Monday Musings

Monday Musings 9-2-19

I like beginnings - the beginning of the day, the week, a season, a new project. For me, beginnings represent potential. I’m an optimist, I know. Instead of seeing the long list of things on my to-do list first thing in the morning, I see an opportunity to accomplish something. The downside of my nature is that my enthusiasm can fizzle out quickly. It’s not that I want to give up when a task becomes difficult, it’s more that I crave the excitement of something new. This is why it took me until I was forty to write my first book. My head was full of stories, but I didn’t have the staying power to see one through to the end.

Now that I am a little bit older, I’ve had many opportunities to stand on the other side of an accomplishment that required my sustained effort. Knowing I’ve become truly competent at something because I’ve put in the work and time holds its own kind of satisfaction. Digging in and immersing myself in a project, through the sticky, murky middle, has great value, and only by sticking with it can I appreciate both the process and the result.

Completely unrelated to today’s musing, our kitten is so adorable I can’t stop posting pictures of her. What’s better than a sleeping, purring ball of fluff?

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Monday Musings 8-12-19

I like Mondays. To me, they represent potential for the new week ahead. How I feel when I wake up on a Monday morning is a good measurement of my overall health and well-being. Usually, I wake up refreshed and ready to jump into things. Sometimes, I don’t. It might be something simple like a meeting I’m not looking forward to, but occasionally it’s more than that, and I have to pay attention.

For nearly a year, I woke up on Mondays feeling exhausted, dreading my to-do lists and projects, not because I didn’t like my work, but because I wasn’t in good physical health. That was a sign for me that I needed to get a handle on things.

A few years ago, when I knew it was time to change careers, I’d wake up on Mondays weary and apprehensive. It may have been safer and perhaps easier to stay on that path, to do the familiar job I was good at, but in my gut, I knew a change would be for the better if I had the courage to take the leap.

We all have that small, still voice inside us that let’s us know if we are on the right path. It takes courage to listen, but I believe in the end, I believe we are better off when we do.

“Your mind knows only some things. Your inner voice, your instinct, knows everything. If you listen to what you know instinctively, it will always lead you down the right path.” - Henry Winkler

In other news, I’ll be at Fan Expo Boston this weekend signing books and hosting panels. Stop by booth A703 and say hello! You can find more info on the Con schedule, tickets, and programming here: Fan Expo Boston

Here’s my panel schedule for the weekend:

Friday August 16 -  6pm in room 253B

World Building 101 

Saturday August 17 - 11:30am in room 160B

Girl Power: Exploring Themes of Feminism in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Saturday August 17 - 1:30pm in room 253C

Exploring Real World Conflicts in Otherworldly Settings

Hope to see you there!!!

Monday Musings 8-5-19

Con season is underway. Today I am writing from a hotel room in Tampa, with one heck of a con hangover! Tampa Bay was fantastic. I spoke on five panels, signed and sold dozens of books, and got to know some really interesting, kind people. If we met this weekend, it truly was a pleasure, and I’m so glad we'll be able to stay in touch through Monday Musings. You can also follow me on Instagram and FB (Tabitha Lord), and Twitter @tlordauthor.

I use this space to share personal musings, tidbits of writing advice, and lots of pictures of my kids and cats. You’ll also be the first to hear about new releases and any projects I’m working on. Since most of you newer folks are sci-fi fans, here’s a link to a short story of mine produced by StarShipSofa and performed by the amazing Andrea Richardson: Quest Nine. On my website, tabithalordauthor.com, you can also find a list of most of my published works and all the back issues of these Monday Musing posts.

We had some great discussions on the panels this weekend. For those aspiring writers interested in more info on writing craft, check out the Inkitt Writer’s Blog. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to see covered in an article, let me know. As the managing editor, I have a little pull!

Finally, I want to thank you if you bought my books this weekend. It is a joy to share my stories with readers and I truly hope you like the series! Don’t forget to leave a review:) Next stop, Boston Fan Expo August 16-18. If you’re in the area, I hope to see you there!

Below, for a Monday smile, Yennefer and Milo. Too cute for words!

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Monday Musings 7-15-1

Most of you know that we lost one of our kitties a few months ago. He was a gentle soul, always right there when I needed him most. I wasn’t ready to open my heart to a new furry friend - until my kids convinced me, of course. There’s nothing quite like snuggling a tiny ball of purring fur. This little fluff muffin makes us all laugh with her playful antics. Yennefer (yes we’re Witcher fans) certainly isn’t a replacement for our beloved Bede, but she is finding her way into all hearts!

