Bunny Poop

I love roses. It’s a bit early, but this morning I realized that it was time to fertilize. Thus began my annual stress of getting enough of just the right kinds of fertilizer for my roses. It’s an investment, but I hate wasting money on the wrong stuff. I got out my notes and reviewed what I needed.

As the day wore on, I went to clean out the bunny cage. See my cute bunny? bunnyShe’s actually an evil creature with a wicked bite. I got her as a trainer fiber bunny. (Not much fiber, easier than an angora, and yes her fur spins up luscious when mixed with wool and alpaca.) As I was cleaning the cage, I remembered a friend talking about the wonders of bunny poop as fertilizer. It was one of those half-heard conversations that take a while for my brain to process.

I certainly had enough bunny poop to fertilize all the roses. (I’m a bad bunny mommy and the cage needed cleaning badly.) A bit of research and I discovered that bunny fertilizer would be delightful for those roses. No skimping this year!

While I was dancing happily around the rose garden spreading pellets of goodness, it occurred to me that there is probably a metaphor here. How many times in my life have I been shoveling out the manure dropped on me while struggling to make ends meet in another area?

Bunny poop. May be my new catch phrase for life.

We’ll see how the roses like it.

 

Watch out for the Edge.
author Joseph Lallo

Joseph Lallo Returns!

Back in 2012, I interviewed an indie author who had really impressed me, Joseph Lallo. Today, I’m happy to present a follow up to that interview.

D: I’ve been a fan of yours for years. One of my favorite blog posts of all time is the one in which you announce that you are now a full-time writer. That was…amazing. Can you tell me more about how that felt?

JL: It was surreal. For days I felt like at any moment they were going to call me up and say, “No, really, you can’t quit. Come back here and be a grownup.”

I’d debated and deliberated on it for so long, though, that I felt more relief than anything else. Of course, the way it actually went down sort of derailed me a bit. I gave them five weeks notice, and then they decide, at 3PM on the day before I was supposed to leave that I shouldn’t come back the next day. I went from “Wow, you know, it’s finally happening. It’ll be so strange to walk in here tomorrow and know it is my last day” to “Wait, what? You fired me the day before my resignation kicked in? Wha… I… Can you do that?”

Wistful to confused in three seconds flat.

D: How do you feel about being an indie, now?

JL: I’m still glad, and proud, to be an indie. Overall I feel it was the best choice for me. I like the freedom that comes from making all of my own decisions, and the flexibility of not being tied down with too many contracts. There are plenty of times that a marketing team or a staff editor would have been really helpful, but I’ve heard that even the big publishers are starting to put the onus onto the authors to do most of the marketing and editing, so the value of traditional isn’t very clear anymore. It would be awesome to see one’s books in the local bookstore, but these days people carry their local bookstore in their pockets!

D: Are your challenges changing as your career progresses?

JL: Well, the ebook gold rush is over. Sales are leveling out now that the early adopters have adopted, but the number of authors is still increasing exponentially. That means the slices of the pie are getting thinner and finding ways to stand out are getting more difficult. Funny enough, the problem isn’t that there is an endless supply of bad books flooding the market–though there IS no shortage of them. The thing that really makes it more difficult these days is the endless supply of GOOD books. It isn’t hard to stand out in a sea of drek. People will pick a good book over a bad book ten times out of ten. But if the choice is which good book out of a list of fifteen good books? Then the odds are with the reader. It’s a GREAT time to be a reader. For an author, it means you have to keep stepping up your game. But there’s nothing wrong with being driven to improve.

I’m also finding that as my series get longer and I produce more series in general, keeping the fans happy is tricky. I can only write so many words a day. So do I write two books in a row in the Book of Deacon series to try to build momentum? Or do I alternate back and forth in order to keep both sets of fans happy? So far I haven’t had any troubles coming up with ideas, so that’s at least not an issue… yet.

D: You have more printed books available now than when I interviewed you before. How is that process going? Any recommendations?

JL: You know, paperbacks are not big money makers for most of the year, but during the holiday season they enjoy a big spike. Plus, they give you something to autograph for fans. It is really useful to have them, and I’m working on generating them for my entire backlist. The process is tricky though, because I try to have the covers professionally made. That means I have to do the interior in order to get a page count, then use that to calculate the spine width for the artist to use for the cover art, then circle back and add the image. It takes time and effort, and I always feel like it would be better to be writing.

