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

 

 

 

 

How did Dickens do it?

 

What if little Oliver Twist had crowd-sourced funding for better gruel at the workhouse? Such was the unlikely anachronism pondered as I sought (for a while) Internet access at the coffee shop this morning. After one large Americano, the connection finally ‘connected’ and the research of the day began. Of course, I soon became distracted and found myself reading. Is that so bad? And it involved Charles Dickens, not just any hack.

I had stumbled across The Dickens Fellowship. I know, I know, almost every famous author now long gone has some sort of fan club or society bent on preserving their literary works, so why wouldn’t Charles have one, too?

Thanks to server issues, though, I did not have much time to peruse. So sometime soon, in my spare time (ha) I will check out the website. It did seem to have a large amount of peer-reviewed information on a writer who is arguably one of the best we have seen. Not sure how if Charles Dickens will figure into my next novel, or the current sequel on renegade Samurai, but you never know.

Interesting to note, there are TDF chapters all over the world. Most of the major hubs have them. There are groups meeting in Sydney, Toronto, London (of course) and then there’s Tokyo. But wait? Denton, too? As in Denton, Texas?

If you are a jazz educator, or appreciate jazz education, you know about Denton, Texas and their local university (University of North Texas, formerly North Texas State University) home to the legendary One O’Clock Lab Band. If you have never heard the band play, in any of its iterations, you should. You’ll become a fan.

But a Dickens Fellowship chapter, too? Kudos, Dentonites. You are one up on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

That may change eventually, but for now, I am happy to have found a good source of information on one of my favorite authors.

Cue segue to today’s teachable moment:

And as many of us prepare for November’s writer-slogfest called Nanowrimo, let me remind everyone that you may have a lot going on in your life, and these things take up a lot of your time. I know that. You know that. We all know that. But if you really want to write, you can do it. Take a minute, visit the Dickens Fellowship website and read about the environment Dickens grew up in, lived as an adult in, and wrote in.

And Charles Dickens did not have the help of the Internet.

How did he do it?

Americanos hadn’t been invented yet. He just buckled down and started writing.

And we can, too.

Okay, pep talk over. Back to the ink well, people. The outline for The Milk Chocolate Murders is coming along nicely. This weekend is another round of research for The 13th Samurai (posting on Sunday evening, hopefully) and I just queried a new lit agent about The Apple Pie Alibi. And bonus: I have already found a good killer for the third and final part of the Winnie Kepler series, working title The Wedding Cake Witness.

That’s enough for me. For now.

What are you doing?

Prepping for Nanowrimo 2014

https://i2.wp.com/s3.freefoto.com/images/11/22/11_22_1_web.jpg

http://www.freefoto.com/download/11-22-1/Sun-Dial

Tip 1 in a series designed to assist you sprinting to the finish line this November as you type with abandon during Nanowrimo 2014.

Set aside time for your writing.”

Who has enough time? To do anything? And do it well? And still have friends and family speak to you when it’s all over?

You do, that’s who.

Let’s start with the basics. What is enough time to write?

For me, a productive writing session takes at least an hour. This includes the time needed to:

  • Find a secluded chair in a coffee shop, bookstore or library. A power source nearby is a bonus.
  • Think up polite responses to questions such as “Hey, are you writing something? Are you a writer, then? Have you been published? What are you writing now? Do you know [insert name of famous best-selling author here]?” It happens. I am polite; sometimes I get creative. They get used to me and leave me alone. Eventually.

It helps if I buy a cup of coffee every once in a while, assuming I am in a coffee shop. Hey, they gotta stay in business, too.

  • Set up the laptop and try to connect to a wireless network. Easier some days than others.

No network nearby? That’s okay. Less distraction; more writing.

  • Make sure whatever I write is saved to an online storage service, such as Dropbox. All it takes is one massive computer crash. I speak from painful experience.

Again, no network access? I’ll use a flash drive.

I reserve 5:30 – 6:30 am every weekday for writing. Saturday will often be a little more lenient, giving me a few hours to write. Sunday? Depends; it’s a long story.

