Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why am I stingy with floss?

I don’t consider myself to be an extremely wasteful person. I like to get my dollar’s worth out of whatever I’ve got. (Except for left-overs. Honestly, why is it that you can only make chicken noodle soup for six to eight people and then have to spend the next week looking at the biggest Tupperware in the house sitting in the fridge and thinking, ‘I should take that for lunch today but if I eat any more chicken noodle soup, it will result in a super-virus developing that is completely immune to the healing power of chicken, vegetables, broth and bloated noodles. For the good of the world, I believe I should have three 89 cent chalupas…And cinnamon twists.’ )

The other day, I needed to buy more floss, something I’ve only had to do a half dozen times in my life. On my way home from work, I stopped by the store and picked up three or four spools/boxes/cases/containers/whatever-unit-defines floss and paid a whopping $4.34 for all of it. Now I have a ‘thing’ of floss in my car, at work for after lunch, in my bathroom at home and an extra just in case my two year old gets a hold of any of the other ones and drop them into the toilet and I have to wait for it to dry out.

While I was selecting my floss, I was struck by the thought that I actually care if I waste it. And then I was immediately struck by how strange that is. Each container has 100 yards of floss inside. Each container costs $1 plus tax - $1.08. So each yard of floss costs slightly over $0.01. That’s it. Once cent for three feet of floss. That’s 36 inches. That’s 0.9144 meters for any metric users out there. That is a heck of a bargain. I can’t think of anything else that I get a yard of for a penny. And on top of that, I don’t use a full yard when I floss. I use maybe a foot to a foot and a half so my average floss cost per use is between 1/3 and ½ of an American cent!

This has got to be the cheapest thing in my life!

And yet, whenever I’m preparing to floss, get distracted and tear off a piece too short to wrap around my fingers several times and still have the ideal span for proper cleaning, I suffer through it. I force myself to be uncomfortable with my floss because I can’t waste the piece of waxed string that cost me less than 1/3 of a penny. I have to use it. Something inside tells me that it is a sin to just throw away the too-short piece. I don’t remember ever being taught that floss wasting is defined in Leviticus as one of the big no-no’s but somehow, that belief is just as real as my wife’s belief that trees hibernate for winter.

Why is it that I can’t throw away the short piece and write off the 1/3 cent and yet, I have no problem not reaching the bottom of a $7 tub of popcorn at a movie theater? Or why do I let me car idle for twenty minutes with the heat on high on winter mornings so I don’t have to scrape the ice of the windows, but little Mr. Floss is too precious to just discard?

Does anyone else have this problem or a similar ridiculous priority paradigm? Share in comments below. I’d love to know what similar or other kinds of crazy there is out there.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Totally Looks Like - Check it out!

The icanhascheezburger network is why the internet must exist. (aka lol cats) and are my favorites. Check out my recent totallylookslike contribution:

And my favorite posting from lol cats ever:


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Leg Lamp - A.K.A. 1 word in 50 is a big deal

So, a several months ago (5/27) while I was going through my standard list of writing blogs hoping for the sparkling jewel of information that would help launch my writing career, I came across this post (

F&SF Competition
Jenny Rae Rappaport

I am about to run out the door to meetings and BEA stuff, but my lovely client, Carol Pinchefsky, has requested that I post this. Carol is one of the contest editors at The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and informs me that you have TWO days left to enter this. Follow the instructions below!

COMPETITION #78: THE SECRET HISTORY OF F&SF Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, originally titled The Magazine of Fantasy, was founded in 1949 by Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas…or was it?

Describe, in 50 words or less, the secret origins of F&SF. Alternate histories, imagined conversations, and science-fictional (or magical) twists on the truth are more than welcome. Another welcomed element: funny.

Example: Shirley Jackson and Theodore Sturgeon leave a little basket on the doorstep of Anthony Boucher with a tear-stained note: “Please take care of our baby. Raise it as if it were your own.”

You have six chances to rewrite history before midnight EST, May 28th. Send your entries to Please remember to include your telephone number and snail-mail address. PRIZES: First prize will receive a sub- scription to F&SF good for the next sixty years along with a copy of The Diamond Jubilee. Second prize will receive advance reading copies of three forthcoming novels. Any runners-up will receive one-year subscriptions to F&SF. Results of Competition 78 will appear in the Oct/Nov. 2009 issue. Judges are the editors of F&SF, and their decision is final. All entries become the property of F&SF.

