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

22. Good Writing / Bad Writing

04/24/2018
I love going to readings at local bookstores, like Diesel on College Avenue, Berkeley. Often there are great people there. The guy who wrote Kite Runner was there, with his wife and son. Maxine Hong Kingston read there, and the godfather of Poetry Flash, Richard Silberg is a regular. One week it was a guy who had a good opening chapter which he read, so I bought the book. The rest of the book turned out to be a rather corny contrived 1950s detective story, crammed with gratuitous violence and cardboard characters, seeded with bits of jargon and dialogue he must have picked up from reading old True Detective magazines. The book was dreadfully boring (to me, with my own tastes and prejudices) so I skipped ahead looking for something interesting. I got all the way to the end of the book without finding that. Hmmmmm… As writers, we are prone to getting so deeply immersed in “our thing” that we forget there is someone else to consider – the reader.  You could tell that the writer loved his ending, reveling in his own brilliance. It was a long, drawn-out, TV-style scene of meaningless violence, clumsily written in slow motion. (Hey, here’s a thought: When ya write about violence, dontcha think maybe the writing should be sharp, fast-moving, or in other words, violent?) When you slow it down and do a close-up of every punch, every gory detail, and every button on the detective’s overcoat sleeve, it has no power. I would hate to have to write a newspaper literary review for something like this, and have to say “The plot was glacier-like, and the characters had no flesh, no bones and no heartbeat.” (Okay, that’s awfully harsh, girl. Who died and made you the chairman of the Pulitzer Prize Committee?) I actually have no experience or expertise in book reviewing, only that tired old basic principle I heard so many times when I was a young artist: “I don’t know much about art, (literature, music, fill in the blank: _________ ) but I know what I like.”  Many thoughts this morning about writers and writing, and about how many books get published that are definitely not literature. The publishing business is not about literature, it’s about selling books, and schlock sells better than art or literature. In a group I once frequented, the teacher/leader had two published books. I only recently got around to reading one of them, the most recent one. (It wasn’t in the pubic library so I stalled around for years.) The book wasn’t very good. In fact I was shocked at how weak and unimaginative the first page was. (I’m no expert about professional writing or publishing, but I do know, Ya gotta have something pretty good on the first page, or else nobody’s gonna turn it over and read the second page.) I might be a snob-reader, it certainly could be justifiably argued. I tend to be too critical, of myself and others. But is there really much point in putting pen to paper for stuff like that?  Unless you do it to make money… well, after all, that is a necessity in this world, to pay the rent, and writing is an honest profession, mostly.  So I admit, shamefully, that I’m a snob (or something equally wormlike) in my tough standards for writing. In my defense, I’m as hard on myself as I am on anyone else. Anyway, I have put the group-leaders’s book into my goodwill collection box. Somebody will love it. Which brought me to the bottom line of what I think is true.  Whether you write for an audience, or for the benefit of humankind, or simply write for your own pleasure, writing is expression, which is always a good thing. It’s a natural thing, like the wordless songs babies sing in their cribs in the morning that wake you up with a a laugh.  It’s not exactly music… or is it?

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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

21. Plot

04/08/2018
Every good writer/teacher’s chapter on Plot begins the same way: What does the protagonist want? And then, What obstacle(s) stand in the way of getting it? And there it is: your plot. In my memoir Victory Is My Name, what Vickie wants is what everybody wants, if they only knew it. She wants to be free to be who she really is, and express that real self in the world. She knows, and knew even as a child, that the true Self of Her has value and gifts that should not be hidden, but shared. In the beginning she has no overt awareness of this and no way to express it without breaking the rules, but the urgency of this need will be ongoing through her life. The core of the book is the hard path of unlearning the untruths we’re taught as children that we unconsciously allow to rule our lives. Becoming aware is step one, not easy, and can only come through life experiences, especially failures and bad choices. (We learn more from failure than from success, and the lessons are profound.) I had to rein myself in from the need to explain everything important. I had to avoid getting teachy or preachy or psychologizing. Hard for me – to command my ever-intruding left brain’s urge to explain and document the parts of the process. Process, it turns out, is Life itself.  Explanation and dcumentation, though sometimes tasty and even nourishing, are really the parsley. So I have placed no diagrams, circles and arrows, or dotted lines in the manuscript. Whoever reads this book will find what they are ready to find.  I hope it wil inspire people to write about their own lives, because the experience of looking upon all these events, joys, sorrows, and mistakes as a disembodied observer from somewhere else in consciousness, has been heavily loaded with personal epiphanies for me and simple truths of great beauty. Like most of us, Vickie, my young self, stumbles toward the dim light of something that’s unrecognized but urgent. Through decades, the earliest rules and laws she was taught hold her hostage like invisible but impassable walls. Brick by brick, with only bare hands, is the only way to break through. Does she succeed? I will let the reader decide.

