Diana Pharaoh Francis | Diana P. Francis | Diana Francis

Archive for the 'Writing Process' Category

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016
Writing Retreat

Tomorrow I will head off to the Rainforest Writers Village in the Olympic Rainforest. I’ve done some really good words done the last couple of years there. I’m hoping this one goes even better. My back has been giving me serious pain the last couple of weeks, so I hope it does okay. I see the chiro before I leave tomorrow. Let’s hope that does me really well. I plan to take an ice pack just in case. And ibuprofen.

In the meantime, I’ll remind you to read some good books and eat some good chocolate. Or cake. Or both. And pie. Cherry pie with ice cream.

The connectivity at the retreat is exceedingly bad, so I probably won’t post until I get back. Oh, and I finish the copy edits for Whisper of Shadows. So look for me next week.

Also, I sent a newsletter out last night. If you didn’t get yours, let me know. And check your spam filter.

Monday, February 1st, 2016
Couchless life

We’ve been without a couch for over 3 weeks now. That means sitting in camp chairs until the one we ordered arrives. The new one will be extra durable to deal with my extra-destructive family. It should come in a week or so. I’m hoping this week, but chances are I won’t get so lucky. Lacking a couch is deeply upsetting for the dogs. They cannot follow their usual routine and they cannot lay on me and they aren’t afraid of telling me about their sadness. With lots of big-eyed stares and whimpers and moans. As a compromise, when the rest of the fam is playing video games, I retreat to the bedroom and let them join me on the bed. This helps them. Especially since they can look out the windows from the bed and that is happy-making for them.

As I mentioned, my first self-pubbed book, The Incubus Job, will be releasing March 1. I’ll be talking about it for the next month (every other Thursday) on Magical Words. I began last week with this post. If you have questions or comments, say so here or there.

I have to say that I am so tired of the presidential race. Then some newsperson said that today we’re at the starting line. I had to wonder where they hell they’ve been because while this is the start of the primary season, this ‘race’ has been going on FOREVER and I want it to stop. I would so have a different opinion if Jon Stewart was still on The Daily Show and I could at least get entertainment from it. Trevor Noah is okay, but he doesn’t dig as hard into the hypocrisy and crazy on both sides. He’s more there for the sort of easy laugh. Stephen Colbert has been doing a pretty good job at puncturing the stupidity, but I miss Jon Stewart. I wish I had HBO for John Oliver.




Wednesday, January 13th, 2016
The stupid hurts

In this case, I committed a stupidity I haven’t done in years. What did I do? Well yesterday I had a fantabulous day of writing. I wrote the first long scene of Diamond City 4. I was so happy with it, I was buzzing like a hummingbird. I was so looking forward to getting started today.

And then . . .

I couldn’t find the doc. Or rather, I found it, but it was an older version. EVERYTHING I’d written yesterday was gone. Even on the backups. I did all sorts of things for the next two hours, including running recovery programs, but I’d successfully managed to make it disappear. I think I overwrote the newer one with an older one somehow. I don’t know how.

So I tried to rewrite it today. It didn’t come together very well. It felt clunky and info-dumpy and unexciting. So now, at the end of the day, I feel squashed flat instead of rejuvenated like yesterday. My stomach is a ball of aching knots and my head is throbbing. I hope tomorrow I can come at it again and find traction.


Saturday, January 2nd, 2016
Helpful help requested

I’ve been working on a story for awhile now. Years actually, because of many things, it got tucked away in the to-be-done-later pile. Lately it’s been poking at me and I think I’m going to try working on it. When I was getting my PhD, I’d be working on my dissertation and hit a wall. I’d switch to a novel I was working on until that hit a wall. Then I’d switch back and suddenly I could work on the diss. Back and forth like that is how I got through with some scraps of sanity intact. I am thinking of trying the same thing with two novels. I don’t know if I can do that. But I think I’m going to try. In order to do that, I’m going to have to develop outlines for both. Even thin, bare bones sorts of outlines. But that isn’t where I need help.

This story is set in Tennessee. I’m looking for things I can read or stories you can tell about specific instances in the south, experiences you’ve had or heard of, newspapers, non-fiction, fiction–really anything. I want to get a sense of the cadence of the language. I had that pretty well nailed down previously, but I’ve lost it over the years and I want to find it again. So I ask you for all the help you can give me to a feel for the language and place and people. This will also give me some fodder. Foods, too! Anything you can think of.  I have even been known to watch the wedding dress in Atlanta TV show because of the southern speech patterns for some of them. I don’t want to do that. So I beg you . . . .help!

