About “comps,” as if you asked

Last week, I blogged about possible strategies for re-releasing The Sun Child Chronicles. This week I’m blogging short and sweet (or down and dirty) about a specific marketing issue. No matter how TSCC is published in the end, I will need “comps” to market it. And they’re not that easy to find! (If by some chance you want to know more, try this excellent article by literary agent and author Paula Munier.

Comps explained

If you’re part of the book-industry world, you probably already know about comps, but for those who aren’t let me Lou-splain. (See what I did there—like mansplain but with Lou instead… Not that funny. Okay.) I’ll keep it short. These days, when an author tells an agent, editor, or potential reader about their book, their expect it to name books that are like it. But you don’t stop there, generally. It’s best if you can say the book is like some kind of mashup—though of course it is still supposed to be a wholly original take on a similar theme.

Comp examples

Here’s an oversimplified example. Someone might have a book that’s about an orphan boy whose parents left him magic beans. But unlike the old tale, he climbs the bean vine up to a secret wizarding school. Comp: Jack in the Bean Stalk meets Harry Potter.

Or, by author. Like say, a murder at a horse race takes place in Victorian England, and a private enquiry agent competes with police to solve the crime first. Comp: Dick Francis meets Anne Perry.

Or maybe the multiple comp mash-up: An organization of masked swordsmen in a future earth run by buffoon aliens are tasked with culling a certain number of people each year to avoid overpopulation. Comp: Scythe meets The Mask of Zorro, with a touch of Men in Black.

The Challenge for The Sun Child Chronicles

I’m starting to try to figure out the best comps for this series, but it’s going to take some research. I mean, for best results, comp books should have several of the following elements:

  • A male, teenage protagonist
  • Important characters of all ages and genders
  • Racial diversity
  • At least some LGBTQ+ characters
  • Parallel worlds
  • Interdimensional boundary lands
  • Some real-world feel contemporary scenes with fantasy elements
  • A “sword and sorcery” world
  • Magic
  • Future-feel tech
  • Fantasy creatures
  • aliens
  • Warrior characters and epic battles
  • Romantic subplots
  • Fated destiny
  • Coming of age
  • Humor or wit

I will find them!

But you can help me. If you know a book that you might think fits the bill, let me know and if I’m not actually familiar with it, I’ll add it to my reading list. Leave a comment here, or direct message me on Twitter or via my Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you.

The list so far

So far, I’ve had these suggestions:

  • Tempests and Slaughter (The Numair Chronicles book 1) by Tamora Pearce
  • Dark Rise (Dark Rise book 1) by C.S. Pacat
  • The Wheel of Time series (Robert Jordan completed by Brandon Sanderson)
  • The Ranger’s Apprentice series (John Flanagan)
  • Works by author Anne McCaffery and author Amy Lane

I haven’t decided if any of them are “the right comps.” Opinions welcome. 🙂

Before you go, here’s a few words from the revised (but still not set in stone) 1st chapter of book 1, Key of Behliseth

The closer he got to his shed, the blacker the night seemed. Mist rose up from the gorge, swirling and twisting before it settled ghostlike over the small structure. But an owl called and flew over the pines, drawing Lucky’s eye eastward. To his surprise, the sky there still held a violet memory of the sun. The round moon hung blood-red between the twin rock spires known as Death of the Gods.

Like an omen.

Shit. I hate omens.

That’s all, folks

Thanks for stopping by. If you enjoy the blog, please feel free to leave comments, hit the like or share buttons, or subscribe! I hope to get a newsletter going soon.

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Green dragon





Sun Child Chronicles banner

Wednesday Words—Time for Romance?

Can teen/YA Fantasy have romance?

Better to ask, how could it not? The Sun Child Chronicles is no exception. Main character Lucky had no time for romance when he was living in Valley City, California. And in fact he was on guard against it. But once he’s back to his home world of Ethra, romance finds him. Yes, the series remains solidly in the fantasy genre. But, though his romance (and a couple of others) don’t get a lot of page time, the love stories are more than subplots. Honestly, they’re part of the mortar holding together the fantasy plot.

A little about the excerpt

This week’s Wednesday Words are from WIP, Kaynenh’s Triad, to be book 5 of The Sun Child Chronicles. Lucky and his boyfriend, Rio, have just been reunited after a long time apart. They’re delighted about that. Unfortunately, all is not right in Ethra.