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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

20. Illegitimi Non-Carborundum

01/11/2018
Tobias Wolff’s memoir, This Boy’s Life, was the book that sparked my literary/artistic ambition to the point of making a rock-solid commitment to completing and publishing my book. Before that, I was just working on it quietly, privately, as a maybe-someday-author. But after that, I took the pledge, literally, out loud to myself one night before I went to sleep. I told God I would do it. Well, lots of never-published-authors do that. That was important, but still safe. Then I read Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club, and it resonated with my own life and mistakes, the circus-characters of my family and my expatriated state of Texas. (Her town in The Liars Club is a disguised Port Arthur Texas, where Janis Joplin was born and her troubled lonesome soul never really escaped from.) I went to hear Karr in one of those interview/conversations at an old hall at UC Berkeley, and that clinched it for me. I had been genuinely writing my book, but still on the down-low. Anybody can do that. I realized that I had to take the leap into the abyss. I had to become A Writer, publicly, brazenly, and make myself emotionally bare-ass-naked to the world. OMG. From that moment, things started to change. The lens shifted, somewhere out in the universe a gear clicked, and it was scary as hell. Now I was no longer invisible; anybody could take a shot at me. I took a few hits. I said ouch. But I had served eight years as a line firefighter a decade before, where I’d learned how to take a hit, get up quick, and get back on-task. But this was different. It wasn’t physical. It wasn’t bad reviews that stung, I didn’t get so many of those. What I got was, strangely, entirely unexpected subtle but discernible bad vibes from other writers. Veiled snarkyness. We writers are a jealous lot. Hypersensitive and neurotically vulnerable, most of us. Perhaps it’s this artist’s temperament that enables us to receive profound meaning and God-sent talents of expression, that also makes us easy victims to insecurities and self-doubts. Sometimes we fall into something less than our truest and best selves. Lately I’ve been learning and practicing the Buddhist concept of non-attachment. (It does take practice, like a foreign language.) It works like this:  When you feel yourself being snagged and pulled down by an emotion like jealousy, self-doubt, fear (the worst one) or any negative feeling, first, just notice it. Notice how it makes you feel bad/ uncomfortable/ unhappy, and you don’t like that. The action to take to change this circumstance is simple but effective. Admit it to yourself, (yes, I’m feeling like this) and then Let the feeling go. Push it away, and go on to something else you do like. Easier said than done of course. So I devised a trick upon myself. (You could try it if you like, it might work for you.) I say, out loud, right in the middle of the feeling, “I don’t need this.” And then I visualize myself picking it up with two fingers, (like something nasty) putting it into a plain white business-size envelope, securely sealing the flap, and dropping it into the trash. Done. I actually do feel noticeably better, lighter, and I feel like a real smarty-pants for so cleverly handling myself and refusing the annoying aggravation. I smile a smug little smile, think to myself, I win. And I go back to work. The truth of the matter is that in the expression of the gift that has been given to you, no one else’s opinion matters as much as yours.  Every day remind yourself. Recognize, (“re-know”) and commit to this truth: This person may be either trying to help you, or hurt you. It doesn’t matter which, because nobody else can tell you how to be your best you, nobody else knows. You will find the answer inside yourself if you keep on seeking it. Everything else is not “the truth,” it’s an opinion. A perception. A different perspective. These can often be useful and valuable, as long as you don’t forget that they are not necessarily the truth. When you get a disappointing response to a heartfelt endeavor, the problem is not that there’s anything about you that someone else should or could fix, the problem is that they didn’t know this. What they don’t know, as well as what they think, actually can’t hurt you unless you choose to let it. Don’t choose to let it. Don’t give in to doubts, misunderstandings, or insecure jealousies, and never give them squatters-rights in your mind. Get a big box of plain white #10 business envelopes… (and be sure to empty the trash every day.)

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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. For a sampler, go to http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html

If you’re 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 @ darkhorsepress dot com  Thank you.


19. How To Learn How

12/30/2017
When I was much younger than I am now, I wanted to become a firefighter.* Never mind why – it’s a long story. I was small compared to the male firefighter Wanna-Bes I was competing with. I went to the gym and pumped a whole lot of iron and didn’t get much bigger but I got  hecka-strong. (It took a while.) I applied at every fire department hiring opportunity that came up and took the tests. First is the written – easy enough if you study hard. (You should study really hard.) Next, if you pass the written, you get to take the physical agility test. I failed the physical agility tests of first three departments I tried for, at first by a mile, and then by inches, and finally by 2/10 of a second. I went back to the gym. I applied at more fire departments and took more tests. I failed another one. Maybe two. I forget now. Once I passed, It didn’t matter, I would pass some more… I had to fail, to learn how. I had never encountered those kinds of challenges, or even those kinds of objects, lifting and carrying heavy rolls of fire-hose, climbing the 100-foot aerial ladder, dragging the 160-pound dummy through the tunnel. (At first I only weighed 115 pounds myself.) Very early I learned two Essential Truths, and I’ll share them with you in a minute. There are wonderful things you can learn from Brooks, that’s one of the reasons I love them so much. But there are some things you cannot learn that way. You can’t learn how to play home-run baseball…   out of a book. You can’t learn how to downhill ski… out of a book. And you can’t learn how to be a firefighter and perform the skills a firefighter must do extremely well, very quickly, and absolutely reliably… out of a book. Here comes one of those Essential Truths I mentioned. (You may want to take notes.) Essential Truth #1: The only way to learn how to do it is to do it. Take downhill skiing, for example. The first day when you go out to the bunny hill with awkward boots and slats for feet, what’s going to happen? Right! You fall on your butt. Not once, but many times. And there will be people around who will see you fall on your butt. Little kids will laugh. Some adults will smile smugly. Others will be annoyed because you’re messing up the good snow with your sit-splats, besides getting in everybody’s way. “She shouldn’t even be here! She doesn’t know how to ski at all.” The next day, you will again fall on your butt in front of everybody. A lot. But probably you will be doing a little bit better, and there will be thrilling moments when just for short distances, you get it, and miraculously, it works. It feels like flying! Your heart, for sure, is flying. Now when you fall, you get up quicker, you want some more of that good feeling. By the third or fourth day,  your spirits soar more times, for longer moments, right before each time you crash clumsily again. But now you will be up more time than down, and though not exactly smoothly or elegantly, you are skiing! We must expect the same from our writing.  In the beginning, it’s the beginning. While the first levels of success in skiing may take a few days, writing more likely will take a few years. We’re learning how to express our gift. For every great writer, there was a beginning. Thus, Essential Truth #1 about writing: The only way you can learn how to do it is to do it. But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself. Oh, and the skiing is fun too. Essential Truth #2: Failure is a necessary part of the process. Falling down is one of the first things we do in life. It is necessary, inherent, and valuable. Failure is how we learn what to do and what not to do. There is no other way. Besides, we never learn as much from success as we do from failure. Therefore, allow yourself this. Expect to not be a brilliant writer right away. Expect a cartload of disappointments and possibly humiliations along the way. These do not prove you are un-brilliant. They only mark a serious commitment to the truest and best expression of whatever is your unique personal gift. It will be different from most people. Most people live their whole lives without expressing their truth, not because they don’t have any gifts, but because they don’t have the enormous courage it takes to do it.

