Guest Post: Heather Fraser Brainerd and David Fraser Talk Turkey With Their Characters

Just in time for Thanksgiving, brother and sister writing team Heather Brainerd and David Fraser interview two of their characters, Josie and Bitsy, about their thanksgiving traditions… and they give a glimpse into some of the shenanigans that take place in their book, The Sound of Sirens, which takes place at Thanksgiving time. Oh, one last thing before I turn the page over to Heather and David, don’t forget to leave a comment. You’ll get entered for a chance to win the eBook of your choosing from the José Picada, P.I. Series.

A couple of characters talk turkey


We’re Heather Fraser Brainerd and David Fraser, authors of The Sound of Sirens, the latest in the José Picada, P.I. series. Today we’re interviewing two characters from the book. Please help us welcome main character Josie Cates and her mother Betsy Gehry. Many thanks to Eric Price for letting us conduct our interview here!

Bitsy: It’s Bitsy, not Betsy.

Brainerd & Fraser: Oh, sorry. It’s great to see you, Josie and Bitsy. Thanks for coming by to discuss your family’s Thanksgiving traditions with us.

Josie: That’s why we’re here?

Bitsy: Oh, I just love Thanksgiving!

B&F: Uh, you didn’t know why you were coming here?

Josie: Well, I do have two books written about me. I kind of thought the interview would be about that. Or at least what it’s like to be a female private eye constantly caught up in paranormal shenanigans. That’s way cooler than Thanksgiving traditions.

Bitsy: I’m not really much of a turkey person, but I just love all those tasty side dishes!

B&F: Since it’s almost Thanksgiving here in the States, and since The Sound of Sirens is set during Thanksgiving week, we thought it made sense to discuss Thanksgiving with you.

Josie: Yeah, I guess that does make sense.

Bitsy: Oo, and the desserts! I just love pie! But not that icky pumpkin. Who wants vegetables in their pie?

B&F: So, um, tell us about your family’s Thanksgiving traditions.

Josie: Well, we’ve kind of done our own individual things the last few years. Since my mom moved to Tennessee with her new husband, that is.

Bitsy: It’s not like you’re not invited. You know that Hank and I have given you an open invitation to visit whenever you want. Especially during the holidays.

Josie: Can we do this some other time, Mom? Can we just answer these questions?

Bitsy: Of course, honey.

Josie: Okay, so anyway, normally, my mother overcooks the turkey, makes instant mashed potatoes and stuffing and gets gravy from a jar—

Bitsy: But I make my famous pink jello from scratch!

B&F: That sounds delicious.

Josie: Yeah, the jello is pretty good. Anyway, we stuff ourselves until we can’t eat another bite, then we sort of sit around in a turkey coma.

Bitsy: And don’t forget the television.

Josie: Oh, right. We try to start the day by watching the big Thanksgiving Day parade.

Bitsy: I meant the football. Hank is teaching me all about football. Some of those players are just darling!

B&F: So, is that it? That’s how you spend every Thanksgiving?

Josie: Not every year. Sometimes something more… interesting happens.

Bitsy: Oo! Like that year we went to country-music-superstar-slash-theme-park-tycoon Tommy Thomas’s big shindig and afterwards there was all that excitement! Oh, Josie, I was so worried about you and your friend, that nice Al—

Josie: Shh, Mom! You don’t want to give away any spoilers.

Bitsy: Oh, that’s right, sweetie! Thanks for reminding me.

B&F: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your holiday traditions?

Josie: Nope. That about covers it.

B&F: Bitsy? Anything you’d like to add?

Bitsy: No, thanks. I’d better keep my little ol’ mouth closed before I let anything slip!

B&F: Well, okay then. We thought this would be a bit more involved. Since we have a little extra time, how about if we share an excerpt from The Sound of Sirens?

Josie: Sounds good.

Bitsy: Darn tootin’!


Al silenced me by putting a finger to my lips. We crouched there, huddled together, peering through the crack between the barrels while three suited men jogged past the entrance to our hideout. A few seconds later, Al crept to the opening and peeked out. He waved me over to him.

