Interview with Brandon Dragan

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I grew up Northeastern New Jersey and have loved writing for as long as I can remember. My mom tells a funny story of a third-grade teacher who said that during writing assignments most of the kids would come to her desk with a few sentences scribbled and ask if they had written enough, but I would walk up asking for more paper. So, there’s always been that desire to write and express myself, although for the better part of my life I had trouble really sticking with it. I ended up focused mainly on writing songs and actually pursued it for a bit in Nashville, Tennessee, but pretty quickly found that I wasn’t a good enough musician to really hack it there. Eventually, I think I was about 25, married and working a regular corporate job when the idea for a story hit me and I just couldn’t shake it. That idea would eventually become my first novel, “The Wages of Grace,” which will hopefully be out later this year.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
As far as the writing of my newest short story “Cast No Shadow,” again it was really just a thought that hit me between the eyes and I couldn’t shake it. I absolutely love complex characters who are capable of enormous good and repulsive evil. I think most human beings are capable of both, so I really wanted to explore the thought of a good, loving, respected family man who also has a propensity toward violence and aggression toward those he finds evil or criminal.
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3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I don’t particularly want to feed readers what they should they think, so I’ll be careful here. When art is compelling it’s because of what each person brings to it. If anything, I would hope that this story raises questions about the concept of “just” violence. Is there such a thing as “good” violence, or does it all just feed into a nasty cycle? “Cast No Shadow” does touch on several themes-many of which were not intentional when I initially wrote it, such as race, children with guns, the war on drugs, etc. It is a short story, but I feel like there is a lot of meat there and I hope everyone who reads it will come away with something to chew on.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
I was drawn into this type of story mainly by my admiration for the work of Cormac McCarthy. After reading “No Country For Old Men” I always had the desire to write a kind of “modern western.” 
5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
If I could sit down with any character, I think it would be Annabelle. Although she maybe comes across as a bit mousy at first, though that’s probably not the best description, I think we find by the end of the story that she’s the strongest character in it. I would love to explore her background and particularly ask why she allowed Beau his vigilante fantasy when it’s clear that was something she never wanted any part of.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
I am, unfortunately, not quite a dynamo when it comes to social media, but as far as connecting with actual readers, rather than just followers, I would have to say Facebook has been most helpful.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
My advise for any upcoming or aspiring writers would be to do it for the love of it. Don’t expect a big pay day, don’t write to try to make a living. Write because something deep in you needs out and don’t give up on it. Write for you and be equal parts honest and kind to yourself.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
I have got lots on the radar. My debut novel “The Wages of Grace” is complete, save one last round of nit-picky edits and cover art. I am hoping to release it in the fall or early next year. I’m also about 90% done with a rough draft on a work of Pride and Prejudice fan fiction, which I’ll be sharing some details about soon. I’ve got another novel in the oven and lots of ideas, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me again!
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Cast No Shadow by Brandon Dragan Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A dark, perilous story that explores one man’s struggle to balance the horrors of war, family and the hunt for justice in an unjust world, author Brandon Dragan’s short story Cast No Shadow is a gripping tale that packs a punch in just a short amount of time. Here’s the synopsis:

Set deep in the heart of 1980’s Texas, Cast No Shadow tells the harrowing tale of Vietnam veteran, husband, and father, Beau Moreland. By day he helps his elderly neighbors and watches his son’s baseball practice; by night he hunts drug gangs. In his quest for justice and a more peaceful life for his loved ones, Beau inadvertently sets off an unstoppable chain of events which will hurtle his family toward a startling and breath-taking conclusion.

The story was incredibly engaging. It showcased the struggle many veterans face coming home from war and seeing the horrors the nation they fought so hard to protect are enduring on their own front doors. In a unique twist that kind of blends stories like Breaking Bad with The Punisher, we see Beau take on criminals while still profiting from his vigilante work, and how the danger he comes into contact with slowly begins to infect his daily life at home.

It also does a great job of exploring the impact we have on our children as a whole, and the way profiling and judgement can lead to trouble no one would ever expect. The writing was incredibly powerful and captured the essence of the story perfectly. The setting and imagery was incredibly vivid, and by story’s end you were left wanting more of Beau and his story, hoping to delve deeper into this amazing character and his backstory more.

Overall I thought this short story was brilliant. It was an evenly paced short tale of intrigue, action, and heart-pounding thrills that very few short stories manage to capture. If you haven’t yet be sure to pick up your copies of Cast No Shadow by Brandon Dragan today!

Rating: 10/10

About Brandon

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Brandon Dragan grew up in New Jersey, just miles from the Lincoln Tunnel.

At eighteen he left home to attend Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

He draws on a wide range of influences—from literature, to history, to philosophy—to craft meaningful and often surprising narratives that challenge the status-quo and reach for a deeper understanding of what it means to be human.

Brandon and his wife Jami live in the Nashville area with their two daughters, Natalie and Brooklyn.

He enjoys road cycling and is an avid supporter of Arsenal Football Club.

