Diana Pharaoh Francis | Diana P. Francis | Diana Francis
Wednesday, July 20th, 2016
Overdoing It

I’ve been making an effort to walk. Basically, I’m trying to work up to 10K steps on my fitbit. I realize the number is fairly arbitrary, but given that I’m out of shape and given that I have a sedentary job, it’s a goal. On top of that, I want to get in enough shape to be able to go hiking more. I’m also dragging the kids out on the walks, too, as much as I can. The dogs usually want to quit before I do.

So anyhow, my son has been going to a summer “camp” this week–it does not involve anything resembling camping–doing underwater robotics. We have to drive about 45 minutes away, so while he’s in camp, I have been walking for awhile, and then going to Starbucks for some reading, then running a few errands, and reading some more. I’ve been walking on the OSU campus and it’s quite lovely. Lots and lots of trees, with amazing brick and stone buildings. The weather has been lovely, as well.

So far this week, I’ve hit my 10K three days in a row. Only today, I know I was stupid to do it. I have slight shin splints, and my feet hurt–my muscles need a rest. And yet . . . I don’t want to stop walking. Today I *meant* to go about 4K steps on the walk. I ended up going about 7K and then another 1K before I picked up the boy.

Tomorrow I know I shouldn’t walk much at all. Yet I don’t want to stop. I’m in the zone where I have to make myself get out and do it, and so the more days I hook together where I actually move, the more I develop the habit. So I have to convince myself to do only about 4K tomorrow. Or at least stop and sit for a bit every so often. This I also don’t want to do. I suppose it’s the better of the two choices, giving my fit and legs a chance to relax and to get some stretching in.

I’ve never been very much into exercise, except when I’m having fun. Hiking in the woods is fun. But I need to build some stamina and leg muscles to get there. I’ve begun to do so, and I don’t want to give up the ground I’ve gained.

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
Book Review: Romance, Hard to Handle

I received this book from NetGalley

The book is Hard to Handle by Raven Scott. It will be published August 30th by Kensington Books. It’s romance with some suspense thrown in.

Here’s the description:

A covert ops specialist, a cyber-surveillance expert, and an unmatched international security and recovery pro. These are the men of Fortis. When money is no object, discretion is essential, and the police are not an option, the wealthy and powerful call on this trio of former government agents with elite military training—not to mention charm and good looks…

Samuel Mackenzie has his hands full with Fortis’ latest assignment. Their client is a European real estate investor who is trying to close a multi-million dollar acquisition. But a competitor is attempting to block the deal by any means necessary, including threats and vandalism that quickly escalate to life threatening assault. For Samuel it’s all in a day’s work—except for one unexpected twist…

The mission requires protective detail for the client and his mistress, who is also his personal assistant. But the mistress is Mikayla Stone-Clement—the only woman Samuel has ever loved, and who always seems out of his reach. Yet things aren’t what they seem. Because Mikayla has a hidden agenda of her own, one that puts her directly in the crossfire. Now Samuel will have one chance to save her life…and make her his forever.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Parts of it a really liked, parts of it annoyed the heck out of me, and parts of it made me feel a little uncomfortable in a weird way that I will delve into a little bit deeper here.

So first, the good: Overall, I thought the romance was pretty good, and the suspense plot well designed and laid out (except for the bad guy because he came out of nowhere.) I thought the security stuff was believable and I thought the development of all the actions really smart.

That leads me to the bad. One thing drove me seriously nuts. That was Scott’s inclination to use a lot of book saidisms–insisted, muttered, yelled, etc., when people talked. That was okay, but I felt like they were frequently off. Like when people yelled when they really didn’t. Maybe they raised their voices a little–but yelling jarred me because it was wrong for the scene. Likewise, using insisted when there’s nothing to insist on. Like saying, I’d like a yogurt, only writing it as: I’d like a yogurt, insisted the girl. When no one is protesting that she have a yogurt. And then when one character mumbled when he really was murmuring, because mumbling means unintelligibility of the words. It drove me batty and threw me out of the story.

