Friday, April 4, 2014

The Noise Beneath the Apple

Hello all ~

Heather Jacks, author of the new book The Noise Beneath the Apple, is a guest writer for the blog today.  There is a chance to enter a second giveaway of this week after the jump (brought to you by worldwind book tours)! Scroll to the bottom for more info and your chance to enter.  Don't forget to  Like Inner Aspen on Facebook if you haven't for more ways to be connected.  Want to guest write for this site? Find out how

Heather Jacks was raised on an Indian Reservation in Southeastern Oregon, until age 15. Jacks was the first 'experimental exchange student' to Australia in 1982 with an organization called YFU, Youth For Understanding where she spent 10.5 months.  Once she returned, she received her B.A from USF and followed that with 2 years of study at UC Davis. She has worked in the music industry in various capacities since the eighties: radio, production, A&R, booking, and music journalism.  She was recently named a finalist in the Book of the Year Award in the Performing Arts & Music category for her multi-media project The Noise Beneath the Apple which was inspired by her love for street music, busking, and the people who make it. Contact Heather at 

5 Things To Do Before You Launch Your Crowdfunding Campaign

Let’s talk about a topic that is a necessity of any and all creative ventures, but will probably cause you to break out in a sweat, just thinking about it: Funding.  No matter what your project is; a film, restaurant, music, clothing line, book, etc... You will need money for it. There are a number of ways to get funding; family—(which is always a bad idea), traditional lenders such as banks, venture capital, angel investors or loan sharks. But the reality is, the odds are against you in these models. Banks ascribe to a ‘no-risk’ or ‘low-risk’ philosophy; Venture Capitalists must be assured of a huge return on investment, and we’ve all watched The Godfather. However, there is another type of funder; the person who believes in you and your vision, but also wants a story with their investment; which brings us to crowdfunding. We’ve all heard of it, and probably know that in its simplest definition, crowdfunding is a way to raise for ventures via the internet.  Many projects succeed, more fail! One reason crowdfunders fail, is not because the project wasn’t great or wasn’t presented well, but because crowdfunding is hard work, that requires a tremendous amount of pre-planning.  If you don’t take the time and energy to pre-plan and establish a solid foundation BEFORE you launch a campaign; you will fail.  In fact, according to Ethan Mollick of The Wharton School of Business, over half do fail! Here are five things I have learned through my own crowdfunding experiences, that I hope you will find helpful.

1.     Build Your Network:  How many times have you heard an entrepreneur say, “I will do A, B and C, once I get funded.”?  Then they discover online crowdfunding and launch a campaign, which ultimately fails. Why? One reason is that people don’t take the time to build their network. Although I have run successful crowdfunding campaigns and met my goal in 30 days—(or less); it is essential to know that it took me three years to get there!  That’s three years of building an audience, blogging, connecting with people and developing relationships. Your network is a cornerstone to a successful campaign. Use all the social media at your disposal; Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, GoodReads, YouTube, your blog, etc…This doesn’t mean, set up your social media today and launch a campaign tomorrow. It means you set up your social media and begin engaging with like-minded people today, tomorrow and every day, until you have a solid network. An interesting note about one of my campaigns was that nearly 1/3 of the people who supported it, are people I have never met; primarily finding me via Twitter!  Which brings us to another hugely important aspect of your campaign: Know your network.

2.     Know Your Network:  A country singer is not going to promote to a Hip/Hop crowd. Documentarians are not going to send their film to the SyFy Channel and fiction authors aren’t going to submit to true crime genres. The same holds true for crowdfunding. You must know your audience. Who are they? What are their interests? Are they engaged with you? Do you have a personal connection with them?  What do they talk about? Who are their friends? Who do they trust? How much can they fund? How can they contribute? Will they contribute?  You can’t approach your network as if they are one big walking ATM, waiting for you to input your request. In the case of your network, half a dozen of one is NOT like six of the other. They have different needs, different stories, different backgrounds, and different interests. A key to success is to know and honor this fact. Whether it’s on or off line, it’s still a people business and you are encouraging people to believe in you and your vision. It was Dale Carnegie who said, that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. Get to know your network.

3.     The Story is the Thing:  This speaks directly to the heart of crowdfunding and the type of funder you are trying to acquire. As mentioned before, our investor wants a story, a water cooler topic, bragging rights, a legacy. This is why they, unlike traditional funders, will invest in Broadway plays, films, art, music—and even books.  Every crowdfunding site will require a project video, which can make or break a project. Some basic rules of thumb regarding the video are: be bright, be brief and be personal! Studies have shown that a 2-3 minute video is the most effective, and that the video must be personal. You are the face of the project, so show them your face! Talk to the people who are going to take a risk and fund your project. Tell them the story; the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How of it. Make your audience a part of the story.

