A 2017 Round-up 2 of 3 – The Year In Books

 

In This Post:

  • Statistics About My Reading Habits in 2017
  • Fiction Books I Read (and links to my reviews)
  • Non-Fiction Books I Read (and links to my reviews)
  • My Personal Book Releases, and feedback from readers

I know that this series started as a round-up of 2017 in two parts, but I realized there was so much that happened in 2017, that I really needed more posts…

(And yes, it might even go to 4 posts if individual posts get too long).

Target Number Of Books To Read: 25

Number Of Books Actually Read: 37 (28 Fiction, 9 Non-Fiction)

Number Of Pages Read: 7,982

Comment below – let’s see how we all did on our reading targets

5-Star Reviews

4-Star Reviews

3-Star Reviews

Comment Below With Any Fiction Recommendations

5-Star Reviews

4-Star Reviews

3-Star Reviews

Comment Below With Any Non-Fiction Recommendations

Evaline Transcendent

Format: Kindle E-Book

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073G9FPZ8

Released: July 26, 2017

Blurb: Evaline is the shipboard computer on the Miranda Two, a colony ship destined for the planet Karman-III-Delta. She is possibly Earth’s last hope of establishing a working off-world colony. However, her predecessor stopped reporting home, so now she and the colonists must establish what happened to the previous colony.
The Miranda Two has been traveling for twenty years, and now it’s time for Evaline to wake the crew and colonists in preparation or arrival at their destination. Can Evaline and the crew figure out what happened to the Miranda One expedition, and what price will they have to pay for the answers?

Note From the Author: This is the second release of “Evaline Transcendent”, which originally appeared in the “Across the Karman Line” anthology. Since that release, I have revisited the story and expanded on some aspects, and rewritten others. At its core, this is exactly the same story but reimagined for a wide audience.

Originally standing at around 8,500 words, this new release boasts a word count of closer to 14,000. I hope that those of you who have read the original story will discover new aspects to it when reading this version. For those coming to it for the first time, enjoy!

Reviews: 

Love reading! Love reading many things but not science fiction… So it’s strange that I LOVED reading this!!! A short and wonderfully captivating story which REALLY should be made into a movie!!! You’ll see why yourselves – no spoilers here 😉 I’ve just downloaded his other book too YAY 😀

Book Dreams Volume #1 (Brain to Books Anthology)

Format: Kindle E-Book

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075VDXD64

Released: April, 2017

Blurb: Here, we present the talents of assorted artists. In this collection, you will find short stories, continuations, and poems that encompass the hidden treasures of today’s uprising authors. May their words influence you as much as they have influenced mine.

Authors Include: Ani H. Manjikian, Adam Dreece, W.J. Howard, Toi Thomas, Timothy Bateson, Laura McHale Holland, Ash Krafton, Sanzaki Kojika, Tyrean Martinson, C.T. Callahan, Natash Jackson, Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra, Jeanne Richards, Charlene Jones, Angela B. Chrysler

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A Walk-Through For Setting Up A 2018 Bullet Journal

 Having used the Bullet Journal (BuJo) system since the start of 2017, I’ve learned a few things about what worked for me, and what didn’t.

I also wanted to use the opportunity of starting a new journal to setup some page formats. For that purpose I went and purchases some stencils, which would allow me to create some amazing looking pages (hopefully).

Below are some of the thoughts that went into creating my 2018 Bullet Journal. For a better view of some of these pages, check out my “My 2018 Bullet Journal” board on Pinterest. (Clicking some of the images will take you to the relevant sections

I’ve seen a number of different keys in the last year, since I started using the Bullet Journal system.

Since I was starting a new journal, for a new year, I decided to take a look at some of the things that worked for me over the last twelve months.

  • Switching from filling boxes completely to indicate a completed task allowed me to include an ‘in-progress’ status.
  • Having icons for Email, Calls, and other location/device specific task made it easier for me to prioritize my workload based on where I was at the time (a trick I learned from ‘Get Things Done’).
  • I also decided to use these as tag for tasks, events and appointments, so that I could differentiate them.

The Index is your reference guide to the contents of your Bullet Journal. Because the Bullet Journal system allows you to add topics (also called collections) at any time, you need an index to help you find every page that forms part of that topic.

  • When creating a new topic/collection/calendar page/etc you just add the page title and page number to your index.
  • Anytime you add a page that is relevant to a topic, you just add the page numbers to your index.

The Future Log is where you focus on the year ahead, without worrying about the minutia of everyday events.

