Tag Archives: red herring

Still Gearing Up.

I looked up from my iPad in the paranormal office. The sound of the mailman driving away caught my attention. My coffee cup was empty anyway, so I headed for the lobby, by way of the kitchen.

Lisa sorted the mail, and it looked like everything was for her and her radio show. It usually is.

I grabbed coffee and turned back toward my office. The sound of a heavy door closing caught my attention.

A large man in a rumpled shirt and tie climbed from an aged Cadillac sedan. You couldn’t miss the head of red hair.

“Oh, crap, it’s that guy. Hide!”

“What guy?” Lisa asked.

The front door opened and he stepped inside. “How ya doing? Name’s Herring, Red Herring.” He held out a hand.

I shook his hand, and it was sticky. I must have looked at my palm.

He held out a handkerchief. “Sorry about that. It’s those hot wings. I know I shouldn’t drive and eat at the same time, but you authors don’t exactly all live in the same neighborhood.”

“I know who you are, Red. You’ve been here every year since Lisa moved into the writing cabin.” I wiped my hand on my jeans, rather than risk his hankie.

“Oh yeah. Sorry I don’t remember you, but I remember the blonde. How ya doin?”

“I’m fine Mr. Herring.”

“Oh, so formal.” He pulled a tri-fold brochure from his hip pocket and handed it to Lisa. “Weren’t you the guy that bought the kit I named after myself?”

“The Red Herring. Yeah, you got me.”

“How’d that work out for you?”

“Actually, it was pretty fair. I used it in The Playground. It was okay, I suppose.”

“When in doubt, cover it with a lot of blood I always say.”

“Huh, there was some blood involved, now that you mention it.”

“Good man. Now, what I have today is the Red Herring Two-Point-Oh. It’s the latest and greatest in false leads–“

“Hold on, I thought I bought the latest and greatest last year.”

“It was, but time marches on. We made improvements. It has a help-line now, just like grandma’s Thanksgiving turkey.”

“Maybe it is a turkey.”

“I’ll tell you what, I’ll let you have the last one in my car for thirty percent off. You can’t beat that anywhere. In fact, I’m heading back to the home office after this stop, so I can probably cut you a deal on everything left in the car. “

“I’m sure you can. I think the discounted Red Herring Two-Point-Oh will be enough. Lisa, can you take care of this?”

“I can, but hang on a second.” Her eyes fluttered briefly. “We have pretty meager supplies on the shelves downstairs. You’re almost completely out of plot twists and turns.”

Red got out a pencil and notepad. He licked the tip of the pencil before he started writing.

Lisa continued, “I think you should consider a few of these double crosses too.”

“What for?”

“You still have that rough outline of the fraudster guy who starts wars for money. I think they sound perfect for that.”

“You know It’s a year or two in the future, right? Besides, I haven’t figured out if it’s a fantasy, a pirate story, or a pirate-fantasy story yet.”

Red butted in. “The double crosses have no expiration date. You can use one this fall, and one ten years from now and they’re still just as fresh as they are today. They come in a cute little commemorative six-pack container now too. I have six-packs, twelve packs, or cases.”

“Okay, we’ll take a case. Plus the newest version of the Red Herring, and two cases of twists and turns,” Lisa said.

“Hey, wait a minute–“

“Don’t be such a baby. We’re a long ways out here, and Red only stops by once per year. Besides, you used all our supplies up on short stories and micro-fiction. You know you’ll never stop writing those.”

“Atta girl.” Red offered Lisa a form. “If you fill this out, I’ll add you to my email list. I like to send a card at Christmas. I also offer free shipping for every order over fifty-bucks.”

I rolled my eyes as Lisa accepted Red’s form.

“Let me get the stuff out of the car. I’ll be right back.”

I waited until he was outside. “I don’t want his junk mail clogging up my email. I already get daily promos from PayPal, Zazzle, and everyone else. He’s going to be offering us Happily Ever Afters at Christmas, and love triangles at Valentine’s Day. You know that, right?”

Lisa held up the Tri-fold brochure. “How about these bloody murders at Halloween? There’s even an alien invasion kit.”

“Let me see that, those are kind of cool.” I accepted the brochure, then caught myself. “Look, you get rid of Red. I’m going to my office before I buy anything else.


Lisa stepped into the paranormal office and sat on the red, Victorian, picture-frame couch.

