Saturday, April 11, 2015

And Sometimes You Just Feel Helpless and Wish Someone Was There to Tell You What to Do

I was dead asleep when she woke me up.  She flipped on every light in the bedroom, and this is what she said. “Matt, you need to help me. There’s shit all over the house.”

I looked at my alarm clock.  It was 5:55 in the morning. For a moment, I said nothing.  You could interpret a sentence like that in a lot of different ways: There’s shit all over the house.  Maybe our children had gotten up in the middle of the night and left their Legos all over the place, and, for some reason, Kate had decided to explain the situation with some casual swearing.  Or, better yet, maybe she’d had a dream and there was actually nothing all over our house, shit or otherwise. 

“You mean, like, literally shit?” I said.

“Yes. Barkley.”

That was all she had to say.  Barkley is my in-law’s English Setter. He lives with us each winter while Kate’s parents are in Florida.  He’s very old and very deaf, and, lately, his bowels have become unpredictable. Still, I assumed she was exaggerating; my wife does that when she’s tired.  But when I sat up I saw our dog Grady.  He was sitting rigid on his dog bed on the floor giving me this look that said, “Seriously…I promise…it wasn’t me.”  And that’s when I knew that it must be bad.  

It started on the floor at the foot of our bed—the white, carpeted floor—and it went from there, a trail of dried dog diarrhea. It was in the kitchen, the living room under the piano, and then, somehow, back to our bedroom.  It was brown, of course, unmistakably so, but, for some reason, I imagined it was blood.  I imagined that while we slept a strange man had been shot in our bedroom and then wandered our house for a while before politely leaving.

I decided that the best course of action was to brush my teeth.  I did this more slowly than usual, focusing on each individual tooth in the hopes that this problem would somehow resolve itself without me.  When I came back out into the bedroom, I found my wife standing barefoot in the silly little shorts she wears to bed.  She was holding a roll of paper towels in one hand and a tiny bottle of carpet spray in the other.  She was so profoundly ill-prepared for the task at hand that I actually laughed despite…well, despite all the shit.

“I don’t even know what to do,” she said.

And neither did I. 

I so rarely do.

Friday, April 3, 2015

"Mad Men" Eulogies: The Jaguar E-Type

Last week, some of my friends at THE WEEKLINGS and I were asked to write eulogies for Mad Men characters in honor of the show's final season, which returns on Easter Sunday here in the U.S.

I suppose I could have written about anyone on the show. They'd all make good subjects. But, for some reason, I couldn't stop thinking about Lane Pryce's beautiful, doomed Jaguar E-Type. I kept asking myself, what would have happened to it? Would Lane's wife have sold it?  Would she have kept it?  Ultimately, I decided to figure it out for myself.   

The result is THIS. It's part eulogy, part fan fiction, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't end up making me more than a little sad to write. I'm sentimental about cars, particularly old ones, and of all the twists and turns Mad Men has taken over the years, the end of Lane's storyline has stuck with me the most.

If you don't watch Mad Men or if you're way behind, you'll have no idea what this is about. If that's the case, my apologies for the spoilers. But, if you're a fan and you're all caught up, I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year. New Book. New Movie?

One of the stressful things about writing a novel is that people often expect you to write more novels. This, I've found, is difficult. There's a great deal of typing involved, you have to drink more caffeine than could possibly be healthy, and you have to skip out on watching some pretty great TV. For example, I've never seen a single moment of House of Cards, Game of Thrones, or Homeland.

However, I'm thrilled to announce that my next novel is finally--FINALLY--done. It's called We're All Damaged, and it's the story of Andy Carter, a guy who returns home to the Midwest a year after his divorce to deal with all the messes he left behind.

Sounds hilarious, right? Well, don't worry, like Domestic Violets, it's a comedy. Mostly.

We're All Damaged is currently being shopped. For those of you not involved in the publishing business, "shopped" is an industry term that means "My agent is badgering editors until they read it." I plan to use this, my world-famous blog, The Norman Nation, to keep everyone updated on the book's progress with publishers. Wish me luck.