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In other news, EQUINOX is now available on audio! Grateful thanks to amazing voice actor, David Draffin, for bringing this series to life. If audible books are your thing, I hope you’ll check it out. Click on the picture for purchasing options.




Monday Musings 6-3-19

A couple of months ago, I sold a short story to a podcast. It’s an incredible experience hearing your words read and interpreted by someone else. This narrator is a British actress and singer, and wow, did she do an amazing job! I just finished listening and I can’t stop smiling.

I love writing short fiction for several reasons: I can experiment with voice, point of view, and even different genres. Short stories only take me a couple of weeks to finish, as opposed to months when I’m writing a full length novel. They force me to pay attention to every word since space is limited, but I still have the satisfaction of completing a full story arc. And, as with my longer fiction, I can explore a theme through my writing. Quest Nine asks what we humans are willing to sacrifice in order to save ourselves from extinction. I know, light reading, or listening, as the case may be!

Thank you StarShipSofa, the Hugo award-winning podcast, for producing this story, and Andrea Richardson for her incredible voice acting. Please have a listen! Quest Nine on StarShipSofa

Monday Musings 5-13-19

I’ve met with several new writers over the last couple of weeks. We’ve talked about the publishing industry, writing craft, building an author brand, and anything and everything else we could squeeze in over a few cups of coffee. One message I try to convey to these folks is that no matter where we are in our writing journey, we still have more to learn, and there will always be more to do! Hopefully, with every chapter we write, with every new book we release, we’ll improve our craft and learn better, more productive ways to navigate the publishing industry. I’m striving to be better at this whole endeavor tomorrow than I am today.

I’ve been working in this space for just about seven years now. In that time, I’ve published three books, sold several short stories, been hired as the managing editor for a writers blog, led workshops and panels at conferences and conventions, and taught writing craft live and through webinars. I look at my accomplishments and still think, “I don’t put out enough content every year. I need to do a better job with my marketing plan. I need to attend more conferences.” The list of things I still want to do is endless.

One thing I have that the new writers I’ve been mentoring don’t yet is the gift of perspective. I understand that I’m in this for the long game. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when we focus on all the things we haven’t done yet, and when we create an unreasonable “to-do” list in response. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of “to-do” lists. In fact, sometimes I’ll write something on my list that I’ve already finished just so I can cross it off. Don’t judge!

But, rather than look at my list as tasks that I haven’t accomplished yet, I consider them steps in the direction I want to go. It’s a subtle shift in perspective, but it can move me from feeling completely overwhelmed to feeling productive. Maybe I didn’t hit a very high word count today, but I did finish the chapter I was working on. Maybe I didn’t design an entire marketing plan, but I did spend some time updating my social media accounts and answering reader emails. Every small thing I accomplish in a day is helping to build my future career.

I understand I can’t do everything all at once, so instead I’ve made a commitment to the journey.

Monday Musings 4-29-19

It finally feels like spring may have sprung here on the east coast. I cheated and spent last week with my sister in Folsom, where temperatures hovered around 85 degrees with sunny, blue skies every day. We even spent Saturday boating on the lake! The difference in how I feel, both mentally and physically, when there is enough daylight versus smack in the middle of winter is enormous. I do the things in wintertime to try and stay healthy, but for all that mindfulness, it’s work. One sunny day, with a few sprouting green leaves and the smell of cut grass, does more for my mindset than all the hot chocolate, warm fires, and homemade soup combined.

When the first burst of color arrives after a long, gray winter, it might not feel quite so magical if we had it all along. Don’t get me wrong, I’m slowly spending more and more time in the warm weather, and at some point, the move will become permanent, but I fully appreciate the lively birdsong after the deep silence of winter. Sometimes wading through discomfort makes the sunny moments so much sweeter. Happy spring!

Monday Musings 4-1-19

I’m just heading home from Planet Comicon in Kansas City. It was a fun, entertaining, exhausting weekend, as all Con weekends are. I love hanging out with fellow science fiction fans and introducing new people to my book series. If we met this weekend and you’re new to Monday Musings, welcome! It was an honor to meet you, and I hope you enjoy my work. Please stay in touch!

At these events, I’ll often meet aspiring writers, wearing the same deer-in-the-headlights look I’m sure I had at the start of this creative adventure, asking for words of wisdom. My advice is always the same. Finish something!

Here’s a post I wrote a while back titled Just Finish It! You’ll Be Glad You Did. If you aren’t a writer, feel free to skip this part and check out the goofy pictures at the bottom!

