Monday, July 30, 2012

TV I Love: The Olympics

I am not a sports person. I'm uncoordinated and slow, so I don't enjoy playing them. And I really have about zero interest in ever watching them.

With one very big exception: the Olympics. Like most of the world, I loooooove the Olympics and will spend every two years glued to my television for two weeks going: Archery? Hit that target! Curling? Look at those brooms go! Swimming? Yes, let's have more poolside interviews with lovely, shirtless men, thank you.

In all seriousness though, I know exactly why I love the Olympics so much whereas I shun all other televised athletics as pointless and boring. It's the stories. Those little edited packages that tell me why exactly I should be rooting for certain athletes (their affinity for one-legged dogs, the fact that they are an over-the-hill 22 years old and this is their last shot for an Olympic medal, their tragic brush with alopecia)...and the instant gratification of finding out whether they win or not. The soft lighting and slow-motion close-ups, the epic music featuring that lone horn, the parental interviews with the god, I love it all.

So what I'm saying is: manipulate me, NBC, with your carefully constructed narratives. I look forward to it every time.

Friday, July 27, 2012

WIP Quiz Winners!

Thanks to everyone who played along this week on: What the heck is Sarv's work-in-progress about?

Without further ado, here are the correct answers:

If you guessed that the book is about genies, is based on The Arabian Nights (along with other Persian and Middle Eastern folklore) and has the word kingdom in the tentative title, you would have gotten all three answers correct.

Which nobody did. But five people did get two out of three and they are: Liliana, Aeicha, Bill, Lori and Christina. Via, the person selected as the winner from those with the most correct answers is...


Congratulations! You shall be getting your gift card via email!

And as for the WIP, I wish I could give you more details, but for now, that's where we stand. Keep your fingers crossed that I'll be able to share more tidbits soon!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

WIP Quiz: The Final Question

And here it is: the very last question in your quest to find out what my work-in-progress manuscript is about!

To recap, you're playing to win a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card.

The quick and dirty rules: I'm going to ask you three questions about what my WIP is about. Make your best guesses! You have until this Friday at 8 AM EST to answer any or all of them. Whoever gets the most correct will be put in the raffle to win the prize. (In case only one person gets the most correct, that person will automatically be the winner.) Every entrant can answer each question only once (in the event that they answer more than once, only their first answer will be counted).

If you missed question 1 or question 2, there is still time to answer them. Go here for question 1 and here for question 2.

On Friday, I will reveal the correct answers and the winner. The only hint you have right now is that it's middle grade and a standalone (as in, it's not a sequel to Mapmaker).

So ready for the final question? Here goes:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

WIP Quiz, Part 2

Here is the second part of my three-part quiz, informally called: What the heck is Sarv's WIP about?

Up for grabs is one $25 gift card to either Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

The quick and dirty rules: I'm going to ask you three questions about what my WIP is about, one every day starting yesterday and ending tomorrow. Make your best guesses! Whoever gets the most correct will be put in the raffle to win the prize. (In case only one person gets the most correct, that person will automatically be the winner.) Every entrant can answer each question only once (in the event that they answer more than once, only their first answer will be counted).

If you missed question 1, there is still time to answer it. Go here. Question 3 has now been posted here.

On Friday, I will reveal the answers and the winner. The only hint you have right now is that it's middle grade and a standalone (as in, it's not a sequel to Mapmaker).

So ready for question 2? Here goes:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Guess What My WIP Is About...and Win a $25 Gift Card!

For the past year and a half I've been working on a new book that's been taking up a lot of space iny my head (and my heart -- because that's how writing books work).

Do you wanna know what it's about?


...I think I'm gonna make you work a little for it (and reward you with a prize)!

On Friday, I'm going to revealsome details about my WIP. But for now, I've decided to make things interesting by running a little giveaway.

The prize is a $25 Barnes and Noble or Amazon gift card (your choice).

The challenge? I'm going to ask you three questions about what my work-in-progress is about. Make your best guesses! Whoever gets the most correct will be put in the raffle to win the prize. (In case only one person gets the most correct, that person will automatically be the winner.)

Here is what I will tell you about the book: it's middle grade and a standalone (i.e. it's not a sequel to The Mapmaker and the Ghost). 

I'll run one question a day from now through Thursday. Use the Google form below to answer them. The more questions you answer, the better your chances of being in the raffle! (And you can answer any of them up until Friday at 8 AM EST).

The first question can be found below; the second question can be found here and the final question here. Good luck!

