Author Archives: Jo Ann Schneider

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12-Jul-2019

Getting Your Hair Done is More than Just a Shampoo

“Are you looking at that picnic table again?” Nancy asked over her shoulder.

I blinked, and turned around. “Course not.”

The woman, Jen, sitting in front of me looked at me in the mirror. “What’s up with the picnic table?”

I ran my comb through her wet, thick, red hair. “Nothing.”

“You haven’t heard the story?” Nancy asked.

“What story?” Nancy’s client asked.

Nancy put a hand on her slender waist and laughed. “About the mystery man.”

“Mystery man?” Jen asked me again in the mirror.

I shrugged. “Are we just trimming up these ends?”

“Yes, and I want a sexy style. I have a date tonight.”

“What kind of a date?” I asked. “Should I prepare for outdoor activities, or do you plan to spend most of the evening indoors?”

Jen’s eyes went wide with pretend shock. “Why Chelsea Tylor, what are you insinuating?”

“That  you might go to the movies,” I said with an innocent look on my face.

The other ladies giggled, and I breathed a sigh of relief. That is until Nancy began to tease her client’s hair. “Chelsea, honey, why don’t you tell us about the man you saw out there.”

“Man?” Jen demanded.

I felt a blush coming to my cheeks. “I told you, Nancy, I thought it was a man, but I’m pretty sure it was just one of the local Officers.”

Jen nodded. “There are a couple of big ones. I’ve mistaken one for a man before.”

Nancy made a pffft sound. “You ain’t never seen a man before.”

“I’ve seen pictures,” Jen said.

“We’ve all seen pictures, but who knows if they’re the real deal,” Nancy’s client said. She narrowed her eyes at herself in the mirror. “The Officers and the Governor could have had those pictures doctored. Men could be twice as tall as us, or they could have three arms.”

“They don’t have three arms,” I muttered.

“Because you saw one?” Jen asked.

I sighed and pulled my scissors off of the little shelf in front of Jen. “Look, it was late. I’d had a little bit to drink and I thought I saw something outside.”

“Something?”

“Something big. Bigger than any of us, but not big enough to be a monster or anything like that.” I began to trim, the swish and click of the scissors a comfort to my ears.

“Probably an officer,” Nancy’s client said.

“Tell them the rest,” Nancy said.

Swish, click.

I dropped the ends of Jen’s red hair onto the floor. “I told you, I’d been drinking.”

“Oh come on.” Nancy retrieved her hairspray. “It’s a spooky story.”

“I love spooky stories!” Jen said.

“Tell us!” Nancy’s client said through her hands as she covered her face from the assault of aerosol hairspray.

I took a breath, inhaling the tangy spray, and let it out. “Fine.” I kept trimming as I talked, slowly working my way around Jen. “Last Friday night, after a date gone awry, I came here because I was too drunk to drive home.”

“Wait, date?” Jen asked.

I held up a hand. “You get the date story or the man story. Which one do you want?”

Jen’s green eyes narrowed, and she considered for a moment.

“Man story,” Nancy mouthed in a whisper.

“Fine. Man story.”

“Okay.” I continued to comb and trim. “It was raining. I stumbled through the door and decide I didn’t want to drip all over the floor, so I stripped down.” I lowered my voice. “I got here just in time, because a crash of thunder made me jump, then a flash of lightning threw my shadow onto the floor in front of me.” I pointed, and my hand trembled just a little. The memory of that night was still fresh, as if I’d just lived it a few minutes before. “Only my shadow wasn’t alone.”

Jen and Nancy’s client let out a gasp.

Nancy chuckled.

“A larger, thicker shadow stretched from there to there.” I pointed. “Taller and broader than mine, but right next to it.”

“What did you do?” Jen asked.

“I screamed. I don’t know why I turned around, but I did.”

“And there he was,” Nancy said.

I scowled. “Yes, that’s when I saw what I thought was a man.”

“What did he look like?” Jen asked.

“Big. Burly. His head and face was covered with hair. He wore a long coat, but his eyes…” I swallowed. “Another flash of lightening lit the world, and I saw his eyes.” A shudder ran through me.

“Wh—what did they look like?” Jen asked.

“They were blue,” I said.

Jen gasped again.

Nancy shook her head.

“What did he do?” Jen asked in a small voice.

“He stared at me,” I said. “I was standing here naked and he just looked.”

“He didn’t attack you?”

