Sunday, October 11, 2015

Interview with Diana Pharaoh Francis

Diana Pharaoh Francis is a fantasy author of several books. Here books range from epic fantasy and urban fantasy. She is here today to talk about her writing and books.

Debbie Ledesma:  First, welcome to Fantasy Worlds. Let’s start with why did you decide to become a writer? Was it hard getting published?

DPF:  I never decided to become a writer. At least, nothing that organized. I didn’t know I could write until I was leaving high school, and then I started writing really bad poetry. And for the record, the notion of ‘could write’ doesn’t mean that I thought I was talented or anybody would read me, just the notion that I could actually put words down and make things out of them. 

When I got into college, I took my first creative writing course, which was terrible. But it also gave me the notion that I could turn words into stories. I’d always been a storyteller my whole life, but I’d never committed anything to paper in that way. So after that, I started writing. I couldn’t stop. If I had to pick a moment when I started to be a writer, it was then—when I not only started writing regularly, but I couldn’t stop. 

DL:  What authors, Fantasy or otherwise, influence your writing?

DPF:  Like most writers, I’m a magpie. I collect stuff from everywhere. From road signs to cereal boxes to T shirts. Everything influences my writing. That said, I can point to Charles Dickens’ Bleak House as a particular influence on my Crosspointe books. Julie Czerneda’s Turn of Light made me want to find my own sense of wonder again in my magical worlds. I read a ton and I admire a great many authors. I will from time to time try to emulate some of the techniques they use. I especially love when a writer uses action and physicality in a deft way to communicate a wealth of detail in a conversation. I think Laura Anne Gilman’s latest book, Silver On the Road, does this incredibly well. 

DL:  How long did it take you to write your first book and how long did it take to get that book published?

DPF:  Ah, now you’re assuming my first book got published. In truth, it didn’t. My first book is an awful romance that I hand wrote in my lunch hours sitting in my car over the course of a year. That was in 1989-90. It’s my trunk novel. The first book of mine that got published was Path of Fate. Since it’s a much better book, I’ll tell you about that one. 

I’d been working on this very long fantasy novel (almost 200,000 words and still not finished) when a friend of mine called me up and said, “Want to write a book in a week?” Um, wha--?  Was my inarticulate response. But it was something that had come out of the romance world. It was this idea that for one week, you can strip your life down so you can focus entirely on writing. You can take time from the day job, you can ask the spouse or other family to take care of the house, kids, chores, and so on. The idea it that you will focus on doing nothing but writing for 24/7/7. At the end of the time, will you have a finished book? Some, maybe. But you will have a chunk of something that you’ll either like and want to continue, or that you’ll decide isn’t going to work. No matter what, you’ve only lost a week.

I agreed, and started the idea that had been banging around in my head, which was Path of Fate. I didn’t write it in a week, but I did decide I liked it. It took me another seven months to finish, and then I had people read it and comment and eventually submitted it out and Roc purchased it. From when I started writing to acceptance, it was about 18 months. From there, it was about another year to publication. 

DL:  Do you have a favorite character in your books? Which one and why?

DPF:  Oh goodness. I like a lot of my characters. Good and bad. I don’t think I have a particular favorite, but if I do have to pick one I love a lot, it will be Max from the Horngate Witches books. She’s tough, and yet vulnerable. She’s built friendships without trying, without really wanting to. She see’s attachments as weakness/vulnerabilities that will most definitely be exploited, but she ends up making those attachments anyway. She’s strong enough to open herself up to pain, even when it’s guaranteed. And she’s really funny and snarky and morbid. I do adore her.

DL:  I’m always fascinated with Fantasy that has mythic themes. Do you use themes from mythology in your books?

I don’t typically set out to incorporate themes. Mostly they just show up. I’ve always been interested in the question of—who puts their lives on the line for others? First responders do it all the time. Why? What drives that willingness to sacrifice? That service? That unselfishness?

I’ve also been interested in thresholds. Between worlds, between who you are and who you were and who you will be, between the old and new, between freedom and slavery, and so on. Do people cross those thresholds intentionally? Do they trip and fall over them? Do they fight the crossing? What cost is there to thresholds?

I often hear bits of Victorian poetry pop into my head that will guide me in characters. Bits from Yeats, from Hardy, Tennyson, Browning, and so on. Often those snippets are dark and full of doubt. 

I’m not sure that answered your question. I’m not seeing mythical themes in my work, but I wonder if you do? So much is unconscious . . . 

DL:  What themes or modern day issues do you include in your works that you want to share with readers?

DPF:  In the Horngate books, I questioned whether all the disasters we were looking at were intentional—that someone really was out to get us. In the Crosspointe books, I’ve been looking at colonization, and whether the bad guys are really the bad guys, and how much depends on your perspective and place in history. In the first book, I paint the Jutras people as monolithically bad. They are the evil horde come to overrun everybody. But as the books progress, you find they are individuals, and they have really good reasons for what they’re about. One question that always bothered me in terms of history was this: if you’ve been dominated and oppressed for centuries, is violence in fighting your oppressors warranted? And by oppressed, we’re talking genocide and theft of lands, heritage, and all the stuff that comes with colonization. 

