Agile Metrics in Action: A good how-to guide to getting better performance measurements – #programming #bookreview

Agile Metrics in Action

Christopher W. H. Davis

Manningpaperback

In the rapidly changing world of software development, metrics “represent the data you can get from your application lifecycle as it applies to the performance of software development teams,” Christopher W. H. Davis writes in his well-written, well-structured new book, Agile Metrics in Action.

“A metric can come from a single data source or it can be a combination of data from multiple data sources. Any data point that you track eventually becomes a metric that you can use to measure your team’s performance.”

The goals of agile metrics include collecting and analyzing data from almost every useful and accessible point in the software development life cycle, so team and individual performances can be measured and improved, and processes can be streamlined.

A key aspect of the data collection and analysis process is distributing the resulting information “across the organization in such a way that everyone can get the data they care about at a glance,” Davis says. He explains how and highlights some “traps” that teams can “fall into when they start publishing metrics,” such as “[s]ending all the data to all stakeholders,” many of whom won’t know what to do with most of it.

Metrics remain a controversial topic for many software developers, Davis emphasizes. So any business leader planning to rush his or her company into adopting agile metrics will need to proceed cautiously, instead. It is vital to get buy-in first from developers and their managers, he says.

“There will likely be people in your group who want nothing to do with measuring their work,” he explains. “Usually this stems from the fear of the unknown, fear of Big Brother, or a lack of control. The whole point here is that teams should measure themselves, not have some external person or system tell them what’s good and bad. And who doesn’t want to get better? No one is perfect—we all have a lot to learn and we can always improve.”

The concept of continuous development is a key topic in this book. “In today’s digital world consumers expect the software they interact with every day to continuously improve,” Davis states. “Mobile devices and web interfaces are ubiquitous and are evolving so rapidly that the average consumer of data expects interfaces to continually be updated and improved. To be able to provide your consumers the most competitive products, the development world has adapted by designing deployment systems that continuously integrate, test, and deploy changes. When used to their full potential, continuous practices allow development teams to hone their consumer’s experience multiple times per day.”

Of course, continuous development produces continuous data to measure and manage, as well, using agile metrics techniques.

Many different topics are addressed effectively in this book. And the practices the author presents are organized to work with any development process or tool stack. However, the software tools Davis favors for this book’s code-based examples include Grails, Groovy and MongoDB.

Agile Metrics in Action is structured and written to serve as a how-to book for virtually anyone associated with a software development team that relies on agile metrics. You may not understand all of the text. But if you take your time with this well-illustrated book, you can at least gain a better comprehension of what agile metrics means, how the process works, and why it is important to your employer, your group and your paycheck.

Si Dunn

Advanced Software Testing, Vol. 2, 2nd Edition – Study guide for ISTQB Advanced Test Manager – #bookreview

Advanced Software Testing, Volume 2, 2nd Edition

Guide to the ISTQB Advanced Certification as an Advanced Test Manager

Rex Black

(Rocky Nook – paperback)

 

Software testing is a complex and constantly evolving field. And having some well-recognized certifications is a good way to help encourage  your continued employability as a software tester and manager of software test teams.

Advanced Software Testing, Volume 2, 2nd Edition, focuses on showing you how to obtain an International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) certification as an advanced test manager. The 519-page book is well-written and lays out what test managers should know to gain advanced skills in test estimation, test planning, test monitoring, and test control.

It also emphasizes  knowing how to define overall testing goals and strategies for the systems you and your team are testing. And it gives you strategies for preparing for and passing the 65-question Advanced Test Manager qualification test that is administered by ISTQB member boards and exam providers.

This second edition has been updated to reflect the ISTQB’s Advanced Test Manager 2012 Syllabus.  Advanced Software Testing, Volume 2, 2nd Edition takes a hands-on, exercise-rich approach, and it provides experience with essential how-tos for planning, scheduling, and tracking important tasks.

The updated book focuses on a variety of key processes that a software test manager must be able to handle, including describing and organizing the activities necessary to select, find and assign the right number of resources for testing tasks. You also must learn how to organize and lead testing teams, and how to manage the communications among testing teams’ members and between testing teams and all the other stakeholders. And you will need to know how to justify your testing decisions and report necessary information both to your superiors and members of your teams.

