Author Archives: Jo Ann Schneider

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22-Mar-2019

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Would you rather: face a hoard of enemy soldiers or eat a live octopus?

Prince Damon stared at the writhing, eight-legged creature in horror. The bulbous head lay flat on the wooden deck, and the black eyes stared up at Damon. A gust of wind hit and the sails flapped and the mast groaned as the deck pitched. The little creature started to slither away, but a bare foot kicked it back into the middle of the circle of onlookers.

“Go on,” one of the sailors said.

“Eat it,” another prodded.

Damon swallowed hard, trying to keep from throwing up at the mere thought of those tentacles sliding over his tongue and down his throat. The suction cups holding on to the roof of his mouth in an attempt to live.

Jack, the first mate, nudged Damon with his elbow and spoke softly in his ear. “No one on the crew is going to respect you unless you eat it.”

Damon shouldn’t have to earn the crew’s respect. He was their prince, they all swore allegiance to the crown before the ship left port. One word from him and any man here would be tossed overboard.

Yet he’d heard the sailors whispering when they didn’t think he was around. Whispers of his humiliation in the battle for the Folded Pass. Rumors that he’d run away to save his own skin. Rumors that his father had spent a great deal of time squashing.

Rumors that were true.

Jack sighed. “I’ll show ye.” The grizzled sailor stepped forward and held out his hand. One of the deck boys placed a slender stick about the length of Jack’s forearm in his palm. The first mate reached down and grabbed the octopus by the head and plucked it off the deck. The tentacles tried to coil around Jack’s hand and wrist, but Jack wrapped the head around the stick and then continued to wrap the rest of the body and legs until the creature was bound.

The sailors began to chant. “Eat it, eat it, eat it!”

Jack gave Damon a wink right before he shoved the slimy head of the creature into his mouth.

Damon almost dry heaved.

Jack sucked the rest of the octopus in as if it were noodles. He gave Damon a wink and then swallowed.

A cheer rose from the sailors, and one of them hit the golden gong that hung next to the wheel.

“Ah!” Jack said as he clapped Damon on the back. “Now it’s your turn.”

“You have another?” Damon asked in a weak voice.

“Aye.” The first mate waved a hand and another creature, slightly larger than the first, landed on the wooden deck with a splat. It immediately began to crawl away, but the sailors pushed it back at every turn.

Jack held the stick out for Damon. He leaned close. “Do this and you’ll be one of the crew. Refuse and they’ll believe the tales about Folded Pass.”

Damon’s father said if he didn’t cast off his cowardly ways that he shouldn’t come back. If this crew didn’t trust him, then he’d likely end up at the bottom of the ocean, and while the thought of eating the octopus send waves of prickly disgust and fear through him, the urge to stay alive overpowered it.

Damon grabbed the stick and reached down to grab the octopus. The squishy head retreated from his touch, and the tentacles flailed as he stood. Before he could think too much about it, Damon followed Jack’s example and wrapped the doomed creature around the stick. He took a breath, trying to mask the scent of the creature with the rancid smell of the sailors around him, and opened his lips.

He’d been hoping more for noodles, but the head was large enough that he had to open his mouth like a snake eating a rat. His tongue shied away from the trembling flesh, and one of the tentacles clung to his thumb.

“No chewing. Just swallow,” Jack muttered.

Something between a sob and a laugh escaped, and Damon shoved the living thing into his mouth.

His lips closed around the end of it, and for a moment he imagined eating a piece of fatty meat. Then the meat inside his mouth moved and his stomach heaved again.

The sailors roared.

“Swallow,” Jack said.

Damon nodded. He could feel the octopus moving in his mouth, trying to find an escape. Damon tried to swallow, but nothing happened. He gagged, heard the sailors chanting “Eat it!” and finally forced himself to finish it.

A roar of approval went up from the men on deck.

“Open your mouth!”

Damon did so, still wanting to throw up and imagining the creature trying to hold on as it slid down into his gullet.

Someone hit the gong.

Tears ran down Damon’s face, but no one seemed to notice as the sailors rushed him, patting him on the back and congratulating him.

Damon tried to answer, but could only nod.

He should have stood his ground in Folded Pass. It would have been easier than this.

***

So I had to Google eating live octopus for this. I’m a pretty adventurous eater, but I am not doing that. No way!

Character – Cowardly Prince

Random Object – Golden Gong of Victory

Setting – A Ship


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The Wish Giver is here! Also, What’s Next?

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Today is Launch Day!

Get The Wish Giver now!

Only 99 cents (today only) or FREE on Kindle Unlimited

I had so much fun telling this story! It is a Fairy Godmother retelling, but I used Eastern folklore and traditions instead of the more familiar European stories.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about India or Eastern culture in general, but I pulled a few things I found interesting and made a story out of them.

