The Isle of Gold Book Review

I just finished reading Seven Jane’s debut novel The Isle of Gold.

When it came out, I interviewed Seven Jane, and shortly after I purchased the book on iBooks.

I reviewed this book on Goodreads as well.

This was a fantastic debut novel. It was exciting and blended history and mythology really well. I was loving it.

There was enough anticipation at every turn, wondering what will happen, what hardship will they face, how will they overcome. The pacing was great until the ending.

That was the only part I disliked.

The big fight that the whole book has been leading up to is skipped over. One character is revealed to be a mythological creature, and in my opinion, it was unnecessary amidst all the other surprise identities.

Even with my dislike of the ending, I’d say this book is a 4/5. I still highly recommend it, as everything else is excellent and well-written.

Oregon Trail Board Game Review

Tonight my family played the Oregon Trail board game, based on the video game, for the first time.

The instructions were fairly self-explanatory as to how play progresses. A few things were unclear at first, even after watching the short tutorial video.

The game has three types of cards, supplies, trail, and calamity. The trail leads you to calamity or supply cards and supply cards are used to resolve calamity cards. You can die from calamity cards or while fording rivers.

Each turn, a player can play a trail card, to progress, or a supply card, to resolve a calamity. This changes when you get down to two players, when each player can play two supply cards on one turn. If you can’t play a trail card and you aren’t stuck because of a calamity, you draw a trail card.

To win, the wagon team has to get through 50 trail cards (10 stacks of 5 cards) to reach Oregon. At least one player has to make it for everyone to win.

Some calamities are unclear when you get down to one player. For example, our first game, my mom drew a card that said she broke her arm and she had to skip two turns. Then I died, and I was the only other player. We had her continue anyway, because it was unclear if it would have any other effects.

We had a lot of fun playing this and will certainly play it again!

Recap: The War of Art

I went in expecting to love this book. At first I did love this book. I had my disagreements with Steven Pressfield, but they weren’t on the writing advice.

The War of Art is a collection of connected short essays about being an artist. Pressfield writes extensively on what he calls Resistance. Resistance is the personification of anything and everything that keeps you from doing your work.

This is my review of the book as a whole. I have some contention with various specific details that I might go into another time.


In the first part of the book, Resistance: Defining the Enemy, Pressfield sets forth the nature of Resistance. This section of the book was my favorite. It was relatable, though repetitive. I’ve encountered a lot of what he mentions in my own life and creative pursuits. I do think he goes a bit far in defining Resistance, in some cases, though. On page 55, for example, he discusses rationalization. He admits that the excuses may be valid, but still calls them Resistance. “Our wife may really be in her eighth month of pregnancy; she may in truth need us at home…. What Resistance leaves out, of course, is that all this means diddly.”

In the second part of the book, Combating Resistance: Turning Pro, Pressfield defines a “professional” and how to beat Resistance. This section boils down to “Just Do It.” The whole section is about sitting down and getting to work. Doing it despite Resistance. I’ve heard that before, so I did not find it particularly helpful or valuable. I’m implementing that in my own life. I have been for quite a while now. I’ve been blogging every day since October and have 167 other posts on this blog since July. Pressfield has a position about the distinction between pros and amateurs that I somewhat disagree with.

In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his “real” vocation. The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time.

p. 63

This ignores the monetary hurdles committing full-time can have. If I quit my job at Panera to blog and write full-time, I will starve. I will not be able to financially support myself if I don’t keep writing on the side for now. It’s my true passion, yes, and I want to do it full-time because I love it so much. I can certainly take steps to changing this. In fact, I have. My poetry collection Inside a Writer’s Head is available for sale. I’ve applied to freelance writing jobs. I write every day and share my blog on social media. I have Patreon set up. But right now, I make no money so I cannot quit my job. It is what it is. I’m resigned to it only because I know I can and will change this reality. I call myself a “pro” even though I’m doing it as a labor of love because I show up every day.

