Diana Pharaoh Francis | Diana P. Francis | Diana Francis

Archive for July, 2015

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Friday, July 31st, 2015
Nine days of pain

I’m out of shape. Way out of shape. I also have gained back a lot of the weight that I previously lost. I refuse to beat myself up about this. The main reason why it’s slipped so much is because of my son’s illness, my deadlines, and general life. I have been stress eating, even though I have also tried to eat healthy meals. I have not exercised regularly, though I have tried to keep moving as much as I can. Now that life is easing some, I’ve decided to get moving.

Toward that end, I decided that I would exercise for 21 days straight. Why 21? Well, no good reason. The main goal I was shooting for was that I didn’t want to stop. I know myself. I knew that this would make me sore. That I would go five or seven days and take a day off and then another, and then another. I wanted to go long enough that I would hopefully keep it up, even if I took a break. I wanted to just do it every day as a matter of course, and not fight myself.

So I started out. I returned to my old elliptical workout. That meant 33 minutes on the elliptical, and then stretching. Or walking about 2 miles. I also have been doing some weights, but not counting them as the exercise, mostly because I need the aerobic every day. Those have been my two choices for now. So I started. And I got sore. Especially my hips and feet. As the days passed, I kept wondering just how long it would be before I stopped hurting. And more days.

Well, the magic number is nine. I got up today and didn’t feel sore and stiff. When I did my elliptical today, I managed to go 40 minutes instead of 33. Anyhow, that’s 10 days down now. Eleven more to go. Except I’m hoping that I don’t take a break then. I’m hoping I just keep going and make it a regular part of every day. I don’t know that exercise will ever be something I enjoy, but I am hoping it becomes something that I at least will do without a lot of resistance.

I read this article about habits. It said something about how you first go through a honeymoon period, and then you go through a resistance period. Once you fight through resistance three or four times, then you will be in a place where you will keep going without having to fight too hard. If you stop, then you’ll likely have to fight resistance again and overcome it. I don’t know if that’s true. I’m at the point where I’m still resisting, but it isn’t as much of a struggle.

It doesn’t hurt that I’ve lost a couple of pounds and that I can see a difference in my body already, and in my stamina, and in strength when I do things. My energy is somewhat lagging, but then it’s freaking hot. So that may be an issue. I’ll report back in eleven more days. Now that I’ve got double digits, the idea of stopping before my 21 and having to start all over again is unpleasant. That’s a positive.

Friday, July 31st, 2015
parenting and writing

I need to write. Obviously. Book is pretty much due. I have many more words to go.

Went out this a.m. with the folks and the girlie. Get home. Tell the girlie she can watch a 1/2 hour of TV.

Girlie: But mom, I watched everything I DVRed.

Me. Okay, so then watch a show on Netflix in the spare bedroom.

Girlie: But mom, every time I watch there, I have to input the WiFi code.

Me: So input it. No big deal.

Girlie: But mom . . . *whining*

Me: *totally fed up and feeling deadline biting at my heels* Fine. No TV. Solves the whole problem.

Girlie: shrieking and wailing . . . No! No! I didn’t mean it!

Me: go away. I’m writing now (repeated with some frequency as the previous continues). Girlie stomps upstairs in her room above my office where more wailing and weeping commences. I turn on the music to drown out said noise.

Sigh. I’m sure there’s a more appropriate way of handling this.

Thursday, July 30th, 2015
Book Review: Needs a Little TLC, Ines Saint

I received the book from NetGalley.

Needs a Little TLC is a charming romance. I mean that in the best way. This is a contemporary romance, about Cassie and Sam. They were childhood sweethearts, but had a bitter breakup and Cassie left their small town. Now she’s returned as a realtor, wanting to market the thirty or so houses he’s been renovating. It’s a lucrative opportunity for both them, if they can work together.

