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.

Free Fiction Thursday – Reboot

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Regular visitors will notice the old website’s undergone a bit of a change.  Spring cleaning, virtual style.  I’m trying to make it easier for readers to find my stories, plus give everyone a head’s up when I’ve got new things coming out.  The sub-categories under the Fiction tab are still under construction, but we’re getting there.  Plus a lot of my older publications are getting snazzy new covers for the new editions, many of which are now in paperback as well as e-book.  Changes, I tell you — changes!

In honor of all those changes — not to mention the return of Free Fiction Thursday — this week’s story is “Reboot,” a time-traveling science fiction tale.  Enjoy!

Reboot ebook cover small


 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright © 2013 by Annie Reed

“Are you going to miss it?  Being a hero?”

I heard snickers and groans, pretty typical for a crowded classroom full of nine-year-olds.  I’ve been in enough of them over the years to know.  These days the desks are all molded plastic, clean-lined, ergonomic, not the knee-scraping wood and metal-framed contraptions I grew up with.  The cafeteria smell’s gone, too; now it’s the smell of too many bodies crowded together in too small a space.  Everything’s more crowded these days.

The girl who’d asked me the question, a pretty thing with braids in her auburn hair and shaved patches the size of my thumb on the sides of her skull—the newest thing in fashion, my granddaughter tells me—blushed a bit but managed to keep looking at me.

“Children!”  That was the teacher, a harried woman whose face—lined around her mouth, weary shadows underneath her eyes—looked every one of her middle-aged sixty or so years.

“That’s okay, that’s okay,” I said.  I held my hands up in a shushing gesture and the room quieted down.  I smiled at the girl with the braids and naked strips of pink scalp.  “It’s a legitimate question.  Not the first time I’ve been asked, so don’t go getting embarrassed, no matter what these guys think.”  I winked at her and she smiled back.  I still had some of my old charm.   At least it still seemed to work on nervous nine-year-old girls.

(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 |

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 – Actual Darkness

Happy first Thursday in 2013, everyone!

I don’t know about you, but I had a very nice, mellow New Year’s Eve. In fact, I didn’t even notice the new year had arrived until about three minutes after midnight. At least I was awake this year. My family likes to tease me about the fact that most years I’m asleep by midnight even though I try not to be.

This week free fiction returns to Thursday with a science fiction story that’s definitely on the noir side. The title for “Actual Darkness” came from my friend Marcelle Dubé, a marvelous writer. Enjoy!

actual darkness ebook large


Actual Darkness

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2012 by Annie Reed

When the naked woman fell on the hood of Jefty’s cab, at first I thought she was one of them End Times partiers jumping off the top floor of The Wynn.

People can’t take it, you see. End of the world’s not just a Bible thumper story, not no more. People see that dull light in the sky that used to be the sun and they get scared. So the rich ones throw parties to make themselves feel better. The hangers-on and party girls, they show up too, and when they all get drunk enough and stoned enough they think they can fly, well, they up and step off the roof. Guess it eases the pain, but it sure makes a godawful mess for those of us trying to get by best we can.

Most times the sun’s still got enough juice left you can see those damn fools plummeting down soon enough to avoid ’em, but once it gets to be about four in the afternoon, even the headlights on the cab ain’t enough to cut through the gloom, not now that half the damn neon on The Strip’s all busted up and nobody cares to fix it.

Now, if the cab was mine, I wouldn’t be driving it all hours like Jefty does. He says driving a cab up and down The Strip’s all he knows how to do, and that even in end times people still got places to go. I guess that’s true enough, but the end times we’re living in robs people of their good sense, just like them partiers falling from the sky. Some people who get in Jefty’s cab don’t want to pay him for their ride, or they might think about taking Jefty’s cab for themselves. That’s where I come in. Me and my gun.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – My Father, the Popsicle

Good morning, everyone! We’re back on Thursday this week. Yay!

I don’t know about you, but at my house we’re gearing up for Thanksgiving, which seems very early this year to me. I’m just not ready for turkey day. I finally started cubing and drying out day-old bread for stuffing, and tomorrow night I go out to my friendly neighborhood Trader Joe’s on the hunt for a turkey that weighs less than twenty pounds. Wish me luck!

Now on to the free story. This week we have “My Father, the Popsicle,” a story about a girl who believed she was an orphan, right up until the day she got a letter concerning her father, who’s not quite as dead as she thought. Enjoy!