I thought I’d toss my hat in the ring and quickly realized writing something witty in only fifty words was really hard. It reminded me of ‘A River Runs Through It’ where little Norman is repeatedly sent back to rewrite what he’d written in half the space. After several hours and many revisions, I had my six submissions ready and I fired them off.

A week later, I received the following email:

Hi, Daniel.

And the winner

Mazel tov. You've just won 60 years of Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine.

Thanks for making us laugh.

Sincerely, Carol Pinchefsky
Editor, F&SF magazine

> 3. “The tea on the right enhances your appeal to women. The
> tea on the left will help you create a tome of the science fiction and
> fantasy canon,” the old gypsy cackled before disappearing into the
> night.
> Francis turned to Anthony.
> “Was that her right or our right?”
> Daniel Geilman
(My winning submission next to the >s)

What a happy, happy day! I had won something! Not by luck, not by chance, but by the sweat of my creative brow, I had won something. True, it was for a magazine I’d never heard of before entering the contest and with the way print media is heading, when I am 90 the magazine will probably not be around anymore but the fact of the matter is - I had won. This is my leg lamp – all due to my ‘mind power’.

Weeks of dopey smiles and personal pride passed as I waited for the Oct/Nov issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine to arrive so I could show family and friends that I had actually accomplished something with writing. My name would be in print and no matter how small and unread as it might be, I would have something to put on my query letters as a writing credit.

So, the magazine (that is actually more like a paperback book) arrived and I found the page with the winning entries to read to my oblivious children and ‘worshipping’ wife.

I said, reading aloud –

“ ‘Congratulations to Daniel Geilman, who wins 60 years of bragging rights to go with his 60-year subscription.

First Prize:

“The tea on the right enhances your appeal to women. The tea on the left will help you create a tome of the science fiction and fantasy,” the old gypsy cackled before disappearing into the night.
Francis turned to Anthony.
“Was that her right or our right?
” ‘

That doesn’t sound right, does it, Anna? What’s wrong with it? Did I leave something out?….NOOOOO! They left out ‘canon’. They left a word out!”

It’s been several weeks now and it still hurts. I have 60 years of a free magazine and 60 years of bragging rights but to anybody taking the time to read page 319 of the Oct/Nov 2009 edition of Fantasy & Science Fiction, I look like an idiot. So, my name is in print and I have something, howbeit small and inconsequential, to put as a writing credit on my query letters to agents but should I use it?

I know mistakes happen and I bear no ill will towards the nice people at Fantasy & Science Fiction but come on!

My leg lamp came with gout and diabetes-blackened toes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

'Big Bang Theory' Premier TONIGHT!!!

To any and all blog readers out there, if you are not watching “The Big Bang Theory”, you should be ashamed of yourselves. This show is the only comedy I am aware of that has ever featured a Nobel prize winning physicist – Mr. George Smoot and regularly references Shroedinger’s cat. If you are not watching it, you should be. You should start now and write a letter of apology to the show’s creators, Chuck Lorre & Bill Prady, for not watching sooner.

To illustrate how good ‘Big Bang Theory’ is, consider this: The show is produced by Chuck Lorre. This show almost makes up for the fact that Chuck Lorre is also the producer of ‘Two and a Half Men”. The only fact that keeps it from completely making up for the tragedy of 2.5 men is the fact that ‘Arrested Development’ was cancelled as a result of the popularity of 2.5 men.

Watch ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and DVR each episode. At the end, pause on Chuck Lorre’s vanity screen and read the text. It’s worth your time. I promise.

Also, congratulations to Jim Parsons for his Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy nomination. It was not a big surprise that he didn’t win given the competition but the fact that he was nominated, I think, was still pretty awesome.

Season premier tonight September 21 at 9:30/8:30 central.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Pick-Me Up

Check out mentalfloss's article here: unless you have an aversion to hyperlinks. If that's the case, I'm very sorry for you and you can just see below for a list of failures in Abraham Lincoln's life. Picked me up seeing that he had plenty of struggles over almost thirty years.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Bring the Funny (A.K.A. Stand-up Comedian not Stand-up Philosopher)

The other day on AMC, I watched Mel Brooks’ ‘History of the World: Part I’ ( I laughed, chuckled, guffawed and giggled through the spoof, having a wonderful time and then I became quite sad when the Roman period spoof started and Mel Brooks’ character described himself as a ‘Stand-up Philosopher’ and then performed like a stand-up comedian. This got me thinking about the inverse – Stand-Up Comedians becoming Stand-Up Philosophers.

