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Meritropolis by Joel Ohman - Book Blitz

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Joel Ohman
(Meritropolis, #1)
Publication date: September 8th 2014
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult

In Meritropolis everyone is assigned a numerical Score that decides their worth to society and whether they live or die. After a young boy is killed because of a low Score, his brother plots to take down the System.
The year is AE3, 3 years after the Event. Within the walls of Meritropolis, 50,000 inhabitants live in fear, ruled by the brutal System that assigns each citizen a merit score that dictates whether they live or die. Those with the highest scores thrive, while those with the lowest are subject to the most unforgiving punishment–to be thrust outside the city gates, thrown to the terrifying hybrid creatures that exist beyond.
But for one High Score, conforming to the System just isn’t an option. Seventeen-year-old Charley has a brother to avenge. And nothing–not even a totalitarian military or dangerous science–is going to stop him.
Where humankind has pushed nature and morals to the extreme, Charley is amongst the chosen few tasked with exploring the boundaries, forcing him to look deep into his very being to discern right from wrong. But as he and his friends learn more about the frightening forces that threaten destruction both without and within the gates, Meritropolis reveals complexities they couldn’t possibly have bargained for…
Meritropolis is a bestselling YA dystopian that has been in the top 100 in the entire Kindle store for multiple days. It has over 100 5-star reviews on Amazon as well as great reviews from Kirkus, Clarion, MBR, and others! Grab your copy today!
“Easier Said Than Outrun”
Charley crouched, motionless, willing himself not to blink. A bead of sweat bubbled across his eyebrow and clung to his eyelash: a warm and salty droplet hanging like a swollen piece of fruit, overripe and ready to fall. He stared straight ahead, eyes wide open; to move now would be disastrous.
The thing stopped, ears twitching. Charley willed himself not to make a sound, but was suddenly aware of the faint scent of his own sweat; he wondered whether the creature could smell it, too. He had been following it for half of the afternoon. By this point, the thing should have had ample opportunity to scent him, given Charley’s quite rudimentary tracking prowess, but it hadn’t yet. Each time Charley drew close enough to chance a shot with his bow—and he knew he would only have just one shot—the thing capered off, leading Charley even deeper into the brush.
Charley found it maddening how fast its four legs could move; the bushy forelegs of pillowy grey-white fur made it seem as immobile, docile, and non-threatening as a sheep. But, as Grigor had instructed earlier, to underestimate a llamabill was to invite disaster.
Charley reached over his head, slowly, and withdrew an arrow from his sheath.
The profile of the llamabill shifted slightly, revealing great big haunches of what Charley hoped would be today’s dinner, as well as the severe-looking face of a shoebill bird. Its body, with the exception of the incongruent webbed feet and feathery wings, was almost entirely reminiscent of a llama: big, wooly, and slightly ridiculous. The head, however, was no laughing matter. The wide shoe-shaped bill could decapitate a fully-grown man with one well-placed chomp. A standard shoebill stork is not a bird to be trifled with, at three-feet tall and a weight of ten pounds, let alone when it’s six-feet tall and a weight of 400 pounds with the body of an agile llama.
Charley notched the arrow and pulled back slowly.
He hated to do it, really he did. He didn’t enjoy the killing, but the truth of the matter was quite simple: they needed food, badly.
Charley steeled his resolve and dipped his head slightly downwards to his right shoulder while closing his left eye. He sighted in on the creature, aiming for the spot where its long wooly neck met its substantially muscled left shoulder. He reconsidered, tipping his bead slightly higher to avoid the feathery wing that jutted incongruently from the llamabill’s great side.
The muscles in Charley’s forearms stood out like corded bands. He held the bow drawn back all the way without wavering. He inhaled through his nose, and then expelled the air slowly through pursed lips, attempting to quiet his beating heart. He would release the arrow upon a full exhale, and in between heartbeats, just as Grigor had trained him.
It was as good of a shot as he would ever get. Charley didn’t really have to do anything, now. He just needed to relax the three fingers of his string hand, and the llamabill, still standing motionless, would be dead, motionless forever.
But he paused.
A glimmer of uncertainty, a pang of conscience—and for what? he wondered—it was just an animal.
The llamabill turned to look directly at him, its prehistoric eyes glinting sharply as they focused in on Charley.
A cold shiver crept up Charley’s spine. He had waited too long, and he knew it. The droplet of sweat plummeted from his eyelash, and Charley released the arrow. It went wild left, and the creature went wild right—directly at Charley.
The llamabill opened its enormous bill and screamed a challenge. For a moment, it looked like an anachronism to even more savage times, a winged dinosaur on the rampage.
Charley did the normal human thing first, and then the normal trained hunter thing second. He froze. Then he ran.

