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Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions

Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions by [Graffius, Scott M.]

Proper project management is essential in a business. The many moving parts need to be well oiled for a smooth ride. One therefore needs to be able to adapt to unpredictable changes in business. The traditional methodology of project management is sequential and focuses on predicting issues and having set ways to deal with them. The other project methodology is agile, which is a flexible, collaborative, and incremental process.

This book is about an agile framework called scrum. The idea is to focus on making the team adaptive to change. The framework appreciates requirement volatility. This is the prevalence of customer wants and preferences to change. Scrum instills an understanding that changes cannot be fully understood or foreseen. Rather than try to predict and understand the changes, this framework prepares the team to appropriately deal with such changes.

Agile scrum is more widely used in Software development but the author does a good job of generalizing it. Making it the go to framework for every project manager regardless of industry. The book highlights the versatility of scrum beautifully.

The subject matter is a bit complex. However, Scott M. Graffius breaks it down into little chewable bits before delving deep into each, taking it apart grain by grain. This method is greatly useful as it makes a daunting ideology easy to take in and implement. With this book, one can expertly introduce scrum into their business environment and confidently tackle any hurdle. It outlines all the basics in simple language and prose. The book is also greatly useful for people who are already using scrum. It makes for an excellent reference material for those that are already scrum certified or are preparing to be.

Using visual aids in addition to text greatly enhances the material. It makes for a more interactive and engaging experience. It makes the process of understanding the subject matter smoother for everyone whether beginner or veteran. Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step by Step Instructions offers a myriad of supplemental resources. Materials that one can use in addition to the book to better understand and use the scrum framework. It walks one through every step from vision to team formation to creating the product narrative up to release.

Unlike other books on the market, this one offers an informal look at scrum without losing its practicality. The tone is conversational thus does not feel like a textbook, and provides numerous examples and insight into real world implementation of scrum. I would recommended this to anyone looking to change their project management framework or work out knots in their current system. Scott M. Graffius delivers an in depth understanding of the subject matter and instills the same in the reader.

Pages: 156 | ASIN: B01FZ0JIIY

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The Enigma Dragon

The Enigma Dragon: A CATS Tale (The Enigma Series Book 9) by [Breakfield, Charles V, Burkey, Roxanne E]

The Enigma Dragon: A CATS Tale, by Charles Breakfield and Roxanne Burkey, is a fascinating tale of technological wonderment. The CATS (Cyber Assassin Technology Services) team has assembled from various global points with a singular goal and an overwhelming need to discover the source of North Korea’s missile supply. The team of equally capable and delightfully eclectic personalities masterfully manipulate a world of technological advancements as they handle their own personal crises–one after the other. The authors have created an amazing team of players ranging from married couple, Julie and Juan Rodriguez, to the villainous Marge. The globetrotting CATS team does not disappoint.

My favorite member of the CATS team is likely not the choice of most readers. I was completely enthralled with the story line involving Jamie. It is not often I reread chapters during the first read of a book, but I found myself lost in the tale of loss and despair described in Jamie’s chapter. His is a plot I would love to see further developed in subsequent Enigma books.

Julie and Juan Rodriguez are a couple like no other. The love they show for one another is enviable and not often found in books of this genre. The authors have given Juan some incredible monologues in which he, in no uncertain terms, declares his undying love for Julie. Julie, a dedicated CATS team member, is also a doting mother and exudes power in every way.

Marge, a vile and loathsome woman of pure evil, is the one character readers will revel in hating. The authors have expertly stretched out her character development to slowly reveal exactly how twisted and demented she really is. Without revealing too much about Marge’s wonderful plot twist, I will say I found shock, horror, and satisfaction tied up in one neat package before the end of the book.

Connie, like Jamie, holds a storyline in her hands like a beautiful package just awaiting the untying of its bow. Her dialect alone is a refreshing addition to the dialogue provided throughout the book. She is a loving, cunning, and especially memorable character addition who shows up late in the plot but deserves a regular place in the lives of the CATS team.

My only complaint regarding this book is the excessive use of acronyms. Many of them are humorous and all are quite effective in their descriptions and uses, but I found them to be a bit distracting as I read as many of them are in excess of five letters.

