Saturday, September 10, 2011

Guest-Joyce Henderson-a versatle Westerner!

Joyce Henderson is presently writing Historical Romance for The Wild Rose Press. Writing since 1984, she holds a certificate from the Newspaper Institute of America and wrote for local newspapers: straight news, human interest stories, and a by-lined column, "It Ain't Necessarily So…" Joyce believes in giving back to organizations that have nurtured her career by mentoring aspiring authors, and she teaches the craft of fiction writing workshops. She's a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and a charter member of Southwest Florida Romance Writers (SWFRW), Published Authors Network (PAN), Published Authors Special Interest Chapter (PASIC), and Novelists, Inc. (NINC.)

Welcome, Joyce!  

Hey, Folks, nice to be here at Sweethearts of the West. Thanks for asking me to expound on…
Well, let me think.

My latest book, Promise the Moon, is a departure from my usual Native American, mid 1800’s stories. It’s set in 1898, Southern California, and though I write about horses…soooo dear to my heart, and specifically showing Western Equitation…I also included the budding avocado and orange industry that my hero pursued as his vocation on his San Diego County ranch.

Why did I do that? It boils down to, I usually write what I know something about, and research what I need to layer my stories with historical fact or my vision of what happened in the era. This is fiction, remember? LOL Sooo…when we lived in San Diego County for 20 years we owned and rode horses, but what took us there from LA County and the aerospace industry in the first place was avocado ranching.

So mount up and follow me down my

Memory Lane
trail. My husband didn’t like avocados, still doesn’t other than guacamole, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t have a wonderful life in the country. We also grew oranges, limes, kiwi (the fruit not the bird), and cherimoya. Fallbrook, CA was country in those days. Now it’s solid city, and it breaks my heart to go back and see all those avocado and orange groves gone and replaced by homes. Okay, really lovely homes but it’s no longer country.

For those folks who put an avocado pit in the ground or in a jar of water and think they’ll grow a tree that will ultimately produce avocados, it will but it probably won’t bear much resemblance or taste like the avocado it was grown from. Producing avocado trees are the product of grafting to a sturdy host tree from a producing tree. Take a tip from a former grower, don’t just reach up and pluck an avocado off the tree. Nope, you gotta clip close to the base of the stem and leave the little nub or the avocado will rot before it ripens.

How many of you knew that? LOL

As I mentioned, my husband left the aerospace industry to farm avocados, which we knew absolutely nothing about! He went from designing rockets to the moon to designing irrigation systems for avocado groves. Stepping off a cliff, so to speak, has never stopped us from trying something new. J

Okay, let’s talk about Garrett Montez, my half-Mexican/half-Anglo hero (A hunk, but that goes without saying. J) and the grove he planted. I didn’t specify a variety of avocado, but at that time it’s likely it could have been Fuerte, which came from Mexico, where Garrett was raised, and means vigorous. And for me, it’s the most tasty variety over Hass, which is now the most common variety in California. But there are many others. Btw, the first avocado tree planted in the US was in Florida; however, California produces 60 % of the avocados grown in the US.

The aquacate was imported from Mexico in 1871, so in 1898 Garrett’s grove is already mature and producing avocados and Valencia oranges. Remember, I mentioned I write something I know a little about? J I had great fun writing a scene where the ranch hands are picking oranges and an earthquake rocks their world. And of course, that makes Garrett fear for Neely’s life and he rides hell-for-leather to his house to see if she’s all right. He discovers she’s missing….

~*~*~Here’s an excerpt from Promise the Moon:~*~*~

The screech and roar ground on and on. Tree limbs shook. Jesu, they must be right on top of the
fault. With each turn, Garrett saw Hank still clinging to the horse’s headstall. One more jolt and
he feared the draft horse would win the battle. If the wagon rolled over Hank, he’d likely be killed. Then Sancho lunged to grab the other horse’s headstall.

“No!” Garrett bellowed, but it did no good.

Now, both men flailed about like wet sheets in the wind. To hell with Rocco. Two of his men were about to be killed. He kicked free of the stirrups and swung his leg over the saddle horn. He hit the ground running and leaped onto the wagon. Circling the reins off the brake, he braced his
knees on the front boards, fighting the animals’ strength, and pulled back, drawing the horses down.

By the time he got the draft horses calmed, the rolling and grinding had ceased. Hank released his death grip on the headstall, then walked over to drop under a tree. Sancho released his hold and wound his arm around like a windmill, holding his shoulder.

“You okay?” Garrett asked.

