Author Archives: Jo Ann Schneider

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What happens when a wizard gets a hold of a cuckoo clock

Drake sat on the rickety stool near a table. Ticking filled the air like a swarm of angry bees. He stared at one of the hundreds of cuckoo clocks that hung above him on the wall. Unlike the more traditional clocks, this one looked like a castle, complete with turrets, gargoyles, a trebuchet and little knights that would come out every hour, chasing a dragon.

Or was the dragon chasing them?

Drake could never tell.

His favorite part was when one of the towers caught on fire and burned.

His master had enchanted the clock when he had come of age. Now it was Drake’s turn.

The scratchy red robe—the formal attire for wizard testing—made his skin crawl, and the black cape pulled at his skinny shoulders, making him feel like he was going to topple off of his perch.

But the hat was the worst. Could they have nice, pointy hats where he could store his wand? No. They had to have big, bulbous things that looked like a turtle had camped on his head. And despite all of the room in them, he was not allowed to store anything there. Not even a snack.

Drake fingered his wand—a long, thin piece of hardwood that he’d pulled from a tree when he was six. That had been seven years ago. His time for parlor tricks had ended, and now his master expected him to enchant his own clock.

It sounded easy on the surface, but to do it properly, he had to change the structure of the thing while keeping the gears aligned so it would still tell time. Also, he needed to understand how to alter the characters. Which again sounded easy, but trying to talk a tiny wooden goat into becoming a much larger and more ferocious troll was going to be difficult. Not to mention twisting the house—a safe and warming place—into a stone bridge that the troll could live under.

Drake pictured the clock as it was now with its friendly house, a family and their animals along with the weights, and then went through each step for the transformation in his mind.

The really tricky part was going to be making the front porch into a flowing river.

As far as Drake knew, no one had tried it before. He would be the first. His name would go down in wizard history, just as his master’s had for the tower that burst into flames each time the clock struck twelve, and then rebuilt itself an hour later.

No one had shown Drake how to do any of this. Not directly. Magic was a mystery, and while they guild provided young apprentices with a Master, often the secrets had to be learned through trial and error.

It would be easier if their world had hard and fast rules for anything, but it didn’t. One day the sun would rise in the east, then in the west the next. Sometimes clouds would bring rain and other times they would rain down fire.

But magic, that was different. Once you made your own rules, you had to stick with them. Drake’s master could not do water magic. He’d used fire magic on his clock, and now that’s how his magic worked. No one knew what would happen when a young wizard enchanted a clock.

Once in a while an apprentice would disappear, never to be seen or heard from again.

Drake didn’t want that, but he also didn’t want to perform lesser changes on the clock and get stuck doing menial tasks for the guild for the rest of his life.

One of his friends, just two years older, had simply changed every color on their clock. Drake’s eyes darted to it. Now his friend sat in a clothing shop, adjusting colors of dresses, scarves and hats for women.

Drake wanted to shine. He wanted to be able to move along the rivers, which were deemed too dangerous for travel. With water magic, he would be able to do that.

He hoped.

The swish of robes sounded as the Elders entered the room.

Drake sat up straight and turned to look at them.

Six wizards—men and women—entered. His master followed them, holding Drake’s clock.

Drake had been waiting for this moment for years. He expected a big speech about magic and how it would change him and about all the good he could do. He was prepared for several minutes of rather dull exposition before they would get to the matter at hand.

None of this happened. Instead, the elder Elder dipped his head, his mustache brushing his knees, and spoke. “Are you ready?”

Drake blinked. “Uh, yes.”

The elder Elder motioned to Drake’s Master, who brought the clock forward, and set it on the table.

“Then proceed,” the elder Elder said.

It took a moment for Drake to catch up. The wizards stared at him. He slid off the stool and went to the table. He closed his eyes, picturing everything he wanted to do, and then willed the changes into the wand.

He spoke to the goat, assuring the animal that being a troll would be much more fun than being a goat. He sent cold into the house and twisted it into the bridge. Each character saw reason and transformed into its new form.

Then Drake concentrated on the stones. Movement. Water. Cool. Pure. Bubbling.

A light gurgle sounded. Drake put one last push into it, and then opened his eyes.

A smile spread his lips. He’d done it. He looked at his Master, and then the Elders.

They looked mildly impressed.

I opened my mouth to speak, but a bubble came out.

The elder Elder nodded. “Water wizard. Very rare. Very volatile.” He looked at Drake’s master. “Get him to the river before he dries out.”

Drake felt his eyes wide.

“Not to worry,” the elder Elder said, “maybe you can fix the tides.”


I hate it when I write one of these and I want to know more.

Sorry, there’s no more.

And yes, I did push the mystery genre a bit.

Genre – Mystery

Character – Wizard

Setting – In the City

Random Object – Cuckoo Clock

Theme – Coming of Age

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Negativity is like a drug. It’s all too easy to get caught up in a complaining fest either in our minds or with someone else.

Gratitude, on the other hand, is more difficult to focus on, but when you do, the world is a totally different place.

In light of me finishing Broken Worlds, I wanted to express my gratitude for everyone who has been involved.

The hubby: He’s listened to hours and hours of me ranting about this book. He deserves much more than a hug and a kiss.

My beta readers: Who read the horrible version of Broken Worlds before I finally came up with the final story. They didn’t even judge me.

Family: My family and my in-laws have all heard about this book too, and everyone has been encouraging.

My writing buddies: Who are probably going to be really glad to hear about something other than this book.

My fans: You never know when an excited email about a book to an author can save their sanity. I have a few people on my review team that have been asking for Broken Worlds for quite a while, and their notes to me have come at moments when I wanted to rage quit.

Heavenly Father: I don’t normally share much about my religion, but I’ve felt more than one comforting, spiritual pat on the back as I’ve agonized over this book. It’s nice to know there’s someone at the top routing for me, even when I eat an entire pan of brownies in protest of having to rewrite the middle of the story…again.

Other things I’m grateful for:

Computers (because copy/paste is a wonderful thing)

Movies (to distract me)

The internet (okay, this is a love/hate thing)

Other writers who have shared their struggles with me

Diet Coke

Sonic Onion Rings

Ice Cream

My kempo class (because nothing is better for writers block than punching and kicking things…trust me on this)

The Indie publishing movement (if not for Indie publishing, I wouldn’t be the author I am today)

So if you’re discouraged, take a moment to come up with a few things you’re grateful for. Whether it be people or things or circumstances. I promise it will brighten your day!


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The last Christmas kaleidoscope projector in the galaxy

Ja’en gently opened the container. The flimsy lid, made out of the same material as the box, rotated up. Her eye stalks hovered, looking at the contents.

A faceted, clear ball peered back at her.

“What’s that?” Suc’e asked, leaning over the floating counter.

“Special order,” Ja’en said as she slipped a tentacle down the corner of the box and wrapped the base of the device.

The shop would open in a few minutes, and Ja’en had wanted to get everything in order before then. But this had distracted her. She heard the doors automatically unseal, but ignored them. No one came in this early.

The special order?” Suc’e’s insect eyes glittered as Ja’en pulled the item free.


A black, metal cone attached the faceted clear ball to a sharp, plastic stem. A black cord exited  the cone. Ja’en wiggled the ball and cone and found that the assembly swiveled.

“What is it?” Suc’e asked. He turned his triangular head to the side and licked the air with what he called a tongue.

“I’m not sure, but it’s Earther.”

Suc’e scuttled back a step. “What?”

“Don’t believe everything you hear about the Earthers,” Ja’en said, still studying the ball.

“But they’re savages,” Suc’e said. “That’s probably a weapon.”

“Does this look like a weapon to you?”

“Doesn’t matter, my queen says that Earthers will kill you rather than look at you.”

A gruff voice spoke from behind Ja’en.

“Depends on how tasty you are.”

Ja’en jumped, and cradled the device next to her body. Her two hearts sped up, and her flight glands began to secrete.

Suc’e scuttled back another step, and held a pincer out in front of himself.

Ja’en stilled her energy and turned.

She’d never met the buyer. He’d always sent someone else to pick up his orders. She’d wondered why he never came. Now she knew.

Not many beings in the galaxy had seen a human in the flesh before. There were plenty of vids on the net of the destruction of Earth and all of their colonies, and none of them painted humans in a favorable light.

“Sir?” Ja’en said.

He pointed to the object in her tentacles. “I believe that’s my special order.”

It was difficult to gauge his mood. Humans didn’t change color or scent when they were angry. There was supposed to be a way to tell with their mouth, but Ja’en had never read the articles. This male—she was fairly certain he was male—had a scar that ran down one side if his dark face. Lines of hair sat above each of his small, cold eyes. The only other hair he had was on the top of his head, and as all humans, he covered the rest of himself.

“Uh, yes. Of course.”

Another customer came into the store, and Ja’en waved at Suc’e to go and take care of them. Her assistant practically ran away.

“May I?” he asked, pointing with his strange arm with fingers at the end.

“Yes.” Ja’en wrapped the object in two tentacles and offered it to him. She held her breath as the human’s hands came toward her. His fingers slowly, gently took the object from her.

Parts of his face changed as he studied it, turning it over and over in his hands. After a moment, he looked up.

“Do you have the box?”

“Here,” Ja’en said, pointing.

The human moved to the container, rummaged around inside and pulled a flat disc out of it. He removed the clear ball with a click and inserted the disc into the cone. Then he replaced the ball, pulled a small black box from his coat pocket and inserted the end of the cord into it.

