Category: California

Mission Santa Ines on the El Camino Real

Phyliss Miranda sig line for P&P BluebonnetIt seems like just last week I blogged with you all … well it was!  But if you can stand me one more day, I’m going to continue along the El Camino Real and write about another Mission I visited not long ago.

My youngest granddaughter came home from school and said she had an end-of-the-year school project and needed my help.  She had to select a mission and write about its history, as well as draw pictures.  Of course the Mission La Purisima was the first one to come to mind, but as she reminded me, anybody could drive the two or three miles to get a bird’s eye view.  The next choice is where we went every Wednesday to the market in Solvang … Mission Santa Inez.  It was a great choice, so we rounded up as many grands who wanted to go and my daughter and I headed towards Solvang.  We could kill three birds with one stone, go to the market, go to our favorite winery while the kids went to the ice cream shop, and visit the Mission for Addison’s project.  What a wonderful outing!front-view-of-santa-ines

But first some history.  Mission Santa Inez was founded in September 1804, and was known for their excellency in saddle making.  Today the Mission is fairly well dwarfed by the tourist town of Solvang.  This is one of the most beautiful Missions I’ve visited, but like the others I’ve written about, it has folklore to match it’s magnificence!

chapel-santa-inezOne story tells of a dark vampire that once inhabited the church when it was in ruin.  The tale says that there is a creature that will suck the blood from the toes of any hapless stranger who sleeps the night in the chapel and has the bad luck to remove his shoes.  Maybe the tale has its origin in the owls who once perched in the building long ago. Maybe not.  Maybe it’s just a myth!

Another legend caught my attention because it tells that the statue of San Antonio, that was brought by the Spanish padres, is somehow blessed and has the power to grant one prayer of an unselfish nature.

This quiet and beautiful place wasn’t always so peaceful, for it was here in 1824 that the Great Revolt started.  The Chumash native converts grew tired of the cruel treatment afforded them by the Spanish soldiers, and revolted in a bloody rampage which lasted a month.  According to folklore, A Chumash woman  warned the padres of the uprising saving many lives.  As the legend goes, she was buried under the alter in a special site reserved for padres and political leaders.  Maybe it is this woman who haunts the grounds of the old graveyard-santa-inezchurch.  Some say they feel her presence near the old laundry basin.  It is said that tape recordings made at the cemetery and laundry area always seems to pick up stray whispers and the mournful wail of a Native American flute.

The site is calm now, but if its memories do replay to the visitor, this should be a very haunted site indeed.

santa-inez-back-yardNow for where Addison and I worked.  This is the backside of the Mission.  We sat on the wishing well and I helped her vocalize the mission, without the ghosts, but it’s history.  She did a fantastically beautiful drawing from this view.  She’s like her PawPa, an artist at heart.  I lost five dollars in coins to the wishing  well.

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into my visit to California a few months ago.  Stick with me because I’m still going to revisit the Mission La Purisima and tell you about my college grandson’s real adventure with what could have been a ghost.  I’ll let you all decide.

And, yes we all had ice cream, got some beautiful vegetables along with strawberries, blueberries, and some wonderful mulberries, as well as a couple of bouquets of flowers and headed home … no Lucas and Lewellen Tasting Room for us that day.

Vetschcowboyhat

  To two readers who leave a comment, I’ll put your names in one of my

lady Stetson hats direct from Solvang and you can select

your choice of one of my eBooks from Amazon.

Hugs from Texas to all you all, Phyliss

Updated: October 3, 2016 — 7:00 pm

Wining and dining in the vineyards of Sonoma County by Charlene Sands

Charlene-with-Books Hi Everyone!

