Sci-fi, physics as inspiration for YA Fantasy stories.

Book Beginnings, Then and Now

Okay, housekeeping first.

Lou Hoffmann's smiling face(1) I’ve been gone. Life in the 2020s is sometimes a challenge, but it’s better than the alternative, right? (2) Also, my site broke, so when I was ready to post, I couldn’t. (3) And also, I had a number of ideas for great posts, but I didn’t write them down, I’m not a spring chicken and because of (1) and (2) above, I’ve forgotten them. Here’s hoping they’ll come back.

But here’s what’s on my mind today, and yes it really is about my journey on the road to rewriting and re-releasing my books. Most of my time—what little I’ve had for writing—has been spent on “the beginning.” I’m constantly checking my thinking—it’s important to me to get this right. (Soon, I’ll be setting alpha readers loose on the first fifty to eighty pages. I’m excited about that step. It kind of makes things real.)

Conventional wisdom on opening your YA book has changed…or has it?

Prefacing this with a short, simple, direct sentence. I’m no expert. Still, join me for a look at a subject that has me, I’ll confess, a little sore.

Go back fifty, a hundred, a hundred fifty years, and you can find books that open with lots of description. Examples include: Under the Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott and Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, both published in the 19th century. I admit I have believed that book openings have vastly changed over the last centuries, even decades, but after a little research, admittedly just skimming the top, I’m not so sure.

All that flowery language

Jenny Phillips, a blogger and entrepreneur, whom I won’t call a zealot though the tag crosses my mind, has argued in a video ( that not only have books for young people changed, they have stopped helping young people learn, and in fact harm their brains—stunting their academic development, encouraging—to paraphrase—lazy thinking, instant gratification, and an inability to think analytically. Later, she gets into equating the absence of “God and faith” from current middle grade books with lack of benefit—and harm done—from reading. I dismissed the latter instantly, as I don’t share her religious beliefs and later in the video it appears that fostering religious training—some would say brainwashing—may be her real aim.

But I looked into the first point, which is about books and writers and readers—my world.

Her examples of “good” books written over a century ago include the two I named under the last heading. I’m not putting those books or others like them down. They’re beautiful, and when I was a child I thought Black Beauty was the most wonderful story in the world. But after praising these earlier books for their complex sentence structure and descriptive openings, Phillips goes on to decry books written today. She gives some examples of best-selling books that have spare writing, direct language, shorter sentences such as we might use in daily speech, and a lack of flowery ornamentation. (She doesn’t ever name these books or the authors in the video, simply calling them “best-selling” books on Amazon in 2019.”)

A dearth of literary devices?

She proposes that these 2019 books are inferior. Why? Because they don’t utilize complex sentences, challenging vocabulary, sensory language, or poetic devices.

While it is true that the opening sentences she used as examples are straightforward, I argue that they do indeed use poetic devices, such as “beats,” parallel structure, and more. And she offers no indication as to whether the rest of the books’ content might wander into more complex sentence structure and utilize vocabulary that challenges children. And who said short sentences can’t be evocative?

No mental challenge?

As to complexity, what makes blogger Philips think there’s no complexity of thought in a paragraph that uses a number of short sentences? A reader must organize the thoughts expressed in their minds, relate the sentences one to the other, analyze conflict and and agreement, and form impressions of the situation, the environment, and the character(s). It may be a more challenging process at times to do that mental work given less, rather than more, to chew on.

Is it even true?

Even a superficial survey of literature from the 19th and earlier 20th centuries (which is frankly all I’ve done) shows that plenty of well-read books from those eras, including those written for young readers, opened with personal, direct language, sometimes even first person. Moby Dick (Melville), Treasure Island (Stevenson), Island of the Blue Dolphins (O’Dell), Ramona (Hunt), Where the Red Fern Grows (Rawls), even Little Women by that same Louisa May Alcott who wrote the (lovely) florid opening of Under the Lilacs.

Were there books with ornate, descriptive openings in the 19th and early 20th centuries? Absolutely. Are there books with more ornate, poetic, vocabulary-rich openings today? Yes. For just one example, read the gorgeous opening of Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. Were such book beginnings more common in that time? Probably. As I’ve said, my research is superficial. Even though I started down this road because of my desire to make the best possible opening to the revised Key of Behliseth (Book 1 of The Sun Child Chronicles), I have no desire to delve deeper into the subject. There is no need.

Because I think Phillips and those who think the way she does about the written word miss the most important points: 1) readers, and 2) truth.

What do the figures show?

I’d argue the most important question about current middle grade and YA offerings is, “Do they get read?” This post ( says YA books published more than doubled from 2002 to 2012. The trend has continued, say a number of sources. The pandemic has pushed it along, with juvenile fiction overall leading the pack in increased print book sales ( Adults read YA books and even middle grade, but young people are reading too, and they become those adults looking for a good YA read. Just search on Facebook for groups focused on YA fiction and you’ll see what I mean.

What has “truly” changed?

I’ll argue that the real difference between the way earlier novels for young people were written and current trends is the world they reflect, the world young people live in. For most folks living in the 2020s, life doesn’t proceed at a slow, predictable pace with a few high points and low points over the course of months or years. Young people have to learn about the world fast—too fast, perhaps, but that’s the reality. In a world where information is cheap and plentiful and not always trustworthy, young readers need to relate. The characters in their books are of prime concern, and that’s where most book intros begin, these days—right smack dab in the middle of the character’s world, and usually their problems. Meeting these characters, diving straight off into their fictional lives, gives a young reader a chance at learning empathy as well as new truths about themselves, others, and the world they must live in. Flowery language at the beginning is less likely to engage today’s young reader who, let’s face it, lives in a fast world. They can’t reap the real benefit of reading fiction if they don’t read it.

Truth in fiction

The number one prime concern—and benefit—of fiction, in my opinion, is the reader’s recognition of truth. Apparently it’s not my opinion alone…


“Fiction is fact distilled into truth.” —Edward Albee

“The aim of fiction is absolute and honest truth.” —Anton Chekov

“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” —Stephen King

And finally, since this blog is supposed to be about Lou Hoffmann books, some words on truth from Key of Behliseth“Truth is truth no matter what world you’re in.”


Thanks for joining me on this slightly intellectual (I won’t say “stuffy) comparison of writing then and writing now. I hope you enjoyed it at least a little. Next time, something completely different. 🙂 I’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment here or find me online.

Find my Lou Hoffmann Books page on Facebook

On Twitter, I’m @Lou_Hoffmann

kharrigan continent map c. Loretta Sylvestre/Joe Bone

Everyone Wants to Talk Worldbuilding

Lou Hoffmann's smiling faceEverybody wants to talk about worldbuilding.

Well, okay, not everybody. People who aren’t authors may not have even heard the term—possible exception, avid readers or watchers of sci-fi and fantasy. I imagine most authors of fiction know the word, but if they’re writing anything set in our contemporary and mundane world, they may not care much about it.

