Friday, December 7, 2018


Another holiday, another contest entry. This time Susanna Hill's Annual Holiday Contest (her 8th) challenges us to write a 250-word a children's story about a holiday hero. The act of heroism can be on a grand scale or a small one.
Here's my entry. I hope you enjoy reading it. Here's the link to Susannah's blog and the contest rules.  There will be a ton of fun stories to read on her site, you should check it out. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think of this one.

by M.A. Cortez

Lupe hung Chico’s blanket on the fence.
“You don’t need it.” She told the little burro.
But Chico pulled it off.
He’d been so excited when Lupe told him he was chosen to be a part of Las Posadas the traveling play that lasted for nine nights leading up to Christmas Eve.
Lupe was his best friend. Chico wanted to make her proud but the new blanket was scratchy. Wearing his old blanket helped him feel safe.
Lupe pulled the reins. Chico shook his head and pawed the ground. He wouldn’t budge.
Lupe sighed. “I guess we can cover it with this fancy new one.”
Before the procession began Mary was lifted onto Chico’s sturdy back.
At each stop, the people asked for shelter and the answer was always no.
That was how the play went. Lupe had explained that it would have a happy ending. On the last night, the Holy Couple would be welcomed. They would place the baby in a manger and everybody would celebrate the birth of baby Jesus.
Chico’s ears perked at the ninth house Mary and Joseph walked to the stable to place the baby in the manger.
The baby cried.
Mary looked around for help.
Chico pulled the fancy blanket off his back. He took his soft old blanket and placed it inside the manger.
 The baby cooed.
Everyone cheered. Mary scooped up the baby and led the procession inside for the party.
Lupe hugged her friend. “You’re the best burro ever.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

THE WICKEDLY GOOD COOK Halloweensie Contest entry #2

I really wanted to challenge myself this year so I wrote two stories for the contest. One rhyming and one prose. So here's my second entry.

THE WICKEDLY GOOD COOK      By Mary Ann Cortez

Maddie filled her new super deluxe CroakPot.
“Just like on BooTube. That blue ribbon is as good as mine.”
She went to the store and left it to simmer.
But when she returned the CroakPot was cold. “My chili is ruined!”
 Granny’s rusty old cauldron shook and shivered on the shelf.
“That’s it! Halloween stew.
Fire-toad broth.
Mealy worm eyes.
A smidgeon of magic will win the grand prize.”
She jumped on her broom and zoomed lickety-split to the Wickedly Good Cook contest.
“We have a winner.” The judge pinned on the blue ribbon. “Now, that’s howling good stew!”


M. A. Cortez

Instagram@ bookwormyxoxo  

Monday, October 29, 2018

Check out My Halloweensie Contest Entry

Hi All, 
It's time for Susanna Hill's Annual Halloweensie contest. This is my second year and I'm hoping my writing has improved since last year. In any case, it's loads of fun. The rules state that it must be a Halloween story with a beginning middle and end. It has to be kid-friendly (for kids 12 and under) and be 100 words or less. The title is not included in the word count. There are three words that must be included in the story. This year those words are shiver, cauldron and howl or a variation of those words. Illustration notes are not allowed. Thanks for looking. 


by Mary Ann Cortez

On Halloween night, October thirty-one.  

Ghouls, ghosts, and goblins all gathered for fun.

The lead singer howled. The band played a tune.  

The boneyard was rockin’ beneath a full moon.

The skeletons shimmied. The trolls rocked and rolled.

A witch stirred a cauldron of slimy green mold. 

A horrific sound flew like bats through the air.

They’d run out of candy! (The worst kind of scare.) 

The Mummies unraveled. The Vampires flipped. 

A whole horde of zombies crawled out of a crypt.

This shivering scene became frightening and more. 

Till somebody’s Mummy returned from the store.

If you are interested in entering the contest or reading other contest entries here's the link.

                                Happy Halloween! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


I LOVE Halloween. I love the decorations, the scary movies, the candy, hot apple cider, the candy, carving pumpkins, dressing up in costumes, and did I say candy? Something about the mystery of this holiday makes me grin like jack-o-lantern. My fingers itch to start a new spooky writing project. Sometimes I find my way back to an old that one I've tucked away to rest. This year I put those itchy fingers to work by writing a few Halloween poems and I'd like to share them you. 


