Story Time, Paused for Now

Hey all! Thank you so much for reading the first two pages of my debut novel. I have been having a hard week, and I think I should wait to post the rest after it has gone through another round of edits. When that happens, next month! I’ll throw the whole thing up here behind a cut, and you can check it out if you would like.

Now, I have a request. I need beta readers. I already have one that I know of (I’m looking at you Ms. Cedar), but I would like to have at least two more. If you don’t know what a beta-reader is, I’ll explain it to you. It is someone who reads a text with a critical eye for plot discrepancies, atrocious grammar, and boring ideas. Wikipedia has a better description, as my brain is a little dead from all the glorious spring time pollen. Please forgive me.

If you are interested in reading the first, second, or third book, leave a comment, or email me. I would love to get some feedback from people who aren’t my lovely husband. (He has to root for me.)

Thank you all for understanding. If anyone wants to read the rest of the chapter, send me a message with an email address, and I’ll send it your way.

Thanks for reading, please share. 

Story Time-Ch1-Pg2

Thank you all for reading yesterday. Here is the second page of my debut novel, Ruby and the Killer Amp. I hope you enjoy and share! As always, comments are appreciated.

The hall on the second floor was especially creaky. I didn’t want to wake up any of my housemates, so I eased open my door and tiptoed to the bathroom. I shared the upstairs with the twins (named because of looks and habits, not biology), Eva and Evan; Blake had the ground floor room; and Corey had run of the basement. We got along alright and managed to pay the rent on time. So far, it had been a great housing situation. I had lived in worse places.

I was careful to avoid the squeaky spot in front of Eva’s room. I knew she’d been out later than me last night, and would kill me if I woke her up early. It would almost be worth it to see the look on her face, she was extra cute when she first woke up. Finally, I got to the bathroom and closed the door after myself.

Our bathroom was cool and clean, it was the soothing balm I needed for my pounding headache. I was glad that the twins were neat-freaks like me. Blake’s room would make frat boys on a bender proud. I turned the water on as hot as I could stand it, and sighed as I stepped into the steaming shower. There was nothing like showering in a nice clean tub, even if it was an old claw foot and the curtain occasionally got a little friendly.

After I got out of the shower, I finished my bathroom routine. It was quick and easy: face lotion, deodorant, the morning floss and toothbrush, then I wrapped a towel around me and repeated the careful walk back to my room. I stood in front of the closet and wondered what to wear for work. Not that it mattered. I wore almost the same outfit every day. Inevitably, I chose some variation of jeans, t-shirt, and hoodie. If I was feeling glamorous, I would throw on an argyle sweater. Today felt like an all-black day and that suited me just fine, though I did throw on my favorite robot socks just for kicks.

I checked my appearance in the mirror; the dark clothing looked good against my pale skin. The light coming in from the window showed the ruddy-brown highlights in my elbow length, wavy, black hair. My face was thinner than I liked, and I kept threatening to get a nose job. My mom always said I should be proud of my Irish and Slavic heritage, and for the most part I was. I felt like my best facial feature was my eyes. They were big, with arched brows, a pretty hazel-brown, and rimmed in thick black lashes. Aside from my little beer belly, I was thin without looking scrawny. I wouldn’t mind being taller than my five foot three, but that’s why the gods invented boots. One last look over in the mirror, and I decided I was good for the day.

Story Time-Ch1-Pg1

I have been reading about the Events in Boston today, and am worn out. My heart goes out to the families involved. Stay safe and hug your loved ones. My guys will be getting extra snuggles tonight. Since I can’t imagine coming up with a coherent Grammar lesson, I thought I would try something different and post the first page of Ruby and the Killer Amp. If you all like it, I’ll post a page a day until the chapter is done. I’m wondering what people will think, and if there will be any interest. Any feedback would be great. And here we go. FYI, all text belongs to me.

Chapter 1-Ruby and the Killer Amp

As soon as I woke up, I knew that my day had started wrong. I woke before it was fully light outside; my insomnia had kicked in again. I rolled over and looked at the alarm clock.

Oh man, is that really the time? I thought.

My vision was slightly blurry, and I could feel the hangover starting from the night before. I had consumed too many PBRs and cheap whisky shots. I would have to give Sven hell for not cutting me off. Not that he was my keeper or anything, but wow. I felt terrible.

It was early, not even six am. What had woken me up? I wondered.

