This year, Fossil Cove Press re-released The Mermaid’s Tale, a hard core, grim dark fantasy about Orcs, serial killers and redemption. It’s been out of print since Five Rivers Publications had closed down and rights reverted back to me.
The Mermaid’s Tale is a gritty, film noir chronicle of a nameless female Orc who is summoned to find the killer of a sacred being, a mermaid. The murder was so heinous that only a savage creature could have done it, so her people have summoned a monster to hunt a monster. The Orc’s a rough and brutal character, the product of a cruel life as an outcast, but smarter than she lets on. Her quest takes her across a multi-racial city where she encounters different races, and finds herself on the trail of something her world has never seen before – the first serial killer. As she hunts, something peculiar happens, she develops empathy and insight, her interactions with strange races trigger empathy, and she becomes obsessed with stopping the killer. While all of this is going on, the City itself is spiraling into civil war. Can she stop the killer before it all goes to pieces?
I wrote this years ago, back in the days when I was in a writer’s group that included Steve Erickson (Malazan Book of the Fallen), David Keck (Tales of Durand), Ian Ross (CBC’s Joe from Winnipeg/Governor General Award Winner), Scott Ellis (Benny the Antichrist and Crawling to the Moon) and Mireille Theriault (Prairie Witch). Am I name dropping? Hell yes!!
Initially, I sent it out, came close a few times – but no cigar. Life happened, I moved on.
A few years back, I re-submitted it to Five Rivers Publications, a very well respected Small Press, and they loved it. At the time, it was bittersweet, I got the acceptance the same day, within minutes, of the news of my father’s cancer and impending death. Through the entire publication process, the novel kept pace with my father’s decline and mortality. Whatever happiness or elation I’d found with a breakthrough was inextricably entwined with grief.
The Mermaid’s Tale burst onto the world with incredible reviews, it was shortlisted for an award, it was great. It was validation. The publisher contracted for my second novel, The Luck, on nothing more than an outline. I was even getting regular royalties, although the sales weren’t spectacular. I felt I’d arrived at the beginnings of a career.
Then in 2020, just a month or two before the Luck was due for publication, Five Rivers closed and the rights to both novels reverted back to me.
Okay, that was a setback. But I had a proven novel under my belt, and a second and third ready to go. I had hopes that I could find another publisher, or interest an agent for The Mermaid’s Tale.
Not quite. It’s a great novel, if I do say so myself. I think the reviews prove me out. Both my editor, Robert Runte, and my former publisher, Lorina Stephens continue to rave about it years later. I have a cult following But it wasn’t the kind of seller that publishers would line up for. Five Rivers was a small niche publisher in a chaotic market, it wasn’t going to be a huge seller.
But I had hopes.
Michael Fletcher, the author of Beyond Redemption (I’m just name dropping like crazy) was a fan, and he brought it to his agent.
Unfortunately, as it turns out, the agent confirmed it was burned irrevocably. The problem was the audiobook was up. Basically, these days, audiobooks are a huge part of publishing. A friend of mine sold a book, he got $5,000 for the print and ebook rights, $12,000 for the audiobook rights. That gives you an idea of how things are. In my case, Five Rivers published The Mermaid’s Tale as an audiobook. But the contract with Audible/ACX stipulated it had to be up for five years, she couldn’t take any of her audiobooks down. So, instead, she did the next best thing, and the ethical thing, and just transferred the audiobook rights and contracts back to the authors.
That was nice of her. But the bottom line was that there was a contracted audiobook of The Mermaid’s Tale up on ACX, which means, I’m told, that no publisher or agent will take a look at it. I’m burned. Charred. Grilled. Incinerated. Charcoal. Done.
I was never really happy with the audiobook and would be happy to sign those rights over in a publishing contract, but sorry, no, apparently that’s not an option.
So there you go.
Thing is, I’m still proud of it. The reviews are great. So I opted to republish it under the Fossil Cove banner. I contacted the original artist, so that I could use his award-nominated cover art, and here it is. Perhaps not the best outcome, but it’s back out there in the world. And these days, that’s important to me. You’ll notice with Fossil Cove me publishing all my old previously published stories, and my obscure projects. Sometimes you just want to make a place in the sun.
So yeah, baby, The Mermaid’s Tale is back, it’s a kick ass book, violent, raw, beautiful, a film noir detective story about ascending into light, a grimdark fantasy about compassion and redemption, an existentialist novel about an Orc, a murder mystery, a tale of personhood, all of that. You can read the reviews for yourself. Check it out.
And in the meantime, I have two or three novels and counting to take to Agents and Publishers – The Luck, Princess of Asylum, Goddess of Asylum, and more to come, as I continue to hammer away at traditional publishing, and I’ve got several short story collections, off-kilter novels and non-fiction up on Fossil Cove.