Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dabbling with Drought......Joyce oroz

Did you read the newspaper this morning? California might be going into a long drought. My first thought was for my garden. I spent most of the day shoveling, creating wells around plants and trees. Then the mulching began. Luckily I run a worm farm—a big barrel of worms, raw fruit and vegetable peels and garden and lawn clippings. The worms multiply while the
food and garbage (no meat) rots. When it’s totally disgusting, it’s ready for your most precious plants. Hold your nose and work this stuff into the earth around your drought-resistant flowers, bushes and trees.
Save your lawn clippings or buy sacks of mulch for the ground around your plants. Always weed an area before you mulch.
When applying the mulch to your garden bed, do not pile it too close to the stems or crowns of the plants. Wet mulch can cause them to rot.

When using organic mulching materials (like grass clippings), don't be stingy. A layer that's too thin will allow sunlight in and won't suppress weeds, and it will allow moisture to evaporate, increasing the amount of watering (a.k.a. work) you'll need to do. Areas in full sun may need four inches of mulch to keep weeds at bay. For shadier, less troublesome spots, two to three inches should suffice.
What are drought resistant plants? Here are a few: Lavender, Echinacea, Coreopsis, Buddleia, Sage, Salvia, Lilac, Golden Current, African Daisys, Western Redbud, Penstemons, Buckwheat and all types of Manzanitas.
In reality, the most drought tolerant plants are usually the native plants of your area. If you live in California pick the plants from your south-facing slopes or a slightly drier climate a little further inland in California. It's really easy to plant a garden with native plants that are very drought tolerant (they lived there long before you showed up with a garden hose) and look very good, especially with a few sprinkles with the hose.

Now that we are all drought-proofed, please let me know your ideas on gopher-proofing, deer-proofing, snail-proofing, and Big-Foot-proofing. And maybe a good tooth-whitener.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The New Oxy Moron

Today I want to tell you about a little trip I took with my grandson, Myles. It was a trip back to my roots. I drove north on the curvy Highway Nine which begins in Santa Cruz, passes through Felton, Ben Lomond, Brookdale and finally Boulder Creek. Why did they name a town Boulder Creek—because of the big boulders in the creek? Works for me. 

At a glance, the size and features of the town look about like they did sixty, eighty, or a hundred years ago. But the innards have definitely changed. 

Mac’s Bar was a real spittoon-type three-fights-a-night western bar. Now it is a wonderful antique shop. 

The bowling alley (one lane) across the street is now a marshal arts studio. The movie theater (large quanset hut) is now Round Table Pizza. The library (big as a guest room) turned into a pumpkin—I mean Real Estate office. Down the street a couple blocks is the Brewery CafĂ© (wonderful restaurant) that used to be a grocery store before it was a Post Office, before it belonged to Bigfoot and the wild bears. 

To understand the real color and flavor of Boulder Creek you need to take a stroll down the sidewalk (used to be wood) and enjoy the fresh air and friendly people.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

Interview with Jennifer Joyce Oroz

Today I am going to interview Jennifer Vido, and talk about her Piper O’Donnell Social Lite Mystery Series. So far there are two books in the series, Par for the Course and Country Clubbed. Do you think Jennifer likes golf? Jennifer Vido is best known for her nationally syndicated Jen's Jewels author interview column. A savvy book blogger for, she dishes the scoop on the latest happenings in the publishing business. As a national spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation, she has been featured by Lifetime Television, Redbook, Health Monitor, The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun,, and Arthritis Today.
 Now, let's find out what else this wonderful Mom, columnist, author likes to do.

With so many wonderful career choices in the world, why did you choose to be a writer?

Ironically, I didn’t choose to become a writer. It found me. After having a hip replacement at the young age of 33, I knew I had to make some adjustments in my life, especially in terms of finding a more arthritis-friendly profession. As an avid reader, I thought …wouldn’t it be great if I could combine my love for reading with some sort of career? That’s how I became a book reviewer, and then eventually a columnist. I was content with my new-found vocation for a few years, and then things changed. I finally had my “Ah! Ha!” moment after having interviewed my umpteenth New York Times bestselling author. I realized a majority of writers are no different than you and me, in the sense that many have no formal training prior to writing a book. Simply, they had an idea and put it into words. It was at that defining moment I decided to take the plunge and pursue a career as a cozy mystery author.

Jennifer, do you write full-time, or have another gig going? What is your weekly schedule like?

