Thursday, May 17, 2018

Not So Epic Fails



I’ve had cause over the last two or three months to reflect on my artistic failures over the years. I’ve thought about it a lot and I sincerely believe it’s been God’s way of reminding me how far I’ve come in the last couple of years on my novels, and that if I work hard and don’t give up, I might very well succeed. I don’t think I’ve really worked terribly hard at anything previously, even things I’ve really wanted, but I’ve worked hard on these books and I will continue to do so.


So here, dear Diary, are the three, perhaps four, instances that caused such reflection on my part:


Failed Humorist
I watched an incredibly funny film on Netflix called A Futile and Stupid Gesture, all about Doug Kenney, who co-founded National Lampoon. It reminded me of how that was everything I wanted to be at one time in my life. I never wanted to be a stand-up. I knew I couldn’t stand in front of people and tell jokes. But what I wanted to be, for as long as I can remember, was a humorist, and I now consider myself something of a failed humorist.


Oh, I had some stuff published on a lot of web sites, and even got paid for some of it, even got myself in a literary journal alongside the likes of Sarah Silverman and Patton Oswalt. Still, it never went anywhere. I, at one time, wanted to be like the guys from National Lampoon. Not that I ever read that magazine, but I was into almost nothing but humor and comedy from the age of 10 up – to the point of idolizing S.J. Perelman, who wrote for the Marx Brothers and died when I was five years old, and reading endless books about writing humor and writing for television. There was one by Sol Saks, who created Bewitched, that I particularly enjoyed.
Kenney also co-wrote the screenplays for Animal House and Caddyshack, which reminded me of when I wrote a screenplay called "The Old College Try" and, not too long after I completed the first draft, two films came out with a similar plot and I abandoned the project altogether. Of course, these films - Dead Man on Campus and Dead Man's Curve - are entirely forgettable


Along with my failed artistic endeavors, I’ve been thinking a lot about how my social anxiety (medically diagnosed) and Asperger’s (self-diagnosed) have affected my life. The two certainly go hand-in-hand, as I was thinking about when I was in college and was a copy editor at my school newspaper. Every spring they did a parody issue and I spent spring break writing two articles to submit for it (As well as writing a script for a sketch show for the public access station at which I was interning. That show never happened). Then, when the time came, I chickened out. I couldn’t submit them. One of the editors, who I was somewhat friendly with, even asked me if I had anything, and I still couldn’t say I did. All that work trying to write funny stuff and nothing came of it.


 


 


Failed Musician


My wife loves The Voice. So I’m sometimes forced to watch it. When I watch the stories of some of the participants it makes me think of how, if I had applied myself, I could have done something with my music. I was just too social phobic and stage frighty. I realized the other day that I should have applied to and auditioned at Berkeley College of Music when I had the chance. I could have prepared for it, but when I was told I’d have to audition, that was it. I got scared.  Berkeley was right out.
I wrote so many songs back in the day that nobody but my wife, my friend Rick and my uncle ever heard. I may not have ever been great, or even good, but I should have tried harder.


A major obstacle in my singer/songwriter career was this thing that used to happen to my left arm. It would occasionally spasm and this happened a lot while I was playing guitar, sometimes in front of people. I remember at an acoustic open mic night in college it happening twice, once when I was playing REM’s “Man on the Moon,” and then again as I played one of my own songs. Each time I had to stop playing and go sit down, and each time one of the other guitar players said something nice to me to deflect from my embarrassment. One said, "Did you see the Andy Kaufman special the other night?" The other told me my song had a little Simon and Garfunkel to it.


The funny thing is that when I finally started seeing a shrink about my anxiety the arm spasms went away, never to be heard from again. I looked it up the other day and, sure enough, those kinds of spasms are connected with anxiety.

Oh, I still have lots of anxiety, but not nearly as much as I had in my teens and early twenties.








Not So Much a Failure

This one’s a little stupid because, unlike being a humorist and musician, I never wanted to be this. But I’ve realized late in my life now that I love this kind of thing.

