Diana Pharaoh Francis | Diana P. Francis | Diana Francis
Monday, September 14th, 2009
ARC contest

I have two bright shiny Advanced Reader Copies of Bitter Night. That’s right–they are early copies–you get to see them long before anyone else does. They are up for grabs. Here’s all you have to do to be in the running . . . .

In the comments of this post, offer at least one possible title for the sequel to Bitter Night. Heh. Without knowing what it’s about.

Here’s what I’m looking for. A two word title, with an edgey quality. Think darkness, apocalypse, grittiness. Think about invasion and war and the people who stand up and do what needs to be done because they’re the ones who can.

The contest will go until Friday morning at 9 a.m. Mountain time. I will send these anywhere, so anyone can enter. On friday, I’ll do a random drawing and announce the winners. You’ll have a few days to respond with proper addresses.

So . . . ready? Bring it on!

Sunday, September 13th, 2009
will I read your manuscript?

It’s possible you haven’t seen the dustup in the past few days about reading other people’s manuscripts. If you haven’t, start here with screenwriter Josh Olson’s blog “I will not read your fucking manuscript.” Yeah, the tone is a bit more obnoxious and angry than not, but I think the point is well worth making. Writers–including me–don’t have the time to read other people’s manuscript’s unless we have a really good reason to. (for me my beta readers have an automatic yes and a few others, too).

There are a plethora of reasons for this, but for me, it comes down to two–one, I don’t have time. Seriously. I have a day job, I’ve got my writing, I’ve got a family, and I barely have time to breathe. Those who are on my yes list, still have to wait for me to get caught up on my paying gigs before I can work them in. Reading a manuscript might only take a few hours ( only–I’ve got a use for every second, much less an entire hour!). But then you add in critiquing–and some people don’t want a real critique. One reason my beta readers are on my yes list is because I know they understand what they are getting in a critique–I’m going to tell them what’s wrong with the novel more than what’s right. Why? Because they don’t have to fix what’s right. Yes, I make sure I tell them, but then I have to talk in detail about the wrong so that they can understand my concerns. They may disagree and certainly are entitled to–I’m only one voice after all. But I want to feel that my advice is not falling on deaf ears. That they at least consider what I say and they are not going to get angry and start calling me the sorts of names that you see in the comments of Olson’s post. Otherwise, what’s the point?

The second reason is that I don’t want to be accused of stealing ideas, or characters, or plots or whatever. I just don’t. And that happens.

In the post above by Josh Olson, if you look at the comments, the vitriol is amazing. Astonishing. Partly people are no doubt feeling free to respond to the language and tone of the piece, but they also say that Olson got lucky. That’s the only reason he’s in the position he is. Do we say that of Michael Jordan? Of Bill Gates? Steve Jobs? Bruce Springsteen? Did they get lucky? Or did they have talent, work hard, persevere, develop their craft and dedicate themselves to their jobs? Why is it writers just “get lucky?” Maybe it’s our fault. I do consider myself very lucky to be able to do this job and to have people read my books and I’ve been known to say so. At the same time, I put a LOT of work into every book. I spend hours and hours and hours. I don’t remember the last time I had a vacation. I did it before I sold Path of Fate and I do it now. I know many of you know exactly what I’m talking about, no matter what your job.

A point frequently made is this: would an ordinary person walk up to a plumber or a lawyer or a doctor or dentist or an accountant or a machinist and ask them to do an hours and hours long job for free? Because those people got lucky? Not really. But people will do that with writers, and be tremendously offended when writers refuse. It’s astonishing to me and would no doubt be equally astonishing to anybody in any other profession.

Here is Laura Resnick’s words on the subject, as well as a collection of others from other writers. I suggest you read David Gerrold’s (writer of The Trouble With Tribbles). In Hollywood, just getting the request to read a manuscript can get your fired.

One of my problems is that I’m a teacher and I like to give back. I’m very willing to put myself out there for people, but generally I expect that we’ve had a connection of some kind before and I also expect that if I say no, it will be taken well. I simply CANNOT do all that I’m asked, much as I’d like to. If the workload didn’t kill me, my husband would. And he’s very patient with my schedule. I also by far prefer that people who ask are ready to ask. That they’ve studied, that they have some understanding of the business, that this is not the first draft or even the second. I don’t want to have to talk about the sort of things that they could learn from basic writing texts, workshops, and so forth. I want there to be a reason to be talking to me–that I will have something to contribute beyond the basics.