Joel Ohman Q&A
Thank you so much for allowing me to share a little about myself and my book, Meritorium. Here is a brief synopsis of the book:

Charley has escaped from Meritropolis…

but in his quest to take down the System that has taken his brother from him, he must go through Meritorium, a city where gladiatorial games of life or death combat are waged between High Scores and Low Scores, man and beast.

Charley and Sandy must face man-eating plants, religious zealots, slave traders, and the ever present mutant animal combinations that roam a dystopian Coliseum presided over by Emperor Titus, the one man standing between Charley and the answers he seeks. Man is not an animal, but if they are to make it through Meritorium, will they even be able to tell the difference?

The lines between man and beast, friend and foe, will blur in Meritorium, the riveting sequel to the bestselling Meritropolis.

Here is the link to book #1 in the series:

1. Other than an author, who are you Joel Ohman?

My name is Joel Ohman. I am 33 years old, married to my best friend, Angela, and have 3 kids, ages 5, almost 3, and 1. My writing companion is my 130lb Bull Mastiff, Caesar (who's asleep on the job most of the time, to be honest). I am a Christian who likes to talk about the good news of Jesus Christ. I do volunteer work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and also with my church in Tampa. I am a serial entrepreneur, having founded a number of different startups in the web space. I am currently the President & CEO of 360 Quote LLC and Real Time Health Quotes LLC, and we own a lot of different web properties, one of the most popular ones being our workout website/iOS App/Android App for You can learn more about me at

2. What books and authors, past or present, have inspired you to write?

I read a LOT, so there are many different things that have shaped my writing over the years, but I wouldn't say there was any particular book, or books, that I was consciously looking to for inspiration while writing Meritropolis and Meritorium. For the craft of storytelling, I have learned a lot from John Truby and his book, The Anatomy of Story. I can also see different threads of influence in almost everything I have read over the years that contribute toward making the Meritropolis series what it is—the strong protagonist of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, the philosophical bent of C.S. Lewis’ fiction, the dystopian setting of Hugh Howey’s WOOL series, and many more.

3. What are you currently reading, or what was the last thing you read other than your work?

I am constantly in the middle of about 15-20 different books. I read for an hour or two every day, and I try to read a wide variety of genres and authors, both fiction and non-fiction. You can check out what I am currently reading and follow me on GoodReads here!

4. Do you listen to music while you write, and if so what kinds of music and which artists do you enjoy?

I almost always listen to music while I write. Usually it’s a playlist of the same song or group of songs over and over again, because it allows me to kind of zone in on what I am doing. Here is a link to the Spotify playlist of music that specifically inspired the Meritropolis series (each of these songs were among the songs I would listen to on repeat while writing):

5. In the Meritropolis series how were the animal combinations decided upon? For example, I know you chose to write about a bion (bull-lion), as well as many other freaks of nature. So what I want to know is how did you decided which animals to meld together and why.

