writer's life

Monday Musings 4-15-19

It’s the Monday morning after a con again. I can barely keep my eyes open, my back is sore, my car is still waiting to be unloaded, and there are piles of laundry sprouting like weeds from every room in the house. But my face still hurts a little from laughing so hard all weekend. My back is partially sore because we had a mini dance party behind our booth. My mailing list is full of new names, including readers and aspiring writers I had the pleasure of meeting. And, my good friend and I outlined our new works-in-progress during the six hour drive home, both during and after our stop for Italian somewhere off the Jersey turnpike.

Cons are a place where fans, vendors, artists, writers, and celebrities share space and celebrate together. If you’ve never been to one, and your tastes don’t run toward zombies, aliens, superheroes, mythical creatures, or spaceships, you might miss the appeal. But if you have a sports team, band, or a hobby you truly love, you probably understand the enthusiasm at least. As someone who is both a fan of all things science fiction (and zombie, alien, superhero, mythical creature and spaceship related) and a creator in that world, I’m energized when I’m surrounded by others who enjoy the same things. I’m inspired by it even.

One of the best parts of spending time immersed in the fandom is doing it with my fellow authors. Sure we’re promoting our books, signing, talking to readers, and working hard. But we also have long stretches of time to discuss our craft, encourage each other, brainstorm, and of course, stay up late eating, drinking, and being merry. When I’m at these events, I am reminded how joyful it is to share something I love with a community who appreciates it.

Below, evidence of shenanigans!

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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 3-18-19

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 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.