Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Artist Nicholas Johnson...........by Joyce Oroz

Artist of the Month for May at the Dragonfly Gallery
is Nicholas Johnson, a very creative young artist, AHA member and family man. Here is Nicholas in his own words.
Traveling Europe earlier in life and seeing so much incredible art inspired me to start drawing, which later led to painting. I love the moment when things go right and the image in your mind is suddenly a reality on the canvas in front of you. It bugs me when I start a piece and get sidetracked. Life happens with some frequency.
Like many children, I drew and painted often growing up. That kind of petered out until my early 20's when I started to feel like doing it again. It's been about 10 years since then.
I tend to use charcoal and pastel pencils often. I think I like being able to use my fingers to spread the medium, layer, and blend. In terms of painting, I worked in oils for about 5 years, then transitioned to acrylics. The Golden brand, diluted with a glaze medium, has been a great alternative to the headache - literally - of turpentine and liquin. Acrylics don't off gas, so no mask for bigger pieces, and the sheen with the glaze is very close to what I was used to with Utrecht oils. It also stretches out the paint and allows for longer drying times.
When I am not painting, I like to rock climb, surf, and ski. The activities are physically challenging and also put me in places with the kind of beautiful landscapes that I like to draw and paint.

I am working on a children's book, with original illustrations, that I hope to publish through FriesenPress. That should be in the works for some time in 2015. The best way to view my artwork is at the Dragonfly Gallery in Aromas, 380 Blohm.
Thank you, Nicholas for sharing your knowledge and feelings about painting. Happy painting!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Author David M. Selcer..........Joyce Oroz

1 Today I want to introduce David M. Selcer, author of several wonderful cozy mysteries published by Cozy Cat Press. Like most authors, David writes what he knows--how to be a lawyer because he is one. What better place to pick up great stories? His protagonist is an interesting fellow:
Winston Barquist III, a former big time corporate attorney who narrowly escaped disbarment, is now a 300 pound, moped-riding lawyer, turning his life around with a new girlfriend and a re-invented career as a sole practitioner in a flea-bag office above a Dairy Mart. Mostly, his cases consist of defending small-time hoods and negotiating simple divorces.

David, who or what made you want to write fiction?

IIn my previous life as a lawyer, I used to write a lot of appellate briefs. Once, while doing the fact statement for one of them, I realized the facts I was stating would make a great story. So I tried my hand at fictionalizing them—not to the court, of course.

What do you like about writing and what is a pain?

 I like making crazy things that come out of my head from nowhere into seemingly realistic situations that ultimately form a logical story. I also love taking historical things that actually happened and super-imposing fictional stories over them. I don’t like editing.
 I’ve been writing for over 45 years, 35 as a lawyer, about 12 as an author, and 8 years as a Federal Agency Decision writer.

 Is your protagonist like you--any similar traits?

 My protagonist, Winston Barchrist III, in the Buckeye Barrister Mystery Series, is not at all like me, except that he is a lawyer—but he’s a failed lawyer, massively overweight, cursed with bad luck, and he has low self-esteem. Yet, he manages to make good in some very exciting situations in spite of everything.

 What is the most exciting thing that has happened in your life or career?
 My most exciting adventures were trips to the middle east and to the former Soviet Union. It was also a blast as a lawyer handling labor relations disputes between tough unions (Teamsters & Mine workers) and tough employers (coal companies and steel companies).

David, where can we find your books?

 You can find my books on Amazon, on Kindle, at Barnes &Noble (under Cozy Cat Press), through organizations like the Ohioanna Library Association and on Nook. 

   Thank you, David for taking the time to answer questions--letting us know you better. Happy writing!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Out of the Cocoon........Joyce Oroz

Today I want to share an interview with you--this time it's me on the hot seat. 