After all the others had gone still or at least hushed, the two teens stepped out on a path that had been worn between the tents and the place where the horses were corralled. With Rio softly soothing the horses so they wouldn’t get riled, they made their way farther along to a glade where a stream cut through.Lucky and Rio about to kiss

Frogs croaked, crickets played their monotonous tunes, and a pair of owls called to each other across the night. It seemed a pleasant place, private, perfect for two young men who were, they felt sure, in love and destined to stay that way.

A stream ran by maybe a hundred steps downslope, its song gentle, even joyous, the moon’s face broken over the water’s surface where it was clear of shadow. Lucky and Rio smiled at each other, taking it in, and went down to the bank. A few yards upstream they found a long-fallen log at just about the right height for sitting. They spread their blanket over it, sat together, and kissed.


Because then they looked up, and everything had changed.

Sounds ominous, I know.

Thanks and stuff

In the near future, look for news about other ways to keep up with progress on The Sun Child Chronicles, as well as news about publishing plans, and maybe target dates. For now, thanks for reading. I’d love to hear from you, so feel free to comment here. Or—

Find my Lou Hoffmann Books page on Facebook

On Twitter, I’m @Lou_Hoffmann



Isa's worktable potions

Fork—Road! And excerpt: the evil one

A multi-book series like The Sun Child Chronicles is a big project, with a lot of content to complete and coordinate, and a lot of tasks outside of writing. I’ve of course been working on content right along. But this week I also turned my desk lamp toward one of those outside tasks—answering the big question: How will I publish this?


A four-tine fork in the road Literally, the cliché fork in the road

The options are limited, of course. I can tick them off on the fingers of one hand, not even using my thumb. (And yes, that image is cliché. But I couldn’t resist.)

  • Get an agent and let them handle selling my book to a big, traditional publishing house, brokering a deal worth thousands.
  • Flag down a busy acquiring editor from one of those publishers and hook them on my book.
  • Find interested mid-sized or small publishers. These are called “indie” (for independent), but it’s still considered “traditional” publishing.
  • Publish the series myself. This gives me all the control over when and how, aesthetic and content. And it carries with it a whole new set of choices I won’t go into here.


Let me break that down, as they say

Honestly, I’d love to go with choice one—a great agent who loves my book who sells it to a publisher who loves my book… But it’s not that easy. I think I’d have a good chance if I were touting a brand-new book, standalone with the potential to become a series. After all, I have credentials as a traditionally published author, experience in the process, and so forth. But a little research has yet to yield any agent who’s likely to look at a the previously published, revised four books of a series, even though it brings along plenty of new writing including book five now and more to come.

Option two is similar. Dream-come-true potential, but also difficult to find. And working directly with such an editor puts negotiation on my plate, and I can’t say I’ve got great skill in that arena. The only time I ever proved to be great at bargaining was one summer long ago when I sold fireworks on the rez. A book deal is slightly more complex.

Option three… Been there, done that. It ended with me having to reclaim my rights because of that publisher’s behavior. Still, I won’t rule a small to mid-size publisher out, but it would have to be really attractive terms with a solid future. I’m not sure that animal still exists in the wild.


Which way is the wind blowing?

So, bottom line: even though my mind is not made up and I’m staying open to all the great maybes, the wind is blowing my land yacht steadily toward self-publishing.


Why could that be a good thing for readers?

Because I can focus on getting content ready to publish and then release on my own timeline, self-publishing could mean more book availability, sooner. And I’d be free to set discounts and giveaways, and maybe even a perma-free book. Generally, publishers don’t like that sort of thing, and they keep it under their control.

If I self-publish, I will continue to finish up book 5, but focus also on getting book one ready and released sooner rather than later. It’s a bit of work—I’m revising, polishing, updating it to make it an irresistible read. (Yes, you’re right, I should add “I hope” to that. But really, I’m certain it will be a fun read that will draw you right into Lucky’s life, and the troubles of the strange twin worlds he inhabits. Because there are “bad guys.”)