So, when I say “everybody” wants to talk about it, I really mean a lot of fantasy and sci-fi writers. More specifically, me. I want to talk about it, right here, right now, in this blog post. 😊

Why would anyone do it?

If a book is going to be about magic or elves, time travel or interdimensional portals, spaceships or planetary aliens, they need a world to exist in. (You can put them downtown Chicago, but then it’s not Chicago anymore, and you’ve got to rebuild it for the misfits to fit.)

 How the heck is it done?

This, in fact, is the question “everybody” (not just me) wants to talk about. An author can choose from an array of methods, mix and match, or take an imaginary overworld flight and write it down. Certain things are needed, no matter how you organize the “finding” of them:

  • Physical world—geography and perhaps geology, buildings, roads, etc.
  • Language and culture(s)
  • Magic system or technology (or both)
  • Religion or mythology—some type of belief system framework
  • Political system(s)
  • Economic system(s)

There’s a lot more that could be listed, but most things will fall into those categories. Unless I forgot something, which is possible. Let me know if you see that I did. 😊

For the method-building author.

If an author wants to go with a method—not a bad choice; why reinvent the wheel?—the choices abound. I searched “worldbuilding” on Amazon. Just click the link and scan the listed books. You’ll see what I mean. Some of them are actual books, some of them workbooks, some fantasy oriented, others looking more toward sci-fi, and still others are about role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinders—help for the jaded DM, perhaps. Incidentally RPG “novels” are ever more popular, so those last could certainly work for authors as well.

My point is, if an author wants a method, there is one out there that should work. I haven’t read any of the listed books, though years ago, I read some others that were more popular then. I didn’t use them as methods, but I’m sure I was influenced by fore-authors experience and ideas.

What do authors say?

I’m assuming here that you’d like to hear from some authors on the subject—I mean authors other than the writers of books and workbooks. And also, other than me. 😊 Here’s a link to a blog post on Not strictly about worldbuilding, these are fantasy authors and their thoughts do touch on the subject. Another blog post, this one on Bookish, has four discrete interviews with fantasy authors. One of the question addresses specifically what they find the most difficult about the process of worldbuilding. All good stuff.

A favorite author quote, short and to the point.Woman with saddle shoes.

 “The muse in charge of fantasy wears good, sensible shoes.”

                                                                                    —Lloyd Alexander

Personally, I just went for it.

That’s right. As is my way with just about everything I’m learning to do, I read up, studied a bit, made some false starts, and then made the world—or rather worlds—of The Sun Child Chronicles. And though I didn’t plan it this way, I actually started by building characters, and then building worlds around them. I needed worlds in which these particular characters would work, could exist as I saw them—as I had come to know them. And yes, though I’d never heard the above quote back then, indeed an awful lot about the worlds was clearly guided by a muse in sensible shoes. No matter how magical, how renowned a warrior, how terrible or beautiful or fear-inspiring, there is at least some element of “just common sense” about each and every characters. So the same is true of the worlds I build to house them

But it wasn’t a one-off.

As I’ve mentioned, there are various schools of thought about worldbuilding (as there are about every writerly pursuit from grammar to dialogue tags to genres). Some authors, before they ever write a word, spend a long time inventing a world. We’re talking years—even decades. I could never do that because of something I call…

The just-write imperative.

I needed to put some words on paper, or rather mostly in pixels. When I got too antsy with working out world particulars, I started to write. But I was new on the job. Things didn’t quite gel, more often than not. When I realized I was spinning my wheels, I looked around for help and just happened to find a book, a how-to-write, that actually worked. It’s still out there, available, and I’ll link the author here: The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray. It broke down drafting a book start to finish in 52 “weeks,” or sections. (I’m going to add here that I had the 1994 edition. I’ve seen later versions. They seem substantially changed, though I haven’t investigated how different they are.)

Inclines and storyboards

The book bases the book structure on Aristotle’s incline—an age-old concept that literally can be applied to the vast majority of novels old or new. Although it wasn’t the first time I’d heard of it, it did help me to back up and plot my story along the incline. It was fun, too, done with a long roll of craft paper, a yardstick, markers, and sticky notes. I put it up on the wall. Man did I ever feel like a writer then!

But the most useful idea in Ray’s book, for me, was the way he’d adapted the TV scriptwriters “storyboard” to novel writing. I’m not going to go into how it’s done—as I said the book is still available and there may be other sources. But I’ll tell you how it helped.

Create the scene.

For each scene in my novel, I needed to back (mentally) away from the writing, slow down and create the scene in my mind. I had to be in the world to know how that particular place at that particular moment looked, sounded, felt, smelled, etc. Thinking about what was present made me also think about why it was there—and though that didn’t likely end up in my storyboard, it did end up in the world of my story. Though I rarely formally use this method now, it still frames the way I approach developing a scene. And because of that, about every scene develops either one or more characters or their worlds or both. The world gets richer and richer, and the complexity is in the details.

Don’t show, and don’t tell.

Whether they do it all in advance or all on the fly, or a combination of the two (like me), often much of what an author creates when worldbuilding is never told, and neither is it shown. Instead, it’s implied. That way, the reader creates the world. How cool is that?

If I have a thousand readers, I’ve spawned a thousand worlds.

But they all share this map. 😊 This world is the home of Lucky (the Sun Child), Thurlock, and Han, and is where most of the story takes place beginning in book 2 of the series. I have a map of the fictional city in California in which most of book 1 happens, but it’s chicken scratch and you wouldn’t want to see it. Maybe I’ll fix that problem before rereleasing the revised books. But this map, of the Kharrighan Continent in the world called Ethra, is to me a treasure. I made a rough version of the map using GIMP, an open-source software for creating and manipulating art, but the finished product is a beauty created by artist Joe Bone, who has my gratitude forever.

kharrigan continent map c. Loretta Sylvestre/Joe Bone

Thanks for reading!

That’s my bit about worldbuilding, at least for now. I don’t claim to be expert, just a practitioner of the fantasy-writing arts. If you found something interesting, questionable, confounding, or debatable, I hope you’ll comment below. Or visit me online.

Find my Lou Hoffmann Books page on Facebook

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Sci-fi, physics as inspiration for YA Fantasy stories.

My Writer Brain and YA Fantasy

Lou Hoffmann's smiling faceThis week, I’m back to blogging…

…on Monday. I’m trying to take the schedule/time bull by the horns, and I hope I’ll be able to post some words on Wednesday too. For today’s post, I’m flashing back to a blog post I posted in 2016 on Drops of Ink, a wonderful blog owned by author and reviewer Anne Barwell. I’ve revised that post to fit what I want to blog about today…

Me! Or rather, my writing brain.

