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He touched her hand as she walked by, on a street in SoHo. She turned, and stopped. It was dark, but the window display lit him up as if on stage. His eyes were fixed on her, in awe, and she tilted her head inquiringly.

“I have to talk to you,” he said. “May I talk to you?”

He was short, well dressed and slightly agitated. Older. She was tall, well dressed and tired after a night of performing. But, as was every time after a show, she was elated, as if still floating above the stage, nurtured by the shared intimacy of the crowd that responded to her and made her feel loved, and she longer had to feel lonely.

Her friends turned to look.

“What would you like to talk about?”

“Can I just tell you how beautiful you are?”

He was sincere and desperate at once, so she nodded: a crumb of admiration from a stranger was like a gift of kindness from above, and she accepted it, grateful yet skeptical.

“I want to hold your hand, and tell you things,” he said and reached for her hand. She withdrew it.

“I’m married, you know.”

“No, that can’t be.” He took a step back, then forward, inspected the rings on her left hand.

“They are real,” she said.

“Are you happily married?” He searched for the answer in her eyes.

She looked at the window display, with an empty-eyed mannequin dressed in orange, and nodded. He didn’t need to know the answer. She didn’t know it herself.

“And I am her lover,” her friend stepped up closer.

The man turned to the woman who said the words, inspected the reddish hair, and ironic smile, turned back. He was ready to believe it, and that made her even more desirable in his eyes.

“Former lover,” she corrected her friend.

“Former?”

“And future, too.” The women smiled at each other. He nodded. It didn’t matter whether that was true or not. She was like a vision, and he didn’t want to lose it.

“I live nearby,” he said. “Would you like to stop by?”

She shook her head.

“I have to go home. There is a husband waiting for me, and two children.” She paused. “Are you that lonely? Nobody waiting for you at your fancy loft?”

“Nobody,” he said, and took her right hand in his. “I could read you some poems. I’m a poet.”

She looked at him, and didn’t take her hand away. She could feel his loneliness, it was much bigger than hers, but tonight she was still awash in the love she felt onstage, and didn’t want it to dissipate.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I know about lonely. But I’m going home.”

She started walking away, then turned.

“You should write a poem, for me. Tonight.” She told him her name. “Find me, send me the poem, and then I’ll respond. Maybe.”

They walked away, the man standing by the lit window. On the pavement, atop a pile of recycled boxes, lay an enormous photograph, a woman’s portrait, in color. It must have been an ad for a beauty product, or a demo at a branding meeting, and now the face looked solemnly from the shadows of the street, discarded. They laughed at first, and took photos with the woman on the photo, and nearly fell into the pile of cardboards. She thought how the woman on the photograph was recycled, and all alone on the street. But the day they had photographed her, she must have been the center of attention, and all lights and cameras were on her.

She tried not to make any analogies – with her performance, and the man who found her on the street after.

The next morning she received a poem. It was about her teeth, and hands, and rivers flowing into the ocean.

She didn’t answer. The whole thing made her sad. She knew that in the end, everyone just wanted to feel connected, in a real, meaningful way. The only difference between her and the poet was that he begged for it on the street, and she didn’t.

 

(c) Vica Miller

May 22, 2014

Birthday

I want to tell you a story. It’s about this strange day, called birthday. You’ve been waiting for mine, eager to dress in your favorite velvet dress, and wear a special headband, and eat the chocolate-chocolate cake with me, and place your little hands on my face.

We now have the same digits in our ages. You and I are of the same age, only you have one number in yours, and I have two in mine.  The same digit, three times between the two of us. The funny thing is, I remember my parents at this age, but I hardly remember myself at your age. When you read this, will it be the same? Will you remember me as I were today, wondering alone through the foggy streets of Manhattan, or will it be me a decade from today, the digits moving swiftly to higher altitudes?

I think this day has a secret. And it’s like this: on your birthday, you can see everything, as if someone gave you a magnifying glass that’s connected to a telescope and you can look at both ends of your life, far, far out in both directions, from the day you were a cucumber wrapped in a blanket in your mother’s hands, to the day you’ll be wrapped in your last dress, your hands cold. And you are reminded…

You are reminded that your heart can belong in several places at once, and that it often doesn’t know which place to settle in, so it drifts from one memory to another, taking you with it. You are reminded that the best love is the one shared and saved, but also the one that never happened but still wants to.  They converge on this day, and you feel awash in love, in memories of what was, and what could have been. On this special day, those who truly love you step off from the locomotives of their lives, to pause and reach out, and while you no longer share their lives, or never will, the certainty of being loved is the most precious gift – because that’s all what we want, in the end.

