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The Book Club

We are starting a new category here on the blog–the book club. This is a series that will cover all things books–what we are reading, what we recommend to you, and anything else book related that we want to share with you! Today we have a collaborative post covering two books that we have read recently. Should you take the time to immerse yourself in these books? Keep reading to find out!

The last book I read was, Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake.

A little poem for a quick synopsis on the book:

“Three dark queens
Are born in a glen,
Sweet little triplets
Will never be friends

Three dark sisters
All fair to be seen,
Two to devour
And one to be Queen”

I don’t really go on social media very often, and I am terrible at posting (if you couldn’t tell), so I didn’t even know there was a lot of hype about this book. But I subscribe to Owl Crate, and this came in one of the boxes. I am a huge fan of young adult, especially fantasy (I tend to write fantasy), so I decided to go ahead and read this book without knowing basically anything, without having any pre-conceptions at all. After I finished the book, I was so confused, frustrated, and a bit over-whelmed that I looked up this book to find out what the hype and the not-so-hype comments and reviews were.

I don’t usually give bad reviews when it comes to books, but because the summary of this book was written so well, I had some expectations. What I got after reading was an anger disorder. Instead of giving bad reviews, I tend to try and analyze the book to see what went wrong as either a writer or a reader. Me and the other editors just did a podcast about beginnings, and I remember saying for fantasy, “beginnings are hard because of world-building.” This book is a prime example of where and when you should not start.

I was so confused trying to keep track of the world, the rules, the cultures, the game the princesses are playing, the relationships, the cliché tropes, and the horrible side characters who were more important than the main characters. And now I realize I am getting off track, but might as well keep going–you don’t really see any of the promises the summary of the book gave until you are 400 pages in. And now, I am done going off track.

This particular book taught me that as a reader, writer and an editor, I took a point-of-view of being snobbish with what I thought might be a cool book. There are a few things I learned to stray away from when writing my own stories, as I have painfully learned from reading this book.

1.       Don’t over promise and not deliver: I think a lot of people got sucked in like I did with the idea of this book that it could be something cool—and it was not!

2.       Pacing: pacing in a story is sooo crucial and this novel had terrible and slow pacing which made people want to give up reading.

3.       Clichés and tropes: be careful on how these are used, don’t use them only for an idea and plot line structure. Enough said, so many people can rant about this, it seems not to get heard, though.

4.       Characters: main characters should be focused on solely when driving the plot forward, secondary characters are there to support—not to act. (So many people in the reviews and comments got caught up hating the secondary characters and said that the main ones were hard to focus on. As the reader I find this funny because I didn’t think there necessarily were supporting characters).

5.       Having too many characters: this can actually harm the story rather than give it complexity if not done well.

6.       World: for fantasy and sci-fi writers, the world building is what we are all about. (I pride myself on being a good world builder). I can understand it’s hard for any writer to make up a world and then describe that world to readers even, if it’s the world we are living in and it’s realistic, everyone’s story is different. That is what makes every novel different. Blake’s world building was not well thought out. She used rules and society norms to change her plot when she needed a turn, a no-no. World building is a setting which can be used for several things, but should not be for turning the plot. No-no and I am doing a finger no-no wag at this book.

7.       Lastly, I promise: so many people said this book was dark. Show me where?!?! This book wasn’t twisted or dark at all! If we are going dark, I want cruelty, murder, mayhem, crazy cray murder plots towards the sisters, the torture of souls and bodies. If this world is supposed to be dark, then why doesn’t the world get Dirty Harry? I don’t get it. There was barely any killing at all, and when it did happen, the author glossed over it! The hell, don’t tell, show, that is what makes a horror/twisted little fairy tale good–the details in how the deed was done.

I now rest my case. If anyone has read this book, let me know in the comments below if you liked it! I thought I was the right audience for this book, but maybe I am not and cannot appreciate it the same way someone else can. If you did not like this book, I feel your pain. If you want to read this book to see if the reviews or comments are true…I will give you a dare this year as a goal to read this book!

And now, on to Addey’s thoughts on a decidedly different type of book…

I went through a bit of a drought when it comes to good books at the end of last year.  I tend to read books that fall into one of two categories: classics or historical fiction.  I am also a Christian, so a good chunk of what I read falls under the category of Christian or inspirational fiction, too.  Towards the end of last year and during January of this year I read two books, neither of which were very good.  I have some tried and true favorite authors who were some of my favorites when I was first introduced to inspirational historical fiction, and one of those said authors came out with a new series towards the end of last year.  Through a fortunate series of events I was given autographed copies of the first two books in the series, so, of course, I had to read them.  But they were disappointing. 

