Diana Pharaoh Francis | Diana P. Francis | Diana Francis
Wednesday, November 15th, 2017
Dodging and Not Dodging Bullets

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks. My husband’s uncle fell and ended up in the hospital. Over the course of the following weeks, he’s had surgery and complications and then things looked promising and hopeful, and then bleak, then promising, then bleak. Now he’s going into hospice, though it’s not really clear to me exactly what is wrong. That’s mostly because he’s been very private about his health and now the doctors are discovering things we didn’t know about. The word cancer has arisen, and apparently he’s had multiple small strokes. Anyhow, my husband has gone to help his dad manage things and get his uncle settled somewhere comfortable and where he can get cared for. He fractured a vertebrae when he fell, and broke his nose, and he’s diabetic, so he’s going to need assistance. I wish I could have gone to help too, but the kids have school, I have Orycon and a signing at Powells, and a couple of can’t-miss appointments, and then there are the parent-teacher meetings. So. We’ll be apart for Thanksgiving. At least he’ll be with family.

That’s the bullet we didn’t dodge. On the positive, my husband’s powersteering unit exploded. Okay, that’s not terribly positive, but it happened in the driveway, so he wasn’t out on the road, and my son wasn’t driving it somewhere. I count those as positives.

We also dodged a bullet insomuch as my husband has time he can take off from work.

In the meantime, I’m trying to get people to read my books, as you do when you have a new release and make a living from writing books. So if you’re feeling kind, please consider reviewing my books and telling others about them. Even better, tell me how you like them because I do like to know. And if you have questions, feel free to ask. 

In the meantime, a corgi face:

 

 

 

 

Monday, November 6th, 2017
Win an Audiobook!

In honor of the release of Shades of Memory, my publisher is giving away an audiobook from the first three books. All you have to do to win is click through and sign up!

Also, Trace of Magic is on sale for $1.99 for just a few more days, and Edge of Dreams is on sale for $4.99.

 

 

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Thursday, October 26th, 2017
Book reviews

I’m so behind on book reviews, but here are three to start getting caught up.

I’m in the mood lately for lighter fare, though I’m also loaded up with mysteries, so we’ll see if I go there soon. Anyhow, first books first. I received these from Netgalley, so you know.

This first is actually a paranormal mystery: Hide and Seek by Allie Harrison. (FYI–the publisher is the same as some of my books). It’s available now.

Here’s the back of the book blurb:

Can she stop a killer before he takes over her thoughts?

As a child, Tess Fairmont learned the horror of her psychic gift—the ability to not only see, but experience the last moments of a murder victim’s life when she grasps their hand. Now, as an adult, Tess has learned to live with the curse of her ability and does what she can to help the Chicago PD solve murder cases.

But when she uses her talent to help stop a serial killer, she finds there are things more terrifying than her visions . . . like a serial killer who can connect with her psychically. She soon finds the only place she is safe is in the arms of the medical examiner, Dr. Michael Adams.

Until the killer makes her his next physical target and forces her to play a deadly game of hide and seek.

 

I really liked the premise of this book and Tess’ talent is really unique engaging. This is a romance as much as a mystery, and I enjoyed both sides of the story, though Michael comes off a little as too good to be true. The killer is creepy and his interactions with Tess become increasingly tense and scary. I do wish there’d been a little bit more obvious connection between the killer and the victims, but the backstory did fit and made sense, plus since Tess is a random element to his story, it works. All in all, it’s a fun read (well, also creepy) and I recommend it.

4/5 stars

Next is a cozy mystery with a CORGI! Can you guess why I requested to review the book? I mean, a corgi. Anyhow, this book is Much Ado About Murder by Elizabeth Duncan, available in November 2017.

