Author Diana Pharaoh Francis Guest Blog and $25.00 Amazon Gift Card Contest

Blood Winter (Horngate Witches) by Diana Pharaoh FrancisI’ve done a lot of research for books, some requiring more than others. I learned a ton about three masted clipper ships and sailing for The Black Ship. I also learned all kinds of sailing lingo—did you know the phrase “beating a dead horse” is from sailing? So is “slush fund.” Oh, and on of the key ideas that the book revolves around is this one: “third time is a charm.” Only it wasn’t a lucky thing at all. It was terribly unlucky. So ironic given how the idea has mutated today into a good thing.

For my Horngate books, I had to do a lot of research on places and folklore and how to do certain things. Like for instance, angels. Turns out that in the Christian Bible, there are only two named angels. And yet there are thousands of angels in religious literature. There are hierarchies and jobs that the various angels do, and of course some are fallen and some are not.

So in choosing my angels, I decided to stick with real ones. Thus Xaphan was really the angel that lit heaven on fire. And Tutresiel is an angel of the sword. There’s not a lot written about either that I could find, so I was free to embellish as I wanted. I like to stick with the folklore as much as I can. Of course, for some stories, there are many legends, so I have more room to make changes or focus where I want.

But there are some things you can’t research. You just have to use your imagination. I created demons in Blood Winter. There are so very many descriptions of demons from all sorts of literature, that I could pick almost anything. None of them really appealed to me though. So I created my own. These are slimy and stinky with long hooked claws and when you cut them apart, they either collect back together into a stronger-then-before demon, or each piece generated a new on—a bit like a hydra. It also reminds me of Jason in the story of the golden fleece when he sewed the dragons teeth and grew an army of warriors.

What I like about the demons is that they are not particularly demonic. More like the sharks of the unnatural world. They exist, they are vicious, they have to live, and mostly they do what comes natural to them. Their nature is to be dangerous and violent, but they are not particularly evil. Only in so much as the good guys are against them. They are bad because of the havoc they wreak, but not because some evil overlord is directing them.

Unless he is.

Oops. Yeah. Did I give something away? Ahem. Well that brings me to the research on serial killers and cults that I did for this book. Serial killers intrigue me, but more so are those who are sociopaths. They feel no empathy or guilt, which normal people simply cannot comprehend. They do what they do because they are bored or because they enjoy power, but they have no sense of valuing life in general or in specific. They are generally unfocused and easily bored. They must escalate to continue enjoying their ‘work.’ The strangest thing about them, and the most dangerous, is that they easily mimic normalcy. And they use it to manipulate and dominate. They are very hard to pick out. I read about psychologists who went into prisons to interview known sociopaths, and were totally blinded by their charm and charisma.

The thing is, 1 in 25 people is a sociopath. That doesn’t mean serial killer or any killer or at all. But it does mean someone who doesn’t feel guilty or empathy. That means that they have no compunction killing a dog or cat if it is annoying them, or doing harmful things to other people if it’s convenient or makes their lives better. They are usually hungry for power and enjoy manipulating and messing with people.

Okay, so what does that have to do with anything at this point? Well, first, reading about them made me look around where I work at the day job and start counting people and wondering how many were sociopaths. Great way to develop a bit paranoia, that sort of research. Going to work is a bit stranger than it used to be.

The research also made my bad guy much more real to me. It made me understand that he could have emotions and he could have relationships, but that everything was driven by this egomaniacal need for power and admiration. He could not have empathy or guilt, and both are so fundamental to what we understand human nature to be that I can’t wrap my head around such a person. I tried hard, but I even so, the character was absolutely alien to me. As much as cockroaches and spiders. Maybe more so.

One of the reasons that I love writing (and reading), is that I get a chance to learn new things and experience other lives. With writing, I get to turn that new knowledge into something cool and share it with readers. It’s one of the best parts of writing.

Books in the Horngate Witches series in the order they should be read:
Bitter NightKindle Version ONLY $1.99
Crimson Wind – Kindle Version ONLY $1.99
Shadow CityKindle Version ONLY $1.99
Blood Winter

Author Bio:

“I was raised on a cattle ranch in Northern California (outside a town called Lincoln which is now part of an enormous sprawl). I taught myself to ride a horse at the age of six, as no one had the time to teach me—they were all busy learning how to irrigate, how to cajole an angry bull into another field, how to pull a calf… Afraid of heights, and absolutely sure I was going to die, I managed to scramble up on the back of a very patient and lazy strawberry roan destrier, and plod off into the sunset.

Thereafter, I spent much of my early life on horseback, or so far buried into a book that the rest of the world ceased to exist (much to the annoyance of my family—it took several attempts to get my attention). We all had very specific jobs on the ranch and mine was horses and cattle—out rounding up at dawn. And since I rode bareback, my standing request was to wake me up 5 minutes before everyone else headed for the barn—time enough to dress and eat my Wheaties, and no sleep time wasted on saddling.

