What if your particular story listening turned out to be fatal for storytellers? That’s the premise of MORTAL WEATHER. It’s just the kind of high concept that gets people talking. It's a novel of humor, heart, and ideas — with a dash of magical realism and a liberal helping of adventure-romance. It’s accessible, yet poetic. Readers say it changes the way they see the world. An early draft was a semifinalist in the University of New Orleans Press Lab competition.
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MORTAL WEATHER: Contemporary fiction. Upmarket literary w/ magical realism. 100,000 words.
Story listening makes life bearable for history buff Stanhope Ellis, until he learns that new acquaintances are dying after talking to him. As he struggles with whether he's Mister Death or a cosmic witness, he meets a wise nurse, Gayathri Das, who helps him navigate the emotional minefield. But will she die, like the others?
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Several editors have evaluated the story:
MW is expressive, written "with real energy and imagination.” In an industry clogged with unfinished material, it stands out as "effective and well-executed." It "satisfies on many levels.” It is "a tightly plotted and carefully calibrated novel that follows a clear arc." Most important, however, it is timely and inspiring: "In an abjectly miserable year, it was a genuine pleasure to immerse myself in the world of your novel and feel a little hope again."
Spirituality is thematic, but the book is more comparable to Somerset Maugham’s earthy THE RAZOR’S EDGE than to Paul Coelho’s nebulous THE ALCHEMIST. Hindu mythology is a touchstone. Spirituality in fiction gives many pause -- including me. Yet, if the proper balance is struck, the end result is an unforgettable read. At a writer’s conference, a bestselling author said MW could well "strike a nerve and make $25 million." (A bit much, I know, but he loves the novel.) The story's spiritual aspects are handled "in a surprising, light, and contemporary way."
Though the tone is irreverent, the story falls distinctly on the YOU’VE GOT MAIL end of the cultural divide. Animals figure prominently. The humor "may appeal to readers of David Sedaris and Gail Honeyman." Descriptors: Dangerous Protector, Adventure Romance, Stories Within Stories, Zeitgeist, Book Club, Upmarket
Originality requires a high degree of polish — in this case, hundreds of drafts. Gayathri’s voice now comprises approximately twenty percent of the storytelling — particularly significant since she first appears a third of the way along. Readers attest that MORTAL WEATHER draws them in reliably, regardless of entry point. I hope you will examine the novel in that way — dipping in randomly, as a browser at a bookshop might. I'm happy to send particular chapters, but this cinematic novel is best considered as a gestalt.
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“I jumped at every chance to see Mo, with or without Gemma. Stopped wearing church clothes right away. It just embarrassed me to do that and my sister wouldn’t loan me her dresses anyway. I didn’t have to be pretty anymore. I could just be curious. So I asked about his guitar. I’d never heard anything like those clean, wandering tones. It sounded like what the soul wanted to say. Like heaven built out of pain.”
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How do you prepare for the Grand Canyon? The view might be more staggering if you suddenly materialized on the rim or made the long approach blindfolded. But it’s surprising, regardless. You want to focus on the deep or the wide, but vivid panoramas force you to take both together. They crack you open. You look for unity, to avoid being overwhelmed, and you can make some headway there, matching peripheral strata. But eventually, transcendence enfolds you, steps you down glowing stairways to the silver Colorado.
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Yow. She looks at me and sees the Boy Wonder — and she hasn’t even seen the uni. I can’t untangle that for her now. It would be a spiritual felony to harsh her radiance. She’ll learn the truth soon enough. Until then, I have to play the part. The realization hits like a silver-screen smackeroo. Am I ready for my close-up? Seeing myself amped through Gaya is surreal and a little scary. The rush I felt in the movie theater surges back with attitude. Maybe it’s the caffeine. Muscles bulge in my shirt.
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I felt the world was falling away because Shiva could not see. So I became hyper-vigilant. I watched everything -- and saw too much. I even developed insomnia. Every day, I felt worthless. I had believed in Mahir so entirely that I could not disbelieve him when he set my value at naught. The rewiring of my brain — the softening of my eyes — was a protracted process.
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"The narrative arc feels just right. The story aims big in a sense but is at home in details that are honest, "real" but not mundane, there's a quirky sensibility to it that I loved. It is a real accomplishment to reach for the cosmic, to take aim for something large and keep it grounded in an accessible story line. I loved that about the book, and that is how we can all identify with Stan, in those things that "just happen to us". He takes it on with bravery, curiosity, even a sense of humor. I find Stan a character that both men and women will believe in and care about. And I think the novel's themes have a contemporary and youthful appeal. Who isn't right now searching....tasked with growing even when we don't want to!"
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The cast of characters is diverse but the story is not about diversity. It's about humanity. My wife and I have been traveling since June, 2019, and all along the way — across Canada, Iceland, Scandinavia, Europe, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand — I have not hesitated, when asked, to describe MORTAL WEATHER. Without exception, listeners respond with real excitement.
MORTAL WEATHER is a signature achievement, so far. Experienced editors say the story is essential. Please help me create additional opportunities, as I still have a lot to say.
A second, similar novel, TANGERINE STARWARD, is in progress. Two others will follow. Three additional books may be assembled from other published work: COURAGEOUS PULLS THROUGH AND OTHER STORIES (eight humor pieces -- see locuto.com); AS IF HOPE MATTERS AND OTHER ESSAYS (eleven literary essays); and LETTERS TO AMERICA (eight recent columns on American politics and culture). I also have a book in mind called APPLIED AMERICAN TRANSCENDENTALISM, in which Emersonian ideals are applied to everyday circumstances. Finally, I will self-publish ENOUGH SKY -- POEMS FOR THE PACK, VOLUME 1 (90+ poems).
Thank you for listening.