Category Archives: Writers, readers, teenage readers.

Meet Author M. A. Cortez

Next up in my intermittent series of author interviews this summer, is YA author M. A. Cortez. Welcome Mary Ann!

mary Ann 3What is the title of your latest book? (In a nutshell what is it about?)

Sister Sleuths and The Wailing Darkness is book two of the YA Sister Sleuth series. Teen twins Sam and Sandy find themselves in the middle of a mystery when a banshee shows up in town just about the same time as new exchange student Darcy O’Sullivan. One of the twins, Sam, is on the spectrum and has a heightened sensitivity to beings in the spiritual realm. She becomes obsessed with the notion that the banshee’s prediction of death could include one of their own. But neither twin expect the twists and turns their lives take after the arrival of the banshee.

What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding? The most challenging part of being a writer, for me, is working through the middle of my stories. I know in my head what I want to happen but getting from point A to B and still keeping the story strong can be a challenge. I go through several drafts before I find something that works. Also, just getting myself to write every day is a huge challenge. I get distracted easily and before I know it the day is over and I haven’t written a word. Most rewarding, finishing a story and creating characters that people fall in love with.

What is your top tip for an aspiring writer?

NEVER give up. Keep writing, and reading. Reading is just as important to your writing as putting your own words down on paper. Also, take time every day to move forward toward your dream.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have several projects in the works including a few picture books but the third book in the Sister Sleuths series is at the top of my list at the moment.

What do you like to read?  

sister sleuths & shadowman-001 (1)

I read a lot of YA mysteries. I also love biographies.

Where can readers find you ?  

https://twitter.com/@maryanncortez16

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMaryAnnCortez

https://itsthewriteplace.blogspot.com

Instagram@ Bookwormyxoxo

http://mybook.to/DoubleExposure

http://getbook.at/GraceatChristmas Sister Sleuths-001

http://getbook.at/Moondance

http://getbook.at/SisterSleuthsandTheShadowman

getBook.at/SisterSleuthsandTheWailingDarkness

 

 

Watch the trailer:

 

 

 

 

The Amazon myth.

An Amazon, as we all know, was a member of a tribe of women from classical Greek times. They were famed and feared because of their ferocious fighting techniques. To enhance which, they would cut off their right breast so that they could use their bows and arrows to greater effect.

AmazonVery little is known about their origins. Even the earliest histories had them reputedly living on the eastern shores of the Black Sea (so not in Greece at all). And paintings and sculptures depicting these Amazonian ladies show them with two breasts that, according to the historian Lyn Webster Wilde, “are usually firm and prominent.”

So that’s two myths busted.

But the myth of chief interest in a blog on the meaning of words, is that concerning their name. According to the fifth century BCE historian, Herodotus, the name came from two Greek words: ‘A’ meaning ‘without’; and ‘mastos’ meaning ‘breast.’ A later historian, Philostratus, demurred. He thought it probably meant ‘not breast fed.’ Others have variously suggested the name comes from ‘Ha-mazan’ (fighting together), or ‘Am-azon’ (mother lord).

Disappointingly though, the author of Women in Classical Athens, Susan Blundell, who has spent some time researching the origins and location of the Amazon race, has found no evidence that they ever existed at all. As a consequence, the meaning of their name also remains a mystery.

Yet so famous have they been through the ages that the largest river in South America is named after them (some explorers apparently transferred the search for them to this part of the world, but had to settle for re-naming a river). And Adrienne Mayor, in The Amazons, believes there really is archaeological evidence that there were female fighters, in the area of Europe known as Scythia to the Greeks.

The Amazon story captures the imagination, so no prizes for guessing one reason why this was the name chosen for the biggest online retail business and bookshop in the world. Another reason, of course, was that the CEO didn’t just want a catchy title, but one that came early in the alphabet, so would be quick to find on the Internet.

So the name lives on, and plays a big part in many people’s shopping habits. Quite a feat for a race of single breasted female warriors that probably never existed.

If you have enjoyed reading my blog, and would like the read more of my work, please go to my Amazon (that word again!) book page: 

N.B. Festive Treats, an anthology in which my story – Mary’s Christmas – appears, is currently free to download.

 

 

Getting teenagers to read.

