Book Sale

(Update: sale is over. Leaving the blog post up for posterity.)

For those interested in such things, I recently posted my 60,000th tweet. This prodded me to try an experiment I’ve been pondering for a while.

Over at my ebookstore, two of my books are now on a “Name Your Own Price” sale. You can get git commit murder and PAM Mastery for any price you wish, with a minimum of $1.

Regular readers of this blog are theoretically already aware that these books exist, and have bought them if they’re so inclined. If you could help spread the word to potential new readers, though, I would appreciate it.

“SNMP Mastery,” April Fool’s, and The Networknomicon

I sent the official release announcement today: SNMP Mastery is everywhere. You can get it, no matter where in the world you are or what vendor you prefer. Assuming they’re open, that is.

The world is in chaos. This is the worst possible time to do a book release. Like every other industry in the world, my income has plunged eighty percent. Fortunately, I’ve prepared for just such a contingency. We’ll be okay for a while yet.

But the world has no space for April Fool’s Day.

I’ve long believed that a prank must have meat behind it. A funny blog post is not a prank. Ed Mastery was a prank, particularly with the Manly McManface edition. People saw it, snorted, and then discovered it was real and laughed. And certain people were horribly, horribly offended. Exactly as intended.

SNMP is often compared to black magic. Therefore, I prepared a grimoire version of SNMP Mastery, to be released on April Fool’s Day.

Presenting The Networknomicon, or SNMP Mastery, by Abdul Alhazred, as translated from Alien Syntax Notation.1 by Michael W Lucas.

It is the finest physical artifact I have ever produced. The dust jacket is glorious, and there’s still more glorious art beneath it. The interior is stamped with labels from the Miskatonic University Library of Computer Science. No other technology topic is so utterly fitting to be presented as a eldritch tome of forbidden black magic. I have labored over the Networknomicon for six months.

The world is flat-out not in a place for this prank.

The Networknomicon was a sunk cost when everything went to hell. It was already at the printer. Copies were shipped to all the print-level sponsors and Patronizers. The ball was rolling downhill, and people were looking at the sponsor copies and saying that they needed it.

I’m still proud of creating the Networknomicon.

I would much prefer the world was in a place to laugh with me. But it’s not.

I’ve elected to just let it quietly seep out, not using it as an April Fool’s prank. I’m not going to demand to know who did this, indignantly insist the perpetrators fess up, threaten lawsuits for soiling my good name. I will not demand to know what happened to the “My Little Pony”-themed editions I supposedly shipped to print sponsors and Patronizers. And what sort of idiot prices a book at $66.66? (Yes, it’s expensive. This art was not cheap.)

My excitement has been building for six months. I have been desperate for 1 April to arrive so I could enjoy the world’s perplexity and cackle for a solid week.

And it’s going to fizzle. This disappointing decision makes me sad.

But I can’t joke about necromancy, black magic, and a book bound in cyborg hide during a pandemic, while millions are losing their jobs and companies that charge thousands of dollars for desperately needed ventilator fittings that can be cheaply 3D printed on site are threatening to sue over saving people’s lives.

On the whole, I’m ridiculously lucky. What everyone else calls “social distancing” is my normal life. I bought a Costco crate of toilet paper a week before the panic hit Detroit. I have enough medication to get through a few months, and enough steel cut oatmeal for months.

I will get over the sad. And we will get through this. Most of us, at least.

The Impending Demise of “PGP & GPG”

At fourteen years old, PGP & GPG is perhaps my oldest title still in print. And soon, it will be no more.

The theory in the book is still good, but GnuPG has changed in the last decade and a half. The PGP version discussed in the book is no more. Best practices and use cases have changed. I’d guess half the chapters have some utility, while the other half have none.

So the book is being deliberately eased out of print. It predates Kindle, so there won’t even be an ebook version available.

My No Starch books normally sell out their print run, get reprinted a few times, and fade into Out Of Print status. But PG3 never sold out its initial print run.

I’m glad we did it. No Starch Press is one of the few publishers who would take a chance on such a title back in the heady days of 2005. (The book came out in 2006, but the decision to take that chance was in 2005 or maybe even 2004.) But it was not a commercial success.

If you want to be a completist collector: grab this book while you can. Soon, it will be no more.

I expect the price of used copies to immediately skyrocket, of course. Because that’s what rarity does.

New novel out! “Terrapin Sky Tango,” aka “Butterfly Stomp Waltz 2”

Fire up the sirens and release the hounds, another novel has escaped!

People have begged for a sequel to Butterfly Stomp Waltz for years. (Earthquake Kitten Kiss doesn’t count; it features side character Liza Bradley, and it’s romantic suspense.) I’m delighted to finally be able to say “Here you go. Now hush.”

Terrapin Sky Tango is now available in ebook, paperback, and hardcover, almost everywhere books are sold. It’s 110,000 words of blood and mayhem–perhaps not Robert Jordan hefty, but big for a crime novel.


