I'm pleased to welcome Janice Peacock back to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Janice has a new series out. Aloe and Goodbye is the first book in the Ruby Shaw Mystery series.
Kathy: In Aloe and Goodbye, Ruby Shaw is forced to move from New York to Arizona after witnessing a murder. I’ve moved across the country and back myself. Have you ever made a big move?
JP: This is going to sound funny, but I almost had a big move. My husband, Jeff, was offered a job transfer to Maui for a year, and we decided to go for it! After months of preparations, packing, and moving furniture to storage, we were ready—until my husband’s boss called to say that there had been a re-organization at the company. Jeff was no longer able to transfer to Hawaii. We were crestfallen and not just because we couldn’t move. I’d packed everything, and the house was empty with all our furniture and possessions in storage—it had been an enormous endeavor. But you carry on, right? One thing I’d always wanted to do was get the hardwood floors refinished in our house. This was my lemons-to-lemonade moment: Having an empty house was the perfect opportunity. After the floors were shiny and scratch-free, we moved back in—it felt good to be home, even if we never left! I got rid of a lot of junk that had been piling up in the garage and closets, making it all the better once we settled back in. More good news: Since Jeff didn’t transfer to Maui, we have gotten to take a few trips there with his work footing the bill!
Kathy: Ruby meets many characters in her new town of Paradise, including Derek, who adds ghostly tidbits to his history tours. I love history tours, especially ones involving spirits. Do you enjoy historical ghost tours?
JP: I do! One of my favorites is the Underground Tour in Seattle. I went on this tour with friends a few years ago when I was researching one of my books in the Glass Bead Mystery Series, called To Bead or Not to Bead. The Seattle Underground is fascinating—the modern city of Seattle was built on top of the old town. Some of the original streets and buildings remain, and the tours guide you through the tunnels. It’s fascinating and spooky, and there are some great stories about all the unsavory things that have happened underground over the years!
Growing up, I lived in Southern California near Knott’s Berry Farm. There was—and probably still is—an Old West Ghost Town. One of my best childhood memories is going to Knott’s and looking at all the old-timey buildings—a saloon, post office, and a jail, among others. It wasn’t a real ghost town, of course, but it certainly made an impression on me as a child. It would be fun to return to Knott’s to see what memories it brings back for me and what inspiration I might get for my next book in the Ruby Shaw Mystery Series.
Kathy: Ruby also meets a cook who is passionate about succulents and cacti. While they aren’t my favorite plants, I do like them. Are you a fan? Do you have a favorite succulent? Do you own any?
JP: I am a fan of succulents, especially their unusual shapes and colors. Forgive the pun: I think succulents have grown on me. I like them better than I once did. The ones called “Hens and Chicks” are my favorite. They have a round rosette-shaped plant (the hen) in the middle, and tiny plants (the chicks) sprout up around it. I live in Northern California, and as long as I make sure I protect my succulents from the occasional frost, they do well here. I’m not as big of a fan of cacti, though we do have a row of prickly pear cactus against a fence that is growing quite nicely. The lobes from that plant came from a cactus at my father-in-law’s house. I think it’s incredible that you can slice of a piece of cactus, put it in the ground, and ta-dah! Within a matter of weeks or months, you’ve got a new plant.
Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for this series?
JP: I visited Jerome, Arizona, a few years ago and was smitten with this unusual small town. It clings precariously to the side of a steep hill. Jerome’s main street has a switchback in the middle of it. It’s a former ghost town—that’s all I needed to know. I knew it would be an excellent setting for a cozy mystery series. The other inspiration for the Ruby Shaw mysteries was the town of Jacksonville, Oregon, where I recently bought a vacation home. It was a mining town, like my fictional town of Paradise, Arizona, and is such a quaint little town—I love it there.
Ultimately, though, the Ruby Shaw Mysteries’ inspiration was this: What if you could no longer do the thing you loved to do? If you were a writer, imagine not being able to write ever again? That is Ruby Shaw’s situation. The main character in Aloe and Goodbye, Ruby, loved to paint and was well known for her artistic skills. After entering the witness project program, she could no longer be an artist. The US Marshals were worried that she could be identified by her painting since her style was so unique. Ultimately, Ruby finds a new way to be creative with gardening. This new hobby allows her to spend time with a handsome farmer, who teaches her about succulents and cacti.
