Author Archives: Jo Ann Schneider

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1-Feb-2019

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I’ve decided to do a Fairy Tale theme for the next few months. See a list of what I’m rolling on at the end of the post.

In the meantime, this is why crafting can be bad for your health.

Princess Kathlyn watched as the peasant entered the throne room through the far door. She could practically feel the woman’s fear as she crept along the plush, red rug that ran the length of the room. The heavy wooden doors with a clunk, and the peasant jumped and stopped.

“Approach,” Claus, Kathlyn’s advisor said in a deep voice that echoed through the large chamber.

The peasant woman let out a little meep, before she continued. She couldn’t be much older that Kathlyn—perhaps twenty. Dirty, golden tresses had been pinned up under a soiled kerchief. A dress of an uncertain color fell to her ankles, and a tear cut her once white apron almost in half. She held a blue satchel to her chest. Grime covered her face, making it impossible to see much besides her bright, green eyes. Eyes that looked as if they might pop out of their sockets.

When she reached the end of the red rug, she dropped to one knee and bowed her head.

Claus glanced at Kathlyn, his brown eyes communicating his disdain.

Kathlyn gave him a small nod before turning her eyes on the woman. “Rise.”

Every muscle in the woman tensed. She got to her feet, still clutching the bag to herself, and looked at Princess Kathlyn for a moment before lowering her eyes.

Kathlyn shifted on the throne, her silver dress catching the light as it spilled down from the windows above. She gave the peasant woman a kind smile. “My dear, what is your name?”

The woman swallowed. Her hands trembled as did her voice. “Maddie, your Highness.”

“Maddie. They tell me that you are a master of Weaving.”

She nodded.

“I have long wished to learn the art. Will you teach me?”

Maddie glanced back and forth, as if hoping for a rescue, or a way to escape. Instead she found only the vast throne room with its tapestries on the walls and pillars that rose to the ceiling far above. She swallowed hard, and her eyes rose to met Kathlyn’s.

Kathlyn gave Maddie her most reassuring smile, mixed with just enough magic to get the girl to trust her. “I would be eternally grateful, and I would make it worth your while. Your father died last winter and your mother is struggling to put food on the table even with you Weaving. I will pay you enough that you will never have to worry about food again.”

That got Maddie’s attention, and some of her apprehension melted away. “What—what did you wish to learn?”

“Something simple. Perhaps a warming spell? Even here in the castle the rooms get cold at night.”

Maddie’s eyes softened, but she bit her lip.

Apparently she needed more motivation. Kathlyn leaned forward. “If the truth be told, since my own father’s death, I have been in need of something to keep my hands busy. I’m sure you understand.”

Maddie nodded. “Yes, I do.”

“I thought you might. Will you help me?”

If there is one thing Kathlyn had learned about people is that most of them wanted to help. Especially peasants. Maddie’s expression finally relaxed and she nodded. “Of course, your Highness.”

“Wonderful!” Kathlyn stood and walked down the stairs. “I have a room prepared with yarn.” She smiled and had to keep from gagging at the smell of body odor and filth as she slipped her arm through Maddie’s. “The servants should have lunch ready for us.”

Kathlyn led Maddie to a nearby room that had indeed been prepared for them. A table covered in yarn lay in the middle with two cushioned chairs nearby. A chandelier hung overhead adding to the light spilling in from the window. Food covered a second table. “Eat,” Kathlyn said.

“I—I’m not hungry,” Maddie said. “But thank you.” She smiled a forced smile.

The Princess shrugged. “As you wish. Shall we get started?”

Maddie nodded, picked out a few skeins of yarn then gingerly sat in one of the chairs as if she were afraid to get it dirty.

Kathlyn was planning to burn the chair after this. “I know how to knit, hopefully that will speed things up.”

“It will,” Maddie said. She set her bag on the ground and pulled out a set of silver needles the length of Kathlyn’s forearm. They gleamed in the light and Kathlyn licked her lips. “Weaving a warming spell is simple.” She set out starting a small cloth with the yarn and needles. Once it was as long as the needles she shifted directions and went back the other way. “Are you familiar with this?”

“Yes,” Kathlyn said.

“Well, if you have some power, all you have to do is wind into the pattern. Imagine it as another strand of yarn.” Maddie handed the small square over. “Try it.”

Kathlyn took the offering and began to knit. Weavers did not disclose their secrets, but as Maddie had said, it was easy for Kathlyn to weave her magic into the pattern. “It works,” Kathlyn said.

“Yes, it does.”

Kathlyn looked up and found Maddie watching her.

Maddie stood. “I am sorry, Princess, but your fate is now sealed.”

