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 I Deal With Fear

scaredA lot has been said about living without fear or having no fear at all. But these ideas miss a key point: how do you actually deal with fear when it arises in your life?

I spent the majority of my youth living in fear of one sort or another. Not that I was an abused child or anything – far from it – but my life was full of fear regardless. Much of it might seem trivial now, and certainly looking back on it with the eyes of a 45 year old man, I might even shake my head at some of it. But at the time, the things that caused me fear seemed to occupy my life fully and without regard for anything else.

Early on, my very first nightmare that I can remember was of the Count from Sesame Street. From there on, vampires scared the living shit out of me. Seriously. When PBS broadcast the 1976(?) BBC production of Dracula, I saw part of it one night with my dad and was so freaking scared that I slept on the floor surrounded by crosses that my dad made out of two drinking straws. I was convinced that the bloodsuckers would come for me.

When I wasn’t busy living in fear of the undead, I was terrified that I would throw up from some stomach sickness. I hated puking and one of the things I dreaded most was the thought of getting a stomach bug. Regular flu? Awesome. As long as I didn’t vomit, I was cool with it.

And then there were the bullies in my life. From the lumbering ox who lived up the street from me to the jackass at school, I spent my first fifteen years living in perpetual fear that I would get punched out. And never having been actually punched, I always imagined it would be similar to nuclear armageddon.

So yeah, me and fear? We were close.

Too close.

Around about my 15th year alive on this planet, I decided that enough was enough. I was tired of living scared. It was keeping me from enjoying my life and I had plans and goals to accomplish. I had to come up with a way to handle fear.

With the school bully still an ubiquitous threat, I started studying martial arts. Nothing formal at first, just messing around with some friends who had the same interest. But we sparred and learned some shit and thought we were badasses and put on a show at school one snowy night when I had a fever of about 103 degrees and still went on to do a sword demonstration anyway (which taught me a lot about getting shit done regardless of suffering) and basically enjoyed a bit of a power trip. From there, my study of martial arts became much more extensive, eventually bringing me to Japan in February 2003 to earn my 5th degree black belt in Bujinkan Ninjutsu direct from the 34th grandmaster himself.

But back on my first night at my teacher’s Ninjutsu dojo, I saw people being thrown and rolling around in ways that terrified me. How in the world was I ever going to learn how to do that? I’d never even really somersaulted before in my life. And here they were doing front rolls, back rolls, side rolls, dive rolls, and more.

Fear gripped me and gripped me hard.

So I did the only thing I knew how to do: I faced the fear head on. From that day on, I went out into the woods by myself and practiced throwing myself around, hitting the soft pine-needled ground in the Arnold Arboretum time after time after time after time – again and again and again – until the grip of fear around me loosened and I began to relax. My ukemi (as it’s known in Japanese) became second nature. I moved out of the soft forest floor and on to concrete, repeating the same process. Over and over, on different surfaces, on hills, over rocks and branches, over cars, over obstacles, over bodies. If it made me nervous, I did it.

And eventually, my ukemi got pretty damned good.

And I stopped fearing the idea of rolling or vaulting or otherwise hitting the ground. I’d been thrown in so many different and dangerous fashions over the years, and my body was so well attuned to knowing how to relax and absorb the impact, that I simply stopped being afraid of it.

Which, naturally, is when the universe stepped in and decided I needed some humbling…

At my CrossFit box, one of my coaches started a gymnastics class. And one of the things he’s covering is handstands. As part of the training, you need to know how to forward roll out of a handstand in case you need to bail.

Easy day, right? After all, ol’ Jon here has rolling down pat. No sweat. Got this.

Not quite.

You see, there’s a big difference between what I learned in terms of real world rolling and what a gymnastics front roll is. Specifically, my martial arts rolling involves more of a diagonal front roll, taking place from the shoulder obliquely across to the opposite hip. This is how you roll on the ground, concrete, etcetera in order to avoid damaging your spine.