Today I’d love to share with you my recent travels to Northern California for a dear friend’s wedding, and as we drove past San Francisco, via the Golden Gate Bridge, we were treated to some of the most glorious scenery I’ve ever witnessed.  Vineyards abounded all along the highway and the inroads of small towns and bigger cities, until we reached the historic town of Healdsburg in Sonoma County, where we spent a few fun days. Thousands of years ago, Sonoma was home to the Pomo Indians, but now ranks as a top seller of fine wines.  Now, I ask you, is this not a beautiful sight? H grapes

Healdsburg was voted one of the Top Ten Smallest Towns in America due to the three most important award-winning wine producing regions of Dry Creek, Alexander and Russian River in Sonoma County.  Healdsburg population is 11, 254.  After the Gold Strike in 1849, many who didn’t find riches in gold, found something almost equally beneficial in this verdant rich farmland.  Healdsburg

In 1857 there was a “squatters rights” war called the Westside Road War and Harmon Heald, an Ohio entrepreneur was one of the winners and Healdburg was founded.  Harmon Heald was quick to construct a post office and general store in what is now called Downtown Healdsburg. He laid out a town grid and sold lots for $15 each and plotted his town in the Spanish style plaza design.  The plaza still stands today and is host to free concerts, picnics and lively events.  The town flourished with the arrival of the Northwestern Pacific Railway. H plazaH horseH breweryHere are some pics of the plaza and a gorgeous horse sculpture near the entrance of City Hall.  And of course, where do we choose to eat lunch while in Healdsburg in the heart of wine country?  Well, at a brewery, of course!   I’m not sorry, the fish and fries were delicious!H cupcakesOh and the dessert was wonderful too.

As we toured around the amazing wineries of Sonoma and the miles and miles of vineyards, I found many that have been in business for over 100 years!

H vineyards

Here we are attending the wedding in Santa Rosa, just 12 miles from Healdsburg at the Paradise Ridge Winery.  I tell a harrowing story on Facebook about how we got completely lost in the maze of vineyards and if not for a lovely older couple guiding us out, we would never have made the wedding in time.  But in the end,  we did and much fun was had.  H winery wedding

I love learning the history of regions we travel.  I find it so intriguing how towns get started and get their names.  Do you love learning tidbits about places you visit?  Does your town have an unusual history?  Do you drink wine (if so, what’s your fav?)  or are you more a beer or soda kind of person?  I’d love to give away a backlist book and other goodies to one blogger today.  Winner announced over the weekend!  Be sure to check back!

Updated: September 5, 2016 — 6:42 pm

Ortega Adobe

Phyliss Miranda sig line for P&P BluebonnetIn my last blog I wrote about the Mission La Purisima on the Camino Real in California.  I promised to write more about it and some personal things that have happened in the ol’ haunted mission.  Before I publish, what I think is an intriguing finish to my personal story about the La Purisima, I wanted to explore some more places along the King’s Highway that I’ve visited or became intrigued with.Ortega Taco Pix

I’m gonna bet if you make any Tex-Mex or even Mexican dishes you’ve used Ortega brand products.  Here’s my story about Ortega Adobe, Ortega Chili Company, and a mysterious little girl.

Ortega Old Pix use

The picture to the left is one of the middle class adobe homes and also one of the last houses of its type still standing in California.  Built in 1857 by local rancher Emedigio Ortega, he raised nine of his children.

In 1897, one of his sons began the Ortega Chili Company that exists today.  Obviously, the international company has outgrown the small three room house.

The building has been used as a Mexican restaurant, a Chinese laundry, a pottery shop, an employment agency, a VFW hall, a speakeasy, the Ventura police state, and lastly, a boy’s and girl’s club.  In the 1960’s it became an historic museum.  The tiles on the roof were purchasedOrtega Old Pix from the Old Mission San Buenaventura after the earthquake of 1857.

Now for the more interesting part of this mission, as I promised.

Supernatural events have become a part of the adobe museum’s crew’s jobs. Staff have caught a glimpse of a man with a derby hat standing on the porch. A visitor who believes she has a psychic gift saw a ghostly little girl in the house standing in the doorway. She had a dark shawl over her head. The house also has a very cold spot in the largest of the rooms where some have heard voices! The story of soft music emanating from a phantom guitar remind us of the history and many different lives that have passed through this house and of some spirits that may have chosen to stick around.