Walking through the drama department at a high school recently during my son’s Odyssey of the Mind performances, it occurred to me that I should’ve taken drama/theater classes. Stupid, I know, considering I could never tell jokes in front of anyone and couldn’t play the guitar without my arm practically ripping itself from my body. But it was seeing that the school had done a James Thurber play, in particular, that sparked this. I love Thurber, and I’ll bet something like being in plays could’ve changed the person I was in high school and college. Or maybe being in a band sooner than I was, or in college at all, and actually playing my own songs.

And I shouldn’t say I never wanted to be in theater. I did want to be a playwright at one time. I tried to turn "The Old College Try" into a play after my dreams of selling it as a screenplay disappeared, and in college I read Arsenic & Old Lace dozens of times. It was my favorite thing ever. To this day if I see anyone, even a junior high school, staging Arsenic & Old Lace, I want to see it, and the film version starring Cary Grant is one of my all-time favorites.

 
Failed Dream

I suppose the fourth thing would be my short story collection Puppet Shows. All I ever wanted was to publish a collection of my stories. I wanted it for nearly ten years.  I emulated short story writers like George Saunders, Ryan Boudinot and Arthur Bradford, wanting to get my writing into the journals that they were in.  I succeeded in just one, getting into Monkeybicycle, which Boudinot had been in. And even though I was never published in any literary journal that anyone had ever heard of, I had confidence that my stories were good and funny and would be great in a collection.



After some two years of rejections I finally got a publisher who wanted Puppet Shows. I guess it wasn’t until after that that I realized (and I should have realized it a few years before) that the vast majority of the publishing world, be it book publishing or magazine publishing, does not share my sense of humor. When I searched for book bloggers to review Puppet Shows the first thing I noticed was that many of them wouldn’t even look at short story collections. It’s novels or hit the bricks. But there were many others who just read the paragraph-long description of my book and didn’t want to bother. I looked at my collection as Monty Python meets The Regular Show and most people couldn’t have cared less.

But I will tell you that of the 12 to 15, whatever it was, reviews I did get, all but two were glowing, and it made me happy, even if my publisher would dump me after two years due to lack of sales. Selling a collection of short stories as an unknown writer is tough. Not as tough as selling a poetry chapbook. That’s darn near impossible. I tried it twice. But a collection of short stories? If you’re not George Saunders or any of the many other famous short story writers whose names I’m forgetting, good luck to you.

Nonetheless, vis-a-vis, despite all this nonsense, I have positive feelings about the future. I have lots coming down the pike, wherever that pike may be. I have a trilogy of novels I want to publish and two children’s books. I thank God every day for my progress in writing the novels because I’ve surprised even myself.






In closing, I'm all about my novels now, and the children's books I'm writing, and I can forget about all else that's happened. I do, however, often return to that issue of Monkeybicycle I was in. I mean, all I wanted was to be published in there because Ryan Boudinot's work was in Issue 3, but I got in Issue 5, the Dirty Humor issue, which was guest edited by a guy who'd written for multiple very popular magazines (and, when I first submitted my short story "Dinner at Wither Port," he said it was hilarious, but we want dirty. So I put together three filthy short pieces and he loved them because, damn it, I'm a genius.)


Or not. Sorry.


As I said, freaking Patton Oswalt and Sarah Silverman had stuff in there, but also David Cross wrote the forward to that issue. And, AND! A couple of writers in that issue went on to become pretty huge: one wrote for SpongeBob SquarePants and Adventure Time, another won an Emmy for being a writer and producer on Bob's Burgers. The rest of the contributors list is like a Who's Who, for Pete's sake. If not for this darn social anxiety and Asperger's, that could have been me by now. And why not me? Didn't some baseball team use this as their mantra recently? Why not me? I mean, I know this blog wasn't funny. At all. But click somewhere and read something I wrote. DO IT!

Anyway, in the words of Kylo Ren, "Let the past die. Kill it if you have to. That's the only way to become what you were meant to be." I'm only looking forward, and anytime I look back I'm going to shock myself with a taser. Tazer? Taser? I don't know, but I will shock the crap out of myself.

