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.”

8th Annual Sea Level Singer/Songwriter Festival

Singer/Songwriter Sarah Jarosz

Singer/Songwriter Sarah Jarosz

Yesterday, I took a short break from revising the last 30 pages of my second book, The Milk Chocolate Murders, and sifted through the contents of the daily mail. My wife told me it was all “junk” mail – and she would have been mostly correct. No surprise there. But I did see one postcard that piqued my interest.

I was cordially invited to attend the 8th annual Sea Level Singer/Songwriter Festival, this year featuring an outstanding bluegrass folksinger/songwriter/picker, Sarah Jarosz. And by invited, I mean pay for a ticket. But it’s all good. I wasn’t going to buy a banjo anyway, at least not until I received the first advance on royalties for my novel. And I’m still waiting on that check. Buskers everywhere are safe.

Now, I have a hard enough time writing a decent short story, and I average a mere novel and a half every year or so. Can people put words to music, tell a story, and somehow make it all work? That takes talent. Let’s just say I have not yet dusted off space on the bookshelf for the Grammy next year.

People do try, however. And in our little part of the world we have a festival for it. It’s kind of like a writer’s conference, but with more performances and less classes. Still, there are many similarities between writing books and writing songs. Let’s compare and contrast, shall we?

Writing novels compared to writing songs

Novels require main characters. Songs are usually about somebody, too.

Novels have structure (3-act, monomyth, etc.)  Songs have form (AABA, ABA, etc.)

Novels have an arc (character must change over time.)  Songs have an arc, too (subject changes over time, with chorus/refrain reinforcing the overall theme.)

Both writing a novel and writing a song can cause delusions of the following: grandeur, overnight success, fame, and fortune.

Both novelists and songwriters can be found waiting tables for $2.17 per hour plus tips at some of the finest restaurants around. Some even get to work at the drive-thru window!

Finally, both novelists and songwriters are hopeful, creative, positive souls who live on and keep writing after countless rejections.

The world needs more of them!

So if you are in Hampton Roads on or about April 2 – 4, check out the Sea Level Singer/Songwriter Festival, sponsored by the Tidewater Arts Outreach in Norfolk, Virginia.

You may just hear something worth writing about!

 

We heart writing “on location”

View from the Artist Loft - Cape Charles Coffee House

View from the Artist Loft – Cape Charles Coffee House

Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day and the two of us decided it would be a great day to do something together, out in public. No – not that. This is a family blog, you know. But given the outside temperature is in the 20’s (-3 or so Celsius) and the high winds not helping matters, a relaxing morning inside the warm comfort of the Cape Charles Coffee House was deemed to be public enough.

A few pancakes, some scrambled eggs, a yogurt fruit parfait and muffin later, we found ourselves upstairs. The building, beautifully restored to the elegance it had over a century ago, has a nice artist’s loft. Paintings by locals hang on the wall; there are small and large tables, plus comfy chairs. A perfect place to hold a small informal meeting, or in our case – plug in the laptops and write.

Truth be told – once my trilogy of culinary cozies hits the press, readers may see a coincidental resemblance of this coffee house to the diner-headquarters of the main character. Why shouldn’t I use such a great space for the setting of a novel, right?

So here we sit for a while – me catching up on my social media accounts and eventually moving on with revisions to book number two. My better half? She’s doing work. I know, not as fun as my quest, but she gets to work in an elegant space. And with such fine company!

Valentine’s Day or not, if you need a space to write, look for a quiet place that still has some life to it. You might try a coffee shop, a library (yes, that building with all of the books,) or anywhere people will ignore you, yet be visible for inspiration. Heck, try the waiting area at your local airport. You’ll definitely see a cross-section of humanity there!

Wherever you write – may inspiration hit you like a strong cup of hot coffee; and may any writer’s block be vanquished!

Revision & the Post-Nanowrimo Reality Check

How many of you participated in Nanowrimo 2014? You know, the month of literary abandon where writers of all ilk try to pen at least 50,000 words into some coherent fashion – all during the month of November?

Thousands tried it. Thousands finished. You may be one of them!

And literary agents now cry during the month of December as their email in-boxes explode with submissions. Now, let’s give credit where credit is due: there could be a bestseller in there somewhere. Odds are against it. But it could happen.

And that’s why writers submit their Nano Novels.

Alas, the writer may be ready to be a bestselling author, but the story is not. Many (smarter?) writers use December to revise their draft. Good idea! But now it’s January. The revision must be ready to submit, right?

Here’s some advice from a long time Nano winner, me. I’m the one whose first novel is getting good reviews, but has yet to be traditionally published.

Wait.

Revise.

Wait.

Revise.

Wait some more.

Revise again.

Give your brain a chance to think about other stuff. I wrote a new novel (the sequel) while I was waiting. I put the first book up for critique on the online writer’s peer group, Book Country. I had a few beta readers offer me their opinion. All good feedback, even if not always what I wanted to hear.

The point is – good on you for writing a book in November. Most people could not do it. Ever. But don’t waste that effort. Revise it. Work it. Peer review it. Do something else and then come back and read it with fresh eyes. Trust me. It is worth it.

And eventually, you will find less and less to change. Finally, perhaps a year (or more) later, you will feel confident enough in the work to send it out.

And when you do, I send you my best wishes!

Now put down the draft and go read a book! Make a bucket list and check some things off! Go to the coffee shop and – gasp – talk to someone instead of hiding in the comfy chair typing away. You can do it, you know you can!

Give your book a chance to become as ready for the world as you are!

A Day for Thanks

Between this writing blog and my food blog, I have had, at one time or another, fabulous readers from 71 countries! Page views are closing in on 8,000, and my name as a writer and decent cook is getting out there. When I started this adventure, I only wanted to write down some recipes for my kids to access electronically in perpetuity. Who would have thought I would be writing my second novel, revising my first novel for publishing, and participating in Penguin’s BookCountry – an awesome online writer’s community. I have been interviewed by the Dallas Morning News  and Gannett Corporation’s NowU, and have recently entertained the interest of The National Aquarium in Baltimore. As for the last one, they  ran across a food blog photo I had made of a horseradish-encrusted flounder entree. The dpi may not be good enough, jury’s still out on that one, but if it works out, the photo could be a part of an exhibit about the Chesapeake Bay.

Then there’s my short story (of course, not a mystery) being published in the inaugural issue of The World Unknown. This periodical will feature 11 pieces by indie writers who submitted through a national call for work. More (much more) to follow soon!

Not bad for a guy who forgot to stab the potatoes when he was cooking dinner once.

Here in the US of A, today we celebrate Thanksgiving. Most Americans are watching parades and football games on television, and those not watching are busy cooking up turkey, sweet potatoes, and one of a hundred variety of cranberry dishes, not to mention pumpkin pies and their ilk. And we are no exception. One child is taking a nap, one is working on grad school applications, and the in-laws and their daughter are watching television. The turkey has about an hour to go, the dressing is in the crock pot, and the mashed potatoes will be started soon.

But as for me? I am on hiatus until the turkey is done. What better time to work on the blog, and then will crank out another 2,000 words of the Nanowrimo novel. In case you were wondering, I am tracking to finish on the last day, November 30th, probably at the last hour. But I will have finished.

So a lot has happened to this writer. And lot will keep happening.

Why?

Because it’s fun to do, and I have the best readers on the planet. Thanks so much for your support!

So no matter what country you call home, and no matter what holiday, if any, you celebrate today – I am thankful you stopped by.

Coming soon – a return to The Thirteenth Samurai.

D.J. sends.