Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is, by far, my favorite holiday.

It's a holiday that revolves around:

1. Creativity
2. Dressing up in silly costumes
3. Candy

What's not to love?! Not to mention that its proximity to my birthday has given me an extremely flimsy excuse to throw a theme party every year.

I thought I'd share some of the costumes we've worn over the years. From the photographic evidence below, I think you can safely conclude that:

1. Despite my repeated efforts, I look ridiculous as a blonde.
2. Graig and I are rampantly silly.

2007: As Steve Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, ca. 1977

2008: As Ryan and Chad from High School Musical
2009: As the Queen of Hearts and Her Untrustworthy Gardener from Alice in Wonderland
2010: As Maverick and Goose from Top Gun
2011: As the 10th Doctor and Rose from Doctor Who

Happy Halloween, everyone! What was your costume this year?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thank You and Winners!

Truth be told, I've been planning Monday's giveaway for months, ever since I got my ARCs really. October 24th was my birthday and exactly 6 months out from publication. Just seemed too perfect!

I have to say I've been floored by the amount of responses. Over 200 entries and 40 entrants...that astounds me, honestly. Not to mention how much I've loved reading about everyone's favorite birthdays: from marriage proposals to Brazilian surprise parties to Slip 'N Slides to Cabbage Patch Kid dolls. Thanks so much to everyone who shared their memories with me. It made my birthday that much more fun and I thank you from the bottom of my blogger/author/birthday-fanatic heart.

Okay, okay. And now for the real reason you're probably here. The winners! has determined that the winners are:

1 signed ARC of The Mapmaker and the Ghost, bookmark and sticker set:
Sarah E. (who spent her 30th in the company of RDJ as Mr. Sherlock Holmes)

1 $30 Amazon gift card:
Kellie D.G. (who finally received a much sought-after Cabbage Patch Kid)

5 The Mapmaker and the Ghost swag packs:
Mrs. Kee (who got proposed to on her birthday!)
Julie S. (whose cat brought her a dead chipmunk for her birthday)
Jenna V. (who set her hair on fire blowing out candles)
Rain L. (who cleaned up at a brewery for her 21st)
Lana K. (who had a Hurricane Irene birthday)

I'll be contacting the winners tout suite!

And for those who did not win this time, I offer you this virtual Butterbeer Cupcake, baked by yours truly (but that is another post for another day):

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Wisdom of 21-Year-Olds

When I was 15, I wrote myself a letter to be opened when I turned 21. I wrote about what I was doing at 15, what I had hoped to have accomplished by 21 and, I'm pretty sure, some stuff about how much I hated my lab partner.

When I was 21, I wrote myself a letter to be opened when I turned 30. I just read it. The lab partner was long gone from my life, but I was just about to embark on my last semester of college.

Here are some choice passages I thought I'd share. The text in italics are my thoughts now.

"I guess I'll start off by saying that a few months ago I opened up the letter I wrote to myself when I was 15. Man, it was strange: sorta like being visited by a ghost of someone you used to know." Yup. It still is. Strange but cool.

"So what am I doing at 30? Am I living in NYC? Yes. Where's my family? In the same house. Do I keep in touch with my college friends? Yes. Am I married? No. Do I have kids? No."

"Now for future goals...By the time I'm 30, I want to have sold a script. Didn't happen but I did sell a manuscript. I really, really, really, really want to be a writer. I am."

"I know I must be a little scared to be turning 30 today. 21-year-old Sarv wants to say don't be. The best years, the best age, can be whatever you want it to be. Be bold, write yourself another letter, and set out to accomplish even more." Wow. That's pretty astute, 21-year-old me. You know what? I'll take your advice. And I will write myself another letter. To be opened when I'm 40.

"P.S. I like how I have to put smiley faces next to my jokes just in case 30-year-old Sarv doesn't pick up on the sarcasm." Don't worry. I pick up on it. And guess what, 21 y.o. me? I still overuse emoticons. So there.

Do you have things you hope to have accomplished by your next milestone birthday? Think you might write them down?

Monday, October 24, 2011

My First ARC Giveaway: Win an Advanced Copy of THE MAPMAKER AND THE GHOST!

Today is October 24th.

This means:

1. We are exactly 6 months out from the publication date of The Mapmaker and the Ghost!
2. It's my birthday.
3. I turn 30 today.

And I want to celebrate by giving YOU something!

It's my first-ever giveaway of The Mapmaker and the Ghost ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies)! Not only that, but I'm giving away a few more prizes. They are:

- 1 signed ARC of The Mapmaker and the Ghost along with a Mapmaker bookmark and sticker set
- 1 $30 Amazon gift card
- 5 swag packs of The Mapmaker and the Ghost bookmark and stickers. The bookmarks can be signed if you'd like.

