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.

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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.


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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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


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.


#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

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