by: Janice Peacock
Series: Glass Bead Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Release Date: August 31, 2015
Source: Publisher ~ Booktrope Publishing
After inheriting a house in Seattle, Jax O'Connell is living the life of her dreams as a glass beadmaker and jewelry designer. When she gets an offer to display her work during a bead shop’s opening festivities, it's an opportunity Jax can't resist—even though Rosie Perez, the store's owner, is the surliest person Jax has ever met.
The weekend’s events become a tangled mess when a young beadmaker is found dead nearby and several oddball bead enthusiasts are suspects. Jax must string together the clues to clear her friend Tessa's name—and do it before the killer strikes again.
Hello Janice, welcome to Read Your Writes Book Reviews. High Strung is your first book. What made you decide to try your hand at writing, and a cozy mystery at that?
I’ve always adored beads and have been a glass beadmaker for twenty-three years. For those people who don’t know about glass bead making—I use a 2,000 degree torch to melt colorful glass rods and then sculpt, layer and wrap the molten glass around a thin metal wire called a mandrel, which when removed, becomes the hole in the bead. It’s fun, challenging, and only a little dangerous.
I also love to read mysteries and was thrilled when I found a book several years ago by Barbara Burnett Smith called A Bead on Trouble. Unfortunately, she passed away before completing her second bead mystery, which was finished by Karen MacInerney, called Beads of Doubt. I waited around for another author to start writing a bead mystery series, but that never happened. So, I decided if I wanted one, I was going to have to write it myself.
While taking a class at a glass blowing studio in Corning, New York, I had an epiphany—the perfect way to kill someone! And while I didn’t have plans to murder anyone in particular, I decided that it was time to write High Strung, the first book in the Glass Bead Mystery series.
Can you tell me a little bit about High Strung & your Glass Bead Mystery series?
High Strung is the first book in the Glass Bead Mystery series, and features a glass beadmaker named Jax O’Connell. She inherits a house in Seattle, and leaves her not-so-terrific life in Miami behind to follow her dreams. As Jax says, she wants to “shake up that old Etch A Sketch called life, and start with a clean slate.” Jax moves in next door to her quirky neighbor Val and reconnects with her friend Tessa, a feisty Italian mother of three. And then there’s Gumdrop—Jax’s adorable grey cat who could use a serious attitude adjustment—who has, of course, travelled across the country with her to start her new life.
When Jax gets an offer to display her work during a bead shop’s opening festivities, it's an opportunity Jax can't resist—even though Rosie Perez, the store's owner, is the surliest person Jax has ever met. The weekend’s events become a tangled mess when a young beadmaker is found dead nearby and several oddball bead enthusiasts are suspects. Jax must string together the clues to clear her friend Tessa's name—and do it before the killer strikes again.
A Bead in the Hand is the next book in the series and will be released in December. Here’s a little bit about it: A bead bazaar turns truly bizarre when Jax discovers a dead body beneath her sales table. Suspected of murder, Jax and her friend Tessa scramble to find the killer among the fanatic shoppers and eccentric vendors. They have their hands full dealing with a scumbag show promoter, a detective who looks like a beauty queen, and a security guard who wants to do more than protect Jax from harm. Adding to the chaos, Val arrives unexpectedly with trouble in tow.
Jax is an interesting name for a female character. How did you come up with it?
I used to live on Jacqueline Way, and I always thought that Jacqueline was a lovely name. But, it’s a little complicated—there aren’t that many words that have a c and a q right next to each other like that. So, when it came time to decide on the name for the main character in High Strung, Jax came to mind—short for Jacqueline. I think Jax is a spunky name, and she certainly is a spunky character.
I love having a clear picture of characters. How do you picture Jax O'Connell?
Jax is like a lot of women I know. She’s just a regular person, average height, on the curvier end of the spectrum, with short hair that is always a little messy. Jax’s hairstyle is considerably shorter than it used to be after having some of her bangs singed off by a scorching hot kiln, which definitely can happen! While I haven’t burned my bangs, I did fry some of my eyelashes when I opened a kiln set at 1,000 degrees. Thank goodness I had safety glasses or else I would have burned more than that. My eyelashes eventually grew back, but I’ve got to say that it was a long and sad mascara-free couple of months.