On your birthday, they say, “May all your wishes to come true.” I wish to never stop noticing, so that twenty years from today, I could say, “Remember that day I took you to preschool in a cab, and you had two braids that I’d made in haste – one thicker than the other, and they looked so painfully precious that I thought I could die of love just looking at the back of your head,” and you’d answer, “I felt that.” Or do you remember the morning when a Dominican cab driver spoke Russian to us, because he had studied at a Moscow university 35 years earlier, and told us how he had been married to a Russian woman for 14 years, but she left him, and he missed Russia so much, so much, he had Russian radio on. You said, “Hola!” to him because you knew how.

Image

I want to notice the bursting maroon and yellow tulips, splayed by the morning rain, nodding their heads as I walk by. I want to remember the story of a man whose daughter ate paint off the walls in their new house, because the stress of moving was unbearable to her. I want to notice the first gray in my friends’ hair, and ask them what they grief about most. Can I even ask that? I want to remember how I celebrated my birthday at 15, and 21, and 30. And I want to remember why some years I didn’t celebrate at all. I want to notice the barges on the Hudson, so that I can remember the ships on the Neva. I want to remember every morning you came to my bed, the light of your dimpled smile shining on my life, erasing the melancholy that has been living in my heart for a while now. I want to remember the poem that I received on my birthday written in my language. I’ll let you read it one day. But mostly, I want to notice the moment of being alive. And that’s why your birthday is so good for you. It makes you feel time pass and it makes you notice life. Just that. That you’re ALIVE. And that’s the story I wanted to tell you on my birthday.

Friends, for  14 days before pub date, you have a chance to win one of the 14 copies of Inga’s Zigzags paperback. Yes, the books have been printed, and look great!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Inga's Zigzags by Vica Miller

Inga’s Zigzags

by Vica Miller

Giveaway ends May 14, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

The road to publishing

Hello, my friends! This post includes parts from the latest update for my Kickstarter backers.

I’ve been so busy finishing up book production, that by the time the galleys were out (on February 14, as promised), I nearly passed out with exhaustion. The good news: advance reading copies are here and Inga Belova will soon be part of your household (so to speak).

Let me tell you this story in pictures:

1. Book production consists of two key parts: cover design and interior (pages) design (after the manuscript has been edited, proofread, and proofread, and proofread). The front cover was designed by TM/R, the back cover and interior pages by Yelena Ebel.

MLR_001_Zigzags_ARC_Cover_1

Covers and spine, final proof for Advance Reading Copy (ARC)
2. Picking the fonts. I have chosen the font that was used by Simon Van Booy for his latest novel, The Illusion of Separateness. When I saw the first page designed, I loved the look, but when I printed it, I realized the font was too small (see below), and I wanted wider page margins, so that the book “breathed” better and was easier to read. We increased the font to 12 points, and widened the margins. With that, the book went from 250 to 340 pages.

page1

3. Final review. While the book covers were being designed, I read and re-read the manuscript until I almost went blind (again, this was AFTER the book has been edited and proofread by the editorial team), first in a PDF format, later on paper (what’s called pass pages). We had to tweak quite a few things. For instance, at some point I realized that there were too many word breaks. We went through the whole designed manuscript and tweaked dozen of instances.

pass pages

4. Printing the galleys. I chose McNally Jackson bookstore to print the galleys on their Espresso Book Machine, for two reasons: they are located in SoHo (I wanted to come over and review the proof in person), and I was hoping that giving them business would make it easier for me to score a reading with them. Well, their prices are outrageous ($17 to print one book of this size – usually it’s around $8), and nobody replied to my reading inquiry. However, the book looks great (I changed the paper for the cover from matte to satin, as the colors didn’t look right on matte), especially when placed on a shelf with New and Noteworthy Fiction, and I scored a reading at another book store, of which more below.

McNally

I brought the galleys home…

galleys1

and still can’t believe that I can hold MY OWN BOOK in my hands! When people ask me how it feels, I say “surreal.”

galleys2

5. Fulfilling the rewards. Some of you have already received the printed book, others will do within two weeks. Ebooks will be sent over in mid-March, i.e. two months before publication, as promised. When you do receive your book, please post it on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. – it’s an immense help in generating the buzz!

wrapped

backer
6. Next steps.

