Sample: Duck Blood Soup by Frank and James Hofer

SSV is happy to give you a tantalizing peek at Duck Blood Soup and tease your reading appetites for more! The post has a snippet of three different chapters from the novel. Just enough to get you hooked!

The Story

When Eizenfeng’s leading wizards combine science with magic, the world changes dramatically. Technological advancements, coupled with racial and economic tensions propel the country toward war with a longtime ally. Jeunelux is oblivious to the building turmoil; scorching days harvesting tomatoes and her annoying older brother are more pressing concerns.

Suddenly, strange dreams that haunt her nights become reality. Jeunelux, along with two other untrained and unlicensed teen wizards embark on a quest to save the girl’s father, rescue a giant, and prevent a war.


Chapter 1

“For someone who loathes humans, you sure waste a lot of time trying to understand them.”

Kruk didn’t bother to look up from the tiny book. “It’s because I study them that I despise them. Have you ever read their literature? Volumes dedicated to violence, deception, and adultery. They write about emotions that they have no hope of ever understanding. Their history books are full of weak attempts to simultaneously justify self preservation and self destruction. It’s mind boggling. Besides, it’s no different than you and your spiders.”

“It’s completely different,” Lren said. “Spiders serve a purpose. They’re worth understanding. Look at a spider web some time. If the natural art doesn’t convince you, the mathematical intricacies must.”

Lren paused as a smile crossed his longtime friend’s face. Kruk had once again managed to change the topic. Defeated, Lren muttered, “At least you’ve never seen me crush a spider.”


Chapter 9

Lightning briefly lit the pitch black sky and trailing thunder masked the screams for just a moment. The glow of distant fires reflected off of the low clouds and revealed the nearby smoldering ruins. The stench of death and destruction filled the air. Jeunelux instinctively knew that she was both here and not here; that she was a part of, but distant from the scene around her. Smoke and rain mercifully hid the full extent of the devastation.

Jeunelux found herself walking along a strange river bank. Across the river’s black water she could just make out the silhouette of a town much larger than Genderalt. Rain fell around her yet her night dress was dry. Mud squished between her toes, but her bare feet remained clean. She wanted to move faster but her leaden legs had a mind of their own. Jeunelux sensed rather than saw others like her.

Groenendael ignored the massive club swinging toward his head. The weapon passed harmlessly through the wizard and found its target in the person of a shop owner standing behind him. The behemoth did not seem to care that it had missed him, and in fact did not seem to notice the wizard at all but instead.


Chapter 12


It was the one word that brought dread to heart of every farmer in Eizenfeng. ‘Dragonfly’ would have been bad enough, but his wife Regle had yelled ‘Dragonflies’. She knew the important distinction between the two words.

One of the six-inch creatures might only destroy a few plants, but when their numbers grew they became far more destructive. A couple of dozen could destroy a whole farm — barn, house and all. A swarm could destroy a small town. Garimet looked out of the kitchen window. He couldn’t see how many dragonflies there were, but with his entire family out in the field one was too many. The farmer rushed out the back door of the house without bothering to drop his spatula.

Garimet wasn’t sure what he could do to help his family if there were more than a few dragonflies. The fields aren’t burning; that’s a good sign, the farmer thought. He could see his two youngest boys running toward the barn with Regle urging them along. She would try to protect the barn and its contents. The family’s livelihood depended upon it. A week’s worth of harvested vegetables were loaded onto wagons in the barn. If they lost those, there wouldn’t be enough money to cover the bills.

Regle stopped running once she saw Garimet. The normally strong woman was struggling to hold back her tears. “Teravus fell when we were running from the field. I think he might have broken his leg. Jeunelux was trying to help him, but there are so many dragonflies. Please Garimet, please save them. I can’t lose another child.”

Words alone wouldn’t comfort his wife. He wanted to hold her in his arms and let her cry on his shoulders. “Get the boys to the barn. If things get too bad, make your way to the root cellar. I’ll do what I can for Teravus and Junie.”

The farmer sprinted toward the fields, searching frantically for his children. The dragonflies’ buzz drowned out his shouts.

Garimet understood why his wife sounded so panicked. In his forty years he had never seen this many dragonflies. Hundreds buzzed above the fields, working themselves into a frenzy. Instead of feasting on the plants like they normally would, the insects darted back and forth, high and low. The bugs were most dangerous when they were agitated and he knew it wouldn’t be long before these started breathing fire.

