Author Archives: Jo Ann Schneider

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How can a Hot Dog Roaster be in a Horror story?

“I thought a sleeper car would be a little more luxurious,” Mia said.

“What? There are four beds.” I pointed.

Mia folded her arms across her stomach and glared. It was hard to get out of  range of said glare when we both stood in the two-foot wide aisle of the sleeper car. Two beds, which had been the two couches, were at my knees, and the other two had folded down from the walls near my shoulders. I had to turn sideways, because my shoulders didn’t fit in the gap anymore.

“It’ll be fine,” I said to my wife. “We’re only here until the train gets in early tomorrow.”

Mia’s eyes remained narrow.

She hated tight spaces. It wouldn’t help when Ben and Sasha got back.

I patted the air with my hands. “Look, honey, it’s one night. We’re booked for a nice hotel for the next week, and as soon as we get the chance we’ll cancel our train ride back and get a flight. Or rent a car.”

“We can’t afford a flight.” Her voice was tight. “And taking a car with only two people would make us a nice, juicy target.”

“I brought some warding spells. Maybe we can talk the others into riding back with us.” I finally dared reach out and touch her arm. “This is one night. I know it’s not ideal, but it’s the safest and quickest way to get there.” I emphasized the word quickest, hoping to spark Mia’s resolve.

It did. Go me. Points for the husband.

She sighed. “Fine. We’ll talk about how we’re getting back later, but it won’t be on this train.”

“I promise.” I leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead.

She glared, but it was more of a playful “I hate you” look instead of a “I will murder you in your sleep” look. I took that as a win.

“Now why don’t you change and crawl into bed?” It would help if she had a safe place to sit while the rest of us got situated.

“Fine,” she muttered.

By the time Ben and Sasha got back, Mia was lying on one top bunk and I was lounging on the one below. Ben raised his eyebrows when he saw what I had next to me.

“We’re on a train with hundreds of people and you think you’re going to need that?”

I pat the hot dog roaster—a sort of long, skinny pitch fork—with fondness. “Little brother, I never leave home without it.”

“Well you’re not going to need it tonight,” he muttered as he and Sasha climbed into their bunks.

Since the breach, most people lived their lives in fear. Ben hadn’t really known the world before, and he held to the truths in his head harder than anything else.

It had been unfortunate that the first iron weapon I had found had been this antique hot dog roaster, but it had bonded with me, and I took it wherever I went. It was lucky I ended up with something to fight with. I liked stabbing things. It was so simple. Pointy end goes in the writhing mist of any creature that crawled out of the breech. Mia had her recorder—the kind they used to have kids play in elementary school—clutched in her hand under the blankets. Like always.

The breach was why she didn’t like small places. I didn’t blame her, but at least she was good at keeping her fear at bay.

I hid my smirk as Ben grabbed his old cell phone from his bag and Sasha settled in with a hefty looking water bottle. It seemed paranoia was contagious.


The usual nightmares haunted my sleep, and I woke from the time I’d gotten stuck in the mall. Only the screams of shoppers didn’t fade. Instead, they got stronger.

“Up!” I yelled. “Get up!” I sat up and smacked my head on the bottom of Mia’s bed. A couple of swear words made it through my filter—Mia was going to have something to say about that—and I got to my feet just as light from Ben’s phone flooded the room.

“What is it?” Ben asked. Even though he knew exactly what it was.

Mia jumped down, wearing her clothes from the day before. “I’ve never heard of them attacking in a place with this many people.”

Sasha climbed down as Ben and I went to the door. There was a little window covered by blinds.

“Hide that light for a minute,” I said.


“Just do it.” Like a good younger brother, he made a face and pressed the screen of the phone against his chest.

I gently pried two blinds apart just far enough for me to see into the hallway.

Part of me had hoped that humans were attacking. That hope died as soon as I saw the glittering dark back of what I called a hyena monster. The face looked sort of a hyena, only with a lot more teeth and about ten times as ugly. The body was more like an upright horse with claws.