Description:

The show ruthlessly goes on as costume designer-turned-amateur sleuth Charlotte Fairfax investigates the death of a disagreeable director in award-winning author Elizabeth J. Duncan’s third Shakespeare in the Catskills mystery. Costume designer Charlotte Fairfax has another murder on her hands as she prepares for the latest performance of the Catskills Shakespeare Theater Company,Much Ado About Nothing. The company’s steady growth enables them to cast star British actress Audrey Ashley, who arrives on scene to play the lead role of Beatrice. But things immediately get more complicated when Audrey insists the company replace the current director with new, up and coming British director Edmund Albright. Edmund plans to change the popular romantic comedy, which alienates several people associated with the production. And the list of people he upsets only grows: the laid off former director, the hotel owner’s secretary, and even Audrey herself. Just as Edmund’s plans are about to come to fruition, his body is discovered on his sofa, holding a gun in his hand. His death is quickly ruled a suicide but Charlotte thinks otherwise. Why would Edmund, on the brink of greatness, kill himself? And in such an American way? With a whole cast of characters to investigate, Charlotte is determined to unmask each one before it’s final curtain call on the whole production in award-winning author Elizabeth J. Duncan’s third Shakespeare in the Catskills mystery,Much Ado About Murder.

 

First, I read this a couple months ago so I’m a little fuzzy on the details, except the corgi is Rupert and very cute. Anyhow the setting for the book is a lot of fun and I really like that Charlotte is not a young thing. The relationships between the characters are real and quirky and I really felt like I was there at the inn and theater. I’m afraid I figured out the murderer a long way in advance, but that’s okay because it was more about the process and the characters than the whodunnit for me. I enjoyed this book too (if I’m honest, I find myself putting down a lot of books I don’t care for these days, but I don’t write about them because my reason for not liking them is more about where my head is right now than the books).

Anyhow, if you like cozies, this book is for you. It’s good. 4/5 stars.

I finished The Christmas Holiday today. Yes, I’m in the mood for Christmas stories. I’m fond of romances and sap and Christmas stories tend to be full of both. Maybe I should explain that a little. By sap, I mean heartwarming, with friends and family and of course, an HEA.

The Christmas Holiday by Maxine Morrey is available now, and is a fun book. It’s got a British flair, which I enjoyed. Plus it had exotic elements as the characters travel to a variety of places.

But before I say more, the description:

Fall in love this winter on a romantic trip around the world ending in a fairy-tale winter wedding!

As winter comes to London, journalist Mia Walker is desperately hoping for her big break as a travel writer, dreaming of exotic locations and sun-soaked beaches. When she’s invited to write a romantic travel piece that ends in a huge winter wedding in London, she jumps at the chance. The only trouble is, the photographer is renowned adventure-junkie Hunter Scott, who Mia last saw five years ago when she ended their engagement.

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and Mia knows she’d be mad to say no – even if it does mean spending weeks travelling round the world with the one man she never wanted to see again! But as the wedding approaches, and the magic of Christmas begins to take hold, Mia can’t help looking out for mistletoe – and wishing she hadn’t cancelled her own engagement after all…

I wasn’t sure at first how much I was going to like this book I liked Mia, but some of her bickering with Hunter seemed to go on far too long and seemed a little juvenile on occasion. But then Morrey seemed to settle in to the story more, and I really enjoyed the romance. This is not steamy at all, for those of you who want to know. There are kisses, but everything else is off the page.

I enjoyed the interactions between Liv and Sandy a lot, and between those two and our unhappy couple, Hunter and Mia. This book was a slow build and the solutions and sorting out the problems didn’t come quickly. It felt very real because of that, and yet I didn’t get bored for that slower pacing. I will say that at first I thought that the whole problem between them could have been solved long ago with a conversation, but as things developed, it became clear that a conversation wouldn’t have really done enough. Both needed to grow up some, and both needed to learn some life lessons of their own.

I definitely liked this book and I recommend it if you’re looking for a relationship read, with the emphasis on relationship. 4/5 stars.

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Wednesday, October 4th, 2017
Unfortunate update

I hate to have to say it, but circumstances are preventing me from attending Fan Nexus. I’m very sorry to miss and apologize deeply to those who planned to see me.

Sunday, October 1st, 2017
Pardon the dust

I’ve been still trying to deal with so much this summer I haven’t been here much. Primarily, my parents had a house fire and we’ve been trying to get things taken care of, but a major problem is that the insurance company has been a pain in the ass. They want to underpay and have been dragging their heels on paying. It sucks. It’s also time consuming and draining.

