Sunday, May 29, 2011


Throw The Devil Off The Train
Stephen Bly

Every hero or heroine needs a side-kick to bounce off thoughts and ideas.
Sidekicks in Throw The Devil Off The Train provoke humor and provide balance.

Frances Garrity, an obese woman with two very small children, fills the seat behind Catherine Draper and Race Hillyard. As she becomes enmeshed in their lives, she seems oblivious to her massive size. Part comic relief, she also enriches the story with her depth of experience, hurts and show of loyalty.

When Francine auditioned for a part in Throw The Devil Off The Train, I was skeptical of her size. However, her natural, in-your-face personality convinced me of her importance.

The second quirky character is Mr. Walker, Race Hillyard’s saddle. His name comes from the stamp of the maker, D. L. Walker of Visalia, California, on the back of the cantle. Catherine anthropomorphizes him by her various conversations during central scenes.

Then, six teenage daughters of a Mormon passenger who dress alike, act quite different. Yet their focus on this trip unites them as they’re concerned about the fate of Catherine and Race.

None of the sidekick characters showed up on my list when I started the book. They just appeared, one by one, in various scenes. If they did well, I allowed them larger parts later in the story. Who ends up in my novels surprises me. But I’ve noticed one thing. . .seldom do normal people qualify.

Just when I think I know the plot, the characters up and change everything.

Creede of Old Montana
You see, Avery John Creede needed a sidekick. In a western movie, theme music can move the story along. In a western novel, without a partner for your protagonist, you’re forced to use a lot of interior monologue…or he or she talks to a horse. I’ve even included a burro and a moose…as a sort of sidekick to converse with in my novels. Each of these was for the heroines.
I decided in Creede of Old Montana on a young compadre. But Avery’s such a loner, he wouldn’t accept just any kid. So I provided a nephew who was named after him: Avery Creede Emerson…or Ace.

In order not to stereotype Ace, I didn’t want him to be a rank tenderfoot at everything. I wanted him to be of help to his Uncle Avery, but keep his independent personality. So, I needed a dramatic event or two to reveal his character.
I like Ace. He’s kind of like a young Matt Damon…or for Bly fans, think of him as a young Brady Stoner. He hasn’t been out west very long, but he’s a quick learner. And he recalls a few words from the dime novels he’s read, such as “light a shuck,” which means to get out there in a hurry. Much needed concept when he hangs around his Uncle Avery.

Ace soon starts using the phrase, “What would Uncle Avery do?” to get him through his troubles. This reminds Avery of his important role in Ace’s life, a duty suddenly thrust on him, to be sure.
I figure Avery needs a long talk with someone…to explain some things, to figure out others. Maybe he’ll unload to the mystery dark-haired lady…or the gal in yellow. Maybe he’ll confide in his nephew, Ace. Or maybe he’ll let me in on it. Me and Avery go way back.


Who's your favorite novel sidekick?

CHECK THIS OUT: Find this article plus chance for a free book at Tina Dee's blog:


Throw The Devil Off The Train

Monday, May 23, 2011


On the Trail 
with Stephen Bly 

When you hair brand cattle, you hold the branding iron against the critter long enough to burn the hair, but not the hide. This works as a quick, temporary trail brand when driving mixed herds.

But often a hair brand was a dishonest attempt to make an animal look properly branded. Later, the hair grows out, leaving no brand at all.

Claiming to be a follower of Jesus Christ is like being branded.

“You are marked with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13).

The true imprint of the Holy Spirit marks your body, soul and spirit for life. From that day forward, you’re a child of God.

Unless you’re play-acting.

Some like calling themselves Christians or going to church on occasion, but have no intention of knowing God like a friend, seeking his guidance, or certainly not obeying him.

They may want to keep peace with a spouse. Or they feel they need to be a good role model for the kids. Or it keeps up appearances with significant others. So, they make like they’re standing up for Jesus when they’re really sitting down somewhere else inside. 

But sooner or later the hair grows out. True commitment is revealed. The charade’s over as they fall back into themselves, instead of into the arms of Jesus.

They may claim the faith just didn’t take. Truth is, they never submitted to the Lord’s heir brand.

His brand is the cross.


Throw The Devil Off The Train

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Saturday, May 21, 2011


Winter Butterfly -- Late Bloomer
Here's a Country Life Caption entry by author Rebecca Barlow Jordan. We welcome her as a guest on our blog:

My “country garden” consists of a small town, backyard, perennial plot, but it’s a wonderful place to commune with God and marvel in the lessons from His creations. 

I wrote about this “winter” butterfly—and one of those lessons God taught me in a blog about late bloomers:
I live on the edge of East Texas. God never gave me my dream house in the country with a wrap-around porch, but He has blessed me beyond measure.

