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Monday, March 30, 2015

Introducing a Terrible Tearable Book

As someone who reads a lot and has a strong interest in zines and book arts, I love it when I find a book that's not quite like anything I've seen before. Enter A Terrible Tearable Book by Zen Thai.

Have you ever wanted to get your feelings out on paper, but journaling just wasn't enough? Are you a kinesthetic type of person who benefits from adding a physical aspect to a writing or meditative practice? With A Terrible Tearable Book, the author invites you to tear each page out as part of the process of reading/using the book. Some pages are meant to be torn out and torn up, as you work out the residual anger or negativity of a bad day. Other pages are meant to be pinned up on your fridge or wherever you like to keep encouraging notes.

Zen Thai is currently raising money for the publication of A Terrible Tearable Book through this Kickstarter campaign. He has written four other books and has a solid understanding of the publication process.

When you pledge at $24 or more, you're reserving a copy of the book for yourself. There are two versions of the book: one version includes profanity, and the other is a "clean" version. At higher pledge amounts, you can actually be included in the book and even have your own, customized terrible tearable page based on your personal pet peeves. If you pledge any amount to the Kickstarter campaign, Zen Thai will send you a sample page from the book--and he hopes you'll make and share a video of yourself tearing it from the book.

This is a very cool project both in terms of expanding the boundaries of a typical "book" and in terms of being fun and participatory. Really I think this is just the kind of thing that crowdfunding was made for, and I hope that Zen Thai reaches his $3000 goal. As of this writing, he's already one-sixth of the way there. Visit his Kickstarter page to learn more.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Meet David W. Robbins, Author of Rich Little Piggy

David W. Robbins is a retired military veteran with a new mission: helping everyday people achieve financial success. Too many people are living paycheck to paycheck, drowning in debt with no hope of ever retiring. David wants them to join his movement to earn more, spend less, and live debt free!

Learn more about his book, Rich Little Piggy, on Amazon as well as on Facebook. David also maintains a blog on Goodreads.

1. When did you first get the idea to write your book, and how long did the process take your from idea to publication?

Hmm, I don't remember exactly when the idea first hit me, but it was in my head for many years. Like many folks, I was so busy with work, school, and family life that I only recently decided to sit down and actually start writing. Once I started, Rich Little Piggy was published the following year (2015).

2. How did you come up with the title of Rich Little Piggy?

That was a fun process. It took a while to figure out a theme for the book. I didn't want it to be the usual, dry, boring stuff that normally comes to mind when people think about personal finance. I definitely wanted the book to be a simple, easy read and not cluttered with complex stuff that everyday people will simply tune out. None of that gobbledy-gook is necessary to achieve financial success. In fact, to some people, the title can be a bit misleading in the sense they may think of a spoiled, "rich pig" of a person. When you read the book, you'll instantly realize the true meaning of what it really means to be a rich little piggy.

3. In a nutshell, what are some factors that allowed you to retire at the age of 43?

Simple answer--hard work and saving. I also believe that any able-bodied person can do the same. Like many folks, I come from loving but humble beginnings. In 1988, I left high school and joined the military, earning $630 per month. I loved military service, but wow, you sure don't get paid as much as the private sector. There were many years of working 40-60 hours per week while simultaneously taking a full-time college load at night and on weekends. My college education opened many doors to great job opportunities after I left the military. Throw in deployments and moving at least 15 times, I kept pretty busy. The moving taught me valuable life skills and a lot about real estate (both renting and buying). It also taught me to move to where the jobs were. Don't wait for things to happen--make them happen.

Make no mistake, I did not do it alone. I got married in 2004 and my wife has been my partner since 2004. She's the hardest working person I know and also worked day and night to earn her masters degree, which also opened up many great jobs opportunities for her. Some people choose work or school--we did both at the same time, while also moving and having kids. It was far from easy and did I mention hard work? However, it was definitely worth it! Neither one of us are special or privileged in any way; we simply worked hard for many years, saving as much money as we could along the way. Real estate helped, too. Our savings is critical to early retirement and happened because we always lived below our means. It's also critical to ensure your entire financial house is in order (not just savings). We relied on the total picture--no debt, emergency fund, savings, careers, insurance, education, and more. But that's it: many years in a nutshell.

4. What are some aspects of your own experience that you feel are most helpful to other people when it comes to making decisions in their own (financial) lives?

Step one is to wake up. Have a plan. I don't mean that in a derogatory way, but too many people just wander aimlessly through life with no purpose or goals. Financially speaking, here's the thing--follow a written budget. Just that alone will practically force you to think intentionally about how you spend your money. Sample goals might include earning a degree, paying off debt, buying a house, or investing for retirement. Those are over-simplified and Rich Little Piggy shows you how to set SMART goals, but you get the idea.

