Author Archives: Jo Ann Schneider

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10-Jan-2020

I must be in the mood for a romantic comedy…

“Can we stop at the next fast food place so I can go to the bathroom?” Carl complained from the back seat.

“No way,” Trina said. “I can’t get all of these layers off to go to the bathroom, and I have to go too.” She met my eyes in the rearview mirror as the plastic octopus hanging from it dangled back and forth. “Don’t you dare stop.”

I cocked my head from one side to the other, then tapped my thumbs on the steering wheel.

“Jack, don’t you even think about it.” Trina’s voice grew dangerous.

I laughed in the face of danger on a daily basis, so I signaled and turned off the main road.

“No!” Trina cried.

“Look, sis, I wore this stupid outfit for you all night, and now I’m hungry. So we’re stopping.”

“But we had dinner.”

“I wouldn’t call a piece of meat the size of half an egg with fruit punch disguised as wine dinner,” Carl said.

“Agreed,” I said.

“Will you hurry?” Trina said, sounding like a three-year-old doing the pee-pee dance. “Like really hurry?”

“Or you could get out,” I said.

Rachel, the girl sitting in the front seat threw me a dark look. “She’s not taking that costume in there. And you’d better not get a single grease stain on yours.”

“It’s not mine,” I reminded her. “The two of you begged Carl and I to come so you could take couples pictures. This is the beginning of your payback to us.”

Carl laughed. “So true.”

I pulled into a parking spot and threw the car into park.

“You sure you don’t want to come in?” Carl asked Trina. I’d caught Carl  staring at the results of a corset on my sister a couple of times tonight. We might have to have the “don’t date my best friend’s sister” talk later.

“No. Please hurry.”

Part of me wanted to walk as slowly as I could to the entrance, but considering what I was wearing, I wanted to get this over with.

The door pulled open with a slight squeak, and a rush of deep-fried goodness filled my nostrils. The diner at the Regency party had been less than satisfying. Carl bolted toward the bathrooms. “Do you want anything?” I asked.

“Get me a soda.” His words faded as he got farther away.

“Because you need more liquid in your system,” I said.

Lucky for us, it was late. And the place was almost deserted. One woman sat alone in the far corner, munching down fries and scrolling through her phone. A couple occupied another table, but they only had eyes—and hands—for each other.

I decided if I was going to be spotted in this ridiculous get-up, that I would at least make it look good. So I straightened my vest—er, waistcoat—fluffed my cravat, made sure my collar was brushing my jaw, then strode forward with my knee-high boots clicking on the floor.

I should have brought the walking stick thing.

The bored looking girl behind the counter saw me, and her eyes went wide. “Jack?”

Of course it was someone I knew. Unfortunately for me, after spending an evening with a bunch of people who ran around in Regency outfits playing out Regency dinner and garden scenarios for fun, I’d fallen into character. I walked up to the counter and bowed. “Sandi. So nice to see you.” I came up from my bow. “Are your parent’s well?”

Sandi and I had gone through school together. She was a band nerd, while I was a crazed athlete, but ever since we’d accidentally made a dry ice bomb for science class in junior high, we’d been friends.

She sniggered and did a curtsy. “They are well, thank you. How is your sister?”

Apparently Sandi had at least seen Pride and Prejudice before. “She is in the car, and under some distress.” I leaned forward. “She needs to use the privy, but did not want to do it here.”

“Understandable.” Sandi smiled. “What can I get you, my lord?”

I straightened and tapped a finger on my lips as I studied the menu. “Methinks I would like a large order of thine fries, a large Coke and a large Dr. Pepper.”

“Thine?” Sandi’s smile spread across her whole face. I’d never noticed that her nose wrinkled when she laughed. Nor did I notice the adorable freckles on her cheeks. Or the way her blue eyes lit up.

I was staring. I cleared my throat and raised an eyebrow. “Indeed.”

“Very well, my lord.” She did another curtsy and then typed my order into the computer. “Thine total is three of our dollars and one quarter.”

“Ah.” I reached inside my vest—waistcoat—and fished out my debit card. “Will this suffice?”

“Indeed,” she said.

