Guest Post: Matthew W. Quinn on The Thing in the Woods, the Great Recession and economics

I met Matthew W. Quinn last year at DragonCon, where he attended one my panels on the various flavors of publishing: traditional, self, hybrid, wooden ink-block…you get the idea. Anyway, he has a book coming out, a nifty bit of teen horror called The Thing in the Woods, and it promises to be quite the page-turner.

James R. Tuck even has a warning on the cover: “Turn the lights on before you read this, it’s a scary one!” Have you met James? Really wonderful guy — also big and strapping and unlikely to scare easily. Ergo, that’s a heck of an endorsement.

But as it happens, The Thing in the Woods has roots in something real-world scary: the Great Recession, the craptastic economic collapse of 2008-2009. Here’s Matthew to tell us more about it:  Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Guest Post

MJ-12: Inception Kindle price cut ahead of paperback release

Wow, that headline reads like a press release. Sorry. But hey! Cheap books, amirite?

MJ-12: Inception, the first in the MAJESTIC-12 series of spy-fi thrillers, comes out in paperback June 6. I’ll be up in Wyoming for the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop that week, but I’ll do my best to blog and tweet and all that other stuff.

And because of that impending release, the Amazon ebook price just got hacked way down. It’s just $7.59 on Kindle right now, which is far better than the $13.99 price it had on release. (I swear, I had nothing to do with that, by the way. Even I balk at buying ebooks at that price.) The ebook is still running at higher prices on Barnes & Noble and Kobo, but I imagine — and fervently hope — that the price will be coming down soon.

And of course, it’ll hit bookstores in mass-market paperback in less than two weeks. I’m excited to see this book out there on the cheap, and I hope it continues to attract new readers. Plus, there’s an excerpt of MJ-12: Shadows in the Inception paperback, which is even more value for your money!

Of course, if you’ve already bought MJ-12: Inception at that higher price, I most definitely thank you for supporting my work. And if you enjoyed it, I would really, really appreciate it if you threw a review up on Amazon or Goodreads or wherever you like. Facebook, Twitter, it’s all good. It really does help.

Finally, if you want to pre-order Inception in paperback, or Shadows before its September release, I got the links right here.

MJ-12: Inception  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBoundBooks-A-Million Mysterious Galaxy

MJ-12: Shadows  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Books-A-Million | Mysterious Galaxy


Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Publishing

I’ll be at the SFWA Mass Autograph Signing in Pittsburgh this Friday

I’m heading to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Conference this weekend in Pittsburgh, and if you’re in the Pittsburgh area — or attending the weekend’s festivities or, frankly, just like road-tripping — there’s going to be a mass autograph signing this Friday evening, and I’ll be there with pen in hand.

The event starts at 8 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center’s Grand Ballroom, and it’ll likely go for a few hours, at the very least. You can expect most of the Nebula Award nominees will be on hand to sign their stuff, along with many others — click here for the details. I’m told there will indeed be books on hand for sale, including copies of the Daedalus trilogy in mass-market paperback and hardcover copies of MJ-12: InceptionOf course, you can feel free to bring your own, too.

And chances are, I’m likely to have some extra advance reader copies of MJ-12: Shadows to give away as well. Given that this one isn’t out until September, you’re getting your hands on it super-early (and with some typos, because it’s a pre-proof copy, which means it’s totally a collector’s item).

I haven’t been to the Nebulas since 2013, just before The Daedalus Incident came out. The event’s evolved considerably since then, with a lot of cool panels and information sessions. I’m still feeling like a newbie compared to some, so I’m planning on listening and learning as much as I can. And, of course, I’m looking forward to seeing my people again.

So if you’re going — for the whole conference or just for the signing — be sure to find me and say hello!


Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Events, Travel

The Enceladus Crisis on sale for $1.99 in ebook!

Thanks to a keen-eyed fan, I discovered that The Enceladus Crisis is on sale for just $1.99 across the major ebook retailers. When did it start? Dunno. When will it end? No idea. But for now, you can get the second book in the Daedalus trilogy for less than a latte at Starbucks.

And yes, Enceladus is the second book, but I wrote it in such a way that you can ideally pick up what transpired in The Daedalus Incident without getting too bogged down. So go ahead and plop down that $1.99 and check it out if you haven’t already. And if you have, tell your friends!

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, and Google Play.
UPDATE: As of Saturday afternoon, it’s still on sale! At this point, it’s a mystery as to how long it’ll last, but given that folks really seem to be buying it, I’m quite OK with it.


Leave a comment

Filed under Books

Giveaway! Two signed advance copies of MJ-12: Shadows up for grabs!

