Dear Tom May & NStar Management

Congratulations Tom May and NStar management.


Tropical Storm Irene gave you an incredible opportunity to show that you are a modern 21st century utility company that is attuned to the needs of its customers and responds to emergencies in a timely and communicative manner; that you are proactive and forward-thinking about improvements to infrastructure and contingency planning – especially as it relates to national security.

Instead, you failed so utterly and completely and epically, that it is almost beyond reason.

Rarely in combat does a general get five days’ advance notice about the approaching enemy, its strength, and the potential impact of its attack. Irene gave you plenty of time to plan a cohesive strategy for dealing with its impact. While other utility companies scrambled to draft thousands of out-of-state line workers to help handle the anticipated work flow, you brought in a measly 45 teams of 1-2 workers each. Sure there were problems getting more workers because of other states affected by Irene, but what about bringing in workers from states NOT affected? It would have undoubtedly cost more, which I’m sure is the principal reason behind your lackadaisical approach to emergency response.

Up-to-date intelligence on the battlefield is prized for a reason: it enables leaders to rapidly make decisions about the changing face of battle. And yet NStar’s communication with its customers – arguably the most important aspect of your business – could be bested by children using empty soup cans and string. Not only are your updates lacking detail and timeliness, but you have utterly failed to embrace the usefulness of social media sites. And here’s a hint: having two Twitter feeds that provide one or two useless updates per day is NOT using social media nor does it enhance your business profile. Twitter is about interaction; it is NOT about mere regurgitation of the company’s talking points while ignoring the comments directed at you.

We are in the midst of one of the worst economic periods in US history. Families everywhere are struggling to get by. So imagine the frustration felt by hundreds of thousands of people when – like I did this morning – they were forced to throw away hundreds of dollars worth of groceries because of food spoilage from not having working refrigerators and freezers. Compound that again by the added cost of taking an average family of four out to eat three times a day while we await restoration of power. What’s the potential cost per family affected by poor decision-making at the top levels within NStar – perhaps $1000 or more?

So here’s a little suggestion list for NStar Board of Directors to help make sure this doesn’t happen again:

1. Terminate Tom May. Fire him. Show him the door. As leader of the company, he is ultimately responsible for the severely disappointing lack of leadership and foresight when it came to dealing with Irene. A good leader leads from the front. Tom May sat back and let the task of restoring power fall to the thousands of line workers and teams that have done an amazing job despite suffering from such poor leadership.

2. Terminate your Director of Contingency planning. It’s the job of a contingency planner to plan for the worst and then have backup plans in place for backup plan failure. Clearly, despite 5-days warning that Irene was coming, NStar’s contingency planning department failed to properly maneuver assets into position that would have rapidly mitigated Irene’s effects. Put someone in charge of your contingency planning who actually understands the role.

3. Improve your communication. Really. Because frankly, it stinks. Putting out a crummy .pdf file of towns affected once per day is not communication in the 21st century. Using Twitter to throw out the same useless info is not communication in the 21st century, either. In the future, you ought to have full maps of affected areas showing real-time restoration efforts, deployment of teams, and anticipated recovery times. It’s not hard. It just takes a little effort. Try it some time.

4. Invest in infrastructure. In my neighborhood, we lose power a few times a year and when I call up, the machine tells me it’s due to “damage to high voltage equipment.” All the time? Look, our energy infrastructure is a key part of our national security. We’ve already seen the effects of cyber attacks on our energy grids. Until utility companies like you make a concerted effort to invest in the infrastructure and security of your systems, we’re vulnerable – not just to storms but to foreign enemies looking to disrupt our nation. Take some of the money you earn every quarter and actually invest it in technology that will improve the security of your infrastructure and update it so it is as technologically relevant as it can be. Some of the aspects of your network are decades out-of-date and basically obsolete. Fix it.

5. Give an immediate $200 credit to all of your affected customers. Many have spent far more than that amount on groceries and food and basic survival items as a result of your glaring failures. Do the right thing and give your customers some of that money back.

In short, Tropical Storm Irene showed the world the glaring mismanagement affecting most of our nations’ utility companies. Like so many other corporations, you have all grown fat and lazy due to your greed. You no longer care about excellence. You are willing to settle for “good enough.” But how many more people would be suffering if Irene had been a Category 2 storm, or worse? How much longer would your customers be without power because of your incompetence? How much more money would those without power be forced to spend just on basic survival items like food and water because you failed to properly plan despite days of advance notice? Your actions are completely and totally unacceptable to hundreds of thousands of people that rely on you – in some cases with their very lives. And all you’ve shown is that you are incapable of handling much of anything beyond kite-flying season, let alone some of the more impressive storms that routinely affect the northeast.

You should be embarrassed and ashamed of your failures as a company. But let’s hope you’re not too arrogant and ignorant that you can’t learn from those mistakes so this doesn’t happen again.

Jon F. Merz

30,000 EBooks

Today marks a nice milestone: since February of this year, I’ve sold 30,000 ebooks. When I started putting up my backlist in late-January, I had no idea what I was in for. Would everything flop? Would it take off?

