Diana Pharaoh Francis | Diana P. Francis | Diana Francis
Thursday, April 25th, 2019
The Dogs Complain

Dear R.J. Blaine. What’s wrong with you? You’re making our mom neglect us. She kept reading that stupid book—Hypnos—and hardly noticed us. Breakfast was late. Dinner was late. We went to bed late. She barely pet us or talked to us like we weren’t even there. We’re practically skin and bones, right now. So we’re writing to ask you—please, please, please, stop writing books. They are too distracting and she doesn’t need distracting. We are the goodest of boys and deserve better than her lackadaisical care of us. She’s supposed to be at our beck and call 24/7. But your stupid books suck her right in and she wouldn’t put the book down no matter how much we licked, barked, played, or nudged. Those ALWAYS work.  We checked her Kindle. She has MORE unread books from you. We tried to delete them but we have no opposable thumbs. If you don’t comply, we will be forced to take drastic measures. Nobody wants that. Well, Merlin does but he’s naturally violent.

Sincerely,

Crowley, Merlin, and Vodood

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019
Review: American Witch by Thea Harrison

I first learned of Thea Harrison when Patti Briggs said I should read her books. Sadly I was slow to get around to that, but discovered I love her writing very much. Still, with so much going on, I didn’t get to read very many of her books, though they remain waiting in the TBR mountain.

American Witch is her upcoming release, and you can get your hands on a copy on April 29th. I suggest you preorder.

So first, what it’s about. From the back cover copy: 

Power can change a person…

For months Molly Sullivan endures the inexplicable: electrical surges, car breakdowns, visions. She even wonders if she might be the cause… and wonders if she might be crazy. Then she discovers her husband has cheated on her. Again. Now Molly realizes she is a newly awakening witch and a woman pushed over the edge.

Revenge can shape a person…

Josiah Mason is a Powerful witch and the leader of a secret coven with a shared goal: to destroy an ancient enemy who has ruined many lives. Josiah lost years to this man, and his sole focus is revenge. He’s prepared for every contingency—except encountering a beautiful new witch who understands nothing of the immense Power building within her or the attraction she wields over him.

Danger can bring them together…

When divorcing her husband, Molly uncovers a dangerous secret he’s willing to kill to protect. She turns to Josiah for help, and they discover a connection between Molly’s husband and Josiah’s enemy.

As they work together, a spark ignites between them that threatens to become an inferno. But Molly is done compromising herself for any man, and Josiah’s mission is his top priority. And the enemy is cunning, cruel, and drawing ever closer.

As the danger escalates, so does the tension between them. Is a lasting relationship possible? Will either of them live long enough to try?

My thoughts:

I loved this book. Found it hard to put down, in fact, which says a lot since I’ve been having trouble reading through to the ends of books for awhile now. This was a compelling read for me.

Molly was an amazing character. Strong, stubborn, flawed, and wholly likeable. She wasn’t a doormat. She’s sharp as hell and brave as well.

Josiah wasn’t your typical asshole. He came off as focused and an ends-justifies-the-means sort of guy. He’d suppressed most of his emotions and to a large extent his humanity over years of seeking his end goal.

Also, neither are super young. They have scars and have earned those scars.

Then he runs into Molly. At first he sees her as a tool, but she doesn’t let him view her that way. She thinks and she argues and she refuses to put up with his habits of being in charge and telling people what to do. This startles him into looking at himself and he doesn’t like what he sees. Their relationship isn’t easy and grows out of respect and admiration. It’s very organic.

The path to their HEA isn’t an easy one and both are willing to walk away at various times, and then they feel compelled to do so for very good reasons. You don’t read the situation and roll your eyes and say oh, please, this could be solved with a simple conversation. No, the obstacles are real and require them both to find ways to bend if they are going to work things out.

I love the magic of the world and the intrigue of the story. There’s more to it to come in future novels. That’s clear. A struggle that will be ongoing and building toward a crescendo at some point. I’m totally planning on being on board for that ride.

I also love the descriptions of their attraction and the sex because its so very emotional. It’s not about the sex and not so much graphic as powerfully written, if that makes any sense.

I highly recommend this book and hope everyone out there will go grab a copy because it’s just that good.