The Ortega Adobe isn’t a mission but I found its story very interesting.  I love going to California and this year, as many of you all know, I spent over two months in central California in order to celebrate graduation and birthdays for my grandchildren.  I’m eager to write more about my adventures.

Earlier this month when I wrote about the Mission La Pursima, which you haven’t heard the last of, I received a lot of wonderful comments on missions, so I’ll ask you the same question … please share with us any of your experiences on missions, the Camino Real, and ghosts.

The Troubled Texan GoodTo one lucky reader who comments, I’ll give you a choice of one of my eBook’s, including any anthology I’m in or one of my short stories. I’m looking forward to reading all of your comments.

Updated: August 29, 2016 — 6:53 pm

Welcome Guest: Jaime Jo Wright

jaime-wright-media-12 (2)Dwelling in the past is something I love to do. Especially, when it involves ghost towns, gold, rivers, and hardy heroes. When I wrote my latest novella, “Gold Haven Heiress” from The California Gold Rush Romance Collection, it was very intriguing to find that ghost towns existed in the 1850’s! After towns were tapped out of gold, miners would pack up and hit the road for the next big hit and the buildings were left behind as memories of a bustling time filled with hopes of prosperity.

I loved planting my heroine, Thalia, smack in the middle of a ghost town. Stuck in a place where she could be alone and dwell in the murky pain of her past. Then I wondered to myself, how often do we plant ourselves in our own little ghost towns. Memories of where we once lived, who we once were, or what we once had. I believe in memories, they’re precious pieces of life that help us in the quiet moments. But to live there? To dwell there? It probably isn’t healthy when what before us are new memories, new beginnings, new hope.

My grandmother lived in New Mexico the majority of my growing up years. I recall hanging on the fence as my uncle worked the horses, riding the back of a hay bale pretending it was a bronco, and catching tarantulas with my cousins. Gramma always said that a piece of her heart lived in New Mexico and always would. But, she left it and returned to Wisconsin after my Grampa passed away.

I believe Gramma had the perfect equation of memories vs. living in the past. Pictures of New Mexico littered her bookshelf. A blue glass cowboy boot sat on her coffee table. A ceramic steer clock with leather ribbons hanging from its horns hung on the wall. An Aztec-patterned blanket draped over the back of her chair. But next to them all were the signs of new beginning. Even after the loss of her soul mate. The pictures of her great-grandchildren, the gardening gloves tossed on the kitchen table from tendering her flowers, the pressure cooker on the stove for canning, and her Sunday dress hung on the door ready to put on come service time.

Gramma always kept on keeping on. She moved forward even when memories tugged her back toward that ghost town. Toward the memories that perhaps seemed richer and more enticing than the future. She had hope in things eternal. In a land not-so-far away that would one day be that glorious place she’d call Home. My Gramma was an heiress to riches far greater than the ghost-town-memories.

I have memories too. They’re little golden nuggets I pocket in my heart. But like my Gramma taught me, I wave farewell to the ghost towns and journey down that dusty ol’ road. Adventure lays around the bend, you know, and there’s always the truth that more memories will be made.

What are some of your precious memories? Have you ever been to a real ghost town and felt the hovering of people’s memories in the vacant doorways?

I’m giving away one copy of THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH COLLECTION. Winner chooses either print or e-book.

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The California Gold Rush CollectionBarbour Publishing
Release Date: August 1st, 2016 |  ISBN:
978-1634098212

Gold Disappoints But Love Rewards

Rush to California after the 1848 gold discovery alongside thousands of hopeful men and women. Meet news reporters, English gentry, miners, morticians, marriage brokers, bankers, fugitives, preachers, imposters, trail guides, map makers, cooks, missionaries, town builders, soiled doves, and more people who take advantage of the opportunities to make their fortunes in places where the population swelled overnight. But can faith and romance transform lives where gold is king?


Gold Haven Heiress
?– Jaime Jo Wright

Jack Taylor determines to use his new wealth to restart a ghost town to help others. But one person challenges his conviction to embrace all the disillusioned and lost. Thalia wasn’t supposed to be hiding in the tiny little garden behind the ghostly saloon. And he never intended to fall hard for a used-up prostitute.

