That Time When Sharks Attacked Those Artists

It’s 2017 and people are still shouting at people, “Watch out for sharks!  Stay out of the water!”  This is wise advice if you happen to be swimming in shark infested waters.  If you know the waters are offering refuge and sanctuary to carnivorous sea thugs, the wise thing to do is to steer clear and find a way around them.  After all, the wisest course of action is the most obvious, right?

But here’s something I’ve noticed over the years.  Some people are so focused on what they want, they fail to see the warning signs, and they put themselves at perilous risk.  They jump in with both feet and actually swim out to embrace danger.  What’s worse, when they come face-to-face with these fierce predators, the tendency is to blame everyone on shore for failing to hold them back.  It almost always ends badly for the swimmer, and occasionally ends badly for the shark.

Do you remember that time when those sharks attacked all those artists?  It was especially horrific since the sharks in question attacked landlocked artists who were unaware that, not only were these sharks predatory in nature, those sharks were too far inland to be trusted.

Some of you are undoubtedly trying to figure out the incident to which I’m referring, and really, I’m not talking of one incident.  I’m talking about the same incident that happens repeatedly albeit with slight variations each time.  I’m talking about the sharks that swim circles around naive and even gullible authors, artists, musicians, and other creative types, and at the first chance, they go in for the kill, leaving well-fed and their victims stripped to the bone.

I’ve been fortunate over the years to stay far away from sharks whether they happen to be in the waters where I happen to be vacationing or they happen to be circulating at industry parties and conferences on land.  I suppose this has a lot to do with the fact I learned about such dangers early on from watching those who failed to navigate to safer shores.  Sometimes being an observer an arm’s length away from danger is preferable to being the main course grabbing for a sliver of the limelight from someone else’s success.

Last week, as I researched an entry for my Idiomation blog, I found myself reading magazines from days gone by.  I don’t mean reading as in devouring every single article, and hanging on each and every word published between the front and back covers.  I mean I browsed the pages and remarked on the differences between magazines from the 1930s and magazines from the 2010s.  Near the back, I found a very small, easily overlooked advertisement from a business that was established in 1917.  Always interested in a good story, especially one that’s at least a century old, I screenshot the advertisement, curious as to whatever happened to those who waited patiently for eager men and women to pound down their doors with the next amazing motion picture script.

The dollar signs said it all:  Riches were ripe for the picking in Hollywood if you were a writer who hooked up with this agency.

Universal Scenario Company was really on the hunt for talent. Why, they even went as far as to advertise in Popular Science and other reputable magazines. Sometimes they were located at 214 Security Building on the corner of Santa Monica and Western Avenues in Hollywood, California. Sometimes they were located at 238 Security Building. Every once in a while they were located at 206 Western and Santa Monica Building or even 406 Western and Santa Monica Building in Hollywood, California.


These guys were everywhere, and they needed more scripts than any successful studio could ever ask to receive in this lifetime or the next. There was so much demand, one has to wonder why it is these days that Hollywood seems to be subsisting on reboots and remakes instead of delving into the many fine photoplays that were sent to Universal Scenario Company over the years in the early days of movie making. But I digress.

Universal Scenario Company was really on the hunt for talent. Why, they even went as far as to advertise in Popular Science and other reputable magazines. Sometimes they were located at 214 Security Building on the corner of Santa Monica and Western Avenues in Hollywood, California. Sometimes they were located at 238 Security Building. Every once in a while they were located at 206 Western and Santa Monica Building or even 406 Western and Santa Monica Building in Hollywood, California.

These guys were everywhere, and they needed more scripts than any successful studio could ever ask to receive in this lifetime or the next. There was so much demand, one has to wonder why it is these days that Hollywood seems to be subsisting on reboots and remakes instead of delving into the many fine photo plays that were sent to Universal Scenario Company over the years in the early days of movie making. But I digress.

The hook was more than just the money offered for original photoplay stories. They did it all for unknown authors trying to sell their first story. They revised. They copyrighted. They submitted to studios.

