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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Book Blitz/Release: A Bleak December by Author Hanleigh Bradley

Author: Hanleigh Bradley

Genre: Romance, Contemporary Romance, New Adult Romance,

Release Date: 1st May 2018

Price: 99c / 99p

Key Words: Romance, Contemporary Romance, New Adult Romance, Short Story, Novella, Christmas, Death of a Parent, Loss of a Loved One, Office Romance, Depression, Grief,

Length: Just below 20K

Availability: Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Nobles, Kobo, etc.

 

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2oTOGJg

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38943078-a-bleak-december

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Blurb:

Her Christmas list isn’t long. It is the shortest it has ever been. She doesn’t want a pretty new pair of shoes or a new dress to wear to her work’s New Years Eve bash.

All Ella wants is a Christmas Miracle.

With a sick mum in hospital and a little brother at home, she struggles to maintain order in the chaos that is quickly engulfing her. If she doesn’t get her miracle will her entire world fall apart? And if it does, who will help her put it back together again?

Excerpt:

He’s my boss. That doesn’t stop me though. It doesn’t stop my mind from picturing him naked standing in my shower, water cascading down over his toned, muscular flesh. No. It doesn’t stop my inappropriate thoughts, and it definitely doesn’t stop me having them at the most inopportune of moments. It’s not like I just think about him when I’m lying in bed late at night. No, I fantasise about him during staff meetings, when he’s being a pain in the arse bossing us all around and when he’s reprimanding me yet again for being late.

Do you want to know the worst bit? It’s not the thoughts. I can deal with my dirty mind; it’s always been that way. Dirty thought after dirty thought, wrapped in a world of dirty thoughts. No. The thoughts are fine; it’s the things that come out of my mouth. The actual words that I apparently have an equal lack of control over. Like right now, the whole room has gone silent in shock because of my stupid, big mouth. As if I just said that. I can feel my cheeks redden with embarrassment and my best work friend is laughing under her breath beside me. The bitch.

Tristen had asked me why I was late. It was a reasonable enough question but why, oh, why couldn’t I give him an equally sensible response??? No. Instead, I only went and gave him the most ridiculous cock and bull story known to man.

“Why are you late?” Tristan Riggens, my boss had asked in that deep, authoritative, yet almost disrespectfully uninterested voice of his. It’s a voice that threatens to destroy you while drawing you in, keeping you walking some imaginary tightrope.

“My dog ate a condom.” Why that sentence made it passed whatever filter I have, I will never know. Sometimes my mouth does unexplainable things, embarrassingly unexplainable. It’s a problem I’ve had since childhood and it shows no sign of improving.

The room goes silent, but he doesn’t react at all. His face remains expressionless except I think I can see humour in his eyes, or at least I hope I do. He’s not exactly easy to read and right now I really have no idea what he thinks. “Well, I hope your dog is okay now.”

“He’s absolutely fine.” I’m probably the colour of the Christmas tree in the corner. I think I might throw up my breakfast from the sheer embarrassment that I now feel.

“Someone should call the RSPCA.” A voice says from somewhere behind me.

“You might want to reconsider where you stash your condoms.” Another of my colleagues laughs.

My best friend, the one who’s supposed to be on my side is in fits of hysteria. In fact, she’s laughing so hard she’s close to choking. I hope she chokes.

“Okay.” Tristen tries to divert their focus from me and my condom eating dog, back to the meeting. “New Year – we’ll be having an office party.”

If he thinks talk of a party might divert their attention from my poor imaginary dog, he is wrong and he clearly doesn’t know his team that well. “How on earth did your dog get a hold of a condom?”

“Did it still have the foil wrapper on?”

“Eww, it wasn’t used, was it?”

I’m shrinking into myself. Massively embarrassed. Eyes on the floor. Cheeks burning hot. Head pounding. Heart palpitating. How the hell will I get out of this one? I have an uncanny knack for getting myself into a bit of a pickle and absolutely no skill at getting myself back out again. “That’s enough – I’ve heard more than enough about condoms and dogs for one day. Back to work.” He’s shaking his head as he dismisses us all before leaving the open offices of our floor of the TRW Advertising building. Walking into his office, he closes the door behind himself. Lucky sod. At least he has a door he can hide behind.

“Fuck.” I say under my breath.

“Only you Ella.” Sadie laughs beside me. “I don’t know how you do it.”

“I just open my mouth…” I sigh.

“You don’t even have a dog!”

“I know.” I’m groaning in mortification. “We should get back to work before Tristen gets all shitty.”

“Or worse,” Sadie whispers, “Delos might come out of her office and have at us.”

“As if – Clara’s too nice for that.”

“To you. She hates me.”

“That’s not true.” I laugh gently. The door to Tristen’s office opens once more, and he pops his head out. “Winthrope. Reed. Do I need to find you something to do?”

“No sir.” Sadie nods her head before turning back towards her cubicle.

I move to follow her, but Tristen is still talking. “Winthrope, in here please.”

“Shit.” I grumble before following him into his office. This is the moment when he finally tells me that enough is enough and I need to start being on time, or worse look for a new job. The new job scenario is probably more likely. My tardiness is my biggest failing. I’m lucky I haven’t already lost this job.

 

He’s sat behind his desk; calm and composed in a way I have never been. He motions a hand towards the leather chair in front of him, and I take it gratefully because my legs are like jelly. My mouth is practically glued shut because I can’t trust myself not to say something completely absurd. His eyebrow is raised. “Your dog ate a condom?”

“Yes.” My sister Tia says when you lie you have to own it.

“Have you taken him to the vets?”

“No. He… he just coughed it up.” I tell him, desperately hoping that he doesn’t see through my lies.

“You do need to make a better effort to be on time for work in the morning.”

“Sorry Sir.” I tell him honestly. It’s not exactly news to me that I need to get my shit together.

Author Photo

About The Author:

Hanleigh loves books more than nearly anything in the world; whether its reading them or writing them, Hanleigh just can’t get enough. She relishes in the way authors can create worlds with the words they put in their books. She loves the way your imagination introduces you to a new world when you read a book. It may well be a world completely foreign to the one you live in. That world is brought to life; inspires you to dream, captivates your imagination, entices your senses.

Hanleigh first took to reading as a small child reading Dr Zeus. She then fell in love with romance literature when she first read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; when she first swooned over Mr Darcy. She’s read more books than she can count and owns more books than some libraries.

Although born in Scotland, she sometimes wishes she could live inside the world that she can create inside her mind, but since that isn’t possible she puts pen to paper and shares that world with this world instead. There is something addictive about being able to mould your words into something that causes the reader to fall into your mind. When you put pen to paper and create a world, it’s exhilarating. Every word has meaning. You know every character intimately. You know every secret, every whisper, every smell, every look; as the author you know the world you created and more so than even the most avid of readers you can get lost in your own creation.

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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

https://www.amazon.com/Cottontail-Jennifer-Renson/dp/154710399X/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1524113813&sr=8-5&keywords=Jennifer+Renson

 

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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