You met Kawbra in The Monkey King. I based him loosely off of the tale of The Snake Prince.

Now meet Nasuka, a common girl with an uncommon gift.

Here’s the Wish Giver!

This is book 5 in my Fairy Tale Academy Series.

If you missed the first chapter, click here to read it.

 

Here’s what’s in line for two weeks from today!


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15-Mar-2019

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A Tidy Ogre vs a Unicorn Horn

Most ogres live in swamps. Or cesspools. Or mud pits. Or in places the locals call “hollers.”

Yorg was not like other ogres. Yes, he looked like them—tall in stature and plentiful in width with green skin—but that’s as far as it went.

Instead of wearing rags or furs, Yorg preferred to wear fitted jackets with cravats and breeches. Specially cobbled shoes adorned his feet, and while other ogres seeped the stench of outhouse, Yorg smelled of lavender or roses.

Yorg had moved out of the “holler” as soon as he could crawl. He’d made his way up to the top of a mountain and claimed it as his home. A couple of trolls had thought he’d violated their territory, but after a civil conversation involving a sharp rock and some well-placed strikes, the trolls had agreed to move around to the other side of the peak.

A sparkling waterfall ran next to Yorg’s house and filled a small pond nearby. He’d spent years cutting and fitting the stones that now made up his abode. The pieces fit together so nicely that he didn’t need moss or mud to fill the cracks. A long porch ran on the west side of his home, and on it sat a beautifully carved rocking chair and table. Yorg spent many evenings sitting in the chair, watching the sun set on the valley below. He rarely thought about his family or the other ogres as he sipped his hot tea from a porcelain cup.

One day, as the sun’s rays stretched across the valley in a last effort to keep light on the land, Yorg noticed several figures coming up the trail to his house. While it wasn’t unheard of to have visitors, Yorg was not expecting anyone for at least a week.

Perhaps they were travelers. Some braved the trail—along with the promise of a civilized ogre at the end of it—for the privileged of having tea with Yorg and seeing his house. Once a month a merchant came to drop off books and supplies, but he’d been there last week.

Yorg frowned and watched as the shadows grew larger, and took the shape of ogres.

It was more likely for a human to visit than an ogre. Yorg placed his cup on the matching saucer with a little tink, then he reached around the back of his chair to make certain he had his spear handy. While fighting wasn’t his first reaction, or even the second, Yorg could hold his own against any creature.

The ogres arrived just as the sun’s rays slipped past the edge of the horizon, leaving the mountainside in a disconcerting shade of gray. Yorg recognized them at once. The one on the lead—a wide brute wearing nothing but a loincloth and a satchel—was his younger brother, Grak. The other two were Grak’s friends.

Most of Yorg’s family had decided to ignore him, but Grak came up a few times a year. Yorg returned his hand from behind his chair to his side and stood.

“Brother!” Grak waved a meaty arm.

“Grak,” Yorg said. He stepped off the porch and met the ogres in the soft, even grass.

The smell proceeded the trio, and Yorg forced himself not to wrinkle his nose. He held out a hand and Grak took it and squeezed.

Younger brothers. Always trying to impress.

“You so fancy,” Grak said.

Yorg forced a smile. “How have you been?”

“We good.” He nodded. His friends nodded. Most ogres didn’t bother to learn a lot of language skills. Instead they relied on grunts, shrugs and punching things.

Grak usually wanted something. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

It took Grak a moment to work the meaning of the words out. Yorg could practically see his brain churning to put it all together.

After a few seconds, he grunted. “Brought you something.”

“You brought me something?” Yorg narrowed his eyes in suspicion. Grak had never done that.

“Found it in the woods.” The two friends nodded. Grak reached into his satchel.

Yorg took a step away and balled his fists.

Then Grak pulled out a long, thin spike the length of Yorg’s forearm. It twisted together from a wider base to a pointed top and glowed in the gray of twilight.

Yorg stared at it, then at his brother. “Where did you get this?”

“Woods.” He shrugged.

His friends shrugged.

Grak held it out. “It fancy. You like fancy.”

“I do like fancy,” Yorg said. “However, this is a unicorn horn. Are you sure you want to give it to me?”

Grak pointed between him and his friends. “We fight over it. You take.”

Yorg then noticed the bruises, scratches and fresh blood on the ogres. “Alright.” He held out his hand, wondering what sort of display he should make for it.

Grak gave Yorg the horn, which felt cool to the touch. Then he waved. “We go.”

“Already?” Yorg asked. Usually Grak would stay for dinner.

“Mom need me.”

“Well, tell her hello.”

Grak waved and led his two friends away.

Yorg watched them go. “How odd,” he said. He took the horn into his house and set it on the table. The faint glow continued. When Yorg shut the door he found that the horn had left a trail of…glitter.

A growl rose up in Yorg’s throat.