4.     Set A Realistic Funding Goal:  Again, this is contingent upon ‘knowing your network’ and ‘knowing your project’.  In regards to knowing your project, the question is; how much do you really need--Not how much can you raise?  A few years ago, I was engaged in Grant Writing. One thing I did was to contact actual board members and gather information. A very valuable piece of information that I learned is that, like a bank, what the grantors really want to know is; how are you going to do this project without the grant? Take a moment and really think about that, and it will help you with the success of your campaign.  I view crowdfunding projects in tiers. For example; think of a wedding.  What is the least amount of money you need to have a wedding?  You might start off with a basic ‘Dixie Cup’ style wedding. No frills, not much fanfare, but the essentials needed to ‘tie the knot’. If Uncle Fred pops in with a generous gift and you get to replace the Dixie Cups with crystal, that’s fantastic; but either way, you are having a wedding. Projects on crowdfunding work the same way. For example; as a writer, the difference might be softcover or hardcover? Color photos or B&W?  For a musician; MP3 download, physical CD’s or pressing vinyl records. It’s essential to think in terms of attainable goals, that you can build on, if you get a windfall.

5.     Find Your Project Champions BEFORE You Launch: Think of crowdfunding as an online event, which it is. No one wants to be first on the dance-floor, so you must have a few key project champions who are ready, able and willing to hop up and be the FIRST to support your campaign the moment it goes live. Studies show that ‘funders react to the actions of other backers’. Creating excitement from the onset is key.  However, ‘championing’ a project goes beyond the monetary amount someone may contribute. It also includes if they promote the project to their own network, media and outlets. If they share and tweet to friends and colleagues; perhaps an email blast.  Every individual in your network offers something of value; it’s not always just about the money.  In one of my campaigns, a friend handed my postcard to one of their customers; that customer found me via Twitter, visited my blog and has become one of my biggest supporters; not just during that campaign, but long afterwards as well. By the way; my friend who handed out the postcard, was never in a position to support the project financially, but, believed strongly in it. She was a ‘champion’ and what a payoff for everyone, now and in the future.

Crowdfunding has offered a wonderful and effective way to fund projects in a time when public programs supporting the Arts are going the way of the Dodo. Take time to set yourself up for a successful campaign and a rewarding experience. If you have stories, thoughts, tips or ideas about crowd funding, that you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. Let’s start a conversation and help each other prosper, grow and become fulfilled in 2014

The Noise Beneath the Apple is on sale now! Buy it here at Amazon.  
Written by Heather Jacks and accompanied by an eleven-track vinyl record featuring the original music of a select number of participants, this 200-page art-style coffee table book measures 12’’ x 12’’ and weighs in at a whopping 8lbs. Putting the spotlight on the age-old profession of busking, Jacks also seeks to stem the tide of regulation intended to suffocate creative expression and take performers off the streets.  A limited-edition coffee table book, ‘The Noise Beneath the Apple®’, is a unique and vibrant study of the culture of street performance, its legitimacy in modern times and above all, an intimate look at thirty-five buskers throughout New York City. Released with an eleven-track vinyl record that was mastered by Grammy and Academy Award winning mastering engineer Reuben Cohen, this book is a singular achievement and a one-of-a-kind tribute to the chaotic, beautiful and spirited world of busking.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Book Boost: Purgatory

~be sure to like this blog's new Facebook Page for an extra giveaway entry~ 

For all of the adventure seekers out there- 
here's a new book fresh on the e-book market: Purgatory. 
Book Blast and giveaway brought to you by Worldwind Book Tours! Check out a synopsis of the book below as well as info on the author, and enter to win a prize after the jump! 

About The Book

This Black Edition copy of the internet phenomenon called Purgatory Soldiers of Misfortune (Black Edition) is separate from the main release and is specially designed for the ever growing 

He may have made a few wrong decisions in his life, but the last thing veteran Harry Taylor expects after closing his eyes for the last time is to wake up in a foreign landscape filled with the horrors of his worst nightmare. A place like no other, welcome to Purgatory.

Formed at the beginning of time, Purgatory is a place where all the wrongs of the physical world have gathered, a place filled with terror and controlled by an ancient and ruthless group of warriors called Leviathan. Can Harry survive these warriors hell bent on capturing and enslaving all those before them? 

One thing’s for sure, if Harry is to survive, he’d better start forming alliances with the other damned souls trapped here. But can anyone be trusted in Purgatory?

Purchase The Book : 

About The Author
Darryl's Website Twitter Facebook     

Darryl Olsen lives in Sydney and is the author of the novel titled Purgatory, Soldiers of Misfortune. He is married and currently works in law enforcement. Prior to all this he served in the Australian Regular Army as a combat engineer.
As for his inspiration for writing Purgatory Soldiers of Misfortune he says, "I have always had an interest in writing, and I love reading horror novels involving the dark realms of fantasy. So I decided to bring my dark nightmares to life." This is his first book and the first in a series titled-Purgatory.

