Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for Vines: Dystopian Alternate History

Working our way through the A-Z Challenge, today's letter is "V". In this case, it stands for the vines that are a feature of the dystopian alternate history created by our guest Dale Cozort in his Exchange series of books. Take it away Dale!    ~Kat Sheridan

Black vines cling to sterile, concrete-like ground, black leaves chittering in the wind that whips across a treeless landscape, a sea of black with nothing poking through it, nothing flying above it. Barbs along the vines are useless, vestigial. No animals big enough for them to grab survive in this shattered piece of world. Thumb-sized multi-legged forms, as black as the leaves, scuttle among the vines, the largest surviving animals.

That’s the environment where much of my novel Devouring Winds takes place. The rest of it, ironically, happens in a bountiful world, overflowing with animals, unspoiled.

Devouring Winds is the second novel in a series. The premise: near future Earth encounters a series of Exchanges, temporary swaps of town-sized pieces of our reality with an alternate reality where humans never developed, and the world is still dominated by animals.

In the first book, a cult with mysterious ties to the US government colonizes the alternate reality during an Exchange, cutting themselves off from the rest of humanity. Computer guru Sharon Mack and her autistic daughter are also cut off and take refuge with the cult.

The second book brings another Exchange, this one with the black vines reality. The new Exchange takes us from a fresh, exuberant world to a tired, depleted one. The black vine reality developed industrial civilization while our ancestors were still spearing mammoths. That civilization then spent nearly fifty thousand years in a cycle of destroying itself, pulling the remnants back together and repeating the process.

As one of the characters comments, nuclear wars should be one to the customer at most, but the black vine reality kept fighting, going beyond nuclear weapons to even more destructive devices. Now, a few thousand refugees from our reality face the power of this ancient and powerful reality.

I enjoyed writing Devouring Wind. I like asking big questions. What would an industrial civilization look like after fifty thousand years, with technology giving ever-increasing power to countries and individuals? How much of our civilization could a few thousand isolated humans maintain? What would their lives be like? How would they react to enforced isolation from so much of our culture? No new television, books, videogames or music unless they produced it themselves. Cut off from new styles, new slang, new celebrities, never knowing if Lindsay Lohan is in or out of rehab, even if they wanted to know.

How would they react to enforced closeness, never being able to get away from relationships that went bad? How would they settle quarrels with no courts and no lawyers?

I try to address all those questions, and have a lot of fun doing it.

Let’s chat: If you were cut off like the characters in Devouring Wind, what would you miss the most? The least?


"They're coming for us, from the sky and emptiness." This is the unnerving prediction of Bethany Mack, the autistic and strangely prescient daughter of technology guru Sharon Mack. After the last Exchange—a literal swapping of sections between two different realities—Sharon and her daughter are trapped in the wild alternate version of Earth called Bear Country. They’ve taken refuge at Fort Eegan, an outpost built by a peculiar cult with mysterious ties to the US government. But a new Exchange brings terrifying new consequences.

Fort Eegan now faces beings with technology superior to theirs and a millennium-old history of mass violence. The Exchange also blocks Fort Eegan's precious water supply, threatening deprivation now and catastrophic floods in the future. The older and far more threatening civilization also brings a weapon capable of devouring everything in its path, including Fort Eegan.

Even more dangerous than the threat from the new Exchange are the humans of Bear Country. Roaming the countryside, ruthless escaped convicts hold hundreds of women hostage. With supplies dwindling, they eye Fort Eegan's dwindling resources. Inside and outside the fort, restlessness grows among the isolated humans and conflicts fester, including a deadly love triangle. Fort Eegan's only hope is that Bear County's humans unite before they are all blown away by the devouring winds.

Dale Cozort lives in a college town near Chicago with his wife, daughter, three cats and a lot of books. Dale is a computer programmer and teacher as well as a long-time science fiction fan.


Kat's "V" Book List

Victoria Holt – author of many classic gothic mystery romances

The Secret Life of Violet Grant: Beatriz Williams. Manhattan 1964 and Berlin 1914. A great beach read.

Night Vision:  A Jake Lassiter novel by Paul Levine. A fast talking lawyer and hilarity.

Image courtesy of TeddyBear[Picnic] /

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"T" is for That Genre Otherwise Known As Young Adult

As we wend our way through the alphabet in the A-Z Challenge, today's letter is "T", for "Teen", a.k.a Young Adult. Our special guest is author Natalie D. Richards to tell us about the joys and challenges of writing for the Young Adult!

And some quick blog business: The winner of Susan Gee Heino's book from our "R is for Regency" blog post is Natalie Aguirre. Please contact Susan at:

Now, take it away Natalie!

Oh, you write for teens, huh?  How come?  I hear this question at least once a week. And I always have the same reaction—a brief deer-in-the-headlights pause before I suck in a breath and explain my passion is and always has been teen literature. That The Greats doesn’t make me think of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens (though I’m a fan of both) but rather of Judy Blume, John Green, Laurie Halse Anderson, and my newest love, Rainbow Rowell. In short…I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to write Young Adult.

But…you’re not a teenager! Despite the fact that I wear Chucks, suck down girly faux-coffee drinks at Starbucks, and talk as quickly as humanly possible all the time, I am definitely on the wrong side of thirty to be passing as a high-schooler. So, yes, it’s true, I’m not a teen. I’ve been found out!

The truth is, teenager or not, I’m profoundly moved by the teenage experience. I’m convinced there’s no more amazing time in a person’s life, where we begin to really shape who we are, what we want, and what kind of mark we will leave on this crazy world. I couldn’t fathom writing for an audience I love more.

So while it’s been done before, I figure I’ll do my shot today at busting three myths about Young Adult fiction.

MYTH:  Teen books need to be simple because your readers are younger. The quality isn’t the same as it is in adult books.

