Please welcome guest author Pam Hillman! It’s always a pleasure to have her here at Wildflower Junction! Today she has a great giveaway planned and, with a nod to our 10-year celebration, has had the daunting task of coming up with 10 differences she’s had to deal with as an author between westerns and colonials.
Happy 10th Anniversary Petticoats and Pistols!
Thank you for allowing me to be part of this celebration.
I proposed a 1790s colonial series set in the Natchez Mississippi District and, to my delight, my publisher bought it. Sure, I knew there would be a bit of a change in my writing style from westerns to the 18th century. But it’s only about 80 years difference. How hard could it be? How much could change in 80 years? Well…
On the off-chance that I’m not the only one who had to look up the meaning of anachronistic, it means “something or someone that is not in its correct historical or chronological time.”
Okay. Got it.
With a few exceptions of course, if I had been switching from writing colonials to westerns, my toolbox full of words would have carried over as they were already in use 70-80 years earlier. But since I was going backwards in time, I had a lot of favorite words that had to be cut because they weren’t in use in the 1790s. Words like smidgen (1845), howdy (1840), smokestack (1860), boilerplate (1860). The list goes on and on.
Patterns of Speech
A man of the colonial period had a different pattern of speech than the 1880s cowboy did. Their language was a bit more formal, more stilted, but it’s a little more subtle than that. It’s the cowboy lingo, the drawl, that sets the two periods apart. The words they used were important though, because that’s the only way we can really show that slow, sexy drawl of a cowboy. I’ll be honest, I missed that aspect of writing my cowboys.
But I still managed to make Connor O’Shea a swoon-worthy colonial-type cowboy, I think. 🙂
Good Day, Mistress Bartholomew
While Mister (Mr.), Missis/Missus (Mrs.), and Miss could be used in the 18th century, Mistress and Master are words we tend to associate for those in authority or as terms of respect during the colonial period. So, I used all of the above in my 1790s series, simply to provide variety. A little about ma’am, specifically. It’s associated closely with the cowboy vernacular as a term of respect to women, but it was in use by 1670. I used ma’am, but a lot less liberally than I would in a western, sprinkling in the more proper Mistress to help set the tone apart from a western.
Housekeeping and Tools
It’s the little things that jump out and bite you. Wood-burning cast iron stoves were invented in the mid-1500s, but it wasn’t until the industrial revolution that they were even remotely affordable for the general public. So I had to be careful not to use the word “stove” in my 1790s stories in that context. After writing several westerns where my heroines cook on a wood burning stove, pulled bread out of the oven, or the hero reached for the coffee pot in the cookhouse, that turned out to be quite a challenge. Unfortunately, I’m afraid one or two references might have slipped through.
Mostly pots and pans, tools, and things of that sort didn’t change much between the two periods. But when in doubt, I always check sources.
Cobbler (1860) and sowbelly (1870) were two of a slew (1840 btw) of words I couldn’t have used in my 1790s series, but when I looked at a list of foods from 1790s, the only one that I would hesitate to use in the late 1800s was matelote (1730), which is a type of stew.
Let There be Light
I also had to be careful of the type lighting my characters used. In my westerns, the hero might just light the lantern, and readers immediately know what type of lantern I meant. While the word lantern goes back to 1300, during 18th century America, they mostly used candles with tin reflectors to reflect the light. Widespread use of kerosene lamps and lanterns came at a bit of a later time.
Probably the biggest hurdle for me was the catch phrases peppered throughout westerns. Phrases like “poker face” (1885, but my editor found evidence that the first poker game was played in 1829), “pipe dream” (1900), and the one that gave me the most sorrow to cut was “hook, line, and sinker” (1838).
The class structure of the haves and the have nots was still in place in the late 18th century in the Americas, but it was slipping. As hordes of immigrants, both bond and free, flooded into the colonies in the 18th and 19th centuries, they held the promise of freedom close. The cowboy, the gold miner, the railroad worker, the pioneers all had freedom of choice that their ancestors only dreamed of.
So, there was a bit of a shift in the way I portrayed my characters to the way I’d show a foot-loose and fancy-free cowboy.
The Cowboy Swagger and His Clothes
There’s just something about describing a cowboy, the way he talks, the way he walks, his clothes, his boots. Maybe it’s just ingrained in me after reading and writing westerns my whole life. They say clothes don’t make the man, but a Stetson and a pair of cowboy boots goes a long way. But, still it is possible to give that swagger to a man who’s been plunked down in a different time period.
The Word Cowboy
For the record, the word cowboy was in use by 1725, a noun to refer to a cow herder or a“young cowhand”. I just can’t really see Mel Gibson or Captain Jack uttering the word cowboy in The Patriot or any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but stranger things than that have happened.
