What’s news for horror writer Paul D. Dail?
Not much to report this week. Finished the first draft of a rather disturbing short story about a man who is convinced (perhaps rightly so) that aliens are trying to ruin his life. Will be polishing it up and sending it out soon.
What does the future hold?
Hmm. Not sure, but I think I’ll put in another excerpt of travelogue from one of my trips to Mexico next Friday. It will be a traveling weekend for many of you (although probably not to Mexico), so why not?
But without further ado…
Genny thought her hallucinations were from lack of sleep. Then her daughter started hearing the trees talking, too. Now they are being hunted by a cult who wants to use them in a deadly ritual. As Summer Solstice nears, carnivorous vines grow out of control, the sacred orchard dies of blight, and it isn’t safe after dark. Can an acquaintance with his own set of debilitating issues, a renegade goddess worshiper, and an axe save Genny and her daughter?
Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor.
My overall opinion: While there were a couple of troubling aspects with the writing, overall, I really enjoyed Stolen Climates. It was fast-paced, visual, and refreshingly original.
To get the shortcomings out of the way, the biggest thing that jumped out at me came as a result of teaching Creative Writing. I’ve always been a stickler for point of view, and there were several moments in Stolen Climates where the point of view would shift back and forth in the middle of a scene. I know that this was unintentional (mostly because I spoke with the author about it) and a result of making sure the audience knew how someone else in the scene was feeling about something, but unless it’s intentional (and I dare say few writers can masterfully pull off third person omniscient), these point of view shifts end up having a bit of a jarring effect on the reader, even if they don’t necessarily recognize why.
My only other complaint is a minor one. As I mentioned in last week’s introduction to my interview with Aniko Carmean, she has an amazing way with words. She is truly a wordsmith. However, there were moments in Stolen Climates where her prose-esque style stuck out, either sounding unnatural or being too convoluted. Either way, these few moments were enough to draw my attention to the words, temporarily taking me out of the story and wondering why she had chosen to describe something in such seemingly poetic terms, where a simpler description would’ve been less distracting.
However, I was easily able to overlook these minor issues because of the story itself. The biggest plus of this novel is its originality. I’ve heard that the story has roots–no pun intended (you’ll have to read the book to get that one)–in Mesoamerican mythology, but like any good author, Carmean has made them her own (and the genesis isn’t common enough that most people would be familiar with it, such as the Percy Jackson series, for example). While there were scenes that had tinges of familiarity to them (I was reminded at one point of the freaky tree from “Poltergeist”), those tinges were as far as it went. Whether intentionally or not, she played off some common themes just enough to spark recognition without forging an imitation.
[For more on the story background, check out Marie Loughin’s post on Stolen Climates]
Also, as I mentioned in my overall opinion, there are some great visuals in this novel. Whether it is the sacred orchard, the small town café, or the just the small town of Breaker, Texas, itself, there are some amazing scenes that are still clear in my mind’s eye several months after finishing the novel (yes, it’s taken me a little while to get to this review, but I think that speaks volumes for the staying power of the settings into which Carmean has breathed life).
Another thing Carmean handles well is her characterization. As the father of a toddler, the scenes with Linnae, the three-year-old daughter, read very true to me, and the little girl gave an energy to the story that served its purpose as a focal point sometimes and a distraction others (and like a toddler often is for a parent, sometimes that distraction came when you were trying to pay attention to something bigger going on. Kudos to Carmean for making that work). Genny, Linnae’s mother, has her own issues and Carmean handles them well, taking the reader from being sympathetic to being frustrated with her (at least I was… often feeling bad for her husband). Prentice (the aforementioned “acquaintance with his own debilitating issues”) was something of a mystery. While I really liked his character, I struggled a bit with him. Not that everything has to be resolved, but there were some pretty big unanswered questions I had about him and his actions in the story. But again, intriguing.
There is a whole other cast of characters in this book, and again, Carmean did a great job of bringing them all to life. Even the minor characters had a sense of fullness to them that made the reader interested.
Then of course, there’s the biggest character: Mother Nature. But you’ll just have to read to see how she fits into the story.
Just a word of advice: Look out for that tree!
What do I want from you?
Have you read Stolen Climates? What did you think?
Plot originality seems a rare commodity these days. What’s one of the most original stories you’ve read? Or the most original take on a common theme?
You can find Stolen Climates at Amazon. Click here.
Finally, don’t forget to check back next week if you’re not too engorged for a little bit of South of the Border entertainment.
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