Sandy DeLisle's Blog

If you have a gamer in your life, you most likely know that the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 came out this week. I do not normally spend much time thinking about video games, let alone writing about them. But this game, especially lately, has taken on inordinate importance in our family.

Never in my life did I dream I would allow my kids to play such a violent video game. Then again, I never thought I would allow my kids to eat some of the so-called “food” that they eat. For more on this topic, follow this link to the essay I wrote for Chicago Parent magazine a few years back: http://www.chicagoparent.com/magazines/archives/2004/sneaking-zucchini-into-snack-competition

But on the topic of weaponry, I always swore we would not have toy weapons in our house. While my firstborn son’s friends played with toy slingshots, swords and guns, I encouraged my boy to read and build things. Much to the chagrin of my husband, I even bought him a baby doll when he asked for the “cute dolly with a bottle” on a trip to Wal-Mart.  Fast forward ten years to the present day where I spent part of yesterday straightening out the three boys’ arsenal. Yes, my third son’s armoire has become a repository for a variety of Nerf guns and other weapons of mess destruction. (I can’t tell you how many of those foam bullets I have found littering the house.) I actually discovered a foam bullet stuck in the garbage disposal once. I am still trying to figure out if it was an accident or if one of the boys wanted to see what would happen when the sharp metal blades sliced through the foam. I am betting on the latter.

You see, I have since abandoned my belief that boys and girls are basically the same. Although my son did want a baby doll, after a short time, I found him launching her from the top of the playground. In general, it has been my experience that boys (especially boys in groups)  like to blow things up, rip things apart, beat on one another and be as loud as humanly possible while they are doing these things. So, I suppose it was only a matter of time until the video game Call of Duty became a part of our lives.

My oldest child actually pre-ordered the new game six months ago and counted down the days until it was released. His younger brothers were equally excited and together they “discussed” who would get to fire the first shot of the new game. In an attempt to garner a semblance of peace and love and seize on a teachable moment, I encouraged them to strategize about how they could be fair in their decision. As I was offering my cooperative learning techniques I used as a classroom teacher, I took a foam bullet between the eyes. Okay, I am exaggerating, they only shot me dirty looks, but they felt like daggers.

The night before the game was released, my oldest son asked me if he could wait in line starting at midnight to pick it up. My husband and I put our feet down and told him that this was an unreasonable request. Instead, my husband went and got it at 1 a.m. Now, before you accuse us of being overly indulgent, let me explain that my husband was out with a friend anyway.  No, really, he was! Lest you think we can’t set firm boundaries for our children, when they asked us if they could stay home from school to play the new game, we firmly told them NO! Instead, we woke all three boys up at 5:30 a.m. so they could play before school.  I will never forget the warm fuzzy feeling I got as they all harmoniously blasted their virtual machine guns in unison.

The teacher and peace-lover in me, tries to find meaning in my boys’ interest in war and violence. There must be more lessons here for my boys (aside from them learning how to share their machine guns, I mean). I know! Since the game was released during the week of Veterans Day, no doubt an intentional decision by its makers, I can discuss with them the importance of honoring the soldiers who served and continue to serve our country. And, another lesson I could teach them from this experience is compromise. I know a lot about that topic since I have moved so far away from my parenting ideals. But, you know, compromise is a good thing. In fact, only with compromise can we prevent violent conflicts in the first place. So, allowing my kids to play Modern Warfare III might be a good parenting decision. Not only does it teach sharing and violence prevention through compromise, it is patriotic.

That’s my story for now anyway.  I may or may not be sticking to it.

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For the last few months, my husband has been walking dogs at Orphans of the Storm Animal Shelter. Being an animal lover, you would think I would have immediately joined him in this admirable endeavor. However, animal shelters have always overwhelmed me, looking at all those caged, needy faces with no homes. In fact, whenever we have adopted our dogs, Dave has gone inside the shelter and brought the dogs out to me, because I just could not bear to see them in the cages, barking, whining or staring at me with sad eyes.

