Shel Delisle's Blog
June 7, 2015
There is something about the sight of the ocean that engenders a huge sense of peace in me. I’m not sure if it’s the size, the sound of the waves, or the fact that it puts things in perspective by making me realize how small I am (along with any perceived problems.)
Or it could be that it’s home—the place we all come from.
Regardless, I’m fortunate to live close enough to get there any day. I don’t get there often enough, mind you, but I can.
Today, June 8th, World Oceans Day, “is an annual observation to honour the world’s oceans, celebrate the products the ocean provides such as seafood as well as marine life itself for aquariums, pets, and also a time to appreciate its own intrinsic value.” With nearly three-quarters of our big, blue planet made up of seas, one day of attention doesn’t seem to be too much to ask. In fact, I’ve often thought, that the ocean might hold the answer to some mankind most gnarly problems if only we’d think about it in some new ways.
If you’re not sure how you could contribute, here are some ideas for last minute celebrations. For my part, I’m doing two things. The first–Wear Blue, Tell Two, is an initiative for increasing awareness. Actually, I’ll tell more than two, but that’s the catchy name for it. And, second, I’m contributing 100% of the proceeds from today’s sales of Dolphin Girl to The Ocean Foundation, the fiscal sponsor of World Ocean’s Day.
Jane, the main character of the novel, is spiritually drawn to the ocean and its friendliest citizens as she seeks to break away from her oh-so-ordinary life. It’s specially priced at 99 cents for a limited time at Amazon.
I hope you’ll leave a comment and let me know how you’re celebrating the day. And I hope you enjoy this song by Bob Schneider, along with some beautiful images of marine life.
May 28, 2015
A burger captured on a recent visit to Le Tub.
Omigosh! I had no idea that today was National Hamburger Day until I received an email from Groupon. If I had known this post would’ve have had more planning, so I hope you’ll forgive that’s it’s been thrown together quickly.
Here’s why I’m blogging about this. Seeking the perfect burger is a family tradition… or maybe it’s a quest. Either way, whenever we vacation or visit a new city, we google the best burger spots ahead of time and plan our trip accordingly. Our rating system is very informal and we don’t have an across-the-board agreement, but we do share some favorites. In no particular order, here they are.
Le Tub (Dania Beach, Florida) – Okay, see the burger pictured at the top of the blog. That’s from Le Tub. This place also has a terrific atmosphere. It’s situated on the Intercoastal Waterway, most of the tables are outside, and the décor is a hodgepodge of crazy stuff, including tables built around the trees or on bath tubs. And remember how I said no particular order? Well, I lied. This is my favorite burger. It’s delicious and enormous. It’s at least two meals for me.
Mr. Bartley’s (Cambridge, MA) – We saw this place featured on the Food Network and added it to our itinerary during a vacation in Boston a couple years ago. It’s located across from Harvard, and very popular. Plan on lining up outside the tiny restaurant where they’ll take your order. This system means you’ll get your burger quickly once you’re finally seated. This is the favorite of at least two family members.
Enter an alternate reality when you step behind the curtain at the burger joint.
burger joint @ Le Parker Meridian Hotel (NYC) – This spot wins hands down for best atmosphere and they serve a good burger, too. So… to the atmosphere. The hotel is very elegant with marble floors and chandeliers and when we visited we looked like typical tourists in shorts and comfy clothes. A bell captain raised one eyebrow (because we obviously didn’t belong), and then pointed arm outstretched, refusing to look at it, and said in an especially snooty voice, “It’s behind the red curtain.” Behind the curtain loud music plays, a hallway is paneled, graffiti adorns the walls and you know you’ve arrived. It has a bit of a Soup Nazi feel as a sign announces if you don’t know what you want to order you’ll be sent to the back of the line. Your burger and fries will come in a brown paper bag and you’ll spend your lunch wondering how and why this place exists in such a ritzy piece of real estate.