 It’s important to finish a task. We know this is true for most things in life. If you don’t finish the laundry, you’ll have nothing clean to wear. If you don’t finish a class assignment, you’ll get a failing grade. If you don’t finish a project for a client, you’ll likely get fired.

 For writers, finishing our work is just as important. In this case, I’m talking about finishing a draft. Here are my top five reasons why this is really, really necessary:

An unfinished draft will never become a book.

 If you have no first draft, you have nothing to work with. A terrible first draft is still better than no draft at all. Maybe this draft won’t become a book. Maybe it didn’t turn out the way you planned. Maybe you’ve lost your enthusiasm for it and want to move on to the next idea. But maybe with patience, more work, and good editing, it will become a book worthy of publishing. You won’t know unless you finish it.

You’ll learn to write even when you don’t feel like it.

There are days when I really don’t want to write. I’d rather do just about anything else, like hang out on Twitter, or clean my bathroom, but I have to because this is a job now. What I’ve learned from finishing my projects, even the ones someone else isn’t paying me to finish, are good habits. I know that I have to create a schedule and stick to it. I know I have to fiercely protect my writing time and space. I also know I have to work through writer’s block.

For me, writer’s block has never been about lack of ideas. Instead, it’s been about losing my way with a story and becoming nearly paralyzed with fear that I won’t be able to find a trail of breadcrumbs to follow back. At the end of the day, every writer faces moments when the words won’t flow, or when we simply don’t feel like doing the work. We have to have the wherewithal to do it anyway.

You’ll know you can do it.

Once you’ve completed a project, you’ll know what it takes, and you’ll know you have what it takes. The biggest factor that kept me from starting my first novel years earlier than I did was the idea that I couldn’t finish something, that I wouldn’t be able to sustain the story arc, that I just didn’t have a whole book in my head. When I wrote the last line of my first manuscript, I knew without a doubt I could do it again. Finish something. Even if it’s terrible. Only then will you will know you can.

There will always be another shiny new object.

When I’m in the drafting phase of a project, all the new ideas want to show themselves. I think it’s because my creative juices are flowing and it’s like opening a floodgate! But if I let every shiny new story idea distract me, I’d never finish anything. Instead, if something really promising presents itself, I create a folder, jot down a few notes in an outline, and save it under my “wait your turn” file. I know I won’t lose the thread of the new story, but I also have the discipline to finish what I’ve already started first.

You’ll learn to get through the sticky middle.

Writing the beginning of a story is exciting. Making it to the end feels liberating. But the middle can sometimes get pretty sticky. Once you’ve made it through the middle, which can sometimes feel like getting lost in the forest without that breadcrumb trail again, you’ll know how to do it. Maybe not elegantly, maybe not as skillfully as you will a few years and a few more novels from now, but you’ll have done it, and there’s value in the experience alone.

Keep working and I’ll meet you at the finish line!

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This writer’s life is certainly an adventure!

Monday Musings 3-25-19

One of my sweet kitties died this weekend. I’v written about this guy before and posted many pictures of him on social media. He’s the one who always seemed to know when I needed a little extra love. One of his favorite spots was sprawled next to my computer on the kitchen table, sometimes even on top of the keyboard if he thought I needed a break.

The thing about pets is we know they’re going to break our hearts. Their short lifespan pretty much guarantees we’ll have to say goodbye to them before we’re ready. But the unconditional love they offer to us, and their quiet, unwavering presence in our lives makes the sadness worth it.

As hard as it was to watch my furry friend fade away over the last few weeks from kidney failure, I got to take good care of him and hold him when he passed. Hopefully, I gave him back some of the comfort he brought to me over the last couple of years.

RIP sweet Bede. You will be missed.

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Monday Musings 3-18-19

So much more goes into producing a book than writing the content, a fact which caught me by surprise with my first novel. I’ve written many posts about editing, and what a big part of the process it is. But, there’s more. To take a book from idea to publication requires the expertise of many other talented professionals. It requires writers to put their trust in these folks, not an easy thing considering how attached we are to our creative work. From cover designers to proof readers, we need help to get it all done.

Recently, I’ve been working with a voice actor to produce my books on audio. This process, like publication, requires someone else’s expertise to bring the project to life. Audio is a different medium than print, and my story feels different on that platform. To a degree, it reflects the actor’s interpretation of my words. At first, this idea made me nervous, much as it did when I first started working with a developmental editor. But now, as we get started producing my third book on audio, I’m just plain excited.

