Diana Pharaoh Francis | Diana P. Francis | Diana Francis
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.

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Sunday, June 11th, 2017
Book Review Roundup

I’m doing a fair bit of reading. I’ve discovered some new authors that I enjoy and plan to talk about those soon, but I’m behind on some specific book reviews, so I’m going to get started on them. These books are provided by NetGalley.

 

Ella’s Ice Cream Summer by Sue Watson

I was in the mood for a romance, and thought this would be more romantic, but it wasn’t. It was, however, well worth reading. It was a delightful read, despite me having a significant level of annoyance at the beginning. I’ll explain, but first, about the book:

Ella’s life just hit rock-bottom, but can a summer by the sea mend her broken heart? When life gives you lemons… make ice-cream!

Life hasn’t always been easy for single mum Ella, but she has just hit an all-time low; she’s jobless, loveless, very nearly homeless and, to make matters worse, now the owner of a pocket-sized pooch with a better wardrobe than her.

Packing her bags (and a bigger one for the dog), Ella sets off for the seaside town of Appledore in Devon to re-live the magical summers of her youth and claim her portion of the family ice-cream business: a clapped-out ice-cream van and a complicated mess of secrets.

There she meets gorgeous and free-spirited solicitor, Ben, who sees things differently: with a little bit of TLC he has a plan to get the van – and Ella – back up and running in no time.

In the beginning of the book, Ella’s up against a really obnoxious family. Her mother and her kids seem to be unredeemably selfish and can’t seem to give Ella the time of day. She’s struggling with finances, with the financial demands of her ex, and losing her job. She gets a lifeline in the shape of an inheritance from her aunt. When she finds out what it is, she’s a bit disappointed, but pretty soon she starts to turn things around. She gets a new focus for her life, a new romance, and starts finding a confidence in herself she never had. She also starts uncovering the secrets of her past, secrets that her mother doesn’t want to come to light.

This book was a lighthearted, but very real journey of a woman to find herself and her past. She comes through it all stronger, and her family becomes stronger for it. I enjoyed this book quite. I really appreciated the deepening of Ella’s character and the way she becomes stronger and becomes the anchor for her family and friends.

This next one is a huge change of pace. Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler not for the faint of heart, either. It’s a psychological thriller and it hits hard. It’s creepy as hell. It very well may give you nightmares. This is a good thing. It’s well written and well constructed. I’m not going to say a whole lot about it overall, because I don’t want to give spoilers. But first, here’s the description:

Alex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table.

The man who stands over her isn’t a doctor.

The offer he makes her is utterly unspeakable.

But when Alex re-awakens, she’s unharmed – and no one believes her horrifying story.

Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, Alex begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind. And then she meets the next victim.

You can tell just by the description that it’s going to be pretty terrifying. It was incredibly frustrating to see how no one believes Alex. The plot was complex and the characters were compelling, especially Alex. The end was  satisfying and pulled things together well. I’d definitely read this one if you’re into thrillers.

Lord of Chance by Erica Ridley

Normally I really enjoy Erica Ridley, but I wasn’t all that big a fan of Lord of Chance.

Here’s the description:

Disguised as a country miss, Charlotte Devon flees London, desperate to leave her tattered reputation behind. In Scotland, her estranged father’s noble blood will finally make her a respectable debutante. Except she finds herself accidentally wed to a devil-may-care rogue with a sinful smile. He’s the last thing she needs…and everything her traitorous heart desires.

Charming rake Anthony Fairfax is on holiday to seek his fortune…and escape his creditors. When an irresistible Lady Luck wins him in a game of chance—and a slight mishap has them leg-shackled by dawn—the tables have finally turned in his favor. But when past demons catch up to them, holding on to new love will mean destroying their dreams forever.

So to begin, I didn’t have a lot of respect for Anthony Fairfax. He’s a gambler and he seems to be reckless and stupid. Charlotte is a good character, but I find it a little bit unbelievable that she gambles in a public inn with strange men or that they let her, or treat her like a lady. It just struck me wrong. I also wasn’t all that engaged in their relationship or in the ending. For me, the story just didn’t have the fun and quality of characters that her books usually have.

This next one is paranormal romance and part of a longer series. It’s called Wicked Kiss by Rebecca Zanzetti.

Description:

Working as an informant for the DEA, Victoria Monzelle is used to living on the edge. But she’s not a big fan of getting kidnapped. And definitely not by a bunch of bad boy witches with fancy-colored fire to shoot at people. So when Adam Dunne shows up and claims to be a witch enforcer, she’s not going to put her life in his hands based on his word, no matter how smooth and smart and beautifully Irish his words sound. But on the run from a tribunal of witches, she isn’t going to make it far . . .

Before she knows it, Adam’s word is all that stands between her and execution. Sophisticated, just-gotta-ruffle-him Adam has vowed to make her his one eternal mate, wild and unpredictable as she is—to save her from a sentence of certain death. But Tori isn’t interested in being anyone’s pity date. And if they think she’s unpredictable now, they should see what’s coming next . . .

Let me start by saying there’s a lot to love in this book. I’m just not sure they overcome the flaws.

