(If you don’t want to read this whole thing, skip to the last three paragraphs to get the important bits!)
I know I haven’t been doing too much here on my blog lately, but I have a good excuse: I’ve been writing stories and plotting a novel. I figured a good way to bridge the gap would be to talk about what I’ve been working on. The short version is: I wrote a new short story, it ended up inspiring me to write a novel, and now I’m looking for some help with that short story to make it a good as it can be. It all started with frogs…
How often do you stop to consider the animals that you meet during your daily life? Or do you even encounter that many? Depending on where you live, what kind of job you have, or if you’re the kind of person that likes pets, you might see animals all the time or not very often. Regardless of how much you and I have encounters with the other inhabitants of our world, the fact is that there are way more of them than there are of us.
It’s a rather contrived distinction, too, considering that humans are animals—as much as dogs, birds, fish, and all of the other amazing beings we cohabitate with here on Earth. A lot of us like to act as though we’re better, or more important, than every other species. Why is that? Because we have more advanced brains (supposedly)? Because we have thumbs and we build machines? You can deny it all you want, but our society really isn’t very considerate when it comes to the rest of the animals here. At best, we try to save species that are in danger of extinction or designate certain areas as wildlife preserves—at first glance these seem like the right things to be doing, and we do them for the right reasons, right? And at worst, we use animals as test subjects, for everything from cosmetics to space travel, and lock them up in zoos for all of us bipeds to go in and gawk at them.
I started paying more attention to all of the animals that I encounter every day, and I realized something: because of my job, as a landscaper, I end up killing animals accidentally all the time. For a long time, I never really stopped to consider it. Usually it’s a bunch of ants that happened to have their colony right in the middle of someone’s dry lawn, or a bird’s nest filled with unhatched eggs that fell out of a tree or shrub that I’m trimming. Sometimes it’s frogs, though. I can’t really explain it, but somehow those poor frogs are the ones that get me the most.
The more I thought about it, the more it made me feel awful. I don’t know how many frogs I’ve accidentally crushed, or worse, because they happened to be in front of me while I was using some piece of equipment or other. Whatever the number is, I wish it could be zero. Those frogs didn’t do shit to me. It’s easy to say, ‘Well, I was just doing my job and I didn’t mean it.’ Even if that’s true, isn’t that like saying my job is more important than another creature’s life? I started to pay more attention, and since then I’ve tried to be more aware of what’s in my path when I’m at work. Yesterday, for example, I was at one of our customer’s home and I noticed that there was a frog directly ahead of where I was mowing—so I swerved to the right and avoided it. Did I have to do that? Obviously not, but it didn’t cost me anything to do it, either.
The frog I saw yesterday was about the size of my palm, maybe a little smaller, and he was the colors of desert camouflage. I think his close encounter with my lawnmower might have shocked him a bit: I had to wait a minute before he finally hopped off and out of the way before I was able to go back to mow the spot he’d been sitting on.
What does all of this have to do with my writing? I wrote a story about frogs, partially based on some of the thoughts I’d been having. By the time I finished it, I realized that my story was about much more than frogs. And the protagonist of that short story, a guy with an affinity for animals, ended up becoming a character that I couldn’t retire. He’s now set to become the main character in a new series I’m writing. I’ve already outlined the plot of the first book, and I have a strong feeling that it’s going to be one hell of a story.
But before I get started on writing that book, I need to make sure that the short story which started it all off is the best possible version of itself that it can be. I need help to do that, and so I’m going to try something a little different. Different for me, anyway, since lots of authors already do it.
I’m looking for volunteers to read my short story, which introduces this new character and acts as a sort of extended prologue (not exactly, but I don’t know what else to call it) for the novel I’m preparing to write. I want as many people to read it as I can get, and my hope is that anyone who’d be generous enough to read it would be willing to take a little time afterward to let me know what they thought about the story. I’m looking for honest feedback, particularly about what people did or did not like about it, and why. For anyone who’s not familiar with the terminology, many authors refer to people who do this as “beta readers.” The idea is that a story, or a novel or whatever, will be better in the end if the author gets other people’s opinions on it before publishing the final draft.
The story is titled “Friend To Frogs” and in its current form it’s roughly twenty-five pages long. Now, since I wrote it, there’s obviously some weird stuff going on in the story. But this is a different kind of weird than what I presented in my recently published story, “Specimen 25.” There’s nothing sexual going on, and, unlike in “Specimen 25,” the weirdness of the story starts early on and doesn’t let up all the way through until the end. It’s a fantasy story, mixed with some horror elements and some humor.
In short, I’m hoping that some of you reading this would be willing to help me out and be a beta reader. If it helps you to look at it this way, just think: you’ll get to read my story before it’s published, and your feedback might have an impact on how the finished product turns out. Whether you like to read fantasy or not isn’t the important part. You don’t even have to be the type of person that reads a lot. I want my stories to be accessible to everyone, and so I need help from all kinds of readers. I want this to be a story that many people can read and enjoy, but for that to happen I need help from all kinds of people. I have a little more work to do to make sure the first draft is in good shape, but by this time next week I’m planning on sending the story out to anyone who’s willing to read it. If you’re interested in being a beta reader for this story, you can leave a comment here and let me know what your email address is, or you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org