Breakfield and Burkey have created a book fraught with danger, tinged with grim backstories, and peppered with romance. They have indeed achieved a perfect mix of genres in the guise of a technological thrill ride.

I would recommend this book to any reader eager to break into the science fiction genre. The long list of highly relatable characters makes this particular piece the perfect choice for anyone who has been hesitant to step into science fiction with a techno taste.

Pages: 493 | ASIN: B0767QD12G

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We Have Known Some Wild People

Roxanne Burkey & Charles Breakfield Author Interview

Roxanne Burkey & Charles Breakfield Author Interview

In The Enigma Rising R Group is hired to find a missing heiress. They must learn to work together to uncover intelligence in the underworld of cyber crime as they confront drug traffickers turned money launderers. This is a thrilling setup to a suspenseful novel. What was your inspiration for the setup to this book?

It’s not hard to be inspired when you have lived and loved throughout your life. We are fortunate to have a venue to crystallize those moments, with those people who have rotated through our lives, and make it a compelling story. We have known some wild people.

I found the novel to be a clever thriller story. How did you balance quick action with intelligent story telling to give the book a quick tempo?

Practice! We want to be known as great story tellers and so you must be able to “wordsmith” not only the dialog and the characters but the story line itself. We spent a lot of time polishing the dialog, the story, and the characters to get the proper flavor for our goal of a good techno-thriller. Our beta readers and editor helped challenge us to make a better product at every opportunity.

Again, there is a host of intriguing characters in this novel. What was your favorite character to write for this time around?

We really got into our “bad boy” characters Juan and Carlos. These are the Bad Boys, mom’s warn their daughters about. And as the phrase goes “their characters grew legs and took off”.

How do you see the Enigma series evolving in the future?

Actually we have built a character universe of over 150 characters for use throughout the series. By the time the reader hits the 9th book (just getting ready to release) you will be able to answer that question for yourself. But as a comment to be a teaser, readers can expect the series to have different theme’s per book that include, identity theft and dark net (#1), high tech battlefield communications using nano-technology & Drones (#3), a virulent Ghost Code launched by two nefarious types code named Mephisto and Callisto (#4), predicting the future using supercomputers linked together (#5), genetic engineering of humans to live 1,000 years (#6), gamification and smart cities being held hostage (first CATS book) (#7), world commodity manipulations to crush corporations and countries (#8), and a team of analog information mules that drive shady corporate profits across the Dark Net (2nd CATS books (#9). We don’t think you’ll be disappointed in these grown up stories.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The R-Group is the single most advanced information-gathering organization on the planet, providing services to the intelligence community on a contract basis. Their cutting-edge application of technology keeps their ability to gather, analyze, and use information well ahead of most major governments.

Carlos and Juan are entrepreneurs, although even the most generous observer would question the legality of their business model. The two brothers have discovered a way to covertly access satellite communications. Mostly, they’re putting their skills to work relocating drug lords targeted by the authorities, along with their cash, gold, artwork, and other assets—for a modest fee, of course.

When a valued private client hires the R-Group to track down a missing heiress, chance circumstance brings the technology leaders into contact with Carlos and Juan’s fly-by-night operation. The two brothers have skills the R-Group can use, so they offer them a chance to go legit. Presuming, of course, the brothers can rein in their contempt for societal rules.

A sequel to Breakfield and Burkey’s The Enigma Factor, The Enigma Rising continues their exploration of the high-stakes and high-tech world of information brokering as an engaging thriller of lost and found, loving and growing, and despicable greed.

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Techno-Thrillers

Charles Breakfield

Charles Breakfield

The Enigma Broker is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a thriller, suspense, and cyber-crime as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing? 

We actually set out to incorporate all those elements when we started sketching this book, yet we find our stories end up surprising us as they evolve. So, yes, the story did grow organically as we were writing. To be honest, we feel our stories are Techno-Thrillers, thus it makes sense to us that you find these elements within the stories. We struggle with many of the literary reviews as this category is not yet well-defined, yet your insight on this is appreciated.

The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?

