Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Guest Post: Bo Briar

I am pleased to welcome Bo Briar, author of Morgan Hall, who is here today to discuss why it is important to include gothic fiction in one's reading repertoire.  I first discovered gothic fiction at a very young age and have been enthralled with it ever since, even preferring to read it on those dark and stormy nights in front of my fireplace, giving it that extra ambiance.  What can I say?  I'm a total sap for stuff like this. Take a look at the blurb for Morgan Hall:

Lady Christie Morgan is not the only occupant in this desolate English estate. A young apparition appears, sparking a chain of horrifying occurrences involving Christie and the two men closest to her: Anthony Longfield-Lothian and Tristan Ely. A saga of mystery and sordid family history weaves intrigue for the passionate love triangle. Past and present war as the secrets of three aristocratic families come to light.

Gothic Fiction - What is it and how did it come about?
And why it is a must-read genre…

Gothic fiction, also known as Gothic horror combines elements of both horror and romance. The first ever gothic novel is regarded to be The Castle of Otranto by the English author Horace Walpole back in 1764 – so he would have effectively pioneered the genre.

Gothic fiction feeds on a pleasing sort of terror mixed with elements of romance. It is dark, exciting, mysterious, melodramatic, full of deep and passionate feelings and oodles of atmosphere. It is intimately associated with the Gothic Revival architecture of that era and in the same way rejects clarity and rationalism preferring the joys of extreme emotion, the thrills of fearfulness and awe inherent in the sublime, as well as a quest for atmosphere. 

It is important to understand that the ruins of gothic buildings were very much linked to strong emotions as they represented the inevitable decay and collapse of human creations. English landscape parks of the time would even add fake ruins for this kind of effect and feeling. Medieval buildings were seen by English Gothic writers as representing a dark and terrifying period, of harsh laws enforced by heavy punishments including torture – an era steeped in mystery, fanaticism for example anti-Catholicism and the Inquisition, and superstitious rituals. 

There are a number of prominent features of Gothic fiction. These include both psychological and physical terror, mystery, secrets, darkness, decay, death, the supernatural, ghosts, haunted houses, elaborate but crumbling castles and Gothic architecture, hereditary curses and madness.

Gothic fiction characters often include Byronic heroes, tyrants, evil villains, maniacs and madmen, femmes fatales, persecuted maidens, insane women, magicians, paranormal characters for example vampires, werewolves and monsters, ghosts, the Devil and so forth.

All of this put together with clever twists in the storyline makes Gothic Fiction a fascinating read. Taking the reader out of reality and pushing them out of their comfort zone – into a world of decaying beauty, deep passions and dark secrets. Where love can be eternal and anything and everything can happen in the stormiest yet most breath-taking ways. It is a genre that guarantees that while reading, you will leave this everyday world behind and step into a whole new other – leagues away from everything you’d come to know.

My novel Morgan Hall is everything a Gothic novel should be – almost all of the above. In addition to this, I have also moved all of that as it is, literally, into our modern world, and you will be able to relate to the characters and what they are feeling but still be left with that very overwhelming Gothic rush and that sense of “wow”!

So come and have a go – experience “Morgan Hall” by Bo Briar.

Author Biography
Bo Briar nursed a love of art, music and architecture from childhood as well as all things ghostly. Her years at a British boarding school secluded in an ancient English county of majestic stately homes, historical towns and quaint medieval villages, nestled among mysterious forests and chocolate-box landscapes formed many of her lifelong impressions, beliefs and ideas.

Although having a natural affinity for the countryside Bo lived most of her life between the big cities of London and Hong Kong. Though widely travelled, she will always return to the two cities she calls home.

Her love for writing began at university where she would often diverge from composing dissertations to creating spooky stories. After taking a sabbatical from work in the hope of quality time with her two young children, she has also managed to complete and publish her first novel Morgan Hall. She is currently writing the sequel.

Bo welcomes you to her website at: www.bobriar.com

Review: Morgan Hall by Bo Briar

by Bo Briar
Release Date: November 28, 2011
2011 World Castle Publishing
Ebook Edition; 258 Pages
ISBN: 978-1937593513
Genre: Fiction / Gothic
Source: Pump Up Your Book

3 / 5 Stars

Love never dies, and revenge never sleeps in Morgan Hall…
Morgan Hall, a desolate country estate, has been in Lady Christie Morgan’s family for almost 400 years. A family cursed by eternal tragedy, and now Christie is the last Morgan.

Apparitions appear, sparking a chain of horrifying occurrences involving Christie and the two men who love her: Anthony Longfield-Lothian and Tristan Ely.

