15-20 The Prep Sweat


It’s prep time.

Actually, I’m lying to you. It’s not. Not yet. I’m still finishing the last 22,000 words of Olympus, Book 2 of the Firebird Chronicles. If I keep to 2000 words a day until the end of January, I’ll finish February 1st—right on schedule. And then it will well and truly be prep time.

            What is prep time, you ask?

            Well, it’s the advice that I’ve accumulated from three years of dedicated reading of publishers’ and authors’ blogs. When a new book is coming out, you give yourself months of time in advance for marketing. You want people looking for your book before it comes out, you want to make them eager for the new volume.

            I can’t say that I ignored this advice last year, but I definitely didn’t do it justice. I spent January and February deciding how I wanted to publish Firebird. March and April were dedicated to revising and editing, plus designing the book’s cover once I’d decided to self-publish. May was exhausting. TayTay had let me know how frustrating (excruciating) formatting a book was, but I’d sort of taken that in stride. How hard could it be?

            Hard. Harder than hard. It’s infuriating. Moving one little thing resets a week’s work. The cover alone took me three tries before I could even upload it correctly. A lot of trial and error. It’s not that I didn’t read the directions or listen to advice, it’s just that until you actually try to publish a book, you don’t realize the depth of what you’re hearing.

            So last year, I missed the ball on prep time. Not this year. I’m working on parties for my book coming out. But more than that, I’m getting my art ready.


Bookmarks, business cards, and covers—oh my!

            As you can see from this blog’s cover photo, I’ve got my designs ready to roll. The bookmarks this year are advertising Book 2 of my Firebird Chronicles, Olympus. One side features what could—conceivably—be a dragon. Because the world is better with dragons. And the opposite side showcases my newest character, who you will get to know in Olympus. Her name is Eve, and I think I’m in love with her.

            My business cards have Ori on one side—she’s my first sketch, the first character I drew and painted…the first trial-and-error attempt to use Adobe’s Illustrator for painting—and Dr. Ravin on the other. Now the doctor…she plays a vital role in Olympus. I’m proud that you get to know all of Firebird’s crew better in this book—including Firebird herself—but Dr. Ravin is one of my more twisted creations, and she has earned her place on my cards.

            I paused the other day, while trying my first sketches of Overlord Biggie. I’ve named my books the Firebird Chronicles. They’re about the rebel Firebird. She’s the namesake, the axis upon which my Worlds turn. And I haven’t even tried to draw her face.

            I know exactly what she looks like—I’ve got everything from her pock-marked face to her Native American heritage burned into my brain. But when I think about sketching her, something stays my hand. There is something here, something like magic, and it feels wrong to contain Firebird on paper. Perhaps she will be my final sketch, the best for last. Or, just maybe, I never will draw her.

            Firebird is a woman born to inspire. And to each reader, I like to think she means something different. Putting the face of my inspiration on paper seems impossible.


Have I mentioned how excited I am about this book?

            Writers everywhere understand a fundamental truth: we are our own harshest critic. I’d say worst enemy, but that’s not quite true. Sometimes I’m also my own biggest fan.

            I don’t mean to sound cocky, although I suppose I am. I have moments where I’m sure that my book is pure gold, when I believe I could change the word with but a few well-placed sentences. And then, the very next hour, I reread a chapter and slap my laptop closed in disgust.

            Garbage! I’ve written garbage! My words don’t flow! My characters are flimsy! There’s surely a thousand plot holes I’ve missed! Who in their right mind would read this?

            I don’t know what is born when we tell a story, but it’s surely a monster in my brain. I love and hate writing as I never have a person. It’s my everything. And it surely hates me.

            Battling the many-fanged writing monster aside, I’m excited for Olympus. I read it, and I can’t wait to share it with you. I truly—in my saner moments—believe that it is better than the first one. You see more of my characters, their edges and flaws. You experience new places on terraformed Mars and can play with it in new, unexpected ways.

            And it’s rough. My chapters don’t flow, sort of like the paragraphs in this day’s blog don’t. I’m excited one second and trudging the next. If I’m being honest, it’s going to be a rough couple of months as my beta readers and I iron it to perfection. So buckle up. It’s a wild ride.

            If you’d like to have one of my bookmarks, email me at krilliams@gmail.com. I’ll mail one out to you! And hopefully I’ll have a schedule of my planned events and the bookstores that carry me soon, as well. The future is bright, my friends!