As you may know, I’m focusing on shaping up and rereleasing (one way or another), my series, The Sun Child Chronicles. First published in 2016, the stories this time around will be updated and told a little tighter. It will have a few new scenes and the emphasis will shift here and there. But the characters and the story—which has some elements of sci-fi as well as fantasy—won’t change much at all.

Read the series blurb (the story in a nutshell), here.

I admit, it’s a bit of a crazy plot.

Sci-fi, physics as inspiration for YA Fantasy stories.Which makes it fun and interesting to write, but also might make a person wonder how it came to me. The truth is, I was thinking about quantum and particle physics. About what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance,” about string theory with its possible numerous dimensions and world’s splitting off in time, and about the idea that either time is not constant, or we are not constant within it, or both. And then, I admit, I’m always thinking sword-wielding warrior-protectors, and old wizard curmudgeons.

And why write for young people?

I guess partly because most of the young people I know also like warrior-protectors and old wizard curmudgeons. 🙂 But mostly because when I was young, a love of books is what saw me through some very difficult times.

Fiction was one of my very truest teachers…

…when it came to learning how to live in the world, what it means to be a human among millions of humans all the same yet vastly different. The love of reading gave me an academic edge. And that was responsible for my ability to pick myself up out of a very low place—low economically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. “Saved my life,” is the shorthand version of all that, and it is certainly true.

I write for young people because I want young people to read. I write diverse characters in my fiction because I want every young person to find themselves in the pages—the person they are; the hero, brother, sister, girlfriend, boyfriend, best friend, citizen, human they are becoming.

Here’s what Scottish YA author Theresa Breslin said, making the point much more succinctly than I.

“In addition to exploring imaginative worlds, I believe that young people should have access to reading material that validates their life, that gives them a sense of identity—to be able to read texts that chimes with their own world, corrals thoughts, and connects with the emotional conflicts of growing up.”

Back in 2016, a 13-year-old boy reviewed book 1, Key of Behliseth on Litpick. He gave the book a five-star rating and called it a “buffet of words… such a fun book to read.” He said “I loved every word of this work of art.” Yes, of course, as does every author I like to see praise of my book. But what I love most is that the existence of the review means this young boy is a reader and a thinker. The process of making the review involved him analyzing and defining what he liked (and didn’t like) between the book’s covers.

Reading YA Fantasy is for young people from 12 to 99.
Elderly woman is reading a book to her beloved granddaughter. Black and white photo.

That is the very best kind of learning, and my book got to play a little part in it. Awesome.

But “young” can be any age!

Although I write YA fantasy, I’m pretty sure young people from about 12 to 99 or so will find plenty to love in the book, and that makes me happy, too.

So now you know…

…a little bit about what gets my brain writing. Thank you for reading! Comments so very welcome. Also, I’d love to see you elsewhere on the web.

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lou hoffmann books square icon

Wednesday Words on Friday—Snow!

lou hoffmann books square iconOh my! it has been way too long since I’ve posted anything here. For those who’ve been following my progress on the re-publishing road, I’m sorry. The non-writing part of my life has been a busy sort of thing lately. Not bad, but crowded days that lead to tired—possibly lazy nights. Soooo….

I thought I’d play catch up. How about some Wednesday Words on Friday?

It also happens to be the 24th of December, just a few days after winter solstice, here in the northern hemisphere. Although people are celebrating all sorts of things around this time of year—and all the holidays and feasts are wonderful—nothing is quite as splendorous for the young as snow! One of my favorite songs ever, from the old movie, White Christmas—”Snow.”

It just so happens I have a suitable excerpt!

If you’ve seen previous excerpts or read the blurbs, you might know that The Sun Child Chronicles main character, 15-year-old Lucky, or Luccan, doesn’t remember his childhood. The last three years, which is what he does remember, has been spent in a dimension called Earth, in central California, where snow just doesn’t really happen. Well, in book 2 of the series, Wraith Queen’s Veil, he’s home. Not everything is going well for him, but one day he has a delightful reprieve from trouble.

Here are the “words.”

A few weeks after he arrived in Ethra, autumn treated the whole countryside to a ten-day sneak preview of winter. Like communities everywhere, the Sisterhold, with its outlying farms and villages, withdrew into itself. Short travel routes—from village to village, and to and from the Hold itself—were laboriously kept open, but few people would risk long-distance overland journeys, and the Portals of Naught had limited capacity, and anyway not everyone could use them.

Lucky found the wintry world refreshing, a vast weight removed from his newly burdened shoulders. Valley City, in Earth, rarely had snow at all, so winter outdoor pastimes were new endeavors for him and kept him happily occupied, allowing him to feel the joy of being young more than he had at any time since Hank George’s death over a year earlier. And everyone around him—even the most important people—seemed to let the limitations of inclement weather lighten their hearts a bit. The one real exception was Liliana, whom Lucky doggedly called Mom, as if that would somehow bring them closer. Lucky rarely saw Han, but the most wonderful afternoon of the snowy interlude came when Han came in to the Sisterhold’s kitchen while Lucky and Shehrice, the manor’s head housekeeper, sat at the hearth playing a game called skippers, which was almost exactly the same as the game Earthborns call checkers, and snacking on fresh bread pilfered from Cook’s cooling loaves.

“Luccan,” Han said. “I’m glad I found you.”

“You were looking for me, Uncle?”

“Yes. I have something for you, and I thought that with the new snowfall last night, today would be a good time to try it out.”

Shehrice grinned. “Go on, Luccan. You were going to lose again anyway.”

Lucky laughed and followed Han into the hall, where they donned boots and warm coats. Han finished lacing his high boots while Lucky was still trying to sort out the laces, and as he walked out the kitchen’s back door, he said, “Meet me at the hill behind the stables.”

When Lucky got there, Han was waiting with an artfully crafted toboggan in his hands. Unpainted except for the red steering bar and a twelve-rayed sun emblem on the centerboard, the wood had been oiled and polished to a high, slick sheen.

Lucky felt a bit tongue-tied, amazed that Han had been thinking of him—he hadn’t known.

“For me?” he asked, voice breaking annoyingly.

“Yes. Want to try it out?”

Of course he did. They walked to the top of the hill, and Han told him how to position himself and how to steer, and then gave him a push to get started. That first run was smooth sailing, and Lucky coaxed Han into taking a run next.

Han’s extra weight really got the thing going. He shouted “Whoo-hooo!” and when he crashed at the bottom, he laughed like a happy kid.

Lucky laughed with Han, and hugged him when he got back to the top, still smiling. “Thanks, Uncle,” he said. “I love it. I love you!” Instantly after saying that, Lucky thought, Oh my God! What did I just say!

Han’s smile fell a few degrees toward the serious, but he met Lucky’s worried gaze with calm. “I know you do, Luccan, and I love you. I’m glad you like the toboggan. It… it was mine. My brother… your father made it for me when I was ten.” He paused, getting a faraway look. Then he met Lucky’s eyes again. “Most of the things I had as a child were destroyed in a fire. This survived because I’d never put it away the last time I used it. I’ve cleaned it up a bit for you, slapped a little paint on. So”—he grinned—“your turn,”

I hope you enjoyed that!