In the last part of the book, Beyond Resistance: The Higher Realm, Pressfield’s creative self-help book turns into a spiritual exploration. This part bothered me the most. Not because I’m an atheist. But because that’s not what I signed up for. I did not read this book to have Pressfield’s view of spirituality as it relates to art pushed on me. On the second to last page, he writes, “In the end, we arrive at a kind of model of the artist’s world, and that model is that there exist other, higher planes of reality, about which we can prove nothing” (p. 163, emphasis added). I have a problem with the lack of evidence in his assertions. I’m given zero reasons to believe his claims that inspiration comes from the Muses or angels or God or beings from invisible realms. He just says it must be that way, that it is that way, and I’m expected to accept it. This whole section of the book felt ridiculous and frankly unnecessary. I would have enjoyed The War of Art more without it.

Praxis Module 1

Today I submitted my final deliverables for Module 1 of Praxis. So it’s time for another program recap!

I have a post specifically about week 1.

As I mentioned in that post, for the first week we had orientation and two blog posts to write. The two posts were my Top Three Skills post and the Five People Experiment post. We gave feedback on each other’s deliverables as well. In addition to these activities, I went above and beyond by writing Recap posts for Episodes 9, 29, and 36 of the Forward Tilt Podcast.

Week two we revised our pre-program deliverables (more on that here) and talked about productivity. I wrote a post reviewing the workshops we watched, and as a result of those workshops, a few other members of my cohort and I made an accountability group. I also wrote my How I Work post. During the Praxis Wednesday call, we talked about how our website and LinkedIn tell people about us, and worked on refining how we are perceived. We also discussed productivity and habits and such.

Week three was the hardest week. I made my about me pitch video (also on my Home page) and a video discussing the two articles we read. I also wrote a Recap post about one of them. As hard as it was making the videos, especially the pitch video, I discovered that I enjoyed the process! I actually wrote two posts about making videos, The Difficulty of Video Making and What I Learned About Video Making. I also have plans for another video that I will make over the next few days. Instead of just “I want to make more videos,” I will make a video over the next few days. If I haven’t posted a video and shared it on the blog by Wednesday night feel free to call me out on it.

Week four, this last week, we finished the month by learning about the apprenticeship and planning our project for next month. We filled out a placement survey, took the DISC assesment and the MBTI personality test, and wrote a Project Ideas blog post. (I wrote about the MBTI here, because I find it fascinating though it is pseudoscience.)

It’s been a really busy month, and next month will be just as busy! I’ll be marketing my poetry collection, which I just finished! It will be releasing the first of November as an ebook and a physical copy will be available for pre-order until December. I will have a few exclusive signed copies available. Very few, so if you want one, email me as soon as possible at alyssachantelwright@gmail.com to secure yours now.

A Review/Shoutout

As you probably know, I’m publishing a poetry collection called Inside a Writer’s Head very soon. One important part of a book or ebook is the cover. I was strapped for time and while I could make my own book cover, I thought I’d be better off hiring someone else to do it.

I’m glad I did!

I worked with Jacob Beman, a fellow Praxian, who designs and sells apparel. He did a fantastic job! He sent me a few different versions of what I said I wanted, then created a second draft based on what I liked. His work was great and he was really nice and helpful the whole time!

Recap: Niche Down

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

Niche Down: How to┬áBecome┬áLegendary by Being Different is a book by Christopher Lochhead and Heather Clancy. Christopher Lochhead is the host of the Legends and Losers podcast, and there is a Recap post about Episode 181. Heather Clancy is a journalist. The subtitle serves as a great synopsis of the book — it is Christopher’s and Heather’s observation of “how to become legendary by being different.”

I just finished Niche Down, and it’s fantastic. Anyone who want to do something big should read it. It’s chock full of excellent examples of people and companies who embody the mindset and approach Heather and Christopher are pushing. Many of the people don’t know either of them, and “niched down” without that term existing to describe their actions.