FACT: Horse poop! My readers are studying literature in school on a nearly daily basis, are you? Also many teens are voracious readers. I know teens who read three to five books a week. A WEEK!

As for the quality question, I have a quick assignment. Go read 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Or Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Or Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. If you still have questions about the quality of Young Adult fiction, I’ll be very happy to discuss them.

MYTH:  Teen books are chock full of all that fandangled modern-day music and slang. I can’t keep up!

FACT: Actually, most of us avoid it. In truth, by the time a book releases, we’re already on to the next phone, tablet, band, song, TV show, etc. Pop culture can be a part of teen literature, but it’s generally used sparingly.

MYTH:  Teen books are easy to write.

FACT: There are no easy books to write. From picture books to romance novels to literary masterpieces—they’re all hard for different reasons. And yes, as much as I love writing my books, it certainly hasn’t been a walk in the park!
Kat and Sia, thank you both SO much for having me today. I can’t wait to hear from some of your visitors!!

Let's chat: Natalie says: So how about you guys? Have you read any teen fiction? Do you have a favorite? Or maybe you want a recommendation? Hit me up!
Natalie D. Richards is the 2014 YALSA Teen Top Ten Nominated author of Six Months Later, a YA thriller about a girl who falls asleep in Study Hall and wakes up six months later to a suddenly perfect life that’s anything but.
Natalie was born and raised in central Ohio (Go Bucks! Go Jackets!) where she lives with her husband, three children, and a seventy pound dust-mop who swears he’s the family dog. Six Months Later, her debut novel with Sourcebooks Fire, is available in bookstores now! Her second book, Gone Too Far, is due to be released in January of 2015.
The "T" book list:
Daniel Tammet: Much like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Tammet has savant syndrome (autistic savant). His books are a beautiful look inside his extraordinary mind.
Travis McGee: Noir-ish knight-errant, salavager, beach bum, finder of lost things created by John D. MacDonald.
The Trade: by Colby Marshall. Reporter McKenzie McClendon is on the trail of a serial killer stealing unborn babies from women's wombs. Suspense thriller.


Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Regency and a REWARD!

UPDATE: The winner of one of Susan's books is Natalie Aguirre!! Congrats Natalie! Please contact Susan as soon as possible via her website, 

Our guest today on the monthlong A-Z Challenge is Susan Gee Heino, discussing all the Reasons "R" is for Regency! And quick note, the winner of Donna MacMeans' book from our P is for Paranormal day is Chrys Frey. Chrys, please contact Donna via her web site at . And now, on to Susan!
Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy

Thanks so much for having me here today! I hear we're doing a run-through of the alphabet, so today's blog is brought to you by the Letter "R". Yes, it's an awesome letter. I love it. Why? Because "R" is for Regency!
I'm a little bit passionate about the Regency time period, and especially for historical romances set in that time period. Basically, the English Regency was a short little span of years, 1811 through 1820. The king was suffering from an ailment that made him, well, completely off his rocker. While he was out of commission--locked in a tower, really--his son became Prince Regent to look after things in his stead. That's where the term "Regency" comes from.
So what makes romance novels set in this time period so very special? Well, I'm glad that you asked! Let me give you a whole list of What I Love About Regency Romance. You might even notice, they all start with the handy little Letter "R".

Rules:  Society of the time had some very strict rules and regulations for respectable behavior. Our heroes and heroines have to tread very carefully on that thin line between risk and ruin, destruction or bliss. It makes for a very entertaining dance!

Romance:  History, nobility, love, longing and beautiful dresses. Who could want more?

Rescues:  The era was still a time when women had few opportunities in life. My heroines often feel trapped, hopeless, confused. Sometimes they need a little help, but once they learn who they really are they find a way out.

Risk:  The course of true love never does run smooth. Sometimes you just have to be willing to lose it all in order to gain everything.

Rogues and Rakes:  Oh yes, what would a Regency Romance be without the hero and his checkered past? We love to read about the hard-hearted duke who's sworn never to love; the cynical earl with emotional scars, the dashing lord who can't be snagged--but then is. By the end of the book you can sum these ruffians up in one fabulous word:  Reformed.

Rollicks and Romps:  Witty banter, quirky characters, boisterous ballrooms, mistaken identities, compromising situations, and all manner of clever misadventures. Yes, this is what sets Regency Romance apart from the crowd, if you ask me. Love love love these rambunctious elements of fun.
One lucky commenter will win their choice of either a sexy (hot) or a mild (sweet) Regency romance! The winner will be announced on this post on Wednesday, as well as on the regular Wednesday post. So join the conversation!

Let's chat: "R" you a reader of Regency Romance?  Recite, relate or reiterate what you enjoy most. If you've got a favorite author or a recent read or even a pet peeve about Regency Romance, tell me about it. Even if it doesn't start with the Resilient letter "R".


Want to get a taste of Susan's hilarious Regency?
When Miss Mariah Langley inherited beautiful Renford Hall she planned to stay there forever. Now the Earl of Dovington has shown up to evict her! With guests arriving and tempers flaring, the spinster and the earl engage in a battle of wits and wooing! The Earl's Passionate Plot novella is available for only 99 cents on Amazon!
Susan Gee Heino's lighthearted Regency Romances are full of quirky heroines, wicked banter, and dashing cravat-wearing heroes. Adventures ensue, hilarity happens, but the hero always ends up with his lady. And vice versa. Ms. Heino lives in rural Ohio with her non-cravat-inclined husband, two very remarkable children, and an accidental collection of critters. She loves to hear from readers so please visit her at or connect on social media.
The "R" book list:
James Rollins: Action adventure blending science and history
M.J. Rose: Thrillers that blend mystery and magic
Raven Morris: Scorching hot erotic romance