There will be 7 drawings in total: one for each prize/prize pack.

To enter, just follow these two steps:

1. Simply tell me your best birthday memory in the comments section of this post. You must comment to be entered.

2. Fill out the form below.

And here's how you can get extra entries:
+2 for tweeting about the contest
+2 for posting about the contest on Facebook
+2 for mentioning the contest on your blog

+1 for following me on Twitter
+1 for liking me on Facebook
+1 for following this blog (the follow button on the right hand side-->)
+1 for adding The Mapmaker and the Ghost to your Goodreads shelf.

The contest will close on Friday, October 28th at 5 PM EST, at which point winners will be selected via This contest is open internationally.

Good luck! I'm really, really looking forward to hearing all about your birthdays!

The giveaway is now closed. Thank SO MUCH to everyone who entered and shared their birthday memories with me. Winners can be found here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Art I Love: Across the Great Lake

So...remember how on Monday, I wrote about Graig and his amazing art?

He just gave me this:




He's my favorite. That is all.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Five Random Observations from My First Comic Con

I am, admittedly, a pretty big geek. But up until now, I’d never attended an actual Comic Con. So this year when my friend Billy (a Comic Con veteran) brought it up, I jumped at the chance. I read his 10 Commandments of New York Comic Con, used copious amounts of soap, put on my Harry and the Potters T-shirt and set out for the faraway land of the Javits Center.

It was a wondrous world of spandex, body paint and unabashed geekiness. I loved it!

Check out my guest post on Tuesday Night Movies (a hilarious movie review site, by the way), for the 5 high- and lowlights of my adventure into Nerd Mecca.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Other Storyteller

My boyfriend, Graig, is an artist (a painter).

He mostly paints historic baseball scenes. Before you go anywhere, you should know that I know next to nothing about baseball. But I find his paintings absolutely entrancing. I think it's because they're so narrative, that I can tell there's a fascinating story behind each and every one, even if I could care less about sports (sorry to be such a stereotypical girl on that count, but it's just the truth).

Here are some of my absolute favorites presented with a bit of my totally non-expert commentary.

I love the way the dirt is flying around in this one. With the low perspective, you almost expect it to spray your face.

Babe Ruth on Babe Ruth Day, a year before he passed away. I think you can feel the emotion radiating off of him.

One of my absolute favorites. There's something very Norman Rockwellian about this one which I adore.

I've been told this is a heartbreaking image for Mets fans for some reason or another. I think this is one of Graig's most photorealistic pieces. It's hard to believe it's a painting unless you zoom in really closely.

On rare occasion, Graig does depict some other sports. I love the colors of this golf painting. (And, okay, the awesome 1920s wardrobe of the crowd doesn't hurt either.)

This is an in-progress shot of a new painting of Jackie Robinson. I can already tell I'm going to love it, just from the way he and his uniform are popping off of the canvas.

And on very rare occasion, Graig paints scenes from awesome BBC adaptations of Jane Austen novels.

He gave this to me for Valentine's Day a few years ago. Why, yes, it totally made me swoon and became my very favorite present that I've ever received.

If you want to see more of Graig's work (or read the real stories behind the images), check out or his Facebook page which he updates frequently with in-progress shots and new work. 

And if you have any favorites of your own, let me know in the comments section below!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Class of 2K12 Has Launched!

What is the Class of 2K12 you might ask?

Well, inquisitive reader, it is a group of 20 young adult and middle grade authors whose debut books will all be coming out in 2012. Our tagline is "Fiction That Rocks." But you don't have to take my word for it*...because you can check out our just-launched website for yourself:

Just look at some of our covers!

And here are just some of our taglines!

Because being 12, flat-chested and harassed by the school’s popular girl isn’t bad enough, Lilah Bloom’s life changes forever when she is hit by lightning and can suddenly hear dead people. - Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy

When her best friend marries Henry VIII, a previously disregarded maid-in-waiting must learn to walk the fine line between secrets and treason, knowing her life and that of the Queen could be threatened by any wrong word spoken (and those left unsaid). - Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Haunting her own serial killer, while gratifying, turns into a huge and possibly catastrophic distraction for Velvet Monroe and all she holds dear, including newly dead Nick, who despite a startling lack of scars and tattoos, she’s into…sort of. - Velveteen by Daniel Marks

And here's even a group book trailer!

It's an awesomely diverse and talented group. I feel extremely lucky to be a part of it.

Throughout the year, we'll be hosting tons of giveaways for books, Skype visits and more as well as coordinating group in-person events. In fact, we're giving away a giant 17-book basket to one deserving library on Facebook right now! Go here to comment and enter. You can also find us on Twitter.