T—Rays Burger Station (Fernandina Beach, FL) – Also receives high marks for atmosphere. It’s a funky diner built out inside an old gas station. It’s crowded, but the service is quick and on the day we were there the owner stopped by to talk with us.
The Apple Pan (LA) – Their hickory burger has a unique flavor and the atmosphere is interesting. You line up along the wall and wait for a spot at the counter. We were blessed with a minor miracle and were able to get five seats together. My biggest regret is that I didn’t have room for a piece of pie. Maybe on another visit.
Burgermeister (San Francisco) – Noteworthy as the only “chain” restaurant on our list. We literally stumbled across it during a long walk when our cable car broke down on the way to the Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a top pick of our most finicky burger connoisseur, and I’d have to agree that it hit the spot.
Booches (Columbia, MO) – a restaurant/pool hall combo founded in 1884 in the town where I attended college. I still remember the burgers, which are served on wax paper, and it’s been a few years. Quite a few, in fact.
Special Mention goes to…
Big Nick’s Burger & Pizza Joint (Upper West Side, NYC) – Now closed, we’d had burgers there three times and it was a family favorite. Judging from comments all over the web, quite a few others miss this restaurant that had been in business for more than fifty years.
Also worth a visit: Skinny’s (Anna Maria Island), Hamburgers (Sausalito), Five Guys (practically everywhere)
We’re already planning stops for our vacation this summer, and hope to schedule one new place into our plans. Finally, if you’re not one of my regular readers you might not realize that Victor from the Angel in Training series is a burger hound. Several of our favorites have appeared in those books, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few more make an appearance in the future.
May 11, 2015
MY WISHFUL THINKING has had an on-going identity crisis. Sales have been very meh compared to my other books, which is strange because it’s in the same vein.
My biggest frustration had been that it has been difficult to find a cover that matched my vision of the novel. Sometimes knowing too much makes it harder to figure out the what can capture what’s inside. The novel has a couple storylines–one about best friends, one about wishing, one about family/divorce, and, finally, a romance with a nerdy-hot genie.
THIS WAS THE FIRST COVER
I’d hoped the floaty balloons would capture the feeling of wishing. But then, I decided the couple was too small, especially as a thumbnail. So, I made a change.
Okay. Now the couple was larger, but they looked so young. Younger than the characters the story was about … and, apparently, younger than most people want to read about.
It needed a big time change. The same way Lo, the main character, needed to change. I felt like Sheryl Crow in this video, throwing everything out the window as I went through stock art. Then, I found something that could work. My cover artist worked his magic better than any genie, and made it better than I’d imagined. So *drum roll* here’s the third (and, hopefully final) cover.
NEW & IMPROVED COVER
I’m happy with this one. It kinda-sorta captures a pivotal moment in the story. The couple looks like an more mature version of the characters on the older covers. Everything about it feels more 2015. Why did I wait so long?
Probably because change is hard, even when it will do you good. Maybe… especially then.
Since I was giving the book a make-over, I decided to see if I’d missed reaching the readers who would enjoy it. Now MY WISHFUL THINKING is available at iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords in addition to Amazon, where it’s always been for sale.
I know the change has done me good, and hope it’s a change that helps the book find a broader readership.
September 1, 2014
So first off I’m gonna thank Shel for the inspiration to step outside my comfort zone and get a bit more hip, because while looking for a song to represent my newest release, WORTH THE EFFORT: AYDEN’S STORY, I found this amazing song by this fan-frickin-tastic artist. I’ve loved Adam Lambert’s voice since I was first introduced to it on American Idol and I’m, like, totally fangirl-happy that the right song for the job is HIS!
Okay, so AYDEN. Oh, Ayden. How do I describe this kid in a short blog post? First off, he’s super quiet, but don’t be fooled, he’s watching everything. He knows what is expected of him. He knows how to accomplish those things. But his anxiety won’t always let him. Then he adds to it by mentally berating himself over his failures and anticipating his father’s disappointment. Until finally, he can’t handle his life and he takes to the streets where the pressure of daily survival is far less taxing than navigating social expectations.