Monday, December 14th, 2015

Whisper of Shadows went back to my editor today. At long last. It took me forever to revise. It’s lucky my editor is patient with me. I do like it and I hope you will, too. There’s a lot that happens. We start right where Edge of Dreams left off and then run forward. You’ll get to see more of Riley’s dad, her family, Touray and of course Price. And then Arnow and Dalton were back. I can’t wait for you to see it!

Finishing also means that I can and *need* to dig into holiday preparations. So tomorrow I have to hit the ground running. We still have to decorate the tree and I have wrapping and baking to do. Plus I have to send some things and still shop for kidlets. I didn’t get the knitting done I’d wanted to. I just couldn’t pull it together.

I am annoyed. I tried to make an order from Teavana. They were doing a big discount, and then if you bought so much bulk tea, you got an additional discount. Only for me, the additional discount wouldn’t come through properly. So I emailed customer service with the explanation. After several days, the reply was, hey, sorry, but you should call us. We have people who can help you. Um. I emailed you because your website said you could help me. And I couldn’t seem to manage to remember to call during their open hours. I was, afterall, working. Sigh. So I was screwed out of that discount and I’m irritated. Both at the so-called customer service, and the crappy website.




Monday, November 16th, 2015
As the Writing Turns

Does your life ever feel like a soap opera? Mine, too. But not so much this last week. More like a bad comedy. I write in my office downstairs in my house. Last week, in the morning (of course) the smoke detector on the ceiling outside my office began to chirp ever 30 seconds or so. Loudly. Closing my office doors did nothing to help. The unfortunate thing is that the ceilings are really high in the house and I needed a ladder to change the battery. Unfortunately, neither of the two ladders we have were accessible to me without doing damage to myself. Since I figured a trip to the hospital would be far more aggravating than the the chirping, I tried to put music on to cover it (fail!) and kept going. Later I decided that maybe the hospital trip would have been worth it.

So the very next day (no, the cat didn’t come back) I’m in my office working, with my daughter home sick, and I hear, you guessed it, another chirp! This time is was the smoke alarm in my bedroom, which is upstairs and around a corner. It echoed. Same problem as before, so I thought, shut the upstairs door. That should take care of it. Sadly, those things are much louder than probably the alarm itself. I couldn’t get away with closing my office doors because my daughter wanted to be able to shout for me if necessary, so again music, but not so loud I couldn’t hear the girlie, which meant I could hear the chirping loud and clear, All. Day. Long.

Vexed. Vexing. Both. A word not used enough but really, so perfect.

Now I’m in blissful quiet. Maybe I’ll actually make serious progress today.

In other news of the slightly odd, I discovered that Fred Meyers, a local grocery/everything-else-on-the-planet store has a tradition black Friday sale on socks. And I can’t be there. Now this probably wouldn’t excite other people, but the Boy of Size, who is only 15 years old, wears size 13 shoes. Did I mention he has yet to have a growth spurt? Anyhow, finding socks for him isn’t easy. Especially quality socks that don’t fall apart in two washings. So this week I meet a friend in the FM Starbucks to talk knitting and writing, and after decided to glance around the sock aisle. And found socks for him. Which cost $15 for three pairs. Ouch. This makes the Black Friday sale look beguiling, since it’s a 50% off all socks sale. Only I can’t go this year, because of Thanksgiving plans. Damn! I could have stocked up for the entire big-footed family that we are.

I also combed out the dogs this weekend and trimmed doggy toenails. Viggo lost an entire dog’s worth of hair. WTF? It’s November. Why is he shedding? I’m still getting hair tumbleweeds around my kitchen from him. Voodoo, on the other hand, was in it just for the tummy combing. He would only lay on his back with his legs splayed out in sexy play-dog fashion, and rolling him over was next to impossible.

I finished a book that I’m trying to decide if I really liked or not. You know how it is when the book is a page turner because you want to know what happened, but not necessarily because the writing’s good or the characters are engaging? This one had some serious ups and downs, but the mystery was good and decently complex. I’ll probably review it here soon. Along with a bunch of others I’m behind on.

And now, my friends, must go scribble some more. I hope you are all happy, healthy, and safe.

Saturday, November 7th, 2015
What a week it’s been

The sick continues. Last night was . . . hell. Girlie woke me up at 11:43 having explosively vomited. She’s got quite the messy room and didn’t make it out of bed, so yeah. First it was clean up in order to clean up. Since I don’t get sick around other people’s vomit (as do the man and the boy who tried to help), I did most of it. So there you go. The glory of momhood. Ah well. The girlie is feeling crappy still, but she hasn’t been sick again. She hasn’t developed diarrhea yet, which hopefully means this is something besides food poisoning.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are improving, but definitely aren’t at 100%. But moving the right direction, I hope.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on some writing. Attempting nano words, but it’s slower than I like. On the other hand, I’ve been making excellent progress with the revision of Whisper of Shadows (DCM book #3). Are you eager for that one? I hope? I can tell you it’s exciting. I can tell you Riley’s dad is front and center. Dalton is back. So is the lovely Agent Sandra Arnow. Remember her? You get to meet more of Riley’s family, and also some really cool stuff happens. Well, cool bad stuff. Really bad.

