Beta Reader Feedback: Update on the Dragon Story Experiment

It’s been a month since I called for beta readers for my short stories about dragons. (Calls are still open, by the way! If you’re interested, check out my original post here.)

After sharing what my self-publishing experiment is all about, now is a good time for an update on my stories and the feedback I’ve received from beta readers so far! So how have my stories been faring?

Short Story #1: “Defender”

The first story I lined up for my beta readers is “Defender”, a story about a battle between a dragon and a knight as told from the dragon’s point of view. This one is the most recent of the three; I first published this story on my blog in January 2017. It started as a simple 1000-word story, but after expanding on the action during editing, it doubled in length to 2000 words!

Of my three dragon stories, this one may be my favorite. The feedback on this story has been overwhelmingly positive so far! Obviously, the exclusively positive comments have come from family and friends, but I did receive some constructive feedback from a couple of readers, which was great! I’ll definitely be sure to consider their notes for the final edit!

Short Story #2: “Beastly Pains”

My second story is “Beastly Pains”, a story about a boy who is cornered by a dragon and has to negotiate his way out of being eaten. This one is the oldest of my three stories; I first shared it in a writing community in early 2014. It started at about 2000 words long, but after editing, it grew to around 2200 words.

This one took me over a week longer than I expected to edit, mostly because my writing has greatly improved over the last few years, so there was a lot to delete and change! I sent it out to my beta readers at the end of last week, so I’ve only received constructive feedback from one reader so far (again, family and friends don’t count). Her notes were very helpful and I look forward to using them to improve the final draft of the story!

Short Story #3: “The Silver Queen”

My third story is “The Silver Queen”, a story about an outcast dragon looking for a way to fit in. I’m particularly proud of this story because it won an honorable mention in a short story contest back in 2014. It’s currently sitting at about 2000 words but may end up slightly longer in the final beta draft.

I’m still editing this one (thanks to the delay with “Beastly Pains”), so I haven’t yet sent it out to my beta readers. Though I have no feedback to report right now, I am confident it will be well received, if for no other reason than I was definitely inspired when I wrote it! I plan to send it out within the next week. Hopefully my beta readers will like it!

To those of you who have been beta reading my stories this month, thank you so much for your time and feedback! You’re awesome!

Not my beta reader yet but interested in being one? Sign up for my beta readers’ list!

Here There Be Dragons: About My Self-Publishing Experiment

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.

Why now?

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!

Wanted: Fantasy Beta Readers! (Feb 2018)

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!

The Ancient Behemoth

(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)

The knight had never seen a battle that surprised him.

Until that fateful day when the terrible creature appeared.

No one would survive to tell the tale.

He wondered what had made everyone freeze.

Then he smelled its fiery breath.

The entire army stared, speechless.

Nervously, he turned around.

Piercing yellow eyes.

Enormous teeth.

Dragon!


This piece is based on What If? Exercise 93: “Ten to One”. The exercise is to write a 55-word story in which the first sentence has ten words, the second has nine, etc., until the last sentence has only one word. The objective is to show that precision and thrift in writing can produce surprisingly powerful results. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

Back to the story

Defender

Why does he have to attack me? What did I ever do to him? I’m sure I’ve never seen him before, yet here he is, charging straight at me with the light of the sun at his back. He looks like all the others: clad in glistening steel from head to toe, sword and shield at his sides, a white horse carrying him full speed into battle. Hopefully he’ll end up like the others too.

I stand my ground and turn to face the knight head-on, ready for what’s become a routine encounter over the past month. As always, I’m terrified, but I can’t let it show. The slightest hint of weakness and you’re roasting on a spit for the next royal feast faster than you can yell “Scram!”

He shouts something at me as he draws nearer. I can’t catch all the words through his closed visor and the whistling mountain wind, but I know what he’s saying. Every knight comes here for the same reason. Everyone wants to be the hero who slew the dragon and saved the kingdom. What difference does it make to any of them what I do? It’s not like they live on the old farms I scavenge. None of them know what it’s like to have hungry children to feed when winter turns the mountain into a barren wasteland. They don’t care if my family and I deserve a chance to survive, so long as they get their precious gold and glory.