Knowing my husband was giving this direct care to these dogs AND enjoying it really inspired me, though, so I decided to give it a try myself. Over the last month, we have been walking dogs together and I have to say it has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I forced myself to get over my feelings of sadness. After all, isn’t is worse not to do anything? Me feeling bad about their situation isn’t making the dogs’ lives any better. And, if I can give a dog a few minutes of happiness and the opportunity to smell the buckthorn growing along Riverwoods Road, then by golly I am going to do it. 

On a selfish level, it has also been great for my relationship with my husband. We have bonded over leashes and poop bags and I can honestly say I am going to miss this time together when he starts his new job on Monday. You see, the shelter only allows the dogs to be walked during the weekdays, because the weekends are usually busy with potential adopters looking for their new best friend. As much as I will miss this time with my husband, I know the dogs he has regularly walked will miss him even more. 

 This is Tyson. He is an awesome dog who Dave walks 2-3 times a week. He is a one-year-old, healthy and exuberant American Shelter Dog mix. No one else walks Tyson because he is so strong. Only Dave understands that he calms down as soon as he has done his doggy duty.

Doesn’t he look like the dog Victor from the old phonograph ads?

 

 

Yesterday, when we were walking dogs we noticed this handsome fellow:

His name is Chase and he, too, is approximately one. You never know who you will find at a shelter; this boy appears to be a yellow lab. Pedigree does not prevent one from losing his home.

Orphans has so many wonderful dogs AND cats! If you have room in your life for a new best friend, please think of Orphans of the Storm. http://www.orphansofthestorm.org/  or your local shelter. If your home is already full of furry friends, please consider being a dog walker. Even just one hour a week will make a significant difference to the dogs you take out. I promise, you won’t regret it.

I always get nostalgic as the cold weather sets in and I prepare to flip the calendar to November, the month of being thankful. I love that we have a holiday the entire purpose of which is to reflect on our blessings. Too often, I think we focus on what we do not have. I have been as guilty of this as the next person, wishing I had more space in my house for my three boys who are growing quicker than the rumors about Ashton and Demi. Instead of focusing on the lack of space, perhaps I can look at this situation with a different eye. Maybe I should concentrate on how wonderful it is that they are growing so big. After all, at least two of the three play competitive sports, and from what I can tell, size does matter when you are trying to tackle an opponent on the football field. Also, if our house was too big, I might not run into them (literally) as we are passing in the hall.

Years ago, I started keeping a gratitude journal, which is a notebook where you record all the things for which you are thankful. At first, I was good about recording at least five things I was grateful for each day. Then, after a few months, I got lazy and the entries not only got less frequent, but I only listed one or two things in each entry. Even though I slacked off in my personal journal, I still tried to keep the concept alive by creating a gratitude blackboard in our kitchen. Yes, I know the former teacher in me will always keep coming out in odd ways. Anyway, at the top of the blackboard I wrote, “I am thankful for:” Next, I put numbers with blank spaces next to them and waited for the blanks to get filled in. Most of the time I am the one filling the empty space with things like, “Dustin not tearing his ACL, Aaron’s twelfth birthday, and Grayson getting an A +” But once in a while I get a pleasant surprise like when one of the boys wrote, “Getting our new puppy, Jazz” or, after I was traveling for a few day and my husband wrote, “MAMA BEING HOME!!!”

There’s something about committing your gratitude to writing that makes it more real and official. Plus, then you have the opportunity to look back over your previous items and be thankful all over again. Gratitude is the gift that keeps giving. The more grateful you are, the more you will find you have to be grateful for. So, I encourage each of you to start being thankful now, even before Thanksgiving gets here. To encourage you to commit what you are thankful for to writing, I would be most thankful if you posted your blessings as a comment to this blog.

Now, I am going to go grocery shopping in order to keep those growing boys fed. I look forward to reading your comments!

I feel so official thanks to Shana Norris! Shana has been published both traditionally and  indie published and she was gracious enough  to interview me about my new book, PURE ENOUGH . Shana and I are in a writing critique group together, so I value her opinion and insights very much! I also love her young adult books! I can’t wait until her new book SURFACING comes out; she’s going to make mermaids the new vampires with this awesome book!

