Cutting My Throat at Last

So many people over the decades have volunteered to slash my neck for free, but I’ve decided to have a professional do it.

My long-time stalkers followers have probably noticed my declining output. In 2016 I released six big books. Last year, two. This year, I’m pushing hard to get three, and I probably won’t succeed.

I’ve been plagued by weird, seemingly unrelated health problems. I’ll spare you the tedious details, but the real problem is that my writing speed hasn’t been where it needs to be.

I’ve been going to quite a few doctors trying to figure out the root problem. Thought it was anemia. Got that patched over, sort of, but there’s other symptoms. Also, what caused the anemia?

On 10 December, they’re cutting me open to yank out the right side of my thyroid and the accompanying 22-centimeter cyst. At least, that’s the plan. The surgeon might open me up and realize that the whole thing has to go, as some problems aren’t visible until you lay eyes on them. MRIs and ultrasounds are miraculous, but nothing replaces the squishy cameras mounted at the front of your head.

Part of me hopes they take it all. It’s hard to say how long the thyroid’s been bad; “constantly feeling vaguely unwell” is a common side effect of a career in systems administration. The thyroid is your master gland and controls your whole body. It’s also a tricky bugger to diagnose, at least until it starts swelling.

I don’t know that my thyroid is the true root cause, but the list of standard thyroid symptoms includes most all of my non-personality problems.

What will happen next? Dunno. Maybe I’ll come out just fine. Maybe I’ll need hormone replacement therapy. The more extensive the surgery, the longer it’ll take to recover–perhaps as long as three months. If they take half, there’s a 30% chance they’ll go back a couple weeks later and take the other half. I do know that this is a common surgery (except for the whole twenty-two centimeter thing), and that it’s completely routine for everyone but me.

So, I’m doing the following.

  • All public appearances are canceled until further notice. I’ll still be at semibug, but I’m not talking at any more user groups or cons until I’m well. I’m not even doing any more bookstore readings. The people involved already know.
  • I’m not accepting any invitations for conferences until this is resolved. I usually get a flurry of invites at year end, but I’m deferring decisions until I’m stable.
  • Even if I come through this perfectly I’m planning to stay home afterwords, put my head down, and write some damn books. That’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted as a career. I’m ridiculously lucky in that people will buy almost anything I write. If I want to keep this career, I have to produce.

So, chances are I’ll turn down your con invite anyway. But hopefully it won’t be because I don’t feel well enough to travel; it’ll be because I feel finally healthy enough to disgorge the millions of words trapped in my brainstem.

I’m also looking forward to being able to routinely turn my head to the right without blacking myself out. That’ll be nice.

Also, if this leaves a big scar? Two words: zipper tattoo!

Web Empire Redesign

I just went through and switched all four of my personal web sites to WordPress’ 2017 theme, getting rid of Atahualpa and Evolve. They were fine for their time, but 2017 supports everything I need and most of what I want.

My sites still need help, though. And I’m reaching out for guidance from people who design web sites.

(I also have, but that needs to remain separate. It’s a company, not a personal site, even though the company exists only to handle my books. It needs some help and updates, but that’s a separate problem.)

I started with a blog. Once the blog seemed to work okay, I converted my old raw HTML site to a real web page for my books. When I split my fiction off under a slightly different name, it seemed to make sense to set up a separate site for that. When I found I was duplicating information between sites, I set up to act as a central information/traffic direction point.

This is all annoyingly complex. People are having a terrible time finding information about me and my books. I really need to bring everything back together. Probably under, because that’s nice and short and easy to type on a cellphone.

The question is, how to organize the information?

Today, both my fiction and nonfiction sites have genres across the top. The drop-down menu on the tech site leads to a page for each book. The fiction site has single pages, one per genre, with multiple books. Given how many books I have out, one page per genre seems more sustainable in the long run.

Ah, seems… a lovely word that means “I look so simple, but I’m going to come back and bite you.”

I’ve thought of hiring someone to do a web site reorg, but ultimately, I’m responsible for it. I have to understand what’s going on. Plus, people are fragile; whatever happens, I need to be able to either take it over or explain it to another contractor.

So I’m asking my esteemed readers. If you were responsible for this kind of information, how would you organize it? As a reader looking for information on books, how would you do it? I mean, if I had to handle this for an employer, I’d quit–but that’s not really an option here.

Suggestions? Ideas?

New Patreon rewards for $1 tier

Patreon looks like it works for me, much to my surprise. The $1 tier looked a little empty, though, so I’ve added a couple rewards there.

The fiction readers get a free short story. Right now it’s the first Prohibition Orcs tale. I’ll probably change that some time.