I’ve thought a lot about what it means to work with other professionals in a creative space, and how important those relationships are to the quality and success of my work. Really, the rules for working collaboratively are similar in any space. It’s about building relationships. Honest, respectful communication is key, as is treating these folks like the professionals they are. I can’t control everything. At the end of the day, I have to trust the shared vision we’ve created and let them do what they do best. Letting go isn’t easy, but I’ve learned sometimes I need to do just that.

INFINITY is now available on audio. Kudos to David Draffin, the fabulous voice actor, for brining it to life. Let me know what you think!

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Monday Musing 3-11-19

A friend of mine is writing a book. She’s had the idea for a long time. In fact, the story is the backdrop for an amazing product line of fairy-like beings she’s created and turned into a cool small business. She’s hesitated to do the writing for a long time, and we finally got down to the why of it over a couple of cocktails the other night.

What stops most of us from pursuing a dream - whether that dream is climbing a mountain, running a race, finishing a degree, or writing a book - is often fear. Sure, we can make up excuses. I don’t have time, I’m not in shape, I’m not really a writer. Those things may all be true, but for me anyway, the thing that froze me in my tracks before I put one word on a page, was absolutely fear. I didn’t start writing until I was forty years old because I was afraid I really wasn’t as talented as people thought, I wouldn’t be able to finish what I started, and my stories wouldn’t be any good. And the biggest fear of all was that by putting my writing into the world I’d be exposing some sensitive, private pieces of myself.

I think the only way to counter fear is by putting one foot in front of the other. When we do this for long enough, we can look back and track our movements. When we commit to doing something toward our dream every day, we will make progress. Our fear may tell us we aren’t good enough, we’ll never finish, or that others may judge us, but we can make a choice to do our thing anyway.

At the end of the day, what matters most may be our decision to admit we’re afraid and still take that first step forward.

Monday Musings 3-4-19

Last week I spent a couple of hours presenting the Horizon series to an interested third party. It was so much fun to talk about the story arc I’d created, my beloved characters and how they’d developed over time, and the major themes I was interested in exploring through my writing.

When I finished, he asked me whether I’d considered making different choices around particular plot points, or taking any of the action in a different direction. Essentially, he wanted to know how I decided which choices were the right ones for my story. From that conversation, I wrote a blog post titled Have You Lost the Plot? While the post focuses on writing craft, and how to make sure a manuscript doesn’t veer too far from the intended story, I realized I could have easily been talking about life.

Living intentionally is a bit like working on a manuscript. As we craft the narrative of our own lives, we have to have a vision for our story. We have to make choices that support this vision. And, we have to allow room for the unexpected plot twists that will inevitably take us by surprise.

When I feel like I’ve lost the plot, so to speak, it usually means I need to adjust my choices so they better support the story I want to tell.

Monday Musings 2-25-19

Equinox is finished! It’s a strange feeling indeed to have completed the last book in this series, a series I’ve been working on for over six years. I’ve lived in this made-up world, fallen in love with the characters, put them through some tough stuff, and now it’s time to say goodbye. It’s bittersweet, but it’s time.

As I get older, I’ve experienced moving on in many areas of my life. From changing jobs, to moving houses, to watching kids go off to college, letting go is part of the deal, and sometimes knowing when to let go is the trick.

My style, with writing, with the other work I’ve done over the years, with my home life, is to fully invest. I throw my whole self into the experience. I’m all in. I make mistakes, I learn, I grow. But because I’ve given it my full attention, when it’s time to move on, I usually feel ready. I may be nostalgic, but generally, I don’t have regrets.

When I typed “the end” on the last page, it was with a little bit of sadness but also a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I’ve worked hard to improve my craft over these last six years. I’ve learned a ton about the publishing industry. I’ve been invited to teach what I’ve learned. Most importantly, with these books, I think I’ve told a good story.

Equinox will release on May 7th. I hope you enjoy!

Monday Musings 2-18-19

I’ve been working on Equinox edits for a couple of weeks now, and if I want to make my release deadline, I have to keep my nose down and finish. For the last three days, I haven’t moved much from my spot on the couch. There are printed documents strewn everywhere, laundry piled on the kitchen table, and I’m wearing the same pajamas I had on three days ago.

It’s funny, but I don’t really mind. I know this state of suspended reality isn’t going to last. Eventually, the rest of my life will need to be tended to and I’ll be more than ready to get back to it. For now, though, my full focus is on finishing this story and I’ve enjoyed giving it my full attention for the home stretch.

