A different sort of interview, on tabletop RPGs

Obscure MWL historical trivia: I got my start writing tabletop role playing games. It seems they have greater staying power than I ever thought they would.

The Plus Or Minus podcast interviewed me about my TTRPG Gatecrasher, which came out in 1995. A good time was had by all.

Also: 1995 was a quarter of a century ago. Not quite half my lifetime. Dang. I’m old. When did that happen?

Me, talking SNMP at Semibug: 21 January 2020

The headline pretty much covers it. I’ll be talking SNMP at the semibug.org meeting next Tuesday. 7 PM, Altair Engineering.

I use the semibug presentations to dry-run talks that I’ll be presenting elsewhere. The next place I’ll give it will be at HasGeek in Bangalore. So, if you’re in North America and want to see it, I highly encourage you to attend.

Also, semibug encourages heckling. Creative heckling, that is.

Proof I Am a Monster

One of the high points of the annual BSDCan tech conference is the charity auction in the closing session. We habitually support the Ottawa Mission, right down the street from the venue. After walking past the mission every day to find breakfast, the attendees are highly motivated to donate. The auction is especially amusing because the contents of the lost and found get auctioned off. More than once auctioneer Dan Langille has announced “I have here a power supply for an Apple laptop” only to have an audience member groan. It’s become a point of honor that people buy their stuff back, and folks delight in running up the price to twice what a replacement costs. We auction off everything from “the last cookie from the lunch buffet” to novelty pens to entire servers that dealers don’t want to take back to the States. (git commit murder’s auction scene is stolen wholesale from BSDCan.) Really, it’s an excuse to collect charity cash from well-paid IT workers.

In early 2019, I declared that I’d auction off the mostly complete manuscript of Terrapin Sky Tango at BSDCan. This was mainly to give me a deadline to finish writing the dang book.

I made it with thirty hours to spare.

Time in the auction is tight, so I elected to do a silent auction for the “mostly complete Terrapin Sky Tango” manuscript at my table. Competition quickly narrowed down to two people, Bob Beck and Kristof Provost. But at 4 PM Saturday, an hour before the closing session, my bid sheet disappeared. I couldn’t end the auction.

The closing session ends at 6 PM, and Bob had a flight out at 7PM. He’s in the closing session with his suitcase, coat over his arm, ready to charge out the door the moment the session ends. (You can do this when flying in a civilized country.)

You can see what happened on the video and skip ahead to my pics for the coda, or just read on.

What should turn up in the main auction but my silent auction bid sheet? It went for $40.

Turns out the last bid was Bob’s, for $189. Kristof runs him up to $200. A good laugh is had by all. Bob throws money at the secretary and bolts for the door.

Dan announces the next auction item: the last 27 pages of TST.

Bob freezes in place.

That bit where I said the manuscript was mostly complete? It sounds like it just needs editing, right?

Yeah. I suck. Stealing the last 27 pages of a thriller is downright mean.

That person on the video screaming LUCAS? Bob’s got a real good set of lungs on him.

Bob remains to bid on those last pages. He’d blown his wad on the main manuscript, though, so Kristof handily outbids him. Kristof tucks the envelope containing those last pages under Bob’s arm as he heads out the door. Kristof gets a well-deserved round of applause for his good sportsmanship. I’m told that the flight attendants didn’t actually bruise Bob’s butt slamming the airplane door behind him, but it was a close thing.

Time passed. Visualize those calendar pages flipping past as TST goes through copyediting, into production, and hits the bookstores. I sent Bob and Kristof ebook copies as soon as they were available. It really was the least I could do. The very least. Seeing as they paid hundreds of dollars for parts of an unedited manuscript, though, I decided I should ship them a signed print copy.

For reference: here is a photograph of the hardcover edition cover. The paperback edition is the same, but more difficult to photograph.

Here’s the paperback I shipped Bob and Kristof.

TST, Beck Edition

Both put it on the shelf, or in the recycle bin, and sent me a nice thank you note. Neither noticed the blank back cover, or thought anything was amiss with the book.

Two weeks later, I sent this.

TST Provost Edition

Each had a sticky note on the front that said “OOPS, MY BAD ==ml”

Yes, the first book they received was missing the last 27 pages.

Four copies of the Beck Edition and the Provost Edition exist. Bob and Kristof each got one. I’m keeping one. The fourth will be auctioned off at BSDCan 2020.

I love being a monster.

“Sudo Mastery” print sponsor and Patronizer shipments

I’m back from vBSDCon, stuffed to the gills and vaguely conscious, so I’ve done this.

stacked packages

The stack on the right are the Sudo Mastery, 2nd Edition print sponsor gifts. I’ve upgraded the envelopes. While paperbacks travel fine in paper envelopes, hardbacks… not so much. I’m told by someone who does shipping that these critters are nearly indestructible, and that my sponsors will need to attack them with drills and chisels to extract the contents. That seems a reasonable price to pay for gifts surviving the mail.

The boxes on the right are for my biggest Patronizers, who get everything in print and credit in same. They’re getting Terrapin Sky Tango as well as Sudo Mastery; the books came out so close together that I’m shipping them together. I’ve added some extra tidbits to improve their Patronizing experience.

