What I’ve been reading

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about what I’ve been reading, so I thought I’d rectify that.

I’ve managed to squeeze in a bit of recreational reading in between line edits for Shimmer (less than three months until release!) and progressing further on the first draft of Burn.

Here are my favourites from the past few months. It’s an eclectic bunch. Click on the cover to  read my thoughts on Goodreads (some recommendations are more comprehensive than others!).

Burial RitesBitter Wash RoadImpossible KnifeShe is not invisible

AllegiantDream ThievesThese Broken Stars5th Wave

Siege and StormPeacemakerDisapearance of Ember CrowColdest girlStormdancer

What have you guys been reading and loving lately?

Marianne de Pierres chats about genre blending (and bending)

Peacemaker Tour Banner

The very versatile and talented Marianne de Pierres has a new novel out in five weeks, the clever genre-bending thriller Peacemaker (read my thoughts on it here). I offered to participate in the Peacemaker blog tour because I wanted to ask Marianne about her creative process for this latest project, and I thought a few of you might be interested in the answer. So here it is…

Given you’re adept at a number of genres, how did you decide which elements to bring together – and in what order did they come to you? Western, urban fantasy, sci fi…what was the spark that joined the dots for you?

Marianne:
I wrote a short story almost ten years ago entitled Gin Jackson: Neophtyte Ranger which Cat Sparks published in Agog! The main character in PEACEMAKER was born back then, but she was situated in a futuristic outback Australia, in a town protected by an environmental bubble. GR author pic_webWhen I got the idea for PEACEMAKER, I knew from the outset that I wanted to use Gin as my protagonist, but somehow locate her in a place where I could indulge my love for western novels. Gin Jackson became Virgin, and the rest just slotted together in my mind like a bolt locking into place. I had already visited the notion of Australia super cities in the Parrish Plessis novels, and it was an idea I wanted to continue to explore. In PEACEMAKER, however (unlike Nylon Angel’s Parrishverse), there is no barren interior. The PEACEMAKER world depicts a future Australia that is densely populated throughout, other than this one tract of land – Birrimun Park – which has been preserved as a natural habitat.

Peacemaker-CRSome of the pre-publication discussion about the book has suggested a Firefly kind of world, but it is really nothing at all like that great series. The urban fantasy elements are very strong in PEACEMAKER and they sit firmly atop a story heavy in crime, mystery and semi-espionage. For some inexplicable reason, I also kept getting echoes of Robert Holdstock’s classic novel, Mythago Wood as I began to write. It seemed strange but I’ve learnt to trust these instincts. Suddenly, it became clear that as the story arc played out in my mind, and the fantastical elements began to develop, that the series would tilt more towards a mythical saga. Go figure?

If you are the kind of reader who likes to have both feet planted firmly in a single genre story then PEACEMAKER is not for you. But if you like the notion of a tale that tugs you in a number of directions then I expect — hope — you will enjoy the ride! :)

Thanks Marianne. :)

Read more about Peacemaker and release dates

Read more about Marianne’s work

Shimmer release dates for Australia, NZ and UK

Here they are, confirmed release dates for Shimmer (Rephaim #3):

  • Australia and New Zealand (Text Publishing): 25 June
  • United Kingdom (Indigo): 3 July

(Indigo also distributes the Rephaim series – English language version – to a number of countries in Europe and Asia and other selected parts of the world.)

ShimmerI’m really excited for you guys to read Shimmer. There’s a still a bit of tweaking to do (mostly line edits) but it feels like it’s pretty much there now.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been busy working on Burn (Rephaim #4) and I’m over half-way into the first draft. This will be the final book in the series and a lot of threads need to come together (and work!). So far so good… :)

Shimmer blurb and the title of Book 4

Text Publishing has come up with a fantastic early cover blurb for Shimmer (out in July), which I’m busting to share. So here it is (warning – there’s a spoiler if you haven’t read Haze):

ShimmerGaby thought her life couldn’t get more complicated.

She’s almost used to the idea that she’s not the nineteen-year-old backpacker she thought she was. She can just about cope with being one of the Rephaim – a 140-year-old half-angel – whose memories have been stolen. She’s even coming to grips with the fact that Jude, the brother she’s mourned for a year, didn’t die at all.

