Posted by: nancycurteman | November 17, 2020

An Irishman Worked on the Harlem Lyft Bridge

When I visited Cushendun, Northern Ireland to learn about the setting for my novel, Murder on the Emerald Isle, I met many wonderful people. One of them, John Robbin, recently sent me a story about his Great Grandfather. He thought this story might interest me because I’m setting my new novel in Harlem, New York. Here is his piece.

My great Grandfather, William Robbin’s nickname was “Oul’ Harlem.” He was allegedly a member of the “Invincibles,” the elite wing of the IRB, (The Irish Republican Brotherhood) the forerunners of the IRA. The goal of the secret IRB was to establish an independent Irish  Republic. This group was responsible for the “Phoenix Park Murders” and were ruthlessly hunted by the authorities. Through the use of informers those guilty were found and executed. Anger at the informers, the remaining “Invincibles” then went worldwide looking for the informers. It is believed my great grandfather was sent to New York to search for the informers among the Irish people living there.

While in New York, my great grandfather worked on the erection of the Harlem Lyft Bridge before returning to Ireland.He only told his story in his later years. He died in 1933 when my father was about 14 years old. He was I believe 79 years old. My grandfather ( Oul Harlem’s son) died in 1922 at age 34 leaving 3 children, my father and two girls so I think my great grandfathe was a strong influence on my father although he passed when my father was still young. I’m sure my great grandfather would have had a lot of stories to tell.

I really enjoyed learning about the IRB and about the role of John Robbin’s great grandfather in the construction of the famous Harlem Lyft Bridge.  Special appreciation to John Robbin for sharing this story.

Posted by: nancycurteman | November 8, 2020

New Lysi Weston Mystery Novel

In my last blog post I mentioned I had started writing a new Lysi Weston mystery novel. The story is set in New York City, specifically Harlem. I chose Harlem because that is the birthplace of Grace Wright, Lysi Weston’s business partner.

The story will take us and Lysi into the childhood and youth experiences of Wright that made her the interesting character she became.

The child of a strong, respected African American father and a beautiful Puerto Rican mother, Grace is a product of two cultures. Her fraternization with both Black and Puerto Rican gang members made her the woman who fearlessly entered and graduated from university and continued to overcome racism and discrimination against women in pursuit of her profession.

When Grace is called home by her desperate mother, Lysi joins her in an adventure in which they will face gang vendettas, murder and a dangerous romance triangle.

So there you have it. As I move through the novel I will share adventures with you. Reminder, I am still working o mastery of the new WordPress format. Again, thank you for your patience.

Posted by: nancycurteman | November 5, 2020

Second Blogging Effort

This is my second blogging effort using the new WordPress format. The program uses something called blocks which are completely new to me. So, as you can see I’ve figured out how to use the title block and the paragraph block. Today I will try to find and use the image block. If I master that, I will be well on my way to returning to my regular blogging topics which are writing and travel subjects.

There, found the image block. Now i’m back with a paragraph block.. I need to find the sections for adding tags. We’ll see how this works out. This used to be so easy!! Thank you to all my followers for your patience.
Posted by: nancycurteman | November 4, 2020

I’m Back

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted to my blog in sometime. There are two reasons for my absence. First, I’ve been very busy working on my eighth novel set in Harlem, New York. Secondly, WordPress changed its format while I was gone. Now I’m back. However, I am still in the process of learning the new WordPress. It will take some practice before I gain mastery. Please be patient. So, this is my first try. Wish me luck.

Posted by: nancycurteman | May 9, 2020

Research Dividends

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As authors, we all engage in research in an effort to ensure authenticity in our writing. That is a given. However, I’ve found that research provides dividends beyond my search goals. These dividends contribute to my love of research.

Here are a couple of examples of research dividends I stumbled on while seeking information for my new novel set in Harlem, New York.

  • I needed to find out which area of Harlem was considered the most dangerous. I discovered it was East Harlem. I garnered two unexpected dividends in my search: 1. The actual most dangerous corner. 2. There’s a MacDonald’s fast food restaurant on that corner. Of course I worked these two dividends into my story.
  • For my novel, “Murder Down Under,” set in Australia I needed to add info about dangerous in the Outback. Two unexpected dividends resulted from this search: 1. The most dangerous snakes in Australia are the the Mulga, Gwarder, Northern Death Adder and the Brown Snake. Dividend 2. You can purchase snake venom from these snakes on snake farms in China.

 These are just two examples of research dividends I’ve encountered while writing my novels. Fascinating!

