The Crucible Book Cover Hi-ResIt’s been a long time coming…

But the newest Lawson Vampire novel, THE CRUCIBLE, is finally here and EXCLUSIVELY at my new secure website. This is the ONLY place to get the book and you can pay using either a credit card or PayPal.

PLEASE NOTE: The lines where you enter your credit card information (number, expiration date, CC code, etc.) are too small to see what you’re typing, but they DO WORK (I’ve tested them). I’m trying to get that issue sorted right now. Also, once you pay, the CONFIRMATION PAGE will show three file types IN RED that you can download: .mobi for the Kindle, .epub for the Nook and other e-readers, and .pdf for printing or desktop reading.

I hope you all enjoy the latest Lawson adventure! Click on this link to go buy it!

Talya’s gone.

Kidnapped by the infamous Xuan Xiang, a former Fixer who has sold out to the Communist Chinese, in a bid to lure Lawson to a final climactic battle where only one Fixer walks away.

But Lawson doesn’t play by the rules. And rather than walk into an ambush, Lawson sets his own plan into motion to rescue the woman he loves. Aided by Jack, the recently-graduated Invoker, they launch their rescue operation, unsanctioned by the Council and thousands of miles from any sort of ally or help.

Deep in western China, Lawson and Jack uncover far more than they expected. And it’s going to take all of their skills combined to ensure their own survival and that of Talya.

Click on this link to go buy it!

Halloween Thriller Storybundle Featuring Ten Awesome EBooks!

If you missed my newsletter earlier today (whaaaaat???) then you haven’t heard the news that I am part of the latest Storybundle featuring ten amazing novels from some truly incredible authors. My buddy Joe Nassise and I have the novel we co-wrote THE CERBERUS PROTOCOL included in the lineup. Storybundle is great for a number of reasons:

  • Pay what you want: you can decide how much to pay for the bundle – and each one has a recommended price that gives the authors a very fair share.
  • 10% of the money earned by the bundle goes to charity: For this bundle two amazing charities are the beneficiaries.
  • The ebooks in the bundle are compatible with any e-reader or smartphone: Whatever you’ve got, the bundle works with it.
  • This is a direct-to-reader exchange: No 3rd parties involved here. We wrote these fun books and you get them direct from us in one great package.
  • All of the authors are professional storytellers: you don’t have to worry about crap reads or slipshod plotting. We know what we’re doing and how to deliver thrills a-plenty.
  • You can get the bundle right now by clicking here!

Here’s the amazing lineup:

1. THE CERBERUS PROTOCOL by Joseph Nassise and Jon F. Merz (heyyyy, I know that guy)
2. OGMIOS OMNIBUS by Steven Savile (a massive collection of three novels in this thrilling series)
3. FIRST DROP by Zoe Sharp
4. PROJECT NEMESIS by Jeremy Robinson
5. NEVERMORE by David Niall Wilson
6. BLACK by Russell Blake
7. BODY BAGS by Christopher Golden
8. LOCK & LOAD by Sean Black

Here are the covers:

And the charities being benefitted are as follows (info taken from the Storybundle website)

“Distinguished as one of the top 15 after-school arts and culture programs in the nation by The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Girls Write Now is New York’s first and only organization with a writing and mentoring model exclusively for girls. From young women exploring writing to seasoned professionals practicing their craft every day, GWN is a community of women writers dedicated to providing guidance, support, and opportunities for high school girls to develop their creative, independent voices and write their way to a better future. Over the past 15 years, more than 4,500 underserved teen girls have benefitted from the GWN community and 100% of seniors in our flagship mentoring program go on to college—bringing with them portfolios, awards, scholarships, new skills, and a sense of confidence. Girls Write Now has built a record of achievement and innovation recognized twice by the White House, by The New York Times, and the MacArthur Foundation, and evidenced by the hundreds of Scholastic Art & Writing awards our girls have earned.

Mighty Writers’ mission is to teach Philadelphia kids to think and write with clarity. Our free programs combat the literacy crisis in a city where nearly half of high school students drop out and some 50% of working-age adults are functionally illiterate (can’t read bank statements, fill out job applications or easily comprehend news articles). Today, Mighty Writers offers year-round writing programs for some 1,000 kids and teens, ages seven to 17, with help from 300 volunteers. At our headquarters in one of Philadelphia’s historic neighborhoods, we offer an afterschool writing academy, themed writing workshops, one-on-one mentorships, a weekly teen lounge, SAT preparatory courses and college essay writing classes. Our programs draw students from more than 125 city schools (public, parochial, magnet, charter, cyber, home) and an array of communities.”

