One of the greatest things about being a writer is there are times a wonderful surprise comes your way….
Back in August of 2014 - more or less - I received an email from “Ashton Broukes” who read one of my novels and contacted me through my website. It was obvious the writer had actually read the book from comments made here and there, and genuinely enjoyed it.
We began a random correspondence. Gradually, the correspondence turned into a series of questions and answers about The Publishing Business, the Writing Business, the Writing Process, etc. etc.etc. Personally, I was flattered to have anyone think I had any sort of genuine knowledge or answers to it all, and I replied as honestly as I could. The correspondence continued over the fall of 2014 here and there, no pattern or predictability to it.
Then came the email I had a hunch was coming: would I please read the first three chapters of TWISTED SECONDS OF FATE?
Being a firm believer in “We’re all in this together,” I agreed. The chapters came through email the next morning, but I could not get to them until that weekend.
To put it politely, I was almost knocked out of my chair. The writing was clean and crisp, no nonsense, not a wasted word. I was instantly swept into the story, the opening line alone “DNA doesn’t lie” grabbing me and not letting go. I wrote back as soon as I could and asked if the book was finished and - like Oliver - “could I please have some more?”
Silence. No reply. No response. Nothing for a couple of weeks. I started to think possibly I had said something wrong or done something to offend.
Early one Friday morning (VERY early, like 430am early; insomnia does have some benefits) I checked email, and there was a message from Ashton that read, “You asked for this… remember that…” and a Smiley Face. Attached was the entire manuscript.
I promptly downloaded it to my Kindle, and opened it up.
Fortunately, the manuscript came in on a Friday, so I could spend the entire weekend reading it.
Brock Russell and Kate Monroe are two of the most engaging characters I have run across in a long time. Their stories begin separately yet intertwine in a very believable way, but there is a sense of foreboding in every scene. From that point forward, it’s a headlong rush into some very thoughtful and well-written ruminations on ‘family’ and what makes a family or does not make one, action scenes that rival anything by Ian Fleming or Alistair MacLean, and a shattering climax that I dare anyone - anyone - to read without their hands shaking with excitement, fear, or both.
This is an amazing novel. As I sat here writing this blog about it, I realized something critical that led to my unabashed enjoyment: I do not know who Ashton Broukes is.
That gave me a tremendous advantage as a reader, a nearly priceless gift.
Face it, if you buy the new James Patterson, you know his hero is going to be pushed to extremes no human being should ever have to face. If you buy the new Janet Evanovich, you know it’s going to be funny and clever and some groan out loud jokes. If you buy the new Michael Connelly, you know you’ll go down some dark paths and learn the tremendous difference there is between Justice and the Law. If you buy the new Christie Craig, you know you’ll laugh out loud but everything will work out happily ever after by the end of the book. If it’s the new Lee Child, you know Jack Reacher is going to whoop someone’s butt. If you read the new Elaine Viets, you'll learn some things about jobs you never thought about and have a heck of a good time doing so.
A friend once summed up my own writing as, “It’s simple: you always have a Good Guy, a Bad Guy, a Girl, and a Gun.” (Yes, I’ll admit it… and accept it as the compliment it was intended to be.)
I do not know if Ashton is male or female, single or married, childless or has ten children. Dogs? Cats? Fish? No idea. We never engaged in any sort of personal details.
I have no idea where s/he may live, or what real life is like. Ashton could be a twenty-two year old housewife in Brooklyn or a sixty-nine year old retired CIA agent living under an assumed name. I don’t know if Ashton likes ice cream and Las Vegas and listens to Sinatra or prefers yogurt, Melbourne, and Thrash Metal music.
Nada, Zip, Zilch. Goose Egg.
In short, I know nothing.
No preconceived notions. No expectations. None of “Okay, I know I’ll like this.”
This one, coming in through the Internet - the Millennial version of ‘over the transom' - from someone I have no idea about - delivered a refreshing and intense reading experience that I have not personally had since I was around 21 and read SALEM’S LOT by Stephen King for the first time.
And that, ultimately, is all I can really say about it.
TWISTED SECONDS OF FATE by Ashton Broukes.
Buy it. Read it. Savor it. Enjoy it.
But don’t blame me if you sleep with the lights on for a while afterwards…