The Best Surprise Ever!

Have you ever given a surprise party?  Have you been the guest of honor at one?  Several months ago my sister-in-law called me about a surprise party for my brother’s 50th birthday. They live in Denver, so it’s been awhile since we’ve all gotten together.  No way would I miss it! But oh my goodness!  Keeping the trip to Denver a secret for that long nearly did me in.  I had visions of talking on the phone and blurting, “See you in September!”

Well, I managed to keep quiet and I’m so glad I did.  My sister-in-law planned the best-ever surprise. She sent my brother on a scavenger hunt with a series of clues. Instead of finding trinkets, he found people.  I was Clue #5. The clue directed him to the  place were he works and told him to look for a loved one.  He saw his wife first and said, “Where’s my clue?”

“I don’t have it,” she answered. “Keep looking.” 

My brother works at a western supply store. Among other things, they sell cowboy boots. I was seated on a bench with boots in hand. To anyone else, I looked like a customer trying on a pair of Tony Lamas.  They were cool boots but not nearly as cool as the moment my brother spotted me.  It’s not often you get a chance to completely shock someone, but that’s what happened.  I’ll never forget that moment…It was the highlight of my trip to Denver.

The good times just kept coming.  After the big birthday bash, we did a mini-tour of the mountains around Castle Rock.  Some of you will remember Bounty Hunter’s Bride and the final scene with Beau Morgan and outlaw Clay Johnson in a canyon. The book is set in Castle Rock, Colorado, so a lot of my research consisted of calling my brother for info on the terrain. A cowboy at heart, he’s ridden all over the area and he told me about a particular place on the Platte River.

On Sunday we piled into his big truck and and drove to the place he described.  What a glorious feeling to kick off my sandals, wade into the river and feel the reality of my characters from the book!  I could picture Beau riding up the river and then into a side canyon. The dirt was as red as I’d imagined, the walls of the canyon as steep.  Rocks jutted just like my brother had described.  Fiction came alive for me in those moments.

It also came alive in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Wyoming Lawman is on the shelves now.  The first chapter takes place in a fictional place called the Dryer Hotel.  Before the surprise party, my husband and I detoured to Cheyenne where we spent a night at the Plains Hotel.  The lobby has been maintained in the style fitting the year it was built.  I could practically see my hero and heroine sitting on the chairs while the heroine made braids for the hero’s five-year-old daughter.

The last stop on the Wyoming journey was the Wyoming Territorial Prison. My all time favorite hero, the Reverend John Leaf from Abbie’s Outlaw, spent time in this place. Online research provided the facts, but walking through the prison yard, seeing the monstrous walls and the dying grass, brought the place to life in a new way.  The cells were what I’d imagined, and I got to see where the women were housed.  Did you know the first chaplain for the prison was a woman?  She’s definitely blog-worthy, if not a heroine worthy of her own book.

So that’s my trip to Cheyenne and Denver . . . I had a great time combining research with a family celebration. About the boots I was trying on when I met my brother . . . I wear them all the time and I love them!

Available now at Amazon: Wyoming Lawman 

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Victoria Bylin is under contract with Bethany House Publishers for two inspirational contemporary romances.Prior to jumping to the present day, she wrote westerns for Harlequin Historical and Love Inspired Historical. Her books have finaled in the ACFW Carol Awards, the Rita Awards and RT Magazine’s Reviewers’ Choice Awards. She and her husband live in Lexington, Kentucky and have two grown sons. You can learn more about Vicki at www.victoriabylin.com

23 thoughts on “The Best Surprise Ever!”

  1. What an grand story! Such fun! Not only with your brother but being able to see places you have only been able to imagine through research.

    I have never been one for surprises. I tend to want to find things out early. The best surprise we had was when our first grandchild was born. The kids didn’t want to find out early and we all thought that baby was going to be a girl. Surprise! A boy!

    Now we get to go through the whole surprise thing again tomorrow morning 🙂 Yes, it is on my mind.

    That female chaplain sounds like she is definitely worth her own book!

    Peace, Julie

  2. HI Julie, I thought for sure my youngest son was going to be a girl. When the doctor said, “It’s a boy!”, I said, “Are you sure?”

    Congratulations on the new grandchild!

