Pamela Nowak ~ Choices

pam-nowak-picI want to thank Petticoats and Pistols for inviting me and giving me the opportunity to share with all of you. This is a favorite site of mine and blogging with you here is beyond exciting!

This week, my second novel, Choices, was released. Set at Fort Randall, Dakota Territory in 1876, it tells the story of a rebellious officer’s daughter, an honorable enlisted man, and a forbidden relationship.  

Twenty odd years ago, when my late husband, Tim, and I were first married, we shared an avid interest in living history. He was an archaeologist, I was a history teacher, and we were both passionate about the Amephoto-4rican West. He created the persona of a soldier-a private-and I was a governess. Both of us spent scores of hours researching the period:  the army, etiquette and social rules, nineteenth century dress; and how our characters fit within it. At the same time, Tim was also the project manager of the Fort Randall Archaeological Project. We lived and breathed Fort Randall for over two years. 

Choices flowed out of that. The facts were swimming around in my head, mingling constantly into different storylines (that happens a lot with facts in my head). They begged for characters to play them out and for the words to be written down. 

The nineteenth cfort_randall_military_postentury army had rigid sets of rules for being a soldier and complex social codes for how officers, enlisted men, and their women were permitted (or not permitted) to interact. I was amazed at how stratified society was at these western outposts and at how thoroughly officer’s wives observed those social norms. Memoirs, scholarly studies, and the notations left by army personnel all speak to the separation of classes—as defined by rank. 

But even more amazing were the exceptions. Though officers’ wives were socially superior to enlisted men’s wives, they were not officially recognized by the army. In fact, they were considered camp followers, in the same category as prostitutes who might do business just off the military reservation (their places of business were nicknamed “hog ranches”) and were allowed only at the sufferance of the commanding officer. Laundresses, who were often wives of enlisted men, were offic17-in-general-miles-marching-and-chowder-society-reenactmential civilian contractors with corresponding army regulations detailing their rights to be there.  

On most posts, lifestyles of the enlisted and officer classes were narrowly defined and very separate. A few diaries and memoirs offer glimpses into occasional relaxation of those barriers, most often for an all-post holiday celebration or when there was an unusual crisis. 

I wanted to share all this but also to present a story about choices, about how we all choose who we are going to be in terms of choices-coverrelationships with others. Miriam, my heroine, confronts rules and regulations head-on and resists them every step of the way while she seeks ways to cross the lines. I introduced her rigid and domineering mother, Harriet, to bring pressure on her to toe the line and to personify the exclusionary nature of society. Lt. Wood is representative of expectations. Mixed in is the culture of the army, Harriet’s addiction to laudanum, Jake’s honor, the laundress’s common-sense outlook on life, and Major Longstreet’s predicament of his own making. 

I hope you will find the story and fun to read as I found it to write and that my characters reveal the subtleties involved in the choices that face us all. 

I’ve enjoyed our time together. Please visit me on my website at

To celebrate the release of Choices, Pam will be giving a copy to one of today’s blog participants. 

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41 thoughts on “Pamela Nowak ~ Choices”

  1. What a touching way to honor your husband’s memory!

    I hadn’t realized that soldier’s wives, paricularily officer’s wives were treated so disrespectfully. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Just another example of men’s attitudes and why it took so long to get the right to vote. Also, why even today, woman don’t always get the same pay as men, and have to work harder to gain respect in the work place.

  2. Welcome to Wildflower Junction, Pam! I know you’re in Arizon today, visiting your mother, so we appreciate your efforts in finding time to visit with us, too!

    Your book sounds fascinating. Your heroine is spunky and a fighter. You’ve given her so much to overcome–that’s what makes readers turn pages. A mother addicted to laudanum? I love it!

    Like Laurie G said – a touching labor of love in your husband’s memory. Congratulations!

  3. What a great post & a great way to honor your husband’s memory. I love this era books. Congratulations. Blessings. AprilR


  4. It sounds like a great book. Thank you for sharing your feelings about the book. I can’t wait to read it.

  5. This book sounds wonderful. The Civil War period is perhaps my favorite to learn about (and read romances from). I can’t wait to find this book and read it!

  6. Hi everybody!

    It’s great to be with readers who love this era as much as I do.

    Laurie, April, and Pam: Thanks so much for your touching comments about Tim. I actually wrote the first draft of the book in 1993. Then, after joining Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and a critique group, I began to learn the craft of writing. I put the book on the shelf for a few years because I couldn’t force myself to make the changes. Once I went back to the book, I rewrote it seven times.

