Over the last 22+ years, I’ve published six books, which you can find through the various links on this page. I’m proud of all of them, and while dated, even the older ones have their uses.

Are you a publisher interested in having me write for you? Contact Carole Jelen at The Waterside Agency.

Mastodon for Dummies

with Chris Minnick

Cover of "Mastodon for Dummies" by Chris Minnick and Michael McCallister

One afternoon in early November 2022, Carole Jelen wrote me to ask if I might be interested in writing Mastodon for Dummies in the wake of Elon Musk’s tumultuous takeover of Twitter. Having been an off-and-on Mastodon user, I quickly replied Yes! Could I get an outline together quickly? I suppose.

The next morning, Carole told me that someone else had already prepared an outline of the book, but the publisher asked if I could be a co-author. I can do that. OK,  but WIley’s really anxious to get this underway. They want 150-200 pages by December 23. Can you do that? Well, I had a week’s vacation from the day job scheduled for early December. She said that in the old days, “they literally would lock the writer(s) in a cold room with lots of coffee for projects like that.”

Well, there were some late nights, and long days, but, Chris Minnick and I delivered the final manuscript before the winter solstice, almost a week ahead of our original deadline. Despite the speed of production, I think we delivered a book of very high quality. Chris, who has written a ton of technology and programming books, called Mastodon for Dummies his most important yet!

You’ll learn everything you need to get started with Mastodon, the open-source alternative to corporate social media. We demystify the process of choosing a homestead in Mastodon, finding your tribe, plus explain why we think Mastodon offers a vastly superior social experience.You’ll have some fun along the way, too.

Build Your Author Platform: The New Rules

with Carole Jelen

It was an honor to be asked by my literary agent, Carole Jelen, to collaborate on this book, and she was fun to work with too. We share a 14-step program for connecting with your present and future fans.  Carole shares her experience marketing books and authors. I help you get comfortable with creating websites, accessing and participating in the Big Four social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+).

While you already know that the Internet has changed book marketing forever, we don’t just talk about the online world. We’ll help you create audio and video clips, or just connect with traditional radio and TV. Nervous about speaking in public? We’ll help you get practice just speaking into your webcam and reviewing the results.

We help with writing and circulating articles for both online and offline markets, teaching mini-courses, and other wonderful ways to connect.

The 14 step program will make sure that you will cast the widest net possible in search of your audience. I will guarantee you, however, that at least one step in the book will make you a little queasy about getting into this writing business in the first place. For me it’s public speaking, for you it might be making a website, or figuring out Twitter.

Now the advantage of having so many steps is that you can pick your spots. Doing only the obviously fun parts of the program may well get you the audience you want, but here’s my challenge: After you read the book, try the one thing that scares you.

When you expand that zone even a little, the worst that can happen is you might embarrass yourself a little bit (and if that really scares you, do the thing with friends, or by yourself). At best, your confidence will expand with every inch of that comfort zone.

Build Your Author Platform is for writers at any stage of their career, from just starting out, to already published, to veteran.

WordPress in Depth

with Bud Smith

As a WordPress user of some longstanding, it was great to be able to do this. Even better was working (via email and Skype) with Bud Smith. I wrote the last four chapters and a couple appendices, while Bud did most of the heavy lifting.

The book is designed to get you from being a new user of WordPress.com through the transition to installing self-hosted WordPress (recognizing that this isn’t a typical path). We give advice in choosing themes, hosts, and plugins (which our publishers insisted on spelling “plug-in” with a hyphen). From there we show you how Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) create themes, and make it relatively easy to tweak them. Then we show you just enough PHP to get a start on making new plugins.

The second edition is much more in-depth, with more information on themes and plugins. We also added sections on security and the WordPress mobile apps.

You’ll become a smarter WordPress user, whatever your skill and experience level. We incorporated a fair amount of information about v3.1, so we got it as close to up-to-the-minute as we possibly could.

Got questions or feedback? Contact me!

SUSE Linux 10 Unleashed and openSUSE Linux Unleashed

These books taught me one important lesson: It is darn near impossible to know everything about an operating system, particularly one as robust and full of applications that the openSUSE distribution contains. For this reason, I can tell you I learned an awful lot writing these books, and shared everything I could.

Books in the Unleashed series aim to be comprehensive, doorstop-like reviews of their topics aimed at the intermediate skill level. My expertise was mostly on the desktop side of things. So the first book began my education about programming, database administration and network administration. One goal that I worked hard to achieve was a comprehensive review of the YaST system administration tool. After five years as a SUSE user, I had never seen everything in YaST documented. You’ll find that in both editions.

The fine folks at Sams chose the openSUSE distribution—and my book—as the basis for its Linux Starter Kit. My book in PDF form is the reference for this easy-to-understand way to get started with Linux.

openSUSE Linux Unleashed, covering openSUSE Linux v10.3, made the Linux Journal Reader’s Choice ballot for favorite Linux book of 2007. It didn’t win, but it really was an “honor to be nominated.”

Arco Computer Certification Handbook

Shop Indie Bookstores

One night in the spring of 1999, I got an email message out of the blue from an acquisitions editor at Arco Press. The venerable publisher of prep books for civil service and college entrance exams was branching out a little into technology certification programs. Would I be interested in writing a guide to these programs?

I finished this task around the end of the year, and the book came out in the spring.  The first half of the book is really about deciding on a career path, which isn’t all that dated. The other half offered a set of pages identifying around 200 certification programs, with tips in test-taking and training venues. Since this came out at the height of the dotcom boom, I wonder just how many links in that book are still good.

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