“Glitter.” The word dripped with disdain.

Just then he heard howling laughter from Grak and his friends.

He’d done this on purpose.

Yorg would be cleaning up glitter for weeks.

He ground his teeth. He hated ogres.

***

My hubby always says that glitter is the herpes of crafting. He’s not wrong.

Maybe I should have made this about the Ides of March, but didn’t notice it was the 15th until I’d already written it. Ah well.

Character – A Tidy Ogre

Random Object – A Unicorn Horn

Setting – High on a Mountain


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The Wish Giver: Cover Reveal and Teaser

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My Fairy Tale Academy series continues with the next installment:

The Wish Giver!

This is a Fairy Godmother retelling mixed with the Snake Prince.

I didn’t use any fairy tale for the Fairy Godmother. Instead I incorporated some Eastern lore for her story. Exploring that was fascinating. I had a great time writing it and I hope you love it!

 

You met the snake prince, Prince Kawbra, in The Monkey King. He’s back and still the only snake who can roll his eyes.

 

 

Here’s my inspiration photo for Nakusa. She’s from a little village that no one has heard of. No one there treats her with respect. She’s at the Academy to become a fire caster, but things don’t go quite as she planned.

 

Official release day is Wednesday, March 20th!

Because I’m so grateful for all of you, I’ll have the price at 99 cents on release day. A sort of fan appreciation day.

 

Here’s the first chapter. Enjoy!

Nakusa stood next to the other fire casters, who lined up shoulder-to-shoulder at the edge of a ring of sand. Flagstones covered the ground beneath their feet.

The trio watched as Solomon marched to the pit with his shoulders back and his nose in the air. When he reached the rim of black rocks in the ground, he stopped and peered down at the single flame coming from a coal, as if daring it to disobey him.

“Remember, Solomon,” said their instructor, Rulcan Lunaignis, “you need a will of iron to command fire.” A thick scar covered half of the older man’s face. He wore the sleeves of his white shirt rolled up to his elbows, and black pants and boots. His dark hair lay cropped against his scalp.

Solomon, a first-year student at the Academy and grandson to the most powerful fire caster in recorded history, shrugged a shoulder.

Nakusa wanted to hate him. She did hate him, but it would be easier if he wasn’t so handsome. He stood a head taller than she did, with creamy white skin and light-brown hair. His green eyes shone as he narrowed them at the flame.

The instructor continued. “Fire responds to commands, not suggestions. Yet you need it to flow, almost like water, but it will not naturally go where you want it to.”

Marianne, the oldest mermaid princess at the Academy and their premiere water caster, gave the older man a tight smile. Her long blonde braid curled around her red school jacket.

S’ula, a first-year sea witch, snorted. Despite the extra weight on her body, S’ula wore the school uniform—a white shirt with a red-and-blue plaid scarf and plaid skirt—without apology. Her dark skin and eyes shone in the firelight, and her short, spiky black hair with red tips almost looked like it was burning.

Solomon ignored the instructor and raised his hand. He uttered the word “grow” and clenched his fingers into a fist.

The flame sputtered. The blue-and-white center flared before the fire roared to life, reaching three feet into the air.

Nakusa and the other two fire spellcasters stepped back.

Marianne and S’ula held their hands up, ready.

Solomon opened his hand and lowered it. As he did so, the flame went back to the size it had been before.

“Good!” Rulcan said. “We need to work on your control, but good.”

Solomon looked down his hooked nose at the older man and sneered. “Yes, sir.” Nakusa’s breath caught in her throat as Solomon walked back to stand at the other end of the line. Sunlight caught the green in his eyes, and he almost smiled.

The instructor turned to the three remaining students. “Let’s see if you’ve all been paying as much attention. Next!”

The boy next to her gave Nakusa a little shove.

She stumbled forward and into Rulcan’s line of sight.

“Nakusa.” The instructor motioned her to the spot where Solomon had stood. “I hope you’ve been practicing.”

Nakusa walked across the sand, the ground moving beneath her feet, and stopped at the edge of the ring of flat black stones.

“Remember, you must be firm.”

She nodded and stared at the flame. Fire casters should be able to feel the flame like an extension of their bodies. Like a finger or a toe. They should be able to command the fire with the same control as an appendage.

“Go on,” the instructor said.

Nakusa sighed and held her hand out. She closed her eyes and opened her mind.

Everyone, even non-magical races like humans, left a magic imprint. Nakusa had mastered feeling that on her first day. Find the magic around her. Feel the power as it moved through the earth, the water, the air and fire. She could do all that. Unfortunately, that had been the end of her easy lessons at the Academy.

A fire caster should be able to connect with the fire, but Nakusa could not. Feel it? Yes. Connect to it? No.

That didn’t stop her from trying.

