Indie Spotlight Picture Book Writer MJ Belko – I Don’t Read Mysteries

Today’s indie author is MJ Belko. In her article she discusses the irony of not being a mystery reader and yet having written a mystery picture book for kids. Take it away, MJ.

I Don’t Read Mysteries

I don’t read mysteries.  I know, a pox upon me.  I don’t mind watching them, but I never felt compelled to read one.  I’m more of a nonfiction reader.  As a writer, picture books are my wheelhouse.  So, how did I end up writing Winthrop Risk, Detective—The Mystery of the Missing Hamster, an early reader with a nine-year-old detective who sounds like he just stepped out of a Raymond Chandler novel?

I certainly don’t have any disdain for the mystery genre.  I’m a rabid fan of Benedict Cumberbatch as a modern version of Sherlock Holmes.  I loved Derek Jacobi as Cadfael on PBS.  But write one?  Not on your life.  Plot twists and red herrings just aren’t my thing.

Picture books have always been my first love and I’ve written several, though I haven’t found a publisher for them.  I can only say that I stumbled upon my little detective.  He emerged out of an unfocused daydream, his character fully formed in my mind.

Winthrop Risk is a boy of about nine.  He’s smaller than his classmates and is considered by them to be something of a dork and an oddity.  Winthrop, however, has no doubts as to his skills.  He’s a first-rate gumshoe, and he knows it.  The school bully has it in for him and could easily beat the snot out of him, but Winthrop never runs from him.  He stands his ground.  Without fuss.  Without yelling.  Without threatening to tell the teacher.  Winthrop isn’t a boy on a journey of self-discovery (*gag*)—he knows damn well who he is.  I like that about him.

My inspiration came from a Steve Martin movie from years ago, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s brilliant.  Steve Martin plays a hard-boiled detective in the Philip Marlowe mold.  The movie was filmed in black and white, with scenes from old detective films spliced in to create a story.  It’s all there—the wisecracking detective, the beautiful dame, and the usual suspects; but I still didn’t have the framework for writing a mystery.

I began to watch more mysteries on TV.  I gorged on episodes of Murder, She Wrote and some of the more current “cozy” mysteries.  There’s a definite pattern to these stories.  An ordinary citizen, usually female, has a fascination with mysteries and routinely finds herself knee deep in corpses.  Because Winthrop was to be the hard-boiled detective type, I picked up a couple of Raymond Chandler novels and dove in.  Chandler had a fascinating way with the English language.  Before I had the plot fully worked out, I had a great deal of Winthrop’s witty repertoire written.  I formed the story around that.  The thing I found to be most interesting about the TV mystery shows and books is that the mystery itself is never really that baffling.  In fact, I’ve played games of Clue that were tougher to solve.  So what’s the selling point?  It’s the main character and the backdrop of the story.  The sleuth in these stories is always a keen observer, usually with no police training or experience.  In fact, of the mystery shows I’ve watched, the main characters include a Crusader-era friar, a baker, a librarian, a writer, a general contractor, a bookstore owner, and an antiques dealer.  Somehow, they end up stumbling over dead bodies at every turn.  The backdrop is usually some cozy little town straight off a postcard.

Naturally, I had to tone down the plot for my young audience, so there will be no dead bodies in the Winthrop Risk series.  Winthrop’s first adventure has him trying to find out what happened to the class pet, a hamster.  He’s hired by a classmate out of sheer desperation.  Over the four chapters of the book, Winthrop proves himself to be more than capable of solving the mystery, earning the grudging respect of his peers.  He’s funny, smart, confident, and has a definite way with words.  I think Philip Marlowe would like him.

With a bit of research and observation, I think I accomplished what I set out to do.  I have an interesting and relatable main character with witty dialogue, a missing pet, a class bully, and a “like” interest (that’s as heated as it gets for a nine-year-old).   The trick with the sequel is to let the characters grow just a little bit, without outgrowing the elementary school backdrop.  The sequel will involve slightly more risky circumstances—a gang of thieves stealing from Winthrop’s school.  We’ll learn more about Winthrop’s home life and why he never talks about his dad.  We’ll learn about the school ghost and what’s really going on at the local railroad yard.