Speaking of the bad guys

So far I’ve introduced you to wizards, a warrior, and of course The Sun Child. But some of the people you’ll meet in the series are not the sort you’d want to invite over for brunch. Let me introduce you to Isa, the Witch-Mortaine, and Mordred Brede. He’s: evil, arrogant, and altogether unpleasant, and I’ve yet to decide if he has any redeeming qualities. On the other hand, Isa—the true twisted one in Key of Behliseth—has a tragic backstory.


Isa's worktable potionsIsa sat at the glass worktable in her chamber, surrounded by potions and powders and horrid things pickled in brine. Pale blue fire lit the room beyond, sending tints and shadows to dance over her pallid hands. Exhausted, she raised a steel chalice to her cracked lips with shaking hands.

She had delivered Mordred to Mahl, as she had promised. Time had been short, so rather than drag him along the usual twisting path to sorcery, she’d sustained him with her own tainted blood and drilled him nonstop. When he’d learned enough Dark Chant, when he’d gained the skills necessary to stifle and bend the mind of a preconditioned mob, then she judged him ready to meet his Master.

She’d nurtured Mordred’s cold heart, fed his quest for dark knowledge, bequeathed to him the core of her morbid sorceries. All that remained was to give him power. That he would get from the Ice-Lord, just as she had long ago.

For the last hour, she’d watched him writhe while the Master possessed him, infected him with the power of the void, the essence of Naught. As it ended, his tortured body arched painfully and collapsed, falling hard on the stone floor. A long, smoky breath escaped his lungs. Then, for a moment, nothing… until a gasp started him breathing again.

His eyes had been as deep and richly black as raven stones. Now, he looked back at her from discs of blue ice, shallow, pale eyes that mirrored her own.

“Mordred,” she called.

Mahl had forced him, she knew, to the very brink of death. When she beckoned, he struggled to stand, but couldn’t. In the end he crawled, a show of obedience she was pleased to see. If he had not obeyed, if he had thought to challenge her, she would have had to destroy him, and then all the energy she’d spent on him would have bought her nothing but Mahl’s wrath.


Lucky and his allies face a new round of opponents and problems with each book, but never fear. There is also love. Maybe next week we’ll talk about romance.

Thanks for reading! Comments always welcome.

Visit my page at https://www.Facebook.com/LouHoffmannBooks. And I tweet: @Lou Hoffmann.





Red Dragon

Wednesday Words—Sun Child series WIP

First, from Han’s Story

I’m thinking of this as a potential Kindle Vella story, so I won’t be posting many lines from it here or elsewhere. Still here’s a glimpse. I started out trying to tell the story of this character from The Sun Child Chronicles from the wizard Thurlock’s perspective. But Han’s voice is clearer, brighter, better for the purpose. In the series, he’s a man of few words, though when he does have something to say, it’s meaningful. He plays an important role in every book in the series, and the reader gets to know him fairly well over the course of the story, but taking this dive into Han Shieth’s mind and heart has proven enlightening even for me.


Red DragonI’ve been afraid of the dragon all my life. I know it’s difficult to believe, but I remember dreaming the dragon, dreaming of flying, before I could walk. As a boy, I learned to play with it, keeping it in a safe place in my mind that way. If it was a companion—pretend, I tried to convince myself—it wouldn’t, couldn’t hurt me.

Truly, my fear was more for others around me than it was for myself.

Because the dragon breathes fire. And I’d always known that.

Now, from The Sun Child Chronicles #5, Kaynenh’s Triad

I’ve chosen a couple of paragraphs from the never-before-published next installment in the series. As you can see from this glimpse of a morning on the road, Lucky’s collected quite a collection of friends over time. Including a young green dragon and a boyfriend. While the series is not romance, the characters’ take us into a couple of romantic sub-plots. After all, The Sun Child Chronicles delves into lives, and love stories are part of life.

WordsGreen dragon

Commotion woke Lucky well after dawn. A lot seemed to be going on around the camp, but flapping, green, leathery wings and a squawky voice that his brain readily translated for him was the first thing he truly saw.

“Sahsha! You’ve gotten so big,” Lucky said.

“Sahsha child, be big someday.”

Judging from the other dragons he knew—in particular Han Shieth—Lucky supposed that was true, but he realized with some sadness that Sahsha had already grown too big for her habit of riding on his shoulder. He hugged his loyal hatchling, though, and was delighted when Sahsha wrapped wings around him to hug back. He ignored Sahsha’s awful dragon breath and got up to take care of his own ablutions. As he crossed the camp, he saw more new arrivals. Recognizing most, he was happy to see all of them.