That’s why I like to run a question and answer time periodically on the blog. I’ll have one soon. That way all of you who have questions you have no place to ask can get an answer, and you’ll know that indeed I have time and am not only willing, but eager, to give you the benefit of what I’ve learned over the years.

Friday, September 11th, 2009
writing craft

I’ve published six novels, with the seventh on its way in October and the 8th with my editor. You’d think I’d felt like I had some mastery of the craft, but in all honesty, i feel like a newbie every time I set out. Now I realize I’m not because I teach creative writing and each time I do, I remember what newbie-ness truly is, and that’s someone who’s just learning about plot and character and pacing and so on. these are people who’ve never practiced the craft whatsoever. How scary and exciting that must be to start out fresh! I can’t even remember that.

But I do feel panicked and nervous every time I start a new work, every time I return to write on it, every time I take up revisions . . . . In short, I never feel like I know what I’m doing. Part of that is because I hope I’m stretching myself, pushing at the stories to make them deeper, more compelling, more entertaining, and generally better written. Of late, I’ve felt like instead of getting better, that I’m slowly dwindling in my abilities. I wonder if that’s true, or if it’s a case of the more you know, the more you know how much you don’t know. Hmmm.

I’m always on the lookout for books and blogs and articles and so forth that teach me more about writing. I don’t like all of them. Some I look at for commiseration–that I’m not an anomaly. Some I look at for real ideas on improvement of craft. I know there are a lot of writers who don’t read books on writing at all. They think they are mostly useless. I tend to read them and frequently find something useful, though many are more basic than helpful now. But some will still have gems that let me see writing in a new, different way.

I just got Don Maass’s The Fire in Fiction. Haven’t read much of it–like 10 pages, but it definitely sparked some thoughts for me on what I’m currently writing. It wasn’t anything new or unusual, but it was just said in such a way that made a key snick in a lock and suddenly I had ideas. This is why I continue to read those craft books, and why I go to panels at cons on the craft of writing, why I read a lot of writing and industry blogs, and why I talk writing frequently. Something will light a match for me and I’ve got to chase it down.

For me (and every writer is very different) I need to read about craft every so often. Sometimes I sink into the writing and I get running down paths that I’m comfortable with–and not necessarily bad paths–but I know I need to think about the craft and push the boundaries. I need to try new ways of doing things and stretch myself. It’s the only way to improve. To quote Robert Browning, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?” You should always reach for more than you can achieve to grow your craft. Never let yourself be comfortable in the old grooves, the good enoughs.

How about you? what do you do to improve? Whether it’s the craft of writing or something else?

Thursday, September 10th, 2009
Newsletter reminder

I periodically (actually highly infrequently, but I’m trying to remedy that a little) send out a newsletter of info, reminders, bits and stuff, and some of you may be on the list, and you may not. Do feel free to go the website and on the contact form send me an email to add you to the list.

Remember, contest on Monday. And I also have cover flats, so two arcs and coverflats to give away.

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
Stewing in My Own Juices

I’m running a fever. Have been for a couple of days. Makes me cranky, makes me unable to sleep well, and makes working hard. Don’t. Need. This.

I also find myself with little to blog about because of it. Mostly I’m dazing and feel like him stewing in my own juices, except the fever makes feel frozen. Frozen stew juice.

I wasn’t able to watch the Obama speech tonight, but I read it, and frankly I found it reassuring, and I found it to be rational and balanced. I hope that there’s health reform. Goodness knows we need it. Goodness knows I do. I still have major concerns about what the final product will look like–I am very much hoping the rational, public service side wins out. I just wish the Congress Critters had to have ordinary insurance and deal with all the hassles. They’d certainly move more quickly and sensibly. One thing the speech said that I agree with totally as that the last few months have made me despise our congressmen and women more than usual. They have acted badly and I hope they straighten up and fly right. Joe Wilson would be my top example of poor behavior. Simple civility is the least of what he and everyone else in this debate should offer. I wonder when we started electing children and spoiled brats to lead us.

Here is also where I start calling attention to the fact that Bitter Night will release in just over a month and I’m asking you to preorder and tell your friends. Get the word out for me if you would. I’ll be posting chapters soon. Look for an ARC giveaway next week. I figured out what the contest will be. Start thinking about it. I am going to need a title for the next book. No, you don’t get to know anything about it. But it should be something of the same flavor of Bitter Night–dark and gritty, possibly heroic and powerful. I want a two word name. So be thinking about that. I’ll be opening up the contest very soon. Soooooo . . . . think.

