Guest Post, Links, publication, Reading

Guest Post: How Dinosaurs Can Fix Your Flower Gardens

I often talk about gardens, plants, and gardening here on Everyday Magic, and this post is no different in that regard. The different part is that this is the first Guest Post I’ve hosted! And, while yes, it’s on gardening–it’s set 65 million years ago!

Author Daniel M. Bensen is celebrating the release of his new book,  Groom of the Tryannosaur Queen, by holding a blog tour with all the posts relating to “How Dinosaurs Can Fix Your           .” Of course, I thought this sounded like a ton of fun (um, really, no pun intended), and signed right up with “Flower Gardens.”

But before we get the answer to that intriguing question, let’s learn a bit more about Daniel’s book. Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

Former soldier Andrea Herrera isn’t happy with where her life’s taken her. Specifically, to Hell Creek, Montana, 65 million years before the present. As far as careers go, making sure the dinosaurs don’t eat her paleontologist clients comes in a pretty dismal second choice to serving her country. But when their time machine malfunctions, Andrea and her team are trapped in a timeline that shouldn’t exist with something a hell of a lot more dangerous than terrible lizards: other humans.

Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen ( is a time-travel romance with Dinosaurs available now as a kindle book.

Sounds great to me! OK, here’s Daniel M. Bensen to take it away!

How Dinosaurs Can Fix Your Flower Gardens

A museum worker I follow once commented on the kids who come up to him and asked to be directed to the “dinosaur plants.” Adorable. Can’t you just picture that dinosaur plant, spiky and gnarled, primeval mists dripping off its scaled fruit as it uncoils its fronds into the steaming jungle? Or, you might imagine cycads and dawn redwoods, monkey-puzzle trees or ferns or gingkoes. But flowers? Heck no! Dinosaurs were big and mean. They ate big mean plants, not tender daisies! Well, it depends on what time and place you’re talking about, but the home ofTyrannosauus and Triceratops, the setting for my novel ( ) was just crawling with flowers.

Tyrannosaurs and Triceratops (along with big duck-bills like Edmontosaurus, armored Ankylosaurus, and speedy predators like Dakotaraptor) lived and more importantly died and were fossilized, in what’s called the Hell Creek Formation, a layer of rock in the Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming. It’s mostly chilly badlands now, but 65 million years ago, Hell Creek was the sweaty floodplain on the edge of a shallow sea. The place was similar to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, complete with palms trees and crocodiles. Plants had broad, sub-tropical-looking leaves, and included lots of bushy undergrowth. Although some modern plants like grasses or orchids did not grow in Hell Creek, a modern botanist transported into the environment (and I just happen to have included on in my novel) would notice familiar-looking beeches and sycamores, hung with American bittersweet, spreading their leaves over magnolias, tulip-trees, buckthorns, katsura (or caramel trees), and laurels. They might be able to find food hanging from grape-vines, or fig, cacao, mulberry, or pawpaw trees. Ginger grew at ground level. They might even find something like hops or marijuana.

Hell Creek was deep green and black with sprays of yellow, pink, and white reflected in the sluggish brown water below. Insects hummed and birds sang. The air smelled of salty mud and chlorophyll. If you were from Florida or Louisiana, you might mistake Hell Creek for home, until you saw your first tyrannosaur.

Post script:

After I wrote this essay, my three year old daughter told me I’d gotten it all wrong. The Diplodocus could stamp its foot in the ground to make a decorative pond. The Triceratopscould dig up rows with its horns for your annuals. Dinosaurs poop a lot, and that’s good fertilizer. That’s how dinosaurs can fix your garden.

References: and

61XdM6VI4DL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Where to find Daniel online:

Dan’s website



TV Tropes 




Deviant Art


Want to see what else dinosaurs can fix? Here’s another post in the series.


Reading, Rejection, Writing, Year in Review

My Writing 2015: A Review

OK, so here we go at last–my year’s writing in review. I really like these posts, because whenever I start the research for this, I’m pretty glum, thinking that I haven’t really done “all that much” or “all that well” for the year. I mean, I could’ve done so much more if it hadn’t been for x or y, and I expected to get so much more accomplished on project z. I usually feel pretty much like an abysmal failure.

