Welcome to the Tipping Point

So the big news today is that Amazon.com is launching their new tablet, the Kindle Fire and dropping prices on many of their other products. Here are the actual details: The Kindle Fire tablet with the Amazon Silk web browser = $199. Kindle touch w 3G = $149. Kindle Touch w/ wi-fi = $99. A regular Kindle = $79.

This is huge.

While ebooks have continued to skyrocket in popularity over the past year, the price point of many ereaders was still prohibitive to many potential buyers. But with the realization that customers can now actually get a Kindle for the incredible price of JUST $79 bucks, you can bet that there are going to be even more Kindles under the ol’ Christmas tree than there were last year. What this means is an exponential increase in ereader usage; and it also means an exponential increase in ebook consumption. For authors, this is an absolutely incredible time to be in the writing game. It is now easier than it ever has been before to actually make a living at writing. No longer are writers tied to the sometimes Draconian policies of the Big 6 Traditional Publishing industry. A measly advance? Reserves Against Returns? Royalty statements twice each year?


Try monthly payments (net 60 days) direct deposited into your bank account. Try accurate real-time sales data that allows speedy adaptation in case of a product that languishes in sales. Try speeding up production from eighteen months to under 48 hours. Try the freedom to be truly creative and put out what you want to create as opposed to trying to write something that will “sell” to the establishment based on what “they” think will sell. (And you can’t tell me that any author doesn’t have a boatload of projects that never saw the light of day because an agent or editor said they couldn’t sell it…)

Amazon’s drastic price reductions will mean that more people than ever before will start to embrace ebooks. They’ve been hearing about them for a while. And now they can actually see what the fuss is about. Dropping the Kindle to below $99 bucks is a huge move and psychologically, the purchase of an ereader now becomes an-almost impulse buy. With indie authors pricing their ebooks intelligently between $2.99-$4.99 the lure of ebooks has never been stronger.

It’s going to be one very interesting holiday season, indeed.

But, of course, you can go and grab my Kindle ebooks right now by clicking here. or if you’re a Nook fan, you can find them here.


October is Fan Month!

So as we draw to a close on September (huh? what? where did that month go, eh?) I thought I’d let you in on just ONE of the cool things that will be happening in October. I happen to love October. It’s my birthday month, it was my late father’s birthday month (we usually celebrated together, which was always nice) and Halloween happens to be at the end. So I thought it would be fun to turn this October into “Fan Month.” Everyday throughout the month, I will be calling one fan each day, thanking them for their support, and having a quick chat with them. It’s completely unscripted stuff and it’s your chance to ask me pretty much anything you want (within reason). I’ll be doing these video calls over Skype and recording them for everyone to watch. They’ll last about 10 minutes and it’s my way of saying thank you to a select group of folks who have been kind enough to buy my work and stand behind me as I travel this crazy path of being a writer.

All you need to do to throw your name into the hat and possibly get picked is be a fan of my work: and by that I mean you should be up-to-date on all of my writing, whether it’s Lawson or some of the standalone work I’ve done. Ideally, you’ve read most of my stuff and have questions about my writing process, my venture into indie ebooks, traditional publishing, TV production, etc. etc. etc.

Now, you’ve got to be okay with the fact that I’m recording these calls and using them as I see fit (which means I’ll make them public, cross-post them on Youtube and Facebook, and generally make them available for anyone to see and comment on) as well as be available on the day of the call (winners will be notified beforehand in order to schedule things properly.) But I think this will be a ton of fun. Each day Monday-Friday, we’ll do a fan call and then post them. I’m sure they’ll be amusing, entertaining, and will lead many people to the spiritual enlightenment they seek.

Well, maybe not that last one.

But they will be fun!

HOW TO ENTER: Okay, so let’s get to it. Want to chat with me? All you have to do is send your name, email, and your favorite line from one of my works (something a character said or something written in the narrative) to jonfmerz AT verizon DOT net. That’s it. I’ll start picking the winners immediately and scheduling the calls. Not up to speed on my work and want to get caught up? For Kindle users, you can find my work here. And for Nook users, the list of available work is here.