In other trivia, the Class of 2K concept was started in 2007 by Greg R. Fishbone...the very same Greg R. Fishbone whose book you can still win at the bottom of my post from yesterday.

*This message is LeVar-Burton-approved!**

**This is a fabrication. Please don't sue me, LeVar.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

MG Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Interview with Greg R. Fishbone

This month's Middle Grade author spotlight and giveaway is extra special because it's also part of a much larger blog tour for Greg R. Fishbone's new book, Galaxy Games: The Challengers!

In this blog post you get:
- an interview with Greg
- a chance to win Greg's book plus a bonus book (courtesy of me)
- a chance to gather a puzzle piece for Greg's blog tour filled with other fabulous prizes
- to marvel at the fact that Greg R. Fishbone has the best children's author name ever

And all for the low, low price of...nothing! It's a bargain.

First, here is a bit about Greg's book.

Things are looking up for Tyler Sato (literally!) as he and his friends scan the night sky for a star named for him by his Tokyo cousins in honor of his eleventh birthday. Ordinary stars tend to stay in one place, but Ty’s seems to be streaking directly toward Earth at an alarming rate. Soon the whole world is talking about TY SATO, the doomsday asteroid, and life is turned upside down for Ty Sato, the boy, who would rather be playing hoops in his best friend’s driveway.

Meanwhile, aboard a silver spaceship heading for Earth, M’Frozza, a girl with three eyes and five nose holes, is on a secret mission. M’Frozza is the captain of planet Mrendaria’s Galaxy Games team, and she is desperate to save her world from a dishonorable performance in the biggest sporting event in the universe.

What will happen when Ty meets M’Frozza? Get ready for the most important event in human history—it’ll be off the backboard, around the rim, and out of this world!

To borrow (and modify) a question from James Lipton, what’s your favorite middle-grade appropriate “curse word?"
Greg R. Fishbone: M'Frozza likes to say "smazzroot" when there's something really good that she can't quite have. Smazzroot literally means "rotten fruit" because of a famous Mrendarian story about a child whose deliciously rotten fruit rolls into a ditch and out of reach.

Describe your elementary-school self in three words.
GRF: Imaginative, helpful, and friendly. But my daughter has those three traits down even more than I ever did.

If you were chosen to lead an intergalactic sporting event, which sport or event would you hope it was?
GRF: The Galaxy Game, of course! Any other game you can think of can be part of it, and the rules are different every time.

If aliens invaded the earth, what’s one technology you would hope they’d bring with them and share with earthlings?
GRF: If they've already taken control and it's not purely a social visit? In that case I'd hope they've come because they think we'd make cute and cuddly pets, and not because we all look so delicious... Maybe the aliens would bring a technology to provide us with endless hours of excitement and entertainment, like the way we use laser pointers with our cats!

What are two MG books you'd recommend and why?
GRF: There are so many! Readers looking for other books that combine science fiction with humor will enjoy The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. I'd also recommend the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer--the books seem like fantasy at first, because there are fairies, dwarves, and centaurs in them, but they're all creatures of science and advanced technology. Colfer takes tired old myths and reworks them in an original and refreshing way.

Thank you, Greg! Read on for how you can win out-of-this-world prizes. (Yes, I had to go there.)

Here's the info you need for Greg's blog tour! An exclusive puzzle piece is below. Go to to find out how you can gather more pieces.

Is now closed and the winner is Suzanne. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Swag: A Sneak Peek, Part Two

I showed you my final stickers and now here's a sneak peek at the other piece of swag I'm creating for The Mapmaker and the Ghost. Bookmarks!

Disclaimer: this is not the final version; just a progress shot. But the final product should look pretty similar to this:

The compass charm can be taken off and used as a pendant, backpack charm or fashionable 90s-style solo earring (unless you get two bookmarks, that is!).

There'll be something exclusive on the other side too. [Cue mysterious music, which my brain now automatically equates with the theme song to Doctor Who.]

What do you think?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Release Dates May Seem Closer Than They Appear

See that little countdown clock on the right? -->

It's telling me that The Mapmaker and the Ghost is coming out in 200 days (or actually 199 days and change...or, depending on when you're reading this, some entirely different amount of days.)

200 still seems like kind of a big number but it also...gulp...doesn't. In fact, I've now reached the point where I actually believe April 24th may be here before I know it.

You see, I've now become aware of time's wily ways. Before I graduated high school, everything took f.o.r.e.v.e.r. Each grade lasted years. Summer vacations lasted multiple seasons. But the minute I went to college, bam! I became one of those adults who marveled at "how quickly time flies." [15-year-old Sarvenaz shakes her head at me in disgust]

So. 200 days. Wow! [nervous giggle] Wow.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thoughts of an Apple Girl

I've been an Apple girl for a long time, and consider both my first Mac PowerBook, purchased in 2005, and my current MacBook Pro, purchased in 2009, two of my most beloved possessions. An original iPod was the first big purchase I ever made with money from my first post-college job. And I can't imagine living without my iPhone.

