Break Out Your Video Camera…

Because I’m going to give away TWO brand new Kindle Touch 3Gs at the end of May 2012.

Want one? Here’s the deal: May 2012 is the 10th Anniversary of Lawson’s debut in print (THE FIXER – book 1 in the series came out in May 2002) and I’m looking for the coolest, most creatively awesome videos – made by my fans – to help spread the word about the entire Lawson universe – the books, the TV series, and much more. if I pick your video as one of the two best, you’ll win a brand new Kindle Touch 3G. It’s that simple.

A couple of rules, though:

1. Videos must be under 3 minutes – preferably about two minutes so you don’t bore your viewers.
2. Videos must contain images from anything related to Lawson – book covers, screen grabs from The Fixer, etc. Anything related to Lawson and The Fixer is available for use.
3. Videos may NOT contain any copyrighted images, video, or music. In other words, don’t set your video to a Barry Manilow tune unless you happen to own the rights to use that song.
4. Videos must have a general theme along the lines of “Why I Love the Lawson Vampire Series by Jon F. Merz” It doesn’t have to be exactly like this; you could say something like “I’m rabid for Lawson” or something like that.
5. Videos must be uploaded to both Youtube and to my Facebook Fan Page in order to qualify. For Youtube videos, please be sure to use keywords like “lawson vampire, the fixer, jon f. merz, ebooks, lawson vampire ebooks” etc. etc.
6. By entering this contest you are granting me permission to use your video in any way that I see fit, for as long as I like, wherever I like, without any sort of compensation or payment. Ownership will remain yours, but I’m free to use it as much as I like. (see fine print below)
7. Contest is open to anyone, anywhere. There is no fee to enter; the only requirement is a love of Lawson and his many ebooks.
8. Entries MUST be work-safe, which means no foul language, obscene material, etc.

That’s basically it. So get out there and be creative. Start a Lawson flash mob in a crowded subway station. Interview yourself talking about why Lawson is so awesome. Create a computer animation with the book covers and screenshots. Tell the world why Lawson is so awesome and why everyone should be reading the series and getting ready for the TV show. Include links to the books on Amazon ( and/or the Nook ( if you like. Put a link to the Facebook fan Page if you want ( or come up with other ingenious ways to promote Lawson and his many adventures.

I have no idea how many people will enter this contest, so the odds might be pretty good. Videos don’t have to be shot in HD or anything like that. Hell, you could cut it together with video clips shot by a smart phone – just make sure it rocks and helps promote Lawson and his adventures. Final decisions on the winning entries will be made by me and me alone. Winners will be announced no later than June 6th, 2012 and they will receive their new Kindles within a few weeks of the announcement.

And if you haven’t read my Lawson series yet, then go get some of the books and discover the exciting mayhem that awaits! Kindle users go here! | Nook users go here! | iBooks users go here!

Excited? Then get to work! All entries MUST be received by May 16th, 2012. That’s three weeks from now. You are free to enter as many videos as you wish, but make sure they rock. I’d rather have one kick-ass entry than five mediocre ones.

Lawson’s 10th Year Anniversary – May 2012…and you just might win a brand new Kindle!


All Entries submitted to the Contest must be original. You must be the sole owner of any copyright and all other intellectual property rights in and to any Entry submitted. Your submission of each Entry is your acknowledgement, warranty and guarantee that you are the author, creator and/ or sole owner of copyright(s) and other intellectual property rights in and to the Entry submitted. By submitting an Entry, you also represent and warrant that the Entries that you submit do not infringe on the copyright, right of publicity, privacy rights or any other intellectual property or other right of any other persons or entity, that you have secured any and all waivers and permissions necessary with respect to persons and subject matter in the Entry and that you have not submitted the Entry to any other contest. If the ownership of any Entry is contested in any manner, the Sponsor may disqualify that Entry. By submitting an Entry you agree to hold harmless and indemnify Jon F. Merz for any breach of these Official Rules and/or your representations and warranties made hereunder.

Rights of Use
You shall retain the copyright to any Entry and all other rights thereto EXCEPT: by entering the Contest, you agree to have your submitted Entry displayed by Sponsor on Sponsor’s website without any fee or other form of compensation. In addition, you hereby grant an unlimited royalty free license to the Sponsor to copy, display, perform, store, broadcast, distribute or otherwise use your Entry for any purpose. You agree that the Sponsor will not be liable to you or to any third party for any use, editing, adaptation, modification and/or publication of any Entry.

