An Interview with Author Janice Peacock

Leo Tolstoy once said art is “…indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.”

And judging from current events, we need all the art we can get these days. So what a rare treat it was to come across someone who excels in more than one creative field. I met author Janice Peacock through our participation in the Penguin / Random House online writer’s community Book Country. She is a fine writer of cozy mysteries that center on her “other life” as an award-winning glass artist.

Janice Peacock, mystery writer & glass artist

Janice Peacock, mystery writer & glass artist

Janice’s talent as a writer has been recognized by the literary world, and her first novel has just been released by publisher, Booktrope. Her second novel is currently in their production process so there is more to come!

Sad to say, due to my work schedule I was unable to attend her recent Facebook launch party, but I could not let this momentous occasion go by without asking her for a few words of inspiration. Read on, kind people. I present to you Janice Peacock, author of High Strung, A Glass Bead Mystery.

High Strung Final Cover Booktrope

You are an award-winning glass artist, with work on display in the permanent collection at the Corning Museum of Glass among many places. How did writing a mystery novel become part of your daily routine?

Several years ago I took at class at the Corning Studio in upstate New York. Since you are a cook, you may recognize the name Corning—they are the manufacturers of Pyrex glass baking dishes and measuring cups. While working in the studio, I had an epiphany—the perfect way to kill someone!

Janice Peacock & friends at the Corning Glass Studio

             Janice Peacock (back row, left side) & friends at the Corning Glass Studio

And while I didn’t have plans to murder anyone in particular, I decided that I wanted to write a murder mystery. As happens in life, it took me a few years before I sat down to write the story, but finally I did in November of 2012 during National Novel Writing Month.

Your main character is glass bead artist, Jax O’Connell. How much of you do we see in her? Run into any murders at the exhibitions you have attended?

There is a little of me in Jax, for sure. First, I’m a bead maker and have been for over twenty years. I love beads and making my own jewelry and I wanted to bring that joy to readers. Another thing that Jax and I have in common is that we love cats. Jax’s cat is a big grey fluff-ball with a bad attitude. Some years back, we fostered a litter of kittens that were just a few days old. I like to say “we took care of them when they were the size of gumdrops.” So, Gumdrop seemed like the perfect name for Jax’s cat.

But beads and cats aside, I think Jax has a desire to make things right, to fix what’s broken, and she’s driven—to find a murderer, to protect her friends, to lead the best life she can. And while I haven’t solved any murder mysteries, I do feel a need for things to be set right, for people to be held accountable for their actions. And, no, I’ve never found a dead body at an exhibition, and would probably faint if I did.

I know you have a second book in the making. Can you let us know when it might become available? And following on, do you have plans for more stories from the glass studio of Jax O’Connell?

Jax, Tessa, and Val will all be back in A Bead in the Hand, the second book in the Glass Bead Mystery Series. It will be released in mid-November this year. The third book in the series, tentatively titled Still Your Beading Heart, will be released in 2016.

As you become an internationally known, award-winning author, do you ever see the day when you won’t be making glass beads?

I think I will always make beads or work in glass in some way. I love words and writing. Even before becoming a novelist, I wrote professionally as an instructional designer in the high tech field. I often get tired of typing and watching words fly across my screen—words seem so intangible. I love going to my studio and getting my hands on real objects and making things that require a wordless part of my brain, allowing me to think about—to feel—colors, patterns, movement. I’ve always been a maker, and it is such huge a part of me, I can’t see leaving it behind.

Congrats on starting a relationship with Booktrope. They use a nontraditional business model, an almost flat hierarchy if you will. How’s the partnership coming along?

My experience with Booktrope has been wonderful. After they took me on as an author I was able to build my own team of professionals: a marketing manager, editor, cover designer, and proofreader. They have been a stellar team to work with on High Strung, and we’ll be working together again for A Bead in the Hand. The other thing I like about Booktrope is that I belong to a community of authors who share ideas and support to one another. Although I now have Booktrope to support me, I will still be working within the Book Country community to workshop my books and receive valuable feedback.

Finally, anything else you would like to add? Perhaps advice for struggling writers (or glass blowers since I know at least one who reads this blog.)