  3. What a wonderful, memory-making experience. Sounds terrific.

    Before we had kids, my husband decided to surprise me with a mystery trip. I had no idea where we were going until we got on the plane. He took me to Baltimore. Not because we knew anyone there – just a random choice. But it is one of my favorite memories. We ate fresh crab cakes, toured Betsy Ross’s home, boated through the bay where Francis Scott Key was inspired to pen the words to the national anthem, walked through their fabulous aquarium. It was a wonderful trip, and made more so by the surprise of it.

  4. Vicki, that surprise birthday celebration must’ve been absolutely wonderful. And what a neat idea with the “people” scavenger hunt. I’ll have to remember that. It’d be an excellent thing to put in a book.

    I just finished reading WYOMING LAWMAN and loved every word of it. Matt and Pearl were great characters. And little Sarah stole my heart. She was precious. Well done, Vicki! Can’t wait for your next one.

  5. Hi Linda, I’m glad you enjoyed “Wyoming Lawman.” I can’t seem to do a book without a troubled hero and a child or two. It’s a good combo for conflict.

    The “People” scavenger hunt was awesome. Other blasts from the past included the best man at my brother’s wedding and a friend from our old neighborhood. Funny, we all looked older…how did that happen!

  6. I’ve been the ‘victim’ of one surprise party. I didn’t like it. My husband and I have sworn to never do that to each other.

    I’ve been to a couple, too. One, for my sister, well, you’ve never seen anyone so surprised when her husband brought her home from dinner to a house jammed with people. Seriously, she could NOT get her mouth closed.

    It was a great party but she said she came away from it struck by what a talented LIAR her husband was.

  7. i would hate to be surprised i think
    but i would LOVE to surprise others
    your story about your brother is awesome–gave me chills!
    i think it’s so cool you bought the boots too 🙂

    love hearing about the background of your story…very cool that you were “there”

  8. Hi Mary, Some surprises definitely work better than others. I’m with you being surprised. Not my favorite thing! But being the surprise was great. I avoided the whole party cover-up by not calling my brother at all. We were both feeling guilty that we hadn’t talked, but we had a good reason.

  9. Howdy, Tabitha! The boots are really cool. I usually live in my running shoes, but the boots feel great. Visiting Cheyenne was just awesome. So was standing up to my knees in the Platte. I’ll never forget it.

  10. My family surprised me with a gathering of family
    and friends for my 70th birthday. Total surprise
    and they really went all out. I thanked Honey but
    he said “thank the kids, I just signed the checks.”
    Come to think of it, they also surprised me for my
    60th but it was more casual and just family. I do
    know that they will not be able to surprise me for the 80th, I’m onto them now!

    Pat Cochran

  11. Hi Cheryl, That moment is burned in my mind. He saw my husband first and it was a complete disconnect. When he saw me, the pieces clicked and we both got all teary. The plan is to get together every couple of years, at least. And of course to enjoy phone calls, email, etc..

    Hi Elizabeth, My s-i-l gets credit for the the planning. She’s amazing. Glad you like the cover for “Wyoming Lawman.” The little girl definitely steals everyone’s attention.

  12. I gave my husband one, and he like to have passed out, I did it a church after choir practice and while we were practicing my daughter got it ready in the fellowship hall, then we had our pastor to get him to come into his office to talk to him as my hubby is a deacon. It was so funny when he came into the fellowship hall and saw it was for him. But as for me No I have never been given a party of any kind.

    mamat2730(at)charter(dot)net

  13. Hi Vicki,

    What a cool surprise for your brother! I would have been like you, worried sick I was going to let the cat out of the bag ahead of time. But it sounds like it was just perfect. I’m not much on surprises–I like to know how things are going to be ahead of time–probably because I’m a child of an alcoholic. Never did like surprises, even the pleasant kind.LOL It sounds like your s-i-l really had it planned out very well, and your brother must have been thrilled to see you! Love the cover for your book–that little girl is a sweetheart! And how interesting to get to go see those places! VERY COOL!
    Cheryl P.

  14. Howdy Cheryl! I hear on not liking surprises and why. Ditto! My brother’s totally different from me in that way. He’s always up for a good time.

    Glad you like the cover. The little girl definitely dominates. She’s been on other LIHs, too. And in the same blue dress!

  15. We love that area. We lived in Colorado Springs for 3 years and wish we could have retired there. We took many wonderful trips to Denver and have been back for visits since. It is a lovely part of the country. Never got to visit Wyoming when we lived there. Visited it a few years ago but only saw a small part of the state. We hoope to get back that way again.

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