Step two is to act! It's been said that you can have excuses or results, not both. Nobody is going to hand you financial success on a silver platter. Not your parents, your neighbors, your boss, and certainly not the government. You must act on your goals. Yes, this is easier said than done, but the payoff is well worth it! If you need help, just look around you. Besides books like Rich Little Piggy, there are thousands more. There are hundreds of FREE personal finance blogs, websites, TV/radio shows, and courses that will teach you how to manage money. Claiming you don't know how to handle money is an excuse--do your research. But remember, it's about more than just money. Do these two things (have a plan and act) for success with your finances.

5. Why do you think so many Americans are in debt, and what can we do as individuals (and a society) to encourage debt-free living?

If I knew the answer to WHY so many Americans are in debt, I'd be considered a genius (or a psychic)! I simply don't know. I'd guess the reasons are many and varied. My favorite guess is that PEOPLE DON'T FOLLOW A WRITTEN BUDGET. A budget is not a silver bullet for avoiding debt, but it sure does help--if done properly! It forces you to "see" where your money is going every month and encourages you to make intentional choices with your money. Experts will give us all kinds of reasons, statistics, and surveys about why people are in debt. Quite frankly, I don't care why--I'm about fixing things. Even if you knew why, you'd educate that person on how not to do it again. So, instead of guessing a million different reasons, simply cut to the chase and educate people on how not to live in debt. If they choose not to, that's their choice. At least they know. They have nobody to blame but themselves.

So, what can we do about it and how can we encourage debt-free living? Plenty! I do know that living in debt is NOT a necessity. That much I do know. There are plenty of excuses, but not many real reasons to live in debt. It starts with you. It starts by following a financial blueprint and living at least within, but ideally below, your means. Don't worry about the Joneses! Also, way too many people think of minimum wage as a goal, and not a starting point. We all start somewhere. My somewhere was mowing lawns and washing dishes as a teenager. Whatever your salary is today, it should be more next year--make it happen. Whatever your education level is today, it should be higher next year--make it happen.

Some people say they can't make ends meet every month. Well, after you've cut expenses to the bone, your only other option is to increase your income. Chapter 2 of Rich Little Piggy provides many ways to grow your income. However, it's up to individuals. You must be willing to sacrifice and put in the hard work. So, set the example for others to follow. Live debt-free yourself. Educate your children, family, and friends. Heck, that's why I started my movement! So, even if you don't buy the book, "Like & Share" my Facebook page, read and share my blog. This is how we get each other out from this huge debt load--one dollar at a time. Together, let's make it happen. Join the movement--become a rich little piggy!

Thanks, David!

The 700th Post to With Five Questions

This is the 700th post I've made to With Five Questions! The Blogger platform keeps track of such things; I'm terrible with remembering numbers myself, I admit.

I started this blog in November of 2012 as a way to help authors, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, and other creative professionals get the word out about their projects. I expanded from an interview-only format to include article-style posts introducing books, websites, products, services, and more.

Thanks to everybody who has supported this blog by reading it, sharing the posts, and especially asking to be featured in an interview or article. I sincerely enjoy learning about the different projects that people are working on in a variety of different fields.

Well, I can almost see my 1000th post in the distance, if I look hard enough...

Friday, March 27, 2015

Meet Jordan Hernandez, Entrepreneur and Afghanistan Veteran

Jordan Hernandez is a veteran of the US military who served in Afghanistan. Now living in Texas with his wife, Dulce, he is working on starting his own business called Article Express. He is raising start-up funds for his business through this GoFundMe campaign. Jordan also hopes to help his parents and brother through his new business.

1. When it came to developing a business idea, what inspired you to focus on an online-based business?

The thing I love about doing anything online is that it's liberating--it's totally creative. I feel as though this was how the "American Dream" was back when we had such a massive and booming society. It allows anyone with a vision to create it and get the benefits from that creation.

2. Why did you decide to create a site focused on articles and content marketing?

Well, I started meditating a few years ago, and it has helped open up my consciousness so much. It helped me understand what thoughts ran through my head, and how to better interpret the meaning of those thoughts. The way I understood what popped into my head has led me to a gut decision that this is something that I am meant to do too liberate my family's life! So I'm doing it, one way or another!

3. For you as a reader, what makes for interesting web content--and what keeps you coming back to a website?

Anything that would keep me coming back would have to be giving me insight on something. It's that feeling whenever you hear something so true that you just can't help but smile and shout "YES!!! I know exactly what you mean!!".

4. Why did you decide to kick off your project by seeking backers through a crowdfunding platform?

Honestly, I decided to go this route because I would like to avoid the debt of a loan. My wife and I are trying to get a new house which we got pre-approved for, and took on a new car bill recently as well. Reaching my goals this way will avoid all the excess debt we just can't handle. I believe when people see a legitimate cause, they are compassionate, and they are loving. I have high hopes for humanity.