“No. A huge crack of thunder sounded—so loud that I covered my ears and shut my eyes, and when I opened them again, he was gone.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

“Then he left her a present,” Nancy said.

I heart sped up. “I found a paper on the picnic table the next morning. It was smeared and soggy, but I could make out two words.”

“What were they?” Jen asked.

I paused for dramatic effect. “Help us.”

Silence filled the salon. Jen stared at me with wide eyes.

Nancy spoiled it. She started laughing.

“What?” Jen asked.

“They totally believed you!” Nancy said.

I chuckled. “Yes, they did.”

Jen scowled. “You lied?”

“Just a tall tale,” I said. But my I looked out the door one more time, and I could still see him standing there. Staring at me. I shivered. “Just a tall tale.”

***

I have a new list of categories to roll! This is what today’s were:

Genre: Tall Tale

Setting: Salon

Random Object: Picnic Table


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Out of Gas

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Last week I put up a report of my 18 months as a full-time author. As I typed it up, I noticed that I’ve done a lot so far this year! I should be happy with that.

And I am.

Unfortunately, my current project is taking a lot of energy.

I mentioned it last week. And while it’s not secret, we’re not ready to do a public reveal on it yet. Which is kind of killing me. I swear forces have been conspiring against us every step of the way, and I have the feeling that it will continue even after these books are out.

It’s a difficult topic. Writing a few scenes made me cringe. But it’s important, and those of us involved really feel drawn to the project, and we’re not going to back down.

Even if I’m ready to throw in the towel and binge watch season three of Stranger Things all in one sitting. Which I am. But I won’t.

You see, I can’t even form complete sentences!

However, I just wanted to say that if you’re feeling, as Bilbo says, “thin..stretched like butter scraped over too much bread” don’t give up! It’s okay to take a break, but keep moving forward, even if it’s just in something little.

For instance. I did the laundry today. All of the loads. It’s even folded. This is my victory, and I will relish in it.

Also, I survived Kempo class. Sensei has decided it is time for hard workouts. Really hard workouts. In the summer heat? Gee, thanks. Pretty sure I lost ten pounds in sweat. I’ll take it.

I only have twenty four pages left to edit for my book in this killer project. Barring disaster it should be ready to go to the editor by the end of the week.

In the immortal words of Galaxy Quest

 


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5-July-2019

Beware the fuzzy Customs Official

“This planet stinks of burned cabbage,” Rex said.

“Have had real cabbage?” I asked.

“Once. It tasted like death.”

I nodded my head. “Sounds about right.”

Around us beings from the three-hundred worlds rushed to and from ships. Some dragged floating carts overloaded with goods, while others had a simple bag slung over their shoulder. Plenty of dirty faces and ripped clothes greeted us, but not much of the finery that was more prevalent on the mid worlds.

“You had it before?”

“Yeah. It was one of the only crops that would grow on Bden.” I squinted against the sun—which hung too close to the planet for my liking, and finally spotted the leaning building that must be customs. “That way.”

Rex grunted and turned our floating cart and began to push again. The front corner tilted dangerously, but Rex had packed the weight to keep it aloft.

Now if customs didn’t get too nosy, we would have it dropped off in a couple of hours. I shrugged my shoulders against the unseen weight of our cargo and followed the cart.

Rex was right. The air did indeed smell like burned cabbage, and the green-ish dirt reminded me of the goulash my mother had made when we had nothing else to eat. My stomach churned, and I swallowed hard.

“Don’t look like a long wait,” Rex said as he pushed the cart in behind a pair of Phhos with a crate slung between their shoulders.

He was right. Usually on a planet like this we would have at least an hour wait. Probably more. And if there wasn’t a line, they’d make us wait out of spite, or just on principle. I stood on my toes and saw only two floating platforms in front of the Phhos waiting to enter the building. “Maybe there’s a longer line inside,” I said.

“It’s not that big of a building,” Rex pointed out.

Again, the little man was right.

The wide doors rumbled open and I caught a glimpse of a decent sized warehouse-like room with a couple of humans waiting. They waved the next cart in and closed the door. We moved up and waited.

“Something’s fishy,” Rex said.

“You had real fish before?”

“Yup. Twice.”

Nothing smelled fishy, but something sure didn’t feel right. Customs usually consisted of dozens of bored guards looking for bribes. They harassed each group coming in and out, and if you didn’t give them what they wanted—which could change in the blink of an eye—then they’d throw you in a holding cell and search your ship.