Seriously, how cool is this bundle? Not only do you get a wide array of thrilling reads perfect for the spooky Halloween season, but you also get a chance to help out some truly deserving folks.

Grab your bundle now by going here!

Videos, Signings, and More…

Just a couple of items to catch you up on…

1. This Friday night, October 18th, 2013 at 6:30pm, I will be having my “official” launch party for THE UNDEAD HORDES OF KAN-GUL at Park Street Books in Medfield, MA. The store is located right on route 109, 504 Main Street. It’s an awesome place, filled with amazing books – including mine. The event will probably last about two hours and I’m hoping to see a ton of people there. Please join me if you can!

2. Yesterday saw the debut of not one, but two different videos. The first is a quick promo I did for the above-mentioned signing.

The second is the book trailer for THE UNDEAD HORDES. Check that out here:

3. My publisher sent me about a zillion bookmarks and post cards for THE UNDEAD HORDES events I have coming up. I don’t expect that I’ll be using them all. I’m trying to figure out how to get some out to my awesome fans who aren’t local. More news on that when I have it.

bookmarks and postcards

4. Finally, this past weekend, we took some family photos over at Rexhame Beach in Marshfield, MA. Here are two that I’ll be using for promotional purposes. (Can you tell it was a bit windy?)

Jon F. Merz headshot1Jon F. Merz headshot2

Why Reviews Matter

Valuable intelligence is often disguised as a throwaway bone at the tail end of a conversation. If you’re not attuned to being able to objectively assess scraps of information, the human mind has a tendency to disregard much of what it hears and sees. This is a byproduct of the media overload we experience on a daily basis – we’re immersed in so much noise, that sifting through for the good stuff often demands more energy and effort than we want to commit.

One of the things I learned recently was this past weekend during a conversation about publishing. The two people involved are industry veterans who know this stuff inside and out, so because it was so matter-of-fact, they didn’t attach too much importance to it. In other words, they didn’t turn to me and say, “Hey Jon, do you know this? Because you should definitely know it.” Instead, it was a throwaway line that I would have probably missed but for years of training and great teachers along the way (Tom…Mark….etc.) who taught me how to absorb and later examine what I’ve witnessed in order to determine the value of such things.

Reviews, in the publishing industry, are fairly standard fare. New books come out and the ARCs (advance reader/review copies) circulate among trades to garner reviews which are then used on covers to entice readers into buying copies. Sometimes, those reviews are great, sometimes they’re mediocre, and sometimes (like in my case with Publisher’s Weekly savaging my latest novel THE UNDEAD HORDES OF KAN-GUL) they are terrible. Reviews can also be used to drum up interest in subrights, foreign translations, etc. Typical practice when a review comes in is judicious editing to extract cool lines that make the book sound better.

For example, if the review says something like this: “Derek Twinklemeister’s latest missive shows that while he understands the mechanics of writing a sentence, the natural gift of storytelling still eludes him. While the prose is tight, the characters are wooden. There are brief glimpses of skill with regards to the pacing, but otherwise, the novel careens ahead and ends in a boring fashion.”

You can bet that it will look more like this on the cover or back of a book: “Derek Twinklemeister’s latest is natural, tight, and careens ahead with incredible pacing.”

But reviews DO matter. And they matter quite a bit on Apparently, the good folks who determine which titles get featured for the Kindle routinely examine book reviews written on the site and make judgments based on those reviews as to whether they should promote them or not. And promotion in this case – unlike what many of the reviews in the trades can do – actually translates into sales. LOTS of sales.

Amazon, after all, has the email addresses of millions upon millions of people. They can reach out and turn a flagging book into a bestseller. Almost instantly. Nowhere else in the book business is this actually possible, unless you happen to buy your way on to the New York Times bestseller list.