Sunday, April 14th, 2019
Unexpected Choices

I happened to get my Bookbub mailer today, and in it was a bundle for “Alien Mail Order Brides.” That tripped me up. It’s on trend in a lot of ways, but it overlays the old west and even current practice of mail ordering a bride, which I find a bit unexpected. (But why is it never a man? Would gay or lesbian people be able to mail order a spouse? What does marriage mean in an alien culture? Would it be more like a mail order baby-mama?) In these books, the aliens are invaders, and no doubt superlative human-like male specimens with huge dongs and twelve-pack abs and the sexual stamina of a diesel locomotive. From the description, the women are going to be seriously happy in bed.

But the concept made me start thinking of mail order spouses in a futuristic landscape. It made me think of Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild (which is amazing and you should read it if you haven’t, and again if you have!). It also made me think of Pat Murphy’s “His Vegetable Wife.” Both are a case of alien ‘marriage,’ (and I define that term very loosely), where the difficulties of mating between two species/cultures is highlighted. (And to be clear, “His Vegetable Wife” is not a case of voluntary ‘marriage,’ but of the essential enslavement of the wife. BUT! The ending is awesome and again, if you haven’t read the story, you must.)

And then I got to thinking about ‘aliens’ and marriage in our own world, with aliens because Others of all sorts, whether othered by race, culture, education, wealth or lack thereof, age, weight, religion, and so on. Romances are often about how two ‘alien’ type of people come together and find commonalities and love. A lot of SF and F is also frequently about ‘aliens’ coming together and working together for a common goal. They also often highlight the fear of the ‘alien.’

Thinking about what I’ve written about, that’s a pretty pervasive theme in what I write. I hadn’t really thought about it that way until I started thinking about the mail order alien brides. But it makes me feel better in general knowing that a lot of books in multiple genres are tackling the ‘alien v. us’ theme and demonstrating that hatred isn’t the way to go, that people are people, no matter what color, shape, language, gender, or anything else that separates them from being the same as me or you.

Friday, March 22nd, 2019
Spring is Springing

Usually this time of year I’m ready to dig into the garden and grow things. This year . . . not so much. Part of that is because I can’t do any garden things until we put up a dog fence around the garden beds. We also have a lot of cleanup and repair to do on various things in the yard. Even so, I usually can’t wait to get going. This year is weird.

It may be because of the funk I’ve been in. It’s been long and difficult. It may also be because I’ve got to get a lot of work done and decluttering and spring cleaning and little house projects I’ve needed to do and really make me feel itchy. So gardening seems to be a little bit on the back burner.

Speaking of itchy, I’ve been having some sort of skin rash for about five weeks now. It’s freaking itchy and I’m guessing it hives. Trouble is, allergy medicine doesn’t do much. I’ve got some topical cream from the doc, but it’s not doing that much either. It’s driving me freaking nuts. I’ve got to go to the doc again and see if there’s more to be done.

We’ve been walking the dogs a lot and that’s been fun. The weather’s been nice and everything’s starting to bloom. The air smells divine. Merlin likes to crash into me when he comes running back with the ball we throw, which is giving me bruises on my legs.

Planning on going to Miscon this year. Looking forward to it. I should have book coming out in April, but more on that later. And I’m working on wrapping up the second Mission: Magic series.

And now, back to work!

 

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019
Hmmm. Erotic BDSM novel

I read this erotic BDSM novel today. I thought the world was pretty cool–slightly alternate earth, slightly fantastical. What got irritating was the BDSM. ALL the relationships were BDSM and it got really annoying. And it wasn’t the BDSM parts per se. I get BDSM and I obviously wouldn’t read it if it bothered me. That wasn’t the problem.  That’s not what annoyed me. It’s that all the women secretly wanted to be dominated. That, despite having life experiences that would indicate any sort of BDSM experience would likely be horrifying (we’re talking molestation, rape, plus a lot of violent  abuse by male relatives. And then there’s  forced submission and bondage situations for unwilling women who later want to be bound and hurt in order to have an exciting sexual experience).  These women had clearly been through horrific experiences, and then the “cure” for them was a BDSM relationship.