After high school, I attended college after college, racking up a BA and MA in creative writing and a Ph.D. in literature and theory. My very patient and supportive husband traipsed across the Midwest and back to Montana for me (though my husband insists that he’s been running and hiding and I just keep finding him), where I now teach at the University of Montana-Western. We also a son Q-ball, who in our humbly unbiased opinions, is the most wonderful son ever produced, and a daughter, Princess Caesar, who is the most wonderful daughter ever produced.

I have a fascination for the Victorians, weather, geology, horses, plants and mythology, I like spicy food, chocolate and cheesecake, and I have an odd sense of humor. (Or so I’ve been told. Often.) Incidentally, the Pharaoh is in fact my real name, and oddly enough, is of British origin.

Some of my current  favorite sf/f writers are Ilona Andrews, Carol Berg, C.E. Murphy, Patty Briggs, Lynn Flewelling, Rachel Caine, David Coe, and Anne Bishop.”

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Learn more about Diana Pharaoh Francis below:
To read reviews of this author’s work go here.
Mad Libs, my blog:
Twitter: @dianapfrancis

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  1. Have any of your books been translated in other languages yet?

  2. Wow, I had no idea 1 in 25 people are psychopaths! That’s a really interesting subject. Have you read Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test? I loved that book.

    Also, what was your favorite scene in Blood Winter to write?

    • Lesley: That one is on my TBR stack. A colleague of mine just past a bunch of other cult and psychopath books on to me (that isn’t as weird as it sounds. He teaches a class on serial killers, among other pscyhology classes).

      My favorite scene to write . . . I think it was probably the when when Gregory has been attacked and all of them collect in a ditch and Alexander makes a realization. It sets so many things, but also shows how everyone interacts. Plus there’s some serious angst and violence.

  3. Hi Diana! *waves* This is Jocelyn. I RSVP’d yesterday and have been stalking BBB ever since. 😉 Yes, I’m a bit obsessive. But don’t worry, I’m not a sociopath. I wanted to ask you how you created the Max. Is she a combo of you and other people, or someone who your imagination birthed? Does she have a mind of her own or do you always know what she’s going to do and say. What kind of relationship do you have with her? For me, as a reader, I consider her friend who I vicariously live through. Is it like that for you too? Thanks! 🙂

    • Hi Jocelyn! Excellent to meet you!

      Max is her own person. I sometimes am in her head, but she is separate from me. I feel sometimes like she’s living a life and I’m like a ghost haunting her and watching all she does (but in a non-creepy way :D) She grew out of my imagination, with bits of people I know and have observed, but not really any of me. At least that I know of, though I’m sure there is some. I really don’t know what she’s going to say, though I know how she’ll feel about things. She’s surprised me more than once, though. She keeps secrets. I don’t know if I see her as a friend. I’m too invisible to her for that, but at the same time, I adore her.

  4. With so much research involved in the writing process, how long does it normally take you to complete a book? Thanks so much for the giveaway!

    • Hi Lee:

      You know, it really depends. With The Black Ship, I had to research for several months before I could start, and then the book took about six months to finish. On the other hand, Blood Winter wouldn’t flow out of me. I knew so much, but it didn’t coalesce. I’d been doing a lot of research, but it just wouldn’t come. I ended up writing most of it over teh course of about 3 weeks. Crazy. Once the dam broke, the words just poured out. Now mind you, I ended up tossing a bunch of stuff later in the revision and adding in a bunch of new stuff, so it depends on whether you mean the initial draft I turned in to my editor, or if you mean the second revised draft that is the final book.

  5. Raonaid Luckwell

    What are the three major things a character (to read and write) must have for you to really like them?

    • Hi Raonaid!

      For me, a good character needs flaws, fears, and desires. She needs something that she wants, that drives her. But her fears and flaws will get in the way. She has to be real and those three things will make her real and interesting.

  6. “Going to work is a bit stranger than it used to be.”
    I have to ask, are any of your characters, even vaguely, based on people at work?

    • Hi Lisa~

      Every so often. Mostly it’s pieces of them, if I use them. Habits, speech, catch phrases, and so on.

      I used to plan. But lately I’ve been unable to do that and I pants it. I used to be able to think it out and know things in advance, but now I just have to trust that eventually I’ll arrive at a complete story. That’s a bit of a nightmare I can tell you. I write linearly, from beginning to end. I’ve never been good about writing out of order. I think it’s because I tend to build and discover the characters and world as I go and I often don’t know where I’m going and even if I think I do, it changes dramatically before I get there.

