New releases!

On this last day of November, I have a whole bunch of new releases to be thankful for.

FR16 Hidden in Crime ebook cover lighter webFirst up is the latest volume of Fiction River Hidden in Crime contains my story “The Color of Guilt,” a period piece about a crime that’s thankfully no longer a crime. At least not where the story takes place.

AQuietShelterThereCoverwebNext up is a cool anthology that’s close to my heart.  A Quiet Shelter There benefits Friends of Homeless Animals rescue in Virginia as well as other shelters and rescue organizations. My contribution to the anthology is “Life, With Cats,” a science fiction story inspired by a wonderful ginger kitty who came to live with us several years ago.

HangoverCover600x900And finally, the latest issue of the Uncollected Anthology is out! This issue’s theme is Enchanted Emporiums and features my story “All Hallows’ Hangover,” a fun little post-Halloween romance.

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Fiction River news!

Boy, do I love the folks at Fiction River or what?

First of all, coming up this year I have stories in three volumes of Fiction River.

FR-Risk-Takers-ebook-cover-CC-194x300FR-Sparks-ebook-cover-194x300“A Tale of Good Whiskey, Bad Coffee, and One Devious Woman” will be RISK TAKERS edited by Dean Wesley Smith, available later this month. “Roxie” will be in SPARKS edited by Rebecca Moesta, available in September.

FR-Recycled-Pulp-ebook-cover-194x300And in November, my story “The Flower of the Tabernacle” will be part of RECYCLED PULP, edited by John Helfers.

Cool beans, right?

But wait… I’m not done yet!

I just spent a fantastic week with the editors and publisher of Fiction River as they put together their volumes for 2016.  And guess what?  I’m going to have stories in five of them!  (Yes, I’m still over the moon about that. *g*)

Starting in January 2016, I’ll be in volumes edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith and Felicia Fredlund, Rebecca Moesta, Kevin J. Anderson, and Mark Leslie. Four of the covers are up at the Fiction River website.  Aren’t these cool?

FR17-Hidden-in-Crime-ebook-cover-web-194x300FR19-Last-Stand-ebook-cover-web-194x300

 

 

 

 

 

 

FR20-Superpowers-ebook-cover-web-194x300FR22-Pulse-Pounders-Adrenaline-ebook-cover-web-194x300

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The folks at Fiction River are awesome to work with, and they publish some of the best short fiction out there today.  I’m still amazed to be a part of all these volumes.  Each book can be purchased individually (since each volume focuses on a different genre), or subscriptions are available for either e-book or trade paperbacks.  Do I sound like an ad yet?  You’ll have to forgive me.  I’m still just so excited about being a part of this that I can’t help it. *g*

New Release!

Happy New Year, everyone!

To kick off 2015 with a bang, the third issue of the Uncollected Anthology releases today, and this time around the anthology welcomes its first totally awesome guest author — USA Today bestseller Kristine Kathryn Rusch!!  Woot!  (Can you tell I’m excited? *g*)

This issue’s theme is Heartspells, and my contribution is “Love Stinks, Inc.,” featuring none other than Dyte, the immortal daughter of Cupid and Psyche, who made her first appearance in my Diz & Dee story “Omens and Oracles and Eros, Oh My.”

Annie HS cover webIf you’re unfamiliar with the Uncollected Anthology, here’s the deal:

Each quarter all of the UA authors pick a theme and write stories to that theme.  This quarter’s theme is Heartspells.  Each story is published individually, so it’s kind of like going to a buffet–you only buy the stories you like.  Of course, we hope you’ll buy them all, and I think you’ll want to–they’re just that good.

Who are the other authors participating in the Uncollected Anthology, you ask?  Here’s this issue’s lineup:

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Dayle A. Dermatis

Leah Cutter

Michelle Lang

Leslie Claire Walker

Phaedra Weldon

They’re fabulous writers, each and every one of them, and I’m a big fan.  In fact, that’s how the Uncollected Anthology started.  We’re all fans of each other’s work, and we wanted to read more of it.  I hope you will too.

