Catching A Breath

There are some days when it feels easy to live in the moment, to appreciate little things like the sound of your heartbeat or the squirrel throwing acorns at your second-story window. And there are other days, days when you feel like you’re always running a few minutes late, days when life is good and full and busy but it’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the goodness and fullness and busyness. You rush forward as quickly as you can and hope you’ll have a few moments sometime soon to stop, look around, and catch your breath. Hear your heartbeat again. Notice that squirrel.

I’ve had a spring and summer full of goodness and busyness in equal measure. My husband and I spent most of July and August moving into a new house, and I developed consuming passions for really dull things like light fixtures and sewer pipes. I finished a draft of the third and final book in the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series. Then, surrounded by piles of moving boxes, I revised it. Then I revised it again. I spent a few nights with my author buddy Kristen Kittscher in a haunted house in Ohio, drinking wine and reading James Thurber aloud in the parlor where he once lived. And somewhere in there, I sold two new books I completely forgot to tell you about! The first is a middle grade mystery called The World’s Greatest Detective that I’ve been itching to write for nearly three years now. The second might be about the end of the world. I’m not sure about that one yet. Both books will be published in the unimaginably distant future (2017 and 2018?) by the same team at HarperCollins who’ve been so good to me and my first three novels.

TerroroftheSouthlandsLife’s been rushing forward and hasn’t been inclined to stop, but I’m forcing myself to pause and catch my breath because my second book, The Terror of the Southlands, is on bookstore shelves today. This wasn’t an easy book to write, craft-wise or emotionally, but now that I’m two years’ removed from the drafting of it, I feel really proud of how it turned out. It’s a mystery (sort of) and an adventure (definitely) and maybe a little darker than the first book in the VNHLP series, but still plenty of fun. It is full of philosophical meditations on social issues (sort of) and snarky gargoyle observations (definitely), and it will teach you how to duel while wearing a frilly green ball gown. I like it a lot. I hope you will, too.


As I’m sure you guys already know, the cover of Magic Marks the Spot is the most attractive book jacket in the history of literature. It’s bright, it’s fun, it stands out on bookshelves, and it features the gargoyle’s charming mug, as all good book covers should. It’s so great, in fact, that I was worried about whether the cover of my next book would be able to measure up.

Fortunately, there was no cause for concern. I am now the proud author of books with the two most beautiful jackets in the history of literature. Here’s the fantastic cover of The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: The Terror of the Southlandscoming from Harper Children’s this fall!


Isn’t it great? Don’t you love the crumbling castle? The sunset? The cannonballs?? (That’s Charlie on the starboard side of the ship, by the way.)

Oh, and it looks pretty gorgeous next to the first book, too:

MagicMarksSpot hc c TerroroftheSouthlands_hires

This cover was once again designed by Senior Art Director Amy Ryan at HarperCollins, to whom I am constructing a shrine in my living room. And the artist is the extraordinarily talented Petur Antonsson–you can check out more of his lovely work here. Dave Phillips, who provided the great interior art for Magic Marks the Spot, is returning to illustrate The Terror of the Southlands as well, and I can’t wait to be able to show off his splendid sketches.

What’s this book about, other than castles and cannonballs? Actually, I can tell you that, too:

Hilary Westfield is a pirate. In fact, she’s the Terror of the Southlands! She’s daring, brave, fearless, and . . . in a rut. Maybe she hasn’t found any treasure lately. And maybe she isn’t fighting off as many scallywags as she’d like. But does that mean she and her loyal crew  (including a magical gargoyle) deserve to be kicked out of the ranks of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates?

There is only one thing to do—find a daring mission worthy of her fearless reputation. With the help of first mate Charlie, finishing-school friend Claire, and the self-proclaimed intrepid gargoyle, Hilary sets sail on a swashbuckling expedition that may or may not involve a kidnapped Enchantress, bumbling inspectors, a mysterious group called the Mutineers, and—the most terrifying thing of all—a High Society ball.

Caroline Carlson brings just as much rollicking fun, laughter, and action to this second book of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates as she did with the first, Magic Marks the Spot.

The Terror of the Southlands will be available everywhere on September 9, 2014. I hope you’ll preorder a copy from your local independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Indigo, Amazon, or the book purveyor you love best.

In Which I Have Turned Into a Tortoise

Okay, I’m not actually a tortoise. (Too bad; tortoises are cute and they don’t have to meet deadlines.) But I’ve been feeling a little tortoise-like lately because I’ve been writing the third and final book in the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series, and it is sloooooow going. Yesterday, for example, I wrote 200 words. On a normal writing day, I can write five times that much. On a really good writing day, I can write ten times that much. 200 words is about a page–and it took me almost three hours to write that page. See how I’m starting to sympathize with my hard-shelled, land-dwelling reptile friends?

But I’m learning that every book has its own personality and its own pace. My first book moved quickly, and I loved it right from the start. My second book moved almost as quickly, but it took me a long time (and lots of revisions) before I loved it. This book, my third, is moving anything but quickly, but the good news is that I love it already. I may not be writing at my usual pace, but the words I’m writing are exciting and fun, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next in this story. I’m finally wrapping up Hilary’s adventures on the High Seas, and while I know I’ll miss all the characters desperately when this book is finished, I’m excited to give them the grand and glorious ending they deserve.

A few items of business: First of all, I’m going on tour with some of my favorite authors! We’ll be in Baltimore tomorrow (Saturday, November 16th) and in Philadelphia on Sunday the 17th and Monday the 18th. Check out my Events page for more details. I lived in both Philadelphia and Baltimore for many years each, and I can’t wait to be back! Even if you can’t make the tour, I hope you’ll read the new books written by the authors I’ll be touring with: Parched by Melanie Crowder, Brotherhood by A.B. Westrick, The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher, Genie Wishes by Elisabeth Dahl, Sunny Sweet is So Not Sorry by Jennifer Ann Mann, and The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff.

