The Game of Thrones Series Finale

So, it’s done.

After 8 seasons, Game of Thrones is finished and over and done and well, yeah…

Since departing from the actual books because George R. R. Martin hadn’t finished them, the series has definitely gone down in terms of quality, in my opinion. But at the same time, it’s important to remember that for writers of television and films, it’s nearly impossible to render an adequate translation, as it were, of a book property onto the screen. Certainly, there are exceptions. But for the most part, the book is always better because it gives the reader more in terms of nuance, background, point-of-view, character development and more. When adapting for the screen, writers must show everything in such a way that the audience knows what is going on. Tidbits of internal monologue, for instance, are stricken because you can’t really show a character having a discussion with themselves.

From that perspective, the seasons that departed from the books have been adequate in terms of delivering storylines and plot that moved the series ahead. But they have, unfortunately, failed to deliver the same level of satisfaction that many fans craved from the series as a whole.

And when the series finale unfolds the way it did last night (and in preceding episodes), there are bound to be fans enraged by the conclusions reached by the writers to bring the series to an end.

For me, as a writer, there are obvious reasons why I was disappointed. Perhaps the most crucial being individual character arcs.

When we create characters, we set them on a journey of discovery. Along the way, they are beset by challenge after challenge forcing them to dig deep into the very core of who they are in order to overcome those challenges, or at least strive valiantly toward overcoming them. Sometimes they fail, and fail spectacularly. But if we’ve done our job properly, the reader is emotionally invested in the character or characters to a point that the journey they take leads the reader on a parallel journey of entertainment. At the end of that journey, the character is somehow transformed and the reader feels a level of satisfaction with the conclusions of that journey – even if they are not necessarily happy. Tragic endings can be just as satisfying provided the character has somehow been transformed over the course of the story.

Therein lies the problem with Game of Thrones.

Viewers have been emotionally invested in the series from the start. Everyone has their favorites and everyone has their villains. Along the way, we’ve seen characters rise to tremendous heights and truly evil villains enjoy their spectacular comeuppance. We’ve gasped, cheered, moaned, cried, and laughed as the series has unfolded. But in the end, that pattern of character story arc fulfillment deviated from the norm and as a result, we’ve been left…meh.

The real tragedy of Game of Thrones isn’t that it’s over; the real tragedy is that  – at the end – the show wasn’t that much fantasy at all. In fact, it was more reality than most viewers wanted.

We read books, watch TV, listen to music, sit in theaters, and every engage in art to help us deal with reality. In some ways, to escape it. In other ways to try to make sense of it – to gain perspective through the struggles of characters or self (if we create it) that enables us to bring that insight to our own individual worlds. For those who consume it, they are engaged in much the same process, albeit as passengers rather than the conductor.

And when reality is – as it is currently – with hatred and racism and bigotry and misogyny and ethical absence and complete disregard for the rule of law all on the rise, people expect an escape that leaves them feeling as though there is some sense in the universe.

Rather than more of the same.

The reality is that most people don’t have much of a story arc to their character. Most people go through life wishing things were somehow different; wishing they’d made different decisions; wishing they’d said “fuck yeah” instead of “I’d better not;” wishing for a second chance at the one thing they know fires their soul; wishing they’d apologized instead of defending a bad decision; wishing they’d taken that chance instead of playing it safe. And at the end of their lives, most people don’t go out with an incredible fireworks display, but rather with a quiet whimper of resignation and sad acceptance.

When the characters that we love or hate go out in a similar fashion, it does little to entertain. In fact, it only underscores our own place in the world – and reminds of us whether we’re on a spectacular journey or a mediocre merry-go-round.

Granted, it’s not necessarily the job of the writer to abide by any “rules.” And for all we know, Martin may well have planned the entire series to be as the writers of GoT finished things up. That after taking us on such an exhilarating ride, Martin may have intended the series go out with much the same whimper as it did last night. With some characters enjoying a better story arc than others, because in reality, some people have better lives than others.

And often, the people who do have a satisfying conclusion to their arcs, aren’t the people you would expect. Whereas the shooting stars who seem filled with such promise and potential end up sputtering out to some sort of blah ending. We all know people who peaked in high school and have ever since relived those glory days over and over in some vain attempt to buoy themselves. We also know the people who blossomed after enduring the crucible of high school and rose to extraordinary heights.

