Author Archives: Jo Ann Schneider

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The Long Awaited Writing Retreat!

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I’ve been dying for a writing retreat for months. Ever since my last one, really.

I might be addicted. What’s it to you?

People often ask me why I like writing retreats. I’m a full-time writer with no kids at home, so basically my entire life is a retreat. Right?

Not really.

Even sitting in my office during writing time, I feel chores trying to pull me from my chair.

Oh look, the laundry pile is getting pretty high.
How long has it been since I dusted?
Is that a dead bug on the carpet, or a fuzzy thing?
Better vacuum to make sure.
Close your eyes in the bathroom, because those corners look terrible.
Don’t get me started about the baseboards.
Did I take the trash out this morning?
The roses are getting long…

I honestly don’t know how parents get anything done with kids on top of all that. Gold stars for all of you!

Getting away from my house is invaluable. It gets me out of my typical head-space and allows me to focus on whatever I need to work on.

The only distraction is the internet, which I avoid as much as possible.

This past weekend I got about 15k words written. That’s actually a low word count for me for a retreat. Normally that would be disheartening, but I re-wrote the first 10k words of my science fiction story for the sixth or seventh time. My brain whined about it until I got past 10k, and then it took off.

Getting out of my normal routine and surroundings gave me the chance to create a new beginning for this story. I think it’s good.

Not everyone can get away for a retreat, but sometimes just moving to a new room will help.

Here are a few pictures from this past weekend.

Thursday evening when I arrived
Sunday morning when I left.
Two hours later at my house.

That was first winter. It’s all gone now, but it will be back.

What do you do to get out of your own head?

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Welcome to this week’s Spooky Flash Fiction!

Just one more week of haunting fun to go!

When the Joke’s on You

This Week’s Flash Fiction Friday is brought to you by:
The original Annabelle (Raggedy Anne) Doll
One of those Hay Bale Hooks
An Abandoned Farmhouse

“You ready to do this?” I asked.

Mary scoffed. “Of course.” She jerked her chin toward the boys. “Think they’ll scream like little girls?”

“Of course they will.”

Eric and Peter. Juniors. Hot. Popular. Twins. They’d asked us to Homecoming, and we’d been going out ever since.

Peter and I were dressed as Raggedy Anne and Andy, while Mary and Eric were dressed as Princess Ariel and Prince Eric. Mary thought it was ironic.

“The wisps of fog are a nice touch,” Mary said.

I looked across the field. “We couldn’t have asked for a better Halloween night. There’s even a full moon rising.”

Mary held her fist out.

I bumped it with my own, then turned somber. “Time to act scared.”

Mary took my hand, and we walked close to one another.

The boys, who had gone before us to check out the old gate, waved us forward. Our footsteps crunched on the gravel driveway, and brittle grass rasped as we moved into the field.

“What’s the legend again?” Peter asked me in a low voice.

I let Mary go and moved to his side. He slid his shaking hand into mine. I fought to keep the smile off my face. “Years ago, when our parents were kids, a farmer and his family lived here. Normal people. They had a son and a daughter. They went to church and participated in the community.”

Our footsteps seemed to get louder. The grass grabbed at my socks and dress. A cloud moved over part of the moon, taking some of our light. Peter’s fingers tightened around mine.

Mary continued with the story.

“One fall, no one saw them for a few days, so the Sherriff came to investigate. He expected to find them sick with the flu that had been going around, but he found nothing inside the house.”

My eyes darted to the sagging structure to our right. The line of the roof looked like a swayback horse, and most of the windows had been boarded up.

I took it from there. “The Sherriff could hear the animals in the barn, so he went to check it out.” We stopped in the shadow of the tall building. My words turned to a whisper. “The door was shut, but the Sherriff pushed it open.” I reached out and pushed the door.

A loud screech sounded as it swung open a foot.

Peter was holding on so tight that I was losing feeling in my hand, and Eric’s arms were wrapped around Mary.

Even my heartbeat sped up.

I glanced at Mary, who swallowed and continued. “Inside he found all four members of the family hanging on hay bale hooks, which had been hung from the wall. Legend has it, that the hooks are still there.”

I could hear Peter breathing hard. I gave the door another shove, and got it open another six inches. Before Peter could object, I slipped inside dragging him behind me.

The layout of the barn was familiar, so I didn’t bother with my phone, but Peter had his out with the flashlight on in a second.

The inside was just as Mary and I had left it the day before. Dirt floor. Old shelves. A few rusted tools, and on the far wall…

Eric used his phone as well.

“I don’t like this,” Mary said in a scared voice. “We should go.”

That girl should be an actress.

“I can’t see the far wall.” Peter squinted into the darkness.

I took a step forward. He followed. Our feet shuffled, kicking up dirt which settled on my tongue. “I’ve heard that other families have tried to live here, but one of them always dies, and they leave.”

We went around the broken-down plow. Peter has strangled the life out of my hand, but I didn’t let go. I pulled my phone out with my other hand so I could record their reaction.

The beam of their lights got closer to the far wall.

“What’s that on the ground?” Mary asked.

The small lump had yellow yarn on it.

“Is it a doll?” Peter asked.

I squatted down and picked it up. Mary had found it at an estate sale. “It’s old. Maybe it belongs to the little girl who died here.”


The tone in Mary’s voice pulled my eyes up. I followed the light, and found the hooks still in place. Only they weren’t empty. I glared at Mary. “Did you do this?”

She held up her hands. “No.”

We both turned on the boys. “Did you?”

Peter looked at me with confusion. “What are you talking about?”

Each hook had a doll impaled on it. Raggedy Anne. Raggedy Andy. Princess Ariel, and Prince Eric.

“Not funny,” I said to Mary.

“I told you, I didn’t do it.”

“Do what?” Peter asked with anger in his voice.

I sighed. There went our perfect video of boys screaming like little girls and running out of the barn. It was sort of a ritual for all the new kids who moved in. I opened my mouth to explain, but a low growl filled the air.

The world stopped. My ears seemed to open enough to hear my own breathing and the blood in my veins. They also picked out a scrape of something on the dirt behind us.

“Very funny.” Peter let go of my hand and crossed his arms over his chest. “I assume this is some stupid joke you play on the new kids?”

I shook my head and slowly turned around. The growl sounded again, and I saw a pair of glowing yellow eyes.

“What’s that?” Eric asked.

Before he could answer, something pounced on him and started ripping him apart.

I screamed, then a weight hit me, I felt something go through my stomach, and the world went black.

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Meme Attack!

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It’s been a while since I’ve shared the stupid memes the hubby and I send back and forth.

Considering we still have two weeks before this election is over,and I have a screaming headache this morning, I’ve decided to be silly today.

Behold, the memes…

Bonus points for anyone who knows both references.
I didn’t cry either time, but that’s just me.
This. Is. So. Cute.
He’s got a point.
True for both families.
We all know cats are adorable jerks.
This one makes me LOL!

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Welcome to this week’s Spooky Flash Fiction!

Just two more weeks of haunting fun to go!

How Fast Can Your Heart Go Before it Bursts?

This Week’s Flash Fiction Friday is bought to you by:
A Creepy Hooded Guy
Crunchy Leaves in the Gutter
A Black Cat

I hated it when my friends wouldn’t walk me home. My mom said they had to, but when I told them that, they just laughed.

They  never had to walk alone, they were twins. And they had brothers. No one messed with them.

Me, on the other hand…I was short, I couldn’t run very fast, and I was very much alone.

It wasn’t that far from their house to mine, just two blocks over and one block up, but tonight it felt like a mile. The sun had slipped behind the mountains an hour before, leaving everything looking not quite real.

The thump, thump of my Keds on the ground echoed in my ears.

The sound of a car coming made my heart pound. I didn’t like it when the cars shone their headlights in my face. I held my breath, but the car didn’t come around the corner ahead.

A breeze rustled the crackling leaves on the trees, sending a shiver down my spine.

My legs sped up. Breathing started to hurt as I got to the halfway point.

Why did it have to be all uphill? I should have ridden my bike. It was hard to pedal up the street, but at least it was faster than walking.

Of course, then I would have to put it in the backyard. The dark, quiet, eerie backyard where anything could be hiding.

Maybe walking was better.

Since the car hadn’t come, I decided to cross the street. I waited for a driveway, then stepped into the road.

Only then did I see the guy on the other side. He was a few houses ahead. In the dim light I couldn’t be sure, but I thought he was wearing a hood. And something was glowing red under it.

Just a cigarette, I assured myself. There was just one glowing point—not two, like eyes. He was just outside smoking.

But I didn’t smell smoke.

My feet wanted to run back to the sidewalk I’d just left and back to my friend’s house. They would laugh at me, but I’d be safe. Then I wondered, if he was a bad guy, would he like it better if I ran? Like a mean dog?

I’m the slowest runner in my grade, so he’d catch me no matter what. I took a steadying breath and decided to stay in the middle of the road. That way I could see him coming, and scream.

The woman in the house at the top of the street was a friend of my mom’s. She would help me.

Although her husband was really grouchy. What if he heard me and got mad?

I didn’t look over at the guy in the hoodie. If I pretended he wasn’t there, maybe he would pretend I wasn’t here either.

By the time I passed him, my whole chest heaved, and it felt like my heart might explode. He could probably hear me. I wanted to put my hand over my mouth, but didn’t, even though a scream sat right behind my lips.

I heard the scrape of his shoe on the sidewalk, and somehow walked faster. Any quicker and I would be at a jog.

Another scrape.

I was just two houses from the corner. If I got around the corner, I would be safe.

Footsteps echoed behind me.

The air was too thick to breathe. I tasted blood.

One house to go. This is where my mom’s friend lived. Should I go to the door?

A growling yell came from the house. Her husband. I kept going.

Thump, thump. My feet kept up the pace.

Thunk, thunk. He was coming.

The road curved. I cut the corner, stepping in the gutter. Leaves crunched under my foot, sounding as loud as a hundred papers being crumpled at the same time.

I could see my house. Just one block over to go.

The thunk, thunk got louder.

I cut across the road. Could I make it? I had to make it.

Leaves rustled again, but not from above. I looked back.

He was close.

I turned to run, but a black shape darted out in front of me.

I screamed, and before I could tell my legs to go, I was going.

It took me a minute to realize the figure had been my friend’s cat. It hated everyone.

I thought I heard it spitting and hissing, but I’m not sure I could hear anything over my scream.

I’d never been so grateful for the light on the front porch. When I got up the three stairs, I doubled over, shaking like crazy.

This time I did hear a hiss. I looked up, and found him across the street.

Red lit his face.

A cigarette.

My eyes went wide when I remembered something we’d learned at school.

I shouldn’t have led him to my house.

I swallowed hard, and in the time it took me to blink, he was gone.

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