And then, I run the numbers, and begin to cheer up. You can’t argue with the stats (well, you can, but you’d look pretty foolish).

In 2015, I made about 51 submissions. From those, I garnered:

  • 5 acceptances, including my first reprint! (wheeeeee!)
  • 1 “no response” (boo! market closed)
  • 1 withdrawal
  • 3 still pending
  • 12 personal rejections (a couple very complimentary)

Then I looked back at last year’s stats and saw “54 rejections, 23 personal, 6 acceptances, 4 pending.” Hmm, less writing than last year? That’s not good, right?

But it is good. Because this year I also finished the first draft of the novel I didn’t finish the year before, and began figuring out what was broken on it and how to fix it (a major chore, since it’s my first really completed novel). On top of that, I planned and wrote a novella and have detailed outlines for the next two in the series, which I hope to self-publish in 2016. So in effect, I’ve finished 2 novels this year, and planned a couple more, in addition to all those short stories submitted. See, this is looking pretty impressive now, isn’t it? 🙂

My 2015 goals were to:

  • finish the novel (check)
  • revise novel via outline (check)
  • write at least 12 new stories to submission stage (check)
  • do concept ideation and outlines for novella series (and double-check, since I exceeded this by writing the first draft and started editing it before the year was out! Go me!)

See why all this is cheering? I didn’t do badly at all, did I? I really love the stories I wrote, and the markets I was published in. I came pretty darn close to a couple more sales at really awesome markets, and am gratified and amazed by that (especially when I see the quality of the stories that did get accepted!), and I continue to be supported by the conviviality and community of both the Codex Writers’ Group and my VP 17 cohort, as well as some lovely people here on this blog. Having good peeps to see you through the tough times=gold.

Thus I come to the end of this posting, cheered and fortified to continue onwards in my writing, and questing towards publication “glory.” (Um, yeah, whatever. I just want to keep improving, keep trying new things, and maybe see some tangible signs of success here and there.)

For the new year (which, yes, is already getting a bit long in the tooth, I know), may all your nouns and verbs agree, and may none of your participles dangle! Happy reading and writing and carrying on with good living!


Reading, signal boosting

How to Help Plasma Frequency Come Back

Awhile back, a terrible thing happened: Plasma Frequency Magazine had its coffers cleaned out in a scam.

After 16 issues and winning many awards, the magazine was broke and put on hiatus. But the publisher isn’t walking away. He’s running a Kickstarter for another 18 days, trying to raise funds for another year of publication. It’s a very modest goal, and as I type this he’s nearly there–just $150 shy of meeting his goal. Can you chip in a few bucks and help throw this great little ‘zine over the edge into the black? I hope so. I love what they’ve published to date, and want to see them continue. The Kickstarter runs until Oct 22, and there are some very nice pledge rewards, if you’re into them. Give it a look-see, and spread the word, won’t you?

Good luck, Plasma Frequency!

publication, Reading, signal boosting, Writing

A New Way to Read Stories

There’s a new “experiment” going on in publishing. A site called Quarter Reads lets authors upload very short stories (500-2,000 words), and, after a quick preview of a few sentences, lets readers access the whole thing for 25 cents per story.

There is no “editor” per se, no gatekeeper compiling a “magazine,” and thus no initial payment for the writer. But the writer gets 88% of each quarter read, and 100% of any tips dumped into the tip jar by a reader who really like a story. The writing can be of any genre, and search fields can narrow a reader’s options by genre, author, hottest read, latest uploaded, etc.

I think this sounds like a great idea, and I’ve got stories in the queue waiting to be uploaded. There are some great stories already there, and some wonderful writers contributing to the site. I suggest you pop on over and give it a try–read something. Drop in a tip, if you really liked something. Directly support writing, and writers. How awesome is that? I’d be interested in knowing what you think of the site.

awards, Reading, research, What I'm Reading, Writing

Need A Little Something to Read?

Here’s a write-up from NPR on the Campbell Award and the authors eligible for it, highlighting the 2014 Campbellian Anthology. As the story states, this is a really long work, so you’ll have both plenty to keep you reading, and plenty of reading that you’ll like. You can find the anthology here, free to download and to read.