Because I'm special. I'm talented. I'm great. And, to quote another great man, Stuart Smalley, "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough, and, doggone it, people like me."

I think that last part's true. I can name at least a half dozen people who like me. Sure, my kids would be two of them, but not all kids like their parents.

I mean, as I droned on about two blogs ago, Zouch Magazine called me "the witty American writer," and said I wasn't just a "comedian," but a "philosopher."



I'm freaking Voltaire. I'm Thomas Bloody Aquinas, dash it!

And I'm, once again, going on far too long. Of course, part of looking only to the future would be letting this dumb BlogSpot blog die. I did delete like a hundred entries recently. Oh, crap! The kitchen's on fire.

















Thursday, May 10, 2018

Dead Wrestlers Book One Excerpt: May 1989, Eddie Gilbert vs. The Great Muta

In my ongoing and silly hanging on to this blog I'm posting an excerpt from Book One of my trilogy DEAD WRESTLERS. I chose this one because today (or tomorrow maybe, I can't find a date, but I know it's one of the two) is the 35th anniversary of the car accident "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert suffered that ultimately led to his death in February 1995.


Some back story: In DEAD WRESTLERS the main character Mark sees the ghosts of deceased grapplers and knows when living ones will die. In this excerpt Mark attends a National Wrestling Alliance show at the Boston Garden and is very excited to see his two favorite wrestlers - Eddie Gilbert and The Great Muta - face each other one-on-one. However, it is when Gilbert begins walking to the ring that Mark sees that Hot Stuff's death is in the not-too-distant future.


In this excerpt there are references to previous incidents, one a Bruiser Brody match Mark attended the year prior, two some matches he watched on television with the ghost of Gino Hernandez.










“Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert came out to the Donna Summer song of the same name. I turned and told Al that only someone as cool as Gilbert could use a Donna Summer song as his ring-entrance music. I was beyond excited. Hot Stuff had never wrestled in Massachusetts before, at least since I had become a fan. Now he was on his way out. Muta stood in the ring, his face painted completely white except for the black Japanese writing on his cheekbones and the black over his eyes.


 


It was almost on: my two favorite wrestlers battling one-on-one. Muta, with his evil genius manager Gary Hart, versus Gilbert, seconded by his lovely wife Missy Hyatt at ringside; Muta, who had recently debuted, wrestling Steamboat on television and defeating Eddie’s brother on the May Pay-Per-View, WrestleWar, taking on Gilbert, who had just returned for his good-guy run after brief heel stints in Memphis and Continental Wrestling.


 


I had waited for this brawl and my wait would soon be over.


 


Anticipation soon gave way to fear. I had expected Gilbert in his colorful ring jacket, long blue trunks and white boots, white sunglasses, and sporting a mullet and light beard. Instead, Gilbert’s hair, still a perfect half-mullet, sat atop a dwarfish skull consisting of part base structure, part zombie. There were no ears or nose to speak of, his body a raging, dripping set of bones, dirty and sanguine, like he had just stepped out of a well-dug grave on a murky night. It was far worse than Brody in Malden or what Gino showed me on television.


 


Had it not been so frightening it would have almost appeared comical, like in old cartoons when a skeleton would run through a cemetery then fall to pieces and play his ribs like a xylophone. But this was not a Disney sing-songy skeleton. This was a horror movie, a walking, kicking, punching, splatter film.


 


The crowd around me cheered with every whack Gilbert gave Muta, the painted, flesh and bones warrior, with the kendo stick. It was a full five minutes of the unrecognizable creature - still wearing elbow pads and wrist tape, and the same old boots and trunks – overpowering Muta, kicking him in the stomach with his fragile skeleton feet, trapping him in the corner of the ring while standing on the middle rope and throwing ten punches to his face with those bony knuckles. 


 


Then Muta had the upper hand, choking the remains of the corpse Gilbert with a wire or chain, and kicking him below the belt.


