Beth Ciotta

What I Have in Common with the Nineteenth-Century Woman

beth_ciotta.jpgI can’t believe it.  I’m part of the Petticoats and Pistols Spring Author Round-Up.  How cool is that?  I’m thrilled to be here and, best of all, I get to give stuff away.  Stuff that celebrates the Wild West.  A slice of American History near and dear to my heart.  But before I can give stuff away, I need to blog about something of interest.  Something that will entertain, educate or inspire.  If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll touch a bit on all three. 

In publishing-land there’s a saying: Write what you know.  This is advantageous for several reasons, but most importantly, in my opinion, because it infuses your story with a certain honesty that’s compelling to readers.  I wasn’t familiar with this saying when I attempted my first manuscript.  Good thing.  Otherwise, I probably would’ve second-guessed my desire to write a historical western romance instead of diving right in.  I would have grappled with my lack of qualifications. I didn’t (and still don’t) have a degree in American history.  I didn’t experience that era first hand.  I didn’t know anything about the American West other than what I’d learned from movies, novels, and the 1960s TV series like Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and The Wild Wild West (starring Secret Service agent James T. West. Be still my heart!) Yet I was passionate and driven and, as it turned out, intuitive.  

lassothemoonfrontcoverfinal.jpgThe heroine of my first western (Lasso the Moon) is a bit of an odd duck. A young woman who burns to write music and to share her compositions with the world. She’s also driven to make her papa—the man she idolized—proud.  I understood this creative soul well, because my background is in entertainment. I performed live on stage as a singer and actress for thirty years. (Yes, I started young!) And I, too, was driven to impress my dad. Write what you know.           

rtw_front_cover_final.jpgThe heroine of my second western (Romancing the West) learned early on that the greatest form of escapism is though reading novels.  As an adult, she works in a library and, in her private time, writes her own adventures.  Like Emily, I spent most of my childhood with my nose in a book, head in the clouds. After retiring from the stage, I hired on at my local library and, in my private time, I write books.  I understand how Emily ticks.  Her interests, her insecurities, her dreams. Write what you know.   

fallofromecover2.jpgMy upcoming release—The Fall of Rome—features a heroine who made her fame and fortune as a gambler. No, I don’t gamble. But I worked in Atlantic City for several years where I was surrounded by cardsharps and games of chance.  In addition, although she’s a sensitive soul, Kat developed a thick skin to survive in her chosen profession. I can relate to that.  Write what you know. 

Although my experiences are rooted in present day, while my heroines’ are firmly planted in the 1870s, we share common ground.  Emotional aspects transcend time.  The professional angle required major research and made me appreciate the advantages to be a ‘career’ woman now as opposed to then.  It also provided a wealth of inspiration.   

So…. I wrote what I knew and researched what I didn’t. What a fantastic ride! 

As you see, there were women who bucked convention and enjoyed careers in the 19th century, although their path was rarely easy.  I admire their courage and determination and strive to achieve my own dreams with equal gusto.   

Now for some related trivia and websites of interest. 

  • Only a few of the many women composers in America had their music published and heard during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fewer still, enjoyed the popularity that most male composers enjoyed, even though much of their music was superior to much of what some of the more celebrated men wrote.”  ~ Quoted from ‘Parlor Songs’ 

  • May Agnes Fleming enjoyed a successful and lucrative career as a writer of dime novels.  She developed a solid reputation and solid readership writing for Saturday Night, a weekly story paper which ran from 1867 to 1901. The publishers paid her $50 per segment for a total of $850 for each story. ~ Quoted from ‘American Women’s Dime Novel Project’ 

  • A Deadwood legend, ‘Poker Alice’ made her living as a gambler, bootlegger, and madam. Nicknamed for her game of choice, she is estimated to have won over $225,000 during her 60- year career as a professional poker player in the latter half of the 1800s. ~ Information noted at ‘Outlaw Women’ and ‘Poker Player’.