But! Things continue apace for Shades of Memory‘s release is just about a month now. I’m really excited for you to read it.In the meantime, I’m working on plotting out some new things which I can’t discuss yet, but soon there will be a signed contract and I can make revelations to you!

I’m going to be at Fan Nexus in Spokane next weekend. Here’s my schedule. I hope to see some of you there! I will have some giveaways.

In other news, I’ve been trying to knit, and making some headway, but frankly, I’m much better at making random knots and tangles. I’ve torn out the heel of my sock project about four times now. For some reason, I can’t seem to get the hang of this heel. Ug. Anyhow, I put a heel in and it’s seriously ugly. I hope the heel of the mate goes better.

I didn’t do well keeping up with my garden this year. I was too focused on other stuff and ended up just not taking care of it. Had some lovely tomatoes, but should have had a lot more. Oh, and we had an ant invasion in the house. Finally had to call a pest company. Yellowjackets and ants this summer. What fun. Sigh.

I feel like asking that perennial freshman essay question: What did you do last summer?

 

 

Thursday, August 10th, 2017
Romance of Violence revisted

I posted a blog on the Book View Cafe website a couple weeks ago about the romance of violence. I wanted to expand that discussion and possibly make more posts on it, so the following is a revised/expanded post.

Over the last I’m not sure how many years, I’ve noticed a shift in violence in books. I tend to read romantic suspense, paranormal romance, and all fantasy, plus some other stuff. What I’ve noticed is a growing connection between violence and romance. I’m not talking about abuse/rape/or other typical women fridging tropes, but violence that has specific signification in the romance novel, relating to both male and female leads.

In many romance novels of all stripes, violence is depicted and often graphically (I tend to write gritty/graphic sorts of scenes in a number of my books). It seems to me that in former times, violence was perceived as a weakness. Virile men overcame their violent tendencies and only unhinged or evil women turned violent. Now it’s quite different. There’s an understanding that in reality, violence happens and not only that, you may be required to do violence to someone else. The difference between the good and the bad guys tends to revolve around whether the person being attacked is deserving of violence.

I’m not sure when the shift began, but I suspect it had something to do with Desert Shield when a great deal of military action ran across our TV and computer screens, and we saw the bravery exhibited by military men and women, as well as civilians. Many committed violent acts in the name of their countries, in the name of their families, and in the name of survival. Personally I admired the people who could and would lay themselves on the line for others. This is the same way I admire emergency responders. They take risks to save other people’s lives.

Socially, we’ve seen a growth of the need to physically stand up for yourself against bullying, against abuse, and so on. We’ve seen heroes step out of the shadows to fight evil-doers on planes, trains, and other public areas. So it’s not surprising that we want to write about those kinds of heroes–male and female–who behave with courage in the face of fear. And very often, that depiction is accompanied with violence. It’s not turn the other cheek sort of stuff, because turning the other cheek doesn’t work against stalkers, or gangs, or bullies.

I’ve noticed that violence in male heroes is often used to demonstrate the depth of their emotional engagement and the level of passion they feel. It might be a protective instinct; it might be revenge. These men are driven to an emotional level that pushes them to act, revealing how strongly they feel. This is important in all romances–that the hero acts not just out of duty, but because he’s emotionally invested in the character(s) he’s protecting, whether they are family, lovers, pets, or even strangers.

The key thing is that instead of overcoming the violence, giving in to it seems to now be a positive hallmark of a male character, so long as he’s also kind, loving, generous, and so on to the love interest. (Keeping in mind that there are male heroes who aren’t initially portrayed as kind or loving or generous, but that means they are either super alpha and have other sympathetic qualities, or they are broken/damaged and will grow and develop positively as the story moves toward the end).
Violence, in a nutshell, has become a signifier for depth of feeling in a romantic hero. So even if he’s stoic, his violence (emotional and physical) reveals his inner passions and makes readers care about him.

Readers care about characters who care.