In the middle of the swarm Garimet noticed an area devoid of insects. He ran to that spot, his fatherly instincts telling him that his son and daughter would be there. One of the dragonflies swooped down and with a small puff of fire singed the farmer’s hair. Experience told him that the worst thing he could do was swat at the bug. A crushed insect would give off an acrid scent that would provoke the entire swarm to attack anything and everything.


Are you intrigued? Do you want more? Get the book! For more information about the Hofer brothers and their work, please check out their website.

Quest Winner for Duck Blood Soup

InTerNet Quest – Name that Breed!


~ Dianne ~

Answer – Belgian Shepherd

1st Place Answer:  Groenendael

2nd Place Answer:  Belgian Shepherd

3rd Place Answer:  Belgian Sheepdog

A Note from Frank Hofer

What does a dog have to do with Duck Blood Soup?

Years ago we were at the vet to with one of our dogs. I was standing at the desk paying the bill for shots when all of a sudden a rather large dog appeared next to the vet tech. The look on the dog’s grinning face seemed to say, “I’m really smart, I’m really cute, and I know it. So, who are you?”

The vet tech told me that her dog was a Belgian Sheepdog. I did some research on the breed to find out if it would be a good fit for us when we wanted to add a third dog. It was. One of the first things I found out was that a Belgian Sheepdog was one of several breeds known as Belgian Shepherds.

But more important for this story, a Belgian Sheepdog is also known as a Groenendael. When I saw that my first thought was, “what a great name for a wizard.” Several years later Jim and I started writing Duck Blood Soup and I needed wizard names. I used Groenendael along with two other Belgian Shepherd names: Tervuren and Malinois – all great names for wizards. Trivia: many of the names in the book were taken from the American Kennel Club web site’s list of dog breeds.

So the correct answer to the quiz question are Groenendael, with Belgian Sheepdog and Belgian Shepherd as acceptable alternatives.

If you missed out on the giveaway, don’t despair. You can pick up your copy of Duck Blood Soup for only $3.99. For the next couple of months Duck Blood Soup is free if you have Amazon Prime.


Find out more about Frank & James Hofer and their book, Duck Blood Soup, by reading SSV’s Author Interview & Review by Snarktastic Sonja.

Want a peek at the characters in the book? Check out the Races and Character Glossary and other articles written by the Hofers in the Scribes Corner.

You can find out more information about the co-authors and their work at their website.

Engineering with Magic by Frank Hofer, James Hofer (edits)


When my brother Jim suggested that we write a fantasy novel, I agreed to work with him under the condition that we didn’t write “sword and sorcery.” I wanted a society with a late 18th or early 19th century level of technology with a blending of science, engineering, and magic.

As we started building the world for our story, we took time to define the rules; the physical laws by which our world would operate.

Jim has a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Food Engineering. Contrary to what you might think, Food Engineering has nothing to do with creating recipes. Rather, it is the engineering involved in designing industrial machines for food processing.

I have a BS in Computer Science and spent a dozen years in satellite operations where I had to apply knowledge learned in past engineering courses. I think it’s safe to say that we both have a pretty strong technical background, and as such wanted the physics of our world to be internally consistent and well thought-out. And above all else, no Deus Ex Machina; all problem resolutions must be resolved using the laws of physics set in place elsewhere in the book.

A central plot point of Duck Blood Soup is the introduction of a new, magical, non-polluting power source based upon scarce resources. The applications that immediately came to mind were military and commerce – power and greed. We spent a considerable amount of time researching basic designs for airship kept aloft and controlled by this new, magical substance, as well as steam powered locomotives which leveraged this new pollution free power source.

As the story developed we considered how the new substance would affect the lives of the people in our world. Who could afford the new inventions and who would be stuck using technology that was invented before its discovery?

Firearms, specifically muskets and early rifles played a key role in Duck Blood Soup. We needed to find out about conditions in arms factories of the time period as well as the manufacturing processes used at the time. We spent time researching how muskets work as well as early pitfalls in musket and rifle design. The research into early firearms provided a sense of reality to our manufacturing process, weapons availability, and usage in battle.