Don’t be one of those. Fly down the hill, again and again. Fall on your butt with determination, and with embarrassed, wounded, but unconquerable pride, Get up.  Fall down. Get up, keep going. You can do this,  if you want it bad enough. Because if writing is truly your path, you will do it. __________________________________________________

*I did become a firefighter and served eight years with Alameda County OES Fire Department as a line firefighter and officer. ofcr me w2w

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. For a sampler, go to http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html

If you’re 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 @ darkhorsepress dot com  Thank you.


8. Rain Thoughts

09/30/2017
I’m still trying to to break a stubborn habit of sleeping late and missing too much of the morning– my best time to write. I worry that this might be a symptom of my sometimes moods of melancholy and borderline depression, the writers Demon. Today I am up early though, 7:30, and watching the sunrise gradually lighten up the dark sky. Everything is silent now. Nothing is moving except the tops of the trees, heaving in the winds, then settling down again. Rain is coming. I love to write. Love to have a pen in my hand, just to make marks on paper. When I write in my journal, sometimes I have nothing to say. I write anyway. Sometimes surprising things come. If there’s nothing to say, I write fiddle-faddle, just because I need to be writing something. I’ve had this urge to write ever since I was six years old and first learned how. I never got over the wonder of it, making marks on paper, clean and sharp, that said things. Marks that could make the pictures that were in my mind, and tell the stories. My book is going slowly. I’m impatient. This is hard. It’s not flowing. This is like cross-country skiing through wet cement. And yet, I marvel at how lucky I am– to be warm indoors, waiting for the rain. Hot coffee, cozy room, silvery sky, and the sweet promise of soft rain. The rain begins now, very faint and misty, hardly more than a whisper of fog that settles almost invisibly onto everything, refreshing the green living things and making them tremble with wetness and expectation. I’m grateful for the life I have, even though it’s not all I want. Outside my window the trees sway gently in the winds, first harbingers of good hard rains to come. Gusts are troublng the branches of the little lemon tree, and ruffling the trumpet vine on the fence. That trumpet vine would have bright red-orange flowers, but it does not bloom. Underneath the big oak tree, there is never enough sunlight falling on it, even on the brightest days. But it is beautiful still, it is being as beautiful as it can, where it is. It cannot move out of the shadows.  But I can,  And maybe not today, but soon, I will.

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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. For a sampler, go to http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html

If you’re 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 @ darkhorsepress dot com  Thank you.


18. Write On

09/29/2017
I’m still looking for a beta reader or two. I never imagined they would be so hard to find. A few  friends began to read the book, but when they got to the hard parts, they just stopped. Admittedly, this book is not for every casual beach-reader, it’s not a romance, Sci-Fi  or a fairytale. It’s true, and there are parts of it that are dark, where people do things that are not kind, and things happen that are ugly. But no soul is ugly. This is a deep lesson. It’s the one I learned in my years as a caregiver in a hospital emergency room. That’s where every kind and level of human life comes together in one place, sooner or later. To see the Soul  in some of these— lifelong drunks and drug addicts in rain-and-urine-soaked clothes with lice and cockroaches living on their bodies, and the stench was horrible – it was nearly impossible. But what the a 13th-century Persian poet Rumi said  is still true: Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”  And these wretched remnants of humanity I served and fed and cared for, I finally learned, were the Bodhisattva who have come to teach us what not to choose. So I write on, as writers do, it’s what we do because we must. Today I still have a ton of work to do and it all seems so impossible. There are times when it flows, but sometimes it’s like turning the crank on the old steel hand-operated meatgrinder my Greek grandmother used, part of the necessary work to prepare the marvelous spaghetti sauce that only she could make.

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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. For a sampler, go to http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html

If you’re 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 @ darkhorsepress dot com  Thank you.