The results are pretty damned awesome, actually. 30,000 is a great number (although I’m obviously shooting for 100,000 by the end of the year) and knowing that I’m finding an audience for my work is truly a blessing. The majority of my sales are for my Lawson Vampire series and that’s good news as well. Given everything (hint, hint) that will be happening soon around THAT, it’s good to know that more people are discovering Lawson every month. In fact, out of the 30,000 ebooks I’ve sold, I’d say roughly 25,000 are sales of my various Lawson adventures, more on the Kindle than on the Nook, but strong everywhere. Lawson has proven his worth as an enduring and endearing character. He’s not for everyone (only the sexy people, lol) but those who know him seem to enjoy him.

Even with the summer slowdown, my ebooks have continued to sell consistently across the board. I’ve got new releases coming soon, plus plans to offer pretty much everything in print. And audio as well. Big things are afoot for the Autumn months. But you’ll hear more on that in the coming weeks. Plus, I hope to finally be able to reveal who my publisher is for my new Fantasy series. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, I’d like to add one final thought: thank you. Thank you for being a supporter of my work. Thank you for talking it up to friends and family. Thank you for hopping on-board the adventures I create and allowing me to whisk you away into the crazy chaos that is my fiction. With your permission, I’ll gladly be doing it for many, many years to come.

Have a great day and thanks again!

What Is #wintel?

So this morning, I started a little something new out on Twitter. I read a lot of material relating (sometimes directly and often indirectly) to the world of writing and publishing. After all, I consider this a business and as such, I need to constantly monitor information that may help me grow my business or otherwise avoid certain pitfalls.

Some of this material is pretty good stuff. And so, this morning, I started tweeting about some of it, using the hashtag #wintel after my tweets. What is #wintel? It’s “writer’s intelligence,” in other words, intelligence/information that I think writers should know about.

We started today with three articles (although I may post a few more) and it’s my hope that you all find these things interesting, especially if you’re in the biz. Here’s what we looked at:

1. Donna K. Fitch highlights three books she found useful for e-publishing (full disclosure: my book, “How To REALLY Sell EBooks” is one of them”)

2. India experiences a new wave of scam literary agents, which is especially important given that Amazon will be opening a storefront there later this year.

3. A lawsuit alleges that the Big 6 publishing houses have vastly under-reported ebook sales figures to their authors. The same law firm handling this case is also alleging Apple is engaging in price fixing.

Each day I will try to contribute some good stuff I think writers should know. If you like the articles, please retweet or repost them with the hashtag #wintel at the end. It’s writer’s intelligence, but it’s also a “win.” 🙂

3-Book Deal

So, last Friday on my way to Canobie Lake Park, I got a nice call from my agent who told me that we had a nice offer from a new publisher for a 3-book deal. Needless to say, I’m pretty excited. I’ve wanted to work with this particular editor for a while and I’m really looking forward to his tutelage and being able to expand my writing skills. This is a new genre for me: specifically, sword & sorcery, but I’ve always wanted to do a series in it since I grew up devouring Fantasy series as fast as I could read ’em.

I can’t reveal the publishing house just yet, nor can I tell you the editor’s name, or the actual working title of any of the books (although I will be able to hopefully soon), but let’s just say it’s good to know that I’ll have three new books coming out into bookstores – and I’ll be reaching a whole new audience for my writing.

I’ll still be doing my indie publishing of ebooks and the various projects I have going on there will continue. But I don’t like putting all of my eggs into one basket; I like knowing that I’ll have print books out in stores, ebooks for the ever-growing global community that loves them, and TV/film projects as well. I’m an entertainer – so I’ll make sure my work gets out into whatever format it needs to be in in order to make sure it reaches its audience.

In the meantime, if you haven’t read my ebook NINJA yet, which is available for the Kindle, perhaps you should.

Just sayin’

>wink< >wink< 🙂


There comes a point every summer when we start longing for the cooler temperatures of the fall. It’s August and by now, the sun’s rays have baked the earth around us. Humidity makes it feel like every step you take is in the deepest, darkest jungle where breathing is hot, wet, and just painful. We drink, but it never seems to be enough to stave off the blistering solar assault above us.

So, our thoughts naturally turn to those days when cool breezes wash over us, bringing relief. When the dancing leaves are harbingers of the first flakes of snow, drifting down in a delicate ballet reflective of nature’s own ethereal rhythm. At this time of year, we look forward to those days, with the bite of promised snow in the air, the gathering clouds of some far off storm bloating the heavens, and the eventual crackle of wood upon a blazing hearth.

With that in mind, I hereby present my offer of solace from the August heat. PREY will transport you the bottom of the world to the snowy mountains of Antarctica, where the frigid winds carry the promise of something sinister and hidden, locked away in an icy tomb until a group of scientists discovers it.

Now, they’re being hunted.

And as darkness falls at the bottom of the world, the real terror begins.

Prey is available for both the Kindle and the Nook. It’s a ticket to adventure in the frozen reaches of the Antarctic wilderness.

And the horrors that await.