The simple truth is that despite all manner of external events, many people simply do not change or evolve over time. They stay locked in their own prison of prejudices and assumptions, convinced of their own certitude, unwilling to consider other perspectives or facts. As a result, their arcs fail to deliver a satisfying conclusion and that’s all there is to it.

The same thing happened with certain characters on GoT. Rather than fulfill the arc we hoped would happen (even if we did not even have a firm idea of what we wanted to happen for them) they simply…faded away. Worse, some of the villains we’d been hoping would experience true satisfactory justice ended up “escaping” in a rather muted fashion. Again, much the same as reality. 

Perhaps the message of Game of Thrones is simply this: not every hero receives grand rewards; not every villain receives satisfactory justice.

Which is, frankly, kind of depressing. And a bit too close to everyday life for many people.

Myself included.

Your mileage may vary, of course.

In the end, GoT was a great show.

It just sort of went out with a whimper.

When I really wanted a bang.

 

 

THE CRUCIBLE is here!

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! https://jonfmerz.net/product/the-crucible-a-lawson-vampire-novel/

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! https://jonfmerz.net/product/the-crucible-a-lawson-vampire-novel/

How to Be a BadAss

badassThis isn’t a “feel good” post where I tell you how wonderful you are for just being you. It’s a kick in the ass to get your shit straight and do something more than you ever have before. It’s your wake-up call to become a badass. But it’s going to take work and dedication. Here’s how you start:

1. Get Over Yourself: Realize your problems are only as big as you make them. This is not to belittle anyone’s issues, because certainly some problems, are in fact, bigger than others. But there’s one thing you can always control about problems: how you react to them. Some people think their world is going to explode over the littlest things and some other people can have a debilitating accident and come back stronger than ever. The one constant? They chose how to react.

2. Learn Some Shit: Seriously. Pick up a book and read. Put down the TV remote. Play Quiz Up on your phone and play in categories you know nothing about. Ask someone about their job and what they do even if you have no desire to do it. Learn about how other people live. The world is much, much bigger than the little box most of us live in. In order to have a greater perspective you need to know more about a whole lot of stuff.

3. Challenge Yourself Everyday: Don’t shy away from a chance to be better or to take a chance. You only grow by challenging yourself and what you did yesterday. Get out of your comfort zone and get comfortable being uncomfortable. And I’m not just talking about challenging yourself in, say, the gym. That’s great. But you’ve got to challenge yourself every single day in all aspects of your life. Why did you react that way to that idiotic driver? Why did you get mad? Sure, sometimes it’s justifiable, but for the most part, it’s probably not. (This is something I happen to struggle with, so I figured I’d use it as an illustration of how I try to deal with it…) Also, note that I am not talking about having an inner monologue where you constantly destroy yourself with thoughts like, “I’m stupid, I suck, I’m an idiot.” But I *am* talking about constantly checking yourself. Challenge your thought process and you’ll start to understand a whole lot more about who you are as a person. And knowing yourself is pretty damned important.

4. Exercise: You’ve got one body, don’t let it fall apart on you. I’ve lost count of how many Facebook updates I see where people who should know better just let themselves go to shit. Writers especially. I can count on one hand the number of writers I know who are active about their fitness. The rest sit around all day and eventually find their bodies are a mess. Clean your diet up as well. You don’t have to become a vega-nazi, but if you’re eating fast food every day then you’re pretty much poisoning yourself. Try to eat better five days each week and give yourself two days to cheat and eat bad stuff and drink if you wish. It’ll keep you somewhat sane and at the same time, clean up your system.

5. Give Back: Other people aren’t as fortunate as you – no matter where you are in life – so make a point to help someone. Even if it’s just a smile or a few minutes listening to them. You’d be amazed how few people actually know how to listen. Give someone a hand and help them reach the next rung on the ladder. Generate some good karma. Don’t be a selfish jerk. And fer cryin’ out loud, don’t be a cheap prick. There are few things worse than a cheap tightwad who has convinced himself he’s somehow wise about money because he scored a coupon and saved a few bucks. Cheap people aren’t just cheap financially, they’re cheap emotionally. Don’t be like that. I’m pretty sure no one on their death bed ever said, “thank god I got the two-for-one special instead of splurging that night.” Life is about experiences; not about waiting until the day after Halloween to buy all your candy for next year at 90% off.