I definitely feel that you should get them done, though. Print On Demand is best unless your merchandising mojo is particularly strong. CreateSpace is what I use, but Ingram Spark and Lulu are good too. Just do as much of the work yourself as you can. Getting an artist to do a cover costs much less and has better results than using their cover service, and interior formatting takes some trial and error in a word processor to get it done, but once you’ve got the process down it’s not that difficult.

D: Are you still working with Smashwords? Any thoughts?

JL: I’m indeed still doing all of my non-Amazon distribution through Smashwords, and it has been working out great. Because I’ve had a fairly strong track record, Mark Coker (the guy in charge) has worked directly with me on more than one occasion to help set up promos and guide my release strategies. I’ve even met him at a convention to chat face to face.

In theory I could earn more money by submitting directly to the various sales outlets, but Smashwords handles all of my updates, price changes, and format conversions, plus gives me access to stores that don’t have direct submission methods, to the time and effort saved is more than worth the percentage they take.

D: You’ve done two Nano novels. Has doing Nano influenced your over-all writing process?

JL: Actually, I’ve now done three! This past November was a success, so I’ve got Free-Wrench, The Other Eight, and the (now in Beta) sequel to Free-Wrench called Skykeep. That’ll be out in March, maybe.

NaNo has definitely helped me to streamline my writing process, coaxing me into doing better outlines and sticking to my word count goals. It also gives me a chance to work on stories outside my main series and develop new ideas quickly, although if things keep going the way they’re going the NaNo books will just become additional series.

D: What is your “process” these days?

JL: Right around when I’m finishing a given book, I’ll start talking to the fans about what they’d like to see next from me. Usually it boils down to me alternating my main series, so if I’m just wrapping up a sci-fi book, it’ll usually mean a Book of Deacon novel.

From there I’ll look at the gaps in the series. Will it be a prequel, will it be a sequel? Which threads should I pick up on? Which ones should I tie up? Once I have the slot in the timeline I’ll start tracing out a beginning, a middle, and an end. If I’m feeling particularly dedicated I’ll do a chapter by chapter outline, but more often than not after I get the first two or three chapters thumbnailed I’ll just start writing and make it up as I go. Incidentally, I’m a recent convert to Scrivener as a writing tool and it is really growing on me Skykeep is the first full novel I’ve written in it, and my next Book of Deacon novel is about 1/3rd of the way through in it as well.

If I start to weave around and get off the original plan for the plot, I’ll usually go with the flow unless it starts to clash with the intended direction of the series or wouldn’t work with prior events. That circles forward until it’s complete. I try to do at least 3000 words a day right now, and I’m hoping next year to bulk that up to 5-7k.

D: What is your editing process? Has this changed?

JL: My editing process has remained fairly consistent. I don’t do any serious editing until I’m entirely finished writing the plot. As I write, I make notes to myself with “***” on either side. Once I hit the last page, it’s in alpha. Sometimes I’ll send this out to some friends and fans, but usually I wait until Beta for that. I circle back to the start and do a search for all of the notes and work my way through a second time, applying the changes, combing out some of the grammar snags, and fixing the flow.

At this point I consider it Beta and send it out to the readers. While they’re working on it, I’ll start another small project. After a few readers finish I’ll see if there’s any feedback that needs to be applied as changes, and type them up. At this point I may or may not do another read through just to see if there are glaring problems that anyone missed, then it is off to the editor to be proofread and corrected. Once I get it back I’ll apply edits as needed and address any notes the editor left behind, then format it up for release.

D: If you could go back in time to the moment you first thought of self-publishing, and offer a word of advice to yourself (and others like you) what would it be?

JL: I’d definitely urge myself to take the leap to full-time author a little earlier. I’d warn myself that it won’t always be easy, and that I need to be thinking about marketing at every step of the process. If 2010 me had known to get a newsletter set up, I’d be in a much better position right now, that’s for sure.

D: Anything else you’d like to say?

JL: I’d just like to thank you once again for talking to me! It is always great to share what knowledge I have, and it is enlightening to take a moment and think about my own process.

D: Thank you! And thank you for all of the hours of delightful entertainment that you’ve given me.

Artificial Evolution CoverJoseph Lallo’s latest book, Artificial Evolution, hits the virtual shelves TODAY!