I read an article recently that referred to authors as artists and that thought has really stuck with me. I’m an artist working in multiple mediums: words and glass. So, my advice is the same for both kinds of artists: Do your work. Every day. Don’t just talk about your craft or read about it. Practice and learn. Make a hundred beads, write a hundred pages, repeat.

Thanks for taking a few minutes to answer my questions, Janice! I wish you all the best with your books. I have High Strung already and think it is a fun, captivating page-turner. And as for Gumdrop the cat? Well, let’s just say I know a cat here on the Eastern Shore that shares many of the same traits!

If you would like more information about Janice, her glass work, or her new series of mystery novels, you will find her on social media everywhere! Check out these links:

www.JanicePeacock.com

jp@janicepeacock.com

blog.janicepeacock.com

Twitter, Instagram: @JanPeac

www.pinterest.com/janpeac

www.facebook.com/JanicePeacockAuthor

www.JanicePeacockGlass.com

www.etsy.com/shop/JanicePeacock

 

 

 

 

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Writing & Coffee – what perks your work?

What's your order?

                                                  

Having just posted my second novel, The Milk Chocolate Murders, up on Book Country for workshopping, I can now refocus on the tweaks needed on the first novel, The Apple Pie Alibi. If all goes according to plan, APA should be ready for submission (again) by September 1. That timing allows me two months to outline the third book of the trilogy, The Wedding Cake Witness, in time for the next slog known as Nanowrimo.

Throw in a commission to write a 5 minute piece of classical music (not as easy at it sounds) and I once again find myself very busy. This will take much coffee.

Speaking of coffee…

I have always wondered if genre dictated coffee choice. In other words, do writers in the mystery genre prefer straight espresso, or perhaps (as I do) an Americano? Do romance writers like, I don’t know, one of Starbuck’s new drinks? A caramel cocoa crunch frappuccino maybe? Just guessing. I have no idea what a romance writer typically orders.

Hey! What about a totally unscientific poll?

Comment below with your genre and favorite beverage, be it coffee, tea, or something stronger. There will be no prizes, but rest comfortably with the knowledge you have helped to further define your genre in a new, and tasty fashion.

Let’s here from everyone! <clink!>

Count Basie and Sisyphus walk into a bar…

Sometimes art can be found in the most unexpected places.

Sometimes help can be found in the most unexpected places.

Question: what do Count Basie and the mythical trouble-maker Sisyphus have to do with my writing?

More on that question in just a bit. First – some good news. I have just received some awesome feedback from Henery Press about my first novel, The Apple Pie Alibi. No, it’s not quite ready for publication, but major strides will be made thanks in large part to the personal comments from the staff readers at Henery. You can’t buy this kind of assistance. Well, maybe you could. But it would cost a lot more money than I have in my pocket right now. And who would have thought a literary press would take the time to do this? It was as unexpected as finding a big band in the desert.

Not familiar with Henery Press? Based in the greater Plano / Frisco area just north of Dallas, Texas, Henery focuses much of their attention on bringing cozy mysteries to the market. And I must say, their book covers are awesome. Every so often, the good people at Henery sponsor what they call a Sub-Spree. They choose a sub-genre (oh, say culinary cozy, for example) and then open a separate mailbox for those submissions – for one week and one week only.

You don’t know what genre they will choose next, so it would be near impossible to read the announcement and then write a novel to fit. Your best course of action is write your novel, and if it fits the sub-spree requirements, fine. Otherwise, you can always submit the traditional way to Henery.

What’s the difference? Neither sub-spree nor regular submissions require agents. As long as you fit their genre and style requirements, you are cleared hot to submit. But here’s the inside scoop: sub-spree submissions will be read within 10 days or so – and personal comments from the editors and staff will be sent to the author. It’s like getting 10 minutes with an agent at a writer’s conference, except there is more than one agent, and you get more than ten minutes, and you find out not only what they dislike, but also what they like. No form letter at all; just help from an unexpected source.

Henery Press. Not my publisher – yet. But still, a group you should take a minute to check out if you write cozy mysteries. If you like reading cozy mysteries? Take two minutes. Maybe three. Plenty of great stuff to peruse.

