Taylor Brooke on Inspiration and her latest novel Fortitude Smashed. (guest post, excerpt and giveaway)

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Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke
Interlude Press
Published September 21st 2017

 

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Taylor Brooke here today talking about the inspiration behind Fortitude Smashed.  Welcome, Taylor.

Somewhere Else – The Story Behind The Hollow by Taylor Brooke

Fortitude Smashed is full of Laguna Beach staples – Main Beach, The Whitehouse, The Saloon, The Koffee Klatch. These native hot spots are routinely visited by locals and tourists alike, supplying cocktails, appetizers and daily doses of caffeine. However, there is one place that lives in the pages of Fortitude Smashed that most people will probably give my imagination all the credit for. I mean, how could a giant treehouse be hidden in Laguna Canyon?

Surprise. The Hollow is real.

A friend of mine found it after deviating from an established hiking trail and bush-whacking his way through the dense Laguna Wilderness Park over spring break. I didn’t believe him at first, or I guess I didn’t know what to believe. I asked myself how a treehouse that big, how something that cool, could’ve hidden from us all this time. The answer presented itself when he tried to show me where it was: Make it almost impossible to get to.

The Hollow was a place that demanded to be stumbled upon, and stumble we did. There really was a fence with a hole to crawl through, though, and there really was a game trail that led through a break in the tree line. When we finally got to it, my friend said, “I told you so,” and I said, “Who else knows about this?”

The tire swing dangled by a frayed braided rope that would obviously snap if someone tried to play on it, and the rusted car was littered with cigarette butts, beer bottles and Del Taco salsa packets. The Hollow was magnificent, though. Despite the questionable rigging and the litter left behind by partiers, the cluster of treehouses tucked away in the forest seemed like a promise fulfilled. To me, it proved that magic was real. It was a secret place that we could claim, and claim it we did. We fixed the tire swing, carved our names into the biggest tree and spent many nights howling at the moon, doing things we weren’t supposed to, in a place that wasn’t supposed to exist.

We didn’t know if anyone else knew about it. But whoever did happen to know was never there at the same time we were. We found clues – cigarette packs that weren’t ours, liquor bottles we hadn’t left, new carvings in the tree with names we didn’t recognize. Being a teenager was like running with a pack of wolves. I had my pack, others had theirs, and we shared one magical, strange hideout that blurred the lines between reality and somewhere else.

I live in Central Oregon now, and I have to admit, I miss somewhere else. I wonder if it’s still there.

Here is a deleted scene from Fortitude Smashed. Aiden, Shannon, Daisy and Chelsea take a trip to The Hollow the morning of Aiden’s twenty-third birthday:

The Hollow was a place for secrets.

There were flourishing lakes of wide awake flowers, luminous yellows and tangy oranges, lavender and periwinkle, and heartbeat reds. The trees, full and overpowering, reached every direction with long, leafy arms. Copper leaves danced with springy ferns, and cat tails swayed alongside bristled cacti. Secret upon secret upon secret transformed with the seasons. The muted leaves that crunched beneath their feet in winter had been replaced by lively moss and long grass. The rusted car, crowded with weather-worn party favors, was home to vines climbing the hood, looped through the glassless windshield.

“It’s gorgeous.” Chelsea sighed. She stared up at the tree houses, the rope ladder, the deck, the tire swing, and shook her head. “Is it safe?”

“Yeah, it’s safe,” Shannon said, sipping on a large 7-Eleven soda.

Daisy picked through a bag of mixed nuts and held it out to Chelsea.

Chelsea tossed a cashew in her mouth. “Look at that,” she whispered, taking long strides toward the carved-up tree, branded with memories. Daisy trailed after her.

Shannon watched Aiden circle a bushel of honeysuckles. His blue vans looked strange, such a startling replacement to his combat boots. But that might’ve been the only startling thing about him now. The rest of him, black tank and dark washed jeans, sharp edges and clever eyes, were pleasant familiarities.

Aiden sat in a patch of light that beamed between trees, plucking honeysuckles and sucking on their stems. Shannon took slow steps, drawing out the image in front of him. Aiden’s camera around his neck, his gaze flicking from the flower to Shannon, and his smile, warm and comfortable, parting as he said, “What’re you looking at, Detective?”