That means you don’t need a vast amount of space, because all you’re recording is key events which you are booking ahead of time.

I needed something quick and simple for this particular section of my Bullet Journal.

  • I went online and purchased stickers for the date labels (which I DID have to trim a little for this purpose).
  • Those labels make it easy to get a glance of the weekly breakdown.
  • The box under each label is used to note down the important birthdays for that month.
  • The remaining space is used to log events, appointments and tasks that are happening on days, weeks and months ahead.
  • When the time is right, you copy the item to the relevant Monthly Overview, and from there into the Weekly Overview and daily list.

This is where you move down to the monthly level, and get an overview of what’s happening over those few weeks.

  • I included an events and task list, as well as a section for events/tasks that need to be moved/added to the following week.
  • I left just enough space in the boxes for each day to make very basic notes.
  • At the bottom you’ll notice some other boxes I added for my book reading and review lists, as well as my Pinterest tracker, and the live dates of my weekly blog posts.

Here’s your chance to get an overview of the week ahead, and what tasks, and events you have coming up in the days ahead. (Spot the note scribbled in the top margin, regarding my apparent inability to spell DECEMBER).

  • This is pretty much the exact same weekly layout I’ve been using for almost six months.
  • The left-hand page tracks my works schedule, home/personal schedule, my blog schedule, writing/editing plans, and promotions.
  • I left these pages almost exactly the same as they were in my 2017 journal. All I did was move the habit trackers to the bottom of the page.

Since this is the start of the journal, there’s nothing to actually see, yet…

But I decided I wanted to add a little bit of interest to my daily lists. Banner images are something I experimented with during November and December, as I tried to decide on a format.

Then the stencils arrived, and I was able to combine the number and letter stencils with shapes to create something simple. I’m rather pleased with the result.

I’m an avid reader, as reviewer, who sometimes volunteers to pick up Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs). ARCs allow reviewers a chance to get their hands on books, before the general public, in return for an honest review.

Because my reading plans were very disjointed in 2017, I wasn’t always able to get to ARCs before the book released. So these pages will give me a chance to split my regular reading from my ARC promises.

This is another of those wonderful concepts that I’m using to try and be better prepared for movie releases.

Last year I missed a lot of movies at the cinema because of issues with work scheduling and finances. Hopefully by having the dates logged, I’ll be able to request days off for movies I really want to watch, before it’s too late to see them.

I’ll also use this to track movies and TV series that my wife and I want to purchase.

Journal:

Pens:

Stickers:

Stencils:

If you’d like to know more about how I designed and created these pages, let me know in the comments.

A 2017 Round-up 1 of 2 – News Updates

 

In This Post:

  • The FCC Repealed Net Neutrality, But It’s Not Dead Yet!
  • Giving A Drone This Christmas? Consider Adding a $5 Bill
  • My Bullet Journal Update & Why It’s A Huge Sucess!
  • Update On The Reader Survey

(Follow-up from this post: “Why I’m Supporting Net Neutrality”)

If you’ve been anywhere near the news in the last few weeks (or even months), you’ve heard about the battle to save Net Neutrality.

Last week I wrote a post, ahead of the vote by the FCC that would decide if we get to keep an “Open Internet”, or if the rules would be changing in favor of the Internet Service Providers. In the post I explained what Net Neutrality was, and why I felt that we could not afford to let the FCC dismantle the regulation they put in place during the Obama administration.

On December 14th 2017, the FCC voted 3-2 in favor of repealing the Net Neutrality rules. Popular Science explores why this is likely to be a bad thing, even if we don’t see immediate changes.

So is that the end of the discussion? Is Net Neutrality a thing of the past?

Not necessarily.

Several internet groups, states, and organizations are also looking at legal action to delay or reverse the decision. They cite the accelerated timeline under which this decision was made, compared to similar decisions in the past. This fast decision precluded public hearings and discussions makes the decision seem rushed in order to get it passed.

And… Congress still has a 60 day period, after the vote, in which to overturn the decision. Contact your representatives and let Congress know how you feel about Net Neutrality.

 

I happen to know a lot of people are receiving or buying drones (AKA quad-copters) for Christmas, because I work in retail. I’m also the owner of my own drone, thanks to my amazing wife, Sandi.

Being aware of restrictions on flying drones in certain places, except by express permission, I watch changes in legislation very carefully.