It was probably nothing more than house sounds. I had been living in this house for six months now, and I still wasn’t used to its creaks and groans. It was a beautiful, old, craftsman style house, but it was noisy. I was betting that my housemates would still be sleeping. None of us worked until after ten, we all liked it that way. Eva and Corey were both on the closing shift at the coffee shop; and I worked with Blake and Evan at Slate’s Guitars, we didn’t have to be in until eleven thirty. That is, when I made it in on time.

“Ugg . . . need coffee.” I said aloud.

Even though I was running on three or so hours of sleep, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to bed. Sleeplessness was a curse I had learned to live with. I might as well get up and enjoy the morning. A shower would be the first order of business. Maybe that would clear some of the cobwebs from my head. Then some toast, my stomach was a little wobbly. Suddenly, the urge to get out of bed overwhelmed me. I had never been good at staying still, and that problem seemed worse late at night and early in the morning. I hated waking up early.

I stretched and heaved off my covers. I took one last lingering look at my bed, wishing I could fall back to sleep. At least my room was nice and tidy. The early morning light caught the clean lines of my bookcases and poorly matched, but well taken care of, bed set. I looked out my window; amazingly, there were no clouds in the sky. Sunshine was a rare occurrence for Portland in November. I loved how the light shined through the bare trees and bounced off the frost still clinging to the shadows. The view was making the morning a little more bearable.


So Much Good Stuff!

It has been a good week. My migraine finally went away, I have brought in some editing and writing work, and I had a great meeting with my Freelancer’s group. It feels so nice to be validated. No job is too small. Keep that in mind. I would be happy to write blog posts for your business, or take on quick editing projects. A well written and edited piece can make your business shine.

Most of my news comes from Twitter. I like social networking, but Twitter has taken awhile to grow on me. One of the things I am using it for now, is to get the word out about my business, and connect with other writers. Thankfully, there are a dearth of writers on Twitter and a great number of rad scientists! Feel free to add me @dylanbenito. I think I am finally getting the swing of it, and I am enjoying it much more.

On to the links!

  • An NPR article about cities saving the Earth. The gist: If we all moved into cities, our wildlife would stand a much better chance, and we would use less resources. 
  • Our Hypothetical oldest ancestor, named Shrewdinger! By popular vote.
  • An amazing site, by the Kennis brothers. They are the guys behind the recent hominid reconstructions featured on NatGeo covers. The photos are amazing.
  • Juan Cole (great source for news on the Middle East, fantastic author), posts about Denmark’s  upcoming wind-power capacity. Fifty percent by 2020!
  • The Oatmeal posted about the Mantis Shrimp, and it is amazing. If you like science, or comics, or awesomeness, it is well worth the read.
  • Also awesome, this video about animal eating habits. You might pee.
  • The cutest thing EVAR! A new bat genus was discovered in South Sudan. PANDA BAT!


This is one of the cutest things I have seen in a long time. And, I’ll stop freaking out about the cute bat now.

And there are many other things out there. I have been writing my tail off, so I don’t have any great book recommendations for you all. At least not science type books. The book I’m reading right now is about a woman behind Pope Innocent X, Mistress of the VaticanSo far, it is a fun historical read. If you like that kind of thing, check it out.

Thanks for reading! Please share. 


010511comic-sound-effect1Onomatopoeias are great. They are one of my favorite parts about language. As a person who uses a lot of sound effects in my daily life, onomatopoeias fill me with great joy. They are so expressive, and in the comic/visual arts world, they are incredibly important. (At least I think so.) They can bring a sense of liveliness to a conversation. They are the hand jive of the English language. And everybody likes to do the hand jive, right?

What is an onomatopoeia? You ask. The New Oxford American Dictonary gives this definition:

*  *  *

Onomatopoeia |ˌänəˌmatəˈpēə, -ˌmätə-| Noun: the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g. cuckoo, sizzle). The use of such words for rhetorical effect.

ORGIN: late 16th century, Latin/Greek. Onomatopoeia ‘word-making’ from onoma, onomat- ‘name’ + -poios ‘making’ (from poiein ‘to make’).

*  *  * 

Pretty cool, right? So why do onomatopoeias matter? Without them we wouldn’t have great words like zing, crackle, hiss, ooze, slither, snooze, and a whole host of SQ words: squish, squawk, squeak, and many, many more.

adv413powWithout onomatopoeias, Supergirl wouldn’t have as much oomph (see what I did there?) beating up the bad guy. She lets us know, that . . . “with a little effort, POW!” Her leg snaps up and she cracks the bad guy on the kisser with a resounding “UGH!”