Emotions run high as their world spins wildly out of control. Are they all cursed to repeat the grizzly past? Does sweet revenge claim its prize?

My Thoughts
Morgan Hall is a gothic fiction novel that definitely has the right atmosphere as it's set in an old English manor that has been in the Morgan family for centuries and comes complete with pounding rain and unusual thunderstorms, lush countryside, eerie woods, sparkling streams and ponds, and a house full of secrets and unease.  As per many of these novels, the main character, Christie Morgan, begins seeing spirits, hearing strange noises, has unusual things happen to her, and then is tormented by events that grow more dangerous and eerie as the days move on.  While I found the setting to be quite fascinating, and thought the descriptions of the houses were quite good, I'm afraid the characters themselves are what actually drove me to give it the rating that I did as I enjoyed the descriptions far more than I enjoyed the characters.

Don't get me wrong as I enjoy a good gothic fiction novel and have been hooked since I discovered my grandmother's stash in her bedroom (in French and in English) when I was twelve years old. And while I really enjoyed the atmosphere in this novel, especially the pounding rain and the early darkness (perhaps I am rain-deprived in this drought-ridden July?) but I could envision everything so clearly and that is clearly due to the author's good writing skills when it comes to describing events and settings.  I would even say I enjoyed the plot to a certain extent although it did seem to get caught up in the descriptions and in the characters' love triangle, but I like old family secrets and things that have been kept hidden for centuries, so perhaps I am a bit of a sap for things like that.

My biggest issue with Morgan Hall was the characters as they kind of got on my nerves.  Christie, the last living descendent of Morgan Hall, became one big mess as things kept happening to her and I was often saying, "Where's your backbone, girl?"  I just don't have the patience for women who are constantly crying (I realize this is just my issue and many people don't have a problem with this: It's something I need to work on.).  And what particularly drove me crazy was the sudden development of this love triangle thing.  Yes, I could predict something would happen, but it was how it happened that I wasn't overly crazy over, but then I am never crazy about these insta-love things so this would never have appealed to me.   The whole flow of the situation didn't quite sit right with me and I thought the characters behaved like young, spoiled children and it really bothered me.  I actually really liked Jonathan, the gamekeeper, and thought he was the most level-headed of the bunch. 

Morgan Hall definitely has all the markings of a gothic fiction novel and I enjoyed seeing all of these elements in play; the spooky hall, the temperamental weather, the unexplained events, etc... And while the descriptions of the various homes were quite well done, I felt like the plot and the characters didn't quite live up to expectations.  But the potential is definitely there, and I hope Ms. Briar will continue to write gothic fiction for those of us who can't quite get enough.
Monday, July 23, 2012

Guest Post & Giveaway: P.W. Creighton

I am pleased to welcome P.W. Creighton, who is here today to discuss how he developed his inspiration and ideas for the setting to his new novel, Nightfall, released January 2012.  I have always found the research and development process to be quite fascinating and enjoy hearing how an author got the inspiration for the often unique and amazing settings they create in their novels.  Take a look at the blurb to Nightfall:

Three years after everyone important to Connor Maitland was murdered by a fanatical cult he is still attempting to put his life back together. Accompanied by his ex-girlfriend and business partner, Alison Herne, he is making a living as a jack-of-all-trades running a security company, sailing charters, and even photographing weddings out of Dolliber Cove, Massachusetts. Connor’s world is finally coming back together until they find one of Alison’s ghost hunter friends murdered.

When a childhood love he thought was dead, appears on his doorstep during their investigation, Connor is forced to confront memories he convinced himself were the delusions of a man deep into grief. They are being stalked by a mysterious man who appears to know far too many of their secrets. After Alison is almost killed confronting her occult past, it is impossible for Connor to deny the connection between the cases. Someone is attempting to end Connor’s life and the lives of all those who surround him.

The crazed rantings of the murderous cult may be the key to his survival.

Setting Nightfall

When I first came up with the story of Nightfall it began with the characters. I envisioned their style, attitudes and relationships long before I could think of where I wanted the story to take place. As the story came together the scenes just sort of fell into place.

Each scene required a certain tone and I envisioned a specific setting for the scene to take place but I still didn’t have an overall setting for the entirety of Nightfall. I only had pieces that I needed to assemble. I had Connor’s home, an old forgotten building, a house under renovation, a pizzeria and a closed down jail. All of these settings I had visited or experienced at some point. The most notable was certainly the closed down jail. In Windsor, Vermont there is an old former jail-prison that was closed in the 70’s that was subsequently renovated and turned into low-income housing. The structure remains fairly well intact including the old death row. This was one setting that I really wanted to feature in the story.