My Father, The Popsicle

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Cover art Copyright Thierry Maffeis at

Jodi thought she was an orphan until one sweltering Thursday night in late June when she received The Letter from Billingsly, Wendham & Owens, Attorneys at Law.

That’s how she always thought of it after that.  The Letter.  Wasn’t that how you were supposed to think about things that changed your life?  Capitalized and important?

At first she thought the whole thing was a joke.  She’d just worked a double shift at Hot Dog on a Stick in the new mall south of town.  She was dead tired and sick of the smell of lemons, corn dog batter, and hot grease.  Her head hurt from pulling up her hair under that stupid striped hat, her shoulders ached from all the fresh lemonade she had to mix, and to top it all off, the air conditioning had been out on the bus ride home.  To say the bus had been fragrant was the understatement of the century.  She was in no mood for jokes.  Her roommate Harry had a pretty twisted sense of humor.  A fake letter from an attorney was just his style, but tonight the joke wasn’t funny.

“I ought to rip him a new one,” Jodi muttered as she opened her front door.  “Hear that, Harry?” she said to her empty apartment.  “I ought to rip you a new one.”

Not that Harry would be home yet.  Harry worked as a bartender at the only gay club in town.  Tonight he was on swing shift.  Whether he could hear her or not, after a day spent swallowing the snappy comebacks she wanted to make to clueless customers whose IQ wasn’t much higher than the hotdogs they ate, muttering about Harry’s lack of humor sure as hell made her feel better.

Still, the envelope did look kind of authentic.

Jodi dropped her keys and the rest of the mail on the coffee table.  It was all junk mail flyers and offers for credit cards neither one of them could afford, so it didn’t much matter where she left it.  She plopped down on the couch she’d rescued from a second-hand store, slipped off her sensible, style-free shoes so she could stretch her toes into the carpet, and ripped open the envelope.

She skimmed through the introductory stuff.  Dear Ms. blah-blah-blah I represent more blah-blah-blah bankrupt estate.  The word assets caught Jodi’s eye, but the word that brought her up short was father.


If this was Harry’s idea of a joke, it definitely wasn’t funny.  He knew she had no sense of humor when it came to her family, or lack thereof.

She ended up reading The Letter three times in a row, each time with an ever-increasing shakiness in the pit of her stomach, not to mention a growing sense of unreality.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Friday – Another Door

Good morning, everyone!

Once again, Thursday has morphed into Friday this week. Hours have changed a bit at the day job, making my days a little longer. Combine that with the end of daylight savings time and a presidential election, and… well… this week just flew right on by.

I have good news, though. I have a brand-new five-story collection out, TURNING THE PAGE, all about strong women facing a turning point in their lives. This week’s story is from that collection. I hope you enjoy “Another Door.”

Another Door
Annie Reed

Copyright © 2012 Annie Reed

 Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover art Copyright © Nataliia Bielous |

Mavis Trimble dug her husband’s grave beneath the white oak tree where he’d proposed to her thirty-one years ago to the day.

It took her the better part of the morning to hack her way with a shovel through the first few inches of cold, root-choked ground.  There were easier places to dig a grave, but Mavis hadn’t picked the spot just because it was where Edgar proposed.

The white oak was the tallest tree in the windbreak behind their Iowa farmhouse, and Edgar had been a tall man.  The rope swing Mavis’s daddy had hung from the oak’s branches was still there, frayed now with age.  When she was a girl just beginning to notice that boys were good for something other than teasing, Mavis used to sit in that swing and dream about the handsome man she’d marry someday.  Edgar hadn’t been all that handsome, but he’d been a good, decent man who’d loved her with all his heart, and she’d loved him with all of hers.  Mavis wanted to lay his memory to rest in a spot that was special to her no matter how much hard work it took to dig the grave.

Before the sun climbed high overhead, Mavis gave up on the shovel and started attacking the rocks and roots with a pickaxe.  She worked up a serious sweat as she got into a steady rhythm with her swing.

It felt comforting to be warm.  The sun wasn’t much good for that these days.  The sky as far as she could see was filled with the same dark, ashy clouds that had been there the day before, and the day before that.  The clouds made the sun look like a pale, pitiful ghost of itself.

She should have started with the pickaxe, but the pickaxe had been in the heavy equipment barn, and that had been Edgar’s place.  Mavis didn’t like to go in the barn anymore.  The tractor and cultivator and corn harvester they’d put themselves in debt to buy were her husband’s babies, and they looked forlorn and abandoned without Edgar to take of them.  No one had used the machines since her husband left to fight in the war.  Mavis doubted anyone would ever need to use them again.

