Vera Nazarian

official website of an award-winning creator of wonder

Surfing the Desert and the Ocean with GoPro!

Written By: Vera Nazarian - Mar• 08•17

A few months ago, GoPro Video asked to use my various quotes as narration in their latest action video production, and I said yes.

Now, I’m thrilled to be finally able to share this awesome project with you!

The title is “GoPro Surf: Inside the Legendary Barrels of Namibia” starring amazing pro surfers Alex Smith, Koa Smith, Koa Rothman, Bianca Buitendag, Benji Brand, and Anthony Walsh, surfing both ocean and desert. My quote narration appears as layered text throughout the video. Enjoy! 🙂

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Mother

Written By: Vera Nazarian - May• 09•16

Mom-tree1

MOTHER

My Mother came up as rosy buds
On the branches of the tree
Right outside my bedroom window.

Her ashes buried in the Fall
Lay dormant under the snow of Winter
And now the tree has woken
And taken her in, with the help of the Spring rains.

She is flowing with sweet sap into the tallest branches,
and soon the mauve and rosy buds
will open into green leaves of Summer—her season.

But now, still fresh as springtime,
she looks into my window, looks in at me,
budding branches stirring softly in the wind.

Every time I glance up, I see her bright presence,
With me, now, alive in the moment.

Next year it will be different,
the tree will have flowered and moved on,
traces of her ashes diluted in the earth, dissipated gently.

But for now, Mom’s last physical presence
is the strongest it will ever be in the tangible world,
And the tree is full of joy, watching me.

Vera Nazarian
5-9-2016
Monday

Mom-tree2

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Zinaida Petrovna Nazarian, 8/19/1932 – 2/3/2015 (Obituary)

Written By: Vera Nazarian - Feb• 06•15

Zinaida Petrovna Nazarian, August 19, 1932 – February 3, 2015

My Mother

Zinaida Petrovna Nazarian

My beloved mother, kind, generous, warmhearted, long-suffering, enduring, brave, the gentlest, light-filled soul you may ever know, died at the age of 82, under hospice care at home in Vermont at 10:22 PM at night on Tuesday (2/3/15) after two difficult months of what we thought was a severe, relentless flu and turned out to be leukemia. She already survived ovarian cancer in 2007–a year filled with multiple surgeries, complications, infections, chemotherapy, hernias, hospital stays–and this time decided that she did not want to go through that again. With her passing, the generation of my fathers is now gone.

Mom was a true survivor. She survived the early days of the Soviet Union, the Nazi occupation of Crimea during World War II, not once but twice, as she, a little girl, and my grandmother fled the Germans twice as refugees, all across Central Asia and back, riding in freight trains, living homeless underneath an open sky and huddling under blankets while getting strafed from overhead by German sniper planes, being rescued and ferried by a battleship in the Black Sea, starving among death and dysentery, and finally returning home to Crimea when the war was over, and seeing her parents divorce as soon as her father, my grandfather Pyotr Ilyich Ushanov (a captain of a tank division in the Red Army) returned from the war a changed man.

Mom was true old-fashioned Russian, through and through. She grew up in Simferopol, Crimea, living with her now-divorced mother, my grandmother Antonina Ivanovna Dementieva (who was the equivalent of the town mayor of Simferopol, a high ranking position) and became a teacher of Russian Language and Literature. She taught the equivalent of older high school and adult lectures, in Simferopol and other local regions of Crimea including military officers schools, in a tiny village school in Siberia, and eventually in Moscow.

Mom was cultured, refined and always in pursuit of knowledge and learning, an expert in classics of world literature and history. She did her final graduation thesis on Jack London, and I remember when I visited Oakland, CA for the first time, Mom told me with reverence to look out for things related to him. All my love of language and reading I owe to Mom, who imbued my soul with myth, imagery, and literature.

When she lived in Moscow, studying to apply to the equivalent of graduate school, she met my Dad, Georgii (George) Nazarian, an Armenian from Tbilisi, Georgia, in the Moscow Library, of all places. They married and she stayed in Moscow permanently, until the mid seventies when we immigrated to the West, leaving the USSR as refugees to Lebanon.

This was when Mom got to survive her second war, the civil war in Lebanon, and be a refugee yet again as we fled with other Armenian families to Greece, and finally the United States, where after a long and arduous process she became a Permanent Resident and then a US Citizen (among other things, she had to get fingerprinted more than eight times by the INS, because her fingerprints were nearly non-existent, the normal whorl patterns worn off the tips of her fingers from a lifetime of doing hot water laundry by hand, as all other Russian women of the time.)

Mom was always reading one book or another, mostly classics in Russian (or Russian translation) and in English. When I was a little girl, she originally thought and hoped I would be a literature teacher too, but I turned out a writer instead, with many thanks to her, thus staying true to the general notion, and working within the field of literary pursuits. She even named me “Vera” (which means “Faith” in Russian), for her favorite female literary character Vera, from Ivan Goncharov’s The Precipice. (Even now I want to ask Mom a specific detail about this book, and turn, and realize she is not there; I can no longer do that, I can never ask her about anything ever again…)

Mom-Girl1Although she claimed she was not a writer herself, at one point many years later, when we were living in Winnetka, California, Mom tried creative writing, and wrote, among other things, in Russian, a novella-length variation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, her favorite Austen novel! She chose to write about Captain Wentworth traveling on a ship, heartbroken and thinking of his lost love. In Mom’s story, Wentworth looks out into the ocean and encounters a mermaid, whose lovely dialogue with him convinces him to return to seek Anne Elliot’s love once more—a beautiful, heart-wrenching, haunting, and well written fantasy novella that I just might publish under Mom’s own name in Russian, one of these days!

In addition to literature, Mom loved classical music, especially symphonies and orchestral music, and classical Russian Ballet. Back in Russia, she grew up listening to symphonies on the early radio programs. And later here in the US, we would always watch ballets and performances on PBS. Art and architecture was also a great love, and Mom enjoyed museums and art galleries whenever possible.

Mom-Hat1She’d dreamed of traveling the world, and got her wish in part, when we became immigrants. At one amazing point, when we were refugees being bused in Greece from the Sounion coast to the Athens medical center where they ran the required exams on us before allowing entrance to the US, we drove right past the Acropolis. Mom and I started to scream in awe and excitement, pointing and saying, “That’s the Parthenon!” until other refugees on the bus were asking, “What, what?” and looking at us like we were crazy. We never had a chance to get closer to the great temple, but that moment will stay with me always. We were this close to it, but were not allowed to leave the bus. Classical Ancient Greece, our impossible dream, so near yet just out of reach….