 


Finally, I saw the eyes, the cold, black holes that stood as eyes, as they turned to me, and I could swear they looked directly into my soul. Gilbert stared daggers at me and, for a moment, I thought that phrase could turn literal.


 


I knew Eddie Gilbert would be joining me soon. I turned and there was Gino, enjoying the action. He looked at me.


 


"What?"


 


I just stared at him.


 


"Pretty gruesome, huh? Now you know this is serious business."


 


I lowered my voice so my companions for the evening wouldn’t hear me. Timidly and nearly in tears, I whispered, "Eddie's gonna die?"


 


"Gee, you think so?” Gino gave a short laugh and patted me on the back. “Listen, he's got a few years yet, and he may not be savable, but there are some that will be. And it's all on you, kid."


 


"I'm fifteen." My father and brother both turned to me. I mimed cheering Eddie on.


 


"And getting older every day.” Gino gave me a thumbs up.


 


The bell rang. Gilbert was outside the ring and didn’t get back in by the ten count. Muta won by count out. I hated count-out decisions.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Long-Winded Blowhard

I don't know why I'm posting this. In the future I'll have a real web site put together with the help of a semi-professional.


Anyway, I was just reading some of an interview I did with Zouch Magazine five years ago (Link somewhere on the right). I say some because I couldn't read the whole thing. My stars, was I a blowhard! I just kept going, all excited to be interviewed by a really cool site that I had to get everything in but my social security number. I can't put two sentences together when I'm talking with people, but offer me an interview and the crap just flies off the keyboard.


The funny thing is they called me "The Witty American Writer," then said I'm a "comedian/writer/philosopher." This had to have been sarcasm. No one at Zouch could have actually believed that.


I guess I'm posting this to remind myself that in future interviews (Should it ever happen again. LOLzzzz) I should keep it brief. Brevity, stupid. Brevity. You're not Mark Twain.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Dead Wrestlers

Since sometime in 2011 I've been writing and editing a series of novels called Dead Wrestlers. The idea was initially going to be one novel. Then it morphed into three.


Why has it taken so long? Well, I published a collection of short stories during this time. I have a 9-5 job like a ham-and-egger and humanoid (RIP Bobby "the Brain" Heenan) and I have two children.


Anyway, the only reason I'm posting this is to establish that these are my novels. No one reads this blog. Very few ever have. In fact, I've deleted most of the posts.


Here is something I wrote about these novels a while back:




In 2007 I wrote a three-part article called “Dead Wrestlers Society” for a web site that no longer exists. It was well-received and the editor of the site told me I should consider making the article into a book. I entertained the idea and initially discarded it, thinking I couldn’t do an entire non-fiction book about professional wrestlers who have died justice.


I continued writing other things – essays, short stories, poems, and even published two poetry chapbooks in 2008 and 2011. I had written a couple dozen short stories, my dream being to publish a collection of them, which I eventually did in November 2012. With this accomplished I began thinking about writing a novel. I don’t remember exactly how the idea entered my head, but the thought of adapting “Dead Wrestlers Society” into a novel rather than writing a non-fiction book interested me greatly.


The questions were who would be the main characters and what would the story be. I knew I wanted the main character to be somewhat based on myself, and that he should have friends with characteristics of mine and others I knew. What I also wanted was for the wrestlers themselves to be characters. I’d recently read I,Fatty by Jerry Stahl and Wintering by Kate Moses, novels about the lives of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Sylvia Plath, respectively. So I knew an author could write about the lives of real people if they were deceased.


But how could I write about all the wrestlers I wanted to? How could I write about Gino Hernandez, Eddie Gilbert and Owen Hart when they never wrestled each other.


Then it hit me. I love ghost stories. Not scary ghost stories, but stories in which ghosts appear in normal, everyday life, like Thorne Smith’s Topper or Eric Idle’s short-lived sitcom Nearly Departed, which no one probably ever saw but me.


