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Parched (The Parched Series Book 1)
Andrew C. Branham
The sun has become a 'red giant' and the world is hot and parched. In California, James and Lexie Deforio have three goals: to find food and water, to survive another day, and to protect their two children. When their home is abruptly robbed and burned to the ground, the family is forced to embark on a cross-country journey in search of safety and water.
Facing ruthless bandits, murderers, and some of the most extreme conditions they have ever encountered, they struggle to survive. When James is shot trying to help another family, Lexie and her children set out on a harrowing journey to save him. Finding temporary safety in the abandoned Ohio salt mines deep under Lake Erie, they appear to have found a new home. But, like everything on their journey, not all is as it seems.
Parched - a dystopian thriller by Andrew Branham V4
The sun no longer shone canary yellow. It hadn’t done so for years. Instead, it glared down, obstinate, punishing—beet red, like the garden tomatoes that no longer existed. It stood guard over the desert-dry water taps that had likewise fallen prey to the relentless heat, even in mid-October. Livermore, California had been a town set on rolling hills, swathed in green grass and fragrant orange poppies. Now, each day played out like the one before it: sun, heat, illness, death.
On that particular day, relative calm engulfed them. Only a few trails of smoke rose up in the distance toward the west and the Oakland Hills. Usually it was worse—the smoke was more like the dense cloud of marine fog that used to roll in daily. Now, the arid air, once fresh with coastal mist and the scent of eucalyptus trees mixed with wild lavender and rosemary, smelled like burning hay. The sun’s transition from an earthly asset to man’s most vicious foe had been going on for decades, but you would never have known it. It had caught humanity ill-prepared. Those who once had awaited its daily arrival now despised its very existence.
Scientists had a word for it; scientists had a word for everything. They called it a Red Giant, a star that had exhausted the supply of hydrogen at its core and had switched to thermonuclear fusion. As a result, the Earth found itself baking, its waters evaporating, and humanity’s extinction imminent. No scientist or politician could explain why the sun had made such a drastic transformation; nor did it matter.
In the distance, the sound of a laboring sixteen-wheeler lumbering up the road startled James as he popped up from his sleep. Scanning the room, he breathed out his relief. Everybody’s okay, he thought, checking out their California king bed. For a brief moment, he recalled his dream, in which he had been frolicking with his brother along the beaches of Lake Erie, near where they had grown up. But, instead of laughing, shouting, and swimming in cool waters, he was perspiring. Sweat soaked the bed and stained his shirt and underwear. His mouth felt and dry.
What’s the truck doing here at this hour?
The clanking of the massive tires hitting the potholes brought him back to reality. Rising cautiously, he kicked into the nightstand and let out a yelp, awakening their infant, who began to cry.
“What is it?” his wife asked.
“Nothing. Just the water truck. Go back to sleep.”
His thirteen-year-old son, Silas, was now awake as well and was scanning the room with his eyes. His long blond hair was matted down against his boyish face and, despite his sleep, he still looked extremely fatigued. He was irritated not only at the unrelenting heat and his sister’s cries, but also that he woke up in the same depressing room where they almost always stayed. Sometimes he hoped his life was just a nightmare that he would someday wake up from. Looking around, he saw walls stacked with cardboard boxes, dirty clothing on the floor, and dirt-stained sheets on the bed in which he was lying. The two windows in the room were covered in a thick film of dust and sand. A loaded rifle and handgun were on a box next to the bed.
“Can someone keep her quiet?” Silas grumbled as he looked toward his crying infant sister, Charlotte. “It’s impossible to sleep around here.”
Already dressed, James grabbed his shotgun and several plastic gallon water jugs, which he had strung together with nautical rope, and sprinted down the steps, the jugs thumping with each step. He pushed aside the heavy desk and chair he had used to barricade the door and scrunched down to peek out through a two-inch crack he had opened. He saw the truck that had stopped in the middle of the road. As he struggled to focus, he smelled the burning air and saw the heat waves reflecting off the cracked and buckled asphalt. He made out several residents emerging from their deteriorating town-homes, guns and jugs in hand, walking toward the truck with its distinctive Red Cross logo. The sound of his baby crying and the rustling of his waking family echoed through the empty stairwell.Andrew Branham is an award winning writer and business executive who lives in Jackson, MI. Over the years, he has received several awards for his editorial columns and op-eds. His memoir, Anything for Amelia, has won multiple honors/awards.
He was born in the culturally rich and diverse town of Lorain,
Ohio. He is married and they have one daughter. Andrew is an avid writer and has contributed articles and op-eds for multiple major newspapers throughout the country. He also writes business articles for many different publications and websites.
Anything for Amelia is his first book and he was inspired to write it due to his extremely difficult adoption that many experts claimed was 'the most difficult adoption in U.S. history'. Andrew found that writing in a journal each day during the adoption helped him to relieve the extreme levels of stress that he was facing. The journal proved to be the key to him writing the memoir. Andrew hopes that his book will help other adoptive families to avoid some of the mistakes that he made. In addition, he is donating a portion of any profits to the foster care system.
He has recently finished his first fiction novel, Parched (available 4/14/16). It is a post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel that is set in a time when the world has nearly run out of water. It follows a family as they attempt to cross the United States in search of food, water and shelter. He was inspired to write this novel while living through the extreme droughts of Northern California.
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“..the relentless pacing of this story, which rarely pauses from the action or relishes in the monotony of life after civilization’s breakdown, keeps the reader engaged throughout. By placing an entire family at the center of his novel, the author makes every challenge feel that much more dangerous. The book concludes with a brief excerpt from a forthcoming sequel, so hopefully readers can expect more adventures in Branham’s fearsome wasteland. A fast-paced post-apocalyptic tale of survival and family.”
****“There is a constant urgency and energy in the writing that makes it difficult to put down. The most powerful parts of this story are when the lines of morality begin to blur in the family’s quest for survival. This resilient family always seems to be running away from something, narrowly escaping danger, and eking by to survive – it was exhausting just reading about their life on the run! At its core, Parched is about hope and survival against all odds, and the personal demons we must face when our bodies and minds are pushed to the limit. However, the underlying message is that the bonds of family, morality, and humanity can be bent, but never broken.”
“The story is taut and inventive and Branham makes some bold narrative choices, the stakes are high and no one is safe. With shifts in perspective each character is made sympathetic and three dimensional. PARCHED sets the stage for a suspenseful saga with well-crafted characters and numerous conflicts yet to be resolved.” ~Indie Reader
****“Parched holds several surprises; not the least of which is its ultimate direction. Readers used to the typical linear progression of many apocalyptic reads will find something unique and special in Parched: highly recommended for any who want a powerful thriller with a strong environmental message.”
~Midwest Book Review—Diane Donovan, Editor/Senior Reviewer
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