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.



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.



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.


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.



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.




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



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.

      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


“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”





Inspiration for a story comes from…my readers!

Pt. Loma Lighthouse

Often my inspiration to write a story comes from a setting. For instance, the very first book I ever wrote grew out of my fascination with the Old Pt. Loma Lighthouse on the peninsula in San Diego Harbor. The peninsula is windswept with tide pools and cliffs on the ocean side and a sloping hill on the harbor side. That book is The Angel and the Outlaw. That lighthouse is featured again in my latest book, The Gunslinger and the Heiress. However, rather than having the setting inspire me this time, the main reason I felt compelled to write this story came from readers. They asked (repeatedly) for a story about the little girl, six-year-old Hannah from The Angel and the Outlaw. Many wondered what had happened to her.US_Boundary_Survey_1850

Hannah, grows up living the life of a princess with her grandfather in San Francisco. He owns a shipping business with a fleet of ships. Life for Hannah has been one of adults, tutors, and boardrooms. She is a princess in an ivory tower—smart, beautiful, and lonely. And one more thing…Hannah is mute.

Caleb, her childhood friend from the peninsula, has not been so fortunate to be born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Caleb had to fend for himself and learn life lessons the hard way. At a young age, he joined the army at Fort Rosecrans in San Diego. While looking out for his friend in an out-of-the-way saloon on the Mexican/American border, he was drugged and the next day found himself aboard a steamer heading for Alaska and the gold fields—shanghaied.

Crazy as it may sound, they never forgot each other. Hannah thrilled at the letters Caleb would write to her that were full of adventures and excitement in worlds she would never know. And Caleb liked hearing from her. Her letters gave him a “home” when everything else felt tossed and twisted in his life. They remained good friends up until Hannah’s sixteenth birthday. That is the day that everything changed, a day that Hannah chose to exclude him from her life.The Gunslinger and the Heiress

Five years later Hannah is on his doorstep. She needs his help to keep her family’s shipping empire. She has no right to ask him for help. She was callous and cruel before, driving him away, but he is the only one she can turn to now. And he is the only one that can help her step down from her ivory tower.

It’s been said there is a thin line between love and hate. Is it possible that he will help her…even though he might never forgive her? Would he do such a thing? And could she trust him if he did accept? She knows that if she were offered the same situation again from all those years ago…she would not choose any differently.  Where does that leave their friendship? How can she have the slightest hope that Caleb will help her…let alone forgive her?

She finds her answer only as they both work through old prejudices. She must come to realize that no matter the trappings and rules society places on her, it is up to her to find and grasp her own happiness. Can she be as strong as he needs her to be?

I loved writing Caleb and Hannah’s story. I have a soft spot in my heart for each of them. I guess in a way they are my “children.” For an excerpt click here.

I have one copy of The Gunslinger and the Heiress for someone who comments today. I would love for it to be YOU! Last month when I offered a book, I was unable to connect with the winner through their email, so I must ask that if you post in the hopes of winning a free book, please check back the next day to see if you won. Should your name be drawn, I will need to know if you want a print copy or an ebook and where to send it!

Kathryn Albright – San Diego’s Cobweb Emporium

9780373298150What would you do if you entered a restaurant and found the ceiling crawling with spiders?

One thing I like about reading historical romance is learning real history along with a great story. While doing research for my newest book I came across this “fun” fact that I just had to include in The Gunslinger and the Heiress.

Tillman Augustus Burnes, an Irishman known for his larger-than-life personality, grew up in San Francisco. There he came to appreciate the infamous Cobweb Palace at the end of Meiggs’ Wharf where spiders had transformed the saloon with swags of cobwebs decorating the ceiling and upper walls.

When ‘Till’ came south to San Diego for health reasons he got his first job at the Last Chance Saloon on 5th Street. He saved up his money until he could buy his own saloon, naming it The Phoenix, located just one block from the docks. He opened his doors for business in 1875 and started collecting spiders to decorate his new place. He also hunted and trapped small animals and birds in southern California to display in cages, and bought exotic animals off sailors coming from South America. At one time, his menagerie housed a coyote, a bear, an anteater, and a monkey, along with exotic birds.

Early San Diego Train Station – featured in book

The bear, Bruin, caused a few incidences quite honorable to a bear, but not appreciated by humans. Till chained him outside the saloon to a tree. One particularly hot day, a group of children taunted Bruin by poking him with sticks. Aroused from his nap and angered, the bear broke loose of his chain, scaring the children and creating havoc until a few men lassoed him. After that, Till had an iron cage built and brought the bear inside the saloon. That worked for a while, until a customer who liked Bruin and regularly let the bear lick the beer off his face fell out of favor with the bear and had the tip of his nose bit off. After that (and the ensuing lawsuit,) Bruin retired to Till’s home, far away from people who would bother him (and visa versa.)

Despite all the animals and spiders, Till prided himself on keeping a clean establishment. By 1885 the spiders had built a respectable foot-thick wall of webbing over the ceiling. Visitors came from far and wide to see the amazing zoo, stuffed animals, and the spiders at work. The Phoenix was a city landmark and sailors and captains alike made sure to stop there frequently. While running the saloon, Till started other ventures—a stage line down to Mexico and personally escorted tours into the back country.

Before one of these tours, his bartender became sick. Till learned of a bartender vacationing in the city and hired him on the spot and then left quickly on the scheduled tour. Ten days later he returned only to find the industrious man had cleaned out every last cobweb in the place, destroying his endeavor of ten years.

Of course nowadays the health commissioner would frown on such a place. But how about you? What is the most unusual sight you have come across in your travels?

Albright_Kathryn_Color_Closeup_For-InternetComment for a chance to win Kathryn’s newest book The Gunslinger and the Heiress. She’ll be giving away three copies today. (With apologies, but Continental United States only.)
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From her first breath, Kathryn Albright has had a passion for stories that celebrate the goodness in people. She combines her love of history and her love of a good story to write novels of inspiration, endurance, and hope. Visit her at, on Facebook , Twitter, or Goodreads.