Sunday, June 22, 2014

Blog Hop

After a few posts about Stitch Fix, why don't we return to some author-type stuff? My cousin-in-law and fellow blogger and author, Susan Braun, put out the call for authors to join a Blog Hop she’s participating in. Due to some family crises, this post is about 10 days late, so my 'Blog Hop' is a bit of a late one. :-(

At the bottom of this post, you can find out all about Susan and her writing.  She's a big fan of the Royal Family and Princess Di in particular. So if that is your area of interest, you should check out her books. Susan asked me four questions about my writing as part of the Blog Hop experience:

1) What am I working on?

Great question. I'd like to know that myself. In the works I have a sequel to my YA book, BLOOD MOON, and the beginnings of any idea for a new series - a navy linguist with unique skills finds herself caught up in supernatural events that might lead to aliens.

I have to admit, the creative writing side of me has slowed down lately. I have my own business, and have found my time taken up by trying to make a living!

(What? You mean you don't rake it in as an author? But what about Stephen King and Stephenie Meyer? They are bajillionaires!)

Sadly, most of us authors make very little for the amount of time we spent on our books. Luckily, if the process weren't enjoyable, I wouldn't be writing. It'd be nice to rake in the dough, but that's not always in the cards.

2) How does my work differ from others?

I would say that someone who reads my books could possibly mistake me for a man. I like scary. I like bloody. I like frightening. I don't do sappy romances, although there is some romance woven into all 3 of my books. Also, I enjoy writing action scenes.

3) Why do I write what I write?

I didn't start out writing paranormal suspense. In fact, you can read my road-to-publication story here: My First Published Book.

I wrote semi-autobiographical junk, to be plain. My education in high school and college (English Major!) taught me that the only books worth reading were high-brow 'literature' with 'purpose' and 'meaning.' Once I got over that idea, my writing turned toward what I love: suspense and supernatural stuff. I also love science fiction, but I find that genre rather intimidating to write in. Lots of world building…

Authors tend to write what they enjoy reading. Funny how that works.

4) How does my writing process work?

I am not a planner. Typically, I start with a great idea. For The Ninth Curse, I remember seeing the title for a movie that had the word 'curse' in it, and it sparked an idea. What if someone had to suffer through a series of curses and had to race against time in order to stay alive?

I took that idea and started writing. I knew where I wanted to end up with the story: evil defeated and curses eradicated. But that was about it. I made a list of possible curses (I have no idea why I chose nine curses) and imagined how each curse might play out. Then, I sat down and let my mind take me where it wanted to go.

Part of what I like about my 'no plan' style of writing is that the story unfolds as if I were reading a book for the first time with no idea how the book will end. My hands just type it out, and I surprise myself with where my words go.

If I were more of a planner (i.e. writing outlines, creating a storyboard, etc.), I probably would lose interest in writing because I'd know exactly where the story was going to go every step of the way. As it turned out, when I was 2/3 of the way through The Ninth Curse, I had a revelation that an important character was missing. I began writing the rest of the book as if that character were there the whole time. Once I got to the end of the book, I had to go back and edit in a bunch of extra scenes to make the character fit. Talk about crazy!

Those were my questions to answer. Now let's learn a little bit more about Susan Braun who invited me to participate in the Blog Hop. Here's a very nice photo of her:

Susan Braun has been writing since childhood, but began pursuing it seriously about three years ago with a memoir of growing up Baptist in a small town, called  I Love to Tell the Story. She was inspired to write this book as a way of passing along memories in a humorous way to her three girls, but she found that writing was addictive. Her experience as an elementary teacher led her to write for children: two Christian beginning reader chapter books, a biography of "Mad" King Ludwig for teens, and a biography of Kate Middleton for elementary and middle school students. All of Susan's books can be purchased at Amazon.

She blogs at Girls in White Dresses, where she keeps her writing sharp by sharing "a few of my favorite things" each weekday. You can also keep up with Susan's writing through her Facebook page.

Susan Braun
Writer at Girls in White Dresses
Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge: A Biography for Children
 I Love to Tell the Story: Growing Up Blessed and Baptist in Small Town Indiana
Not So Happily Ever After: The Tale of King Ludwig II
Sophie, Pay Attention!
A Dog Called Naaman

Monday, June 9, 2014

Fix #2 from Stitch Fix! - June 2014

It's June and time for my 2nd Stitch Fix Unboxing!!!!!!  This is probably my new favorite blog post. I was looking forward to my next Stitch Fix box after my first go-around in May. I'd kept 1 of 5 items, and had some regret about sending some of the more expensive pieces home. This time, I was even happier with what came in my box and almost considered keeping everything in it. Money did come into play, however, so I had to make choices based on my absolute favorites that would get the most use.

Let's check it out, shall we? This time, I will post a pic of me wearing one of the items. I had to do self-photography, so I edited out a lot of 'junk' that comes from selfies.

I'd asked my stylist to please, please, please send me more maxi skirts and maxi dresses. I only have one maxi skirt in my wardrobe and no dresses at all..which is a crime because I am tall (5'9"+) so maxis work well for me. So those were my main requests for this Stitch Fix, and I think my new stylist did such a fantastic job (Shay, you are awesome!) that I will ask for her to do my styling again.

The box arrived at 10 am this morning. Thank goodness I work from home. I opened it up with much anticipation. The envelope on top contains the style card and price sheet...I didn't want to spoil the surprise by looking at the style cards, so I broke the seal and opened up my Fix!