Kathy: When it comes to writing, I understand there are two general camps-plotters, who diligently plot their stories, and pansters, who fly by the seat of their pants. Are you a plotter, a panster, or do you fall somewhere in between?
JP: I’m a pantser. I really would like to be more of a plotter, but I found I get bogged down in the planning, and then I never get around to writing, if I spend time outlining my story. So, I plunge ahead with writing, knowing who died, who killed them, and why. I have some basic ideas of the story arc, but I let my creativity go and see where it takes my characters each time I write. I admit this technique is not the quickest way to write a book. I hope that I get to be a better plotter so I can release more books a year.
Kathy: Authors must do a lot of their marketing, especially for a new release. What’s your favorite part of marketing your work? What do you dislike about marketing?
JP: I love blog tours! I like to talk with bloggers and their readers. Recently I’ve been learning about Amazon advertising and have been enjoying that a lot. It’s a challenge and something entirely new. So far, my advertising efforts have been succeeding, which means more readers are discovering my books.
The main thing I don’t like about marketing is more of a general complaint about having too many things to do at one time. I used to be pretty good at multi-tasking, but I seem to have more trouble doing it with each passing year. So, I’d say the thing I dislike about marketing is that it means I can’t write as much as I want and that my focus is often shattered by all the things a self-published author has to do.
Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?
JP: I’m focusing on Born to Bead Wild, Book Five in the Glass Bead Mystery Series right now. I’d put that novel aside for much of last year while I finished Aloe and Goodbye. Born to Bead Wild is about Jax O’Connell, the main character of the series, and her friend Tessa, a feisty Italian mom of three, who head to an artist retreat in a forest on the Olympic Peninsula. Jax’s neighbor and former beauty queen, Val, has been hired to work at the camp as their cook. When a man who has been evaluating the camp’s safety turns up dead, Jax and Tessa look for the killer, while Val tries to keep from poisoning the guests with such delicacies as vegan quinoa loaf. Once I complete Born to Bead Wild, Ruby will be back for a new adventure in Paradise!
Aloe and Goodbye: A Southwestern Small Town Cozy Mystery (Ruby Shaw Mysteries) by Janice Peacock
About Aloe & Goodbye
Cozy Mystery 1st in Series
Publisher: Vetrai Press (December 7, 2020)
Paperback: 228 pages
New Yorker Ruby Shaw arrives in a hillside town in Arizona with a brand-new name, a duffel bag on her shoulder, and her daughter, Allie, at her side. Before arriving, Ruby witnesses a murder that lands her in the witness protection program. That decision means she’s gone from being a successful artist to being a nobody in a postage-stamp-sized town called Paradise—a name that doesn’t fit the former ghost town. Even though their new digs are a little shabby, and there may be ghosts haunting the town, they are optimistic about their new lives, that is, until a neighbor turns up dead.
Having just arrived in town, living next door to the victim, and without an alibi, the community members are suspicious of Ruby. A local deputy befriends her, but the deputy still points to her as the culprit each time they find a new clue. If matters weren’t bad enough, Allie is having trouble fitting in at her new school, and Ruby can’t seem to hold down a job.
As they settle in, they meet the quirky inhabitants of Paradise: Bette—the chatterbox café owner, Flora—Allie’s eccentric babysitter, and Derek—who runs local history tours, which he jazzes up with ghost stories of questionable veracity.
Ruby’s life improves when she meets a handsome cook at the local café who is passionate about succulents and cacti, and may feel equally passionate about her. Even though Ruby and Allie want to stay in Paradise, a US marshal has other ideas, as he threatens to move them to a new town after Ruby gets mixed up in the murder investigation. Ruby must find the killer before she and Allie lose their new home or even worse—their lives.
About Janice Peacock
Janice Peacock is a cozy mystery author who specializes in craft and hobby mysteries. She loves to write about artists who find new ways to live their lives and perhaps catch a criminal or two in the process. While working in a glass studio with several colorful and quirky artists, she was inspired to write the Glass Bead Mystery Series. The Ruby Shaw Mysteries, which are set in a small hillside mining town, were inspired by her trips to Jerome, Arizona, and Jacksonville, Oregon. When Janice isn’t writing about amateur detectives, she wields a 2,500-degree torch to melt glass and create one-of-kind beads and jewelry. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and an undisclosed number of cats. Visit Janice online at janicepeacock.com.
Purchase Link - Amazon