Another bothersome thing was that women were always the submissive and men were always the master. Never the reverse. And the dominance thing overflowed into their real lives. The women were  portrayed as always in the wrong, men always had to be patient and correct and rescue them and even though the women were supposedly strong, their strength was always requiring male guidance and discipline. The women turn out to be more childlike than adult. And again, not in a sexual way. This is in ordinary interactions. One woman who is a specialist doctor demonstrates complete incompetence and the men who have no idea what they are doing in the field always know better than she does and she’s always having to apologize or hang her head in shame. It’s really appalling.

So let me stress it’s not the BDSM I have a problem with. It’s the portrayal of the characters and the overall situations. Now the author does create a culture where the laws of society puts men in positions of power and women are essentially in traditional female roles. There almost seemed to be an unspoken genetic male impetus to be sexually dominant in a BDSM fashion. The thing is I liked some of the characters and the world, but kept getting annoyed at the way women were portrayed. Kept driving me nuts and throwing me out of the story.

The fact is, though, I’ve been encountering a lot of these sorts of stories where the women can only feel like real women or feel whole if a man abuses them emotionally or physically. And again, I’m not remotely saying that BDSM is abuse. It is not. It is consensual and the submissive has the power to stop at all times, which means that person has the power to say when things go too far for him or her, which means that person holds the power in the room. It’s a relationship of trust and vulnerability, which this book does talk about, but then makes it impossible to believe that these women could have have that vulnerability and trust in these men. In a lot of novels I’ve been seeing, including the one today, the woman (always submissive) has to suffer through agonizing pain, all for her own good, and even though she often clearly struggles against it, she always suddenly gets an amazing orgasm. What’s clear is that the situation is frequently not consensual, which is the part that bothers me. A lot.

I’m trying to figure out if there’s a titillation factor here that makes the BDSM a fantasy, but one that the writer doesn’t bother to understand. Or who twists it for a weird romantic angle. Fifty Shades tends to fall in this category for me. Twilight does in its own fashion, as the male protagonist is a stalker and a pedophile, and the female is passive and weak, requiring rescue and male care.

I guess what’s bothering me throughout is that I didn’t feel that any of these women freely consented, or that they had the ability to say no. And that means the scenes are abuse, not actual BDSM.

 

 

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019
Dog Battles

The battle to a) not get bitten by Merlin, b)teach him not to bite, c) keep him supremely occupied and entertained, is ongoing. He’s doing better in a lot of ways. We’re also giving him a calming treat with some CBD in it designed for dogs. That helps him with anxiety, which I think he has a little bit of. He seems to bite/snap when he’s relaxing and we start petting him. It’s odd. Yesterday he came and snuggled onto my lap and I went to pet his head and he snapped. He didn’t really get me (I’m learning to move quick) but it’s not just me, is it? That’s weird?

We’re still considering taking him to a veterinarian behaviorist. But first I have to get copy edits in on The WitchKin Murders and I have to get my taxes together and off to the accountant.

We’ve been taking the dogs out every day for their walk and then to throw the ball for Merlin who loves to chase it, even when he’s dead tired. It’s hard to find places where we can take him off leash, though. And we’ve discovered if one of us throws the ball and the other takes the other dogs off walking, he comes looking for the walkers. He gets really worried as soon as he can’t see the walkers. So we do the walk first and then the older dog rests and the younger corgi plays and sniffs while Merlin runs after the ball. I’ve also been making fleece tug toys that both puppies love. It’s a whole lot cheaper than buying them.

After three and a half weeks, I still have itchy hives and allergy medicine isn’t helping. Hoping to talk to the doctor today. She’s been out of the office the last few days.

I’ll post a snippet of The Witchkin Murders soon, so look for it!

Thursday, March 7th, 2019
Long time no see

I haven’t check in here for awhile. I finished The Witchkin edits (A Horngate world book) and so I’m hoping to be able to show you a cover and give you a release date soon. I’m thinking April. It’s really fun and I can’t wait for you all to see it!

In the meantime, I’m working on the fifth Diamond City book and the second Everyday Disaster book and the second Mission Magic book. I want to get all of those done by the end of summer, but only time will tell. I have to admit to being in a funk for months now and having a hard time getting my shit together.