My writing agenda is dictated by my family’s schedule. With two teenage sons, I seize any opportunity I can to work on my latest project. In addition to being an author, I spend three mornings in the pool teaching an Arthritis Foundation exercise class to senior citizens. I also teach French part-time at a local private high school. On Fridays at 11am, you can listen to me on the radio in Maryland and Delaware and see me on the web at dishing the scoop on the hottest trends in fashion and celebrity news on my show, “The Cutting Edge” with Cindy Mumby, and sometimes Bob. Keeping busy is all the motivation I need to be productive. Writing is my private time to escape to a fictional world of which I create.

I admire your family-first attitude. Obviously you are an expert mystery writer. Is your protagonist anything like you in REAL life?

Piper O’Donnell and I share a love of Lilly Pulitzer clothing, pop culture, and celebrity news. We also have a tendency to wear our hearts on our sleeves. I am happy to say that I have never stumbled upon any dead bodies, nor do I antagonize the local police force.

Please tell us what else you like to do besides write? Would you rather vacation at the coast or in the mountains?

Besides writing, I like to spend time with my family and friends. In terms of vacation destinations, I prefer the beach, specifically Kiawah Island in South Carolina. My husband and I look forward to hopefully retiring there one day.

When you are a writer you never really retire. Who are your favorite authors?

There are so many talented authors today whom I admire, but if I had to pick my all-time favorites…Karen White, Elaine Viets, Carly Phillips, Sarah Jio, Jane K. Cleland, and Kristin Hannah.

Jennifer, where can we find your books and any other published works?

Both my books, Par for the Course and Country Clubbed, are available wherever books are sold, such as, B&N,, etc.

Follow me on Twitter @JenniferVido

Thank you, Jennifer--lovely meeting you!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Peek at Joyce Oroz

