Monday, July 21, 2014

Meet Author Diane Weiner........Joyce Oroz

Today I am happy to introduce Diane Weiner, author of two cozy mystery novels--and more to come. Murder is Elementary is followed by Murder is Secondary, naturally. Diane is a very capable, wonderful writer and I predict that she has a great future in the mystery business. Here is a typical review of her first book.

"This book was a quick read- not only because the plot moves along at a good pace but because I literally couldn't stop reading! It was suspenseful and well-written. The characters were easy to relate to and the author did a good job of keeping the reader guessing. Awesome ending- not what I expected at all. I definitely recommend this one!"

Now, here is Diane in her own words:

My “writing career” basically started as a mid-life crisis. What was still left to do? In my 20’s I got married and started a family. In my 30’s, I got a Master’s Degree. In my forties, I took up marathon running and got a doctorate. When fifty hit…. I thought I’d try writing a book. I figure that getting older isn’t so bad if you can add accomplishments as you add the years! I will forever be grateful that Patricia Rockwell took me on as a Cozy Cat writer and made my dream of becoming an author come to fruition.

I have always loved reading mysteries. As a child growing up in upstate New York, I spent many snowy winter days and sticky summer days escaping into the pages of Nancy Drew, and later, Mary Higgins Clark. When I was very young, I remember carrying around a notebook and writing poems. In high school, I was recognized by the National Council of English Teachers for an essay I wrote. Now I stick to writing cozies. I have published a few music education articles, and a dissertation. After writing a dissertation, fiction writing is pure joy.

The idea for my first novel, Murder is Elementary, started as an image in my head of a cupcake on top of a principal’s desk. Last summer, I attended Mystery Writers’ University, a one day series of workshops sponsored by Mystery Writers of America, and started writing during one of the sessions. Jess Lowry, a wonderful author/teacher from Minnesota, led one of the workshops and presented a step by step method of getting started on our books. Being a teacher, I had two months of free time ahead of me so I decided to write my cozy. I wrote for five or six hours every day and still do that during the summer and vacations. When I am writing, the time flies by. During the school year, I write most evenings after dinner, stopping in time to watch Jeopardy with my husband.

I live in South Florida because that is where my husband and I were both able to find jobs. We moved here in 1988. Shortly after moving here, my husband was offered a job playing with the Mexico City Philharmonic, so we packed up and lived abroad for five years. I had the best job of my career working as a music teacher at the American School in Mexico City; however, there’s no place like home. It’s the little things you miss – having the paper delivered every day, Lean Cuisines, browsing the aisles of Target…

When I’m not writing or working, I enjoy running, shopping with my sixteen year old daughter on Sunday afternoons and stopping at Dairy Queen afterwards, attending theater productions, and spending time with my husband and four children. I love animals, and have a little white dog as well as two cats. I’m not crazy about birds though. I have an ongoing feud with a mockingbird who has decided to make a nest along my favorite running route. My youngest daughter and I are both vegetarians. My oldest daughter got married last year. Like my sleuth, Susan Wiles, I am really looking forward to being a Grandma someday! My books can be purchased in paperback or from Kindle on They are also available through the Cozy Cat Website, and I’ve just started writing book number three, and have plans for several more in the Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mystery series.

Good luck with your series, Diane. On second thought, I doubt you will need luck with all that talent and drive. Thank you for sharing your work and your life with us. Happy writing!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Birthday Joyce Oroz

We all have them until we die.
We complain about having them until we die.
We celebrate them until we die.

Why do we worry over birthdays?
I think it's because we don't know how many are left in the birthday vault of the birthday bank. Especially the ones with a big zero at the end. Ouch!
So far my birthday week has been a hoot, lunch at the Grill with the girls, lunch with husband at a fine restaurant, roses, and looking forward to tomorrow's lunch with the kids, not to mention some wonderful telephone calls. How did the tele-marketers know it was my birthday?

