Trying a New Tack

It’s been a long strange year. And it’s been a long, strange 20 years since I started Butterfly.

Since then, we’ve invented gasoline, fire, Turkish delights, the mob, clip-on pants, and the NHL has still never figured out how to let their fans watch their games online when they really want to, legally.

Butterfly became the story about William Murphy’s Trip to the Quiet Room.

The book went through 3-4 big drafts and got progressively better over time.

I sent out well over a hundred query letters to agents, publishers, prizes to try and drag this book to light.

With the help of the gang, we made a trailer for it that I’m pretty sure nearly won an Oscar.

We moved to Ireland in a desperate bid to dupe an entire nation into buying my book but instead gained a greater appreciation for all those best-selling (in Ireland) Ross O’Carroll Kelly books.

Next Steps

After being ghosted by an agent who had requested the full manuscript*, I’ve decided to take a new tack.

I’ve posted the book on Inkshares, a platform that approaches publishing a little differently. Soon, I’ll start selling pre-orders of the book. If we hit our threshold (750 copies or so), Inkshares will edit, design a cover, and publish the thing and put it in your hands.

From my side, I’ve mailed them my left ring finger and third favorite toe, as per their contract agreement, and removed most of my teeth (this is more to tie in with the hockey-related marketing than anything, though).

So that’s where we’re at.

I would encourage every last one of you to go out and like the book, follow it, share it, read the first few chapters.

* No blame at all to the agent, these are very odd times to try and carry on as normal for so many people, so no hard feelings. Not even firm feelings.

The New Querying

It’s been a while since I’ve queried any agents and, for some reason, looking out over a wild and wooly lake in County Kerry, I decided to have one last crack at getting Trip to the Quiet Room into the hands of an agent.

Well, the tools agents are using are really excellent now… I particularly like QueryManager and some of the questions agents put to you for your submission.

Now, I have no idea what the agent experience is, but as a prospective client, I appreciated the little differences agents added to their submission page. For example, one (Jennifer Herrington), asks you what you’re currently reading, what your favourite book is, what character you most connect with (I am Radar, by Reif Larson and Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel, The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brian, and Arthur Dent). While others will stick to simpler questions, or maybe who the audience for your book is.

Otherwise, that’s it from me, no other news.

I hope you’re enjoying the very dregs of 2020 somewhere safe and sound, and I hope to all that’s holy and good that we can all get together at the Dalkey Book Festival in 2021

Magic Funtime Butterfly Ranch: Now Accepting Orders?

So did you ever think, what would happen if I ever called that number for the butterfly ranch?

The original flyer for the Magic Funtime Butterfly Ranch




It’s all a lark, right? Guerrilla marketing for a fictional service from a book that doesn’t exist in the real world yet that is struggling to ever see the light of day? It’s also, by the way, a (508) 555 -XXXX number, some Hollywood trick to think there’s a real number somewhere in the 508 area code, which, by the way, just so happens to encompass the Cape Cod National Seashore area. “Very funny,” you probably said, or at least thought to yourself, “but I see what you’re trying to do there, Chuck.”

Leaving aside your overly familiarity with me and giving me the nickname Chuck against my will, sure, I accept your skepticism. Even when I saw a few of these flyers posted to telephone poles and traffic light posts around Worcester, Massachusetts, Dalkey, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and San Jose, California, I thought, “Ha, see? Someone’s taken it seriously.” But even *I* never thought of actually trying to call that number…


Well, what if I told you I found this, floating around on the internet this morning?

Trip to the Quiet Room: Old Sturbridge Village

“No Exhibits Beyond This Point”

What could Old Sturbridge Village be hiding back there? Could it be a new barn, housing a secret project, one that would change the game for historical theme parks? Was that screaming you heard from the old saw mill?

Or was it the funny lights from the old cooper’s shop, well after closing time?

The road to the cooper’s shop


The new Director of Old Sturbridge Village isn’t looking well these days, regardless, and maybe you can find out more about our dear old 19th century New England village and its secrets in Trip to the Quiet Room.

Resurrection Blues, by Michael Poore

If you’re one of my long-time readers who remember back to the Sane Magazine days, you will probably, without a doubt, love Michael Poore’s Resurrection Blues.

I got a copy of this book from NetGalley (free books, how can you go wrong!).

And Resurrection Blues blew my socks off. It blew them off, chewed them up, spat them out, and then stomped on them, kicked them around the house (which is a difficult thing to do, kicking socks), until my socks were laid to rest in the dirty clothes hamper in the back kitchen.

This was surprisingly aggressive for a novel to do, but this was a surprising novel. I was expecting a fun, lighthearted romp, but I got something that was fun, lighthearted and just so, so, so jealousy-inducingly good. It’s a love story, a parable, a shaggy dog story. I thought Milo and his ten thousand lives were a brilliant story, his love affair with Suzie touching and incandescent. Michael Poore dances along a tightrope of humor, weighty topics, and absurdity like the very best of Christopher Moore’s A-game, Tom Robbins, David Mitchell, or Kurt Vonnegut. He takes elements of the spiritual, science fiction, and good, old down and dirty humanity and smashes them all together in a brilliant book. I could have spent another couple lifetimes reading about Milo and his quest for Perfection.

