The Greatest Fans In The World…

By Jon F. Merz

Last night I had the opportunity to interact with my fans on a whole new level – a virtual author event that brought video conferencing to a whole new level. Shindig, a company based in New York City, hosted me on its incredible platform that can handle thousands of guests in multiple rooms, as well as show video clips, pictures, and more all during the event. It’s a fantastic way for authors, musicians, TV folks, and producers to get in touch with fans and drive interest and buzz around their projects. After trying it last night for the first time, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s easy-to-use and the learning curve is remarkably slight.

I’ve been pushing this event for about a month now and really cranked it up these last few days. We had a ton of RSVPs and around 50 people showed up for the actual event. I spoke for about 25 minutes on where Lawson came from, the evolution of the series, the trials and tribulations of publishing, and then into the production of THE FIXER TV series. And then I hit the audience with a never-before-seen clip from the show itself. 54 seconds of the flavor, feel, and look of the show and the whole cast. It was awesome seeing the reactions on the faces of the attendees as they watched and the feedback was immediate and intense. I’m still getting emails about it. Suffice it to say, THE FIXER is really going to blow socks off when we debut the pilot.

After the clip, I had a Q&A session and fielded questions on everything from cover art to ebooks to the cast from THE FIXER to my latest project THE NINJA APPRENTICE. And when folks had a question, the Shindig platform allowed them to “come up on stage” with me if they had a web camera operational and actually share the cyber spotlight. Otherwise, folks could type in questions and the moderator Eric would relay them to me.

This was new ground, but if you read yesterday’s post on creating your own opportunities, you’d see how this all dovetails together. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to hold this event if I hadn’t heard about it from my good friend who is very much in the same mindset as me about exploring new avenues and chances for exposure and success. Shindig is new technology and I think it’s incredible stuff.

The best part of last night was getting the chance to meet some of my many fans. And seeing the folks who showed up really made it clear just how lucky I am to be able to do this for a living. The time slot was tough on some folks’ schedules and a lot of my fans couldn’t make it. But despite the fact that they missed the event, they still wrote and told me how much they wished they could have been there. And that means the world to me.

I’ve often said that my fans are truly the greatest people in the world. I mean that. Some attendees last night were actually at work; some were in other parts of the world where it was either late at night or in the very wee hours of the morning; and still others had rushed home from work to attend. We had media in attendance as well as one or two high-level executives in some very interesting companies. It was a very impressive array of people in the audience and being able to speak to them was an honor and a privilege.

So thank you to everyone – ALL of my fans – whether you made it last night or not. I know you’re out there and I want you to know that I sincerely appreciate you counting yourself among my readers, fans, and friends. You’re the best. Absolutely, unequivocally the best.

We’ll do more of these events in the future and I can’t wait to meet even more of you face-to-face. Have a fantastic weekend and thank you again!


A Writer’s Best Defense

There’s an inherent problem with being an aspiring writer: you’re not all that sure of yourself yet. You have this “Go get ’em” attitude and you want your stories to be read by the public and you hope way down deep inside for that validation that comes with publishing and seeing your name in print. Every writer remembers what it’s like to finish a story you know is good, but then to have niggling doubts nibble at the fringes of your consciousness. “Maybe it’s not THAT good.” That’s when you seek out the approval of others. Sometimes, it’s family. But most times, writers put their faith in the expertise of an editor – be it a book editor or a story editor. If you submit that story enough, you just might get the validation you seek through a contract to publish it. And it feels good.

It feels REALLY good.

The first time I sold a short story was way back in 1996 to Rictus Magazine. It was for my story “I, the Courier,” and it earned me a whopping $5 bucks. It could have been a million. Or it could have been a penny. It wouldn’t have mattered; what counted was that someone had finally read something I wrote and judged it worthy enough of being published. It was a high I’ll never forget. And the Peking Duck my wife and I had that night at our favorite Chinese restaurant was one helluva meal. I never cashed that check, either. I framed it and it hangs on the wall in my office.

So, much like baby turtles squirming through the sands on their way into the ocean for the first time, aspiring writers are somewhat clumsy, mostly insecure, and vulnerable to the sharks cruising just beyond the beach anxiously awaiting an easy meal. Except the predators awaiting aspiring writers aren’t really sharks at all – that would be an insult to sharks – they’re scumbags and sleazeballs and pretty much every other degrading insult you could come up with. Mostly, they’re insecure wanna-be writers themselves who couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag, so they open up fly-by-night sham operations and publish themselves. Maybe they make a little money. They get a taste of power. Perhaps they decide to publish an anthology and put out submission guidelines, and then they sit back and wait for aspiring writers to send them stories. Having been rejected themselves, they enjoy the power they have over those aspiring writers. That’s when the nightmares start for the aspiring writers. Maybe they get scammed out of money. Maybe they get treated like dirt. Or maybe, just maybe, they get their story “edited” but it’s not really an edit – it’s a completely different story.

