Diamonds, Magic, and Mystery


Whenever I get sick–like the flu or something like it–I watch TV. And not just any TV; when I’m sick, I watch fairly specific kinds of shows. I look for documentaries first. Even though I normally like regular hour-long dramas and comedies and movies and HGTV, I always head for documentaries. If I can’t find anything I like there, I will go to the shopping networks. I know. The two together don’t make any sense, and I don’t go to the shopping networks at any other time. Ever.

The last time I was sick enough to do that was several years ago. In that session, I learned a number of things that have found their way into my writing. (I believe I also bought some blankets and sheets and called my husband at work about a vacuum cleaner, which I did not buy). In particular, I watched a documentary on the formation of first Pangaea and how it broke apart. I watched another one on the volcanoes of the Canary Islands. In particular was one about the devastation that could happen through tidal waves (and has before). Somewhere while watching those (it’s kind of amazing I can remember anything becausTrace of Magic - 600x900x300e I was seriously not that coherent), I learned why the diamond mines in Africa are so amazing. The mines are located on the sites of prehistoric volcanoes that reached much deeper into the earth. The diamonds were pushed up during those eruptions. Here’s a more coherent article on that from The Smithsonian.

That information stuck with me, and when I went to write Trace of Magic, it bubbled up to the top. I knew I wanted diamond mining to be part of the story. Sadly, no such mines exist in the United States. As a writer of fantasy, I can fix that. So now, in the Rocky Mountains near Gunnison, Colorado, there is a massive diamond mine. The caldera rivals the size of the Yellowstone Caldera. On one side it, a city has grown up–Diamond City. It’s a corrupt place, with various mafia-type groups competing to run it. These aren’t ordinary mafias. Magic pools here as well, and many of the citizens are magical. (The reason has to do with the magical flow of energies in the earth and the fact of the volcanic eruption, but that’s not all that important right now).

Magic happens all over the world, but here it’s tied to corruption and political domination. There are five major kinds of magic talents: tracers, dreamers, travelers, makers, and binders. Each has particular kinds of skills. There are many more minor talents that are branches of the main talents–tinkers, haunters, rag pickers, quilters, and so on. Those talents are far more limited, but can be equally dangerous. After all, the tiniest pressure at just the right point can knock down a mountain.

Riley Hollis is a tracer. She’s powerful but pretends to be a hack to avoid the attention of the mob groups who might use her. She’s got a habit of anonymously finding kidnapped kids, bringing her to the notice of Detective Clay Price. He splits his time between cop work and mob work. He hires her (against her will) to do an off the books job. In the middle of it, her sister’s ex-fiance is attacked and Riley has to find him.

I loved writing this book. I cackled half the time as I wrote it. It was one of those gift books–the ones that come quickly and flow like water. I pantsed most of it, once I knew the basics. My mind just wanted to race along on the roller coaster. I love Diamond City. It’s a unique place–a mix of lots of money and the really poor. There’s the diamond dole–an allowance for everybody in town for being a resident. Once you qualify, you get a couple thousand dollars a month. That’s not a lot, given the high cost of living, but it keeps people from dying too frequently. Plus there are always jobs, especially if you have any magical talent at all. On the other hand, it’s easy to die in Diamond City. It’s easy to get sideways of the mob, or a corrupt cop, or just fall down a mineshaft and disappear. The entire place is riddled with tunnels, many of them abandoned by the miners, many of them used by the mob or druggies or gangs or the homeless to hide out.

Riley has no super strength or superpowers, beyond her ability to trace. She’s really good at that, but imagine someone who’s a really good mechanic getting dropped into the middle of a mob war. Sometimes special skills only get you into worse trouble. She finds herself relying on Price, even though she knows he’s in bed with the mob. It’s like working with a live grenade: sooner or later she knows it will go off in her face. She’s just hoping she’ll find her ex-almost-brother-in-law before it happens. She also wouldn’t mind surviving the blast.

I am so pleased to set this book free in the world. I think it’s one of my best books. It will be available on August 29th. Right now you can only preorder Trace of Magic on Kindle, but you can get the paper version, as well as other e-versions starting on the 29th, or shortly thereafter. If you happen to be at DragonCon, there will be copies there. Take pictures for me!  So if you would, preorder, or mark your calendars to get it when it’s out.

While I’m here, I’d like to ask you to spread the word for me. In this age of publishing, it’s harder than ever to get books into the hands of readers. So tell your friends, put reviews up wherever you can, post about the book on Twitter or FB or Tumblir or wherever you might have a presence, and think of me when someone asks about a good book to read. You will have my undying appreciation.

If you have any questions about Trace of Magic or anything else, please ask! I’d love to chat about it. Oh! And here’s an exerpt.


Diana Pharaoh FrancisThe Biography of Me: I didn’t start out to be a writer. I was a storyteller from as far back as I can remember, and a daydreamer of epic stories, but it never occurred to me to write anything down. I read voraciously, but I wasn’t one of those people who said–hey! I could do this! Or even, this is so awful I could do better. I marveled at writers and thought of writing as something other people did. I did try my hand at some really horrible poetry in my senior year of high school. It was dramatic and bleak and world-tiltingly awful. When I got to college, I did poorly in my freshman comp class. I wrote in purple prose and use twenty words for what I could say in two. I loved language, but I didn’t really have much control over it. Then I took a creative writing class. It was awful. Total slaughter. I had caught the bug, though, and from there on out, I wrote. Eventually I wrote a really bad romance and finished it. I finished it! I could do that! And then I went to graduate school and another graduate school, got married, had dogs, had kids, went to work professing, and kept writing. Finally I had my first book accepted and I’ve been writing ever since.

As far as the prosaic stuff goes, I like to crochet, bake bread, spoil corgis, eat chocolate, sing to the radio, pretend to play tennis, geocache, crochet, and garden. Though I really hate weeding. I also like to make my hair purple with some frequency. You can find me on twitter as @dianapfrancis and my website at or on facebook.


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