Diana Pharaoh Francis | Diana P. Francis | Diana Francis
Tuesday, December 18th, 2018
Adventures with Di

I’m so behind on everything, I can’t begin to say. I’ve been teaching in an online MFA program and just came to the end of the term, which meant a ton of grading. I’m also wrestling with a book and I keep having to throw away what I’ve written because it isn’t right. I am having problems coming up with what is right. Then I also have been revising a book set in the Horngate Witches world. It’s going slower than it should because I also had a foot surgery, and when they took the pin out of my toe, it got hugely infected and so I’ve been dealing with that. And puppies.

I’ve wanted to get out and do something fun like go to the coast or visit the snow in the mountains, but so far, haven’t. Did get the tree up and decorated. Need to wrap and ship. Our Christmas this year is going to be super low key. I was in the mood to really do it up around Thanksgiving time, and then the whole foot thing and work deluge thing happened.

The puppies got fixed, but one of them is still very aggressive and fights with the older dog and the other puppy. I’m working with him on this and hoping that the hormones will subside before long. Apparently it can take six weeks post-fixing for that to happen. If it doesn’t, I’m not yet sure how to handle it.

The Turning Tide is re-released with a new cover!

Right now it’s pouring down rain in buckets and the wind is whipping. I want a fire, but ours is a gas fireplace that’s expensive to run, and it’s right next to the tree so I don’t want to run it and have the tree dry out.

I’m currently wedged in between puppies who are all snuggled up with me, so I’ve got that going for me.

Oh! And I was able to start knitting again! My elbow is letting me without hurting so far. That makes me a happy camper.

I feel really random in my news. Sorry about that. It’s been awhile since I’ve updated. I’m just throwing various things at you.

I’m super excited about the winter solstice and the return of the light. This is my turning of the year, when the days start to lengthen.

Oh, and here’s another thing I’ve been doing . . . . When the girlie graduates from HS, we want to move. Our taxes in this area are really high and it’s hard to make ends meet sometimes. We plan to stay in the general area, but try to get something a little farther out, and get something with a shop or room for one. So I’ve been looking at real estate and watching renovation shows on HGTV and thinking about what I will want in a house and how I can make it happen. I know it’s not happening for a really long time, but it helps me procrastinate on other things. Like I need help. *grin*

My son goes to college next year. Well, more accurately, he’ll be moving out to college. I’m not ready. He’s going to Early College High School, so for the last couple years he’s been taking all college classes at the local Community College. All those credits will transfer (or should). But anyhow, he’ll be moving to school. He’s been accepted at one of the places he applied to with a really good scholarship. He’s still waiting to hear on the others. His top choice is local. He wants to go into Chemical Engineering and there’s only one university in Oregon that offers the degree. It’s near us, but not near enough to let him live at home. But I’m still not ready.

Sigh. All right. I’m signing off for now. I’ve blathered on long enough.

Tuesday, November 27th, 2018
Representation

I like sappy holiday movies. I like the Hallmark movies with romance and happy endings and joyfulness. Especially given things in the world right now. I happened to notice that the Lifetime channel is showing holiday movies and so I’ve checked some of them out. I don’t usually watch the station because the movies are often really angsty/overdramatic. Anyhow, I noticed a huge difference between the Lifetime movies and the Hallmark movies, and that was the color of the cast. The Lifetime movies has entire main casts who are black, with the white cast members being incidental. And the people are portrayed as real, rather than stereotypical. I’m really happy to see this.

It’s almost shocking to see this. Why? Because it’s so atypical and it shouldn’t be. Casts in general should be more reflective of diversity. I watch lot of varied shows and don’t pay much attention to the fact that there are POC in key roles because that’s normal to me. But when it comes to holiday movies, frequently the non-white characters are singular (I hate to say token, but . . . ). The ‘white Christmas’ refers to skin color as much as snow.

There are also precious few gay characters (and never in starring roles). And overweight and disabled people largely don’t exist.

Representation matters. We need to see people like ourselves. We need to see other people and know we aren’t the only people n the world, or the only culture. We need to see that there are other ways of doing things, other ways of knowing things, and more importantly, everybody is equally valuable. We need to idealize our world as colorful and varied, rather than white, skinny, and enabled.

So I’m very pleased about the Lifetime holiday movies and have been watching them.

