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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

           

           

 

 

 

 

 

***

 

Who will love me tonight?

                        Who will love me tomorrow?

            Nobody.

            Somebody?

                        Anybody?

Will you?

            Whose hands will set me free?

                        Whose scent will mix with mine?

                                    Whose lips will eat me?

                                                Whose eyes will drink my soul?

            Somebody’s.

             But he’s a ghost – a nobody.

I give myself to ghosts.

            They love me – as I love them.

            We speak of love;

                        We share unafraid,

            We climb the ladder, labyrinths of ecstasy.

We do not fall or get entangled.

            Entwined in memories,

                        We never speak again.

            Of what?

            The whispers cling to walls in places –  dark and hidden -

                        Where you took me.

                                    I opened up to you,

                        And you were open.

            We drank each other; watched, bewildered,

            The moment…

                        When pain has eased its grip and set you free… to feel.

                        You smile and breathe.

                                    You tell me that you love me.

            I only nod.

Then all is quiet.

            No words are left.

                        No thoughts required.

            My throbbing heart  - the only memory of what has been.

 

Who will love me tonight?

            Nobody.

                        I will.

 

(c) Vica Miller

Two Poems

***

I run to you until I trip on silence…

My rivers flow into you until you choke.

Your mouth takes no more, you gurgle.

Sheets are wet.

… You enter me, again.

My scream fades into a whisper,

Lingers in the fog, mutates into nothingness.

Nothing is new.

… Everything has been.

Repeat. The fire turns to ashes. Love to pain.

Who am I in this labyrinth of questions?

A sigh, a comma.

… Breath aborted.

Lost in my own inflammation of the senses.

So senseless.

… Feelings? Nonsense.

To fuck, to own, to release.

… Repeat.

Until you trip on silence.

(c) Vica Miller

***

Of future, do not speak.

Don’t ask or plan or wonder,

Don’t envision.

It is a flighty bird that no one’s seen,

Impossible to catch,

It calls you.

You want to see it but I beg you:

Close your eyes.

And stay with me today. No need to look,

Just feel.

The unity.

My breath is hot,

My mouth on your temple.

My hand is light, it’s holding yours -

Forever.

We have a future; that I know.

Trust me.

This notion, small yet grand, is all we need.

The bird is ours. It called us.

We will follow.

But please don’t tame the future,

set it free.

We shall be found there, soon.

And until then –

my name is love.

I found you.

I’ve come to stay.

Just hold me.

(c) Vica Miller

EDEN

For my Mom.

.

I always remembered her lips. Round, smooth, never chapped and always pink and shiny, even in the coldest Russian winter. I haven’t seen her in twenty years, but when she wrote and asked to meet, the first thing I thought of were her lips. Not how she had hurt me, not how I had run away – her lips. Are they the same lips, I wondered, plump and moist, as if gilded by a morning dew? Does she still apply Chap Stick in the middle of a hurried storytelling or a recital, as she did back then, in St. Petersburg Conservatory – leaning forward, absorbed by the boys’ chorus singing a cappella, their high voices reverberating off the ceilings? Or in the midst of telling me of her boyfriend back in New York, wondering if he’d been faithful while she was away, trying on Russia?

Every time we talked, my eyes rested on her lips, soft as a child’s skin, their smooth curves as if outlined by a painter. Not that I ever touched them, but I must have missed half of her stories watching her lips. How they moved. How they glistened after she licked them. How they stretched into a smile, exposing two rows of perfectly even white teeth.

I was ready to turn off the dim desk light, my husband already asleep, his tall body draped over the bed, when I saw her email. After all these years Eden wanted to meet, as if nothing had ever happened. As if she hadn’t made me feel homeless and unwanted; as if I hadn’t cried every night for a week, alone in a foreign city that was her home, where she was my only friend. As if I could erase my memories of first sharing Russia with her, later wrecked by the cold shower of her irritation and annoyance with me in New York – because I stayed at her parent’s townhouse on Gramercy Park for a week too long.