 

Professional coffee drinker?Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing spirited turn-of-the-century romance stained with suspense. Coffee fuels her snarky personality. She lives in Neverland with her Cap’n Hook who stole her heart and will not give it back, their little fairy Tinkerbell, and a very mischievous Peter Pan. The foursome embark on scores of adventure that only make her fall more wildly in love with romance and intrigue.  Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimejowright.com.
Web site:?
http://www.jaimejowright.com

Facebook:?
http://www.facebook.com/jaimejowright
Twitter:?
http://www.twitter.com/jaimejowright
Pinterest:?
http://www.pinterest.com/jaimejowright?
Instagram:?
http://www.Instagram.com/jaimejowright?
Goodreads:?
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13916081.Jaime_Jo_Wright
Periscope: @jaimejowright

WEALTH AND WATER WAY OUT WEST AND A TWO-BOOK GIVEAWAY by KELI GWYN

BLOG Keli Gwyn Author Photo-LgKeli Gwyn here to whisk you back in time. Imagine this. It’s 1866. You own a hydraulic mining operation in California. It’s the middle of the summer. There’s been no rain since May. Rivers are running low. Streams and creeks are drying up. But you need water to operate your mine. What do you do? Read on to find out how two bright men of yesteryear, who lived where I do now, came up with a solution.

The easy-to-find placer (surface) gold had been mined in the early years of the Gold Rush, forcing miners to use different methods. In 1853, hydraulic mining came into play. Water cannons with streams of water shooting up to 500 could blast away entire hillsides. The gold-rich quartz veins were revealed, the ore crushed and the precious metal extracted.

BLOG Keli Hydraulic MiningMine owners were happy…provided they had water. In order to get that precious commodity, ditches (canals) were built to divert water from the sources to the mines. The ditches might be able to supply enough water for smaller operations, but the big hydraulic mines needed more than that. John Kirk, an engineer from Pennsylvania, had anticipated this need. A forward thinker, he bought the water rights to many Sierra lakes high above the Gold Country. He and his partner, surveyor Francis A. Bishop, envisioned a canal that would bring water from the mountains to the foothills below. Although their plan for the canal was well thought-out, they’d completed less than one mile when they ran out of funds in 1871.

Kirk and Bishop sold their water rights and property to the newly formed El Dorado Water and Deep Gravel Mining Company for $60,000. Incorporated in 1873, the Company assumed control of the project, following the plans laid by Kirk and Bishop.

The building of the El Dorado Canal was one of the most ambitious undertakings in the state of California up to that time. When it was completed, just in time for the U.S. Centennial celebration in July 1876, the canal was about thirty miles long. Four miles of that was wooden flumes resting on elevated rock walls.

BLOG Keli El Dorado Canal WorkersThe monumental task required a massive workforce. Over one thousand Chinese laborers came up from San Francisco, assisted by about a hundred Euro-Americans, mostly Italian. The canal cost the Company between $650,000 and $700,000, or about $25,000 per mile.

When I learned about the construction of the El Dorado Canal, I was impressed. Every time I turn on the tap to fill my glass with water, I’m benefitting from the work done one hundred forty years ago by engineers who had nothing more than slide rules and workmen wielding hammers, saws, shovels and pickaxes. Although the canal has been renovated and upgraded numerous times, the path the water travels today is much the same as it was then.

El Dorado Canal - FlumeI was so impressed by the men who designed and built the El Dorado Canal that I decided to honor them in my August 2016 release, Make-Believe Beau. The hero and heroine of my latest book, Flynt and Jessie, work for the El Dorado Water and Deep Gravel Mining Company. I took fictional license in staffing the engineering department. Flynt is the engineer. Jessie is his newly hired draftswoman, which creates a stir in the office. While the story focuses on their romance—both the feigned one and the real one—I worked in as much of the history of the El Dorado Canal as I could. I’m sneaky that way. 🙂

 

Question fBLOG KELI bookcoveror You:

Drinking water today has become far more sophisticated than it used to be. Here in the U.S., many people prefer bottled water to tap water. There are flavored waters, carbonated waters, energy waters and more. We can also add ice if we like. I’m a tap water gal myself, since we get clean, clear water from the Sierras delivered right to our home, and I add plenty of ice.