That is somewhat an unfair question.  We like to spend time developing each character to the correct degree for the story, which helps to give us the tension we are looking for in that story.  We are quite prejudice toward all of them. We have so much fun with all our characters. To put a fine point on it, for The Enigma Broker, our favorite would have to be Juan as we let him stretch in this tale to show his versatility as well as to find a stronger footing to go forward in the series.

Roxanne Burkey

Roxanne Burkey

When writing this novel together, how did you divide the work and decide on the finished product?

Our tendency has been to practice literary ping pong. For each story we start with the main premise and then rough out chapters typically ten at a time. Once we have the chapters assigned, each will work a chapter then serve it up to the other, in a back and forth exercise until the chapter is polished. We write to our strengths with the intention of making the stories sound like a single voice, and we submit that the back and forth helps achieve that for the reader. We review and criticize each portion and frequently add to each chapter as it progresses. The goal is to tell a relevant, contemporary story and have fun doing it. If it wasn’t fun we wouldn’t do it.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?

We are working on The Enigma Dragon, which focuses on how to conduct illegal activities without being observed digitally. It is difficult to keep your personal affairs private these days with social media and cell phones that can be easily monitored, because we have allowed technology so deep into our private space. It is hard not to use technology these days, and we incorporated that into Dragon. It has some tense segments where the characters are at risk and where others find out what they are really made of when things get tough. This one is focused on using the CATS team which was introduced in Book 7, The Enigma Gamers – A CATS Tale. This was a branch off the main series, but with a grittier core group. The Cyber Assassins Technology Services group is the new generation of detectives in the cyber space of the 21st century.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Enigma Broker (The Enigma Series Book 8) by [Breakfield, Charles, Burkey, Roxanne]

All around the world, commodity prices are plummeting, and nobody asks why.

The steep drop in the markets for oil, copper, coal, and other commodities threatens to destabilize nations and bring them to the verge of economic collapse. Amid fears that further drops in value could devastate civilization, the R-Group quietly engages.

The R-Group was formed during World War II. After delivering the Enigma machine to the British, they used their copy of the device to safeguard wealth and property from the Nazis. Today they use information-gathering and security capabilities to protect us from cyber-attack.

Jacob and Petra begin investigating the free fall in oil prices and soon discover disturbing clues that may implicate a “dark matter organization”—a shady organization that leaves no digital footprint behind. Meanwhile, ICABOD, the group’s supercomputer, teams up with government investigators to identify potential suspects. Quip and EZ also apply their special talents assiduously to the case but don’t let their work interfere with their blossoming relationship.

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The Enigma Broker

The Enigma Broker (The Enigma #8)

Who doesn’t love a good cyber-crime story peppered with intrigue and action? An excellent addition to that genre is none other than The Enigma Broker by Breakfield and Burkey. The current entry in a series that has chronicled an alternate future, this book is filled with thrills and chills. While the cast of characters is quite large, so much so that a single protagonist cannot be identified, the villains themselves aren’t quite so numerous, but their fearful plots are devious and cruel. It is not necessary to read previous installments in the chronicles, but it would undoubtedly be helpful at providing external context to the characters and their relationships. The intense nature of the crimes in this tale and the quick actions to circumvent them will leave readers breathless and waiting for more. There is truly very little to be disappointed with in this engaging tale.

The formatting and layout of the book is fantastic. The short-ish chapters make the story easy to read and take a break from if necessary. Some of the technical terms may go over the heads of readers and the authors have taken steps to address these concerns at the back of the book. You don’t have to be a computer genius to be able to understand what is happening, but it does not hurt to have some basic technical knowledge beyond pressing the power button on a computer. If you fall into the latter part, you may find yourself slightly lost while trying to follow those pieces of the story. The rest of the book more than makes up for that, however.

The relationships with the characters have some carry over from previous installments in this series. That can be difficult when you come into the series out of order, but it is dealt with easily by our authors. They give enough backstory and enough context that the present relationships are easily understood. As there seems to be a focus on romance and the development of these said relationships, this is crucial to get across to your readers who do not have the luxury of that backstory. The humor and action sequences are well thought out and planned accordingly. Nothing feels unnecessary or over the top. Everything has a place and the characters comply with their given roles.

