Welcome to my blog Heather and David! I'm happy to have you visiting today. I enjoyed your post very much. It's always interesting to find out how other writers come up with a story or in your case, decide to co-author a book!
Readers, feel free to leave a comment or question for Heather and David.
How To Drive Blind
By Heather Fraser Brainerd and David Fraser
We love to co-write, emailing the manuscript back and forth, adding, deleting, and changing as we each see fit. And trying to crack each other up as much as possible. It's an interesting and entertaining method of writing. We never quite know where it will take us, so we refer to this method as "driving blind." Take, for instance, this article. Heather started writing it to explain the process. Partway through, it started bouncing back and forth between the two of us…
How does one start down an unseen path? It can start in any number of ways. In the case of our first co-authored release, Deception Al Dente, it started while I was walking my dog. One beautiful autumn day, I was strolling with Desi, my crazy little terrier/pug mix, along our usual route. We walked past the horse farm, around the corner where the stately old cobblestone house sits, beside a wooded area that must have been ripe with the scent of deer from Desi's reaction, when I suddenly spotted something different in the distance.
It looked to be a "For Sale" sign. I squinted, trying to read the small sign with my middle-aged eyes. It was indeed a realty sign, and the realtor's name was José Picada. "Huh," I said aloud. This was quite an exotic name for our rural area. My mind instantly conjured up someone with dark, flashing eyes and a suave little mustache. As we drew closer to the sign, however, I realized that my aging eyes had played a trick on me. It wasn't José Picada at all, but a much more typical name for our town. To protect the innocent, I won't tell you the realtor's real name, but I laughed right out loud at my mistake.
I started thinking about how funny it would have been if the sign really had been misprinted with the more exotic moniker. And then it happened. My mind started whirling with the possibilities of such a mix-up, and before I knew it, the character of detective Josie P. Cates had been born. I rushed home to call Dave with my latest inspiration.
“What?” He sounded exasperated as he answered the phone. In the background, I could faintly make out what sounded like a wood chipper grinding away.
“Um,” I said, “Is everything okay?”
“Yes, why wouldn’t it be?”
“I don’t know. It’s just that you sound exasperated. And I can faintly make out the sound of a wood chipper grinding away.”
“That’s just the food processor. I’m crushing graham crackers for a pie crust.”
“Oh, that sounds—”
Before I could finish my sentence, there was a knock at the back door, the one in the kitchen leading out to the deck. That was strange, as Desi usually barks up a storm the second anyone gets within three miles of our house. I glanced down to see her lying on her back, staring up at me with a goofy grin on her face. Or maybe it was a silent growl. In either case, she didn’t seem to be getting up to answer the door, so I figured that I would have to. “Hang on a second,” I told my brother, “someone’s at the door.”
“Not a problem. I’ve got you on speaker phone right now, since I need my hands to…” His voice trailed off as I lowered the phone and set it down on the kitchen table. I didn’t need to hear the longwinded description of his pie crust.
I grabbed my can of wasp spray from an upper cupboard and headed for the door. I’d read that wasp spray is just as effective as pepper spray, but less illegal. A knock on the back door was cause for caution; it could be an intruder. Or a giant wasp.
Peeking through the window beside the door, I saw a short, slim man in old-fashioned clothes holding a green butterfly net. He didn’t look to be at all threatening, which was probably why Desi wasn’t freaking out. I held the wasp spray behind my back, just in case, and opened the door.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
“Why, yes,” he said in a British accented voice. “I was following a Danaus plexippus through the woods in back of your cottage and seem to have lost my way.”
“Huh,” I replied.
“Could you point me back towards the moor?”
“No, my good lady, not ‘more’ as in quantity. ‘Moor’ as in the vast expanse of rolling land on the far side of the wood.”
As far as I knew, there was no moor this side of the Atlantic. And there certainly wasn’t one in my own back yard. I made sure my finger was on the spray can’s trigger, though I didn’t press it yet. “Would you excuse me for just a moment?” I said politely to the delusional and oddly attired man on my deck.
“Certainly, madam,” he replied.
I closed the door and locked it, hurrying back to the phone. Before I could reach it, however, there was another knock on the back door. I sighed and fingered the trigger button of the spray can. Maybe I’d squirt the British guy just on principle. One interruption, I can forgive. Two is just plain rude. He’d better be suffering from an iliac artery dissection, or something similarly gruesome sounding but non-lethal. Nothing ruins your day like a dead British guy on your deck.
It wasn’t, however, the British guy. It was a giant wasp. Acting on pure instinct, my hand came up and pointed the spray directly at him. I didn’t have a chance to spray him, though. He (at least, I assumed it was a “he”) dropped to his knees (or whatever the leg joints of an insect are called) and grabbed at his abdomen. “Grunt,” he grunted, “I think I’m having an iliac artery dissection.”
(This is the part of the story where we’d have a two-hour phone conversation regarding whether the giant wasp was sprayed or not.)
I closed the door and locked it again. When I picked up the phone, Dave was still talking.
“…but, you know, I never did care much for Thomas Jefferson. Anyway, what was it that you wanted to tell me?”
