Category: California

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.

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      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

A DAY IN MY WRITING LIFE

Newsletter banner June

Some people think I have it easy working from my own home and some people don’t see how I do it. They can’t imagine having distractions all around you, such as the phone, the internet, the television, the bed, and the kiss of death–the lure of a shopping mall just minutes away.   My truth lies somewhere in between.

To set the record straight, let me say that it helps that I love what I do.  I love creating stories, and getting it down on paper.  I’m not good with plot, so I have plot buddies, accomplished authors and friends who help me every step of the way, and vice-versa. It’s amazing how problems can be solved when four heads collaborate on a single idea and work it out.  I love them and they have become some of my closest friends.

My work space. Metal art horses inspire.

           My work space. Metal art horses inspire.

Next, let me say the creative process is WORK.  Writers are some of the hardest working people I know.  We can spend sixteen hours a day on the job, working nights and weekends.  Last week, I worked every minute of my birthday up until hubby rescued me and took me to a lovely dinner.  The truth?  I didn’t mind. Having that day to catch up on my work was a blessing and I went to dinner that night, knowing I’d caught up on the pressing things that were haunting me.

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I’m a goal-setter and I only get frustrated when I don’t get achieve my daily goals, whether it be edits, working on revisions, developing a synopsis or putting down a certain word count for the day.  I write between 1000 to 1500 words a day and that’s equivalent to 4-6 pages of the book.   But lately, due to four young princesses who came into my life recently, I don’t write every day, I put on my other hat to watch them.   So, I write every other day, and usually the weekends.  This is an especially busy time for me. I’ve had three irons in the fire lately, working on different projects with staggered deadlines.  It’s a quite crazy.

Humbled by the awards I've  won.

 Humbled by the awards I’ve won.

Here’s a bit of what my Friday was like:

At the computer at 7 am.

Composed 2 letters to my editor regarding changes to my synopsis/revisions on a continuity book

Read through 80 emails and answered some of them.

Helped promo some of my friends’ releases with tweets/shares on FB.

Composed a Facebook Ad of my own and published it.

Checked the sell status of two of my books on sale.

Ate breakfast at my desk.

Now to begin the REAL work– Spent five hours proof-reading and polishing my novella Claim Me, Cowboy, set to release in September and sent it off to editor.  Whew! (My eyes are tired by now)

Ate a late lunch.

Commiserated with two authors regarding our books “bible”. We each have one brother’s story to tell.

Showered and dressed before hubby got home.  (I know, this is crazy, but time got away from me)

Checked emails again. 

Made dinner.  Watched a movie and spent a few hours with hubby.

By 9 PM -Back at the computer, rereading and sorting through the continuity series “bible.”  Making notes so I can write the synopsis first thing on Saturday morning.

In bed by 11:30 PM.

This was an atypical day as I didn’t have a word count to accomplish, because I’d just finished a book and I was getting ready to start another one.  Some days, all I want to do is write. Those days are luxuries, because the whole process requires so much more.  Some authors will say, “I can’t NOT write.”  That’s me. I love the process, but along with it come a zillion other things.

I used to write to see if I could, then I began to think maybe I could sell my stories, and then once I did, it became about possibly earning a living at it.  And now, I’m at the point where all I want to do is please my readers. I want people who read my stories to enjoy them and close the book with a sigh. And I’m not alone. I think that’s why writers work so darn hard.  We are, in essence, entertainers and thought provokers.  And we want our stories to be loved.

 

The Billionaire's Daddy Test

 

Left to care for her late sister’s baby, Mia D’Angelo goes on a secret mission to find out if the missing father would make good daddy material. But when she tracks down Adam Chase at his beachfront mansion, her plan spins out of control and they’re soon dating! 

It isn’t long before the reclusive billionaire realizes Mia’s keeping a huge secret about the child he never knew he had. Can this guarded man learn to trust Mia after her initial deception…and trust himself around this incredibly sexy woman?

Here’s a look at my latest release, The Billionaire’s Daddy Test.  Spend some time on Moonlight Beach with reclusive architect Adam Chase and determined Mia D’Angelo who is set on making sure her niece’s bachelor father makes the grade!  And if you read the book, please write a review or contact me and let me know how I’m doing. 

Post a comment here and win a $5.00 Amazon gift card!  Tell me in just a few words what makes a good father?  Winner will be posted over the weekend! 

