Total Mastery, 2021 July

Hypothesis are the key to understanding and the fundamental root of science. A hypothesis must be falsifiable. Here’s an example.

Nobody will buy a bundle containing all the IT Mastery ebooks. Long-time readers already have some, and only want select volumes. New readers will want to try one or two first.

Folks at my mug.org talk last night assure me this is not true, and that if such a bundle existed people would buy it.

I’m testing this hypothesis via the Total Mastery ebook bundle. All my IT Mastery ebooks, 10% off.

Note that it’s dated. When I release a new book, I’ll create a new bundle.

Or stop bothering with it, when I fail to falsify my hypothesis.

Public Online TLS Talk

I’ll be talking about TLS at mug.org on 13 July 2021. I get more than an hour, so there’ll be time for an energetic discussion afterwards. Their web site is not yet updated, because I just now sent them the talk abstract.

This is an online meeting. All are welcome.

Online meetings are getting more common, and I’m getting more requests to present. While online talks don’t have travel time, they do take a kind of energy I call “people juice.” People juice is scarce and not easily renewed. Video calls are even more exhausting than regular ones. I haven’t made this an official policy yet, but I’ve pretty much set a limit of “not more than one presentation a month, and maybe zero depending on what else is going on.”

“DNSSEC Mastery, 2nd Edition” Open for Sponsorships

I’ve started making words on a new edition of DNSSEC Mastery.

After weeks of folks repeatedly asking when they can sponsor it, I have an answer other than “later.” Sponsorships are open now. Eddie Sharam will be doing the cover, as usual.

If you’ve just come across my sponsorships, here’s the deal. You give me money before I’ve produced anything suitable for human consumption. In return, I put your name in the book. $25 or more gets your name in the epub and mobi ebook versions, while $100 or more gets your name in the print and electronic versions. (The PDF version is straight from the print, so while it’s technically an ebook you need to have print-level sponsorship to appear in there.)

For the record: yes, I consider sponsorships something of an open scam. There’s no way you get enough benefit from a sponsorship to merit the cause. They’re a throwback to the medieval patronage system, where folks with money supported artists they considered worthwhile. Or, if you prefer: you give me money your excess cash, and write it off as a business expense.

On the other hand, I got bills. So here it is.

If you want to trickle money to me, rather than big lumps, I offer monthly patronage opportunities at both Patreon and my e-bookstore.

Or, just go to your favorite bookstore and buy my books. That’s all the support I need.

the Write Stuff bundle, featuring: me!

My book Cash Flow for Creators lays out exactly how I make a living in this deranged business. You can get your own copy for a paltry $6.99.

Right now, you can get it for $5 as part of the 2021 Write Stuff Bundle at Storybundle. Plus three other books and classes on building a career from your craft. That’s even cheaper than my usual cheap. Or you can spend $20, and get ten excellent business books from people who know what they’re doing, who make a living with their craft, and who are cheerfully sharing how to do the same.

I’m delighted to be in this bundle, and not just because bundle curator Kris Rusch called Cash Flow for Creators “one of the most important books you’ll read all year.” (Mind you, I’m gonna keep that quote in a safe place so that when the world catches on to what a complete doofus I am, I can take it out and cuddle it.) But there’s some top-notch writers and business people in this bundle.

Johanna Rothman is best known as a business and technology consultant. She also writes charming heart-warming stories that remind me of fairy tales for some reason, because they’re totally not fairy tales. Except when they are. I’ve met Johanna at several conferences, and for a quiet and unassuming itty-bitty lady she knows how to put herself out there. I’d absolutely listen to her on getting speaking slots at a conference. Or, in this case, read her Writing a Conference Proposal the Conference Wants and Accepts.

Joanna Penn writes top-notch fiction and hosts the Creative Penn podcast. I was lucky enough to have lunch with her at a conference on the Oregon coast a few years ago and frankly, I have no idea how she gets the energy to do half of her stuff. She’s a smart people, and has built one heck of a creative business doing this weird… what’s that word? Oh, yes. “Planning.” Something I constantly and consistently fail to do. I really ought to perform the exercises in Your Author Business Plan. I should also take her advice that I need to weasel my way onto more podcasts, because the whole “wait patiently for invitations” thing doesn’t work well.

Stefon Mears once worked in computing, but he got better. I’ve known him for years, and the interesting thing about Stefon? It’s not his obsessive Blue Öyster Cult fandom, though that is one of his better traits. It’s not even that I once made him laugh so hard that bystanders asked if he was having a seizure and if they should call an ambulance. It’s that he’s just this guy, and he keeps writing book after book after book in the grand pulp tradition. One after another, he churns them out like Rex Stout or Zane Grey or Lester Dent or any number of others. We’ve talked about how to write a novel every month, and I overwhelmingly agree with the advice he gives in The 30-Day Novel and Beyond!