With women heroes, violence has also become acceptable and even celebrated. Similar to shifts in depictions of male heroes, female heroes who are violent are perceived as strong, passionate, determined, and self-sacrificing–they put their lives on the line for others, they take risks for others, they damage their souls for others. Now obviously strong female/violent characters have been around: Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley for instance. They, however, are not really romantic characters, even though Sarah has a romance with Kyle Reese, but it’s not central to the plot. I would argue, however, that such powerful female heroes who commit violence have become more prevalent and have become central to romance novels. (Bella notwithstanding, who is quite passive).

In many ways, the difference in depicting women as violent v. men as violent, is a difference in purpose. Violence is still used to signify passion, strength, determination, and self-sacrifice, but more importantly, it serves to demonstrate competence in women. Competence not only to get certain jobs done that have been traditionally identified as male-centric, but also competence to protect themselves and protect others. That they are not damsels in distress, but they are the saviors for themselves and others. That doesn’t mean they don’t get into trouble or need help, anymore than powerful men can’t get into trouble and need help. What that means is that they are always actively looking for ways to rescue themselves, and they have the capability should the chance arise.

For both men and women, the violence must be directed against deserving parties, and there must be a positive emotional center that prompts the violence–again this might be the urge to protect, to get revenge, or something else along those lines. Otherwise, the characters are just psychopathic assholes, making them enemies.


I’ve been trying to postulate just exactly why violence has become such a key ingredient to a great deal of characterization and plot. I think on some level it’s because reality has more violence–from terror attacks, to wars, to  road rage, and so on. I also think that we see a lot of terrible things happening in the world that a single person or several could change or stop if only they stepped in. The guys on the train in France. The guys in Portland stepping up against a racist killer to protect two teenage girls. There’s a sense of what if I was in this situation–would I/could I kill someone to save innocent lives? Or would I fold and let it keep happening?

Regarding violent female heroes, portraying women as potentially violent equates also with the desire to demonstrate strength and personal power. To break out of the mindset that women need to be rescued. I’m reminded of the line from Adele’s song Turning Tables: “next time I’ll be braver, I’ll be my own savior.” This sentiment reflects a strong current of desire in the culture for women to escape the traditional expectations and limitations society tries to trap us inside.

We have a great deal of respect and a certain romance going on with the idea of the lone wolf hero–or lone wolves– who are few but determined and capable and willing to do whatever’s necessary to defeat evil. Part of the romance is that a single person in the right place at the right time and willing to commit violence can make a difference in saving lives. Lone wolves can also be particularly interesting romantic targets, because they are often broken or damaged in some way and the developing relationship offers fertile opportunities for powerful romance. Frankly I find powerful women incredibly beautiful.

I see a strong element of aggression/determination inherent in the heroic violence. That this person will not be deterred, will not be distracted. This person will get the job done no matter what. This is part of the sense of strength and passion in the character that the violence helps to establish.

I know the subject is a lot more complex than I’ve said it. I’m curious what your thoughts are and whether you see things differently. I’m also curious if you see it as a romance type of trope also.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thursday, July 20th, 2017
Running fast

If I did run, which I don’t, I’d be running fast. Still revising, still helping the folks with rebuilding stuff, still driving kids around.

But! Been reading good books. Having a good time with Helen Harper’s Slouch Witch and the second book Star Witch. Both are a lot of fun. I also read a cozy mystery with a corgi. I’ll be reviewing that one soon. In fact, I have several reviews to get posted.

Bitter Night is on sale right now for $1.99. Also, I’ll have a Horngate short story coming out in an anthology soon. I plan to do a give away of an arc shortly. I’ll put a note here and send out info in my newsletter.

My parents are doing okay, though dad fell last week and ended up with a bunch of stitches in his lip and some serious bruising and lacerations. But he’s going to be okay.

I’m actually posting this a day after I wrote the first bit because I’m totally fried. I have some cut bits that I want to post here. Stuff I couldn’t keep in the book but still love with all my heart.

I’m dead tired now and so I shall go knit before bed.

 

 

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017
Unexpected events

My parents’ house burned. Well, part of it. The fire started in the attic and spread throughout that space before the smoke started pouring into the house. The fire alarms went off about a minute before that smoke poured in. My dad is 88 and on a walker, and my mom is 83. She got dad going out and went to get the phone and the dog and got out and called 911. The firefighters were terrific and in the end, they covered the furniture to protect it, and got the fire out. We now have to find temporary housing with handicap access that takes pets. We’re already working toward getting the house fixed, but it will take months.

I’m trying to take point as much as possible on dealing with insurance and everything else so that my folks can focus on taking care of themselves.

I’m also on hella powerful antibiotics and they are kind of killing me. Those should end by Weds. Yay.

Revising frantically inbetween keeping up with all the other stuff. At least I’m still getting exercise.

Monday, June 26th, 2017
Book Review: The Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop by Tracy Corbett

I received this book from NetGalley.

This is a terrific book. Let’s start there. I’ll give you more below, but just know it’s a really good book and you should read it.

So to begin, The Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop by Tracy Corbett and available July 3, is kind of a romance, but while romance is a part of the book, it’s really about people figuring out their lives and going through difficult times and finding each other as friends and family. So if you’re looking for a strong romantic narrative, it’s not going to be coming. Doesn’t matter. It’s a fabulous read.

Back of Book Blurb:

Evie is busy running the Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop and praying for an uplift in sales as soon as possible. She might be in the market of selling romance, but for Evie a new man is the last thing she needs!

That is until plumber Scott Castillo turns up to fix her boiler. She’s definitely not interested. But then, why does she keep ogling his rather attractive forearms? She’s been fooled before – she isn’t about to fall head-over-heels for some smooth-talker, right?

When he isn’t trying to balance paying the bills with caring for his sick mother, Scott has stepped in to help parent his 18-year-old nephew, Ben. Between that and working full time Scott doesn’t have time for romance. Until he meets Evie . . .

Love doesn’t always bloom the way you expect but for the customers of the Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop it might just be the perfect time for romance . . .

Set in Britain, the book follows Evie’s journey back to independence after a bad relationship. She’s running her dream flower shop, but she’s got a time crunch hanging over her head. She’s got only so much time before she’s got to buy the shop or lose out on her dream forever. She’s also got a chip on her shoulder and is terribly suspicious of men. Scott is a delightful guy, but bogged down in several crises of his own. He’s given up his business and his life in London to care for his disabled mother and his nephew, who’s mom–Scott’s sister–can’t seem to be bothered. His ex-fiance blew him off when he decided to care for his mother, and so he’s skittish of new relationships, but he’s also eager to know Evie.

Things quickly go wrong for both. Corbett follows each through their separate lives, then bumps them up against each other, often with disastrous results. Each of them are putting up fronts so nobody knows just what is going on behind the facades and how difficult things have been and are, and both are afraid of what the other might think. Gradually their secrets come to light and they share, growing closer as friends and maybe something more.

Woven through their growing relationships and acting as foils, are the crumbling marriage of Evie’s best friend Laura and her husband Martin, the passionate and devoted relationship of Scott’s nephew Ben and his soon-t0-be bride Amy, the troubled marriage of Patricia and David Robinson, and the quirky and delightful courtship of Josh and Saffy.

Layered on to these relationships are the friendships that help teach each of the characters–not just Evie and Scott–how to grow and how to hold firm to what they most need and desire.

This story is a relatively slow build, but the pacing is really perfect and the story so well woven that the end is incredibly satisfying. You don’t get any of those “too-stupid-to-live” moments, and when Evie seems determined to be blind or to react irrationally, Cordelia or Laura or Saffy or others are there to catch her up short and point out that her reality is different from what she understands. But you sympathize with her because you see that those reactions are realistic for where she’s been and she owns her mistakes and she doesn’t hide from growth. The other characters find both heartache and happiness–but in the end, it’s all perfect. 

I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to reading Corbett’s next book.

 

 

 

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Wednesday, June 14th, 2017
Book Review

I received this book from NetGalley

This one has two elements that really caught my attention: firefighters and Australia. Burning Both Ends by Sinclair Jayne is a contemporary romance and a lot of fun.

Description:

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