Author Archives: Jo Ann Schneider

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21-Sept-2018

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A corrupt wizard and a pointy object.

The air in the tent had turned sour. I flicked a rather aggressive fly off of my hand for the third time.

“I don’t feel good about this,” Grant said.

“It will be fine,” I said. I looked up from my spell book and found the prepubescent peasant eyeing the sword.

He then turned his terrified, gaze on me. “But, I’m not supposed to be the king.”

I sighed and shut my book, which caused a thump which in turn caused Grant to jump. “Listen, boy, the tea leafs led me to you.” I stood and clapped him on the shoulder. A shoulder that was more bone than anything else. “And they have never led me astray.”

The boy glanced at the sword again.

I couldn’t blame him for being intimidated by it. The sheathed katana hovered a foot off of the ground in the middle of the tent, with the pointed side down. Even without the blade exposed, there was an unnatural black glow about it that caused most people to look away.

“A sword is just a tool,” I said as I pat the hilt. “It is like any other weapon. It will do as you tell it and nothing more.”

“But what about the rumors?”

“Rumors?” I raised my eyebrows.

“The rumors that if the wrong person tries to wield it that it will slice them to pieces.”

I waved my hand. “The sword has been in my possession for a generation. It has never shown such powers.”

“I heard the last boy who tried died a horrible death.”

I snorted, causing my white beard and mustache to billow out. “Yes, because that fool crept into my workshop, stole the sword and then tried to claim the throne.” I looked down my crooked nose at Grant. “The tea leafs did not lead me to him.”

Grant swallowed, causing the lump in his neck to bob up and down.

He’s on to you.

The sword’s voice echoed in my head, and I shot it a glare before turning back to Grant.

This was going to be more difficult than I had originally thought. Most of the boys that had tried the sword had been thrilled at the prospect of being king. Now this one decided he didn’t feel good about it.

“Take a seat.” I pointed to one of the cushions lying on the ground.

Grant obeyed.

Good luck.

I settled in and gave him a hard stare. “The one thing I haven’t told you is that I’ve traced your lineage back to the last king.”

Grant’s eyes went wide. “But, how?”

“Your mother’s, mother’s, father was the second son of the king. Reportedly he died in the attack, but someone got him out, and he lived his whole life as a peasant.”

“How do you know this?”

I reached into the folds of my robe and withdrew a ring. The blood-red jewel glistened in the faint light, and the black metal glowed in the same way the sword did. I held it out for the boy, and he reached both shaking hands out and took it.

“I found this in your mother’s things. It only took a few spells and talking to the right people to figure it out.”

I never should have told you where the ring was.

Grant’s eyes moved from the jewel back to me. His mouth opened and closed a few times before he finally spoke. “But…but how come she never said anything?”

“Probably to keep you safe. There are many who would still rally under the old king’s banner, and if someone were to raise that banner, the kingdom would fracture.”

Good save.

“But, then why do you want me to take up the sword now?” Grant asked.

I sat forward. “Because, it is time.”

“Time for what?”

Yes, time for what?

I shot the sword another irritated glare before returning my attention to Grant. “Time for the old kingdom to rise again. Time for ancient magic to return, and time for this land to move forward.”

I’d told this all to Grant before, but now he nodded. “I think I understand.”

“Oh?” I asked.

“Yes.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry about wh—”

A stabbing pain ripped through my side and went all the way through me.

I glanced down, mouth agape, and stared.

The sword sat hilt-deep in my ribs.

I opened my mouth and managed two words. “You bastard.”

I told you I would betray you. You should have listened.

Grant’s eyes were wide, but he stood. “I will be king, and your name will go into our history.”

I tried to speak again. Blood was all that came out.

Grant slid the ring onto his finger. Then his hand wrapped around the sword and he pulled it free.

I screamed.

The world went black.

***

I sort of fudged Overcoming the Odds, but I think it worked!

