Interview: Annie Reed on “The Fixer”

“The Fixer” by Annie Reed

When Amelia botched her first spell as a kid, her parents enrolled her in an after-school program that taught her how to fix her screw-ups. She loved doing this so much that as an adult she opened her own business to help people who couldn’t get their spells to work quite right.

Now the best spell reclamation wizard in the business, she’s never run into a spell she couldn’t fix…until now. And to make matters worse, the spell in question is one of her own, pirated by a shady online wizarding school out to bilk unsuspecting wannabe wizards—and ruin Amelia in the process.

The Fixer” is one of the 15 tales in the Magicks & Enchantments anthology, which is available for a limited time in the Wild Magic bundle.

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Excerpt

A blast of arctic air along with the smell of something not quite right assaulted Amelia when she stepped off the elevator into the lobby of her apartment building.

“Holy crap,” she muttered to herself, pulling her sweater tightly around her shoulders and wrinkling her nose.

Moretown Bay in June wasn’t the warmest place on the planet—the days were overcast and the offshore breezes blew in chilly, humid air from the bay—but usually a light coat or windbreaker was sufficient. The city wasn’t Juneau, Alaska, for goodness sake.

Amelia didn’t even own a down jacket. In all her years living in Moretown Bay, she’d never needed one. Raincoat? Oh my, yes. She had three, but no down jackets.

Today had dawned sunny and warm—for once—and she thought she’d be fine with a light sweater. The weather shouldn’t have changed that much during the short elevator ride from her apartment on the ninth floor to the lobby. Strictly speaking, it shouldn’t have changed at all.

Although her apartment building wasn’t in the ritziest part of town, the lobby wasn’t an open-air affair. The last time she’d checked, the building’s heating system had been working just fine. The lobby shouldn’t make her feel like she’d stepped into a walk-in freezer.

And the smell? Moretown Bay usually smelled like any other big coastal city—exhaust fumes from cars and busses, cooking smells from restaurants and those little hibachi things people used on their apartment balconies, and the smell of people (washed, unwashed, or perfumed and body-sprayed within an inch of their lives)—overlaid with the musty odor of the bay.

None of those odors quite described the smell in the lobby. More like an undercurrent of something horrible, like a combination of overripe skunk and fermented garbage pit dialed down to a level that barely registered.

Even trolls and goblins didn’t smell quite like that.

Magic. It had to be.

—from “The Fixer” by Annie Reed

The Interview

Amelia, the protagonist in “The Fixer,” has a knack for reversing spells, which she describes as “like figuring out a giant puzzle made entirely of magic.” Do you plan to write more stories about this character?

I might. Amelia’s a really interesting character. She started life as a side character in a never-to-be-published Diz & Dee novel I wrote for myself to work out the characters and their world and most importantly how magic works and is regulated in that world. She really grew into her own in “The Fixer.” I’d like to introduce her into a Diz & Dee story someday, if not write an entirely new project focusing on her.

You’ve set “The Fixer” in the fictional town Moretown Bay, which is the setting for a number of your stories. Tell us about the town and the world you’ve created, and why you enjoy writing in it.

I adore the Pacific Northwest, which is why I live in the desert. (Not really.) But seriously, the Seattle, Washington, area is one of my favorite places in the world. I created a fictional version of Seattle called Moretown Bay, which lets me play in my version of the area, not to mention change a few things up to suit the stories. And since I really like writing stories where magic and everyday life intersect, I made the world in which Moretown Bay exists a place where magic intersects with contemporary life.

Since Moretown Bay is a big city, I can write a pretty wide variety of stories, from the more lighthearted Diz & Dee mysteries (Diz is an elf; Dee is a human with precognitive abilities) to the darker Tales From the Shadows stories to something like “Deadbeats,” which is the story of a police officer on her first undercover assignment to catch a warlock. I’ve even written what I plan is the first of many standalone Moretown Bay novels – IRIS & IVY, the story of a woman’s quest to track down the killer who murdered her twin.

If you’ve ever been to Seattle, you might even catch fictionalized versions of some iconic Seattle neighborhoods and attractions in my Moretown Bay stories.

Why do you think so many people are drawn to reading stories about magic?”

That’s a hard one. I can only answer for myself. I like to imagine there’s more to the world than meets the eye. I write mysteries to impose some sort of order on the chaos that is real life. Incorporating magic into the mix sometimes is the only way to realistically impose order on chaos. (I know, that’s a weird way of putting it, but in real life the bad guys don’t always get caught.) I especially like writing about magic—and reading stories about magic—when the real world seems totally out of control. Writing and reading stories about magic is my literary comfort food.

You’re a founding member of the Uncollected Anthology, a group of writers who publish three urban and contemporary fantasy anthologies each year. What do you most enjoy about being a part of this collective?

I get to write themed stories with my friends. That’s first and foremost. It’s a group effort, and whenever groups of writers come together, like in a workshop, the creative energy is off the charts. That’s how the Uncollected Anthology started—as a way to keep that creative energy flowing beyond the workshop setting, with the added goal of introducing the fans of each writer to other writers in the group they might enjoy. I get so many new stories ideas, especially for the Moretown Bay stories, just because of my involvement in this group.

Plus, some of the themes have really made me stretch my writing chops. I mean, take Magical Motorcycles, which was our first issue. I never would have thought up that theme on my own, but the story I wrote for that issue—”The Magic of Home”—gave birth to Twig, a decidedly opinionated and tough-as-nails elf who’s since gone on to star in her own novella “Unbroken Familiar” and the novelette “Murder’s Revenge,” which is part of THE WILD HUNT anthology. All of Twig’s stories are also set in Moretown Bay.

The Diz & Dee Mysteries is a series of short stories you’ve written that combines mystery and fantasy. In August 2021, the Conjuring Crimes issue of the Uncollected Anthology will contain a brand-new story set in this world. Can we have a sneak peek?

Sure! Here’s an excerpt from the opening to “Maggie’s Missing Mojo” which will be available on August 1st:

Diz and I were in the middle of a conversation about the sorry state of our finances when the masseuse from across the street swept into our office. She gave me a wild-eyed look and said, “I need your help.”

My name is Dee. I’m a private investigator. My partner Diz and I run D & D Investigations out of a storefront that used to house a bakery. On a damp day—and it’s always damp in Moretown Bay—our office is haunted by the aroma of donuts past.

Magdalena the masseuse has been a fixture in the neighborhood for years. She opened her massage parlor long before Diz and I stopped investigating magic-related crimes for the Police Department to go private. She was one of the first to welcome us to the neighborhood with a batch of brownies that had a little extra added ingredient. I only had a few nibbles to be polite. Diz ate the rest. He’s an elf. The extra ingredient didn’t phase him.

She’s a genial woman who’s about my age, as unique as her hand-embroidered hip-hugger jeans, wide-brimmed hats, and silky blouses that billow around her like those poet shirts men used to wear a couple of centuries ago. She always makes me think of fresh spring days and fields of wildflowers and soft breezes through tall pines. Although that could just be the aromatherapy oils she uses in her business.

If I could read auras (which I can’t), most days hers would be tinged a serene rose pink.
Not today though. Today serene was out the window.

That’s not all that unusual. People who need our services aren’t calm and collected. Diz and I specialize in looking for missing people. By the time someone comes to us, they’ve already gone to the police and the police haven’t been able to help. Our clients are frustrated and upset and frequently angry, and it’s my job to calm them down enough to have a conversation about whoever’s missing.

“What’s wrong?” I asked in my most calm, professional, you can tell me anything tone.
Diz always lets me take the lead when we interview new clients. Especially the ones who are visibly upset. He’s not exactly a calming influence.

When most people think “elf,” they envision Legolas from those movies. Or maybe Santa’s elves, the short ones who dress in red-and-green tunics and candy-cane striped leggings. That’s definitely not Diz. If Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) ever starred in a movie as an elf, Diz could be his stunt double.

Except for the hair. Diz has marvelous hair.

He’s also tall, broad shouldered, strong jawed, and has drop-dead gorgeous blue eyes. Not to mention gloriously pointy ears. I’m not ashamed to admit I have a thing for Diz’s ears—not that I’d ever tell him that.

He also has resting glower face.

When we worked as detectives for the police department, I was the good cop. Diz was the rip your arm off and beat you senseless with it cop. More times than not suspects would confess just because Diz glowered at them from the other side of the interrogation table. He didn’t even have to move a muscle. We had an amazing closure record. The department was sorry to see Diz go.

Me? Not so much. I don’t blame them. I’m a plain old human who’s pushing thirty, and my only superpower is an unreliable ability to see things that might happen. At some unknown time in the future. Maybe.

Magdalena is used to Diz and his glower. She gives him massages every now and then. He even treated me to one of her specials—a two-for-one Valentine’s Day deal. (He was the two to my one.) Although I’d been mildly disappointed that we hadn’t been in the same massage room, I’d managed to catch a glimpse of his towel-clad derriere. I’d had extremely pleasant dreams for weeks afterwards.

Diz usually excuses himself whenever a new client comes in the office so that his glower doesn’t intimidate someone who doesn’t know him. Since our new client was Magdalena, he sat down in his favorite place in our front office, a little loveseat we keep in the front office to make it look less like a police interrogation room and more like your best friend’s home office.

Instead of launching into what was wrong, Magdalena looked around herself uncertainly. She’d never been in our office before as a client, and I guess she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do next. Kind of like how I felt walking into her massage parlor for the first time and wondering when I should start taking my clothes off and exactly how naked I was supposed to get.

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m always working on more than one thing. Besides putting the finishing touches on “Maggie’s Missing Mojo” (the Diz & Dee stories are always a lot of fun), I’m finishing up a crime novel while I’m noodling around with a mystery story that’s due in a few weeks for the winter issue of MCM (Mystery, Crime & Mayhem). I’ll also be working shortly on a story for SILENCE IN THE CITY, a really cool anthology project recently funded through Kickstarter and edited by Shaun Kilgore.

I have such a blast working in multiple genres. That’s what makes writing fun for me. I tell people I have butterfly brain, flitting from one genre to the next, but I really think it’s just because I love reading all sorts of stories in all sorts of genres. Same with movies and TV shows. My viewing habits are all over the place. Writing in a lot of different genres keeps me—and I hope my readers—entertained.

About Annie

A prolific and versatile writer, Annie’s a frequent contributor to both Fiction River and Pulphouse Fiction Magazine. Her recent work includes the near-future science fiction short novel In Dreams, the gritty urban fantasy novel Iris & Ivy, and the superhero novel Faster. Annie’s stories appear regularly on Tangent Online’s recommended reading lists, and “The Color of Guilt,” originally published in Fiction River: Hidden in Crime, was selected as one of The Best Crime and Mystery Stories 2016. She’s even had a story selected for inclusion in study materials for Japanese college entrance exams.

Annie also writes sweet romance under the name Liz McKnight, and is a founding member and contributor to the innovative Uncollected Anthology series of themed urban and contemporary fantasy anthologies.

Find Annie

Website ~ BookBub ~ Amazon ~ Goodreads

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