Wisdom For Our Times

09/10/2021

This writing has been shamelessly borrowed from a post from one of my oldest friends’  facebook page. I’m not sure who to credit for it, and I think it was borrowed by my friend as well. But it is so beautiful, so true, and so urgently needed, that I had to share it here with you.

Hopi Indian Chief White Eagle commented a few days ago on the current situation:

′′ This moment humanity is experiencing can be seen as a door or a hole. The decision to fall in the hole or walk through the door is up to you. If you consume the news 24 hours a day, with negative energy, constantly nervous, with pessimism, you will fall into this hole.

But if you take the opportunity to look at yourself, to rethink life and death, to take care of yourself and others, then you will walk through the portal.

Take care of your home, take care of your body. Connect with your spiritual home. When you take care of yourself, you take care of everyone at the same time.

Do not underestimate the spiritual dimension of this crisis. Take the perspective of an eagle that sees everything from above with a broader view. There is a social question in this crisis, but also a spiritual question. The two go hand in hand.

Without the social dimension we fall into fanaticism. Without the spiritual dimension, we fall into pessimism and futility.

Are you ready to face this crisis. Grab your toolbox and use all the tools at your disposal.

Learn resistance from the example of Indian and African peoples: we have been and are exterminated. But we never stopped singing, dancing, lighting a fire and rejoicing.

Don’t feel guilty for feeling blessed in these troubled times. Being sad or angry doesn’t help at all. Resistance is resistance through joy!

You have the right to be strong and positive. And there’s no other way to do it than to maintain a beautiful, happy, bright posture.

Has nothing to do with alienation (ignorance of the world). It’s a resistance strategy.

When we cross the threshold, we have a new worldview because we faced our fears and difficulties. This is all you can do now:
– Serenity in the storm
– Keep calm, pray everyday
– Make a habit of meeting the sacred everyday.
– Show resistance through art, joy, trust and love.

 

Hopi Indian Chief White Eagle, July 9th 2021


40. Feel Good Again About Life and Us

08/31/2021

I came across this in my web-wanderings today, an old video of Robin Williams talking about what really matters in this life. He was even more brilliant than we ever knew. I miss him so much. But seeing these words and truths being spoken again, with so much earnestness and love for us all, I felt a surge of hope that we will survive these terrible times, and even grow stronger in heart and mind as a human species.

He left us a lot that was true and meaningful about our imperfections as Beings, and we need that now, more than he ever even imagined. Listen again, and be lifted up again, and then go back to your writing with a new surge of hope and faith, in yourself, in the deeper value of what you write, and in us all.


39. Writer Beware

08/25/2021

It’s a jungle out there. For independent small presses and self-publishing authors, getting work shared/ published/ distributed is fraught with unexpected traps, pitfalls, and quicksand. If you’re thinking of using an “aggregator” (one-stop multi-service online self-publishing and distribution system) there are hundreds of them out there, from simple to complex, small-scale to full-blown vanity presses. To name a few of the biggest ones, BookBaby, Smashwords, Blurb, Lulu, diggypod, XinXii. Most take take 30% of net sales for books priced more than $2.49 OR 60% for e-works below $2.48) There are also countless “full-service” vanity presses like Balboa, SheWrites, OutSkirts, gatekeeper press. and others, that display large signs all over the index page using the word “FREE” a lot, but in the header menu there’s an item that says “Get a Quote.” These usually offer “expert” guidance, and make their money by hooking clients into expensive “professional” services.

Apple iBooks, Amazon, Ingram, and Barnes and Noble are direct publishing & distributing agencies, they are NOT aggregators. You can go to them in the first place, and cut out the middle-men. (Anyone can do this.) The message of this blog post is to tell as many writers as I can, if you are considering using a 3rd party aggregator you’d better think very carefully. Even before that, I recommend that you join a legitimate self-publishing group like Alliance of Independent authors.org.  https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/ They and other author and publisher members on the group forum have helped me thru the ordeal I describe below. If I had known in the beginning the basic facts that I have learned now, this never would have happened. This is my nightmarish true story.

In the last year and a half, my little publishing team and I have been struggling with one of the minor giants of self-publishing and distribution. I will not use the name, because I’m still hoping to obtain some degree of justice.

It started several years ago with (what I thought was) a small company that promised free publishing and global distribution with a print-on-demand system. It was not a scam, and it has millions of users, but when I learned more about self-publishing, I decided to move my books to Ingram and Amazon directly, instead of using an aggregator like this one I had started with. I closed that account and “retired” all of my 5 books (they don’t allow you to delete anything, you can only “retire” a title. they keep your book and cover files forever.)

I didn’t discover until more than a year later, that they had continued to print and sell my books without my knowledge, consent, or any compensation to me, even though I was the owner of the copyright and ISBNs as author/publisher.

When I attempted to move my books to Ingram, they were refused because the ex-aggregators had locked my ISBNs. I sent emails to their support system for many months, they did nothing. Finally I had to fill out and sign a special “addendum” contract from Ingram issued to the © thieves.

Then they said that they had unlocked my emails. But that was not true. They only released them to Ingram, they continued to print and sell my books illegally thru Amazon. I din’t know until later when I tried to submit the books to Amazon’s distribution. Amazon refused, because they said the former (cancelled) aggregator claimed ownership of the books and ISBNs.

When I sent more support request emails (many, over about 7 months.) complaining of this again, they ignored them, and just sent back form-letters that said “First, Log in to your account, then click on…” BUT I had told them over and over that my account had been closed in Sept 2019. They denied any knowledge of anything.

I sent all kinds of hardcopy proof, screenshots of my book for sale sold on their own website bookstore, on Amazon, and others that I had not submitted them to.

I was advised that my only recourse was to cancel and to re-list all of the books on Bowker as “out-of-print” then re-publish them as second-editions, with new ISBNs, then search everywhere on the internet, in catalogs and any other place where each of these books were listed in any way, and do  all the work of submitting the new 2nd editions and new ISBNs, so that even tho the illegal ones might still be there, at least I could compete with them by having another (authentic) listing on Ingram and Amazon, and at least stop promoting THEIR illegal sales of my books. I did this for 2 of the books, which took about 30 hours of work. Even with all this, the copyright thieves could still continue to print and sell my books.

Exhausted, discouraged, feeling trapped and victimized, I gave up. None of it made any sense, these were small books of essays and poetry. (I am no famous best-selling author.) why would they do this to me? And the answer was, “Because they can.”

Aggregators like this one have got your manuscript files, you can’t get them back. You are a drop in the bucket, and even if they only make a few $ from you (and a few million others) it adds up. But people like you and me are so small, we don’t make waves, and we usually give up.

In a previous email I had threatened lawsuit, which I would not have been able to do, financially or psychologically. So because of the endless extreme stress this was causing me, I decided to let them keep on robbing me, for the sake of my own mental health.

Then, astonishingly I got this email from them today:

“We want to apologize for this unfortunate situation. Please note that our retail partners take several weeks to remove books from sale on their online stores. It seems that they never received our original request to retire the books when you cancelled your account. (Read: We never sent one.) I can confirm, however, that Jessica has ensured the books are now marked as retired outside of Lulu and your ISBNs are available to you. Also, please keep in mind that any sale reported to us will be sent out to you via check.”

