Author Archives: Jo Ann Schneider

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I Went to A Writing Conference

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I’ve been to a lot of writing conferences. Like a whole lot of writing conferences. I’ve spent oodles of dollars on them, and feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on what to expect out of an event.

For instance, last year I went to a week-long Master Class on the Oregon coast. They warned us that it would be focused on the business side of publishing and that by the ends our brains would have exploded. Twice.

Just as the promised, I came away from that conference with more than 20 pages of notes which I condensed down into 3 pages of a “To Do” list. Even now, a year later, I’ve hardly made a dent in that list because it’s so dense.

While at the Master Class last year, a few people told me they were going to a writing conference called 20 Books to 50k the very next week. Everyone raved about it afterward, so I jumped online and signed up to be notified when tickets went on sale. I picked them up right after I got the email, reserved my hotel room and waited.

The basic premise of 20 Books is that if you have twenty books, and know how to market them well, you can make 50k a year, which is apparently enough to comfortably retire in Cabo.

Between that description, and all of the people that raved about the conference last year, I was expecting great things.

I didn’t get what I expected.

This has happened to me a few times. For instance, I once read the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Many in my writing community praised it as the best book about writing ever written. So I read it…and was disappointed. Because the book isn’t about writing. Not really. It’s about finding your motivation and how that can help you get through life. It’s one big pat on the head.

I didn’t want a motivational book. I wanted useful information. (And yes, I think a few of my friends now shun me because of my less than glowing review of the book.)

The same thing happened to me last week at 20 Books. I was expecting to walk away with pages and pages of notes and at least another page or two to add to my “To Do” list. Instead I got a series of “This is how I did it (without specifics that I was looking for) and you can do it too!” speeches.

A lot of people left the conference glowing and excited and ready to conquer their mountain.

I’m already on my mountain. I don’t need someone to yell encouraging things down from the top, I need someone to share their experiences about the next couple of steps of my path. And I’m totally willing to share my experiences (however limited they may be) with others.

So if you’re looking for some seriously amazing success stories, and could use a boost to your motivation, I highly suggest you sign up for the conference next year.

If you’re looking more for specific information, be ready to talk to everyone in the room until you find that one person that’s a few steps ahead of you that is willing to chat. And believe me, it’s pretty hard to draw information out of introverts. Even with cookies to offer.

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I told you not to touch that

“Whacha doin’?” my lump of a nephew asked as he oozed into the industrial kitchen.

“Preparing for later,” I said, setting a gleaming knife onto a white towel which sat atop a floating cart.

“You mean for those guys downstairs?” His bulbous body pulsed, and his eyestalks turned to examine the tray.

“The very ones.” The last item joined the others, and  I retracted my arm into my own body.

“Can I watch?” he asked.

I sighed. “No.”

“Why not?”

The whine in his voice made me want to form teeth and bite him, but I refrained. “You tell me,” I said with as much patience as I could muster.

His body sagged. “Because mom says I’m not mature enough not to go into a blood lust.”

“And?” I formed a ropey sinew and wrapped it around the cart’s controller. My nephew followed as I started toward the back door of the kitchen.

“And I would kill them too quickly.” His body grew larger on the bottom, as if he were slowly turning into a puddle.

“And why is it important not to kill them too quickly?” I asked.

He rolled his eyes in his eyestalks. “Because we want information.”

I stopped just short of the door. “And how valuable is information?”

“More valuable than currency,” he said in the most sarcastic voice he could muster.

He’d been here for over a cycle, and still wasn’t getting it. Of course I understood how difficult it was to stay in control during the development years. I’d been through it. I’d lost control once, and I still had the burn marks on the bottom of my body where my mentor punished me. It had only taken once.

Maybe it was time for my nephew to learn his first lesson.

“Listen, kid, tell you what. Why don’t you help me test some of this stuff?”

“Really?” His eyes widened, and he straightened.

“Really.” I jerked an eyestalk and moved the cart to a nearby counter. It would be another hour before the kitchen staff returned. Plenty of time for what I had in mind.

My nephew practically skimmed across the floor in my wake. I motioned for him to come around the other side as I pulled a drawer out from under the top of the cart.

Several organic items resided there. I could see their scents rise, like smoke, and my nephew leaned away when his body absorbed the first of them.

“This is the first level of persuasion,” I said. “The raw organics.”

My nephew paled, but eased forward.

“The scent isn’t deadly, but as you can feel, it is not pleasant.”

He shook his head and leaned to look into the drawer.

“This one in particular is mild, but it stays with you.” I plucked the white bulb off of the cold, metal surface. The outside of the organic shifted under my touch, and light flakes fluttered back down. I held it out. “Smell it.”

My nephew inched closer and extended a hand toward the object. He didn’t touch it, but instead cupped around it with the extension. Again, he paled, but didn’t move away.

“The outside is mild. The inside is a different story altogether.” I formed fingers and tore away the outer layers until I got to the segments. My appendage wanted to recoil, but I’d handled this before. I pulled a segment free and set it on the towel. “Get ready.”

My nephew grew still.

The blade of the knife gleamed in the light, and I placed the flat of it on top of the segment, then I pressed down.

The scent, once cream-colored, turned a disgusting hue of yellow. The moment the first tendril of it hit my nephew, he went green.

To his credit, he didn’t draw away.

