochelle Staab as the special guest blogger here today. I had the pleasure of meeting Rochelle through one of her critique partners, VR Barkowski. VR is an author, blogger, friend and fellow Georgian. Thanks VR for pointing Rochelle in my direction. You’re a gem.

In chatting back and forth with Rochelle about her book, I was enchanted by her characters and the storyline. I was amazed at the research she had done. She’ll tell you more about that in a second. Here’s a brief synopsis of WHO DO, VOODOO? the first novel in Rochelle’s thrilling new Mind For Murder Mystery series features no-nonsense Liz Cooper, a Los Angeles psychologist forced to embrace the occult to clear her best friend of murder.
When Liz Cooper’s friend Robin Bloom finds an unusual tarot card tacked to her front door, Liz writes it off as a prank. Robin refuses to ignore the omen—her late husband drew the same card, the three of swords, in a reading the night before he was killed in a car accident. As more cards and darker threats appear, Liz realizes someone very dangerous is upping the ante.
Liz turns to her brother’s ex-college roommate, occult expert Nick Garfield.  As Nick leads her into the voodoo community to locate the origin of the deck, she can't ignore their attraction to each other. Then a woman is found murdered and Robin becomes the prime suspect. Determined to clear her friend, Liz joins forces with Nick to unravel otherworldly secrets and seek help from beyond—or risk being outwitted by a cunning killer.
Rochelle has joined us today to talk about superstitions and tell about the detailed research she did for her book and series.

My family was superstitious. No hats on the bed (bad luck), shoes on the table (an argument), and we tossed spilled salt over our shoulders to keep away the devil. Children are magical thinkers and I bought into it. Doubt seeped in when my persistent wish for a magic wand just didn’t come true. In a way, maybe it did. My pen is sort of a magic wand—a tool to write mysteries. Mysteries with a supernatural twist.

Voodoo made a deliciously dark and threatening component to toss in a murder mystery set in Los Angeles, a city with psychic shops on every mile, séances held in Hollywood homes, and fortunetellers at parties. Intrigued by the ubiquitous psychic shops around town, my idea for WHO DO, VOODOO? originated with a character—Nick Garfield, a professor of religious philosophy and specialist in alternative beliefs, who on the side consults LAPD in occult-related crimes. 

Enter Liz Cooper—a clever, but skeptical psychologist dismissive toward the supernatural. Liz seeks Nick’s help after her friend Robin is harassed by a series of tarot cards, the same menacing cards drawn in a reading the night before Robin’s husband died in a car crash two years earlier. Liz sets out to find the source of the tarot deck and punish the prankster.

The research on Liz and Nick’s resulting adventure gave me a series of memorable experiences. Opening the story with the right tarot card seemed simple enough. I thought I could find enough information online to make my tarot card a reasonable threat. But which card? Google led me to hundreds of sites, curiosity drew me to books, and the books (along with a few live tarot readings) convinced me that the only way I could accurately write about tarot was to actually learn the art of reading tarot. Four months and sixteen tarot classes later, I can read a spread with confidence. My scenes gained authenticity and my new skill comes in handy at parties. Avoid the Tower. Hope for the Nine of Cups.

I added the voodoo twist to the WHO DO, VOODOO? plot following a trip to New Orleans. My curiosity about voodoo—the mysterious Haitian religion shrouded in Catholic imagery—began during with a New Orleans visit. I was drawn to the folk art imagery, even the French Quarter commercialization of what I considered black magic. I wanted to know more about the practice and culture. On my next trip I had a free afternoon so I hired a voodoo priestess for a voodoo tour of the French Quarter. Wow! After an amazing lecture on the Spanish-French-Creole history of New Orleans while strolling through the Quarter, she took me on a back room tour of several voodoo shops. There I saw the sanctuaries and ritual sites that inspired several scenes in WHO DO, VOODOO?
My tour culminated at St. Louis Cemetery #1 in front of the tomb of Marie Laveau, the Louisiana Creole voodoo legend, where my priestess guide spat whiskey on the tomb in an honoring ritual. She made me toss nine pennies over my shoulder as we left. Her explanation: restless spirits were bound take the coins to their leader instead of possessing our souls on the way out. Broad daylight. I did it anyway. Following our escape we headed to Café Du Monde for beignets. 

I have Nick’s curiosity about belief systems. I’m also a bit like Liz, the doubter. She likes rational explanations, even when she attends a séance where something scientifically unexplainable occurs. Like Liz, I’ll hold onto my misgivings and spurn signs but there are times…well, take the hairpin incident this morning. 

Lately I’ve been researching superstitions for the third novel in the Mind For Murder Mystery series. This morning I read about the baseball “Lucky Hairpin” superstition in the early/mid-20th century. If a baseball player found a ladies’ hairpin on game day, a win was guaranteed or a hitting streak would continue. Quaint, I thought. Back then, hairpins were everywhere securing buns and holding curls in place. So yester-century’s news.

I went to the gym, forgetting all about baseball players and hairpins. As I set my keys into a cubbyhole, a ray of sunlight flashed on a thin piece of metal at my feet—a woman’s hairpin. The only hairpin I’ve seen in years, maybe decades. Odd enough on a normal day. After just reading about the hairpin superstition? You bet I picked up that hairpin and brought it home…just in case.

Thank you so much for inviting me here today, Mason! 

