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. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Ain't No Cure for the Summertime Writing Blues

Sometimes I wonder what Im-a-gonna do.

As summer goes into full swing with concerts and picnics and trips to the lake. I am torn between writing and being outside enjoying the sunshine while I can.
Sure, I can write outside and I often do but to really get in the flow I need some alone time.

The truth is most writers I know have families and day jobs. They have other responsibilities. They can’t just go all Howard Hughes hole up in their offices and retreat from the world to work on their masterpiece. But maybe there is a something we can do. Small things that can make a big difference.

Find little pockets of time to get the words down. 

Some people write in the wee hours of the morning and others steal extra hours at night giving up sleep in order to feed the writing fix.

This is a photo of my office which is usually messy (you can't see the ironing board and toys on the floor in the photo, but they're there) and by the time I get it cleaned up I've used up all my writing time for that day.

Tips and Tricks I've used along the way.

Here are a couple of things that I do to help get the words down even when I’m short on time.

Word sprints

Sprints are timed writing bursts. I first heard about this handy little trick way back in 2001 the year I joined NaNoWriMo. I had no idea what I was doing but luckily there were plenty of writers willing to help with tips and tricks that get you writing.
I do 4 fifteen minute sprints throughout the day on days when I’m having trouble staying focused on a long piece, or when I know I’ll be interrupted.  By the end of the day I know I’ve spent at least one-hour writing.

Poetry in Motion

Another thing I like to do when I’m feeling stuck or short on time is, write a little poem about my character. Its faster than a character interview (for me) and I usually learn something I didn’t know about them and end up with a sentence or two that I can use in my story.

On a Different Note

I got this last tip from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. In the book, she suggests taking a blank index card with you wherever you go. It’s smaller than a notepad, easy to fold and fits into your pocket.

I’ve written down paragraphs, story ideas and character descriptions, while waiting in line, sitting on the soccer field, or even while cooking dinner.

By the way, if you have never read Bird by Bird I highly recommend it.

It’s not impossible to write even when you’ve got a million things vying for your time and attention you just have to be creative, but hey you’re a writer right? Creativity is your superpower.

M.A. Cortez is the Author of The Sister Sleuth Series as well as several short stories.
Learn more about her and her books here.

Y.A. Romance

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

Holiday Short Story 

Follow M.A. Cortez


Instagram@ bookwormyxoxo  

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer

Whaaat, June already? 

In May I felt like summer would never arrive and now here it is. How I looked forward to long days of kicking back, barbequing and having dinners on the patio. I saw myself spending weekends at the lake swinging my leg from a hammock and reading a good book but here we are, at the end of June and I've hardly had time to catch my breath. This month shot by faster than I could say s’mores, and I fear we will zip through the fiery month of July quicker than the fuse on a firecracker.

But for a short time this month I did have a few lazy days. I took time to smell the flowers, so to speak while I visited my daughter in Casper Wyoming.
Casper is one of the few places left that have an authentic small town feel and it’s a great place to visit in the summer. Time there seemed to slow down and gave me a chance to catch my breath..

This is part of a mural of the Cowboy  Ethics (Artwork by Children's illustrator by Zak Pullen) on a wall at the YMCA as you can see the art is outstanding.

So much fun while I was out there promoting my book The Sister Sleuths and the Shadowman. 

Why am I still promoting a book that was published in 2014? 

The main reason is it’s still a good a story and I want to share it. But I also know that I have to work hard at keeping my books out there if I want to stay in the game. Gaining new readers is an ongoing process.  Posting on social media is not enough. Sometimes you’ve got to go old school and pound the pavement even go out of state like I did if that’s what it takes. But it doesn’t have to be all work and no play. I found lots to do in this quaint little town.

Home Grown Goodness 

If you ever find yourself in Casper, drop in and say hi to my new friends at Rockstar Music Store on 2nd. Street It’s a family-owned business. They have a great selection of instruments and are knowledgeable about the products they sell. They are some of the nicest people I've ever met. I grew up around musicians and I know they'd love this shop. I think you will too. Check them out here.  or here

The candy and popcorn at Donells Candies (in business since 1956) were scrumptious, we even bought an extra bag of cheese popcorn to bring home with us.  Check them out here. 

You can find TBEESHONEY at most any of the farmer’s markets in town, it’s our new favorite. We even got to see some of the hard working bees that make the most delicious honey ever. Check out TBEESHONEY here  

And if you find yourself looking for a worship service on a summer Sunday morning check out Strong Tower Church. The worship team is awe-inspiring and the pastors David and Tanya Vidal know how to deliver a moving and insightful message while keeping it real. It's a welcoming community. Learn about them here.

And of course, don’t forget to pop into Wind City Books. It's a great little bookstore. I love it and I know you will too. The booksellers know their stuff and the store has a great selection to choose from in any genre. Check out their website here

A big shout out and thank you to Vicki @Wind City Books for hosting me. The signing went better I'd than expected. Thanks to all who came out of your way to say hi or buy a book.  I had a great time. It's so reassuring to know that there are still great bookstores out there that still welcome authors from smaller publishers.

I met so many wonderful people, enjoyed good food and music @ David Stree Station on my short visit to Casper. You can bet I'll go back.

In the meantime, to celebrate these lazy, hazy crazy days of summer I’m giving one lucky winner a signed copy of my book The Sister Sleuths and The Shadowman and this nifty little bookworm bookmark charm.

It’s a great book to read on the beach, at the lake, or even on a lawn chair in your own backyard. All you have to do enter the rafflecopter below for a chance to win. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

All I want is your voice. Finding your writing voice

Let's talk about voice. 

I’m sharing this as a reminder to myself as well as to help those struggling to find their voice. For me, that word always conjures up images of The Little Mermaid and the Sea Witch.

There's a lot of talk about voice in writing. 

People want to know exactly what a writing voice is. When I first started writing I worried that I didn’t have a voice. I thought that maybe I was using someone else’s when I wrote.

Truth is, I probably did unintentionally borrow from an author or two. (Guess there is a little Ursula in me after all) I think it's inevitable for most newbies. Borrowing voice is ok, borrowing words? Not so much. 

 But here’s the thing, my own voice was always there. In my head. Not the one telling me that my writing stinks or trying to convince me that I am not a real writer. No, that voice is the inner critic and a topic for another day. So here's my version of how to find your voice in writing. 

Your voice is you, telling the world how you feel about things in the form of a story. 

Like when you write a letter to someone.

Dear Grandma, this week sucked. I had the flu and still had to drag myself to school because we had finals this week. I couldn’t even wear makeup because my eyes were all goopy and my nose dripped like a dang faucet. All I want to do sleep. I could sure use some of your homemade chicken soup right about now. At least I have the comfy quilt you made to keep me warm. I'm snuggling under it right now.  Love and miss you, Me

I know, nobody writes letters anymore, but the point is, it only takes a few sentences to pick up the mood of this person’s story. You begin to form an image in your head of what this person is like, a feel for who they are. If you are unsure that your voice is coming through in your writing, I recommend writing part of your story as if you were writing a letter to a close friend or someone who knows you well. Read it out loud and listen to the way language reveals a distinct personality. That’s you! That’s your voice. The more you write the stronger your writing voice becomes and soon you will discover that you’ve developed your very own style.

Good luck, and happy writing.

P.S. Write Grandma a letter or at least give her a call.

M. A. Cortez is the author of The Sister Sleuth Series as well as several short stories.

Y.A. Romance

Y.A. Suspense, Supernatural, and Mystery

Holiday Short Story 


Instagram@ bookwormyxoxo