Monday, December 21, 2015

Five Ways Wattpad Changed My Life in 2015

I joined Wattpad just a little over a year ago. I thought it would be fun to post a retrospective about my experience over the last year in countdown form.

The Five Ways Wattpad Changed My Life in 2015:

1) After several years of not writing, I wrote 6 short stories in 2015. Five of them were inspired by Wattpad contests:

Torch
Interruption
Time Travel
A Very Good Dog
Skyfall
Lucinda

2) A book that had lingered unfinished and unloved on my computer since 2010 found new life on Wattpad. Inspired by the response of readers,  I added eleven new chapters to an original story that only had a prologue and 4 beginning chapters. I am now 1/3 of the way through the plot!

First Cut is the Deepest

3) I serialized the posting of a completed romance novel that had laid dormant on my computer for almost 10 years. I entered it in Kensington Books Write Affair Contest and was an Editor's Pick! Eventually, I was inspired to edit that book and put it up for sale in e-book and paper back.

Acapulco Nights

4) I met an incredible group of writers and readers on Wattpad, who have inspired me to write more. Funny how having people to connect with about writing will motivate you more than anything else! My most favorite writer friend from Wattpad:

GeekAtlas

5) I had the opportunity for one of my short stories to be read by Margaret Atwood. Where else do you get that kind of connection? (see Lucinda from item number 1 to read my entry)

The "Heart Goes Last Fic" Contest

Overall, Wattpad has been very motivating for me. A positive place to post my writing, get feedback, meet fellow writers and just plain be inspired. Here's to hoping 2016 will provide me with the same amazing writing opportunities!

Have you visited Wattpad? Do you have any favorite authors on Wattpad? If you are a writer or reader on Wattpad, please post a link to your profile page in the comments, so I can connect with you!



Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Fix #15 from Stitch Fix - December 14, 2015

It's that time of the season, people. Yes, I received my (now quarterly) Stitch Fix box yesterday, and I am here to provide you with another review. One of my favorite things to do on my blog!

If you are new to Stitch Fix, please read up on the service here:

My Very First Stitch Delivery & Stitch Fix Explanation

You can also check out a whole bunch of Stitch Fix reviews below. I've been writing them since May 2014:

Fix #2 - June 2014
Fix #3 - July 2014
Fix #4 - August 2014
Fix #5 - September 2014
Fix #6 - October 1, 2014
Fix #7 - October 29, 2014
Fix #8 - November 2014
Fix #9 - December 2014 
Fix #10 - January 2015
Fix #11 - February 2015
Fix #12 - March 2015 
Fix #13 - June 2015 
Fix #14 - September 2015

Is that a bit of bright orange/red in my box?
After getting a Stitch Fix delivery every month for about a year, I cut back to once a quarter to cut back on my spending and also because I'd added so many new things to my wardrobe, I didn't need as much new stuff any longer. Pretty much my favorite pants are ALL Stitch Fix pants. I have received jeans, dress slacks, corduroy, colored, slim fit, bootcut - the whole gamut of pants. I also have discovered that any regular store shopping I do is mostly buying basic foundation pieces - tanks and t-shirts mostly - to supplement my Stitch Fix clothing.

But that's enough about my Stitch Fix obsession. Let's get into this month's review! For December I requested color, color and more color. I have been receiving a lot of black and gray items and really needed some bright, happy stuff in my box this time around. When I opened up my box, I was so happy to see my stylist had listened to me!
Colors, colors, colors!
This pile really made me smile. I had one black item at the bottom, but everything else was an explosion of color to brighten up my winter. Hooray!

I follow the Three Basic Stitch Fix Rules for K. J.:
  1. I do not read the prices before I try things on
  2. I hang up each item to give it a good look
  3. I try on each item, even if I think it will look terrible on me or I don't like the color/pattern/style.
These are K.J.'s rules for a successful Stitch Fix experience. Many times I've thought an item in my box is not 'me' or is a weird color or pattern, only to fall in love with the item once I have it on. Do not dismiss items in your box without trying them on!!!

Here is how this box shook out for me.

1) The first thing I hung up was the Maxx Sleeveless Illusion Dress by 41Hawthorne for $78. I adored the colors, but was not super happy about getting a sleeveless dress in December. However, I really loved the sleeveless dress that came in my September fix, so I was willing to give it a shot. The fabric was thick and the colors were definitely wintery.