A real concern we had was applying what we had learned about the laws of physics to the world we were creating. Obviously magic violates all sorts of rules, giants would be crushed by their own weight in our world, human sized creatures might glide but never fly on an earth-like planet, and so on.

We knew all of that going in, but there were some rules we would not break: we would not violate the laws of thermodynamics. If a wizard used magic, it took energy. Use a lot of magic and the wizard would become exhausted and risk death. A fat wizard? Not possible if you assume that casting a spell burns calories. A spell that lasted forever? If you moved something by magic it would stay where you put it but any other spell would gradually fade away.

Likewise, a well-educated wizard would understand both the laws of magic and the laws of physics and could use this knowledge to his advantage. There is one battle scene where an army wizard uses some basics knowledge of physics to provide a magical solution to a physical problem.

By applying what we learned in engineering classes, I think we created a world that is consistent with most laws of the universe, and provides limits and rules to physical laws we break to add concepts such as magic.


The original post can be found here and you can find out more about the Hofer brothers and their book, Duck Blood Soup, on their website.

Check out Snarktastic Sonja’s review of Duck Blood Soup and the Hofers Author Interview.


Writing with a Distant Partner by Frank Hofer, James Hofer (edits)


How do you write a novel when your writing partner is two time zones and 1500 miles away? That was the first question we had when Jim suggested that we try our hand at writing a fantasy novel. We had just concluded our ill-fated attempt at writing humor. Our fans were each other and a couple of friends. We knew that our web site would never be The Onion but we were having a good time and got some practice writing something other than technical documents.

After a few weeks of no posts, Jim asked me how I planned to continue being creative and suggested writing either a fantasy or a science fiction novel. I agreed to work with him under the condition that we didn’t write “sword and sorcery.” I wanted a society with a late 18th or early 19th century level of technology with a blending of science, engineering, and magic. Since I didn’t know anything about steam punk at the time, I coined the phrase “muskets and magic” for our effort.

Once we had a technology time period, we needed a story. Giants versus gun wielding soldiers seemed like a good starting point.

We needed some people in our story of course. Harry Potter was really big at the time, and I always felt that Hermione Granger was not only underutilized, but should have been the real hero of the series. To me, she seemed smarter, more rational and level headed, and overall a better wizard than Harry Potter. With that in mind, Jeunelux was born. She would be the first of many strong, independent female characters, including women in combat roles, as a head of state, and a general in the army.

A couple of years after we finished the first draft of Duck Blood Soup I finally got around to reading Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy – The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass and realized that Lyra was the female character that I wanted Hermione to be. My Jeunelux and Pullman’s Lyra had a lot in common.

Our initial plot ideas were discussed through email, but we knew that we needed a better methods to actually write the book. The physical challenges of remote writers wasn’t that big of a deal. We are both computer nerds so setting up a secure FTP site to keep our work was pretty simple. Microsoft Word with change tracking enabled allowed both of us to see the edits the other made. We also added notes between brackets so that they would be easy to find.

The interpersonal challenges could have been an issue but were not because of our professional backgrounds. I spent a dozen years flying satellites so I came from a culture where it is not only expected but required for people to critique and correct your work. When a multi-million dollar satellite’s health and mission depend upon being right all the time, you either welcome people checking and correcting your work or you don’t last long in the business.

Jim and I both worked in software development environments where other engineers comment on your designs, point out problems, tear apart your work and insist on changes. While writing Duck Blood Soup we got in to our professional software development mind set – nothing said is personal, we want to write the best novel we possibly can, and we must be critical of both our own and each other’s work. If something wasn’t right, or wasn’t consistent, or seemed cliché, flag it to be fixed. If you insist on having a big ego, writing with someone will never work.

The software development mindset also helped with the overall book creation. We would have very general guidelines for chapters; this is what has happened going into the chapter, that is what the output of the chapter should be, anything else is just implementation details. After a chapter was written by one author, the other would “refactor” it by pointing out problem areas or suggesting different ways to accomplish the desired result. Passing chapters back and forth also allowed us to sound like a single author. The reader really doesn’t know who initially wrote what chapter or concentrated on particular characters.

For example, we wanted to look at different aspects of the magical creatures we used. Since Giants are common in fantasy novels, we would make sure that ours were unique. And when one author added blood suckers, the other pointed out that their ethics needed to be defined along with their special powers. Each time one of us came up with a species, the other would always ask, what is special, what hasn’t this been done before?