Enter the Giveaway!



Monday, March 10, 2014

Bangkok Transit - [by Eva Fejos]

In Eva Fejos' world, everybody comes to transit through Bangkok 

I made a personal resolution this year to be more aggressive about making vacation time to travel, and this book, Bangkok Transit, by Eva Fejos allowed me to do so vicariously.  And while I realize that this doesn't count as actual traveling, Bangkok Transit appealed to the daydreaming wannabe traveler that I am, and is sure to awaken a desire to see the world in other readers as well.  In Bangkok Transit, everybody has their unique story, and the unique thing that they search for.  It romanticizes being a "seeker" and impulsively taking to the sky to find oneself, or somebody else, as the case may be.

evaAuthor Eva Fejos, a Hungarian writer and journalist, went on to write twelve additional best-selling novels in Hungary following the publication of Bangkok Transit in 2008.  Her books are said to be "therapeutic journeys", containing characters who never give up on their dreams.  A main theme that is said she wishes to convey through her novels, is the importance of taking our lives into our own hands.  

This is the first novel of Fejos' that I've read, and I did admire the ability of her characters to act on what were sometimes seemingly rash decisions, and be driven by the things they seek.  It is ironic though, that while Fejos is a proponent of deciding one own's fate, much of the plot of this novel was propelled by chance encounters in and around Bangkok.  Why Bangkok?  Fejos is from Hungary and she says that while her hometown gives her lots of inspiration, she loves to travel and wishes to take her readers on exciting journeys as well. 

This big cast of characters we meet in Bangkok Transit are all connected to Bangkok, Thailand in some way.  Everybody is trying to find something, a few have lost something, and others still are trying to learn something.  The beginning of the book was hard to get into because the narrative shifted so much between every person's story, and there was a lot to keep track of. I felt as though I was constantly being introduced to new characters, and it was distracting to follow.  But eventually, I got into the rhythm of the shifting perspectives and was able to keep all 7 story lines straight.  And if all of the journeys were completely independent of each other, it would have been easier to track, but there was a lot of overlap between journeys, which is one of the gems of this novel, even if it did make things confusing from time to time.  I really enjoy when a novel has a lot of pieces that don't seem to fit, but come together toward the end, so Bangkok Transit catered to the sentimentalist in me.  

I won't get into all seven characters, but a couple of the standouts were Paul, a man who needed to be coaxed into opening his heart and welcoming new experiences, and Lian, an adopted half-Thai girl, who cannot help but be preoccupied with experiencing her roots.  Each story was interesting, though, and I wanted to keep reading to find out what they were seeking and whether or not they were able to find it.  It is well-written, and I enjoyed going through this light read.  Overall, I thought it was really fun. It made me wish that I was brave enough to just pack up and go to a foreign country for an indefinite amount of time, until I found the inner peace that all of Fejos' characters ultimately required.

This post is brought to you by Worldwind Virtual Book Tours!

To view the entire Bangkok Transit Tour, click HERE

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Eva Fejos worked in one of the largest Hungarian women’s magazines, Nők Lapja (Women’s Journal), as a journalist from 2001 until 2012. She was the recipient of both the Award for Quality Journalism and the Award for Excellence.  She is tremendously fond of traveling. Her many experiences give a personal touch to her exciting, propelling, and exotic novels. Fejos's first Hungarian best-seller book, Bangkok transit, reached the top of the best-seller list within one month of its publication.  Following the initial publication of this novel in 2008, she has gone on to write twelve other best-sellers, making her a publishing phenomena in Hungary. According to the many accounts given by her readers, the author's books are "therapeutic journeys," full of flesh and blood characters who never give up on their dreams. Many readers have been inspired to change the course of their own lives after reading her books. "Take your life into your own hands" is one of the important messages the author wishes to convey.  Connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

What I Learned from Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

a story about the bond between pets and their humans. specifically a boy and his dogs

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Where the Red Fern Grows is probably one of my favorite books of all time.  This may sound like a passively bold statement...and maybe strange since this novel is marketed as a children's novel. But it is a novel that I read in elementary school (I'm told it was the fourth grade) and has stayed with me through the years.  I cried the first time, I cried the second time, and would probably cry a third time.

 "I had heard the old Indian Legend about the red fern.  How a little Indian boy and girl were lost in a blizzard and had frozen to death.  In the spring when they were found, a beautiful red fern had grown up between their two bodies.  The story went on to say that only an angel could plant the seeds of a red fern, and that they never died; where one grew, that spot was sacred." - Wilson Rawls, Where the Red Fern Grows  

For those who have not read this book, the synopsis (taken from Amazon) is as follows: "Billy, Old Dan, and Little Ann -- a Boy and His Two Dogs... A loving threesome, they ranged the dark hills and river bottoms of Cherokee country.  Old Dan had the brawn, Little Ann had the brains -- and Billy had the will to train them to be the finest hunting team in the valley.  Glory and victory were coming to them, but sadness waited too.  And close by was the strange and wonderful power that's only found... an exciting tale of love and adventure you'll never forget".