7 Wild And Free Questions: Inspiring Creativity Interview with YOU! I love featuring fellow writers ...
1. Who are you? 
My life began at twelve, reading Nancy Drew mysteries and painting with oil paints. Oil painting put me on a path I followed through motherhood and beyond. I painted murals for almost three decades all over California until a bad case of arthritis caught up to me. I turned to my second love, writing, which has, in the last nine years become my best love. I write the Josephine Stuart Mystery series, a blog and local press release information for clubs and concerns.
2. What is your personal understanding or definition of Wild and Free Creativity and Life?: 
Personally, I need to unbottle my creativity now and then--write something, paint something--sing in my truck where no one can hear me. Yes, I'm that bad. Creativity is the fuel I run on. Fortunately, many things stimulate my creativity like grandchildren, gardens, rivers, mountains, my husband, friends and life in general. Even ugly stuff can trigger an idea for a story.
3. What has been the most important lesson you have learned on your Creative Path?: 
Persevere! It's not how smart you are, it's how good you will be after you have persevered. I try not to let negative comments disrupt what I am creating. I mess up once in awhile--maybe more often than I know, but nothing is accomplished by looking back. Just learn from the mistakes and keep on trying.
4. How has your art changed you as a person? 

I am what I do. I was an artist--body mind and soul. When I gave up painting I didn't know who I was. Luckily my husband was writing a book at the time. It looked like fun so I took creative writing classes and jumped into the writing of books. There is a public side to writing that I knew nothing about. Going public forced me out of my life-long safety cocoon and I am having a blast!
5. What's your biggest creative dream, right now?: 
I would like things to stay as they are for fifty more years, but we all know that changes happen, besides, I would be older than Moses. In real life, I want to finish the sixth book in my Josephine series, including painting the cover. Yes I paint small projects now and then, but I hope to write for a long, long time.
6. What inspires you?: 
California inspires me, the beauty up and down the coast, the sunsets, wildlife, the Pacific Ocean. They supply the background for my stories. People and events inspire my plots. I have always loved to people-watch and make up stories about strangers in my head. Now that I write mysteries, I put the strangers on paper at my discretion.
7. What would you like every fellow writer and creative adventurer to know or understand? : 
Writing is about loving what you do. If you don't enjoy writing--find another job. If you love your work you will never "work" a day of your life.
Bonus question, just for fun: What's your favorite place in the world? :): 

Home is the most wonderful place I have found after traveling the world. Home is Aromas, California, country life at it's best. I live with my husband and dog in a sweet little house surrounded by flowers and trees--and deer, gophers, squirrels and giant-man-eating snails, all looking for a way to eat my garden.
Anything else?: 
My fifth book in the Josephine Stuart Mystery series is BEETLES IN THE BOXCAR. I hope you will give it a test-run and enjoy the ride! Amazon.com/joyceoroz 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Then and Now........Joyce Oroz

Just like Christmas with its tinseled trees and bedecked halls, the trappings of Easter only add to the joyful feelings of the resurrection. 

Today I will focus on the light (no pun intended) parts of Easter—the fluff, as it were. From the early, early days, before TV and I pads, my brother, sister and I expected the big bunny to drop off some hard boiled eggs once a year.  Year after year he never made it to the kitchen with the eggs—always dropping them in the grass. We were thrilled. I didn’t like hardboiled eggs that much, but pink, yellow and purple ones coming from the big bunny were special, so we stuffed down as many as possible.
Fast forward many years--I remember one Easter when my cousin John, same age as my oldest child, went to church with us, then home for a rainy day egg hunt in the house. Four little munchkins scouring the house for the hardboiled eggs AND chocolate bunnies. Some chocolate bunnies were never found—just puddles of sticky where someone didn’t find them.

One Easter we left sunny California and drove to Colorado the hard way, in a 1970 VW bus with three children. That was the easy part. Even though it was Easter week there was a blizzard happening as we crossed the mountains between Utah and Colorado. Total whiteout! But the good parts were so good. We visited relatives who lived on a farm. Their cat had just given birth to a passel of kittens. They had all died before we arrived, except for one which my oldest child latched onto, kept warm and bottle fed. It’s the little things that bring Easter closer to us.