Whether they will or not, remains to be seen. (Probably not, because they have not done so up to now, and no longer have my account.) I have no reason to believe this is any less of a lie than all the rest of it has been, but at least they have admitted their crime, though blaming it on “our retail partners.” This has nothing to do with the retail partners,they are just following the federal rules. This is just one more bit of Trump’s new “GreatAmerica” standards and ethics. “Everybody lies.” I like the old way better, and I don’t plan to change.

In the ten years since I ventured into the wilderness of self-publishing, I have fallen into a few other traps and scams, but I have also stumbled upon some good things and good people. My heartfelt recommendation goes to Alliance of Independent Authors, and Draft-to-digital.com for e-books. These are mostly great people, very thorough, practical, author-compassionate organizations. D2d takes care of all Ebook distributors including Amazon if you want, Apple, Barnes and Noble, and some libraries. D2D is a nitpicker’s dream for user-friendly logical simplicity. They take a straight 10% of sales, nothing more ever. (unlike Amazon which takes 65%).  Alliance of Independent Authors is a source of reliable true information, webinars, free How-Tos for navigating the self-publishing world safely and successfully. They seem to be genuine comrades on the same path as I am. That helps a lot. They have a membership fee of $100 a year, which is more than returned to you in benefits and publisher discounts, long before the year is up.

And so there went another week in a very chaotic world where honesty is a relic of the past, to some people, but not lost yet to some of us., like me, and if that’s you too, please know that you are backed up by the quiet but growing wave of a groundswell movement back to decency, humanity, and honesty in literature and in life.

If you should come across some other good resources, please mention them in the comments box! Thank you. United we are strong, and for sure, nobody can beat us for sheer courage and moxie. Write on.


38. + oops…

08/16/2021

If your e-mail invitation to this post failed to open the PDF book link, Victory Is My Name Book-1,
use this link: http://w2w.victoriachames.com/beta/beta-V1w.pdf.

Click or copy and paste the whole URL into your browser. Sorry about the glitch. V. 


38. Take My Love and Shove It…

08/15/2021

People let me down sometimes, even people I love. Ever happen to you? Mostly in things that don’t seem like a big thing to them, but they are to you? Me too. Not much we can do about it but try again. I do get weary of trying again though. I get angry at people, though they meant well, probably.

I’m sending this link with an email to a few good friends and some people who have been friends but have changed as I have changed. After all, the whole nexus of life is change. This is a web-link to the first book of my memoir trilogy, Victory Is My Name, Book One: The Burning-Barrel.

The response from earlier invitations has been a bit sad and disappointing. They start and then they stop. That may be a failing in my craft as a writer, or partly the reality that most people now don’t read. It’s just not a thing they do. Most people don’t talk either, they text or tweet. But the people in the out-there world who do read, talk, think and wonder about life are reading and writing more than ever.

A tweet is brief and momentary. A book is a solid object in space that may hang around for 100 years or more, if it has value in it. So it can be accessed more than once, and farther into time. It doesn’t vanish into the void of cyberspace. Even so, cyberspace is useful. I’m using it now to share these words with you.

The grandfather of all storybooks of course is the Bible. I’m not a concentrated student of it myself, and yet I have read some of it, and learned more of it from sources in my environment. I don’t expect to understand the amazing and inscrutable being, Jesus. That may be beyond my capacity to comprehend. But I have learned some very useful and effective life-tips from him. Like “turn the other cheek.” This actually baffles your enemies, and they usually back off feeling confused and guilty. Another one is double-edged: “Seek and you shall find.” This is true. If you look for the best in people and things, you will find it. If you look for the worst in people and things you will find it. What you/we hold most often in thought will play out in our physical material lives. “Be careful what you wish for” without realizing you are doing that with where your habitual thoughts are.

Here’s my book, Victory Is My Name, Part-1, The Burning-Barrel. You can read it or not. You can buy it of course, or download the e-book here, now, for free. I won’t know who did or didn’t read it, unless you choose to tell me. Your comments are welcome but not required and/or can be anonymous if you want.

So here’s my truth, my real self, the one you didn’t know. Here’s my love, take it or leave it.

 

To download or read on screen as a .PDF file
  http://w2w.victoriachames.com/beta/beta-V1w.pdf


37. Non-Fiction Bushel Basket

06/30/2021

The Rubery International Book Awards early results were in my mailbox today. I didn’t make the shortlist. Disappointed of course, and looking at the books that did , I discovered that my literary memoir had been thrown into the only category available—non-fiction, alongside the chosen ones which were Political Histories and cookbooks. (I’m sorry, but this is just so wrong.)

Books like mine (and possibly yours) that read like novels, with vivid descriptions, complex narratives, mystifying sub-plots, and small gems of hard-learned personal wisdom, are not like histories and cookbooks. This is not “apples and oranges,” it’s more like apples and battleships.

Why don’t Indy-pub and self-pub book contests (and other powers-that-publish) have a creative nonfiction category? How did Annie Dillard’s unique breaktrhough book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Pulitzer Prize, listed as General Nonfiction) ever get discovered? Did she know somebody? It was 1974. There were no bogs, and no facebook.

The professional advice blogs all say we’ve got to build a Platform and be already well-known before we can expect to be discovered. But I’m not 20-something or even 40 -something. I don’t have enough time  to blog myself famous first. If you too believe that there is likely a lot of good (or very good, or brilliant) writing out here that doesn’t have a category of its own, and deserves one, say Amen.


Victory Is My Name, Book One: The Burning Barrel
$15.95  PAPERBACK 978-0-9841730-9-9
$4.95 E-BOOK 978-0-9841730-4-4
Available Oct.1, 2020 from all online or brick & mortar bookstores.
See
More information:  Publisher’s Page & Sampler


36. Is Fiction Easier Than The Truth?

06/24/2021

I think fiction is easier than truth. Not the writing of it, that’s always hard for either. But when we’re choosing what to focus on when we write, I think it definitely takes more courage to tell the truth, and bare our scars to the world.

An idea occurred to me this week. I was thinking about my book’s genre, which is “autobiography and memoir.” I wondered out loud, Who reads memoirs? And What does the word “memoir” bring to mind? Maybe just an idea of the rambling memories of old ladies and old men.

Since my book is not selling like hotcakes (it’s self published and has no corporate marketing or advertising) I found myself wondering about this. Should I list my book as a novel? Might that get more of the kinds of readers who want to read what I write, as something contemporary, that matters to their lives, not some dusty volume of dates and times and stories with lace doilies on the sofa?

The memoir genre now is nothing like it was in our parents’ day. Ever since Angela’s Ashes and The Liars Club, This Boy’s Life, and A River Runs Through It, the literary form has completely redesigned itself. These writers and others have re-created the genre. It’s much more like a novel, or a film, with scenes and dialogues, multiple narratives, some just beneath the surface, and the most private and even raw emotional experiences rendered with shocking honesty.