I awoke with a start, realizing I’d fallen asleep at the kitchen table during Dave’s longwinded description of his pie crust. Relieved that the whole British guy/giant wasp thing was just a dream, I gave a slight chuckle. “Oh, nothing much. Just an idea for a story. It’s kind of dumb, though. I’m sure it won’t go anywhere.”
“Are you kidding? This could be our first co-authored published work.”
“Just type something up and send it to me.”
“Maybe I will.” And later that day, I did.
Okay, so maybe this isn’t exactly how Deception Al Dente came to exist.
Or maybe it is.
Contact Heather and David:
José Picada, P.I.: Deception Al Dente
By Heather Fraser Brainerd and David Fraser
“Hey, doll, is José around?”
It’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t hear the speaker enter. I sat with my back to the door, looking out the big window behind my desk, absorbed in people watching while pedestrians passed on the sidewalk below. It wasn’t very stimulating stuff, but it beat sitting there twiddling my thumbs.
Still, I should have heard a prospective client come through my office door. A good private investigator is supposed to have nerves of steel, the reflexes of a cat, and the senses of… I don’t know, something with really good senses. To make matters worse, the guy must have weighed in at two hundred fifty pounds, easy. There’s no way he made a stealthy entrance.
“Um, no, he’s not here right now. Is there something I can help you with?”
He plopped down into the seat across the desk from me. I held my breath, waiting to see if the old wood would hold together under his weight. Like everything else in the office suite, I’d bought it second-hand. The suite wasn’t very big, consisting merely of a small reception room with my office off to the left and a walk-in storage closet to the right. I didn’t have much of a budget for decorating, so the place had been completely outfitted via Craigslist. Well, almost completely. I’d also picked up a few things off the curb.
The chair held, at least for now. For its sake, I’d try to keep the meeting short.
“I’m Marco Augustino,” he said as if the name should mean something to me. My face must have been a blank stare, because when he continued, he sounded a little hurt. “Marco Augustino. Chef Marco. I own Bistro Italiano.”
Still, nothing. A glance at my garbage can showed wrappers from all my regular fast food joints. Just the name of it told me that Bistro Italiano was way out of my price range these days. If business picked up, maybe someday. Or, if I did a good job on his case, maybe this Chef Marco would float me some free food. But I’d prefer cash.
“Anyway,” he said with a chuckle, “I need to hire a private dick.”
It wasn’t the first time I heard this particular line, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. Usually, it didn’t merit a response, but something about Chef Marco annoyed me. I slipped into my best intellectual accent, the one used by all the talking heads on the Sunday morning political talk shows. The one that normal people like me use to try to sound smart.
“For what reason, sir, do you require a private investigator?”
“I need…hang on a second.” Marco picked up the name plate from my desk, the one I brought with me when I left the Charles Harrison Insurance Company. “You’re Josie?”
“Yes. I’m Josie.”
He let out a loud laugh. My eyes went to the chair to see if it would tolerate his shaking. It gave one little creak, but held. Thirty seconds or so later, he stopped laughing while wiping tears from his eyes.
“Did I miss something, sir?”
“No, it’s just… José… Josie. Anyone ever mix you two up?”
No, never, since José didn’t exist. But I couldn’t explain the whole thing right then and there. It would take too long and I had a chair in danger.
“Okay, so anyway, I’m doing okay with my restaurant, right? It’s, like, packed with people all night. My kitchen is busy as hell. But for some reason, I’m not making any money. I think someone’s stealing from me.”
“Have you consulted a financial professional?”
“I got me an accountant, yeah. Thing is, since money’s involved, he might be in on it, you know? Plus there’s more to it than just missing money.”
“Such as someone slashed my tires a couple nights ago. Such as someone leaving hundreds of dollars of meat on a counter overnight so it spoiled. Such as at least once a week someone squashes my cannoli. There’s a bunch of other little things, too many to list. I’m telling you, someone’s messing with me, and I want to know who.”
“Do you have any known enemies, sir?”
“What? No! Of course not!”
I gave him a measured, knowing look, just to see what kind of reaction I would get. He began to fidget in the endangered chair. Interesting.
“Well, maybe. I mean, a man in my position… Us chefs are the new rock stars, you know? There might be a lady or two out there who thinks I owe her something.”
Taking a pen and notepad from a drawer, I slid them across the desk to my potential client. “Write down their names, addresses, cell phone numbers, and dates of birth. E-mail addresses, too.” This last was an afterthought, but I thought it sounded good.
Chef Marco muttered something about ladies not giving out their birthdays and then hunkered down over the pad, occasionally consulting his phone, scribbling away in what was sure to be almost illegible handwriting. After a couple of minutes, he straightened up and slid the pad back to me. “What’s next?”
“I do a little recon, see what I can see.”
He looked a bit skeptical at this. “You’re doin’ the recon? What about your boss?”
It took all the self-control I could muster to keep from rolling my eyes. “I do the initial legwork, and then pass my findings over to him.”
He nodded, apparently satisfied for the time being. “And if you don’t find anything?”
I gave him a flat gaze, though my mind raced to come up with an appropriate response. “If the research doesn’t turn anything up, then we take it to the next level.”
“What’s the next level?”
“Well, then we…” I paused dramatically, giving myself time to think. The answer occurred to me a beat later. “…go covert.”
“You mean, like a spy?”