Also, at least I got a wizard and fantasy on the same roll.

Genre – Fantasy

Character – Wizard

Setting – In the Past

Random Object – Katana

Theme – Overcoming the Odds


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Fairy Tales

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I’m not much of a princess girl. Spending my life in poufy dresses and uncomfortable shoes does not sound like my idea of a good time.

However, I am a fan of fairy tales.

As some of you have read, I wrote a Little Mermaid retelling-The Academy-for a collection called Fractured Sea.

Well, I liked the world and the characters so much that I am planning to write more! Also, I won’t lie, my beta readers loved the story and a few people I know have asked me specifically if I am writing more.

I am writing more! Hopefully you’ll see the first of them at the beginning of next year.

For now I thought I would share my favorite fairy tales.

My most favorite is Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I saw it in high school and fell in love with it. I admit it might have been the library that did it, but I also enjoy the story of how one person can facilitate change in another. That’s a theme that draws me in every time, and I think most people can relate on some level.

I also love Ever After. This is a Cinderella retelling where the girl is anything but helpless and the boy is both confused by and attracted to this. I admit to being drawn to strong female characters, and this tale certainly delivers. Plus, in the end the prince is awesome.

A friend tricked me into watching Sydney White, and while it’s not the best movie I’ve ever seen, I thought it was a clever retelling of Snow White. Cute, fun and smart.

I have to admit, that the first two seasons of Once Upon a Time drew me in and wouldn’t let go. It was so fun to see how the writers twisted each character and each story together. Granted, the story got stale after a while, and they had to try way too hard to fit new things in, but it was a great idea. (No, I haven’t seen Grimm. Yet.)

I’d never really thought about a science fiction fairy tale until I read Cinder. A very interesting twist on Cinderella set in a world of political intrigue and larger than life problems. I haven’t read the others, but I’ve heard they stand up to the first one.

Okay, this is a shot-out to a friend, but Sarah E. Boucher’s take on the Twelve Dancing Princesses in her novel, Midnight Sisters, is both fun and surprising. You have to feel bad for the gardener who fell in love with the oldest girl.

 

So now I’m looking for seven other characters that will go to The Academy with Ri.

Any ideas? What are some of you favorite fairy tales?


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14-Sept-2018

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Shoulder Angels and Toenail Clippings

I’ll let you think about that for a minute

I closed one eye and studied the angle of the light. It would shine down from above and just hit the edge of each stair. Perfect.

“You must realize that this foolhardy plan of yours will never come to fruition.”

Why did I have to get stuck with the verbose counterpart? “You underestimate the idiocy of a teenage boy.” Two could play at her word game. I floated down the rickety stairs to the grimy cement floor below.

“You truly believe you can lure him here with shiny objects?”

“Did you have brothers?”

“No.” Did I detect an edge of irritation in her voice?

I snorted and turned to face my counterpart. She had been beautiful in life. Tall, slender with cascading curls that framed her pretty face. Pouty lips surly would have drawn all sorts of men to her. Her ample bosoms would have helped too. She glowed just enough so I could the ethereal robe she wore and the fact that while it covered everything, it didn’t leave much to the imagination.

Just looking at her made me want to roll in the grime on the floor. “Look, doll, boys will be boys.”

She tossed one of her curls over her shoulder. “I have been working on him all week about thinking before following his impulses.”

“And how has that been going?” I asked as I moved to the small pile of toenail clippings.

“I believe I have made significant progress,” she said. I could tell she was lying because her glow dimmed a bit.

I licked my lips and reached toward a particularly large toenail. A specimen I had gathered from the old man next door. Yellowed, thick and a big jagged along one edge. I imagined what it would feel like to touch it. The way the surface would press into my own fingers, and how it might hurt a little if I scratched the jagged bit along my skin.

Now, I no longer had skin, per se, but I could still manipulate other dead things. It took a high level of concentration, but I could—

“You’re going to touch those?”