My memoir definitely reads more like a novel than an autobiography. I suspect that the readers who are seeking this book won’t look for it under “memoir.” They will be looking for books that are fiercely alive with passion and compassion, tragic mistakes of youth and innocence, and survival of body and soul through truly dangerous challenges and adventures. Yes, Victory has got those things

And the next thought that came to me, absolutely stopped me in my tracks. It was a revelation. The only real difference between a great memoir and a great novel is that the memoir is factually real. It is true.

Many of us, these days, don’t really want too much truth. Life is complicated enough. The truth is scary and it doesn’t guarantee a happy ending, we need to escape for a while, or at least, take a break. Readers want adventures and experiences that will take them out of this daily life reality, and on a voyage to an unimaginably different life.

Tragically, most people under 50 right now are almost totally immersed in fantasy, second-hand social-media bits and random pieces instead of human conversations. Sci-fi, horror, blood and guts stories and movies and TV shows, and humanized comic book heroes. We want to see ourselves like that, in fantasy, so we can imagine ourselves as the hero, and not see our truth or our honest flaws. Memoirs don’t do that. Memoirs are not fantasy, not delusion, they don’t wear superhero suits, though they do sometimes inspire superhuman powers. Memoirs tell us about genuine life, why it matters, and they tell the truth.

Naturally enough, a lot of us don’t want too much truth. We get that on the news, along with so many wildly delusional lies coming at us from all sides, it’s more difficult than it has ever been to tell which is which, and the stress is overwhelming us.

But the truth, each other’s shared truth, is exactly what can save us from being swallowed up and lost in the noise and glittering bright colors coming at us from multi-media 24-7.  The truth is something else. It isn’t always pretty, and unfortunately it doesn’t always win. Only the bravest among us want to read the truth, even in another person’s life, and risk seeing it reflected in our own. Even if nobody else sees it, we will see it, and we can’t un-ring that bell. But the payoff is huge. The realistic possibility that we may be affirmed and uplifted by the connection with another soul through their experiences – on the page.

I believe there is truth in fiction too, because no one can write anything that is not already inside them before they pick up the pen. So what we write tells something about us whether we mean to or not. The biggest difference between a novel and a memoir turns out to be, basically, the memoir is the only genre that takes the risk of telling the truth on purpose.

_____________________________

Of the trilogy, Victory Is My Name, Book 1: The Burning Barrel is now available from Internet or brick and mortar bookshops. The e-book is available at your favorite web booksellers. Search by author, Victoria Chames. Publishers’s sampler: http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html

If you are interested in being a Beta Reader for the first draft of Victory Is My Name, Book Two: The West Bank, now in progress, please contact me through email:  “Victory” at Darkhorse Press dot com. Thank you.


35. Not About Me

06/04/2021

This week clearing out bookshelves and file drawers, I came across my first writing-log notebook back in 2012 when I began the book I’m writing now, that I never imagined would become a trilogy. In it I discovered that I had written this bit of wisdom:

“The success of memoir is to recognize the truth and yet be at peace with it.” Such a simple phrase for such an immense task.

My memoir was never about just me, and what happened to me, it was always about everybody, and including me wandering through it mostly clueless and baffled. So when I realized that I was actually writing a book, I knew that I needed to find a way to see all of us, at once, the real people, tell the truth in the simplest way, and then trust that the patterns and meanings would come through on their own.

Where do you start? Well obviously, you tell the stories. But not like a novel, where everything is about the protagonist and all the other people are just supporting characters or obstacles. No, it all counts, and everybody’s story is a part of my own. I wanted and needed to see these lives like a landscape, where you can see for miles, and everything you can see is laid out clearly and simply and plainly. How do you do that? 

So I stepped away, and began to look at it all, as if from above, a birds-eye-view at a distance like some invisible spectator/bystander in the sky. From there, I was not “in it.” Instead I was looking down calmly upon who we were and what we did, just the facts. The stories would still be limited to what the protagonist knew then, at each time and place. She and everyone else would have no set path or agenda to the objective observer in the sky. No angle. 

If the memoir-writer had been a journalism student learning how to write a news story, she would have had to I step out of herself and become an “impartial” describer, limited by the discipline and conscious  intention to be impartial. A journalist must look at all events and information as being of equal value, and truthfully report them, taking care to avoid prejudgment or bias.

It worked. This opened up a flood of stories I had not been aware of before, both wonderful and terrible, tender and frightening, into a clear light that astonished me. It energized me, and I began to write the good stuff. Not just my truth, but the truth.

Even though an interpretation may show up at the end of a written story, a true story must not begin with one, because if it does, then everything you write will be tinted by that lens, right from the start. In order to tell the authentic story, it’s imperative to check yourself carefully for biases and personal opinions, somehow escape your ego-mind of self-awareness, and look instead with clean eyes.

No easy task. But if you step out, it is possible to step away from the personal perspective and look again from an objective distance, then everything becomes more clear and more simple. The patterns emerge from the confusion, and the truth shows through the multiple shades of perception. 

In memoir, unlike any other genre, the writer has the option of a “reflexive voice,” during or after the narrative, where we can “reflect” our real-time interpretations of what those events personally mean now, and/or, what they meant then, if the story itself doesn’t show it. But I want the story to show it. I find that doing too much reflection stops the flow, pauses the reader’s adventure, and I want the book to be a personal adventure for them, just as these events were unexplained adventures for me. 

So in Victory, I have let Vickie take her chances and make her mistakes unrestrained and un-judged. I’m trusting the intelligence, creativity, compassion, and inner courage of my readers to take the risk of the journey with her, and see where it leads. 

_____________________________________________________________________________

Of the trilogy, Victory Is My Name, Book 1: The Burning Barrel is now available from Internet or brick and mortar bookshops. The e-book is available at your favorite web booksellers. Search by author, Victoria Chames. Publishers’s sampler: http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html

If you are interested in being a Beta Reader for the first draft of Victory Is My Name, Book Two: The West Bank, now in progress, please contact me through email:  “Victory” at Darkhorse Press dot com. Thank you.


34. Stories: Burning Bridges To Cross

05/31/2021

When the first book of my memoir trilogy, Victory Is My Name, was published late last year, I invited some friends and close colleagues to read it online at a private web-page, or download the e-book there. I didn’t request feedback, though of course I was hoping for some. One of my longterm friends (we were best-friends as children and young teens) started to read the book and then stopped when it got to the hard parts. I believe it became too uncomfortable for her to read about some private feelings and events of my life that had never been visible in my cheerful optimistic nature as she  knew it. For me this was so disheartening, more than I can even begin to tell you.

Reading a book that’s historically or personally true requires embarking on a journey that may not be entirely safe, and certainly will not be entirely comfortable. But the reader always has an easy escape – just quit. Close the book and walk away. 

There were several friends who stopped reading when they got to the hard parts of my life. They were not abandoning me, they just instinctively and innocently did not want to go there. They didn’t want to know me that well. They liked me the way they had come to know me: cheerful, honest, not too complicated.

The dedicated “Real Readers,” deep readers, the kind who love and devour books as a normal part of their daily lives, those are the ones every writer wants to love us. But capturing them is like fishing the ocean with a bent pin on a string. And if we succeed, most of them will be strangers who are not handicapped by any prior perceptions of us. 