Here is a link to the interview, which was full of fun questions; I even got to pick out a theme song to introduce myself…

http://www.shananorris.com/2011/10/interview-with-debut-author-sandy-delisle/

 

 

I am happy to announce the birth of my first ebook!

Pure Enough

Date: October 13, 2011

Weight: 64,325 words

This book, like most, had a long gestation period! I started it in 2007 after reading a Glamour magazine article about purity balls, which are daddy-daughter dances where girls publicly pledge to remain virgins until marriage. Admittedly, I was a bit concerned about the girls, some as young as ten, who were making this pledge with their fathers as witnesses. I wondered what would happen to them as they matured and started having feelings for the opposite sex. Would they be conflicted about their sexuality as they started to mature? Could they still hold onto their faith in God if they strayed from their purity pledge? Most importantly, would they believe that giving their sexuality over to the safekeeping of a man (first their fathers and then their husbands) was the way the things were supposed to be?

 I did not want to be too judgemental, however,  and assumed the Glamour article was, perhaps, a bit inflammatory, so I did my own online research about the topic. I found a lot of information from a variety of sources, including websites, blogs and magazine articles. Some sources were in favor of the purity balls and pledges and truly believed they help young women to stay true to themselves and not focus on sex before they are ready. Others were adamantly opposed and made purity balls and pledges out to be arcane practices that violate women’s rights. What I found to be the most interesting and compelling  were the stories of the young women, now in their twenties, who had made purity pledges when they were teens and did not stick with them.  Some of these young women felt tremendous guilt about not honoring their pledge and said they now think of sex as “dirty” and “a chore” even though they are in loving marriages. 

Regardless of what your opinion is on the topic, there is no denying that what we teach (or fail to teach) our girls (and boys) to think about sex is important, because it may stay with them the rest of their lives.

My book is written for young women, but I hope the story is one that anyone can appreciate, though, given the topic of the book, I would only recommend it for readers who are fourteen and older.  Along those lines, I tried to be very sensitive and tactful in my portrayal of these very real and intense feelings that many teens experience as they are coming-of-age. I assure you that my book is more tame than most of the prime time TV shows, movies and websites that teens are watching and visiting online. Additionally, the few very brief scenes involving sex are not gratuitous and they are in the context of the main character learning who she is and what she wants from her life.

Here is a short summary:

Having sex for the first time is a big decision for anyone, but for sixteen-year old Katherine Brinkman, the decision is even more complicated. Under the close watch of her parents, Katherine has never had a boyfriend. But that changes when she moves to a Chicago suburb for her mom’s teaching sabbatical and meets a group of free-spirited friends, including the charming and incredibly hot Aidan Koutsoukos. When Aidan isn’t serenading Katherine with love songs or making her laugh with his charismatic wit, he’s tempting her with his wavy, black locks, riveting brown eyes and perfectly sculpted body. While Katherine is falling for Aidan, her hometown of Black Earth, Iowa, is planning its first purity ball; a ceremony where girls publicly pledge to remain virgins until marriage. Once she returns home, will she honor her family and friends and pledge her virginity with her father as a witness? Or, will she give in to her desires under the influence of her new friends? As Katherine wrestles with this life-altering decision, she must decide if she is…PURE ENOUGH

Pure Enough is now available for sale online at Amazon and Smashwords  It can be downloaded onto your computer, your Kindle, your Nook, your iPad, your iPhone-really any electronic device with reading capabilities. Just click on either “Amazon or “Smashwords” above and you will be taken to the link to purchase.

If you decide to read Pure Enough, I would love your feedback-good, bad or indifferent! The biggest reason I write is to make people think, and although you may not agree with what I write, I hope that you will appreciate the opportunity my stories give you to consider another perspective.

 Okay, I will admit it; it’s no coincidence that the names of my siblings, neighbors, friends and even old classmates I haven’t seen in years end up as characters in my stories. Sometimes I get concerned that my first boyfriend, who is a main character in BAD GIRL BOOT CAMP will incorrectly assume that I have carried a torch for him all these years. Or worse, I worry that one of my current friends will be upset that I used her daughter’s name as the mean girl in PURE ENOUGH.

