Beware of Gifts Bearing Grease--by Reb MacRath

You've gotta give it to the ancient Greeks. They pulled a sweetheart of a trick thousands of years ago, so sweet we still remember it. In fact, we have a phrase for it: Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Gifts like a giant wooden horse given to a city...and rolled in with armed troops inside it. Troy fell because of that but the horse will live forever along with our awe of Greek cunning.

What might happen, you might wonder, if the gift could be reversed--and a well-meant, beautifully wrapped gift arrived...and was received as bearing grease? Grease in the sense that the gift is seen as smeared with ambition, deceit, and base pride.

This actually happens too often. Because of the volume of spam and links meant to hack us not give us a thing, we've all grown jaded and suspicious. And few things set our teeth on edge like a slick trick from a half-witted writer. It could be someone you've just befriended on Facebook. Within minutes, you receive a gushing, greasy email:

Dear Fred,

I'd like to thank you for friending me by sending you a gift, one I'm certain you'll enjoy: a FREE copy of my first, self-published mystery about chess in ancient Babylon.

Does that sound at all familiar? You may have even received one like this:

Dear Jane,

My condolences on the death of your mother. Although I never met her, I'm sure she loved to read. And what better way to console you than by sending you a copy of my cozy horror mystery I'm sure she would have loved: Cozy Cuddles in Count Dracula.

Or this:

Dear Matt,

So your daughter's getting married! In just two weeks they'll be on their honeymoon. And I'd love to send a gift since I can't be there with them. My erotic cozy mystery Lust in Monticello will be just the thing for them if they have nothing else to do.

These are extreme examples, sure. But I reacted much the same to a real life message sent to me on my birthday--offering me on this special day a self-pubbed book I was sure to enjoy and might want to review.

This whole post has me wondering about fan scams some dear AE friends might receive:

Dear Bill Kirton,

I was thrilled to learn that you live only a hop, skip and jump from Chris Longmuir, Sandra Horn, John A A Logan, and Eden Baylee! Wouldn't it be funderful if the five of you could meet for Sunday walks like the great Lake poets--Byron, Shelley, Keats and Longfellow--and read the FREE copies I want to send you of my Scottish bloodsucker romance? 

Abernathy Frigidaire

Dear Eden Baylee,

Though this may be only a rumor, I hope that it is true--that you've been married seven times. If so, you're my heroine and I'd love the chance to send you a FREE copies of my erotic serial killer thriller: 'I don't kill men--I FIX them!'

Elsinore Chopney

Dear Sandra Horn,

You're my favorite poet. And so I'm thrilled to tell you that you're the first foreigner to be made an honorary citizen of our country Roofania. To commemorate this honor, I want to send a FREE copy of my epic poem about the the creation of the Roofanian Code: In all matters of honor and business, be as clean and smell as sweet as a baby's bottom. With that in mind, I know I can ask you to send me a a few hundred pounds to cover the cost of  shipping your gift and having mom's dentures relined. She cries all night when they fall in her soup.

Rabanashi Ebernedwich


Next summer, I hope to learn from these examples when I send out promotional cards for a small indie book intended for lovers of Ancient Roman lit. I've chosen my target audience carefully: department heads, teachers, and students. But, every bit as important, I ask myself daily now what I can do and say to establish a free copy as a desirable gift? Why am I addressing them specifically? Why am I convinced that this belongs on their bookshelves? Why might they like extra copies to give to their students or colleagues? No strings attached. Nothing wanted in return except their open-mindedness to something that's totally different...yet very much up their alley.

Fingers crossed!



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.


Bill Kirton said…
Dear Abby (I hope you don’t mind my use of this perhaps overly familiar diminutive form of address. If you do, please add my profuse, abject apologies to what follows),
No doubt, knowing as you do the characters of Messr et Mmes Longmuir, Horn, Logan, and Baylee, you will understand my reluctance to subject myself to the tedium of regular communal perambulatory experiences, especially in the ‘hop, skip and jump’ location you propose (which, by my reckoning would be somewhere in the North Atlantic, the only real advantage of which would be the total absence of bloody daffodils).
It is, therefore, with profound regret that I must decline your offer and wish you every success with the marketing of your everyday story of Scottish life.
Peter Leyland said…
Hi Reb, I have just been reading extracts from Pope's Dunciad and what a time of wit and ribaldry there was in The Eighteenth Century - just like your blog today if I may be so bold. Thanks for an amusing post.
Reb MacRath said…
Dear Bill,

The diminutive is flattering. Though hardly pocket-size at 200 pounds, I am petite at 4'10". Your crushed me, of course, but coming from a Scot of your stature, I'm still grateful to receive it. The tone was so warm and the burr so restrained that I felt almost as if you'd whispered in my ear. In my country, we have a wonderful custom: when a man whispers in a woman's ear, she responds with the gentlest poke in his eye. How I wish I could give you a poke in your eye!

Reb MacRath said…
Hi, Peter.

I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I had a good time writing it. And the thought of it being mentioned in the sane breath with The Dunciad has lent my day a rosy glow.

Roofania forever!

Wendy H. Jones said…
I loved this, Reb. It made me laugh, no mean feat first thing in the morning.
Reb MacRath said…
Thanks, Wendy. These days, more than ever, it's best to start the day with a smile.
I laughed at your heading, and then found it intriguing. Great post!
Reb MacRath said…
Thanks for the kind words, Cecilia. Glad you enjoyed the post.
Eden Baylee said…
Holy crap Reb, who snitched on me?

I have been married 7 times, really I have! And I'll let Elsinore Chopney know immediately I'd love some free copies of her thriller.

I'm assuming it's a 'she', but you never know.

Hahah! Great write, Reb. Sorry I'm late - yet again. You'll know something's wrong if I actually comment on time one month!

Reb MacRath said…
Hi, Eden! I can't say who snitched on you except the name starts with B and rhymes with pill. So glad you found time to drop by and enjoyed the post.

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