Henry stood with Han near Simarrohn, smiling at each other and conversing. Lucky loved seeing the two of them—his uncle and his friend—so clearly happy together, but it made him miss Rio harder. Thinking about his boyfriend, a chill crept up his spine with no obvious cause. He shivered and concentrated, trying to decide what had sent dread coursing through him. Rio. Something was wrong. Was Rio in danger? How could I know? But the truth was he knew something was happening. No, not danger, he answered himself, not now. But something is happening in Rio’s world—in Morrow’s land, and it’s… it’s going to change everything.


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Curves, Caution Signs, and No GPS

Jumping into writing after pulling back on the reins for several months has been an exciting endeavor. But I’d be lying if I said the road was all downhill and free of hindrances.

Slow: Curves Ahead

Picking up after a hiatus has not been as easy as I’d thought. I’ve kept on writing, but progress is much slower than I’m used to. I find myself second guessing, back-tracking, and even undoing.

Merging Traffic Next 10,000 Words

The book I’m working on, Kaynenh’s Triad, #5 in The Sun Child Chronicles, is more than half written. I’m building on old prose and four previous books, all one continuous story. Of course, it deals with new situations, but the connections with the “past” have to be solid. As I write new scenes and continue old scenes, I find repeatedly I have to go back and check. What did that character do the last time this happened? What were those particular magical words? Some things, like eye color and character relationships are recorded in The Sun Child Chronicles “bible.” At least those are easier to look up.

Dead End

Yes, indeed I have even written myself into a corner and found I couldn’t go forward. The worst example involves the new wizard, Vahrenn. I wrote a few thousand words of his Important Journey (capitalized for effect) before I realized I’d forgotten he was deaf. Partly it was a setback, but also a wake-up call about how much I take hearing for granted. My apologies to the D/deaf.


I’ve a confession. I have only so much patience for outlines, synopses, etc. I tend to lay out the first part of a story in a fairly detailed manner. But after that it sort of peters out, until at the end I’m using a word or two—or else the outline never gets there. And even if it does, by that point in the story I’ve taken a few left turns and am nowhere near the expected route.

I’m still heading for the same destination, though! Along the way, each time I change my path, I usually know exactly how to get back on track. It’s like taking a different route to the office or the gym or whatever. You’re still only a few miles from home, and you know you can get there.

Having stepped away from the book for a time, I’m finding the map in my mind is pretty hazy at times. To cope, I do reread earlier stuff, but sometimes I just keep writing because, hey—

It’s only a first draft!


Traffic Revision Ahead

Step away from the publishing world for longer than a blink these days, and you’ll find a lot changed when you dip a toe in again. I know some of these are not as new to others as they are to me: Dreame, Radish, NovelCat, and Webfic are some examples of things I either never thought to look, or never heard of, or they didn’t exist. I’m not seriously considering any of those right now, but I am looking at Vella, the new Amazon Kindle platform for serialized stories.

I definitely won’t be publishing Kaynenh’s Triad (The Sun Child Chronicles #5) in serialized form. But I am in the early stages of developing a related, shorter story that would be ideal, I think, for Vella.

Han’s Story

Han Rha-Behl Ah’Shieth is a very important character in the series. He’s an adult at the start of the series, and a helper character to the younger protagonist. Yet his own character arc runs alongside his, and it carries a lot of weight. Reading the books give you some important information about his life, but it’s in bits in pieces. And incomplete. So… I want to tell his story. And as of now, I think the best way to tell it is narrated by Thurlock, the oldest wizard. He’s been there all along the line, from Han’s early childhood. And his relationship as mentor, teacher, employer, and friend gives him all the perspective.

An excerpt

Here’s a very brief part of Han’s story. This version is found in Key of Behliseth, book 1 of the series, and it’s told in third person, from his brother Lohen’s point of view.

The Fire

Lohen smelled smoke as he was striding down the hill toward home. He’d visited Nedhra City, fifty miles from the family’s stead. In addition to news and letters for his parents, he carried a gift for his brother’s twelfth birthday—a sling that could be wound tight to toss stones an incredible distance. Perfect for a boy who liked both weapons and mechanical things. Lohen looked forward to seeing Han smile when he put it in his hands.