17. Writing From the Inside

08/11/2017
What I’m writing is a memoir but has become something of an epistle of faith. When I look across my history and the history of my family from the outside now, I see patterns and meanings I didn’t see when I was looking from the inside out. I’m not leading, I am led. It is being written like a letter not from my usual ego view, but more as if spoken from some inner voice, seen by inner eyes, uncontrived and unplanned. Whatever comes to me that rings true and real, I write it down. If it has value, it will stay. If it is meaningless or useless, it will be discarded. These things take care of themselves. All of my poetry came this way – as gifts of grace, never as the product of conscious effort, craft, or intention. I trust the soundless voice that speaks, much more than I trust my own limited and confused intellect. When I was in my twenties, an artist and a fledgling poet, I said to God “Make me your instrument.” Maybe God will finally do that, or maybe that’s the One who placed the desire there to begin with. Either way, the prayer has not really changed much, for I have learned and relearned: by myself I can do nothing of real importance or significance, but when I’m driven to the page by that unnamed voice, something clear and clean and beautiful emerges into the light of ordinary day. In that moment, the ordinariness, the stories, the simple truths of life become what they have always been, but unseen: they become sacred. My response to this can only be awe, wonder, and gratefulness.

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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. For a sampler, go to http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html

If you’re 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 @ darkhorsepress dot com  Thank you.


16. About Writing Your Memoir

06/21/2017
Angelou quote.png I always tell people, “Everyone should do this.” But with the caveat that you probably should not do it until you’re at least 50 years old, because you might not be able to handle it. It’s no small deal. Telling your truth honestly and earnestly means time-travel, not just remembering. Being a disembodied observer looking down impartially like a sacred voyeur. You will see things you never saw– about your life, yourself, and the people along your path– truths and revelations you could not have seen with your younger eyes. This will be painful. It will also be healing. Old wounds you didn’t realize you had will open right before your eyes, and bleed and leak other nasty stuff you never realized was in there. That’s the bad news. The good news is, you will see other things too, that you didn’t notice before: the beauty of yourself and other “imperfect” souls in your story. I promise you, you’ll be astonished, and quite possibly overcome with love and respect for that stumbling, blundering, courageous innocent that you really were. Emotional wounds,  big and small, are like abscesses, scarred over with guilt and denial. When opened again in a clean place with a good light, they have the opportunity to drain their poisons and finally heal. We all have old wounds, many from our earliest years on earth, because they go with the life-path. A big part of the adventure of life is about managing them, rather than just allowing them to manage you. This takes a mature observer, an experienced blunderer, a sympathetic listener.  This is the heart of my book. Writing a memoir forces us to re-open the time again, to look at ourselves and others in our story with mercy and compassion that puts whatever regret or guilt we have been carrying into a truer perspective. We can honestly forgive, and be forgiven.

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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. For a sampler, go to http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html

If you’re 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 @ darkhorsepress dot com  Thank you.


15. Why We Write

05/01/2017
I believe absolutely that life is inherently and necessarily about adventures, starting out innocent, blundering along, and discovering things. Learning about life, one way or another, is what it’s all about, and we write because we are inwardly compelled to share. Going off to college in Austin Texas was an adventure that took me out of the shelter of home to another city and an infinitely more exciting and joyful way of life. When I quit school and got married, I went on another adventure, not so joyful, to a cold and lonely East Coast. Life changed completely, irrevocably, when I gave up my life to support his. When I got divorced, I took my life back. That was the biggest leap of faith, and the most terrifying: to set out alone into unknown territory. I had stepped off the precipice into the abyss, with nothing but an utterly groundless faith and hope that there might be something else for me out there. There was. First the West Bank hippie-ghetto of Minneapolis opened up a different world and a different way of living and believing in Life with a capital L. Five years and lots of adventurws later, I came to California– a new state, a new time zone, and another new life. All this was jammed full with learning experiences, far beyond anything I could have imagined or ever would have planned. Some were wonderful, some were terribly painful and wounding. But I survived them, and I am, as they say, “still here to tell the tale” I know for sure that the most valuable thing I learned was that the nature and function of life, the reason we came here at all, is to venture out beyond our beginnings, beyond our safe-zone, and discover. To seek and find our own unique adventures and bring back the stories to share. If it had not been for the blundering rocky path I’ve traveled, I would not have this book to write. Think about this the next time you stub your toe on the lifepath. At the next rejection form-letter. You are out here in the cosmos for a reason, and no matter what happens, you always fail forward. Nothing can take you backward. No mateer where you find yourself right now, whatever genre you write, your treasure-trove of Life-Experience Resources is growing. Be aware of it. It gives you something more  to say that matters. You’re on your way, your own way. Write on.

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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. For a sampler, go to http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html

If you’re 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 @ darkhorsepress dot com  Thank you.


14. Dear Beta Readers

03/10/2017
First of all, thank you for participating in this pre-publication First Read, and helping me to write the best book I can. Some of you have known me at some time in my life. It’s going to be a task for you to step back, and read the stories as objectively as possible, as characters you’ve never met. That’s how you can help me in the writing process. As you read, or after a chapter, notice things like “what was my impression of this chapter? What stood out for me? What seems strong? Weak? Too fast or slow? Confusing? Unrealistic? Vivid?.” Was there enough of __(fill in the blank)__ or too much? Those are the things I need to know, things that if spotted and corrected will make the book better and clearer at saying what I want to say in a way that is understandable, not phony, not preachy, not fancy, and as genuinely as I can. Even though this is a memoir, in writing the stories, I found it helpful to think of the protagonist/ storyteller as simply a character in a book, not me. That changed both my perspective and my perception surprisingly. When I stepped back and looked at this funny little girl from a distance, as someone I was observing like a character in a movie, I saw things about her that I never could have seen when I was her.