All this for five bucks. But the bonus books, for those who pay $20 or more?

Award-winning writers and editors Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch have survived several economic crashes in this trade. They were the first professional authors I ever met who understood that writers don’t write books; they create and license intellectual property. I don’t always totally agree with them, but they back up their arguments and make me think about why I’m doing the things I do. You can’t buy that. Except you can. In several ways. In this bundle.

Mark Leslie LeFebvre was a bookseller. He’s worked for Kobo and Draft2Digital. He’s a fantastic writer and editor. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s worked at a printer. He knows this business like I know that weird growth on the back of my left hand. (Don’t worry about me, they always drop off before they hatch.) I respect this man’s mad skillz enough that when I finish the Current Giant Epic Fiction Thing I’m working on, I’m going to buy an hour of his time to talk through how to optimally release it. If you want your work in bookstores and libraries, he’s the man to tell you how. Oh, hey–An Author’s Guide to Working With Libraries and Bookstores. What a coincidence!

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Tonya D Price at more than one conference. Her excellent writing survived MBA school, a feat not many people manage. A Writer’s Introduction to Social Media Marketing is exclusive to this bundle, so I haven’t read it. Yet.

Writer, editor, and game publisher Loren L Coleman might be best known for his work in Battletech, but I mostly know him for his phenomenal Kickstarter chops and his devoted Prohibition Orcs fandom. Anyone who can raise multiple millions in a Kickstarter has my attention. He recently Kickstarted Crowdfunding Your Ficton: a Best Practices Guide. Kickstarter is on my Things To Play With list, so I backed it. You can get his book after those of us wise enough to back him, but before the great unwashed masses.

A cut of the purchase price goes to each author. Another cut can go to Able Gamers, if you check the box. You should totally check the box.

Also, the price is completely “pay what you want.” None of us would mind if those of you with real jobs realized that this bundle is dang near theft and chose to pay a bit more for it. If you read these and act on their advice, you’ll turn a profit easily.

Sponsorship Notes on “TLS Mastery”

Here’s the heap of TLS Mastery sponsorship gifts, awaiting my poor postman.

43 packages on my front porch

I get asked about how sponsorships work, so I’m going to record a few notes here.


37 print sponsors at $100 each, plus 55 ebook sponsors at $25 each? In traditional publishing, we would call that an “advance.”

Except that I have to pay to purchase and mail the rewards. When I first tried sponsorships back in 2016, I calculated I’d have to pay about $10 for shipping for each print sponsor. Surely most of my sponsors would be in the US, not overseas.

I was so. Very. Wrong.

Over half of my sponsors are outside the US. Average shipping is $19. The print sponsorship is profitable, but I spend just under 40% of the sponsorship on fulfillment. I’m pondering if I want to go to the trouble of adding shipping costs to print sponsorships. The most expensive places to ship are Australia (for obvious reasons) and Israel (for inexplicable reasons, it’s right next to Europe, what the heck). Plus, there are occasional predictable failures.

I could raise the price. Going over $100 feels like it would be excessive, though.

I could integrate a shipping API, get an estimated cost, and charge $90 plus shipping. I’m not sure how such APIs react to “get a quote now and fulfill six months later,” however. I suspect Woocommerce would throw a wobbler. One reason I do sponsorships is because they’re pretty easy. This makes sponsorships more fragile. Also, my readers were voted “Most Likely To Habitually Evade Geolocation And Not Even Think About It” four years running.

I could add a note to the checkout that says “If you’re from outside the US, I’d appreciate a few extra bucks for shipping.” But I’m already asking for money for no good reason.

So, for now, things stay the same. If Australia develops Mad Lucas Disease and starts sponsoring like fiends, that might well change.


About 10% of sponsorships require a second contact. I have to drop the sponsor a note saying “Hey, USPS says your address doesn’t exist and Google Earth shows it’s an empty field in Wyoming, can you confirm?” Most often the answer is “yes, I live in a giant empty field, use my PO Box instead.” Clearly, anyone who sponsors me is probably unusual in more than one way.


I occasionally get someone who sponsored a book twice and I didn’t catch it, so I have to find out how to satisfy them. It might be a refund, perhaps another book stuffed in the envelope, whatever.


Each book gets more sponsors than the one before. I attribute this to the sponsors mailing list.


If you’re thinking of doing this: set up a real shipping operation. Buy waterproof bubble mailers. Get a tape gun. Get an online postage account (I use Shippo). Set aside a bunch of time. When I hit 50 print sponsors, I’m hiring a neighbor kid to package stuff as I sign and investigating a mailing label printer.