In every good book there will be a burning bridge the reader must cross, usually early-on, and in every great book, there will be many more ahead. That’s where the commitment is made, at the  first burning bridge, whether to cross into this journey or turn away. 

My readers and yours are out there, but they probably won’t be our family or friends, and this will hurt. But it’s because some parts of us will emerge through our writing that will disturb their old concept of who we are. They will suddenly see someone deeper or more complicated than they knew, which may shock them. Not-knowing was fine, and it was working for them. God bless them, for they probably loved their version of us very much, as they perceived us. Now if we turn out to be too much more than they knew, it disturbs their comfort. It might even cause them to take a deeper look at their own lives.

Here’s one truth out of many that I learned over and over in my 20 years as an ER caregiver, where we cared for every unimaginable level and form of humanity: You don’t know that person in front of you, no matter who it is. 

You don’t really know your parents, or your family as individuals, or your friends. You never met them until you met them. You never knew your parents when they were young, and yes, as sexually passionate, instinctively selfish, and earnestly foolish as you are, or were, when you were 20-something. You don’t know what emotional life-baggage they’ve carried, and struggled with, down the path to get this far. You don’t really want or need to know. 

That colleague who is confident, successful, and self-assured, may have been abused, abandoned, physically or emotionally starved and beaten as a child, and nobody knew. Maybe s/he is one of the brave ones who were strong enough to survive. Maybe whatever they had to overcome forced them to grow stronger and braver, and that force became instead what sustained them, became the scaffolding of the quiet confidence that you see now.

You don’t know how the filthy homeless alcoholic or drug addict on the ER gurney got here, with a bloody face from falling down drunk again, whose life my co-workers and I will save, again. You  don’t know their story. Everyone you meet may have crossed a few burning bridges to get to this place, where they now stand before you. You  don’t know their story.

As the pandemic begins to reluctantly subside and I venture out into my life again, I’ve made a new commitment to my book. I sent another email to one of the friends who stopped reading the book, and asked her to to give it a second chance. I said something like “Try not to see this odd little girl, latchkey kid growing up on the sad side of Dallas in the 1950’s, as someone you know. Don’t try to match her up with the woman you know me to be, now or ever, that’s not who she was then. Try to read it like a novel, an entertaining story with a protagonist and antagonist and other characters and events. I think you might quite enjoy it that way.” 

She did read the book again. Afterwards she sent me an email, and said she had read it straight through in two days. I was stunned, but not entirely surprised. She is a professional woman, dedicated and hard-working. She has always been a leader in her field, and like all strong women, knows how to make a commitment and get a job done. She wrote me an extraordinarily generous positive review, and a massive boulder of doubt and discouragement fell off my shoulders. The book was not so bad. It had been the commitment to the journey that was the block, the burning bridge that we are all naturally reluctant to cross. 

So here is the challenge: for your book or mine to succeed. For its gift to be shared and its truth be told, we’ve got to find a way to get both friends and strangers to take the risk, to brave the journey, for a good book is always a dangerous journey, and a great book will have many burning bridges to cross. But just beyond, there will be a discovery of something about ourselves and all of us.

You don’t know the person standing in front of you, no matter who it is. They might have an unexpected gift to give you. Only a few of us will dare to tell our story, but in every one of us, there is always more to the story.

____________________________________________________________________

The book is Victory Is My Name, a Memoir, Book One. It’s available in paperback at your favorite bookseller, both paper and ebook are at internet stores (Search by author, Victoria Chames) and any brick & mortar bookshop will order the book for you with no shipping charge. You can read a sampler here –  http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html

If you’re interested in being a Beta Reader for Book Two: The West Bank, please contact me by email:  victory (at) darkhorsepress dot com. The first draft of Book 2: The West Bank is now in progress.


33. What To Remember, What To Forget

04/18/2021

When we are children, we live without thinking too much about it. When we’re happy we live like little squirrels dashing from tree to tree, from moment to moment, and a lot of what happens to us, the regular everyday things, we don’t really notice. Human beings can only remember things we have actually noticed, good or bad. I remember being embarrassed and ashamed of my old hand-me-down clothes. I remember being told I was too skinny, and I would never be pretty. I was thirteen. Things like that, I remember.

There are blank spaces that I don’t remember in the last days I was still with my birthmother Ann. I don’t remember seeing her in that boarded-up old house where we lived after the divorce happened. Daddy went somewhere and we went to the old house. I don’t know how long we lived there. I do remember being sad a lot, alone in the cold dark dusty empty house, sitting in front of the tiny gas heater that was the only heat we had. It was winter and the cold seeped through the boarded windows, over the windowsills, and flowed into the room like water. 

I don’t remember the rest of the house except the kitchen. There wasn’t any food in the fridge, so I went to the big Safeway and stole something to eat. I don’t remember where my brother or my birthmother slept, and I can’t remember seeing either of them there. They must have been there, but I can’t remember. In my mind’s eye I try to see them there, and I can’t. 

Then Daddy came one day and found me and took me out of there, and Helen brought me home to her place. They got married and legally claimed my brother and me, and then a whole different life began, and I remember millions of things about that. Things we did, clothes Helen sewed for me, all the different things she taught me– how to cook great things like homemade biscuits from scratch. I can remember every corner of the warm bright house, so full of happy optimism and generous love and lots of food. Oh, wonderful food. I’m crying now. I remember what a marvelous thing it was, suddenly to be warm, and to have my tummy feel so good and full.

Writing this memoir I’ve often wondered about how memory works, why we remember what we remember and forget what we forget. Some good things are forgotten because they seemed ordinary at the time, but wonderful and awful things take root in the mind and stay. What makes us remember things is feeling them. I know that sometimes the mind chooses to hide them from us to protect us from pain, but the dark stuff is still in there, someplace deep. 

Now that I’m grown, sometimes I’m brave enough to open the vault and let a thing come out into the light, and I write about it. It hurts so much that I cry and cry. But once I have written it, and faced it, and confessed that it’s true, I find that I am able to forgive it, and then I feel so much better, and not afraid of it anymore. I feel whole, like I know the wound can heal now.

______________________________________________________________

The trilogy, Victory Is My Name, Book 1: The Burning Barrel is available from Internet or brick and mortar bookshops. The e-book is available at your favorite web booksellers. Search by author, Victoria Chames.

If you are interested in being a Beta Readers for Book Two: The West Bank, please contact me through “Victory” at Darkhorse Press. The first draft of Book 2: The West Bank is now in progress. Thank you.


32. The Book Launch

04/08/2021

After delays and confusion and multiple snags, the first book of the trilogy is out, Victory Is My Name, Book One: The Burning Barrel. The Association of  Independent Authors & Publishers and other reliable sources advise me that my job now is to do promotion for it. With independent  small publishers, you don’t get the marketing package that the mega-publishers have. You have to do most of it yourself. It’s not my thing, and not a talent I have.

Nevertheless, I’m following one of the recommendations: sending email invitations to friends and colleagues with a link to an online copy of part or all of the book, to read for free. The plan I think is to spread the word that your book exists. I haven’t had the nerve to send it to any professional connections or hoped-for connections yet, but I’ve begun to send my invitation to a few friends.