I have a big list of animal combinations that I came up with before I began writing the book, and I tried to work in as many as I could. Sometimes the only criteria was that I liked the way the name sounded. There are over fifteen new animal combinations introduced in Meritorium as well as a couple of big reveals toward the end that many readers might not see coming…

6. Who illustrated the animal combinations that are featured before each chapter?

Rachel Crafton is a friend of mine who is a very talented artist. She did each of the 17 different animal combination illustrations (one for each of the 17 chapters in Meritropolis) as well as 14 brand new animal combination illustrations for the 14 chapters in Meritorium:

Chapter 1 - Horoceros (Horse-Black Rhinoceros)
Chapter 2 - Llamabill (Llama-Shoebill)
Chapter 3 - Medusa Tree
Chapter 4 - Venus Mantrap
Chapter 5 - Durkey (Deer-Turkey)
Chapter 6 - Snurtle (Snake-Turtle)
Chapter 7 - Zippo (Zebra-Hippo)
Chapter 8 - Marmosal (Marmoset-Jackal)
Chapter 9 - Hedgedog (Hedgehog-Wild Dingo Dog)
Chapter 10 - Narse (Narwhal-Horse)
Chapter 11 - Sworse (Swift-Horse)
Chapter 12 - Wolverator (Wolverine-Alligator)
Chapter 13 - Boadicon (Bat-Toad-Scorpion)
Chapter 14 - Vulcodile (Vulture-Crocodile)

My favorites are some of the ones that were directly engineered by man to recreate mythical creatures like the unicorn, Pegasus, and even a dragon.

7. Who or what was your inspiration to write about post-apocalyptic, dystopian, sci-fi?

I've read a lot in this genre, so I would say it’s a mix of a lot of different things. I really just wanted to explore this question of, "What gives a person worth?" Is it their usefulness to society? Is it because someone loves them? Is it because of how they look? Is it because of their health or ability? As a Christian, I believe that all people have worth, because
they are made in the image of God. I wanted to explore some different takes on this question. I think that the post-apocalyptic/dystopian/sci-fi genre was the best vehicle to tackle some of those deep philosophical questions in a fun and interesting way.

While book #1 was all about this idea of what gives a person worth—and is really the overarching theme of the series—in Meritorium I really wanted to explore what makes a person different than an animal. Is it because we are (hopefully) smarter, more cunning, more powerful? What if that weren’t the case—could you say that an animal is just as important as a person, or even more so? Why or why not?

I also wanted to delve into mankind’s relationship to animals: why do we love some animals, like dogs, and yet eat other animals, like pigs? How do we “rank” the importance of one animal in relation to another? How should we be responsible stewards of the animals around us? Is it possible to love animals and care for them while also eating them? And no, I am not a vegetarian—in case you were wondering—but I think that the Biblical Theology of Creation is uniquely suited to answer some of these tough questions that we all wrestle with, at one time or another, and when you can explore some of these big, weighty philosophical questions against the backdrop of battles and gladiators and creatures with eyes that glint gold in the pitch black night then it can be a lot of fun too.

8. What projects are you currently working on—both in your writing and otherwise?

The next writing project is book #3 for the Meritropolis series. Other than that, I own a number of different businesses, so we always have new and interesting projects in various stages of development. One fun project is our workout website/iOS App/Android App

9. Can we expect to read more about Charley, Sven, Grigor, and the rest of your wonderful characters?


10. Are your characters inspired by people you know in real life, or are they purely works of fiction?

Purely works of fiction. At least that is what I tell everyone… :)

11. Why the title Meritorium?

I wanted a short one word title that was a clever—or at least semi-clever—play on two different words and that was similar to Meritropolis. I like "Meritropolis" because it combines "Merit" and "Metropolis," two words that are great for describing a city where each resident's worth is measured by a score given to them and I like Meritorium because it continues this idea of “Merit” with “Colosseum” / “Auditorium”, words that are perfectly suited for describing a city where gladiatorial games of life or death combat are waged between High Scores and Low Scores, man and beast.

12. Can you tells us about your characters and who/what inspired them?

I am a big believer in John Truby’s approach to building a “character web”, because this deepens the relationships between characters and helps to make each of the characters more complex. Absent building a good character web, it can be all too easy to fall into the not-very-true-to-real-life good-person/bad-person false dichotomy where your protagonist devolves into this I-can-do-no-wrong character and your antagonist is just pure evil. I was very much aiming to show the imperfections and brokenness in each of the characters. My thinking as a Christian influences this to some degree, given that the Bible teaches that we are all essentially the same; we are all sinners—only God is perfect.

