Last week, I sent out a call for beta readers for three of my short stories about dragons. If you haven’t seen it yet, find out more here!
I mentioned that the stories I’m editing are going to be compiled into an ebook as part of a self-publishing venture. So today, I want to talk about what this little experiment is all about.
The Dragon Story Experiment
After five years of blogging, I realized it’s high time for an upgrade in my status as a writer. Obviously this includes actually publishing a book already, but there’s more to it than that.
After a month of reflection, I’ve been getting myself excited about changing… well, pretty much everything about my online presence.
But before I do, I want to “test the waters” of the Kindle market. And I felt there were no better stories to start with than a handful that I’ve already shared online and found moderate success with.
Why these stories?
I chose three stories with a common theme that have already been well received, which gives me a major confidence boost going in.
Here’s the catch, though: all the feedback I’ve gotten on these stories so far has come from writers, fellow artists who are already familiar with the craft and the work that goes into every story.
On the one hand, this is good because experienced writers can identify mistakes that go unnoticed by the untrained eyes of average readers. On the other, writers may be more inclined to be positive and encouraging than brutally honest to fellow artists out of empathy. We all want to be supportive, right?
So my experiment is to try to expand the reach of my writing and see if it still holds up with average readers who are just looking for a good story.
The first step is to show my stories to beta readers who have volunteered to point out the strengths and weaknesses in my writing and help me make it better. The next is to put the final drafts of those stories in front of paying readers and see how they fare. Whatever happens, I’ll take what I learn and apply that knowledge to my future self-published books.
Now is probably a good time to mention that my “author persona upgrade” will almost definitely come with a name change! Wait, what? Again, more on this later.
This test run is therefore a way get my work out there without the fear of failure. Nobody likes it? No problem; it’s not really me! Everyone likes it? Great, now I know for sure that I can write stories readers enjoy!
So what does this all mean? Well, nothing yet. For now, I’ll continue writing and blogging as usual. But I am planning to change that in a couple of months when my blog turns five years old!
Until then, I’ll be focusing on my mini short story anthology. Here’s hoping my experiment is a success!
Are you interested in being a beta reader for my short stories? Sign up for my beta readers’ list!
Do you like fantasy? Do you like short stories? Do you like dragons? Do you love free fantasy short stories about dragons? Well, then do I have an exciting offer for you!
So remember how I mentioned at the beginning of January that I want to finally self-publish this year? Well, I’m kicking off that New Year’s resolution with a little experiment!
I’m compiling three short stories about dragons that I’ve already written and published online into a single ebook. I’m editing those stories now, but when I’m done, I’ll need some beta readers to look them over and give feedback to help me polish them into a “publishable” form.
This small short story anthology will be a self-publishing “test run” while I prepare to make some big changes to my platform (more on that later).
If you’re interested in reading early drafts of my stories, sign up for my beta readers mailing list (no spam, double pinky promise)! You should receive a confirmation email first, then a welcome email after you finish signing up. 😉
Note: if you don’t receive a confirmation email after using the form above, try signing up again here: http://eepurl.com/di4ZE9
Be sure to leave a comment if you sign up so I can check that you made it onto my list! And please let me know if you have any problems signing up! I’m still new to this whole email thing, so there may still be some bugs to work out. Thanks!
To those of you who choose to sign up, thank you so much for your interest in my stories! It seriously means the world to me!
Thanks for reading, and may you all have a productive and successful 2018!
Last year was certainly an interesting one for history, but also for my reading list! I finally got around to enjoying a few classics I’d been wanting to read for years, so today I’m focusing on one of them for my first book review of 2018. As if you haven’t heard about it enough in the past year, here’s my review of 1984 by George Orwell!
First published in 1949, 1984 (or Nineteen Eighty-Four) is a dystopian political novel and the last book ever written by George Orwell. The protagonist of the story is Winston Smith, an Outer Party member living in the fictional totalitarian superstate of Oceania. The government of Oceania is run by the Inner Party, commonly referred to only as the Party, and enforces an ideology known as Ingsoc.