Free Fiction Thursday – The Case of the Missing Elf

Missing Elf webThe Case of the Missing Elf

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.

I looked down at him. Unlike Diz, who’s a good foot taller than my medium height, these elves were all way shorter than I am. I counted seven of the mini elves. They all wore variations of the same outfit: forest-green pants, red-and-green shirts that were more tunic than shirt, and red, green, or white scarves. The elf who asked me whether we find missing people had curly salt-and-pepper hair peeking out from beneath a red knit hat with a white pom-pom on top. They made the office look like a seasonal munchkin convention.

“Uh, yeah,” I said. I resisted the urge to point to the lettering beneath the agency name on the plate glass window of our office—Missing Persons Are Our Specialty. We’d paid extra for that, but no one ever seemed to read it.

The elf behind the guy with the red knit hat elbowed him. “I don’t care what you say, this can’t be the right place,” he said in a stage whisper I could hear fine even though his voice sounded like he’d just taken a hit of helium. “Just look at it.”

The rest of the elves nodded and muttered among themselves. Except for the elf with the red hat, they all sounded like helium addicts.

(end of sample)

 

# # #

The Case of the Missing Elf

Copyright © 2014 Annie Reed

This story can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Smashwords.

If you liked The Case of the Missing Elf, check out these other Diz and Dee Mysteries!

Free Fiction Thursday – Carl of the Bells

Carl Bells web

Carl of the Bells

Annie Reed

 

My friend Carl was born a few beers short of a six-pack, if you know what I mean. He’s one of those guys with a bucket full of great ideas you just know will never pan out. He told me once he could make a killing selling rocks in a box.

“People are stupid gullible,” he said. “They’ll buy anything if you package it right.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him Pet Rocks went out of style while we were still learning our ABCs.

Carl being Carl, I shouldn’t have been surprised when he interrupted our football watching one night to tell me about his latest money-making idea.

We were nursing beers at Big Ed’s Tavern on this particular Thursday night watching the Chargers beat the crap out of the 49ers on Big Ed’s dinky television.

Big Ed got the NFL channel, which was why we hung out there. The place was packed because the 49ers were playing this week, and Reno’s chock full of diehard Niners fans. Didn’t matter that this late in December the 49ers didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of making the playoffs.

Carl and I counted ourselves lucky we got our favorite seats at the bar so we could see the tiny screen. You’d think with all the money Big Ed raked in on Thursdays, he’d shell out the bucks for a flat screen TV bigger than a postage stamp.

“You know those bell ringers they got in front of every grocery store around town?” Carl asked me.

“Yeah, the Salvation Army guys.”

Carl gave me one of his that’s what you think looks, complete with arched eyebrow and all-knowing sneer. Carl’s been losing his hair since high school graduation, and he could stand to shed those thirty or so extra pounds around his middle. His sense of fashion is lounge lizard slick. Look at him sideways, and he could have doubled for Clark Griswold’s hick cousin in that Christmas movie my wife makes me watch every year.

The arched eyebrow combined with a sneer wasn’t a particularly flattering look on my good buddy Carl.

“How do you know they’re all with the Salvation Army?” Carl asked.