It’s interesting to note that Mom’s name, “Zinaida” means “Daughter of Zeus” in Russian. She was called “Zina” which was her usual nickname. And in the nineties, when a certain show was on air, it naturally made her Xena, Warrior Princess, something she really used to laugh about.

Mom-Schoolyard1One of Mom’s great talents was dramatic reading. When she lectured, in a voice filled with feeling and amazing sensitive nuance, the students would pay such attention that you could hear a pin drop. Once she mesmerized a hall of rowdy naval base academy officers with her literature lecture, and not only because she was young and attractive but because she had a storyteller voice. Another time she “woke up” a whole room of jaded party officials out of their usual meeting stupor by her presentation of some extremely dry material which she brought to life. Dramatic reading is a powerful part of the Russian tradition, and Mom was more than superb. She even acted briefly in her youth, in community theaters. And yes, she could sing! We often sang together at home, as I grew up….

Mom was also a great lover of animals, with the biggest heart you can imagine, and over the years she took in and cared for so many strays–dogs, cats, birds, you name it. She even managed to convince other people to rescue and care for stray animals even while back in Lebanon and Greece. Two stray dogs had fallen off a cliff in Sounion, Greece, where we were staying and fellow Armenian refugee young men climbed down and pulled them out because of Mom insisting Dad make them! And in Lebanon she fed a whole family of strays, after a cat gave birth to kittens in the old stone house we were staying in—Mom made sure Dad would go to the local butcher shop every day and for a few pennies (25 Lebanese piasters) get the daily scraps, and the six cats followed Dad down the street in Beirut and waited for him outside the shop perching on trees and signposts, and coming down as soon as he came out. In 1985 we became vegetarians together as a family, for ethical reasons.

Even now that she is gone, our cats wander the rooms sadly in confusion, looking for her. And one cat in particular, Sunny, a feral stray black cat we rescued from the woods, gentle and wise, sits on her bed and grieves. Throughout her illness, he was literally guarding her, sitting next to her pillow and sleeping near her head, like a loyal loving protector.

These past few days, even as Mom lay in bed declining, going in and out of consciousness, she would constantly ask me if I remembered to put out another can of catfood, or changed their water, or added dry food in the dishes. She also asked me to make sure to put out birdseed or scraps of grain and bread for the hungry birds in the snow outside. That’s how much she worried and cared. And she constantly asked me if I myself had eaten, drank tea, rested, when she herself could no longer take in food, and could barely drink.
Mom-Formal1
Mom stayed sharp, alert, and clear-headed all the way up to the end. While she was still sufficiently able to concentrate, I told her the plot of the last two episodes of the new season of Downton Abbey, because she really loved that show, but was no longer able to watch TV. We speculated on what would happen next and Mom really regretted not ever knowing the ending of the series and the future episodes. We speculated whether or not Mary Crawley would eventually get together with Tom Branson, her sister Sybil’s widower. And when this latest episode aired on Sunday, sadly, Mom was no longer able to hear the episode recap, she was too ill and tired….

Right now the house feels very strange and semi-empty without her. You can feel a tangible void, a presence missing, a kind of hollow lightness, an emptiness in her room where before it contained a rich charge of loving energy. The balance is shifted and the world has become more flimsy and transparent somehow, less tangible.

Every few moments I want to say something to her, look in her direction in the room, and she is not there.

Only her books remain, shelves full, and piles covering every surface, filled with gorgeous volumes of classics, philosophy, theology, history, art, and wonder…. From the walls, prints of classical paintings out of the Middle Ages look down upon her empty bed, and the bundles of her written journals filled with her living notes and beloved handwriting sit in stacks. They are the spirit of Tolstoy and Turgenev, Pushkin and Tchaikovsky, and the whole nineteenth century rolled into one, and then going farther back, receding into ancient history of old Rus, amid ancient onion dome cathedrals, then simple wooden terem churches, birch trees and rolling open country fields underneath a great sky….

Another part of the true soul of old Russia has left the world. The great bell of the cathedral tolls.

I am privileged to be her daughter.

May she rest in serene glory and well earned peace until we all reunite again on the other side, and into the light.

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Cover Reveal Day! – QUALIFY (The Atlantis Grail, Book One) – CHAPTER 1

Written By: Vera Nazarian - May• 08•14
Qualify-Ebook-Cover

Cover Design © 2014 by James at GoOnWrite.com

Qualify

The Atlantis Grail (Book One)

CHAPTER ONE

March, 2047.

Today is a day like any other day. Only it’s not.

Today the Qualification tests begin—at all designated schools, and public sites in remote places where they don’t have schools, all across the country and around the world—and everyone in my family is trying to pretend things are as usual.

I am at the messy kitchen counter chewing the breakfast scrambled eggs while the smart wall TV is blaring in the living room. Mom has her back turned and she is leaning over the stove making another skillet, which apparently is burning. I watch Mom’s fragile stooped back, the collar of the flannel pajama top, and the yellow cotton scarf covering her head, bald from the most recent round of chemo. The air is thick with garlic and scalded toast and things unspoken. No one else is up yet.

“Need some help burning the house down, Mom?” I say, in-between tasteless bites. Normally I love cheesy garlic eggs, but not today. Today, nothing has a taste. Especially not my forced humor.

“Thanks,” she says, without turning around. “But no, I think I am managing just fine with the arson.”

“M-m-m-m,” I say. The skillet makes another grand hiss.

Voices of various morning news show talking heads sound from the living room TV smart wall. “Qualify or die” is repeated often. I imagine there’s a running marquee with that phrase, interspersed with stock tickers and national weather and the continuing coverage of the mystery of a missing plane that disappeared thirty-three years ago, while the footage of the asteroid and then the Atlantis ships hanging in the skies like balloons among the clouds is running on repeat in a small lower window of the screen. Unfortunately that’s the spot of the smart wall surface with the greatest number of bad pixels. Our old wall needs an upgrade, but it’s not going to happen now that the world is about to end.