Such was the case with Mandy DeGeit and her story, which was accepted into an anthology by some pathetic schmoe named Anthony Giangregorio. In short, Giangregorio runs an outfit called Undead Press, which was previously Open Casket press, and at least one other name, which is never a good sign. In Mandy’s case, Giangregorio (who is himself also a writer – although probably only in the least complimentary terms possible, as in “learning my letters” given his various responses online) changed whole parts of Mandy’s story without telling her about it and when she cried foul, he proceeded to dump all over her and strut about in full peacock douchebaggery mode. Mandy’s account is well worth reading although I won’t even dream of linking to Giangregorio’s effluence here.

Suffice it to say, I think this guy is utter scum. But therein lies the problem: people like this fermented dung stain exist, and they’re all too eager to take advantage of the desire of aspiring writers to be validated and vindicated for their efforts. It’s tragic, but it’s also part of the world that exists in writing & publishing. So how do you protect yourself?

1. Google: it’s quick and it’s easy. And if you’re going to do business with someone, Google them. Then don’t just quickly scan the first page of results, but get deeper in. This is your hard work we’re talking about. Treat it like it’s got some worth. Go at least ten pages into search results and learn about your potential business partner.

2. The obvious: look at the website of the publisher you’re going to deal with. A quick glance at the Undead Press website shows it’s a mess of cover art that would be better if it had been done by a blind, rabbit ferret with a crystal meth addiction. That alone should be enough to make you steer clear: who wants horrible cover art on their work? If the publisher was making a serious, honest attempt, they’d be willing to invest in superior packaging for their books. It’s that simple.

3. Terms: contributor copies – uh uh. No way. Sorry, I know there are a lot of good people out there trying to be publishers (I tried myself at one point and failed miserably) but if all you can offer is contributor copies then no dice. At least offer twenty bucks – give the author you’re publishing enough to pick up a pizza for the family and celebrate their accomplishment, for crying out loud. Twenty bucks against royalties isn’t that much of a stretch and if you can’t afford to do even that, then you shouldn’t be in business in the first place.

4. Communication: if you communicate with an editor and the editor’s email is chock full of typos like “alot” and “its” when they mean “it’s,” then I’d run. They may not be writers, but they still need to be able to use the English language.

5. Study the business! I can’t say this enough. If you are a writer, it is NOT enough to simply write. It’s not. Those days of being groomed for superstardom by some wizened editor in NYC are gone. Seriously. Stop living in that fantasy world because it simply does not exist anymore. These days, you need to know what is happening in the business itself and then all the other businesses that are tangential to it. How are people making money with content? As writers, we are part of an industry that generates trillions of dollars in revenue. Seriously. The film/TV industry could not exist without writers. Neither could the video game industry. Nor could a host of other industries that rely on content and writers to generate story ideas, news reports, etc. Treat your work with the respect it deserves – and if you hone your craft enough, then your writing will have value to it.

While validation feels great – it is not worth the anguish you’ll feel after being screwed over by someone like a Giangregorio. So do your homework. And only do business with people who are reputable and show some measure of business savvy.

“Finding Bigfoot” is My “Jersey Shore”

I had an epiphany of sorts last night.

I’m battling the flu and so a lot of my time lately has been spent in front of the TV taking it easy. I hate the lack of activity, but I need to rest. As I’ve been resting, I’ve been watching “Finding Bigfoot” on the Animal Planet network. I discovered this show last year, and I think it’s probably one of the dumbest shows around.

But I love it.

Cryptozoology has always been a closet passion of mine. When I was a young kid, I got into Loch Ness and the Yeti and Bigfoot so much that I had drawers set aside in my room for my “research.” My research largely consisted of drawings I’d made and any newspaper clippings I could find. I was devoted to watching In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy and imagined one day setting off on my own quests to find long-lost beasts of legend.

So when Finding Bigfoot debuted last year, I was all over it. I’d already been raving about how great Destination Truth was and hoped that Finding Bigfoot would be in the same vein as that show.

It’s not at all like Destination Truth. It’s more like Jersey Shore.

Finding Bigfoot has a cast of four: Matt Moneymaker who is the head of the BFRO (Bigfoot Research Organization), Cliff, his trusty sidekick, Bobo, who actually looks more like a Bigfoot than anything they’ve found to-date on the show, and Renee, the skeptical biologist who is along to try to debunk the things the group hears in the woods, any footage they come across that sort of thing.

Episodes usually begin with the team in a certain part of the country to investigate a recent sighting. Enroute, a conversation occurs whereby the three guys all talk about the likelihood that there will be a “squatch” in the area, while Renee sits there and attempts to inject some semblance of rational thought into the mix. She always fails.