On the whole, there were a multitude of scenes but I still couldn’t decide on the definitive setting for the entire story. It wasn’t until I took a trip to Salem, Massachusetts that I found the elements Nightfall was missing.

Now, there have been countless stories that have used Salem as a setting, and it carries a certain cliché in the paranormal genre yet the reality of the Salem gave me a different inspiration.

Modern Salem is a bustling metropolis with the original founding buildings hidden at the center. It’s an interesting mix of historic sites and modern urban development. Through exploring Salem you could wander from historic sites to psychic and witchcraft shops, from pizzerias to True Blood-esque Witch/Vampire bars like Strega. In all, visiting Salem gave me a new perspective.

The classic idea of Salem is no longer valid, but all of the surrounding towns like Marblehead and Beverly carry that original New England Township feeling that most still associate with Salem. If I had not actually visited Salem, Nightfall would not be set in Doliber Cove. I would still be under the same impression as most about Salem and elements like sailing on the Massachusetts coast, quirky book shops, and mysterious bars would be absent.

Author Biography
Author of the Psychological, Supernatural Thriller Series Nightfall, Writer, adventurer, archaeologist, photographer, videographer, Tech-Geek, Investigator

Originally from California, PW moved frequently, living in many places including Vermont, Tennessee and currently New York where PW took his interest in adventure to college earning a Bachelors in Folklore Anthropology, Archaeology and Art Studio. After his work was displayed in gallery exhibits and television documentaries, he returned to college for his MSEd as a Communications Specialist in Media Production. Between rock climbing, sailing and investigations, there's barely enough time in the day but it's all a modern adventure.

Youtube Trailer


One lucky person is going to be the recipient of an autographed paperback version of Nightfall as well as a copy of Connor's pendant. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review: Dead is a Battlefield by Marlene Perez

by Marlene Perez
Date Published: March 6th, 2012
2012 Houghlin Mifflin Harcourt
Softcover Edition; 227 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-547-60734-4
Genre: Young Adult / Paranormal
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Jessica Walsh is starting her freshman year at Nightshade High and trying to forget about the tragic events surrounding her brother’s graduation. She wants to have a normal high school experience. But that’s easier said than done in Nightshade.

When a new boy shows up at school, the girls are infected with a case of seriously creepy crushes. But when their obsession turns to violence, Jessica and her friends start to wonder if there’s more going on than just a little friendly rivalry. Are the smitten girls turning into love zombies?

And Jessica has other worries—like her crush on Dominic Gray, the cute but moody new singer for Side Effects May Vary, and the mysterious tattoo that appeared on her arm one day and lets her know whenever there is trouble brewing. Jessica learns she's a Virago, a woman warrior chosen to fight evil whenever it threatens her hometown. But does a lowly freshman really have what it takes to keep Nightshade safe?

My Thoughts

Dead is a Battlefield is the sixth novel in this series, and features Jessica Walsh, a freshman trying desperately to forget the serious events that surrounded her brother's graduation.  I thoroughly enjoyed the previous novels in this series and wondered where the author was going to take this series when this one popped into my mailbox one day.  And although I enjoyed it, I can't honestly say I enjoyed it as much as the earlier novels featuring Daisy.

Jessica is an interesting character, but I felt like the author focused too much on the status of her popularity rather than on her character traits and the development of her character which I found to be somewhat erratic.  I found her to be somewhat selfish at times and although I liked the fact that she was honest with herself to admit she liked her popularity, it did irk me at times and I kind of found her to be snobbish.  Perhaps this will change in future novels as her character develops and she gets put in more serious scrapes which allows her to grow up and be more responsible and mature.

The plot is meant to be lighthearted and fun, definitely not complex, and it lives up to that standard set in previous novels.  I enjoyed the antics of secondary characters and the various events that continue to plague the town of Nightshade as it was just pure fun.  While the main plotline is easily predictable, I enjoyed reading how the various characters worked together to get themselves out of the scrapes with the usual romantic entanglements getting in the way.  You have to take the plot with a grain of salt, but the various threads are fun and set up some interesting scenarios for the future.  If you are looking for complex, deep plots, then this book and series are definitely not for you, but if you are looking for light entertainment, then you will enjoy this novel.

Dead is a Battlefield continues the antics of the various characters introduced in previous novels and puts them in scenarios that are fun and entertaining.  While not quite up to the standard of the previous novels featuring Daisy, this one was still fun and lighthearted, and I'm hoping that as Jessica's character develops and matures, and I get used to the change in character focus, Jessica will grow on me as well.