What about you? What do you ‘know’ about the Wild West?  Do any of your interests date back to the 19th century?  What profession, if any, would you dare to pursue?  Chime in and become eligible to win one of three prizes. #1 – A signed copy of Lasso the Moon.  #2 – A signed copy of Romancing the West.  #3 – A Wild West messenger bag.  Winners to be chosen late this evening. Talk to me!                        

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40 thoughts on “Beth Ciotta”

  1. interesting blog today. Im afraid i dont have any intrests in the wild west. I know i have a relative who was born in Van Diemans Land (Tasmania) but I dont know if shes born to landowners, or free settlers or a child of a convict although i always wanted to find a convict in my family tree.

  2. hmmm…I have always been fascinated in the wild-west days! Women back then had to have back bones..that’s for sure!

    If I lived back then and pursued a career/profession of some sort…I guess it might have been a writer! I would have written short fictional-inspirational love stories!

    That way, maybe other women could read them here and there and escape their hard lives …even for just a few minutes!

  3. Just noticed a couple of typos in my blog post. How is it you can read something you wrote five times and still miss typos? Apologies to all!

    ausjenny, you may not have interests in the wild west, but it does sound like you have a bit of a wild streak. 😉

    Melissa D, I adore your choice of 19th century professions. A noble goal indeed! The link I listed above regarding dime novels features some women who did just as you suggested.

  4. Thanks Beth Australians are always wanting to find a convict in there family tree.
    but if i had to live in another era (except it would have been such hard work) i would have loved to have been a pioneer and traveled the oregon trail. That always facinates me.

  5. Not too sure I could have lived back then. I would have had to carry a gun way too outspoken lol. But I do that the west itself is beautiful country. My grandfather was raised in OK and moved here to GA/TN when he met a red haired irish lass he couldn’t do without. My sr trip in highschool from my dad was a trip to see where he was raised.

  6. Hi Beth. Great post. I am always fascinated by the ladies of the past who were brave enough to defy societal strictures and lived their lives as they wanted to.
    If I lived back then, I probably would have been a school marm or a seamstress or own a saloon like Ms. Kitty did. 😉

  7. I don’t think i have any family from the Wild West, however I know my PaPa made his own Moonshine found this out as i got older because i was never allowed into the barn. Grandma said i didn’t need to be around those men up to no good. I guess if I’d lived in that time i would’ve been one of those Saloon women just so i could’ve had contact with all the hotties that came in LOL

  8. Thanks for the great post, Beth, and welcome to Wildflower Junction! I’m sure I would have been a schoolmarm back then…since I was one now, Great Grandpa was back then and my mom before me. I have an interest in dime novels for a secondary character in an upcoming idea so the site you sent has already been bookmarked. 🙂

  9. Hi, Beth!!! I’m not sure I’ve got many skills that would have translated well to the Wild West! I don’t have the patience to be a schoolmarm… don’t write well enough for dime novels, not a very good cook or seamstress… well, that’s why I’m pleased to be living in this time and getting to read about those lives and times instead! 😉 Eeek!

    Thanks for the very fun post! (And very fun to see you at a different “locale” today! ;))

  10. Hi Beth: I’m in the health care profession now and I have been reading about American medicine in the 1800s. Although, I realize the struggles for women in most professions then, I think it would be neat to go back in time and be a female physician (they were definitely few and far between).
    Thanks for an interesting post.

  11. I love reading books about the Wild West. A little danger and a sexy hero. What’s not to like? I honestly don’t know what I would have been if I lived in those times. I know that I would have been an independent woman that’s for sure and speak my mind.

  12. I have always been enthralled with The WIld West. Since I was born in the west and have been living in this area my entire life it has cast its spell upon me. I have traveled and experienced many other locales but this area is my favorite. I love the big skies, the endless horizon and the beauty. If I lived back in those times I would have been a teacher for sure. I enjoy being around children and have the interst, patience and love for them. It would be a constant source of inspiration.

  13. My interest in the West is due to my husband whose love of mountains, open areas and vistas moved us out here for the opportunity and a new,fresh start. I can say it was love at first sight since I am now enamoured with the setting in which I live. My profession way back in pioneer times would have been a journalist. I would record everything that happened and it would be memorable and perhaps my family would use it as a historic handbook.

