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  

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.

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.
 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.

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

Follow me on:
Instagram@ Bookwormyxoxo