It has that incongruous touch that Sane Magazine used to have in the horoscopes and main issue and it never, ever misses a beat (something which I don’t think can be said about Sane). At any rate, while you’re waiting (very patiently, at this stage) for Trip the the Quiet Room to come out, instead of twiddling your thumbs you can go pre-order your copy of Resurrection Blues and get it at the end of August! Not bad…

A Long Time Coming (Still Waiting)

The body count
The body count

Following on my last post, that ever hopeful sending off of actual pages to a literary agent, I was going through my submissions list when it dawned on me that I’ve been sending out packages to agents for Trip to the Quiet Room for a long-ish time*.

For the curious (?), I use Tinderbox (yes, I am a version behind — but Mark has a summer sale on at this very second) for keeping track of prospective agents, submissions, contests, publications, even first readers.

Tinderbox, along with PublishersMarketplace, QueryTracker, help me research (stalk?) agents and figure out who my best targets might be. Each prospective agent gets a note to themselves with some info about how to contact them, whether or not they’re open for submissions, where I found out about them, favorite foods, times they leave the house, how many pets, and what types of locks they have on their house, office, boathouse, and gym locker.

Prospective Agents
Prospective Agents

They get rough ratings, depending on how likely I think they are to like the story behind Trip to the Quiet Room (also known as Butterfly and William Murphy’s Trip to the Quiet Room over that time), though, judging by the length of time I’ve been sending out submissions and hunting for agents, maybe I’m not rating them right.

So I was looking through my list of agents and marking the latest submission sent out (the scoreboard is not looking great, that soul-sucking void has got a huge lead) when I decided to check my very first submission (to an agent named Mollie Glick, who I thought would be perfect for Butterfly because she repped a book about a whaling family**).

25th of June, 2014.

Wow. I’ve come a long way (without having come very far at all). The query letter has changed a lot over the years, some with greater success of just getting a response (instead of just flinging off into The Void — this letter to Ms. Glick is still out there in the void, I’m guessing she’s going to pass on the submission)

This will make a great story to tell Oprah, at some point, I’m sure. And when I’m sitting down in a coffee shop with J.K. Rowling and we’re both sending tweets to each other instead of speaking, we’ll compare just how many people passed on our books before we finally got a good, solid bite…

The first query
The first query











* Some glaciers might disagree with me, but I’ve got my own back on them by leaving a hair dryer running constantly, night and day, speeding up the process of global warming.

** Logic has never, ever been my strong suit.

Author Appearance: The Dalkey Book Festival

The Dalkey Book Festival
The Dalkey Book Festival

Dalkey, that “vestibule of a heavenly conspection,” as Flann O’Brien has it, is having a book festival this weekend (16th-18th of June). It already kicked off, in a sense, in town at the Born Gais Theater with Bernie Sanders giving a brief shout, but this weekend is when it all really kicks off, in the village proper. Marlon James will be here, Maggie O’Farrell, Sebastian Barry, and a whole gang of other writers, talking about a variety of subjects.

I’ll be there, since I’d have to make an effort not to be there, and it’s very unlike me to make much of an effort at anything. If anything, it’s a chance for me to add to my list of stories about author meetings, if I’m not arrested, or worse, beaten up by Elif Sharak or anybody else.

Primary school kids getting ready for Bloomsday
Primary school kids getting ready for Bloomsday

This is the town where the kids are encouraged to dress up for Bloom’s Day (and about a stone’s throw from the James Joyce museum in a Martello Tower down in Sandycove — I have been asked to tell people not to throw stones at the James Joyce tower) and have a book festival in the spring and a “creates” festival in the autumn, and it’ll be infested with writerly types all weekend long. And (not to jinx it), it’s supposed to be nice weather all weekend, as if the gods of literature said, “Sure, let there be a bit of light, some sunshine, and we’ll see how many of these fe*kers we can burn” (the gods of literature are a bit more coarse in and around Dublin).

The Gutter Bookshop, from what I understand, will also have exploded out of its own premises and into the streets. Sure, you can’t buy any of my books there, but it’s still worth supporting other authors and your inveterate reading habit, anyway.

I really can’t think of a better place to be.


So if you’re in town and happen to see me, be sure to say hello, unless, of course, I’m stalking John Banville or arm wrestling Jennifer O’Connell or hiding in a tree, spying on the ghost of Flann O’Brien.


Shawn Thornton Reflecting on a Career as an Enforcer

The Globe carried an article recently about a Sports Illustrated article about Shawn Thornton’s retirement, one of those spiritual brothers of William Murphy of my novel, Trip to the Quiet Room.

“I’m just enjoying the thought that I’m never going to have to get punched in the face ever again for the rest of my life.”

Hang ’em up

Guys like Shawn, PJ Stock, Bobby Robins, Georges Laraque were all models for Will: those bruisers who made their living on the ice with their fists and all the attendant worries and dangers. But every single one of those guys, off ice, have drawn rave reviews for their treatment of the fans and local charities where they play. I think, as people, as characters, they’re a fascinating group. Will, of course, toiled mostly at a level below where these guys did, which makes him even more torn on his retirement (Will didn’t win two Stanley Cups like Shawn, barely got more than a cup of coffee and a concussion in the NHL).

I just hope, for Thornton’s sake, that his wife doesn’t happen to be a plumber, working on a prospective time machine in their home bathtub…