I love stand-up, absolutely love it. I can distinctly remember two times in my life where I have laughed until it hurt. Once was in California listening to cassettes of Bill Cosby routines and the other was at a comedy club in Utah called Johnny B’s. Several times, on a lazy Friday night, I have watched stand-up for hours on Comedy Central and even though sitting on a couch eating potato chips in the dark doesn’t lend itself to gut busting laughter, I chuckled and enjoyed my evening very much. Currently, my two favorite comedians are Brian Regan ( and Jim Gaffigan ( Brian Regan is completely clean and what I’ve seen of Jim Gaffigan (King Baby special on Comedy Central) is clean as well. These guys make it hard to eat while watching because chewing and then swallowing does not work cleanly with laughing out loud. These guys are amazing and I hope that they never exceed their current level of fame and notoriety.

You may have read that last sentence and thought to yourself, “Why? Why, Dan, if you like these guys, would you not want them to gain more fans, make more money and generally become more successful? You sound like you’d be a terrible friend. I don’t think I can look at you anymore.”

The reason I don’t want them to become any more famous is purely selfish and based on my personal pleasure only. I don’t want them more famous because I want them to stay funny.

Yep, that’s right. For stand-up comedians fame = not funny. There are exceptions to this rule just like any rule. Some famous comedians stay funny until the day they die. Most don’t. And I’m not writing about the Robin Williams type comedians out there, those that still try to be funny but just aren’t anymore. I’m writing about the ones that just stop trying to be funny and move from ‘Stand-Up Comedian’ to ‘Stand-Up Philosopher’.

“What is the difference?” you may be asking yourself. Here’s a simple checklist below to let you know if your ‘comedian’ has given up funny for poignancy.

1. When watching them, you realize you are not laughing.
2. When watching the audience, you realize they are not laughing either.
3. There are catcalls, whistles and applause but these are not preceded by laughter.
4. You ever find yourself thinking, “That was a good point. Not funny, but a good point.”

Does any of this seem familiar? (I hope so or I’ve just wasted about ten minutes of my life putting together this post.)

Stand-up Comedians are observers that point out the funny. Stand-Up Philosophers are people that believe because fans have listened to them for years and enjoy hearing the funny, said fans must also want their opinions. I don’t. I don’t want opinions. I want funny. I don’t want political views, unless they are funny. I don’t want to be encouraged to vote, unless it is for something funny. Go ahead, make fun of W. That’s funny. But then don’t turn around and explain how awesome Obama is without making fun of his ears or speech patterns (Jamie Foxx’s impression is incredible). Just don’t do it.

I know that it’s incredibly easy to sit back and say, “You there, funny man that I am watching on my television, be more funny or I shall be forced to change the channel.” I know that I am Monday morning quarterbacking stand-up comedy, which is really very sad. All I am asking though is if a ‘Comedian’ decides that their opinion is more important than entertaining, they need to have new business cards made that say ‘Stand-Up Philosopher’ and stop pretending that they bring the funny.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I think sci-fi, therefore I am sci-fi.

My wife is a saint. I say this not because of her unending patience or her ability to find lost things like good ol’ Anthony of Padua. I say this because she puts up with me and my hobby.

My wife does not enjoy sci-fi. Consequently, she encourages me to write things other than science fiction. She is loving and supportive of my writing and wants me to do well but honestly, would be much happier reading my work if it focused around widower or middle-aged-never-been-married pastors that live in New England with eccentric parishioners and women that awaken a longing for a ‘complete’ life. That’s what she would enjoy and if that’s what makes her happy, then I hope the Mitford series continues indefinitely and that Gilmore Girls will be resurrected. Unfortunately, that’s not me. I don’t think about quaint towns where everyone knows everyone’s business and there are no grocery stores because every morning there is a farmer’s market with everything from fresh cream to haggis.

She asks me why I don’t write sweet things. (Asks, not nags. She never nags, just to be clear.) She tells me I’m funny and I should focus on that. Everybody likes funny, she says. I nod my head and agree with her because it’s true. I am funny. At least, all signs point to me being funny. I know it’s not my asymmetrically retreating hairline and overripe pumpkin figure that keeps her with me. I know it’s my ability to make her laugh.