But now Rafa—sexy, infuriating Rafa—is being held, and hurt, by Gatekeeper demons. And Gaby has to get the bitterly divided Rephaim to work together, or Rafa has no chance at all.

It’s a race against time – and history. And it may already be too late.

And now, drumroll for the title of Book 4 of the Rephaim series (the last one)…

Burn

Hope you like it. :)

Authors who review

I’m a published author. I’m also an avid reader. So is it okay for me to talk online about the books I enjoy?

Long before I was published, I was a book blogger. I wasn’t on anyone’s mailing list and I didn’t receive ARCs, I just read widely and wanted to chat about the books I loved.

I started my first blog in 2007, called Great Stories. After a few years of building up a reasonable following of like-minded readers, I realised my reading choices were too eclectic for a single blog, so I created a second one dedicated to fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal and zombie stories, called Other Worlds (mostly YA, but not exclusively).

Even back in those days, I confined my posts to books I enjoyed. Probably because I bought most of what I read and reviewed, and – with my own writing going on in the background – I didn’t have the time to invest in books that didn’t appeal to me.

And then in 2011, after many years of writing and submitting my own work to publishers, I was signed by Text Publishing in Australia (and then later by Indigo/Orion in the UK and Tundra Books in North America). So I started a third blog focused on my own writing (the one you’re reading now).

Within a few months of that first contract, I wound down the other two blogs (due to time commitments). But I still kept track of what I was reading on Goodreads. I had never given starred ratings on my own blogs, but picked up the habit on Goodreads, given it’s a convention of the site.

When Shadows debuted in Australia in 2012, I became a Goodreads author, which gave me a completely different perspective on the site.

Now, with a click of a button, I can see what everyone is saying about my work. Most reviews of my books are thoughtful, encouraging and often grin-inspiring. Others rip my heart out and leave it crushed on the side of the road. The latter are never easy to read, but I respect everyone’s right to express their opinions – after all, I don’t have to read them.

But experiencing Goodreads as an author made me realise that everything I write about other books can be read by their authors. A no-brainer, yes, but I’d never really sat down and thought that through. My reviews were always for my fellow readers: “Here I loved this, you might too”.

I started to wonder what authors thought about having other authors rate and review their books. Granted, my ratings and comments were overwhelmingly positive, but still….So for a while, I didn’t know how to ‘be’ on Goodreads. I still wanted to keep track of what I’d read and what I wanted to read. (My Goodreads TBR collection is always my go-to list when I can’t decide what to pick up next.)

Then I changed tack. I stopped reviewing all together. But I missed it. I actually enjoy writing about books I’ve loved, especially when it leads to conversations with other bloggers/readers about those books.

So I decided to write comments about books I’d read and not give a rating. But that felt like a cop-out. And I know how lovely it is to get a strong star rating on Goodreads.

As of late, I’m back to leaving ratings and (mostly brief) comments because it feels more meaningful to me as a reader. As usual, I only post on Goodreads about books I’ve really enjoyed, so they’ll generally all be novels I feel deserve five stars. And again, this is because I’m only reading books I seriously expect to love. So my Goodreads posts are definitely recommendations. They are not intended to be a critical analysis. (By the way, I also include my ever-growing favourite reads list here on my site.)

I know there are divided opinions about how authors should behave as readers, particularly online. I’m trying to find a comfortable middle ground where I tread lightly in both roles, but still offer something meaningful for my own readers, and readers who share my tastes in books.

I’m interested to hear thoughts from book bloggers (and authors) on the topic.

(Side note: I wrote a post on Life of Pi – particularly focused on the island scene – on Great Stories back in 2008 that, for a long time, had the number one Google ranking for ‘Life of Pi explained’. It still gets hundreds of hits every week and still attracts comments. I’m actually kind of proud of that. You can find it here.)

Yes, there are four books in the Rephaim series

I’ve noticed a few mentions around the internet of Shimmer being the third and final book in the Rephaim series, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to bring this up again – because readers are going to be VERY annoyed if they think the series ends on the final page of Shimmer (which comes out in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom next year) .

Just to confirm…there are FOUR books in the series. That was the plan from the start.