And because they were “located in the heart of motion picture industry” they claimed to “know production requirements.” What a sweetheart of a deal!

There isn’t much that can be learned about the Universal Scenario Company past a grat many advertisements in a great many publications but there was a lawsuit I found of particular interest. It was a lawsuit filed by Robert H. Sheets of Jackson (TN) against Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation with regards to their 1936 movie titled, “The Road To Glory.” The plaintiff claimed the studio had plagiarized his story and in making it a movie, he expected a six-digit pay-out (a considerable sum in 1934) for being the author of the story.

IMPORTANT NOTE 1:  The plaintiff’s claim was dismissed when proof was submitted to the courts that the title of the story typed in the form had been erased and typed over with the new title, “The Road To Glory.”

In his lawsuit, Robert H. Sheets claimed the following:

The plaintiff also introduced in evidence a letter, dated February 7, 1935, received by him from the Universal Scenario Company, in which he is urged to sign an enclosed application and agreement, providing for the payment of $25 in such installments as might suit the plaintiff for the publication of a synopsis and other marketing service. The printed form of agreement attached to that letter has, in the space for the title of the manuscript, the typewritten words “The Road to Glory.” The only other typewritten characters on the form are the figures “1250” to indicate the length of the synopsis to be published in the event the agreement should be signed. This is submitted by the plaintiff to corroborate his testimony that the story in controversy was in existence shortly after the time he stated that it was written by him, and that a copy of the story had been sent by him to the Universal Scenario Company. The plaintiff states that he did not execute the agreement nor make the remittance.

Mr. Sheets wasn’t signing a contract for representation where his agent was to be paid from the proceeds of the sale of his photoplay.  The payment was set up much the same way vanity presses in 2017 are set up to fleece unsuspecting authors and writers.

The point of all this is simple:  People looking to make a quick buck at the expense of others have been around for longer than any of us can probably imagine.  When something looks or sounds too good to be true, the numbers are not in your favor.  Chances are there’s something going on, especially if you’re desperate to have your voice heard.

As for what I plan on doing with all this information, I think I’ll keep scouring the Internet and old magazines and archived newspapers in search of details about the Universal Scenario Company.  For a company that did so much advertising, there isn’t that much more than just the advertising proclaiming the virtues of being involved with the company.  I wonder what became of them, and whether they were bought out or just faded away into obscurity.

Yes, a hundred years later, at least one person wonders whatever became of the Universal Scenario Company, and did they ever place any photoplays with major motion picture studios in Hollywood, California that became major hits with big stars in the roles.

Elyse Bruce

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Cultural Appropriation Cuts Both Ways

Last week, the focus was on cultural appropriation and society from the perspective of the majority raiding the non-material culture of minorities.  This week, the shoe is on the other foot as cultural appropriation isn’t a one way street.

The video from “The Midnight Special” from 1974 shows Redbone performing their hit song “Come And Get Your Love.”  It was a song that climbed the charts all the way to #5, and stayed on the charts long enough to be certified Gold (it sold over half a million copies) because it was catchy and fun.  The band members were Native American Indians, and the New York Smithsonian Institution accredited the group as being the first Native American Indian rock group to have an international hit.

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The song made its way back up the Billboard charts in 2014 when it was featured in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie.

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The year after that, Netflix used the song as the intro theme for the cartoon series, “F is for Family.”

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The song has legs obviously, with as much audience appeal forty years after its release as the day it first hit the airwaves.  But forty years later, there seems to be some cultural appropriation issues with the song.

Redbone’s song lyrics referenced Cajun and New Orleans culture but the founding brothers, Patrick and Lolly Vasquez-Vegas were a mix of Yaqui, Shoshone, and Mexican heritage.  The band was known for playing rock music, R&B, blue-eyed soul, funk, and country as well as tribal music.  There’s no denying that R&B and blue-eyed soul are definitely not from any Native American Indian culture.  And funk, rock, and country music is associated with cultures other than Indigenous cultures.

