Diana Pharaoh Francis | Diana P. Francis | Diana Francis

Archive for 'Writing'

Monday, July 16th, 2018
Murder Trial Part 1

I had occasion to attend a portion of a murder trial a couple months ago. My husband had to testify, called by the prosecution. More on that later.

A man was on trial for murdering his estranged wife on February 14, 2017. I remember that date because my husband had his wisdom teeth out that day, and we got the news the next morning just before I headed out for the Rainforest Writers Village, a writing retreat.

Why did we get the news? The accused (now convicted), named Jason, was a former coworker of my husband’s and they’d been talking about his situation over the previous months. Jason was in the middle of a bitter divorce with two young children in the middle (both under 10, I believe). He was frequently upset with his wife who he claimed was abusing the kids. He talked to my husband fairly regularly about it. My husband told him to document everything, and to work with the police and his lawyer. Jason claimed that her parents were willing to testify on his behalf in a custodial hearing, and he claimed that his wife’s boyfriend’s ex-wife was also concerned that Sparky (the murder victim) was abusing her kid and was talking to the police.

So we were feeling pretty sympathetic to his situation, given this information.

And then he killed her. Read the rest of this entry »

Thursday, May 17th, 2018
Definition of winning

Though he found the perfect spot, it would be the last time Sal the fish played hide-and-seek.

I’ve been sitting here this morning watching a Dr. Phil. An old one, a rerun from 2014. I don’t usually watch this show or other talk shows because generally they bore me or there’s too much drama. (A reason I don’t tend to watch reality shows, too). So the basic premise of the show is that a wife is sure her husband is cheating and he’s swearing he’s not and they fight about it a lot. She goes to great lengths to discover proof and get him to admit it, and there is a lot of fighting, including physical fighting. And there are kids in the house.

Okay, so that’s the background. My response to all this is–why the hell are you still together? Why not just walk away?

That got me to thinking about winning. I get the impression that this is all about winning. And as usual, the definition of winning is questionable. For me, winning would be no longer living a horrid life and getting my children into a safe, happy home. But for them, winning seems to be about getting the other to admit their ‘crimes.’ But then I wonder, what if they do get admission? What then? I don’t get the impression that would be enough to end it. Is it making the other person ‘pay’ for what they’ve done? Grovel? What would winning *really* look like?

I was thinking, if they did walk away, then would they think that the other one got off too easily? That both would win because they are both happier and better off? And so they’d rather suffer than let the other person get to be happy?

The reason I’m still watching the show after 45 minutes and listening to these super obnoxious people, is because they aren’t extraordinary people. They could be anybody on my block. And that makes me think about them as characters. I’m a writer; this is what I do. I have a hard time wrapping my head around people that would behave this way, so it’s interesting to watch them and try to figure out how to write them believably, and why I would include people like them in a novel.

I was also thinking how this would apply in political situations (from job politics to actual politics), to friendships, and so on. That element  that you’d rather suffer horribly than let the other person off the hook/win. I also read this morning a quote by Haruki Murakami and it’s tremendously appropriate: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” In the case of not letting the other person win at the price of your own happiness, I think that’s choosing suffering, even if you have some element of triumph.

I think also that people dig in because they’ve already suffered so much, it’s too much to take to know that they could have walked away at any point and not suffered. On top of that, they have to make it worthwhile. They have to see something come out of the situation, some win, even if it’s a Pyrrhic victory.

As a writer, the hardest part of writing characters like this is making it believable. Truth is really no excuse for fiction. Truth can be bizarre and make little sense, but fiction has to make sense and be believable. I have to dig into figuring out the mindset and making it real for myself.

 

Thursday, February 8th, 2018
Corgi Helps Me Write

See Voodoo. See Voodoo “help” me write. See Voodoo giving me irritated looks for daring to move the notepad and writing. See Voodoo demand pets. See author’s real job as she obeys the puppy dog.

Friday, January 26th, 2018
Things that are going on

A lot has been happening recently, some good, some bad. I want to thank those of you who’ve contacted me with such positive encouragement on my books. I love you so much.

I’m 8 weeks post op, and I feel pretty good. I’ve lost a fair bit of weight since last May (which is when the process began–presurgery stuff). I’m feeling pretty good when I go out and walk. More energetic. I want to get on my elliptical, but my tennis (knitters) elbow is giving me trouble and so I haven’t gotten on it recently. I’ve tried resting it, icing it, heating it, using different bands and elbow supports, but nothing is really working. Yet. I’m doing some muscle exercises and hoping they are helping.