Then, I tossed it on. I've got a lower half problem, as I have confessed on this blog many times. A sheath-style dress does not always work for me. The top half might be fine, but typically the bottom is too tight. Sadly, this was the case with the Maxx Sleeveless Illusion Dress as you can see:
A little too lumpy on the bottom. The wrinkles across the thigh area give it all away. That screams, "too tight!" Oh, and can you also see how short this baby was? Not comfortable for me.

The contoured navy blue on the green, though, was very figure flattering. If this dress had a little more fabric on the bottom, maybe I could've kept it, but the length is a no-go for 40-something me. Bye, bye! This was a sad, but inevitable "NO."

2) The next item I tried on was the Andi Bootcut Jean from Kut From The Kloth for $88. Hard to make pants look good on a hanger, but here they are.
I was feeling very hopeful about these black jeans. I didn't particularly need a new pair of black jeans, but every pair of Kut From The Kloth pants Stitch Fix has sent me, I have kept. They fit my figure very very well. And if I look good in a pair of pants, inevitably I will keep them. I HATE shopping for pants!

I tried them on with dreams and wishes filling my head.
And they fit nicely! The only problem, as you can see in the photo, is the length. For some reason, this pair is extra long. I didn't scrutinize the tag to see what length they sent me, but since I always have a problem with pants being too short, it was a nice problem to have!

The length was not a big deal to me. In the photo I am barefoot, and wearing these pants with shoes or boots should fix some of that in short order. Also, you cannot see in the picture, but these pants have very flattering pockets on the back. Just in the right place. The fabric is also very soft and stretches just enough. Total KEEP.

I actually wore these pants the very same day I received them, I loved them that much!

 3) Next on the list was the Shalley Split Neck Blouse from 41Hawthorn for $48. I hung it up on the hanger and contemplated for a minute why I got a summery, sheer-ish blouse in my December fix.
I will admit, I LOVED the pattern. I don't have anything orange in my wardrobe, so I liked that this was something new for me. I have a hard time picking out patterns, and this one was bright and fun. And, I suppose, I could buy it and keep it for the spring/summer. Or I could find a way to pair it with a sweater or blazer (although I haven't owned a blazer in years). However, I try EVERYTHING on!
It was not horrible. In fact, it was slightly cute. The pattern really caught my eye and made me happy. However, I just wasn't in love with it. Also, I just wasn't in love with the idea of buying a blouse that I couldn't even wear with anything currently in my wardrobe. I'd have to go out and buy something to wear this with in the winter, and I didn't have the interest in making such an investment.

Another problem was the neckline. It has a split neck top. And it actually gapes open a little too much for my comfort. The vee is pretty low, so it could end up being a very embarrassing scenario if I wasn't careful!

Summery top with the fun fabric got the big old "NO" from me. Sorry!

4) Next on the list was the Demi Pullover Sweater from 41Hawthorn for $68. It reminded me a lot of the striped sweater I kept from my last fix.
The fabric was very fine, and it could be used as a layering piece. The pattern however, was a little weird, and the reddish orange blocks were not really my thing. However, the K.J. Method entails putting the item of clothing on in order to make the ultimate decision.
I really disliked this sweater once I put it on. The sleeves were too short and the pattern reminded me of some strange crossing guard outfit or a badly-designed Olympic uniform from a former Eastern Bloc country. The only saving graces: it was not gray (the neutral in this sweater is a fawn color) and it was a very nice, soft fabric. Maybe on someone else it would work, but not for me. NO.

5) The last item in my box was the Iverson V-Neck Pullover Sweater from Skies Are Blue for $64. I saw this one in the stack and was instantly drawn to the fun colors and interesting knit.
 This picture did not show the colors very well. It is navy blue, cream, burgundy, mustard and forest green striped. The knit is light, but with texture to it. I liked the length of this, as well. I tried it on with a hopeful thought in my head...

And I loved it. It fit just right. The sleeves were a little bit longish, which is hard for me to find for my mega-long arms. The neckline was cute. The colors were great. The texture of the knit was different. 100% KEEP!

So overall I kept 2 items out of 5. A pretty good success for me. Since last time was a 5 out of 5 box, getting a box like this suits me fine. Especially before Christmas. I was very glad that my stylist had listened to me about sending ONLY colorful things. She did a great job trying to find exciting colors and different items!

My next box is scheduled for March. Looking forward to what Stitch Fix will be sending my way come spring.

As always, if you have not tried Stitch Fix yet, if you use my link below to sign up, I will get a $25 credit when you make your first order, which I would very much appreciate:

TRY STITCHFIX!