Get going! 🙂

Run At The Fear

When I was much younger, I spent the majority of my time running away from fear. I was perpetually afraid of doing the wrong thing, appearing out-of-place, or being unprepared. In the 7th grade, I was at a new school with hundreds of people I didn’t know. I didn’t wear the right clothes, talk the right way, or even give a damn enough about my appearance. And then I had bullies to deal with so I spent a lot of time figuring out intricate methods of avoidance. I’d walk out of my way to avoid place I knew they’d be at. I spent so much time rocked back on my heels that I really felt on the defensive for a majority of the time.

I finally realized something when I was about fifteen years old: I didn’t like how my life was unfolding. Being forever tied up in knots of anxiety is not a pleasant way to go through the day – and even as horrible as puberty can be, I was making my own excursion through that time even more hellish. I spent a lot of time looking for some miracle solution that would remove all the fear from my life. I wanted to be bold. I wanted to let troubles bounce off of me. But I didn’t know how to find real courage, or – for a while – even where to start to look for it.

I’d always been intrigued about martial arts. I’d seen the all the Kung Fu flicks of that time. And so I started training – first with friends and then with actual instructors. I still remember walking into my first martial arts school, halfway terrified that I was going to get the snot beaten out of me and never be able to recover. But that didn’t happen. And as I trained, I grew more confident in myself. I was less risk-adverse than I’d ever been. I wanted to test myself under duress. The primal satisfaction that comes from trading punches and kicks or grappling with an opponent and then emerging from that test weary but still alive; sweaty and exhausted but toughened up. I still love that feeling and yearn for it even all these years later.

But at the same time, martial arts didn’t remove fear from my life – and I realized nothing could ever take fear away. Indeed, nothing should take fear away.

Instead, martial arts changed my attitude toward fear.

As I grew more aware of my surroundings and what my body was capable of doing to another human being, I started enjoying the idea of being tested more and more. There’s a certain primal exhilaration in stepping on to the dojo floor and testing your technique. Sometimes, things go well. Sometimes, you find mistakes that need to be improved upon. But that fear that once crippled me, now assisted me in learning to truly live my life and take control of my personal destiny.

I know many people who have dreams. But fear of failure, or of self-sacrifice, or of some perceived notion that society has pounded into their consciousness of what’s appropriate behavior for someone at a certain age…it ensures those things remain just that: dreams.

As a result, these people do what I used to do – they run away from the fear. They go out of their way to self-sabotage their success using excuses or rationale that overrules their desire. They squander bold opportunity in favor of the comfort of mediocrity.

There are precious few who adopt the opposite response and actually run at the fear. These are the people who act in the face of adversity. They are the ones who acknowledge their fear or insecurity but go for it anyway. They refuse to let fear be the crippling entity it can be. Instead, they use it as a barometer of how well they’re steering their destiny toward the success they believe they deserve. If they aren’t afraid, then they’re not trying hard enough – they’re not taking enough risks to achieve their dreams.

This isn’t to say that if you’re afraid of sharks that you should chum the waters and go swimming. Instead, what I’m suggesting is you look at the things you want from life – goals or dreams or what have you. Then honestly look at what might be holding you back from achieving them. Are you afraid? If so, the only way to achieving your goals is to blast through the fear. Run at it. Go through it. Don’t stop. Never quit.

One of the scariest situations I’ve ever found myself in was when I was walking with my wife and one of her relatives through Chinatown. Ahead of us were two men walking slowly and taking up the majority of room on the sidewalk. I made the decision to move ahead of them, but as I did so, I realized that we were being set up for an attack. The two men were the funnel and ahead of them were three more men situated in such a way as to form a half circle perimeter. The realization was one that happened in nanoseconds – only in looking back at it from the safety and comfort of many years later can I even describe it. But I knew – even in that split-second – that if I hesitated or tried to avoid the situation, it would be catastrophic for the three of us.

