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  

Monday, March 5, 2018

Slouchy Snowman ~ Vivian Kirkfield's 50 precious words contest entry

Is it just me or does it seem like spring is in a hurry this year?
We’ve had a few sunshiny days and I’m itching to pull out that box of summer clothes I have stashed in my closet. I can already tell this year is going to fly by, and thank goodness too. We'll still get a couple of snow days between now and summer but that's okay we'll build a quick snowman, sip some warm cocoa and call it a season. 
I’ve been trying new things this year but I did a few fun things last year are worth repeating. One of course, was joining Julie Hedlund’s 12 x12 picture book challenge and another, was taking on Vivian Kirkfield's 50 precious words challenge. I entered last year and had so much fun trying to squeeze a beginning, middle and end into a 50 word story that well, I just had to try it again. I like to think I’ve become a better writer in the last year, but we shall see. In any case I’ve discovered flash fiction is fun.  Here’s my entry. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Slouchy Snowman by Mary Ann Cortez
One lump.
Stick. Stick.
Button. Button.
Hat. Scarf. Glove. Glove.
Perfect snowman made with love.
Blue sky. Sunshine high.
Hat rolls. Buttons slide.
Smile droops. Pebbles fall.
Carrot gone. Sun shines on.
Scarf soaked.
Gloves slip. Lumps drip.
See you when.
The weatherman says snow again.

I'm also participating in #TwitterTales a flash fiction frenzy on twitter, check it out! It's one image a month and you tell a story using only 280 characters on twitter.

Instagram@ bookwormyxoxo  

Monday, February 19, 2018


I know, I know Valentine's day is over but can't we share the love a little longer?  Here's a new release from my favorite publisher,(ahem-ahem.)  Solstice Publishing. Grab that box of chocolates you recieved and pour yourself a glass of wine from the bottle. Indulge just a bit longer with these super sweet love stories.


Valentine’s Day encompasses romance for all ages. People go out of their way to show their affection for the one they love with flowers, candy, perhaps a special meal. Just how did this day come to be?

Valentine’s Day can be traced back to the third century, when Emperor Claudius III of Rom decided young men made better soldiers than those with wives and families to care for. Valentine, a young man who preached the word, felt this was injustice at its worst. He defied the emperor and secretly performed marriages for young lovers in secret. Once his actions were discovered, the emperor ordered he be put to death.


Today, we honor his memory by celebrating romance with the one we love. To honor St. Valentine, Solstice Publishing presents Cupid’s Arrow Vol. 2, a collection of tales of love.


An essence of bliss makes everything delicious.

Her last word before kissing him was, “Hush.”

Never say never...

She's not your grandmother's matchmaker.

Separated by the winds of war

They meet time after time…

Can love possibly come again?

Real life isn't a fairy tale... or is it?

Love is a wonderful spell.

Love is a special feeling between couples. The sweetness of caring deeply for each other. A waterfall of romance is brought to you E.B. Sullivan, Jeffery Martin Botzenhart, A.A. Schenna, Adam Zorzi, K.C. Sprayberry, A.J. Kohler, Veronica Peters, Noelle Myers, and Palvi Sharma

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Very Valentiney Story - SPUNKY LOSES HIS SPUNK

It's that time again. Susanna Hill is hosting her third annual  Valentiny Writing Contest in which she challenges children's writers to write a valentines day story following specific guidelines. It's great practice to stretch those writing muscles and fun to boot. Here's my entry. I hope you'll leave a comment and let me know what you think.

                           SPUNKY LOSES HIS SPUNK. 

(word count 213)
Spunky monkey had trained all week. If he won the Jungle Jump obstacle challenge he could take his favorite girl to Wild Cheetah’s for Valentine’s Day brunch.
But the morning of the race something went wrong. Spunky couldn’t jump. He couldn’t swing and leaping left him feeling fatigued. Spunky had lost his spunk.
“What you need is fuel.” Coach Rhino said.
Spunky went on a search for fuel. He climbed the coconut tree and drank coconut milk.
He felt better but his spunk wasn’t back.
Time was short, he had to hurry.
Spunky kept searching. He found a fig tree and ate a fig.
He felt better but his spunk wasn’t back.
Time was short, he had to hurry.
Spunky slunk home hoping he’d find some spunk there.
Mama left a note.  Spunky, you left without eating.
Yum, Banana bread! Gulp.
Something was… different. Spunky felt SPUNKY!
He hurried back to Jungle Jump headquarters. The race was about to begin.
As soon as the whistle blew Spunky leaped over a lemur, pole-vaulted passed a panther and bolted around a baboon. He was the first to reach the finish line. He won the race!
On Valentine’s day, Spunky and his mama enjoyed a stack of banana pancakes, fig pudding and a coconut cream frappe.’ 

