Yearning for Wonderland

There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it...until they have grown so old that they forget the way. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again...The world calls them singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland. ~ L.M Montgomery

O Stitch Fix, at last I’ve found you

So today is the day I get my first Stitch Fix.

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I am seriously excited. Srsly. Let me count the ways.

1) I don’t have to do anything. – After signing up for a Fix, I filled out my Style Profile. That took approximately ten minutes and was set up like a fun questionnaire. I could mark things I liked (yay polka dots! boo animal prints!), list aversions (for all that is holy, no champagne or blush colors or cap sleeves), and indicate whether I was looking for casual clothes (yes, please) or something more work-appropriate or formal. Then I scheduled my fix and put in my card information for the $20 fee. Then you wait for your 5-piece fix to arrive.

This is where this service is brilliant. If you hate everything, you are just out the $20 fee for someone to have taken the time to custom-select clothes for you. If you buy anything from your box, they apply the $20 to that purchase. If you buy everything in your box, you get 25% off the entire box. You get three days to decide and shipping is free.

2) It is not a subscription. – You can get one fix. You can sign up to get monthly fixes. There are no hidden fees. They only ever charge the $20 to send you the box. It is designed to be an ongoing thing where you develop a relationship with your SF stylist and she learns enough about your tastes to improve your selections as you go.

3) It is designed for people who are too busy. – If I have a free hour, I would rather spend time with my husband, write, read or pretty much do anything other than hang out in a mall. I worked in retail management twice and that killed off any lingering desire to spend time shopping. I’d imagine Stitch Fix is even better for people who have kids, because maneuvering through a store with them has got to be an exercise in eternal patience.

This way, the clothes arrive at your house and you can try them on with all your existing clothing, your mirror. Wondering if your new top will match the bottoms in your closet? No longer a problem! Also, who designed those stupid dressing rooms with the up-lighting and the Mirrors of the Damned?

4) It surprises you. – I can tell this, without even having checked out my own Fix yet. I’ve been stalking the Stitch Fox blog where they re-blog reviews from women who have tried it. Without fail, the chorus is “I thought I’d hate this, but it’s so cute!”. Sometimes we get in a bit of a style rut (alert: understatement). When I look at my closet I see black, navy, black, white, black and black. I could outfit an undertakers’ convention. This makes dressing for work simple, but looks awfully dreary on a dinner date with my husband. I begged them to send me some color. Let’s see what they found.

5) It’s made for girls like me. - When I first saw Stitch Fix, I was dejected because I was sure that it would be tailored to model-esque ladies with thigh gaps and thin arms. Though I am tall, I am definitely pear-shaped with broad shoulders, long arms and legs and waist. But the more I looked, the more I realized that they were catering to all shapes, from sizes 0/XS-14/XL. (On a side note: it’s my hope that, with their success, they add a plus-sized department because there is a dire need for pretty clothes for larger sizes.)

Other questions? Here is the link to their FAQ.

I just saw from the tracking number that the package was delivered. I seriously got a little shiver of excitement – woo! See you in a bit…

Okay, just opened my first Fix and here’s my thoughts.

1) The packaging is stellar - Stitch Fix has a top-notch graphics/packaging person(s) working for them. The box is pretty, the clothes are all wrapped in tissue paper, there’s an embossed card enclosing your receipt and a personal note from your stylist. Everything is chosen to work together, from the font to the sticker on the wrapping. It’s all very luxe and makes you feel special before you even get to the clothes.

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2) The guesses are surprisingly good – For someone who has never seen me, Marly (my stylist) did quite well. I sent her my Pinterest board for inspiration and some details about things that I know don’t work and things that I know do. The fabrics on the clothing were beautiful (and like an idiot I took no photographs before I sealed up the return package).

They send you a Polyvore-style picture card that offers suggestions on ways to wear your new pieces with your existing pieces, which is a great touch.

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Marly sent me the following 5 pieces: one dress, one tank, one shirt, one pair cropped jeans, one necklace.

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The dress was quite pretty and fit nicely, a soft navy fluid jersey with crochet detailing. I probably would have kept it if it’d been one length, but the hem is short in the front and long in the back (that’s the Hi-Lo part). It made me feel like I was wearing tails.