So if you are one of my friends, don’t take Victoria with you into chapter one, dump her at the gate and leave her out of it. She is someone else, who came much later. The first time you meet Vickie, see her as somebody you have never met before. And in your comments and suggestions,  if you refer to this character as “the little girl” or “the storyteller.” That will help you keep a fresh unbiased perspective. For example, write “she was…” Not “you were…” Other than that, just enjoy a free book.

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Congratulations, you are now a Developmental Editor. Professional ones make big bucks for this. So please know how much I value and appreciate your participation in my creative process. This will surely bring you lovely Karma. I’ll be blogging more here about the beta reader experience, so y’all come back.

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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. For a sampler, go to http://www.darkhorsepress.com/sampler-victory.html

If you’re 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 @ darkhorsepress dot com  Thank you.


13. Beta Readers = Fresh Eyes

03/08/2017

A beta reader is someone who reads an unpublished manuscript at an early-draft stage and gives feedback to the writer. Beta readers provide a second perspective (or third, or fourth) which can often spot fixable flaws or shortfalls in the manuscript that the writer can’t see, because we are too close to it.

How does the process work? We have signed up with a terrific new site that takes care of the process for us, and just gives us your responses and views of the work. You can read as little or as much as you like, comment on some chapters or all, if you wish. Your impressions, your “take,” your point of view, is valuable.

On the web, the works and your comments are password-protected; they can’t be seen by search engines or any outside parties.

I’m seeking a few readers who might be:
(1) fellow-writers, but don’t know me personally, or
(2) non-writers, just people who love to read.

(3) people who know me, but are willing to take a chance on the real me…
(4) this will probably be cataloged as a “women’s” book, but its about overcoming the well-meant untruths we were all taught as children about gender-roles and responsibilities that hold us hostage in life.

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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.


12. Trust The Inner Voice

01/03/2017

I have learned to trust my intuition and the lines that come to me in the middle of the night, I get up and write them down. So many times, this is a stream from an unseen source, but it very often, very surprisingly, tells me truths I don’t even know yet. The book I’m writing was intended as a memoir but has become more like an epistle of faith. Looking

The book I’m writing was intended as a memoir but has become more like an epistle of faith. Looking across my history and the history of my family from the  outside-in, I can see patterns and meanings I didn’t see when I was looking from the inside-out. It is being written like a letter not from my persona’s usual view, but more as if spoken from some inner voice, seen by inner eyes, uncontrived and unplanned. Whatever comes to me from this source, I write it down. If it has value, if it that rings true and real, it will stay. If it should turn out to be unimportant, it will discard itself along the way–these things take care of themselves. All of my poetry came this way – as  gifts of grace, never as the product of conscious endeavor, craft, or intention. I trust the soundless voice that speaks much more than I trust my own limited and conflicted intellect.

When I was in my twenties, an artist and a fledgling poet, I said to God “Make me your instrument.” Maybe God will finally do that, or maybe that’s the One who placed the desire there to begin  with. Either way, the prayer has not really changed much, for I have learned and relearned that by myself I can do little of real importance or significance. But when I’m driven to the page by that unnamed voice, something clear and clean and beautiful emerges into the light of ordinary day. In that moment, the ordinariness, the stories, the simple truths of life become what they have always been, but unseen: they become sacred. My response to this can only be awe, wonder, and gratefulness.

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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.


11. It CAN Happen Here

12/25/2016

The American so-called “democratic” so-called “election” has shocked and stunned the world. I too have found this bizarre turn of history beyond my ability to bear. That this could happen in what has been a democracy shakes me profoundly. We have leapt into the abyss of mindless, godless violence, irrational hate and war, unaware that this could ever happen here. It IS happening. We are at the trembling brink of it. An irrational, power-mad dictator is already taking actions, (illegal ones because he is not yet sworn in) to start a third world war, apparently for the fun of it, and to show us all that he can. He is eagerly planning greater nuclear proliferation, and inciting countries worldwide to do the same. He is not a rational person, and his psychotic arrogance is more than dangerous, it is deadly.

From Psychology Today, via the internet:
“What is the definition of a sociopathic personality? Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a lack of regard for the moral or legal standards in the local culture. There is a marked inability to get along with others or abide by societal rules. Individuals with this disorder are sometimes called psychopaths or sociopaths.”
https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201305/how-spot-sociopath

Once again, “our government” has placed the LOSER of a so-called democratic election –WHO LOST BY THE LARGEST MARGIN IN HISTORY and yet was given to the LOSER of an election, into the seat of power, against the will of the people and to the shock and horror of the rest of the world.

There have been dictators before, but not here. There have been other hideous murdering madmen, many in fact – Adolf HItler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Idi Amin, Benito Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, all the ISIS wave of mindless hatred. All of these men were/are sociopaths. But not here. What they did, and what they stood for, has always been, up to now, what the U.S. has stood against, as the polar opposite of what we believe in. Now we have joined those tragedies too. We have “chosen,” even  thought it was against the will of the majority of the people, to give absolute power to a sociopath who has no allegiance toany established rules, and no regard for human life. There is evidence that the Russian leadership influenced this election as well, but even so, Trump lost the election, but was given the post of President, Commander in Chief, of our military forces, maker and destroyer of laws.