I did not take detailed, structured notes while reading. My notes are then, mostly my recollection of the book overall. The chapters bleed into each other. Each chapter has a main focus, but they’re interconnected.

Notes:

That by being different, doing something differently, or viewing the world and solving problems in a new way, you will stand out. In order to become legendary, have a household name, be wildly successful, whatever it is, you have to stand out, you have to be different. If you do things like everyone else, play by other people’s rules, you will not be the best. You have to set yourself apart, become a “category king or queen” and set the rules to have the majority of the marketshare for that type of item, service, etc.

You have to identify a problem you care about solving (this is important), find the solution, and sell it. This should be a problem people don’t know they have, or that you can solve in a new way. You have to tell people what the problem is, convince them it is a problem, and then explain why they should take your solution. You can’t “be a mercenary,” you have to “be a missionary.” You have to be so sold out to the problem and your solution that you don’t just gain customers, you gain followers, who are sold out to your perspective. When you do this, you become a cateogry king or queen.

Don’t make something like an existing thing. If you are doing something like someone else, you won’t stand out. You will be compared to whoever did it first. That’s not what you want. You want to redefine the problem, solve a new problem, create a new category entirely. Then people will follow your lead, your ideas, be compared to you. Most people wanting your solution will go to you, not the competitors in your category.

In winning people to your solution, evangelizing them, sharing your unique perspective is vital. You have to build social capital as well and increase your presence online. Have a digital body of work and use it to signal that existing “similar” products/companies/etc. should pay attention. That the problem and solution you are working with are important, that people care about it, and so should they.

Niching down is a scary thing. To do it, you have to go against the crowd, you have to stand out, you can’t stay in the safe zone with everyone else and their ideas. You have to position yourself as a leader rather than a follower.

Response:

There’s so much in this short book (only 110 pages) that’s so good. I could go on so many tangents.

While reading, I thought about myself, my goals, what I love in relation to the content. I found a lot of questions, but very few, if any answers to them as of yet.

I want to make money to at least partially support myself by writing. How can I niche down in that? What problem can I solve with my writing, either a finished product or my skill of writing? I know I want to stand out, I don’t want to be like everyone else, but how do I do that? When there is such a saturation of creative work nowadays with the advent of the internet, how do I stand out from a crowd of writers?

I don’t have answers now, but I’m still at the start of my journey. I only really started seriously pursuing writing earlier this year. I have time, I know that. I’m not using that as an excuse for complacency, however, just an encouragement to myself that I still have days and weeks and months and years to figure this out and refine my approach and define myself and establish my niche.

Most well-known authors are recognized by their works. Romeo and Juliet, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Raven, Inkheart, Eragon, The Hunger Games, Divergent, and others. But it depends on readers what sticks, what has staying power, what is recognizable years, decades, centuries later. (And often times publishers, at least traditionally, but self-publishing is a growing alternative that does not have any approval process limiting what becomes available to readers.)

The Coffee Explorations: Sam’s Choice Mandheling Sumatra

I bought a French press a couple months ago and want to figure out what kind of coffee I like best because we only had an espresso maker at my house before. It might be interesting later for me to look back and see what I thought about various coffees while I was drinking them for the first time. For those of you who also love coffee, you might enjoy this post as well. I also wrote about Starbucks Sumatra, the Papa Nicholas House Roast, and the Papa Nicholas Hawaiian Roast.

I actually still haven’t finished the Hawaiian Roast, but my dad bought some Sumatra so I wanted to try it.

It had a strong, rich dark smell when I opened it. The finished coffee smells the same.

With cream and raw sugar it is smooth and dark and sweet but not too sweet. I want to taste the coffee, not hide it.

It’s really good. I’m not sure how it compares taste-wise to the Fresh Thyme, but it’s far better than the Starbucks.

It seems I like medium and dark roasts better. Perhaps that is due to my experience with espresso after mostly not having coffee for years. I’ll never know.

The rating: 7/10.

(Today’s rating is based solely on taste with no adjustment for the price as I didn’t purchase it.)