Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Character Interview: Lauren Staab

It’s time to meet another interesting character.  I’d like to welcome Lauren Staab, the protagonist from J.Q. Rose’s “Deadly Undertaking”.  This book has a mixture of romance, mystery and the paranormal.

J.Q. will award one lucky person a free PDF of Deadly Undertaking, so make sure you leave a comment to this article.  And all of her mysteries are available at Smashwords are 75% OFF through July 31. 

Here’s a little about the story.

Lauren Staab knew there would be dead bodies around when she returned home. After all, her family is in the funeral business, Staab and Blood Funeral Home. Still, finding an extra body on the floor of the garage between the hearse and the flower car shocked her. Lauren’s plan to return to her hometown to help care for her mother and keep the books for the funeral home suddenly turns upside down in a struggle to prove she and her family are not guilty of murdering the man. But will the real killer return for her, her dad, her brother? Her mother’s secrets, a killer, a handsome policeman, and a shadow man muddle up her intention to have a simple life. Welcome home, Lauren!

Let’s begin our visit. Tell us a little about yourself:

Hello. My name is Lauren Staab. <extends hand for a hand shake> Glad to meet you. So happy you could come to meet me at the funeral home. We have a visitation here this evening and I have to “swing door” for it and be around to answer the phone.
Please follow me to the family room. The family won’t be here for a couple of hours. It’s a good place for conversation. There’s coffee, tea, water right there on the counter. Can I get you anything? Yes, the coffee is fresh.

Okay. Let’s have a seat so we can talk. <waiting for you to choose a comfy seat>
You may already know my mother was stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease and is now in the nursing home. <easing into the red wing-backed chair across from you>  I moved back home from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to be here to help my dad with the bookkeeping and everything else he needs for me to do. Yes, I’m the one that dusts the caskets and displays the flowers for the funerals and visitations, even racing them out to the cemetery to place at the gravesite before anyone arrives for the interment service.

So I’m the go-to-person for my dad because he trusts me. I’m reliable. My brother works here too, but he’s not much help. He hates the funeral business, so he’s happy only when it’s his day off which is not often enough.

And then there’s Henry who flits in and out of my life, but you probably won’t see him because he’s a shadow man. Oh, don’t be afraid. He’s harmless. I have no idea why Henry turns up at inopportune times in my life. He’s especially annoying when he interrupts me in the middle of a date or when I’m trying to juggle so many things at once. <shaking her head>

He’s not mean or scary like some ghosts are. I mean, really, I like him, but I don’t like him interfering in my life. Plus, he never tells me why he’s here at our funeral home. <leaning toward you> Do you have any idea?

No, but I’ll certainly keep my eyes and ears open for Henry. How did your background get you involved in this novel?

I’m the daughter of a funeral director. The author is the daughter of a funeral director. I guess JQ thought it would be fun and entertaining to read a story that takes place in a funeral home.

What’s your greatest strength?   And of course, we want to know the opposite, your greatest weakness.

Strength--I’m reliable, as I said, and organized. 

Weakness--I am too organized like overly left-brained organized at times. I drive my dad and brother crazy checking and re-checking that everything is in place so we can help families through this difficult time in their lives. I want their day to be as stress-free as possible.

What is it about this story that sets it apart from the others?

          Henry, the shadow man. I never really appreciated him in my life until the police accused me of murdering the man in the garage and leaving him there for us to discover him lying near the hearse. Henry was my protector and body guard-- no pun intended. But how can a ghost be my hero?

Are you the type of person who always seeks out the company of others?

I do like people. I think I inherited that from my dad. He could be friends with anyone and treats each person with respect whether rich or poor. I try to be like that too.
What do you do to relax after a day’s work?

People not in the funeral business don’t understand how a family’s small business like this works. We don’t have an average 8-5 job. We work any time of day or night when we get a call. Relax after a day’s work? We are actually on-call every minute of every day—24/7. But if I get some time for myself, I like listening to music, dancing around my condo and reading whenever I can.

Which do you prefer, music or television?  

Music. Piano music 

Here’s a glimpse from the story.

In this excerpt, the reader is introduced to Henry, the shadow man, a ghost character who interrupts Lauren's life--always at the wrong time. But really, when is a good time for a ghost to interrupt your life?

