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Friday, November 29, 2013

Writing outside your comfort zone by Gerald Costlow

Writing outside of your comfort zone.

I have a passion for writing.  Every writer I know has a passion for writing, or we wouldn’t be driven to doing such a crazy thing.  And most writers I know have one particular type of story they’re interested in writing.  I’m no different.  I love sword-and-sorcery type fantasy and my imagination is filled with dragons and elves and witches and above all, magic.  That’s my comfort zone.  My first published novel, The Weaving, was a straight-up witches and demons and wizards and kings battling type of thing.

But that’s not all I’m interested in.  I like the thrill of stepping out of my comfort zone once in a while.  I love trying out new styles and genres.  After all, a story is about the people, not the setting.  My writing is character driven, so once I develop the characters and drop them into a setting they always come alive and adapt. 

 Lately, certain Western imprints have caught my eye and I got the crazy idea to write a story set in the old West.  I’ve never written a Western before.  I suppose I didn’t think I knew enough about life on the frontier.  For example: where, exactly, do I set my story?  The “wild west” covered about a third of the country at various times.  Texas and Nebraska were both the frontier but were as different then as now.  I do not and have never lived west of Ohio except for a few miserable weeks of Air Force basic training in San Antonio one summer.  The cows I grew up with on the farm were milked, not wrangled.  What do I know about daily life on a ranch?

Then my writer side stepped up and slapped me for being so dense.  I’ve never lived in a castle or worn a sword, either, but that didn’t stop me from writing a story that took place in a castle.  I didn’t grow up in the West, but I knew the cowboy myth as well as any child who grew up in the golden age of Westerns.  I spent many hours immersed in Bonanza and Cheyenne and a dozen more series on our television, not to mention the movies.

So the child in me woke up, strapped on the six-shooters and headed out West.  The result is this, my first but certainly not last Western Romance.  I sent it in to Rebecca Vickery and Becca liked it well enough to publish.  So along with my Appalachia Romance series, I just might start a series of stories set in the mythical town of Wilcox, Nebraska.

So if you're a writer, have you decided to step outside of your comfort zone before?

"A Wicked Past" by Gerald Costlow, published by Rebecca Vickery

Nancy Darling is enduring a Nebraska winter alone in her isolated farm. Two men, each trying to escape a wicked past, are in a race to find hidden Confederate gold.  When they arrive one Christmas, will she find the fallen angel she's dreamed of or face a devil in disguise?
Where to purchase the book [only 99 cents at these locations]:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Hi everyone. Our Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA is today! For the last several years, I have not “cooked” a big Thanksgiving dinner. With my daughter going to LA every year at that time and my son opting for McDonald’s so much of the time in the past, there just wasn’t a need to make a big dinner. Yes, my husband did complain. Every year. But he never offered to help with anything, either. In desperation, we tried different traditions—the “Festive Fajita Party Pack” from our nearest Mexican restaurant, which is wonderful, by the way; the “Smoked Turkey Dinner and Fixin’s” from a fantabulous barbecue place we love…but of course, it wasn’t the same.

This year, my daughter will be home with us, and she wants “the dinner.” I haven’t bought my turkey—or anything else. It’s Tuesday. I’m not stressed, though. Let me tell you why. I have the money in the bank to buy those groceries. So many people don’t. If I want to make sweet potato pie, I don’t have to skimp on the marshmallows. If I want to make turkey, I don’t have to worry about one brand being ten cents cheaper than the brand I really want. And best of all, I can buy both kinds of cranberry sauce, since I’m the only one in my family who really loves the whole berry kind. So I’m very thankful for the fact that I don’t have to worry about being able to provide the menu I want to make for this holiday dinner. And everyone will get what they want, even Embry--who likes everything. Would you believe English peas are one of his favorites?

My third "child"--Embry
I have learned to cook pretty darn well. It wasn’t always this way, believe me. My mother was a wonderful cook, but being a child of the 60’s I couldn’t have cared less about learning from her. I was happy with a hamburger (which I did learn how to make for myself) and chips. I learned how to cook only after I got married—and there were quite a few trial and error “flubs” that had to be tossed. They were unsalvageable. So I’m glad that now I have learned through the years and am able to do the job right, at this point. And I'm so glad I don't have to make everything from scratch like my mom and grandmothers did!

My great great grandmother on my dad's side of the family, Sarah Manery Casey. She was full blood Indian, married to an Irishman...My son, Casey, is named for that part of our family.
I have the physical ability to cook. This may seem like a little thing. We gripe and complain sometimes about having to fix a meal, but I promise you, one short walk through a nursing home will make you thankful for so many things. Seeing the older people there who would give anything to be able to prepare a meal once more, or go work in their gardens, makes me realize how much I have to be thankful for—even the simple preparation of a holiday meal takes on new meaning.

I have a wonderful family. And this year they are all going to be home for Thanksgiving! So many military men and women are far away from everything familiar in dangerous situations. Families separate as children grow up and move away. It’s not always possible to get home for the holidays. And many homeless men and women have no families to go to.

I have fantastic memories of growing up, all of us gathered around my grandmother’s table, or wherever we could manage to find a place to perch with our plates. We spilled out onto the porch, into the living room, eating in shifts. Of course, the men ate first. It was a huge gathering—my grandmother had eleven children. I have thirty-three cousins on my mother’s side of the family. When we were done there, we’d go to my dad’s side and visit. There were only eight cousins there, but three of them were boys, and the younger two loved to play cowboys and Indians. What could be better? Another blessing to be thankful for—boy cousins who were just my age.

A good time was always had by all, and that was the holiday that brought everyone home to granny’s house, even if they couldn’t come at Christmas. I had a cousin, Julie, who was a few months older than I. She was my “partner in crime”. One Thanksgiving, we spotted a package of six Milky Way candy bars in the refrigerator—our favorite. With everything going on, we managed to sneak the package out, and she hid it in her jacket. We made it out the door and into the nearby woods. This was quite a trick, since she had three younger siblings at the time. We ate those candy bars, three each. I can tell you, I was feeling sick when I ate that last bite. But we were so proud of ourselves for managing to get them out undetected and to actually be alone to commit the rest of the crime. When we got back to the house, our Aunt Joyce was beside herself. It turned out, she had bought those candy bars for a specific purpose—to make her “Mississippi Mud Slide Cake” that two of her brothers-in-law had requested. Of course, as eleven-year-old children, we’d never even thought that the candy bars might be needed for a recipe. We laugh about it now, but at the time, it was serious stuff. I thought she was going to whip us good, and Julie and I both believed our mothers would have let her!

My Aunt Joyce--she was the only woman I ever knew growing up who had been in the Navy. Loved that woman, but she put the fear in us over those Milky Ways!

These are only a few of the “everyday” things that I’m so thankful for. This is really just the tip of the iceberg. When we think of everything we have in this beautiful world, it’s impossible to make a list of things to be thankful for, isn’t it?

What are you thankful for this holiday? Do you have a favorite memory to share? Let's hear it!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

WHEELS of JUSTICE now available...

Now available online at 

EBook $ 2.99

Paperback $ 11.95

Justice comes in all forms, whether through police departments, private investigators, or in some cases private citizens. Wheels of Justice is a collection of fourteen crime stories set in mostly small towns in eastern Nebraska where all three groups, either individually or working together as planned, reluctantly do what they can to see that justice prevails. We understand why crooks do what they do, but we also understand why the police and concerened citizens must make a stand to try and control the unsavory elements and their passion for their actions. This collection contains stories of robbery, murder, mistaken idenity, and justice seekers.