Right after I get back from Philadelphia, I’ll be flying to Miami for the Miami Book Fair. I’ve never been to Miami before, so I’m pretty excited. I hear that everyone there wears bathing suits all day, every day, so I’ll do my best to fit in. Do you think it would be weird to wear swimming goggles to an author panel? Anyway, goggles or not, I’ll be doing some school visits in the Miami area and talking on a panel with my author buddies Jeramey Kraatz (The Cloak Society) and Christopher Krovatin (Gravediggers). The panel is open to the public; it’s on Saturday, November 23rd. I hope you’ll come see us if you’re nearby!

The other utterly thrilling piece of news is that Magic Marks the Spot was reviewed in last Sunday’s New York Times book review section! I love the Times and grew up with parents who read the book review section every Sunday, so it’s hard for me to imagine a bigger honor than this. You can read the review here if you’d like. It’s part of a larger children’s book review section which includes great coverage of lots of other books that I’m now dying to read.

I may not get too many more words written while I’m traveling around the country, but I’m looking forward to coming out of my tortoise shell for a little while to meet readers and see some friends. And I am especially looking forward to having some pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving when my travels are over.


Halloween Tips from the VNHLP

If you’re stumped for Halloween costume ideas this year, don’t worry–you can dress as your favorite character from the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates! All you’ll need are a few common household items, a winning smile, and a big sign with your character’s name on it that you can wear around your neck (’cause if your friends haven’t read the book yet, they won’t have a clue who you’re trying to be).

To dress as Hilary, put your hair in a braid and wear big hoop earrings. Carry a bag with a gargoyle’s head poking out. When your neighbors ask if you’d like some candy, say, “A true pirate would never refuse such a generous offer!” Remember to share your loot with the gargoyle.

To dress as the gargoyle, wear grey clothes. Put your hands behind your back and hop around on your knees. When your neighbors ask if you’d like some candy, say, “No thank you, but do you have any spiders?” Encourage people to scratch you behind the ears.

To dress as Miss Greyson, wear a long skirt and a high-necked blouse. Stick a golden crochet hook in your hair. When your neighbors ask if you’d like some candy, turn up your nose and insist on cucumber sandwiches instead. Wonder aloud whether it is entirely practical to wander the streets at night in search of unhealthy foodstuffs.

To dress as Admiral Westfield, wear a blue coat with shiny buttons. Pat your friends on the head and tell them to run along and be good. When your neighbors ask if you’d like some candy, grab the entire bowl and run away while laughing in a villainous manner.

To dress as Claire, wear an itchy gray dress and a green cardigan embroidered with a dancing sheep. Don’t forget to be dramatic. When your neighbors ask if you’d like some candy, avoid the Swedish Fish.

To dress as Jasper Fletcher, wear a big pirate hat. Try your best to look dashing. When your neighbors ask if you’d like some candy, offer to hand their candy out to all the other children in the neighborhood. When everyone’s had their fair share, take whatever’s left and bury it in a hole marked with an X.

To dress as pretty much any other character, carry a big plastic sword and say, “Arr!” a lot.

Notes on a Book Release

As you may have noticed if you’ve come within a thousand miles of me in the past two weeks, MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT is officially on sale! I am very happy about this, because now a few more of you will understand what I am talking about when I go on at great length about spider-eating gargoyles. Even more happily, I have been starting to hear from brilliant individuals with excellent taste who’ve been reading the book, or who’ve spotted it on bookstore and library shelves. Thank you all so much for being excited about MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, for reading it, and for recommending it. I hope it makes you laugh at least once!

On sale at Grand Central Station, for goodness' sake!

On sale at NYC’s Grand Central Station, if you can believe it. (I could not.)

So far, the best part of having a book out in the world has been meeting and talking to readers. I’m sure every author thinks she has the nicest, smartest, funniest, best-dressed readers of all, but I am happy to report that the kids and adults I’ve met over the past few weeks have been even nicer, smarter, funnier, and better dressed than most. They’ve asked great questions and made wise observations. They’ve been remarkably talented at talking like a pirate. And they haven’t once made fun of my penguin hat.

VCFA alums at Wellesley Books

Vicious scallywags at Wellesley Books

I started my book-signing adventures at Wellesley Books in Wellesley, MA, and then flew down to Washington, DC, to spend time with amazing readers at Politics & Prose, Hooray for Books!, and Stratford Landing Elementary School. I hadn’t done much public speaking before this month, and I hadn’t been in an elementary school since I was about 11 years old (which was a while ago), but all the kids, booksellers, and teachers made me feel wonderfully welcome, and I had a great time. I also got a chance to catch up with friends and family along the way.

Speaking to a great audience at Politics & Prose

An audience of rapscallions at Politics & Prose

Now I’m home again, working on book 3 in the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series. I don’t always love to sit down at my desk and write, but I have to admit it’s been lots of fun to get back to work after spending so much time away from home. I’ll be doing some more traveling throughout the fall (you can check my events page for details), and I’d love to see you and talk about books!

Salty seadogs at Politics & Prose

Salty seadogs at Politics & Prose

Oh, and if you’d like a signed copy of MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, you can still order one from my local indie, the Penguin Bookshop. (Just mention in the comments of your order that you’d like your copy signed.) You may also be able to find pre-signed copies at the Penguin or B&N at the Waterfront in Pittsburgh; at Wellesley Books, the Concord Bookshop, Porter Square Books, or the Harvard COOP in Boston; or at Politics & Prose or Hooray for Books! in DC/Alexandria.