I tell her it’s because when I think about quaint towns, I picture destroyed buildings, no farmer’s market because there are no farms and then I begin to wonder what happened. Then I think about comets and asteroids and what would happen if we tried to blow one up and the physics required for the comet to break into a million pieces that strike the earth over a period of twenty-four hours and what if each piece of comet has a hyper-magnetic core that survives the intense heat of atmospheric penetration and is so strongly polarized that they are pulled toward industrial centers and cities because of the high concentration of metal and how strong of a magnetic force would there have to be for the comet fragments to be diverted from their gravitational descent and…now I’m writing a new book.

Before I know it, it's three in the morning and I have fifty pages of hand written notes and questions to find answers for and the poor widowed pastor that my wife would like to read about finding love and a renewed sense of life is trapped in a box canyon with mutated survivors trying to preach the gospel to those that have seen the wrath of heaven.

That’s why I write sci-fi. It’s because I think sci-fi. Blame reading it when I was a kid. Blame the physics, mathematics, chemistry and engineering courses I had to take to get my degree. Blame whatever you want but at the end of the day, when I’m thinking about whatever I want to think about, it’s science based and it’s not happy. Maybe some dialog might be funny, maybe a character or two might reflect a hilarious friend or I might throw in story of an old rooster named Earl that was too slow to catch the hens so he settled for a fat white duck named Spike. Who knows, any of that could happen. But at the end of the day, when I take the time to collect all of my errant thoughts and imaginings, two things are constant.

One – I scare myself sometimes.

And two – I think sci-fi, therefore I am sci-fi.

Exciting Blog News! Email Subscriptions!

For those of you that enjoy my spandex monkey stylings but hate the hassle of actually going to my blog to see if I have anything new posted (I know that my posting has been very irregular but from here on out I promise at least three new posts a week), I have the solution for you. Look to your right, just below the super handsome picture and TA DA!!! – EMAIL SUBSCRIPTIONS!!!!!!!

I know, I know, not really that exciting but it is a feature I enjoy on the blogs I frequent because it saves me the heart ache of actually taking the time to open my favorites menu, click on their link and then see they haven’t updated in over two days. I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about. But now, you don’t have to worry about that. Just put in your email address and bam! – every time I post something new it will be sent directly to your email, which if you’re anything like me, gets checked anywhere from 5-50 times a day depending on how many Nigerian politicians need help to transferring their fortunes to America.

So, there you go. Quick and easy blog posts to your email. I’m making the world a better place by eliminating one mouse click at a time.

P.S. If you have a blog and have not set up this particular feature yet, here’s a link with instructions for how to. Realistically, it’s not very hard but considering how easy Google usually makes things for all of us, it might take a little time.

P.P.S. Please remember to comment if you read something you like and feel free (really, really, really free) to email around any blog posts to friends, family or enemies. Or even better, sign up your entire address book for subscription. People love unexpected emails, right?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Movie Mash-Up: Iron Man in the Iron Mask

1. Bad Movie – The Man in the Iron Mask (1998). I thought it was awful. The acting, especially John Malkovich’s soulful performance describing why he's lost faith in life, was horrendous. I know that most of the actors (Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gabriel Byrne, Gerard Depardieu) in this film are legends/greats/whatever but this movie was simply hard to watch . And the unforgivable sin – forcing the audience to see Gerard Depardieu’s naked butt which looks a great deal like the end of his nose magnified.

Basic Story – Twin heirs to the throne, imprisonment of the ‘nice’ one by the evil one including an iron mask so nobody will know there is a ‘nice’ twin, but the musketeers find out and plan to supplant evil Di Caprio with the nice DiCaprio since France is on the edge of revolution & a nice king could fix it all. Eventually, after all the hassle, the evil DiCaprio with his almost feminine beauty, decides it would actually be easier to kill his brother than keep him alive in an iron mask. Seems to me, if he was really pure evil, this would have been the first move but hey, I’m an engineer so I look for efficiency. Anyway, after a surprise paternity confession and miracle survival of an onslaught of musket fire, the nice DiCaprio becomes king, the evil one wears the mask and France never goes through a bloody revolution. This movie almost has a sci-fi twist already with an alternate history.