I’d love to hear which side of the superstition/supernatural debate your readers are on. Real? Ridiculous? Or “I proceed with caution…just in case.”

Rochelle, thanks so much for guest blogging. I’m fascinated by the research you did for WHO DO VOODOO? The book has been a great read and knowing its background makes it that much more mystical.

Now for a bit on Rochelle. She is an award-winning former radio programmer and music industry executive. She’s a delightful writer who would rather talk about her characters than herself. The second installment in her Mind For Murder Mystery series, BRUJA BROUHAHA, is slated for release in the summer of 2012.

For more on Rochelle and her writing, visit her website at, find her on Facebook at, on Twitter at!/rochellestaab, and on Goodreads at

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Be sure to share what side of the superstition/supernatural debate you’re on.


  1. Rochelle, just want to say thanks again for guest blogging. All of the extra energy you put into your research pays off well in WHO DO VOODOO? Can't wait to see what happens next to Liz, Nick and the rest of the gang. Wishing you much success with your writing.

  2. I think that would make for interesting research! I'm looking forward to "Who Do Voodoo." :) I'm superstitious, yes. I live in the South, so I don't think I had a choice in the matter! Best wishes with your release.

  3. Mason - Thanks so much fro hosting Rochelle.

    Rochelle - What an interesting, interesting theme - people's superstitions! I think there's something in the human core that wants to protect itself, and deep in our subconscious, we want to keep menace away. No wonder there are so many people who hold to superstitions and lore.

  4. I'm superstitious at some things, but I do love the unexpected.

    Good wishes with your book release.

  5. Mason—it's my pleasure!
    My family was very superstitious, and of course there was Grandma and her stories about her haunted farm in North Dakota.

    Riley—oooh, the South. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil had me itching for a trip to Savannah. When I think of anywhere in the south, I think delicious mystery.

    Margot—well said. We want to control the uncontrollable with magic. That's actually one of the things my psychologist/sleuth Liz has against it!

    Hi Dru! I love the unexpected too. As long as I'm prepared :)

  6. I'm very religious but not superstitious, however I did have a strange thing happen to me. I don't even know that I believe in ghosts, but I love ghost books and shows. Hubby and I had been watching a lot of ghost hunter shows. One show in particular always had rocks thrown at the investigators. We started to laugh about it because it happened so frequently. Not long after that, I was getting Chinese food and I was the only one in the restaurant (a take out place). I'm standing at the counter when something lands at my feet. I look down and it's a rock about the size of a dime. It came DOWN. I looked at the ceiling, there was nothing there of course. The cooks are all in the back. There wasn't a soul there other than the cooks in the back. I never did figure it out. Very bizarre, just like your hairpin, which is a strange coincidence considering what you'd been researching.

  7. Mason - thank you for lovely shout-out.

    Rochelle - While I don't harbor many superstitions, I do have a thing about pennies and will cross the street to avoid one. If I do happen to come into contact (that is, accidentally getting close enough to pick the penny up), I will secure it someplace where I know it will be kept safe.

    Superstitious? Nope, just hedging my bets.

  8. Rochelle: This is great! My copy arrived on the 1st of November and I'm deep into it. Great fun!!

    I'm a Reiki Master and there are lots and lots of stories I can share about odd and unexplainable situations. That comes from someone who is also a research methodologist and committed to full explanations.

    Well done, my friend. I'm loving the book.

  9. Anita, whoa! on the rock in the Chinese Restaurant. Bizarre is right. I didn't know you were a ghost TV fan. I used to love watching Ghost Whisperer on Friday nights. Kind of miss it.

    VR—I think of you and your penny short story Every Single Time I see a penny on the street. I can never remember which side up is good luck so I keep walking. And thank you! for introducing me to Mason. I love being here.

  10. A lot of athletes equate facial hair with success and won't shave until after the season. I play bunko-a silly dice game- but I don't ever roll the dice first.

    I also write longhand with a tablet with the rings at the top and a blue pilot pen---always. I'm laughing as I write this because it sounds so goofy.

    Great blog, my friend.

  11. Cassy—you do Reiki? Me too! I had no idea. I'm so glad you're liking the read. Thanks so much for stopping by.

    Liz—those bearded ballplayers in the World Series drove me nuts. What a waste, hiding handsome young faces. That's why I like to watch sports! I didn't know there was a superstition about rolling the dice first. I'll remember that next time I'm in Vegas.
    There's nothing goofy about you, Liz. Well, maaaaybe some of the hilarious characters in LIVER LET DIE :)

  12. Brought back memories of my mom making spit curls around my face when I was a kid. Thankfully, she didn't spit on them, but she wound a strand of damp hair and secured it with two bobby pins shaped like an X. Fun to think about that.

    Do you get nightmares from any of that research?


  13. Marilyn—my mom used to do those double-bobby-pin spit curls in my hair, too! And she set her own hair with them too. I think of Mom whenever I see a hairpin. (They used to make great paper clips in a pinch, too.)

    For all the weird places I visited (including a few back rooms of occult shops and botanicas for readings and spells) and some very dark websites and books I read for research, I've never had nightmares about them. I admit though, if I'm writing spirit-oriented scene I look up at nothing in particular and say "fiction, it's all fiction."

  14. Rochelle - I love your book!

    I admit, I do tend to be superstitious. Not overly superstitious, but still I do take these things seriously :)


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.