The disgust in her voice normally would have made me laugh. Instead I glared. “Quiet, while your betters are working.”

She stepped closer and I ground my teeth. “Why bother? He’s going to ignore your little trail of clues. He’s supposed to be cleaning the house while his mother is at work, and right now he’s dusting.”

“He’s looking at the magazines his friends brought over yesterday.”

If she could have turned red she would have. One moment she was glowering down at me, and the next she zoomed through the ceiling toward Mile’s room.

“Finally,” I muttered. I turned back to the toenail and like a child zeroing in on one pea, I pinched the item in my fingers and picked it up.

Since she would be busy for a few minutes, I looked around and immediately found what I was looking for. A smile spread my lips as I moved toward the shelves that lined one wall. A small bottle of silver glitter had gotten bumped and, in turn, had broken and spilled into a small pile. I brought the toenail to my mouth, licked it and then dipped it into the glitter. The ooze from my tongue gave just enough stickiness to catch a few of the pieces of silver.

“Perfect,” I muttered. I floated back to the stairs and laid it on the edge, right where the light would catch it.

I put two more on the stairs, and then positioned the last on a weak spot.

Footsteps echoed from above, and my eyes tracked Mile’s journey from his room, down the hall, through the kitchen and to the top of the stairs.

I could hear my counterpart whispering at him, but I knew boys, and he wasn’t going to listen. Not when for weeks I’d been trying to convince him that his mom was hiding some of his dad’s old stuff down here.

The door opened, and as soon as his eyes would have spotted me, I disappeared from his sight. A switch clicked, and the light at the top of the stairs went on.

I held my breath. My counterpart had her good claws deep into the kid, but I’d tried a different angle, and today I was hoping my strategy would pay off.

Miles stared into the basement. He was afraid of the dark, but he was more interested in his dad’s old army stuff. His eyes flickered down, and I smiled.

The first toenail caught the light and glittered back at Miles.

Shiny objects were such a simple thing, but so effective.

Miles licked his lips, then stepped down once.

“Keep coming, kid,” I said quietly. “Don’t you want to know more about your dad?”

I could see the conflict on his face, but while my counterpart talked to him more than I did, I pushed him in other ways. In exciting ways. In non-talking/boring ways.

Miles swallowed, squared his shoulders and started down the stairs.

As I had predicted, he stopped to look at the first toenail. His expression when he picked it up almost made me laugh, but that didn’t stop him from going to the next one, and the next.

I held my breath as he came to the last one. He’d picked up the rest, but I had predicted he’d be bored of that by now.

To me delight, instead of retrieving the toenail, he stepped on it. Hard.

The stair under his foot gave way, and his leg went through to his thigh. Miles cried out in pain and anger.

He’d live—it wasn’t nearly as fun to kill my assignments as it was to torture them—but his mother was going to be very, very angry.

***

Okay, this was fun.  I could have done another thousand words easy!

Except, I’m not sure I have an actual thriller in me.

Genre – Suspense/Thriller

Character – Someone Already Dead

Setting – A Dark Basement

Random Item – Toe Nail Clippings

Theme – Good vs. Evil


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FanX 2018

FanX (Formerly known as Salt Lake Comic Con) is always a good time. It is perfectly normal to see anyone from babies to grandmas or grandpas dressed up in cosplay, anyone can scream in giddy joy when they see their favorite character in any form, and you seriously have thousands of new best friends for three days.

This was my second time getting my own table in Artists Alley to sell books.

These are two of my booth babes at the table.

Four years ago I only had two books!

Jagged Scars Series

New Sight Series

Then this happened!

We sold out of New Sight and New Powers and only ended up with three copies of New Vision (book 3) left! That was pretty exciting.

 

I did manage to get away from the table long enough to buy a few things. I’m going to need more wall space soon!

Was anyone else at FanX?

What was your favorite part?

 


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