Writing Winthrop Risk was a huge step outside of my comfort zone, but I love how it turned out.  Don’t be afraid to take some risks of your own with your writing.  That path you’ve wandered down a few times could lead to something terrific.

Write on.

MJ Belko (O’Leary) was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1963 to an Irish family of cops, firemen, and the occasional priest. She is a US Army veteran of the Cold War era and spent about seven years as a lieutenant on her city’s Community Emergency Response Team. After working for an arson investigator, a private investigator, homeschooling two sons, and spending years as a medical transcriptionist editing medical reports, she finally decided to pursue her dream of being a writer. She released her first children’s book, “Winthrop Risk, Detective”, on Amazon in 2016. MJ currently resides in Michigan with her husband of more than 30 years.

If you’d like to learn more about MJ, you can visit her website.

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Indie Spotlight – Tara L. Ames – How much heat do you like in your romance?

Today, please welcome romance writer, Tara L. Ames. Her new book The Risk Taker looks like a real steamy page turner and you can find the link to it at the bottom of this post. Tara is talking about the different types of and the level of ‘heat’ in romances, today. Take it away, Tara…

Romance is a billion-dollar industry and still leads the market in sales compared to all other genres. Readers want to escape for a while and be swept away to that wonderful world of fiction, whether it’s a sweet love story or an erotic adventure. That’s the beauty of books, there is something out there for everyone. And that includes varying degrees of heat in a romance novel.

Heat Scale 1-5

0-2 Clean Romance

If writing a sweet, clean romance, the hero and heroine may not kiss until the very end of the book, when all their troubles have been resolved and they discover they can’t live without one another. The TV series and movies aired on the Hallmark Channel is a perfect example of this genre. My favorite series is When Calls the Heart.

3+ Steamy Romance

While some readers prefer their hero and heroine to only hold hands or kiss each other lightly on the lips, other want the heat turned up a few notches between their two main characters—such as with mine in The Risk Taker, Book 1 in the Alpha Aviators Series. Top Gun Navy Aviator LT Commander Michael Merrick wanted Commercial Artists Samantha Jackson to be a distraction, not the main attraction, morning, noon and night. I can assure you they are doing a lot more than just light hand holding and spooning—but not to the point where it involves other couples or whips and chains or colorful dialogue, which leads me the next two degrees-whew!! These will really sizzle you.

4 -5 Erotica vs Erotic Romance

Erotica romance actually has a plot, three dimensional characters, who have problems to overcome or resolve. Their love scenes, however, may involve colorful dialogue, sex toys, more than one partner: Vampire/Werewolf/Shifter (V/W/S), M/M/F, F/F/M—the initials go on, but you get the jest of it. Many books include BDSM (Bondage/Discipline, Domination/Submission, Sadism/Masochism) scenes. Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James is a perfect example of this genre.

Erotic Romance has two or more characters and the whole story may be nothing but getting it on. I don’t think I need to go into any more detail here.

Most importantly, as a writer, if you state you write sweet and clean or erotica romance then your book better be at that expected heat level, or you’ll really upset your readers. Thank you for having me. Feel free to check out my website at https://www.taralames.com. The Risk Taker, the first release in the Alpha Aviators Series, is on sale at the following retail sites: iTunes  Amazon  KOBO  Nook  Google Play Newsletter 

Have anything you’re dying to know about romances? Feel free to ask Tara your questions in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Love and Hate of Writing a New Series – Guest Post by C. Hope Clark

Murder on Edisto

C. Hope Clark is guest-posting today and sharing some great advice about writing a book series. I certainly have an interest in the topic myself and I hope it will give you some insights into your own projects. And by the way, it’s Hope’s birthday today.  Happy birthday, Hope and take it away. WC

Starting a novel is a frustrating venture for an author. All that empty white space awaiting genius. So much room for brilliance . . . and failure. Writing down the bones of a new story, especially under the shadow of a deadline, is pressure. Creating a virgin series, however, can reap an anxiety attack.

After years of dreaming about a home for my Carolina Slade Mystery Series, and finding that home with Bell Bridge Books, I envisioned myself writing about Slade for the rest of my life. I would become the Sue Grafton of South Carolina, carrying a character through twenty years of crime solving and family feuds, with a slight smack of romance for good measure. I’d be old and gray and still leading Slade into danger, and making her scramble her way out.