6. Dream Big. Aspire to something. Get crazy and realize a dream that you’ve been chasing for years or have backburnered because you’re a certain age and think you shouldn’t want that anymore. What? Fuck that. Get after it.

7. Create a Legacy: Make something that will endure after you’re gone. Write a book. Paint a picture. Sing a song and record it. None of these have to be published or hang in a gallery on play on a radio station, but make them anyway so that future generations will have the chance to know you and what you were passionate about. You are not defined by your children; you are defined by who you are and how you live.

8. Stop Complaining: seriously. Just stop. Too hard? Then try going 24 hours without bitching about anything. Build up from there. You’d be utterly and completely amazed how much your perspective changes when you stop wasting energy on complaining. After all, complaining does absolutely nothing except make you feel momentarily better by giving it voice. Imagine how much better you’d feel if you actually changed something instead of simply complaining about it.

9. Dare: Dare to live. Dare to go against the flow. Dare to be an individual and not a sheep. Dare to laugh in the face of adversity. Dare to ignore what others will say about you. Dare to go off on some wild adventure. Dare to flirt. Dare to feel passion within your chest again. Dare to imagine a different life than the one you have and see if you want to make some changes for real. Dare to be outrageous. Dare to laugh more. Dare to open yourself up and let others into your world. Dare to be vulnerable. Dare to change your hairstyle. Dare to dance in the rain. Dare to be the full embodiment of a true human being. Dare to be YOU.

***

Look, your life comes down to this: you can either stay where you are, complain endlessly about useless shit, spew negative energy out into the universe every time you complain about something in your life you don’t like OR you can change your life into what you used to dream it would be. You can’t sit there and read this and think, “yeah but…” and give yourself an out by creating an excuse. Fuck that shit. Fuck your excuses. Fuck settling for what you don’t truly want.

Change is hard, but so is anything worthwhile. So what? You’d rather live a life full of misery and negative energy? Guess what? That shit catches up with you and manifests itself in your physical, mental, and spiritual health. You can literally create your own death by being awash in negativity.

What you have to stop doing is the same old shit, over and over again and expecting things to somehow change miraculously. If you’re some place in your life where you find yourself complaining on a daily basis, being jealous of others who don’t struggle like you do, or are resentful of something, then you need to change and you need to do it now. The old way ain’t working. Change it up. Change your perspective. Change how you react to stuff.

“Yeah, but…”

No.

“Easier said than done.”

No shit. I never said it would be easy anyway. In some ways, this will be the absolute toughest stuff you’ve ever attempted before.

“It’s just that…”

No, it fucking isn’t.

Those are excuses you’re generating to save yourself from doing the hard work of change. And if you keep making excuses, you will never, ever change. You’ll just continue to wallow in the cesspool of your unhappy existence, complaining to anyone who has the patience to listen to your whining. Being a badass isn’t something you “sorta” do; you either do it all the way, or you don’t. You either make the changes needed or you stay the same. And if you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to do it. Or you’ll just find another excuse to remain the same.

Climb out of the cesspool and start taking charge of your life. People are pissing you off? Deep-six them. You hate your job? Put some money away and then quit it and find a new one. Your relationship sucks? Bin it and find someone new. There are six billion people on this planet – chances are good there’s someone better out there for you. Is your progress stalled at the gym? Change up your training and start making gains again.

You can be a badass – an honest-to-god badass – but you’ve got to be honest with yourself, do the hard work, and not settle for anything less than your dreams. The vast majority of people on this planet do not possess the perseverance to do this. The vast majority of people on this planet are either miserable or have conned themselves into thinking that mediocrity is acceptable and safe and as close to happiness as they will ever come.

Not you.

If you’ve read this far, then there is a part of you (and it doesn’t matter how tiny) that wants to do something more, to aspire to greater heights, to not settle for mediocrity, to live with passion and hope and happiness, and to see your dreams come true.

You can do it. I know you can. Others have already done it. Others with far less than you have.

Believe in yourself. Don’t make excuses. Get your head down and do the work.

You want it? Go get it.

Never Quit.

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 Amazon.com. 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!