The next thing that drove me up the wall were the over-the-top connection between the two leads. I loved that there was a time when they forced themselves to keep their hands off each other because of emotional tension, but it annoyed me early on when they couldn’t because it seemed too much for these very controlled people. I think that was the writer’s point–that their passion for one another overcame their usual control–but I had a hard time buying it.

I was really annoyed that the actual bad guy wasn’t even mentioned until they pegged him as the bad guy. I wanted him at least mentioned far earlier.

Finally, and this last one may just be me, but one of the things that threw me out of the story was something that seemed to be missing. Many of these characters were people of color. While I am glaringly white, I do know that POC face various kinds of discrimination based on their skin color on a daily basis. There was no hint of that in this book and it struck me as odd. Or maybe the word is artificial. I thought this particularly for Kaylee, who is not only a black woman, but she works in a field dominated by men. In fact, she’s worked in two fields dominated by men. So I kept waiting for someone to be obnoxious both because of her gender and color and there was nothing.

Now, this may be the fantasy of the book–that there’s a world where POC don’t have to worry about their skin color any more than white people do. And maybe it’s the Black Lives Matter movement that makes me extra-sensitive to those elements in society right now. I’m not judging the writer or the book on this one. I’m trying to figure out if this is a reasonable thing to expect in a book or not. I don’t know. In expecting it, am I doing making demands of a text that I have no right to? I’m interested on what anybody here might say because I think it’s important to discuss and frankly, I’m interested in being corrected if I’m way off base.

All things taken together, I’d give this book a 3/5 stars.

Thursday, July 14th, 2016
Shopping fun

Went shopping up in Portland with my mom today. It was fabulous. I’m not into a lot of clothes shopping, so of course, we weren’t doing that. We went to Penzey‘s and got fabulous spices. I love that place. After that, went to a big mall and went into a shoe store for mom, then into Chico’s for mom, into Teavana, and then lunch and out. I did end up with a pair of Alegria clogs that actually fit (Dansko’s run way too small for my ginormous surfboards I like to call feet.) So I’m really happy about that. Teavana had a ‘tea’ called Beach Bellini, and there’s no tea in it. It’s all fruit. Can be mixed with tea, but I’m thinking it will make a great drink for the fam. Going to try it out and see.

But shopping is exhausting. And I have only got 4K steps in. I need to go out and do some walking this evening.

I’ve got a post up on Imposter Syndrome at Magical Words today. Check it out.

Friday, July 8th, 2016
What I’ve been up to

I went to Westercon last weekend and it was a lot of fun. Had some great panels with some terrific people and the audiences were attentive and smart and asked great questions. Pretty much a perfect storm of panels. And people came to my reading, which was on the first day and I wasn’t sure anybody would.

I got back on the fourth and zoomed out again on the fifth at 6 in the morning. Drove with my folks to CA for my mom to see a doctor. Amazingly, it’s been much cooler than normal–which is to say, I haven’t whined that much and I’ve been able to get out walking. The oaks here are amazing and the scents of the summertime dried grasses, certain weeds, dirt, and oaks just bring me back to childhood. I’ve so been enjoying that. I got to see an enormous vulture in a tree very close up. I didn’t impress him. Or her.

The only downer has been I seem to have had a bout with some food poisoning. Last night on the way home from dinner, I started getting an awful headache and nauseous, and then I got home and upchucked everything. It wasn’t long after that that I started feeling better. I’ve been able to see some people–my father-in-law, my brother and niece, and tonight I’ll get to see another niece and a nephew.

Saturday we drive back. My poor mom’s face is terribly swollen–she had a bit of skin cancer removed–and it’s given her a black eye and half her mouth is swollen. Poor thing.

