Category Archives: Butterfly

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.

Rain Delay

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:

Rain Delayed

Rain Delayed

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.

-Flann O’Brien, The Dalkey Archive

Welcome to Dalkey

Welcome to Dalkey


Ice Guardians to Honor the Place of Tough Guys in Hockey

I almost expected to see William Murphy, the protagonist of Trip to the Quiet Room, make an appearance in the trailer.

Go check out the article at Obviously I think the enforcer character is an interesting one and it looks like this movie is an excellent exploration of that role.





[No other news to report that I can report right now, Trip to the Quiet Room still as yet unpublished, I’m still as yet unagented, water is still wet, ice is still very cold and only a little speckled with blood.]

Trending Micro-Genres

I feel like I should get some credit for including at least three of the ten trending micro-genres, according to

Hockey Romance?

Hockey Romance?

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 list, if only someone would publish it…

Drop the puck... on entertainment!

Drop the puck… on entertainment!

My Overnight Success Story

My Overnight Success

I can’t get over how similar Rick Riordan and I are.

I may be actually boring Adam and David to death, here...

I may be *actually* boring Adam and David to death, here…

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.

Reading in Waltham, MA

Reading in Waltham, MA

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.

Hockey Comes Back to Worcester

Miss Worcester

Miss Worcester

As the author of the wildly popular* Trip to the Quiet Room, a story about loss, time travel, the life of a hockey player, a little bit of magic, and Worcester, Massachusetts, I’m really happy to see that Worcester is getting a minor league hockey team back. I’m even happier to see that the owner is investing so much in the hockey culture in and around the downtown area in Worcester.

“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.


A Worcester three decker

A Worcester three decker, William Murphy’s apartment








* 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.

Version Control: A Book Review

Version Control

Version Control, by Dexter Palmer

As someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about time travel and how to use it in fiction, or even place it orthogonal to the story, I tend to dive into books with time travel with gusto and a keen eye towards how someone else might have done it.
So when I saw Version Control on the shelf at Barnes & Noble and had a coupon burning a hole in my pocket, I couldn’t help grabbing it. From the jacket copy it sounded like a quirky, funny take on inventing a time machine with a bit of a heart.

And while the book is funny (the dream of YHWH as the worst of all possible tenants towards the end of the book is hilarious), it’s not as funny as I’d expected. The grief and depression and general unsettledness of the age in which the book is set is far more prominent, but Palmer earns it with a thorough depiction of Rebecca and Philip’s relationship from the very start to the very end(s). Dexter Palmer fits in musings on love in the digital age, race relations and predispositions, scientific progress, our busy, unforgetting world, all swirling around the lovely and sad family story of Rebecca, Philip, and Sean.

The time machine, the causality violation device, around which the novel works isn’t a flash-bang time machine of H.G. Wells, but almost like a harpist, plucking at strings, jumping from this one to the next, the problems of history and continuity handled in an interesting, subtle way by Palmer. In fact, you (and they) are not even sure it *is* working at all. And that’s the same way the book worked for me — not a thunderbolt but just something that felt perfectly right.

It’s a different conception of a time machine from the one Sam and Laura build in Trip to the Quiet Room — their time machine fits in a bathtub, a storage shed, or a barn and tends to shred sheep in a very messy way, but with bubbles — but I loved his take on it, it felt natural, plausible, and fit so well into the story.

Two thumbs up, go and give it a read.

Exhausting work…

Sending (and receiving, not receiving responses) queries is exhausting work

Sending (and receiving, not receiving responses) queries is exhausting work

Boy, let me tell you, sending queries and receiving responses (or, more often than not, not receiving responses) is wearying work.

The scoreboard is up-to-date (and in the hockey version the empty void of the agents’ penalty box is filling up) and, yes, that is an even, round number of 50 between agent rejections and just simply no responses.

So if you’re an agent, it will make a great story, if you do sign me and we become New York Times Best Sellers… “The writer who was overlooked by 50 agents before finally landing the winner!”