Free Fiction Thursday – Love Stinks, Inc.

Annie HS cover webLove Stinks, Inc.

Annie Reed

1

Dyte glared at the black cat perched on the center of her desk. It couldn’t stare back at her since it was just one of the many wildly successful plush toys her company produced, but that didn’t stop her from hating its adorable little guts.

The cat held a puffy red heart in its front paws. The universal Don’t Do This symbol, a circle with a slash through the center, was printed on the red satin fabric along with the stylized logo for Dyte’s company—Love Stinks, Inc.

The plush cat was part of this year’s line of stuffed animals meant to appeal to chronically unattached women (and chronically unattached men confident enough in their masculinity to buy themselves a stuffed toy). Given her company’s more than healthy bottom line, the world contained about a bazillion single people who didn’t mind dishing out $9.95 for a fuzzy toy to cuddle with on Valentine’s Day just to make themselves feel better about being alone.

Just like Dyte was alone.

She leaned forward, planted her elbows on the smooth surface of her desk, and rested her chin in her hands so she could gaze at the cat at something approximating its eye level.

“What’s your secret?” she muttered at the cat. “Why do people love you so much?”

She should be happy the toys were so successful. A significant amount of her company’s research and development budget had gone into determining a perfect size for the plush toys (big enough to cuddle but not so big they would give a real cat or dog or skunk a run for its money), the length and thickness of their fake black fur (somewhere between shorthair and Persian, when measured in feline terms), and the color of their over-sized eyes (a washed out blue somewhat darker than the noontime sky uncluttered by clouds but not as deep as the clear blue of a high mountain lake). That still didn’t the ridiculous popularity of the things. Even the skunks.

At least the toys weren’t spelled. She’d put her foot down (metaphorically speaking) at the mere suggestion, even though both R & D and her sales department had lobbied long and hard for inclusion of a compulsion spell—a “minor” one, they had assured her—in the stuffing inside the red satin heart all the plush toys held.

As far as she was concerned, customers would either buy her company’s products because they wanted to, or they wouldn’t. The last thing she wanted to do was compel people to fall in love with a stuffed toy.

Compelling people to fall in love was her dad’s thing, not hers. It was hard enough to be taken seriously in business when you were the immortal daughter of Cupid and Psyche, and you had a ridiculous name like Dyte because your mom thought it would be a nice tribute to name you after your grandmother.

Like Aphrodite had ever given one whit about her granddaughter.

Which was fine with Dyte. From the stories she’d heard, grandmother had a vindictive streak a mile wide, just like a lot of the old gods in the family tree. Even though Dyte was an immortal like her parents, she was glad to stay off grandmother’s radar.

If only she’d managed to keep her private life off her dad’s radar.

(end of sample)

~~~

Love Stinks, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 Annie Reed

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

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

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New Release – The Snow Queen

Snow Queen web

This is so cool.  The second issue of the Uncollected Anthology was released yesterday, which includes my story The Snow Queen.

The Uncollected Anthology is a little different from most anthologies.  For one thing, each story is published individually, so our readers can buy the stories they like.  Kind of like going to a buffet, right?  No paying for things you don’t want.  How nifty is that?

Each quarter all of the UA writers pick a theme and write stories to that theme.  This quarter’s theme is Winter Witches.  Let me tell you, it was a lot of fun writing a story about snow when the temperatures were hitting the 90’s.  And yes, I listened to Christmas music while I wrote to get in the mood.  Doesn’t everyone listen to Christmas music in September? *g*

Check out the other amazing authors participating in this project:

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 Friday – The Magic of Home

This week’s free fiction story celebrates the first issue of the Uncollected Anthology with my contribution, The Magic of Home.  This story will be available to read for free right here until August 15th.  Enjoy!

Annie MM for website

THE MAGIC OF HOME

Annie Reed

The motorcycle whispered to Twig as they zoomed past the shipyards at the south end of Moretown Bay.

Home.

Tucked safely inside her helmet, the tips of Twig’s long ears quivered in response to the motorcycle’s rumbling voice. She felt its yearning not only in the subtle change in its magic, but in the throaty roar of the engine as they increased speed, racing north on I-5 toward the city that shared its name with the bay.

Twig leaned forward. “Almost there,” she said. “Almost there.”

Her words tore apart on the damp night air rushing past her, but she knew their meaning would still reach the heart of the machine that had been her friend for a decade. Not all magical beings needed ears to hear or words to understand.

As much as she wanted to get them both home, they couldn’t afford to draw the attention of any police—or wizards—who might be patrolling the freeway.

I-5 passed through the center of the city as the freeway wound its way north into Canada, a wide ribbon of asphalt and concrete hemmed in by high-rise office buildings, luxury hotels, and apartment buildings too rich for Twig’s blood. This part of the freeway had always been heavily patrolled. Twig doubted that had changed in the years she’d been gone, so she throttled back on the engine to bring their speed closer to the surrounding traffic.

The motorcycle fought her, so Twig whispered soothing words to it until it accepted her decision. She hoped it was the right one.

Under other circumstances, just seeing the city itself might have taken her breath away. Tonight the sky was clear. No fog had rolled in off the water to obscure the view, and the tall buildings in the city center gleamed like jewels against the starry sky. She could make out the spires of the Justice Center, gleaming white and silver like a monument to law and order for all, human and magic folk alike. Spotlights had turned the modern glass and steel Trexler Towers blue and green, the colors for a local sports team.

Twig wasn’t surprised that the city was still celebrating the team’s world championship, even though that particular sport wasn’t truly played on a global scale. Everyone, magic folk and humans alike, needed something outside themselves to believe in.

Hurry, the motorcycle whispered. Gillfoil approaches.

Twig tensed. As sensitive as her ears were to the currents of magic in the world around her, the motorcycle’s senses far exceeded hers. If the motorcycle felt the presence of the gang’s enforcer, that meant he was near.

“Where?” she asked.

Behind. Less than a mile.

“Can we make it?”

The motorcycle hesitated. Twig could imagine her friend calculating speed and distance, and the effect of mass and magic on both.

No.

(end of sample)