With advanced planning, I can usually get a solid 45 minutes of actual writing during my hour.

Does this schedule work? It did for me; it may or may not for you. Working in this fashion, I finished Nanowrimo just under the November 30th deadline with a 52k word first draft. Here it is, six months later and my draft has changed numerous times, finally ending up as a 75k word completed novel.

“But I have responsibilities. I don’t have any spare time, not even an hour a day.”

Yes, many of us have children, spouses, and pets. Then there’s always the cooking/cleaning to do, and you can’t totally dismiss the job we use to earn money needed to pay rent. I hear you. I get you. I am with you.

So keeping in mind these other responsibilities, I found the best results come from having a regularly scheduled time for my writing. My family knows this time is reserved; and since it is so early in the morning, they are sleeping anyway. They don’t even miss me.

Support from family and friends is essential. Feed the pets. Be nice to your spouse. Help the kids with their homework. It’ll pay off when you need the extra time later checking for continuity errors, too many adverbs, the nefarious “that” and other grammar flotsam and jetsam.

I know one writer, a man with a six-book contract, who shuts himself in his basement for three months at a time to write. If you want a six-book deal, I guess this schedule might be worth it. But his method is not my choice. It must work for him. Not sure if he gets any Father’s Day cards, though.

Have a plan and hit the hour typing! This is your hour for all activities related to your project. This would include writing, research, plotting, outlining, reading, etc. We’re only talking an hour here so use it as efficiently as you can. The more actual typing, the better.

Maybe there are other times of the day where you could find five minutes here, ten minutes there to do a bit of research. You might be able to read a book from your chosen genre while eating lunch. While everyone else is watching television, you could perhaps scribble down thoughts of characters, story arcs, and plot points.

Speaking of reading, there is a great little book about finding available time when you have a super-busy schedule. It’s called Time to Write, by Kelly L. Stone. A quick read, this book gives plenty of examples of successful writers who overcame scheduling obstacles. If you can afford one of those giant, fancy coffee drinks at your local coffee shop, then you have enough money for the book. And the book will last longer.

Finally, avoid time-suckers. Well, if you think about it, you could read Facebook, Twitter, and yes, even blog posts at other times during the day. You can grab a bite to eat five minutes before your hour. You might even reward yourself with a dinner out, after your hour.

And there is no harm in holding a family meeting the day before you start. Explain your desire to write, with the caveat you won’t be abandoning anyone. All you want is one hour a day. They can have the other 23. Then promise the family you will take them on holiday once you are a rich and famous author. (Well, it could happen, you know.)

Bottom Line: Professional writers started out just like you. If they could find time to write, you can, too! It’s all about doing the “other stuff” before, or after your hour.

Now stop reading and go write!

Next up: What’s genre got to do with it?

Nanowrimo? But it’s not even June yet?

No server access? Get out the Underwood!

Gad-zooks! We are about five months away from the next coffee-fueled, donuts-for-dinner literary slog known as Nanowrimo!

For those wondering, this is the annual “contest” where you pledge to scribe a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. This breaks down to writing 1,666.66 words per day, every day. Easy for some; seemingly impossible for others.

And for those who make it all the way? They are “winners” and get a cool icon for their website, discounts on tools and services for writers, and most importantly, they get bragging rights. I mean, really, how many people have you met that can say they have written a novel in one month? Not many, I am guessing.

Those who finish also gain invaluable perspective. They now understand what it means to write on a deadline. They know the sacrifices professional writers make on a daily basis. Those who finish also learn about their own writing skill, or lack thereof. I have participated in quite a few Nanowrimo events and have learned I can write thrillers with both military and paranormal themes, as well as mysteries. But after three or four Nano’s, I find mysteries written in first person to be the most natural voice for me.

In one sentence: You learn more about yourself as a writer. And that is probably the best takeaway from Nanowrimo. And it’s free.