Winston works in the Ministry of Truth, revising historical records for the government while secretly hating the Party and dreaming of rebellion against their leader, Big Brother. The novel follows Winston as he navigates through a world where history is fiction, the government is always watching you, and independent thinking is punishable by death.
First off, I know it may seem like I only read this book now because it feels more relevant than ever, but while that was a valid reason that did make the book easier to find (I picked it up from a “bestsellers” table at Barnes & Noble), the truth is that George Orwell’s 1984 is a book I’d been wanting to read for years but that I hadn’t found the time (or copy in English) to read until last year.
Having said that, the fact that I read the book in 2017 may have made it that much more realistic and terrifying.
The totalitarian nightmare that is the world of 1984 is one of the scariest things I’ve ever read in a book, probably because it feels so real. Modern history aside, the idea of an authoritarian government with absolute power existing only 35 years into the first edition’s future speaks volumes about how easily people can be manipulated and controlled.
The most obvious criticism within this theme is against communism (Ingsoc being short for “English Socialism”), which was still on the rise in Orwell’s day, but the author was warning us about the dangers of psychological manipulation and the control of information even in democratic societies. As is mentioned later in the story, the Party seeks power solely for the sake of power, and in so doing, deprives humanity of the very freedoms that make us human.
But as noted in this TED-Ed video, “authoritarian alone does not Orwellian make.” The scariest part of Oceania’s totalitarian regime isn’t the omnipresent surveillance nor the persecution of individualism, terrifying as they are; it’s the control of thought and behavior through language.
The official language of Oceania is Newspeak—a version of English stripped down to its barest bones. In Newspeak, most words have a single concrete meaning, sentences are constructed via a basic grammatical system, and entire words and definitions have been scrapped from the dictionary. The point of this is to completely eliminate critical thinking from the population, thus maintaining the Party’s power indefinitely. If that idea doesn’t send chills down your spine, I don’t know what will.
It is in these portrayals of language and thought that George Orwell’s astute observations about society are most evident. In his essay “Politics and the English Language” (1946), he examines the use of language as a political device—or more accurately, the distortion of language as a catalyst for political manipulation.
Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. – George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language” (1946)
Overall, 1984 is a chilling yet fascinating read that deserves its place among the greatest novels ever written for its timeless message of warning to humanity. Though I’m sure he could never have imagined a future with the Internet and social media, Orwell was right to urge us not to lose our language and individual thought. They’re our greatest defenses against the threat of a world where war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.
Orwell’s 1984 is considered one of the most powerful and influential literary works of the 20th century, and with good reason. Despite having been written in the late 1940s, the book only seems to become more relevant with each passing year. Why else do sales of this novel continue to spike over half a century since its debut?
Along with Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, 1984 is part of the trilogy of quintessential “negative utopia” novels of the mid 20th century. To this day, it inspires us to imagine a world without the basic freedoms we take for granted and to question if we’re really headed in the right direction as a society.
In the digital age, we’ve long been at the point of willingly trading privacy for convenience, and a case can be made for how we already practice “doublethink” every day. It’s no wonder this novel continues to top bestseller charts in the 21st century: we’re already living in the future of mass surveillance and public manipulation!
It’s worth noting that spikes in sales of 1984 are not that uncommon. Remember Edward Snowden and the NSA scandal? Current events have a way of drawing people back to this classic again and again, but whether that’s a good or a bad thing depends on your perspective. Yes, it’s scary to think we’re becoming the world Orwell predicted in the ’40s, but it’s good that we’re recognizing the signs early, right?
While it’s easy to read a book like 1984 and fear the expanding powers of government, Orwell’s story is more of a cautionary tale for society as a whole. It’s not just our democracy and political integrity that we must protect, but our language and our ability to think critically.