I’ve been reading some. One book by a popular romantic suspense author that I think must have been written in the eighties because the male lead is an alpha asshole and the woman is sort of a door mat. I read the whole thing, but I didn’t enjoy it the way I wanted to. Now I’m reading one by Iris and Roy Johansen. It’s not really romantic, but the lead character is a lot of fun and I am enjoying that. I’ll report back on it later.

Also, Lois Bujold has a new Penric novella out. If you haven’t read the first, do. I’ve not read the second, but I plan to.

Thursday, June 30th, 2016
Westercon Schedule

I’m going to be at Westercon 69 this weekend. If anybody out there plans to be there, here’s where I’ll be:

Diana Pharaoh Francis Reading
Madison
Fri Jul 1 4:00:pm – 4:30:pm


Autographs

Fri Jul 1 5:00:pm – 6:00:pm
Get your goodies signed!

Cat Rambo, Diana Pharaoh Francis, James Glass

 

Saturday 10am Kaffeeklatsch
Multnomah
Sat Jul 2 10:00:am – 11:00:am

Small group discussions with authors, artists, and other interesting personalities (referred to as “hosts”). Sessions are limited to the host and a small group of attendees.

Anthony Pryor, Carol Berg, Curtis Chen, David D. Levine, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Morris Allen, Sonia Lyris

 

Paranormal Romance
Jackson
Sat Jul 2 3:00:pm – 4:00:pm

Is this science fiction, fantasy, or horror? Whatever it is, fans love it! Learn what makes paranormal romance unique from other genres and the inspiration for writing them.

Diana Pharaoh Francis, Gwen Callahan, Janet Borkowski, S. A. Bolich

 

Physical Intuition and the Suspension of Disbelief
Lincoln
Sat Jul 2 4:00:pm – 5:00:pm

Readers want to suspend their disbelief in our improbable scenarios, but one violation of their physical intuition is all it takes to lose their trust forever. How do we keep it feeling real, even when the impossible is happening?

Blythe Ayne, Devon Monk, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Lindsay Schopfer

 

Literary Beer
Gather
Sat Jul 2 8:00:pm – 9:00:pm

Small group discussions with authors, artists, and other interesting personalities (referred to as “hosts”). Sessions are limited to the host and a small group of attendees.

Diana Pharaoh Francis

 

Fantasy In the City
Lincoln
Sun Jul 3 10:00:am – 11:00:am

With the rise of popularity in urban-based fantasies, so increases the complexity of storytelling. Sure, you know what’s happening in a modern world. But does including a fantastical element have its own challenges? Discuss the challenges of writing fantasy in a modern setting, and how the different choices made by authors influenced their stories.

Diana Pharaoh Francis, Jennifer Willis, Mike Kabongo, Rhiannon Held

 

One Man’s Villian Is Another Man’s Hero
Jackson
Sun Jul 3 1:00:pm – 2:00:pm

Swirling mustaches and obvious evil plans are a thing of the past. Today’s villains and heroes are as complicated as the world we live in. Discuss with our panelists what makes the difference between villain vs hero, and how thin that line can be.

Carol Berg, Devon Monk, Diana Pharaoh Francis

 

Sex Scenes in Writing
Roosevelt
Sun Jul 3 5:00:pm – 6:00:pm

Sex is a part of life, and an aspect we can use to learn many things about a character. Are they chatty in bed, or kinky, or do they prefer the lights off? All are insights that help a reader relate to the characters. But does sex ‘need’ to be in your writing? Let’s discuss what sex in writing means and whether it needs to be in your novel.

Diana Pharaoh Francis, Mike Moscoe, Rhiannon Held, Sienna Saint-Cyr

 

Publishing Coops: The BookView Cafe
Roosevelt
Mon Jul 4 11:00:am – 12:00:pm

The BookView Cafe has grown from midlist writers wanting to increase their web presence to a publisher of new and back list fiction and non-fiction. With over 50 members like Ursula K. LeGuin and Vonda N. McIntrye, no one shoulders more work than they can handle.

