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Manteca author signing his books
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John Rallios has a creative habit that’s not unlike “The Hobbit.”

The former firefighter has penned a fantasy-adventure novel titled “The Gopher & the Erstwhile Wizard” and will have a book signing in his hometown of more than two decades.

The book signing will take place on Saturday, April 25, at The Book Exchange from 1 to 4 p.m.

Rallios is a former firefighter of 18 years and juvenile detention officer now working as a mental health specialist for San Joaquin County.

For years, though, he’s harbored dreams of becoming a published author.

“I’ve always wanted to be an author since I was about 14 when I read my first book,” said Rallios, who has an Associate’s Degree in fire science and a Bachelor’s in psychology. “That sparked my imagination. I’ve written since then stories, but never had them published.”

Rallios said “The Gopher & the Erstwhile Wizard” took him nearly a decade to complete. He called it a learning process, complete with several re-writes and ah-ha moments.

“All in all, it took over eight years,” he said. “I started and re-started. Wrote it all and re-wrote it. It was a learning process; learning the process of storytelling and disciplining myself and building confidence in being able to tell the story.”

Ah, yes, the story.

“The Gopher & the Erstwhile Wizard” is fantasy in the same vein as “The Hobbit” and contains a similar message, to boot: “... size does not count for significance and where the heart makes all the difference in the world.”

The Age of Magic is awakened by, of all things, a gopher burrowing through an ex-wizard’s garden. “And in this garden grew a carrot that contained the last, and therefore greatest, magic of all,” reads the book cover.

In this world of magic, a gopher seems the unlikeliest of heroes, but it soon finds itself caught between good and evil forces ... with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

The book is a standalone, Rallios said, meaning he hasn’t left the plot open to a sequel or series.

Independent publisher Black Rose Writing published the book, which debuted on March 12. It is available for purchase online at, and

Rallios is already working on his next book, a mystery adventure. There is no timetable for its release.