The life Mavis and Edgar had worked so hard to build for themselves was gone.  The farmland might have been in Mavis’s family for generations, but Edgar made it bloom.  He’d planted hundreds of acres of corn year after year, an ocean of green that stood eight feet, ten feet high, almost as far as the eye could see.  All that hard work had finally started to pay off.  This year had looked like the second in a row their family farm would turn a profit.

Their ocean of green was dead now.  The middle of August, and the stalks were brittle and dry and frozen, and like everything else in the world, covered with dry, dusty ash.

Mavis knew she should have worn a mask over her mouth while she dug, but did it even matter anymore?  A coughing fit nearly doubled her over, and she had to lean on the handle of the pickaxe to keep herself upright.

“Pitiful,” she said when she got her breath back.  The grave she worked so hard to dig was twelve inches deep, if that.  It was almost like the land was refusing to believe what Mavis knew in her heart.

“He’s not coming back, you hear?” she told the farm.  “I’ve accepted it.  Why can’t you?”

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – The Galaxy’s Most Wanted

Happy Thursday, everyone! How’s your day going so far?

Last weekend a lot of my buddies were in Chicago for Worldcon. Me? I went to SacAnime with my daughter. Had a lot of fun people-watching while standing in really long lines, met a couple of cool artists, and enjoyed the cosplayers even when I didn’t know what character they were playing.

This week’s story is about a different kind of cosplayer — a guy who pretends to be someone he’s not just so he can make time with the ladies. All well and good, until he tries his patter on the wrong woman. I hope you enjoy “The Galaxy’s Most Wanted.”


The Galaxy’s Most Wanted

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2012 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover and layout Copyright © 2012 Thunder Valley Press

Last time I counted, I had two hundred fifty-seven wives and four hundred thirteen children.  Five hundred forty-one nieces and nephews.  A couple hundred pistol toting fathers-in-law.  And a dog.

I’m also wanted on seventeen planets in sixteen different systems.  That’s not counting all the outstanding interstellar warrants against me for child abandonment, failure to support, and back alimony.

Yeah, I used to be something, all right.  I don’t look like much, not anymore.  At least not compared to the pretty woman who brought me out tonight.  Yeah, that’s her.  The brunette.  Curves in all the right places.  She’s sitting on the bar stool to my right, flirting with the hunky bartender, he of the bulging muscles and piercing blue eyes, full head of blond hair, and easy smile.  If I had looked like Mr. What Can I Get A Pretty Little Thing Like You To Drink Tonight, I wouldn’t be in this mess.  Guys like me, we have to try harder.

That’s how the whole mess I’m in started, trying to get women to pay attention to me.  A little lie here, an embellishment there.  What’s the harm?  So I don’t actually own a star cruiser (I am – or was – the third assistant to the second shift lead maintenance tech on the refuse recycling scow that ran between Omicron and Zeta Sawh, but who’s quibbling?) and I’m not the man who ran a high quality bootlegging outfit on New Marris Prime (although I never said no to a decent alcoholic beverage), but a guy like me’s got to have a little edge, you know?  Something to get a girl to look past the receding hairline and paunchy belly, and the fact that I’m a little short.  Okay, a lot short.  But I do come up to at least shoulder height on most humanoid women.  Not all that bad from my perspective, if you think about it.

That’s my problem, you see.  I just always liked women more than they liked me.

Even the ones I shouldn’t have.  Like the pretty brunette on the bar stool next to me.

The first time I saw her I’d just walked into a dark, dingy bar at the end of a long, uneventful recycling trip.  I mean really – how much trouble can a guy get into on a ship full of recycled garbage?  Bored and more than a little bit lonely for some female companionship, I cleaned myself up, spritzed on my favorite deodorizing aftershave, charged up my tally card with the money I’d earned on the trip, and went looking to get laid.

I found Brina.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Harley and the Alien

Happy Thursday, everyone!

It looks like my website is being cranky this morning when it comes to letting me post pictures, so for right now I can’t show you the nifty cover for my five-story collection ALL FALL DOWN. Bummer! But I can still post free fiction on this sunny, hot, first Thursday morning in August. *g* EDIT:  Yay!  The cover’s available now.  Thank goodness for technology that resolves itself. 😉

This week’s story is about a time traveler who never expected he’d be in any time zone long enough to have a family.  Funny how life turns out. But what happens when history finally catches up to him? I hope you enjoy “Harley and the Alien.”