But wait a minute!  Guitars – acoustic or electric — aren’t traditional Native American Indian instruments!

The first acoustic guitar as we know it was built in 1850 by Spanish guitarist and luthier Antonio de Torres Jurado (13 June 1817 – 19 November 1892), based on a design by note Spanish guitar maker Joséf Pagés (1740 – 1822) and Spanish luthier Josef Sebastián Benedid Díaz (10 February 1760 – 20 October 1836).  The guitar had a body that was now able to hold its own with an orchestra without being lost in the other instruments.  Europeans went wild for guitars!

Electric guitars had their humble beginnings at the heart of electromagnetic induction which was discovered by English scientist Michael Faraday (22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867) on August 29, 1831.

By 1919, magazine ads began to appear, offering devices that would amplify instruments, and then came American jazz, country, and blues guitarist and songwriter Lester William Polsfuss, better known as Les Paul (9 June 1915 – 12 August 2009) and American inventor Clarence Leonidas “Leo” Fender (10 August 1909 – 21 March 1991) who created the electric guitar as we know it today.

Now Les Paul’s ancestry is German thanks to both parents, and Leo Fender’s family is American going back to his great-great-great-great-grandparents.  That being said, the generation before that was from Baden-Wuerttemberg (Germany) and Cumberland (England) and Bethnal Green, Stepney, County Middlesex (England).

The argument can be made that Redbone’s success was due in part to the cultural appropriation of guitars which are obviously part of the English, Spanish, and German cultures.

Some will argue that fiddles were instruments of the Inuit and the Apache however fiddles only appeared after Indigenous peoples had contact with Europeans so it would seem that this may be a case of cultural appropriation.  But even if it’s argued that fiddles are Indigenous instruments, they aren’t guitars, and they aren’t played the way guitars are played.  This means that guitars are definitely not Native American Indian instruments.

Since we know from last weeks’ essay that cultural appropriation happens when one culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, and more are used without permission of the culture from which it is taken, is it not fair to say that Native American Indians have also engaged in cultural appropriation?

And then there’s the Aboriginal rappers to consider.  Have they engaged in cultural appropriation?

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Elyse Bruce

Countdown To Launch

This weekend, I’m putting the finishing touches to the upcoming Missy Barrett Adventures book launch, and while the process has been labor intensive, the event is going to be well worth the time and effort.

The Venue

Ask ten authors where book launches should take place, and most of them will insist on either a book store or a library.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with having a book launch at either of those locations so please don’t misunderstand me when I say that an author shouldn’t feel constrained to just a book store or a library.  I’m saying that thinking outside the box and going with some place other than a book store or library is also the correct answer to that question.

Missy Barrett’s most recent adventure is titled, “Barnstormin‘” so it’s fitting to have the book launch at the local airport.  Thanks to Emily Haun and her staff at the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport, the venue is going to be awesome including the Airplane Viewing Lounge where kids will be able to look out onto the runway where planes land and take off.

The WOW Factor

Everyone likes to think they have the WOW Factor nailed down for their book launch.  Some do, and some don’t.  Take some time to ask yourself, “What would my fans love to find at this book launch that ties in with the book’s theme?”  When you answer that question, you have your WOW factor figured out.

With “Barnstormin’” the WOW factor is the Book of Letters.  In the Book of Letters, various real life aviation industry people sent Missy Barrett a letter to welcome her to the world of aviation.  The Book of Letters has some interesting letters in it from airlines and aircraft manufacturers, pilots and aviation colleges, and more.

The WOW Plus Factor

Not every book launch can have a WOW Plus Factor but when you have a book launch with a Wow Plus Factor, the event becomes truly memorable for attendees.  This book launch has an amazing WOW Plus Factor:  Missy Barrett has been made an honorary National Air Transportation Association member by N.A.T.A. (complete with an Official Certificate) and I can’t begin to imagine a bigger WOW Plus Factor than this!