Why did I notice that our fingers brushed when she took the card?

Why did I watch her the whole time she was running the order?

Why did I want her to smile at me again?

I shook my head. It must be this stupid costume.

The computer let out a pleasant dinging sound. Sandi handed my card back, along with my receipt. When I went to take the card, she held it fast until I looked into her alluring, blue eyes again.

Stupid costume.

“Next time you and your sister go to a regency dinner, count me in.”

I tugged on the card.

She smirked. “My lord.”

The card came free. I bowed. “My lady.”

Another worker handed me my order and I did the only thing a sensible young man worth at least five thousand a year should do.

I fled.

***

Not going to lie, I almost didn’t write this one. But then, when I did, it was so fun!

Like I said, I must have romantic comedy on the brain. Yes, I stretched the genre a bit…I hope you liked it.

Genre – Regency Romance

Random Object – Octopus

Setting – Fast Food Place


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The Rise of Skywalker Movie Review

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Star Wars: Episode IX The Rise of Skywalker

The surviving members of the resistance face the First Order once again, and the legendary conflict between the Jedi and the Sith reaches its peak bringing the Skywalker saga to its end.

 

Why did I come to this movie again?

Full disclosure, I’m a fan of the original trilogy. I grew up with them and no movie since then has really satisfied me. I tried to love Episode 1, but it didn’t last. 2 and 3 have the bones of a good story but Lucas isn’t the greatest story teller. Like building a beautiful room and then painting it a garish color. Or not finishing the ceiling.

I was excited when Disney took over, because they’d done a really good job with the Marvel Universe. The Force Awakens was okay, but I felt they pandered a little too much to, well, me. A bit too heavy handed with the callbacks to A New Hope. It was more like a retelling than an original movie.

The Last Jedi made me really grouchy. I didn’t mind most of Luke’s story. Everything about the space chase was badly written with clumsy characters who each carried a huge idiot ball the entire movie screaming “Look at me! I’m new and shinny and therefore amazing!” I told you it made me grouchy. However, my biggest problem with the movie, is that the writers or directors or both decided to subvert every single promise from the first movie. I realize it’s probably because fans like me were like, “The Force Awakens was too much like A New Hope!” but most of what episode 8 is about tries to undo what happened in episode 7. In the same way that episode 9 tries to undo a lot of what happened in 8.

This is terrible planning on someone’s part. As an author, I know it’s suicide to subvert everything you promise at the beginning of a book or series. Yes, some twists are great. Surprising the reader is awesome, but Disney shot itself in the foot by trying too hard to be different with episode 8. Just my opinion.

A friend said what I couldn’t find the words for a few weeks ago. “Disney had one job with these movies. Put Luke Leia, Han and Chewie on the screen together. That’s what fans wanted, and they never got it.”

There’s a lot of truth to that. Yes, the newer characters are the main focus, but that is what I wanted. Even just a few scenes. Even if they were all a little broken.

So, with that said, I didn’t have high hopes for this movie. I went in with low expectations.

3 of 5

 

Characters

Rey was supposed to be the focus of this movie. Her journey with the force and where it would lead. They did an okay job with that. Much more compelling, however, was Kylo Ren’s character arc. The movie rushed them both, but I wanted more of Ben! Way more. I didn’t think he was particularly interesting until this movie.

Finn was back! Loved him in episode 7, not so much in 8, really liked him in this one. A lot of people were upset Rose had a “bit part,” but I actually thought they put her in a nice position. Her character was rough, raw and a little dumb in episode 8. This time around she’s helping the general, in charge of stuff, and doing a great job of it. They tried a little too hard with Poe. He did make me laugh, which is good, so there’s that.

The heroes were a bit rough in the beginning, but turned it around a little way into the show. In general I liked the characters. I still want more of Ben.

4 of 5

 

Did I care what happened?

Surprisingly, yes. It took me a while, but I finally got drawn in.

4 of 5

 

Plot Holes

A Star Wars movie is like a Marvel movie. Yes, there will be plot holes. I rolled my eyes several times, but since my expectations were so low, I didn’t mind as much.