      Oh there are so many many many things I’ve learned that I didn’t know. From the way wounds happen to how ships work. I have to admit, the three masted clipper ship knowledge was pretty big. I learned so much about life not only on a ship, but life off the ship, in port, and for the wives and families of the sailors.

  7. Planner or pantzer?
    DO you follow a “formula” when you write? DO you outline your ideas, write in a specific order….
    or just scribble down thoughts as fast as they come to you and straighten it all out later?

  8. – What’s something you’ve learned or discovered in a novel that you didn’t know or found exciting?
    life during Henry VII’s rule would be the biggest thing
    it amazed me at knowledge that they had and used planting the royal gardens

  9. Hi Diana,
    Which cover of yours is your favorite?

    • Hi Elaine!

      Which cover? Oh boy, I like so many. But as for my favorite, I would have to say . . . Blood Winter. Max’s face is there, and she’s wearing the proper clothes, and she’s about to go commit mayhem.

      Max never leaves home with an emergency kit, her knives, and her guns.

  10. What 3 items does your heroine never leave home without?

  11. In doing so much research, does it give you ideas as you are writing your book?

  12. Have you ever slipped in saying something floating in your head from research and freaked out the people around you?

    (Mine was bringing my research book with me to the coffee shop and then to work… The Serial Killer Files. Excellent book, by the way.) 😉

    • Hey Joe! Nope, I don’t slip up ever. But I do spout it out. Oh, learned today that when you stick a knife in someone’s kidney, they don’t scream. Apparently no one knows why, but it’s a silent way to kill someone.

      I’m going to have to look up that book.

  13. Hey Di!

    Quick question: in your research, did you find out whether sociopaths tend to gravitate toward certain types of jobs? I’d figure with the need for power and/or admiration, they’d move toward those sort of jobs that fill that need: doctors, lawyers, management, politics, entrepreneurship.

    And on a more interesting note: What’s your favorite hair color? My guess is that you’d say purple, but that’s just a guess.

    • Oh yeah, positions of power. Teachers, coaches, politicians, and so on. They like to have power over others, so any place they can do that and especially if they don’t have to answer to others that much.

  14. Do you find it strange how when your book is released in another country the cover can be SO very different from the original?

  15. Hi, Diana. Welcome to BBB!

    Do you ever attend fan conventions?

    • Hi Carol!

      Not as many as I’d like. I live in the middle of nowhere and have kids. Working on moving to somewhere more populated with closer cons. I plan to be at Norwescon this year, hopefully Orycon, Miscon, and possibly Spocon. How about you–do you go?

  16. Hi,

    is there a genre that you have not written in yet that you would love to?

    • Hi Mary~

      Not so much genre as age. I want to write a middle grade novel, and mostly because I want to write something that my kids can read. Maybe an earlyish YA. Something with adventure and fun. I just don’t know if I can pull it off. And I have to get an idea.

  17. Hi,

    I haven’t read any of your books yet, but now I really want to. Do horses figure into any of them, given your love of them?

  18. Do you have a favourite genre to read?

  19. In your bio, you mentioned that you were an avid reader as a child. What were some of your favorite childhood books and did they influence you to become a writer?

    • Everything I read influences me on some level. But favorites as a kid included The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, The Amber chronicles, The Pern stories, Piers Anthony books, Black Stallion and Nancy Drew books–I don’t think there was anything I didn’t read.

  20. Hi! How are you? How is New Year treating you?

    My last question for you is going to be the following:

    What did you learn about yourself after writing this book or doing all that research (except that you find serial killers interesting and are prone to paranoia (jk xP!)?

    Aori H.

    • Hi Aori!

      Paranoid? Me? Why do you say that? WAit, have you been watching me? What do you want? Don’t look at me . . . 😀

      New year is good, thank you very much for asking.

      It’s not so much what I’ve learned about myself, as I’ve decided that despite having a fear of heights, I’m going to do a zipline through a rainforest before I die. Because fear can’t rule you. But I’m not jumping out of a plane. Or bungee jumping.

  21. Authors question

    I learned a lot of interesting things about alchemy in the novel A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.

  22. Interesting research. Angels cross cultures and beliefs, so I like to think there is some truth to them. I didn’t know that the two names you picked were real ones. I just thought, “Hey, she picked out two names that work REALLY well for angels!”
    Sociopaths…yikes. I am with you on can’t quite wrap my head around that. But sounds like you did a lot of work trying to…as in lots of spiders killed? 🙂

  23. Makes me think what kind of research you will get to do next! Any plans??

    • Lexi, I’m digging around on a couple of projects. One of which is going to need me to dig into Oil drilling and the business around it. And then there are some other things I need to research, like making moonshine, and a few others I’m not mentioning yet.