He’s seventeen. Well educated. Well spoken. Even good looking…but he’s living on the streets.
Yep, this song is perfect.
Because when he is able to play the role society expects of him or when he is simply quietly observing what’s going on around him—so much is going on inside him that is ignored by everyone. And so much of it is good.
Ella is the one who looks Underneath.
About the book:
Seventeen-year-old Ayden Worth shouldn’t have to seek peace of mind in the streets. But as family pressures mount, his anxieties increase, and he turns his back on comfort for a life in homeless camps and back alleys.
Then one fateful day he runs into the only person he ever wanted to know better. Ella Jones. His memories paint her as kind and undemanding, and it seems the years haven’t changed her. Her simple expectations draw him to her. Against all odds, a relationship buds and grows.
Yet, as Ayden repairs his life, Ella suggests he help others who also struggle. Will Ella turn out to be just like his dad, expecting more from him than he can give? Or will he prove that he is worth the effort?
Worth the Effort – Ayden’s Story is a young adult contemporary romance novella at 23,000 words. It is the novella duet to Worth the Effort – Ella’s Story. The novellas are told in first person point of view by the main characters. Alone they are each a complete story. Together, they are a harmony.
About the author:
When her children were young and the electricity winked out, Kai Strand gathered her family around the fireplace and they told stories, one sentence at a time. Her boys were rather fond of the ending, “And then everybody died. The end.” Now an award winning children’s author, Kai crafts fiction for kids and teens to provide an escape hatch from their reality. With a selection of novels for young adult and middle grade readers and short stories for the younger ones, Kai entertains children of all ages, and their adults. Learn more about Kai and her books on her website, www.kaistrand.com.
A quick note from Shel:
I’m happy to host you today, Kai, and please don’t worry about being hip for me. Any kind of music works if it inspired your writing or if it fits the story!
August 11, 2014
The answer is cookbooks.
It started with one just for friends and family. Every year at Christmas I bake cookies almost non-stop, and so I compiled a book of all the goodies I’ve made at that time of year with some tips and a little history about why I cook these things. It was supposed to be a gift or a replacement for greeting cards, but I got involved with marketing a boxed set last year at the holidays and that took precedence because it affected seven other authors.
The book didn’t get finished in time.
I completed it in January, because that’s how I am. Once something is on the to-do list I have to get it off. So, I figured I’d hold off and use it this year, but then I decided what the heck I’d publish it and just wait until the end of the year to promote it.
A couple months later it hit me that I do a Cinco de Mayo party every year. So, I pulled together my favorite recipes and added a few things I’d like to try in future years and published it.
Then we were heading down to the Florida Keys for a mini vacation. I wanted to play bartender and make some new tropical drinks. that’s when I pulled together a bunch of recipes into a book of beach drinks.
I never really intended to sell a lot of these, but it was something to work on everyday. It kept me in front of the computer and I actually got more fiction writing done because this non-fiction was straightforward. It worked like a palette cleanser. In July, I decided to make the Mexican Cookbook free for a few days. I didn’t promote it. In fact, I really couldn’t promote it–there was only one review.
For some reason that book took off, snagged by Amazon’s algorithms. It was a great reminder of the power of Amazon and the power of free. My post-free bounce took the book to number one in the Mexican Cooking category, where it hung out for a while. It’s still ranked much higher and is selling much better than in did in the pre-free period.
Which brings us to today. Beach Bar is free. You can find it here. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M261UYU
Jimmy Buffett is the perfect person to sing about Margaritaville or Pina Coladaville or Tequila Sunriseville or my eCookbooks. Also, until I watched this video, I never realized how much he Larry David look alike. I’ve never seen them together, so do you suppose…nah, it couldn’t be.
Anyway, hope you enjoy the song and grab a free book. Til next time…how’s about cooking something up with me.