“Let’s go,” he whispered, leading me back the way we’d come. Instead of heading to the water slides, however, he veered left at the giant redwoods and moved amongst their shadows, picking his way from the base of one tree to the next.

“You’re good at this,” I commented as he chose our route.

“Used to be a Boy Scout,” he answered, sounding embarrassed.

I had the urge to make a wisecrack, but since my safety rested on his scouting skills, I decided to let it go.

Finally, we emerged from the forest to find ourselves at the head of Main Street. A mere hundred yards or so stood between us and TommyTown Square, on the other side of which were the park gates and freedom. I was about to launch myself into a sprint, but Al placed a restraining hand on my arm.

The Sound of Sirens is available for preorder through MuseItUp Publishing:

Find Heather and David on:




Leave a comment below for a chance to win the prize of your choice! If your name is randomly selected, you’ll get to choose one ebook from the José Picada, P.I. Series: Deception Al Dente (book one) or The Sound of Sirens (book two).


Kenneth Hicks and Anne Rothman-Hicks: Writing as a Team

If you don’t count working with editors, I’ve done all my writing alone. But I have found myself wondering how writers work as a team. Well, Ken Hicks and Anne Rothman-Hicks have kindly shared that information with me for today’s post.

How and why do we write as a couple?

We first started writing together when we were in College – Anne at Bryn Mawr College and Ken at Haverford College.  We asked one of Ken’s favorite English professors at Haverford to oversee a project course in which we would write a work of juvenile fiction over the course of a semester and he agreed.  We talked about what we wanted to do, prepared a somewhat sketchy outline, and started writing.  One of us would prepare a draft of a chapter and the other person would then work on it, then we would talk some more, plan some more, and write some more.  The process continued until we had a finished book.  That was approximately 44 years ago.

What we learned very quickly back then has remained true throughout the course of our writing together.

First, you must put your ego aside.  You must be willing to accept the criticism of your partner as valid and, even if you don’t agree, you must be willing to understand why the criticism is being made.  In other words, you may not like the change that is proposed, but you can still agree that some change to the prose is necessary.

Second, you must put your ego aside.  You must be willing to be partners, which means not taking credit for a particular sentence or paragraph or line of dialogue.  What comes out on the page is a finished product of the partnership – of the process of two people thinking, talking and working together.

Third, you must put your ego aside.  Okay, you get the message?

The benefits of the writing partnership are extensive.  During those dark nights of the soul when you wonder why you are bothering to put pen to paper or pound those keys, there is someone to pull you out of your funk, kick you in the rear end, or pat you on the back, whatever might be needed.  During the good times, you have someone to share you happiness in a way that probably no one else in the world can understand or appreciate better than your partner.  You also have the memories of the process itself.  We still laugh at a few of the things that we wrote — and regretted — over the course of our years together.

And laughter brings me back to the ego thing again.  You really have to be able to laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously.  You’re writing a book.  Do the best you can with the talent you have – and do that always.  But enjoy yourself.  We always have and hopefully will continue to do so for many years.

Melange pic 2

Kenneth Hicks and Anne Rothman-Hicks

Authors of:
Kate and the Kid, (adult fiction)(Wings ePress)Kate and the Kid - WEB II
Stone Faces, (middle grade)(on the Apple iBookstore)
Hearts (no flowers) Signs of Love in the Gritty City (on the Apple iBookstore)
Mind Me, Milady, (adult fiction)(coming in October, Barbarian Books)

Theft of the Shroud (adult fiction) (Banbury/Putnam)

Series of Ten Books on Children’s names (Banbury/Putnam)


A Look at Owen’s Personality: One Week Until Release Day

With only a week until Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud’s release, I allowed Owen, the main character, to interview me. You can see the result on Mary Waibel’s blog: Waibel’s World. This is the first real look at Owen’s personality I’ve offered.

