Living the Dream

Diana Pharaoh FrancisDiana Pharaoh Francis

The truth is that living as a writer is a dream come true. This is the thing I would choose to do above all others. It has its challenges, however. I went full time about six months ago, though it looks like I’ll take on part-time teaching work in a dream teaching job next year (I’ll be teaching in an MFA program specializing in genre literature, but that’s another story). Before that, I was teaching full time at a undergraduate university and writing part time (as part time as you can be while producing two books a year). I had two young kids as well. I had to be incredibly organized and focused to be able to get things done. Often I was keeping ahold of sanity by just fingernails.

We moved to Oregon from Montana in July of last year and I started in September to write full [...]

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First Page Critique the Sixth

Diana Pharaoh FrancisDiana Pharaoh Francis

Our final contestant in the first page critique games is Andrea with an excerpt from Twelveland. I’m assuming it’s YA or middle grade. Remember the publisher assumes the oldest reader of the book will be the same age as the protagonist. There are exceptions–Harry Potter anyone?–but this is the general rule of thumb. I don’t think anyone predicted how universal Harry Potter would turn out to be.

And now, on with the show:


Twelveland by Andrea de Regt



At the sound of the harsh voices, the boy cowered in his too small cage. The troll queen and her sister faced each other threateningly right before him: two huge heads with green-purplish, pocked skin and bristly short hair, their fangs and snout-like noses almost touching. Kieran was glad their anger was not aimed at him, but this could change faster than a dragon’s swoop.

There’s nothing particularly [...]

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First page critique the fifth

Diana Pharaoh FrancisDiana Pharaoh Francis

I’m giving you all the last two first page critiques. I hope they’ve been useful. If so, I’ll see about doing again. Maybe I can get some more slots. What do you think?

The next volunteer-victim is Dave Carlile. He tells me this is the first page of a 5000 word story, the title of which is “The Song in her Soul.” Without further ado, let’s get to business.


I have wandered these woods for many generations of men, without purpose, numb against the misery of loneliness. The pieces of my mind that could give rise to despair lie disused and hidden away, buried beneath the scars that protect my sanity from the wounds of too long a life. Although I have lived long, my life did not begin until a spring day five years past.


I watched her from the shadows, hiding even [...]

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The Wicked Wind Whispers and Moans

Diana Pharaoh FrancisDiana Pharaoh Francis

Fantasy and SF writers talk a lot about world building, and for very good reason. The world in a novel functions inevitably as a character. It has a strong influence on plot, on other characters, on tension, pacing . . . every aspect of your book. We’ve talked here on Magical Words about world building before, but I wanted to spend a little time talking about Crosspointe and the world, because it’s was both super different for me and very challenging.

Let me first say that The Cipher will be released March 31. Look for it. Put it on your calendar. All right, on to the show. Crosspointe is an island nation set on a changeable sea. The ground under the black waters will change at the drop of a dime. What was once a shoal will suddenly drop away into a deep trench. Underwater mountains rise and fall without [...]

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Belated Critique

Diana Pharaoh FrancisDiana Pharaoh Francis

All right, I’m late on this. My apologies. Chalk it up to crazy life stuff and some professional stuff that showed up unexpectedly and I lost my mind. Okay, I will admit that I lost my mind long ago. That should come as little surprise to anyone who knows me.

Today’s hapless volunteer is Cara. Praise her bravery and intrepidness.

Metadata: The Beasts of Hathow – YA Fantasy – 140k words (waaaaaaaay too long for a YA, btw. A lot of publishers won’t begin to look at one this long)


The paint rippled like scales, peeling and flaking off the rusting metal of the dumpster. It was green now, not black. Morning had come.

As evocative as those images are—and I love that the paint ripples like scales—this has no hook value. Especially for YA books, but for all books, you need something in that first paragraph that will [...]

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Revisiting Old Friends

Diana Pharaoh FrancisDiana Pharaoh Francis

As I mentioned previously, The Cipher is going to be reissued and I’m getting a chance to look it over again and make changes. This is something most writers don’t get to do. Or rather, this is something that we didn’t used to get to do. Before the rise of self-publishing (as well as small press publishing), once a book went out of print, it wasn’t all that feasible for a writer to republish her novels. Most publishers weren’t willing to reprint books without some major impetus–like the writer’s more recent books had hit big, for instance. So older books languished and writers didn’t have a reason to revisit them. I never thought I would revisit The Cipher with an eye toward revising. I thought it was a good book, so even with the reissue, I didn’t really think about it a lot until my editor suggested that if could [...]

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A new old project only half-baked as yet

Diana Pharaoh FrancisDiana Pharaoh Francis

Hello everyone!

I’m back today as the writer of a new book. Only it’s not a new book, it’s a reissue of an old book, and despite plans to release it this next month, it will probably be longer, possibly another month or two. The fabulous Bell Bridge books is reissuing all the Crosspointe books and publishing the rest of the series. Where we’re at now is that things are slower than expected and hence I’m not able to show you a fancy new cool cover or anything else. I can’t tell you much at all, which makes me feel like a bit of a fraud to be in this space right now. I’m not linking to it on my website, because the cover will change, and I’m not linking to the sample chapters, because I’m revising stuff and it’s going to be changing some. More on that below and [...]

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