The purpose of this, I know, is Life’s way of waking us up, and it will be a terribly painful waking. There was so much to be done, and we didn’t do it. Now an utterly dehumanizing dictator will take over one of the most powerful nations of the world and PLAY with it like a video game, with no intention to serve anyone but himself, and no desire but to glorify himself, and to destroy all the other “players” and to “win.” If this sounds extreme, please Wake Up. Start by reading the truth of the matter, and realize that this person is not going to change or suddenly go sane. Now, Unless the Grace of God somehow miraculously intervenes, we are powerless to stop him.

for a detailed picture to compare that will make your blood run cold:   http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.htmlhttp://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html

And so, in fear and dread and sorrow, I asked myself, What can I do? What can I, myself, possibly do? And The answer was the same one as yours – tell my truth, my story, and let the love and humanizing of it reach whatever hearts are willing to receive it, and use it in their lives to make better choices than these that now darken the skies ahead for all of us, for years, perhaps decades, to come.

We have started down the path of death. All our news and entertainment media show it – nothing but bloody guts and murders and mutilations on every channel, 24 hours a day, including commercials. We have chosen violence, war, hatred and rage of the most demonic kind, such as we have never experienced in our history of having been so blessed and free. But Freedom is too easy to poison and misdirect, and all sociopaths are masters of deception and manipulation. The deranged Emperor Trump is already moving forward as fast as possible (even though illegally)  with his actions of destruction of everything the American people have built in 300 years. He cares nothing about humanity, why should he care about law?

I entreat you to read this, all who are not afraid of the truth, and make your own judgement. http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html

The voters could not stop him. We can blog, and we can talk, and we gather together to seek ways to survive this. At best, millions of us will lose our homes and our livelihoods and even their lives to one man’s insatiable greed, as he toys with global politics and upsets world trade balances display show his godlike power.

And so, Here we go, all of us, willing or not. If you are someone who prays, pray that Spirit/God/UniveralConsciousness/Allah/The Source, or whatever sacred name you know to call upon the grace of your soul’s highest power and loving protector, will find some way that we as human minds can’t see. In the meantime, we must do what is ours to do. Seek your mission, if you don’t already know it, and do commit to your highest work here. Whatever you can do to bring more of honesty, integrity, kindness even in the smallest simplest ways, do it. Love whoever you can, and forgive who you can’t. This is what we can do, and must do, to add more of that and less of hate to the world we must all live in together.

I have my work to do, my small part of whatever shall be the future for humankind. I turn again to that, and keep my own soul’s promise to do it.

The American so-called “democratic” so-called “election” has shocked and stunned the world. I too have found this bizarre turn of history beyond my ability to bear. That this could happen in what has been a democracy shakes me profoundly. We have leapt into the abyss of mindless, godless violence, irrational hate and war, unaware that this could ever happen here. It IS happening. We are at the trembling brink of it. An irrational, power-mad dictator is already taking actions, (illegal ones because he is not yet sworn in) to start a third world war, apparently for the fun of it, and to show us all that he can. He is eagerly planning greater nuclear proliferation, and inciting countries worldwide to do the same. He is not a rational person, and his psychotic arrogance is more than dangerous, it is deadly.

From Psychology Today, via the internet:
“What is the definition of a sociopathic personality? Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a lack of regard for the moral or legal standards in the local culture. There is a marked inability to get along with others or abide by societal rules. Individuals with this disorder are sometimes called psychopaths or sociopaths.”
https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201305/how-spot-sociopath

Once again, “our government” has placed the LOSER of a so-called democratic election –WHO LOST BY THE LARGEST MARGIN IN HISTORY to be given to the loser of an election, into the seat of power, against the will of the people and to the shock and horror of the rest of the world.

There have been dictators before, but not here. There have been other hideous murdering madmen, many – Adolf HItler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Idi Amin, Benito Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, all the ISIS wave of mindless hatred. All of these men were sociopaths. But not here. What they did, and stood for, has always been, up to now, what the U.S. has stood against, as the polar opposite of what we believe in. Now we have joined those tragedies too. We have “chosen,” even  thought it was against the will of the majority of the people, to give absolute power to a sociopath who has no allegiance toany established rules, and no regard for human life.

The purpose of this, I know, is Life’s way of waking us up, and it will be a terribly painful waking. There was so much to be done, and we didn’t do it. Now an utterly dehumanizing dictator (unless the Grace of God somehow unexpectedly intervenes) will take over one of the most powerful nations of the world and PLAY with it like a video game, with no intention to serve anyone but himself, and no desire but to glorify himself, and to destroy all the other “players” and to “win.” If this sounds extreme, please Wake Up. Start by reading the truth of the matter, and realize that this person is not going to change or suddenly go sane.

for a detailed picture to compare that will make your blood run cold:   http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.htmlhttp://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html

And so, in fear and dread and sorrow, I asked myself, What can I do? What can I, myself, possibly do? And The answer was the same one as yours – tell my truth, my story, and let the love and humanizing of it reach whatever hearts are willing to receive it, and use it in their lives to make better choices than these that now darken the skies ahead for all of us, for years, perhaps decades, to come.

We have started down the path of death. All our news and entertainment media show it – nothing but bloody guts and murders and mutilations on every channel, 24 hours a day, including commercials. We have chosen violence, war, hatred and rage of the most demonic kind, such as we have never experienced in our history of having been so blessed and free. But Freedom is too easy to poison and misdirect, and all sociopaths are masters of deception and manipulation. The deranged Emperor Trump is already moving forward as fast as possible (even though illegally)  with his actions of destruction of everything the American people have built in 300 years. He cares nothing about humanity, why should he care about law?