13. What was the easiest part about writing Meritorium? The hardest?

This was my second book, so I would say that the entire process was much easier than it was for the first book. I have great editors who were able to offer constructive criticism, point me in the right direction, and really speed things up

14. Who designed the book cover? Why this design?

Nik Keevil designed the cover. He did a fantastic job, and has designed covers for the new Lord of the Rings box set, Bernard Cornwell, Diana Gabaldon, and many other outstanding authors. It was a great privilege to have him working on this project with me.

15. In what formats can potential buyers get your book?

Kindle eBook, paperback, and audiobook on Amazon

16. What are your views on marketing your book through social media such as Twitter or Facebook?

I believe that social media can be an effective marketing technique if done the right way. The key is that social media is primarily about building relationships and about delivering something of value. We all know those Facebook friends who incessantly clog up our newsfeeds with pleas to join their health and wellness MLM—don’t be that kind of author! That being said, I do think that Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, etc. can be a great way to meet other readers and authors and discuss fun and interesting things. Hopefully that will lead to more exposure and more book sales, but coming across as too salesy or pushy is something that I definitely aim to avoid.

17. What about a book trailer? Do you have one or do you plan on having one made for Meritropolis?

No, I don't have plans to do a book trailer at this point.

18. What are your ambitions for your writing career?

My focus now is on marketing the Meritropolis series and continuing to write book #3!

19. What all have you written so far?

Meritorium is my second book so the only other book out is book #1, Meritropolis!

20. What is the most surprising thing you learned while writing?

One of the most important things I learned is maybe not all that surprising, but definitely important—the value of an editor. I worked with 3 different editors while writing the Meritropolis series. Each of them provided extremely valuable feedback and advice that was instrumental at various stages of the book writing process. The book that is available for purchase now is a much better book than it would have been without the expertise of my editorial team.

21. Are you working on anything new?

My next project is book #3 in the Meritropolis series.

22. Do you have a preference for how you get your writing done (typewriter, longhand, computer, dictation, etc.)?

I love my MacBook Pro with Retina display!! That’s the only thing I write on (often with my feet kicked up)…

23. Do you plot your books? Or, do you just sit down and write what comes to you?

I sketch out a very rough outline, and then I just start writing. Things often deviate, sometimes wildly, from the outline, and I think that usually ends up being a good thing. I do however try to follow a little bit of John Truby's method from his book, The Anatomy of Story.

24. Any strange habits for when you write?

Nothing too strange. I always sit in a chair with my feet up, one pillow on each side of me to rest each elbow on, and one pillow on my lap to rest my laptop.

25. What are your thoughts on getting bad reviews?

Everyone has different tastes in what they like to read, so I don't let bad reviews bother me too much. No matter what your favorite book is, you can almost be guaranteed that it will have many bad reviews on Amazon from people who just didn't get out of it what you did—that's
fine. I do try to stay objective and see if there might be something I can learn from the criticism to become a better writer, if not, then I just move on and don't worry about it.

26. Are there any books that have inspired your own writing?

I read A LOT so there are many different things that have shaped my writing over the years, but I wouldn't say there was any particular book, or books, that I was consciously looking to for inspiration while writing the Meritropolis series. Looking back though I can definitely see different threads of influence in almost everything I have read over the years that contribute toward making Meritropolis what it is: the strong protagonist of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, the philosophical bent of C.S. Lewis’ fiction, the dystopian setting of Hugh Howey’s WOOL series, and many more.

27. Why do you write? Is it for fun, or because you have something you need to say in your writing?

Some writers are loath to say their writing has a message, because maybe they think doing so diminishes their art (not true, in my opinion), but I think that everyone has a message in their writing, even if they aren't as consciously focused on it—and that's a good thing. My message is in the epigraph of Meritropolis: "Because everyone matters - Psalm 139"

28. Do you prefer eBooks or traditional paperback/hardback?

I never thought I would say this, but I now totally prefer eBooks over paperback/hardback. I definitely prefer to read on my iPad Air using the Kindle app. I love that I can carry my entire library on my iPad, I can hold the iPad with one hand (so I can eat while I read!), and I don’t have to add any more huge storage bins to my garage that are full of books!

