Big Sigma Collection and Other Plans

Hey, folks!

We’ll start with the main thing. Now that The Bygone Caper is out there and its follow-up is almost done, I’m checking off the other things in my year’s to-do list. First up, The Big Sigma Collection: Volume 2.

By now, you know the drill. Just like The Book of Deacon Anthology: Volume 2, this book contains the 4th, 5th, and 6th novels in the Big Sigma series, plus a short story released in and amongst them. So if you lost track of Lex and the crew after Artificial Evolution, this is a nice cheap way to fill in the rest of the saga!

But what’s next, Jo?

Good question! If you are on my newsletter (and you really should be if you want to stay on top of new releases) and whatnot, you’d know that I’ve been mulling over a return to the “serial” format. The Adventures of Rustle and Eddy, Between, and to a lesser extent The Redemption of Desmeres, Structophis, and Top Level Player all started off as serials. The plan would be to follow the Rustle and Eddy format, a chapter of the story released in a rough state at regular intervals, and once completed it would be edited, collected, and released as a novel.

I still haven’t decided what the serial will be, but I’ve gotten a request for more sci-fi, and there’s the outside chance it’ll just be an additional Big Sigma adventure. We’ll see! But it’ll either be posted here, or else I’ll produce a dedicated social media presence like I did with The Adventures of Rustle and Eddy on Tumblr. We’ll see! Stay tuned! I probably won’t start until after The Greater Lands Series is more or less concluded, but that’s set for August, believe it or not!

It ought to be fun!

The Bygone Caper Released!

Just a quick update! If you’ve been enjoying the Greater Lands Saga, book 4 is available now! It’s called The Bygone Caper, and it follows the Masker Family as they deal with the consequences of being just a bit more enterprising than the local nobles would like.

April Fools 2022: Casting Call

Guy Smith nudged open the door to the rehearsal space and backed into the room. These days most of the script work was done with tablets and such, but he found he still preferred paper scripts so that he and the performers could make notes on them, so his arms were loaded down with over a dozen printed out copies of various scenes for prospective performers to read from. There were spares in his car outside if they ran out. And he fully expected to run out. This was a major project. Lots of roles to fill, and difficult ones at that. He was prepared for dozens of rejections before moving making even his first preliminary casting choice. This was his first franchise he’d gotten to work on. He was dedicated to giving it his all.

A pair of cameras had been set up. One covering the entire room, the other set up over his shoulder to film the actors. Both were piped into a laptop in an adjoining room, were other members of the production company would be watching and recording. This was something of a make or break for the production company, after all. They’d saved money by acquiring the rights for a relatively unknown franchise, but they’d committed to six full novels of epic fantasy. If it went well, they’d have another Game of Thrones on their hands. If it went poorly, they’d have another Game of Thrones finale on their hands.

“Are we recording?” he asked, addressing the camera and pressing an ear bud a little more firmly into his ear.

A rather spiritless voice replied in the affirmative.

“All right. Great.” He cleared his throat and took a sip from a coffee on the table beside him. “Book of Deacon Saga Television Series, Casting, Day One. Send in our first audition.”

He took a seat and grabbed a script and highlighter. The door opened and a very energetic young woman bounded in. She was dressed in costume, interestingly enough. Though given the fantasy setting they were shooting for, she’d missed the mark by wearing something that looked more like wild west outfit that was two sizes too big.

“Heya!” she said, marching up and extending a hand. “Chastity Cooper. Proud to know ya.”

“Uh, right,” he said, shaking her hand. “Forgive me but… you’re a character from a different book by the author of this piece, Mr. Lallo, aren’t you?”

“Oh sure.” She counted off on her fingers. “There was Free-Wrench—that’s the book, not the series—and Skykeep. Basically the star of that one. And we got, what, Ichor Well? The Calderan Problem. A whole mess of ‘em. We even did one of them shorts where you find out where me and my brother came from, ‘cept that’s sort of tucked away somewhere.”

“You realize the production for Free-Wrench fell through after that Canadian production company started getting a little questionable in their practices, right?”

She hiked a thumb at the door behind her.

“That there says Book of Deacon auditions, don’t it? You reckon I can’t read.”

“No, it’s just. I’m sorry. What role were you reading for?”

“My-randa Celest-ee,” she said with a proud waggle of her head, seemingly unaware of how far she’d strayed from the proper pronunciation.

“The starring role,” he said steadily.

“Yep! My sweetheart Nita says I’d light up any stage you put me on, and she knows art and whatnot better’n anyone I know, so I thought, why not go for the brass ring!”

“Well, if you’d like to read for the part, I’ve prepared some scenes. Let’s do one from The Great Convergence. I’ll play the part of—” Guy began.

“Don’t need it. I’ll just sort of do the part.” She cleared her throat. “Heya, all! The name’s Myranda. I got a good heart, but I ain’t got much else. Leastways, not when the story starts. But what’ve we got here? I big ol’ fancy sword! I reckon there ain’t no way this’ll get me mixed up in all sorts of nonsense.”

She marched in place for a few moments.

“We’ll wouldn’t you know it, all sorts of folks are mad at me now, and they want the sword, and now I got critter friends and it turns out I ain’t so shabby at magic on account of fate and such. And lookee here on my hand. A big ol’ fancy scar.”

Guy shut his eyes tight. “Thank you, Miss Cooper, that will do.”

“Oh, and I do my own stunts, on account of there ain’t nothin’ you’d want me to do that I ain’t already done danglin’ from one foot a couple thousand feet over the ocean anyways. And I’m a member of the Wind Breaker crew. There ain’t no one on that crew that don’t do more than one job. Why should bein’ in a movie be any different?”

“I’ll make a note of it. Thank you. Next!”

Lil bounded out of the room. A moment later, a very strange form filled the doorway. It looked more like something from a Jim Henson production than anything that ought to be auditioning for a role, standing taller than the doorway and resembling an impressively well assembled theme park mascot of a dragon made out of pretzel dough and scrap. It crouched and squeezed through the door, rattling the heavily dented and abused metal draped over its head, shoulders, and back. The room filled with the smell of fresh-baked dough. Once inside, it sheepishly tapped its pudgy fingertips together and slumped a bit, as if it was vaguely intimidated by the producer. A small plastic shopping bag dangled from the pinkie of one of her hands.

“Um…” he flipped up a sheet on his clipboard. “Blodgette? Just the one name?”

She nodded.

“And who are you here to read for?”

She raised a hand and skillfully spelled out her answer in sign language, something Guy had picked up in college and fully expected never to use again.

Myn, she signed.

“Myn. Right,” he glanced at the pile of scripts. “We’d been planning a motion capture and digital performance for Myn. I didn’t prepare any scenes for her. If you’d like to come back another day…”

She waved her hand, entreating him to wait, then fumbled with the plastic bag and produced a potato. After a slow breath and a moment with her eyes shut, the hulking dragon creature started to hop and prance about, threatening to knock over both cameras as she burbled with joy. She then inserted the entire potato into her mouth. From the instant it touched her tongue, she was visibly disgusted, but she wrestled a smile to her face and huffed chirped ‘happily.’

“Okay, that’s some impressive acting. Thank you very much. We’ll be in touch.”

Thank you, signed Blodgette, adding, I love you.

She stepped up to him and held out her arms for a hug. He reluctantly obliged, earning a few oily smears on his outfit. She then gently took his hand in hers, turned it palm up, and lolled her broad tongue out to let the potato roll into his hand. It was covered with a thick layer of saliva and steaming hot. He hastily tossed the now-baked potato aside and shook his hand.

“Thanks, yes. Again, we’ll be in touch. Next!”

Blodgette waddled out of the room. A soft pattering of feet thumped toward the door. When he saw who was waiting for the next audition slot, he palmed his face with his non-saliva hand.

“Oh good heavens, what now…” he muttered.

A pint sized reptile dressed in rags and sporting a silver earring scampered into the room. She gave him a manic grin and hopped onto the chair. She dropped a sack she’d been carrying.

“Hello, new friend human!” she croaked with a less than expert grasp of the language.

He pulled a hanky from his back pocket and wiped his hand clean, gazing down at the clipboard.

“Teya Kobold?” he said.

She shook her head, tousling her frilled ears a bit.

“Teya? That is who is. Kobold? That is what is,” she said.

“My apologies. And you are auditioning for?”

“Big Dragon,” she said dreamily.

“Myn?” he offered.

“Myn, Halfax, Garr, Thorn, Winsor. Any dragon. Big dragon.”

He flipped to the back of his clipboard. “I believe the intended cast only includes Myn and Halfax as named dragons. Oh! And Solomon.”

She shook her head. “Solomon, small. Dragon? Yes. Pretty, smart, powerful, grand? Yes. This one? Play big dragon. Very very.”

“As I told the last young… lady? We were intending to use special effects for the dragon roles. We hadn’t expected to cast them in the traditional sense.”

“I do scene, yes?” Teya said.

“We don’t have any scenes for–”

Teya hopped down and rummaged through the bag.

“Me? Myn. Big. During big fight. You? Dog head snake thing. Mott. Also big. End part, lots of big. Lots of angry,” she instructed, amid much clinking and jostling of items inside the bag.

“I think we’ll just chat and see what your qualifications might be.”

She raised her head, tipping her chin up haughtily. “This one? Act. You watch. And play part. Be serious!”

“All right,” he said. The quicker he played along, the sooner this would be over. “What are my lines, then?”

She gave him a blank look. “Mott? No lines.”

Teya turned, concealing both of her hands behind her.

“You? Act like this. Mott take good stone. Stone Myn like. Stomp, to make Myn mad. You do.”

“I just stomp?”

“Stomp and make angry,” she urged.

“All right. Let’s get started. And…” He stomped his foot.

Teya’s face instantly twisted to utter, boiling fury. She peeled her lips back to reveal her ferocious, teeth and threw her jaws wide in a bloodcurdling (albeit rather petite) roar.

“That’s very good, I think–” he began.

She revealed both hands. One contained a large glass bottle, the other, a lighter. Her clawed thumb popped the cap off the bottle and she took a healthy swig. Then she brought the lighter to her lips. Before he could stop her, she spat the liquid past the flame, sending a curling tongue of fire lancing through the room.

“Okay, yes, that’s very nice, we’ll be in touch, thank you,” Guy said as quickly as he could form the words.

“I do good! Can do fire, see!” Teya said,

“Yes, again, wonderful, we’ll put that on our special skills list for you. We’ll be in touch.”

She gave a satisfied nod and scurried from the room with her bag in tow. Guy looked first to the swath of charred drop ceiling, then to the camera.

“If one of the production assistants could head out and inform anyone in the waiting room that we are not interested in any props going forward that would be helpful. Also, if someone could get me the name and number of the person responsible for the final audition list for today, I’d very much like a word with them when we’re through here. And who is our next actor?”

After a brief silence, he heard some digital interference in his earbud.

“Altruistic Artificial Intelligence Control System, Version 1.27, revision 2331.04.01i, Designation ‘Ma.’ My apologies for the delay. I had to access my archived security protocols to find the proper means to interface with such an antiquated digital communication system.”

“You are… a computer program?”

“The full description and designation has been provided. Is the audio connection insufficiently clear?”

“No, right, sorry, you did say all that. And what role are you interested in?”

“Ether.”

“Ether. You want to play the foul-tempered shape-shifter?”

“Yes. I find her particular dramatic thread, dealing with emotional awakening and coming to terms with the complexities of interfacing with biological beings as an outsider, to be one that I can identify with deeply. It is my believe that through analysis, my portrayal of such a role will be a healthy, stimulating, and educational experience.”

“Err. And I imagine this would be a voice performance? Since you don’t have a body.”

“Based upon analysis of similar dramatic productions, I had determined that a creature of such volatile form would be depicted using visual effects in post-production. Producing high-fidelity digital simulations is well within my capacity, and I would be capable of conveying the full dramatic range without the need for digitizing systems or other intermediaries.”

“See, what we have here is the opposite problem that the last few roles had. The current script treatment has substantially rewritten Ether’s role to minimize her elemental and creature transformations so that they are isolated to action set pieces.”

“That is a sound budgetary decision, though it would seem to compromise accuracy and artistic vision.”

“Film and television production is a study in compromise,” Guy said. “However, if you’d like to be on the effects crew, I’m sure we can put you in touch with the appropriate department.”

“A kind offer, but I was hoping to focus on emotion and drama. Thank you for your time.”

Another crackle of digital static signaled her departure.

“Well,” Guy said, fixing his hair. “Certainly a step in the right direction. Maybe the worst of it is over. Next?”

A dark skinned woman stepped through the door and, thanks to an outfit featuring enough leather and canvas to be a Road Warrior extra, including one of the more tasteful corsets he’d ever seen, Guy was instantly put on edge again.

“Amanita Graus?” he said.

“That’s me. It’s nice to meet you.”

“And who would you like to play?”

“Ivy.”

“Mmm. This would be a vocal and motion capture performance, as she’s a non-human character.”

“I’d assumed as much,” Nita said. “I’m actually fascinated in how that would work. I’m a bit of an engineer myself.”

“And what attracted you to the role?”

“If I’m honest, I was pushed toward it more than I was pulled toward it. You’ve just had Lil through here.”

“I did.”

“She’s my partner and she’s nothing if not confident. She’s been quite sure she’ll get the part ever since she read they were casting it, and she wanted to share the screen with me. Plus my mother spent time on stage, my brother and my sister spent time on stage. It’s a bit of a rite of passage for the Graus family to put on a dramatic performance at least once in their life. Ivy appealed to me because we have a similar reverence for art in all of its forms. I think I could draw upon that to enhance my performance.”

He nodded and took some notes. “I’d think I’d like to add you to the second round of auditions. Consider this an in-person call back.”

“But I haven’t performed at all.”

“Miss Graus, you didn’t try to set me on fire, you didn’t spit a side dish into my hand, and you are made of flesh and blood. Even without your pedigree in a performing family you’re still head and shoulders above most the people I’ve seen today. I’ll have a few scenes sent to you and for you to prepare and we’ll move on from there in a few days.”

“Excellent,” she said with a clap. “Thank you so much for the opportunity.”

She stood and paced to the door. Lil stuck her head in. “Ya’ll are gonna hire her, ain’t ya?”

“She’s on the short list,” Guy said.

“That good or bad?”

“It’s good.”

“Ha!” Lil said. “I told ya! You’re gonna make the folks back home proud.”

The pair walked away.

“Who’s next?”

A gruff looking older man with what looked like some strangely botched plastic surgery trudged in. He was dressed in a blue pair of coveralls, had one silver iris, and was in the process of working his way through a large burrito.

“Kart… Kartero… I’m sorry, how do you pronounce your name?” Guy asked.

I pronounce it Karteroketraskin Onesarioriendi Dee,” he said, spraying some beans, rice, and cheese in Guy’s direction as he said so. “You can just say Karter if that’s too much for you.”

“Karter. What role brings you here today?”

“Mostly I’m here because Ma asked for my help jumping universes to try her luck on the small screen, and I realized this hunk of the multiverse contains active franchises of both Popeye’s and Taco Bell. Don’t ever look that gift horse in the mouth. But I ran through the complete Book of Deacon and it seems like the only one in the whole story that acts in a way that makes any sense is Wolloff.”

“I might be able to dig up a scene or two. He does have an important role midway through what would be season one. Would you like to read…”

“No.”

“What?”

“No, I don’t want to read anything. Acting is dumb.”

“… Then why are you here?”

He held up the burrito. “Crunch Wrap Supreme. Plus two Quesaritos and a catering size tray of red beans and rice from Popeye’s.”

“But why are you in this room. Why are you on my audition list?”

“Oh.” He shrugged. “I wanted to see if I could hack your system. Turns out I could.”

“Grand. Well, if you’re through, I’d like to move on.”

“Yeah. Fine. Whatever.”

Karter headed for the door.

“Can we send in our next actor? A Mister,” Guy’s face dropped as he saw the name. “Turd Ferguson…”

Karter snickered. “Next time put some special characters in your password. I didn’t even have to pull out the prime sifting algorithm to get into your database.”

“Next please!

A young man walked in and sat in the chair. Guy furrowed his brow and looked between the clipboard and the young man.

“You’re Miss Blot?” he said.

He shook his head. “No. I’m Alan. But if you’d like to talk to her, you’ll need to turn down the lights and hold this.”

He held out a small amulet of some sort.

“Ah. It’s another one of these, is it?” Guy said, eying the amulet.

“Look, I’m as eager to get this over with as you are.”

Guy sighed, turned the camera lights down, and grabbed the amulet. The shadow Alan was casting resolved into an impish form that blinked at him with white eyes, or more accurately eyes that were sections of non-shadow within the shadow.

“You are the shadow of another person,” Guy said.

She crossed her arms. “I’m a shade and my name is Blot.”

“I see… And you’re here for the role of?”

“Epidime.”

Guy flipped through the script notes.

“Right, yes. Epidime does frequently have a shadow that is subtly different from what his body would imply. I see the logic here.”

“The logic here is that I’m perfect for the part.”

“I suppose we can give you a…” he touched his finger to his ear. “I’m sorry, the tech guy is saying he can’t hear you.”

“Uh, no. He wouldn’t be able to. I’d have to do this whole thing where I physically impose myself on the world, and even then it’s sort of fifty-fifty if people can see it and remember it.”

“… So, how precisely would you be able to perform?”

She scratched her head. “Get better cameras? There’s probably something you can do with shards of shadow that’ll–”

He raised his hand. “The budget is very tight on this, I don’t think we can justify having a whole ‘mystical’ department added just to render of one of our actors visible.”

She scoffed and turned her head aside. “Fine. The lights would have been annoying anyway.”

Alan stood and grabbed the amulet back. He marched for the door. Guy shook his head and reached for his coffee. It was not where he left it. When he turned, he found it was floating a few inches away from the wall. It pressed against the wall, seeming to vanish into its own silhouette, and slid out the door.

Guy rumbled with frustration, but steadied himself.

“This next one is the last one before I take a break,” he announced. “I know we have a lot to get through but I hadn’t anticipated this particular degree of difficulty today. Next!”

The next figure to walk through the door would have, in another circumstance, been just as unsettling as several of the others. But it just so happened, this was one of the few non-humans Guy was actually prepared for. It was a white-furred anthropomorphic fox.

“Ivy!” he said excitedly. “What are you doing on the audition list? When the team heard you were interested we were thrilled. Of course if you’re looking to reprise your role, we’ll be glad to have you. You don’t need to audition.”

“Oh, no, no, no. I’m sorry if this wasn’t clear. I’m not here for the role of Ivy.”

His expression dropped. “You’re not?”

“No, no. It wouldn’t be very challenging, I don’t think.”

He shut his eyes and took a deep breath through his nose. “And what role are you interested in?”

“Epidime.”

“Epidime,” he repeated, hoping for her to correct herself.

“That’s right!”

He took a moment to gather his thoughts. “I think perhaps you would be a poor fit for the role.”

“Why?”

“Well, for one, Epidime is listed as a male role.”

She smirked. “I dealt with Epidime quite a bit. And Epidime’s gender was entirely based upon the body that was currently being occupied. So he was as often as not a she. I don’t think he even really bothered making a distinction most of the time. I overheard you talking about rewriting Ether’s part. Very smart, by the way. She’s much better now, but in the early days she was very much of a grouch, so making her a little more sympathetic a little earlier is probably a good idea. But if you can rewrite her, you can rewrite Epidime, right?”

“The script is… I’m not sure we… Look, do you have a second choice?”

“Turiel.”

“Villainous roles?”

“Oh, absolutely! Though Turiel is,” she paused. “Well, you know the story.”

“Why are you so interested in villainous roles?”

“They have the best songs! And the best outfits. I made some sketches, if you’d like to see. I’m thinking black and violet, maybe black and gold. A little more form fitting than I usually wear. Maybe one of those skirts that’s tight all the way down the legs? And a slit up the side for when I have to dance. I like the idea of a spider web motif, maybe as the edging…”

“Ivy, I think you’re misunderstanding. This isn’t a musical. There won’t be singing and dancing. Certainly not by the villains.”

She flicked an ear and tipped her head. “You’re joking.”

“I’m afraid not. This is prestige television, not a family film.”

She tapped her chin. “Maybe it’s best if these roles go to someone else, then. I’m happy to consult and give you advice on casting and dialogue, though.”

She held out her hand.

“It was a pleasure to meet you,” she said.

“A pleasure to meet you as well. We look forward to telling your story!”

“I’m sure it will be great,” she said sweetly.

She stood and marched out the door. “Rill? Just so you know, no singing,” she said.

“What?!” came three answers in unison.

An enormous lavender serpent with three heads slithered by and left with Ivy.

“You wanna go to a karaoke bar then?” Rill said.

“Oh! Let’s do that!” Right-Rill said.

“Better than this…” Left-Rill said.

“That sounds great!” Ivy said

Guy rubbed his eyes and turned to the camera. “I think we’ll call it a session there. Two hour break. Probably a drink. This is… going to be a rough one…”

Some Brief Updates

In an attempt to post more often, and generally keep you folks tighter in the loop of what I’m up to, I figured it would be wise to share my current project status.

Now that the release of The Book of Deacon Anthology 2 is complete, an The Bygone Caper (Greater Lands 4) is off to the editor, the time has come to start assembling Greater Lands 5. Traditionally the outlining step has only taken me about a week, but there have been a confluence of things which are conspiring to slow me down. I’m feeling a dash of burnout/general malaise/ennui/assorted highfalutin words for the blues that has got me hyperfixating on small, pointless things instead of big important things. I’m also sick (doesn’t appear to be COVID), and it’s really sapping my motivation to do anything. Regardless of the obstacles, I’m shooting to complete the outline for Greater Lands 5 by Sunday night so I can start doing the actual writing by Monday, with a completion date for early May, ideally.

When I have time in between the writing, I’m also going to begin my “Complete Edition” experiment. With any luck I’ll be making digital editions available directly from me for the complete editions of all of my three main series. Check out the cover!

As I believe I’ve said elsewhere, this edition is intended to be a “living edition.” New stories will be added to it as they are released, and people who purchase it once will be able to re-download it and get the new stuff, albeit probably with a pretty big delay. That’s the plan, anyway. Logistics and all that.

I have a few things simmering on the back burner as well. A mostly-written sequel to The Other Eight and a fully written Book of Deacon… sequel spin-off thing? Stay tuned, announcements as appropriate!

Long Time, No Post!

Hey, been a while, huh? I don’t really have an excuse, except I guess that the world has been swallowed by a global pandemic and a handful of personal disasters and general burnout made me have not good brain time. BUT ENOUGH EXCUSES! Here’s a little rundown of the doin’s what’ve been transpirin’.

Exclusive releases!

Bygone Archive

Some walls were built for a reason.

Things are looking up for the Masker family. Fel, the adventurer of the clan, has stocked the antiquity shop with valuable contraptions unearthed during his journeys. Sales are strong, customers are happy, life is good. But rival families know the Maskers are unlocking ancient secrets about the arcane devices, and their spies will stop at nothing to have them. The promise of a lost archive sealed within the fabled Greater Lands Wall could give the Maskers the edge to ward off their foes and uncover the wisdom of old.

Fel knows the most precious treasures are protected by the most dangerous traps, but is anyone ready for what the Greater Lands have in store?

Dragons, harpies, kobolds… If Fel Masker wants the secrets of the past, he must face its monsters.


Bygone Mask

Family business is always personal.

Dangerous expeditions and clever business deals have begun to pay off, but with great rewards come greater risks. The unscrupulous Bolivan clan have been spying on Fel Masker and his family, accumulating dangerous technology and becoming more bold in their assaults. To blind the prying eyes and disarm a legion of mercenaries, the Maskers will need the help of his estranged sister, whose very presence threatens to tear the family apart.

While Fel defends his family with the help of uncertain allies, Tome Inkbrand seeks his own fortunes beyond the Greater Lands wall. In a world already teeming with mystery and danger, both Fel and Tome are about to learn that there are always greater forces lurk in the shadows.

Can they defeat the Bolivans before their threat grows too great to contain? Will the trials of the Greater Lands prove too much to handle? Catch up to Fel and see what thrilling new dangers await!


Wide Releases!

Paradoxes and Dragons Volume 2

Dragons that hoard pillows? Legendary squirrel adventures? Sometimes short stories get a little experimental.

Paradoxes and Dragons Volume 2 is a collection of ten novellas and short stories spanning the sci-fi and fantasy spectrum. A time travel front masquerading as an antique shop? High tech dragon engineers? Inside these pages you’ll find fun one-shots and eagerly anticipated sequels to stories in the first anthology.

