I got reviews. Not of The Luck, not yet. I’m hoping for those, and I’m planning on running it by the few famous (semi-famous?) people I know in hopes of getting a plug.
But for The Mermaid’s Tale, I have reviews. Normally, I just stay away from those things. It’s a ‘no win’ situation. If you get a bad review, well it ruins your whole day. If you get a good review, then you end up believing it, you get a swelled head, start thinking you’re special, and it’s just feeding your ego. I’ve got enough of an ego, maybe too much of one. If you get a mediocre review… well, who cares? So there’s no good outcome from reading your reviews, I try not to.
But here I am, trying to sell the book to you, and promote my upcoming book, The Luck, and hell, even sell you on all/any of my other writing. I’ve got a whole web site and blog devoted to it – so hey, narcissism central!
So anyway, I thought I’d delve into reviews and share some excerpts of comments with you. Not the entire review (unless they’re really short), because that’s the property of the author.
Michael Fletcher, author of Beyond Redemption.
“This book is violent and brutal and haunting and beautiful. If I could give this a sixth star I would.”
I think that this is actually the official plug for The Mermaid’s Tale. I suspect that Fletcher is the most semi-famous person to have reviewed me. Fletcher is actually an absolutely brilliant writer, definitely out of my league. I picked up Beyond Redemption on a trip to Australia and was absolutely rivetted reading it back home. It was just amazing, a powerhouse tour de force of imagination, horror, empathy and sweetness. I was in awe. So seriously, this is a writer that you need to go well out of your way to find.
“If after I die, anyone remembers me as an editor, it will be for bringing this book to market.”
He gave me five stars. This is kind of a cheat, he was my editor after all, they kind of have to say stuff like that. Robert Runte was the editor at Five Rivers Press when I submitted The Mermaid’s Tale. We’d sort of known each other for years before that. We were both on the SFC email listserver a few years back, and for some reason he was impressed with me as I participated in online discussions. We emailed back and forth now and then, fell out of touch, fell in touch, you know how it goes. But he suggested I should submit, so I thought, what the hell.
Funny story there – I’d never actually met him before. All our communication had been through emails and the listserver. So after The Mermaid’s Tale came out, I was attending at CanCon in Ottawa, and he was on the guest list, so I was looking forward to being able to say hello face to face. I was sitting in the audience at a panel he was doing, I looked up and there was a guy walking up the aisle with a copy of my novel. He mounted the podium, held up my book, and basically said the line I’ve quoted. It was a weird experience. Afterwards I went up and said hello. He was really nice.
Twerking to Beethoven (which I’m pretty sure is not a real name)
“This is going to be difficult. Let’s start off by exposing my own conspiracy theory which, in case you’re wondering, turned out to be nothing but a huge load of bullcrap. I love conspiracy theories, they’re fascinating: reptilians, NWO, flat earth, 9/11, Area 51, chemtrails, etc. I reckon they’re all just a monumental pile of bullpoo but, like I said, it’s interesting stuff. You have to hand it to them conspiracy theorists: they put quite some effort in their researches, they actually believe in what they say, and, even though most of the times they’ll utterly make up the sources they base their work on, they come up with some really riveting stuff. Now, here’s my load of conspiracy wank, ready?
D.G. Valdron is an extremely reclusive writer, according to his official biography. Also, if you check out the author’s GR profile, you’ll notice there’s not even a picture of the bloke, and his debut novel counts 15 reviews only. So that immediately got me thinking of Richard Bachman, whose real identity (Stephen King, in case you don’t know) was revealed in 1985 by a bookstore clerk by the name of Steve Brown.
Right… as soon as I read the words “reclusive writer”, saw that “The Mermaid’s Tale” was released by the same indie publishing company that released the debut novel of one of my all time favourite authors, and noticed no more than a couple of extremely slight similarities in the writing-style with said fav-author, I started prancing about screaming “BUSTED!”