Hello, and welcome to another ‘Happy Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Teenagers, or Young Adults as they are called when they are potential book readers, lead pretty full lives these days. School exams, sports and other after school activities, friends and parties and, perhaps dominating all of these, social media and computer games. Reading for pleasure doesn’t seem to get much of a look in.

There are exceptions of course – books by JK Rowling have a huge teenage following (not to mention avid adult readers). But I’m not sure whether it is the fact that Harry Potter was a boy wizard (and wizards etc. are very popular these days) or that, when she started writing about him, Harry was young enough to appeal to the pre-teen reader and they, once hooked, just carried on reading about him.

Of course there are still teenage book-worms around, but convincing Joe or Jo Ordinary that a few hours spent away from the phone or computer screen with a book is time well spent – fun even! – can be quite a challenge. Undaunted though, authors who write regularly for the YA category keep scribbling away. And we certainly cherish any reviews that young, or not so young, readers leave for us.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my contemporary YA novel Girl Friends. (Sorry, no wizards, but there are quite a few sinister and creepy human characters. And a burgeoning first romance).

Excerpt:

Talking with Laurence seems so natural; as if I had this kind of conversation with mates every day of the year. And yet so unreal. I keep pinching myself to check I really am in Café Nero, sipping coffee from a cup across a table from a fit looking boy and carrying on as if it is the most natural thing in the world for me to be here.  All the time though there a part of my brain saying ‘Look at the state of you, Cor. The day you are allowed to go to the college without wearing uniform you turn up in faded supermarket jeans, a shapeless T-shirt that could have probably done with a wash, and certainly benefited from being ironed, the black trainers you wear every day for school, and no make-up, because Mel and Josie have been messing with the few cosmetics you own, and they have ended up too disgusting to use again.’  Glamorous, I am not. Yet, here I am talking to a guy who seems really interested in what I have to say. Not that it’ll come to anything, of course. So I might as well enjoy it whilst it lasts—savour every minute and slot it in my memory bank to dream on when I get home. “…So what do you think, Courtney?” I jump. “Sorry?” “I just asked you if you wanted to meet up at the weekend—go to the park, have another coffee or something.” I gasp. “Not if you don’t want to, of course,” he adds hastily. “I’m going to be in town anyway on Saturday, so I just thought …” “Oh, I’ll be in town too. I always come in now to work in the library—things get a bit hectic at home …”

And here is a ***** review of the book left on Amazon Books in March 2017.

Girl Friends - coverThis book is truly a wonderful read. It starts early with a bleak portrayal of a typical evening in the life of Courtney Jacks; there is domestic abuse, alcoholism, and saturated fear throughout that first introductory chapter. But then you also immediately see what a good hearted person the main character, Courtney, is.
I think that this book touches on a lot of adult themes, but it is 100% something that Young Adults can and should read. There is the struggle to improve yourself, the delicate balance needed to maintain friends, how to overcome self-doubt, and most importantly of all is how to save a friend who needs saving.
By the end of the story, I cared deeply about all the characters, and in post-analysis of their development, found no critique but only praise for how well Margaret made every character into a brand new creation by the end of the book.
The book was very enjoyable from start to finish, and I heartily give it a 5 star review.

If you would like to read the book, here are the links: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01EX9DPMS or myBook.to/GirlFriends

Unsure? You may prefer to try a more fairy-tale short story as a taster – Sleeping Beauty. http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01CKKNG7Q  or myBook.to/TheSleepingBeauty

 

How are your apostrophes today?

How are your apostrophes? Does that question look odd to you? Do you feel you need an apostrophe before the ‘s’? The answer is no, but there does appear to be a growing amount of confusion about when and where an apostrophe should be used

For example, over the last few days I have been helping with the shortlisting of applicants for a senior post in a local company. We have had a large number of applications, and many have impressive work records. It has been hard work making the selection for interview.