The professional attitudes and communications skills we developed over the years in our “paying jobs” were really put to use when we wrote Duck Blood Soup. Putting our project ahead of ourselves gave us something we can point to with pride.


The original post can be found here and you can find out more about the Hofer brothers and their book, Duck Blood Soup, on their website.

Check out Snarktastic Sonja’s review of Duck Blood Soup and the Hofers Author Interview.


The Liebster Blog Award 2013

Happy Indulgence

About a week after Silk Screen Views went live, our site was nominated for the Liebster Blog Award by Jeannius, the brains behind Happy Indulgence. She contacted me via our normal email correspondence on Goodreads and let me know about the nomination.

My first response:

What the heck is the Liebster Blog Award???

After a bit of research on the world wide web and general chitchat, this is what I figured out:  the LBA is an award given by the blogging community to promising blog sites that have less than 200-300 followers. We received the award from Jeannius on March 8th, 2013. At the time, I believe Silk Screen Views had about 20 followers and over 700 hits. Not bad stats for a baby blog site with little networking. We were happy to receive the award but I barely knew other bloggers then, and I wasn’t ready to tackle the quest of adding an award to SSV. WordPress has it’s own rules to play by and I’m still a newb at the game.

Today, SSV was nominated for another award! Isn’t that cool? The site has been running for almost a month and a lot of things have happened. We now have 401 followers and are near 3000 hits. It’s time to rock & roll. We’re ready to post our awards and share the fun!

~ The Rules for the Liebster Blog Award ~

Once Nominated:

  1. You must answer 11 questions from the blog that nominated you.
  2. Choose & nominate 11 blogs to receive the LBA.
  3. Notify the blogs that they have been nominated for the LBA.
  4. Pick 11 questions for your nominees to answer.

Jeannius Questions

1. What’s your favourite book you’ve read this year?

  • I can’t name just one because I have a handful that I really like for different reasons:
    • Wallbanger by Alice Clayton – Hilarious Romance
    • Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan – Hadrian & Royce – Awesome Fantasy!
    • Blaze of Glory by Michael Pryor – Best New Author Find
    • Heist Society by Ally Carter – Intricate & Clever YA
    • Soul Avenged by Keri Lake – New PNR Author & Series. Sons of Wrath. You’ll see.
    • Backstage Pass – Steamy, music infused erotica.
    • Cast in Peril by Michelle Sagara West – Latest in a favorite Fantasy series & SO MUCH HAPPENS!

2. Where in the world would you like to visit?

  • Everywhere in Europe! I gobbled up all sorts of history, mythology, legends, fairy tales, religious texts and fiction as a kid. I always imagined the adventures happening in Europe.

3. What’s your favourite paranormal creature? (ie. vampires, zombies, faeries, etc.)

  • I had to really think to answer this question. I want to be an Archangel! An angel of faith that serves to uphold balance, with amazing wings to zoom across multiple worlds, to live from the birth of creation and beyond, always learning and evolving. It would be an adventure.

4. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

  • I have a talent for seeing skills and talents in other people. It would be cool if my ability was more than a gift of perception and one that I could draw forth in people. Say, I had a feeling that you would be good at drawing but you’ve never drawn before in your life. It would be really cool to draw that skill out and strengthen it by helping you to learn how to draw. Or if someone has amazing hand eye coordination and they’ve never tried archery. It would be fun and enriching to be able to point the skill out in the person and have them become stronger (faster than normal) by being a part of the learning process.

5. What’s an interesting fact about yourself?

  • It’s such an odd question to me because I don’t think about myself as “interesting” or “special”. To me, I am ordinary and normal. I can learn just about anything at a quick rate. It’s a great ability that I love to abuse because it gives me the challenge and variety I love to experience in life.

6. What do you do for a living?

  • I am a Freelance Contractor. That’s the easiest job description. Within that general field, I have been, am or still doing: telecom network engineer, private security officer, event organizer, photographer, special event cook, personal administrative assistant/organizer, editor, research assistant, home care provider, bodywork masseuse, promoter and writer.