Jax likes to be comfortable, and wears T-shirts and jeans, along with clogs. Artists who work with glass and fire must wear natural fibers, because if they get molten glass on synthetic fibers, the fabric can burn and melt—not good! And clogs, or any closed-toe shoes, are important for glass artists to wear because it’s never a good idea to drop molten glass between your toes—trust me on this!
Oh my gosh! I’m so glad you weren’t really hurt. When and where do you write?
I have an office in my home, and it is also a place where I work on the jewelry that I make. The chaos between the writing side and the jewelry side of my long desk is in constant flux—an ebb and flow of beads and papers. I feel like I’m constantly pushing pages of my manuscripts aside to find beads, and pushing beads aside to find drafts of chapters.
What's the first sentence from High Strung?
“Great-Aunt Rita died two years ago on Miami’s hottest day of the year.” It’s a pretty serious first line for the book, given how fun and humorous the rest of the story is. But, it was a necessary way to start the book, because the death of Jax’s Aunt Rita was the catalyst that allowed Jax to leave her old life and live the one she wanted—a life full of creative passion.
What was the last thing you bought?
I bought an art glass pumpkin from the Bay Area Glass Institute’s annual Great Glass Pumpkin Patch. Each year I buy a blown glass pumpkin to support a terrific non-profit glass school here in the San Francisco area. The one I bought this year is a delicious lavender color with red crackles running up its sides. It’s always so fun to go and see the amazingly colorful pumpkins, and difficult to choose which one I want. I usually end up picking up five or six, and then finding a quiet spot so I can review my choices and pick the perfect one. On the first of October I set up my collection on the mantel, and don’t take them down until the Christmas decorations go up in December.
Sounds lovely. What would Jax say about you?
She’d say I have excellent taste in cats, friends, chocolate, cocktails, and men. She’d also say that I was a fun person, but that I should take more time off to enjoy life, spend less time in front of the computer, and spend a little more time in my studio making beads and creating jewelry.
Was there anything about High Strung which surprised you?
While writing High Strung I tried to let the characters run amuck from time to time just to see what would happen. At the risk of sounding like a crazy person (I probably am, a little), at times it felt like the characters were calling the shots, and I was just there to document what they were doing. There are definitely plot twists in High Strung, and in the upcoming A Bead in the Hand, when I was surprised that something happened the way it did because I let the characters play with each other in an unsupervised way.
I don’t think you sound like a crazy person at. I personally tend to get so wrapped up in a story, I see the characters as real people. What does your ideal day look like?
An ideal day would be lying on the beach with a cabana boy coming by occasionally with a fresh mojito for me while I read a fun murder mystery. Oh, but maybe you mean a usual ideal day? An ideal day for me is to wake up at 7:30 and have coffee (which I admit I have trained my husband to bring to me in bed), play a half-dozen games of online Scrabble with friends, and take a walk. (I’m obsessed with my FitBit and try and walk 10,000 steps a day, but usually fail.) I have a non-fat latte sometime mid-morning to keep me going while I write. In the afternoon, I like to work in my glass studio. I have dinner at home with my husband and daughter. After dinner, I’ll often write or watch a movie. Other than movies, I don’t really watch TV, though I have recently been watching The Mysteries of Laura (because it’s a cozy mystery!) and have (unfortunately) gotten hooked on watching The Voice with my daughter.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for me. I didn’t realize The Mysteries of Laura was considered a cozy mystery!!! You should definitely check out Hallmark’s Movies and Mysteries channel. Every month they have a new mystery and it’s a great way to spend time with the family and watch tv.
Thanks, Kim, for interviewing me!
You are more than welcome.
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Janice Peacock decided to write her first mystery novel after working in a glass studio full of colorful artists who didn’t always get along. They reminded her of the odd, and often humorous, characters in the murder mystery books she loved to read. Inspired by that experience, she combined her two passions and wrote High Strung: A Glass Bead Mystery, the first book in a new cozy mystery series featuring glass beadmaker Jax O’Connell.
When Janice isn’t writing about glass artists-turned-amateur-detectives, she makes glass beads using a torch, designs one-of-a-kind jewelry, and makes sculptures using hot glass. An award-winning artist, her work has been exhibited internationally and is in the permanent collections of the Corning Museum of Glass, the Glass Museum of Tacoma, WA, and in private collections worldwide.
Janice lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, daughter, three cats, and seven chickens. She has a studio full of beads...lots and lots of beads.
Places to find Janice Peacock: