Freebies, New Releases, and a Great New Bundle!

Boy, there’s a lot of stuff going on around here for a Monday! Let’s dive right into it, shall we?

An astute reader recently asked me where the heck my Free Fiction Thursday stories went. Good question! I’ve been so busy working on new projects that my weekly free stories have fallen by the wayside. But no more! Free fiction rides again, only instead of once a week, I’ll be posting free stories once a month under the Free Stuff tab on this website.

First up is “The Magic of Home,” the first story I wrote for the Uncollected Anthology. “The Magic of Home” introduced Twig, my street-smart elf, and her friend Jocko, the oversized dwarf.  Why did I start out with a Twig and Jocko story?  I’m happy you asked, because I have a brand new release featuring my favorite mismatched elf and dwarf.

UNBROKEN FAMILIAR won’t officially be released until October 1st, but if you’d like to get your copy now, UNBROKEN FAMILIAR is part of the wonderful new The Universe Between Bundle over at StoryBundle!

In addition to UNBROKEN FAMILIAR, this bundle features nine other great fantasy books by some of the best writers working in urban and contemporary fantasy today. Here’s what bundle curator Dean Wesley Smith has to say about the idea behind the bundle:

I grew up on Twilight Zone back in the late 1950s and through the early 1960s. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I heard the sentence, “In the middle ground between light and shadow…” in that opening sequence to the Twilight Zone.

Thankfully, my parents didn’t seem to mind that I watched that show every week. And for some reason that sentence out of the opening sequence stuck with me for my entire life. I loved living in that middle ground. All my writing falls in the middle ground between two places. Every story. Some more obviously than others, but without a doubt, every story or novel that I write, or every book or magazine I edit, falls in the “between” place.

I revel in that, no matter how hard rules tried to force me one way or the other. I liked living there in the middle, in that place between light and dark. With this bundle, I was looking for the very same thing.

This bundle once again features one of my favorite charities, AbleGamers. So not only can you get UNBROKEN FAMILIAR two months early along with nine other great titles for one low price, you can support a nifty charity, too!  Don’t delay, though. StoryBundles are only available for a short time and then they’re gone for good.

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UNBROKEN FAMILIAR is just one of my new releases.  The latest issue of Fiction River – PULSE POUNDERS: ADRENALINE features my story “Dust to Dust.”

Here’s what editor Kevin J. Anderson had to say about “Dust to Dust.”

Annie uses her mystery and fantasy chops to create a heroine with a mission straight from Hell, a ruthless demon bounty hunter with a hole in her heart and a quest from that most horrible of bosses—and she manages to give us a story both edgy and touching.

Nifty, right? PULSE POUNDERS: ADRENALINE is available now in ebook and paper from your favorite online booksellers.

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And last, but certainly not least, the latest issue of the Uncollected Anthology – MYSTICAL MELODIES – just released my new story “The Last Night at the Crowley.”

People say haunted houses contain the longings and nightmares of the dead who couldn’t leave their lives behind.

But what about places where the living left parts of their souls behind? Where singers and musicians willingly played their hearts out, night after night, just for the love of music?

What haunts places like The Crowley?

Mazie’s about to find out.

You can purchase each individual story in MYSTICAL MELODIES from your favorite ebook distributor, or you can purchase the entire issue at one great low price!


That’s right, due to popular demand (and the great folks at BundleRabbit), we ‘re collecting the Uncollected these days. Check it out!

And happy reading!

A Bundle Here, a Bundle There…

This year is definitely turning into the year of the bundles, and I couldn’t be happier about that! Why? Because bundles are an awesome way for readers to get a whole lot of great fiction at a low, low price.

I want to tell you about not one, but two new bundles from the great folks at StoryBundle.

The first is the BUMP IN THE NIGHT THRILLERS bundle curated by award-winning author Kevin J. Anderson: If you’re ready for summer thrills and chills (ones that don’t even require air conditioning), you’ll love the new “Bump in the Night Thrillers” StoryBundle, which just launched today. Sixteen suspenseful, fun, and entertaining reads, including my story “Dust to Dust,” which is part of the brand spanking new Fiction River publication  Pulse Pounders 2: Adrenaline.

The bundle books include compelling urban fantasy reads with some of the strangest detectives you’ve ever met, including Dan Shamble Zombie P.I. in Kevin J. Anderson’s Unnatural Acts, as well as ghosts, elves, vampires, sorceresses, modern-day dragon slayers, immortal Shakespearean characters, and more in Dean Wesley Smith’s The Deep Sunset, R.R. Virdi’s Grave Beginnings, Patrick Hester’s Into the Fire, Susan Sizemore’s Living Dead Girl, J.A. Pitt’s Night Terrors, L. Jagi Lamplighter’s Prospero Lost, Alex Berg’s Red Hot Steele and Cold Hard Steele.

For thrilling adventures in other times and places, there’s Death Wind by Travis Heermann and Jim Pinto and Lady Sherlock by Brooks Wachtel. For straight suspense with a high-tech or a darker edge, you’ll enjoy the Daredevils Club novel Artifact written by Kevin J. Anderson, F. Paul Wilson, Matthew J. Costello, and Janet Berliner, and The Demon in Business Class by Anthony Dobranski, Whack Job by Mike Baron, and The Devil’s Churn by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

The bundle is only available through August 16. Get a huge bundle of reading material, help support indie authors, as well as the Challenger Center, a terrific non-profit organization that engages students and teachers in dynamic, hands-on exploration and discovery opportunities that strengthen knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), inspires students to pursue careers in these fields, and provides an outlet to learn and apply important life skills.