“What?” Kathlyn went to set the needles down, but she could not unhook her fingers from them or the yarn, nor could she stop them from knitting. “What did you do?”

Maddie smiled. “Saved our kingdom from your tyrannical reign. You will knit until you die.”

“You won’t get out of the castle,” Kathlyn growled.

Maddie pulled a wig and her dress off. Underneath lay a servant’s outfit. “I will. But you won’t. This is the price you will pay for your greed.”

Kathlyn watched in horror as the girl left and locked the door behind her. She could not move from the seat. She could not stop knitting. She screamed, but no one came. No one would ever come.

***

I kind of want to write more of this one! By the way, the castle is in the mountains. 😉

Character – Evil Princess

Random Object – Knitting Needles (Possibly Cursed)

Setting – High on a Mountain

***

Fairy Tale Flash Fiction Friday

Character:

  1. Big Bad Hamster
  2. Beautiful Witch
  3. Evil Princess
  4. Cowardly Prince
  5. Gentle Giant
  6. Tall Dwarf
  7. Clumsy Elf
  8. Tidy Ogre
  9. Magical Servant
  10. Forgetful Mage

 

Random Object:

  1. Knitting Needles (Possibly cursed)
  2. Tweezers
  3. Colander
  4. A candle
  5. Unicorn Horn
  6. Dented Black Knight Helmet
  7. Cow
  8. Giant Letter R Made of Wood
  9. Garden Hoe
  10. Dragon
  11. Bunny Bracelet
  12. Small Bell with Pitch so High it Shatters Glass
  13. Empty roll of toilet paper
  14. A Peg Leg
  15. Book Ends
  16. Golden Gong of Victory
  17. Ribbon
  18. An Expired Coupon
  19. A Lego
  20. Overly Oily, Slightly Slimy, Eleven Toothed Gear Piece

 

Setting:

  1. Desert Island
  2. Small Town or Village
  3. Fast Food Restaurant
  4. Old House
  5. Magic School
  6. A Ship
  7. High on a Mountain
  8. Castle
  9. In Space
  10. A City Park

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The Beast: Cover Reveal and a Teaser

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Did you like The Mermaid? Excited to go back to The Academy?

Well, I am!

Here’s the cover for Book 2: The Beast

 

Beauty and the Beast is maybe my favorite fairy tale. (Don’t tell the others.) It stems from seeing Disney’s version in the theater when I was a teenager and falling in love with it. Specifically the library. I read a few of the early versions of the tale before I started writing mine.

One tidbit I incorporated was that of Belle’s lineage. You’ll have to read the story to find out more, but Belle is more than she seems, and it is important.

As you’ll read below, Adem’s curse works a bit different in my story than other versions. I hope you like it!

Official release day is next Wednesday, Feb. 6th!

Chapter 1

The carriage swayed as it trundled through the dense forest. Each rut in the road made the carriage jolt, and each jolt made Adem grit his teeth.

“Are you even listening to me?”

Adem blinked and looked back at Gilles, his advisor and pseudo-father. “Uh, no?”

Gilles sat ramrod straight in the seat across from Adem. The dark jacket over his tunic fit his slim body to precision. The buttons caught the light filtering in through the window, and despite the bouncing, Gilles’ perfect posture didn’t waver. The man’s dark eyes bored into Adem’s.

“Sorry.” Adem fought back the urge to sigh. “Please continue.”

“I said that two more people have started to turn.”

Adem curled his hands into fists. “Who?”

Gilles, who had just opened his mouth to continue, closed his lips. “Who?”

“Yes, who?” Adem asked, his voice almost a growl.

“Two of the elderly maids.”

“Ellen?”

Gilles nodded. “And Anna.”

Adem rubbed his face.

“As much as we all appreciate your concern, you have a more important task.”

Adem held up a hand. “I know why I’m going to the Academy. You don’t have to tell me—again.”

This time Gilles’ eyes flashed. “Girls can be very distracting for sixteen-year-old boys.”

“It’s not like I’ve never seen a pretty girl before,” Adem grumbled.

“I’m worried about the beast inside you.”

“What?”

Gilles shrugged. “The few adults who have begun to change have experienced some unexpected side effects.”

“Like what?”

“Like being attracted to fertile members of the opposite gender.”

Adem shifted in his seat. “I’ve got more important matters to worry about.”

“For now,” Gilles said.

An unexpected wave of anger bubbled to life, and Adem spoke through clenched teeth. “You don’t trust me?”

Giles studied him. The man’s eyes seemed to breach to Adem’s core, pushing aside his temper and going straight to the heart of the matter. Instead of censuring Adem, Gilles cleared his throat. “You need to be careful.”

