I’m pleased to have author Janice Peacock from Lafayette, California here to speak about her writing and new release, To Bead or Not to Bead, that is on blog tour with Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book.
I originally self-published High Strung, the first book in the Glass Bead Mystery Series in 2014. Then I found a publisher called Booktrope that republished High Strung, and then published the second book in the series, A Bead in the Hand. The following year Booktrope went out of business and returned the rights to the books to me. I decided at that point to return to self-publishing. In 2016 I republished my first two books. In 2017 I published the third book in the Glass Bead Mystery Series—Off the Beadin’ Path and just last month published to Bead or Not to Bead.
Congratulations! I applaud your persistence. I just signed the 4th book of my Cobble Cove mystery series. I published the first book with another publisher before I sold the second to Solstice, and I’ve been publishing with them ever since. They’ve been in business more than a decade now. I’m lucky to have found them, but I know that other authors like yourself are doing well publishing on their own.
Tell us a little bit about your books.
I’m currently writing the cozy Glass Bead Mystery Series. Its main character is a glass beadmaker, which is an unusual profession. (I am also a glass beadmaker, writing what I know, which is a good thing.) Jax lives in Seattle next door to her wacky neighbor Val who always has something funny going on in her life. In the latest book, Val is trying new diets—the Werewolf Diet is my favorite. Jax’s best friend Tessa also lives in Seattle and together they stumble across a few murders which they must solve to clear the names of either themselves or their friends. Add to the mix a stern detective who just might have the hots for Jax, and a cast of quirky craft-loving characters, plot twists, and a catnip addicted cat, and you pretty much have the basics of what my books are about.
My most recent book, To Bead or Not to Bead, was released on June 29. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback, I’m happy to report. Readers can learn more about my new book, and all the rest of the books in the series at janicepeacock.com.
Sounds like a fun and interesting series. I have an interest in glassblowing, although I have no experience with it. My main character is a librarian like I am, and there’s also a cat in my books.
Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?
At this point I am shifting gears and starting to write a new series. I have a draft of the first book, but it needs quite a bit of work before it will be ready for publication. It’s a bit too early to talk much about that series. I can tell you it will be in the cozy mystery genre and won’t have anything to do with beads.
As for other goals, up until now I’ve been releasing a book a year. I’d like to increase my productivity and plan to try some new methods for getting my manuscripts ready for publication so I can release more frequently. I’ve never been a writer who outlines their plots meticulously. I’m going to try that out and see how it improves my books and the process of writing them. I’m also interested in speech recognition and dictation for writing, though, so far, I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around that one.
Great goals. I also don’t plot thoroughly and am hoping to give that a shot by taking an online mystery course being given by Sisters-in-Crime in September. Besides my Cobble Cove series, I also like to write standalone mysteries and have written the first book of another cozy series; but, as you know, publishing takes time especially when you work full-time.
What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?
I think the ideal reader is, of course, cozy mystery readers. I also think that people who like crafts in general will enjoy my mysteries, and especially those who like to work with beads. That being said, I’ve found that many people who aren’t crafty have enjoyed the intriguing plots, the fun characters, the fast pace, and the relationships between the Jax and her friends in the series.
You have a good target audience. I also believe that characters are important to books especially cozies.
What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?
For writers who are trying to figure out what publishing route to pursue, I think that self-publishing is a terrific way to go if you are willing to learn the technical skills needed to create the books yourself. If you’ve spent a lot of time working with computers in your day job, you can probably have the skills to self-publish. If you don’t have those skills, you can hire someone to do that work for you. If you really, really want a publisher, I recommend a smaller publishing house who will give you more attention than one of the large publishing houses. By small publishing houses, I do not mean a vanity press, but simply a smaller company that puts out few books each year, has a small staff, and will not have a name like Random House. Avoid any publisher who wants money up front to publish your book—that is a sure sign you’ve stumbled upon a vanity press or some a scam.
I agree about good small publishers. I’m very happy with mine, but I still hope to publish with a large publisher one day. I self-published once, paid someone to do it, but I don’t think I’d go that route again. It’s great that authors have so many options to publish today, though.
What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?
I was given some pretty bad advice when I first got started. It was recommended to me that I should self publish my first book and when it became wildly popular I could then find a publisher for my second novel. Sounds like a good plan, right? Unfortunately, this advice does not apply to series. Very few publishing houses want to publish the second book in a series, especially if the first book has been self-published. I was fortunate to find a publisher, Booktrope, that was willing to republish my first book and then publish my second book. That was great until they went belly up. So, I think if I did this all again, I would have probably stayed with self-publishing and not gone with a publisher. That being said, I learned a great deal from working with a publisher and met a nice group of people in the industry with whom I am still in touch with today.
I agree that working with a publisher does help you make contacts and network with other authors.
Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?
I belong to Sisters in Crime. We have a local group that is quite active, with many presentations coming to the bay area each year. In fact this week we have a special event where we’ll learn about chocolate—think about how many chocolate-oriented mysteries there are. I’m sure it will be inspiring. I also belong to Mystery Writers of America, which also has many great programs presented in my area. A couple of months ago Jeffrey Deaver spoke to us about his writing process, and that was very eye-opening and educational.
That sounds wonderful. I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime. Unfortunately, my local chapter is no longer active, but I’ve joined their online guppies group and am working with critique partners there.
What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?