  14. wow,Id love to be able to rope,ride an shoot,wanted too as akid,was a bit of a tomboy an as a old lady at 52,still want too,probably couldnt even get on the back of a horse an if I did couldnt get off,but would be fun trying,at least for a while,until the next morning,then I say,WHAT WAS I THINKING??????

  15. Hi Beth, welcome to P&P! We’re delighted to have you. My interest in the Old West is fueled by TV and movie westerns. And I love doing research for places and things during the 19th century. I sure can’t imagine writing anything else but that time period. I loved the old Mavericks and Gunsmoke. I fantasized about Alec McArthur who starred in the Desperado series as Duel McCall. And I lusted after Clint Eastwood, Sam Elliott, and Tom Selleck. My, oh my!!

    I think the profession that would interest me if I could go back would be a saloon singer or a dime novelist. Don’t ask me why. I just think those would be fascinating. Or I’d own a huge ranch that employs lots of hunky cowboys. 🙂

    All your books look enticing. The good thing about having guest authors on the site is that I get to find out about books I had no idea existed. Thank you for coming to blog!

  16. Ah, the wild, wild west…now in that show my hero was Artimus Gordon. I guess I just have a thing for sidekicks. LOL

    And true to my current nature, I’d probably be cooking somewhere in the old west. Hmmm, maybe in a Harvey Hotel?

  17. I would have to be around horses. Maybe a cattle ranch or horse ranch. I would a woman that was more comfortable wearing pants and not a dress. That was me growing up. I know I would drive my parents crazy too.

  18. Oh, my goodness! Look at all of these fantastic comments! I love hearing everyone’s take on the west and your thougths on what you do back then. Well, aside from ogling hunky cowboys. Heh. Keep ’em coming!

  19. Yes, *lizzie, you would be one of those well-paid chefs at a Harvey House! LOL

    Thanks for being our guest in Wildflower Junction today, Beth! Sorry I missed the typos. My bad.

  20. Great blog!!
    Like Katie, I would have wanted to do something with horses. And of course pants would be very comfortable with al that sand and dust.
    Then I could bait a handsome cowboy to race with me and of course win his heart. 😛

  21. Hi Beth! What a wonderful post. I enjoyed it greatly. Such a fascinating time.
    I used to watch Westerns way back and felt the pull even then. I know that this part of the country had an appeal for writers, artists, photographers and adventurers. If I lived in the West I know that I would have been a doctor.

  22. Wow great topic… I have always worked with children, so I guess I would be a one room school teacher!!! 🙂 ***Unless some handsome cowboy swept me away on his horse*** Yee hah!!!

  23. Still grinning over Lori’s Moonshine PaPa. Makes me think of Granny on Beverly Hillbillies and her Rhumatis (sp?) Medicine. 😉

    School teachers, Journalists, Saloon Operators, Doctors, Cowgirls… We would have done the west proud, ladies. 🙂

  24. Hi Beth ~ Welcome to Petticoats & Pistols!

    I love those non-conventional heroines–they are my absolute fave 🙂 What fantastic line-up of books! Thanks for sharing the fun details! I will be adding you to my TBR pile 😉

  25. Hello Beth glad to see you hear. I don’t have much experience with the old West except my grandfather that live here in (nebraska) would make moonshine he would grow the grapes on the fence in the back yard I was shocked he never got into trouble. He was from Alabama and we went here not to long ago and some of them still live like the old west they still don’t have electricity and they have chicken and stuff going into the house with NO doors. It was a little freaky to me I know I lived on a farm and don’t want to go back to that I like having a bathroom and stuff like that.

  26. The only things I know about the “Wild West” is from movies, books, and musicals (Annie get your gun and Oklahoma) lol. I can’t even imagine myself living back then. I couldn’t live without A/C. And I don’t think I would have lived on a farm. I would have to be a vegetarian because I couldn’t bring myself to actually kill my dinner. And I like my eletric stove and microwave. I barely make an edible meal as it is, let alone over a fire. 🙂
    Thanks for the post!!

