In Mom-oriam

At approximately 4pm on Sept. 11th, 2020, my mother passed away. Like too many in our nation and world right now, COVID-19 took her from us. She was a few days past her 68th birthday, and had been fighting cancer that had found its way into her lungs. She was the very definition of high risk, but that does not soften the blow. As I write this, my father is still fighting his own COVID-19 infection. His prognosis is better, but we are taking nothing for granted.

It seems proper to take some time to talk about the woman my mother was. Mom was the second oldest of five siblings. She had a rare life, by today’s standards. My father was her only husband, and she was a stay at home mom for me and my two older brothers, Mike and Anthony. Mom was absolutely everything a mother should be. Not just for me and my brothers, but for everyone she met. As Mike said during our last conversation with her, Mom was the mother of the entire neighborhood. People all over town called her mom, from other people in my class in school to grown men who worked in the autobody down the block. To some she was Lillian, to most she was Susan. To almost everyone, she was Mom.

She was, in a word, Momnipotent.

Our door was always open. Food was always on the table. More than one friend of ours, lacking a place to stay, found a home in the Lallo Household. One friend, when he slashed his hand on a piece of broken glass, came knocking on our door. He didn’t call an ambulance. He didn’t go to the doctor. He went to Mom Lallo. (At the time, he thought she was a registered nurse. She was not. Mom had just grown adept at patching people back together thanks to having three sons and two younger brothers, each with varying degrees of bone headedness.) Another friend, who had just returned from a tour of duty in the air force, arrived back in town at 3 AM. He didn’t go to his own house. He came to ours, because he knew we would answer, and that he could get something to eat and crash on the couch until his folks woke up.

Mom’s cooking was the stuff of legend, not just in quality but in quantity. She made homemade popcorn in a frying pan. One batch was approximately half a paper shopping bag. That stuff fueled every party I could remember from when I was barely able to walk until I graduated college. People still tell stories of the time a handful of my brother’s friends stayed over and she make a pancake breakfast for them. Over a hundred pancakes. She had more specialties than I could possibly list: Pepperoni-Bread, Pecan Pie. Mincemeat Pie. Chili. Rice Pudding. Her breaded, fried chicken cutlets were the standard by which all others shall be judged.

One of the last things I said to her was that I owed literally everything to her. Not only did she make me, she installed the software that runs my brain. In a time before the internet, she instituted the “Let’s Look it Up” policy whenever I asked a question she didn’t know the answer to. We had an old set of encyclopedias, and any bit of curiosity would lead to a mini-research session. It trained me to seek answers rather than simply shrugging and remaining ignorant. It made me curious. Hungry for knowledge.

Until a few years ago, the family had some land in Vermont. We would spend every August up there, even before a house was built. We would literally sleep in a barn. No TV. No radio. Just wilderness, campfires, and family. In order to make bedtime something of an event, Mom would ask us to come up with things we would like to hear a story about. Ostensibly it was for all of us, but my brothers are three and seven years older than me, so I dare say they were past the point of bedtime stories when this was happening. We would pick all sorts of topics for stories and she would put them together into a bedtime story, a new one each night, starring ALF (from the 1980s TV show). Completely improvised. It was my first introduction to building a story. That is a skill that has served me well. And because of that, even if you never met her, if you know my books, you know my mother. Her fingerprints are everywhere. She helped name characters like Oriech and Halfax. She actually typed some of the early pages of a book I’ve yet to publish, back when I wasn’t a good enough typist to do so myself. She also wrote stories of her own.

There’s a reason why the brightest and most nurturing character in any of my stories is called “Ma.”

Chronicling Mom’s virtues is an impossible task. The list of things I want to say about what she did for us keeps growing with every new sentence I write. Mom’s scavenger hunts she would put together for Easter morning. Her New Year’s Eve tradition of making a new appetizer every hour until the ball dropped. It doesn’t seem fair that a withering illness and a pandemic should rob her of so many years, and rob the world of her presence. But if one measures one’s life by the impact one has upon others, Mom lived a hundred lifetimes. She will live on in the hearts and minds of everyone who met her. And I can only hope that my brothers and I can pass on her lessons with half the skill and grace with which she taught them.