These days are more fun than ever as we prepare the next egg hunt for our many grandchildren. Did I say egg? Actually, some of the goodies are shaped like eggs. 
Happy Easter everyone!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Missing Lyla.........by Joyce Oroz

Today I want to tell you some things I know—that I am certain of. A longer article would be the things I don’t know, but you would tire after the first three miles of the list. I hope my list of semi-useful and strange-looking at first stuff might help someone.

1.     I know that when I smile at a stranger, I usually get a smile back. However, I do not smile at old men wearing raincoats. One needs to use caution. I put the smiles in my memory cells and reuse them for warmth as needed.
2.     I know that writing a journal for the last 13 years has helped me to look like I have a better memory than I actually have. I can find things in it like when the warranty on my vacuum has expired because I wrote down the date I bought it. I keep track of medicines, events, emotions and a million other things—one paragraph every night.
3.     I know that my dog is smarter than I am in many ways. Just because she doesn't speak English doesn’t mean she can’t tell time, like breakfast time and dinner time.
4.     I know that there are good things for my skin in the fridge like mayonnaise and yogurt. Sometimes I eat them, but religiously I use them on my skin. Whole-fat Greek yogurt and plain old mayo. My dog thinks my face smells great.
5.     I know that cherries, cherry pills, dried cherries, frozen cherries, pickled cherries—all kinds of cherries counter my over-active uric acid condition—better known as gouty arthritis. If you suffer from arthritis, try eating cherries. What have you got to lose? Your arthritis of course. I take a cherry pill twice a day everyday and feel wonderful!
6.     I know that writing is just like painting, but without the mess.

7.      I know that the internet and Facebook are good things despite what the critics say. I have reconnected with old friends and found new ones. One new friend was Lyla Fox, a mystery writer whose books were published by my publisher, Cozy Cat Press. She friended me on Facebook and I always looked forward to her comments and writings. I think we would have been great friends if we had ever met off-line. Lyla recently passed away and so many people will miss her. I think she would love people to donate to Breast Cancer Research. May she rest in peace.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My Portrait by Kati........Joyce Oroz

Yesterday and today I found myself where I never ever expected to be--at the other end of a paint brush. My friend, Kati, whom you all met last week on my blog, has been painting my portrait. I have painted a few portraits myself, but never as wonderful as Kati's paintings. She had me sit twenty minutes at a time, break for ten minutes, and then back to the chair. After a total of eight twenty-minute sessions in two days, the picture was finished. There I was staring back at myself--yes, she really captured me. Amazing! 

To see the potrait painting you must drop in at the meet and greet this coming Saturday at the Dragonfly Gallery 380 Blohm Ave., Aromas from 2:00 to 4:00. There will be refreshments and good conversation. I know you will want to support Kati's love of painting. See you there!

Kati and I operate on different planets. Her studio is well thought out and supplied with everything she needs, easel, open windows, good lighting, cushioned floor pads to stand on, extra large palette, fine assortment of brushes, everything in it's place. 
You might remember the bat cave? My crude excuse for a studio--although it did serve the purpose when AHA painters created their murals. 
My writing studio has heat, light, a computer and sticky notes posted on anything that doesn't move. Even the sticky notes have sticky notes on them. I am knee-deep in notes, wondering which ones came first, which ones are important. I bounce from my unfinished latest novel to my blog to email to whatever distraction comes along. But that's what being retired is all about. The ability to choose to do everything or nothing with no major consequences.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sally Goes Paramount..........Joyce Oroz

My Cozy Cat Press--friend, Sally Carpenter is a mystery writer who has worked as an actress, freelance writer, college writing instructor, theater critic, jail chaplain, and tour guide/page for a major movie studio. She’s now employed at a community newspaper. Learn more about Sally and her books at her blog. Today Sally joins us to give a virtual tour of Paramount Studios.