More than plot holes, this movie used easy plot devices. How many coincidences can happen? A girl on a random planet gives Rey a necklace and asks her what her family name is, Kylo appears to her via force vision/bond thing and snatches the necklace, allowing him to find out where she is, Rey and co. having to run from bad guys until they fall into the same quicksand as they dead guy they’re looking for, which leads them to a worm, which Rey helps foreshadowing for later, which leads to the knife which leads to a new ship which leads to rescuing Chewie which leads to them getting their old ship back. Oh, and Lando. All together it was just a little bit too convenient for my taste.

Granted, they had a lot to cover. As I said before, the director was trying to “fix” a bunch of the issues with the last movie, so most things felt very forced.

4 of 5

 

How many times did I yawn?

Never? My complaint would be that the movie moved too fast.

5 of 5

 

Cool Factor

Effects were great. Rey and the transport…yikes. Force Lightning! Leia dying 🙁 They packed this movie full of Star Wars-ness, and I loved most of it.

5 of 5

 

The End

I liked it. Here’s my spoiler: by the end of the movie, I was much more interested in Ben than Rey, which made me not like that part of the end.

4 of 5

 

Overall Enjoyment

I’m surprised to say that I enjoyed the show. I went in with low expectations, which helped. I also tried to immerse myself into the story and not compare it to anything. The parallels with Return of the Jedi were too prevalent to ignore completely, but all in all, I liked it. A decent ending to the saga.

4 of 5

 

33

That’s a Brown Belt!


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3-Jan-2020

Cookies and romance? Fine. Whatever.

“I told you he worked here,” Brittney said.

Brittney thought she was the brains of this little operation.

“Everyone knows he works here,” Harry, short for Harriet, grumbled. She was the only one allowed to drive us to the shopping complex.

“Well Brittney found out when he’d be here,” I said with a smile.

“Someone brought money right?” Harry asked.

“Duh.” Brittney waved her phone. “I’ve got it covered.”

“Do they take phone payments?” Harry asked.

“Who doesn’t?”

“The last three places you’ve tried to pay at.”

I put my hand up, cutting off their bickering. The three of us were slouched down in Harry’s family’s old mini-van. It smelled faintly of pizza and dog, but at least we didn’t have to ride our bikes or beg someone else for a ride, like the flock of girls who had just walked into the shop did.

Brittney scoffed. “Ametures.”

I raised my head to see what they’d done. The flock, six strong, had split up. Half of them stood in line to order while the other half lurked near the little counter where orders went out.

“He’s so handsome,” Brittney said in a breathless voice.

Harry gave me a hard look.

I smiled. Yes, I owed her. She knew I was good for it.

“Just look at the way he boxes those cookies!” Brittney squealed.

Yes, squealed.

Why had I come back as a teenage girl? I hadn’t squealed in millennia. Still, Brittney’s excitement rolled over me like bad perfume, and I took a moment to study the target of our operation.

Tall with bronzed skin and bleached hair from being outside so much, Zack gave the flock before him half a wave as he kept filling orders for the other customers, which the flock had moved in front of.

I had to admit, he was handsome. Chiseled jaw, nice muscle lines and those dimples…

“Here comes the manager,” Harry said.

The woman, a thin woman in her mid-thirties, came up next to Zack and smiled at the girls. I could imagine the conversation.

“Have you girls ordered?”

They looked down.

“Well, these nice people behind you have orders to pick up, so if you have nothing to pick up, would you please move to the door or go outside.”

The crestfallen faces filled my mind, and I grinned as half of the flock came outside.

“There’s a lull,” Brittney said.

She was right. The rest of the flock moved to wait for their order. Only two people stood in line. “Let’s go,” I said.

The three of us got out of the minivan and slammed the doors shut in perfect sync. We strode down the aisle of parked cars, made sure no one was coming along the front side of the strip mall, and then crossed to the cookie store.

The scent of sugar, dough and chocolate came all the way to the edge of the sidewalk. It rolled out the door as Harry opened it. I inhaled and took a moment to enjoy the fact that I could eat food again.

Zack looked up, smiled at Brittney, then went back to boxing cookies.