*on an entirely other note: Pointsettias can’t handle cold. As in, when you take an unprotected plant from the store to your car in below freezing weather, the leaves will quickly curl and drop. So all these movies (especially the one about a poinsettia farm in the heart of snow country) are portraying pointsettias wrong and it kills me every time I see them.

Monday, November 19th, 2018
Movie Annoyance or Why Did They Have to Ruin a Movie That Way?

Actually they didn’t so much ruin the movie, because that would suggest it was good enough to ruin, so much as they built it upon a super crappy premise. The movie is a 2015 movie called Vice, starring Bruce Willis and Thomas Jayne. It’s got a West World vibe going on, with a sort of city-playground populated with “residents” who are cyborgs. These cyborgs are made of mostly human parts, but are fairly disposable and essentially props in the playing out of vices of whoever pays to play in this city-playground. At the end of the play-time, the cyborg’s memories are erased (ish) and the borg is reset with its base personality programming. So he or she repeats the same day–in the case of the focal cyborg, she is on her last night bartending before she moves on to another job.

Now when you think of the array of potential vices–fantasies people can live without repercussion, which do you think of? I can thing of a range of sexual fantasies people could play out, from orgies to swinging to just a super romantic encounter. I can see experiences like rescuing people or gambling with unreal money and winning all the time and living the luxurious life. I can see getting to boss people around on a job for once. I can see someone cutting lose in a variety of ways. Adultery, drugs, gluttony . . . I mean, there are so many possibilities.

But that’s not what happens in this vice-playground. It seems that it’s a playground where men beat/rape/kill women. That seems to be the predominant theme. IN fact one woman (our focal bartender), has been killed and tortured so much that she’s started having flashbacks. They are unable to fully erase the memories.

Why is killing, raping, and torture a vice? I guess I can see doing sword fighting in medieval style or in gamer style. Or swashbuckling maybe. But this? And it seems to be completely directed against women. They are dolls whose total purpose is to be victims of male violence.

What the fuck? I mean, really? Why would they make this movie? Don’t answer. Or rather, I already know. That’s typical of how our culture views women. Disposable. Objects.

So anyhow, I have no idea what happened beyond the point where I realized just what the movie was about. I couldn’t even watch for the sake of commentary without wanting to vomit.

Have you encountered these movies lately? This one was made in 2015. Shouldn’t film makers start getting a clue? Getting into this century? Hell, getting out of their misogyny?

 

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018
Book Review: Once Upon a Duke

I’m reviewing a short Christmas novel/novella by Erica Ridley. Normally I love her books, but this one didn’t work as well for me. Part of it was I had a hard time believing in a town devoted to Christmas in that time period, so that may be all my fault. This is the back cover copy:

Beware romantic spirits from Christmas past…

Due to the terms of an estranged relative’s will, the Duke of Silkridge must revisit the cold, unforgiving mountains where he lost everything he once loved. As soon as he restores his family legacy, he’ll return to London where he belongs. He definitely won’t rekindle the forbidden spark crackling between him and the irresistible spitfire he’d left behind…

Noelle Pratchett is immune to charming scoundrels like the arrogant duke. He stole her heart, stole a kiss, and then stole away one night never to return. Now he’s back—and they both know he won’t stay. But how can she maintain her icy shields when every heated glance melts her to her core?

 

So as I said, I didn’t buy the setting. The relationship between Silkridge and Noelle is believable, but for me, there’s too much exposition, and so much depended on long ago events. There wasn’t enough time or space to really build the romance. I felt like there needed to be more time, more conflict.

I also wanted to kick Silkridge’s dad’s ass. And I had a hard time with him being so beloved by everyone and the fact that he was a total asshole to his son. Surely the servants would have known and the town would have known. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t revere him for what he did for them, but I felt they would also have some awareness. The lack thereof was silly.

There were some other things that bothered me, but I liked a number of the characters, the stipulation in the will (I kept expecting there to be some significance to this–that his father figured out he was an ass and had try to make amends somehow. Nope. Not even.

In the end, it just wasn’t a satisfying read for me. Won’t stop me from picking up her other books . . . those I haven’t read.

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018
Um, what? Happy Samhain!

Today is national:

knock knock joke day

magic day

doorbell day

caramel apple day

Now, the um, what? refers to doorbell day. Doorbell day? Does one observe doorbell day by doorbell ditching? Standing out front and ringing it all day? Is it today because of Halloween and all the doorbell ringing from trick-or-treaters?

