In February I started writing git sync murder, a sequel to git commit murder. I’ve run at this book before, but the world put a 22-centimeter cyst on my thyroid to stop me. This time, it’s pulled out a pandemic.
The book is going slow right now. The git murder books, like all cozy mysteries, are about community. Our communities are going through the Cuisinart right now. My two primary community gatherings, Penguicon and BSDCan, have both been virtualized. I might discard the story I have and write about murder over YouTube and Zoom, but that’s not the direction I want to go right now.
As a bonus my wife is a nurse practitioner. I hear all sorts of inside information about how the pandemic is doing, and its impact on health care workers. The pandemic is doing just fine, thank you very much. The health care workers, not so much. Anything I write now will be extremely dark.
One of three things will happen (plus infinite variations on and gradiations between them, of course).
The pandemic will pass. Life will establish a new, sociable normal. All manner of things will be well.
The pandemic will hang around for a couple years, but we will fairly soon establish a new normal to cope with it.
In two of these scenarios, things stabilize in a few months and I write the book. In the third, I’m grateful that I have all of my books printed on soft, absorbent paper.
I’m therefore focusing my attention on TLS Mastery and a different novel. Not saying what that novel is, because it might implode, but I’ll give the curious an extremely feeble hint. (If you figure it out: good for you! Now hush.)
They exist, but you haven’t seen them. Traditional publishers have bought them. And traditional publishers are sloooow. They pay, though, and they get me exposure. (How do you know getting paid in exposure is real? Authentic exposure comes with a paycheck. Anything else is a knock-off.)
But today witnesses the escape of a new Prohibition Orcs story.
This story will come out in print on October 1st 2020. For those of you collecting in print, it’ll be branded like the other print titles. The ebook version is branded like an Uncollected Anthology project.
With my travels over the next couple of months, I’m not getting much done on my next tech book. I haven’t even definitively chosen what’s next; writing SNMP Mastery burned out a few critical nonfiction brain cells, and who knows when I’ll find fresh replacements at Dollar General. (I shoulda sprung for an IKEA brain.)
After some highly informal and scientifically bogus polling, I’ve decided to offer sponsorships on this book.
The first time I tried a sponsorship for a nonfiction book, I thought it was a daft idea. It worked. I’m still shocked, but it seems that the financial bucket I call “Give Lucas Money For No Good Reason” is now a substantial part of my income.
I think sponsoring a novel is a daft idea. It’ll probably be pointless. But what the heck, it’s no more absurcd than writing a book about the Standard Unix Text Editor.
My stretch goal is to have this book ready for Penguicon 2020. If that fails, it’ll be a month or two after. I know what the book is; all I need to do is sit down like a proper pulp author and type the blasted thing out.
The fine folks at HasGeek are sponsoring me on an accompanying trip to Bangalore, India, for three events. (Cool fact of the day: they’re not conferences in India, they’re events, because a “conference” apparently involves the Indian government and this isn’t a government thing.)
25 March, I’m offering a public lecture on Where is the Sysadmin Today at Juspay’s offices. I have rants thoughts. Oh, do I have rants thoughts.
27 March, I’m attending Netconf. This is an Unconference (Unevent?), so the program won’t be set until it starts. I’ll be proposing my new SNMP talk. I could also give any talk I’ve given before. If you’re attending and want me to give a specific talk, please comment or use the contact form to ask me to submit it.
Why do this trip, when I loathe travel? Over the last twenty years, I’ve promised several folks that I would one day attend AsiaBSDCon. I keep my promises. I’m looking forward to being there, but not to getting there. The Bangalore trip is serendipitous. Presenting technology is how I built my career. Bangalore is a technology center and obviously a place I should present in. HasGeek asked if I would be interested, I said “if you could put an event by AsiaBSDCon,” and those folks actually went and did it. I’m simultaneously amazed and honored that they’ve gone to such trouble.
Plus, HasGeek opened discussions by promising gelato. They did their research.
I’ll have a couple free days in each place, yes, and I’ll take advantage of them. I’d rather like to attend a few classes at the Hombu Dojo, but… Fly across the world, teach crowds of strangers to whom English is a second language, talk to folks about areas I’m an expert in? Sure. Set foot on Ueshiba’s tatami? I’ve only practiced martial arts for eighteen years, there’s absolutely no way I’m worthy.
