Tag Archives: #YA

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:

 

 

 

 

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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

 

A Dark Truth

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

But today I’m not starting with a happy story. Last week the BBC showed ‘Three Girls’ over three nights. This was a gripping, harrowing, and horrifying dramatization of the sexual abuse, and other violence, a number of young girls experienced from a group of older men to in a northern town in England. Meanwhile the authorities, with some notable exceptions, stood by passively. Worse, when told about the abuse, they decided it was part of a lifestyle choice by the girls, even though all of them were under the age of consent. It seemed that nobody wanted to take any action against the men because they were Pakistani, and the authorities didn’t want to be accused of racism. Thanks to a determined youth worker, a doughty investigative journalist and the courage of the young victims themselves, cases were eventually brought to court and the abusers sent to prison. But there is a lot more of this out there, and more cases are slowly coming to court.

Why am I telling you this in a blog about YA books?                                                                     Girl Friends - coverBecause in my book, Girl Friends, the narrator, Courtney, is worried about her best friend‘s new boyfriend and the men he is introducing her to. She watches helplessly as her friend grows apart, drops out of school, starts drinking and taking drugs.  Only with the help of another girl, who’s ‘been there, done that,’ does she fully understand what is happening. Then it is a question of how to rescue her friend.  This being a novel, it all ends happily. If only real life could be like that!

Girl Friends deals with some tricky issues, not just sexual exploitation. It notes in passing that abusers can be white, and vicitms are sometimes black. But it is not a morality tale. It was written as an adventure story and is also funny, with a wry look at teenage angst and friendship, and Courtney’s chaotic family life.  It would be great, too, if it gives young teenagers (or their parents or teachers) some insight into how a they or a friend could be sucked into the appalling situation these ‘three girls’ found themselves in, and how to spot the warning signs before it is too late.

Excerpt:

Kal comes forward as we enter. Naturally I don’t know what his name is straight away, but I pick this up quickly from the conversation that goes on between Grace, him and the other men who are there. Even when they are not speaking English, it is still possible to pick up the names— Kal, Jayboy, Saqib and Davit. They are all old. Kal is the youngest and he must be at least twenty. I wonder, with mounting panic, which one Grace, or rather Kal—who seems something of a ringleader, or perhaps it’s just because his English is best—has in mind for me. I shrink down into my baggy sweater and pull another strand of hair over my face. This is so not my scene. But Grace seems fine or at least she is putting on a very good act of being relaxed and confident. She greets them all by name and she and Kal engage in a long kiss— tongues and everything. I turn away but Kal, surfacing from the snog looks across at me for the first time and says:  “Who’s your little friend?”

Links:

Girl Friends  is available from Amazon:

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01EX9DPMS

myBook.to/GirlFriends

It is published by Solstice: http://www.solsticepublishing.com

solstice logo (1)

 

 

 

 

Happy Everybody Reads YA

Welcome to another #Happy Everybody reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from Journey to the Fair Mountain. This is a short e-book available from Amazon and Solstice Publishing. It is based on Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. Why did Gertrude marry Hamlet’s father? And why did she marry his brother so quickly after his death? No one really knows, but ….

Excerpt:

“Come brother; do not keep our cousin standing there in the cold.” I looked up and saw for the first time another man, a lighted candle in his hand, framed in the glow of a great fire at the end of the hall. A big man, regal in his bearing. Older than his brother, who was still stroking my hand, yet not old like my father or the old retainer. His short hair was sable silvered, but his beard was still black and neatly trimmed. His eyes were steel grey and piercing and his mouth firm, though he smiled kindly enough as I approached. His height was remarkable—he was taller than any man I knew—and his shoulders were broad. He seemed to me like a Hercules among men. I could tell at once that this was someone who was used giving orders, and to them being obeyed. This time, there was no mistaking who this man was: the king, my future husband.

Blurb:

A young girl’s life is changed forever when her only brother is killed in a hunting accident. Only an arranged marriage to a distant cousin will save the family home for her mother and sisters when her father dies. Love doesn’t come into it.

Links:Journey to the Fair Mountain

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B019CULSW2

 myBook.to/JourneyToTheFairMountain

 Journey to the Fair Mountain also features in the Winter Holiday Anthology, published by Solstice (www.solsticepublishing. com): http://bookgoodies.com/a/B017T6UJ8K

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

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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