    In the meantime, I wrote CHANCES and it sold first. I signed the contract for that book just months before Tim passed away. I wish he could have seen CHOICES released…but he always told me he knew it would be. To me, it’s not so much honoring his memory but realizing the dreams he shared with me and encouraged me to pursue.

    One a different track, it’s amazing how far women have come since 1876. If you want to read more about soliders’ wives, pick up GLITTERING MISERY. It’s a great study of women and army life. I think, even today, that officers’ wives still encounter restrictions on what the should and shouldn’t do (if they want to further their husbands’ careers).

    I’ll check in again later!


  7. How wonderful that the two of you share a passion! I love reading historicals, especially ones from our own country. I get to learn so much and in an enjoyable way. Thanks.

  8. Hi! Choices looks incredible! I LOVE just about every aspect of the 19th century! I have my degree in American History. I think it’s so cool how you and your husband research together..maybe I can find a man who will help me with research Hahahaha! I look forward to reading your book!

    XOXO~ Renee

  9. I love stories based during this time period! The book sounds great and your explanation of the hierarchy of wives/women at the forts was really interesting.

  10. Hi Pamela,

    I’m a bit late but I want to welcome you to P&P. We’re so glad to have you. Fort Randall sounds like a fascinating place. I’d love to go poke around there sometime. I’ve always wanted to work with an archaeologist. I like the idea of uncovering part of the past that’s been buried. You’d never know what you might find.

    Congratulations on your new book release. It looks amazing.

  11. Oh what a sweet post! I think you book Choices will be a fabulous read. For one thing we all have to make choices in life some are good and some are bad but its up to us to make them. I would love to read your book.

  12. CHOICES sounds like a great read… It has been awhile since I have read a romance from that time period… Thanks for sharing your story with us today! 😀

  13. Enjoyed reading the comments. I am always looking for new authors to read.
    Both of your books sound interesting. I am especially going to enjoy reading about the Colorado suffrage movement-I was born and raised in Colorado and have explored it’s colorful history.

  14. Hi Pam and welcome to The Junction! (Glad to meet you last weekend at the CO Gold Conference, too.)

    Re-enacting has always fascinated me. Hard work, but lots of fun. Good luck with CHOICES.

  15. Working on the archaeological site was so interesting. The best places to find artifacts (and thus information) are privies! The crew found so much valuable information about the lifestyles of those who lived at Fort Randall by going through the garbage, which was often thrown into the privies. They also discovered a lot in the areas that were under the verandas of the enlisted men’s quarters.

    I also enjoyed the records research. While we wer ein the National Archives, I had the chance to read through the daily reports made by the post physicians and found so much about illnesses and lives of the women at the post that wasn’t in any other records. It’s amazing how little there is left of their lives.

    If any of you live in South Dakota, the chapel at Fort Randall is still standing. I believe there are now interpretive signs for the other buildings. An isolated place, to say the least.

    Catch you all later!


  16. Hello Pam. Choices sounds very interesting with lots of tidbits to fit the times! And it sounds like a bit of a legacy to your late husband. How lovely. Your marriage sounds like it was a great match.

  17. Hi Pamela, Welcome to Petticoats & Pistols. Your book sounds terrific. I love stories about social class differences. In many ways, the rugged life in the West was a great equalizer.

    I hear you, too, on the living history. I curently live in northern Virginia. We’ve got Civil War history on every corner, and Civil War reenactments are big here. Every so often I’ll see a man with 19th century haircut and know he’s into reenactment. Interesting stuff!

  18. Quilt Lady had some wise words in that we all have to make choices in life. I think that’s what really made this story come alive for me. I love novels that have themes and it seemed such a natural choice (hee hee) to link Miriam and Jake to facing those decisions. There really were so few choices available that making that part of their love story was ideal.

    When I first fell in love with romance novels, LaVyrle Spencer was my idol. I loved her stories as well as the lessons she taught through them. I always wanted to do that, too.

    My first book, CHANCES, dealt with taking risks to experience life and make oneself vulnerable. Sarah and Daniel both had to learn to let go and risk all to find love.

    CHANCES also gave me the opportunity to explore a non-traditional hero and a feisty heroine, both of which I love in a good story. It was amazing, though, how few publishers were willing to take the risk on an undertaker! I was so pleased when Five Star/Gale/Cengage accepted the book and told me NOT to change Daniel’s occupation.

    Life is full of times when you have to stick to your guns and I’m glad I did, even though my route to publication took a little longer. Both of my books come from my heart and reflect lessons I’ve learned along the way. I try to include both making wise choices and taking chances on the unexpected part of my life.