“Sí.” On wobbly legs, Sancho joined Hank. “Dios!” the boy exclaimed quietly as he collapsed on the ground.

Garrett stood high on the wagon, glancing around. “Anyone hurt?”

A few muttered, “No.” Others shook their heads.

“Whew!” Eduardo said.

“I have to get to the house.” Garrett leaped down, then scanned the wagon road between the
trees. “Damn.” Rocco was nowhere in sight. Looking back at Eduardo, Garrett continued, “You men with families, go check on them.”

Still speaking, Garrett back-pedaled. Lifting his arm, he pointed at Hank. “You, and you.” He stabbed his finger toward Sancho. “Let the damn horses run if we have aftershocks that spook them. If we lose a wagon, we do, that’s all. You got that?”

Saluting, Hank grinned and Sancho nodded.

Satisfied, Garrett turned and loped away. He hadn’t covered more than a half mile when
he spied Rocco between a row of orange trees, contentedly munching tufts of grass.

Splaying his feet, Garrett planted his fists on his waist. “You crazy nag.” He whistled and Rocco raised his head, his ears pricking forward. “Come here, you.”

Rocco meandered, lowering his head twice to tear tufts of the pesky Johnson weed before he got
close enough for Garrett to catch up a rein.

Gaining his seat moments later, Garrett scanned the barns as he tore by. Everything seemed
okay. He hadn’t even realized he’d been holding his breath until he saw the house’s roof in the distance. Thank God he had built with wood rather than adobe, which simply crumbled during an

Rocco hadn’t come to a complete halt before Garrett slid from his back and sprinted to the porch.
“Mindy! Neely!” he called.

The dishsafe doors stood ajar, but miraculously, nothing had tumbled from the shelves. He noticed greens, a tomato, and an onion on the counter as he hastened through the kitchen. Salad tonight, he thought, and pushed open the swinging door. He paused in the atrium, frowning. Shards of glass glittered on the tile floor. He glanced up at the ceiling. Two of the four panes had come crashing down.

“Is it over?” Mindy asked, her dark eyes round. She sat cross-legged on the second floor gallery, both hands gripping the banister’s rails.

“Yes, sweets, it’s over. There may be some aftershocks, though. Are you okay?” His boots
crunched the glass, and then he took the stairs three at a time.

“Think so,” the girl said, shakily rising. She clutched his waist, her cheek against his chest. “I
was scared,” she mumbled into his shirt.

“It’s okay now,” he reassured.

The door to Neely’s bedroom stood wide open. “Neely,” he called, but no one answered. He looked at Mindy’s dark head nestled against him and caressed her hair. “Do you know where Neely is?”

“I saw her go out awhile ago.”

“She went out?” He frowned. “When?”

The girl shrugged. “An hour or so.”

His chest tightened.

He led Mindy down the stairs. As he reached the base, movement caught his attention. Lita stood in the parlor archway. Díos, he’d forgotten about her.

She appeared calm, but her eyes were rounded, too. “That was scary,” she said.

He agreed with a nod. “Have you seen Neely?”


“Are you sure?”

“Garrett, I would know if I had seen the housekeeper,” she said, a sneer in her voice. “I
haven’t seen her since...breakfast.”
He noted the slight hesitation and wasn’t fooled. But why would Lita lie?

He slid his fingers under Mindy’s chin. “Sweets, I must find Neely. Will you be all right alone?”

Lita stood no more than five feet away, but she hadn’t gone to Mindy after the quake. No reason to think she’d aid the girl if there were strong aftershocks.

“I guess.” Mindy’s lips trembled.

He caressed her cheek. “If it starts shaking again, go outside and sit on the grass. It’s safe out
there.” He turned toward the kitchen.

Lita called, “Garrett, a lamp tipped—”

“Later.” He increased his pace. Where the devil was she? Bursting out the screen, he scooped up
Rocco’s reins again. The horse plodded along behind while he circled the house.

“Neely!” he called time and again. Only to be met with silence.

Mounting, he set Rocco to an easy lope toward the barns. His gaze darted in every direction. He detoured by the Carreras’, but she wasn’t there. A few minutes later, when he led Rocco into the
barn, he cursed under his breath. “Dammit, where are you?”
Again, my thanks to Celia Yeary for asking me to visit today. I hope y’all enjoyed learning something about avocado farming, what some Westerners do besides ride horses, herd cattle, or search the prairie for Indians during days gone by.