More tips:

3 Research Methods for Novelists
8 Internet Resources for Mystery

Posted by: nancycurteman | March 20, 2020

How to Beat Writers’ Block

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Writers’ Block can affect any author at any time. It can be of short or long term duration. It can happen at the start or in the middle of writing a new novel. Since most of us as authors are likely to experience it, the question is what to do about it. I know from personal experience that just wringing your hands won’t work. Each writer has her own strategy for dealing with this paralyzing problem. I will share mine and I invite you to share yours.


  • Keep writing. Continue writing something. Either your novel, a blog, social media comments, emails anything that keeps you at your computer for some part of your day. I usually focus on my novel.
  • I stick to writing my novel. I write anything related to my story—setting, dialogue, narration—it doesn’t matter because I will revise and even delete what I’ve written. My objective is to write.
  • I find writing dialogue between characters to be a very useful tool for getting me back on track. Dialogue is easy for me to write and often I can use it as a story skeleton that I plump out with more details later.
  • Another strategy that works for me is to conduct research on an element of my novel. In my research I always learn something new that I can use to broaden my story.
  • When I have writers’ block I forget about sequence. I may write a final chapter or I may create a scene that belongs in the middle of my story just because I like it. I can always reposition it.
  • Finally, I think about my plot when I’m on a walk or just before I go to sleep. I sometimes act out a scene in my mind. This is also writing. It’s just done without a pen or computer.


I repeat, the best way to break through writers’ block is to write. I’d love to hear your strategies for beating writers’ block.



More Tips:

How to Conquer Writers’ Block

Posted by: nancycurteman | January 29, 2020

Art as Inspiration for Setting

As I explained in my last post, I often use paintings or photos as inspiration for my story settings. Here is a painting of the famous Golden Gate Bridge by my brother that I used as inspiration for my novel, “Murder Lurks in the Fog,” set in San Francisco.


Posted by: nancycurteman | December 29, 2019

The Arts as Inspiration for Story Settings

The Arts can often provide inspiration for story settings. I’ve developed descriptive ideas for  many of my story settings  from several different types of art. I’ve gotten inspiration from  photographs, music, poetry, dance and paintings. Scenes in my novel, “Murder Down Under,” are set on a sheep station in Northern Territory of Australia.

Here is an example of a painting that helped me describe the vastness of the Australian Outback. My brother, Billy West, created this water color that portrays the  emptiness and loneliness of some parts of this beautiful area of Australia. The painting is not just a landscape, it is also an “emotional feeling.”

Posted by: nancycurteman | October 14, 2019

New Novel: Murder on the Emerald Isle

I am delighted to share with you the launching of my seventh Lysi Weston mystery Novel, “Murder on the Emerald Isle.” It is now available on Amazon in both print and e book formats.

In the novel, Lysi and Grace fly to Ireland to present a management seminar. They become embroiled in the investigation of two murders. Enjoying the beauty of Ireland takes second place when the local villagers decide the killers are vengeful Irish spirits.

Posted by: nancycurteman | September 17, 2019

Commas Make Me Crazy

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As a mystery writer, one of my major frustrations relates to commas. Commas make me crazy. Apparently I’m not the only one who suffers from this problem.

To quote Oscar Wilde venting his frustration with commas:“I spent all morning taking out a comma and all afternoon putting it back.”

I share his pain—To comma or not to comma, that is the question. In an effort to find the answer, I researched rules for using commas. I found sets containing from 4 to 13 rules. I decided to select the rules I considered to be most useful to me as a writer. Here they are:

Use a comma

  • before a coordinating conjunction (and,but,for,or,nor,so) that links two independent clauses.

Example: The light turned red, so he crossed the street.

  • after an introductory clause or phrase that starts a sentence.

Example: When Mary got permission to go, she raced to the door.

  • to offset appositives.

Example: John, lead singer, stepped to the mic.

  • to separate items or phrases in a series.

Example: We bought robes, socks, slippers, and pajamas.

Mary promised to clean her room, take out the garbage, and feed the dog.

  • to enclose clauses not essential to the meaning of the sentence.

Example: Jerry, who tends to pout, will be at the party.

  • to indicate direct address

Example: “You got that right,” Homer.

  • to set off direct quotations.

Example: “I like funny movies,” Sally said, “because they make me laugh.”

Yes, there are other comma rules such as those used in dates, addresses, titles and numbers, but these are pretty obvious. Most of us learned about them in primary grades. My list of comma rules are the ones I use the most, and at the same time, the ones that make me crazy.


More Tips:

Writing Craft Rules: Never Say Never
5 Elements of Writing Craft
7 Ways to Make Your Writing Clear and Concise
6 Most Misused Punctuation Marks In Fiction Writing

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