Unveiling the Wizards Shroud 200x300 Final

The Return of Erin Albert and the Prophecy Blog Tour

Today I’m pleased to welcome my first return guest. Her first guest post, which you can find here, is the third most viewed guest post on this site as of 10:45 CST on November 10, 2013 (in other words, I just checked), and believe me, the two ahead of her are stiff competition. She is also the most frequent commenter on this blog, other than myself. Of course I’m speaking about Erin Albert. Her book, The Prophecy, comes out Friday (it’s available for pre-order here), and she’s excited to tell you about it to entice the few of you who haven’t pre-ordered it to drop the $4.40. She’s sent along two excerpts, a blurb, and a bio to go along with the blog post which finally explains how she is the only person I know who has successfully pulled 26 hours out of a day.


First of all, I want to give a big shout out and virtual hug to my book brother, Eric, for hosting me today!! His book Unveiling the Wizard’s Shroud comes out November 22, so be sure to check it out!! Fantasy novels ROCK!

Eric asked me to give a little bit of information about my writing process. If you dare, enter the inner workings of my mind… 😉

What am I working on?

I am always working on multiple projects. Currently, I am revising the sequel, The Outlanders, to my young adult fantasy debut novel, The Prophecy (which releases November 15). I also have a futuristic thriller called Number 25598, a middle grade fiction in the vein of Judy Blume called Meet Kit: An American Boy, and another young adult fantasy novel without a title—all in progress.

Why do I write what I do?

I write young adult books because I LOVE young adult books. My friend and Dream Team member Danielle Craver (she created all of the crest for The Prophecy) got me hooked on the YA genre, and I’ve read that almost exclusively ever since. Epic high fantasy appeals to me because I’ve always loved Arthurian legend. When George R.R. Martin combined that time period with fantastical elements, my mind sprung to life. Reading fantasy allows a person to fully immerse in a totally different world, escaping this one completely. Who doesn’t need a good escape every now and then?

How does your writing process work?

I am a total pantser, which means I do not plan a thing. I have a rough idea of how I want the story to start and how I want it to end, but I let the characters take over for the middle. Sometimes that gets me in some logic trouble, but I’m fortunate enough to have my Dream Team and critique partners to catch those little snafus.

The demands on my life and time afford me a very short window to get my writing done, usually between 3pm-5pm. I have ADD, so I always have to drink something caffeinated to help me focus. Also, a little container of chocolate is a creative must. I seek to write a chapter a day (my Dream Team member and timekeeper, Kim Sharp, requires a new chapter to read each night which keeps me on task).

The creative portion of my work takes me very little time. I wrote the entire Fulfillment Trilogy in 3 months. But I am also an anal grammar freak, so editing the work takes me MUCH longer. It’s a painstaking process.

So, to recap: Afternoon writing time with chocolate and caffeine, 1 chapter a day, and edit, edit, edit!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my post!!


Back Cover:

Growing up on a small farm in the kingdom of Vanguard, seventeen-year-old Layla Givens lives a deceptively tranquil existence. But her carefully constructed life quickly falls apart when she’s abducted by a religious zealot who proclaims her The Fulfillment of an ancient peace prophecy and whisks her away to marry her greatest enemy.

Wilhelm, Prince of the Ethereals, is reluctant to meet his new bride. He’s grown up believing Vanguards are evil, an enemy to fight and fear…not love. Can he set aside his prejudices and work alongside Layla to bring lasting peace after centuries of war?

Nash, a loner who has never fit in, carries a huge secret, one big enough to destroy both kingdoms. When he accidently meets Layla, he’s no longer content to live in the shadows, but he must resist his growing attraction—for her safety and for the longevity of the two kingdoms.

When Nash’s secret is revealed, a firestorm sweeps through both realms, with Layla at the center. Now she must choose between duty and desire while the fate of two nations hangs in the balance.

The Short:

Even though she had no chance to escape now, Layla shoved the Elder with all her might. The blow sent him flying into the baker’s door, which splintered under the force, and she darted forward.  The Vanguard soldiers moved to block her.

“We are all Vanguards,” she pleaded. “Please let me go.”

For a moment, they hesitated.  Layla used the opening to slip around them.  She ran as fast as her legs would carry her, but they proved to be too slow.  Within moments, the soldiers leapt upon her, knocking her to the ground.  Wrenching Layla up by her hair, they dragged her back to the Elder, whose face now bled from his encounter with the baker’s door.