Then my publisher asked for a different series.

In a knee-jerk balk, I argued the request. She calmly explained that I needed diversity. She saw more talent in me that wouldn’t come to pass unless I had to stretch my writing muscle in a different direction. The flattery in the message gave me pause. Then after much tossing and turning, I caved. Besides, when a publisher says write this way, you don’t turn diva and refuse. So, I asked with guarded concession, what are you looking for?

Southern in a locale of your choosing, she said. Make the protagonist real law enforcement, not an amateur sleuth. And of course throw in a heaping dose of family drama.

I won’t lie: the assignment scared me crazy. What would my Slade fans think? Would I lose readers, not that I had a Sue Grafton-level fan club? As hard as I’d worked for the past decade developing Slade, I felt I was abandoning her. Seriously, it hurt. I think I even cried.

Opening my notebook, I started with location, since I believe setting is as important as the protagonist. In my tales, anyway. To me, sense of place is like a fingerprint for a story, especially a mystery. And since this place had to carry an entire series, it had to be seductive.

Edisto Beach, South Carolina. Obscure, haunting, remote, with a sense of escape. I knew Edisto, having visited it since I was a teen. No motels or franchises. Laid back without the neon. For me, that decision served as the catalyst for the rest of the series structure.

So now I have two series under my belt, and a box full of lessons learned about series.

1) Plant your flag. My ideas center around setting. Yours might be a particular type of crime, a unique profession, or an especially eclectic character, but find that aspect that allows you to plant your flag, because from this choice will arise all else. The very nature of my setting told me to weave it into the other characters, choices they made, clues, crimes, reactions, obstacles, and of course, the climax and solution. It’s a unifying thread that brands the series, to establish a consistency through all the books.

2) Let your titles identify. My newest release is Murder on Edisto. The series is The Edisto Island Mysteries. If your anchor is character, then your series title might be named after your protagonist, like the Walt Longmire series written by Craig Johnson of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid. With Star Wars, you know you’re getting an environment, a specially built world around which all the players, arcs, and stories revolve, much like Game of Thrones. The Dark Tower series from Stephen King. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. The item, place or character is the key.

3) Avoid backstory. One of the biggest temptations is to regurgitate scenes and history from previous books. In a series, each book usually needs to stand alone as well as hold the thread. Sure, the earlier books impact the current one in a reader’s hands, but backstory must be handled with a deft hand, sprinkled with a light touch. The reader does not need to know all those details, just hints, because the attention is on the now, not the before, in case a reader starts with book two or three.

4) Keep facts straight. There’s a reason you see guidebooks and “bibles” for famous series. Facts pile up and become hard to manage. Ages, car makes, streets, eye color, names, rank, employment and familial status all become fuzzy over time because the author edits and rewrites so many times. Most of these facts change between the first draft and the final edit. Spreadsheets help. I also keep a dry erase board on the wall.

5) Write several synopses for several books. You do not know if you have a series until you write a synopsis for several of the books. I once thought of a marvelous idea for a mystery and came home eager to flesh it out. The initial story held great potential with some curious players and a unique crime, but I could not find the common thread for a second or third book. Disappointing, but I would not have known without thinking ahead. I outlined three Edisto Island mysteries before writing the first chapter of Murder on Edisto.

There are many intricate rules of thumb for writing a series. Readers adore series, that’s for sure, and they stay hungry for those recurring characters and themed stories they can become intimate with as time goes on. It’s lovely to have such a structure in place each time you start writing a new story, but it’s also a challenge to remain consistent while still creating a fresh story that doesn’t fall into an easily recognized template. Love and hate. But the rewards are immensely satisfying, for both the author and the reader.

C. Hope ClarkMurder on Edisto is C. Hope Clark’s latest release, and represents the first in the Edisto Island Mysteries. Also known for her award-winning Carolina Slade series, Hope finds additional time to edit FundsforWriters, chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers. Her newsletters reach over 40 thousand readers.

Someday…

For those of you who do not know Alex, please do check out his newsletter and website. It is very much worth the time. WC

The sea above – how do you see it? As a fantasy fulfilled or the beginning of a dangerous voyage? For people suffering some Someday Syndrome, it’s the latter – a place without a map, without a compass and without hope.