  27. My closest connection to the Wild West is relativeswho moved to California in the 60s!
    LOL. My career background is in nursing and
    writing for an area newspaper. I also like to cook, so it would be a toss-up as to what I
    would have done back in those days! I just remembered another “wild” relative connection:
    my maternal grandfather used to tell stories
    about the occasional forays by Pancho Villa
    into the little Mexican town where he lived as a
    young man.

    Pat Cochran

  28. The comments just keep getting better and better. What a delight to read.

    Stacey… non-conventional heroines are a hoot, I must say. 🙂

    Brenda… I’d be a little freaked out, too.

    Nicole… Didn’t think of that. Guess I’d be a vegetarian, too.

    Pat… love the Pancho Villa tale.

    Jeez. So many great comments. Sorry I haven’t been commenting individually, but I’m reading and re-reading with pleasure! To think the day is still young. 🙂

  29. When I think of the Wild West I am transported back in time to another realm which sttracts me in so many ways. The honor, integrity and strength of the cowboys whose lifestyle was so demanding. I love the wide, open spaces which I would ride forever. It wold be wonderful to be a teacher whose thoughts and dreams would influence a generation. Now I read as many Westerns as I can which are my ultimate favorites.

  30. Hi Beth,
    I don’t know much about life in the US in the 19th century, but I think I would have have loved being a gambler and beating all the men at cards.

  31. Hello Beth!

    I love your books!

    As for the Old West, I have always been fascinated with life from times gone by. As a kid I would collect books on the subject. Some of my favorite things to learn about were the women of the west and the different jobs and things they did. I also had a fascination with the pony express and in 6th grade I won 3rd place in the Social Science fair for my paper and presentation board on the history of the Pony Express.

  32. I grew up in Colorado about 8 miles from Bent’s Fort on the Santa Fe Trail and spent the summers in Santa Fe, New Mexico so I know alot about the early history of those two places. I have lived in Arizona for a long time and know alot about its history and the Indians in the region.
    I think if I lived in the old west I would have liked to have been a singer/entertainer like Jenny Lind.

  33. I don’t know a lot about it but I find it very fascinating. I don’t think there were a lot of professions for women back then. I probably would have ended up a housewife with too many kids lol.

  34. Jeanne, being a housewife is a profession in a way. It’s certainly a lot of work! 🙂

    Deidre… Heh. 😉

    I’m envious, Joye. Colorado… New Mexico… Two places I’d love to see. As for Arizona, most of my westerns take place there. I visited your state quite a few times. Love it!

    You go, Jane!

    Your comment was lovely, Pearl. Thank you for sharing. Oh, and now I also have Dixie Chicks’ ‘Wide Open Spaces’ in my head. 🙂

    Jennifer… So glad you enjoy my books. Thank you! Got a kick out of your Pony Express story. In reality, no doubt a dangerous job. But in fantasy, pretty cool. Hey, and you’d get to wear pants!

  35. The only things I know about the 19th century Wild West, I learned from Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour books.

  36. Beth, one of my favorite young adult romances is actually about a female pony express rider. She poses as a boy to get the job and falls for one of her fellow riders. Isn’t fiction, grand? Now, I am not sure if there were actually any female riders, but it is nice to fantasize about…LOL. But like you said, reality ain’t fantasy.

  37. Fascinating post. I think it would have been fun to be a riverboat gambler. That’s the fantasy but in reality that was a dabgerous career for a woman in those days.

  38. Estella… Have you read Robert B. Parker’s ‘Apaloosa’?

    Jennifer… Love that concept! Yes, fiction IS grand. 🙂

    Cherie… Makes me thing of the movie starring Jodi Foster and Mel Gibson–‘Maverick’. Love that movie.

  39. I don’t know a lot about the “Old West” although I do love reading stories set in that timeframe.

    If I went back in time.. I’d probably be a schoolmarm 🙂

    Beth, I love your stories.

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