June 30, 2014
This post was originally written in February of 2012 right after I’d gotten myself into self publishing. I decide not to publish it because it felt like I’d gotten on a soapbox, and I didn’t like how it sounded like I was ranting into the wind. Now, more than two years later, there’s been some progress made in attitudes — though not as much as I’d hoped for — and my thoughts don’t seem as out of line.
As you read the post I quote some numbers from indie musicians. at the bottom of the post, I have some updates that may or may not be interesting to you, but all the same I think it’s important to be accurate given all the time that has lapsed from between writing and publishing this piece.
I’ve found there is a lot of debate — and sometimes hostility — over the indie writing and publishing movement. While I realize we’re living in the midst of sweeping change, I still find the attitude confusing and, at times, downright alarming. Especially when it comes from other writers. I mean, aren’t we all supposed to be artists who support art, regardless if it’s exactly what we would produce or the way we would produce it?
No one who slams indie writing would condemn all indie music. No one would begrudge a band that wants to play smaller venues or those who eventually gather a following and go on to be discovered by a larger audience. So, why is there a different set of rules for writers?
I’ve heard all the concerns and, frankly, they annoy me. The, “Well, there’s going to be a lot of crappy books” and the “With so many books how will I ever find the ones I’d like to read?” and the “What about the writers who paid their dues, taking time and effort to gain the attention of agents and a publisher?”
It seems to me that this last statement is at the heart of where the hostility comes from. But, honestly, why should that matter? Every writer today has the ability to make their own choices. Let’s again use the music metaphor, because it’s so relevant.
Whether you like her music or not, we’d probably all agree Madonna is a huge music megastar. She performed at the Superbowl this year and what an incredible show that was! She’s also playing in Paris this summer and from a quick search on the Internet, I find that tickets are priced at $238 and $471. That’s steep and outside of my personal budget, however, so I’m left to watch her half-time performance on a big screen TV, surrounded by commercials, wishing I was there.
Now on the other end of the spectrum is A Great Big Pile of Leaves, a new-ish indie band that I have a huge crush on. Huge. About a month back, I posted a video of their song “Alligator Bop” right here. On YouTube this song has been viewed somewhere in the neighborhood of 43,000 times over the past year, which is decent but no where close to the 6.7 million times Madonna’s half time show has been watched over the past two weeks. For what it’s worth, I’ve viewed Alligator Bop on YouTube at least twenty times and never watched the halftime show except when it was, y’know, halftime.
My point is this: that as much as I enjoyed Madonna’s performance, I enjoy “Alligator Bop” more. I’m probably in a minority, the disparity in the numbers alone would support that claim, but should I care? Or should the band care? And do you suppose Madonna has spent one minute of her life complaining about A Great Big Pile of Leaves, or any other indie band for that matter?
So, you might be wondering, what does this have to do with writing? Well, I’ve read a lot of indie books over the past six months and think the overly harsh criticism of these books comes from people who haven’t read many of them. If any at all. Make no mistake, I’m not saying all of them are great, or even that they are all good, but enough of them are that I’ll continue buying and reading them.
If I’m honest, price comes into a play a little bit. I’m a voracious reader, so ten books at $1.99 versus one book at $19.99 (yeah, I know the math is rough and a little off) is appealing. But, let’s look at the Madonna concert example. One concert at $278 versus several concerts at $27.80. It’s easy to see how that price could play a part in someone’s decision. Still, I don’t want to get stuck on the money issue, because while it’s a part of the reason, it’s not all of it.
Recently, I found this definition of indie music and it again translates to my view of writing and why I’ve loved some indie books.
Allmusic identifies indie rock as including a number of styles that are: “too sensitive and melancholy; too soft and delicate; too dreamy and hypnotic; too personal and intimately revealing in its lyrics; too low-fidelity and low-budget in its production; too angular in its melodies and riffs; too raw, skronky and abrasive, wrapped in too many sheets of guitar noise; too oblique and fractured in its song structures; too influenced by experimental or otherwise unpopular musical styles.”