And India’s history is thousands of years deep, plus there’s elephants and tigers and… and… everything. I can’t decide what to see.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m cutting down my traveling. This trip will cost me at least a week of writing time before the trip, and probably two weeks of writing time afterwards as I recover. It’s at least a month of proper writing, all told, and probably more. I can’t authoritatively say that this is my final trip to Asia, no matter what. I can say that I’m not planning to travel so far again. If you’re on that side of the world and want to meet me, this is your best opportunity.
I will do Penguicon and BSDCan in 2020, but otherwise, I’ll be home making words.
The paperback, hardcover, and electronic versions of FreeBSD Mastery: Jails are all available at multiple stores. Not all stores–Powell’s and Waterstones, for example, always seems slow to get my new books. But it’s at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and several others. And the reviews seem positive:
The timing for this book release is perfect; coinciding with my exploration of the use of jails within FreeBSD. I’ve yet to read this book, however, the author being Michael Lucas, I trust it will not disappoint.
Haven’t read it, but trusts me? That’s great, and slightly worrisome. I hope I don’t find one day it’s been revised to a single star. In any event, the jails book took longer to write than any other tech book I’ve written. I hope you find it useful.
Do you ever wonder if you’re a psychopath or just really efficient?
Do you think indecision is the worst possible sin?
Do you really dislike when people talk about curing you of what makes you you?
Then this is the book for you.
A fascinating and insightful exploration of “personality disorders” and what can be done about them and what should be done about them packed into a very tightly plotted story of future corporation intrigue.
Although I’ve published this on 1 April, it’s a very real post.
People, especially those who have previously sponsored my books, keep asking me when the sponsorships for the second edition of Sudo Mastery will be available.
I don’t intend to start seriously writing this book until the end of April. May has Penguicon and BSDCan, which will take lumps of time out of my schedule. I meant to hold off. But people ask enough that it’s turned out to be easier to open sponsorships than keep answering “not yet.” So:
Why am I not starting work on this book until late April?
My health was iffy for the last couple of years. Now that the bad half of my thyroid is out, I feel much better.
But during those two years, I started four novels. I finished zero, because I lacked the energy to drag the book through the critical middle. That many incomplete manuscripts has built up into a mental bugaboo, a nasty little voice in my head that says I can’t finish a novel any more and that I’ve lost the mysterious “it” and I should get a job as a hamster cage cleaner.
If I take two-three weeks and pound hard on Terrapin Sky Tango, I will a) finish a novel and b) get that little voice to shut the heck up. I know what the rest of the book is. Sort of. Okay, I know where the climactic final fight is, that’s close enough to knowing the ending, right? And it’s a blood-and-guts novel, which comes more naturally than eating gelato. I’ve spit out some successful short stories after that bad lump of Lucas Loaf got extracted, so I know the fiction-writing brain works again.
I just need to grit my teeth and spend some time with Beaks, crushing that inner critic. Which isn’t that bad. I mean, if I get killed hanging around with her, she’ll feel bad about it.
There’s a few reasons why. A relative fell off a roof and suffered a traumatic brain injury. I’m the family member that won’t get fired for not showing up to work, so I handled a bunch of it. There’s something about arguing with hospitals and rehab clinics that totally saps one’s mental energy. I lost a few months of productivity.
I figured that was why I was tired and slow. But: no.
Theoretically, a slowly escalating thyroid debacle explains last year’s anemia.
With HPL out, I’m feeling better than I have in a long time. Sadly, my cardio is utterly shot. I haven’t only been forbidden to exercise for the last few months, I’ve been forbidden to do anything that made me sweat. Apparently a “thyroid storm” could stop my heart. That sounded bad. I chose to become one with the recliner.
The upshot is, in 2018 I wrote 51,000 words of nonfiction. They appeared in:
FreeBSD Journal‘s Letters column, which started in July 2018. (The poor bastards let me have a free hand. I’m demonstrating the error of their ways.)
FreeBSD Mastery: Jails was delayed by the aforementioned TBI and thyroid. It’s about half done.