*P.S. There is a very tiny handful of people who have read this WIP and/or know what it's about. You know who you are...and I know who you are. To keep things fair, they are disqualified from this contest. :-)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Yes and No

The legend* goes like this: John Lennon met Yoko Ono at a gallery that was exhibiting her artwork. One of her pieces was a canvas that was mounted on the ceiling. One tiny word was written on it. To read the word, one had to climb the ladder and then use an attached magnifying glass. John did. The word was 'yes.'

Later on, John said that if the word had been "no," or something negative like he had expected, he would have thought nothing of it. But something about the blatant positivity struck a chord with him. He had to meet the artist responsible.

Sometimes I feel like being in the publishing world is like climbing a million ladders only to find the word "no," written at the top of each one. Sometimes it's a little more elaborate: "Maybe but…probably not." "Interesting idea but…it'll never sell." "What in the name of god's good green earth is that drivel?!" [That last one might be more of an inner monologue thing.]

It can get frustrating at best. Downright heartbreaking at worst.

But then, the beauty of it too is that there is always one more ladder to climb. One more idea to try. One more agent to query. One more revision to make.

And sometimes, just when you least expect it, you trudge up those steps and find that one word: "yes."

And you know what? Not only is it all the sweeter because of all the nos that came before it, but you learn to appreciate the littlest yeses too. Yes, that agent wants a partial! Or yes, my book is in my local bookstore! Or yes, a 9-year-old just wrote me a fan email!

Just for today, I'm going to put aside all the nos and take a long look at all the yeses in my life. Would you consider doing the same? And if so, how about you share your yeses with me in the comments section!

*There is debate about to whether that's really how they met but it's a story that always stuck a chord with me anyway, whether it's completely true or not.

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's Gonna Be a Far Out Party, Man!

One of the biggest things going on in my life right now (besides launching my debut book and writing others) is planning my 2013 wedding.

As you may or may not know, I love throwing parties. Specifically theme parties (by way of example: my Tridecade Tournament, my 90s Prom, or my murder mystery birthday). And I consider the wedding the biggest theme party of all!

I've been using wedding planning as a stress relief for when book stuff is getting to me. This may sound odd, especially when I know that wedding planning is what actually stresses most people out, but the thing is: I can control most aspects of wedding planning (whereas I can control very few aspects of marketing a book). AND after writing a whole three-task Tridecade Tournament and figuring out how to turn my living room into the Great Hall (complete with floating candles)...this is kinda on the easy side.

The fiance and I have some tricks up our sleeves for our wedding guests, but one of the things we just recently sent out was our save-the-dates. And I've been so proud of them that I thought I'd share them here (oh, okay, I'm also running out of things to blog about, people! There's only so much excitement in a lowly author's life).

I actually had the idea for the save-the-dates a looooong time ago. Graig and I both love the 60s and the design idea just came to me during a car ride one day: psychedelic 60s concert posters.

Graig, being a huge Deadhead, was not hard to convince on this matter.

We flipped through some books and took our inspiration from these two specific posters:

(So the Grateful Dead was actually involved. Graig was happy).

Using a combination of hand-lettering (all Graig) and some Photoshop/design skillz (a joint effort) our final result was a two-sided postcard that had this on one side:

And this on the other:

And then, of course, we needed some funky, trippy envelope to house the whole thing.


Translucent and turquoise with the stamp as a pop of color.

In case you can't tell, we really love our save-the-dates and how they turned out. AND I found our fantastic printers ( solely from author word-of-mouth. They do beautiful bookmarks too! (And you know how we authors love our swag).

Now...on to the invitations...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Let's Play the WIP Game!

Some members of the Apocalypsies introduced me to this fun writers game last year (in between talking to ourselves and having nervous breakdowns over imaginary beings, we writers do occasionally like to play a game or two). It's called the WIP (work-in-progress) game.

Basically someone picks a number at random and then also says top, middle or bottom.

For example, I'll 42, top.

Now everyone go to the manuscript you're working on at the moment, and write down a line that can be found on the top of page 42. (If you haven't gotten to page 42 in your WIP yet, then go to the last page you do have.)

Here is my line:  

But any of that stuff, in my world, translates to fighting monsters and scaling cliffs and, you know, doing some really sweet swordfighting moves. 

Your turn! Leave me your sentence in the comments section! 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

One-Pubbed Wonder: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

So here's the deal: I have completed a manuscript for a second book. I have no idea if it will ever be published. This is something I've been dealing with for about a year now and I figure the time is ripe to share some feelings. It's gonna be that sort of blog post.

But before you run away, you should know it won't all be touchy-feely. It will, however, be honest.

See, sometime after I got my book deal for Mapmaker, but before my book actually came out (a looooong, extended period of almost two years, if you recall), I had a great fear. My fear was this: that book one would turn out to be a fluke, that I would never get published again and be henceforth known as a one-pubbed wonder.

