What If Duty Calls but Doody Lies in Wait?--Reb MacRath


Doody goes by many names: kaka, poo, poop, dog do or shite, to give just a few of the faves. And one thing we all have in common is that we come to fear it throughout our lives in different ways. When you’re trying to write a first novel, you’d damned well better fear going out to market it with doody all over your shoes: typos, grammos, hackneyed phrasing, slothful pacing, etc. Then, when it’s time to pitch the book, be sure: it’s frighteningly easy to send off a query that’s reeking of poop.

But even later on, when we're somewhat established, we may feel threatened by the stink of many names. One day when we hear Duty call with what may be our big break we know we're right to tremble though we pray there's a chance that we'll end up with this:


Enough of generalities. Here’s my true scary story. 


For over thirty years, I’ve had a thing for the ancient Roman and Greek classics. As I wrote in last month’s blog, I grew more and more intrigued by the study of different translations and theories on the subject. Okay. This year I stumbled back onto one of the more obscure and difficult Latin poets, one with a passion for filling his poems with mythical allusions that drive today’s readers elsewhere. I saw a way to simplify and streamline his work in a bold and original way. Not all of it. Maybe 6-9 poems with critical sidebars.


To what end? I faced a veritable minefield of shite.

--No mainstream publisher would touch it because past versions, by experts, have failed. This isn’t one of the hotter Roman authors.

--Despite my three decades of interest, I lack a degree in the Classics. Scratch any hopes for an academic press edition.

--A home Latin student, I’m not even fluent in Latin.

--As for my writing credentials, I’m a genre fiction writer.

--Etc., etc., etc.


Then again, despite all that and more, I couldn’t stop myself. I found myself on almost a mythological quest: to give a long-dead writer new life—not through boring literal translations but through what I saw as a pocket-sized rock celebration of the essence that no one had seen.


But even if I scored, and I believed I could, what then? Would I publish it on Amazon where three readers with 10 years of Latin amongst them, would demand their money back because I’d done exactly what I’d said I’d do? And worse:

--There’d be no attracting online reviewers.

--And giveaway books on Amazon tend to attract trolls.

–Pricing it would be a problem, considering its small size: 50 pages, maximum, including an Afterword, Notes, and a long Bibliography. A $.99 price point usually signifies trash. Anything more for a pocket-sized special edition could be taken as a rip-off.



After spending a couple of months on just two short poems by this author, I began to feel that the odds against me were insurmountable. It would take me a year to complete this short, maybe unsalable book.


But something kicked in within me: the memory of how I promoted my first published novel when the publisher failed to list it in their catalog. I went to marketing war, designing a promotional post card and obtaining extra author’s copies to gift wrap and send out to writers I liked in my genre.


Though the particulars were far different now, had the ruling principles changed?

1) Identify the readers most likely to get the word out. In this case: classics students.

2) Identify the powers that be who might be willing to read and blurb an outrageously different book in their field. This time: notable instructors and/or department heads.

3) Devise a high-class postcard that introduces me and my project, providing a short teaser of the rock celebration in store.

4) Find a new, ingenious way of sending out free copies with no strings attached.

5) Show respect for the academics' standing: a bibliography showing that I've done my homework: top studies and Latin trots and other translations consulted.


Color me on fire again in a dual blaze of creativity and marketing wizardry. My heart is pure. I want one thing: to get this tiny book in the hands of those readers willing to be blown away by something entirely different...and yet right as rain in its way.


This is my report.



Welcome to MacRathWorld, if you like premium blends of mystery, action, and suspense. From Caesar's Rome to Seattle today, the twists fly at the speed of night. If you're unfamiliar with my work, I recommend starting with the new Seattle BOP mysteries. Here's the link to my AuthorPage on Amazon for a detailed look at the variety of 'rides' in my amusement park.










Peter Leyland said…
That's good Reb. I printed off a copy to get the full flavour. I did Latin O' level and loved the bits of the Aeneid that I studied at my Liverpool school Thanks for an entertaining read.
Bill Kirton said…
You already know how much the 'trial run' impressed me, Reb. Stick with it - it's definitely worth it. You may find yourself the creator of a new genre. Good luck.
Umberto Tosi said…
Love it. I salute your courage. It takes gall to realize a dream first of all because it's always going to be smell strange as morning poo to conventional noses.
Reb MacRath said…
Peter...I'm flattered that you printed off a copy. You're so right about the thrill of our first encounters with the classics in Latin.
Reb MacRath said…
Bill...Thanks so much. Limiting myself to the equivalent of a song cycle freed me in so many ways and made this a doable project. Stay tuned!
Reb MacRath said…
Umberto...Thank you. I'm having the time of my life and hope others share in the fun.
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Reb, as usual ... I late to the party!

You have to do what makes YOU happy. Too many people follow the trends, and trends change. Do this because you want a challenge or something different, or for all the reasons you may not have listed here.

When you're no longer fulfilled by this, then I'm sure you will move on, but there is definitely value in following your bliss.

I'll stay tuned to your progress! :D

Reb MacRath said…
Always good to see you at the party when you show, Eden.

Yeah, we spend so much time thinking of the payoff of our efforts, sometimes it's good for the soul to cut loose and go for the bliss.

Do stay tuned. I think you'll like this itty-bitty one.

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