I start teaching online in an MFA program for creative writing program at SNHU in a couple of weeks. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been wanting to get back to teaching and I really like the SNHU program and their approach to online learning. I’m excited to be a part of the program.

It’s been raining something fierce here. For days. This is good, since we’ve not had the usual rain in November and December. Some of the storms have had pretty incredible winds and that makes me so happy that we cut down the tree we had out front next to the house. It was my favorite tree–big and leafy. But the big limbs coming out from the trunk had cracks in them and once we had it cut down, we discovered that two of them were rotted pretty well through, which means these storms we’ve just had would likely have brought them down on the house.

In the meantime, my son was invited to join the honors society at the college he’s attending as part of his Early College High School program (he’s a junior in HS but taking a full load of classes on the college campus). My daughter has been doing super well in her classes and making me really proud of all her progress. She’s always felt like she’s not as smart as her brother, not understanding that

he’s three plus years older than she is, and therefore of course he knows more things because he’s farther along in school. I think/hope she’s finally looking at herself and feeling strong in her abilities. She’s very smart, but now she’s hopefully starting to believe that herself.

The corgi boys are doing well. They are spoiled (more spoiled?) and enjoying forcing me to do their bidding. I’m such a sucker. This is a little selfie of them and me. Voodoo (whiter face) is trying hard to keep Viggo off me (he doesn’t like to share), but Viggo has flung himself down on top of Voodoo and is inching up onto me. Voodoo is very jealous. I think of it as Viggo’s revenge for Voodoo not playing more games with him. Viggo loves to play run and chase and Voodoo always quits before Viggo’s ready.

In a few weeks I get to go to the Rainforest Writers Retreat, which is near Lake Quinault in Washington, and it’s a lovely chance to focus on writing, be in nature, and enjoy the company of other writers. It’s one of the prettiest places on earth. It’s in the middle of a rainforest and the cabin where I’ll be staying with my roomie has a fireplace and right outside is a babbling brook. I love to open the window and just listen to the sounds of the water.

 

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017
Post Surgery report–end of week 2

I feel pretty good right now, except for being itchy. I’ve had some sort of allergic reaction and have hives on my stomach and sides and they itch like crazy. I also had a weird possible allergic, possible infection around all of my incisions. My doc put me on antibiotics, which has helped, or else the allergy is receding. Hard to say. I’ve also had a little bit of a skin yeast infection that doesn’t want to go away. I’m not sure why it’s happening, but it doesn’t want to leave, despite medication and various topical applications.

I’ve lost about 13 pounds in the last two weeks. It’s very strange. I eat about 500 calories a day, give or take. I’m usually not hungry. Tomorrow I’m hoping to get off the thick liquid diet and onto soft foods. I expect that’s what I’ll be doing. I’ve also been trying to get my exercise. Unfortunately, my knitting has given me ‘knitter’s elbow’ which is the same as tennis and golf elbows. I’m supposed to not knit and not use the elbow for awhile and ice. I still need to finish a few projects, but hopefully they’ll be quick to finish and then I’ll be able to rest it.

Overall feeling pretty good. Getting in all my protein and fluids, as I’m supposed to be at this stage. As my stomach heals inside, I’ll be able to eat a bigger variety and get back to salads, which I miss.

Finally getting around to watching Star Wars: Rogue One. Not far into it yet, but so far liking it. Next I have to watch the prequel to The Last Jedi, which is the Force Awakens. Yeah, I know. I’m way behind. Haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy 2, either.

I haven’t been as tired as I expected and as predicted post-surgery, but I haven’t been terribly focused either. Working on that. I managed to get some work done yesterday, though. That was good.

Tomorrow it’s off to the doctors for my second week checkup. Then hopefully get some final Xmas shopping done. My family still doesn’t want me driving. Hopefully I’m cleared for that tomorrow. My son has been chauffeuring me. He’s very sweet and doesn’t complain about it at all.

I read a really good book by Alysa Day that I need to review for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017
Day 6 post surgery

I ITCH!!! And I cannot scratch. Misery, thy name is itchiness. But it is a sign of healing.

I’ve been out walking today and I feel pretty good but for the itching.

Other than that, not a lot new to report. I have made some more progress on the new Horngate book. I’m enjoying it. I’ll give you a snippet soon.

I’m also hugely angry about the tax bill and about the GOP support of Roy Moore. I am so angry I don’t have any polite words right now to say anything about it. But on my FB page, I have been posting more stuff.