As for taking the complicated qualifications test, the author urges: “Don’t panic! Remember, the exam is meant to test your achievement of the learning objectives in the Advanced  Test Manager syllabus.” In other words, you cannot simply skim this book and take the exam. You must spend significant time on the learning exercises, sample questions and ISTQB glossary.

Si Dunn

***

Get the book here: Advanced Software Testing, Volume 2, 2nd Edition

***

Java 8 in Action – Ready for lambdas, streams and functional-style programming? #bookreview

 

Java 8 in Action

Lambdas, streams, and functional-style programming

Raoul-Gabriel Urma, Mario Fusco, Alan Mycroft

(Manning – paperback)

 Java 8, we were sometimes assured, would just be Java 7 with a few slick new (or past-due) features added.

Actually, now that it’s here, Java 8 represents “the biggest change to Java in the 18 years since Java 1.0 was released,” the three authors of this fine new book point out.

Of course, news of “big changes” seldom sits well with developers who have spent countless hours learning and getting comfortable with one particular version of a programming language.

And many coders and companies will continue sticking with Java 7 for a while longer, because it still works. But the adoption pace for Java 8 keeps picking up. So, to misquote an old sci-fi slogan, resistance soon will become somewhat futile.

Lambdas, streams, and functional-style programming capabilities are Java 8’s headline additions. And there are some other major and minor additions, as well, including default methods and a new Date and Time API.

Java 8 in Action does an excellent job of introducing these new capabilities, and the book offers many short code examples and other illustrations to show how to put the new Java 8 capabilities to work.

Indeed, short (and shorter!) code is one of the hallmarks of Java 8. “In Java 8 you can write more concise code that reads a lot closer to the problem statement,” the writers emphasize. To illustrate that point, they offer a five-line example of verbose Java 7 code and follow it with a one-line Java 8 code example that accomplishes the same thing. Other examples also drive home the coding efficiencies that Java 8 can offer.

Lambdas, also known as anonymous functions, enable you to skip writing method definitions that will only be used once. The authors note that “passing code is currently tedious and verbose in Java [meaning 7 and earlier]. Well, good news! Lambdas fix this problem: they let you pass code in a concise way. Lambdas technically don’t let you do anything you couldn’t do prior to Java 8. But you no longer have to write clumsy code using anonymous classes to benefit from behavior parameterization!”

The new Streams API makes it much easier to work with collections in Java and provides “a much different way to process data in comparison to the Collections API.” Using the Streams API, “you don’t need to think in terms of loops at all. The data processing happens internally inside the library.”

Meanwhile, if you are a diehard object-oriented programmer, you may be leery of the term “functional programming” and the notion of using functions as values. (“In practice, you can’t completely program in pure functional style in Java,” the authors note. Instead, you will learn how to write “functional-style programs” in which you hide the side effects.)

With Java 8, “two core ideas from functional programming…are now part of Java: using methods and lambdas as first-class values, and the idea that calls to functions or methods can be efficiently and safely executed in parallel in the absence of mutable shared state. Both of these ideas are exploited by the new Streams API,” the writers state.  Also, in Java 8, they add, “there’s an Optional class that, if used consistently can help you avoid NullPointer exceptions.”

This review barely dents the surface of this excellent how-to book’s contents. Whether you are learning Java now or you are a Java developer who wants to keep your coding skills up-to-date and sharp, Java 8 in Action should be a book you will read soon.

Si Dunn

Cloudera Administration Handbook – How to become an effective Big Data administrator of large Hadoop clusters – #bookreview

 

 

Cloudera Administration Handbook

 Rohit Menon

Packt PublishingKindle, paperback

 

The explosive growth and use of Big Data in business, government, science and other arenas has fueled a strong demand for new Hadoop administrators. The administrators’ key duty is to set up and maintain Hadoop clusters that help process and analyze massive amounts of information.