Goodie Bags

Every great party has goodie bags, and this party is no different.   Because Missy Barrett is a fictional 9-year-old and because her fan base is primarily young readers, the goodie bags are age appropriate and Missy Barrett themed.  Because Missy believes that anything can be an adventure if you make up your mind for it to be an adventure, and because Missy understands that every dream come true starts with a good plan and loads of imagination, the items found in the goodie bag support this idea.

The goodie bags for this event have neat items in them from Envoy Airlines, the Hard Rock Café – Pigeon Forge, NATA (National Air Transporation Association), Preferred Pharmacy, the Tennessee State Bank, Western Michigan University: College of Aviation, and WonderWorks – Pigeon Forge.

Door Prizes

And what’s a great party without door prizes?  While the goodie bags have to do with imagination and plans, the door prizes have to do with some of the places the story takes Missy Barrett, her grandfather, and biplane pilot, Marc Hightower (a real life pilot who really fly a biplane).

The door prizes are from the Comedy Barn, the Hard Rock Café – Pigeon Forge, Thomas D. Taylor, Shear Madness Beauty and Beyond, Smith Family Morning Variety Show, Smoky Mountain Opry, the Tennessee State Bank, and WonderWorks – Pigeon Forge.

Online Fun

It’s amazing how many authors forget the importance of having fun, especially on social media, when it comes to getting the word out about a book launch.  Missy Barrett has her own social media (even though she’s a fictional character) and rather than blasting out the same message about the upcoming book launch every day, I made the character approach the event the way any child her age would.

She tweeted airlines about her adventure.  One airline tweeted back using the hashtag #PossibleFuturePilot, which was incorporated in a number of Missy’s tweets.  Four airlines carried on abbreviated but humorous exchanges with Missy on Twitter.  It wasn’t long before others joined in on the fun.

Over on Facebook, Missy Barrett started an event page from her Fan Page, and on the event page as well as on her Fan Page, she shared updates and breaking news (she even has her own MBBN — Missy Barrett Breaking News — logo to go with her breaking news reports).

She had regular updates on her website.   In other words, the book launch fun began with the lead up to next Tuesday’s event.  Even if online fans and followers live too far away to attend the event, they were kept in the loop, and the comments, likes, status reactions, and more added to the excitement.

Behind The Scenes

As with every event, there are people behind the scenes lending a hand where they can, and in this case, I had (and continue to have) some fantastic help.  Thanks to David Stanfill, Phil Word, and Carroll McMahan of the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce as well as author Thomas D. Taylor.

Final Note

This takes me to the reason of why I do what I do, especially when it comes to putting together book launches.  You see, were it not for the people who read the books I write, there’s no reason for putting all this time and effort into orchestrating these events.  So the thank you that many authors forget to say is to the fans who buy and read the books.  They’re the reason the books are written, and they’re the reason the book launches are so much fun.

Whether you’re an author (aspiring or published) or you have one of my books (long-time fan or first time reader), book launches are meant to be a celebration.  I’m looking forward to having as much fun as possible on Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. at the local airport with a lot of kids and their parents or chaperones.  But between now and Tuesday, I still have 50 goodie bags to finish putting together.

Elyse Bruce

7 Important Steps To Great Blogging

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t read comments on social media or hear someone in business complain about the lack of success on their blog.  When I ask what they consider success when it comes to blogging, most often they say that they aren’t getting thousands of unique hits when they post a new entry.

Now I don’t pretend to be a blogging guru, however I have more than one blog and each one has its niche.  Within those niches, each blog has achieved success in keeping with the niche in which it has grown.  I’m not claiming that the seven important steps that work for me will work for every blogger.  I’m saying that these seven steps are what have grown each of my blogs and made them successes within their unique niches.

Choose a topic you understand and researched.

