Author Archives: Jo Ann Schneider

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4-Oct-2019

A little Jane Austen style romantic tragedy/comedy for today!

Phoebe squeezed my arm tight to her side. “Oh Alexander, will you push me on the rope swing?”

The two young men strolling opposite us on the path with their own girls gave me an envious look.

I ignored the sweat gathering under my hat due to the excessive heat and gave Phoebe a placating smile. “Of course.”

She squealed, as she always did, and dragged me forward.

Three more young men’s eyes strayed from their own partners to mine.

Yes, Phoebe’s delicate blond curls and her shinning blue eyes, along with her pleasing figure made her perhaps the most beautiful girl in town. Unfortunately, the tree they were approaching was probably more intelligent.

“Oh Alexander,” Phoebe said when we stopped at the swing. “Don’t you just love swinging?”

I did not. My brother had, when we were young, become overzealous and had pushed me too hard. I’d ended up arching across the air only to land in a garden of rocks, which resulted in a broken arm and missing teeth. Still, I smiled, held the swing, and gestured for her to sit.

Phoebe called upon all of her feminine whiles and elegantly settled onto the plank of wood held up by two ropes. She sighed and sat so the eye would be drawn to her ample bosom.

I moved around, put two hands gently on her back, and gave her a little push.

The gentle push resulted in another squeal.

“Oh, Alexander! Higher!”

I obliged. Yes, she would let out all sorts of non-appropriate noises, but at least my arm would get a break from being squeezed into a thin noodle for a few minutes. This also gave me time to glance at the nearby fruit stand.

Even from here I could see bright red apples and golden pears piled high in baskets on the table.

Behind the baskets stood Sally Fifett and her sister.

Sally lived at the manor next to mine, and we had spent many a day hunting for frogs as children. It was only as I grew older that I understood that Sally and I were different. Her father ran the stables there, and my father, the Duke, ruled ours.

Now that we were older, she helped run the fruit stand, and I got to parade Phoebe Brooks around as if she were my prized mare. My father had been grooming us to be married for years, but I hadn’t understood until a few months prior.

Phoebe let out another cry of delight as I pushed her a little higher. My eyes darted to the stand, then over to Thomas. “Phoebe, I know you love pears. Will you be alright if Thomas pushes you while I go fetch some?”

“I can go with you!” Phoebe said.

“And ruin your fun?” I pushed her again. Higher. “I wouldn’t dream of it.” I looked at Thomas. “Would you be so kind?”

Thomas had been eyeing Phoebe since she’d begun looking like a woman. He nodded. “Of course.”

“Wonderful. I will return shortly.”

“Get the firm ones!” Phoebe instructed.

“Of course.” I stepped aside and took long strides down the hill.

Sally saw me coming. Another couple got there just before me, and I had to wait. Sally met my eyes and her lips twitched into a smile of mirth.

When the other couple left, Sally’s sister busied herself at the other end of the table and pretended not to listen.

“Good afternoon, your grace.” Sally gave me a little bow.

“Good afternoon. I’ll take three of your finest pears.”

Sally’s nose wrinkled as she grinned. “Of course.”

The sun highlighted her red curls and the smattering of freckles on her cheek.

My heart skipped a beat. I cleared my throat. “The heat is abominable today.”

“Perhaps you should try the swing.” Sally picked out three pears and held them up.

I took them and examined them. “Who would push me?”

“Surely Phoebe would.”

“I’m afraid she’s a little delicate.” I rotated my hands. “Weak wrists.”

“That’s unfortunate.”

I gave her an nod and set the pears on the warm, wooden surface of the table. “It is.” I drew out my purse and held out a shilling.

“You know that’s too much,” Sally said.

Before I could stop myself, I leaned in. “It is a small price to pay for intelligent conversation and a measure of whit.”

“A measure?” Sally raised one eyebrow. A look I knew all too well.

“Yes.”

“You had better be using a large scale, your Grace.”

My eyes got lost in hers. I knew I was grinning, but couldn’t help myself.

Sally’s sister let out a cough.

I immediately stood back up as a young woman and her sisters approached.

Sally held out her hand, and I set the shilling into her palm. For the brief moment that our skin touched, warmth traveled through me.

A squeal from the tree brought me back to reality, and I scooped up the pears. “Thank you, ladies.”