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This Side of Paradise by TK Olsen Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Once in a while you come across an author who is able to engage an audience in a matter of just a few simple pages, and that’s what we have today. Author TK Olsen has brought to life an incredible story of two men from very different cultures who find their own personal paradise in the short story This Side of Paradise. Here’s the synopsis:

“Huritt looked gorgeous in his suit, albeit very out of place. He had lovely tan skin, a color only Jin could dream of achieving, and dark brown eyes, lighter than Jin’s almost black ones. They both had short, messy dark-brown, almost black hair, and Huritt was just a tad taller than Jin; however, that wasn’t much as Jin was blessed with being almost six feet in the height department. Huritt also had calloused hands and strong lines of his face, smoothed out by the softness of his skin and slight roundness of his cheeks. Jin hadn’t really experienced races outside of his own, this really was his first time meeting a Native person in real life; however, he was drawn to the male in ways that made his heart soared and his father’s legacy cry. Huritt was beyond gorgeous and Jin’s father was going to kill him.”

The story of two boys and how they found their side of paradise.

The story was very thought-provoking and entertaining. The story of Jin and Huritt is amazing to watch unfold, bringing a natural and emotional LGBTQ romance to life while exploring two people who fall in love despite their very different cultural upbringings. It showcases the struggle members of the LGBTQ community go through when living in a culture or family that abhors people who simply want to love who they love, and the struggle to find happiness and peace while living in that kind of hostile environment that forces young people to repress who they really are.

It’s a very impactful story that is also a quick read, coming in at only 18 pages or so. Yet in that short amount of time you come to know Jin intimately and see his struggle and his passion for Huritt come to life. These characters are so engaging that you will be left wanting to explore their lives even more, and that’s what true storytelling is all about. If you haven’t yet be sure to pick up your copies of TK Olsen’s This Side of Paradise today!

Rating: 10/10

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Right Now by Sarah Baethge Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A private investigating firm finds themselves in the middle of a strange phenomena in author Sarah Baethge’s novel Right Now. Here’s the synopsis:

Lilly Aldern finds herself without a job,so she is hired to work as a secretary for her brother and his partner. When investigating the workings of an aerospace company, Legacy Towers, they come across a strange man named Joe that should have his own knowledge of their workings; yet his memory of the past has somehow been almost completely taken away.

Strangely, this seems to have enabled a brief glimpse of the future for him.

This short read was a great way to delve more into the works of author Sarah Baethge. With her recent release The Illumination Query, it was fun to explore the creative force behind that novel in this short story. Exploring a unique twist on the time travel/seeing the future storyline, we get to see a man who’s memories are replaced with visions of the future, and one person’s struggle to accept that reality. It was full of strong imagery, and left things on a cliffhanger of sorts that begged for more story to be told.

Overall I loved the story. It was a very quick read, but is worth the purchase if you’re looking for a quick, gut-punch of a science fiction thriller. If you haven’t yet be sure to pick up your copy of Right Now by Sarah Baethge today!

Rating: 10/10

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The Cottontail by Jennifer Renson Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

An exciting prequel explores the dark origins of a monstrous villain and the impact he had on the emerging story in author Jennifer Renson’s The Cottontail. Here’s the synopsis:

Victorio is one of few children blessed to live in the palace under the rule of the King and Queen of the small but prosperous Kingdom of Lucca. The palace is a prison in the young boy’s eyes, as he desires to see the world and be of greater service. What Victorio doesn’t realize is he’s become the interest of the mysterious Feletti, who’s looking to expand his collection of dolls. The clock is ticking, and Victorio must escape the clutches of the mysterious doll maker as his influence spreads and another unforeseen danger approaches

This incredible prequel to Carousel, (read my review of that here), was an immensely impactful short story. The tale of Feletti and his dark deeds enraptured me as a reader. Getting to see life before Feletti and his rise of power in the kingdom of Lucca was fascinating to read. Getting to see life inside the former royal palace through the eyes of Victorio was a masterful choice, allowing players to see the privilege the royalty felt and how they viewed the commoners, and how this ultimately led them to their fates. Your heart went out to the children of the palace, who fought against this mindset but found themselves bound by law and tradition.

The setting was beautiful, bringing Lucca to life in such a short amount of time and making the reader feel as if they could walk through these larger than life palaces. The eerie nature of Feletti seeped through every page of his story, painting a vivid image in the reader’s mind as if it were playing on a television screen.

Overall I loved this story. Although a quick read, the story itself was both fun and an exciting new entry into this wonderful world of Lucca the author has created. It leaves me wanting more to say the least. If you haven’t yet be sure to pick up your copies of author Jennifer Renson’s The Cottontail today!

Rating: 10/10

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Happy Holiday Homicides By Micah Minnefer Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

What should be a day of celebration turns into a deadly game of espionage and mayhem in author Micah Minnefer’s novel, Happy Holiday Homicides. Here’s the synopsis:

Murder is on the list of gifts this holiday season. At least it is when you’re apart of the deadliest gang in town. When young Anuaka’s family discovers her involvement with the local criminals, they give her an ultimatum. Get out of the gang or get out of their lives. However, removing herself from the gang is inconceivable. The only way out is death.