Y’all should have your gifts and rewards soon. My gratitude goes to all of you.

For those of you who’ve been asking, this mostly clears the way for me to announce SNMP Mastery sponsorships. I’m still waiting on a couple external elements I can’t control, but it should be very soon.

Seattle Gelato Meetup, 1 August 2019

I’m traveling to Seattle at the end of July for business. Most of my time is booked with publishing stuff, but I have one evening free. And there’s gelato. A whole bunch of gelato, all around the Pike Place Market. Which is not terribly far from where I’m staying.

So, I’d like to invite everyone to join me for gelato at Bottega Italiana at 7:30 PM on 1 August 2019 (Google Map link). If you have ever had the burning desire to meet me, I’ll be there for an hour or so.

Why this place? It’s open later than 8PM.

BSDCan 2019 Auction Items, and next Beaks novel

Last night, I finished the first draft of Terrapin Sky tango, aka Butterfly Stomp Waltz #2. At 117K words it’s my longest novel to date. It’s a first draft, so I’ll be sending this to first readers and fine-tuning it for a while before release.

In weirdly related news–Every year, I donate something to the BSDCan charity auction. This year it’s

1) a copy of the Bail Bond Denied edition of FreeBSD Mastery: Jails.

2) The mostly complete first draft of Terrapin Sky Tango, This is mostly an excuse to separate nerds from their cash for a good cause. As this is a specialty item, not of general interest to the con attendees, I’ll do this auction silently during the con. See me for the bid sheet.

"terrapin sky tango" manuscript

My draft of TST is almost 700 pages long. I printed it in slightly smaller type, with reduced spaces between lines, and got it down to under 500 pages. So I printed it double-sided, because this is mostly a novelty (or, for the person who thinks I’ll be a Collectible Big Name one day, an investment).

Please accept this totally non-faked photographic evidence that the manuscript is a real thing.

And I will see each and every one of you at BSDCan!

My Penguicon 2019 Schedule

I’ll be at Penguicon this year, doing a few talks and panels and such. It’s only fair to warn you where I’ll be.

Friday, 3 May

  • 18:00 – LN2 Ice Cream (I’ll be simultaneously presenting “Debauchery as a Service”)

Saturday, 4 May

Sunday, 5 May

I’m pretty sure that adding three more events will allow me to reach Penguicon Transcendence. I shall become omnipresent, simultaneously attending and giving every single presentation. I recommend you attend Penguicon before that ghastly, inevitable development.

Or maybe they’ll just assign me a room and put a sign on the door: “The Lucas Show! Different Lunacy Every Hour!” So long as they shove LN2 ice cream under the door every few hours, that’ll work.

FreeBSD Mastery: Jails – Bail Bond Denied Edition

I had a brilliant, hideous idea: to produce a charity edition of FreeBSD Mastery: Jails featuring the cover art I would use if I was imprisoned and did not have access to a real cover artist. (Never mind that I wouldn’t be permitted to release books while in jail: we creative sorts scoff at mere legal and cultural details.)

I originally wanted to produce my own take on the book’s cover art. My first attempt failed spectacularly.

I downgraded my expectations and tried again. And again. And again.

I’m pleased to reveal the final cover for FreeBSD Mastery: Jails–Bail Bond Edition!

This cover represents the very pinnacle of my artistic talents, and is the result of literally hours of effort.
But, as this book is available only to the winner of charity fund-raisers, purchase of this tome represents moral supremacy. I recommend flaunting it to your family, coworkers, and all those of lesser character.

Get your copy by winning the BSDCan 2019 charity auction… or any other other auction-type event I deem worthwhile.

As far as my moral fiber goes: I have learned that art is hard, and that artists are not paid enough.

And if I am ever imprisoned, I do hope that you’ll contribute to my bail fund. Otherwise, you’ll get more covers like this one.

End-of-February Update

Yeah, we’re a third of the way into March. I spent the first week of March at a writing workshop, which I might blog about separately. My writing workshops are basically 14-hour days, because if you’re not working why did you leave the house? Anyway, how did February measure up?

10,000 words.

Yep. That’s it.

I spent the first third of the month finishing the first complete draft of FreeBSD Mastery: Jails and sending it for ready for tech edit. That’s where most of the words came from.

The middle third of the month was spent dismantling the first edition of Sudo Mastery, crying reading sudoers, and assembling the outline of the new edition. This is a little tricky, as I need to retain what made the first edition so amusing but update it for 2019. Words were made, but none of them are saleable so they don’t count–like this blog post.

The last third went to collecting FMJ tech edits and integrating them into the completed manuscript. FMJ is at the copyeditor now, and is due back by the end of the week. I expect to have print copies for Penguicon or, at worst, BSDCan. With any luck I’ll have hardcovers by then too.

That leaves me this week to do creative crap. I have a story due for Boundary Shock, so that needs to get drafted and out to first readers. I also have an absolutely business-critical task that I must finish this week. Can’t say what it is yet, but here’s a hint.

It involves crayons.

No, wait–“oil pastels.”

So, adult crayons.

So if you excuse me, I better pour a glass of milk and get scribbling.

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!