Saturday, September 5th, 2009
The big weekend

This weekend is the big weekend in this town. There’s the fair, the carnival, the big rodeo and concert, a parade, the fire department pancake breakfast fundraiser, the big craftsfair in the park, the university’s football game, and of course the karaoke. We’ve participated in some of it and will in some more. But the karaoke. It’s outside at the fairgrounds and usually starts around 8 at night or so. It goes . . . late. There are a few good performances, but also a great many people who have been drinking. And others who are apparently deaf. Since we live right near the fairgrounds, we can hear it all very well.

I found a recipe I must make. Next week.

Writing-wise, I’ve been getting some work done, but not enough. It’s two weeks into the new semester and one and a half weeks left of the first block. I have stacks of papers to grade and a bunch of reading to do. Wow. I’ve been working so hard on the day to day that it’s hard to get perspective. And the block goes so damned fast. Wow.

Been walking the puppy by way of rehabbing him. Next week I’ll try running him a little bit and see how he does. He’s got a frankenstein scar going down his hip with staples in it. I need to uploads some pics. What’s funny is he’s also got a whole lot of attitude. So here he is with half his butt shaved, weighing only 28 pounds and with and threatening this big lab mix that lives behind us.

I want to take a family vacation. The kind that requires saving up for and cool stuff to do. I’ve always wanted to go to Belize. And I’d like to go to Costa Rica and Hawaii. The kids probably want to go to Disneyland. And I’d like to take them to the San Diego Zoo. No money for any of it, of course. But I still want to start figuring it out and planning for it and trying to make it happen.

Saturday, August 8th, 2009
snippet sat . . err . . sunday

Yeah, I’m late. No wait! I’m early! Sunday! Snippet Sunday! It’s still alliterative.

From Bitter NIght, since it’s coming soon:

Her gaze ran over him. He was maybe seventeen and cute beneath the ugly uniform and acne. His face was still curved with baby fat, but in a few years he was going to be a lady-killer. She felt her face hardening. In a few years, he’d be a tempting target for a witch. He blanched at the sudden violence in her expression and took a step back. She heard his heart start to race and smelled the sour scent of fear. In a minute he’d pee his pants.

Fuck. She grabbed her change and the coke cup and went to fill it. She leaned her hip against a bolted down chair and studied the floor until her burgers were ready. No danger here. No danger here. She repeated it to herself, hoping Todd would feel it and believe. When he plopped the two grocery-sized sacks on the counter, she grabbed them without a word and strode out the door.

And now, your turn. Bring it on. Show me what you’re working on.

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009
words words words

I remember reading somewhere as an undergraduate an essay by a writer. Someone had approached him and asked him what he needed to be a writer. His reply, slighly flippant, was “first you have to like words.”

Here’s the thing, as flippant as that might sound, it’s very true. And I LOVE words. I love to learn new ones (I get words of the day from dictionary.com) and I pay attention to words in books and look them up. I have dictionaries of very specific kinds of words, like the one called Home Ground for land and water masses. I have a Describer’s Dictionary. And I have a a Visual Dictionary so I can details right. And it goes on. I love to flip through them and read them.

Today, in revisions, I got to use the term: oriel windows. Isn’t oriel a lovely word? And it’s perfect! No, I”m not telling you what it is. Go look.

Saturday, August 1st, 2009
Holy KRP!

I know you’ve heard this from me before, but as I get into rereading this book (aka Crosspointe 4), and remember I’ve made a point of NOT going back and revising or reading, but have written it straight through, so this is my first real reading of it as a whole, I can say this:

Holy KRAP Batman! It doesn’t suck! I like it so far. Even the the necessary info-dumping background bits aren’t as heavy handed as I feared. Whoohoooo!!!!!

And some of you have asked, so explanation: This was going to be called The Traitor King. I thought it would focus more on one of two characters. But it took a left hand turn and that title just doesn’t fit. I think Cursed By Sylveth, which was the original title of The Turning Tide might work better, but not sure if that makes me happy. I will be trying to figure it out as I revise and then later when my betas read and tell me things.

I can go into more detail, but that might be spoilicious for The Turning Tide, so if you have questions, ask them, then I’ll answer them in a spoiler warning post. KK?

Saturday, August 1st, 2009
I’m a twitter

I have joined Twitter. If you want to follow me, my name there is dianapfrancis.