But that was twenty years earlier. I had moved out of her parents’ house. I had found a job. I’d gotten married and had kids. So had she. And now she wanted to meet, in the city, which has become home to us both, and where we could have lived the rest of our lives without ever seeing each other again. Without exchanging another word, another glance, or point of view. Never having to remember what we shared back then, at twenty. Our walks along the Neva, the White Nights, the never-ending days, the evenings stretching into mornings under pretense of dusk; slumber parties, Eden wearing a torn Beatles tank top, me in a new Run DMC T-shirt. Translating Akhmatova’s poems into English, and Blake’s into Russian, reading Nabokov’s Lolita in two languages at once, savoring every vowel as if it were a jewel, wondering if she’d ever speak Russian like that, if I’d ever speak English like this.

Today, twenty years later we’ll meet again, because I said I’d love to. Because I forgave her. Because I didn’t think she’d remember my hurt. It was my hurt. And she probably had enough of her own to bother thinking about mine. Everybody has hurts. One doesn’t even have to ask, to know how much pain a person has had in her life. Just stand closer without uttering a word, look into her eyes a little longer… it’s all there.

So I’ve forgiven her even before I agreed to meet. She was still the same Eden, who had sat across from my mom at our kitchen table in St. Petersburg. I can’t sit across from Mom anymore, but I can sit across from Eden, so I went.

On Thursday afternoon, walking towards the meeting place I suggested, a small Italian Salumeria across from Verdi Square, I looked at my reflection floating in the windows, wondering what I’d say.  “Kak dela?” or “How are you?” Would she speak Russian to me and I, English to her, as we had back then?

I spotted her as she walked out of a chocolate shop, and saw her lips: pink and moist, stretched into a Cheshire smile. Eden – the mother of two, a 40-year old, with a few wrinkles around her eyes, but her tight full lips, unchanged. I felt as if a piece of my youth had been given back to me. Why was it a relief to know that her fabulous lips were intact after all these years, as if they held a secret to preserving my own life? We hugged.

“Shopping for chocolates?” I asked.

She laughed. “They have the same store in my building in Brooklyn,” she said. “I had no idea they were in Manhattan too.”

“I wanted to sit outside,” I said in Russian. Eden nodded and sat down, hurriedly putting away The New Yorker she held under her arm, then fumbling with a white serviette. A twig of rosemary fell out from it and Eden picked it up. I looked away to give her a moment. Was she nervous?

It was the first spring day after the longest winter. Forsythias and dandelions bursting with yellow. Pregnant women no longer covering their bellies, as if ready to aknowledge to the world the lives inside them.

I had wine, Eden didn’t.  She was still breastfeeding, she said. I’d stopped a year earlier. We talked, in English. Her father had died 10 years ago. I told her my mother had thought him so elegant and well groomed, unlike the men at her research institute.

“Well-groomed?” Eden asked and laughed.

“Yes, that’s what she said.”

My mother had died 19 years ago, I told her. Eden’s green eyes glistened.

“She made the best pirozhki in the world,” she said. I nodded. The cherry trees across Amsterdam Avenue unfolded in pink fuzziness. I thought of Mom’s hands.

“I want to bring up something from the past,” Eden said. “You probably don’t even remember this episode, but it’s been haunting me for a long time. Before you moved out of our house, you told me that I’d changed so much since Russia, and had become nepristupnaya… I didn’t know the word and had to look it up. Unapproachable. You told me I’d become unapproachable, not the person you knew.” Eden took a sip of water from the tall glass in front of her. “I want to apologize. Will you forgive me?” Her lips quivered and a round tear rolled out of her right eye and settled on her upper lip.

I touched her lips for the first time. They were as soft I’d imagined. I caressed her forehead and her eyebrow. I told her I didn’t remember saying those words, but that the hurt still lingered somewhere in my body, behind the rib cage, on the left, close to where the heart is. That I didn’t think she’d remembered “the episode”. I told her I’d forgiven her. We’ve known each other for more than half of our lives.

As I looked at her round face, framed by short brown hair with streaks of gray, into her green eyes made bigger by sadness and regret, I thought about how we had met and then parted, like two ships that left a harbor in different directions, sailed through rough waters, lost the way at times, and then drifted back. Is this a safe harbor now? I’d like to think it is. And we’re still the same ships, now moored, older and rougher on the surface, our sails withered by time and loss, but more forgiving and willing to forget.

After, we talked all the way to the subway, unable to part, as if our words entangled us into their nets, into the woven bits of our lives, each new sentence a string to our past, and perhaps future.

VM © 2011

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