THE CONTAINED: A New Digital Series Created by Jon F. Merz

By Jon F. Merz

It’s been a while since I last posted (mostly due to the fact that my hard drive crashed and that kept me away for about a week and a half). But the larger reason is that I’ve been incredibly busy preparing this amazing new project for its debut.

And today…we launch!

I’m proud to announce that THE CONTAINED is officially live! Based on the my first piece of published fiction (way back in 1996!), “I, the Courier,” THE CONTAINED is the story of one man’s journey to rediscover his forgotten past and battle against his nearly inevitable future. Along the way, he trips and stumbles down a winding road of conspiracy, corruption, and the very fate of mankind itself.

Imagine a world where people transport deadly diseases in their bodies for pharmaceutical companies. They easily travel across international borders, bypass national health laws, and help big pharma reap enormous profits. Hunted by assassins from rival pharmaceutical companies and always at risk from being killed by the very diseases they transport in their bodies, the life of a COURIER is high-risk and high-reward. For those that succeed, they become incredibly wealthy. For those that fail – a quick death is a merciful one.

THE CONTAINED is a brand new digital series from bestselling author Jon F. Merz, New Ronin Entertainment, and Human Punch Bowl featuring a cast of both fresh faces and veteran talent brought together in a maelstrom of high-octane adventure.

But here’s the thing: we need YOUR help to make this possible! Your donations – in whatever amount you can afford – will go directly toward the production of this incredibly exciting new series. You can help right now by going to the Indiegogo page and donating – we’ve got some very cool perks for those who do support us. And be sure to watch our exclusive awesome teaser trailer! It’s guaranteed to knock some awesome into your day!

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!

🙂

Wuz Bin Goin’ On?

I figured I’d come up with a new way of saying “updates,” so the title above is my first stab at it…

Anyway, a few things to talk about. First, the 18th of January will be here before we know it and with it, the long-awaited release of THE KENSEI. So far, I’ve booked 3 signings in January (1 in Cambridge & 1 in Burlington, MA and one in Concord, NH). Expect more to come, although in the course of my conversations with the publicity person at St. Martin’s, signings don’t seem to be the draw they used to be. I find that extremely interesting, since the drive was always to schedule as many as possible. Having done that, however, and not always with fruitful results (the signing down on Cape Cod in 2003 was like watching tumbleweeds blow through the store since that was the day President Dumbass decided to invade Iraq for absolutely no good reason whatsoever, comes to mind…) I can’t say I’m too broken up about the change in things. But I’ll definitely schedule more, probably just not to the extent that I’d planned. Guess we’ll see how it goes.

I’ll be shooting some new author photos this weekend. St. Martin’s needs one for the back of the book. I’m always torn about this type of stuff. I don’t think my smile looks all that good since I have two very sharp and pointy canines that actually make me look like someone who takes the vampire thing WAY too seriously. They’ve always been there, so I normally end up grinning in some sort of fashion. Ah well we’ll see how it goes…

The website for THE FIXER television series and all things Lawson Vampire is coming along incredibly well. Nick, the same genius who created this website, is hard at work and we expect to debut it in another month or two, if not earlier. The snapshots I’ve seen of the work thus far are incredible. Expect a lot of interactivity and a lot of fun. And yes, the TV series is still moving ahead, albeit slowly. “These things take time” has never rung so true as it does when you are literally trying to bring something into being where it never existed before. And operating outside the Hollywood production system is a terrific challenge, but one we are meeting and defeating, I assure you.

My YA series, The Ninja Apprentice, is still circulating among prospective editors in NYC. We’ve had a few rejections from some smaller houses since the flavor of the series wasn’t right for them. We weren’t surprised by this, but figured it didn’t hurt to try them all. I have very high hopes for the series and think that the YA market will really dig it as well. Keep your fingers crossed.

Finally, my friend Ken Richardson is still trying to raise funds for his program to help at-risk kids avoid the lure of drugs and gun violence on urban streets. I’ve pledged to help him as much as I can by donating proceeds from my direct ebook sales to his cause. I’ve tweeted about this quite a bit, but frankly, the response has been pretty awful. The program is just starting up and so far, Ken has sunk a ton of his own money into it. I’d like to help him as much as I can, so if there are any of my ebooks that you don’t have yet, please drop me a line jonfmerz AT verizon DOT net and let me know what you’d like. Once you Paypal the money over, I’ll send you the ebook. A $50 donation gets you everything I currently offer on Amazon in the format of your choice. Otherwise, individual novels are $2.99, novellas are $1.99, and stories are $.99. The Fixer Files is $9.95. I really hop that most of you reading this (actually, I hope ALL of you reading this) will take a moment to help out a great cause. Ken grew up on the incredibly mean streets of Baltimore back when it was the murder capital of the US, and saw his brother gunned down. He’s resolved to do his best to keep other kids from suffering that same fate. Thank you for your support!

TV GUYS – Chapter 1

Note: This is a reprint of a column I started writing last year that fizzled out as my schedule got more complex. I’ll be reprinting the columns here over the next few months and then continuing where I left off last year. Enjoy!

If I were pitching my current project as a movie in Hollywood, here’s what the logline would sound like: “Two guys with no real experience in the television business decide to ask private investors to front them millions so they can produce 13 episodes of a new supernatural TV series that they will then sell broadcast rights to domestically and internationally, thereby hopefully making hundreds of millions of dollars and turning the entire Hollywood business model on its head.”