You can get it from:

sadbunny

Depression

sadbunnyIn the aftermath of Robin Williams’s death, there has been a lot of talk about depression. A friend asked me to write this article, which may be the hardest thing I’ve ever written. So—Jordana—this is for you.

Jordana is clinically depressed. You wouldn’t know it to look at her. She’s beautiful, smart, witty. Funny. Very funny. She’s the life of the party. Most people don’t know about her struggles. I’ve watched her fight this battle for many years. She’s amazing. Strong. Jordana’s diagnosis came late in life. With medication and help from doctors, she’s getting better. But when depression makes the news like it has recently, it breaks her heart. She sees every snide comment about weakness, lack of faith, etc. as being pointed straight at her.

To my mind, the worst thing about Jordana’s battle with this disease is the shocking amount of abuse she’s taken for it. She’s reached out for help and received insults, coldness, admonitions to just be strong. She is strong. If she weren’t, she wouldn’t still be here.

Purportedly well-meaning people speculate about what is wrong in Jordana’s life. Is it abuse? Lack of faith? Is she just not trying hard enough? They tell her that Jesus would never have been depressed.

This sort of uninformed abuse has not only made Jordana less likely to reach out to others in the future, it has driven her from the church. What should be a community of support and hope has become a place where Christians shoot their wounded.

When my mother had cancer, her doctors told me that each cancer is unique. So it is with depression. I’ve talked to a lot of people with depression. I’ve suffered from it myself. And I’ve found that each person’s experience of depression is unique. Some of the abuse that Jordana has dealt with comes from people not understanding that—and not understanding that there are different types of depression.

Humans are spirit, mind,  and body. Depression can attack each area, and not only does it manifest differently in each case, each type seems to require a different approach. People who are familiar with one type of depression may have seen a miraculous healing of that type of depression and believe that they can apply the same technique to every victim of depression. But the end result of this approach can be devastating.

Spirit. There is such a thing as spiritual oppression or depression. This spiritual attack strikes at a deep level that only prayer and support from others with similar beliefs can help. It takes love, patience, faith, and prayer, which can banish this type of depression like the sun washes away mist.

Mind. Another type of depression that I’ve observed is what I would call mental depression. This is generally brought on by a precipitating event—the death of a loved one, chronic illness, financial trouble, the death of hope. People tend to understand this type of depression. Of course you’re depressed, they’ll say. Anyone would be. Drugs may help as a quick pain reliever, but recovering from this type of depression is largely a matter of time. This is where it can be helpful for a friend to come and take someone out for a day to try to break the destructive cycle of depression. Love, prayer, care, consideration—taking time to see and to be what is needed for a friend can make all the difference in the world to someone’s recovery, because recovery is possible.

Body. Last, there is clinical depression, a depression of the body. This is a physical condition, a physical illness as real as the flu—or cancer. Just as a person with cancer can’t heal herself by wishing the cancer gone, a person with clinical depression can’t just “get over it.” Yes, people with clinical depression need the support and love of friends. Yes, they need prayer. But they also need the help of medical professionals to deal with what is going on in their bodies.

In all cases, I believe prayer helps. But it is particularly discouraging to a person of faith to be told that their faith should be enough to heal them and that their failure to heal is proof they don’t have enough faith. This is neither Biblical nor loving. God put Job’s friends in their place when they suggested the same thing. Despite repeated prayers, God chose not to heal the Apostle Paul—who through faith healed many—of the thorn in his flesh. God did not disown Paul for not having enough faith—because it wasn’t a question of faith. And neither is Jordana’s depression.

Let me make one thing clear: depression is deadly. I’ve lost friends to it. Once you’ve cried at the grave of a friend who took her own life, you’ll never ignore depression again. You can’t just hope they’ll get better. And if you are lucky—very lucky—you’ll get one chance to help.

So Jordana wanted me to ask you—to beg you: be sensitive to those suffering from depression. They don’t choose to be where they are, and your help, your understanding, your tenderness, and your willingness to simply listen may be the bit of love that gets them through today.

Jordana also asked this: when someone has chosen to end their life, don’t blame their loved ones. Those people are hurting, their hearts breaking with grief and loss. Blaming them may make life make sense to you, but it isn’t an honest perspective. If you must cast blame—blame the disease.

Finally, I would add, be kind to everyone around you. You don’t know what they may be going through. Any one of them may be secretly depressed, and your kindness could make all the difference.