So, why do all these projects? After all, many authors, artists and creators of all types don’t actually make much more than pennies on the dollar from each “creation” they sell. Everyone takes a cut. [I do actually make some money on them, and it is a constant royalty stream for my children when they are older, but…]
The answer is, writing a book leads to other opportunities.
In my case, one of the first doors that opened to me was the offer to be a contributor to OpsLens Media. OpsLens provides daily print and video commentary on the world’s most trending and critical stories related to national security, public policy and other matters of state through the lens of experience. The staff of contributors is comprised of former intelligence, law enforcement and military operators that have more than 200 deployments to both conventional and hostile areas around the globe performing counterterrorism, counterdrug, counterintelligence, traditional espionage and other unique operations. As a former CIA officer, I fit this description.
I began with a series focused on California called Underground California. This led to more show appearances, building on my first TV experience with Politics & Profits with Rick Amato earlier in the year. You see, no one would have asked me to be on a show prior to publishing my fist book, Single in the CIA. My second ever show appearance was on the Drew Berquist Show. Each of these appearances allowed me to showcase some of my projects and products, and that always helps a small business person.
It kind of bothers me sometimes how little people seem to remember. In the U.S., at least, it seems any time an event occurs, it is immediately hyped up as being the first time ____ has ever happened. Just within the past couple of weeks we heard that two hurricanes were heading toward the U.S., one behind the other, and THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY THAT WE’VE SEEN THIS!! Surely we all remember a time when two hurricanes happened to be lined up near each other in the ocean and were headed toward the U.S. I remember plenty of times myself. Never mind that usually one of the storms gets downgraded and is no longer a hurricane by the time of landfall. When Irma was heading for the Florida Keys, I saw plenty of hysterical posts on social media about how this was the first time such a strong hurricane had ever threatened the Keys. Seems no one can remember or even has the skills to research a little anymore. In 1935 (just as ONE example), The Labor Day Hurricane caused incredible damage to the Florida Keys. You can still see that damage as you drive down to Key West alongside the railroad that abruptly ends, destroyed by this hurricane and never repaired. Remember Hurricane Donna and Betsy in the 1960s? One of them most certainly was guilty of tossing a Volkswagen Beetle into the bottom of the sea – a creepy shipwreck-like scene that I was fascinated by as a kid swimming in the open ocean.
It’s not only hurricanes and weather events – what about swine flu or H1N1? Does anyone remember that? I do. I actually had the swine flu – in 2009 – and I survived. We didn’t shut anything down for H1N1. We were simply told that if you were sick, stay home. It was a pandemic, just as we’ve had numerous other pandemics. What about SARS? MERS? COVID-19 is not the first pandemic, though the unprecedented freak-out that we have seen in response to it is certainly new.
Terrorist attacks are not new either. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, just as one example, there were numerous plane hijackings. Does anyone remember the Iran Hostage Crisis? Does anyone remember the almost constant news of suicide bombings that we used to hear about on the sidewalks of Israel?
I know for certain that I will never forget September 11, 2001. I had hardly been in the Washington, D.C. area a year when it happened. I had just visited New York the week prior and stood at the feet of the Twin Towers, amazed at how tall they were. I remember how, that morning, I bumbled into the office of the IRS task force I was working for, to see the police officers and IRS agents all transfixed by the TV screen. They were watching planes crashing into the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City. I remember being somewhat oblivious as I went with a colleague to pick up snacks for the office and seeing the smoke on the horizon – at the Pentagon. I remember it sinking in as I saw people pulling over on the side of the road to try to make phone calls from phone booths (we still had those) – because if you had a cell phone, they were not working. I remember thinking of my family on the west coast, and worrying that they would be hit next. I remember watching the news coverage of people jumping out of the Twin Towers so they would not burn to death. I remember wondering how it would have been to look out of your office window to see a plane coming right at you and knowing you would die – if there would even be time to think. I remember for days after the attacks how nice people became, and how much courtesy we all suddenly showed each other.
Let’s try not to forget so much. Let’s try to learn from history. Let’s learn how to research again and try to find facts, not just narrative. Let’s remember how to make our own decisions instead of blindly accepting someone else’s. Let’s try not to avoid subjects just because they might be unpleasant or upsetting to talk about or remember. For, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
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.
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.
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.
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.