  • I have created the sites, ladno.com and vicamiller.com, for Ladno Books and for my author site, and they will soon be developed into real web entities that they should be. All backer names will appear on vicamiller.com.
  • The book has been registered with Bowker.com (the main book database), the paperback ISBN – 978-0-9913834-0-5 – is active, which means that Inga’s Zigzags can already be pre-ordered by book stores, libraries and organizations.
  • I’ll be creating a Kindle version, and setting up the Amazon page in the next couple of weeks. It will become available for pre-order then. So exciting!
  • I have arranged a series of readings, and shall be appearing at a number of venues in May and June, including Book Culture (where the book launch will take place on pub day 14.05.14), my own Russia! Salon (with Boris Fishman, Lara Vapnyar and Alina Simone), Generation R at JCC Manhattan (with Vicky Kuperman) and Coney Island Museum, for Brooklyn launch (thank you, Fred Kahl, for helping with this opportunity). For a complete list of readings, including those in the fall, please go to Ladno Events page.
  • Inga’s Ball will take place on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 (for backers at $100+ levels), and will be an extravaganza of burlesque, reading, opera singing, video projections, and dancing, with Gay Pride Parade flair, emceed by the phenomenal Shelly Watson.

6. Publicity. Ah, what would we do without publicity? As is well known, the best publicity for any book is word of mouth. I rely on yours! The early readers had this to say about my novel, “fascinating read”, “impossible to put down”, “I love your book.” Music to my ears. To increase the good buzz, I plan the following:

  • Make a Kindle version of Inga’s Zigzags available for free to Amazon Prime users for the first two months
  • Solicit as many reader reviews as possible. That includes you! :)
  • Give the book for free to libraries. Yes, you won’t believe it, but often libraries don’t have the funds to buy books! Since I am my own boss here, libraries won’t have to pay for my book.
  • Have a series of author interviews and book reviews. The novel is out with a number of lit and lifestyle magazines (and Kirkus Reviews!), so I’ll keep you posted.
  • One interview already took place – on parenting and writing. Please take a look at Cari Luna’s wonderful blog to read it. Here is the pict that goes with it.

Vica Miller with children
For a complete list of press sightings, please see ladno.com/press

7. Lessons Learned. This has been a fascinating ride, albeit the one that felt like a roller coaster at times.

  • I have learned who my true friends are, and who could care less about me succeeding.
  • I learned that some people/organizations are so stiff that it’s better to stay away from them (McNally Jackson, Powerhouse Arena), while others are enthusiastic, supportive and down to Earth (Book Culture, Pen Parentis, Lit at Lark, the publisher of Riverhead Books).
  • I have learned so much about the business of publishing that I feel truly confident about running my own indie publishing house, Ladno Books.

Book culture

Book Culture on Broadway & 112th, where book launch will take place on May 14, 2014

It feels very empowering to be able to do what you want to do, the way you want to do it, while helping others. By that, I mean that

  • percentage of all Inga’s Zigzags sales will go to support LGBTQ rights in Russia;
  • the next Ladno Books title will be On Loving, an anthology of short stories and essays by women writers, exploring all kinds of love, from forbidden and kinky to platonic and romantic. I’m thinking of the kind and caliber of writing that would have been banned, like Nabokov’s Lolita was, until someone brave published it overseas. I choose to be that brave person, and do it right here, in the U.S. :)

Thank you for your support, my dear friend. You made my dream come true.

Here is to making lemonade out of lemons!

Writer & Literary Salon Founder Vica Miller Launches Kickstarter Campaign for Inga’s Zigzags

A Crowdfunding Campaign to Publish Debut Novel Starts at 9:10 am on 11/12/13

 

New York, NEW YORK – 11/12/13 – As the debate over traditional versus self- publishing continues, writer and literary salon founder Vica Miller announces a Kickstarter campaign to finance the publication of her debut novel, Inga’s Zigzags.

“Inga Belova leaves NYC for post-perestroika Moscow to launch her own business. She falls in love with two women along the way,” reads the description of the novel on Kickstarter. Miller, a tech PR executive and mother of two, says that it took her eight years to write, edit, workshop, and rewrite the novel, and that she’d rather devote her time to bringing the book directly to the reader than do the “agent dance.” “I believe Inga’s story will resonate with many,” adds Miller, “but it might be a bit outrageous for U.S. publishers, so I decided to dare the outrageous on my own.”

Inga’s Zigzags is the story of a 28-year-old Russian woman, who after a decade of living in New York, returns to post-perestroika Moscow to start her own business. When her prospects fall through, she meets Emma and Alexandra, a pair of wealthy magazine publishers, who lure Inga into their bed and then propose to start a company together. When the threesome starts to fall apart, Inga is forced to make some difficult choices to find her way through the labyrinth of Moscow’s intrigues and heartbreaks.

