Newborn Lucky in his father's hands

Wednesday Words—Good, Bad, Ugly

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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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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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