So I had a handful of main characters and some ghosts. Now I needed a story. I returned to my original article, which, being published in 2007, focused on Chris Benoit. I knew Benoit had a lot of friends in the wrestling business who had passed away. What if they wanted the main character to stop the Benoit tragedy from happening? What if that was the motivation of the ghosts from the get go - to save every wrestler from entering an early grave?


And what if only the main character can see these ghosts? Maybe it all started with an incident from his past, perhaps even his childhood. I thought of two instances from my own childhood, both of which I used in the first chapter of Book One. Yes, I once piledrove my own sister. She didn’t die. She claimed to have blacked out, but she was fine. Then there was the time my siblings and their friends ganged up on me in a wrestling match. I thought combining these two separate occurrences made perfect sense.


Anyway, the reason I’m writing this is to tell you that Dead Wrestlers is obviously a work of fiction. All living characters – with the exception of wrestlers who eventually die, plus a handful of famous, deceased non-wrestlers – are completely made up. Some have characteristics of people I know, but they are fictional. This includes Mark’s family – his parents, Harry and Candace; his brother Al; and his sister Nikki. All made up. In fact, in my mind as I read it Candace is portrayed by a well-known sitcom mom. These characters are in no way meant to represent my actual family. The same goes for other characters close to main character Mark Chapman. His cousins, roommates and significant others are entirely fictional.


The ghosts, the wrestlers, on the other hand, were real, actual people. However, I look at them as characters in a pro wrestling storyline. What I mean by this is there are instances in these books in which it may appear that I’m making judgments about a particular wrestler when what I’m actually doing is just trying to further the story. Two cases in point occur in the first book. The circumstances surrounding the deaths of Gino Hernandez and David Von Erich have been talked about for years. In each case, particularly that of David, I chose one scenario over the other because it worked for the story, not because that’s what I believe happened.

There are several wrestlers - including Terry Jones and Miguel Pena, who are introduced in Book Two - that are fictional. If a wrestler doesn't die by the time the third book ends, he or she is made up.




This gives you a general idea. I'm currently making final edits; asking people I know, either in real life or on social media, to give Book One a read. I have a couple of Twitter friends who read an earlier version of Book One and loved it. I've asked one of them to read Book Two once I feel it's ready. Absolutely no one has read Book Two or Three as of this post. So I need to fine-tooth comb it.


Anyway, that's it for now, phantom person who somehow came upon this blog.


Michael Frissore, author of Dead Wrestlers
March 20, 2018

Friday, February 9, 2018

An Ode to My Daughter


#1 Sweet Tooth

 

In an empty kitchen at 7 p.m.

a four-year-old girl

wearing a pink Sofia the First

nightgown meanders awkwardly about,

tentative, dubious,

like she’s never been in a cookery before.

 

Her bare feet pitter-patter

from the dining area

to her bedroom and back again,

a slippery thief in the night.

The little girl cranes her neck

to somehow reach the top

of the refrigerator, like if she concentrates,

she’ll become a giraffe.

 

She combs the countertops,

opens the pantries,

searches our usual hiding places

for anything sugary,

a thirsty woman in tattered clothes

stranded in a desert,

an addict selling her parents’ Blu-ray

for an ounce of cocaine.

 

She catches me studying her pursuit

and segues into one of her dances,

a spry pirouette she learned in her

ballet class while frolicking

to “How Far I’ll Go”

from the Moana soundtrack.

 

I look away then catch her

continuing her quest

for anything enticing –

a cookie, a popsicle, a Tic Tac,

even the “old lady candy”

in the cupboard she longs for

like air or a new Barbie doll.

 

I tap her mother’s shoulder

in time for us both to catch

the perfect pout of longing

on our daughter’s face,

the glower of anxiety she wears

like a cloak when her sweet tooth

sings like Idina Menzel.

 

We watch as our darling girl

maneuvers a wooden stool

in front of the counter,

not at all covertly, and climbs

to discover nothing but

herbal tea and adult vitamins.

 

Soon we’re all watching –

my wife and I, our son.

Even the cat’s like,

Why doesn’t she just meow

incessantly like I do?

 

We’re mesmerized,

still discreetly riveted

by her mission,

we feel her calamity,

like unrequited love,

like the Agony of Defeat

ski jumper from Wild World of Sports,

like when the Patriots lost

two Super Bowls to the Giants.

 

Then, when all is lost

and we avert our gazes,

we hear the crinkle, crinkle

of a wrapper and the loud,

triumphant chewing of gum.

 

Our clandestine cutie,

this sultan of

surreptitiousness

struck pay dirt,

and she performs

another little dance,

this time jumping and swaying

left to right, left to right,

like a cartoon prospector

with a long beard

and a pickaxe

who just found gold.

 

“Eliza,” her mommy calls out.

“Don’t you want to finish your dinner?”

 

“No,” Eliza says.

 

“I only have a sweet tooth.

See?”

 

And she shows us exactly which tooth is the sweet one.

Poem - The Greatest Show on Earth

So it's been nearly four years since I've posted anything on this silly blog I once had. I thought I'd post a couple poems I wrote in this Writer's Studio class I took last year, since they're both too long to be published anywhere else. And I don't have the energy to search high and low for somewhere to published them. I've got a trilogy of novels to edit!














The Greatest Show on Earth


 


 


Montgomery Jeeves Python lays hungover


and half-asleep, dreaming wonderful dreams


of the glory days of the circus –


the great attractions –


Garantula and Jumbo the Elephant.


 


Yet he feels as if a giant foot


has trodden upon his head like


a clumsy tightrope walker.


Just five years ago,


Montgomery’s Flying Circus thrived.


Crowds thrilled at Tomasso Chicolini,


the Human Cannonball,


as he soared through the air like a hawk.


 


They sat awestruck at


Cowgirl Connie’s


bareback riding acrobatics


with Henry the Horse,


always smoothly and


elegantly performed


to the music of Ellington,


Basie or John Philip Sousa.


 


The realities of current Big Top life


haunt Montgomery like a failed marriage.


He hears Punchy, his longtime Man Friday –


who, due to dwindling ticket sales


and subsequent budget cuts,


now serves as the juggler,


lion tamer, and contortionist -


berate Escapo, the escape artist,


after botching so many tricks


that people now call him


“The Great Boo-dini.”


Punchy then


chides the Hendersons –


aging trapeze artists Fletcher,


Florence and Rickey –


calling them “The Flying Dull-endas.”


 


The celebrated Mr. Python sits up,


rubs his eyes and takes his first look


at what lies before him.


This formerly-merry jubilee


now resembles an abandoned mall


or amusement park.


Weeds, vines and rust


crawl over the old knife-throwing wheel


and the bed of nails.


Old clown shoes hang like nooses


beside the trampolines,


which haven’t been trampled in years.


 


Montgomery stares


at Tomasso’s old cannon.


If it still functioned,


he’d shoot himself into oblivion


and wash his hands of this whole


operation.


 


He wonders if Plum the Clown


ever feels like setting the place ablaze


and becoming a gypsy jazz guitarist.


 


Would Goliath the Strongman ever


run away with him and finally start


that professional wrestling promotion?


Or would they go down with the ship?


Couldn’t they all use something


completely different?


 


Montgomery reaches into


his side table and takes four aspirin


and five Xanax.


It seems every night


when Fucik’s


“Entrance of the Gladiators”


starts playing, he looks at the empty seats


and is compelled to admit


the circus is dead.


It is no more.


 


He attempts to get out of bed,


still feeling like a monkey


is banging his head like a drum,


and he sees who he thinks


is Buffalo Bella,


the bearded lady sharp-shooter.


As her facial hair slowly flies away


he sees that it’s actually


the once-great Bobby Bee Beard.


 


Montgomery laughs softly,


wishing he could be those bees,


just flying away to nowhere in particular.


He knows the others want to as well –


the snake charmer, the sword swallower,


the unicyclist – (again, all one person).