Which brings me to my point of this post: reviews on Amazon. Currently, THE UNDEAD HORDES OF KAN-GUL has 5 reviews for the paperback and 6 for the Kindle version. That’s not much. Not much at all, given that the book has been out for over a month now. So I’m asking you to take a moment and head over, write a review (it doesn’t have to be long) and post it for both the paperback and the Kindle version, if possible. If you’re visiting this site from another country, please leave the review on your country’s Amazon site instead. My goal is to get a lot more reviews of THE UNDEAD HORDES so more people find out about it, so the good folks at Amazon take notice, and maybe throw some promotion behind it.

So many things are out of a writer’s hands when a book comes out, but this – asking you to write a review – is something I can somewhat control. I hope you’ll do so – especially if you enjoyed the book. And you haven’t bought the book yet – GASP! – feel free to pick it up!

Many thanks!

Zombie Walk Recap

So last Friday, I took off for Asbury park, New Jersey to attend the Zombie Walk – a gathering of zombie enthusiasts from all over as they attempted to break the Guiness World Record for most zombies participating in a walk. Baen Books, my publisher of THE UNDEAD HORDES OF KAN-GUL, brought me down there on their dime to be the featured author at the event.

I shot down on the Acela to NYC and then switched trains, getting into New Jersey shortly before 5pm. My agent, Joe Monti, met me at the train station and we drove over to the shore together, catching up on business and the like. Joe’s an awesome guy and he’s always been very supportive of my work.

Jim Minz, my editor over at Baen, met us at the hotel and got me checked in. After a quick change and freshening up, we headed out to dinner for some Cuban food and live Calypso music. We had an awesome meal, and Baen’s Sales & Marketing rep Corinda met us at the restaurant. Great conversation was had and by the time dinner was over, I was ready to crash. Jim was suffering from a cold all weekend, so he was all for calling it quits as well – especially since we had an early day on Saturday.

Saturday morning we met downstairs and headed out to breakfast. Frank’s Diner was recommended by the front desk and it didn’t disappoint. Huge piles of great food served cheap. (I love me a good greasy spoon!) I had my first donut in years and man, it was delicious.

After breakfast, we headed back to the Stone Pony and started setting up the booth. The day was gray and cloudy and humid. I hadn’t brought any shorts with me, figuring that it would be cooler on the water. As the sun broke through the haze, it got much, much warmer. But by that point, we had thousands of zombies filing past our booth and the fun didn’t stop.

Jim, Corinda, and I manned the booth all day long and we got hundreds of dollars in donations for the Wounded Warrior Project in exchange for signed copies of THE UNDEAD HORDES. Felt great moving so many books, but also knowing that proceeds were going to a great cause. At one point, I took the hand cart Jim had brought along over to the boardwalk and moved hundreds of copies of the book after basically being mobbed by zombies. It was pretty awesome. Young kids and adults alike seemed to be really excited about the book and the event itself.

Exhausted, Jim and I closed the booth shortly before 6pm, headed back to the hotel and crashed for a bit before meeting back downstairs in the lobby for dinner. We enjoyed a good meal, talked about a huge variety of topics – family, politics, publishing, books, and much more. Definitely awesome getting to talk with him so much. Jim’s a great guy and I’m happy he digs my writing.

Sunday we headed over to Princeton to meet back up with Joe and his family for brunch. It was fantastic getting to meet his family for the first time and brunch was spectacular. Jim and I debriefed him on how Saturday went and then we took a stroll around Princeton before Jim drove me into the train station at Trenton for my journey home.

The train was delayed and I ended up getting home an hour later than expected, but after such an amazing weekend, it was hard to be disappointed with Amtrak. A lot of things were discussed over the course of the weekend – one of which is the fact that we will be doing more books in the Shadow Warrior Saga. On the way down, I sketched out details for books 4, 5, and 6, and once book 2 is in the production pipeline, Jim and I will try to finalize that deal (provided sales are strong for the first book.)

With that said, if you haven’t grabbed a copy of THE UNDEAD HORDES already, you really should do so now. And if you have a copy, have read it and enjoyed it, please PLEASE head over to Amazon and write up a review for me. I found out this weekend that reviews on Amazon factor critically into which books Amazon promotes. I could use some Amazonian promotion behind THE UNDEAD HORDES right now, so please get a review posted on the main site and any international sites you might have access to. THANK YOU!

Grab a print copy of THE UNDEAD HORDES by going here.
You can also get a copy for the Kindle here.
And if you have a Nook, you can get a copy here.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to get caught up on all the Lawson Vampire adventures. THE CRUCIBLE hits before the holidays!