Diana Pharaoh Francis, Sara Stamey, Shannon Page

Monday, June 27th, 2016
What do you think?

I’m trying to write a non-fantasy romantic suspense. Sort of a side thing for fun and relaxation. This is my current beginning. Very rough. All the same, I need to know: What do you think? Seriously, what do you think?

He was on his way home just after midnight on a Thursday night when the call came through. A disturbance at Utopia, Trinity’s new night club and restaurant. Injuries onsite, ambulances needed. Chase was only a couple miles away and tired as he was, he wasn’t in the mood to go home yet. It wasn’t as if anybody was waiting for him.

Troopers had beaten him there. Flashing emergency lights strobed across the parking lot. People stood in groups or perched on the hoods of cars, watching the action. Not that there was any action to see, as far as Chase could tell.

He parked, leaving his suit jacket in the car. He paused to avoid the ambulance that rolled through the parking lot and up to the front doors of the club side entrance. A second one turned in a few seconds later, blowing past him in a cloud of diesel.

Chase drew a tired breath and let it out. What was he doing here? He should go home and get some sleep. He had a meeting with Sloan and Rossitch at 8:30 in the morning. He grimaced at himself. Who was he kidding? Even if he went home, he’d be lucky to get three hours of sack time. He’d flip channels on the idiot box while he ate, then he’d spend an hour or two banging his head against the Shore murder. Four years and he still didn’t have the killer. Not that he was allowed to investigate it anymore, at least, not officially, anyway. He shook his head, putting his frustration aside. Things on the trafficking case were heating up. That’s what the meeting was about. Once that was cleared, he could get back to work on the murder.

Chase rubbed a hand over the stubble on his jaw, still wavering. He hadn’t been inside Utopia yet. Now was as good a time as any to check the place out. His stomach rumbled. That decided him. Maybe the kitchen was still open and he could get a burger. All his refrigerator held was beer and frozen dinners. He didn’t doubt both were better here.

“Hey, Lieutenant, what’s homicide doing here?” Jason Thomas stepped away from the woman he was interviewing and reached out a hand to Chase as he approached. He was young, maybe twenty four. He was sharp, though, and ambitious. He planned to make detective by the time he was twenty five. Probably would, too. Chase liked him, even though at thirty one he felt like the kid’s grandfather. The downfalls of working homicide. No innocence left.

“Was heading home. Heard the call and figured I’d have a look around, maybe see if they were still serving food. What’s the situation?”

Thomas shook his head. “Domestic disturbance. Husband’s drunk and shooting pool, the wife is a cocktail waitress. He decides she’s flirting with the customers and goes after her with a pool cue. The manager yanks her out of the way before he can crush his wife’s skull, though the manager took a hard hit to her shoulder. The husband gets hotter and starts throwing punches. Customers and the bouncers take him down. Hard. He’s got a busted nose and maybe a broken wing.

Chase nodded without any sympathy for the bastard. He got what he deserved, attacking his fucking wife. He was probably lucky to have her.

“Good work, Thomas. I’ll leave you to it,” he said. The Trooper grinned at the praise. God, had he ever been that young?

He left Thomas to get statements and wandered up toward the club entrance. Tall pillows held up a broad overhang. Beneath danced a fountain. Not too long ago, the place had been a car dealership. The guy who owned it decided to divorce his wife, probably trader her in a newer model. It had been ugly. Her father owned the land the dealership was on and had kicked the husband off the property. The building sat vacant for awhile before someone had bought it to turn into a restaurant and club. From the looks of it, they’d done a good job. Word was that the food was good, too.

The old showroom was now the restaurant, with the bar housed in the repair bays. The exterior had been covered in a rock façade, with lush trees and flowers sending up a sweet, rich fragrance. White firefly lights wrapped the front pillars, outlined the windows, and layered the roof in a pattern like fish scales. A six foot iron fence with spikes along the top surrounded the outside the rollup bay doors like a large, flagstone-paved corral. Within was a covered stage, picnic tables, a dance area, and a barbecue pit. The stage was dark and the pit was cold tonight. Maybe it was a weekend thing.