Then, I laid everything out on my bed to take in all the colors and prints. Squee!!!!! I was so happy to see a variety of prints in this fix. Last time, my stylist only sent me striped items. The colors were vibrant and right up my alley. I had received: 1 maxi dress, 1 maxi skirt, 1 knee-length skirt, 1 tank top, 1 tab sleeve top.

Let's discuss each item.

1. The first item I noticed was the maxi dress. It was by La Made - Perry Mix Striped Crossfront Racerback Maxi Dress. The cost is $118. I think I set my max for dresses around $125, because I want good quality dresses that I can rewear and that price point was okay with me. When I tried it on, I was in love. So flattering! It is blue striped with a heather brown background and has a side slit up a few inches above my knee. It also comes with a mini-slip piece underneath to keep the unmentionables from showing through the fabric. I appreciated the mini-slip after my last maxi dress from Stitch Fix, which was cute, but too see-through for me. The crossfront doesn't go too low, which is nice, and I feel like everything will stay where it is supposed to due to the construction of the dress. Loved it and know I will wear it a lot, so the price was cool with me. KEEP.

2. Next was the Haylee Abstract Chevron Print Swing Skirt by Leota. The cost is $78.00. When I first tried it on, I thought I might like it. However, the fabric was a little too clingy for me and some unflattering lumpiness was happening near the waist area. Not the skirt's fault. That was all me! But I thought maybe I could find things in my wardrobe to pair it with that might cover the problem areas. Unfortunately, I failed. The colors are bright pink, orange and an off-white. I have nothing off-white in my wardrobe, since pure white is more my shade. I did set it aside, though, just in case I liked everything else in my box, I might consider keeping it just because of the discount. MAYBE.

3. Next I tried on the Caroline Abstract Print Maxi Skirt by Tart. I will get to price at the end. I did not look at any prices when I was trying things on because I wanted to choose based on how much I liked an item before I rejected it. I knew what Stitch Fix regret felt like, and I didn't want to make hasty decisions. This skirt fit very well. It has a nice thick waistband and the length was perfect for me. I appreciated the interesting print and thought it had enough colors in it that I could find more than one top to pair it with. I loved the feel of it while walking around and could imagine wearing this all summer. However, there were 2 issues. The type of fabric meant clinginess to lumpy areas near the waist (much like the knee-length skirt). Repositioning the waistband only created further problems. If the waistband had been a little more forgiving, I think I would've loved it more. Also, the other was the price. Oh my goodness the price. This was the most expensive thing in the box at $128! After seeing the price, the skirt went from maybe to no. I think Stitch Fix can find me a maxi skirt that I will like better at a cheaper price. So sorry maxi skirt, you are going back. NO.

NOTE: Once the maxi skirt became a 'no,' I moved the swing skirt out of the 'maybe' into the 'no' pile as well. No discount; no point in keeping the skirt that I wasn't totally loving.

4. Next I grabbed the Breyson Split-Neck Tab-Sleeve Knit Top by 41Hawthorne. The cost is $48.00. I loved the color instantly...a super bright pink. This is a good shade for my coloring. I also liked that it had an adjustable sleeve could wear it long or use the button/tab to make it an elbow-length sleeve. I live in Idaho, so summer is short and late. I appreciate a shirt like this that looks summery, but is warmer than your typical summer wear. As you can see, I loved it and wore it straight out of the box! It has pleats down the middle in front and back. The material is a light weight rayon/spandex that falls very nicely. It is a bit looser around the middle than I like, but the bust and shoulders were so flattering, I did not mind that part at all. Also, the sleeves! The glorious sleeves!  As a tall person, I have a hard time finding truly long enough sleeves for my arms. This top has plenty of length, plus an inch extra which is fabulous. There are button closures at the sleeves, so that the extra fabric stays at my wrists. It has a blousy look to it, so I think I can dress it up for church with some nicer pants or dress it down with jeans. It would also look great paired with a pencil skirt or more form-fitting bottom of some kind. KEEP.

5. The final item in my box was the Brentwood Space Dye Tiered Tank by Pomelo. The price is $58. I also loved the color on this one...a robin's egg blue. The fabric also had some interest to it because of the paint brush style pattern. I don't have a lot of tanks for some dumb reason, so I was glad to see this in my box. The fit was great and it gave me some shape without being too fitted. It also was an interesting top because of the tiers that cut diagonally across. I knew I could pair this up with a lot of things in my existing wardrobe, and I thought the price was doable for a more-interesting-than-a-basic-tank style top. I can dress it down with some shorts or wear it with a skirt or nicer pants for a church / work look. Also, I can wear a bra under it without fear of showing. The arm holes were high enough and neckline worked. KEEP.

I also adore the little style cards that come with your Fixes. I tear mine into individual cards and keep them on my dresser for easy reference.  That makes it easy for me to get ideas for what to wear with my new pieces. An extra bit of fun for your $20 styling fee.

So out of my box of 5 items, I am keeping 3. I think that is a very good score for my 2nd Stitch Fix box! If you are interested in trying out the Stitch Fix service for yourself, you can use this link and I can get some credit:

Sign up for Stitch Fix!

Now the countdown begins for my July shipment!

UPDATE: Just wanted to share how much I am loving the Breyson Split-Neck Tab-Sleeve Knit Top by 41Hawthorne. I have had this top for about 3 weeks and have worn it 4 times. Love, love, love!  It is my favorite Stitch Fix item by far and probably a favorite in my wardrobe as a whole. I told my husband that it makes me feel like I am wearing pajamas. Something about the fabric and the fit, I think.