Goodbye Mom. Thanks for everything.

Contaminant Six Release!

Folks, it is finally here. Contaminant Six, the sixth (and final?) entry in the Free-Wrench saga. Pick it up wherever ebooks are sold!

This one was a doozy to write, but before I dig into that, here’s the blurb again:


The fug that poisoned the world has struck the Wind Breaker crew.

After years of daring escapes and dangerous capers, it was only a matter of time before Captain Mack’s crew felt the sting of the toxin that blankets their continent. They must split up, seek the aid of old rivals, and brave secret facilities to find the substance that may be the key to recovery.

Join Nita and her friends on what may well be their final adventure.

Contaminant Six is the sixth novel in the critically acclaimed Free-Wrench series of steampunk adventures.


And final?

Now, if you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll notice I typically include (and final?) every time I talk about this one. The purpose of the Year of Six was to close up shop on my three main series to make room in my schedule for something new. If you’ll forgive the talk about how the sausage is made for a moment, rare is the series that endures in popularity year after year. Typically, for each new entry in a book, there are at least a few readers who won’t follow along to pick it up. (We call this “decreased read-through”, for those of you interested in the lingo.) So each book tends to make just a bit less money than the one before. Add to that the fact that each new book is just a bit more difficult to write, thanks to growing lore and continuity that needs to be maintained, and a long series can be a real struggle for someone trying to make a living.

I hate that “profitability” has to be a part of the equation, but this is how I pay my bills, and it hasn’t been getting any easier.

BUT! I’d never rule out the possibility of more stories in the future. Short stuff on my Patreon is almost certain. And new novels could certainly come along. But those will be later. Once I’ve (hopefully) stabilized my income with some fresh blood.

The Bumpy Road

As long as we’re talking about finances and difficulties, buckle up while I talk to you about the journey this book took. To paraphrase a spooky lady from a horror movie, “The way this book walked was thorny, through no fault of its own.”

We’ll begin with COVID-19. This book was written entirely during the pandemic. Ostensibly, my job is one of the safest and least effected one could hope for. I sit in my office, typing away regardless of rain, snow, heat wave, or pandemic.

But I do not live alone.

I live with my brother, his wive, and his son. My brother Mike works for New Jersey Transit. He is considered essential (because he helps keep the trains running, and the trains get the other essential workers to work). He is a conductor/ticket collector, so he can’t very well work from home. My sister-in-law works from home, but she’s got meetings, she’s got phone calls. She can’t be taking care of the kid all that time. This means, at least a few hours a week, I’m taking care of the kid. And at any given moment, I might have to drop in for a few minutes. It’s a small, but non-zero distraction from the writing. But I budgeted my time and pressed on.

Because of the intense times we’re living in, I didn’t feel comfortable pushing this book into the hands of my full list of Beta Readers, so this one was lightly revised before heading to the editor.

Once I got the book back and got the excellent cover by Nick Deligaris, I put it up for pre-order and started the sale. Except… Amazon wasn’t really interested in showing the cover… For like 10 days. It turns out, when there’s no image on an Amazon Product listing, folks assume it’s broken and don’t click. Advertising is tricky enough to do well when your store link actually looks like it leads to a product. When it looks like it’s broken, it’s more or less a waste of money to run ads. So I lost two weeks of advertising time.

There were more problems. Personal problems behind the scenes which are ongoing. I’ll share the details when we learn how they’ll end. But things have been hard.

But we made it! The book is here! I hope you like it.

Now all that remains is Big Sigma 6… Then? Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Free-Wrench Sale and Pre-Order

Hi everyone!

I’d been holding off on announcing most of this, because Amazon has not added the cover to the sales page yet, but I’m through waiting!

Contaminant Six, the latest (and last?) book in the Free-Wrench series, is available for pre-order. The Release Date is Sept. 8th, and supporters of the Novel level of my Patreon already have their copies!

Here’s the description:


The fug that poisoned the world has struck the Wind Breaker crew.

After years of daring escapes and dangerous capers, it was only a matter of time before Captain Mack’s crew felt the sting of the toxin that blankets their continent. They must split up, seek the aid of old rivals, and brave secret facilities to find the substance that may be the key to recovery.