First, Victoria is an informant, but she’s definitely unwilling. I went in expecting her to be more savvy about crime and etc., but really, she’s not at all. But that isn’t really a big issue for me.

The book begins right in the middle of the action and Victoria and Adam have definite chemistry and they definitely don’t get along. This has a great deal to do with the secrets that both are hiding. Now there’s no getting around that Adam is the overbearing alpha type and while challenges him frequently, too frequently for me, she ends up discovering she should bend to him. Now this is a fundamental part of the story because the (steamy) sex scenes are definitely themed with a master/submissive bondage thread. I don’t have a problem with that, except that for me, Victoria comes off as kind of weak because she gives into him sort of against her will (despite being incredibly turned on), and so she has no ability to say no or have boundaries. The idea is that he will know what she needs (submission-wise) and that he knows better than she does what to do and what she should do. That bothers me.

Victoria is constantly doing things that seem strong, but then gives up her power to Adam because I’m not sure why. There is supposed to be this equality between them, a balancing, but I don’t see it.

Plotwise, I liked a lot of what was happening. I thought the whole motorcycle gang thing was a little bit iffy, and I definitely thought Victoria’s “boss” was way out of line. I thought the Witch Council thing was cool and I thought that the story of the drug and the other realms of supernatural were cool. I was annoyed that Victoria had relatively little to do with the resolution of the story–again Adam is dominant. I guess I feel like she kept losing herself and that just didn’t work for me.

I’m torn about my feelings for this book because the writing was so good and the plot was really cool. But. I’m not sure I want to read more of the unbalanced romantic relationships. I just have a lot of trouble with it.

 

 

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Sunday, June 11th, 2017
Stepping Out

I’ve been actively attempting to be, oh, active. I’m starting smaller with just making sure I get so many steps each day with no breaks. I set the count a little low (5K) to make sure I can hit it fairly easily. Working a sedentary job means that I often forget to get up and move. My main goal is to do this every day with no breaking the chain. I’m up to 18 days. My feet and calves and shins are a little bit sore. I need to work on stretching. I keep not doing that. But I’ve been feeling fairly energetic. Pretty pleased with that.  I’ve had a few days where I’ve pushed the workout a little bit more, but the main importance is to a) get in the minimum and b) every day. Once I’m not hurting so much and feeling pretty good about it, I’ll push the minimum up.

I got to meet a Swedish Vallhund puppy today. So cute. It’s pretty much a wolf-colored corgi. And so sweet. He was four months old. I didn’t have my boys with me. Wish I had. I took pictures, but they didn’t turn out so well, but here’s a quick picture. I’ve heard of them before but never seen one in the fur, so to speak. He was adorable and so very sweet.

In the meantime, I’m revising books. I’m hoping to have announcements soon. Oh! but I do have one. I’ve a Horngate short story coming out in August in an anthology. It’s got stories by Seanan Mcguire, Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, Faith Hunter, and lots more.  The anthology is called Urban Enemies, and I’m going to have a copy to give away soon (of an ARC). Keep an eye on this blog and my newsletter for details. If you want to preorder, click here or on the cover:

We’ve also been out digging for petrified wood and finding some really great pieces. Going to be going out and doing more of it soon. The last time we went, a guy found a piece of carnelian limb cast. It was amazingly clear carnelian and it was shaped like a slice of wood. I can’t wait to go back and see what we can find. My husband found this one cool piece that was a little round piece of a limb. It had rotted in little columns through the wood and then those holes filled with agate. The outside is petrified wood. I’m really excited about seeing it polished. That’s something we hope to learn to do this summer. There’s a local rock and gem club we’ve been meaning to join and they offer access to equipment at a low price.

I also want to go hiking around Silver Falls State Park, and to the Tamolitch blue pool on the Mackenzie river. It’s beautiful.

Basically I want to get outside and get moving more. I like to, but I can’t seem to get over entropy sometimes. Which is completely annoying about me. Sigh.

 

Thursday, May 18th, 2017
Middle of May already?

I have some book reviews to do, so I will do those soon. Right now I’m working on revising a couple different things, primarily Shades of Memory, the fourth Diamond City Magic book. I’m also working on finishing writing the second Job book. I had gone down a wrong path and I had to chop out ten thousand words, which sucked, but I’ve mostly caught back up and I think the road is better.

I also signed up to be a Chegg Tutor. If you need tutoring or anybody you know does, look for me.

My daughter has strep and has been staying home most of this week. She’s getting better, though, now she’s on antibiotics.

My shoulders and neck are bothering me. Feels muscular, but could be disk. I’m just taking it easy and trying to find comfortable ways to sleep. I’m icing and heating, too, so we’ll see how that goes. Right now I feel better than last night. I want to go out and walk since the weather is so lovely, but feel guilty that I can’t walk the puppies since I don’t want to have them pulling on me at all with my neck and shoulder acting up.

Maybe I should just go hang myself upside down in the closet and see if I can stretch my back and neck that way. I’d probably break myself if I did that, though. Sigh. It’s hard being a klutz.

My peas are covered with blooms and no sign of peas yet. I am sad.

 

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