  24. You mentioned that you like Mythology, I do as well 😀 Is there a particular Pantheon that you are drawn to the most?

    • Steph, you know, I’m interested in a lot of them. Greek has been one I’ve really been attracted to, but I’ve dug into Hindu mythology some, Native American, South American . . . I’m more a dilettante when it comes to knowing stuff. I jump around a lot and forget way more than I’d like. What are you drawn to?

  25. Hi, I was wondering how many Horngate books you have planned? Any other projects you’re working on (that you can share?)

  26. Hi, thanks for being here with us! If you could have lunch with any of your characters (good or bad) which would you choose and why?

  27. will any other bible mythology make its way into your books? i realize the bible mentions a few other creatures and entities that could make for an appearance in your book. just curious.

  28. something i learned in a novel was some facts about the vatican. a book i read told about some of the towers and libraries it had.

  29. Since you are a Cali girl, do you like snow? Since the title of the book is BLOOD WINTER, what is your favorite season?

    • Hi June!

      I like to be able to go to the snow and leave it. I used to live in the valley north of sacramento so it was easy to go to the Sierras and back. I liked that. Living in the snow is tougher because it gets really icy and there’s snow to move and it’s damned col. It’s going to be -12 apparently this weekend.

      I prefer spring and early summer. I’m a bit of a heat wimp, now, after living in the cold.

  30. do you still ride horse’s?
    or are you to busy writing all the time?
    live in Northern California in Anderson so not very far from where you grew up.

    • Stacey: Because I’ve got a bad back, my surgeon tells me to stay off them, though I’d like to get a chance again. I miss horseback riding. In Anderson? Oh boy. You’d better read Crimson Wind and see what happens. You are in some trouble . . . 😀

  31. What was your favorite childhood book?

    • Dovile: favorite? I don’t think I had one. I read so many repeatedly. I can’t even begin to pick just one or even a handful. I’ve never written fan fiction. There are two reasons. First one is that I never feel like I can do another person’s world justice. I’m shy about it I guess. And the other reason is that I tend to spend a lot of time in my own worlds.

  32. Have you ever written fan fiction? For what fandom?

  33. I remember reading Memoirs of Geisha by Arthur Golden – the book was full of facts about lives of geisha that I hadn’t known previously.

  34. Hi Diana!!! Ok, that 1 in 25 thing is definitely eye-opening. In a sad way, it makes more sense of all the terrible things I read about – both to people and animals. My honey and I watch Criminal Minds, which I thought made me a little paranoid before, but this just adds to that. Do you watch the show? Do the stories seem to line up with what you have learned? Just curious.


    • oh, yes, I watch it and it creeps me out. Same as you, finding out more info only made it worse. And yeah, what I’ve learned seems to dovetail quite a bit with what they say, though I find they tend to be more certain and specific than the specialists in the books.

  35. When writing about dark matters do you find you ever have to stop and take a step back because it is affecting you personally?

    • Hi Michelle!

      Sometimes. I wrote a story called “In Between The Dark and The Light” in Furry Fantastic that I had to stop periodically because it was dark and a little close to home–it dealt with children and dogs and yeah. It scared me. In other dark stories, it can get a little nerve racking and make me want to take a step back sometimes.

  36. All time favorite book?

  37. I love your books.
    vera28546 at yahoo (dot) com

  38. Hello! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook
    group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Cheers

  39. no question – just i love your horngate series you are a great writer

  40. At what point do you realize a story will be a series, and does it change your approach?

  41. I liked all the glassblowing information in Josephine Myles’ THE HOT FLOOR.

  42. Wow I’m glad I’m not the only one out there who sits and watches people wondering if their serial killers. 🙂 I have a weird fascination with reading about them. Do you ever watch Criminal Minds?

  43. What is your heroines favorite Food and drink and your heros.

  44. If you have three dinner guest living, dead, real, or imaginary who would they be and why.

  45. Hi there! I haven’t read you before, but I’m buying these tonight, they sound really good. I checked the audible website and saw only 3 books from your Crosspointe series was available in audio. Do you know if this series will come out? What are your thoughts on audiobooks? Listen to them?

  46. I see you also like Anne Bishop. Which series did you like best, The Black Jewels, Tir Alainn, or Ephemera? I loved them all, but the Black Jewels was my fav. If you get a chance to listen to the audiobooks, I highly suggest doing so. The narrator did such an excellant job!

  47. I’m curious about the setting that you’re researching making moonshine for. Could you share a hint about the time you have in mind: past, present, or future? Oh, and did you know that there are places where you can purchase legal moonshine today?There’s one just a few hours’ drive from me called Dark Corner Distillery.

  48. What is your favorite part of the story process?

  49. yay … wooohoo, i won :D. thanks so much.

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