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Davis residents plan international best-seller

July 18, 2005
Elisabeth Sherwin -- gizmo@ dcn.davis.ca.us

J.B. Dath, 42, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Herzog, 36, are positioning themselves to reap the benefits of an action-adventure book franchise with the publication of “Olympia 420: The Quest for Peace.”

They have considerable skills in terms of imagination and marketing and are putting all their energies into promoting Dath’s book, designed as the first in a series.

“Olympia 420” concerns the war between Spartans and Athenians in ancient Greece and an effort to revive the dormant Olympic Games. Dath and Herzog formed a publishing company, Herzog House Publishing, and have 3,000 copies of the book in hand. They are absolutely confident of the book’s success, having tested the waters at Book Expo in New York City earlier this summer where they secured an agent and promises of overseas book sales.

In fact, the two said they could have sold “Olympia 420” as a screenplay but chose against the easy money of a short-term sale.

“I initially wrote a screenplay and got offers but the deals weren’t right ­ I want to maintain control,” said Dath.

“I decided to go with the long-term decision and keep the characters and the properties intact,” he added. “And I wanted to brand myself as a writer.

“We know what we have,” he added confidently. “It will be a major international best-seller.”

The two make quite a team. Herzog is a local artist who illustrated “Olympia 420.”

She and Dath met at the Common Grounds coffeehouse in South Davis. He likes to write there and Herzog helped design the store and painted the murals. Dath is a native of Trinidad who is related to V.S. Naipaul by marriage.

Dath was a professional soccer player before an injury ended his career. After giving up soccer, he decided to go to college in the United States. He graduated from Fresno State and then went to King Hall School of Law at UC Davis. Following that, he got his MBA from the Graduate School of Management at Davis.

“But I wanted to write,” he said. “I just didn’t love practicing law.” Dath moved back to Davis from Sacramento and as he puts it: “My writing just took off.”

“You don’t often find people with my combination of skills,” he said. Dath and Herzog have put their individual careers on hold and have invested time and energy in producing, designing and marketing the book in just the right way.

“We’ve put a lot into it,” he said.

That includes an actual brass replica helmet and shield modeled by Davis resident Don Cox on the cover of the book. You think I’m kidding? Come to the book’s first reading at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 22, at The Avid Reader and you’ll see Cox doing his imitation of an ancient warrior.

Dath said he had the brass pieces made by a man in Idaho who followed ancient weapons-making techniques.

I wish Dath and Herzog all the luck in the world. It takes immense hard work and self-confidence to be successful in the publishing world and it might be that the spin-offs from this and subsequent books in the series will make the splash the two are looking for.

But the book itself is not going to rival C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien or Dan Brown. That’s my opinion.

Dath had no problem explaining away my problems with his writing. I found his use of three adjectives where one would do to be off-putting. But Dath said that’s a style he chose deliberately to convey a wealth of information quickly. I also think the story’s slow opening pace will lose readers. But Dath said he had a foundation to set in the early chapters.

Well, maybe. His comments made me think of a cartoon I saw recently.

The Classic Peanuts comic strip in a recent Sunday paper featured Snoopy sitting on top of his doghouse, painfully pounding out a single sentence on his manual typewriter: “It was a dark and stormy night.”

“Good writing is hard work,” Snoopy confides to the reader in the last panel.

It sure is.

-- Reach Elisabeth Sherwin at gizmo@dcn.org and watch for more local writers to be featured biweekly at this web site.

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