And therein lies the problem with the show, the boys have already decided that pretty much every area they visit has Sasquatches living in it. Every sound in the forest during their night investigations is a “squatch.” Every locale is “squatchy,” and so on and so on. These guys want so badly to believe that Sasquatch exists that they have really compromised all of their supposed journalistic integrity in the hopes that their gee whiz charm turns viewers into believers. Renee’s perspective is brushed aside and the guys don’t seem to like her very much. In their defense, she has about as much charisma as a paper bag, but then again, none of the team really has much in the way of charisma, either.

On every episode, after the team has stood up in front of the locals and plotted their sightings on a map, they go out into the woods. At night. Because, ya know, night is scary. And everything seen through night vision looks cooler, apparently. The team always breaks up into two squads and then they plod through the woods. At a predetermined point, Matt Moneymaker will do his best Bigfoot howl. Bobo will then usually answer in return. Then they wait to hear any other sounds. Sometimes the coyotes complain. Sometimes they get a “knock,” which is apparently how sasquatches communicate by knocking branch lengths against tree trunks. (How they’ve determined these behavioral characteristics is anyone’s guess, but they claim that their field research proves it.) I’m still waiting for the episode when they do these insipid howls and some camper shouts back, “Shut the fuck up! I’m trying to sleep!” That would be gold.

One of my favorite parts of the show is when the team comes up with a supposedly revolutionary method for tracking any squatches they suspect to be in the area. On the most recent episode, this method involved baiting several tree trunks with glazed donuts and then sprinkling ultraviolet powder in the area. That way, when the sasquatches had their coffee break and came over for the free donuts, they’d step in the powder and then the team would be able to track them with special flashlights.


Naturally, instead of sasquatch tracks, all they got were raccoon and possum tracks. I wondered why they were bothering with UV powder when they could have just as easily set up motion controlled cameras used on other nature shows. If any squatches came trooping through, the camera would snap their picture.

But pictures aren’t as cool as UV powder.

Another thing: the team is always looking for squatches in the night. But most of the eyewitness reports have encounters during the day.

In any event, the show is actually a comedy about three bumbling idiots and the one sane individual who tries to keep them grounded. And I watch it every damned week. Because, you never know, one time they might actually get lucky and stumble over a squatch.

I can’t claim to learn anything from watching this other than perhaps how NOT to go bigfoot hunting. But I still have to tune in. I imagine it’s the same for viewers of Jersey Shore who tune in each week to see if Snooki can ever get through a night without shacking up with the crew of whatever aircraft carrier happens to be in dock that particular week. It probably most definitely WON’T happen.

But it COULD.

So, my thanks to Matt, Cliff, Bobo, and Renee for making my television viewing just a bit more comedic and addictive.

Until next week. 🙂

Amazon’s German Kindle Store

I’m thrilled that Amazon has now opened up its new German Kindle store – and already, my Lawson Vampire series is out and available for mass consumption. As of this morning, they had just about every Lawson adventure there, except for THE ENCHANTER, but I epxect that should be available shortly.

As someone making a significant income each month from my independently published titles on Amazon and Barnes&Noble, this latest news is fantastic. It’s yet another platform to sell ebooks on, and yet another market I can enter into and reach new fans. The books are still in English, of course, but given that there are many English-speaking Germans, I’m hoping to reach a majority of them and get them hooked on Lawson. And this, of course, helps also with the building of a global community ready to devour Lawson on the television as well.

Here’s the link to the full press release from Amazon.

Lots of News

So, this past Friday at 9pm, we launched the all-new, all-awesome website for THE FIXER. This is THE place to go for all things Lawson Vampire – the TV show, the book series, everything. We also debuted the new 30-second teaser clip, which you can see just by clicking on the screen shot to the left.

AND on top of that, we also debuted the brand new ebook THE ENCHANTER. You might know this better as THE MADAGASCAR MATTER project that I ran as a subscription only serialized piece a year or so back. The problem was, the story took on a life of its own and blossomed into a full-fledged novel of 81,000 words. So I turned it into THE ENCHANTER and put it out. The book is a Lawson adventure from the late 1970s when he’s in Madagascar with his former mentor Zero to run down a skeleton in the Council’s closet with roots running back to World War II. Fun stuff. It’s out for the Kindle and the Nook, or you can grab it on THE FIXER website, too.

And we have much more planned. This week, I’m working on THE SHEPHERD, a special Lawson novella written for some very special folks. That should be out soon. And then we’ll be debuting the extended cut of the teaser clip out on THE FIXER website. Look for that by the end of the week,hopefully.

More media attention is brewing. I have a lunchtime interview today, so that should be fun. It comes on the heels of a nice piece in the Boston Herald a week or so back.

Tons of other stuff happening right now. I’ll talk about it when I can.