So, to help those of you who either struggled to make the 50,000 word goal, didn’t make the goal, or decided you could never do it and thusly did not enter, I will use the month of June to share my own system of preparation for Nanowrimo. Just think, after this series ends, you still have four months to do the legwork before you have to type “It was a dark and stormy night…”

My Goal: Help you, the Nanowrimo warrior, finish with a coherent and complete first draft of your next best-selling novel.

How? I’ll post ten, count ‘em, ten easy-to-read steps that might just prepare you to take up the Nano challenge.

Why now? Nanowrimo takes the entire month of November. And trust me, it takes the entire month for most of us. That leaves eleven months with nothing to do, right?

Wrong.

I started my novel, The Apple Pie Alibi, during Nanowrimo 2013 and here it is, six months later and I have just revised it well enough to send it to a publisher for consideration. You think writing your novel in one month is hard? Think of the poor publishers and agents who receive thousands (literally) of unpolished first drafts during the month of December.

The more work you do now, the better the first draft will be on November 30th. And consequently, the less work you will need to do in December forward. Publishers and agents everywhere will thank you.

Next up: Finding time for your writing. It can be done!

Grandma Kepler is on the lam?

Okay – one of the cool things about being a Nanowrimo “pantser” is not knowing exactly where the novel is going to take you. True, my story is a semi-cozy, culinary themed mystery with a little early 20’s angst thrown in. But lo and behold, as I peaked over the 8,000 word count tonight, Grandma Kepler – about to be arrested for murder – decides to escape.

So if you see a little old lady hiding in the bushes, hitching a ride with truckers on the interstate, or possible on the back of a Harley, please call the Cape Charles police chief, Captain J.B. Larson. He’ll be interested.

I can’t wait to see how chapter three turns out!

 

Nano-Economics

National Novel Writing Month 111210

National Novel Writing Month 111210 (Photo credit: Jennie Ivins)

So what does Nanowrimo, that month long trek where thousands upon thousands of writers clack out 50,000 words or more in a valiant attempt to write a novel, have to do with the world of economics?

In the olden days, as in the days before the era of the ubiquitous word-processing PC, I would have said the timber industry benefited most from writers due to the vast reams of paper wasted used typing “It was a dark and stormy night…”

Today, I think the purchase of choice for writers might very well be coffee. Thirty days to write fifty thousand words in some sort of coherent order? The cream and sugar industry might want to stock up, too.

Regardless of the clown show in Washington DC (and no disrespect to actual clowns intended,) watch the futures market and see if the coffee bean grows in value between now and December. I think I may just chart the value of Starbucks stock to see if there is any correlation. I don’t usually write nonfiction, but this could get interesting.  As screwy as the Market is, could my book  Nano-Economics and the Bean end up being a best seller? Couldn’t be any less wrong than all of the other books out there. Right?

If you haven’t taken the plunge to sign up for Nanowrimo – you have 16 days before the clock starts clicking and you start clacking!

<lifts 16 ounce cup of java in your honor>

Clink!

Why wait until November?

Ilha da Queimada Grande - Itanhaém2

Ilha da Queimada Grande – Itanhaém2 (Photo credit: Prefeitura Municipal de Itanhaém)

Nanowrimo is a 50,000 word writer’s slogfest, replete with wandering plots, bleary eyes and certainly gallons upon gallons of coffee. And it is one of the most insane fun things a new writer can attempt. All for the want of a completed draft manuscript and a little, albeit colorful icon you can place on your blog somewhere. I’ve tried Nano three times, two of them ending successfully.

But it’s not November, yes?

Why wait? I have done the requisite character studies, outlined the basic plot lines. There are thousands of little tidbits of information rattling around my brain, just waiting to be deployed onto the pages of the next best-seller.  The Brazilian island of Queimada Grande had more than the world’s only colony of golden lancehead pit vipers, it was also the hidden sanctuary of Miss Roya Abassi, the Persion double agent who would bring the Iranian fundamentalists to their knees once and for all, but not for evening prayers…

And that’s not even the first line.

Here we go: 1,500 words a day. And look, the coffee is cool enough to drink now.

Keep writing.