The fine folks at the United States Postal Service brought me a present this past weekend — a box full of MJ-12: Shadows advance reader copies! And they are gorgeous and even after five years of authoring, I’m still stunned and amazed to see my name on a book.

Most of these are headed to Pittsburgh to be given away at the SFWA Nebula Conference, but for all the folks who follow me on the blog and on Twitter, I wanted to do a little something special and give two lucky winners a shot at getting a signed copy of their very own.

How? Super simple. If you’re on Twitter, retweet this:

And for folks who aren’t on Twitter, all you have to do is comment on this blog post. That’s it. You’re in. Oh, and if you do both, that’ll count as two entries.

What about Facebook or Instagram or other stuff, you ask? I’m not on those. But tell you what, if you put a link to another social media post about MJ-12: Shadows in the comments here, I’ll count each link as yet another entry. Deal? Deal. Also, note that I moderate comments on here, so if yours doesn’t show up right away, don’t panic. It’ll get there.

You’ve got until midnight Pacific time on May 12 to enter. After that, I’ll choose two winners at random and we’ll get some books in the mail for you.

UPDATE: We’re done! Congratulations to Susan and Robert! Your books are in the mail. Enjoy!



Filed under Books, Contest

Only one more day to bid on signed copies of the Daedalus and MAJESTIC-12 books

Here’s your obligatory time-is-running-out notice: The charity auctions to benefit Con or Bust — an organization that sends lots of awesome people of color to SF/F conventions — end tomorrow at 4 p.m. EDT. That means you have a little more than a day to bid on stuff, including signed copies of all my books to date, including a never-before-seen advance copy of MJ-12: Shadows.

I have two lots in the auction. The first is all three Daedalus paperbacks — The Daedalus Incident, The Enceladus Crisis and The Venusian Gambit — signed and sent to your door if you win. The other is a signed hardcover of MJ-12: Inception and, as previously mentioned, that signed advance copy of MJ-12: Shadows, which doesn’t come out until September.

So there you go. Click here to get bidding! As of this posting you have 24 hours — GO!


Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Charity

Everything I learned about working I learned at McDonald’s

This isn’t my McDonald’s, because they tore down the one I worked at and put this one up next door.

I am not, actually, a big fan of McDonald’s. I can’t really remember the last time I ate there — chances are, it was during a road trip somewhere and the Golden Arches was the only option for the next sixty miles, or something like that. Mickey D’s hasn’t been a dining destination for me in at least two decades, easily.

The food is, of course, a nutritionist’s nightmare. Yes, there are healthy options on the menu, but nobody really goes in for those. You want a salad, you have options for salad beyond McDonald’s, is what I’m saying. Breakfast, if I’m being honest, is actually about as healthy as your typical big breakfast — i.e., greasy and laden with carbs and cholesterol, but actually less so than your typical platter at a Jersey diner.

The parent corporation isn’t great, either. I remember when McDonald’s put out a money management guide that included a line for a second job — a not-so-subtle admission that a normal human can’t get by on a fast-food wage. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, which blows up to an annual salary of $15,080. By way of comparison, the federal poverty line for a family of four is $24,339.

And the work itself? Working the grill is hot, sweaty, greasy and during rush hours, a non-stop parade of rapid, repetitive, assembly-line work. Working the counter is likewise rapid and repetitive, and while there’s less heat and grease, the procession of people at your register invariably includes people with hygiene issues, angry people, rude people, horrible people in general. Not all, of course — but enough that if you get out of a shift without an unpleasant experience with humanity, it’s a pretty excellent day.

I know all this because from 1987 to early 1993, on and off, I donned the taupe uniform — and later, the managerial clip-on tie — of a McDonald’s employee, back when the minimum wage was $3.35, the McDLT was a thing, and salads were new and strange. I lived in a small town at the time, and Mickey D’s was the only joint that would hire on 16-year-olds without much fuss. By the time I went to college, they lured me back every summer and winter break by making me “breakfast coordinator” — the 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. managerial shift — and later assistant manager for the times I was in town.

And you know what? I learned a lot. I kid you not. Yes, I learned how to construct a Big Mac (though the Secret Sauce recipe remains a mystery) and take a drive-thru order. But I learned a lot about how to get my shit together and keep it together. I learned a lot about the workplace. I learned about people. And now, 25 years after I tossed my last grill apron aside, I’m gonna tell you what I learned.

Nothing is insurmountable. When it’s 10 p.m. on a Tuesday night, it’s you and two teenagers holding down the joint, and then two buses full of Vermont National Guardsmen pull in to your parking lot, it’s mighty tempting to just shut down the lights and lock the doors. Mighty tempting. But you don’t. You deal with the crush in the lobby, then yell out for the C.O. — because two months ago, you interviewed the commanding major general of the Army ROTC for a story while interning at a news service in Washington and “C.O.” seems like what you should ask for.