New Hadoop administrators and those looking to join their ranks especially will want to give good consideration to The Cloudera Administration Handbook by Rohit Menon. This is a well-organized, well-written and solidly illustrated guide to building and maintaining large Apache Hadoop clusters using Cloudera Manager and CDH5.

The author has an extensive computer science background and is a Cloudera Certified Apache Hadoop Developer. He notes that “Cloudera Inc., is a Palo Alto-based American enterprise software company that provides Apache Hadoop-based software, support and services, and training to data-driven enterprises. It is often referred to as the commercial Hadoop company.”

CDH, Menon points out, is the easy shorthand name for a rather awkward software title: “Cloudera’s Distribution Including Apache Hadoop.” CDH is “an enterprise-level distribution including Apache Hadoop and several components of its ecosystem such as Apache Hive, Apache Avro, HBase, and many more. CDH is 100 percent open source,” Menon writes.

The Cloudera Manager, meanwhile, “is a web-browser-based administration tool to manage Apache Hadoop clusters. It is the centralized command center to operate the entire cluster from a single interface. Using Cloudera Manager, the administrator gets visibility for each and every component in the cluster.”

The Cloudera Manager is not explored until nearly halfway into the book, and some may wish it had been explained sooner, since they may be trying to learn it on day one of their new job. However, Menon wants readers first to become familiar with “all the steps and operations needed to set up a cluster via the command line” at a terminal. And these are, of course, important considerations to becoming an effective, knowledgeable and versatile Hadoop Administrator.  (You may not always have access to Cloudera Manager while setting up or troubleshooting a cluster.)

The book’s nine chapters show its well-focused range:

  • Chapter 1: Getting Started with Apache Hadoop
  • Chapter 2: HDFS and MapReduce
  • Chapter 3: Cloudera’s Distribution Including Apache Hadoop
  • Chapter 4: Exploring HDFS Federation and Its High Availability
  • Chapter 5: Using Cloudera Manager
  • Chapter 6: Implementing Security Using Kerberos
  • Chapter 7: Managing an Apache Hadoop Cluster
  • Chapter 8: Cluster Monitoring Using Events and Alerts
  • Chapter 9: Configuring Backups

You will have to bring some hardware and software experience and skills to the table, of course. Apache Hadoop primarily is run on Linux. “So having good Linux skills such as monitoring, troubleshooting, configuration, and security is a must” for a Hadoop administrator, Menon points out. Another requirement is being able to work comfortably with the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and understand Java exceptions.

But those skills and his Cloudera Administration Handbook can take you from “the very basics of Hadoop” to taking up “the responsibilities of a Hadoop administrator and…managing huge Hadoop clusters.”

Si Dunn

Help support the work of reviewing books. Click here to buy the book:  Kindle, paperback

Learning Dart – A solid guide to basic development using Google’s Dart #programming language – #bookreview

Learning Dart

Learn how to program applications with Dart 1.0, a language specifically designed to produce better-structured, high performance applications 

Ivo Balbaert and Dzenan Ridjanovic

(Packt – Kindle, paperback)

 

The programming language Dart was introduced in late 2011 by Google as a potential replacement for aging JavaScript. But JavaScript, of course, has continued to spread all over the Internet and planet since it first appeared in 1995.

Not surprisingly, Google found itself getting some pushback from software developers and others who have a lot of time, education, sweat and money invested into creating, supporting and modernizing files that have .js extensions.

Dart today is billed as “a new platform for scalable web app engineering.” It is a long way from replacing JavaScript. Indeed, it compiles to JavaScript.

At the same time,  Dart is a good and powerful Open Source language. And, while it is not yet seen on most lists of top languages to know, it is gaining momentum and followers in the software world.

“Dart looks instantly familiar to the majority of today’s programmers coming from a Java, C#, or JavaScript/ActionScript background; you will feel at ease with Dart,” write the authors of Learning Dart.

“However, this does not mean it [Dart] is only a copy of what already exists; it takes the best features of the statically typed ‘Java-C#’ world and combines these with features more commonly found in dynamic languages such as JavaScript, Python, and Ruby. On the nimble, dynamic side[,] Dart allows rapid prototyping, evolving into a more structured development familiar to business app developers when application requirements become more complex.”