From a comic point of view, onomatopoeias are priceless. They bring a visual element that enhances the storytelling. What was a fine picture can be enhanced by a sound descriptor.  We can really picture the scene and everything that’s happening in it.

Think of your favorite onomatopoeias and use them in casual conversation. It could be a great way to find a new friend. Or amuse the old ones you already have.

Thanks for reading, please share.

Autism Awareness Month

I was going to have an awesome post about Autism Awareness Month, and then I got a migraine. I have a couple of cool links you all should check out, and I will try to properly write about this important issue next week.

With the rise in diagnosed cases, I’m sure that most of you know someone on the spectrum. If you know me personally, you know that my kid is on the spectrum, and he is rad. Just like most people with Autism. I think it’s important for neuro-typical people to understand this isn’t a disease, or bad way of being, it is just a different way of thinking and viewing the world. I will share more of our personal story and more links next week.

For now, onto the links:

  • From Download the Universe, we have a great review of two books on Autism. Asperger Love, by Amy Harmon and Straight on Till Morning, a collection of essays written by Autistic people. I am looking forward to reading both of these titles. 
  • There is an awesome Kickstarter going right now, This is what Autism Looks Like, headed by Carole Burns. The video is great, and they need some help to meet their goal by the end of May. Go contribute a dollar and spread the word.
  • And finally, a link to the Autism Society. It is a great website to check out if you want more information.

Hopefully I’ll be feeling better in the next week and I can share some really great stuff. Thanks for hanging with me.

Thanks for reading. Please share. 

Writing is Fun; I Like to Write About Science! (a lesson on semicolons)


After my post about em dashes, a friend of mine suggested I write a post about semicolons. Those little buggers can be tricky. Since I didn’t have a clear idea of what I was going to write about this week, I thought I would go with my friend’s idea instead. I must give a tip of the hat to Mrs. Fala.

I happen to love punctuation. The fact that it can be used in so many ways makes me happy. There are some classic conventions, but if you know what you’re doing . . . you can get away with some amazing things. Writing about punctuation makes me smile. Talking about it also makes me grin; I know this makes me a writing geek, and I’m okay with that.

Back to semicolons! At one point in my school career, I took a Critical Theory class. The class was taught by a grad student with grand aspirations. Instead of inspiring us, she came off as a waspy, self-obsessed, pain-in-the-neck. Not only that, but she thought science was icky. Needless to say, she and I didn’t get along. I definitely pushed the envelop with her, and wrote a few really fun essays; including an essay with the thesis statement, Dinosaurs are Rad! I got to write about the velocirapture, so the class wasn’t a total waste.

She often called on her students to give examples of grammar and punctuation. I couldn’t tell if it was because she didn’t know, or because she liked to think we were idiots and we didn’t know. Keep this in mind; it was a three hundred level class, where one would hope that the students had a general grasp of the English language. One day she called on me. The conversation went thusly:

“Dylan, can you give us a sentence using a semicolon?” She asked.

“The house was made of logs; the dog was outside.” (It was the first thing I could think of on short notice.) I answered.

“Those two things don’t have anything to do with each other, so that isn’t a good example.” She responded, trying to negate the validity of my sentence.

“They do if you’re reading Old Yeller.” I shot back.

So, what does this teach us, other than the fact that I can be a bit of a pain-in-the-neck myself? I think, it teaches us that perception is everything. Sometimes sentences that don’t seem to have anything to do with each other should be connected with a semicolon. They want to snuggle. They want to give life to your prose.

Therein lies the crux of the semicolon; the semicolon snuggles up ideas. You use one when you have a complete sentence, but you just aren’t ready for it to end. In even simpler terms, you use a semicolon to connect two complete, compatible sentences to form one longer sentence to get at what you really want to say. When a comma isn’t enough, and a period is too much—go with a semicolon.

Thanks for reading, please share.

Science Kids!

Thanks for staying with me last week. It was a hard, but important subject to cover. This week was much lighter on the news front. I was really excited to see a bunch of cool kids in this weeks science news. I loved science as a kid, still do, and I’m trying my best to make science fun for the next generation. It is always nice for me to see cool things happening with kids.