I decided a week full of special lunches is a lot for the waistline to handle so I set up a yoga exercise class for the main munchers. Yes I did fall off the porch, but it did not affect my pose. No I was not tipsy, but when I got up and brushed myself off, I wished I was. But it only hurts when I sit down, which will complicate tomorrow's birthday lunch. Who invented birthdays anyway?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Author Helen Grochmal......Joyce Oroz


   I'm back at my blog for an interview with author Helen Grochmal who writes the Carolina Pennsbury Mystery series. I asked her the usual questions, but her wonderful answers melded into one beautiful piece, so I left the questions out.
   I am so impressed with Helen's writing. She is a "late Bloomer" like many of us. It's never too late to be really good! Here she is in her own words: 

I never liked writing anything for 60 years. I enjoyed doing my yearly taxes more.  However, I churned out the required departmental reports for 25 years in boring “educational speak” and even wrote journal articles for library periodicals.  Then I went through a life altering experience of the most unpleasant kind that was the equivalent of a journey through the underworld.  Unlike Odysseus, who had more fun, I woke up one day after two years with a desire to write.  Yes, it was just like that.  Was it worth it?  I presume you are clamoring to know but are just too polite to ask.  The answer is no, I would prefer to have skipped the experience and stayed in my very nice condo where I watched TV and scrubbed the bathrooms in peace.  I write cozies because I am a little old lady who took that old advice about writing what you know. And I love Agatha Christie.
     I have been writing now for five years since I moved to my first retirement home with my cat.  It came upon me with inspiration, almost like channeling or what I suppose that to be.  Of course it is a craft too that I had to learn, I mean writing fiction.  I am still learning and hope I am a quick study since I don’t have 50 years to perfect my art.  (Why is everyone encouraging only young people to write?  It seems like we senior people who start writing need as much help as quickly as we can get it.)  Cozy Cat was there when I needed encouragement.  I have a new and better mystery novel ready to be published but have to write about another 20,000 words to finish it, difficult in these times of my terseness.  This last year I have been trying to learn new forms and genres.  My eyes are still stuck wide open at what has changed since last I looked, around 1973 I guess.  Steampunk and slipstream and such.  I have been writing flash fiction and horror stories and comic stories and other different short forms to improve my overall writing.  I am shocked at my horror stories, which I think are my best.  How embarrassing.
    I take the Fifth on whether I am like my protagonist.  I am a mixture of several of my characters but want to be like Carolina Pennsbury the most.  I met librarians like her in the old days who would tell me about going about on tramp steamers with other women teachers because teaching didn’t pay for luxury trips and they had the summers off and wanted to travel around the world.  I guess that was between the wars (I and II).
   My style is mainstream.  I try to push boundaries sometimes in my experimental ventures but always end up understanding everything I write no matter how hard I try not to.  I write as the spirit moves me, but writing has deserted me lately and I am frantic about it.  I feel somewhat like the main character in “Flowers for Algernon” or the movie Charly.  Our new gifts might vanish as quickly as they came.   I used to relish how easy inspiration came and now I am paying for it.  I think it is being lost in the short story slush piles that have done me in.  Do you all remember how wonderful it was when the act of transcribing your thoughts couldn’t keep up with the wonderful things you were trying to take down?  When I can’t write, my typical day consists of watching TV and taking out the garbage. I have a balance disorder that keeps me close to home.  My neighbors are kind people and are hoping that I make good.
     I live in an independent living community with assisted care nearby.  I chose it because my place is a little cottage a bit like Miss Marple’s, I like to think.  I would rather be in St. Mary Mead though.  I don’t talk about the most exciting thing that ever happened to me, although I plan to write about it someday under a pseudonym.
    Hobbies:  I watch TV about as much as Peter Sellers did in that famous movie Being There.  Of course, I am surrounded here by all of the characters I have read in literature and have seen in movies.  Don’t worry, I know they are only in my mind.
     So far my work has been published by Cozy Cat Press (fine people there, by the way) and a short piece in With Painted Words.  I have about 22 short stories out but they keep sending them back like bad children, or I never hear from the magazines at all.  Learning how to use computer programs and such is harder for me than writing fiction but I am willing to learn if it is not too hard. My friends here consider me a computer expert, isn’t that nice of them?  Blogging might be fun, although it sounds like it is very improper.  I never do anything improper.   

Thank you, Helen for sharing so much of your life with us. You do it so well that I feel like I just spent the afternoon with you, sipping tea and sharing stories. Here is Helen’s first book, Manners and Murder, available at Amazon.