~~~

The Magic of Home is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

If you enjoyed this story, be sure to check out the other stories in the Uncollected Anthology series!

Free Fiction Thursday – With a Twist!

Hex webWe’re getting back on the Free Fiction Thursday bandwagon this week with something seriously cool.

The fine folks at WMG Publishing are offering a free podcast of my story “Dead Men Walking” for one week only starting today.  “Dead Men Walking” is one of a bunch of wonderful urban fantasy stories in Fiction River: Hex in the City edited by Kerrie L. Hughes.

I love this cover, don’t you?

“Dead Men Walking” introduces a new character to  Moretown Bay, a city in the Pacific Northwest where magic works and the place Diz & Dee call home.   Diz & Dee’s adventures are on the lighter side, but for attorney Dalton Garvey, life isn’t that easy, a lesson that’s driven home when an advertising campaign meant to garner new clients for his law practice goes horribly wrong.

Enjoy!

I’m a Podcast!

Well, not me exactly, but my story “The Shape of a Name” is this week’s featured podcast from the awesome publishing team at WMG.  🙂

Each week the WMG podcast features a story from their Fiction River original anthology series.  “The Shape of a Name” is one of the stories in Fiction River #2: How to Save the World edited by John Helfers.  There are some truly kickass stories in this anthology.  It’s available now in print and ebook, and an audiobook of the entire volume will be available in a couple of weeks.

How to Save the Worldthumb

Cool beans, right?  Two Free Fiction Thursday stories by me in one week.  What a deal!

Free Fiction Thursday – Lady of the Deep

Happy beginning of summer, everyone!

I don’t know how things are in your neck of the woods, but here in Northern Nevada it’s supposed to be hot this weekend.  Like record-setting hot.  Like hang out by a cool lake in the shade with a tall glass of iced tea and a good book, or maybe just park yourself next to the air conditioning.  With a good book.  Are you sensing a pattern? 😉

This week’s story features a hot day, a lake, and a legend that’s about to turn one guy’s fun day in the sun into something dark and dangerous.  I hope you enjoy “Lady of the Deep.”

Lady deep ebook 2013 small

 

Lady of the Deep

 Annie Reed

Copyright © 2011, 2013 by Annie Reed

A sandcastle competition.  At a man-made lake where the sand had to be carted in on dump trucks because the lake used to be a rock quarry, and the last thing those beaches had was any natural sand.  Greg had never heard of anything sillier, except maybe the fact that Sylvia wanted to watch the competition.

“It’s a hundred degrees out there,” Greg said.  “And you want to stand around and watch grown men play in the dirt.”

The two of them were sitting in Sylvia’s battered old Honda.  The parking lot at the public entrance to the lake was only half-full even though it was the second Saturday in July and the swimming was free, which meant the place should have been swarming with kids.  Even little kids had sense enough to stay inside out of the sun.

“Aw, c’mon,” Sylvia said.  “It’ll be fun.  We have sunscreen and an umbrella and a blanket in the back, and I bet they’re selling beer and hotdogs.  It’ll be just like a picnic.  Didn’t you ever go on a picnic?”

“No.”

Well, that wasn’t quite true, but Sylvia wouldn’t know that.  They’d only been dating a few weeks.  Sylvia was great in bed and easy to look at, even if she wasn’t exactly what Greg would call pretty, but she had this thing about being outdoors.  She liked to just sit outside and watch the world go by.  Sometimes she liked to go on walks.  Like on the concrete path around the outside of this particular lake.