There were TWO kid fossil stories, this week alone:

  • At Southampton University, in England, nine-year-old, Daisy Morris, discovered a new Pterosaur. Not only was it a new Pterosaur, but it was a whole new genus! Not only that, but the new specimen was named after her, Vectidraco daisymorrisae. I have some serious envy.
  • In Oxford, ten-year-old, Bruno Debattista, discovered a 300-million year old horseshoe crab footprint. You have to check out his picture, he has a great smile.
  • At the end of 2012, Eric Stamatin and Andrew Gainariu of Michigan, found a Mastodon axis bone in Eric’s backyard. If I were them, I would be out digging every day.
  • For the last of the fossil finds, we go to Russia. Yevgeny Salinder, an eleven-year-old, in Cape Sopochnaya Karga, found an almost fully intact Mammoth. Paleontologists nicknamed it after Yevgeny, who goes by Zhenya.
  • Nineteen-year-old (not really a kid, but he’s younger than me) Boyan Slat, from Delft, has designed a ocean going machine that would clean up plastic debris. He has a TED talk up that is really good.

For your weekly picture, I give you the Geckoella jeyporensis, which was re-discovered in India. It is super cute.


I have been writing a lot on my own novel, and reading fiction, so I don’t have a good book for you this week. I can tell you that I’m very much looking forward to My Beloved Brontosauruscoming out this April. The author (one of my favorite science writers) is Brian Switek, who I have been following since I happened upon a post of his about giant ground sloths. He will be in Portland in May, giving a lecture at Powell’s! I’m very excited. You can find him on Twitter @Laelaps.

Thank you for reading, feel free to share. 

To Em Dash or Not to Em Dash?

2-dashesUsing an em dash, or not, came up after my last post. I had decided to use an em dash to add a splashy effect, because I think em dashes are neat and under-used (at least correctly). My darling husband, had the opposite view point.

Historically, em dashes are used for emphasis—or interruption—in a sentence. They are used to make a point. The name ’em dash’ comes from the fact that the dash is the length of the letter M. Whereas the en dash is the length of the letter N, and a hyphen is the shortest of them all. (See the above graphic.)

An em dash should be used with no spaces between it and the word(s) that it modifies. The em dash can be used in pairs: He was looking for treasure—buried treasure—along the coastline. Or on their own: He finally found what he was looking for, a chest buried in the sand—it might contain enough gold to raise a fleet! (I like pirates.) Just make sure you use them in the appropriate setting, or people will get fussy.

There are many people out there that hate the em dash. I agree that it has been, and can be, over used, and there are many people out there that don’t know how to use it correctly and place the little buggers willy-nilly throughout their text. I think, with the proper usage, they can be a highly effective tool to enhance your writing. Plus, they look cool.

One of the many problems with em dashes, is the fact that they are old fashioned. There isn’t a em dash key on modern keyboards, in fact, people used to use two hyphens in a row instead of an em dash. I don’t know if there has ever been a key specific to our little em. It is easy to get around this. Most Word programs will automatically change a double hyphen into an em dash, and if you are a Mac user, there is a short cut: SHIFT, OPTION, and MINUS key. Voila! Em dash. For PC users, it’s ALT+0151.

There are many famous authors who love the em dash, and there are many famous grammarians who hate it. In my opinion, both points of view are valid. Just remember, use it sparingly, use it for emphasis, or interruption, and find your own writing voice.

Thanks for reading, and please share.

Bad News Week

I was planning to write about something fun and science-tastic this week, but the news was full of the Steubenville Rape case. I found it hard to pay attention to much else. Instead of a light and fluffy Weekend Wrap-up, I felt the need to post this instead.

There has been a lot of talk about Rape Culture, and what that is. Many people don’t seem to think this is something we need to talk about, but I think it is vitally important. This is the best info-graphic I’ve seen so far. I hope it answers some questions, and outrages people enough to make some change happen.


As a female shaped person, a survivor, a feminist, a parent of a boy, and a person of the world, I feel that the best time to change our attitude is now. For the first time in memory, I have seen women and men get outraged—publicly—about rape. It seems like now is the time to take this initiative and run with it. If we are going to make our world safer for each other, we need to talk about this. We need to have open communication, we need to change our opinions that women are objects, we need to remember that consent is key. With out EXPRESS verbal consent, there should be no sex acts: no matter the mix of parts involved. Women aren’t the only people that get raped, men aren’t the only rapists. We need to remember that words can hurt just as much as actions, and we need to allow people to live their lives without fear.

I found a number of really good blogs to check out, written by women and men. If you are interested, click the links and share with everyone you know. This change starts with us.  

Finally, I’ll close with a science tie in. Elise Andrew is the creator of I Fucking Love Science (one of my favorite Facebook pages) and recently joined Twitter. The response she got was a perfect example of why we need to change our cultural opinion of women. 

Thank you for reading about this difficult topic. I hope that I can inspire someone to change for the better. We all need to work on being more compassionate, myself included, let’s start today.