One of them, one of my oldest friends, I had sent to this book to before, in its first draft. She is an exceptionally intelligent person, an English teacher, career educator, and retired School District Administrator. In other words, the ideal beta reader. She read the first few chapters and wrote a generous review, then stopped reading and went silent. That was several years ago.

This week I had the temerity (or audacity) to invite her again, to read my book. In the note I wrote that I understood that she had stopped when she got to the painful parts about my family, which had been close to hers when we were children. I asked her to try to read it again, not as a memoir, but as if it were just another novel, and to meet the characters in it that way, for the first time. She wrote back that she would.

For a lifetime I have wondered about how hard it is for all of us to look at the truth without flinching and turning away. What is it that we really fear? So much of the suffering and injury in my adult life, I could have prevented by facing the reality of it, turning away from the circumstance and seeking something else, instead of turning away from the truth that the endeavor had failed or was failing. Change itself is painful and frightening, and so we usually stay with the pain we know, rather than risk the unknown.

I don’t have a neat philosophical wrap-up for this one. All I know is, we do what we can until we are able to do more. We make the same mistakes until we dare to look and see the truth, and somehow scrape up enough courage to try something else. Until we finally see that the progression of life is all about the next something-else, the next chapter. We leave something and we move forward ready or not, without knowing what will come next. Or else we don’t.

We human beings cherish the best of the past and we are shackled to the worst of it, and it’s terribly hard for all of us to release ourselves from ether. And yet the longer we hold on to the past, the longer we are delaying the emergence of the present and the future. The Big Truth, nobody tells you; you have to discover it yourself. Life is change, and the present is always where the future is forming itself. We are choosing it, knowingly or not. 

So I say, be aware if you can, of what you’re choosing, and forgive yourself for the times you could not be aware. Believe me, you did the best you could.

___________________________________________________________

Of the trilogy, Victory Is My Name, Book 1: The Burning Barrel is now available from Internet or brick and mortar bookshops. The e-book is available at your favorite web booksellers. Search by author, Victoria Chames.

If you are interested in being a Beta Reader for the first draft of Victory Is My Name, Book Two: The West Bank, now in progress., please contact me through “Victory” at Darkhorse Press. Thank you.

________________________________________________________________

Victory Is My Name, a Memoir – Book One: The Burning Barrel
E-book available now, paperback available Sept.21, 2020
more information, http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html


31. Why Does Anybody Read Books?

04/03/2021

There are as many reasons as there are people, I guess. I’m most curious about why writers do. Why should any writer read another writer’s book? Well, I can only say why I do, and it’s because I have loved reading ever since I learned how, at age five and a half. A lot of writers will tell you the same scenario. “When I first learned how to read, I was so wowed by the miracle of it, I wanted to write words and poems and stories too.” At five or six, we are totally unaffected by any fear or even clue that this might not be possible. At this stage, everything is.

But most of us grow up and do something else. Business, art, music, science, mathematics, astronomy, politics, or children. And the option slips away into subconscious unspecified daydreaming for 30 or 40 or 50 years, till something happens that brings it out into the light again. That’s what I did, I thought.

I retired, and when I began to write, I discovered to my utter surprise that I had been writing (in the closet) for decades. On-the-side in journals for no reason I would confess to, and I had built up a mass of work that could potentially be harvested, gleaned,, reconsidered, rewritten and might even become a meaningful story that could in fact share what a genuine nonfictional human life is like, as they say, “warts and all.”

Those first drafts were often angry, tragic, self-pitying, emotional, and very unlovely. Good. The life-blood was still virulent in them. Saner perhaps kinder drafts could be created out of the raw open flesh of them, their wounds, their rages, and their sorrows. Something could emerge that might show those experiences, for someone else to have compassion for their own flaws and failures and come to forgive themselves for their own sincere mistakes. 

At the start, I thought the book was being written for me, about me, to grapple with the devils and angels in my own soul. But pretty soon an unconfessed, denied and hidden urgency of a lifetime emerged: the body-and-soul disconnect between by biological mother and myself. But the story would turn out to be even bigger. I soon discovered it was not so much about myself or my problems, successes or defeats, as it was about the equally imperfect but decent people whose lives paralleled, intersected, and either connected or failed to connect, with mine. People I never really saw until now, looking back from a distance like a disembodied spiritual voyeur, from above and beyond it now.

And I didn’t realize until a few years into the book, that I was only the honest observer, the storyteller, only one part of many complex human entanglements. The stories of a “dysfunctional” family, imperfect loves, and an inexplicable life-event that on one ordinary day could alter all the lives of a whole family and more, forever, and would become “the family secret” that everybody knew but denied, always hid, and never talked about. In the last chapter when I realized the family secret, it changed the perspective and revealed the truth of everything else that had ever been.

__________________________________

Of the trilogy, Victory Is My Name, Book 1: The Burning Barrel is now available from Internet or brick and mortar bookshops. The e-book is available at your favorite web booksellers. Search by author, Victoria Chames.

If you are interested in being a Beta Reader for the first draft of Victory Is My Name, Book Two: The West Bank, now in progress., please contact me through “Victory” at Darkhorse Press. Thank you.

________________________________________________________________

Victory Is My Name, a Memoir – Book One: The Burning Barrel
E-book available now, paperback available Sept.21, 2020
more information, http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html


30. To Tell The Truth

03/14/2021

In a few days I will be sending out the email book-launch announcement about my book, Victory Is My Name, a Memoir. The introduction says, “This  book will not be everybody’s cup of tea.”

Most of us who love to read do have a favorite flavor and brew. Maybe it’s romance novels with passion, sex, and reliable happy endings. Or Sci-Fi that transports the mind to another place with different possibilities than this messed-up world we’ve let build up around us here on planet Earth. Or detective mysteries– I do love British period-mysteries like Inspector Poirot, to just enjoy trying to guess who-done-it, knowing that the odd little man will always figure it out. For others, maybe it’s “Thrillers.” They sell like hotcakes. Or murder tales of Blood and guts galore. (No thanks, not my cup of tea.)

This book is not about any of that. Not a beach-book, not a tell-all, not entertainment. This book is a sincere attempt at literature, and this story, at risk of failing to win the approval of a great many readers, is about telling the truth. It’s about making mistakes, and doing the best you can with what you get. Life is not an even playing field. It’s not always fair. But my granny told me “Life never gives us more than we can bear” and because I was innocent enough to believe her, in my life ahead, I did do more than anyone else thought possible.

Even though it must be said that every novel carries some essential truths at its core, only memoir is obligated, expected, and pledged, to tell the truth. I don’t write fiction, not because I disapproved of it, I just have never needed to, because real life is always exploding with stories begging to be told and shared. We learn about life, in the long run, from life. Our own and each other’s, the true stories about real life that we as a social species are usually constrained not to tell.

But I say, Why not tell the truth? You can’t please everybody anyway. Trust me, I’ve tried, for the first 25 years of my life. It never worked. I did that, trying to hide and protect myself, so people wouldn’t hurt me. They hurt me anyway. (But that’s another story…)

If you read this book, you likely at times will be offended, annoyed, or fed up with this person, the storyteller/protagonists/myself, who was so stupid. You might cry real tears when she makes the same mistake you did. But you will likely be inspired some too, and heartened by her courage and her large and small victories that defied the odds, and prove in the end a truth beyond dispute: girls can.