What has been noticeable though, even within this group of highly intelligent, articulate, experienced and educated candidates (a degree is an essential requirement, a management qualification, desirable), is that quite a few do not know how to use an apostrophe correctly. Examples of misuse include apostrophes being inserted before the ‘s’ in plurals –  ‘I have been a senior manager for many year’s.’ Or dates – ‘during the 1980’s I…’  

As you know (of course), there are only two kinds of apostrophe:

The apostrophe that denotes possessionMargaret’s blog, the dog’s bone (or, if there are several of them, the dogs’ bones) …

And the apostrophe used to indicate that one or more letters have been omitted – It’s a bit chilly today, so I won’t be swimming. Instead of It is a bit chilly today, so I will not be swimming.

In Bristol, UK, one man has felt so impassioned about the misuse of the apostrophe by shop keepers and other local businesses that he has taken to creeping out in the dead of night to correct their mistakes. At risk to life and limb (Bristol is not the safest city in the world after dark) he climbs a step-ladder to paint over offending apostrophes (or insert them where needed). He’s even made his own gadget for reaching the hard to get to signs.

Earlier this year this self-styled grammar vigilante featured in the local and national news. His interview with BBC Radio Bristol is on Facebook, so you can see more about the ‘apostrophiser’ on this link:

https://www.facebook.com/bbcradiobristol/videos/1359545534102549/

Some of the abuses of the apostrophe simply add to the gaiety of life, and allow clever folk to have fun at the expense of our less literate compatriots.  The fruit stall selling  ‘Potatoe’s and tomatoe’s, for example, or the business advertising itself as a Gentlemans Outfitter.

It is true, too, that we can be overly pedantic. Grammar, after all, is there to assist with clarity, and language is an evolving entity with spelling and grammar changing over time. If it didn’t, we’d all be writing like Chaucer, or still communicating via ‘uggs’ and shrugs, like cavemen.

But for now, the apostrophe is still in the game. So, like the tennis backhand or the football cycle kick (I think  that’s the right term), it should be played selectively and appropriately.

If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to read one of my stories or novels, you can find more about them on my blog page for published work, or go to:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

 

 

Happy Everybody Reads YA.

Hello, and welcome to another ‘Happy Everybody reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my first YA novel, And Alex Still Has Acne. But first I’m sharing an excerpt from a review written by a YA reader.

‘The book certainly shows the author’s understanding of the idiosyncratic problems which certain young people today (often described in the novels of Jacqueline Wilson) have to deal with.’

I love the reference to Jacqueline Wilson regarding my book, as I am a huge admirer of her work. And Alex …, like my other YA novel, Girl Friends, does indeed tackle some of the issues she writes about so brilliantly. I have learnt a lot from her, though I write for a slightly older age-group.

Excerpt:

And Alex -coverSam was dog tired. He looked at his watch. Still only 9.30pm, but it felt like the middle of the night. He got up and went into the front room to look again at his mother. She was sleeping just as he’d left her. Clearly she was not going to wake up this side of midnight, so there was no point staying up to talk to her. They would have to have a chat tomorrow. But what about exactly? He tried a few opening gambits: “Hi Mum, are you turning into an alcoholic?” “Mum, I’ve been doing a bit of shoplifting recently; on account of you never getting me any food.” “Mum, are you ill?” “Why have you and Dad split up?” “Don’t either of you care about me anymore?” None of these questions seemed right, though they were all ones he wanted answers to, especially the last, although he was a bit ashamed to admit this – even to himself. He was fourteen going on fifteen after all.

Blurb: Life for fourteen year old Alex is OK most of the time. He enjoys school, has a best friend Sam, and a pretty and only mildly irritating younger sister, Nicky. But then Sam starts acting strangely, and so does Nicky – and both insist on sharing secrets with him and making him promise not to tell anyone. Then Nicky goes missing and only Alex feels he knows where to find her. But is Sam anywhere around to help?

Links:

And Alex Still Has Acne

P1000309

Reading from And Alex Still Has Acne at a book launch.

http://www.bookgoodies.com/a/B00RU1Y0G

myBook.to/AndAlexStillHasAcne

Girl Friends

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01EX9DPMS

myBook.to/GirlFriends

 Amazon Author Pages

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

 

 

A YA story for our time.

Happy ‘Everbody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my contemporary YA novel Girl Friends. 