It might be weird to be so sentimentally attached to gadgets. In the case of my laptops, I know it's because I do all my writing on them. And in the case of the iPods and iPhone, they're just things that I carry with me and use every single day.

The world lost a true visionary and creative powerhouse yesterday when Steve Jobs passed away. I know I have nothing to say that won't be said better by other people. But Apple and Pixar have both brought me much personal joy for a long time and I am truly saddened by Steve's passing.

In 2005, Steve gave a famous commencement speech at Stanford that you've probably seen floating around, if not before, certainly last night or today. It's a beautiful, inspiring speech. You can watch the whole thing below. But here are my 5 favorite quotes that I think are universal in their appeal and truths.

1. "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

2. "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it."

3. "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure -- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

4. "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

5. "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish."

I just want to add to that the motto of one of Apple's most memorable campaigns: Think Different. It really seems to be the crux of how Steve Jobs chose to live his life.

You'll be missed, Steve.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Movies I Love: Being Elmo

Here's something unusual about me: I almost never, ever cry at fictional movies or books. This is especially odd because, in real life, I'm a crier. I mean, I'm not in tears every day or anything, but there's usually a leaky face involved if I'm really upset.

But with a movie or book, no matter how wrapped up I get in the story, there's something that keeps me from crossing that line. I'm talking like the beginning of Up didn't even bring on the waterworks. That's kinda messed up, people.

I can only assume that either I am the kind of cold-hearted being that moves Paula Abdul to song or that there's a part of my subconscious that is hearing the story but also peeking behind the curtain and studying the craft. A part of me just knows it's not real.

Which means that as soon as my synapses are convinced that something is real, all bets are off. Show me the old people choir from Young at Heart, an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition or even a mildly decent audition on The X-Factor and I. am. a. hot. mess. It basically takes next to nothing for there to be liquid dripping down my face. (Yeah, I'm not a pretty crier either.)

This is all a very convoluted segue into talking about the documentary I got an advanced screening of last night: Being Elmo. It tells the story of Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind (you guessed it) Elmo and how he literally turned his lifelong dream into reality.

Just like 99% of the human population, I have a very soft spot in my heart for the Muppets. I was five when we moved to America and I went into Kindergarten not speaking any English. My uncle's girlfriend advised my parents that I should watch The Muppet Show and Sesame Street (and soon after Muppet Babies). And I did. I ask of you, who better to learn English from than Fozzie Bear and Animal? Wocka, wocka, wocka is an American idiom I have found thoroughly useful in many-a scenario.

I also have an extremely soft spot for any real-life stories having to do with following impossible dreams, perseverance, determination, hard-won success, and anything of that ilk.

Add to all of that...Kevin Clash is a very nice man. A very humble, compelling, talented man with the most incredibly supportive (and adorable) parents I've ever seen.

I actually interned at Sesame Workshop when I was in college and I got to see a lot of the Muppeteers first hand (I even helped Big Bird put on his costume once!). It was a surreal experience. But the best part of it was, they were all so nice. And so genuinely happy to do the job they'd been doing for years at that point.

All this to say...Being Elmo is an outstanding, uplifting, wonderful film.

And I cried like a baby.

See if the trailer alone doesn't get ya!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Oh the Humanity: The Horror of the Self-Imposed Book-Buying Ban

 This is my to-be-read pile:

And I am currently in a self-imposed book-buying ban until I finish all of them.

This is painful and I need some virtual sympathy; I had a feeling you'd understand.

I don't want to be on a book-buying ban. I hear about books every day that I'd like to pick up. I once told a friend of mine that I've basically never left a bookshop without at least buying two books.

Which means that I now can't enter bookshops. This is the equivalent of banning a caffeine addict from Starbucks. Or Gilderoy Lockhart from talking about himself. I feel like I have the literary shakes.

But I have to be strong and curb the spending just a little, at least for the next month or so. I suppose I should take heart in the fact that I have some pretty exciting reads headed my way.

At the same time,  I would be remiss if I didn't mention that one of the things I love most about books is that--as long as I live--I will never run out of ones I want to read. There will always be amazing, inspiring, wonderful stories out there to discover. I find that comforting.

Just maybe not right now.

On the bright side though, while torturing myself by visiting online bookstores, I discovered that The Mapmaker and the Ghost is now listed on IndieBound and Books-A-Million. Hooray! (And, no, self, I did not buy anything during said visits. Always so suspicious!)