Once I had written Single in the CIA, I did something I really hadn’t planned on doing – I wrote the next book. Of course I toyed with the idea of a sequel to Single in the CIA – one day (preferably one day when I am MUCH older and the embarrassment factor would be gone). I instead wrote Mingling in the CIA: Observations of an Underdog. It’s actually what they call a novelette – very short and, in my opinion, best read on an e-reader. Observations of an Underdog was my way of introducing the new series, Mingling in the CIA, where I would take readers into the lives of real CIA officers. It’s kind of a like a bridge between Single in the CIA and the new series. In it, I outline the most common character types present working for the Agency. All based on real people and real events, it’s a quick introduction and was fun to write!
What does a former CIA officer do once she’s no longer a CIA officer and has a family of her own? She writes multiple CIA-inspired books, invents a baby product, goes crazy with a music album (followed by releasing singles), builds an app and writes children’s picture books, of course!
BurpMitt® products consist of super-absorbent, organic cotton products for baby and home. Mommy’s Gone Mad! is a comical music album for small children and parents of small children. The children’s album led to working on some more adult music singles. Cooking in the CIA is an app with recipes learned from years of entertaining and world travel.
If you would like to purchase a BurpMitt® product, you can find them on Amazon.
Cooking in the CIA is available on the App Store.
As always, thank you for helping me support my family by purchasing any of my products!
I’ve been trying to think of ways I could help someone during this time…. Then it dawned on me that I have taken dozens, if not hundreds, of classes online over the years. I’ve compiled a list of resources for online learning – from resources for teachers and parents to use with homeschooling, to adult-themed subjects – from great sources.
Futurelearn.com – This is a great place to find free classes on just about anything you can imagine. They offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop. They have hundreds of partners from around the world. These include many of the best UK and international universities, as well as institutions with a huge archive of cultural and educational material, such as the British Council, the British Library, the British Museum, and the National Film and Television School. They also work with a range of internationally renowned organizations – from professional bodies such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), to businesses like the BBC and Marks & Spencer, to the UK Government. I have taken everything from a class on Infant CPR given by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to World War 1: A History in 100 Stories, to one I’m currently taking on Rome.
Edx.org – Free college classes. I have taken everything from Harvard classes titled China’s Political and Intellectual Foundations and Buddhism and Its Scriptures to a class on The Spain of Don Quixote given by the University of Madrid, to the Medieval Icelandic Sagas given by the University of Iceland. They have just about anything you can imagine from some of the best schools in the world.
Udemy.com – They have a wide range of classes in subjects ranging from game development to mobile apps to IT certification, to marketing and business. They have Python, ethical hacking, you name it. These have a small price usually, but I see lots of sales going at all times.
*** Update: Udemy.com now has a free resource center. FREE classes!
Environmental education materials – bringing ecology to the classroom.
NASA/Kennedy Space Center – Initially it was announced by some media outlets that they would be having Facebook Live events, but it appears they have been canceled for now. You can still access their online learning links though.
World Wildlife Fund- biodiversity toolkit :
World Wildlife Fund – coloring pages:
World Wildlife Fund – elephant toolkit:
World Wildlife Fund – dolphin toolkit:
World Wildlife Fund – polar bear toolkit:
World Wildlife Fund – sea turtle toolkit:
World Wildlife Fund – monarch teaching toolkit:
Free education resources from the Nordic countries: Here you have 40+ remote learning solutions from Estonia, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden that you are welcome to use. For kids, preschool as well as K – 12, great resources to include ones for other languages, from all over the world. Don’t let the 99math throw you off – there are resources from ALPA Kids – a mobile application where children can learn colors, numbers, the alphabet by playing with examples of their own culture and local nature, to the Future Astronauts Program – a 12-week program with activities connected to life skills of astronauts. Consists of inspirational Space material and easy-to-introduce activities to support STEM learning. Teachers have curated NASA materials that are relevant and interesting for young children, to Finland Math and it’s digital exercise platform Eduten Playground – an excellent resource for remote teaching and learning. It’s the most popular math learning tool among Finnish teachers, and one reason is that it is very easy to assign exercises for the students, and set and track goals, to resources specifically for teachers’ management of students – I could go on and on this one has so many different resources – all the way through higher education.