Tonight was one for magic.

            I started a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign in December with my family and a couple close friends. There are seven of us, if we all can make it, and I have to admit that it’s at the very edge of what I can maintain. That said, I’m in love with this campaign.

            I had my crew awaken on the banks of the River Styx with no recollection of who they are, nor what they could possibly have been doing there. I filled out the greater portion of their character sheets and started them at level 6. So far, they’ve been hunted by dragon lords and tormented by an Oni. They’re evil and confused, but most of all, adventurers.

            I should also mention that about half of the members have never played D&D before, and I’m only hosting my second campaign. There’s still a lot of shuffling through charts and books, looking for the correct way to battle or cast a certain spell. But this is a good group of people and, should it take a bit too long to find something, we just have another beer.

            I incorporated a bit of drinking into tonight’s session (naturally) and had the characters chose between difficult riddles or simply chugging contests (guess which one out). They’re lively and creative, kind and wicked. All in all, it’s turning out to be one of my favorite campaigns (playing or DMing.)

            And two of our players are Skyping in from a thousand miles away. It’s amazing how my brain tricks itself into believing they’re sitting right in front of me. It’s amazing being able to talk and play this game with them. We really need some better equipment, as it’s hard to hear them/for them to hear me sometimes, but I have every confidence that my group will find the best possible way. Eventually. With the help of microphones and google.


Today, we drank.

            I had some friends over in the hopes of snowmobiling. But as anyone who has ever tried to get a 17-year-old snowmobile running when it’s thirty below zero can tell you, plans don’t always work out. After battling the Minnesota winter for as long as we could stand, we eventually relinquished our dreams and—at TayTay’s humble suggestion—got drunk instead.

            We played the Hobbit, Catan, and Telestrations. There was mutiny in the middle of Catan’s Cities and Knights (as TayTay was clearly running away with the game) and our mimosa/bloody mary-soaked brains flung us outside to go sledding. It was—to say the least—invigorating, sledding at -30. But we put our snowmobile suites to good use and, all told, continued our shenanigans well into the night.

            And by well into the night, I mean about 8 PM. It certainly felt like midnight, after a day of champagne, vodka and beer. A hot bath and a wood fire, and I was slumbering on my bathroom floor with my chilly little Gimmer-dog.

            The only flaw in an otherwise perfect day (dead snowmobiles included) was that I didn’t get any writing done. In fact, I skipped out on Friday as well, playing Dungeons and Dragons instead. The result is that I’ve got to make 2000 words a day instead of 1400. It’s another hour of work, at least. And after an 8-hour day at the office, it’s everything I can do not to just lay down on my couch, have dinner, and fall asleep to some brain-numbing TV show.

            But that’s what it takes. Writing a book is at least 3 hours a day of solitude. It’s not going to the new Aquaman movie and not taking that night ski. It’s long and stressful and tedious, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.


Today, I hid from alcohol.

            Go figure, but mixing champagne, vodka, and beer is a really bad idea. Drinking all day isn’t the best idea, either. Add in smacking myself in the face with the cold side of a snowmobile helmet, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a day of self-pity and loathing.

            I watched too much television, cuddled Gimmer on my couch, and did basically nothing until 3 PM. The depth of my misery surprised me, as we had gone to bed early the night before and I was scrupulous about ingesting water. But the fates aligned, and I suffered their whim.

            I did try to write, in my defense. I opened my laptop and stared at it first thing that morning. And then I ate greasy food and went back to bed.

            After a day of slumber healed what it could, I wandered down to watch the football games at my parents’ house. I was disgruntled with the Patriots pulling another win out of their asses, but my business cards had arrived the day before and I was in a decent mood (for a sloth).

            So we went outside, braced ourselves against the -30 weather, and spent the night in front of a bonfire, waiting for the lunar eclipse. It was…surreal, I suppose. Some part of my brain was horrified that the moon was being eaten, that surely a long night would fall and we would be reduced to anarchy and witchcraft.

            And, to be honest, my inner cavewoman was more than relieved to see the moon when I woke this morning. I guess for all the trappings and illusions, we’re still just little animals flopping about in the moonlight.

            Peace, Kristen

1 comment

  • Love the bookmarks. Really excited for book #2! Also D&D is the best, I used to play every week with friends in San Francisco before I moved back to Minnesota. I miss it a lot! Props to you for DMing, it’s an impressive feat of creativity.


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