(I confess, I remember loving the writing of it.) Thanks for reading, and whatever your season holds this time of year, I hope it’s full of joy and wonder.

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Sun Child Chronicles banner


Wednesday Words: Si Vis Pacem…

lou hoffmann books square iconVIC (Very Important Character) Han Shieth…

…carries a whole spectrum of duties on his two-century-old shoulders. First and foremost, he’s the wizard Thurlock’s “shield man.” His role as Lucky’s confidant and guardian rank second in importance officially, but if push came to shove, he’d throw over the wizard to save his nephew. He’s the best horseman and trainer in the Sunlands—see Windrunner, Simmarhon, Sherah, and Zefrel. But he’s a military man too, the general of all the Sunlands armed forces. And when he’s in the world of Ethra, that  takes up most of his time.

Dragon’s Rise

Book four in The Sun Child Chronicles is titled Dragon’s Rise for reasons that have a lot to do with Han, but wait until later to find out why. Right now , I just want to share with you a short excerpt from that book, a little of Han’s inner workings as he prepares himself to prepare the Sunlands for war.

Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

Han had enough experience of life to tell him that no time of trouble such as the Sunlands was now experiencing was likely to end peacefully. With great luck, they might not have war. But it would be foolish to blindly trust to that slim chance.

Si vis pacem, para bellum,” he whispered.

Warrior Han An Earthborn, a Roman named Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus had written those words a long time ago, and Han never forgot them after reading them while he was in Earth with Thurlock. It meant, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Like the military truisms in the writings of Earthborn Sun Tzu—in The Art of War—and the premises of the Sunlands’ own Laws of the Sword, the simple sentence stated a large truth in a nutshell. But Han didn’t think Renatus’s statement was true everywhere and always. Sometimes, building for war meant inviting attack. Still, he knew without a single doubt that when all the signs point to the need for a defense, it’s best to have one.

If he’d had any doubt that now was such a time, it vanished when he’d arrived home last night to find a copy of that very book of Renatus’s writings on his pillow with a bookmark at the relevant page. He’d smiled at the small gift, even though he understood the meaning of it was grim. It was one of the things Thurlock had always done for him through the long years they’d worked together: If they went separate ways for separate tasks, he gave Han something extra, something specific that he would need along the way. When he was to fight Isa’s thralls in Black Creek Ravine, it was flame arrows. And this time, the gift wasn’t so much the book as it was the boost to Han’s confidence in his own military mind.

That’s it for this week’s words.

Thank you so much for reading. Just a reminder: I’m still looking for alpha and beta readers (see the blog post just before this one)—contact me if interested.

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Hooded figures, abstract

Readers Wanted, Must Love YA Fantasy

Lou Hoffmann's smiling faceThe end goal of authoring and publishing a work of fiction is to connect with readers. But readers are important before  publishing too. Just like game or tech developers test their product by engaging beta testers, so authors use beta readers when they have a solid draft. Usually, a writer has written and self-edited at least a second draft of the novel before it’s ready for beta. Earlier “testers” might read parts of a novel, or the whole thing while the first draft is in the making. Those first readers are called, as you might guess, alpha readers.

Want to know more about alpha and beta readers?

Here are links to a couple of articles that provide a good overview on the topic. While the target readers for these posts are writers, the information works for everyone.

This article, written by author Aigner Loren Wilson, is aimed at writers. But the information is valuable for people on both sides of the author/beta table. Among other things it gives the following list of what qualities make a good beta reader.

  • Supportive readers
  • Honest and fair critics
  • Responsive
  • Tactful
  • Readers within story’s genre

cartoon cat reading a bookI’m betting you’re that kind of reader. If so, and you read YA Fantasy, read on—I’m looking to find betas like you for The Sun Child Chronicles.

This blog post, on a book formatter’s site called Word2Kindle, gives an overview of how to get into beta reading if you haven’t already done it, and has some great information on resources for beta readers and would-be beta readers.

Are you the reader I’m looking for?

Of course, each author has specific needs when it comes to what they’d like early readers to do for them. For the Sun Child Chronicles, I will ask beta readers to read each revised or book in the series when I’ve got a solid draft ready. I’m interested in hearing from readers who’d like to be on board for that process—I’m not there yet, but it won’t be long before I have book ready.

More immediately—

I’d like to gather alpha readers for a special project. Book 1 is being more extensively revised than any of the rest of the series. In fact, though the story hasn’t changed, the first chapters in book 1 will be almost entirely rewritten. I’d like a small team of readers willing to read the old chapters and the new and answer vital questions that will help me get it right for publication.

If you’re interested, please contact me!

You can comment here on the blog, or try a message on Messenger, but possibly the best way to reach me would be a Direct Message via Twitter.  Once we’re in touch, we can discuss the project. I will appreciate all feedback from alpha and beta readers, and I’ll do my best to make it a rewarding experience.

Find my Lou Hoffmann Books page on Facebook

On Twitter, I’m @Lou_Hoffmann

That’s all I’ve got on early readers today, but here’s a tiny snippet from that rewrite of Key of Behliseth’s first chapters (rough, unedited, but hopefully tantalizing).

A long snippet, or a short excerpt

To set the scene, Lucky has fled the place he’s called home for the last year and gone to an abandoned, decaying “housing projects” where he’d stayed before, a place used by many homeless people. Sammy, the teen he runs into, was once a friend.

He picked up his stride—it didn’t pay to look too lost or aimless in a place like this—and kept his eyes moving, scanning the street the covered porches, the shadows between desiccated shrubs. At first everything seemed ordinary enough. But then, oddly as if conjured out of his thoughts, he saw the boy who’d given him that kiss a year ago coming toward him along the dinged-up pavement.

“Hey, Sammy.”

“Lucky! What are you doing here, man? Haven’t seen you for ages.”

“I been staying out… on the edge of town, an old house.” Lucky’s shack and what he was doing for money these days weren’t exactly secrets, but something stopped him from being more specific. Though he was no stranger to these sudden intuitions, he still wished he knew what that something was, where the silent warning came from.

“Got you a sugar daddy or somethin’?”

“Hell, no!”

“Hm. Too good for that, too, huh?”

Lucky was hit hard enough by that remark that he took a step back. “You know it ain’t like that, Isamu.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“It’s your name.”

Sam stepped closer—too close—and breathed right in Lucky’s face. “Shut up about it, okay. But listen, can you help a brother out? I hear you got yourself a little business. You must be doing all right. You’ll share with me won’t you, sweet thing?”

“Sweet thing?”

“Aw, you know how I feel about you. And speaking of names you ain’t never told me yours. Tell me that, and I’ll call you by it proper.”