The Ghost Job is getting closer to publication. I’ve named the series Mission: Magic. I can’t wait for you to read some of it. In fact I plan to send a chunk out in the newsletter very soon, so if you’re not signed up, you should so that you can see it first! I’ll probably send out this week.

I’ve been doing reading without reviewing. Some of it is just meh. But I have read something awfully fun, so I’ll report on that soon. In the meantime, I suppose I should put words on my own book, yes? Oh, and also figure out a replacements for MS word, because apparently the one I use (2008 version for the Mac) doesn’t play well with the latest operating systems of the Mac and I’m having significant issues. I kind of am interested in the word 2016, but 1, I’m not a fan of the yearly rental, and 2, it’s expensive, and 3, I hate the ribbon. HATE it. That’s why I’ve been so glad to cling to the 2008 version. It doesn’t have it.

I’m hoping to get into the holiday mood soon. Going to see the family at Thanksgiving, and hopefully friends too. I just haven’t been in the baking/party mood. I have to find that. Maybe food poisoning is the reason. Hmmm. Possible.



Monday, November 2nd, 2015
Writing the sequel

One of the toughest thing to do when writing is to write a sequel to a first book, then a third, fourth or tenth. I know people who plan an entire series from the beginning–Devon Monk, for instance, planned all of her Allie Beckstrom novels before she began. Having that plan established means that a writer has a clear sense of what each book should contain before it begins and can jump into the drafting relatively smoothly. Now the problem is, just as with battle plans, plot plans don’t often stand up to actual engagement with the enemy. So to speak.

As a book develops and more creativity sparks, the next thing you know is that you’ve changed something significant and it dominoes into all the next books and you have to replot. And then you do it again. And again. It can be incredibly frustrating. Do you know what’s more frustrating? Not being able to plot at all. Plot failure. I have a very difficult time with plotting even a single book, much less a series. Especially a series that I don’t know how long will be. Diamond City Magic is one such series.

This means that I’m doing a lot of exploration. On the other hand, the deeper I get, the more complex it gets, and the more stuff I need to do, and that means that plotting on one level becomes easier, because certain bridges have to be crossed. I have a developed a nebulous idea of landmarks that need to be achieved. So if you imagine it like a journey, I know there’s a mountain there, a valley there, a river there, and so on, all of which need to be traversed and each comes with their own special troubles.

Right now, I haven’t completed the revisions for book 3 and I’m beginning book 4, which means I don’t entirely know how big all the changes I will have done by the end of the revision, and so I may be building this next book on air. All the same, I have to start. Of course, I might be tossing most of it all away in the end, but if I worried about that, I’d end up never writing. Plus the fact that I have trouble plotting means that in fact, I have to write to find out what’s going to happen–to fill in the details between getting to plot events. Since those are all actually character revelations, I have to build the characters and events to get there, and hope that I don’t rearrange the terrain entirely as I go. I swear, it’s like writing in a living Dali painting.

So now I’m writing what I think is going to happen in this next book. I’m not starting where I normally start, which is the beginning, since I’m not entirely sure where the beginning will be. I just know that these scenes need to be written. At least under the current plan, and I need to be writing, because of deadline.


Sunday, October 4th, 2015
Writing Insight

I had a kind and generous friend beta read the manuscript I’ve been working on. It’s something I’ve worked on for awhile and yet very quickly–at a couple writing retreats mostly, and then a little more. She made a comment on something that a character does and it totally messed with my whole plot. First, she was right. Her question was essentially–if that can happen at this point, why didn’t happen earlier when a similar situation occurred? My first reaction was to stick my tongue out and say Cuz! in that snotty voice of eleven year olds everywhere.

Obviously my first reaction wasn’t actually useful. The problem was I didn’t want to change my plot. Except for that one nasty little inconsistency, it works and it builds into a really good story. At least, it entertains me, and of course, I do this to entertain myself. But what to do about it? I considered. And pondered. I showered, where many solutions arrive. I made the bed. I folded laundry. I did dishes, walked the dogs, drove my kids to school and picked them up, and I couldn’t come up with anything. I attempted writing out some ideas, because that often jars things loose. Nope. Days passed.