Publicity and Advertising
Except where prohibited, participation in the Contest constitutes irrevocable consent to the Sponsor and their agents to use, record reproduce, publish, display, perform, translate, and distribute, the names, likeness, voices, quotations, opinions and biographical information of Entrant, including, without limitation, any photograph or recording for promotional purposes in any media, worldwide, without further payment or consideration; and the name, likeness, voice and biographical information of any natural person appearing in the Entry, including without limitation any photograph or recording, for any promotional purpose in any media, worldwide, and/or for any other commercial or non-commercial corporate purpose, including without limitation use on merchandise or for marketing, without attribution or further payment or compensation to the Entrant, his or her successors or assigns or any other entity.

Playing Ninja

Ninjutsu, to me, isn’t simply a martial art. It’s not simply a way to physically protect yourself and your loved ones. Hatsumi-sensei has said repeatedly that the ultimate goal of ninjutsu is not to become a “meijin” or master, but to become a “tatsujin” or a complete human being. And yet, the focus of most ninjutsu practitioners lies solely within the realm of learning to fight in the dojo. (Of course, such skills are absolutely necessary. And I’d argue that there are plenty of people who need to re-learn how to throw a correct punch.)

But what about real life?

How often do you take the ninjutsu out of the dojo and apply it in other areas of your life? Across the whole spectrum of your existence?

To me, a ninja is one who is able to move at will through any environment or any situation and endure, survive, and even prosper. This means that just practicing fighting is not enough. It means that as a practitioner, you have to constantly and continually push yourself to learn and evolve in all areas of your life – not just on the mat.

For example: do you speak any other languages? Even a smattering of a language? A few key phrases will help facilitate conversation in potential scenarios. It might behoove you to appear as a local instead of an outsider. Knowing how to properly speak even the simplest of greetings in another language might enable you to retain your “invisibility” and not stick out as an outsider.

What about English? Assuming it’s your native tongue, are you well-versed in how to properly write it? Or speak it? Is “like” every other word out of your mouth? How does that make you look to others that you interact with? How do typos in your written communication undercut whatever role you’re attempting to play? In some situations, it might be beneficial to appear less than intelligent, but if you are casting yourself in the role of a professional, a leader, or a teacher, then you should lead by example: the same diligence you practice with in the dojo should also be applied to every other area of your life. If that means breaking out the grammar book and learning the difference between “their,” “they’re,” and “there,” then so be it – that’s what you have to do.

If you’re a man, do you know how to properly wear a suit? Tie a tie? Do you know to button your jacket when you stand and unbutton it when you sit down? Do you know that the tuxedo jacket is never actually supposed to be taken off – regardless of how sweaty you might become doing the Electric Slide at your cousin’s black tie wedding? Can you give an impromptu toast without practice? Do you know how to order wine in a fancy restaurant and properly sample it? Do you know how to surreptitiously tip the Maitre d’ at a restaurant to ensure better service during the meal?

What about your mind? Do you frequently expose yourself to other cultures and belief systems as a way of expanding your consciousness or do you stay fixated and locked in a small prison of your own self-assured prejudices? Does your ego goad you into angry impulses that prompt others to view you as insecure, juvenile, and petty?

Before I studied ninjutsu, I was fortunate to have a mentor whose background was, let’s say, “interesting.” His advice to me, given my path in life at the time, was to develop myself to the point where I could seamlessly move through everyday life without causing any friction – and by friction, he meant knowing what to do and how to act and how to appear such that I never stood out unless I wanted to. The highest level of this development was to become the “gray man,” the man you see on the street or in a hotel or anywhere…and then five seconds later, you can’t remember him.

Think about this scenario: you’re in an upscale restaurant and note that the majority of people there know exactly how to act. They know which fork to use. They know where the soup spoon is. They know how to order wine. They know how to place their napkin if they get up to use the restroom. Most of these people will pass through your subconsciousness and you won’t remember them (unless you’re especially attracted to them or something else causes you to notice them). Because they fit their situation so well, so seamlessly, they are, in effect, invisible.

Contrast this with the guy sitting in the same restaurant with his napkin tucked into his shirt like a bib. Maybe he holds his fork in a fist rather than with his index finger, middle finger, and thumb. Your subconscious mind notices this almost immediately because he is not in harmony with his environment – he’s causing friction and therefore you notice – and remember – him. His invisibility is completely compromised.

