Author Archives: Jo Ann Schneider

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To Trope or Not To Trope

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I’m at the end of writing the third book in my New Sight trilogy, which gives me the opportunity to look toward my next series. It will by YA Space Opera, and I’m super excited about it!

In an attempt to see what readers want, I pulled up the worst YA tropes ever. I read through a few lists and agreed with most of them. Then I pulled up the best YA tropes ever. I read through a few lists and…well…just read on.

YA Tropes We Love

  • The Chosen One – Only this character can save the world!
  • Love Triangles – Because ever girl secretly wishes she had two hot guys after her..
  • Surprise, you have superpowers! – How else are they supposed to save the world?
  • The world is so broken – Hello Dystopian society. Why fight bad guys when you can fight an entire bad system of government?
  • The “Strong” female character – Because girls kick butt!
  • The Super Evil Bad Guy – Because…evil
  • The dysfunctional family – Don’t we all love to watch someone else’s train wreck?
  • The tall, dark, handsome love interest – who also has a tragic past!

YA Tropes We Hate

  • The plain and super boring main character – who is destined to save the world
  • Love Triangles – They’re both so wonderful, however can I choose?
  • Your super plain protagonist has super secret super powers – this sounds familiar
  • The Coming of Age story – Because some people hate adventure? So they set their story in a dystopian world and all is well.
  • #StrongFemaleCharacter – A dude in a girl’s body
  • Evil Villains – who are evil just because it’s hip
  • Parents who are actually children in big bodies
  • The tall, dark, handsome love interest – who is a jerk

Do you see what happened there? Apparently readers hate the same things they love. I can’t tell you how confusing that is.

Needless to say, this little exercise didn’t really help me much. Thanks a lot, internet.

 


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13-July-2018

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To all the moms out there who have resisted the urge to duct tape their children to the wall.

“Moooommm!”

The voice slithered from the next room, carrying with it all of the whining that a seven year old could pack into a single-syllable word.

“Karen’s shoe is on my side.”

The other voice joined the first, making the position of a shoe sound as if the fate of the world balanced on it and would crumble to dust if the situation was not resolved.

I ignored them.

We had a system. We had rules. We had thirty minutes of non-whining so that I wouldn’t duct tape their mouths shut and toss them outside into the rising snow banks.

“You took it!”

“I did not, you threw it over here last night.”

“Nu-uh!”

“Uh-hu!”

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes.

Thirty minutes. Thirty sets of sixty seconds all in a row. That’s all I asked.

Apparently it was too much.

My husband’s voice came into my mind. “They’re just kids.”

When was the last time he had spent more than a few hours alone with them? He was in for a sinister surprise next week when I went on a girl’s trip with my sisters. Four whole days. Two seven-year-olds.

The image of his harried face as well as the panicked phone calls—which I would ignore unless there was a trip to the hospital involved—brought a genuine smile to my face. The tightness in my chest eased, and  I opened my eyes.

Nineteen more minutes.

I snuggled into the couch and refocused on my book. A romantic murder mystery with a supposed twist at the end. Unfortunately, I’d read the same paragraph six times already, and found myself on round seven.

“Leave that alone! Moooommmm!”

The good feelings evaporated.

They got one warning. This was it. I took a breath and controlled my voice. “Karen, Jackie, it’s quiet time for twenty five more minutes.”

“Eighteen,” Jackie said.

“You’ve talked to me several times, which means I add five minutes for each one. You’re lucky it isn’t back to thirty.”

A serious bout of whispering broke out.

I sighed. That should hold them for a bit.

I started that same stupid paragraph again, but skipped it and plowed through the next one. The investigator was finally getting on the right track for the murderer, but I suspected that the love interest had done it. There were only so many characters in the book, and one of them had to be guilty.

A blissful ten minutes passed. I was just getting to the juicy bits, when the whispering escalated into talking and then into yelling.

“That’s mine!”

“Nu-uh, yours is yellow. Mine is green.”

“They’re both green you idiot!”

I stopped reading and wondered where Karen had picked that up.

“You’re an idiot,” Jackie shot back. “And get your blanket on your side of the room!”

“It is on my side of the room. See! Get your feet off of my side.”

“This is my side!”

There was a thump, followed by a whimper that turned into a wail.

I took another deep breath and closed my book.

“Moooommmmm!” they both said in tandem. Then a string of words broke out, and I lost track of who was accusing whom of what.

This was the fourth day in a row that they’d gotten into a fight during quiet time.

Obviously this called for drastic action. So I moved to the junk drawer and rummaged around until I found the pink and orange striped duct tape as well as a tape measure.

The cries of accusation continued as I pulled the scissors out as well. It was amazing how much I could tune out if I didn’t care.

I’d done all of this in almost complete silence, so when I appeared in the doorway, both of my girls stopped screaming and gaped at me with their mouths opened.

“There seems to be a problem.” I stepped into the room. “A problem that I think I can solve.”

They watched me. Wary. Like small animals when a cat or a dog was prowling around.

I pulled the duct tape and it unrolled with the familiar zip sound.

“Mom?” Jackie asked with fear in her eyes.

“Are you going to duct tape us and throw us outside?” Karen asked.