The nonfiction readers get what is possibly my most ludicrous reward: a MWL footnote fortune file. Install it on your Unixy host, add fortune mwlfortune to your .login, and you’ll get a random quote from one of my books. It’s mostly footnotes, with some body quotes thrown in, for a total of three hundred sixty-nine lumps of snark to start your SSH sessions. I’ll update this every so often.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled life.

New Patreon video

I’ve had a Patreon for a while, and it seems to be working okay.

So, with help from Lawrence Technology Services, I created a Patreon video. By “help,” of course, I mean that Tom and Marvin at LTS worked the camera, did the editing, provided the set, did the lighting, and probably dozens of other things I have no awareness of.

I did, however, write the script and blather in front of the camera.

If you have three minutes to waste, check it out.

I don’t know if this video is right for Patreon. I don’t know if it’s amusing. I have been assured, however, that it’s very me.

Book Fair, 23 June 2018

I’ll be at the Scriptorium Book Fest in Troy, Michigan this coming Saturday. No, my name’s not on the official list there at the bottom, but I’m a late addition.

The Book Fest features a few dozen local authors, all of us available for discussion, photos, and general abuse. We’ll all have copies of our books.

If you’re in Metro Detroit, come by and find your new favorite book.

Now, back to writing git sync murder and FreeBSD Mastery: Jails

My Penguicon 2018 Schedule

Putting everything together, this is what talks I’ll be in this year at Penguicon. All the slots are an hour long unless specified.


  • 5 PM: LN2 Ice Cream
  • 8 PM: The Internet Before the Web (panel)


  • 9 AM: BSD Operating Systems in 2018 (talk)
  • 10 AM: LN2 Purple Haze Ice Cream (2 hours)
  • Noon: Large Scale SSH: Keys and Certificates (talk)
  • 1 PM: Senior Sysadmin Panel
  • 3 PM: Writing Groups (panel)
  • 4 PM: Reading (in the Writer’s Block)
  • 6 PM: Writing Productivity (panel)
  • 7 PM: Critiquing without Alienating the Writer (panel)
  • 8 PM: Making a Living as a Midlist Writer


  • 11AM: LN2 Brunch Ice Cream
  • 2 PM: Social Media Marketing

    It appears that I’m a sysadmin for half the con, and then a writer for the other half. That’s just the way I like things.

    Also, I must commend this year’s Penguicon schedulers. For the first time ever, my talks do not overlap the LN2 ice cream sessions. This could not have been easy to achieve, and I sincerely appreciate their efforts to accommodate my personality defects quirks.

    See y’all four weekends from now!

  • Too Subtle for my Own Good

    It turns out that part of my April Fool’s book release failed. More than one person has commented on the excoriating review of Ed Mastery posted on Dan Langille’s blog.

    People missed the italicized text at the top:

    Here’s a guest post by Michael W Lucas.

    I wrote this review.

    Of my own book.

    Ripping it apart as a terrible idea, and myself as a terrible author.

    Of all the parts of the Ed Mastery release that could be taken as a prank, this was the most prankish. I thought it was obvious.

    The failure of a prank goes on the prankster. Live and learn.

    Now, back to writing “git sync murder…”

    My ConFusion Schedule

    I’m girding my loins, gritting my teeth, and leaving the house this weekend. Specifically, I’ll be attending ConFusion, one of Detroit’s major F&SF cons. If you’re attending and want to avoid me, here’s a few panels and events I’ll be participating in.

    11am Saturday – Petoskey – Last Exit Before The Worst Timeline
    12pm Saturday – Isle Royale – The Ancient 1980s
    5pm Saturday – St Clair – Mass Book Signing

    You can roam the con freely those three hours. Otherwise, keep your eyes open and be ready to dodge away.

    MWL’s 2017 Wrap-Up

    It’s that time again. Time to reflect on my myriad personal failures in 2017.

    The obvious place to start is my 2016 wrap-up post, where I listed goals for 2017. As usual, these goals were wildly delusional.

    The short answer is, my iron was back up to normal. My writing speed wasn’t, though. I’d lost too much general health, and needed hard exercise to recover it. Yes, writing requires physical endurance. Maintaining that level of concentration for several hours a day demands a certain level of blood flow to the brain. I could have faked it in a day job, but when self-employed as an artist? Not so much.

    Then there’s travel. I did my usual BSDCan trip, plus two educational trips to Lincoln City, Oregon. The current political mayhem convinced me that if I wanted to hit EuroBSDCon any time in the next few years, I should do it in the very near future. So I went to Paris, where I promptly got pickpocketed. (Thankfully, they didn’t get my passport.) I was actively writing the third edition of Absolute FreeBSD, so I visited BSDCam in Cambridge to get the latest information and a sense of where FreeBSD was going. I also did weekends at Kansas LinuxFest (because they asked and paid for my trip) and Penguicon.