I looked around. Everyone stood patiently. I glanced behind me and found a being with a neck as thin as my wrist and as long as my arm, staring down at me with a smile.

“First time on Cader?”

I nodded.

“Not to worry. Customs is simple.”

“Bribes?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Nothing like that. You either get through, or you don’t. It’s as simple as that.”

I frowned. “Not sure what you mean.”

The doors opened and the line moved forward again.

“Wait and find out,” the guy—or maybe girl—behind me said.

Less than a small cycle later, the doors opened and the cart, along with the bearers, came back out and headed toward their ship. There was no swearing. No anger. Just a shrug and they left.

“I don’t like it,” Rex said.

I didn’t either, but decided that if leaving was the only consequence, then we may as well try.

When our turn came, we moved through the open doors and into the building. The door closed, and I’d expected it to get dark, but hovering lights brightened to make up most of the difference.

The two humans—both female—approached us.

“Haven’t seen you before,” the taller of the two said.

“It’s our first time,” I said.

They both nodded. Then a small, furry creature with pointed ears and a long tail appeared. It wound it’s way through both female’s legs and then walked toward us.

Rex stiffened. “What is it?”

“Don’t know,” the shorter female said.

“But if he says you get through, then you get through,” the other added.

I watched as the fuzzy creature walked around Rex, then me, then went back to our cart. It sat on the ground and started licking on of its front paws. Then it cleaned its ear.

“What’s it doing?” Rex asked.

“Stalling,” the tall female said. “Give him a minute.”

Stalling? My eyes darted to our cart. The drugs we had, while not exactly illegal, were usually used to enhance good feelings to the point of, well, a lot of people having a lot of fun. Cader didn’t have laws against it, but I wondered if these females would take some of it. Or all of it.

The creature finally looked up. It bunched it’s legs and jumped, landing lightly on the cart.

I held my breath as it began to prowl, sniffing everything it could reach. It stopped when it got to the container the drugs were in and brushed it’s head against the container.

My eyes darted to the females.

They kept their eyes on the creature.

It circled the container once.

I found myself tapping my fingers on my leg.

Twice.

Rex glanced at me, and I noticed sweat on his brow.

Then the creature let out a smell meowel, but it’s head against the container again, then jumped down. It then went to the corner, sat, lifted a leg and began to clean its—

“You’re good to go,” the taller female said.

“Just like that?” Rex asked.

She nodded. “Just like that.”

Curiosity got the better of me. “What is that thing?”

The two humans looked at one another, then shrugged. “We don’t know. It was here when the first settlers got here, and since then it’s taken up residence in the customs office. He’s never let anything through that it didn’t want here.”

The small one gave me a wink. “Whatever you’ve got in there must be fun, because he only circles like that right before a party.”

I stared at her.

The doors on the opposite wall opened.

The tall one waved us through. “See you guys around.”

Rex grunted and moved forward.

I took one last look at the creature, licked my lips and followed Rex.

***

I didn’t have a topic, so I asked my hubby, who is playing games with his siblings. They’re playing Firefly Adventure (whatever it’s called, not the big Firefly game, but a smaller one) and he said I should do a Space Western.

So here we are.

They suggested a teddy bear, but I already had the customs official in my head!


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Eighteen Months as a Full-Time Author

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It’s been a while since I reported on my progress as a full-time author, so I thought I would share.

This year has been a little bit crazy.

I released eight books in my Fairy Tale Academy Series!

I wrote an extra Academy story that was just released in this collection of Sleeping Beauty retellings.

I’ve written a first date of two of my most popular Academy characters that will come out in an anthology in the fall. You’ll have to wonder about that one for a bit.

I’m working on revisions for a special project that you’ll hear about in the coming months. It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before, but it’s…important. Have you ever felt like you’re in the exact right place at the exact right time for something amazing to happen? That’s this project! More in the next few weeks on this!

I released two sweet romances under my Karly Stratford pen name!

As far as money goes, I’ve made leaps and bounds more this year than I have my whole career up to this point, which is amazing!

I’m still struggling with creative energy and motivation. Some weeks I can write a whole novel and other weeks I struggle to get a few words out each day. Balance is the key for me, and I’m still looking for that sweet spot in my creative brain.

The plan for the rest of the year keeps changing! I need to nail it down, but be assured, there will be some YA science fiction from Jo Schneider and more romance from Karly Stratford!


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