When it comes to drinking water, what is your favorite kind?

Giveaway

I’m so excited about Flynt and Jessie’s story that I’m offering not one, but two print copies as giveaway prizes. Leave a comment, and be sure to leave your contact info in case you win!

My Upcoming Releases

Fun In The Sun!!

WG Logo 2015-04

Hi! Winnie Griggs here, and I’m just back from the Fabulous RWA (Romance Writers of America) conference in San Diego. It was my first time there and I took advantage of the event to go in a few days early and play tourist. My son came with me which made it doubly fun. So I thought I’d share a little of what my week was like with you.

Sunday afternoon and evening we explored downtown, checking out both the Gaslamp District and Seaport Village. Bot were teeming with baseball fans as the All Star game was scheduled to be played there on Tuesday.

On Monday we headed out to the Zoo, taking advantage of the efficient and low-cost public transportation to get there. And what a fabulous zoo it was! We spent most of the day there, walking the grounds and I’m still not certain we saw it all. My favorite exhibits – Pandas, Polar Bears and giraffes.

Zoo

 

On Tuesday we headed out to LaJolla. We had the driver let us off at the beach near the Scripps Research Institute, and after spending time there we walked a little over a mile to a spot where we could see the seals and sea lions that come right up on the beach. We were able to get quite close to them, though we were careful to respect their space.

LaJolla

 

On Wednesday we took the ferry over to Coronado.  Another day with lots of walking (My fitbit recorded numbers last week it had never reached before 🙂 )  The beaches were lovely, the historic hotel was fabulous, there were lots of fun little shops to check out and the seafood we had for lunch was some of the best I’ve had in quite a while. On the return trip we took the ferry that drops off near the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier that was decommissioned in 1992 and is now a museum.

Cornado

On Thursday it was time for me to turn to conference business – me and three author friends presented a workshop. Son went out on his own exploring the city and we met back up for supper together and a walk through Seaharbor Village.

WorkshopThurs

 

The next morning my son headed for the airport and I turned my full attention to the conference.

And for those of you who have stayed with me his far, if you’ll leave a comment telling me about your favorite place to visit, I’ll put your name in the hat for a drawing to select any one book from my backlist you’d like to have.

 

Updated: July 21, 2016 — 1:01 am

Victoria Bylin: Who Says You Can’t Go Home Again?

Give a big howdy to former Filly, Vickie Bylin! We’re so happy she came to visit. AND she brought books to give away. Three in fact, so leave a comment!

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Home   . . .  That word is one of the most evocative in the English language. It’s also a fitting theme for today’s blog, because Petticoats & Pistols was my home for over three years. Hello, Fillies!  I miss hanging out with you and the P&P readers. I thoroughly enjoyed being a Filly during my time with Harlequin Historical and Love Inspired Historical.

 

Westerns will always be close to my heart. So will California with its beaches, mountains, valleys, and deserts. The state may not be the first one to pop in your mind when you think “traditional western,” not like Texas or Wyoming, but the history and culture have a western flavor.

 

SomeoneLikeYouCoverI live in Lexington, Kentucky now, but I miss the Golden State. That’s why I started writing about it. If we took a road trip with the characters in my contemporary romances, we’d walk barefoot on Pismo Beach, see endangered California condors in the wild, and camp out on Anacapa Island.

 

The Pismo Beach scene is in my latest release, Someone Like You (Bethany House, May 2016). The story is set at a historic resort in central California and is about what happens when college sweethearts meet after six years. Back at UC Berkeley, Zeke Monroe was a strong Christian, and Julia Dare believed in living for the moment. Fast forward six years . . . Now Zeke is struggling with his faith and Julia is a new believer and a single mom with a four-year-old son.