They’ve been showing the same footage for the last three months. The asteroid is dramatic, a blazing white monster against black space. It’s hurtling at us head-on. And then it’s always followed by the video clip of the same famous spaceship disk, silvery metallic monolith, miles above the New York skyline. Most of Manhattan ground level is two feet underwater these days, but the skyscrapers remain active centers of business and make for a dramatic backdrop amid the street canals congested with taxi speedboat traffic. There are hundreds of other spaceships of course, all around the country and the world, but they only show the definitive New York one, with the Empire State Building in the frame. The ones here in Vermont, over Burlington, Montpelier, and St. Albans, don’t warrant national coverage.

George comes into the kitchen. His dark brown hair is sticking up more than usual, which means he’s been tossing and turning all night, and probably had very little sleep, much like me. He looks bleary-eyed too, and his good-looking angular face is stuck in a frown. He’s wearing black jeans and a grey hoodie.

“Hey,” I mumble at my seventeen-year-old older brother, and he only gives me the hard thoughtful look. How well I know it, since it’s the same look that I’ve seen in the mirror this morning as I tried to comb the snags out of my own brown hair, long, wavy and unruly, and stared into my hard blue eyes. Grumpy and thoughtful runs in our family. Or at least with some of us. George and I are alike that way, prone to serious, prone to scary quicksilver moods interspersed with sarcasm. And now that Mom’s really sick, we stopped laughing altogether.

Good thing our two younger siblings don’t particularly share this hang-up. Twelve-year-old Grace has always been a giggle machine and chatterbox—though lately she gets weird anxiety attacks at night and has trouble falling asleep, then can’t wake up on time in the morning, and is always late. Dad thinks it’s because she is right on the border of the cutoff age for the Qualification, and it can go either way for her today. So she’s been quietly freaking out.

As for Gordon, fourteen and sure of himself, he just hums whatever’s playing in his earbuds, and smirks a lot, also quietly, even when he fiddles with his art and woodcrafts stuff. Gordie is convinced he will not Qualify, but he claims he does not care—which is of course crazy, but if it makes it easier for him to deal, then what can be said?

“Have some eggs, George,” Mom says. “Grab a plate.”

“I’m not hungry.” My brother pours himself a glass of cheap apple juice.

“Yes, you are. You’ll need it. You can’t run all day on that sugary swill. And it’s going to be a very long day.” Mom turns around and grimaces, looking at the transparent yellowish baby-food liquid that George loves so much. Mom’s skin has an unhealthy grey tint, and at the same time her face is reddened by the heat of the kitchen stove. Both her hands are shaking slightly with the usual tremors. But there is determined focus in her watery blue eyes. I stare at her and see the effort she is making. Margot Lark, my mother, is the strongest person I know.

“You shouldn’t be doing this. You shouldn’t be cooking.” George frowns and gulps down half a glass of juice at once. I watch his Adam’s apple move with each swallow, in tandem with the muscles of his lean neck.

“I am not cooking. You call this cooking?” Mom smiles, throwing me a wink, in an attempt to get me to make my usual sarcastic commentary that indicates I still have a pulse.

“It’s pretty good, actually,” I say, making a show of forking a large piece and chewing and swallowing with enjoyment, even though I am tasting nothing and my insides are filled with rocks. “Where’s everyone else?”

“I heard Gee Three flush the toilet.” George reluctantly takes a plate and Mom dumps half a skillet of cheesy yellow eggs onto it.

In case it’s unclear, we’re the Four Gees, in order of birth: George, Gwenevere, Gordon, Grace. I still don’t get it why our parents decided to use names starting with the letter “G” for naming all their kids. Mom says she wanted a neat musical pattern to it, and for us to sound “elegant.” Mom is a classical opera singer—or was, before she got sick—so “elegant” is important to her. Dad says it was an old tradition on his mother’s Italian side of the family to use the same initial letter. Honestly, whatever. But everyone in school now calls us the Four Gees, and we’re stuck with it.

“Gracie still in bed?” Mom continues, without glancing at George.

“You bet. Want me to go drag her out?”

Mom shakes her head, wipes a dot of skillet splatter off her nose with the back of her hand, still holding a greasy spatula. “No, let her sleep a bit longer. Your father will get her when he comes down. Give them another fifteen minutes. And now I want you to eat.”

George shrugs. “Whatever. She’ll make everyone late again.”

“No. You’ll be fine.”

I am still chewing the eggs, swallowing them dutifully like lumps of unknown stuff, and now I feel a familiar pang of fear twist my guts.

We’ll be fine. Somehow hearing this makes it worse, brings it all home.

Today’s the day. The day we’ve been prepping ourselves for, emotionally, psychologically, for weeks and months. And when I say “we,” that’s pretty much everyone on this planet. Teens and their parents. And all the people who care about them. And really, everyone else too, since they get to watch. They get to find out—even though they themselves are out of the picture, out of the running—they get to witness us make it or fail.

Today we Qualify for rescue, for Atlantis.

Or we don’t—which means we’ll die together with all the rest of the world when the asteroid hits Earth, in about eleven months from now. . . .

There’s no way to stop it.

But at least for some of us, there is Atlantis.

Turns out, Atlantis is not a myth. It’s ancient history. There really was a great continent by that name in ancient times, somewhere in the middle of what we now call the Atlantic Ocean, spanning the infamous Bermuda Triangle, the Bahamas, and beyond, and it was home to a very advanced high-tech civilization that stretched around the globe. Supposedly, they had computers, the internet, super-medicine, weapons of mass destruction, probably gaming consoles, and all kinds of other incredible or obnoxious stuff even more sophisticated than our own modern equivalents.

And then something happened. Maybe they did it to themselves—basically ruined the planet, kind of like what we’re doing now with the environment and other species, the out-of-control pollution, carbon dioxide imbalance and resulting cascade of climate change. Or maybe it was Mother Nature, at least in part.

Because at some point more than twelve thousand years ago, something huge and terrible took place—a mega-cataclysm on such a scale that it caused a whole continent to disappear without a trace, in earthquakes and floods and who knows what—and wiped the high-level civilization off the face of the planet. To escape this global disaster—we are told—the people of Atlantis used their advanced technology to leave Earth and flee to the stars. They eventually established a human colony on a habitable planet.

They called this colony planet “Atlantis,” or whatever’s the equivalent in their language, in memory of their own ancient roots on Earth, to honor their native civilization and the terrestrial continent of their birth that started it all.