I’d explain myself if I thought he could understand me. It wouldn’t matter; they never listen anyway. Not one of these buffoons has ever bothered trying to reason with me or hear my side of the story. All they see when they look at me is a monster who’d sooner rip their heads off than glance at them. So that’s what I give them.

The knight reaches my clearing and raises his sword and shield. Time to defend. I open my jaws and release a carefully aimed jet of flame at him, straight into the shield so it burns but doesn’t ignite him. Before he can look up, I bring my tail crashing down inches from his steed. The animal rears and throws its rider off before it turns and gallops back into the woods. Good riddance. I’m sick of seeing these white horses on my mountain. Why is it always white? Are horses color-coded for service? Or is it the same horse every time? Either way, it always gets scared off in the first minute. That’s the easy part.

The man staggers to his feet and faces me again, sword and shield still in hand. His visor is open now, and this time I can hear the words he yells up at me.

“Your days of destruction are over, foul beast! Prepare to die!”

I’d roll my eyes, but I don’t want to egg him on. Prepare to die. Like I haven’t heard that a million times. I have to give him credit for his bravery, though; most of them run away as soon as they lose their horse. Not so tough on two legs.

I tower over the knight and stare him down, ready for his next attack. He runs forward with his shield up, but I step back and shoot a fireball over his head. He ducks and rolls as if it would have hit him, then swings the blade at my front claws. It cuts, but not deep enough to sting. I’m lucky these fools never think to bring long-range weapons. If they ever figure out to go straight for my heart, I’ll be toast for sure.

The knight hacks at my claws a few times, then raises his shield again when he sees me open my mouth. Another stream of fire washes over him for a few seconds, and it’s his turn to attack again. This back-and-forth continues for several rounds, until at last I start to see the signs of fatigue in his movements. Time to end this.

Just as he lowers his shield and raises his weapon for the umpteenth time, I swing my tail back around and knock him to the ground. He falls on his back as the blade and shield go flying. Before he can recover his breath, I pin him to the earth beneath my claws and bring my face close to his, baring my fangs at him. Finally I see the satisfying fear in his eyes.

“GO AWAY!” I shout in my native tongue. He doesn’t understand my words, but I know he’ll get the message. I lift my claws with him still between them and drop him on his feet, then I roar until he bolts off in the same direction as his horse. Turns out he’s not just one of the bravest challengers so far; he’s also one of the fastest.

Exhausted yet triumphant, I sweep the fallen sword and shield into a nearby chasm full of lost weapons before I turn and walk back up to my cave. Three hatchlings are poking their heads out of the cavern, and I know at once that they were watching the whole time. They put on brave faces as I saunter in, pretending they knew how the battle would play out, but I’m sure they’re relieved that their mother is home again.

“Mama”, says my youngest as I cradle all three under my wings, her wide green eyes betraying the fear hidden in her voice, “will they ever leave us alone?”

I’m asked the same question after every battle, either by her or one of her brothers. The best I can ever do is smile at them and say reassuringly, “We’ll see.” Mothers are supposed to protect their children, even from the truth. I know the people in the valley. They won’t stop until I’m dead or the kingdom runs out of glory-hungry idiots. And the kingdom never runs out of idiots.

Sometimes I wonder if I should just kill the knights. It would be a much more effective way to make sure they don’t come back. My children have never tasted human before… but with good reason. I don’t want to set a bad example. It’s hard enough living in a world that thinks you’re evil; we can’t afford to lose all reason by living up to the hype. Too many of our kind have gone down that dark path, and it never ends well. Still, I have hope that it won’t always be this way, that someday empathy will overcome fear and our attackers will learn to tolerate us, maybe even accept us.

Until then, all we can do is defend.

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