44. When Friends Don’t Like Your Book

09/17/2022

Someone who was my very best friend when we were children and teens (called Vivian in Book One) started reading the book, then stopped when she got to the hard parts. A year later at my request, she did read the rest, and praised the writing style, but never commented about any of the content, the story itself. She’s a great person, very perceptive, wealthy and successful. I took a different path that led to much less monetary success and much more adventure and wild beauty, and I wouldn’t change any of it.

I think it was uncomfortable for her to read about what I was going through back then as a kid when my family was falling apart, and as a young woman in a desolate marriage. It’s possible that now my truth is embarrassing and even repellent to her. I am the black-sheep, the po’ white trash of our peer group. She was probably shocked at the painful truth of my birthmother’s alcoholism when I was eleven, and me stealing food from the grocery store and eating the discarded produce at the loading dock behind the store.

I am not ashamed of those things. In my long life since then, among my several careers I was a caregiver in an always-overwhelmed hospital emergency room. I have seen other souls in trouble, by the thousands. I know that people do what they can. I don’t blame my birthmother for her addiction. I know it was not her first choice for dealing with the hardships of her life that were so painful and so many. I don’t devalue her for her mistakes, or devalue myself for taking whatever means I could to feed myself and keep my spirit alive, as a child, or as an adult. My story gets rough, it isn’t pretty all the time, but there are  incredibly brave and beautiful times too.

Another longtime friend (called Lois in Book Two) read the first two chapters of Book One for me when I asked her to be a beta reader and give me some feedback. She marked two minor typos and said nothing more. No comments about content or any sort of meaning in the story. She didn’t get it. She too is a person who is quite well-off in the traditional model of success. She didn’t need it. I reminded myself that this doesn’t mean that nobody will get it, or that nobody will need it.

After my initial disappointment, I wondered, Why don’t these intelligent, kind and honest women get it? Why don’t they see anything meaningful here? And the answer that came from the Wiser Voice Within said, “Maybe it’s not so much that they really can’t see, but that they don’t want to see.” 

I know too well: the truth is dangerous, and often painful. As I look back from a distance now, it seems embarrassingly obvious: these friends don’t want to know the person that I am, they want me to be forever the person they knew, or thought they knew, back when. Victory is not about that. Victory Is My Name is an adventure tale, a mystery story, and a love-letter to Life.

I love this latchkey kid from the not-so-great side of town. I admire her resourcefulness, her survival instinct, her courage and grit. I respect the young woman she became who tried so hard to do things right and then was used and abused for her innocence. I respect my absent alcoholic birthmother whose life fell apart while the trap of alcohol made everything worse. The truth is, millions of good people have made the same mistakes. I know, as you know, that even now these things still happen to many of us, and we hide it in some sort of undeserved shame.

When you write your truth, no matter what it is, you’re going to find that some of your friends or family will not be able to embrace it, or even accept it. This is not your fault, or theirs. And this is not a reflection of your writing’s value and worth to the waiting world. To write from Life is a calling, not a job, not a beauty contest. Write anyway. Tell your truth anyway. You know you must. And share it whenever and wherever you can.

Nonfiction narrative and memoir writers out there in the world: Take courage, take faith, and take honest pride in your gift. Not everyone will want it. You aren’t here to do it for them, but for your own spirit’s calling. Write for the many more who do need it, who have made mistakes while honestly seeking life, just like you.

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Victory Is My Name, Book One: The Burning Barrel
Paperback 288 pgs   ISBN#  978-0-9841730-9-9
E-book   ISBN#   978-0-9841730-4-4
Read a sampler:
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.

________________________________________________________________

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


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.


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