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas! I would love to hear about your own Stitch Fix experiences or what you liked or hated in my latest fix.






Monday, December 7, 2015

Review: GRAZE.com

About a month or two ago, I saw a Twitter post (?) about a home delivery service I'd not hear about before. It is called Graze. It falls under the description of a subscription service like Stitch Fix or Birch Box. Instead of clothes or beauty products, however, Graze delivers boxes of fancy and fun snack foods to your house. I thought it sounded interesting, and I could get a free 4-snack sample box with my first order.

So I tried it out!

Each 8-snack variety box costs $11.99. Shipping is free. So that comes out to about $1.50 per snack. 

I have now received about 3 regular sized boxes (8 snacks per box) and the 4-snack sample box.

The good things about Graze:

Lemon Drizzle Flapjacks
1) The snacks are very high quality and unique and packaged in individual little packs for freshness. I've had such tasty things as Lemon Drizzle Flapjacks (delicious!), Sesame Garlic Crunch (also tasty) and Cherries and Berries (sweet and natural).

2) The snacks are typically between 110 and 160 calories per snack, so if you are trying to cut back, this is a great way to do it. 
Sesame Garlic Crunch

3) There are dozens and dozens of snacks to choose from. You can tell them which snacks you are interested in trying or which ones you tried, but did not like.

4) Each order comes with an ingredients list, calorie info, etc.

Cherries & Berries
5) You can suspend your orders at any time. Right now I get a Graze box every 2 weeks, which is perfect for me. I typically grab one snack a day during the work week. So 8 snacks fits into my snack time perfectly.

The bad things about Graze:

1) Some of the snacks are not my thing. But it is hard to tell from the many, many snacks listed, which ones may be good and which may not be so good. I am not sure if Graze uses the snacks you reject and learns to tailor your list in future shipments. That would be a nice feature. It's a bit of a bummer to get even 1 snack that I deem 'not so good' when paying $1.50 per snack.

2) When I first signed up, I wanted to get my boxes once a month to start. However, that option did not seem to be available. I can suspend a box, if I want to, but I'd rather have the option to just not get boxes as often. Right now, I am actually happy with the bi-weekly box, but not sure how long that will last.

3) I wish I had a way to specifically request the same snack in a new box. Some of the snacks are SO good. Even if I mark the snack "love" under their Graze rating system (Trash, Try, Like, Love), I have not yet received that snack again...maybe I want that snack at least once a month in my box. How do I do that? It is not clear.

Sharing Box

Something new to Graze is the "Sharing Box." This may be an option I choose to do rather than the bi-monthly snack packs, once I get a taste of more of the snacks they offer and narrow it down to my absolute favorites. A Sharing Box is a large quantity of a favorite snack. So rather than one serving, you get 5 snacks in one bag (each sharing box comes with 4 boxes of snacks with 5 servings each, or 20 snacks). You get to select your favorite snacks - adding up to 10 to your list. This option can be a monthly option. The Sharing Box costs $20 right now for your first box, and then $25 after that.  

Overall, for a service I had NO interest in trying at first, I have discovered that I really like the unique and delicious offerings from Graze. Although slightly pricey, the costs are not so outrageous that I feel I'm being ripped off. In fact, I would say the costs are probably in line with the many high-end snacks you can buy at Trader Joe's or another 'fancy' grocery store.

For a unique Christmas gift, this might be just the thing. I know that my family loves getting food gifts this time of year.

If you are interested in trying out Graze, either for yourself or for a friend/family member, consider using my code: 45JQTF2NB. I think I get some kind of credit, if you enter my code when you order. You will also get your 1st and your 5th box FREE if you use my code!

FYI, all of my reviews on my blog are 100% my idea. I am not paid for these reviews in anyway and just write them out of my own interest in sharing these things with visitors to my blog.



Sunday, December 6, 2015

Another Review for ACAPULCO NIGHTS

Last night, Danielle Urban, from Universal Creativity, Inc. posted a review of my newest release, ACAPULCO NIGHTS. She gave it 5 stars!

Here is a quote from her review:
"Acapulco Nights is definitely a novel I would recommend to all. Entertainment, fun, and highly suspenseful."
Please click on the link below to read the whole review:

Danielle Urban's Review of Acapulco Nights

If you are looking for a new romance to try or need to buy a gift for a friend or family member, ACAPULCO NIGHTS might be just the thing.

Reminder: You can directly gift a Kindle version to someone through Amazon (only $3.99).

Looking forward to hearing back from more readers about my book. Very happy that people are enjoying my latest work.