In gymnastics, however, that forward roll starts at the base of your skull, and then travels down along the spinal cord. Provided you tuck your chin into your chest, everything should be well and good. And in theory, this should be a piece of cake for me.

But it’s not.

Not only am I used to rolling differently, I’m also used to having throws and such be fast. I’m inverted for maybe a second before I recover and get back up on my feet. In gymnastics, however, I’m working on getting inverted and staying inverted for a longer period of time. My arms are also extended and locked out to support my body. In order to forward roll, I have to first bend them, descend, and then enter the roll itself.

And I’m scared again.

So, like every other time I’ve been afraid of something in my life, I run toward the fear and meet it head-on. I’ll be forcing myself to go in and work on bailing from a handstand until it becomes second-nature to me and the fear loses its grip. It won’t be easy – this sort of work never is – but the rewards are worth it.

Fear is obviously necessary in our lives. It protects us to a certain extent, but it can also hinder us. And allowing yourself to be hindered by fear could be deadly.

I was the junior man one time a long while back and as we were traveling single file at night in an urban environment. I’d wound up at the back with our point man being very experienced and the seniormost guy in the middle. If threats had presented themselves to the front of our formation, the point man could have easily handled them. I felt pretty safe at the back. But we soon realized that the area we were in wasn’t where we thought and we had to retrace our steps. Instead of letting the point man move back and re-assume his position, we simply turned around. Now I was on point. And instead of feeling relatively safe, I was the one who would have to handle the threats as they presented themselves. Fear was there, but I had no choice but to move ahead presumably toward the danger.

And that’s how I’ve always operated: when fear comes at you, meet it head-on. Whether it’s fear of a roller coaster or something far worse, never let fear immobilize you. Keep moving. Always.

I was scared of bullies punching me until I faced my fear and learned that getting punched isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you. Anytime something looks uncomfortable or painful or terrifying, my instinct is to always move toward it, meet it head-on, and conquer it or otherwise remove whatever power it holds over me.

Fear is a constant in our day-to-day living. Physical, mental, and spiritual roadblocks spring up because we’re afraid of doing this or that. How much fear is there in your life? What scares you? What immobilizes you? What stops you from meeting it head-on? And imagine if you did meet it head-on.

Eleanor Roosevelt said to “do one thing every day that scares you.” I happen to agree. Only by meeting fear head-on do we learn how to mitigate it and lessen its impact in our lives. Only by meeting my fears head-on have I overcome them in my life. Whether it was forcing myself to stay overnight in a cemetery to overcome the fear of vampires (okay, I know a trip to Dracula’s castle in Transylvania would have probably been better, but I had budgetary problems, lol), subjecting myself to getting sprayed with pepper spray, throwing myself all over the woods to get better at rolling, moving through an ambush on the streets of Chinatown, or going in today to practice bailing out of a handstand, the process is the same: meet your fears head-on. Get up close and personal with them. Subject yourself to the discomfort and terror of that which seeks to control you and then do it until you aren’t uncomfortable any longer.

This isn’t living with “no fear” or any of the other silly catchphrases self-help gurus use. It’s simply living in such a way that fear doesn’t control you.

In spite of fear, you still accomplish everything you want.

Who Dares Lives.

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!

EBook Sales: 2012 Round-Up

By Jon F. Merz

This post is probably a little late by comparison to other yearly round-up posts, but so be it. I thought it would be interesting to run down some of my numbers from the year 2012, now that the year is officially in the books.

As I posted on facebook the other night, my ebook sales for 2012 were approximately 40,000. This number includes only my independently published work sold primarily across three platforms: Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. This figure does not take into account any traditional deals, other publishing projects I was a part of, etc.

So, let’s break it down a bit…

The Kindle remained the dominant sales platform for me by a nearly 4-to-1 margin. But my sales last year were actually not helped by the other Kindle global platforms, aside from the UK. I sell fairly decently on the UK Kindle site, but the US side outsells the UK by at least 5-to-1. I sell a few copies each month on the German Kindle site, and a scattered 1-10 copies across all others.