“I see you’re going to be trouble.” He brushed the dirt off his robes.  “You can’t escape your destiny, girl.”

The Long:

“Everything must be taken down.” A rotund man, with beady black eyes, surveyed the town, disdain in his expression. While he did not appear distinguishable from the other black and purple clad men, he spoke with authority. “The First Ones and their great Prophecy must be honored properly.” He sniffed, his actions indicating the very existence of Medlin and its occupants offended him.

Layla wondered what this man considered a “proper honoring” of the First Ones. The First Ones…they’d been dead for centuries, and, as far as Layla could tell, hadn’t done much in life except start a never-ending war. She knew nothing more about them except that she was to thank them for good things, curse them for bad, and celebrate them on this day.

“That’s Elder Werrick, head of the Ecclesiastics,” whispered Samson, glancing back at Grant. Layla noticed the look that passed between them.

Grant nodded his assent. “Get her out of here, brother.”

Samson tried to steer Layla away, but she held her position to get a closer look at the man whom her family so feared. She knew they had good reason to worry—her black hair and purple eyes marked her as a Fulfillment candidate, one with the potential to bring about the long awaited peace. But she couldn’t quite bring herself to believe Elder Werrick would notice her on the crowded streets, especially with her eye drops and hood. Could he really be responsible for dragging candidates from their homes, forcing them to undergo strenuous, sometimes gruesome, testing for the sake of the Prophecy? To Layla, he looked like nothing more than a short, fat, unhappy man. The very notion that he could strike such fear into the hearts of her people seemed almost laughable…almost. As his gaze swept over the crowd, she glimpsed a sinister undertone that made her shiver.

Waving his pudgy arms at the awaiting townspeople, Werrick commanded, “Take it down.”

Suddenly, his body stilled and his tiny eyes grew wide. They briefly connected with Layla’s, narrowing with calculation. The Elder turned to his nearest black clad companion.

“Do you feel that?” Layla heard Werrick ask.

The other man looked skeptical. “Feel what, Elder?”

Werrick leaned in as the two whispered, stealing furtive glances in her direction. When the Elder’s companion pointed at Layla, Samson grabbed her arm. She heard his breathing change from rhythmic to jagged as he pulled her away from the men.

“We have to go now.” His urgency spurred her into action.

Grant moved to block them from the Elder’s view. “Get her away from here, Samson.”

The Elder looked up to see everyone staring at him as if frozen. He repeated his demand, “I said take everything down.”

The townspeople, joined by the Elder’s minion, scampered to remove their decorations, anxious to “properly” celebrate the First Ones. Their flurry of activity concealed Layla as Samson and Grant escorted her away. Layla scanned the streets, horrified, as the people of Medlin stripped the town’s center barren. In no time, everything appeared as it always had, devoid of any celebratory adornments. She looked up at the sky with its gray clouds lingering overhead. A bad omen…

On the hill, a safe distance away, Layla watched a group of Ecclesiastics erect a monstrous stage where the donkey races should have occurred. She heard the braying of the angry animals, harnessed and corralled on the orders of the Elder to avoid interfering with the “true” Day of Dawning celebration. Her ire rose. Who did they think they were coming in and changing everything?

An icy, phantom finger traced a frigid line down her spine. After hearing warning after warning from the Mantars her whole life, Layla knew exactly what the Ecclesiastics could do, what they had done to others in the past. Maybe Samson and Grant had been right. Maybe she should never have come, especially today. Layla turned her back on the town, resolved to go home, to safety.

“Layla!” Samson’s alarmed tone sliced into her, and she swung around toward him.

To her horror, two Vanguard soldiers forced Samson to the ground. She knew just how much strength he possessed, yet he couldn’t free himself. Her hands balled up into fists, shaking with their desire to unleash the full force of their fury.

“Run!” Samson screamed before a soldier’s fist smashed into his face.

His body stilled. Panic, coupled with indecision, crippled her. She should run like Samson commanded, but she couldn’t leave him lying there. To her relief, Grant ambled toward them, his eyes full of rage.

“Run!” Grant echoed Samson’s warning.