Maybe they’re all just like Escapo,


wanting to break free from


the straitjacket, the chains,


the handcuffs, pack up the dancing bears,


the trained seals


and Lydia the Tattooed Lady


and flee to Puerto Rico,


where Montgomery saw a man


wrestle a grizzly bear many years ago.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Interview and Guest Blog

As of May I will no longer be an author at WAMM. Below are my interview and guest blog from that site, both of which I wanted to rescue before they disappear forever.


8 With An Author -- Michael Frissore

1. Where is the best place for you to go to people-watch?

In a tall tree with a pair of binoculars just outside the window you’re peeping through. Not too close. Pick a tree close enough to see, but far enough that you won’t get caught.

If you’re not the adventurous type, the mall is a really good place to go, especially for a parent. A mall play area or a park is great. You're people-watching skills can also double as pedophile-detecting powers. I also like any kind of event: a fair, a carnival, or if you can get to a demolition derby, run, don’t walk. That is some fantastic people watching.

2. Do you base your characters on real people?

There are some that have the pleasure of being born from actual people. For example, ”Seven Stages" started out that way – based on friends of mine, maybe a little of myself - and then went into all sorts of bizarre areas and there ended up being no trace of reality whatsoever. There are a couple of stories in Puppets Shows - and these are the ones that are my personal favorites - in which, in my head, there’s a character who is W.C. Fields or Groucho Marx. Way to make myself sound 100 years old! I won’t say which stories. We can make a game of it. Read Puppet Shows and guess which character is Fields and what character is Groucho. The winner gets absolutely nothing.

3. You write about a superhero in your book. Who is your hero?

We all know who people say the true heroes are: firefighters, policemen, soldiers, the 2004 Boston Red Sox, The Green Hornet, The Blue Blazer, Hiro the Japanese train from Thomas & Friends. But there's one group of heroes who don't get any kind of recognition, certainly not from the movie studios today. I don't know who producers think Mariah Carey, the Foo Fighters and Bonnie Tyler were referring to when they sang about heroes, but to me it was these guys, the protectors of the city of Good Haven. I'm talking about the Mighty Heroes.

I'm talking about Strong Man, with his southern accent and jet-propelled punch; Rope Man, the dock worker who always gets tangled in himself; Tornado Man, the meteorologist with the wheezy voice; Cuckoo Man, my personal favorite, the bird shop owner who changes in a cuckoo clock in lieu of some silly phone booth; and Diaper Man, the ginger infant who will knock super villains out cold with his baby bottle. These guys, and I pay homage to them in Puppet Shows, are my heroes, and have been since I was a wee lad.

4. In hindsight, many of us find that our writing was impacted by our schooling. What was your favorite assignment in high school English, your least favorite, and the one that affected you most?

My favorite assignment, or the one I can remember anyway, was in eighth or ninth grade a teacher asked us to write an essay making fun of something (Which today sounds ridiculous. You don't make fun of something! That's bullying!). I wrote about The National Enquirer. The teacher read it in class and some kids laughed, but this one girl accused me of stealing the jokes from Reader's Digest. I denied it, of course, mainly because I wouldn't admit to stealing, but also because I had actually stolen the jokes from "Weird Al" Yankovic and watermelon-smashing comedian Gallagher. So she was dead wrong. What kind of hack steals from Reader's Digest?

That’s how my writing career began was stealing. I remember writing something for another class that was about cannibalism, the idea of which I stole completely from Monty Python's "Undertaker's sketch." My story was two guys discussing eating one of their deceased mothers: a complete replica of the Python sketch. I had no shame back then.

My least favorite one was we had to do movie reviews, which I hate the idea of writing even today. We had to write two of them, and I couldn't have picked two more forgettable films. One was Mad House, the John Larroquette/Kirstie Alley comedy. The other was Body Slam, a wrestling movie starring Dirk Benedict and Tanya Roberts, along with Roddy Piper and Captain Lou Albano. I was always putting wrestling references into things I wrote in high school. It's really no different today. I'm actually amazed at how low Puppet Shows is on wrestling references. Readers should thank me for that. My poetry books are chock full of them.