The family and I get to go see an pre-screening this Friday of Jumanji. I’m really excited. I love the actors and can’t wait to see them. I haven’t been into a movie theater in ages, so this will be fun as well. And this theater is one of those that serves food and such, so while I probably won’t be eating anything, the fam will be able to.

We’re also at the beginning of an extended sunny spell for the area. I’m excited because I’ll be able to get out and walk outside without rain. In my particular situation right now, that’s amazingly nice.

Now . . . back to work. And not to itch. No. No. No.

Sunday, June 11th, 2017
Stepping Out

I’ve been actively attempting to be, oh, active. I’m starting smaller with just making sure I get so many steps each day with no breaks. I set the count a little low (5K) to make sure I can hit it fairly easily. Working a sedentary job means that I often forget to get up and move. My main goal is to do this every day with no breaking the chain. I’m up to 18 days. My feet and calves and shins are a little bit sore. I need to work on stretching. I keep not doing that. But I’ve been feeling fairly energetic. Pretty pleased with that.  I’ve had a few days where I’ve pushed the workout a little bit more, but the main importance is to a) get in the minimum and b) every day. Once I’m not hurting so much and feeling pretty good about it, I’ll push the minimum up.

I got to meet a Swedish Vallhund puppy today. So cute. It’s pretty much a wolf-colored corgi. And so sweet. He was four months old. I didn’t have my boys with me. Wish I had. I took pictures, but they didn’t turn out so well, but here’s a quick picture. I’ve heard of them before but never seen one in the fur, so to speak. He was adorable and so very sweet.

In the meantime, I’m revising books. I’m hoping to have announcements soon. Oh! but I do have one. I’ve a Horngate short story coming out in August in an anthology. It’s got stories by Seanan Mcguire, Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, Faith Hunter, and lots more.  The anthology is called Urban Enemies, and I’m going to have a copy to give away soon (of an ARC). Keep an eye on this blog and my newsletter for details. If you want to preorder, click here or on the cover:

We’ve also been out digging for petrified wood and finding some really great pieces. Going to be going out and doing more of it soon. The last time we went, a guy found a piece of carnelian limb cast. It was amazingly clear carnelian and it was shaped like a slice of wood. I can’t wait to go back and see what we can find. My husband found this one cool piece that was a little round piece of a limb. It had rotted in little columns through the wood and then those holes filled with agate. The outside is petrified wood. I’m really excited about seeing it polished. That’s something we hope to learn to do this summer. There’s a local rock and gem club we’ve been meaning to join and they offer access to equipment at a low price.

I also want to go hiking around Silver Falls State Park, and to the Tamolitch blue pool on the Mackenzie river. It’s beautiful.

Basically I want to get outside and get moving more. I like to, but I can’t seem to get over entropy sometimes. Which is completely annoying about me. Sigh.

 

Sunday, April 9th, 2017
Things are a-happening

Maybe not important things, but things nonetheless. I’ve done some seed sprouting and now need to do some transplanting. I’ve also been doing some digging in the dirt, though there’s been a lot of rain. I’ve also been petting dogs and scratching tummies and cleaning up dog pee because all of a sudden, one of them has decided to pee on the rug. I have no idea why. It’s frustrating. The rug is a small area rug and I’m wanting to clean the whole thing and not sure how. I think I’m going to need to wait til the weather warms and I can do it outside with a hose.

I’ve been in an ice cream sort of mood these days. Not sure why. And steak. I have not had any steak, but I’ve been craving it. Weird. My folks come tomorrow. They stay up near us for about five or six months of the year. I’m excited. Hopefully their trip is smooth.

I am planning on cleaning the kitchen and downstairs tomorrow. Things I’ve been avoiding. I’m at least going to do some of it. Been also wanting to get out and start dealing with weeds. They’ve been having a whole lot of fun growing like, well, you know. I’m planning on spraying a whole lot of vinegar, attack with a hoe, and then get some preemergent herbicide down to see if I can get it somewhat under control. And I’ve got to get out and put the hazelnut hulls down in my strawberries and get some fertilizer down, too.

My red dragon contorted hazelnut is leafing out. I’m really pleased about that because it didn’t seem all that happy in the fall. My monkey puzzle tree is doing quite well also. I’ve got a lot of perennials putting on a show also. I’m really pleased about that. My goal has been to pretty much cover all my flower beds in foliage of some kind. I’m still nowhere close, but I’m making the effort.