“Oh no.” I smiled. “We’re going to split your room perfectly in half.” I handed the end of the tape measure to Jackie. “Take that to the wall, please.”

***

This made me giggle!

Genre – Comedy

Character – Someone in Charge

Setting – Earth

Random Object – Tape Measure

Theme – War


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Spoiled Gambit is Here!

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The very last novella of my Jagged Scars Series, Spoiled Gambit is out today and will be $0.99 for one week only!

Pick up your copy now!

 

Cal screwed up. He trusted the wrong guy. Wendy almost died and Shelter fell. In an attempt to assuage his own guilt, Cal joins a dangerous mission to lead the Primate’s people away from the survivors.

While laying a false trail for the Primate’s Skinnies, Cal discovers some old friends, but he also finds an enemy even more dangerous than the Primate. Now the group must decide if their objective has changed. Cal will do anything to prove to the others, and maybe himself, that he’s not a traitor. But will it be enough to keep his friends safe?

 

Three-and-a-half years ago, after I finally finished a good draft of Fractured Memories, I did as I always do, and sent it to my beta readers.

Beta readers get a version of the book that is good, but not great. No matter how long I work on a draft, it still has problems, and that’s why I bribe my beta readers to help me out.

Well, they came back with a few comments about the characters in the book.

Now I thought my characters were fine. And they were, in my head. But on the page a couple of them fell flat. One beta reader even asked, “Why is this character here? She doesn’t do anything.”

Okay that hurt. I loved the characters, but I had somehow missed making them shine on the page. After a few minutes of pouting, I pulled out the book I often turn to when I’m struggling with characters, and I flipped through it until I found what I had been missing.

The side characters didn’t have wants and needs. Most of them weren’t really struggling with anything, they were just there to accent my main character.

Well, I decided I could fix that.

You know that scene in Fractured Memories when the teenagers talk about their dreams and ambitions? How Arie wants a piece of the council and Cal is in love with movies? Yeah, that wasn’t in the original draft. Neither was the fact that Kev is dyslexic (which I never say, by the way, but it’s shown throughout the series) and Arie loves art. None of that depth was there, and I’m so glad that my beta readers forced me to put it in. Each of these factors play through the entire series.

While it makes me sad to leave these characters behind, I’m excited to be moving on to a new project.

 

 


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6-July-2018

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I’ve always known that scrapbook shops were sketchy.

Snip.

The woman whimpered as I cut the last of her dark, curly hair down to her scalp. Sweat ran down her face, and every inch of her body trembled. She’d wet the gag in her mouth with both tears and spit. But her eyes. There was still defiance in her brown eyes.

I smiled. “Honey, you have one more chance to tell me what I want to know.” I leaned close. “I suggest you take it.”

Her breathing sped up, and her eyes darted around my scrapbooking shop. They found the rack of fancy scissors and focused  on it, as if she could will a pair to fly from there into my back.

“You’re not going to find anything here to help you,” I said. “No one will hear you scream, and your life will be wasted.” I put my hand on her cheek, my red, manicured nails stroking her face. “But if you tell me what I want to know, this all stops.”

The determination in her eyes cracked. Just for a moment. When it snapped back I smiled, knowing I was making progress. The less I had to cut off of her the less I would have to clean up before morning.

The scissors in my other hand glinted in the light as I raised them. “All you have to do is tell me about your family.”

At the mention of her family, she growled something through the gag.

“What was that?” I asked, leaning closer. “Are you ready to talk?”

The steely look in her eyes told me that she was not.

I sighed. “Well then, I guess we do this my way.”

The torture was simply a means to an end. I needed more children before tomorrow night. This woman had been into my shop several times over the past month, and while she brought plenty of pictures of her family, she didn’t look at them like other people.

Some adored their children so much that it was all I could do to get a word in edgewise after I asked them about a picture. Others answered sparingly, but still with passion. But there were a select few whose love didn’t penetrate all the way into their soul.

I still didn’t know why it happened. The very act of bearing a child should seal the bond between parent and child, but for some it did not.

This was one of those women. She smiled and spoke of her kids as if they were the family pets. Accomplishments were showered with lavish parties and expensive gifts—a compensation for the lack of real love in her heart. She spent as much time away from them as she could, while pretending to miss them.

She didn’t deserve them.

I knew the woman was an architect, so I moved the scissors—an old, heavy pair that could cut through bone—down to the index finger on her right hand.

“Nice nails,” I said. “Where did you get them done?”

She stared at me as if I had grown an extra nose.

“Well, your next appointment will be shorter.” I opened the scissors with a tiny squeak and slid them around her finger.

Her hand tried to cringe away, but the straps on the table held her fast. She thrashed, but didn’t get anywhere.

The woman let out a string of grunts and words.

I sighed, pulled the scissors away and looked into her wide eyes. “What was that.”

She shook her head and spoke. The gag kept the words garbled.

“Why don’t you just nod yes or shake no. Will you surrender your children to me?”

The defiance snapped back into place, and she shook her head.

“Perhaps I underestimated you,” I said.

Snip.

The woman screamed.

No one heard.

***

I should probably watch or read something light and fluffy soon.

Genre – Horror

Character – Villain

Setting – In a Shop

Random Object – Scissors

Theme – Family


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