The Barnes & Noble Nook site is a consistent earner for me, but again, it pales in comparison to Kindle sales. That said, I like the Nook platform a lot because it’s very reliable. Whereas Amazon had several peaks and valleys over the course of the year for one reason or another, B&N stayed very consistent with marginal fluctuation – sometimes a hundred bucks extra sometimes a hundred bucks less – but always within a comfortable range.

Kobo became a new force to be reckoned with in the summer. But Kobo’s search engine leaves a lot to be desired. Trying to search for my own titles after they’ve gone live on Kobo is frustrating and they sometimes don’t show up for 24 hours in the search results, despite the title being live and on-sale. Kobo’s writer platform is one of the best, if not my favorite, for its ease of use and intuitive design. They get extremely high marks on trying to get things right and they’re incredibly responsive to feedback and criticism. My sales for the last five months of the year on Kobo have been “okay.” I’m not yet blown away by a rush on my titles and one of the reasons may be due to the fact that their search engine still needs fixing. That said, I have no doubt Kobo can become a huge force in ebook sales and look forward to putting more of my titles out on it.

My standout title for 2012 was, without a doubt, THE NINJA APPRENTICE. This is the book that my agent loved and wished he’d had come across his desk when he was in acquisitions. This is the book that also languished for eighteen months while morons in New York cast dispersions on it and said remarkably boneheaded things like “boys don’t read,” and “little commercial appeal.” This, as proven by the thousands of copies that I’ve sold since it debuted in May, is complete and total bullshit. To date, The Ninja Apprentice has sold over 10,000 copies and shows no signs of slowing down. It is consistently one of my bestsellers and was chosen for several summer reading lists last year. I’ll be releasing the second book in this series in mid-2013 and have high hopes for that one as well.

My Lawson Vampire series continues to be a major seller. With seven novels (including the traditionally-published book THE KENSEI), five novellas, and now nine short stories, the series is a consistent money-maker for me. Not everyone digs Lawson (I know, hard to believe, lol) but those who do have plenty of adventures to get lost in with more coming out all of the time. THE CRUCIBLE debuts next month and my freebie Christmas story I write for fans each year, THE SNITCH WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS was downloaded thousands of times – more than four times as much as last year’s story! Many of those who downloaded the story will be new readers and hopefully new fans who will get lost in more of Lawson’s adventures.

In 2012, I also had The Fixer translated into Spanish along with one short story, Interludio. So far, sales on the translations have not performed as I expected. This is one area I’ll be concentrating on in 2013 – publicizing the translation. I have a global audience and the need for translations of my work is growing. In 2013, I will be exploring bringing out other language editions of my Lawson series.

For 2013, my goals are to double my ebook sales to 80,000 sold. I’ll be bringing out a bunch of new stuff: new Lawson adventures, new Zombie Ryu installments, the next Ninja Apprentice novel, and a standalone thriller I’ve been working on. I’m also investing back into my business by setting up some serious analytics on my website and sales drives. I know next to nothing about analytics, so I’m bringing in a professional to set me up. She’s awesome and I’m looking forward to implementing her suggestions for maximizing my sales initiatives. My newsletter has been migrated over to a new email service provider, which gives me fantastic data reports. I’ve launched a new Birthday Club for my fans and will be unveiling some new stuff out here on the website.

2013 will also see a brand new project from me that I will not be revealing any details about just yet. It’s “related” to writing and will be of massive help (I hope) to both aspiring and veteran writers. Look for that a few months from now.

Overall, 2012 was a great year for EBook Sales. A lot of thinking right now says that ebook sales will slow. I think that’s hogwash. Any good writer will always sell if the book they write is good. And a savvy writer who gets invested in making his business the best it can be will sell much, much more. I intend to sell close to six-figures of ebook units in 2013 – if not more. Let’s see how it goes! And my best to all of you who are doing the same!

