The Code of the West Hawaiian Style

I never thought I would admit this, nor did I think I would parade it on the World Wide Web for all to see, but I’ve decided to write a cowboy romance series. I don’t know that much about cowboys except from watching television and reading other cowboy romance novels, yet I have had a few profound experiences observing the paniolos or cowboys of Hawaii.

The history of these cowboys and the ranches they belong to, and how their horses arrived to the islands of Hawaii is fascinating to me. I’ve only been to Hawaii twice, but while vacationing I’ve been able to attend a rodeo, go on a horseback riding tour, and watch paniolos as they showed off their finery in a city parade.

If that wasn’t incentive enough, what really got me going were the words on a plaque given to me some time ago by a dear old saint who attended the same church I did. The plaque is entitled The Code of the West. I’m convinced it applies to the paniolos as well as to the everyday non-cowboy person. Actually, it can be seen as an inspirational code of ethics for writers as well.

1. Live each day with courage.                                                                                                                    (I don’t know about you, but I think just getting through 2020 has made us all call upon our personal capacity for bravery.)
2. Take pride in your work.                                                                                                                     (My first thought has to do with our process of editing as writers. We want to make sure every word, every contextual idea, every example of good grammar, and the arcs of the characters and story arc to the best of our ability.)
3. Always finish what you start. 

(I had to laugh at this one. There are times I’ve wanted to throw my half finished in the dumpster manuscript but luckily pulled it out in time to do the work and bring it to its successful end.)
4. Do what has to be done. 

(For writers this has to include sacrificing time on social media, allowing our families to function on their own, and to lose an hour or two a night of sleep—all for the cause of getting the blasted thing completed.)
5. Be tough but fair. 

(For me this has to do with really looking at what it is I’ve written and deciding if it needs to stay or be subject to the delete button. I realize not everything I write has to be perfect, but sometimes words I’ve previously held precious, instead have to go.)
6. When you make a promise, keep it. 

(Well, that’s gotta be referring to the promised deadline date, you think?)
7. Ride for the brand. 

(I suppose that could be translated as “write for the brand.” For me the brand is really two things—a. my publisher, and b. my series.)
8. Talk less and say more. 

(Show, don’t tell. How often have we heard that?)
9. Remember that some things aren’t for sale. 

(I think this tenet has to do with the writing the book you want to write and not the one your readership, minister, publisher, or Aunt Tillie wants.)
10. Know where to draw the line. 

(For me this tenet is personal, for when I immerse myself in a writing project, I often forget about other things that are as or more important to me in my life. Like what you ask? Well, my family, my community, my believe system, and most important, me.)

After getting through this year in dealing with all of its ups and downs, I think this code of the West could just as easily be called The Code of 2020. It’s been a bit of a lonely ride bringing the cattle to market, but I’ve made new friends in the bunkhouse (Zoom) and I’ve done my best, I reckon, to hold The Code of the West as a paradigm I can live by.


Born and raised near the Puget Sound in Washington State, Gwen Overland and her family now live in Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Prior to that Gwen lived in Los Angeles and had careers in directing, acting, and singing while performing at the piano. After years in academia, writing one research article followed by another, Gwen turned her talents toward writing fiction and found she happily could not stop. Love’s Harvest and Free My Heart, two novels from her Salmon Run Series, have been published by Soul Mate, and she has just signed a contract for her third book of that series, Waiting for You, to be released June of 2021. Her self-published, romantic comedy/mystery series, The Millicent Winthrop Novels, is available in both English and German.  In addition, Gwen also has two published non-fiction books on the work she does in conjunction with her business, Expressive Voice Dynamics: Soul of Voice and Soul of My Voice.  When she’s not reading, writing, or playing with her two black pugs, Buster Keaton and Emmett Kelly, Gwen works in the theatre, or assists psychotherapy clients in discovering more joy and meaning in their lives. 

Keep up with Gwen by following her on Twitter @gwenoverland; Gwen Overland Author on Facebook; @GwenOverland on Instagram, or at and  

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3 Responses to The Code of the West Hawaiian Style

  1. sueberger3 says:

    Good reminders.
    I don’t read cowboy romances, but in the olden days, I read all of Jack Schaefer and al of Louis Lamour. I even got to meet him once.
    Good Luck with your new series.

  2. Great Gwen, enjoyed it and live it!

  3. viola62 says:

    This is an amazing code for writers–and teachers.

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