A few days ago, President Trump signed legislation that requires the registration of all drones between 0.55 lb and 55 lb in weight. (Hint: you can register  online for $5) And if your drone is OVER 55 lb in weight, then you need to register on paper. (Hint: you can get the details here).

This legislation affects you, ONLY IF you plan to fly your drone outdoors, at which point you are subject to several FAA regulations (some of which are new). And, for reference, most people will register under “Fly under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Section 336)”

Find out more at:

Register Here… https://registermyuas.faa.gov/

 

(Follow-up from these posts: “Bullet Journal – The Solution To Your Planning Nightmares?”, “Question of the day: What Is Bullet Journal Day?”)

Three posts mentioning the same topic within the last year? Yep, that’s how life-changing the Bullet Journal system has been for me.

I’ve been using my Bullet Journal for almost a year now, and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

Initially I was working with a binder, and inserting pages as I needed them, and had got into the habit of doing all the regular tasks for the system. But then, in March, a leather-bound journal entered my life, and really changed everything.

Over the time I’ve been using my journal I’ve seen a lot of things change in how I handle it.

  • At first I was following the basic system, just writing everything into the journal as it occurred, without worrying about formatting, or how it looked on paper.
  • Once I moved from the binder to the journal, I started to create tables to track certain events I was planning for, and realized how helpful it was to have formatted pages.
  • My weekly layout changed at that point, and I was able to note down my work schedule, chores, events, blogging, writing/editing and promotion tasks on a single page. On the facing page, I was able to mark down goals, achievements, and forward planning notes. This was a massive change.
  • Then I started to spot particular things that came up every week, so I added “Habit Trackers” to my weekly layout.

And now I have a fresh journal to look forward to. I’ve brought a couple of sets of calendar stickers, and plastic templates with which to create the starting look for my new journal.

I’ll no doubt be posting more details in the coming weeks. In the meantime, check out my Bullet Journal board on  Pinterest for some ideas.

 

(Follow-up from these posts: “Shaking Things Up & Reader Survey”, “Update On My Reader Survey”)

From the results I’ve been receiving so far, most of this blog’s readers like what I’m doing. Which is great news for me, because it means I’ve been doing something right.

I’m also seeing indications that people want to see more guest spots, including stories, poems, top-10s and character interviews.

Click To Take The Survey Yourself…

Why I’m Supporting Net Neutrality

Most of you know I don’t normally post anything remotely political, but this is too important to miss commenting on. On December 14th, the FCC will vote to reclassify Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as information services, removing many of the regulations that stop internet service providers from controlling what their customers can see online.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided below is from hours of research, and correct to the best of my personal understanding.

Title 2 of the Communications Act of 1934 is a classification of communication services, which the ISPs were placed under back in 2015 as part of the Open Internet Order of 2015. This meant that ISPs were now classified as ‘common carriers’ and therefore subject to regulation under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

This act also established rules for ISPs regarding net neutrality, prior to that it was voluntary for the ISPs to adhere to the concepts, and there was little regulation of their services.

Net Neutrality, or the Open Internet, is the concept of internet freedom whereby all internet service providers must treat all data delivered to consumers equally. That means they cannot:

Block content

Slow down the speed of content delivery

Speed up content delivery for companies/users in return for additional fees

Charge for ‘service packages’ in the way that cable packages do with television

Services like Netflix cannot pay an ISP to give their service an advantage over Amazon Prime Video.

ISPs cannot force people to pay for multiple packages that include different services… Example ‘streaming media’, ‘social media’, ‘images’, etc…

It means that my author website gets the same priority as Twitter

Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC has called the Open Internet Order of 2015 and the placement of ISPs under Title 2 as “heavy handed” and “all about politics”. It was his proposal to reverse this decision that started the current debate amid claims that the ISPs don’t have the profit margins to withstand regulation. His proposal will place ISPs under Title 1 and prevent the FCC from adopting net neutrality oversight.

Sure enough, ISPs have complained about the reclassification for some time, and many Republican politicians point to a supposed decrease in investment in service development. In particular they highlight reduced spending for the development of broadband infrastructure, which they cite as proof that the current classification of ISPs under Title 2 is damaging investment.

However, many ISPs say that while there was an initial dip in spending they have actually either matched their pre-Title 2 investments, or increased them. The have also seen increases in share prices, which means that their shareholders are still backing them.

Many Democrats and internet companies have come out in opposition to Pai’s proposed changes. Senator Bill Nelson, of the Senate Commerce Committee, even stated that “depriving the FCC of its ongoing, forward-looking oversight of the broadband industry amounts to a dereliction of duty at a time when guaranteeing an open internet is more critical than ever.”

