My guest today is Sci-fi debut author, Dale Cozort. Dale and I met through a Gather writing contest and I fell in love with his writing. I'm a big Sci-fi fan and have always been and was thrilled when Dale got a contract. Dale is funny, smart as a whip, and I swear he had to have touched the Blarney Stone, because he tells a great story.
Tell me a bit about Dale Cozort? By profession you're a teacher?
Yep. I teach computer skills and do hardware and software support.
Oh, I love computer geeks! I learn so much from them. What do you like to do for fun and relaxation?
In the winter I read quite a bit-mostly science fiction and mysteries, and spend too much time watching TV. In the summer I love long bike rides. We have a couple of nature trails and pretty much every day we can see chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits along the trail. We see deer and raccoons a couple of times a year. It's nice.
You've been writing for some years, how long have you had the goal to be published?
I got serious about it sixteen years ago. I took a couple detours of several months to a year or two along the way, most importantly when I was helping my aunt with a lawsuit she got involved in.
I understand Exchange was entered in a writing contest, correct? How did you do in the contest?
Yep. Gather's second First Chapters contest. Exchange made the semifinals-in the top twenty-five out of over three hundred. Unofficially it ended up in tenth place.
I know I was not only impressed with the quality of your story but where you ended up. Gather's First chapters' contests were very tough, even brutal, in my opinion.
What lessons did you learn from it?
I learned a lot about how difficult it is to stand out from a large field. The structure of the Gather contests really gave you a feel for what editors and agents go through as they try to find marketable writing in a sea of writing that ranges from awful to just not quite good enough.
I have to agree. It certainly gave me more of an appreciation for agents and editors too. There were some very good entries, but after reading them all, I found there were more entries that ranged from god awful to, as you put it, not quite good enough.
Do you feel writing contests benefit writers?
It depends on how they're structured. If they give good and meaningful feedback, then yes, they can be great. If not, they're just another slushpile-not necessarily bad, just no real advantage.
Good point. How have you handled discouragement that comes with submitting and getting rejections?
A long walk or a bike ride usually helps. A good book can help. Sometimes I write. Some of the edgiest writing can flow when you're discouraged, angry, experiencing any kind of strong emotion.
How would you classify Exchange? I know it has, as all good books and movies, an element of romance but is this Sci-fi?
It's definitely Science Fiction, but it explores relationships more than people usually expect from science fiction. If you go into it as a person who only reads Romance, it'll be an okay read, but not a great one for you. If you like Science Fiction and Mysteries and you also like stories where relationships are important, then you're the core of the target audience.
What drew you to this genre?
I've been reading science fiction and mysteries since I was in middle school. I like exploring new worlds and trying to figure them out. I love what-ifs.
Give me a glimpse of this world you've created?
I see it as being both beautiful and incredibly tough. The size and variety of animals makes the North America of Exchange feel more like Africa before it was tamed down than anything else, though in some ways it is recognizably North America.
"Before it was tamed down?" So, are you talking about prehistoric creatures too?
The big, fierce animals that didn't survive past the ice ages in our world are still around in large numbers, along with some exotic ones like the swarms of fast-running little monkeys. Sharon, the heroine saves a young monkey from a flood, and when he attaches himself to her she gets a lesson on how different the new world she has entered is.
The monkey showed no sign of aggression. It also showed no sign of going away. It foraged for insects and bats in the grass near Sharon, snatching them and popping them in its mouth so quickly that the motion blurred. Sharon thought about trying to chase it away, but decided that might precipitate whatever danger the monkey posed. Instead she found a couple of rocks and tried to chip a point on one.
Within a short time, Sharon's hands were cramping and bruised from her. She noticed the monkey watching her intently and held up the rocks. "Don't you wish you could do this? This is what separates us from you."
The monkey strolled over and picked up a couple of the larger chips that she had flaked off. It chipped at one of them for a couple of minutes with quick, practiced motions, then moved back, carrying a sharp-edged chip in an odd grip between its thumb and the top of the next finger.
Sharon stared at the monkey and said in a subdued voice, "Well, that's supposed to be one of the things that separates you from us." The monkey chipped an edge onto a larger rock and handed it to her.
I like Sharon; she's got a wry sense of humor and she's emotionally strong and not afraid to tackle whatever needs to be done. What do you admire about Sharon?