Like the people of Oceania before the perpetual war and the rise of Ingsoc, we are responsible for the course our history takes. The difference is that we may still have a chance to preserve our rights and defend our individuality before it’s too late.
Last week, I shared the first half of my list of top ten books I want to read in 2018. Now let’s dive into the second half! Here are the other five books I want to read this year! Enjoy!
6) A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
After finally finishing A Game of Thrones last year, I just got the second book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series for Christmas! Like its predecessor, A Clash of Kings is an epic story spanning a few hundred pages, and given that I’m a relatively slow reader, I admit that I probably won’t finish it this year. Still, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it as much as the first book. Hopefully this one won’t take me another three years to finish!
7) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Speaking of “the second book”, another series I started reading last year is The Hunger Games. Since I enjoyed the first book and all four movies, I’m looking forward to continuing the series with Catching Fire. And yes, I’ve heard that the sequels aren’t quite as good as the first book, as is often the case with YA series, but it seems a shame to start a trilogy I like and not finish it!
8) Arrival by Ted Chiang
This one is a slightly different choice for me, as it’s actually a collection of short stories instead of a single novel. Originally titled Stories of Your Life and Others, Arrival is the book on which the movie of the same name is based—or rather, it contains the short story on which the movie is based, “Story of Your Life”. Considering I’d like to read more sci-fi and short fiction this year, I’m looking forward to reading these stories!
9) Good Wives (Little Women, Part 2) by Louisa May Alcott
Did you know that the novel Little Women exists in two versions? One is only the first part, spanning a single year in the lives of the March sisters; the other is the full story that continues into their adult lives. The second part, when published separately from the first, is usually sold under the title Good Wives.
Well, I read Little Women two years ago and loved it, but since the copy I had was only “Act 1”, I still have yet to enjoy the whole book. This year, I plan to get my hands on a copy of the full version of Little Women so I can finally finish the story! (Yes, I’ll be sure to keep tissues handy!)
10) Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Yes, it’s another nonfiction space book by Neil deGrasse Tyson! Like StarTalk, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is another book I intend to borrow from my boyfriend, who received it as a birthday gift last year. We’re both fascinated with space and I do enjoy popular science, so I know I’ll have fun reading this book!
And that concludes my list of books to read in 2018! I hope you enjoyed it, and as always, thanks for reading!
What about you? Any books you’d like to read this year? What other goals have you set for 2018?
January is a time for starting fresh and setting new personal goals, and in my case, that includes reading more! Every year, I make a New Year’s resolution to read at least ten new books, and 2018 is no different. After last year’s selections turned out to be enjoyable reads, I’m looking forward to diving into this year’s list!
So to start off my 2018 goals, here’s the first part of my list of the top ten books I want to read this year. Enjoy!
1) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany
I know, as an avid Harry Potter fan, I really should have read this one by now. The good news is that I received Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as a birthday present last year, so I have no excuse not to read it now! I finished reading the Harry Potter series close to a decade ago, so it’s been too long since I’ve read J.K. Rowling’s work. Even if this book/play was written mostly by another writer, I’m looking forward to being “reunited” with Rowling’s beloved characters!
2) Misery by Stephen King
Would you judge me if I told you I’ve never read a Stephen King novel? As a writer, it’s just embarrassing! Despite having wanted to read his books for years, the great Mr. King remained absent from my bookshelf until last year, when I received a copy of Misery as a gift from a family member. I wasn’t yet sure which King novel I wanted to start with, but my mom has recommended this one to me in the past, so I already know I’ll love it!
3) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
After reading 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 last year, it seemed only too obvious to want to read this book next. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World always appears on lists of “must-read dystopian novels” alongside George Orwell’s 1984 and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, and given the strange times we’re living in, it feels like dystopian fiction is more “must-read” than ever. Not to mention the elements of genetic engineering in this story will certainly appeal to my biologist side!