Miller says that the novel will appeal to anyone who’s ever struggled with finding a place in life – be it in geography, jobs or relationships. The book is about evolving, a yearning to belong and feel accepted. Inga Belova is a New Yorker who has an MBA but feels misplaced. She is a double single – as in, divorced with no boyfriend – but then she finds double love. Yet she continues to feel in between – countries, careers, and lovers. She questions her sexuality, national identity, and loyalty. Miller says the book is especially timely, considering the recent crackdown on gay rights in Russia.

As a literary salon founder and published author of short stories, Miller is not a newcomer to the literary scene. She is fully aware of the lingering stigma that self-published books might not be on a par, in both writing and production, with those published traditionally. But knowing that worthy books often take years to get published traditionally, she says it’s time for conventions to change. A savvy professional, who has spent two decades in technology and public relations, Miller is on track to produce a high-quality book. She has already assembled a stellar team to help her: an editor, formerly with a big-five publishing house, an award-winning photographer for the cover image, a well-respected book cover designer, and a publishing consultant.

“I believe in the power of the creative community,” says Miller. “I can’t do this alone. I need good people to help me, and I need to pay for their efforts. It takes between $5K and $15K to publish a quality book.” She hopes to raise $5K, with a stretch goal of $10K.

Miller seeks donations from her backers ranging between $5 and $1,000. The rewards for supporters include advanced copies of e-book, signed copies of a paperback, reserved seating at her salons, invitations to a book launch party, and PR services. If the project is funded, a percentage of future book sales will go towards supporting LGBT rights in Russia.

A New Yorker for over two decades, Miller is an avid supporter of the arts: she has hosted dozens of writers, both published and not, at her salons, including Arthur Phillips, Lara Vapnyar, Michael Cunningham, Simon Van Booy, Jennifer Gilmore, Boris Fishman and Liesl Schillinger among others. She’s also backed two projects on Kickstarter, including The Coney Island Mermaid Parade.

Miller’s project launches on Kickstarter at 9:10 am on 11/12/13. “Help me bring Inga’s Zigzags to you, the reader,” says Miller. “I promise you will not be disappointed.”

For more information, please visit http://www.vicamillersalons.com/news.

Media Contact:

Vica Miller

+1-917-915-2054

millervica@gmail.com

@vica_miller

His Angel

For Simon Van Booy

       Despite his father’s misgivings, Charles had never developed apprehensions about his height or his abilities to achieve greatness because of it. At five feet four inches, or 165 cm, and 31 years of age, he published his first novel, married a six-foot-tall model, and got her pregnant. It was a boy, they told them.

He looked back at his classmates from high school, tall, sturdy and slightly dim by his own standards, who went to college on football scholarships, married at graduation to become divorced drunks (or drunk divorcees) today, and smiled a sorrowful smile. They were good guys, those boys turned men, but why did they have to put so much emphasis on appearances, as if they were girls brainwashed by “How to…” sex articles in Cosmo and Self? What happened to true aspirations, he wondered? Greatness didn’t depend on height – Napoleon must have known it, and so did Charles. That conviction utterly puzzled his father who could never get over his own meager height of 5’6”, and who divorced Charles’s mother at the insistence that she’d had an affair with a taller man. His mother despaired for a year, her innocence offended as much as her heart broken, and married a six-foot-two real estate agent just to spite her ex-husband. She said he was great in bed. Charles didn’t believe her.

No, he had no reservations about his height. He loved being short. He said it gave him a better perception on life, for his head was not far from Earth, which kept him grounded, confident, and on his toes.

Charles met Veronica at a reading. She sat in the first row and blocked everyone else’s view. He loved her insolence, for he could tell she didn’t have reservations about her awesome height the same way he didn’t have about his. When the last writer had left the podium, Charles asked the curator if she knew the lady.

“Veronica. Sharp as a nail, outrageous, too. Former model turned clown. Strange story.”

“Can you please introduce us?”

“Watch out what you wish for,” said the curator, a slim 40-year old in tight black pants and red V-neck T-shirt, cocking her head. “She eats men alive.”

“Sounds great.”

Charles said his name and kissed her hand, and she smiled an open, genuine smile, like Christmas tree lighting up in the dark, and they didn’t have to speak. He looked at her and she knew.  Charles still remembered that moment as the most profound of his life, as if he had entered a buzzing electric circuit and become part of it. She set him in motion, and he was grateful and happy, even now, when she was no longer around.