Brittney immediately pressed up against me, her body trembling. “Did you see that? He smiled at me.”

I patted her on the arm. “I saw it. Nice job.”

Harry rolled her eyes.

I watched Zack for a second, looking for anything besides his painfully attractive appearance that was out of the ordinary, then joined Brittney at the counter to order.

“Don’t you have anything smaller?” Brittney asked.

Harry scoffed. “We’ll take one chocolate chip, one sugar cookie and one of the orange dream ones.”

“Great choices,” the girl at the register said.

Brittney held up her phone. “You guys take phone payments, right?”

The girl smiled. “Sure do.”

Brittney stuck her tongue out at Harry.

Really smooth, I thought. Then we got to go into the waiting line, and that’s when I got my first good look at the guy everyone in school was talking about. No one knew where he went to school. He’d only revealed his first name, and he seemed like the nicest guy in the world.

The man before I picked up his order.

“Have a nice day,” Zack said.

The hair on the back of my neck rose. It sure sounded like him.

Brittney stepped up to the counter. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Zack said. “You ordered three cookies?” He frowned.

“That’s right.”

“You do know that four is a better bargain, right?”

Brittney laughed. “We only need one each.”

Zack leaned forward and winked. “Everyone needs another cookie.”

The air around him shimmered. Brittney’s eyes went glassy.

I suppressed a groan and gritted my teeth.

How had Loki gotten here?

His eyes darted to me, and he gave me a wink.

I’m sure he expected me to freak out, but instead I gave him a little nod. Then I held my thumb up to my ear and mouthed, “Call me.”

Zack raised an eyebrow.

I went to get some napkins and left a little card with my number on it.

Brittney continued to talk to Zack, who responded with more enthusiasm than he had any other customer. I was sure Harry and I would hear about it all the way home.

That was fine.

Now the question was, would Loki help me? If so, what would he want in return?

***

A few months ago, as I may or may not have been picking up a cookie from Crumbl in the middle of the day, I had the idea for this story.

The kid boxing up cookies was way too young for me, but he was seriously handsome, and this little ditty came to mind. Someday you might get more.


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Two Years as a Full-Time Author!

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The journey has been different than I imagined.

Two years ago I quit my day job so I could go full-time with my writing. I wasn’t making great money at the time, but my husband is super supportive and brings home the bacon, so to speak, so I found myself in the unique situation of being able to follow my dream while not having to stress about money.

The first year was hard. I didn’t break even with my expenses, and frankly I was a bit disappointing.

Year two has been a roller coaster of writing and emotions and almost breaking even. This is what happened.

First

I rapidly released eight fairy tale retellings with my Fairy Tale Academy series. While the stories are solid, and people who read them love them, I missed the market a bit, and the series didn’t do as well as I would have liked.

Second

I released five sweet and clean romance books under my pen name, Karly Stratford, and those did really well. I enjoy writing them, but don’t want to go full-time romance. It’s not where my passion lies, although I do love getting emails from fans who say how my book made their day!

Third

I had my very first story come out in Audible. It’s part of a collection of horror stories. I love it SO MUCH! The narrator nailed it, and I now understand a little more about the power of audio books.

Forth

I was part of a collaboration of authors who decided to use our talents to raise awareness about child sex trafficking. I’ve made my initial investment in covers and editing back, and from now on all profits go straight to organizations that actively help fight sex trafficking.

I’m not going to lie, this project sort of consumed the middle section of my year. The topic is difficult to write about, and we faced a lot of opposition when trying to get these books published. But we did it! And I’m pretty sure the journey for this project has just begun.

Fifth

One of my writing groups put together a Fairy Tale and First Dates anthology! We had such a good time doing this, and I loved how excited everyone got when they were able to hold a book of their own in their hands. Totally worth the stress!

Those are some of the highlights for 2019

Some days it’s hard to look past the drudgery and the stupid marketing and the fact that I’d rather make cookies than write and see all the good that I’ve done, the books I’ve produced and the wonderful emails from fans that I’ve gotten.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me through this endeavor . Cheers to 2019, and I look forward to 2020!

Do any of you have big goals for 2020? I’ve got some, but I’m not sharing yet.


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