My favorite guacamole recipe for you:

3 medium California avocados - Fuerte or Hass
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 oz green jalapeño pepper sauce
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
 2 Tbsp onion, chopped
3 medium plum tomatoes, diced
Scoop avocado from shells into medium bowl. Mash with fork - can leave small chunks
Stir in lime juice, jalapeño sauce, cilantro, onion, tomatoes, and salt to taste
ENJOY with tortilla chips!

Joyce will give a free Pdf of Promise the Moon to one lucky commentator. And she loves to hear from readers. Visit her at 

You may purchase Promise the Moon in print or digital format at:
The Wild Rose Press: main_page=product_info&cPath=89_117&products_id=4512  




  1. Checking to see if I can sign in today.

  2. I think I may be able to comment. Let's see!

  3. Whew! I kept worrying why you couldn't comment. Now that you can, welcome.
    I hope we get lots of visitors because I think your post is just great. It's so different, I'm hoping readers will be curious.
    Also, I love your photo--that dress is outstanding.

  4. Joyce, your post brought back memories of our time in Oxnard and in Cupertino. My husband also was a rocket scientist, and was sent to Oxnard for the summer to load live rockets at Point Magu. Lovely for me, as he was home by 4:30 each day and we had hours of sunshine left. Often, we'd drive to Ventura or Santa Barbara, and pass all those lovely avocado groves on the way. In Cupertino, we lived near plum orchards that are now gone. In Texas, we had a large peach orchard because my husband thought that when he reited he'd have orchards and a truck farm. By the time he retired, he realized that his dream was too work intensive and we've sold all but five acres. Thanks for the nice jog to my memory. BTW, Haas are my favorite avocados.

  5. To both my hostesses, Celia and Caroline...thanks for commenting.

    Caroline, fuertes are a more tempermanental variety to grow. Still, they are my favorite, but I see Hass here. Once in a blue-moon they have fuertes.

    Over the years the distributors to whom we sold crops to like Calavo have loosened the rules for when to pick and ship fruit. In our day they tested for oil content and if it wasn't high enough they'd reduce the price they paid us.

    Lamentably, our import folks don't enforce US standards requied of local growers on Mexico and Guatamala, where most of the out-of-country imports come from.

  6. Joyce, another question: I don't remember seeing fuertes avocados in the stores. Are they always labeled? If not, how does one recognize them?

    BTW, I can't use jalapeño sauce in my guacamole. I do use garlic powder though.

  7. What fun getting to know you. We love avocadoes and usually always have one or two in the refrigerator. I mean, can you eat a taco without an avocado in it? Nope, didn't know about the nub on the end, but will be careful from now on when we purchase them.

    Your story sounds quite interesting. Thanks for coming by today and sharing with us.

  8. Joyce, you are amazing. I'm wowed by all you've done and know and your writing... A country gal myself, living on a Virginia farm with my hubby and family, I totally empathize with your heartbreak over the disappearing farm land in this country.

  9. Hi Joyce, fellow wild Rose! I so enjoyed this post. I live in avo-country, too (as well as strawberries, lemons and celery) and it is sad, so much land lost to the suburbs. We used to live right next door to a lettuce field! No more.

    (A perfect avocado is one of my favorite things to eat with a spoon, right out of the skin.)

    Your hero sounds amazing, and I love the excerpt is terrific. Welcome to Sweethearts today! oxoxox

  10. Joyce, enjoyed hearing your history. Your book sounds fun and informative.

  11. A friend had an avacado treee we called Dolly Parton because the fruit was...well-endowed. Huge! Promise the Moon is a fantastic story, Joyce, and I adore both Garrett and Neely. Another Joyce Henderson keeper!!

  12. Hi, ladies. What a treat to find comments from authors I admire and read!

    Caroline, fuertes are shaped like a pear, and they taste a bit different from Hass. Where Hass turns black as it ripens, fuertes stay green but soften to the touch.

    My stomach is cast iron. I eat jalapenos right from the jar.

    Paisley, my history is eclectic. As I told Celia, I can spout off about the aerospace industry, from the beginning stages of the Thor missile to the LEM, lunar landing module, the cosmetics industry when I was a manager with an international company, early dragboat racing during the beginnings of the National Dragboat Assoc., waterski racing.

    Beth. I don't know how "amazing" I am, I just haven't let grass grow under my feet during my 70+ years. :)

    I eat avocados right out of the shell too. Yum!

    Thanks for stopping by, Paty.