With a final glance at the two boys who’d been as close to her as brothers, Layla fled. She flew down the hill, swinging her head from side to side in alarm. Ecclesiastics swarmed throughout the city, making a clear escape route difficult to discern.

Terror rose within Layla. Why hadn’t she listened to her family? She’d been foolish to believe she could sneak around under the ever-watchful eyes of the Ecclesiastics, and that hubris put Samson and Grant in danger as well. She choked back a sob.

“Run,” she whispered.

Willing her feet to move forward, Layla darted toward the back of the baker’s shop, hoping to take a shortcut through the back alleyway. She swerved to miss a wooden box and stumbled, arms flailing to right herself. Unfamiliar hands reached out to break her fall. Once stable, Layla looked up to find Elder Werrick staring down at her. She screamed but no sound came out of her open mouth.

“I’ve been looking for you,” he said, a wicked smile on his face.


Erin Albert is an author and fitness trainer. Since she picked up Morris the Moose Goes to School at age four, she has been infatuated with the written word. She went on to work as a grammar and writing tutor in college and is still teased by her family and friends for being a member of the “Grammar Police.” In her free time, Erin enjoys acting, running, kickboxing, and, of course, reading and writing.

Find me online:

Preorder Link:

Twitter: @ErinAlbertBooks





Guest Post: Margaret Fieland and writing Geek Games

Today I’m joined by Margaret Fieland. She discusses the writing process (or chain of events) that led to her soon-to-be released YA science fiction novel, Geek Games. As a writer, I still find it interesting to read about other writers’ processes, and I have to give my thoughts about one piece of this. Margaret mentions a fact she discovered about one of her characters, something she did not know when she started writing the story. In my opinion, this is the best part about writing, and I encourage everyone to write a story, even if you have no intention of letting anyone else read it, just so you can experience this. Now, before I spoil the post, I better turn it over to Margaret.

Writing Geek Games

When I wrote Relocated  for 2010 Nano, my only goal was to overcome my phobia about science fiction world building. As a long-time science fiction fan, I’d read reams of the stuff but had managed to avoid writing any. In September of 2010, I decided to remedy that. I spent about six weeks planning, mostly in the world building, and wrote the first draft of the novel in a month. It took me quite a bit longer to revise it, and I submitted it to MuseItUp Publishing. It was published in July of 2011.

Starting fairly early in 2011, I wrote what would, after several major revisions, become Broken Bonds.  In the late fall, when I was still struggling with it, I decided to start another YA sci fi novel. I chose Martin Samuels, one of the secondary characters from Relocated, as the main character. I wrote the first draft for 2011 Nano, and then started revising. The whole thing went a great deal more smoothly than Broken Bonds had. I completed both novels and submitted them. Geek Games, the YA sci fi novel, will be published on Nov. 29th. It takes place right after the action of Relocated,  and some four years before Broken Bonds. Martin does appear in the latter novel as well.

Because Geek Games used an existing character and because I decided to use the novel to tie up a few loose ends from Relocated, Martin’s age was fixed at just shy of fifteen. Martin, who to my surprise turned out to be gay, becomes involved in a romance with another boy. My concept of the relationship, and of what happens to Martin after the book ends, changed as I worked on both Geek Games  and Broken Bonds. Fortunately, I decided not to submit Broken Bonds until I was ready to submit Geek Games also. I was uncomfortable, for no reason that I could point to at the time, about submitting a novel that took place four or five years after the one I was working on.

I’ve just completed the first draft of another adult sci fi noel, one which takes place right after Broken Bonds, and I’ve started plotting out another YA novel, one which takes place right after Geek Games  — so far, anyway. I can see I’ll have to give a bit on my penchant for linearity, so I’m guessing I’ll be ready to submit the adult novel before the other is ready.

In case you’re wondering, back when we all still rented movies by dashing into the video store, I would start looking for flics starting with A. Then I discovered I’d overlooked the latest — at the time — Star Trek movie, so I started alternating by starting with Z and working backwards. I’m not particularly well-organized, nor am I particularly neat, but I am fairly linear. Each crazily obsessive person is obsessive in their own way.