One of the best things about this book is the down-to-earth reality of their lives. They each have scars, not just romantic, but from events in their pasts, and from difficult relationships with their parents. Both are genuine, nice people. I like that the difficulties of the romance were not manufactured out of irritating behaviors or convoluted problems. Both of them are not always easy to get along with, though neither is a jerk. It’s just that people aren’t always nice to one another.

The romance progresses naturally and they have to deal with figuring out who they are as adults, as well as who they were as children together. They are surrounded by friends and family who have known them for years, which both helps and hinders things. Both are driven by particular demons and in the end, they learn that asking for help and accepting help is not weakness.

I really appreciate that this book was not straightforward in some ways. This really was a journey for both leads, and both struggled. I like that Jake was not made of cardboard, and that Heather was not stereotyped. As a fan of HGTV and DYI, I also loved the house renovation stuff.

I really enjoyed this book and I recommend it. 4/5 stars

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
Relearning an old writing lesson

Jake Lake once said that he liked to write a book over a period of no more than 3 months. For that long, he said, he could hold the whole plot in his head and he didn’t lose things. Longer than that, and bit and pieces started to fall away and he had to work a lot harder to get the story down. At that time, the idea of writing a 3 month book was absolutely crazy to me. I couldn’t imagine ever succeeding at that.

But then I did. I learned he was right. For about three months, maybe four, I didn’t have to worry about taking a ton of notes on where I was going or what the characters were up to. I could hold the story in my head. In writing that speed, I kept the pacing sharp and I also had a lot of fun. I never felt bogged down in a scene, because the scenes went by too quickly for quagmire. If they didn’t, that meant the scene had a problem.

I learned this lesson. It’s hard, because writing that fast means discipline and sticking to a schedule. It also means the words damned well better flow. One truth for me is that the words tend to flow better when I stick to a schedule, get sleep and exercise, and I eat reasonably health. I feel energized and creative.

However.

My son got sick and that took a lot more out of me than I ever expected. Part of it was having to go to the neverending doctor appointments. Part of it was having to watch him suffer and being helpless. Part of it was trying to be strong for everybody in the family, and especially my daughter. And it kept going on and on. Still is, really, but at least he’s improving.

Anyhow, my creativity grew thick and dense and unwilling. Writing was more miss than hit and I did fewer and fewer words as my schedule fragmented. I have no regrets–I was and am spectacularly happy to be available to the kids when they need me. Not everyone, not even most, can do that and I can and I have had no problems making them my priority.

I ended up having to reschedule my books and give myself much longer to finish them. That meant that I was going to plan for six months rather than three months per book. While that has been necessary, it has also made a difficult creative process even more difficult. Because I feel like scenes lag because I spend more time on them. I feel like I lose the character voices. I feel like I lose track of what I wanted the story to be. It’s infuriating.

In the fall the kids (both!) go back to school. I hope to regain my routine and hopefully my production. I hope to dive deeper into the creative ocean and live in it more so that the story will flow better. I have a lot of things I still want to write.

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015
Mental flush

Someone I know used to tell me that I need to learn to flush the crap out of my head and let it be gone. Don’t let it keep bothering me. This is much harder to do than I like. The older I get, the more I’m convinced I need to do it, and just let it go.

I’ve not been given to grudges in my life. I don’t particularly hold them. There are some people, however, who I would as soon never have anything to do with ever again. Occasionally I think of them and feel my blood pressure rising. Luckily, I think of them less and less frequently, and I’m slowly–if not forgiving–I am forgetting them. I’m remembering that they have no impact on me. They are not important. Their opinions, their past actions, their voices–none of that matters now. I handled them the best that I could at the time, and while hindsight always offers woulda coulda shoulda moments, on the whole, I am happy with my integrity and honor intact.

That said, someone posted something today that really peeved me. It had to do with what happened with the last teaching gig and I realized I wasn’t over with the way things played out and the ways some people behaved. I have and had no control over them, only myself. But this brought up terrible doubts. I live with imposter syndrome anyhow, and so I fell today into an awful funk about whether or not I am a good teacher. I miss teaching, I miss students, and so this was particularly painful to me, especially since in so many ways, that was my dream job.