Retired librarian Carolina Pennsbury is quite content living in a retirement home. She just wishes that her meal time tablemates felt as she did. However, all seem to have their own complaints. But those complaints are put on the back burner when one of the retirement home’s residents is stabbed to death in her apartment and the police arrest one of Carolina’s tablemates, Margie, for the murder. Carolina, knowing her friend cannot possibly have committed such a deed, sets about to prove Margie’s innocence––a difficult feat for an elderly woman with a cane. Knowing the real killer is probably still roaming the halls, Carolina uses her wits and her wit to investigate, and ultimately––after a fake fire alarm and a lengthy blackout––manages to ferret out the killer. But clearing Margie and getting her out of jail is not the end of Carolina’s tasks. She has work to do for all of her tablemates and she won’t quit until they are all happy.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Paola Berthoin.......Joyce Oroz

Today we are celebrating the birth of the greatest nation on earth.
Painter Paola Berthoin came to this country from England in 1965. She has accomplished a great deal since then. 

Painter Paola Berthoin
at Arts in Progress
Museum of Monterey at Stanton Center
5 Customs House Plaza, Monterey
Tuesday, July 22, 7:00 to 9:00 P.M.
$5 Admission Fee
2 hours free parking at Fisherman's
Wharf lot with local ID

Arts Habitat will present
painter Paola Berthoin,
at Arts in Progress (AIP)
 on Tuesday, July 22, for a
presentation entitled
Watershed Arts in Action: 
 What does it mean to 
cultivate a Bioregional 

AIP takes place the
fourth Tuesday of
each month from
7:00 to 9:00 p.m. The event takes place at the auditorium of the
Museum of Monterey at Stanton Center, 5 Customs House Plaza,
 Monterey. AIP is open to the public, the admission fee is $5 and
 to socializing and community building. The program runs about
an hour, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Paola will share her evolution and work as a Watershed Artist. In addition, John Dotson, Rosemary Luke, 
Pam Krone-Davis and Laura Bayless, authors and participants 
in the Passion for Place book project, will share how their creative 
endeavors connect them to the natural world, and how they carry 
those connections into their daily lives.

Finch Creek
Paola Berthoin was
born in London,
England, and came
to Carmel Valley in
 1965 with her mother
and three sisters.
She is a graduate
of Carmel High School
 and California College
of the Arts where she
specialized in
printmaking, handmade
 paper and animal drawing.

Paola's deep commitment to living in the Carmel Valley over the past forty-nine years and tending the land she has lived on for forty years has infused her 
 visionary ways of interpreting the land through painting, writing, 
and advocacy for all watersheds of the Earth. From being a pastry 
chef and owning and running a restaurant with her mother when 
 Paola was twenty-four years old to establishing the organization, 
RisingLeaf Watershed Arts in 2001, completing Passion for Place: 
Community Reflections on the Carmel River Watershed in 2012 
and organizing community arts events focused on the Carmel River 
Watershed, many seeds of ecological awareness through the 
arts have been and continue to be planted locally and globally.
View from Poison Oak Hill-Hastings Reserve

Arts in Progress is held at:
The Auditorium of Museum of Monterey - Stanton Center
5 Customs House Plaza, Monterey
2 hours free parking at Fisherman's Wharf with ID listing a zip code starting 
with 939. Enter from Washington Street. Additional free parking after 6 p.m. 
in the Calle Principal garage located on Calle Principal between Franklin and 
Jefferson Streets.
You may join us online for a live stream in our Linqto room:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mystery Almost Joyce Oroz

    My friends, I dove into my 6th book not knowing anything about it and now it is almost finished. Two more chapters to write. Never mind that it's been two years in the making. It's very exciting to me each time I finish a book and I want to share the excitement with you: 