I got entirely distracted from the problem by last week’s shootings. I don’t think even my lizard brain was thinking about solving this conundrum.

I got a brilliant idea to solve the plot issue on Diamond City Magic book 4. (I’m attempting to plot it out). This was NOT the knotty problem I’d been struggling with, but it was a problem.  It’s a really solid idea and I don’t know if I can make it work, but it would solve all kinds of issues in terms of tension and stakes and developing the ongoing plot and deepening characters and conflicts. Obviously tremendously important, but not really an impact on my current dilemma.

I’m not entirely sure what the moment was when the solution arrived on the first manuscript problem. I trusted that would. I trusted that my head and my creativity would work on the problem and the solution would arrive. It has. It’s only a small change, maybe a sentence. It’s elegant and completely within the plot and characters.

My point here is, there are two somewhat contradictory truths to writing. One–you have to push and make yourself write and get words down. Persevere and make words. Tw0–you can’t force it. Sometimes you have to wait for ideas to flow out on their own time.

Now that said, I think you can court creativity. Woo it. Encourage it. You can’t wait forever and sometimes you have to prime the well. That might be through creative exercises, brainstorming, freewriting, and so on. Whatever it takes. Sometimes you write on something totally different, but encouraging the creativity on one thing can get it running on another. It’s like love: the more you have the more you make and can give more.

The main thing is that you have to trust yourself. That you can do this. That the logjam will break and the words will flow.


Friday, September 25th, 2015
Title Announcement

The new title for the third Diamond City Book is . . . Are you ready?

Whisper of Shadows

The release will happen sometime in January, maybe February. More on that when things get definite.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on a side project. I’ve been working on it for a long time in my “spare time.” I totally love it. I’m going to be self-publishing it. It’s called The Ghost Job and here’s a little bit (rough–not been revised yet) of the beginning:


I got the fish-eye stare from the concierge when I walked past him into the lobby. I passed through the security net, feeling it ripple across my skin like seeking fingers. My lips tightened smugly. I could go out and come back again and totally change my aural signature. It might remember this version of me forever—and it probably would—but it wouldn’t do it a damned bit of good if it never saw this me again.

Effrayant was a mashup of the Bellagio and the Bates Motel, with a little dash of old school English castle for flair. The outside was brick and tile with a few thousand windows and a mansard roof that went up six or eight stories on top. The rooms up there were probably long-term residences. The central tower was a good forty stories high, with the four wings sprouting like spokes from its shoulders. Their rooftops boasted pools, clubs, restaurants, and helipads.

I wasn’t there for the entertainment; I was on a job.

Inside was dark wood, modern furniture, soft lights, and museum quality art. Muted opera music wandered through the cavernous lobby. The staff all wore Italian wool uniforms in gray, burgundy, and navy, while customers dressed in designer glitz and blue-collar chic.

I couldn’t blame the bellman for looking at me sideways. Wearing Levi’s, a longsleeved cotton shirt from the Goodwill, a pair of knee-high leather boots that had seen better days, and a blue ball-cap, I definitely didn’t look glitzy or chic.

Add in the fact that my luggage was nothing more than a ratty backpack, I was a little surprised that the security guards inside didn’t stop me. With force. Given how obcenely expensive it was to stay at the exclusive and highly discriminating Effrayant, I figured these guys should have been all over me. Sure, the ghosts make people want to turn and head the other way and let me be someone else’s problem. Security guards ought to be better trained. They shouldn’t let the heebie-jeebies get the better of them. I get that it’s not every day that you get the ghost push-off from someone made of flesh and blood, but Effrayant liked to brag their security was the best of the best.

I walked in and all six of thick-necked best of the best got busy picking lint off their coats, making me the check-in clerk’s problem.

Poor thing. I could tell she wanted to be anywhere else. That’s Tabitha’s fault. She can put the fear of Jesus into just about anyone without hardly trying.

Tonight she was trying.

She didn’t want to come into Effrayant. She thought it was too dangerous. She was right, but that didn’t change the job. I wanted to tell her to suck it up and settle down, but she was only a thirteen year old girl and dead or not, her hormones were raging. She wasn’t going to listen to me, of all people. Plus she still had a lot of PTSD issues from how she got killed. Or so I assumed. I had no idea how it had actually gone down. I only knew she was pissed as hell and she had nightmares that occasionally leaked into my dreams. If any of what happened in those nightmares had actually happened to her, she had a right to her attitude. Hell, she had a right to have gone right over the edge into insanity-land. I didn’t think she had, but it’s not like she talked to me. Another issue she had going on was that she didn’t trust anybody and when she got scared, she killed first and asked questions later.