When I first roughly plotted the series, I knew I’d need four instalments to tell the story the way I wanted to. Yes, the series is about Rafa, Gaby and Jude, but it’s also about the fractured society of the Rephaim; about these guys working out who they are and how they fit in the world. So I needed four books to allow space for that journey.

So, yes, there will be more answers in Shimmer but it will take four books to resolve all the questions raised since Shadows. :)

In the meantime…merry Christmas!

Shimmer: a progress report

A quick update on where I’m at with the Rephaim series.

I’m happy to say I have a completed draft of Shimmer, which has already undergone a round of structural revisions. There’s still work to do, but it’s in reasonable shape – and will only get better from here.

ImageThe real work will come in the new year when my editor and I get cracking on line edits.

Shimmer will be released simultaneously in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom in July, which really isn’t as far away as it sounds. And there will be a synopsis and teaser chapter/s between now and then, I’m sure.

Meanwhile, I’m about 15,000 words into the first draft of the fourth and final book in the series. Still VERY early days and very rough, but I’m relieved to be getting the words down and bringing all those plot threads and character arcs together. I’ve had this book (or at least the key scenes) in my head for nearly four years now…

Oh, and I’m hoping to have a confirmed title for book 4 to share with you all soon. :)

Marianne de Pierres has a new sci fi series – and here’s the cover for the first book

Today is an exciting day for my friend and fellow writer Marianne de Pierres. It’s cover reveal day!

Check out the extremely cool artwork for Peacemaker, her upcoming sci fi western novel, the first in a new series. Can’t wait to read it.

Peacemaker-CR

Peacemaker is due for release by Angry Robot books in early May 2014. The cover art is by Joey Hi Fi, partly inspired by the graphic novel illustrated by Brigitte Sutherland and created by Marianne. For more details about Peacemaker, check out Marianne’s website: http://www.mariannedepierres.com/books/marianne-de-pierres/peacemaker-series/ (You can check out Marianne’s other sci fi, crime and paranormal series on this site as well.)

Have I mentioned how much I love trees lately?

It’s late spring here in South East Queensland, which also means its storm season. There’s lovely bushland near my house and, in the past week, the combination of rain and wind has stripped the scribbly gums of their winter bark. I took my phone when I walked my dog today to get some shots before the bark dries and blows away. I also snapped a couple of other trees that grabbed my attention.

Random fact: the scribbly gum gets its name from the markings made on its bark by a surprisingly artistic grub (worm).

IMG_1062

Thoughts from a couple of readers on a soundtrack for the Rephaim

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Rebecca – or ‘Place’, as I still call her from our high school days – happens to be one of the Rephaim’s biggest fans (she was the first person to read Shadows as it took shape). She’s also somewhat of an encyclopedia when it comes to music.

My very good friends, The Crams. (It's okay, the girls aren't really reading Haze - still too young for the Rephaim series!)

(It’s okay, the girls aren’t really reading Haze – a few more years yet before they’re allowed to read my series.)

Every year for my birthday and Christmas, she and her family (aka the Crams) put together a collection of songs from their current playlist. (Don’t be fooled by the girls’ youth: they know more bands and music trivia that most roadies).

For my birthday a few months’ back, Place whipped up something extra special: a soundtrack for Shadows and Haze. I love the time and thought that went into this, especially given the inclusion of a few bands she and I used rock out to back in the day. :)

I thought I’d share her list, along with the notes that always come with my mix CDs to explain song choices.