The first things I took away from this book were probably empathy and reading comprehension.  My reading comprehension used to be pretty awful because although I read a lot, I was just reading the words, without thinking about what the words were saying.  But this is the first book that I really remember paying attention to: paying attention to the words, the story, the significance, the details (as much as I was capable as a 4th grader anyway).  In regard to empathy, this is also the first book that really elicited a strong emotional response out of me, and I loved it. And to a certain extent I began to crave it.  Where the Red Fern Grows is powerful that way and, in my opinion, successful at playing at the humans' emotional heart strings.

Little Billy Colman also taught me about perseverance and reaching goals.  He decided that he wanted those two coon hunting hounds, and that's just what he did. He worked, he saved, he waited and two years later he was able to bring his two pups home.  There was something enchanting about that as a fourth grader who didn't like to be told "no" by her parents, and there is something enchanting about it now, as a twenty-something who sometimes struggles with motivation, but I digress.

The rest of the novel was really about friendship and love, and something else I learned which was about the strong bond between pets and their humans.  Like Billy, I owned a dog at that time.  We didn't hunt for raccoons or anything, though she did catch the occasional opossum, so I understood the companionship.  But Billy, Big Dan, and Little Ann were not just a family.  They were a team and the way this book is written conveys that so effectively.

I recently read some background on Where the Red Fern Grows over at a site called Trelease on Reading, that I thought was rather interesting.
Jim Trelease writes:

"Not all stories are published as soon as they are written and some take longer to write than others. Robert McCloskey spent a full year writing the 1,142 words in Make Way for Ducklings. E.B. White thought about and revised Stuart Little for nearly 15 years. But Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls, is the only children’s book I know that was completely burned before publication because of embarrassment by its author–after he’d spent nearly 20 years writing it!...Hesitantly he re-wrote Where the Red Fern Grows --35,000 words-- in three weeks, non-stop, unpunctuated writing." 
The rest is history since it did go on to get published and became a popular novel that was being taught as part of school curriculums.  But that little bit of history makes me respect this novel even more.  Perseverance, just like Billy Colman.

I also learned that there is a statue of Billy Colman and his dogs on the lawn of the Idaho Falls Public Library.  I previously did not have any particular reason to go to Idaho, but it appears that I do now! [All images were taken from a Google Image search.]

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Review: House of Miracles [ by Ulrica Hume ]

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House of Miracles is a collection of short stories about love.  Of course there are stories about romantic love, but this collection is not limited to that.  It is all encompassing.  Author Ulrica Hume writes about the love between good friends, and the love within family and marriage.  But it is careful in the way it's presented.  Some stories cater to the hearts of the hopeless romantics, while other stories portray the sadness and struggle that are sometimes a part of human relationships.  

The chronology was a little bit tough to follow since each story shifts perspective, is narrated by a different character, and jumps through different periods in time.  There were very few stories that I loved as stand alone pieces.  Otherwise, a large part of this book's charm is how it works as a group of interconnected stories as it is written around a core cast.  I was really quite engaged when I read several stories in succession.  

Mrs. Von Meurs, a sweet elderly widow, was my favorite recurring character.  The stories in which she made an appearance were also among my favorites.  Mrs. Von Meurs who is navigating life coping with the loss of her husband has a special friendship with her neighbor Janet, who also has her fair share of strife.  Between a struggling relationship with her boyfriend, and some disconnect with her family, Janet has a lot to share about love, though I think her story line remained the most unresolved.  My favorite pieces which included "The Zither", "Lottery", and "Oral Histories" were memorable but I found that my emotional response to each individual story in the collection was a bit inconsistent.  Overall, I think it is a well-rounded, poetically written, sweet compilation of experiences in love.  

Given that we just rounded out Valentine's Day weekend, I thought it would only be appropriate to write about something that celebrates love.  As is turns out, I have an extra copy of this book that I will gift out to one of you who wants it.  Find out how to enter the giveaway after the jump! 

Now available on Amazon

House of Miracles is about love - the romantic love of days gone by, first love, unrequited love, and the fragile intimacies of a couple living in the last part of the twentieth century.  In these delightful, at times unsettling stories, we meet two very different women: baby boomer Janet MacDonald, who, despite a blossoming career in San Francisco, feels sure that she is cursed, and her elderly, eccentric neighbor, Mrs. Von Meurs.  When Janet's relationship with boyfriend Jack, a struggling photographer, is tested, they drift dangerously apart.  It is Mrs. Von Meurs, alone and at the end of her life, who tries to keep them together.  

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