Pat Flynn – Smart Passive Income: Online business toolkit. Mr. Flynn is a master of passive income. He offers all sorts of training, lots of it free, on how to successfully work from home, how to create passive income streams that really make money, and more. Ever wondered how to set up and make money with affiliate links? This guy is a master at it.
Graduate School USA (used to be Grad School USDA): Long ago, I took classes on HTML through Grad School USDA. Now, it looks like it is more geared toward the federal workforce, specifically management and human resources. And it looks like they cost a bit to take. But still might be a valuable resource for someone.
Tonya Leigh of French Kiss Life: Ms. Leigh runs a lifestyle brand and global movement called French Kiss Life. She teaches people how to manage their own minds and bring joie de vivre into their daily lives. She does blog posts, podcasts and YouTube videos.
My Life Suckers: A comical YouTube channel and blog run by a mom who used to be a Senior Editor for Nickelodeon’s parenting website for 6 years where she wrote about snot and ear infections. They have put together a great blog post full of resources. Resources ranging from Khan Academy: Excellent free tutorials for all ages in math, science, computing, humanities and more. They have courses from preschool math all the way to AP Calculus to Hike Find Draw: A hiker takes you along with him as he photographs what he finds. He then chooses a photograph and teaches his audience how to sketch what he has found on his hike, there are so many different options.
As we get closer to the 5th year since my first book, Single in the CIA was published, I thought I would take a few minutes to say a BIG Thank You to all of you for your support and to celebrate some of the accomplishments from these past 5 years. I couldn’t have done it without all of you.
So, let’s take a look!
Since 2015, I have 7 published works: Single in the CIA, Mission: Stand Down, the Mingling in the CIA series – which consists of Observations of an Underdog, Annie, Annie Goes Overseas, and Bloud. I also have a children’s picture book, Mommy Thinks She’s a Monster.
Since becoming a published author, I have been invited to contribute to three different news outlets:
Brainhackers.com focuses on brain health. Here is my favorite piece for them: The Secret to Happiness.
And then there is American Greatness. I was honored, and quite intimidated, to be accepted as a contributor for them – as they have some incredible writers. I currently have one piece for them: American Parent.
In less than 5 years I have gone from:
- 0 to 2,849 followers on Twitter
- 0 to 1,544 connections on Linked In
- 0 to 15K monthly viewers on Pinterest
- 0 to 213 likes on Facebook
- 0 to 17 subscribers and 1,943 views on YouTube
Since the publication of my first book, I have had 2 TV appearances – Politics & Profits with Rick Amato and The Drew Berquist Show. I have also had 2 interviews with Hollywood casting directors, as well as discussions with the people at As Seen on TV.
I have invented my very own physical product and had it manufactured. It is now available on Amazon.
I have learned how to build an app, and I created one. Cooking in the CIA is available on the App Store.
What People Are Saying About My Writing:
You give of yourself in your writing. You touch hearts. It’s a rare gift Shelly.
— David Kamioner, Writer, Contributor and Author of Prisoner of the Chattering Class
No holds barred, precisely the commentary I’ve heard from others in similar situations. Thank you for who you are and being a role model for others to include our 14 year old daughter. Much appreciated.
— Anonymous Reader
I will say it took courage to do what you did. Sort of like charging a machine gun nest. After the first step it’s too late to back out.
— Frank Boccia, Author of The Crouching Beast
Thank you so much for being brave enough to show the world this view. You have done society a service with your pen!
— Anonymous Reader
And, last but not least, Single in the CIA is being adapted for TV! That’s right – you may be seeing the book that began it all on your television screens!
As you can see, I have LOTS going on, and more to come. Who knows what the next 5 years has in store, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be big. I have fun coming up with new ideas and bringing my creations to life!