And then, upon spending no more than 5 minutes on google, I found out my little conspiracy theory was, go figure, a load a crap. And I felt heartbroken (lol). So, at the end of the day, Den Valdron is not a pen-name, he’s an actual author, and a gifted one at that, and I’m an absolute wank of a conspiracy-theorist, just so you know.”
Only three and a half stars, but this is probably my favourite review of all time. Somehow, I was able to convince someone, even temporarily, that I was actually some other much better human being? Wow. This is just cool. This just appeals to my deep sense of surrealism. So… Twerking, whoever you are, sorry to disappoint you, but thank you for putting a smile on my face.
I have to say though, I think reclusive is a bit strong, but I value my privacy. I’ll be honest, the bio referenced, and on this web site is fake. I had to put something up. The pictures aren’t me, they’re just some guy. My birthdate on facebook is wrong – who in their right mind would put a real birthdate on facebook, that’s just asking for identity theft. I just like to have as little information about me as possible out there, and to try and ensure that what there is, is…ambiguous. But seriously, I’m not anyone more famous. I’m just… private.
And in that vein…
Jupiter One on Amazon (also probably not a real name)
“It is a sad, violent and hopeful story. No information is provided as to why D. Valdron is listed as the author as opposed to the Orc herself. Perhaps it is because the Orc has no name and does not want one. I think what she did want was for others to know what she learned from her experiences.:
Yeah, you snooze you lose. You got to have a name to get on the cover.
Julia Pike-Kelly at Goodreads
“I would never have thought a book about an orc would be one of the best existential works I’ve ever read.”
Because the whole world has been waiting for an existential novel about Orcs? I’m really flattered, but quite bemused. I’m quite sure that people who love books about orcs don’t read existential novels, and vice versa, so this may actually dissuade readers from both groups – its like the deep end of the swimming pool from both ends. But who knows, some may take the plunge. I would have never thought I’d get a review like this. So thanks, Julia, it’s lovely.
Melanie Martila, Goodreads.
“The Mermaid’s Tale is a fable of personhood wrapped in a murder mystery framed by a fantasy setting, peopled by familiar races that are presented in subtly original ways….. the world is eventually fleshed out very cleverly in the form of told tales and legends. The mystery is what first draws readers in, but the world and its stories are what compel readers to continue turning pages….. Valdron’s world is a young one of unmitigated violence and the Arukh’s life is one of degradation. She fails repeatedly in her quest and makes many wrong assumptions, but for all that, the story itself is one of hope and redemption and the climax and denouement are both satisfying and bittersweet. Readers will be left wanting more (moar!) of Valdron’s world and more of his surprisingly complex protagonist. I lurved The Mermaid’s Tale.”
Melanie actually went out of her way to email me, she seemed really nice. We facebook friended. So if you wonder about that, the review came first, then the friending. I don’t think I’ve ever actually met her, but I figure maybe we’ll run across each other at a convention.
Judith Petersen, Goodreads.
‘The Mermaid’s Tale’ was a completely unexpected read. When I began the book, I never thought I’d come to love the lowly Arukh, a kind of female orc. The story of her investigation into a mermaid’s murder led me on a journey that, along with the protagonist, had me questioning everything I think I know about life. Who we are, what we value, and an extraordinary quality, disguised in the ordinary, that causes one to rise above their circumstances, perhaps even their nature, to change the status quo. When I was done the book, I was overwhelmed by emotion.”
Thank you. I’m glad that I was able to surprise. There should be emotion in books I thought. The character should be feeling something, and so should the writer.
Lady Luna, Booksprens, at https://booksprens.wordpress.com/
“This book was wonderful. Seriously… What a beautiful story full of feels, violence and loads of good stuff. This novel definitely exceeded my expectations. I thought this book was gonna be shit.
Plus it is shelved as a ‘dark fantasy’ so I was expecting just a standard grimdark.