I entreat you to read this, all who are not afraid of the truth, and make your own judgement. http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html

The voters could not stop him. We can blog, and we can talk, and we gather together to seek ways to survive this. At best, millions of us will lose our homes and our livelihoods and even their lives to one man’s insatiable greed, as he toys with global politics and upsets world trade balances display show his godlike power.

And so, Here we go, all of us, willing or not. If you are someone who prays, please pray that Spirit/God/UniveralConsciousness/Allah/The Source, or whatever sacred name you know to call upon the guidance and grace of your soul’s highest power and loving protector, will find some way that we as human minds can’t yet see. In the meantime, we must do what is ours to do.

Seek your mission, if you don’t already know it, and do commit to your highest work here. Whatever you can do to bring more of honesty, integrity, kindness even in the smallest simplest ways, do it. Love whoever you can, and forgive who you can’t. This is what we can do, and must do, to add more of this, and less of hate to the world we must all live in together.

I have my work to do, my small part of whatever shall be the future for humankind. I turn again to that, and keep my own soul’s promise to do it.

________________________________


10. Real Books Will Live On

12/10/2016
When the Internet was born, they said traditional books would soon die out, but so far the opposite has happened. People are buying and reading more books than ever. E-books, though easily accessible, have not caught on as readily as expected. I think it’s partly because they simply are not as satisfying as a real book you can hold in your hands and sit by the fire all cozy and lovely, while another world comes alive with the delicious turning of real pages. I went to a poetry reading in Berkeley last night. I thought it was an open reading, so I brought some of my poems. It wasn’t. It was a group that meets once a month to read poetry from books,  anything from Keats to Dickinson to Ferlinghetti, nothing too “edgy” or avant-garde. It was a small group of adults with knowledgeable tastes. It was old-fashioned and surprisingly refreshing. We read from thick anthologies and thin paperbacks of individual poets we personally liked. I read from Wilfred Owen, a rather obscure poet of World War I, whose very beautiful poetry was the first to use consonantal rhyme. He was a significant trailblazer, though he was not recognized for this in his lifetime. Most of the credit for this went to a more well-known  but much less innovative contemporary named Sassoon, who urged Owen to return to the battlefield at the front lines, where he was mortally wounded and died. I still love books, real books. Solid physical-entity books with hardcovers and paper pages sometimes old and gilt-edged, sturdily bound, built to last. Books are important to the future of the world for a lot of reasons, but the first one that comes to me is that they connect us to some of humanity’s finest moments, deepest feelings, and highest thoughts, so that those are not lost. Real books are not trivial. Real books are not temporary, not made to be disposable like Styrofoam cups and razor blades and 90% of what’s on the Internet today, mostly “throwaway” art and culture, existing only in thin air or the flickering flash of the small screens of cold, hard, “devices.” E-books are useful of course, entertaining, informative, or educational, but they serve a limited temporary function and then are automatically discarded when the screen goes dark. Real books, living physical-entity books, have an inherent permanence that few things in our world have today. Style, legend, and legacy are easily lost on the Internet,  swallowed up and drowned in the ocean of minutiae, trivia, intelligentsia, jibber-jabber, in the rude, “edgy” and soulless fashion of our culture, in which there is too much of everything, and so, as much as possible is designed to be disposable and as brief as possible. “How RU? Im fyn.C U latr”  Sorry, that’s not enough for me.

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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.


#9 Seeing

11/05/2016
This morning when I looked out my window at the huge old oak tree that I see every morning, again I marveled at the loveliness of it in the glittering morning sun, and a thought came to me: I am grateful that I have eyes that see beauty so many of us here on earth at this time don’t notice– don’t see what I see. The same kinds of beauty I have seen always, since I was a child, sustain me. Amazingly many of them don’t go away like other things do. Beauty has brought solace to me even in my darkest hours. The beauty of the Mississippi Riverbank in snow, the winter sky at night, ink-black and gleaming with tiny stars, each one securely set in that vast silent infinity. Beauty brings a little bit of joy into anything. There is some kind of beauty almost everywhere, if you look for it. And even when I’m surrounded by everything else that’s not beautiful, there is still an immense supply of remembered beauty inside of me, that never leaves me; I carry it with me. Autumn days, beautiful songs I have heard and felt, the thrill of the first warm day of spring, when the fine green needles of first-grass are pushing up through an ocean of mud. I have seen beauty in 10 million ways, and all of it is still mine, soaked into my soul. That my eyes can see what only they see, has made me an artist and a poet. I didn’t choose these things, they chose me, because this soul could see. And this morning, more than ever, I am grateful. The book: Unintentionally I am writing the last chapter. Even though the Hunger Years and the Fire Years chapters are not finished yet, the last chapter is pushing to get out. More parts of it are coming forward, and I’m willing to let them, happy to receive them. There is more to the ending now, and it is more complete. It closes the far-reaching wandering circle of the story, and quietly speaks the simple truth of it all, the secret that never was really a scret. This is a wonderful book. I continue to be astonished that I am the one to whom this book is given, amazed that I am the one somehow chosen to make the marks on paper. I am humbled, and grateful, and scared. It’s an assignment that’s so much bigger than I am. But I’ve been scared before, and so, hoping that somehow that I can be enough, I’m committed to giving it the best I have.

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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

7. Why I’m Writing The Book

10/28/2016

Today I got up late, made coffee, and worked on the book all day till about 3 o’clock, and then ate lunch for breakfast.

I talk about it in the preface, but have never talked about it here, the reasons that made me scrape up the due diligence to write this book.