If you'd like to know more about Susanna Hill's 2018 Valentiny Writing Contest you can find the info here. https://susannahill.com/2018/02/10/follow-your-heart-the-3rd-annual-valentiny-writing-contest/

To find out more about me and my books follow these links

Y.A. Romance 


Y.A. Suspense, Supernatural, and Mystery


Instagram@ bookwormyxoxo  

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year 2018; No Regrets Allowed

2017 was a good year for me but there were also a few challenges. We had some minor mishaps (two floods) that did damage to our home and brought on added stress.
Then there’s the regret of all the things I wanted to do but didn’t get done. I started out telling myself I should have done more. 
More with my time, more work on my writing, more marketing, more effort at my job, more for my family, more for others, and more on improving my health and myself as a whole. Those thoughts loitered in my head like an unchecked list.
Suddenly I couldn’t sleep. I began to feel the weight of disappointment in myself even during the day. I started becoming depressed. Then I realized I had to flip my focus. I had to stop beating myself up over all the things I didn’t do and give myself credit for the things I did do, no matter how small. So I made a list of the things that I did accomplish in 2017.
I joined a new critique group.
 I joined a new online group (Julie Hedlund’s 12X12 picture book challenge) for picture book writers.  And because of that group, I wrote 12 new picture book drafts. 12!
I participated in NANO (National Novel Writing Month) and had a higher word count this year than any of the previous years I had participated.
If you want to know more about National Novel Writing Month click here. https://nanowrimo.org/
 I worked hard on my third book in The Sister Sleuths series and have a solid outline for the next book.
 I ate less sugar and was more mindful of the kinds of food I consumed.
 I lost a few pounds and have kept the majority of it off.
 I added meditation to my daily routine, and the list went on and on.
When I let myself dwell on all the things I didn’t do I felt disappointed in myself and became depressed; but when I wrote down all of the things I did finish, I found that those things no matter how small made a difference in my life and that encouraged me to keep going, keep trying.  
I hope when you read this, you’ll be inspired to make a list of all the things you did do in 2017 and let go of all of the things you didn’t. Sometimes we wallow in our regret over a few fleeting moments that occurred in a vast amount of time.  If you focus on them, you’ll never allow yourself to celebrate the good things that you’ve done. Those good things will have lasting effects. Go into the New Year feeling good, and positive and open to whatever comes your way.
I decided to start my New Year making a vision board to help me stay focused on the things I want to keep in my life and things I want to see in my life in 2018.

 It was a fun and easy exercise. If you’d like to give it a try, Here’s the one I used.  https://www.instagram.com/p/BOnxBJPDjOn/

M.A. Cortez lives with her family in Colorado. She spends her days reading, writing, and drinking lots of coffee. 
Check out her books. 

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Friday, December 22, 2017


   I have a friend who loves to bake and enjoys experimenting with old recipes. One year she made a fruitcake. Fruitcake has a reputation. Many people claim that it is dense, dry, and tastes like figs (no offense fig lovers), and let’s face it, it’s not the prettiest face in the pastry case. 
   I am convinced that every Christmas someone somewhere receives the same one. It is never opened. It just gets passed from home to home like an uninvited guest. This time it turned up on my doorstep.
   Now, I knew she’d been working on this recipe for quite some time. Her great grandad was ninety and all he asked for was someone to bake granny’s famous fruitcake at Christmas. It seemed many had tried but no one could get it right. Too much of this or too little of that had left a pile of failed attempts in the garbage. But this girl was patient and wouldn’t give up on great grandma or her recipe. In a moment of weakness, I agreed to be her guinea pig.
   As soon as she dropped it off I regretted that decision. It was heavy and brown and visually not all that appealing. It resembled a brick in an aluminum pan. To her credit, she did her best to dress it up. She had decorated the top with nuts and cherries wrapped it in a festive cellophane sleeve and tied it with a pretty red bow. “I hope you like it. I want your honest opinion.” She said
   I placed it on my kitchen counter and tried to avoid going in there at all cost. Finally, the need for caffeine overtook me and I walked in. It was there, waiting for me like a lonely puppy. I considered lying to her and pretending I had tried it. “It was yummy,” I’d say. But I felt obligated to give it a taste.  I brewed myself a cup of coffee, sliced off a piece and took a bite. Then I called my friend and gave her my opinion.
   Have you ever worked really hard at something only to feel that your best efforts were fruitless? If you are a writer I can guess that you have. We come up with all these great story ideas and rush to get them down on paper only to find when we get to the end they look like a jumbled mess.
   We throw in a few nutty characters, mix in sweet moments and write down a story with a weak plot line. We feel that time is ticking and we have to get it out there. We send it out into the world too soon only to hear back that it’s not quite right yet.  We consider chucking the whole thing into the trash without another thought. But like my friend we must not lose hope, we must persevere.  It just needs more time to bake. Put that manuscript in a drawer and let it sit.
I knew my friend’s fruitcake recipe had gone through many changes over the years, and guess what? It was actually good. Really moist and sweet, loaded with pecans, pineapples, and cherries and best of all, (surprise ending) it had rum in it!

All I’m saying is, your efforts are not fruitless. Keep at that manuscript and when you think it’s ready, share it with a trusted friend. She or he will tell you the truth and you just may be pleasantly surprised. 

MERRY CHRISTMAS from the desk of  M.A. Cortez

Looking for something Christmassy to read? Try  http://getbook.at/GraceatChristmas 
Only .99 on Amazon

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Once Upon A Halloween

Hi All, this is a story for Susanna Hill's Halloweensie Contest.  
The rules state that the story must be no longer than 100 words. The title does not count and it has to have the words candy corn, monster, and shadow, or any form of those words.
Enjoy the stories on her page and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
Here's the link to the contest.
 and here's my entry.
                                Once Upon a Halloween
                                   by Mary Ann Cortez

Once upon a midnight dreary, on a doorstep weak and weary
I’d gathered from each home I’d seen, candy-corn for Halloween.
One creepy home had vile dwellers. Monsters, ghosts, and casting spellers
The hags inside with noses hooked beckoned me with fingers crooked.
I ran fast, the monsters followed, to a tree -‘twas bent and hallowed.
“Come with us- be our friend. We don’t die until the end.  
At sunrise when disappear-we won’t return until next year.
My ghoulish friends were fun but weird. We partied till the sun appeared
Then shadows dark and things unseen, departed till next Halloween.