Power built inside her, like water gathering behind a dam. Her skin buzzed. Nakusa waited until she had enough magic, then released it.

The power rushed out of her, and Nakusa cracked an eye open.

The flame remained as it had ever been, brightly dancing in the middle of the stones.

“Try again,” the instructor said in a strained voice.

Nakusa closed her eyes and repeated the process. This time when she released her power, she opened her eyes and watched the flame, hoping it would help her focus.

Again, nothing happened.

Rulcan let out a frustrated snort. “Have you been doing the additional exercises I gave you?”

Nakusa lowered her hand and looked down. “Yes, sir.”

“You are a fire caster, are you not?”

“All of my people are fire casters.”

He took a step closer. “Then you need to work harder.”

Shame burned Nakusa’s brown skin, and tears gathered in her eyes.

“Get back in line.”

She nodded and walked to her place, refusing to look up.

“Next!” the instructor bellowed.

The student next to Nakusa squared his shoulders and spoke under his breath. “I wish I could beat Solomon.”

Rulcan went through the same instructions, and Nakusa blinked her tears away and forced herself to watch. To figure out what she was missing.

The student, a blond boy named Svin from the far north, held out his hand and closed his eyes.

Nakusa studied every inch of him. His feet. His stance. The way he leaned forward before he said “grow.”

A strange sensation twisted in Nakusa’s stomach.

Power poured from Svin and into the fire. The flame sputtered and almost went out, then exploded. It shot high into the sky, the apex rising above the nearby magic building.

“Control it!” Rulcan yelled.

Svin’s already light skin paled, but he kept his hands out and spoke. “Diminish!”

That should have calmed it, but instead the fire became thick, like molten rock.

“Get back!” S’ula bellowed.

“Diminish!” Svin yelled again. The geyser of magma ignored him and turned into a fountain, spewing fist-sized comets of glowing, acrid death everywhere.

Nakusa, Solomon, and the other boy scrambled away. Nakusa stumbled, suddenly dizzy.

S’ula and Marianne held their hands out and spoke a word. Water poured from their fingers, giving the glowing red magma a cool bath before it hit the ground.

Svin cried out in pain and crumpled.

Marianne left S’ula to the shield and turned toward the ring of smoking stones. She whispered something, and a single line of water sprang from the ground and wrapped the base of the flame like a rope, then tightened. The air sizzled and steam rose, but the water didn’t evaporate until it had strangled the flame back to its original size.

Rulcan waved his hand, and all the pieces of fire that had reached the sand dimmed and disappeared. Some had turned the sand to hazy glass.

Solomon shook his head. “He needs to learn some control.”

Nakusa frowned; Svin had the best control in class. Why had he suddenly lost it?

The instructor and Marianne rushed to the fallen Svin. The mermaid princess put her hands on him and closed her eyes. A moment later, she opened them.

“Healing crystal,” Marianne said to S’ula.

S’ula reached into an inside pocket, pulled out a small blue crystal, and tossed it to Marianne. Then she turned her dark, angry eyes on the rest of them. “You all okay?”

“Of course,” Solomon said.

Nakusa nodded, as did the other boy.

Solomon moved to Nakusa. His green eyes looked down at her, and for the first time, she found a bit of compassion there. “What do you think about when you cast?”

Nakusa’s mouth went dry, and she had to swallow before she spoke. “Uh, the fire.”

“Just the fire?” He stood only a few feet away. His eyes continued to study hers. His lips pressed together in concern.

His lips…

She blinked. “Sorry, what?”

“What else do you think about?”

“I, uh, I do exactly as Rulcan instructs us. I build the power, focus on the flames, then let my power out.”

His lips pulled into a frown. “So it should be working.”

Now she ducked her head. “Yes, it should.”

Solomon sighed. “Well Nakusa, perhaps you should rethink your assignment as a fire caster.”

Her head came back up. “What?”

“You’ve only had the one experience with fire casting. It might not be your calling.”

“My…my calling?”

He placed a hand on his muscled chest. “Where I come from, magic is a calling as much as it is anything else. If the magic hasn’t chosen you, it will not heed you.” His hand moved to her shoulder. The weight of his arm took her off balance. “Most fire casters are men. Perhaps this is too much for you.”

Nakusa, whose insides turned from raging hot at his touch to freezing cold at his words, looked at him in horror. Was he saying she should quit?

A groan from Svin pulled Solomon’s attention away from Nakusa. He dropped his hand. “Is he all right?” Solomon asked.

“He’ll be fine,” Marianne said as two students on the security detail appeared to haul the now awake Svin to the medical building.

Rulcan wiped sand off his pants and walked to the other students. “I’m afraid that’s all for today. We’ll have to get to you next time.”

The last student didn’t seem disappointed.

The instructor eyed Nakusa. “And we’ll give you another chance.”

“Yes, sir,” she said.

 


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