The Someday Syndrome blog guides people across the Someday Sea, freeing you from traveling in circles without destination. Through the various resources available on the blog, you can finally be free from procrastination and fear, from an unaware/unexamined life, and especially from unhappiness.

How? By looking down on the details of your life from the 50,000ft view and charting a clear course through the confusion.

The site offers a DIY email-based workshop and almost daily posts that include interviews, sample mentoring, rants, and an update on the Someday Journey of the blog author, Alex Fayle. And in January, Alex is introducing two new features: a weekly guest post looking at the Someday Journeys of other bloggers as well as a newsletter, offering tips and stories outside the typical blog format.

You can pre-subscribe to the newsletter from the site’s homepage at http://www.somedaysyndrome.com. As well, you can see a complete list of articles and sign up to receive blog posts either through RSS or email at http://www.somedaysyndrome.com/blog

Defining Love – by the Urban Panther

The Urbane Lion and I are about to celebrate our One Year Together anniversary. And we are still madly, deeply in love.

But what is love, exactly? According to the dictionary, love is:

love (luv) Pronunciation Key
n.
A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.
A feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person with whom one is disposed to make a pair.

Let’s break this down, based on my three long term relationships:

A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person

At nineteen, I was experiencing gratitude more than affection. Gratitude that finally some male wanted to actually date me, rather than simply hang out with me. At twenty-seven, it was more of a White Knight in Shining Armour infatuation. The hope that he would rescue me from a miserable life.

At forty-four? Sincere affection. I have very real feelings of tenderness for the Urbane Lion. I hurt when he hurts. I am happy when he is happy. My heart melts just looking at him.

Arising from kinship

In my first relationship, I was too young to have a kinship with myself, let alone another person. I had no clue who I was. In my second relationship, the kinship we shared was both desperately wanting out of our respective marriages. Not a good solid base for creating a relationship with each other.

By forty-four, I knew exactly who I was. When the Urbane Lion came along, I immediately felt a sense of kinship. I knew we shared common values and goals.

Recognition of attractive qualities

My first partner came from a very different family background and upbringing than me. I confused ‘different’ with ‘attractive’. When my second partner came along, I saw someone who appeared to be in control. I felt completely out of control so was attracted to his opposite state of being.

The Urbane Lion’s qualities are not foreign to me, nor are they the opposite of mine. Instead they enhance and complement mine, making them truly attractive to me.

A sense of underlying oneness

I got married way too young. I didn’t allow myself a chance to become one with myself, so I assumed my husband’s identity. In my second relationship, once the common goal of leaving our marriages was achieved, I realized that I fundamentally didn’t like who my partner was at his core.

The Urbane Lion and I, after our respective former relationships broke down, took the time to become strong, independent, confident individuals. We met after we no longer needed anybody in our live. We share a powerful oneness that can only occur when two people are strong in their own rights.

A feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person

I thought I was experiencing intense desire towards my first two partners, but it was actually insecurity and fear. Of course I didn’t know it at the time, and I had nothing to compare my feelings too.

Now I know the desire I feel for the Lion is real. It is so intense sometimes, I burst into tears from the sheer exquisite joy of it. After a year, we still ache when we are apart for more than a couple of hours at a time. And physically, all I have to do is look at him, to get all warm and tingly.

With whom one is disposed to make a pair

A pair, and someday even married. Something neither one of us ever dreamed we would want to be again. But what we have deserves to be celebrated, to be shouted from the rooftops:

We’ve figured love out! It is complete trust in your partner to caress not only your body with tenderness, but your very soul. It’s taken a lifetime of relationship trials and tribulations, but THIS is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.

THIS is the real definition of love.

Urban Panther

If a Giant… by Teeni

If a giant reached out to touch a freshly mown field of grass, would it feel the same to him as velvet would feel to a normal sized person?

Yes, it’s an odd little pondering, I admit. But in recent years, thoughts like this have begun rolling around in my mind more often. Like marbles in a wooden labyrinth, they roll tentatively from one end of my brain to the other, desperately avoiding the holes that will send them into oblivion, where they will be forever misplaced in my faulty memory banks. Some of these ideas survive, fortunately, because I try to write them down before they escape me. They want to be more than just ideas, I think. They want to grow and if I let them, I think they will become much more.