7. What do you love about blogging?

  • I started with very little knowledge and a simple idea but it’s becoming more than that. I love that. I love the way things aren’t exactly the way you expect it to be. It’s challenging, engaging and fun. Silk Screen Views keeps growing & evolving into something more than I expected and that’s a lot of fun for me.

8. Pirates or ninjas?

  • Is that even a question?!?! Duh! Ninjas! A real ninja will kick a pirate over the rail and far beyond the plank!

9. What’s your opinion on transferring books to movies?

  • I never expect the movie to be like the book. When I have that expectation, I always end up frustrated. Books can make great movies but it takes a really talented screenplay writer to make a good translation of the book into a screenplay. Who knows what happens during filming. It takes a great director and producer to piece together a film that can honestly represent a book. Never mind that the actors have to fit the roles well. I expect to be entertained but I do not expect it to be like the book.

10. Describe a perfect day for you.

  • A perfect day is today. I’m getting everything I need to do done and I have pockets of lovely silence to enjoy by myself between bouts of comraderie with friends.

11. Do you prefer physical books, ebooks, or audiobooks?

  • Hardbacks are my baby of choice! However, my books take up more space than I have to spare. Thus I’ve become fond of ebooks for saving space and ease of travel. I’ve extremely snotty about audiobooks and I’ve only heard two that I really love. The rest is very bleh-meh.

Silk Screen Views Nominates the Following

  1. Anthony Ryan
  2. Keri Lake
  3. Yaz’s Books’n’Stuff
  4. Elizabeth’s Art Studio
  5. Duck Blood Soup
  6. Love Affair with an e-Reader
  7. Girl None
  8. Oh My Shelves
  9. Curran Geist: Enter the Sity
  10. Jennifer Foehner Wells
  11. Susan E. Curnow

Soo ~ The Instigator’s ~ Questions for the Nominees

  1. What was your first response when you got my email about the Liebster Blog Award?
  2. Name a weird event that has happened due to running a blog. If the answer is no, tell a joke. It must be FUNNY!
  3. Has anything unexpected happened to you by writing a post? If the answer is no, create a haiku about your blog.
  4. Light saber or magic wand? Defend your answer! =)
  5. What is a flaw you would never give up?
  6. If you could rid the world of stupid people, would you? Why or why not?
  7. What three things do you absolutely must have to survive the Zombie Apocalypse?
  8. Is there a book you regret reading? What was it?
  9. What do you do when your creative juices dry up and you can’t write anything but ellipses?
  10. What is your definition of a white lie?
  11. Why did you decide to accept the LBA & participate in the blog meme?


SSV Liebster Blog Award

Author Interview: The Hofer Brothers ~ Duck Blood Soup

Sonja recently had the opportunity to talk with brothers, authors, and engineers Jim (James) and Frank Hofer about their book, Duck Blood Soup, and how their passions inspired their writing. Don’t forget to enter the contest to enter a copy of their book for Kindle!

~Hofer Brothers and Writing~

How did you two decide to write together?

Contest! Guess the breed of Frank’s dog for your chance to win a copy of Duck Blood Soup.

Jim:  Frank and I started blogging at about the same time and would interact with each other a lot through blog comments. For some reason, we were talking about tabloid magazines one time, and thought it would be fun to do a tabloid website, similar to the Onion, but the Onion wasn’t well known at that point.

Frank:  From 2003 to sometime in 2004, Jim and I wrote some blog posts we thought were humorous. We kind of lost interest and our half dozen readers were deprived of our wit.

Jim:  It was a good creative outlet for us, but it eventually ran its course. I suggested that we team up to write a novel. We could either do his favored genre Sci-Fi or mine, Fantasy. He opted for Fantasy, but on the condition that we didn’t do Sword and Sorcery.

Frank:  I guess Sword and Sorcery is a negative influence for me. If we wrote a fantasy novel, we would stay away from clichés. I suggested “Muskets and Magic” with the technology from around the industrial revolution.

Jim:  I was a little worried that we couldn’t write descriptive and exciting battles with muskets but agreed to try.

What’s it like to work together on stories?

Jim:  It is a lot of fun to write together. It’s kind of like a big tandem story.

Frank:  Jim and I live about 1500 miles apart, so together is a relative term. We set up an FTP site where we keep draft documents. Our emails to each other are usually very terse “chapter 2 back to you” sorts of things.

Did you ever want to re-write something your brother wrote?