But that’s not all! (Here’s where I channel my inner late-night TV infomercial salesperson.)

If you love short fiction like I do, or if you love really digging into the worlds authors create, or if you love binge-watching TV series on your streaming service of choice and want to do that with your summer reading, have I got a deal for you!

THE SF&F BINGE READER BUNDLE, affectionately known as the Bundle Bundle, curated by award-winning author Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

I’ve kinda lost count of the number of stories I have in this bundle. I have four stories in the Uncollected Anthology’s Year 1 Omnibus, two stories in the Fiction River bundle (one’s a Diz & Dee story!), and one story in the The Faerie Summer bundle. That’s it. I think.

Here’s what Kris has to say about the Bundle Bundle:

Usually, StoryBundle provides bundles of books, individual titles by individual authors who band together to provide a great reading bundle.

This time, individual authors and editors have banded together with bundled books to give you the deal of the summer.

By my count (and I might be a bit math-challenged), you get 19 standalone novels in this bundle. Some of the novels are long, and some of them are short. But 19 novels! Plus more short stories than I’m willing to count, wrapped in 7 anthologies and a gigantic bundle that is bigger than your average anthology.

What kind of fiction will you find here? Science fiction and fantasy only, but written in such a way as to blur the lines of genre. You’ll find books in which high-tech gaming meets the world of faerie, books which hack reality (and involve crime lords!), time travel to the Old West, wreck diving in space, space pirates (!), librarian witches (complete with feline familiars), and the Fates—who just got fired.

Honestly, there are so many books and stories in this bundle that even if you’re the world’s pickiest reader, you’ll find a series or a group of books that are perfect for you. You’ll be saving a bundle too, since these boxed sets and omnibuses and bundles all retail for at least $10 (ebook) and sometimes much more.

Oh…and if you’re so inclined…please toss in a few extra dollars to help AbleGamers. AbleGamers tailors game equipment and systems to help disabled gamers join the large online community of gaming, providing social outlets and entertainment for folks who usually struggle to participate. Since two of our book series deal with gaming in this bundle, I figured AbleGamers would be the appropriate charity to add on.

Like all great deals, though, this one’s around for a limited time only. The Bundle Bundle, or the Binge Readers Bundle, or the “I can’t believe I got such a great deal on all these books!” Bundle is only available until August 9.

Publishing news!

Some exciting publishing news this week!

First of all, I can finally announce that my story “The Color of Guilt” has been selected as part of the YEAR’S BEST CRIME & MYSTERY STORIES 2016!!  Look at the names on this cover — Joyce Carol Oates, Mary Higgins Clark — wow!  Another one of my stories, “The Flower of the Tabernacle,” made Honorable Mention (along with a Stephen King story; color me gobsmacked!).

Mystery_Anthology_draft_ver6_8Many thanks to editors John Helfers and Kristine Kathryn Rusch for including me among such stellar writers. THE YEAR’S BEST CRIME & MYSTERY STORIES 2016 is available now at Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.

The newest issue of the Uncollected Anthology is also available!

TrampsThievesReed600x900The theme this time around is Fortune Tales, and features my story “Tramps & Thieves” along with stories by guest author Stephanie Writt, and UA members Leah Cutter, Rebecca Senese, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Leslie Claire Walker.  Great urban fantasy reading!  Check it out here.

FINAL+cover+-+3200x4800And in case you missed the Fantasy in the City bundle, all twenty stories are now available in one big book for $3.99, but for a limited time only!  What a deal!  The book’s available at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks for $3.99.  FANTASY IN THE CITY includes my Diz & Dee story “Here, Kitty Kitty.”

Cool stuff!

The newest issue of the Uncollected Anthology is out!  Woohoo!  This time around we’ve got great stories by guest author Ron Collins and regulars Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Leslie Claire Walker, Leah Cutter, Dayle Dermatis, and our newest regular member Rebecca M. Senese (rhymes with menace *g*).

Oh, and I have a story in this issue too. *g*  A brand new Diz and Dee mystery, no less! Take a look at this cool cover:

Woods cover 200x300Here’s the blurb:

Private detectives Diz and Dee have worked for some pretty odd clients. Leprechauns. Fairies. The occasional Greek God.

Even Dee’s mother.

But their newest client could be the oddest yet.

Horror movie director Morte (as in death; he had it legally changed) can’t find the star of his latest B-movie flick, currently filming in the woods outside Moretown Bay. The guy’s a method actor who needs to “live the part,” and he occasionally takes off to do a little research. Only this time he’s playing a werewolf, and the full moon is right around the corner.

Hollywood invades the offices of D & D Investigations in this latest addition to the Diz & Dee mystery series!

Nifty, right?  The story’s available at the usual ebook vendors.  I had a blast writing this one. I hope you enjoy it!

~~~

I’m participating in an upcoming bundle over at Bundle Rabbit (which my subconscious insists on referring to as Bundle Bunny).  More details to follow, but in the meantime, take a look at some of the great bundles going on right now.  Great deals on a whole lot of good fiction!

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Speaking of great deals, Dean Wesley Smith has put all six weeks of his Originality in Fiction online workshop up on YouTube for free!  Go check this one out, especially you writers out there.  I took this workshop a couple of years ago, and it’s well worth your time.

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 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!

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!