The Varcross Key (Beta Sign-ups closed! Thank you all for volunteering!)

After years of abuse in a loveless relationship, Leo Grayson secretly packs up his life and heads west to Varcross, Oregon. But there’s a problem: Varcross doesn’t exist—well, not in Oregon, anyway.

Strange lights over the highway send Leo careening into a world that shouldn’t be possible, and there’s no way to escape. While struggling to come to terms with being the only human in a town full of cursed monsters, he finds love and companionship with the very creatures he should fear the most.

To make matters worse, Leo’s arrival catches the attention of a powerful demon in disguise who is desperate to escape the wards keeping him and the rest of Varcross locked away. No human evades a demonic curse for long, and as time runs out for Leo and his new found family, he must either abandon those who sacrificed to save him, or face down a malevolence he cannot win against alone.

Alright folks, we are on the final stretch before the next stage of the book. I’ll be submitting the manuscript to indie publishers to see where it goes, but it’s likely too long to be accepted by any of them. So this is the last beta session, and the last chance to read The Varcross Key before it goes to an editor.

The beta reading stage is one of the most important processes of publication, and the in-depth feedback received helps the writer identify problems within their stories, challenging us to come up with creative solutions. Sometimes there are scenes that are boring, or sections that didn’t go on long enough. Maybe a character has brown eyes in one chapter but suddenly has green eyes the next. Or maybe a scene just doesn’t make sense, or the plot seems contrived or forced. Perhaps there’s no chemistry between the main characters, or the characters just feel flat in some areas. These are things that get overlooked during the long process of putting an entire novel together while trying to keep track of as many references and minute (but important) details as possible. 

As beta readers, your task is to identify sections of the story that you either really enjoy or that you had a problem with. This allows me to see what works and what doesn’t. This is the third draft of the story, and I’m approaching the end of the revision stage in the publication process before it sees an editor. Since the story has been read by ten beta readers, most of the glaring issues have been fixed, but there may be lingering problems that were overlooked. That’s because changing or omitting scenes can have unforeseen effects later on in the story, and I have to account for those changes, often time editing many scenes further along the book.

Keep in mind, even though this is the third draft of this story, this book hasn’t seen a professional editor yet. Scenes in chapters are subject to change. The end result may be a bit different from this version!

The Beta Readers’ Tasks:

  • Read through the chapters, highlighting sections while leaving comments. These comments could be ‘I enjoy this…’ or ‘this doesn’t make sense…’ or ‘I don’t like this because…’. The more thorough you can be in your comments, the more it helps me identify problems. In, you can highlight any sentence and either click the comment button, an emote, etc…
  • At the end of each chapter, leave feedback on what you liked/didn’t like about it if you can. Your feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, is important. Doing this chapter-by-chapter allows you as the reader to tell me important things about what you read while they are still fresh in your mind rather than having to go back and try to remember at the end of a 160k+ word novel.
  • Being on time! I’m limiting THIS beta reading session to one month. That means you have until the first of March to complete the story and leave comments. If you cannot commit to this, please don’t volunteer. In the past, I gave beta readers several months, but I’m getting close to deadlines and will need those that have the time to volunteer to do so.  
  • Let me know if for some reason, you are not able to finish beta reading! This is very important because I don’t want to be left hanging, expecting something that will never arrive. If life happens and you need to drop, it’s not going to bother me. However, going weeks without any communication will. For this round of beta reading, the cut-off point is March 1st, whether everyone is finished or not. I’ll have to keep everything moving.
  • Don’t get hung up too much on grammar/spelling mistakes. There will be more drafts of this story as the voice and sentences become more polished with each revision. I’ll usually catch these myself with each read through, and I pay a copy-editor good money to catch these mistakes before publication.

The Questions:

Keep these questions in the back of your mind as you read through each chapter. They will help you know what feedback I’m looking for. Sometimes you won’t have an answer for a question, and that’s fine. It means nothing in particular about that question stuck out to you.

  • Did the chapter hold your interest from the very beginning? If not, why not?
  • Did you get oriented fairly quickly at the beginning as to whose story it is, and where and when it’s taking place? If not, why not?
  • Could you relate to the main character? Did you feel his pain or excitement?
  • Did the setting interest you, and did the descriptions seem vivid and real to you? 
  • Was there a point at which you felt the chapter lagged or you became less than excited about finding out what was going to happen next? Where, exactly? 
  • Were there any parts that confused you? Or even frustrated or annoyed you? Which parts, and why? 
  • Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or other details?
  • Were the characters believable? Are there any characters you think could be made more interesting or more likable? 
  • Did you get confused about who’s who in the characters? Were there too many characters to keep track of? Too few? Are any of the names of characters too similar? 
  • Did the dialogue keep your interest and sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded artificial or not like that person would speak? Were there times when a character’s dialect was distracting?
  • Did you feel there was too much description or exposition? Not enough? Maybe too much dialogue in parts?
  • Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to keep your interest? 
  • Was the ending satisfying? Believable?
  • Do you think the writing style suits the genre of romantic fantasy? If not, why not?

With that out of the way, if you’re interested, sign up below. I probably won’t be able to pick everyone who signs up if there’s a lot of interest, but I’ll try to get as many as I can. As per usual, beta readers that complete the story will be getting a signed copy of the book after publication. Keep in mind that you may have to register an account with to participate.

The Varcross Key Final Beta Reading Session

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