In the last decade, memoir has become recognized as a serious literary genre that can take many different creative forms. Since books like Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life and Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club, authentic well-written memoirs are drawing a new crowd of readers, willing and even hungry for the truth.

I believe the world is ready for some truth. A different choice from the lies we are drowning in now. Many of us, like lemmings that have already gone off the cliff, are swimming in an ocean of confusion, longing for something we can believe in. Most of us have a disturbingly deep need to get our feet on the ground again, like back in the day, when ethics were clear, and we knew what was what.

But those days are gone. We need to start where we are, and meet each other honestly for the first time. That’s what Victory is about

_____________________________________________________

Of the trilogy, Victory Is My Name, Book 1: The Burning Barrel is now available from Internet or brick and mortar bookshops. The e-book is available at your favorite web booksellers. Search by author, Victoria Chames.

If you are interested in being a Beta Reader for the first draft of Victory Is My Name, Book Two: The West Bank, now in progress., please contact me through “Victory” at Darkhorse Press. Thank you.

________________________________________________________________

Victory Is My Name, a Memoir – Book One: The Burning Barrel
E-book available now, paperback available Sept.21, 2020
more information, http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html


29. Fly-over

03/03/2021

I’m astonished how much I’m learning about life, my own, and Life with a capital L, by writing this book. Looking at my own life stories in a sort of flyover, as a curious neutral observer who looks down upon all of these people who were the cast of characters, including me no more than anyone else, and wondering about it all.

Some things I discovered: My birth-mother was a kind and decent woman, who for some reason nobody knows, got chosen for the role of sad loser, the one left behind. She deserved better. It turned out that she was the key to the puzzle of the many paths my life would take, though neither of us knew it. She was an alcoholic, and as a child I had no way to know how hard that was for her. Since then, I’ve witnessed many real-life stories that either started or ended with this “scenario of 10,000 forms.”

I’ve written a chapter called The Family Circus, but I don’t know where to put it. I may even end up leaving it out of the book. I’m undecided. It talks about each of us in thumbnail sketches, but its real purpose is to express a truth about family and relationships, connections, and failures to connect. 

There’s more than one kind of family. You can have a Family of Origin, or a Family of Choice. A Family of Origin has only one style: blood relations, biological ties. Or you can have a Family of Choice, which can be anything at all, all sizes, shapes, and colors, held together by a choice and commitment to love and nurture and share with each other. My story had both, and I had, in a way, two mothers. A birth-mother who could not love me or much notice, as her mother had been to her. And my true mother, who was simply a gift of grace that I can never be deserving of. She fell in love with my dad, she met me, she liked me, she wanted to know me, and she chose to love me. She rescued me from a hopeless life. That’s how a part of my story went, though it’s much more complicated of course.

My birth-mother never really knew me and I never knew her, until I began to write the book and discovered that her story ran deeper than anybody knew, and I wanted to know. Our severed connection when I was thirteen had left a lifetime of unfinished business of the heart, and that was the catalyst that urged me to seek the truth about us all. 

In the last ten years of her life, we wrote letters to each other as a gesture of mutual respect. The letters were chatty at first, but then she shared a little more, and I began to get to know her. She lived quietly, died 40 years ago, and only a few people missed her. As distant as our connection was, I was the only “family” she had. She named me in her will, and it was my job to return to Texas (after a few life-tragedies of my own) to empty her apartment and clear away the last tangible evidence of her existence. That experience was heart-searing, and I began to realize: Unless I tell her side of the story, nobody else ever will. 

So I began to tell all of our stories, tangled together by invisible forces of spirit and blood. The untruths we’re taught as children “for our own good” that stain our innocence, that forbid us to be who we truly are, and hold us hostage for life unless we find our own way to the truth. Then in the end, the  family secret. Every family has one, but nobody talks about it, and everybody knows it but doesn’t know they know.
__________________________________________________________________________________

Of the trilogy, Victory Is My Name, Book 1: The Burning Barrel is now available from Internet or brick and mortar bookshops. The e-book is available at your favorite web booksellers. Search by author, Victoria Chames.

If you are interested in being a Beta Reader for the first draft of Victory Is My Name, Book Two: The West Bank, now in progress., please contact me through “Victory” at Darkhorse Press. Thank you.

________________________________________________________________

The book is Victory Is My Name, a Memoir. This is a trilogy, and the first section, Book One: The Burning-Barrel launched in February and is available everywhere in paperback and e-book. Publishers’s sampler: http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html


28. Writing as a Spiritual Practice

10/06/2020

If you write, you are a writer. If you don’t, you could. In her book, The Right To Write, author Julia Cameron says: 

“We should write, because we are writers whether we call ourselves that or not.” She says this about everyone, and goes on to say that it is “our natural birthright, a spiritual inheritance.” and she declares for those of us who still doubt, “Higher forces speak to us through writing. “

If you feel called to explore and/or share what you are feeling in this life, write it. In a journal, on a scrap of paper, and old envelope, the little pad you use for the grocery list, or in a simple spiral notebook that you keep “around” for jotting down thoughts.

Publishing, or not-publishing, is not the measure of a writer. Your voice is not less valuable if it is quiet, or even silent. It brings messages from within yourself to your conscious awareness as nothing else can do. You can trust the voice within you, even though, fair warning: it can be painfully truthful sometimes. 

Anything you write, no one else need ever see. It is private, a place where you can safely be completely honest. Write, and then close the notebook. Put it away for a few days without looking. When you open it again and read it with fresh eyes, you will likely be surprised to discover something about yourself that you didn’t know you knew.

This is how we all, writers or not, can open the channel to the subconscious wisdom we all have, our own truth, which is given to no one else unless we ourselves choose to share it.

Write. Publish or don’t. Nobody needs to publish. We may want to, or not, but that is not the essence of this gift of expression we have all been given. That’s just the gravy. A condiment to truth, to life, but not the life itself. So write if you want to, and publish if you dare to, but either way, know that not everyone wants or needs the gravy.  Write anyway. Write for you. Write for the discovery of your deeper self. Write as a spiritual practice.



All essays this website: writertowrite / northberkeleywriters are © by Victoria Chames and may not be republished in any form without written permission of the author. You may use the Contact page on this blog to request permission to republish or excerpt. Please uphold the ethical as well as federal laws against unfair use of another writer’s work. – Thank you.


27. To Tell The Truth

09/17/2020

In a few days I will send out the email book-launch announcement about my book, Victory Is My Name, a Memoir. The introduction says, “This  book will not be everybody’s cup of tea.”

Everyone who loves to read has a favorite flavor and brew. Maybe it’s romance novels with passion, sex, and reliable happy endings. Or Sci-Fi, that transports us to another place with different possibilities than this messed-up world we’ve let build up around us on planet Earth. Or detective mysteries– I do love British period-mysteries like Agatha Christie’s Inspector Poirot. I enjoy trying to guess who-done-it, knowing that the odd little man will always figure it out. For others, maybe it’s “Thrillers.” They sell like hotcakes. Or murder tales of Blood and guts galore. (No thanks, not my cup of tea.)

