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


Victoria Bylin: Who Says You Can’t Go Home Again?

Give a big howdy to former Filly, Vickie Bylin! We’re so happy she came to visit. AND she brought books to give away. Three in fact, so leave a comment!

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Home   . . .  That word is one of the most evocative in the English language. It’s also a fitting theme for today’s blog, because Petticoats & Pistols was my home for over three years. Hello, Fillies!  I miss hanging out with you and the P&P readers. I thoroughly enjoyed being a Filly during my time with Harlequin Historical and Love Inspired Historical.


Westerns will always be close to my heart. So will California with its beaches, mountains, valleys, and deserts. The state may not be the first one to pop in your mind when you think “traditional western,” not like Texas or Wyoming, but the history and culture have a western flavor.


SomeoneLikeYouCoverI live in Lexington, Kentucky now, but I miss the Golden State. That’s why I started writing about it. If we took a road trip with the characters in my contemporary romances, we’d walk barefoot on Pismo Beach, see endangered California condors in the wild, and camp out on Anacapa Island.


The Pismo Beach scene is in my latest release, Someone Like You (Bethany House, May 2016). The story is set at a historic resort in central California and is about what happens when college sweethearts meet after six years. Back at UC Berkeley, Zeke Monroe was a strong Christian, and Julia Dare believed in living for the moment. Fast forward six years . . . Now Zeke is struggling with his faith and Julia is a new believer and a single mom with a four-year-old son.


Until I Found YouTo add some western flavor (and because I like country music), I made the owners of the resort a retired country music duo called the Travers Twins. Ginger Travers no longer performs, but George Travers (who looks and sounds a lot like Sam Elliot) is going strong and still a heartthrob for Julia’s widowed mother.


California condors played a big role in Until I Found You. Those birds are amazing!  During the 1990s, when my family and I lived in the Los Padres National Forest a.k.a. “Condor Country,” we had the pleasure of seeing condors soar over our home. With their nine-foot wingspans, the birds look like glider planes. Writing about them brought back some great memories.  


Together With YouGoing camping again on Anacapa Island is another secret dream.  Anacapa (pronounced ANN-a-cap-a) is one of the Channel Islands off the Southern California coast. In Together With You. Kentucky girl Carly Jo Mason and Los Angeles ophthalmologist Dr. Ryan Tremaine make a trip to the island with his kids.


 Ryan and Carly have quite the romance, but a little girl named Penny stole even more hearts—including mine. Penny has special needs and remains one of my favorite characters.


Thank you for taking a mini-trip home with me!  When it comes to romance, California is the perfect setting for strong characters, dramatic plots, and stories that touch the heart.

To celebrate my home state, I’d like to give away three books—reader choice from the titles above. Leave a comment and you’ll be entered in the drawing!


A big thank you to the Fillies for inviting me to visit.  As the saying goes, “East or West, Home is Best.”

You can contact Vickie at:


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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.

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!

The Double-Barrel Shotgun

In my first book, Touch of Texas, the heroine’s defense weapon of choice was a double-barrel shotgun. In the interests of research–and because I wanted to shoot one — we added a double-barrel shotgun to our Cowboy Action Shooting collection.

Shotguns come in all barrel lengths. The Stoeger side-by-side we shoot is modeled after the 1881 Baker double-barrel shotgun. While the earlier double-barrel shotguns had two triggers, one to fire each barrel, the Baker had a single trigger that was pulled twice to fire each barrel in succession.

Prior to the late 1870s, shotguns had external hammers which had to be manually cocked. Until the hammer was cocked, the gun couldn’t be fired. That meant the gun could be loaded and leaned in a corner, but it wasn’t useful until the hammers were pulled back.

The style of shotgun I use in Cowboy Action Shooting is referred to as a “Coach Gun.” That means the barrel is between 18 and 20 inches long.

The term “coach gun” comes from the popularity of the shorter barreled shotguns that fit in the footwell of a stagecoach or alongside the driver with the butt of the shotgun on the seat. A shorter gun was more easily lifted and pointed at the target when needed. And a shotgun has a broader impact pattern so the shooter doesn’t have to be quite as accurate. Where a rifle shoots one bullet, a shotgun, with 9 to 100 pellets in the load of shot, will cover approximately 2’x2′ or as much as 3’x3′. That makes it a perfect gun for defending a rocking, bouncing stage, or to fire from horseback when pursuing–or being pursued by–the bad guys.

Have you read a book where the double-barrel shotgun has been used?  Which scene is your favorite? I’ll give a copy of TOUCH OF TEXAS to one of you who leaves a comment.

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.


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! 

The Chickens In My Kitchen

Do you have something in your kitchen that says “home” to you in a personal way?  I do.  It’s a pair of blue glass roosters. Whenever we’ve moved–eight times now–the blue roosters get special treatment. Inevitably as I wrap them in newspaper, I think about the pioneer women who packed their most treasured possessions into covered wagons and traveled across this vast country. What to keep? What to give away?  What’s a necessity? What’s a luxury? And what’s a memory worth compared to hauling food and provisions?

I really do love the blue roosters.  They belonged to my grandmother who moved with my grandfather from New Braunfels, Texas to Los Angeles in the early days of the Depression. The story behind the roosters has been lost, but I suspect it’s rather ordinary. She probably bought them on a whim, or perhaps they were a gift–maybe a wedding gift.  If anyone recognizes the color of the glass or the style, I’d love to know more about them. My aunt thinks they were purchased in the 1930s and are made of blue depression glass.

The blue roosters started something. We’re not overrun with chickens, but I’ve collected about twenty or so over the course of time.


 These are the dinner plates we’re currently using. The history here is easy:  JC Penney Vintage 2008.

These roosters sit on top of the refrigerator. Rite-Aid, Vintage 2009. We were in the middle of the move to Lexington when we found them on the dollar table. Total bargain! You can also see a a few of our refrigerator magnets. We have about 200 of them.

This chicken trio sits above the kitchen sink. 

This weird little guy came from Gordmans here in Lexington. We felt sorry for him!  

And last . . . this bad boy was a souvenir from Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  It’s hard to see in this picture, but he’s perched on a beam and checking out the kitchen sink.  

So those are some of the chickens in my kitchen.  What about you?   Do you collect something fun or unusual?