 

FORTITUDE SMASHED ~ SUMMARY 

After scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge. Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate. Fate is now a calculation.

But loving someone isn’t.

When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face-to-face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon’s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned. Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice—love one another or defy fate.

FORTITUDE SMASHED ~ EXCERPT

Shannon’s first instinct was to call for backup. It’s what he should’ve done.

Instead, he slid his hand around the door and pulled it open; his other hand rested on his holstered gun.

The scent of oil paint and clay wafted strong in the stillness. The room was too open, a wide space with nowhere to hide. Shannon took a step, another, and glanced at the desk, where abstract patterns swirled on the screen of a hibernating computer next to a dimmed, decorative lamp.

Movement. Footsteps, heel to toe, slow and quiet, behind him.

Shannon swung around. Someone—the thief—gasped. He grabbed the fabric of a shirt and shoved whoever was wearing it against the wall.

“You’re under arrest,” he growled. The body, a man, squirmed and cursed. The one time he didn’t play it safe and call for backup was the time he might need it. Shannon forced the thief’s hands against the wall. “Spread your fingers.”

The thief complied. “Of fucking course.” Shannon heard him rolling his eyes.

“Breaking and entering is a crime, you understand that? So is taking things that aren’t yours.”

“I didn’t take anything. I didn’t get the chance to.” Whoever he was, he was unapologetically bored with the situation. Shannon spotted a bold tattoo on his side where his shirt was bunched up from their abrupt collision. The man sighed. “Can I have my hands back now?”

“No, you can’t, because—”

Shannon’s entire being screeched to a stop. His spine straightened; his knees locked. He couldn’t breathe. Beneath his glove, warmth spread from his right thumb into his wrist. The Camellia Clock vibrated, gentle but convincing, a purr that alerted him to the 00:00 that now read in glowing numbers under his thumbnail. Saliva pooled in his mouth. Heat coursed through him. Blood rushed—high speed traffic in his veins. His heartbeat, steady and then not, pounded in his ears.

He stared at the hand spread out on the wall. On the thief’s right thumbnail, the same numbers glowed 00:00. Shannon squeezed the man’s wrist a little tighter.

A shaky breath quivered from the chest in front of him. Apparently, Shannon wasn’t the only one surprised.

He swallowed, and his grip tightened again before he let go and ripped his hands away. Eyeing Shannon carefully, the burglar spun. He had a straight nose and a sharp jaw; he was all angles and edges and pale skin. His skittishness reminded Shannon of a deer—maybe not a deer. The stranger’s lips twitched into a straight-toothed grin under hooded dark eyes. Yeah, maybe not a deer. Maybe a wolf.

A breathless chuckle trickled past a clever smile. The thief gave a slow shake of his head, disbelief and curiosity stitching a genuine expression across his face that Shannon hated. “Aiden Maar,” he said, too confidently to be taken lightly.

Shannon’s jaw was set so tight it ached to open his mouth. “Detective Wurther.”

“Pleasure’s all mine, Detective.” The rasp in his voice made Shannon’s stomach jump.

Before Shannon could yell, or grab, or get another word in, the thief—Aiden—was gone, darting past him and out the door. His head swam. Still reeling, he couldn’t have caught Aiden if his life depended on it. But he was going to have to, because, according to the Camellia Clock, Aiden Maar was his future.

According to Shannon Wurther, the Camellia Clock was wrong.

* * *

Fortitude Smashed will be published by Interlude Press on September 21, 2017. Connect with author Taylor Brooke at taylorbrookewrites.org; on Twitter @taysalion; and on Facebook at facebook.com/taylorbrookewrites.

About the Author

After fleshing out a multitude of fantastical creatures as a special effects makeup professional, Taylor turned her imagination back to her true love—books. When she’s not nestled in a blanket typing away on her laptop, she can be found haunting the local bookstore with a cup of tea, planning her next adventure, and fawning over baby animals.

* * *

Fortitude Smashed will be published by Interlude Press on September 21, 2017. Connect with author Taylor Brooke at taylorbrookewrites.org; on Twitter @taysalion; and on Facebook at facebook.com/taylorbrookewrites.

Giveaway

Book Tour Rafflecopter Giveaway:
Grand Prize $25 IP Gift Card + Multi-format eBook of Fortitude Smashed// Five winners receive the multi-format eBook

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