By M.A. Cortez

A chilling gust

stirs graveyard dust

Dark shadows loom
above a tomb
Where Creatures creep

awake from sleep

And witches fly

                     across the sky
                     There’s no reprieve
                      On Hallows Eve

Trick OR Treat

By M.A. Cortez

Goblins make mischief

‘Round fires ablaze

Carved pumpkin lanterns

With yellow-eyes gaze

Witches and black cats

With cackles and moans

Bestial creatures

Who’re craving your bones

Broomsticks and poisons

Amid bubbling pots

Candied confections

To feed costumed tots

Ghoulish green monsters

Appear on the scene

Don’t be afraid, Dear

It’s just Halloween


By M. A. Cortez

There was a girl named Winnie Boos

Who wore a sheet and blood-stained shoes

She clanked her chains against her bed

With hollow cries, each night she said

“Give me my furs. Give me my pearls

I want to be like other girls”

Winnie Boos was dead of course

for that, I’m showing no remorse

I hope you enjoyed those.

 Looking for something to read this Halloween? Check out my Sister Sleuth Series


Available on Amazon or Barnes and

Do you have a favorite Halloween costume or memory you'de like to share? Leave it the comments below and it might show up in my next Halloween project. (with your permission of course)

Thanks for stopping by and Happy Halloween!

Follow M.A. Cortez


Instagram@ bookwormyxoxo  

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Guest Author Kimberlee Gard talks about her debut picture book and her experience as a new author.

I know I'm late in celebrating but it's still back to school month.
All those kids donning new backpacks excited to meet their teachers and start a fresh year of learning and making friends gets me right in the feels.

What better way to celebrate back to school month than introducing a new children's book author.
Kimberlee Gard shares her debut picture book. THE LITTLE i WHO LOST HIS DOT.

 Kimberlee has agreed to let us take a peek into her world of writing. And... (drum roll) ...she's giving away a free autographed copy of the book to one lucky winner. Just follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of this post to earn entries.

How did you come up with the idea for your book?

When my oldest son started pre-school, he struggled while trying to learn the alphabet and remember the sounds each letter made.  This gave me the idea to create a story that was not only fun and engaging but would also help children learn the alphabet and letter sounds.

Any chance of a sequel?

Actually, YES! As of now, there are three other books that will be released in this series all featuring the Little Letter characters.  Next fall, readers will meet the Punctuation Brothers and see how they help make sentences complete.  There will also be a book featuring the vowel characters, and Little e gets a book of his own- sharing his secrets of how he has the power to change words.

What are you working on now? 

I’m working on another picture book- this one is about numbers.  And I’ve got two middle grade novels in the works.

As a new author, what is your favorite part of the writing/publishing process? 

The publishing process has been amazing, and each milestone has been a true victory from finding an agent to signing the first book contract and selling the manuscripts.  I’ve loved seeing how a book is made from start to finish and seeing how the text comes alive with the illustrations.  My illustrator, Sandie Sonke, is beyond talented and created the most amazing and fun illustrations making each letter a unique character.  Plus, I am blessed to work with the most amazing team at Familius.

Least favorite? 

I think the thing writers don’t really realize is the amount of time it takes to learn the craft of writing and climb the ladder into the publishing world.  My son, who I originally wrote the book for when he was in pre-school, is now in his third year of college and got married this past summer.  The other thing I’ve learned is you have to revise… and revise… and revise!

Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

I struggled as a reader when I was a child, so I often would open a book, look at the pictures, and make up my own story.  I think that is when I first fell in love with storytelling.  Beatrix Potter books and Cicely Mary Barkers Flower Fairies series were among my favorites.  I was always wishing I could escape into the pictures.

You can find out more about Kimberlee Gard by following these links.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, August 3, 2018

Take a break, walk away and PLAY

My family and I went to the County Fair last week. It’s been a while for me. I can’t ride the rides like I used to but the appeal is still there, the food, the music and the rush of warm wind next to my ears as the rides whizz passed. Not once did I think, I should be writing. That’s new for me. I always think I should be writing. I carry so much writer guilt that it requires its own luggage. There’s a constant loop in my head that goes something like this.  Everybody in my group is probably writing up a storm and here you are doing this. You'll never become as good a writer as so and so if you don't take every opportunity to work on your craft. That book is never going to be finished if you don’t buckle down and write.
But not on this day.