“Did you get the stuff stocked downstairs?”

“Oh yeah…”


“Well, Red also had an unreliable narrator and a carton of sidekicks in the car. He gave me a deal, because he didn’t want to take them to the home office.”

“Uh-huh. He probably has a trailer full of the stuff he disconnected back at his hotel. Every author out there probably gets a discount for helping him out.”

“Could be, but hey! You’re well supplied for your next push, right?”

“Kind of explains why he doesn’t have an app.”

“Oh, he does. I downloaded it, and he takes PayPal too.”

“Let me guess: Makes all deliveries personally.”

“How did you know?”

“Just a good guesser. He’ll show up with your order and another trunk full of stuff to sell.”

“Seems pretty efficient.”

“Doesn’t it though.”



Filed under Muse

The return of Red Herring

I got to the writing cabin early this morning, and headed for my office. Lisa* was still rattling around upstairs and playing with her rabbit.

I spread my projects across my desk. One pile for Will O’ the Wisp; which needs a final pass and an edit for the international version. A second pile is my work in progress, The Playground, which requires a mountain of research. A half finished book called Maplecroft that I’m reading sat on the far corner. Finally, a list of 15 possible short stories and micro-fiction pieces I want to write. (One Macabre Macaroni is finished, and one short is partial.) Then I placed the bills in the middle of the desk.

Lisa brought coffee as soon as it was ready. She had her jeans tucked inside some heeled boots with a beige blouse and one of those cool endless scarfs. “Looks like your work’s cut out for you today.”

“Yup. Do you want to help with some of it?”

“Sure, what do I have to do?”

“My idea is to put out a book of short stories and micros for 99¢. The hope is that people will take a chance at that price and might buy one of my novels.”

“Okay, so what do you need?”

“There isn’t any reason my novel characters can’t make an appearance in these shorts. I need you to research women’s clothing. I have this stylish character that’s ready to take on a new adventure.”

Her eye units pixelated and her hand quivered. She moved herself onto the couch. “Are, are you serious? I may have to reboot.”

“I don’t see why not. You’re one of my favorite characters, and if someone likes your short story, they might like your novel. Find some outfits in your style, but not too many. It’s just a short story.”

She kissed me and ran to the front office. She actually made a noise that sounded like Squee. I started the trudge through my bills. I had to add a new vendor to my bill-pay and that always frustrates me. I was half way through a good tantrum when Lisa texted me.

“There is a Mr. Herring here to see you.”

What did he want? I bought one of his stupid products once, and he probably wants to sell me more.

A short, heavyset man with a red comb-over and rumpled suit wiped his greasy hands on his pants and offered it to me. “How ya doing. Red, Red Herring.”

I shook his hand and asked what I could do for him.

“I’m passing through, and wanted to see how my last package worked out for you. You was gonna write something called Jack O’ Lantern or somethin’.”

“It’s called Will O’ the Wisp,” I reminded him. “It worked out just fine, thanks. There are going to be a whole bunch of new problems though.”

“Glad you liked it. I don’t give no refunds though. What kind of problems?”

“Marketing, for one. How am I supposed to promote this story when the main character spends so much time on the wrong project? What kind of excerpts can I publish without spoiling something?”

“I don’t know nothin’ about no marketing. I sell my products and its up to you to use them. You bought the premier product, that I named after myself it’s so good. I’m sure it will mesmerize your readers. Now this week, I’m having a close out sale on minor ruses. Got any characters that you wanna confuse or mislead?”

“No, look, I need to figure out how to put a blog tour together and pre-write the posts. And I need to do all of that without spoiling the big surprises for my readers.”

Lisa put a perfectly manicured nail to her lip. “Um.”

“What? If you have any ideas I’d love to hear them.”

“Well, it’s just that. I looked at your short story list as part of my research. There is one where some ruses and misdirection could be helpful.”

“I ain’t comin’ back this way for a long time,” Red said.

“I don’t even know if I’m going to write that one.”

“My ruses last a long time. You can use them in a couple years, and they’ll still be fresh.”

I turned to Lisa. “Take care of it for me. Make him sell you a bundle of some kind, and get the sale price.” I need to get back to work.

Lisa made the Dwarven fist salute, and I went back to my office. Every project has to start somewhere, so I decided to read Maplecroft. One less thing on my desk would force me to concentrate when I got to Will O’ the Wisp. And he says he doesn’t know anything about marketing. He’s walking out of here with my check though, isn’t he?

Will O’ the Wisp can wait a little while. I still haven’t heard from a few of the ARC readers. It probably doesn’t need much, the early reports have all been good. Finish my reading, work on some research, then tackle Wisp on the next lap.

I also managed this Bread. We aren’t eating all of the big round loaves, so I dug out my ancient cast iron bread pan. I used just a hint of sourdough starter on it, and it took two and a half days to raise completely. Hint: This brings out that wonderful sour taste.

The long rise also produced a beautiful blister crust that doesn’t show up well in the photo. It’s there, I promise.

*Lisa Burton is the main character in Wild Concept. She is a robot, and works as my assistant at the writing cabin these days.



Filed under Muse

Meanwhile, back at the writing cabin


The day was working out pretty well. I got to the cabin before Lisa, and knocked the  icicles off the eaves. The old logs held up well, but I might have to oil them come summer. I went inside and put on the coffee.

Lisa showed up with bagels and that salmon flavored cream cheese I like. “What’s the assignment today, boss?”

“Just banging away at the keyboard. I need to get words on the page, then go back over them to get some sense of the story.”

“I though you had a good outline?”

“I do, but I’m just getting a feel for these characters. I need to know their personalities, quirks, and style. Then I have to make sure everyone gets enough page time to feel realistic. That’s why the beginning is always the hardest to write.”

“You said the middle was hardest.”

“It’s hardest after the beginning.” I sat the toaster up and sliced a bagel. Lisa poured me some coffee and I went into the office.

Words flowed pretty well. Then I deleted most of them and tried again. I worked out a few personality quirks and forged ahead. I took my plate to the sink and went back to work.

Three people were in my office. Well, two people and one thing. There was a man in his thirties with a bald spot, a college sweatshirt that let his belly hang out, and a cheeseburger. The other had wild hair that stuck out everywhere and a white lab coat with bloodstains. The third was some kind of alien with insect looking legs and green hide. “What the hell are you doing in here?

Labcoat said, “Relax. This will be easier for you.” He opened a large pair of calipers and measured my head.

I batted his hand away and said, “Stop it!” He wrote the measurement on a notepad anyway. “Look, what the hell do you guys want?”

The alien emitted a stream of squeaks and burps. The old frat boy looked up from his burger and burped too.

The alien took out what looked like a Magic Microphone and squeaked into it. It sounded like bad auto tune music, but said, “Lorelei said you need foils for your story. She said it was a walk on part, but could develop into something more.”

Labcoat measured the height of the log I was standing in front of and smiled.

I pushed the page button and said, “Lisa can you come in here.” I addressed my guests, “You guys back off and get away from me. Lisa may look sweet, but she has a really big gun.”

The alien pulled out something that looked like a TV remote and said, “This will stop her heart immediately.”

“She doesn’t have one, so back off. Especially you, Labcoat. You’re freaking me out.”

Lisa came in, gun in hand. “Let’s all relax and tell the nice writer what this is all about.”

Labcoat said, “Work’s been hard to find. We’re looking for a little page time.”

The alien said, “And Christmas is coming too.”

Lorelei walked in wearing her best Barbarella getup. Clear bubble helmet, silver body suit, and thigh high boots. “I thought you could use some help.”

“I don’t get it. I have an outline and a good start too.”

“Sure, but if you want to be scary you need some misdirection along the way,” Lorelei said.

“These guys are creeping me out, and what’s with burger man?”

The fratboy licked his fingers clean and said, “Pleased to meet you, and I’m the perfect guy for this job.” He held out his sticky hand and said, “Red, Red Herring.”

“Oh hell no. I’m not writing about a guy named Red Herring. So I understand the need for misdirection, maybe even a half truth, but not these guys.”

“Do you have any idea what my power bill is like out at the laboratory?”Labcoat asked.

Lisa waved her gun and directed him to the couch.

Lorelei said, “Alright, I’ll take them away. Don’t you even like my space queen outfit?”

“Oh I like it. I just don’t think there’s a role for a space queen in this story. You know, some of this gives me an idea or two though —

“That’s all I ask. A Muse inspires. You don’t have to hire my friends, but perhaps a charitable donation to the Evildoers Christmas Foundation would help.” She looked at my iPad and said 5700 words. That’s a good start.

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Filed under Muse, Writing