In their recent book,  Balbaert and Ridjanovic note this about Dart: “Its main emphasis lies on building complex (if necessary), high-performance, and scalable-rich client apps for the modern web.”

Likewise, they point out that  “Dart can also run independently on servers. Because Dart clients and servers can communicate through web sockets (a persistent connection that allows both parties to start sending data at any time), it is in fact an end-to-end solution. It is perfect on the frontend for developing web components with all the necessary application logic, nicely integrated with HTML5 and the browser document model (DOM).

“On the backend server side, it can be used to develop web services, for example, to access databases, or cloud solutions in Google App Engine or other cloud infrastructures. Moreover, it is ready to be used in the multicore world (remember, even your cell phone is multicore nowadays) because a Dart program can divide its work amongst any number of separate processes, called isolates, an actor-based concurrency model as in Erlang.”

Their well-written book, from Packt Publishing, delivers a structured and nicely paced overview of how to use the Dart programming language. The book is suited for inexperienced developers and experienced developers alike who are curious about, or ready to dig into, Dart .

The intended audience, the authors state, includes “…web application programmers, game developers, and other software engineers. Because of its dual focus (Dart and HTML5), the book can appeal to both web developers who want to learn a modern way of developing web applications, and to developers who seek guidance on how to use HTML5.”

Indeed, in the first chapter, you get more than the obligatory “Hello, World!” program. You also learn how to use the Eclipse-based Dart Editor to create some simple command-line and web applications.

From there, the 12-chapter work focuses on topics and software examples that range from variables, classes and libraries, to combining HTML forms with Dart, building games with HTML5 and Dart, developing business apps with Polymer web components, using Dart with MVC web and UI frameworks, working with local data and client-server communications, and creating data-driven web applications using Dart and MySQL or MongoDB.

I have tested some of the book’s code examples both on Linux and Windows machines and have enjoyed working with the Dart Editor. However, I did find a couple of code typos in the print version while hand-typing some of the shorter examples. The better choice is to download and use the book’s code examples found on the Packt website.

One other matter that some new Dartisans may encounter: Norton 360 antivirus software currently tends to throw dart.exe into quarantine on Windows machines–and that stops Dart cold. There is a fairly simple way to retrieve the file from quarantine and tell Norton 360 to let it run. However, check the Dart community page on Google+ for info on that and some other approaches to avoiding the problem.

Learning Dart was published soon after Dart 1.0 was released, and Dart has continued to evolve fairly quickly. (Its stable version was 1.4.3 at the time this was written.) So there will be some small differences in screen displays and other matters.

If you want to learn Dart and get up to speed for using it in application development, Learning Dart can be your handy and solid how-to guide.

Si Dunn

 ***

Ready to get Learning Dart? Click here: Kindlepaperback

Mastering Gamification – A 30-day strategy to enhance customer engagement – #business #bookreview

 

Mastering Gamification

Customer Engagement in 30 Days

Scot Harris and Kevin O’Gorman

(Impackt Publishing – Kindle, paperback)

 Gamification is now a popular buzz word in many parts of the business world. This book wisely does not try to cover every angle, but stays focused on one application: “Marketing and sales people are using gamification to improve customer loyalty and engagement, knowing that it will lead to increased profitability,” the authors write.

They emphasize that “gamifying does not mean turning your business or website into a game. As Gamification.org defines it, gamifying is:

‘The presence or addition of game-like characteristics in anything
that has not been traditionally considered a game.’

 “Take particular note of the word ‘characteristics’ in this phrase,” the authors point out . “The purpose of gamifying is not to turn something into a game, but to apply understanding and knowledge about the basic human desires we all have that make us like games to a non-gaming environment, and hopefully to improve our businesses.”

 You may not finish all of the exercises, nor follow all of the suggestions in this well-written book. Yet the well-structured, 30-day plan offered by Harris and O’Gorman still can help you think harder about your business, how customers see it and how they engage–or don’t engage–with the products or services you offer.

 Even if you operate a small enterprise where you are the entire staff, this book can offer some good ideas and useful tips that can help you make more sales and keep customers coming back.