Why else should you read this, except for the joy of it (since initial voting for the Campbell Award is over)? Well, as K. Tempest Bradford suggests, its a good way to see what editors are publishing from the “young up-and-comers,” and how those stories compare to what you may be writing. Not to copy them, but to try judging your work’s quality, side by side, against a wide variety of “competition.”

And also to see who you may be reading more of in the near future! Good luck and best wishes to all those eligible for the Campbell Award this year. And for the rest of us, happy (and free!) reading.

Reading, research, Writing

On Loving Slush

Winter has returned to reclaim the remaining days ’til the Spring Equinox, and probably to fight it out even after that for control. I won’t miss its passing, slinking away into a sleety end. (notice here that I started with the weather–really, you’ll laugh later!)

But slush! Ah, that I’m really loving.

Since it’s posted on the Staff page, it’s no big secret that I’m a slush reader over at Fantasy Scroll Magazine. (Remember my goals for the year? Finding a new slush reader position=check!) I’m a slush reader, or a first reader as some would call it. As a simple explanation of how that works: all the unsolicited submissions sent in end up in a database, and the slush readers split ’em up and read them. I (but it’s not just me) get to weigh in on whether I think these stories are going to end up in the magazine, or not. Slush reader decisions are NOT final. We may be overruled, in either direction. I offer up my opinion, and any thoughts that guided me to that point, to those above me in the food chain (editor, editor-in-chief, etc…).

It’s an unpaid, volunteer position. It takes time away from my own writing, and editing, and surfing for cool things on the internet. It takes time from my pleasure reading, for sure. Why ever would I want to do this, then?

Um, I like abuse?

No, that’s not it. Not it at all. Really. But the truth may be harder to believe. I do this because it’s a shock to the system, a school-of-hard-knocks method of learning to write, and to edit, my own stories better.

Let’s say you have 100 stories to read. And really, this is not unusual. Submissions come in waves at times, in drips other times, but there’s usually a few days of a backlog, at least. So, 100 stories. Fifty of them open with the weather. Nothing else, nothing to show how it’s unique, or odd, or that I should care. After I’ve read those fifty stories, and I begin to wonder why I should care that it’s a brilliant, sunny day, I start to think, “Hmm, starting out with a weather report is probably not my best bet for getting someone to read the rest of my really neat story, is it?” And so, I’ve learned something valuable, right there.

Another lovely piece of advice you often hear is “Don’t start with backstory.” Well, another 30 stories have just done that, so that I know what K’lthanniops wore as a child and how it felt mocked for its too-short snout, what it wore on the day 3 years ago when its clone-parent perished and how it now wished it hadn’t worn that (and probably that it’s raining on this being now), but I wonder what is going on and when the story is going to actually, you know, begin–and, multiply by thirty, and I suddenly, can see the utter wisdom of this advice, and the problem inherent in not heeding it. So, I cut off and throw away the first 3 pages of my manuscript, so it starts where the story does. See how I’ve improved? Now I’m better than 80% of the submissions!

(This isn’t even counting the manuscripts that just plain don’t follow the rules posted on the submissions page. For example, when we say “no poetry,” we actually mean it. I’ve also opened a couple stories only to find that “erotica” isn’t strong enough to cover what was inside, and wished I could wash my poor eyes out after reading. Please, please read the guidelines!)

At this point, you’re down to 20 stories left. Fifteen of them are about vampires, zombies, or vampire-zombies. They all sound remarkably similar, even though they’re coming from places around the globe. Hmm. And in yesterday’s reading, there was a vampire-zombie story that included a fairy-godmother and a pink roller-derby-playing unicorn, and it just rocked! So, against that near shoe-in, these others…well, really, they don’t stand much of a chance now, do they?

Let me highlight that: Even if they’re not badly written, they’re not unique enough in some way to stand out. Seeing that, in these kinds of numbers, was rather mind-blowing. It’s not enough to write a nice story about a dragon and a princess in peril. Those are rather standard tropes, and have been done (and are still being done) a million times. What stands out, fast, is something different. Different how? Ah, that’s what you, the author, gets to decide. Because really, every time I open a new story, I’m hoping to be wowed. To wish I’d written that story. To write “YES, YES, YES!” on my comments.