The June night was warm and one of the bay doors had been rolled up. Inside, Chase could see pool tables and red-tile floors. Customers still shot balls, uninterested in the drama outside.

The scent of cooking meet wafted out to meet him as he drew close to the entrance. His gaze continued to rove over the spectacle outside, taking in the faces and other details.

Lightning thrust through the center of his chest. What the hell was she doing here?

Chase stopped dead, hard gaze locked on her. Four years since her mother’s murder, three and a half since he’d last seen her. Then she’d been pinched and washed out, her beauty hidden under the drab blanket of hard grief. Now–

She was a wet dream walking. Sunstreaked dark hair framed her face. Tanned skin smoothed over high cheekbones, a strong nose, and narrow chin. His gaze ran greedily over her. Her curves had firmed and her body was lithe and lean except for her breasts. They rode high and full beneath her vest and shirt. The last few years had turned tempered her. She held herself with assurance and confidence, like she didn’t take shit. His chest tightened as her wide, full mouth broke into a smile as she looked up at the paramedic. What the fuck? Was she hurt?

Chase didn’t think. His legs started moving before he knew what he wanted to do. He thrust through the rubberneckers, making a beeline for her.

Behind him, someone complained in protest, but Chase didn’t slow down. He couldn’t have stopped if he’d wanted to.

 

Friday, June 24th, 2016
Research, or please don’t arrest me

In the past day or so, I’ve researched sepsis, the symptoms, how you get it, and how long it takes to kill you. (Don’t get it, by the way, it really sucks hard.) I’ve also researched breaking out side windows in trucks using your feet. I’ve researched snub nosed .38 revolvers and whether or not someone can get to their feet with their feet and hands bound with duct tape. I’ve researched switchblades, spring-assisted knives, and butterfly knives. Oh, and gravity knives. I’ve discussed knives that are spring loaded and can open out the front and put an eye out. I’ve also looked into what law agencies do what and I’ve looked into human and sex trafficking.

Writers live interesting lives.

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016
Owned

I am owned by dogs. I admit this. Corgi boys. They pretty much make me do whatever they want. Lately, they hear sirens and they want to howl. But it isn’t enough that they howl by themselves. Oh, no. They come running to me and no matter what I’m doing, I have to stop and howl with them. If I don’t, they bark at me until I do. So then I howl (I don’t even want to know what kind of crazy this makes me look like), and then when they decide they are done, they stop and I must pet them to soothe . . . I don’t even know what I’m soothing, but it’s needed.

And a snippet from the WIP, because it seems like a good time for it, from the current Diamond City Magic book:

I held out my hand. “Just give me my fucking phone.”

We played who-would-blink first game and he went down. I’m nothing if not stubborn. I was the champion in the family. Tiny dug in his back pocket and produced my burner phone.

I punched in Taylor’s number. She answered on the first ring.

“What?”

“I need to talk to Touray.”

Silence met my announcement. But where Jamie and Leo would have badgered me for information, Taylor stuck to business. “He’s gone. I’ll text his number. Give me a second.”

The phone went dead. A few seconds later, the blue message light began blinking. I dialed the number. My mouth was oddly dry. For some reason, I was nervous.

He picked up just as fast as Taylor had. “Touray,” he growled.

“Riley,” I said.

His shock lasted about a split second. “Where the hell are you? Is Clay all right? What’s going on?”

“We’re with a potential . . . partner,” I said.

I could feel his attention sharpening, drilling through the phone. I resisted the urge to take a step back. Like that would help. “Partner?”

“He wants to take control of Calavera,” I said. “Clean it up, get rid of the bad eggs and restore the community.”

“What the fuck is going on, Riley? Because I don’t have time for this shit. The city is wrecked and your father–”

A chill ran up my spine and my stomach knotted. “Vernon? What’s he done?”