And now, after all these thousands of years, they’re back. They returned to Earth, their ancient home world, and they are here to help. That is, the distant descendants of the original Atlantean colonists are here to help. They claim to be one hundred percent human and supposedly not all that different from ourselves—if you don’t count the thousands of generations of separate evolution and branching off to live in an alien environment. Yeah, right.

Anyway, the Atlanteans share our DNA and they’re our cousins. And, just like cousins, it makes them either weird or welcome guests.

Right now, they are desperately welcome and desperately needed. The asteroid brought them here—or, like some paranoid people in the media say, maybe “they brought the asteroid.”

Whichever it is, at this point, Atlantis is all we’ve got.

When the news of the lethal asteroid first broke, months ago, almost simultaneously the Atlantean spaceships appeared in the skies all over the world. It’s as if they’ve been watching us, and waiting to make first contact. The asteroid just gave them the excuse.

Okay, at first it was a huge global mess. World governments going into panic mode and military overdrive, people on the streets screaming about alien invasions, religious fundamentalists having a field day, scientists having aneurisms, stock markets crashing worldwide, to the tune of billions.

But once the Atlantean shuttles landed, and we saw them to be human and not little green men or big green lizards, it was okay. They met with representatives of governments, the United Nations, and were received with caution and eventually with open arms. “We are you,” they told us in various languages of Earth. How they knew our languages is unclear, but it’s probably some kind of advanced tech, or they’ve been listening in on us for far longer than we know. They explained who they were—which is kind of insane if you think about it, all that mythic stuff that Plato wrote about is mostly true—and demonstrated some of their amazing technology.

Only it wasn’t all that amazing when it came to the asteroid.

Yes, they tried moving it and changing the path of its trajectory, and all kinds of other advanced science stuff, in conjunction with global space agencies and the three International space stations we currently have—the largest one in Earth orbit, a second small one on the surface of the moon and the barely functional newest one on Mars. They even landed on the asteroid’s surface and drilled and took samples. But nothing worked, at least not enough to make a difference. The asteroid is going to hit Earth and it is going to cause nuclear winter at best. And at worst—well, let’s just say there may not be much of this planet left after the impact. . . .

However, not all is lost. Because the Atlanteans are going to save as many of us as possible and take us back with them—back to the colony planet Atlantis, a fertile blue-green world that’s supposed to be beautiful beyond belief, with a golden-white sun and not one but three moons.

To that effect, they have brought enough spaceships to carry millions of people. It sounds great but means they can only rescue a very small portion of the general Earth population of eight point five billion—no more than can fill their present fleet of monolith silver ships, since there is no time for multiple trips between Earth and Atlantis before the asteroid strikes.

There is only one condition for rescue. Those lucky few that get to board the Atlantis ships have to be young people between the ages of twelve and twenty—teenagers.

Capable, talented, special teenagers.

The best of the best on Earth.

And the only way to determine who these teens will be is to make them pass Qualification. . . .

Qualify or die.

The smart wall in the living room is playing TV snippets of a canned interview with the President. Later tonight she will address the nation live. . . . But for now it’s old footage. President Katherine Donahue is speaking in her usual droning and soothing voice that’s powerful and at the same time conciliatory, in that nasty mixture that only politicians manage. “Our children and we must be brave together, but rest assured, no one’s giving up” and “we hold them in our prayers as Qualification looms” and “the ultimate survival and benefit of humanity might ultimately depend on well-orchestrated air strikes” are some of the phrases heard.

Same old junk they’ve been saying for months, as soon as they figured out that nothing substantial could be done to stop the asteroid, and that the Atlanteans are not all-powerful after all, despite what everyone hoped.

Thing is, the governments, the global leaders, the media, the scientists, the talking heads—they all feel the guilt-ridden need to keep talking, keep trying, even up to the last, even as the world goes up in flames or ash clouds or whatever. “Vaporware Hope,” as Dad calls it, is one way to fill up the void between now and the end.

Sure, there’s Qualification. But for the human spirit that’s just not good enough.  To that end, there are also numerous space missions being prepped by the United Nations and private conglomerates, by individual governments and science agencies. Everyone’s building shuttles, rockets and “payload delivery systems,” whatever that means, to see if they can blast the asteroid into manageable bits or move it out of the fatal earth-contact trajectory. Meanwhile, others are building spaceship arks, just to get off the planet—kind of like the ancient Atlanteans themselves did, thousands of years ago. I guess they think, maybe if they can just get far enough away from the blast and resulting atmospheric turbulence, the Atlanteans might guide them the rest of the way?

The Atlanteans observe these various efforts sadly, and have indeed volunteered to assist to the best of their abilities. But the reality remains grim, there’s not all that much that can be done, at least not for the majority of living beings on Earth. The asteroid is huge and supposedly made up of mostly heavy metals and some other newly discovered stuff that makes it pretty much impossible to move or damage—or so they say. And as for escape, there are simply too many people, animal species, and too few ships.

President Donahue’s words are cut off briefly with video-bytes of breaking news, basically public unrest worldwide, demonstrations around school buses that are supposed to take us all to the Qualification sites, various local police forces in riot gear, and people screaming and throwing rocks and demanding justice. “Please! Just save my baby!” a woman somewhere in the Midwest is crying in a crazed voice of despair. “What good are my tax dollars with all your idiot scientists and useless military and failed national defense? Why can’t you nuke that space rock and save us!”

The stairs creak softly under Dad’s familiar steady footsteps. He comes down, fully dressed in his nice beige blazer, black shirt, brown slacks, tweed vest. And he’s wearing a tie, which is a rare thing. My father, Charles Lark, is the epitome of academia, with his rimless spectacles, somewhat tousled, wavy brown hair and greying temples. He is a professor of classics and history at the local University, and is exactly what you might think that means. Smart, and a little eccentric, and living mostly inside his head, his lesson plans, and research, with plenty of oddball stories and trivia to tell to his kids.

“Let’s please turn the awful TV off,” Dad says tiredly. He is bleary-eyed too, and he is immediately looking at Mom.

“Good morning!” Mom throws him a cheerful look and turns her back again. “I thought all of you might want some real breakfast today. Coffee’s ready.”

“How are you feeling? You really shouldn’t be up so early, straining yourself.” Dad goes directly for the coffee maker.

“Are you kidding? This is good for me. Besides, I would never miss seeing all of you off today, of all days.”

“Why, what’s today?” George says grimly.