Disaster struck Wednesday, my second day on the job at Ralph’s Roller Rink located on the east side of Santa Cruz, California. A hit-and-run-driver, most likely over eighty, hit the gas instead of the brake according to police. The Sentinel reported that a car slammed through exterior walls and an inner office. Employee, Mario Portello died at his desk. The car finally came to a stop against a sixty-year-old steel stall in the lady’s restroom. Still in a geriatric daze, the driver found reverse and has not been seen since.
      I was the only witness at the rink, that sunny morning in May. I barely saw the black sedan covered in roller rink residue topped off with a pair of size ten loafers. A well trained chimpanzee could have been driving for all I knew. The windshield acted like a magnet for shredded building materials and powdered wallboard.
      My first thought was, “Is this a movie stunt?” My second thought, “Run!”
      The crashing noises were deafening behind me as I sprinted twenty yards to the back door, still gripping a drippy stir stick in my white-knuckled fist. I looked back in time to see the vehicle disappearing through a massive hole in the wall, back to daylight, sidewalks and unsuspecting pedestrians. I heard the tires squeal and smelled rubber.
   The only standing rooms within the cavernous building were the two restrooms. The office had been flattened.
  My stubborn interrogator, Sergeant Fishburn, had a preconceived idea about how Mr. Portello lost his life. No matter how I described what I had seen, the officer was sure the driver was an out-of-control oldster, a senile senior probably heading for Bonnie’s Bingo Parlor two doors down. Since I did not see the driver I could not describe the driver, consequently I was unable to convince Fishburn that there had been foul play.
  Painting the musical notes and words to the “hokey pokey” across a sixty-foot light blue wall was not my worst-ever mural job, but close to it. My first day, a quiet Tuesday, was spent measuring and calculating on paper. Ralph Rattini, owner of the roller rink, had given me very specific hours. Painting had to end before three o’clock, when school was out and the kids would come charging in. The entire job needed to be finished before the big roller derby event on Memorial Day. That gave us three weeks.
      Just before I slipped out the back door at three o’clock, I glanced across the enormous room, and saw Mr. Portello, short and balding, leave his little office, walk to the main entrance and unlock the doors to let hoards of young skaters in. Two teenage boys were the first to enter. Mario greeted them and pointed to their assigned duties behind the counter.                            

      Wednesday’s work, mixing colors of paint and drawing a pepper tree near the back door, was cut short when the infamous black sedan struck. After that my hands were not steady enough to draw or paint, and thinking was out of the  question.
      Sergeant Fishburn questioned me relentlessly and finally said, “Go home, Ms. Stuart. You’ll feel better tomorrow.” I detected a bit of kindness in his voice. Maybe he felt sorry for me because I shivered every time I recalled details of the shocking ordeal.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Author Kate O'Connell.........interview by Joyce Oroz

Kate O'Connell is a Cozy Catter mystery writer who lives in South Africa. She leads a very exciting life with her family on the other side of the globe. I can almost hear her wonderful English accent as she answers my questions. Here is Kate:

Kate, please tell us who or what influenced your decision to be a writer, and in particular, a cozy mystery writer?

I was one of those kids always reading a book.  I grew up in London, so my first loves were English authors. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series were particular favourites. My mother then introduced me to American authors and I devoured Madeleine L’Engle, Judy Bloom and Lois Duncan.

All that reading lead me to do well in school, particularly English and History but my real passion was for theatre and dance. My first university degree was a dual major in theatre and history and I then went on to a Masters in dance history and criticism. By the time I began working on a PhD in dance studies I was tired of studying but I loved the research and writing in the field of dance. The decision to stop working on my PhD and write a novel instead was instantaneous and natural. I’d fallen pregnant and with that came a desire to concentrate on something more creative than I was able to in academia. For several years I continued to teach dance classes and lecture in dance history while I tried to figure out what I wanted to write.

I have that proverbial book in the bottom drawer that I wrote that first year. In fact, I received some good feedback regarding the writing but was told that I had three partial novels masquerading as one. That agent was right and I spent the better part of three years tearing the book apart, trying to come up with something I felt passionate about.

Feeling a need for a break from that novel, I decided to start a new project and I have to admit, I went to those two old adages that keep popping up ‘write what you know’ and ‘write what you love’. Well I knew dance, particularly Argentine Tango, (I had been teaching Argentine Tango in London for about six years at that time), and I loved reading mysteries. I tried to fight the idea of combining them because at that point I wasn’t familiar with cozy mysteries. But then I went on to Amazon and downloaded about ten cozies onto my Kindle, as many as I could find with dance or theatre in the theme, and then others that took my fancy. After reading them, it all fell in to place.

How long have you been writing? Are there things you like to write other than mysteries?