DL:  Movies are a different medium, but do you think any of your books would make a good movie?

DPF:  I try not to think of that. With all the cool movie effects now, I think they could be made into good movies, but frankly, my books tend to be on the longer/more complicated side and might make better mini-series. It sure would be fun to see them on the big screen, though. And maybe a little terrifying. 

DL:  Why did you choose the Fantasy genre to write in?

DPF:  It’s crazy, but I can’t seem to keep magic out of my stories. I can’t tell a straightforward story without a magical element. My head doesn’t work that way. So I’d answer that question by saying Fantasy chose me, rather than me it. 

DL:  Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

DPF: Write, persevere, and remember that all advice is subjective and may not work for you. So do your homework. The industry is changing by the second and you have to keep up if you want to be published. That said, improving your craft is the best thing you can do for yourself as a writer. Practice and improve.

DL:  What books and/or stories are you working on for the future?

DPF:  The third Diamond City Magic book will come out in January 2016. It’s titled Whisper of Shadows. I’m also working on a cool new series about magical exterminators. It’s romantic and funny and full of action. The first one is called The Box Job. Then I’ve got the last Crosspointe book to write, and there are two more Horngate books planned. Oh, and I’ve got a story in The Weird Wild West anthology coming out in November or December.

DL:  Thank you for your time.

DPF:  Thank you, for having me here today!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

On Writing Fantasy: Some Links to Helpful Sites and Articles

I have been writing since 1987, working on several novels, short stories and nonfiction. Over the years, I’ve come across several helpful websites and articles about writing fantasy which I’ll share here
“Five Things Epic Fantasy Writers Could Learn From Dorothy Dunnett”   by Marie Brennan is a recent article on .  The article’s helpful ideas can help writers improve their stories of epic fantasy. The article can be found at:

Magical Words is a website where several authors post articles each week about various aspects of writing such as grammar, plotting, the publishing business, etc. Authors include David B. Coe, Melissa Massey, and several others. The website is at:

Mythic Scribes is a website devoted to writing fantasy fiction. Here writers will find articles about writing and forums to discuss issues. The site is at:

Write SF is a free writing course by author Jeffrey Carver Though aimed at young adults, new writers can get useful information on the basics of writing fantasy and science fiction. The website is:

Mythcreants is a site that has articles on writing as well as analysis of writing. There are also articles on role playing games for those who like games.  The website is at:

Fantasy Faction is a British site full of articles about writing, book reviews and author interviews.  Something is posted almost every day. The site is available at:

Holly Lisle is a professional, published author of fantasy and other books. She has classes on writing and books on her web site. The site is at:

Another helpful site is SF Signal which has daily news about fantasy and science fiction. The daily post on links is very helpful to find articles about books, movies, TV shows and writing. This site can be found at:

The sites and articles above are just a few of the hundreds that can be found on the Internet. They are useful to help you get started writing and to keep writing. In the end though, it's more important to stop reading about writing and to just write.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

My Writing Experiment

Just a small post while I work on articles.
This summer I decided on trying to increase my writing productivity. I bought the voice recognition software Dragon Naturally Speaking to help me. I’m old school as a writer. I write my stuff down on paper first. I can’t compose stories to a blank computer screen no matter how hard I’ve tried. Revise yes, write no. Since I began writing in 1987, most of my writing is in notebooks, which I later typed into the word processor documents. With Dragon Dictate, I feel I can read the stuff from my notebooks faster than typing. So far, I’m in a learning curve with the program. I’ll let people know how it’s going and if it helped in future posts. Keep writing until then.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Aspiring Writers? No!

A panel I attended about writing at a recent sf convention inspired my writing this summer. One of the panelists said that we weren’t aspiring writers, we were writers, just not published. An aspiring writer is someone who wants to write, but hasn’t put anything down on paper or computer yet. You are a writer if you write something every day. You’re just aspiring to be published. So let’s just keep writing, revising and submitting our works. You aspiring writers? Go write something now!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

This Blog Isn't Dead

I haven’t been keeping on schedule with my blog the last few months. It isn’t dead. Some minor time consuming life events have kept me from my writing. They are simmering down, I’m on summer vacation and plan to dedicate myself to writing. I became inspired by a recent article “Embracing Discipline and Accountability” ( at Mythic Scribes. I’m working on articles and interviews that I’ll start posting regularly again soon. Thank you for your patience.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Baycon 2015

I attended sf convention Baycon 2015 this weekend. This is a local convention held in Santa Clara, CA. The theme was Women of Wonder, celebrating women in and out of the genres. The con organizers did an excellent job this year. I enjoyed the panel on How the Game of Thrones will end. The panelists did a great job of speculating. Also, I found the panel on publishing books very informative. I’m looking forward to next year’s con. Information at:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book Review: _No True Way_ edited by Mercedes Lackey

The stories about the Heralds and Companions of Valdemar have been entertaining many fans for a long time. Not only are there novels set in this fantasy world, but several anthologies have been published over the years.  _No True Way_ edited by Mercedes Lackey is the eighth Valdemar anthology to be published.  The stories in the anthologies have grown from just tales about Heralds and Companions. In this latest anthology, stories  explore other people’s lives in the world of Valdemar. The stories range from pleasant to serious, with interesting characters in each of the tales.