Actually no I expected a grimdark with mermaids? Which scares me.. I don’t like mermaids, so I thought this book would be terrible and extremely cheesy, it did take a good 80 pages for me to be drawn into the story however I was wrong about it being shit and cheesy, I’m so happy I was wrong.
This novel is so much more then just a ‘Grimdark’, it was so freaking amazing and it was literally an emotional roller coaster. I can’t remember the last time I read something so full of feels, …. this novel made me laugh & more importantly cry. It got to the point where I would have to put the book down and just cry hysterically for like ten minutes then try to blow my nose for an hour.
I have never felt feels like this. Not even joking or exaggerating, imagine someone grabbing your heart and squeezing it for fun, until it explodes. That’s clearly what this book does to you. I couldn’t take the feels. We always talk about feeling sympathy for characters, well I’ve never felt empathy like I have for the main character in this book. …”
This is actually the tip of the review iceberg. This is a small fragment of the longest review I’ve ever gotten, it’s also amazingly enthusiastic. I like that she went in not expecting much, or anything at all, and that somehow the novel won her over.
This is also, so far as I know, my only review that doesn’t come from Amazon or Goodreads. Booksprens seems to be devoted to book reviews. This is the closest I’ve come to a pro review. I’m not covered in Locus, or any pro or semi-pro magazine or anything. I don’t think I’ve got a print review anywhere. Mostly, it’s just people liking it. And it’s all online, you can look them all up yourself.
True story. I didn’t find this review. I was visiting my sister in Australia, and we were in Sydney, killing time one evening, and she asked about my novel. So we looked it up online, and the first page she opened was this very long, very amazing review. It was totally a random find. That could have gone so badly. She was quite impressed, I was blown away.
Masterpiece on Amazon
“This is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. Everyone should read it. Dark, brutal, and meaningful. I wouldn’t say deeply meaningful, the ultimate “point” of the story is rather simplistic, but it is written in such a way that it really hits home more than one would expect, and also the experience of making discoveries with the main character as they grow over the course of the story (and boy, do they grow!) Set in a wonderfully rich and interesting world, a fantasy landscape not quite like any other I’ve ever read. Wholly original, but well thought out and even to a certain extent realistic in its ramifications. It explores cultures of a fantastic world as if they’re real.”
I’m not sure I could get away with ‘original’ in a world chock full of orcs, goblins, giants, mermaids, etc. But deeply grateful for the kind words. In a similar vein…
Book Haunt, Goodreads
“The Mermaid’s Tale feels like a new and fresh experience in the fantasy genre. It features all the species that fantasy lovers are used to and some we don’t get to see often; vampires, orcs, giants, trolls, hobgoblins, goblins, dwarves, selkies, mermaids… But these species are not cut from the same cloth we are used to and this time we are reading it from the POV of a female “arukh.” How frickin’ fantastic is that?! …. Make no mistake; The Mermaid’s Tale does contain violence and graphic sexual situations. This is a dark world, one of danger on all sides, teetering on the brink of a war between the species. It’s also balanced with some hilarious banter with mermaids regarding sex and general playfulness. The arukh’s interactions are captivating and her journey of self-discovery makes this one of the best books I’ve read this year. So yes, I am definitely looking forward to reading more from this author!”
I guess the pressures is on to write some more. Luckily, there’s a a prequel coming out. We’ll see how that does. A running theme of reviews seemed to be that this book was dark and brutal.
“I’ll admit that this book is quite far out of my comfort zone. It is a genre that I rarely read and within the first few pages, assumed that I would not be able to enjoy. But I was so wrong. This story is raw and painful and in many places quite ugly. There is war and murder and rage. But the story starts to weave so intricately that it draws you in and makes you feel invested in it.
The main character is from a race that is completely discounted by all others, not even allowed to be an afterthought…not even given the recognition of being alive though they live and breathe and die like the rest. But she is hired to do a job – investigate the murder of a mermaid – and as she works to fulfill her obligation she starts to become self aware…..