Now that I know the word was in existence, I’ll try to slip it in my next 1790s historical. 🙂
Anxious for his brothers to join him on the rugged frontier along the Mississippi River, Connor O’Shea has no choice but to indenture himself as a carpenter in exchange for their passage from Ireland. But when he’s sold to Isabella Bartholomew of Breeze Hill Plantation, Connor fears he’ll repeat past mistakes and vows not to be tempted by the lovely lady. The responsibilities of running Breeze Hill have fallen on Isabella’s shoulders after her brother was found dead in the swamps along the Natchez Trace and a suspicious fire devastated their crops, almost destroyed their home, and left her father seriously injured. Even with Connor’s help, Isabella fears she’ll lose her family’s plantation. Despite her growing feelings for the handsome Irish carpenter, she seriously considers accepting her wealthy and influential neighbor’s proposal of marriage.
Soon, though, Connor realizes someone is out to eliminate the Bartholomew family. Can he set aside his own feelings to keep Isabella safe?
It’s time for prizes, yes? It may be Petticoats & Pistols’ birthday, but you get the gifts! I’m giving away a bag of books today. Signed copies of Claiming Mariah, Stealing Jake, and The Promise of Breeze Hill.
In addition, my publisher is sponsoring a Mississippi Gift Basket Giveaway to celebrate the release of The Promise of Breeze Hill. Click the graphic to the right to enter that separate contest.
Leave a comment to enter the book giveaway mentioned above.
CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn’t afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn’t mind raking. Raking hay doesn’t take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that’s the kind of life every girl should dream of.
I’ve always heard that the first thing a cowboy puts on when he rolls out of his blankets is his hat, followed immediately by his boots. After reading about the care John B. Stetson took to create a hat that demanded that kind of respect, I now believe it.
Stetson learned the hat trade from his father. In a time when being a hatter wasn’t considered a respectable trade, Stetson took his trade seriously. He wanted to make a durable, high quality hat best suited for the rugged west, thecowboy, and the plainsmen who flooded west in the 1800s.
In 1865, Stetson headed west, and in a small rented facility, with his tools and barely enough money to purchase the fur he needed, he made his first hat that would eventually become known as the famous “Boss of the Plains”. The Boss became synonymous with hard-working, rough-housing, loyal cow punchers the world over, but especially in the American West.
At first glance, the “Boss of the Plains” doesn’t look like what we think of as the traditional cowboy hat. But that was the beauty of the design. Men could shape it however they wanted to. Picture a cowboy grabbing that hat over and over with three fingers. Eventually, the crown and the brim would crease in exactly the way the cowboy wanted it to.The high crown provided insulation and a bit of air-space for ventilation for the top of the head. The wide brim offered protection from the harsh sun, rain, wind. But probably the most innovative part of the Boss was that it was made from the underbelly of 42 beaver pelts and was extremely durable, lightweight, and waterproof.
While I haven’t tested a Stetson myself, I’ve seen movies and read books that made me wonder how someone could continue to ride in the deluge of hours and hours of rain and not get soaked through. According to history, some Stetsons were so waterproof, they could be used as buckets, and at least one story tells of a cowboy whose canteen sprung a leak, and he used his Stetson to carry water across the desert. And while I’ve never seen someone offering water to another person out of a hat, I’ve seen it many times in movies. I might have scoffed at that before I discovered how watertight these hats were.
The Dodge City Peace Commission, some wearing The Boss
Not only could the Boss double as a bucket, the wide brim served as an umbrella against rain and shaded the eyes against the relentless sun. The brim could be tented to provide a drinking cup as needed, or pulled down and tied over the ears to protect against frost-bite.
It was the bellows that fanned many a campfire into existence and, in reverse, was also the bucket that carried the water to douse the fire when breaking camp. The hat was doffed at pretty ladies, and swatted against a pokey horse’s flank to escape a raiding war party.
Rolled up, it became a pillow at night, or the extra bit of padding to ease a sore shoulder or aching back. Waved over the head, it was easily spotted from long distances. In a shoot-out, it was hoisted on a stick to draw fire to scout out the location of the enemy. And it was removed and held over the heart when saying goodbye to another cowboy as the final prayer was said over his grave.
It’s no wonder that a cow puncher forked over as much as two to six months’ wages on his hat. And not surprising that he’d defend such a purchase with his life and his Colt 45!
Pam is giving away an autographed copy of Stealing Jake to one lucky reader. Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing. If you had to pick someone from movies, TV, or your own backyard who looks great in a Stetson (or any cowboy hat), who would you pick?
STEALING JAKE by Pam Hillman. When Livy O’Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-Fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she’s helping to run an orphanage. Now she’ll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.
Sheriff’s deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy?literally while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town?as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off?Jake doesn’t have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can’t seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn’t willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.
CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn’t afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn’t mind raking. Raking hay doesn’t take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that’s the kind of life every girl should dream of. www.pamhillman.com