Hooded figures, abstractLucky wanted to say, all I’m going to tell you is to take your alcohol breath and needle tracks and get out of my face. Instead, his name—his real name—started to bubble up on his tongue. “Luc—”

He choked it off, and was about to flee—something he was good at, since being able to run fast kept him out of jail and who knows where else. He had no parents, no papers, no past, no identity. If a cop or even a social worker pinned him down and started asking questions, he’d probably end up in an institution.

But speed didn’t matter at the moment, because everything changed. The darkness hovering in shadows seemed to flow out to cover the already strangled light on the streets of the old projects. By the time Lucky’s vision adjusted Sammy had turned his back and walked ten feet away, and then he vanished.

Shapes came toward Lucky—human shapes, more than likely, covered in black robes with hoods pulled up to shadow their faces. They took mechanical steps and chanted. Lucky blinked, trying to clear his mind of what must be hallucinations. But when he looked again, not only were the black-cloaked people still shuffling toward him, but the world had slipped away.

He glanced to the sides and behind him—yes, he was still standing in the projects, but out there… in front of him lay a rocky field of ice.

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Newborn Lucky in his father's hands

Wednesday Words—Good, Bad, Ugly

lou hoffmann books square iconHello!

In this week’s Wednesday Words, get a glimpse of three powers. Three people important in The Sun Child Chronicles, book 1, Key of Behliseth. Three people whom, whether they’re good, bad, or ugly, fifteen year-old Lucky might wish he’d never met.

Good: Thurlock Ol’Karrigh, Premier Wizard of the Ethran Sunlands

You’ve already been introduced and seen that in addition to being very powerful, he’s extremely grumpy, no doubt owing to his great (seriously great) age. Of course, no one can rack up a thousand years of life without gathering regrets. And some of the most troubling of Thurlock’s regrets center around main character, Lucky—or Luccan as those in his home world know him.

Thurlock’s sorrow—a memory

It was Luccan’s twelfth birthday, the day he should have received his cardinal name so he could begin to gather the strength it would impart. Knowing a little of what his fortune might hold, the wizard thought surely the youngster would soon need all the strength he could find.

Newborn Lucky in his father's handsAcross the vale stood the neat, sunlit windows and varnished logs of Sisterhold Manor, Luccan’s home. Beyond that, in the near distance, Oakridge rose form the hillside like a monument to history. When Luccan was only two hours old, Thurlock had brought him out into the summer dawn and fumbled him into his father’s strong but equally fumbling hands. The man had carried his child to the sun-sparked granite on the ridge and whispered a name into his ear. A powerful name known only to them. Witnessed solely by the wind.

And now, his birthday would pass without its most important gift. Because of what Thurlock had not done on Luccan’s first day, disaster threatened. For Luccan, for the Sunlands, perhaps for all the world of Ethra.

The infant, of course, had forgotten the name. His father had become lost. And the Gods’ Breath, fabled dawn wind of the Sunlands, kept its secrets.

Bad: Isa, The Witch Mortaine

Yes, you’ve met her too. She’s thoroughly unpleasant. You saw her before launching a more-powerful-than-most minion on an unsuspecting Earth. But here, listen in on her thoughts on his twelfth birthday. Thurlock had regrets. Isa has plans. And for Lucky, they spell doom.

She’ll let him live—for now

Privately, Isa thought it would be best to kill the boy and have done. Granted, the recent strange behavior of time brought opportunity. And true, the boy’s unformed powers might boost her own—in the service of her master, of course—if she could subvert them.

Yes, she would bow to the wishes of the Lord Mahl, and alter her course. The boy would live, long enough at least to determine if he could be put to use. If the costs in time and effort then grew too vast, the boy’s death would destroy the enemy’s hopes, and Mahl would be appeased.

She took tock of her image in the looking glass. The light filtering through the icy walls fo her keep lit her eyes with blue fire and emphasized her long bones and sharp angles. The reflection pleased her . Gone was the soft-faced girl of ages past, the girl who had been a fool. Staring back from the silvered glass was a woman of power, a witch who could wait for reward.

Yes. She would sow seeds now for the Sunlands’ defeat. Later, when she reaped vengeance against the one man who mattered, the fruit would be that much sweeter.

Form glass shelves holding bottles, boxes, and vials, she gather the bits she would need for the spell.

Midsummer stood on the cusp. The moment for cold, hard magic had come.

Ugly: He’s called Hench…

…but who is he really? And why does he matter?

Hate is a larval vampire

The walls of the Witch-Mortaine’s tower, glass colored blue like deep ice, stole the last of the day’s light from dusk. A man with heavy chestnut curls and a scarred face limped along the crow’s walk, circling round and round. His steps fell as listless as his greasy hair, and his mangled left hand dragged along the thin rail that separated the pinnacle from the clouds it speared. The cold steel burned and he pulled the nearly useless limb against his body, trying to rub life into it with his better hand.

The tower rose from a boulder strewn plain below the twin pillars of Death of the Gods, rooted between high-ridges, veiled in spells. At this hour the entire crater lay in shadow. But even with one eye, Hench’s vision was sharp. He could see cars sliding along Valley City’s roads trailing columns of red and white like snakes of light.Hench's view of Valley City roads, "snakes of light."

He imagined the people piloting them, tired Earthborns who wished they’d already arrived wherever they were going.

He wondered about their lives.

Did they have any kind of magic? Had they ever had it? Had any of them possessed magic and love and a good life and lost it all? He wondered whether their cars would pile up in a panicked crash if they but once saw through the magical veils and glimpsed the deadly crystal beauty of the spire from which he gazed.

He worked his shoulder into a painful shrug, wishing he could rid himself of the black shadow that weighed him down. A shadow he himself had created out of anger. And hate. He shook his head in persistent disbelief that it had overtaken him so easily, so fast.

He’d committed himself to vengeance, and the shadow had been born. A larval vampire that fed on his spirit, consumed his strength, crushed all joy. It grew stronger with every cruel choice, every time he lashed out burning with rage. It fouled his every step, turned even his best intentions to evil end, drained him of substance as surely as if it had torn his heart and bled him dry. The remains had become a joke, fool to a fiendish witch, tool in the hands of the person he most hated.


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Lucky found the way out of the collapsed Portal cave.

Wednesday Words: Wraith Queen’s Veil

lou hoffmann books square iconThis week’s Wednesday Words…

…are a little different. This is a long excerpt with a playful slant, but an important moment for Lucky. Book two of The Sun Child Chronicles, Wraith Queen’s Veil, opens with Lucky and Thurlock in the midst of a magical trip between worlds after having defeated evil in the form of Isa, The Witch Mortaine.

At fifteen, Lucky has to step up.

Lucky’s own newly recognized magical ability is responsible (in large part) for their escape with their lives. But when he begins to doubt, their conjured transport… well, crashes. Now he’d like to go back to letting other, more experienced people—like the wizard Thurlock—take charge, take responsibility, and get him out of trouble. But there’s no going back. He’s going to have to step up.