You get a captain who agrees to not only consolidate everyone’s orders and get them seated to wait patiently, but even gets four men to stay on the buses with the M-16s because your sixteen-year-old grill crew member literally started crying at seeing so much weaponry in her workplace. And then you churn out more Macs, fish, fries and nuggets as you’ve ever seen in one place, including massive amounts of comped food for the guys on the buses because you feel bad. And you still close on time at 11 p.m.

Seriously, you wanna learn how to work fast? Efficiently? You want to handle crises and roll with it and work the problem and all that crap? Go work at McDonald’s. I see a direct through-line in my career from handling a massive lunch rush to writing the AP NewsAlert that Bill Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft. You wanna up and quit as the only CEO Microsoft has ever known, Bill? Please, son. I once cooked 360 cheeseburgers in an hour. I got this. Book deadlines? Bad reviews? Whatever.

People aren’t all good or all bad. They’re just people. Look, I’ve seen things. I’ve seen a disgruntled customer throw his food directly in the face of a fellow manager, who proceeded to stand there and take it until the customer stalked off. (He then punched clear through the glass door of the salad cabinet once the customer was gone, but damn, that’s still some admirable restraint.) I have seen people try to cheat me out of 30 cents by claiming a large fry instead of a medium after the fact. And I let ’em  because, hell, if you feel the need to do that, my fry count pales in comparison to whatever issues you got going on.

But I’ve seen awesome people, too. I’ve seen customers by lunch for someone else just because they looked like they were in a rough spot, or they were short. I’ve had people try to tip. I’ve seen smiles and patience in the middle of a horrible rush in which the kid running the fry station was asleep at the wheel and literally the McDonald’s has no goddamn fries. I’ve seen the best and worst of people, and sometimes from the very same people.

And I learned to lead, too. I never got a formal manager training session or anything. Nobody ever taught me how to manage people, just inventory and production and cash register counts. I got keys to the building and the combo to the safe, but never once got a briefing on what to do when the grill person gets freaked out by the sight of thirty-plus military assault weapons. So you make do and you learn on the go. When your grill crew gets into a tartar-vs.-secret-sauce dispenser battle, you can choose to write ’em all up…or you can grab a tartar gun, catch the instigator right in the face, and tell them they have five minutes to clean up or else they get written up. And every now and then, you lead a sing-along of Bohemian Rhapsody in the middle of dinner rush. (I got written up for that myself, actually, but you know what? That crew would fall on their spatulas for me.)

It is really hard out there for a lot of good people. As a teenager, working at McDonald’s was kind of optional. Yes, I helped pay for my own college, but there’s a huge difference between working to pay for college and working to put food on the table. There were so many good people I worked with who almost invariably had been dealt bad hands. We’re talking factory closures, failed farms, layoffs, recovering addicts, dicey pasts, spousal abuse and abandonment, you name it.

Nobody working at McDonald’s wants to be working at McDonald‘s. Remember that the next time you go there, or to any fast-food or even casual-dining spot. It really is hard work and low pay. You actually don’t get to complain about hard work and low pay unless you’ve worked at Mickey D’s, because you have no basis for comparison. And yet people do it, they put in forty hours, grab overtime whenever humanly possible and usually work another job somewhere else at least part time. I worked with a woman whose car was repossessed during her shift. The shift leader offered to let her go and deal with it, but the poor woman decided to stay because she didn’t want to lose hours. Only when the shift leader told her she could officially forget to clock out did she go running after the repo man.

We also did a brisk business with regulars, too, who scraped up enough money for our food because it was cheap and hot. The guy who lived in his van and did odd jobs around town always ordered a Big Mac when he was flush, an 89-cent cheeseburger otherwise. There was the  little old lady anywhere between 90 and 300 years old who ordered a single biscuit with butter and jam each morning, and always asked for the “senior” coffee because the coffee was free to senior citizens, and would usually have the 92-cent tab in exact change. Actually, we’d get worried when she’d skip a day because…well, she was old. And she was so sweet, too. Even asked about college after she overheard me talking with a coworker about it. I know it’s impossible, but I hope she’s still there every morning, 25 years later.

To sum up: I can do anything and deal with anyone, basically, because I worked at McDonald’s. Honestly, I’m lucky to have moved on and will be luckier if I never have to go back. And yes, I wrote this for my newly-minted teenage daughter, because I feel like she should know.


Leave a comment

Filed under Rant