Join Nita and her friends on what may well be their final adventure.

Contaminant Six is the sixth novel in the critically acclaimed Free-Wrench series of steampunk adventures.


Now, I know a lot of you haven’t read the Free-Wrench stories. I write several genres of story and not all of my settings appeal to everyone. But if you’ve been curious about the series, now is a great time to pick it up, because almost the entire series is on sale until this time next month!

Here’s the breakdown:

BookStandard PriceSale Price
Free-Wrench Collection$5.99$0.99
Free-WrenchFreeFree
Skykeep$3.99$0.99
Ichor Well$3.99$1.99
The Calderan Problem$3.99$2.99
Cipher Hill$3.99$3.99
Contaminant Six$4.99$4.99

You can now get caught up for a bargain price!

That’s it for now! Thanks for reading!

The Sincerest Form of Flattery!

A fan of mine contacted me a few days ago to let me know that an author had a series of books that seemed a little too similar to mine to be a coincidence. I fully expected to go check them out and discover that they were just the standard hero’s journey fantasy tale, a situation where someone else followed the same tropes as me just as a thousand had before. I’m not a big enough author for someone to plagiarize my stuff. But I was curious, so I went to check it out.

And… I mean… Well, you be the judge.

Here’s The Book of Deacon (Book 1):

Myranda Celeste’s world has been built on a legacy of bloodshed. For more than a century, her homeland the Northern Alliance has fought the Kingdom of Tressor in what has come to be known as the Perpetual War. While her people look upon the conflict with reverence, Myranda’s hate for the war has made her an outcast.

When she finds a precious sword among the equipment of a fallen warrior, she believes her luck may have changed. Little does she imagine that the treasure will draw her into an adventure of wizards and warriors, soldiers and rebels, and beasts both noble and monstrous. The journey will teach her much about her potential, about the origins of the war, and about the threat her world truly faces.

Will Myranda unlock the secret of bringing peace once and for all, or will the world be lost to the Perpetual War?

Let’s compare that to The Eternal War (Fate Chronicles Book 1)

The world is blanketed in snow and death…

The Eternal War continues to ravage the land while mighty forces clash in a never-ending struggle for dominancy.

Laura Stillwater, a young woman who wants nothing to do with the war, is ensnared its wake. She becomes an integral part of its outcome after discovering a magical staff hidden beneath the snow. The staff is sought by many dangerous foes, forcing Laura into a deadly hunt. Along her journey, she meets powerful allies who show her the ways of elemental magic.

Follow Laura’s adventure as she struggles to defeat powerful enemies and change the world.

Now, I mean… That’s pretty similar, but I wasn’t exactly breaking ground with the plot of my book. And the name and weapon are different. Let’s just take a peek inside.

Take a look at the side by side of the first few paragraphs (you’ll want to open in a new tab for all of the literary goodness). That’s mine on the left.

I mean… you know… It could be a coincidence. Maybe the other book covers will differentiate his series.

Clearly an original story! His anthropomorphic character appears to be a badger, not a fox. What about the next one.

Oh, hey! There’s something in his books called “The Drakaran.” Not the D’Karon, like in mine. Though the cover seems to depict a battle against the raised dead like in The Battle of Verril. Moving on…

Whoa! He seems to have some sort of a fire elemental in his, too! And book four has Deadly Diplomacy, does it? The Chosen take the roles of Diplomats in mine, too. I bet Book Five is just as good!

… Now wait a minute. My book five is called “The Crescents” and this one’s called “Mystery at Crescent Islands”? And there’s a red dragon and a green dragon hanging out. And the green one is in armor.

I’ll be honest, I’m a little hurt that they didn’t rip off book 6. I was rooting for “The Doubloons of Karnved” or something.

I guess I’m going to have to do something about this, but it’s just so bizarrely entertaining to me.

UPDATE: I have been in contact with the person responsible. The books have been taken down and I’ve adjusted the post to remove explicit mention of their name, so that this doesn’t follow them around unnecessarily.