 Soundtrack + notes from Place
– Shadows and Haze

  1. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Eurythmics
    (Not so) sweet dreams – self explanatory reference to Gaby (and Jude’s) dreams of their real and imagined past, and the title of chapter two (Shadows).
  2. This Is A Call – Foo Fighters
    Fingernails are pretty! A homage to our intriguing artist Jacques and, of course, Jude’s fave band.
  3. Running from An Angel – Hootie & The Blowfish
    Of the myriad of songs about angels, I thought the title of this one fit quite nicely, and it’s a fine ballad.
  4. Locked Out of Heaven – Bruno Mars
    Another wonderfully apt title, and another funky tune from Bruno. Religious references abound in the lyrics of this sexy song.
  5. Sympathy for the Devil – Rolling Stones
    Tribute to the chapter ‘Pleased to meet you. Not’
  6. Blue on Black – Kenny Wayne Shepherd
    Another chapter tribute, to ‘Wearing black and blue’. And that the author is a big Kenny Wayne Shepherd fan!
  7. Demon’s Eye – Deep Purple
    Another tune from one of Jude’s favourite bands. It had to be Demon’s Eye. (Note from Paula: an early draft of Shadows had a reference to Deep Purple which didn’t make the final cut – but yes, the classic 70s rockers are among Jude’s faves.)
  8. Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down The Mountain) – INXS
    I just couldn’t bring myself to put ‘The Sound of Music’ on the soundtrack (‘The hills are alive!’), but thought this track fit the bill, and brought a nice piece of Aussie pop/rock to the mix
  9. Heart of an Angel – Jeff Healey Band
    Another angel track, and I seem to recall the Jeff Healey being another one of your faves.
  10. Fallin’ – Alicia Keyes
    I was actually looking for tracks with ‘fallen’ in them, but thought this song went close and summed up Gaby and Rafa’s struggle with their relationship really nicely. And Alicia has an awesome voice.
  11. The Devil Went Down To Georgia – The Charlie Daniels Band
    Or something went down in Iowa, anyway! I have always loved this classic hillbilly song with the most awesome fiddle playing ever. 
  12. Children of the Grave – Black Sabbath
    Or the corn. Super-creepy, classic Black Sabbath. How good is that rat-a-tat-tat percussion?
  13. Hells Bells – AC/DC
    Take your pick: Rhythm Palace, the hills behind Pan Beach: here is your epic battle track!
  14. All My Life – Foo Fighters
    Couldn’t have a soundtrack without this one.

Thanks Place (and the Crams) for this awesome list. :)

A thought from Casey at Dark-Readers

Overnight, Casey over at Dark-Readers in the UK posted this clip on Twitter because she felt it perfectly capture Gaby and Rafa. I love the connection:

A few thoughts from me – Shadows

Earlier in the year as part of the UK blog tour for Shadows, Emma at Book Angel Booktopia (http://www.bookangelbooktopia.com/2013/01/musical-moments-guest-post-shadows-by-paula-weston.html) asked about my musical inspiration for Shadows. I offered up four Foo Fighters songs.

The first, which sums up where Gaby’s head is at right at the start of Shadows is All my Life. For me, it’s also the song that captures the essence of the series. (And which Place included above too.)

All my life I’ve been searching for something
Something never comes never leads to nothing
Nothing satisfies but I’m getting close
Closer to the prize at the end of the rope
All night long I dream of the day
When it comes around and it’s taken away
Leaves me with the feeling that I feel the most
Feel it come to life when I see your ghost

February Stars is a more mellow song, and I think it perfectly reflects Gaby’s quieter moments before she starts to find out her life is not what it seems.

Hanging on
Here until I’m gone
Right where I belong
Just hanging on

Even though
I pass this time alone
Somewhere so unknown
It heals the soul

(This clip is from the Skin and Bones live show. I love this version.)

Pretender: How could I not include this one? It’s about lies and buried secrets – and refusing to accept someone else’s version of who you are. Perfect for Gaby.

Send in your skeletons
Sing as their bones go marching in again
They need you buried deep
The secrets that you keep are ever ready
Are you ready?

And finally, No Way Back. It’s a great fit for how’s Gaby’s feeling by the end of Shadows.

Lately, I’ve been
Livin’ in my head
The rest of me is dead,
I dying for truth.

Pleased to meet you take my hand,
There is no way back from here,
Pleased to meet you say your prayers,
There is no way back from here,
But I don’t care,
No way back from here

A few thoughts from me – Haze

And then, as part of last month’s Haze blog tour in the UK, Jenny at Wondrous Reads (http://www.wondrousreads.com/2013/10/haze-blog-tour-author-interview-paula.html) asked if I had a playlist for Haze. Here’s what I offered (notice there are non-Foo listings!):

- Bridge Burning (Foo Fighters)
- Halo (Foo Fighters)
- Skin and Bones (Foo Fighters)
- Little Black Submarines (The Black Keys)
- 2 Deep (Kenny Wayne Shepherd)
- Blue on Black (Kenny Wayne Shepherd)
- Wild at Heart (Birds of Tokyo)