Jim:  We would constantly rewrite each other’s stuff. One of us takes the first stab at a chapter, turns on change tracking, and the other one edits it. It passes back and forth until someone flags it a “Clean”, meaning that all of the changes have been accepted.

Frank:  Inside the chapter files we have our notes and edits to each other. Our notes are enclosed in brackets and edits are highlighted as document changes in MS word. Our bracketed comments might be about plot inconsistencies, actions a character might take based upon their personality, directions for new plot lines, and so on.

Jim:  Of course there were many instances where one of us would mark it clean, the other would have a revelation, and the process would restart.

How did you feel when your brother critiqued your work? No sibling rivalry?

Frank:  We both come from technical professions where everything we do goes in front of peer reviewers who critique our work. We also critique other engineer’s designs and code. We know how to give criticism and how to receive it. We never take a comment as a personal attack. We want the book to be as good as possible.

I think the end result is that we have a book where you can’t tell who wrote what part. There are some parts that I know I did the first draft like the food, the national colors for the two countries, and Jeunelux’s dream for example. Some ideas that I know are Jim’s: paper trees, dragon flies, the giants attacking a town, and anything with Vilmish. But for at least 75% of Duck Blood Soup, I don’t remember who did the first draft and who did what revisions.

How long did it take to write this book?

Frank:  I don’t remember exactly. A year for the first draft, maybe?

Jim:  And then lots of tweaking from test reader feedback.  We’ve both have jobs that pay actual money so writing is still a hobby.

Jim:  Getting it onto Amazon took several years, because we kept trying to get an Agent and go the traditional route. Plus personal life and paying jobs got in the way.

Frank:  We’re currently working on the second book. There are four or five first draft chapters that are ready for edits. I hope it takes less time to get a version ready for test readers. My hope is to have a solid draft of the whole book for them around August.

Jim:  This time we are taking a slightly different approach by trying to move the story along before polishing anything.

What influenced your writing the most?

Jim:  That is a tough question. There are writers I admire who I attempt to emulate. There are movies and books and games that send my imagination to strange places. Even the daily news could trigger a thought experiment that comes out in my writing. I had dinner a few nights ago with the parents of one of my daughter’s skating friends and immediately started thinking about the father as a potential character.

Frank:  I think one of the surprising influences on our writing is our software background. One of us once commented that we were doing the object oriented development process for Duck Blood Soup. We had chapter requirements, we knew the input conditions and what we wanted for output. Everything else was just implementation.

I think our engineering background also influenced our writing. We both want the technical details correct. We both write technical documents that need to be understood years from now. If I pick up a test procedure written 5 years ago, I better be able to understand what to do. Even if I wrote it, it has to have enough detail because I’m not going to remember what I intended back then. Clarity and word choice is important.

Do you work from an outline? Or does your story just evolve?

Jim:  We have basic plot points but it is up to the writer to get from one point to another. Some of my favorite chapters were character driven and completely unplanned in the original story arcs.

Frank:  But if the story changes and goes in a different direction, that’s okay. Sometimes the characters are going to do what they do.

Jim:  Jeunelux, Dramian, and Vilmish had major parts of their plot lines change based on character attributes they had developed. I remember sending emails to Frank saying things like, “There is no way Jeunelux is going to let this happen this way.” Din’s character traits changed his fate.

Frank:  Occasionally I pick up a draft of what Jim has worked on and I’m surprised at something he’s done. I usually go with it. So not only are we writing a story, we’re reading a new novel at the same time and trying to get what we write to sync up with it.

Other times we set up problems to be solved. For example, I designed the prison at Genderalt and Jim had to find a way to break in. The description in the book was the same that Jim had to work from. I didn’t give him any back doors or hints.

Ever disagree on where to take the story or character? Do you leave the result to chance? Paper rock scissors or dice?

Jim:  We have plenty of disagreements on stories, characters and text to keep or delete.

Frank:  I don’t remember any serious disagreements. The biggest disagreement on Duck Blood Soup was the order of the first three chapters.

Jim:  Most of the time the problems work themselves out, other times it’s a matter of who has the strongest feelings about it. No screaming fights or anything though.

Frank:  I’ve never cared for the part where Vilmish shakes himself like a dog coming out of a lake, but I left it in because Jim liked it and it wasn’t important enough for me to argue.