 


Until I Found YouTo add some western flavor (and because I like country music), I made the owners of the resort a retired country music duo called the Travers Twins. Ginger Travers no longer performs, but George Travers (who looks and sounds a lot like Sam Elliot) is going strong and still a heartthrob for Julia’s widowed mother.

 

California condors played a big role in Until I Found You. Those birds are amazing!  During the 1990s, when my family and I lived in the Los Padres National Forest a.k.a. “Condor Country,” we had the pleasure of seeing condors soar over our home. With their nine-foot wingspans, the birds look like glider planes. Writing about them brought back some great memories.  

 

Together With YouGoing camping again on Anacapa Island is another secret dream.  Anacapa (pronounced ANN-a-cap-a) is one of the Channel Islands off the Southern California coast. In Together With You. Kentucky girl Carly Jo Mason and Los Angeles ophthalmologist Dr. Ryan Tremaine make a trip to the island with his kids.

 

 Ryan and Carly have quite the romance, but a little girl named Penny stole even more hearts—including mine. Penny has special needs and remains one of my favorite characters.

 

Thank you for taking a mini-trip home with me!  When it comes to romance, California is the perfect setting for strong characters, dramatic plots, and stories that touch the heart.

To celebrate my home state, I’d like to give away three books—reader choice from the titles above. Leave a comment and you’ll be entered in the drawing!

 

A big thank you to the Fillies for inviting me to visit.  As the saying goes, “East or West, Home is Best.”

You can contact Vickie at:

WEBSITE   |    FACEBOOK    |     TWITTER   |   BLOGPOST

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Excerpt & A Giveaway!

AutumnCooler weather, changing leaves, hot chocolate…welcome Autumn!

I grew up in southern California right along the coast where the weather varied minimally from a calm 72 degrees. I think that is why I appreciate having the four seasons in my life now that I live in the Midwest. As a child, my family would take day-trips to the back country of San Diego to hike and picnic among the falling leaves and snow. It was always fun.

My Christmas story, Dance With A Cowboy in the Wild West Christmas Anthology takes place there in the fictional town of Clear Springs in the Cuyamaca mountains. This story won the 2015 Holt Medallion Award of Merit. (And if I do say so myself–has a very sigh-worthy hero!) At the end of the excerpt you’ll find how to enter the giveaway!

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Excerpt ~ Dance With A Cowboy

Garrett held the door open and followed her out into the late afternoon light that filtered through the pines. They stood for a moment, staring at each other. He was taller than she remembered…taller than Josh. And where Josh’s nose had tilted up in a friendly fashion, Garrett’s was straight as a knife’s blade. He didn’t say a word, just turned and started down the boardwalk.

She supposed walking—and talking—would be easier than standing still and looking at each other in an awkward attempt at normality. Although her legs ached from standing all day, she fell into step. They headed away from the mill. The sound of the saw’s constant whirring lessened even as the buzz of nervous energy inside her began to build. Their footsteps grew louder on the boards, emphasizing their lack of conversation.

At the corner he stopped.

“We could sit.” He tilted his chin toward the bench in front of the hotel.

“I’d like that.” Stilted. Proper.

They crossed the street and he waited while she settled herself. He didn’t sit, but leaned against the post that supported the small overhang to the hotel’s front entrance. To anyone passing by it looked like a casual meeting, but the sharpness of his gaze belied that. She drew in a deep breath, filling her lungs with the scent of the crisp mountain air. “I’ve missed the smell of the pines. Dance With a CowboyIt’s different on the coast. Salt in the air. Brine.”

He raised his chin slightly in acknowledgement. Small lines fanned out at the corners of his eyes, yet she doubted with Garrett that the lines were from laughing.

“So you’re back.”

She nodded, pasted on a bright smile.

“Alone?”

“With my daughter.”

“Josh’s daughter,” he murmured. The lines deepened between his dark brows. “You named her Lily?”

“After my grandmother.” He should know this, she’d sent a note after the birth. “She is five now.”

“Why did you come back?”

It was more a challenge than a question. She’d been asked the same thing half a dozen times since her return, but now the answer sounded too simple, even to her own ears. “I wanted Lily to grow up here.”