On a more upbeat note: SSH Mastery and Relayd and Httpd Mastery are available in hardcover. And to my surprise, you people are buying them. All future tech books and novels will appear in both hardcover and paperback.
I wrote 121,800 words of fiction. That should be at least a novel, but unfortunately I didn’t finish any novels. Finishing a novel demands a mental clarity I lacked. All my the fiction that actually entered the world was:
Shoot Through the Heart: an Immortal Clay story (in Boundary Shock Quarterly #2)
Winner Breaks All (in Boundary Shock Quarterly #4)
Winner Breaks All will be issued as a standalone in 2019, as soon as I get the rights back. When I get the rights back to SttH, it’ll go to my Patronizers but not to the general public. Giving SttH a cover that matches the Immortal Clay tales is prohibitively expensive, and short stories don’t make that much.
Here’s a partial pic, minus Face Less and BSQ #4. I’ll post a true final 2018 pic once my copies of both arrive.
So what does 2019 hold?
I am assuming that the thyroid lobectomy fixed my root cause problem. It’s a hopeful assumption, yes, but I can’t plan based on the idea that my health is still mysteriously fubar. The only evidence I have for this is that my word-per-hour productivity more than twice what it was before surgery. That’s the only indicator that matters, right?
First, I must exercise. A healthy writer is a productive writer. I gained a good twenty-five pounds this year, and blame HPL for every one of them. My double chin is his fault. Losing weight is straightforward: eat well, and exercise. The latter is where I’ve fallen down.
I’m working back up to an hour of forms first thing in the morning, five days a week, plus 2-3 nights at the dojo. I started today with ten minutes, and plan to add a minute a day. Yes, that’ll stagger back and forth as my body demands. I turn 52 this year, I can’t charge full speed ahead any more.
My flexibility is gone. You are as young as you are flexible, and my physical inability to kick people in the head really wounds my soul. After each bout of exercise I’m spending fifteen minutes on the stretching machine. For the record, this morning I hit 49″ between my ankles, or not even a right angle. This measurement is personal to me and this particular stretching machine, but the only person I’m competing with is me, so it’s all good.
I still have the standing desk. I’ve been using a stool most of the time since September, but standing full-time is the goal.
The last health goal is to master a split keyboard. Should make my shoulders happier. The Kinesis Advantage2 made my wrists happy, but rather than the Kinesis split keyboard I decided to try a Keyboard.io because the connector cable is a standard cat5. The Kinesis split keyboard has a built-in cable that maxes out at twenty inches, which is too limiting for my eventual use plan. (As I work at a standing desk, I’m pondering strapping a keyboard to each thigh and truly relaxing as I write.) I’m already pretty well adapted to the keyboardio, except for the all-important arrow keys. My most frequent key combination, CTRL-SHIFT-arrow, is kind of annoying on this critter.
I’m breaking up my word goals a little differently this year. Last year I wanted to write 600,000 words. This year, I want to write 50,000 words a month, or… 600,000 words in the year. Only words meant for inclusion in books and magazines count towards the 50kwpm goal. This blog post doesn’t. Book announcements don’t.
Why do it this way? A yearly goal is difficult. You can’t get to December and go “oh crap, I’m 200k words behind!” and make it all up. With a monthly goal of 50,000 I can get to January 25th, say “Oh, crap, I’m 20,000 words behind!” and make it up in a couple of long-but-not-impossible days. I’ve written 18,500 words in one day when I really needed to. (No, I won’t tell you which words they were… but you lot bought them, read them, and told me you enjoyed them.)
That’s 2-3 hours a day, six days a week. It leaves time for tech research, experimenting, and testing, plus the annoying minutia of being self-employed. (Sometimes, owning the means of production kind of sucks.)
Also, if I fail one month, next month is a clean slate. I want to set goals I can achieve. Psychologically, it’s better for me to say “I met my goal ten months out of twelve” than “I failed my 2019 goal.”
So, there we are.
What books will those 50,000 words per month be? FreeBSD Mastery: Jails for sure. Probably second editions of N4SA and Sudo Mastery, because of stupid publishing industry reasons. But I honestly have new content for both, so that’s okay. Finish novels I started, like git sync murder and Terrapin Sky Tango.