4) The Martian by Andy Weir
Here’s another book I got for my birthday last year! The Martian was added to my to-read list in 2017, though I haven’t yet had a chance to dive into it. I’ve heard it’s a very fun read, and given how much I enjoyed the movie (and how much I like stories about space in general), I’m sure I’ll enjoy the book even more! Now that it’s finally on my shelf, I can’t wait to read it!
5) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Much like 1984 until last year, To Kill a Mockingbird is a book I’ve been wanting to read for years but haven’t yet had the chance to enjoy. So as not to overindulge in dystopian fiction (again) this year, I decided to include a historical classic in my list of books to read in 2018… but, you know, one that still feels relevant to modern times. Being a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and a classic of modern American literature, I know I can’t leave this book off my bucket list!
What about you? What books are you planning to read in 2018? Any other resolutions for the new year?
Happy New Year! It’s the first week of 2018, which means it’s time to dive into our New Year’s resolutions! A new year means a fresh start, right? So for my first creative writing post of the year, here are a few of the goals I’m setting for 2018 (and beyond). Enjoy!
To take my blogging to the next level
What exactly does this mean? That’s an excellent question. To be honest, I still only have a vague idea of how I want to achieve this goal, but I am aware that my blogging has been relative static over the past couple of years (thanks, grad school) and I’d like to start taking it more seriously. Of course, talk is cheap and fear is powerful, but even simple steps like growing my mailing list and experimenting with guest posting could make a big difference in the months ahead. Once again, we’ll see how this year goes!
To become a published author
I mentioned last year that I finally finished the rough draft of my first fantasy novel, so I’m closer than ever to achieving my dream of being a published author! The editing will still take a while to complete, but in the meantime, I’m planning to self-publish some shorter stories to build up my author profile and work my way up to self-publishing novels. It’s a long road ahead on my creative journey, and I’m more excited than ever!
To make a living from my passion(s)
Writing fiction has been my greatest passion since childhood, so it’s no secret I’ve been dreaming of making a living from it my whole life. Interestingly, I discovered last year that aside from writing, I’m also cut out for editing and proofreading work; in fact, most of my income since finishing school has actually come from editing blog posts and web content. This year, I plan to continue focusing on these passions of mine until I become completely independent! Here’s to an even more productive year!
What about you? Any new resolutions for 2018? What are your plans for your writing?
Welcome to my final creative writing post of 2017! The last week of December is a great time to look back on our resolutions from January and how much we’ve accomplished in the past year. So to finish off 2017, here’s another review of my New Year’s resolutions and what I achieved in my writing this year. Enjoy!
Did I get published in a scientific journal?
Not yet, but the paper has been submitted and is currently awaiting review. It ended up going through several major changes as we tried to decide whether it should be a full paper or a brief note, and the revision process took a bit longer than expected (though that’s bound to happen when the co-authors live in different parts of the world). In any case, we’re closer to publication than ever before. Hopefully the upcoming revisions will be the “easy part”!
Did I make a career out of my writing?
Yes, in a way. While my original plan at the beginning of the year was to get into freelance writing, I soon realized that when it comes to working for others, I have a better knack for editing and proofreading than for writing.
In the year since I started working through Fiverr, I’ve become a Level Two seller, earned dozens of 5-star reviews, and gained a pretty good reputation as a blog post editor. I also finished the first draft of my fantasy novel earlier in the year and have been editing it ever since. On the side, I’ve been working on some short stories for publication on Kindle to build my author profile (which frankly I should have done a long time ago). So much writing to do in the new year, and I can’t wait!
Did I continue growing my blogging network?
Yes! It’s still a bit of a slow process, as always (I’m calling super shyness and “fear of success” on this one, not that they’re valid excuses), but I’ve taken some big steps this year to learn how to grow my blog even more. I’ve been planning to make some significant changes to my blogging style, such as growing my mailing list and experimenting with guest posting, which will hopefully expand my network further in 2018. Here’s to a productive new year!
What about you? What have you accomplished with your writing in 2017? I hope you had a productive year and that your 2018 will be even better! Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!