When we talk about success, a lot of times people will point to external factors that keep them back from achieving the greatness they seek. But how much of their lack of success is caused internally by creating friction with the world at large? How much of their failure is caused by not being able to blend seamlessly with their environments? Do they know how to talk to a mechanic? What about a CEO?

As ninjutsu practitioners, it is not enough to simply practice kihon happo thousands of times. It’s not enough to practice cutting things with swords and knives or post pictures of bullets and guns on Facebook and proclaim yourself a “tough guy.” If you do that and think you’re practicing ninjutsu, you’re sorely mistaken: you are merely practicing for one eventuality. Ninjutsu demands that the practitioner train themselves to be able to handle ALL eventualities, ALL scenarios, ALL of life. That means that the study of combat is but ONE part of the art itself. The practitioner of the art must take the teachings of ninjutsu out of the dojo and subject themselves to the real world where not everything is solved with a punch or a throwing star or a ranting threat or a Youtube video showing how fast you can draw a sword.

If you read the scenarios and questions above and thought, “Well, that’s not me. I’m never in an upscale restaurant.” Or “I only wear jeans and T-shirts, I don’t need to know how to tie a bowtie.” Or “I don’t need to read up on Muslim culture. Or know about Mayan civilization.” Then unfortunately, you are not practicing ninjutsu. You are playing at being a ninja.

For some folks, that realization might be fine for them. But for those who would say they are truly studying this art, then the realization should be a wake-up call that you need to do more. You need to train more. You need to develop yourself to the point where you are able to slug back a brewski in a blue collar pub and then the next night be able to order foie gras. By expanding your ability to move from situation to situation, scenario to scenario with ease, you will also be expanding your mind and spirit – your consciousness will evolve as well.

And when you are at ease in more situations, you are a far more powerful than one who can only rely on physical action. You transcend the brutality of physical combat and establish yourself as a true warrior, one able to render themselves invisible at will, or stand out as the beacon of light and positive energy that the universe needs more of – you are a fully actualized example of thought, word, deed.

EBook Dominance

The great folks at Pew Research have just released an amazing report detailing the rise of ebook dominance in the way people consume content. The report is incredibly detailed and chock full of very useful data. Among the key points raised in the report are the following:

1. 4x as many people are reading ebooks as were two years ago.
2. People who read ebooks are reading MORE (24 ebooks read versus 15 for non ebook readers on average)
3. People who read ebooks prefer to BUY rather than borrow.

The report also has a number of fascinating survey questions that clearly show that ebooks are going to dominate the landscape very soon. Including a nice bar graph that asked which type of book (ebook or printed) is better for the following purposes:

1. Reading with a child: 81% prefer printed versus 9% prefer ebooks
2. Sharing books with others: 69% – printed / 25% – ebook
3. Reading books in bed: 43% – printed / 45% – ebooks
4. Having a wide selection to choose from: 35% – printed / 53% – ebooks
5. Reading while traveling or commuting: 19% – printed / 73% – ebooks
6. Being able to get a book quickly: 13% – printed / 83% – ebooks

So aside from the first two questions, ebooks are the preferred method. And I expect that as lending ebooks becomes easier and publishers realize the silliness of DRM, that question will also see a swing toward digital over print. As newer tablets come on the market, making illustrating ebooks easier than ever, you can bet the percentages for question one will also swap.

There’s a whole host of data in the report, which you can download as a .pdf file by clicking above or right here. For anyone who writes or publishes, the report is mandatory reading. And it’s well worth taking the time to do so. Please share this post with others you feel would enjoy reading about this great new report! Thanks!

Bikini Tips for Authors

As part of my never-ending quest to blur the line between silliness and reality – something I apparently don’t need to do as much considering how many people on Twitter thought the Titanic was just a movie (weep with me, people…) – I’ve got a new post for you today with a silly headline. But it hopefully got your attention and made you swing by to see what I’d say.

I got an email recently asking me how I stay in shape given the fact that as a writer, I’m sitting for long periods of time. It made me think of what I actually do during the course of the day and how I break things up. It also occurred to me that other authors might enjoy reading this and chime in with their own ideas. So, here we go.