Nothing annoys readers more than an article that is poorly researched and badly understood by the writer.  If the subject warrants a blog entry, it warrants careful attention to detail as well.  Take the time to know what you want to say on the matter, and support your opinion with a solid foundation of facts.

Communicate your thoughts clearly.

Have you ever read an article and wondered what the headline and the text have to do with each other?  Have you ever read a blog entry that was so disjointed that you finally gave up trying to understand what the writer was trying to share?  If you have any doubts about what you’ve written, read it aloud to yourself.  If you stumble over your own words, chances are you aren’t communicating your thoughts clearly.

Whether you’re quoting or paraphrasing, credit the source.

Those who subscribe to my blogs or who make a point of visiting my blogs regularly have seen a great many of my articles with SUGGESTED READING following my articles.  In those cases, while I haven’t quoted or paraphrased the articles, I’m providing readers the opportunity to consider for themselves if they agree with what I’ve written.  When I’ve quoted or paraphrased someone, the source is credited so readers can verify what was  said or written.  It’s a good practice to follow.

Don’t worry about whether you’re being innovative or creative or sharing a fresh idea. 

Chances are whatever you’ll write has been written about before, and often at that.  What makes your blog article different is your interpretation of what you’re writing about and that’s what draws readers back to your blog.  As long as you are genuine in your approach, everything else falls into place beautifully.

Challenge yourself.

From time to time write about things that matter that may not be easy to discuss.  Recently I wrote an open letter to Brock Turner’s mother, Carleen and posted it to this blog.  The challenge was in writing a piece that would resonate with many different factions without alienating or insulting them.  The entry went viral and no one attacked me for having written the piece.  Challenging yourself as a blogger always pays off.

Be positive.

This doesn’t mean you can’t deal with negative topics.  This is about finding balance, considering as many aspects to a situation as possible, and being fair.  It’s not about selling out so there’s no controversy on your blog.  It’s about being positive that the subject you’ve chosen to write about is something that needs to be read, and shared, by others.  So, yes, be positive because being positive is contagious.

Don’t give up.

If you aren’t getting thousands of unique hits to your blog, that doesn’t mean you aren’t successful as a blogger.  If you’re in a niche category, success is found in how many of your subscribers and readers return to your blog week after week.  For example, my blog “Idiomation: Historically Speaking” gets tens of thousands of unique hits per month and is linked to by many impressive businesses, organizations, not-for-profits, colleges, universities, and more.  Meanwhile, my “Missy Barrett” blog enjoys a much smaller readership because fans of that blog are young children and their parents who stop in every Wednesday to read the weekly entry on Missy’s blog.

Final Note

Regardless of what your blog is about, don’t sell out to be something that doesn’t feel right to you.  If you’re passionate about widgets, then write about widgets in all shapes and sizes from around the world.  Be the best widget researcher you can possibly be, and reach out to other widget aficionados.  Be the widget change you wish to see (to paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi) in the blogosphere.  And don’t be afraid to stop by here and share the link to your blog in the Comments section below.

Elyse Bruce

The Real Story In A Fictional Package

There’s so much more to publishing a novel than just writing it.  Aside from the regular rigors of writing, rewriting, proofreading, rewriting, editing, and more, an author — with or without a major publishing house behind him or her — has to have a marketing plan in place otherwise the book just sits on the proverbial shelf.

When I first began writing “Knick Knack Paddywhack” back in 2013, a lot was going on in the autism community as chasms between groups grew wider and wider.  A new group of autistics had sprung up on the Internet:  Self-diagnosed Aspies.  For the most part, many were people who had taken the online quizzes a number of times until they were able to cross over the thin blue line from NT to AS.  In their wake, the chasm grew even wider.

One of the biggest problems this created was that people were increasing skittish about asking questions that needed to be answered for fear of being targeted for abuse by others in the autism community from parents to awarists, autism advocates to self-diagnosed autistics, and more.  But the questions begged to be asked.

Could autistics lie?

Could autistics bully others?