    My third story, which is still in progress, will feature Miriam and Sarah’s friend, Lise, as she learns to accept changes. It will be set in Omaha, in 1879, during the trial of Standing Bear–who was the first Native American to be recognized as a person under the law. Lise, who is part Sioux, must decide if she will accept that the world can see her differently than she was conditioned to expect and the hero, Zach (the attorney trying to deny Indians their rights), must learn that the law can change with circumstances. I’m hoping to complete the manuscript and have it to my editor soon.


  19. ….story of a rebellious officer’s daughter, an honorable enlisted man, and a forbidden relationship… it can’t get better than that for reading pleasure. CHOICES sounds like an awesome read so please enter me and thanks for being here today.

    How nice to be able to honor your dh’s memory and his help.

  20. Hi pamela, I am late getting to the Junction today…just did a Livestrong Fundraiser to honor my husband’s 17-months cancer-free, and welcome you, and your good memories. What a fabulous post. I had no idea of this aspect of he 19th century, a favorite place of mine.

    Thanks for the terrific information. Whew. Women sure had it tough in those days in more days tha one. Grrrrrrrrrrrr.

    I am familiar with the saga of Standing Bear.
    Best wishes always.

  21. Hi pamela, I am late getting to the Junction today…just did a Livestrong Fundraiser to honor my husband’s 17-months cancer-free, and welcome you, and your good memories. What a fabulous post. I had no idea of this aspect of he 19th century, a favorite place of mine.

    Thanks for the terrific information. Whew. Women sure had it tough in those days in more days tha one. Grrrrrrrrrrrr.

    I am familiar with the saga of Standing Bear.
    Best wishes always.

  22. Sounds like a wonderful novel! I joine so many others here in saying that I look forward to reading it. Congrats!


  23. Sounds like a wonderful novel! I join so many others here in saying that I look forward to reading it. Congrats!


  24. Tanya:

    Congrats to both you and your hubby! Having lost mine to leukemia, I know what an accomplishment you two have made. Live Strong every day!

    So many of you today have indicated interest in the story–please contact me via my website and let me know how you liked the book. I love the feedback.

    If anyone has any questions, bring ’em on! Will check in again later.


  25. What a wonderful observation that “we all choose who we are going to be in terms of relationships with others,” Pam. I remember conversations of this nature with mutual friends. I know the new book will be a great read, and I can’t wait to get to know your heroine. Her friend Sarah still makes me smile, whenever I think of her.

    I can hardly wait to read CHOICES and share it with my reading friends.

    Best, always.

  26. Hi Pam — I cannot wait to read CHOICES! Really enjoyed CHANCES. Am curious if you would share what you like best about the book, without giving away anything important in the story. Am pleased for you and proud of you. Enjoy your Arizona visit and our relatives! dan

  27. The military has changed a little, but still has those social lines. Officer’s wives have no official status, but some don’t realize it. They “wear” their husband’s rank and try to run things their way. A lot depends on the commander. Right after I got married, there was an orientation meeting for wives. The commander asked the wives to sit by rank, with the highest ranking wives sitting in the front. After some shuffled around, he looked at everyone and said “Ladies, Your husbands have the rank, you do not.” There is not supposed to be fraternization, but it happens. One officer on the crew married an enlisted woman. The old saying “If the army had wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one.” I can imagine that in the time period of your book, officer’s wives were not really an asset. Supplies were probably limited and they did not contribute to the running of the fort. They and their children were a drain on the system. If they were pushy, it could effect the running of the fort.

  28. Hi, this is Pam’s sister, Judy, and I am writing on her behalf. Unfortunately Pam lost her internet connection tonight and cannot get back online and she wanted me to share her comments with all of you:

    “Thanks for stopping by today and for taking the time to blog with me. I really enjoyed reading all of your comments, I love to hear what others think. I hope that all of you who read CHOICES will enjoy my book. Again, thanks for taking your time to share with me…..Pam”

  29. Great article. So interesting to know the genesis of this story and to learn about your interest in live enactments. And thanks so much for being a part of the Montblanc Boutique Author Series and Book Signing last month. That was a great evening.
    Plus the RMFW conference was the max! Thanks for all your work. Anne

  30. Just wanted to add that my publisher, Five Star/Gale/Cengage markets primarily to libraires so if your local bookstore doesn’t stock my books, they CAN be special ordered, ordered on-line, or borrowed from the library.

    Am hoping all of you enjoyed our discussion as much as I did. My thanks to Petticoats and Pistols for the invitation to guest blog and to all of you for sharing with me!


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