“You need the fresh air,” she said.

Okay, sure, he worked in a cubicle farm all day, and left on his own, he’d play video games all night, but was that any reason to make him bake in the sun on the hottest day of the year?

“And if you’ve never been on a picnic…”  Sylvia let the thought hang in the air, like she wanted him to finish it.  When he didn’t, she said, “Well, we really need to go on a little picnic of our own, then.”  She leaned over the center console and kissed him.  “You can rub sunscreen all over me.”  She arched one eyebrow and kissed him again.  “And I can rub sunscreen all over you.”

Greg had a vision of Sylvia naked.  She did look pretty good with her clothes off.  And rubbing on sunscreen was a legitimate way of touching her in public without anyone raising a fuss.

“Then you can rub me more, later,” she said, her mouth up by his ear.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Firebug

Happy Thursday, everyone!

In honor of the release of a paperback edition of my five-story collection IT’S A CRIME (complete with free ebook version!), this week’s free fiction is “Firebug,” one of the five stories in the collection. Enjoy!

crime v5 ebook small

 

FIREBUG

Annie Reed

Copyright ©  Annie Reed

Me and Bobby, we started a fire yesterday in that empty house on Colfax, the one with the ugly puke-green Realty Masters “For Sale” sign in the front yard.  We got in through the patio door, real easy like.  The guys working on the inside, fixing up the place, they don’t always lock up when they leave.  I guess they think nobody notices, but I do.  Even I know better than to leave a house open like that. Just asking for trouble.

We were outside the AM-PM on Fourth and Garnett, hanging out in the shade, when I came up with the idea.  Me and Bobby, we went to AM-PM for drinks just like we always do.  I had a Mountain Dew with lots of ice.  I like lots of ice in the summer, crunch it between my teeth like candy.  Bobby was sucking down AM-PM’s lame-ass version of a sour berry Slurpee.  He stuck out his tongue every now and then just to gross me out, like a blue tongue is all that gross.  I’ve seen grosser.

I’d slipped a lighter in my jeans pocket when the AM-PM cashier wasn’t looking.  The lighter was clear orange plastic, the kind where you can see the fluid inside sloshing all around.  I almost forgot about it until I did that little jump-skip thing I do over cracks in the sidewalk, and I felt the lighter poking hard against my hip.

“Wanna see something cool?” I asked.

I took the lighter out of my pocket and showed it to Bobby, and all of a sudden, just like that, I had the idea.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Bluesman

Good morning, everyone!

This has been a pretty cool week so far.  Fiction River #1 – Unnatural Worlds – released this week with my brand new Diz & Dee story “Here, Kitty Kitty.”  I always love getting contributor copies.  There’s just something about holding the book in my hands — I don’t think I’ll ever get past the awesomeness of that. *g* If you’d like your very own copy, it’s available at Amazon in both ebook and paperback, and also from Ella Distribution.

I also have a new release from Thunder Valley Press.  “Bluesman” takes me back to the days when I actually played guitar– in front of an audience, no less — only thank goodness, I never had an experience like the blues guitarist in this story.  Enjoy!

Bluesman ebook cover small

Bluesman

 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright © 2013 by Annie Reed

Cover art Copyright © Depositphotos | InConcert

Johnny ripped the wrapping paper off what he knew had to be another lame-ass inspirational poster as his momma belted out the last off-key strains of “Happy Birthday.”

He’d put her call on speaker so he could hear her sing while he opened her present.  There for a minute, she’d actually made his cell phone rattle around the metal top of the battered TV tray he used for a table in the low-rent motel room where he lived.

She didn’t have the greatest singing voice, his momma.  She used to tell him he yanked whatever musicality she had right on out of her when he was born and took it all for himself.

What she lacked in skill, she more than made up for with enthusiasm and volume.  Every year she insisted on singing to him on his birthday whether they were together or not.  This year found him in Vegas trying to get a gig.  She was still back home in Mississippi.  As far as Johnny knew, she’d never left the delta, not in her entire life.

“Happy birthday, baby!” she said when she was done singing.  “How you like my present?”

For once, Johnny didn’t know what to say.

The posters his momma sent always had sayings like Soar With The Eagles or Believe In Yourself coupled with photographs of high mountain peaks covered in snow or beautiful, sandy beaches, the sun setting low over the water.

She was a great believer in the power of positive thinking.  Life had pretty much sucked the positive out of him, but every year he still thanked her for her gift and said something nice about it because she was his momma and she loved him, and it was only polite.

This year he couldn’t quite bring himself to say “Cool picture, momma,” or “You’re so good to me, thinking about me like that,” like he did usually did, even though he always threw the poster away as soon as he got off the phone.

“You got me dead rock stars?” he said instead.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Human Interest

Good morning, everyone.  Happy Thursday!