The smoke disturbed his happy thoughts. It didn’t have the flavor of a cooking fire or the pungency of the smokes used for curing meat or fish. It was the wrong time of year for the fields to be burned off, and the smell seemed wrong anyway—dirty—or contaminated. He stopped when he rounded the bend and had a clear view of his parents’ stead.

And then he started running.

When he got there, remnants still burned, but only the low ridges where the walls of the house had stood, huddled pieces of resistant furniture, and in one place a blazing doorframe leading on both sides to nothing.

The first corpse he saw, as he stood with the heat of flames and coals on his face, was his uncle, an old man whose skill with horses had taken to work in the far north long ago, and whose devotion to an orphaned girl had reaped him no reward of love. Abandoned in old age, he’d come to stay with his sister’s family, bringing a kind face, a sad smile, and grand stories of winged horses and starry northern skies.

He’d not simply been killed, nor had Lohen’s mother and father. Everywhere he looked, Lohen saw evidence of torture. He couldn’t bear seeing it, but he couldn’t look away. He stood, not moving or thinking until night crept in and the flames around him hissed into silence.

Mindless, Lohen turned and took a step back toward the road. That was when he heard a faint sound. He followed the breathy cry and found Han hidden in a holly thicket, hugging his knees and sobbing. At first Lohen was only glad, relieved to see him alive. Then the truth dawned, and he fell to his knees, the wind knocked from his lungs by a horrifying new thought.

Han Shieth had seen his family murdered.

Your thoughts?

By the time the first book in The Sun Child Chronicles opens, Han is over two centuries old. And there’s nothing usual about his life. The wizard has seen it all unfold.

Let me know what you think about Han’s story, and what you think about Vella. (Ever tried it?) And any thoughts in general on this post—comments are always welcome, and I’ll respond. (I have to approve your first comment before it will appear, so give me a little time. 😊 )

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On Twitter, I’m @Lou_Hoffmann

Graphic with text: Han Shieth





The Oldest Wizard Speaks his Mind

Well, another week has gone by, and I am a few more miles down the road to getting my books back out into published world. Thanks for joining me. This week did not go as expected.


As I’ve mentioned before, I’m currently writing book 5 of The Sun Child Chronicles, Kaynenh’s Triad. I’ve introduced you to is Vahrenn, a new character in this book—a wizard with a magical affinity for water. I’ve just finished a scene of over 4,000 words involving a problem he had to tackle and solve. Cold, hard reality… possibly none of the scene will end up in the book. Not sure yet. But if it doesn’t—no regrets! I got to know Vahrenn much better in the process of writing the scene. And that’s important.

Characters and “Show, don’t tell”

For any writer whose writing thrives on character (as mine does), it is absolutely necessary to know more about your characters than will be written about. To clarify, the knowing imparts authenticity and integrity, and makes them a whole, round person. That will show in their actions, reactions, and words. It will show, but much of it won’t be told. Sure, I might mention dark eyes, or a toothless grin, or a six-pack. But I know way more about the character’s history, motivation, and fears than I’m ever going to spell out in print. Nowhere in writing is “show, don’t tell” so important.

No, that’s not a rule!

Oops. I almost sound like I’m dictating what writers should do or should avoid. And I can’t do that. My words are far from the final ones—only what works for me. At least most of the time. But Somerset Maugham said:

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

And that same famous author of bygone days also said:

“You can never know enough about your characters.”

So then I rest my case. Sort of. Really, I’m just plugging along and learning as I go. That hasn’t changed since my earliest days as an author.

Characters are dangerous (but fun) drivers

One of the things I’ve done in my previous posts is introduce you to some of the characters in The Sun Child Chronicles. As I mentioned, characters drive my stories, and in fact, even though I might pretend they’re in the passenger seat. Any character of significance will grab the wheel and send us careening around an unexpected corner. Sometimes they even kick me right out of the car.

That’s part of what makes me want to come back to The Sun Child Chronicles. I love the characters, and they make writing fun. Also, there are a lot of them—more all the time, because as is usual in fantasy series, the story gets bigger with every book.