A techno-thriller with a vast cast of characters can seem like more than the average reader is willing to take on. However, The Enigma Broker by Breakfield and Burkey is not one to be passed over. Any reader can tell that the research and partnership for this book was executed expertly. There is no clashing in the story where two authors disagree. Instead, this is a seamless book that flows as if it were written by one person. The romance and the action combine to give this book an added flair. Any reader would get a great read out of this.

Pages: 349 | ASIN: B01MQECQA9

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A Thief and a Master of Code

Danny Estes Author Interview

Danny Estes Author Interview

In The Paranoid Thief Randolph finds himself thrown into a strange cell after being tried and convicted for an atrocious murder he did not commit. What was the inspiration for the setup of this novel?

At work and as an author, I use computers all the time. Because of the complexity of programming, only those who constantly read up and experiment with programming code can truly understand how to create the world we now live in. But as a writer I can briefly pretend I’m apart of these masters of code. Yet I’d like to be more. So Randolph came into being. A thief and master of code. Still, the start of the book had to introduce Randolph in way the reader could catch his personality and some of his flaws. As for the set up for the first few chapters, I simply considered what would happen if companies took over the global economy.

The Paranoid Thief is told from Randolph’s point of view and we’re often treated with a humorous look at the world through his eyes. How do you find moments of levity in dramatic fantasy novels?

I love action adventure movies. Thus I try to write in a style which is not always serious. For me to do this, I picture myself as the main character and try to see the world I created through his or her eyes.

Randolph and Jill are intriguing and well developed characters. What was your inspiration for them and their relationship?

Although Randolph is purely fictional, I have met people who have a split personally. As I like to throw in surprises, something to make readers think, I thought what would happen if Randolph had no choice but to cope with someone whose personality swings far to the right and left. I’m also a bit of a romantic, thus after some trial-and-error Jill was born.

What is the next book that you’re working on and when will it be available?

My next book is call Braxton Snow P.I. In this book animals are like people, and my main character is an arctic wolf. With luck I hope to have the story out in 2 to 4 months.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

The Paranoid Thief“In the year 2050, the United States is owned by corporations. Citizens are mere commodities used to make the already wealthy CEOs richer. Professional hacker and cat burglar RANDOLPH McCANN finds his skills sought after by average people seeking relief from the oppressive corporate system.

Then his newest client—a powerful city official—murders a family and leaves damning evidence aimed at him. As the court’s lethal injection crawls through his veins, Randolph vows eternal vengeance on the man responsible.

He awakens to find he’s been kidnapped from his execution by a corporation that uses death-row criminals to gain political power through theft and assassination. He’s assigned MAJOR JILL WANDER as a partner, a tough ex-military sniper with a dual personality who is also wrongly accused on the public record.

When a job goes south, they join forces off the grid. With Jill’s help, Randolph evades law enforcement and closes in on the man who double-crossed him. And he can clear Jill’s name at the same time—if only he can keep her from killing the wrong people.”

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Data Pilots

Data Pilots by [Wall, W.H.]4 Stars

Data Pilots takes the classic “secret level” lore from video games – finding the secret level grants the player an elite, secret status – and uses it to transport the hero, Tom Howard, into a world where his brain is seamlessly integrated into an exclusive development playground. Neuralverse is an open-source database environment set aside for a few privileged thinkers where literally anything they can think of is rendered in immersive virtual reality.

Tom is something of a prodigy. He’s able to master Neuralverse controls almost immediately, makes a basic UI change and is rewarded with praise from the best data pilots in the system. He also discovers the darker side, full of hackers and profiteers. What he does with his power can either secure or topple this virtual world, and he doesn’t know who to trust.

A lot of this story hearkens back to the early days of the cyberpunk genre, like the integration of computing with the human brain, visualizing computerized data as an immersive experience, even holodecks. The author uses a lot of ideas from the past and blends them all together to build this world. I enjoyed the way that music takes an important role in the story, but can’t say too much – you’ll have to read it to find out. There’s also a neat time dilation in the Neuralverse. Since everything happens at the speed of thought, four hours spent on one project inside is more like four minutes in the real world.