Paradoxes and Dragons Volume 2 includes:

  • Uncle Easy: A post-apocalyptic sequel to Wasteland*
  • Comfortable Dragon: A knight seeks to battle the coziest dragon in the kingdom
  • Time Loop: A successful time travel experiment makes an intern’s day very complicated
  • Dragons in Space: Space suits plus dragons, what’s not to like?
  • The Dwarfendam Run: A weary musician faces a mechanical gauntlet
  • The Front Way: A fan-voted sequel to The Back Way*
  • The Pencil Hoarder: A little dragon learns a thing or two about what the human world has to offer
  • Soft Summoned: Sometimes summoning a demon can go adorably wrong
  • The Tale of Amberbelly: Sometimes adventure is a matter of perspective
  • Weird Nothing: The novelization of the short lived webcomic of the same name by Joseph R. Lallo and Adam J. Hall

*Available in Paradoxes and Dragons Volume 1


Top Level Player

The bad news? You died. The good news? You have an extra life!

After a terminal diagnosis, Jazz had nothing to lose in testing a prototype brain scanner, right?

Wrong. Dead wrong.

Now she’s locked in a digital afterlife called The After-Image. How did she end up in this chaotic post-life roleplaying game? Is there a way out? She’ll have to find some friends and gain some levels, but one way or another Jazz is determined to get to the bottom of things.

Top Level Player is a pop-culture nostalgia-fest by Joseph R. Lallo, combining the wit of Free-Wrench and Big Sigma with deep pull references from the 80s and 90s.


The Book of Deacon Anthology Volume 2

A new collection of stories in the critically acclaimed and international bestselling Book of Deacon Series. It contains 14 epic fantasy short stories, novellas, and novels released between 2015 and 2022, including:

  • The D’Karon Apprentice
    • In the aftermath of the perpetual war, the legacy of the D’Karon lives on.
  • The Crescents
    • Beyond the Northern Alliance and Tressor, the chosen ones discover a secret world and a terrible threat.
  • The Coin of Kenvard
    • After history refuses to remain in the past, the chosen ones must defend their world one last time.
  • The Story of Sorrel
    • Sorrel wants nothing more than a safe place to raise her children, even if she has to face an ancient evil to attain it.
  • Halfax
    • Jade has grown into a fine woman with a child of her own, but the family curse has brought danger to even the sanctuaries of old.
  • And many more!

Procrastination!

In addition to things I ought to have been doing. I also have been doing things I oughtn’t’ve been doing. Mostly messing with Blender and making nonsense related to the ol’ book releases.

New Book Announcement: The Bygone Dagger!

More information in a couple weeks when it actually releases, but I’m happy to announce the pre-order and release date of The Bygone Dagger (The Greater Lands Saga 1).

Cover art by Nick Deligaris

This is my first venture back into long form Epic Fantasy since The Book of Deacon. The release date is June 23rd, 2021. Here’s the blurb!


They just don’t make artifacts like they used to.

In a world where arcane contraptions are capable of just about anything, running an antique shop is a dangerous business. No one knows that better than the Masker family. Strict rules and cutthroat competitors have pushed them to the limit. They need to make a big sale soon or they just might go under.

Fel Masker won’t let that happen.

True, he’s not half the tinkerer his father is, and he certainly lacks his mother’s skill with money. But right now what the family needs is someone foolhardy enough to risk ancient traps, mystic creatures, and bloodthirsty mercenaries on a death-defying treasure hunt. Fel is the man for the job.

A mysterious customer, a cryptic map, and an ancient vault could provide him with the payday he needs. Now all Fel has to do is survive long enough to deliver the goods.

One way or another, the world is going to remember the name Masker.


It was a fun one to write, and the sequel is already with Tammy Salyer getting a once-over. Good times!

Retirement Party

A banner flutters over the entrance to a large courtyard. It has been lovingly made by hand. The slightly askew letters read “Happy Retirement!” Picnic tables have been scattered with snacks of all sorts. The variety is staggering, ranging from huge vats of beans and rice and mashed potatoes to bubbling steam trays of stew, and biscuits.

From the edge of the courtyard, a scattering of individuals approaches. They are just as varied as the refreshments. A fox woman bounds up to the table and practically bounces in place.

“Oh my gosh, oh my gosh! Who brought these things?” Ivy said, snatching a biscuit.

“Them’s Butch’s specialty. Drizzle that gravy on there and you’re liable to think you died and went to heaven,” said a lanky airship crewman named Coop.

Ivy eagerly scooped the thick, creamy stuff over her plate and took a messy bite. Her eyes rolled back and she practically danced in place.

“Delicious! This retirement party was a great idea,” she said.

“It really is nice to have an opportunity to meet our colleagues,” said Nita tightening her tool sash before picking up a can of soft drink and cracking it open. “May I say, the level of technology out here is marvelous.”

“Have you listened to ‘streaming music’ yet?” Ivy said. “You can listen to any song you want, whenever you want! There’s whole types of music I never dreamed of!”