This book is not about any of that. Not a beach-book, not a tell-all, not entertainment. This story, at risk of failing to win the approval of a great many readers, is about telling the truth. It’s about making mistakes, and doing the best you can with what you get. Life is not an even playing field. It’s not always fair. But my granny told me “Life never gives us more than we can bear” and because I was innocent enough to believe that, in my life ahead, I did do more than anyone else thought possible.

It must be said that every novel carries some essential truths at its core, but memoir is the only genre that is obligated, expected, and pledged, to tell the truth. I don’t write fiction, mostly because I have never needed to. Real life is constantly exploding with stories to be told and shared. We all, as human beings, learn about life, in the long run, from life. Our own and each other’s. But these are the true stories about real life that we as a social species, are usually constrained not to tell.

But I say, Why not tell the truth? You can’t please everybody anyway. Trust me, I tried for the first 26 years of my life. It never worked. I did that while trying to hide and protect myself, so people wouldn’t hurt me. They hurt me anyway. (But that’s another story…)

Fair warning: If you read my book, you may be offended, annoyed, even angry with this person, the storyteller/protagonists/myself, for being so naive, and so stupid. Or you might cry real tears when she makes the same mistakes you did. But you will likely also be inspired some too, and heartened by her courage, and her large and small victories that defied the odds and prove in the end a truth beyond dispute: girls can.

In the last decade or so, memoir has become recognized as a serious literary genre that can take many different creative forms. Since books like Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life and Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club, and Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, authentic well-written memoirs are drawing a new crowd of readers who are willing and even hungry for the truth.

Like myself, Author McCourt became a writer late in life. He wrote a different kind of memoir, and when he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature, he said, “All I had was this story. It took me two years and all my life to write it.” I understand exactly what he meant.

I believe the world is ready for truth, and tragically acutely in need of it. We are in the grip of a humanity-wide need for a different choice from the lies we are drowning in now. Humanity is getting many urgent wake up calls from the techno-sleep we have fallen into. A clear un-distorted, un-photo-shopped window to actual reality, and real life, must open.

Many of us, like lemmings that have already gone off the cliff, are swimming in an ocean of confusion, longing for something we can hold onto. something we can believe in. Most of us have a disturbingly deep need to get our feet on the ground again, like back in the day when ethics were clear, when we knew what mattered, and we knew what was what. We had been introduced into what life was supposed to be by real live people, parents, or early schoolteachers. Now most children of the last generation were socialized by the ethics of video murder-games, casually committing murders and mass-murders mentally six or more hours a day, starting a age five. This was presented as “normal.” And we are seeing the harvest of that on the Breaking News. These are tomorrow’s leaders, but some of them, we can dare to hope, are today’s readers.

I was fortunate to grow up in the 50’s, when things were simpler, and Presidents, businesses, and ordinary people had values and decency. Those days are gone. We need to start where we are, and meet each other honestly for the first time. Tell the truth about what life is, and how it matters. That’s what Victory is about.

This will probably be called a “women’s book,” though its truths apply to all of us who struggle to fit Who We Are into What The World Expects/ demands from us. In Victory there are painfully honest truths that apply to all genders, about the imperfection of human beings, personal courage, the value of mistakes, the inner spark of sacredness, and the flickering but undying pilot-light of faith.

Victory Is My Name, a Memoir
Book One: The Burning Barrel
$4.95 E-BOOK 978-0-9841730-4-4
$15.95  PAPEBACK 978-0-9841730-9-9
The E-Book is available now,
the PAPERBACK will be available Oct.1, 2020
at most online and brick & mortar bookstores.
More information, Publisher’s Page & Sampler

Tags: memoirNew Thought EssaysThe TruthWritingwriting memoir


26. In Defense of Editors

08/17/2018
Editors are a bloodless lot. Ink runs in their veins. Like street paramedics, firefighters, and ER caregivers, the editors are the people whose job is not always lovely work, but it’s the work that must be done to save the savable lives. I spent 25 years in the emergency service and rescue professions, and people often asked me how I could do this, when it was obviously something that’s hard to do. It occurs to me now, that editors might be asked the same question. I have done a little bit of editing and I have some very modest skills in that, but I’ve got to say, as people have said to me about what I do – “I wouldn’t want that job! It’s not my cup of tea.” The truth of the matter is, life tends to call us each to some path or other, and provides us with the skills and tools and temperament we need for it. If we have the courage to do that thing we’re called to do, even though it’s not always easy or fun, we will be good at it. If we do something else, either because it seems easier or because other people tell us we should, we never are as good at life itself as we could be. Momentary digresion:  Expunge the word “should” from your vocabulary permanently. Strike-through it any/every time it pops up, and you will find that all of your thorniest decisions become astonishingly clearer and easier. The editor’s calling is very different from mine, which is one of the reasons it’s so valuable for me. It’s the perspective I can’t see by myself. It’s the reason my editor battles me, to make my work the best it can be. What we are doing, what we are creating, depends on us both. Dear editor: I hate you and I love you, because for better or for worse, you are my partner on the fire-line and in the trenches, and I know this. ___________________________________________________________

Of the trilogy, Victory Is My Name, Book 1: The Burning Barrel is now available from Internet or brick and mortar bookshops. The e-book is available at your favorite web booksellers. Search by author, Victoria Chames.

If you are interested in being a Beta Reader for the first draft of Victory Is My Name, Book Two: The West Bank, now in progress., please contact me through “Victory” at Darkhorse Press. Thank you.

________________________________________________________________

The book is Victory Is My Name, a Memoir. This is a trilogy, and the first section, Book One: The Burning-Barrel launched in February and is available everywhere in paperback and e-book. Publishers’s sampler: http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html

25. What Writers Do

07/09/2018
I wanted to bring something with me to the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference in August to put on the “consignment table,” where workshop leaders and attendees can put out a few of their books for sale. I looked through my  small personal catalog of works and decided to take a book of poetry called A Space Between Rains, and maybe a little chapbook titled Inchworms. The chapbook was something I had sort-of thrown together in 2014 as a birthday gift for a writer friend, and never expected to publish. Besides writing, my friend was a full-time student and working part-time too, a very busy young man. His thank you, a few days later, was the best compliment I’ve ever received as a writer. He said, “I didn’t have time to read it, so I decided to just read one story. And then I read the whole book, cover to cover.” So this year, searching for something “good enough” for the conference, I came back to it. Since then, more stories and poems have been added, and it has morphed into a viable book, with a cover blurb that says: “a lively little flea-market of a book…” A true definition of a chapbook, surely. There are stories that are blithe and happy, but also some that are deeper and dark. This is not intended to be brilliant literature. Its essence is sometimes sweet and funny, often philosophical between the lines, and wiser than it seems. The title story is about a little girl, three years old, observing and describing an inchworm, a tiny green creature she finds in the chicken yard that is her backyard in North Carolina. She tells us about it, sharing her love of it with us. One page long, the story is simply a very young mind discovering the life around her. In later pages as she grows and sees more, the stories and poems do too. That’s it. That’s all it is. This morning I realized that this is what we are all doing as writers, no matter what genre. We are observing life, discovering events and meanings, always more intimately, more vastly, and more truly, and we are inspired – no, compelled — to share what we have discovered. We want to shout from the mountaintop: “Wow – Look at this! This is Who We Are! This is what Life Is! Isn’t it marvelous? Isn’t it terrible? Wonderful, painful, joyous, profound, magnificent? To BE here and be alive, discovering it all?” That’s what writers do. And somewhere hidden in a deep  place the world can’t pry into, we know that this is what we came here to do: to discover life and share it by telling it. With or without worldly recognition or reward, we write. ______________________________________________

Of the trilogy, Victory Is My Name, Book 1: The Burning Barrel is now available from Internet or brick and mortar bookshops. The e-book is available at your favorite web booksellers. Search by author, Victoria Chames.