I interviewed the wizard Thurlock

Now, speaking of characters and knowing them, let me introduce you this week to Thurlock. He is the most important wizard in the series. A “helper” character who guides the main protagonist through, over, and around all sorts of difficult problems. Often grumpy, often laughing, sometimes kind, sometimes scary. A while back (when one of my books was being released), I interviewed him for another blog. And even though I already knew him pretty well, some of his answers surprised me. Here’s that interview, slightly modified. I hope you enjoy his grumpy-wizard self.

In his own words


I’ve been wondering about Thurlock ever since I met him. I mean the old wizard is kind of a mystery man, right? I recently caught him with a cell phone call on a day that he popped over to Earth for a Chai Tea Latte and some pumpkin bread with too much sugar icing. He wasn’t really happy about it, but he does know where his bread is buttered, so to speak…


Hey, Thurlock. Lou Hoffmann, here. You got a few minutes?

This is my off-page time, Ms. Hoffmann. Off-duty. Why are you calling me? Haven’t you put me through enough already? What with several more books about The Sun Child and me coming up, I’d think you’d have plenty more trouble to make for me without seeking me out on my private time.

Well, Jeez, Thurlock. I got to thinking people must really wonder about you—”

Portrait-- old wizard Thurlock The Sun Child Chronicles

“Do they, now?”

“I think so. You’re interesting. I mean 1000 years old—”

“Now you’re just being mean.”

“No, really. I thought you might answer a few questions.”

“I’m rolling my eyes, now. Thought I’d tell you since this is a phone call. I mean, I can’t do the eye-roll as good as Luccan, or even as good as Han, but it is a problem with non-face-to-face communication that gestures and facial expressions can’t be seen. I’ve been studying this phenomenon and have found research, mostly by Earthborns, that shows—

“Thurlock, you’re rambling.”

“Oh yes, sorry. I was. Never mind then, let’s just get to the point.”

“Okay, questions. Before I start, though, I know I’m supposed to know you best, and I’ll be honest. Some of these questions I’m going to ask I’m pretty sure I know the answers to. Answer anyway, if you would, and feel free to surprise me with the truth.”

“Shouldn’t be hard to do…”

Where and when were you born? Tell us what your childhood was like?

I was born a very, very long time ago, in the northern part of the Sunlands, on the western outskirts of the Greenwood. The place was called Kharravale; we had a farm a mile or so from the village. My childhood…. How rarely I think of it now. I guess if nothing else I could indeed be thankful that you brought it to my mind. It… It wasn’t all good, of course. No childhood is, but as I look back through this vast stretch of time, it seems wonderful. Golden and filled with sun—perhaps Behlishan had chosen me even then, though I didn’t feel chosen as I ran in the fields. I loved the smell of the earth—you know, mud, pines and oak and maple, mown hay, wild honeysuckle. I never wanted to go indoors until winter came, and then only for hours at a time. The snow would fall heavy and deep and stay clean and white for a month. We had toboggan races, we children. And when parents went visiting it was by sleigh rather than wagon. Even the horses liked it better I think. Or maybe they just knew hot mash would be waiting, the same way we looked forward to sweet tea and honey cakes. Oh yes, it was a beautiful thing to be a boy in that place in that time. I suppose if I thought of the future at all, I thought I’d live out my years right there in the valley, perhaps raise my own children, run the family’s farm. But I went to school instead.

That leads me nicely to my second question—or perhaps I should say set of questions, Thurlock. When did you start your formal education, and how long did it last? Did you enjoy school, or want to go back to an easier time? Did you have a favorite teacher, or is there one who left a giant footprint on who you were to grow up to be?

Was I rambling? I’m sorry. And yes, you should say set of questions. Be accurate when you bother a wizard, Lou. To answer your question, I started early and I didn’t dislike school, but I did miss being a child, and being home. In those days, in that place, most children didn’t go to school at all, but when they were around twelve or so, the parents would contrive to get a batch together and teach them to read and add better, things like that. But Kharravale, you know, was named after the Kharrighan, and it was full of his descendants. Almost a tribe, or at the least a clan. Every generation sported a few young people with higher than average magical talent. I was not only among the best of my cohort, but manifested enough power, starting when I was ten, to scare my elders. By the time I’d had my eleventh birthday they’d made arrangements with a small wizarding preparation school in Nedhra City, and I never lived at home again, though I did treasure my visits. I did have a favorite teacher! Her name was Yolahnda O’Shanadah. I learned absolutely nothing from her. I was fourteen when I started studying with her and I instantly became infatuated. As far as the giant footprint, that was left by a very old man named Thomkit. An historian and a seer. I never learned to do what he did, but he taught me how to read and respect the prophecy, and how to disregard them for the sake of letting things unfold.