“Now everyone, everyone! Grab a drink, grab some food, and gather around,” shouted Deacon from beneath the banner. “We’ve got some festivities planned for later. We’ve got a nice little playground set up over in the back corner. Don’t worry about the smoke. A couple of Myn’s kids got a little rambunctious but the fire is out.”

“Also, pardon the smell,” Lex said. “Squee also got a little rambunctious, but the clean-up spray should be kicking in.”

“No harm done,” Deacon said. “So let’s get together and get started.”

The group gathered around, their plates loaded up with assorted goodies from the potluck.

“Now, as you know, 2020 was ‘the year of six.’ Most of us had our ‘final’ adventures. Thus, we’re having this little retirement sendoff.”

Karter scoffed and attempted to use a deep fried burrito as a scoop to shovel beans and rice into his mouth.

“I know the tendency is to feel as though retirement is the end of something,” Myranda said.  “But it is important to remember that it’s the beginning of something, too. That’s what we wanted to do here, before the party begins in earnest. Discuss what we’re going to be doing, now that our stories are told. Shall I go first?”

There was a murmur of agreement.

“Deacon and I have decided to take Leo and settle into the backstory of one of those ‘massively multiplayer online games’. A nice comfortable piece of lore, something about a golden era of a setting, sounds lovely after the trials and tribulations of our own world,” she said.

“I, for one, and eager for the opportunity to shape the worldbuilding of an entire new setting,” Deacon said.

“Haven’t you had enough ‘shaping the world to your whims’ for one lifetime?” said Gunner.

“Oh, give him a break,” Lil said, elbowing him in the ribs. “Us fictional types all get up to a little nonsense now and then.”

“Who is next?” Myranda said. “How about you, Lil?”

“Me? Oh, I reckon I’d like to do one of them ‘ninja warrior’ shows. Seems like all that hoppin’, climbin’, and scurryin’ is right up my alley. Ain’t never thought of makin’ a game of it. How about you, Nita?”

“Apparently there are ‘steampunk conventions’ and whole communities have found a passion for devising artful outfits that incorporate my chosen aesthetic. I’d like to get involved, maybe find a way to include my engineering and my artistry in a single pursuit.”

The crowd looked about expectantly.

“I guess I’ll go next,” Lex said. “I’ve been thinking of doing some acting. There’s a children’s story that I’ve been cast in. There’s a bit of a hang-up on the production side, but it should be fun.”

“Actin’,” Captain Mack said. “That’s about where I reckon I’ll end up. Seems to me they’re always makin’ these… movin’ pictures about superheroes and what not. There’s always some grizzled fella callin’ the shots. I reckon I might be one of them.”

All eyes turned to Butch, beside him. She grumbled something and pulled a cookbook out of an apron. The cover had a photo of her doing her very best to sculpt her perpetually sour expression into something a bit less forbidding. The title was “Mile High Cuisine with Butch.”

“She’s got one of them book tours,” Coop said.

“And what about you, Coop?” Myranda asked.

“I reckon I’ll stick with Cap’n Mack. Got me a job as a stunt man. Turns out they’ll pay big money for a fella what ain’t too worried about gettin’ hurt.”

“I have acquired a position as the voice and infrastructure of a line of internet connected smart speakers and cell phone apps,” Ma said, her voice buzzing from an automated arm inexplicably holding a plate of potato salad.

“Ether?” Deacon said. “I see you crackling back there. Care to share your plans?”

“I’ve become aware of the state of the environment. I plan to spend the next few years inflicting elemental wrath upon those who would abuse their world.”

“Sort of a surly, proactive, vengeful Captain Planet,” said Garotte. “I like it!”

“And what are you going to do,” Lex said.

“Me? A bunch of us—Me, Silo, Gunner— have decided we’ve had our fill with military sorties and the like. Mostly we’ll be volunteering our time to some outreach programs for vets.”

Silo nodded. “Feels a little more useful and meaningful than kicking up our feet and knitting.”

“And I certainly had no intension of modeling scarves for you day in, day out through our golden years,” Garotte said.

“Me next, Me next!” Ivy said. “I’m going to be a DJ! It’s someone who plays music for a living and sort of gives folks a reason to dance. It feels like a perfect fit. I thought maybe being a malthrope might make it difficult, but there are all sorts of folks who were thrilled to have me. And there is already a mouse DJ and two robot DJs—”

“Not anymore. The robots retired,” Lex said.

“Oh, well then I’d better get to work!” Ivy said.  “Do you think they’ll let me bring my violin?”

“I don’t think there are any rules,” Lex said.

“I love when there’s no rules!” she trilled. “Lain, why don’t you… Lain?”

“Lain isn’t here,” Deacon said.

“Why not?”

“Because this is a retirement party, and Lain isn’t through,” Myranda explained.

“Ooooh…” Ivy said.

“So why aren’t what’s his name and Blot here,” Lex said snidely.

“They’re not through either,” Myranda said.

“Su-u-u-u-re they’re not,” he said.

“Don’t be mean,” Ivy said. “Myn, what are you going to do?”

