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/

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!

Updates from Author Jon F. Merz

Just a quick round-up of things going on in the week ahead:

  1. Next Saturday, October 5th, I will be appearing at the Zombie Walk in Asbury Park, New Jersey. From 10am until whenever, I will be at the Baen Books booth in the parking lot of the Stone Pony. Come on by and say hello. Grab a picture and hang out. More info on the event can be found here.
  2. Baryon Online has a new review of THE UNDEAD HORDES OF KAN-GUL up as of this morning. Barry Hunter, who runs the mag, has been a supporter of my work for a while and I’m pleased to see he enjoyed my latest. Thanks Barry!
  3. I don’t write a lot of horror novels, despite having written a lot of horror short stories when I was starting out as a writer. VICARIOUS is my one “legit” horror novel (although PREY could be called SF horror, I suppose) that I had a blast writing. Every once in a while, though, I get that urge to write something scary. I’ve had an idea percolating for some time now. This morning I started writing chapter one. Given what else is on my plate and commitments for other writing projects, it will probably be about a year before it sees the light of day, but I am looking forward to working on it when time permits. It’s definitely going to be a guilty pleasure, but oh so fun…especially since I’m setting the book in the town I live in.
  4. Last week, I asked my fans and friends to push sales of my latest novel THE UNDEAD HORDES OF KAN-GUL and in exchange, I sent out a 3-chapter excerpt from the forthcoming new Lawson Vampire novel, THE CRUCIBLE. If you missed it, you can check it out here, unedited.
  5. October will see the release of a new installment in my feudal Japan zombie series, ZOMBIE RYU. This has been a long time coming, so make sure you’ve got episode one and episode two already!

Don’t forget, you can 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!

Who Do You Learn From?

2013 has been an interesting year of exploration so far. It marks my 22nd year of training in Togakure-ryu Ninjutsu under Mark Davis at the Boston Martial Arts Center, and my roughly 30th year of training in martial arts in general. In January, I also embarked on a new adventure: CrossFit. To say I am enjoying myself would be a severe understatement. CrossFit – especially for someone like me who has never enjoyed working out in a gym – is a perfect vehicle for challenge. It manages to be both humbling and empowering at the same time. Humbling because the workouts can be intimidating and seriously challenging. Empowering because once you complete the workout, you realize that you’ve gone further than you thought you were capable of going. Fantastic stuff.

In the course of this new exploration, I realized that I really enjoy learning. (This might sound like one of those “Well, duh…” moments until you stop to realize that many people choose to shut off their learning.) And I also realized that I’ve set up my life in such a way that I learn from numerous sources every single day. The benefit, to me at least, is that I go to sleep each night full of new adventures, experiences, questions, answers, and many new things to ponder. As a writer, this is extremely beneficial as it keeps my mind filled with new avenues to explore in my work. But I also have come to more deeply appreciate the life I have and the moments that go into making each day worthwhile and fun.

I am truly fortunate that I have a wonderful role model in my martial arts training. My teacher Mark Davis has always led by example and routinely exposes himself to new ideas and new avenues in life that I think make him a better teacher and practitioner. Mark has never been content to rest on his laurels. His trains with his teachers frequently – having his experiences and skills challenged. He sits down with people from different walks of life – from auto mechanics to physicists – and learns from them over coffee or lunch. He isn’t afraid to go out of his comfort zone and be a beginner again. It’s pretty refreshing to find someone like that, and I’m thankful to have him as an example I can follow.

Each day, I also make sure that I read posts by my friend and fellow Ninjutsu practitioner, Christopher Penn. Chris is, frankly, a near genius in social media, marketing, and all sorts of tech. Each day he posts five key bits of news and information that I always make a point to read, even if I don’t think it will directly benefit me. I’ve been amazed at what he posts and the points he brings up often illuminate things for me in another area. I am very much a beginner in the field of social media and other areas Chris specializes in, but I’m also extremely fortunate to be able to learn from him.

I’ve also made a point lately of visiting my good friend Barry Meklir at Muscular Solutions. Barry has been teaching me a lot about how to take care of my various injuries (and after so many years in martial arts, you can bet I’ve got a slew of ’em…) Barry is brilliant at his work as a healer and I’ve learned a ton from him so far. And he’s helped me extensively with a number of muscular issues – one of which had been plaguing me for about twenty years! Getting regular “tune-ups” is going to be a fixture in my life. At this point, I’m not getting any younger and I need to make sure the ol’ bod can keep up with all the crazy stuff I want to do.

Every Friday night, Mark Davis holds advanced black belt training at the Boston Martial Arts Center. I’ve been going to this class as much as possible for many years. And despite the 22 years I’ve been studying, each class I attend always presents something new – even if it is hidden in the guise of a technique we’ve worked on before. Because Mark is never content to settle for what he learned yesterday, he brings that same attitude into the classes he teaches and ensures that we learn something new every time we train. It’s weird how much more I’ve come to appreciate this after stepping outside of my comfort zone and getting involved with CrossFit. Sometimes you have to get away from something very close to your heart to better appreciate it.

In addition to classes with Mark, we spend a great deal of time talking on the telephone. Some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from him have taken place over the phone as we discuss strategy, combat, mind sciences, and much more.

These days, I’m busy setting up my life to ensure that I always continue to learn. Martial arts, CrossFit, social media, body tune-ups, endurance racing, and many more things besides. Yes, life is busy, but I find myself truly valuing what I learn from others even more now. And I’ve found the best teachers set their lives up this way as well. Other don’t. Others are so keen to be seen as an authority figure that they box themselves into a corner and can never again embrace that “beginner’s mind” that the 34th Grandmaster of Ninjutsu says it so crucial to training.

Embracing the beginner’s mind isn’t easy. It requires the confidence to accept being a nobody again. It requires effort to keep the ego in check and not dismiss the prospect of learning from those who are younger than you or who you might be senior in rank to. But the payoff, for me anyway, is a life far richer than what I had yesterday. For that, I am grateful.

So…who do you learn from?