Day-votedly His,
Rebecca Barlow Jordan


Rebecca Barlow Jordan
Rebecca Barlow Jordan is a mom, wife, grandmom, inspirational speaker and author of 11 books, and devoted Christ follower who loves to encourage others, heart to heart.

Author, Speaker, Greeting Card Writer
Encouraging Others Heart to Heart
Day-votions for Women, Day-votions for Mothers, Day-votions for Grandmothers

Her blog is on the same site:


If you have a photo that symbolizes country life to you, please send it as a feature for our blog. Full guidelines on the sidebar at the right.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Many of you have asked me. . .well, only one, maybe two. . .for my world famous recipe for chili. This is an expected and anticipated dish at every Wild Game Feed potluck at our northern Idaho church each November. It also has been a staple at our Broken Arrow Crossing events in the summer. Broken Arrow Crossing is the false-front town I’ve built beside our house. Wife Janet calls it our ‘theme yard.’
So, now the secret’s out. You can create your own chili sensation, Bly-style.

2-4 pounds of elk meat (for my pals in Quebec, that’s Wapiti meat)
1 16-ounce jar of Pace® salsa (“medium” for most gringos; I prefer “hot”)
2 cans of Hormel Chili With Beans (life is too short to wait for beans to soak)
1 green bell pepper (make sure it’s crisp…the red or yellow bells will work good too)
Several fresh jalapeno peppers (don’t wimp out; leave the seeds)
An unending supply of Montreal Steak Seasoning
Red Tabasco Sauce

Apply for an out-of-state elk tag from the Idaho Fish and Game Department. Clean your Winchester 1895, 405 caliber rifle. Fly to Idaho and camp deep in the forest along the upper stretches of the north fork of the Clearwater River. Shoot your elk (whether you taxidermy the head or not is your decision). Pack meat in dry-ice and take it home with you on the plane. OR. . .accept that package of wild game meat your brother-in-law keeps trying to give you every Christmas.

The night before. . .put one cup of water, 2-4 pounds of elk (steak or roast) in the crock pot. Season with Montreal Steak Seasoning to taste. Turn that sucker on low, then go to bed.

Sometime the next day. . .drain most of the juices off the meat (yes, you can make elk gravy for breakfast, provided you don’t put it on biscuits that come out of a tube). Place meat in very large pan (the one on the bottom shelf at the back that takes forever to yank out). Dump in your two cans of Hormel Chili Beans (or more if you’re feeding the starting offensive line of the Green Bay Packers, or their equivalent). Important note: never use cheap canned beans that taste like they were soaked in fast food restaurant catsup.

Gut out your bell pepper and carve it into ½ inch squares, then sauté (that means fry ‘em in a skillet, but don’t burn ‘em black or let ‘em get mushy). Toss them in the big pan.

Cut the stems off the jalapenos, quarter them and toss them in. If your fingers blister while cutting the peppers, you have to invite me over for supper. Add a bunch more Montreal Steak Seasoning (bunch=6 tads) and red Tabasco.

Stir everything together and simmer the chili for an hour or so. (Simmer is what happens when you ought to throw another log in the stove, but you wait until half-time of the football game and the fire almost goes out.)

Now, it’s time for the taste test. After stirring the chili again (wooden spoons seem to be less susceptible to corrosion), take a small taste. You may want to add more Tabasco. 

(Note: if an obnoxious nephew is visiting, let him test the chili. It’s about right if he spends the rest of the day out in the yard with his head buried in leaves, sand, or snow.)

Serving size: this varies. Most times, the bowl is scraped clean with only 10 to 12 people. But, with luck, there will be some leftovers and you’ll get to have it cold for breakfast for several days.


Do you have a favorite chili recipe?


Throw The Devil Off The Train

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Friday, May 13, 2011


On the Trail with Stephen Bly

The Spanish word jaquima means headstall, that is, the leather halter that’s slipped over the head of a horse.

For the Old West cowboy, jaquima became hackamer, then gradually morphed to hackamore. This usually ordinary looking leather halter has reigns instead of a lead rope. There’s no bit to cram in a horse’s mouth. Instead, there’s a braided rawhide noseband called a bozal.

The old vaqueros of California were expert at training horses with a hackamore. Most of them rode well-mannered, sweet-mouthed horses, the envy of spade bit cowboys. You can still stir up heated arguments around a ranch by debating the value of a hackamore versus a traditional metal bit.

But all agree the end goal’s the same: a horse that obeys your commands . . . pronto.

The Bible says, “Be quick to listen” (James 1:19).

God teaches that lesson by whatever means proves effective.  He may start out using a light hackamore. Nothing severe or painful. Just gentle instruction, with encouragement.

No doubt it frustrates Him when we ignore these obvious commands.  His patience does have limits.  If we ignore the tender leadings of the hackamore . . . he'll use a more severe bit.  That will get our attention.