‘That is what I’m trying to figure out, which is why I don’t have time for this.”

“Would you have more time if I told you we’re sort of captives and Price has a broken leg? We’re negotiating help.”

Touray’s voice went molten and quiet. I’ll admit I cringed a little and was very glad he was not in the same room. I glanced around the dingy walls that had been white and now were gray with age and dirt. I half expected to see him appear out of nowhere. He was a traveler.

“Explain.”

“You know about the trace job?”

“I am aware that you took one. I do not know the details beyond the fact that you’re looking for a teenage girl.” His words were carefully clipped and formal, and I could hear the taut wire of his patience stretching thinner with every second.”

“Story short: missing girl lured by a known rapist and and killer holed up in Calavera. We got jumped, captured, and Price’s leg broke. We need a tinker and some manpower, and Tiny here is willing if the trade is worth it. Maybe you should hear his terms,” I added and passed the phone over to Tiny before Touray could ask anything else.

“Hello?” Tiny said warily into the phone.

The room pulsed and crackled with sudden magic. Neither Price nor Tiny would be able feel it. “Shit,” I said and then a furious Gregg stepped out of nowhere and trained his gun on Tiny.

Monday, June 20th, 2016
Magic day

There’s something magic about the solstice and on top of that, a full moon, too. For me, it’s all stirred into the fact that today is my birthday. I don’t have big plans. Mostly to write and to catch up on stuff I’m behind on. And pet dogs, bed and rcause yanno, dogs and cute. And read. I think I’d like to read. I’ve been on a romantic suspense kick. Laura Griffin is my current favorite, but have had recommendations of other writers I”m working on trying out. Oh! And another birthday!!!

Devon Monk’s new book, Death and Relaxation, hits the shelves today!  You should check it out. I’m thinking it’s an excellent birthday present for me. Hey! That’s what I can read today! Yes, I’m a little slow on the uptake today.

I finished proofing all the Path books for their ebook reissue. I have to say that I was happily surprised. First, that they were really good. So I haven’t read these since I wrote them. I have always feared that they weren’t that strong. But I was really happy with them. I loved what I did with the characters and how they grew and changed. I really liked the narrative layering in the last book. It reminded me that that’s okay to do. I know, that’s weird. But I’ve been deliberately avoiding too many points of view. And by too many, I’ve been stopping at two. But if I do it well, I can get away with a lot more of them. And it makes the book a lot richer. This is what I needed to remember for the last Crosspointe book, and maybe for this Diamond City Magic book I’m working on right now.

The second thing that surprised me was how well they held up. It shouldn’t be that surprising, really. They are traditional fantasy, so the decade+ since their release hasn’t aged them in terms of cultural references. But I am proud of them. Really proud of them. I want to tell everybody to read them.

 

 

 

Thursday, June 16th, 2016
I bet you’re wondering

Did you think I fell off the face of the earth? Almost. I received proofs for all the Path books and have to read and proof in a little over a week. I’m done with Fate and Honor, and partly into Blood. Then the kids had their last couple weeks of school and we’ve been having some family issues that I won’t talk about here, but suffice it to say, the focus has been on those.

Then the Orlando massacre happened and I was lost at sea for a bit. What I know is this: hate is wrong. We need to care about each other. We need to be generous, charitable, and tolerant. We need to accept that no everyone will agree with us, but that doesn’t mean those who do deserve violence and death. We are a country built around tolerance and the urge to escape persecution. Let us live by our values. Let us talk to one another, accept each other, help each other, protect each other.

I’ll be at Westercon 69 in Portland over fourth of July weekend. Here’s my schedule. I’d love to have a chance to meet with you.

Other than that, things are going along well. And because you may have not noticed, up there on the Books Tab, you’ll see a Free Reads menu item. Go there for some short stories you might enjoy.

I’ve also got a post up today on Magical Words if you’re interested.