I put the blinds back down and turned to my family. “It’s them.”

Ben swore.

Mia didn’t berate him. “I can hold a few at a time.”

“The cooridor will create a natural bottle neck,” I said. “Ben, you give us some light, Mia, hold them. Sasha, you take the right and I’ll take the left.”

A scream from the car next door stood the hair on my neck on end.

Why had they attacked a train? The question plagued me, but I wouldn’t be able to answer it unless we survived the next few minutes.

I put my hand on the door knob. “Ready?” I asked.

Mia raised her recorder to her lips and nodded.

“Here we go.”


I kind of want to write more in this universe. It was cracking me up!

Genre – Horror

Random Object – Hot Dog Roaster

Setting – Sleeper Car on a Train

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His First Love Second Chance Bachelorette

Tags : 

Looking forward to the holidays already?

Do you find yourself humming Christmas songs?

Are you ready for a season of Hallmark-Style Romances?

If so, I have something for you!

The second of three Holiday Romances (released under my pen name Karly Stratford) is out today!

They are all small town, second chance romances set during the holidays.

This is the story of Brad and Morgan, high school sweethearts who never quite fell out of love, but who each fled their little town to get away from painful memories.

He left to be a hero.

She left to forget her past.


(Always free on Kindle Unlimited)



Nightstalker pilot, Bradley Decker, is home for Christmas against his will. A little shrapnel to the shoulder won’t keep him out of combat for long. When his first love, Morgan, shows up at his door claiming to be his new physical therapist, Brad is sure he can keep things professional. Only Morgan is somehow even funnier and more amazing than he remembers. Maybe it’s the pain meds.

Morgan Adams is in Bluestone to buy property for her recovery center for veterans. She takes the request for a house call, and is torn between horror and relief when she sees it’s Brad, her high school sweetheart. Unfortunately, Brad is still easy to talk to, easy on the eyes, and easy to laugh with. Time flies because they’re always having fun.

Old feelings rise to the surface, but is a second chance at love possible for them? Morgan won’t marry a soldier, and that’s all Brad has ever wanted to be. Fate combines to give them a choice. The question is, will they make the right call?

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Like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, one would never suspect such horrors from a bouncy ball…

The Client glanced around. His black lips pulled into a slight frown. “It seems a little…light.” He waved a hand.

Sunshine poured in through the windows that lined three sides of the indoor pool area. It made the surface of the water glimmer, and almost made this place feel sane.


“How can you even show this to me?”

What did he expect with the budget he’d given me? I stowed my irritation and plastered on my best smile. “It is difficult to get a true contrast without at least part of the day in true light.”

The Client scoffed. “Childish nonsense.” He turned his gold eyes on me. “Said by those who have yet to embrace true darkness.” He then looked into the camera.

True darkness? This guy was only a step away from Goth. He was no creature of the arcane. Unfortunately, I’d drawn the short straw when his name had come in, so I got to deal with him. Amada was going to pay. “It is well within your price range to add light blockers here.” I pointed to the windows surrounding the hotel pool. “If you’re willing to up your budget we could make them retractable.”

“That won’t be necessary.” He waved a hand. “Show me the pool.”

I shivered, hoping the cameraman hadn’t caught it.

The pool. The reason this guy wanted this place, and the reason so many others had turned it down. This abandoned hotel had become somewhat of a legend at the network. This Client was the sixty-forth we’d shown it to. People had come from across the world, and they all wanted the place, until they saw what lived in the pool.

I sighed and gestured to the cameraman to stop filming. This was the deal. No one knew what was in the pool. We had witches standing by to erase the memory from all of the clients. Most begged for it. Those that didn’t were weeping too hard to speak.

They left me with just enough to know what to do. I never remembered exactly what happened, but it always sent a shiver down my spine.