2. Science Fiction Movie – Iron Man

Basic Story – Tony Stark is Robert Downey Jr., a genius engineer who makes billions of dollars and bags big-toothed blond reporters (because engineers get all the hot blonds) while being nagged by Gwyneth Paltrow. Skip to the end of terrorist captivity and Tony has built a weaponized suit of armor and becomes Iron Man. There is corporate betrayals, new found love and appreciate for life and really cool special effects. In short, Iron Man = goooooood times.

2. New Movie – Iron Man in the Iron Mask

Keep the original Man in the Iron Mask story since it in itself is actually very good. (I know, who would’ve thought a man named Dumas could have produced something intelligent and enduring.) BUT, replace DiCaprio with Downey Jr. for less whining and more funny snarkiness and then when the good Downey Jr. is imprisoned, instead of just taking it, he creates the rest of an Iron Man suit, returns to Paris, throws his evil twin brother to the revolting peasants where he is torn to pieces. Then, Iron Man in the Iron Mask puts the fear into the whiny peasants before and the revolution is averted, thus bringing about the alternate timeline as in the original movie. Starts and ends the same but the middle two hours would be a lot more fun to watch.

Everything is better with Sci-Fi.

And for the four and a half people I know are reading this blog, I would just like to point out that this is my second submission for the movie mash-up vs the collective score of ZERO for all of you. I am disappointed.

Bring your game and your entry will become a blog post as long as the rules are observed. Submit entries to

Shocking Revelations for 8/27/09

I feel like I’ve just been hit by a truck. My shocking revelations for the day might be common knowledge to you but I am completely blown away by what I did not know.

· Brand on ‘Goonies’ = Josh Brolin
· ‘Encino Man’ came out in 1992! That movie is seventeen years old! That makes me hurt.
· Freaky puppeteer dead girl from ‘Sixth Sense’ = Mischa Barton

Time for cookies.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Stupid Dragon Apocalypse

Having two children ruins a lot of movies. I have seen half of ‘Up’, ‘Despereau’, ‘Horton Hears a Who’, and many other kids’ films in theaters thanks to my two year old preferring to wander the lobby to sitting down and watching the film. But that’s not what I’m writing about here. I’m also not writing about movies where people with children are supposed to be emotionally charged or triggered by the thought of children suffering or dying. There are plenty of those films set in the real world and it is natural to get a little (or very much) choked up when thinking of one’s own children put in such circumstances.

What I am writing about are the surprise movies, the ones you don’t expect to think about your kids, the ones that are supposed to take you out of this world and entertain you with fantastic settings, epic battles, or speculative ideas of how the world might be if ‘xyz’ happened.

The other night, I was watching just such a film – ‘Reign of Fire’ – an oft forgotten movie from 2002 starring: Christian (I’m Batman and I need a lozenge to soothe my scratchy throat) Bale, Matthew (Shaved Head, Tattooed Arms, Sleeveless Bomber Jacket & Cigars = BadAs-) McConaughey, and Gerard (When I’m not making terrible RomComs, I live in SPARTAAAAAAA!) Butler as the survivors and enders of a contemporary dragon apocalypse. That’s right – a modern dragon apocalypse so hard core that it even includes a slo-mo scene of Matty M. jumping off the top of a smoke stack towards the alpha-male dragon with only a gothic battle axe. Oh yeah, this is a manly movie and yes, I was watching it by myself because my wife had something ‘better’ to do.

So I’m watching this movie, wondering if I could take any of the male leads in a fight and then there’s a scene where Christian Bale is explaining to Izabella (former Bond girl) Scorupco, how he became the guardian of one of the children living in his ‘fortress’. This is somewhat paraphrased but just imagine Bale’s accent (for those of you who don’t know, he’s not American – he’s from Wales):

“He was three years old. I found him trying to wake up his mother. She’d been dead for days…”

Son of a motherless goat!

The last time I’d watched this movie was when it came out, 2 years before my daughter was born. What I remembered of it was the above listed hard-core guy entertainment and the scene where Mr. Bale and Mr. Butler act out the ‘I am your father’ scene from Empire and tell the awe struck kids that they wrote it. I did not remember this part but now, I will never forget it because as the words were said in the dingy, survivalist basement of Mr. Bale’s fortress, I got choked up and had to fight back tears.

That’s right. Me, Dan the Spandex Monkey, all 6 ft 250 lbs of manly man was trying not to cry watching a movie about a dragon apocalypse.

