Diana Pharaoh Francis | Diana P. Francis | Diana Francis
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.
Tuesday, January 1st, 2019
Happy New Year

It’s officially 2019 and the year did not start off well for me. Nothing particularly bad happened, just more stuff building that feels like a mountain of sticky tar and cement. I know, those two things don’t exactly pile up into mountains, but it’s still the way it feels. Little things happen and turn into an avalanche and the next thing I know, I’m squashed and covered in a sticky crap that I can’t get off.

And I’m whining. I’ll stop that now.

I’m working on some writing but it’s going stupid slow because I can’t seem to get focused or find good words that go together to make any kind of story. So I’m behind on writing and it’s frustrating.

I do have high hopes for this year, that I will get back on track, that I will do some new things and have new experiences, and generally get out and live more. I want to learn to kayak, I want to go explore some new hikes, go up to the snow, go do many different things. Most of all, I’m hoping to find my writing mojo again. I really need to find my mojo.

I have been getting out to do some walking. My foot post-surgery feels a lot better and the infection I got after the pin came out is gone. And I hope that the older dog starts getting along with the younger dogs. And that the two puppies start getting to like being brushed and have their toenails clipped. Right now it’s hard to do either.

Oh, and the good news is that The Turning Tide was re-released with a new cover.


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.