Q: And what’s wrong with all of that? Especially if you like soft and delicate or angular or oblique, not too mention skronky.
A: Not a damn thing.
Which brings me to the band for today’s post–BTW, they’re not in the least bit skronky– Young the Giant. Maybe you’ve heard of them, maybe you haven’t. They’ve been playing together since they were in high school in 2004. I heard their song “Cough Syrup” on one of the niche radio stations on Sirius and came home to look up the video on YouTube. This video has had 2.4 million views in the last seven months and while that’s not comparable to Madonna’s rock star exposure, it’s not too shabby either. Who knows if they were as good in 2004 when they started out? Certainly they weren’t as popular, and does that really matter today? Even if they weren’t any good at the beginning (and I find that unlikely) but even if they weren’t, then they have grown artistically and polished up their performance and have become better musicians. This is where they are now.
I hope you’ll take a minute or two (more) to watch this video, and then go back and watch A Great Big Pile of Leaves, too, because the production on these videos is cool, and the songs are incredible. Even if it’s not your style, can you really say it’s unprofessional crap? Maybe you will. But I’d have to disagree.
I realize my views (and this post) probably won’t change many minds. Most people find that hard to do. Indie writers who read this will pump their fists and scream, “Oh yeah, rock on.” Those who aren’t into indie writing will be baffled, or apathetic, or angry.
But, maybe a few will get the point I’m trying to make.
Maybe… if someone enjoys the music by either of these indie bands, they’ll understand in their heart of hearts exactly what is redeeming about indie writing.
Since this post was written,
Young the Giant was just at the beginning of their breakout. This video now has more than 13 million views.
I never made it back to the original Madonna video. There are now more than four pages of videos from her halftime show. The biggest one at the top of the first page shows 1.3 million views and it looks like there was a fracas over the rights.
A Great Big Pile of Leaves has 87,955 +1. I watched their video again and I still think it’s awfully catchy.
June 9, 2014
The first time I heard this song by Fort Minor was when my oldest son showed me a video of people doing all these crazy athletic feats. Not the kinds of things that people can make a living with, but rather things that they did for love. Skateboarding tricks. Freestyle. The most unlikely basketball shots ever. The afternoon that he stumbled upon it, we watched that video over and over and over, because it was mind blowing. Then we showed it to my other two sons. And my hubby. And anyone else we could rope into watching it.
I loved the lyrics that weighed out skill, luck, pain, pleasure, and will power. Aren’t those the ingredients in any success, even if the percentages are slightly different for everyone?
Today, I’ve picked it for the Music Monday post, because I’d like you to remember the name M.E. Wynne.
Exactly. No one knows who that is, but it’s the pen name I used on my new novel GLORY. I decided to go with a pen name, because I was worried that my regular readers might not like the story. It’s not as sweet or funny or light hearted as other things I’ve written, but it’s still me at it’s core.
It’s getting off to a much slower start than my other books, and who knows, in a month I may change the name again.
Or, maybe I just need to be patient enough to wait for some percentage of luck to show up. At least one reader on goodreads liked it enough to bring it into her classroom shelf. That review made my day. :)
I hope you’ll enjoy the music video I’ve embedded in this post. Unfortunately, the original one I watched with my son was taken down a long time ago, but this one is as close to that one as I could come. As my boys would say, “It’s pretty sick!”
May 22, 2014
May 19, 2014
While I really like Sting’s music, both from his time with The Police and from his solo career, this isn’t my favorite song of his. (That would be “Message in a Bottle”)
But this is the right song for today’s Music Monday post, because I’ve set Winging It! free. Not for a day, or two, or five.
If you don’t already own Winging It!, I hope you’ll go and grab a copy. If you do, check out this video. The girl in the white shorts, looks like she could play Aisha, doesn’t she?
April 28, 2014
Every time I watch this video, it reminds me of my time as a writer.