Behind the Scenes of a Movie Studio

Tourists who travel to Hollywood, Calif., to find some “movie magic” will have to look hard to find it. Celebrities don’t actually live in Hollywood, and Sunset Boulevard, the main attraction, is mostly full of tacky souvenir shops. Two places that are worth a visit are the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and Paramount Pictures.

These two places adjoin each other, sharing a common wall. Legend says ghosts from the cemetery have walked through the studio back lot at night.

Many of the classic movie stars and noted directors are buried here, often with ornate and ostentatious grave markers. One actor even has a reflecting pool in front of his huge grave marker. Others, like Rudolf Valentino, have their urns tucked away in regular niches. My personal favorite is Mel Blanc’s simple headstone that reads, “That’s All, Folks!”
Non-celebrities are buried here as well and anyone can purchase a plot. Tourists can walk in and look around for free during business hours. Docent tours are available as well.

In 2000 I was hired as a page at Paramount. The pages gave studio tours during the day and ushered the sitcom audiences in the evening. The tour is different today, but I’d like to talk about what you might have seen on one of my tours.

I led groups of 15 to 21 people on a two-hour walking tour, rain or shine (yep, I was in the rain a few times with some hardy and determined guests.)

The Universal Studio tour is entertainment-focused, but the Paramount tour is educational in nature. As I led my tour group around the lot, I talked about the history of the studio.

A studio lot is rather bland in appearance. The lot is mostly comprised of enormous and nondescript soundstages where shooting takes place. Some of the sitcoms that shot on the lot would let the groups come inside and look at the sets when they were not rehearsing. Some of my best tours were during the winter hiatus (vacation) when the guests could see the sets for both Frasier and Becker.

A couple of shows, such as Bob Saget’s Raising Dad, let the groups inside during rehearsals as long as the guests didn’t talk or take pictures. We’d watch from the bleachers where the audiences would sit during the taping.

The Entertainment Tonight people let the guests stand on the actual set that was used for the broadcasts. Up close, a set is made of word and canvas and isn’t a bit glamorous. Once the ET people let my group go back into the control room.

Paramount has a huge back lot, several streets lined with facades (fake fronts) to resemble various sections of New York City (Castle is a modern show that uses this back lot). The “buildings” have nothing inside them except scaffolding to hold them up. The streets can be decorated with potted trees, fake street lamps and mailboxes. The windows of the storefronts can be repainted and decorated to suit the need. The streets are rigged for rain and snow effects.

The back lot was often used to make commercials, music videos and outdoor scenes for the sitcoms. During a shoot, the ends of the street were blocked off with sawhorses. Tour groups could stand behind the barricades and watch.

At the far end of the lot stood the mill where sets were constructed. A large garage-style door was usually open, and the groups could see the workers painting, molding plastic, or making a set.

The Paramount Theater, usually our last stop, was a state-of-the-art film theater used for movie premieres as well as screenings for directors, producers, and studio employees (the lot also had two smaller theaters for viewing dailies).

A full-time projectionist worked for the studio, and he often let my groups inside the projection room. He’d demonstrate how the 35mm film projectors work. Now that more shooting is done digitally, the projection room might be quite different today.

The tour ended by the gift shop so the guests could purchase souvenirs and videos/DVDs of Paramount shows.

Sally Carpenter was born in and grew up in Southern Indiana, but now lives in Southern California. While she was working on a master's degree in theater at Indiana State University, two of her plays were regional finalists in the American College Theater Festival's one-act play competition. One play, "Star Collector," was eventually produced in NYC and the characters became the basis for her book, "The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper." Her book was recently named a Eureka! Award finalist for best first mystery novel. Sally also has a black belt in tae kwon do and a master's degree in theology.  She is a member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles and her publisher is Cozy Cat Press.

Sally says her book was inspired by The Beatles, The Monkees and those goofy spy/detective/action-adventure TV shows of the '60s and '70s. You can find her books at Amazon.com.