Blurb:

Two teenagers, each looking for a ‘proper’ boyfriend: Courtney follows the old fashioned route via school and getting to know you chats over coffee. Grace finds a young man with a fast car who gives her expensive presents and promises to get her a career in modelling. But there’s a catch, and it’s a big one involving drugs and sex trafficking. Can the girls remain friends? More importantly, can Courtney and her new boyfriend (and his older sister) rescue Grace before she is in too deep? Does Grace want to be rescued?

Excerpt:

Girl Friends - cover” … Mostly young girls who don’t have any family to speak of. They get lured in by promises of enduring love or some such, and then also end up as prostitutes—with threats to slash their faces or break their legs, or hurt their family or friends, if they try to escape.” “That’s interesting. But I can’t see Grace falling for anything like that. She may not work hard at school or get great grades, but she’s not stupid.” “Well, maybe she believed that Kal had something more to offer her, something she really, really wanted. Something that made the loss of your friendship, the rows at the home, and missing school etcetera, all worthwhile.” “Oh, God, yes,” I am about to sit down again, but Hannah’s words deliver another shock. “He’s told her he can put her in touch with a man who can arrange a modelling contract for her. She’s mad to be a model— would do anything for it.” “There you are then.” Hannah sounds almost pleased, and this makes me so angry I nearly hit her. “But that solves nothing. We think we may know now why she’s behaving like she is, and can guess it won’t work out for her. And aren’t we the clever ones. But meanwhile, she believes she has a modelling contract almost in the bag. In fact she’s going today to meet this mythical man to get it sorted.” “Oh, Christ!” Both Hannah and Laurence turn to me with a look of dismay.

Links:

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01EX9DPMS

myBook.to/GirlFriends

Girl Friends is published by Solstice: http://www.solsticepublishing.com

I’m taking a couple of weeks off. My blog will be back, with a number of author interviews lined up, after Easter. 

Learning from the movies.

cinema-310x165This is a lesson I have yet to apply to novel writing myself, but I thought I’d pass on a few tips I was given when I attended a screen writing workshop recently. Successful Hollywood films, apparently, all conform to a fairly strict formula. And it is a formula that has been used by some of the most commercially successful writers, like Sophie Kinsella or Dick Francis. Once you know the formula, you will probably be able to other best-selling authors whose work follows a similar pattern. And, if you are so inclined, you will be able to irritate friends and family, as you settle down on the sofa with your pop-corn and cola, by pointing out the key components of the formula in the DVD of the latest blockbuster.

Essentials ingredients of a Hollywood movie: 

  1. A film must have a hero (or heroine, of course)
  2. The hero must be ‘on a mission,’ be it to kill a dragon, or get married.
  3. The hero has to have an antagonist
  4. Each film will have a three act structure
  5. Act One: Introduces the premise of the film (novel): the hero, their world, a trigger (often negative) incident, and a big event about 12 pages in. Act one also introduces the antagonist and shows us the hero’s fears and flaws. Also in Act one (the next 20 or so pages) you get an exposition as the viewer / reader needs to know what the film /story is about. You also need an incident to set up the plot,  you need to set up the love interest, and a big moment to end the first act of the film / first third of the novel. I.e. by this point we have met the hero, the antagonist, the love interest, and have a petty good idea about the story-line.
  6. Act two is the longest.  The hero faces problems and obstacles. Things get desperate, hero cinema catsfaces – and faces down – his fears. Hero will ‘grow’ during the act. Act two will include the film’s / story’s ‘big moment.’ This is a critical scene that will be literally at the half way point, to keep the viewer’s / reader’s attention. Act two will end on a high point or a low point. If the film / story is to end happily it will be a low point, and vice-versa.
  7. Act Three will be short and sharp – sometimes referred to as ‘the race to the end.’ Hero and antagonist are still pitted against each other as equals till the final showdown. Hero’s ‘arc’ is continuing to develop  The end of Act three must be emotionally satisfying for the viewer/ reader.
  8. A blockbuster ‘ bestseller will usually end with an element of mystery that offers a potential story-line for another film / book.

Now I think about it, it’s not just modern ‘airport’ books that fit this formula – Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice pretty much follows this pattern, even including ‘sequels’ written by modern writers! But then, no doubt if she were alive today, she would be writing for Hollywood or TV.

If you have enjoyed this blog, and would like to read some of my novels or short stories, please go to one of my Amazon author pages:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO