Getting reacquainted with an old friend

Years and years ago I said a fond farewell to most things containing caffeine. (If you want to know why, read my story “Queen of the Mouse Riders” in Unexpected Critters.)

Gone were the days of high-octane mochas at independent coffee shops and death-by-chocolate brownies and even s’mores, which I’d never had until four years ago, go figure. I explored various types of decaf teas and decaf lattes and limited my intake of all things chocolate down to a relatively small amount of milk chocolate chips straight from the bag. I prefer semi-sweet, darker chocolate, but like high-octane coffee, that was no longer an option.

Then came the pandemic and political upheaval and the stress caused by actually keeping up with these issues in the news, and suddenly even decaf things were off the menu. So were any kind of artificial sweeteners. I’d eliminated most sugar quite some time ago, but now even artificial sugar had to go.

That change was nine months ago. There have been some positive and unexpected health results in those nine months. Maintenance meds needed adjusting, and in the process of working with my doctor on that, I learned something interesting.

Decaf lattes are back on the menu.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve discovered some absolutely awesome herbal alternatives to any type of coffee. Milk teas made with certain types of herbal chai are the bomb. I still can’t stand chamomile teas, but Tazo Glazed Lemon Loaf herbal tea is wonderful!

Today I had my first homemade decaf latte in ages, made with Crazy Cups decaf Chocolate Coconut Dream (no added sugar or artificial sweeteners). I’m using the grounds to stain a fairly large piece of cross-stitch fabric to prep it for a Halloween pattern, so not only did my latte taste amazing, but my kitchen smells utterly delicious.

Sometimes it’s the little things, the unexpected things, that can totally put a spring back in your step. For today, for me, it’s a decaf Chocolate Coconut Dream latte.

The joys of streaming

Last fall I retired from the day job I’d held for over thirty years. I’d been working from home for six months prior to that time thanks to COVID, which made the actual process of retiring much easier. No tearful goodbyes, no parties, no Happy Retirement cake or Over the Hill balloons or cards. Just cleaning out my desk on a weekend when no one else was in the office (and boy, did I accumulate a lot of personal stuff in that desk over thirty years!) and no reporting in for work the following Monday.

It’s amazing to me that I’m coming up on a year of being retired. Sort of. I’ve done some independent contractor work for my former firm here and there, but I’ve been able to set my own hours for that and do the work from home.

And that leads to the title of this post – the joy of streaming favorite movies and television shows as background company when I’m working.

I can’t watch something new to me. That takes up too much of my concentration. But I can put on a favorite movie or television show while I type away, or play my favorite music at a volume that suits me without having to worry about annoying anyone else. I can work out on the back deck or the kitchen table. And I can take time to cuddle a cat.

For instance, today’s work was accompanied by a Jesse Stone movie – STONE COLD – and my current favorite train movie – UNSTOPPABLE – while I worked on compiling the next Unexpected collection – UNEXPECTED CRITTERS (which will be out next week). At night I’ve been bingeing LOST, although that’s a little more problematic. I watched the first two seasons of LOST when it first aired, but I quit somewhere in the third season. I’m in the middle of Season 2 now. I’ll have to switch over to watching LOST while I’m doing needlework at night after dinner and find something else to put on for background while I write late at night.

Maybe BUFFY or one of the STAR TREK series or even the original CSI. Or any one of a zillion movies available on one streaming service or another. It’s a pretty great time for this entertainment junkie to be a mostly stay-at-home retiree.

Reconstruction

I’ve had “update website” on my To-Do List for weeks and weeks. The last couple of days I’ve had a chance to update a few things around here, like add a page for my Unexpected series of short-story collections.

This afternoon, I looked back through the posts and realized I’ve had this blog since 2007. Sheesh! Fourteen years. How time flies.

This blog is long since overdue for an overhaul. I’m still in the process of doing that, and probably will be for a little while. In the meantime, the New Releases page has simply become News. That’s where you’ll find information on all the new things I have coming out. I’ll be adding a bibliography to my Bio page so you can find all my stories and books that have already seen print. I plan to treat this main page as more of a blog instead of an announcements page, which was the intent when I first started this website.

What will I be talking about here? Oh, I imagine writerly things will take up some space. Posts about books I’ve enjoyed or television shows and movies I’ve watched. We cut the cable a few weeks ago and are now happily streaming far more content than I have time to watch. The upshot of that is far less watching whatever happens to be on cable and more choosing which shows and movies entertain us in the evening.

And there will probably be pictures of cats. Just because I can.

Photo of Junior, doing his content editor thing, while I was writing the latest Diz & Dee mystery story.

Free Diz & Dee holiday story!

From my brand new Diz & Dee collection, The Diz & Dee Holiday Mysteries, “The Case of the Missing Elf” is free to read on my site for one week only. The collection’s on sale now.  Enjoy!

The Case of the Missing Elf

by Annie Reed

I was having a non-argument argument with my partner about whether we should get a Christmas tree for the office when the front door opened and a whole passel of elves piled in.

Up front, I should tell you that my partner is an elf. A tall one. Broad-shouldered, pointy-eared, strong-jawed, and with the most drop-dead gorgeous blue eyes I’ve ever seen. You might be thinking Legolas from those movies, but Diz is more The Rock than Orlando Bloom. He even has The Rock’s glower. The cinnamon and marshmallow-colored mullet, though—that’s all Diz’s own.

Yeah, I know. A mullet. But considering how great the rest of him looks, who am I to complain?

Together, Diz and I run a private detective agency called D & D Investigations out of a former bakery in a rundown neighborhood on the mainland side of Moretown Bay. I’m Dee, the other D in D & D. I’m not an elf. Or a dwarf. Or a fairy or any one of a hundred other kinds of magic folk who call the area around the Bay home. I’m a plain old vanilla human with curly brown hair that tends to frizz when it’s humid, which is just about all the time. I also have a touch of precognition I’ve yet to learn how to control any better than my hair.

“You find missing people?” the nearest elf in the pack said.

keep reading

 

 

Exciting news!

First of all, a belated Happy Thanksgiving to those in the U.S. who celebrated the holiday yesterday! If you’re not out braving the crowds or the weather, or you’ve already done both, I wanted to take a couple of minutes to share some exciting news about what’s been going on behind the scenes.

A BRAND NEW ME!

Well, sort of.

I primarily write mystery and crime related fiction and urban fantasy. When my muse struck me over the head recently with a clue-by-four and I surfaced with the idea for not one, but a series of sweet romance novels and stories, I figured it would be best to split my writerly personality in two. In other words, I’m now going to be writing sweet romance under the pen name Liz McKnight.  The first novel will be out shortly, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at the cover:

Isn’t that pretty?

Wedding Belle Blues, the first in the Liberty Springs series of sweet romance novels, will be available at your favorite e-book retailer on December 10th, and will be available in print shortly thereafter.  I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it.

And if you’d like a sneak peek one of my romance stories, check back here on Sunday, December 1st, for a special holiday story I’ll be sharing on my website for one week only!

NEW DIZ & DEE STORY!

That’s right, our favorite detective duo are back for a brand new holiday story “Gobbler, Gobbler, Who’s Got the Gobbler?” which will be exclusively available in The Diz & Dee Holiday Mysteries:

As you might guess, “Gobbler” is Diz & Dee’s first Thanksgiving mystery, and tells the story of our detectives’ attempts to locate Dee’s mother’s missing rescue turkey Simpkins before the very special bird becomes someone’s very special dinner.

The Diz & Dee Holiday Mysteries will be available on December 3rd.  Look for it at your favorite e-book distributor!

THE UNCOLLECTED ANTHOLOGY TURNS 20!

No, not twenty years old, but twenty issues strong!

Wow. That’s hard for me to wrap my mind around, but the Uncollected Anthology, which started out as a “let’s try it for a year and see how it goes” project among a group of friends who also happened to write urban fantasy is now twenty issues strong and still going. We’ve got great issues planned for the foreseeable future, but in the meantime, we did something extra special for our twentieth.

This time around, we not only decided to write on a common theme, but also in a common location: The Crossroads Hotel.

Each of the stories in The Crossroads Hotel issue starts with a very Twilight Zone-esque opening, and then dives into a story set in each writer’s vision of the hotel.  My story is “Room 308” and tells the story of a performer who returns to the hotel on Christmas Eve to keep a promise she made twenty-five years ago.

The Crossroads Hotel issue of the Uncollected Anthology is out December 1st, but “Room 308” is available for pre-order now at your favorite e-book retailers.

New Release!

Long time, no site updates, right? Well, I’ve been busy writing!

I’m thrilled to announce my latest novel, IRIS & IVY.

Wait, I can hear you saying. Didn’t you write a short story with that same title?

Yes. Yes, I did. Back in 2011 and 2012, I wrote 52 short stories as part of a challenge to write a short story a week for an entire year. (Writers do these crazy challenges all the time as a way to keep ourselves motivated, keep practicing and learning our craft, and just to see if we can.)

Here’s the cover for the short story:

(The cover for the novel’s much better, wouldn’t you say? *g*)

“Iris & Ivy” was a part of my 52 stories in one year challenge. So was “Famous.” Both stories are part of my Moretown Bay urban fantasy series, named for the fictional Pacific Northwest city where magic intersects with everyday life.

Well, I loved the idea behind Iris & Ivy so much that I decided to write a full-length novel with the same basic premise: a woman goes on the hunt for the killer who murdered her identical twin to help her sister’s ghost find peace. Only with a twist, because I’m me and that’s how I write.

I can just hear you saying, “But, Annie, if I’ve read the short story, isn’t the novel the same thing?”

Nope!

Novels have a way of taking on lives of their own. Even writers don’t always know where these things are going. Sure, I thought I had this great road map with the short story, but the novel surprised even me. Not only did Iris & Ivy take on new lives of their own in the novel, whole new characters showed up, including a character from “Famous” that I got to know a whole lot better, whether I wanted to or not. *shudder*

If you haven’t read “Famous” in a while, click on over to Free Stuff on this website. I’ve posted the story there to read for free. It’s a great way to get started on the dark ride of IRIS & IVY, the novel.

Great! you’re saying. So where can I get my hands on a copy of IRIS & IVY?

(I hope you’re saying that, especially if you’ve read this far.)

Boy, then, do I have a deal for you!

IRIS & IVY is currently exclusive to The Darker Realms Fantasy Bundle over at Storybundle.

Curated by editor/publisher extraordinaire Allyson Longueira, this bundle gathers ten great dark fantasy books (okay, two of them are humorous dark fantasy stories, but you get my drift) written by #1 New York Times bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson, USA Today bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith, World Fantasy Award winning author Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Hugo award nominated author Steve Diamond, kickass writer Stefon Mears (who’ll be featured in the next issue of The Uncollected Anthology), Walter H. Hunt, D. J. Butler, Mark Leslie, and me, plus an entire issue of Fiction River Presents.

Storybundles are easy to buy (you can even given them as gifts!), but there’s a catch – they’re only available for a short time.  This one will only be around for another seventeen days. I know that sounds like a long time, but we’re already almost done with September, and those seventeen days will fly by before you know it.

So don’t delay! Pick up your copy of IRIS & IVY, a Moretown Bay novel, at Storybundle today along with a bunch of other great fiction. You set the price, and part of the price benefits AbleGamers.

What a deal, right?

BTW, I have to mention how much I love the cover for IRIS & IVY! The novel cover was created by Deranged Doctor Design. If you’re in the market for some great cover work, check them out!

Freebies, New Releases, and a Great New Bundle!

Boy, there’s a lot of stuff going on around here for a Monday! Let’s dive right into it, shall we?

An astute reader recently asked me where the heck my Free Fiction Thursday stories went. Good question! I’ve been so busy working on new projects that my weekly free stories have fallen by the wayside. But no more! Free fiction rides again, only instead of once a week, I’ll be posting free stories once a month under the Free Stuff tab on this website.

First up is “The Magic of Home,” the first story I wrote for the Uncollected Anthology. “The Magic of Home” introduced Twig, my street-smart elf, and her friend Jocko, the oversized dwarf.  Why did I start out with a Twig and Jocko story?  I’m happy you asked, because I have a brand new release featuring my favorite mismatched elf and dwarf.

UNBROKEN FAMILIAR won’t officially be released until October 1st, but if you’d like to get your copy now, UNBROKEN FAMILIAR is part of the wonderful new The Universe Between Bundle over at StoryBundle!

In addition to UNBROKEN FAMILIAR, this bundle features nine other great fantasy books by some of the best writers working in urban and contemporary fantasy today. Here’s what bundle curator Dean Wesley Smith has to say about the idea behind the bundle:

I grew up on Twilight Zone back in the late 1950s and through the early 1960s. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I heard the sentence, “In the middle ground between light and shadow…” in that opening sequence to the Twilight Zone.

Thankfully, my parents didn’t seem to mind that I watched that show every week. And for some reason that sentence out of the opening sequence stuck with me for my entire life. I loved living in that middle ground. All my writing falls in the middle ground between two places. Every story. Some more obviously than others, but without a doubt, every story or novel that I write, or every book or magazine I edit, falls in the “between” place.

I revel in that, no matter how hard rules tried to force me one way or the other. I liked living there in the middle, in that place between light and dark. With this bundle, I was looking for the very same thing.

This bundle once again features one of my favorite charities, AbleGamers. So not only can you get UNBROKEN FAMILIAR two months early along with nine other great titles for one low price, you can support a nifty charity, too!  Don’t delay, though. StoryBundles are only available for a short time and then they’re gone for good.

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UNBROKEN FAMILIAR is just one of my new releases.  The latest issue of Fiction River – PULSE POUNDERS: ADRENALINE features my story “Dust to Dust.”

Here’s what editor Kevin J. Anderson had to say about “Dust to Dust.”

Annie uses her mystery and fantasy chops to create a heroine with a mission straight from Hell, a ruthless demon bounty hunter with a hole in her heart and a quest from that most horrible of bosses—and she manages to give us a story both edgy and touching.

Nifty, right? PULSE POUNDERS: ADRENALINE is available now in ebook and paper from your favorite online booksellers.

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And last, but certainly not least, the latest issue of the Uncollected Anthology – MYSTICAL MELODIES – just released my new story “The Last Night at the Crowley.”

People say haunted houses contain the longings and nightmares of the dead who couldn’t leave their lives behind.

But what about places where the living left parts of their souls behind? Where singers and musicians willingly played their hearts out, night after night, just for the love of music?

What haunts places like The Crowley?

Mazie’s about to find out.

You can purchase each individual story in MYSTICAL MELODIES from your favorite ebook distributor, or you can purchase the entire issue at one great low price!


That’s right, due to popular demand (and the great folks at BundleRabbit), we ‘re collecting the Uncollected these days. Check it out!

And happy reading!

Publishing news!

Some exciting publishing news this week!

First of all, I can finally announce that my story “The Color of Guilt” has been selected as part of the YEAR’S BEST CRIME & MYSTERY STORIES 2016!!  Look at the names on this cover — Joyce Carol Oates, Mary Higgins Clark — wow!  Another one of my stories, “The Flower of the Tabernacle,” made Honorable Mention (along with a Stephen King story; color me gobsmacked!).

Mystery_Anthology_draft_ver6_8Many thanks to editors John Helfers and Kristine Kathryn Rusch for including me among such stellar writers. THE YEAR’S BEST CRIME & MYSTERY STORIES 2016 is available now at Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.

The newest issue of the Uncollected Anthology is also available!

TrampsThievesReed600x900The theme this time around is Fortune Tales, and features my story “Tramps & Thieves” along with stories by guest author Stephanie Writt, and UA members Leah Cutter, Rebecca Senese, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Leslie Claire Walker.  Great urban fantasy reading!  Check it out here.

FINAL+cover+-+3200x4800And in case you missed the Fantasy in the City bundle, all twenty stories are now available in one big book for $3.99, but for a limited time only!  What a deal!  The book’s available at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks for $3.99.  FANTASY IN THE CITY includes my Diz & Dee story “Here, Kitty Kitty.”

Cool stuff!

The newest issue of the Uncollected Anthology is out!  Woohoo!  This time around we’ve got great stories by guest author Ron Collins and regulars Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Leslie Claire Walker, Leah Cutter, Dayle Dermatis, and our newest regular member Rebecca M. Senese (rhymes with menace *g*).

Oh, and I have a story in this issue too. *g*  A brand new Diz and Dee mystery, no less! Take a look at this cool cover:

Woods cover 200x300Here’s the blurb:

Private detectives Diz and Dee have worked for some pretty odd clients. Leprechauns. Fairies. The occasional Greek God.

Even Dee’s mother.

But their newest client could be the oddest yet.

Horror movie director Morte (as in death; he had it legally changed) can’t find the star of his latest B-movie flick, currently filming in the woods outside Moretown Bay. The guy’s a method actor who needs to “live the part,” and he occasionally takes off to do a little research. Only this time he’s playing a werewolf, and the full moon is right around the corner.

Hollywood invades the offices of D & D Investigations in this latest addition to the Diz & Dee mystery series!

Nifty, right?  The story’s available at the usual ebook vendors.  I had a blast writing this one. I hope you enjoy it!

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I’m participating in an upcoming bundle over at Bundle Rabbit (which my subconscious insists on referring to as Bundle Bunny).  More details to follow, but in the meantime, take a look at some of the great bundles going on right now.  Great deals on a whole lot of good fiction!

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Speaking of great deals, Dean Wesley Smith has put all six weeks of his Originality in Fiction online workshop up on YouTube for free!  Go check this one out, especially you writers out there.  I took this workshop a couple of years ago, and it’s well worth your time.