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*

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!

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 – 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!

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.