Clone Your EBook Success

By Jon F. Merz

Imagine if you were a corporation and you sold several products, one of which sold better than any of the others. That one product was responsible for bringing in more revenue than any of your other products. Looking at your numbers each month would hammer that home and probably make you wish there was a way to clone that product so you could double the revenue it brought in. Or pretend you make good money at your job and wished there was a way to double that income. Before, you’d have to take on a second job, but you could only do so much until you burned out. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

For writers, books have traditionally had this feature built in to them. When you sold North American rights, you, as the author (or your agent), could then turn around and sell those rights to foreign publishers who would translate the book and bring it out in whatever market they operated in. Many times, the sale of foreign rights brings in staggering sums for bestselling authors and much more modest sums for midlist authors. Perhaps the book earns out enough to generate royalties, but that isn’t often the case.

With the advent of ebooks, however, the author has far more control over that “cloning” process. Entrepreneurial authors – or as I like to call them “authorpreneurs” – who view their writing careers as a business will be keen to capitalize on the incredible potential that now exists. Let’s take a look at it in-depth.

This is the cover for the Spanish-language edition of the first book in the Lawson Vampire series, THE FIXER. EL EJECUTOR is nearly finished being translated by a fantastic friend of mine and should be on-sale the first week of June. THE FIXER consistently sells hundreds of copies each month on its own and its impact on my bottom line is huge. It is a solid earner, and as such, I want to clone that success. So I paid to have it translated into Spanish, which is one of the largest market demographics in the world. According to recent statistics, upwards of half a BILLION people speak the language globally. That’s a market I want a piece of!

The translation costs were an investment into my business. In order to make money cloning the success of THE FIXER, I had to first invest the capital to pay for its translation. I consider that money well spent. As more and more people turn to ebooks, the number of people who will start reading my Lawson series will also climb. And if the series is available in multiple languages, then I can exponentially increase my profit potential on each book I write. After several months of strong sales, the translation cost will be earned back and then the real fun starts.

Here’s one of the coolest things: even though El Ejecutor is written in Spanish, it will be available in every single one of Amazon’s Kindle stores. Think about that for a moment. Using the old business model of publishing, if you sold Spanish rights to your novels, then the books would only be available wherever the publisher had distribution. But with Amazon, El Ejecutor will be available in the US for Spanish-speakers, in Amazon ES, their official Spain site, as well as Amazon UK, France, Germany, Italy, and many more coming down the road. So now instead of a fragmented distribution that used to happen with foreign rights sales, you have the SAME global distribution that you do with a book written in English. Suppose there’s a Mexican ex-pat living abroad in Italy, for example, and he wishes he could read something in his native tongue but can only surf for ebooks on Amazon’s Italian website? No problem, El Ejecutor is sitting right there ready to be bought. BAM! Sold!

The point is, with Amazon’s global storefront you not only have the opportunity to get your translated ebooks into the hands of the particular demographic you’re trying to reach in their home country, you can also reach them wherever they might be across the world! This is huge. It increases your chances of finding new readers in places you might not expect. Whereas before if you had a book out in Germany, you might only reasonably expect to find it in German bookstores and perhaps a few specialty shops here and there. Now, you can have that same ebook available to Germans in Germany as well as Germans anywhere else in the world – or at least anywhere else Amazon has a storefront at this moment. (But believe me, Amazon will soon have storefronts everywhere…)

You are truly cloning your success when you get your ebooks translated. And each time you add a new translation, you’ve just cloned it again. Instead of doubling your profit potential, you can triple it, quadruple it, and so much more. And you don’t have to worry about earning out advances, reserves against returns, or any of the other stupid antiquated business machinations left over from the decaying publishing industry. Amazon pays you net 60 days every single month via direct deposit. You’ve just potentially doubled your money without having to do anything beyond the translation! No extra work, you don’t have to write the novel again, you don’t have to devote any extra time. Translated. Done.

To say I’m excited about debuting THE FIXER in Spanish is an incredible understatement. I’m beyond excited. I don’t know how sales will go, obviously, but ebooks are a long-term investment. They earn forever. And as more and more people flock to ebooks, the profits will continue to escalate. Once the initial investment in translation has been earned out, that ebook goes on to provide income – passive income at that – forever.

And that ain’t too shabby.