Writing is going pretty well, though I’m having trouble with getting my days scheduled. Eventually I will . . . just in time for summer vacation. Same ole same ole. Found out that had I stuck it out to see the new administration in my old job, I would not have seen an improvement. Morale is lower than ever, and the leadership, I’m told, is actually worse than previously. I do find myself missing teaching, though. I’d really like to do more of that. I just have to figure out how. I know one thing: Once the boy has his license, the structure of my days will change for the better. Though I’ll have to make sure that I get out and interact with people or I’ll become a crazy hermit. Not a good thing.

Puppy dogs scared us. They had some sort of fungal infection that required shots and three weeks of antibiotic/antifungal pills. They’re still taking those. But they are no longer throwing up or having diarrhea, which is a huge win. They did enjoy the week of rice and chicken they got to eat for their meals. They thought that was a fine menu plan and we should stick with it forever.

A big wind storm came through and took down a lot of trees around. We lost some smaller limbs, but nothing serious. Hate to see trees go down, especially the old ones. Sucks.

 

 

 

Monday, February 13th, 2017
Writers Club: Plotting

Plot is necessary for novels. This seems like a no-brainer. It’s the causal sequence of events in a book: This happened because this happened because this happened and so on. Events happen, problems, conflicts, and everything escalates until there’s a final conflict and resolution. Usually there is at least one secondary plotline, and often more. After all, most people have more than one thing going on in their lives.

Here’s the trouble, at least for me: I often have trouble developing the plot in advance. More often, my brain wants to see what happens as I go along. In some respects, I think this is because I’m out to entertain myself with my stories. I don’t want to know what happens in advance any more than my readers do. I want to discover as I go. I’ve a friend who calls the first draft the “discovery draft.”

The trouble with not knowing the plot is that you make a lot of wrong turns and go off to random spots, find hidden trails, and sometimes–even often–find treasures you never knew you were looking for. That makes writing exciting. It also makes it stressful. You always wonder where you might end up. Will the book make sense? Will it become a well-woven whole or will it be a mess of spaghetti dripping over the edge of the plate?

I would like to work with a plot outline. I’ve tried a lot of different methods. I used to be able to establish the major plot points that I wanted to hit on and then I could navigate toward those points, weaving in the secondary plot lines as I went. But my brain refuses to do that much anymore. I’ve been working on tricking myself and forcing out a plot outline. And of course, it always changes and is never correct. In fact I don’t really expect it to be, which ought to sound bizarre–I mean why do it at all? But having a sense of the path does help.  It frees my mind to play a little bit. Knowing that, I don’t know why I can’t just write down a possible plot direction. I’m such a weird contradictory mess in that regard. A plot outline frees me, but writing it feels like I’m fixing it permanently in place and my brain rebels.

In order to make myself do it, I focus on projects that I’m not planning to write right away. That takes the pressure off getting it done to try to get it written. It lets me play with the story in my head for awhile, and lets me be goofy with the possibilities. That last often gets me to where I want to be–an original plot line. I get acquainted with my characters, developing who they are until they feel real to me and have a voice and I know what they would and wouldn’t do, which of course leads to more adventures.

I wish the process didn’t have to be so messy, but it is and I just have to suck it up. So this is me, sucking it up. *dives back into the mess*

(crossposted from the BVC blog)

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017
The Ideas that Rise and a snippet

I had this image pop into my head: A glass army. I thought about the fact that though the blood would run off them, it would still cling and dry and then I wondered how impervious they would be, if at all. Seems to me they would have magical qualities.

I want to write another traditional fantasy and this may be the first seed. Hard to say. But then I had another image so I started a poem out of nowhere and here it is, even though it’s awful, it does get at one really cool image:

Glass army:
The sun shone bright over the glass army
shed rainbows in a halo
flickered and dulled under the clouds
drifted and bunched across
the sun smothering it into the darkness
couldn’t be seen through
the clear glass in their hearts
sparkled clean.

And then just a little bit of Price and Riley:

“How the hell am I going to help you if you won’t even stay in the same room with me?”
I was yelling. I don’t know if it was more from fear, frustration, or fury. With incredible restraint, I did not pick up the chunk of petrified wood sitting on the shelf beside me, and I did not sling the hunk of rock at Price’s head. Though I stayed in reach to keep it an option.

“If I stay in the same room with you, I’m going to kill you. Is that what you want? What will you do then? Haunt me?”

Price’s voice emerged through clenched teeth. He faced me from the doorway thirty feet away. Running away as soon as I came in the room. Every muscle in his body looked to be clenched tight.

“You can kill me from a football field away,” I pointed out. “Probably a lot farther. Your logic is completely stupid.”

“God dammit, Riley. This isn’t a fucking joke,” he said, plowing shaking fingers through his shaggy black hair.