Whew!  This has been a busy last couple of weeks.  The fine folks at Thunder Valley Press are putting out paperback editions of a lot of my stories, and in the process updating the covers of some of my earlier publications.  A good example is this week’s free story, “Human Interest.”  Snazzy cover, right?  And the really cool thing about these paperback editions is that they come with a code for a free e-book copy of the same story.  If you’re at all like me, I love my e-reader, but I still like having paper books on the shelf.  Or shelves.  Multiple shelves.  Taking over the house. *g*

I also signed the contract for my story “Dead Men Walking” which will appear in Fiction River # 5, Hex in the City, edited by Kerrie Hughes. Isn’t that a gorgeous cover? Boy, I seem to be all about the covers this week.

Well, it’s not all about the covers, not on Free Fiction Thursdays. On with this week’s story, a cautionary science fiction tale. Enjoy!

Human interest v3 small

Human Interest

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2013 by Annie Reed

Cover Art Copyright Michael Knight | Dreamstime.com

Dusty, windblown sand pelted Samuel in the face when he stepped off the shuttle.

Great.  Just great.  Welcome to Paradise.  Another piece of shit town on a piece of shit planet at the edge of nowhere.  The absolute perfect place for the latest in a long string of crappy assignments for a vid reporter who knew his star had risen about as far as it was ever going to go.

Samuel ducked his head and raised his gloved hands to protect his face. His travel gear protected his body from the worst of the scouring sand, but he hadn’t covered up his face before he stepped out of the shuttle in case someone from the outpost expected a little meet and greet.  Over the years Samuel had discovered initial meetings worked best face to face.  When he established a personal connection early on, his interviews had the comfortable feel of two old friends sitting down for a chat.  Just the kind of vid shows his bosses wanted, and the kind of work that bored Samuel to death.

Only no one from Paradise had come out to meet the shuttle.  Samuel moved fast to secure a breather mask over his nose and mouth and flip down his helmet’s clear plexi shield.   The shield dimmed the glare from the system’s lone sun, hot and brilliant overhead even through the blowing sand.  The oxygen system in his mask kicked in, and he breathed in air that tasted flat and vaguely metallic instead of like something had burnt to a crisp about a million years ago. Technically humans could tolerate the air on Paradise, but Samuel had no desire to breathe dust and sand and who knew what else.  That nasty taste had to come from somewhere.

Part face guard, part heads-up display screen, the helmet’s shield kept the blowing sand out of Samuel’s eyes.  Still, the dry air seemed to suck all the moisture right out of him.  He wondered where the good citizens of Paradise hid their alcohol.  Good way to get to know the locals, sharing a drink or two.  Or ten.  Samuel really needed a drink.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – My Cousin, the Rabbit

Happy Thursday, everyone!

This weekend marks the second year I’ll be spending Easter at Sakura-Con in Seattle. Last year’s con experience had a direct influence on the brand new Diz and Dee story, “Here, Kitty Kitty,”  I wrote for Fiction River # 1 – Unnatural Worlds.  Who knows what kind of mayhem this year’s con will inspire. 🙂

You’ll be able to purchase Unnatural Worlds beginning next month. I’ve seen the rest of the stories in this volume, and trust me, they’re all kickass. I’m thrilled to be a part of the Fiction River family, and I’ll have some more cool announcements along that line as the year progresses. As they used to say in television land, “stay tuned.”

In the meantime, in honor of the holiday, this week’s Free Fiction Thursday story finds Diz and Dee tracking down Dee’s missing cousin Harold, who has a unique problem with the Easter season. I hope you enjoy “My Cousin, the Rabbit.”

my cousin cover art

My Cousin, The Rabbit

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2013 by Annie Reed

I was balancing my morning coffee and a bag of donuts in one hand and fumbling with the key to my office with the other when my cell phone rang.

I’m not a morning person.  I’m also not the world’s greatest cook.  Even though I live in the apartment upstairs from my office, I go out most mornings for coffee and something my mother would not approve of as breakfast food.  So when I recognized the ring tone I’d assigned to my mother — a snazzy little number that sounded like the music from Psycho right about the time Anthony Perkins goes gonzo on Janet Leigh with a knife in the shower — my first reaction was to drop the bag of donuts like a hot potato.

What?  Donuts?  Not me, mom.  I’m going upstairs to fix myself sprouts and granola right this minute.

Not that I had sprouts and granola in my apartment.  I barely had enough food for my cat.

The bag split open when it hit the sidewalk, spilling all that sugary goodness on the wet concrete.  So much for breakfast.  At least I still had my coffee.

I managed to get the office door unlocked and my cell phone out of my pocket before the call rang over to voicemail.

“Your cousin’s missing,” my mother said before I could even croak out a hello.

(read the rest of the story here)