    (Because people will ask: why EuroBSDCon and not AsiaBSDCon? A six-hour transatlantic flight requires that I take a substantial dose of heavy-grade tranquilizers. I’m incapable of making intelligent decisions while on those drugs, or for several hours afterward. They don’t last long enough for twelve-hour flight to Japan, so I need to be accompanied by someone qualified to tell me when I need to take the next dose partway through the flight. This isn’t a predetermined time that I can set an alarm for; it depends on how the clonazepam affects me at those altitudes. A drug overdose while flying over the North Pole would be bad. When I can arrange that qualified companion, I’ll make the trip.)

    I need most of the preceding week to prepare for long trips. I need the following week to recover from time shifts and general exhaustion. Additionally, I have to hoard people juice for a few weeks beforehand so I can deal with folks during these expeditions. Travel disrupts my dojo time as well, which impacts my health.

    Taken as a whole: I didn’t get nearly as much done as I hoped.

    Here’s my complete output of big books.

    Or, everything I put out: one novel, one tech book, one story, and one novella.

    I wrote more stories, but Kris Rusch bludgeoned me into submitting them to trad markets. (The woman is a brute, I tell you. Cross her at your peril.)

    Among my 2017 titles, my fiction outsold the tech books. No, not Prohibition Orcs–all four of the people who buy those love them, but the sales tell me I’ve done something wrong with those tales.

    My cozy mystery git commit murder outsold Relayd and Httpd Mastery.

    But what outdid them both, as well as most of my older books? What title utterly dominated my sales for the last quarter of the year? It was of course, my open source software political satire disguised as porn Savaged by Systemd: an Erotic Unix Encounter.

    I can’t believe I just wrote that paragraph.

    The good news is, once I recovered from EuroBSDCon, my writing got better.

    I finished Absolute FreeBSD, 3rd edition and submitted it to the publisher.

    I wrote the second edition of SSH Mastery (no link, because you can’t order it yet.)

    I’m plowing through git sync murder, the sequel to git commit murder. I don’t get to see the new Star Wars movie until I finish GSM, so hopefully that’ll be this month.

    All in all, I wrote 480,200 words in 2017. Most of that was after September. It’s annoyingly close to breaking half a million, but after 2016’s scandalous 195,700, I’ll take it.

    One of the nice things about being an author is that most of your income is passive. You do the work, and the money trickles in for years afterwards. I had money coming in while I was out of commission. The bad news is, that income slowly drops. If I’m to stay an author instead of becoming a wage peasant, I have to schlep some books out PDQ. I can do it, provided I remain focused on production.

    That slump is the big reason why I broke down and started a Patreon. It’s why I started taking sponsorships for tech books. You folks carried me through my health problems. I can’t thank you enough.

    The fact that AF3e is trad published complicates the financial picture. I won’t see any money from that book until 2019. No, I’m not complaining–that’s just a fact of life, and I knew that going in. But it provides extra motivation for getting my butt in gear right off in 2018.

    So 2018 will be my Year Of Making Words. The finest words, of course. Artisinal. Straight from Detroit, a third world city in America’s heartland.

    So what’s on tap for 2018? What’s the plan?

    • BSDCan, Penguicon, and two educational trips to Lincoln City, Oregon. That’s it. Under no circumstances will I leave North America, sorry.
    • write 600,000 words, or 50,000 words a month.
    • Complete and release four tech books
      • SSH Mastery 2nd ed
      • FreeBSD Mastery: Jails (I suspect this will turn into two books, it’s a huge topic)
      • either Mastodon Mastery or Ansible for Legacy Systems.
      • #MWLSecretBook, which I can’t talk about until for now, for reasons which will become clear once the book comes out
    • Write the tech book I didn’t complete above, and release it if there’s time
    • Write four novels
      • git sync murder, a sequel to git commit murder
      • Bones Like Water, or Immortal Clay #3
      • Drinking Heavy Water, Montague Portal #5 or Aidan Redding #4
      • To Be Decided From a List of Candidates, All of Which I Really Want to Write
    • Be sufficiently flexible to kick Ray Percival in the head at BSDCan. A front kick will do, but I’m shooting for the high-flexibility side kick as a stretch goal.
    • Exercise enough to drop twenty pounds
    • Stay married while doing all of the above
    • Stay alive

    Other than the last two, these are all deliberately fail-forward goals. If I only get three tech books done instead of four–hey, I’m ahead by three tech books! If I only drop ten pounds, that’s better than gaining ten. “Stay married” and “stay alive” aren’t fail-forward goals, but I have a good idea how to achieve them both.

    This time next year, come back to see exactly how I failed!