With her father’s death, mercenary thief Beaks returns to the place she hates most—her childhood home, to both pay her respects and make certain he’s gone.

She finds only lies.

Determined to rip the truth out of the shadows, Beaks ricochets around the world, defying killers and government agents alike. With the man she loves and the secretive hacker Sister Silence, she targets a nightmare that turns suffering into profit and slaughter into joy.

Family. It’s worse than murder.

Grab it at Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Gumroad, Amazon US, Amazon AU, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Amazon DE, Amazon FR, Amazon IT, Amazon ES

As part of this release, I looked at cover branding. I outsourced the BSW cover, which complicated long-term maintenance of the book. (The designer did a fine job, mind you; she simply used different tools than I do.) So I redesigned the cover to theme these books, with a theme I can use for all future Beaks novels. As part of this redesign, I was able to cut the print price of BSW down to $11.99USD and release a hardcover for a paltry $24.99.

50% John McClane
50% Robin Hood
100% trouble

Reeling from the death of her lover and partner, freelance “exfiltration specialist” Billie Carrie Salton breaks into a high-tech, high-security biotechnology firm to steal their sickle cell anemia cure and broadcast it to the world.

In, out, announce. Easy.

Except Salton’s life never works that smoothly.

And a gig gone wrong only begins the disasters.

Thievery, lies, and betrayals propel Salton across the world, from Atlanta, Georgia, to the heat of Portugal and the jungles of Myanmar, where she must put everything on the line to save everything she loves.

You can get BSW at Kobo, iTunes, Nook, Gumroad, Amazon US, Amazon AU, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Amazon DE, Amazon FR, Amazon IT, Amazon ES, and a bunch of other places.

In other news: Sudo Mastery went to copyedit last night. I really, really hope to have print in hand for vBSDCon.

Now pardon me, I gotta start work on snmp Mastery and another Prohibition Orcs novella.

New sponsorship announcement mailing list

Many people who have sponsored books asked me to let them know when I have another book sponsorship open. They sincerely want to help me. Between the black pit masquerading as my inbox and my unease with daring to take money for books that I haven’t yet written, however, I can’t actually accomplish that.

I have elected to outsource yet another job that I’m no good at.

In addition to my fiction announcement and nonfiction book announcement lists, I have a sponsorship announcement list.

You’ll only get mail when I open a sponsorship.

(Wow. Three blog posts in two days. Weird.)

End-Of-January Update

Part of having an annual goal is accountability, so: how did January go?

I wrote 27,500 words, or a little over half my goal. Given that I wrote 14,100 words in November 2018, doing my best to write full-out: I’ll take it.

Also, a big chunk of this was redrafting parts of the jails book. I don’t count rewritten words. I only count words that make the manuscript longer. If a book is at, say, 30,000 words, and I discard 5,000 of them and rewrite them in a day, how many words did I write? Well, if the book is 30,000 words at the end of the day, then I wrote… zero words.

Why count this way?

I am not paid to rewrite. I am paid to produce quality books. Left to my own devices, I’ll fiddle with text until it’s absolutely perfect. Long obsolete, but perfect.

But it’s clear that a whole bunch of what I wrote before my thyroid lobectomy was… unacceptable. I have no idea what some of those sentences were supposed to mean. So they had to go. (See the “quality” part of what I’m paid for.)

I could whinge and weasel and say that I actually wrote another 15,000 words this month, but you know what? That’s bogus. I’m a word factory. Factories don’t get paid when quality control throws out two months of product. That’s why I don’t count blog posts. (Which is part of why I don’t blog so much these days. Blogs do not pay the mortgage.)

The good news is, the jails books nears completion. I have to write about RCTL, figure out my last problems with delegating ZFS datasets to a jail, and a couple tidbits about iocage migration. Once I finish the first draft of the book, the print and ebook sponsorships close.

I’m drawing the tech reviewers for this book from the FreeBSD developers. I always give them first dibs, mind you, but the response this time was overwhelming. Seems a whole bunch of developers want this book to exist. Which is really cool! But it does mean that I have all the tech reviewers I can handle right now.

With any luck I’ll have FMJ for BSDCan. Perhaps even Penguicon, if everything goes really well.

As the tech reviewers and copyeditors do their work on FMJ, I’ll finish up Terrapin Sky Tango (Beaks #2) and get my lab set up for a second edition of the sudo book. After pounding my head on the bars of the jail for almost a year, I can really use a comparatively easy book.

I’ll leave you with the draft cover for FreeBSD Mastery: Jails. In addition to the nifty back cover quote from PHK, I also asked him to write a foreword. He was gracious enough to indulge me.

MWL’s 2018 Wrap-Up

I set some ambitious goals for 2018. How did I do?

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.

Enter HP Lumpcraft, also known as “the abomination formerly known as the right half of my thyroid.” The surgeon did a fine job. It looks like I won’t even need a zipper tat to cover up the scar.

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 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:

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.

2018 in print

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 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.

After that? You’ll know when I know…