For years (and years) I’d always written just for myself, as a way to be creative. Then I got bit by the what if? bug. This led to buying and devouring books on craft, and the market, and publication. Some suggested I find a critique group, and the thought terrified me. What? Let others read my writing? Oh, yeah. Duh. If you’re going to be published, people will read your writing.
I took the advice and went in search of a critique group. Like Goldilocks, I found them too hard, too soft, and finally, when I found a couple writing partners whose feedback was just right it was time to get to work. At this point, I needed to find ways to make sure that my vision for the story matched what their take-away was, and my writing became much more focused from their input. Trust grew, and so did friendship. I wrote to please them, and when they said I should submit, I did.
The next step was to share my work more broadly, which I did at conference critiques and workshops. This was when I really started letting others shape my writing. Sometimes it was because of their suggestions, but more often it was just from taking positive responses and making sure I did more of that. Whatever that was. Eventually, in the search for an agent and an editor, the suggestions became even more specific. If one of my manuscripts didn’t fly, I’d pitch ideas for other WIPs and write whatever they thought would give me the best chance for success. Like many others, I pursued publication to the detriment of the stories I wanted to tell. I still have one half-baked novel that piqued no one’s interest enough to finish it. In my heart, I know it needs to be finished, and it will be–someday.
Up until this point, my path was exactly like a kajillion other writers. Almost every writer, in fact. The decision to indie pub DOLPHIN GIRL was a break from convention, and it was scary stuff, let me tell you. Nobody had given me the stamp of approval that I’d been pursuing for such a long time. What if they were right, and even worse, what if I was wrong? All wrong. Still, I felt that tug of wanting to share the story. So, after editing, polishing, and fighting off waves of nausea, I pushed publish.
I didn’t allow myself a lot of time between the first book and WINGING IT! Certainly not enough time to completely doubt myself. I worried briefly about disappointing the small group of readers I’d found, and then I pushed the trepidation aside and pushed the button again.
Then, for awhile, it seemed silly to have worried at all.
I was finding readers, they read multiple books. Pushing that button became easier with time and more work.
But now, I’m back to doubting myself. I’m about to release something very different. It’s written from a male point of view. It skews slightly older. It’s not light hearted or humorous, except for a few comic-relief moments. It’s futuristic and dystopian and has sports at the center of the story. It’s Christian-themed. That in itself is a risk. I don’t think there’s a genre for a Christian-dystopian-sports story in the Kindle categories on Amazon. I don’t even know if there is a readership for that.
I plotted GLORY eight or nine years ago during my son’s soccer practices. I’ve always liked the premise, and always wanted to write it, but it didn’t fit what I’d become. Late last year, when a project I was mid-way through stalled, I picked up this story and the words came so easily. I guess that’s what eight years of marinating will do for you. Originally, I thought it was just a short story, but it grew into a novella, or maybe a novel. Again, it doesn’t fit neatly into a category. The length is in at a weird, in-between place, at the cusp of both.
At any rate, as I embarked on this project, the lyrics “I’m not going to write you a love song” ran through my head on an endless loop. As I wrote, I felt rebellious, and a little self-centered. I was writing this story solely for myself, just because I wanted to tell it. Hopefully, I’d find someone interested in reading it, but I didn’t have that guarantee, and I wrote it anyway. Now that it’s close to complete, I’m already getting back to my bread and butter with the third book in the Angel in Training series. That’s my love song for readers who have grown to love Grace. In the meantime, I have this other novel that makes me nervous, and more than a little scared. I must have a bit of masochist in me, or maybe I’m a thrill seeker, because that feeling suits me just fine. I had a vision for a story, wrote it and will release it (in the truest meaning of release). What a tremendous sense of freedom! Even with no guarantees. Especially with no guarantees!
And that is, I think, the beauty of indie pub. I can write what speaks to my heart, and the best part is that’s usually what readers want, too. Something that speaks to their heart.