Did you have a best friend in your school days—tell s about them? Do you have one now?

I did have a best friend. He was Drakha, and every bit as heroic and beautiful as Han Shieth, though a hunter like Han’s brother, rather than a warrior. He’s one of the many, many friends I’ve watched grow old and die while I linger here far beyond my time. And yes. In honesty, though I’d say our relationship is quite complex, one of the things Han Shieth has become is my friend—the best of those few I have.

I’m sorry. Maybe talking about bygone days is making you sad. Probably I shouldn’t ask any more questions about the past, but I do have one more I’d like to slip in, if you’ll allow it. Were you ever so in love you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with someone, even if it meant giving up your position as a prominent wizard?

Yes. (Silence). We-e-ell, it looks as though you’re not going to let me leave it at that. Did anyone ever call you a busybody, Lou? No? They should have. But fine. I’ve loved two people that much. The first was a girl I met at a tea shop near a famous theater in Nedhra City. I saw her every day for a year. She was… I think in Earth you’d call her a transwoman, perhaps, though in Ethra we just call a woman a woman. She was the most easy-going, the least serious person I knew at the time. She was fully engaged with living life and had no great need to address the world’s problems. We ate and walked and went places around the city, or out to the countryside a few times. We talked about art and music and plays and the weather and her crazy clothes and her garden and… you know,  just everything. And we made love and—oh I know some people think I should have had a problem with that. As Han says, men are not my type. But she wasn’t a man you see, and as far as the love-making went, everything fit together just fine and it all worked splendidly from my point of view. But I was studying, you understand, and at a certain point it became clear that I’d have to pay a little more attention to wizardry or else give it up. I chose give it up. She chose to write me a note and leave on the mantel piece for me, and I never saw her again. And the second person… Well, the second person was Isa. Yes, the woman you know as the Witch Mortaine, the one Luccan and I dismantled with Behl’s help in Black Creek Ravine. Yes, she was beautiful once, and elegant, even understanding, though perhaps never truly compassionate, certainly never sweet. But oh she took me by surprise, like cold water on a hot day. It ended when I tried to save her from her fate, and as repayment she tried to kill me. No more about my past now. Please. I’m becoming melancholy and that makes my blood pressure go up.

Tell us your honest opinion of Lucky—or Luccan as you know him. Do you enjoy being around him? Does he annoy you?

Oh, certainly he annoys me, but what 1000-year-old man is not annoyed by someone who’s 16? The sheer amount of energy the boy possesses drives me crazy. And the questions. Behl’s toenails! I’ve never heard so many questions, and so strange. Do you know what he asked me? “If life wasn’t life, what would it be?” I didn’t even try to answer—and you shouldn’t either Lou. Yet, Luccan has more of the true Suth Chiell about him than any I’ve seen since I became cognizant of what a Suth Chiell should be. And aside from that, he is a strong, kind, compassionate human being. And delightful—his humor, his smile, his wonderful curious mind. I think of him as a grandchild, though I know that’s ludicrous. I love him. And I pin my hopes for the future on him, with not a single doubt or qualm. Are we about done now, Ms. Hoffmann? My chai is getting cold, and I do have plans for the day.

I’m sorry, Thurlock. As you said, this is your personal time. I had no right to impinge and I do appreciate you answering my questions. I had wanted to ask you about Han… you know, the dragon thing? And also what your thoughts are on the future of Ethra in general. But I’ll cut it short with one more question I’ve been wondering about since I met you. Are you immortal?

Oh! Gods, I hope not.


The end

And Thurlock hung up on me. I guess I should be grateful for what we did get.


Once more, thanks for joining me on the journey. I love comments, and I’ll answer them, too! 

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Research challenge: A new wizard!

This week, on what I’m calling “Lou Hoffmann’s road back to writing,” I did more research than wordsmithing. Research, for me, is both a good thing and rabbit hole. I love the random-ish learning. It fuels my creativity and helps with credibility—important to keep readers reading! Truly, it’s at the heart of my writing process.