From the living room now comes the familiar voice of the Atlantean fleet commander giving his now famous inspirational speech to the United Nations. The voice is soft, rich and musical. It is pleasant in timbre despite the strange lilting accent, and the Atlantean is speaking perfect English. Which is all kind of amazing. And yet it makes my skin crawl with new pangs of fear. Because there’s all that strange, leashed power in that voice, and it’s held back somehow. How do I know this? I don’t, I have no idea. But Commander Manakteon Resoi (try saying that three times) with his pleasant, sonorous voice, his fixed handsome face, metallic-golden blond hair and contrasting black eyebrows that seems to be typical of his ethnicity, gives me the creeps. Especially when he talks about “humanitarian efforts amid failure of hope” and “technological impetus” and “a new era for Earth and Atlantis.”

“I hate that Goldilocks guy and his BS,” George mumbles.

Goldilocks. That’s the derogatory term being used lately to refer to Atlanteans, because supposedly they all color their hair metallic gold, which is a fashion statement. Or maybe it’s an indicator of rank. No one’s sure. Apparently, gold’s so common and abundant on Atlantis, that it’s considered a base metal. . . .

In that moment, the stairs groan as Gracie and Gordie come downstairs one after the other, Gracie trailing. My younger brother Gordon is slight and skinny, lacking the sinewy strength and height of George, and with brown hair that’s several shades lighter and so short it’s almost buzzed. He’s wearing his usual dingy jeans and faded black sweatshirt with paint stains on it. And his rimless glasses have dirty finger spots you can see from several feet away.

Gracie is last. She is a younger version of me, tall and slim, except without any curves and with straight long hair that’s dirty blond instead of dark like mine. Gracie is dressed up in pastel pink skinny jeans and a black sweater with sequins. She is wearing black eyeliner, mascara and lip gloss and gaudy plastic bangles on her wrists. Normally Mom would say something about the eye junk and the lip gloss, but today Grace Lark gets to wear whatever she likes—whatever gives her strength.

“All right,” Mom says. “Everyone get plates, these cheesy eggs are pure magic!”

“Thanks, Mom. Pile it on.” Gordie heads right for the kitchen counter and pulls up a chair, while Gracie stops in the middle of the kitchen and stares. Her face is very pale, and she looks sickly, despite her mascara and lip gloss.  Or maybe because of it.

“Gracie, honey, don’t waste time, please.” Mom picks up a clean plate and starts filling it.

“I don’t want any eggs.”

Dad sits down nearby at the small side table with his mug of coffee and a plate of eggs. “Your Mom got up early and made the breakfast, and you should eat it.”

Grace is frowning. “I hate eggs, and I’m not really hungry.”

“Okay,” Mom sighs. “How about a banana and toast? You need to eat something today. You know you do.”

“We’re out of bananas,” I recall. “Gracie, come on, why don’t you just eat the eggs, just this once, okay?  They’re really good! Yummy-yum-yum! Protein and fuel!”

Gracie shrugs. I can’t believe she is this quiet. She’s not even calling me an idiot.

“We have ten minutes,” George says. “Move it, Gee Four.”

Gracie silently slips onto a chair at the counter and reaches for a slice of toast.

 * * *

A few minutes later we’re in the old minivan, headed for school, with Dad at the wheel. We still feel Mom’s tight desperate hugs and ringing-hard kisses on our cheeks. In my mind, she’s still standing at the porch, waving, and her eyes are red and swimming in tears as she watches us drive away. If we Qualify, this will be the last time we ever see Mom. Already I am fixing this image of her, searing it into memory.

Usually George drives us in his peeling truck, but today Dad is bringing us in, as if to make sure we are delivered properly in time for the Qualification tests. All our duffel bags are packed in the trunk, in addition to the usual school backpacks. Everything’s according to the official Qualification instructions that have been handed out weeks in advance by the schools that are designated RQS, or Regional Qualification Sites. Our bags contain a basic travel kit, a change of clothing, and a few personal items which are up to us. The assumption is, if we advance in the Qualification preliminary stage, we will be taken directly to the National Centers where the rest of the process will take place. And we don’t get to say goodbye to anyone.

My duffel bag has a few of my favorite books including The Iliad, The Odyssey, The 101 Dalmatians, and The Birthgrave. Okay, it has a lot of books, and is heaviest, and almost exceeds the forty pounds limit. That’s because these are actual honest-to-goodness books, printed on paper. Yeah, you heard that right. Some of them are rare collector editions from Dad’s library. Dad often says that an electromagnetic pulse or EMP disaster can strike any moment and destroy our digital information storage capability, so he’s been hoarding the paper print editions like precious treasure for most of his life. His personal library is amazing. And now here’s my chance to save some of those classics before the asteroid takes them first.

In addition to the load of books, my bag also has a small pouch of trinkets. There are family photos, a tiny rose crystal Pegasus figurine, and a sterling silver dancing fairy locket my parents gave me for my sixteenth birthday a few months ago. It’s not electronic-enhanced smart jewelry, but it has heart.

George has chosen to pack close to nothing of personal value, only an extra pair of running shoes and some flat rectangular thing wrapped in brown paper, plus a bunch of paper books for Dad’s sake. In contrast, Gordie’s duffel has micro-bead CDs, rare sheet music, and his skinny Backpacker travel guitar, in addition to his favorite weird quartz pieces from his extensive rock collection, a purple geode, a Swiss Army knife, a portable color pen-and-pencil art box, and a sketchbook. As for Gracie, she has taken her costume jewelry including a pair of latest version smart earrings, a cosmetics pouch, and her flute. And yeah, more of Dad’s books.

I stare outside the window at the bleary landscape. It’s March, but snow is still on the ground, and the sky is overcast.

However, as I stare southeast, the Atlantean ship in the sky over St. Albans can be seen in the corner of the window, through the tall pine and maple trees. From this distance it looks like a flattened weather balloon, silvery metal. In reality, I know it is massive, almost a mile in diameter. It hovers, motionless, silent, eternal.

Gordie, Gracie, George, my Dad, all of us glance at it periodically.

George is up in the front passenger seat next to Dad, and he voice commands the car radio on. Immediately there is a blast of riot noise, and the radio deejay comes on with frenzied commentary. The mayors of Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, and Inland Los Angeles are being interviewed about the ramifications of crowd control and widespread urban looting, and next up, expert practical advice from a pop psychologist at something dot com: “Five Tips for Teens—how to maximize your chances to Qualify today.”