Lauren decided she needed to know if the dead man truly was Tony. If so, she and Piper had to find Stephanie, his fiancé and their best friend.

She returned to her desk, uncovered Detective Richards’ business card from under the files on her desk, and called.

“Richards.” he answered as if he had no time for interruptions.

Lauren was taken aback for a minute, expecting a secretary or switchboard person to answer and connect her to the detective.

“Hello, Detective Richards. This is Lauren Staab, at the Staab and Blood Funeral Home where the murder occurred this morning.” She stalled for enough time to get her thoughts together.

“Yes, I’m quite aware the murder was at the funeral home, Ms. Staab. How can I help you?”

What an arrogant man. “I’m calling to confirm the identity of the person who was killed. I’ve heard several reports.”

“We’re not revealing the name of the deceased.”

“Well can you tell me if his name is Tony?”

“Sorry. I cannot.” His voice softened. “I’m not at liberty at this time to tell you. I completely understand your concern. Do you know Anthony—er. Tony?”

“Yes, I do. He’s my friend’s fiancé.”

“I know the rumor mill is probably producing more names than this, but we have
to be sure of the victim’s identity before we release it. Do you understand the situation?” 

Lauren detected a note of sincerity in his voice. Did the man have feelings
after all?

“Oh, yes I understand. But since he was in our garage, will someone call me to let me know?” She couldn’t help using the snarky tone.

“Yes. I’ll be sure to call you as soon as we have a definitive identification. You have a good evening.” The phone clicked to silence.

“And you have a good night too!” She slammed the headset into the cradle, yanked the desk drawer open, and retrieved her bag. She didn’t like being dismissed like that.

She reached into her bag to find her pack of cigarettes, pulled it out, threw it back in, and pulled the beat up pack out again. So much for trying once more to quit smoking.

When she looked up, she glimpsed a smoky shadow hovering by the door. The pungent smell of spicy carnations wafted through the room, bringing on the three little sneezes.  She worked in a funeral home. She shouldn’t be allergic to flowers. Maybe she was allergic to him.

Lauren faced the silhouette of a man dressed in a long trench coat and fedora hat. He stood, arms akimbo, evidently looking straight at her.

She had expected the shadow man to show up sometime after the terrifying events of the morning. He lurked around the rooms in the funeral home appearing whenever he wished. Because no one else ever mentioned the apparition, Lauren assumed she was the only one he communicated with. At times she questioned if Henry was real or just her overtired brain playing tricks on her.

His timing for wanting to talk was usually bad. This murder was definitely a bad time. “Henry, I can’t talk now. I’m leaving to meet Piper.” She shoved the drawer closed with her foot.

“All right,” he said in his breathy voice. “I guess you’re doing okay if you can go off to meet your friend.” Then he was gone, slipping through a fold into another dimension.

About the author:

After writing feature articles in magazines, newspapers, and online magazines for over fifteen years, J.Q. Rose entered the world of fiction. Her published mysteries are Terror on Sunshine Boulevard, Dangerous Sanctuary, and Deadly Undertaking. Blogging, photography, Pegs and Jokers board games, and travel are the things that keep her out of trouble. She and her husband, Gardener Ted, spend winters in Florida and summers up north camping and hunting toads, frogs, and salamanders with her four grandsons and granddaughter.

J.Q.’s blog—Focused on Story http://www.jqrose.com/

J. Q.  Rose Amazon Author Page http://tinyurl.com/aeuv4m4

For a musical selection, J.Q. opted for Jim Brickman’s Angel Eyes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jcN20Efpq0
Buy links

Don't forget to leave a comment for the chance to win a PDF copy of "Deadly Undertaking".

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Meeting Readers

Last weekend I was one of twenty authors in attendance at a popular arts festival. This was my third year in a row at this particular venue and it’s always been a very successful event. The weather this year was extremely hot and humid. No doubt this caused some people to stay away, in search of a cool swim in the lake or air conditioned comfort. Sales were not as strong as they have been in the past, but that’s part of the chance we take.  

I always look forward to the opportunity to meet with readers. This year was no exception. There were many people who stopped by to chat with the different authors and learn more about the stories we write.  I even shared a few laughs with a lovely young woman with long red hair. She beamed a thousand watt smile when I asked if she was one of the models used for the Jamie Richmond books, since two of them have redheads on the covers.  I got the sense her friends will be teasing her about that for a long while.