Some writers cram a lot of research at the start of their writing or worldbuilding. I do some at the beginning, yes. But as things go along, getting stuck happens. Getting stuck almost always means research to get unstuck. That’s all good, but once I start, it could be hours before I stop following links and pop my head up out of the latest research rabbit hole.

A couple recent research warrens I’ve stumbled into

Does crude oil contain water?

This came up because a character named Vahrenn stumbles into a bit of pollution caused by a not accidental upwelling of crude. “Black gold, Texas tea,” as per the Beverly Hillbillies. The answer is yes, and it’s brackish. And brackish means it’s saltier than freshwater, but not as salty as seawater.

And can that water be removed?

Yes, and I now know more about the process than you probably want to hear.

Why does this matter for The Sun Child Chronicles?

Because Vahrenn has to do something about the oil to save a magical forest. He’s a wizard, so no problem, right? Big problem! His world doesn’t use petroleum, doesn’t drill for it or refine it or even really know about it. He’s been to Earth, so he knows what it is, but he has no idea why it’s popped up in Ethra. Fortunately, his born-in magical affinity is (drumroll) water! Therein lies a solution!

How does sign language develop?

Mostly, deaf people figure it out. Or at least get the ball rolling. Because they need ways to communicate amongst themselves and with hearing folks too. There are exceptions—like the trade language used by Indigenous peoples in what is now North America. That happened because people with different languages needed to talk.
But most sign languages were seeded and grew because of deaf people in the community.

ASL (American Sign Language) is an exception only in its development, not in its origin. It grew from seeds of a somewhat typical community sign language used on Martha’s Vineyard—where historically about 4% of the population was deaf.

Why does that matter for The Sun Child Chronicles?

You guessed it: Vahrenn is, conventionally speaking, deaf. Unlike Han Shieth, whom I introduced in my last blog post, he has no telepathic ability to speak of. (Most wizards in Ethra don’t!) Vahrenn, a deaf wizard in Ethra, faced a rather thorny communication problem. I, of course, had to solve it for him.

So then, how does Vahrenn communicate?

Very well, most of the time! He does sign. How he got there is a long story, most of which won’t make it into the book. Still as the author, I have to know! He also reads lips a bit. And naturally he writes the runic alphabet of his home country proficiently. It works!

Is getting lost in research worth it?

Hmmm. Good question. I think yes. Maybe some authors just wing it when writing fantasy or soft sci-fi. I feel like the things characters do in my fantasy books have to have a real basis in what people do, real world. The book I like to read are those in which characters’ emotions, life skills, dilemmas feel familiar to my head and heart. So that’s what I write.

Meet Vahrenn!

In my last post I introduced you to Han Shieth. Since I’ve been going on about Vahrenn’s problems, I thought you’d like to meet him this week. Here’s a couple of brief quotes about him from the work in progress, Kaynenh’s Triad, book 5 of The Sun Child Chronicles.

Excerpt #1

“The wizard Vahrenn made his home inside a hill—almost tall enough to be a mountain—that butted its flanks against the salty water of Eagle’s Inlet on the East March coast. The Wizard Vahrenn's house? He’d been born in East March, as had his forebears for several generations past, yet his family maintained its ties to the Sunlands from whence they’d come. His name, Vahrenn, bore a Sunlandian history, and his family name, Karragani, was but a Marchian version of Ol’Karrigh.

He’d been essentially deaf since birth, unable to hear the natural range of the human voice and many other sounds, and no magic or medicine had sufficed to cure it. Perhaps that was why he’d learned to listen so well, and he liked being quiet.”

Excerpt #2

“He didn’t bear the same fame as his elder cousin Thurlock, or even of Bayahr, but his relative obscurity didn’t stem from lack of skill or power. The things he could do, he did very well.

Though they rarely got noticed.

Simply put, people tended not to remember him because he slid coolly over their awareness the way water—his magical affinity—slipped past the feet they dangled in a stream.”


In case you couldn’t tell, I really like Vahrenn, challenges and all.

Once again, thanks for joining me on this writer’s journey. Things are rolling along despite potholes and bumps in the road, and I’m enjoying the trip! I hope you are too.

Your thoughts, comments, or questions are more than welcome!

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