That Darn Kat

curiouser and curiouser

Duct-Tape Hero: Why “The Martian” is a must-see (and must read)

Today’s moment of epic squee: 2oth Century Fox released the first trailer for The Martian.

I read the novel earlier this year, and absolutely loved it. The trailer looks like it’s going to be pretty faithful to the book, which is fantastic.

I’ve noticed a lot of people are latching on to the line “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this,” and that pretty much sums up both the tone and the plot of the book. It’s Extreme Survivor: Space Edition with a funny, charismatic lead.

Along with Tomorrowland, I think this movie is an indication that sci-fi fans — and maybe the public at large — are finally worn out on dystopia. Aside from its “Space Loner Robinson” adventure plot, the trailer does a good job of conveying the upbeat thematic direction of The Martian. Which is, in short, “People don’t always suck. We have a strong sense of self preservation, but we also have an innate desire to help each other.”

Except where Tomorrowland pushes its “the future doesn’t have to suck” thesis with vague hand-waving and promises about jetpacks and wind farms, The Martian “sciences the shit out of this thing.” It uses individual problem-solving and a global rescue effort to show the audience how humans got to the top of the food chain, and why we maybe deserve to stay there a little longer.

Yeah, there are corporate weasels who punk out and take the safer option. But compared to recent SF/F fare like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and even Game of Thrones, even the most unlikable characters in The Martian are at worst, decent people who make the more conservative of two statistically-improbable choices. And the best characters achieve true heroism.

Aside from all that, it’s going to be a fantastic, edge-of-your-seat popcorn flick. Forget the explosions and set-pieces (and there are some doozies). Never before has a book gotten me completely engrossed in whether potatoes would grow. I rooted for those little tubers like they were Pippin and Merry from Lord of the Rings, man.

Heck, Sean Bean might even survive this movie, it’s so damn optimistic.

antique-typewriter

How to support an indie or small press author

I’ve been very blessed by those who support my writing these last couple of years. I’m often asked “What’s the best way to buy one of your books?”

Since you asked, here’s the answer. There are two things you can do to support my writing, or the writing of any indie or small press author.

1. If possible, order my books through your local, independent bookstore.

You might have heard buying books directly from the author puts more money in their pocket. This is true, if you’re talking about the individual sale. However, even with direct sales, I don’t make much for one book.

If you want to help me sell lots of books, it’s way better to ask your local bookstore to order it for you. Or if you don’t have a local bookstore, to buy it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Here’s a little secret: Books I get at author cost and sell at events don’t count towards my “official sales.” At least in the eyes of Amazon, USA Today, The New York Times or anybody who puts out a “bestseller list.” So even though I’ve sold lots of books over the past year (more than some “bestselling” authors), and even though my royalties have been pretty healthy for a small press author, almost none of those sales count.

Why that matters: Amazon tends to “back a winning horse.” That means books which are already selling well get a marketing boost, showing up more often in their recommendations. For all Amazon knows, those direct sales are all sitting in my garage collecting dust, not in the hands of real readers.

However, if you buy my books from Amazon.com, they know a real reader bought it, and those sales bump me up in their algorithm for which books deserve attention, and which books don’t.

I know what you’re thinking. “Then why did you tell me to buy it through a local bookstore, Kat?”

Because of a little thing called Bookscan. Think of it like the Nielson ratings for books. Mainly because that’s exactly what it is.

If you buy my book from Amazon, they’ll bump me up in their algorithm. But they keep that information mostly to themselves. However, if you ask your local bookstore to order a copy, it gets run through Bookscan. They’ll probably still order it from Amazon, but now that sale is a little more public. It counts as a “real sale” on the bestseller lists.

It also gets a little more weight. You see, Amazon doesn’t know your local bookstore already has a buyer. Which makes my book look even better to their algorithm. Sales to bookstore buyers are like “bonus point sales.”

And also, aside from my purely self-motivated reasons, I think it’s important to support locally owned businesses, especially bookstores. There’s a ton of reasons why buying local is good for your local community.

Okay, I told you there was a second thing you could do to help me out. Here’s the other thing.

2. Post an honest review of my books on Amazon (and Goodreads, if you’re feeling generous). 

Buying my books through bookstores or Amazon will help readers find my books. Writing an honest, heartfelt review will convince readers to buy my books.

Seriously, if you’d tell a friend in person “Hey, I wasn’t so sure about this whole steampunk thing, but I read this really fun book and totally enjoyed it” then just take the time to type that out in a review. Even a dozen positive, honest reviews makes a HUGE difference. It gets the ball rolling.

Another secret: There are big email lists which can get books in front of thousands of interested readers. But almost all of them require your book to have at least some reviews, or for your average rating to be “above average” (3.5 to 4 stars). If an author doesn’t have at least a few good reviews, they can’t even pay to advertise their book to readers.

Most book bloggers also have requirements before they’ll even agree to read a free copy of your book and review it.