Ja’en bit back a gurgled cry as light exploded from the faceted ball.

Colors that Ja’en couldn’t even describe appeared on the shop’s ceiling. Like stars, but different. And in its own way, beautiful. The array began to move, the entire thing twisting around an invisible axis.

She risked a glance at the human, afraid he was going to be upset at her outburst, but his eyes were on the ceiling. His face had changed again. Somehow it had softened. She plucked up her courage and asked, “What is it?”

He looked at her, and then at the array. “Back on Earth we had a holiday called Christmas. We celebrated giving and getting and love. My family had one of these when I was a little boy. My brother and I would sit at our window and watch it for hours.”

Ja’en could see why. There was a beautiful simplicity to it. Soothing.

Moisture gathered in the human’s eyes, but he blinked and it was gone. He pulled the plug and the display disappeared. He reached into another pocket and offered her a generous pile of credits.

“This is too much,” she said, waving her tentacles in front of her.

“You got it here early, just as I asked.” He slipped the machine back into the box and closed it. “If Earth were still around, Christmas day would be tomorrow.” He set the credits on the floating counter. “Thank you.”

Ja’en watched as he picked up the box and walked away.

What had he said? Giving, getting and love? Were those really things that Earthers valued? It sure hadn’t looked like it at the end.

But here was this human, thanking her. She moved toward the door. “I hope you have a good Christmas day.”

The human stopped. His body tensed, and Ja’en thought she had made a terrible mistake, but after a moment he turned. “I do to.”


I hate it when a short story like this explodes into more in my brain.

lalalalala, I’m writing something else right now!

Genre – Science Fiction

Character – Female

Setting – In a shop

Random Object – Christmas Kaleidoscope Projector

Theme – Death

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I Can Only Imagine Review

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The inspiring and unknown true story behind MercyMe’s beloved, chart topping song that brings ultimate hope to so many is a gripping reminder of the power of true forgiveness.

 Why did I come to this movie again?

The synopsis above was exactly what I knew about this movie going into it. I jumped on Rotten Tomatoes and looked at a couple of reviews. I was surprised that most of the one and two star reviews indicated that if you weren’t Christian that you’d hate this movie because it’s sappy and about God and forgiveness.

Well, I happen to be a Christian who believes in forgiveness. And that is the entirety of the expectations I had for this movie.

4 of 5


I thought the actors did a great job with the characters. I’ve never been abused, physically or otherwise (yes, I count myself very, very lucky) but I still felt for Bart. I understood enough of his anger, his helplessness and all of the emotions that he held inside for all those years to be drawn into his plight. Plus, he was super adorable.

Dennis Quaid was AMAZING as Bart’s dad. A horrible person who decides to change. And while I didn’t want to feel for him—because I wanted to punch him in the face for the first half of the movie—by the end I did.

5 of 5

Did I care what happened?

Yes. There was plenty of conflict and questions. Characters made stupid decisions but I still liked them/believed in them enough to hope that they would fix it.

5 of 5

Plot Holes

Nothing huge. A few parts of the story are a bit clunky, but if you’re not a writer you might not notice.

4 of 5

How many times did I yawn?

Like I said, the story slowed down in a couple of places, but all in all, no big yawns.

4 of 5

Cool Factor

While this movie wasn’t in a fantastical world filled with people who have superhuman powers, the cool factor in this film was still pretty great.

The glimpse it gave me into the music world was interesting. I’m an author, and there are a lot of parallels between the music and the publishing world, so I understand how difficult it can be to break into an industry.

Also, as I said above, I am Christian, and to have a story focused on forgiveness was amazing. Not only forgiving one another, but believing that God can forgive you of what you’ve done wrong no matter how bad it is. I mean, these are the things I believe, so seeing them played out so well on the big screen was awesome.

Now, if you’re not into these sorts of beliefs,  you may hate the movie. And that’s totally okay. To each their own, right?

5 of 5

The End

While the end is bitter sweet, and then completely awesome, nothing came as a big surprise. And I was okay with that.

And yes, I cried when he sang at the end. I’m a big baby.

5 of 5

Overall Enjoyment

As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed this film.

I remember as a young teenager, my group of friends consisted of religious and non-religious people. All shapes, colors and belief systems. We rarely all loved the same movie. When Field of Dreams came out (yes, I’m getting old), one of the girls I knew who usually raved about the dark, gritty films, could not stop talking about how good Field of Dreams was. And she couldn’t figure out why.

That’s how I hope people will feel about this film. I loved it. It’s not in my top ten or anything, but it was certainly nice to come out of a movie with that uplifted feeling that stayed with me for a few days.

4 of 5

Score = 36

That’s a Black Belt!

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