Instead, as the attack unfolded and the lead man drew the knife he’d been concealing and tried to distract me by asking, “Hey, you got a problem?” I moved through and beyond the arc of his cut and checked his shoulder so he could not cut back, while simultaneously pushing my wife and her relative ahead of me and out of the ambush, all the while repeating, “Nope, no problem. There’s no problem.” I kept us moving – always moving – until we were well clear of the attackers. And thanks to my training, the incident was over so quickly that the attackers simply turned and walked the other way. I don’t know if they were even fully aware of what had just transpired. I was still fairly confused myself.

But I knew one thing: I’d run at the fear.

I moved forward when any other choice would have meant my downfall and possibly that of my wife and her relative. Backpedaling, circling, even engaging – all of it would have been wrong. I would have been trapped in a circle of five armed attackers (I only saw one knife, but you *always* assume the attackers are armed) with two innocents to protect as well as myself. It would have been disastrous.

I use that example to illustrate the need to always keep pushing ahead when it comes to achieving goals. Yes, there will be setbacks. Yes, there will be failures. Yes, it will be uncomfortable and you may spend a night or two worrying about the future. But the payoff – that same visceral exhilaration that I get when I test myself in the dojo – of finally reaching a goal is so worth it.

Whatever your dreams and goals, I hope you run at the fear and never let it cripple you. Be bold, move ahead. Don’t let fear – yours or that of anyone else – stop you from realizing your true potential.

Be Amazing Today

I know. I know.

It’s Monday.

I woke up at 5:37am to go to the bathroom and then stumbled back into bed for another 90 minutes that seemed to fly by in exactly 30 seconds. I had a great weekend and would like nothing better than to sleep away today, rest, and get serious tomorrow. I’m willing to bet a lot of you feel something pretty similar to how I’m feeling right now.

So consider this a joint motivational speech – I’m trying to get cranked up as much as I’m trying to crank you up.

And to do that, I’ll just ask a simple question: how will you be amazing today?

It’s a fairly innocuous question. Nothing much to it, frankly. But I’ve found in the past that asking that question has a cool effect on me. I may not have an answer when I first ask the question in the morning, but throughout the day I find myself doing more than I thought I would at the start of the day. And when I finally crawl into bed at night and pull the covers up, asking the question: “how was I amazing today?” invariably produces several answers and leads to being very satisfied with how the day progressed. Maybe I cranked out more words than I thought I would. Maybe I got caught up on email. Maybe I got going on that other project that had languished.

I don’t purport to be some incredible life coach with all the answers – I can’t tell you how to rewire your neurology or expunge a traumatic past or any number of other things that society seems intent on insisting we all suffer from. But I can show you some of the things that I use to drive my own life forward and be successful at what I do. When I was in Basic Training, motivation was easy: drill instructors would shout and scream until you got it done and got it done right. In the real world, motivation has to come from within you – you have to be a self-starter and a self-finisher. As you reach goals, set new ones. Quest ever on and never get complacent. You’re the only one who will care, no matter how many “life coaches” or “mentors” or “restorative life energy therapists” you hire.

At the start of the day, it’s just you.

At the end of the day, it’s just you.

We all have triggers that can be used to propel us further ahead on the fuel of never-ending potential. It’s just a matter of finding them. Sometimes those triggers are profound and earth-shaking things, like a near-death experience, skydiving, and reconnecting with an old love.

Sometimes, they’re far simpler.

Sometimes, they’re six-word questions.

“How will you be amazing today?”

You may not know the answer now. But you will soon enough.

Have a fantastic week everyone.

(PS: My new DVD series “Thermonuclearize Your Success NOW with Old Sweaty Socks and Paprika” is due in stores in time for the holiday shopping season, so don’t forget to grab the set. It’s just $999 bucks, which is far cheaper-looking and makes you feel better than spending $1000.)