5. As you and your wife look ahead to the next year or so, what are your goals?

I try to place myself in this present moment. If I do try to think of a future, I'm creating separation from this moment, and now have a chance to be dragged down by thoughts of anxiety and worry. In the present moment that will be in the "future" so to speak, we are hoping to accomplish an income that will take care of us and my family around us. I hope to help my father and brother who are addicted to antidepressants, and to free my mother from a household of gang retaliation due to my brother's lifestyle. I just wish to ease the pain and hurt from their minds. Thinking about that every day must be torture.

These pictures show my brother today, and back when we were kids.

Thank you for taking the time to interview me!

Thanks, Jordan!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

An Excerpt from Ashes and Asphalt by Trevor Halloway

Trevor Halloway braves the New Orleans swamps every day to go to work. During the commute he works out fantastic stories in his head to put out for future generations. His love of homebrewing and cats is legendary.

His debut novel, Ashes and Asphalt is a story about brotherhood, about reconciliation and honor. Mike and Kyle Byrne's father has died and requested that his estranged sons bring his ashes to the annual Sturgis Bike Rally...together. Naturally, this does not please the duo, but they do honor the old man's request.

They have five days and two thousand miles to cover. If they can elude a pissed-off biker from New Orleans, a trio of whacked out carjackers, and the police, then they might just survive...unless they kill one another first.

Ashes and Asphalt is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle ebook format.

The excerpt below is from the beginning of the novel.

***

"I'll bet you twenty bucks that you won't mess with that old man by the bar."

The large man looked to where his friend pointed. He noticed a few bikers around him and shook his head. "I'm not messing with bikers, bro."

The smaller man took out his wallet and slapped down two twenties. "Toby, would you pull at his jacket for forty?" He pulled out another twenty. "I'll even buy another round. Besides, all you have to do is tug a little at the jacket. If anything, you could play it off as an accident... Pretend you're drunk or something."

"Fine, but make it eighty."

"Deal."

Toby got up and eased over to the bar. No one stood near his target, and the old man slumped over the bar with a beer still in his hand.

Toby approached the bartender and ordered another round. The bartender gave him two bottles and left him to tend to the other patrons. With a swig from his bottle, Toby staggered and gripped the old man's sleeve.

The bar sounds faded as everyone witnessed Toby's move, especially Billy Byrne, who dusted off his sleeve.

The brawny upstart rubbed his swollen jaw, sneering as a pound of pain coursed against the alcohol. "I never expected an old man like you to have such a strong right hook."

Billy Byrne pulled at his opponent's jacket, drawing Toby in close enough to smell the cheap beer on Billy's lips. "I never expected some young punk like you would be dumb enough to grab my jacket."

The bottles slipped from Toby's hands, crashing onto the floor and staining both of their jeans.

Billy locked his eyes with the guy before him. "Lesson number one about biker bar etiquette is you never touch a biker's jacket." Billy's bony fist connected with Toby's not-so-tough stomach and he doubled over. His eyes bugged as he clutched his ribs, gasping.

The old man cracked his knuckles. "Lesson number two is you never knock over a biker's beer, especially on the same jacket you touched."

Toby's friend pushed Billy and got into his face. "Look, asshole. You don't mess around with Toby!"

Billy's friend, Mack, lunged forward, slicing through the air with a cobalt blue custom pool cue. Billy darted right as the stick connected with a tall gutter punk's back. The lanky kid spun around, his mouth open as he struck the tabletop.

Billy looked down at his opponent. "And you don't mess with a Gearhead and his crew."

"Hell, man," said a large black man with the short dreads. "You smashed my stick!"

Billy smiled at Mack, who shook the broken stick in the air. "Don't sweat it, Mack. I'll get you a better one." Billy ducked a blow intended for his face. "Behind you!"

Mack spewed forth unintelligible words. A chair smashed against his neck.

A boy in brown trousers and a collared shirt wiped his hands and dodged another biker's right cross. He didn't take into account a second biker whose fist connected with the boy's stomach, sending him to the floor.

Jason, the bartender, emerged from the back room with a few tequila bottles. A full beer can flew past his head, spraying its contents onto his shirt. He ducked behind the bar and rummaged through his drawers, searching for a few shells for Old Bessie. He gazed at the red cartridge between his thumb and forefinger and readied his shotgun.

Before Billy's fist struck a preppie's face, a blast exploded from the bar, saving his nose from certain fracture. Bits of ceiling sprinkled from above, freezing everyone in mid-fight. The jukebox wound down, leaving the thud of the fainting preppie to fill in the sudden silence. The remaining customers turned as the bartender pumped the shotgun, ejecting the spent shell onto the ground.

"Now that I have your attention, I want to point out that you lot have done some heavy damage to my place."

Broken glass littered the beer-soaked floor, sparkling beneath the few fluorescent lights that were still working. The neon beer sign above the door flickered a few more times before giving up with a final defiant spark.

"Don't be shy," Jason said as he waved his piece. "We accept most major credit cards."

Silence filled the room.