Could autistics tell right from wrong?

As an author, I wondered about that and more.  I wanted to know if it was possible for a non-autistic to convince the autism and medical communities that he had autism, and to live that ruse for an extended period of time.

April is Autism Awareness Month and May is Mental Health Month, and so I decided back in 2013 that “Knick Knack Paddywhack” would be released near the end of April to coincide with both awareness months.  I didn’t set a specific date other than to earmark publication for the end of April without pegging the year.

Oddly enough, authors usually have an idea as to what year they would like to publish a novel.  In this case, it was more important to create three-dimensional characters who reminded readers of people they knew in their real lives.  I wanted to craft a story that was compelling with unexpected twists and turns along the way.

And most importantly, I wanted readers to ask questions and to search for the answers to those questions.

A great deal of research went into this book before the first word was put to paper, right down to finding a right name for the main character.  When all was said and done, the name Rion McNeally was decided upon because no amount of searching on the Internet yielded that specific name.  The same can be said for Aidan Beresford-Smith.

With the release of “Knick Knack Paddywhack” came the launch of the “Save Rion McNeally” blog site.  Every day, Rion’s friend Paddywhack does his best to create a safe environment where people can ask and discuss what autism may or may not be without fear of trolling or bullying from those who don’t share their opinion.  A Facebook page and a Twitter account were set up as well with Paddywhack at the helm.

Paddywhack is leaving an impression on social media and, indirectly, so is Rion McNeally.  People relate to the situation Rion finds himself in and they understand Paddywhack’s concern for his friend.  And despite the fact that the blog states that all of this is fictional, the question needs to be asked.

Dean Beadle UK
What do we know about Autism Spectrum Disorder and criminality?  Studies have proven that autistics are three times more likely to be victims than non-autistics.  Autistics are bullied more often than non-autistics.  And real life has proven that sometimes autistics knowingly and purposely commit crimes.

Pick up your copy of “Knick Knack Paddywhack” on Amazon (in the US and abroad) by clicking HERE, and on CreateSpace by clicking HERE.

You can subscribe to the “Save Rion McNeally” blog by clicking HERE.  Follow “Save Rion McNeally” on Facebook by clicking HERE and follow @4RionMcNeally on Twitter by clicking HERE.

Elyse Bruce

STORY SYNOPSIS:  Rion McNeally isn’t pleased with how things are going in his life. The trouble with his life is that people keep interfering with his plans. If only they knew just how complicated his life really is!  This novel deals with a number of themes including Autism Spectrum Disorder, bullying, and criminal activities.

Knick_Knack_Paddywha_Cover_for_Kindle
P.S.  Rion’s name is pronounced similarly to how one pronounces recording artist Rihanna’s name.

P.P.S.  Watch for the book trailer due out May 2016.

Are You Missy Barrett?

From time to time, I’m asked by fans if I’m the grown-up Missy Barrett.  I won’t say I am, but I also won’t say I’m not and the reason is simple.  Good authors write what they know.  They craft their characters to be realistic, three-dimensional fictional beings that ring true with readers.  They draw on real life whether it’s something they’ve researched at the local library or something they’ve read in a news article that was printed in the local newspaper or it’s based on a humorous personal story someone shared with them.

As fans of the Missy Barrett stories and blog entries know, Missy hopes to grow up to become a private eye detective.  She learns as much as she can about what other people do for a living, and hopes to be able to work undercover to break tough cases thanks to what she learns as a child.  Even now, she has a clue stick (her magnifying glass) and her clue hat (which is reminiscent of the Sherlock Holmes cap from Victorian England) and her clue coat (which is more of a cape than a coat), and she’s always open to adventure and mystery.

But am I Missy Barrett?

Recently, while driving past Cassie’s hair salon (Cassie from the Missy Barrett Adventure stories “Foiled Again” and “Nailed It“) a little after eight o’clock at night, I noticed the lights were on in the shop.  This was odd because Cassie’s shop always closes at five o’clock, give or take a few minutes either way.  But here it was, three hours after closing, and the lights at Shear Madness were on — every last one.