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Updated: July 14, 2015 — 2:42 pm

LONGHORN CATTLE … IN CALIFORNIA? By Guest Blogger Keli Gwyn

Keli Gwyn Historical Author PhotoBefore James Marshall discovered those shiny nuggets at Sutter’s Mill that sparked the Gold Rush and made the precious metal the focus of fortune-seekers around the globe, longhorn cattle were California’s primary product. Sadly they were raised for their hides and tallow. Much of the meat was left to rot on the beaches while the valued items were loaded on longboats anchored off shore.

That changed in 1849 when California was overrun by miners pouring in by the thousands. Food was scarce in the gold fields of the north, so the cattle ranchers of the south found a ready market for their beef. At that point, nearly half a million head of longhorn roamed the countryside in the sparsely populated area around Los Angeles.

Some believe the California longhorn was closely related to its Texas counterpart, with both tracing their heritage to the Andalusian Iberian longhorn of southwestern Spain. The records kept at the time didn’t document the physical appearance or attributes of the California longhorn, so one can only speculate.

A series of droughts in the mid-1800s all but obliterated the herds. The disastrous drought of 1864 brought about the loss of 50-75% of the longhorn cattle in Los Angeles County due to thirst or starvation. The remaining cattle ranches were broken up into smaller ranches, with many of the ranchers diversifying into more stable and financially beneficial agricultural ventures.

One rancher, Henry Miller, originally a butcher in San Francisco, did well despite the disastrous losses of others. He expanded his herd and his holdings. It’s thought he might have been the largest owner of private lands in the state. Miller was one of the first to bring in Durham and Hereford bulls to breed with the longhorn cows, providing the public with beef from the British breeds the rapidly increasing population preferred. And thus the end of the longhorn legacy in California came about.

Cattle ranching increased in northern California as gold became harder to find and more expensive to extract. The small town of Shingle Springs, in which my debut Love Inspired Historical, Family of Her Dreams, takes place, shifted from mining to cattle ranching. Sprawling ranches sprang up in the area, and cattle could be seen grazing there for much of the year.

During the hot, dry summers, ranchers herded their cattle up the mountain to pastures high in the Sierras.longhorn-529572_640 Oftentimes the womenfolk would stay with the herds while the men remained in the valley and saw to things there. Since the temperatures in the valley can top one hundred for a number of days each summer, I think the ladies got the better end of the deal.

In my story, the hero, Spencer Abbott, dreams of leaving his stationmaster duties behind and becoming a cattle rancher, as was his father back in Texas. Spencer pays to have a longhorn bull brought to him, which he intends to breed. With payment in calves, he plans to grow a herd of his own. Whether or not he succeeds shall remain a mystery—until you read the story anyhow. 🙂

If you’d like a chance to win a copy of Family of Her Dreams, just leave a comment with the  answer to one (or more) of the questions below by midnight EDT on Saturday, June 20.

  • Do you like rancher heroes in romances?
  • How prevalent are cattle ranches in your part of the country?
  • Have you ever seen a longhorn bull in person? If so, what was your impression of it?

Keli Gwyn Contemporary Author Photo (3)

 

Award-winning author Keli Gwyn, a native Californian, transports readers to the early days of the Golden State. She and her husband live in the heart of California’s Gold Country. Her favorite places to visit are her fictional worlds, historical museums and other Gold Rush-era towns. Keli loves hearing from readers and invites you to visit her Victorian-style cyber home at www.keligwyn.com, where you’ll find her contact information.

A Family to Cherish 

Headstrong Tess Grimsby loves her new job caring for the children of a recently widowed man. But she never imagined that she’d fall for her handsome employer. Yet Spencer Abbott is as caring as he is attractive, and Tess can’t help but feel for him and his family. Though, for the sake of her job, she’ll keep any emotions about her boss to herself.

Between his stationmaster responsibilities in a gold-rush town and trying to put his family back together, Spencer has his hands full. He soon finds his new hire’s kind personality warming his frosty exterior. But could he ever admit to seeing her as more than just an employee?

Leave a comment to enter her drawing on here for an autographed copy of Family of Her Dreams.

Copyright © 2015 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Cover art and cover copy text used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

June 19 - Keli Gwyn Petticoats & Pistols Giveaway

 

http://keligwyn.com/library/my-books will take you directly to Keli’s “My Book” page of her website, where she has a number of retailers’ links.