I can usually get through a book in a week, but both of these books took me several months to finish!  I think this may be due to the writing style—when I fell in love with this author I was in high school, and that was a shockingly long time ago once I get to thinking about it—and I also think it’s because this author has started churning out books at an alarming rate, which leaves little time for thoroughly developed characters and plots.  They are the kind of books that follow similar plot lines.  Where a reader can tell what’s going to happen next and where characters seem to be watching the plot go by but not participating in or feeling the events of the story.  I felt like I needed to finish them, but I won’t be getting the third book.

You may have noticed that throughout this whole description I have not mentioned the author or series, and that is because these books are not actually what I’m going to write about today!  I’m going to be telling you about a different, older book by one of my favorite authors that I finally tracked down and ordered online.  It’s not autographed and is, in fact, a slightly tattered copy retired from a Midwestern library district with stamps and bar codes over the cover to prove it.  And it’s such a good book!  I finished it in less than a week compared to the months that dragged by before I finished those other two.

The book I’m actually going to be talking about is The Frontiersman’s Daughter by Laura Frantz.  It’s Frantz’ first novel, and one of only three that I hadn’t yet devoured by the author as of a month ago.  I can see, now, why this book started off Frantz’ career—it’s truly a good read!

First, a little backstory.  Sometimes when I am in need of a good book to read, I will go to the library and walk up and down the rows of shelves, pulling out books at random.  I don’t always take them all home with me (for only three weeks, don’t worry—I’m not a library thief!) but it gives me some new authors to check out.  I tend to go for books that have covers that are eye catching and that look like my kind of books.  If you are familiar with the inspirational historical fiction genre, then you know what I’m talking about.  There’s usually a beautiful heroine on the front, dressed head to toe in period attire, surrounded by some bits of the story’s setting.  On one of these library excursions a year ago I found a series of books called the Ballantyne Legacy.  The covers fit the bill, and I decided to give them a try. 

…and that’s how I was hooked by Laura Frantz’s books!

In the year since I discovered her books, I slowly tracked them all down at the library, and even purchased one of her newer books from good old Barnes and Noble, but I was having a hard time finding a couple books, one of them being The Frontiersman’s Daughter.  Recently, then, after my disappointing re-introduction to the author I mentioned previously, I wanted to read something good!  So I looked online to see what I could find and ended up ordering five books, one of which was The Frontiersman’s Daughter.

Unlike Nicole, I was very pleased with my choice!  The story is set in the time frame right around and after the American Revolutionary War, but most of it takes place in the territory of Kentucky, or Kentucke, as it was first called, and is largely unconcerned with the Revolution.  It’s a really good story that left me wanting to know what happened next.  There’s a bit of a love triangle, which I usually despise, but actually worked in this story (although one of Lael’s—the main character—love interests’ story lines is never really resolved, which left me wanting more).

One of the reason’s I like Frantz as an author is that she doesn’t shy away from using historical vernacular.  I find that in a lot of historical fiction that falls into the not-so-great category the characters speak like they were born yesterday.  That doesn’t add up if the character is, in reality, 200+ years old, so I appreciate when authors trust their readers enough to use the spelling and speaking styles that are accurate to the time period the characters are in. 

Frantz also just has a knack for writing believable storylines and love stories.  There’s nothing I hate more than a rushed story, or one that barely focuses on the love story and suddenly has characters get married in the end seemingly out of nowhere.  Love takes time to develop, and I appreciate that Frantz’ plotlines allow for this time.  The books are, consequently, sometimes on the longer side.  I often find, though, that I get so engrossed in the story that I wish there was more!

To sum up this lengthy examination of my reading habits: go read Laura Frantz if you are a fan of historical fiction!  Even if you aren’t a reader of “inspirational” fiction, her books don’t hit you over the head with it, so I’d still recommend giving them a try.  The Ballantyne Legacy series is a great place to start, but The Frontiersman’s Daughter is an excellent place to dig in, too.

Images courtesy of Goodreads (1, 2, 3).

Valentine Poems

Today, since it is Valentine’s Day, I wrote some poems about my dogs with, of course, some photos. The first poem is for my puggle Ellie Mae. The second poem is about my little man, and German Shepherd, Thunder Storm. Hope you enjoy! 