Kids ruin everything.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

And now the exciting conclusion! Zero-Matter Chapter 13-Epilogue

Chapters 13-Epilogue of Zero-Matter, my 71,000 word Science Fiction Novel.Please see ‘The Basics’ on the right for the rules and thank you for reading.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Zero-Matter Novel Excerpt - Chapters 9-12

Chapters 9-12 of Zero-Matter, my 71,000 word Science Fiction Novel.Please see ‘The Basics’ on the right for the rules and thank you for reading.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Zero-Matter Novel Excerpt - Chapters 5-8

Chapters 5-8 of Zero-Matter, my 71,000 word Science Fiction Novel.

Please see ‘The Basics’ on the right for the rules and thank you for reading.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sci-Fi Movie Mash-Up

I’d like to start a game here on Spandex Monkey. I realize that with virtually no readership, this game will probably become a geeky version of solitaire but I’m going to throw the idea out there any way.

Naming suggestions will be welcome as part of the game but for now, I’ll just call it the “Movie Mash-Up Experiment” or “Everything’s Better with Sci-Fi.”

Here are the basics:

1. Think of a terrible movie that you’ve had to endure either at the request of a significant other, friends or someone you hardly knew but wanted to impress with how sensitive you were in hopes that they would be turned on by that. It can be any genre except sci-fi or fantasy. You must remember enough of said movie to offer an intelligent synopsis. If it was so bad that your mind has blocked all detail except the knowledge that Movie XYZ = pain, go to for a refresher unless professional therapy counsels against empowering the suppressed memories.

2. Think of a science fiction movie, good or bad. Same rules apply for Step 1.

3. Combine the premise of the two movies to make something else, something fantastic, something magical


1. Terrible Movie – ‘Runaway Bride’ starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, a movie so bad that the only justification in making it was to give Ms. Roberts and Mr. Gere roles to fill in order to cash in ten years later on the success of ‘Pretty Woman’.

Basic story: Ms. Roberts gets engaged a lot and then when walking, riding, trampolining or whatevering to the altar, she gets scared, turns tail and runs. Mr. Gere’s character writes about her in a newspaper which leads to hate which naturally leads to love because women are great at the forgive, forget and fall in love with the man they hated thing, which results in him getting jilted at the alter, Ms. Roberts finally figuring out how she likes her eggs (I am not kidding. That is a major plot point.), and finally, the two of them getting married because they understand each other even though she is a country girl that makes lamps out of electrical conduit and junction boxes (how quirky) and he is a jaded New York City columnist.

Let me just say, I love my wife very much.

2. Science Fiction Movie – ‘Species’ with Natasha Henstridge, Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Marg Helgenberger, Forest Whitaker and Alfred ‘Doc Oc from Spiderman 2’ Molina. Already shaping up better, huh?

Basic plot – Aliens make contact with directions for combining their genetics with human genetics, resulting in Natasha Henstridge with an over-the-top reproductive drive that makes a twenty-seven year old single girl at BYU look like she’s luke-warm on the whole baby thing. So Ms. Henstridge goes on a run of seeking possible mates only to kill any man that has a ‘genetic’ weakness like diabetes or uneven baldness. Unable to find a better man in a city of several million, she ends up hooking up with Doc Oc, has his baby after about thirty minutes of gestation and is then killed by the rest of the crack scientific team.

Not the best sci-fi movie but it deserves points for trying.

3. Super Fantastic New Movie – “Runaway Species” starring Natasha Henstridge, Richard Gere, and Sir Ben Kingsley.

Now, instead of trying to destroy little girl Ms. Henstridge when ordered to by the army, Sir Ben takes her and hides in a rural farming community where she learns to love and respect mankind. And since she was raised with old fashioned American values, she decides that she must be married before she can mate. And because she has American values, she doesn’t kill her suitors that don’t meet her criteria; she just leaves them at the altar. Enter Mr. Gere as a conspiracy freak obsessed with tracking down Sir Ben and Ms. Henstridge. He meets her and falls in love/lust with her before discovering that she is the alien mating machine. Romantic hilarity ensues for about thirty seconds before she kills him for the genetic failing of being Richard Gere. Enter Jason Statham, who Ms. Henstridge decides is good enough for her eggs (eggs? Eggs? Like Julia Roberts? nevermind…) despite his male pattern baldness because it’s Jason “The Transporter” Statham and they get married on a mountain top and then their offspring goes on to destroy all of humanity because it's one quarter alien, one quarter Henstridge and one half Statham. Mankind would not stand a chance.