“Our pleasure, your Grace,” Sally said. She smiled and gave me a curtsy.

The only woman of intelligence in the area and her father ran the stables.

I cursed fate. I did so again when I saw Phoebe watching me with an eager expression on her face as I approached the tree. “Oh, Alexander, look how high I am!”

“Very high indeed.” I smiled.

She let out another of her high-pitched noises.

I felt a weight in my feet. Perhaps I could turn her eye to Thomas.

I snorted. And perhaps Sally and I could be married. I ruefully shook my head at the thought and walked toward my fate.

***

I feel like I got Regency Romance and Fruit stand before, but can’t remember for sure.

Still, I thought this was cute!

Genre – Regency Romance

Random Object – Rope Swing

Setting – Fruit Stand


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Fairy Tales & First Dates

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It all started with an idea…

How awkward would the first date of fairy tale couples be?

Not the original couples, but in retellings?

My writing group, most of them lovers of fairy tales, snark and awkward moments, decided to explore the question, and this is our answer!

Behold

A collection of eight fairy tale first dates!

Read the description. You’re probably going to want a copy.

 

There’s no getting around it 

First dates are awkward  

Join Robin and Marian as Little John hijacks their night. Watch as a pixie is forced to spend the evening with an insufferable prince and the Muffin Man romances the Gingerbread Girl.
 
You won’t be able to look away when Ms. White faces off with an alarmingly charming vice principal, while Belle has to navigate the frightening world of online dating.
 
Then there’s the burly knight in shining armor who rescues the girl a little too well, a blind date that includes seven brothers with a twisted sense of humor and a satyr who’s trying to convince a sea witch that she’s not a monster.
 
Friday Night Writes brings together a collection of Fairy Tale First Dates like you’ve never imagined them before.

If you love fairy tale retellings, painfully awkward situations, humor, and a dash of magic, this collection is for you! Order your copy today.

 

If you’ve read my Academy books, then you’ll recognize S’ula and Bric on their first date! Yes, S’ula is cranky about it. Yes, Bric adores her anyway!


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27-Sept-2019

This is what happens when the chosen one is an idiot

Chapter 12

Hindsight

If I had understood the part I would play in the discovery of magic, I surely would have used it to my great advantage. Lucky for the world, I was too young to really grasp the scope of the power I possessed.

Most children have a special place that they go. A secret hideaway where no one makes them do chores or tells them to think about school work.

I think many people think I had some sort of miraculous childhood, but in reality, I was as average as could be. My parents loved me, but they fought. I loved them, but sometimes wished I was a prince that had been switched at birth.

There weren’t many children my age in our neighborhood—a fact I didn’t understand until I got much, much older—so I often played by myself. I could entertain myself for hours on end, until my mother would call me in for dinner and send me to bed.

One day, in my sixth year, my mother bought me an extra special treat. A bag of marshmallows.

That alone would have been enough, but I had begged for the colored ones, and she had gone the extra mile and bought me the marshmallows that were shaped as dinosaurs. I knew that begging didn’t usually work, but for some reason I insisted, and for some other reason she gave in.

Of course now that I know how magic works, it’s only logical that the bag of multi-colored, multi-flavored, dinosaur-shaped marshmallows called to me.

How else was I going to release my familiars into the world?

While my mother had bought the bag for me, she doled them out in small quantities.

My child brain yearned to have one of each shape, and for the first time in my life, I saved a treat. One each time she gave me my allotment. I didn’t eat it, but carefully slipped it into the back of my sock drawer where each one waited for the next.

It took me four days to get one of each shape, and another excruciating afternoon before my parents put me to bed and proceeded to their room for the evening.

When they were sufficiently distracted, I gathered my dinosaurs and a flashlight and crept out of my room and down into the cold, cement basement.

My mother stored boxes down here, and my father had a work bench, although I never knew why it was covered in bottles filled with colorful liquids until I was a teenager. I always thought my father worked at a factory. Imagine the shock when I found out he was a love-potion maker. And a good one at that. So good that no matter what he did, my mother never left him.

More on that in a few chapters.

Back to the dinosaurs.

There was a small, square door on the top half of the wall opposite the stairs. It was made of plain wood and had an old cupboard knob as a handle. I gently pulled the handle until the door gave way with a pop.