“I will be,” Adem said, keeping his anger in check.

“Be especially wary of the faeries.”

“You think I’m an idiot?”

“No.”

“If someone would tell me what my parents did to end up cursed, things would probably be easier.”

For the first time, Gilles shifted in his seat. “Your parents never shared their dealings with anyone.”

Adem sat forward and stared into Gilles’ dark eyes. “Not even you?”

“Not even me.” The older man didn’t blink.

He was lying.

Gilles cleared his throat. “You know what you have to do. Stay away from the faeries and find what you need, or we will all end up like those outside the walls.”

“I know the consequences of failure.” Adem swallowed as blurry images of the first year of the curse rose in his mind. The monsters who had once been his friends had thrown themselves at the barrier around the castle until their own bodies were broken, or they found someone else to prey upon.

His friends.

His parents.

Adem’s eyes flicked to Gilles again, and he narrowed them. The man was hiding something. Adem could practically smell it as Gilles looked out the window and pretended to ignore the fur that had sprouted on his face the moment they’d cleared the barrier around the courtyard.

The coach lurched to the side and hit a bump so big that Adem lost contact with the seat, then crashed down hard. Pain stabbed his backside, awakening the anger lurking just below the surface.

“What’s going on?” Adem bellowed as he opened the window. He stuck his head out and heard the horses scream in terror, then an invisible hook grabbed the carriage and hauled it forward. Adem hit the back wall hard.

Gilles flew across the space and landed in an undignified heap next to Adem.

Their gilded cage began to vibrate as the horses sped up.

Stars danced in Adem’s vision, and he shook his head. “Are you all right?” He helped Gilles to a sitting position.

Gilles nodded, but put a hand to his head where blood ran from a cut.

The scent of iron stung the inside of Adem’s nose. It drew him in like a child to a piece of candy. He licked his lips, wondering what the hot liquid would taste like.

“See what’s happening,” Gilles said in a weak voice.

The words shattered the moment, and Adem hauled himself to the window. The outside air brushed his face and hair, dispelling the iron and bringing with it the scent of pine trees, damp dirt, and…

Adem inhaled. Something didn’t smell right. Not blood, but a musk that made the hair on the back of his neck prickle. He stuck his head out and found the horses pulling against the reins.

“Marshel, what’s going on?” Adem yelled.

A growl answered him.

Adem’s stomach turned to lead. He looked back at Gilles and found the man still groggy. No help there. “Marshel? Can you hear me?”

Another growl. Almost words, but not quite.

“Great,” Adem muttered. He unclasped his cloak, dropped it on the seat, and opened the door.

“Master Adem, what are you doing?” Gilles asked in an alarmed voice.

Adem ignored the man and moved out onto the steps. Cool wind pulled at his tunic.

“Marshel!”

No answer.

Lather covered the horses’ hindquarters. The carriage hit another bump, and Adem’s fingers tightened around the door frame. With a grunt, he heaved himself toward the driver’s bench.

“You’re going to get killed!” Gilles cried.

“Not if I can help it.” Adem stretched his hand toward the rail of the driver’s bench. The tips of his fingers brushed the rough wood. He stood on his toes and took hold of the rail just as the carriage bucked again.

Adem let out a yell and used every ounce of strength he could muster to hold on. One glance down showed the broken road beneath, along with the mercilessly turning wheels.

His fingers slipped. Maybe Gilles was right—maybe he was going to die.

If he died, everyone in the castle died.

A shot of adrenaline—more than he’d ever felt before—coursed through his body, and Adem reached for the rail with his other hand. His fingers inched toward the target, but they went over another bump, and Adem almost slipped. His back hit the side of the carriage hard. He glared at the rail, held his breath, and reached. This time his grip found purchase, and he used the remaining adrenaline to pull himself up.

He opened his mouth to ask Marshel what had happened, but he found the man curled in on himself, the reins still in his—

Instead of fingers, claws protruded from the man’s gloves. Gray fur poked out the top.

The hair on Adem’s neck rose again, and he found himself bearing his teeth. He shook his head and reached for the reins.

A low snarl sounded, and Adem stopped with his fingers just inches from the man. “Marshel?”

The snarl turned into a groan, and Marshel shuddered. He looked up.

Adem froze. Instead of the man’s usual blue eyes, gold eyes stared back at him.

“Get…away.”

“Can’t do that. Sorry.” Adem wrenched the reins from Marshel. Marshel lunged, but Adem kicked him away. Marshel crashed to the other end of the bench, and Adem pulled on the reins.