This day the Fair took me out of my head and straight into fun.

You may have a similar tape playing on a loop in your head.

I was reminded as so I'm reminding you. Life has to have some balance. So many times I sit down at the blank page and force myself to write a sentence or two. It’s what they tell you to do and it’s good because, in the end, I’ve done some writing. Not always a lot of writing but something to move me forward in my quest.
But some days it’s good to leave it alone. Get out of the house, out of your head, and just be. That’s what going to a summer fair did for me. 

The next day I sat at my desk and started to write. I had a breakthrough in my story. Oh, glorious day. I’d been stuck so hard even Camp Nano with all of its tips and tricks weren’t getting me to a place where I could move my story forward. (although to be honest I wasn’t tuning into all of the writing sprints or the reading the daily emails.)

It took something different to jar me out of the stagnation I was experiencing with this story. 

A trick I already knew, something we all know, but we get so tangled up in delivering a finished product that we forget to put it into practice.

Take a break.
              Walk away,
                          and PLAY!   

You’ll come back energized.
It’s even more fun if you do something you haven’t done in a long time. Your mind will be so busy concentrating on the task at hand that there won’t be any room for worries to sneak in.

5 things you may have not done in a while.

Roller skating
Horseback riding
Play a board game
Play on the swings at the park
Ride a roller coaster

The point is, allow yourself to take one day away from the page (or whatever type of work you do) so you can come back refreshed.
 I did and it really helped. So this your PSA before the back to school frenzy begins.

What kinds of things do you do for fun?

About the Author: 

M.A. Cortez lives with her family in Colorado. She spends her days drinking gallons of coffee, reading, writing or wishing she was writing. On weekends she reminds herself to get out of the house and have some fun.


Y.A. Romance

Y.A. Suspense, Supernatural, and Mystery
Watch the trailer:

Holiday Short Story



Instagram@ bookwormyxoxo  

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Guest author Nancy Churnin gives us a sneak peak into her writing process

Hi All, 
I'm so excited to welcome Children's Author Nancy Churnin as our featured guest today. Nancy has written many inspiring biographies of people who fought to succeed in the face of adversity. She does so with skill and heart bringing readers into in the stories and has you cheering for them as they triumph.
Read on to learn more about her, her books and what's in store for future projects.
Enter for a chance to win a free copy of Nancy's book. CHARLIE TAKES HIS SHOT in the rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

Nancy and Zori with CHARLIE TAKES HIS SHOT at the Ruby Bridges Reading Festival at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis in May 2018

Nancy Churnin takes us on a journey through the ups and downs of Charlie’s life as he pursues his dream.   I loved reading and learning about Charlie Sifford. His story was inspiring and skillfully told in CHARLIE TAKES HIS SHOT. This book is sure to encourage young readers to work hard and remain focused on their life goals. 

What sort of research did you do to write this book?

As a journalist, I like to start with newspaper articles and then I move on to books if available and finally to interviews with people who knew my subjects or know about my subjects. The best place for me to begin my newspaper search is with obituaries as I know that the writer searched hard to describe the most telling parts of the persons life. Charlie Sifford’s first breakthrough in CHARLIE TAKES HIS SHOT was getting his chance to play in the PGA Tour, but his triumph that would end the book is when he had his first win on the tour. 

 I knew I had to get additional details about that momentous tournament, which I did from Charlies autobiography, JUST LET ME PLAY, and I was thrilled to find out how dramatic and exciting was! 
With IRVING BERLIN, when I learned that he donated all the royalties of God Bless America to the Girl and Boy Scouts of America, I knew I had to find out more about why that song meant so much to him. I lucked out meeting and interviewing Mark Kreditor, a music educator steeped in the cantorial tradition, who showed me how Irving used notes from the most beautiful and important Jewish prayer in “God Bless America.” That gave me the heart of the story and helped me understand how Irving, like so many immigrants, blended his tradition with American sounds to express what was in his heart in a fresh and wonderful way.

What are you working on now?

