Announcing a New Book & Release Date!!!

momlogolihI’ve loved being part of life here at Wildflower Junction, but it’s time for me to saddle up and sing “Happy Trails.”  I’m sad to leave but thrilled by the reason. As much as I love westerns, I’ve had a contemporary burning in my brain for as long as I can remember.  I’m happy to announce that Until I Found You will be published by Bethany House in May 2014.  You know how writers talk about the book of their heart?  This is mine.

HarleyI wrote the first outline for this story shortly after my husband and I got married. Since our kids are grown now–married but no grandkids yet–you can imagine how long ago that was.  I didn’t get past chapter three on that version of the book, mostly because I didn’t have the life experience to tell the story that I wanted to tell.  I set the manuscript aside, raised a family, worked as an editor for a newsletter, moved to Washington DC and generally lived life.

I didn’t know it, but Until I Found You  was cooking the entire time. I tried to write the book again in 2003 after selling a western to Harlequin.  That version didn’t sell, mostly because it didn’t have a plot. I started to work on it again in 2007, but then Love Inspired Historicals opened up and the western bug bit me again.  I set the contemporary aside to do eight LIHs, but I knew deep down that someday I’d give that story another shot.

Yes, I love it that much.  It’s about a woman struggling to understand faith, love and all those random accidents that have left her frightened and insecure. Her life’s a mess when the hero arrives  . . .  He’s a hunk, of course. A travel writer and reformed veteran of life in the fast lane, he has a story of his own to tell.  He also owns a Harley and is a daredevil at heart.  That makes him a perfect (or should say imperfect?) match for my oh-so-cautious heroine.

The back cover blurb says it this way . . .

When Kate Darby swerves off a mountain road to avoid hitting a California condor, she ends up trapped in her car, teetering on the edge of a cliff. Terrified, she breathes a prayer that changes her life: “God, if you’re real, I want to know you.”

It’s Nick Sheridan who comes to Kate’s rescue. Nick is handsome, confident, and seems to develop a habit of rescuing her, but Kate is in town only until her grandmother recuperates from a stroke. She’s not planning to fall in love with one of the locals.

Nick Sheridan is a reformed veteran of life in the fast lane, a new Christian, and a travel writer. When he sees a car dangling on the edge of a cliff, the daredevil in him jumps into action. He doesn’t expect to be swept off his feet by the car’s occupant. He’s made a vow: no dating for a year. And it’s a vow he intends to keep in spite of his attraction to Kate Darby . . .

So here we go . . .  I hope those of you who love westerns will take a chance on a book set in modern times.  The hero wears a motorcycle helmet instead of a Stetson, but I assure you he’s a cowboy at heart. As for the heroine, in my mind she’s the great-great granddaughter of the Reverend John Leaf from Abbie’s Outlaw, or maybe J.T. Quinn in The Outlaw’s Return. 

Happy trails to all! It’s been a privilege to share this journey you.

Bad Boy Heroes . . .

Victoria Bylin BannerI like men who swagger. When a man with an attitude enters a room, everyone knows it. Men of lesser confidence back down, and women look twice.  Out of my own books, my two favorite heroes are John Leaf in Abbie’s Outlaw and J.T. Quinn in The Outlaw’s Return.  Both of these men have outlaw pasts, but they also have hearts for love, truth and justice.johnnycash

So what makes a bad boy so appealing?  The swagger is part of it; so is the rebellion and the sex appeal. But what most appeals to me is the back story.  Why is he the way he is?  What happened to him?  Who hurt him?  My bad boys heroes are rogues, but they’re also willing to die for people they love.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at the research that goes into a bad boy hero.  It’s not exactly research in the academic sense. It’s rhettmore like daydreaming, but these characters have to start somewhere.  Here’s my list of favorite bad boys from real life, fiction, movies and television.

No. 1 on my list is Johnny Cash. The man in black had a bad-to-the-bone swagger, and Walk the Line is one of my favorite movies. Later in life, he made a u-turn. The story of Nickajack Cave is legendary. It’s the place where he decided to give up some bad habits and become a new man. He did . . . but he didn’t stop swaggering.

No. 2 is Rhett Butler. I haven’t seen Gone With the Wind in years, but I can still recall the scene where he and Scarlett are fleeing Atlanta and he kisses her. Talk about confidence!  It’s got to be one of the most romantic scenes ever. Even in the end, after he loses his little girl and is mellowed by grief, Rhett still has an inner strength. Daniel Craig James Bond Quantum of Solace movie image

The No. 3 slot goes to Bruce Springsteen for his music. His “Born to Run” CD is one of my favorites. The title track is a legend, and so is “Thunder Road.” Bruce grabs life by the shoulders and shakes it. I love that! It’s the same energy that settled the American West, the same boldness that gave us heroes and outlaws and Wild West legends.

