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?
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 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.
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.
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…
* 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.
I don’t know if it has anything to do with our new residence in beautiful Dalkey, but it seems like something’s gone sideways, with our dear author-tracker:
We’ll see if and when the storm passes, but here’s hoping our intrepid author (oh, me) gets back out on the field without serious injury.
Dalkey is a little town maybe twelve miles south of Dublin, on the shore. It is an unlikely town, huddled, quiet, pretending to be asleep. Its streets are narrow, not quite self-evident as streets and with meetings which seem accidental. Small shops look closed but are open. Dalkey looks like an humble settlement which must, a traveller feels, be next door to some place of the first importance and distinction. And it is — vestibule of a heavenly conspection.
Trip to the Quiet Room is a story about an ex-hockey pro struggling with his retirement, possible post-concussion symptoms, family life after the daily grind of a professional athlete’s routine, and the explosion of a time machine in his bathtub. It’s a story about escaping to the seaside to tend butterflies. It’s a story about a mysterious orphan showing up on the doorstop of Central Massachusetts’ favorite tourist attraction. It’s about a cotton candy factory that employs child labor for better or worse. It’s a story about the FBI playing catch-up with some of the CIA’s rumored more esoteric investigation techniques.
Surely this would make some sort of Audible.com list, if only someone would publish it…
I can’t get over how similar Rick Riordan and I are.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple readings… some of them in editor Adam Pacther’s hometown of Arlington pretty well-attended, Waltham, the awesome Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster… others not so well attended. My favorite moment* was when we arrived at the Arlington Center for the Arts and one poor lady, who I don’t think intended to attend the reading, was seated in our room and bravely stuck it out while Adam and I read. Or the time I had a reading booked at my local, my hometown library, the Charlton Library (the library which banned Mark Twain’s “Eve’s Diary”… probably not for the pictures, as claimed, but probably for him being a bit full of himself) and my old boss from Ronnie’s Seafood showed up with one of his sons and… no one else. So we skipped the reading (sorry, Adam), and just chatted about what we’d all been up to.
My reading series as a young a**hole where I just showed up in parks and read from my dreadful roman à clef-in-progress God Coffee, I Miss You was similarly successful, hitting parks in Brooklyn, Seattle, and Los Angeles, with a grand total of none audience, but maybe that was to be expected.
So if some lucky agent wants to pick up Trip to the Quiet Room, this might be a great time to get in, as I’ve got loads of stories about how long the road to overnight success actually is. The book is an excellent beach read, because some of it takes place down in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, where William Murphy is in hiding from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and ‘Jimmy’ is in hiding from Old Sturbridge Village and the proprietors of the Magic Funtime Butterfly Ranch are in hiding from the Internal Revenue Service
It could be your next Percy Jackson… ?
* By this, of course, I mean my least favorite moment, the moment when my stomach drops through my toes and leaks out onto the floor in a sad little stomach puddle.
“I’m kind of smitten with Worcester. It’s an unpolished gem,” he said. “It’s affordable, it’s smack in the middle of commerce. It’s got a lot of potential.”
I remember going to see Worcester Ice Cats in their inaugural season in 1994 with some of the gang at the seafood restaurant I worked at. The AHL was such a different beast than the NHL… that bit sloppier, scrappier, and perfectly suited to a town like Worcester. It made such an impression that even nearly twenty years later, when I started to write what would become Trip to the Quiet Room I thought that the stories of those guys, particularly when their professional hockey life was done, would make for a great character. And the line, the theme I had rattling around my head while I was writing was from fellow Worcester-ite (and Vassar-ite) Liz Bishop‘s opening lines of “In the Waiting Room“:
In Worcester, Massachusetts,
I went with Aunt Consuelo
to keep her dentist’s appointment
and sat and waited for her
in the dentist’s waiting room.
It was winter. It got dark
So it’s very nice to see hockey on its way back into Worcester to fill those dark winter nights and encouraging to see such a commitment to one of my favorite cities, that rough gem.
* Warning: May not actually be popular. Contains sucralose, which has been shown to give rats and dogs a real headache when taken in quantity. Do not spray on crops.