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I love, love, loved the fabric of this shirt. It was sheer and lacy and lightweight, perfect for summer evenings. The best part was the sleeves that had a cute covered-button detail and were extra long. Unfortunately, it was a little boxy on me and I don’t usually wear sheer over tank tops because it’s not flattering. This one is probably my fault, as I’d marked that I like my tops to be looser than my bottoms – but that really is just because they have to accommodate my bust dimensions. Loose all over usually means tent for me.

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This is such a sweet tank and I definitely wanted it to work. It was a brighter navy and the embroidery detail was eye-catching. Sadly, it was too tight on the bust, but fit perfectly everywhere else.

 

 

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I was nervous when I saw there was a cropped, skinny jean in the package. Historically, those two words have not been my friend. Cropped usually makes me look like my pants have shrunk and skinny just means that I cry as I ratchet myself into them. But they fit super! They’re cuffed and mid-calf, so they aren’t ankle-length (which never works). Slightly distressed, with a wash that’s not too light or too dark. I could definitely see them being my go-to jeans for spring and summer. They look like the kind of jeans you’d wear to walk barefoot across a log bridge over a stream…wait, that was Dirty Dancing. But still! Adorable.

At $88, they were more than I’d normally spend on jeans, but remember I get the $20 for the Fix fee returned on any purchase I make. And they fit perfect! And are a great, versatile piece. And I didn’t have to go to a mall and spend hours trying on a thousand pairs – win!

There was also a really pretty silver necklace included, a double chain with three linked rings, very delicate. I was on the fence with this one. If I hadn’t found the jeans, I likely would have got it, but it didn’t have quite the visual oomph I hoped for the price point ($52).

3. The experience didn’t wreck my bank account. – A note on pricing: my pieces ranged from $48-88 dollars. Had I bought all five, I would’ve gotten my $20 credit and an additional 25% off (-$76). I could’ve had the whole box for $228. There is no sales tax, unless you’re in California.

You can set the price ranges for your fix in advance. I set the majority of my categories from $50-100 because I figured that’d give me a good range of choices, but you can set them all ‘the cheaper, the better’, which many people do and I’ve seen some beautiful options for it. And it truly is a no-obligation service. I don’t pay shipping to or from me and my styling fee was applied to my jeans.

4. I think I’m in love! – I had so much fun opening the box with my mom. I sealed up the four pieces I was returning in the included postage-paid envelope. I can drop it in any USPS box (including those that say they won’t accept packages over a certain weight). Then I go online and give feedback to Marly on her choices.

Overall, I was very pleased. I will be signing up for another Fix (seems an appropriate term, as I could see how this could be addicting) right away. Judging from other bloggers’ posts, the Fixes just keep getting better and better the longer you go.

I love comments, so please leave one below. Also, I know I’m not a fashion blogger, but did you enjoy this?

Lastly, if you are in the U.S. and you’re intrigued by this enough to check it out, please use my referral link here or elsewhere on the page – I get credit and I’d be ever so grateful! If you blog about your own Fix, please leave a link in the comments.

Idle Hands

This is a piece of flash fiction I wrote for Jeff Tsuruoka’s Mid-Week Blues Buster, inspired by The Smiths song “What Difference Does It Make?”

Two girls with dirty clothes holding hands, (c) William Gedney 1964

Ma always says, “The devil’ll find work for idle hands to do.” So I work from the second I roll off my old quilt to the last bit of light before it disappears behind the mountain. I sweep the uneven boards of our two-room house, stomping bugs as I go. I take the clothes down the stream and scrub till my hands are raw. In the winter, the wet clothes freeze to the line.

Some days, I don’t even wash. Ma don’t care much if I do. In fact, Ma and Pa don’t talk much ‘bout nuthin’. I’m too big to go to school anymore, ‘cause Ma tole ‘em she needed me ‘round the house. Only thing that makes life okay is Reenie next door. Reenie’s a little older than me, ‘bout eleven, but she’s small for her age. She’s got three brothers and six sisters and has to share a bed with four of ‘em.