Some chapters go back and forth a dozen times before we get a clean version. We have the plot points set out, and sometimes the characters insist on doing things their way but there was never anything that threatened to derail the book. Living 1500 miles apart might help with that.

Did the story ever take a turn that you wished it didn’t take?

Jim:  There were two characters that I became very attached to while writing the book. In the original story arc, both died. Thankfully I saved one of them, but I couldn’t save the other. I have a story arc started for the character that survived.

Frank:  I don’t really remember the story going off in a completely unexpected direction. Sometimes the characters seem intent on doing their own thing but we adapted.

Jim:  My son has warned me not to kill off one of his favorite characters, which I almost killed him off in book one, so that was lucky.

Did you intend for this story to be a treatise on racism? Do you think it is?

Jim:  When we started building our world, we had to consider what prejudices from our world should carry over. Which should we ignore, and which should ones to flip on their heads.

Frank:  I wanted the prince to be somewhat of a bigot and I think we both figured that could be used to manipulate him. I kind of like how we used food so wildly different species could have something in common.

Jim:  Racism started as a useful plot mechanic, but when we tried to figure out why certain characters thought and felt the way they did, I think it turned into something more.

Frank:  It was never intended to be about racism, but when I started working on book two, I realized how much racism played a part.

How did you decide on the cover for your book? Who designed it?

Frank:  That’s a question for Jim because it’s a friend of his.

Jim:  I built the cover using a map that a friend of mine created for us. We have other ideas for covers that are more traditional, but my friend has a family life and a paying job too, so we went with this cover for now.

~Diving into Duck Blood Soup~

Why did you choose these four races? Of the four, which do you like the most?

Jim:  Frank is very good about pushing us away from clichés, so he immediately shot down the traditional Orcs and Elves along with Swords and Sorcery.

Frank:  Giants were the original non-humans. We needed rampaging behemoths to destroy a town.

Jim:  I told him that I couldn’t think of any books that looked at Giants being more than lumber thugs.

Frank:  Having them be sensitive artistic types came later. I really like how they turned out. I think Sangres were next. They were originally sneakier and deadlier but we wanted something different about them.

Jim:  The Sangres were probably because of my fascination with vampires but not sparkly ones. Although I did read those books.

Frank:  Having a stereotypical vampire was boring. We kept the blood drinking part, gave them some interesting powers, and tried to develop an ethical system for them that would be in direct contrast to how people think of creatures who dine on blood. I think the Sangres are my favorite.

Jim:  I think Frank came up with the S’rephs, the flying race.

Frank:  To me the S’rephs aren’t as well developed at the other races. We’re making them more well rounded in the second book and I like them a lot better.

If you could be any race in your story, which would you prefer? Why?

Jim:  A human wizard would be awesome, but since there’s only a small percentage of humans that are wizards, I would probably want to be a Sangre.

Frank:  Can I be a wizard? If not, then a Sangre. I like their philosophy and ethics. Heightened senses and strength from drinking blood is also a plus.

Jim:  Actually, choosing Sangre is almost cheating, because you could still experience what it was like to be any of the other races and even be a wizard if you so choose.

Is it easy to have a Giant for a friend? You know… do they actually fit in the doorway? Sit on a chair? Punch a hole in the roof by standing up too fast?

Jim:  It wouldn’t be easy, but I think it would be a friendship worth the effort. If your house isn’t built with Giant friends in mind, it might be best to meet outside.

Frank:  You would have to have some rooms to the proper scale. I think we mention that kitchens need to be modified if you’re going to have a giant for a chef.

Jim:  And you might want to be in a tree or on your roof, because they would feel awful if they accidentally stepped on you. I would worry most about the mood swings, and I certainly wouldn’t want to pick up the tab for dinner and drinks

Which character did you find the easiest to write or relate to?

Frank:  Groenendael. Whenever I talk to someone from a different culture, the conversation invariably turns to food. If something isn’t too far out there, I’ll try it. I think Groenendael is the same way, although I don’t know if I’d try duck blood soup.

Jim:  Jeunelux and Dramian were the easiest for me to write. For book two, I’m working on the Jeunelux chapters. I’m also digging into Chowmach’s head. It is an interesting and disturbing place.

Which character are you most like?