Startups, investors, and even a group of over 40 of the top internet companies have stated that there is no reason to change the rules at this time. Among those companies are the likes of Netflix, Google, and Facebook. In fact these same companies and investors have expressed serious concerns about what might happen without the oversight of the FCC and the current regulations.

ISPs could institute ‘fast lanes’ that offer faster speeds to certain services/sites while slowing down all other sites/services

ISPs could provide preferential access to their own services/sites, up to and including blocking competitor services/sites.

Web hosts or streaming services could be required to pay the ISPs to escape the ‘slow lanes’

Those unable to pay to be in the ‘fast lanes’ could find their sites losing traffic due to slower loading speeds.

Consumers could be asked to pay extra for certain services, or access to certain sites

Having to pay your ISP extra to access Netflix, because your ISP already offers a similar streaming service

Finding that your existing streaming subscriptions went up, because they services are paying the ISPs not to be in the ‘slow lanes’

Paying extra to get access to social media sites/services without long load delays

Finding that your favorite author/musician/sports team website takes ages to load

If the proposed changes from the FCC go ahead, these could be among the possible outcomes. With those in mind, I have decided to back the existing state of play, and informed my Representatives that I want Congress to step in and prevent the proposal from the FCC.

Please do your own research on this, because I’d like you to make an informed decision before you decide to try and influence the FCC vote.

When you have done that research, please visit https://www.battleforthenet.com/ to find out how you can help keep Net Neutrality in place.

REMEMBER: December 14th is the day the FCC votes on this proposal… Urgency is key

Is Facebook’s Messenger The Future?

Back in 2011, Facebook acquired an instant messaging system that would become known as Facebook Messenger. Back then it was used primarily for sending messages between friends, but in time it grew into something more.

Over the years features have been added to the service, and it has become a separate entity from Facebook itself. You don’t even have to have an active Facebook account to use the services available through Messenger (although it does help to have one for certain features).

These days you can send pictures, files, money, and videos and it’s being used by everyone from individuals to companies who want to make it easy to contact them.

What makes it really powerful is the ability to make video calls and send automatic messages.

Well, I’m embarking on an experiment, which I’m hoping some of my readers will join me for.

Messenger allows people and companies to create automated messages through the use of software bots. These bots come in various forms, from sending automatic welcome messages to new subscribers all the way through to gateways to hotel room bookings.

I’m checking out a service called ManyChat, which allows me to create my own Messenger Bot, and customize it’s behavior. My plans are to use it to help readers find out more about my writing, me as a person, and to hold live chat sessions with those readers.

Readers who sign up to join me on Messenger will find themselves following a few questions that will help me introduce them to books that I can be sure they’ll be interested in. This happens by of applying tags to each subscriber, allowing me to send messages that hit a particular group of followers.

If you’re interested in joining me on Messenger, and wouldn’t mind me running the occasional experiment, click this button.

English Rules Broken – “I before E”

I know I’m not the only one who was taught that “I comes before E, except after C”. But, then as I got older, I discovered an endless supply of words which broke that rule.

My wife brought the above example to my attention last night, after spotting it on a Facebook post, and I knew that I had to share.

There are many more “rules” of the English language that are frequently ignored, or aren’t hard and fast rules, as we’re led to believe. If you have any, please feel free to share them…

Update On My Reader Survey

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a request for feedback from my blog readers. And I’ve been looking at the answers I’ve received so far, and been a little surprised by the answers. But, I will admit, I’m working from a very small sample.

The Top Three Topics People Want More Of:

Book Spotlights

Guest Stories/Poems

Character Interviews

I’m planning to let this survey run until the end of the year, and get as many responses as possible.

While I’m waiting on the end of the year I will be making a few small changes to the post format. If you’re reading this post, you’ve seen two of them already.

A couple of weeks ago I started putting graphic headings in to the posts, instead of just text headers. And today you’ll see everything centered. I want to see if people find this easier to read, or if there is a preference for left justified text formats.

It’s clear that people want to hear more about upcoming books from the Urban Fantasy and Science-Fiction genres. So, I’ll be putting together a plan for reaching out to more authors so that I can provide the best in new books.

Then just before we head into 2018 I’m going to take a look at the final numbers, and work out where this blog will be heading.

Click the banner below to go to my reader survey. Let me know what you like and dislike about my posts, so I can provide material YOU want to read.