Again, I thank you all for the support. I hope everyone has a very happy holiday season. Here’s to FUN and laughter!
I recently posted a series of flashback excerpts from my first book, Single in the CIA. I’d like to think my writing has improved dramatically since writing that book. I now have seven published books under my belt (four are part of a short story series). As I’ve written each one, I feel my writing has become more creative. My writing now has evolved from the robotic style of CIA cable writing (also, for much of the time I was writing Single in the CIA I had a newborn sleeping on my lap). As much as I sometimes want to cringe when I read segments of Single in the CIA, I wouldn’t change the voice or what I said. I wanted it to be a sort of purging of memories, without much – if any – commentary about the events I described. I think I succeeded in my wish.
Four years later I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to write for OpsLens Media Group. It’s a very different type of writing, but it has definitely helped me to improve further.
As this is my first experience as a news contributor, writing for OpsLens has been quite an eye-opener. I write a series called Underground California in which I highlight issues in the state and try to give a voice to those who do not have one. I try to paint a picture with my writing – to use my creativity to share experiences I’ve had and images I’ve seen.
The staff of contributors at OpsLens is comprised of former intelligence, law enforcement and military. They each offer print and video commentary through the lens of someone who has been there, done that. I truly have friends from all walks of life and I can say that most people who come from those lines of work tend to have fairly conservative views; “Conservative” meaning free-thinking, experience-based opinions. These people don’t get their news from memes on Facebook!
I’ve noticed something lately, and it seems to be getting worse. People seem to be offended and outraged by everything! I’ve seen it in just about every aspect of my life. These days I have been deleted, unfriended, blocked, unfollowed, called nasty names, trolled, misunderstood and just plain treated badly. And it’s not just on social media (I use the pop-in-pop-out strategy on social media as it is a necessary evil for me as a small businessperson). I have had family members, blood and otherwise, treat me with disrespect and misplaced anger. I have had old friends distance themselves from me and even call me a farm animal (huh?). It used to be we could discuss differing views and opinions and accept each other as independently thinking individuals. Now, most people can’t even bother to be civil.
A few weeks ago I made a positive, supportive comment on a fellow contributor’s article. Weeks later (did I mention I pop in and pop out?) I noticed he had responded, and not in a pleasant manner. It appeared that he was so mad at the world that he twisted my complimentary words into something to be mocked. He recently apologized for jumping to conclusions, but the lesson is still there.
And the list goes on. On another social media channel I was called a “bleached blonde hag”, “Russian bot” and told I was a “lonely and desperate” old lady by various trolls. The name-calling is rampant. On yet another channel I was contacted out of the blue after one of my articles was posted that happened to mention our president. The person decided that because I had mentioned my country’s president in a non-negative way (this reader is from another country) that he could not be connected with me on social media any more. Mind you, I don’t personally know these people, I just want them to buy my books and products. Just like everyone else, I am trying to make a living.
Oh – before I receive emails from well-meaning family members trying to give advice on how to handle these things – please, just realize I have an online persona and I do not take these things seriously. Most of my writing is done in a joking tone, playing to the fact that most people put me in the “dumb blonde” category.
Really who cares what I think? Who cares what anyone thinks? Does it really matter? It’s not all about you. Most people are only thinking about themselves and the worries they have from day to day.
Now, this is not to say that I am immune to getting sucked in to the social media rubbish – I am human. I remember back in 1995 when my best friend and I used to fire up that dial-up service, listening anxiously while a noise akin to a robot being strangled filled our ears. We would get into those chat rooms titled “hot-tub” and stir up some shit! But it was more along the lines of “I have big melons” and people knew how to laugh back then. It was fun, it was harmless.
I suppose you could say I was a troll. But a happy-go-lucky troll… With big melons.