No. 4 on my list is Daniel Craig in the James  Bond movies. He took one of the longest running franchise roles of all  time and made it fresh and original.   Humor, courage, intelligence and a big dash of arrogance make the new James Bond a pleasure to watch

No. 5 . . . Johnny Cain in Penelope Williamson’s The Outsider has been at the top of my list of favorite western bad boys ever since I read the book back in the 1999. It’s the book that made me to tell stories of my own, and I love it more than ever.

Real or imaginary . . . Who are some of your favorite bad boy heroes?



Music To Write By . . .

Has anyone else heard The Piano Guys?  I saw them on TV the other night for the first time and fell head-over-heels in love with their music. When they played Rolling in the Deep by Adele, I felt like I was hearing the melody for the first time. Their two CDs are winging their way to house, or maybe driving in the mail truck. I live a mile from an Amazon fulfillment center, and there are times I wish I could just stop by and pick stuff up, but that’s another conversation.

The Piano Guys CD are going into what I call the soundtrack pile.  These are CDs I play while I write.  The music is all over the road–everything from country to chamber music to Led Zeppelin.

A quick word about CDs . . . I have an iPod but I can’t write with ear-buds or even headphones.  Having music in the background blocks out distractions, but having it in ear is just too much. So, old fashioned or not, there’s an three-disc player in my office that usually one.

Here are some of the mixes for my books . . .

For The Maverick Preacher and The Outlaw’s Return, I listened to a lot of Johnny Cash.  His song “Hurt” captures the feelings of despair, regret and acceptance with amazing clarity.

Any Led Zeppelin fans?  I’m not really big on Led Zep, but The Ballad of Evermore played constantly for  West of Heaven, especially during the scenes where Ethan grieves his wife in one breath and admits to loving Jayne at the same time.

One of my favorite performers is Greg Buchanan, a Christian harpist who plays both hymns and other music.  No lyrics, just amazing harmonies. I heard him in concert in the middle of writing Of Men and Angels and still play that music regularly.

Movie soundtracks appeal to me as well. The Piano is pretty strange movie, and the music reflects the edginess.  Love it!  I played this a lot for my old HHs.

The soundtracks for my Love Inspired Historicals tended to be more country.  The soundtrack to Broken Bridges, the movie with Toby Keith as an alcoholic country singer getting his act together, played constantly during Home Again.  Then there’s the ultimate go-to music for any of my westerns. That’s Marty Robbins’ Gunfighter Ballads, especially “El Paso.”

This list wouldn’t be complete with a mention of country singer Gary Allan.  I heard Smoke Rings in the Dark  driving home from work one day, went to Wal-Mart and bought it. More often than not, Gary’s music occupies one of the three CD slots, sometimes more than three.  He’s got a whiskey voice, more emotion than just about anyone, and gut-wrenching lyrics that feed this writer’s imagination.  I have a lot of favorites. Among them are Loving You Against My Will, Along the Way, See If I Care, It Ain’t the Whiskey and  Just Got Back From Hell.

Another CD I play a lot is Adele.  No surprise there!  Right now, I’m listening to Celtic Woman, Alison Krauss and Civil Wars. What about you?  What kind of music do you like?  I’m always looking for something new.

The California Channel Islands And The Seeds of a New Idea

One of my favorite books as child was The Island of Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. A Newberry Award winner published in 1960, it’s the story of Karana, a Chumash Indian girl who is left alone on San Nicholas Island off the coast of California.  When a Russian ship arrives for the purpose of hunting sea otters, a fight breaks out between the Russian fishermen and the native island dwellers. Karana is the lone survivor on both sides.

San Nicholas is one of the eight channel island off the coast of California. Some of the islands are desolate and deserted, home to only birds and seals. A few of them are used by the military, and others form the Channel Islands National Park. Only Catalina Island, located 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles is populated.

These islands strike me as a perfect setting for a historical romance, in part because of Margaret Holden Eaton and her autobiography, Diary of a Sea Captain’s Wife.  A Canadian woman, she relocated to Santa Barbara around the turn of the century.  There she met a sea captain and married him in 1903.  They moved to Santa Cruz Island, the biggest of the eight islands, where they ran a small hunting and fishing business.  The island was inhabited with wild boars, otters and all sorts of sea life. The Eatons and Santa Cruz Island somehow caught the eye of 1920s Hollywood. A few movies were filmed there, and Margaret’s book shows pictures of actors John Barrymore and William Boyd in his pre Hopalong Cassidy days.