This day and night, may the transformation you most need come to you gently, lovingly, and surely. May you celebrate with your beloved dead and merry meet at the crossroads of your destiny.

Rather than shun or fear them, may you embrace the quiet, needful gifts that the endarkenment offers. Let the seeds of next year begin the sleep before joyful birth.

To you, and all your beloveds, I wish you a most blessed Samhain!

 

Friday, October 26th, 2018
Reverse Sploot

Corgis are famous for the sploot. Legs out behind and out front and all splayed out. Then there’s the reverse sploot. Crowley is demonstrating for you .

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018
Puppy Outing

We had our first jaunt out to the park today. Crowley’s shots are finally fully active, so we can do that without worrying about Parvo. They boys had never been and were absolutely entranced. Trying to look at and smell everything, running back and forth like Tigger on speed. They made me run with them in sandals, which is not wise for me, given the enormous and horrible black eye I gave myself while running in Birkenstocks a few years back. I tripped and landed on my face and while I didn’t break my orbital bone, it was awful and I still have a bruise on the bone that hurts. Also, I never did get my foot surgery so the right foot is still unhappy with me walking on it, much less running.

So anyhow, the puppies wanted to run exuberantly. I ran with them. I stopped far sooner than they wanted, but they weren’t unhappy because there were other things to sniff and see and hear and nose and touch. They came home, ate dinner, and then fell into a coma. Once they were rested, they began the evening parkour/MMA event, which still proceeds apace. Pictures of the boys below, sans Voodoo, who is annoyed with them. He has taken to lying beside me on the couch and eyeing the shenanigans with great irritation. I can hear him saying, “Get off my lawn!”

Thursday, September 27th, 2018
Kavanaugh and the Hearing

I cannot begin to tell you how much it enrages me that this man is still under consideration for the supreme court. I believe Blasey Ford and I believe the other accusers. He is at best an attempted rapist. I despise Grassley and the other GOP senators for trying to hide so much—no FBI investigation, no testimony from other witnesses or other accusers, no release of many of his records, and no interest in digging into this. These people–mostly men–are hypocrites, amoral, and frankly, a threat to all women everywhere. Their unwillingness to condemn this behavior, to take it seriously enough to investigate, tells every woman and every girl that they don’t matter. That men and their power matter more and always will. They are despicable.

Kavanaugh clearly has no interest in actually getting to truth.  If he were as innocent as he says, if he were as good a legal mind as he claims, then he would want the investigation to clear his name. But he doesn’t. He wants to use rhetoric and bullying tactics to win the day.

I can only hope that rage from women everywhere will rise up in a hurricane of righteousness and kick these men into oblivion. I hope women take office. I hope women show our power. I hope we unite for the betterment of America, of equal rights for all people, of justice and fairness.

Women don’t have any hope for rights to their bodies, to equal pay, to general equality, while the GOP remains in power. Until WE take over the reins of government. These GOP men must be quashed. This November, we must vote them out, and repeat that voting out every November until they are no longer able to oppress women.

Tonight I am disgusted and furious and I know that we have to act. We have to rise up. We have to defy these bastards and take back our country. They don’t own us. But we can own their asses if we get out in November.

As for Lindsay Graham—the man is a coward, a bully, and a sycophant. Any respect I might have had for him in the past is gone. He ranks right up there with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan as the worst enemies of the people and of America.

Monday, September 24th, 2018
The Real Fantasy

My book, Putting the Fun in Funeral, came out earlier this month. It’s one I enjoyed writing quite a bit. It made me laugh a lot. That was a relief, at the time of writing. I used the novel as an escape. Dealing with politics, the schisms in our society, the horrors of various manmade and natural disasters, and on top of that . . . teenagers. I needed a place to hide out where I could have fun and not think about reality.

That said, Putting the Fun in Funeral has a dark side. I’ve got a morbid sense of humor, and I that definitely comes out. I got to thinking about the dark elements in the past couple of weeks, and I had a bit of a realization. In this book, as in many of my books, there’s a lot of hardship and some terrible people who do terrible things. Those terrible things are truly awful. Heinous.