 The reality of my writing is that names are typically secondary to me. I tend to write the story first, typing whatever name comes to mind to hold the place for me. As a result, I often pick people’s names from my real life. For example, if I happen to receive an email from you while I am writing in a new character, you may become the nemesis to my protagonist. Please don’t take this personally; I usually select character names based on timing and convenience. Keep this in mind when I am in the beginning stages of the writing a new story.  

 I used to think this naming problem was a function of me pouring all my creative juices into plot and character development, so when it came to naming people, my creative well was dry. However, I now think that creative naming is just not my strong suit. After all, our third son, Grayson, went nameless for two days after he was born. And, do you know where we finally came up with his name? I heard someone calling it out at one of my older son’s baseball games. Even random strangers are not safe from me cherry picking their names.

 Have no fear, though, I never use both the real first name and the real last name. I totally understand that as a forty-year old man with a reputation to uphold, you may not want be the pegged as the pot head in one of my young adult novels. I have some couth.

 My indifference to names is sometimes true for locations as well. If I have recently been somewhere, that place may end up in my writing. I guess my many references to Starbucks in my books, tell you something about me. Sometimes, however, I completely make up the names of towns or stores, though they may have real counterparts that I am not aware of. For example, in BAD GIRL BOOT CAMP, I created a fictional coffee shop called Cup of Joe, because I was so tired of using the ubiquitous Starbucks name. 

 I know some writers painstakingly select each character’s name and therefore may disagree with my haphazard approach for selecting names. For me, though, the substance of the named person or place is more important than the name itself. William Shakespeare, of course, expresses this same idea way more eloquently in Romeo and Juliet.

 Hmmm…Romeo and Juliet- now there are two names I haven’t used yet…

Writing in general makes me smile, but writing for young adults is like a trip to Disneyland for me. There is something about the irreverent yet vulnerable adolescent that I am drawn to. Before I started writing for this age group, I taught middle school science and language arts, so the age has always had appeal for me. Many of my fellow teachers used to say, “I’m glad you like teaching them because I can’t stand teaching that age.” For me, the coming-of-age years are so exciting. Adolescents have newfound logic that heretofore was not present. How the first grade teachers handle the child’s mind that cannot grasp that pouring water from a short cup into a tall cup doesn’t mean you magically got more water in the tall cup, I will never know. I prefer my kids well-reasoned, and even a bit snarky.  That spark and spunk will serve them well in life.

As such, when I felt drawn to writing a book, it was only natural that I would write for teens. To date, I have completed two young adult novels: BAD GIRL BOOT CAMP  and PURE ENOUGH. I also have one complete non-fiction book for teenage boys about sex and relationships,  THE TEENAGE BOY’S PLAYBOOK ON SEX AND RELATIONSHIPS: From Rookie to M.V.P. with Twenty Simple Rules.   This last book is a direct result of having my own fourteen-year old boy who will not talk to me about such things. I looked for a short and sweet book (he is not an avid reader-and that is an understatement) that dealt with the topic in terms that he cared about-sports. There wasn’t such a book, so I wrote one.

I’ve had two agents over the last five years, both of whom came close to selling my novels, but I still haven’t gotten that book deal yet. Now my plan is to publish myself. No more waiting around for someone else to sell my books; I am capable and excited to do it on my own. And, I must say, I am totally inspired by Amanda Hocking, a young adult novelist who sold over $2 million worth of her e-books online without any agent. We’re talking these are all online sales of e-books, not hard copies! Now, she has multiple traditional publishers scrambling to bring her on board and, kudos to her, she recently accepted a $2 million three-book deal with St. Martin’s Press.

That’s another reason I like writing for young adults, they like reading their books electronically, and since that market is exploding right now, my odds of making it with a younger crowd are good. I have always thought that if I could bypass the adult gatekeepers at the traditional publishing houses and get my work directly into the hands of the teens, they would like my books. My goal is to get my first book up for sale on Smashwords and Amazon within the next week, two at most. But first, I have to figure out how to convert my books from Word into an e-book format. I think I’ll ask my fourteen-year old; I am sure he can figure out…

 

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