I dunno know how to say this but I love Reenie.  She gave me my favorite skirt, polka dot bright blue with big flowers painted on. When I wear it I forget how my shrunk ol’ top rides up my belly and the coldness of my bare feet. I stole my ma’s barrette for her soft brown hair. I braid it over and over again.

When Pa heads to the abandoned mine to hammer off enough for the stove, we run to the woods to collect horse chestnuts. We fling ‘em in the pond, then make clover chains and decorate each other. We scavenge from garbage heaps, then hitch a ride to town and smoke cig stubs from the ashtrays outside the courthouse.

In town, we walk hand-in-hand. People always stare, but I don’t care. We swore to love forever and never be done parted. I tole her I’d take a bullet to save her. Though we fight and she makes me crazy, every night I huddle under my thin blanket and dream of her.

Pa caught us kissing by the woodpile behind the house. He shouted, pounding his coal-grimed fist on the stovepipe. Reenie grabbed my hand and we backed against the clapboard siding, feet sinking in cold brown mud.

Pa grabbed up his shotgun – it was filled with birdshot – and cocked it, tole Reenie to git on home now and not come back. I know he just meant to scare her but the gun went off – too close – and a red flower bloomed on Reenie’s faded blue work dress.

I caught her – she jerked and shook in my arms, pale brown eyes staring up at me.

Pa ran for the doctor, but the nearest one’s in Greenville, two miles away, and I know he won’t get back in time. I hum little snatches of hymns I can remember.

I held her on that sawdusted floor till she went still. Pa found me there, two hours later, sticky-dried with Reenie’s blood, “I got the doctor. ”

“What difference does it make? “I said.

The Peculiar Power of the Selfie

Self-portraits have a long and storied history in art. (Attention: Art Nerd alert)

Artists sometimes used self-portraits to show their status and their political connections, such as this self-portrait by the Spanish painter Diego Velasquez.

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This portrait is part of a larger masterwork, Las Meninas, which shows him painting the Infanta.

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Sometimes the artist is also an actor, dressed in costumes, to appear a particular way or reference artists who have come before. Rembrandt was famous for this in his youth.

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Later on, he was far more interested in recording his authentic self, even when it was less flattering.

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There are no real rules for self-portraits and those that did exist were spoofed centuries ago by artists defying those who came before and expressing themselves as they liked. Generally, the artist engages with the viewer, making eye contact.

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The above self-portrait by Gustave Courbet is a little more playful, depicting the artist as a desperate creative in his smock.

Artists will also use symbolism, often with encoded meanings that are personal to themselves, such as most of Frieda Kahlo’s self-portraits.

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Sometimes an artist does many self-portraits in their career and you can see their faces and moods evolve. This is especially true of the self-portraits of Van Gogh.

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As photography evolved, it became a way to set up self-portraits in a far more elaborate setting, such as the work of Cindy Sherman. In much of her work, the line between artist and actor disappears and she creates a persona that deliberate challenges our notions of identity.

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And, of course, today the self-portrait has evolved into digital selfies. Through Instagram, we can all be artists and select the kind of face we want to show the world. While selfies get a bad rap as the refuge of the egotistical and self-absorbed, I really enjoyed looking back through my self-portraits. When I was very little, my father used to hold me up so we could make faces in the bathroom mirror – now I can capture them!

As an actress, it’s fascinating to me because my face is one aspect of my instrument and controlling your face and your image is part of the talent. For me, it’s not so much to show off a haircut or an outfit as it is to capture a moment, a fleeting face of yourself. Many times it’s not even a particularly flattering face, but I remember how I felt and so it’s like a postcard mailed to yourself from the past.

In order to share two years worth of selfies in a short space, I created a Flipagram, which is a free app that allows you to set a slideshow to music. It’s only 30 seconds so I encourage you to watch it and enjoy.



When do you take selfies? And why? Do you see them as a way to express yourself? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Orison, at long last

Friends…Minions…Countrymen.

We have come to publish Daniel Swensen, not to praise him –

Oh, who are we kidding? Let’s do both!

Today marks the release day of Orison, the debut novel of Daniel Swensen.