“The beings downstairs will not like this, but it will not kill them.”

“Will they talk?”

“Perhaps,” I said. “Perhaps not.” I picked up the now cracked segment and began to peel the exterior away. The scent became more pungent, and I steeled myself. “But they will when I do this.”

I placed the segment into a little bucket of what we called the press. When it settled, I drew two handles together and pushed.

The segment squished apart and through small holes. The scent turned a violent orange, and raced outward in every direction.

My eyes secreted a protective layer.

“Ah!” My nephew reeled back, pulling his eyes into his body.

“One touch of this,” I said, “and they will be begging for mercy.”

I tapped the goo onto the nearby  counter the turned my back and moved to a disposal. I threw the whole press away.

I only counted eight seconds before a strangled cry of alarm and pain rang out behind me.

I smiled.

The smell of searing flesh reached me, and I turned.

My nephew had taken the bait I had so carefully laid for him. He’d reached out a hand and touched the garlic.

Now his fingers were on fire, and he couldn’t get them back inside his body. He twitched and turned and screamed some more.

I pulled an extinguisher off the wall and pulled the trigger. A layer of purple mist enveloped him, and the he stopped screaming.

I moved to his whimpering form and looked down. “This is why you can’t come down.”

He nodded, liquid running from his eyes and blood running from his ruined hand.

“Now go see the doctor. I have work to do.”


Genre – Sci-Fi

Character – Villain

Setting – In a Shop

Random Object – Garlic Press

Theme – You Are Your Own Worst Enemy

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Month Ten as a Full-Time Author

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October turned out to be a wild and crazy month.

Last month I mentioned a new project I was working on. For that project, I wrote two novels in October. Two 50k word novels. One is back from my editor and the other is just back from my beta readers.

I’ll tell you a little secret. They’re sweet, uplifting romance novels that I’m going to release under a pen name. If you get my newsletter you already know this, so I guess it’s not that big of a secret. I’ll be announcing the release of both books here before the end of the year.

If you’re wondering what they’re about, let’s just say that they could pretty much be Hallmark Christmas movies, but I couldn’t bring myself to cram quite that many cheesy lines into one novel. And believe me, I really tried with the second one.

I was considering writing another romance novel, but instead decided to start on my Academy series. I’ve now got outlines for stories about The Beast and a Frog Princess. You’ll love the take on the Beast, and I was seriously laughing when I was working on the Frog Princess. I also have the other five characters picked and their stories loosely laid out. Watch for these starting at the end of January.

I try to focus on the positives, but I feel like I should share some of my less than stellar experiences from this past quarter.

Marketing gives me anxiety. Well, after an hour of thinking about it and/or learning about it I want to punch people in the face. I guess that’s a form of anxiety, yes? Or maybe just stress. Or maybe I just need to take a chill pill.

Anyway, I haven’t met my monetary goal this year because I haven’t been marketing. I do have a newsletter with about 2500 subscribers, and that’s been fun. And I’ve put out a two novels and three novellas along with a boxed set for Jagged Scars.

However, I’ve failed miserably in my half-hearted attempts to learn Amazon and Facebooks ads. Everything I’ve read points to the fact that you must advertise so your books get in front of the right readers so then the readers can buy them, love them and then buy all of your books. This is the plan. My execution has been lacking.

So things aren’t all roses and rainbows, but things are going forward. Forward in a surprising direction, mind you, but forward all the same.

Check back next month for my first sweet romance novel, along with an update about my Academy stories!





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Sibling Rivalry at its Finest

The grinding of a key being inserted into a lock sounded, and the brass door knob jiggled.

I swallowed.

I knew what would come through the door. I knew I might be in a world of hurt when my mother let my sister back inside. However, the expression of rage on Lydia’s cherubic face had been worth it. The screaming she’d done through the windows, and the threats she’d promised to deliver. All worth it.

Worth it because she’d announced to the whole school that I’d been planning to ask Maddie Jones to the winter dance. She’d announced it after she’d taken my pants and had made me run through the school to my locker in my gym shorts.

I hadn’t even felt bad when I’d locked her outside without a coat. It was barely freezing, and she’d been wearing long sleeves.

Her shrieking voice penetrated the steel and wood of the door. “He left me out here to die!”

“You’re fine,” my mother said.

Mother had begun taking a neutral stance in our little war. Although sometimes she sided with Lydia just because she was the girl.

“You need to ground him!”

The knob turned, and the door opened with a hiss.

I sat on the couch, doing homework.

My mother gave me an exasperated glare as she dropped her keys on the table. “Scott, what do you have to say for yourself?”

“Why don’t you ask Lydia what happened to my pants during school yesterday?”

Lydia, who had her mouth open to retaliate, closed her jaw with a click.

Mother shook her head. “Chores. Now.”

I jumped to my feet. “Gladly.”

“Of course,” Lydia said. She walked around our mother and patted my cheek with her freezing-cold fingers. Her steely eyes bore into mine and her fingernails bit into my skin.

I arranged my face into a bored expression.

Lydia mouthed three words, “Circle of life.” Then she walked away.

“Right back atcha,” I said.

“What was that?” my mother asked.



This one is a little short, but I liked it!

Genre – Suspense / Thriller

Character – The Fool

Setting – The Holidays

Random Object – Door Knob

Theme – Circle of Life

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