I like to make glass bead in my torch and also make large cast class sculptures. There are videos about how I make these things on my YouTube Channel (youtube.com/JanPeac.) I like to garden (hint regarding the next series). I like to make quilts though every time I finish one I promise I’ll never make another because of the amount of time they take to complete. Then, the next time I’m in a fabric store, my head swirls with creative ideas about what I could do with all of the gorgeous fabrics. Oh, and I should have probably started by saying I like to read. I love to read cozy mysteries, however when I am hip-deep in writing I often read non-fiction so that I don’t have to think about too many plots at the same time.
You certainly sound like you have great hobbies and are very artistic. I have to check out your YouTube channel. I also find it hard to read while I write, but I still do but at a much slower rate.
What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?
I love writing the first draft—that is so exhilarating. Even the second draft is fun, as I start to see the plot and subplots come into focus. The challenge for me is the tenth draft where I am working on all the picky things that are easy to gloss over in the earlier drafts. The juggling of all the different aspects of my job as a self published author is also a challenge. Not only do I have to write the very best book that I can, but I need to work with an editor, work with a cover designer, format my books for publication, send out newsletters, update my website, maintain a social media presence, setup public speaking engagements and book signings, and the list goes on. It’s a lot of juggling, but I love it.
I feel the same and also enjoy it. Although my publisher does the formatting and cover design, I still work with an editor and have to promote my books online and at author appearances.
What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?
Since I love to read cozy mysteries, I love to write them. If I am going to spend months working on a story, I need to love writing it and that means I need to love reading it over and over as I hone it. One thing I like about cozy mysteries is that it is often an opportunity to learn something new about a craft or hobby I am unfamiliar with. Also, they are a great escape from the stressors of everyday life.
Very true. I always let my books sit after I finish them (good time to send them to a beta reader). But when I pick them up again, I’m relieved that I look forward to reading the story again.
Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?
Here’s an excerpt from To Bead or Not to Bead in which Jax, the main character, is talking with her neighbor Val. Val, who is Iowa’s former Miss Junior Pork Shop Queen, is a notoriously bad cook and also loves science fiction.
“Hello, sweet cheeks!” Val said, her faux-leopard clad arms
cradling an oval tureen of soup. “I was hoping you would be home. I have a lot of this soup, and tomorrow’s a full moon, so I’ve got to get it out of my house before I eat it.”
“What? Why?” I asked as Val barged past me and placed the bowl on my kitchen table.
“Didn’t I tell you? I’m on the Werewolf Diet! I’m a teensy-weensy too voluptuous for my Princess Leia costume. I refuse to wear Spanx, so I’m going to drop a couple of quick pounds.” This was news to me. Val had never once mentioned the word “diet” to me, but it certainly wasn’t the first time she’d mentioned werewolves.
“Werewolf Diet? Sounds drastic. Do you have to get bitten by a werewolf to be on the diet? Because if you do it may take some time to find one in Seattle. If you go out to Forks on the Olympic Peninsula, you’d likely find some werewolves.”
“I’ve got news for you, darling, Twilight is fiction, so we won’t find any werewolves out there. But see, this diet, it’s all about the phase of the moon. When there’s a full moon, I can only drink clear liquids, and that’s tomorrow. So, I have to remove all the tempting food from my house. I sent all the cookies home with Rudy.”
Dammit. I would have taken those cookies off her hands, no problem.
“Thanks for the soup. It looks yummy.” I grabbed a ladle, spoons, and bowls from the kitchen and brought them to the table.
“It’s cream of potato,” she said, ladling the soup into the bowls.
I sampled the soup. Holy moly! I’d never tasted so much garlic in my life.
“Wow! There’s a lot of garlic in this,” I said as I choked a little.
“I added a few extra cloves because I adore garlic. Since I don’t have a boyfriend right now, I don’t have to worry about kissing anyone with stinky breath. Oh—but maybe you shouldn’t have too much if you going out with Zachary tonight.”
“Nope. He called to say he was busy with an investigation. It
wasn’t one of our better conversations.”
“I’m sorry sweetums, you know he’s not always the best communicator when he’s stressed, and neither are you. I’m sure you two will work it out.”
Sweat beaded on my forehead as I ate a few more spoonfuls. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish the bowl. I grabbed the sourdough from the counter and cut a slice for each of us. “Here you go, this will be nice with the soup.” I hoped the bread would counteract the garlic.
“Um, Val? You know with all this garlic, I’m not sure you’re going to find a single werewolf to hang out with tomorrow,” I said, teasing her.
“Oh, but you’re wrong!” Val shook her head from side to side, as her red curls bounced right along with her.
“I’m wrong about the werewolves? You’re actually going to hang out with some tomorrow during the full moon?”
“Werewolves don’t care about garlic. It’s vampires who don’t like garlic! What I’ve heard is that werewolves love garlic because it makes their coat nice and shiny.”
I decided it was time to move on. When Val got going on her strange topics, she could go on for hours.
That’s wonderful! Thanks for sharing it, Janice.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?
My books have a lot of humor in them. Much more than your average cozy mystery. I don’t think that always comes across in the blurbs about the books, and that’s one thing I’m working on. I encourage readers to read more than just the first book in the Glass Bead Mystery Series. High Strung was the first book I’d ever written, and I can honestly say I’ve become a better writer over the last several years.
I feel I’ve improved with each book, too. Humor is a great addition to a cozy mystery. I try to add some to mine.
Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc. so readers may connect with you.
Newsletter sign up: tinyurl.com/janpeacnewsletter (Occasional, non-spammy)
facebook.com/JanPeac (Please like my page.)
Instagram.com/JanPeac (I love Pinterest!)
twitter.com/JanPeac (I am not very active on Twitter.)
Thanks so much for chatting with me, Janice, and best wishes on your new release and your new series.