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This is the second novel published by Nine Muse Press (the first being “Edgar Wilde and the Lost Grimoire” by Paul Ramey, available here)

I know you have all enjoyed reading the release week posts (viewable here). Thanks to our amazing Nine Muse Press affiliate bloggers: Ruth, Angela, Lisa, Tracy and Emmie! Your creative reflections on Daniel’s characters have been a joy to read.

Thanks to my tireless partners at Nine Muse Press, Paul Ramey and Tina Ramey. Without you, I assure you none of this could have happened. Look at us manifest!

And, finally, thanks to Daniel for creating a world that I could not rest until I shared with our world.

I’d like to present the world premiere of the book trailer for Orison.

 

And once you’ve watched it, you can buy it…

HERE! (Amazon link)

or HERE! (Nine Muse Press link, for those who can’t use the Amazon link or need .pub copies. You can also find amazing downloads for wallpaper, banners and so forth in our media kit)

And, last of all, be sure to enter in our fantabulous Rafflecopter and share and share and share till you cannot share anymore!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Orison: An Editor’s Perspective

As Nine Muse Press kicks off our Orison release week extravaganza, I thought I’d take a look back at the journey with this book.

The job of an editor is a strange one. After all, any decent word-processor can catch spelling or grammar errors.  My job is to cut away the excess verbiage, the clumsy sentences, the lazy cliche, drag away all that obfuscates the luminescence of the author’s vision. If a scene is in the wrong place, if the pacing is off, if a character is redundant, if the ending is weak, if the opening is slow…these are the places where I come forward with ideas to improve. They are only ever ideas; the author has the last word. But I see the potential in a manuscript. Once I get it, the work has just begun.

I do not sell my services. That is to say, I don’t work as an editor for an hourly rate (though it would doubtless be more lucrative). I only edit books that Nine Muse Press accepts for publication. If I’m doing my job right, the author may struggle with whether to strangle or hug me at any given moment.

Perhaps I should take a step back and relate why fantasy matters to me. When I started reading as a child, the fantasy genre was my first love: a common story with gawky, socially-awkward and shy girl. It swept me away to misty mountains, to faery bowers, to the Mines of Moria and the snowy woods of Narnia. I will read fantasy till I die.

It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that the protagonists were almost never like me: that is, a girl who was neither beautiful nor magical. Though there were a few notable exceptions, they were usually male: callow youths or hardened swordsmen.

When I first read Orison, I was intrigued. Calushain felt real to me, those who peopled it felt real too. There was one secondary character named Story that I fell hopelessly, irrevocably in love. Story was not beautiful nor magical. She was an ordinary girl who had been dealt a rough hand, then been given an extraordinary chance to change her life forever.

We decided Orison would be the second novel that Nine Muse Press released. And then Daniel and I started scrubbing away at the book to make it gleam. If we were content with just releasing a pretty good book, we could have published it three or four months ago. That is, a book with no errors or typos. But it would not be the book it is today.

Today, I am privileged to announce that on the last day of February in the year two thousand and fourteen, Daniel Swensen’s Orison will be a reality and you will be able to download it to your very own e-reader. Paperbacks are next, fear not, ye fellow Luddites of mine. We have so many wonderful things in store for you this week.

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Every day, there will be a brand new post from a Nine Muse Press Affiliate blogger that celebrates a different character in the book. Be sure to check them all out this week, as they will have a ton of exclusive, never-before-released content. I have them listed below for your reading pleasure this week.

Sunday, Feb. 23: Ruth Long and Wrynn at 6 pm EST

Monday, Feb. 24: Angela Goff and Dunnac at 2 pm EST

Tuesday, Feb. 25: Lisa V. Tomecek-Bias and Ashen at 2 pm EST

Wednesday, Feb. 26: Tracy McCusker and Camana at 2 pm EST

Thursday, Feb. 27: Emmie Mears and Story at 2 pm EST

Friday, Feb. 28: HAPPY RELEASE DAY!

This book represents a tremendous amount of work and love and I am terrifically proud to be a part of its inception. My most sincere gratitude to my NMP partners, Paul and Tina Ramey. And, to Daniel, for sharing your world with us.