And, speaking of Domestic Violets, I have some news there, too. Just before the New Year, I officially sold the movie rights to a very cool, very enthusiastic actor/director. That's about as specific as I'm allowed to be at the moment, unfortunately. Although the road from the bookstore to the movie screen is a long and difficult one (it should be noted that this is the second time I've optioned DV) I'm cautiously optimistic. I really think it would make a fun movie, and, candidly, it'd be a blast to go to the premiere. I hear they give you all the free Sour Patch Kids you can eat at those things.

That's all for now. Happy New Year, and, sorry I've been away for so long. I've been busy typing, drinking caffeine, and not watching TV.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Flash Fiction: Like Regular Fiction, But Shorter

A few weeks ago, my friends at the flash fiction journal SmokeLong Weekly asked me to be their guest editor for a week.  I've never been an editor before, so I said yes immediately. I figured it would be easy.  I'd read some stories, pick my favorite, and then I'd have a stiff drink. Because that's what editors do, I imagined.

Over the course of seven days, I read about 60 stories. And, unfortunately for me, a lot of them were very, very good. Some were funny. Some were weird (in good ways).  Some were borderline offensive (also in good ways).  At the end of my allotted period, though, of all the quality work I had the opportunity to read, one stuck with me the most: "Here, Hereafter," by Michael Patrick Brady.

The first time I read it, I was pretty sure I loved it. The second time I read it, I somehow liked it even  more. The third time I read it, I wanted to wake my wife up and have her read it, too.  In just 300-and-something words, Michael Patrick Brady has accomplished something great. I hope you enjoy it, too...and I can't wait to see what this guy comes up with next.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Plus or Minus: A Brief Study in Fatherhood

Over the holidays, I got a chance to spend an unbelievable amount of time with my children. Like most working parents, non-stop family time is a rarity. While it was obviously something I enjoyed, I'd be lying if I said there weren't a few rough patches. I documented one of those rough patches here, self-loathing and all, in this short essay for my friends at The Weeklings.  

Hope everyone is having a nice 2014 so far.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hurls of Love

My friends at The Good Men Project recently asked me to contribute to their cool series, 100 Words On Love.  I said yes, of course, because how hard could 100 words be to write...right?

Well, harder than you'd think.  At a bloated, meandering 426 words, my first draft went on and on like Moby Dick.  There was dialogue, a flashback, and even a paragraph break in there, if you can believe that.  My second draft was somewhere in the three-hundreds, I think.  I'd lost the flashback, but was still stupidly clinging to the dialogue.

For the next two evenings, I trimmed and cut and killed things, and this is the result. I can say with a fair degree of certainty that it's the most blatantly sentimental 100 words I've ever written.  Sorry about that. But, if you're a guy and you have a daughter, you'll understand.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Is Sexy Back?

Hello, Friends and Readers. Apologies on my recent radio silence. I took a break from working on my new novel the other day to write an essay for my friends at The Weeklings about my experience with the new Justin Timberlake album, The 20/20 Experience. Click here to check it out.

In other news...
  1. The new novel is coming along very well. I'm tentatively calling it "We're All Damaged," which comes from a line of dialogue between two of the main characters. But, keep in mind, before "Domestic Violets" was called "Domestic Violets," it was called "I'm Always In Love" and then "What It's Like To Be Me."  So, who the hell knows, right?
  2. Along with the book, I'm also half-heartedly writing an essay about how much I hate taking my children to the pool. So far there's a lot of swearing.
  3. I just finished reading the novel "The Middlesteins" by Jami Attenberg, and I really enjoyed it.  Family Sagas are my literary weakness. My non-literary weakness: Jack Daniels. But, you know what, we'll save that for another blog post.
  4. I think it's pretty cool that it looks like Justin Timberlake is actually reading my blog post in this image, and, frankly, he's kind of annoyed with me. Don't give me that sassy look, JT.