Sponsorships on DNSSEC Mastery, 2nd Edition will probably open in June.

TLS Mastery Release, Sponsor Gifts, and Acknowledgements

As if 2020 wasn’t sufficiently rough, I spent it writing about TLS.

Now, I’m done.

TLS Mastery has escaped.

TLS Mastery Beastie Edition
Beastie Edition
TLS Mastery cover
Tux Edition

Transport Layer Security, or TLS, makes ecommerce and online banking possible. It protects your passwords and your privacy. Let’s Encrypt transformed TLS from an expensive tool to a free one. TLS understanding and debugging is an essential sysadmin skill you must have.

TLS Mastery takes you through:

  • How TLS works
  • What TLS provides, and what it doesn’t
  • Wrapping unencrypted connections inside TLS
  • Assessing TLS configurations
  • The Automated Certificate Management Environment (ACME) protocol
  • Using Let’s Encrypt to automatically maintain TLS certificates
  • Online Certificate Status Protocol
  • Certificate Revocation
  • CAA, HSTS, and Certificate Transparency
  • Why you shouldn’t run your own CA, and how to do it anyway
  • and more!

Stop wandering blindly around TLS. Master the protocol with TLS Mastery!

Available in the Beastie Edition and the Tux Edition. The only difference is the cover. Hardcover has both covers.

Get the two-cover hardcover at any of the print bookstores below, or direct from my bookstore.

Get the combined editions at:

Get the Beastie edition at:

Get the Tux edition at:


If you’re a sponsor: your gifts are on order. I have enough on hand for my Patronizers, so I’ll be shipping those first. As soon as yours arrive, I’ll get them to you.

This was a rough book to write, so I want to share the acknowledgements.

TLS is perhaps the most complicated topic I’ve ever written about. Writing this book would have been impossible without outside help.

This book would not exist if the Internet Security Research Group hadn’t deployed ACME and organized Let’s Encrypt. TLS certificates are not only free for most people, their maintenance and renewal is highly automatable. They’ve changed the whole Internet, and deserve our thanks for that.

It doesn’t matter how many RFCs I study and how many technical mailing list archives I read: I lack the expertise and context to best illuminate an arcane topic like TLS. The folks who read this manuscript’s early stages and pointed out my innumerable errors deserve special thanks. James Allen, Xavier Belanger, Trix Farrar, Loganaden Velvindron, Jan-Piet Mens, Mike O’Connor, Fred Schlechter, Grant Taylor, Gordon Tetlow, and Fraser Tweedale, here’s to you.

Lilith Saintcrow convinced me that The Princess Bride could be a useful motif for a serious technology book. This book was written during the 2020 pandemic, so I must also thank The Princess Bride for providing me a desperately needed sense of hope.

Dan Langille gracefully submitted to the pillaging of his blog for useful hints and guidance. I am grateful that JP Mens, Evan Hunt, and John-Mark Gurney provoked him into updating that blog and saving me a bunch of work.

I am unsure if I should profusely thank Bob Beck for his time and patience in revealing the innards of TLS, or profoundly curse him and his spawn unto the seventh generation. I must acknowledge the usefulness of “Happy Bob’s Test CA,” however, so I’ll raise a glass to that while waffling over whether or not the bottle of fair-to-middlin’ wine I owe him should be laced with iocane powder.

For Liz.

Again, to all the tech reviewers and Patronizers and sponsors: thank you. This book would not exist without you.

My Penguicon 2021 Schedule

I’ll be speaking at the virtualized Penguicon 2021, and hanging around several events making a nuisance of myself. Fortunately, these online events are moderated and they’ll mute me any time I start to make trouble.

If you’re looking to see me, though, here’s my presentation schedule. (Events I will attend, but not as any sort of speaker, are not shown.)

22 April (Thursday)

7PM: Author Reception (hangout)

24 April (Saturday)

12PM: Becoming a Better Writer (presentation)
2PM: Reading (probably Woolen Torment, depending on the audience)
6PM: Why Aren’t I Writing? Dealing with Impostor Syndrome, Writer’s Block, and Other Muse Killers (panel)

25 April (Sunday)

12PM: SSL and TLS in 2021 (presentation)
1PM: Self Publishing at Scale (panel)

Registration for Penguicon is a paltry $10. The money goes towards keeping various background stuff in place so that Penguicon 2022 can be A Thing. I want Penguicon 2022 to be A Thing.