Merlin, our heeler puppy, has taken to biting. Right now it’s improved, but it’s very worrying. I’m working hard to get it figured out and I’ve been training and exercising him a lot. It’s a very odd situation, to be honest. And I found out we got him from what’s probably a puppy mill, which just sickens me.

He loves to chase balls, so we’ve been taking him out and using one of those throwers to really get some distance. He totally loves it and will keep running forever if we keep throwing.

Crowley, the corgi puppy, is still not liking getting brushed, which is a bad thing as he starts to shed. I’ve got to convince him it feels good and is worth letting that scary brush near him. I’ve used all kinds of brushes, and it’s funny because he’ll start by loving the brushing, realized he’s being BRUSHED! and decide to run off. He’s such a corgi snot.

I’ve inventoried most of my yarn and have discovered I’m a yarn whore. I’m trying to figure out projects and I have to finish some that I’ve back burnered. I have some lovely yarn, though, so I want to do some things. It’s nice when I’m watching TV, except Merlin likes to bite the yarn in half, and all three dogs like to lay on it while I’m trying to work. Sigh.

I’m reading this book by Jenna Glass titled Women’s War and it’s so far amazing. It puts me in mind of Sheri Tepper’s Gate to Women’s Country and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but instead of a future society, Glass is writing a secondary world fantasy set in a unique world with a unique magic. Looking forward to finishing the book. I think it’s going to be a really good book. Really good.

Hopefully I’ll be checking in more here. I’m hoping I”ll get out of my funk. My FIL is currently in the hospital and we aren’t entirely sure why. He’s being moved from ICU to a regular room. He had a procedure which apparently went well, but after he had breathing issues. Mind you, he didn’t tell us any of this. First we got a call from his neighbor. Hopefully all is well.

To add insult to a bad day, I had to take Merlin to the vet. I caught him eating something on a walk and I tried to get it out of is mouth, but he managed to swallow it first. I didn’t get a good look at it, but I thought it looked like a pork chop bone. So off to the vet where the Radiograms showed that he had not swallowed a bone. So crisis avoided. Whew. But expensive, and emotionally wrenching.

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019
Considering Reverse Harem Stories

Have you read a reverse harem story? Do you know what they are? Essentially they are romances involving one woman and at least three men. Two men would make it menage-a-trois, which is another category of romance. I have been told by one writer of reverse harem stories, that this is not a group sex/orgy type of book, but the woman has encounters with each man one-on-one. The focus is on the developing romantic relationships between each pairing, while the men also develop relationships with each other of a non-sexual nature.

I’ve not really read them, after learning about them last year. I happened to run across a book bundle with four or five inside by the same author, so I picked it up and so far have read two of the stories.

This writer has a particular formula. I don’t know if applies to the genre in general or not, but there are some things I found interesting about the formula as a writer. First, in these books, the woman doesn’t know the men. She meets them one by one, usually, though one many usually has a male friend with whom he’s shared a girlfriend before, and it was something they wish to repeat again.

I think this experienced couple of men is fundamental to the way she tells her reverse harem stories, because they can reassure both the woman and the other men that this can be a healthy and normal relationship. In other words, they give a kind of permission for everyone to participate in what is currently socially taboo behavior.

The woman also has a problem that she doesn’t want to ask for help for. She’s independent and spunky the men all admire and want her. There’s an insta-love sort of quality to these stories because there isn’t a lot of time to develop each romance with any depth, so the reader just has to buy that they fall in love without a lot of evidence. There’s almost no conflict between the woman and each of the men. The conflict tends to be exterior in the shape of whatever problem the woman has, and complicated by the fact that she either doesn’t want help, or doesn’t want to tell them she needs help, Often she’s in money trouble.

The men want to help her through not giving her money, but helping her dig herself out and supporting her while she does. In other words, it’s not exactly a rescue. Nor is it a “we’ll help you for sex” situation. They like her and want to help her and the implication and sometimes explicitly stated motivation is that she deserves their help whether she’s romantically involved with any of them or not.