29. Are there any authors that have emerged in the last three years that have caught your interest?

Hugh Howey is an author that I really like that has caught my attention lately. I would highly recommend his WOOL series!

30. Are the names of your characters important? Or do you just choose some that you like and think will fit?

I am not very Dickensian in my character-naming. Usually it just entails choosing a name that I think will fit because of the way it sounds. Two mistakes I think some authors make is either A) choosing names that are too hard to pronounce/too unusual/too obscure or weird, and B) selecting character names that all sound quite similar to one another. Either way, it confuses the reader, which is never a good thing.

31. Do you have a favorite genre that you like to read?

I read pretty much everything! Fiction, non-fiction, you name it! I am of the opinion that, as an author, I can learn something from almost every kind of writing. Sometimes, it most definitely is a matter of learning what not to do—but, on the whole, I love to read a wide variety of writing styles, genres, etc.

32. How do you feel about eBook piracy?

I'm not too worried about it.

33. Any advice for aspiring authors?

Take the first step! Just do a little at a time. If you decide writing is important to you then make time for it, be consistent, and read a lot.

34. Do you have any books that you would recommend to aspiring authors?

Here are some books that I highly recommend for all authors to check out:

Wordsmithy - Douglas Wilson

Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott

On Writing - Stephen King

The Anatomy of Story - John Truby

The Fire in Fiction - Donald Maas

35. How long did it take you to write Meritropolis and Meritorium?

It took me about a year and a half to write Meritropolis, almost two years, really, and then less than a year to write Meritorium. I finished the bulk of the writing for Meritorium in about four months, so I feel confident that I could write the next book much quicker, because I learned a lot from my editorial team and others at whitefox.

36. Who is whitefox, and what was it like working with them?

Whitefox is an author services company that I worked with throughout the writing process. They helped with everything from editing to design to initial marketing. They did a fantastic job of connecting me with professional editors, a professional cover designer, and offered outstanding advice along the way. I would highly recommend that all self-published authors check them out!

36. What are you doing to market your book now?

Right now I am concentrating on getting my book in front of as many of the awesome book bloggers and book reviewers out there as possible. Meritropolis is fortunate to have received a large number of 5-star reviews on both Amazon and GoodReads, and I am definitely hoping this trend will continue with Meritorium. I also recently started working with Emlyn Chand over at Novel Publicity, and she has been great, so I am excited to see what she can do!

37. Do you have any advice for authors who are considering the self-publishing route?

I am not one of those authors who will say that self-publishing is the best choice for every single author, but I am absolutely glad that I went this route. I love that I can fully control and fully own my work, but I would encourage anyone who self-publishes to try and adhere to the following advice:

Don’t be a cheapskate - be willing to pay for a professional editor, a professional book cover designer, etc. It boggles my mind that people will spend hours upon hours writing their book and then just take a few minutes to throw some clip art and stock photos together to “design” their book cover. Don’t. Just, don’t.
Work with professionals - by this I simply mean to not overly rely on friends, family members, and co-workers, all of whom will likely just tell you what you want to hear. You need someone who is not afraid to point out the problem areas in your book and provide an honest critique. You already know that your mom is going to say she loves your vampire-Scottish-Highlander-billionaire-love-triangle-in-space book that you wrote, so don’t even bother asking her for feedback. Instead, pay someone who does that kind of thing for a living...
Sell, sell, sell - If you are a self-published author and you are not actively involved in sales and marketing for your book—which is essentially your mini-business—or you are not paying someone else to be actively involved in the sales and marketing of your book, then you are not maximizing the reach your book can have. As uncouth as it might be to say this, writing is only half of what is required to see success as a self-published author. Yes, you need to write a good book, but you also need to effectively market and sell your book (either by hiring someone, or doing it yourself, or both).


Author Bio:
Joel Ohman is the author of the Meritropolis series --"The Hunger Games meets The Village with a young Jack Reacher as a protagonist". He lives in Tampa, FL with his wife Angela and their three kids. His writing companion is Caesar, a slightly overweight Bull Mastiff who loves to eat the tops off of strawberries.

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