Tom comes across as almost too talented, even for a teen prodigy. Everything is easy for him, and he masters complex skills in a very short time. Most (but not all) obstacles provide more than a moment’s annoyance. His skill earns him great praise from the other data pilots in the system. However, Tom does have humanizing flaws that he must overcome. He has a selective memory and does things like ignoring EULA notices as well as disregarding advice to keep his overworked brain from exhaustion.

My biggest problem with the book is that the author kills any suspense or tension built up during a scene by disclosing the bad guys’ identity and intent. The book is full of, “unbeknownst to Tom…” and “Little did he know…” moments that telegraph a critical plot twist long before it happens. The book needs some editing tweaks. The most common problem is putting dialogue from two or more speakers on the same line, without a paragraph break. In some scenes, it’s difficult to tell exactly who is speaking since it all runs together.

Data Pilots is a fast-paced novel for younger readers, immersing them into a race-against-time climax to unlock memories and data in order to protect a unique, collaborative environment from destruction. I’d suggest this for ages 12-18 because I think teen readers will find a lot to like here, especially if they are also interested in programming and designing virtual worlds.

Pages: 130 | ASIN: B01MSI7LL1

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Sprk.It

Interview: Thomas Claburn

Thomas Claburn

The Monster interviews Thomas Claburn, author of Oversight. We talk about the proliferation of overbearing advertisements, quack medical devices, and his decision to write for people instead of machines.

The world in Oversight is ‘hyper-commercial’, personalized advertisements are placed everywhere imaginable. What is the origin of this idea for you and how did it develop over time to fit in the story?

It’s hard to pin down a single source for the idea. Certainly the film version of Minority Report deserves some credit. But in my work as a journalist, I regularly cover Google and Facebook, both of which would like nothing better than to present you with the right ad at the right time. I’ve also written a number of stories about ad blocking and a surprising number of marketers would prefer that people not have the ability to skip, block, or otherwise avoid ads. In a sense, we’re already living in a hyper-commercial world, but we’ve become inured to it.

I started Oversight about seven years ago. There was no Google Glass back then and virtual reality was far more primitive and obscure. A few months ago, I decided that I should just finish the story and get it out there before reality leaves fiction behind.

Galvanic spectacles are on Dr. Mako’s body when he is found. I’ve never heard of them and it lead to interesting research and realization on my part. How did you find out about galvanic spectacles and why use it in your book?

I’ve written a number of articles about patents and patent lawsuits. In the course of searching about various patent-related topics, I came across the patent for Judah Moses’ galvanic spectacles at a website on medical antiques. I found them intriguing and ended up using them as the seed to get Oversight rolling.

Given the renewed emphasis on wearable technology throughout the media today, I’m glad I made that choice.

You use some programming terminology in the book. Do you have any experience in programming, and has that played into your writing at all?

I got into programming in high school back in the 1980s, when I learned a bit of BASIC. I eventually decided that I’d prefer to write for people rather than machines. I’m still not sure whether I made the right decision. And lately, I’ve been getting back into it, in part because the economics of writing are not what they used to be.

Sadly, the economics of apps are not really very different from books. I’ve coded several mobile apps, which can be found through my website, Lot49.com.

I find that writing and programming complement each other. For me, they require very different states of mind and it’s nice to be able to switch between the two when one isn’t coming easily.

What is one thing that you hope your readers take away from Oversight when they are finished reading?

I hope Oversight is entertaining most of all. Time is precious and I’d like readers feel their time was well-spent. But I also hope it raises people’s awareness of how technology changes us and affects society, for good and bad. There’s a lot to be ambivalent about.

The ending of Oversight leaves the story open to a sequel. Do you have another book in the works?

That was not an oversight. I wanted to have the option to pursue a sequel, if the book attracts an audience. I’d like to take a deeper look at the consequences of an environment that’s both computerized and weaponized. But I’m also mulling whether to take a stab at the YA market with a fantastical adventure about a girl with ADD, her highly-organized sister, and a fading oil dynasty. And I have some short stories that I may issue as a collection. I expect I’ll decide how to prioritize my time once I get through the initial push to raise awareness of Oversight.

Want more info on Thomas Claburn? Want to know what he’s up to?

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