 What the authors aim to do is help you create and “launch a long-range, ongoing, continuous process of attracting the attention of a target audience, drawing them into a social space built around you and your products or services, encouraging them to evangelize about your products or services, and instilling in them an unshakable sense of loyalty.”

 In other words, you learn how to use some gamification techniques to get customers’ attention, keep their attention, and keep them coming back for more of whatever you are selling–three major keys to long-term survival and growth in business.

Si Dunn

Mule in Action, 2nd Edition – Want to be an integration developer? Here’s a good start – #bookreview

 

Mule in Action, Second Edition

David Dossot, John D’Emic, Victor Romero

(Manning – paperback)

 

An enterprise service bus (ESB) can help you link together many different types of platforms and applications–old and new–and keep them communicating and passing data between each other.

“Mule,” this book’s authors note, “is a lightweight, event-driven enterprise service bus and an integration platform and broker.  As such, it resembles more a rich and diverse toolbox than a shrink-wrapped application.”

Mule in Action, Second Edition, is a comprehensive and generally well-written overview of Mule 3 and how to put its open-source building blocks together to create integration solutions and develop them with Mule. The book provides very good focus on sending, receiving, routing, and transforming data, key aspects of an ESB.

More attention, however, could have been paid to clarity and detail in Chapter 1, the all-important chapter that helps Mule newcomers get started and enthused.

This second edition is a recent update of the 2009 first edition. Unfortunately, the Mule screens have changed a bit since the book’s screen shots were created for the new edition. Therefore, some of the how-to instructions and screen images do not match what the user now sees. This gets particularly confusing while trying to learn how to configure a JMS outbound endpoint for the first time, using Mule Studio’s graphical editor. The instructions seem insufficient, and the mismatch of screens can leave a beginner unsure how to proceed.

The same goes for configuring the message setting in the Logger element. The text instructs: “You’ll set the message attribute to print a String followed by the payload of the message, using the Mule Expression Language.” But no example is given. Fortunately, a reviewer on Amazon has posted a correct procedure. In his view, the message attribute should be: We received a message: #[message.payload]  –without any quote marks around it. (It works.)

Of course, this book is not really aimed at beginners–it’s for developers, architects, and managers (even though there will be Mule “beginners” in those ranks). Fortunately, it soon moves away from relying solely on Mule Studio’s graphical editor. The book’s examples, as the authors note, “mostly focus on the XML configurations of flows.” Thus, there are many XML code examples to work with, plus occasional screen shots of the flows as they appear in Mule Studio. And you can use other IDEs to work with the XML, if you prefer.

Indeed, the authors note, “no functionality in the CE version of Mule is dependent on Mule Studio.”

Overall, this is a very good book, and it definitely covers a lot of ground, from “discovering” Mule to becoming a Mule developer of integration applications, and using certain tools (such as business process management systems) to augment the applications you develop. I just wish a little more how-to clarity had been delivered in Chapter 1.

Si Dunn

Software Testing Foundations, 4th Edition – Updated study guide for Certified Tester Exam – #bookreview

Software Testing Foundations, 4th Edition

A Study Guide for the Certified Tester Exam

Andreas Spillner, Tilo Linz, Hans Schaefer

(Rocky Nook – paperback, Kindle

 

Worldwide, more than 300,000 software testers now have certifications recognized by the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB).

“The ISTQB Certified Tester qualification scheme has three steps,” the authors note. “The basics are described in the Foundation Level curriculum (syllabus). Building on this is the Advanced Level certificate, showing a deeper knowledge of testing and evaluation. The third level, the Expert Level, is intended for experienced professional software testers and consists of several modules about different special topics.”

This newly updated study guide covers subjects on the Certified Tester Exam at the Foundation Level. The major topics are:

  • Fundamentals of Testing
  • Testing in the Software Life Cycle
  • Static Test
  • Dynamic Analysis – Test Design Techniques
  • Test Management

Appendices cover standardized test plans, offer exercises for each chapter that follow the introduction, and provide a glossary of terms, many of which are recognized by the ISTQB.