My blatantly exploited Patronizers have to pay $10 for an hour of my time once a month. Even if the rest of Penguicon doesn’t interest you, you can get 3-4 hours of Lucas for that amount. That’s enough to last anyone a year. If you can’t attend, they’d appreciate a donation.

You’ll note that, compared to previous Penguicons, I will not be attending any LN2 ice cream demos. This is a tragic weakness in the virtual format. I will be visiting my local shop to lay in copious supplies so that I may maintain a sufficient dairy level throughout the weekend.

With virtualization becoming increasingly acceptable for conference presenters, I’m looking at setting boundaries on how often I will speak. Grab me while you can.

“Only Footnotes” Now Available

My newest nonfiction release, Only Footnotes, is now in stores.

More than one person over on the Fediverse has informed me that this makes this book and/or my ouvre Pratchett-complete. Which I gather is something like Turing-complete, but cooler.

In case you missed it, or doubted that it was a real thing, here’s the release announcement–now with store links.


Only Footnotes. Because that’s why you read his books.

Academics hate footnotes. Michael W Lucas loves them. What he does with them wouldn’t pass academic muster, but that doesn’t mean the reader should skip them. The footnotes are the best part! Why not read only the footnotes, and skip all that other junk?

After literal minutes of effort, Only Footnotes collects every single footnote from all of Lucas’ books to date.* Recycle those cumbersome treatises stuffed with irrelevant facts! No more flipping through pages and pages of actual technical knowledge looking for the offhand movie reference or half-formed joke. This slender, elegant volume contains everything the man ever passed off as his dubious, malformed “wisdom.”

Smart books have footnotes. Smarter books are only footnotes.

*plus additional annotations from the author. Because sometimes even a footnote needs a footnote.

Available from:

  • my print bookstore
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Amazon US, Amazon AU, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Amazon DE, Amazon FR, Amazon ES
  • New Book: Only Footnotes

    I know perfectly well why you people read my books. It’s for the footnotes.

    Some of you buy the Mastery books for the cover art, but those few who open the things do so for the footnotes.

    My conscience has been at me again, the filthy bastard. Charging everyone exorbitant rates for a handful of footnotes is robbery. I should produce books that people want to read. I have therefore gathered all of the footnotes from all of my books in a handsome collectible hardcover edition.

    Announcing: Only Footnotes.

    Only Footnotes. Because that’s why you read his books.

    Academics hate footnotes. Michael W Lucas loves them. What he does with them wouldn’t pass academic muster, but that doesn’t mean the reader should skip them. The footnotes are the best part! Why not read only the footnotes, and skip all that other junk?

    After literal minutes of effort, Only Footnotes collects every single footnote from all of Lucas’ books to date.* Recycle those cumbersome treatises stuffed with irrelevant facts! No more flipping through pages and pages of actual technical knowledge looking for the offhand movie reference or half-formed joke. This slender, elegant volume contains everything the man ever passed off as his dubious, malformed “wisdom.”

    Smart books have footnotes. Smarter books are only footnotes.

    *plus additional annotations from the author. Because sometimes even a footnote needs a footnote.

    Yes, it’s 1 April. April Fool’s day. This has got to be a joke, right? Am I the sort of person who would release an entire book as a gag? Might I even release a special edition of a book for those unable to accept feminine pronouns in their tech books?

    Yep. A good 1 April post has meat on the bone.

    It is absolutely real. ISBN 9781642350548. $24.99 USD, because hardcovers cost a bunch to manufacture.

    Unfortunately, IngramSpark has delayed production. You can’t buy it yet. (Insert one of those sobbing emojis, except he’s also enraged and flinging a Molotov.) (EDIT: It is now available, see https://mwl.io/nonfiction/wtf )

    Only Footnotes will exist only in hardcover, to be show off the lovely interior illustrations by OpenBSD’s Ayaka Koshibe. There’s no ebook, it’s a collectible. Specifically, it’s another step in my quest to make a career out of publishing the least useful nonfiction books known to humanity.

    New podcast interview: Alive After Reading

    If I was to choose a pseudonym, one pronounced “Need A Writer” would be too on-the-nose even for me.

    Tim Niederriter was born that way.

    Tim interviewed me for his podcast Alive After Reading. I signed on thinking that I’d promote the new Montague Portal stuff (the first short novel, Forever Falls, is now free everywhere, Drinking Heavy Water is fresh out, and there’s an omnibus collecting all things Montague Portal).

    Instead, we mostly talked about the craft of writing. Specifically, how to become a better writer.

    Yes, you can become a better writer. Hint: use the exact same techniques used by craftspeople for millennia.

    Unrelated: the title of this episode of Alive After Reading is perhaps the most appropriate of any interview I have ever given.