What an interesting setting these islands would be for a book . . . It’s one of the places I can feel in my bones.  I’ve never been to either Santa Cruz Island or San Nicholas Island, but I once had the pleasure of camping on Anacapa Island.  Standing on what’s literally a slab of eroding land twelve miles off the coast, seeing the city lights so far away and hearing only the lap of waves–not noisy cars–is an experience I treasure to this day.

Then there’s Catalina Island . . . Catalina is a populated tourist spot and has a history all its own.  My own best memory is taking a boat to the island for a family weekend.  Halfway there we were suddenly surrounded by an acre of dolphins. At least a hundred of them were jumping in perfect arcs right in front of us. I’ll never forget that scene . . . I wish I had a picture of it, but we weren’t quick enough (or skilled enough) with the camera to get a shot that did the moment justice. I’m planning to use this scene in the book I’m working on right now, a contemporary romance for Bethany House.

California’s in my blood.  How about you?  Where are you from and what are you favorite bits of local history? I’d love to hear about your home towns and places that are special to you!

Time For A Make-Over

Last Thursday was a big day for me. I hit “send” on a new ms for Bethany House. It’s a contemporary instead of a historical, but the story has many the same elements that characterize my LIHs.  The hero owns a truck and a Harley instead of a few horses, but he’s a cowboy at heart. If I put the heroine in the Old West, she’d be running the local paper like she does in the contemporary.  No website, of course. But she’d still be in the thick of things and good at her job.  

I don’t have a final title yet, but the  tentative pub date is Spring 2014.  I’m glad it’s a ways off, because I have a lot of background work to do.  my website (  in desperate need of a makeover, and so is my social media stuff.  The fact I call it “stuff” tells you this isn’t my wheelhouse.

So here’s what I’d like to know . . . What are the most important things to you as readers about an author’s internet presence? I’d love to hear what you think about everything from Twitter to book trailers to websites.

 To say thank you, I’m going to give away a few books.  To enter the drawing, just leave a comment. Three lucky winners will get to choose a title from my backlist.  Just one exception–I’m out of Wyoming Lawman.  (I either gave away a lot more of them than I thought, or my closet ate a box of author copies.) 

Here are some questions to get us started. Answer one or as many as you’d like. Or make up your own.  That’s even better.

 The first place I go online to check out an author’s work is _______________.

My favorite place on an author’s website is ___________________. (booklists, FAQs, bio, etc.)

I don’t like websites that __________________________.

Pinterest rocks because ___________________________.

Twitter rocks because ____________________________.

Facebook rocks because __________________________.

I love book trailers because _______________________.

I skip book trailers because _______________________.

I like to read reviews because _____________________.

I never read reviews because _____________________.

 Thank you all for your input!  Check back late tonight for the drawing winners.


Revisiting California History: The Collapse of the St. Francis Dam

 There’s something humbling about standing in a place where history was made. I’ve had that experience a few times, but nothing has ever compared to standing in San Francisquito Canyon in the exact spot where the St. Francis Dam catastrophically failed at three minutes to midnight on March 12, 1928.

San Francisquito Canyon is located near Santa Clarita, California. It’s about 40 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, and the St. Francis Dam was part of the Los Aqueduct system built by William Mulholland. As a child, I picnicked with my parents in this crooked canyon. It was a lazy place, and I mostly remember the bugs and moss on the rocks, the summer heat and just having fun. As an adult, I went back after reading a book called Rivers in the Desert by Margaret Leslie Davis. With the help of pictures and a map, my husband and I found the concrete remains of the dam. It was a humbling moment.

The man most responsible for bringing water to Los Angeles was William Mulholland. The aqueduct was started in 1908 and completed in 1913. In 1924, construction began on the St. Francis Dam and a giant holding basin north of the city. It was completed in 1926 and the long process of filling it began. There were warning signs early on. As the dam was filled, cracks appeared in the massive concrete wall. Mulholland and his assistant deemed them to be expected in a structure the size of the St. Francis, and the water continued to rise, flooding the canyon behind the dam for miles. On March 8, 1928, the dam reached full capacity. It failed less than five days later.

No one saw the dam break, but a motorcyclist who had just ridden past it reported a rumbling and the sound of crashing rocks. He thought it was an earthquake or a landslide, events that are common to the area. What happened next is just beyond belief . . .

A wall of water 125 feet high went crashing down the canyon. It killed the dam keeper and his family who lived a quarter-mile downstream, then it destroyed a pumping station and flooded parts of what is now Valenica, California. The water turned west to the Santa Clara riverbed, flooded Castaic Junction and hit Santa Paula in Ventura County.