(end of sample)

~~~

Carl of the Bells

Copyright © 2014 Annie Reed

First published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, January 2013 edition

This story can be purchased at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords.

Free Fiction Thursday – The Snow Queen

Just in time for the holidays, this story will be free to read for two weeks!

Snow Queen web

1

Gunther missed snow.

Back home when he’d been a kid, come the first of November, more often than not he’d wake to big, fat, fluffy flakes sailing down from the sky like soft little pieces of cotton candy.

Put enough of those flakes together and he could build a silly snowman, complete with his big sister’s favorite knitted scarf, because what else were little brothers for than to torment their older sisters?

By the first of December, enough snow would have fallen to turn the hillside behind his family’s farm into the perfect place for sledding. Gunther and his sister took turns swooshing down the hill on his dad’s old sled, avoiding the oak trees and rocky outcroppings that dotted the hill. They didn’t stop even when their noses turned red from the cold and their feet got numb, but just kept right on sledding until it got too dark to see.

Snow days started with steaming mugs of his mother’s hot chocolate and his father’s special omelets filled with home-smoked bacon and sharp cheddar and ended with everyone warming frosty fingers and toes before a roaring fireplace after an enthusiastic snowball fight or two. Even as he got older and strong coffee replaced hot chocolate and an apartment in the city replaced his parents’ farm, Gunther still got a thrill every morning when he’d wake up to falling snow.

Snow softened harsh noises. Snow took the rough edges off things. Snow made November feel like winter and made December feel magical, frosting strings of twinkling Christmas lights into blurry little stars of red and green and blue.

That had been December in the Midwest.

December in Moretown Bay, a coastal city smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Northwest, was nothing but dull and gray and dreary.

Icy rain pelted the shoulders of Gunther’s heavy winter coat and ran down the sides of his neck as he bent to unlock the iron security gate at Chocolatapus, a specialty candy store located in a trendy waterfront marketplace complete with cobblestone streets and an open-air craft market during the summer.

Unlike the used bookstore and curio shop next door run by a curmudgeonly old wizard who only opened the place to the public for an hour a day on the second and third Tuesdays of every other month (most of the wizard’s customers shopped by appointment only), Chocolatapus was open seven days a week, ten hours a day.

As the store’s manager, Gunther worked most of those days and hours, but to tell the truth, he didn’t mind. It wasn’t like he did much with his time off anyway, and besides, working at Chocolatapus had turned into the best job Gunther had ever had since he’d left home nearly ten years ago. Not that being the manager of a candy store was exactly where he saw himself ending up after all the time, not to mention money, he’d spent earning a college degree.

He might even like Moretown Bay if only it didn’t rain so much in the winter. Which made winter seem like spring and summer and fall, only a little colder. And which today made him miss his family and home and snow days all the more.

As for Chocolatapus, the store was pretty nearly perfect. It sold milk chocolate and exotic dark chocolate and every kind of chocolate in between, along with silky caramels and chewy taffy, salty-sweet kettle corn and crunchy almond brittle. In December, the store also stocked Gunther’s favorite: swirly peppermint sticks that reminded him of the candy canes that always appeared as if by magic on his family’s Christmas tree on Christmas morning. With long glass display cases filled with sweet treats lining both side of the narrow shop, the store felt warm and cozy and smelled like his mother’s hot chocolate mixed with all the best memories of his childhood.

After Gunther pushed the heavy iron security gate away from the front door, he murmured the words of the spell that would disable the wards around the front door.

Gunther didn’t have any magic of his own—no one in his family did—but more magic folk than Gunther had ever seen anywhere else lived in Moretown Bay. Spells that could be used by regular old humans were available for purchase from licensed witches and wizards pretty much anywhere in the city. For all he knew, the curmudgeonly old wizard who owned the shop next door sold spells on the side.

Of course, spells could also be reversed for the right price.

(end of sample)

~~~

This story is no longer available to read for free, but it can be purchased at Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.

Be sure to check out the other stories in the Uncollected Anthology series!

New Release!

Paper Bullets webI’m thrilled to announce the release of the latest Abby Maxon mystery novel, Paper Bullets.

This novel’s been a couple of years in the making, but it’s really been a labor of love. Abby’s back, along with police detective Kyle Beecham, daughter Samantha, ex-husband Ryan, and attorney Norton Greenburger. This time around Abby’s on the trail of a stalker.  Here’s the official description:

One simple favor for her ex plunges private investigator Abby Maxon into a deadly game of cat and mouse.

The job seems easy enough: find the man who’s been stalking her ex-husband’s girlfriend. Even though the last thing Abby wants to do is spend her day tailing pretty fitness trainer Melody Hartwell, no woman should have to put up with a stalker. Not even the woman Abby’s ex dumped her for.