He seemed to turn her words over in his mind.

She stiffened her spine. She wasn’t about to blurt out all that had really gone on—the snide comments questioning Lily’s parentage. The suggestive glances and remarks from men who thought she was lonely. Her parents’ constant disappointment in her, in Lily.

“The memories are still here,” he said.

Meaning Josh. Those memories. She relaxed slightly. “I have good memories from growing up here—the schoolhouse, swimming in the lake. It’s a good place to raise a child.”

Again, he seemed to consider her answer, looking past the surface of her words. He’d always done that, even when they’d been younger. Her gaze drifted to his lips, remembering her very first kiss and how sweet and gentle it had been. So different from his brother. She frowned, upset at the comparison. She’d come here to move on with her life, not to dwell in the past.

She stood, gathered her shawl closer around her and moved to the edge of the porch. “I’d better go. Sue is in a tizzy getting ready for the season.”

He straightened and moved away from the post. “I’ll walk you back.”

Always the gentleman. He hadn’t changed in that regard.

“It’s not necessary. I’ll see myself back to the bakery.” She started down the steps to the street.

“When can I see Lily?”

She stopped. She’d been expecting the request, but she wasn’t ready to share her daughter. “Another time.”

“I don’t get into town very often. I can wait until you’re done working.”

“No!” It came out fast—unthinkingly—without tact.

His eyes narrowed. “Do you want to explain why not?”

“I need to prepare her first.”

“Prepare her! What the heck for?”

She raised her chin. “Other than my great-aunt Molly, Lily has no idea she has relatives here.” Before he could say another word, she turned and hurried away.

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Wild West Christmas ~ Dance with a Cowboy by Kathryn Albright

Since the heroine (her name is Kathleen) has just moved back to town and has found work in the bakery I thought I’d ask the question…

What is your favorite Autumn dish or dessert?

Comment for a chance to win a free copy of Wild West Christmas today!

Please refer here for all contest rules.

Jailbreak!

MargaretBrownley-header

The hero in my current work in progress is in jail and needs to escape or he’ll soon be keeping company with the daisies.  The question is how? As usual, whenever I have a plotting problem I hit the books. Much to my surprise my research showed that escaping jail was no big deal in the Old West.

There was a good reason for this. Jails were often built in a hurry and were flimsy affairs. Adding to the problem, towns didn’t have the money to hire jail guards. One California jail was so poorly built that prisoners were put on their honor not to escape.

The way prisoners escaped varied and, in some cases, were even laughable. Dynamite was used on occasion, but was seldom necessary. Some prisoners simply walked out of unlocked cells. Others, like a man in a Yuma jail, wiggled the bars loose in a window.

AG jailArroyo Grande’s wooden jail house was the object of scorn and breaking out was somewhat of a town joke. On several occasions prisoners skipped town taking along the iron chains that were meant to hold them prisoners.

Roy Bean (yes, that Roy Bean) supposedly escaped a San Diego hoosegow by using a jackknife to cut through soft mortar. Bean went from escapee to the colorful judge known as The Law West of the Pecos.

Ten men escaped the Tombstone jail while the guards were having supper. They simply dug a hole in the wall and jumped fifteen feet to the ground.

Billy the Kid escaped from the Silver City prison through a chimney.

San Francisco’s first jail was a flimsy log structure built around 1846. John Henry Brown, editor of the California Star, wrote in ACTUAL EXPERIENCE OF AN EYE-WITNESS, FROM 1845 TO 1850: “One night a man, by name of Pete, from Oregon, was put in the Calaboose, for having cut the hair off the tails of five horses and shaved the stumps. As Leavensworth (the Alcalde) did not send him his breakfast, he called on Leavensworth at his office, with the door of the Calaboose on his back, and told him if his breakfast was not sent up in half an hour we would take French leave. Leavensworth sent his breakfast.”

jail treeWickenburg, Arizona didn’t have a jailhouse. Instead, prisoners were chained to a large Mesquite tree until they could be transported out of town. No one ever escaped the tree. However, so many prisoners were once chained to the boughs, there was no room for more.