Sounds absolutely ludicrous, right?

But that is, in fact, what my business partner Jaime and I are doing. Let me back up for a moment and give you a few more details.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do. I’ve had over a 16 novels published, co-authored two non-fiction books, had scores of short stories appear in print alongside some heavy hitters like Stephen King, and have written ad copy for everyone from Polaroid to Red Lobster Restaurants. I’ve scripted comics, screenplays, and turned four 3-minute webisodes into a novel. I don’t just write in one medium, preferring instead to try my hand at anything that helps me bump my game up to the next level.

Over the years, I’ve flirted a lot with Hollywood. There’s been some serious sexual tension, culminating a few times with deals that looked reasonably good on paper. But I’ve never jumped into the sack and here’s why: Hollywood doesn’t pay writers enough.

If you’re interested in how Hollywood makes its money, there is no finer book to read than THE BIG PICTURE: Money & Power in Hollywood by Edward James Epstein. I read that book several years ago and it opened my eyes.

Novelists especially tend to have a very fairytale image of Hollywood. They imagine that if they write a book, that Hollywood will come calling with an option (this is a small price – almost a rental fee, really – giving the producer or exec the ability to shop the project around and possibly secure financing, cast, crew, etc. within a certain time frame (usually 6-18 months)) or an outright rights purchase. If the movie then gets made, the studio will cut the writer a handsome check and the novelist gets the thrill of seeing their book turned into a movie.

When I started cutting my teeth in publishing, I imagined it would be an incredible experience. What I didn’t count on was the interminable wait, the endless teases, and the fact that Hollywood doesn’t want novelists writing anything or sticking their noses anywhere into the process.

Some writers can live with that. They take the money and run, knowing that the end result may well be such an extreme departure from their original novel that it bears resemblance in name only – if they’re lucky.

But when studios wanted my work, I knew what they could reasonably expect to make off of my creations. And I wanted more than they were offering. Of course they balked and all the whispered promises evaporated.

Last year, exhausted at the number of television shows that were coming out that were, to be overly kind, crap, my friend Jaime and I sat down and discussed the idea of trying to do something ourselves.

When we hashed out the concept of using my un-vampire vampire series of novels as our first project, the first person I bounced the idea off of was a good friend of mine who works in the film/TV industry. He’s well-known, so I won’t mention his name here, but he pretty much knows everyone worth knowing in Los Angeles and New York City. I called him and told him what we were planning. Then I asked him if we were crazy.

What he told me was this: “If you can make this work, then the sky is the limit. You will open doors that have never been open to you before and you will change the way Hollywood works in TV.” Then he offered to come on and be part of our executive board.

That was good enough for us. We started New Ronin Entertainment and chose THE FIXER as our first project. Ronin, in feudal Japan, were masterless samurai – called “wave men” because they owed allegiance to no lord. The name felt appropriate and our mission seemed sound, albeit tough as hell.

We would find private investors willing to back us in the production of thirteen episodes for the first season. (Networks usually greenlight, or approve, a pilot and then order up to twelve additional episodes for a first season run). We would put a team together to shoot, edit, and package the series, as well as sell it domestically and internationally. I would write all the episodes, thereby guaranteeing that the sanctity of my novels stayed intact and that I had complete control over the story lines and characters. The novels take place in New England; the cast and crew would be from New England; and we hoped that our investors would also be from the region. THE FIXER would be born and raised in our backyard. We thought that was pretty cool.

We enlisted two experienced directors who had worked in both television and independent films for years (therefore they knew how to work on a tight budget). Our sales force was composed of industry vets who had shepherded major films to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of sales. Experienced vets and up-and-comers made up our crew. And our art & marketing department worked hard to develop a consistent look for our flagship project. You can see the results thus far at our official website http://www.thefixer.tv

But we needed money to pull this off. There was no business precedent whose plan we could use to attract investors, so we put it together after weeks of research into Hollywood budgets, sales forecasts, and more. Trying to divulge what Hollywood spends and what it makes is harder than cracking into the National Security Agency, but at long last, we felt we had a workable business prospectus.

Our offer was generous; we knew it had to be. We offered a 50% return on investment within 24 months to those who chose to back us. The task now was to try to convince wealthy Bostonians and New Englanders that a TV series entirely produced in their backyard was a viable and worthwhile investment.

But first, we had to find them. And then we had to get in the front door…

The Rebirth of BOSTON NOCTURNE!

You might recall a few months back I asked a lot of you what you’d think about an idea I had to develop what was basically a Jon F. Merz magazine – something much more than just a newsletter, with free fiction, reviews, non-fiction, and more in it. Based on your responses, I’ve decided to reformat my official newsletter BOSTON NOCTURNE and turn it into a newsletter/magazine very much along the prototype I asked you all about.

Tomorrow, issue 1 – the February 2010 edition – launches.

BOSTON NOCTURNE is free. Free fiction. Free reviews. Free opinion. Free practical safety tips. And free much more. Imagine an innovative experience unlike any other author newsletter and you get BOSTON NOCTURNE. It will be published monthly and delivered straight to your email, hassle-free.

The only way to get it: send me an email. That’s it. Quick, simple, easy, and best of all – free.

One more thing: if you’re already subscribed to my original newsletter from way, waaaaay back, you don’t need to resubscribe. I’ll import your email address from that list and get you going right away. But if your address has changed or if you haven’t gotten any recent updates, you’ll definitely want to send a new email to receive BOSTON NOCTURNE.