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 – Rolo the Great

Good morning, everyone!  Happy Thursday!

This week’s Free Fiction Thursday story is a brand new addition to the stories set in Moretown Bay, the Pacific Northwest town my detectives Diz and Dee call home.  “Rolo the Great” is not a Diz and Dee mystery, though.  It’s a romantic fantasy about a courtly street peddler who finally finds his one true love.  Only one problem: she’s trapped in the belly of a brass pig.

I hope you enjoy “Rolo the Great.”

Rolo the Great

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2012 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover and layout Copyright © 2012 Thunder Valley Press

Cover art © 2012 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 local 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.

You might think by now that I’m the headwaiter in the local looney bin, which in a way might be true.  I’m the assistant manager at Sessions, a sort of combination coffee shop/pastry shop/open mike night lounge (yes, such things really do exist), which means my customers range from the merely under-caffeinated office worker to the extremely over-caffeinated and severely depressed wannabe grunge rocker.  Sessions is located—you guessed it—on the corner of Fourth and Madison.  Since I’ve been at Sessions long enough to work my way up the non-corporate ladder from mere coffee brewer to coffee brewer with an official title, I’ve gotten to know all the regulars, including Rolo the Great.

“Matthew!” Rolo called out to me one night as he barreled in through the open front door.  “I have met the most extraordinary woman.”

(read the rest of the story here)