All the Subscription Boxes

Oh, monthly subcriptions! There’s a subscription for everything these days whether it’s Loot Crate or Ipsy or the Dollar Shave Club. I guess I just really love getting a box of stuff each month, but at least I’m not alone. I notice on social media that a lot of my friends are receiving subscriptions too, and my own posts tend to get a lot of questions about my thoughts on what I’ve received. Well, wait no longer. I have three months worth of subscriptions to talk about today. Hold onto your butts!

The Bookish Box: February 2016

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The Bookish Box’s February theme was “Galentine’s Day.” The goodies included: A T-shirt with a quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a tote bag, Book Club Notes, a bookmark, a keychain, and a Parks & Rec inspired magnet that was in the bottom of the box and almost got thrown away.

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I was a little underwhelmed by my first Bookish Box which got its own blog post review. This box was better. I definitely felt there was more value in this box at least based on my knowledge of what t-shirts and tote bags run on Zazzle or a similar site. I still found myself wondering “Is this worth $29.99 a month?” I decided to give the Bookish Box one more month, and then I would try a different subscription just to mix things up.

The Bookish Box: March 2016

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March’s theme was “Debut Novels.” This month brought  Bookworm Sticky Notes, a Quote Bath Bomb, button earrings covered in dictionary print fabric, a throw pillow cover featuring a quote from An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahr, and as always, a t-shirt, this time featuring a quote from Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon. Honestly, the Bookish Box got better every month. I probably don’t need a t-shirt every month though. Especially since none of the featured books have been ones I’ve read.

Storyed: April 2016

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I went looking for a different box for April, and I wondered if anyone was peddling a box for writers yet. Sure, writers are readers, but you’d still maybe put something a little different in a writer box than in a reader box. So, I went searching and found Storyed which not only promised a monthly delivery but also downloadable writing prompts!

I decided before receiving my box that it would be my last. “Nikki! How could you make such a premature evaluation?” you ask. Without giving too much away and much to my surprise, I came into contact with the curator of the box as part of my day job, and that interaction lead me to decide that this was not the kind of operation that I want to support long term. I told myself to wait it out. Maybe the box would come and be awesome, and I would change my mind because really, what I had experienced wasn’t that bad necessarily.

Then the box came. Or should I say the padded envelope came. Inside was the book above and the notepad. No little note about this month’s box. Nothing about the writing prompts. “Well, maybe you have to go online and enter something on their website to get the prompts,” I thought. I went to their website, and it’s offline. “We’re temporarily closed! PSSSSST: If you’re the owner of this store, click here to login to the merchant portal.” Now I’m wondering if I was on to something by doubting this subscription.

Part of Storyed’s appeal to me, aside from the promised writing prompts that I’m not going to receive was the fact that it was $20 plus shipping. Now, was it worth it? Maybe technically. A paperback runs about $12-$15 and a novelty notepad is maybe $5? Ballpark figures? I feel like the presentation is really lacking, and it’s almost like they knew they were going out and were like “Well, we’ve got these leftovers. Let’s send those out.”

Also, maybe it’s just me, but who is Steven James? Why should I take writing advice from someone I’ve never heard of? My favorite Stephen King book is On Writing. I subscribe to email updates from Chuck Wendig, and I follow Delilah S. Dawson on Twitter. I take writing advice from these writers to heart. Why them and not Steven James? Because I’ve read Stephen King, Chuck Wendig, and Delilah S. Dawson. I like what they do, and that gives their word value in my eyes. But Steven James? Don’t know a thing about him. Now, I did just look him up on Amazon, and it looks like he has published a number of books with covers that remind me of James Patterson. Maybe I’m being harsh. Maybe I’m jaded by the experience I had with the curator. Storyed just didn’t do it for me.

So, that’s my last three months of book type monthly subscriptions. I was severely disappointed by April’s offering. Things might be changing in my position at work, and money is a little tight right now due to the car payment I picked up this fall, so I think I’m going to lay off the subscription boxes for a little while. Rumor has The Bookish Box’s May box is going to be Harry Potter themed, so I think I’ll go back for that one, and then take my hiatus.

Do you subscribe to a monthly bookish or writerly box? Tell me about it! This hiatus isn’t going to last forever!

