Roald Dahl and the Rewrite

I do a lot of rewriting before sending a first draft to an editor, and based on the below letter to his daughter, so did Roald Dahl. First time novelists remember: even for the best writers, it’s a long process getting to a publishable manuscript. And I love that writing chair he used!

“The reason I haven’t written you for a long time is that I have been giving every moment to getting a new children’s book finished. And now at last I have finished it, and I know jolly well that I am going to have to spend the next three months rewriting the second half. The first half is great, about a small girl who can move things with her eyes and about a terrible headmistress who lifts small children up by their hair and hangs them out of upstairs windows by one ear. But I’ve got now to think of a really decent second half. The present one will all be scrapped. Three months work gone out the window, but that’s the way it is. I must have rewritten Charlie [and the Chocolate Factory] five or six times all through and no one knows it.”


Carl Spitzweg Painting

This is a painting that used to hang in the house where I grew up. It’s by a German painter named Carl Spitzweg, and apparently this is one of his more obscure paintings.

I must have stared at it a thousand times and wondered what the story was. carl

Have you ever seen a picture and either wondered what story it was trying to tell, or made up a story for what you saw?

For this Spitzweg painting, I remember thinking it was the central scene of a fairy tale. This was the basement of a castle, and whenever the princess met someone she wanted to marry, she would send them down to this room to meet the poor poet of the house and his wife. And his monkey.

Visiting the poet was a test to see what the prince would do, because in my imagination, the poet sitting there (and his wife) would tell the prince all about the rarest gem in the world, which was worth a fortune. It was hidden somewhere in the room and it would fit in the prince’s pocket – it would be all his because they hated the princess.

All the prince had to do was take the ball and chain off the monkey and put the ball and chain on himself – then the monkey would show the prince where the treasure was hidden.

But of course once the prince put the ball and chain on, he turned into a monkey. The guy walking up the stairs is the last guy who fell for this trick, walking out in shame after having been held captive for a few years.

Now the monkey in the painting had only been that monkey for like five minutes! Right before I showed up and saw the painting, that monkey was a prince. And the guy walking out the door was a monkey.

If you have a picture and a story, I’d love to see it and hear it. Comment!

FLOORS III is here! The Field of Wacky Inventions awaits

Charlie had his chocolate factory.

Stanley Yelnats had his holes.

Leo has his amazing Whippet Hotel!  Floors-BookCovers-3-Optim

Order your copy online or from your favorite bookstore – the critics are raving!

A madcap mystery reminiscent of Roald Dahl and Ellin RAskin, complete with bizarre inventions, a mystery involving a missing billionaire and his fortune, and even a crazy elevator or two – Publishers Weekly

Mixing mystery; colorfully drawn, offbeat characters; and some Willy Wonka evoking flourishes, this series offers an absorbing, entertaining read – Booklist

An adventurous romp, as atmospheric as incense and as smooth as lemonade on a summer day – Kirkus

FLOORS provides puzzles to solve, fabulous rooms and inventions to explore, and large dollops of humor – School Library Journal


PULSE is #2 on the 2013 Indie Next List

Each season, all the independent bookstores in the country get to vote on their favorite upcoming books. It’s called the Indie Next List, and it’s tough to get on that thing. There are 50 books chosen for each season, and for the 2013 Indie Next List, PULSE is #2. It’s like a Christmas miracle wrapped in a David Copperfield illusion! Here’s what it says about PULSE:

“Pulse is a brilliant combination of thriller, mystery, and dystopian adventure. Set 30 years in the future in a world of amazing technology, dwindling energy, and imminent environmental disaster, this is a story of an independent teenager whose life is turned upside down when she discovers she can move objects with her mind. Can she master her new abilities in time to save herself and her friends from those who would hurt them? A fantastic beginning to a mind-bending new series that will leave readers eagerly waiting for the next book.”


Find PULSE wherever books are sold, and listen to an audio interview and watch the trailer here:



FLOORS III: The Field of Wacky Inventions Kirkus Review

f3FLOORS III comes out in September, 2013 – just around the corner! Here’s what you can expect from the finale – - -

Another topsy-turvy adventure takes place in this last episode in Carman’s hotel trilogy. This is really a trilogy that’s best read from the beginning, as the beguiling nature of the hotels being assembled here—top floors only, all secret chambers except to heroes Leo and Remi—delivered by great airships, needs some explaining. Carman has so many balls in the air that it is good to have background, but nimble readers should be able to pick up where things are and enjoy this exploration through the titular field of wacky inventions and accompanying riddles. It’s all a challenge set forth before the managers of the Merganzer D. Whippet’s hotels to see who will ―run all my hotels. I’m expanding into Europe. And Japan. The Ukraine is very promising.‖ But Whippet is a thoroughly lovely character, not some money-grubber, and the contest to see who will run the grand hotel is both droll and exciting. There is also, happily reported, his cast of queer and delightful players, now including a miniature T. Rex and a girl stowaway, Lucy, who add more to the storyline than any battery of flamethrowers or homicidal roller-coaster rides. As in the two previous volumes, the writing is fluid, with quiet stretches interrupted by rapids and whirlpools. The quirkiness of Carman’s tale could easily become too familiar, but he pulls new rabbits out of his storytelling sleeve pretty much with each turn of the page, keeping them turning. (Adventure. 9-12)


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New Comments

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    hi im emily i just had a question cause your book skeleton creek IS REAL i wonderd if you are Ryan???!! ...

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    Dearest Carman, your book skeleton creek is awesome and it gave me chills down my back. ...

  • Kate
    I needed an audio book for my commute and the Floors synopsis reminded me of some of the great books my mom read when I ...