I wouldn't say it was my absolute greatest fear (tidal waves still win that one)...but it was up there. I wrote afraid, I revised afraid, I submitted afraid.

I was scurred, people.

Then Mapmaker came out. And it was awesome and surreal. On the other hand, it was also very real. It was no longer a dream or fantasy to have a book published, it was my reality. And along with the awesomeness of that came, well, the realities of it. The ups and downs of real life and a real business that I was now a part of. I did say business. Because as wonderful as book publishing is, it is also that. Being an author is my job. And, as a job, as any job, it has its good and bad days.

And now the [good] day has come that I've let go of the fear. I can see it happening, me maybe never getting published again. And you know what? It's not so bad. I'll still always be a published author. I'll still always have that checked off my bucket list. No one can take away the friends I've made through this journey, or the experience I've had. Someone somewhere whom I don't know can still read a story that I wrote...and love it.

And if I never get to experience that again? It's okay. Because I got to experience it once.

One thing I do know: I'll never stop writing, at least not as far as I can see. I'll tell my stories like I've always done. Jot them down and work on them until they're good, and then again, until they're better. If it means it's something I'll only do for myself, possibly for some loyal friends to read, I'm okay with that.

I really am. Because, really, that is exactly where I was before I ever got a book offer. And I was happy there.

The good news is that it's time to write unafraid again, revise unafraid, submit unafraid. Maybe, eventually, another book deal will come through. Maybe it won't. But I feel like letting go, for me, is one of those life lessons I have to keep relearning over and over again. My own existential Groundhog Day, if you will.

It's a good I hope will be a little easier gained next time I catch myself hyperventilating over something or another. Though I'm okay with being irrationally terrified of tidal waves. Because they are SO SCARY.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Craft Talk: Closing the Door

In Stephen King's fantastic craft book/autobiography On Writing (quite possibly my favorite craft book of all time), the author talks a lot about his writing method. Of course, with anyone who can churn out quality bestsellers like he does, it's fascinating.

But there's one particular phenomenon he talks about that particularly resonated with me. He calls it "closing the door." The basic tenet of it is this: when you're banging out the first draft of a novel, you need to shut the door to other readers. Don't talk about it; don't ask for critiques. Let all your worries, hopes and ambitions for the story find it's way out on the paper.

His theory is that if you open the door and let others in at that very fragile early state, you'll dilute the excitement and drive that you need to finish that draft. And you also won't know your story well enough to be able to put other people's comments into perspective. You're too easily influenced and, ultimately, that probably wouldn't be best for the work.

Now, of course, every writer has their own methods and habits and this one of "closing the door" may not work for everyone. But the reason it really resonated with me is that in my much, much more humble, limited experience, I've also found it to be true.

Writing first drafts are already rather tough for me. There is much I don't enjoy about it. But what gets me through it -- and therefore able to produce a possibly viable manuscript at all -- is the excitement I personally feel over whatever story I'm trying to tell. And if I share that with too many other people, that can leak out. Believe me, my metaphorical balloon needs all the air it can get!

I'm also in some uncharted territories here in another respect. Before I had a book deal, I didn't share my writing with very many people, and I didn't talk much about what I was working on either. Getting published was a huge dream, but it was also just that: a dream. I didn't spend a lot of my time thinking about how scary it can be to have your work out there. (I had other things to do with my time: like writing!)

But I've worked on a few WIPs since the book deal, and, in the back of my head, there is now that slightly bigger possibility that these will also get published, and read, and thought about. Mostly, that's wonderful. But it also leaves me with the reality that there is only a very limited time that the story I'm working on gets to be all mine. At some point, agents and editors get involved; a marketing department gets involved; and, most importantly, readers get involved. Any writer will tell you that once you give your work to a reader, well, it gets to be theirs too. That's the beautiful thing about it, after all.

So I'm learning to cherish closing the door and spending precious alone time with my works-in-progress. Sometimes, that's more difficult than it sounds because I have moments when that initial excitement gets the better of me and I want to shout about my story from the rooftops, share pages with people, and just generally get uber-chatty about it. These are urges I must resist. For one thing, there's no way those first draft pages are anywhere near as good as I think they are in my brief moments of euphoria/insanity (and therefore they should only be shared with a limited number of very trusted people).

Most importantly, I truly believe in King's advice: I need to save that excitement/desire for the page. I need to not only figure out where my story wants to go, but how it's going to learn to walk (or run or fly or travel by fairy ship) at all in order to get there. And, from what I know, that comes from one-on-one time and nothing else.

With that said, I have something I'm working on right now that I'm currently very excited about...hopefully, one day you can come in and I can tell you all about it.

But for now...