When the cameras were down, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a rubber bouncy ball, about an inch in diameter. They liked colors, and this one looked like a patchwork quilt, or one of those cubes with nine squares on each side that you had to turn and solve.

“What’s that?” the Client asked.

“The trigger,” I said. “Are you sure about this?” I asked. I had to ask. It was in the contract. We had to give them one last chance to back out. A few victims hadn’t reacted well to memory wiping, and we didn’t want to get sued. Again. That’s also why anyone who toured this hotel paid us to do so.

“I’m sure,” he said.

No reason to draw it out. I remembered that it didn’t matter if it was light outside. That actually made it better.

I thumbed the bouncy-ball, took a breath, then threw it into the middle of the pool.

The natural course of events should have been for it to slap the water, cause a splash and an indent, then bob on the surface as the tiny waves dissipated.

But not this ball.

It hit the water and bounced off as if it had been concrete. A thunk sounded once. Twice. Then a third time as the ball hit the far window.

The Client turned to me. “Is that it? The water makes it bounce?”

“Wait.” I didn’t look at him. What I lacked in memory of the horrors here I made up in with the crystal clear memories of every client’s reaction.

The ball slowly bounced to a stop. Or almost did. Instead, a giggle sounded, and the ball swooped up into the air and hit the water again. It passed us, hit the wall, and went back.

Another giggle came. Then a third. Then another ball appeared.

Just like that a hundred specters, all children, materialized. They all wore pillow cases. None had eyes in their sockets. Crazed smiles accompanied the giggles as the children lunged to catch the balls. With their empty sockets. An air more sinister than any I had ever felt surrounded us. The cameraman wet his pants.

This was when the clients usually figured out that the balls were eyes, and that these children were the ones that had been sacrificed in the hotel. I expected to hear a scream. Instead, the Client stepped forward.

“Beautiful,” he said.

I stared at him. “What?”

He reached out a hand and snatched an eyeball out of the air. He examined the small orb, picking a hair off of it, before throwing it back at the water. “All of them sacrificed so one man could see the moment of his death.”

“So the legends go,” I said, surprised my voice remained steady.

The Client’s lips parted in a genuine smile, showing his filed teeth. “I’ll take it.”

“You will?” I asked.

His attention returned to the children. “Oh yes. I will.”


Not sure why this one turned so dark! The dice gave me innocent enough things to work with…

Genre – Fixer-Upper Show

Random Item – Bouncy Ball

Setting – Hotel Swimming Pool

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His Mortal Enemy Second Chance Bachelorette

Tags : 

Looking forward to the holidays already?

Do you find yourself humming Christmas songs?

Are you ready for a season of Hallmark-Style Romances?

If so, I have something for you!

The first of three Holiday Romances (released under my pen name Karly Stratford) is out today!

They are all small town, second chance romances set during the holidays.

This is the story of Flint and Brenna. Mortal enemies since their first spell-off in kindergarten and bitter rivals to this day…but now something has changed.

Can their life-long rivalry lead to love?

Or will it end in a holiday disaster of epic proportions?


(Always free on Kindle Unlimited)


Professional running back, Flint Decker, is all set to break the season touchdown record. The only thing standing in his way is his mother’s determination to fatten him up over Thanksgiving. When he rescues his life-long rival—how come he’d never noticed how beautiful she was before?—from falling down the stairs he decides it might be time to put their dueling aside.

Brenna Simmons, just arrived from New York for the holiday, doesn’t remember Flint being quite so buff, and they’ve never had a pleasant conversation. Until now. When he invites her to help with the yearly community Feast she ignores him, determined to not rise to his silly challenge. Until Flint unleashes his charm.

Angry glares slowly turn to smiles, and quips to flirting. But when a clash of will threatens to rip their truce apart, they must decide if they are willing to sacrifice their pride in order to open their hearts, or will they fall into their old ways and lose this chance at love?

This is the first book in the Decker Family Romance Series.



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