One Way To Handle Lore

Hey folks! Because a fan asked, and I’d mentioned it on the podcast I co-host not so long ago, here’s a quick piece on how I do a story bible for my books when I need something reasonably complex yet easy to navigate. I use something called Zim Desktop Wiki. Here’s how I use it.

1. Install

I grabbed the portable app from here. Double Click it, pick a place for the install, and you’re done. For the purposes of this little test, I tossed it on my desktop. When you see this screen, you’re ready. Go ahead and leave “run” highlighted.

Alternately, you can open up the place you installed it and double click the executable.

2. Get Started

First, name your notebook. We’ll call this one Big Sigma.

You’ll end up with the “Home” page open. I like to start laying it out like this.

Just type the headings you like, and while your cursor is on the heading, go to Format->Heading 2 or just press Ctrl+2.

Once you’ve got your headings, start filling them out. You can leave these non-headings.

3. Fill in Details

Pick a section you want to fill out and highlight it. You can either pick “Link” from the top bar or press Ctrl+L.

You’ll get this window. The top box is the name of the file/article. The bottom is the actual text of the link. If you have a red box, it means you put something that can’t be in a file name, like quotation marks. Just remove them and everything should be fine.

The name should now be a hyperlink. Click it.

You’ll get a fresh file that’s blank.

Lay it out however you like. I like to fill out some headings and do the Ctrl+2 formatting thing, then start typing.

Hey! We mentioned Squee and Ma! Let’s highlight them and Ctrl+L to make articles for them too.

Note that every file you start filling out shows up in that Left Pane there. Now let’s click “Home” to get back there.

Now that you’ve written articles for Ma and Squee, you can link them here too. Highlight “Ma” in the character section and Ctrl+L.

If you type the same name as what shows up in the Left Pane, or if you click Browse and pick the “Ma” file, it’ll link to the one you already wrote. Note that the TEXT can be whatever you want. Only the “Link to” has to match the previous name. In this way, everywhere a character or name shows up, you can link to their file. I often find as I write a Bio, I’ll realize characters I think need to be added, and just highlight the text and write the article from there, then add them to Home later.

4. Get Fancy

You can do other stuff like insert images and do fancier formatting. I usually don’t, but go nuts!

Revving Up

Hi, folks!

I’ll be honest. Things have been a little rough these last few months. It’s “nice” to have a very good excuse, in the form of the pandemic and protests. But in truth, those things haven’t changed my life much. When I walk, I wear a mask, and I’ve donated some money and amplified some voices, but all things considered things are as they’ve always been in my little slice of the world. The problem has been me.

My focus has been in the dumps. I’ve been dragging my feet on projects and promotions. And as anyone who’s been in the self publishing game as long as I have will tell you, that’s bound to take its toll on both schedule and income. I’m not in any danger, but it’s well past time that I started taking things seriously again.

Starting today, I’m going to try to ramp up on all levels. My posts here and on social media will become more regular. I’ll start beefing up my reader perk offerings. Daily word counts will get back up where they need to be. I’ll start putting out newsletters more often. I’ll be a proper, grownup indie author again.

Or I won’t. WE’LL FIND OUT TOGETHER!

But there’s no time like the present to start making good on those plans than RIGHT NOW!

Free-Wrench 6 Update

Free-Wrench 6 is done, unless something goes wrong with the edit. I’ve even got the cover mostly made, though I can’t share it yet since it hasn’t been paid for. But one of the many things I was procrastinating was picking a title.

I think I’m comfortable picking Contaminant Six as the title! It’s very likely that my next announcement regarding Free-Wrench will be the cover reveal and the pre-order announcement. If you’re a Free-Wrench fan, keep your eyes peeled for that! We’re probably looking at a late August, early September release date.

Halfax Interview

I tried to set up a Character Interview a few weeks ago, but because of the aforementioned inactivity I’ve made an enemy of the algorithms and slipped from the mind of some longtime fans. Thus, I wasn’t able to collect very many questions.

We’re going to try again, by loading up my full social media cannon and blasting it out.

SO! What questions have you got for the big green guy?

If you’re not familiar, Hal is the sworn protector and Adopted Papa of Jade Rinton, an important figure in the Age of Ignorance, a time long after the main Book of Deacon series. He’s one of Myn’s children, along with Roka, Thorn, and Winsor. Once I get a healthy assortment of questions I’ll write the interview and share it! Here are the questions we’ve got so far!