A lot of the dark stuff happened before the book starts. It’s what makes Beck who she is and the girls who they are. I needed that dark stuff to be there, but I didn’t want it on the page. I didn’t want to have to wallow in it. I just wanted the reader aware of what Beck has fought against in her life. I wanted the focus to be on the relationships, on dealing with the aftermath, on not only surviving, but triumphing.

I’ve had a review or two (I try not to read reviews, but couldn’t help myself because I love this book so much) where people have said that I don’t show enough of Beck’s scars, of the PTSD she must surely have.

I got to thinking about why that might be and my conclusion is that I wanted to write this where part of the fantasy of the book is saying that you can escape the scars and the evil, that you can overcome those things, that evil can be put behind you. Yes, it leaves a stain and I’m not trying to suggest it doesn’t. We all know it does and we all know you don’t just “get over it.” But I really wanted to show someone moving on with strength and determination, with a feeling that she can get past it and live a great life.

I wanted her to triumph over her enemies by taking back her life and living it with joy. I wanted a story where the effects of the bad can be fixed. I think that’s something we hope for in today’s world, even if we know it’s not so easy a thing to accomplish. That’s the fantasy. That’s my sort of happily ever after.

Read the first chapter here.

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018
Murder Trial Parts 3 and 4

Previously I talked about attending a murder trial. If you haven’t read parts one and two, I’ll give you the links to those pages.

Part I

Part II

What follows are the next two parts.

Murder Trial Part III

In Part I and Part II, I talked about things I’d learned and the initial testimony of the coroner, first cops on the scene, and the investigating detective.

Now a cybernetics and forensic sound detective was called to the stand. A lot of time was spent establishing in credentials. He had degrees in his field and he’d trained with the FBI and CIA, plus taken a lot of post graduate classes. He knew his stuff.

The reason he was called was because of Sparky’s phone, that as I said before, was found on the counter. It was an iPhone, and at first the police couldn’t get into it. About a week after the murder (and I’m calling it that because he was convicted), a member of her family produced the code and unlocked it.

That’s when they discovered the recording.

Now, this was interesting for me because I hadn’t heard any of the opening statements earlier that day, and so I had no context for the recording. I’m fairly certain the prosecution laid out its narrative of what happened in the opening, as did the defense, and so I think the jury must have had some context.

The detective was questioned about how he worked with the phone and how he took the recording off it. He talked about putting it into a Faraday Box so that it couldn’t transmit or receive any transmissions, and then went into technical detail about how he processed the phone.

Eventually, they got to the recording, which they proceeded to play. I’ll tell you more about that soon. Then there was an attempt to present an “enhanced” recording, which the defense objected to (they didn’t object at all to the recording’s initial presentation). Their argument was essentially that the enhancement would prejudice the jury (the jury had been removed from the courtroom for this objection argument). The prosecution argued that this was no different from photographs with arrows and explanations provided by investigating detectives.

The reason that they wanted the enhanced recording was because certain things on the recording could not be heard on the courtroom’s sound system. What the detective said was that in his sound room, with high end speakers and no exterior sounds, things could be heard that couldn’t be heard on the court speakers without pushing the gain and things like that. Basically, he was amplifying certain sound waves to make them more audible.

The judge ruled in favor of the prosecution. The jury came back in and then the enhanced recording was played. I’ll admit I didn’t hear a lot of what had been enhanced, but here’s the sequence.
One thing that wasn’t clear at the beginning was how much of the beginning of the recording had been cut that we didn’t hear. We learned that later. But I’ll get to that soon.

So first we hear a knock on the door. No one answers. Then the door opens and we hear footsteps. Maybe six or seven. Then we hear two quick shots and a gasping sound, and then the body hits the floor along with the phone. Then six more shots.

Then there are sounds and the phone is picked up. There’s swearing and the sounds of numbers being punched into the phone and then the cabinet getting kicked or the counter getting hit. After that, there are several minutes of walking through the house and more sounds near the phone, and more muttering and swearing. And then finally he calls the police.

Jason sounds panicky, though when he’s walking through the house he seems very calm. He says he’s killed his wife, that she wasn’t supposed to be there, that she attacked him with a knife. The operator talks to him and he claims he’s checking her pulse and she’s not breathing. He says he shot her eight times. The operator tells him to go outside and wait for the police to arrive, and we can hear the sirens, and then voices signaling the arrival of the police. What’s interesting is that we can hear the operator talking to dispatch and the dispatch talking to the officers. It was kind of surreal.