“Testing has no tradition for using standardized terminology,” the writers caution. “Thus, the test plan should contain an explanation of the testing terms used in the project. There is a high danger that different people will have different interpretations of testing terms. For example, just ask several people involved in the project for the definition of the term load testing.”

The three writers point out that “[t]he Certified Tester Foundation Level syllabus version 2011 forms the basis of this book . A few updates to the syllabus, which is due to be released in 2015, are noted in the book. The respective national boards may create and maintain additional national versions of the syllabus. These may contain minor deviations from the English original, such as, for example, references to local standards. The national boards coordinate and guarantee mutual compatibility of their curricula and exams. In this context, the responsible board is the International Software Testing Qualifications Board.”

Whether you plan to seek formal ISTQB certifications or just up your game as a software tester, Software Testing Foundations can be an excellent how-to guide. Many aspects of software testing–a complex and often underappreciated field–are covered. Overall, the book is well-organized and written clearly, and its illustrations, while somewhat sparse, are adequate to the task.

Si Dunn

 

Play for Java – Good intro to the Play 2 Java web framework – #programming #bookreview

Play for Java

Nicolas Leroux and Sietse de Kaper

(Manning, paperback)

 

“There are,” co-author Nicolas Leroux writes, ” many Java web frameworks, but most of them have a key flaw: they try to hide the web behind an abstraction layer, rather than embracing it. That is the most important difference between Play and most other Java web frameworks (Servlets, we’re looking at you!).”

His writing partner, Sietse de Kaper,  adds: “Play ‘gets it.’ For ‘it,’ in this case, a lot of things can be substituted. Play ‘gets’ HTTP and the web in general, how developing web application works, what makes a nice and clean API, and more. This was clear from the early Play 1 beta versions, and that’s why we’ve used it on many projects since 1.0 came out. It didn’t disappoint. Now, with Play 2, Play continues to improve web development for the Java platform.”

Their new book from Manning is nicely written, adequately illustrated and structured properly to help newcomers get started with Play and with basic web application development. Play for Java also can help experienced web app developers quickly get up to speed quickly with this powerful development platform.

You start by creating and modifying the ubiquitous “Hello world!” application. Then you spend the remaining chapters developing, expanding and enhancing a warehouse management application, one designed to meet specific requirements within a made-up company. “Enterprise applications usually live inside the IT department and are usually hosted within the organization,” Leroux and de Kaper explain. Indeed, businesses may have several or many enterprise applications serving specific purposes, and those apps often do not communicate with each other.

As both writers note: “Web developers are used to interacting with their applications through the browser. With Play, you can also use the console to interact with your web application’s development environment and build system. This is important for both quick experiments and automating things.”

The web app framework Play is, indeed, fun to play with–and work with. For example, it is very good at showing you exactly (ona browser screen) where you have made a keystroke mistake or other blunder in your code. And the words  “Compilation error” on the screen display can’t be missed. Indeed, they can be read from across a room. (Fortunately, in my office, so no one sees them but me.)

If you decide to download Play and give it a try, be sure you (1) have Java installed correctly and (2) know how to set PATHs correctly on your Windows, Linux, or Mac machine. (I had a lingering Java glitch in one of my machines, and I nearly flung a Windows 7 PC into a wall in frustration. But I finally found the problem and fixed it, and Play immediately popped to life as shown in the book. Meanwhile, Play installed smoothly on a Windows 8.1 machine and an ex-XP PC now running Ubuntu.) 

The authors show how to use Play with three IDEs: Eclipse, NetBeans and IntelliJ. Or, if you prefer, you can stick with the Play console and a text editor such as Notepad++ (my current favorite). And they repeatedly emphasize that (1) you should not worry that their Java framework called Play actually is written in Scala and (2) you will encounter some bits of Scala while working with template files.

“Any template language has structures you need to know to build your templates, and Scala templates are no different,” they explain. “Once you know what you have to do to, for example, iterate over a collection or insert a variable value somewhere, you know all you have to know to use that feature. You don’t have to think of it as Scala if you don’t want to. Think of it as another template language.” (Actually, Scala is not scary at all once you’ve spent a little time with it or taken an online class.)