When the water reached the Pacific Ocean, it had traveled 54 miles. The floodwaters were two miles wide and traveling at about 8 miles an hour. Approximately 450 people were killed, and bodies were recovered years later from the ocean as far away as the coast of Mexico.

Such a tragedy . . . Seeing those concrete blocks, weathered by time but still recognizable put flesh and blood on that piece of history. I’m thinking about it today in part because of the flooding we’re seeing on the Mississippi River. It’s a different kind of flooding–slow and anticipated–but homes are still being lost, and people are being displaced. And then there’s the tsunami that hit Japan. I can’t begin to imagine and the size and force of that kind of catastrope. I have to wonder . . . Fifty years from now, how will it all be remembered?

Other historic memories come to my mind . . . I’ve visited Ford’s Theater in Washington DC, walked through a Civil War battlefield and visited Arlington Cemetery. What about you? What historic places have you visited? Which one made the strongest impression?

DON”T FORGET!  Filly Renee Ryan is giving away a $15.00 Starbucks card…..My personal favorite!  Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing!


Movies I Can't Resist . . . Good, Bad and Cheesy

Just before starting this blog, I was in the living room with my husband while he went through the cable directory deciding which movies to record.  As he zipped through the channels, the Jeanette Oke “Love Comes Softly” series caught my eye.

“Oh, I love that,” I said to my husband.

“Do you want me to record it?” he answered in a resigned tone I know well.  If a movie is on the Hallmark Channel, he’s not a fan.

“No.  I”d rather be surprised when it  just pops up.”

“Surprised? You’ve seen it how many times?”

“Well, a lot, but it’s not the same when it”s recorded.”   For me, there’s something about stumbling on a movie  and being happily surprised that beats watching a DVD any day of the week.  If I own a movie, I tend not to watch it. But if it shows up out of the blue, I’m hooked.

Does anyone else do that?  I sure do, and these are the movies that pull me in every time they’re on. Not surprisingly, they’re all westerns.

Pure Country  with George Straight, Isabel Glasser, and Lesley Anne Warren. I can sing the songs and recite the dialogue.  I know exactly when Dusty, a  burned out country music star, is going to get knocked in the mud by a jealous bar patron, and I cringe every time his road manager sabotages his budding romance with ranch girl Harley Tucker.  There’s no way I can turn this movie off before we get

to the big finale with George crooning I Cross My Heart. Sigh . . .

Electric Horseman with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda.  The movie is dated now, but the romance still holds up for me. You can’t go wrong with rebellious cowboy out to

save an exploited horse while putting up with a gutsy female TV reporter. One of my favorite scenes is where former rodeo star Sonny Steele rescues the horse Rising Star from being drugged and put on display. They’re both  covered with lights and lit up like Christmas trees when Sonny  rides into the sunset. Later, when Sonny and reporter Hallie Martin join forces to set the thoroughbred free, it’s a bittersweet moment for everyone.

I already mentioned the Jeanette Oke Love Comes Softly series.  Marty, Clark and the numerous other characters are just delightful.  It’s pure pleasure to watch a series that highlights courage, sacrifice and love. The first movie is my favorite, with the next two being tied for second place.

This is an old one . . . Rio Bravo  with John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson and Walter Brennan is a western classic, but it also has some seriously cheesy moments.  The singing-in-the-jail scene always makes me smile, maybe because it’s something unique to the era in which it was made.  I enjoy that lighthearted moment.

And last . ..  Anything with a horse or a dog on the Hallmark Channel will hook me in about five seconds.  The sappier, the better!

What about you?  Are there movies you just can”t resist, even if you’ve seen them a dozen times?

My Five Fictional Favorites . . . By Victoria Bylin

Quick!  Write down your five favorite novels. Don’t think too long or too hard . . . Just pick the first five titles that come to mind regardless of genre or when you read them. I was surprised at the books that immediately leapt to mind. Some are old; some are new. Either way, each one is special to me.

Here’s what I picked:

Number OneThe Outsider  by Penelope Williamson. This is my go-to book for fictional inspiration. The story opens with a severely wounded gunfighter staggering on to the farm owned by Rachel Yoder and her young son.  Rachel is recently widowed and part of a “Plain” community similar to the Mennonites.  I’ll never forget closing this book at about 3 a.m. and thinking, “I want to write this exact kind of story.” What makes this book so special to me is the mix of faith and rugged realism. Add in Penelope Williamson’s lyrical prose and you have the reason I stayed up half the night to finish it, and why I cried happy tears at the end.