The easy job turns tough when Abby discovers more than one potential stalker. The tough job turns deadly when someone torches Melody’s car while she’s still inside.

With the official police investigation focusing on Abby’s ex, she sets out to track down the real killer–a deadly opponent determined to leave no loose ends behind.

The book’s currently available for purchase on Amazon and will be available shortly at other major e-book outlets.  A trade paper edition will be released in May.

Free Fiction Thursday – Here, Kitty Kitty

Kitty Kitty webPrivate investigator Dee and her gorgeous but grumpy elf partner Diz find missing people for a living. Tracking down a fairy’s missing ceramic cat should be a snap, right?

Dee should have known any case involving one of the fey would lead to disaster. Much less an angry little fairy who hurls weapons at her head and yells at her in Japanese.

To save her skull and find the kitty, Dee and her partner plunge headlong into the world of manga, anime, and cosplay. Diz might never be the same again.

This story is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Smashwords.

Here, Kitty Kitty

Annie Reed

I dove behind my desk as my miniature Zen garden went whizzing past me. The garden’s stone base slammed into the wall right about where my head had been a split second ago, sand rained down into my hair, and I wondered what else I’d left lying around the front office that the little fairy might decide to throw at me.

My name’s Dee, and I’m a private investigator. Clients usually don’t show up at my office and launch deadly weapons at me. Along with my partner, Diz, I run D & D Investigations. People—and by that I’m loosely referring to elves, leprechauns, Greek gods, and my family—hire us to find loved ones who’ve gone missing.

We rent office space in a shabby building on the inland side of Moretown Bay. The neighborhood’s seen better times, but I like it. A masseuse with a unique flair for marketing and questionable taste in aromatics has a shop across the street, and there’s an Asian store next to the office run by a very nice lady who two days ago introduced me to the little fairy currently hovering over my desk and yelling at me in Japanese.

I don’t speak Japanese. I think my dog might since his usual Golden Retriever grin was dialed up to a near giggle.

“Want to let me in on the joke?” I asked him as I crouched behind my desk clutching my battered executive chair like it was a shield.

Dog didn’t say anything. He only speaks to me in my visions. And yes, that’s his name until he tells me otherwise.

We’d been having a nice afternoon at the office, Dog and I, up until the fairy barged through the door. Diz was off doing whatever tall, grumpy, gorgeous elves do—by themselves—after they crack a case with their partner. Dog had been curled up asleep in a small patch of actual sunshine coming through the front windows. I didn’t blame him. Clouds, rain, and mist are the norm in Moretown Bay. Rare slices of sunshine should always be celebrated with a good nap. My cat was probably doing the same thing in my upstairs apartment unless she was still pouting. She hasn’t quite forgiven me for allowing a dog to invade her life.

Faced with an office full of sleeping animals and no cases to work on, I’d been trying to distract myself from obsessing over my terminally single state, this time with Zen meditation. Diz told me recently that I should learn to live in the moment and enjoy the process instead of focusing so hard on the results. He thinks that might help me control my visions. I’m not an elf or a fairy or any other brand of magical folk. Vanilla human, that’s me, only with a seriously unreliable touch of precognition. Since I suck at living in the moment, I thought learning Zen meditation might help, hence the little desk-top sand garden I’d purchased at the Asian market two days ago.

I’d been sitting at my desk raking lines in that stupid little plot of sand for what seemed like hours, trying to stop thinking about my partner’s pointy ears and the one time I’d witnessed the tantalizing curve of his towel-covered derriere and just be in the moment, when our latest supposedly happy client flew in the door, picked up the Zen garden, and threw it at my head. I ducked just in time. She’s got quite an arm for someone only ten inches tall.

“Okay, okay!” I said from behind the safety of my desk. Which, let’s face it, isn’t all that safe when the fairy hurling weapons at your head can fly just about anywhere she wants to. “I get that you’re angry. Want to let me in on why?”