Now, after I take the next few weeks to finish the recipes for The Milk Chocolate Murders, I will return to the first novel and see how I can employ the suggestions from Henery. Who knows? By the time I finish the draft of book 3, working title The Wedding Cake Witness, I may have a published book on my shelf!

The answer to the question about how Count Basie and Sisyphus are related to my writing? That’s an easy one. It may be April, but this ain’t Paris, so it’s back to the depths of revision hell – “one more time.”

Writing a book was the easy part?

After one total rewrite from third person to first person, and six more revisions based on feedback from readers (and one very, very nice editor!) I am satisfied my 80,000 plus word, cozy mystery, The Apple Pie Alibi, is worth your time and a few of your dollars in trade. It isn’t the next Sherlock Holmes novel, not even a Nero Wolfe tale, but it is a decent story with a beginning, middle, and end. The characters have arcs, the story itself has structure. and the protagonist undergoes a meaningful change by the end thanks in part to her battling her nemesis – no, not the killer, but her own ego and immaturity.

And it’s still a fun read.

So now for the hard part, meaning what happens next? Fortunately, I have some options. I could self-publish through Book Country. These folks have been awesome in providing feedback and the discussion boards are something to behold. If you are a new writer, I highly recommend checking it out. Good people.

I also have a line on an illustrator looking for work. And wouldn’t it be cool to put out a nice book with the extra creativity of an artist? I think so. If I chose the BC route, this would be up toward the top of the to-do list.

I could always submit the manuscript to the Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel competition. This has potential, and it’s free. Bonus points for the annual convention being not too far away from where I live. Huzzah, Amtrak!

Or I could bang my head against the wall a thousand times revamp my query and synopsis and go about trying to gain representation from an agent. Wait a minute. Do authors still need agents? Why, yes. Agents, while not as essential as in years past, still maintain the keys to many a gateway. And considering publishers, the bigger ones anyway, still prefer to use agents to reduce the size of the slush pile, why ignore this important avenue leading to publication and distribution? I would love to do this. Wouldn’t we all.

So here’s the gouge: I will spend the next few days thoroughly checking the entry requirements for the Minotaur/Malice Domestic contest to see if I can submit the manuscript and still shop it to agents. I believe this to be the case, but I need to see it in writing first.

Then, it’s off to QueryTracker, Writer’s Digest, and The Mystery Writers of America to investigate which agents and presses are interested in cozy mysteries and accepting inquiries.

This should make for a fun, and most likely sarcastic series of posts. What do you think?

Stay tuned, amigos.

 

Of French Fries, Milk Shakes & Peer Reviews

Just have time for a quick note. The snow is starting to fall and before you know it, we’ll be stuck in the house, watching the news on the television as reporters comment on the crazy drivers trying to negotiate slick roadways. I can only imagine the zombie apocalypse that will occur if we receive more than the expected 6 – 8 inches of snow.

Yup. We in coastal Virginia are wimps when it comes to snow.

Anyhow, took a big step in my venture as a writer. As some of you know, I participated as a beta tester for Penguin’s Book Country (their answer to Amazon’s CreateSpace.)  After some initial angst between Book Country (them) and writers (us) it looks like things have evened out and more writers are starting to use the site. The site administrator does an excellent job, as well, with regard to tech support and moderating the site in general. I speak from experience. You don’t need to know the gory details, just know that it pays to read the directions sometimes.

I have just successfully posted my Nanowrimo novel, The Apple Pie Alibi, into Book Country for peer review. It’s like asking for other writers to be your beta readers. Was this a good idea? Not sure yet. I know what “I” think the book needs, but I am interested to see if others think the same – or if I totally missed something.

Are we to the point of indie-publishing yet?

No. But we have made a pretty big step in that direction. Putting your words out for peer review is like dipping French fries into a milk shake. At face value, one would ask – why? What good could possibly come from this? But for those who step out there, away from the comfortable norms of food separation, you take the risk and reap the reward – in this case enjoying the entire sweet & salty dance on your taste buds. Next time you post your novel for peer review, go visit a [insert name of nutritionally suspect, fast food establishment here] and order a large fry and a vanilla shake. Live like the snow won’t stop falling. And hold the ketchup.

It’s not a just dessert; it is a just reward!