Here’s what happens when Lucky and a grumpy wizard crash land in a collapsed Portal:

Lucky stopped, everything stopped, as he slammed up against something rough—hit it hard enough to bounce off and skid over another hard surface flat on his back. All remained dark, but Lucky had a sense that the darkness had changed, somehow taken on somethingness. It felt cold and carried a mineral smell, and perhaps he could even feel its elusive presence on his skin. Skin that burned from numerous scrapes and objected painfully to the rough surface on which he lay.

What the…? Yes, that must be it. I’ve died and this is the Ethran version of hell.

It seemed plausible. He could smell sulfur. Although he couldn’t quite put that together with the cold. Aside from that, he smelled damp and stone, and heard dripping, and…. Tik-tik-tik, tik-tik. Like beetles and spiders with either big feet or else tiny tap shoes.

He might be dead and it might be hell, or maybe not. The best way to find out for sure would be to investigate. As sore as every part of him was, the prospect of moving alarmed him, but he tried anyway. It wasn’t going to be easy. Every time he shifted anything larger than a finger or toe, either his head started spinning or pain exploded like a geyser.

Gritting his teeth, he raised his arms—glad they were still attached and still worked—and felt around for nearby surfaces.

Maybe I’m just in a coffin, not hell.

Nothing close on either side, apparently, so not a coffin. Doing his best to ignore the ache in his head, he sat up. Or he tried to sit up. He didn’t make it all the way before he cracked his forehead on another unforgiving, rough surface. His “Ouch!” echoed back at least four times.

Lucky found the way out of the collapsed Portal cave.Feeling around with his hands, he discovered a wall, probably rock, behind him. What he’d smacked his head on stuck out from the wall, but not far. He surmised the darkness was really inside a large hollow space, like a cave, which explained the echo. He said to himself (and possibly to the echo), “But… where the heck am I?”

“How the heck should I know?”

That voice came out of the dark and dead silence somewhere around Lucky’s feet. Startled, Lucky again tried to sit up, again smacked his head, and this time his “ouch” turned into a scream. Before he had time to think, he kicked his legs wildly in self-defense. His foot met flesh with a crack.

“Uufh,” the voice commented, and then after a few seconds, “Luccan, stop! It’s me, Thurlock!”

“Oh.” Lucky waited for the wizard to say something else. When that didn’t happen, he gathered up his courage and asked, “Are you all right?”

“We-e-ell,” Thurlock said.

Lucky had not been aware that so much drawling sarcasm could be stuck into one syllable. Thurlock stayed quiet for quite a few seconds, and Lucky supposed he should try to say something. Before he thought of what might work, Thurlock continued.

“Well, certainly,” the wizard said. “Certainly I’m all right, Lucky, unless you count my head, which feels cracked like a melon; my ribs, which you just kicked in, undoubtedly all set to puncture my lungs if the pain of breathing is any indication; and my fingers, which I somehow jammed between two rather hard, sharp objects—just a guess they might be rocks—as we arrived here in our luxury accommodations, which are of course the absolute epitome of comfort, albeit a bit cramped.”

A brief silence followed, and then Thurlock said, “Perhaps you should breathe, Luccan.”

Lucky realized he had indeed been holding his breath. He remedied that and started to say thank you, but Thurlock had more to say.

“Oh, and of course I do feel a bit spent, having had a rather full day jam-packed with exciting activities such as rescuing teenage boys—”

“Boy,” Lucky corrected.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Only one boy.”

“Luccan, I’m feeling a bit out of sorts. Continue to breathe without talking for a moment while I finish. Can you do that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Not ‘sir,’ to you. Just Thurlock. As I was saying—”



Oh crap! I said that out loud. “Never mind, sorry.”

“Precisely. As I was saying, rescuing one single teenage boy, and battling one witch and one god, while short on rations. So yes, I feel like I’m a thousand years old.”

Thurlock’s voice had risen steadily on those two last sentences, and by the time he was done, Lucky could hear pebbles and sand falling, having been shaken loose, he thought, by the wizard’s booming voice.

Thurlock shifted and groaned and grunted. The bug feet went tik-tik-tik, and something somewhere continued to drip. After a while Lucky said, “Thurlock?”

No answer.



“You are a thousand years old.”

No response.


Tik-tik…. Drip….

Breathe, Lucky. “Thurlock?”

No response.

“I’m dizzy. Or something.”

The wizard grunted and said, “Post-translation.”


“It passes.”

Next Lucky heard a deep wizardish groan and the sound of loud breathing. And, of course, tik-tik-tik.



“I’m going to be sick.”

“Well, turn the other way, please!” The old man’s voice couldn’t have been gruffer, but Lucky felt a warm, familiar hand giving his ankle a reassuring squeeze. He lay still and he wasn’t sick, and he started to feel like he could tell up from down. He sighed in relief, but after he stopped worrying about throwing up and having his bearings, he started thinking about the situation, and fear came galloping in, riding roughshod over everything else.


Again, a squeeze of Lucky’s ankle. Tik-tik…. Drip-drip-drip….



“Are we going to die here?”

A snort, this time, and then a groan.

“Are we?”

Sigh. “Don’t be silly, Lucky. I’m a thousand-year-old wizard, and you’re a smart fifteen-year-old Suth Chiell. Surely we’ll think of something. Just give it a minute.”

Breathe, Luccan, breathe.

Silence. Darkness. Drip-drip-drip…. Cold.


“Still here.”

“Where’s everyone else?”

“Where we left them, I’m sure.”

“Are they okay? Han and everybody? Maizie?”

Silence. For a long time.

Thurlock cleared his throat. “I think so. I hope so. I can’t say for sure, because I’ve been with you. The last I saw them, they were outside the tower finishing off a fight with Isa’s people. And Han was preparing to finish off a great blue salamander.”

“A lizard?”


“Oh.” Lucky decided not to pursue that idea, because he had other things, other thoughts cropping up. Most troubling, he kept seeing his father as he was in the battle against the witch. His already maimed left side, his empty eye socket. But his amazing strength and skill in the fight, and… a smile just before he gave Lucky his cardinal name, and the peace he seemed to find in dying. There in the dark, Lucky sort of expected tears, but instead a vivid childhood memory bled through the remnants of the spell that had locked them away three years ago.

“I remember when I was a little boy. My father took me on his horse.”

“Yes, Luccan,” Thurlock said, not nearly as gruff. “He did.”

“He loved me… then.”

“He did.”

“He loved me when he came to the witch’s tower.”

“Yes.” Thurlock patted his ankle.

More silence followed, more darkness. More Tik-tik. Drip-drip-drip. Lucky shivered. He supposed he should try to think about getting out of this place, wherever it was, because it didn’t seem like the wizard was doing it. In fact, Lucky thought perhaps the old man had fallen asleep.