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The Bookish Box: A Review

And now for something a little different…

I love the idea of a monthly subscription. A year or so ago, I tried Ipsy for a few months, but ended up canceling it because I was underwhelmed by the generic products I was receiving. I’ve since heard that if you review your Ipsy bag, they’ll start tailoring it to your likes. Funny, I thought that was the purpose of the giant survey you take when you sign up. Anyway, I have gamer friends that subscribe to Loot Crate. My best friend gets a makeup box that for the life of me, I cannot remember what it’s called. GLAMbox? Glossy Box? I think it’s Glossy Box. I also have a couple writer friends that get book boxes every month.

I did some research. There’s a lot of YA-themed monthly boxes, and while I’m not anti-YA, (I do read it whenever I want) I didn’t feel like a YA-only box would fit what I’m looking for. I really looked long and hard at the Book Riot box before talking myself out of it. Finally, I settled on The Bookish Box. The Bookish Box doesn’t actually send you books, but they do send book themed stuff, and their t-shirts looked cute, so I decided to go for it.

The Bookish Box bills you on the 20th of the month before your delivery. From what I’ve learned, this is different than the billing cycle for most monthly subscriptions. The box actually ships between the 10th and the 12th of the month, so maybe it’s me, but the wait felt really long. Especially since the label for my box wasn’t printed until the 15th, didn’t reach the carrier until the 18th, and finally arrived on the 20th…the same day I was billed for next month. But whatever. It got here.

Let’s talk about the box which was mystery themed this time around…

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So, I got a door hanger which, while it’s cute, it’s also 2016. I haven’t actually used a door hanger since I handpainted one at church camp as a kid. There’s a Nancy Drew magnetic bookmark which should work great with my Kindle…next there’s the bow. I’m not sure how well it shows up in the picture, but the print looks like dictionary paper which I really like a lot. The small metal container is a From the Page soy candle in their “221B Baker Street” scent. Their Etsy page says the fragrance used is Black Currant Tea and Leather. I thought it smelled kind of fruity. I like it, but I don’t smell tea or leather or Sherlock Holmes. The quote on the t-shirt is inspired by the book See How They Run by Ally Carter who I believe** was this month’s guest curator. It looks like it fit, and it’s pretty soft, so I’m down with that.

I wasn’t completely blown away by this first box, but I was totally let down either. Down the road, I might try Book Riot or Owlcrate or Uppercase or one of the other many bookish/writerly boxes out there. Since I’ve already paid for next month, I’m going to stick with Bookish Box for now, and I’m probably going to wear that shirt tomorrow.

**I could be wrong, and I’m not going to bother to actually look it up.

Camp NaNoWriMo: The July Edition

It’s that time again. The time when I try to write a novel in a month. Okay, so it comes around three times a year. National Novel Writing Month, wherein I strive to write 50,000 words of a novel, comes around every November. In April and July, there’s Camp NaNoWriMo which is a little more laid back. I set my own word count, and I can decide if I’m writing a new novel, adding to something that I already have in the works, or if I want to edit an existing work.

This July, I’ve decided to set a low word count goal of 10,000 words, actually the lowest word count goal you can set. I write on and off, but I’m really striving to get to a point where I write every day. Life tends to get in the way. Honestly, a lot of days, I get in my own way. I find reasons not to write. Like tonight. My nephew was born today. (Yay!) I have been up since 6am which is way out of character for me, and since it’s now after 11pm, I am exhausted. Yet I decided to sit down and write this blog post as my first entry for Camp NaNo July because I can’t start a month of writing every day with a goose egg. Right? That would be a terrible start.

I’m going to try to write a blog post once a week for at least this month. I will count those words toward my 10,000 goal because I’d like to do better about not neglecting the blog. Primarily though, I’ll be adding words to my Huntington-based zombie novel. This novel is my book baby, and it has a long way to go. I’ve let it sit on the shelf for a while. I need to write the final act and fill in some blanks along the way. I have my work cut out for me.

Hi ho, hi ho…it’s off to virtual writing camp I go…

Camp NaNoWriMo, April 2015: Week #2 — Whoa-oh, We’re Halfway There!