In both these books, they five (four men and the woman) end up moving in together after each realizes they all want her and they are willing to compete and let her choose. Of course she realizes she loves them all and can’t choose, and decides to call the whole thing off. She can’t bear to hurt any one of them by picking just one and she can’t imagine that they would want to maintain the relationship, but of course, they all do. She’s just that amazing.

She has sex with each man individually, and toward the end, there’s a kind of five-way with all the men involved, touching and kissing and pleasing her, which makes them all happy. There’s no male-on-male sex. No hint that they even touch each other while they are all naked with the woman.

I have to admit, part of me kept thinking . . . wow, what a lot of work to have sex with multiple men. It feels good and she’s terrifically happy, but combined with working and living life, that doesn’t give her a lot of time to just relax. Maybe relaxation is overrated when you can have that many mind-blowing orgasms.

One other thing that I noticed is that she has to constantly reassure herself that she’s not a slut. Her word. That having sex with multiple partners doesn’t make her an awful person. I found this annoying. It’s not that I don’t get the reason why. Society says that women who have multiple sex partners, whether dating them at the same time or serially, are whores. Readers have subconscious biases against women who do have and enjoy sex with multiple men.

Men who like sex and horndog sex, on the other hand, are just players and that makes them more manly. And the men in these stories clearly don’t have issues having multiple sex partners. It’s never suggested that they are anything less than manly men. But it has to be repeated that the women are not sluts or whores, that they really are good women, and sometimes this is reinforced by them cooking amazing meals for all the men, or being domestic in some other fashion, or being really kind and generous and the fact that they worry about what might be thought about them shows that they are really good women.

The fantasy of these novels is really the chosen one fantasy. And not just one amazingly handsome, nice, wealthy, kind, generous, and big-dicked men, but four. And they are so obsessed with her that they are willing to share her with other men. In fact, it’s a good thing because they won’t have to worry about her when they are working (all tend to have their own businesses or be workaholics). Nor will they have to feel guilty for not giving her enough of their time and attention.

I’m curious about other reverse harem novels and how they approach the story. I have to admit that while this author worked hard to make the stories robust with developed characters, I found the stories a little thin and flat. Not enough depth and not filling enough. Also a bit repetitive and not enough real conflict for me.

Does anyone read these? Do you have a favorite author or book? How do other books approach this type of story?

Friday, January 11th, 2019
Cotton Picking

Did you ever hear that phrase? I heard it fairly frequently as a kid and not so much lately. I happened to read it today and got to thinking about how bigoted that phrase is. The phrase is always pejorative: Keep your cotton picking hands to yourself. Get your cotton picking hands off that.

Off the top, it clearly refers to those who picked cotton by hand, and specifically that would be African Americans. So it’s an incredibly racist statement. Keep your black hands off whatever or to yourself. Don’t use our bathrooms either. Or our drinking fountains. It’s truly foul and I’m really glad it’s fallen out of common usage. But isn’t it amazing how just looking at it without context there’s nothing particularly offensive about it. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be black and hear a phrase like that. I mean, I hear any kind of “like a girl” phrase and I get a little homicidal. Because there are no does things like a girl phrase that are complimentary to girls.

I’m trying to think of other phrases like Cotton Picking that I’ve heard that are racist and I didn’t realize. Anybody want to enlighten me?

Friday, January 4th, 2019
January: So It Begins

I haven’t been using my fitbit for quite awhile. First I accidentally washed it, and then the battery went dead and I didn’t get around to charging it. So I finally got around to charging it and today have been measuring my steps. We took a long walk and so I’ve got points on the board, so to speak. Now to keep it up.

I’m still poking at writing with little headway. This is so freaking annoying.

Merlin, the mini blue heeler, is having trouble getting along with the other puppy and the older dog. It’s a domination, where to fit in sort of problem, and I’m not sure I’m doing a very good job sorting it out. Getting the boys fixed didn’t seem to help. And the older dog is cranky about puppies anyhow. Crowley, the other puppy, takes it for awhile and then says ‘nope, done,’ and then he just goes after Merlin and frankly, Crowley comes out the winner. He sounds and acts like a grizzly.

This is Merlin just after a walk yesterday
This is Crowley wondering why I’m disturbing his nap.