“Written in the Wind” by Jennifer Brozek is a dark story that will give readers the creeps. Twin brother and sister are chosen by Companions on their tenth birthday Milla and Orun tell their Companions of the two possible paths their lives might take. On their journey to the city of Haven, the children are pursued by evil creatures trying to kill them. The story is a tense, suspenseful tale of survival with and unusual , surprising ending. Brozek  provides  a different aspect of Valdemar.

Mercedes Lackey contributes a new story to the anthology with “Vixen.” This is a story about the healer called Vixen dealing with some past emotional baggage as she travels her circuit. A Companion brings her to a small village to help the Herald Mage Vanyel. While helping Vanyel, they must save the people from a giant, ravenous monster.  They  receive help  from an unusual  quarter. The story resolves with a satisfying climax. Fans of Vanyel will enjoy his part in the story.

In “A Wake of Vultures” by Elisabeth Waters, Lena must help solve a problem using her gift of animal Mindspeech. While traveling with a Herald, she comes across a group of vultures that won’t leave a dead human body. The body does not show any signs of decomposition. The vultures won’t leave or let anyone get near the body. A witch shows up, claiming the body as her son. Together, they must find a way to break the spell or more people will die. This is a clever, interesting story in the anthology.

 _No True Way_ edited by Mercedes Lackey is another entertaining anthology set in Valdemar. Readers will enjoy the stories of different people in this fantasy world. The stories will not disappoint fans who love this author’s books.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fantasy Web Site: Mythcreants

I’m going to get back to blogging on schedule soon. Working on several new articles now.

Today I start with a link to the fantasy website Mythcreants. This web site/blog has articles about writing fantasy, role playing games and other fantasy topics. The web site can be found at:

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Link to a Relevant Article


While I work on getting my act together with my own articles, here's a link to an article about how important reading is if you're a writer.

I'll be back soon with articles.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Book Review: Flights of Fantasy edited by Mercedes Lackey

An anthology is a collection of short stories by different authors on some theme. _Flights of Fantasy_ edited by Mercedes Lackey is an anthology of Fantasy stories about birds of prey. The introduction by Lackey explains some basic facts about these birds that fascinate humans with their power and beauty. Stories range from humorous to serious with some on the dark side. Many are entertaining.

"Tweaked in the Head" by Samuel C. Conway is a humorous story. A scientist enhances the intelligence of a Red-tailed Hawk. The result is a talking hawk with a snide personality. The conversations between the scientist and Red are funny. It has a touching side to it also with the theme of do we have the right to do such things to creatures.

Gaining magic from animal totems is the main theme of the story "Eagle's Eye" by Jody Lynn Nye. Imoh must find his eagle to gain the seer magic of his people or be an outcast. He travels into the wilderness looking for eagles to meet their eyes and find his particular bird. Imoh's adventures are interesting. The story has a good character, adventure and a little humor. It's an enjoyable read.

Those who challenge gods learn a valuable lesson in "Owl Light" by Nancy Asire. The priestess Yslinda must keep faith in her goddess to avoid marrying the priest of a conquering religion and nation. Her patience is tried with the king and other pressures. This story weaves a strong tale with sympathetic characters and a different setting. It is very descriptive.

Adelia is a powerful sorceress. She makes a servant from a young girl and a wren. Not satisfied, she decides to make a new servant from a male slave and a hawk. "Taking Freedom" by S.M. Stirling is a Dark Fantasy about the price of arrogance. Stirling tells a good story in a clear style. Readers will enjoy the ending.

Ravens are intelligent birds and carnivores to a certain extent. They play a major role in "The Tale of Hrafn-bui" by Diana Paxson. This is a tale using elements of Norse mythology. The birds help Hrafn-bui to regain his land. Hrafn-bui grows and changes from his experience with the birds. This story has a dark edge with vivid descriptions of hunting. Paxson's deft touch in creating memorable characters is present throughout the story.

The last story is "Wide Wings" by Mercedes Lackey. It tells the story of one of her secondary characters from her recent novel _Black Swan_. Honoria is the eldest daughter in a royal family. She is interested in riding, hunting and especially falconry. Her sisters can't get married until she is married. Frustrated, her father issues an ultimatum that she either chooses someone to marry or must join a convent. Honoria is determined to find an escape. A goshawk offers her an alternative. This story has good characters and a lot of informative detail on falconry.

Birds of prey fascinate us with their beauty, power and strength. The stories in _Flights of Fantasy_ gives readers a sense of these things and more. This anthology is full of enjoyable stories that readers will find interesting and entertaining. Take flight.