Ellie (left) and Thunder (right)

Car Ride

On day of reprieve
the river calls our names
the car begs for her ears
to fly as she smells the
wind out the window
her curly tail wound tight
as we ride as one
adventure onto the seas
free as the willow trees
her whines
curly tail
snorts
the summer heat
trudging tug boats
flying fish flies
the river freedom
from our home,
cares, woes,
the things that
colden our bones
and when the sun
threatens to set
we beg the day to stay

In the Daylight

this beautiful nightmare
came covered in black,
tawny colored eyes with
a storm of understanding
in world i didn’t understand yet
but he is more patient than i
to teach my nerves
tightly wound in my body
to stay steady in front of the herd
to overcome the obstacle
to protect oneself in life
not too fast
not too slow
be formidable while awake
the shadow of an avalanche
facing a daunting challenge
set by his steady gaze
his steady heart
his never-ending loyalty to waiver
telling me when i sleep
don’t be discouraged by my
lack of focus
one day soon
one step near
one breath closer
i will become the best friend
you need me to be.

 

S2 Episode 1: Resources

In season two episode one of borrowed solace: the podcast, the editors discussed how to begin a story. While there’s no consensus on what is a strictly good or strictly bad way to start a story (rules are meant to be broken after all, right?) there’s lots of good advice on ways to experiment with a beginning.

Below are links to some of the information Nicole mentioned in the podcast:

10 Ways to Start Your Story Better

10 Good Ways to Start a Story

What ways have you started a story? Pretend we are reverting back to our kindergarten ways and making homemade valentines to pass out to our friends. As we get our craft on, we’re chatting about this week’s episode. Let us know your thoughts by commenting below!

S2 Episode 1: In the Beginning…

It’s the beginning of a new year and the beginning of season two, so we thought it would be fitting to discuss how to begin a story. Join Addey, Amber, and Nicole as they discuss beginnings. There may not be a fool-proof way to begin a story, but we’ll try to figure out what comes close!

DIY Alcohol Ink Art

Do you like making art?

How about with alcohol?

Not the kind you drink though, sorry. Today, I would like to show you, mostly tell you, my process of making your own alcohol inks and some fun things you can do with them.

First, hit that dollar store! I am cheap and poor with that million dollar attitude (could spend it if I had it), so you can find everything you need at Dollar Tree.

Supplies:

·         At least eight bottles (I used the empty travel shampoo bottles)

·         Two packages of  permanent markers, eight count (make sure it is permanent)

·         Rubbing alcohol 91% proof (there are different grades out there)

·         Pliers

·         Rubber (latex/nitrile) gloves

·         X-Acto knife

·         A frame with real glass or any type of paper

·         Hair dryer or heat tool

Instructions for DIY alcohol ink:

1.       With a small struggle and with gloves on, rip the marker in half and take out the color stick (don’t know what else to call it). Put this in a bottle and make a small incision of it in the middle to let the ink bleed out, each color will have two each.

2.       Pour alcohol like it’s raining into the bottle until a half an inch from the top.

3.       Next screw the cap on and shake.

4.       Do steps 1-3 for all bottles.

5.       Next, let them sit on a shelf and be forgotten about for at least 24 hours, though the longer, the better.

6.       Also in a separate spray bottle, put rubbing alcohol in it and fill it to the stop.

7.       Optional step: you can take the color stick out and squeeze the remaining juice (ink) into the bottle, or like lazy me and keep it in the bottle.

8.       Another optional step: can also label your bottles with colors, I don’t.

Instructions to create some not so terrible art:

1.       Disassemble your frame so only the glass remains. Put the rest of the frame aside. On a piece of cardboard, place the glass, select the colors you would like to use and combine, and the alcohol spray bottle.

2.       Spray the glass with the alcohol, dibble, dabble the colors in random dots, lines, swirls on the glass. Then spray again with the alcohol.

3.       I used a hair dryer as opposed a heating tool, a heating tool gets too hot and you cannot work the ink as much—in my opinion. But anyways, it may take a few times, but you can make waves, mix the colors together, and make it dry faster. I noticed the ink likes to go the edges, so blow inward when that happens and you will not get a line.

4.       Put the frame back together and there you go! A masterpiece!

5.       Also once it is try, you can spray again, only once or twice and it will create dots instead of a blurred line.

6.       You can either frame it by itself, or print something off from the print and put behind the class I have both shown below of what I did.

Let me know if you have tried alcohol inks, what you have done with them, or tried my version!

This is how the inks should look when you are done making them. 
Here are some examples of what I did with the inks.

Comparison: The Death of Creativity

Something I have been ruminating on lately, especially now that we are in a new year and I am coming up with new goals and new ideas, is comparison.  Comparison is an easy trap to fall into in life—she’s much more successful in her career than me, he’s much more motivated than me, I haven’t even thought about buying a house yet and they bought one straight out of college, they’re using their degree and I’m not—there’s a million different things that I think everyone is constantly comparing themselves to, even if subconsciously.