He has no use for undisciplined disciples.  So when we feel discomfort from His leading, it's time to yield and show that we learned our lesson.  Get back to basics. Return to your earlier training.  Show that you still have a tenderness to follow His will.

When he sees that, He can return to using the hackamore on us.  Then we can demonstrate our love by following His divine nudges and acting on His word . . . pronto.

Have you ever sensed God's loving discipline in your life. . .and it lead to a great purpose?


Get it now!
Throw The Devil Off The Train

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

THE FINE ART OF INSINCERITY, a new novel by Angela Hunt

The Fine Art of Insincerity
Book Blurb:

Three Southern sisters with nine marriages between them--and more looming on the horizon--travel to St. Simons Island to empty their late grandmother’s house. 

Ginger, the eldest, wonders if she’s the only one who hasn’t inherited what their family calls “the Grandma Gene”--the tendency to enjoy the casualness of courtship more than the intimacy of marriage. 

Could it be that her sisters are fated to serially marry, just like their seven-times wed grandmother, Lillian Irene Harper Winslow Goldstein Carey James Bobrinski Gordon George?
It takes a “girls only” weekend, closing up Grandma’s memory-filled beach cottage for the last time, for the sisters to unpack their family baggage, examine their relationship DNA, and discover the true legacy their much-marrying grandmother left behind. 

What Others Are Saying:

“The Fine Art of Insincerity is . . .a womanly tale of sisterly affection and protective martyrdom is a well-woven story of self-discovery and personal growth that will melt your heart!”—Patricia Hickman, author of The Pirate Queen and Painted Dresses 

"Only Angela Hunt could write a relationship novel that's a page-turner! . . . Come spend the weekend in coastal Georgia with three women who clean house in more ways than one!"—Liz Curtis Higgs, bestselling author of Here Burns My Candle

“The Fine Art of Insincerity is a stunning masterpiece. . . So real, so powerful. Pull out the tissues! This one will make you cry, laugh, and smile. I recommend it highly.”—Traci DePree, author of The Lake Emily series

Romantic Times proclaims THE FINE ART OF INSINCERITY a “top pick”!
  “Hunt delves into some serious issues in this family drama centered around three sisters clearing out their grandmother’s house, yet still manages to add humor when it’s needed most. This emotionally compelling novel is a gem.”

The Fine Art of Sincerity now available:

·  watch a book trailer for The Fine Art of Insincerity


Author Angela Hunt
Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt writes for readers who have learned to “expect the unexpected.”

Now that her two children have reached their twenties, Angie and her husband live in Florida with Very Big Dogs (a direct result of watching Turner and Hooch and Sandlot too many times). This affinity for mastiffs has not been without its rewards--one of their dogs was featured on Live with Regis and Kelly as the second-largest canine in America. Their dog received this dubious honor after an all-expenses-paid trip to Manhattan for the dog and the Hunts, complete with VIP air travel and a stretch limo in which they toured New York City. 

Afterward, the dog gave out pawtographs at the airport.

Angela with hubby Gary & mastiff
Angela admits to being fascinated by animals, medicine, psychology, unexplained phenomena, and “just about everything” except sports. Books, she says, have always shaped her life— in the fifth grade she learned how to flirt from reading Gone with the Wind.
In 2007, her novel The Note was featured as a Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel. Romantic Times Book Club presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.
When she’s not home reading or writing, Angie often travels to teach writing workshops at schools and writers’ conferences. And to talk about her dogs, of course.

Thursday, May 05, 2011


Throw The Devil Off The Train
Stephen Bly

“Hmmm. . .a compliment from Mr. Race Hillyard. Should I be suspicious?”
“I’d be disappointed if you weren’t.”
Catherine studied the faces in the train car window beside them. “You know, yesterday I held you in deep disgust.”
“Has that changed?”
“Yes, today I hold you in mediocre disdain.”
From Throw The Devil Off The Train

The kernel plot idea determines how much the love element majors in my westerns. Will women play a significant part at all? If so, how much? Will there be hints or scenes of romance? If so, what portion does it play?

For some western writers, especially those who focus on the romance market, those are big questions. In fact, I would presume that they factor the love interest first thing in their plotting. Me, not so much. If my main character’s a woman, which it has been for a number of my novels, then her relationship with the men, or her main man, will be key, of course. 

Miss Fontenot
A time or two I’ve written about strong women who turn down the potential love interest because of other considerations, such as a career (i.e. Miss Fontenot, Book #3, Heroines of the Golden West Series). My fans and a few editors screamed about this. But that was the way Miss Fontenot decided it. I had to respect her wishes.

Then out pops the idea for my new release, Throw The Devil Off The Train. It’s a road story inside a train headed west. The grandeur of the West from a train window. The very slow journey, compared to modern transportation, yet cramped, crowded, at times chaotic conditions.