For a moment I froze, listening as I had never listened before for any sign that my parents had heard me.

They had not.

I carried a stool over to the wall, climbed up on to it and shined my light into the crawl space.

Looking at it now, it isn’t large, but to my small self it seemed to go on for forever. One corner called to me, and I quickly made my way over the packed dirt to where I had already stashed several things that felt important to me. I removed the dinosaurs from my pockets and reverently set them next to the white crystal I had taken from my mother’s dresser and a gold chain that my father used to wear. Until he lost it and I found it.

The little collection looked strange, but it felt right.

Without thinking, I put my hand on the soil at the dinosaur’s feet. I closed my eyes and somehow knew that I could will energy into them. And that if I did, they would come to life.

Since this moment, I have learned that only one in a million children have the gift of magic, and only one in a hundred of them can manifest. What I did that day was nothing short of miraculous.

To me it seemed a game. A flash of light filled the crawl space, and when it faded I found the dinosaurs had filled out into perfect, tiny replicas of themselves. Still the marshmallow colors, but now a life-like shape.

“Hello,” I said. “I think we are going to be friends.”

The dinosaurs bowed to me.

I smiled. “Let me go get you something to eat.”

Looking back now, I wonder if my mother had sensed something about that bag of marshmallows, or if she was just anxious to get back to my father.

That truth will never be revealed.

***

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Genre – Memoir

Random Object – Dinosaur Shaped Marshmallow

Setting – Crawl Space Under the House


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#Caged – Book 3 of the North Star to Freedom Series

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The final installment of the North Star to Freedom series is here!

The amazing Heather Horrocks has written a gut-wrenching but ultimately triumphant tale about saving kids from child sex trafficking.

I laughed. I cried. I may have cheered.

Scroll past the book to read how Heather got involved in this project!

The ebook is 99 cents this week!

Autumn Eldridge considers herself one of the lucky ones—after all, she got rescued from a life of horror after just six months. That was three years ago. Now she has a black belt in karate and she is never going to be a target again. So when billionaire Cyrus Black invites her to help other teens from being taken in the first place by joining his elite team, she jumps at the chance.

She is partnered with the mysterious Noah Fuller, and she wonders why he is on the team, since he’s the only team member who was never trafficked.


Destiny Wexler has had an incredibly bad year. First her mom died, then her dad remarried way too quickly, and she just found out she’s pregnant. When her jerk of a boyfriend breaks up with her, she turns to a friend she met last year in a chat group for teens who have lost their mothers. Finally, things are starting to look up. She’s just met two new friends. Even better, her chat room friend is going to fly in and take her to lunch.


But when she lies to her new friends—who she doesn’t realize are on the team trying to save her—and meets her “friend,” she finds herself #caged and betrayed. She can’t believe how deep the lies have gone and she’s terrified no one will be coming to save her.

How Heather got involved in this project:

Heather Horrocks

This project was scary. A group of three PG-rated clean romance authors decided to do a series about teens being groomed to be stolen and forced into sex slavery. We knew we could write from the beginning to the abduction and from the rescue to The End, but how could we possibly tackle the middle of their stories which were basically XXX-rated? How were we supposed to pull that off without going to the dark side, as it were? But we felt impressed to proceed, and the ideas began to come.

We decided to write from two points of view—both the targeted teen as well as a member of a special team formed of trafficking survivors. The team was organized by a man (Cyrus Black, whose story was told in #Lost) whose daughter was stolen away. We knew we needed to entertain while we taught about the dangers, so we added the undercover team, taking our inspiration from 21 Jump Street and, later, The Thundermans, both of which meet Taken.

We hope our books open the eyes of young people to the dangers around them. If we can keep even one teen from falling for the enticements and lies, we’ll feel it was totally worth the time and effort. This was a hard-written book. Hard to plot. Hard to write. Hard to live through vicariously as I wrote. Hard to face my own PTSD from my own childhood abuse.

Like the others, all the profits from my book are being donated to the anti-trafficking or aftercare of our choice. I’ve chosen to donate my profits to Tim Ballard’s organization, Operation Underground Railroad, so that I can aid in rescuing children. When I watched his first documentary, I was touched when he said to use your unique talents and skills to help. So now I have.

 


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