If you are interested in being a Beta Reader for the first draft of Victory Is My Name, Book Two: The West Bank, now in progress., please contact me through “Victory” at Darkhorse Press. Thank you.

________________________________________________________________

The book is Victory Is My Name, a Memoir. This is a trilogy, and the first section, Book One: The Burning-Barrel launched in February and is available everywhere in paperback and e-book. Publishers’s sampler: http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html

24. Memoir Snapshot: 3 Women

06/12/2018
There’s a little photograph I keep on my refrigerator door. In it, three women are sitting in a porch swing on the plain unadorned wooden porch of a farmhouse, somewhere in rural Illinois. The women pose with proper grace, smiling for the Kodak camera, with their hands folded neatly in their laps. The house is quite small, made of clapboard neatly painted white. It’s summer. Emerald green fields of corn stretch out behind the house and seem to go on forever, all the way to the horizon. This is the front of the house, and the two windows that face the road are plain and functional too, and there are no curtains. The porch shade is more than enough from the midday sun, and there are no neighbors near enough to look in. It’s Sunday after church, and the women are my mother and my two sisters. They have traveled all the way from Dallas Texas to Bloomington Illinois for Mother’s 50th high school reunion. This house is a place where Mother lived a long time ago as a child, and the current residents have welcomed her to the old homestead and invited all of them to stay for dinner. In this small snapshot I can see through time, to past generations of strong farm women, practical, hard-working and generous. I love this little picture for its sweetness, its honesty and simplicity. Mother has left us now, gone from her place here on earth to a higher calling. Both of my sisters still live in Texas, both have grown children now. My own path has taken me from Texas to the East Coast, to the Midwest, and finally to the West Coast of Northern California where I call home, a long long way from Illinois. I take the picture down from its magnet on the fridge door and hold it in my hand for a moment. I hold these women in my heart forever. ________________________________________________

Of the trilogy, Victory Is My Name, Book 1: The Burning Barrel is now available from Internet or brick and mortar bookshops. The e-book is available at your favorite web booksellers. Search by author, Victoria Chames.

If you are interested in being a Beta Reader for the first draft of Victory Is My Name, Book Two: The West Bank, now in progress., please contact me through “Victory” at Darkhorse Press. Thank you.

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The book is Victory Is My Name, a Memoir. This is a trilogy, and the first section, Book One: The Burning-Barrel launched in February and is available everywhere in paperback and e-book. Publishers’s sampler: http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html

23. Query Letters and Cowboy Boots

05/07/2018
As I write my book, along the way I’m putting together the necessary “query letter” for potential agents/publishers– the first level of approach/sales-pitch to get published. I scribble bits of ideas that come to me at odd times. Today sitting in my little neighborhood church in Oakland, I was not thinking about the book and certainly not the query letter, when a new segment of “my readership” suggested itself:  Gay men… and everyone else who has a sensibility that’s strong but gentle and vulnerable, who probably has had to be on guard for most of their lives, even ashamed, lest that gentleness at their center might be found out, rejected, or abused. Though this will certainly be catalogued as a “women’s” book,  the fact of the matter is, all of us struggle to fit Who We Are  into What The World Expects of us instead, and usually demands from us. That’s one of the themes of the book of course, and truth be told, we all spend most of our lives trying to understand who we are, and then find the courage to dare to genuinely be that. The greatest obstacles are the deeply-embedded lies we were taught about ourselves when we were children, either by people who should have loved us but didn’t, or more often by people who did, and lied because they loved us, and wanted to protect us from life. The book is about a skinny little girl who loves horses and fire engines. She gets repeatedly told by the big people “You can’t have that, you can’t do that, you can’t be that” (about these and most of the things she wants) because you’re a girl. And what’s worse, there is the powerful unspoken mandate: “You shouldn’t want those things,” (because) girls don’t. “Who says?” She demands, to no avail. Again and again she asks, “Why not?” and gets no reasonable answer. “Those things are for boys,” they say. What the child hears clearly is: Who you are is not okay. It’s not okay to want what you want. It’s a big fat lie, and somewhere in every child’s heart we know this, but what can we do? We’re just a kid. Some of the same lies are passed along for generations, always  when we’re young and vulnerable and trusting, newly-learning about what life’s supposed to be. By words or actions, many of us were informed, “You shouldn’t be who you are, and it’s wrong to want to be.”  If you’re a boy, you’ve got to like baseball, not art or music or poetry. If you’re a girl, you must like dolls and dresses and tea-sets, not horses and fire engines. I remember with crystal clarity, the day my brother got cowboy boots. I got all excited and asked, “Ooooh! Do I get some cowboy boots too?” My parents laughed and said, “Oh no honey, cowboy boots are for boys. You can have some pretty ballet slippers…” I was four years old. “Ballet slippers?” I was stunned. “WHO wants THAT?” I begged for cowboy boots too. It didn’t do any good. Even now I can still feel the ache and sting of being so terribly wronged and cheated. I pleaded, in my own defense, “I couldn’t help it that I was born a girl! I didn’t get to choose!” For the next decade I was a closet-tomboy, sneaking out to climb trees and roofs and fire-escapes and gallop around the neighborhood pretending I was a racehorse. Eventually I grew up and turned out straight, which made things easier, especially in Texas in the 1950’s and 60’s. I learned to “act like a lady” and I obeyed the rules. I married and worked two jobs, the telephone company and a department store, to put my young husband through graduate school. I was a good wife. I spent the 4 1/2 loneliest years of my life like that, until finally I realized that I had no Life, and I had no Self. I was living in his shadow, and whoever I used to be had gotten lost somewhere in the dark. Not his fault– we both played the roles we were brought up to play. This works sometimes for some people. Not this time, not for me. Leaving was hard. It felt like more than a failure, it felt like a death, but I knew it had to happen. I got a divorce. I took my life back. I bought myself a pair of cowboy boots. ______________________________________________________

Of the trilogy, Victory Is My Name, Book 1: The Burning Barrel is now available from Internet or brick and mortar bookshops. The e-book is available at your favorite web booksellers. Search by author, Victoria Chames.

If you are interested in being a Beta Reader for the first draft of Victory Is My Name, Book Two: The West Bank, now in progress., please contact me through “Victory” at Darkhorse Press. Thank you.

Victory Is My Name, a Memoir. This is a trilogy, and the first section, Book One: The Burning-Barrel launched in February and is available everywhere in paperback and e-book. Publishers’s sampler: http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html

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