The dragon raised her head from the now mostly empty cauldron of potatoes. She licked her snout clean.

“The brood and I will be working in children’s entertainment as well, though I am not entirely certain when. And in the meantime we’ll be mascots for a new breakfast cereal.”

“You’ll be so good with kids, I know it,” Myranda said. “Karter, I notice you haven’t weighed in.”

“Military contractor,” he said through a full mouth.

“Sort of a lateral move then,” Nita said.

“Not even. I’m just going to keep being a military contractor in the same setting.”

“Big Sigma has been concluded, Karter,” Deacon said.

“Pffff,” he scoffed, spraying beans everywhere. “You don’t believe that, do you? Joseph R. Lallo never shuts the door on anything. There’s going to be more Book of Deacon, there’s going to be more Free-Wrench, and there’s sure going to be more Big Sigma. I’m not moving all of my gear out of the lab just because he’s convinced he’s going to make a go of it with this… what’s he calling it, the Greater Lands Saga?”

“It isn’t our place to question the whims of our creator,” Deacon said.

“Broadly speaking, antagonizing the person responsible for one’s own existence is inadvisable,” Ma said.

“You do it to me all the time,” Karter said.

“And those instances have all been inadvisable.”

“Whatever. Mark my words. This is about as final as a Kiss farewell tour. It’ll be—”

Karter suddenly stopped speaking and fully rethought his position on the issue. Upon considerable internal reflection, he decided that Ma was correct and it was exceedingly unwise to contradict his creator. Also, he was standing in his underwear, and a slice of individually packaged American cheese was inexplicably stuck to his forehead.

“Fine. Be that way,” Karter said.

“Hey, do you think people are going to read too much into the people who may or may not have been mentioned?” Nita said. “As though maybe they’ve got more stories on the way too?”

“I don’t think anyone’s going to read this at all, it’s an April Fools Day post on the personal blog of a washed up author who was no big shakes even before he was washed up,” Karter said.

His underwear drooped and a second slice of cheese slapped onto his face.

“I think that’s enough for the speeches,” Deacon said. “Eat, drink, be merry, and hopefully we’ll all see each other next year!”

2020 Looking Back, Looking Forward

So… It’s been a year, hasn’t it?

This year kicked my butt, and all things considered I got off easy. Being a writer isn’t an easy or a secure job, but it’s one that operates pretty much the same in a pandemic as any other time. This year, I sat in my home with my family and I wrote as the world outside became darker and more muddled, more dangerous and more vicious. 2020 cost us all dearly. Long-time followers need not look far to see the greatest toll it took on my life.

But we’re still here.

This is a tiny, neglected site on a forgotten corner of the internet. It exists to share the things I’m excited about with the people who like my writing. But after what we’ve been through, and what remains to be done before the world’s new normal becomes something resembling the old, I feel as though I’m obligated to look for a little bit of light.

What went right?

I set out, when this year began, to release the sixth (and potentially final) books in each of my main series. I achieved that. The Coin of Kenvard, Contaminant Six, and Nova Igniter were all released and it seems that you folks enjoyed them! I also released my first Patreon collection, Paradoxes and Dragons.

It wasn’t my most active year. By April my brain was already mush, and it just got mushier as the year progressed, but I soldiered on. NaNoWriMo was again a success. I had some experiments with audio, leading to not only a flurry of audio-books courtesy of Books in Motion, but also in a few self-produced pieces for the patreon, including what may well be considered the canonical “voice” of Ma.

The Patreon has proceeded apace, with new shorts and novellas (or re-releases of old favorites) each month. I’ve been fortunate enough to support artists by commissioning great artwork for covers and other gun goodies.

Art by Chandra Free

What next?

My NaNoWriMo project, which started off with the name “Rip Off Player One” because it was written specifically to appease my friend who wanted something in the same vein as Ready Player One, evolved into a full novel called “Top Level Player.” I’ll have to figure out to what degree the story can be published, but one way or another you folks will get a taste.

My brand plan for 2021 is to start my first new Epic Fantasy series in 10 years. I’ve had a lot of fun with The Book of Deacon, and it’s been my most successful series, but the time has come to try out a new setting. I spent the last week tinkering with it, and I think I’ve got something you folks are going to enjoy. Chances are you won’t get your first taste until mid 2021, but if I’m a good boy I’ll release at least two more in the same series before year’s end.

I’ll be continuing the Patreon, ideally with more new or re-released stories each month. And since that means heaps of new shorts, I think we can safely assume you’ll be getting a second volume of Paradoxes and Dragons.

There are also some projects I planted the seeds for many years ago which still have a chance of bearing fruit. The first children’s book (the one about Myn) technically isn’t dead, though I’ve been unable to contact the artist in some time. The second children’s book, illustrated by Fable Siegel, is almost certain to see the light of day, and maybe even a related project that’s got me super excited.

And if there’s enough time/willpower left when it’s all said and done, I’d like to add two more stories to Shards of Shadow so that the full story can be told.

You good people kept me afloat this year. I’ll do my best to prove myself worthy.

Thanks for reading!