  13. Hey, Lynnette, I think you could be accused of being predjudiced where my writing is concerned, just as I am about your stories! :)

  14. Joyce,
    Everytime I read one of your posts I learn something new about you. My sister used to say she was going to run away and marry Roy Rogers and have a lemon grove in California. LOL Sounds like you all had plenty of fruit growing and I find it pretty amazing that your husband and you took that leap of faith to change course in your lives like you did. I love avocadoes. My mom always used to try to grow one by taking the seed and starting it in water. She got one "going" but it just gets too cold here in the winter for them, I guess. My dad didn't like them, but she loved them, and so did I. When I was pregnant I couldn't get enough of them, and began to really pack the weight on. To this day, my son loves them! (I think he got used to them before he was ever born.) I can't wait to read your books. One of these days (maybe this fall/winter) I'm going to actually GET some reading time.
    Great post, and I loved getting to know you better.

  15. I love how well the research fits into this story. What an action-packed excerpt too.

  16. Great post!! And thanks for the recipe!

  17. Hi. I've been away this evening to a birthday party.

    Cheryl, I don't know how much "leap of faith" was in our move from aerospace to agriculture, but my dh had to make the move or put a bullet to his head. His work was on the Thor missile, then on the early R & D for the Lem--lunar landing module. Bob's work was on the retro-rocket to keep Neil from crashing on the moon. It was 24/7 to "get to the moon in this decade" that Kennedy called for, which meant long hours for those engineers. But by golly they did it!

    As I told Celia, I can pontificate on the cosmetics industry in which I was a manager, the early years of the National Drag Boat Assoc., or how about waterski racing.

    There's something to be said for living so long I knew dirt when it was still a rock. And during my 70+ years I've never been one to let grass grow under my feet. LOL

  18. Cherie, I have to be careful. I could lose myself in research and not write a line in my books!

    Tessa, enjoy the guacamole. We won't be growing avocados in Northern Calif. where we are now moving, but I spoke to my son-in-law about growing a lime tree. He says it can be done in a pot. I do miss stepping out to a tree and getting a fresh lime for my V & T of an eveing. LOL Having grown so much that we ate, it kills me to pay the prices in stores, and when the fruit is less than great I do a slow burn. LOL

  19. Tomorrow is a day to reflect about this great nation we call home, and the self-sacrifice of those who died on 9/11/01.

    I'll pop in occasionally to see if anyone is commenting here.

  20. Hi Joyce, What a great blog. Didn't realize there were earthquakes out your way. Can't say I like avocardos, but it was interesting what you wrote about them. I will show it to hubby, it's his favourite fruit.


  21. Hi Margaret.

    The San Adreas fault bisects almost the entire length of California. It's the eastern side of the Pacific plate known as the Ring of Fire. So, yes, we have experienced earthquakes many times during the first 50 years of our lives when we lived in California. Now we're going back.

    Actually, Crescent City is the only coastal city in the US that sustained damage in the recent Japan earthquake, and two men lost their lives there. Mostly boats and the marina were affected.

    Crescent City was wiped off the map, sort of, by a tsunami in 1964. Something to anticipate...? Hope not! But wherever we choose to live on this planet, there's change and danger. Still, man has survived and thrived for eons, hasn't he?

    Thanks for stopping by.

    My dh is with yours. He didn't like avocados before we bought a producing grove, and even less stepping on dropped fruit when turning on sprinklers or picking fruit.

  22. Ok, I'm off to another party today. This one's for me. My RWA chapter's sayonara as I head West in about 10 days.

  23. Hi Joyce, Didn't get your message until now, but am leaving a comment for all, a dollar late and a dollar short.

    You have such a great skill in reaching into our minds and hearts with life as it really is, and then marrying that information with fresh characters which makes them very real and exciting to us.

    By the way, my dh and I just shared a third generation pineapple that was small BUT oh so sweet and delicious. The grandma plant was a plant our son gave me as a gift years ago. I've, again, planted the top and will WAIT for the next baby. Home grown can be rewarding.

  24. Hello one and all. Thank you for commenting today. I just got home from my sayonara party. It's reallllllly difficult to leave all my writing buds here in Southwest Florida. After 21 years in Southwest Florida Romance Writers and one of the charter members, many of the people I've met and worked with are like family. So dear to my heart. But I hope to see many of them at conferences in the future.

    Cherie Marks is the winner of the the pdf of Promise the Moon.

    Once again, thank you, Celia, for hosting me yesterday and today. This is really one of the blogs I love to visit again and again to read others tidbits of wisdom.

    I always say... When I stop learning I'll have turned up my toes. Cheers.

  25. Hey Joyce - hope you check in to get this! You're moving back to CA?? So happy to see you're still writing (& publishing), still spunky...still Joyce. Wish you the best ever and always

    Susann Devine


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