I am very excited about my next two books, which are also picture book biographies. THE QUEEN AND THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE, QUEEN CHARLOTTE’S GIFT TO ENGLAND comes out Oct. 1. It’s the true story of the kind queen who introduced the Christmas tree to 100 kids at a Christmas party at Windsor Castle in 1800. I was delighted when Meghan Markle and Prince Harry chose Queen Charlotte’s birthday for their wedding date and her burial place, Windsor Castle, for their wedding site. We’re still putting the final touches on MARTIN & ANNE, which comes out in 2019. It’s the true story of two babies born in 1929 on different sides of the ocean, who had different skin colors, different religions and different languages. They never met, but both of them are remembered for meeting hate with love and leaving us with words that continue to inspire us: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank.  

How did you break into the publishing world?

Persistence! I became friends with a man named Steve Sandy who is Deaf. Steve, who is a friend of the William Hoy family, told me his dream that William Hoy, a 19th century Deaf player, would one day be inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame where there are currently no Deaf players. I wanted to help and I got the idea of writing a picture book about Hoy, with the help of Steve’s research. I thought if I wrote the book, the kids would help us by writing letters to the Hall of Fame. The book took a lot longer to be published than I ever imagined — 10 years! — because I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about writing picture books. But many classes, critique groups, support groups later, The William Hoy Story was published. Kids have written more than 1,000 letters to the Hall of Fame and I learned how much I love writing stories about people who inspire me who inspire the kids, too.

What does your writing space look like?

Messy! Filled with notebooks and books that I need close and little souvenirs like my William Hoy baseball card, my Manjhi stamp and my Statue of Liberty figurine that reminds me of Irving. Sometimes I have to escape to my bed to write. Eventually, I clean it up…only to make it messy again. 

What keeps you motivated during creative slumps?

I think of myself as an advocate for the people I write about and for the children I believe will benefit by knowing their stories. I rally myself not for my benefit, but for their benefit. That always gets me going.

What has been one of your most rewarding experiences as an author? 

I love every part about writing books. I love coming up with the idea, shaping it in my head, using words to build a story, rewriting, revising, polishing, making it good as I possibly can. I love seeing the illustrations arrive, the first books come in the mail, opening the books and experiencing that unbelievable feeling of seeing something that was once a messy muddle of thoughts now a lovely lyrical book that will forever exist outside me. But the most rewarding experience of all is to share the book with children. I always say to the children — and it’s true — that the book is not complete until I read it to them. They are the reason I went on this journey and they are the most rewarding part of that journey.

Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

 How difficult it is to write simply! Picture books are so short and concise. When you read a picture book you often think well, how else could it have been written? And it turns out there is an infinite number of ways to write those 700 or 800 words. The fascinating corollary to that is that another writer can take that very same subject and write a very different book. And that’s good, too. There is room for everyone. Everyone has a story tell and even when the subject overlaps, each person has a unique way of telling that story. So never be discouraged if someone has told your story. Because they haven’t told your story. They’ve told the story in their way. You have a story to tell that only you can tell in your way — and I’m looking forward to reading it!

 Nancy Churnin is the theater critic for The Dallas Morning News and author of THE WILLIAM HOY STORY, HOW A DEAF BASEBALL PLAYER CHANGED THE GAME (Albert Whitman), on the 2016 New York Public Library Best Books for Kids list, the 2017 Texas Library Association's 2X2 and Topaz lists, the 2018 Illinois School Library Media Association's Monarch Award Master List and Connecticut's 2018 Charter Oak Children's Book Awards list. MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN (Creston Books) is the 2018 winner of the South Asia Book Award, a finalist for the 2018 Children and Teen's Choice Book Awards, a 2017 Junior Library Guild selection, a 2018 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, on the 2018 ILA-CBC Children’s Choices list and a Silver Eureka Award-winner. CHARLIE TAKES HIS SHOT: HOW CHARLIE SIFFORD BROKE THE COLOR BARRIER IN GOLF was featured at the Ruby Bridges Reading Festival at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis May 19, 2018 and will be featured again at the International Literacy Association in Austin in July. Coming out in 2018: IRVING BERLIN, THE IMMIGRANT BOY WHO MADE AMERICA SING and THE QUEEN AND THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE. In Spring 2019: MARTIN & ANNE. A native New Yorker, Nancy is a graduate of Harvard University, with a master's from Columbia University School of Journalism.

You can find Nancy online here: 


Don't forget to like her Facebook Page

Follow her on Twitter:

Twitter: @nchurnin

Nancy has graciously offered to give away a free copy of CHARLIE TAKES HIS SHOT to one lucky winner. Enter the rafflecopter below for a chance to win.