Anuaka must choose between her loving family and a new family promising something she truly desires. A life out of poverty. On the surface the decision is unimaginable. Underneath lies something more sinister. Anuaka is powerful, stunning, and downright conniving.

Happy Holiday Homicides takes you to the land of Serenium. An island of gods, pharaohs, and ancient power. An incredible short, that releases and action-packed opening to Anuaka’s twisted world.

This short story was an explosive introduction into a fantasy driven world of mythological beings. Anuaka’s story is one that reflects the struggles of our own world’s lower class people, who struggle day in and day out and sometimes feel forced to become something they never wanted to become. The story also has quite a few shocks in store for the reader, as the true story of who Anuaka is and what she truly desires slowly gets revealed through the amazing character development of this story.

Overall I loved the tale. The origins of a high stakes, action fueled world like Serenium is a breathtaking story that fantasy readers will devour immediately. The imagery used create this magical and surreal environment you can easily picture playing out across a television screen. As the introduction to a larger story, readers will immediately be drawn into the story of Anuaka and want more. If you haven’t yet pick up your copies of Happy Holiday Homicides by Micah Minnefer today!

Rating: 10/10

Interview with Author I. Ashmawey

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
Since a young age, I’ve always imagined the world differently. Asked strange questions. Pictured how things could be rather than how they are. Writing is my way of capturing that imagination and documenting it. When I have a thought, I write it. It’s my way of allowing that thought to leave my mind and instead, possibly go into the minds of others. If people like my thoughts, wonderful. If not, I have plenty others!
2) What inspired you to write your book?
I don’t know anyone who reads regularly in my circle of friends. Perhaps that means I need new friends 🙂 But it also means that in general, my generation is not one of readers. My generation gets a ridiculous amount of screen time. Whether it’s TV, YouTube, or whatever else, it’s all the same. First of all, it limits the kinds of opinions they will hear. Second, the mind simply doesn’t work when it is receiving content through a screen. It’s a lazy method, and breeds even more laziness. Even those who laud themselves as people who read the news, do they really read it? Or just the gist?
I wrote this book to encourage my generation to spend more time with an open book in front of them, rather than a screen. The hope is that with only five minutes a day, people can escape their lives and take a small glimpse into a life that once was, or could someday be. And perhaps they would gain something positive from this insight.
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
The themes in the book are plenty, as every short story aims to take the reader somewhere different than the one before. If I was to summarize all the messages and concoct a common theme that connects them all, it would simply be: think differently. If society runs things in a certain way, that way may be entirely wrong. There may be a far better way that is waiting for someone to discover it. There may be a way far worse, that’s still worth trying in order to feel more assured of society’s way. There is always something to be gained when thinking differently and questioning everything.
4) What drew you into this particular genre or genres?
Writing a book of short stories was never my intention. I actually finished a sci-fi novel and had sent it to my editor for editing which usually takes a few months. In the meantime, I couldn’t sit idle. So I decided to put some ideas down, which turned into short stories. I then wanted to challenge my creativity: 30 stories in 30 days. I was able to do it, a story a day. Then I added ten more, and thought to myself, “Why not publish?”
5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
That’s an extremely tough one given that there are 40 shorts with 40 main characters. But I think I would choose Apolena Kipp from the story “Before the Beginning.” A space explorer who takes humanity’s first trip back to before the Big Bang. There was a moment while writing that story that I truly felt scared for her. I couldn’t imagine the courage it would need to take such a trip. Being the first to ever do anything requires courage, but especially to cross that threshold where there are no safety precautions, that’s something else. I would want to ask her what this trip means to her personally. Why does she so desperately want to know what happened before the Big Bang? And more importantly, how did she feel about what she found?
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
I have to be honest, I don’t have social media. I used to. I was one of the first to join Facebook back when it required a .edu address and you needed to put in which classes you were taking. But on a specific day, I found myself with my 1-yrld daughter at Disneyland, and I was fighting with someone I didn’t know on Facebook about some political opinion. It hit me then, and then I deactivated my account, and vowed never to return.
I don’t deny however that social media can tremendously help marketing a book. So that’s something I’m currently working on, but without social media 🙂
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
The most important thing any writer can do, is write. It doesn’t matter how bad the writing is initially. It doesn’t matter if t hey don’t have a fully fleshed story. Start writing, and write everyday. One’s writing is a muscle. If it’s not exercised it, it will become weak. To write is to find the characters, then the characters will build the story. Just start, that’s the most important thing. Start!
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
The soft sci-fi is currently out with agents! The book is titled, “ETA: the Trial of Logan Gruver.” The story talks of Logan, a traveler on a commercialized time-travel trip to the Pliocene epoch, who finds purpose and love when he meets Giselle, a fellow traveler in the past. Together, they discover that humanity will mysteriously cease to exist in the future. The newly discovered Canvas of Time, a fabric that covers the universe and also lends way to time travel, will begin to deteriorate. Logan and Giselle understand their devotion, the consequences of their actions, and why humanity may have to pay the price.