“Oh great, do we have to listen to this?” Dad says.

George invokes the scan function on the radio and it jumps to a music station.

“No, don’t turn it off!” Gracie clutches the back of George’s seat. “I want to hear the five tips!”

“No, you don’t.”

“Yes I do!

George groans.

Gordie just stares out the window with blissful indifference and his earbuds are crackling with his own entertainment.

“All right.” Dad is turning off the main highway onto a smaller road that’s near our high school and Gracie’s middle school, both in the same complex. Our schools are a designated Regional Qualification Site. The traffic is busier than usual, as parents from other school districts are dropping off their children, and everyone wants to be on time. Car horns are blaring. We make the turn into school grounds and the rows of yellow buses are already lined up in the parking lot, ready to take those of us who are lucky enough to pass the preliminaries on to the next stage of Qualification, hours later.

“You want five tips?” Dad says seriously. “I’ll give you five tips. Number one—”

“I don’t want your tips! I want what that program was going to say!” Gracie’s voice rises in that same whiny awful noise that has been produced by her for weeks now, whenever something doesn’t go her way.

“Oh, jeez—” George shakes his head.

“I want to hear Dad,” I say.

Gracie turns around and glares at me. Her hand is still clutching the back of the seat in front of her with a white-knuckled grip.

“Speak fast, Dad, because we’re almost here.”

I see my father’s sad, drawn expression reflected in the rear view mirror. He looks old suddenly, old and exhausted. He takes a silent breath and pushes his spectacles up his nose. “Tip number one—be yourself. Number two—do the best you can under the circumstances and never let fear control you and make you freeze. Number three—okay—” He pauses and I see him make the tired effort to say something constructive and hopeful. “Number three—listen to your gut instinct, always.  Your gut is one smart buddy there. Listen to it. Number four—never give up. Never, ever, ever, times infinity. Number five—make the choice that will ultimately make you feel good inside about yourself—as a human being. That’s always the right choice.”

“Are you done?” Gracie says.

Dad sighs. “You know how hard it is for all of us, Grace. Take a big breath. All right, we’re almost there.”

“Thanks for the words of wisdom, Dad. That’s actually gold in them thar hills. I bet you wrote it up last night in your lecture notes. Am I right?” George mumbles while looking straight ahead, as he begins to get ready to unbuckle his seatbelt even before we are parked.

“Yeah, well,” Dad says. “What if I did? Couldn’t let you all go without saying something brilliant to help you remember your old man by. There’s actually more, but I thought the ‘five tips’ gave me a nice excuse to summarize. Want to hear the rest? No? I didn’t think so. It was worth a try.”

The minivan is still crawling along in a line of cars through the parking lot and onto the football field that has been designated as supplementary parking. Security guards stand, waving the cars into parking spots or designated dropoff points. There are also several media news vans and vehicles with video and sound equipment. Even now, they are filming us live. It’s weird to think, but all that’s happening right now is being recorded, is breaking news. . . .

We stop not too far from the side entrance to the main school building, in the yellow zone. Kids and parents are everywhere, opening cars, carrying bags. Many people are crying.

We get out, and Dad pops the trunk, which sails open slowly.

Shivering in my jacket from the chill morning air, I stand waiting for George to get his duffel bag, while Gordie has his already. Grace stands right behind me, breathing down my neck.

Dad stops the engine and comes around to help us. Or more likely he is gathering himself for the big goodbye.

I glance around, seeing students I know, other classmates, heading up the stairs and inside, past security. Carrie Willis, a girl from my class rushes by with tear-reddened eyes, dragging a bulky, ugly purple-and-orange travel bag that’s rolling along on squeaky wheels. Her mom and some other relatives watch below, waving and sobbing.

Gordie watches her also, shakes his head and adjusts the strap of his heavy duffel bag, then pulls his knitted ski hat over his reddened ears. “This is all seriously messed up.”

“Yeah, that one there seriously needs new luggage.” George steps back, shouldering his bag and his backpack with muscular ease.

“No, I mean, this, all of this situation—she, they, us, everyone, the world,” Gordie says.

I lean forward and take my turn with my stuff. It feels surreal, like someone else is going through the motions. My backpack is hoisted up and lands on my back with a thud that’s lessened by the stuffed lining of my winter jacket. I adjust the straps on both arms, then reach for the heavier duffel.

Gracie is starting to sniffle behind me, and I hear Dad embrace her in a bear hug.

Well, this is it.

I suddenly feel a burning in my eyes. In the back of my throat a huge horrible lump is gathering. No, I am not going to cry.

But the pressure is building in my sinuses, and as I keep my eyes open wide, afraid to blink, already I can feel the first stupid fat teardrop starting to well in one eye, as my vision gets blurry. I back away from the minivan, while Gracie disengages from Dad’s hug, wipes her face with the back of her hand—which smears her eyeliner on one side—and goes for her bag with trembling hands.

I stand watching the peeling spots of paint on the wall of the school building, while blurs of students are going past me up the stairs. I am momentarily distracted from needing to bawl by the familiar faces. Mindy Erikson walks by with her stuff, and her flaming red hair. . . . There goes football jock Nick Warren and his younger brother, whatshisname.

“Gwen, honey . . .” Dad’s voice cuts through everything and it makes me turn around and look at him, and face him at last.

“Here, my sweet girl, there you go,” Dad says, reaching out for me, and I meet his eyes, and it breaks me completely. Dad. . . .  This is my dad, and he is going to die.

I am glad that next comes the great big hug so he doesn’t see me start to lose it. Instead I lose myself in his chest, and crush my face against the beige blazer, and think about how he’ll have to have it dry cleaned to get my stupid tears and snot off the fabric. I stay that way for several moments, shaking silently, feeling Dad’s powerful embrace and smelling the faint aftershave and wool scent of his clothes.

“My brave, smart Gwen,” Dad says in my ear. “Love you, honey, stay strong! Promise me, never give up! Watch out for your sister and brothers—”

“Love you, Dad, I will. . . .”

I let go, and stand back, and smear my face with the back of my hand, and that’s it.

I watch Dad take Gordie in a quick tight hug, and pat his back, and then George, who evades the hug and instead gets a grownup handshake.