Goal Word Count: 10,000
Current Word Count: 5,911

Oh-OH, living on a prayer! Today is April 15th, known to many as “Tax Day” but known to me as halfway to April 30th and therefore the Camp National Novel Writing Month halfway point. I’m a little bit ahead of goal, and I’ve written 13 out of 15 days. Yes, the goal was to write every day, and that is officially still the overall goal. Sometimes life happens though. The important thing this time is when I missed two days (Saturday and Sunday) I wrote again on Monday. Last month, when I stopped writing, I didn’t write again until April.

My strange little couple that decided to impose themselves on my “different short story every day plan” did not stay on the back burner. I’ve found that it’s easier to throw them in a situation and see what happens. Being as I’m still pushing myself to write every day, I’m okay to go with whatever comes out. First drafts aren’t supposed to be good, and no one will ever see it, so if I want to write paragraphs and paragraphs of this weird couple I made up, I can do that right? I’m a writer. I do what I want.

I think it may be time to return to my Pinterest prompts and see if I can spark something new and creative. This funk is killer, but I’m dedicated to pushing through this time or at least through to 10,000. I once wrote 50,000 words about zombies overtaking Huntington, so I think I can manage to write 4,089 words about whatever I want. I have to tell you though. Sometimes I feel like Daisy on Spaced who cleaned her whole apartment as an excuse not to write. When she did finally write….well, this happened…

I sit down, and I write. I write out my heart and soul. Hours seem to fly. I’m really onto something. I look at my word count….189 words. The goal is at least 250. And then I realize I’ve only been writing for four minutes.

I guess when it comes right down to it, right now, I’m just a little blue fish, and I’ve got to just keep swimming….or writing…something like that.

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Camp NaNoWriMo, April 2015: Week 1

Goal Word Count: 10,000
Current Word Count: 3,955

I’m a week into the current Camp NaNoWriMo session, so I thought I’d stop in with an update. I have managed to write every day for seven days straight. This blog will actually count toward today’s word count, so I guess I can say I’ve written for eight days straight.

My original plan for April was to write a different short story every day. I tried this in March, and when I was writing every day, it worked out well. I even planned ahead for April by using my Pinterest to make a whole board of writing prompts in case I needed them. I had set some writing prompts aside to use in March too, but I’ve found that writing begats writing. I used one prompt to get me started in March, but then the ideas came from there. So far, I haven’t used them at all in April, but I know they’re there. You know, in case this happens….

Oh, New Girl's Nick Miller! My spirit animal

Oh, New Girl’s Nick Miller! My spirit animal

Friday, I randomly wrote about a couple who are driving each other crazy. It’s kind of a melancholy piece. I’ve continued to write about this couple every day since Friday. Next I wrote about the day they met, and then I devoted three days to writing their first date. I’m not sure what happens next with them, if anything. I may put them on the back burner and go back to my random short stories. I’ll let them simmer a bit and see what happens.

Incidentally, I’m pretty sure they went on my dream first date, and I’m kind of jealous. I guess it makes sense that if I’m writing about a happy first date that some of what I like would work its way in there.

Ways to Woo the Writer, Loner, Rebel:
1. Cook for her. In this case, it was pasta.
2. Give her wine. I’m not a big drinker, but we’re having pasta. I’ll have a glass or two.
3. Listen to Otis Redding records

That’s not asking too much is it?

So where were we?

I think when we left off, Wicked Words, my writing group anthology was coming out in September. It was a weird time for me, ecstatic over the release of our book, but simultaneously dealing with the death of my maternal grandfather.  My pawpaw Elton battled cancer for sixteen years, and he was ready to go. I could never quite be ready, but I made it through.

October brought about my first book signing as a contributing author. I made arrangements to get off work early, bought candy, and invited friends to come out to Empire Books at Pullman Square in Huntington, West Virginia. All day at work, I was buzzing on excitement, and it wasn’t until I got to the bookstore that the nerves kicked in. I was more nervous seeing familiar faces in the crowd than strangers. I guess it’s the fear of being judged by people you’ll see again rather than people you’ll probably never see again. Here are some pictures from that night:

The flyer

The flyer

The Writer. Loner. Rebel.

The Writer. Loner. Rebel.

The Wicked Wordsmiths of the West

The Wicked Wordsmiths of the West

Before I knew it, the holidays rolled around. I never really understood why people would say “Ugh, the holidays again! It’s so stressful…” Now that my day job is with a large online retailer, I see where the stress comes in. To put it simply, I’ve been in a funk. I come home from work and go to bed until it’s time to go to work again. On my two days off, I spend time with family, namely that adorable not-quite-two year old niece of mine, and I binge watch Netflix and Hulu. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing. It fell by the wayside.