I’ll also say that it was quite refreshing to see a story this brutal have a female for the lead character. She certainly doesn’t use her feminine wiles to get ahead – as she has none. But she is strong and confident and is able to survive using her ever growing wit and intelligence to get her through.”
I liked the part about a woman not using feminine wiles to get ahead… because she doesn’t have any. But yeah, dark and brutal.
“The story is raw and painful, and mostly dark. On the other hand it draws you in and make you root for main character as her understanding of herself and the world increases. The language is simple as is the main character understanding of the world.”
Simple… But lyrical…
Amazonkat, at Amazon.ca.
“This is the story of a murder and it’s resolution, but it is so much more. The story takes you to a very different highly detailed world, a brutal vivid world of memorable characters and cultures. The historical backstories are, in themselves, tales waiting to be explored …. with unexpected humour and a deep understanding of personal trauma, it also draws you into the interplay of societal norms and misunderstandings that so frequently lead to conflict. The story is raw and rough, yet lyrical and told with an appreciation for strange beauty and the stranger paths to healing.”
Lyrical. I like that. And strange beauty. There’s others, but you get the idea. The running themes seem to be that The Mermaid’s Tale is almost painful, it’s brutal, dark, violent and just harsh. I think that’s proper, violence or killing should never be heroic, it should always be terrifying and painful, harsh and full of regret.
But the novel also unexpected and surprising, and… Redemptive. It wins people over, even if they didn’t expect it.
Most of my reviews seem to be wildly enthusiastic. Four and five stars mainly. Which is nice, but you should take that with a grain of salt. It’s the people who are most wildly enthusiastic that are most likely to write reviews. That’s just human nature.
People want to write about something they passionately love, or passionately hate. No one wants to write about passionately ‘meh.’ If the reaction was to find the book mediocre or middling, most people probably won’t bother, it’s not like I’m a famous name, or have a long track record to be judged against. There’s an audiobook review which is pretty ‘meh’ – but I can’t seem to find it at the moment.
A few really hated. I can understand that, it’s a brutal story and there are parts that are hard to read. There are a few one star reviews. I couldn’t find anything to quote on the one star front. I don’t know. Maybe people write them, but they get deleted after a period of time. Or maybe no one has bothered to do a complete evisceration.
This exercise hasn’t been so bad. It’s been interesting to look them over.
As I’ve said, it’s all online, mostly on Amazon and Goodreads. Feel free to look up the full reviews and comments for a more complete assessment. The fact that they’re online feels peculiar to me. It doesn’t invalidate them. But it does make them feel…. ephemeral. As if I could wake up one morning and they could all vanish. I’ve heard of this happening, Amazon gets twitchy and zap, deletes all your reviews. I should probably take time out and print them all off for a scrapbook or something, just to have proof of them when
That’s The Mermaid’s Tale. I do have a handful of other reviews of my Fossil Cove books, not that many, one or two for Lexx, or Doctor Who or some of the others. And back in the day, I earned a few reviews for stories and chapbooks. That’s probably worth another narcisstic post one of these days. I’m not setting the world on fire by any mans, but the people who have read me have been very kind, even enthusiastic.
Of course, the big project this year is The Luck, the sequel/prequel to The Mermaid’s Tale. That comes out August 1, 2020, so obviously, no reviews on that yet.
I find myself vaguely curious though. Will the people that liked The Mermaid’s Tale like and review The Luck? I’m hoping or assuming so, but honestly, The Mermaid’s Tale is a pretty obscure platform to launch from. No disrespect to Five Rivers, or to Lorina and Robert, but it’s not and never was out there on any best seller or best of list.
Will people discover The Luck and then seek out The Mermaid’s Tale. It would be nice to sell a few more copies and get a few more reviews for The Mermaid’s Tale. Maybe there’ll be a bounce! On the other hand, I think The Mermaid’s Tale is a bit old for the pro/print review world. But The Luck, that’s going to be fresh.
So here’s hoping.