Harley and the Alien

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2011 Annie Reed

 Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover art Copyright © Rejnkarlgren|

Cover and layout Copyright © 2012 Thunder Valley Press

Harley was named after the motorcycle her momma won from her daddy in a game of chicken.

Until she was ten, Harley always thought that meant her momma and her daddy shuffle-danced around each other, flapping their arms like they were wings and making bwack-bwa-bwa-bwack! sounds at each other, until her daddy fell down and her momma got to crow out a victory caw.  Harley got somewhat disillusioned—and a little terrified, to be honest—when I told her playing chicken meant her momma rode a borrowed motorcycle straight at her daddy while each of them pointed ten foot hollow pipes they’d scavenged from a junk yard at each other, like they were knights riding on horses or something.

Well, the story goes that Harley’s momma knocked her daddy clean off his hog, like to put that metal pipe right through his shoulder, and then muscled his motorcycle up off the pavement and rode on out of town before his boys could catch her.

By then it was too late to undo the lovin’ that would eventually become Harley.  Even for a woman as tough as Harley’s momma, being alone with a baby on the way wasn’t easy in those days, so Harley’s momma—Maxine was her name—went home to live with her daddy, Big George.

That’s me.  Big George Wannamaker, and I’m an alien.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – The Forever Soldier

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Wow, next Thursday we’ll be into August.  I can’t believe how fast this year has flown by, much less how fast July has zipped right on past.  There’s less than a week to take advantage of the half-price sale of my short-story collections over at Smashwords.  This week’s story comes from my science-fiction collection THE FOREVER SOLDIER AND OTHER FUTURE TALES, on sale at Smashwords for 50% off the $3.99 cover price.  Enjoy!


Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Cover illustration Copyright Ralf Kraft at

Cover layout by Thunder Valley Press

“I decided what I want on my tombstone,” Roger Three said.

Roger Two looked down at Three’s inert body.  “What, ‘death by stupidity’?”

Three laughed, a hollow, empty sound intended to cover the sick pit-of-the-stomach feeling she always got whenever she had to look down at her own body, dead and discarded on the battlefield like so much forgotten trash.  “I was thinking more along the lines of ‘death by clumsy’.”

Two didn’t laugh.  Three didn’t think she’d ever seen him even smile.  Then again, facing the reality of your own dead body wasn’t a laughing matter for most Rogers.  Three just had a highly evolved sense of gallows humor born of long experience and a desire to stay sane.

A rocket arced overhead, one of the big numbers, the kind that blew out entire buildings without breaking a sweat.  The rocket’s trajectory pegged it as one of theirs.  With any luck it would punch a hole through enemy lines, giving soldiers like Three a chance to fight their way through without getting blown to bits.  Unless, of course, they’d blown themselves up from their own damn clumsiness.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – The Liar

Good morning, everyone!  How’s Thursday treating you so far?

There’s a photo making the rounds on Facebook these days that’s very popular with a lot of my writer friends.  In the photo, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey, Jr., and Mark Ruffalo, aka Captain America, Thor, Ironman, and the Hulk, are all pointing at the camera with very superhero-ish looks on their faces.  Someone added the caption “You Should Be Writing!” at the bottom of the photo.  See why it’s popular with writers?  I’m thinking about printing it and taping it over my computer monitor.  There’s nothing wrong with inspiration coming in eye-candy packages. *g*

This week’s story features another writer who should be writing, but isn’t.  I hope you enjoy “The Liar.”  It will be free to read for a week.


The Liar

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

The steady rise and fall of his chest against her bare back soothed her, and the champagne tickled her nose.  Or was it the bubblebath?  Marie took another drink from the crystal flute.  She never drank champagne, but she would never have another opportunity.

Candlelight softened the alabaster ceramic tile on the walls and the plain white of her tub.  Flames glinted off the crystal and made it sparkle, and warm jasmine-scented water enveloped her.  The soft guitar of a William Ackerman song drifted in from the living room.  The moment was perfect enough that she almost forgot.

Almost, but not quite.

Marie closed her eyes and leaned her head on Brian’s shoulder.  “I’m going to miss this.”

Soft lips touched her temple.  “Not much time left,” Brian said.

“I know.”  She turned her head and nuzzled his neck, eyes still closed.  “You were my favorite.”

He chuckled.  “Liar.”

(read the rest of the story here)