So that was the recording and the main evidence. As I think I mentioned at the beginning of all this, the reason I was at the trial was because my husband had been called by the prosecution to testify. I couldn’t be there for that, as he wasn’t called that day, and I couldn’t come back the next day.

But he’d been talking to Jason about Sparky and the difficulties in their marriage, and then at one point Jason (my husband thought jokingly and still does), asked a fellow hispanic employee if he knew any gang members. This is what they prosecution wanted to ask about. The implication being that Jason was looking to hire a hitman.

Next time . . . The defense story and my problems with their narrative.

Murder Part IV

All right, so last time I talked about the recording and the murder. Now I want to talk about the defense story of what happened and why I had such issues with it.

I read this in the paper, so I don’t have the details I might have if I’d been there, and I wish I could have been.
So what the story of the defense is as follows . . . .

It was Valentine’s Day. Jason and his girlfriend (who, in soap opera style, was the maid-of-honor at their wedding, and in news that doesn’t matter, her boyfriend was Jason’s former best friend), had decided to take his young kids to a Valentine’s breakfast at McDonalds before he went to work. However he had a bout of IBS and sent them without him and then called into work and said he couldn’t go.

He says that Sparky shows up after his kids are gone and they get into a huge fight and she threatens him, grabbing the bread knife to do it, and then storms out with it. Fearing she’ll return, he goes to get his pistol out of the gun safe which is why he has it. He claims that she returns a short time later, comes in with the knife and attacks him, and then he shoots her.

I had a number of problems with his story. First, I found it very hard to believe that he and his girlfriend would be taking the kids to McDonalds before school and before Jason left for work. Here’s why. He began work at 7 a.m., so he had to leave an hour early to get there. That means he had to get his two kids, ages somewhere between 6-10, out of bed and to eat before that. As a parent, I found that very difficult to believe.

Then there was his timeline. He didn’t text in to say he wasn’t going to be at work until after 7 (something my husband’s boss was called to testify about). So he knew he wasn’t going to work as early as six when he’d have had to depart, but doesn’t text his boss until after he was supposed to be there. Incidentally, the murder happened around 7 a.m.

Then there was the recording. She walks in and goes a few steps and there’s gunshots. No talking of any kind, no fight, no sounds of her attacking him with a knife.

Why was her phone on the counter? She was holding it as she walked in from the sound of things on the recording. You could hear it hit the floor when she fell. And along the same lines, why was the knife so loose in her hand when the backpacks in the other were so tight they had to pry out of her hand?

But there were a few other things that I haven’t mentioned. She’d made a habit of coming to pick up the kids before school when he wasn’t home, even though she wasn’t supposed to. I don’t know if that was a legal agreement or not. Apparently this made Jason very angry.

He’d switched vehicles with his dad the night before, saying he needed his dad’s truck. He left his car at his dad’s house. That meant Sparky had no idea he was home because the car wasn’t there.

But the big kicker was that this wasn’t the only recording. She’d recorded 12 other visits prior to this and the prosecutor played the first minutes of each time. They were the same. She knocked on the door and either walked in, walked down the hallway and talked to her kids and their grandfather—Jason’s father—(who seemed to always be happy to see her), or he answered the door and let her in.

Twelve times. Then on number thirteen, she walks in and gets shot. If she was planning to attack him with a knife, why carry the backpacks? She expected obviously her kids to be there, which suggests she wasn’t planning on a fight. Second, why record if she was about to commit a major crime like assault or murder? Makes no sense.

I find it difficult to believe that this wasn’t a premeditated murder. He got his kids out of the house. He made sure his car wasn’t there to warn Sparky. He lay in wait with his gun in the kitchen behind the refrigerator so he could shoot her as soon as she came out of the hallway. From the recording, she didn’t see him. He shot her before she knew he was there.

Clearly he wasn’t expecting the recording. He wasn’t expecting that his several minutes before the call to 911 would be heard by anybody, nor that he’d only checked her vitals to see how she was when he called. And no, I don’t think he actually checked her vitals.

I do wonder if I’d actually heard the defense and heard him on the stand, if I would have believed him. But I don’t know how he would have explained away the problems I see.

So that’s it. The whole part of the trial I saw and what I learned about later from reading the paper about his testimony.

This is a link to one of the accounts that includes a summary of his testimony.