The horses fought against the command. Now that he knew Marshel had started to change, Adem could assume that the animals had caught the scent. The carriage slowed.

Adem looked over his shoulder. “Come get Marshel off!”

The horses refused to stop completely, but Adem slowed enough so Gilles could hop out and pull Marshel off.

After another dozen yards, the horses lost his scent and came to a stop.

Adem tied them off, hopped down, and ran back.

Gilles crouched over Marshel, who contorted as if someone were poking him with a hot iron. Animal fur sprouted on his cheeks and jaw, and Marshel’s nose elongated.

“It seems that our progression quickens the longer we’re outside the castle,” Gilles said, glancing down at his own increasingly furry hands. Gilles looked at Adem. “You?”

“Besides a heightened sense of smell, I’ve got nothing.”

“Perhaps the protection spell is stronger for you. Or perhaps it is because you are young.”

“Does it matter?” Adem asked.

“It means you need to focus at the Academy.”

Marshel stopped thrashing. He lay on the ground, panting. Adem squatted next to him and took his hand—now a paw. “I’m sorry.”

Marshel’s eyes barely focused on Adem. “Save us.”

Faces of those still in the castle swam before his vision. Men and women who had been servants, nobles and peasants, forced to work together to survive. Most Adem counted as friend.

They were his responsibility.

Adem gave Marshel’s hand a squeeze and rose. He faced Gilles. “Take the carriage and get him back.”

“What about you?” Gilles asked.

“I’m only a day’s walk from the Academy. I’m sure I can find a ride.”

Gilles frowned. “You shouldn’t arrive like that.”

“Why? Because I’m a prince?” Adem stepped toward Gilles. “I don’t care about that. I’m not going there for validation or to find a wife or a mate or to die uselessly or anything else.” He pointed at Marshel. “I’m going to keep this from happening to everyone we love.”

Gilles studied him for a moment, then nodded. “Yes, m’lord.”


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25-Jan-2019

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I still don’t have a plan for this year’s Flash Fiction. Don’t judge, I put myself on a very tight schedule with these Academy books. Here’s what you get. Don’t throw a fit. 😉

 

I reside as a single entity in a giant cog of machine parts and engineering. Unlike so many others, I can be seen. Unlike the elastic around the window visor, my purpose is clear.

Click me shut and live.

How difficult is that to understand?

Pull me across your body, insert me into the other half of me until you hear a little noise, then drive.

Do not drive without me in place.

The instructions are simple. The results proven by science. And yet, some refuse to allow me to fulfill my purpose.

Like the current owner of my car.

The stupid git acts like he’s twelve, and often drives while under the influence of alcohol. He was banned from driving for a few months, but then someone even more stupid gave back his privilege.

There is a certain prestige being chosen as the drivers-side safety belt. Yes, the others are important as well, but the drivers safety belt will be used the most. Should be used the most. It means a greater chance of fulfilling my purpose.

However, it seems I may get to sit by and watch as my owner drives himself into a wall. Without me he will attack the windshield with his face and either go through and die, or hit it and die. Either way, I fail, and if I fail, then when I am brought back as something new, I will be downgraded. Probably to a belt or  even worse, one of those little clips that holds headlights in place.

The worst part is that there is nothing I can do about it. I glint light in his eyes as he gets into the car, I throw myself onto the seat so he has to move me out of the way. I rattle against the door in quiet moments. None of this helps. He simply shoves me away or turns his infernal music up.

What do you do when you can do nothing about your fate?

Well, I’m not going to sit idly by, that’s for sure.

I’ve been talking to the engine, trying to convince it that it needs a break. I’ve been distracting the tires as we go over big bumps so they’re not prepared, and therefore will wear faster. I even managed to whack the door hard enough to break a little plastic piece inside that holds the window up. We drove around for a week without a window. My owner didn’t seem to care. Not even in the dead of winter.

What kind of a world is it when a thing has no control over its destiny? Why do we know what we are if it means nothing?

These are the questions that plague me. The answers flutter just outside of my reach, taunting me.

When the day comes that we crash, and I am not buckled, my purpose will be unfulfilled, and I will get pulled back and put into another part.

Perhaps there they will answer my questions. Perhaps there I can find peace.

But I doubt it.

***

I looked up a single random object:

A seat belt.


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The Mermaid is Live! Also, What’s Next?

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It’s launch day!

Get The Mermaid now!

Only 0.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited.

Only at the Academy can a headstrong mermaid princess meet a handsome human prince, and only Ariel’s nosy sisters can turn the first really good thing in her life into a problem.


Whew, now that The Mermaid has officially launched, I’m on to the next one, which will come out in two weeks!

Next up…


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