1. Wake Up: I use a very simple yet effective series of movements from my martial arts called San Shin Kata to wake my body up each and every morning. When I started in this style of martial arts, my mornings began around 4am (sometimes earlier) and as tired as I was, I got into the habit and never got out of it. I spend about fifteen minutes going through these five exercises (earth, water, fire, wind, and void) waking up my joints, muscles, ligaments, breathing, and awareness. For those not in my style, you could accomplish the same thing by doing arm rotations at the shoulder and elbow and wrist as well as rotating your legs at the hips, knees, and ankles. After the San Shin, I usually do push-ups and leg raises or some other exercise. It doesn’t take long, but it’s incredibly effective at getting your systems moving after being asleep.

2. Sitting: It’s not good for you. Prolonged sitting is bad. So I try not to sit more than 45-60 minutes at any one time. For me, this works because most of my first draft chapters take about an hour to write. Once that’s done, I get up and move around. Usually by cranking out a set of push-ups, some deep squats, burpees, that sort of thing. Again, the goal is to keep things moving. By increasing my heart rate, more blood flows at a faster clip through my body, and I get more oxygen into where it needs to be.

3. Phone Calls: If you get a phone call, get up from your chair and walk around. You’re exercising without thinking about it at that point. I’ve probably logged miles walking around the second floor of my house while on the phone. You don’t have to speed walk, just do it normally. The key is to keep moving.

4. Water: Keep it with you all the time. Have a bottle by the desk and make sure that you carry it with you everywhere. Try to drink at least two standard-sized bottles every day. I’ve been on a kick to increase my own intake and this is where I’m at right now in terms of amounts. I also drink a lot of orange juice.

These are the four things I make sure I do every day – even if I can’t fit in a normal prolonged workout. I won’t waste time detailing how to do cardio or lift weights or anything like that since there are people far better qualified than I am to offer that advice and training. But I will say this, if you can manage to incorporate these four points into your day, you’ll be ahead of the game. I recently came off a long hiatus where I wasn’t doing much strenuous exercise, but always made sure to do the four things above. I credit it with keeping my fitness standard better than if I hadn’t done anything.

The key is to never let things sit idle. Constant movement (unless you happen to be meditating) ensures that blood flows to all areas of your body. Increasing your heart rate every hour or so helps keep you oxygenated, keeps your metabolism somewhat active, and keeps all your systems functioning. I tend to think that a lot of disease, toxicity, and body breakdown happens as a direct result of bad stuff not being purged from your body – and it’s not being purged because we don’t move as much as we should, so the junk gets a chance to pool in parts of your body and then it starts compounding itself. So try to stay in motion. Take more frequent breaks. Get yourself back into motion. And drink more water.

I’m not saying that this is the be-all-end-all cure for weight loss or the like. They’re merely a few suggestions that might help. And who knows, if you develop these things into habits, you just might be ready to sport a monokini on the beach…just like Jim Carrey. 🙂

Facebook Page Timeline Tips for Authors – Part 2

About a month ago, I wrote up a blog post detailing how all pages on Facebook would be converted to the new Timeline design come March 30th. Along with this, I presented some tips on how to maximize an effective use of Timeline for authors, and closed by promising another post with more tips in the next week.

Well, a month has passed, but I finally got back around to it. 🙂

If you haven’t read the first post, go back and read it since it gives you a foundation for what I detail in this post.

1. Okay, now I told that FBML was going away as of June and it was a good idea to convert over to Static HTML: iFrames Tab app now. I also told you that Static HTML: iFrames Tab didn’t inherit the styling of fonts that the old FBML tab did. In other words, if you’ve been experimenting with the design, your fonts probably do not match the rest of your Facebook page. If you go to your page and open that tab, you’ll see whatever coding you put there. In order to inherit the styling from the rest of your page and make it look all good and “Facebooky,” add these lines to the very top of your code:

<link type=”text/css” rel=”stylesheet” href=”” />
<link type=”text/css” rel=”stylesheet” href=”” />
<link type=”text/css” rel=”stylesheet” href=”” />
<link type=”text/css” rel=”stylesheet” href=”” />

This links your tab to the CSS style sheets that set the rest of Facebook. There’s probably only one of these applicable to your page, but I couldn’t figure out which one it was, so I included them all. There’s no harm in having them all there, so no worries. Once you insert those lines, your tab should look exactly like the rest of your page.

2. Tabs: Using the new Timeline feature gives you a bit more flexibility when it comes to tabs, which are positioned directly under your cover photo. You can also design unique graphics for your tabs that look better than having random graphic images up there. Four tabs are displayed immediately when your page loads and you can have up to four more under those that users need to click the down arrow to see.