See, everything is better with Sci-Fi (and Jason Statham).

So there it is. Simple enough. Follow the blog rules (keep language, sex and gore to a PG rating) and have fun. Post your Mash-up in the comments and when we have fifty entries or once I realize nobody else is playing, I’ll post the top five and open voting to the public for a winner. The prize will be determined at that time but don’t expect too much.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ultimate Query Fail - A.K.A. Something to help you feel smarter

I am an idiot. Please bear with me as I give a little back story that will illustrate the full magnitude of my stupidity.

In the summer of 1997, I had an idea for a story. I jotted down the idea that continued to improve and expand with every ink mark on the page. It wasn't the right time in my life to write a novel, so I forced myself to wrap it up and promised myself that I would write the book tentatively titled 'Moonfire Movement' in two years.

In late 2008, I finally finished my manuscript. After eleven years of thinking, writing and further developing the original idea, I typed word 170,177. (Figuring 250 words per page, my novel was a hefty 681 pages.) Pleased with myself for finally completing the monster that had randomly consumed my attention for over 1/3 of my life, I went online to figure out how to get it published and be lavished with awards, accolades and of course the riches that only science fiction authorship can bring. Sixty plus queries were sent to any and all agents I could find that accepted science fiction submissions and over two months, sixty plus form rejection emails filled my inbox.

I tried to take it in stride. I really, really tried to be understanding. Rejection is just part of the publishing world. Everybody collects rejection letters at the start of their career. But I still felt like I had in the seventh grade when the basketball coach called me into his office on the last day of tryouts and told me that I needed to work on my physical conditioning, my left hand dribbling, my right hand dribbling and my shooting. I walked out of the locker room that day thinking, “What else is left?”

None of the agents gave me any details of what I needed to improve but by the speed of rejection, it was apparent to me that my whole ‘game’ needed to improve.

So, I researched the writing industry and agent practices. I became a regular reader of the linked blogs (to the right) and a contributor to small writing exercises and contests. I sat down with my 'Moonfire' manuscript and a red pen, slashed it to pieces and threw the whole thing in the trunk of my car after deciding rewriting was more expedient than revising. I found peace in telling myself that I was improving as a writer and had a solid story that just needed better story telling.

Then, Wednesday night, July the 15th, knocked my optimistic work off line. It was late evening, my wife was painting and I was drooling in the corner with the flu, mindlessly clicking around I found an article about ten science fiction books that should be made into movies. (Here’s a link to the article for anyone interested.) I gave it a look. I’d read several of the books and had most of the others on a ‘must read’ list. But one in particular caught my attention.

Before I tell you what that book was, let me give you a synopsis of 'Moonfire', a bullet point version of what I’d sent in my query letters.

The story takes place in re-activated volcanic chambers under the surface of the moon.
Our hero escapes from his slavery in the mines and once free, he leads a revolt against the government of Earth and the shadow organization behind the government to put an end to the prisoner/slave mining of Moonfire.

(That’s it in a nutshell. I’m sure all of you are now desperate to read more.)

Back to Wednesday night, book number two of the writer’s top ten books to be made into movies is Robert Heinlein’s 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' and the synopsis of the story is…

“…a future penal mining colony on the moon decides to rebel and declare independence, with plenty of talk about government leavened by tough, tense scenes of armed revolution as the moon's residents fight back against Earth's jailers and governments.”

If my wife had not been in the room and my children had not been sleeping peacefully upstairs, I would have screamed a string of profanities so obscene that a new level of hell would have been created as a punishment for my outburst.

Eight months of telling myself I just needed to improve as a writer, needed to work harder, needed to evolve my style went out the window. Twelve years of writing, adjusting, studying and thinking were completely destroyed. This was so much worse than believing my entire ‘game’ needed to change. I now knew why agents had been so quick to reject. It wasn’t just because I couldn’t write or had written a manuscript far too long to be published as a first time novelist – It was because I was querying a novel that had been published in 1966 by one of the greats of science fiction. I was querying a story that was over FORTY years old and was a Hugo award winner. (If you don’t know what the Hugo Award is, here’s a link but let me throw out some other titles for comparison – Dune, Ringworld, Neuromancer, Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.)

Imagine some idiot sitting around in 2050 and sending out query letters that reads something like this:

Dear Superstar Agent,

Larry Plotter is a wizard but doesn’t know it…

That’s what I did SIXTY TIMES!