Number Two:  This selection surprised me.  I don’t generally like books set in ancient times, particularly ancient Rome.  Gladiators? No thanks.  A glossary? Call me lazy, but I get tired of looking up strange words.  All that changed when my dental hygienist handed me the first two books in Francine Rivers’ the Mark of the Lions series. Do you know how it is when a dentist or a dental hygienist has you captive? When they”re talking and you want  to say something, but you have stuff in your mouth and can’t respond? My hygienist raved about these stories, then gave me a set of the books.  She

was right. They’re great. I became so involved with the characters that I couldn’t stop reading. Hadassah and Marcus and Artretes came alive for me.

Number Three:  Jane Eyre . . . I’ve loved this story since the made-for-TV movie with Susannah York and George C. Scott.  He was perfect as Rochester–gravelly voiced, arrogant, tortured.  Timothy Dalton is a strong second. He’s a little bit too good looking to match the Rochester in my mind, but that’s more than fine with me. I”ve seen just about every Jane Eyre movie ever made. Some are better than others, but the book trumps all of them.

Number Four:   The Reluctant Prophet series by Nancy Rue is about a woman who leaves her comfortable church and life, buys a Harley and becomes involved with the homeless and prostitutes in the bad part of her affluent town. The Book Club I belong to read the first one and all of us had the same passionate reaction.  These books are lifted us up and challenged us all at the same time.  I have two sets and often loan them out.   It”s also the reason I”ve been working on a contemporary romance with a western flavor.

Number Five: Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion was my favorite childhood book  until I read Gone With the Wind in middle school.  Alec Ramsey and his spirited horse were the stuff of dreams for this city girl, and those stories certainly influenced my decision to write a western as my first-ever ms.  The entire series is wonderful.  It’s full of adventure, courage and friendship and I still love it.

Those are my five fabulous favorites.  How about you?  If you pick five books off the top of your head, which ones come to mind?

One of History’s Unsung Heroines

Mary Preston Slosson isn’t one of the more well known women of the Old West, but to the prisoners in the Wyoming Territitorial Prison in Laramie, Mary was a rock star–and not for the reasons you might assume. She wasn’t the cook or a nurse. She didn’t help anyone escape–at least not in a physical sense. Mary was a chaplain–the first female chaplain in Wyoming and possibly in the United States.

Her story is unique for the day.  Born in 1858, Mary grew up with her minister father and her mother on a farm in New York state.  Her upbringing instilled in her a strong work ethic, religious values and hunger for knowledge that led her to pursue higher education. With her parents’ encouragement, she attended Hillsdale College in Michigan where she earned two degrees. Later she attended Cornell where she was the first women to earn a Ph.D. from that university. Her areas of expertise were philosophy and Greek, and her thesis was titled, “Different Theories of Beauty.”

Mary met Edwin Slosson in Kansas where she was serving as an assistant principal at a high school and he was finishing his MS degree. This is where the writer in me starts spinning tales. How exactly did they meet?  Were there immediate sparks?  Who spoke the first words?  That information is lost to history, but they were married August 12, 1891 and had a son in 1893.

What happened next is what gives Mary her unique place in history. Edwin’s career took them to the University of Wyoming in Laramie where he taught chemistry. Mary, who also went by May, saw a teaching opportunity of her own.  A firm believer that an idle mind was debilitating, she asked Pennitentiary officials for permission to conduct a lecture series for the prisoners.  The officials agreed, and the May Preston Slosson Historical Lecture Series was born–a tradition that continues to this day.

The prisoners loved Mary. One can only imagine the relief she brought from the hours of boredom, the encouragement from her faith, the interest she showed in individuals when they met in the prison dining hall to hear her speak. When the regular prison chaplain resigned, the prisoners petitioned to have Mary appointed in his place.  In 1899, she became the first female prison chaplain in the United States.

She spent at least four years in Laramie before moving to New York with Edwin, who added writing and editing to his list of career achievements. In Wyoming, women had the right the vote and were political equals. Wanting to share what she had  experienced in Wyoming, Mary became active in the women’s suffrage movement and was a popular speaker. She died in 1943, but she certainly left her mark on the world.

Mary is the kind of historical figure that fires up my imagination.  Can’t you see her as a heroine in a novel?  I sure can. I admire Edwin too.  He once filled in for an ailing Mary at a speaking engagement. When he was introduced as Mr. May Slosson, he smiled proudly and spoke eloquently of women’s rights, a tribute to his wife and her place in history.

 Don’t forget to leave a comment!  We’re celebrating our website make-over with a big giveaway to take place on Friday, Oct. 26th.  Winner #1 will receive a $100 gift card to either Amazon or B&N.  Winners #2 and #3 will receive $25 gift cards . . . Just leave a comment and you’re entered!