The Wordsmiths are planning the next anthology. I have three pieces I’m working on for it. It’s been slow going and difficult. Time will tell if all three pieces ever actually see the light of day. The Wordsmiths are also keeping up a “magic spreadsheet” to encourage daily writing. I randomly decided in March that I was going to start participating, and I would write every day in March. I wrote every day for about the first two-thirds of the month. Then the funk kicked in.

It’s officially forty-eight minutes into April 2015. I’ve signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo, and I’ve committed to 10,000 words in the month of April. The goal is to recreate the goal from March: write at least a short story of at least 250 words every day. I got a lot farther in March than I really thought I could, so I have high hopes that I’ll make it in April.

Stay tuned for more news about the upcoming anthology! In the meantime, I got myself some writerly business cards. I’m so set for the next book signing!

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Wicked Words

In 2011, I met a boy. That boy told me about something called “National Novel Writing Month” or NaNoWriMo as I shall henceforth refer to it. I thought this boy was the bee’s knees, so in 2012, I tried my hand at NaNoWriMo solely because it was something he planned to do.

For those not familiar with NaNoWriMo, the goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November which is best achieved by writing 1,667 words a day. The hardest part is making myself write every day. It’s so easy to just not write. Case and point, I’d been planning on writing this post for about three weeks now. But NaNoWriMo gets you writing.

I was writing and checking in on the official website: http://nanowrimo.org/ to log my progress, but it can be a long journey if you try to go it alone. I started checking out the forums on the website, eventually finding that there were local people participating in this (the boy was no longer local at the time) and there were going to be write-ins at the West Huntington library.

I was late for the first write-in, partially because I didn’t get there in time and partially because I sat in my car outside for fifteen minutes, working up the courage to go in. I’m so very glad that I did go in. Weekly meetings for NaNoWriMo not only played an instrumental role in helping me write just slightly over 50,000 words in November 2012, but also turned into monthly meetings with the people I now refer to as my writing group, the Wicked Wordsmiths of the West.

Before my first NaNoWriMo experience, no one read my work. I wouldn’t allow it. It was just for me, and I couldn’t bear the thought of other eyes falling on my written words. After NaNoWriMo and once I really got to know these people, I came to be comfortable sharing my work with them. Now I’m at a point that when I bring a piece to one of our meetings, I have certain members in mind whose feedback I hope to obtain while I’m there. Because I trust them now. And I respect their input. (Cue the studio audience: Awww)

About a year ago, I changed jobs which made attending meetings more challenging, and I missed for a while, but they kept me informed on Facebook as we started plans to release our own anthology. When I first heard we were writing a spooky anthology just in time for Halloween, I thought “Yes! This is right up my alley! …but maybe it’s time to write about something besides zombies…” Nope. I wrote about zombies. The Rules tells the story about two teenagers, Zack and Kinsey, who have an unfortunate brush with the undead on their way home from a date at the movie theater. The rules within the story were originally my own until someone during the editing process mentioned Zombieland, and to avoid looking like I was ripping off their rules, I included and directly referred to the Zombieland rules which made the whole story feel more complete to me in the end.

I was so excited when Becca sent me this preview of The Rules on a Kindle. Here's a sneak peek of The Rules for you.

I was so excited when Becca sent me this preview of The Rules on a Kindle.
Here’s a sneak peek of The Rules for you.

Our anthology, Wicked Words, came out on paperback on September 25, 2014 and the Kindle edition became available today, September 28, 2014. I have copies of both, and it blows my mind. All proceeds from the sale of the anthology to go the Wicked Wordsmiths of the West as an associaton dedicated to promoting an interest in writing and furthering the skills of other local writers who are also too afraid to get out of their cars to join us.

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You can pick up a paperback copy of Wicked Words on Amazon here: http://amzn.com/1502401371

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And the Kindle edition is available here: http://amzn.com/B00NTMUILC

Stay tuned for details about our release party/book signing in October at Empire Books in Huntington!

For more information about the Wicked Wordsmiths of the West, check out our webpage: http://writewicked.org/ or like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wickedwordsmiths

For those who are wondering about what 1,667 words looks like, this blog post clocks in at a mere 700.