“There’s something strange going on at Cassie’s,” I said, turning to Thomas who was driving.  “There’s lights on in her shop.”

“Probably the cleaners,” Thomas replied.

“She doesn’t have cleaners,” I told him.  “They do all the clean up themselves.”

“Well, then, it’s probably the landlord or property owner doing some repairs after hours,” Thomas suggested to resolve the mystery.

“Maybe somebody broke in,” I said breathlessly, my heart beating faster.  “Maybe they’re stealing Cassie’s stuff.”

Thomas chuckled.  “I doubt that Cassie leaves money at the shop overnight,” he reasoned.

While it was true that Cassie doesn’t leave money at the shop overnight, I also knew that there were other things that could be stolen and sold to unscrupulous people looking to get equipment at dirt cheap prices without asking questions.  I also knew that sometimes people break into places and do stupid things just because they can — like the news story about the twenty-something man who broke into someone’s home just so he could eat cereal, watch some television, and fall asleep on the homeowner’s couch.

“What if something’s not right?” I pleaded, hoping to convince Thomas the situation warranted investigation.

“You want me to turn the car around and go back, don’t you?” he asked. I nodded.

At the next entrance, Thomas pulled in, turned around, and we made our way back to Cassie’s shop.  Pulling in a few parking spots over from the front door, he killed the engine.

“What’s the plan, Sherlock?” he asked.

“I’m going to just go in there and find out what’s going on.”

“And what if it’s a gang of thieves ripping porcelain sinks out of walls and tossing product out the back door into a waiting truck?  What then?” he demanded to know.  “Aren’t you worried something’ll go wrong when you walk in on them?”

I shook my head.  “No.”

“No?”

“No, because I’ll just say that I was driving past and noticed the lights on in their shop, and I stopped because I was wondering if they had time to fix my hair,” I said confidently.

“Elyse, I’m not sure that’s going to work,” Thomas confided, highly suspicious that the plan wouldn’t backfire.

“It’ll work.  If it’s thieves, they’ll say they’re closed for the day, and I’ll leave.  Then we can hurry across the street to the fast food joint and ask them to call the police to report a robbery in progress,” I advised my travel buddy.

He smiled slightly.  “Why not just walk to the shop next door and use their phone?”

“Because you never know if they’re hitting the entire strip all at one time,” I pointed out.  “It could be a coordinated caper, and each shop gets hit by two or three people each.”

Thomas rolled his eyes.

“I’m going in, with or without you,” I said.

“Elyse, what if it’s just a bunch of kids?”

“Then I’ll just ask if there’s an adult with them, and if they say no, then I’ll ask them if one of their moms owns the shop,” I answered.  “One of them for sure is going to lie and say yes, but she’s not here right now.  Then I’ll just say I can’t wait because I need an emergency trim and leave.”

“An emergency trim?”  Thomas’s eyebrows shot up, and his voice threatened to break into raucous laughter.

“Yeah, an emergency trim.  Teens always think adults are weird.  They’ll probably just roll their eyes at me, and not think anything of it,” I insisted.

Stepping out of the car, Thomas pulled a cigarette pack out of his pocket, tapped one out, and held it between his fingers as if he wasn’t sure he had time to smoke it without having to throw it to the ground if a quick get-away was warranted.  I opened the passenger door as quietly as possible, got out, and shut the door just as quietly as I had opened it.

Making my way to the front door, I turned to him and warned him, “If I’m not back out in three minutes, you come in and get me, okay?  They won’t mess with a husband and wife.”  I wasn’t certain of that fact, but I was fairly sure that’s the way thieves thought.  I was more certain that this was the way juvenile delinquents thought.

I opened the door and disappeared inside.