I am happy to announce that Beetles in the Boxcar
is available in book and kindle forms from Amazon.                                                          
Here is a little peek into my latest mystery.                       
  Beetles in the Boxcar   
A Josephine Stuart Mystery
by Joyce Oroz
The snow-capped Sierra Mountains had become a faraway blur as my mud-spattered pickup bounced along Highway 41 to the beat of, “She Loves Me, Yah, Yah, Yah.” Riding shotgun was my Aunt Clara, who didn’t care for music by the Beatles or commercials and frequently turned the dial. Protesting would not have helped. Aunt Clara had a mind of her own, not to mention a stubborn streak that stretched all the way from her home in Oakhurst to mine in
Aromas, from one side of California to the other.
We had been on the road heading west for less than half an hour when she suddenly demanded I stop at a restroom. We had already passed Coarsegold. Why didn’t she say something then? I knew why she had her sweatpants in a twist. It was because she had to leave home in a hurry with me instead of her own daughter. Candy was on a cruise in the Bahamas with her third husband, Marty, celebrating their first year of marriage.
“Can you wait till we get to Madera?”
“No,” she snapped, fanning herself with a ropy freckled hand. A minute later she asked to be forgiven for her impatience.
“Not a problem, Auntie. I’m sorry things aren’t going well.”
       “Never mind that, Josephine. Get me to a restroom—a bush—something!”
“All I see are orchards and that shack up ahead. Must be a fruit stand.”
“Pull over,” she pointed to the one-room shack surrounded on three sides by bare fruit trees.  Brakes squealed as we jerked to a stop in front of “Facelli’s Fresh Fruit,” boarded up and deserted for the winter. Clara jumped out of the truck wearing a gray sweat suit and clear plastic rain boots. She plowed through the mud, ducked behind the old shed and minutes later returned with a better disposition. “Thank you, dear,” she said as she hoisted herself into the cab.
The turnoff to Highway 145 caught my eye just in time. We had about ten more miles to Madera and then another 120 miles to my home in Aromas, positioned just one hill shy of a perfect view of the Pacific Ocean.
“Goodness, now Felix has to go!” Aunt Clara pulled a scrawny yellow cat out of her over-sized knitting bag. “When he squirms around like that, it’s time.”
I pulled off the road onto an unpaved shoulder near a double set of railroad tracks paralleling the highway. The pickup idled as Clara cuddled the old cat, climbed out of the truck and set the animal on the ground. Felix jumped a foot into the air when a semi roared by, giving my truck a good shake. Aunt Clara held him close for a moment and they tried again.
Fortunately, Felix was able to complete his mission before a freight train appeared in my rear view mirror. We traveled alongside the train most of the way to Chowchilla where we stopped for a fast food lunch. My aunt and I ended up with mustard stains down our fronts. Travel was like that, or maybe it was just us. After all, we were not neat little girly girls … or queen bees like Mom. It was astonishing to me that Mom was Aunt Clara’s older sister. Clara was a fanatic when it came to mucking around in her extensive flower and vegetable gardens, while Mom babied a couple rose bushes and belonged to the Senior Garden Club. Mom was active, kept her hair styled and knew how to dress for every occasion. She owned the latest in hiking boots, wetsuits, tennis togs and a red sari, while Aunt Clara’s socks didn’t match and her white hair billowed.
Aunt Clara and I had the same wavy, shoulder-length hair, except mine was still auburn with a white hair creeping in now and then, which I would immediately yank out. Clara’s green eyes were twenty-five years older than mine but still had plenty of sparkle.
“You’re awfully quiet, dear,” Aunt Clara said, as we roared up Pacheco Pass.
“I was wondering what it was like for you growing up with my mother.”
“Kind of like it is now. She was so busy with all her friends and activities. Couldn’t slow down if she tried. I wasn’t like Leola. I was quiet, always had my nose in a book and not very good at making friends. Leola used to haul me around to parties and football games; but it took years for me to come out of my shell, marry Roger and ‘find my voice’ in the world.” I figured she was talking about her poetry—the published ones in particular.
“Aunt Clara, I’m glad you’re going to stay with me, so don’t get me wrong but why did you have to leave in such a hurry? The mudslide only affected the backyard.”
 “Josephine, you remember the Bass Lake fire last summer in the mountains behind my house?” I nodded, remembering the scary images shown on the news. “When the trees are gone, there’s nothing to hold the earth in place. It’s November and we’ve only had two rains. The mud is already at my back door. A construction crew is coming next week with tractors and such, and they’ll scoop out the mud and build a retaining wall. That is, if they’re allowed into the area. Cross your fingers it will be enough to hold back disaster.” Clara stared at her muddy boots while she stroked Felix. “Besides, my neighbors and I were told to evacuate.”
 “How long will the work take if the crew is allowed into the neighborhood?”
 “Depends on the weather. Our winters are colder and wetter than yours.”
Aromas had gone six months without rain, which was typical, and then it poured on all the little trick-or-treat goblins and witches. Clara stopped turning the radio dial when she heard classical music and left it alone for almost an hour. Conversation was minimal until an advertisement for termite abatement flashed over the air waves. She quickly snapped it off.
“Don’t you just hate commercials?”
“Ah, yeah. Auntie, I’m afraid I won’t have much time to spend with you after my new job starts Monday.”
“That’s OK, dear. We can spend Saturday and Sunday together,” she smiled as she dropped Felix back into her knitting bag. “What is your new Wild Bush job? Painting, I presume.”
“Yes, my Wildbrush Mural Company is scheduled to paint murals in the new Watsonville library. We’re doing a thirty-foot mural in the children’s story room and another one on the rounded entry wall.”
“Won’t you be a distraction to the folks in the library?”
 “Only if we don’t finish before December 15th, when the new building opens to the public.  We have exactly five weeks to paint two large murals depicting changes in California over the last three hundred years. I’ve researched the subject and my sketches got us a decent contract.”
“Do you still have people working for you? Alice and the college boy—what’s his name?”
“Yes, Alicia and Kyle are still working for me. They’re wonderful. Alicia lives in Watsonville, about ten miles from my house. Kyle lives about a half hour away in Santa Cruz.” I smiled, picturing Kyle, the tall, skinny redhead decorated with tattoos and piercings.
 “That’s a gas station up ahead. Pull over,” Clara said. As soon as the wheels stopped, she jumped out. I waited for my turn, standing outside the restroom door, shivering in the weak afternoon sun. I figured we would have to stop at least one more time for poor old Felix and maybe another for Clara.
In spite of all of Aunt Clara’s pit stops, we made it to my house in time for me to search the fridge for an evening meal. Clara had settled herself on the sofa and seemed happy to be eating dinner in front of the TV.
Solow, my dear basset hound with a backside the size and shape of my coffee table, barked at Clara’s knitting bag. She pulled the old cat out and placed him on my new tasseled throw pillow, a froufrou fiftieth birthday present from Mom and Dad.
 “Does he chase cats?” she asked.
“Do bears live in the woods?” Clara smiled. I told her about Fluffy, David’s cat next door, and how Solow loved to chase her. “She always runs circles around him,” I said, watching Clara’s eyes light up when I mentioned David.
“How is Mr. Galaz, dear?” She must have heard about him through the Leola grapevine.
“David’s fine … very fine, actually.” My cheeks felt hot as Clara gave me a knowing smile.  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Pile of Pigs........Joyce Oroz

 This is a follow-up on the blog story, “A Rose Named Violet,” about a paranoid woman who was given a very beautiful and special rose bush which she treasured and named Violet. But for thirty-five years she worried she would kill the beautiful tree rose someday, like the dead and dying cyclamen, daisies, and succulents already suffering in her garden. She moved from town to town over the years and everywhere she lived she planted rose babies from her special rose bush named Violet. 