Out of necessity one criminal was tied to a nearby log. He got sick of waiting, so he picked up the log and walked to the closest saloon.

One woman escaped jail with nothing more than her feminine wiles. After stagecoach robber Pearl Hart slipped out of Sheriff Wakefield’s supposedly secure jail, she boasted “he fell in love with me.”

Jailbreaks were so prevalent that New Mexico governor Lionel Sheldon declared that “escapes are as easily made as from a paper bandbox.”

Not all jailbreaks were successful, of course, and some escapees were either shot dead or caught a few days later. But many did manage to get away. Out of those who were caught, some went on to escape again and again.

More Love and Laughter from Margaret Brownley

Margaret’s story The Nutcracker Bride: He’s a Texas Ranger and she just shot him!

12brides of Christmas

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Updated: September 20, 2015 — 6:58 am

Rainmaker, Rainmaker Make Us Some Rain…

MargaretBrownley-headerThe success of a rain dance has a lot to do with timing

 

As you may have heard California is going through a terrible drought. Most of my neighbors have either let their lawns die or replaced them with artificial turf. Others have simply come up with a way of stealing water. Yep, that’s right; we now have water thieves to contend with.

grassMy husband came up with yet another solution; he simply painted our grass green (see before and after photo). Yep, there’s actually grass paint that you can spray on and it works!

Watching all this craziness around me made me wonder about droughts in the past. I’m pretty sure they didn’t have grass paint back in the 1800s.

For many years people believed that cloudbursts were caused by noise. Plutarch was the first to note that a rainstorm followed every great battle. He thought it was nature’s way of purifying the ground after bloodshed.

He wasn’t the only one who believed in the “concussion theory of rainmaking;” Napoleon was among the many military leaders convinced that artillery fire caused rain. After losing the battle of Waterloo due to the muddy battleground, he came up with the strategy of firing weapons in the air in hopes that a deluge would disable the enemy.

Amazingly, more than 150 major civil war battles were followed by rainstorms. Witnessing the rain that fell after the battle of Bull Run, J.C. Lewis blamed it on the “discharge of heavy artillery.”

Not everybody agreed that rain was generated by blasts. Meteorologist James Pollard Espy, known as thecannon Storm King, insisted it wasn’t the noise, but rather the heat of battle that opened the clouds. To prove his theory he asked that he be allowed to set a 600 mile stretch of land on fire. Congress turned down his request.

Heat or noise, no one really knew for sure. Brigadier General Robert Dyrenforth decided to settle the matter once and for all by conducting a series of rain-making experiments in Texas. He used artillery and balloon-carrying explosives. Instead of rain, he set a series of prairie fires and was given the name Dry-Henchforth.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the west was going through another drought and water wars raged. It was the perfect environment for a former sewing machine salesman by the name of Charles Hatfield aka Robin Hood of the Clouds.

hat

      Hatfield’s Rain Tower

Offering his services to farmers he built high towers and released a chemical concoction he created. Because of clever timing he had some initial success, which is why the city of San Diego hired him. In 1916 he climbed his newly built tower and tossed his chemicals into the air.

Lo and behold, the sky opened up dumping thirty-five inches of rain on the city and causing a tremendous amount of damage. The city wanted Hatfield to take responsibility for what was called the Hatfield flood, but he refused, claiming it was an act of God. When the city failed to pay him his $10,000, he sued, but after twenty-two years the case was finally thrown out of court.

Scientists are still trying to figure out how to summon rain and so far their efforts have met with little success. Maybe it’s time to bring out the cannons.

So which rain theory makes the most sense to you?

Noise or heat?

 

                      

                              What Readers are Saying About Undercover Bride

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“5 Stars!”

“A truly entertaining must read”

“A thrilling escapade”

“A creative plot and delightful characters”

“Good clean fun western romance”

“Thumbs up for mystery western”

“Wild west guns and grins”

“Fantastic”

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Updated: July 29, 2015 — 5:39 pm
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