Now it’s easy to see how a little bit of Missy Barrett’s character might have sneaked into the evening.  After all, this was a mystery and an adventure all wrapped into one.  It was exciting as all get-out regardless of the outcome.  And the best part was that if there was any criminal activity going on, Thomas and I were going to save Cassie a boatload of shock and dismay upon opening the shop the next business day.

As it was, the shop was open for legitimate reasons.  Cassie was there.  Christin was there.  They were busy in the shop doing shop things that need to get done in hair and nail salons.

The upside to all this is that any crime that might have been going on would have been nipped in the bud.  The downside to all this is that there wasn’t any crime going on at all.

So, readers, fans, and visitors, you tell me:  Am I Missy Barrett?

Elyse Bruce

UPDATE (10 April 2016 at 4:30 PM EST):  ABC News published a news report on a man in Washington (DC) who broke into a Five Guys restaurant after hours early Friday and made himself a cheeseburger.  He also partook of a fountain drink, and on his way out, he made off with bottled water.  This proves that my concerns about the goings-on at Shear Madness last night were warranted.  😉

An Open Letter To Copyright Infringers, Piracy Advocates, and Thieves

Dear Copyright Infringers, Piracy Advocates, and Thieves,

You see value in what I create from my books to my music and my art.  I know you do because you feel compelled to illegally download and to illegally offer my copyrighted intellectual property to your friends, family, and subscribers via numerous websites and social media.

Your reasons for doing this are varied, and none of the reasons you give are valid.

Some claim that they are financially disadvantaged, and that gives them the right to foist their financial disadvantage on me and my family.  I have news for you. Being financially disadvantaged does not give you the right to steal my paycheck.  At no point have I agreed to subsidize your financial situation with my hard work and my royalties.  If you don’t earn enough money to buy what you want, don’t default to stealing and then justifying your actions with excuses.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a student in debt or a single parent on welfare or someone who’s just too cheap to do the right thing.

Some claim that they’re doing me a great service because once they read my book, or listen to my music, or enjoy my art, they’ll tell their friends who have money.  In other words, I should thank them for all the free exposure they’re giving me.  Listen, lots of people die of exposure, and you aren’t doing me any great service since you and I both know that your friends are more likely than not to be just like you.  Yes, they’ll more likely than not be engaged in the same illegal activities as you when it comes to other people’s intellectual property.  So don’t try to sell me that song-and-dance routine where you promise to be my Number One fan because even Stephen King knows how that ends.

Some claim that it’s just one book or one CD or one image, so it’s not really hurting me, the copyright owner, all that much.   Except that it’s not just one book or one CD or one image that’s being illegally downloaded or illegally offered.  There’s no end of illegal downloads and no end of illegal offerings out there.  When you make yourself part of the chain, it’s never just one book or one CD or one image, and you know that.

Some claim that, once they read my book or listen to my CD or view my image, if they like it, they’ll for sure buy a legit copy.  Except that you and I both know that’s not going to happen either.  Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free, right?

Rest assured that copyright owners are fighting back.  We’re filing legitimate DMCA Takedown Notices with the appropriate people and agencies, and we expect those legitimate DMCA Takedown Notices to be acted upon responsibly.  Don’t think you can hide behind smoke-and-mirrors, because copyright owners are getting pretty savvy as to how we can go about filing legitimate DMCA Takedown Notices.

And for those of you who say that the tech guys are going to side with the copyright infringers, piracy advocates, and thieves, think again.  Those tech guys of whom you speak — the ones who write code and create software and are responsible for gaming development and all that jazz — aren’t too impressed with seeing their paycheck decimated by the Don’t Pay Brigade.  They and their companies are filing with those same people and agencies, and they’re expecting those same people and agencies to act responsibly on their complaints as well.

So dear copyright infringers, piracy advocates, and thieves, should you get notified by your Internet Service Provider that a complaint has been filed against you for copyright infringement, accept that you’ve been caught.  Pay the fine.

And stop stealing from copyright owners.

It’s as simple as all that.

Elyse Bruce

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