My daughter was born in 2001 and after I finished the academic work I had committed to, I began writing fiction. That first attempt at a novel took the better part of a year to write. I still have it and periodically take it out to tinker around with it. What had started as one mystery has turned out to be three. One is a young adult novel that I’m excited to sink my teeth into. The other two are adult, though not so cozy. One features a police detective, 60 year-old widow Amanda Rostham, who finally gets a clue to help her solve a serial killer case that went cold for 20 years.

I also toss ideas around with my daughter and have a couple of other young adult novel ideas set in a dance world I would like to explore. And finally, I have a novel started, set in London. The idea of writing it actually frightens me a bit and I feel that I’m going to need to go away on a writer’s sabbatical to tackle it.

What is your style or method of writing, and what is your typical day like?

At the moment my day revolves around getting my daughter to and from school and to dance classes. I wake up before 6am and have a cup of tea before anyone else gets up, then it’s a military operation to get out of the house. I swim in the ocean three days a week, walk a 10k route another three and have a Pilates class on the seventh. I find I’m more able to focus on my writing when I’ve exercised well in the morning. I’m usually home and working by 10am and then write for three hours.

I’m not a plotter and would rather write a skeleton outline for six chapters or so, then start writing. I like to get stuck into a scene and see how my characters react to the situation. They often surprise me. My husband has overheard me moaning things like ‘I can’t believe she did that’ and ‘oh, no, I didn’t want him to die’ at my computer screen. I usually aim for a first draft that is about 65,000 words, then work through several drafts where the number goes up to 85,000 or 90,000 and then I get it back down to a more manageable 75,000.

Please tell us where you live and why?

I live in a small village on the Atlantic Ocean in South Africa. My husband and I met in London at an Argentine Tango salon (also know as a Milonga) while I was studying. He’s Irish by birth but his family immigrated to South Africa back in the 70s. During the first couple of years we were together we would visit his Mum in Cape Town and during one of those visits we bought a piece of land. After 10 years together in London, my husband decided he wanted to get back to his surfing roots and asked if I would consider trying South Africa out. Um .. duh? It’s one of the most visually stunning places on the planet. It’s politically hopeful, culturally vibrant and there’s virtually no humidity.

Kate, what activities, hobbies, etc. do you do when you are not writing?

I love keeping fit. Swimming is my sport of choice and I’m one of those crazy swimmers who stick it out all through the winter. I also love walking and hiking. We’re blessed to live between the ocean and two nature reserves so opportunities are literally at my doorstep. I still read an awful lot. In fiction, I like mysteries and historical novels. In non-fiction I like books on the environment, education, nutrition, health and science. I also love making quilts and am looking forward to a fabric-shopping spree with my mother this summer when I visit Vermont.

How can we find your work? Website, blog Amazon?

The first book in the Maddie Fitzpatrick Dance Mystery series, DYING TO DANCE is available at Amazon, both print and on Kindle. I’ve started a website on Wordpress and am slowly feeling my way around that. You can find it at I’m working on the second Maddie Fitzpatrick book, DEAD MAN DANCING and look forward to it coming out in 2015.

Thank you, Kate for giving us a fascinating picture of your life in South Africa. You are a remarkably talented lady. Thank you for spending time with us today.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Gallery Joyce Oroz

Today is Friday. I love Friday because it is the day of the week when I put up the OPEN sign at the Dragonfly Gallery in Aromas. Cutest little gallery/shop in town. OK, there is only one shop in town, and one restaurant, one gas station, one church, one feed store, two grocery stores, two auto repair and at least two real estate offices.

If you are looking for books by local authors like Giselle Rocha, Nancy Jarvis, Pat Hanson, Rose Ann Woolpert and many others, or me--Joyce Oroz, the Dragonfly is the place.

The Gallery has a splendid variety of paintings, different styles for different types of people. Thank you, Frank Romero, Kati D'Amore, Evelyn Pogrowski, Jerry Harness, Nicholas Johnson and Darlene Boyd for your lovely works of art.

The jewelry is out of this world beautiful, handmade by Grace, Kay, Laurie, Mary, Diedra and others.

Every country gallery/store should have hand-sewn items and an old fashioned antique sewing machine. Every inch of the Dragonfly Gallery has surprises, antiques, objects of beauty, hand crafted items made with care. Did I mention the T-shirts, the plates and exotic wall art? The list goes on, but you gotta be there to know what I'm saying. See you next Friday!