Free holiday story!

If you’d like to read my holiday story “A New Home for Christmas” it’s available on my site free for one week only!

Click on This Link to go to the story, or click on Free Stuff in the menu on top of this post.

Enjoy!

Next week I’ll post a new holiday story, so be on the lookout, as they say.

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.

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!

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 – Roger’s Christmas Wish

Happy Thursday, everyone!

I’m having a blast this holiday season watching the Christmas episodes of my favorite shows.  First there was Castle, and tonight’s there’s a brand new Christmas episode of The Big Bang Theory.  I can’t wait!

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, just like for the young boy in this week’s story. Only this year a dark cloud has arrived to wreck Roger’s Christmas.  He has one last chance to set things right — he needs to catch Santa on Christmas Eve so he can make the most important wish he’s ever made in his life.  I hope you enjoy “Roger’s Christmas Wish.”

xmaswish1

ROGER’S CHRISTMAS WISH

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2010 Annie Reed

 Published by Thunder Valley Press

Roger couldn’t sleep.

It was Christmas Eve.  He was supposed to be asleep already—mom always said Santa wouldn’t come unless he was sleeping—but Roger was too nervous.

He planned to wake up after everyone else fell asleep so he could go sit in the living room by the Christmas tree and wait for Santa.  He even had his alarm clock set for two in the morning because he was pretty sure that’s when Santa would be there.  Last year Roger snuck out into the living room at three, but the cookies and milk his mom had left out for Santa were already gone, and Roger’s stocking was stuffed full of little wrapped presents.  Two o’clock had to be the right time, it just had to be. This year was too important.  He couldn’t miss Santa again.

Roger had stashed his wind-up clock under his pillow so that he’d be the only one to hear the alarm when the little hammer beat on the bells.  If the alarm woke up his parents, much less his grandmother, Roger would be in big time trouble.

No kid wanted to get in trouble right before Christmas, especially not on Christmas Eve.  Roger didn’t want to take the chance that Santa might cancel Christmas.  Things were already bad enough at his house.  He didn’t think he could stand it if Santa decided he was a bad little boy this year.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – The Case of the Missing Elf

Happy Thursday, everyone!

I feel like asking how Christmas shopping is going, but I’m afraid you’ll all throw things at me. That’s kinda what I felt like doing the other night when a perky local newscaster asked, since there were only 22 days until Christmas, if we were all stressed yet.

This week’s story features a group of stressed-out elves who’ve lost Santa’s stand in right before Christmas. Who do you call when you’ve got a missing person? Private detectives Diz and Dee, of course. Enjoy “The Case of the Missing Elf.”

missingelf_2 bright

THE CASE OF THE MISSING ELF

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2010 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

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.”

(read the rest of the story here)

New Holiday Story

If you’re looking for a holiday story with a touch of crime, I have a new story in the January 2013 holiday edition of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

Here’s what EQ says about the story:

Annie Reed’s funny but poignant “Carl of the Bells” explores the idea of charity during the bell-ringing season.

The holiday edition of Ellery Queen is available now in bookstores as well as a digital edition.

Free Fiction Thursday – My Cousin, the Rabbit

Good morning, everyone!

I can’t believe it’s almost Easter.  This year I’ll be spending Easter on the road while hubby stays home to take care of our high-maintenance cats.  I’ll miss hubby and the kitties while I’m gone, and I’ll also miss the cottontail bunny I see in my front yard almost every morning when I go out to start my car.

This week’s free story also has to do with bunnies and Easter, in a manner of speaking.  “My Cousin, the Rabbit” is a Diz & Dee fantasy mystery in which our intrepid heroes search for Dee’s missing cousin.  Enjoy!

My Cousin, The Rabbit

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Cover art Copyright 2010 by Ljupco at iStockphoto.com

 

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)

 

Free Fiction Thursday – Roger’s Christmas Wish

Good morning, everyone! Happy three days before Christmas.