But wait, we’ve got 5 stories left. Where are they? These are the “real contenders,” the actual competition for the slots in this issue. All are pretty well written, all have something unique going for them: setting, character, dilemma, or what-have-you. This is where the real chance for the slush-reader’s learning comes in:  what makes the cut, what gets the “almost, but not quite” rejection?

This is where craft and polish gleam on the gems, and their lack makes a noticeable difference. Did typos trip me up? Or did I get confused by the pronouns? Did the ending feel like an emotional closure, or did the author just tell me “and that’s the end?” Was I lost anywhere in the story? Was the dialog realistic, and did the characters feel like real people, or like puppets the author moved about? Was there, actually, a story in there? Chances are, in 3 out of these 5, there were issues with these things. They’ll get the “almost, but not quite” rejection.

Leaving just two. Two stories that have given me no reason to stop reading them, who have pulled me along in their narratives, making me care for the protagonist’s journey in some way, and who have made me reach “The End” and think, “Wow. This needs to be published! This is good stuff!” I hug myself, do the chair happy-dance, and write “Yes!” in their comments, sending these two stories up the channels for serious consideration.

And this is why I read slush: I want to be one of those two out of 100 stories in some other market. I want to analyze all this raw data, draw conclusions, and inform my own writing with what I learn. For me, slushing is worth the time I give up, the time I could be writing, reading–or hey, even sleeping!–because it’s got me focused on what works, what doesn’t and why, up close and personal.

What do I suggest you do? Well, if you’re up for it, try applying for a slush reader position. And whether you do or not, I really suggest you check out Fantasy Scroll Magazine, and well, keep me in slush! I really, really hope to write “Yes!” on more great stories…

goals, Reading, Write 1/Sub 1, Writing

A Snowstorm of Stuff!

Wow, it’s coming down all white and crazy here! The temperatures are dropping, the wind is whipping, and the snow is a shifting veil that now flirts and twists, then flings itself in a suicide attempt at the ground. What a great day to stay inside and edit. With tea. Definitely with hot tea.

It’s been too long since I’ve updated here. (Sorry–but life, ya know?) So I’ve got lots to update you on.

First of all, let me shout the news about Women Destroy SF. Yes, it’s true. I love putting my girl-cooties all over science fiction. Many of us women do, and we’re celebrating that fact thanks to a special edition of Lightspeed Magazine, guest edited by Christie Yant. Head over to the Lightspeed/Women Destroy Science Fiction Kickstarter (well over fully funded–huzzah!) to order your copy and support the cause of great science fiction!

Next, I recently discovered Coursera. Here you can take a huge variety of online college-level classes in all kinds of amazing subject areas for free. I’ll be taking a course titled “Imagining Other Earths” by Princeton University. Looks like I’ll be destroying me some other earths soon, eh what? And I don’t even have to leave home. Wee.

Back in the land of Kickstarters, Alex Shvartzman’s UFO Publishing is gearing up for Unidentified Funny Object 3. The Kickstarter has launched. If you appreciate humorous spec fic, you’ll want to head over to this site and read up on who’s included, and if you’re a writer, you may want to consider sending your humorous submissions there.

Finally, bit of personal news: thanks to the Codex Weekend Warriors contest and Write 1/Sub 1, I am kicking some butt on writing (and subbing) new stories. Woo-hoo!

That’s about it. If you’re in the cold and snow, stay warm. If you’re somewhere warm, think some warmth to the rest of us (pulls on those darned fingerless writing gloves). And happy writing.


Good Review!

Weee! This came in the email recently, and it has me so happy! The Little Red Reviewer called Sidekicks “flippin’ fantastic!” It feels really great to be included in such a wonderful collection of stories, and authors. Check out her review here.

From now through the end of the year I’ll be mostly offline, traveling for the holidays, so posts will be…um, sporadic?…if made at all. May the new year bring us all good fortune, of whatever sorts we need the most. Happy reading, and writing, to all.