(end of sample)

# # #

“Here, Kitty Kitty” previously appeared in Fiction River #1: Unnatural Worlds

Copyright © 2014 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Free Fiction Thursday – Hunger in Blue

Hunger in Blue webMatthew Reynolds turned himself into the perfect cop. He purchased the perfect uniform. Worked for years to get his body in perfect shape. Practiced his cop’s stare for hours in front of a mirror to master the perfect mix of intimidation and understanding. He’s finally ready for his first night on the streets.

Matthew Reynolds never applied to the police academy. He knew he wouldn’t qualify. He’s not about to let a little thing like that stop him.

He’ll do anything to protect and serve. Anything at all. He has no other choice.

This story is no longer available to read for free, but it can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Smashwords.

Hunger in Blue

Annie Reed

Reynolds tucked the tail of his new uniform shirt into his pants. Deep blue, almost black in the low light of his apartment, and one hundred percent cotton, or so the tag inside the collar claimed. Just enough starch in the fabric to keep the pressed lines crisp and clean.

He almost wished he hadn’t put on a clean black T-shirt underneath. The feel of the long sleeves against his forearms as he buttoned the cuffs was exquisite. How much better to feel the slightly stiff, scratchy cotton against his chest? His newly-flattened belly?

How much better to help him play the part?

He closed his eyes and breathed in deep. He had to control himself. The T-shirt kept the vest from rubbing his skin raw. The uniform shirt was tailored to fit over the T-shirt and the bullet-proof vest and still show off his physique in a way that made him look solid and powerful.

He’d been working toward this day for over a year. Scrimping and saving and studying, checking every move he made in the mirror to make sure his body language was right, his expression suitably intimidating and kind all at the same time. Not an easy feat. How did the real cops do it? Given the cops he saw on the street every day, most of them cut out the kindness. Reynolds promised himself he never would.

He was going to be a different kind of cop. The kind the world of today needed. The kind the world deserved.

(end of sample)

# # #

“Hunger in Blue”

Copyright © 2014 by Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Free Fiction Thursday – Rolo the Great

Rolo webMagic mixes with everyday life in this charming tale of hope and determination.

Rolo the Great, a courtly, pint-sized peddler of tourist trinkets, has at last found the woman of his dreams. Unfortunately for Rolo, she’s trapped in the belly of a brass pig.

In a place where magic co-exists with the mortal world, how can one small man with no magic of his own hope to rescue a damsel in distress?

Worse still, what if she doesn’t want to be rescued?

This story is no longer available to read for free, but it can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Smashwords.

Rolo the Great

Annie Reed

Rolo the Great owned the corner of Sussix and Wales. Or at least, that’s what he called it.

In reality, Rolo’s home turf was a six-foot wide strip of concrete sidewalk on the southwest corner of Fourth Street and Madison Boulevard, just a mere two blocks from the tourist trap that was the fishermen’s and farmers market in Moretown Bay. Rain or shine, Rolo could be found on the corner hawking his wares, which this month happened to be spiral wires enchanted to sparkle in all the colors of the rainbow, with little trinkets of gold or silver jewelry or a small feather hanging off the ends. Given his courtly manner, not to mention more than his fair share of charm and wit and a smidgen of rugged good looks, Rolo was able to eke out a living by charming the ladies, tourists and locals alike. The spirals he sold were hair charms, which he was more than happy to show each lady how to wear, provided they bent down low enough for Rolo to reach their heads.

Rolo was only four foot tall, you see.

He wasn’t properly a dwarf or a halfling, and he was too tall to be a gnome. Whenever a potential customer was crude enough to ask him if he was an elf, he would happily brush back his unruly brown curls to show them his perfectly human-shaped ears, which meant he was also neither fairy nor nymph nor leprechaun. He was simply a somewhat short person who thought he was the King of England. In a past life, of course.

So it all made a certain kind of sense when he fell in love with a princess.

An enchanted princess.

Of course.

(end of sample)

# # #

“Rolo the Great”

Copyright © 2014 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press