I don’t know if there are more of these wonderings in my head now or if I am just more aware of them. So many things have changed for me in such a short time. I have no idea where to lay the blame. Could it be one of the many medical diagnoses or the treatments I’ve endured? Or is it just normal wisdom coming with old age?

I’ll probably never know how or why things happened the way they did. But I do know that my brain doesn’t work the way it used to. I don’t have the attention span I used to have and my memory stinks. But other things have changed as well. I feel more creative. I’m much more reflective. I can laugh at myself more. I learn in smaller pieces but I make it interesting and try to apply things. I enjoy it. I have ideas. I entertain them and let them linger in my mind, no matter how silly they may be. Ideas and creativity are extremely important. So I don’t stifle mine anymore or shoot them down. They may not all go somewhere but that’s okay.

Everything begins with an idea. And I’m beginning to think that it is healthy to just soak in your creative ideas at times. It is important to free your mind from stresses and periodically just let it wander … and wonder, learning odd things here and there as it goes. I think it helps keep your mind young, fresh, and alive. And you shouldn’t have to schedule a weekend away to do it. Take a few minutes at a time. Learn to relax, breathe deeply. Allow your mind to switch into a lower, slower and calmer gear. Ideas great and small will begin to form without much coaxing, if you will only allow them to. Open up and let them form. They may take you someplace big in life. Or they may just remain interesting, entertaining little ideas.

The question at the beginning of the post occurred to me when my husband and I were driving in the car, most likely on our way home from a food shopping trip – a very mundane task, I know. But I look at things a lot differently now. In the passenger seat beside my handsome man, I looked over and saw a field of freshly mown grass with a little hill in the middle of it. It looked like a giant palm could have fit there like a long-lost puzzle piece. I tried to picture how it would feel if I were fifty times my current size. I visualized stretching out my enormous arm and placing my gargantuan hand right in the middle of that sweet smelling field. Individual blades of grass would be miniscule compared to my oversized hand. Would I even feel them at all? Would they register in my consciousness? I think they would. I think they would feel like a carpet of cool, soft velvet. I might even pass my hand back and forth a little bit to “pet” the grass, “fluffing” up any blades that had been bent over and immersing myself in its sensation, the reaction it evoked from me.

Maybe this one wasn’t my million-dollar idea. But I let the idea grow. And it did. It turned into this post.

Always wonder.

Always learn.

Always love.

Always laugh.

Always live.

Thanks for letting me get a little creative and expressive over here, Annie. Hugs to you and to anyone reading – thanks for your time!

Teeni

Evyl's Tasteless Poetry: The Guest Post Edition

Sarah’s Blue Ribbon

Sarah looked at her mantle with a sense of pride
But her one misgiving, she couldn’t hide.
Statues aplenty of bronze and silver bold
But alas not a one with the shade of gold.

Every year she entered baked goods in the County Fair
Her cooking had style, taste, and savoir faire.
But something was missing and the win that she sought
Could never somehow seem to be bought.

But this year she smiled with a devilish grin
I have just the ingredient to garnish the win.
So she mixed up a dish, hoping it would be the one
With a lot of love and a good dash of fun.

Sarah gazed at the judges so serious and dour
Hoping that her dish wouldn’t cause their faces to sour.
But next she saw something she hadn’t seen in a while
All of the judges faces beamed with a smile.

The Blue Ribbon was her’s that had eluded her so
The secret ingredient had won don’t you know.
So if you want to get the judges to smile here’s the fix
Just a pinch of the ganja in Grandma’s brownie recipe mix.

Hope y’all like it and take care,
Evyl

My Son Is Seeing The Light! – Guest Post by Joan Harvest

Hey, I’m Joan Harvest from “Whatever I Think.” Annie asked me to do a guest post for her and I was honored and thrilled. This is my second guest post here. The first time was a little different. Annie offered me the use of her blog so I could write about my son who is a heroin/crack addict. I had never wanted to write about him on my own blog for one reason: he reads my blog on occasion and I didn’t exactly have permission to write about him but I really needed to.

My dilemma was what to write about as a guest bloggelist this time: another depressing story about my son? or maybe continue on with my saga about dumbasses? or maybe incorporate the two? I even carry around a video camera looking for them(dumbasses) and their antics though I have yet to actually catch any on video. It’s like stalking Bigfoot. He’s never around for a photo op. But have no fear, I will be interviewing my wasband soon so that will take care of that.

I just can’t seem to get myself to stop posting about dumbasses. They are everywhere, around every corner, on every highway, in every parking lot. You can’t get away from them especially if you look in the mirror. I don’t always see a dumbass in the mirror but sometimes I do. Just goes to show you there is a little dumbassness in each of us.

I didn’t exactly want to come right out and call my son a dumbass. I am his mother and have never called him names. Even when he was little I always said to him that he had done a bad thing but I never called him bad. I called him other names when he was little like “alien piggy”, “buzzard breath”, “Damundo”, and countless others but they were all in fun.

He stayed away from heroin for 3 1/2 years and I found out he started using again recently. He admitted it to both me and his girlfriend. Heroin is an opiate like percocet, vicoden, demerol and oxycontin . So now he has bought suboxone off the streets. Suboxone is used by doctors to help addicts get off opiates. It is an opiate in itself but doesn’t get you high. It takes away the craving for opiates and the withdrawal symptoms. It can also be misused if you take enough of it. His girlfriend is doling it out to him in small amounts and he’s weaning off of it. They are in Alaska right now in Denali State park camping out. She got him out of Buffalo and away from the drug dealers. She’s no dumbass.

He called me last night at 1:45 AM in the morning. As soon as I saw his name on caller ID I almost didn’t answer the phone. I’m always afraid it’s going to be one of the bad calls. But again I am his mom and felt an obligation and a need to know. I answered the phone and now I am going to do some thing I have never done before. I am going to call my own flesh and blood, my only son, my sweet pea, a freakin’ dumbass. He forgot there was a four hour time difference and he wanted to tell me how they went white water rafting and how much fun it was. He wanted to tell me about the grizzly bears and wolves they saw.

I was relieved to hear he wasn’t in some alley dead of an overdose (a fear I live with) and I actually sat and listened to his stories. He sounded so happy. He sounded like the Damon I love and cherish and not the Damon wasted on drugs. I didn’t really want to hear about the grizzly bears because now I have it in my head that grizzly bears will be converging on him en masse but of course I patiently listened. I am his mom. I imagined every grizzly bear in Alaska looking for him.

But last night’s call left me with hope. The hope that my son will someday find his way in this life. They are in Alaska with not much money and a tent. But they are happy. I always sleep better knowing my son is happy.

The photo is actually of my son seeing the light, hopefully, one day.

(Joanie, I hope that day is soon. Thanks for this – hugs & jugs)

Hair and Spray- Guest Post by mJ

Hi, I’m mJ from Not a Housekeeper and WC asked me to pinch hit for her today.

I was a clumsy kid.

I was the kid no one wanted on their dodgeball team because it was inevitable that I’d ball one of my own teammates in the back of the head.

I was the kid, when playing volleyball in PE class, who’d serve the ball. And instead of actually smacking the ball over the net, I’d miss the ball held in my hand with such verve and force that I’d flop onto the floor, the ball rolling into an unoccupied corner.

Kids groaned when I was the one left to be chosen for sports teams. I groaned too. I should have felt left out, or sad, but I didn’t, because I knew just as well as they did that I was an absolute disaster in any kind of coordinated team activity. Put me in a pair of ballet slippers, and I was fine. But anything that involved other people? Disaster.

In ninth grade, I went to a private school. We had these grey wool pleated skirts, and white oxford button-down shirts, and maroon cardigan sweaters. We could wear any shoes we wanted, as long as we had on knee socks or tights. I wore penny loafers, or purple Doc Martens. Because I was such a dichotomy, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be punk or prep. It was Jersey, so it didn’t really matter much, as long as I had The Hair.

For some reason, in fifth grade, I decided to cut my hair short. In a kind of funky surfer girl do, with the hair a little longer on one side so I could swing it out of my face as needed. I looked absolutely asinine, because I have thick, curly hair. Thick curly hair needs to be long enough to weight itself down, or it looks like a head of broccoli. And I sure did look like a piece of broccoli.

Since my hair was so ridiculously unruly, I used hairspray. We didn’t have product in those days-AquaNet or Stiff Stuff was as good as it got, so I had both. And used them judiciously. I decided to grow my hair longer, so by the time I was in ninth grade it resembled a mass of bird’s nests rather than actual hair.

My hair grows outward. Not down.

The amount of hairspray I used on any given day didn’t help, nor did the fact that instead of allowing my curls to air dry, I instead hit them with a blow dryer.

It was the end of my ninth grade year, and it was hot. And sticky. And humid. And it was that time of year for the PE fitness tests, which meant an entire week of being outside daily. Does anyone know what thick, curly, hair sprayed hair does at the end of a week of being outside?

It poofs. Significantly. So, on Friday, the last day of PE tests, I used an extra dose of hairspray to counteract the effects of the humidity. Which basically meant that my hair was immobile. A helmet, as it were. My hair wasn’t going anywhere.

I’m on the track, running my mile, when a bee stopped by. The scent of my sticky-sweet hair must have attracted him, because he decided to hang around for awhile. Which I didn’t care for, and responded by swatting and dodging and running crazily. Which the bee didn’t care for, so he responded by attempting to sting me.

And he did. Right in the scalp above my left ear.

And then he died, in my hair. Because I had so much hairspray creating a helmet, that the bee couldn’t fight his way through the jungle to get out and die in peace. Of course, this horrified me, so I was sent to the school nurse, to get the bee out.

She wanted to wash my hair. At school. And I didn’t have any hairspray.

So I told her “no”, went back to PE with a dead bee in my hair, finished out the day, and went home. With a dead bee in my hair.

My parents grounded me from hairspray that month. Took all of it away, and made me go to school with UN-HAIR SPRAYED HAIR. I, of course, sneak-hair sprayed, until one day when I learned the value of air drying.

I still don’t use hairspray, and have an unhealthy fear of bees.

Thanks Annie, for having me hang out at your place today!!

(Thanks mJ, I’m still laughing over this one!)

The Ebay Skinny – Guest Post by Darla

Hi, my name is Darla of the Ultra Beauty Boutique blog, which Writer Chick calls “Free’s Beauty Shack. 😉 WC asked me to talk a little bit about my eBay success. So I thought I would start at the root of how it began.

I had just decided to null my contract with a multi-level marketing business I had been in for almost 15 years and I was selling off my prizes, extra products, samples, etc. At that time, I participated in a blog where I talked about how I was getting rid of all my of excess. I didn’t give eBay as a “job” a second thought until someone asked me to sell their stuff for them. I said, SURE and that started my consignment business.

Just so you know I no longer do consignment (for the most part) but will share with you the ins-and-outs of what I learned while doing it (I currently ONLY liquidate products).

1. Have EVERYTHING that you will and will not do in writing.

2. There will always be people who expect you to put their items first even if you tell them upfront you are a month behind.

3. Know EXACTLY what you will and will not take and in what condition (i.e. one of the last consignment jobs I did, I found the items were so filthy with mold and dirt that I had to literally scrape & Lysol wipe them off).

4. There will always be those people who will promise you they won’t try to micromanage you, but they will. Don’t be afraid to give the product right back to them at their expense. You are not their slave.

5. Some people have specific places to drop off consignment items, I chose to have people mail them to me, since many items come from quite a distance (longer than a car ride).

6. Decide upfront who pays the fees and the % or the fee you will charge per item.

7. Keep a detailed spreadsheet for the client, listing all fees, selling price, etc. so there is no question of your honesty. PERIOD.

8. There will always be people who think their items should bring more and want you to “pull” the auction toward the end. Decide early on that this is NOT the way to conduct your business. I would also strongly encourage you to put that in writing (I know it sounds like a no-brainer but trust me there are people out there who will try this trick).

The rules for being a trading assistant on eBay can be found here:

If you have any specific questions or suggestions (I’m sure I forgot something) you can leave me a comment here or e-mail me at darla@werlivingfree.com

(Thanks Darla, for those little tricks and tips – I never knew this stuff.)