It’s like when you were starting out in life and couldn’t get a job because you had no experience, but the only way to get experience was to have a job. It’s a Catch-22.

So, if you really want to help me in my writing, do just those two things. Spend a little money with a local business in your community, and take a few minutes to write down what you liked about my books.

 

Hello, whole new world

Things, they are a-changing around the Grey Cottage. Josh is preparing to graduate from North Harrison High School. Maddie is finishing up her last year at Morgan Elementary. And I’m leaving my job as at OOHology, to join SME Digital as a “content genius” (not my actual title, but it literally is in the job description.)

I can hardly describe how excited I am to start this new phase of my life. It had reached the point where my kids didn’t even ask me if I could come to their school events. Chris has been doing an amazing job of managing most of the logistics of the homefront. But he’s got a demanding job of his own, and it’s not fair for him to feel like he doesn’t even have a partner who’s a reliable back-up when he can’t make things work.

My life was working, sort of. But the cost was too great, and I was rapidly losing even the physical ability, much less the will, to pay it. 

After I ended up in the hospital twice in six months for stress-related issues, I realized I needed to do some soul-searching. I needed to make some BIG changes. Those changes lead me to Nichole Kelly and the team at SME Digital.

SME Digital truly embraces a “work anywhere” ethos – they don’t just allow employees to work from enjoyable locations, they encourage it. Their “replenish policy” is sheer awesome. Yes, they’ve got great clients. Yes, they put their money where their mouth is regarding “content is king” in digital marketing. But more importantly, I believe SME Digital will let me thrive and excel working from my strengths, instead of unintentionally punishing me for being different.

I’ve spent a long time working with a chip on my shoulder. I’m an introvert, not the typical “agency type.” I’ve worked hard to convince people I can accomplish just as much as a “normal” person. But I recently ran across this quote that sums up the problem with that attitude.

If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou.

One of my greatest strengths is that I work incredibly fast. At most companies, the “reward” for that is getting a lot more work piled on. Think about this: who gets the kudos at your workplace? The guy who brags about working 12 hour days, or the person who got a project quoted at eight hours done in five?

Unlike any of my previous job changes, I’m taking a week off in-between. (See? I can learn from my mistakes). Today is my last day with the OOHligans. They’re in amazing, excellent hands with Scott and Glenn, who I’ve genuinely loved working with these past few weeks. I’ll be spending a week with my family, relaxing and preparing for the whole new set of adventures awaiting us all. While it’s the current “big news,” this job change is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the changes I’m setting in motion.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Bloggus Interruptus

It has been so long since I wrote in this blog that I almost forgot the password. This has been partly because I have been insanely busy blogging and writing elsewhere. And also busy doing things that aren’t writing.

Hanging out with friends and family, binge-watching Daredevil on Netflix, attempting to get to the end of Dragon Age: Inquisition. Walking and preparing to do a color run and a mud run with Chris (still not sure which is going to be messier). Slowly working my way out of an unhealthy lifestyle and into better habits.

Really, this blog is my public brain dump, and a lot of the stuff in my brain has not been appropriate for a public forum for a while. I consider it a testament to my current state of maturity and emotional health that those wranglings have ended up in private, paper journals. As opposed to rambly blog posts or needy Vaguebook missives. As an INFP and an enneagram 4, emotional drama is sort of my personal drug. And some situations lately have made staying on the wagon a struggle.

I am a problem-solver by nature. I tend to think really good writers usually are, because plotting is often an exercise in problem solving, especially in certain genres. I tend to approach any difficult situation with the attitude that I will, eventually, figure out a way to fix it to everyone’s satisfaction.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t actually work like the plot of a novel. Sometimes, the solution that fixes things for you messes things up for someone else. Sometimes, going along with what works for everyone else demands a cost you’re not willing to pay anymore.

In a novel, you split characters neatly into “protagonist,” “allies,” “love interests,” “mentors” and “antagonists.”  As long as the “good guys” get their happily ever after, the mentors and allies are somewhat expendable, and it doesn’t really matter what happens to the antagonists. In fact, there’s a sort of bitter satisfaction in seeing them suffer.

In real life, everybody thinks they’re the protagonist. Nobody is expendable. And the antagonist is just the protagonist of a different story.

But we can’t really escape our own narrative perspective, and eventually you reach the plot turn. The point where the protagonist stops being reactive, and proactively creates a plan to solve her problem.

More to come. Thanks for coming along.

Bitter Cold featured on Free Kindle Books & Tips

Web Version Bitter ColdI’m excited to announce that Bitter Cold is featured today as a New Release on Free Kindle Books & Tips, along with a number of other great recent eBook releases.

My steampunk fairytale retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” is still on sale for just $0.99 until tomorrow, when it will return to its regular price of $2.99.

I’m also continuing my offer to buy your next read if you provide an honest Amazon review of Bitter Cold.

Pay just a buck, and you can earn back a $5 Amazon gift card, or a signed paperback from me.

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