“Not dead yet.”

“Why don’t you make some light?”

“This is the collapsed entry to a Portal, Lucky, a vortex. I told you about vortices. Magic doesn’t work, remember?”

“Why don’t we go through the Portal, then?”

“Key word here, ‘collapsed.’”

Lucky decided to wait for Thurlock to get ready to do whatever he was going to do to get them out of this. He had utmost faith. To his credit, he was quiet for a long time, during which he counted thirty-one drips and forty-seven tik-tiks.


“I’m going to change my name.”

“I think there’s a glow. Over there.”

“A glow, huh? That could be useful.”

“Do you see it? Over there?”

“Well, Lucky.”

There was that sarcastic drawl again. Maybe Lucky had been mistaken when he thought the wizard’s mood had improved.

“For starters,” Thurlock said, “it’s very dark in here. Also, I’m keeping my eyes closed because my head hurts a little less that way, and with my eyes closed all I see are stars. With them open I see more stars—I think that might be my brain’s way of pretending there’s light in here. Judging from the increased pain in my head at those times, I’d say that has nothing at all to do with the reported glow. So you see,” he continued, “I can’t see your hand, and I will have no idea what direction you’re indicating no matter how many times you point and say, ‘Over there.’”

Lucky could tell the old man wasn’t himself—probably due to a head injury, he thought. Or rather, he was himself, only more so. Lucky tried to be understanding, tried to stay calm. But, even though Thurlock patted his ankle now and then and made a number of unpleasant old-man noises, Lucky felt like he was all alone with his thoughts, and the path they led him down wasn’t a pretty one.

Maybe we are going to die here. Maybe there’s no way out. Maybe that’s why Thurlock isn’t doing anything. Lucky shivered but then took his wandering mind firmly to task, determined not to rush to conclusions. If we were going to die, surely he’d be trying to comfort me. He’s just tired. I only need to wait.

He lay still, breathing, listening to the tiks and the drips, and the grunts, shuffles, and moans. He felt the air move over his skin. It felt odd, and it took a few seconds for him to realize what it meant.

“Thurlock? I feel a draft.”

“That must be refreshing. I feel pain and something hideous crawling on me.”

That bit of dry wit was all Lucky could bear. He felt pretty sure he was going to cry, and in his mind he counted off a list of reasons it wouldn’t matter if he did.

  1. They were going to die there.
  2. It was dark and no one would see him cry.
  3. They were going to die there.
  4. There was already a dripping noise so his tears would blend right in.
  5. They were going to die there.

Of course, none of the hideous background noises could hide the sob that escaped as he counted off number five.

The wizard sneezed, and then he spoke. “Lucky, listen, young man. Here’s what you should know at the moment. I am hurt and I feel sick. I’m sure it’s not serious—I’m pretty hard to kill—but for this moment I feel quite helpless. I do not like feeling helpless. I’m not at all used to it, and the result of it is that I am irritable.”

Tik-tik, drip. From Thurlock, a moment’s silence, but somehow Lucky knew he was only pausing for thought, so he waited.

“Well, more irritable than usual, I should say. In any case, don’t pay my grumpiness any mind. Truly, a glow and a draft—that’s very good. Exactly what we need. But as I said, I’m basically helpless right now. I’m going to need your help again. You know how getting out of a place like this works because you’ve done it before, when you landed in the cave on Earth. This time you’ve got a grouchy old man along for company. You can handle that, right?”

Thurlock waited, so Lucky very quietly said, “Right.”

“Try to get turned so you can move toward the glow and the draft—do they come from the same direction?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Good. Okay. Go carefully, so you don’t get hurt or fall into a pit or something. Go slowly, so I can hold on to your ankle when we’re crawling, or your shoulder if we get to someplace we can walk. That way I won’t get lost, and as long as I’ve got hold of you, we’ll both know we’re in this together. I am sick and half-blind at the moment, but if we run into a problem, I might still be good to have around.”

When Thurlock stopped talking, it only took Lucky a few seconds to realize some response was probably a good idea. “Oh, uh, yes sir.”

“Good, but you don’t have to agree so enthusiastically.”

“Sorry, sir.”

“Just kidding, and stop calling me sir.”

Lucky wasn’t sure how he could tell, but he was pretty sure Thurlock was grinning. Then he turned serious again.

“But, young man, here’s what else is important. Are you listening?”

“Um….” Tik-tik…. Drip…. “Yes?”

“Good. Pay attention. I trust you, Luccan, Suth Chiell. I’d trust you with my life. I am trusting you with my life. But it’s not a problem. As you will someday come to know, I and a multitude of other people would follow you anywhere. So face that light, let me latch on, and lead me out of here.”


“Get used to it, Lucky, it’s your job.”

Tik-tik. Drip.

“Move it, boy!”

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K'ormahk, winged stallion in The Sun Child Chronicles

Beasts, Dragons, and Fantasy Folks

Hello readers! This post isn’t about what I’m changing and new things I’m doing. Switching things up, today I’m going to tell you about something that won’t change.

Fantasy world populations: huge and strange

The Sun Child Chronicles develops a huge cast of characters and creatures by the time it gets into the fifth book. The variety of experience for readers (and authors) is one of the things I love best about the genre. Fantasy plots are thick and enticing. Well-written fantasy usually often includes delightfully balanced prose—lyrical, but not overdone. But I love the vast potential for variety in the beings that inhabit a fantasy world. To complicate things even more deliciously, some fantasies also venture into sci-fi. In The Sun Child Creatures, the Terrathians and their strange apparatus definitely fall into that category, along with some plot and world-structure elements.

Lists and pictures and things, oh my!

Below you’ll find a glossary-type list of some of the characters, beasts, and creatures introduced by book 3 in The Sun Child Chronicles. I hope you enjoy it, but if you want to go looking for other strange creatures, here are a few references I found.

  1. A list with some images of creatures from mythology, on
  2. Here’s a Pinterest (Shelby Peterson) with hundreds of images of “humanoid” fantasy beings. View with caution. Some images may be dark or disturbing.
  3. And—no surprise—there’s a Wikipedia! The Fantasy Creatures Category has a list with many subcategories. One could get lost down this rabbit hole!

Characters and Creatures

(A List of some important players introduced in Key of Behliseth, Wraith Queen’s Veil, and Ciarrah’s Light)

The Main Characters

Others, in Alphabetical Order

A-BImage and text: I am Baneshieldh, the wolf who keeps these woods.