They loved walking in TriBeCa, dressed in Prada, Kawakubo or Sander, holding hands. Their first brunch at Bubbo’s, first dinner at Cercle Rouge. She always wore Roger Vivier shoes, even in a drizzle. Some people turned to look at them, the woman towering over a man, like a lighthouse over a small boat approaching the shore. Happy goose bumps ran down his back at those moments, for he knew he had found his marina. He’d get hard then.  Veronica would look down at Charles, nod appreciatively, and lean over to French-kiss him, for the added benefit of the onlookers. They could talk about anything: books, dogs, mobile apps, bondage, exotic travel, physics – never bored, always laughing.

Their City Hall marriage ceremony, attended by Charlie’s mother and her husband, and by Veronica’s best friend Elizabeth, with whom she’s had an affair for three years, lasted exactly three minutes. Veronica’s parents didn’t attend because they were dead. “A car crash. That’s how I have all the money,” she’d said once and never returned to the subject.

He admired her lanky legs draped in a red skirt, and her small breasts peaking at him through a sheer white top. She never wore a bra. She didn’t have to. The minister woman didn’t look at them once while mumbling the words from the podium. She did notice them at the end, after they said their “I do’s” and her face took a human expression for a moment, perhaps for the first time in months, that of delight and curiosity.  Charles raised himself on tiptoes, Veronica leaned forward, and he cupped her breasts for their first married kiss.

They soon discovered each other’s fantasies, and hardly a night went without play. Sometimes neighbors looked at them with disdain, for they kept the windows open at night, but Charles turned them around with highly cultured talk on the latest trends in British literature and invitations to brunch at their loft. A year after their wedding, the entire tenant body of their four-story building on Wooster Street was convinced of their privilege to know Charles and Veronica Gladstone, the next big thing in literature and entertainment, respectively. They felt justified when Charles’s first novel won a literary prize, and Veronica’s solo show was aired on PBS.

Charles loved her even more when he first held their son, Otto, in his arms. The boy had his mother’s lanky legs, his father’s brown eyes and bushy black hair. He kissed the baby’s palm, then his wife’s hand, and cried, for the first time in his adult life.

Otto was too little to understand what happened, but old enough – at four – to know that he no longer had a mother. It happened quietly, one early morning at the kitchen table. Veronica’s disease was a mystery, had no symptoms, but was the reason for her great height. She had warned him before the wedding that she might evaporate soon – that was the word she used, evaporate – but Charles didn’t believe her. Or didn’t want to believe her.  He still didn’t. She was his angel, and angels don’t evaporate, even Otto knew that.

Charles knew that grief was a room with no doors, so he opened the windows, for his son. He took him around the world.

“We will plant a flower for Mom in every country we visit,” he told Otto.

“A red one, her favorite,” affirmed his son. “She’d like that.”

They visited thirty-two countries, for each year of Veronica’s life. When they came back a year later, Otto, a boy of five, stood in front of the mirror, and said, “I’ll be tall, like Mom.”

“She’d like that,” answered Charles.

(c) Vica Miller 

The Rest of You

This is my final project for ITP Camp 2103, and was inspired by Dan O’Sullivan’s class with the same title.

“If you have time, you should become a Buddhist,”

A man I trust has uttered, and we laughed.

            Then fading smiles, and lingering of thought,

            The eyes around the room in search of answers.

Is past forgotten? What is in the present?

The future – full of disconnected bits.

The final project – empathy machine. Machine!

            I love technology, but not as much as you.

            The images will dance according to your whisper,

            The screen will go black if someone screams,

The flowers will bloom – just need the current,

And don’t forget to wave your hand, or else

It won’t work. Machines need input.

            And so do I. The rest of me is you.

            The rest of you is me. But what about time?

            The time it took to write these lines,

I could have shot a lovely moving image -

Of orange lilies sighing in the sun,

Of children splashing in a sparkling fountain.

            But look – a lonely man is crying. The bench is hot -

            He won’t notice; his love is gone, his time is running out.

            I could have held his hand…

            These are my projects, un-captured but remembered.

            If we had time to feel, but life has filled the days.

And then a whisper, “there is always time.

To hold his hand, to kiss your baby’s curls,

To walk in no particular direction,

Until your feet are numb and heart is open.”

            If you have time, you should become a Buddhist.

           

VM
6/21/13

           

           

 

 

 

 

 

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