One day the unthinkable happened. Violet bought the farm. Ten years later the woman drove by a house she had previously owned, saw two of her full-grown rose-babies in the front yard and asked the owner for two clippings. He graciously let her clip his bushes. That is the back story. Here is what has happened since. 

woman potted the two clippings. 
She religiously watered, fed, and covered them with a tablecloth every night. She uncovered them every morning, letting them bask in the winter sun, and checked to see if they had sprouted leaves. She said it was more work than raising a pile of pigs. Even though temperatures dipped down to 15 degrees a couple times, the clippings were happily wrapped in their tablecloth room. Currently, the baby clippings are green, and one of them has actual green leaves and a curly tail. Just kidding.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Interview With Tim Joyce Oroz

Tim Hall is a young (compared to some of us) energetic family man with an amazing gift for writing. Cozy Cat Press recently published his latest mystery novel, Dead Stock, which takes place in and around New York City and stars a young man named Bert Shambles. The name gives us a clue as to his personality and taste in clothing. Anyway, lets meet Tim. 

Hello, Tim. With so many wonderful career choices in the world, why did you choose to be a writer?

I definitely didn't choose to become a writer; writing chose me. It happened when I was 10 and read The Hobbit. I knew exactly what I was going to do with my life. I actually tried quitting once, about 15 years ago. I made it for about 3 months, then one day before I knew what had happened I had filled about 20 pages of long hand with a story. I haven't tried quitting since.

Yes, do keep writing! Tim, do you write full-time, or have another gig going? What is your weekly schedule like?

I've had a full-time job for the last two years, but for 6 years previously I was a full-time dad. My writing schedule was about the same then as now: I get up early (4-5 a.m.) and try to write for an hour or two before reality takes over. Nowadays I also write in the evenings after I get home from work. Weekend mornings I sleep late, until 6 or even 7!  

Obviously you are an expert mystery writer. Is your protagonist anything like you in REAL life.

Great question. My protagonist, Bert Shambles, is the least factually autobiographical character I've created, and yet he's the most truly "me" as well. He's a noble, nonconformist slacker at heart, very sweet and romantic but a bit of a ditz. Much more emotional than rational and trying not to do any harm. He sometimes succeeds.

Please tell us what else you like to do besides write. 

I love to cook, and when I'm motivated or need a break I take a run through Central Park in Manhattan.

Would you rather vacation at the coast or in the mountains?

I'm a beach bum, to the core. I grew up on Long Island, which a lot of people don't realize has some of the best beaches in the world--the south shore is over 100 miles of gorgeous white sand ocean beaches. I've traveled to plenty of sandy spots--Florida, Caribbean, California, Mexico, Spain, anywhere--and I still think LI is beach heaven. Another great beach most people don't know about is the western coast of Michigan. Amazingly beautiful beaches there. Though I prefer saltwater, it's a place I really want to go back to.    

Where can we find your books and any other published works?

Right now they're on Amazon, in Kindle and Paperback, with more options and locations coming soon. 

Thank you, Tim for taking the time to share your personal life with us. Happy writing!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Out of the Box! Joyce Oroz

Outside the Proverbial Box
What’s wrong with a box? Each year our ornaments are boxed and stored for the next Christmas tree we adopt. Our tax files are neatly stuffed into a box and saved for seven years or until the earth falls out of the sky. Our valentines, birthday cards and pageant programs are lovingly shoved in a box, never again to see the light of day. Our old clothes are boxed and taken to the second-hand thrift store. So why turn against the proverbial box?
      I’m just sayin, there might be a better way. What if all the Christmas ornaments were made out of chocolate covered kale? What if we had a flat tax and only had to send one page to the IRS? What if cards were erasable and resendable? What if we walked our old clothes directly to the alley or under the bridge where the homeless shiver in the cold? 
Here in the picture is a box I call, Wally. My grandson, Avery, invented this emergency solar generator that also runs my eight-foot waterfall during the summer.
I can just hear you now, asking “what would we do with all those empty storage boxes?” Cats, raccoons and little children love boxes. They climb in, under and around, stack them, slide downhill in them and fall asleep in them. Wouldn’t it be nice to flatten most of the boxes and save them in a small space instead of using half your garage as a storage area? Just sayin.