I am not over it. But I have decided that I am letting someone else have too much control over me. I’m letting him into my head rent free. I have to decide to let it go. It’s in the past. Stewing about it will change nothing. Worry and regret are useless things. I have to believe in myself. That’s an extraordinarily tough thing to do sometimes. Especially right now with the end of the book fighting back tooth and nail.

To let it go, I have to deliberately cut ties. One of the reasons I saw what this persona said, was because he had followed me on FB and his post came up in my feed. I have unfriended him. I am considering how many others I need to unfriend. I have to resist temptation to go checking in on what they might be saying. I have to resist thinking about them at all. I have to deliberately turn my mind away from those thoughts whenever they come up. This post, will hopefully be the last of it.

I chose to write this post because I think I needed some sort of personal closure. Or maybe I needed to write down instructions to myself to move along and quit wallowing in the woulda coulda shouldas. I needed to acknowledge that I feel hurt and angry, but I have to acknowledge that I don’t need to. I can kick the squatters out of my head.

So as of right now, that’s what I’m doing. I’m going to have some self-discipline about staying on the positive road. I’m not going to let the bastards grind me down.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

Monday, July 20th, 2015
Book Review: Jonathan Kellerman’s The Murderer’s Daughter
I received this ARC via NetGalley.
I just finished Joseph Kellerman’s The Murderer’s Daughter (which will come out August 18). It’s amazing.
From the back of the book description:
A brilliant, deeply dedicated psychologist, Grace Blades has a gift for treating troubled souls and tormented psyches—perhaps because she bears her own invisible scars: Only five years old when she witnessed her parents’ death in a bloody murder-suicide, Grace took refuge in her fierce intellect and found comfort in the loving couple who adopted her. But even as an adult with an accomplished professional life, Grace still has a dark, secret side. When her two worlds shockingly converge, Grace’s harrowing past returns with a vengeance.cover68324-medium
 
What I like about this book is the depth of characterization and the way all the characters resonate together along the same theme. The main character, Grace Blades,  is the daughter of a murder-suicide with both parents being truly terrible. Their deaths are merely the culmination of an awful early childhood.  She ends up in the foster system with a lot of shitty situations, arrives at a good one, and eventually it turns horrible, but not in the way you’d expect.

She ends up adopted by a couple who are very good to her, letting her become herself and encouraging her on every level. Grace is extraordinarily gifted mentally, able to zip through school with few real challenges. Before she’s thirty, she becomes a revered psychologist specializing in trauma victims. She’s very good, very empathetic, partly from her own background. But. She’s also very distanced and observational–almost living her live in third person. She’s extraordinarily self-aware on some levels, and on others, she’s oblivious. She doesn’t recognize as an issue the leftovers from her own traumas–from courting dangerous situations, to sucking her thumb, to being unable/unwilling to have real relationships of any nature.

One of her risky behaviors leads her to get mixed up in a murder, and soon she realizes she’s become a target of the murderer. Now she has to figure out who that is and why he wants her dead. Only, the why and the who are a lot more complicated than they seem to be.

The thing about Grace is that she’s unemotional and very focused. She’s also brilliant. She makes plans and executes them with determination and nerves of ice, breaking down only occasionally. She makes mistakes and figures out her next steps. She forges on, the need to survive driving her. She is a survivor. That truth is fundamental to who she is and takes precedence over almost every other aspect in her life.

The thing a reader has to be aware of is that Kellerman presents Grace as cold person. Readers may find even her repulsive, though she is skilled, empathic, and she genuinely cares about her patients and helping them through their traumas. But whether you like Grace, you can sympathize with her. Plus Kellerman builds the tension so that you have to keep turning pages. You want to know what is happening and who the players are and why the murders. For me, Grace is not unlikeable, but Kellerman definitely doesn’t give Grace a lot of soft, easy qualities. The book is told in a first person narrative, but despite that, the narrative is related in a distanced way. But that is the point. Grace is meant to be difficult to like, so that the book can investigate its main theme.