5. You’re stuck on a deserted island with only three books and one other author. Name the books and the author then tell us why.
They would have to be substantial books that would keep me busy for a long time and perhaps make me want to go drown myself in the ocean. I always think people sound pompous when they bring up James Joyce, but the first two books would be Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake. Ulysses I read years ago and always said I'd read it again and haven't, and I've told myself for years I would read Finnegan's Wake and haven't. So, with any luck, I’ll end up on an island with Evangeline Lily and a smoke monster and get to read those.

The third book would have to be the Bible, the author of which, of course, is a bunch of dinosaurs and cavemen. I'm sorry, atheists who want to set fire to hotel rooms for having a Bible in the drawer, but that's what I'd choose because it's the Bible. I might instead choose something by Dave Eggers or David Foster Wallace just so that I know I'll be happy with my decision to throw myself into the mouth of a giant squid. But I'm told that Joyce and God are good island reading.

6. If your writing career was a novel, what would the title be?

Harry Potter and the References Nobody Gets

7. Have you ever judged a book by its cover?

No, never. No one does that. That's why the word "Don't" comes before the saying. You don't judge a book by its cover. Only assholes do that. Come to think of it, I’m sure I have. I mean, it's why book have covers. But who am I? A designer? What do I care what the cover of a book looks like? I'm colorblind and I usually end up scribbling genitalia and pentagrams all over the cover of all my books anyway. But I have. I remember seeing the cover of A Clockwork Orange and being all, “Wow, cool cover! This book must be awesome!” And it was.

8. If you could co-write a book with any author, who would you choose and what genre would it be?

With the recent popularity of that 50 Shades nonsense, I would love to write some erotica with Ann Coulter. Oh, we would tear up the Best Sellers List!

 

 

In The Words of Michael Frissore

I wanted to be a lot of things when I was a boy: a baseball player, a professional wrestler. I went through a stage when I thought it would be great to be a mailman. But writing was always my number one passion. The only thing that compared was to be a rock star. I wanted to be a famous guitar player since the night I saw Dexys Midnight Runners perform on Solid Gold.

But writing was my first love. I was always writing silly things as a kid: song parodies, poems, forged prescriptions. Every greeting card I gave my parents was filled with my nonsensical junior high school humor and a script for 20mgs of Oxycodone.

Then in one of my high school English classes we read “Muck-a-Muck,” the short story by Bret Harte. Not the wrestler Bret “the Hitman” Hart, mind you, but the American author and poet who wrote tongue-in-cheekly about pioneering life in California. It was hilarious, and I was the only one in the class who appreciated it. My friends were all, “Let’s go smoke some cigs in the boys’ room and beat up nerds,” and I was all, “This story is funny, you guys. LOL!” Then they were all, “What’s LOL? It’s 1990, weirdo!”

I spent the next 22 years writing Puppet Shows. Well, not really. I’ve written other stuff along the way – poetry, essays, screenplays, you name it, buster! However, there is one story, “Dinner at Wither Port,” the tale of everyone’s favorite mental asylum, that I first scribbled on cocktail napkins and fig leaves years ago in college when I was doing acid and drinking a lot of hairspray. When I got out of rehab at the turn of the century, I went on a writing spree that resulted in tiny portions of some of the other stories in this book, mostly just the beginnings of sentences, so none of it made any sense. I later found out that I had turned at the wrong century and a lot of my writing ended up ruining books by Mark Twain and O Henry.

It was only after a group of paleontologists in Boston were able to get the same dinosaurs that wrote the Bible to comb through all of my gibberish that this collection really went anywhere. Those brainy lizards cleaned it up, took out all the love letters to Debbie Gibson and the numerous references to Satan as the “one true Dark Lord,” and Puppet Shows was born.

I guess the other thing you should know is where the title came from. I was at one point writing this as a tell-all about my torrid love affair with Prairie Dawn from Sesame Street, but her lawyers are brutal, man. I’ll probably lose my house and children just for mentioning this here. Anyway, that project was quickly scrapped. I kept the title and went back to the original plan. That’s when the dinosaurs came in and saved my life.