Later, a theme evolved. . .that people are much more complex than first meetings reveal. That hurts and pains, victories and defeats of the past, affect responses in the present. My observation is that most of us hide spiritual and emotional hurts from others. . .and sometimes ourselves. We must be open to what God is doing around us, even through flawed people, to receive the help he sends.

That lead to. . .what if I tossed two cats into a burlap bag, then watched to see how they’d survive. . .or not? This had to be a male and a female. With a long train ride, sparks are going to hit the track. . .somehow, somewhere. Will it be eternal hate or meld into love?

The gal on the train. . .she heads west to escape from her past in Virginia, to a prosperous fiancé in Paradise Springs, a childhood friend. To get a new name. She’s desperate that no one knows her real last name.

She can be as honey-sweet as any southern belle, if she wants to. She and her twin sister, Catelynn, spent the war years in the north at an aunt’s house. While they missed witnessing the violence and ravages of the Civil War, they lost their parents and their Virginia estate. Catherine is not as glamorous as her twin sister, but her good looks and confident air capture much attention. She’s willing to use her beauty and personality to get things done. . .her way. 
He travels west to get justice for his brother’s death. His blunt, stubborn ways leave no room for charm or diplomacy. Independent, with focused courage, he’s in the habit of success at whatever he attempts. His set glare keeps most folks scooting away from him. That suits him fine. He has no use for a woman he considers shallow and manipulative. He also has no fear of dying, because he’s not sure he wants to live. When he sets his mind on a goal, he expects everyone to get out of the way.

After a few gouges and bites between Catherine Draper and Race Hillyard, I could see the trail markings of their story. That’s how I knew Throw The Devil Off The Train was a western romance first, front and center. In fact, my original working title was “Throw Away Heart.” But my editor objected. The Bly fans for this publisher look for a western first, romance optional. 

Yet a question still remained right up to the end. Will the Miss Fontenot type independence rear up and reign? Of course, that's up to Catherine. . .and Race too. Romance comes late for them. . .perhaps too late. 

Yep, they hate each other on sight. Meanwhile, traditional, raucous western stuff happens. A holdup, a hijack, a kidnapping and gold mine swindle swirl around them. . .while something else evil's on board. Fiery, opinionated, and quick to judge and react, can they make a truce long enough to throw the devil off the train?

Stephen Bly is a Christy Award finalist and winner in the western category  for The Long Trail Home, Picture Rock, The Outlaw’s Twin Sister and Last of the Texas Camp. He has authored and co-authored with his wife, Janet, 105 books, both fiction and nonfiction. He and Janet have 3 married sons, 4 grandchildren, and 1 great-grandchild and live in the mountains of northern Idaho on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. 

Find out more about the Blys at their website


Throw The Devil Off The Train available May 2011. You can order through your local bookstore, your favorite online bookstore including or get autographed copies through the Blys website:  

Monday, May 02, 2011


“I Love Farm Life” says city bred author & speaker, Pamela Sonnemoser.

Caption #1: A weed? A flower?
Note from the Blys:
Flowers are such a rarity, except for dandelions and wild roses, up here in our mountain home in northern Idaho. With great caution, we’ve hung a basket of pansies out on our front porch. . .a gift from our kids at Easter. But we have to watch the temperature gauge with care as we’re still having weather in the 30s and snow flurries.

Last week we had a full-blown blizzard.

We’re delighted to display photos like Pamela Sonnemoser’s on our blog. . .pick-me-ups that maybe Spring will happen sometime soon. She sent these beautiful flower pics for our Country Life Captions feature. . . . 

Country Life Caption #1: Beauty and pain often come from the same source. Give them a chance, every flower was a weed until someone fell in love with it.

“I love my farm life in Northwest Missouri,” says Pamela. “This photo is just one of the many amazing sites we see in our country summers.”

Caption #2: Black-Eyed Susans
Country Life Caption #2: These Black Eyed Susans at the edge of our soybean field come back beautifully each year. They are such a part of life on the farm, that they became the photo for one of my book covers, Praise & Paraphrase.

Caption #3: Fall To Winter
Country Life Caption #3: Fall yields to winter's touch, the beauty of change comes with each season.


Pamela Sonnenmoser & husband, John
Pamela Sonnenmoser is author of books that include Beside The Empty Cradle, Praise & Paraphrase, and Pamela’s Healthy Pantry. She is also a speaker on various themes as listed on her website. She makes her home with her husband, John, on their farm in Northwest Missouri. Growing up near Los Angeles, she never imagined that God would lead her to a rural life. She has learned to embrace the culture of the country while continuing her family’s legacy of ministry in abuse shelters, summer camps, retreats and churches across the country.

To learn more about Pamela, check out her websites:

What’s your favorite season and your preferred flowers that goes with it?

If you’d like to participate in our Country Life Captions, send us your country life photo(s), follow the guidelines to the right on our blog’s sidebar.