If you’re still shopping, I wish you short lines and easy finds. In other words, no stress. The young boy in this week’s story has a whole different kind of wish. ROGER’S CHRISTMAS WISH is a sentimental look back at an earlier era, before iPods and Nintendo DX and PS3’s. I hope you enjoy it!

Roger’s Christmas Wish

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2010 by Annie Reed

Roger couldn’t sleep. 

It was Christmas Eve.  He was supposed to be asleep already — mom always said Santa wouldn’t come unless he was sleeping — but Roger was too nervous.

He planned to wake up after everyone else fell asleep so he could go sit in the living room by the Christmas tree and wait for Santa.  He even had his alarm clock set for two in the morning because he was pretty sure that’s when Santa would be there.  Last year Roger snuck out into the living room at three, but the cookies and milk his mom had left out for Santa were already gone, and Roger’s stocking was stuffed full of little wrapped presents.  Two o’clock had to be the right time, it just had to be. This year was too important.  He couldn’t miss Santa again.

Roger had stashed his wind-up clock under his pillow so that he’d be the only one to hear the alarm when the little hammer beat on the bells.  If the alarm woke up his parents, much less his grandmother, Roger would be in big time trouble. 

No kid wanted to get in trouble right before Christmas, especially not on Christmas Eve.  Roger didn’t want to take the chance that Santa might cancel Christmas.  Things were already bad enough at his house.  He didn’t think he could stand it if Santa decided he was a bad little boy this year.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Essy and the Christmas Kitten

Happy Thursday!

I’ll refrain from reminding everyone how many shopping days are left until Christmas. I don’t want things lobbed in my direction. 😉 I’m not quite done with shopping myself. I feel your pain.

The holidays bring a different sort of pain to the woman in this week’s story. ESSY AND THE CHRISTMAS KITTEN is about how one small kindness can make a world of difference. I hope you enjoy it.

Essy and the Christmas Kitten

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Image licensed by Depositphotos.com/Arina Verstova

   

The kitten looked like a cross between a drowned rat and one of those scary-looking bats with huge, radar ears.

Essy had been on her way out to scrape the latest accumulation of heavy, wet snow off her ten-year-old Toyota, a car that hadn’t tried — yet — to kill her by deciding all on its own to set a new land speed record, when she saw the kitten huddling beneath the prickly holly bush at the corner of her house.  Its grey fur was sopping wet.  Even without bending over to get a closer look, Essy could see it shivering as each new flake settled on its skinny body.

What in the world was a kitten doing out here all by itself?  At the end of November?

Essy didn’t exactly live at the edge of civilization, but her house was the last on the block.  Beyond her fence, the land rose up into the first of the rugged foothills that separated her subdivision from the newest cookie-cutter shopping center in the valley a mile away.  People didn’t usually dump unwanted animals on her street.  It was a dead end, which had suited Essy just fine when she bought her little house.

She supposed someone could have tossed the kitten out of a car and driven away.  Or a coyote could have gotten its mother, even though a kitten seemed like easier pickings.

Essy had no pets.  The days of pets and kids and a husband and work were long gone.  But she couldn’t leave a kitten out in the snow to freeze to death.

She crouched down in front of the bush, her knees protesting.  The kitten backed a couple of steps away, crying at her, all wide blue eyes and pointy baby teeth.  It couldn’t have been more than eight weeks old, if that.

Essy’s daughter had brought a baby kitten home one day from school.  Six weeks old, and little more than a fuzzy black fur ball on spindly legs.  “Mommy, can I keep her?”  Essy and her husband had never been able to say no, not when their daughter had her heart set on something, so the kitten had joined their family.  It was gone now, too.

“Come here, sweetheart,” Essy said to the sopping wet kitten.  “Where’s your momma, baby?”  She took off one leather glove and held her fingers out, hoping to entice it, but it backed away one more step, still crying.

(read the rest of the story here)