She just keeps going. No matter how hopeless the situation seems, she just keeps working away at it until she finds a way of going on.
Your hero, Leo, is a bit of a rogue, with a good dose of mystique, some dangerous edges and I think he's very interesting and complex. Leo, in my opinion, is rather hot with a good amount of sex appeal, as many dangerous men do. What do you like about him?
Leo is a mystery. He has layers of secrets, and as you unravel one you become aware of a bunch more. At the same time you get the feeling that it's worth the time of finding out what he's really about.
Do you have a favorite scene in the book?
My first thought is, sure that's easy, but it doesn't turn out to be.
I don't do easy, Dale, lol! That's what you call a deceptively simple question. So what was your second thought?
I had a lot of fun writing the scenes between Sharon and Leo, as she tries to figure out who he is and what his motives are.
I love their relationship. Would you mind sharing one with us?
One of the earlier ones without spoilers:
Sharon heard a fragment of the reply, ".don't care who he is. I haven't had a woman in years." She eased the pistol from her belt.
Not a man. Just a target.
The balding convict spurred his horse and approached at a gallop. He raised a stone-tipped spear. The others eyed Leo and stayed put. Sharon raised the pistol, thumbed the hammer back, and aimed at the center of the man's chest.
He grinned and kept coming. Sharon hesitated. The sight wavered.
No choice. Do it.
She fired. The pistol jerked against her hand and the bullet's crack echoed in the still landscape. Above his paunchy stomach, a red stain blossomed on the man's tattered shirt. The spear dropped at Sharon's feet. The convict fell with one foot still in the stirrup, spooking his horse, and the animal ran off, dragging his unconscious rider. Sharon caught a glimpse of a rifle tattoo on the convict's flailing forearm-AK. She shuddered when his head bounced off a rock outcropping and turned away, only to find the convicts' semicircle had dissolved into chaos. Another convict fell off his bucking horse, which kicked him in the chest with both hind feet when he started to get up. The man flew backward and twitched in the grass.
When the remaining convicts got their horses under control, the man with the pockmarked face spoke to Leo.
"Don't imagine you'd sell the bitch?"
"You can't afford her," Leo said.
Sharon stared at her companion. A strange, eager expression faded from his face as she watched.
"Let us just get what's left of Joe and catch the horse that ran off. Then we'll be on our way."
While Sharon and Leo watched, the convicts hauled up the bodies and arranged them on horses. They rode off, several looking over shoulders to stare or gesture at Sharon and Leo.
Sharon kept her pistol pointed warily toward them until they disappeared over a hill.
"They didn't seem like the kind of men to give up that easily," she said. "He was an AK. I think they all were."
"Aryan Kings? Probably. They're in most prisons and a lot of cities in the Midwest."
"Not people to run away from a fight."
Leo grinned. "Maybe you scared them off. Only three of them had guns and who knows if those guns had ammunition. Could be a lot of things."
"I don't think so," Sharon said. "I think you scared them."
Leo smiled. "You had the gun."
Leo smiled. "You had the gun."
You can read the official exerpt and Blurb
What is coming next from the pen of Dale Cozort?
My next priority is getting Char ready to go out the door.
Yeah! Oh, I loved what I've read of Char, as you well know. Can you tell us a bit about this one?
Char is a unique mix of science fiction and police procedural. An apparent cavewoman shows up in rural Wisconsin in the middle of a paintball game. One of the paintballers dies and a very smart female sheriff ends up trying to untangle a mix of clues which includes bare footprints that don't seem quite human and a trail that comes out of the center of a mudhole with no trail going into it. The sheriff is a wonderful character, with a devastating dry wit and powerful detecting ability. I would love to see people get to know her, along with Char, the cavewoman.
After that I want to finish my work in progress, which involves the modern United States and the US of 1953 coming in contact with each other-and not particularly liking each other.
I'm looking forward to both. I love your premises, the `what-ifs' and the blend of old world and new.
Dale, it's been a pleasure to talk with you. I always appreciate authors taking time out of their busy schedules to answer questions.
Folks, if you haven't read Exchange, you're in for a treat. It's a fun story that grabs you attention right from the beginning and doesn't let you go. It has a cast of strong and complex characters, an intriguing storyline with well-crafted suspense and adventure, with a nice touch of romance.