And now a question for you readers. What do you think of flashbacks? For or against? How about novels that weave threads from two different time periods?  I’m not a fan of either.

Geek Games 333x500Blurb:

When fourteen-year-old Martin lets Tom, a charismatic bully, persuade him to bring down the spaceport computer network, he never considers someone will place a bomb resulting in the death of his friend’s father. Nothing will bring Captain Frey back, but if Martin can help locate the terrorists’ drug lab, perhaps he’ll be able to forgive himself.


“Are we able to wash up?” I asked after the all clear sounded. “I stink.”

“Come on,” Beram said. “I’ll show you the shower.”

“Come on, Alan, you too.”

Alan climbed down, and we followed Beram to the end of the corridor. A shower proved to be a popular idea, as the rest of the crew assembled behind us. Low laughter reached my ears, and I turned around.

“What do you bet they both run off?” Gamal asked in Aleyni.

Suresh threw an arm around Gamal’s shoulder and planted a big kiss on his mouth. A grin split his face as he glanced at me.

Some joke. Ha, ha. I was laughing my head off—not. Sure, he wanted to make me and Alan uncomfortable. Expected us to be uncomfortable. None of the Aleynis displayed either surprise or disgust, and my gut clenched. My father would have backhanded me if I’d kissed a man in his presence. I would have given every last credit I possessed, assuming I owned any, to make my father react the way the Aleynis did.

Gamal’s gaze bored into me, eyebrows raised, waiting for some kind of response, but the Aleyni word assembly line broke down, and my brain froze solid.

Here’s something weird. Or maybe not; I don’t know. When I spoke Aleyni, I needed to think in Aleyni, so sometimes my thoughts would stop because I couldn’t yet formulate the thought in the alien language.

Hoping to unstop the dam, I opened my mouth to tell him he could go ahead and kiss all the men he wanted, with or without me around. No go. Pathetic.

Gamal touched the door, and it retracted into the wall, revealing a synglass-coated chamber with shower heads suspended from the walls and ceiling and a spigot on one wall.

After a minute, the log jam eased up. Showers were a much safer topic than kissing guys. “How does it work?”

“You soap up, then steam to rinse off.” Beram grinned, his gaze traveling up and down first my body, and then Alan’s. “I’ll show you. The shower is big enough for three. In order to save water, we shower two or three at a time.”

Alan gulped and backed away from the door. “I’ll pass.” He ran down the corridor.

“How about you?” Beram asked.

Inside my head, the vidi of me and Beram naked together in the steamy shower played two or three times. I nodded. “Who goes first?”

Suresh grinned.“You two may have the honor of the first shower this time.”

Gamal crossed his arms and stared at me.

Remove my clothes here, with Gamal and Suresh eager to examine my every move? The air stuck in my throat. They’d have a clear view of my naked body’s reaction to Beram.

Gamal poked Suresh with his elbow and whispered something in his ear.

I’d probably been broadcasting my thoughts again. But lust overcame my fear, and Beram and I stripped and stepped into the shower. We soaped up, and I couldn’t help staring. Beram’s smooth skin showed no body hair at all.

“No Aleyni has body hair,” he said. “You didn’t realize?”

I shook my head. “How would I?” Did he find body hair repulsive? Mildly distasteful? Intriguing, the way I found his smooth skin?

Beram touched a control on the wall and blasts of steam washed us clean. While I hesitated, wondering what to do, Beram pulled my head toward him and kissed me. I kissed him back.

His warm lips pressed against mine, smooth and soft. I breathed in the fragrance of citrus soap and musk, Beram’s odor and mine. Our mouths were closed, and it lasted only a moment, but the universe tilted; and when it tilted back, everything changed.

No question remained: I loved men, always would. Period, end of sentence. The recognition started in my gut, in the center of my body, and radiated outwards.

I took a step back and grinned at Beram. He placed a hand on the side of my face, only for a moment. It was the most intimate thing I’d ever experienced .

Gamal and Suresh waited outside the shower, both leaning against the wall and grinning. Suresh poked Gamal, whispering something like, “Pay up.”


My Author page on the MuseItUp website, with links to all three of my sci fi novels:

Amazon author page: