An Idea Waiting For a Book by Guest Blogger Victoria Bylin

The opening lines for The Two of Us go like this:  “Mia Robinson couldn’t take her eyes off the man in a cowboy hat working a claw machine game, the kind where a child—or a boyfriend or father—put in a dollar and tried to grab a toy in thirty seconds or less.”

The picture of that cowboy has been in my head ever since my family and I drove cross-country from Los Angeles to Washington DC back in 1996.  It was late when we stopped at a motel in Oklahoma and decided to grab dinner at a local coffee shop. You know the kind of place—slightly rundown, orange vinyl booths, paneled walls, and a row of games and candy machines by the front door.

The cowboy who strode in was tall, dressed in a black duster, and sporting a mustache that would have done Sam Elliot proud. Swaggering in dusty boots, he went straight to the claw machine game, cleaned  out the toys, and passed out stuffed animals to all the kids in the restaurant.

I’ve tried to put this scene in a book several times, but it just  didn’t work until I started The Two Of Us, a contemporary romance set in the fictional town of Echo Falls, Colorado.

The story opens in a coffee shop in Las Vegas, where Mia Robinson is worried sick about her eighteen-year-old sister. Lucy is pregnant and about to marry Sam Waters, a decision Mia finds questionable at best and disastrous at worst.

Mia, a nurse practitioner,  is ten years older than Lucy and practically raised her.  Mia is the responsible sister. She gets things done, saves lives, and is the person you’d want in any crisis. Lucy is . . . well, Lucy.  She’s impulsive, fun loving, and generous to a fault.

Jake Tanner strides into that coffee shop just like my real life cowboy, except he’s a retired Denver cop who suffered a devastating loss. The bomb blast that left him hearing impaired also killed his female partner and left Jake to be a friend and big brother to her son, Sam. Sam is now 21, a college senior on an ROTC scholarship, and about to marry Lucy.

Jake supports the marriage. Mia? Well, not so much.  Of course they don’t know about their connection when they meet and Jake charms Mia with a stuffed mother hen.

And so the story begins . . . I’m so glad I could finally give that Oklahoma cowboy a place in one of my books. He’s lived in my imagination for a lot of years. Wherever he is, I hope he’s still cleaning out claw machine games and putting smiles on the faces of children, their parents, and maybe a special lady of his own.

To celebrate cowboys and romance, let’s give away three copies of The Two Of Us.
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment below.

Have you ever seen anyone actually pull a toy out of the claw machine game?
What games do you enjoy?
I admit to being addicted to Cookie Jam!

Let’s chat!

And last, a big thank you to the Fillies for inviting me hang out today.
It’s always a pleasure to visit one of the best western blogs online!

Victoria BylinVictoria Bylin is known for tackling tough subjects with great compassion. In 2016, Together With You won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award for Best Contemporary Romance.
Her other faith-based stories include historical westerns and
women’s fiction.
Learn more about Victoria and her books at


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28 thoughts on “An Idea Waiting For a Book by Guest Blogger Victoria Bylin”

  1. I have only seen one person get something out of those machines. I have tried a few times and was unsuccessful. Wonderful scene.

    • Hi Debra! That’s why the cowboy was so amazing 🙂 I’ve never seen anyone win either–until that night. There’s a machine in our local Walmart here in Lexington. Kids crowd around it. So do I few adults 🙂

  2. My grandson has gotten a toy out of a claw machine. Took 3 tries, but he did not give up. I enjoy playing Flower Connect.

  3. That cowboy really was a special one. I had a friend one time who used to do pretty much the same thing. but he would only pull out a couple toys at this one place and gave them to the kids closest to him.

  4. Not many people get toys out of those macnines, they are stuffed to tight or something. I don’t play many games at all.

    • Hello Quilt Lady! As much as I enjoy playing Cookie Jam and some Solitaire (my favorite is Spider), I’m the first to admit that it can be an addiction–and a time waster. On the other hand, it’s relaxing and I usually play while my husband watches a monster movie on Netflix 🙂

  5. It is very rare but I have seen someone get something out of those claw machines. I always tell myself I’m sure they spent $10 in coins just to get to that point! I’m not a fan of them. I do love to play skeet ball, though!

    • Hi Susan! Skeet ball is fun and takes some skill. Luck too! I was really amazed by Mr. Claw Machine that night in Oklahoma. He worked that machine like a pro. Now I’m wondering if during the day he worked heavy equipment 🙂

    • Pearl, you are very wise! Reading is much more satisfying. I wish I could do more of it, but after a day at work and then writing, I’m just plain tuckered out by all the words. Then again, when I’m hooked on a book, I can’t put it down 🙂

  6. Hi Vicki!!!!! Welcome back, girl. It’s great to have you come visit the old place. I’m so happy that you’re happy. It shows. Your new book looks great! And I loved your true tale about the cowboy in Oklahoma who cleaned out that claw machine of toys and passed them out. Now that’s a true-down-to-his-soul cowboy. I loved that you were able to put that scene into The Two of Us. Oh man, I’ve got to get this book!

    Make yourself at home and prop your feet up on our front porch. We just love having you back, even if the visit is short. Love you, lady!

    • Howdy right back at ya, Linda! I have wonderful memories of my three years in Wildflower Junction 🙂 Those were good times. I was writing westerns for Love Inspired Historical and loving all those cowboys, preachers and outlaws. Westerns will always be near and dear to my heart, especially any book written by a Filly!

  7. My family and I play the claw machines from time to time and we have had much success. From stuffed animals to balls to costume jewelry.. We always have fun trying or rooting others on to victory!

    • Melanie, I’m impressed! Those games are *not* easy to beat. The worst has to be when you *almost* have the prize to the little chute, and then splat! It drops back in. Good times 🙂

  8. I know someone who could win at that game. He said the secret is finding a machine that is full so I guess you have to be there after they refill (which isn’t that often lol). I love games – all kinds of games.

    • Hello Catslady! Aha! So a full machine makes it easier . . . I suspect the kind of prize matters, too. Stuffed animals seem easier to grip than, say, rubber balls. Games were a big part of my life when we lived near family back in California. Favorites were Aggravation, Canasta, a board game called Rail Baron, Pictionary, a dice game called Pig Out, Mexican Train, and a lot of others.

  9. I just love the story about the Oklahoma cowboy with the Sam Elliot mustache in a typical local coffee shop! Thank you for sharing it and bringing it to life for us. We used to play the claw machines on summer vacations at the beach and came home with more stuff than we ever needed; we just loved playing the various games. We kept those things because we “won” them but how many stuffed animals, key chains and the like can one family use? LOL We sure had fun together, though, and my son who was a youngster at the time got really good at them, too, as did my mom when she was with us. Obviously it was about the fun of playing and not the prizes.

    • What a fun family story, Eliza! That’s the stuff memories are made of. And isn’t it funny how winning something makes it so much more special? For years I kept the ugliest wall hanging ever just because I won it as a door prize 🙂

  10. Welcome to Wildflower Junction, Victoria. What a fun post! And I loved reading about that cowboy that became a character in your story. I have tried the claw machine twice and never got anything out of it so quit. I’m not one to gamble with my money. Guess I’m more a practical-type when money is involved. I want return on my investment LOL.

  11. My husband is an expert at getting toys out of the claw machines! He can look at the machine and tell by the way the toys are stacked if he can get one, so we usually don’t lose our quarters! We’ve donated a lot of toys from those machines! I enjoyed reading about the cowboy and how he made it into the story. I look forward to reading it! I prefer reading to games, but won’t turn down a good game of Sorry!, gin rummy, or Tetris.

  12. Hi Victoria. No, I have never seen anyone win anything from a claw machine but I have tried. My husband came real close but the claw released a second too soon and the toy teetered and feel back onto the mix of toys.

    I love your work and would love to win a copy of your new book The Two of Us

    Cindy W.
    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  13. Don’ t you know that cowboy had so much fun giving those toys away! And boy did this catch me by surprise: “Sam is now 21, a college senior on an ROTC scholarship, and about to marry Lucy.” It sounds like a good read — please put me in the drawing?

    So glad you found a story for that cowboy 🙂

    Nancy C

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