From my latest book, Mingling in the CIA: Bloud –
…He was a bit disappointed to see that his attempts to slander Marcus had not brought about his removal from the office. During his brief visit with Vicky he had learned that Mariana had been sent back to Headquarters to work a desk job. Marcus was a little harder to discredit, being male and all…
From my latest book, Mingling in the CIA: Bloud…
…He remembered his life in suburban Ohio and how his wife, a nurse, had loved to garden. His life had seemed so full of light back then. Life had been so simple as an insurance salesman, returning home at noon to have lunch with his wife before her shift at the hospital. Taking drives around the neighborhood at Christmas time to see the lights, dreaming of starting a family. When had he decided that that wasn’t enough for him? When had things changed so dramatically?
He knew the answer to that question. It was a progression. A slow dissatisfaction had crept over him year by year until he knew he had to make a change. Of course, there were triggers along the way. For instance, after many trips to fertility doctors, the realization that they could not have their own children had sunk in. He had watched the light in his wife’s eyes dim day by day. He had at first assumed it was his wife who was infertile; certainly his organs all worked properly. He would never forget the day that her tests came back and all eyes turned to him as the culprit. That was how he felt, he was The Culprit…
From my latest book, Mingling in the CIA: Bloud:
…Dodging a puddle of mysterious liquid on the floor, he slipped out the back door into the brilliant daylight of a Fort Lauderdale afternoon. The ocean crashed to his left as he walked down the sidewalk filled with joggers and bikini-clad women. Despite the bright surroundings, he felt a sense of dread creeping over him, hastened by the many shots of tequila he had downed at the last bar in which he had spent his afternoon. He glanced with disdain at a very botoxed older woman with a small white dog on a pink leash who almost bumped into him as she fumbled for a cigarette in her purse. He hated women. No, he didn’t just hate women, he hated the entire human race. He suddenly felt the urge for a very strong drink…
We first met Bloud in my book, Single in the CIA. You may remember some of the more memorable moments, included below:
…Apparently he had done some pretty exciting things years ago and he loved talking about his experiences, holding a captive audience in the young officers surrounding him. He delighted in telling tales of encounters with tigers and serving time in a hole in the ground somewhere in the Middle East. It was hard to imagine this slovenly, obese man doing anything besides eating pork rinds and drinking beer, but the stories were entertaining. He was given the Chief of Operations or third-in-charge position in the office…
…Bloud painted a somewhat pathetic picture of himself, explaining that without his career he would have nothing. He was nearing the mandatory retirement age, and he did not know what to do with himself once he was forced to retire. He described a haunting image he had of himself as a janitor somewhere, sweeping the floor, living out his retirement. He seemed like a sad and lost soul. That evening, when we both left to go our separate ways, we agreed that anything we talked about was just between the two of us…
…Bloud was in charge while Lawrence was gone, but that was not saying much. He had taken to throwing hissy fits and closing himself in his office any time he received news from Headquarters that he did not like. He would leave the young officers who needed his guidance out in the cold while he sulked behind a closed door. He had also begun a weekly ritual of cooking a slab of meat in a crock pot for the whole office and we were all expected to eat it and listen to him blabber on while the young officers kissed his butt. I dreaded being herded into the office kitchen for these little get-togethers…
…One day when Henningway was out of the office and Bloud was Acting Chief, Bloud spent the day locked in his office and refused to release any cable traffic while he was there. Even the youngest most impressionable officers saw the immaturity in this almost sixty-year-old man…
…I sat down across from him and he explained that Bloud had been telling Vicky a lot about me. He said that upon her arrival Bloud had met with Vicky to discuss the office and had only discussed two people for the entire meeting – me and Jon, a more senior officer who always seemed to be in the middle of a controversy. Among the crazy lies that Bloud had told Vicky was that I had told him I was sleeping with Barry and that I had bragged about….
Want to get to know more about this charming personality, Bloud? Check out the newest installment in the Mingling in the CIA series!
One of the reasons I went to work for the CIA was September 11th. I’ll never forget seeing the Pentagon burning on the horizon that day. I had just been in New York City looking at the Twin Towers a couple of weeks before. Typically, the Washington DC area was such a cutthroat, grouchy area, but after the attacks everyone came together, regardless of beliefs, and people were actually nice and respectful to each other – even while driving in the miserable traffic of the area.