From Shirley: Did Jade find a way to fix your wings so you could fly again? It always has bothered me that a creature meant to soar above the clouds was grounded.

From: Siberia-gravity: Halfax have you seen any Malthropes in your life or should say during the Age of Ignorance?

From Kindleworm: Hey, Halfax, what happened to all the other dragons?

Free-Wrench 6 Update

Hey, folks! I’m trying to get better about doing regular updates here on my blog. (In the inevitable event of failure, you’ll find me most active on twitter, and moderately active on Facebook.)

Yesterday I finished the first revision of Free-Wrench 6. I’m still brainstorming a name and cover, but it’s good enough now that Beta Readers can take a look. The story is about 100,000 words, probably with a few thousand more once the epilogue gets added. the edit is due in July, so possibly an August launch?

What am I working on now? Well, while the Beta Readers do their beta reading, I’ll see if I can refill the hopper on short stories and such for Patrons. As it is, the pipeline is empty. I’ll either release a secret sneak peek of a pending project or else I’ll release as a standalone something that was previously tucked away in one of my old collections. Unless I’m REALLY on the ball, and then I’ll get a fresh short out. It’ll be fun to find out!

On the personal front, so far COVID-19 has been relatively kind. My dad lost a friend, but my family has been healthy. I hope everyone stays safe, washes their hands, and gets through this. I’ll do my best to keep the distractions coming!

The End of a Sale, the beginning of a pre-launch

Hey, folks!

We’ll get this part over with quickly. The Book of Deacon Main Series (the whole thing) has been discounted for quite a while. First it was to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first book and to prepare folks for Book 6. Then it was because we’re all locked up and maybe you’d like some cheap stuff to read. But all good things must come to an end. The Book of Deacon Main Series Sale ends Monday.

So, what comes next?

Free-Wrench 6, of course! Once I hit “post” on this very article, I’ll be popping open Free-Wrench 6 to start the revision. It’ll be going to the editor in… July, I think? But I mean to have it buttoned up long before then. Like The Coin of Kenvard, Free-Wrench 6 (still haven’t picked a name) will be potentially the end of its era. Also like The Coin of Kenvard, I’ll be discounting the main series to help people prepare for the release of book 6. It’ll be a while yet, but I’ll definitely let you know when it comes along.

The Coin of Kenvard Release

I’ll start with the short version. The Coin of Kenvard is available now! Pick it up wherever ebooks are sold. Here’s the cover.

Frequently these posts begin with me addressing something that long-time fans of mine will already know. Considering this is book six of my very first series, something tells me the only people reading this are those who have been following me for a long time.

I have history of dopey book releases. Some of them were incredibly avoidable, like my now famous decision to release The Other Eight — a book with an absurd premise completely unlike any of my other stories– on April Fools Day. Others were less foreseeable, like releasing a book on Election Day 2016, which turned out to be a rather distracting day.

Well, I’m releasing Book of Deacon 6 in the depths of a global pandemic. Fun! I hope everyone is staying safe. Social distancing, washing hands, the whole nine yards. So far so good in the Lallo-sphere. But no matter how well things are going, there are some things we can’t ignore. Most of us are hurting for money. Most of us have far more important things to worry about than keeping tabs on a fantasy series.

We’re all doing our best, and I’m trying to do my part. In a recent post, I listed the books I have that are currently free, including some new stuff. I’ll repeat it below, for convenience, and add to it the full-series sale I’m doing for the main Book of Deacon ebooks in most stores.

Free Books:

Discounted Books (until the end of April):

The Coin of Kenvard is, for now at least, planned to be the final book in this “era” of the series. I have more stories to tell, for sure. The Jade/Halfax Era is likely to get more stories, for example, and there’s already a book set in the years afterward written that I’ve been holding back until Myranda and her crew had their story told.

It’s been a long ride, folks. Lots of ups and downs. We’re all in a pretty solid down at the moment, some more so than others. I hope this story will take you away from that for a while, and I hope that together we can find our way through to the other side stronger and wiser than before.

Thanks for reading!