Play supports the optional use of some compiled assets, and “[o]ut of the box, Play 2 comes with support for LESS, CoffeeScript, and Google’s Closure compiler,” the co-authors note.

According to Playframework.org, Play is built on Akka and offers “a lightweight, stateless, web-friendly architecture.” It also offers built-in testing tools and speedy “hit refresh” workflow capabilities.

Whether you are an experienced web app developer, a newcomer, a student or a hobbyist programmer, it can be serious fun to work with–or play with–Play. And Nicolas Leroux’s and Sietse de Kaper’s Play for Java can be exactly the well-tuned guide you need to learn Play 2.

 — Si Dunn

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Aspiring Actor’s Handbook – Good mentoring advice from performers who have succeeded – #bookreview

The Aspiring Actor’s Handbook

What Seasoned Actors Wish They Had Known
Molly Cheek and Debbie Zipp
(Betty Youngs Books – Kindle)

This is not–repeat, not–just another book on how to create a good headshot and resume to wave around so you can attempt to attract a Hollywood or New York talent agent.

The Aspiring Actor’s Handbook offers up information and advice that a number of now-successful actors wish they had received when they were first struggling to get started in Los Angeles or New York.

Molly Cheek and Debbie Zipp are both experienced actresses with considerable movie and television experience. They know the complicated insides of “the business,” and they have collected wit, wisdom and useful how-to advice from several other successful actresses, as well.

“We are the seasoned professionals who have experienced everything in this business except major stardom, and we are here to tell you (and your doubting loved ones) that there exists a wide middle ground between Starving Artist and Angelina Jolie,” the two authors state. “Yes, it IS possible to have a rewarding and balanced life as a working actor. You can make a very nice living wage and have a normal middle class life without anyone outside of the business knowing your name.”

They describe themselves and their book’s contributors as “people who have something realistic and constructive to share with you about becoming an actor. While we…refer to ourselves as actresses, the insights we share are universally applicable to all aspiring performers, male and female. We have been in your shoes and have made our living as actresses for over 30 years. There are tons of books, websites and blogs out there on the craft of acting, auditioning techniques, how to get ahead and the like, but there is so much more to know about creating and sustaining a full life as a working actress [or actor]. And who better to shed some light on this career than women who have lived it?”

Indeed, the personal how-I-made it tales from the authors and their contributors are both entertaining and instructive. Many of them arrived starry-eyed from small towns, ill-equipped or not adequately trained to try out for movie, television or theater careers. Yet they managed to persevere, through a combination of a combination of luck, bluster, faith in themselves, and fortuitous timing.

“When we look back over our careers, what we missed most was a mentor; someone to tell our 18-year-old selves just what we are going to tell you,” the two authors point out.

“Teachers, agents and coaches just aren’t enough to fully arm you to face the mighty challenges in front of you. You need encouragement and real-world perspective from women who have been there; women who came to an acting career from different parts of the country, from different backgrounds, with different stories who have one thing in common: their love for acting and their ability to have been able to make a livable wage in their chosen profession. The tips, advice, and personal stories we share with you are heart-felt and freely given out of love and respect for the pursuit of your dream. In that spirit, we share all that we know and what we wish we had known.”

Their book offers six chapters rich with “mentoring perspective,” covering such topics as the various “handlers” you will encounter (managers, agents, publicists, lawyers and others), sex in the workplace, managing your sporadic money, and maintaining personal integrity “in the great unknown of show business.”

The chapters are:

  •  Chapter 1: Your Strongest Asset: You
  •  Chapter 2: You, The Product
  •  Chapter 3: You, The Person
  •  Chapter 4: The Lows: Surviving the insecurities of show business and learning to separate performer from the person
  •  Chapter 5: The Highs: The importance and joys of the acting profession
  •  Chapter 6: Be Ready for Your “Break-Out” Moment

Los Angeles and New York remain America’s shining beacons of hope and challenge for young, ambitious performers seeking stardom. Yet those cities are not the only places, of course, where movie projects, theater productions, and television shows now seek talented performers and crew members. Much of the information in The Aspiring Actor’s Handbook can apply to your acting aspirations and acting career no matter where you live and perform.

— Si Dunn