This feeling of being so connected to something you’ve made, and realizing you’re almost ready to share it with the world, is a strange and wonderful part of the creative process. It’s also a time when I know most writers and artists feel pretty vulnerable. We’ve poured ourselves into our work and we have no idea how that work will be received. When I finished writing my first novel, Horizon, I wrote an entire blog post on this subject: Handle with Care. Here’s a little snippet that captures the sentiment:

Any artist in any field understands that to share our work is to be vulnerable. We’ve risked opening our hearts to strangers - with words, in images, with a paintbrush, on a stage. We’ve put something of our private selves out into the world. Even my stories, full of spaceships and evil villains, myths and magic, have some of the real “me” in them. People who know me well will recognize those pieces. But it’s worth it to tell the story. And I’m learning to make peace with the discomfort.

As I finish this last round of edits for the last book in this series, I’m more confident in myself as a writer and in my craft. My skin is definitely thicker when it comes to criticism, but there’s still a moment of hesitation, a bit of discomfort and fragility. What I’ve learned, though, is it’s a pretty universal feeling among us artsy types. When I’m feeling it, I have a whole community of people who encourage me. When I have a chance to offer that encouragement back, I do. And I really am learning to make peace with the discomfort.

Monday Musings 2-4-19

On New Year's Eve this year I went to a dance party with my husband and some friends. I literally danced for hours. Ray, who would have much preferred to be on the stage with his guitar, humored me by filling my champagne glass and letting me shake and twirl all night long.

I got my first pair of ballet slippers when I was seven, scratched up the kitchen floor with my tap shoes at ten, and performed straight through college. Now, with the exception of weddings, I rarely dance at all. Turns out, I really miss it. Yesterday I joined a gym that offers Salsa and Zumba and all kinds of other 'dancey' classes. Today I gave one a try. So much FUN! Loud music, easy choreography, sweaty bodies. What could be better?

I'm not sure why it took me so long to realize I've missed this, or to remember how important it is to do something I love, simply because I love it. I think we all get caught up in our work, in our families, in running our households and businesses. We may even enjoy all these things most days. But, this isn't the same thing as doing something we enjoy for no practical reason whatsoever. Maybe it's time to give ourselves permission to do just that.

Monday Musings 1-14-19

I woke up cranky this morning. It was dark, my to-do list was long, and I felt a little under the weather. Part of this was my fault. I had a heck of a good time over the weekend, but, since I am no longer a spring chicken, apparently I don't recover from a 'good time' very quickly. You probably also know from past posts that winter is my least favorite time of year. I whine about everything from my chapped lips to the lack of daylight. So, altogether, I did not feel like leaping out of bed to face this Monday. 

I did, however, make it to a power yoga class. My yoga practice is one of the things that keeps me moderately well balanced throughout the winter. I make myself go even when I wake up feeling like the Grinch. At the end of today's class, while I suffered in frog pose, the instructor asked us this question: "Can you be present in the moment even when things are unpleasant?" I actually worried that my dark energy had contaminated the room and she was speaking directly to me. 

When I'm in a bad mood, or otherwise not feeling my best, I often wish the time away. I want to extract myself from the discomfort, or just get to the other side of a bad experience. But what I started to think about after my yogic kick-in-the-pants today is how quickly time passes. The older I get, the more acutely I feel it. I don't want to spend my energy wishing time away or focusing on my own internal darkness.

Turns out, after the cue this morning, it wasn't hard to make a mental shift. I can be present even when things are unpleasant because I don't want to miss out on this moment. I know I won't get it back.

Monday Musings 1-7-19

I only spent one semester as an English major before switching over to Classics, so when I started my official writing career, I didn't have a degree to support it, or any real experience. What I learned, though, is that the way you become a writer is by, well, writing.

First, you write crap. Then you rewrite it. Or maybe you put that project aside and start a new one. Somewhere along the way, you realize actual skill is required to do this job well. Like any form of art, talent alone doesn't cut it.

I found that workshops, conferences, critique partners, and good editors made all the difference. I could produce content while improving my craft. Now, on occasion, I get to lead those workshops, guest lecture, and, in different ways, teach new writers some of what I've learned along the way.

Saturday, January 12th at 10:00 am, I'll be at the Pascoag Public Library hosting a workshop on World-Building. For science fiction and fantasy writers, crafting believable worlds in unbelievable settings is part of the job. But, as I've learned, we can't just dump detail after detail into our story or we'll bore our readers to distraction. Seamlessly weaving in background, history, and setting, creating rules for magic and advanced technology, and bringing authenticity to our imaginary worlds requires skill. And, there are actual lessons to be learned on how to do this.

So, if you're an aspiring writer and in the area, check it out. Here's a FB link with more info: Author Series: World Building with Tabitha Lord. Maybe I'll see you there!