Designing your tabs is easy. The dimensions are 111 pixels wide by 74 pixels high. Open your graphic program of choice and design a nice eye-catching graphic to use as each tab. If you look at the screenshot below of my tabs, you’ll see that my Welcome! Tab has a bright red picture of a movie ticket that says “free admission” on it.

I used this because it’s bold and gives a clear message. Highly-detailed graphics are not going to work here, so be simple and bold.

Once you’ve settled on the design, you’ll need to upload it and make it active on your page. Go to the top of your Admin Panel, and click on “Manage.” Then click “edit page.” A new screen will come up. On the left side, look down and see “Apps,” and then click on that. A list of your Apps will now show up on the screen. Since my Welcome! tab was created using Static HTML: iFrame Tabs, that’s where I need to go. Click on “edit settings.” A small pop-up will show on your screen that looks like this:

Most importantly, make sure it says “Tab: Added” so you’re sure it’s displaying on the Page itself. Next see where it says at the bottom “custom tab name.” Put whatever you want in that space and then click “save.” I recommend something nice and friendly like “Welcome!” But you could have it say anything like “My Books” or what have you.

Then you’ll want to click above that where it says “custom tab image.” This is where you will upload your custom 111×74 image. So click on that and a new window/tab opens. Follow the instructions and you should then see your new image upload and display. When you’re finished, make sure you go back to your page and see that it’s displaying properly. Up until a few weeks ago, there was a bug in the system that caused everyone else who had uploaded a custom image to display on your page instead of what you uploaded. It was annoying but Facebook seems to have fixed the problem.

3. Tab Placement: Did you know you can move your tabs around to some extent? You can. Look at the screenshot above of my cover photo and tabs again. On the right side where my tabs are located, you’ll see a 2 with a down arrow next to it. This means there are two other tabs below the top four and users can click those to access more info, pages, etc. If you click that, you will see all the tabs displayed.

And now if you hover over each tab in the upper right hand corner, you’ll see a pencil. Click on that pencil and the first thing you’ll see is “swap position with” followed by a few choices. So if you’re not happy with where your welcome tab is, you can move it to a better position. Just be advised that Facebook wants your Photos first and foremost on your Tab menu. Presumably because Photos are one of Facebook’s most active features. Remember that: be sure you have a bunch of photos uploaded to your page. I take screenshots of my works-in-progress (usually a good juicy page that users can read and get excited about) and post those from time-to-time.

Be sure to put your most important information Tabs up top and leave the lesser important stuff below. My top tabs are Photos, Welcome!, Likes, and Top Fans (see below), while my lesser important (but still fun) tabs are Events and Videos.

4. Top Fans: if you’re an author you’ve got to be interacting with your fans. There’s no other way. And if you want to really get your fans excited and active, then the Top Fans app is truly spectacular. I’ve been using this for a few weeks now when I saw it on my friend Chris Penn’s page and the results have been great. Top Fans integrates seamlessly with your Facebook Page once you sign up. They have a professional version for $29 bucks per month that gives you a lot more options. For me, I stick to the FREE version right now and I’m still blown away by it.

Basically, the app tracks fan participation on your page. Fans acquire points by liking, commenting, sharing and posting on your page. A running leader board of the top 25 fans provides a wonderful graphic interface that spurs people to take action. I took it a step further and announced that each month’s winner will receive a special T-shirt only available to Top Fans. I had the logo below designed that I’ll be using for the shirts.

It rewards fans for being active, increases your visibility elsewhere on Facebook, and leads to more fans, and more readers. In return, the T-shirt is cool and helps spread the word even more. Seriously, get Top Fans installed on your page today and watch how people respond. It’s fantastic. And I made sure to move the Top Fans tab to a prominent position on my page so people can see it immediately.

In closing, make sure that if you have a custom tab, that you really use it to maximum effect. My Welcome! Tab has a quick message from me, a picture, and newsletter sign-up form, and links to buy my ebooks at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Critical stuff all laid out on one tab.

One final tidbit, while you no longer have the ability to make a special landing page to direct people to on your Page, each Tab has its own unique URL. And that means instead of just directing people to the page itself, you can direct them right to your special Tab. Use a URL shortening service to create custom URLs for your Tabs and it will be easier to track and share.

I hope you’ve found this useful. If so, please come by My Facebook Page and click the ol’ LIKE button, will ya? 🙂 And be sure to share this article with any of your author pals. Trust me, there aren’t nearly enough writers making the most of their Facebook pages. 🙁

Thanks for reading!