What I’ve been thinking about lately, though, is comparison with writing.  I am constantly falling into the trap of comparison when it comes to both my actual writing, and my writing life.  It’s hard not to feel discouraged when you see authors being published left and right and all you are getting is rejection, and when you hear about some of your writing friends who are halfway through a new novel and you are struggling to get through the first few chapters of your own idea.  Writing is hard, and comparison makes it even harder.

As with comparison in all facets of life, though, I am coming to learn that it’s the complete opposite of helpful.  Unhelpful isn’t even a strong enough word for how unhelpful it is (but hopefully you get the picture). 

Comparison can steal your joy—joy about where you are in your career right now (maybe it’s not so bad if you’re not focusing on where everyone else is), joy about your little apartment that isn’t a house, but is all yours, and joy about the writing progress you are making, even if it is slow going.

Most importantly, comparison can slowly kill off your own creative energy.  We all only have twenty-four hours in a day, so try figuring out how you can divvy up yours to include more time for writing, or reflection, or whatever it is that might help you move forward.  If you are spending too much time contemplating what you don’t have and others do, you are not going to have time to accomplish your own goals.

Constantly comparing yourself to other writers and other creatives is undoubtedly helpful.  It’s why we study the craft of writing in classes and celebrate literary giants who write so eloquently their words make you want to cry, but there’s also something to be said for what you have that they don’t.

It’s okay to be a little different.  It’s okay to search for years and years for somewhere to publish your favorite story and not be accepted by the more mainstream publishers.  It’s okay to never publish and just write for yourself—for the joy of writing. It’s okay to do your thing and find your niche and it won’t (and shouldn’t) look like anyone else’s, so stop comparing!

This is something I am constantly trying to remember myself, and it’s not easy, but its so important!  Don’t let yourself give up, and I won’t either. We are in this together and can’t compare our own journey’s.  Don’t kill your own chances at success—whatever that may look like for you.

Season Two

Welcome to 2020! borrowed solace has many great things coming at you this year, and one of them is season two of borrowed solace: the podcast. We’ll be back in just a few short weeks in February and will return to our bi-monthly podcasting schedule. So keep your eyes (and ears) out for season two, episode 1, coming your way soon!

Happy New Year!

We are posting this blog early this week in celebration of the New Year! 2020 is going to be different right?! Wink, wink, hint, hint… It’s what we all say and what we all would like to believe. As for the journal, we are always experimenting, always thinking of what could be new, what theme we want this year, what kind of podcasts to record, what theme the coming journals will have. Will print finally arrive this year? Will our digital footprint expanded to something new? Will we add an editor to the board? Are we (editors) going to travel to the West and see more of the United States? An entire year of 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes and 31,536,000 seconds is a lot of time that goes by way too fast.

So here are some writing prompts and cool ideas to continue for this year, or to kick it off!

  • Write a letter to yourself for the year 2020. Include resolutions, goals, or predict the future of where you will be, seal it in an envelope, place it somewhere safe, and don’t open it until the next year. Will you be right and have done what you wanted? How much did you change since writing that letter? You won’t know until Jan. 1. 2121!
  • Buy a large mason jar or even a photo box, and some paper and cut them into squares, and everyday write something that was good or bad, a joke you learned, a pun you heard, a book you finished, a mile you ran, a puppy you got, a baby you bore, a place you ventured, a new recipe you created, a person you were grateful for having in your life, seeing your life flash before your eyes being stuck in a public bathroom stall, a piece of wisdom you got from karma, that ho, a thing you mastered, a moment you learned, a person you decided you would hate until the bell struck midnight, or a wizard you met while on the yellow brick road of life. Store them in this jar or box and next year, open it to reread your year.
  • Cut a headline from a newspaper or magazine a day, store them in journal or book, map out the year that is and will become.
  • Write down a resolution, a habit to change, a goal that was a dream on a sticky note, place it where you will see it every day, and then do it!
  • Write down three resolutions on a slip of paper, but two of them are a lie. One of them you must keep. Keep this somewhere safe until next year, which are the two you won’t do?
  • Take a photo in the same place every day for the year of 2020. Replay it back, what did the year look like? This is a great idea if you have kids or puppies that grow!

To all you go-getters and planners, or those moving like me at a snail pace and procrastinating until my world dies, I hope you have a great year to come! May the universe sprinkle a little luck on the planet named Earth.