“Well, this is it,” Dad says. He takes a symbolic step back and nods at us, and says, “God speed, go on, all of you! I promise you, the Lark family will Qualify, hands down, all four of you!” I see Dad’s eyes are sort of red too, as he just stands there, looking at us through his spectacles.

George nods briefly, and just for a moment he is suspended, motionless, like a post. He turns and gives the rest of us a serious look. “Okay! Let’s do this. See you on the flip side.” And George heads up the stairs.

Gordie follows, trudging silently.

Gracie and I take a moment longer, to give Dad another last look.

“Go on!” he says. “Don’t be late now, hurry! Your Mom and I are rooting for you one hundred percent. Go!”

And so I take my sister by the arm, and pull her along, and we start up the steps.

We enter the school building without looking around again at Dad.

It’s easier this way.

* * *

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Click here to visit The Atlantis Grail Facebook page.

Read the rest of QUALIFY, coming soon in ebook, hardcover, and trade paperback!

#SFWApro

 

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Cobweb Bride – TODAY! – Release Day!

Written By: Vera Nazarian - Jul• 15•13

Today is the BIG DAY!

Cobweb Bride is here. Cobweb Bride

Cobweb Bride is the book that I hope will re-launch my broken life and my income flow — after seven years of relentless, escalating hell (foreclosure, bankruptcy, death in the family, cancer, cross-country move, major surgery).

It is the story of Death and Love and loss and intensity… partaking of the Persephone and Hades in the Underworld myth and alternate Renaissance history set in a Europe very much like our own, but not quite…

Enter the Uncanny Valley of the Shadow of Death.

This is a place at the heart of the Brothers Grimm and in the mind of Dante, in the gut of Ouroboros, in the mouth of Hell and in the eye of a glittering Imperial Court rivaling the splendor of Louis XIV’s Versailles.

It is an epic fantasy of love and eldritch wonder, about death’s ultimatum to the world.

I put all my heart into writing this story.  All my intensity, loss, and longing.

It is here, inside… for you.

What if there was no death?

Find out more about Cobweb Bride, the first book of the Cobweb Bride Trilogy, at the official website

——————————————————

Ebook (multi-format)

Buy From:
Amazon (Kindle)
Barnes & Noble (NOOK)
Smashwords (various)
XinXii
Apple iTunes
Kobo
Sony

——————————————————

This book was made possible thanks to amazing friends and Kickstarter supporters, and is officially released today, Monday, July 15, 2013.

And TODAY I am asking you, please, to participate in this Book Bomb.

A book bomb is an event in which people agree to purchase the book on that one particular day.

If you’ve ever thought to help me, THIS is it, the one and best, surest way to do it.

——————————————————

Trade Paperback

Buy From:
Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million
BookWorld (Australia)
BookFinder
Powell’s
Book Depository
AddAll
Amazon UKAmazon CA
Amazon FRAmazon DE
Amazon JPAmazon IN
Amazon ITAmazon ES

——————————————————

Why a Book Bomb?

Because if everyone buys on the same day, especially from Amazon, then the book rises in the rank (gets a lower number, aiming for #1), and becomes more visible to other buyers worldwide in the Amazon store.

And this sets up a self-sustaining chain reaction of visibility, so that the more people see it, the more people might potentially buy it, and keep it visible for others in a self-perpetuating cycle!

Books in the Top 100 are displayed on the first few pages of the various bestsellers lists. As a general rule, more people tend to look at the first page when they browse for books, and few keep looking beyond the first three. Almost no one bothers to keep clicking pages, so the further down the lists a book is, the less chances it has.

A book bomb is a concerted effort to propel the book up the ranks toward the top spots.  Staying there of course is up to the book itself, but that initial push is something that you can all do to help!

——————————————————

Trade Hardcover

Buy From:
Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million
Bookworld (Austrlia)
BookFinder
Powell’s
Book Depository
AddAll
Amazon UKAmazon CA
Amazon FRAmazon DE
Amazon JPAmazon IN
Amazon ITAmazon ES

——————————————————

And now…

I ask you now to buy the book — today.

Buy it in ebook (pretty much in every format under the sun), trade paperback, and trade hardcover editions — take your pick!

Note that I make more money from ebooks than paper print editions.

Note also that if you buy though the Amazon Affiliate links here, I get a tiny bit more from each sale.

But, none of it matters — buy whatever edition you want!

Thank you, with all my soul.

And I ask you to spread the word.

 

#SFWApro

 

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Epic Fantasy Multi-Author Ebook SALE Party! – May 25 – May 31!

Written By: Vera Nazarian - May• 25•13


Hey, Everyone!

It’s my Birthday, and my Fellow Writer Friends and I are having an Epic Sale!

We all write Epic Fantasy, and our books have been specially discounted for seven days only!

Everything on this page is from $0.99 cents to $2.99, which gives you an amazing opportunity to try great new books and authors!

Love The Game of Thrones, or The Lord of the Rings, or Kushiel’s Legacy, or The Wheel of Time? Want more like it?

Epic, heroic, high fantasy, is as grand and magnificent as your imagination! Share our journeys, quests, and world-shaping feats of magic and wonder!

Enter our magical, impossible, glorious worlds populated by heroines and heroes, knights and kings and queens and sorcerers, empire-makers, mages and warrior maidens and mysterious assassin lords! Ancient, medieval, exotic other-world fantasy awaits you!

Click below to go to the Epic Sale!

 

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The Ultimate Secret of Book Promotion

Written By: Vera Nazarian - Apr• 28•13

The Ultimate Secret of Book Promotion

This is an expanded article version of a series of posts, starting with my post on Kboards.com in response to whether there is an actual honest-to-goodness secret to publishing success that is clandestinely employed by successful self-published “Indies.”

A writer mentioned half-humorously that their answer to a friend who has long suspected that there is “a secret method to achieving high sales” is simply “no.”

I responded with the following:

 

Thing is, there is a secret.

And it is something that so many of us glean over, and just sort of overlook willingly, because we tell ourselves it just couldn’t be that prosaic, could it? No, no way.

We repeat the healthy mantra “write more books, and write the best books you can.”

However, even having done so, even though it is mostly true, we still feel the strange “sixth” sense of having missed something else in the equation.

And here it is, the secret thing we’re choosing to overlook and miss, over and over.

It is money.