Christmas is almost here, which means it’s a great time to share some more forms of art related to holiday cheer! I’ve already written about my favorite Christmas stories and songs (twice) in the past, so this year I thought it would be fun to share a short post about my favorite Christmas specials! Of course, there are several to choose from, so maybe I’ll feature more in a future Christmas blog post!
So to celebrate the holiday season, here are three of my favorite Christmas specials! Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!
1) “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965)
I know, everyone adds this one to their list of favorite Christmas specials, but why wouldn’t they? It’s a classic! First broadcast in 1965, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has been a holiday favorite for decades, and will probably continue to be one for generations to come.
Charlie Brown’s quest to understand the true meaning of Christmas communicates a timeless message of how the holiday spirit can easily be lost in materialism but still overcome it in the end. Linus’ speech about the story of Christmas and the heartwarming ending scene with Charlie Brown’s tiny Christmas tree have cemented this holiday special on my list of all-time favorites. Not to mention it has a phenomenal soundtrack! I now make it a point to listen to it every December. It’s the perfect music to get into the holiday spirit!
2) “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” (1966)
Dr. Seuss was a huge part of my childhood, so of course a classic Christmas special based on one of his books had to be on my list! Continuing on the same theme as “Charlie Brown”, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” is another great story that criticizes the commercialization of Christmas and reminds us that the holiday season should be about so much more than presents and feasts.
For as long as I’ve been watching this special, the Grinch has always made me laugh with his antics, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I get a little choked up every time his heart grows three sizes and he embraces the true meaning of Christmas. With its fantastic story, animation, narration, and music, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” is another holiday special for the ages!
3) “Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean” (1992)
Hey, I never said anything about listing my favorite American Christmas specials! I have so many fond memories of watching Mr. Bean with my sisters, and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean” was always one of our favorite episodes. From playing with a nativity scene to conducting a Christmas band to getting a turkey stuck on his head, Mr. Bean never failed to keep us laughing from beginning to end. Definitely a Christmas special worth watching!
What about you? What are some of your favorite Christmas specials?
As we reach the end of 2017, it’s a good time to look back on our achievements over the past year. Back in January, I set another goal to read 10 books for the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and though I’m still technically working on it, I’m optimistic about reaching my goal again!
2017 Reading Goal: 10 books
Total books read in 2017: 8 books (80%)
Books I planned to read this year and did
- The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
- A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin
- Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
- 1984, by George Orwell
Books I planned to read this year but didn’t
- Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
- The Martian, by Andy Weir
- Shogun, by James Clavell
- The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
- StarTalk, by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Books I read this year but didn’t plan to
- I Am Pusheen the Cat, by Claire Belton
- High Performance Paperback, by Ray Brehm and Jim Molinelli
- You Are A Writer, by Jeff Goins
- The Adventure, by Jennifer M Zeiger
Books I’m still reading
- Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
- Creating Character Arcs, by K.M. Weiland
- The Business of Writing & Editing, by Sagan Morrow
And last but not least…
My Favorite Book of the Year: 1984, by George Orwell
What about you? Did you set any reading goals this year? Were you able to meet them? What were your favorite books of the year?
December is here! Another year has come and gone, and with the holiday season about to shift into high gear, it’s a great time for some more “What If?” Writing Prompts! This week’s batch of prompts once again centers around the theme of the holidays. See what holiday stories you can write from these ideas! Enjoy!
What if… instead of giving presents, Christmas centered around a tradition of doing good deeds?
What if… your family only celebrated a made-up non-commercial holiday like Festivus in December?
What if… you received a mysterious Christmas present from a relative who had passed away?
What if… one Hanukkah, you and your family played a mystery game in which you’d get one new clue every night until someone won?
What if… every year, at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, you had the power to make it January 1st of any year in history, but had to live that entire year until the following New Year’s Eve?
Good luck writing more stories about the holidays!
If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!