It’s clear to me that Kellerman suggests Grace is a sociopath, or at least, verging on one. We know this because she’s so cold-blooded in her observations and her choices, she’s manipulative–usually for good, and she’s unfeeling in many ways. The question is, was she born sociopathic or did she become that way because of her childhood? And how much does it matter? And is who you are about your choices or about nurture or about genes?

All the various characters represent different possibilities of Grace, different aspects of her. In the end, the reader decides if she is a valuable person, if her choices are right, if she’s good or evil or something else entirely.

The mystery is good, but I recommend this book because it does such an amazing job of exploring the nature of a sociopath, of what happens to children of abuse and trauma, how much genetics plays a role in who you become, and who you must be.

Five out of five stars.

 

Thursday, July 16th, 2015
Sasquan Schedule

My Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention​ schedule:

Autographing – Diana Pharaoh Francis, Nichole Giles, Nancy Kress, James Van Pelt
Thursday 12:00 – 12:45, Exhibit Hall B (CC)
Diana Pharaoh Francis, Nichole Giles, Nancy Kress, James Van Pelt,

Reading – Diana Pharaoh Francis

Friday 11:30 – 12:00, 301 (CC)
Diana Pharaoh Francis

Writers Workshop section 05
Friday 13:00 – 16:00, 201A (CC)
David D. Levine, Madeleine Robins, Diana Pharaoh Francis

Fantasy and Supernatural Noir

Saturday 12:00 – 12:45, Bays 111C (CC)

Dark speculative and (frequently) dark detective works are best-sellers these days.  Our panel talks about earlly supernatural noir and where it’s headed now.

Diana Pharaoh Francis, Richard Kadrey, Katherine Addison, John Pitts

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015
Parenthood

Parenting is fucking hard.

Monday, July 13th, 2015
Edge of Dreams on sale

The kindle version of Edge of Dreams is on sale today for $1.99. Yay! So if you still don’t have a copy, it’s time to grab one. And spread the word for me, okay??

And now to go back to work on book 3 and see what damage I can do to my poor characters . . . Remember, adversity builds character. Bwahaahahahahahaha!

Saturday, July 11th, 2015
Napping with dog(s)

I developed a headache today after doing some running around this a.m. and some chores. I have no idea why. Totally lovely day. Blessedly cool. Anyhow, late this afternoon I decided to crawl into bed for a nap. Of course Voodoo followed me and jumped in with me, snugging up into the back of my neck before moving down into the small of my back. So I fall asleep, only to wake up sometime later with a wet dog nose in my hand. Different dog. Viggo does NOT jump onto the bed. He requires the staff to elevate him up. I did not do this. Curious. Apparently other staff members helped him. He felt compelled to wake me a so I could have the opportunity to scratch his ears, which I did, and then went back to sleep.

Later, upon getting up, I did yard work and came away bloodied, but unbowed. The roses fought back, as did the blackberry bushes. Our neighbors grow them, and some have decided to colonize beneath the fence. They have been knocked back for now. I also discovered some blueberry bushes along the side of my front yard that I was unaware existed. I am going to have to find a way to get them some more sunlight.

The kids were highly concerned about the blood running down my leg. Mom! Did you know you were bleeding! As it happens, I did not know. I wasn’t surprised. It’s a rare day when I don’t add a bruise or a scrape or a cut to my collection. The main thing is I didn’t get blood all over my clothes. That would have been annoying.

Oh, I also knocked my noggin into the bird feeder and THAT hurt. Oh my, ouch. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the farmer’s market today, and so didn’t pick up raspberries. I need to go find a fruit stand.

 

 

 

 



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