The dirty little secret above and beyond persistence and talent is money — in other words, the means to utilize every and all possible beneficial resources at our disposal.  I am talking not just about paid advertizing, but everything else that money can buy — time (yours and other professionals who can help you), assistance of others (minions, a street team, posse, whatever) you can pay to do publishing tasks for you (high end cover design, editing, website, creative legwork), the ability to pay hefty entrance fees to various exclusive contests and opportunities for exposure such as high profile ARC venues and mass mailings, the usage of PR Newswire, NetGalley, special PR Firms, Book Tours, etc.

All of the above and more, cumulatively.

If you cannot afford even a single Bookbub ad, or a paid book blast mailing, frankly your options to get exposure are limited.

And if you say you’ve been using some (or even many) of the above techniques regularly, and paying for numerous ads and services, and you are still in a mid-list rut and have not achieved the proverbial break-out, I say to you — how much worse off would you be now if you had not in fact done any of those paid things?

So yes, that’s the secret, folks.

Money (and the liberal, cleverly planned usage of it) allows you to buy a bouquet of multiple opportunities, including that one thing that in your case could be that bit of luck that will catapult you into the stratosphere.

But you already know it.

Time to face the reality.

* * *

and an addendum post:

 

It is sneaky, because time = money.  Yours, somebody’s, etc. We can call it something else, but it is what it is.

Luck also takes money.  I like to say that “before a lottery ticket is a winner, someone has to buy it” — in other words, literally it’s not luck, it’s luck plus a buck (or more, if you bought a bunch) that gets you that winning ticket.

As someone who also does pretty much everything myself (book writing, cover design, formatting, promotion, website work), it all adds up to my health and life energy, and giving it my all.

And I am flat broke, with holes on clothing and a chronically empty fridge too. This year I am at the lowest point ever (recovering from foreclosure and bankruptcy and major illness etc, etc) but I’ve been actually for once paying for some things, but it’s all blood money, food money, literally.

So it’s all money underneath.

* * *

The following day, I decided to sit down and brainstorm all the various methods, tips and tricks that I’ve gleaned over the last year and a half of closely following the Writers’ Cafe forum at Kboards.com, but with the caveat that the methods are all free and hence entirely affordable for not only those with the means to purchase advertising and other professional promo services, but for the poor-as-Church-Mice authors.

Here are the things I came up with, as a promotional core, summarized in another post:

 

It’s a fact.

Many of us cannot afford even basic advertising — promoted Facebook posts ($7 a pop), various sites’ book blasts and listings ($10-$25 a pop), much less the high end stuff like BookBub, ENT, KND, NetGalley, PR Newswire, PR Firms, etc….

All this stuff that feeds and powers (behind-the-scenes) the engine to kick-launch our books into regular and established visibility and maintain it there. (Ultimately, it’s the same engine that major publishers use to launch their mega-sellers, and that many — but not all, of course — successful indies use to put themselves in a position to regularly move thousands of units.)

So…

The discussion in this thread, where I posted about the need for money (resources) as the real secret behind cumulative success (given all other factors in place such as a well written, well produced book) got me further thinking…

Supposing that we have a) an excellent book to sell, and b) we have no funds, only our own efforts, skills and dedication… then, what can we poor church-mice do?

Let’s post below our methods, tips and tricks that can be used by anyone without spending a cent.

I’ll start by listing some givens and things we already know, so we don’t re-hash the same-old same-old.

Methods We All Know Already (or Should Know)

1) Write a high quality book that people want to read.

2) Have it professionally presented — edited, designed, and with an attractive cover (as much as possible for a church-mouse).

3) Use Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, MySpace, Tumbler, Instagram, etc., to promote your book to your social circles. And this assumes you stay within limits of good behavior, don’t spam, and use tactful techniques to chronically cultivate your social networks. Use free HootSuite to set up automated tweets and posts.

4) Set up and cultivate a Mailing List for book announcements only (via MailChimp or such), and post links and/or widgets with the subscription form in as many places as possible and prominently on your website, blog, social media pages, and in the interior front and back matter of your actual book.

5) Include links to your other books or to a common landing page with links inside each ebook front or back matter (or both).

6) Give away your book for free to build readership and gain fans. Use the “Going Free” technique to either enroll the book in KDP Select and use the 5 free days to promote, or make one of your books Perma-Free by price matching it (making it free on other sites via Smashwords, and have Amazon match it).

7) Write a series, and put the first book Perma-Free as a loss leader to “hook” them and gain buying fans for books 2, 3, and onwards…. The more books in the series, the more likely you gain a long tail of “addicted” buyers.

8.) Write more books (with quality and professional presentation a given). Keep publishing them, and widening the net of your exposure, and have them sell each other.

9) Use the various Going Free and Discounted promotion sites that accept free submissions and fill out their forms, and hope to be picked up and featured.

10) Cultivate reviews. Use LibraryThing Member Giveaways to give away 100 ebooks (at a time) to gain reviews. (Use Goodreads Giveaways to give away 1-3 hard copies of your hardcover or paperback book, if you can afford it, but this is not free.) Find various forums and specialized groups on Goodreads where you can offer your book to reviewers. Email bloggers directly and manually, one at a time, until you lose the will to live as you comb the internet for them like precious crumbs.

11) Find and cultivate Super-Fans who love your work with a passion and will basically rave about your books for free to other people, which will in turn generate word-of-mouth and a geometric progression for exposure.

12) Cultivate yourself and/or your book series as a Brand.

13) Band together with other church-mice. Join group blogs, blog hops, and set up book tours. Plug each other!

Okay, now your turn! What other free tips, tricks, or methods did I miss? What new, original, unique things have you used?

 

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Women in SF&F Month: Writing Warrior Women

Written By: Vera Nazarian - Apr• 21•13

April 2013 is the second annual Women in SF&F Month over at the Fantasy Cafe.

As one of the invited contributors, I’m very excited to participate in this celebration of women writing in the speculative fiction genre.

In my guest blog post, I discuss “Writing Warrior Women:”

http://www.fantasybookcafe.com/2013/04/women-in-sff-month-vera-nazarian/

Some interesting things about my childhood you might not know, and some interior insights into my thoughts on what makes a strong woman.

 

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Welcome!

Written By: Vera Nazarian - Apr• 11•13

Greetings, Friend!

I am Vera Nazarian, writer, artist, publisher, and creator of wonder.

Welcome to my new redesigned website.

Don’t be shy!  Click around. Peek under the covers and around corners.

Explore! Enjoy! 🙂

 

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