I had two reasons. The first one was a sense of duty and decency, to tell my birthmother’s story which had never been told, and never would have been, because of the pain and shame and regret that I think we all felt, but helplessly could not change.

Mary Karr said, somewhere in her Best-Seller memoir, The Liars Club:

“kids in distressed families are great repositories of silence, and carry in their bodies whole Arctic wastelands of words not to be spoken, stories not to be told.” (as well as)“ … a grave sense of personal fault, for failing to rescue those beloveds lost or doomed.

 

My deepest impulse for writing the book is my own need to understand and forgive and finally let myself be forgiven. My hope is that when the book is done and all of our stories are told, the past will finally be completed, and then can be released.

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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.


#6 Saying Yes To The Calling

07/27/2016
We write because we must; it’s what we writers do. It’s a calling. What we write about is sometimes humorous, light, and uplifting, or sometimes serious and fraught with meaning, or some of both. We can only write from who we are– even in fiction, because that’s what we’ve been given, and so that’s what we have to give. It might not be everybody’s cup of tea. Reading a book is a journey we take in consciousness. There have been a few books I’ve started to read and then stopped, because I realized I didn’t want to take that particular journey. Intuition, that little voice from the inside, told me there might be glimpses of truth I wasn’t ready for yet, or things that would hurt me or reopen old wounds, and so I chose not to go there. The little voice inside is always my best guide. Sometimes it says No, not now” and later it may say yes, or it may not. Everybody has that little voice. The book I’m writing now, a memoir, has some dark passages. A few old friends who started to read it, stopped when they got to the hard parts. Of course I want everybody to love my book, but I know that not everybody will. Books that tell the truth will always be uncomfortable in places. Like life, books take some commitment, courage, and pushing on through. This book has claimed me, it is my calling. I can see clearly now, that all the events of my life, even the worst of them, have had a purpose, and what I’ve learned from them, I have a duty to share. The time has come to do the work, and I have said yes to the calling.

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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.


#5 What’s Art Got To Do With It?

06/10/2016
I’ve been told that some of my stories are incomplete in form. They don’t have the standard type of plot-arc and resolution.  “Where are you going with these?” They say. “These are just sketches.” (Interesting– That’s what the art critics and academicians of the 1890’s said about Claude Monet, who now in countless art history books is called “the Father of Impressionism.”) If my stories don’t fit the formula for maximum sales, and if they only offer a glimpse of a life, a sudden vivid picture, is that a bad thing? Does that make them valueless? Is there only one formula? I was trained as a painter as my first career. I’m not painting now, but I’m still who I was; I am an artist. And if I am an artist, why would I not make pictures? To the artist, a wonderful picture is enough The sketches and preliminary drawings by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, and the seemingly “sketchy” spontaneous paintings of Monet, all have the freshness and magic of the captured moment. They have an uncontrived honesty and essence that the formal “finished” paintings of their era do not have. There is a feeling of movement and life-energy in these artists’ “sketches.” No one today would criticize them as being “not art.“ I think that this essence was what the Impressionists were seeking, and later the abstract action painters were also. That ineffable something, the spirit of the thing, the ghost within the image that makes the life of it visible. Not the technical aspect of it, but the spirit of it, just for an instant becoming knowable without intellect, and recognizable without name. The Thing Itself, in a glimmer of light, for an instant. Nobody knows exactly what it means; nobody needs to. There is something innate in it that touches something in us. We don’t need to dissect it, just experience it.

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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.


#4 The Writer’s Life

05/21/2016
I am “growing into” the idea and image of a writer’s life. This is slow and not entirely comfortable, but the discomfort and distance are gradually diminishing. When I was doing my art, young and in college, and even more so when I took it up again forty years later, everywhere I looked I saw art – compositions of line and shape and color, patterns taking form like poems of vision. Everywhere I looked, I saw art offering itself. Now that I’ve begun to seriously write, everywhere I look I see words and stories; they form into pictures and colors and thoughts and rich feelings, manifesting in this form. But now I am making more than pictures or pieces of visual art; I am building something, or at least that’s what I’m seeking to do, or it is seeking me. Writing this book, I’m building a dimensional structure that has volume and depth and spaces that can be inhabited or traveled through– places that someone else can journey through, not with me of course; it is too late for that, but after me. When I read about Vincent van Gogh’s life, I could feel the deep existential loneliness of it. He was given so little, except genius. Very little skill or aptitude for navigating the physical world, but instead an astonishing soul and inner life that tortured him and demanded to be expressed. And so he did that – expressed his gifts into his life and his world that so tragically rejected it, and rejected him. He had a few artist friends who respected him, even though they were as puzzled by his nature as everyone else was, and a brother who was probably the only one in his life who ever loved him. All of the others living in his world, in his time, could not understand or accept either his mind or his art. Now the whole world does, and his paintings that were all unsold in his lifetime, now are sold and resold and resold for hundreds of millions of dollars. “It’s just as well,” my grandmother would say (who was very wise). He couldn’t have handled the strain, the challenges, and the emotions of success or fame; he could barely handle (and some would say not) the small solitary life he had, in the physical world, because his soul’s life was so immense. He was never comfortable in his body or in his identity as an artist. I am not yet comfortable with the identity of “writer” as a life purpose, but I recognize that it has claimed me. I know my soul is in on this, and resistance will ultimately be futile and only waste time. And so, for better or for worse, I surrender.

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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.


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