That’s me.

Dan. The idiot.

I wish that I had written my queries in crayon and sent them on the back of post cards with a return address to ‘Wee Britain’. I wish that I had been content to print my manuscript and wait another ten years to start rewrites in the hope that I might read more of Heinlein’s work between now and then. I wish at the very least that I had used a pen name and had worn a fake moustache when querying just to throw the agents off my trail of ignorance. I wish for so many things right now that if I listed them all, this blog post would never end.

Who knows, maybe the agents I queried didn’t equate 'Moonfire' with Heinlein’s book. Maybe they really did reject Moonfire because my writing is horrible and the story is pedestrian and boring. Maybe nobody passed my email around the office so everyone could have a good laugh at the idiot querying a forty year old award winning novel. Maybe…

That being said, I have a copy of 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' now and will begin reading tonight. Based on some book summaries I’ve read, it appears that Moonfire has very little in common with Harsh Mistress. At this point, all I can do is read and hope that I really, honestly and truly just stink at writing and that nobody else made this connection. But, if a dimwit like me can make it, odds are somebody else has already.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Zero-Matter Novel Excerpt

Novel Excerpt – Zero-Matter

Pebble number two. Follow the link below or to the side to the first four chapters of my 71,000 word novel Zero-Matter.

Please see ‘The Basics’ on the right for the rules and thank you for reading.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Short Story - Soul Jumping

Here we go! Dropping a pebble into the bottomless pit. Follow the link below to a pdf of my short story (20,000 words) Soul Jumping. Please read, hopefully enjoy, and post comments, opinions and suggestions in the comment section of this post.

Thanks to any and all of you willing to give my writing a chance.

Welcome to Spandex Monkey’s Variety Hour.

For those of you who have known me for a long time, you might recognize Spandex Monkey as the name I’d hoped to use for a) a production company or b) an alternative rock band. As I’ve grown, I realized that ‘Spandex Monkey’ would be better for a punk band so option ‘b’ went out the window. There are still hopes for option ‘a’ but since I live nowhere near L.A. or New York, have no contacts in television, film, or the music industries, odds are I won’t ever have a production company either. What I do have, however, is a fresh new blog that needed a name so I went with what I had.

As for the ‘Variety Show’ part of the name, that is a direct reference to the content of this blog. There may be anything posted here from tips on preparing roast beef to memories of obstinate pygmy goats, roosters with duck fetishes, or stupid dogs named Molly. But mostly, I hope to use this blog as a tool for writing.

I love writing, always have but have never done anything but play with ideas, jot a few notes and occasionally pounded out an unpublishable novel read only by my wife who hates sci-fi.

The things I think when I finish a piece - What if it’s awful? Not just bad but really excruciatingly, teeth-grinding terrible? What if I am so lost and deluded that I can’t recognize the torture I am putting to page? What then? Am I wasting my time? Is it time to get a better hobby? Am I an idiot? And so on until I find myself watching P90X ads at two in the morning.

These thoughts keep me from sharing with as many people as I should and consequently, keep me from improving as a writer.

I need feedback. I need lots of feedback - Good and Bad. Good to keep me writing what works and bad to help me fix what doesn’t. So many of you are wonderful, cuddly, considerate people and are just too nice to tell the whole truth. I appreciate you all for your kind souls but it’s not what I need. If your response to my writing is positive, of course let me know. If it is negative, absolutely LET ME KNOW. If a character is unrealistic, if a logic jump is too great, if dialog sounds like five renditions of the same person arguing with themselves, I need to know.

By the time I think something is ready for others to read, I’ve been through it so many times that I lose perspective. I don’t recognize what’s on the page because I see my thoughts and can’t remember that you don’t see what I see. You have only the words on the page or screen and I need to know what those do for you.

So, basically, this blog is me begging. I am begging for your help. I am begging for your honest opinions. If you don’t want to read science fiction, you don’t have to. Stories and chapters will be posted to the side if you do care to read. If you don’t care for sci-fi, but are curious as to what goes on in my balding head, please read. If you like sci-fi, definitely read.

I need your help and I hope, sincerely hope, that if you take the time to read you will enjoy it. If you don’t, then take pleasure in giving me your honest opinions. I may sulk. I may whimper. But in the end, I will be grateful.

Thank you for your time and please, be honest. Remember, this is for posterity. (Okay, maybe not so much but it seemed like an appropriate quote to end with.)