Three times over the weekend I met people who had previously purchased “Why 319?” and made it a point to seek me out.  All three were very complimentary, which is the type of feedback authors love to hear.  One lady mentioned that this was the first book she’d read in some time and that she’d enjoyed Every Single Word.  

That’s the kind of reaction that makes all those hours of writing and editing worthwhile.  It motivates me to keep at.  Because I have more stories to share.

So thank you for those words of encouragement. And I hope you enjoy “Your Turn to Die” the second book in that series.

Last week’s event wasn’t far from the shores of Lake Michigan. That’s where “Stealing Haven”, the short story that’s part of “Once Upon a Summer” takes place.  So here’s a little excerpt of Jamie’s vacation adventure. 

In this scene, Jamie and Linda, along with her dog Logan, are going for an evening boat ride on the great lake with Randy, one of the men they met at lunch.

Randy glanced over his shoulder to check on Linda. “She and Logan look pretty comfortable back there.”

I looked back and waved. Linda wiggled her fingers at me. By now, I’d slid up onto the seat beside Randy, close enough so our thighs brushed. Turning back around, I caught him staring at me. Neither of us wore sunglasses.

“Aren’t you supposed to be watching for other boats?”

“I can multitask. But no other sailor would blame me for being distracted by such a beautiful woman.”

My face warmed. I was about to make a smart-ass comment when he leaned over and kissed me, lightly on the lips. Now, my whole body was blushing.

Randy straightened up and quickly checked the water around us. “Hope I didn’t upset you. I’ve been wanting to do that all night.”

“I’m glad you did.”

He dropped his left hand from the wheel again and took mine. “Actually, that’s not completely true.”

“A partial truth?”

“I thought about kissing you at lunch today, but didn’t want to scare you off.”

Reaching up with my free hand I ran it through his thick blond hair. I stalled, not sure what to say. He watched me closely, shifting his gaze to the water briefly, then coming back to focus on me. “So is this your routine, how you pick up women on vacation?”

“Never done it before. I’m not the Casanova type.”

“So you’re just drawn to scrawny redheads?”

His hand squeezed mine. “You are not scrawny. You’re slender. I’ve always been attracted to slender women.”

His words charmed me. “I’m invisible when Linda’s in the vicinity.”

That earned me another kiss. This one lasted for about an hour. Well, maybe it was a minute or two. My hand tangled in his hair, keeping him close.

“Glad I’m different from most guys,” he said quietly as we separated. His hands returning to the wheel.

Part of me was still locked on his kiss. Was this really happening? I looked back at Linda. She flashed a wide grin and made a show of slowly clapping her hands together. I wondered if she knew how to drive a boat so I could drag Randy to the cabin below deck. With an effort, I reined in such thoughts.

“So I’m supposed to believe you don’t find young women out looking for fun on their vacation and charm them with that smile?”

“You like my smile? I always thought it was kind of lopsided.”

I took his face in both hands and turned it toward me. “Maybe a little crooked. But that’s part of the appeal.” Now I initiated a kiss. His hands slid through my hair, then softly ran his fingers down my neck. Shivers of excitement coursed through me. A horn sounded nearby. He broke the kiss and turned to check the water. Another boat passed in the opposite direction. A man and woman were at the helm, mirroring our positions, caught in the moment and sensuality of being on the water. I bit down on my bottom lip in frustration. I longed for more than kisses but safety came first.

“We don’t want to run into some sailboat out here,” Randy said with a grin.

I scooted back onto the bench. Maybe a little distance was in order? It might help my racing hormones. “How fast are we going?” 

“About thirty. Want to go faster?”

Was he talking about the boat, or the two of us? Randy shifted. His right hand had dropped to the controls, his left lightly holding the steering wheel. He watched me, his lopsided grin worked its magic. “Shall we give Linda a thrill?”

“I think she’s already getting one.”

Randy jammed the throttle most of the way down and the boat jumped forward as if launched from a rocket. Linda squealed in delight. I watched the bow come up and bounce a couple of times as the boat adjusted. Even with the additional blast of cool lake air, I still tingled from those kisses.

Another possible photo of Jamie.

Here are some links where you can find "Once Upon a Summer"

This tune popped up twice this week, which also seems appropriate for the scene above. Here's a favorite from Marvin Gaye.