Frank:  I’m a foodie. So I’d have to say Groenendael.

Jim:  I kind of modeled Garimet off of my interactions with my daughters and nieces, but he is also based on my father-in-law.

Do you ever want to slap your characters for being silly?

Frank:  Vilmish needs to pull his head out of his rear, and in book two I suspect he’s going to get that pointed out more than once.

Jim:  I’d probably smack Beauceron at several points, but then I would likely get a death sentence.

There are several strong female characters. What’s the inspiration? Why female?

Jim:  Strong female characters were Frank’s idea, but once he suggested it, I ran with it.

Frank:  One of many reasons was Hermione Granger. I thought she was far more interesting and competent than Harry and I’d rather read a book about her. When we started writing Duck Blood Soup, one of the positions going in was that we wouldn’t have traditional, rigid gender roles.

Jim:  There are plenty of strong females in my life: my wife, my daughters, my sisters, my mother, as well as my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. Gender stereotypes and limitations really rub me the wrong way. My daughters and nieces are very intelligent people who could offer a lot to society. I try to let them know that they can choose whatever career they want, to ignore anyone who tells them otherwise and not let gender-biased influence hold them back.

Frank:  We didn’t want female characters who sat around waiting to be rescued or who were nothing more than decoration. We would have women in combat, in positions of authority, or out doing stuff while trying not to make a big deal that they were women.

I think writing Jeunelux was the hardest to write because neither of us has ever been a teenage girl. For the other female characters in the book, I could pull traits from women I knew in the military or at work.

Book two introduces a female lieutenant leading Petrev Avidita’s old combat unit. She was inspired by someone I learned about from the 1950’s radio show Tales of the Texas Rangers. I was so impressed with how a mousy little guy could order around a bunch of huge Texas Rangers and they would gladly take his orders that I grabbed his leadership, changed his gender and popped her in to the new book.

You’re stuck on an island and you can have two items plus one of your characters. Pick & why?

Frank:  All I need is Greoenendael. Then he could get us rescued.

Jim:  Can I have my smart phone and a solar charger? That way I have tunes, books and games. I’d take Tervuren for the conversation and the likelihood that he could come up with a way to get us off the island if we choose.

If you could play with any magic-tech device, what would you choose & why?

Jim:  I’ll have to come up with one in book two so I have a decent answer the next time someone asks this question.

Frank:  The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. That would really be handy! I know that’s not in Duck Blood Soup, but that’s the device I want. Or a TARDIS. Yeah, make it a TARDIS.

~The Love of a Foodie~

Do you plan to name all the books in the series after food?

Jim:  Frank has proposed a working title for book two that involves food, but he’s indicated that he has a better title idea now. Maybe his response will tell us both.

Frank:  I don’t know. We have a working title for the second book but that’s probably going to change. The title Duck Blood Soup didn’t show itself until after the state dinner chapter.

What is your favorite meal in the book?

Jim:  I would have loved to have been at the state dinner. Unlike Beauceron, I would have eaten everything they put in front of me, and been looking longingly at the meals the other races received.

Frank:  That is a difficult question. I love the tomato soup with the frozen tomato sorbet in the middle. It’s been a long time but I believe it was prepared by Chef David Kinch of Manresa restaurant in Los Gatos California. Chef Kinch’s food was the inspiration for most of the gourmet dishes. Fans of Food Network’s Iron Chef America may have seen him destroy Bobby Flay in Battle Cabbage in 2009. It was one of the most lopsided victories in the history of the show.

Ever thought to include any recipes? If so, which?

Jim:  We have talked about it, although some of the dishes are ones that Frank has had at high end restaurants, so I don’t know if he could recreate them.

Frank:  I’ve heard that David Kinch is writing a cook book. I’ll leave that to him.

So, I guess they will not be writing a cookbook soon, but they did provide us with a link to some recipes. And, thanks so much to Frank and Jim for taking the time to do this interview.


~~ Enter the Giveaway! ~~

For your chance to win a Kindle copy of Duck Blood Soup, identify the breed of Frank’s dog from the pictured above!


Check out Sonja’s review of Duck Blood Soup.

Look at the handy Races & Character Glossary for Duck Blood Soup provided by Frank Hofer.

To find out more about the co-authors, James & Frank Hofer and their work, check out their website.