  • Aedanh: Liliana’s renowned stallion
  • Ahrion: a legendary white winged horse
  • Alahn Kahrry: an elder of the Sisterhold
  • Artko Mak: A bear shifter from Earth
  • Baneshieldh: wolf who rules his forest, where magic doesn’t work
  • Black Dragon: a rare wingless dragon native to the Ehls
  • Blue Drakes: a magically mutated creature made from green dragon eggs


  • Cairnwights: thin humanoid residents of Ethra’s far north, glacier wolf handlers
  • Caveblight: an Ethran animal, single eye, hunts by heat, teeth like a beaver but pointed
  • Ciarrah: an ancient dragon-kin girl, Niamh’s sister, now an obsidian magical dagger
  • Dawn cats: large wild felines who hunt at dawn, also called venom cats or death kittens
  • Gerania: second in command of Behlishan’s Guard, Zhevi’s mother’s cousin
  • Ghriffon: King of the flame eagles
  • Glacier wolves: a pack-oriented Ethran canine; large, shaggy, with double rows of teeth
  • Guriohl: Morrow’s seventh son, Lucky’s boyfriend, also known as Rio

K'ormahk, winged stallion in The Sun Child ChroniclesH-K

  • Hank George: older Earthborn man of the Kotah’neh people, took Lucky in when he was banished to Earth at age 12
  • Henry George: nephew of Hank George, last bearer of the Mark of the Others, Sacramento firefighter, California Condor Shifter
  • Isa, the Witch-Mortaine: a witch thoroughly possessed by evil
  • Jehnseth: an official at the Sisterhold, a witch
  • Khoralie: a wizard of Ethra
  • Koehl: sergeant in Behlishan’s Guard
  • K’ormahk: a mighty, winged black stallion


  • L’Aria Tira: young girl tied to Lucky by prophecy, only child of Tiro L’Rieve, possessor of River Song magic
  • Lemon Martinez: a grumpy grey cat Thurlock and Han found under the Martinez Bridge
  • Liliana, The Lady Grace: Lucky’s mother, member of the Sunlands council, chief of the elite cavalry known as Shanha’s Rangers, renowned and infamous witch
  • Mahros: ill-tempered, resentful, powerful wizard related to Thurlock;
  • Maizie: a yellow mongrel dog Lucky raised during his time as a homeless teen
  • Morrow, the Stable Master: an immortal who, with his seven sons, raises horses


  • Nahk’tesh: Naht’kah’s eternal consort and her magical opposite, also known as the taker
  • Naht’kah: ancestor of all dragons and the Drakha and Droghona, also known as the giver
  • Nat’Kori: ancient Drakha stone wright who shaped Ciarrah and Niamh
  • Niamh: an ancient dragon-kin boy, Ciarrah’s brother, now an amber magical dagger
  • Olana: respected Droghona elder, gifted light-worker
  • Olmar: lieutenant (later captain) in Behlishan’s Guard
  • Pahlanus: powerful Terrathian Prime


  • Rosishan: Lucky’s aunt, Liliana’s half sister, council member, renowned witch
  • Sherah: Thurlock’s renowned mare
  • Simarrohn: Han’s well-trained mare
  • Tahlina: healer at the Sisterhold
  • Talon Bastien: speaker of the eagle-shifter clan from Earth
  • Tennehk: Good friend of Han, spy, nurse
  • Tiro L’Rieve: oldest living being in Ethra, only native Ethran shifter, origin of River Song magic, L’Aria’s father

Windrunner image—He wasn't always called Windy.W-Z

  • Windrunner: An old white horse now known as Windy
  • Wraith Queen: the wraith of a once living queen; helps the Ethran dead move on
  • Zefrehl: Lucky’s horse, a descendant of Windrunner
  • Zhevi: young soldier, Lucky’s good friend, L’Aria’s boyfriend


Thanks for reading!

I hope these brief descriptions set your imagination spinning. 🙂 And please feel free to ask questions or comment—tell me your favorite creature or whatever. You can comment here or find me on Facebook or Twitter.


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Magical girl L'Aria in water with gem

Wednesday Words: L’Aria—Magic, Sass

Hello! Wednesday Words this week is a bit longer than the previous. I want you to meet an important character—L’Aria Tira. She’s known for being magical in a big way, sharing an inborn talent called River Song with only one other person in Ethra—her father. On the flip side, she’s known for being independent, headstrong, capable, and sassy as hell. And her fate is tied to Luccan’s. A slight disclaimer—I’m revising before re-releasing, so the words (though not the story or the characters) may change in the new edition.)

Words about Fate

This is from Key of Behliseth (The Sun Child Chronicles #1), and it shows how L’Aria’s life is entwined with Lucky’s. (And, coincidentally, it also reveals a strange truth about Lucky’s life.)

As L’Aria was the only child of the strangest, most enigmatic man in Ethra, everyone had always known she was unique. But on the night of Luccan’s disappearance, it had become clear how important she was to Ethra’s future and how closely her fate was tied to Luccan’s. That night, she’d fallen into a stupor and couldn’t be roused even by Thurlock. Finally, her father, the legendary Tiro, had carried her away to Greenwood Forest. Neither had been seen again for twenty-nine years.

Last year, the day after Thurlock and Han had come to Earth, she’d shown up alone at the Sisterhold, still a girl, only two years older than she had been the day of Luccan’s disappearance. Every wizard, witch, and scholar in the Sunlands and beyond ran to the scrolls. Histories, prophecies, and theories papered walls and tables and even floors in studies and classrooms around the globe.

But it was Rosishan, the least scholarly of all the great witches, who’d figured it out. L’Aria’s fate was inextricably tied to Luccan’s. Luccan had aged in Earth years, and so had she. Born at spring equinox forty-one Ethran years ago, this year she’d turned fourteen.


Words about the Magic

Here’s a few paragraphs from Wraith Queen’s Veil (The Sun Child Chronicles #2) showing her using her song, preparing to help some soldiers get through a flood to a badly placed portal so they can leave Earth and get back home to Ethra.

Barefoot, ragged, and beautiful, with a gem on her forehead flashing back the early light, she walked into the water—back straight, chink proud, hands held open at her sides.

She was singing as she went, a high, ethereal melody with a thousand inner harmonies. Magical girl L'Aria in water with gem

L’Aria’s magic flowed ahead of her in waves like another stream. She walked in deeper, and when the water touched her fingertips, it calmed and cleared, revealing every rock and crevice that lurked beneath it’s surface.

The soldiers followed, leading their horses and letting them put their hooves down carefully. She led them in a sickle curve across the flats that had become a flood, keeping them away from the swirling water where Isa’s keep had been. When they came to the deeper, faster waters racing down Black Creek’s usual course, the portal loomed high above, but only short yards ahead.

L’Aria stopped and her song changed subtly; it seemed more insistent. She clasped her hands together, curved into a graceful dive, and disappeared beneath the rough waters. For seconds the current danced with lights—turquoise, violet, tender green. When they faded, the water stilled in a swath from the creek’s banks to the foot of the broken pillars. It took on a sea-green translucence the exact color of L’Aria’s gem.

Thanks for reading—I hope it wets your appetite. 🙂

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